Tag Archives: Trump

President Trump’s Lies to 21 June, the Definitive List – The New York Times. 

JAN. 21 “I wasn’t a fan of Iraq. I didn’t want to go into Iraq.” (He was for an invasion before he was against it.)JAN. 21 “A reporter for Time magazine — and I have been on their cover 14 or 15 times. I think we have the all-time record in the history of Time magazine.” (Trump was on the cover 11 times and Nixon appeared 55 times.)JAN. 23 “Between 3 million and 5 million illegal votes caused me to lose the popular vote.” (There’s no evidence of illegal voting.)JAN. 25 “Now, the audience was the biggest ever. But this crowd was massive. Look how far back it goes. This crowd was massive.” (Official aerial photos show Obama’s 2009 inauguration was much more heavily attended.)JAN. 25 “Take a look at the Pew reports (which show voter fraud.)” (The report never mentioned voter fraud.)JAN. 25 “You had millions of people that now aren’t insured anymore.” (The real number is less than 1 million, according to the Urban Institute.)JAN. 25 “So, look, when President Obama was there two weeks ago making a speech, very nice speech. Two people were shot and killed during his speech. You can’t have that.” (There were no gun homicide victims in Chicago that day.)JAN. 26 “We’ve taken in tens of thousands of people. We know nothing about them. They can say they vet them. They didn’t vet them. They have no papers. How can you vet somebody when you don’t know anything about them and you have no papers? How do you vet them? You can’t.”(Vetting lasts up to two years.)JAN. 26 “I cut off hundreds of millions of dollars off one particular plane, hundreds of millions of dollars in a short period of time. It wasn’t like I spent, like, weeks, hours, less than hours, and many, many hundreds of millions of dollars. And the plane’s going to be better.” (Most of the cuts were already planned.)JAN. 28 “Thr coverage about me in the @nytimes and the @washingtonpost gas been so false and angry that the times actually apologized to its dwindling subscribers and readers.” (It never apologized.)JAN. 29 “The Cuban-Americans, I got 84 percent of that vote.” (There is no support for this.)JAN. 30 “Only 109 people out of 325,000 were detained and held for questioning. Big problems at airports were caused by Delta computer outage” (At least 746 people were detained and processed, and the Delta outage happened two days later.)FEB. 3 “Professional anarchists, thugs and paid protesters are proving the point of the millions of people who voted to MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!” (There is no evidence of paid protesters.)FEB. 4 “After being forced to apologize for its bad and inaccurate coverage of me after winning the election, the FAKE NEWS @nytimes is still lost!” (It never apologized.)FEB. 5 “We had 109 people out of hundreds of thousands of travelers and all we did was vet those people very, very carefully.” (About 60,000 people were affected.)FEB. 6 “I have already saved more than $700 million when I got involved in the negotiation on the F-35.” (Much of the price drop was projected before Trump took office.)FEB. 6 “It’s gotten to a point where it is not even being reported. And in many cases, the very, very dishonest press doesn’t want to report it.” (Terrorism has been reported on, often in detail.)FEB. 6 “The failing @nytimes was forced to apologize to its subscribers for the poor reporting it did on my election win. Now they are worse!” (It didn’t apologize.)FEB. 6 “And the previous administration allowed it to happen because we shouldn’t have been in Iraq, but we shouldn’t have gotten out the way we got out. It created a vacuum, ISIS was formed.” (ISIS has existed since 2004.)FEB. 7 “And yet the murder rate in our country is the highest it’s been in 47 years, right? Did you know that? Forty-seven years.” (It was higher in the 1980s and ’90s.)FEB. 7 “I saved more than $600 million. I got involved in negotiation on a fighter jet, the F-35.” (The Defense Department projected this price drop before Trump took office.)FEB. 9 “Chris Cuomo, in his interview with Sen. Blumenthal, never asked him about his long-term lie about his brave ‘service’ in Vietnam. FAKE NEWS!” (It was part of Cuomo’s first question.)FEB. 9 Sen. Richard Blumenthal “now misrepresents what Judge Gorsuch told him?” (The Gorsuch comments were later corroborated.)FEB. 10 “I don’t know about it. I haven’t seen it. What report is that?” (Trump knew about Flynn’s actions for weeks.)FEB. 12 “Just leaving Florida. Big crowds of enthusiastic supporters lining the road that the FAKE NEWS media refuses to mention. Very dishonest!” (The media did cover it.)FEB. 16 “We got 306 because people came out and voted like they’ve never seen before so that’s the way it goes. I guess it was the biggest Electoral College win since Ronald Reagan.” (George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama all won bigger margins in the Electoral College.)FEB. 16 “That’s the other thing that was wrong with the travel ban. You had Delta with a massive problem with their computer system at the airports.” (Delta’s problems happened two days later.)FEB. 16 “Walmart announced it will create 10,000 jobs in the United States just this year because of our various plans and initiatives.” (The jobs are a result of its investment plans announced in October 2016.)FEB. 16 “When WikiLeaks, which I had nothing to do with, comes out and happens to give, they’re not giving classified information.” (Not always. They have released classified information in the past.)FEB. 16 “We had a very smooth rollout of the travel ban. But we had a bad court. Got a bad decision.” (The rollout was chaotic.)FEB. 16 “They’re giving stuff — what was said at an office about Hillary cheating on the debates. Which, by the way, nobody mentions. Nobody mentions that Hillary received the questions to the debates.” (It was widely covered.)FEB. 18 “And there was no way to vet those people. There was no documentation. There was no nothing.” (Refugees receive multiple background checks, taking up to two years.)FEB. 18 “You look at what’s happening in Germany, you look at what’s happening last night in Sweden. Sweden, who would believe this?” (Trump implied there was a terror attack in Sweden, but there was no such attack.)FEB. 24 “By the way, you folks are in here — this place is packed, there are lines that go back six blocks.” (There was no evidence of long lines.)FEB. 24 “ICE came and endorsed me.” (Only its union did.)FEB. 24 “Obamacare covers very few people — and remember, deduct from the number all of the people that had great health care that they loved that was taken away from them — it was taken away from them.” (Obamacare increased coverage by a net of about 20 million.)FEB. 27 “Since Obamacare went into effect, nearly half of the insurers are stopped and have stopped from participating in the Obamacare exchanges.” (Many fewer pulled out.)FEB. 27 “On one plane, on a small order of one plane, I saved $725 million. And I would say I devoted about, if I added it up, all those calls, probably about an hour. So I think that might be my highest and best use.” (Much of the price cut was already projected.)FEB. 28 “And now, based on our very strong and frank discussions, they are beginning to do just that.” (NATO countries agreed to meet defense spending requirements in 2014.)FEB. 28 “The E.P.A.’s regulators were putting people out of jobs by the hundreds of thousands.” (There’s no evidence that the Waters of the United States rule caused severe job losses.)FEB. 28 “We have begun to drain the swamp of government corruption by imposing a five-year ban on lobbying by executive branch officials.” (They can’t lobby their former agency but can still become lobbyists.)MARCH 3 “It is so pathetic that the Dems have still not approved my full Cabinet.” (Paperwork for the last two candidates was still not submitted to the Senate.)MARCH 4 “Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!” (There’s no evidence of a wiretap.)MARCH 4 “How low has President Obama gone to tapp my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!” (There’s no evidence of a wiretap.)MARCH 7 “122 vicious prisoners, released by the Obama Administration from Gitmo, have returned to the battlefield. Just another terrible decision!” (113 of them were released by President George W. Bush.)MARCH 13 “I saved a lot of money on those jets, didn’t I? Did I do a good job? More than $725 million on them.” (Much of the cost cuts were planned before Trump.)MARCH 13 “First of all, it covers very few people.” (About 20 million people gained insurance under Obamacare.)MARCH 15 “On the airplanes, I saved $725 million. Probably took me a half an hour if you added up all of the times.” (Much of the cost cuts were planned before Trump.)MARCH 17 “I was in Tennessee — I was just telling the folks — and half of the state has no insurance company, and the other half is going to lose the insurance company.” (There’s at least one insurer in every Tennessee county.)MARCH 20 “With just one negotiation on one set of airplanes, I saved the taxpayers of our country over $700 million.” (Much of the cost cuts were planned before Trump.)MARCH 21 “To save taxpayer dollars, I’ve already begun negotiating better contracts for the federal government — saving over $700 million on just one set of airplanes of which there are many sets.” (Much of the cost cuts were planned before Trump.)MARCH 22 “I make the statement, everyone goes crazy. The next day they have a massive riot, and death, and problems.” (Riots in Sweden broke out two days later and there were no deaths.)MARCH 22 “NATO, obsolete, because it doesn’t cover terrorism. They fixed that.” (It has fought terrorism since the 1980s.)MARCH 22 “Well, now, if you take a look at the votes, when I say that, I mean mostly they register wrong — in other words, for the votes, they register incorrectly and/or illegally. And they then vote. You have tremendous numbers of people.” (There’s no evidence of widespread voter fraud.)MARCH 29 “Remember when the failing @nytimes apologized to its subscribers, right after the election, because their coverage was so wrong. Now worse!”(It didn’t apologize.)MARCH 31 “We have a lot of plants going up now in Michigan that were never going to be there if I — if I didn’t win this election, those plants would never even think about going back. They were gone.” (These investments were already planned.)APRIL 2 “And I was totally opposed to the war in the Middle East which I think finally has been proven, people tried very hard to say I wasn’t but you’ve seen that it is now improving.”(He was for an invasion before he was against it.)APRIL 2 “Now, my last tweet — you know, the one that you are talking about, perhaps — was the one about being, in quotes, wiretapped, meaning surveilled. Guess what, it is turning out to be true.”(There is still no evidence.)APRIL 5 “You have many states coming up where they’re going to have no insurance company. O.K.? It’s already happened in Tennessee. It’s happening in Kentucky. Tennessee only has half coverage. Half the state is gone. They left.” (Every marketplace region in Tennessee had at least one insurer.)APRIL 6 “If you look at the kind of cost-cutting we’ve been able to achieve with the military and at the same time ordering vast amounts of equipment — saved hundreds of millions of dollars on airplanes, and really billions, because if you take that out over a period of years it’s many billions of dollars — I think we’ve had a tremendous success.” (Much of the price cuts were already projected.)APRIL 11 “I like Steve, but you have to remember he was not involved in my campaign until very late. I had already beaten all the senators and all the governors, and I didn’t know Steve.” (He knew Steve Bannon since 2011.)APRIL 12 “You can’t do it faster, because they’re obstructing. They’re obstructionists. So I have people — hundreds of people that we’re trying to get through. I mean you have — you see the backlog. We can’t get them through.” (At this point, he had not nominated anyone for hundreds of positions.)APRIL 12 “The New York Times said the word wiretapped in the headline of the first edition. Then they took it out of there fast when they realized.” (There were two headlines, but neither were altered.)APRIL 12 “The secretary general and I had a productive discussion about what more NATO can do in the fight against terrorism. I complained about that a long time ago and they made a change, and now they do fight terrorism.” (NATO has been engaged in counterterrorism efforts since the 1980s.)APRIL 12 “Mosul was supposed to last for a week and now they’ve been fighting it for many months and so many more people died.” (The campaign was expected to take months.)APRIL 16 “Someone should look into who paid for the small organized rallies yesterday. The election is over!” (There’s no evidence of paid protesters.)APRIL 18 “The fake media goes, ‘Donald Trump changed his stance on China.’ I haven’t changed my stance.” (He did.)APRIL 21 “On 90 planes I saved $725 million. It’s actually a little bit more than that, but it’s $725 million.” (Much of the price cuts were already projected.)APRIL 21 “When WikiLeaks came out … never heard of WikiLeaks, never heard of it.” (He criticized it as early as 2010.)APRIL 27 “I want to help our miners while the Democrats are blocking their healthcare.” (The bill to extend health benefits for certain coal miners was introduced by a Democrat and was co-sponsored by mostly Democrats.)APRIL 28 “The trade deficit with Mexico is close to $70 billion, even with Canada it’s $17 billion trade deficit with Canada.” (The U.S. had an $8.1 billion trade surplus, not deficit, with Canada in 2016.)APRIL 28 “She’s running against someone who’s going to raise your taxes to the sky, destroy your health care, and he’s for open borders — lots of crime.” (Those are not Jon Ossoff’s positions.)APRIL 28 “The F-35 fighter jet program — it was way over budget. I’ve saved $725 million plus, just by getting involved in the negotiation.” (Much of the price cuts were planned before Trump.)APRIL 29 “They’re incompetent, dishonest people who after an election had to apologize because they covered it, us, me, but all of us, they covered it so badly that they felt they were forced to apologize because their predictions were so bad.” (The Times did not apologize.)APRIL 29 “As you know, I’ve been a big critic of China, and I’ve been talking about currency manipulation for a long time. But I have to tell you that during the election, number one, they stopped.” (China stopped years ago.)APRIL 29 “I’ve already saved more than $725 million on a simple order of F-35 planes. I got involved in the negotiation.” (Much of the price cuts were planned before Trump.)APRIL 29 “We’re also getting NATO countries to finally step up and contribute their fair share. They’ve begun to increase their contributions by billions of dollars, but we are not going to be satisfied until everyone pays what they owe.” (The deal was struck in 2014.)APRIL 29 “When they talk about currency manipulation, and I did say I would call China, if they were, a currency manipulator, early in my tenure. And then I get there. Number one, they — as soon as I got elected, they stopped.” (China stopped in 2014.)APRIL 29 “I was negotiating to reduce the price of the big fighter jet contract, the F-35, which was totally out of control. I will save billions and billions and billions of dollars.” (Most of the cuts were planned before Trump.)APRIL 29 “I think our side’s been proven very strongly. And everybody’s talking about it.” (There’s still no evidence Trump’s phones were tapped.)MAY 1 “Well, we are protecting pre-existing conditions. And it’ll be every good — bit as good on pre-existing conditions as Obamacare.” (The bill weakens protections for people with pre-existing conditions.)MAY 1 “The F-35 fighter jet — I saved — I got involved in the negotiation. It’s 2,500 jets. I negotiated for 90 planes, lot 10. I got $725 million off the price.” (Much of the price cuts were planned before Trump.)MAY 1 “First of all, since I started running, they haven’t increased their — you know, they have not manipulated their currency. I think that was out of respect to me and the campaign.” (China stopped years ago.)MAY 2 “I love buying those planes at a reduced price. I have been really — I have cut billions — I have to tell you this, and they can check, right, Martha? I have cut billions and billions of dollars off plane contracts sitting here.” (Much of the cost cuts were planned before Trump.)MAY 4 “Number two, they’re actually not a currency [manipulator]. You know, since I’ve been talking about currency manipulation with respect to them and other countries, they stopped.” (China stopped years ago.)MAY 4 “We’re the highest-taxed nation in the world.” (We’re not.)MAY 4 “Nobody cares about my tax return except for the reporters.” (Polls show most Americans do care.)MAY 8 “You know we’ve gotten billions of dollars more in NATO than we’re getting. All because of me.” (The deal was struck in 2014.)MAY 8 “But when I did his show, which by the way was very highly rated. It was high — highest rating. The highest rating he’s ever had.”(Colbert’s “Late Show” debut had nearly two million more viewers.)MAY 8 “Director Clapper reiterated what everybody, including the fake media already knows- there is ‘no evidence’ of collusion w/ Russia and Trump.” (Clapper only said he wasn’t aware of an investigation.)MAY 12 “Again, the story that there was collusion between the Russians & Trump campaign was fabricated by Dems as an excuse for losing the election.” (The F.B.I. was investigating before the election.)MAY 12 “When James Clapper himself, and virtually everyone else with knowledge of the witch hunt, says there is no collusion, when does it end?” (Clapper said he wouldn’t have been told of an investigation into collusion.)MAY 13 “I’m cutting the price of airplanes with Lockheed.” (The cost cuts were planned before he became president.)MAY 26 “Just arrived in Italy for the G7. Trip has been very successful. We made and saved the USA many billions of dollars and millions of jobs.” (He’s referencing an arms deal that’s not enacted and other apparent deals that weren’t announced on the trip.)JUNE 1 “China will be allowed to build hundreds of additional coal plants. So, we can’t build the plants, but they can, according to this agreement. India will be allowed to double its coal production by 2020.” (The agreement doesn’t allow or disallow building coal plants.)JUNE 1 “I’ve just returned from a trip overseas where we concluded nearly $350 billion of military and economic development for the United States, creating hundreds of thousands of jobs.” (Trump’s figures are inflated and premature.)JUNE 4 “At least 7 dead and 48 wounded in terror attack and Mayor of London says there is ‘no reason to be alarmed!’” (The mayor was specifically talking about the enlarged police presence on the streets.)JUNE 5 “The Justice Dept. should have stayed with the original Travel Ban, not the watered down, politically correct version they submitted to S.C.” (Trump signed this version of the travel ban, not the Justice Department.)JUNE 21 “They all say it’s ‘nonbinding.’ Like hell it’s nonbinding.” (The Paris climate agreement is nonbinding — and Trump said so in his speech announcing the withdrawal.)JUNE 21 “Right now, we are one of the highest-taxed nations in the world.” (We’re not.)

New York Times 

Trump’s Rogue America – Joseph E. Stiglitz. 

Donald Trump has thrown a hand grenade into the global economic architecture that was so painstakingly constructed in the years after World War II’s end. The attempted destruction of this rules-based system of global governance – now manifested in Trump’s withdrawal of the United States from the 2015 Paris climate agreement – is just the latest aspect of the US president’s assault on our basic system of values and institutions.

The world is only slowly coming fully to terms with the malevolence of the Trump administration’s agenda. He and his cronies have attacked the US press – a vital institution for preserving Americans’ freedoms, rights, and democracy – as an “enemy of the people.” They have attempted to undermine the foundations of our knowledge and beliefs – our epistemology – by labeling as “fake” anything that challenges their aims and arguments, even rejecting science itself. Trump’s sham justifications for spurning the Paris climate agreement is only the most recent evidence of this.

For millennia before the middle of the eighteenth century, standards of living stagnated. It was the Enlightenment, with its embrace of reasoned discourse and scientific inquiry, that underpinned the enormous increases in standards of living in the subsequent two and a half centuries.

With the Enlightenment also came a commitment to discover and address our prejudices. As the idea of human equality – and its corollary, basic individual rights for all – quickly spread, societies began struggling to eliminate discrimination on the basis of race, gender, and, eventually, other aspects of human identity, including disability and sexual orientation.

Trump seeks to reverse all of that. His rejection of science, in particular climate science, threatens technological progress. And his bigotry toward women, Hispanics, and Muslims (except those, like the rulers of Gulf oil sheikhdoms, from whom he and his family can profit), threatens the functioning of American society and its economy, by undermining people’s trust that the system is fair to all.

As a populist, Trump has exploited the justifiable economic discontent that has become so widespread in recent years, as many Americans have become downwardly mobile amid soaring inequality. But his true objective – to enrich himself and other gilded rent-seekers at the expense of those who supported him – is revealed by his tax and health-care plans.

Trump’s proposed tax reforms, so far as one can see, outdo George W. Bush’s in their regressivity (the share of the benefits that go to those at the top of the income distribution). And, in a country where life expectancy is already declining, his health-care overhaul would leave 23 million more Americans without health insurance.

While Trump and his cabinet may know how to make business deals, they haven’t the slightest idea how the economic system as a whole works. If the administration’s macroeconomic policies are implemented, they will result in a larger trade deficit and a further decline in manufacturing.

America will suffer under Trump. Its global leadership role was being destroyed, even before Trump broke faith with over 190 countries by withdrawing from the Paris accord. At this point, rebuilding that leadership will demand a truly heroic effort. We share a common planet, and the world has learned the hard way that we have to get along and work together. We have learned, too, that cooperation can benefit all.

So what should the world do with a babyish bully in the sandbox, who wants everything for himself and won’t be reasoned with? How can the world manage a “rogue” US?

Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel gave the right answer when, after meeting with Trump and other G7 leaders last month, she said that Europe could no longer “fully count on others,” and would have to “fight for our own future ourselves.” This is the time for Europe to pull together, recommit itself to the values of the Enlightenment, and stand up to the US, as France’s new president, Emmanuel Macron, did so eloquently with a handshake that stymied Trump’s puerile alpha-male approach to asserting power.

Europe can’t rely on a Trump-led US for its defense. But, at the same time, it should recognize that the Cold War is over – however unwilling America’s industrial-military complex is to acknowledge it. While fighting terrorism is important and costly, building aircraft carriers and super fighter planes is not the answer. Europe needs to decide for itself how much to spend, rather than submit to the dictates of military interests that demand 2% of GDP. Political stability may be more surely gained by Europe’s recommitment to its social-democratic economic model.

We now also know that the world cannot count on the US in addressing the existential threat posed by climate change. Europe and China did the right thing in deepening their commitment to a green future – right for the planet, and right for the economy. Just as investment in technology and education gave Germany a distinct advantage in advanced manufacturing over a US hamstrung by Republican ideology, so, too, Europe and Asia will achieve an almost insurmountable advantage over the US in the green technologies of the future.

But the rest of the world cannot let a rogue US destroy the planet. Nor can it let a rogue US take advantage of it with unenlightened – indeed anti-Enlightenment – “America first” policies. If Trump wants to withdraw the US from the Paris climate agreement, the rest of the world should impose a carbon-adjustment tax on US exports that do not comply with global standards.

The good news is that the majority of Americans are not with Trump. Most Americans still believe in Enlightenment values, accept the reality of global warming, and are willing to take action. But, as far as Trump is concerned, it should already be clear that reasoned debate will not work. It is time for action.

***

Joseph E. Stiglitz, recipient of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences in 2001 and the John Bates Clark Medal in 1979, is University Professor at Columbia University, Co-Chair of the High-Level Expert Group on the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress at the OECD, and Chief Economist of the Roosevelt Institute. A former senior vice president and chief economist of the World Bank and chair of the US president’s Council of Economic Advisers under Bill Clinton, in 2000 he founded the Initiative for Policy Dialogue, a think tank on international development based at Columbia University.

Project Syndicate

Debunking The Fool. Trump’s Paris climate speech claims analyzed – Oliver Milman. 

“So we’re getting out. But we will start to negotiate, and we will see if we can make a deal that’s fair. And if we can, that’s great. And if we can’t, that’s fine.” 

So that’s that. After months of fevered speculation and lobbying, Trump sticks to his campaign pledge to withdraw the US from the Paris climate accord. He does so with a caveat that’s delivered rather casually – the US will renegotiate this pact, or maybe some other pact, aimed at ensuring the future liveability of the planet. But if it doesn’t work out, that’s OK.

“Compliance with the terms of the Paris accord and the onerous energy restrictions it has placed on the United States could cost America as much as 2.7m lost jobs by 2025, according to the National Economic Research Associates.”

Trump’s vision of a hobbled America, ransacked by pointless environmental regulation, draws upon a highly disputed study published in March. National Economic Research Associates has done work for front groups for coal companies in the past and this study was at the behest of the American Council for Capital Formation, which counts Exxon Mobil, the American Petroleum Institute and Charles Koch as major donors.

The Paris agreement itself places no “energy restrictions” on the US – it’s a voluntary agreement that leaves it up to countries to decide how to cut their emissions. But several economists have warned that leaving the Paris agreement will stymie clean energy investment and ensure the production of solar panels and wind turbines – the very blue-collar jobs Trump claims to value – will take place in China rather than the US.

It could get worse still – some countries are mulling a carbon “tariff” on US goods over Trump’s decision to swim against the energy transition that is underway. None of this will help a coal industry that was in decline long before the Paris deal. This is perhaps why business support for Paris is broad, uniting the likes of Facebook, Goldman Sachs, Apple and even BP.

“For example, under the agreement, China will be able to increase these emissions by a staggering number of years – 13. They can do whatever they want for 13 years. Not us. India makes its participation contingent on receiving billions and billions and billions of dollars in foreign aid from developed countries. There are many other examples. But the bottom line is that the Paris Accord is very unfair, at the highest level, to the United States.”

Trump repeatedly touches on a familiar theme of the US being taken advantage of by foreign ingrates. The Paris deal was considered a breakthrough because it required all nations to curb their emissions – including, crucially, China and India. Given that both these countries do not have more than a century of mass industrialization behind them, unlike the US, their commitments should be seen in context. Indeed, recent analysis has shown that China may have already peaked its coal use and will be reducing its emissions sooner than expected, although suspicions linger over its accounting methods.

Either way, both China and India have reiterated their commitment to the Paris deal in recent weeks and are investing heavily in renewable energy. That they are doing this with tens of millions of their people still without electricity and other basic services shows that perhaps it isn’t terribly unfair to expect the world’s wealthiest nation to do likewise.

“In short, the agreement doesn’t eliminate coal jobs, it just transfers those jobs out of America and the United States, and ships them to foreign countries.”

According to the Department of Energy there are about 373,000 Americans working in solar energy – more than double that of the coal industry. The coal sector has been shedding jobs for decades, driven by automation of work and, more recently, the abundance of cheap natural gas.

Major coal mining firms have conceded those jobs aren’t coming back and it’s not quite clear how American mining jobs can be shifted overseas given the US isn’t a coal exporter and US power plants aren’t crying out for extra minerals to keep the lights on. What’s more likely, according to economists, is that growth in renewable energy innovation and construction jobs will tip overseas, probably to China, which has committed to investing $360bn in the sector in the coming years.

“Our country will be at grave risk of brownouts and blackouts, our businesses will come to a halt in many cases, and the American family will suffer the consequences in the form of lost jobs and a very diminished quality of life.”

This dark vision would perhaps approach reality if a.) the only source of electricity in the US was coal, rather than a mix of nuclear, gas, coal and renewables, b.) the Paris agreement set any sort of binding limit on energy sources, and c.) the US government followed through with this by shutting down power plants rather than asking states to submit plans to transition away from polluting fossil fuels (as the Obama administration did). None of that has actually happened or was slated to happen.

“Even if the Paris agreement were implemented in full, with total compliance from all nations, it is estimated it would only produce a two-tenths of one degree – think of that; this much – Celsius reduction in global temperature by the year 2100. Tiny, tiny amount.”

White House “talking points” distributed before Trump’s speech cite MIT research for the 0.2-degree reduction. This prompted a swift rebuttal from the actual source, a collaboration between MIT and Climate Interactive. The researchers point out the reduction in expected warming from emissions cuts promised at Paris will be 0.9 degrees by 2100, not 0.2 degrees.

This still won’t be enough to avoid breaching the warming limit set out in the Paris deal but it’s worth considering that 0.9C is roughly the global temperature rise experienced since the industrial revolution. People living in southern Florida, or Bangladesh or beside a coral reef that provides food and a livelihood would have radically different lives if the global temperature increase was double its current level.

“The United States, under the Trump administration, will continue to be the cleanest and most environmentally friendly country on Earth. We’ll be the cleanest. We’re going to have the cleanest air. We’re going to have the cleanest water.”

Under the Trump administration, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has paused or scrapped rules that prevent the dumping of mining waste into streams, curb emissions from vehicles and power plants and stop mercury and arsenic seeping into waterways. The EPA’s proposed budget also cuts measures that prevent lead in drinking water and also scraps clean-ups of the Great Lakes and the Gulf of Mexico and shrinks the funding of enforcement of pollution rules.

“And we’ll sit down with the Democrats and all of the people that represent either the Paris accord or something that we can do that’s much better than the Paris accord. And I think the people of our country will be thrilled, and I think then the people of the world will be thrilled. But until we do that, we’re out of the agreement.”

In common with some other policy areas, Trump seems to be believe his negotiating skills can overcome issues that leaders have grappled with for years. Paris came about after 20 years of often painful incremental manoeuvrings that included the disappointment of Copenhagen in 2009, and world leaders have already made clear they aren’t “thrilled” at the prospect of reversing this breakthrough.

France, Italy and Germany released a statement saying that the Paris deal can’t be redone, while the EU and China jointly declared the agreement was “irreversible”. The UK, Canada and Australia all reaffirmed their commitment to the agreement with Justin Trudeau, Canada’s prime minister, saying he is “deeply disappointed” with Trump’s decision. UN secretary general Antonio Guterres called it a “major disappointment.”

The US may return to Paris, with Trump or a future president, but there will be lingering diplomatic damage that will haunt the country on the international stage far more than the Kyoto reversal under George W Bush.

“At what point does America get demeaned? At what point do they start laughing at us as a country?”

Well, at this point there’s certainly not much laughter.

“I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris.”

Here, Trump seems to confuse the venue of the UN climate agreement signing for the actual subject of the accord. It’s also worth noting that Bill Peduto, mayor of Pittsburgh, committed to the Paris deal, along with dozens of other US municipalities, after Trump’s announcement. About 65,000 people in Pennsylvania work in the renewable energy industry, more than mining, oil and gas combined.

“Of course, the world’s top polluters have no affirmative obligations under the green fund, which we terminated.”

Again Trump portrays the Paris deal as an onerous ball and chain around the ankle of a struggling America, which somehow isn’t now one of the world’s leading polluters. The climate fund is voluntary and Barack Obama pledged about $3bn to it. Given the scale of the climate challenge – rising seas, drought and disasters are already estimated to displace about 20 million people a year, according to the UN – even this funding is likely to be insufficient.

“And exiting the agreement protects the United States from future intrusions on the United States’ sovereignty and massive future legal liability. Believe me, we have massive legal liability if we stay in.”

One of the – ultimately successful – arguments put by opponents of the Paris deal to Trump was that his domestic agenda of revoking Obama-era environmental regulations would be jeopardised by the agreement. Architects of the deal have disputed this, pointing out that it is voluntary and non-binding and would carry no weight in a US court.

Ultimately, the only recourse to Trump’s decision will be through the ballot box. The notice period for withdrawing from the Paris deal expires in November 2020 – the month of the next presidential election. Climate change will likely be, for once, a live issue at the election.

Oliver Milman

The Guardian

Admit it: Trump is unfit to serve – E.J. Dionne Jr. – The Washington Post. 

What is this democratic nation to do when the man serving as president of the United States plainly has no business being president of the United States?

Senators such as John McCain and Lindsey Graham seem to know it is only a matter of time before the GOP will have to confront Trump’s unfitness. They also sense that Flynn’s resignation as national security adviser for lying about the nature of his contacts with Russia’s ambassador to the United States raises fundamental concerns about Trump himself.

In this dark moment, we can celebrate the vitality of the institutions of a free society that are pushing back against a president offering the country a remarkable combination of authoritarian inclinations and ineptitude. The courts, civil servants, citizens — collectively and individually — and, yes, an unfettered media have all checked Trump and forced inconvenient facts into the sunlight.

It is a sign of how beleaguered Trump is that his Twitter response on Wednesday morning was not to take responsibility but to assign blame. His villains are leakers and the press: “Information is being illegally given to the failing @nytimes & @washingtonpost by the intelligence community (NSA and FBI?). Just like Russia.

The Trump we are seeing now is fully consistent with the vindictive, self-involved and scattered man we saw during the 17 months of his campaign.

As a country, we now need to face the truth, however awkward and difficult it might be.

Washington Post

Trumpcare Is a Moral Travesty – Robert Reich. 

America has the only health care system in the world designed to avoid sick people.

Shame on every one of the 217 Republicans who voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act on Thursday, and substitute basically nothing.

Trumpcare isn’t a replacement of the Affordable Care Act. It’s a transfer from the sick and poor to the rich and healthy.

The losers are up to 24 million Americans who under the Affordable Care Act get subsidies to afford health insurance coverage, including millions of people with pre-existing conditions and poor people who had access to Medicaid who may not be able to afford insurance in the future.

The winners are wealthy Americans who will now get a tax cut because they won’t have to pay to fund the Affordable Care Act, and healthy people who won’t have to buy health insurance to subsidize the sick.

House Republicans say they have protected people with pre-existing health problems. Baloney. Sick people could be charged premiums so high as to make insurance unaffordable. Trumpcare would even let states waive the Obamacare ban on charging higher premiums for women who have been raped — which actually occurred before the Affordable Care Act.

America has the only health care system in the world designed to avoid sick people. Private for-profit health insurers do whatever they can to insure groups of healthy people, because that’s where the profits are. They also make every effort to avoid sick people, because that’s where the costs are.

The Affordable Care Act puts healthy and sick people into the same insurance pool. But under the Republican bill that passed the House, healthy people will no longer be subsidizing sick people.  Healthy people will be in their own insurance pool. Sick people will be grouped with other sick people in their own high-risk pool – which will result in such high premiums, co-payments, and deductibles that many if not most won’t be able to afford.

Republicans say their bill creates a pool of money that will pay insurance companies to cover the higher costs of insuring sick people. Wrong. Insurers will take the money and still charge sick people much higher premiums. Or avoid sick people altogether.

The only better alternative to the Affordable Care Act is a single-payer system, such as Medicare for all, which would put all Americans into the same giant insurance pool. Not only would this be fairer, but it would also be far more efficient, because money wouldn’t be spent marketing and advertising to attract healthy people and avoid sick people.

Paul Ryan says the House vote was about fulfilling a promise the GOP made to American voters. But those voters have been lied to from the start about the Affordable Care Act. For years Republicans told them that the Act couldn’t work, would bankrupt America, and result in millions losing the health care they had before. All of these lies have been proven wrong.

Now Republicans say the Act is unsustainable because premiums are rising and insurers are pulling out. Wrong again. Whatever is wrong with the Affordable Care Act could be easily fixed, but Republicans have refused to do the fixing. Insurers have been pulling out because of the uncertainty Republicans have created.

The reason Republicans are so intent on repealing the Affordable Care Act is they want to give a giant tax cut to the rich who’d no longer have to pay the tab.

Here we come to the heart of the matter.

If patriotism means anything, it means sacrificing for the common good, participating in the public good. Childless Americans pay taxes for schools so children are educated. Americans who live close to their work pay taxes for roads and bridges so those who live farther away can get to work. Americans with secure jobs pay into unemployment insurance so those who lose their jobs have some income until they find another.

And under the Affordable Care Act, healthier and wealthier Americans pay a bit more so sicker and poorer Americans don’t die.

Trump and House Republicans aren’t patriots. They don’t believe in sacrificing for the common good. They don’t think we’re citizens with obligations to one another. To them, we’re just individual consumers who deserve the best deal we can get for ourselves. It’s all about the art of the deal.

So what do we do now? We fight.

To become law, Trumpcare has to go through 4 additional steps: First, a version must be enacted in the Senate. It must then go a “conference” to hammer out differences between the House and Senate. The conference agreement must then pass in the House again, and again in the Senate.

I hope you’ll be there every step of the way, until Trumpcare collapses under the weight of its own cruelty. House Republicans who voted for this travesty will rue the day they did. Any Senate Republican who joins them will regret it as well.

AlterNet

Trump Is Creating an Authoritarian Dictatorship – Here’s Why – bgerber. 

If there is an overarching pattern in the Trump regime’s first months, it is a steady move toward oligarchy verging on authoritarian dictatorship. I am a political scientist by training and I didn’t write the above sentence unthinkingly. Putting aside Trump’s Russian role model, Putin, the pattern is clear.

  • appointing wealthy businessmen (and one businesswoman) to key government positions)
  • refusing to release taxes
  • signing controversial executive orders out of the public eye
  • ignoring reporters’ questions
  • running the country by, to be kind, deceptive tweets
  • stopping publication of the White House guest list
  • living a rich lifestyle supported by public funds
  • benefiting personally from public office
  • placing family members in key governmental positions
  • appointing an FCC Chairman who will significantly reduce access to the Internet
  • attacking the press as the “enemy of the people”
  • claiming that the president cannot be held accountable for behaviors committed before or, potentially, after his election
  • thug-like behavior in relation to perceived political enemies
  • scapegoating of specific ethnic or religious groups directly or by implication
  • mysogynistic and anti-LGBTQ behaviors
  • engaging in grossly exaggerated policy swings
  • supporting massive fines and imprisonment for Inauguration Day protestors and protestors in general

Whether intentional or not, the above has the effect of creating an American Presidency very different from any we have ever seen and one that should frighten anyone who understands political, economic and social history.

Opednews

This Fight is Our Fight: The Battle to Save Working People – Elizabeth Warren. 

The tale of America coming out of the Great Depression and not only surviving but actually transforming itself into an economic giant is the stuff of legend.

But the part that gives me goose bumps is what we did with all that wealth: over several generations, our country built the greatest middle class the world had ever known. We built it ourselves, using our own hard work and the tools of government to open up more opportunities for millions of people. We used it all, tax policy, investments in public education, new infrastructure, support for research, rules that protected consumers and investors, antitrust laws, to promote and expand our middle class.

The spectacular, shoot-off-the-fireworks fact is that we succeeded. Income growth was widespread, and the people who did most of the work, the 90 percent of America, also got most of the gains. In the 1960s and 1970s, I was one of the lucky beneficiaries of everything America was building, and to this day, I am grateful to the bottom of my soul.

But now, in a new century and a different time, that great middle class is on the ropes. All across the country, people are worried—worried and angry.

They are angry because they bust their tails and their income barely budges. Angry because their budget is stretched to the breaking point by housing and health care. Angry because the cost of sending their kid to day care or college is out of sight. People are angry because trade deals seem to be building jobs and opportunities for workers in other parts of the world, while leaving abandoned factories here at home. Angry because young people are getting destroyed by student loans, working people are deep in debt, and seniors can’t make their Social Security checks cover their basic living expenses. Angry because we can’t even count on the fundamentals, roads, bridges, safe water, reliable power, from our government.

Angry because we’re afraid that our children’s chances for a better life won’t be as good as our own. People are angry, and they are right to be angry. Because this hard-won, ruggedly built, infinitely precious democracy of ours has been hijacked.

Today this country works great for those at the top. It works great for every corporation rich enough to hire an army of lobbyists and lawyers. It works great for every billionaire who pays taxes at lower rates than the hired help. It works great for everyone with the money to buy favors in Washington. Government works great for them, but for everyone else, this country is no longer working very well.

This is the most dangerous kind of corruption. No, it’s not old-school bribery with envelopes full of cash. This much smoother, slicker, and better-dressed form of corruption is perverting our government and making sure that day after day, decision after decision, the rich and powerful are always taken care of. This corruption is turning government into a tool of those who have already gathered wealth and influence. This corruption is hollowing out America’s middle class and tearing down our democracy.

In 2016, into this tangle of worry and anger, came a showman who made big promises. A man who swore he would drain the swamp, then surrounded himself with the lobbyists and billionaires who run the swamp and feed off government favors. A man who talked the talk of populism but offered the very worst of trickle-down economics. A man who said he knew how the corrupt system worked because he had worked it for himself many times. A man who vowed to make America great again and followed up with attacks on immigrants, minorities, and women. A man who was always on the hunt for his next big con.

In the months ahead, it would become clear that this man was even more divisive and dishonest than his presidential campaign revealed.

Plenty of people were eager to describe the special appeal of Donald Trump and explain all the reasons why he won. But we need more than an explanation of just one election; we also need to understand how and why our country has gone so thoroughly wrong.

We need a plan to put us back on track, and then we need to get to work and make it happen. We need to live our values, to be the kind of nation that invests in opportunity, not just for some of us, but for all of us. We need to take our democracy back from those who would pervert it for their own benefit. We need to build the America of our best dreams.

If ever there was a time to fight, this is it.

Elizabeth Warren

From her new book:

This Fight is Our Fight: The Battle to Save Working People


A directionless, foolish president has unlocked the weapons store. We are all in great peril – Observer Editorial. 

In the run-up to last November’s election, American voters were repeatedly warned that the inexperienced, volatile and impulsive Donald Trump would be a dangerous choice as next US president. Less than three months into his term, that prediction is coming true. Trump’s reckless behaviour is rapidly sucking the world into an alarming new era of extreme strategic instability, most evidently in the case of North Korea. 

Suddenly abandoning his pledge to pursue non-interventionist policies and eschew the role of global policeman, Trump has performed an astonishing volte-face. It began with a casually insouciant decision, taken over dinner in Palm Beach in January, to order a special forces ground operation in Yemen that Barack Obama had previously blocked as too risky. The operation went badly awry. 

Trump tried shoddily to distance himself from this failure and turned his attention to Syria and Iraq. Word went out from the White House that US field commanders would henceforth enjoy greater latitude in fighting Islamic State (Isis). There would be no more of Obama’s frustrating micro-management. Trump’s message: the gloves are off – not that they were ever really on.

Since then, civilian casualties in both countries have been rising, the result of US or US-led bombing. The Iraqi army’s slow and painful effort to retake Mosul from Isis has not been noticeably advanced by stepped-up American engagement. But the lethal impact of the siege on Mosul’s citizens has measurably grown, as in last months horrific American bombind of a basement shelter that killed up to 150 people.

Trump has significantly increased the number of US troops in Syria, ahead of an anticipated assault on the Isis stronghold of Raqqa. Then he upped the ante again, firing off 59 cruise missiles at a Syrian army base in an emotional retaliation for a chemical weapons attack in Idlib province. This self-indulgent escapade has done little or nothing to further peace in Syria. But it did trigger a destabilising confrontation with Russia, Syria’s ally, with possible implications for security in eastern Europe, Nato and the Asian power balance.

Having greatly impressed himself by this grandiose show of might, Trump, now self-styled global enforcer-in-chief, swivelled his sights on to Afghanistan, setting off the biggest explosion he could manage without actually going nuclear. Last week’s detonation of a Moab monster bomb was gimmick warfare. It may have killed some Isis fighters. It may not. That was not the point. The aim, again, was to showcase US firepower and Trump’s supposed martial prowess. The target audience was not Isis or the Taliban but North Korea, where, to China’s justified alarm, Trump has deployed a nuclear-armed naval armada in a bid to bully Pyongyang into submission.

And so, in the space or 100 days or so, Trump’s crudely intimidatory, violent, know-nothing approach to sensitive international issues has encircled the globe from Moscow to the Middle East to Beijing, plunging foes and allies alike into a dark vortex of expanding strategic instability.

In switching sides and policies from one day to the next, Trump resembles a punter in a betting shop, rashly gambling on a hunch. In the North Korean case, if Trump guesses wrong, the results could be utterly calamitous. 

There is a place for deterrence in international affairs and, to work, deterrence must be backed by the possible use of force. That is how we survived the Cold War. It is possible that Syria’s regime will stop using chemical weapons because of Trump’s punitive response. It is arguable that China needed a jolt to get it more involved in containing North Korea and that Pyongyang may cease, for a time, its provocative behaviour. The defeat of Isis, wherever it lurks, is undoubtedly desirable.

But as every military strategist and experienced statesman knows, the uncertain means to these desirable ends are fenced about with deep complexities, subtleties and countless shades of political and military grey. Bombs and more bombs do not solve anything. Violence can and usually does make matters worse. The world beyond Trump Tower and Mar-a-Lago is not a shooting gallery. War and diplomacy are not zero-sum games.

The US president is not hosting a television reality show – not any more, at least. This is all only too real. And if Bomber Trump has proved anything in the past three months, it is that he lacks the judgment, the common sense and the common humanity to be anybody’s commander in chief.

The Guardian

Assad Had the Upper Hand So Why Would He Gas His Own People? – Chris Ernesto.

On March 30, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that the future leader of Syria should be determined by the people of Syria.

This major policy statement by the US took regime change off the table, and was obviously great news for Bashar al-Assad. Combined with Syrian military gains on the ground, Assad was in the strongest position he’d been in since the war in Syria began.

So, why 5 days later would he gas his own people?

But even without a thorough investigation, and less than 72 hours after the alleged chemical attack took place, American political leaders and establishment media claimed that Assad carried out the attack on April 4. Hours later, the US launched 59 tomahawk cruise missiles on a Syrian airfield based on these unproven allegations, killing 9 civilians including 4 children in Idlib province.

Common sense, historical facts and circumstantial evidence suggest that it’s highly unlikely that Assad gassed his own people earlier this week. In fact, it’s much more likely that the chemical weapons were from al-Qaeda, ISIS and/or other anti-Assad factions. Indeed, a case can be made that the attack was coordinated by the White Helmets, with US neoconservatives providing the script.

In 2013, US-supported, anti-Assad forces were losing ground in the war in Syria. Assad claimed that the rebels were using chemical weapons in Aleppo in a last-ditch effort to hold territory. Assad asked the UN to investigate his claims, and they agreed, and began an investigation in Syria. Within days of the UN inspectors’ arrival, another chemical weapon attack occurred in Syria. Western media was quick to blame Assad, even though it defied logic that Assad would use chemical weapons when chemical weapons inspectors were inside Syria at his invitation.

As conservative columnist Pat Buchanan said, “I would not understand or comprehend that Bashar al-Assad, no matter how bad a man he may be, would be so stupid as to order a chemical weapons attack on civilians in his own country when the immediate consequence…might be that he would be at war with the United States. So this reeks of a false flag operation.”

Former member of Congress Ron Paul pointed out, “the group that is most likely to benefit from a chemical attack is Al-Qaeda. They ignite some gas, some people die and blame it on Assad.”

And Russian President Vladimir Putin said, “There is every reason to believe sarin gas was used, not by the Syrian army, but by opposition forces to provoke intervention by their powerful foreign patrons, who would be siding with the fundamentalists.”

Nonetheless, the Obama administration and other western leaders blamed Assad, and talk of US military action in Syria was contemplated.

Fortunately, journalists like Seymour Hersh helped put a halt to war talk, by revealing that it was indeed the US-supported rebels who used chemical weapons – weapons they received from Turkey, a US ally.

The sarin gas attack that just occurred in Syria is eerily similar to the attack that occurred in 2013: US-backed anti-Assad rebels are losing ground, a sarin gas attack occurs and US politicians quickly blame Assad without an investigation. One difference between today and 2013 is that the US military actually bombed a Syrian military target in “retaliation.” Another difference is that this time, Russian military is in Syria at the invitation of the Syrian government, so the risk of military confrontation with Russia is real.

The US announcement on March 30 that it would not seek regime change in Syria was a massive blow to neoconservatives, liberal interventionists, ISIS, al-Qaeda and all other anti-Assad factions who have been trying to oust Assad for years. In 2016 alone, the CIA reportedly spent $1 billion supplying and training the rebel forces attempting to overthrow the Syrian government.

The Assad opposition is willing to revert to any means necessary, as history showed in 2013, so it’s conceivable that this week’s chemical attack was perpetrated by one of those factions who saw the window of opportunity to oust Assad closing.

And the US has a long history of making false claims to go to war, such as the Gulf of Tonkin incident, and the Iraq WMD claims — both of which led to major wars.

Given this, it is conceivable that the chemical weapons attack in Syria this week is a total hoax, perpetrated by The White Helmets, with the goal of tricking the US into taking military action against Assad, something the White Helmets have pushed for years.

As Max Blumenthal points out, The White Helmets, who call for a military imposed no-fly zone in Syria, were founded in collaboration with a wing of the USAID — the wing that has promoted regime change around the world — and have been provided with $23 million in funding from the department.

Money to the White Helmets is just part of the $339 million that the USAID has allotted for “supporting activities that pursue a peaceful transition to a democratic and stable Syria.”

Russian deputy ambassador to the UN said on Wednesday that allegations that Assad used chemical weapons this week are based on “falsified reports from the White Helmets”, an organization that has been “discredited long ago”.

This doesn’t mean the White Helmets were involved in Tuesday’s attack, or that the attack itself didn’t really happen, we’re just asking the question.

With that said, clearly the neocons and all anti-Assad forces have a lot more to gain from this week’s chemical attack than does Assad. And Assad has much more to lose than any of those groups. And this week’s attack followed the same script used during the 2013 attack, and that attack was wrongly blamed on Assad, as we suspect this attack is as well.

Although, it is too early to know what really happened, one of the possibilities is that the Syrian military bombed an al-Qaeda hideout, not knowing that chemical weapons were in the building, and the gas spread, killing people, as Russian officials have pointed out. But it’s odd that the White Helmets just happened to be on the ground, and rapidly produced an HD video complete with a script that was read on most major media outlets within hours of the attack.

Other than the people responsible for the alleged chemical attack this week, nobody really knows what happened, including us. Now that the US has attacked Syria, Russia’s ally, the question is, will Russia back down? If they don’t, we may look back at this week’s attack as a flashpoint to the start of a military confrontation with Russia. And given that this could lead to World War 3, we think it’s worth the time to consider all possibilities, including the ones mapped out here.

Article co-authors Dina Formentini and Chris Ernesto are members of St. Pete for Peace, a non-partisan antiwar organization providing peace oriented education events and services to the Tampa Bay, FL community since 2003.

St. Pete for Peace

Syria Missile Attack: A Victory of Neo-conservatives – Ron Paul. 

“I don’t think the evidence is there, at least it hasn’t been presented, and they need a so-called excuse, they worked real hard, our government and their coalition.

If any of this was true, I don’t know why they couldn’t wait and take a look at it. In 2013, there were similar stories that didn’t go anywhere, because with a little bit of a pause, there was a resistance to it built in our Congress and in the American people. They thought that it was a fraud and nothing like that was happening, and right now, I just can’t think of how it could conceivably be what they claim, because it’s helping ISIS, because it’s helping Al-Qaeda.

There was no need to rush. There was no threat to national security. They have to give a reason to do these things.

I have no idea what his purpose was. Maybe he just didn’t want to hear the debate, because the last time they debated it, they lost. And this time, it was necessary for them to jump onto this, before people came to know what was really going on.

They want to get rid of him, and you have to look for who is involved in that. Unfortunately, they are the ones who are winning out on this, and the radicals, too! There is a bit of hypocrisy going on here, because at one minute we say, well, maybe Assad has to stay, the next day he has to go, and we’re there fighting ISIS and Al-Qaeda. At the same time, what we end up doing is we actually strengthen them! It is a mess.

I don’t believe that our people or the American government should be the policemen of the world, it makes no sense, it causes us more trouble and more grief, it causes us more financial problems, and it’s hardly a way that we could defend our constitutional liberty.

The peace talks have ended now. They’re terrified that peace was going to break out! Al-Qaeda was on the run, peace talks were happening, and all of a sudden, they had to change, and this changes things dramatically! I don’t expect peace talks anytime soon or in the distant future.

I was wondering about the fact that the announcement came when Trump was talking to Xi Jinping, the Chinese president. And of course, North Korea’s high on the list of targets for our president and our administration. It might be a warning: this is what’s going to happen to you if you don’t do what we tell you. I just don’t like us being involved in so many countries, in their internal affairs; I think it’s so detrimental.”

Ron Paul

Part 3: Trump’s Authoritarian Vision – Los Angeles Times. 

by The Times Editorial Board

APRIL 4, 2017

Standing before the cheering throngs at the Republican National Convention last summer, Donald Trump bemoaned how special interests had rigged the country’s politics and its economy, leaving Americans victimized by unfair trade deals, incompetent bureaucrats and spineless leaders.

He swooped into politics, he declared, to subvert the powerful and rescue those who cannot defend themselves. “Nobody knows the system better than me, which is why I alone can fix it.”

To Trump’s faithful, those words were a rallying cry. But his critics heard something far more menacing in them: a dangerously authoritarian vision of the presidency — one that would crop up time and again as he talked about overruling generals, disregarding international law, ordering soldiers to commit war crimes, jailing his opponent.

Trump has no experience in politics; he’s never previously run for office or held a government position. So perhaps he was unaware that one of the hallmarks of the American system of government is that the president’s power to “fix” things unilaterally is constrained by an array of strong institutions — including the courts, the media, the permanent federal bureaucracy and Congress. Combined, they provide an essential defense against an imperial presidency.

Yet in his first weeks at the White House, President Trump has already sought to undermine many of those institutions. Those that have displayed the temerity to throw some hurdle in the way of a Trump objective have quickly felt the heat.

Consider Trump’s feud with the courts.

He has repeatedly questioned the impartiality and the motives of judges. For example, he attacked the jurists who ruled against his order excluding travelers from seven majority Muslim nations, calling one a “so-called judge” and later tweeting:

Just cannot believe a judge would put our country in such peril. If something happens blame him and court system. People pouring in. Bad! — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 5 2017

It’s nothing new for presidents to disagree with court decisions. But Trump’s direct, personal attacks on judges’ integrity and on the legitimacy of the judicial system itself — and his irresponsible suggestion that the judiciary should be blamed for future terrorist attacks — go farther. They aim to undermine public faith in the third branch of government.

The courts are the last line of defense for the Constitution and the rule of law; that’s what makes them such a powerful buffer against an authoritarian leader. The president of the United States should understand that and respect it.

Other institutions under attack include:

The electoral process.

Faced with certified election results showing that Hillary Clinton outpolled him by nearly 3 million votes, Trump repeated the unsubstantiated — and likely crackpot — assertion that Clinton’s supporters had duped local polling places with millions of fraudulent votes. In a democracy, the right to vote is the one check that the people themselves hold against their leaders; sowing distrust in elections is the kind of thing leaders do when they don’t want their power checked.

The intelligence community.

After reports emerged that the Central Intelligence Agency believed Russia had tried to help Trump win, the president-elect’s transition team responded: “These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.” It was a snarky, dismissive, undermining response — and the administration has continued to belittle the intelligence community and question its motives since then, while also leaking stories about possibly paring and restructuring its ranks. It is bizarre to watch Trump continue to tussle publicly with this particular part of the government, whose leaders he himself has appointed, as if he were still an outsider candidate raging against the machine. It’s unnerving too, given the intelligence services’ crucial role in protecting the country against hidden risks, assisting the U.S. military and helping inform Trump’s decisions.

The media.

Trump has blistered the mainstream media for reporting that has cast him in a poor light, saying outlets concocted narratives based on nonexistent anonymous sources. In February he said that the “fake news” media will “never represent the people,” adding ominously: “And we’re going to do something about it.” His goal seems to be to defang the media watchdog by making the public doubt any coverage that accuses Trump of blundering or abusing his power.

Federal agencies.

In addition to calling for agency budgets to be chopped by up to 30%, Trump appointed a string of Cabinet secretaries who were hostile to much of their agencies’ missions and the laws they’re responsible for enforcing. He has also proposed deep cuts in federal research programs, particularly in those related to climate change. It’s easier to argue that climate change isn’t real when you’re no longer collecting the data that documents it.

In a way, Trump represents a culmination of trends that have been years in the making.

Conservative talk radio hosts have long blasted federal judges as “activists” and regulators as meddlers in the economy, while advancing the myth of rampant election fraud. And gridlock in Washington has led previous presidents to try new ways to circumvent the checks on their power — witness President George W. Bush’s use of signing statements to invalidate parts of bills Congress passed, and President Obama’s aggressive use of executive orders when lawmakers balked at his proposals.

What’s uniquely threatening about Trump’s approach, though, is how many fronts he’s opened in this struggle for power and the vehemence with which he seeks to undermine the institutions that don’t go along.

It’s one thing to complain about a judicial decision or to argue for less regulation, but to the extent that Trump weakens public trust in essential institutions like the courts and the media, he undermines faith in democracy and in the system and processes that make it work.

“He sees himself as not merely a force for change, but as a wrecking ball.”

Trump betrays no sense for the president’s place among the myriad of institutions in the continuum of governance. He seems willing to violate long-established political norms without a second thought, and he cavalierly rejects the civility and deference that allow the system to run smoothly. He sees himself as not merely a force for change, but as a wrecking ball.

Will Congress act as a check on Trump’s worst impulses as he moves forward? One test is the House and Senate intelligence committees’ investigation into Russia’s meddling in the presidential election; lawmakers need to muster the courage to follow the trail wherever it leads. Can the courts stand up to Trump? Already, several federal judges have issued rulings against the president’s travel ban. And although Trump has railed against the decisions, he has obeyed them.

None of these institutions are eager to cede authority to the White House and they won’t do so without a fight. It would be unrealistic to suggest that America’s most basic democratic institutions are in imminent jeopardy.

But we should not view them as invulnerable either. Remember that Trump’s verbal assaults are directed at the public, and are designed to chip away at people’s confidence in these institutions and deprive them of their validity. When a dispute arises, whose actions are you going to consider legitimate? Whom are you going to trust? That’s why the public has to be wary of Trump’s attacks on the courts, the “deep state,” the “swamp.” We can’t afford to be talked into losing our faith in the forces that protect us from an imperial presidency.

LA Times

The full Russian MoFA statement in regards the US missile strike on Syria. 

The United States conducted strikes against Syrian government troops in the early hours of April 7, using chemical weapons attacks in Idlib Province as a pretext.

The US opted for a show of force, for military action against a country fighting international terrorism without taking the trouble to get the facts straight.

It is not the first time that the US chooses an irresponsible approach that aggravates problems the world is facing, and threatens international security. The very presence of military personnel from the US and other countries in Syria without consent from the Syrian government or a UN Security Council mandate is an egregious and obvious violation of international law that cannot be justified. While previous initiatives of this kind were presented as efforts to combat terrorism, now they are clearly an act of aggression against a sovereign Syria. Actions undertaken by the US today inflict further damage to the Russia-US relations.

Russia has expressed on numerous occasions that it was ready to cooperate on resolving the most urgent issues the world is facing today, and that fighting international terrorism was a top priority. However, we will never agree to unsanctioned action against the legitimate Syrian government that has been waging an uncompromising war on international terrorism for a long time.

Seeking to justify military action Washington has totally distorted what had happened in Idlib. The US could not have failed to grasp the fact that the Syrian government troops did not use chemical weapons there. Damascus simply does not have them, as confirmed a number of times by qualified experts. This was the conclusion reached by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). Over the recent years this organisation inspected almost all the facilities linked or possibly linked to Syria’s chemical weapons programme. As for Idlib, the terrorists operating there used to produce toxic land mines intended for use in Syria and Iraq. These manufacturing facilities were put out of operation in a military operation carried out by the Syrian air force.

The US pretends that it does not understand obvious things, turning a blind eye to the use of chemical weapons in Iraq, officially confirmed by Baghdad. The US refuses to believe the evidence provided by certified documents confirming the use of chemical weapons by terrorists in Aleppo. In doing so, the US is abetting international terrorism and making it stronger. New WMD attacks can be expected.

There is no doubt that the military action by the US is an attempt to divert attention from the situation in Mosul, where the campaign carried out among others by US-led coalition has resulted in hundreds of civilian casualties and an escalating humanitarian disaster.

It is obvious that the cruise missile attack was prepared in advance. Any expert understands that Washington’s decision on air strikes predates the Idlib events, which simply served as a pretext for a show of force.

Russia suspends the Memorandum of Understanding on Prevention of Flight Safety Incidents in the course of operations in Syria signed with the US.

We call on the UN Security Council to hold an emergency meeting to discuss the latest developments.

What will Trump do next? – Alexander Gillespie.

• Alexander Gillespie is a professor of law at Waikato University.

The United States has attacked a Syrian air base with 50 to 60 cruise missiles in response to a chemical weapons attack it blames on President Bashar Assad. The justification for this action is the attack on Khan Sheikhoun, about 50 kilometres south of the city of Idlib, in which 80 people died, including dozens of children, and hundreds more were injured. This attack was done with chemical weapons, which appear to have involved sarin gas. Chemical weapons are prohibited in international law due to their inhumane and indiscriminate killing methods. Sarin was the primary agent used in the Ghouta attacks in Syria in 2013 in which killed over 280 people. President Obama had warned earlier in 2012 that the use of such weapons would be a ‘red-line’ that Assad should not cross. When the attack happened, Obama did not strike Assad because a process was brokered through the United Nations that all of the chemical weapons that Assad possessed would be removed by the UN’s Organisation for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons, and that an inquiry would be held to determine who was at fault for the incident at Ghouta. The Inquiry found that although it was likely that the weapons used at Ghouta came from military stockpiles of the Syrian armed forces, it stopped short of saying that the Syrian military were the actual perpetuators of the crime. The Organisation for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons then, with the consent of all parties to the Syrian conflict, entered into Syria, collected all of the chemical weapons that were disclosed, destroyed them, and left.

It now appears that all of the chemical weapons were not handed over. Whether these were used by the rebels or the Syrian military is a matter of debate, although the weight of opinion suggests it is likely that the attack on Khan Sheikhoun was the result of the Syrian military. This is certainly the view of the Americans, British and French.

The problem is that to do an act of war such as President Trump has just done, the weight of evidence should be more than ‘likely’. It should also have been something that should have been done as a last resort.

However, there were other options on the table, as although tempers are running high at the Security Council in New York over this matter, a resolution calling for an independent investigation, to find out who was responsible, was possible. Why Mr Trump has short-circuited this process and acted now in such a deliberate manner is a matter of speculation.

The most pressing question from here is what happens next in the short term. For Bashar al-Assad, the option is to attack the 500 or so American troops in northern Syria helping with the attack on the ISIS held city of Raqqa. For Mr Putin, the choices are more nuanced. Russia is tied to Syria by a 1972 military alliance. It is this alliance which has been used as a spring-board for direct Russian intervention to prop up Assad. Even if Syria sees the American action as an act of war, this does not oblige Russia to do the same. Hopefully, Mr Putin will do what he does best, which is keep very calm in situations of stress, and serve his dish of revenge when it is cold. He last did this when a Russian aircraft was shot down over Turkey, subsequently breaking Turkey out of its close relationship to the United States and Europe. In this instance, it is likely that the Russians were informed in advance of what was going to happen, with a tightly orchestrated attack against those responsible for the action against Khan Sheikhoun, as opposed to other less related targets. Not to have informed the Russians, or to risk Russian casualties, could pull the two sides into direct conflict that could be cataclysmic.

Assuming that this conflict does not escalate and that Assad and the Russians accept the action without retaliating, the real problem for Mr Trump is what to do next ? Firing missiles is the easy part. Stopping weapons firing is much harder. Finding peace in Syria has been elusive since 2011. The fourth leg of the Geneva Peace Process recently concluded, with minimal progress. The same questions over what status Assad should have in any future government; what to do with terrorists; and whether the Kurds should have a separate homeland, continue to dominate the landscape. Without answering these questions there will never be peace in Syria. Mr Trump had earlier suggested said that the removal of Bashar al-Assad was not part of this priority. He was scathing of Mr Obama’s action in Syria and warned about conflict with Russia. Now, everything has changed.

NZ Herald

Part 2: Why Trump lies – Los Angeles Times. 

by The Times Editorial Board

APRIL 3, 2017

Donald Trump did not invent the lie and is not even its master. Lies have oozed out of the White House for more than two centuries and out of politicians’ mouths — out of all people’s mouths — likely as long as there has been human speech.

But amid all those lies, told to ourselves and to one another in order to amass power, woo lovers, hurt enemies and shield ourselves against the often glaring discomfort of reality, humanity has always had an abiding respect for truth.

In the United States, born and periodically reborn out of the repeated recognition and rejection of the age-old lie that some people are meant to take dominion over others, truth is as vital a part of the civic, social and intellectual culture as justice and liberty. Our civilization is premised on the conviction that such a thing as truth exists, that it is knowable, that it is verifiable, that it exists independently of authority or popularity and that at some point — and preferably sooner rather than later — it will prevail.

Even American leaders who lie generally know the difference between their statements and the truth. Richard Nixon said “I am not a crook” but by that point must have seen that he was. Bill Clinton said “I did not have sexual relations with that woman” but knew that he did.

“He targets the darkness, anger and insecurity that hide in each of us and harnesses them for his own purposes.”

The insult that Donald Trump brings to the equation is an apparent disregard for fact so profound as to suggest that he may not see much practical distinction between lies, if he believes they serve him, and the truth.

His approach succeeds because of his preternaturally deft grasp of his audience. Though he is neither terribly articulate nor a seasoned politician, he has a remarkable instinct for discerning which conspiracy theories in which quasi-news source, or which of his own inner musings, will turn into ratings gold. He targets the darkness, anger and insecurity that hide in each of us and harnesses them for his own purposes. If one of his lies doesn’t work — well, then he lies about that.

If we harbor latent racism or if we fear terror attacks by Muslim extremists, then he elevates a rumor into a public debate: Was Barack Obama born in Kenya, and is he therefore not really president?

If his own ego is threatened — if broadcast footage and photos show a smaller-sized crowd at his inauguration than he wanted — then he targets the news media, falsely charging outlets with disseminating “fake news” and insisting, against all evidence, that he has proved his case (“We caught them in a beauty,” he said).

If his attempt to limit the number of Muslim visitors to the U.S. degenerates into an absolute fiasco and a display of his administration’s incompetence, then he falsely asserts that terrorist attacks are underreported. (One case in point offered by the White House was the 2015 attack in San Bernardino, which in fact received intensive worldwide news coverage. The Los Angeles Times won a Pulitzer Prize for its reporting on the subject).

If he detects that his audience may be wearying of his act, or if he worries about a probe into Russian meddling into the election that put him in office, he tweets in the middle of the night the astonishingly absurd claim that President Obama tapped his phones. And when evidence fails to support him he dispatches his aides to explain that by “phone tapping” he obviously didn’t mean phone tapping. Instead of backing down when confronted with reality, he insists that his rebutted assertions will be vindicated as true at some point in the future.

Trump’s easy embrace of untruth can sometimes be entertaining, in the vein of a Moammar Kadafi speech to the United Nations or the self-serving blathering of a 6-year-old.

“He gives every indication that he is as much the gullible tool of liars as he is the liar in chief.”

But he is not merely amusing. He is dangerous. His choice of falsehoods and his method of spewing them — often in tweets, as if he spent his days and nights glued to his bedside radio and was periodically set off by some drivel uttered by a talk show host who repeated something he’d read on some fringe blog — are a clue to Trump’s thought processes and perhaps his lack of agency. He gives every indication that he is as much the gullible tool of liars as he is the liar in chief.

He has made himself the stooge, the mark, for every crazy blogger, political quack, racial theorist, foreign leader or nutcase peddling a story that he might repackage to his benefit as a tweet, an appointment, an executive order or a policy. He is a stranger to the concept of verification, the insistence on evidence and the standards of proof that apply in a courtroom or a medical lab — and that ought to prevail in the White House.

There have always been those who accept the intellectually bankrupt notion that people are entitled to invent their own facts — consider the “9/11 was an inside job” trope — but Trump’s ascent marks the first time that the culture of alternative reality has made its home at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

If Americans are unsure which Trump they have — the Machiavellian negotiator who lies to manipulate simpler minds, or one of those simpler minds himself — does it really matter? In either case he puts the nation in danger by undermining the role of truth in public discourse and policymaking, as well as the notion of truth being verifiable and mutually intelligible.

In the months ahead, Trump will bring his embrace of alternative facts on the nation’s behalf into talks with China, North Korea or any number of powers with interests counter to ours and that constitute an existential threat. At home, Trump now becomes the embodiment of the populist notion (with roots planted at least as deeply in the Left as the Right) that verifiable truth is merely a concept invented by fusty intellectuals, and that popular leaders can provide some equally valid substitute. We’ve seen people like that before, and we have a name for them: demagogues.

Our civilization is defined in part by the disciplines — science, law, journalism — that have developed systematic methods to arrive at the truth. Citizenship brings with it the obligation to engage in a similar process. Good citizens test assumptions, question leaders, argue details, research claims.

Investigate. Read. Write. Listen. Speak. Think. Be wary of those who disparage the investigators, the readers, the writers, the listeners, the speakers and the thinkers. Be suspicious of those who confuse reality with reality TV, and those who repeat falsehoods while insisting, against all evidence, that they are true. To defend freedom, demand fact.

LA Times

Part 1: Our Dishonest President – Los Angeles Times. 

by The Times Editorial Board

APRIL 2, 2017

It was no secret during the campaign that Donald Trump was a narcissist and a demagogue who used fear and dishonesty to appeal to the worst in American voters. The Times called him unprepared and unsuited for the job he was seeking, and said his election would be a “catastrophe.”

Still, nothing prepared us for the magnitude of this train wreck. Like millions of other Americans, we clung to a slim hope that the new president would turn out to be all noise and bluster, or that the people around him in the White House would act as a check on his worst instincts, or that he would be sobered and transformed by the awesome responsibilities of office.

Instead, seventy-some days in — and with about 1,400 to go before his term is completed — it is increasingly clear that those hopes were misplaced.

In a matter of weeks, President Trump has taken dozens of real-life steps that, if they are not reversed, will rip families apart, foul rivers and pollute the air, intensify the calamitous effects of climate change and profoundly weaken the system of American public education for all.

His attempt to de-insure millions of people who had finally received healthcare coverage and, along the way, enact a massive transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich has been put on hold for the moment. But he is proceeding with his efforts to defang the government’s regulatory agencies and bloat the Pentagon’s budget even as he supposedly retreats from the global stage.

“It is impossible to know where his presidency will lead or how much damage he will do to our nation.”

These are immensely dangerous developments which threaten to weaken this country’s moral standing in the world, imperil the planet and reverse years of slow but steady gains by marginalized or impoverished Americans. But, chilling as they are, these radically wrongheaded policy choices are not, in fact, the most frightening aspect of the Trump presidency.

What is most worrisome about Trump is Trump himself. He is a man so unpredictable, so reckless, so petulant, so full of blind self-regard, so untethered to reality that it is impossible to know where his presidency will lead or how much damage he will do to our nation. His obsession with his own fame, wealth and success, his determination to vanquish enemies real and imagined, his craving for adulation — these traits were, of course, at the very heart of his scorched-earth outsider campaign; indeed, some of them helped get him elected. But in a real presidency in which he wields unimaginable power, they are nothing short of disastrous.

Although his policies are, for the most part, variations on classic Republican positions (many of which would have been undertaken by a President Ted Cruz or a President Marco Rubio), they become far more dangerous in the hands of this imprudent and erratic man. Many Republicans, for instance, support tighter border security and a tougher response to illegal immigration, but Trump’s cockamamie border wall, his impracticable campaign promise to deport all 11 million people living in the country illegally and his blithe disregard for the effect of such proposals on the U.S. relationship with Mexico turn a very bad policy into an appalling one.

In the days ahead, The Times editorial board will look more closely at the new president, with a special attention to three troubling traits:

1. Trump’s shocking lack of respect for those fundamental rules and institutions on which our government is based. Since Jan. 20, he has repeatedly disparaged and challenged those entities that have threatened his agenda, stoking public distrust of essential institutions in a way that undermines faith in American democracy. He has questioned the qualifications of judges and the integrity of their decisions, rather than acknowledging that even the president must submit to the rule of law. He has clashed with his own intelligence agencies, demeaned government workers and questioned the credibility of the electoral system and the Federal Reserve. He has lashed out at journalists, declaring them “enemies of the people,” rather than defending the importance of a critical, independent free press. His contempt for the rule of law and the norms of government are palpable.

2. His utter lack of regard for truth.Whether it is the easily disprovable boasts about the size of his inauguration crowd or his unsubstantiated assertion that Barack Obama bugged Trump Tower, the new president regularly muddies the waters of fact and fiction. It’s difficult to know whether he actually can’t distinguish the real from the unreal — or whether he intentionally conflates the two to befuddle voters, deflect criticism and undermine the very idea of objective truth. Whatever the explanation, he is encouraging Americans to reject facts, to disrespect science, documents, nonpartisanship and the mainstream media — and instead to simply take positions on the basis of ideology and preconceived notions. This is a recipe for a divided country in which differences grow deeper and rational compromise becomes impossible.

3. His scary willingness to repeat alt-right conspiracy theories, racist memes and crackpot, out-of-the-mainstream ideas. Again, it is not clear whether he believes them or merely uses them. But to cling to disproven “alternative” facts; to retweet racists; to make unverifiable or false statements about rigged elections and fraudulent voters; to buy into discredited conspiracy theories first floated on fringe websites and in supermarket tabloids — these are all of a piece with the Barack Obama birther claptrap that Trump was peddling years ago and which brought him to political prominence. It is deeply alarming that a president would lend the credibility of his office to ideas that have been rightly rejected by politicians from both major political parties.

Where will this end? Will Trump moderate his crazier campaign positions as time passes? Or will he provoke confrontation with Iran, North Korea or China, or disobey a judge’s order or order a soldier to violate the Constitution? Or, alternately, will the system itself — the Constitution, the courts, the permanent bureaucracy, the Congress, the Democrats, the marchers in the streets — protect us from him as he alienates more and more allies at home and abroad, steps on his own message and creates chaos at the expense of his ability to accomplish his goals? Already, Trump’s job approval rating has been hovering in the mid-30s, according to Gallup, a shockingly low level of support for a new president. And that was before his former national security advisor, Michael Flynn, offered to cooperate last week with congressional investigators looking into the connection between the Russian government and the Trump campaign.

“Those who oppose the new president’s reckless and heartless agenda must make their voices heard.”

On Inauguration Day, we wrote on this page that it was not yet time to declare a state of “wholesale panic” or to call for blanket “non-cooperation” with the Trump administration. Despite plenty of dispiriting signals, that is still our view. The role of the rational opposition is to stand up for the rule of law, the electoral process, the peaceful transfer of power and the role of institutions; we should not underestimate the resiliency of a system in which laws are greater than individuals and voters are as powerful as presidents. This nation survived Andrew Jackson and Richard Nixon. It survived slavery. It survived devastating wars. Most likely, it will survive again.

But if it is to do so, those who oppose the new president’s reckless and heartless agenda must make their voices heard. Protesters must raise their banners. Voters must turn out for elections. Members of Congress — including and especially Republicans — must find the political courage to stand up to Trump. Courts must safeguard the Constitution. State legislators must pass laws to protect their citizens and their policies from federal meddling. All of us who are in the business of holding leaders accountable must redouble our efforts to defend the truth from his cynical assaults.

The United States is not a perfect country, and it has a great distance to go before it fully achieves its goals of liberty and equality. But preserving what works and defending the rules and values on which democracy depends are a shared responsibility. Everybody has a role to play in this drama.

LA Times

Senator Feinstein Just Hinted Trump Is Headed Towards Impeachment

You just looked white as a ghost yesterday when you came out of that meeting. And we don’t know what’s happening. But we know that he is breaking laws everyday. He’s making money on Mar-a-Lago. He’s getting copyrights in China. He has obvious dealings with Russia. The Dakota pipeline. There’s so many things he is doing that are unconstitutional. How are we gonna get him out? That’s what I want to know.

Natalie Dickinson, Occupy Democrats

Well, we have a lot of people working at this. Technical people. And I think he’s gonna get himself out. I think sending sons to another country to make a financial deal for his company and then have that covered with government expenses — I think those government expenses should not be allowed.

We are working on a bill that will do that now. We’re working on a couple of bills that would deal with conflict of interest. It’s difficult because this is a field that relates to some extent to the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution. And there’s no preceding legislation to do this. But we’ve got good people looking at it. And we’re going to some of the ethicists along the line.

I’ve been doing what I do for a long time and I’ve never seen anything like this.

Senator Diane Feinstein, Senate Judiciary Committee

President Trump has been violating the emoluments clause of the Constitution since the moment he was inaugurated. He has refused to divest himself from his businesses, uses taxpayer money to send his sons on Trump Organization business trips, holds meetings at his private Mar-a-lago club every weekend…the list goes on and on.
Occupy Democrats

Dangerously Unhinged – Robert Reich.

By this point in his Presidency, Barack Obama had passed a $831 billion stimulus bill. By early April his first federal budget had passed both chambers of Congress, laying the groundwork for his overhauls of health care and government spending on education. The following year came the re-set of Wall Street, known as Dodd-Frank. Then Obamacare. It was the most significant period of legislating since Lyndon Johnson’s first few years in office.

As Trump hits 50 days in office this week, health-care reform is hobbled by divisions between conservatives who want to cut Medicaid deeper and faster and moderates who want to preserve the Obama-era expansion. Yesterday Trump released a budget with unprecedented cuts to discretionary spending that many Republicans describe as dead on arrival. Trump’s second attempt at an executive order banning travel from several Muslim-majority countries is again being successfully challenged in the courts, eating up more time and resources in an overwhelmed White House. Trump’s “Wall” is a bizarre folly. The Russia investigation, which will begin on Monday with potentially damaging testimony from the F.B.I. director James Comey, is only beginning.

Trump has also persuaded large numbers of Americans – including many of Republican persuasion – that he’s dangerously unhinged.

No matter the criteria by which presidencies are judged, Trump’s is on the way to being a total debacle.

How Donald Trump Could Build an Autocracy in the U.S. – David Frum. 

How to Build an Autocracy.

The preconditions are present in the U.S. today. Here’s the playbook Donald Trump could use to set the country down a path toward illiberalism.

It’s 2021, and president Donald Trump will shortly be sworn in for his second term. The 45th president has visibly aged over the past four years. He rests heavily on his daughter Ivanka’s arm during his infrequent public appearances.

Fortunately for him, he did not need to campaign hard for reelection. His has been a popular presidency: Big tax cuts, big spending, and big deficits have worked their familiar expansive magic. Wages have grown strongly in the Trump years, especially for men without a college degree, even if rising inflation is beginning to bite into the gains. The president’s supporters credit his restrictive immigration policies and his TrumpWorks infrastructure program.

The president’s critics, meanwhile, have found little hearing for their protests and complaints. A Senate investigation of Russian hacking during the 2016 presidential campaign sputtered into inconclusive partisan wrangling. Concerns about Trump’s purported conflicts of interest excited debate in Washington but never drew much attention from the wider American public.

Allegations of fraud and self-dealing in the TrumpWorks program, and elsewhere, have likewise been shrugged off. The president regularly tweets out news of factory openings and big hiring announcements: “I’m bringing back your jobs,” he has said over and over. Voters seem to have believed him—and are grateful.

Most Americans intuit that their president and his relatives have become vastly wealthier over the past four years. But rumors of graft are easy to dismiss. Because Trump has never released his tax returns, no one really knows.

Anyway, doesn’t everybody do it? On the eve of the 2018 congressional elections, WikiLeaks released years of investment statements by prominent congressional Democrats indicating that they had long earned above-market returns. As the air filled with allegations of insider trading and crony capitalism, the public subsided into weary cynicism. The Republicans held both houses of Congress that November, and Trump loyalists shouldered aside the pre-Trump leadership.

The business community learned its lesson early. “You work for me, you don’t criticize me,” the president was reported to have told one major federal contractor, after knocking billions off his company’s stock-market valuation with an angry tweet. Wise business leaders take care to credit Trump’s personal leadership for any good news, and to avoid saying anything that might displease the president or his family.

The media have grown noticeably more friendly to Trump as well. The proposed merger of AT&T and Time Warner was delayed for more than a year, during which Time Warner’s CNN unit worked ever harder to meet Trump’s definition of fairness. Under the agreement that settled the Department of Justice’s antitrust complaint against Amazon, the company’s founder, Jeff Bezos, has divested himself of The Washington Post. The paper’s new owner—an investor group based in Slovakia—has closed the printed edition and refocused the paper on municipal politics and lifestyle coverage.

Meanwhile, social media circulate ever-wilder rumors. Some people believe them; others don’t. It’s hard work to ascertain what is true.

Nobody’s repealed the First Amendment, of course, and Americans remain as free to speak their minds as ever—provided they can stomach seeing their timelines fill up with obscene abuse and angry threats from the pro-Trump troll armies that police Facebook and Twitter. Rather than deal with digital thugs, young people increasingly drift to less political media like Snapchat and Instagram.

Trump-critical media do continue to find elite audiences. Their investigations still win Pulitzer Prizes; their reporters accept invitations to anxious conferences about corruption, digital-journalism standards, the end of nato, and the rise of populist authoritarianism. Yet somehow all of this earnest effort feels less and less relevant to American politics. President Trump communicates with the people directly via his Twitter account, ushering his supporters toward favorable information at Fox News or Breitbart.

Despite the hand-wringing, the country has in many ways changed much less than some feared or hoped four years ago. Ambitious Republican plans notwithstanding, the American social-welfare system, as most people encounter it, has remained largely intact during Trump’s first term. The predicted wave of mass deportations of illegal immigrants never materialized. A large illegal workforce remains in the country, with the tacit understanding that so long as these immigrants avoid politics, keeping their heads down and their mouths shut, nobody will look very hard for them.

“The benefit of controlling a modern state is less the power to persecute the innocent, more the power to protect the guilty.”

African Americans, young people, and the recently naturalized encounter increasing difficulties casting a vote in most states. But for all the talk of the rollback of rights, corporate America still seeks diversity in employment. Same-sex marriage remains the law of the land. Americans are no more and no less likely to say “Merry Christmas” than they were before Trump took office.

People crack jokes about Trump’s National Security Agency listening in on them. They cannot deeply mean it; after all, there’s no less sexting in America today than four years ago. Still, with all the hacks and leaks happening these days—particularly to the politically outspoken—it’s just common sense to be careful what you say in an email or on the phone. When has politics not been a dirty business? When have the rich and powerful not mostly gotten their way? The smart thing to do is tune out the political yammer, mind your own business, enjoy a relatively prosperous time, and leave the questions to the troublemakers.

In an 1888 lecture, James Russell Lowell, a founder of this magazine, challenged the happy assumption that the Constitution was a “machine that would go of itself.” Lowell was right. Checks and balances is a metaphor, not a mechanism.

Everything imagined above—and everything described below—is possible only if many people other than Donald Trump agree to permit it. It can all be stopped, if individual citizens and public officials make the right choices. The story told here, like that told by Charles Dickens’s Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, is a story not of things that will be, but of things that may be. Other paths remain open. It is up to Americans to decide which one the country will follow.

No society, not even one as rich and fortunate as the United States has been, is guaranteed a successful future. When early Americans wrote things like “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty,” they did not do so to provide bromides for future bumper stickers. They lived in a world in which authoritarian rule was the norm, in which rulers habitually claimed the powers and assets of the state as their own personal property.

The exercise of political power is different today than it was then—but perhaps not so different as we might imagine. Larry Diamond, a sociologist at Stanford, has described the past decade as a period of “democratic recession.” Worldwide, the number of democratic states has diminished. Within many of the remaining democracies, the quality of governance has deteriorated.

What has happened in Hungary since 2010 offers an example—and a blueprint for would-be strongmen. Hungary is a member state of the European Union and a signatory of the European Convention on Human Rights. It has elections and uncensored internet. Yet Hungary is ceasing to be a free country.

The transition has been nonviolent, often not even very dramatic. Opponents of the regime are not murdered or imprisoned, although many are harassed with building inspections and tax audits. If they work for the government, or for a company susceptible to government pressure, they risk their jobs by speaking out. Nonetheless, they are free to emigrate anytime they like. Those with money can even take it with them. Day in and day out, the regime works more through inducements than through intimidation. The courts are packed, and forgiving of the regime’s allies. Friends of the government win state contracts at high prices and borrow on easy terms from the central bank. Those on the inside grow rich by favoritism; those on the outside suffer from the general deterioration of the economy. As one shrewd observer told me on a recent visit, “The benefit of controlling a modern state is less the power to persecute the innocent, more the power to protect the guilty.”

Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s rule over Hungary does depend on elections. These remain open and more or less free—at least in the sense that ballots are counted accurately. Yet they are not quite fair. Electoral rules favor incumbent power-holders in ways both obvious and subtle. Independent media lose advertising under government pressure; government allies own more and more media outlets each year. The government sustains support even in the face of bad news by artfully generating an endless sequence of controversies that leave culturally conservative Hungarians feeling misunderstood and victimized by liberals, foreigners, and Jews.

If this were happening in Honduras, we’d know what to call it. It’s happening here instead, and so we are baffled.

You could tell a similar story of the slide away from democracy in South Africa under Nelson Mandela’s successors, in Venezuela under the thug-thief Hugo Chávez, or in the Philippines under the murderous Rodrigo Duterte. A comparable transformation has recently begun in Poland, and could come to France should Marine Le Pen, the National Front’s candidate, win the presidency.

Outside the Islamic world, the 21st century is not an era of ideology. The grand utopian visions of the 19th century have passed out of fashion. The nightmare totalitarian projects of the 20th have been overthrown or have disintegrated, leaving behind only outdated remnants: North Korea, Cuba. What is spreading today is repressive kleptocracy, led by rulers motivated by greed rather than by the deranged idealism of Hitler or Stalin or Mao. Such rulers rely less on terror and more on rule-twisting, the manipulation of information, and the co-optation of elites.

The United States is of course a very robust democracy. Yet no human contrivance is tamper-proof, a constitutional democracy least of all. Some features of the American system hugely inhibit the abuse of office: the separation of powers within the federal government; the division of responsibilities between the federal government and the states. Federal agencies pride themselves on their independence; the court system is huge, complex, and resistant to improper influence.

Yet the American system is also perforated by vulnerabilities no less dangerous for being so familiar. Supreme among those vulnerabilities is reliance on the personal qualities of the man or woman who wields the awesome powers of the presidency. A British prime minister can lose power in minutes if he or she forfeits the confidence of the majority in Parliament. The president of the United States, on the other hand, is restrained first and foremost by his own ethics and public spirit. What happens if somebody comes to the high office lacking those qualities?

Over the past generation, we have seen ominous indicators of a breakdown of the American political system: the willingness of congressional Republicans to push the United States to the brink of a default on its national obligations in 2013 in order to score a point in budget negotiations; Barack Obama’s assertion of a unilateral executive power to confer legal status upon millions of people illegally present in the United States—despite his own prior acknowledgment that no such power existed.

Donald Trump, however, represents something much more radical. A president who plausibly owes his office at least in part to a clandestine intervention by a hostile foreign intelligence service? Who uses the bully pulpit to target individual critics? Who creates blind trusts that are not blind, invites his children to commingle private and public business, and somehow gets the unhappy members of his own political party either to endorse his choices or shrug them off? If this were happening in Honduras, we’d know what to call it. It’s happening here instead, and so we are baffled.

“Ambition must be made to counteract ambition.” With those words, written more than 200 years ago, the authors of the Federalist Papers explained the most important safeguard of the American constitutional system. They then added this promise: “In republican government, the legislative authority necessarily predominates.” Congress enacts laws, appropriates funds, confirms the president’s appointees. Congress can subpoena records, question officials, and even impeach them. Congress can protect the American system from an overbearing president.

But will it?

As politics has become polarized, Congress has increasingly become a check only on presidents of the opposite party. Recent presidents enjoying a same-party majority in Congress—Barack Obama in 2009 and 2010, George W. Bush from 2003 through 2006—usually got their way. And congressional oversight might well be performed even less diligently during the Trump administration.

The first reason to fear weak diligence is the oddly inverse relationship between President Trump and the congressional Republicans. In the ordinary course of events, it’s the incoming president who burns with eager policy ideas. Consequently, it’s the president who must adapt to—and often overlook—the petty human weaknesses and vices of members of Congress in order to advance his agenda. This time, it will be Paul Ryan, the speaker of the House, doing the advancing—and consequently the overlooking.

Trump has scant interest in congressional Republicans’ ideas, does not share their ideology, and cares little for their fate. He can—and would—break faith with them in an instant to further his own interests. Yet here they are, on the verge of achieving everything they have hoped to achieve for years, if not decades. They owe this chance solely to Trump’s ability to deliver a crucial margin of votes in a handful of states—Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania—which has provided a party that cannot win the national popular vote a fleeting opportunity to act as a decisive national majority. The greatest risk to all their projects and plans is the very same X factor that gave them their opportunity: Donald Trump, and his famously erratic personality. What excites Trump is his approval rating, his wealth, his power. The day could come when those ends would be better served by jettisoning the institutional Republican Party in favor of an ad hoc populist coalition, joining nationalism to generous social spending—a mix that’s worked well for authoritarians in places like Poland. Who doubts Trump would do it? Not Paul Ryan. Not Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader. For the first time since the administration of John Tyler in the 1840s, a majority in Congress must worry about their president defecting from them rather than the other way around.

A scandal involving the president could likewise wreck everything that Republican congressional leaders have waited years to accomplish. However deftly they manage everything else, they cannot prevent such a scandal. But there is one thing they can do: their utmost not to find out about it.

“Do you have any concerns about Steve Bannon being in the White House?,” CNN’s Jake Tapper asked Ryan in November. “I don’t know Steve Bannon, so I have no concerns,” answered the speaker. “I trust Donald’s judgment.”

Asked on 60 Minutes whether he believed Donald Trump’s claim that “millions” of illegal votes had been cast, Ryan answered: “I don’t know. I’m not really focused on these things.”

What about Trump’s conflicts of interest? “This is not what I’m concerned about in Congress,” Ryan said on CNBC. Trump should handle his conflicts “however he wants to.”

Ryan has learned his prudence the hard way. Following the airing of Trump’s past comments, caught on tape, about his forceful sexual advances on women, Ryan said he’d no longer campaign for Trump. Ryan’s net favorability rating among Republicans dropped by 28 points in less than 10 days. Once unassailable in the party, he suddenly found himself disliked by 45 percent of Republicans.

As Ryan’s cherished plans move closer and closer to presidential signature, Congress’s subservience to the president will likely intensify. Whether it’s allegations of Russian hacks of Democratic Party internal communications, or allegations of self-enrichment by the Trump family, or favorable treatment of Trump business associates, the Republican caucus in Congress will likely find itself conscripted into serving as Donald Trump’s ethical bodyguard.

The Senate historically has offered more scope to dissenters than the House. Yet even that institution will find itself under pressure. Two of the Senate’s most important Republican Trump skeptics will be up for reelection in 2018: Arizona’s Jeff Flake and Texas’s Ted Cruz. They will not want to provoke a same-party president—especially not in a year when the president’s party can afford to lose a seat or two in order to discipline dissenters. Mitch McConnell is an even more results-oriented politician than Paul Ryan—and his wife, Elaine Chao, has been offered a Cabinet position, which might tilt him further in Trump’s favor.

Ambition will counteract ambition only until ambition discovers that conformity serves its goals better. At that time, Congress, the body expected to check presidential power, may become the president’s most potent enabler.

Discipline within the congressional ranks will be strictly enforced not only by the party leadership and party donors, but also by the overwhelming influence of Fox News. Trump versus Clinton was not 2016’s only contest between an overbearing man and a restrained woman. Just such a contest was waged at Fox, between Sean Hannity and Megyn Kelly. In both cases, the early indicators seemed to favor the women. Yet in the end it was the men who won, Hannity even more decisively than Trump. Hannity’s show, which became an unapologetic infomercial for Trump, pulled into first place on the network in mid-October. Kelly’s show tumbled to fifth place, behind even The Five, a roundtable program that airs at 5 p.m. Kelly landed on her feet, of course, but Fox learned its lesson: Trump sells; critical coverage does not. Since the election, the network has awarded Kelly’s former 9 p.m. time slot to Tucker Carlson, who is positioning himself as a Trump enthusiast in the Hannity mold.

A president determined to thwart the law to protect himself and those in his circle has many means to do so.

From the point of view of the typical Republican member of Congress, Fox remains all-powerful: the single most important source of visibility and affirmation with the voters whom a Republican politician cares about. In 2009, in the run-up to the Tea Party insurgency, South Carolina’s Bob Inglis crossed Fox, criticizing Glenn Beck and telling people at a town-hall meeting that they should turn his show off. He was drowned out by booing, and the following year, he lost his primary with only 29 percent of the vote, a crushing repudiation for an incumbent untouched by any scandal.

Fox is reinforced by a carrier fleet of supplementary institutions: super pacs, think tanks, and conservative web and social-media presences, which now include such former pariahs as Breitbart and Alex Jones. So long as the carrier fleet coheres—and unless public opinion turns sharply against the president—oversight of Trump by the Republican congressional majority will very likely be cautious, conditional, and limited.

Trump will not set out to build an authoritarian state. His immediate priority seems likely to be to use the presidency to enrich himself. But as he does so, he will need to protect himself from legal risk. Being Trump, he will also inevitably wish to inflict payback on his critics. Construction of an apparatus of impunity and revenge will begin haphazardly and opportunistically. But it will accelerate. It will have to.

If Congress is quiescent, what can Trump do? A better question, perhaps, is what can’t he do?

Newt Gingrich, the former speaker of the House, who often articulates Trumpist ideas more candidly than Trump himself might think prudent, offered a sharp lesson in how difficult it will be to enforce laws against an uncooperative president. During a radio roundtable in December, on the topic of whether it would violate anti-nepotism laws to bring Trump’s daughter and son-in-law onto the White House staff, Gingrich said: The president “has, frankly, the power of the pardon. It is a totally open power, and he could simply say, ‘Look, I want them to be my advisers. I pardon them if anybody finds them to have behaved against the rules. Period.’ And technically, under the Constitution, he has that level of authority.”

That statement is true, and it points to a deeper truth: The United States may be a nation of laws, but the proper functioning of the law depends upon the competence and integrity of those charged with executing it. A president determined to thwart the law in order to protect himself and those in his circle has many means to do so.

The power of the pardon, deployed to defend not only family but also those who would protect the president’s interests, dealings, and indiscretions, is one such means. The powers of appointment and removal are another. The president appoints and can remove the commissioner of the IRS. He appoints and can remove the inspectors general who oversee the internal workings of the Cabinet departments and major agencies. He appoints and can remove the 93 U.S. attorneys, who have the power to initiate and to end federal prosecutions. He appoints and can remove the attorney general, the deputy attorney general, and the head of the criminal division at the Department of Justice.

There are hedges on these powers, both customary and constitutional, including the Senate’s power to confirm (or not) presidential appointees. Yet the hedges may not hold in the future as robustly as they have in the past.

Senators of the president’s party traditionally have expected to be consulted on the U.S.-attorney picks in their states, a highly coveted patronage plum. But the U.S. attorneys of most interest to Trump—above all the ones in New York and New Jersey, the locus of many of his businesses and bank dealings—come from states where there are no Republican senators to take into account. And while the U.S. attorneys in Florida, home to Mar-a-Lago and other Trump properties, surely concern him nearly as much, if there’s one Republican senator whom Trump would cheerfully disregard, it’s Marco Rubio.

The traditions of independence and professionalism that prevail within the federal law-enforcement apparatus, and within the civil service more generally, will tend to restrain a president’s power. Yet in the years ahead, these restraints may also prove less robust than they look. Republicans in Congress have long advocated reforms to expedite the firing of underperforming civil servants. In the abstract, there’s much to recommend this idea. If reform is dramatic and happens in the next two years, however, the balance of power between the political and the professional elements of the federal government will shift, decisively, at precisely the moment when the political elements are most aggressive. The intelligence agencies in particular would likely find themselves exposed to retribution from a president enraged at them for reporting on Russia’s aid to his election campaign. “As you know from his other career, Donald likes to fire people.” So New Jersey Governor Chris Christie joked to a roomful of Republican donors at the party’s national convention in July. It would be a mighty power—and highly useful.

The courts, though they might slowly be packed with judges inclined to hear the president’s arguments sympathetically, are also a check, of course. But it’s already difficult to hold a president to account for financial improprieties. As Donald Trump correctly told reporters and editors from The New York Times on November 22, presidents are not bound by the conflict-of-interest rules that govern everyone else in the executive branch.

Presidents from Jimmy Carter onward have balanced this unique exemption with a unique act of disclosure: the voluntary publication of their income-tax returns. At a press conference on January 11, Trump made clear that he will not follow that tradition. His attorney instead insisted that everything the public needs to know is captured by his annual financial-disclosure report, which is required by law for executive-branch employees and from which presidents are not exempt. But a glance at the reporting form will show their inadequacy to Trump’s situation. They are written with stocks and bonds in mind, to capture mortgage liabilities and deferred executive compensation—not the labyrinthine deals of the Trump Organization and its ramifying networks of partners and brand-licensing affiliates. The truth is in the tax returns, and they will not be forthcoming.

Even outright bribe-taking by an elected official is surprisingly difficult to prosecute, and was made harder still by the Supreme Court in 2016, when it overturned, by an 8–0 vote, the conviction of former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell. McDonnell and his wife had taken valuable gifts of cash and luxury goods from a favor seeker. McDonnell then set up meetings between the favor seeker and state officials who were in a position to help him. A jury had even accepted that the “quid” was indeed “pro” the “quo”—an evidentiary burden that has often protected accused bribe-takers in the past. The McDonnells had been convicted on a combined 20 counts.

The Supreme Court objected, however, that the lower courts had interpreted federal anticorruption law too broadly. The relevant statute applied only to “official acts.” The Court defined such acts very strictly, and held that “setting up a meeting, talking to another official, or organizing an event—without more—does not fit that definition of an ‘official act.’ ”

Trump is poised to mingle business and government with an audacity and on a scale more reminiscent of a leader in a post-Soviet republic than anything ever before seen in the United States. Glimpses of his family’s wealth-seeking activities will likely emerge during his presidency, as they did during the transition. Trump’s Indian business partners dropped by Trump Tower and posted pictures with the then-president-elect on Facebook, alerting folks back home that they were now powers to be reckoned with. The Argentine media reported that Trump had discussed the progress of a Trump-branded building in Buenos Aires during a congratulatory phone call from the country’s president. (A spokesman for the Argentine president denied that the two men had discussed the building on their call.) Trump’s daughter Ivanka sat in on a meeting with the Japanese prime minister—a useful meeting for her, since a government-owned bank has a large ownership stake in the Japanese company with which she was negotiating a licensing deal.

Suggestive. Disturbing. But illegal, post-McDonnell? How many presidentially removable officials would dare even initiate an inquiry?

You may hear much mention of the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution during Trump’s presidency: “No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States: And no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.”

But as written, this seems to present a number of loopholes. First, the clause applies only to the president himself, not to his family members. Second, it seems to govern benefits only from foreign governments and state-owned enterprises, not from private business entities. Third, Trump’s lawyers have argued that the clause applies only to gifts and titles, not to business transactions. Fourth, what does “the Consent of Congress” mean? If Congress is apprised of an apparent emolument, and declines to do anything about it, does that qualify as consent? Finally, how is this clause enforced? Could someone take President Trump to court and demand some kind of injunction? Who? How? Will the courts grant standing? The clause seems to presume an active Congress and a vigilant public. What if those are lacking?

It is essential to recognize that Trump will use his position not only to enrich himself; he will enrich plenty of other people too, both the powerful and—sometimes, for public consumption—the relatively powerless. Venezuela, a stable democracy from the late 1950s through the 1990s, was corrupted by a politics of personal favoritism, as Hugo Chávez used state resources to bestow gifts on supporters. Venezuelan state TV even aired a regular program to showcase weeping recipients of new houses and free appliances. Americans recently got a preview of their own version of that show as grateful Carrier employees thanked then-President-elect Trump for keeping their jobs in Indiana.

“I just couldn’t believe that this guy … he’s not even president yet and he worked on this deal with the company,” T. J. Bray, a 32-year-old Carrier employee, told Fortune. “I’m just in shock. A lot of the workers are in shock. We can’t believe something good finally happened to us. It felt like a victory for the little people.”

Trump will try hard during his presidency to create an atmosphere of personal munificence, in which graft does not matter, because rules and institutions do not matter. He will want to associate economic benefit with personal favor. He will create personal constituencies, and implicate other people in his corruption. That, over time, is what truly subverts the institutions of democracy and the rule of law. If the public cannot be induced to care, the power of the investigators serving at Trump’s pleasure will be diminished all the more.

The first task for our new administration will be to liberate our citizens from the crime and terrorism and lawlessness that threatens our communities.” Those were Donald Trump’s words at the Republican National Convention. The newly nominated presidential candidate then listed a series of outrages and attacks, especially against police officers.

“America was shocked to its core when our police officers in Dallas were so brutally executed. Immediately after Dallas, we’ve seen continued threats and violence against our law-enforcement officials. Law officers have been shot or killed in recent days in Georgia, Missouri, Wisconsin, Kansas, Michigan, and Tennessee.

On Sunday, more police were gunned down in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Three were killed, and three were very, very badly injured. An attack on law enforcement is an attack on all Americans. I have a message to every last person threatening the peace on our streets and the safety of our police: When I take the oath of office next year, I will restore law and order to our country.”

You would never know from Trump’s words that the average number of felonious killings of police during the Obama administration’s tenure was almost one-third lower than it was in the early 1990s, a decline that tracked with the general fall in violent crime that has so blessed American society. There had been a rise in killings of police in 2014 and 2015 from the all-time low in 2013—but only back to the 2012 level. Not every year will be the best on record.”

A mistaken belief that crime is spiraling out of control—that terrorists roam at large in America and that police are regularly gunned down—represents a considerable political asset for Donald Trump. Seventy-eight percent of Trump voters believed that crime had worsened during the Obama years.

Civil unrest will not be a problem for the Trump presidency. It will be a resource. Trump will likely want to enflame more of it.

In true police states, surveillance and repression sustain the power of the authorities. But that’s not how power is gained and sustained in backsliding democracies. Polarization, not persecution, enables the modern illiberal regime.

By guile or by instinct, Trump understands this.

Whenever Trump stumbles into some kind of trouble, he reacts by picking a divisive fight. The morning after The Wall Street Journal published a story about the extraordinary conflicts of interest surrounding Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, Trump tweeted that flag burners should be imprisoned or stripped of their citizenship. That evening, as if on cue, a little posse of oddballs obligingly burned flags for the cameras in front of the Trump International Hotel in New York. Guess which story dominated that day’s news cycle?

Civil unrest will not be a problem for the Trump presidency. It will be a resource. Trump will likely want not to repress it, but to publicize it—and the conservative entertainment-outrage complex will eagerly assist him. Immigration protesters marching with Mexican flags; Black Lives Matter demonstrators bearing antipolice slogans—these are the images of the opposition that Trump will wish his supporters to see. The more offensively the protesters behave, the more pleased Trump will be.

Calculated outrage is an old political trick, but nobody in the history of American politics has deployed it as aggressively, as repeatedly, or with such success as Donald Trump. If there is harsh law enforcement by the Trump administration, it will benefit the president not to the extent that it quashes unrest, but to the extent that it enflames more of it, ratifying the apocalyptic vision that haunted his speech at the convention.

At a rally in Grand Rapids, Michigan, in December, Trump got to talking about Vladimir Putin. “And then they said, ‘You know he’s killed reporters,’ ” Trump told the audience. “And I don’t like that. I’m totally against that. By the way, I hate some of these people, but I’d never kill them. I hate them. No, I think, no—these people, honestly—I’ll be honest. I’ll be honest. I would never kill them. I would never do that. Ah, let’s see—nah, no, I wouldn’t. I would never kill them. But I do hate them.”

In the early days of the Trump transition, Nic Dawes, a journalist who has worked in South Africa, delivered an ominous warning to the American media about what to expect. “Get used to being stigmatized as ‘opposition,’ ” he wrote. “The basic idea is simple: to delegitimize accountability journalism by framing it as partisan.”

The rulers of backsliding democracies resent an independent press, but cannot extinguish it. They may curb the media’s appetite for critical coverage by intimidating unfriendly journalists, as President Jacob Zuma and members of his party have done in South Africa. Mostly, however, modern strongmen seek merely to discredit journalism as an institution, by denying that such a thing as independent judgment can exist. All reporting serves an agenda. There is no truth, only competing attempts to grab power.

By filling the media space with bizarre inventions and brazen denials, purveyors of fake news hope to mobilize potential supporters with righteous wrath—and to demoralize potential opponents by nurturing the idea that everybody lies and nothing matters. A would-be kleptocrat is actually better served by spreading cynicism than by deceiving followers with false beliefs: Believers can be disillusioned; people who expect to hear only lies can hardly complain when a lie is exposed. The inculcation of cynicism breaks down the distinction between those forms of media that try their imperfect best to report the truth, and those that purvey falsehoods for reasons of profit or ideology. The New York Times becomes the equivalent of Russia’s RT; The Washington Post of Breitbart; NPR of Infowars.

One story, still supremely disturbing, exemplifies the falsifying method. During November and December, the slow-moving California vote count gradually pushed Hillary Clinton’s lead over Donald Trump in the national popular vote further and further: past 1 million, past 1.5 million, past 2 million, past 2.5 million. Trump’s share of the vote would ultimately clock in below Richard Nixon’s in 1960, Al Gore’s in 2000, John Kerry’s in 2004, Gerald Ford’s in 1976, and Mitt Romney’s in 2012—and barely ahead of Michael Dukakis’s in 1988.

This outcome evidently gnawed at the president-elect. On November 27, Trump tweeted that he had in fact “won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.” He followed up that astonishing, and unsubstantiated, statement with an escalating series of tweets and retweets.

It’s hard to do justice to the breathtaking audacity of such a claim. If true, it would be so serious as to demand a criminal investigation at a minimum, presumably spanning many states. But of course the claim was not true. Trump had not a smidgen of evidence beyond his own bruised feelings and internet flotsam from flagrantly unreliable sources. Yet once the president-elect lent his prestige to the crazy claim, it became fact for many people. A survey by YouGov found that by December 1, 43 percent of Republicans accepted the claim that millions of people had voted illegally in 2016.

A clear untruth had suddenly become a contested possibility. When CNN’s Jeff Zeleny correctly reported on November 28 that Trump’s tweet was baseless, Fox’s Sean Hannity accused Zeleny of media bias—and then proceeded to urge the incoming Trump administration to take a new tack with the White House press corps, and to punish reporters like Zeleny. “I think it’s time to reevaluate the press and maybe change the traditional relationship with the press and the White House,” Hannity said. “My message tonight to the press is simple: You guys are done. You’ve been exposed as fake, as having an agenda, as colluding. You’re a fake news organization.”

This was no idiosyncratic brain wave of Hannity’s. The previous morning, Ari Fleischer, the former press secretary in George W. Bush’s administration, had advanced a similar idea in a Wall Street Journal op-ed, suggesting that the White House could withhold credentials for its press conferences from media outlets that are “too liberal or unfair.” Newt Gingrich recommended that Trump stop giving press conferences altogether.

Twitter, unmediated by the press, has proved an extremely effective communication tool for Trump. And the whipping-up of potentially violent Twitter mobs against media critics is already a standard method of Trump’s governance. Megyn Kelly blamed Trump and his campaign’s social-media director for inciting Trump’s fans against her to such a degree that she felt compelled to hire armed guards to protect her family. I’ve talked with well-funded Trump supporters who speak of recruiting a troll army explicitly modeled on those used by Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Russia’s Putin to take control of the social-media space, intimidating some critics and overwhelming others through a blizzard of doubt-casting and misinformation. The WikiLeaks Task Force recently tweeted—then hastily deleted—a suggestion that it would build a database to track personal and financial information on all verified Twitter accounts, the kind of accounts typically used by journalists at major media organizations. It’s not hard to imagine how such compilations could be used to harass or intimidate.

Even so, it seems unlikely that President Trump will outright send the cameras away. He craves media attention too much. But he and his team are serving notice that a new era in government-media relations is coming, an era in which all criticism is by definition oppositional—and all critics are to be treated as enemies.

In an online article for The New York Review of Books, the Russian-born journalist Masha Gessen brilliantly noted a commonality between Donald Trump and the man Trump admires so much, Vladimir Putin. “Lying is the message,” she wrote. “It’s not just that both Putin and Trump lie, it is that they lie in the same way and for the same purpose: blatantly, to assert power over truth itself.”

Mass movements of the 20th century—communist, fascist, and other—have bequeathed to our imaginations an outdated image of what 21st-century authoritarianism might look like.

Whatever else happens, Americans are not going to assemble in parade-ground formations, any more than they will crank a gramophone or dance the turkey trot. In a society where few people walk to work, why mobilize young men in matching shirts to command the streets? If you’re seeking to domineer and bully, you want your storm troopers to go online, where the more important traffic is. Demagogues need no longer stand erect for hours orating into a radio microphone. Tweet lies from a smartphone instead.

“Populist-fueled democratic backsliding is difficult to counter,” wrote the political scientists Andrea Kendall-Taylor and Erica Frantz late last year. “Because it is subtle and incremental, there is no single moment that triggers widespread resistance or creates a focal point around which an opposition can coalesce … Piecemeal democratic erosion, therefore, typically provokes only fragmented resistance.” Their observation was rooted in the experiences of countries ranging from the Philippines to Hungary. It could apply here too.

If people retreat into private life, if critics grow quieter, if cynicism becomes endemic, the corruption will slowly become more brazen, the intimidation of opponents stronger. Laws intended to ensure accountability or prevent graft or protect civil liberties will be weakened.

If the president uses his office to grab billions for himself and his family, his supporters will feel empowered to take millions. If he successfully exerts power to punish enemies, his successors will emulate his methods.

If citizens learn that success in business or in public service depends on the favor of the president and his ruling clique, then it’s not only American politics that will change. The economy will be corrupted too, and with it the larger culture. A culture that has accepted that graft is the norm, that rules don’t matter as much as relationships with those in power, and that people can be punished for speech and acts that remain theoretically legal—such a culture is not easily reoriented back to constitutionalism, freedom, and public integrity.

The oft-debated question “Is Donald Trump a fascist?” is not easy to answer. There are certainly fascistic elements to him: the subdivision of society into categories of friend and foe; the boastful virility and the delight in violence; the vision of life as a struggle for dominance that only some can win, and that others must lose.

Yet there’s also something incongruous and even absurd about applying the sinister label of fascist to Donald Trump. He is so pathetically needy, so shamelessly self-interested, so fitful and distracted. Fascism fetishizes hardihood, sacrifice, and struggle—concepts not often associated with Trump.

A would-be kleptocrat is better served by spreading cynicism than by deceiving followers.

Perhaps this is the wrong question. Perhaps the better question about Trump is not “What is he?” but “What will he do to us?”

By all early indications, the Trump presidency will corrode public integrity and the rule of law—and also do untold damage to American global leadership, the Western alliance, and democratic norms around the world. The damage has already begun, and it will not be soon or easily undone. Yet exactly how much damage is allowed to be done is an open question—the most important near-term question in American politics. It is also an intensely personal one, for its answer will be determined by the answer to another question: What will you do? And you? And you?

Of course we want to believe that everything will turn out all right. In this instance, however, that lovely and customary American assumption itself qualifies as one of the most serious impediments to everything turning out all right. If the story ends without too much harm to the republic, it won’t be because the dangers were imagined, but because citizens resisted.

The duty to resist should weigh most heavily upon those of us who—because of ideology or partisan affiliation or some other reason—are most predisposed to favor President Trump and his agenda. The years ahead will be years of temptation as well as danger: temptation to seize a rare political opportunity to cram through an agenda that the American majority would normally reject. Who knows when that chance will recur?

A constitutional regime is founded upon the shared belief that the most fundamental commitment of the political system is to the rules. The rules matter more than the outcomes. It’s because the rules matter most that Hillary Clinton conceded the presidency to Trump despite winning millions more votes. It’s because the rules matter most that the giant state of California will accept the supremacy of a federal government that its people rejected by an almost two-to-one margin.

Perhaps the words of a founding father of modern conservatism, Barry Goldwater, offer guidance. “If I should later be attacked for neglecting my constituents’ ‘interests,’ ” Goldwater wrote in The Conscience of a Conservative, “I shall reply that I was informed their main interest is liberty and that in that cause I am doing the very best I can.” These words should be kept in mind by those conservatives who think a tax cut or health-care reform a sufficient reward for enabling the slow rot of constitutional government.

Many of the worst and most subversive things Trump will do will be highly popular. Voters liked the threats and incentives that kept Carrier manufacturing jobs in Indiana. Since 1789, the wisest American leaders have invested great ingenuity in creating institutions to protect the electorate from its momentary impulses toward arbitrary action: the courts, the professional officer corps of the armed forces, the civil service, the Federal Reserve—and undergirding it all, the guarantees of the Constitution and especially the Bill of Rights. More than any president in U.S. history since at least the time of Andrew Jackson, Donald Trump seeks to subvert those institutions.

Trump and his team count on one thing above all others: public indifference. “I think people don’t care,” he said in September when asked whether voters wanted him to release his tax returns. “Nobody cares,” he reiterated to 60 Minutes in November. Conflicts of interest with foreign investments? Trump tweeted on November 21 that he didn’t believe voters cared about that either: “Prior to the election it was well known that I have interests in properties all over the world. Only the crooked media makes this a big deal!”

What happens in the next four years will depend heavily on whether Trump is right or wrong about how little Americans care about their democracy and the habits and conventions that sustain it. If they surprise him, they can restrain him.

Public opinion, public scrutiny, and public pressure still matter greatly in the U.S. political system. In January, an unexpected surge of voter outrage thwarted plans to neutralize the independent House ethics office. That kind of defense will need to be replicated many times. Elsewhere in this issue, Jonathan Rauch describes some of the networks of defense that Americans are creating.

Get into the habit of telephoning your senators and House member at their local offices, especially if you live in a red state. Press your senators to ensure that prosecutors and judges are chosen for their independence—and that their independence is protected. Support laws to require the Treasury to release presidential tax returns if the president fails to do so voluntarily. Urge new laws to clarify that the Emoluments Clause applies to the president’s immediate family, and that it refers not merely to direct gifts from governments but to payments from government-affiliated enterprises as well. Demand an independent investigation by qualified professionals of the role of foreign intelligence services in the 2016 election—and the contacts, if any, between those services and American citizens. Express your support and sympathy for journalists attacked by social-media trolls, especially women in journalism, so often the preferred targets. Honor civil servants who are fired or forced to resign because they defied improper orders. Keep close watch for signs of the rise of a culture of official impunity, in which friends and supporters of power-holders are allowed to flout rules that bind everyone else.

Those citizens who fantasize about defying tyranny from within fortified compounds have never understood how liberty is actually threatened in a modern bureaucratic state: not by diktat and violence, but by the slow, demoralizing process of corruption and deceit. And the way that liberty must be defended is not with amateur firearms, but with an unwearying insistence upon the honesty, integrity, and professionalism of American institutions and those who lead them. We are living through the most dangerous challenge to the free government of the United States that anyone alive has encountered. What happens next is up to you and me. Don’t be afraid. This moment of danger can also be your finest hour as a citizen and an American.

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David Frum is a senior editor at The Atlantic. In 2001–02, he was a speechwriter for President George W. Bush

The Atlantic

The 1930s were humanity’s darkest, bloodiest hour. Are you paying attention? – Jonathan Freedland. 

Even to mention the 1930s is to evoke the period when human civilisation entered its darkest, bloodiest chapter. No case needs to be argued; just to name the decade is enough. It is a byword for mass poverty, violent extremism and the gathering storm of world war. “The 1930s” is not so much a label for a period of time than it is rhetorical shorthand – a two-word warning from history.

Witness the impact of an otherwise boilerplate broadcast by the Prince of Wales last December that made headlines. “Prince Charles warns of return to the ‘dark days of the 1930s’ in Thought for the Day message.” Or consider the reflex response to reports that Donald Trump was to maintain his own private security force even once he had reached the White House. The Nobel prize-winning economist Paul Krugman’s tweet was typical: “That 1930s show returns.”

Because that decade was scarred by multiple evils, the phrase can be used to conjure up serial spectres. It has an international meaning, with a vocabulary that centres on Hitler and Nazism and the failure to resist them: from brownshirts and Goebbels to appeasement, Munich and Chamberlain. And it has a domestic meaning, with a lexicon and imagery that refers to the Great Depression: the dust bowl, soup kitchens, the dole queue and Jarrow. It was this second association that gave such power to a statement from the usually dry Office for Budget Responsibility, following then-chancellor George Osborne’s autumn statement in 2014. The OBR warned that public spending would be at its lowest level since the 1930s; the political damage was enormous and instant.

In recent months, the 1930s have been invoked more than ever, not to describe some faraway menace but to warn of shifts under way in both Europe and the United States. The surge of populist, nationalist movements in Europe, and their apparent counterpart in the US, has stirred unhappy memories and has, perhaps inevitably, had commentators and others reaching for the historical yardstick to see if today measures up to 80 years ago.

Why is it the 1930s to which we return, again and again? For some sceptics, the answer is obvious: it’s the only history anybody knows. According to this jaundiced view of the British school curriculum, Hitler and Nazis long ago displaced Tudors and Stuarts as the core, compulsory subjects of the past. When we fumble in the dark for a historical precedent, our hands keep reaching for the 30s because they at least come with a little light.

The more generous explanation centres on the fact that that period, taken together with the first half of the 1940s, represents a kind of nadir in human affairs. The Depression was, as Larry Elliott wrote last week, “the biggest setback to the global economy since the dawn of the modern industrial age”, leaving 34 million Americans with no income. The hyperinflation experienced in Germany – when a thief would steal a laundry-basket full of cash, chucking away the money in order to keep the more valuable basket – is the stuff of legend. And the Depression paved the way for history’s bloodiest conflict, the second world war which left, by some estimates, a mind-numbing 60 million people dead. At its centre was the Holocaust, the industrialised slaughter of 6 million Jews by the Nazis: an attempt at the annihilation of an entire people.

In these multiple ways, then, the 1930s function as a historical rock bottom, a demonstration of how low humanity can descend. The decade’s illustrative power as a moral ultimate accounts for why it is deployed so fervently and so often.

Less abstractly, if we keep returning to that period, it’s partly because it can justifiably claim to be the foundation stone of our modern world. The international and economic architecture that still stands today – even if it currently looks shaky and threatened – was built in reaction to the havoc wreaked in the 30s and immediately afterwards. The United Nations, the European Union, the International Monetary Fund, Bretton Woods: these were all born of a resolve not to repeat the mistakes of the 30s, whether those mistakes be rampant nationalism or beggar-my-neighbour protectionism. The world of 2017 is shaped by the trauma of the 1930s.

The international and economic architecture that still stands today was built in reaction to the havoc of the 1930s

One telling, human illustration came in recent global polling for the Journal of Democracy, which showed an alarming decline in the number of people who believed it was “essential” to live in a democracy. From Sweden to the US, from Britain to Australia, only one in four of those born in the 1980s regarded democracy as essential. Among those born in the 1930s, the figure was at or above 75%. Put another way, those who were born into the hurricane have no desire to feel its wrath again.

Most of these dynamics are long established, but now there is another element at work. As the 30s move from living memory into history, as the hurricane moves further away, so what had once seemed solid and fixed – specifically, the view that that was an era of great suffering and pain, whose enduring value is as an eternal warning – becomes contested, even upended.

Witness the remarks of Steve Bannon, chief strategist in Donald Trump’s White House and the former chairman of the far-right Breitbart website. In an interview with the Hollywood Reporter, Bannon promised that the Trump era would be “as exciting as the 1930s”. (In the same interview, he said “Darkness is good” – citing Satan, Darth Vader and Dick Cheney as examples.)

“Exciting” is not how the 1930s are usually remembered, but Bannon did not choose his words by accident. He is widely credited with the authorship of Trump’s inaugural address, which twice used the slogan “America first”. That phrase has long been off-limits in US discourse, because it was the name of the movement – packed with nativists and antisemites, and personified by the celebrity aviator Charles Lindbergh – that sought to keep the US out of the war against Nazi Germany and to make an accommodation with Hitler. Bannon, who considers himself a student of history, will be fully aware of that 1930s association – but embraced it anyway.

That makes him an outlier in the US, but one with powerful allies beyond America’s shores. Timothy Snyder, professor of history at Yale and the author of On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century, notes that European nationalists are also keen to overturn the previously consensual view of the 30s as a period of shame, never to be repeated. Snyder mentions Hungary’s prime minister, Viktor Orban, who avowedly seeks the creation of an “illiberal” state, and who, says Snyder, “looks fondly on that period as one of healthy national consciousness”.

The more arresting example is, perhaps inevitably, Vladimir Putin. Snyder notes Putin’s energetic rehabilitation of Ivan Ilyin, a philosopher of Russian fascism influential eight decades ago. Putin has exhumed Ilyin both metaphorically and literally, digging up and moving his remains from Switzerland to Russia.

Among other things, Ilyin wrote that individuality was evil; that the “variety of human beings” represented a failure of God to complete creation; that what mattered was not individual people but the “living totality” of the nation; that Hitler and Mussolini were exemplary leaders who were saving Europe by dissolving democracy; and that fascist holy Russia ought to be governed by a “national dictator”. Ilyin spent the 30s exiled from the Soviet Union, but Putin has brought him back, quoting him in his speeches and laying flowers on his grave.

European nationalists are keen to overturn the view of the 1930s as a period of shame, never to be repeated.

Still, Putin, Orbán and Bannon apart, when most people compare the current situation to that of the 1930s, they don’t mean it as a compliment. And the parallel has felt irresistible, so that when Trump first imposed his travel ban, for example, the instant comparison was with the door being closed to refugees from Nazi Germany in the 30s. (Theresa May was on the receiving end of the same comparison when she quietly closed off the Dubs route to child refugees from Syria.)

When Trump attacked the media as purveyors of “fake news”, the ready parallel was Hitler’s slamming of the newspapers as the Lügenpresse, the lying press (a term used by today’s German far right). When the Daily Mail branded a panel of high court judges “enemies of the people”, for their ruling that parliament needed to be consulted on Brexit, those who were outraged by the phrase turned to their collected works of European history, looking for the chapters on the 1930s.

The Great Depression

So the reflex is well-honed. But is it sound? Does any comparison of today and the 1930s hold up?

The starting point is surely economic, not least because the one thing everyone knows about the 30s – and which is common to both the US and European experiences of that decade – is the Great Depression. The current convulsions can be traced back to the crash of 2008, but the impact of that event and the shock that defined the 30s are not an even match. When discussing our own time, Krugman speaks instead of the Great Recession: a huge and shaping event, but one whose impact – measured, for example, in terms of mass unemployment – is not on the same scale. US joblessness reached 25% in the 1930s; even in the depths of 2009 it never broke the 10% barrier.

The political sphere reveals another mismatch between then and now. The 30s were characterised by ultra-nationalist and fascist movements seizing power in leading nations: Germany, Italy and Spain most obviously. The world is waiting nervously for the result of France’s presidential election in May: victory for Marine Le Pen would be seized on as the clearest proof yet that the spirit of the 30s is resurgent.

There is similar apprehension that Geert Wilders, who speaks of ridding the country of ‘Moroccan scum”, has led the polls ahead of Holland’s general election on Wednesday. And plenty of liberals will be perfectly content for the Christian Democrat Angela Merkel to prevail over her Social Democratic rival, Martin Schulz, just so long as the far-right Alternative Fur Deutschland makes no ground. Still, so far and as things stand, in Europe only Hungary and Poland have governments that seem doctrinally akin to those that flourished in the 30s.

That leaves the US, which dodged the bullet of fascistic rule in the 30s – although at times the success of the America First movement which at its peak could count on more than 800,000 paid-up members, suggested such an outcome was far from impossible. (Hence the intended irony in the title of Sinclair Lewis’s 1935 novel, It Can’t Happen Here.)

Donald Trump has certainly had Americans reaching for their history textbooks, fearful that his admiration for strongmen, his contempt for restraints on executive authority, and his demonisation of minorities and foreigners means he marches in step with the demagogues of the 30s.

But even those most anxious about Trump still focus on the form the new presidency could take rather than the one it is already taking. David From, a speechwriter to George W. Bush, wrote a much-noticed essay for the Atlantic titled, “How to build an autocracy”. It was billed as setting out “the playbook Donald Trump could use to set the country down a path towards illiberalism”. He was not arguing that Trump had already embarked on that route, just that he could (so long as the media came to heel and the public grew weary and worn down, shrugging in the face of obvious lies and persuaded that greater security was worth the price of lost freedoms).

Similarly, Trump has unloaded rhetorically on the free press – castigating them, Mail-style, as “enemies of the people” – but he has not closed down any newspapers. He meted out the same treatment via Twitter to a court that blocked his travel ban, rounding on the “so-called judge” – but he did eventually succumb to the courts’ verdict and withdrew his original executive order. He did not have the dissenting judges sacked or imprisoned; he has not moved to register or intern every Muslim citizen in the US; he has not suggested they wear identifying symbols.

These are crumbs of comfort; they are not intended to minimise the real danger Trump represents to the fundamental norms that underpin liberal democracy. Rather, the point is that we have not reached the 1930s yet. Those sounding the alarm are suggesting only that we may be travelling in that direction – which is bad enough.

Two further contrasts between now and the 1930s, one from each end of the sociological spectrum, are instructive. First, and particularly relevant to the US, is to ask: who is on the streets? In the 30s, much of the conflict was played out at ground level, with marchers and quasi-military forces duelling for control. The clashes of the Brownshirts with communists and socialists played a crucial part in the rise of the Nazis. (A turning point in the defeat of Oswald Mosley, Britain’s own little Hitler, came with his humbling in London’s East End, at the 1936 battle of Cable Street.)

But those taking to the streets today – so far – have tended to be opponents of the lurch towards extreme nationalism. In the US, anti-Trump movements – styling themselves, in a conscious nod to the 1930s, as “the resistance” – have filled city squares and plazas. The Women’s March led the way on the first day of the Trump presidency; then those protesters and others flocked to airports in huge numbers a week later, to obstruct the refugee ban. Those demonstrations have continued, and they supply an important contrast with 80 years ago. Back then, it was the fascists who were out first – and in force.

Snyder notes another key difference. “In the 1930s, all the stylish people were fascists: the film critics, the poets and so on.” He is speaking chiefly about Germany and Italy, and doubtless exaggerates to make his point, but he is right that today “most cultural figures tend to be against”. There are exceptions – Le Pen has her celebrity admirers, but Snyder speaks accurately when he says that now, in contrast with the 30s, there are “few who see fascism as a creative cultural force”.

Fear and loathing

So much for where the lines between then and now diverge. Where do they run in parallel?

The exercise is made complicated by the fact that ultra-nationalists are, so far, largely out of power where they ruled in the 30s – namely, Europe – and in power in the place where they were shut out in that decade, namely the US. It means that Trump has to be compared either to US movements that were strong but ultimately defeated, such as the America First Committee, or to those US figures who never governed on the national stage.

In that category stands Huey Long, the Louisiana strongman, who ruled that state as a personal fiefdom (and who was widely seen as the inspiration for the White House dictator at the heart of the Lewis novel).

“He was immensely popular,” says Tony Badger, former professor of American history at the University of Cambridge. Long would engage in the personal abuse of his opponents, often deploying colourful language aimed at mocking their physical characteristics. The judges were a frequent Long target, to the extent that he hounded one out of office – with fateful consequences.

Long went over the heads of the hated press, communicating directly with the voters via a medium he could control completely. In Trump’s day, that is Twitter, but for Long it was the establishment of his own newspaper, the Louisiana Progress (later the American Progress) – which Long had delivered via the state’s highway patrol and which he commanded be printed on rough paper, so that, says Badger, “his constituents could use it in the toilet”.

All this was tolerated by Long’s devotees because they lapped up his message of economic populism, captured by the slogan: “Share Our Wealth”. Tellingly, that resonated not with the very poorest – who tended to vote for Roosevelt, just as those earning below $50,000 voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016 – but with “the men who had jobs or had just lost them, whose wages had eroded and who felt they had lost out and been left behind”. That description of Badger’s could apply just as well to the demographic that today sees Trump as its champion.

Long never made it to the White House. In 1935, one month after announcing his bid for the presidency, he was assassinated, shot by the son-in-law of the judge Long had sought to remove from the bench. It’s a useful reminder that, no matter how hate-filled and divided we consider US politics now, the 30s were full of their own fear and loathing.

“I welcome their hatred,” Roosevelt would say of his opponents on the right. Nativist xenophobia was intense, even if most immigration had come to a halt with legislation passed in the previous decade. Catholics from eastern Europe were the target of much of that suspicion, while Lindbergh and the America Firsters played on enduring antisemitism.

This, remember, was in the midst of the Great Depression, when one in four US workers was out of a job. And surely this is the crucial distinction between then and now, between the Long phenomenon and Trump. As Badger summarises: “There was a real crisis then, whereas Trump’s is manufactured.”

And yet, scholars of the period are still hearing the insistent beep of their early warning systems. An immediate point of connection is globalisation, which is less novel than we might think. For Snyder, the 30s marked the collapse of the first globalisation, defined as an era in which a nation’s wealth becomes ever more dependent on exports. That pattern had been growing steadily more entrenched since the 1870s (just as the second globalisation took wing in the 1970s). Then, as now, it had spawned a corresponding ideology – a faith in liberal free trade as a global panacea – with, perhaps, the English philosopher Herbert Spencer in the role of the End of History essayist Francis Fukuyama. By the 1930s, and thanks to the Depression, that faith in globalisation’s ability to spread the wealth evenly had shattered. This time around, disillusionment has come a decade or so ahead of schedule.

The second loud alarm is clearly heard in the hostility to those deemed outsiders. Of course, the designated alien changes from generation to generation, but the impulse is the same: to see the family next door not as neighbours but as agents of some heinous worldwide scheme, designed to deprive you of peace, prosperity or what is rightfully yours. In 30s Europe, that was Jews. In 30s America, it was eastern Europeans and Jews. In today’s Europe, it’s Muslims. In America, it’s Muslims and Mexicans (with a nod from the so-called alt-right towards Jews). Then and now, the pattern is the same: an attempt to refashion the pain inflicted by globalisation and its discontents as the wilful act of a hated group of individuals. No need to grasp difficult, abstract questions of economic policy. We just need to banish that lot, over there.

The third warning sign, and it’s a necessary companion of the second, is a growing impatience with the rule of law and with democracy. “In the 1930s, many, perhaps even most, educated people had reached the conclusion that democracy was a spent force,” says Snyder. There were plenty of socialist intellectuals ready to profess their admiration for the efficiency of Soviet industrialisation under Stalin, just as rightwing thinkers were impressed by Hitler’s capacity for state action. In our own time, that generational plunge in the numbers regarding democracy as “essential” suggests a troubling echo.

Today’s European nationalists exhibit a similar impatience, especially with the rule of law: think of the Brexiters’ insistence that nothing can be allowed to impede “the will of the people”. As for Trump, it’s striking how very rarely he mentions democracy, still less praises it. “I alone can fix it” is his doctrine – the creed of the autocrat.

The geopolitical equivalent is a departure from, or even contempt for, the international rules-based system that has held since 1945 – in which trade, borders and the seas are loosely and imperfectly policed by multilateral institutions such as the UN, the EU and the World Trade Organisation. Admittedly, the international system was weaker to start with in the 30s, but it lay in pieces by the decade’s end: both Hitler and Stalin decided that the global rules no longer applied to them, that they could break them with impunity and get on with the business of empire-building.

If there’s a common thread linking 21st-century European nationalists to each other and to Trump, it is a similar, shared contempt for the structures that have bound together, and restrained, the principal world powers since the last war. Naturally, Le Pen and Wilders want to follow the Brexit lead and leave, or else break up, the EU. And, no less naturally, Trump supports them – as well as regarding Nato as “obsolete” and the UN as an encumbrance to US power (even if his subordinates rush to foreign capitals to say the opposite).

For historians of the period, the 1930s are always worthy of study because the decade proves that systems – including democratic republics – which had seemed solid and robust can collapse. That fate is possible, even in advanced, sophisticated societies. The warning never gets old.

But when we contemplate our forebears from eight decades ago, we should recall one crucial advantage we have over them. We have what they lacked. We have the memory of the 1930s. We can learn the period’s lessons and avoid its mistakes. Of course, cheap comparisons coarsen our collective conversation. But having a keen ear tuned to the echoes of a past that brought such horror? That is not just our right. It is surely our duty.

The Guardian

Whiff of fascism on the wind – Bryan Gould.

The epithets “fascist” and “Nazi” are, in some quarters, tossed about so casually as to have lost most of their meaning. But that should not lead us to think the behaviours they might describe are things of the past. Those of us with longer memories can still scent the whiff of fascism on the wind – and we should not hesitate to say so when we do. This might be one of those moments.

What phenomena might we expect to recognise as evidence of a revival of fascism?

We would certainly expect to see a regime that exhibits an extreme form of nationalism. It would describe in grandiose terms the role of the country and its government – the Third Reich, for example, was to last “a thousand years”. It would proclaim its determination to enhance the “greatness” of the country, its readiness to be ruthless in pursuing its own interests, and its disregard of the interests of others. It would increase its spending on the military and express its disdain for helping others.

It would be led by a larger-than-life personality who – as with a Benito Mussolini or even, on occasion, an Adolf Hitler – was not afraid to appear ridiculous or buffoon-like if it meant staying in the headlines. The leader would surround himself with like-minded (and sycophantic) supporters, appointed to positions of power in the government on the strength of their subservience rather than their experience or ability.
The policy of the government would be presented, not as the product of careful consideration by a properly constituted legislature, but as emanating from the personal vision of the “leader”.

Policy would be announced in equally personal terms, directly from the lips of the leader and, as often as possible, at public events, conducted with fanfare and razzamatazz, where the leader was able to renew the tactics that had enthused his supporters in the first place. Those tactics would include the relentless repetition of slogans and catch-cries, of insults aimed at supposed enemies and non-believers, and attacks and threats against those who were seen as standing in the way.

Those supporters would be encouraged to chant their hatred of opponents of the regime and to demonstrate their enthusiasm for the leader. But they would also be encouraged to identify and express their hostility to groups within society who could be seen as different or as unwelcome minorities or as too weak to defend themselves.

The regime itself would use officers of the state to harass them, to “weed them out”, on the grounds that they could not properly be accepted as part of the host community. Religious, political or ethnic differences would be barely tolerated and carefully monitored.

Propaganda, not necessarily based on truth and fact, would be used constantly.
The regime would make it clear that it saw a legitimate role for torture as a means of maintaining its hold on power.
Foreign affairs would be conducted on a personal basis. Foreign dignitaries would be expected to show proper subservience to the leader. Smaller and neighbouring countries would be treated with disrespect and threatened with reprisals if they did not do as they were told.

The government, which would be represented as merely an emanation of the personal power of the leader, would attack other sources of power in civil society. The courts would be under heavy pressure to interpret the law to suit the government’s interests, and appointments to the bench would be made on political grounds so as to ensure that this was done.

A free press would be seen as a threat, and would be reined in, through a mixture of threats and controls.
The power of government would be allied with, and regarded as barely to be differentiated from, the interests of big business. All major activities, especially in the economic sphere, would be directed to increasing the power of the state.

Does any of this ring any bells? Is it really so unthinkable that a major modern democracy, one on which the future of the free world – and therefore of the world itself – is said to rest, could lead us back to a dreadful future? If not, should we not speak up before it is too late?


S

Superpower trade war Looms. How it will affect New Zealand – Liam Dann.

“If America, China relations become very difficult, our position becomes tougher because then we will be coerced to choose.”

It’s a nightmare scenario for a small trading nation with historic cultural and political links to the US, but an increasing economic reliance on China.

A full blown trade war between China and the US could have devastating political consequences for us all.

In this case, it’s not New Zealand’s Prime Minister doing the worrying, it’s Singaporean leader Lee Hsien Loong.

His simple, blunt assessment of the risk posed by Donald Trump’s anti-China trade rhetoric caused a minor uproar in the diplomatically cautious Asian nation.

Here in New Zealand, where we face the same risks, we’re yet to officially confront the issue. And as issues go, it’s a big one: in the year to June 2016, New Zealand’s total trade (imports and exports) with China was $22.86 billion, compared to $16.25b with the US.

Reserve Bank governor Graeme Wheeler has spoken most openly about his fears for the economic risk to New Zealand if the Trump Administration does some of the things it has threatened to do.

In a speech last month, Wheeler suggested that Trump’s Administration represents the greatest source of uncertainty for our economy – both in terms of his impact on the domestic economy and his potential to increase global trade protectionism.

“Rationally speaking, there shouldn’t be a reason we should go into a trade war. But we have to be prepared,” says Auckland University Business School trade economist Dr Asha Sandaram.

China and the US are like Siamese twins, she says. In other words, their economies are now so intertwined that doing damage to one must hurt the other.

“I think they both know that if they start this, they will both go down. So I don’t think it should be a big risk. But the thing with Donald Trump, is you just don’t know. He has been running the most incoherent Administration we have seen,” Sandaram says.

“What he says today is not correlated with what he says tomorrow … and what he’ll actually do. So we have to consider the possibility of an escalating trade war.”

For anyone who relies on global trade, Trump has said some frightening things.

On the campaign trail, he talked about hitting Chinese imports with 45 per cent tariffs and accused China of currency manipulation.

Since becoming President, he has pulled the US out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement.

In a leaked recording, he has talked about imposing 10 per cent tariffs on all imports and is said to be considering border taxes.

His key trade adviser has been China hawk Peter Navarro, author of Death by China: Confronting the Dragon.

And he has nominated Robert Lighthizer – who has accused China of unfair trade practices – as his US Trade Representative.

Bloomberg has surfaced an article Lighthizer wrote in 2011 praising Ronald Reagan’s aggressive trade stance when Japan’s economic rise threatened the US.

There are concerns that Trump may look to follow those Reagan-era tactics, invoking section 301 of the US Trade Act, which allows a President to bestow “unfavourable trading status” on certain nations.

It’s a measure the US hasn’t used since it adopted World Trade Organisation rules in 1995.

And, as the many critics have warned, the world has changed. China is not like Japan, politically and militarily dependent on the US.

Last month, Wheeler told the Herald that his trade concerns deepened after visiting Washington DC at the start of the year.

“I was in Washington recently talking to a number of senior people – very well connected to the Trump Administration. They were saying that the concerns around China are deeply felt. In other words, the Trump Administration has very strong views about currency manipulation and trade practices out of China. I found that deeply worrying.”

Wheeler warns that the Trump risk comes on top of a protectionist trend which is already dampening global trade and threatening growth.

Long-time New Zealand trade advocate Stephen Jacobi agrees.

“Undoubtedly it is a concern,” he says of Trump’s protectionist rhetoric. “It was already a concern. Protection was already on the rise and we had seen a slowing in trade growth as well.”

The advent of the Trump Administration has thrown the spotlight on this he says.

Jacobi, who was head of the NZ US Council as executive director from 2005 to 2014, is now executive director of the NZ China Council, so has a good perspective on New Zealand’s relationship with both economies.

“It is early days for the [Trump] Administration,” he says. “In fact the Administration isn’t even in place yet. We just have to withhold our judgment for a bit, however much it might pain us to do so, to see what actually happens.”

From discussions he has had in Wellington, Jacobi believes New Zealand officials are very much taking that wait and see approach.

That said, the Government has been working on a new trade policy strategy and is expected to release it this month.

It will have to acknowledge the growing risks and look at alternatives to the TPP, Jacobi says.

“But I doubt whether they will have given up on the US just yet.

“So concern, yes. Panic no,” he says.

Professor Natasha Hamilton-Hart, with the Department of Management and International Business at Auckland University, says one of the direct risks to New Zealand is the prospect that Trump scores an own goal with his economic policies.

“I know the markets seem to be pricing in good times on the horizon but I’m pretty sceptical that that is going to last.

She doesn’t see a sustainable growth trajectory coming out of either the tax or infrastructure programme.

Things like border taxes and tariffs would be distortionary and depress consumer spending, she says.

“We will see an increase in military spending and with the tax cut will start to see an increase in the deficit, which is going to have implications for US interest rates.

“There are potentially quite contractionary processes in the medium term. They just don’t seem to have a coherent, workable plan.”

Then there are the diplomatic risks around a President who tweets his midnight thoughts to the world.

Trump’s impact on Asia-Pacific trading relationships is a serious concern.

“This might be overly optimistic,” Hamilton-Hart says. “I’m doubtful that it will come to a 45 per cent tariff on Chinese exports because that would be so disrupting and damaging to US firms and US consumers. It’s going to double the price of everything in Walmart.”

“What I think is more likely is that we will see a stronger line of creeping protectionism … so cancelling the TPP, looking at alternatives to dispute settlements outside the WTO, that kind of thing.

“I imagine we’ll see a lot more of that. And I imagine that is what China is gearing up for. So yeah, a less rule based trading system.”

The irony of Trump’s trade deficit obsession is that running big deficits is what actually gives you power on the global economic stage, Hamilton-Hart says.

In other words, a big net importer is the customer and the customer is always right.

“So if you stop running those trade deficits, then you no longer have the ability to throw your weight around. If Donald Trump were to significantly withdraw the US from world trade by putting up barriers and shrinking the US economy … that can only go with a reduction in US influence.”

China, for its part, doesn’t appear keen on a trade war and isn’t rushing to fill the trade leadership void left by the US .

For example, it appears to be carefully maintaining the strength of the Renminbi to avoid inflaming US currency hawks.

“They certainly do not want a trade war,” Jacobi says. “They’ve got enormous economic interests with the United States. And I think you can rely on the Chinese to manage all of that in a very sensible way.”

What worries Jacobi more is the risk of America over-playing its hand on security and sovereignty issues – like Taiwan.

“That’s much more worrying because you can’t always guarantee how a nationalistic China might react,” he says. “When you touch on issues of national sovereignty with the Chinese, you don’t get the same sort of reaction that you do on other things.”

Jacobi does have faith that the US system, with its constitutional checks and balances on executive power, will work – in time.

“But he [Trump] has a lot of power to do things in the short term. While congress catches up.”

Likewise, there will be powerful lobbying forces in the US business community who will push back at things he might want to do.

“But they also take time,” Jacobi says.

“I’m confident that over time the right decisions should be made. But what damage will be done in the meantime is a bit of an unknown.

“And the world has lost a whole lot of leadership around open markets and free trade.”

So where does that leave the New Zealand and its Asia-Pacific trading partners?

The remaining TPP signatories head to Chile later this month to discuss what, if anything, is salvageable without America.

The Americans have said they will send a representative to that meeting, although it’s not clear who that will be or what level of interest they will take, say Jacobi.

“And China will also be around. Because there is a Pacific Alliance meeting [a Latin American trading bloc] and the Chinese have been invited to that.”

There is a need for quiet diplomacy behind the scenes and New Zealand could play a key role in that, says Jacobi.

But we need to be careful not to upset the other members of the TPP.

Particularly the Japanese who, says Jacobi,  “are in a very invidious position”.

“They had this ballistic missile sent from North Korea the other day. They have got real security concerns, for which they have to rely on the US. They are not going to be drawn to take issue with the United States unnecessarily.”

China is already a member of an alternative multilateral trade group – the  Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), which also includes New Zealand.

If completed, that free trade agreement (FTA) would include the 10 member states of ASEAN (Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam) and the six states with which ASEAN has existing free trade agreements (Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand).

There have been suggestions that China may look to push this deal as a TPP alternative.

But China hasn’t yet shown any signs of taking the lead, says Jacobi.

On the one hand, we’ve heard rhetoric from Chinese President Xi Jinping about China’s global leadership, but the reality is that they haven’t taken a major role in multilateral negotiations yet, Jacobi says.

“Maybe it’s time. They do have an enormous ability now to fill a vacuum.”

It is a different game now, says Hamilton-Hart, who believes the TPP is effectively dead.

“So do we make a much better effort to get on board with RCEP?”  she says. “Or are we going to hang in there and hope that we could do a bilateral with the US … which I think would be a bad thing to do as we’d be massively disadvantaged in the negotiations.”

Jacobi agrees that the bilateral path is problematic.

“We can’t afford not to push on any open door,” he says. “But the reality is that is bloody hard going. Look at the experience we had with Korea, very complicated.”

Trump has said he’ll do bilateral deals with TPP partners. But we would want dairy concessions and the US would want a lot of movement on medicines, says Jacobi.

And neither would play well politically for either nation.

“We’ve got to talk, but will we be high up on the list? And will it be better than TPP? Most unlikely”

“I don’t want to be too pessimistic,” says Auckland University’s Sandaram. “There may be some opportunities as a small country where you could fly under the radar. It’s harder for a big country to be non-aligned.”

This could be a unique opportunity, she says. “We could try and stay neutral and expand into both markets.”

Sandaram, who has been based in New Zealand for only a year, feels New Zealand is sometimes overly cautious about Chinese sensitivities.

“It’s not a traditional link like the UK or Australia, so maybe it is because it is new that we are so cautious.”

Jacobi believes the Chinese have a good understanding of our deep political and economic ties with the Western nations, and particularly the US.

“In fact, one of the positive aspects they see in our relationship is that we are an interesting interlocutor because of our attachment to the West,” he says. “But they also know our trade and economic ties are towards China. So whether that will amount to cutting slack … I’m not sure.”

Both Sandaram and Jacobi believe we have more options than we did a generation ago.

“We need to diversify,” says Sandaram. “China is decelerating. But we have Asian powers that are fast growing economies. India, Malaysia, Indonesia – with the emerging middle class there is going to be demand for goods that New Zealand exports.

“That’s a great opportunity I think we’re uniquely placed.”

New Zealand, both at a government and a business level, has to be proactive about trade, now more so than ever, says Jacobi.

“This is not something that New Zealand can just sit back and observe. We don’t have that luxury. This is about our economic livelihood and we have to have a say in it.”

NZ Herald

Catalogue of a trainwreck.

Trump presidency ushers in a new age of militarism – Ishaan Tharoor. 

There’s a facile contention that US President Donald Trump – hostile to free trade pacts and sceptical of grand military alliances – is an isolationist, an advocate of American retreat and retrenchment on the global stage.

This is not quite true: As Cambridge historian Stephen Wertheim noted earlier this month, “Trump isn’t an isolationist. He is a militarist, something far worse.”

Throughout the election campaign, Trump proclaimed that he would be the military’s president. He repeatedly summoned the ghosts of General Douglas MacArthur and George Patton and spoke in their name.

Dumping even more money into defence spending was a key plank of his platform to Make America Great Again, and Trump followed through this week by announcing plans to expand the Pentagon’s already enormous budget by US$54 billion – at the apparent expense of other federal agencies, including the State Department.

“Hopefully we’ll never have to use it, but nobody is going to mess with us. Nobody,” Trump said last week.

“It will be one of the greatest military buildups in American history.”

“Our military will be given the resources its brave warriors so richly deserve,” Trump declared during an address to a joint session of Congress yesterday, where he promised a “renewal of the American spirit”.

There’s growing bipartisan disquiet with Trump’s initiatives, particularly proposed cuts to America’s foreign aid programmes.

Trump’s own Defence Secretary, former Marine General Jim Mattis, has also previously linked diplomatic support to military success.

“If you don’t fully fund the State Department, then I need to buy more ammunition,” he said in 2013.

A group of more than 120 former generals and admirals echoed Mattis in an open letter on Tuesday opposing Trump’s budget plans.

Trump’s critics on the left argued the expansion was simply unnecessary. Trump’s “premise is that the nation’s defenses are ‘depleted,’ and he’s simply wrong,” wrote Slate‘s Fred Kaplan, noting that the Obama Administration’s last defence budget was the largest US military budget of the post-9/11 era.

“If there were deficiencies in Obama’s war policies, they did not stem from a shortage of weapons or manpower.”

But the Trump Administration’s embrace of the military is as much – if not more – about creating an ethos than making new policy.

Trump frequently hails “his” generals (when he’s not blaming them for the deaths of servicemembers, that is).

He fixates on the projection of muscular, unilateral American power on the world stage and has sneered at the supposedly equivocating diplomacy of his predecessor.

This is all an extension of the ultra-nationalist politics of his key advisers, ideologues who see the world in stark, simple and terrifying terms.

Consider the lengthy essay published earlier this month by Michael Anton, a staffer on Trump’s National Security Council whose earlier writings won him a cult following on the fringe far-right.

Anton makes an argument for bolstering American “prestige” on the world stage, something he suggests was diminished under Obama.

“People like to be a part of something greater than themselves,” observed Anton, with not particularly great profundity.

“This emphatically includes their nation. Patriotism is thus a natural phenomenon. It is satisfied best when people feel that their nation is strong, or at least not weak.”

This is language and thinking that Trump viscerally understands.

Anton’s essay calls for a revision of American foreign policy and its focus on the “liberal world order” fashioned by Washington after World War II.

He mocks the “cosmopolitan orientation” of liberals who preach solidarity with “strangers on the opposite of side of the world.” (Not surprisingly, Anton wrote an essay last year in which he called diversity “a source of weakness”.)

He casts doubt on long-held American convictions about universal values and democracy. He instead preaches the importance of bolstering “national, civilisational” prestige – the same vague triumphalism that has peppered Trump’s speeches since last year.

What exactly this means for policy is unclear, but Trump’s America is already casting a belligerent shadow across the world.

“Rather than seeking to withdraw from the world, [Trump] vows to exploit it,” wrote Wertheim, the Cambridge historian.

“Far from limiting the area of war, he threatens ruthless violence against globe-spanning adversaries and glorifies martial victory.”

That militarism was part and parcel of the geopolitics of a century ago, when nationalist great powers, unchecked by the systems built after World War II, embarked on arms races and entered into devastating, cataclysmic conflict.

Observers now see a return to the politics of that era, when a period of “liberal” free trade and proto-globalisation gave way to destabilizing struggle and the collapse of empires.

“Trump’s sense of abuse and humiliation is potent,” wrote Wertheim.

“‘The world is laughing at us,’ he endlessly repeats. It’s a cry more common to revolutionary states and movements than to the world’s sole superpower. Imperial Japan and Nazi Germany did not conquer territory for the thrill of it; their leaders acted out of perceived desperation, believing that they were losing a ruthless competition for power and status.”

At a time when Trump’s closest advisers obsess about status and see themselves at the vanguard of revolutionary change, the historical echoes can be chilling.

NZ Herald

Trump Profits Directly From US Taxpayers – Robert Reich. 

Barely a month into the Trump presidency, the elaborate lifestyle of America’s new first family is costing U.S. taxpayers far beyond what’s been typical for past presidents — a price tag that’s ballooning. It includes travel on Air Force One trips to his and his family’s various properties, Secret Service detail for the entire family, and travel and accommodation for the Secret Service and White House staff.

Trump gets two additional perks:

(1) Since he still owns these properties and has refused to divest his ownership, the money paid by the federal government for accommodations at Trump Tower, his Mar-a-Lago resort, and the other Trump resorts and golf clubs he stays at flows directly into his pockets; and

(2) Trump’s travel to his signature properties, while trailed by a press corps beaming images to the world, allows the official business of the presidency to double as a marketing opportunity for his brand.

Consider this weekend alone:

1. Today, Trump and his entourage will jet for the third straight weekend to a working getaway at his oceanfront Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Florida – a club whose membership fee has doubled to $200,000 since Trump’s election, plus $14,000 a year to belong. All of which goes into Trump’s pockets. Trump’s three Mar-a-Lago trips since the inauguration have already cost taxpayers about $10 million.

2. Tomorrow, Trump’s sons Eric and Don Jr., with their Secret Service details in tow, will be nearly 8,000 miles away in the United Arab Emirates, attending the grand opening of a Trump-brand golf resort in the “Beverly Hills of Dubai.” This month Eric Trump and his security detail flew to the Dominican Republic so Eric could meet with developers proposing a Trump-brand luxury resort. And then to Uruguay, to promote a Trump-brand condo tower there. The Uruguay trip alone cost taxpayers nearly $100,000.

3. New York police will keep watch outside Trump Tower in Manhattan, the chosen home of first lady Melania Trump and son Barron. The Defense Department and Secret Service have sought to rent space in Trump Tower, where leasing a floor can cost $1.5 million a year. In addition to the federal costs, New York City is paying $500,000 a day to guard Trump Tower, an amount that could reach $183 million a year.

4. Meanwhile, Bedminster, N.J., is preparing for the daunting prospect that the local Trump golf course will serve as a northern White House for as many as 10 weekends a year.

Why doesn’t Trump use Camp David for his working retreats — which other presidents have done? Why doesn’t the Trump organization reimburse the government for expenses in connection with Trump family business? Why doesn’t Trump divest his ownership in all these places so he doesn’t profit from these taxpayer expenditures? Why isn’t Congress enacting a law requiring Trump and all future presidents to do all of the above?


When the fire comes, who will stop him? – Paul Krugman. 

There’s a pretty good chance that sometime over the next few years something nasty will happen — a terrorist attack on a public place, an exchange of fire in the South China Sea, something. Then what?

After 9/11, the overwhelming public response was to rally around the commander in chief. Doubts about the legitimacy of a president who lost the popular vote and was installed by a bare majority on the Supreme Court were swept aside. Unquestioning support for the man in the White House was, many Americans believed, what patriotism demanded. …
Unfortunately, the suspension of critical thinking ended … badly. The Bush administration exploited the post-9/11 rush of patriotism to take America into an unrelated war, then used the initial illusion of success in that war to ram through huge tax cuts for the wealthy.

Bad as that was, however, the consequences if Donald Trump finds himself similarly empowered will be incomparably worse.

Mr. Trump’s attack on Judge James Robart, who put a stay on his immigration ban, was unprecedented. The really striking thing about Mr. Trump’s Twitter tirade, however, was his palpable eagerness to see an attack on America, which would show everyone the folly of constraining his power. What we see here is the most powerful man in the world blatantly telegraphing his intention to use national misfortune to grab even more power. And the question becomes, who will stop him?
Don’t talk about institutions, and the checks and balances they create. Institutions are only as good as the people who serve them.

Authoritarianism, American-style, can be averted only if people have the courage to stand against it. So who are these people?

It certainly won’t be Mr. Trump’s inner circle. It won’t be Jeff Sessions, his new attorney general. It might be the courts — but Mr. Trump is doing all he can to delegitimize judicial oversight in advance.

What about Congress? Well, maybe, just maybe, there are enough Republican senators who really do care about America’s fundamental values to cross party lines in their defense. But given what we’ve seen so far, that’s just hopeful speculation.

In the end, I fear, it’s going to rest on the people, on whether enough Americans are willing to take a public stand. We can’t handle another post-9/11-style suspension of doubt about the man in charge; if that happens, America as we know it will soon be gone. 

My Family’s Secret Refugee Past – Aram Sinnreich. 

A descendent of Ukrainian refugees and World War II camp liberators sees in his family’s history an answer to rising anti-immigrant sentiment.

I woke up last night, as I have so often in recent months, in a state of panic. My heart was racing and my muscles tensed, as if my body was already braced for violence. My mind was racing, too, not with the remembered snippets of some fleeting nightmare, but rather with the full knowledge of yesterday’s news, and anticipation of today’s and tomorrow’s.

I know I’m not alone. Many friends have reported similar problems, and there is certainly no lack of real-time camaraderie on Facebook and Twitter at any time of night, though it’s always accompanied by fresh provocations, revelations and inducements to rage. Indeed, it seems that the entire nation’s mood — from left to right, from top to bottom — has gotten stuck in permanent fight-or-flight mode, like a laboratory animal with post-traumatic stress disorder. Even several committed pacifists I know have begun to talk openly about investing in personal firearms and to debate the morality of political assassination. While I don’t condone this widespread turn toward violence, I certainly do understand it; what else are we to do with all the fear and anger in our collective bloodstream? If we don’t flee, we have to fight.

For me, the only path through this predicament has been to remind myself, constantly, that there is a third way, an option beyond our baser instincts. Fortunately, I have a powerful example from my own family history to draw upon: If it weren’t for a simple act of mercy shown by a soldier in the midst of war a century ago, I wouldn’t be here to tell the story today.

My grandfather was born in 1914 on the outskirts of Stanislau, Galicia, a town and country that no longer exist (it is the current site of Ivano-Frankivsk, Ukraine). His family, one of the few Jewish ones in the midst of a devout Catholic community, ran a small grocery store, behind which was a two-room home with no electricity and only a bread oven for heat. In 1913, some locals raided the store, leaving my great-grandparents utterly destitute. My great-grandfather decided to leave for America, where he hoped to make some money, then return and rebuild. He was only supposed to be gone for a few months, but unfortunately, fate intervened: While he was away, World War I erupted, rendering him unable to return to his wife Rifka, who had six young children and yet another (my grandfather) on the way.

By the time my grandfather was an infant, World War I was unfolding on his doorstep. The family dog was felled by a soldier’s pistol; other bullets struck my great-grandmother’s home and narrowly missed killing her in the street. During the day, soldiers would come looking for food and supplies, taking whatever they could, sometimes at gunpoint. Once, a Cossack strode into the house, speared a loaf of bread off the table with his sword, and left with promises to return soon for more, leaving the family alive, though shaken and hungry. At night, Rifka and her seven children slept huddled on the hard-packed dirt floor, worrying that bullets or worse would come through the blacked-out windows and barricaded doors.

Without either goods in the store or money from my great-grandfather (or, indeed, any word from him), my great-grandmother was left to fend for her family in any way she could. Mostly, this meant smuggling. The German soldiers to the west of the line had material goods but little food; the Russians on the other side had food but no cloth to mend their ragged clothes. So Rifka would wrap her entire body with bolts of cloth and yarn, then don her clothes, and walk across the front line from west to east. Once she was there, she would exchange the smuggled textiles for food (mostly potatoes), stow it away, and walk back across the line, where she would sell or exchange it to the German soldiers.

This went on for months. Every day, my great-grandmother was in danger for her life, and not just from the bombs and bullets of warfare. The penalty for smuggling was execution on the spot, so if she was caught even once with her contraband, it would spell the end for her, and most likely, for her children as well.

One night, Rifka did get caught. Some soldiers patrolling the west side of the line captured her as she was returning from the east with her smuggled vegetables. They brought her to their commanding officer, a German lieutenant. My great-grandmother fell to the floor, prostrating herself before the officer and begging for mercy — not for her own sake, but for the children’s, who would be left alone in the middle of a war zone if she were executed. Luckily, the German lieutenant took pity on Rifka and spared her life and, by extension, those of her children.

Not long after this incident, the whole family became refugees, relocating to Romania for two years. Eventually, when the war ended, they returned briefly to what was left of Stanislau, and then all eight of them emigrated to America to rejoin my great-grandfather, sailing from Amsterdam to Philadelphia, and settling in Hartford, Connecticut. My grandfather Simon was six when he met his father for the first time, safely reunited on American soil.

Simon loved America, and never stopped being grateful for the opportunities this country gave him — not only to live, but to thrive. He was accepted to Harvard University (very rare for a Jew at the time, though his older brother had gone there), yet he opted instead to attend the United States Military Academy at West Point, and to pursue a career as a U.S. Army officer.

By 1945, my grandfather was a Lieutenant Colonel, stationed in Germany. One day, he and his men liberated a Nazi work camp, filled with corpses and the barely living. The abject brutality of the scene was overwhelming; it was a memory Simon would carry to his grave. Some of the enlisted men captured a German officer, and pushed him up against the wall of a barracks, planning to execute him on the spot for his war crimes. At this point, my grandfather did something extraordinary — something I’m not sure I’d have the strength to do. He intervened, saving the Nazi officer’s life. To him, it was a simple moral calculus: to kill a Nazi summarily, without a fair trial, when he posed no immediate threat, was itself an act of evil, on par with the crimes of the Nazis themselves. To kill them was to become them.

I’ve known this story for decades; my grandfather told it to me when I was a teenager, during the last years of his life. But when I asked my father about it a few days ago, I was shocked to discover he’d never heard it. My grandfather never talked about the war, he says; it was too horrible. I called my aunt for corroboration. No dice. I called my father’s cousin. Same thing. None of them knew about this remarkable act of mercy, either. Apparently, Simon never told anyone else this story, only me.

When I’ve thought about Simon’s act of mercy over the years, I always considered it to be a parable about morality, and about the value of keeping a cool head and an open heart in the face of overwhelming fear and anger. It certainly is that, but it’s also more than that.

I only learned about Rifka’s struggles, her World War I smuggling operation, and her brush with summary execution a few months ago, when I read a memoir by one of her older sons, my great uncle Joe. As soon as I learned this new piece of family history, Simon’s story suddenly clicked into place. It wasn’t merely an act of moral rectitude, or adherence to some abstract higher principles. Simon himself must have been well aware of the act of mercy by which that German officer had saved his own life a generation earlier — and his intervention to save the Nazi’s life can therefore only be understood as a cosmic act of payback. A chance to keep the karmic wheel in spin, to “pay it forward,” in the parlance of our times.

Why did Simon choose to tell me this story, when he apparently kept it secret from his own siblings and children? I can’t be sure, but I think he just wanted it stowed away somewhere in safe keeping, so that it could be told when the time was right. That time, sadly, is now. When the entire world seems to be succumbing to the same kind of insanity that brought us those two World Wars, when the horrors of the Holocaust seem increasingly likely to be revisited, and augmented, by today’s heirs apparents to the Nazi legacy. When a sociopathic charlatan like Donald Trump can plunge our democracy — our sanctuary — into chaos in a matter of days.

I’m angry as hell. I cry every day now, and not because I’m a fragile “snowflake,” but because I can barely contain the murderous rage that seethes through every vein in my body when I see the desecration of Simon’s memory and the scale of cruelty and injustice being perpetrated on the vulnerable of the world in my own name. Nearly everyone I know feels the same. I can no longer imagine a path forward for us as a nation, or as a species, that doesn’t involve hideous bloodshed, and the splintering of every peaceful bastion of civil society. I am, sadly, prepared to fight — to kill, to die, to play my assigned role in this farce, because what else can I do?

Yet, I am also committed to doing more than just that. Because of the unlikely mercy of a nameless German officer a century ago, my children and I are free to live, and to love. We owe every second of our lives to that man. And, because my grandfather repaid that karmic debt a generation later, saving the life of his bitterest enemy, who knows how many German children have been born, lived, and loved in the years since then?

So, yes, I’m prepared to fight, to protect the lives of those I love, and even to protect the institutions and abstract principles of the democracy that gave my family a home when we needed one so many years ago. But, if we’re ever going to emerge from the other side of this impending shitstorm with a shred of our humanity intact, it’s not going to be as a result of how many bullets we’ve fired, or had fired at us. It’s going to be because of the times we chose not to fight and kill, the moments we were able to transcend our rage and fear, and to see one another, just for a moment, as the delicate and precious links in the improbable story of the survival of human species that each of us truly represents. If we do ultimately survive this madness, we will do so one small act of mercy at a time.

The Daily Beast

What Trump Doesn’t Get About Nukes – Bruce Blair. “The time to decide and act is now.” Mikhail Gorbachev

Will Trump come to his senses in time to avert an arms race and a nuclear war?

Mikhail Gorbachev, the former Soviet premier, warned in an extraordinary article late last month that the “increasingly belligerent” tone of geopolitical debates looked to him “as if the world is preparing for war.” He urged the United Nations Security Council to “adopt a resolution stating that nuclear war is unacceptable and must never be fought.”

To almost everyone, this call from a far-sighted leader may seem self-evident, but what about President Donald Trump?

Trump has suggested he is willing to launch a new nuclear arms race, despite the costs and the risks. In his phone call with Vladimir Putin last month, Trump reportedly rebuffed the Russian president’s apparent offer to extend the New START agreement that otherwise expires in 2021. This extension was a key aim of President Barack Obama, whose administration negotiated the arms deal. It would enable the United States to continue to closely monitor Russia’s strategic nuclear deployments and prevent Russia from uploading huge numbers of warheads onto those forces. Without the extension, the U.S. intelligence community would need to spend billions of additional dollars to monitor Russia. And the uncertainty and unpredictability of each side’s deployments would likely spark a costly nuclear arms race and increase the instability of a nuclear crisis and the likelihood of nuclear conflict.

After reportedly checking with his advisers to learn what treaty Putin was talking about (the White House says he was asking for an opinion), Trump apparently told the Russian leader the entire agreement was just another bad deal signed by his predecessor, even though its provisions impose identical obligations on both sides, and even though it was supported by the U.S. Senate and all the key national security players, including the U.S. Strategic Command and the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Instead of seizing upon a good offer (as well as an offer to convene talks on a range of other nuclear issues, including strategic stability, according to a former U.S. official familiar with the call) that would strengthen U.S. national security, Trump signaled a willingness to embark on an expensive, pointless new arms race that he boasts the United States would win.

This is a foolish, dangerous delusion.

Politico

January 2017

The world today is overwhelmed with problems. Policymakers seem to be confused and at a loss.

But no problem is more urgent today than the militarization of politics and the new arms race. Stopping and reversing this ruinous race must be our top priority.

The current situation is too dangerous.

More troops, tanks and armored personnel carriers are being brought to Europe. NATO and Russian forces and weapons that used to be deployed at a distance are now placed closer to each other, as if to shoot point-blank.

While state budgets are struggling to fund people’s essential social needs, military spending is growing. Money is easily found for sophisticated weapons whose destructive power is comparable to that of the weapons of mass destruction; for submarines whose single salvo is capable of devastating half a continent; for missile defense systems that undermine strategic stability.

Politicians and military leaders sound increasingly belligerent and defense doctrines more dangerous. Commentators and TV personalities are joining the bellicose chorus. It all looks as if the world is preparing for war.

It could have been different

In the second half of the 1980s, together with the U.S., we launched a process of reducing nuclear weapons and lowering the nuclear threat. By now, as Russia and the U.S. reported to the Non-proliferation Treaty Review Conference, 80% of the nuclear weapons accumulated during the years of the Cold War have been decommissioned and destroyed. No one’s security has been diminished, and the danger of nuclear war starting as a result of technical failure or accident has been reduced.

This was made possible, above all, by the awareness of the leaders of major nuclear powers that nuclear war is unacceptable.

In November 1985, at the first summit in Geneva, the leaders of the Soviet Union and the U.S. declared: Nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought. Our two nations will not seek military superiority. This statement was met with a sigh of relief worldwide.

I recall the Politburo meeting in 1986 at which the defense doctrine was discussed. The proposed draft contained the following language: “Respond to attack with all available means.” Members of the politburo objected to this formula. All agreed that nuclear weapons must serve only one purpose: preventing war. And the ultimate goal should be a world without nuclear weapons.

Breaking out of the vicious circle

Today, however, the nuclear threat once again seems real. Relations between the great powers have been going from bad to worse for several years now.

The advocates for arms build-up and the military-industrial complex are rubbing their hands.

We must break out of this situation. We need to resume political dialogue aiming at joint decisions and joint action.

There is a view that the dialogue should focus on fighting terrorism. This is indeed an important, urgent task. But, as a core of a normal relationship and eventually partnership, it is not enough.

The focus should once again be on preventing war, phasing out the arms race, and reducing weapons arsenals. The goal should be to agree, not just on nuclear weapons levels and ceilings, but also on missile defense and strategic stability.

In modern world, wars must be outlawed, because none of the global problems we are facing can be resolved by war — not poverty, nor the environment, migration, population growth, or shortages of resources.

Take the first step

I urge the members of the U.N. Security Council, the body that bears primary responsibility for international peace and security, to take the first step. Specifically, I propose that a Security Council meeting at the level of heads of state adopt a resolution stating that nuclear war is unacceptable and must never be fought.

I think the initiative to adopt such a resolution should come from Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin — the Presidents of two nations that hold over 90% of the world’s nuclear arsenals and therefore bear a special responsibility.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt once said that one of the main freedoms is freedom from fear. Today, the burden of fear and the stress of bearing it is felt by millions of people, and the main reason for it is militarism, armed conflicts, the arms race, and the nuclear Sword of Damocles. Ridding the world of this fear means making people freer. This should become a common goal. Many other problems would then be easier to resolve.

The time to decide and act is now.

Mikhail Gorbachev

Time

We all have the power to resist Donald Trump, in big and small ways – Francine Prose. 

The important thing is to keep saying no to each new outrage, and not to become complacent or inattentive. 

The American courts have given us an extraordinary victory this week. It would be heartening to imagine that this brave and sensible ruling by an independent judiciary – Judge James Robart of Washington state and the three judges at the ninth circuit court of appeals – against Donald Trump’s odious travel ban has sent an instructive and influential message to Washington. But it would also be naive.

The would-be autocrat and his cronies remain determined to turn our nation into a racist, kleptocratic dictatorship run entirely by (and for the benefit of) white male billionaires.

On Thursday night, the news showed the daughter of Guadalupe García de Rayos break down in tears as she described packing a suitcase for her mother to take with her when she was deported to Mexico. I thought of how the European Jews, deported to Poland by the Nazis, were instructed to take with them only the possessions they could fit into a small valise.

Meanwhile we have yet to persuade the working-class voters who elected Trump that their leader is not acting in their best interests, and that their very real economic problems are not the fault of industrious immigrants or uppity women.

So the hard work remains before us. A national day of opposition (no work, no travel, no spending) has been called for 17 February. A women’s strike is scheduled for 8 March. On Earth Day, scientists will be marching on Washington, and I’ve heard reports of a labor strike planned for 1 May.

But even as we support these protests, it seems just as important to define resistance as widely and as broadly as we can.

A phone call or visit to the office of one’s congressional representative is an act of resistance. Everyone who knits or wears a pink pussy hat is resisting, as are the ACLU and the Dakota pipeline protesters, as were the lawyers who set up pop-up immigration-law offices in our nation’s airports when the travel ban went into effect.

The thousand Yemeni grocers who staged a one-day shut down of bodegas on 2 February in New York City were resisting in a strong and meaningful way. The Utah citizens who shouted “Your last term!” at the House oversight committee chairman, Jason Chaffetz, during a town hall meeting in Salt Lake City were resisting. The 97 companies – Apple, Google, eBay, Microsoft, Netflix and Twitter, among others – suing Trump to reverse the immigration ban are resisting.

Everyone can do something; each of us should do as much as we can. And no one should feel guilty for not doing something else – or something more. The important thing is to keep saying no to each new outrage, and not to become complacent or inattentive.

The Guardian

How To Win Back Obama, Sanders, and Trump Voters – Les Leopold. 

It is imperative we think big to destroy Neoliberalism’s grip. 

Hillary Clinton underperformed Barack Obama by minus 290,000 votes in Pennsylvania, minus 222,000 votes in Wisconsin and a whopping minus 500,000 votes in Michigan. We don’t know how many of these voters also supported Sanders along the way, but it is highly likely that millions took that journey. Winning them back is the key to the battle for economic and social justice.

The current resistance to Trump is truly remarkable. Not since the anti-Vietnam War and Civil Rights protests have we seen so many people in the streets ― women, Muslim ban protesters, scientists protesting in behalf of facts, people just protesting ― with more to come. Even three New England Patriots are refusing to attend their Super Bowl White House event.

As Trump’s lunacy and destructiveness grow day-by-day, defensive struggles are an absolute must. But defensiveness alone is not likely to win back Obama/Sanders/Trump voters.

It is possible that those voters will soon get buyer’s remorse and join our defensive struggles. Or maybe a dozen more Nordstrom-like ethics violations could lead to impeachment. But such hopes leave political agency in Trump’s hands rather than in our own.

Instead of waiting for Trump to implode, we should be engaging directly with the Obama/Sanders/Trump voters. But doing so requires an understanding of the economic forces that fueled both the Sanders and Trump revolts.

We live in an era of runaway inequality. In 1970 the gap between CEO pay and the average worker was about 45 to 1. That’s a hefty gap. It means that if you could afford one house and one car, a top CEO could afford 45 homes and 45 cars. Today, the gap is an unfathomable 844 to 1 and rising. 844 houses to your one!

That money gushing to the top is the direct result of 40 years of neoliberalism, a philosophy that captured both political parties. It calls for:

– Tax cuts (especially for the wealthy)

– Government deregulation (especially for Wall Street)

– Cuts in social spending (especially for programs and infrastructure that benefit the rest of us.)

– Free trade (which gives corporations the tools to destroy unions and hold down worker wages.)

Supposedly, this plan would create a massive profit and investment boom, job creation and rising incomes for all. Of course, it failed miserably for the vast majority of us, while succeeding beyond belief for the super rich.

The failure, however, involved far more than rising income gaps. Financial deregulation unleashed Wall Street to financially strip-mine the wealth from our workplaces and our communities into the pockets of Wall Street and corporate elites. This outrageous process has nothing to do with talent or hard work. It also is not an economic act of God. Rather it is the direct result of weakening rules that protect us from the financial predators. This is why the richest country in the history of the world has a crumbling infrastructure, the largest prison population, the most costly health care system, the most student debt and the most income inequality.

Sanders and Trump led revolts against runaway inequality. Both claimed the established order had to be changed radically. Sanders nearly defeated the Clinton machine with a social democratic platform of free higher education, Medicare for All, turning the screws on Wall Street, and taking big money out of politics. Trump, like Sanders, attacked trade deals and claimed he would bring jobs back to America, But he also led the hard right’s racist, sexist and xenophobic calls for immigration restrictions, walls, climate change denial and the curtailment of women’s rights. 

Resisting Trump alone will not stop the hard right. We need to continue the Sanders attack on the neoliberal order by offering a compelling vision for social and economic justice.

Right now Trump is a clear and present danger to us all. But an equally dangerous problem is that the regime of runaway inequality will grow worse as the hard right consolidates its political power. Long before Trump entered the political fray, the hard right was upending neoliberal Democrats. Since 2009, when Obama took office, the Democrats have lost 919 state legislative seats. The Republicans now control 68 percent of all state legislative chambers, and control both state chambers and the governorship in 24 states while the Democrats have such tri-partite control in only 6 states. The Democrats are losing, in large part, because they can’t untangle themselves from financial and corporate elites.

Here’s a terrifying thought: Once the Republicans capture 38 states they can amend the Constitution.

Resisting Trump alone will not stop the hard right. We need to continue the Sanders attack on the neoliberal order by offering a compelling vision for social and economic justice.

Building the Educational Infrastructure

During America’s first epic battle against Wall Street, the Populist movement of the late 19th century fielded 6,000 educators to help small farmers, black and white, learn how to reverse runaway inequality. Because of their efforts a powerful movement grew to take back our country from the moneyed interests — an effort that ultimately culminated in social security, the regulation of Wall Street and large corporations, and the protection of working people on the job.

Today, we need an vast army of educators to spread the word about how runaway inequality is linking all of us together. Toward that end groups all over the country are conduct workshops that lead to the following takeaways:

– Runaway inequality will not cure itself. There is no hidden mechanism in the economy that will right the ship. Financial and corporate elites are gaining more and more at our expense.

– The financial strip-mining of our economy impacts all of us and all of our issues — from climate change, to mass incarceration, to job loss, to declining incomes, to labor rights, to student loans.

– It will take an organized mass movement to take back our country from the hard right. That means no matter what our individual identity (labor unionist, environmentalist, racial justice activist, feminist, etc.), we also need to take on the identity of movement builder. We all must come together or we all lose.

– We can start the building process right now by sharing educational information with our friends, colleagues and neighbors.

Many of the participants in these workshops are Obama/Sanders/Trump voters and they would tell you the educational process works. Good things happen when people come together in a safe space to discuss their common concerns. There’s something special about face-to-face discussions that social media alone cannot replace.

In order to shift the balance of power away from the hard right, we need more educators ― thousands more leading tens of thousands discussions.

Armed with facts ― not alternate facts ― we can build the foundation for a new movement to take back our country both from Trump and from the financial strip-miners.

Substantive change, rather than just returning to the pre-Trump era of massive inequality, requires a long and sustained movement the likes of which we haven’t seen in our lifetimes.

Sustainability

By taking a page from the Tea Party playbook, the Resist Trump efforts are aiming at the mid-term elections as well as at state and local contests. Let’s hope for success. Let’s also hope it also leads to a broader movement to reverse runaway inequality. However, substantive change, rather than just returning to the pre-Trump era of massive inequality, requires a long and sustained movement the likes of which we haven’t seen in our lifetimes.

Sustained movement building on a large scale is foreign to us. For more than a generation we’ve grown accustomed to the neoliberal vision that has narrowed our sense of the possible. It taught us that it’s ok for students to go deeply in debt; that it’s natural to have the largest prison population in the world; that it’s inevitable to have a crumbling public sector; and that it’s an economic law for corporations to shift our jobs to low wage areas with poor environmental protections. Worst of all it conditioned us to think small about movement building ― to work in our own issue silos and not link up together.

Occupy Wall Street, Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders woke us up from our stupor. Let’s not slide back by failing to engage, face to face, with the Obama/Sanders/Trump voters who are eager for real change.

By Les Leopold, director of the Labor Institute in New York

Common Dreams

Movement to impeach President Donald Trump well underway in the United States – Rohan Smith. 

It’s been a rollercoaster first two weeks with Donald Trump in the Oval Office.

In less than a fortnight, Trump has already offended Mexicans, offended Australians, offended Muslims and offended women.

The groundswell of anger for some at least is being channelled into efforts to see him marched out of the White House before his tenure is up. The only way that happens is via impeachment.

It’s never been done before but it’s far from impossible. A lawyer for the movement Impeach Donald Trump Now says the wheels are already in motion.

There’s a clause within the US Constitution that allows for a US President to be removed from office for “treason, bribery, or other high crimes or misdemeanours”.

It’s a broad definition of wrongdoing, and some say Trump’s failure to divest his businesses before taking office qualifies as a high crime.

It’s a stretch, but the good news for the impeachment movement is that Congress doesn’t need any actual evidence to proceed with the vote. It simply requires a member to introduce a resolution calling for an impeachment investigation.

From there, voting would get under way in the House of Representatives first. If a majority ruled against Trump, it would proceed to the Senate.

There’s a precedent for that. An impeachment against former president Bill Clinton was initiated in December 1998 after it emerged he had an extramarital affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky.

Two charges passed the House of Representatives but were defeated in the Senate. Clinton was acquitted on both.

Hundreds of thousands of Americans are already calling for Trump to be impeached. As of February 2, more than 580,000 people had signed a petition on ImpeachDonaldTrumpNow.org.

Petition Impeach Donald Trump Now

“No modern president has displayed the casual indifference to the Constitution and the rule of law that President Trump shows. The violations, the corruption, and the threat to our republic are here now, but they will only get worse the longer he stays in office. Americans deserve a President who is not beholden to foreign governments to keep his businesses afloat, and whose decisions about bread-and-butter, not to mention life-and-death matters, will not be used to prop up Trump Towers around the world.” Ron Fein, Free Speech For People. 

NZ Herald

Dark Arts. How a dark money network is taking power on both sides of the Atlantic. – George Monbiot. 

“Looking forward to working with you as the new UK government develops its trade policy priorities, including in high value areas that we discussed such as defence.” – Liam Fox, UK Secretary of State for International Trade

It took corporate America a while to warm to Donald Trump. Some of his positions, especially on trade, horrified business leaders. Many of them favoured Ted Cruz or Scott Walker. But once he had secured the nomination, the big money began to recognise an unprecedented opportunity.

Trump was prepared not only to promote the cause of corporations in government, but to turn government into a kind of corporation, staffed and run by executives and lobbyists. His incoherence was not a liability but an opening: his agenda could be shaped. And the dark money network that some American corporations had already developed was perfectly positioned to shape it.

Dark money is the term used in the US for the undisclosed funding of organisations involved in political advocacy. Few people would see a tobacco company as a credible source on public health, or a coal company as a neutral commentator on climate change. To advance their political interests, such companies must pay others to speak on their behalf.

Soon after the Second World War, some of America’s richest people began setting up a network of thinktanks to promote their interests. These purport to offer dispassionate opinions on public affairs. But they are more like corporate lobbyists, working on behalf of those who founded and fund them. These are the organisations now running much of the Trump administration. 

We have no hope of understanding what is coming until we understand how the dark money network operates.

ALEC is perhaps the most controversial of the corporate-funded thinktanks in the US. It specialises in bringing together corporate lobbyists with state and federal legislators to develop “model bills”. The legislators and their families enjoy lavish hospitality from the group, then take the model bills home with them, to promote as if they were their own initiatives.

ALEC has claimed that over 1000 of its bills are introduced by legislators every year, and one in five of them becomes law. It has been heavily funded by tobacco companies, the oil company Exxon, drug companies and Charles and David Koch: the billionaires who founded the first Tea Party organisations, Pfizer, that funded Gabby Bertin’s post at The Atlantic Bridge, sits on ALEC’s corporate board. Some of the most contentious legislation in recent years, such as state bills lowering the minimum wage, bills granting corporations immunity from prosecution and the “ag-gag” laws, forbidding people to investigate factory farming practices, were developed by ALEC.

Jim DeMint resigned his seat in the Senate to become president of the Heritage Foundation, which is probably, after ALEC, the second most controversial thinktank in America. It was founded with a large grant from Joseph Coors, heir to the Coors brewing empire, then built up with money from the banking and oil billionaire Richard Mellon Scaife. Like ALEC, it has been richly funded by the Koch Brothers. Heritage, under DeMint’s presidency, drove the attempt to ensure that Congress refused to pass the federal budget, temporarily shutting down the government.

The Heritage Foundation is now at the heuart of Trump’s administration. Its board members, fellows and staff comprise a large part of his transition team.

Trump’s extraordinary plan to cut federal spending by $10.5 trillion was drafted by the Heritage Foundation, which called it a “Blueprint for a New Administration”. Russ Vought and John Gray, who moved onto Trump’s team from Heritage, are now turning this blueprint into his first budget.

It will, if passed, inflict devastating cuts on healthcare, social security, legal aid, financial regulation and environmental protections, eliminate programmes to prevent violence against women, to defend civil rights and fund the arts, and will privatise the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
Trump, as you follow this story, begins to look less like a president and more like an intermediary: implementing an agenda that has been handed down to him.

Monbiot.com

Is the US in the middle of a coup? – Charles Firth. 

Is what we’re witnessing in the US a slow-motion downhill slide into a coup?

A fascinating and scary article has been doing the rounds in recent days, which suggests that Donald Trump’s ban on immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries was an attempt to see how far he can push his power, as the first step to mounting an all-out coup.
A Google engineer named Yonatan Zunger has suggested that the way the White House has repeatedly gone around long standing conventions shows it is testing to see whether a coup is possible.
One man’s coup is another man’s “strong leadership”. But what Zunger is talking about is Mr Trump’s inner circle grabbing power in a similar way that Vladimir Putin has done in Russia, where he exercises power unchallenged by any other body.
Sure, he still has a court system and a legislative body, but they are largely irrelevant, and Mr Putin would ignore them if they ever opposed him.
Zunger’s point is that last weekend the White House and Department of Homeland Security happily ignored court orders related to the Muslim ban, and there was no real consequence to it.

If Mr Trump’s inner circle gets good at going around the conventional processes, the result is essentially coup-like: Congress and the Supreme Court can try to oppose him all it likes, but if he’s willing to just keep going around the normal processes, there is not a lot they can do.

NZ Herald

NZ needs to stand with the people of the world against Trump’s ‘muslim ban’. – Nigel Latta. 

It’s time for NZ to step up… our government needs to speak out strongly against injustice. We cannot simply politely and diplomatically side step this, we have to call it for what it is. We show who we are as a country not when it’s easy, but when it’s hard.

Donald Trump’s executive order for what is very blatantly a ‘muslim ban’ is inhumane, unjust, and completely irrational. He says it is about “protecting” America, yet his ban does not include the countries from which actual terrorists originated from. Co-incidentally the countries not included on his list are all countries he has significant business interests in (for example Saudi Arabia and the UAE). Any ban of people from any predominantly Muslim country is wrong, and this irreconcilable inconsistency serves only to reveal the utterly irrational bigotry of this policy.

[NOTE: and for all those people who say it isn’t a muslim ban, and this is simply the corrupt media misreporting him yet again, you might recall that amongst all the other truly terrible things he said during his presidential campaign, one of the things he did say, over and over, was that he was going to stop muslims coming to the US. Quote: “Donald J Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of muslims coming into this country…” He actually said that. So, there’s the fact that he actually promised a literal muslim ban to his supporters which lends considerable credence to the idea that this is in fact the “muslim ban” he said he was going to implement.]

Countries all over the world are speaking out against this action, and are offering to take in refugees effected by Trump’s ‘muslim ban’. We need to do the same. We have a moral obligation to offer these displaced people a haven. Not because it’s easy, but because it’s right.

Speaking out against Trump is a unquestionably a dangerous thing to do. This is a man who has demonstrated again and again that he takes any criticism deeply personally, and he is clearly willing to use the powers of his office to strike back at people who oppose him. He may well punish the countries who stand up to him, and who condemn him. There may be implications for NZ economically and politically, yet stand up to him we must.

Throughout human history people have stood by while terrible things were perpetrated against specific populations and groups. We cannot stand aside and be part of this grievous injustice being perpetrated on a group based simply on their religion. The worst crimes against humanity all begin as minor infractions, as the progressive curtailment of rights and freedoms of innocent people.

We stood up to the US over nuclear weapons, not because it was easy, but because it was right. Now that moment has arrived again, and we are once again having our moral courage questioned. We either stand aside, or we step up. Now more than ever, the world needs courageous leadership in the face of injustice, ignorance, and bigotry.

New Zealand needs to show that leadership now. We need to stand up, and speak out. It isn’t the easy thing to do, but it is the right thing to do.

Republicans call Trump’s travel ban ‘a self-inflicted wound’ – Julian Borger. 

US and European officials have expressed anxiety about the damage the Trump administration’s ban targeting Muslim refugees could inflict on western security.

The ban is believed to have been drafted by an ideologically-driven group around Donald Trump without consultation with the justice, state, defence or homeland security departments, which could have weighed on its implications for US foreign relations, as well as the country’s security concerns and legal obligations.

Officials say the clear anti-Muslim intent behind the executive order will prove to be a recruiting tool for extremist movements such as Islamic State, while alienating governments in the Arab and Islamic world, whose cooperation is essential for identifying potential terrorists.

There have also been reports that Israeli and British intelligence were cautioned by the outgoing Obama national security team over sharing sensitive information with the Trump team until investigations were concluded on whether they had colluded with Moscow to skew the US elections.

There is also concern about the arbitrary nature of the list of the countries affected by the ban. A western official pointed out that Muslim-majority nations where Trump has business interests – such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Turkey – were excluded, while noting that no terrorist attacks on US soil have been carried out by nationals of the seven countries listed in the executive order.
The Guardian

Petition – Bernie Sanders: It’s time to start The American Labor Party – Change.org

 
Please Sign The Petition – Change.org

From Goldwater to Reagan and now Trump. But Americans will fight this latest brand of cartoon conservatism – Heather Richardson. 

When the bottom dropped out of the economy during the Great Depression, Americans voted Franklin Delano Roosevelt into office and threw their weight behind the Democrats’ New Deal policies regulating business, protecting workers and promoting basic social welfare. Most Republicans recognised the dangers of an unregulated economy and abandoned their pro-business stance of the 1920s. When the Republican president Dwight Eisenhower took office in 1953, he extended the New Deal with a series of policies he called the Middle Way. In the 1950s, business regulations, workers’ organisations, social welfare legislation and civil rights decisions placed the nation on a path to increasing prosperity. Americans rallied around the consensus shared by both parties that the government must play an active role in regulating the economy and promoting social welfare.

But big businessmen loathed business regulation and the taxes necessary to fund social welfare programmes. They carped that the liberal consensus was socialism. In 1951, William F Buckley Jr, an oilman’s son fresh out of Yale, suggested that the only way to combat the New Deal’s popularity was to fight the Enlightenment “superstition” that the honest examination of arguments based on factual evidence would advance society. The fact that Americans had chosen the socialism and secularism of the liberal consensus showed that people could not be trusted to choose wisely. Free market capitalism and Christianity must be accepted as the only starting points of political and economic policy: they were as immutable as the Ten Commandments.

Three years later, Buckley joined forces with his brother-in-law, L Brent Bozell, to portray a nation under siege by “liberals”, the vast majority of Americans who believed in the bipartisan liberal consensus. Buckley and Bozell vowed to destroy liberalism and create a new “orthodoxy” of strict Christianity and individualism. Despite the radical nature of a plan to overturn a proved and popular system of government, they called their movement conservatism. The following year, in his new magazine, National Review, Buckley vowed to tell the “violated businessman’s side of the story”. The government must do nothing, he maintained, but protect lives, liberty and property. Movement conservatives’ plan to destroy New Deal policies gained little traction until the supreme court’s 1954 Brown v Board of Education decision declaring segregated schools unconstitutional enabled them to harness racism to their cause. When Eisenhower mobilised the taxpayer-funded 101st Airborne to Little Rock Central High School in 1957, movement conservatives howled that government protection of black rights amounted to a redistribution of wealth from hard-working white men to lazy black people.

In 1970, Time magazine made Nixon’s “Middle Americans” their “Man and Woman of the Year”. They loved America and Christianity and hated the taxes that gave their money to “angry minorities”, liberals, and women who demanded equal rights.

The Guardian

Rich? Scared about the Trumpocalypse? Try New Zealand – Daily Mail. 

Apocalyptic anxieties have been heightened after the symbolic “Doomsday Clock” was moved 30 seconds closer to midnight on the strength of Trump’s comments about nuclear weapons and climate change.

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists set it at two-and-a-half minutes to midnight, the closest it has been since the height of the Cold War in 1953.

The elevation of an unpredictable billionaire to the helm of nuclear-armed America has given fresh impetus to the idea of remote New Zealand as a bulwark for civilisation in the event of a global catastrophe.

The idea has pedigree — British science fiction writer John Wyndham’s 1955 novel “The Chrysalids” describes a post-apocalyptic landscape where Zealand (or Sealand) is the only place that has not sunk into barbarity.

The fictional Zealand escaped the holocaust because it was “somewhat secluded” and it seems that, in uncertain times, the real New Zealand is attracting interest for the same reason.

“The world is heading into a major crisis,” German-born internet mogul and alleged online piracy kingpin Kim Dotcom tweeted late last year.
“I saw it coming and that’s why we moved to New Zealand. Far away & not on any nuclear target list.”

After Trump’s election in November, about 17,000 Americans registered interest online in moving to New Zealand, a 13-fold increase on regular levels.

Immigration New Zealand also reported a spike in inquiries from Britain after the Brexit vote.

Just last week it emerged that tech titan Peter Thiel, one of Trump’s strongest supporters, quietly obtained New Zealand citizenship in 2011 and owns several properties in the South Pacific nation.

Other rich-listers who have either moved to New Zealand or bought land include Hollywood director James Cameron, Russian steel magnate Alexander Abramov and US financial services guru William Foley.

One of China’s wealthiest executives, Jack Ma, said last year that at least 20 former colleagues from his Alibaba empire had retired to New Zealand and he was considering purchasing a property himself.

The nation of 4.5 million people is nestled deep in the South Pacific Ocean, some 2,000 kilometres (1,250 miles) from Australia.

It is prosperous, has spectacular landscapes and Transparency International rates it the least corrupt country in the world, alongside Denmark.

The New Yorker magazine this month reported it had become the refuge of choice for ultra-rich Americans looking for a bolthole if Trump’s presidency goes disastrously wrong.

Peter Campbell of high-end construction firm Triple Star Management said wealthy Americans wanted helipads in their luxury escapes, but not necessarily underground shelters.

“It’s not like you need to build a bunker under your front lawn, because you’re several thousand miles away from the White House,” he told the magazine.

Daily Mail

The Protectionist Who Nearly Wrecked America – Gil Troy. 

When Utah Senator Reed Smoot moved to Washington in 1903, he endured an even harsher welcome than Donald Trump’s.

This Mormon apostle, elevated in 1900, and first LDS senator had to battle anti-Mormon prejudice for four years until President Theodore Roosevelt bullied Republican senators into seating him formally. Smoot inspired what became a classic headline – “SMOOT SMITES SMUT” – with an anti-obscenity crusade that prompted the poet Ogden Nash to mock “Smoot of Ut.”

This priggish protectionist co-sponsored the 1930’s destructive, ultra-nationalist, anti-Free Trade, Smoot-Hawley Tariff. So, with apologies to Nash, because he wasn’t economically astute, “Smoot of Ut” made the Depression more acute.

In 1929, as the economy tanked, Smoot spearheaded the fight that would blacken his legacy—and cost him his Senate seat. Smoot pushed a puritanical, patriotic, protectionist tariff—with Sec. 305 banning the importation of obscene material. Smoot spent Christmas vacation reading “obscene” novels imported by foreigners, returning with a stack of “smutty” quotations. “In the classic manner of purity champions,” the historian Paul Boyer gibes, “he could not resist sharing the filth.” When Smoot proposed presenting his findings to a closed Senate session, reporters anticipated a “Senatorial stag party.”

Smoot and his co-sponsor Congressman Willis C. Hawley, the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, wanted to “throw their arms of protection” around American industry too. If the government made foreign goods more costly, they reasoned, Americans would buy American, boosting the economy. In words that sound familiar, Smoot said tariff opponents were spreading “propaganda from un-American and international sources.” He insisted: “No foreign country has the right to interfere.” Stirring America’s isolationist paranoia, he refused to “surrender our national prestige and power on the altar of internationalism.” Smoot did not “want to see any American industry swamped by foreign competition,” nor did he “wish to build a wall around this country so high as to practically shut off importation of foreign products… or unduly restrict the exportation of American products.”

The economic misery sharpened the tariff battle. One thousand and twenty eight economists signed a letter denouncing the bill. The banker Thomas Lamont, recalled “I almost went on my hands and knees to beg Herbert Hoover to veto the asinine Hawley-Smoot Tariff. That act intensified nationalism all over the world.”

General Motors’ Economic Director Graeme K. Howard telegrammed from Europe: “PASSAGE BILL WOULD SPELL ECONOMIC ISOLATION UNITED STATES AND MOST SEVERE DEPRESSION EVER EXPERIENCED.”

The Smoot-Hawley Tariff became law on June 17, 1930, raising taxes on 20,000 imported goods. Its obscenity provision defined “the moral sense of the average person” as the standard for determining exclusion, although there were exceptions for classics.

Thirty-three countries protested formally. France, Australia, India, even Canada, retaliated. European governments now struggled to get the gold they needed to pay off their World War I debts to America. In two years “U.S. imports dropped more than 40 percent,” the historian Amity Shlaes reports; unemployment jumped 16 percent. Beyond the specific damages, the bill rattled markets and confidence globally, suggesting, the MIT economist Charles Kindleberger noted, that “no one was in charge.” While some economists question whether the higher tariffs were that damaging, the economic and historic consensus is that the act proved that if you raise tariffs too high, retaliatory trade wars will choke American exports.

Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal tidal wave of 1932 swept away Protectionist Republicans, sending Smoot back to Utah. Smoot died in 1941. By then, World War II had jumpstarted America’s recovery from this Great Depression exacerbated by the mainstreaming Mormon whose cultural Yahooism, narrow nationalism, and economic illiteracy upstaged his fight for religious freedom.

The Daily Beast

Donald Trump’s executive order means he is now officially gunning for Muslims –  Moustafa Bayoumi. 

Donald Trump is now officially gunning for the Muslims. On Friday, he signed an executive order titled Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States. The order is nothing short of a Muslim ban by another name. It is cruel and callous, espouses positions contrary to the professed values of the United States, and will certainly produce more problems than it purports to solve. In other words, it’s exactly like Donald Trump.

I cannot tell you how livid these scant pages of bureaucratic language make me. In them, Trump is returning the country to the dark days of excluding masses of people on the basis of our national prejudices. It’s as if we’ve reverted to the late 19th century when laws were passed to bar Chinese entry to the United States, but this time the action is by executive fiat and trained on Muslims. Not incidentally, the case law for Chinese Exclusion also established the legal authority for the National Security Entry-Exist Registration System (Nseers), the US government’s previous incarnation of a Muslim registry.

We’re never far away from our demons.

The Guardian

Never mind the optics, Theresa May’s US dash was mortifying – Jonathan Freedland. 

May’s eagerness to be the first foreign leader to shake that short-fingered hand, the scramble to catch up with Nigel Farage and Michael Gove, gave off a strong whiff of desperation.

Trump managed to get through it without insulting an entire ethnic group, trashing a democratic norm or declaring war, any of which might have diverted attention from May’s big moment. He was on best behaviour, diligently reading the script that had been written for him, attesting to the “deep bond” that connects Britain and the US. May received all the assurances she craved that her country’s relationship with the US remains “special”.

However, these are not normal times. May and her team will be pleased with the optics and indeed some of the substance – artfully, May got Trump to confirm, on camera, that he is “100% behind Nato” – but the underlying truth is that this dash to Washington was mortifying.

Desperation is a scent Trump understands. What he lacks in book smarts, he makes up for in alpha male gamesmanship. His lifelong training was in real estate, an area in which there is rarely such thing as a win-win deal: the more you get, the more I pay.

He will have seen May as that most desperate of creatures: the housebuyer who rashly sold her old house before she had found a new one. Having tossed away Britain’s keys to the European single market, she will soon be homeless – and Trump knows it. For all the niceties – May’s shrewd deployment of a royal invitation for a state visit and her compliment to the president on his “stunning election victory”, flattery which saw Trump glow a brighter shade of orange – he will have seen May as a sucker who needs to make a deal. And he will look forward to naming his price.

The Guardian

Only A Matter Of Time: American Fascism Awaits Its Marching Orders. – Chris Trotter. 

LAST FRIDAY, on the Seattle campus of the University of Washington, a Trump supporter shot a Trump opponent. The (non-fatal) shooting took place during a violent protest against the presence of Milo Yiannopoulos – the tech editor of Breitbart News. Violence erupted after Yiannopoulos’s opponents formed a picket-line and physically obstructed the Alt-Right commentator’s followers from entering the auditorium where he was speaking.

In a nation where “the right to bear arms” is constitutionally protected, it can only be a matter of time before such clashes escalate into a ferocious firefight – and fatalities.

What happens then is all-too-easy to predict. President Trump will denounce his political opponents as enemies of free speech and democracy. Federal, state and local law enforcement agencies will crack down hard on anti-Trump agitation. More ominously, the President’s most vociferous supporters will militarise themselves into special protection squads. Presented to the American public as “self-defence” organisations, the actual purpose of these goon squads will be to intimidate and/or terrorise progressive individuals and groups into silence.

Bowalley Road

The women’s march heralds a renaissance of resistance – Eve Ensler. 

Donald Trump is giving women nightmares. Many of them have reached out to me to say they are being seized by flashbacks of trauma and rape. They blame Trump’s rise to power. So do I: my own rape came flooding back to me in a dream the other night. It was stirred by the inauguration of the president I call our predator-in-chief.

It is this living nightmare that compels me to march this Saturday in Washington DC. I will never accept Donald Trump – a self-confessed sexual assaulter, a nationalist, an Islamophobe, a climate denier, and a racist – as my president. He is illegitimate, elected by less than a quarter of the population. His agenda of divisiveness, hate and misogyny is a danger to people here and everywhere.

I cannot speak for every person coming to DC and the 600 sister marches around the world. But I know that there are many different reasons that bring us to the streets this Saturday.
We are marching so that women have access to quality healthcare, affordable birth control and to protect women’s rights to abortion. And we do so for every sister who has been raped, or been a victim of incest, or harassed, or beaten, or sold, unvalued or paid less than a man. 
We are marching to remember every sister who has been shot by the police, or grabbed or hurt at her workplace, or denied insurance for an abortion or medical needs, or threatened with deportation or surveillance by people screaming for a wall.

We are marching for Standing Rock, fighting to protect their water, their traditions and sovereignty over their land. We are marching so that black, brown, LGBT, Asian, Muslim, disabled women’s voices and concerns are front and center. We are marching for our mother Earth that we may devote ourselves to ending all forms of extraction, to finding our connection to her, to cherishing her and protecting her as she so generously gives us life.

We are marching with our sisters throughout the world who are on the devastating end of neoliberal policies wreaking havoc on their economies, land, livelihoods and safety. We are marching against US imperialist aggression and interventions that have led to the maiming, murdering, raping and destruction of women’s lives across the planet.

We are marching against a system of morbid inequality of wealth where eight men own as much wealth as 3.6 billion people.
We are marching to deepen a collective understanding of radical feminism – so we can offer an unapologetic assault on the racist patriarchy that has damaged so many of us.

We are marching so that women and men who are incarcerated, after years of being abused and impoverished, are seen and cared for and lifted – rather than being punished and abused even more.
We are marching because struggle is valiant and more satisfying than pursuing only our own personal happiness.

We are marching for strength in these coming years and for the ability to survive in a culture that erases and excludes and forgets women, and denies women their humanity, and refuses to recognize their achievements and all the ways they serve and lead selflessly. We are marching to link arms with friends, comrades and strangers so that the rhythm of our steps becomes the tempo of a new time and the unified chants of our voices become a clarion call.

We are marching to turn our fear and sorrow and shame to power and imagination. We are marching for another paradigm where the lack of ethics, morality, and truth that have brought us to this moment are transformed – into principles which will drive a powerful intersectional, spiritual movement of movements.

This march is built on a long line of women’s marches. We take part in it to honor our mothers whose bodies and beings and blood carved the path we are walking on. We are marching to find the new language of these times – built on a deeper education, radical listening, humility and empathy.

We are marching to be brave, to become willing to put our bodies on the line for any woman who is attacked for her race, religion, immigration status or for simply living in a woman’s body. And we are finding our courage in the escalating renaissance of resistance that was catalyzed the day Donald Trump was elected and is wild throughout this country and the world.

We are marching to sow more seeds and invite more women into that renaissance and to take the energy of this march and use it to set fires of resistance everywhere.

We are marching today so the next generation of girls don’t wake up with poisonous nightmares, but with radiant dreams.

The Guardian

Trump’s first speech in office was an unapologetic appeal to nationalism – Gary Younge. 

Even the heavens wept. As Donald Trump stepped forward to become America’s 45th president the cold shower that broke over Washington offered no end of metaphors. His address, however, was literal to a fault. There was no higher calling, no sense of a greater purpose, no florid imagery or impassioned idealism. This was as crude and unapologetic an appeal to nationalism as one might expect from a man incapable of rising to an occasion without first refracting it through his ego.

It is said that presidents campaign in poetry and govern in prose. Trump campaigned in graffiti – the profane scrawls of a mindless vandal – and, if his inaugural address was anything to go by, may yet govern in tweets – the impulsive, abbreviated interventions of a narcissist.

Were this a reality TV show, we would have switched off by now. All the better qualified, more sympathetic and empathic characters have been eliminated. The last man standing is a scheming, pathological misanthrope whose disrespect for the rules alone should have disqualified him. The producer would have been fired; the advertisers would have bolted. Nobody in their right mind would want anything to do with it.

To watch Trump take the oath was to bear witness to democracy’s fragility. It marked not simply the transfer of power from one leader to another but the erosion of the very values that give that power legitimacy.

Many in the US, and beyond, are not simply concerned about what comes next; they are genuinely terrified. An impulsive braggart and bigot is now in control of the world’s most powerful military and economy. Fear and malevolence won. The hands that once grabbed pussy now have access to the nuclear launch codes.

The Guardian

Donald Trump’s mission? To keep the US in the fossil age – George Monbiot. 

Recent research suggests that, if drastic action of the kind envisaged by the Paris agreement  on climate change is not taken, ice loss in Antarctica alone could raise sea levels by a metre this century, and by 15 metres in subsequent centuries. Combine this with the melting in Greenland and the thermal expansion of sea water, and you discover that many of the world’s great cities are at existential risk.

The climatic disruption of crucial agricultural zones – in North and Central America, the Middle East, Africa and much of Asia – presents a security threat that could dwarf all others. The civil war in Syria, unless resolute policies are adopted, looks like a glimpse of a possible global future.

These are not, if the risks materialise, shifts to which we can adapt. These crises will be bigger than our capacity to respond to them. They could lead to the rapid and radical simplification of society, which means, to put it brutally, the end of civilisations and many of the people they support. If this happens, it will amount to the greatest crime ever committed. And members of Trump’s proposed cabinet are among the leading perpetrators.

The Guardian

Never has America elected one so unsuited to top office – Bryan Gould. 

Donald Trump is by no means the first US president to take office with no prior experience of holding political office.

Dwight D. Eisenhower, for example, became president after a stellar career in the military, though his military service no doubt gave him some familiarity with the concept of public service.
Trump, however, is unusual in taking office with only the experience of pursuing his own self-interest to guide him – “and a very good thing too” many of his supporters will no doubt say.
But, however appealing may be the prospect of a president unencumbered by political baggage, the lack of any political or governmental experience can be just as much a handicap for a new president as would be a similar absence of relevant experience in any other field of endeavour that requires judgment, knowledge and understanding.
Politics in a democracy is essentially about carrying people with you. It requires an ability to persuade and compromise, to recognise “the public interest” is more than the simple aggregation of individual interests.

The absence of relevant experience is one thing, the continuing impact of inappropriate and unhelpful experience quite another. The fact that Trump’s life has been dedicated to his own self-advancement leads to concern that he is not just lacking the necessary qualities but that he is actually handicapped as he takes office, by allowing his experience to have taught him the wrong lessons.
The early indications, even before his inauguration, are not encouraging. He has already been exposed, by some immediate and pressing issues, as being ill-prepared for the major responsibilities that will soon become his.
It was surely unwise, and unlikely to build confidence, to have parted ways so publicly with his providers of intelligence.
His rejection of the briefing he has been given by the FBI, and the breakdown of relations between them, means that the US no longer has an accepted and reliable source of information about the activities of hostile interests – and the fact that the rejected briefings involve President Putin and Russia can only increase anxieties about the role they may have played in Trump’s election.
And his child-like susceptibility to flattery, so expertly exploited by Putin, is far from desirable in the man to whom the free world entrusts its future.
The nature of the allegations made against him – that the Russians have “compromising” material of a sexual or financial nature or both that could be used to blackmail him – and his difficulty in shaking himself free of this story, show how much his public image has already been damaged by what he revealed about himself during his election campaign.

There can be few who have ascended to high office under such a cloud of their own making.

In domestic politics, too, he has already shown himself to be less than sure-footed.
He seems to have struggled to comprehend that running the country is different from running his own businesses and that the two must be separated – indeed, it isn’t clear that he sees any difference between them.
There is also, of course, the persistent impression – not helped by his continued refusal to publish his tax returns – that those businesses are in trouble and that they owe vast sums of money.
His record in business does not help.
It is one marked by risky borrowing, followed by repeated bankruptcies, leaving the burden of unpaid debt to be borne by the lenders – hardly likely to inspire confidence if (as he advocates) the same practices are applied to the management of the public finances.
And, in the appointments he has made to some of the most important offices in his Administration, he seems to have followed the principle that the essential qualification is that the appointee has a record of opposition to the interests (such as climate change or an end to racial discrimination) to be overseen.
Most worryingly, Trump’s life experience appears to have taught him that celebrity and headlines are all that matter and will cure all. It seems we are about to enter an era of government by Twitter.

A snap overnight response to some perceived slight is apparently to replace careful analysis and considered policy – and opponents and those who disagree with him are to be countered by insults and scant regard for the truth.
It is hard to see that such an impetuous and narcissistic approach to government can possibly succeed. It is even harder to discern the likely end point.
No American president, surely, has ever entered the White House so much behind the eight ball before he has even begun. Oh, American voters, what have you done?

NZ Herald

Wild populism has a long history in US politics, but Trump is surely unique – Geoffrey Kabaservice. 

In the run-up to the US presidential election, pundits proclaimed that the outcome would be “historic”. What they meant, invariably, was that they expected Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton to shatter precedent by becoming the country’s first woman president. Instead, Washington DC now prepares for the inauguration of president-elect Donald Trump. But the New York businessman’s victory was also historic. While both his candidacy and his impending presidency call to mind some features of the Republican party’s recent history, they also represent a significant departure from the country’s past political patterns.

Trump’s win was one of the greatest upsets in American political history. But it was far from the landslide that Trump claimed and marked only the fifth time that a presidential candidate won the electoral college while losing the popular vote. Trump also will enter the presidency with the lowest favourability ratings in modern history.

The controversies of recent weeks, from Trump’s social media battles against film stars to the sensational (and unsubstantiated) intelligence reports about his putative financial and carnal dealings with Russia, have vaporised the “honeymoon” that incoming presidents traditionally enjoy.

The Guardian

SNL: Trump Press Conference. 

The Observer view on president-elect Donald Trump – Observer editorial. 

The inauguration of a US president is normally a moment of great hope. It is a celebration of representative democracy and the peaceful transfer of power. It is an affirmation that the ideals and laws set out in the 1789 US constitution, still a global paradigm for modern-day governance, continue to be honoured and observed. Inauguration confers legitimacy on a head of state in the name of “we, the people”. The incumbent has a duty to respect and uphold the constitution’s central aims, namely “to form a more perfect union, establish justice, ensure domestic tranquillity, provide for the common defence, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty”.

The inauguration this Friday of Donald Trump as 45th US president is not a normal moment.

Trump’s ascent to what is commonly termed the world’s most powerful job is a moment of dread, anxiety and great foreboding.

The Guardian

Enough bleating, time to hold our lying leaders to account – Nick Cohen. 

Post-truth politics isn’t a coherent description of the world but a cry of despair. Propositions have not stopped being right or wrong just because of the invention of Facebook. Whatever the authoritarian cults who rage across Twitter say to the contrary, the Earth still goes round the sun and two plus two still equals four.

Donald Trump, Boris Johnson and other liars have made fantastical promises to their electorates. They said they could build a wall and make Mexico pay for it or make Britain richer by crashing her out of the EU.

But instead of laughing at their transparent falsehoods or being insulted at being taken for fools, blocs of voters have handed them victory. Evidence could not shake them. Common sense could not reach them. Surely, their gullibility shows we have arrived in a new dystopia. You can see why they got that way. Trump is clear that the checks and balances that restrained power in the old world will not apply to him. His refusal to release his tax returns shows it. The Russian dissident Garry Kasparov put the urgent case for transparency best when he said “Trump has criticised Republicans, Democrats, the pope, the CIA, FBI, Nato, Meryl Streep… everyone and anyone “except Vladimir Putin”.

The Guardian

Women’s March on Washington set to be one of America’s biggest protests – Joanna Walters. 

It began as a spontaneous feminist rallying cry via social media. It has morphed into what is expected to be one of the largest demonstrations in American history – a boisterous march about a smorgasbord of progressive issues, and an extraordinary display of dissent on a president’s first day in office peppered with knit pink hats.

Before the bunting and barriers are even cleared away from Friday’s inauguration of Donald Trump, hundreds of thousands are likely to attend the Women’s March on Washington the following day, 21 January.

“A march of this magnitude, across this diversity of issues has never happened before. We all have to stand together as a force no one can ignore.” Kaylin Whittingham, president of the association of black women attorneys.

“More than 300 simultaneous local protests will also occur, across all 50 states, and support marches are planned in 30 other countries. We have no choice. We need to stand up against an administration that threatens everything we believe in, in what we hope will become one of the largest grassroots, progressive movements ever seen,” organizer Linda Sarsour.

The Guardian

www.WomensMarch.com

Donald Trump, Putin, Duterte: Dangerous, populist leaders a ‘threat’ to world – NZ Herald. 

Campaigns such as Brexit and the rise of populist leaders including Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin and Rodrigo Duterte have fuelled new levels of hate, intolerance and bigotry.

But the world will pay a heavy price for playing the politics of fear in 2017, a new report has warned.

The election of US President-elect Donald Trump after a “campaign fermenting hatred and intolerance” and the rising influence of political parties in Western Europe that reject universal rights pose a bigger risk to the world than ever before.

The Human Rights Watch 2017 World Reportreleased released today warns the politics of fear has allowed dangerous and popular leaders to flourish at the expense of the very people who elected them.

In the 687 page report’s introduction, HRW executive Director Kenneth Roth warns of “a new generation of authoritarian populists seeks to overturn the concept of human rights protections, treating rights not as an essential check on official power but as an impediment to the majority will.”

NZ Herald

Sign George Takei’s Petition: Stand Up for Muslims in the U.S.

When I was just 5, my family was rounded up at gunpoint and forced from our home in Los Angeles into an internment camp.

We were prisoners in our country, held within barbed wire compounds, armed guards pointing guns down at us. It was an egregious violation of our rights under the U.S. Constitution, all in the name of “security.” During that time, fear and racism drove government policy, creating a living hell for over 120,000 innocent Japanese Americans, most of whom were U.S. citizens.

I have spent my life trying to ensure something like this never happens again. But dark clouds once more are gathering.

A Trump spokesperson recently stated the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II “sets a precedent” for Trump to do the same today.

And Trump continues to stand by his plans to establish a Muslim registry and ban immigrants from “certain” Muslim countries from the U.S. It starts with a registry, with restrictions, with irrationally ascribed guilt, and with fear. But we know well where it might lead.

National security must never again be permitted to justify wholesale denial of constitutional rights and protections.

If it is freedom and our way of life that we fight for, our first obligation is to ensure that our own government adheres to those principles. Without that, we are no better than our enemies.

Please sign this petition to let the Muslim community know you support them and oppose any policy targeting them based on their religion or national origin. Help send a message to Trump and his ilk that this will never again happen in America.
George Takei 

Please sign the Petition

The Emergence of a Post-Fact World – Francis Fukuyama. 

One of the more striking developments of 2016 was the emergence of a “post-fact” world, in which virtually all authoritative information sources were challenged by contrary facts of dubious quality and provenance. In a world without gatekeepers, there is no reason to think that good information will win out over bad.

One of the developments of 2016 and its highly unusual politics was the emergence of a “post-fact” world, in which virtually all authoritative information sources were called into question and challenged by contrary facts of dubious quality and provenance.

The emergence of the Internet and the World Wide Web in the 1990s was greeted as a moment of liberation and a boon for democracy worldwide. Information constitutes a form of power, and to the extent that information was becoming cheaper and more accessible, democratic publics would be able to participate in domains from which they had been hitherto excluded.

The development of social media in the early 2000s appeared to accelerate this trend, permitting the mass mobilization that fueled various democratic “color revolutions” around the world, from Ukraine to Burma (Myanmar) to Egypt. In a world of peer-to-peer communication, the old gatekeepers of information, largely seen to be oppressive authoritarian states, could now be bypassed.

While there was some truth to this positive narrative, another, darker one was also taking shape. Those old authoritarian forces were responding in dialectical fashion, learning to control the Internet, as in China, with its tens of thousands of censors, or, as in Russia, by recruiting legions of trolls and unleashing bots to flood social media with bad information. These trends all came together in a hugely visible way during 2016, in ways that bridged foreign and domestic politics.

The premier manipulator of social media turned out to be Russia. Its government has put out blatant falsehoods like the “fact” that Ukrainian nationalists were crucifying small children, or that Ukrainian government forces shot down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in 2014. These same sources contributed to the debates on Scottish independence, Brexit, and the Dutch referendum on the EU’s Association Agreement with Ukraine, amplifying any dubious fact that would weaken pro-EU forces.

Use of bad information as a weapon by authoritarian powers would be bad enough, but the practice took root big time during the US election campaign. All politicians lie or, more charitably, spin the truth for their own benefit; but Donald Trump took the practice to new and unprecedented heights.

Project Syndicate

Running for president showed me how our elections are broken. We can fix them – Jill Stein. 

After a divisive election, with record levels of public distrust for a political system dominated by Super Pacs and lobbyists, ordinary Americans joined together to begin healing our wounded democracy – by verifying the vote in three key states.

For three weeks, a historic recount campaign pushed forward in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, defying political blockades, bureaucratic hurdles, legal maneuvering and financial intimidation.

This unprecedented effort by more than 10,000 volunteers and 161,000 donors coalesced in a matter of days. It affirmed the determination of the American people to raise the bar for our democracy. At its core, the recount essentially asked one question:

Do we have a voting system we can trust, that is accurate secure and just, and free from modern-day Jim Crow in our elections?

The answer, we found, is a resounding “no”.

The Guardian

Trump and Brexit put global economic growth at risk, World Bank – Larry Eliot. 

Austerity’s Inevitable Outcome, Duuuuh! 

Eventually the masses have had enough and things get nasty. Neoliberalism has run it’s course. Trump’s win ushers in a new international protectionist race to the bottom. Herby Hoover all over again. Most of Trump’s so called economic boost will go to the pockets of the wealthy. Things are likely to get much worse. Our safety is now in the hands of an immature and impulsive twitomaniac. Volatility in world markets is likely to increase markedly. 

A tentative pickup in the global economy this year is at risk from the political uncertainty unleashed by Brexit and the arrival of Donald Trump in the White House, the World Bank has said.

The Washington-based organisation said 2016 had been the weakest year for the global economy since the deep recession of 2008-09 and expressed concern that protectionist pressures would continue to increase unless the pace of activity picked up.

Announcing the findings of its annual Global Economic Prospects (GEP), the bank said global growth had failed to meet its forecast every year since 2011. A sluggish performance by the US and recessions in large commodity-dependent economies kept expansion in the world economy to 2.3%, down from 2.7% in 2015.

The Guardian

How Extreme Partisanship Opens the Authoritarian Door – Eva McMullin. 

Every so often, the value of liberty must be relearned and such a time may be upon America.

In 1750, my fifth great-grandfather and great-grandmother, Archibald McMullin and Martha Richards, departed Ireland and braved the Atlantic Ocean in search of liberty and opportunity in America. Martha passed away a few years later in Massachusetts, leaving Archibald alone with three sons until he remarried Anna Powell, with whom he had six more children, including Archibald Jr. By 1778, the younger namesake had enlisted in the Continental Army and would serve two nine-month tours in the Revolutionary War.

Their respective struggles forced both McMullin generations and their contemporaries to answer a fundamental question: What is the value of liberty?

For the past several decades, our basic rights and the integrity of our democratic system that protects them have been relatively secure. For many, they’ve seemed even automatic.

Extreme partisanship is more dangerous than most people realize. It leaves nations vulnerable to authoritarianism whether in the Middle East, Asia, or America. Autocrats commonly exploit—even foment—animosity between political groups, races, and religions because it helps them to consolidate power. When groups despise each other, they’re more likely to believe the falsehoods despots disseminate about their perceived enemies.

Daily Beast

U.S. Spies See a World of Trumps Ahead – The Daily Beast. 

Rising need, fewer resources, fewer jobs, and more campaigns like Donald Trump’s.

That’s the world ahead, according to America’s intelligence agencies.

Analysts from U.S. spy services predict a darker world to come over the next five years, with rising populations, falling incomes, and ever more technology to spread anger at the speed of a tweet, all trends that helped catapult Trump to victory, only set to increase.
The Global Trends Report, authored by the same intelligence community that concluded Russia tried to interfere with the U.S elections, portrays a Dystopian future of increasingly divided haves and have nots, with climate change drying up resources and driving migrants into already stressed Western nations, only increasing competition.

It further predicts governments or would-be leaders will play to their people’s worst fears, blaming “outsiders” or other nations for the calamities to come, so they don’t get the blame for their people’s declining state.

Daily Beast

How Donald Trump could create a financial crisis – Matt O’Brien. 

Predictions are hard, especially about the future of the Trump administration.

Will his team of economic nationalists, who want to impose tariffs and increase infrastructure spending, get their way, or will it be his gang of economic conservatives, who want to cut taxes for the rich, cut spending for the poor, and deregulate Wall Street? Yes.
Trump isn’t so much ideologically flexible as he is ideologically fluid. He has no idée fixe other than appearing strong, especially in the eyes of cable TV pundits. Sometimes that will mean going along with what Congressional Republicans want – gridlock is for the weak – but most of the time that will mean getting Congressional Republicans to go along with him.

Which is to say that we should take his policy promises both seriously and literally. He’s going to try to do what he’s said he will, no matter how inconsistent those things might seem together.

What, then, might be the economic consequences of President-elect Trump’s tax cuts, tariffs and deregulation? Well, as we’ll get to in a minute, they sure seem like they’d raise the odds of a financial crisis happening overseas, and maybe here too. It’s a story about the dollar and housing.
The first thing you need to know is that the rest of the world has borrowed a lot of dollars the last eight years. About US$4 trillion, to be exact. Since 2008, dollar loans to non-bank borrowers outside the United States have gone from US$6 trillion to almost US$10 trillion, with emerging markets making up the majority of that increase. Their dollar debts, according to the Bank for International Settlements, have actually more than doubled during this time from US$1.7 trillion to US$4.5 trillion. And that makes them particularly vulnerable to the vicissitudes of the currency markets.

NZ Herald

Who are these rural, red-county people who brought Mr. Trump into power? – Robert Leonard. 

They are conservative, believe in hard work, family, the military and cops, and they know that abortion and socialism are evil, that Jesus Christ is our savior, and that Donald J. Trump will be good for America.

They are part of a growing movement in rural America that immerses many young people in a culture — not just conservative news outlets but also home and church environments — that emphasizes contemporary conservative values. It views liberals as loathsome, misinformed and weak, even dangerous.

Who are these rural, red-county people who brought Mr. Trump into power?

Political analysts have talked about how ignorance, racism, sexism, nationalism, Islamophobia, economic disenfranchisement and the decline of the middle class contributed to the popularity of Mr. Trump in rural America. But this misses the deeper cultural factors that shape the thinking of the conservatives who live here.

For the first time I had a glimpse of where many of my conservative friends and neighbors were coming from. I thought, no wonder Republicans and Democrats can’t agree on things like gun control, regulations or the value of social programs. We live in different philosophical worlds, with different foundational principles.

New York Times

The 1987 TV Miniseries That Predicted a Russian Takeover of America – Bill Scher. 

Exactly 30 years ago, in the midst of the Cold War, ABC aired a seven-night, 14-and-a-half-hour miniseries depicting life 10 years after the Soviet Union manipulates the presidential election as meek and deflated Americans shrug.

Its core message is more relevant today than ever: They did it because we let them.

The 50 states had been replaced by 12 “administrative areas.” Communication systems had been taken out – no Internet or cell phones in this version of 1997 – cutting Americans off from each other. The mighty U.S. military is no more; the areas are patrolled by Soviet-controlled “United Nations Special Service Units.” Dissidents, if not simply exiled to desolate parts of the country, are brainwashed at the “People’s Acceptance Hospital.” Older Americans grumble about food shortages and a lost way of life, but are resigned to their fate. Kids are taught their “ancestors” were “bullies” who only killed Indians, exploited workers and dumped those who couldn’t work into “slums” to die. Lincoln is still revered, but his image now gets paired with Lenin.

Politico

Erasing Obama – Timothy Egan. 

For a soon-to-be nowhere man, he’s everywhere. Sensing “time’s winged chariot hurrying near,” as the poet had it, President Obama is using every hour left in his presidency to ensure that Donald Trump will not erase it all.

It’s one part vanity project. What president doesn’t want to put a dent in history? One man freed four million slaves. Another created national parks and forests that left every American a rich inheritance of public land. A third crushed the Nazis — from a wheelchair, while dying.

And Obama? He bequeaths the incoming president “the longest economic expansion and monthly job creation in history,” as my colleague Andrew Ross Sorkin noted. Trump, the pumpkin-haired rooster taking credit for the dawn, has already tried to seize a bit of that achievement as his own. Thanks, Obama. But he’s also likely to screw it up, perhaps by a trade war, or a budget-busting tax cut.

Already, Trump has flirted with treason, flouted conflict-of-interest rules, bullied dissidents and blown off the advice of seasoned public servants. He has yet to hold a news conference since winning the election. And did another day just pass without a word of the promise to “reveal things that other people don’t know” about Russian interference with our election? Maybe he’s waiting for more whispers in his ear from the Kremlin.

New York Times

First 100 Days Trump Resistance Agenda – Robert Reich. 

Trump’s First 100 Day agenda includes repealing environmental regulations, Obamacare, and the Dodd-Frank Act, giving the rich and big corporations a huge tax cut, and putting in place a cabinet that doesn’t believe in the Voting Rights Act or public schools or Medicare or the Fair Housing Act.  

Our 100 days of resistance begins a sustained and powerful opposition. Here’s what you can do. 

Robert Reich

America: don’t be polite in the face of demagoguery – Jessica Valenti. 

When my father was a young man in Queens, New York, he was friendly with an older man – a neighborhood fixture who sat in a chair in front of my family’s laundromat so he could chat with passersby. One day, this man’s adult children pressured him into putting his apartment under their names; they kicked him out soon after.

Although they effectively swindled their father out of his home, his children weren’t able to stay there long: people spat at them as they walked down the street, neighbors cursed them, local grocers refused to sell them food. 

This public shaming didn’t undo the damage they wrought on their father, of course, but it did send a clear message about what the community found unacceptable.

As Americans continue to grapple with Donald Trump’s presidential win, it’s a lesson we need to remember more than ever: there’s nothing wrong with shaming people who have done shameful things. And there are few things more shameful than supporting a fascistic bigot.

The Guardian

A Keynesian Change Is in the Air – James Kwak. 

The idea that market forces necessarily produce optimal outcomes, and that government should generally stay out of the way, has dominated public policy discourse since the late 1970s. This is obvious for Republicans, but consider also the deregulatory policies of Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton proclaiming that “the era of big government is over,” the end to “welfare as we know it,” bipartisan financial deregulation, and Obamacare’s reliance on markets—indeed, the current Democratic orthodoxy that government should simply identify and correct for discrete market failures.

It is also widely claimed that the universal superiority of competitive markets is some fundamental law of economics—that the minimum wage necessarily increases unemployment (because it is a price floor), or that taxes on investment income necessarily reduce savings and investment (because they reduce the returns to saving). Yet, just as in the 1920s, few economists actually believe in such immutable laws, although some do think of them as some Platonic ideal for how the economy should behave. What happened is that a handful of simple economic concepts was picked up, vulgarized, and popularized by a network of foundations, think tanks, and media outlets. A few prominent economists played important roles in this process—notably Friedrich Hayek in The Road to Serfdom and Milton Friedman in Capitalism and Freedom and Free to Choose—but their ultimate influence depended on the reach of organizations such as the American Enterprise Institute, Heritage, and the op-ed page of The Wall Street Journal.

The idea that pay equals marginal product is not economic truth, but ideology. Like any powerful ideology, it makes the interests of a class seem conterminous with the interests of society as a whole. As Marx wrote in The German Ideology, each ruling class “has to give its ideas the form of universality, and represent them as the only rational, universally valid ones.”

If you’re a billionaire, it’s nice to think that your wealth simply reflects your contributions to society. It’s also useful for other people to think so, so they don’t raise your taxes. But that doesn’t make it true.

In the 1920s, Keynes thought the dominance of the laissez-faire ideology was coming to an end. “We do not even dance yet to a new tune,” he wrote. “But a change is in the air.” He was right. Increasing dissatisfaction with the unregulated capitalist system helped produce fascism in Germany and Italy and a much greater degree of government intervention in the United States, the United Kingdom, and France.

Could the same be true today? It is undeniable that the rapidly widening gap between the very rich and the middle class has undermined popular support for the economic status quo. Throughout the advanced, post-industrial democracies, there seems to be a brewing revolt against technocratic elites who appear insensitive to the plight of ordinary working people. In the United States, the Bernie Sanders insurgency demonstrated the tenuous hold of the Clinton-Obama-Hamilton Project-Center for American Progress coalition over the Democratic Party, while Donald Trump overthrew the Republican establishment.

While Trump has his own fascist, racist, and sexist tendencies, however, most of his actual policy proposals come straig