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The Closing of the American Mind

Luis Durani

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In 1987, Dr. Bloom wrote a scathing critique of how society has failed democracy in the perennial book, The Closing of the American Mind. Dr. Bloom concluded society was more “impoverished” due to the character development being fostered by America’s universities. His central thesis focused on how concepts of openness and moral relativism have ironically led to the closing of the American mind.

He argued that openness has led to the deprivation and eradication of critical thinking. Today, decades later, the society he once critiqued, finds itself at a similar crossroads. Society seems to be at a precipice where the culmination of tensions related to race, economic disparity, and other issues appear to be fracturing the very foundation and social consciousness that has prolonged the existence of American society. Today’s downturn can be traced back to one of the most important pillars of society, education.

Education

The primary contributor to this phenomenon has been the education system especially America’s colleges. Starting with the primary and secondary education system, the country is witnessing a large disparity in the quality of education being provided to its youth relative to other countries. The US has been on steady decline in terms of how her student’s fare. Despite concerted efforts, the graduation rate for high school still lingers around 70% but even worse, 80% of those who graduate high school is not remotely prepared for their first year of college. The governing paradigm behind the US’s current approach to both its primary and secondary system requires a dramatic change, it is archaic at best. While American Universities have historically been second to none in terms of research as well as academics it is slipping more and more. A pedagogical shift is needed.

The most perilous issue at hand is critical thinking or lack thereof. The intent behind the American education system as well as the four-year American degree is that it certifies that the graduate is an individual that not only has demonstrated commitment in achieving and successfully passing a rigorous course of study but also acquired skills and knowledge into the fundamentals of a certain subject. However, more importantly, it demonstrated that whomever the degree was bestowed upon developed certain intellectual faculties that would allow them to employ logic as well as critical reasoning abilities to solve any problem. This skill, in particular, is what has allowed American society to flourish and innovate. The universities use to produce educated individuals who were able to debate what is right and wrong in a civil manner. Unfortunately, colleges are beginning to fail more and more in this respect. They are not creating the renaissance-like student as was initially intended with the premise of a 4-year degree. Such a well-rounded individual would help alleviate society’s burden, instead, today’s students are contributing to its decline due to a sense of false bravado that has been granted to them with their college education. Today’s students due to the relative peace, economic prosperity and false bluster have developed a sense of entitlement. Whereas in reality, they are perhaps more close minded due to the false veneer that has been created by their own inflated sense of worth. The university, which was supposed to be the Socratic utopia of creating the enlightened masses, has become an assembly line that churns out heavily indebted zombies and parrots. The sheer number of colleges and conferred degrees has exponentially skyrocketed to the point that bachelor degrees are becoming futile in almost every subject aside from engineering and the sciences. Society has created a false belief that everyone should go to college and it is a right rather than a privilege for those who were academically successful. Today, students of all calibers are entering college rather than those who performed well academically. While American colleges are still notable due to the massive endowment and research money poured into them, many are devolving from being renowned for centers of innovation to infamous for its campus parties. The price of colleges has continued to unabatedly rise exorbitantly for what appears to be a more worthless piece of paper as each day goes by. With the higher influx of students with all sorts of academic ability, standards have lowered and lowered in order to help better accommodate such students. The transformation of colleges into for-profit centers coupled with the unlimited loans from the government to support this fruitless endeavor has created a major government initiative that has failed. This failure, in particular, has one of the largest consequences to society as a whole. This slow regression of society is witnessed in all aspects and professions today as intellectual capacity is producing diminishing returns.

Politics

According to a recent Pew study, Americans have at no time been as partisan and divided as they are today. While the trend has been observed dating back to the 1960s, unfortunately, data has only been consistently recorded since 1992. While the American political system was created to be a forum for a variety of political ideologies in which the voters can view and subscribe to, today it has downgraded from being a congregation of beliefs to more of a vitriol battlefield of who can further their corporate and big money interest rather than fulfill the desire of their constituents. Unfortunately, many Americans find it hard to believe but on a national scale, the two major parties are not so much different than each other.

Social beliefs are used as a veneer to help create this illusion of differentiation between the two parties making it easier for voters to choose what candidates they can select. While a nation’s social direction is important and should not be neglected, the reality lies in the fact that Americans, for the most part, do not want to be dictated to in how they live their lives. Politicians in their natural finesse are able to contour the discussion of social issues as a topic of fear and imposition on people’s everyday lives. Most people tend to be more emotionally responsive rather than logical about their decision. Equipped with such psychological depth, politicians and consultants have transformed the elections from matters of substance into a popularity contest. Sophistry has become a most sought after trait by those seeking office.

The question goes back to how has this state of affairs come into being? How did statesmen transform into dreaded and corrupt politicians? While the government, in its best form, is a necessary evil, as Thomas Paine had put it, a democratic government only denigrates in complicity with its citizenry. A true democratic nation such as the US can only move away from its roots as a republic under the auspices of the same citizenry it serves. Whether it is the influence of corporate lobbying in legislation or big money in the elective process, all this has occurred thanks to the acquiescence of the voters. While not every American needs to be a full-blown political affairs guru, it is a civic duty to know what or whom they are voting for. Yet, too many times by too many people, Americans despite arguing for change, reduction of political corruption and favoritism, vote into power those who continue the bickering, stalemate, and impotence that is government today. The power of the ballot box has been ignored for too long and the voter, not the system, has created the leviathan that everyone bemoans today. Even to this day, as Americans continue to complain about all these plaguing issues of the electoral system, they do not take responsibility for their choices. Despite the continuous grievances and Congress’ historically low approval rating, the same officials are reelected almost every election. Politico reported that 90% of incumbent Congressman and 91% of incumbent Senators were reelected in recent elections. Political scientists are quick to point to the amount of money raised, television ad, etc. that was employed by the incumbent to secure his/her seat. In reality, the source of the blame is being ignored, the voters.

Many are quick to label politicians stupid, ignorant, etc. and while these labels may be true for certain politicians they are not applicable to all. There are many savvy and intelligent officials who have to simplify their speeches, points, or goals to catch the attention of the voter. This is the nature of politics in America, the oversimplification or “dumbing” down of information into slogans, so it can catch the attention of the potential voter. To further induce potential voters, certain words are intermittently interjected into conversations, rallies, etc. to help increase a candidate’s popularity. Such a demotion of ideas by politicians reflects once again the society they partake in. Voters as people are subconsciously biased and do not like to feel inferior around others as well as disliking what they perceive as negative. Self-worth is measured by social status, thus when an intelligent politician discusses intricate subjects with the level of complexity needed, voters are turned off whereas the politician seeking office rather than serving the public sings the necessary ode to the delight and content of the voter is elected.

As society regresses more so towards emotions and becomes largely devoid of logic and facts, the emergence of a dystopia resembling what the fictional movie Idiocracy was attempting to resemble takes hold. In such a society there is a lack of any sense of social responsibility, an inconsistent set of principles pertaining to human rights of its citizens and those abroad, and a continual hindrance to the pursuit of intellectual curiosity sometimes for the sake of inclusiveness or political correctness.

Society has been demonstrating a tendency to become “dumber.” A study carried out by a team of researchers concluded that there has been a markedly exponential growth in technological advancement since the Victorian age, but a shrinking in human intelligence over the same time period. It is estimated the average individual is approximately 13.4 IQ points less intelligent than their Victorian Era counterpart. This is somewhat noticeable with the untenable understanding of geography, science, and history demonstrated by most people in the US and around the world. When one looks to society, its role models and those who are held in high esteem today, it seems to have drastically altered than several decades or a century ago. Today, reality stars, movies stars, and athletes are bequeathed extreme adoration and epitomize the majority of society’s highest aspirations, unfortunately to its own detriment. This in itself resembles a society with a sense of void and lack of worthiness that should be better inculcated. The lifestyle that is portrayed by these “role models” appeals to the most inner compartments of people’s wants and desires. It is that lifestyle they appreciate and believe that would be most gratifying. Those lifestyles are almost always glitzy, flashy, and vapid. While education is not solely to blame, it is a major contributor to the development of character and critical thinking faculties. These members of society are doomed to never escape the most minimal echelons of Maslow’s hierarchy.

Erosion of Ideals

The culmination of all these issues is starting to manifest itself in a very grave threat to society through the erosion of ideals and principles that define American society. As each side rushes to blame the other for allowing such a decimation of the American character, in reality, both are to blame. While the left critiques the right, it ignores the fact that across American college campuses a new phenomenon of shutting down right-leaning speakers or even centrist liberal speakers is taking hold. In order to preserve certain ideals, they are partaking in an epidemic to limit free speech. Even if that speech is hate speech, it should not be stymied; it could be condemned and ignored but not impeded. Such a precedent only opens the floodgates for future limitation of speech based on emotions. While those on the left are ready to critique, justifiably so, former President George Bush for his actions (Iraq War and drone strikes) and legislations (Patriot Act, etc.) for some mysterious reason they are blind to their liberal leaders such as President Obama and Hilary Clinton, who have done similar, if not worse, in the same arena.

The same is applicable to those in the right, while they have employed labels such as regressive left or social justice warriors to project a negative connotation; they sometimes seem to have a short memory on the causation for certain failures that was created by Republican leaders such as President Bush and his predecessors. The failure to focus on Afghanistan has allowed for the Taliban to regain total power in that country, while presenting farcically based intelligence led to the war in Iraq that not only destabilized the region and world but gave birth to ISIS. They forget the deficit spending and corporate welfare that President Bush engaged in, which did not help the national debt.

Long gone are the days where a Socratic, intellectual and informative discourse can be held between people on opposite side of the political spectrum such as conservative commentator William Buckley Jr. and liberal linguistic and activist, Noam Chomsky. Such public debates helped inform both sides of the aisle on the opposing side’s opinion, train of thought and sometimes allowed for reconciliation through understanding or compromise.

This plaguing issue in today’s America is once again due to the character formation of the population through the education system. The art of learning how to learn is no longer instilled in students, but instead whether in primary, secondary, and even post-secondary, the focus is memorization of material and regurgitation. Without learning how to critically think and analyze, these students become parrots, mimicking what is fed to them based on those whom they align with ideologically. In addition, thanks to the inflationary practices of universities via reducing standards and graduating students as if they are an assembly line, an implicit enablement of such people in society is taking place on a mass level. In reality, what is being created are hollow individuals in society with a false sense of intelligence and knowledge that will end up further dividing this nation and bringing the eventual decline of America, if it has not already started.

Conclusion

The society that Dr. Bloom critiqued was vastly different than today’s society. While certain societal inequities have been remedied in the past few decades, others have begun to become a nuisance of its own. As the consequences of the cultural and sexual revolution were setting in, the changes were something of a perturbation to people from Dr. Bloom’s era. As those effects settled, one of the biggest impacts they have had has been the education system and the philosophical ways students are being taught. Nowhere more is this detrimental effect observed than America’s universities. Today students are being mass produced without the focus on their development into open-minded, inquisitive, informed, and critically thinking individuals. It is these college-educated individuals that are expected to run the future corporations, states, and country. Unlike, students of the past, today’s students are being produced by the groves at colleges who are more interested in profits than the actual quality of the graduate. As a result, colleges have become more of a rite of passage for most young Americans rather than a medium of knowledge. Undergraduate programs have become more widely known based on party rankings rather than academics. Instead of young graduates possessing knowledge and ability to think critically, colleges and society, in general, are producing more parrot-like citizens who are more interested in vitriol partisanship than actually debating and holding a conversation in which all points are discussed and analyzed. Humility and modesty, traits of most educated individuals, are evaporating and being replaced with hubris and arrogance. Due to social media, popular culture propagated by reality TV, and the lack of a properly educated population that can analyze and think judiciously not emotionally, a vicious future is being implanted for America. One of the most important functions of a college or university is to protect the concept of reason and logic. As Dr. Bloom said, “Education is the movement of darkness into light” but today it appears education is moving society back into darkness.

Luis Durani is currently employed in the oil and gas industry. He previously worked in the nuclear energy industry. He has a M.A. in international affairs with a focus on Chinese foreign policy and the South China Sea, MBA, M.S. in nuclear engineering, B.S. in mechanical engineering and B.A. in political science. He is also author of "Afghanistan: It’s No Nebraska – How to do Deal with a Tribal State" and "China and the South China Sea: The Emergence of the Huaqing Doctrine." Follow him for other articles on Instagram: @Luis_Durani

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Americas

What is the pocket pinch to stay at the White House?

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If you’re thinking about running to be leader, get ready to pony up more than half a billion dollars, judging from the last two campaign cycles and current fundraising trends.

Presidential elections are an expensive venture. At first glance, it may not appear that standing on a stage telling people why they should vote for you would be costly. However, the costs associated with getting a candidate’s name out there nationwide for all to become familiar with can be quite expensive.

It’s very difficult to track campaign expenditures across time. Changes in the numbers might be due to different campaign finance disclosure requirements. For example, thanks to the Citizens United decision in 2010, politicians can rely on outside groups called Super PACs to run advertisements, even if they technically aren’t supposed to “coordinate” with each other. Campaign operations have also changed significantly over the last few decades, evolving from a focus exclusively on TV and radio to robust online advertisements. Even when adjusted for inflation the amount of money it takes to become President has increased more than 250-fold from Abraham Lincoln to Donald Trump. Super PACs have no limit on contributions. Corporations, labour unions, and other organizations may contribute as much as they want.

The catch is that a Super PAC must be independent and cannot contribute directly to a candidate and must disclose their donors (although by funnelling through a non-profit organization, disclosure rules can often be avoided or obfuscated). Super PACs can run ads supporting preferred candidates or bashing their opponents — they are just not able to coordinate with the candidate’s campaign or have a direct connection.

The amount of funds raised from corporations and other groups outside traditional campaign committees increased with the Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission which, along with other legal developments, loosened laws around election fundraising and spending. In addition, it seems campaigns are feeling more pressure, with each subsequent funding cycle, to raise more and outside groups are getting better at raising money.

These loopholes allow candidates to raise money through Super PACs they support and remain separate enough to stay within the law. Jeb Bush delayed his campaign specifically to raise as much money as possible directly through Super PACs. You are not violating any laws if you have not declared as a Presidential candidate yet.

To win the 2004 election, George W. Bush spent $345 million, which was the most expensive campaign in history at the time. The record didn’t last long: In 2008, according to the Centre for Responsive Politics, the total amount of money spent by and for Barack Obama came in at $730 million, far surpassing Republican nominee John McCain, who spent a mere $333 million—and more than double Bush’s outlay.

Usually, the candidate who spends the most money wins. However, that did not prove true during the 2016 elections, when the runner-up, Democratic candidate Hilary Clinton, spent $768 million, nearly twice as much as the eventual winner, Republican candidate Donald Trump, who spent $450 million. Many also noted that the figure could have been even higher had Trump not used free media coverage.

But fundraising in the 2020 presidential race is outpacing that of the last two campaigns. Bernie Sanders with about $74 million, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren with about $60 million and Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, with $51 million, based on Federal Election Commission data posted on Oct. 16. Despite polls showing former Vice President Joe Biden as the front-runner, his fundraising lagged at about $37 million.

Since Trump is planning to run for re-election in 2020, he chose not to terminate his campaign committee. He has targeted $1 billion as the total he would like to raise for his campaign.  The Trump campaign said it raised $30 million in the first quarter of 2019, bringing the campaign’s cash on hand to $40.8 million.

It’s worth wondering if these numbers are anything to worry about. Is a billion dollars that much money when it comes to deciding who should be President? To keep things in perspective, Americans spent over $1.8B on peanut butter in 2017 alone. Picking a President seems much more serious and rather inexpensive by comparison, even if Trump decides to advertise during the Super bowl.

To address the original question: you can spend as much as you want in running for President, but if you want to win, the ante is somewhere around $500 million, and it may actually top $1 billion per major party candidate this year. Yes, it seems outrageous, but keep things in economic perspective. We spent almost $600 million on snacks during the last Super Bowl. Surely, a Presidential election is more important than halftime guacamole.

So, if you’re planning to make a run for the White House, you’ll want to start saving your money now!

Note: All information collected from the data in Investopedia website

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Presidential Evil And American Good: Can They Coexist?

Prof. Louis René Beres

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Niccolò Machiavelli

If men or nations do evil in a good cause; if they cover themselves with guilt in order to fulfill some high responsibility; or if they sacrifice some high value for the sake of a higher or equal one they make a tragic choice.-Reinhold Niebuhr, The Irony of American History

When Protestant theologian Reinhold Niebuhr posited the tragic choice of evil for the sake of good – a choice inherent in both the “human condition” and the anarchic state of nations – he was not focused on differences within a specific national government. Today, however, in the dissembling United States, a similarly tragic choice confronts America’s citizens in particular. Here the apparent choice is bold and straightforward:

               Shall Americans support an evil president in the greater interest of some wider political good?

               Though plausible in principle, no such dilemma actually exists. In  current US political circumstances, there is no supportable argument that Donald Trump’s disjointed and seat-of-the-pants policies, either foreign or domestic, can bestow any verifiable net benefits. To the main point, by allowing a willfully corrosive president to act in its name, the United States has defiled American national interests and  global human interests simultaneously.

               Apropos of proper logic, one presumptive conclusion is unambiguous: There is notragic” choice involved here (the choice identified above by Realpolitiker[1] Reinhold Niebuhr),  just an obvious and overriding imperative to rid both nation and planet of Trump-era toxicity. Prima facie, in this case at least, presidential evil and American good are mutually exclusive.

               There is more. With each passing day, weary Americans must face several stark and ironic contradictions. At an historical  moment when uplifting numbers of good people are making great personal sacrifices to help others (e.g., medical communities working against Covid19;  firefighters in the west; hurricane search-and-rescue personnel in the south, etc.), a US president acts wittingly to undermine his own country’s safety and security. This behavior includes a continuously incomprehensible stance of support for Vladimir Putin, the Russian president who it would appear can wish no harms upon the United States.[2]

               While according to any reasonable criteria of intellectual assessment these cumulative Trump behaviors are injurious and inexcusable,[3] millions of US citizens still maintain that his plainly deranged presidency represents a calculable “net positive.”

               What does this really mean? By definition, even now, these Trump-supporting Americans believe that manifest presidential evil can be compatible with national welfare and national progress. Somehow, in this case, they believe that such once-unimaginable evil can also be good. Credo quia absurdum, said the ancient philosophers, “I believe because it is absurd.”

               How can all this be helpfullyexplained? Conceptually, it would be best to begin at the beginning. The contradiction we are so painfully witnessing with this stumbling White House administration is not uniquely American. Already, back in the sixteenth-century, philosopher Niccolo Machiavelli observed famously,  “A man who wishes to  make a profession of goodness in everything must necessarily come to grief among so many who are not good.”

               Machiavelli need not always be clarifying or relevant. There is nothing here to suggest that this classic argument from The Prince would in any way support Donald J. Trump’s foreign and/or domestic policies. This president’s particular descents into wrongdoing and dereliction are not an expression of any gainful policy “realism.” Rather, they are singularly lamentable expressions of wantonly gratuitous harms.

               In an unsteady age when the risks of a nuclear war[4] could coincide with expanding biological destructions – that is, with the devastating microbial assaults of a Corona-Virus “plague”[5] – such harms can have no conceivable justifications.

               None at all.

               There is more. Context is important. All humans, wherever they may live, must bear persistent witness to the distressingly thin veneers of  “civilization.” Recalling William Golding’s marooned boys in Lord of the Flies, we must repeatedly discover, beneath any delicate varnish of supposed coexistence, a lascivious human inclination to brutalize  certain “others.”

               However informally it may be calculated, this primal inclination is “normally” judged agreeable and cost-effective.

                Science and technology notwithstanding, empathy and compassion remain in calculably short supply on planet earth. Accordingly, substantial fractions of humankind remain slouched in a perpetually bruising darkness, hoping not to create promising new forms of human civilization, but to “better” inflict myriad varieties of unspeakable slaughter. During the debilitating “Trump Years,” years of steadily-expanding presidential evil, the United States has made an egregious choice.

               Knowingly, it has placed itself directly within such nefariously cascading “darkness.”

               As “analysts,” Americans should now be more policy-specific. In Donald Trump’s United States, there is always some blatantly self-serving presidential explanation for human rights abuse. To wit, we are instructed, the latest victims are despicable, “illegal” or, in some ways at least, not fully human. Always, they are “others,”  mere others. And as we are repeatedly informed by the president’s reliably obsequious minions, this particular victim population is not at all like us. It is deserving of necessary “punishment.”

               Credo quia absurdum.  “I believe because it is absurd.” It is a very old story. The struggle between “Us and Them” is very plainly generic, not US-specific. If we are “good,” they are not. Period. Such grimly bifurcated reasoning is especially perverse and ironic today, during a pandemic crisis when the common biological “oneness” of the human species couldn’t possibly be more obvious

               In high tragedy, as originally performed back in fifth-century BC Athens, humans were routinely presented as inherently flawed guests in a divinely-created universe. This ancient presentation, though presently “modified” with assorted  regional and religious nuances, remains difficult to dispute. After all, following even a “small” nuclear war –  a plausible event, at least in the currently downward trajectory of world affairs – cemeteries the size of whole cities could be needed to bury the uncountable dead.

               Then, recalling the pre-nuclear imagery of poet T S Eliot, there could be no “lilacs breeding out of the dead land.” Then, there would be no discernible “good,” only variously decaying bearers of “evil.”

               Promptly, in far-flung parts of the world, both within and between individual nation-states, a “waste land” could become the new normal. Such “normalcy,” one substantially worse than even the new-normal of Covid19 life on earth, ought never become an intentionally sought-after expectation. For rational thinkers, this point hardly requires any present-moment clarifications.

               No sane person can be in favor of necropolis.

               “Art is a lie,” noted Pablo Picasso, “that lets us see the truth.” In this paradoxical description, theatrical tragedy can remind us that earthly spheres of order, justice and good remain severely compromised  by evil, and that  no amount of technology or science can ever compensate for our species’ multiple leadership transgressions. If, as in high tragedy, we humans should sometimes be punished in apparent excess of our specifically personal wrongdoings –  “Whom God wishes to destroy,”  warned the Greek tragedian, Euripides, “He first makes mad.” –  even this “unfair” fate could not declare us to be “innocent.”

               Not reasonably.

               There is more. Always, it is the gripping silence and self-inflicted fears of ordinary people that sustain the human world’s abundant madness. Often, these primal fears center on certain irrepressible expectations of personal death. But sometimes they can also rest on various corollary anxieties about personal exclusion. More than anything else, and for several markedly different yet intersecting reasons, we humans continue to seek the comfortingly calming warmth of  “mass.”

               It is the “mass man.” an elucidating and derivative construct of Spanish existentialist philosopher Jose Ortega y’Gasset (The Revolt of the Masses,1930) who created US President Donald J. Trump. Stated differently, this American president, who promises to “Make America Great Again” is the openly evil product of American “mass.”[6] By itself, this collective does not intend to create evil, but intent is not at all determinative.

               It is quite enough that the mass prefers baseless opinion to documented fact and a willful anti-Reason to proper learning or tangible science.

               There is more. As a species, not just as Americans, there exists no compelling or defensible reason for us to fawn upon myriad past mistakes. Now, instead, with a view to achieving some still-plausible and verifiable progress, Americans must look back courageously. “How much treasure,” they must finally inquire, “how much science, how much labor and planning, how many vast oceans of sacred poetry, have we already ransacked, just to render our disparate human civilizations even more miserable and more imperiled?”

               I don’t know each pertinent answer. I do know, however, that our shallow and corrupted civilizational institutions, including America’s humiliating presidential elections, can never save us. This nation’s most revered universities,  perched deliberately above the distressingly mundane clamor of work, politics and family, remain unmindful of the world’s most urgently important intellectual questions.

               Thoroughly unmindful.

               Unassailably, though painfully indelicate to acknowledge, higher education in the  expansively deranged Trump-Era proceeds hand in hand with a ubiquitously crude and predatory commerce. In partial consequence, our colleges and universities shamelessly crush most residual reflexes of lingering student intellect or individuality. This crushing is not undertaken with any insidious intent – and the challenges to academic success during a pandemic are anything but minor –  but the US posture of anti-Reason is nonetheless destructive. Sorely destructive.

               In today’s Trump-defiled United States, American Transcendentalist philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson’s once venerable goal of a people that is “plain living and high thinking” is more than just forgotten. This once-lofty objective presently now lies very far beyond any identifiable popular interest or hint of public imagination. Why not? Living together with unhidden presidential evil, what else should we expect?

                The American university, a dutifully obliging adjunct of the wider corporate/political universe, now lies distant not only from human learning, but also from human survival. French philosophers of the eighteenth-century Age of  Reason had preferred to speak optimistically of a siècle des lumieres, a “century of light,” but today, the ivy-covered walls are inestimably fouled by a congealing darkness, by a suffocating pall of excruciating conformance, vulgar self-interest and even a peculiarly-fashionable loathing of anything detached from money.

               There is a professionally favored euphemism here. It’s called “wealth maximization.” The language provides cover for a nation’s abject indifference to serious learning.

               None of this devaluation was initially created by the Trump “ascendancy,”[7] but it has been strongly reaffirmed in absolutely every respect by a starkly unworthy American president.[8]

               As an easily verifiable matter of human history, resisting evil has had little to do with human intelligence. More often than we may care to admit, such intelligence is conveniently manipulated to justify or enlarge certain “others'” most excruciating forms of  human suffering. Indeed, looking over the still-mounting wreckage of Donald Trump’s presidency in the United States, we see the palpably grim results of such manipulation,  both domestically and in various other countries harmed by the dissembling American foreign policies.

               In some cases, these are harms of US omission or inaction, rather than of commission. A specific case in point would by Syria, where Trump’s immutable unwillingness to get on the wrong side of Vladimir Putin has already created societal disintegration and unspeakable torment.[9]

               The main theme or question before us allows only a single coherent response. There is no way that a “good” American society can be created or sustained by an “evil” American president. Period. Before the United States allows itself to become even more thoroughly lost to any still credible hopes for human improvement  and national survival, American citizens will have to build more purposefully upon this rudimentary wisdom. To be sure, we remain disturbingly far from understanding (let alone electing) Plato’s “Philosopher King,”[10] but now we are at least better advised to reject American presidential evil at absolutely all costs.

               Donald J. Trump does no evil for the sake of good. There is nothing “tragic” about his persistent across-the-board choice of evil              postures and policies. In essence, he makes these barbarous choices because he is authentically committed to evil for evil’s own sake.

               Left uncorrected, Trump will continue to bring to these deeply unhappy United States a self-inflicted future of national humiliation and determined anti-reason.

               No such future could ever “make America great again.”


[1] On Realpolitik or power politics, see, by this author, Louis René Beres, Reason and Realpoliitk: US Foreign Policy and World Order (Lexington Books, 1984). See also his later book: Louis René Beres, America Outside the World: The Collapse of US Foreign Policy (Lexington Books, 1987).

[2] Incontestably, of course, Russia remains a significant nuclear threat to the United States. See, for example, by this author, Louis René Beres, at The War Room (US Department of Defense: Pentagon): https://warroom.armywarcollege.edu/articles/nuclear-decision-making/

[3] Journalist Bob Woodward called Trump’s efforts to conceal his knowledge of the virus from the public “one of the most tragic, outrageous acts by a sitting president in, maybe in history.”

[4] For early and informed assessments of nuclear war risks and consequences by this author, see: Louis René Beres, Surviving Amid Chaos: Israel’s Nuclear Strategy (Rowman & Littlefield, 2016; 2nd. ed., 2018);   Louis René Beres,  Apocalypse: Nuclear Catastrophe in World Politics (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980); Louis René Beres, Mimicking Sisyphus: America’s Countervailing Nuclear Strategy (Lexington MA:  Lexington Books, 1983);  Louis René Beres, Reason and Realpolitik: US Foreign Policy and World Order (Lexington MA;  Lexington Books, 1984); and Louis René Beres, ed.,  Security or Armageddon: Israel’s Nuclear Strategy (Lexington MA:  Lexington Books, 1986). See also, by Professor Beres, at The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists: https://thebulletin.org/2016/08/what-if-you-dont-trust-the-judgment-of-the-president-whose-finger-is-over-the-nuclear-button/

[5] Such biological assaults have thus far been considered only as natural occurrences. Going forward, however, it is possible that pertinent pathogens could be weaponized, and that future instances of “plague” could emerge as a deliberate form of warfare and/or terrorism.

[6]Like Jose Ortega y’Gasset, the Swiss psychologist Carl G. Jung spoke usefully of  “mass.” Earlier, Friedrich Nietzsche, had referenced this demeaning phenomenon as the “herd;” Sigmund Freud, as the “horde;” and Soren Kierkegaard, as the “crowd.”

[7] See,  by this author, at The Daily Princetonian, Louis René Beres: https://www.dailyprincetonian.com/article/2018/06/a-core-challenge-of-higher-education

[8] See, by this author, at Yale Global Online, Louis René Beres: https://yaleglobal.yale.edu/content/trump-and-destruction-american-mind

[9] These are not just matters of moral responsibility. The United States is obligated by the international law of human rights to intervene on behalf of such cruelly victimized populations. These international legal obligations are also incorporated in the national law of the United States, per Article 6 of the US Constitution (the “Supremacy Clause”) and several major US Supreme Court decisions. In the precise words of Mr. Justice Gray, delivering judgment of the US Supreme Court in Paquete Habana (1900): “International law is part of our law, and must be ascertained and administered by the courts of justice of appropriate jurisdiction….” (175 U.S. 677(1900)) See also Opinion in Tel-Oren vs. Libyan Arab Republic (726 F. 2d 774 (1984)).

[10] See, by this author, at Oxford University Press, Louis René Beres: https://blog.oup.com/2011/08/philosopher-king/

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Americas

In Praise of the Lioness of Law: Ruth Bader Ginsburg and her Jurisprudence

Punsara Amarasinghe

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image credit: Wikipedia

The death of the US Supreme Court Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg has created an abyss in the court for the liberal voice where justice Ginsburg was seen as the linchpin of the liberal block of the Supreme Court at a time when that block was shrinking. Especially late judge had vociferously advocated for women ‘rights, environmental issues and often came up with unique dissents in delivering her judgements which were propelled by her jurisprudence which embodied the solemn ideal in American legal system “Equal Protection under the Law “. She was on a quest to defend the delicate balance between honoring the timelessness of American Constitution and recognizing the depth of its enduring principles in new centuries and under new circumstances.

She grew up in an era where men held the helm in every aspect of social life and especially the legal profession was utterly dominated by men. Recalling her legal studies at Harvard law school in the 50’s judge Ginsburg had stated later how she was once asked by the Dean of Harvard law school to justify her position as a law student that otherwise would have gone to a man. Yet she had the spunk to overcome all the obstacles stood on her way and excelled as a scholar becoming the first female member of the Harvard Law Review.

In tracing her legal career that it becomes a salient fact, Judge Ginsburg marked her name in American legal history even decades before she joined the bench. While at the American Civil Liberties Union in the early seventies she made an upheaval in American in legal system in famous Supreme Court Case Reed Vs Reed. In Reed Vs Reed the brief drafted by Ginsburg provided an astute analysis on the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution, the Equal Protection Clause. Ginsburg’s brief changed the aged long practice existed in the State of Idaho on favoring men over women in estate battles by paving the path for a discourse on gender equality rights in the USA.

Judge Ginsburg’s appointment to the Supreme Court in 1994 during Clinton administration marked the dawn of new jurisprudential chapter in the US Supreme Court. Two terms later, in the United States v. Virginia (VMI), Justice Ginsburg applied her lucid perspective to a sharply disputed constitutional claim. The United States challenged Virginia’s practice of admitting only men to its prestigious military college, the Virginia Military Institute. Writing for six Justices, Ginsburg held this policy unconstitutional under the Equal Protection Clause. In reaching this result, Ginsburg adroitly cut away potentially confounding issues about women’s participation in the military or the advantages of single-sex education.

Her robust activism in securing gender equality often attracted the admirations of the feminist scholars and activists, but it should be noted that her contribution was not only confined to the protection of gender equality. She was a robust critique of racial dissemination which still pervades in American society and she frequently pointed out how racial discrimination has marred the constitutional protections guaranteed to every citizen. Especially in the case of Gratz Vs Bollitnger, she stressed on the commitment that the state ought to fulfil by eliminating the racial biases existing employment and education. Moreover, disabled citizens. In Olmstead v. Zimring, she held that “unjustified institutional isolation of persons with disabilities is a form of discrimination” violating the Americans with Disabilities Act.45 She elaborated a two-fold concept of discrimination, noting that unneeded institutionalization both “perpetuates unwarranted assumptions that persons so isolated are incapable or unworthy of participating in community life”.

In remembering the mortal departure of this prudent judge that one cannot forget her keenness in incorporating international law into her judgements regardless of the disinclination shown by conservative judges like Antony Scalia. Going beyond the mere textualism approach to the law, Ginsburg’s jurisprudence was much more akin to using international law to make substantive decisions. For instance, in her concurring verdict in Grutter Vs Bollinger, Justice Ginsburg relied upon international human rights law, and in particular upon two United Nations conventions, to support her conclusions.

Indeed, the demise of Ruth Ginsburg is a major blow for the liberalists in the USA, especially in an era where liberalist values are at stake under the fervent rise of populist waves propounded by Donald Trump. Especially late judge had been one of the harsh critics of Trump even before ascendency to the Oval office. The void created by the demise of judge Ginsburg might change the role the US Supreme Court if the successor to her position would take a more conservative approach and it will fortify the conservative bloc in the US Supreme Court. Trump has already placed Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh and the third pick would more deeply entrench the conservative views in the US Supreme Court, which would inevitably undermine the progressive policies taken during Obama’s administration towards issues such as the environment. The political storm appeared after the death of the late judge has already created a tense situation in US politics as president Trump is determined to appoint a judge to fill before the presidential election in November.

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