Category Archives: Commentary

Time For the Two Americas to Divorce?

Divorce in most states, including Arizona, is based on a finding of irreconcilable differences. Ordinarily, the issue is not contested. The spouse who files divorce claims the differences are irreconcilable, and the responding spouse agrees.

Typically, it follows years of bickering, culminating in the inability to agree on just about anything. Quite often, one or both spouses find other potential partners more attractive.

Viewed through that lens, isn’t it high time for the American left and the American right to divorce? Continue reading

The Trump Black(mail) House

By Michael Bryan

If Donald Trump is not someone who is being actively blackmailed by Russia, he sure acts remarkably like someone who is being actively blackmailed by Russia.

We know that Russia is a notoriously good blackmailer: their kompromat systems are finely tuned and effective. To successfully blackmail people two things are needed; a reason to blackmail someone (something you want them to do) and information with which to blackmail them (usually a financial or sexual impropriety).

Consider the case of Russia vis-a-vis Donald Trump — as President, Trump has many things Russia would want: control of the American foreign policy and national security apparatus chief among them. Russia is rumored to have information of a sexually compromising nature about Trump (see the Steele Dossier re the so-called “pee pee tape”), but much more damaging, I think, they are in a position to have a great deal of compromising financial information on Trump. The Trumps have admitted that they have gotten a great deal of funding for their projects from Russia over the past decade. Trump is notoriously lax about due diligence in his foreign deals and the Russians and others have likely used the Trump organization to launder money on a massive scale. They also are very likely to have access to financial statements and tax records that could be embarrassing to Trump by virtue of their influence over Trump partners in the former Soviet bloc.

So, Russia clearly has motive and means to blackmail Trump. Is there evidence in Trump’s behavior that he is actively being compromised by blackmail?

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A view from a Republican who has left the cult

Mike Lofgren, a former congressional staff member who served on the House and Senate budget committees, first came to national attention in 2011 with his powerful essay Goodbye to All That: Reflections of a GOP Operative Who Left the Cult. Lofgren has been a regular contributor at Truthout since then.

Lofgren has another must-read op-ed at the New York Times. Reagan’s ‘Party of Ideas’ Is Down to Just One: Tax Cuts:

It is a sign of our slide toward banana republic status when the president of the United States, leader of the world’s foremost democracy, publicly brands Democrats who failed to applaud his State of the Union address as un-American and treasonous. The largely partisan audience was fine with it.

What has become of the Republican Party, which I once served on Capitol Hill and which I now consider a dangerous extremist movement on a par with the ruling Fidesz party in neo-fascist Hungary? Where did its principles go? What became of Ronald Reagan’s “party of ideas”?

One by one, those ideas were tossed aside for expediency and power — except the tax cut. A time traveler from the Reagan era would no longer recognize the Republican Party, but most Republican politicians feel no embarrassment supporting policies they once condemned.

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General Kelly’s Willful Ignorance is a Product of Military Culture

By Michael Bryan

People are shocked that Gen. Kelly demonstrably knew that the President’s Staff Secretary, Rob Porter, could not obtain a permanent clearance due to domestic abuse allegations, and yet kept him in a position which required him to handle Top Secret and above materials.

I am not.

As a former prosecutor who has handled hundreds of domestic violence allegations, I handled several dozens of charges against male members of the armed forces. Invariably, if the accused was an officer, the member’s commander reached out to me to inform me of what a fine officer and national security asset the accused was. Rarely did they ask me directly to drop the charges, but they almost always served as character witnesses for the accused. Invariably, I would be informed of the damage that would be done to national security, and the waste of the expensive specialized training the taxpayers had invested in the officer, should he be convicted and be unable to continue his military career. The formal zero-tolerance of domestic violence had led to an informal culture of always believing the best of the man.

I’m sure there exists no formal policy of disbelieving domestic abuse charges against members, but what I observed was a definite culture of men covering for men in the military. Perhaps it was all rationalized as force protection: keeping vital national security assets at the work on behalf of the nation. But the result was a steady pressure to exempt military officers from the consequences of their crimes against women.

Having seen, first-hand, how the military’s culture handles allegations of domestic violence against those whom they consider mission-critical personnel, I am not at all surprised that General Kelly gave Rob Porter the benefit of every possible doubt to keep him at his post.

I have little doubt that the military culture General Kelly marinated in his whole career influence his thinking in his new role. The key difference in his new context is that General Kelly was now confronted with an FBI background report refusing to grant Porter clearance due to credible allegations of abuse. Allegations of domestic abuse arising in such an inquiry are made under the threat of federal felony criminal charges if the women are lying to FBI investigators. That is not “he said, she said”: that is “she said in peril of felony charges, he said without consequences.”

The question in my mind is not “did General Kelly protect Rob Porter from the consequences of his crimes against women,” but “how often has he done so in the past?” To the investigative reporters of the nation I say, look into General Kelly’s command history: I guarantee you this is not the first time he has willfully disbelieved women about the violence of men in his command.

Update: I was just proven correct about this prediction.

Guest Essay: Conspiracy Theories and the Common Good

By Monica Bauer, Ph.D.

When the world spins too fast, there is a coping mechanism that will ease the blow; conspiracy theories. A conspiracy theory provides great comfort to those in the middle of rapid change who feel powerless to affect the course of their own lives. A conspiracy theory gives a gold-plated excuse for everything that has happened that is out of control. It gives those bewildered by change the option of laying blame on something that could, in theory, be fixed. That the familiar, the status quo, could be snatched back from the past and installed, once again, in the present. All that needs to be done is to root out the conspiracy, and defeat it.

I learned this lesson years ago, not out of books, but out of personal experience. As I try to make sense of the True Trumpist phenomenon, those lessons have been more helpful to me than anything I learned in graduate school.

In 1993, I went to Egypt, and taught for a year in the Political Science Department at the American University in Cairo. I was not a specialist in the Middle East, far from it; I was a Nebraska girl with a specialty in American political parties and elections, and political theory. I had not spent five minutes trying to understand the history of the Middle East, or the role the religion of Islam played in it. I went to Cairo to be a college professor in my chosen field, to teach at the Harvard of the Middle East. But I became, out of necessity, a student, to try and make sense of the surroundings in which my students had grown and developed opinions and attitudes about political life.

The most puzzling thing I found, in the streets and shops of Cairo, among those who learned enough English to cater to the Westerners who lived in the suburb of Ma’adi, was this: Egypt was marinated in conspiracy theories. Everything that happened could be explained, one way or another, by some complex plot. Some of these theories started out on solid ground; yes, it was quite likely that the dictator Hosni Mubarak was actually trying to hand power over to his idiot oldest son. But then these theories would take a turn.

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2018: The Reckoning – Resistance and Renewal

2017 will be remembered as the year of  “This is not normal.”

A minority of Americans, thanks to the antiquated relic of an electoral college system that remains in our Constitution as a vestige of slavery more than 150 years after the end of the Civil War, elected an insecure man-child conspiracy theorist, reality TV actor,  Twitter troll, grifter and con man president of the United States. A man who suffers from narcissistic personality disorder and delusions of grandeur, and who is a pathological liar. The 47 most outrageous lines in Donald Trump’s New York Times interview;
In a 30-minute interview, President Trump made 24 false or misleading claims
. More ominously, he exhibits dangerous authoritarian tendencies. Donald Trump is a demagogue who aspires to be an autocratic strongman like the man he most admires, Vladimir Putin of Russia.

Trump has actively sought to undermine our democratic institutions, political norms and values that have defined America for more than 240 years and to replace them overnight — to “disrupt the status quo” as he calls it — with the crypto-fascism of “Trumpism,” an authoritarian cult of personality.

Trump has been enabled in his undermining of our democratic institutions, political norms and values by a supplicant Tea-Publican Congress which also exhibits authoritarian tendencies in its exercise of one-party rule, and by a fawning propagandist conservative media entertainment complex, and too often, by a cowered mainstream media.

Trump is enabled by a small but significant base of adoring sycophant supporters in his authoritarian cult of personality. For them, he can do no wrong. Their loyalty is to Trump alone, not to the country, not to democratic governance, not to the Constitution. Trump is what metastasized from an existing cancer in the American body politic.

This is not normal.”

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