Is the U.S. a failed state? In a number of ways, it seems so

E.J. Dionne says we are, at least with regard to one issue: “On gun violence, the United States has become a corrupt failed state.”Dionne

But the problem is broader than that.

Sure, we have demonstrated that we are completely incompetent to keep children from being murdered en masse in our schools, which is about as basic a failure as you can find. If our political structures are completely incapable of accomplishing that job, what good are they? The New Yorker was right to proclaim last week that “America’s Failure to Protect Its Children from School Shootings Is a National Disgrace.”

But our failures to protect the things that must be protected in order to have a civilization go beyond that. Look at a few other examples of where we’re failing at the basics:

  • Despite Alexander Hamilton’s promises, the Constitution utterly failed to prevent a malevolent, staggeringly unqualified, amazingly self-involved, unbalanced ignoramus from becoming president. We’ve never had such a political failure before in our entire history. We’ve never even come close. And before Nov. 8, 2016, most of us couldn’t imagine it.
  • Thanks to the election of said ignoramus, our security apparatus is crippled in its ability to stop the Russians from continuing to undermine our democracy with tactics that, in the pre-internet, Nixonian era, was called “ratf___ing.” That’s because acknowledging the problem would hurt the tender feelings of the ignoramus.
  • Oh, I’m not blaming Trump. I’m blaming the people who voted for him, and the extreme polarization that led them to do such an immensely destructive thing. Last year, one idea was uppermost in the minds of those who voted for Trump, Bernie Sanders and Green Party nominee Jill Stein, all three of whom were pushing the idea that our national institutions could not be trusted (which is why the Russian trolls tried to help all three, not just Trump).
  • Which brings us to the one thing most responsible for that polarization (or at least, it’s tied with the fact that in the internet era everybody seems to believe they’re entitled to their own facts, Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s dictum notwithstanding): Partisan gerrymandering. Decades too late, our courts are starting to look at this problem, but how many of us believe that our incumbent representatives won’t find ways around whatever the courts may do?
  • Talk about failing at the basics: How many years did we go without Congress passing a normal annual budget? Oh, but wait! What about the historic recent bipartisan spending agreement? Well, it was accomplished by all involved getting what they wanted, as though unprecedented deficits didn’t matter. No hard decisions were made, because our system no longer supports doing that.
  • I won’t even get into the way his country is shrinking in the estimation of both friends and foes abroad. I could blame Trump and/or Sanders for that, but remember: Even Hillary Clinton, who knew better, was trashing TPP by the end. Why? Because our politics had become that dysfunctional.

A few days before the school shooting, to Doug’s annoyance, I applauded when Ross Douthat wrote a column essentially saying that the inundation of our youth in pornography is not an unavoidable physical law of nature, but a man-made problem that we could address if we simply had the resolve.Douthat

My point wasn’t to call for a war on porn. I think we have bigger problems. My point was that he was standing up to one of those things that cause us to shrug and say, There’s nothing we can do! Like school shootings, or hyperpartisanship, or the politics of hopelessness.

And he was saying, if we really make up our minds to do something, we can.

I liked that idea, or the attitude behind the idea. The attitude that we don’t have to accept being a failed state. But unfortunately, at the moment, in some important ways, that’s what we are.

74 thoughts on “Is the U.S. a failed state? In a number of ways, it seems so

  1. Doug Ross

    Everything you claim has happened occurred on Obama’s watch. Blame him.

    Trump is a symptom, not the disease. Hillary is just as much of a symptom of the dysfunction.

    I do look forward to your plan for stopping porn. If you could define it first, that would be great. Then we’d know what we have to ban. You don’t need laws to control bad behavior, you need education and a good upbringing.

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    1. Doug Ross

      If we’re going to ban porn, I hope we start with all the Fifty Shades books and movies. It’s puzzling how those books and movies can generated so much revenue in the #metoo era. It’s not men who are buying the books and tickets. If ever there was a case of sexual harassment, Fifty Shades would fit the bill. But then the lead male character is a “hunk” so I guess that makes a difference.

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      1. Doug Ross

        So when you “applauded” Douthat’s column, what were you applauding for? His column was titled “Let’s Ban Porn” and includes this “The belief that it should not be restricted is a mistake; the belief that it cannot be censored is a superstition.”

        Sorry if I took your applause to mean you supported the thoughts in the article. I’m strange that way. Douthat just needed to fill his word quota for the week and tossed out a meaningless screed about porn. He knows nothing can be done about it…

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        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          I went back to look, and yep — just as I remembered, I was extremely clear about what I meant. Look again:

          My point wasn’t to call for a war on porn. I think we have bigger problems. My point was that he was standing up to one of those things that cause us to shrug and say, There’s nothing we can do! Like school shootings, or hyperpartisanship, or the politics of hopelessness.

          And he was saying, if we really make up our minds to do something, we can.

          I liked that idea, or the attitude behind the idea. The attitude that we don’t have to accept being a failed state….

          It was about the attitude. The attitude that, even on things we think are impossible, we shouldn’t be fatalistic. And that attitude was relevant to all of the issues I had addressed above.

          I like the rejection of fatalism.

          I don’t know how to put it more clearly to you and Bud….

          Reply
  2. bud

    Porn??? Really??? Is that something new??? I remember when one of my friends brought a dirty magazine to a Boy Scout meeting. Of course we all covered our eyes.

    The biggest problem creating this failed state is the false equivalency warriors. Until that incideous journalistic (mal)practice is eradicated the public will be misinformed as to the true dangers we face from the GOP.

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    1. JesseS

      I always wondered where woods porn started. I always assumed it was some kinda Santa Clause like hobo carried a big sack of Playboys on his back and left them out for puberty to kick in. All this time it was the Scouts.

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        1. JesseS

          Every male I’ve talked to who is around my age had some encounter with finding pornography in the woods. Generally it must have been stolen from an older brother or father’s “stash”, or who knows where else, but no one ever seemed to fess up to it swiping it. It just mysteriously appeared there under a piece of plywood or in a poorly constructed tree house off of someone’s property or in the hollow of a tree. All the boys would gather around and gasp. “So that’s what those look like!”

          Generally it was accomponied by a handful of ancient M-80s (that were far too sacred to set off), a dummy handgrenade, and a pint of liquor that contained approximatly a quarter of a swallow, so that one boy would guzzle it down to prove he was the first “man” on the block to drink alcohol.

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    2. Barry

      I have two friends who lost their marriages because of an addiction to porn. I didnt know that was the cause at the time but found out a few years after the divorces. And I don’t know that many people.

      My wife’s best friend from college also is divorced from her husband for the same exact reason. I didn’t lean that was the reason until she had actually remarried. (This is separate from the two I know).

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      1. Mark Stewart

        I recognize that it can be an addiction with gravely negative impacts, but to call it a porn addiction in the traditional sense seems a bit much. Maybe addiction with a small “a” – because the large “A” addictions of alcohol, drugs and gambling can really destroy lives and tear apart families. I think there is also sex addiction that could also be as ruinous. Is porn really in that same category? I don’t really know, but someone saying they ended their marriage because their partner had an addiction to porn seems, ummm, like someone was just looking for an excuse to bail out of the marriage.

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        1. Doug Ross

          Agreed. Porn addiction is like any other activity – fishing addiction, shopping addiction, Star Trek addiction. The guys made a choice to do X rather than spend that time with their spouse. Or perhaps there were needs not being met…

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      2. Doug Ross

        Addicts are addicts. Its not the availability of porn that causes an addict to do what he does. If it wasn’t porn, it would be something else. Porn isn’t heroin.

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        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          Actually, the technology plays a role.

          The Web enables the addict to spend hours at a time watching video after video with endless variety and no repetition. In the old days, your Penthouse came in the mail, you flipped through it and you were done for the month. You couldn’t OD on it.

          I think internet porn is more like other addictive technology, such as video poker. Various studies indicated that there was something video poker did to players — in terms of the rewards it provided the brain to encourage an addict to keep playing — that wasn’t there with other forms of gambling. For whatever reason, it was particularly addictive for women, who might not otherwise get hooked on gambling.

          But it hit men pretty hard, too. One of my co-workers at the paper was a second-hand victim of it: Her husband ran up something like $20,000 worth of debt on her credit cards playing it…

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          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            By the way, the Ross Douthat column was in reaction to a piece in The New York Times Magazine. I had read part of it (it was really long) before I saw his column, which is what made me interested in reading his piece.

            Headlined “What Teenagers Are Learning From Online Porn,” the magazine piece told about a high school class in Boston titled “The Truth About Pornography: A Pornography-Literacy Curriculum for High School Students Designed to Reduce Sexual and Dating Violence.”

            The class is in reaction to something that didn’t exist when you and I were kids. Kids today are surrounded by porn in a way that bears little resemblance to finding your big brother’s “Playboys” under his bed. It is their first and easily most influential sex-ed teacher, and it’s warping a lot of kids’ understanding and expectations with regard to intimacy and how to relate to the opposite sex. Hence the course.

            It’s an interesting, and disturbing, piece…

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            1. Mark Stewart

              This is a real societal problem, which deeply concerns me as a father of young boys. It’s not the porn, it’s the take-away that matters – and will impact relationships.

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            2. Doug Ross

              “and it’s warping a lot of kids’ understanding and expectations with regard to intimacy and how to relate to the opposite sex. ”

              Yeah, that’s never been a problem before the internet. Odd that the divorce rate is at a 40 year low while marriage rates are rising. Maybe porn is having a positive affect in some ways… maybe porn is replacing actual cheating.

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              1. Barry

                marriage rates are falling, not rising. A few year snapshot isn’t a trend.

                One theory that has been given for lower divorce rates (about 50% of first marriages still end in divorce) is that with more and more people living together and it seemingly being destigmatized,, there isn’t the so called “need” to marry to stave off a breakup- which rarely works.. (I didn’t make that up, it’s cited in several articles I read)

                https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-07-28/why-you-re-being-invited-to-fewer-weddings

                https://www.salon.com/2016/06/03/marriage_may_be_obsolete_fewer_couples_are_getting_hitched_than_ever_before_partner/

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          2. Barry

            Yep, and Tech does play a role, and the immediacy of it as well

            And with tech these days it also allows someone to personally engage with their porn addiction.

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      1. bud

        You said this:

        One idea was uppermost in the minds of voters of Trump, BERNIE and Jill Stein …

        Huh? As a Bernie voter I take umbrage being lumped together with Trump. Sure there were issues with trade that had similar concerns but this is inexcusable false equivalence and it has infected journalism like a cancer. So if you’re concerned with the failings of the nation look no further than the nearest mirror for one of the biggest culprits.

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        1. Bart

          bud, did you read the indictments? I did read all 37 pages. They do clearly state that Bernie was a recipient of support from the Russian interference along with Jill Stein. Whether you agree or not, it is in the indictment and no amount of denial is acceptable. It may not have been to the degree as it was for Trump but is was done. This is not a false equivalent, just a statement of facts. If I had saved the PDF, I would cut and paste the reference to Bernie Sanders for you.

          And to be fair, Clinton’s campaign clearly did everything it could to discredit Sanders and made moves well in advance of the primaries to secure super delegate votes for Clinton and leave Sanders out of the process. So, it was not just the Russian interference, the internal interference is just as real and was maybe more effective in the nomination voting.

          The entire campaign in 2015 & 2016 was tainted from the outside and inside and we ended up with two of the worst possible candidates in our presidential election history IMHO.

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        2. Brad Warthen Post author

          Bud, chill.

          First, it’s not me lumping those three together — it was the Russians. I wrote that shortly after I read this interesting piece: “Russia Wanted Trump to Win. And It Wanted to Get Caught.” An excerpt:

          The bulk of the Russian team’s online trolling efforts were directed at Mrs. Clinton, but the indictment notes that they also took aim at other, Republican candidates; Mr. Trump, Bernie Sanders and the Green Party candidate, Jill Stein, were spared. The trio had something more than opposition to Mrs. Clinton in common: A central theme of their campaigns was that the American political system is fundamentally rigged — the same claim that had so incensed Mr. Putin….

          In trying to help those three candidates, the Russians were playing upon the paranoia and disaffection that played a role in all of their campaigns.

          So, you know, how about giving it a rest with the rants about “false equivalence” and the “look no further than the nearest mirror for one of the biggest culprits” stuff…

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  3. Mark Stewart

    I spent last weekend in and around Greenville. I was pleasantly surprised; I didn’t see a single Trump – or Pence – bumper sticker. Through the end of the summer I saw them regularly in the Midlands. They were gone by Thanksgiving it seemed. But I wondered what I would find in the Upstate. Granted, I didn’t venture far outside of Greenville, but I left more optimistic than I thought I would be leaving. Maybe the evangelicals get that he is a pox? Could it be?

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    1. Mark Stewart

      I still saw a few Confederate “anti-desegregation” battle flag stickers and license plates, so I still knew where I was. Perversely, was glad to verify that fact.

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    2. Richard

      Were you possibly in Ashville and not Greenville?

      Why would people anywhere in this country still have political bumper stickers on their vehicle? Are you thinking that you won’t see Trump/Pence bumper stickers in 2019?

      Just curious, how many Hillary 2016 bumper stickers do you see anywhere? I see a few on cars that have 50 other stickers on them, otherwise rarely.

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      1. Mark Stewart

        I see Dump Trump – or similar sentiments – daily, actually.

        And I remember regularly seeing those black squares with the big “W” on them well into Bush’s second term across SC.

        So yeah, I think this is an absence worth noting today.

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    3. Barry

      My friends that voted for Trump almost never mention their support of him. It’s pretty interesting to listen to them avoid bringing him up by name.

      Most know he is a POS

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      1. Mark Stewart

        But are they embarrassed now that they chose to vote for him last election, or are they just holding their noses and closing their eyes – and hoping their pet political agendas get enacted with Trump in office?

        I can forgive the former; but find the latter morally repugnant.

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        1. Claus2

          How many people do you know personally who voted for Hillary mention their support for her? I work with a lot of left-wing, ultra-liberal people at times and not once have I heard them bring up their support for Hillary out of the blue. I swear you people think that it couldn’t be any worse with Hillary in office. Do you know what she would have accomplished by now… not a damn thing because Congress would refuse to work with her on anything and vice versa… it’d be 4 years lame duck presidency.

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          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            “I work with a lot of left-wing, ultra-liberal people at times and not once have I heard them bring up their support for Hillary out of the blue.”

            So… why do you Trump supporters keep bringing her up, when she has exactly ZIP to do with anything happening now? In fact, you just did it again.

            Say one word about Trump, and — absurdly — we hear “What about Hillary?” Get over it. The election is over. Hillary Clinton is ancient history. We are no longer faced with a choice between the two. We’re stuck with Trump, so try sticking to the subject…

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            1. Claus2

              I’ll make a deal with you, I’ll stop bashing Hillary the same time you stop bashing Trump. Deal??? If not, then I guess I’ll just continue throwing things back in you Hillary supporter’s faces.

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              1. Brad Warthen Post author

                That’s no deal. In fact, it’s laughable.

                Trump is president of the United States. Hillary Clinton is a nobody, sitting on the ash heap of history.

                Everything about Trump is currently relevant. Practically nothing about Hillary Clinton is.

                Certainly you can see the difference, right?

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          2. Barry

            Well, Hillary isnt the President. Why would they talk about her? That makes no sense.

            Plus, I was talking about how I have friends that voted for Trump and they won’t talk about him, the person they supported. He won.

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            1. Claus2

              I voted for Trump, and will again if he runs in 2020. I can’t think the last time I was in a face-to-face conversation where he was brought up. No different than any other elected official.

              I’m assuming you voted for Obama, how often did you bring his name up in conversation with friends during those eight years? Daily, Weekly, Monthly, Yearly… Never?

              When is the last time someone brought up Henry McMaster or Lindsey Graham or Steve Benjamin in a casual conversation?

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              1. Barry

                I didn’t vote for Obama and didn’t support him,

                Didn’t vote for Trump either.

                No, when George Bush was President, I had friends regularly talk about him. I think some regretted supporting him but they weren’t embarrassed they voted for him at election time.

                My friends that supported Trump don’t mention his name, The closest I ever got from them was something akin to “I had no choice, so I voted for one terrible human instead of another one”

                But. now they don’t even bring the subject up.

                Henry McMaster is the governor. State issues rarely dominate federal ones in the current environment,

                I see and hear Sen. Graham’s name fairly often with friends.

                I don’t live in Columbia. So I can’t imagine my friends bringing up Steve Benjamin’s name.

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        2. Barry

          I think they aren’t proud that they supported him. They never mention it though. It’s as if it is against the law to bring the subject up.

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    1. JesseS

      Not sure if Columbine changed everything or if the “wrong” kind of kids got access to guns or what.

      He is right. In high school it was pretty common to see a rifle rack with a .30-06 or a .308 in it with guys who deer hunted, after they slogged out of the woods that morning, still in their hunting clothes. Around ’96 they started cracking down on it at our school. It went from ignored to worthy of expulsion over night.

      Down the road at another high school they even had a hunting education course where kids were encourage to bring guns to school at the end of the semester for a day out in the field. Man, times have changed.

      Not sure if “We need more God”, “We need more atomic family”, or “It’s the culture of violence” is the solution. Even if they are the solution, you can’t make really any of those things happen.

      I get the feeling that it’s all inevitable and paradoxical. The murder rate has gone down. Gun ownership per household drops roughly 1% point every year. Hunting has gone down. As a culture we are actually less violent, not more. The stats keep going that direction. The only real change is that we have more gun hoarders now, that’s why you always hear that progressive talking point that “America is awash in guns”. The numbers per person paint a totally different story.

      Meanwhile, if you adjust for inflation the cost of a cheap firearm only dipped down during the 80s (the Saturday Night Special boom). Otherwise we are all paying about the same price Charles Whitman paid for the gun he used for America’s first school shooting back in 1966.

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  4. Harry Harris

    In my first among evils, I would list the loss of any real sense of community and responsibility to and for each other. I believe it was displaced by the each-for-himself (and close kin) movement that the 1980’s “greed is good” trend spurred. The Hillary Clinton book “It takes a Village” was slammed by the right-wingers and “me and mine” crown as being horribly communitarian, with the quip “No, it takes a family” cites as rebuttal by right-wing “evangelicals” who never read it. We’ve let key values become replaced with a pervasive materialism and hyper-sexualized culture that devalues most everyone who isn’t seen as useful to our ends. We have allowed youth, young adults, middle-aged folks, and old fogies to see the causes of their problems as those “other” people. Our churches pay lip service (at best) to grace, redemption, and self-examination while pointing fingers and casting stones. The “all kinds of evil” that the love of money (materialism) produces are rampant despite Paul’s warning to the early church and Jesus’s repeated urging to seek other things first. We are, essentially, selfish and are adept at avoiding acknowledging such or honestly seeking redemption. The “we” includes me.

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    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      I agree with pretty much everything you say, except I don’t see this: “Our churches pay lip service (at best) to grace, redemption, and self-examination while pointing fingers and casting stones.” I don’t see that in my church. And of course my church — my parish — is all I know really know about. What failings I see, such as evangelicals (AND about half of Catholics) inexcusably rationalizing voting for Trump, are failings of individuals, not the church as a whole…

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      1. Harry Harris

        Your church, from the top down with Pope Francis, is proclaiming the very redemptive, self-examining, servant attitude needed by us all if we are to ever re-adopt a sense of community. Unfortunately, as you are likely aware, there are powerful and somewhat influential members of the clerical hierarchy who are trying to undermine much of that message. You are correct that large group of “evangelicals” have sold out to hate disguised as correct theology, folk religion, and a political system of greed and concentrated power with a religious and populist veneer that plays on their fears and tendencies to blame other people and groups. Come to my church. You will see it in concentrated form, and from mostly good, well-meaning people, whose leaders either don’t get it or are afraid to pull very hard. We can dump our pastors a lot easier than you can.

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        1. Bart

          “Come to my church. You will see it in concentrated form, and from mostly good, well-meaning people, whose leaders either don’t get it or are afraid to pull very hard.”

          Probably one of the most profound comments I have read in a long time. Churches are no longer churches where people gather to worship and offer praise to God/Christ but to engage in a political ideology that has surpassed the word of God. Instead of preaching and teaching from the Gospels and especially “The Sermon on the Mount” when Christ gave the Beatitudes to the disciples, the church doctrine has become the major emphasis and the Bible has become secondary, subject to interpretation to suit whatever the current trend or cause may be. I am aware of too many who attend church not for enlightenment or biblical instruction but to be seen in a social setting.

          I no longer belong to any organized religious denomination and refuse to attend the “fast food churches” that will introduce a new interpretation of the Bible when the social and political winds changes direction in order to accommodate the latest fad.

          I also strongly believe that any church that allows any minister, church leader, or political candidate to speak about politics or endorse a candidate from the pulpit during services should have their tax exemption taken away immediately. The only time it would be acceptable would be if the congregation would be advised to exercise their right and responsibility to vote but never endorse any one particular candidate. If the church facilities other than the sanctuary is used for a political rally or endorsement for any candidate, then if any funds are collected, they should be taxed. I am all for freedom of religion but when the freedom is abused, it should be removed from the offending party.

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          1. Harry Harris

            “I also strongly believe that any church that allows any minister, church leader, or political candidate to speak about politics or endorse a candidate from the pulpit during services should have their tax exemption taken away immediately. The only time it would be acceptable would be if the congregation would be advised to exercise their right and responsibility to vote but never endorse any one particular candidate. If the church facilities other than the sanctuary is used for a political rally or endorsement for any candidate, then if any funds are collected, they should be taxed. I am all for freedom of religion but when the freedom is abused, it should be removed from the offending party.”

            That’s pretty much the law now as regulated (but not vigorously enforced) by the IRS. It’s also a part of law that the recent House Republican tax bill tried to erase, but fortunately for both church and state was cut out.

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    2. JesseS

      Agreed. The only time I felt like I was making any kind of positive impact on society was during a few years of substitute teaching during college. Honestly the “at risk” kids are pretty easy to spot. It’s generally the one getting kicked down a flight of stairs, the one doing the kicking, or the one doing anything in the power to keep from getting kicked.

      The solution was pretty simple. Talk to them instead of talking at them. Listen. Let them say what is really bothered them instead of letting someone else tell them what the “real” problem is. Our disease is anomie.

      I know it won’t prevent all of them, but man does that little bit help. I can remember those who listened to me and how much it helped. It’s amazing what 15, a half hour, or an hour of your time can do if applied to the right place.

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  5. bud

    The NY Times just came out with it’s first presidential ranking to include Trump. The orange narcissist came in dead last. James Buchanan is finally off the bottom. W is inexcusably ranked a stunningly high 30th! There were 14 men who did a worse job than him, really? Obama is finally getting some well deserved credit for his top 10 ranking. Reagan seems a bit high given the scandals and first steps in creating the new guilded age. LBJ is also getting solid recognition for his magnificent handling of civil rights matters. Vietnam will always weigh him down, as it should, but perhaps a bit of charity is justified given the cold war atmosphere.

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    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      There were 14 men who did a worse job than him, really?

      Yep. We had some really non-stellar presidents. No one as bad as Trump, of course, but that’s a low bar…

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    2. Norm Ivey

      Here’s the article Bud’s referring to.

      This lists always puzzle me as to why Ford is always so low on the list. Granted, he was only in office for a couple of years, but he certainly deserves credit for moving us beyond Watergate and beginning the healing of that time. As Archie Bunker said, he did a helluva job for a guy that nobody voted for.

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    3. Doug Ross

      Wow, shocking – The New York Times rates Trump low and Obama high. Never would have thought that could happen.

      Obama at 8 and Clinton at 13 pretty much defines what a joke that OPINION poll represents.

      Obama did nothing in eight years except act as George Bush’s 3rd term and then another term of zero accomplishments. His signature legislation is being dismantled due to its poor design and implementation (that didn’t happen to Social Security and Medicare).

      As the first black President, he did nothing to address racial inequality. He was at the helm while the supposed income equality gap widened. His biggest move economically was to blow out the deficits. He never made a single attempt to compromise with Republicans — it was pure partisanship for eight years.

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      1. Doug Ross

        Somehow, U.S. Grant has jumped 7 places since the last poll to #21. U.S. Grant – responsible for the deaths of thousands of Native Americans. What possibly could have been revealed recently that caused him to jump up so high? Oh, gee, Ron Chernow released a biography of Grant in 2017. I guess he’s getting the Hamilton treatment (hot book, hot President) — maybe Lin Manuel Miranda will write a musical about Grant.

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        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          Yep, it’s Chernow.

          And the thing is, among scholarly types and people who are really into politics, his Hamilton book was a big deal before Lin Manuel Miranda…

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      2. bud

        Obama was a terrific POTUS. He saved the economy and moved the economy forward. Budget deficits were down. Obamacare is still around and has fostered a broad discussion about the proper roll of government in health care. He brought troops home from Ws failed war in Iraq. He gave millions of dreamers a chance for a normal existence. Environmental and banking laws were strengthened. Broadly speaking the nation was in much, much better shape at the end of his 8 years. Sadly Trump is undoing much of this amazing mans progress.

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  6. Bryan Caskey

    I know it’s a stock photo of E.J., but it’s sort of funny (to me) that he’s smiling like that next to the headline of the US being a “failed state”.

    I keep thinking, “Okay, okay, we’re a failed state but do you gotta look so happy about it?” :)

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  7. bud

    Maybe we should put this “failed state” screed in a bit of perspective. Just watched LBJ and clearly things were failing pretty badly in the 60s.

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    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      No, they weren’t. The man accomplished political miracles.

      Consider the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, Medicare, Medicaid.

      All of the presidents since him have, added together, failed to accomplish as much as he did in two years.

      That was back when the country, and its political system, actually WORKED to the benefit of citizens. Today, it is increasingly just a venue for shouting at each other…

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      1. bud

        Yes the film gave much deserved credit to LBJ for his legislative initiatives. But that’s not my point. I’m suggesting that in 1968 there was an extreme level of discontent in this country that indicated a failed state. That was because of our involvement in an undeclared, immoral and unjust war. So yes, our national institutions were failing.

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        1. Doug Ross

          I’ve been saying that since 2016 when Trump was running. There is so much recency bias in people’s opinions now that they don’t recall just how bad things were in the late 60’s and early 70’s. Race riots, war protests, gas shortages, a prime interest rate that went from 6.5% to 11.75% between 1968 and 1973, Roe v. Wade, plus a President who had to resign in disgrace.

          But, no, Trump tweeting out some b.s. is much worse. Meanwhile, there has never been a moment in U.S. history where opportunities for women, blacks, gays, disabled, etc. has been better than it is today.

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          1. Harry Harris

            Crediting President for progress by women, black people, gay citizens, and disabled persons is worse than crediting your doorbell for bringing you a nice visitor. At least your doorbell doesn’t insult them while they wait to be let in.

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            1. Doug Ross

              I didn’t credit Trump. He has nothing to do with it.. Neither did Obama. Society move forward with or without them. Obama certainly didn’t do anything for blacks or women.

              Reply
  8. Bart

    Where oh where is Nirvana or Shangri La? We know it is not the USA because so many have declared the USA as a failed state. So, why do we bother to continue to inhabit such a terrible, horrible country when there are so many other places we could move to and find happiness, contentment, perfect people, and everyone has everything they need, never get sick and if they do, medical help is on the scene in a few minutes. A place where there are no disagreements, no hunger, no crime, no hate, etc., etc., etc. Children grow up to be whatever they want to be and are guaranteed everything in life.

    Is it China? Is it Norway? Is it Sweden? Is it Switzerland? Is it some island not yet discovered? When anyone finds this place, let me know, I would like to visit it if they will allow someone who lives in a “failed state” in their paradise and perhaps contaminate it with “life”?

    The USA is not perfect, never has been, never will be. But, we try to do better and we do not always agree on the way to do better but we keep on trying. We argue, fight, stick our noses in places where they don’t belong, and a plethora of other less than perfect behaviors but in the end, we are still the best place to live I know of and I have done my fair share of travelling. We make mistakes and when we do, we try to correct them. We have a voice whether it is on this blog or in our social or political circles and by having a voice, we can make a difference. We can vote and yes, sometimes a jerk will win but the election cycle comes around every four years and some mistakes can be voted out.

    I still believe in this country and do not for one moment believe it is a “failed state” no matter what E.J. Dionne or anyone else may have to say. If we are a failed state, then what the hell is Russia, China, Venezuela, most ME countries, and a long list of other countries? If we are so bad, why the hell does anyone stay? Maybe the “failed state” advocates should leave on the next means of transportation out of the USA. I hear the weather in Canada may be cold right now but it does warm up eventually.

    My apology for the rant but I do get p!$$ed off when all we hear is how bad this country is but the ones doing the most bitching are still here. My question to them is “WHY” if it is so bad?

    Reply

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