On the Rails Again: Euro Trains are No Amtrak

Another in the series of occasional rants by the Mad Jubilado.

Over two hundred kilometers per hour? That’s more than 124 mph! Well, we seemed to be going pretty fast.  It was no Shinkansen (the Japanese “Bullet Train”) rocketing the 330 miles from Tocho-Mai Station in Tokyo to Kyoto between 150 and 200 mph. In the U.S., the contrast is striking.  Amtrak passenger trains dare not go over about 65 mph, and with good reason. The European trains are quiet, fast, and comfortable.

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Dutch Tulips

In Tokyo, trains routinely pull up to the platform and stop exactly as scheduled, to the second, after their high-speed runs. Departure times are equally precise. In Europe, they are very close. In the U.S., well, things are different. Here, passenger trains have been relegated to a second-class status, behind the more profitable freight trains. They are not particularly comfortable, fast, or on time. Moving all that coal, oil, and Chinese manufactured consumer goods imported by U.S. corporations, gets first billing. Gotta sell that junk to Americans who have lost their well-paid manufacturing jobs and now work as Walmart greeters or fast food cashiers. That is the priority, not public transportation.

Like so much here, public transportation systems have been ‘privatized,’ leaving the public interest behind. The railroads were created to help stimulate western expansion. The federal government gave wide swaths of land to railroad companies to encourage their development. Huge profits were made not only on the rails themselves but in the many land deals that followed. Private corporate exploitation of the commonwealth continues apace, with little challenge.

Now, the railroad companies act like it is their God-given right to exploit those properties in their own interest, the public be damned. Contrary to the corporate “free market” ideology, most of the magnificent technological developments of the industrial era were subsidized by the public purse. The prime beneficiaries have been the private corporations that took advantage of government largess. Any public benefit was secondary, though there have been many. Unlike Europe, where public infrastructure is valued and maintained, here it is all about the next subsidy or tax break for the corporations and super-rich, to be paid for by squeezing public infrastructure and services ever more tightly as the national debt grows.

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On the Rails to Haarlem

The speed, smooth ride, and quiet on the electric European rail lines got my attention. I don’t remember a more comfortable train ride anywhere else. Then I saw the flat panel display on the forward bulkhead in the rather new passenger car. It displayed the speed in kilometers per hour and the time of arrival at the next station. We were on the TGV, the Euro Rail line, heading from Lyon, France to Haarlem, Netherlands.

The French countryside is a beautiful green in springtime. The tulips are in bloom all across the flat lowlands of Holland. What color! The mix of architecture in passing towns and cities, ranging from medieval to modern, is a bit dissonant in its charm. It is all so lovely to watch through the large windows of our passing train. It is almost as if nothing has changed in the world…but it has.

If there is to be a solution to the converging crises of climate chaos, poverty, resource wars, failed agriculture, mass starvation and forced migrations, it must include transforming public infrastructure to create low-carbon forms of transportation, powered by solar and wind-generated electricity and human energy. Trains, trams, and bicycles must become an essential element of a new life strategy, if we let it. The U.S. is so far behind. We wallow in political fights over false narratives while the planet burns. Making significant progress on issues like public transportation will require a political revolution.

Eve Ensler Said It Best

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Eve Ensler  [photo: Getty]

This was Eve Ensler’s response in Time Magazine to the women who support the elevation of an alcoholic misogynist plutocratic predator to the highest court in the land. The struggle continues, though it seems, has just begun.

A Letter to White Women Who Support Brett Kavanaugh

By Eve Ensler, TIME

05 October 18

n Oct. 2, I watched the President of the United States mock a woman who had recounted the trauma of being sexually assaulted in front of the world, on live television. And as he did so, a recent poll rattled around my head. The survey found that, while white men regularly supported Kavanaugh the most, white women also did so significantly more than Hispanic or black people overall. For example, 45% of white women said Kavanaugh should be confirmed, compared to 30% of Hispanic people and 11% of black people. Like so much of these recent weeks, it made me reflect. But even more so, it made me want to write to those women. Not lecture them. Not denigrate them. Just simply to speak to them directly and to try to explain my feelings. This is what I wrote:

Dear white women who support Brett Kavanaugh,

Last night when I saw Donald Trump mock Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, I couldn’t help focusing on the women behind him who cheered and laughed. I felt like I was falling into a familiar nightmare. It compelled me to reach out to you.

When I was a child my father sexually abused and beat me. My mother did not protect me. She sided with my father, just like these women sided with Donald Trump, and I understand why. She sided with him because he was the breadwinner. She sided with him because of her need to survive. She sided with him because the reality of what was happening in front of her was so terrible, it was easier not to see.

She sided with him because she was brought up never to question a man. She was taught to serve men and make men happy. She was trained not to believe women. It was only much later, after my father died, that she was able to acknowledge the truth of my childhood and to ask for my forgiveness. It was only then, too late, that she was able to see how she had sacrificed her daughter for security and comfort. She used those words. I was her “sacrifice.”

Some people when they look at this video of women laughing at Dr. Ford, will see callousness. I see distancing. I see denial. I have worked on ending violence against women for 20 years. I have traveled this country many times. I have sat with women of all ages and political persuasions. I remember the first performances of my play The Vagina Monologues in Oklahoma City, when half the women in the audience came up to tell me they had been raped or battered. Most of them whispered it to me, and often I was the first and only person they had told. Until that moment, they had found a way to normalize it. Expect it. Accept it. Deny it.

I don’t believe you want to have to choose your sons and your husbands over your daughters. I don’t believe you want the pain that was inflicted on us inflicted on future generations.

I know the risk many of you take in coming out to say you believe a woman over a man. It means you might then have to recognize and believe your own experience. If one out of three women in the world have been raped or beaten, it must mean some of you have had this experience. To believe another woman means having to touch into the pain and fear and sorrow and rage of your own experience and that sometimes feels unbearable. I know because it took me years to come out of my own denial and to break with my perpetrator, my father. To speak the truth that risked upending the comfort of my very carefully constructed life. But I can tell you that living a lie is living half a life. It was only after telling my story that I knew happiness and freedom.

I know the risk others of you face who have witnessed those you love suffer the traumatic after-effects of violence and those who worry for both your sons and daughters that may someday face this violence

I write to you because we need you, the way I once needed my mother. We need you to stand with women who are breaking the silence in spite of their terror and shame. I believe inside the bodies of some of those women who laughed at that rally were other impulses and feelings they weren’t expressing.

Here is why I believe you should take this stand with me. Violence against women destroys our souls. It annihilates our sense of self. It numbs us. It separates us from our bodies. It is the tool used to keep us second-class citizens. And if we don’t address it, it can lead to depression, alcoholism, drug addiction, overeating and suicide. It makes us believe we are not worthy of happiness.

It took my mother 40 years to see what her denial has done and to apologize to me. I don’t think you want to apologize to your daughters forty years from now. Stop the ascension of a man who is angry, aggressive, and vengeful and could very well be a sexual assaulter. Time is short. Call your senators. Stop laughing and start fighting.

With all my love,

Eve

Whitewashing the Predatory Patriarchy Cover-up

Even if a couple of Republican senators were to revolt and vote against confirming the nomination of Brent Kavanagh to the Supreme Court of the United States of America, the “culture war” over the subjugation of women would escalate. How could it not? A Predatory Patriarchy still rules the nation.

Kavanagh at hearingKavanagh rightly called his confirmation hearing a joke (or was it a circus?) but for all the wrong reasons. His behavior reflected classic alcoholic denial/projection as he aggressively attacked and dodged legitimate questions. It also reflected his powerfully self-indulgent sense of entitlement to yet another among many privileges in his patrician life.

No Laughing Matter

But who was laughing? Certainly not Senator Grassley, who chairs the judicial committee, as he struggled to retain old-white-men privileges for the committee’s majority in ramrodding through the alcoholic misogynous serial predator’s confirmation. Certainly not Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, who struggled to perform her civic duty in a deeply hostile environment dominated by predatory patricians seething with disrespect for a woman who would dare stand up and tell her story of Kavanagh’s attempted rape. Her courage befuddled the patriarchs of “the beltway,” who were not laughing. The event most deeply seared into her memory was her assailant and his accomplice laughing, finding their abuse of a fifteen-year-old girl so hilarious.

I remember as a teenager, young men who laughed as they tormented a small animal or bullied another kid on the athletic field or hallway. Torturing others was somehow funny to them. Kavanagh appeared bemused as he attacked Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota when she asked him about his drinking behavior, demanding to know if she had ever blacked out from excessive drinking. Of course, not all ritual degradation is physically violent. But Kavanagh’s attempts to belittle and patronize his questioners, particularly the women, was certainly verbally violent. I was particularly impressed with the unbending Kamala Harris when he persisted in dodging her direct questions.

Congressional Cover-up

As the hearing proceeded, various media quoted growing numbers of potential witnesses who contradicted Kavanagh’s dissembling and evading questions about serial belligerent drunkenness and sexual aggression by him and his friends. Some offered sworn affidavits; almost all but Mark Judge were willing for the Committee or the FBI to interview them under oath. The pressure to have the FBI re-open the background investigation of this nominee to the nation’s highest court.

Finally, Jeff Flake, Republican of Arizona, walked out of the hearing signaling his friend, Democrat Chris Coons of Delaware, to join him in an anteroom. They agreed on a compromise. As a condition for Flake to vote to refer the nomination to the full Senate, the FBI would be allowed one week to interview corroborating witnesses and new accusers, if the President authorized the reopening of the background investigation.

Whitewashing the Cover-up

As always, Trump sent contradictory signals, claiming publicly that the FBI would have full reign, while the scope of the investigation appeared to be severely restricted. Neither Blasey Ford nor Kavanagh was interviewed and the FBI gave numerous other witnesses given the runaround. The FBI submitted a “report” of the investigation to the Committee halfway through the week authorized for the investigation. It appeared that they followed no leads, so there was not much to report. Mitch McConnell proclaimed that a thorough FBI investigation found no evidence of wrongdoing, and immediately called for a vote to confirm by that Saturday.

The predatory patriarchy duly whitewashed the cover-up.

The self-entitled political ruling class has once again raped justice and democracy. We are all Dr. Christine Blasey Ford now.

Mind of a Rapist

Rape is a violent crime of domination. Violence, of course, is the ultimate act of domination. We tend to see violence as an act of physical force leading to either physical injury or death, and it often is. But violence can also take on more subtle forms.

Not all domination directly entails physical force. Some forms of dominance involve mental violence. Spousal abuse, as well as sexual harassment, can take social psychological forms involving no physical act. Some forms of abuse consist mainly of “degradation rituals.” Trump is a master of ritual degradation.

Domination often comes under the “color of authority,” whether physically violent or not. When abusers lead large organizations, the result is often institutionalized degradation of whole populations or vulnerable communities. Elites often subject whole classes of victims to exploitation for profit. So-called “authorities” too often exhibit sociopathic tendencies in their “enforcement” of rules, regulations, or laws.

Sociopathy Empowered

Rapists, like all sociopaths, seek to exercise power by any means necessary to control and exploit their victims. Many power-seekers use their aggression to gain social, economic, or political power. It is not surprising, therefore, that a greater percentage of people in positions of authority are sociopaths than in the general population. Bullies typically begin their abuse at an early age.

Whether he is drunk or not, a seventeen-year-old who attempts to rape a fifteen-year-old exhibits sociopathic behavior; he is a rapist. We should not dismiss such bullying as a mere youthful indiscretion. Instead, attempted rape reflects a deep personality disorder that is not likely to change in adulthood.

However, many sociopaths disguise their lack of empathy within aggressive acts once they become executives, jurists, or politicians who have great power over others. Sophisticated bullies often disguise their ruthless exercise of power as the mere execution of legal principals. We can find bullies in all economic classes, of course. But those who rise within economic and political elites pose a far greater danger to society than any street hustler.

Most experts on sociopathy/psychopathy agree that it is not a curable condition. While sociopaths learn to appear to conform to social norms of civility and even kindness, they actually have little or no empathy for others. Some more severe cases engage in ruthless Trumpery and, while they demand absolute loyalty from their associates, they do not hesitate to “throw them under the bus” if that is convenient. We have too many examples of that emanating from the highest political office in the land.

Many sociopaths adapt to their social surroundings by deploying a practiced charm. As a result, they become quite successful, especially if they went to elite prep schools and universities. In such higher social strata, they develop connections with the sons and daughters of other well-connected families, which they use throughout their careers.

The Career Rapist

It is not unusual for men from wealthy families, who have a need to dominate others, to occupy high offices. Such men often cling to a set of political beliefs that reflect their obsessive desire to dominate, disparage, and dismiss the rights of vulnerable minority peoples. They often advocate for laws that oppress minorities (and women) even further. Too often, they have successful careers.

Sociopaths just do not feel whole if they fail to dominate others from groups they see as weaker and therefore undeserving of respect or rights. That is why fascists are also racists and racists have authoritarian personalities so similar to those of fascists. Nor is it particularly surprising that sociopaths, who usually also display elements of narcissism, express their need to dominate by one form of sexual predation or another. Executive power affords so many opportunities for sexual harassment in male-dominated organizations.

Rape of Democracy

170px-Brett_Michael_Kavanaugh_(2004)Many abusers avoid public exposure for decades. A few, when subject to close scrutiny, such as in a vetting process when nominated for high office, say, Supreme Court justice may be finally exposed. That sends an already corrupt “advise and consent” process into a tailspin with politicians running in all directions for cover.

The accuser is doubly victimized when political allies of the “closet predator” dismiss the claims of a female victim, by using various forms of sexist derision and patronizing innuendo, all while feigning the concern for “giving her a fair hearing.” Anita Hill was the classic victim of such sociopathic politics.

Entrenched politicians see it all as “just politics.” Since many politicians have sociopathic tendencies themselves, those who are allies of the perpetrator rally to his defense using every available discounting and delegitimizing technique they can muster.

In the political realm, when all this happens, another unacknowledged victim of rape is Democracy herself.

The End of Authority

I Am Part of the Resistance Inside the Trump Administration.”  ~  Anonymous

When does authority end? Well, authority ends when people believe that it no longer exists. That is because authority is not a thing one possesses; authority is a relationship in which the members of a system acknowledge the holder of power as legitimate. Power can be held without authority but is inherently weaker and unstable when illegitimate. Power without legitimacy can be exercised only by force.

For example, in a formally democratic constitutional political system, such as that in the U.S.A., the very election of a president is the agreed upon process for installing a president in office. It is the only legitimate means by which the man (or someday woman) can assume the office. The inauguration is the ritual that legitimizes the turning over of the executive authority of incumbency to the person who won the election.

Chaos Central

Of course, we have experienced growing concerns over the legitimacy of the electoral process itself, but most people view the process as legitimate even though flawed. Yet, the flaws seem to have grown significantly in recent years, with the more extreme gerrymandering and voter suppression. Still, most people accept the results, if grudgingly.

Once in office, a president has a wide range of options as to his behavior in executing the duties of the office. The three-branch system of government allows a lot of interpretation in the administration of laws. Administrative policies may even twist the meaning in how a president implements a law, with little consequence beyond complaints.

In the present instance, the president appointed the “principal officers of the executive departments” (Section 4, Amendment XXV, U.S. Constitution) that is, the members of his cabinet, with the sole purpose of having those officers dismantle the administration of existing laws that do not favor the corporations and the rich.

Naturally, many people have challenged the legitimacy of such actions. Many current lawsuits challenge the actions of Trump’s cabinet members on the basis that they have violated rather than administered the laws passed by Congress. That is because such actions are the equivalent of re-writing or nullifying such laws, which, of course, is the sole prerogative of the Congress.

When a president routinely takes such illegitimate actions, the government may experience a constitutional crisis. That is because presidential actions meant to avoid or roll back the implementation of laws passed by Congress violate the constitutional principle of separation of powers. As we all know, such practices have become extremely commonplace in the presidential administration of Donald J. Trump.

Our current president evidently views the office he holds as equivalent to that of a CEO of a private family business, a patriarch, or a mob boss. But, of course, that is just the tip of the iceberg. Unfortunately, too many citizens also have little knowledge or respect for these constitutional principles.

Decay of Authority

This president has taken so many illegitimate actions that I will not list them here. Putting aside the perverse peculiarities of personality, a strong sense has grown that the man is incapable of exercising the powers of the office without putting the nation in great danger, especially in international relations, domestic security, and in denying climate science.

Bob WoodwardBob Woodward’s new book, Fear: Trump in the White House,” (already widely quoted before reaching the bookstores) has already caused great consternation by revealing numerous instances that indicate several grounds for considering the president to be unfit for office. Of course, Trump proclaimed it a work of fiction, despite Woodward’s long-standing solid reputation for basing his books on strong evidence and multiple reliable sources.

Far more damning, however, is the anonymously authored op-ed piece in the New York Times, titled, “I Am Part of the Resistance Inside the Trump Administration.” Written by one or more high-level members of the administration, the author(s) claim that “I work for the president but like-minded colleagues and I have vowed to thwart parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations.’ It describes a White House in full disarray as members of the administration try to cover, block, or undo many “dangerous impulses” and erratic actions of a man who is out of control in too many ways to enumerate. We can safely assume that The Times would not have taken such an unprecedented step without fully vetting the source.

Whatever one’s political viewpoint, the question of whether the man is unfit, recklessly dangerous, just too mentally unstable, or otherwise “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office,” (Amendment XXV, Section 4, U.S. Constitution) then some means of removing him from power is necessary. When the inner circle of the White House finds it necessary to remove papers from his desk, diffuse his attempts to lash out at the world in various ways, or when a top general just does not follow orders given on a dangerous whim, a genuine constitutional crisis is already in play.

So far, the Republican right in Congress has gotten its legislative way because the president consistently and with mean spirit unwinds many laws an regulations meant to protect citizens and environments while affording the super-rich and giant corporations obscene tax cuts. But at some point, the present trend of increasing chaos will force their hand.

The End of the Line

Whether before or after the mid-term elections, the outrage of ordinary Republicans, independents and Democrats alike will force the hand of self-absorbed politicians in Congress. They will by then see the end of their free ride on the horizon as voters protest their continued inaction. The talk of annulling Trump’s election is building as Mueller indicts more of Trump’s associates. “Anonymous” even mentions invoking the 25th Amendment to the Constitution to remove him from office. Impeachment would be the weaker approach since it would replace him with Pence, the corrupt henchman elected along with him, and leave cabinet members and all the insane executive orders and dangerous actions in place.

Annulment of the election would be the more difficult path, but the best way to reverse much of the damage already done. The growing evidence of illegal tampering with the election, not only by the Russians but by Republican campaign officials, cries out for annulment. After all, the authority of this president has ended.

Now it is time to rise to the occasion of this unprecedented constitutional crisis and clean up the president’s mess. Many politicians will have to break out of their established habits and act like statesmen. Taking the right path will not be easy, but it may save the republic.

Patsy Trollop Trumpery

The GOP Pimps are playing Trollop Trump, like no other patsy in history. In that sense, you could say that they are colluding with the Russians. They still despise him but hide it since he has become their cash cow. But Trump is a double patsy, after all. The Russians have played him ever since his disastrous casino failures of the 1970s left him on the brink of bankruptcy when no legitimate bank would touch his toxic financial mess. That left the Kremlin-linked Russian Mafia and their front banks a great opportunity to “rescue” and indebt him to them simultaneously. David Kay Johnson has documented Trump’s brash blunders and blatant corruption for decades including his more recent escapades in The Making of Donald Trump (2016). Johnson describes his ‘presidential’ destruction of American Democracy in It’s Even Worse Than You Think: What the Trump Administration Is Doing to America (2018).

A Hustler’s Trail

Trump.Putin Press Conference-BBCNow, Craig Unger compiles diverse historical sources documenting Trump’s corrupt history with his own current research on Trump’s subservience to Putin in his new book, House of Trump, House of Putin: The Untold Story of Donald Trump and the Russian Mafia (2018). U.S. Trumpists, who have fallen for his demagoguery and seem more like reality-show fans than political actors, dismiss the overwhelming historical record of corruption as mere liberal bias as they revel in the brash violation of political norms by the Fake Outsider.

Trollop Trump and his Republican pimps and enablers have one thing in common and it is not patriotism, it is plunder. They are collecting the booty from his prostitution of the presidency. It is true that Trump was a political outsider. Multiple independent sources confirm that he was (and is) despised by the financial and real-estate elites of New York, who find his narcissistic mob-boss pretensions to status among its elite distasteful. But that does not diminish his impulse to act in the interests of the American plutocracy (to which he so fervently aspires) against the American people.

Both Trollop Trump and the Republican Party elite, as well as his Russian Mafia handlers, brazenly engage in high-stakes Trumpery. (“Trumpery,” if you had not heard, derives from the Middle English “trumpery” and ultimately from the Middle French “tromper,” meaning “to deceive.” See https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/trumpery.)

Trump is a patsy for the Russians. We do not know all the details yet, but his behavior is a clear giveaway. Helsinki is but the most obvious of a consistent pattern of defensive subservience to Putin and his regime. Just because the Hillary Democrats are obsessed with blaming the Russians for her failure, does not make the Russians any less guilty of manipulating the American electorate through hacking, trolls, bots, and conspiring with the Trump campaign. Russian coordination with Manifort, Gates, and now revealed with Republican operative and lobbyist W. Samuel Patten who just plead guilty to acting as an unregistered foreign agent, is undeniable. Of course, claims of “witch hunt” will continue as the evidence accumulates.

The Republican House and Senate pimp out Trump’, who cons the status-anxious men of the downwardly Mobil white working and former middle classes, while he plays them all in service to the oligarchs and mobsters of Wall Street and Moscow he admires so.

Triangle of Trumpery

Never mind the narcissism. Never mind the psychopathy/sociopathy. Never mind the sexual predation. Never mind the traitorous personality disorders of the man who demands absolute loyalty from associates whom he routinely throws under the bus. Never mind even his pandering to Putin and his Kremlin-connected oligarch benefactors — neither Manifort nor Cohen can cover for him now. After all, they are really just like him, though without as much brash bluster, bumbling, and lack of impulse control. And, after all, it is he who is doing the bidding of both GOP plutocrats and Russian Oligarchs. Never mind the Republican and Kremlin pimps who own this puppet of power. They are the smooth talking pimps and he is their garish Trollop. Instead, think of the global human consequences of this political tragic comedy.

So, who wins in this insane high-stakes international-casino puppet show?

So far. the American plutocrats, the Russian dictatorship and affiliated oligarch-mob, and the international criminal corporate conspiracy to plunder the planet’s remaining resources before climate chaos, political pandemonium, and societal collapse put an end to it all. That’s who.

But, never mind all that. Just sip your Starbucks mega-latte, read the sports page, and drive off in your SUV, pretending you live in a democracy because you still have all those consumer choices.

TREASON ! Or, Blatant Business as Usual?

Donald Trump’s Helsinki behavior – his grotesque pandering to Vladimir Putin — drew international outrage from across the political spectrum, including U.S. Republicans and even “Fox and Friends.” He had already repeatedly demonstrated his admiration for “strong-man” dictators, including North Korea’s Kim Jong-un and Putin himself. Trump dodged the detailed briefings of U.S. intelligence professionals documenting Russian interference in the U.S. 2016 presidential election. He made the feeble claim that Putin had strongly assured him that Russia did not meddle.

Donald Trump,Vladimir Putin

Putin and Trump in Helsinki ~ AP photo

Trump seemed hell-bent to ingratiate himself publicly before the ruthless former KGB officer, in front of the international media. Then, the New York Times exposed the fact that key U.S. intelligence officials had briefed Trump even before his inauguration, on the details of how Russian military intelligence officers attempted to interfere with the elections. Who could argue with Brennan’s assessment?

Political Peculiarities

Democrats had already complained of Trump’s failures to carry on the U.S. aggressive foreign policies that have centered on traditional alliances with the Europeans. The U.S. routinely led the NATO nations in putting military pressure on the Soviet Union, and after its demise, on Russia. Trump’s rude and dismissive behavior toward allies at the NATO summit exemplified his frequent abusiveness to traditional allies. Suddenly, the Democrats seemed to stand to the right of Republicans on foreign policy.

Republicans, on the other hand, the traditional enablers of aggression around the world with U.S. leadership of NATO as a key element in the actions of empire, found themselves cornered. They were desperate to retain their positions on foreign policy. Yet they felt compelled to support their increasingly unstable president, even as he violated all the norms of taking a tough stand against “The Russian Threat.”

The political heat generated by Trump’s public dissembling, with Putin standing beside him, became unbearable. He wound back his statement that he “did not see why Russia would have interfered with U.S. elections, claiming he had misspoke the word “wouldn’t” by saying “would.” Yet, the tone of his remarks said otherwise; and he could not resist adding the diversionary claim that “others” may have been involved.

Personal Perversity of a President

Trump contradicted himself on Russian interference at least four times since Helsinki. Something drives Trump to hold to his avoidance of saying or doing anything that might upset Vladimir Putin –directly contradicting the hard evidence that CIA, et al, showed him. What makes Trump so afraid to cross Putin? Is it the mystery “golden showers” video? Why did he try to take back his statements while still affirming them? Is it that Trump’s Helsinki behavior — pandering to Vladimir Putin — drew such international outrage from across the political spectrum? Did he have to respond to that pressure while bowing to Russian pressure as well? It would seem so.

Trump had repeatedly demonstrated his perverse personal admiration for “strong-man” dictators, including North Korea’s ruthless Kim Jong-un and Putin himself. Dismissing the fact-filled briefings of U.S. intelligence professionals in favor of accepting Putin’s “strong assurance” that Russia did not meddle in the U.S. 2016 presidential election would be laughable if not so serious. Trump seemed hell-bent to ingratiate himself before the callous former KGB officer, no matter what. Was it merely his narcissistic sociopathy at work? Or, does Putin really have something on him? Most likely, both.

Treasonous Business as Usual

Former CIA Director John Brennan characterized Trump’s acquiescence to Putin’s claims as treasonous. Who could argue with that assessment? But what drives it? Is Trump’s financial indebtedness to Russian oligarchs close to Putin at play? Nobody knows, except perhaps Special Counsel Robert Mueller and his investigators. I expect that it will all come out in further indictments. Meanwhile Trump’s enterprises profit immensely from his presidency.

Trump delights in fomenting confusion among those around him. His outlandish behavior violates all patriotic protocols of civil international diplomacy, national pride, and the basic precepts of national security. Yet, when the diatribes and dissembling are set aside, what is left? I would argue that in the foreign policy arena anyway, his actual policies as exercised follow conventional practices rather closely. Clearly, he operates closer to the edge and without understanding or caring about the real issues between nations, except where they affect his financial interests and personal pride. Therein lies the danger.

Yes, Trump blusters, dissembles, lies, and consistently contradicts himself. His domestic and climate policies grossly circumvent federal law to allow polluters free reign while the planet burns. But we sometimes focus too much on words and not enough on deeds. As Glen Greenwald of The Intercept has argued, Trump’s foreign policies, disastrous as they are, do not veer very far from those of Obama. More clandestine troops, more killer drones, are just more and more of the same. Certainly, Obama would not have committed his callous abuse of the children of people legitimately seeking asylum from the violence that U.S. foreign policy has enabled in Central America. Racist sociopaths, on the other hand, have no capacity for empathy or compassion, even for children, especially brown ones.

Fake President_image, Northern SunDonald J. Trump exercises business as usual with an ugly face. In doing so, he is looking out for number one without regard to the national interest, nor the interests of humanity itself. But, then, neither have the smooth talkers of the political establishment that he claims to decry while playing their very own game with the added barbarity of being Mister Nasty.