Archives for posts with tag: Republican Convention
other countries are laughing at us

Paul Noth, The New Yorker Cartoon

The US is the most religious of the civilized nations.
Yet so many Americans believe that “greed is good” despite greed being scorned by all major religions.
Most of those who do believe that quote Adam Smith when asked about the foundations of their creed:

“It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest.”

Unfortunately they don’t take the time to read some more of Smith’s work.

A puppy fawns upon its dam, and a spaniel endeavours by a thousand attractions to engage the attention of its master who is at dinner, when it wants to be fed by him. Man sometimes uses the same arts with his brethren, and when he has no other means of engaging them to act according to his inclinations, endeavours by every servile and fawning attention to obtain their good will. He has not time, however, to do this upon every occasion. In civilised society he stands at all times in need of the cooperation and assistance of great multitudes, while his whole life is scarce sufficient to gain the friendship of a few persons. In almost every other race of animals each individual, when it is grown up to maturity, is entirely independent, and in its natural state has occasion for the assistance  of no other living creature. But man has almost constant occasion for the help of his brethren, and it is in vain for him to expect it from their benevolence only. He will be more likely to prevail if he can interest their self-love in his favour, and shew them that it is for their own advantage to do for him what he requires of them. Whoever offers to another a bargain of any kind, proposes to do this. Give me that which I want, and you shall have this which you want, is the meaning of every such offer; and it is in this manner that we obtain from one another the far greater part of those good offices which we stand in need of. It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest. We address ourselves, not to their humanity but to their self-love, and never talk to them of our own necessities but of their advantages. Nobody but a beggar chuses to depend chiefly upon the benevolence of his fellow-citizens. Even a beggar does not depend upon it entirely. The charity of well-disposed people, indeed, supplies him with the whole fund of his subsistence. But though this principle ultimately provides him with all the necessaries of life which he has occasion for, it neither does nor can provide him with them as he has occasion for them.
The greater part of his occasional wants are supplied in the same manner as those of other people, by treaty, by barter, and by purchase. With the money which one man gives him he purchases food. The old cloaths which another bestows upon him he exchanges for other old cloaths which suit him better, or for lodging, or for food, or for money, with which he can buy either food, cloaths, or lodging, as he has occasion.

 

 

Had they done their homework they would have had the chance to figure out that Smith was the first to understand that in order to fulfill their self interest people must treat each-other with respect. Otherwise trade would be impossible.
And what kind of division of labor could have been developed among people who despised each-other? Could anyone eat or wear something that had ever been close to, let alone been made by, a pariah – the actual meaning of the word being “untouchable”, a person that soils everything they touch?

 

The US is the biggest economy in the world. It has enjoyed that status for more than a century now. During that time many American corporations have built huge portfolios abroad and some of them do more business outside the US than inside the borders.

 

This very week the Republican Party has nominated its presidential candidate. This guy, Donald J. Trump, has managed, in the last six short months, to aggravate almost everybody on this planet. Mexicans, Chinese, the whole Islam… and more than half the American population – he is perceived unfavorably by 59.2% of ‘his’ potential constituents.
Traditionally, the GOP was biased towards businesses and the business people – and fittingly so. So much so actually that G. W. Bush has thrown the traditionally Republican fiscal prudence overboard during his first mandate. Not only that he had reduced taxes but also embarked on a massive spending spree.
During the convention that nominated Trump as candidate Gov. Scott Walker, one of Trump’s most enthusiast supporters, mentioned:

 

You deserve better! Because America deserves better.

The well connected in Washington are standing behind Hillary Clinton because Hillary Clinton is one of them. They want more of the same.
Donald Trump is standing with the American People.
We want a leader who is not afraid to take on the mess in Washington.

 

 

Why is it so hard to figure out that ‘the well connected in Washington’ – exactly those who control those huge American businesses abroad – are doing everything in their power to get rid of Trump? Even if that means backing such an unpalatable candidate as Hillary Clinton? We should not forget that her behavior as Foreign Secretary – in what concerns her manner of dealing with her e-mails – proves a total lack of respect towards rules and regulations.

And what does Gov. Walker mean by ‘the well connected in Washington’? By every measure Donald Trump is one of them. So much so that he gleefully admits it.

 

“Hillary Clinton, I said be at my wedding, and she came to my wedding,” the reality-star-turned-politician said at the first GOP presidential debate in Cleveland. “She had no choice because I gave to a foundation.”

trump wedding

Finally, but not last, we have the problem of the ‘failed presidencies’.

Quite a sizeable number of Americans are undecided whether Carter or Obama were the worst American Presidents ever.

The rest of the world remembers Carter as the guy who successfully brokered the Camp David deal while Obama continues to enjoy a good reputation abroad, despite the huge number of drones that were used during his mandate over foreign territories and despite  his failure to shut down Guantanamo, as he had promised.

 

Had America been a small country, equivalent to Switzerland, for instance, all these would have been of very little importance.
Since the US is not only the biggest economy of the world but also the most powerful nation on Earth, people all over the planet are keeping their fingers crossed about what’s going on there.

 

I recently read an excellent article about how the ever-growing lack of trust in public institutions, governments and experts included, is generating aberrations like Donald Trump becoming the darling of a sizable proportion of the American Republicans.

collapse of trust in institutions

I’m afraid that all of us have contributed to this.

People who get elected to power use it to fulfill  their own goals yet continue to get elected despite the fact that many of those goals do not add anything to – and too many times even subtract from – the general well being.
People who, for various reasons, vote for those mentioned above.
Media pundits who fill the airtime with their versions of the reality, purposefully crafted to fit their own goals instead of honestly trying to present to the public what they have seen/understood of what had happened.

What’s bothering me most is that all of them are behaving in an absolutely ‘rational’ manner.
In the sense that all of them are convinced they are following the current mantra.
“Make the best of the opportunities at hand”

Given the current ethos – that only the pussies do not grab everything within their reach – each of those in places where they might be given things would act foolishly not to accept those ‘gifts’. If they might find a ‘legal’ way to do it.
And the Supreme Court of the US concurs.

In a unanimous decision, the U.S. Supreme Court threw out the corruption conviction of former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell.

“There is no doubt that this case is distasteful; it may be worse than that,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the court. “But our concern is not with tawdry tales of Ferraris, Rolexes, and ball gowns. It is instead with the broader legal implications of the Government’s boundless interpretation of the federal bribery statute.””

What happened was that former Gov. Bob Mc Donnell had accepted various gifts from a certain business man called Williams and then (because of them?) ‘set up meetings, hosted parties and called Virginia officials to discuss  a series of meetings to discuss aspects   related to William’s businesses.

Now, is this an example of corrupt behavior or not?

According to the Government and to the lower courts that have sat on this matter, it is.
According to the Supreme Court, it is ‘distasteful and even possibly more than that’ but not yet corruption. Or, at least, not in the way the Government has presented its case.

“But conscientious public officials arrange meetings for constituents, contact other officials on their behalf, and include them in events all the time. The basic compact underlying representative government assumes that public officials will hear from their constituents and act appropriately on their concerns — whether it is the union official worried about a plant closing or the homeowners who wonder why it took five days to restore power to their neighborhood after a storm. The Government’s position could cast a pall of potential prosecution over these relationships if the union had given a campaign contribution in the past or the homeowners invited the official to join them on their annual outing to the ballgame. Officials might wonder whether they could respond to even the most commonplace requests for assistance, and citizens with legitimate concerns might shrink from participating in democratic discourse.” Chief Justice John Roberts writing on behalf of the court.

The way I see it this is nothing but ‘hiding behind technicalities’.
From a formal point of view the Supreme Court’s decision is absolutely correct.
On the other hand almost everybody speaks out, some very vehemently, against ‘pork barrel politics’.

Yet nobody does anything when occasion arises. Forgetting that this is exactly what we, humans, are supposed to do. Make decisions and assume responsibility for them. Otherwise, if we only look out for pretexts to do nothing when those around us keep making ‘good’ use of whatever opportunities they identify, the whole world will soon become, again, encased in the kind of straight jacket Hitler and Stalin were trying to put on us.

Here’s another example.

Less than a fortnight from now the Republican and the Democratic conventions will likely nominate Trump and Clinton as their respective presidential candidates. Each passionately defended by their followers and viciously attacked by their adversaries.
Yet both almost equally disdained by the general public.

“More time on the campaign trail isn’t improving the image of either major-party presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump, a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll finds.
Some 60% of registered voters held a negative view of Mr. Trump, the presumptive GOP nominee, compared with 58% in May. Some 29% viewed Mr. Trump positively this month.
Mrs. Clinton, the former secretary of state and presumed Democratic nominee, fared somewhat better, with 55% viewing her in a negative light, compared with 54% in May. One-third of registered voters held a positive view of her.” (Peter Nicholas in Wall Street Journal, June 27 2016)

What’s going on here?
Why has any of them been picked up as candidate in the first place?

And why none of their detractors mentions the trait of character that both of them have in common?

The complete disrespect both of them have for ‘comme il faut’.
You see, ‘properly’ doesn’t necessarily mean ‘being a stickler for the word of the law’ but certainly means following the ‘spirit of the law’.
You’d expect as much from the two contenders for the Oval Office, don’t you?

Yet Donald Trump has a history of trying to use the law in order to drive an old woman out of her house so that he could have build a parking lot for one of his casinos while Clinton is being currently investigated for the highly irregular manner in which she used to manage  her e-mails when she served as Secretary of State.

To me this is a pertinent enough explanation for why a majority of the people do not trust that any of them would have ‘the better interests of the country’ in mind if and when any of them will be elected to office.

Making a step further people might soon develop a distrust for the whole concept of democracy – simply because the system was unable to deliver better candidates/alternatives. Not only in America.

And since the idea of democracy starts with trusting your fellow citizen to be able to make pertinent decisions – even if they happen to be contrary to your own ideas on the matter – it is highly likely that we’ll soon live in a very untruthful world.

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