Which photo represents The Dawn of the Age of Artificial Intelligence?
"Halt and Catch Fire (HCF): An early computer command that sent the machine into a race condition, forcing all instructions to compete for superiority at once. Control of the computer could not be regained." - title card for the TV series Halt and Catch Fire
In computer engineering, Halt and Catch Fire, known by the assembly mnemonic HCF, is an idiom referring to a computer machine code instruction that causes the computer's central processing unit (CPU) to cease meaningful operation, typically requiring a restart of the computer. - Wikipedia
Greg Brockman is likely a name you do not recognize even though he is on the 2018 Forbes List 30 Under 30 - Enterprise Technology. He's 29. The Forbes entry reports his education as follows: "Drop Out, arvard University; Bachelor of Arts/Science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (also drop out)." It tells you he resides in San Francisco.
Brockman testified before Congress Tuesday on artificial intelligence (AI). Thinking about Brockman reminded me of....
Halt and Catch Fire
In its first season, the TV series Halt and Catch Fire won the Critic's Choice Television Award for Most Exciting New Series. By the third season it had a 96% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. In its fourth and final season which received critical acclaim it held a 100% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
Per Wikipedia: "Taking place over a period of ten years, the series depicts a fictionalized insider's view of the personal computer revolution of the 1980s and later the growth of the World Wide Web in the early 1990s."
Halt and Catch Fire told the story of a few
people who found themselves in the middle of the creation of technology
that thus far has driven the 21st Century. It aired on AMC from June 1, 2014, to October 14, 2017.
On February 6, 2018, it won the Women's Image Network Awards award for Best Drama Series. For the show offered the best representation of women in tech and management in ways you would have a hard time finding elsewhere.
For someone who was involved with computers beginning in the 1970's and 1980's the show was a historical piece, a story of the late 20th Century, and well done. It also reminded me of how young and naive we were - unaware of the real implications of what we were doing.
One programmer observed: “I know that something’s coming, something big, like a train, and all I want is to jump on board. But it’s getting faster and faster and I’m terrified I’m going to miss it … I don’t want to get left behind.”
With foresight, another young staffer in his suicide note warned: “Beware of false prophets who will sell you a fake future, of bad teachers and corrupt leaders and dirty corporations … But most of all beware of each other, because everything is about to change. The world is going to crack wide open. The barriers between us will disappear, and we’re not ready. We’ll hurt each other in new ways. We’ll sell and be sold. We’ll expose our most tender selves only to be mocked and destroyed. We’ll be so vulnerable and we’ll pay the price.”
Airing in the second decade of the 21st Century, the series offers hindsight which sometimes provides us with insight regarding current activities. And yet, relatively few Americans watched it. And why would they?
After all as late as 2006 United States Senator Ted Stevens was reflecting the average American's understanding of the technology that could make or break their employer in that decade:
Ten movies streaming across that, that Internet, and what happens to your own personal Internet? I just the other day got… an Internet was sent by my staff at 10 o'clock in the morning on Friday. I got it yesterday [Tuesday]. Why? Because it got tangled up with all these things going on the Internet commercially.
...They want to deliver vast amounts of information over the Internet. And again, the Internet is not something that you just dump something on. It's not a big truck. It's a series of tubes. And if you don't understand, those tubes can be filled and if they are filled, when you put your message in, it gets in line and it's going to be delayed by anyone that puts into that tube enormous amounts of material, enormous amounts of material.
Even recognizing that Stevens was just one member of Congress, most of us who were involved in the computer industry in the 1970's and 1980's, who also had governmental/political involvement, understood that the 19th Century U.S. Constitution was entering a "Halt and Catch Fire" condition. Because it is government, it would take about a decade before the need to "reboot" our federal government with all new "machine code" uploaded would become obvious.
And indeed in 2016 the need to "reboot" our federal government with all new "machine code" did become obvious, with the Russian interference in the Presidential Election based solely upon the use of primary goal of the American corporate internet - advertising to make corporations rich. And indeed in 2016 the need to "reboot" our federal government with all new "machine code" did become obvious with the effective use of internet social media by a reality game show host who had no previous political or government experience to get himself elected President.
The fact "it won't work anymore" came from knowning that Ted Stevens chaired the United States Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. And because of his very limited knowledge about 21st Century technology he used the "series of tubes" metaphor to criticize a proposed amendment to a committee bill which would have prohibited Internet service providers such as AT&T, Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Verizon Communications from charging fees to give some companies' data a higher priority in relation to other traffic.
And today while Congress members are somewhat better versed on the 50-year-old technology, their median expertise level is only slightly better than knowing how to watch cat videos on YouTube. Even their staffers are most certainly not at the level necessary to begin the process of regulating Artificial Intelligence. The "cat video" level of knowledge (along with a predisposition to listen to corporate lobbyists in order to fund reelection campaigns) is why in the United States achieving privacy and security on the internet through Congressional action will never happen.
The Dawn of the Age of Artificial Intelligence
On Wednesday November 30, 2016, Greg Brockman gave his first testimony on Capitol Hill to the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Space, Science, and Competitiveness. The subject matter of the hearing was "The Dawn of the Age of Artificial Intelligence" and the Chair of the Subcommittee was a different Senator named Ted. Here are some of the hearing opening remarks from Senator Ted Cruz:
Today, we’re on the verge of a new technological revolution, thanks to the rapid advances in processing power, the rise of big data, cloud computing, mobility due to wireless capability, and advanced algorithms. Many believe that there may not be a single technology that will shape our world more in the next 50 years than artificial intelligence. In fact, some have observed that, as powerful and transformative as the Internet has been, it may be best remembered as the predicate for artificial intelligence and machine learning.
Artificial intelligence is at an inflection point. While the concept of artificial intelligence has been around for at least 60 years, more recent breakthroughs...have brought artificial intelligence from mere concept to reality.
Whether we recognize it or not, artificial intelligence is already seeping into our daily lives. In the healthcare sector, artificial intelligence is increasingly being used to predict diseases at an earlier stage, thereby allowing the use of preventative treatment, which can help lead to better patient outcomes, faster healing, and lower costs. In transportation, artificial intelligence is not only being used in smarter traffic management applications to reduce traffic, but is also set to disrupt the automotive industry through the emergence of self-driving vehicles. Consumers can harness the power of artificial intelligence through online search engines and virtual personal assistants via smart devices, such as Microsoft’s Cortana, Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa, and Google Home. Artificial intelligence also has the potential to contribute to economic growth in both the near and long term. A 2016 Accenture report predicted that artificial intelligence could double annual economic growth rates by 2035 and boost labor productivity by up to 40 percent.
Furthermore, market research firm Forrester recently predicted that there will be a greater-than-300-percent increase in investment in artificial intelligence in 2017 compared to 2016. While the emergence of artificial intelligence has the opportunity to improve our lives, it will also have vast implications for our country and the American people that Congress will need to consider, moving forward....
Today, the United States is the preeminent leader in developing artificial intelligence. But, that could soon change. ...Ceding leadership in developing artificial intelligence to China, Russia, and other foreign governments will not only place the United States at a technological disadvantage, but it could have grave implications for national security.
We are living in the dawn of artificial intelligence. And it is incumbent that Congress and this subcommittee begin to learn about the vast implications of this emerging technology to ensure that the United States remains a global leader throughout the 21st century. This is the first congressional hearing on artificial intelligence....
As did a number of leaders in the AI industry, Brockman gave an extensive presentation. Here are some key points:
I’m Greg Brockman, Co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer of OpenAI. OpenAI is a nonprofit AI research company with a billion dollars in funding. Our mission is to build safe, advanced AI technology, and to ensure that its benefits are distributed to everyone....
The U.S. has led essentially all technological breakthroughs of the past 100 years. And they’ve consistently created new companies, new jobs, and increased American competitiveness in the world. AI has the potential to be our biggest advance yet.
Today, we have a lead, but we don’t have a monopoly, when it comes to AI. This year, Chinese teams won the top categories in a Stanford annual image recognition context. South Korea declared a billion-dollar AI fund. Canada actually produced a lot of the technologies that have kicked off the current boom. And they recently announced their own renewed investment into AI.
So, right now I would like to share three key points for how the U.S. can lead in AI:
The first of these is that we need to compete on applications. But, when it comes to basic research, that should be open and collaborative....
The second thing...is that we need public measurement and contests. There’s really a long history of contests causing major advances in the field. For example, the DARPA Grand Challenge really led directly to the self-driving technology that’s being commercialized today. ...Measures and contests help distinguish hype from substance, and they offer better forecasting. ...Good policy responses and a healthy public debate are really going to depend on people having clear data about how the technology is progressing. What can we do? What still remains science fiction? How fast are things moving? So, we really support OSTP’s recommendation that the government keep a close watch on AI advancement, and that it work with industry to measure it.
The third thing that we need is that we need industry, government, and academia to start coordinating on safety, security, and ethics. The Internet was really built with security as an afterthought. And we’re still paying the cost for that today.
Academic and industrial participants are already starting to coordinate on responsible development of AI. For example, we recently published a paper, together with Stanford, Berkeley, and Google, laying out a roadmap for AI safety research. Now, what would help is feedback from the government about what issues are most concerning to it so that we can start addressing those from as early a date as possible.
...The best way to create a good future is to invent it. And we have that opportunity with AI by investing in open, basic research, by creating competitions and measurement, and by coordinating on safety, security, and ethics.
Tuesday's joint meeting of the House Subcommittee on Research and Technology and Subcommittee on Energy offers insight into how it is when technology advances at the hands of young creators, even ones who are concerned about the deficits in the process. You can watch it on YouTube (note: the action doesn't start until 22 minutes into the video):
The problem is the expert witnesses are asking the technology challenged, AI-uninformed to create regulations, an ethics system, when the experts themselves are unable to know and describe what problems are likely to arise from a technology level that does not exist and has never been tested.
The baseline example is the so-called "autonomous" vehicle. In that case, the first step is to acquire a dictionary and discover "autonomous" means "existing or capable of existing independently, not subject to control from outside."
In other words, an autonomous vehicle will decide where it's going and what route it's taking, and also drive itself there. Would you climb into such a vehicle, perhaps right after you named it "Hal" (and if you don't recognize that reference, you do need to stream the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey).
On the other hand, a "self-driving" vehicle is capable of driving to the destination on the roads you tell it to, hopefully safely without your intervention through the controls such as the steering wheel or brakes.
Despite the fact that self-driving-capable vehicles exist, American governments are having trouble regulating them and there are no ethical nuances involved.
In 2016 Brockman observed: "The Internet was really built with security as an afterthought. And we’re still paying the cost for that today." That was after the 2016 election but before the full scope of the Russian interference problem was known. Unfortunately, we have no answers for the security problem that does not in some way interfere with either individual freedom or individual privacy or both.
I cannot even begin to imagine the operating assumption that will go into real AI, assumptions that will turn out to be false - you know, the ooops of technology. I cannot even begin to consider the complex ethical and moral issues that will arise even if the AI is not in the form of a Dolores (pictured to the right at the top of this post), Bernard, Maeve, or Teddy.
Government? In considering and effectively dealing with such a complex issue as AI and with the opinions of hundreds of millions of people slowly learning about AI, you're looking a two decades of debate. Then, of course, it will be too late to have avoided layers of crises.
If you think I'm wrong, you may want to read the paper prepared for the Academy to the Third Millennium February 1997 Conference Internet & Politics entitled "Regulation and Deregulation of the Internet." Presented by Columbia University by professor of Finance and Economics and Paul Garrett Chair in Public Policy and Business Responsibility Eli Noam who is the director of the Columbia Institute for Tele-Information (CITI).
In order to set context, let me return to the TV series Halt and Catch Fire. Episode 1 of Season 3. The year is 1986. The place is Silicon Valley. And Mutiny, the little
internet startup that could, is celebrating a 100,000-person user base and independence from the outsourced servers it once relied upon to keep itself running. Let me repeat - the year is 1986.
Noam's presentation was given in February 1997, over a decade after real life young tech nerds like those depicted in Halt and Catch Fire were establishing the internet. His presentation was over a decade after the internet became obvious to many and nearly 20 years before the Russian interference in the U.S. Presidential election in which the only candidate who knew how to effectively use social media (because he was the only non-politician) won. In that 1997 context Noam muses:
A myth is going around that has almost been elevated to the status of platitude: “you cannot regulate the Internet.” There is a related myth, that “a bit is a bit,” that no bit can therefore be treated differently from any other, and that attempts at control are therefore doomed to fail. Both claims, though originating with technologists who implicitly seem to believe in technological determinism, are wrong even as a matter of technology....
Also, communication is not just a matter of signals but of people and institutions. For all the appeal of the notion of “virtuality,” one should not forget that physical reality is alive and well. Senders, recipients, and intermediaries are living, breathing people, or they are legally organized institutions with physical domiciles and physical hardware. The arm of the law can reach them. It may be possible to evade such law, but the same is true when it comes to tax regulations. Just because a law cannot fully stop an activity does not prove that such law is ineffective or undesirable.
This, most emphatically, does not mean that we should regulate cyberspace (whatever it is). But that is a normative question of values, not one of technological determinism. We should choose freedom because we want to, not because we have to. And that choice will not be materially different from those which societies generally apply. As the Internet moves from a nerd-preserve to an office park, shopping mall, and community center, it is sheer fantasy to expect that its uses and users will be beyond the law. This seems obvious. Yet, for many, the new medium is like a Rorschach test, an electronic blob into which they project their own fantasies, desires and fears for society. As the Russians say: Same bed, different dreams. Traditionalists find the dark forces of degeneracy, as in everything. Libertarians find an atrophy of government. Leftists find a new community, devoid of the material avarice of private business. This kind of dreaming is common for new and fundamental technology, and it is usually wrong.
A society’s choice of rules will depend, among other things, on its willingness to accept risk. The Internet is new and unchartedterritory. The term “electronic frontier” is quite apt. As it happens, America has been in the frontier business for a long time. It’s good at it. It’s its defining characteristic,together with liberty and free enterprise. No wonder then that America is atthe leading edge of the information age.
It is a common fallacy to over-estimate the short term but to under-estimate the long term. Thus, we over-estimate the short-termability of electronic communications to be free of government controls, because it is believed that “you can’t regulate the Internet.” But the long-term is another matter. The long-term leads to entirely new conceptsof political community. Just as traditional banks and traditional universities will decline, so will traditional forms of jurisdiction. A few years ago, it became fashionable to speak of communications creating the"global village."-- communal and peaceful. But there is nothing village-like in the unfolding reality. Instead, groups with shared economic interests are extending national group pluralism through the opportunity to create global interconnection with each other into the international sphere. The new group networks do not create a global village, they create instead the world as a series of electronic neighborhoods.
Communications define communities, and communities define politics. Thus, the breakdown of the coherent national communications system reflects and accelerates a fundamental centrifugalism that will reshape, in time, countries and societies. We are barely at the beginning of this evolution, and the forces of resistance are only beginning to fathom the impacts.
It has been 55 years since Americans began to use something resembling today's internet. The earliest ideas for a computer network intended to allow general communications among computer users were formulated in April 1963 by computer scientist J. C. R. Licklider in memoranda discussing the concept of the "Intergalactic Computer Network". Those ideas encompassed many of the features of the contemporary Internet. In October 1963, Licklider was appointed head of the Behavioral Sciences and Command and Control programs at the Defense Department's Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA). Funded by ARPA of the United States Department of Defense, ARPANET became the technical foundation of the Internet.
To put it simply, it has been over a half a century since the U.S. Government began creating the internet. In the face of various national security agencies needs for access to everyone's data which the private sector apparently already has, Congress is struggling with how to establish any semblance of security and privacy in the face of what was created by funding approved by...Congress.
Whether it's samurai robots, a hotel staffed by robots, or AI girlfriends, it seems that it safe to say that one should keep their eye on Japan when it comes to developments in the field of artificial intelligence. So while it seemed a foregone conclusion that AI would eventually break into the world of politics, the way we're seeing it do so in one city in Japan is a bit surprising. The mayoral election of Tama City in Tokyo is featuring its first "AI candidate".
At least, that's what one can take from the promise of mayoral candidate Michito Matsuda. Matsuda has chosen to throw his hat into the election but is deferring to an AI-powered robot avatar, as he intends to maximize the use of artificial intelligence and rely on it heavily in the running of his municipal administration.
As he writes on his Twitter account (which is run in character in an AI persona), "For the first time in the world, AI will run in an election. Artificial intelligence will change Tama City. With the birth of an AI-Mayor, we will conduct impartial and balanced politics. We will implement policies for the future with speed, accumulate information and know-how, and lead the next generation."
Even though he lost the election, Matsuda's effort could lead to a possible discussion regarding whether politicians or AI could do a better job at governing. And so long as Americans keep voting for candidates they can socially relate to, the answer some day could be AI. Or not as discussed in AI 101: Why AI is the Next Revolution–or Doomsday.
I'm not sure which will be more disruptive to humanity - AI or Climate Change. But I can tell Greg Brockman and Dr. Fei-Fei Li that the Congressional testimony they gave earlier this week is almost a complete waste of time.
California Joins the EU
With all of that said, California - the home of Silicon Valley - is attempting to step in where Congress has failed essentially by adopting online privacy rules consistent with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) of the European Union that became effective May 25.
The GDPR begins with a simple statement: "The protection of natural persons in relation to the processing of personal data is a fundamental right. Article 8(1) of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (the ‘Charter’) and Article 16(1) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) provide that everyone has the right to the protection of personal data concerning him or her." The term "natural persons" is used to distinguish humans from corporations in emphasizing human rights over economic constructs.
And so this week the California Legislature passed the toughest online privacy law in these United States. However, it doesn't take effect until January 2020 though, in order to allow the Silicon Valley corporations to prepare.
Under the new law, California consumers will have the right to:
know all the data collected by a business and be able to transfer it twice annually for free;
to opt out of having their personal information sold (but companies will then be able to charge those consumers higher fees);
to delete their data;
to tell a business it can't sell their data;
to know why the data is being collected;
to be informed of what categories of data will be collected before it's collected and to be informed of any changes to that;
to be told the categories of third parties with whom their data is shared and the categories of third parties from whom their data was acquired;
to have businesses get permission before selling any information of children under the age of 16.
Regarding Artificial Intelligence, Brockman, Li, and their compatriots should move their advocacy effort for an AI regulatory/ethics structure to the California Legislature. That is because, as we've pointed out on a number of issues, it is the Progressive Pacific Message that must be advocated:
The problem is that if individuals use the California online privacy law, it is very likely that the U.S. Supreme Court, with its membership reflecting the privacy preferences of most of the folks not in the Pacific States, would ultimately overturn it as a proscribed interference in interstate commerce. That is because the U.S. Constitution as literally written by the Founding Fathers primarily provides for (a) the conduct international relations including military defense and (b) provides for the regulation of interstate commerce exclusively by Congress. It took amendments contained in what we know as the Bill of Rights to have any provisions for human rights and online privacy was not included.
The U.S. Government because of its "machine code" known as the Constitution is simply not capable of surviving the 21st Century.
As you may have read, on Friday evening (June 22), Stephanie Wilkinson, the owner of Red Hen, a small farm-to-table restaurant in Lexington, Virginia, asked Donald Trump’s press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders to leave her establishment.
"I’m not a huge fan of confrontation. I have a business, and I want the business to thrive. This feels like the moment in our democracy when people have to make uncomfortable actions and decisions to uphold their morals." - Stephanie Wilkinson, Owner of the Red Hen in Lexington, Va.
What you you might not have read is that today the U.S. Supreme Court sent a case back to the Washington state courts. They could have refused to take up the case. They could have heard it. It is a case in which a florist refused to do the flowers for a gay wedding. They sent it back for additional consideration, in effect vacating the Washington's Court's ruling.
The question these two news stories generated are:
Do Americans who deeply hold political beliefs have fewer rights than those who hold religious beliefs? And do those who believe in little green humanoid alien life forms instead of one or more gods or goddesses have fewer rights?
Can Americans who hold religious beliefs thumb their noses at anti-discrimination laws? But those who hold deeply political beliefs cannot?
The answers as of June 25, 2018:
The Supreme Court on Monday told a lower court to reconsider the case of a florist in Washington State who had refused to create a floral arrangement for a same-sex wedding. The justices vacated a decision against the florist from the Washington Supreme Court and instructed it to take a fresh look at the dispute in light of this month’s ruling in a similar dispute involving a Colorado baker.
The Washington Supreme Court ruled that Ms. Stutzman had violated a state anti-discrimination law by refusing to provide the floral arrangement. “This case is no more about access to flowers than civil rights cases in the 1960s were about access to sandwiches,” the court said, quoting from the plaintiffs’ brief.
We agree with Ingersoll and Freed that "[t]his case is no more about access to flowers than civil rights cases in the 1960s were about access to sandwiches." Br. of Resp'ts Ingersoll and Freed at 32. As every other court to address the question has concluded, public accommodations laws do not simply guarantee access to goods or services. Instead, they serve a broader societal purpose: eradicating barriers to the equal treatment of all citizens in the commercial marketplace. Were we to carve out a patchwork of exceptions for ostensibly justified discrimination,21 that purpose would be fatally undermined.
...But the Supreme Court has never held that a commercial enterprise, open to the general public, is an '"expressive association'" for purposes of First Amendment protections, Dale, 530 U.S. at 648. We therefore reject Stutzman's free association claim.
21 Stutzman argues that discrimination cannot be "invidious"-and thus subject to governmental prohibition-if it is based on religious beliefs. Br. of Appellants at 40-43. But she cites no relevant legal authority for this novel theory. She also argues that the government has no compelling interest in forcing her to speak or associate with Ingersoll or any other customer. But, as explained elsewhere in this opinion, the WLAD does not implicate Stutzman's rights of speech or association.
The alarming truth is that today the U.S. Supreme Court simply ruled that the carefully reasoned Washington Supreme Court decision is in the same class as the Masterpiece Cakeshop case where, writing for the 7-2 majority, Justice Anthony Kennedy held that some commissioners on the Colorado Civil Rights Commission - not state supreme court justices - showed hostility toward Phillips' religious beliefs.
Justice Kennedy was born and raised in an Irish Catholic family in Sacramento, California. We here at California First know Justice Kennedy. In previous decisions, he has tried to thread the needle between the special sanctity of religious beliefs and what is right and justice. The problem is, the majority of the Court is conflicted regarding the extent of freedom to practice religion. I think for the majority witch burning is out, but I'm not sure.
My guess is the U.S. Supreme Court Justices, along with those in the liberal legal and news media establishment, were indignant over the weekend after Stephanie Wilkinson refused to serve Sanders.
My guess is the U.S. Supreme Court Justices would rule unanimously against the restaurant owner for acting in accordance with her political beliefs because most of the majority are Catholic and don't consider that political beliefs rise up to the level of sanctity of religious beliefs even within the town square:
I have a real problem with the makeup of the court because there are no avowed agnostics, much less atheists. Again the questions are:
Do Americans who deeply hold political beliefs have fewer rights than
those who hold religious beliefs? And do those who believe in little
green humanoid alien life forms instead of one or more gods or goddesses
have fewer rights?
Can Americans who hold religious beliefs thumb their noses at anti-discrimination laws? But those who hold deeply political beliefs cannot?
I hope I am wrong, but as near as I can tell, the majority of the Court would answer "yes" to the questions if they could decide solely based on their own gut beliefs about the world.
This reinforces my belief that we need a to broaden and more effectively engage in California's non-violent civil war for states rights! Or maybe even support #Calexit. Because in my California personal view religious or philosophical beliefs of any kind have no role in and cannot be permitted to influence the conduct of retail sales, the power of the Union of Washington and Lincoln notwithstanding.
I have to admit, in the cake case I too was initially diverted by the "artist" issue. Then it dawned on me. This is an artist's studio not open to the public offering no direct retail sales:
Below is a retail store subject to public access/accommodations anti-discrimination laws, not an artist's studio no matter what they put on their sign:
And the following retail stores are subject to public access/accommodations anti-discrimination laws, as they are not an artist's studio:
And the description below is a retail business offering services to the public and therefore subject to public access/accommodations anti-discrimination laws:
Just as residents of Washington and Colorado can tell the difference, Californian's can understand the difference between art for creative sake and art for retail. But we apparently live in a Union of states in which members of the highest court in the land may not be able to clearly see the difference. This situation is testing those officials:
War is a state of armed conflict between states, societies and informal groups, such as insurgents and militias. It is generally characterized by extreme aggression, destruction, and mortality, using regular or irregular military forces. - Wikipedia A tariff is a tax on imports or exports between sovereign states. - Wikipedia
So far, I have not read of any reported deaths from Trump's trade "war" with China. What Trump obstensibly is doing is called "protectionism" as explained by Wikipedia:
Protectionism is the economic policy of restricting imports from other countries through methods such as tariffs on imported goods, import quotas, and a variety of other government regulations. Proponents claim that protectionist policies shield the producers, businesses, and workers of the import-competing sector in the country from foreign competitors. However, they also reduce trade and adversely affect consumers in general (by raising the cost of imported goods), and harm the producers and workers in export sectors, both in the country implementing protectionist policies, and in the countries protected against.
One might also speculate that what Trump is really doing is increasing taxes on goods to offset the reduction in personal income tax revenue from his ballyhooed tax decrease.
The use of the word "tariff" is a good way to hide a tax. When a 25% tariff is collected on a product entering the country, that increases the wholesale price by 25%. Importers pay U.S. import tariffs to the federal government and the cost is passed on through the wholesaler and retailer. This is similar to an excise tax, which as explained by the Tax Foundation are "included in the final price of products and services, and are often hidden to consumers."
As noted in Wikipedia, tariffs "were the greatest (approaching 95% at times) source of federal revenue until the Federal income tax began after 1913. Before Trump's new tariffs, existing federal taxes on imports contribute $44 billion to the federal budget. Because Trump's tweets have not been clear and reports indicate he has authorized tariffs and then deauthorized tariffs, it is unclear where to even start to calculate how much of his personal income tax cut will be recovered from consumers through increased tariffs.
There is one prohibition regarding tariffs. Article I, Section 9, Clause 5 of the United States Constitution says: "No Tax or Duty shall be laid on Articles exported from any State." But other than that, tariffs were the federal government's greatest source of tax income through the 19th Century.
Oh, and by the way. Regarding a real war with China, in a previous post we already noted that former Trump White House chief strategist Steve Bannon said: "We’re going to war in the South China Sea in five to 10 years. There’s no doubt about that."
A "tariff" is a tax on what you buy, not a war against China, Mexico, Canada, and the European Union. The use of the word "tariff" is a good way to hide a tax.
When a 25% tariff is collected on a product entering the country, that increases the wholesale price by 25%. Importerspay U.S. import tariffs to the federal government and the cost is passed on through the wholesaler and retailer.
This is similar to an excise tax which, as explained by the Tax Foundation, are "included in the final price of products and services, and are often hidden to consumers." But one doesn't have to take the word of experts on such things or some "fake" news source.
It was two years ago this month that Trump started bantering around the phrase "trade war" in a speech in Monessen, Pennsylvania. There he threatened Canada, China and Mexico.
And it was there that he made it clear he intended to use taxes Americans would pay to benefit some American businesses stating: "Our original Constitution did not even have an income tax. Instead, it had tariffs emphasizing taxation of foreign, not domestic, production."
The problem with that, of course, is taxes (tariffs) on imports don't tax "foreign production", they tax domestic consumption - you pay the tax. When a 20% tariff on imported goods is collected at the American port (not in the foreign country), the wholesale price of those goods is increased 20%. Now, perhaps the cost of Apple products depicted at the right above might not be increased the full amount of the tariff as Apple's retail markup is extremely high and they could afford to absorb some of that tariff cost.
But consider the hypothetical Walmart receipt depicted at the left above. In all likelihood a person buying clothes for their kids which would have cost $64.91 including sales tax would cost an additional $9.48 which represents about a 15% tax paid to the Trump Administration. And that's also true of stores like Macy's and Costco.
Of course, Costco members are considered wealthy, or "affluent", with only 15% just "getting by" or "poor." The average Costco member is college educated, owns a home and earns about $100,000 a year, while Walmart caters to low-and-moderate income families.
As noted in Wikipedia,
tariffs "were the greatest (approaching 95% at times) source of federal revenue until the Federal income tax began after 1913." Before Trump's new tariffs, existing federal taxes on imports contribute $44 billion to the federal budget. It is unclear where to even start to calculate how much of his personal income tax cut will be recovered from consumers through increased tariffs.
"This is the United States of America. It isn't Nazi Germany, and there's a difference. And we don't take children from their parents, until now and I think it's such a sad day. "
- U.S. Senator Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.)
This I awakened to read an explanation by the Attorney General of our "more perfect Union" as to why his policy of concentrating "unacceptable" children in camps was different from that of Nazi Germany. You can click on the image below to learn more:
Fox News host Laura Ingraham on Monday played footage of former CIA director Michael Hayden and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) comparing the Trump administration's policy of separating migrant families with the practices of Nazi Germany. “Well, it's a real exaggeration, because in Nazi Germany, they were keeping the Jews from leaving the country,” Sessions replied adding "Fundamentally, we are enforcing the law. Hopefully people will get the message and not break across the border unlawfully."
The U.S. Attorney General just explained actions taken as "ok" according to the law because he wasn't working for the German government in 1938 trying to solve the Jewish problem, he is working for the U.S. government in 2018 trying solve the brown people problem. That's an explanation he could use for building concentration camps with gas chambers and ovens.
After all, he is just following orders.
Unfortunately, earlier that day Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said at a meeting of the National Sheriffs’ Association in New Orleans: "“This department will no longer stand by and watch you attack law enforcement for enforcing the laws passed by Congress. We will not apologize for the job we do, or the job law enforcement does, or the job the American people expect us to do.”
This is what is known as the "Nuremberg defense" where in Nazi Germany genocide was the law and people were given orders pursuant to duly passed law. And much like in Nazi Germany, there is no immediate threat to the health and safety of the American public that would justify that defense.
Enough is enough. It is time for a non-violent civil war to reestablish states' rights. We can't protect people in Alabama, but we can protect them in California.
Back in 2005, I created a website Three Californias dedicated to dividing California into three states. It soon was used as a reference by others on the web because there is a surprising dearth of focused information on my state. And this November California voters will have the opportunity to vote on a ballot measure to create three California's.
A discussion of what today is known as a #Calexit was included. I knew then that obtaining Congressional approval to allow California to become a separate nation-state was likely to be laughingly referred to as "tilting at windmills" task.
Even seeking approval to create three states out of California would be an uphill battle at best. And it would only slightly improve for Californians a grossly unfair situation that the inherently undemocratic U.S. Constitution gives each voter in Wyoming, Alaska, and North Dakota three votes for President for every vote cast by a California voter. The cost would be a serious disruption in the economy.
But as a fellow American whose frame of reference is Californian, I must consider Jeff Sessions' frame of reference in the context of his childhood and adolescence from the facts....
It isn't just that Sessions was born and raised in, and lived most of his life in, Alabama, a geographic region historically different from California, though that might give a hint. It isn't just that since the early 1700's no male in his paternal lineage ever called home a place outside the southernmost part These United States.
Rather it's all that plus the fact that his great-grandfather died at the Battle of Antietam fighting for the South in the Civil War, and that his grandfather, his father, and he are all named "Jefferson Beauregard" Sessions...
as in Jefferson Davis was selected as President of the Confederacy at the constitutional convention in Montgomery, Alabama.
as in Confederate General P.G.T. Beauregard.
Now I know those names were commonly used among white families in the South after the Civil War. And I know that Jeff Sessions didn't name himself. But most other people likely will not share a perspective, a way of looking at things, with Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III - including most any American whose lineage includes no one from the Slave States
But Sessions is just an obvious symbol of a system gone bad.
By 2005 I had concerns about the Bush Administration versus California. But at no time did Bush, in order to win an election, attack trade, migration, or California's history, culture, and largest ethnic group. In fact Bush in speeches after 9/11 took great pains to protect Muslim-Americans from discrimination.
The 2016 election discourse set off loud alarms and the second minority-vote-elected President in the 21st Century was disconcerting.
In popular culture we have made caricatures of Stalin, Hitler, and Mussolini. That is foolish. Hitler, for example, was a struggling veteran of WWI who decided to become a politician, ultimately running for national leadership. In free and open elections at his peak he won 43.91% of the vote in March 1933. By most estimates he had a 40% core popular support and, by 1938 when the economy was going well, only had about a 20% fearful residual opposition. Using today's polling methods, the other 40% were "independents" meaning they had no idea what was going on.
This old Native Californian thinks it is time to recognize just how different California is from Ohio and North Carolina and why California needs to insist on a traditional view of citizenship based on the Constitution and states' rights. California needs to build a mythology around individuality and achievement.
Let's begin with a statement of historical facts. Migrants created the California we know today while white illegal aliens from the United States made California a part of the Union. What 96%+ of Americans don't recognize is the United States government run by the ancestors/predecessors of the current Deplorables and the establishment who...
from 1880-1943 prevented the families of one group of Californians - the U.S. citizen children of Chinese immigrants - from bringing their family members into California, targeting only this ethnic group of Asians,
from 1930-1946 in the Mexican "Repatriation" rounded up and deported one group of Californians - American citizens of Hispanic heritage
from 1942-1945 rounded up another group of Californians - American citizens of Japanese heritage - and put them into concentration camps, and
in began 1954 Operation Wetback which resulted in 1,078,168 arrests and deportations by the U.S. Border Patrol resulting in several hundred United States citizens being illegally deported without being given a chance to prove their citizenship.
Sorry America, but we Californians cannot permit a repeat of this kind of bigotry, discrimination, and violence against our people. Since the election, as well as during the campaign, we observed that focused violence and bullying is growing in the U.S. as a result of Donald Trump.
These are signs that what few elements of a democratic society exist in the United States are endangered, a fact which has been confirmed repeatedly.
Which brings me to Hillary Clinton who said (emphasis added):
"I think we know what we're up against. We do, don't we? Donald Trump has pledged to appoint Supreme Court justices who will overturn marriage equality, and if you have read about the ones he says he's likely to support, he's not kidding. In fact, if you look at his running mate, his running mate signed a law that would have allowed businesses to discriminate against LGBT Americans. And there's so much more that I find deplorable in his campaign: the way that he cozies up to white supremacists, makes racist attacks, calls women pigs, mocks people with disabilities -- you can't make this up. He wants to round up and deport 16 million people, calls our military a disaster. And every day he says something else which I find so personally offensive, but also dangerous....
"...You know, to just be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump's supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables. Right? The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic -- you name it. And unfortunately there are people like that. And he has lifted them up. He has given voice to their websites that used to only have 11,000 people -- now 11 million. He tweets and retweets their offensive hateful mean-spirited rhetoric. Now, some of those folks -- they are irredeemable, but thankfully they are not America."
Perhaps verbalizing that observation was a foolish mistake for a Presidential candidate. But now because over 50% of Americans under age 50 apparently cannot bring themselves to say that it is essential to live in a democratic country and 1-in-6 Americans think they would be better off under a military dictatorship, I have to go where many Americans don't like to go in their political debate.
Clinton is a policy wonk who understands what the difference was in Germany from 1934-1939 between (a) those who were were in political power, (b) those who were members of unacceptable minorities, and (c) those who were neither. Most of those who were neither, which was most of the populous, saw a slight improvement in their economic status and were quietly accepting-to-supportive. Those who were in power flourished. Those who were members of the unacceptable minorities were sent to concentration camps where most were murdered by the state.
And Clinton knows that the ancestors/predecessors of the current Deplorables of her parents generation offered up the same attitudes as their Deplorable descendants towards refugees as demonstrated in this survey done just before WWII:
Oh, we're not that bad now - we wouldn't let them get slaughtered, you might say. Here are the Gallup poll historical results that show the numbers haven't changed much:
By political party we see just how the results skew with Democrats favoring allowing refugees while 84% of the Deplorables prefer to allow the children of Syria to be slaughtered just like their grandparents did the German children in 1938:
California in the 21st Century is, of course, the Bluest of the Blue states. In the era of Trump bigotry, Democrats gained a super-majority in both houses of the Legislature, it has seven partisan state executives offices all filled by Democrats, two Democratic U.S. Senators, and 39 of 53 (almost 75%) of its House members are Democrats.
We cannot participate in a nation that is dominated by a political party which has 84% of its members advocating allowing innocent children, women and men to die in a war for which that party's previous President is responsible for inciting.
We cannot accept Trump, supported by the Deplorables, ordering a defacto reinstatement the 1929-1936 Mexican Repatriation carried out by American authorities which forcibly sent 1.2 million U.S. citizens into Mexico, most of whom didn't even speak Spanish but just had "the physical distinctiveness of mestizos."
And, as a Pacific Rim economy, we cannot risk Trump destroying the value of our trade and migration reality.
Trade, migration, and the economy are not the only issues
Californians need to evaluate. California's social and cultural policy
orientation was broadly attacked with Trump supporters threatening
Though we Californian's have struggled at
times with social and cultural policy issues, the fact is since the Gold
Rush California has been a leader in creating equal opportunities and a
safe community for any migrant from any place - Ohio, China, Chile,
Samoa, India, Oklahoma, Japan, Honduras. We have generally tried to
provide a fair approach to what we know as civil rights issues.
whether the civil rights issue is abortion, same sex marriage,
legalization of marijuana, gun safety regulation, workers' rights,
climate change, expression of religion, minimum wage, higher education,
use of technology, etc., Californians seek fair answers and work to
implement fair solutions. Settling for the status quo has never been a comfort zone
Consider the abortion issue. On June 14,
1967, then California Governor Ronald Reagan signed the groundbreaking
Therapeutic Abortion Act. If a "Trump Supreme Court" simply nullifies Roe v Wade, as the Washington Post article What abortion could look like in America under Donald Trump notes only a few states have Pro-Choice laws following California's example while many more have Pro-Life laws:
It is time to protect all those living in California. We need to push hard to wrench back as much of California's sovereignty as we can.
we could just sit back and continue to watch an old, white Alabaman
determine what civil rights people have and a rich, super-religious,
anti-gay-marriage white Michigan suburbanite privatize our school
And we could allow government officials to abuse children because it is the law. Though it really isn't.
In the late 19th and early 20th Centuries in the United States two myths were proffered as truths to advance the cause of what we today call "nation building." One was the "melting pot" concept. The other was the "Horatio Alger"story. Neither was inherently false, but as with many myths they were misused to support political viewpoints resulting in a popular misunderstanding of whatever truth they represented.
A "myth" is a traditional story, especially one concerning the early history of a people or explaining some natural or social phenomenon, frequently involving supernatural beings or events. Typically a myth plays a fundamental role in society, frequently a sacred narrative. As noted in Wikipedia:
Although the term may be used to mean a 'false story' in colloquial speech, myth is commonly used by folklorists and academics in other relevant fields, such as anthropology. Use of the term by scholars has no implication whether the narrative may be understood as true or otherwise.
The term "melting pot" first appeared in the January 1, 1875, edition of the magazine The Galaxy in an article "A New Country" by Titus Munson Coan who wrote: "Uniform institutions, ideas, language, the influence of the majority, bring us soon to a similar complexion; the individuality of the immigrant, almost even his traits of race and religion, fuse down in the democratic alembic like chips of brass thrown into the melting pot."
In contrast to Coan's "alembic" which is defined as "a distilling apparatus, now obsolete, consisting of a gourd-shaped container and a cap with a long beak for conveying the products to a receiver," a "kaleidoscope" presents continually changing reflections of 300+ million people all of who have individuality and identity while over multiple generations experiencing assimilation in varying degrees, all as viewed in the moment by the one observer as complex reflections.
It is, of course, the 21st Century; we are in the internet era. The American political scene is as divided today as it was in 1860, just before the Civil War. The underlying cause of today's rancorous division is widespread disillusionment related to those two myths which has led to both fear, disappointment and, in far too many Americans, depression.
We will explore the 19th Century American "melting pot" idea further in this post, along with newer concepts like "salad bowls" and "mosaics." We will take a hard look at the politics of individuality, identity, and assimilation that divide us in the 21st Century. And we will recognize that within the invitation of the Statue of Liberty that says “give me your poor" is a promise not only of freedom but of an open economy.
This cannot be done without a common understanding of certain concepts. So we will begin with, and spend time on, the ideas of culture, history, and the United States of America. At the end we will explain why we need to embrace the idea of a "kaleidoscope" which presents variations in image to every person who looks at America and Americans.
II. "Time" as an emblem for inextricable cultural differences
A child's expanding cognitive abilities can allow him or her to progressively understand the idea of "time" more clearly as follows:
Two- and three-year-olds' understanding of time is mainly limited to "now and not now."
Four- to six-year-olds can grasp the ideas of past, present, and future if their culture/language includes the concept.
Seven- to ten-year-olds can learn to use clocks and calendars if culturally permitted.
But what a child can do is not the same as what they actually do. The understanding of "time" depends on culture.
Some cultures tend to exhibit not so much a relaxed attitude toward time as no attitude at all. The Pirahã tribe of the Amazon appear to have no real concept of time. Their language has no past tense, and everything exists for them only in the present. When they can no longer perceive something, it effectively ceases to exist for them.
The language of the Hopi tribe of Arizona (as well as some other Native American languages) lacks verb tenses, and their language avoids all linear constructions in time. The closest the Hopi language comes to a sense of time are one word meaning “sooner” and another meaning “later”.
Such ancient cultures as Hopi, Incan, Mayan, and other Native American Tribes – plus the Babylonians, Ancient Greeks, Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and others – experience time as a wheel-of-time concept. They regard time as cyclical and quantic, consisting of repeating ages that happen to every being of the Universe between birth and extinction, that are happening between moments of "now" awareness. The Hopi, for instance, appear to have little or no sense of linear time as most of the Western world knows it.
On the other hand, the Islamic and Judeo-Christian world-view regards time as linear and directional, an arrow-of-time, beginning with the act of creation by God. The traditional Christian view sees time ending, teleologically, with the eschatological end of the present order of things, the "end time." This has created a fixation on "the arrow of time" and a sense of urgency around death.
Another way of looking at a people is time orientation.
Arrow-of-time future-oriented folks tend to run their lives by a clock that in the 21st Century has a second hand or the digital equivalent thereof. Many, if not most, Americans are always looking to the future, striving for the “American Dream”. They values busy-ness, which equates to success, status and importance. Of course those folks have a very short mythological history and are evolving a short attention span.
Wheel-of-time (and some arrow-of-time) past-immersed folks have a long point of view that diminishes the scale of minutes or even a days, measurements that become insignificant and inconsequential. This is a more laid back look at time. It is not unusual for trains in India to be several hours, or even a full day, late, without creating undue stress and turmoil. Of course those folks have thousands of years of mythological history behind them.
The known radical differences in cultures led Canadian researchers Joseph Henrich, Steven Heine and Ara Norenzayan to publish a paper The weirdest people in the world? the abstract of which explains:
Behavioral scientists routinely publish broad claims about human psychology and behavior in the world’s top journals based on samples drawn entirely from Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, and Democratic (WEIRD) societies. Researchers – often implicitly – assume that either there is little variation across human populations, or that these “standard subjects” are as representative of the species as any other population. Are these assumptions justified? Here, our review of the comparative database from across the behavioral sciences suggests both that there is substantial variability in experimental results across populations and that WEIRD subjects are particularly unusual compared with the rest of the species – frequent outliers. The domains reviewed include visual perception, fairness, cooperation, spatial reasoning, categorization and inferential induction, moral reasoning, reasoning styles, self-concepts and related motivations, and the heritability of IQ. The findings suggest that members of WEIRD societies, including young children, are among the least representative populations one could find for generalizing about humans. [Note: the use of the capitalized word "Democratic"as a part of the acronym and is not reflective of any partisan affiliation - these writers are Canadian.]
None of this has anything to do with the debate over multiculturalism, of course. Just because two peoples have no common perception of time shouldn't result in confusion or hostility in communications, right?
Or could it be the very reason some 21st Century Americans cling to the "melting pot" concept? Are they discovering that the "melting pot" defies a demand to blend significant differences, as those 19th Century Americans who coined the term understood. For instance, Buddhism and Christianity cannot be blended without one group losing their core beliefs.
Regardless of which school of Buddhism you belong, pursuant to philosophical and myth-filled texts you observe moral precepts, renounce craving and attachment, practice meditation (including calm and insight), and cultivate wisdom, loving-kindness and compassion either to achieve Nirvana or help other beings reach awakening.
None of that involves anything resembling an all-powerful Christian God - who our one nation is under and who is part of some trinity that demands our completely loyalty, and maybe our good behavior, or we won't be allowed to join our dead good relatives and Jesus in some heaven.
In other words, at its core every culture has its own view of existence including such things as "time." Most importantly, each culture has its own myths which frequently begin with an assertion that our (people are chosen) (our god is the one true)....
You see, "multiculturalism"is one of those terms. You know, words that have no meaning because they have a dozen different meanings, usually political, or even a different meaning for every person who uses the term. As indicated in the Online Etymology Dictionary entry to the right, it isn't even some old scholarly term.
The best way to understand "multiculturalism" is to begin by understanding "interculturalism" as explained by Wikipedia:
Interculturalism refers to support for cross-cultural dialogue and challenging self-segregation tendencies within cultures. Interculturalism involves moving beyond mere passive acceptance of a multicultural fact of multiple cultures effectively existing in a society and instead promotes dialogue and interaction between cultures.
Interculturalism has arisen in response to criticisms of existing policies of multiculturalism, such as criticisms that such policies had failed to create inclusion of different cultures within society, but instead have divided society by legitimizing segregated separate communities that have isolated themselves and accentuated their specificity. It is based on the recognition of both differences and similarities between cultures. It has addressed the risk of the creation of absolute relativism within postmodernity and in multiculturalism.
Absolute relativism has pervaded American discourse in the 21st Century, first gaining support from multiculturalists and faculty in our universities, then smilingly picked up by the Trump people as a means of destroying any sense of Union among cultures. When you embrace multiculturalism you must begin by embracing the idea that there is no one truth, no common view of reality. Even "time" has no common meaning. There are my facts, your facts, and Donald Trump's facts and all are valid.
Relativism is the idea that views are relative to differences in perception and consideration. There is no universal, objective truth according to relativism; rather each point of view has its own truth.
Suffice it to say that many different cultures exist. And we know that as an "ism", as an ideology, multiculturalism is a big thing in 21st Century politics. As noted by Wikipedia:
Multiculturalism that promotes maintaining the distinctiveness of multiple cultures is often contrasted to other settlement policies such as social integration, cultural assimilation and racial segregation. Multiculturalism has been described as a "salad bowl" and "cultural mosaic" in contrast to a melting pot.
Two different and seemingly inconsistent strategies have developed through different government policies and strategies. The first focuses on interaction and communication between different cultures; this approach is also often known as interculturalism. The second centers on diversity and cultural uniqueness which can sometimes result in intercultural competition over jobs among other things and may lead to ethnic conflict. Controversy surrounding the issue of cultural isolation includes the ghettoization of a culture within a nation and the protection of the cultural attributes of an area or nation. Proponents of government policies often claim that artificial, government guided protections also contribute to global cultural diversity. The second approach to multiculturalist policy making maintains that they avoid presenting any specific ethnic, religious, or cultural community values as central.
It goes without saying, but we'll say it anyway, the multicultural controversy is significant in the 21st Century. Predictably, in 2016 it blew up in the faces of career politicians in the United States and Great Britain and anger against multiculturalism is expanding in Europe. Consider this:
“What if we were wrong? Maybe we pushed too far, maybe people just want to fall back into their tribe," said Barack Obama quoted after reading a column on the 2016 election for Donald Trump asserting that liberals had forgotten how important identity was to people and had promoted an empty cosmopolitan globalism that made many feel left behind. - from The New York Times
Unfortunately, that New York Times article includes a misuse of two terms.
First there is the adjective "cosmopolitan" which when used in the context of an ideology is really "cosmopolitanism" which "has come to stand for peace and harmony among nations, founded upon understanding, tolerance and interdependence."
Second the term "globalism" is used in the context of "globalization" which is "the trend of increasing interaction between people or companies on a worldwide scale due to advances in transportation and communication technology, nominally beginning with the steamship and the telegraph in the early to mid-1800s."
The column titled "The Myth of Cosmopolitanism" that depressed Obama when he read it presents for serious consideration what the writer calls "elite tribalism" by supposed "insiders."
The people who consider themselves “cosmopolitan” in today’s West, by contrast, are part of a meritocratic order that transforms difference into similarity, by plucking the best and brightest from everywhere and homogenizing them into the peculiar species that we call “global citizens.”
This species is racially diverse (within limits) and eager to assimilate the fun-seeming bits of foreign cultures — food, a touch of exotic spirituality. But no less than Brexit-voting Cornish villagers, our global citizens think and act as members of a tribe.
They have their own distinctive worldview (basically liberal Christianity without Christ), their own common educational experience, their own shared values and assumptions (social psychologists call these WEIRD — for Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich and Democratic), and of course their own outgroups (evangelicals, Little Englanders) to fear, pity and despise. And like any tribal cohort they seek comfort and familiarity: From London to Paris to New York, each Western “global city” (like each “global university”) is increasingly interchangeable, so that wherever the citizen of the world travels he already feels at home.
At least that New York Times columnist did not use the misnomer "empty cosmopolitan globalism" though the the New York Times article mentioning the column does. What the columnist does make clear is that he knows there is a cultural difference between the Trump-voting Deplorables and "global citizens" whomever they may be.
What Obama concluded after reading the column was wrong, however. It simply isn't true that "maybe people just want to fall back into their tribe" because about 60% of Americans have never abandoned their tribal view of "time" and other formative experiences, no matter where they live. And more than half of them and their descendants are not going to abandoned their tribal view in the next decade or century.
Not discussed by any of these writers is American post-WWII cosmopolitanist globalization seeking "peace and harmony among nations, founded upon understanding, tolerance and interdependence" from "the trend of increasing interaction between people or companies on a worldwide scale due to advances in transportation and communication technology."
Particularly as the aging soldiers, sailors, and aircraft crew members of the American Armed Forces who actually fought in WWII, Korea, and Vietnam die, Americans seem to have forgotten just how significant "peace and harmony among nations" becomes when it is replaced by war.
And all ignore the 250 years of failed American "nation building" based on mythology that underlies the the long tradition of the white populism of the nationalists and nativists that in 2016 Trump used politically. And that mythology does not mean the myth of young future slave-owner George Washington chopping down a cherry tree to emphasize the importance of not lying as we shall discuss next.
III. The Old Nation-Building Myths of America
America's white European "Melting Pot"
Cultural assimilation is the process in which a minority group or culture comes to resembles those of a dominant group. The term is used to refer to both individuals and groups; the latter case can refer to a range of social groups, including ethnic minorities, immigrants, indigenous peoples, and other marginalized groups such as sexual minorities who adapt to being culturally dominated by another societal group. - Wikipedia
Most think the American "melting pot" term is essentially a synonym for "cultural assimilation" as broadly described above "including ethnic minorities, immigrants, indigenous peoples, and other marginalized groups." Actually, nothing could be further from the truth.
If you look around the web you will see
references to the writings in 1782 of J. Hector St. John de Crevecoeur as sort of a starting point. As mentioned at the beginning of this post, you also will learn that Titus Munson Coan 93 years later actually used the term in an 1875 magazine article. And you will discover that the term really only entered popular culture 125 years after Crevecoeur's starting point, because of a 1908 play The Melting Pot written by Israel Zangwill. Let's explore that history, recognizing the context of "nation building" that surrounds it.
Beyond government, people need an identity that stimulates a sense of belonging and loyalty. In 18th Century in the 13 Colonies many who were feeling separate from Europe worried about that. But some saw a solution evolving.
...Whence came all these people? They are a mixture of English, Scotch, Irish, French, Dutch, Germans, and Swedes....
What, then, is the American, this new man? He is either an European or the descendant of an European; hence that strange mixture of blood, which you will find in no other country. I could point out to you a family whose grandfather was an Englishman, whose wife was Dutch, whose son married a French woman, and whose present four sons have now four wives of different nations. He is an American, who, leaving behind him all his ancient prejudices and manners, receives new ones from the new mode of life he has embraced, the new government he obeys, and the new rank he holds....
The Americans were once scattered all over Europe; here they are incorporated into one of the finest systems of population which has ever appeared.
His "finest systems of population" was that described by George Washington in his Farewell Address:
With slight shades of difference, you have the same religion, manners, habits, and political principles.
But Crevecoeur's "people" who, according to Washington had "with slight shades of difference...the same religion, manners, habits and political principles" at no time were all the persons living with the States. To begin with, there was this reality...
which the red color indicates a substantial population brought forcibly from Africa, who were not English, Scotch, Irish, French, Dutch, Germans, or Swedes. No slave believed in Crevecoeur's "finest systems of population" concept. Then consider this map...
indicates the location of indigenous populations of North America, including a substantial population in what we now know as the United States and Canada estimated to have been between 9.8 to 12.3 million, people that not only were not included in the Crevecoeur's "finest systems of population" but were to be reduced to 490,000± in the largest government endorsed genocide in the history of the World.
And there is this map...
...emphasizing land which at different times, for aggressive economic purposes, the United States obtained...
by purchase from Spain and France and
through war with Mexico and indigenous peoples,
...about 70% of which was the recognized Spanish Viceroyalty of New Spain at the time of the formation of the United States. Through purchase and war the dominate white European population expanded the United States entrapping, among others, people with an indigenous heritage some of whom spoke Spanish and who were not included in Crevecoeur's "finest systems of population".
The idea of "nation-building," which up to the mid-20th Century in the United States was a fuzzy conceit, is offered in the graphic at the left.
Prior to the 17th Century, conceptually "nation" meant "any distinctive population with a common language, culture, and considerable history." In 1789 in the former colonies about to embark on creating the United States, there was no "considerable history" during which a common language and culture evolved. Nor was there anyone discussing "nation-building."
The term "nation-building" gained acceptance among American political scientists a decade or so after World War II. As noted in Wikipedia: "Traditionally, there has been some confusion between the use of the term nation-building and that of state-building (the terms are sometimes used interchangeably in North America)."
Nation-building is constructing or structuring a national identity using the power of the state which began in the United States. Nation builders use government programs such as required schooling using content designed to create a sense of a nation. Other tactics range from military conscription to major infrastructure development. Nation-building includes the creation of national paraphernalia such as flags, anthems, national days, national stadiums, and national airlines.
Most importantly national myths are needed to overcome psychological resistance to identifying with what one may perceive as an "other too different" within your state. Crevecoeur's American, "an European or the descendant of an European...from all over Europe", needed to evolve to include freed slaves, Native Americans, people speaking Spanish, Asians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, etc.
The "melting pot" myth was created to solve all the language, ethnic, racial, and religious "differences" stuff, right??? Wrong!
In the January 1, 1875, edition of the magazine The Galaxy, the term "melting pot" first appeared in print in an article "A New Country" by Titus Munson Coan (Coan's parents were missionaries in Hawaii when he was born which was reflected in an 1877 article "On Being Born Away from Home").
Frequently when Coan's "melting pot" is mentioned, no expanded context is provided. To give a sense of his thoughts when he wrote "A New Country", the first paragraph from that text and the paragraph containing the term "melting pot" are offered below:
What is a new country? Perhaps we need not inquire too closely, since I admit that these United States are the country in question at present. Nor would I pretend to offer a cavil-proof definition; I would only premise that the real newness of a community is not to be measured mainly by its age in years, nor, as Malthus points out, by the number or even the density of its population. It is rather the ratio of the population to its available means of support that has to do, for good and evil, with its complete development, that brings into play in civilized communities the competitions, the vices, and the virtues which make up the complex character of a modern society. Redundance of population is thus a relative thing; it is not a question merely of the census returns, of thousands or millions of people, but also of the amount of subsistence that is easily available.
People say that the American character is unformed; and it is a fashion with some to say that there is no American character as yet. I do not think so; the national type seems to me quite as definite as most others. Like any other, the American character is of course undergoing constant change and development, for growth has no fixed limits in its processes, and we speak roughly when we speak of its stages. But our character seems to me to have gained its features. No nation of equal size was ever developed so rapidly. The fusing process goes on as in a blast-furnace; one generation, a single year even, transforms the English, the German, the Irish emigrant into an American. Uniform institutions, ideas, language, the influence of the majority, bring us soon to a similar complexion; the individuality of the immigrant, almost even his traits of race and religion, fuse down in the democratic alembic like chips of brass thrown into the melting pot. The resulting character seems to me a definite alloy; and its homogeneity is a guaranty that the nation is to remain one as long as the Federal Government shall retain the least efficiency. It is hard to see what cause of civil war should arise among a people so homogeneous in language, customs, and ideas as ourselves. We are one as no other great nation of Christendom is; and it seems unlikely that domestic quarrels, as about tariffs, or in this late age any discussion between Catholic and Protestant, should become bitter enough to bring about any secession wars. Predictions are dangerous, but what is there for us to quarrel about, unless a dictator should try to make himself our king some day?
So, the guy who first offered up "melting pot" was impressed that it "transforms the English, the German, the Irish emigrant into an American" who as "Catholic and Protestant" won't fight because "the individuality of the immigrant" is fused "down in the democratic alembic like chips of brass thrown into the melting pot."
His "melting pot" was successful within the confines of the same folks identified by Crevecoeur about 100 years earlier as "a mixture of English, Scotch, Irish, French, Dutch, Germans, and Swedes" who Washington described as "with slight shades of difference...have the same religion, manners, habits, and political principles."
However, Coan's piece was written after the approval of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo ending the Mexican-American War, which permits Spanish-speaking brown folks to remain in the United States entitling them "to the enjoyment of all the rights of citizens of the United States, according to the principles of the Constitution; and in the mean time, shall be maintained and protected in the free enjoyment of their liberty and property, and secured in the free exercise of their religion without; restriction."
Also, Coan's piece was written after the Civil War when the slaves were freed and the 14th Amendment to the Constitution was adopted which begins: "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside."
These two legal documents seemingly would have encouraged Coan to make some gain on the Crevecoeur/Washington "white's only" club. But the deaths from, and settlement of, the two major 19th Century wars, didn't mean adding color to the "melting pot." So the "melting pot" was for white folks, of Northwest European descent.
Oh, and just to be clear how wrong Coan's thinking was, it was considered no small achievement in 1960 that an Irish Catholic could be elected President. In his failure to acknowledge the depth of the animosity between Protestant England and Catholic Ireland, Coan erred in including the Irish who in his time period were suffering severe discrimination, an error he probably made because he was raised in Hawaii and when he came back to the mainland the Irish looked like white Europeans.
But in all fairness, we must acknowledge the "melting pot" didn't gain traction in the popular culture until the beginning of the 20th Century, as explained in Wikipedia:
In The Melting Pot (1908), Israel Zangwill combined a romantic denouement with an utopian celebration of complete cultural intermixing. The play was an adaptation of William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, set in New York City. The play's immigrant protagonist David Quixano, a Russian Jew, falls in love with Vera, a fellow Russian immigrant who is Christian. Vera is an idealistic settlement house worker and David is a composer struggling to create an "American symphony" to celebrate his adopted homeland. Together they manage to overcome the old world animosities that threaten to separate them. But then David discovers that Vera is the daughter of the Tsarist officer who directed the pogrom that forced him to flee Russia. Horrified, he breaks up with her, betraying his belief in the possibility of transcending religious and ethnic animosities. However, unlike Shakespeare's tragedy, there is a happy ending. At the end of the play the lovers are reconciled.
Reunited with Vera and watching the setting sun gilding the Statue of Liberty, David Quixano has a prophetic vision: "It is the Fires of God round His Crucible. There she lies, the great Melting-Pot—Listen! Can't you hear the roaring and the bubbling? There gapes her mouth, the harbor where a thousand mammoth feeders come from the ends of the world to pour in their human freight". David foresees how the American melting pot will make the nation's immigrants transcend their old animosities and differences and will fuse them into one people: "Here shall they all unite to build the Republic of Man and the Kingdom of God. Ah, Vera, what is the glory of Rome and Jerusalem where all nations and races come to worship and look back, compared with the glory of America, where all races and nations come to labour and look forward!"
And so there it is. In America's mythic "melting pot" two white Europeans, Russian immigrants, one a Jew the other a Christian, not only can learn to tolerate each other, they can intermarry. And they can celebrate it by admiring the Statue of Liberty which has that plaque which says:
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries sheWith silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
The Statue of Liberty, a gift from France, is perfectly placed to be welcoming ships coming from the Atlantic, presumably from Europe and presumably full of white Europeans.
In the United States, the "Hispanic" peoples mostly have an indigenous ancestry - their ancestors were living on the American Continent before it was known to Europeans as the American Continent. To make matters worse, they speak a European language that is not English and were doing so 100 years before the Pilgrims made a big deal of a rock in Plymouth, MA.
The black peoples share an African slave ancestry and an evolved culture created from within their communities. To make matters worse from the point of view of many white people who live south of the Mason-Dixon Line, the ancestors of the black peoples were the reason there was a Civil War in which a million or so Americans die according to American liberals today.
Native American peoples come from groups that were officially the target of genocide by the United States government created by the Europeans. It is through that genocide, and its logical extension the Mexican-American War, that most of the United States, the Union, is not like Mexico which has a population of people with an indigenous heritage.
Asian peoples speak languages that have not derived from, nor borrowed from, either Roman Latin or the the Germanic languages. And no knowledgeable person would ever think that Buddhism and Christianity are similar enough to be "melted" just because we call them religions.
Because these peoples haven't "melted", a new generation has created the "salad bowl" myth to replace the "melting pot" because we so very badly seem to want to be a "nation" with some kind of bounded container whatever that means. We will come back to the problem of defining the word "nation" after taking up the myth known as the "Horatio Alger story."
The myth of the Gilded Age - the Horatio Alger story
The American Dream is a national ethos of the United States, the set of ideals (democracy, rights, liberty, opportunity and equality) in which freedom includes the opportunity for prosperity and success, as well as an upward social mobility for the family and children, achieved through hard work in a society with few barriers. - Wikipedia
Horatio Alger was a prolific 19th-century American writer, best known for his many young adult novels about impoverished boys and their rise from humble backgrounds to lives of middle-class security and comfort through hard work, determination, courage, and honesty. His writings were characterized by the "rags-to-riches" narrative, which had a formative effect on America during the Gilded Age.
Alger is considered by some to have been the biggest American media star of his day. In the nineteenth-century the sale of 10,000 volumes was deemed a publishing triumph. Readers bought at least 200 million copies of Alger's books, placing him in the Stephen King category.
"rags to riches" stories popularized and perpetuated the American "land of opportunity" myth that anyone could work hard and become rich, a "self made man". But it was a myth that not too subtlety reflected the truth. Often it is not hard work that rescues the boy from his fate but rather some extraordinary act. This brings the boy—and his plight—to the attention of a wealthy individual who using his wealth would give the boy an opportunity - an act of charity.
This myth was important to the general population at the end of the 19th Century because the United States was becoming more corporate and industrialized while "the West" offered less of a relief valve. Lost was the dream about which Virginia Governor John Murray, 4th Earl of Dunmore, noted in 1774 that Americans "for ever imagine the Lands further off are still better than those upon which they are already settled" adding that, "if they attained Paradise, they would move on if they heard of a better place farther west". At the time, he was conducting a war between the Colony of Virginia and the Shawnee and Mingo American Indian nations known as Lord Dunmore's War which resulted from escalating violence between British colonists who were exploring and moving into land south of the Ohio River (modern West Virginia, Southwestern Pennsylvania and Kentucky), and the American Indians who held treaty rights to hunt there.
Simply, it had become harder for people to control their own fates. At the beginning of the 20th Century, in recognition of reality President Teddy Roosevelt took on the corporations in "trust busting" crusades.
Wikipedia notes that in the Gilded Age...
The political landscape was notable in that despite some corruption, turnout was very high and national elections saw two evenly matched parties. The dominant issues were cultural (especially regarding prohibition, education, and ethnic or racial groups), and economic (tariffs and money supply).
The term "Gilded Age" for the period of economic boom after the American Civil War up to the turn of the century was applied to the era by historians in the 1920s, who took the term from one of Mark Twain's lesser known novels, The Gilded Age: A Tale of Today (1873). The book (co-written with Charles Dudley Warner) satirized the promised 'golden age' after the Civil War, portrayed as an era of serious social problems masked by a thin gold gilding of economic expansion. In the 1920s and 30s "Gilded Age" became a designated period in American history. The term was adopted by literary and cultural critics .... For them, "Gilded Age" was a pejorative term used to describe a time of materialistic excesses combined with extreme poverty.
From 1860 to 1900, the wealthiest 2% of American households owned more than a third of the nation's wealth, while the top 10% owned roughly three fourths of it. The bottom 40% had no wealth at all. In terms of property, the wealthiest 1% owned 51%, while the bottom 44% claimed 1.1%. Historian Howard Zinn argues that this disparity along with precarious working and living conditions for the working classes prompted the rise of populist, anarchist, and socialist movements. French economist Thomas Piketty notes that economists during this time, such as Willford I. King, were concerned that the United States was becoming increasingly in-egalitarian to the point of becoming like old Europe, and "further and further away from its original pioneering ideal."
There was a significant human cost attached to this period of economic growth, as American industry had the highest rate of accidents in the world. In 1889, railroads employed 704,000 men, of whom 20,000 were injured and 1,972 were killed on the job. The U.S. was also the only industrial power to have no workman's compensation program in place to support injured workers.
Any of that sound familiar? If you think it sounds like today, consider this. The Gilded Age was a period of economic growth as the United States jumped to the lead in industrialization ahead of Britain. Engineering colleges were established to feed the enormous demand for expertise. Railroads invented modern management systematizing the roles of middle managers and set up explicit career tracks. They hired young men ages 18–21 and promoted them internally. Career tracks were invented for skilled blue-collar jobs and for white-collar managers, starting in railroads and expanding into finance, manufacturing, and trade. Together with rapid growth of small business, a new middle class was rapidly growing, especially in northern cities. The United States became a world leader in applied technology. From 1860 to 1890, 500,000 patents were issued for new inventions—over ten times the number issued in the previous seventy years.
Numerous young men experienced a "Horatio Alger" rise in financial circumstances to the level of upper middle class lending credence to the myth. But as noted this economic growth failed too many Americans.
The Horatio Alger myth is simply that - a myth, a dream, an American dream. And so long as the employed can see themselves as a middle class, it is an easy myth to perpetuate in an expanding economy. But as the world has hand to learn over and over again, the existence of a willing workforce does not guarantee a rising economy.
The Great Depression of the 1930's began with a recession in August 1929 including two months of a declining GDP, but it was the Wall Street Crash in October 1929 that signaled the beginning of a decade of bank failures, high unemployment, poverty, low profits, deflation, plunging farm incomes and, perhaps most importantly, lost opportunities for personal advancement.
The Depression caused major political changes in America as 27% of the population belonged to families with no regular full-time wage earner and 1% were homeless people migrating around the country. New York social workers reported that 25% of all schoolchildren were malnourished. In the mining counties of West Virginia, Illinois, Kentucky, and Pennsylvania, the proportion of malnourished children reached as high as 90%. The myth began to sour and politics changed. Fortunately, WWII created new opportunities...well, perhaps not so fortunately for the 70,000,000 to 85,000,000 people who were killed
as war raged across their lands...but fortunate for those United States citizens who didn't have a war fought across their lands or didn't have to fight on anyone else's lands.
At the beginning of the 21st Century, the American Dream was filled with increasing expectations until The Great Recession. While The Great Recession beginning in late 2007 did not represent an economic collapse as significant as The Great Depression, Wikipedia notes:
In 2013 the Census Bureau defined poverty rate decreased to roughly 14.5% of the population. As late as 2014, and early 2015, a majority of Americans still believed that the nation remained in a recession. Such perceptions have been cited as a partial factor in the rise of Donald Trump as presidential candidate in 2016, and later the 45th President of the United States.
Some argue that in 2018 we have achieved a full recovery. In fact health issues including the oxy epidemic and a rising number of suicides remain partly as symptoms of what was an acceleration of an economic dislocation resulting from layoffs and plant (or facility) closings associated with economic restructuring. We see stories like 'The Coasts Pulling Away': 10 Years Since Recession, Thriving Cities Leave Others Behind which reflect the divisions. In 2018 "the economy, stupid" is the political mantra in large geographic areas of the United States.
IV. A More Perfect Union, Not Country, Nation, Or State
One cannot understand the range of emotions experienced, and related opinions held, by Americans without having an awareness of the world of the men we call the Founding Fathers of the United States. Particularly, we need to understand the language they spoke, the meaning of the words they used. Late 18th Century Colonial English might seem to resemble the language of 21st Century America, but it is not the same language.
Political disinformation in the United States for 230 years has created confusion about certain words important to an understanding about what was new and different in the world after the Revolutionary War.
Key to the confusion is the American jumbling together of words that once had truly different definitions and implications - country, nation, state, and union.
For purposes of clarity and simplicity, as used here from this point on the following words have specific meanings based upon pre-17th Century concepts:
"Country" means "any considerable territory demarcated by topographical conditions."
"Nation" means "any distinctive population with a common language, culture, and considerable history."
"State" means "a central civil government or authority that exercises the legitimate use of force within defined geographical boundaries."
"Union" means "a number of states or nations joined together for defined purposes to be accomplished by a separately created autonomous authority."
Using those definitions, the Cherokee Nation is a nation. Italy is a country and a state. Japan is a country, a state, and a nation. The United States of America is none of these. It is a union of states.
It's not a country - here's why
Again, "country" as will be used here means "any considerable territory demarcated by topographical conditions."
In English the word has increasingly become associated with political divisions, so that one sense, associated with the indefinite article – "a country" – through misuse and subsequent conflation is now a synonym for state, or a former sovereign state, in the sense of sovereign territory or "district, native land"....
The equivalent terms in French and other Romance languages (pays and variants) have not carried the process of being identified with political sovereign states as far as the English "country".... In many European countries the words are used for sub-divisions of the national territory, as in the German Bundesländer, as well as a less formal term for a sovereign state. France has very many "pays" that are officially recognised at some level, and are either natural regions, like the Pays de Bray, or reflect old political or economic entities, like the Pays de la Loire.
A version of "country" can be found in the modern French language as contrée, based on the word cuntrée in Old French, that is used similarly to the word "pays" to define non-state regions, but can also be used to describe a political state in some particular cases. The modern Italian contrada is a word with its meaning varying locally, but usually meaning a ward or similar small division of a town, or a village or hamlet in the countryside.
For purposes of sharing an understanding of the political world as understood by our Founding Fathers, here is a map of Europe at the time of the creation of the United States of America:
Fundamentally, Europe was divided into constantly warring empires with shifting boundaries. While topographical conditions may have slowed some conquests, our concept of "country" did not set boundaries for kingdoms and empires which are "states" by our definitions. And that was an attitude that Europeans brought to the Americas and which has resulted in a blurring of the terms "country" and "state."
As can be seen on the map below, North America is a large geographic area with significant topographical conditions:
Click on image to see a larger version!
If a people whose only mode of transportation on land is walking "discover" such a geographic area and through walking logically divide it into more than one division without intent, it is reasonable to assume that the dominate shape for divisions would most likely be in a north-to-south direction, more or less. And indeed, the result of an actual natural migration produced this map:
Further some predominantly English-speaking Europeans came along and, initially struggling just to survive, began to occupy a land bounded by topography:
But these folks were Europeans used to warring empires with shifting boundaries not constrained by topography. So over the next 150 years in defiance of the idea of a topographically-defined "country" they and their descendants drew some lines dividing that continental topography in illogical ways...
... and, more irrationally, even further like this:
To summarize, the United States is not a "country" defined by obvious topographical extremes. Even the oceans did not stop it from including Hawaii as one of the internal "state" governments even though it is 2,500 miles from the American Continent. In fact, the Rocky Mountains were known as the Continental Divide but even that didn't suggest creating separate "countries" based on topography. The United States is not a country as we define it.
It's not a nation - here's why
As it will be used here "nation" means "any distinctive population with a common language, culture, and considerable history." And it is this map that indicates a division of the North American Continent by "nations" of indigenous peoples...
As already discussed, the American "melting pot" did not include those indigenous North American nations, African slaves and their descendants, and the indigenous Spanish speaking residents of lands purchased or conquered by the United States. Not only that, the United States encouraged immigration from around the world, such as from China to build the Transcontinental Railroad, resulting in these maps today...
...which makes it very clear that the United States is not a "nation" by our definition as "any distinctive population with a common language, culture, and considerable history."
As a reminder, we have explored the historical fact that the term "melting pot" was a concept to encourage immigrant "English, Scotch, Irish, French, Dutch, Germans, and Swedes" who back home in Europe constantly fought wars with each other to form an English-speaking culture. Had anyone before 1920 suggested adding other races, they would have been met with incredulous laughter.
So it is a perfectly logical outcome of this history that emotionally for many within the United States "nationalism" means only white English-speaking nationalism. But that doesn't reflect the population born and living here.
Again the United States is not a "nation."
It is not a state but rather a union - here's why
As it will be used here "state" means "a central civil government or authority that exercises the legitimate use of force within defined geographical boundaries." Given the definitions accepted here, most would want to say the United States is a "state."
Except, of course, within the defined geographical boundary that is the United States pursuant to Constitutional law there are 50+ "state" governments which independently exercise the legitimate use of force within defined internal geographical boundaries. There is nothing confusing about the wording of the 10th Amendment to the Constitution:
The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.
So the United States is not even a "state" in the our use of the word (for this discussion entering into the arguments over the so-called "implied powers" is not relevant). Rather, it is a "union" which means "a number of states or nations joined together for defined purposes to be accomplished by a separately created autonomous authority." The following is the Preamble of the Constitution of the United States (emphasis added):
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, 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.
And here is where the confusion exists. In that document, the Constitution of the United States, a "Union" was formed. That "Union" meant "a number of states or nations joined together for defined purposes to be accomplished by a separately created autonomous authority."
The existing real states jointly assigned the Union the limited authority to use a very few of their powers and functions while retaining the vast balance of powers of a state to themselves.
Americans seem to be confused about that. Perhaps that is because political history is not something we think is as important as, say, how to use technology to see cat videos to make us laugh. But sometimes we need to consider the concept of a "union" in the context of the American Revolution and Constitution which happened in the last quarter of the 17th Century. It literally was all the latest in government.
"Founding Father" Benjamin Franklin was born in 1706 which meant that even our oldest Founding Father had a clear understanding of the then new, cool British concept of a "union." That is because over the first two years of Franklin's life the concept of a political "union" was formalized during the process of creating Great Britain which most Americans probably think was created by the Romans at the time Jesus was alive.
Wikipedia provides a brief insight into what we frequently shorten to Britain:
The Kingdom of Scotland emerged as an independent sovereign state in the Early Middle Ages and continued to exist until 1707. By inheritance in 1603, James VI, King of Scots, became King of England and King of Ireland, thus forming a personal union of the three kingdoms. Scotland subsequently entered into a political union with the Kingdom of England on 1 May 1707 to create the new Kingdom of Great Britain. The union also created a new Parliament of Great Britain, which succeeded both the Parliament of Scotland and the Parliament of England. In 1801, Great Britain itself entered into a political union with the Kingdom of Ireland to create the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.
Within Scotland, the monarchy of the United Kingdom has continued to use a variety of styles, titles and other royal symbols of statehood specific to the pre-union Kingdom of Scotland. The legal system within Scotland has also remained separate from those of England and Wales and Northern Ireland; Scotland constitutes a distinct jurisdiction in both public and private law. The continued existence of legal, educational, religious and other institutions distinct from those in the remainder of the UK have all contributed to the continuation of Scottish culture and national identity since the 1707 union with England.
In 1997, a Scottish Parliament was re-established, in the form of a devolved unicameral legislature comprising 129 members, having authority over many areas of domestic policy....
The Acts of Union were two Acts of Parliament: the Union with Scotland Act 1706 passed by the Parliament of England, and the Union with England Act passed in 1707 by the Parliament of Scotland. They put into effect the terms of the Treaty of Union that had been agreed on 22 July 1706, following negotiation between commissioners representing the parliaments of the two countries. By the two Acts, the Kingdom of England and the Kingdom of Scotland—which at the time were separate states with separate legislatures, but with the same monarch—were, in the words of the Treaty, "United into One Kingdom by the Name of Great Britain".
The Acts took effect on 1 May 1707. On this date, the Scottish Parliament and the English Parliament united to form the Parliament of Great Britain, based in the Palace of Westminster in London, the home of the English Parliament. Hence, the Acts are referred to as the Union of the Parliaments. On the Union, the historian Simon Schama said "What began as a hostile merger, would end in a full partnership in the most powerful going concern in the world ... it was one of the most astonishing transformations in European history."
It might surprise many that within the Constitution of the United States the term "country" never appears. The term "nation" appears only in reference to "Commerce with foreign Nations" and to "punish Piracies and Felonies committed on the high Seas, and Offences against the Law of Nations." The term "state" does appear, but always in reference to the proposed union of 13 states - you know, the real states per our definition which was the definition understood by Benjamin Franklin and the other Founding Fathers.
On the other hand, besides in the preamble quoted above, the term "union" is used as follows:
New States may be admitted by the Congress into this Union... The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government...
He shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union...
Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers...
To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union...
In the lifetime of the "Founding Fathers" prior to the Revolutionary War, Great Britain was clearly understood to be newly created as a "union" which was a revolutionary acknowledgement of a political idea. Because of the words used in the Constitution, it would be fair to say that the United States was created as a "union" of somewhat diverse states, where "state" clearly referenced 13 central civil governments that exercised the legitimate use of force within 13 defined geographical boundaries. This shouldn't come as a surprise, as for the Founding Fathers a "union" was a new and improved concept of political organization.
And is it surprising that the winning army in the Civil War was the Union Army? Was not the Union Army a land force that fought to keep and preserve the Union of the collective states? Did you never wonder why they called it the "Union" army?
In fact throughout the 19th Century, the Union was known as "these United States" which is a plural designation meaning more than one state. Titus Munson Coan in his 1875 article "A New Country" discussed above in which he coined the term "Melting Pot" uses "these United States are" a decade after the end of the Civil War.
Linguist Mark Liberman in When did the Supreme Court make us an 'is'? noted that contrary to one of his previous posts indicating the change to "the United States is" may have been made after the Civil War, he learned that Minor Myers of the Brooklyn Law School prepared a study Supreme Court Usage and the Making of an 'Is' which examined the use of the phrases “United States is” and “United States are” in opinions of the United States Supreme Court from 1790 to 1919 and determined that the plural usage was the predominant usage in the 1870s, 1880s, and 1890s and did not disappear until the 1920's.
As one comment speculated it is likely the plural persisted "at least through Reconstruction, and I'm afraid it hasn't entirely disappeared in some quarters."
No it it hasn't disappeared, and sometimes the use of the plural in the 21st Century creates a political buzz. For example, on Thursday, April 25, 2013, speaking at the dedication of the George W. Bush Library, then President Barack Obama asked God to bless "these United States."
Don't dismiss this as if it were Bush fumbling a speech. Obama taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago Law School for twelve years. In his 2013 inaugural address he closed with "Thank you, God Bless you, and may He forever bless these United States of America." Obama understand that those who drafted the Constitution never intended that the Union be other than "these states." When he says that Constitutional Law professor Obama knows full well that it is "these states" that make up the Union.
Again, the singular usage "the United States is" did not become the "common" form until after World War I when it became obvious that the Union functioned as an "is" in a complex international scene where people could kill each other in the millions based on their "is-ness."
What we need to understand is "these United States" is a union of "states" created solely for purposes of a common military defense and assuring economic success, not regulate mundane issues such as who can have sex with whom. That's one reason why in 1792 Americans insisted on leaving establishing government churches to the real states.
V. A More Perfect Union as a 21st Century Kaleidoscope
After the 21st Century Gilded Age economy collapses
As Titus Munson Coan noted in his 1877 article that first referenced the melting pot, the amount of subsistence that is easily available is a major determiner of good and evil in civilized communities.
Subsistence broadly means "the action or fact of maintaining or supporting oneself at a minimum level." Originally it referred to the minimal resources that are necessary for survival, such as water, food, clothing, and shelter. Today the term is broader including such things as transportation and communications. For instance, it could be asserted that having a "smart phone" is critical to subsistence in 21st Century America though it is not necessary to have an internet service account of your own in many locations because of available open wireless.
In the 21st Century Gilded Age in which we live, such subsistence as Coan described is available for the relatively poor at Walmart where they can buy imported goods. But, as "alarmist" economists have noted, American subsistence is built upon a structure of world trade and immigrant labor. The Trump Administration is seeking to destabilize both those foundations of our economy, policies Trump promised to those who elected him - a significant portion of whom are the relatively close to subsistence level.
Because of the TV game show The Apprentice he produced and hosted from 2003 to 2015, Trump himself had become the symbol of this new American Gilded Age. Prior to that TV show, Trump's style of business was to take high risks using corporations and when it doesn't work out file for bankruptcy. It is a style that, as of the corporate tax cut, is being used to manage the U.S. economy. The problem is, the U.S. can't simply file bankruptcy avoiding obligations to everyone owed money and start over again when the economy collapses.
Unfortunately, for the most part Americans are completely unaware of The Long Depression of 1873–96 which coincided with the original Gilded Age and only have a vague awareness of The Great Depression of 1929-1941.
No recession of the post-World War II era has come anywhere near the depth of the Great Depression. The 2008 Great Recession did not reach near that depth because of governmental actions taken by the outgoing Bush Administration and the incoming Obama Administration.
But the actions of those two Administrations were consistent with WEIRD (western, educated, industrialized, rich, and democratic) understandings of a late 20th Century economy. Those in the Bush and Obama Administrations were led by those WEIRD type of people Trump and his supporters hate.
Because of the nature of the global economy, what happens after the next collapse could become an global economic catastrophe because of a domino effect. Except....
In contrast to the United States, the rest of the world's leading economies have been systematically acting to minimize the impact of the next recession - reducing government debt, for instance. And the one benefit of having to adapt to the antics of the United States in the global economy will be less economic reliance on the U.S. which could substantially reduce the domino effect, if there is enough time. (Sometimes we forget that for those who make political and economic policy in other countries, what we think of as the antics of Donald Trump are effectively the antics of the United States.)
Since WWII the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (both created as a result of the Bretton Woods Conference) have evolved a system to provide for a stable international currency should the U.S. dollar become problematic in a U.S. banking system collapse. Further, on its own and through such international institutions China could act to stabilize the economies in the Indo-Pacific region.
The risk is that the U.S. will find itself in a box similar to that of 1923 Wiemar Germany - far too much debt to be repaid without devaluing the American dollar potentially leading to hyperinflation.
Of course, in the digital age initially it won't be as obvious as when Germans had to take baskets of money with them to shop for food.
The critical issue for the United States is that once the new Gilded Age collapses, a much broader swath of the American population will be struggling in a 21st Century subsistence level economic box than those who suffered from The Great Recession. And they likely will be doing so without the psychological underpinnings of the mythology that that allowed the American Dream to survive The Great Depression.
Outwardly, it does appear that the Trump Administration is pushing hard to put as many policies in place as fast as possible to accelerate an economic collapse. Those who a paranoid might even believe it has something to do with the historical fact that within an economic collapse it is easier to persuade people to accept totalitarian government.
It would be wise, then, to consider pushing for a new Union mythology.
A Kaleidoscope of Individuality and Achievement
As noted in the beginning of this post, the use of the words myth or mythology carries no implication whether the narrative may be understood as true or otherwise. What we are about to posit is that "individuality" and "achievement" are the myths that remain strong across the Union at the beginning of the 21st Century.
But first let's take a very careful look at visual representations of the existing myths regarding cultural assimilation or integration.
Notice that all these involve boundaries. The American melting pot puts everyone in a...pot! The new salad bowl version puts everyone in a...salad bowl! And the Canadian mosaic puts everyone into various cultural blocks. In each case, these are visible "boxes" that hide or even melt the individual, boxes which are to be viewed in the same way by every viewer.
At this point we should take another look at our American 21st Century Kaleidoscope. Note that it begins with blocks of color placed intermixed in rings. As the viewer adjusts the kaleidoscope to create a view with some detail, gradually those blocks of colors turn into reflections of individual human faces. This representation is how we see individuals in real life, through our own personal kaleidoscope, a narrow obscured view, distorted by mirrors. But we can recognize those images as individuals with whom we share a Union.
For Americans, the reality, the norm, is for each of us to believe in our own individuality, that particular aggregate of qualities that distinguishes one person from another. We are taught to embrace our individuality.
As children we grow up discovering that much of the time others see their world that as blurs of color with only broad boundaries, which hides individuality. And when people find a moment to notice there are differences, the world they see looks little blocks of color with no real identifying characteristics other than shades of color.
Individuality is not easily seen, particularly in an America arguing over the traditional myth of the melting pot versus identity politics which all too frequently places the group ahead of the individual. Let's repeat that for emphasis - which all to frequently places the group ahead of the individual. And let's take a "for instance" look.
Perhaps one of the most complex cultural issues in the world is the marriage partnership which every state in the world regulates with laws. And it is a source of conflict.
Polygamy is legal in 58 out of nearly 200 sovereign states, the vast majority of them being Muslim-majority countries situated in Africa and Asia. But the form is polygyny, or men with multiple wives, not polyandry, or women with multiple husbands. The latter is illegal in virtually every state in the world. Same sex unions, whether marriage, civil unions, or cohabitation, are illegal in all of those Muslim states.
Indonesia, which is not in the Middle East being some 5,000 miles from Mecca, is the largest predominantly Muslim country in the world. In the Indonesian Province of Aceh, and for Muslims in the city of Palembang, homosexuality is illegal under Islamic Sharia law, and punishable by flogging. Currently, Indonesia does not recognize same-sex marriage.
In July 2015, the Indonesian Religious Affairs Minister stated that same-sex marriage is unacceptable in Indonesia, because strongly held religious norms speak strongly against it. He offered a very cultural explanation. The importance in Indonesia for social harmony leads to duties rather than rights, which means that human rights along with LGBT rights are very fragile.
It raises a significant question for those advocates of multiculturalism. If communities of Indonesian immigrants are created within our Union of states, should polygyny be legally recognized? Can bakeries in such communities refuse to sell cookies to LGBT couples, much less refuse to create special wedding cakes?
Consider your answer in the context of the salad bowl and mosaic images. If your answer to both questions is "no" then are you a“blind” liberal reflection of a particular culture, imposing your beliefs on others? You simply cannot have a 225-year-old "Union" or even its member states force on a different culture the abandonment of beliefs established over a millennium and pretend you believe in diversity.
And that summarizes the dispute - an emphasis on social harmony that requires performance of duties in conformance to the preferences of a culture rather emphasis on individual rights which leads to individuality.
The American 21st Century Kaleidoscope focuses on reflective images of individuality. Yes, our Constitution assures the right of individuals to practice a religion, but it prohibits the imposition of religious beliefs on individuals. If "individuality" means being free to distinguish yourself from others, then no religion can be permitted to impose its practices and beliefs on those individuals who choose not to embrace its beliefs.
Our Union mythology also guarantees every individual "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness" (Declaration of Independence).
With that said, when Americans finally take the time to focus the kaleidoscope sufficiently to see the faces of the individuals, it is likely they will see individuals pursuing happiness through achievement.
What might be unclear to many is whether a guarantee of the right to pursue happiness by successful achievement through individual effort come with a Horatio Alger myth caveat - that the successful achievement depend upon the patronage of a wealthy individual or corporation.
But "achievement" as most frequently used in American scholarly writings is a psychological term frequently associated with a human need for security, reward, and recognition. It is here we have allowed one of our myths to lose its meaning by containerizing it into corporate management structures.
Earlier we discussed the term "WEIRD" (western, educated, industrialized, rich, and democratic) which was coined in a study of psychological studies. What the researchers noticed is that most of the broadly accepted scholarly psychological studies - and resulting findings - were limited to study subjects who were clearly WEIRD. After exploring alternatives, the findings suggest that members of WEIRD societies, including young children, are among the least representative populations one could find for generalizing about humans.
At the core of most of the discussion about the "needs" driving human behavior comes from Abraham Maslow's "hierarchy of needs." Let's just let Wikipedia tell us about that:
Maslow studied what he called the master race of people such as Albert Einstein, Jane Addams, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Frederick Douglass rather than mentally ill or neurotic people, writing that "the study of crippled, stunted, immature, and unhealthy specimens can yield only a cripple psychology and a cripple philosophy." Maslow studied the healthiest 1% of the college student population.
Maslow's theory was fully expressed in his 1954 book Motivation and Personality. The hierarchy remains a very popular framework in sociology research, management training and secondary and higher psychology instruction.
What this says simply is that everything you know about the psychology of needs, particularly as it relates to business and economics, begins with an assertion that could only be described as the remarkably unrivaled bigotry of the WEIRD. Your knowledge of psychology applies to every European-culture-oriented, college educated person who was born and raised in a rich industrialized democracy at-least-second-generation and who suffers from no neurosis or psychosis.
And yet we have to recognize Maslow's hierarchy of needs as the myth it has become explaining a social phenomenon, which means it's not inherently false. In fact, it has become a "huge" mythology supported by a volume of books and articles that would rival the Ancient Royal Library of Alexandria.
So let's dismiss now any thought of psychology theory when we talk about "achievement" as an American myth. In our discussion, we will limit the term "achieve" to "an individual carrying out a task successfully."
That more than one person is involved does not diminish the achievement, but if any person feels imposed upon, then success does not mean achievement for that person. "Achievement" must be understood in the context of "individuality" being expressed in the pursuit of happiness as understood in 1776 as "prosperity, thriving, wellbeing."
At the same time, "achievement" as a myth cannot include fulfillment of an inordinate or insatiable longing for excess, meaning exceeding the normal bounds. In this myth, greed is not good.
In theory, at least, our Union will not permit a systematic distortion of the economy to the benefit of some over others. The promise of the the right to the pursuit of happiness cannot begin with a system that guarantees someone's pursuit of happiness will be a waste of time.
When you focus The American 21st Century Kaleidoscope, what can be seen is a mythic reflection of individuality and achievement. Unfortunately, it exists in a world that seeks to keep people locked in groups.
VI. A Second Civil War Between Groups
As noted at the beginning, the American political scene is as divided today as it was in 1860, just before the Civil War.
We can divide people into tribes, ethnicities, and races. So we do.
We can group people into cultures and religions. So we do.
We can divide people into geographic groups such as Mississippians and Californians. So we do.
We can consider any person "not of our group" as "the other." So we do.
And when we fail as individuals to achieve happiness, we can blame "the other." And so we do.
For many in the Silent Generation who fought for tolerance and justice, who believe in the "individuality" and "achievement" myths, it is curious how we got to this point.
Nothing in the 21st Century news media offers a hint that in the United States of 1971 Americans were watching with strong emotional commitment the following:
Keep in mind this is a commercial - an ad intended to sell a popular product to all Americans - seemingly a corporate commitment to tolerance towards "the other." It advocates interculturalism and an economic shift to globalism. But these words do not threaten individuality and achievement:
I'd like to build the world a home
And furnish it with love
Grow apple trees and honey bees
And snow white turtle doves
I'd like to teach the world to sing
In perfect harmony
I'd like to hold it in my arms
And keep it company
I'd like to see the world for once
All standing hand in hand
And hear them echo through the hills
For peace through out the land
(That's the song I hear)
FROM THE MANAGING EDITOR: NOV. 18, 1993
By James R. Gaines
Thursday, Dec. 02, 1993
The woman on the cover of this special issue of Time does not exist -- except metaphysically. Her beguiling if mysterious visage is the product of a computer process called morphing -- as in metamorphosis, a striking alteration in structure or appearance. When the editors were looking for a way to dramatize the impact of interethnic marriage, which has increased dramatically in the U.S. during the latest wave of immigration, they turned to morphing to create the kind of offspring that might result from seven men and seven women of various ethnic and racial backgrounds.
The task fell to Time imaging specialist Kin Wah Lam, who went to work on computerized photos of 14 models selected by Time's assistant picture editor Jay Colton. Aided and abetted by our issue's design directors, Walter Bernard and Milton Glaser, Lam spent more than 65 hours on the computer, using a complicated formula to produce the various combinations of offspring. The result is the fascinating chart on pages 66 and 67. Time makes no claim to scientific accuracy (although the process is described in more detail in the text accompanying the chart) but presents Lam's chimerical results in the spirit of fun and experiment.
The highlight of this exercise in cybergenesis was the creation of the woman on our cover, selected as a symbol of the future, multiethnic face of America. A combination of the racial and ethnic features of the women used to produce the chart, she is: 15% Anglo-Saxon, 17.5% Middle Eastern, 17.5% African, 7.5% Asian, 35% Southern European and 7.5% Hispanic. Little did we know what we had wrought. As onlookers watched the image of our new Eve begin to appear on the computer screen, several staff members promptly fell in love. Said one: "It really breaks my heart that she doesn't exist." We sympathize with our lovelorn colleagues, but even technology has its limits. This is a love that must forever remain unrequited.
Pico Iyer [Siddharth Pico Raghavan Iyer], a British-born American novelist and essayist for TIME since 1986, who also publishes regularly in Harper's, The New York Review of Books, The New York Times, and other publications, wrote the optimistic essay piece for the edition entitled "The Global Village Finally Arrives." However, he did offer a caution followed immediately by a paragraph that he likely would not write today:
The dangers this internationalism presents are evident: not for nothing did the Tower of Babel collapse. As national borders fall, tribal alliances, and new manmade divisions, rise up, and the world learns every day terrible new meanings of the word Balkanization. And while some places are wired for international transmission, others (think of Iran or North Korea or Burma) remain as isolated as ever, widening the gap between the haves and the have- nots, or what Alvin Toffler has called the "fast" and the "slow" worlds. Tokyo has more telephones than the whole continent of Africa.
Nonetheless, whether we like it or not, the "transnational" future is upon us: as Kenichi Ohmae, the international economist, suggests with his talk of a "borderless economy," capitalism's allegiances are to products, not places. "Capital is now global," Robert Reich, the Secretary of Labor, has said, pointing out that when an Iowan buys a Pontiac from General Motors, 60% of his money goes to South Korea, Japan, West Germany, Taiwan, Singapore, Britain and Barbados. Culturally we are being re-formed daily by the cadences of world music and world fiction: where the great Canadian writers of an older generation had names like Frye and Davies and Laurence, now they are called Ondaatje and Mistry and Skvorecky.
The pictures to the left were not taken in 1971 or 1993. They were taken in Michigan at a Trump rally held this month, June 2018. They would not provide some good examples of the racial mixing suggested by the 1993 TIME special issue. And they certainly do not bring to mind the spirit of the 1971 Coke ad.
The America that Donald Trump "tapped into" is a living, breathing representation of Pico's caution that "tribal alliances, and new manmade divisions, rise up, and the world learns every day terrible new meanings of the word Balkanization."
Pico's "transnational" future is under attack in the United States and in the Atlantic-Mediterranean regions - particularly in Europe and the United States East of the Rockies.
The problem is the progress made from 1932 to 1972 was completely undermined by Conservative economic policy. As in the original Gilded Age, today the rich are getting richer. But unlike in the original Gilded Age the Middle Class clearly is undergoing erosion. Naturally this creates anger among working folks.
The Coke ad represents "interculturalism" while the TIME cover represents "assimilation." And both give some insight into why many of us in the Silent Generation (people who were born between 1925 and 1945 and now are over age 70) struggle with the current political tensions. We were ages 26-46 when the Coke ad appeared. We were 48-68 when the TIME cover appeared. Many of us believe both represent the desired truth. The Coke ad tells us how we must handle immigration and the TIME issue tells us that over time intermarriage will occur, absent institutionalized bigotry.
And both acknowledge the inevitability of "globalization" which, as noted earlier, is "the trend of increasing interaction between people or companies on a worldwide scale due to advances in transportation and communication technology" which "has come to stand for peace and harmony among nations, founded upon understanding, tolerance and interdependence."
Americans must dismiss both our old mythologies and multiculturalism. The 21st Century American must embrace an American mythology of individuality and achievement in the context of the pursuit of happiness. To fail to do so could allow the divisions in the Union rise to the level of a Civil War.