Sunday, November 11, 2018

Atrocities of War

Today at "the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month" marks the cessation of formal hostilities ending World War I. "The war to end all wars!" Right.  

To my limited consciousness and understandings of world conflicts, World War I stands out as the most senseless, useless, and incomprehensible of wars. A bunch of cousins sending millions to slaughter. For what? Spasms of colonial competition and nationalist hubris? The Ottomans were not the only "sick man of Europe." See, e.g. Christopher Clark's Sleepwalkers.

Siegfried Sassoon was a British trust fund baby. His father was from a wealthy Jewish merchant family from Baghdad, his mother Anglo-Cathloic. His mother loved Wagner operas, hence the name. Sassoon spent the pre-war years playing cricket, dabbling in poetry, and studying history at Cambridge. 

Caught up in war-fever, like the rest of his generation, Sassoon and his younger brother joined the British army on the eve of World War I. The brother was killed in the Gallipoli campaign. Siegfried, sent to the trenches in France, became friends with, and inspired the poet Robert Graves.  "[Sassoon] soon became horrified by the realities of war," says his Wiki entry, and he penned poems "intended to convey the ugly truths of the trenches: ... rotting corpses, mangled limbs, filth, cowardice and suicide." 

Sassoon was a manic war hero who engaged in "suicidal feats of bravery," reported Graves. Here is Graves' description of one incident:
[Sassoon] went over with bombs in daylight, under covering fire from a couple of rifles, and scared away the occupants. A pointless feat, since instead of signalling for reinforcements, he sat down in the German trench and began reading a book of poems which he had brought with him. When he went back he did not even report. Colonel Stockwell, then in command, raged at him. The attack on Mametz Wood had been delayed for two hours because British patrols were still reported to be out. "British patrols" were Siegfried and his book of poems. "I'd have got you a D.S.O., if you'd only shown more sense," stormed Stockwell.
On July 27, 1916 Sassoon was awarded the Military Cross medal of honor. The inscription read: "2nd Lt. Siegfried Lorraine [sic] Sassoon, 3rd (attd. 1st) Bn., R. W. Fus. For conspicuous gallantry during a raid on the enemy's trenches. He remained for 1½ hours under rifle and bomb fire collecting and bringing in our wounded. Owing to his courage and determination all the killed and wounded were brought in."

But by 1917 he became disillusioned by the political leadership of the war and he penned a letter of "willful defiance of military authority," Finished with the War: a Soldier's Declaration. "The war is being deliberately prolonged by those who have the power to end it," he charged. "I am not protesting against the conduct of the war, but against the political errors and insincerities for which the fighting men are being sacrificed," he said.

Here is an example of one of Sassoon's war poems, hoisted from an earlier posting (July 19, 2014).


You bragged how once your men In savage mood,
Butchered some Saxon prisoners. 
That was good!
I trust you felt no pity when they stood
Patient and cowed and scared, as
prisoners should.

How did you kill them? 
Speak and don't be shy:
You know I love to hear how Germans die,
Downstairs in dug-outs. "Camerad!" they cry;
And squeal like stoats when bombs
begin to fly.

I’m proud of  you. 
Perhaps you’ll feel as brave alone in no man’s land 
when none can save or shield you 
From the horror of the night
There’s blood upon your hands.
Go out and fight.  

I hope those Huns will haunt you with their screams
And make you gulp their blood
in ghoulish dreams

You’re great at murder. 
Tell me, can you fight?  

Siegfried Sassoon (1886-1967)

And here is Samuel West reading the poem.  

This poem was censored and was known by a much tamer version for a long time.  I first ran across it when Harry Brighouse linked it on Crooked Timber. 

Thursday, November 8, 2018

A Post-Election Rant: Are We Taking Democracy Seriously?

New York Times/November 8 10:00 a.m.
Tuesday was a good night for Democrats and America. Not scorched-earth-catharsis-feel-good good. But good. We will have a House of Representatives that engages in oversight of the executive branch instead of Devin Nunes's Russian-interferance-cover-up. We will talk about tweaking Obamacare to make it better instead of removing pre-existing conditions coverage. There is a chance that--perhaps?--Congress will at least entertain the thought of responding to gun violence like yesterday's latest mass shooting with more than sanctimonious hand-wringing.

Nate Cohn at the Upshot explains why the Democratic gains, in light of losing three or four seats in the Senate, are more impressive than it appears. Most prominently, at the beginning of this election cycle, only nine House Republicans represented districts that tilted Democratic in the last two presidential elections. This typically represents the high water mark of losses in a wave election. For example in 2010,  Democrats had to defend 67 House districts that had tilted Republican in the previous presidential election. This makes the outcome of the Democrats flipping perhaps 35 House seats unusual and impressive. In the Senate this year, the Democrats were defending 10 seats in states that president Trump had carried in 2016, including five where Trump prevailed with more than an 18-points margin.

So good job, Democrats.

Structural disadvantages remain moving forward. There are many House seats that remain grossly gerrymandered in favor of Republicans; there is the fact that Republicans continue to control a majority of state houses and governorships and that the GOP has embraced aggressive vote suppression operations as a tactic for securing minority rule, with the Supreme Court showing no interest in doing anything about it; and then there is the fact that sparsely populated red states enjoy a huge structural advantage in the Senate and the Electoral College under the constitution.

Structural imbalances, gamesmanship, and zero-sum-hyper-partisanship devoid of positive values has rendered our politics petty, too party-over-country, not sufficiently wise; it has left our electorate misinformed, poorly led, and apathetic. Even in light of some good news for Democrats this election, the prospects for moving forward in a constructive fashion seem bleak. Witness that abomination of a press conference in the White House yesterday. Does this look like a country ready to tackle its most serious problems with energy and skill? Our democracy is demoralized and dysfunctional.

When it comes to our elections, and what they might accomplish, we are far removed from the optimism of John F. Kennedy speaking in 1963:
"The educated citizen knows that .... knowledge is power, that only an educated and informed people will be a free people; that the ignorance of one voter in a democracy impairs the security of all; and that if we can, as Jefferson put it, enlighten the people generally, tyranny and the oppression of mind and body will vanish like evil spirits at the dawn of the day; and, therefore, the educated citizen has a special obligation to encourage the pursuit of learning, promote exploration of the unknown, to preserve the freedom of inquiry, to support the advancement of research, and to assist, at every level of government, the improvement of education for all Americans."
                                        --John F. Kennedy, May 18, 1963.

Our politicians don't seek to enlighten the people. Just think of Trump's cynical deployment of the army to fight "the caravan" at our southern border as an instrument to distract the electorate. Think of that despicably racist campaign ad promoted by Trump on the eve of the election, equating desperate refugees deep in Southern Mexico with a sociopathic murderer convicted by an American court. Think of our pathetically smirking climate science denialists tossing snow-balls in Congress. Think of House members who block the CDC from conducting research about gun violence. 

Too many in our politically polarized electorate do not seek learning, do not explore the unknown, do not value the advancement of research, or value the improvement of education for every American. Too many do not place as their first priority what might be good for our country.  Trump's base watches Fox News, a propagator of "blue lies"  (like telling lies about your team's cheating), for partisan entertainment--not for truth seeking. 

Our democracy needs a shot in the arm of renewed idealism. Citizens need to stop treating news as infotainment. We need to find our way back to some idealism; we need to  take our responsibilities as citizens more seriously.

The Election was Fought by Half the Electorate

Consider that in this time of crisis, in this age of Trump, half the electorate opted to sit out this election. And we talk like this is a great thing because an improvement on the even more pathetic participation rate in the 2014 mid-term election.

There are approximately 228 million eligible voters in the United States, and less than one-half of these (113 million) bothered to participate in this mid-term election. The exact voter turn-out and number of votes cast will not be known for some time due to uncertainty in our system caused by poorly updated voter rolls, provisional ballots, recounts, and mail-in ballots. But the broad outlines are clear: one-half of our fellow citizens failed to vote. The question stares us in the face: are we serious about Democracy?

Voter registration is not terrible. In 2016 Politico reported that voter registration had reached the 200 million mark. Assuming this number has held steady, this leaves approximately 28 million eligible voters who have not registered to vote. More seriously, however, it means that in addition to 28 million unregistered voters, there are 87 million registered voters who failed to show up for this election. More than half of the eligible voters did not participate in this mid-term election.

Young Voters Aren't Showing Up

According to this Pew study, younger voters (53 or younger in 2018) make up a majority of the electorate (59%), but they vote in far fewer numbers than older voters (accounting for only 39% of votes in the 2014 mid-term election, for example).

Because younger voters skew Democratic, if they showed up in the same numbers as older white folks, Hillary would be president, Ted Cruz would no longer be in the Senate, Bill Nelson would not be heading for a run-off,  Heidi Heitkamp and Claire McCaskill might be heading back to Washington. The future of these younger voters would look brighter. [Apologies to any GOP fans reading this, but that's my judgment; I could be wrong, but I don' think so] Exit polling from Tuesday's election confirms this data: younger voters skew liberal and they stayed away from this election in droves. See, e.g. the exit polling cited by John Quiggin at Crooked Timber. [But a caveat: as Amy Walter from the Cook Political Report reminded us on the PBS Newshour tonight, in some Red states like Indiana, the Democratic edge among young voters is much less pronounced; national numbers and trends don't always translate to individual state races!]

Asian Americans and Latin Americans Aren't Showing Up

Latin Americans make up the largest minority in the United States, 56.5 million people. According to Pew Research seventy-eight percent of this group are citizens, i.e. 44 million or 14% of the total population. Although Latin American citizens make up 14% of the voting population, exit polling from the current election confirms that Latin Americans cast just seven percent of the vote--they are underrepresented by more than half.

Asian Americans, too, are not showing up in the same numbers as older whites.

The failure of young voters, Latin American voters, and Asian American voters to take Democracy sufficiently seriously to show up and vote in the same numbers as older white voters skews the electorate to the right. And whether or not it skews politics to the right, the apathy and failure to participate in the process is a problem. With a disproportionate percentage of older white voters supporting Donald Trump and his brand of White Nationalism, it's high time for young voters and minorities to ask themselves "What kind of country do we want?" It's high time for them to start showing up in greater numbers at the polls.

The Poison of Fox News

On the eve of the election Fox News personalities Sean Hannity (average nightly viewership in February of 3.3 million; his radio show reaches 13.3 million) and Jeanine Pirro, who has an hour show on Fox News on Saturday nights in prime time, appeared with President Trump at a campaign rally in Missouri.  Rush Limbaugh (not on Fox) was also there.  It's no surprise. When we consider the inane and corrupted level of our political discourse and wonder how it could be that 63 million people cast their vote for a mendacious, cruel, and bullying blowhard like Donald Trump for President of the United States, we look to Fox News and think of Rush Limbaugh, and Sean Hannity, and Jeanine Pirro. The fact that these smarmy spinners of conspiracies, cheerleaders for partisan fictions, and enemies of genuine inquiry should wind up speaking at a Trump campaign rally is no accident. Since 1996 Fox has prepared the soil for Trump by entering into a symbiotic relationship with the GOP and entertaining and nudging its ever rightward moving base with blue lies, spin, and manufactured ill-founded outrage.

We need to get back to basics. We need to find our way back to some idealism. It's what Beto O'Rourke attempted to do. It's what some of the entering Democratic House members like Ocasio-Cortez will try to do. We should help them. We should renew our dedication to democracy. We should cleanse ourselves of the poison that is Fox News. And we should get out and vote.

Follow me on Twitter @RolandNikles

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Honoring the Tree of Life Victims by Fighting for Justice and Liberal Democracy

Gideon Murphy places a flower at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Sunday, Oct. 28, 2018. Robert Bowers, the suspect in Saturday's mass shooting at the synagogue, expressed hatred of Jews during the rampage and told officers afterward that Jews were committing genocide and he wanted them all to die, according to charging documents made public Sunday. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

A child visits an impromptu memorial at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Sunday October 28 2018     (AP photo/Matt Rourke)

It's been a week since Robert Bowers, age 46, entered the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, PA and killed eleven worshippers, and injured six more. A week later we still don't know much about this man. We know his father  killed himself after being charged with attempted rape in 1979. But Bowers the son had no prior criminal record. He was unknown to police. Neighbors said he seemed normal.

But Bowers was not normal. He had irrational, crazy ideas. He left a trail of anti-Semitic and anti-immigrant rants on social media. His posts referred to Jews as "filthy," "evil," and "an infestation." According to media reports, just an hour before the shooting, he posted "HIAS [Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society] likes to bring invaders in that kill our people. I can't sit by and watch my people get slaughtered. Screw your optics. I'm going in."

The "screw your optics" comments appears to refer to online discussions by White Nationalists since the Charlottesville protest suggesting that they should bide their time and organize politically, because only with political power can "any type of violence-oriented political agenda" ever be possible.  See, e.g. Michael Schaeffer Omer-Man writing at +972 Magazine.

For more than two years Donald Trump has railed against immigrants. "They come to murder," he says, they are "animals," "the worst people." He has kept up such hate speech even after the Tree of Life tragedy last week, for example prominently promoting a racist smear political ad this Thursday. The ad ties a caravan of desperate Central American refugees (nowhere near the U.S. border) to a remorseless convicted murderer, and asks "who else will Democrats let in?" 

"We are a Republican family," said a man retired, in his late 60's, as we walked by canvassing for Dr. Kim Schreier in WA 8th Congressional District this week. He meant his comment as a short cut for "I don't have to think or talk to you about the issues!"  I did not say, but should have: "It's time for a serious gut check as to what it means to be a 'Republican family' in the age of Trump." 

Is it more of the same, this Tree of Life mass shooting,  or is this different, we wonder?

Bowers had an active gun license and owned 21 firearms. Officials said he used an AR-15 assault rifle and three .357 Glock handguns in his assault. It unites this shooting with so many others of recent years. Bowers is just another person with crazy ideas, and too many guns .... and Congress remains unmoved as ever. Mother Jones has compiled a list of mass shootings in the U.S. the past 36 years. Here are the 16 most grisly:  
  • Las Vegas strip massacre (10/1/17)                  58 dead, 546 injured
  • Orlando Night Club  (6/12/16)                         49 dead, 53 injured
  • Virginia Tech  (4/16/7)                                      32 dead, 23 injured
  • Luby's Killeen TX (10/16/91)                           24 dead, 20 injured         
  • Sandy Hook Elementary (12/14/12)                 27 dead, 2 injured
  • Texas First Babtist Church (11/5/17)                26 dead, 20 injured
  • San Ysidro McDonalds, CA (7/18/84)              22 dead, 19 injured
  • Marjorie Stoneman Douglas HS FL (2/14/18)  17 dead, 14 injured
  • U.S. Post Office, Edmond OK (8/20/86)           15 dead, 6 injured
  • San Bernardino (12/2/15)                                  14 dead, 21 injured
  • Binghampton NY (4/03/09)                               14 dead, 4 injured
  • Fort Hood, TX (11/05/09)                                  13 dead, 30 injured
  • Columbine High School (4/20/99)                     13 dead, 24 injured
  • Aurora Theater Shooting, CO (7/20/12)            12 dead, 70 injured
  • Washington Navy Yard, D.C. (9/16/13)             12 dead, 8 injured
  • Tree of Life Synagogue, PA (10/27/18)              11 dead, 6 injured
These shooters all had crazy and irrational ideas. Does it matter if in addition they were mentally ill, depressed, or had some venal motive? The results are equally destructive, horrid, sad, and depressing.  Do we need to parse a rationale or motive from these heinous irrational acts?  

We are human, so we reach for explanations. We psychoanalyze Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris (the Columbine shooters) and reach conclusions like "The Depressive and the Psychopath." As if that explained anything. Klebold may have been a depressive loser and Harris a psychopath, but ultimately that is not an explanation independent of their act. 

If Klebold was a depressive,  and Harris a psychopath, Bowers was an anti-Semite. All three were driven by irrational, crazy ideas. Can we weed out crazy ideas? "We shouldn't try to regulate guns, we should do more to address mental illness," said an undecided voter on my canvassing list this week. But can we tell when irrational and crazy ideas (always wide-spread in any population) will translate into destructive individual action?  The army was criticized for not weeding out Major Hasan (the Fort Hood shooter) because we could point to evidence he was mentally disturbed after the fact. Trouble is, it's easy to trace evidence of crazy and irrational thinking in a shooter after the fact,  but it's not usually possible to predict when irrational and crazy ideas will lead to destructive action. 

We can't solve the problem of mass shootings by eliminating crazy ideas. Anti-Semitism is no exception. But we can do something about guns: we could ban all civilian possession of assault rifles; we could require vigorous mental health screening upon purchase of a gun and periodically upon re-issuance of a license; we could require safety training before issuing a gun license; we could require insurance; we could strictly limit the number of guns someone may own. These are practical measures that could help reduce the incidence of mass shootings, no matter what stripe of hate and crazy ideas a potential shooter may be harboring. 

We can, and should, also insist that our politicians not fan the flames of hate. Trump has been fanning the flames of hate against immigrants since he announced his run for the presidency.  "The U.S. has become a dumping ground for everybody else's problems," said Trump atop that elevator in Trump Tower in New York; "When Mexico sends its people, they're not sending their best. They're not sending you. ... They're sending people that have lots of problems, and they're bringing those problems with us. They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists. And some, I assume, are good people." From that speech, through his efforts to ban Muslims from coming to the country, from slashing refugee quotas and dismantling the refugee resettlement program, through the hateful and slanderous campaign advertisement he distributed this week, Trump and his administration have fanned the flames of fear and hate against immigrants. 

And as Peter Beinart has noted in The Atlantic, there is a direct line between Trump's fanning the flames of fear and hate against immigrants and the crazy ideas expressed by Robert Bowers last week. "HIAS likes to bring in people that kill our people ... I'm going in," said Bowers. He had absorbed and was repeating Trump's false and crazy idea that immigrants are murderers and rapists.  Jewish Americans have been on the forefront of the battle for social justice in America, notes Beinart. They were leaders in the Civil Rights movement. They are leaders in assisting refugees. This puts them in the cross-hairs of White Nationalists who want to undo civil rights for Blacks and other minorities, and who want to turn away refugees and migrants from the Middle East and Latin America in order to secure a Christian White Nationalist America.  

If Beinart is right, this makes the victims in the Tree of Life Synagogue not victims of an ancient virus called anti-Semitism: it makes them soldiers in the front lines for a just world. This is a role the brothers Rosenthal may not have known they were playing. But the narrative we adopt for this event, of course, is for us. Through our narrative we choose how to honor these victims, and we choose how to think about the threat going forward. And the threat may well increase as demonstrated by seven arson attacks on New York synagogues and schools in the week following the Tree of Life shooting. 

Avi Gabbay, the leader of the Labor Party in Israel, encouraged American Jews to move to Israel, "because this is their home." Gabbay sees no role for Jews to play for effecting a just society in America; if the going gets tough here, they should slink away to Israel he suggests. Israel's deputy foreign minister, Tzipi Hotovely raised hackles on a visit last year when she suggested that American Jews don't know much about the Middle East, and thus should not have much say, because they don't have their children serve as soldiers--either in the American army or the Israeli army. But if Hotovely was right that American Jews don't send their children to fight in the armed forces in the Middle East, she missed that many of these kids are fighting for social justice, and for liberal democracy, both in the Middle East and here at home. If the Tree of Life Synagogue was targeted by Bowers because he perceived Jews to be fighting for world justice and liberal democracy, two things anathema to White Nationalists, why not honor and celebrate these eleven victims as heroic soldiers in the fight for liberal democracy? The rest of us should close ranks behind them and join the fight. 

Follow me on Twitter @RolandNikles


Saturday, October 27, 2018

"You're so Vain, You Probably Think This Post is About You, Don't You?"

James Madison/Asher Durant (1833)
President 1809-1817
Sec. State 1801-1809

At Balkanization they currently have a symposium on Jonathan Gienapp's book, The Second Creation: Fixing the American Constitution in the Founding Era (Belknap Press, 2018). The book is "a study of the earliest debates over constitutional language, meaning, and interpretation," says John Mikhail. The thesis of the book, Mikhail continues, is that "constitutional meaning was not fixed when the Constitution was framed and ratified. Nor did it operate as a significant constraint on early practice. The Fixation Thesis and Constraint Principle endorsed by many originalists are, therefore, untenable insofar as they endeavor to be faithful to the best historical understanding of the founding era, or so Gienapp seems to suggest."

Did the framers envision that they were creating a fixed and immutable text, "save for the near futile path of constitutional amendment set out by Article V," asks Sandy Levinson rhetorically? James Madison didn't think so. Levinson points us to James Madison's Federalist 37, "a stunning essay that emphasizes the limits of textual determinacy" and that "most remarkable (of) sentences."   "When the Almighty himself condescends to address mankind in their own language," said Madison, "his meaning, luminous as it must be, is rendered dim and doubtful, by the cloudy medium through which it is communicated.”

And we turn to Federalist 37, and it seems like James Madison is speaking directly to us and pointing the way for our political moment. Take a look . . . . [I have edited for brevity]

Concerning the Difficulties of the Convention in Devising a Proper Form of Government

From the Daily Advertiser.
Friday, January 11, 1788.

To the People of the State of New York:  
IN REVIEWING the defects of the existing Confederation, and showing that they cannot be supplied by a government of less energy than that before the public, several of the most important principles .... fell of course under consideration. But as the ultimate object of these papers is to determine clearly and fully the merits of this Constitution, and the expediency of adopting it, our plan cannot be complete without taking a more critical and thorough survey of the work of the convention, without examining it on all its sides, comparing it in all its parts, and calculating its probable effects.  
That this remaining task may be executed under impressions conducive to a just and fair result, some reflections must in this place be indulged, which candor previously suggests. 
.... [P]ublic measures are rarely investigated with that spirit of moderation which is essential to a just estimate of their real tendency to advance or obstruct the public good.... [Therefore,] it could not appear surprising, that the act of the convention, which recommends so many important changes and innovations, which may be viewed in so many lights and relations, and which touches the springs of so many passions and interests, should find or excite dispositions unfriendly, both on one side and on the other, to a fair discussion and accurate judgment of its merits. In some, it has been too evident from their own publications, that they have scanned the proposed Constitution, not only with a predisposition to censure, but with a predetermination to condemn; as the language held by others betrays an opposite predetermination or bias, which must render their opinions also of little moment in the question. 
[T]here may () be a material difference in the purity of (partisan) intentions. .... [A]s our situation is universally admitted to be peculiarly critical, and to require indispensably that something should be done for our relief, the predetermined patron of what has been actually done may have taken his bias from the weight of these considerations, as well as from considerations of a sinister nature. .... [T]hese papers are not addressed to persons falling under either of these characters. They solicit the attention of those only, who add to a sincere zeal for the happiness of their country, a temper favorable to a just estimate of the means of promoting it. 
Persons of this character will proceed to an examination of the plan submitted by the convention, not only without a disposition to find or to magnify faults; but will see the propriety of reflecting, that a faultless plan was not to be expected. Nor will they barely make allowances for the errors which may be chargeable on the fallibility to which the convention, as a body of men, were liable; but will keep in mind, that they themselves also are but men, and ought not to assume an infallibility in rejudging the fallible opinions of others.  
... [B]esides these inducements to candor, many allowances ought to be made for the difficulties inherent in the very nature of the undertaking referred to the convention. The novelty of the undertaking immediately strikes us. It has been shown ... that the existing Confederation is founded on principles which are fallacious; that we must consequently change this first foundation, and with it the superstructure resting upon it. It has been shown, that the other confederacies which could be consulted as precedents have been vitiated by the same erroneous principles, and can therefore furnish no other light than that of beacons, which give warning of the course to be shunned, without pointing out that which ought to be pursued. The most that the convention could do in such a situation, was to avoid the errors suggested by the past experience of other countries, as well as of our own; and to provide a convenient mode of rectifying their own errors, as future experiences may unfold them.  
Among the difficulties encountered by the convention, a very important one must have lain in combining the requisite stability and energy in government, with the inviolable attention due to liberty and to the republican form. .... Energy in government is essential to that security against external and internal danger, and to that prompt and salutary execution of the laws which enter into the very definition of good government. Stability in government is essential to national character and to the advantages annexed to it, as well as to that repose and confidence in the minds of the people, which are among the chief blessings of civil society. An irregular and mutable legislation is not more an evil in itself than it is odious to the people; and it may be pronounced with assurance that the people of this country, enlightened as they are with regard to the nature, and interested, as the great body of them are, in the effects of good government, will never be satisfied till some remedy be applied to the vicissitudes and uncertainties which characterize the State administrations. 
.... The genius of republican liberty seems to demand on one side, not only that all power should be derived from the people, but that those intrusted with it should be kept in independence on the people, by a short duration of their appointments; and that even during this short period the trust should be placed not in a few, but a number of hands. Stability, on the contrary, requires that the hands in which power is lodged should continue for a length of time the same. .... 
Not less arduous must have been the task of marking the proper line of partition between the authority of the general and that of the State governments. Every man will be sensible of this difficulty, in proportion as he has been accustomed to contemplate and discriminate objects extensive and complicated in their nature. The faculties of the mind itself have never yet been distinguished and defined, with satisfactory precision, by all the efforts of the most acute and metaphysical philosophers. Sense, perception, judgment, desire, volition, memory, imagination, are found to be separated by such delicate shades and minute gradations that their boundaries have eluded the most subtle investigations, and remain a pregnant source of ingenious disquisition and controversy. .... 
When we ... [contemplate]  the institutions of man, in which the obscurity arises as well from the object itself as from the organ by which it is contemplated, we must perceive the necessity of moderating still further our expectations and hopes from the efforts of human sagacity. Experience has instructed us that no skill in the science of government has yet been able to discriminate and define, with sufficient certainty, its three great provinces the legislative, executive, and judiciary; or even the privileges and powers of the different legislative branches. Questions daily occur in the course of practice, which prove the obscurity which reins in these subjects, and which puzzle the greatest adepts in political science.  
The experience of ages, with the continued and combined labors of the most enlightened legislatures and jurists, has been equally unsuccessful in delineating the several objects and limits of different codes of laws and different tribunals of justice. The precise extent of the common law, and the statute law, the maritime law, the ecclesiastical law, the law of corporations, and other local laws and customs, remains still to be clearly and finally established in Great Britain, where accuracy in such subjects has been more industriously pursued than in any other part of the world. The jurisdiction of her several courts, general and local, of law, of equity, of admiralty, etc., is not less a source of frequent and intricate discussions, sufficiently denoting the indeterminate limits by which they are respectively circumscribed. All new laws, though penned with the greatest technical skill, and passed on the fullest and most mature deliberation, are considered as more or less obscure and equivocal, until their meaning be liquidated and ascertained by a series of particular discussions and adjudications. 
... [T]he medium through which the conceptions of men are conveyed to each other adds a fresh embarrassment. The use of words is to express ideas. Perspicuity, therefore, requires not only that the ideas should be distinctly formed, but that they should be expressed by words distinctly and exclusively appropriate to them. But no language is so copious as to supply words and phrases for every complex idea, or so correct as not to include many equivocally denoting different ideas. Hence it must happen that however accurately objects may be discriminated in themselves, and however accurately the discrimination may be considered, the definition of them may be rendered inaccurate by the inaccuracy of the terms in which it is delivered. And this unavoidable inaccuracy must be greater or less, according to the complexity and novelty of the objects defined. When the Almighty himself condescends to address mankind in their own language, his meaning, luminous as it must be, is rendered dim and doubtful by the cloudy medium through which it is communicated.  
Here, then, are three sources of vague and incorrect definitions: indistinctness of the object, imperfection of the organ of conception, inadequateness of the vehicle of ideas. Any one of these must produce a certain degree of obscurity. The convention, in delineating the boundary between the federal and State jurisdictions, must have experienced the full effect of them all.  
To the difficulties already mentioned may be added the interfering pretensions of the larger and smaller States. We cannot err in supposing that the former would contend for a participation in the government, fully proportioned to their superior wealth and importance; and that the latter would not be less tenacious of the equality at present enjoyed by them. We may well suppose that neither side would entirely yield to the other, and consequently that the struggle could be terminated only by compromise. It is extremely probable, also, that after the ratio of representation had been adjusted, this very compromise must have produced a fresh struggle between the same parties, to give such a turn to the organization of the government, and to the distribution of its powers, as would increase the importance of the branches, in forming which they had respectively obtained the greatest share of influence. There are features in the Constitution which warrant each of these suppositions; and as far as either of them is well founded, it shows that the convention must have been compelled to sacrifice theoretical propriety to the force of extraneous considerations.  
Nor could it have been the large and small States only, which would marshal themselves in opposition to each other on various points. Other combinations, resulting from a difference of local position and policy, must have created additional difficulties. As every State may be divided into different districts, and its citizens into different classes, which give birth to contending interests and local jealousies, so the different parts of the United States are distinguished from each other by a variety of circumstances, which produce a like effect on a larger scale. And although this variety of interests... may have a salutary influence on the administration of the government when formed, yet every one must be sensible of the contrary influence, which must have been experienced in the task of forming it.  
Would it be wonderful if, under the pressure of all these difficulties, the convention should have been forced into some deviations from that artificial structure and regular symmetry which an abstract view of the subject might lead an ingenious theorist to bestow on a Constitution planned in his closet or in his imagination? The real wonder is that so many difficulties should have been surmounted, and surmounted with a unanimity almost as unprecedented as it must have been unexpected. It is impossible for any man of candor to reflect on this circumstance without partaking of the astonishment. ... 
[Consider] the repeated trials which have been unsuccessfully made in the United Netherlands for reforming the baneful and notorious vices of their constitution. The history of almost all the great councils and consultations held among mankind for reconciling their discordant opinions, assuaging their mutual jealousies, and adjusting their respective interests, is a history of factions, contentions, and disappointments, and may be classed among the most dark and degraded pictures which display the infirmities and depravities of the human character. If, in a few scattered instances, a brighter aspect is presented, they serve only as exceptions to admonish us of the general truth; and by their lustre to darken the gloom of the adverse prospect to which they are contrasted. In revolving the causes from which these exceptions result, and applying them to the particular instances before us, we are necessarily led to two important conclusions. The first is, that the convention must have enjoyed, in a very singular degree, an exemption from the pestilential influence of party animosities the disease most incident to deliberative bodies, and most apt to contaminate their proceedings. The second conclusion is that all the deputations composing the convention were satisfactorily accommodated by the final act, or were induced to accede to it by a deep conviction of the necessity of sacrificing private opinions and partial interests to the public good, and by a despair of seeing this necessity diminished by delays or by new experiments.
Federalist 37 

Our current Supreme Court could do worse than take Federalist 37 to heart. And our legislators and executives could do worse than to ask themselves: "are we sincere in our zeal for the happiness of this country, and is our temper favorable to a just estimate of the means of promoting it."

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Sunday, October 21, 2018

Our Melting Pot Identity: Elizabeth Warren Edition

Elizabeth Warren was born in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma and grew up in Norman, Oklahoma, home of the University of Oklahoma. We still relate to it as Indian territory, the terminus of the Trail of Tears. This week Warren released a presidential campaign-style biography introducing herself to the country. The video discusses DNA evidence confirming family lore of an American Indian ancestor on her mother's side of the family. Her video aims to neutralize political attacks arising from the fact that she checked a box  describing herself as a "minority" in a law school directory, and was touted as a Native American faculty by Harvard University in the mid-1990s.

One aspect of our American identity is that we are a melting pot. Peoples from all over the world have come here. Asians traveling across the Bering land bridge ~12,000 years ago fanned out across North America and South America. Europeans began arriving starting in the 1500's, Africans in the 1600's, Asians in the 1800's, South Americans in the 1900's. We have brought different creeds and customs: shamans and their ceremonial practices, pilgrims, puritans, huguenots, catholics, orishas, shinto buddhists, hindus, confucians, Jews, and Muslims. We have brought different features, skin color, temperaments. And we've been intermixing for 400 years.

We have come together in this new world around a set of lofty ideas and ideals (freedom of speech, religion, association; liberty, self-reliance, hard work, equality of opportunity, equality before the law, and justice). But these ideals have clashed with the cold reality of the human condition. The fact that we've arrived here at different times, under different circumstances, some with great advantages, both earned and unearned, and others with great disadvantage--all this makes the smooth implementation of our ideals difficult. It roils the juices of the melting pot.  We may be Scots American, but our mother is German, one set of grandparents Dutch, or Chinese, or African. We call Barack Obama our "first African American President," although he never lived in Africa, and was born in Hawaii to a white Kansan woman "largely" of English descent with some German, Irish, Scottish, Swiss, and Welsh descent. His Kenyan father was not in the picture after age three.

Obama's story is not unusual. It is the American story. We hang significance on his blackness only because we are human and thus xenophobic. We get confused because our identities get packaged in small bits like data traveling along the internet, without a central processing unit to put it all neatly back together.

It should be no surprise to anyone, and it should be in no way remarkable, that Elizabeth Warren has a native American ancestor among her mostly European ancestors, or that this should leave a mark on her and her family's identity and conception of self.

Consider Brad DeLong's story. "On a thousand year timescale the human race really is just one big unhappy family," he observed. DeLong can trace his lineage on his mother's side in an unbroken fashion back to 1543 England and the grandparents of a Pilgrim (Ezekiel Richardson) who married Susanna Bradford in Massachusetts--the daughter of Governor William Bradford of the Mayflower. And on his father's side he can trace his lineage back to his "great-great-great grandfather James DeLong who, before the Civil War and before he left his bones in Wichita, had used his status as an Ohio judge to free three slaves whose masters had been unwise enough to briefly set them on the north bank of the Ohio River." It would occur to no one that there is something improper about Brad relating to this history, or that he should identify with it, even if the DNA of these ancestors has long ago dissolved into the ether. But then Brad isn't running for higher office. 

Enter Scott Brown and Donald Trump 

Warren released her video, of course, not because she is trying to make something of her Native American heritage, but because "opposition research" during her 2012 Senate campaign against Scott Brown in Massachusetts sussed out that she had listed herself as "minority" in a survey for a directory published by the Association of American Law Schools. Scott Brown falsely attacked Warren for 1) exploiting her heritage to get a leg up, and  2) that she lied about having any Native American heritage. The issue was used as a shield against Warren's criticisms by Trump during the 2016 campaign.  As reported by CNN  in 2016 Brown also continued his attacks during the 2016 campaign: 
"She's not Native American, she's not 1/32nd, she has no Native American background, except for what her family told her," Brown told reporters on a conference call hosted by the Republican National Committee, hours after Hillary Clinton and Warren appeared at an event together. "The easy answer, as you all know, is that Harvard and Penn can release those records, she can authorize the release of those records, she can take a DNA test, she can release the records herself. There's never been any effort," Brown said."
During the Massacchussets 2012 campaign, Brown supporters were caught on video at an outdoor rally making faux Indian war whoops and tomahawk chops. During the '16 campaign, Trump tweeted "Let's properly check goofy Elizabeth Warren's records to see if she is Native American. I say she's a fraud!" he tweeted in May 2016. [She had called Trump “goofy” in his #MAGA hat] Trump sharpened his attacks as that campaign heated up, telling NBC News: "She made up her heritage, which I think is racist. I think she's a racist, actually because what she did was very racist." He offered to pay one million dollars to a charity of Warren's choosing if she could prove she had Indian ancestry.

Professor David Bernstein at the Antonin Scalia School of Law tried to smear Warren with innuendo that she was angling for advantage with her minority listing in the directory. He's that kind of guy, as revealed by this hostile wiki

But Warren Pretty Conclusively Did not Play Ethnicity for Advantage

Warren has made the relevant documents from her law school application and her time at the University of Texas, University of Pennsylvania, and Harvard available at her website. Here is what those documents indicate: 
  • Rutgers law school application, February 1973: Warren identified herself as White and specifically affirmed she was not seeking to be admitted under Rutger's program for minority students. 
  • University of Houston, September '78. In her first law school teaching gig, Warren was identified as "white." 
  • University of Texas employee information form lists Warren as a white female. Her appointment form (1981) lists her ethnicity as "white." 
  • University of Pennsylvania. Warren changed her classification from "white/caucasian" to "Native American or Alaskan Native" on December 6, 1989 "nearly three years after offered tenure.
  • Harvard '93. After a stint as visiting professor, Warren was offered a position as tenured faculty. The Crimson article discussing the appointment remarked on how this diversified the faculty by appointing a woman, but lamented that there are still no women of color and considered Warren as "white." 
The documents, testimonials, reports, and videos at the archive, together with her campaign style video released last week, seem to place beyond any reasonable question that Warren considered herself "white/caucasian" as she applied to law school and obtained each of her law school teaching positions, that she was considered white by those institutions, and she did not seek advantage in employment by claiming minority status .  

Warren's Self-Identification as Minority

Warren's archive at her website includes a report from a Harvard affirmative action person, dated December 15, 1995, "nearly three years after Warren was offered tenure."  It reads as follows: 
In compiling the statistics for the annual Affirmative Action Report for the University, I spoke with professor Warren about her ethnic status. She stated that she self-identified as a Native American. She has listed herself with minority status for at least the past four years (my total list of AALS Directories) (sic) with AALS. Therefore, we have in our current statistics listed her as a Native American.
This occurred after Harvard University received criticism for lack of ethnic diversity among its faculty. In a report compiled by Politifact they indicate that AALS listed Warren as a "minority" law teacher each year from 1986 (the first year the group asked about minority status) to 1994. "The directories don’t indicate which minority group a person claiming minority status belonged to," said Politifact, "so it would not be obvious to schools or other readers that Warren was thinking of her Native American roots."

The Arbitrariness of Census Forms

We have become accustomed to both governments and institutions collecting census forms that ask about ethnicity. In our melting-pot reality, such self-categorizations have an unavoidably arbitrary quality about them. The U.S. Government 2010 Census form handles the problem of diverse ancestry by saying "Check one or more boxes ....." By contrast, the statistics gathered by the Office of Federal Compliance Program, requires that one, and only one, box be checked.* And they provide no clear standard for which box should be checked: a box can be checked based on the group to which a person "appears to belong", "identifies with," "or is regarded in the community as belonging."  This suggest three different standards: 1) objective outward appearance, 2) subjective identity, or 3) a sense of the community. 

When Warren checked the form for the AALS directory she was using a subjective identity standard. This was not a radical act. Warren was checking a box, presumably in the privacy of her office, while thinking of her private subjective identity with her Native American ancestors. Although the directory is published, the only information it appeared to contain was "minority" without specifying what kind of minority. In addition, the directory is a specialty document not likely to be consulted by the public at large--unless, of course, you decide to run for the Senate.

Racial Identity Theft?

"She made up her heritage, which I think is racist," tweeted Trump. That is water under the bridge. The DNA test Warren revealed this week pretty clearly indicates she in fact has a Native American ancestor in her mother's lineage, six to ten generations back. She did not make it up. Trump has reneged on his offer to pay a million dollars.  "Who cares about DNA," he responded when challenged by a reporter.

Warren explains in her video that this Native American heritage was held against her mother by her father's family when they were courting. As illustrated by Brad DeLong's story, the half-life of family lore (like "one of my ancestors was Governor William Bradford of the Mayflower") is longer than the half-life of our DNA. 

Last December, after Trump referred to Warren as "Pocahontas" during a ceremony arranged for the Navajo Code Talkers, Rebecca Nagle, a young Cherokee activist (of mixed race), wrote an angry article in Think Progress  arguing with Trumpian rigor that Warren was "misappropriating Native identity for her own economic and political gain," while at the same time complaining that Warren has been too low-key about her Indian identity for her liking. She penned a faux mea culpa she impudently suggested Warren should issue:  
"I am deeply sorry to the Native American people who have been greatly harmed by my misappropriation of Cherokee identity. ... In my family, there is an oral history of being Cherokee, however, research on my genealogy going back over 150 years does not reveal a single Native ancestor. Like many Americans who grew up with family members claiming to be Cherokee, I now know that my family’s stories were based on myth rather than fact." 
This week after Warren released her DNA test confirming that she does in fact have Native American ancestry, Nagle doubled down, undeterred, on Matt Thompson's podcast at The Atlantic. She accused Warren of "racial identity theft;" she again called that Warren should apologize for having the audacity to subjectively identify as Cherokee, even in light of her Native American ancestor. 
At Democracy Now, Amy Goodman and her crew  reported that Native Americans across the country criticized Warren’s decision to use a DNA test to assert her Native American heritage, and they referred to Chuck Hoskin Jr., secretary of state of the Cherokee Nation, who said, “Using a DNA test to lay claim to any connection to the Cherokee Nation or any tribal nation, even vaguely, is inappropriate and wrong.” 

Indian identity should be determined solely through formal tribal membership say these critics. It's a troubling and extreme position. The 2010 U.S. census reported 5.9 million Americans who identify as Native American, or partly Native American (including Alaskan).  Approximately 2.9 million identified as Native American or Alaskan alone. Formal tribal membership among all the tribes, according to the 2010 census is only 3.4 million. Rebbecca Nagle and her fellow critics, therefore, implicitly accuse 2.5 million (or 42%) of those who identified as Native American on the 2010 census as fakes who have no business claiming any kind of Indian heritage. That's chutzpah. 

None of This is Warren's Doing

I don't begrudge Warren her identification with her Native American heritage. Even if we take note, however, that it is a bit unusual (and perhaps odd) to check a box marking yourself as a "minority" on the strength of one unidentified ancestor 6-10 generations back and some family lore, it's a harmless and largely private issue. We are talking about it for only one reason: Scott Brown tried to exploit the issue to smear Warren with false innuendo's and false accusations in 2012, and Trump has gleefully picked up the torch.  

With her video release and by releasing all relevant records she could get her hands on, Warren is attempting to do what Hillary failed to do with her emails: get the gum off the shoe.  We'll see if this proactive approach makes a difference. 

Follow me on Twitter @RolandNikles


* The federal requirements were spelled out in an exhibit in one of the University of Pennsylvania documents in the Warren archive at her website.  "The concept of race ( ) used by the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (O.F.C.C.P.) and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (E.E.O.C.) does not denote clear-cut scientific definitions of anthropological origins," says the definition.  Each employee or candidate, it goes on, "must be identified as belonging to one, and only one, of five broad racial/ethnic categories defined by federal authorities. A candidate may be included in the group to which he or she appears to belong, identifies with, or is regarded in the community as belonging." 

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Visualizing a Carbon Tax: or "Buddy, Can you Spare $10 a Month to Save the Planet?"

In 1982 the guitarist Carlo Karges of the German rock band noticed balloons released at a Rolling Stones concert and imagined these balloons floating over East Berlin. What could happen? What are the possibilities, he wondered? His flight of fancy caught the world's attention with Nena's hit song 99 Luftballons. Nine years later the Berlin wall was no more and Germany was unified.

Are you a Washington voter? Try imagining 44 million Luftballons.

On November 6, 2018 Washington state voters will have an opportunity (Initiative Measure No. 1631) to approve a carbon tax that would raise ~$2 billion during the first five years of the program. The tax is styled as a "fee" for technical WA state related reasons and the fee is set at $15/metric ton with subsequent annual increases of $2/metric ton until Washington's approved CO2 reduction targets are met. The fee will start to be collected in January 2020, and proceeds will be spent on specified clean energy and carbon reduction related programs.

Initiative measures in Washington require a simple majority vote to become law.

There are reasons to believe a program like this will work. A similar, slightly more ambitious program was enacted in 2008 in British Columbia. That program has received positive reviews. A New York Times report in March 2016 said: "The tax, which rose from 10 Canadian dollars per ton of carbon dioxide in 2008 to 30 dollars by 2012, the equivalent of about $22.20 in current United States dollars, reduced emissions by 5 to 15 percent with “negligible effects on aggregate economic performance,” according to a study last year by economists at Duke University and the University of Ottawa." Even industry is reported to have warmed to the British Columbia tax because "a carbon tax is the most efficient, market-friendly instrument available" when it comes to battling climate change.

Washington's legislature has failed to pick up this market-friendly, efficient instrument. A recent bill--Senate bill 6203 (2018)--which would have imposed a more modest $12/metric ton fee--never made it out of committee for a vote. So now it's up to Washington state voters.

According to the Washington Department of Ecology, the state emitted 94.4 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) in 2013. That was a significant improvement from 110 million metric tons in 2000, but not enough for the state to meet its longterm emissions goals.  The WA legislature has previously established targets of 66.3 million metric tons of emissions for the year 2035 (25% below 1990 levels), and 44.2 million metric tons by 2050 (50% below 1990 levels).*

According to the Environmental Defense Fund, the average American family emits about 24 metric tons of CO2 per annum. In 2017 there were ~ 2.7 million households in Washington state. That would  seem to suggest ~65 million metric tons of the 94.4 million tons emitted in Washington in 2013 (2/3) is attributable to consumers, and industry accounted for the remaining ~30 million metric tons (1/3).

How do we visualize this and give it meaning? The Environmental Defense Fund tells us that a metric ton of CO2 would fill a 10 foot diameter red balloon. So how much CO2 does an average household emit:  enough to fill 24 ten foot diameter red balloons every year. The 30 million metric tons of CO2 emitted by industry annually is ~30 million red 10' balloons.

If we are successful at achieving the 2050 goal of 50% of 88.4 million metric tons, the 1990 levels of CO2 emissions, we should visualize removing 44 million 10 foot diameter red balloons filled with CO2 from the atmosphere every year.

I'm willing to grant (assume) that achieving substantial reductions in our carbon emissions is essential for the good of the planet. I'm also willing to grant (assume) that in order to achieve such substantial reductions, adopting programs like the one outlined by Measure 1631 are essential to achieve that goal.

The measure strikes me as well written and thoughtful. I can't begin to appreciate all the possible repercussions and ramifications. But there are some indicia that this is a solid program. Governor Jay Inslee supports it; Bill Gates supports it, and you can read his reasons at his blog; it is similar to the British Columbia program that seems to be working without causing harmful economic disruption.

The program won't be free. Opponents and supporters estimate that costs will be largely passed on to consumers and that the costs will range from $10 to $36 per month through higher gasoline prices, fuel oil prices, and electricity prices.  See, eg. The Atlantic and Seattle Times. A study by the Washington State Budget and Policy Center estimated an added cost of $13 per month per household.

We are left with the question: can we spare $13/month per household to save the planet? Even if you believe climate change may be a hoax, voting "yes" on IM-1631 seems like a low risk proposition. Think of Pascal's wager. Visualize 44 million Luftballons.

Follow me on Twitter @RolandNikles

*  Executive order 2007-02 issued by Governor Gregoire and adopted by the legislature in 2008 (RCW 70.94.159) The goals are enacted in RCW 70.235.030.  The state has determined that WA's carbon load in 1990 was 88.4 million metric tons. 

Saturday, October 6, 2018


Michael Reynolds/Getty Images 9/27/18
Mr. President, I listened carefully to Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony before the Judiciary Committee. I found her testimony to be sincere, painful, and compelling. I believe that she is a survivor of a sexual assault and that this trauma has upended her life..... 
I have been alarmed and disturbed, however, by some who have suggested that unless Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination is rejected, the Senate is somehow condoning sexual assault. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Every person—man or woman—who makes a charge of sexual assault deserves to be heard and treated with respect. The #MeToo movement is real. It matters. It is needed. And it is long overdue. We know that rape and sexual assault are less likely to be reported to the police than other forms of assault. On average, an estimated 211,000 rapes and sexual assaults go unreported every year. We must listen to survivors, and every day we must seek to stop the criminal behavior that has hurt so many. We owe this to ourselves, our children, and generations to come.
The facts presented do not mean that Professor Ford was not sexually assaulted that night – or at some other time – but they do lead me to conclude that the allegations fail to meet the “more likely than not” standard. Therefore, I do not believe that these charges can fairly prevent Judge Kavanaugh from serving on the Court.
                                         --Senator Susan Collins October 5, 2018

Last night we watched Icarus (2017) a documentary film by Bryan Fogel streaming on Netflix. It's about Grigory Rodchenkov, the head of the Russian doping lab at the Sochi Olympics who wound up telling his story to the New York Times. Watching Icarus is an apt post-script to the GOP's ramrodding the appointment of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court by dictatorship of the majority. 

Rodchenkov was carrying with him a copy of George Orwell's 1984 and Orwell's depiction of double-speak resonated with Rodchenkov grappling with the absurd levels of deception, lies, and hypocrisy of the Russian sports doping-program. It should resonate with us in light of the absurd levels of deception, lies, and hypocrisy of the Trump/Mitch McConnell GOP.

Here is George Orwell, in 1984:
To know and not to know, to be conscious of complete truthfulness while telling carefully constructed lies, to hold simultaneously two opinions which cancelled out, knowing them to be contradictory and believing in both of them, to use logic against logic, to repudiate morality while laying claim to it, to believe that democracy was impossible and that the Party was the guardian of democracy, to forget whatever it was necessary to forget, then to draw it back into memory again at the moment when it was needed, and then promptly to forget it again, and above all, to apply the same process to the process itself—that was the ultimate subtlety: consciously to induce unconsciousness, and then, once again, to become unconscious of the act of hypnosis you had just performed. Even to understand the word—doublethink—involved the use of doublethink. [part 1, chapter 3] 
The power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one's mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them… To tell deliberate lies while genuinely believing in them, to forget any fact that has become inconvenient, and then, when it becomes necessary again, to draw it back from oblivion for just as long as it is needed, to deny the existence of objective reality and all the while to take account of the reality which one denies—all this is indispensably necessary. Even in using the word doublethink it is necessary to exercise doublethink. For by using the word one admits that one is tampering with reality; by a fresh act of doublethink one erases this knowledge; and so on indefinitely, with the lie always one leap ahead of the truth.  [Part 2, chapter 9]
And here is Stalin's version, speaking to the 16th Communist Congress in 1930:
We are for the withering away of the state, and at the same time we stand for the strengthening of the dictatorship, which represents the most powerful and mighty of all forms of the state which have existed up to the present day. The highest development of the power of the state, with the object of preparing the conditions of the withering away of the state: that is the Marxist formula. Is it "contradictory"? Yes, it is "contradictory." But this contradiction is a living thing and wholly reflects the Marxist dialectic.  
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