Do you have old children? Read this and cry, our beloved land

Donald Trump and the Art of the Lie

By Andrew Sullivan

A tyrant’s path to power is not a straight line, it’s dynamic. Each concession is instantly banked, past vices are turned into virtues, and then the ante is upped once again. The threat rises exponentially with time. If we can’t see this in front of our own eyes, and impeach this man now, even if he will not be convicted, we are flirting with the very stability of our political system. It is not impregnable. Why is Putin the only person who seems to grasp this?

“I like the truth. I’m actually a very honest guy,” President Trump told a slightly incredulous George Stephanopoulos this week. Like almost everything Trump says, it was, of course, a lie. But it was a particularly Trumpish kind of lie. It was so staggeringly, self-evidently untrue, and so confidently, breezily said, it was less a statement of nonfact than an expression of pure power.

For Trump, lying is central to his disturbed psyche, and to his success. The brazenness of it unbalances and stupefies sane and adjusted people, thereby constantly giving him an edge and a little breathing space while we try to absorb it, during which he proceeds to the next lie. And on it goes. It’s like swimming in choppy water. Just when you get to the surface to breathe, another wave crashes into you.

This particular lie was in the context of a report from the New York Times this week, independently confirmed by ABC News, that Republican pollster Tony Fabrizio had found Trump lagging Joe Biden in most of the states he needed to win — even in Texas. The Times reported that Trump had instructed his staff to lie about this polling. When asked about it by Stephanopoulos, Trump simply followed his own advice. “No, my polls show that I’m winning everywhere,” he said blithely. And when you hear him, it sounds as if he is telling the truth. He’s gooood.

In Michael Wolff’s new book, Siege, Steve Bannon recounts on the record several bald-faced lies Trump told him to his face. About Trump’s trip to Moscow, where the alleged and likely chimeric pee tape was supposedly made, Trump insisted repeatedly that he had spent only a day there, and hadn’t stayed overnight, so couldn’t have employed any prostitutes at all. “This story was told to me a dozen times, maybe more, and the details never changed,” Bannon noted, even as evidence emerged that Trump had indeed spent two days and two nights there.

On the affair with Stormy Daniels: “Never happened,” he told Bannon. And when Trump insisted on these things, he was in the moment believable. This preternatural capacity to lie convincingly even when the truth is obvious is a very rare skill. Which is why it works, of course. You simply assume that a grown man with real responsibility wouldn’t behave that way. And you would be wrong. Bannon, Wolff writes, came to understand that the lies were “compulsive, persistent and without even a minimal grounding in reality.” This is not to deceive the public. This is simply the way Trump behaves — in private and public. It’s why I have long believed he is mentally unwell.

It is not true that all presidents lie in this fashion. Take that famous liar, Bill Clinton. Bubba’s lies were infamous —  but he was always calibrating them to avoid telling an outright whopper. A ridiculous parsing of the definition of “sexual relations” or “is” is different than outright denying reality and daring people to correct you. Clinton accepted reality and tried, in lawyerly fashion, to spin his way out of it.

In retrospect, the presidency of George W. Bush was a Trump harbinger of sorts. Recall this famous passage from Ron Suskind, reporting on the Bush White House for the Times:

The aide said that guys like me were ‘in what we call the reality-based community,’ which he defined as people who ‘believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.’ I nodded and murmured something about Enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. ‘That’s not the way the world really works anymore,’ he continued. ‘We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create reality. And while you are studying that reality — judiciously, as you will — we’ll act again creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors … and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.’

The joke, in the end, of course, was on them. Reality destroyed them, as it often does. In that time period, however, it also destroyed hundreds of thousands of innocent lives.

No, Trump’s only rival in this department — denying what everyone can see is true — was Sarah Palin, the lipsticked John the Baptist of the Trump cult. During the 2008 campaign, gobsmacked that this lunatic could be in line for the presidency, I began to keep track of everything she said out loud that was provably, empirically untrue. In the two months she was running to be vice-president, I catalogued 34 demonstrably untrue statements, which she refused to correct. She compiled nowhere near Trump’s volume of lies — it’s close to inhuman to lie the way he does — but her capacity to move swiftly on from them, along with the press’s supine failure to keep up, was very Trumpy. The short attention span of digital media has made this worse. And she got away with it. The base didn’t care; the media couldn’t cope.

Trump, too stupid to ape Clinton, and far more accomplished a liar than Palin, combines the sinister Bush-era kind of lie — “We do not torture” — with the Palin compulsion to just make things up all the time to avoid any sense of vulnerability. What Trump adds is a level of salesmanship that is truly a wonder to behold. He is a con man of surpassing brilliance and conviction, and every time he survives the fallout of a con, he gets more confident about the next one.

Continue reading Do you have old children? Read this and cry, our beloved land

Do you have young children? Read this and cry, our beloved land

The Uninhabitable Earth

Famine, economic collapse, a sun that cooks us: What climate change could wreak — sooner than you think.
By David Wallace-Wells *This article appears in the July 10, 2017, issue of New York Magazine.

In the jungles of Costa Rica, where humidity routinely tops 90 percent, simply moving around outside when it’s over 105 degrees Fahrenheit would be lethal. And the effect would be fast: Within a few hours, a human body would be cooked to death from both inside and out. Fossils by Heartless Machine

I. ‘Doomsday’

Peering beyond scientific reticence.

It is, I promise, worse than you think. If your anxiety about global warming is dominated by fears of sea-level rise, you are barely scratching the surface of what terrors are possible, even within the lifetime of a teenager today. And yet the swelling seas — and the cities they will drown — have so dominated the picture of global warming, and so overwhelmed our capacity for climate panic, that they have occluded our perception of other threats, many much closer at hand. Rising oceans are bad, in fact very bad; but fleeing the coastline will not be enough.

Indeed, absent a significant adjustment to how billions of humans conduct their lives, parts of the Earth will likely become close to uninhabitable, and other parts horrifically inhospitable, as soon as the end of this century.

Even when we train our eyes on climate change, we are unable to comprehend its scope. This past winter, a string of days 60 and 70 degrees warmer than normal baked the North Pole, melting the permafrost that encased Norway’s Svalbard seed vault — a global food bank nicknamed “Doomsday,” designed to ensure that our agriculture survives any catastrophe, and which appeared to have been flooded by climate change less than ten years after being built.

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The Doomsday vault is fine, for now: The structure has been secured and the seeds are safe. But treating the episode as a parable of impending flooding missed the more important news. Until recently, permafrost was not a major concern of climate scientists, because, as the name suggests, it was soil that stayed permanently frozen. But Arctic permafrost contains 1.8 trillion tons of carbon, more than twice as much as is currently suspended in the Earth’s atmosphere. When it thaws and is released, that carbon may evaporate as methane, which is 34 times as powerful a greenhouse-gas warming blanket as carbon dioxide when judged on the timescale of a century; when judged on the timescale of two decades, it is 86 times as powerful. In other words, we have, trapped in Arctic permafrost, twice as much carbon as is currently wrecking the atmosphere of the planet, all of it scheduled to be released at a date that keeps getting moved up, partially in the form of a gas that multiplies its warming power 86 times over.

Maybe you know that already — there are alarming stories in the news every day, like those, last month, that seemed to suggest satellite data showed the globe warming since 1998 more than twice as fast as scientists had thought (in fact, the underlying story was considerably less alarming than the headlines). Or the news from Antarctica this past May, when a crack in an ice shelf grew 11 miles in six days, then kept going; the break now has just three miles to go — by the time you read this, it may already have met the open water, where it will drop into the sea one of the biggest icebergs ever, a process known poetically as “calving.”

But no matter how well-informed you are, you are surely not alarmed enough. Over the past decades, our culture has gone apocalyptic with zombie movies and Mad Max dystopias, perhaps the collective result of displaced climate anxiety, and yet when it comes to contemplating real-world warming dangers, we suffer from an incredible failure of imagination. The reasons for that are many: the timid language of scientific probabilities, which the climatologist James Hansen once called “scientific reticence” in a paper chastising scientists for editing their own observations so conscientiously that they failed to communicate how dire the threat really was; the fact that the country is dominated by a group of technocrats who believe any problem can be solved and an opposing culture that doesn’t even see warming as a problem worth addressing; the way that climate denialism has made scientists even more cautious in offering speculative warnings; the simple speed of change and, also, its slowness, such that we are only seeing effects now of warming from decades past; our uncertainty about uncertainty, which the climate writer Naomi Oreskes in particular has suggested stops us from preparing as though anything worse than a median outcome were even possible; the way we assume climate change will hit hardest elsewhere, not everywhere; the smallness (two degrees) and largeness (1.8 trillion tons) and abstractness (400 parts per million) of the numbers; the discomfort of considering a problem that is very difficult, if not impossible, to solve; the altogether incomprehensible scale of that problem, which amounts to the prospect of our own annihilation; simple fear. But aversion arising from fear is a form of denial, too.

In between scientific reticence and science fiction is science itself. This article is the result of dozens of interviews and exchanges with climatologists and researchers in related fields and reflects hundreds of scientific papers on the subject of climate change. What follows is not a series of predictions of what will happen — that will be determined in large part by the much-less-certain science of human response. Instead, it is a portrait of our best understanding of where the planet is heading absent aggressive action. It is unlikely that all of these warming scenarios will be fully realized, largely because the devastation along the way will shake our complacency. But those scenarios, and not the present climate, are the baseline. In fact, they are our schedule.

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The present tense of climate change — the destruction we’ve already baked into our future — is horrifying enough. Most people talk as if Miami and Bangladesh still have a chance of surviving; most of the scientists I spoke with assume we’ll lose them within the century, even if we stop burning fossil fuel in the next decade. Two degrees of warming used to be considered the threshold of catastrophe: tens of millions of climate refugees unleashed upon an unprepared world. Now two degrees is our goal, per the Paris climate accords, and experts give us only slim odds of hitting it. The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issues serial reports, often called the “gold standard” of climate research; the most recent one projects us to hit four degrees of warming by the beginning of the next century, should we stay the present course. But that’s just a median projection. The upper end of the probability curve runs as high as eight degrees — and the authors still haven’t figured out how to deal with that permafrost melt. The IPCC reports also don’t fully account for the albedo effect (less ice means less reflected and more absorbed sunlight, hence more warming); more cloud cover (which traps heat); or the dieback of forests and other flora (which extract carbon from the atmosphere). Each of these promises to accelerate warming, and the history of the planet shows that temperature can shift as much as five degrees Celsius within thirteen years. The last time the planet was even four degrees warmer, Peter Brannen points out in The Ends of the World, his new history of the planet’s major extinction events, the oceans were hundreds of feet higher.*

The Earth has experienced five mass extinctions before the one we are living through now, each so complete a slate-wiping of the evolutionary record it functioned as a resetting of the planetary clock, and many climate scientists will tell you they are the best analog for the ecological future we are diving headlong into. Unless you are a teenager, you probably read in your high-school textbooks that these extinctions were the result of asteroids. In fact, all but the one that killed the dinosaurs were caused by climate change produced by greenhouse gas. The most notorious was 252 million years ago; it began when carbon warmed the planet by five degrees, accelerated when that warming triggered the release of methane in the Arctic, and ended with 97 percent of all life on Earth dead. We are currently adding carbon to the atmosphere at a considerably faster rate; by most estimates, at least ten times faster. The rate is accelerating. This is what Stephen Hawking had in mind when he said, this spring, that the species needs to colonize other planets in the next century to survive, and what drove Elon Musk, last month, to unveil his plans to build a Mars habitat in 40 to 100 years. These are nonspecialists, of course, and probably as inclined to irrational panic as you or I. But the many sober-minded scientists I interviewed over the past several months — the most credentialed and tenured in the field, few of them inclined to alarmism and many advisers to the IPCC who nevertheless criticize its conservatism — have quietly reached an apocalyptic conclusion, too: No plausible program of emissions reductions alone can prevent climate disaster.

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Over the past few decades, the term “Anthropocene” has climbed out of academic discourse and into the popular imagination — a name given to the geologic era we live in now, and a way to signal that it is a new era, defined on the wall chart of deep history by human intervention. One problem with the term is that it implies a conquest of nature (and even echoes the biblical “dominion”). And however sanguine you might be about the proposition that we have already ravaged the natural world, which we surely have, it is another thing entirely to consider the possibility that we have only provoked it, engineering first in ignorance and then in denial a climate system that will now go to war with us for many centuries, perhaps until it destroys us. That is what Wallace Smith Broecker, the avuncular oceanographer who coined the term “global warming,” means when he calls the planet an “angry beast.” You could also go with “war machine.” Each day we arm it more.

Continue reading Do you have young children? Read this and cry, our beloved land

Terry Pinkard on Hegel

The spirit of history
Hegel’s search for the universal patterns of history revealed a paradox: freedom is coming into being, but is never guaranteed.

History, or at least the study of it, is in bad shape these days. Almost everyone agrees that knowing history is important, but in the United States, except at the most elite schools, the study of history is in freefall. Our age seems to share the skepticism voiced by the German philosopher G W F Hegel (1770-1831) when he said that the only lesson history teaches us is that nobody ever learned anything from history. Why? The present is always new and the future is untested, leading many to sympathise with the American businessman Henry Ford’s pronouncement in 1921 that history is more or less bunk. Yet the very same Hegel also argued that, although things do indeed always seem unprecedented, history does actually give us a clue as to our ultimate ends.
We are a peculiar species: what it is to be the creatures that we are is always a problem for us – in part because we make ourselves into the kinds of creatures that we are, and because we explore this in all the different ways we live out our lives, individually and collectively. The study of history involves not only telling stories or piling up facts. In its larger structure, it is the account of humanity experimentally seeking to understand itself in all the myriad ways in which it gives shape to itself in daily life, and also how historical change is intimately linked to changes in our basic self-understanding. As Hegel put it in a series of lectures in 1822-30, ‘we’ are peculiarly our own products, and the philosophical study of history is a study of how we shape-shifted ourselves across time.
No one ever conceived of a more sophisticated and dynamic philosophical history than Hegel. His system is built around three fundamental ideas. First, the key to human agency is self-consciousness. For people to be doing anything in any real human sense is to know what we are doing as we do it. This applies even when we are not explicitly thinking about what we are doing. Here’s a simple example: as you are reading this, suppose you get a text message from a friend: ‘What are you doing?’ You immediately reply: ‘I’m reading a piece on Hegel.’ You knew what you were doing without having to have a separate act of thinking about it or drawing conclusions. Without any further thought, you knew that you were not skydiving, taking a bath, gardening or doing the crossword. You didn’t look around and infer from the evidence. You didn’t need any particular introspection. In fact, in Hegelian terms, when you are doing something and you do not know at all what you are doing, you’re not really doing anything at all. Instead, stuff is just happening. To be sure, sometimes we are only vaguely aware of what we are doing. However, even our often more distanced reflective self-consciousness is itself only a further realisation of the deeper and distinctly Hegelian self-relation: all consciousness is self-consciousness.
Secondly, Hegel thought that self-consciousness is always a matter of locating ourselves in a kind of social space of ‘I’ and ‘we’. Saying ‘I’ or saying ‘we’ is just speaking from one of two sides of the same dialectical coin. In many cases, ‘we’ seems to add up to lots of instances of ‘I think’ or ‘I do’, but in its most fundamental sense ‘we’ is just as basic as ‘I’. Each individual self-consciousness is fundamentally social. The generality of the ‘we’ manifests itself in the individual acts of each of us, but ‘we’ is itself nothing apart from the individual acts of singular flesh-and-blood agents. When I know what it is that I am doing, I am also aware that what ‘I’ am doing is, so to speak, the way ‘we’ do it.
It is a mistake to think that one side of the coin is more important: ‘I’ is not merely a point without further content absorbed completely within a social space (a ‘we’), nor is ‘we’, the social space, merely the addition of lots of individual ‘I’s. Without practitioners, there is no practice; without the practice, there are no practitioners. This is sometimes hard to see. Often, the ‘I’ tries to separate itself from the ‘we’ and rebel against it. (Think of existentialism.) Sometimes the ‘I’ tries to absorb itself fully into the ‘we’. (Think of what totalitarians dream about.) Sometimes the ‘I’ tries to stage-manage the recognition it seeks from the ‘we’ by pretending to be what it isn’t. (Think of the con artist.) All of these deficient forms of ‘I’ and ‘we’ make their various appearances in history.
Third, for humans, just as with any species, there are ways in which things can go better or worse for individuals within the species. Trees without the right soil do not flourish as the trees they could be; wolves without the right environmental range cannot become the wolves they could be. Similarly, self-conscious humans build familial, social, cultural and political environments that make it possible to become new, different and better versions of ourselves. But what we can make of ourselves depends on where we are in history. Your great-great-grandparents never dreamed of being computer coders. Medieval villagers did not aspire to become middle-level managers in a global trash-collection firm. Who ‘I’ am is always bound up with what ‘we’ do, but it is a mistake to take our individual acts simply as singular applications of something like general rules. It is better to say that we exemplify in better or worse ways what it is for us to really be us – for example, in friendship, chess-playing, vegetable-chopping or citizenship. The generality of the practice sets the terms in which I can flourish as any one of these things. Yet it is I who set the way in which I exemplify the practice, and ‘we’ all participate in seeing how well the two (‘I’ and ‘we’) converge and diverge….
Terry Pinkard is professor of philosophy at Georgetown University

Continue reading Terry Pinkard on Hegel

Two kinds of Truth

Donald Trump’s truth (better untruth) is of the second kind. And he probably doesn’t even know the meaning of a noble action. let alone the meaning of Michael Connelly’s words “truth as the unalterable bedrock of one’s life and mission.”

Bosch: “What that kid did was noble. When this all comes out, people will probably say he was stupid and naive and didn’t know what he was doing. But they won’t know the truth. He was being noble. And there isn’t a lot of that out there in the world anymore. People lie, the president lies, corporations lie and cheat.… The world is ugly and not many people are willing to stand up to it anymore. Why I did what I did was that I didn’t want this kid did to go by without… well I guess I didn’t want his killers to get away with it.”

Even serial killer Borders knew there were just two kinds of truth in this world. The truth that was the unalterable bedrock of one’s life and mission. And the other, malleable truth of politicians, charlatans, corrupt lawyers, and their clients, bent and molded to serve whatever purpose was at hand.

From Michael Connelly’s novel, of the same name.

US Constitution in Intensive Care

Trump has made my political science students skeptical — of the Constitution

By David Lay Williams

They used to love the Federalist Papers. Now they see holes in the essays’ arguments.

June 7, 2019

Portrait of James Madison painted by John Vanderlyn. Madison was one of the three authors — along with John Jay and Alexander Hamilton — of the Federalist Papers. (N/A/Courtesy of the Montpelier Foundation. )

Thomas Jefferson called “The Federalist” — the collection of essays written by John Jay, James Madison and Alexander Hamilton in 1787 and 1788, urging ratification of the U.S. Constitution — “the best commentary on the principles of government which ever was written.” Through the years, many others have echoed that high praise. The political writer George Will recently said the 85 essays, written for a few New York newspapers, under the pen name “Publius,” are surpassed as a work of political philosophy only by Aristotle’s “Politics.”

I’ve been teaching “The Federalist” to college students since I was a graduate student in the 1990s. While the arguments defending the Constitution’s provisions still stimulate students, I can report a striking change in their reactions to the work since the election of President Trump. Students today are far more skeptical of the argument in “The Federalist” that the Constitution’s famous checks and balances would be sufficient to keep a demagogue from attaining the presidency, for example — or exerting malign power should he attain office. They are dubious when Publius asserts that neither Congress nor the president could ever be susceptible to corruption, in part because of the Constitution’s structure. In short, they are more skeptical about the Constitution itself.

Smart students, of course, have always argued with some assertions in “The Federalist.” Some have always challenged Publius regarding the morally problematic compromises on slavery — the decision to allow the slave population to increase the voting power of slave states through the infamous three-fifths rule, for instance. They unsurprisingly object to the anti-democratic nature of the Senate (two senators per state, regardless of population) and the electoral college. Yet until now, there was a general sense in the classroom that these essays advanced a comprehensive, farsighted and relatively successful political philosophy — and that Americans have been largely lucky to have had the good fortune of such a founding.

But when I taught the seminar again this spring — for the first time since Trump’s election (I had last taught it in 2014) — the experience was radically different from anything had encountered before. The students approvingly noted that Hamilton was aware of the danger of states succumbing to the rhetoric of aspiring leaders who “beg[an] their career by paying an obsequious court to the people; commencing demagogues, and ending tyrants” (Federalist 1). But they pointed out that the system Publius defends led to the election of a president who makes outlandish claims about the “tremendous crime” immigration brings, exaggerates violence in urban areas like Chicago, and retweets statements posted by white nationalists — and generally appeals to people’s basest instincts.

Publius repeatedly seeks to demonstrate how the Constitution will be uniquely capable of preventing corruption, including from “foreign gold” (Federalist 55); such corruption, he argues, would have to penetrate several branches of government to succeed undetected. (He also suggests that the incorruptibility of the Continental Congress should assure readers the proposed new government would be similarly immune to outside interference.) Yet students wonder whether the president’s failure to divest himself of various investments has specifically invited such corruption. And they wonder how Americans might even discover evidence of such corruption, given his concealment of his financial records, even after Congress has demanded it.

Publius insisted that by providing a buffer between the people and the direct election of their president, the electoral college was designed to provide a “moral certainty, that the office of president, will seldom fall to the lot of any man, who is not in an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications,” namely, “ability and virtue” (Federalist 68). To rebut that argument, my students point to the president’s flouting of established legal, political, institutional and moral norms, and even his penchant for petty name-calling.

The authors of “The Federalist” also thought that Congress — particularly the Senate — would tamp down the passionate excesses of the people, should they be stimulated by “artful misrepresentations” from any source (Federalist 63). But now my students watch as senators hold their tongues, terrified of being ridiculed on the president’s Twitter feed or angering Trump’s base.

Some students now see the Constitution as a flawed document, destined from the beginning to fail; for others, it has simply outlived its usefulness.

One might be tempted to explain the turn against “The Federalist,” and the Constitution, by arguing that students have been primed by leftist professors to reject everything associated with dead white men and the Western canon. But I continue to teach Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Burke and Tocqueville to generally approving classrooms. Students still delight in the insights to be gained from debating topics including Plato’s philosopher-rulers and Rousseau’s concept of the “general will.” Their skepticism seems limited to this one book.

The great danger in all this, it seems to me, is foreshadowed in “The Federalist” itself. In Federalist 49, Publius defends the choice to make amending the Constitution so difficult. Too many changes, too quickly, would “deprive the government of that veneration which time bestows on every thing, and without which perhaps the wisest and freest governments would not possess the requisite stability.” Without respect for the foundational law of the nation, he worries, the republic would become unstable and perhaps even collapse — the fate of Rome and all previous republics, as he well knew.

Americans have been working for well over two centuries to build that “veneration” that successful constitutions require — yet Trump is eroding it. His election and subsequent behavior is diminishing respect for the entire system the Framers created. And once people lose faith in the constitutional order, politics can, as Publius suggested, spiral out of control.

The Framers insisted that, despite how hard it is to amend the Constitution, the people would always retain the right to remedy future problems. But as Jean-Jacques Rousseau once cautioned, as states grow older, fixing structural problems becomes ever harder: “The people [in long-established republics] cannot bear even having someone touch their faults to get rid of them, like those stupid and cowardly invalids who tremble at the sight of a doctor.” Yet if citizens overcome that hesitation, he added, a sickly republic can be “reborn from its own ashes and, eluding death’s embrace, recapture the vigor of youth.”

The most promising way to redeem the Constitution may be for Congress to embrace the uniquely constitutional solution of impeachment, which Publius envisions as the proper response to the profound “abuse or violation of some public trust” (Federalist 68). The revelations of the report by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III clearly establish such violations. The remaining question is whether Congress — “whose wisdom may best discern the true interest of their country” (Federalist 10) — will do what’s necessary to save the system.

Not just any White Power

Dana Milbank is not wrong when he says, Trump’s raison d’etre is white power, but he’s not right either. White power is a part of what’s going on in the world. But here we encounter a huge mismatch, that between Trump at home and Trump abroad. On the one hand at home his adherence to white power is complete, his support of white supremacists since Williamsburg has never wavered.

But, and on the other hand, abroad, what is going on is something else entirely. And compared to which white power is child’s play (quaint?). Here’s what is happening. Our president is paling around with the likes of Saudi Arabia’s MBS, Kim Jong Un, Xi Jinping, Hungary’s Viktor Orban and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. All of them would hardly be mistaken for being white, let alone white supremacists. And yes, his best pal is Putin, who is probably not as white as he would like to be and we find him, Putin, paling around much as Trump, with the likes of “dark skinned” leaders, like Nicolás Maduro in Venezuela, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi in Egypt, Bashar al-Assad in Syria, and in Turkey Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Trump’s friends abroad are without exception authoritarian leaders, of both the East and the West. He seems to have forgotten the few democracies still out there, still alive if not well, not to mention the few principled democrats within his own, that is our country, who are holding onto for dear life some real and time honored Enlightenment principles, a range of ideas centered on reason as the primary source of knowledge and advanced ideals such as liberty, progress, toleration, fraternity, constitutional government and separation of church and state.

And Trump seems to have forgotten both Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel, two democrats struggling to hold on and who might have been, with someone else in the Oval Office, as earlier were France and Germany, America’s closest allies.

So the raison d’être of our president is probably. not white power, but blatant authoritarianism, of any color. For Trump seems to respect only authority and strength in a leader and constantly attempts to project the same from himself by his often ill considered words and actions.

So what is our president’s raison d’être? Not white power, white elitism, but authoritarianism, white, black, or brown. And in fact Trump has little good to say about the countries of the white European, and socialist North, other than the fact that he would love to have Norwegians and Danes replace those from the Northern Triangle in Central America who are lining up at our southern border seeking asylum. Has our president hidden up until now a preference for the dark skinned peoples of the world, at least for the dark skinned authoritarians, who for now seem to be his great pals?

As the world’s leaders have become more and more authoritarian so have their countries become more and more nationalistic, their countries being made first, much as Trump’s America First, that which he so celebrated in the last State of the Union address. Globalism, and what now seems to be its most important offshoot, global warming, both times when peoples join together and push for something better in the future, are more and more forced to get out of the way (as the native Americans in North Dakota in the way of the Dakota Access pipeline) of the planes, trucks, trains, ships, and pipelines carrying the final tonnage of the world’s fossil fuels to be burned to satisfy, if only for a time, the world’s energy requirements.

Now we are much more onto Trump’s raison d’ëtre. What’s going on in the world today takes us back to the school playground and the toddler bullying the others by throwing sand into their faces. Kind of like what’s going on now. In Trump’s case, however, the bullying child is now the bullying man, country, or corporation.

And of course it didn’t have to be this way. They say we can still if not stop global warming slow it down, but the bullies now occupying the highest posts in most of the world’s countries are not going away. And there seems to be no one strong enough to bully them. They do seem to be in control of our lives. Is this a harbinger of the last century’s totalitarianism coming back to haunt us?

from John Cassidy, in the New Yorker of May 31, 2019:
Based on his experience of the last two years, Trump seems to believe that he can target anybody for his bullying, acting as arbitrarily as he wants, and he still won’t suffer any consequences, because the economy and the stock market will continue to power ahead. This theory is about to be tested.

Recent releases indicate that the economy has already slowed in the second quarter of the year, which leaves it more vulnerable to negative shocks, such as the imposition of more tariffs or a big fall in the stock market. Moreover, this latest Trump power play is so extreme and potentially self-destructive that, according to the Wall Street Journal, even his own hard-line trade adviser, Robert Lighthizer, opposed it.

The New Yorker, May 31, 2019

Dana Milbank: Trump’s raison d’etre is white power

Washington Post of June 1, 2019

I take the first two paragraphs and many of the ideas in what I have written below from Dana Milbank’s op ed piece. Trump’s Raison d’etre is White Power.

“We tend not to realize how much of the president’s appeal is about race. Studies show the primary indicator of support for Trump isn’t economic insecurity but racial resentment. This doesn’t mean Trump supporters are torch-carrying racists; it means they fear losing their place…”

“And this is largely why the daily mayhem of the Trump presidency has no discernible effect on support for Trump: not the petty (the White House ordering John McCain’s name covered on a Navy ship); not the ludicrous (the Energy Department rebranding liquid natural gas “molecules of freedom”); not the insidious (Trump continuing to allege a “Russian hoax” and his own innocence after special counsel Robert Mueller demonstrated otherwise); not the ugly (Trump resisting disaster aid for Puerto Rico for months, and GOP lawmakers this week blocking the legislation); and not the inhuman (migrant children held illegally, and dying, at the border). All of this pales against the existential threat to traditional white America from what it perceives as nonwhite interlopers.”

Yes, that’s right, Trump supporters live in “fear losing their place.” [place meaning white skinned supremacy] And they fear no less, if they’re Senators or Representatives, losing their jobs if Trump’s base were ever to turn from them.

The current brouhaha over the census question is an illustration of what Trump is continuing to do in support of white supremacy, not the same as gerrymandering but much like it in respect to the results. Both would put down the darkskinned immigrant populations. Although they will eventually fail they seem now that they would like to take others down with them in defeat.

Wilbur Ross, Trump’s man and toady at the Commerce Department, is proposing that a citizenship question be placed on the 10 year census questionnaire. Although it’s been tried before it’s never been been done. The constitution wants everyone counted (except the Indians who pay no taxes).

But you may ask what’s wrong with having a citizen question on the census? Why shouldn’t counting us involve counting us as citizens? Well, for one thing (other than the fact that it never has been) a citizens count would mean that millions of us would not be counted (how many, 11-15 million residents who are not yet citizens?).

And why is this important? Well the 10 year annual count does two very important things. It determines the number of representatives there will be to the House for each state. And since the non-citizen residents are mostly dark skinned immigrants their being removed from the census would favor the position of the remaining numbers of white skinned residents.
Then too you might ask, and I’m sure there will be judges on the Supreme Court who will be asking this, why shouldn’t citizenship be all important in the 10 year count? Well as I say it never was, nor was it ever intended to be so. And now if enacted it would definitely be favoring one race over other races. And I don’t think, at least I hope so, that we don’t want to do that. Shouldn’t a president’s only real job, or if you prefer most real job, be to bring us together and a citizenship question on the census would do just the opposite.

How many non citizens live in the United States? Here’s the answer I find on Wikipedia: Approximately 43.3 million foreign-born people live in the United States, that which includes 20.7 million naturalized U.S. citizens and 22.6 million non-citizens as of Apr 20, 2017.

We are told that within a quarter-century, white Americans will no longer be the majority. While this needn’t be a loss for white people — immigration isn’t zero-sum — but Trump’s GOP has convinced his followers it is. Therefore, preserving white power becomes essential, and the citizenship question buys time.

Here’s where we are now: The Supreme Court has just a few weeks left to decide whether to endorse the Trump administration’s proposal to add a citizenship question to the census.

Our land is exceptional. Let’s keep it that way.

And we’ll do that by keeping the country open to the successive waves of immigrants, made up of peoples of all ethnic and racial origins, who have always come here, and who always will if we don’t try to stop them. For our greatness as a country has always depended on people wanting to come here, and our having “open,” not closed borders, no walls.The wall of Robert Frost is the only wall in my own life I’ve ever acknowledged. No, there’s also the wall that keeps my neighbor’s dog off my front yard.

Think about it, what has the Great Wall ever done for China, other than bring on, if only in part, the tourist trade? Did it ever stop the invasion of barbarian peoples from the North that it was intended to do? Do you know? I don’t have any idea myself but I’d say probably not.  In the history books haven’t barbarians always won? If Trump’s wall were ever built it would at best, including the tunnels underneath it, become a tourist attraction. I can see it now, going with friends for a great lunch in Tijuana by the tunnel route.

Isn’t it well known (except by our president and cronies) that the strength of our country has always been based on two factors. The one is the richness of the land, land that was just meant to be settled and worked (and well treated). Other lands, I think of Canada and Australia, that are probably not as rich and welcoming as ours, and have not drawn the numbers of immigrants we have.

The other factor is the wave after wave of immigrants that we have known, beginning with the very oldest Americans who came here some tens of thousands of years ago, and then going right up to the second (or third or fourth) discovery of America) in 1492 which “discovery” was almost immediately followed by the coming here quite illegally of the western Europeans. Actually aren’t the white supremacists mostly descendants of illegal immigrants? In any case these peoples, the Europeans, came here, settled here, and finally turned against, revolted from their countries of origin, and wasted no time in Philadelphia in 1787 drawing up the detailed plans for a new country of their own.

This new country is the one that most of us know as America, where we are now living. What was left out of consideration at the time of its creation, however, at the moment of our Declaration of Independence, were the huge waves of migrants, well not migrants but immigrants, the hundreds of thousands of black Africans, who were brought here by hired help, as it were, held in chains and upon their arrival made up the slave populations of the uncompensated workers of the Americas. Between 1525 and 1866 12.5 million Africans were shipped (the ship’s hold being like a ship’s container boxes, holding in cramped spaces, men and women, not the material goods of China and the United States) to the new world. Of these numbers of men, women, and children some 10.7 million survived the trip, or “Middle Passage,” to get here. A least at that time no one ever told them,  there was no more room. Like now there was plenty of room.

It almost seems there have been three populations of newcomers to America, starting with what I’m calling the second or third discovery of America, in 1492. First were those who came freely, without vetting, without papers of any sort, but usually with white skin, and who when once here took pretty much what they were able to seize for themselves, although with the consent of the authorities, what there were of these at the time, of available land and resources.

These light skinned populations of immigrants are no longer coming here. But it’s not because there’s no more room, no more resources to be expropriated. Maybe at the time of the next European Civil War, which will be World War III, the Europeans  will begin again to come, but for the moment they seemed fixed and content where they are in Europe and even presidential Tweets, wanting Norwegians and other light skinned Northern Europeans, and not wanting the dark skinned peoples from the South, is going to change that.

The second population or wave, contemporaneous with the Europeans and in many instances coming to meet the Europeans’ needs for workers, were the Blacks, whom I’ve already spoken of. The third wave, one that we’re still very much experiencing, in spite of Donald Trump’s clumsy attempts to end it, is that of the Central Americans.

In regard to immigration it’s as if the country has finally realized that it wanted and needed new immigrants, and that these would be easiest to find among the populations of the oppressed, from Ireland, from Eastern Europe, from Southern Europe, again from Africa, from India, from Indochina, from China, and now in great numbers from Central America. These are the populations who want to come here, to live and to work, to have a good life. Nothing wrong with that.

Trump calls them gang members and rapists. Do they look like that to you?


These are the peoples who were not wanted where they were and they chose to leave. And we have become once again as it were the safety valve to all the dangerous and insupportable pressure points of the world. Those who are here, and doing well, and who would turn their back to these peoples, saying such unthinking and unfeeling things as, we need a wall between us, we don’t have any room for them, they’re threatening us,…  how do they who say these things live with themselves? (Perhaps by watching television for hours on end, by eating cheese burger after cheese burger, and drinking diet cokes, (even when visiting Shinzō Abe, the Prime Minister of Japan), by never reading a history book….

For in fact we have plenty of room and we need the peoples who want to come. And we know well from our own experience over centuries that these Central Americans, like those migrants of the past, including the dispossessed Native Americans and the enslaved Africans, will add great wealth to the country. Why ever would we try or even want to stop them with barriers of any kind?


Accordingly, while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.      From Vol 2 of Bob Mueller’s “The Report”</p>

Liberté, Égalité, et Fraternité