Category Archives: Ideas

Trump’s Ten Top Lies

Peter Furst, in The Article, February, 2020

As Donald Trump’s State of the Union address reminded us, the Snowflake-in-Chief is a master of misinformation, exaggeration, and straight out lies. To celebrate, we thought we’d look back at the Top Ten claims that would make any other POTUS blush, ranging from the malicious to the ridiculous.

10. Economic boom — 21 January 2020

President Trump, keen for a distraction from his impeachment trial underway back home, boasted to the gathered global elite in Davos: “When I spoke at this forum two years ago, I told you that we had launched the great American comeback. Today, I’m proud to declare that the United States is in the midst of an economic boom the likes of which the world has never seen before.”

There has been an increase in GDP growth under Trump, though this is far from the greatest the world has ever seen. It isn’t even the United States’ best, and falls short of his own campaign goal of four per cent. The highest achieved under the current administration is 3.5 per cent, while the most recent figures from the Bureau of Economic Analysis show growth for the third quarter of 2019 at 2.1 per cent. Between 1947 and 1973, growth averaged over four per cent, and between 1997 and 2000 it was closer to 4.5 per cent.

The International Monetary Fund’s World Economic Outlook Database ranks the United States at 103rd in terms of real GDP growth rate in its most recent data set for the 2018 calendar year.

9. Guns minimise mass shootings — 28 February 2018

In the wake of the Stoneman Douglas High School massacre, in which 17 people were killed, Trump cast his mind back to the 2016 mass shooting in the Pulse nightclub in Orlando.

“You take Pulse nightclub,” he said during a televised meeting with members of Congress. “If you had one person in that room that could carry a gun and knew how to use it, it wouldn’t have happened, or certainly to the extent that it did.”

In fact, a uniformed and armed off-duty police officer, with 15 years experience with the Orlando Police Department, was working security that night. He exchanged gunfire with the perpetrator. Despite the bravery of Officer Adam Gruler, and the quick response of his colleagues, 49 people were killed.

8. Trump’s accomplished administration — 26 September 2018

Addressing the UN General Assembly, Trump had the world’s representatives laughing — but at him, not with him.

“Today I stand before the United Nations General Assembly to share the extraordinary progress we’ve made,” he said. “In less than two years, my administration has accomplished more than almost any administration in the history of our country.”

For even the most successful administration, such a brag less than halfway through its first term would be a bit much. There is no objective measure for what qualifies as an “accomplishment”, but there may be other presidents who deserve higher billing.

Abraham Lincoln, for example, lead the Union to victory over the Confederates in the Civil War, issued the Emancipation Proclamation and eventually ended slavery. Franklin Roosevelt won four presidential elections, steered the United States out of the Great Depression and through World War Two. He also implemented the New Deal, and guided his country to a position of world leadership.

George Washington was the founding president, elected unanimously by the college. Regarded as the “Father of his Country,” he established the Supreme Court and Navy, and entered a most favoured nations treaty with Britain. Then there’s Teddy Roosevelt, Thomas Jefferson, Harry Truman, Woodrow Wilson, JFK . . .

7. Muslims celebrated 9/11 attacks — 21 November 2015

Speaking at a rally just over a week after a series of terrorist attacks in Paris and its surrounds left 131 people dead, Trump told the crowd: “Hey, I watched when the World Trade Center came tumbling down. And I watched in Jersey City, New Jersey, where thousands and thousands of people were cheering as that building was coming down. Thousands of people were cheering.”

He repeated his comments during an interview with George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s “This Week”: “I know it might be not politically correct for you to talk about it, but there were people cheering as that building came down, as those buildings came down. And that tells you something. It was well covered at the time, George. Now, I know they don’t like to talk about it, but it was well covered at the time. There were people over in New Jersey that were watching it, a heavy Arab population, that were cheering as the buildings came down. Not good.”

As the Washington Post pointed out at the time, the exchange demonstrates the difficulty of fact-checking Trump. The police said it didn’t happen, yet he insisted he saw it. Despite extensive examinations of news reports, no visual evidence has ever been found to support the claim. Curiously, there are also no examples of Trump expressing this opinion at the time of the attacks or at any stage before the rally.

6. Post-natal executions — 27 April 2019

The President has recognised that an anti-abortion stance plays well with his voting base. Addressing a rally in Green Bay, he told the crowd that with late-term abortion “the mother meets with the doctor. They take care of the baby, they wrap the baby beautifully. And then the doctor and the mother determine whether or not they will execute the baby”.

Late-term abortions are rare and generally only occur due to a threat to the mother’s life or if the child has fatal abnormalities. Where a baby is born, and dies due to severe abnormalities, parents and doctors make a decision whether to resuscitate or not. This is not the execution of a healthy, or even viable child.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 1.4 per cent of abortions occur after 21 weeks (out of a standard 40-week pregnancy). According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, less than one per cent of abortions occur in the third trimester and almost exclusively occur in the most extreme situations.

“Allowing to die does happen,” said Arthur Caplan, a bioethicist at New York University Langone Medical Center, but “very rarely — say, a baby born with no lungs at 20 weeks”.

5. More legislation than anybody — 27 December 2017

A year into his presidency, Trump told a West Palm Beach crowd: “You know, one of the things that people don’t understand — we have signed more legislation than anybody. We broke the record of Harry Truman.”

Not quite. According to, the President actually passed the least amount of legislation in the first year of anyone elected to the office since World War II. Trump signed off on 96 laws in the period, while Truman racked up 126 in his first 100 days alone. John F Kennedy takes the record at the one-year mark with 684 signed bills.

4. Obama’s family separation policy — 26 May 2018

Trump’s vitriol should have been directed at his own administration when he tweeted: “Put pressure on the Democrats to end the horrible law that separates children from there [sic] parents once they cross the Border into the US.”

He was still peddling this lie a year later. In an interview on Telemundo in June, he claimed: “When I became president, President Obama had a separation policy. I didn’t have it. He had it. I brought the families together. I’m the one that put them together.”

There was no specific law under the Democratic administration of Barack Obama to separate children from their parents. It did occur occasionally when the parents were charged with a crime and placed in custody, due to a policy of not imprisoning children. However, illegal immigrants were rarely prosecuted and instead held in family detention centres under Obama, while under Trump the Homeland Security Department now refers all illegal border crossings for prosecution.

3. Trump won the popular vote — 28 November 2016

Following his against-the-odds win in the 2016 presidential election, Trump tweeted: “In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.”

The Electoral College result was a resounding win, but not a landslide. In fact, the margin of victory ranked just 46th out of 58 presidential elections. Trump had 56.9 per cent of the college. Washington had 100 per cent twice, Ronald Reagan picked up 97.6 per cent, and even fellow impeachment-target Richard Nixon garnered 96.65 per cent of votes.

In terms of the popular vote, by the official results the President lost by just under three million to Hillary Clinton, the largest margin of any presidential election ever. There is no evidence of widespread voter fraud, certainly not to the extent of explaining such a deficit. Trump even established the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, chaired by Vice President Mike Pence, but it was unable to confirm any irregularities and was disbanded before it could hand down such a finding.

2. Trump’s tax cuts don’t help him personally — 27 September 2017

The most significant legislative success of the current administration was the passing of US$1.5 trillion in tax cuts, which among other things lowered company tax rates from 35 per cent to 21 per cent, and reducing the alternative minimum tax, which is designed to guarantee that high-income earners with significant deductions still pay a minimum amount of tax.

Trump, the only modern president not to have released his tax returns, told reporters that his plan was for the working people and not people like him. “No, I don’t benefit. I don’t benefit. In fact, very, very strongly, as you see, I think there’s very little benefit for people of wealth.”

The President expanded in a speech in St Charles on November 29: “This is going to cost me a fortune, this thing — believe me. Believe me, this is not good for me.”

Without access to Trump’s tax returns it is impossible to know exactly how the tax cuts would affect him — maybe he’s about to declare bankruptcy, as he has six times in his business dealings. Writing the day after his original claim, a New York Times analysis found: “President Trump could cut his tax bills by more than $1.1 billion, including saving tens of millions of dollars in a single year.”

1. Most bigly inauguration crowd ever — 26 January 2017

Our final false claim by Trump is probably the most comical, though maybe he was just trying to help his press secretary at the time, Sean Spicer, save face. Spicer told reporters after the inauguration that Trump drew “the largest audience ever to witness an inauguration, period, both in person and around the globe”.

After adviser Kellyanne Conway had made her famous “alternate facts,” remark, Trump came onboard with the spurious claim, telling ABC News: “When I looked at the numbers that have come in from all of the various sources, we had the biggest audience in the history of inaugural speeches.”

The photographic evidence is emphatic. Obama eight years earlier had an estimated crowd around 1.8 million. Even Trump only bragged of 1.5 million. It was probably closer to 250,000. The good news: the Washington-area transit authority reported no delays on the Metro, with resources more than meeting demand.

The President also claimed at CIA headquarters the day following the inauguration that God had prevented rain, when in fact it rained.

Even literally, the truth is raining on Trump’s parade.

two beings converged in infinity

Мы два существа и сошлись в беспредельности… в последний раз в мире.
Оставьте ваш тон и возьмите человеческий! Заговорите хоть раз в жизни голосом человеческим. Шатов

We are two beings and converged in infinity … for the last time in the world.
Leave your tone and take the human one! Speak at least once in your life with a human voice. Shatov

The two beings are Nikolai Stavrogin and Shatov, and this passage is from Dostoevsky’s Demons, Part II, Chapter 6:
Stavrogin’ is an atheist. His ridiculous actions in Dostoevsky’s
Demons include pulling a high social standing man by the nose at a local bar, kissing another man’s wife at her own party, and biting the ear of the territorial governor. Such wild antics and others cause him to be diagnosed with insanity. In this excerpt he’s speaking with Shatov, his former student, who was expelled from school due to an unknown scandal. A one time a radical socialist, Shatov converts to a Russian idealist.

These two beings are, as Dostoevsky says, converged in infinity. In Russian the word is беспредельности. What does that mean? If there is one subject matter of Dostoevsky’s books, or rather testaments (books is somehow not enough of a word for his writings!) this might be best said as he’s writing about all of us, “beings converged in infinity.” That’s all of us, and Dovtoevsky was one of the first to realize this.

reason and science one

‘Not a single people,’ Shatov began, as if reading line for line and at the same time continuing to look threateningly at Stavrogin, ‘not one people has ever yet organized itself according to the principles of science and reason. Never has there been a single example of that, except only for a brief moment, out of stupidity. Socialism, by its very nature, must be atheism, for it has specifically proclaimed, from its very first words, that it is an atheistic construct and is intentionally organized exclusively according to the principles of science and reason. Reason and science in the life of peoples always, now and from the beginning of time, have fulfilled merely a secondary and auxiliary function; and that will be their function until the end of time.’ (From Dostoevsky’s Demons, Part two, Chapters 6 and 7)

How did Donald Trump seem to always have known this, that he had only to flee reason and science, that he had only to ally himself with the believers and the country would be his? How could he have known that hat science and reason were never of the people. Throughout his presidency Trump was, if not saying, clearly implying that reason and science, not God was dead, thereby giving millions, in the last election 70 million. what they wanted to hear, and thereby insuring him their vote in the next election.

For who but the believers would ever want to hear anything other than than the miracles of religion, Mary’s ascension to God’s side for example, Jesus leaving the tomb. These were truly miraculous and not what to many of us have always seemed to be the no less miraculous achievements of reason and science, the calculus and evolution, for example. And in fact given the beliefs of the American people how could it ever be that classical liberals of which I am one, and not believers, would one day obtain the presidency.

Science and religion 2

From Dostevsky’s Demons, Part II. Night

Not a single nation,” he went on, as though reading it line by line, still gazing menacingly at Stavrogin, “not a single nation has ever been founded on principles of science or reason. There has never been an example of it, except for a brief moment, through folly.

Socialism is from its very nature bound to be atheism, seeing that it has from the very first proclaimed that it is an atheistic organisation of society, and that it intends to establish itself exclusively on the elements of science and reason.

Science and reason have, from the beginning of time, played a secondary and subordinate part in the life of nations; so it will be till the end of time

Nations are built up and moved by another force which sways and dominates them, the origin of which is unknown and inexplicable: that force is the force of an insatiable desire to go on to the end, though at the same time it denies that end.

It is the force of the persistent assertion of one’s own existence, and a denial of death.

It’s the spirit of life, as the Scriptures call it, ‘the river of living water,’ the drying up of which is threatened in the Apocalypse.

It’s the æsthetic principle, as the philosophers call it, the ethical principle with which they identify it, ‘the seeking for God,’ as I call it more simply.

The object of every national movement, in every people and at every period of its existence is only the seeking for its god, who must be its own god, and the faith in Him as the only true one.

God is the synthetic personality of the whole people, taken from its beginning to its end.

It has never happened that all, or even many, peoples have had one common god, but each has always had its own.

It’s a sign of the decay of nations when they begin to have gods in common.

When gods begin to be common to several nations the gods are dying and the faith in them, together with the nations themselves.

The stronger a people the more individual their God.

There never has been a nation without a religion, that is, without an idea of good and evil.

What chance do we have, could we possibly have? We have only reason and science, and they have religion and God, not to mention their endless supply of conspiracy theories which need only the thinnest of formulations to find takers ready to believe and follow.

Religion enables its people to be exclusive, banishing things and people that don’t fit.

Science (ok,our God if you will) encourages us to be inclusive, including everything in the mix.

Has religion always won in the inevitable battles with science? Has exclusion won out over inclusion? Well up until now that does seem to be the case, and in spite of science having, in mid 19th century, let loose the calvalry, the evolutionary horsemen of Charles Darwin.

gail collins the worst of Trump’s worst

Gail Collins: The New York Times, November 12, 2020

Send me your pick for the worst of the worst. Winners will be announced before the turkey and stuffing are on the table on Thursday, November 26, 2020, year one of After Trump. or AT.

We’ve been through a lot these last few days, people. Decades from now, some of you are going to have to answer your grandchildren when they ask you about the Time of the Two Presidents.

Donald Trump’s resistance to the idea that he lost the election isn’t a surprise. This is a man, former star of a phony-reality TV show, who almost never admits he’s lost/failed/come in second at anything. Who knows what new adventures we’ll have before Inauguration Day? I’m hoping he’ll refuse to leave his room and security agents will end up carrying him out of the White House in a blanket….

Meanwhile, if you had to pick one seminal moment in the Trump resistance, it really ought to be Rudy Giuliani’s press conference announcing the president would not concede. So many reasons this gets top billing. Not the least was that Giuliani’s prime witness, introduced to back up claims of voter fraud, turned out to be a convicted sex offender.

But experts searching high and low failed to find any evidence of the kind of serious, widespread irregularities that might call the results into question. Instead, the public got … Giuliani. Who held his press conference at a place called Four Seasons Total Landscaping in Philadelphia. This seemed to give Trump the pleasant impression the event was in the swank Four Seasons Hotel, instead of a humble gardening service store near a crematory and a sex shop.

Rudy emphasized that his prime witness, Brooks, was just the first of what were going to be “many, many witnesses” of election fraud. Inquiring minds wanted to know why, in that case, he chose to lead off with a guy who served jail time for exposing himself to two girls, owed a great deal of money in overdue child support payments and, if known at all in his home state, New Jersey, it is as one of those guys who keeps running for offices he’s never going to win in a million years.

Gail’s List of the worst of the worse:

Attorney General Bill Barr
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo
Emily Murphy, the head of the General Services Administration
Mike Pence, on general principles
Rudy Giuliani

The whole Trump resistance has a nutty flavor. The family is sending out emails assuring supporters that victory is around the corner, just so long as a check is in the mail.

We’re just two weeks from Thanksgiving and I know you all have a lot of priorities. Tell me which you would rather invest your money in:

A. Charities that give food for the poor.
B. Outdoor heaters so you can, maybe, have a safe little party for friends and family.
C. Trump Official Election Defense Fund.

Who’s the most irresponsible member of the Trump orbit? Besides, obviously, Himself?

And then if you still are not convinced that the 2020 election is over and done with there was this appearing in the Times of November 12:

The Times Called Officials in Every State: No Evidence of Voter Fraud

“The president and his allies have baselessly claimed that rampant voter fraud stole victory from him. Officials contacted by The Times said that there were no irregularities that affected the outcome.”

The big news today

Is that Donald and his wife are now infected by the coronavirus. Were they wearing masks, practicing social distancing? Nobody seems to know where, or when or how it happened. But it did happen. And on this occasion Trump was obliged to accept the reality of Covid-19, much like he accepts the reality of anything, not for it self, but for his, Donald Trump’s own self. Does he know that worldwide there are some 33 million reported cases, and that there have been 1 million deaths, over 200,000 in our country alone? Will he now start to listen to anyone other than his own inner voices as to what’s going on and what should be done. Don’t hold your breath.

“The President is obsessed with menaces—posed by shadowy members of a “deep state,” by “the radical left,” by foreigners of all sorts. But the gravest menace to public health and public order has come from within the White House. So long as Trump holds office, no manner of quarantine will suffice to contain it.” David Remnick, The New Yorker, October 1, 2020

I’ve never fully understood what it was, what it is that enables Trump to grow the executive power of the government and thereby assume in more and more instances authoritarian powers that should never have been his. I’ve never understood what it was that has enabled him to become the greatest threat we have ever experienced to our democracy.

Something comparable to Hitler’s Brown Shirts is one explication. Trump’s Brown Shirts are for the most part not clearly thugs but Republican Senators and Representatives in the Congress. But there are others, real thugs, the Republican Senators being just the most well dressed and visible of his followers.

If you’ve forgotten just who were Hitler’s Brown Shirts (would they remain forgotten and never return!). I take the following clarification from the Britannica via Google.

Sturmabteilung or Storm Troopers popularly known for their brown shirts took on the role in the German Nazi Party, of a paramilitary organization whose methods of violent intimidation played a key role in Adolf Hitler’s own rise to power.” Trump’s own Brown Shirts not yet Hitler’s thugs, are the Proud Boys and other such organizations, created from among former police and service men now on the far right of opinion and who would like nothing else than to throw themselves in with the lot of their president.

Hitler’s unofficial army of thugs.

A connection between that and Trump’s rallies?

And of course I’m not alone to write about Trumps enablers. Others are no less taken by them than I am. Here’s David Brooks writing inn the Times of October 1, writing about a “core America.”

“The most ardent and enthusiastic Trump supporters, Brooks notes, are not economically marginalized, not submissive, not authoritarian, not religious or conventionally conservative. They have a strong concept that there is a core America, a concept which I suppose you could summarize as white, rural, John Wayne, football and hunting.”

“White, rural, John Wayne, football and hunting,” this sounds much like the America Trump would take us back to. While being quarantined I’ve been doing jigsaw puzzles, and have begun to appreciate them as  never before,  as one more activity keeping me mentally alive at an age when I’m not meant to be alive. Anyway the most recent puzzle, that the two of us, my wife Josée and myself, completed, entitled 19th century history, might be entitled Brooks’ “core America,” or the white America that Trump would take us back to: “white, rural, John Wayne, football and hunting.” Only foot ball is not in the picture. There are horses, a few Indians, one Black man up top and kind of out of the picture, no woman of course. In the 19th century Blacks, the  millions of them, were mostly out of the picture. 

Anyway this puzzle is good summary of the America that Trump would take us back to, if he could, but of course he can’t. America has moved on, and is better today than it was then, and no thanks to our president who does seem to want to return to the past, an America without the civil rights, the legions of immigrants it has always known, and without the Coronavirus of course.

Throughout Covid-19’s presence here among us since February or March of this year, actually much longer than that, really since January 2017, when Trump became the proud possessor of the Oval Office as he so likes to show us during the endless signing ceremonies that take place there.

Yes, This Is The Face Of A Tyrant

And a competent one at that.

Andrew Sullivan in the Weekly Dish, September, 2020

If there’s one enduring theme about tyrants in myth, literature, and history it is that, for a long time, no one takes them seriously. And there are few better examples of this than Shakespeare’s fictional Richard III. He’s a preposterous figure in many ways, an unsightly hunchback, far down the line of royal accession, socially outcast, riven with resentment, utterly dismissible — until he serially dismisses and/or murders everyone between him and the throne. What makes the play so riveting and often darkly funny is the sheer unlikelihood of the plot, the previously inconceivable ascent to the Crown of this indelibly absurd figure, as Stephen Greenblatt recently explored in his brilliant monograph, Tyrant.

I’ll never forget watching a performance by Antony Sher of Richard decades ago — playing him as a spider, instinctually scuttling on two legs and two black canes, to trap, murder, and ingest his foes. The role is, of course, a fictional portrait, designed to buttress the legitimacy of the Tudor dynasty that followed Richard III and that Shakespeare lived under. But as an analysis of the psychology of tyranny, it’s genius. Like Plato and Aristotle, Shakespeare saw this question not merely as political, but as wrapped up in the darker folds of the human soul, individual and collective.

The background of the drama is England’s “War of the Roses”, the civil war between two regional dynasties from which Richard emerged. And that’s often key in tyrant narratives: it’s when societies are already fractured into tribes, and divisions have become insurmountable, that tyrants tend to emerge, exploiting and fomenting chaos, to reign, however briefly, over the aftermath.

The war seems resolved when the victorious Edward, Richard’s older brother, succeeds to the throne: “For here I hope begins our lasting joy!” And no one thinks the deformed, bitter sibling, of all people, would be a threat. It seems preposterous. But it’s true. And at each unimaginable power grab by Richard — murdering one brother, killing the late king Edward’s young heirs, killing his own wife, and then trying to marry his niece to secure the dynasty — Richard’s peers keep telling themselves that it isn’t really happening. Greenblatt notes: “The principal weapon Richard has is the very absurdity of his ambition. No one in his right mind would suspect that he seriously aspires to the throne.” 

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But he has one key skill, Greenblatt notes, the ability to lie shamelessly: “‘Why, I can smile and murder whiles I smile, And cry ‘Content!’ to that which grieves my heart, And wet my cheeks with artificial tears, And frame my face to all occasions.’” It’s a skill that serves him well — and there seems no limit to the number of those eager to believe him. His older brother George, Duke of Clarence, told by thugs that Richard wants him dead, exclaims: “Oh no, he loves me, and he holds me dear. Go you to him from me.” At which point the hired goons reply — “Ay, so we will” — and merrily murder him, taking him to Richard as a corpse. (In a good production, that can get a laugh.) One of Clarence’s young sons, told that his own uncle hates him, declares, “I cannot think it.” Others witness obvious depravity but can’t quite call it out. One official receives clearly illegal orders from Richard, and follows them, asking no questions: “I will not reason what is meant hereby, Because I will be guiltless from the meaning.” 

Denial. Avoidance. Distraction. Willful ignorance. These are all essential to enabling a tyrant’s rise. And keeping this pattern going is Richard’s profound grasp of the power of shock. He does and says the unexpected and unthinkable in order to stun his opponents into a kind of dazed passivity. It’s this capacity to keep you on your heels, to keep disorienting you with the unacceptable (which is then somehow accepted), that marks a tyrant’s relentless drive. He does this by instinct. He craves chaos, lies, suspense, surprises — not because he’s a genius, but because stability threatens his psyche. He cannot rest. He is not in control of himself. And whenever the dust settles, as it were, he has to disturb it again. 

This is what we’ve been dealing with in the figure of Donald Trump now for five years, and it is absurd to believe that a duly conducted election is going to end it. I know, I know. I’m hysterical and over-the-top and a victim of “Trump Derangement Syndrome.” Trump is simply too incompetent and too lazy to be an actual tyrant, I’m constantly scolded. He’s just baiting me again. And so on. But what I think this otherwise salient critique misses is that tyranny is not, in its essence, about the authoritarian and administrative skills required to run a country effectively for a long time. Tyrants, after all, are often terrible at this. It is rather about a mindset, as the ancient philosophers understood, with obvious political consequences. It’s a pathology. It requires no expertise in anything other than itself.

You need competence if you want to run an effective government, or plan a regular campaign, or master policy with a view to persuading people, or hold power for the sake of something else. You need competence to create and sustain something. But you do not need much competence to destroy things. You just need the will. And this is what tyrants do: they destroy things. Richard III ruled for two short years, ending in his own death in battle, and a ruined country.

This is Trump’s threat. Not the construction of a viable one-party state, but the destruction of practices, norms, civility, laws, customs and procedures that constitute liberal democracy’s non-zero-sum genius. He doesn’t need to be competent to destroy our system of government. He merely needs to be himself: an out-of-control, trust-free, malignant narcissist, with inexhaustible resources of psychic compulsion, in a pluralist system designed for the opposite. All you need is an insatiable pathological drive to avoid any constraint on your own behavior, and the demagogic genius to carry a critical mass of people with you, and our system, designed as the antidote to tyranny, is soon unspooling into incoherence, deadlock, and collapse.

I’m told he’s been ineffective even as a tyrant, so no worries. To which I can only say: really? Once you realize he doesn’t give a shit about any actual policies, apart from doing all he can to wipe the legacy of Barack Obama from planet earth, he’s been pretty competent. Note how he turned Congressional subpoenas into toilet paper; how he crippled and muzzled the Mueller inquiry; how he installed a crony at the Department of Justice to pursue his political enemies and shield him from the law; how effectively he stymied impeachment; how he cucked every previous Republican opponent; how he helped destroy the credibility of news sources that oppose him; how he filled his cabinet with acting secretaries and flunkies; how he declared fake emergencies to claim the power of the purse assigned to the Congress; and how he has reshaped the Supreme Court with potentially three new Justices, whom he sees solely as his loyal stooges if he comes up against the rule of law.

And gotten away with all of it! 

In protecting his own power over others, he has been as competent as hell. Imagine where we’d be in four more years. Despite a mountain of criticism, he has not conceded a single error, withdrawn a single statement, or acknowledged a single lie. His party lost the mid-terms, but seriously, what difference did that make? His control of the Republican party, and his cult-like grip on the base, has never been greater than now. Yes, he has said and done racially polarizing things — but the joke is he may yet have more support from blacks and Latinos in 2020 than he did in 2016. Think of his greatest policy failures: the appalling loss of life in the Covid epidemic and the collapse of law and order in the cities. Now recall that on February 1 of this year, Trump was at 43.4 percent approval; 200,000 deaths later, and the wreckage from Seattle to Portland to Minneapolis, and his approval today is at 43.1 percent

This is, of course, not enough to win re-election. And Trump has no interest in broadening his appeal, because it would dilute the tribalism he feeds off. So he has made it abundantly clear that if the results of the election show him the loser, he will not accept them. Simple, really. He said this in 2016, of course, refusing to honor the result in advance. But this year, he has stumbled upon something quite marvelous for his purposes. Because of Covid19, it is likely that mail-in ballots will be far higher in number than before, and, as Barton Gellman has shown in this essential new piece, this gives Trump an opportunity he has instinctively seized. He has been saying for months now that: “MAIL-IN VOTING WILL LEAD TO MASSIVE FRAUD AND ABUSE … WE CAN NEVER LET THIS TRAGEDY BEFALL OUR GREAT NATION.” In late summer, Gellman noted, Trump was making this argument four times a day: “Very dangerous for our country.” “A catastrophe.” “The greatest rigged election in history.” He is telling us loud and clear that, if he has anything to do with it, this election will not be decided at the ballot box, but at the Supreme Court, which he expects to control.

If you haven’t, read Gellman’s piece closely. It seems inevitable to me that, unless it’s a Biden landslide, Trump will declare himself the winner on election night, regardless of the actual results. Because most mail-in ballots will take more time to count, and several swing states have not changed their laws to allow for counting before election day, and mail-ins are easily challenged, it is quite likely that much of Biden’s vote will remain uncounted or contested — and could remain so for a long time. And after declaring victory within hours of polls closing, Trump will follow the script he used for Florida in 2018: “The Florida Election should be called in favor of Rick Scott and Ron DeSantis in that large numbers of new ballots showed up out of nowhere, and many ballots are missing or forged,” he tweeted, making shit up as usual. “An honest vote count is no longer possible — ballots massively infected. Must go with Election Night!”

I’ve no doubt this bullshit will be challenged by the networks, the press, and many of the states, and other sane people, who will urge patience. I’ve also no doubt that many states will do their best not to pervert the process. But I fear the result will be close (I’m underwhelmed by Biden’s near-invisible campaign), which will give Trump a chance. The fanaticism and alternate reality of a base already addicted to conspiracy theories means a hefty chunk of the country will back him. And it’s perfectly possible that Trump’s pre-emptive strike on the election result could prompt a massive revolt across the country from those who want to defend our democracy. (I will be marching in such a scenario myself). Most presidents would balk at anything close to this kind of scenario. Trump can’t wait. Violence? You can almost feel Trump’s hankering for it.

All he wants is chaos, because in chaos, the strong leader wins. Would he incite violence on his behalf if the votes seem to be drifting away from him? You bet he would. Would he urge his supporters to physically prevent ballot-counting? He already has. Would he try to corral Republican state legislators to back him in electing electors? Gellman has sources. Would he take this country to the brink of civil conflict? Way past it. Will anyone in the GOP do anything to stop him? We know the answer to that already. If they cannot condemn him this week, when would they? And he will do all this not out of some strategic calculation or tactical skill but because he cannot do anything else. He is psychologically incapable of conceding anything. And he has no understanding of collateral damage because his narcissism precludes it.

In every Shakespeare play about tyranny — from Richard III to Coriolanus to Macbeth — the tyrant loses in the end, and often quite quickly. They’re not that competent at governing, or even interested in it. The forces they unleash come back to wipe them from the stage, sooner or later. They flame out. Richard III lasted a mere couple of years on the throne.

But in every case, they leave a wrecked and reeling society in their wake. Look around you now and see the damage already done. Now imagine what we face in the next few months. We are tethered to Trump at this point because he is the legitimate president: the man who cannot control himself is in control of all the rest of us. And that’s why I desperately want to appeal to right-of-center readers at this point in the campaign to do everything they can to vote and to vote for Biden. This is not about left or right. This is about the integrity of a system that can give us such a choice. It really is an existential moment for liberal democracy, and its future, not just here but across the world. The next few months are critical.

It fills me with inexpressible rage that we have been brought to this. But there is no way out now other than through. This was always going to be the moment of maximal danger. And we cannot lose our focus now.

Liberté, egalité, fraternité


This is the tagline of my blog, the origin of which seems to be the French Revolution. And in fact are there these three, plus other aspects of our lives that are so important that we would give up our lives rather than be without them? Now there are moments of course when you might be ready to do that, gi ve up your life inorder to be free for example. ” Live free or Die,” isn’t that what they say in New Hampshire?

I’ve always wondered just how real was this expression. Do people in NH actually do this? Or was it just another one of those countless mantras, words of phrases, that we hide behind in order not be found, or rather not to be found out?

Now take the three of them, freedom, equality and fraternity? I would say first of all that they are not of equal importance (my personal choice going to fraternity) and they/we might be better off if we separated them in our hearts and minds, as it were, the ones from the others, in order that the truths and lies of the ones not be confused with the truths and lies of the others. Because all three have their truths and falsehoods as just about everything else in this world. All three will have their own Bell Curves.

Take the one, equality, the one about which perhaps the most scholarly treatises have been written. From all that I’ve read no one seems to know what the word means, not even Thomas Jefferson who did write mysteriously in 1776, that all men were created equal. Yeah sure. Do you know what he meant by that? I don’t.

There are of course many equalities, an infinite number of them. There are the equalities of this or that or the other thing Also there are the inequalities of this or that. Inequality, has been pretty much with us since the onset of civlisation some tens of thousands of years ago. Perhaps the greatest failing of the Founding Fathers was to have run away from this subject as fast as they could. For one thing hey were all slave holders, that is those who considered slaves as their own property. Also they probably sensed that there was nothing they could do, unless they happened to be followers of Christ and gave up their shirt to the poor. I don’t think anyone of them did, but I could be wrong about that.

Now this is not a book I’m writing, just beginning (again) to put down on “paper” a few of my thoughts. I take much of my thinking about equality from an article by Andrew Sullivan, a long time “see you next Friday’ writer at the New York Magazine), his article, The Logic Of,Bell Curve Leftism.

And if there ever was a truth teller it’s Andrew. In this article, he’s telling us the truth about equality of intelligence (there isn’t any), a subject that has been mostly avoided in my life time by writers wanting to keep themselves from being struck down and banished from the guest list of New York, the Hampshires, and Washington DC social gatherings, from all those who would treat everyone the same, who want to go on believing that intelligence no less than wealth can be evenly distributed among the population. It can’t. Says Andrew and me too.

Is democracy dead


The United States has deepening political and cultural cleavages—possibly too many to repair soon, or, perhaps, at all.

By Robin Wright

The United States feels like it is unravelling. It’s not just because of a toxic election season, a national crisis over race, unemployment and hunger in the land of opportunity, or a pandemic that’s killing tens of thousands every month. The foundation of our nation has deepening cracks—possibly too many to repair anytime soon, or, perhaps, at all. The ideas and imagery of America face existential challenges—some with reason, some without—that no longer come only from the fringes. Rage consumes many in America. And it may only get worse after the election, and for the next four years, no matter who wins. Our political and cultural fissures have generated growing doubt about the stability of a country that long considered itself an anchor, a model, and an exception to the rest of the world. Scholars, political scientists, and historians even posit that trying to unite disparate states, cultures, ethnic groups, and religions was always illusory.

“The idea that America has a shared past going back into the colonial period is a myth,” Colin Woodard, the author of “Union: The Struggle to Forge the Story of United States Nationhood,” told me. “We are very different Americas, each with different origin stories and value sets, many of which are incompatible. They led to a Civil War in the past and are a potentially incendiary force in the future.”

The crisis today reflects the nation’s history. Not much, it turns out, has changed. The country was settled by diverse cultures—the Puritans in New England, the Dutch around New York City, the Scots-Irish dominating Appalachia, and English slave lords from Barbados and the West Indies in the Deep South. They were often rivals, Woodard noted: “They were by no means thinking of themselves belonging to a protean American country-in-waiting.” The United States was “an accident of history,” he said, largely because distinct cultures shared an external threat from the British. They formed the Continental Army to stage a revolution and form the Continental Congress, with delegates from thirteen colonies. Almost two hundred and fifty years later, a country six times its original size claims to be a melting pot that has produced an “American” culture and a political system that vows to provide “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Too often, it hasn’t.

Centuries later, the cultural divide and cleavages are still deep. Three hundred and thirty million people may identify as Americans, but they define what that means—and what rights and responsibilities are involved—in vastly different ways. The American promise has not delivered for many Blacks, Jews, Latinos, Asian-Americans, myriad immigrant groups, and even some whites as well. Hate crimes—acts of violence against people or property based on race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, or gender identity—are a growing problem. A bipartisan group in the House warned in August that, “as uncertainty rises, we have seen hatred unleashed.”

When Athens and Sparta went to war, in the fifth century B.C., the Greek general and historian Thucydides observed, “The Greeks did not understand each other any longer, though they spoke the same language.” In the twenty-first century, the same thing is happening among Americans. Our political discourse has become “civil war by other means—we sound as if we do not really want to continue to be members of one country,” Richard Kreitner wrote, in the recently released book “Break It Up: Secession, Division and the Secret History of America’s Imperfect Union.” At different times in America’s history, the Union’s survival was produced as much by “chance and contingency” as by flag-waving and political will. “At nearly every step it required morally indefensible compromises that only pushed problems further into the future.”

The attempt to reckon with our unjust past has produced more questions—and new divisions—about our future. In Washington, D.C., last week, a group commissioned by the city’s mayor, Muriel Bowser, recommended, in a report, that her office ask the federal government to “remove, relocate, or contextualize” the Washington Monument, the Jefferson Memorial, and statues to Benjamin Franklin and Christopher Columbus, among others. The committee compiled a list of people who should not have public works named after them, including Presidents James Monroe, Andrew Jackson, and Woodrow Wilson, the inventor Alexander Graham Bell, and Francis Scott Key, who wrote the national anthem. After a deluge of criticism, Bowser said on Friday that the report was being misinterpreted and that the city would not do anything about the monuments and memorials. But a question remains, not just because we live in the era of Black Lives Matter: What is America about today? And is it any different from its deeply flawed past?

There was always an ambiguity about what the United States was supposed to be, Woodard said. Was it supposed to be an alliance of states (as the European Union, with twenty-seven distinct governments, is today), or a confederation (like Switzerland, with its three languages and twenty-six cantons), or a nation-state (like post-revolutionary France), or even a treaty mechanism, to prevent intra-state conflict? After the American Revolution, the “ad-hoc solution” was to celebrate the shared victory against the British; core differences were not addressed. Today, America is still conflicted about its values, whether over the social contract, the means of educating its children, the right to bear or ban arms, the protection of its vast lands, lakes, and air, or the relationship between the states and the federal government.

Last week, President Donald Trump threatened to withhold federal funds to four major cities—New York, Washington, D.C., Seattle, and Portland—because of “anarchist” activities during weeks of protests. “My Administration will not allow Federal tax dollars to fund cities that allow themselves to deteriorate into lawless zones,” the President’s five-page memo said. It was the latest of many acts by Trump that have further divided the nation, although the trend did not start with him. ça to

Since the eighteen-thirties, the United States has gone through cycles of crises that threatened its cohesion. The idea of a revolutionary republic committed to equality (at the time, only for white men) started to erode as regional differences surfaced and the first generation of revolutionaries died out. States or territories have repeatedly pushed for independence—Vermont formally joined the Union in 1791, after spending fourteen years as an independent republic. The State of Muskogee, a multicultural republic of Native Americans, escaped slaves, and white settlers around Tallahassee, lasted from 1799 until 1803. In 1810, a small group of settlers captured a Spanish fort in Baton Rouge and declared the creation of an independent Republic of West Florida; their capital was St. Francisville, Louisiana. They elected a president, wrote a constitution, and designed a flag (a white star on blue); the movement died after President Monroe annexed the region. There were others, including the Republic of Fredonia, in Texas, the California Republic, and the Indian Stream Republic, in New England. The biggest rupture, of course, was in the eighteen-sixties, when eleven states—Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia—seceded to form the Confederacy.

In his new book, Kreitner argues that, with its politics irrevocably broken, America is running out of time. The potential for physical and political separation is now real, even though the polarization of America does not have neat geographic borders. No red state is entirely red; no blue state is entirely blue. “The twenty-first century has seen an unmistakable resurgence of the idea of leaving or breaking up the United States—a kaleidoscopic array of separatist movements shaped by the conflicts and divisions of the past but manifested in new and potentially destabilizing ways,” he writes. Unlike in the past, the current separatist impulses have emerged in multiple places at the same time. “Often dismissed as unserious or quixotic, a throwback to the Confederacy, the new secessionism reveals divisions in American life possibly no less intractable than the ones that led to the first Civil War,” Kreitner warns.

In the years to come, the appeal of pulling the plug on the American experiment is likely to grow, even among faithful adherents to the idea of federal power. And, if the Union dissolves again, Kreitner writes, it will not be along a clean line but “everywhere and all at once.” In some ways, the election, now only eight weeks away, will be a temporary relief, at least in ending the current agonizing uncertainty. But it will play only one part in deciding what ultimately will happen to our nation. “Are we a myth? Well, yes, in the deep sense. Always have been,” Blight said. To survive, America must move beyond the myth.

my Blogging

We’re just over the halfway point of the year. Now this year, 2020 has been much on our minds because it will give us, we trust, on November 3rd, the long awaited presidential election. Assuming that Trump doesn’t succeed with his efforts to sabotage the election in his own favor, mainly by lowering the numbers of anti-Trump eligible voters, President Trump will turn into Mr. Trump from one day to the next.

And Mr. Trump will become the most favored target of any number of state attorney Generals and prosecutors, all in line to pursue Mr. Trump for any number of corruption charges , not the least of which being the charge of treating the United States government as his own private playground subject to no laws or limits other than those of his own invention.

Now I have a number of WordPress blogs, 8 of them altogether, of which 6 are kept hidden. The other two, Quatrevingtans and My-Journal, are not hidden, are public. The latter two are the principal carriers of my own thoughts, along with the thoughts of a multitude of others who probably like me are out of school, but still my teachers.

My blogs contain my own thoughts which are and have been for most of my adult life, the “things,” mostly the words, that I hold most dear. There are countless ideas contained therein, hundreds, thousands, of the ideas of others, with frequently a few of my own. Although I might ask how many of us has ever had an idea that has not been usually better expressed by others, probably many others at another and earlier, or much earlier time?

There are many men and women whom I admire, for their words which are usually within my reach, but also for their actions not so much within my reach. There are a large number of these individuals and I won’t try now to list them, but there are a few at the top of my list, two of these being Hannah Arendt whom I call the teller of truths so terribly needed in this untruth time of Donald Trump and his enablers, and Nelson Mandela no less a truth teller but also throughout his life a man of action.

Mandela was arrested and imprisoned in 1962, and subsequently sentenced to life imprisonment for conspiring to overthrow the state. He went on to serve 27 years in prison on Robben Island, Pollsmoor and Victor Verster Prisons.

Hannah Arendt

Hannah Arendt (1906–1975) was one of the most influential political philosophers of the twentieth

Hannah Arendt orn into a German-Jewish family, Hannah was forced to leave Germany in 1933 and first lived in Paris for the next eight years, before moving to New York. To learn more go to Richard Bernstein. “Why read Hannah Arendt Now?”

Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela
Photo: Per-Anders Pettersson/Getty Images

Number two on my list is Nelson Mandela who lived his whole life, in South Africa, almost by himself making the country that had been an area home to 10 or more tribes, in the process. Now he is admired throughout the world, no less than M LK and Mahatma Ghandi, admired as a man of action, an anti-apartheid revolutionary, a political leader and philanthropist, and who served , following his release from Robbin Island, as President of South Africa from 1994 to 1999.

Angela Merkel

And what about this person, Angela Merkel, a truth teller and woman of action, also another person whom I greatly admire,

Angela Merkel, present Chancellor of Germany since 2005. Born in Hamburg in july of 1954.

Angela Dorothea Merkel is a German politician who has been Chancellor of Germany since 2005. She served as the Leader of the Christian Democratic Union from 2000 to 2018. She has been widely described as the de facto leader of the European Union and the most powerful woman in the world.

What I remember about Chancellor Merkel is her decision, alone of the Western democracies, including the United States, to keep country’s borders open thereby allowing some 1 million+ mostly Syrian refugees to freely enter Germany.

Angela Merkel with migrant
Photograph: Fabrizio Bensch/Reuters

A mmigrant takes a photo with Angela Markel outside a refugee camp in Berlin in September 2015.

Was she right to do so? I would say yes, much as we have been right to allow millions of migrants and refugees to freely enter our country. Old countries, like Germany and now ourselves are always in need of new people with new ideas. We also need leaders like Angela Merkel but in my life time there have been far too few. There have been Nelson Mandela and Angela Merkel.

Jean-Claude Juncker kissing Angela Merkel (picture-alliance/AP Images/Y. Herman)
Jean-Claude Juncker has praised Angela Merkel for her controversial decision to let in nearly 1 million refugees in the autumn of 2015.

The EU’s Juncker says that History will prove Chancellor Merkel right on refugees. I would say that History will prove our president wrong on this and on just about everything else.