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Friday, February 7, 2020

Eloquence

In the First Century, there was Cicero and his orations against Cataline.....


Then there were Shakespeare's inspirational speeches in Henry V..........


And where does one even begin to choose among all of the stirring words spoken and written by these guys.........


During one of the most divisive times in our Nation's history, Lincoln spoke at Gettysburg....


And then, yesterday.....2/6/2020...... we had THIS:


You must all be so proud. Given the cheers and laughter, it certainly seems so.

In a response to archedone in yesterday's post, I inserted an excerpt from a letter from John Adams. It's worth re-posting here: 


“I do not say that democracy has been more pernicious on the whole, and in the long run, than monarchy or aristocracy. Democracy has never been and never can be so durable as aristocracy or monarchy; but while it lasts, it is more bloody than either. … Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide. It is in vain to say that democracy is less vain, less proud, less selfish, less ambitious, or less avaricious than aristocracy or monarchy. It is not true, in fact, and nowhere appears in history. Those passions are the same in all men, under all forms of simple government, and when unchecked, produce the same effects of fraud, violence, and cruelty. When clear prospects are opened before vanity, pride, avarice, or ambition, for their easy gratification, it is hard for the most considerate philosophers and the most conscientious moralists to resist the temptation. Individuals have conquered themselves. Nations and large bodies of men, never.”

(Hey, America, I think your wrists are bleeding.)

38 comments:

  1. I'm definitely an Adams fan, and that line about suicide is sobering. Though, when I have friends and relatives whining about how we have never been so divided as we are now or that politics has never been so nasty, I feel like pointing them back to the Adams-Jefferson campaigns.

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    1. True. Past national polarity is often overlooked through the haze of nostalgia. Though unprecedented division IS often cited, perhaps it's not the division itself that seems so brutally contradictory to our recollections of times past as it may be something else. I know I have lived through 6 decades of some crazy shit.....and yet, I too feel there is something unsettlingly different about what I'm seeing now. My son says it's just a drastic departure in style. And maybe he's right.

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    2. I think what may be different now is not the nastiness of the divisions, but their pervasive command of our attention. Adams and Jefferson may have been as nasty as Hillary and Trump, but how many people knew about it in real-time? Now, it is in front of all of us all the time.

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    3. Hmmmm, that is a distinct possibility as well. I'm going to mull that one over.

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    4. I expect that the divisions ran pretty deep at several points in the past (like around the civil war, for example). Obviously now, as Dan said, everything is reported in real time. Also, for the majority of people at least, everything is really reduced to sound bites and talking points that are repeated ad nauseam often with incomplete context, which I think further increases polarization.

      The thing that I feel like is different than in other times during my lifetime at least is that before there was a certain sense of "I am American first, and Republican or Democrat second." At least to me, it seemed like people could talk openly about their political views and still were treated with consideration and respect. Now, there just seems to be so much anger. Which leads me to the biggest difference. Recently, I have sensed an increased willingness of some people (from both sides) to actually resort to violence, either physical violence (God forbid), or disenfranchising opposing groups of people, making it difficult or impossible to work or live.

      It is getting harder and harder to be anywhere near center....

      -ZM

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    5. ZM: I was a kid in the 60's watching the news at night with cops bashing tear-gassed students over the head for protesting a crappy war....so.......it's hard to say this is much worse. Same thing with the race riots. Of course then it was more 'young versus old' and 'black versus white' rather than 'Red State versus Blue State'.

      Getting to center is easy because once you're there it feels so right. The hard part is that an individual has to think according to their conscience rather than march to the drum beat of their tribe to get there.

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    1. Hey, I didn't create these times, I'm just discussing what's there. ;-)

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  3. I'm not really sure how what I wrote fits in with John Adams. what he said is very true. what Ben Franklin said is also very true. "I have given you a republic if you can keep it" that comment was said to a citizen lady. His comment means it will last if we the citizens are willing to fight our government if they become monarchy. Our fore fathers set up a good government they just didn't go far enough. Our government was not intended to give some people a way of life, hence if there are term limits we would not have the nut cases we have now or they would not last long before they would have to move on. I know you remember our history (many don't) Our fore fathers were rich people and were willing to give everything to have a better country than what they came from. How many people today are willing to do the same?
    archedone

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    1. I agree that the letter was not a direct address to your first comment as much as the first couple of lines I wrote before citing the excerpt, but felt it was worth including as a further commentary on what isn't currently working.

      As for your comment above, I can't find anything to disagree with. But it does take us right back to the people voting. Even without term limits, none of these multiple term politicians are re-taking their offices by brute force with an army backing them. They are still being elected. If everyone thought it was time for a particular politician to be replaced by another, the issue is easily settled at the polling booth. So why isn't it happening?

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  4. Hence the fact that we have a Republic, NOT a "democracy". The founders were emphatic that they DID NOT WANT a democracy, realizing that democracy is just majority rule writ large and subject to change on a whim or some outrage on the part of the public for some reason. I DO believe in term limits for public officials. We have one for the POTUS, why not for members of Congress and the Federal judiciary?

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    1. Your observation of the difference between a full-on democracy and a democratic republic is accurate, but in the context of Adams' letter I don't think he was being that specific. In using "democracy" he is weighing it against the general alternatives of "monarchy" and "aristocracy" and not against other procedural variations of how a democracy can function. At least that's how I'm interpreting his use of the word.

      I have no problem with term limits, but I do think enacting limits as law is really just a crutch for an uninformed electorate limping into voting booths. But just as lame people legitimately DO need crutches, perhaps our electorate needs them too.

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    2. I agree about lame people. in the words of that great american
      you can't fix stupid
      archedone

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    3. That would suggest that Adams might have preferred a more structured form of government than "democracy", wouldn't it? He DID say that our republic is suitable only for a religious and moral people and it wholly unsuited to any other. Adams was a bit of a prig and was no fan of "licentiousness", which is probably one of the things he attributed to democracy, as well as a lack of religious values (specifically Christian/Protestant) and he was probably right. Certainly he was no fan of monarchy or traditional aristocracy (perhaps failing to appreciate that at least some of the Founders were a form of aristocracy in relation to most of the Colonists) so we can only assume that he was more a fan of some form of religiously-guided government. One can see why he and Thomas Jefferson grew apart in their views as Jefferson was quite the cosmopolitan free-thinker compared to Adams. I also think that Adams antipathy towards the institution of slavery was more religious and moral than Jefferson's, but then he was from Massachusetts and not Virginia.
      The Founders, it seems, envisioned a form of government where people served limited terms in Congress (and the Presidency) and then went back to their "real" lives and "new blood" was being constantly infused to the process of governing, perhaps even at the local level. The idea of career politicians was deeply suspicious to them...

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    4. Archedone: I've heard that "can't fix stupid" before but wasn't sure who you were referring to and so I looked it up. But in doing so I discovered three possibilities and was wondering to which of those three were you referring? Sources cite radio host, James C. White, 'Shoe' cartoonist, Jeff MacNelly, & comedian, Ron White in that chronological order.

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    5. Smuccatelli: Yes it would, though as I wrote to archedone, I don't see that structural debate (accurate as it might be given his other writings) as the comparison being made in that letter. But the views you cited are certainly factual and I would not contradict any of them.

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    6. Not sure I buy that the Founders would have been for term limits, largely because they didn't enact any. They could have, but did not, establish any time limit for service as president. The tradition of serving two terms was set by Washington, and was part of what made him a great president. I think the Founders' failure to establish term limits is probably a function of the fact that most of them thought the centers of political power would be in the states, not the weak federal government they established. They could not really conceive that ambitious politicians would have *wanted* to serve forever in a limited federal government when they could exercise "real power" back in the states. My, how the world has changed.

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    7. Dan: Your points, while technically valid, do simultaneously suggest that the absence of legislated term limits might have been due more to their feeling that it wasn't necessary given the thinking of the time. But if magically endowed with "future insight" into how people would act now, they may well have enacted term limits formally. So it seems like they might have been for them even though they didn't think them necessary back then? Just a thought?

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    8. Agreed, and that was what I was trying to say, inartfully. I was reacting to the assertion that the founders "envisioned" a form of government with limited terms of government for federal elected officials. I don't think they envisioned any structural limits on service, as demonstrated by the fact they didn't enact any. I think there is a good case that it just never occurred to them that the federal government would be strong enough to attract truly ambitious men to more than (voluntarily) limited terms of service. Though, I'm not an expert on how, if at all, this played out in the debates at the constitutional conventions. It could very well be that that those in favor of a stronger executive (Hamilton, Adams, etc.) insisted on no term limits for the President, and others were resistant to hobbling senators and congressmen with term limits because they didn't want to risk a term-limited legislature having too little power to offset a permanent executive. And, let's keep in mind that none of this played out exactly the way the founders envisioned. Washington *voluntarily* stepped down after terms, as did all of his successors until Roosevelt, at which point the Constitution was amended to enshrine a two-term limit. And, senators originally were not popularly elected at all and, rather, served at the pleasure of state legislatures. That was the case until the 17the Amendment was ratified in 1913. Imposing term limits on senators at the outset probably would have been seen as an intrusion on state authority over appointments to the Senate, as the original system in which state legislatures chose senators had been seen as a major check on federal power that was put in place specifically to mollify the anti-federalists. I do think there is a good argument that after the constitutional structure was changed so dramatically, and with the vast expansion in federal power, we should think about whether those changes removed certain balancing and checking principles and that term limits would impose some beneficial restraints.

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    9. All good points. Now if we only had a time capsule and an invisibility cloak.......;-)

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    10. When I said that the founders "envisioned" limited terms of elected Federal officials, I meant that in the sense of expectations of SELF limited terms, not legislated ones. The signers of the Declaration of Independence and the later Constitution were not all politicians (some were, of course) and would probably not expect to make an entire career (or a living) on the taxpayer's teat, as so many do today. You really don't make a lot of money in salary as a politician, even a president or member of congress, but boy you can sure cash in afterwards (think lobbyist, corporate board member, law partner at big firms and, of course public speaking for six-figure compensations). Very few of them leave office with LESS money than they had coming in and,if they play their cards right, well let's just say they win a lot of big pots.
      It's true that Washington was the model for "term limits" for the Presidency, but he also left because he was an old man who was not especially well and in fact died fairly soon after he left the Presidency. Adams was "term limited" by his erstwhile friend Jefferson which set it's own precedent (Washington, if he wished, was so popular he probably would have gotten re-elected after death). I DO agree that term limits probably didn't really occur to them (or were considered and rejected for various reasons) because the Constitution explicitly rejected a strong Federal government, relative to the States and I think the appointment of Senators by their respective states as opposed to electing them at large supported that idea. The Progressive movement in the Nineteenth and Twentieth centuries probably led to many of these kind of changes. The idea of "democracy" being inefficient and unwieldy, especially after WWI led to the idea of strong central governments, less responsive to the wishes of their citizens (or even completely UNresponsive, like the Bolshevik revolution in Russia, the Fascist takeover of Italy and the rise of Hitler and his Nazi Party in Germany as well as the Japanese militarists) would be able to "get things done" without all those pesky elections and strong protections for individuals. The Depression fueled a lot of this and led directly to the election of FDR, who was the closest thing to a Communist this country had ever seen and GREATLY expanded the size and scope of the Federal government relative to the States and we've been stuck with that ever since. Roosevelt's seeming desire to be "President for life" (which he indeed turned out to be) led directly to the Twenty-Second Amendment, a Good Thing IMO. It was intended that lifetime appointments to the Federal courts were supposed to insulate judges from negative public opinion and make it unnecessary for them to run for re-election. It used to be that most Federal judgeships were given to people in their 60s and 70s, much less Supreme Court Justices. Now they're picking people in their 40s and early 50s, where they can expect to serve for 30 to 40 years (Ruth Ginsburg might outlive all of us. She's tougher than boiled owl) so I think that limiting both elected and appointed officials to some form of term limits would benefit us by bringing in "new blood" to both the Legislative and Judicial branches. Also, IMO, the Electoral College is as important as it ever was, but that's an argument for another day...

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    11. smuccatelli: What a thorough post. It seems we have all arrived at the same conclusion on term limits. I'm not sure how I feel about judicial term limits. That's one I will have to kick around a bit. I do think a bench should be balanced though, whether in individuals with moderate ideology or in a numerical split on more opposed ideology.

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    12. I am a capital C conservative, fiscally, politically and socially, so I LOVE the people that Trump has been appointing but I remember quite vividly some of the screaming leftist, "activist" judges that Obama appointed too. As they say, "elections have consequences" so the pendulum will swing back at some point. It would be all but impossible to legislate "moderate" judges, the problem being in defining "moderate". It reminds me of Justice Potter Stewart's observation regarding "pornography", "I can't describe it, but I know it when I see it." Also, like term limits, it would require amending the Constitution. Term limits would create "political change by attrition" in limiting the length of service by both strong conservatives AND liberals (as well as those in the middle). I personally have no particular love for "middle-of-the-roaders", preferring those who take a side rather than the squishy center but I recognize that a lot of people feel differently. I think fixed terms, especially for judges (and then bye bye and thanks for your service) would be better than aging judges of whatever persuasion, clinging to power until they die or have to be removed from office for disability or senility (Thurgood Marshall, anyone?). New blood as well as political diversity (also term-limited) would inevitably follow and perhaps the pendulum wouldn't swing so far towards the extreme edges on either side...

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    13. When you put it that way, I am beginning to think that judicial term limits might be a good idea. Perhaps it's a matter of getting the term length short enough to rotate but long enough to allow for impartial stability rather than judicial decision making through pandering.

      I am also not sure why you think a moderate is squishy middle of the road? A moderate is comprised of viewpoints that individually can be just as left or right as their counterparts, but whose total number of views are not the same on everything. So, taking the average, they are moderate. Moderates are not 'undecideds'.

      To me the extremes have proven themselves ideologues more committed to following their tribe leaders rather than thinking through each issue for themselves by what makes sense.

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    14. Actually, I find a lot of moderates are indeed "undecided" when confronted with making a choice about something. How many times have you seen a poll, particularly on a political issue or candidate where many people are "undecided" right up until the day of the election. "Moderates" are often pulled in two different directions because they don't want to be seen as "too left" or "too right" so they wind up choosing the middle ground out of convenience or reluctance to be seen as an ideologue. Thus, the "squishy middle"...

      Trump is not my "tribe leader". He's just closer to my views than most others. I view politics (NOT personal relationships) as a matter of friends and enemies, at least on strongly held viewpoints or beliefs. The enemy of my enemy is my friend, at least on that day. Enemies are people who, through their political beliefs and preferences, wish to do me harm and fuck up my life in order to promote THEIR views. I'm sure they feel the same way towards me and, like them, I don't care. I have my personal beliefs and preferences and you have yours. Vote accordingly and try not to take it personally...

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    15. snuccatelli: interesting that each of our personal experience with tribes versus moderates is contradictory. I also don't see the relevance of time with regard to commitment? If something is being thought through and a decision is reached at the 11th hour, isn't that still better than someone who immediately made their decision but as a knee-jerk step in identity adherence?

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    16. Sometimes making a decision expeditiously, even a wrong one, is better than dithering or agonizing over something and then making a last-minute choice (which often has an equal chance of being wrong. Every decision or choice is not equally worthy of being "thought through". Sometimes you know instinctively or through past experience whether a choice is right or wrong. Calling it "knee-jerk" is only relevant if you disagree with it. If you agree with it, is it still "knee jerk" or is is "correct"? Depends on your point of view, I guess. I don't see what's wrong with "identity adherence" anyway. It's part of who you are and what you believe in. Everything doesn't have to be in shades of gray anymore than everything has to be black and white.
      Try this: Freedom of speech means that if all speech isn't free, none of it is because then it's simply subject to the tyranny of the majority to decide what will or won't be censored. Right or wrong?
      Killing is ALWAYS wrong. Right or wrong?
      "Stop and frisk" is acceptable if you "fit the profile" but not for everyone else. Right or wrong?
      Wealth is immoral. Everyone should share equally in the benefits of society. Right or wrong?
      Private property is inviolate. I've got mine. You get yours or don't. Not my problem. Right or wrong?
      Depending on your "identity adherence", the answers are simple but not necessarily any less valid than the ones that are debated and deconstructed endlessly on public forums. As to the relevance of time with regard to commitment; if,in the end you HAVE to make a choice, then that choice is the one you have to live with. If you can live with the choice you make quickly, whether "knee-jerk" or moral beliefs (or even simple personal preference), what have gained by dragging out the process of coming to a conclusion other than to feel better about yourself for being "thoughtful"? It's the decision that matters, not how you arrived at it. Certainly some issues are complicated but also some aren't and not everything is up for debate regarding each individual's moral choices...

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  5. Well, I guess I’m the token Canadian Trump supporter! Hope I won’t get cancelled...

    I’m amused by him. I like the Big New Yorker boastful hyperbolic personality, and find many things he tweets and says very funny. He seems to be doing a pretty job on the economy which is a tide that lifts all boats. I think the whole Russia thing was proven silly, and the Ukraine phone call also was making a mountain out of a molehill. I like that Stormy Daniels spanked him with a rolled up magazine he was on the cover of. And I’d like to see him try to grab my pussy. Ha! Democrats need to loosen up, they are so sour nowadays. And don’t get me started on Trudeau!

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    1. good to hear from you juliesp, I thought maybe Canada swallowed you up. Yes Trump is different and in ways a breath of fresh air compared to the normal office seeker.
      archedone

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    2. I would've thought that Turdeau would have trouble getting re-elected what with the "blackface" stuff in his past. Perhaps it's because there's of whites vs. blacks (or People of Color) in Canada. I also would have wagered that any American (white) politician who had a past history of blackface exposed would've have been driven from office or at least not re-elected, but Ralph Northham (Governor of Virginia) proved me wrong, just like Justine. Of course, he IS a Democrat and not a Republican, which might explain it...

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    3. Julie: Well as a Canadian I'm not surprised that you like Trump. After all his policies will no doubt ensure drastically-increased tourist revenues to Canada as the 'Great White North" becomes a tropical beachfront paradise. As for your seemingly negative view of Trudeau? Well, most women find him handsome, so just "loosen up" and look for the humor in his antics.

      As for the specifics you mention? Well, again.....it's time-consuming to fact-check every Trump-trope born of Fox.....and I haven't had my coffee yet. And be honest.... I think you would love it if he grabbed your pussy. ;-)

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    4. Archedone: "breath of fresh air"? More like an assful of rancid fart.

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    5. Yes, re the pussy grabbing, but only if I can spank him with the rolled up magazine afterwards. :-)

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    6. Julie: I'm sure he would go for that trade. But if he didn't you'd probably still have to comply anyway, or you might be smeared at your job, or have him declare war on Canada in petulant retaliation.

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  6. Crimson Kid (C.K.)February 9, 2020 at 1:42 PM

    Does anyone believe that the young women who were sexually harassed by Donald Trump have the same light-hearted, teasing attitude about it which is being reflected here? I certainly don't.

    That economically "a rising tide lifts all boats," that wasn't at all true back when Ronald Reagan said it (1980s), while his policies made certain that it didn't happen, nor in the supposedly 'prosperous' decade of the '20s, and its certainly a line of BS today, when Donald Trump's tax policies blatantly are designed to favor the ultra-rich over working-class Americans, who end up needing multiple jobs just to support their families.

    Of course, I'm certain that America's abandoned and betrayed Kurdish allies, those still alive anyway, consider Trump to be "a breath of fresh air," while the children imprisoned at the border, separated from their parents and sleeping on cement floors, are highly "amused by him."

    Who wouldn't be, hmmmm? --C.K.

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    1. CK: A lot of good points made with an appropriate degree of passion. I'll have to post more political topics to cover all the interesting things that have surfaced in these comments.

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