Those who support politicians who refuse to enact gun safety legislation don’t like being told they have blood on their hands when so many people needlessly die.
People who support or remain silent to the rise of fascism in the United States don’t like being compared to those in Italy and Germany who supported or stayed silent when Mussolini and Hitler engaged in nearly identical behaviors.
Fifty years ago today Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first members of mankind to land on the surface of the moon. I was nine years old at the time. Armstrong’s “giant leap for mankind” inspired me to try to follow in his footsteps. It gave me a sense of vision that guided my career in first earning a Ph.D. in Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering from M.I.T., and then going to work in the commercial space industry in Houston.
America in the 1960s was filled with challenges, including a cold war with Russia, protests over the senseless loss of American young men in Vietnam, and injustices related to the rights of minorities and women. Yet, despite those many challenges, it was a time of great optimism. Racism had the prospect of dying off as those who held those viewpoints from the past aged into oblivion. Education and science was embraced. Economic growth was rampant. The quality of medical care and life expectancy in America were steadily increasing. America was the world leader in technology. Gene Roddenberry filled our minds and our TV screens with a vision of a Star Trek into the future in which mankind left behind it’s pettiness to boldly become something far greater.Continue Reading >>
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 >>
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 >>
With each snip of the hair stylist’s scissors, I yearn for the weight of the world to be lifted from my shoulders, but instead the burden just seems to get heavier and heavier, until finally I seem to have no choice left other than to shrug. By the time my haircut is done, I am forced to conclude that the gal who has been cutting my hair every two months or so for the past two-and-a-half years will no longer be getting my business. And that there are lessons to be learned from this experience that can help all of us take positive action to fight the darkness that pervades America today.
My hair stylist is a nice lady, probably in her early 70s, and I believe that she moved to America from Germany many years ago and became a US citizen. Her salon, which she owns, is quite convenient to me… within walking distance from my house. And I think that she does a pretty good job of cutting my hair.
From our past conversations, it has long been clear that her knowledge and awareness of political happenings in America is, like so many of our fellow citizens, extremely shallow and superficial. She is, for example, aware someone named Mueller is investigating Trump, and that Trump calls it a WITCH HUNT, but her insight into what all that involves, and what the issues are, does not go too much deeper than that.
Her opinions and lack of awareness seems to stem more from voluntary ignorance than from personal deplorableness. Kind of like what one would expect of a nice lady in her 70s who spends at best a few minutes a day watching “state television” via FOX News.
She knows I write about politics, and she knows I’m critical of Trump. So I was a bit surprised last week when, while she was cutting my hair, and without my bringing up politics at all, she blurts out “I really like Trump” in a manner far more definitive and self-assured than I have ever heard her express in the past.
To put this in context, it is important to remember that this is a woman who grew up in the shadow of the horror that Hitler unleashed on the German people and the world at large. And that in the two months since she had previously cut my hair, Trump has decried the American free press as “the enemy of the state,” he has torn children from their asylum seeking parents and put them into cages and cells with no intention of ever reuniting them, and he has stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Vladamir Putin in a press conference of utterly treasonous nature.
So, instead of getting angry or trying to argue with her or expressing wonder about exactly what universe she is living in… I decide to turn the situation into a learning moment for myself, and I ask her “Why?” without giving her any overt negative reaction.
And she tells me there are two reasons.
He speaks what is on his mind, and really tells you what he is thinking, in an unvarnished way that is so much better and more refreshing than what the usual “politicians” do.
As she says this, I think silently to myself:
Yes, being candid and genuine can be refreshing and admirable in a politician, when they operate from a core base of honesty and integrity. Look, for example, at Congressman Adam Schiff. But Trump embraces neither honesty nor integrity. His statements seem to fall primarily into two basic categories… 1) expressions of his true nature, which show him to be a vile, racist, misogynistic, malignant narcissist whose priorities revolve strictly around enriching himself and his family; and 2) lies and more lies, aimed at conning and gaslighting the ignorant and unintelligent. These are not traits that any sane reasonable person would admire.Continue Reading >>
In a disaster entirely of his own making, the President of the United States stood alongside Vladamir Putin at a press conference in Helsinki, Finland on July 16, 2018 and confirmed to the entire world what so many of us already knew: Donald John Trump has betrayed his duty to America, and acts as though he is beholden to and under undue influence of Putin in ways that constitute an extraordinary betrayal of his oath of office.
And that’s just what we know from Trump’s public statement with Putin. Because Trump has been silent on the matter, we still have virtually no specifics about what Trump discussed and promised to Putin in their private meeting. There are reports coming out of Russia that agreements were in fact reached, and given that Trump won’t say anything about them, it seems likely that they could very well constitute an even vastly greater betrayal of American interests. See: US offers no details as Russia claims Trump and Putin reached military agreements.
In addition to Trump’s apparent universal adulation of murderous dictators in general, Putin’s specific leverage and influence over Trump seems to also stem from a variety of financial, sexual, and criminal factors. My previous column: The Man in the High Castle: Trump has committed high treason provides elaboration on each of these issues. A new column in The New Yorker this week, A Theory of Trump Kompromat also provides further insight.
I’ve received considerable correspondence since Trump’s spectacle in Helsinki, all centered on three key questions:
How can anyone still support him?;
Given how apparent it is that Trump’s loyalties are to Russia, why won’t Congress do anything about it… RIGHT NOW?; and
What can each of us do about it… RIGHT NOW?
Why People Still Support Him
The entire spectacle of Trump’s capitulation to Putin in Helsinki made it essentially impossible for anyone to claim to be pro-Trump and to love America and the values for which it has historically stood, and not seem, in the very best possible light, a complete and utter fool, and in the very worst possible light, a traitor to America as well. As John Pavlovitz’s noted in Don’t Say You Love This President and America. One of Those Things Isn’t True:
“when you refuse to name it all as treasonous, when you choose to remain silent, when you pretend you don’t see it—you declare who you are. We see it. The world sees it.””
So one must face some grim realities to explain Trump’s continued support:
There really are Americans who truly want America to move away from democracy towards authoritarianism, particularly if an authoritarian leader pretends to support their political and social agenda and remove it from possible change via democratic processes.
There are Americans who support Trump because they profit greatly from his policies and agenda, and some of them are extremely wealthy… and their wealth can and does buy political influence.
There are Americans who truly want to see the subjugation of America to Russia.
There are Americans who simply don’t have the intelligence to understand the issues involved (remember, half the population has an IQ of under 100) — they are easily persuaded by the gaslighting distortions and distractions of Trump and his enablers, and/or they blindly support anyone who identifies as Republican because it is their cultural heritage to do so. The Dunning–Kruger effect is real.
There is also a considerable segment of Americans who are attached to Trump in such a cultish fashion that they essentially see him as being anointed by a higher power to lead us… these people don’t care if he is a traitor… they will follow him anywhere.
And there is a segment of Americans who will refuse to back away from Trump because it would mean admitting that they were wrong about something that they were once passionate about, so they will just keep digging in no matter what he does.
So in total, the evidence is that these factors combined explain the behavior of about 30% of the American electorate. We are forced to conclude that even if Trump should publicly come out and claim that he wants to make the United States a republic in the Russian Federation, a sizable portion of his supporters would applaud him for having another brilliant idea, while repeating the gaslighting distortions he manufactures to justify it. That’s the America we live in, and only by recognizing this scary reality can we find a constructive path to move forward.
Why Congress Won’t Do Anything RIGHT NOW
After the Helsinki summit, Former CIA Director John O. Brennan noted:
Donald Trump’s press conference performance in Helsinki rises to & exceeds the threshold of “high crimes & misdemeanors.” It was nothing short of treasonous. Not only were Trump’s comments imbecilic, he is wholly in the pocket of Putin. Republican Patriots: Where are you???
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 >>
As we celebrate Independence Day, it is a good time to remember that we owe our heritage to those who had the courage to stand up to tyranny, and who fought for freedom and democracy. At no time, at least within my lifetime, has our country needed to remember this more than today.
Our President has declared war on Western democracy and on Western values, as he flirts with neo-fascist leaders around the world, and he gaslights to declare war on truth and the rule of law here at home.
Today is a good day to remember the evening that 20,000 Americans, waving American Flags, singing the Star-Spangled Banner, chanting the Pledge of Allegiance, and claiming to be “Patriots” gathered in Madison Square Garden in New York City on February 20, 1939. They were all American Nazis. Listen to their chilling words here:
At the same time, in Europe, Hitler was finishing construction of his sixth concentration camp. Seven months later, the Nazi army invaded Poland.
It seems more like an episode of The Twilight Zone than reality… but it really happened. And people seem emboldened to express similar value systems again today. Those who do not acknowledge the past are condemned to repeat it.
“patriotism cannot be surrendered to the right-wingers, the zealots, the jingoists and the racists. It is time for the rest of us — the vast majority, who support a pluralistic, forward-looking vision of America — to reclaim it.
“Flying the American flag upside down in protest on this Fourth of July holiday can also help to sustain and inspire other types of political behavior, including protests, strikes, voting, organizing and the day-to-day corporeal politics of resistance that are necessary to protect American democracy from Trump and his allies.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 >>