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Saturday, November 17, 2018

Poppies and economics - Bill Bonner's Diary

Kilkenny Ireland St. Canice's Cathedral - Dubay photo

This interesting perspective is from Ireland, linking creative correlations between "real wars" and economic "trade wars". There's intelligent thoughts brought together in Bill Bonner's Diary.  Very well written....

I'll have to follow some of the other blogs by Bill Bonner, Chairman, Bonner & Partners

YOUGHAL, IRELAND – The muffled bells began tolling at precisely 11 o’clock on the 11th day of the 11th month of the year. And then, the poppies began to fall.

St. Canice’s Cathedral in Kilkenny was marking the end of the Great War by dropping red, paper poppy flowers, inscribed with the names of local soldiers, from the bell tower down into the nave.

For the next two hours, the poppies fell, one for every one of Ireland’s young men who died in the war… 35,000 in all.

They were shot, gassed, or blown to bits. Brothers, husbands, and sons – and fathers, too. About 25,000 Irish children never saw their fathers again.

Kilkenomics Festival - Irish economist David McWilliams invited participants to the “Kilkenomics Festival.” 

We wrote much about “Trump’s Trade War,” David must have thought we knew something about it. So we were asked to join a panel discussion.

“We’re talking about two different things here,” we clarified, for the sake of the audience.

“There’s a trade war, which is largely fake. And there’s the threat of a real war, which a trade war might cause.”

We explained our point of view. Donald Trump has the most to lose from a trade war with China. His reputation for creating a strong economy… his reputation for forceful and successful deal-making… the fortunes of his major backers, as well as his own personal fortune – all depend on cutting a deal with the Chinese.

He could bring China to its knees, we explained, by blocking Chinese imports to the U.S. But he would enjoy his triumph for only about 10 seconds – the time it would take to notice that the U.S. stock market was crashing.

Trump may be a blowhard and a dumbbell about a lot of things, but not about which side his bread is buttered on. He will want to come back from his meeting with China’s Mr. Xi at the G20 summit in Argentina at the end of this month with a victory announcement… not with a double obituary – one for “his” economy and the other for his career. 
But wait… It’s not that simple.

Thucydides Trap- When one great power threatens to displace another, war is almost always the result -- but it doesn’t have to be. “Trump is, above all, a showman. But shows sometimes veer off in unexpected and unwelcome directions", we said.

“And while POTUS may only be posturing for his admirers, China may see its future and its livelihood being threatened. Indeed, China,may not have gotten the memo: that this is just showbiz. It may be unwilling to read from the script or play its role for the Trump fanbase. Something could go very wrong.”

The other panelists were ahead of us. They thought things had already gone wrong.

“This trade war has already gone way beyond trade,” said Neil Howe, who developed the theory of a generational cycle in American politics. “It’s now about intellectual property theft and technology transfers. It’s now about geopolitics and China’s rise as a great power. America feels threatened. It feels like it is losing its place in the world.”

Howe cited Graham Allison’s “Thucydides Trap.” The idea is that as great powers are challenged by rising powers, it leads to war.

According to Greek historian Thucydides, it was the Spartans’ desire to keep Athens from getting too big for its britches that caused the Peloponnesian war.

And many think it was Germany’s rise as a great power in the early 20th century that caused France and England to rush into World War I… and to punish Germany so harshly after the war.

Yesterday marked the hundredth anniversary of the end of World War I. For 100 years, historians have been trying to find a plausible explanation for the deaths of 37 million people. Thucydides was probably not far off.

Two Impulses

Germany never surrendered. She only signed onto an Armistice.

But then, with her ports blockaded, her people starving, and her resources exhausted, she was forced to accept the “war guilt,” though Germany was arguably no more guilty than any of the other participants of the war.

Germany was also saddled with “reparations,” which crippled her economy. And in 1921, when she was unable to make a reparations payment – in gold, of course – the French and Belgian troops invaded and occupied the Ruhr Valley.

As we have been exploring, there are two main impulses in human transactions: win-win and win-lose. You either do voluntary deals, in the hope of both parties coming out ahead. Or you force someone else to lose so that you can “win.”

Most of private life is win-win (though there are always some people trying to get ahead by making others lose).

Public life, on the other hand, is dominated by government, which is an us-versus-them, win-lose enterprise.

And in war, win-lose finds its most dramatic expression. You can’t win a war without making someone else lose. And in the case of World War I, the above-referenced 37 million corpses were the big losers.

Win-win deals often lead participants to want to win again… that is, to do more deals (business, consumption, sex… whatever).

But win-lose deals leave participants looking for revenge. So the 37 million losers from World War I ended up as simply the downpayment on the total win-lose tally for the 20th century.

Adolf Hitler was on the case. By 1921, he was the chief of the National Socialist German Workers’ Party – or Nazi Party – and he was already peddling his us-versus-them, win-lose claptrap. “We were stabbed in the back,” he claimed. By 1945, another 60 million people had been added to the losers’ list.

The church service in Kilkenny ended with a bugler performing “The Last Post”… which was played at the end of the killing…

Then, the last poppy drifted down and came to rest on the floor… like the last soldier falling into the mud of the trenches.

The church grew quiet.

And after a minute or two of silence, a baby began to cry.



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Turmpzism is like Einstein's definition of insanity

The 2018 US midterm elections sent an unmistakable message to Republicans: So long as the GOP stays loyal to Donald Trump, its prospects on the electoral map will be sharply restricted.

By Ronald Brownstein published in The Atlantic

In November 2018 midterm elections, the bill came due on the defining bet placed by congressional Republicans during the Donald Trump "Trumpzi" era.

Led by House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, House and Senate Republicans made a strategic decision to lock arms around Trump over the past two years.

(Wrongly)....they resolutely rejected any meaningful oversight of his administration; excused, or even actively defended, his most incendiary remarks; buried legislation to protect Special Counsel Robert Mueller; and worked in harness with the president to pass an agenda aimed almost entirely at the preferences and priorities of voters within the GOP coalition, including tax cuts and the unsuccessful attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

Even as Trump’s leadership careened through daily storms, many fiasco were of his own making, they still lashed themselves to its mast.

In the election, the consequences of that decision became clear. The general trend in midterm elections is that voters’ decisions, for both the House and the Senate, increasingly correspond with their attitudes about the president. But the 2018 results raised that long-term trajectory to a new peak.

In the midterms of 2006, 2010, and 2014, between 84 and 87 percent of voterswho approved of the president’s job performance voted for his party’s candidate in their local House race, according to exit polls. (Unfortunately)... In the 2018 midterm, 88 percent of Trump (wrong minded) approvers said they backed Republicans for the House, according to results from the Edison Research exit poll, which was conducted for the National Election Pool and published on the CNN website.

Moreover, in those previous three midterm exit polls, between 82 and 84 percent of voters who disapproved of the president voted against his party’s candidates for the House. But on November 6th, that number soared: Fully 90 percent of Trump disapprovers said they voted for Democrats for the lower chamber. That was the worst performance for the president’s party among disapproving voters since Ronald Reagan in 1982.

Political strategists in both parties generally consider it easier for senators to establish an independent identity from the president. But attitudes about Trump were a powerful force in those races, too. Exit polls were conducted for 21 Senate contests in which a Republican faced a Democrat. Democrats won at least 90 percent of voters who disapproved of Trump in 15 of those 21 contests, and up to 89 percent in five more. Scandal-tarred New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez was the only Democratic candidate to win a smaller share of voters who disapproved of Trump, at 79 percent.

Meanwhile, Republicans carried at least 90 percent of Trump approvers in seven of the 21 Senate races, and between 80 and 89 percent in 13 others. Joe Manchin in West Virginia was the only Democrat to hold his Republican opponent to less than 80 percent of Trump supporters.

The power of these relationships shaped the outcome in both chambers. In total, the tightened connection between votes for Congress and attitudes about Trump was a negative for Republicans because significantly more voters disapproved of him (54 percent) than approved (45 percent) in the national House exit poll.

Those topline numbers contained a stark divergence that drove the pattern of congressional results. This year’s exit poll found that just over three-fifths of whites without a college degree approved of Trump’s performance. That helps explain why Democrats made only very modest gains in rural or heavily blue-collar House districts. (Northeast Iowa and two upstate New York seats were among the few exceptions.)

That support also powered the Republican Senate victories in the preponderantly white and blue-collar heartland states of Indiana, Missouri, and North Dakota. Huge margins among working-class whites also keyed the apparent GOP wins in the Florida and Georgia governor’s races, and in Florida’s close Senate race.

The biggest exceptions to this pattern were two folksy Democrats, Manchin in West Virginia and Jon Tester in Montana, and the populist Sherrod Brown in Ohio, who each won in predominantly blue-collar states where a majority of voters said they approved of Trump’s performance.

On the other side of the ledger, almost exactly three-fifths of whites with a four-year-college degree or more disapproved of Trump, as did just over 70 percent of nonwhites. That gale-force rejection powered the sweeping Democratic gains in white-collar and diverse metropolitan House districts across the country. Democrats swept away Republicans clinging to House seats in otherwise blue metropolitan areas in and around New York, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Northern Virginia, Miami, Chicago, Detroit, Minneapolis, Denver, Tucson, Seattle, and the northern exurbs of Los Angeles.
The recoil from Trump extended even to many of the metro areas where the GOP had maintained an advantage in recent years. Republicans lost House seats in Richmond, Charleston, Atlanta, Houston, Dallas, Oklahoma City, Kansas City, California’s Orange County, and possibly Salt Lake City. For Republican members in both varieties of suburbs, occasional votes against party positions or tepid and intermittent public quibbles with Trump’s behavior could not mollify voters dismayed by the GOP’s overall subservience to his leadership.

The same dynamics were evident in statewide contests. In Senate and governor’s races, Democrats scored decisive victories in suburban counties that have moved toward them in recent years, from Arapahoe and Jefferson Counties in Colorado; to Montgomery, Delaware, Bucks, and Chester Counties in Pennsylvania; to Oakland County in Michigan; to Hillsborough and Orange Counties in Florida. But as in the House races, the collapse also extended to places that had functioned as the GOP’s last outposts inside metro America.

Trump in 2016 carried only 13 of the nation’s 100 largest counties, according to data compiled for me by the Pew Research Center. But last week, about half of that already modest group shifted toward Democrats in statewide races. Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix and its surrounding suburbs in Arizona, was the largest county that Trump won. But as of Tuesday night, it provided the Democrat Kyrsten Sinema a decisive margin of about 40,000 votes in her Senate victory over the Republican Martha McSally.

Tarrant County in Texas, which includes Fort Worth, was the second-largest county that Trump carried. But last week, it narrowly backed the Democrat Beto O’Rourke over the Republican Ted Cruz. Among the other large counties that Trump took in 2016, Suffolk (New York), Pinellas and Duval (Florida), Macomb (Michigan), and Oklahoma (in Oklahoma) all broke for Democrats in governor and/or Senate races.

Texas offered perhaps the most dramatic example of the undertow Trump has created for Republicans in metropolitan areas. 

In addition to his slim win in Tarrant County, O’Rourke carried Harris County (including Houston) by about 200,000 votes, Dallas and Travis Counties (including Austin) by around 240,000 votes each, and Bexar County (including San Antonio) by roughly 110,000 votes. As recently as 2012, Barack Obama’s combined margin across those four counties had been only about 175,000 votes. (He lost Tarrant by 94,000 votes, whereas O’Rourke won it by about 6,000.)

The surge toward Democrats in Harris County was so strong that the party elected a slate of candidates to posts across the government, including 17 African American women to county judgeships and a 27-year-old Latina who had never held public office to the job of the county’s chief executive. Democrats also won a majority on the county commission.

And O’Rourke extended his gains beyond core urban counties to win surrounding suburban areas, including the counties of Fort Bend (near Houston) and Williamson and Hayes (outside Austin). Obama lost all three in 2012 and Hillary Clinton lost the latter two in 2016; she carried Fort Bend only narrowly. Democrats still face an uphill climb in Texas, but by consolidating their advantages in its largest urban centers in the Beto O’Rourke race, they have established a foundation from which to plausibly contest the state for the first time since the early 1990s.

Even with the GOP’s net gain in the Senate, these patterns represent a heavy price to Republicans for the choice congressional leaders made to bind the party to Trump. Paul Ryan, who had been among the most openly skeptical of Trump during the 2016 election, sublimated any private doubts to a posture of public deference and a policy of legislative cooperation. 

Now Ryan leaves Washington as the architect of the GOP’s biggest loss of House seats in any election since Watergate.

Kevin McCarthy, who House Republicans selected Wednesday to replace Ryan as their leader, pressured his fellow California Republicans to stand with Trump on key votes. 

As of now, Republicans have already lost four of their California House seats; as the vote counts continue, they are highly likely to lose a fifth (Mimi Walters’s seat in Orange County), and could surrender a sixth (the open Orange County seat vacated by Ed Royce). Even a seventh loss (for Representative David Valadao in the Central Valley) remains possible, though not probable at this point. After following McCarthy’s lead, California Republicans will emerge from the midterm elections holding no more than 10, and possibly as few as seven, of the state’s 53 congressional seats.

It appears that no Republican will capture even 40 percent of the vote in any statewide California election either.

These reversals don’t mean Trump can’t win in 2020. Midterm elections have not consistently predicted presidential results two years later. Big midterm losses for the president’s party in 1958, 1966, 1974, 1978, and 2006 did foreshadow a shift in control of the White House in the next presidential contest. But Dwight Eisenhower in 1954, Ronald Reagan in 1982, Bill Clinton in 1994, and Barack Obama in 2010 all recovered from significant losses in their first midterms to win reelection with margins that ranged from comfortable (Clinton and Obama) to overwhelming (Eisenhower and Reagan).

In this election, Democrats demonstrated renewed strength by winning Senate and governor’s races in the three Rust Belt states that keyed Trump’s victory: Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin.

Also, voters sent a clear message that Republicans in 2020 can’t entirely count on the emerging Sun Belt battlegrounds of Georgia, Arizona, and Texas. North Carolina, where Republicans lead by about 80,000 ballots in the total House popular vote, also remains highly competitive, if leaning slightly toward the GOP.

But Trump is likely to be a much stronger competitor in the big three midwestern states than the Republicans who were on the ballot last week. And while Democrats don’t necessarily need to win Ohio or Florida in 2020, last week’s results offered them more reason for concern than optimism in those states, which have been the past quarter century’s most fiercely contested swing states. Ohio, at least, is unlikely to again draw the huge investment of time and money from Democrats that it has in the past.

Whatever it augurs for Trump’s own chances, though, the 2018 results underscored how he has truncated the opportunities for congressional Republicans. So long as the party is defined by his racially infused nationalism, it will be a strong competitor in states and House districts dominated by older, blue-collar, and evangelical white voters. But at the same time, the party seems guaranteed to struggle in suburban areas. It will also face growing challenges in Sun Belt states from Democrats who can mobilize an urbanized coalition of Millennials, minorities, and college-educated whites. This year, those voters elected to the Senate Sinema in Arizona and Jacky Rosen in Nevada. And they allowed O’Rourke in Texas and Stacey Abrams in the Georgia governor’s race to run more competitively than any Democrat had in those states for decades. That same formula in 2020 could threaten Republican Senate seats in Colorado, North Carolina, Arizona, and possibly Texas.

Over the past two years, Republicans up and down the ballot could have tried to establish an identity divorced from Trump.

Instead, led by Ryan and Mitch McConnell, they sent voters an unmistakable signal that they would not act in any meaningful way to restrain, or even to oversee, him. In 2018, voters in turn sent Republicans an equally unmistakable signal: that their fate is now inextricably bound to the volatile president they have embraced as their leader. (MaineWriter- Is this the classic Einstein description of "craziness"?)

"Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results"

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Friday, November 16, 2018

Jewish history 1939: refugees and Trumpzism

For a person with Jewish roots, the recent events in Pittsburgh coupled with the Trump administration's stand on blocking refugees from entering this country,  a flashback that harks back to 1939, one of the most shameful periods in this nation's history.

History's forgotten results in history repeated. Few living today, and few that may have been exposed to a class on history, are likely to remember the significance of the events surrounding the voyage of the MS St. Louis.

In 1939, the German steamship carried some 900 Jewish refugees fleeing across the Atlantic just prior to the outbreak of World War II. Cuba, Canada, and most shamefully, the administration of this country, denied them asylum.

Unfortunately in 1939, for many on-board the MS St. Louis who resettled on the continent, gas chambers awaited after the war with Germany broke out.

Today, our reaction is to turn back refugees to equally uncertain, dangerous futures.

Worse for us, the current administration fosters a culture of intolerance, characterizing modern era refugees as criminals, rapists, murderers and invaders while refusing to take a hard stand against our own native Nazis, skinheads, white supremacists and the like.

Our administration embraces xenophobia while the rest of the leadership stands passively by signaling that civilized society no longer demands restraint or that we hold our prejudices in check.

Can America find its moral compass again? Or will it take another World War, a Great Depression, a global pandemic or some near extinction level event to level the playing field and make us realize every human has dignity and we are all in this world together and equally worthy of existence?

NANCY Urciuolo, Lower Paxton Township


Racism in America - Abraham Lincoln perspective

Published in The Atlantic and posted in the HistoryNewsNetwork, by Andrew Delbanco is the Alexander Hamilton Professor of American Studies at Columbia University. 

With the United States starkly divided and with many Americans asking what kind of nation we are, it seems a good moment to look back to November 1863 in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, when Abraham Lincoln tried to answer the same question. Consecrating a Civil War battlefield where thousands of young men and boys had died four months before, he spoke of a nation “conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” For most Americans since, and for much of the world, those words have attained the status of scripture. We draw our sense of collective identity from them. They were, however, not strictly true, and Lincoln knew it.

Five years earlier, he had been more candid. Speaking in Chicago in the summer of 1858, Lincoln noted that when the republic was founded, “we had slavery among us,” and that “we could not get our Constitution unless we permitted” slavery to persist in those parts of the nation where it was already entrenched. “We could not secure the good we did secure,” he said, “if we grasped for more.” The United States, in other words, could not have been created if the eradication of human bondage had been a condition of its creation. Had Lincoln said at Gettysburg that the nation was con­ceived not in liberty but in compromise, the phrase would have been less memorable but more accurate.

The hard truth is that the United States was founded in an act of accommodation between two fundamentally different societies. As one Southern-born antislavery activist wrote, it was a “sad satire to call [the] States ‘United,’” because in one-half of the country slavery was basic to its way of life, while in the other it was fading or already gone. The Founding Fathers tried to stitch these two nations together with no idea how long the stitching would hold.

There were many reasons why this composite nation unraveled in the mid-19th century—but one in particular exposed the idea of the “United” States as a lie. This was the fact that even before the founding, enslaved people repeatedly risked their lives to flee their mas­ters in search of freedom. The Founding Fathers knew the problem firsthand. Many of them were slaveholders themselves, including Thomas Jefferson and George Washington, whose own slaves periodically ran away. And so, in Article IV, Section 2, Clause 3 of the Constitution, which came to be known as the Fugitive Slave Clause, they tried to solve the problem. 

That clause declared that “no person held to service or labor in one state” could escape from coerced labor by fleeing from a state where slavery was legal to a state where it was illegal.
The constitutional principle was clear, but it proved to be unenforceable. Over the first half of the 19th century, as enslaved men and women ran from slavery to freedom, the federal government remained too weak to do much to stop them. By the second quarter of the century, some of the fugitives—the most famous was Frederick Douglass—were telling their stories with the help of white abolitionist editors in speeches and memoirs that ripped open the screen behind which America tried to conceal the reality that a nation (supposedly) based on the principle of human equality was actually a prison house in which millions of Americans had virtually no rights at all. 

By awakening Northerners to this fact, and by enraging Southerners who demanded the return of their “absconded” property, they pushed the nation toward confronting the truth that America was really two nations, not one. 

Politicians of all parties pretended otherwise. From the mid-1830s to the mid-1840s, hoping to restore “tranquility to the public mind,” the House of Representatives observed what became known as the Gag Rule, which required that any petition demanding action against slavery must be tabled immediately upon receipt without debate. Yet the truth about the divided state of the union could not be squelched. As the nation expanded westward, the border between slave states and free states became longer and more porous, and slaves continued to cross it.

In 1846, with the outbreak of the Mexican War, the final reckoning was set in motion. With strong but not universal support in the South, and against strong but not universal resistance in the North, both halves of the United States joined to wage a war of conquest. By the time the fighting ended two years later, the United States had seized a huge swath of land stretching from Texas to California, nearly equal in size to one-third of our present-day nation. This immense expansion of territory under control of the federal government brought back the old question of compromise between slavery and freedom in a new form and with more urgency than ever.

Would slavery be confined to states where it already existed, or would it be allowed to spread into the new territories, which would eventually become states? A growing number of white Northerners insisted on the former. White Southerners almost universally demanded the latter. The fragile political truce that had held the United States together was coming apart.

In 1850, Congress attempted a last-ditch solution. It struck a bargain, now known as the Compromise of 1850, that belongs to the long history of compromise—beginning with the Constitution itself—by which white Americans advanced their interests at the expense of black Americans. In an intricate balancing act designed to prevent an irreparable rupture between the free states and the slave states, the compromise proposed to keep slavery out of some of the new territories while leaving its future in others to be decided by local referendum.

Congress sealed the deal by passing what became known as the Fugitive Slave Act, which was an effort to put teeth into the toothless clause of the Constitution. The new law empowered a whole class of federal officers (called “commissioners”) to return fugitives without any semblance of due process. It made it a federal crime for any citizen to aid a fugitive in flight from “service.” Meant to be a remedy and salve, it turned out to be the incendiary event that lit the fuse that led to civil war.

The leading intellectual of the North, Ralph Waldo Emerson, called the Fugitive Slave Law a “sheet of lightning at midnight.” To him and many others, it revealed that Americans had been living all along in an unholy “union between two countries, one civilized & Christian & the other barbarous.”

This was a sentiment with which Lincoln himself tacitly agreed. But he refrained from saying so on the grounds that, with time, slavery could be “put in the path of ultimate extinction.” Faced with a choice between denying the constitutional right of slave owners to recover their human property and thereby losing the union, and tolerating slavery to the extent of returning fugitives and thereby saving the union, Lincoln chose the latter. “I hate to see the poor creatures hunted down and returned to their stripes,” he said, “but I bite my lip and keep quiet.”

The quiet did not last. Vile as it was, the Fugitive Slave Law was also, ironically, a gift to antislavery activists because wherever it was enforced, it allowed them to show off human beings dragged back to the hell whence they came—a more potent aid to the cause than any speech or pamphlet. It implicated Northerners in the business of slavery in a way they had never felt before. It made visible the suffering of human beings who had been hitherto invisible. It forced Northerners to choose between coming to their aid in defiance of the law or surrendering them under penalty of the law.

A few chose the former and most chose the latter, as resistance broke out in Northern cities. Blacks and whites organized to break fugitives out of jail. Most important for the fate of the union, mainstream public opinion underwent a radical change. 

In Massachusetts in 1854, after a fugitive was violently arrested and sent back to his master in Virginia, one New England industrialist whose textile mills wove slave-grown cotton into cloth remarked, “We went to bed one night old-fashioned, conservative, Compromise Union Whigs & waked up stark mad Abolitionists.” In North Carolina, one newspaper announced, “Respect and Enforce the Fugitive Slave Law as it stands. If not, we leave you!”

The Fugitive Slave Law turned the nation upside down. Southerners who had once insisted on states’ rights now demanded federal intervention to enforce what they considered their property rights. Northerners who had once derided the South for its theory of “nullification”—John C. Calhoun’s idea that acts of Congress require consent from each individual state before they can take effect within its borders—now became nullifiers themselves. The Fugitive Slave Law clarified just how incompatible North and South had become. It broke the national Democratic Party into Northern and Southern factions. It fractured the Whig Party into “Cotton Whigs” and “Conscience Whigs.” It made the possibility of disunion, once an extremist idea, seem suddenly plausible. 

One eminent New Englander replied to the Southern secessionist threat with a shrug of disgust: “If the union be in any way dependent on an act so revolting in every regard, then it ought not to exist.”

Most important, the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 made clear that slavery was not a Southern phenomenon but a national phenomenon. Northerners who had once been able to pretend that slavery had nothing to do with them could no longer evade their complicity.

Considering this history may help put into perspective our contemporary anxiety that America is a hopelessly divided nation facing insoluble problems. In fact, none of the issues of our time—economic inequality, affordability of health care, future of the environment, regulation of immigration—recalcitrant as they may be to bipartisan compromise, compares even remotely to the impasse of the mid-19th century. “Humanity cries out against this vast enormity,” Herman Melville wrote a year before the Fugitive Slave Law was passed, “but not one man knows a prudent remedy.” By “prudent” he meant some way of destroying slavery without destroying the union itself.

Yet the story of the Fugitive Slave Law is also a distant mirror in which we may see a version of ourselves. It alienated many Americans from their country and compelled them to decide how to behave in the face of federal laws and actions that violated their personal convictions. Many white people in the North struggled to find a way, as one antislavery minister put it, “to obey the law while respecting themselves.” Writing with a certain voyeuristic pleasure, Nathaniel Hawthorne described one New England politician oscillating between saying yes and saying no to the Fugitive Slave Law, attempting “first to throw himself upon one side of the gulf, then on the other,” until he “finally tumbled headlong into the bottomless depth between.” In Boston, a U.S. marshal reluctantly obeyed a court order to send a fugitive back to slavery, then raised money to try to buy the same man’s freedom and after the Civil War hired him to work as an employee of the federal government.

Through most of his career, Lincoln himself tried to walk the line between compliance and resistance to the Fugitive Slave Law. Repulsed by the Southern demand that “we must arrest and return their fugitive slaves with greedy pleasure,” he nevertheless pledged to respect the law. Even after his election as president and well into the Civil War, he continued trying to reconcile his revulsion at slavery with his devotion to the union. Accused from the right of being an antislavery radical, he was reviled from the left for dragging his feet in the struggle against slavery for the sake of the illusory dream that the union could be preserved.

In that sense, Lincoln was the embodiment of America’s long struggle to remake itself as a morally coherent nation. Under his leadership, the Civil War finally resolved the problem of fugitive slaves by destroying the institution from which they had fled. By the time of his death, some 4 million black Americans were no longer at risk of forcible return to their erstwhile masters. 

They had entered the limbo between the privations of their past and the future promise of American life—a state of suspension in which millions of black Americans still live.

The problem of the 1850s, was a political problem specific to a particular time and place. 

But the moral problem of how to reconcile irreconcilable values is a timeless one that, sooner or later, confronts us all.

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Thursday, November 15, 2018

Jared Golden wins Maine Second District - Democrat beats the incumbent

Congressman elect Jared Golden- Democrat from Lewiston Maine

By Michael Shepherd, BDN Staff • November 15, 2018 12:31 pm 
Updated: November 15, 2018

AUGUSTA, Maine — Assistant Maine House Majority Leader Jared Golden defeated U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin in a ranked-choice count in Maine’s 2nd Congressional District that finished on Thursday and is the subject of an uphill challenge in federal court by the Republican incumbent.

The result would be a historic one: As it stands, Golden, a 36-year-old Democrat from Lewiston, is the first person to defeat an incumbent in the largely rural 2nd District’s modern-era configuration as it stands after it went hard in 2016 for President Donald Trump, a Republican.

“Mainers want a new generation of leaders who will fix our dysfunctional political system so that it serves the people first and foremost, and I’m going to do my part to give them what they deserve,” Golden said in a victory speech in Augusta.

Democrats clinched a majority in the U.S. House of Representatives in last week’s election, flipping the chamber from Republican control. If Golden’s victory stands, they would likely control at least 230 seats to Republicans’ 199. Five other races were still undecided as of Thursday.

Secretary of State report
In fact, the race between Golden and Poliquin was heavily nationalized and became the most expensive U.S. House election in Maine history. The candidates and outside groups spent nearly $20.6 million on the race by Election Day. More than 58 percent came from Democrats, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Poliquin outpolled Golden by roughly 2,000 votes on Election Day, winning 46.3 percent of votes to Golden’s 45.6 percent, according to unofficial results reported to the Bangor Daily News. But Maine’s ranked-choice voting system — enshrined by voters in 2016 — kicked in because neither candidate won a majority and 8 percent of voters ranked one of the two independents first.

Votes for lawyer Tiffany Bond of Portland and educator Will Hoar of Southwest Harbor were reallocated over a five-day count by Secretary of State Matt Dunlap’s office in Augusta that ended on Thursday. Golden was declared the winner as a result of the ranked-choice counting with 50.53 percent of votes to Poliquin’s 49.47 percent.

Now the focus shifts to U.S. District Court Judge Lance Walker, who on Wednesday heard arguments in Poliquin’s lawsuit against Dunlap over ranked-choice voting, which was filed on Tuesday. It claims that the method violates the U.S. Constitution and other areas of law and asks a judge to stop the ranked-choice count and declare Poliquin the winner.

About 90 minutes before the ranked ballots were to be tallied, Walker denied Poliquin’s request for a restraining order to stop the count. That cleared the way for the next round of ranked-choice voting to take place in Augusta. It also dealt a major blow to Poliquin’s overall legal bid, though the Republican said in a statement that he would continue the court fight.

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Yes it was! Blue Wave was real: Five Thirty Eight

suffice it to say, the blue 🌊 was real.
sarahf (Sarah Frostenson, politics editor): So we’re here today to talk about the midterm elections and the BLUE WAVE … or blue trickle? Which is it, team!?!

nrakich (Nathaniel Rakich, elections analyst): It was, by any historical standard, a blue wave. Democrats look like they’re going to pick up around 38 House seats, which would be the third-biggest gain by any party in 40 years (after Republicans in 2010 and 1994). The Senate moved in the opposite direction, but not by much, and it was a very difficult map for Democrats anyway.

And Democrats won the House popular vote by 6.8 percentage points, according to preliminary data from the Cook Political Report. And Cook’s Dave Wasserman thinks continued vote-counting in California should bring Democrats to well over 7 points. That would be the third-highest popular vote margin of any election since 1992 (behind Democrats in 2006 and 2008).

natesilver (Nate Silver, editor in chief): The arguments that it ISN’T a blue wave are dumb. Can we end the chat now and get lunch?

sarahf: Haha, no. We’re here to tell readers why it’s dumb — although Nathaniel did do a pretty good job of convincing me.

nrakich: People seem to be defining “blue wave” as, “Did Democrats outperform expectations?”

They’re forgetting that expectations were already for a blue wave.

natesilver: What is the argument that it isn’t a blue wave? That Democrats didn’t win the Senate?

clare.malone (Clare Malone, senior political writer): Fun chat.

nrakich: Democrats largely matched expectations in the House but fell a little bit short of them in the Senate and governor races.

clare.malone: Let’s step out of the numerical zone for a second, then, and engage with why some people are NOT interpreting it as a “blue wave.”

I think it says something about the political environment that Democratic voters wanted that overarching rebuke to President Trump.

I’m guessing a lot of people thought Democrats could win the Senate because they weren’t paying attention to politics that closely. Or more precisely, the electoral apportionment part of politics. I don’t blame regular people for that. Now, I think we can criticize media outlets …

natesilver: I think they’re arguing it’s not a wave because (1) the “split decision” narrative is very attractive if you’re of a both-sides mentality, (2) it takes a little bit of work to figure out why Democrats didn’t win the Senate (i.e., you have to look at the fact that the contests were all held in really red states), (3) Democratic gains are larger than they looked like they’d be at say 10:30 p.m. on election night, when these narratives were established.

nrakich: I understand why Democrats are disappointed, Clare. They lost the Senate! You’d rather win than lose! But we should educate them that a loss of two, maybe one, seats in the Senate was actually a remarkable feat for Democrats in this Senate map.

natesilver: Ehhhhhhhhhhhhhh

I think that’s going a little too far.

nrakich: Democrats were so overexposed that, in a different environment, Republicans could have taken 60 seats in the Senate and made it really hard for Democrats to take back the Senate in the next decade or more.

perry (Perry Bacon Jr., senior writer): The Atlantic’s Ron Brownstein has a good case complicating the idea of a blue wave:

On Tuesday, a divided America returned a divided verdict on the tumultuous first two years of Donald Trump’s presidency. Rather than delivering a “blue wave” or a “red wall,” the election produced a much more divergent result than usual in a midterm.

Democrats made sweeping gains in the House, ousting Republicans in urban and suburban seats across every region of the country to convincingly retake the majority for the first time since 2010. …

But Republicans expanded their Senate majority across a belt of older, whiter heartland states.

It’s worth considering the idea that, yes, Democrats made gains. But the shift of white, working-class voters to the GOP that has been happening for a long time became clearer in 2016 and remained unchanged in 2018. A certain kind of voter — largely suburban — broke with Trump and the GOP, but Republicans look really strong in rural and white, working-class America.

natesilver: On the narrower point about the Senate — yeah, Democrats would have lost a bunch of seats in a neutral environment. But there was no reason to expect a neutral environment. The default is that the “out” (non-presidential) party does pretty well, especially under unpopular presidents.

So I think people who were like “Democrats are gonna lose six Senate seats” didn’t have the right prior.

nrakich: Sure, Nate, but I’m comparing it to a world in which Hillary Clinton won the presidency.

Although, frankly, Democrats still could have lost more seats with a Republican as president.

If Jeb Bush had won the 2016 election and the economy was still humming along, the generic congressional ballot might have been D+3, instead of D+9, and Democrats would have lost four or five Senate seats instead of two.

sarahf: Right, but this was supposed to be a rebuke on a president that has defied American norms! I guess I kind of find Brownstein’s argument in the piece that Perry shared convincing — the midterm elections didn’t wind up solidly in either party’s win column; rather it showed just how divided America remains.

nrakich: It was a rebuke!

It’s just that we’ve known that it was going to be that since early 2017. So it was already priced in in everyone’s minds.

sarahf: So does it mean that Democrats just can’t win in Missouri, Indiana and North Dakota (states where Democratic incumbents lost Senate contests last week) because those states are just too red now? Even though Democrats had a sweeping victory in the House, this year’s Senate map underscored some big electoral challenges that they will face moving forward — i.e., Democrats better hope the Midwest continues to move to the left, because I think we saw that the Sun Belt is still a ways away from shifting.

nrakich: Don’t think of what happened in the Senate in terms of gains and losses for Democrats. Instead, think of the raw number of seats they won: at least 24 out of the 35 Senate seats on the ballot this year (we still don’t know who won yet in Florida or the Mississippi special election).

Considering that 18 of the 35 Senate seats up this year were in red states, it’s impressive that Democrats took a majority of them.

sarahf: What I’m hearing is that despite losses in the Senate, Democrats did well under the circumstances. But I wonder what you all make of the fact that Democrats didn’t pick up a single rural district?

natesilver: The average tipping-point Senate seat was in an R+16 state. The average tipping-point House seat was R+8.

So that tells you something: Democrats had no problem winning in R+8-type districts, which is pretty good, but the R+16 is a bridge too far in a world of high partisanship (at least for their incumbents in the Senate). Their incumbency advantage was just too small.

sarahf: But then how do we explain Montana and West Virginia? Those are both very red states, R+17.7 and R+30.5, respectively, and both of the Democratic incumbent senators there won on Tuesday. Is it just because of a strong incumbency advantage? Or is it that both states have small populations and more elastic voters?

It’s hard for me to believe that a winning electoral strategy for Democrats is to not court voters in more rural, red states and just ride out incumbency as long as possible.

But it seems as if that might be where Democrats are headed? That partisanship matters more than ever and Democrats trying to win Arizona and maybe Texas are the future? (Although, I have to say Texas leans pretty Republican at R+16.9).

natesilver: I mean, some incumbents are certainly stronger than others. There’s still variation around a mean. But the mean is one where partisanship is strong and incumbency is weak.

clare.malone: Montana has a bit of that Western streak, so it favors its guy (perhaps another key distinction), and the incumbency advantage works better there. West Virginia has a pretty conservative Democrat in Joe Manchin and a guy with good name recognition in the state.

perry: I think the wave happened and that Democrats had a great night. I do think, at the same time, that the election reinforced some of the weaknesses of the Democratic Party. For instance, Barack Obama won Indiana in 2008, but Sen. Joe Donnelly lost there last week. Obama won Ohio in 2008 and 2012. And, yes, Sen. Sherrod Brown did win his re-election bid, but Democratic gubernatorial candidate Richard Cordray lost. It makes me think Ohio is starting to look more like a GOP state now (considering how easily Trump won there in 2016).

I would also say that Trump is the 2020 favorite in Iowa and Florida, considering his victories in 2016 and the GOP performance in those states last week: Republican incumbent Gov. Kim Reynolds won in Iowa, and it looks as though the Republican candidate will win in Florida’s Senate and gubernatorial races.

nrakich: Right. It can be a blue wave while still flagging danger spots for Democrats in future elections.

But for now, Democrats — relax and enjoy.

sarahf: I don’t know. The 2020 Senate map looks tough, though not as bad as this year’s, I realize.

clare.malone: I think on an emotional level, to bring it back to why people are having mixed reactions, the “blue wave” confirmed that there are deep divisions in the country that people have been hearing all about.

perry: I don’t think Democrats can relax and enjoy this, because I think the 2018 midterm results suggest that Trump could very much still win in 2020. That was obvious pre-election to me, but I’d say it’s even more obvious now.

clare.malone: Right? To us, maybe.

But not to a lot of people.

Also, I think Democrats got bummed that the candidates with emotional resonance didn’t win — Beto O’Rourke in Texas, Stacey Abrams in Georgia, and Andrew Gillum in Florida (both Abrams and Gillum are obviously still tbd, but it doesn’t look good for Democrats).

nrakich: And the only, like, Democratic “revenge” win was defeating Gov. Scott Walker in Wisconsin.

clare.malone: Right.

natesilver: Some of the bigger Democratic wins didn’t get called until later in the night. The Wisconsin governor was a big one. And then there are the Senate pickups in Nevada (called late) and Arizona (which didn’t get called until Monday).

nrakich: Agreed, Nate — there’s anchoring bias going on here. People’s narratives got baked at 10 p.m. on election night, when Democrats weren’t doing as well as they are now, and they’ve been slow to update them.

natesilver: Democrats also had a good night in Michigan, although Sen. Debbie Stabenow’s margin was a little closer than expected. And a very good night in Wisconsin.

perry: Yeah, the 2020 map looks better for Democrats than I expected in a few places. Pennsylvania looks really strong for them, and Arizona is probably a real 2020 swing state.

sarahf: Here’s a thought. There was a blue wave — but it was fueled by Democratic moderates.

Is that accurate? Was there perhaps some disappointment among Democrats who didn’t see as big of a progressive change as they’d hoped?

clare.malone: It’s interesting, Sarah. Because we do find some evidence that the swing-y voters in this election were people that used to vote more Republican.

natesilver: But, like, there’s a downside to the Trump coalition. Say there are maybe 22 or 23 states that are really, REALLY Trumpy, but then the median district is not.

In the Senate, that could actually work out super well for Trump. But it’s a problem for the Electoral College and for the House.

perry: On Sarah’s point, I’m not sure how easy it is to define who is a “moderate” or a “liberal” in today’s Democratic Party. Tammy Baldwin (she supports “Medicare-for-all”) is quite liberal, and she won. Democrat Lucy McBath made her candidacy for the House in Georgia increasing gun control and still won. Sherrod Brown of Ohio is fairly liberal. But Arizona Sen.-elect Kyrsten Sinema is more of a centrist.

The whole moderate-liberal thing is very complicated. Are we really talking about (1) a candidate’s policy position (i.e., do you support liberal ideas like “Medicare-for-all”?), or 2) a candidate’s posture (i.e., are you anti-establishment and branded in the style of Bernie Sanders, or are you pro-establishment and more like Clinton or Obama?)

sarahf: That’s true, Perry. Still, it’ll be interesting to see what governance looks like with this new Democratic House.

perry: I think the first bill in this new House will be some kind of election proposal: Try to limit gerrymandering, strengthen the Voting Rights Act, etc.

nrakich: That’d be a smart move for Democrats, Perry. If Democrats want to hold onto power, they need to start by addressing the structural factors that currently hold them back.

natesilver: Yeah, the ballot proposals were another bright spot for Democrats, and a lot of them were electorally oriented — i.e., make it easier for more people to vote.

That’s something that could pay dividends down the road. And also something that Democrats are likely to replicate in the years ahead, I’d think.

nrakich: Automatic voter registration in Michigan and ending felon disenfranchisement in Florida are two big ones for Democrats, I’d say.

Although we should caveat this by saying that those ballot measures won’t turn Michigan and Florida into safely blue states overnight. But they could add several thousand votes, which would be enough to tilt a close election — like we’re currently seeing in Florida, coincidentally.

perry: Proposals on voting measures unite Democrats. And I actually think some of the talk about House Democrats being divided is over-hyped. Because in an environment where it’s unlikely that major bills will be passed, does it really matter if some Democrats are in favor of “Medicare-for-all” while others are in favor of expanding Medicaid? Neither of those things will pass. Nor will Immigration and Customs Enforcement be abolished while Trump is in office.

sarahf: Perry brings up an interesting point. We’re about to enter an era of government where it’s likely no bills will be passed. How will Democrats hang onto their popularity among American voters going into 2020?

nrakich: Well, I wouldn’t say they’re popular exactly. Just more popular than Republicans at the moment.

According to exit polls, only 48 percent of 2018 voters had a favorable opinion of the Democratic Party, while 47 percent had an unfavorable opinion. Not great, but at least slightly better than how Republicans were viewed: 44 percent of voters had a favorable opinion, and 52 percent had an unfavorable opinion.

perry: I would make the case that politically, very little that the House Democrats do really matters, unless they impeach Trump, which I think they are unlikely to do.

The best thing the House Democrats can do is keep the focus on Trump — and things he does that are not popular.

clare.malone: Well, inevitably, they’ll get distracted from that task. They’ve got to nominate a single individual to run against Trump.

And I think a Democrat would also say that making the presidential election about Trump is a risky proposition. It’s not just a midterm in 2020.

sarahf: Right, Nancy Pelosi did her best to make the midterms about health care (and not Trump) after all.

perry: What the House Democrats should do and what the 2020 candidates should do are related but different tasks. The former can try to avoid doing anything too interesting, but the candidates have to say how they would govern as president, which will be more controversial.

sarahf: And I would think depending on how special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation unfolds, that could hurt Democrats in the polls. Although, it’s far too early to say at this point.

But OK, we’re getting away from the idea of the blue wave narrative. Let me see if I can recap: We all think a blue wave happened, yes? It just wasn’t as big as what we saw with Republicans in 2010, but it was still a blue wave. Does what happens in Florida or Mississippi shift this narrative again?

nrakich: I don’t think I’d say that, Sarah.

The popular vote is going to be more Democratic than it was Republican in 2010.
And as Nate tweeted the other day, when you account for how many seats Democrats gained in 2008 (a lot) and Republicans gained in 2016 (not many), the two parties’ net midterm hauls look about the same.

sarahf: So what you’re telling me is it’ll be like the 2016 presidential election: Democrats win the popular vote but not the Electoral College?

natesilver: I’m not really sure how much of a chance Bill Nelson has in Florida. If Mike Espy somehow wins the runoff in Mississippi, that would be … interesting? But that probably involves super low turnout and/or Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith committing more gaffes. It’d probably be a bit of a one-off scenario.

perry: If Democrats won Florida, that would shift the narrative, because it would make it seem more likely they could win Florida in 2020. But it shouldn’t shift the narrative — in theory, the Democrats can win Florida in 2020 regardless of whether Nelson wins Florida by half a point or loses it by half a point.

nrakich: If Nelson somehow wins Florida and Espy somehow wins Mississippi, I think you’re going to see Democrats’ ears perk up quite a bit.

But that’s pretty darn unlikely.

perry: If Espy won, that would just be weird. Trump is still going to win Mississippi — it would suggest that Hyde-Smith is just a bad candidate — which seems true, by the way.

natesilver: But, again, Democrats won most of the Senate races in swing states. Arizona, Nevada, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Virginia (if it’s still considered a swing state), Wisconsin, Minnesota, etc. Florida is the only real exception.

And that’s the tip-off that it’s a wave election: You’re winning in the swing states and/or districts, that you lost in two years earlier.

sarahf: So the question I suppose moving forward and looking ahead to 2020 is just how lasting this “blue wave” will be. Will we see a shift back to the GOP in Midwestern states after some of them moved pretty far to the left in this last election? Because it does seem as though Democrats need to win in the Midwest to stand a chance in the Electoral College.

nrakich: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Remember what happened after the 2010 Republican wave. Obama won re-election. Waves aren’t predictive of future elections.

clare.malone: I think it’ll depend on who the Democratic presidential nominee is.

natesilver: It’s probably too early to look at, say, Trump’s approval rating and predict that means he’ll have a tough time getting re-elected. Approval ratings two years out aren’t really predictive at all.

With that said, Trump doesn’t seem to have any instinct to course-correct.

And what we know now is that his party performs basically how you’d expect them to perform based on the polls, which is to say, not good, when you’re sitting at a 42 percent approval rating.

nrakich: The big indicators I’m looking at for 2020 and where Democrats stand will be (a) the outcome of the Mueller investigation, (b) the state of the economy and (c) as Clare said, who Democrats nominate.

perry: I’m of the view that (a) and (c) are much less important than people think and that (b) is really important. But that’s best saved for another chat.

sarahf: For now, suffice it to say, the blue 🌊 was real.

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Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Donald Trump - geography confusion: stress symptom or ignorance?

Reported in Le Monde and Newsweek
Regardless of why Donald Trump made this geographical error (and let's not rule out the possibility that, for some reason, it could have even been intentional!).....the facts continue adding up to support what The Resistance has said. That is, since becoming president, Trump is incompetent to lead.

Madness of Donald Trump graphic published in Rolling Stone
Published in Newsweek: Trump confused the Baltics with the Balkans and accused confused leaders of starting the Yugoslav Wars by Tom Porter.

Donald Trump confused the Baltic states in Europe with the Balkans—and chastised leaders of the former for starting wars in the 1990s that lead to the break-up of Yugoslavia, French daily Le Monde reported.

Trump reportedly made the mistake in a White House meeting with Dalia Grybauskaitė of Lithuania, Kersti Kaljulaid of Estonia and Raimonds Vējonis of Latvia in April.

The leaders were reportedly confused by the president’s accusation, and it took them a minute to realize he had confused the Balkans and the Baltics.

The Baltic states lie in northern Europe, on the eastern coast of the Baltic Sea.

Around 1,000 miles away sits the Balkan region in south-eastern Europe. It comprises states including Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Serbia.

Much of the region was incorporated into the state of Yugoslavia, which became a socialist state after German occupying forces were ousted following World War II.

In the 1990s, Yugoslavia disintegrated and the region was torn apart in a series of civil wars, culminating with the Kosovo war of 1998-1999.

Trump’s mistake is perhaps more surprising given that his wife, Melania, was born in Slovenia, a state that was part of Yugoslavia until 1991.

Trump, according to the Le Monde report, remained “apparently uneducated in the matter by his wife, Melania, originally from the former Yugoslavia”.

The report comes with new tensions emerging this weekend between Trump and the U.S.'s traditional European allies. Donald Trump was in Europe during the November 9th weekend for events marking the centenary of the end of the First World War.

On Friday, Trump attacked French President Emmanuel Macron on Twitter, after the French leader said that Europe needed to take more responsibility for its own security.

The president faced widespread criticism Saturday for canceling a visit to Belleau, where 2,000 U.S. Marines were killed in combat in 1918, because it was raining.

In a speech in Paris on Sunday, Macron criticized nationalism—with self-declared nationalist Trump sitting only meters away.

“Patriotism is the exact opposite of nationalism: nationalism is a betrayal of patriotism,” said Macron, at the Armistice Day commemoration under the Arc de Triomphe.

“By pursuing our own interests first, with no regard to others’, we erase the very thing that a nation holds most precious, that which gives it life and makes it great: its moral values.”

*This article was corrected on Sunday to state that Yugoslavia became a socialist state after World War II.

MaineWriter postscript: It's evident on a daily basis that the White House is dysfunctional and Donald Trump's behavior becomes more dangerously unpredictable by the hour. When will Republicans take control of him?

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Tuesday, November 13, 2018

World War One - lessons yet to be learned

Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.
Echo opinion published in South New Jersey Times. 
New Jersey opinion. 

In 2018, the world marks 100 years since the end of World War I, and Veterans Day -- previously called "Armistice Day. It's fitting to glance back at the "war to end all wars" to learn lessons for today.

The first thing to note is the carnage. 

For the United States, which entered World War I toward its end, the first battle casualty was Joseph William Guyton, who was killed on May 24, 1918. The last U.S. soldier killed during the declared war was Henry Nicholas John Gunther. He died at 10:59 a.m. on Nov. 11, 1918, one minute before the armistice was to take effect at 11 a.m. In between, America lost about 116,500 of its sons. 

Statistical sources vary, but worldwide overall war-related deaths between 1914 and 1918 are estimated at 15 million to 19 million. Roughly 21 million soldiers were wounded.

Perhaps, it's the main lesson to take away from that period of history: Don't issue idle threats, because each threat demands a response, then a counter-response -- and things escalate accordingly.

In 1914, words of threats and responses moved at a much slower pace than today, given the limits of telegraph technology. Worldwide communication was point to point, from one sender to one receiver. This allowed time for the parties to consider and reflect before anything became public knowledge. While this slower pace didn't prevent the slide into war, things are different in 2018. International communications are instant and broadly disseminated. Instead of one-on-one communication, a tweet can have an audience of hundreds of millions. 

This changes the calculus greatly.
What's striking is that no one really professed to want war at the time. Historian A.J.P Taylor noted that none of the statesmen wanted war on a grand scale, but they wanted to threaten each other and they wanted to win.
Today, there's no time to think.  Additionally, a global press is waiting to know how a world leader is going to respond. There's instant analysis with judgments about who's up and who's down; who's winning and who's losing. No one, especially a leader, wants to be seen as backing down, whether in the halls of a middle school, out on the street, or in geopolitics. 

I'm not at all certain that, 100 years removed from World War I, we've learned our lesson about issuing threats.

Regarding war and conflict, there's always that one spark we like to point at as setting things ablaze. In 1914, it was the assassination of Austrian Archduke Ferdinand by a guy named Gavrilo Princip during the archduke's visit to Bosnia. But things are never that simple. It wasn't just one lone nut who set the course for World War I, but an atmosphere and a mindset that dominated nations. 

In 1914, that mindset had the look and feel of patriotism, but much of it was simple prejudice and bigotry, both ethnic and religious.
Prior to World War I, the populace also had a simple-minded view of war. This is understandable because previous wars were fought on horseback. There were no planes, tanks, bombs, mustard gas or machine guns that can kill dozens in a matter of seconds. 

Obviously, the generation that fought World War I had no frame of reference for the carnage and destruction that would follow, and it was easy to believe that a war could be won quickly.

Today, we know better, and Americans have a century's worth of perspective from two world wars, Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf War and Afghanistan to remind us of the cost. 

Yet, we might be wholly unprepared for a cyber-war that knocks out our electrical grid, or our financial, communications and transportation systems. Again, this is because our frame of reference is the last war -- not the next one.

Although I could be wrong about all of this, we owe our veterans not only our appreciation, but a promise that we won't blunder into a war or lose another generation of our sons and daughters because we failed to heed the lessons of the past.

Albert B. Kelly is mayor of Bridgeton, New Jersey.

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American greatness- opinion from Southern Illinois

Echo opinion 
Forget Make America Great Again!
In fact, America has never stopped being great.

So what is it that makes America so great?
The major thing that makes America great is the Constitution, with the Bill of Rights. We also have states' rights. Within the range of guaranteed rights is freedom of religion, voting rights, freedom of speech and opportunities of many.

God has truly blessed America. Just read the preamble of the U.S. Constitution:

“We, the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
Recently, I have become irritated and saddened hearing and seeing the phrase “Make America Great Again.” You see this on posters and signs at political rallies. This is saying that America had stopped being great and we must overcome this and make it great again.

I’m here to tell you that it has never, in my 86 years, stopped being great and still is. We have seen some low periods in our country, but this has not stopped it from being great. Had it not been great, we would not have overcome some of our lowest events.

Our teachings have taught us to show respect for the president of our country. But I have always believed that to get respect, you must show respect and our president has not met this denominator. He makes disparaging remarks about people and tells the story in a manner he thinks makes him look superior over other people. He stretches the truth about many things when he should know that people know better.

How can I show respect for a man that is obsessed with making untrue statements?

This is the same man that has a friendly relation with two of our enemies, Russia’s Vladamir Putin and North Korea’s Kim Jong Un. This, of course, is not all bad, but questionable

A veteran spoke to me and said, “I saw some rough times while serving in the U.S. Army in Korea. I always felt that my sacrifice was for the greatest country in the world, and still do. But now I hear that it stopped being great and we must make it great again. Was all our bloodshed in vain?”

I tried to explain that maybe this phrase was being used out of context, but he stopped me by saying, “the blood that ran from my fellow soldiers had nothing to do with, out of context."

Knowing he was right, I said no more. He asked me not to use his name. I have no idea as to how many more people feel the way this veteran just mentioned, but I suspect many agree.

As long as our country, the majestic United States of America, exists and its history is told, it will never be necessary to make it great again. History dictates and shows our everlasting devotion and this will be feared by our enemies. Its strength is in our rights and freedoms and this will always keep us safe.

The future of this great nation is contained in its Constitution and the will of its people. My hope remains that our leaders' minds will not be clouded when dealing with rogue nations. I can only suggest to them this: “Let not darkness of night cloud your mind, for morning will bring light.”

In closing, I say let's “Keep America Great.” Forget Make America Great Again, for it has never stopped being great.

Charles F. Burdick is a lifelong resident of Grand Tower. After graduating from high school, he joined the U.S. Navy and then went on to a 42-year Maritime career including 35 years as Master Pilot. He has been retired for 23 years and enjoys local history and writing poetry.

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