Category Archives: Domino Principle #1: Deceptive Perceptions

The Dangers of Normalization and the Failures of the American Press

The American press often gives us bullshit. Not false news… just lacking the depth, backbone and perspective necessary to provide competent coverage. And in the process, they allow the President to normalize bad behavior.

Surrounded by the absurd and the macabre, we have permitted ourselves to seemingly accept the surreal as normal. America has crossed over into the Twilight Zone. Our politicians are broken. Our mainstream news media is broken. And our moral compass is broken. We’ve allowed Donald Trump, and the cult following him, to normalize terrible things in horrible ways and with dreadful consequences.

Over the past week, as the President has been further implicated by his own Department of Justice in serious felonies related to attempts to defraud and deceive the American people during his 2016 presidential campaign, we’ve watched respected political pundits and journalists on major TV networks and newspapers speculate on when such conduct will finally warrant consideration of impeachment. Continue Reading >>

The Man in the High Castle: Trump has committed high treason. Next he meets with his handler, Vladimir Putin.

Castle photo by Cliff Kurtzman in San Simeon, CA.

Donald Trump learned last week of indictments being handed down by the US Department of Justice confirming what he already knew, namely that Vladimir Putin’s military launched a coordinated cyber-attack on America in 2016. Some of these attacks appear to have taken place within hours of Trump’s direct request for Russia to undertake them.

Trump then stated this past week, publicly, “Putin’s not my enemy.”

Russia, and it’s murderous dictator, Vladimir Putin, are clearly the enemies of the United States. Yet, Trump says Putin isn’t his enemy. Why? 

The answer now seems clear: it is because Trump is a Russian asset and the most perfidious traitor to America to have lived within our lifetimes.

As noted by the New York Times (See: Trump Poised to Enter NATO Meeting as Wild Card Among Allies):

“During a phone call with Mr. Putin in March, when the president was urged by aides not to congratulate the Russian president on his electoral victory, Mr. Trump did just that. He told Mr. Putin that Russia and the United States should get along better. And he described as ‘stupid people’ the unnamed Trump administration officials whom the Russian president said had tried to prevent the call from happening, according to a person with direct knowledge of the conversation.”  Continue Reading >>

Patterns of Force – Realizing Which of our Friends Would Have Supported Hitler

“Like any number of us raised in the late 20th century, I have spent my life perplexed about exactly how Hitler could have come to power in Germany. Watching Donald Trump’s rise, I now understand.”
Harvard professor Danielle Allen
 

Social media provides a window into how our friends, neighbors and acquaintances view the world that wasn’t present when Hitler rose to power. One of the best, and, at the same time, most terrible things about the current political situation in America is that it provides a glimpse of our community that did not exist in times past. And while social media is often justifiably blamed for exacerbating how lies, distortions, and false narratives are shared and adopted in support of those promulgating nefarious agendas, it can also play a highly positive role in debunking falsehoods, in uniting people together in positive directions, and in understanding whom within our circle of friends and acquaintances does not support the basic democratic ideals that have traditionally united us as Americans.

As a 6th grade student nearly half a century ago, I remember learning lessons from World War II.  The familiar adage that “all tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent” became expressed through the ode written by German Lutheran pastor Martin Niemöller. He described the cowardice of German intellectuals following the Nazis’ rise to power and subsequent purging of their chosen targets, group after group (See: ‘First They Came’: The Poem of the Protests):

“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”

Our lesson also taught that what had happened in Germany could happen again, and that it could even happen in America. And my classroom lesson predicted that if another authoritarian rose to seek power by moving us from democracy towards fascism, 70%+ of the populace would not speak out and object, and a non-trivial segment of the population would actually actively support him (or her).

As a 12 year old in the early 1970s, I was incredulous to believe that people would remain silent and that such a thing could ever happen again, with the world having witnessed what happened during World War II in Europe. I was full of questions: Was this prediction really true? Who were those people who would be silent or would actively subvert democracy? Were some of them my friends and neighbors? How could we tell who those people were?

Today, because of social media, I finally have answers to many of those questions.

Is Trump like Hitler? How is America’s support of Trump like Germany’s support of Hitler?

While many similarities between Trump and Hitler can be drawn, what is happening today in America isn’t genocide and the aim isn’t extermination (See: It’s Not the Holocaust). Hitler’s objective was world domination and “purification.” Hitler was a mass murderer who aspired to take over the world for the glory of the Fatherland. Unlike today’s America, which has a reasonably strong economy and low unemployment, Hitler came to power in the wake of Germany’s loss during World War I. The Treaty of Versailles leveled reparations on Germany and the ensuing depression had caused incredible hardship throughout Europe. Hitler promoted established German values of hard work, honour, and a strong military.

Many of the Germans saw Hitler as a saviour and ignored his racist views. Hitler’s racism and persecution was focused primarily on “infestation” from Jews along with Roma (Gypsies), Poles, Soviet prisoners of war, Afro-Germans, political dissidents, Jehovah’s Witnesses, people with disabilities, homosexuals, along with various other “asocials and non-conformists.” Trump’s animus seems to be primarily focused on Muslims, Mexicans and refugees who he claims are trying to “infest” America. In both cases, fear-mongering against minorities was/is used as a way to motivate followers.

In his recent book “The Death of Democracy: Hitler’s Rise to Power and the Downfall of the Weimar Republic,” Benjamin Carter Hett provides an insightful account of how the Nazi Party came to power and how the failures of the Weimar Republic and the shortsightedness of German politicians allowed it to happen. He notes:

“Alongside the viciousness of much of German politics in the Weimar years was an incongruous innocence: few people could imagine the worst possibilities. A civilized nation could not possibly vote for Hitler, some had thought. When he became chancellor nonetheless, millions expected his time in office to be short and ineffectual. Germany was a notoriously law-abiding as well as cultured land. How could a German government systematically brutalize its own people? German Jews were highly assimilated and patriotic. Many refused to leave their homeland, even as things got worse and worse. “I am German and am waiting for the Germans to come back; they have gone to ground somewhere,” Victor Klemberer worte in his diary – he was the son of a rabbi and a veteran of the First World War who chose to stay, and miraculously survived. Continue Reading >>

Are you with America, or are you with Russia? It is time to choose a side.

President’s Day is a good time to reflect on where your alliances lie.

Today we celebrate President’s Day, a patriotic holiday that is normally a time when we commemorate our history and our democracy, and we honor those who have served to lead it. But this year is different… it comes as an opportunity to contemplate the horrific reality that We the People have created for ourselves, and to reflect upon how we might move forward as a nation to remedy the situation.

America had been comfortable for awhile. The country went through a golden age of sorts in the late 20th century, making significant improvements in terms of the health, education, and affluence of its citizens. That age has ended and those trends have seen dramatic reverses in recent years. Life expectancy is declining in America, and the American system of healthcare available to all but the wealthiest of Americans lags that of many other parts of the developed world. Much of America wallows in deep ignorance and embraces alternative facts and shuns science. (See: Let’s Make America SMART Again.) The income divide between the have’s and the have-not’s grows on an ongoing basis. The secular values of our founding fathers are under assault.

McCarthyism of the 1950s (“Are you now, or have you ever been, a member of the communist party?”) deeply divided the nation, followed by the Civil Rights movement and the Vietnam War of the 60s and 70s. Nothing since then has quite split the nation in the way it has become divided in the first year of the Trump presidency. Once Trump won the presidency, this did not come as a surprise to anyone who was paying attention (see my article from November 2016: Amoral Imperative). And with the greatest of irony, we have come full circle from the largely imagined commie plots of the 1950s to the 2010s where the evidence is overwhelming that Russian schemes to harm our democracy are active on an ongoing basis, and large numbers of Americans, including our President, are presently aiding and abetting such schemes in both a witting and unwitting manner.

Divisions have occurred along the lines of liberal versus conservative, Democrat versus Republican, and among those who represent decency versus those who embrace values seen as deplorable by the vast majority. But as the events of the past few weeks have again brought into crystal clear focus, the divide is also, and perhaps most importantly, focused on the very essence of the differences between America and Russia, and on the very idea of whether truth, justice, and the American way will prevail in the future of our nation.

Events that transpire over the next year will set a course for determining if America returns to a path of being a country that imperfectly strives for freedom of speech, freedom of religion, fair elections, and the right of it’s citizen’s to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness… or if America will continue on the downward spiral of the past year, on a collision course to become more Russia-esque, a mafia oligarchy, one nation under Trump (in parallel with Russia’s one nation under Putin).

While only the most preliminary results of Mueller’s investigation are now public, we now have some visibility into the “tip of the iceberg” of the evidence that Mueller has amassed. Sufficient detail has emerged to have a strong sense of where all of this is going. In the near term, we can expect to see a variety of additional criminal indictments handed down related to obstruction of justice and conspiracy to defraud the United States. Mueller undoubtedly senses the importance of focusing on this aspect of the case, as it appears that criminal acts of obstruction are continuing to occur on an ongoing basis.

The two other primary areas of Mueller’s investigation may extend on for years:  1) criminal acts that may have been committed related to collusion with Russia (collusion is not, in itself, a criminal act); and 2) money laundering, other Russia-related business dealings, or other leverage Russia may have over Trump and his family leading to a situation where POTUS is clearly beholden to, and uncritical of, Putin, and where POTUS brazenly violates the very law he signed (under protest) to put sanctions on Russia for its role in election tampering. (See: Trump gives in to Putin, refuses to impose America’s sanctions on Russia.)

The fact that Congressman Devin Nunes, and other Trump surrogates, are going to such outrageous lengths to try to cast doubt on the Russia investigation is telling… it means that Trump knows he is cornered in a “deep shit” kind of way, and is acting like a wounded animal thrashing about in the midst of an inevitable death blow.

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

A President Beholden to Russia

What is the basis for Russia’s leverage over Trump? That picture has become clearer and clearer over the past year. Some have speculated that they are blackmailing him over something of a sexual nature, but that seems less likely now, given what is already publicly known about him in terms of rape allegations and his affairs. Trump seems to have no sense of shame over what he has done extra-maritally, and such acts probably won’t land him in jail or affect him in a deep financial way, so it is questionable whether he can be blackmailed by them. But Russia knows the details of how Trump has possibly amassed much of his fortune through the laundering of Russian money, they know the details of how his campaign has possibly colluded with them, and they likely have insight into a variety of other crimes he and his family have committed in the course of their business transactions, including conspiracy to defraud the United States. Russian money (along with Chinese money) seems to be continuing to find its ways into Trump’s fortunes on an ongoing basis. These issues are likely the core explanation for Russia’s leverage over Trump. (See: Trump’s Russian Laundromat and Trump’s Biggest Potential Conflict Of Interest Is Hiding In Plain Sight.)

Today the Republican Party remains in power, but its prospects for the future lie in shambles:

  • A political party that once held itself as the champion of family values has become the defender of a man whose family values are exemplified by hush money payments to cover up his marital affairs; who is the subject of multiple, credible, rape allegations; and who, with his own statements, has boasted of his history as a sexual predator.
  • A political party that once held itself as the champion of fiscal conservatism is now led by man with a history of multiple bankruptcies who is focused on grossly exacerbating America’s already dire financial debt situation by vastly increasing government spending and cutting tax revenues at the same time; with a net increase to the deficit of trillions of dollars; at a time at which sound fiscal conservatism dictates exactly the opposite approach. (See: The Great American Tax Heist and With Budget Deal, the G.O.P. Tosses Out the Economics Textbooks.)
  • A political party that once, with considerable justification, decried the moral and ethical lapses of the Obama administration is now led by a man whose administration centers on corruption, ethics violations, and the President’s use of the Office of the President to enrich himself, his family, and his business associates in a manner that dwarfs anything America has ever seen in the past by orders of magnitude. (See: How the Swamp Drained Trump.)
  • Under the control and purchase of the gun lobby, the Republican Party has accepted as a matter of necessity the ongoing deaths of thousands of Americans, including American school children, as the price that they are prepared to pay for the fetishization of weapons. “The claim of this lobby’s complicity in murder is not exaggerated or hysterical but, by now, quite simple and precise: when you refuse to act to stop a social catastrophe from happening, you are responsible for the consequences of the social catastrophe.” (See: Four Truths About the Florida School Shooting.)

And perhaps the most perplexing aspect of it all is that instead of the vast majority of Republicans repudiating this conduct and calling for reform for their party to bring it back to the sound principles for which it once stood, so many instead continue to share Russian propaganda and repeat the gaslighting tactics promulgated by the President (see my earlier article: Narcissism, Codependency, Gaslighting, Reality Distortion Fields and The American Presidency) to try to defend and divert attention to what is utterly indefensible. And in the process, each and every one of them effectively becomes responsible for the sinking of their own ship. This is not only bad for the Republican Party, it is bad for America. As David Frum notes in An Exit From Trumpocracy: “The stability of American society depends on conservatives finding a way forward from the Trump dead end.”

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

While it would be easy to look at the Russian-sponsored disinformation campaigns and think it would be absurd to believe that anyone could be so naive to buy into any of it, the evidence is overwhelming that the combination of Russian disinformation coupled with Trump’s ongoing gaslighting distortion tactics (including but not limited to: diversion; whataboutism; belittling and dismissiveness; exaggeration; self-aggrandizement; self-victimization; projection; blatant lying; rewriting history and reality denial; normalization; blame reflection and deflection; deconstructive conditioning; idealization and devaluation; bullying, shaming, raging and threatening; fear mongering; isolationism; and false equivalency) have been highly effective, and are often repeated and broadly disseminated on social media by people who should know far better. (See, for example: The Russians pretended to be Texans — and the Texans believed them and A former Russian troll speaks: ‘It was like being in Orwell’s world’.)

Two Cautionary Tales

One could provide thousands of examples, but in the interest of brevity, I’ll just provide two examples that are painfully close to me, of how distortion leads good people down harmful paths.

Both the these examples come from the Facebook feeds of individuals who have been long time friends of mine… both of these individuals are well-educated, they are both very successful entrepreneurs and business owners, with employees whose lives they have enriched. They are both proud and loving parents and grandparents. One of them is a veteran of the American armed services who has served our country with distinction. I’m fairly certain that both of them fly the American flag proudly. Both of them would, and have, gone to extraordinary lengths to help a friend without hesitation, and they both have done so for me in the past. Yet both individuals use their Facebook feeds in very subtle and unsettling ways.

The first person was, like me, once a Democrat, then a Republican, and is now an Independent. He characterizes himself as a conservative who decries the divisiveness and corruption of both major political parties. He posts frequently about the importance of Americans to put America above the needs of partisan politics. We agree on all of these things.

His Facebook commentary during this year’s State of the Union speech was interesting and included:  “Sad. Nancy Pelosi making an angry bitch face during the State of the Union, at least Schumer had the decency to applaud our leader.” and “Nice to see a few who put America above their Party on both sides of the aisle!” (He failed to also mention that John Boehner was noted for the grimaces he made during Obama’s 2014 and 2015 State of the Union speeches, but perhaps he was unaware.)

Yet, over a time period in which 17 people were killed in a school shooting in Parkland, Florida; in which the President has lied to the American people multiple times on a daily basis; in which the President has railed against the freedom of the press that calls him on his lies; in which the President has failed to follow the law and take action against Russian election tampering; in which Russian nationals were indicted for conspiracy against the United States; in which the President has been in the news for hush money payoffs to extramarital lovers; in which fiscal conservatism principles are being grossly ignored by the President to balloon an already grotesque and unhealthy national debt; in which the President has continued on an ongoing basis to use the Office of the Presidency to enrich himself and his family; in which the President has sought to undermine the independence of both the FBI and the Department of Justice, and to use them for his own personal purposes and to obstruct justice… my friend has failed to make a single Facebook post on any of these topics. What seems to make him most upset, at least as evidenced by his Facebook postings, is the angry bitch face Nancy Pelosi made during the State of the Union address.

Then he writes: “To all the Trump haters, I ask you; is DJT dividing our country, or is it partisan politicians? In my late 30’s I tore up my Democratic Party card. Ten years ago I tore up my Republican Party Card. They are one party who seeks to divide us. Don’t kid yourselves. Don’t put a Political party ahead of your friendships, your family, or your country.”

The answer, of course, is yes, partisan politics is dividing our country, but even more so, by orders of magnitude, so is Donald John Trump.

Having a two party system is actually inherently healthy for a democracy. It isn’t the fact that we have two parties that disagree that is the problem… it is having the two party system perverted by the ability of special interests to buy politician’s favors that is unhealthy. A two party system, when it operates as it should, provides checks and balances that encourage ethical conduct, ferret out corruption, and foster healthy debate leading to consensus that protects both majorities and minorities. As Jimmy Carter so aptly noted in 2015:

“It [unlimited money in politics] violates the essence of what made America a great country in its political system. Now it’s just an oligarchy, with unlimited political bribery being the essence of getting the nominations for president or to elect the president. And the same thing applies to governors and U.S. senators and congress members.” Continue Reading >>

Narcissism, Codependency, Gaslighting, Reality Distortion Fields and The American Presidency

 

Why does a person stay in a toxic relationship?

How can she (or he) be so blind to that which is so obvious to others? 

In my previous article for The Domino Principle, The 10 Reasons People Still Support Donald Trump, I asked and answered a similar question… why do some people cling to support of a President who is so morally reprehensible and so clearly and obviously antithetical to the bests interests of themselves and of America? And in another earlier article, The Destructive Dominoes of Domestic Abuse, I looked at the signs and signals of psychologically abusive and manipulative personal relationships. This column looks at how these two issues are deeply related.

Approximately one in three American women are involved in an abusive relationship at some point in their life. And approximately one in three registered voters show that they are susceptible to buying in to Trump’s gaslighting behaviors. This statistical similarity is likely not a coincidence. We can learn much from what is now playing out on the national stage about why gaslighting in personal relationships is so effective and why codependent individuals have trouble recognizing and leaving toxic relationships with partners who exhibit narcissistic characteristics.

For many of us who are not in such relationships and who are not therapists, our opportunity to see and understand these dysfunctional behaviors has been fairly rare.

Until now.

Today we have an unprecedented window into this type of behavior on a massive scale. We have a President who is classically symptomatic of Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) in a truly shocking manner, as well as exhibiting traits that include paranoia, sociopathy, and being an avowed sexual predator. And he has millions of codependent followers who fail to recognize his behaviors for what they are…  and who are effectively controlled and motivated by his use of classical gaslighting techniques.

As John Gartner, a psychologist who taught in the department of psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University Medical School for 28 years, points out in USA Today (See: Donald Trump’s malignant narcissism is toxic: Psychologist): “Otto Kernberg, a psychoanalyst specializing in borderline personalities, defined malignant narcissism as having four components: narcissism, paranoia, antisocial personality and sadism. Trump exhibits all four.”

And Sean Wilentz, a professor of history at Princeton, has noted in Rolling Stone (See: Why Trump Is Not Mentally Fit to Be President): “We’ve had some very troubled presidents in our past, but their troubles are things like alcoholism, paranoia, you know, sort of garden-variety psychological maladies. This is different. This shows a dissociation from reality. We just haven’t seen anything like this before.” In the same article, John Gartner also notes: “He’s acting crazy, and he’s mad that other people aren’t seeing and believing what he’s making up in his own head.”

Codependency and Narcissism

A woman who is codependent acquires self-worth from pleasing her partner. She is often giving, sacrificing, and consumed with the needs and desires of others. Her situation becomes unhealthy if she finds herself in a relationship with an individual who is selfish, self-centered, controlling, isolating, and harmful to her — a classic narcissist.  (Throughout this article, I have chosen the male gender to represent the narcissist partner and the female gender to represent the codependent partner, but of course either partner can be of any gender.)

(It should be noted that sometimes a codependent woman will willfully enter into a consensual relationship as the “submissive partner” to someone who becomes her mentor, protector and guide, and who uses the exchange of power in the relationship to enrich her life — sometimes called a D/s relationship. There is nothing inherently unhealthy about D/s relationships as long as they remain self-aware and consensual, and either party can withdraw their consent from the exchange of authority at any time.)

As takers and givers, narcissists and codependents tend to be drawn to each other. Such relationships can buzz with excitement in the early stages, but over time become quite unhealthy, and the codependent is often unable to disconnect herself from her narcissistic partner.

As Ross Rosenberg notes in The Dance Between Codependents & Narcissists:

“The codependent reflexively gives up their power; since the narcissist thrives on control and power, the dance is perfectly coordinated. No one gets their toes stepped on.

“Typically, codependents give of themselves much more than their partners give back to them. As generous — but bitter — dance partners, they seem to be stuck on the dance floor, always waiting for the next song, at which time they naively hope that their narcissistic partner will finally understand their needs.

“Codependents confuse caretaking and sacrifice with loyalty and love. Although they are proud of their unwavering dedication to the person they love, they end up feeling unappreciated and used. Codependents yearn to be loved, but because of their choice of dance partner, find their dreams unrealized. With the heartbreak of unfulfilled dreams, codependents silently and bitterly swallow their unhappiness. Continue Reading >>

The 10 Reasons People Still Support Donald Trump

 

Why do so many Americans stand in such stark denial of reality?

The August 2, 2017 Quinnipiac University National Poll found that  61% of American voters disapprove of the job Trump is doing, while 33% approve.  With 200 million registered voters in the United States, that means that 66 million people still approve of President Trump.

Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Six months of observation and analysis has allowed me to identify the 10 key motivational factors at play in this situation.

I ask this question again and again each day from the perspective of an American who has left the Republican party. I did so because of the failure of that party to repudiate and remove from office this man whose actions over the past six months have shown him to be a dire threat to the American experiment in democracy, as well as an abomination and perversion of all that is good and true and honest.

Domino Principle #8 “Differing Perspectives” notes that one should always look at each situation from multiple perspectives and understand how others with opposing viewpoints have reached their position. Curiosity creates opportunities. In this case, the reasons and motivations are both complex and varied. My search for answers over the past six months has led me to closely observe the opinions of friends and neighbors and elected representatives, many of whom I consider to be basically good people, to try to understand the myriad of complex reasons individuals still show support for this president.

The basic facts: On May 9, 2017, Donald John Trump fired FBI Director James Comey. And as we are now well aware, on May 10, 2017, President Trump reportedly boasted of his firing of Comey in the oval office in a celebratory meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. Trump’s comments made it clear that Comey’s firing was done for the stated purpose of obstructing the FBI’s investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia. During this same meeting, Trump also leaked ISIS-related code level Top Secret information to the Russians that Israel had reportedly provided to the US on the strict condition that it not be shared with our allies, much less with our adversaries.

Ever since the public disclosure that these events transpired, there has been clear and compelling grounds for Trump’s impeachment. (See my earlier article: The Dominoes of Impeachment). Additionally, subsequent disclosures on a weekly basis since May have provided a seemingly endless trail of “high crimes” and violation of his oath of office, as the president intently digs a deeper and deeper legal abyss of his own creation. This would include revelations of emails showing that Trump family members had met with Russian operatives in an effort to collude on the election. And just this week, it was discovered that Trump had set himself up for a witness tampering charge related to that very same matter. (See: Harvard Prof: Trump May Be in Hot Water for Witness Tampering.)

And over the past few months, Trump’s ongoing dissociation from reality, his lack of mental stability and his inability to exercise mature judgement have continued to erode to the point where it seems that he is often unable to differentiate truth from fiction or allies from adversaries. His behavior has become so erratic that it invites challenges from those who seek to do us harm, and that at a time of crisis (whether actual or manufactured), our president presents a clear and present danger that America could easily be drawn into triggering unnecessary global conflict. See: Donald Trump’s behavior is abnormalAn incoherent President Trump, and 

Trump’s Clueless Abdication of Presidential Responsibility Continue Reading >>

The Trump Administration’s Next 1353 Days — What to Expect & How to Resist


Trump Presidency Time RemainingCountdown
(function(d, s, id) { var js, pjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0]; if (d.getElementById(id)) return; js = d.createElement(s); js.id = id; js.src = "//www.tickcounter.com/static/js/loader.js"; pjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, pjs); }(document, "script", "tickcounter-sdk"));

 

America has a pre-existing condition, and it’s name is Donald John Trump.

As this column goes to press, there are 1353 days left. Now that all the efforts to review the Trump administration’s first 100 days are behind us, today we look deeply at how we can use what we have learned over the first 108 days to make educated predictions at what lies in store for the American people over the remainder of Trump’s term.

While it is perhaps folly to try to foresee the specific actions of a particular individual, especially one whose actions often seem to emulate the utter randomness of Brownian motion, there does indeed seem to be a method to this administration that allows us to foresee the general flow of future events in a probabilistic fashion. History has also taught us that we can sometimes look at large groups of people to predict ways in which our society is likely to evolve. Social trends such as economic bubbles, mass hysteria, collective obsessional behaviors and “rational selfish behavior” can be driving societal forces whose repercussions can be recognized and anticipated. One just has to look deeply at how the dominoes have been set up and which direction they are falling.

Below The Domino Principle examines at the future of the Trump Presidency in 11 key areas:

  1. Why things are not even worse than they already are
  2. How Trump will use the executive branch to change America
  3. How Trump will use the legislative branch to change America
  4. How Trump will use the judicial branch to change America
  5. Trump’s assault on reality, the media, and the spread of disinformation
  6. How Trump will change the economic health of America
  7. How Trump’s immigration policies will affect America
  8. Trump’s ability to affect foreign policy and involve America in wars
  9. The likelihood Trump will try to seize power through a “Reichstag fire” moment
  10. Trump’s chances of not completing his term of office
  11. The vital role each of us play in helping determine the outcome of this presidency

Why Things Are Not Even Worse

Let’s look at the bright side of things first… While the first 100 days in so many ways seemed an endless exercise in disturbing, embarrassing and dreadful chaos, there are three primary reasons that things today are not any worse:

1) POTUS has made it clear that he believes that our two party system is obstructionist, that the rules of Congress are archaic, and that our judicial system should not be able to restrict his authority. Yet despite attempts by POTUS and the Justice Department to bypass the checks and balances of our system of government, in many instances our constitutional protections against abuse by the executive branch have, so far, held firm. (Yet, keep in mind that it has only been 108 days, and the administration is clearly committed to continue efforts to erode such checks and balances.) The courts are still ruling unconstitutional actions as unconstitutional, Senate Republicans have spoken out strongly against Trump’s call to end the filibuster with regards to legislation, and the FBI and Congress are still investigating, albeit slowly and amidst numerous acts of diversion, Russian tampering into the Presidential election along with the possibility of treason or misprision of treason by members of the Trump administration. POTUS’s use of the White House to personally enrich himself and his family has been most disturbing however, and so far there doesn’t seem to be any checks and balances in place that are actually working to stop it.

2) POTUS has proven himself to be an incompetent manager at a scale few had imagined was possible. This has been exemplified by his lack of focus and short attention span; his failure to understand how specific actions lead to specific consequences in the real world; his bewilderment at the reality that he does not actually have dictatorial powers; his inability to grasp deal-making in a congressional political perspective; his failure to attract quality staff and his abuse of the staff he has attracted; his inability to fulfill utterly incoherent promises because they were… well, incoherent; his constant changes in position on nearly every issue; his frequent actions and tweets demonstrating that he is often completely disassociated with reality; his lack of ability to tie his actions to any type of coherent policy or doctrine that would allow his actions to make rational sense; and his seeming preoccupation with finding ways to use the office of the presidency to enrich himself and his family.

3) The American people are starting to find their voice, and they are starting to make it clear to our elected representatives that the hatred towards ethnic minorities, religions, and women that helped propel Trump into office does not represent the voices of the majority of Americans of either party. As America has come to realize that the Republic, along with being governed in a manner consistent with a fact-based worldview, truly are in jeopardy, people of both political parties are starting to wake up, they are starting to care, and they are starting to make their voices heard.

How Trump Will Use the Executive Branch to Change America

//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

The President is slowly but steadily consolidating power throughout the executive branch. While many jobs remain unfilled, more than 400 positions have been filled. The list includes “obscure campaign staffers, contributors to Breitbart and others who have embraced conspiracy theories, as well as dozens of Washington insiders who could be reasonably characterized as part of the ‘swamp’ Trump pledged to drain.” Each day many of these people use their authority to erode important facets of our democracy, and it will only get worse and worse as more positions are filled and as these people gain experience in how to use their authority to further an agenda that reduces the rights of individuals while consolidating the power of the presidency. 

//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

As POTUS is able to staff the Justice Department, there is little question that he and Sessions will try to harness it to pursue political prosecutions against enemies, place a focus on litigation that targets specific religious and ethnic groups, and otherwise trample civil rights. Disregard for the judicial process and its outcomes has been a hallmark of Trump’s career, and he has quite openly used litigation as a tool of harassment. He now has the largest prosecutorial organization in the world at his disposal, and the prospects are chilling.

You can deny reality, but you cannot deny the effects of denying reality. Increases in death, suffering, and loss of productivity of the American people are the inevitable long term repercussions of the executive branch actions that gut the Environmental Protection Agency while shunning science and suppressing scientific research. Disregarding climate warming issues, not taking steps to reverse the widespread failure of parents to vaccinate their children, and failing to enact effective gun safety legislation based on our statistical analysis of gun use and misuse are all consequences of anti-science ignorance in the current administration, both at the presidential and congressional levels. It leads to a world in which homes and cities are flooded at an ever increasing rate, droughts reach epic proportions, epidemics kill children with sicknesses that should have been long eradicated, where more gun deaths are committed by toddlers than by terrorists, and where a gun is 22 times more likely to be used in a criminal assault, an accidental death or injury, a suicide attempt or a homicide than it is for self-defense. It also adds further doubt and confusion to a generation of America unable to differentiate between science and anti-science, and between facts and alternative-facts. (See my earlier article: Let’s Make America Smart Again.)

In a world where we are much more likely to be killed in a pandemic than in a terrorist attack, the Administration’s desire to cut more than $6 billion from the budgets of the National Institute of Health and the Center for Disease Control would fundamentally cripple America’s ability to fight and cure disease and to stop the spread of new epidemics of infectious diseases.

The potential long term effects of changes being pursued by the Department of Education include fostering educational environments that mix religious dogma and alternative facts in the classroom, while also creating an increasingly ignorant populace by shifting resources further away from those least able to afford educational opportunities. The net result is the further decline in the American educational system and subsequent loss in economic productivity as individuals exiting that system attempt to enter the workforce.

How Trump Will Use the Legislative Branch to Change America

//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

Well, Mr. President, thanks to you and the GOP Majority, the answer to the question you asked three years ago is now — 24 million. https://t.co/4kZRTe00kF Continue Reading >>

Let’s Make America SMART Again

The author, preparing for the March for Science in San Luis Obispo, California.

 

The climate is changing.

This past Saturday I joined an estimated 1,200 other people in the March for Science in San Luis Obispo, California. Our march was one of more than 500 such marches that took place around the world on Earth Day, April 22, 2017, likely involving more than a hundred thousand people world-wide.

Father, son, and “alternative cat” participating at March for Science, San Luis Obispo. Photo by Cliff Kurtzman.

It was a day for celebration. Celebration of the benefits that science and technology have brought to each of us to improve our quality of life and our ability to understand the universe in which we live.

But as much as it was a day for celebration, it was also a day for finding a new voice — a voice that says: “Never confuse a right to your opinion with an entitlement to foolishness or ignorance.” — “We will not remain silent in the face of ignorance and ‘alternative facts.'” — “We will fight to help make America smart again.”

We marched to call attention to the role that science must play in helping a democratic society make informed decisions, whether about climate change, clean air and water, disease control and prevention, or even space exploration. We marched to advocate that science, and not pseudo-science, should be taught in our school curriculums. We marched to create awareness of how to recognize logical fallacies and disinformation. And we marched to inspire our children to have a passion for learning and an understanding of the benefits of taking a science-based worldview.

Planetary Science basics explained at March for Science, San Luis Obispo. Photo by Cliff Kurtzman.

As Jonathan Foley recently noted in his article The war on science is war on America’s future in the San Francisco Chronicle:

“Our future depends on science. While science isn’t perfect, it can help lift us, improve the human condition and build a better world. And science serves all Americans, not just Democrats or just Republicans.

Let me be clear: This isn’t a partisan issue. Scientists aren’t — and shouldn’t be — worried about which political party is in power. It rarely has mattered: There is a long tradition of bipartisan support for science and a fact-based world view. Until now.”

Yes, times have indeed changed. As Neil deGrasse Tyson states so eloquently in this brief video:

“When you have people who don’t know much about science, standing in denial of it, and rising to power, that is a recipe for the complete dismantling of our informed democracy.” Continue Reading >>

Are You Complicit?

There are some things that transcend party politics.

These are perilous times, and looking past superficialities to see deep repercussions is important. The current US administration is treading into territory far removed from anything we’ve seen within our lifetimes, from either Democratic or Republican administrations. When basic liberties are threatened and the possibility of nuclear conflict edges closer on a daily basis, it is incumbent on each of us to seek truth, to look at world events with real depth, and to use our voice to say, eyes wide open and with love for America: “No, this is not okay… I will not go quietly into the night.”

I’m a long time Republican who is fiscally conservative, socially progressive, and who believes in a strong separation between church and state. I’ve historically voted for candidates in either party who I see as best suited for office and best able to further the public good. I often quote vocal conservatives like former George W. Bush speechwriter David Frum and my friend Albert Nurick. Sometimes, when I feel their arguments are logical and factual, I quote well known liberals like Robert Reich and Keith Olbermann. I make a deliberate effort to stay away from quoting or posting articles from what I see as either right-wing or left-wing extremist propaganda or conspiracy theory web sites. To try to keep bias to a minimum, far more often than not, I’ll read and post from sources within the orange box I’ve added to this graphic:

Journalism Quality and Partisianship 2017 Guide
Journalism Quality and Partisianship 2017 Guide. Source: http://www.pigscast.com/

Part of what makes America great is that it gives its citizens wide latitude in terms of what they can speak and what they can believe. There are those I know who believe, for example, that they would rather America become a Christian fundamentalist theocracy or fascist state instead of continuing as a democracy that allows others who do not share their viewpoints to obtain political standing. I strongly support the right of such individuals to have and express such a viewpoint, while at the same time I strongly object to seeing their viewpoint come to fruition. Such a point-of-view transcends party politics, and advocates for changing America into something very different than what it is today or has been throughout its history.

Here are a few of the things I see happening today that transcend party politics:

  • When the President appoints a man (Steve Bannon) to be his White House Chief Strategist, a man who is a self-proclaimed Leninist, who advocates for global war and the deconstruction of the American political system, to replace it with a Christian fundamentalist fascist state… it transcends party politics. Even worse when the individual has a history of being an openly racist white nationalist who promotes “alternate facts” on a regular basis, and who was, until just recently, appointed by the President to be a part of the National Security Council.
  • When, without having even the slightest evidence to support his accusations, our president slanderously fabricates false allegations, stating as fact that a former American president committed a serious criminal felony, it transcends party politics.
  • When our president praises our enemies, alienates our greatest allies, and encourages the efforts of Russia, one of our greatest adversaries, to tamper with our election (on his behalf), it transcends party politics.
  • When our president appoints members of his administration, and sets policies, in a manner that is utterly ignorant of the realities of science, it transcends party politics.
  • When a man who is clearly and definitively clinically mentally unwell has access to our nuclear codes, it transcends party politics. When he acts as Commander-in-chief to direct our military and to antagonize those who wish to do us harm, it transcends party politics. As Princeton history professor Sean Wilentz has noted (See: Trump and the Pathology of Narcissism):


    “We’ve had some very troubled presidents in our past, but their troubles are things like alcoholism, paranoia, you know, sort of garden-variety psychological maladies. This is different. This shows a dissociation from reality. We just haven’t seen anything like this before.”

    And as was recently explained in Psychology Today (See: The Elephant in the Room):

    “Mental illness does not need to be professionally diagnosed. We don’t need to be told by a doctor that the guy coughing and sneezing at the other end of the train car is probably sick… When someone is compulsively lying, continuously contradicting himself, imploring the approval of people even as he is attacking them, exalting people one day and abusing and vilifying them the next, then the question of his mental state is moot. The safe thing to do is not just to stay away from him, but to keep him away from situations where he can do harm.”

  • When our president spends on the order of a hundred million dollars of taxpayer money on a military attack designed to bolster presidential approval ratings, divert discussion from the Russia investigation, and to create the impression that he is not a puppet of a foreign adversary, while doing nothing to substantively improve the lives of those he claims he is trying to protect, it transcends party politics. (Ivanka reportedly told him… “We have to look like we care.”) (See: The Media Fell for Trump’s Syria Stunt).
  • When our president uses the Office of the Presidency to financially self-enrich himself, his family, and his friends in a manner unlike anything we have ever seen before in American politics, and he refuses to divest himself of business conflicts, or to provide transparency in disclosing his financial data in a manner similar to what has been done by past Presidents, it transcends party politics.
  • When we have a president who is an avowed sexual predator, who we’ve heard state in his own words that his fame and wealth entitles him to grab women by the pussy and to enter their dressing rooms while they are in a state of undress… we don’t need convictions on his rape allegations to know the kind of human being that he is. Ditto on when he just this week kicked off Sexual Assault Awareness Month by defending Bill O’Reilly’s character, on whose behalf Fox News has recently acknowledged paying out on the order of $13 million in settlements on a multitude of sexual harassment allegations (See: Donald Trump Kicks Off Sexual Assault Awareness Month By Defending Bill O’Reilly). Last November every sexual predator and psychological abuser in America learned that half the country has their back. And every survivor learned that half the country doesn’t have theirs. This transcends party politics.
  • When we have a White House so eager to rewrite history and create an alternate reality that it fabricates fictitious terrorist attacks in Bowling Green, Atlanta, and Sweden; and then today proclaimed that either six million jews didn’t die in gas chambers, or that Hitler’s forcing his citizens into gas chambers and killing them didn’t constitute the use of chemical weapons… this also transcends party politics.
  • Continue Reading >>

    The Chilling Messages Trump Just Sent With His Syria Strike

    The images of dead and suffering children following Tuesday’s gas attack by Syria (with Russian complicity) on its own people were tragic and compelling. Syria was believed to have used chlorine mixed with a nerve agent, possibly sarin, killing more than 80 Syrian civilians.

    The chemical attack by Syria happened only days after Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Donald Trump made statements indicating that the US had no interest in interfering in Syrian events and that Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad remaining in power was an internal Syrian matter with which the US had no interest in interfering. (See: Rubio: It’s no coincidence that Syria gas attack happened after ‘concerning’ Tillerson comments).

    Last night Fifty-nine US Tomahawk missiles were launched against the Syrian government-controlled Shayrat airbase in central Syria. U.S. officials said that the airbase was the originating point for the military planes behind Tuesday’s chemical bombing. The Russians and Syrians were forewarned of the coming airbase attack by the United States, and had ample opportunity to remove their aircraft and personnel. Reports are that at least seven people were nonetheless killed by the US attack.

    Both North Korea and Syria present serious situations, for which both the Bush and Obama administrations never found reasonable positive solutions. Both are situations for which an American military response could, in some circumstances, be appropriate and necessary. You can’t really judge yesterday’s attack without placing it into the perspective of what it was really trying to accomplish, what else is going on at the time, and as part of a bigger long term picture of next steps and consequences as the dominoes inevitably start falling.

    So let’s place the events into a bit of context: The attack came 100 years to the day from the date that America entered World War 1 (See: Could ‘America First’ Lead to War?). It came on the same day that Trump’s previous presidential opponent, Hillary Clinton, also made a public call for the bombing of Syrian airbases (See: Hillary Clinton calls for U.S. to bomb Syrian air fields). It came on the heels of North Korea’s Kim Jong-un firing off another intermediate-range ballistic missile; and Xi Jinping, the President of China, arriving in the United States for a summit meeting to discuss North Korea (among other issues) with Donald Trump. It came on the day after Steve Bannon was removed from the National Security Council principals’ committee. Very significantly, it came during a week in which Trump’s approval ratings fell to just 35%, an historic low for a president in his first months in office (See: President Trump’s Approval Ratings Just Hit Another Low).

    What did the attack actually accomplish on behalf of the victims? It did destroy assets at one airbase that Syria could use to launch air raids that would drop bombs on its own people. Not a bad thing, but Syria has others, and the airbase was back in service within 24 hours. It didn’t destroy Syria’s ability to deploy chemical weapons. It might possibly discourage Syria from the further use of chemical weapons, but it is highly unlikely that it will stop Syria from continued bombing on its own citizens, or that it will stop Russia from assisting them in that regard. It provides no measure of relief to the victims, nor does it signal any change of heart on behalf of the Trump administration in their attempts to prevent immigration from the Muslims who are the victims of Assad’s regime. It caused Russia to suspend an agreement with the US that prevented incidents and ensured flight safety in Syria.

    For Donald Trump the rationale for any such use of force is immediately suspect because of:

    1. His apparent need to (and history of) fabricating lies to try to divert attention from the Russia investigation;
    2. His overall dishonesty and failure to be truthful with the American people on an hourly basis;
    3. His bullying behavior and repeated failure to address serious issues with any degree of intellectual depth or subtlety;
    4. His poll numbers are in a tailspin. Trump has made it quite clear in the past, projecting his own negative tendencies upon others, that he views such a circumstance as justification to launch an air strike to bolster political standing; and
    5. Because, with only a couple of exceptions, he surrounds himself with incompetent and inexperienced people as advisors, some of whom have publicly stated that they seek global war as a mechanism to weaken our democracy and move America in the direction of fascism.

    One should also keep in mind that Trump spoke out publicly during Obama’s administration, strongly objecting to any military action in Syria and telling him that he (Obama) would need congressional approval to take military action, since US interests were not being immediately threatened. Obama tried to get approval from congress for such action, and the Republican-led congress refused to grant it. It is tragically amusing that so many of the Republicans who spoke out against Obama taking such action after the earlier, and much larger chemical attack during Obama’s term, suddenly have changed their mind in the past 24 hours. This article highlights the astounding contradictions:

    Paul Ryan 2013: Syrian strikes would look weak. Paul Ryan 2017: Assad must be held accountable Continue Reading >>