his 1947 book, Nuremberg Diary, the psychiatrist G.M. Gilbert reports on the
psychological development of the 21 top Nazi defendants over an eight-month
period, as they were tried for war crimes and other atrocities in 1945-1946.
Gilbert was in an ideal position to do so: he was Chief Prison Psychologist at
the Nuremberg Trial, and had unlimited access to the prisoners, who tended to
trust him more than they trusted even their own lawyers.
source of interest in the book (which makes fascinating reading) is to see how
the defendants evolved from their initial psychological state of denial (“I did
nothing wrong,” “I was only obeying orders,” “Hitler meant well but was misled
by Himmler,” “There really was a ‘Jewish Problem’ that had to be solved,” etc.)
to later states of remorse and contrition, as they realized the enormity of
what Hitler had done. Not all did so; about three months into the trial,
Gilbert characterized the 21 defendants according to their degree of
repentance. Some—Hans Frank, Albert Speer, Hjalmar Schacht, Hans Fritzsche—were
increasingly willing to denounce Hitler and accept their own responsibility for
what had happened. Others—Ernst Kaltenbrunner, Joachim von Ribbentrop, Julius
Streicher, and, in particular, Hermann Goering—were far more recalcitrant. All
four in fact went to their deaths (by suicide or hanging) stubbornly resolved
to protect the Nazi myth. For Gilbert, they presented the most compelling cases
of pathological denialism. After the massive evidence presented at the
trial—films, photographs, eyewitness accounts, diaries, official records,
confessions—how could anyone rationally deny that the Nazi regime had committed
the worst crimes in human history?
many of the defendants, looking back at their careers, came to understand that
they had been hoodwinked by Hitler’s mesmerizing personality. Hitler’s chief
architect and, in the war’s final stages, armaments minister, Albert Speer, is
a good example. “I must admit that
was weakness on my part,” he told Gilbert. “I should have and actually did realize
it sooner, but kept playing at this hypocritical game until it was too
late—well, because it was easier.” About half the defendants expressed a
similar rationale. “I should have…but I didn’t.”
And, of course, by the time they realized the jig was up, they were already on
trial for their lives in the old Nuremberg Prison.
analogy between the hardcore Nazis and Trump supporters is natural and apt. Most
of us know that Trump is a criminal and a disaster for America (just as Hitler
proved to be a disaster for Germany, which largely lay in ruins at the
conclusion of World War II). And yet, there’s that 90% of Republicans that
stands by his side, unable to see through his lies, stubbornly refusing to take
any responsibility for what has happened and what is likely to happen that will
be far worse, as Trump hunkers down for the coming fight he started.
is the prima facie example of the
psychology of hardcore Trump supporters. Throughout the Diary, Gilbert—who
spent a lot of one-on-one time with him in his cell—portrays Goering as
self-righteous, stubborn, immune to facts, glaringly defiant, and determined to
continue the fight. Goering lashed out at his co-defendants who dared criticize
Hitler. “It makes me sick to see Germans
selling their souls to the enemy!” At another point, he screams to Gilbert,
“I just wish we all had the courage to
combine our defense to three simple words: Lick my arse!” Then Goering tries
to justify his crimes. “They ask me why I
didn’t turn against him [Hitler]…the German people would never forgive me for
that…If I’ve got to die, I’d rather die as a martyr than a traitor.” It was
pride that prevented Goering from acknowledging his role in the deaths of a
hundred million people and the devastation of large tracts of Europe.
is pride, too, that prevents Trump supporters from seeing and acknowledging
their complicity in his crimes. The pride of stubbornness, of being unable to
change course even when they know the present path leads to disaster. It is
also, possibly, the hope that, someday, future generations will bless their
names (Goering predicted that “in 50
years” Germany would erect “marble monuments”
to him and the other leading Nazis). But future generations will not bless
Trump supporters, any more than Germans came to celebrate the Nazi ringleaders.
is one exception to this: the neo-nazi white nationalists active in Germany,
who continue to try and resurrect a Nazi regime. Inspired by Trump, they’re
infecting America, too, and other Western countries; New Zealand just gave
proof of that. What we can do, what we must do for our future, is convince
swing Republicans to take the Speer route, confess their errors, and reform, rather
than the Goering route of denying responsibility to the end. (Goering, by the
way, cheated the hangman: he committed suicide by swallowing a cyanide capsule
just hours before he was to be hung. Sic
This story got some media play yesterday: Trump’s threat that the angry white supremacist males with guns, who worship him and will obey his orders, will rise up and assault or kill Democrats
the current investigations continue—which, by the way, they will, in the House
of Representatives and in various Districts of the U.S. Justice Department.
a huge, ugly threat, but it’s not one anyone should take seriously. Trump is
insinuating that his hold on cops, soldiers and rightwing “bikers” is so strong that all he has to do is give them the green
light, and they’ll form themselves into battalions and march into San
Francisco, West Hollywood, midtown Manhattan, Oakland, wherever, and do what
Hitler’s brownshirts did in the early 1930s: beat the shit out of liberals.
I’m not worried and neither should anyone else be. It’s just more Trumpian bluster, to reassure the most deplorable elements in his base that he’s still with them. They’d better not show up in Oakland. Our cops and our people will rise up and tear them to pieces. But that was only one of the weird stories yesterday that shows what psychopathic reactions the Trump regime has stoked in America. Another was this one about Vice President Pence refusing to take private one-on-one meetings with females, due to some strange twist in his Christian philosophy.
Senator, Kamala Harris, in an interview rightfully called Pence out. “I think that’s ridiculous — the idea
that you would deny a professional woman the opportunity to have a meeting with
the vice president of the United States is outrageous.” Kamala was being, well, Senatorial in her politeness. I am
not so tactful. Pence is a lunatic. He believes in the literal interpretation
of the Bible, with all its death sentences for dishonoring the Sabbath and “if
a man shall lie with a man” etc. etc. There are only a few groups that are
afraid to let men mingle with women privately: the Taliban, extreme Orthodox
Jews of the type that rule Israel, and the kind of evangelical Christians whom
Pence symbolizes. Pence’s excuse—that he wants to be above suspicion and not
get accused of rape or flirtation—is insane, and proves his utter unfitness to
hold any sort of high office. He is literally crazy.
Well, there’s your modern Republican
Party: a bunch of white guys with guns running around waiting for the President
of the United States to give them the order to start killing Democrats, queers,
Muslims, Black activists, reporters and anyone else they deem “the enemy,” and
a Vice President subscribing to a medieval view of sexuality by which women are
seductive temptresses and men, horny devils that they are, cannot be allowed to
be alone with them.
I’m a supporter of the death penalty.
Tit for tat: some crimes are so awful that the only fair way of punishing the
criminal is death. But I have long recognized it’s a complicated issue, with
pros and cons on both sides; and I’ve always been willing to change my mind.
Gov. Newsom’s action strongly appeals to me. He hit the “pause” button; now,
with the issue of capital punishment temporarily off the table, we can have a
little breathing room to reconsider the issue. The Governor is taking a
terrible beating for what he did: Republicans, predictably, are bashing him for
being “pro-crime,” while even some Democrats are annoyed that Newsom seems to
have flip-flopped on the issue. And particularly those Democrats in swing
districts (which California still has a few of) now worry that their
re-election chances have been diminished.
I don’t think so. The death penalty
isn’t issue #1 for anyone in California. I think most fair-minded people are
willing to give Newsom the benefit of the doubt. He’s still in his honeymoon
phase, and is trying things out that he’s thought about for many years.
Ultimately, I don’t believe the death penalty is a deterrent. I’ve never heard
anyone testify that they would have killed someone, except that the death
penalty made them not do it. That’s stupid. And finally, I like the idea of a
society that isn’t addicted to vengeance. We can put the bad guys behind bars
for the rest of their lives. In a way, that’s even worse punishment than a
quick, easy death by injection.
seems that some Utah legislators introduced a bill that would protect “racial minorities, LGBTQ people, and
veterans” from various forms of
discrimination. That’s good: for far too long, these minorities, and others,
have suffered from discrimination, and they need the added protections that
anti-hate crime legislation brings.
But “Trump supporters” as a protected class? The background is that there’s this far-right legislator, Karianne Lisonbee, who got “Trump supporters” added to the list. She’s one of the most viciously homophobic state legislators in America. In Utah, the issue of “conversion therapy” has been a hot one, as it has across the country. That’s the fake “science” in which conservative, usually Christian psychotherapists who are against homosexuality “work with” patients to try to get them to “go straight.” The practice has been universally denounced by reputable psychologists. Many states have rightfully banned it; California did so back in 2012.
Lisonbee tried her best to keep the Utah legislature from banning conversion therapy, but she lost when the Mormon Church (which historically has been homophobic, and in fact was one of the leading funders of California’s Proposition 8), pulled a switcheroo. The Church, which has been stung by criticisms of its homophobia, actually reached a deal with LGBTQ advocates in Utah by which the Church agreed not to oppose anti-conversion therapy efforts. That infuriated Lisonbee. Turns out that her homophobia was so blatant, so insulting, so biased that many people understandably sent her emails suggesting that they disagreed with her! Well, that’s politics; if you can’t tolerate angry emails, you shouldn’t hold public office. But Lisonbee felt that she was being “attacked” simply for being a Trump supporter!!! That’s why she got “Trump supporters” added to the protected-class list. Her argument: “Is not having somebody threaten you making you a victim?”
And that’s where today’s giggle is. Consider
the ramifications of Lisonbee’s rationale. Black people, LGBTQ people,
handicapped people—the usual protected classes—are all what they are because
they were born that way (or became that way through no fault of their own).
That’s why it should be against the law to discriminate against them: they can’t
help being Black, or gay, or whatever. But was Lisonbee born a rightwing homophobe?
Obviously not. That is something she has chosen to be. She made the choice to be
hateful, to condemn millions of people to half-citizenship status, simply
because her intolerant religious beliefs have convinced her that God hates
Well, that’s her right, of course. She can believe anything she wants, no matter how dumb. But “Trump supporters” as a protected class? It is true that we’ve seen reporting, from across America, that many Trump supporters are ashamed to reveal their true feelings to their families, co-workers and friends, for fear of being vilified. But that doesn’t make them “victims” in the sense that gays who get beat up by homophobes are victims. If someone is ashamed of supporting Trump, they should look in the mirror and ask themselves why. If they’re so proud of Trump, then proclaim it from the rooftops! Convince anti-Trumpers of the correctness of your thinking! But don’t put yourself on the same level as a gay person or a Black person or (for that matter) a Muslim woman in a hijab who’s attacked on the street! That’s just plain crazy.
Which is why I’m chuckling. The upshot, in Utah, is that LGBTQ leaders, bowing to political reality, have agreed to accept Lisonbee’s “Trump supporters” addition, if it leads to protections for LGBTQ folks. Does that now mean that if I go to Utah and tell some dude wearing a MAGA hat he’s a moron, I can get arrested for a hate crime? I don’t know and I’m not about to find out; Utah is one place I doubt I’ll ever visit. But while we’re on the subject, how about adding “democratic socialists” to the protected class list? They’re as oppressed, as insulted and as demeaned (by Republicans) as “Trump supporters” are (by Democrats), so what’s good for the goose is good for the gander. Right?
“There’s an interesting
kind of restraint that you find. There’s not a lot of cursing or swearing.
There’s not a lot of personal cuts. There’s not a lot of put-downs that one
would expect to find. There’s not screenfuls of, you know, ‘Go to hell.’ It’s
was Marc Andreessen, in 1993. The inventor of the first World Wide Web browser,
Mosaic (which morphed into Netscape), Andreessen was celebrating the intramural
aspect of the Web: a convivial place for scientists to communicate with each
other. The idea was the free, fair and factual exchange of truth. No lies, no personal insults, no smears would
here we are, 26 years later, and the Internet has become a fount of vitriol and
falsehood. What happened to Andreessen’s hopes?
To answer that, you have to go back to the World Wide Web’s beginning, which is generally dated to 1989-1990, when a computer scientist, Tim Berners-Lee, who worked at CERN (the European Organization for Nuclear Research), wrote a paper of historic importance. “Information Management: A Proposal”sought to solve a persistent problem at CERN, the world’s biggest particle physics laboratory: how to keep track of the mega-amounts of information generated by thousands of employees. At the heart of Berners-Lee’s proposal was linking nodes of data (for example, CERN’s employees) with other related nodes (such as an organizational chart) through a “distributed hypertext system.” Berners-Lee defined “hypertext” as “Human-readable information linked together in an unconstrained way.”
The idea is
the basis of the science of “information
management”: with massive amounts of information flowing into a system, the
data must be organized in such a way as to make it accessible to anyone on
demand, searchable (so data would not get “lost
in hyperspace”), “live” (in the
sense of up-to-date), interactive (so that users could “add one’s own private links”) and “non-centralized” in the sense that new information systems or
nodes could become part of the Web without “any
central control or coordination.”
Berners-Lee based his approach to his new information management tool on the men and women of CERN whom he knew so well: they were smart, polite and respectful, they all were pursuing the same scientific goals to make the world a better place, they all subscribed to the same notions of truth and factualness, they all agreed on common goals and needs, and they all were willing to support a large project, if they were convinced of its rightness. It was a cooperative effort, but what Berners-Lee couldn’t and didn’t foresee was a day when non-cooperative people, who did not play by the rules of factualness and fairness, would hijack the Web.
Yesterday, Berners-Lee gave a speech in London to celebrate the Web’s thirtieth anniversary. While he praised the development of “wonderful things” like Wikipedia and blogs, he also conceded that some “nasty things” have occurred on the Web that “I couldn’t have predicted.” It was a case of “What could go wrong?”
“Well, looking back, all kinds of things have gone wrong,” Berners-Lee lamented last Fall, when he announced a new project, a sort of New Deal for the Web, to make it “more communicative, more peaceful and more constructive.” Among the problems Berners-Lee referenced were “fake news, problems with privacy, abuse of personal data, and the way people can be profiled and then manipulated.” He ended with an anodyne plea: “Everybody is responsible going forward for making the web a better web in different ways.”
If I were Tim Berners-Lee (now Sir Tim), I wouldn’t hold my breath. The horses are out of the barn: the civility and “restraint” Andreessen hoped for 26 years ago have almost completely disappeared, replaced by the “Go to hell…put-downs.” And there are villains to blame: the Web’s lack of “centralized control” ensures that there are no adults in the room to admonish bad behavior. Meanwhile, the Web’s very openness, unconstrainedness and accessibility means that any bad player can participate, not just people who are committed to truth and impartiality, but those who choose to act with recklessness and malice. We see, in places like Breitbart and with Donald Trump’s tweets, the very opposite of what Andreessen hoped for: “cursing and swearing,” “personal cuts,” a wholesale disregard of truth and standards of decency. Andreessen, Tim Berners-Lee, and other pioneers of the Internet could not possibly have conceived such treachery as the Republican Party, the Russian government, and other bad actors have unleashed. And it’s probably too late to do anything about it now.
left herself an out: “…unless there’s
something so compelling and overwhelming and bipartisan,” she’s against Impeachment now. Well, we don’t know what the
evidence is. We don’t know what Mueller is going to say. We don’t know what the
Southern District of New York is going to say. They may well find evidence that
Trump has committed “compelling and
Certainly most Democrats believe he has. Less than a month ago, a respectable poll found that 53% of Dems think Congress should Impeach Trump, a percentage that grew 14 points just since the start of the new year. The Catch-22 in Pelosi’s phrasing, however, is that pesky word, “bipartisan.” She’s insisting she won’t put Impeachment into play unless her reading of House Republicans is that at least a good portion of them would support it. But the same poll showed that support for Impeachment among Republicans is actually falling, with only 8% on favor. In other words, there ain’t gonna be any “bipartisanship” in the House of Representatives, which means there ain’t gonna be any Impeachment. Unless the Moon falls into the sea, Democrats can give up that dream right now.
Which, frankly, is pissing a lot of
us off. We’ve put our hearts, minds and energies into resisting this disastrous
president for more than two years. We’ve heard the evidence of what looks like
rampant collusion: the Trump Tower meeting, the Wikileaks connections, the
perjury and lies, the Moscow Hotel deal, Jared Kushner’s suspicious maneuverings,
Trump’s firing of Comey—on and on and on. In fact, I’m stunned that only 53% of
Democrats want to move forward aggressively on Impeachment. Why not 100%? What
the hell more do they need? Maybe when Trump pardons Manafort, they’ll grow
My tendency is to trust Pelosi.
After all, we’ve celebrated her as the smartest politician in Washington,
especially after she engineered the Blue Wave in the 2016 elections. She’s old,
but canny as an alley cat; she knows how to get things done in the Congress
better than anyone else. So maybe there’s something she knows that we don’t.
Republicans, naturally, will take Pelosi’s words to boast, “See? We told you all along there was no Russia collusion. Even Pelosi
knows it, which is why she made that statement.” Trump hadn’t tweeted
anything like that at the time I wrote this, which is odd; I had thought he’d
be all over it like fleas on a mangy dog. Maybe Huckabee Sanders or Kellyanne
is out there, peddling that line, and I just happened to miss it. Maybe Trump
will tweet something about it tonight. We’ll see.
Still, that will be the interpretation at Fox “News” and on the rightwing talk radio shows and conservative papers like the Wall Street Journal. Which makes it all the more unfortunate that Pelosi made her statement at this particular time. Why now? One possible interpretation is that she knows Mueller is about to release his Report imminently, and that it will not, repeat not contain impeachable charges. So she’s trying to inoculate Congressional Democrats from the fallout. If the Report comes out sans impeachable charges, Republicans will demand that Democrats denounce Impeachment immediately—to which they can reply, “But we already did. See Speaker Pelosi’s statement.” Admittedly, that’s a pretty lame response—but the truth is, Pelosi just handed Trump a great, big, fat, juicy cheeseburger—and his birthday isn’t until June 14.
So I’m in some bewilderment. The
news cycle over the next few days may shed some light on the situation. Or it
may not. Either way—and it pains me to say this—Trump has been having a good
week. And Pelosi just made it better. He can run with the “No collusion!”
mantra right through the 2020 election, and a lot of Americans will think to
themselves, “You know what? He’s right.
He may be a really bad man, but he hasn’t done such a bad job as president, and
those Democrats really persecuted him.” That kind of thinking may just get
Our new Governor here in California, Gavin Newsom, has found himself on the receiving end of Trump’s barbs lately, which is surely a sign that Trump fears him. Just over the weekend, Trump called Newsom “grandstanding,” which he meant as an insult, I suppose, although it’s not at all clear just how he thinks the Governor has earned that epithet. It’s true that Newsom has taken to Twitter with the same ferocity as has Trump; the Governor posts numerous times each day. But there’s a big difference between Newsom’s and Trump’s tweets. Newsom keeps his strictly to policy issues. He doesn’t insult, or brag, or lie, or accuse, or smear. He has certain well-known priorities, such as climate change, human rights (including women’s rights and gay and trans rights), sensible gun control, and fairness in immigration policy, that he believes passionately in, and for which the people of California elected him. He uses Twitter effectively to spotlight those issues and to frame his approaches to them. But there’s no negativity, no archness or sarcasm, as there is with almost everything Trump tweets. Instead of Trumpian Sturm und Drang, you get the well-considered political philosophy of an intelligent, stable leader.
So why is Trump needling Newsom, who isn’t even running for President? Couple reasons. For one, Trump just likes picking fights. It makes him feel alive and vital; for a man whose inner life is fundamentally sterile, it lights a spark within him. For another, Newsom is a Democrat, and hasn’t shied away from directly criticizing Trump, particularly on the Wall.
must gall Trump that the governor of the richest, most populous state in the
nation, with a big border with Mexico, has called out Trump’s Wall as useless
and pointless, has described Trump’s “national emergency” as fake, and is
working with California’s Attorney-General to sue Trump over the “emergency.” We
know that Trump doesn’t like to be disagreed with, by anyone, but when the
sitting governor of California is the disagreer, it drives Trump up the wall.
It must be really hard to be Donald Trump and to feel you have to be gladiatorial all the time. Trump is president, true, but he’s also just a person, and most people like to think they get along with others. We all have people who rub us the wrong way, but generally we try to avoid them, and to keep from getting into overt fights with them. Not Trump. He hates a lot of people, not necessarily because he even knows them, but because somehow, they threaten something important to him. Leading such a pugnacious life has got to be tedious. I think of our greatest presidents—Lincoln, Washington, FDR, Teddy Roosevelt, JFK, Obama, even Ronald Reagan—and they were all people who had a fundamental affection for other human beings. They were social creatures, comfortable in their own skins, enjoying social interactions, with many friends—kind, peaceful men, instinctively gregarious, quick to laughter. That doesn’t describe Trump. Does he have any friends? We know almost nothing of his private life. Does he hang out with anyone? Even Nixon had Bebe Rebozo! JFK, the model of a modern president, had friends to spare. We’ve read how he loved to share a drink and a cigar with them, to laugh and relax and play touch football. We know that Reagan too loved to share a cocktail or glass of wine when the workday was over, even with his political “enemies” such as Tip O’Neill. FDR famously would invite his friends to his living quarters in the White House during the evening and mix up his own martinis. Obama had a circle of buddies to play basketball with. These were nice men, happy, psychologically secure, who loved and wanted to be loved. They were normal.
is not normal. Even his fans know that. They know that there’s something deeply
twisted in his makeup. I doubt that his most ardent supporter thinks he or she
could relax with Trump, or that Trump could relax with him or her, should they
find themselves alone together. What must it be like to always be on guard,
always looking for the next enemy, the next insult, the next threat, the next
attack? What a horrible way to live.
been with Governor Newsom. He laughs easily, including at himself. He listens
carefully, with the attentiveness of someone who cares about the thoughts and
feelings of the person he’s with. He genuinely cares about the welfare and
happiness of those who are less well off than most: the immigrant, the outcast,
the victim. Does anyone sincerely believe that Trump cares about anyone except
himself and his family?
do a lot of talking about the virtues of caring and compassion, even as I know
that I’m not the nicest person in the world. That’s why I look for politicians
to set examples of decency in the world, to express our better angels: I want
them, who have so much power, to do God’s work, in all the ways in which I
cannot. I want them to do better than I can. That’s why I’m a liberal and a
Democrat. Democrats don’t always do the right thing, but they tend toward
rightness, in the way Dr. King said the moral arc of the universe bends toward
justice. That’s all we Democrats ask: Let America bend toward justice, even if
it often fails to realize it. With Donald Trump, the moral arc bends toward
disintegration, anarchy, vengeance. It bends toward the end of morality. That
is what the Republican Party now stands for.
As a Jew I have no problem with what Rep. Ilhan Omar said. We have never reached the point in this country where it’s impermissible to criticize the policy of an Ally. The closest we ever came was during World War II, when the Soviet Union became our unlikely partner in the struggle against Nazi Germany, and Americans tactically decided to demur in their denunciation of Communism, at least for the duration of the war. We largely did; but criticism of the Soviet system (the gulags, collective farms, one-party system, absence of civil liberties, etc.) never entirely abated; and if someone did manage a criticism, he was not denounced in the way Republicans (and a few Democrats) are excoriating Omar.
myself have frequently criticized Israel, Likud and Netayahu for their racism,
and for making a settlement regarding the Occupied Territories impossible. That
doesn’t make me anti-Semitic! Nor does it make me anti-Israel. Anti-Semitism,
in fact, is almost exclusively found in the U.S. on the Republican right, among
the neo-nazis and white supremacist “Christians” who constitute Trump’s base.
Which makes Republican accusations against Omar all the more grotesque.
Well, grotesque is what we’ve come to expect from the Party of Trump, and they never let us down. Now the Democratic House, and Pelosi in particular, are in something of a pickle. Jews have been a reliable Democratic constituency, for obvious reasons, but the Trump regime has worked diligently to peel some Jews off into the Republican camp; and this Omar business will perhaps help them a bit. Most American Jews support Israel in a kind of intellectual, token way. It’s nice that there’s a Jewish homeland after the atrocities Hitler committed against Europe’s Jews. It’s nice that Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East. It’s nice that there’s a place for American Jews to visit that feels like home. At the same time, most American Jews (and I feel confident saying this, even though it’s only anecdotal) disagree with Likud’s approach to the Occupied Territories. We feel that the Settlements are a real poke in the eye to Palestinians. We know (although we may not like to admit it) that virulent racism against Arabs and Muslims is widespread among Israel’s Jews. We believe that Netayahu has allied himself with the most profoundly racist, fascist elements within Israel; the ultra-Orthodox, ultra-nationalist parties Likud partners with to maintain its majority are Israel’s equivalent of the Franklin Graham-Ralph Reed Christian fascists in America. It’s important to call these facts out, and that’s what Omar did.
may have been clumsy about it. As Speaker Pelosi noted, Omar may not have
realized how her words would be interpreted, or used against her by
Republicans. If so, this has been a valuable lesson for Rep. Omar. The word “allegiance”
was intemperately selected. But we shouldn’t let that obscure her real meaning:
that Israel, under its current regime, is doing bad things.
an old slogan I remember hearing as a kid: “My country right or wrong, but
still my country.” It meant that America might occasionally do some really
stupid stuff (like interning Japanese-Americans), but that we still were
required to love our country and never desert it. This may be the case; but I
don’t think anyone is twisting the slogan to mean, “My country’s allies right
or wrong, but still my country’s allies.” Allies can have healthy
disagreements. When Obama was president, everybody knew that he was sympathetic
to the Palestinians; that for all the stupid stuff they’ve done (and there’s been
plenty), they at least have a strong case for a national homeland that includes
the Occupied Territories. That sympathy got Obama in heaps of trouble with
Netayahu, and with rightwing Republicans. It’s important also to realize that
these rightwing Republicans, who frequently are evangelical and pentecostal,
have no inherent love for Jews. No, their allegiance—above and beyond the
Constitution—is to their Christian God and Jesus Christ. The only reason they
support Israel is because, in their reading of certain Biblical passages,
Israel must exist before Jesus can revisit Earth in a Second Coming, which would
lead to the Rapture which they all await. When that happens, I assure you,
Christians will demand that Jews instantly renounce their faith and convert to
Christianity, or be consigned to the fires of Hell.
So I say to my fellow Jews, don’t be misled by Republican attempts to fool you. You do not want these people to have any more power than they already hold. Trust the liberalism that always has inspired Judaism, the same liberalism that inspired FDR, JFK, and the Civil Rights movement. We know what it’s like to be hated, discriminated against, shut out and spat upon. We cannot do that to others. Israel must get along with their Muslim neighbors, and the only way is to give Palestinians a country, and then to hold that country accountable to the highest standards of behavior. We have no reason to think that Palestinians are incapable of that. It’s Republicans in our own country that are unable to behave civilly.
David Brooks is the New York Times’ token “conservative” columnist. He’s not a hardcore rightwinger, and he’s not 100% behind Trump in everything. But Brooks is, ultimately, a Republican, which means his overriding motivation, when he writes a column, is to undermine Democrats. That’s exactly what he did the other day, in a piece so misleading, the Times really should not have run it.
The column was about “Medicare For All,” the proposal to extend America’s successful Medicare program to everybody, not just people 65 and older. Medicare For All has been embraced by just about every Democratic politician, from our California Governor, Gavin Newsom, to of course presidential candidates including Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris and Bernie Sanders. There’s no precise meaning to the phrase, but still, the concept is enormously popular among the American people: a year ago, a Reuters-Ipsos poll reported that Medicare For All was supported by an overwhelming 70% of Americans.
More recently, however, Republicans have made much of the fact that another respected poll, from Hill-HarrisX, found that only 13% support universal coverage (which Medicare For All would accomplish). Did the idea suddenly run out of steam? No. What Republicans didn’t tell you was that this was only if “universal healthcare” means private health insurance was completely eliminated, leaving Medicare For All the only option available. In fact, the Hill-HarrisX poll also presented other options: universal coverage with a private supplement had 32% approval, while universal coverage with a private opt-out had 26% support. In other words, universal coverage, in some form or other, had the approval of 71% of the American people, while only a puny 29% were opposed to it in any form.
David Brooks argues that, while Medicare For All sounds good on paper, “the trick is in the transition” from the current welter of systems into whatever will replace it. He paints what is certainly an overly-gloomy picture, and a misleading one, of what that transition would look like. “[P]ublic health care would destroy this [insurance] industry, and those people would have to find other work,” he laments, as if it were the duty of the American people to keep the medical insurance industry alive and profitable. I don’t feel that way; do you? Hospitals, he warns, would close. (No proof of that is offered.) Doctors, he threatens, would suffer (again, offering no proof), while “Similar shocks would ripple to other health care workers.” Again, no proof, not even a logical argument. Brooks’ final scaremongering is that patients would find themselves waiting endlessly for doctor appointments—again, no evidence to point towards that conclusion.
of Brooks’ scare tactics has been a healthcare industry P.R. device for
decades. Whenever any change was proposed to the exclusively-private nature of
healthcare provision, the hospital-Big Pharma-insurance industry cartel has
launched a massive advertising campaign to scare Americans out of their wits; and
the Republican Party has cooperated in that scare campaign to mislead the
American people. Now, they’re at it again, using so-called moderate
Republicans, like Brooks, to carry their water.
No doubt that a complete transition from our current patchwork system to one of 100% universal healthcare, run by the government, cannot be done overnight. Nor is anyone proposing that it can. What Democrats are proposing is simply to make the current system better, more efficient and inclusive, and cheaper. Why Republicans should stand in opposition to such sensible goals is understandable only when you consider that (a) Republicans in the Congress have a gold-standard health insurance program, one that is far better than almost anyone else has, and they don’t care about anyone else; and (b) they know that if they stand in solidarity with the healthcare cartel, they’ll be able to get more campaign contributions from it, and also to get lucrative lobbying jobs when their constituents finally throw them out of office. Americans should not be deceived by Republican opposition to better healthcare coverage. As with most Republican positions, it’s not good for most people.
Trumpy. He’s so upset about the Witch Hunt, I could almost feel sorry for him.
Except that I don’t, because he’s brought this upon himself.
a question I’ve never heard the press ask him (much less a question he’s ever
asked himself): “Mr. President, why do you think so many Americans hate you?”
would no doubt answer with his usual lies. “That’s Fake News. Americans don’t
hate me. They love me. My polls are higher than any other president. Everywhere
I go, I get the biggest crowds in history. I could easily win re-election right
now. The only people who don’t like me are the elite, terrorist-loving,
atheistic socialists in un-American places like San Francisco—places that are
reviled by the vast majority of patriotic Americans.”
that’s what he does with all uncomfortable questions: he dodges and lies and
shifts the blame. But really, I wish the press would ask him that question,
over and over: “Why do so many people hate you?” Hallie Jackson, Jim Acosta,
Major Garrett, Cecilia Vega, Maggie Haberman, Philip Rucker, Jonathan Lemire—do
Trump can never admit it, because he’s a sociopath, but he’s alienated tens, maybe hundreds of millions of Americans, and he has no one to blame but himself. Not Hillary Clinton. Not the elite media. Not socialists or liberals or Democrats, not Muslims, not Mexicans, not Planned Parenthood, not AOC or Elizabeth Warren. He’s the most divisive president in American history, by far, and he doesn’t even pretend otherwise. In fact, the more cornered he gets, the more hateful he becomes. That Fidel Castro-style rant he gave the other day at CPAC showed how unhinged he is. The epithet-laced screed, complete with flag-hugging, should go down in history as one of the weirdest, scariest presidential moments ever, but it probably will be eclipsed by even weirder, scarier ones to come. We’re well into the second season of the Donald Trump T.V. show, and Trump needs to jump bigger sharks in order to keep viewers entertained and the ratings high.
scuttlebutt on Mueller now is that it will be an ambiguous report, in which
both sides will claim vindication. We’ll see. My opinion, which has been
consistent, is that we have no idea what Mueller knows or is about to do. But
we’ve all known for at least a year that Trump’s real problem may be, not
Mueller, but the Southern District of New York, where, to judge from what I’m
hearing, they’re building up a racketeering case, the same sort that Giuliani
used to prosecute Mafia figures when he ran the SDNY. Talk about irony!
though he can’t admit to himself or anyone else that the reason he’s loathed is
because he’s a pig, Trump’s feelings get hurt. He experiences pain. He doesn’t
know why so many of us think he’s disgusting, but he knows we do, and it makes
him feel bad, as it would make any of us feel bad. His solution? It’s not to
have a heart-to-heart with the American people and candidly admit his misdeeds.
It’s not to apologize to all the people he’s hurt. No, it’s to make us feel
sorry for him! The remarks that Lindsay Graham leaked to the media yesterday
were designed to play on the public’s sympathy. “He believes they [Democrats] are taking a wrecking ball to
his life,” Graham said of Trump’s remarks to
Well, boo hoo. This will work with
the Hannitys and Tucker Carlsons of the world. Poor Donald Trump! He never hurt
anybody, never did anything wrong, has led an exemplary life, great family man,
plays by the rules, pays his taxes, and what does he get for it? A wrecking
ball from Democrats. This is the Republicans’ next line of defense. It won’t
work, of course, just as none of their previous stunts have worked. Trump has
been the ultimate wrecking ball in American culture and politics. He has
trashed, insulted, smeared, and violently wrecked countless people who got in
his way. Apparently he thought the wrecking ball went only in one direction.
Now he is learning, to his distress, that the inexorable laws of physics swing
the wrecking ball back towards his face. Let it hit, let it hit, let it hit and
inflict maximum pain.
days before Christmas, 1943, Galeazzo Ciano sat in a jail cell in Verona,
Italy, awaiting execution. A prisoner of the Nazis, his was a potent example of
“the bigger they are, the harder they fall”: Ciano had been Italy’s Foreign
Minister for seven years, and was moreover Benito Mussolini’s son-in-law. As
victory for the Axis slipped inexorably away, the Nazis and fascist Italy
required scapegoats. Ciano, an ardent anti-Nazi, was conveniently sacrificed.
He had kept a Diary for many years; now, on Dec. 23, he made his Final Entry. With defeat in the war inevitable, and his own life now measured in days (he was shot on Jan. 11), it was only natural for Ciano to look back retrospectively and consider the route by which he, and Italy and Germany, had come to such a catastrophic end. At the center of his speculations, naturally, was the man he blamed for everything: the Fuhrer of Nazi Germany, Adolf Hitler.
had tried, even before the outbreak of World War II in September, 1939, to
convince Hitler and Germany’s Foreign Minister, Ribbentrop, not to allow war.
It was a war, Ciano felt in his heart, the Axis could not win, and that would
destroy European civilization. Ciano recounts a conversation he had with
Ribbentrop just a month before war broke out.
“’Well, Ribbentrop,’ I
asked, ‘what do you want? The Corridor or Danzig?’”
“’Not that any more,’”
he said, gazing at me with his cold, metallic eyes. ‘We want war!’”
is what they got. In remembering all this in the cold afterlight, Ciano
reflected on the personality of Hitler, and how he had persuaded the richest,
best-educated and most powerful nation in Europe, Germany, to adhere to his
every wish. “The madness of the Chief had
become the religion of his followers.”
“The madness of the
and psychologists will long continue to try to understand Hitler’s rise and iron
grip on the German people. There may never be a satisfactory explanation. Probably
there were as many explanations as there were Germans in 1939: 70 million; and
probably many of those felt differently, at different moments in time.
Therefore, the “explanation,” such as it is, can at best be only general in
nature. So it is in America today, with regard to Donald J. Trump and his
That Trump is “mad” in a formal sense is hard to deny. (See my post from yesterday on Trump’s sociopathy.) His madness expresses itself in the same ways Hitler’s did: rage, vengeance, resentment, narcissism, megalomania. “The religion of his followers” is far more inexplicable. For followers to take up a new religion (which Trumpism is), something drastic has to have happened to them. In Germany’s case, it was a combination of factors: they had lost the First World War (a war they fully expected to win, and were told by their leaders they would win). They had suffered terribly during the Depression. They felt that all the other powers in Europe (especially Britain and France) hated them, for no good reason; this sense of being misunderstood reached an acute crisis when Hitler became Chancellor, in the winter of 1933, by appealing to Germans’ sense of grievance, and promising to relieve it.
The parallels between Hitler’s base and Trump’s are too stark to ignore. Trump’s supporters, like Hitler’s, feel they lost their war—in this case, not a physical war with another country, but a cultural war, based on a warped sense of Christian, “traditional” virtues. They live in an America in which abortion is legal and gay people can be married, and in which, moreover, white people like them are increasingly displaced by people of color. Their economic opportunities, like those of the Germans, are slipping away. Thus their sense of grievance. As Hitler became Germany’s leader against this backdrop in 1933, so did Trump become America’s leader in 2016/2017. He did this by appealing to his followers’ resentments and humiliation, and by promising to do something about it. And, in the same way Hitler’s followers believed him, and marched off the cliff with him, so have Trump’s followers believed him.
so we get the new American religion: Trumpism. It’s not a real religion, of
course, any more than Hitlerism was a real religion. Both movements are more
accurately described as cults: Jim Jones’s Peoples Temple in Guyana is an apt
example. But when does a cult become a religion? Christianity began as a cult,
and a small one at that. So did Islam, and so did Judaism. When a cult gets big
enough to organize itself through permanent institutions that outlive the
Founder, it becomes a religion.
Trumpism is not yet a religion. But it is a proto-religion, a religion-in-the-making. Trump will not live much longer (the actuarial tables are against him), but we know that his children, Donald Jr. and Ivanka, already have talked about succeeding him, in much the same way Trump’s BFF, Kim Jong Un, succeeded his father, who had succeeded his father, as the Dear Leader of North Korea. The Kim family has established a proto-religion that someday might become a full-fledged religion. The Trump family looks approvingly and longingly at the Kim model in North Korea (and at the House of Saud in Saudi Arabia) and wonders why the House of Trump should not become exactly the same thing in America. History, which is amoral, allows for that to happen. Only the will of the American people can prevent Trumpism from becoming a religion, but first we must crush it.