Treason, treason, everywhere

Though I was sorely tempted, this blog entry will not be about the Mueller Report, at least not directly. Rather, I find it necessary to comment on all the people who are choosing to shiv our liberty and to destroy our country. Today, by defying two subpoenas from standing House committees, the Trump administration made it abundantly clear that they have no commitment to the rule of law. This is not to say that they had not been doing so all along, but now there is not the slightest question that their goals are to win at all costs, rake in money, pay their benefactors, and sell our country off for parts.

The Rosemary’s baby that is the Trump administration has many parents. First, of course, are the foreign governments that found the appropriate Manchurian candidate in a life-long amoral grifter, who first achieved notoriety by losing a 1973 housing discrimination lawsuit. His many bankruptcies rendered him an unacceptable financial risk to all but Deutsche Bank, which apparently is not afraid to take risks on sociopaths. He also attracted the attention of former KGB Lt. Col. Vladimir Putin, who found him a useful vessel to achieve his imperialist goal of Making Russia Great Again. Putin was smart enough to see that Trump’s stupidity and lack of ethics made him the perfect mechanism to sell out US security concerns to Russia in exchange for electoral support. At the same time, the Saudis were fortunate to luck into the availability of the cipher, Jared Kushner. This monument to nepotism, of little accomplishment and dodgy parentage, has proven particularly useful to his Saudi friend, Mohammed bin Salman and has been an invaluable ally as MBS faced withering criticism for ordering the butchering of Washington Post journalist and US resident, Jamal Khashoggi.

The Trump administration has, of course, contributed significantly to this “dismantling of the administrative state.” Trump himself is an unstable idiot, and is more than willing to sell out his country in order to make a little green and to avoid criminal charges. Then there is William Barr who abused his power in prejudging the Mueller report, Stephen Miller who devised the odious family separation policy, Kirstjen Nielsen who enforced said policy, and Wilbur Ross who spearheaded the coming cooking of the US census, which guides congressional redistricting. And that’s not to mention the anti-climate and anti-consumer policies guided by the Department of Interior and the now-neutered Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Or the jaw-dropping corruption of Tom Price, Ryan Zinke, and David Bernhardt, whose initial Congressional investigation started a scant 4 days after the Republican Senate rubber-stamped his approval to succeed Zinke.

Then there are the Republicans in Congress. Fortunately, the Democrats took back the House in 2018, but not before the “Freedom Caucus” gamed the Trump/Russia investigation, the rank-and-file passed an incredibly irresponsible tax cut for the rich, and the Senate confirmed an unprecedented number of radically partisan judges rated as “unqualified” by the American Bar Association. It appears that anyone with a warm body and a right-wing philosophy can be a judge in the Trump Administration. At the same time, the Senate has blocked almost all legislation passed by the House, while at the same time criticizing the House for not doing anything.

It seems that there are several categories of die-hard Trump supporters, all of whom are harming the country. The first are the True Believers. These include Freedom Caucus members like Jim Jordan, Mark Meadows, Louie Gohmert, Matt Gaetz, Devin Nunes, and Steve King, as well as amoral right-wing evangelicals such as Franklin Graham. Trump is their fever dream because they realize he will let them do whatever they want to promote their white nationalist, Dominionist policies. They are generally fire-breathing and flashy (Jim Jordan famously doesn’t seem to own a coat). They also are rabidly anti-accountability, doing whatever they can to upend legitimate investigations of the Trump criminal class, while at the same time trying to breathe life into warmed-over re-investigations of re-investigations of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. The benefits they take from Trump are the promotion of racist policies, destruction of the so-called “deep state,” the development and exploitation of “unproductive land,” and fanatical judges.

A second are the corrupt cynics. In their number, I include Lindsey Graham and Mitch McConnell among many others. Both of them have taken very large sums of money from any number of questionable organizations, including the NRA, as well as truly enormous sums (particularly in McConnell’s case) from Russia and are more than eager to sell their country down the road. McConnell blackmailed Obama to withhold the revelation of the extent of Russian involvement in the 2016 election. Others in this category include Mark Zuckerberg, and Jack Dorsey who oversee an increasingly fetid social media. Greed an power appear to be their sole motivating forces. They benefit from corrupt influence peddling by foreign countries and industries, the judges that support their agenda, and legislation devoted to disenfranchising minority voters in Democratic legislative districts. It also happens that they benefit from allowing oil exploration on nature preserves.

This type also includes conservative media outlets like Fox News Entertainment. With only two exceptions (Chris Wallace and Shepard Smith), the Fox News Entertainment team has acted as a de facto state-run propoganda machine for the Trump administration. The nuttier of them, Laura Ingraham, Alex Jones and Sean Hannity are not above fanning the flames of the unstable. Although Fox has been dangerously complicit, it should be noted that all of the networks gave Donald Trump huge amounts of free television publicity during the 2016 election campaign.

The third are ignorant fanatical Republican voters. These are folks who watch Fox and people the Trump rallies. They are fed Trump’s BS promises, which they consume like candy. But they won’t benefit from the policies. Coal plants are closing at an increasing rate, and they don’t have a planet B to move to. The tax cuts do not benefit them (they don’t make enough money), and they are blind to the value of lost regulations that protect their drinking water, food supply, health insurance, and electrical grid. Within this group, there are those who are happy to be told they have someone to hate and that they’ve won, and there are those who are social conservatives who bemoan the loss of the old order.

The fourth are the nihilistic voters who think both political parties of are the same. They have learned, with some accuracy, that corruption is widespread in both parties. However, rather than evaluate the relative merits of the two parties they have to chose from, they just assume that everyone is equally bad. Thus, Trump represents a shock to the system, and they delight in his outrageousness.

There is a 5th category that I find particularly odious. These are the “accelerationists.” They have long rooted for the collapse of the capitalist American economy. They tend to be well educated, and far left-wing. What makes them particularly obnoxious is that many of them have money and purport to have social justice beliefs, but that doesn’t stop them from wanting to turn the US into a latter-day Soviet Union. They know better, but still are guided by a fanatical commitment to ideology. “Oh, we don’t support Trump, but we certainly don’t approve of a corporate Democrat.” Instead, they support corrupt ninnies like Jill (where is the recount money?) Stein who are owned by Putin. So yes, they DO support Trump. Some of them actually admit to it.

The thing that all of these groups have in common is that they are harming their country. Whether they are doing this out of ideological bent, greed, stupidity, or apathy, backing the Trump horse will not end well for the vast majority of Americans because his policies are so poorly and mendaciously considered. It is not clear where we are headed. I’m increasingly favoring impeachment to stanch the loss of institutional norms and prevent summary pardons. At minimum, it’s a constitutional duty. We need to fight this travesty.

Stop gaslighting us!

In the 1944 movie Gaslight, Charles Boyer’s character George Anton tries to convince his wife, Paula Alquist, played by Ingrid Bergman, that she’s going crazy by, among other things, playing tricks on her including momentarily dimming the gas jet lights. He then tells her that she’s seeing things and then poisons her in an effort to silence her. I won’t give away the ending because it’s a great movie that I recommend you see.

The term gaslight has since been applied to many similar kinds of behavior. In particular, the term has come into fashion during the current Presidential administration. As a prime example, in a July 24, 2018 rally speech, Donald Trump said “just remember what you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening.” In August, 2018, his TV lawyer, Rudy Giuliani said, regarding Trump’s possible testimony before Robert S. Mueller, that “truth isn’t truth.” These and many other such statements are designed to get the American people to doubt the evidence of their eyes and ears, and to hand the responsibility for that evidence over to team Trump.

Today, an increasingly erratic and flailing Trump took all of this to a next level when he ascribed responsibility for his odious family separation policy to Barack Obama, and claimed that it was he (Trump) who ended it. This is classic gaslighting. There is absolutely no question that the policy was the “brainchild” of Stephen Miller and was implemented by now-former Department of Homeland Security secretary Kirstjen Nielsen. Her exit was apparently facilitated by a power play by Miller, who has been unfailingly loyal to Trump. The anti-immigrant rhetoric out of Trump over the past several days had been among the most strident of his Presidency, and he has since handed immigration policy over to Stephen Miller. Then, today, clearly warned by other more “reasonable” voices, he dialed it back and tried to cast blame for the least popular policy of his administration (which is saying something) on the prior administration.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Ever since he descended the escalator to announce his Presidential run, Donald Trump has been unremittingly nativist. He has never fully denounced the white supremacists who marched, and killed, at Charlottesville, and he is always willing to cozy up with far right leaders across the world.

Believe your eyes and ears. Truth is, in fact, truth. Do not choose to believe a man who has had well over 9000 documented lies. I’ll close this piece with a quote by George Orwell from 1984: “the party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command.” It is crucial to remember that everything is not all right and that we must not end up loving big brother.

Trump can try to gaslight us, but we do not have to let him do it.

It’s time for metric time

Long ago, the decision was made to divide the a year into 12 months of 28-31 days each, and to divide each day into 24 hours of 60 minutes each. These minutes are further divided into 60 seconds.

But does this make sense? Everyone I know struggles to learn how to tell time, but it is clear that a simpler way exists. I refer, of course, to metric time*.

It is not widely known, but our President does not like this cumbersome way of telling time. Why not simplify it? Our kids can’t read analog clocks anymore, for goodness sake! The President has quietly signed an executive order to adopt metric time effective January 1, 2020.

In this simplified system, each year would be divided into 10 months, each month would be divided into 100 days, and each day would be divided into 10 hours, with each hour consisting of 100 minutes and each minute divided into 100 seconds. No longer do we have to think of whether the month has 30 or 31 days. Every so often, we could just add a 100 day month to make up for the leap-year effects, but that’s for the nerdy so-called scientists to do.

Why do we not make watches with 25 minute quarters? If it’s good enough for money, why not watches? And who came up with 24 hours anyway? It’s completely arbitrary. If we had 10 hours in a day, we would not have to worry about 12 hour divisions.

There’s no reason a second has to be one second in duration. Why not just change the duration so that there are 100 seconds in a minute. We would not have to convert seconds into decimals by dividing by silly units of 60. No, we would simply divide by 100 and be done with it!

Think of the economic possibilities! Everyone would have to buy new clocks and watches. This would have a huge stimulatory effect on the economy.

What is easier than using units of 10? It would be so simple that even a President could do it.

*Metric time is not my idea, but it has been sadly neglected as a very straightforward way to describe the passage of time.

Michael Cohen, CPAC, and the Destruction of American Politics

In what was the first public hearing of a Trump campaign operative in the new Congress, the House Oversight Committee revealed how damaged our political process is. We were treated to a full day of inquisition by a completely cynical Republican caucus. With only one exception, Justin Amash (R-MI), the Republican committee members spent their entire time trying to undermine and destroy Michael Cohen, never addressing the fact that Trump chose to hire him and had him in his employ him for 10 years, nor that he presented clear evidence of wrongdoing by the President. In so doing, they further poisoned a political well that is already damaged from years of prior poisonings.

Michael Cohen is hardly a perfect person – I don’t even think he’s a good person. He lied before Congress and cheated on his taxes, committed bank fraud, and violated campaign finance laws. However, as any prosecutor would know, you don’t always get perfect people as witnesses. The point is that Cohen showed some contrition, spoke in a clear and organized way, and most importantly, provided the receipts to back up his claims. Checks don’t lie, and not a single member of the Republican caucus questioned his evidence. Instead we were provided with endless hectoring, yelling, puerile visual aids, racial tokenism, questions about potential book and movie deals, and a bizarre demand that he account for boxes of his belongings that the FBI had returned to him that came right out of the strawberries scene in “The Caine Mutiny.”

And so the Republican caucus of the Oversight committee, which ran endless and fruitless investigations of the Benghazi affair and the Clinton emails story has shown that it is not interested in getting at the truth, but rather wishes to protect a President of their own party. As Jamie Raskin (D-MD) said to Cohen, “our colleagues aren’t upset because you lied to Congress for the president. They’re upset because you’ve stopped lying to Congress for the president.”

This is no way to run a railroad. I remember watching the Watergate hearings in school, and I noted that although several of the Republican Senators were Nixon loyalists, at least a few made more than token efforts to get at the truth. Some, including Howard Baker, did better than that, asking for example, “what did the President know, and when did he know it?” But all of them made good faith efforts to allow the hearings to go forward. In the current Congress, no such efforts are being made by Republicans, save Justin Amash. It’s really very sad.

The cynicism that has infected our political system can, in part, be linked to Reagan’s lifting of the fairness doctrine, which allowed for the rise of 24-7 hate mongers like Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, Sean Hannity, and so many others. Before that time, radio stations had to provide some kind of ideological balance. Since that time, many media outlets, such as Fox News Entertainment, have become explicitly political. In the ensuing years, it has gotten progressively worse. The Willie Horton ad, the smears against John Kerry, the birtherism attacks on Barack Obama, and the sexist attacks on Hillary Clinton are but a few examples of this worsening. More to the point, as pointed out by many, including most recently Chris Cuomo, someone like Donald Trump is able to get away with his constant spewing of hatred and bile precisely because our political system has been brought to such a low state.

However, what Cuomo failed to address is his network’s own role in this denigration. Every night, and especially during election seasons, CNN brings us Brady-bunch like montages of some of the worst cranks you’ll ever see in an effort to provide “both sides” of a story that does not always have two sides. This is all done to create controversy where none was warranted in the name of ratings. Many of them have ended up being banned from their airwaves, among them Jeffrey Lord. Nonetheless, that does not negate the fact that these people had clear track records of spewing garbage, and yet CNN chose to employ them to shore up their ratings. On Fox News, almost all of their commentators play his role, with Shepard Smith and Chris Wallace among the exceptions.

The breathless coverage of the Clinton email story, nonstop footage of empty Trump podiums, and full coverage of Trump rallies during the 2016 campaign was truly disgusting, as was the provision of hundreds of hours of free airtime to Trump by CNN and MSNBC. It is the media’s job to cover stories based on the facts, not to provide false equivalences in a pathetic attempt to appear objective and attract viewers. What are people to make of their electoral choices if both candidates are so denigrated?

The point is not that Cuomo was wrong, it’s that the media is a large part of the reason people have such a poor view of politicians. Yes, a number of our politicians are flawed, and yes, some of them belong in jail. However, a good number of them come to Washington seeking to implement policy solutions that they think will help the country. But in the face of decades of unrelenting attacks, mostly by the right, the willingness of many people to believe that anyone who enters politics has any purpose nobler than lining their pockets has been sharply eroded. Is it any surprise, then, that so many people were to willing to vote for a deeply flawed candidate like Donald Trump? As Cuomo suggested, if the disease is this bad, at least we’ll vote for someone who says he cares about us (which was yet another Trump lie).

This nihilism was brought into sharp relief with this weekend’s Conservative Political Action Committee (CPAC) convention, the speakers for which seemed to be drawn from a list of every right wing nut they could lay hands on. Here we were treated to endless diatribes about “Democrat party” plans to take away our hamburgers, cars, and airplanes by fascists like Sebastian Gorka, criticisms of the late Sen. John McCain by third rate hacks like Michelle Malkin, seemingly sacrilegious claims by a pillow maker that Trump was chosen by G-d, unhinged nonsense about infanticide by a sitting US Vice President, and a two hour rambling speech by Donald Trump filled with hatred, irrelevancies, and curses. To say nothing of Trump’s truly odd hugging of the flag, as though he was holding onto a palm tree during a tropical storm. The clear aim of this hot mess is to “brand” the Democrats for 2020, and also to stir up hatred of anyone not on the Trump train.

So long as the Republicans take this approach, they may win elections, but they continue to bring the level of political discourse down and foment unrest, to the detriment of our country. The level of cynicism is hard to fathom. In the long-term, it is unclear what will happen after their savior, Trump, leaves the scene. At 72 years of age, he’s no kid, and even if he wins a second term, he will some day leave.

The dual challenge to Democrats is not only to combat the rampant corruption, evil, and cynicism of the Trump era legally, but also to provide an antidote to those problems. They need to provide a positive vision for America. As much as I do not like Ronald Reagan, that was his great gift. If they can do it, maybe we can get out of this infinite regress. If not, our political process will continue in its downward spiral.

Call Him Irresponsible

Donald Trump has never been a responsible person. In his earlier life he was perpetually bailed out by father, family, and business associates. He got almost $700M from his father alone, which included rescuing him from numerous bankruptcies, which were caused by his poor business decisions and profligacy (how can you bankrupt a casino!?). Eventually, Trump became such a poor risk that he could only get money from questionable sources, including Russian banks and Deutsche Bank. The former was confirmed by Eric, who in 2014 famously said “We don’t rely on American banks. We have all the funding we need out of Russia.” The latter is becoming increasingly recognized as the numerous investigations into his Presidential run go forward.

When he started running for President, Trump’s irresponsibility took on new and far more dangerous dimensions. Because he’s very susceptible to ego-flattery, he’s a particularly easy mark for foreign governments wishing to undermine the US. Trump’s debt to the Russian banks meant that he was compromised from the time he started running for office. He further compounded that compromise by continuing to negotiate a deal for Trump Tower Moscow throughout the Presidential campaign. He also famously used his Russian connections to fight against his electoral opponents, saying on July 27, 2016, “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 [Hillary Clinton] emails that are missing” and proclaiming his love for Wiki Leaks. The most charitable assessment of these acts is that they stand in violation of federal election laws.

Since taking office, Trump’s irresponsibility as gotten geometrically worse. From scaling back environmental regulations to gutting wildlife protections to stirring up ethnic and racial hatred to abandoning major economic, diplomatic, and nuclear agreements, he has continually acted to destabilize American values and interests. He has constantly undermined our alliances and has cozied up to strongman such as Vladimir Putin, Oleg Deripaska, Mohammed bin Salman, Victor Orban, Jair Bolsonaro, Recep Erdogan, Andrzej Duda, and Kim Jong Un. These are not “many fine people.” He uses irresponsibly bellicose rhetoric in dealing with leaders who don’t agree with him, including Angela Merkel, Emmanuel Macron, and Justin Trudeau. And he won’t pursue MbS’ clear role in the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, a journalist and American national. Because he operates in a world of transactional ethics, his worst decisions are justified either in terms of arms deals or trade advantages.

I recently wrote about Trump’s family separation policy, which shows such a callous disregard for the safety of young children and their families. However, there is a more basic way in which Trump is irresponsible. I refer to his long-seen behavior at his political rallies. He has repeatedly encouraged his supporters to physically attack protesters and has widely encouraged hostility towards journalists. I understand that Trump doesn’t respect the institution of the free press (after all, it’s not unfailingly uncritical of him) but to put journalists in danger is completely unacceptable. To say nothing of the fact that journalists enjoy First Amendment protections.

At his rally last night in El Paso, TX, a Trump supporter violently pushed and shoved a BBC camera man, screaming at him “f**k the media.” Jim Acosta has faced serious harassment at these rallies, as has Katy Tur, along with any protester who might dare show up. However, Trump, in his usual display of arrogance, refused to do anything to stem this level of hostility.

Although I hope it doesn’t happen, it is almost inevitable that someone will be hurt at one of these rallies, and it is unclear that Trump will ever do anything about to curb this behavior. He continually foments situations that play to his audience’s rabid anger without managing it. Like any good carnival barker, he knows that the behavior of crowds can take on a life of its own. But he does nothing to stop it, because if a journalist gets beaten up, he’ll no doubt say, “that’s what happens when you spread ‘fake news.'”

Donald Trump is 72 years old. It is extremely unlikely that he will change a pattern of behavior that has served him so well. He has never expressed even a modicum of shame, other than when he issued an apology after the Access Hollywood tape was released. Even then, he rapidly turned to going after his accusers in the most base of ways, criticizing not only their truthfulness, but their looks. He’s even commented on the attractiveness of his own wives and daughters. In general, he seems to see others as objects and not people.

His unique mix of shamelessness and arrogance make him especially dangerous when he’s in trouble. And he’s in a lot of trouble. There are more than 17 active investigations against his campaign and his behavior in office. At best, he’ll never know a day of peace in his entire presidency.

The continued cowardly unwillingness of the Republicans to deal with their Frankenstein monster can only have negative consequences for the country. It would be nice to see them pursue their oversight duties, but I don’t count on it. The saving grace is that we now have a Democratic house, so that at least there can be some level of oversight and a limit on money allocated for some of his worst impulses. However, it is up to the courts to prevent him from willy-nilly reallocating money to serve those impulses.

The Trump administration must move heaven and earth to reunite migrant children with their parents.

In a stunningly troubling admission today, the Trump administration acknowledged that it may be impossible to reunite thousands of children who were separated from their parents as part of their horrifically malevolent family separation policy.

The number of children at risk is not even known (though the number is at least 2,737) because of inadequate record-keeping. Because so many of the parents of these children were deported, and again, record-keeping was poor, reunification of the children with the parents was always going to be a difficult proposition. Then there was the patent absurdity of forcing immigrant children as young as 3 years old participate in their defense in their own deportation proceedings. Many of these children have been languishing in cages at facilities run by CBP. Staffing at these facilities is threadbare and oversight has not been allowed except in the rarest of cases.

Finally, and most disturbingly, a number of the children have been determined to have been abandoned by their parents. Migrant parents were often coerced into signing away the rights to their children prior to being deported. In many cases, the agreements they signed were not in a language they could read. Many of them were told by US immigration officials that they would never see their children again. As a result, some of them are in the care of adoption agencies, one of which, Bethany Christian Services, has close financial ties to Education Secretary Betsy De Vos and her family. Bethany has been profiteering off of their provision of care, to the tune of $700 per child per night, far higher than the normal rate for such care. Ultimately, some of these children have been adopted away. The family separation policy has resulted in nothing less than state-sponsored kidnapping.

Even when families have been reunited, there have been harrowing scenes of destroyed parent/child bonds. Young children have literally crawled away from their parents, and older children have been told that their parents abandoned them, and therefore stated that they did not want to be with their parents when they were finally reunified.

It is hard to fathom the mindset that would even concoct such a cruel policy, yet several potential authors come to mind in the Trump administration, including Stephen Miller, Kirstjen Nielsen, and Sebastian Gorka, with Miller, Trump’s point man on immigration policy holding the inside track. Kirstjen Nielsen ludicrously tried to deny the policy both in public statements and in front of Congress. Now that the House is in Democratic hands, she may face hearings for perjury.

The long-term traumatic consequences of this policy are also difficult to measure. It is particularly harmful to separate children from their parents because of the damage it will do to parent/child bonding. These children will never have completely normal relationships with whatever parental figures they may have, and it is hard to measure the consequences of these disrupted bonds for adulthood and beyond. In the international community, separation of families is seen as a form of genocide for just these kinds of reasons.

It is unlikely that the Trump administration will ever have to face consequences for these crimes against humanity. But they should. At very least, they should be required to spend whatever money is necessary and use whatever resources are required to reunite these families. The callous disregard for human suffering is a low point in American history.

Small “t” treason

Article III of the US Constitution defines treason as follows.

“Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort. No person shall be convicted of treason unless on the testimony of two witnesses to the same overt act, or on confession in open court. “

Given that we are not currently in a state of war with Russia, Trump’s behavior does not qualify as treason as defined, but it is only for that reason that he’s not a capital “T” traitor.

In every other sense of the word, he is behaving as a traitor. He almost certainly has conspired with Russia to influence the 2016 election. He has conducted business dealings with Russia, while at the same time receiving top-secret briefings. He arranged to insert Russia-friendly platform at the 2016 RNC convention. He has met without any note-takers on several occasions with Putin. He has never criticized Putin despite the latter’s bad behavior. He has met in the oval office with Russian leaders and provided them with top secret intelligence provided to the US by Israel. He has consistently undermined and denigrated our intelligence communities. He has consistently undermined and denigrated our long-held alliances. His entire campaign team and Cabinet have extremely close and shady alliances with the Russian government, many of whom failed to disclose those ties until they were revealed. I am sure I’ve missed a lot of other instances.

Unfortunately, he’s enabled by a bunch of Republican leaders who not only lack the courage to stand up to Trump (as seen by their vote on the Deripaska sanctions), but many of whom also took money from Russian oligarchs. For example, Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, took $3.5M from Len Blavatnik. Similarly, Lindsey Graham, Marco Rubio, Scott Walker, among others took money from Russian oligarchs. And that’s not including the NRA-laundered money. Or his grifting family members, all of whom are closely linked to Russian oligarchs and Putin.

The problem with all of this is that its likely to get far worse. Donald Trump is a singularly insecure person who lashes out at anyone who dares to so much as disagree with him. He also isn’t intelligent, except in the limited sense that he has an innate sense of how to manipulate people. This is a very dangerous combination. As Martin Luther King, Jr. said, ” Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity. ” He has both of them in abundance. His insecurity makes him the ideal candidate to be flattered. He’s a Manchurian Candidate who doesn’t even have to be hypnotized. He also has shown extreme susceptibility to conspiracy theories, famously operating on what he’s told by the last person who speaks to him.

We’re seeing all of this in today’s tweets and comments against the US intelligence community, who dared to disagree with him about defeating ISIS, about the state of nuclear development of Iran, and about the continued development of nuclear systems in North Korea. This is a man who doesn’t read his intelligence briefings, which were already greatly simplified from those received by all previous Presidents. He has literally walked out of briefings because he was bored. He doesn’t have the curiosity or mental processing ability to handle his job. This makes his criticism of people who are in a position to know what’s going on even more galling. He is lashing out specifically because he mostly knows he’s in over his head.

It is clear to me that the Trump Presidency represents a grave threat to national security and even to our continued existence as the world’s oldest democratic republic. The problem is that it will be very hard to remove Trump on the basis of treason for the reason I outlined above. Impeachment should be a viable alternative, but it’s hard to see that the US Senate, as things stand now, will give a 2/3 vote to convict Trump of anything. My hope, and it’s not strong, is that Congressional Republicans will peel off as Trump’s popularity tanks, rendering his 2020 run nonviable. Otherwise, we’re in for a very long two years.

Holocaust Remembrance Day

On January 27, 1945, the Russian army liberated the set of 44 camps collectively known as Auschwitz. It was there that they discovered dead, dying, and weak prisoners who had spent time in the Third Reich’s most deadly factory of extermination. It was in that camp that 1.1 million Jews, 147,000 Poles, 23,000 Roma, and 15,000 Soviet POW’s died. The camp was one of 6 death camps, along with 42,000 concentration camps and ghettos throughout the Reich. Similar scenes awaited Russian and American armies as they liberated these camps. Nearly 6 million Jews, including most of my European relatives, died in the Holocaust, which began as Hitler’s fever dream as outlined in Mein Kampf. January 27 has been designated as International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

It was clear that people from all ethnic groups were killed during the war, including over 20 million Russians, but only two groups were specifically targeted for extermination: Jews and Roma. Entire centuries-old communities were systematically wiped out and plundered, often leaving no survivors. At the end of the war, those who did survive picked up the pieces of their life and lived in displaced person camps. Only then did they make their way to their home countries, Canada, the US, and Israel.

As time passes, Holocaust survivors are dying off. Their memories are precious, as they provide eyewitness testimony to what occurred. Almost as soon as the war ended, a holocaust denial industry popped up. It was consisted of those who couldn’t believe it, those who refused to believe it, and those who intentionally wanted to deny the suffering of the Jewish people. Initially, these deniers were treated like the cranks they were. The postwar newsreel coverage, along with the capture and trial of Adolph Eichmann in 1960-61 played a critical role in increasing public awareness of the Holocaust, as did the presentation of the miniseries “Holocaust”, and the publication of literally thousands of books.

But as awareness of the Holocaust was peaking, the Holocaust denial industry started to also take hold, led by Ernst Zundl and David Irving. Irving, in particular, drew the attention of Deborah Lipstadt, whom he unsuccessfully sued for libel. Unfortunately, the Holocaust denial industry continues to this day. And with the dying off of survivors along with the passage of time, and the inadequacy of Holocaust education, we are now in the sad position that significant percentages of the world population either don’t believe the Holocaust happened, don’t believe it was as severe as it actually was, or try to deny the centrality of Jewish extermination to the process. A recent poll showed that 1/3 of Americans do not believe that 6 million Jews were killed.

It is essential that the deaths of so many people be remembered, both to mourn them and so that it never happens again. That is why it is so important that International Holocaust Remembrance Day be marked.

The shutdown was total defeat for Trump and total victory for Nancy Pelosi. And it was a great sign for federal workers, too.

In the 2016 campaign, Donald Trump behaved in a completely oafish manner to almost all the women he encountered, from Megyn Kelly, to Carly Fiorina, to Heidi Cruz, to Elizabeth Warren, to Hillary Clinton. And that’s aside from the Access Hollywood tape and the 20+ women who came forward alleging very significant sexual misconduct in the past who he continued to denigrate.

That Donald Trump is sexist is beyond question. But what happened in the shutdown was new to him in his public life, and maybe in his entire life. He finally met a woman who had coequal power, and he had absolutely no way of dealing with it. Although it is true that no woman in the US wields as much political power as Nancy Pelosi, her unique success in dealing with Trump may serve as a model for other women, as well as to other men over whom he has run roughshod.

Unlike Hillary Clinton, who recently acknowledged having difficulty deciding how to handle Donald Trump’s stalking behavior during the 2nd Presidential debate, and who had no power over Donald’s life, Pelosi seemed to have an innate sense of how to deal with him, and wielded her power to utterly manage and bring Trump to heel.

It all started at the meeting between Trump, Senate Minority Leader Schumer, and House Speaker Pelosi prior to the shutdown. First, Pelosi wisely framed a potential shutdown as “the Trump shutdown,” then she sharply pointed out that he had no business commenting on her leadership position. Neither she, nor Schumer, gave Trump any rope after he publicly owned the shutdown. After the shutdown started, she simply refused to negotiate with Trump’s strident position about the wall. This is not to say she was rigid in her negotiations, but simply that the Great Wall of Trump was her line in the sand. Trump became increasingly frustrated and started to hemorrhage support. His popularity dropped 8 points during the shutdown.

When Trump tried to jam her in the media, she responded by postponing his State of the Union invite. This to Trump was a major threat. Toddlers do not react well to losing their TV privileges. When he cancelled her travel plans to Afghanistan, in the process creating a national security breach, she was asked about whether she thought the President was doing this in retaliation. She brilliantly responded that “I don’t think the President would be that petty, do you?” When Trump threatened to do a State of the Union in the House despite Pelosi’s claim that it was inappropriate, she sent him a letter essentially saying “that’s not happening.” She also clearly and consistently indicated how the Trump shutdown was harming national security and federal workers.

Federal workers themselves probably played the proximate role in ending the shutdown. Their actions throughout the shutdown were heroic and provided great hope for public activism against our out of control Chief Executive. By the afternoon of Friday, Jan 25, it was obvious that the shutdown was going to strangle air traffic throughout the country. Shortly after air traffic ceased at New York’s La Guardia airport, the shutdown ended with no money for a border wall. Federal workers wielded their power in a way that hasn’t been seen in decades. It was truly inspiring to see.

But in the political arena, Nancy Pelosi showed that she’s not to be trifled with. It seems Trump has no problem picking on women, but he has absolutely no idea how to handle a woman with real power. I hope Speaker Pelosi’s prodigious political skills and tactics have established a model for how others in Congress (and elsewhere in the government) can and should deal with Trump.

Yes, we have no empathy

It’s not new, but in the past week, we’ve seen astonishing evidence of just how callous the Trump administration and advisors are. It started last Monday, when Kevin Hassett (White House economic advisor) stated that furloughed workers were “better off” because they were getting a vacation without having to use their vacation time. Yesterday, Lara Trump’s (Eric’s wife) said “it’s a little bit of pain, but it’s going to be for the future of our country.”

Today we got a trifecta. First Wilbur Ross, the hopelessly corrupt Secretary of Commerce, allowed as how he couldn’t understand why federal workers were going to food banks when they could just get loans. Then Larry Kudlow said that unpaid workers were volunteering. Finally, Donald himself suggested that grocers would help federal workers with food and other necessities, as though they would be provided for free.

The lack of empathy is reflective of an unbelievable level of entitlement. All of the above staff and advisors, and Trump himself, are extremely wealthy. They seem to have never met anyone who is under significant financial distress. They don’t understand that none of the furloughed employees consider this a vacation. They don’t understand that the vast majority of Americans don’t agree that the Great Wall of Trump is a benefit to the country. They don’t understand that most people can’t just walk into any bank and ask for a loan. They don’t understand that you can’t just go into a grocery and ask for food. They are out of touch. They are, all of them, failed moral beings. None of them have any business in government. It is very painful to watch.