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For RBG It Was All Principle, for Mitch McConnell It’s All Power

Originally published at http://www.commondreams.org/views/2020/09/22/rbg-it-was-all-principle-mitch-mcconnell-its-all-power


“Over time, the unbridled pursuit of power wears down democratic institutions, erodes public trust, and breeds the sort of cynicism that invites despotism.”

  • Robert Reich

Well said - and true.


" As she passed her 80th birthday, near the start of Obama’s second term, she dismissed calls for her to retire in order to give Obama plenty of time to name her replacement, [saying] she planned to stay “as long as I can do the job full steam,”

In a democratic and just society, she (or anyone else), would not have more privileges than the most humble of the rest of the population. How many people are allowed to make their own decision to “not retire” and how many have an excellent health insurance that would facilitate that, much less to decide on their own replacement. Had she thought more of the country than herself, she would have retired earlier. She may have made important contributions, but that should not justify privilege.

The issue is not in the individual people, whether RBG or McConnell. They both are products of a system. I would have expected Reich to scrutinize the shortcomings of the system, that has no term limits for elected representatives and/or judicial representatives. As it is this system that generates the conditions for unchecked and centralized power. It seems to me that too much focus is on the trees, rather than the forest.


The only bulwark is a public that holds power accountable – demanding stronger guardrails against its abuses and voting power-mongers out of office.

That doesn’t work. If power exists to be taken, the ruthless will take it. There are no “guardrails against its abuses.” Because, people like Barr are in charge of the “guardrails.”

This has always been the case in Euro-societies, ever since Charlemagne established himself (on a river of blood and torture) as the first emperor of western Europe in the 8th century. The very first peasant uprising against the new feudal overlords took place within a few decades.

Because of the stratification and the wealth disparity, European societies are ongoing shitholes of oppression and violent rebellion. Every century at least one revolution occurs. The American revolution was such a rebellion. The French revolution was another. Gandhi’s nonviolent revolt against British colonialism was another. The American New Deal was a compromise, as were the labor strikes in Europe at the same time, in the early 20th century. But, Europe brought us two world wars in the 20th century.

This is a cycle that cannot be fixed, because it is always a natural response to oppression, and we always have oppression because we have centers of power that attract the ruthless and power hungry, and our “guardrails” are the stuff of fantasy. There are no “guardrails” for lawlessness. Only other people are guardrails. That’s it. Only other humans can stop criminal destruction, and the “guardrails” are supposed to be the guides. The reality is that we don’t have answers for ourselves.

It’s time to grow up and accept that we are never going to devise the magical, special “process” or “system” that will counter destructive human behavior. Especially if we allow enormous wealth for “some people” who are willing to play by the supposed rules we set up.

We’re insane with hubris. History shows it. We need a new planet to invade and try the same stupid shit again. (We’ll get it right next time, for sure.)


Our society’s creeping fealty to all things corporate has so polluted our ethical compass as to have almost completely expunged it. Power is the purpose, it seems. Those who seek deeper motivation are “suckers”. Hair Trump is the leader of the band of this tune. I so wanted to see Bernie wipe the floor with IQ45’s horrible “command” of anything human.



That’s the promise of democracy - not yet fulfilled in ‘tribes’ of more than 100 or so - our natural unit size.

BUT - I read something a long time ago - at the Winnipeg Fringe Festival, in 1994, when I was on a year and a half long sabbatical from the many ills of gigantic society:

“A critic is like a dog that knows the way but can’t drive the car.”

There’s no going back to tribes of 100 - so we had better get our act together and figure a way forward.

We are all products of a system - from time immemorial - going back as far as you want into the mists of prehistory.

But it’s a nasty way of viewing people - who are emphatically not products.

No - I don’t think so.

Certain power and privilege types are obviously beyond the pale and a danger to themselves and everyone else.

But cynicism is sure death.

We are going to have to turn from cynicism to getting the job at hand done.

There are always racists - sometimes in the strangest places.

I was in Hawaii - talking to a Polynesian crewman aboard the Hoku’Lea, the great double hulled sailing canoe resurrected like the Phoenix of old by a COMBINATION of Polynesians and David Lewis, and I remember the shock when this Hawaiian told me:

“You know, not all the crewmembers were even Hawaiian !” - obviously from his manner this was a point of disgust with him.

And I said to myself - WoW - it’s everywhere.

BUT - not everyone is a racist - or a cynic.

And these are the people who will lead us out of this death trap we are in - or they will, at least, die trying.

Sacrifice - yes - sacrifice - we all need to walk that walk.

Is that right?

Maybe. Unless you’re hunting for something or other animals. Then the dog knows the way and no car is necessary. That context really matters. Abstractions defining abstractions is bad philosophy.

Basically, you’re saying we’re never going back to the only thing humans know that ever actually worked. I agree. We’re not going back.

We want more than can be had within material and moral limitations. That’s what we do. It’s our way of being. No one can tell us how to accept limits. There is no “how” to it. Accepting limits is the way to everything else. For the record, the IPCC has stated unequivocally that we have to start living within those limits. Whatever that looks like, whether we’re 100 people in a society, or 300,000,000. Basic biology of life on Earth doesn’t change.

But that’s our argument. Tell us how we can do it; tell us how we can pay for the environment; tell us how we can afford medicare for all; you provide the answers (magic), or don’t bother us with your criticisms, we love to say. That’s how leaders talk.

What we’re really saying is, “Tell us how we can have what we want and you have what you want, too,” (When what we want requires that you not get what you want.)

The way forward is to accept those material limitations. We won’t. We will hold conferences and studies and technology trying to figure out how to have it all, and “manage” the damage.

Martin Buber’s philosophical and theosophical classic, I and Thou, is the only way forward. Our society has a worldview that is an I and It reality. Until we change to an I and Thou reality, everything we do will continue to turn to shit.


Indeed, we have been promoted to “useless eaters”.


Two excellent points. 1) Interesting, I didn’t know she was being encouraged to retire so Obama could name her replacement. 2) the privileges of public servants.

I’m also very wary of the family’s claim that RBG told a niece her request that the Trump administration wait until after the election to name her replacement. Seriously? Good god, was Ginsburg really that naive. I can understand RBG saying she wished it would be so, but to actually expect it seems suspect.

Trump will do what he wants. The only thing Trump supporters want more than Trump to win is another pick for the Supreme Court. If Trump gets his pick, they can all go home, including Trump.


We left Africa - and everywhere we went we destroyed = long before civilization and agriculture.

Then we adapted.

That’s what we need to do now - adapt.

And we will.

I think we need de-growth. I’ve accomplished this in my own life.

It can be done - you just have to stop criticizing and advising - and do it.

I really think we’re hurting ourselves now - with this constant cynicism.

If we don’t stop this - I don’t see how we will do what needs to be done.

We built this non-economic economy - we can unbuild it - and build something else.

We’re not as smart as we think - that’s why trial and error works.

Who has to stop criticizing?

Also, no, we haven’t “destroyed” everywhere we’ve gone. The western hemisphere wasn’t “destroyed.” Africa wasn’t “destroyed” until the 20th century, although the destruction began half a century earlier.

Humans may have done some damage, or changed some things, but we did not come anywhere close to “destroying” every place we ever lived for the past 300,000 years.

We adapted to new, healthy, intact ecosystems that provided habitat. We won’t “adapt” to not having habitat. Not ever.

What we need to do is stop destroying our world, and create the conditions for ecosystems to restore themselves. If I break my leg, the doctor may set the bone, even perform surgery, but my leg heals itself, or it doesn’t heal at all.

I personally have zero hope that we will make the changes we need to make. My lack of hope doesn’t harm anyone. No one should care if I have “hope” or not, because me having “hope” is MY inner experience, and they don’t need to worry about it.

If they don’t like me saying I do not expect this society to change, that I do not have hope, I advise that they not make their happiness dependent on what I might say. They can call for hope all they want, and I will say, Yes, we have no bananas, we have no bananas today!

Maybe just a momentary lapse of reason.

I’m not worried about the economy, you can’t unbuild mass extinction.

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Power must be held in a line not a pyramid.

All people matter and all people must be taken in to consideration when making decisions at the government level.

That is not criticism Birchie - those are facts, beyond all reasonable doubt.

There is a difference between criticism and facts - just as there is a profound difference between advice and telling one’s own story to someone in the hope they might get something out of that.

I remember one fine winter day - here in the Canadian Rockies - I was at Skoki Lodge, having skiied in on my telemarks for a cup of tea. Left Lake Louise real early, around 5am, in the dark, which is my style, so I’d have time to chat at Skoki - a wood cabin for wealthy clients mostly if you stay overnight, because I was a regular visitor on my days when I was not climbing.

An old guide, Ken we’ll call him (90 years old), was there fetching water for the lodge, because he was also a part time visitor, having built part of the lodge decades ago, in his youth, when he was a professional working guide.

It was a nice day, but the avalanche hazard was high. I was talking to Ken, about returning over a much more dangerous trail on the way out.

He looked me in the eye, and said:

“Mike, I’ve always been careful in the hills.”

That was it - no advice - no criticism - just a remark from a man of vast experience and wisdom.

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That simply is not true Birchie.

We went to Australia first, ca 50 to 60,000 years ago. Started burning the forests, changed the pattern of forest that was there. Then Australia’s megafaunal extinction proceeded. Then the first Australians adapted to the new normal.

That story has been repeated on every island and continent we invaded - for we did in fact invade - or migrate if you prefer - no different in essence to any other migration of any other species, plant or animal or insect or microbe - which happens all the time, continuously, everywhere.

Nature is constant change - always- everywhere - but the pace of change is sometimes radical, or in some way memorable.

True - now that this apex predator - us - has reached an unsustainable population following the Agricultural Revolution, and with faster and faster transport systems and bigger and bigger machines for moving earth and such around - yea ! - we are now instigating change at a scale that qualifies for the beginning of a mass extinction event. I am a geologist - this is all true.

But it is the exact same human being that first left Africa for Australia and points beyond that has used our unique talents to change things.

We are not the first - not by a long shot.

When the first microbes to discover oxygenic photosynthesis evolved on Earth billions of years ago - they caused MASSIVE disruption to the then existent Earth ecosystem - MASSIVE - they changed everything save the fact that things in this Universe are always and forever changing.

The exact same people, caveat, we evolve too of course, so exact is a term used to bring up a point, rather than to say we are precisely the same. Time is a one way street as far as we know - nothing ever repeats - but it may rhyme, as Mark Twain might or might not have said.

The sooner we all stop laying claim to racial purity, of race or of knowledge - the sooner we get a bit of humility - the sooner we stop being cynical and start to trust one another - the sooner we can start digging our way out of this deep hole we have dug our way in to.

No, but it strange but true that we are the result of many mass extinctions of the past, both big, small, in between, and then there is background extinction, and evolution of one species to another, which is also a form of extinction.

I am worried about the so called economy, which is really closer to a chrematistic system than a true economy, which is more or less by definition sustainable over long periods of time.

If we don’t halt this mass extinction event in its tracks - we will not evolve into anythig, we may well disappear.

But the economy as popularly conceived today - it is our single most vulnerable point - it can come crashing down literally in an instant. That wouldn’t necessarily cause extinction - but it might set the stage,

Then people would be desperate - people with nuclear weapons - people with nuclear reactors and nobody to look after them and the mountains of spent fuel rods and waste.

Mass extinction is the result of catastrophe, evolution is driven by the ability to adapt to a changing environment.

I see your point on economy and wealth. I think there is more than just a huge misperception of what constitutes economy or even wealth. The pathology of one virus should help change that misperception but I have my doubts.

Yes - I agree fern.

A lot of people are simply envious - they want their share - of money - which is a tool of exchange actually - now perverted into an end in itself.

Well - it all helps, but there may be no magic bullet - no single solution.

This may help too:

‘A horror film’: The Comey Rule is a devastating portrayal of Trump


Many of us remember the cover up after JFK - that simply could not be done without the complicity of The Pentagon, The FBI & The CIA - not to mention certain politicians.

So we ae wary.

But wary to the point of cynicism ?

I think we need to take a chance - trust once more - that not everyone is gone over to the dark side.