The Mueller Report is finally out and, even in redacted form, it provides a stark portrayal of a presidential administration immersed in chaos, lawlessness, unethical misconduct and the betrayal of America.
The most common responses we’ve had to our columns over the past two years involve readers expressing feelings of frustration and helplessness over how the political degeneration of America affects their lives and their future. America will die a slow death if our attitude is to wait for the other guy to fix it. Each of us can play an important role in the outcome, so today we give readers four key ways to personally make a real difference.Continue Reading >>
This past Sunday afternoon Attorney General William Barr released his summary “interpretation” of the Mueller report. Containing just a handful of sentence fragments from the actual Mueller report, the summary was even more lacking in detail and more focused on providing an extremely narrow and slanted view of Mueller’s conclusions than I had predicted in my column from this past Sunday morning (See: Mueller Plays His Dominoes). Until we see the actual report submitted by Robert Mueller, and we learn how and why the Special Counsel’s probe ended, we know very little about what Mueller actually discovered, or might have failed to discover if it turns out his investigation was terminated prematurely. Barr’s letter summarizing the Mueller report appears every bit as reliable as one of Trump’s self-written notes from his doctor.Continue Reading >>
What happened aboard Air Force One in the early morning hours of October 8, 2018? What was said and what deal was brokered between President Donald Trump, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, and White House Chief of Staff John Kelly that day? If we knew the answer to that question, the things that are happening now might make much more sense. Will the public release of the Mueller Report answer that question?
With the Mueller Report being delivered to the Department of Justice this past Friday, it marks “the end of the beginning” of investigation and public insight into understanding Russia’s efforts to interfere with America’s election process and the criminal and unethical acts of Donald Trump and those close to him.Continue Reading >>
My Facebook feed has lately been filled with postings about the dangers of socialism, particularly from acquaintances based in Texas. With the House of Representatives flipping to a Democratic majority and some of the more liberal and progressive members of the House promoting socially progressive programs, it is clear that much of the rhetoric surrounding the 2020 elections will center on spreading disinformation designed to create fear-mongering about threats posed by socialism.
True socialism is bad, in the sense that we know with certainty that it disincentivizes the kind of innovation, economic growth and prosperity achieved in capitalistic economies. The question is… is socialism currently a real threat to our way of life in America? Or is the fear of socialism a canard that is being used as a way of diverting attention from a fascist and nationalistic agenda intended to destroy essential elements of our democracy?Continue Reading >>
I don’t want to keep beating the children, but you are making me do it. I don’t want to refuse to give you the money you need to buy groceries and pay the rent. It’s a humanitarian crises, all because you won’t do what I tell you to do.
I know we once took an oath that all our decisions would require mutual agreement. I intend to live by that oath. That’s why I’ll keep beating the children until we both agree that you will do exactly what I tell you to do.Continue Reading >>
How much damage Trump will do to America, and to the world at large, as his presidency goes up in flames is an open issue, but as I’ve written in the past (See: Really Bad Things Are Going To Happen Now), this is going to be very, very bad, and quite possibly a very lengthy process as well.
Many disasters have impacted Trump and America this week. The utter fraud that was the Trump Foundation is being shut down. Trump is being investigated for the serious financial improprieties of the Trump inauguration committee. A Federal judge took former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn sternly to task for his betrayal of America. Trump attorney Michael Cohen has implicated Trump in multiple felonies designed to defraud America. Russian spy Maria Butina entered into a cooperation agreement with the US government. Paul Ryan spent the week living in an alternative reality while patting himself on the back for what a tremendous job he’d done the past two years helping Trump destroy America (See: The Self-Delusion of Paul Ryan). The stock market is in a free fall, with the NASDAQ today closing in its first bear market since the Great Recession, a drop of 21.9% from its peak on August 29, 2018. The Executive Branch is drowning in staff vacancies at the highest levels. But let’s just focus on some of what has happened over just the past couple of days:Continue Reading >>
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 >>
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.
“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 >>
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.
“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 >>
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.
President Trump not a believer in the “never let them see you sweat” theory of crisis management
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.”
We have to be very clear about what happened this morning: the president woke up, went on Twitter, and raved like a madman. No other description of what happened this morning will do.
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 >>