The latest school massacre, in Texas, brings new prominence to the Parkland students and their many allies across the country, who may have faded from the headlines a little bit, but who continue to work away at registering younger voters and bringing home their central message: Anyone who accepts even a penny from the National Rifle Association is going down to defeat.
We’ll have to wait until November to see if these brave, brilliant young people can deliver, but in the meanwhile the N.R.A. is running scared. They have now made the astounding decision to accuse the media of being responsible for the school shootings!!! Their latest video claims that “the psychotropic drug laced, suicidal mass shooters [are] a creation of our so-called progressive culture and media.” The commentator is an N.R.A. tool named Colion Noir, a Black man (born Collins Iyare Idehen); he recalled his first experience with firing a semi-automatic pistol this way: “The first shot was terrifying. The second shot—I fell in love.” That was before he taunted the Parkland survivors, in the cruel, sadistic way we’ve come to expect from ammosexuals.
Well, good for Collins/Colion; he’s found himself a nifty little gig and is making money off his rightwing 15 minutes of fame. But I don’t see how the N.R.A. is going to weasel itself out of this Texas carnage: the police chief of Houston just blasted “elected officials that ran to the cameras today, acted in a solemn manner, called for prayers, and will once again do absolutely nothing,” and even the far-right governor of Texas, Greg Abbot, who urged Texans “to take action to make sure this tragedy is never repeated ever again,” is demanding “swift solutions,” including various forms of gun control and background checks.
Clearly the reaction against cowardly politicians beholden to the gun industry is mounting, but the N.R.A. has proved bullet-proof in the past, and will try again to ride this one out. One can only wish the Parkland students and their friends all the best, and hope and pray that these politicians, like Gov. Abbot, follow through on their vows. If they don’t, I know that the students, bless them, will call them out.
Meanwhile, the obfuscation and obstruction of justice practiced by this Trump regime also mount, reaching new heights of absurdity. After each of the lies of the past (“Obama wiretapped Trump Tower!”) collapsed under the weight of its untruth, Trump always comes up with a new one. Now it’s this: The F.B.I. inserted a “spy” into his campaign! So desperate are Trump’s Republican apologists that they are now rushing onto every news program they can, to tell the American public, in essence, “Forget about the Russia witch hunt, there’s nothing there, believe us; instead, focus on this spy that Obama sneaked into our campaign, and on the F.B.I.’s subversive, partisan criminal activity.”
It’s absolute rubbish. Even the Republican spokespeople have got to know it. But it’s all they have. They’re throwing spaghetti at the walls, to see what, if anything, sticks. I don’t think anything will, but my crystal ball is no clearer than yours. I do, however, know this: Mueller goes about his job relentlessly and tranquilly, undistracted by outside chatter. Jeff Sessions, for all his many faults, also seems to be sticking to his knitting, defending his Justice Department and the F.B.I. and not allowing the agitators and collaborators in the administration to derail the investigation. How much longer Sessions can take the pressure—and whether he knuckles under to Trump, or is fired, or quits—remains to be seen. But there is no question that Trump is losing it. Rogue, alone, unstable, unable to have sex with the porn stars he favors (and therefore horny and frustrated), at the mercy of his rage, he watches television all day and all night, stalking Twitter in fury, lashing out at anything and everyone whom he deems his enemy—which is pretty much everybody in Washington and the media who do not carry his water.
It’s not a pretty situation to see the President of the United States losing his mind so publicly, and posing such imminent dangers to the republic. I have a feeling this pot is going to boil over sooner rather than later, but make no mistake, this man, Trump, will not go down without a huge fight. So get ready, be prepared, stay calm and know that this fight is worth having.
Education always has been central to the idea of America. Or first President, George Washington, said, “The best means of forming a manly, virtuous, and happy people will be found in the right education of youth.” Republicans, no less than Democrats, have stressed the virtues of education. “We’ll never be able to compete in the 21st century,” warned George W. Bush, “unless we have an education system that doesn’t quit on children.” The President Republicans love the most, Ronald Reagan, who could turn a phrase, noted, “Education is not the means of showing people how to get what they want. Education is an exercise by means of which enough men, it is hoped, will learn to want what is worth having.”
Every schoolchild knows the story of how Abe Lincoln walked many miles to school. Herbert Hoover overcame his natural tendency for under-achievement by studying hard and getting admitted to Stanford. Richard Nixon, born poor, finished second in his high school class, and became President of the U.S. The central message of American exceptionalism, it seems, has always pivoted on a solid foundation of education: the more, the better.
Until now. The Republican Party has made the deliberate decision to appeal to the most uneducated segment of America. A recent article in the Atlantic, quoting statistics from Nate Silver, at 538.com, stated: “The 50 most educated counties in the nation surged to [Hillary] Clinton. In 2012, Obama had won them by a mere 17 percentage points; Clinton took them by 26 points. The 50 least educated counties moved in the opposite direction; whereas Obama had lost them by 19 points, Clinton lost them by 31. Majority-minority counties split the same way: The more educated moved toward Clinton, and the less educated toward Trump.”
We all should be appalled by this. The less educated that people are, the more likely they were to vote for Donald Trump. The more education they are, the more likely they were to vote for Hillary Clinton.
Now, I’m not saying that uneducated people are stupid or dumb. But they are, by definition, ignorant. And, as Dr. King observed, “Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance…”. An ignorant person is at greatest risk of making the world a worse place: as the philosopher George Santayana observed, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” We do not want to repeat the mistakes of the past: the slavery of Blacks, the near-slavery of women, violent repression of gay people, child labor, sweatshops, polluted rivers and air, back-alley abortions, rule by plutocrats, anti-Catholic sentiment, unnecessary wars.
Donald Trump tells his rural, white Protestant voters that the “facts” presented by Democrats are “fake” and “lies.” Let me quote another great writer, Aldous Huxley: “Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.” As another American President, John Adams, said, “Facts are stubborn things.” It is a fact that Obama was born in Hawaii. It is a fact that Trump’s inauguration crowd was rather small. Republicans may wish these facts, and countless others concerning Trump, to go away, but they will not.
Among the facts that will not go away are all the things Donald Trump did to get elected, especially his collaboration with Russia and later attempts to obstruct Mueller’s investigation. These are indeed “stubborn things,” the kind that prosecutors fasten on, and juries listen to. I do not know if a sitting President can be indicted (as Giuliani claims). We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. But I do know that things are not looking good for Trump, in the sense of his liability in this case. We’re not talking about minor crimes, like jaywalking; we’re talking about major, massive criminal activity to influence our 2016 election on behalf of a hostile power, and subsequent attempts to thwart justice by trying to obstruct Mueller.
Educated people—those whose cognitive skills enable them to see through manipulations of facts—are willing to wait until Mueller has completed his investigation. They—we—want to read his report, listen to his arguments, and then decide where to go next. Uneducated people—in the most ignorant counties that voted for Trump—don’t want to hear new facts. Perhaps they don’t know how to interpret them. They’ve already discounted old facts; sadly, they’ve discounted the importance of facts themselves. They’ve chosen which side they’re on, and facts be damned. It’s a helluva situation we find ourselves in. The Republican Presidents I cited—Hoover, George W. Bush, Abraham Lincoln, Ronald Reagan—would be horrified by this current administration, but the funny, sick thing is that, were Reagan still living and saying the kinds of things that Rex Tillerson said yesterday (warning that some leaders are seeking to conceal the truth), they would be denounced on Fox “News” as RINOS—Republican in Name Only. This is how political parties die, or commit suicide.
Dear Diary: He fell for it! Yes, that idiot, Trump, took the bait, swallowed it—just as I thought–and now I’ve landed him! Embarrassed him personally, made him the laughing stock of the whole world!
My friend,President Xi, called me last night. “President Kim, we had a meeting of the State Council today, and we were all cracking up! How did you do it? That talk about a Nobel is hysterical.”
“Thank you, President Xi. Actually, I did nothing but set the trap. Trump himself stepped into it.”
“Brilliant! His ego is so large that he gave you the perfect opportunity to make him look like a fool. He thinks he’s going to win a Nobel? Hahaha! But what I don’t understand is why he thought you would denuclearize. Doesn’t he read history?”
“Apparently not, President Xi, and neither do the morons he surrounds himself with. That Pompeo is a work of art. What an ass! What we in the Democratic People’s Republic call ‘a mule with the brain of a fart.’ All he wanted was to be photographed smiling and shaking my hand. We were all giggling behind his back and calling him ‘Secretary Mike Pompous.’”
“Haha, President Kim. When I heard Trump talking about winning the Nobel Prize, I almost wet my pants.”
“He wants it so bad. Such a braggart, such low self-esteem. But you know, we couldn’t have done it without President Moon, in South Korea. It was his idea to nominate Trump.”
“Did you have your hand in that, too, President Kim?”
“Kind of, President Xi. We spoke about it over our security hot line and I remember when Moon mentioned it, I thought it was a bad idea, and told him so.”
“What did Moon reply?”
“He corrected me by explaining that, as arrogant and egotistical as Trump is, he would undoubtedly make a big deal about winning a Nobel.”
“But why would Trump think you would give up your nukes? That’s what I don’t get.”
“I can only interpret it as his inability to think clearly, President Xi. That’s the funny thing: I sort of hinted that we would, but I never thought he would go public and say we would. When he did, he stepped in it! But you’ve met him. What do you think of his intellect?”
“Non-existent, President Kim. He is what we Chinese call ‘Dog Breath After Lick Dick.’ Full of shit. I’ve never met a world leader more susceptible to flattery than Trump, or more uninformed. He literally doesn’t know when he’s being outfoxed.”
“It’s hysterical, Mister President, isn’t it, how he thinks he’s smarter than anyone else, when he’s a complete idiot. And so vulgar. When he met my sister, he kissed her cheek—I mean, literally. She told me later he left spit on her face. She was appalled.”
“How the Americans managed to come up with him, I’ll never understand. Especially after Obama. Such an intelligent, dignified man—and now Trump. It must have been the Russians manipulating their election. Putin told me that Trump is the stupidest man he’s ever met.”
“Tell me, President Xi, does President Putin really have something ‘on’ Trump?”
“He wouldn’t tell me, President Kim. But he did say that Trump had done some very dumb things in Moscow that could embarrass him, if they came out.”
“Ah so! Then the urination stories are true!”
“Who knows, President Kim, who knows? But tell me, what did you think of his wife, Melania?”
“A very beautiful woman, President Xi. Charming. But then, she is not American. I had the feeling, though, that she doesn’t particularly like her husband.”
“Yes, President Kim, I had the same feeling. Anyway, Mister President, well played! You have made the President of the United States a laughingstock.”
Anyhow, Dear Diary, toying with Trump has been fun. I may or may not go ahead with the Summit—I haven’t made up my mind. But either way, Trump has learned his lesson: don’t fuck with me. He’s out of his league. It’s a pity that, while the rest of the world knows that, the Americans do not. They have got themselves a leader they deserve!
Yesterday, in remarks to the Security Council about Monday’s mass protests and deaths along the Gaza-Israel border, U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley told many, many lies, but her biggest whopper was when she claimed that “a majority of Americans” support moving Israel’s capital from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and the opening of a U.S. embassy there.
It might have been true seven years ago, when a poll found that 54% of Americans agreed with the statement: “Jerusalem is – and always will be – the capital of Israel – and they have every right to build housing in their nation’s capital.”
But it’s not true today, not by a long shot. Last December, “A [CNN] poll…indicated that fewer than half of Americans support US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, with an even smaller number supporting moving the US embassy to the city from Tel Aviv.” Even among American Jews, there’s no great sentiment in favor of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Last year, the American Jewish Congress, a liberal Jewish organization that lobbies for Jewish and Israeli rights, released a survey in which only 16% of American Jews favored the immediate move of the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, with 44% solidly against it. True, more than one-third of the respondents were unsure, or in favor of moving the embassy “at a later date,” but only “in conjunction with progress in Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.” Clearly, Trump’s one-man decision to move the embassy was not in conjunction with such talks, which is exactly what prompted the Gaza riots and massacre.
Why are fewer and fewer Americans in favor of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and moving our embassy there? Historians will debate the causes, but clearly, Haley either was misinformed about American public opinion when she made her statement, or she lied.
Haley is a member of an administration that is the most pro-Israel ever, but there’s one thing that has to be kept in mind, if we’re to understand what’s going on vis a vis the Trump administration and the Israeli regime of Benjamin Netanyahu: both Trump’s Republican Party and Netanyahu’s Likud Party are captives of psychopathic religious extremists: evangelical Christians, in the case of Republicans, and ultra-orthodox Jews, in the case of Likud.
These two groups, evangelicals and ultra-orthodox Jews, have fashioned a very strange marriage of convenience: although they are diametrically opposed in their core beliefs, both have temporarily decided to become strange bedfellows in strongly supporting the State of Israel, and making Jerusalem its capital, and moving the U.S. embassy there. Both groups are using each other. Orthodox Jews understand that the evangelicals would forcibly convert them if they could; evangelicals understand that Jews think they’re insane for believing in stuff like the Virgin birth, the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and that God could possibly have a “son.”
But evangelicals think that their Messiah, Jesus, cannot return until Israel is reunited and its capital is in Jerusalem, and Orthodox Jews think that their Messiah hasn’t yet come to earth; and since neither of these things has yet occurred (and never will), this gives both plenty of time to work together before events force their hands. The two sides, therefore, have formed an alliance that has effectively seized control of the governments of both Israel and the U.S.
Evangelicals and ultra-orthodox Jews are insane, in the sense that they are delusional; in fact “delusional disorder,” which used to be called “paranoid disorder,” is their main diagnosis: “a type of serious mental illness called a ‘psychosis’ in which a person cannot tell what is real from what is imagined. The main feature of this disorder is the presence of delusions, unshakable beliefs in something untrue or not based on reality.”
Among the delusions and unshakable beliefs held by both sides is such nonsense as that the age of the Earth and Universe is roughly 5,779 years, as determined from the Hebrew Bible, and that Adam and Eve and little Cain and Abel played with dinosaurs in the Garden of Eden. Another, held only by the evangelicals, is that Mary was a virgin when she gave birth to Jesus, and that Jesus rose from the dead. Both sides, incidentally, claim to hear God, and to be instructed personally by him. Clearly, these beliefs are “psychotic,” in the sense that people who hold them have “lost touch with reality and see, hear, or believe things that aren’t real.”
One of the most articulate critics of evangelicals in this country is the Republican strategist and former McCain campaign manager, Steve Schmidt. Two days ago, on MSNBC, he made remarks concerning evangelicals that are worth quoting in detail:
”We don’t talk about who these people are, so let’s do it for a moment. Jerry Falwell, Franklin Graham, Mike Huckabee, all of them. They dress up as men of God but they are not. They are in business, and they are in politics. And the type of politics they advocate is an extreme and theocratically-tinged politics. One of the things that is true of this movement: wherever you look around the world, and you see the fusion of the state with religion…the ideology advanced…always veers towards the autocratic. It’s always less free. It’s always dominated by an extreme animus toward gays. There are people who would much rather tell you how to live and what birth control you’re allowed to take…than would ever dare to say what is so obviously true about conduct by this president [Trump] that is so obviously wrong. These are the modern day pharisees in the temple. They are hypocrites [and] we know who they are.”
Americans rightfully distrust countries, like Iran, where religious mullahs, ayatollahs and despots rule with iron fists, and yet evangelicals in this country seem to long for a similar system here—as long as the despot belongs to them.
Many Israelis, and most American Jews, including me, do not favor the expansionist policies of Netanyahu’s Likud Party. We are appalled by the land confiscations, the settlement building, the minority status Likud imposes upon Arab Jews. We support the right of the Palestinians to their own state, and while we do not support the threats by the likes of Iran and Hamas to wipe out the state of Israel, we do believe that Netanyahu and Likud are doing everything they can to stand in the way of a negotiated settlement, and to provoke the Palestinians to violence.
Evangelicals stand with Likud, for the reasons I cited above, and also because they hate and fear Islam, as their own ayatollahs (Franklin Graham chief among them) have taught. Donald Trump, who never in his life publicly expressed any religious views until he realized he had to cozy up to evangelicals in order to get—and stay—elected, is on the side of—not the angels, but psychotics. So, memo to Ms. Haley: a majority of Americans does not support your position. Please stop lying.
The Fox “News” writer, Steve Hilton, has written one of the most disreputable opinion pieces I’ve read yet in this Trump era—which is saying a lot, because the Republican Party has been the source of so many blatant lies and smears.
First, let’s get to his core purpose in writing it: Trump’s coordinated effort to throw his former lawyer, Michael Cohen, under the bus. The entire Trump team is doing its best to destroy Cohen, and now, the Trump media, as evidenced by this snide Hilton piece, has joined the show.
Hilton’s thesis is one everybody, Republicans, Democrats and independents, can agree on: Cohen has become the poster boy for the “swamp” Trump promised—and failed–to drain. “Cohen must apologize, pay back his swamp fees and tell us who else he pitched his services to” besides AT&T and Novartis, Hilton demands.
Hilton’s indignation is refreshing; it’s rare for conservatives to even hint at any sort of unhappiness with anyone who was part of Team Trump. But to be clear, being anti-Cohen is key to the emerging Republican strategy of protecting Trump. By discrediting Cohen, they pre-emptively undermine any evidence he has given to Mueller about Trump crimes. Trump supporters are so terrified of what the Southern District’s detectives found in their searches of Cohen’s homes and office that, when Cohen turns on Trump (as he will), Republicans will be able to argue, “See? Cohen was a swamp creature. We never really trusted him, and you voters shouldn’t believe anything he says, because Cohen lied to the President, and tried to take advantage of his good nature.” It’s called “discrediting a witness” and it’s a classic defense ploy.
Along the way, Hilton manages to squeeze in most of the predictable Republican falsehoods, starting with “the anti-Trump establishment’s obsession with Russia, Stormy Daniels and all that nonsense.” Characterizing very serious issues as “nonsense” is all very well for a Republican, but doesn’t eliminate the dangers that the ongoing Mueller probe poses to Trump, or the threat that Michael Avenatti presents to him via the Stormy Daniels case and its related offshoots. Hilton and his fellow Tea Party-ites might wish for “that nonsense” to disappear, but disparaging it won’t make it go away.
Then there’s Hilton’s smearing of “Deep State bureaucrats like fired FBI Director James Comey, former CIA Director John Brennan and former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.” All three have the effrontery to question the fitness of an habitual liar, bully and megalomaniac to serve as President. Hilton interprets this as a kind of disloyalty to the Great Leader, in language reminiscent of the kinds of charges authoritarian states level against their critics, in one-party regimes such as Iran, Russia, Burma, North Korea and Zimbabwe.
I love that pejorative Republican term, “Deep State.” It’s really brilliant marketing. Conservatives use it to disparage Democrats working within the government, the same way Communist governments used to ferret out “capitalist imperialist running dogs” from their midst, or, in our own history, the way the deranged Republican Senator, Joseph McCarthy—whose chief counsel, Roy Cohn, was Trump’s mentor–used to disparage Democrats during his Communist witch hunts of the early 1950s. Tyrants who favor one-man and one-party rule always need scapegoats to offer up to the mob, and the Republican Party has found theirs with this nebulous “Deep State” characterization. Anybody whom they don’t like is automatically a member of the Deep State.
Hilton saves his most savage attacks for Avenatti, who is “sleazy” and “rotten.” When a Republican resorts to that kind of ad hominem frenzy, you know that the Republican is running scared. Hilton can’t counter the legal and factual facts of Avenatti’s case, so he insults the messenger instead.
It’s hysterical to listen to Hilton pretending to be outraged by “the corrupt, pay-to-play business model of the Washington Swamp, where Big Business bribes and lobbies Big Government to get its way.” Such outrage! Such righteous indignation! You’d think Hilton is one of those Goo-Goo types—“Good Government” liberals fighting for political reform. I wonder if he’s ever heard of Sheldon Adelson, Robert Mercer, Peter Thiel, Linda McMahon, Woody Johnson or Carl Icahn—all billionaires who hopped onto the Trump Gravy Train in hopes of getting even richer by having a President who serves their purposes. These men and women, already immeasurably rich, have become immeasurably richer through Trump’s tax “reform” and relaxed regulations.
It would be refreshing for a Republican columnist to condemn Trump’s collaboration with these Big Money billionaires, but that’s not going to happen. Instead, enablers like Hilton pretend that Trump is somehow different. But then, Republican writers are hired and paid by wealthy Republican publishers to write favorably about the Republican Party and Donald Trump. This is what propagandists like Hilton do: they’re interested in draining the Democratic side of the swamp, and leaving the Republican side intact.
In the cold Moscow winter of 1956, Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev gave his now-famous “Secret Speech” to a closed session of the Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union—the nation’s highest legislative gathering, similar to a Joint Session of the American Congress.
In a multi-hour tirade, Khrushchev angrily denounced the policies and practices of his predecessor, Josef Stalin (who had died three years previously). Stalin had been, of course, the leader of the Soviet Union for thirty years, the “Stalin the Great” (in Churchill’s words) who led his nation to victory in World War II, and whose policies of “Stalinization” had transformed the Soviet Union into a totalitarian dictatorship.
Ironically, Khrushchev’s De-Stalinization speech caught pro-Stalinists by surprise, especially in Eastern Europe, the “Iron Curtain” countries that had been overrun by Soviet armies following the defeat of Nazi Germany. The then-leaders of Poland, East Germany, Hungary, Romania, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria and the Baltic countries were “more Stalin than Stalin,” and were caught completely off-guard by Moscow’s abrupt volte-face. Eventually, of course, most of these leaders lost their jobs, if not their lives; and most of their countries are now members of the European Union and NATO.
The concept of De-Stalinization suggests that even the most authoritarian and successful national leader can have the tables turned, as historical perceptions in the political court of public opinion shift. From this example, we can envision a scenario in which a De-Trumpization movement in the U.S. emerges from the wreckage of his administration. Such a movement would have to arise from within the Republican Party itself, just as De-Stalinization had to come from within the Communist Party.
The exact causes of De-Stalinization have long been debated, as have been Stalin’s excesses themselves. Was Stalin the inevitable product of a Communist Party ideology that was hopelessly warped and wrong-headed from the start? Or was he a megalomaniac who twisted the premises of a credible Marxist-Leninist political philosophy and turned it into a dysfunctional horror show? Whatever, few doubted that the machine known as Stalinism had become an evil that had to go. With its ahistorical aversion to fact, intolerance of dissent, and with Stalin’s own thin skin, paranoia and vengeful personality, Stalinism had become an anchor on the Soviet Union and its client states, not the progressive engine its backers claimed and hoped it to be. Smart Communists understood that they could salvage Communism itself only by overthrowing the chief Communist. It wasn’t that they wanted to embrace British- or American-style capitalism. Far from it. They wished to preserve the classic Marxist-Leninist tenets of Russia’s 1917 Revolution. But it needed to be done without the perversion of Stalin.
The modern Republican Party is in much the same position as was the Soviet Communist Party in the years immediately prior to Khrushchev’s secret speech. In the halls of the Republican caucuses in the Congress, as in the halls of the Kremlin in the early and mid-1950s, party members recognize the short-comings of their leader. They understand that he presents a danger to the country, and that the longer he remains in office—and the longer they keep their mouths shut and fail to restrain him—the greater that danger grows.
The problem for both groups of politicians—Russian Communists then and Republicans now—was how to put the brakes on their leader without him, in turn, putting the brakes on them; and when, and how, to explain what they had done to the rank-and-file—the “base”—which might not understand. After all, the base had been conditioned, through continuous propaganda, to view Stalin then (as Trump now) as the indispensable man, from whom all good things emerged, and who protected them from all bad things, both within and without.
As it turned out, Khrushchev skillfully manipulated his politics, and remained as Soviet Premier for eight more years. Following his overthrow, in 1964, it’s true that the Soviet Union went through a period of retrenchment, with a renewed, milder form of Stalinism re-emerging, especially during the Brezhnev era (1965-1982). But the die had been cast: Gorbachev famously completed the process of De-Stalinization, with his policies of perestroika and glasnost that brought greater openness and political freedom, less repression and more market capitalism to the Soviet Union. (There is today some debate among historians concerning whether Vladimir Putin represents a return to a repressive, “Stalinist” form of authoritarianism in Russia, but this is a question that can’t be answered at this stage of history.)
That Trump has Stalinesque tendencies is undeniable. I believe that he is causing intense damage to our nation. Some of his policies might be successful, just as some of any President’s policies may work; but Presidents cannot and should not be judged merely by whether or not some of their objective policies succeed. As important, if not more so, is the moral tone a President imparts to America and, as leader of the Free World, to the planet. In this sense, Khrushchev and the other anti-Stalinists understood the irreparable harm Stalin had caused their country—the Gulags, the disappearance of freedom of the press, the vindictive repression of minorities (especially political minorities), the aggressiveness of his foreign policy, the breakdown of effective democratic opposition, and the way Stalin had caused large parts of the world to hate and fear the Soviet Union. Stalin also, in their eyes, inflicted enormous damage upon Communism itself: the heart and soul of their ideology had been stained by the paranoia and megalomania of a single man.
Republican conservatives, I think, are coming around to a similar understanding concerning Trump. They may like the tax cuts and the elimination of environmental protections. They may like his muscular foreign policy. They will certainly praise him to the skies after North Korea de-nuclearizes (assuming it does). At the same time, in their own “secret sessions,” they decry the pathological lying, the sexual gluttony, the bullying and insults, the vulgarization of the American Presidency, the discarding of facts, the attacks on his own State Department and Justice Department, and on his intelligence community, and the way Trump seems to want to acquire all power in his own hands to institutionalize one-man rule. Around their water coolers, in the privacy of their cloakrooms, Republicans in Congress—like the Communist officials 65 years ago—look for a way to bring about De-Trumpization, without necessarily harming Trump-style conservatism. Whether they determine that this can, or cannot, be done, will form the basis of what they do when, and if, the issue of the continuation of Trump’s presidency arises, as it most surely will.
Eight of the ten points in Pamela Price’s political platform for the upcoming District Attorney race in Alameda County are direct attacks on cops. If you know the language of anti-copspeak, you can see how radically she would undermine their ability to do their job, which is to protect us.
Here are her ten points:
End Mass Incarceration
Stop Criminalizing Our Youth
Eliminate Use of the Death Penalty
Protect Immigrant Communities
Hold Police Accountable
Reduce Gun Violence
End Illegal Stop and Frisk Practices
Promote Transparency and Reform
Implement Smart Public Safety Measures
Protect and Free the Innocent
You hear a lot of anti-copspeak in Alameda County (which includes Berkeley and Oakland, my town). I usually scratch my head and wonder what they’re thinking. At their worst, these anti-cop activists actually call for defunding the Oakland Police Department. As insane as this proposal is—no cops in Oakland? Really?—some well-meaning people are buying into it. Recently, a few local churches have taken the extraordinary step of announcing that they will no longer call the police, “even for violent crimes,” in a move they call “divesting” from the police department.
When I heard that, I thought, Fine. Don’t call the cops the next time somebody sprays graffiti all over your church, or robs your collection box, or mugs your parishioners, or takes up illegal residence in your pews. Less protection for you means more protection for those of us who realize that our safety and property, and possibly our lives, is only one thin blue line away from vanishing.
And now, here comes Price with the mother of all anti-cop platforms. It’s impossible to tell if she really believes this stuff, or is just appealing to a certain angry base, which plays to the far Left the same way that Breitbart and Fox play to the far Right. Oakland happens to be a very dangerous town. Oakland has the 17th highest murder rate among U.S. cities. NBC News, quoting FBI statistics, reported a few years ago that Oakland is “the most crime-ridden city in California,” and while the crime rate has gone down a little since then (due to an improving economy), it remains a dangerous place: the average Californian has one chance in 225 of being the victim of a crime, while in Oakland, he or she has a one in 69 chance.
So why would anyone be in favor of de-policing such a violent city? People like Pamela Price, who’s Black, seem to harbor a deep-seated grudge against police, even though the majority of crimes against Black people are committed by Black people. When I hear the phrase “criminalizing our youth” (a standard slogan in anti-copspeak), I wince. Some young people in Oakland (and elsewhere) are feral—and they can be of any race. By “feral” I mean a young person who was not raised to respect the rights of others, but to view criminality as normal. This results in everything from minor offenses (littering) to car window smash-and-grabs to mugging, home invasions, hard drug dealing and gun violence. I would think most law-abiding Oaklanders would want such youths to be swept up into the criminal justice system, where at least we can get them off the streets and try to rehabilitate them. But people like Pamela Price keep the fires of racial resentment stoked.
Another standard part of anti-copspeak is “hold police accountable.” Certainly, I want cops who break the law to be held accountable. But I want everybody who breaks the law to be held accountable! It seems to me that Pamela Price feels that criminals are less of a problem than the cops who are trying to stop them.
I’ve lived in Oakland for more than 30 years. I read the local papers and watch the news, I talk to people, I’m politically engaged, and I know how hard OPD has worked to improve its performance. The department is committed to community policing, to hiring more women and minorities (our new chief is a woman), to increasing transparency, to increasing outreach to the community, to instilling in beat officers a respect for the rights and feelings of citizens. I’m happy to say “Thank you for your service” whenever I encounter a uniformed officer. These brave men and women put their lives on the line every day to protect us.
The ultimate irony in Price’s platform is her call to “reduce gun violence.” Yes, this is something we all ardently hope and pray for. But what does coming down on cops have to do with stopping a criminal from shooting a firearm? Nothing. The ways to reduce gun violence are complicated (I’m in favor of very strict gun control), but surely one solution is for a parent or parents to instill values of respect and obedience to the law in their children. It starts in the home. Cops can’t make up for a lack of proper child-rearing. I’d love to for Price to replace some of her Ten Points with these:
– Work with churches and agencies to reduce out-of-wedlock births among teenaged girls.
– Imbue children with the value of respecting others and obeying the law.
– Teach kids the importance of police forces in protecting us all against crime.
– Ensure that kids graduate from school and obtain a higher education.
Now, those are points I could support.But I’m not hearing them from Pamela Price.
Price is running against the incumbent D.A., Nancy O’Malley. One point of contention between the two women concerns Proposition 47, a 2014 statewide ballot initiative that reclassified some nonviolent felonies as misdemeanors. Price supported it; O’Malley opposed it (as did most police), which earned her the wrath of the anti-cop brigade. The billionaire liberal, George Soros (whose support of Democrats I welcome), poured a lot of money into the pro-47 fight; he also has given Price money. I understand how issues of social justice can get involved in anything and everything having to do with policing and police reform politics. But the answer is not to defund police departments! The answer is not to accuse cops (black, white, brown, whatever) of being pigs. The answer is not to send a message to young people of color that their problems are caused by racist cops. I will be voting for Nancy O’Malley, and urging everybody I know to do the same, so we can bring sane, rational solutions—not incendiary rhetoric—to my city’s problems.
In the Spring of 1922, when the European continent was trying to reassemble itself following the end of the Great War, during which empires ceased to exist and new states popped up from the Arctic to the Adriatic, two disgruntled former enemies in the war found themselves with much in common.
Germany had lost the war and been harshly punished in the Treaty of Versailles settlement. Russia—now the Soviet Union following the October, 1917 Revolution—had retreated into itself, with Stalin effectively isolating the country as it tried to establish a Marxist economy. Both Germany and Russia were, to much of the rest of the world, outcasts.
Germany and the Soviet Union had completely opposite political systems. Germany had a rightwing, democratic, capitalistic government. Russia was a Communist dictatorship. But both realized that they could help one another. Both were being shunned by the rest of Europe and by America; both nurtured grievances of past injustices, real and perceived. Economically, Russia’s markets could provide trading outlets for German productivity, while the Ukraine could provide grain and other foodstuffs to a starving Germany. Militarily, the treaty afforded Germany the opportunity to repair its broken Wehrmacht. Soviet experts could train German officers and technicians in areas such as aviation, in furtive ways that had been outlawed by Versailles. Both nations had made war upon each other, a war that had ruined them. Making peace seemed logical. The Treaty of Rapallo ended the war between them. It was signed in Switzerland on April 16—Easter Sunday.
Rapallo meant different things to different people, depending on their point of view. “To Western liberals,” wrote the great American diplomatist, George Kennan, it was “the symbol of [a] sinister German-Soviet conspiracy.” But to the Russians and Germans themselves, the pact was a brilliant resolution to the problems that plagued both. “The treaty united the two pariahs of Europe,” wrote the British historian, Nigel Jones, “in a mutually beneficial way.”
The leaders of both countries—Stalin in Russia and Rathenau in Germany—made much of the treaty. Formally, it ended the state of war existing between their countries. It bought both time, to lick their wounds and redevelop their shattered institutions. But what it gave them in the short term did not translate into the long term. Nineteen years later—on June 21, 1941—Germany invaded the Soviet Union, leading to the greatest land battles and death toll in the history of war on Earth. Rapallo, in retrospect, had been only a convenient place holder.
Our country, America, will probably sign some sort of deal with North Korea pretty soon. Like the Treaty of Rapallo, the deal will end a state of war—in this case, the Korean War, which never formally ended, but only resulted in an Armistice in which hostilities ceased. Both sides, America and North Korea, have substantive reasons for a treaty. North Korea desperately needs economic revival and relief from punishing sanctions, just as did Germany and Russia in 1922. The American president, Trump, would like a deal in order to burnish his own credentials, in the wake of the mounting investigations of his possible criminal activities. The deal thus satisfies short-term goals on both sides.
With 20-20 hindsight, we can see that Rapallo turned out to be a disaster. Because it allowed the Germans to secretly build up their military, it gave them confidence in their ability to, not only defend themselves, but to act offensively, in what became Hitler’s plan for lebensraum: to seize control of Europe, including Russia. It also blinded Stalin to the threat that Germany actually posed to him—so blinded was he that he failed to appreciate the many warnings prior to Operation Barbarossa, the 1941 invasion. Both sides thought they had played a winning hand; both turned out to be big losers. Germany lost the Second World War, badly. Russia was on the winning side, but at an unimaginable cost in lives and treasure.
Will the Treaty of Pyongyang, or whatever it’s called, have longterm negative consequences for America? Will North Korea denuclearize itself and become a happy member of the Family of Nations? If so, then what have the last 65 years (the period since the Armistice) been all about? Did the Kim family drive North Korea into the poorhouse to develop nukes and missiles simply for the opportunity to sit with a U.S. president and sign a peace treaty? Will this treaty, if there is one, have unforeseen consequences?
Don’t get me wrong. I’m glad it looks like the Korean War will finally be over, and I’m willing to give credit to Trump for whatever part he played (which I think was less than what he claims). If Hillary Clinton had been elected, the North Koreans still would have tested their hydrogen bomb and perfected their missiles in 2017, and while we don’t know what Hillary would have done, she likely would have been as militant as Trump was, leading to the same result. At any rate, Trump should enjoy whatever acclaim he gets over the next few months, because it looks like the case against him is stronger than ever for collusion.
The thing to realize is that Trump does things that appeal to his base, not things that are good for the country or the world.
Take the Iran deal. Ninety-nine percent of his base has no idea what’s in it. They can barely locate Iran on a map, much less understand how Iran can use its Arak heavy water reactor, or how the country will make its calandria inoperable, or how fuel pins are tested, or why 6 cubic meters is the limit of the shielded glove boxes Iran is permitted to build and operate, or why Iran can test an IR-5 centrifuge through 2025.
All of these things are explained in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action Iran signed on July 14, 2015, with the P5+1 (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States), a lengthy document Trump claims to have read (but probably didn’t, since by his own admission he doesn’t read much). But does anyone think that Trump’s rightwing Tea Party/evangelical/Breitbart base has any idea what the deal means? Don’t be silly. All they know is:
Iran is bad, because Islam is bad. Therefore anything that Iran does, including signing the deal, is bad.
The deal was brokered by Barack Obama. Therefore, it’s bad, because Obama is a foreign-born Muslim.
The deal was negotiated on behalf of the United States by John Kerry, a war hero whom the Right despises. Therefore, the deal must be bad, because John Kerry is a bad man.
Republicans truthtellers such as Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Donald Trump say the deal is bad. Therefore, it must be bad, because everything those men say is always true.
The Allies who support the deal—France, the U.K. and Germany—are weak-kneed, lily-livered appeasers. They may mean well, but they’re too dumb to realize how bad the deal is.
Because the base “knows” these things, it’s easy for Trump to repeat his charges over and over, even if they’re absurd. Truth has never been a criterion for Trump’ supporters. Instead, they base their conclusions on their feelings and emotions, which Trump—who’s been a ratings-based T.V. entertainer for years—knows how to manipulate, in the same way advertisers know how to manipulate images to prompt viewers to buy stuff they’re selling.
Something else needs to be pointed out. In trashing this deal, Trump also is carrying Netayahu’s water. Netayahu’s own base–similar to Trump’s in religiously-inspired ignorance–consists of far-right, often under- or non-educated Russian immigrants, who, like American evangelicals, believe in a literal interpretation of the Bible. These are mentally unstable, intellectually challenged individuals, but they have an undue influence in Israel, as they do here, due to the bizarre love affair between the American evangelical community and Hasidic Jews; and while Trump personally probably believes both are whack jobs–and Netayahu might, too–both politicians need them.
It’s not unusual for a politician to cater to his base, but better leaders try to educate their base when the base is wrong. A prime example of this was in the years leading up to Pearl Harbor and America’s entry into World War II. Franklin Roosevelt always understood that it was in America’s interests to stop Hitler (and imperialist Japan), who, if successful, would eventually have declared war on the Western Hemisphere and imperiled our country. The problem was that isolationists in America—Republicans as well as Democrats—had convinced majorities not to get entangled in foreign wars. George Washington himself had warned against this (but in very different times and under very different circumstances), and leading Americans, like Charles Lindbergh and Father Coughlin (the forerunner of neo-fascist preachers like Franklin Graham), were running around the country giving speeches in which they accused FDR of being an interventionist warmonger.
It would have been easy for FDR to knuckle under to the isolationists. But he had the courage to act upon his belief that they were wrong. He couldn’t plunge the country into war headlong (Pearl Harbor eventually gave him the opportunity), but he could educate his constituents concerning foreign policy as well as our own traditions of liberty and democracy, and why intervening on behalf of Great Britain and France was, in the long run, essential to America’s national security and in conformance with the liberal views of the Founders.
The difference between FDR and Trump is that Trump has no interest in educating his supporters about the Iran deal or anything else. They voted for him precisely because they are low-information voters. This is reflected in the polls that show college-educated voters preferring Hillary Clinton by substantial majorities. It is therefore in Trump’s interest to keep his base under-educated, not only about Iran but about climate change and many other things. An ignorant base is good news for Trump; an educated base is bad news for him. This is why he loves Fox News, a T.V. network that offers no real information on issues, but merely trumpets Rupert Murdoch and the Republican Party.
Let’s face it, this decision is a neo-con, warlike one, prompted by the likes of John Bolton, one of the guiding forces behind the Iraq War (and Trump’s speech was scarily reminiscent of George W. Bush’s 2003 speech announcing the start of that war). Trump’s supporters are now beating their chests and crowing about how tough America is. MAGA! U.S.A. kicks ass! Just like we kicked ass in Iraq, right?
If you want to know what the Republican Party is obsessing on, on any given day, just go to Breitbart. There, you’ll find all the latest grievances, spelled out in excruciatingly paranoid rage.
From yesterday, here are some top headlines.
Facebook Creating Global Jihadist Networks, Experts Claim
Yes, the social media giant is actively working with “terrorist supporters in 96 countries [to] create a system which helps connect extremists and terrorists.”
Who are the “experts” cited in the headline? An outfit called the “Counter Extremism Project,” a neo-conservative American group whose founders include Joe Lieberman and George W. Bush’s U.N. ambassador, Mark Wallace.
Let us posit that among Facebook’s two billion users there are extremists communicating with each other. But these extremists aren’t merely of the radical Islamic variety; Breitbart itself publishes on a Facebook platform, so one could just as easily have headlined, “Facebook Creating Global white supremacist and neo-nazi hate groups.”
See the irony? But the Right never does. Without a sense of humor, they’re incapable of understanding that they have become parodies of themselves.
Oklahoma Senate Concurs with House: 2nd Amendment is Your Carry Permit
Pretty straightforward story: Oklahoma, in many respects the most backward State in the country, is about to abolish all requirements for open carry, because “the second amendment protects a constitutional right to bear arms.” The new law evidently means that Oklahomans are allowed to open-carry AR-15s and other weapons of mass killing. They call Oklahoma “the Sooner State”; as for me, I’d sooner stay away from it than visit a place where armed, angry white yahoos are playing vigilante games and running around with stuffed holsters–with the state’s encouragement.
Border Patrol Agents Arrest 15 More Bangadeshi Nationals in South Texas
This story is designed to prove to skeptics that it’s not just criminal, rapist Mexicans whom Breitbart readers hate, it’s Bangaladeshis! Yes, those brown bad boys apparently are wreaking havoc along the border, but fortunately, “Border Patrol officials attending the National Rifle Association Annual Meeting in Dallas told Breitbart [they have] arrested…Bangadeshi nationals…for illegal entry.”
Good to know that Laredo no longer has a Bangladeshi terrorist problem! Now they’re going to have to go after those Nepalese thugs.
Christian Fans ‘Devastated’ with U2 For Backing Abortion in Ireland
It’s a sad day for Bono and the boys in the band. They came out in support of a woman’s right to choose in Ireland, and next thing you know, they were hit by “a barrage of more than 800 negative replies.”
I give U2 credit for declaring their beliefs even though they know some of their fans will be pissed off. That’s the way things work. I’d rather have my artists stand for something, instead of hiding behind a milquetoast demeanor and not standing for anything. I’ll give Kanye West some credit, too. I think he’s a fool to be sucking up to Trump, an out-and-out racist whose father was in the KKK. But that’s his right. I’m sure that U2 will still sell out every concert they give, and as for the women of Ireland, good for you! Abortion is a matter to be decided between a woman and her doctors (with perhaps the husband involved as well). When I was a little boy, I remember well the teenaged girls from our neighborhood who “went on vacation” for a week or so, to Mexico or Puerto Rico. These weren’t real vacations; they went to get abortions. And they were the ones who could afford to travel. Other girls weren’t so lucky; they ended up in alleys or basements with knitting needles shoved inside themselves, and often died. Republicans would love to go back to that era, but we’re not going to let them. As for those poor, devastated Christians, there’s plenty of really bad Christian rock around.
Anyhow, there it is, the news according to Breitbart. Aren’t you glad I tell you about it, so you don’t have to degrade yourself by going there?
* * *
Meanwhile, the angrier Trump gets with the Mueller investigation–and his rage meter is exploding–the more you know he has something to hide. If he were innocent, he’d cooperate 100% and get the thing over with. The fact that he’s fighting like an angry bull—and has ordered his minions to fight alongside him—can mean only one thing: There are some very, very serious crimes he’s trying to cover up. We mustn’t let him. Please do whatever you can to protect Mueller, and be prepared to scream your head off and take it to the streets if Trump tries some dumb stunt, like firing Rosenstein.
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