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.

Suffer the Children for the Politics of Evil

On a flight home from Los Angeles, I sat next to a young woman, a millennial apparently, who busied herself the whole flight reading a very slick fashion magazine. I notice a book in the back-of-the-seat pouch in front of her. The title was Buddha’s Brain.

I had seen that title somewhere, but could not remember. I asked the millennial to describe the subject of the book. She replied with clear conviction that it was the answer to, well, everything.. Naturally, I had to find out what this and perhaps other millennials might think is “the answer to, well, everything.” As we disembarked, I vowed to myself to look up this book.

Meanwhile, like everyone, I continued feeling bombarded with additional revelations about “the Feds” arbitrary separation of young children from their parents. These folks’ only “crime” was openly to cross our border at official crossings to request asylum from violence in Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, or some other dictatorship where we support any totalitarian despot willing to go along with U.S. foreign policy.

When Evil Goes Around, Suffering Comes Around

The U.S. trained many Central American officials in the use of secret police, assassination squads, etc., at an institution once called “The School of the Americas,” located in the U.S. Some earlier refugees from political violence ended up on our urban poverty zones. Some of their children fell into local street gangs. MS-13, which originated in Los Angeles, California, in the 1980s, was one of them. Then we deported them to their home nation where those same gangs took hold.

Now, threatened by street gangs or government kill squads, some parents flee from those countries with their children under threat of torture or death. The new federal response is to ignore all legal procedure for assessing and adjudicating requests for asylum. They throw parents in jail after taking their children, some infants and toddlers, from their parents under false pretenses, such as claims they are taking them to give them a shower.

This political ploy may be the worst Trumpery of all (the word trumpery derives from the Middle English trompery and ultimately from the Middle French tromper, meaning “to deceive“). The current administration variously claims to use this family torture as a deterrent to others intending to seek asylum (true, and evil), that they are only following some law the Democrats passed (lie, there is no such law), or that it is complying with a biblical admonition from God (lie, in the form of selective biblical misquotation).

In fact, Trump administration practices violate both international and U.S. law and custom in their gross and violent actions resulting entirely from the administration’s own choice. These people are committing gross abuses of the human rights of the families involved. Sessions has the unmitigated gall to claim that if the parents did not want that to happen, they should not come to our borders seeking asylum. We have laws and procedures for asylum seekers, which the administration routinely and cavalierly violates, just like so many others. The Attorney General of the U.S. refuses to carry out our laws, in order to achieve a frankly racist and definitely evil political purpose.

Cultural Consensus and Compassion in America

Ralph Nader has argued that if Americans could just get past their partisan debates about abstract political ideology and discuss only the dangers or benefits to their communities by a given action or policy, they could easily come to agreement in their mutual interests. That might not be true in all cases, especially where special economic interests in the outcome are at stake.

However, when the lives and sanity of innocent children are at stake, almost every American would stand up and object to the cruel and unusual, and entirely illegitimate abuse of children that our government is currently conducting in the name of “law and order.” Most Americans are compassionate when they see suffering. Wake up!

Learning from Buddha’s Brain

The book, Buddha’s Brain, is a compilation of principles for living well that result from the integration of the recent findings of neuro-science with 2000 years of Buddhist meditation practice. This remarkable convergence demonstrates the value of practicing mindfulness (clarity and focus of attention on what is important in any moment) and the compassion that results when we are able to widen our circle of “us” to include all of humanity, and even the world. That is when violence, abuse, and torture wane. Do not dismiss all millennials because some were raised with too much sense of entitlement. Some millennials are clearly paying attention.

Call your Senator and your Representative today and demand that they pass a law immediately, explicitly forbidding the separation of children from their parents by any government agency, unless and until the parent is convicted of a crime, sentenced, and imprisoned.

On this matter, a national consensus without compromise is the only way to redeem the moral standing of the American people by our mindfulness of the evil that confronts us so that we can exercise human compassion by demanding that caring for children must overcome petty politics. If we do not act to demand compassion, we are complicit in the torture of children.

The Democrats’ Dilemma

The Democrats have a serious problem. They have abandoned efforts to put into practice their traditional principles of supporting social and economic justice. In practical terms their election depends heavily on the largess of the rich and powerful. They are just as beholden to Wall Street and the corporate elite as are the Republicans. But as less reliable surrogates for corporate power than their Republican colleagues, they are also less well funded by the power elites. What’s a Democrat to do?

It seems clear that the Democrats will never be able to compete effectively for campaign funding in comparison with the Republicans. Generally, it is mostly the more liberal rich who will support them, and there are not enough wealthy liberals or liberal CEOs to level the electoral playing field.

Death of the Public Interest
Of course, the Republicans are in trouble too, but in different ways. They can’t seem to produce any legislation – and they consistently refuse to pass bills even based on their own ides if Obama favors them. But they have been very effective at voter suppression, gerrymandering, and pandering to their extreme right “base” from their vacuous ideological position of opposition to anything that does not further enrich their corporate and financial benefactors. The Public Interest is simply not part of the political equation.

The media narrative feigns attention to the public interest, but it plays off the hopes and fears of the general population to keep the narrative consistent with the interests of the corporate state. The media also parrots the ways the two parties frame the definitions of “issues,” as if those definitions emerged from the people rather than the financial and corporate powers that control the parties. Thus, it is not surprising to observe major misconceptions of public policy among the people.

When scientific surveys are conducted by independent researchers, not paid for by a political party, so called “public opinion” turns out to be quite different than when the corporate controlled networks or political consultants conduct them. The Affordable Care Act, widely referred to as “Obama Care,” is hated or liked depending on how the question is asked. When asked about specific provisions of the act, such as the elimination of “pre-existing conditions” as a means to exclude patients from insurance coverage, almost everyone reported favoring that provision. Yet many of the same people also reported that they oppose “Obama Care”. Similarly, I was amazed to watch “on the street” television interviews where people were asked if they liked Obama Care, to which most said no. Then the interviewer asked if they favored “The Affordable Care Act.” Most said, “oh, yes.”

Why this apparent contradiction? Well, it is clear that many people are not accurately informed about the Affordable Care Act or its politically charged shorthand designation. But it is obvious that many of them have been influenced by the racist anti-Obama propaganda that pervades talk radio and the corporate media. “Issues” are shaped by a news narrative that fits the political interests of the corporate and financial elites, not the concerns of citizens.

So, here is the Democrats’ dilemma. Democratic politicians are trapped in an ideological-financial bind. They cannot truly represent the interests of the public because that would cause the funding of their careers to be cut off. They have given up the fight for human and economic justice while retaining a hollow rhetoric of support for “jobs” and “economic growth,” “equal pay,” and sometimes even “civil rights.” They are locked into the political system of the corporatocracy. Sadly, they remain full participants in what I believe Russell Brand called “the entertainment division of the military industrial complex.” That certainly is how the corporate media portray the American political system. But it is just not that entertaining to the growing numbers who see through the thin rhetorical veil.

Reinventing Democracy for Survival
It is not working. More and more people recognize the false hope of “change we can believe in.” Whatever the accomplishments of the two Obama terms, the project for a (small-d) democratic America is in shambles. The Democratic Party façade is part of the problem and offers no solution. Despite rhetorical dance with ‘climate deniers,’ the so-called “national leadership” is going along to get along in a dying political economy that feeds them. The corporate economy continues accelerating not only planetary climate chaos, but very possibly human extinction. The scientific evidence is overwhelming and ignored.
None of this is about to change on its own. As people experiencing the growing crises of climate disruption, failing industrial food production, economic and financial disruption, and international conflicts over diminishing resources, they will begin to organize their lives in their local communities in more sustainable ways. In fact, many are already doing so.  The Occupy Wall Street movement and recent Climate marches have already demonstrated the rapidly growing awareness that the changes we need are going to come from those who need them most: regular people in the communities where we live.

Republicans, Democrats, and the Climate Tipping Point

Talk of the so-called “political gridlock” in Washington has become so commonplace that it certainly qualifies as a full-fledged cliché. For too long, the three branches of the federal government have been pandering to the short-term economic interests of power elites. They have done little else. Yet they also work in high conflict with one another.

We know the elements. A Racist Republican hatred for and visceral denial of the legitimacy of the Black President. An “end the wars” president who follows the Cheney script for imperial violence, with a mild mannered rhetoric. A Congress of millionaires who do the bidding of the corporations that fund their reelections. A Supreme Court that legitimizes the greatest corruption of democracy ever. In their fiat personhood, the corporations run the government via surrogates installed by electoral caricature.

So, we wait and hope that someone will do the right thing. Or we hope that someone who says he will do the right thing will be elected. We might as well be Hong Kong. The vetting of candidates is executed by the power elite of the fossil-fueled endless-growth extractive corporate state – not by the people. Even the few who are independent enough to raise challenges to the illusions that drive public acceptance are, like Bernie Sanders, marginalized in the media and ignored by the political elite.

Nature Trumps Politics

But here’s the thing: The biochemical and physical processes in the earth environment do not wait for political consensus or rational action, or for any political arrangement. As governments and corporations falsely claim to be making good progress, carbon emissions continue to accelerate. Their effects are not subject to political debate – they happen. The people of the most vulnerable regions also live in the least polluting societies. They are already suffering the consequences of the industrial era in which they have hardly participated.

The scientific debate over climate disruption is no longer about its reality or whether direct public action or “market forces” are the appropriate mode of response. The question now is whether or not humanity will muster the massively complex and comprehensive technical and organizational collective response in time.

Let’s face it. The only important decision-making criterion now is how much time we have and how we can execute a maximum intervention strategy within that time. The carbon buildup must be stopped in order to avert humanity being swept up in the Sixth Extinction that is already well underway. The current accelerating species extinction is not subject to dispute. Though difficult to measure precisely, hundreds of species are going extinct every day. Human general adaptability, which is greater than most species, does have its limits, especially with so many of us disrupting the earth system.

Ending the Illusion

Whoever thinks that we are exempt from the forces of nature is a captive of that old but still popular Cartesian dualism. Like so many theories in science, it worked well within a very limited context. Now, the continued illusion that we can somehow control nature in the larger context is very likely to be our undoing. The fantasy that imagines ‘man’ separate from nature is the hubris fed by our illusions of grandeur.

Republicans may be worse than Democrats. But, so what if they engage in more magical thinking and collect more bribes from corporate lobbyists? Both parties maintain politics as usual as if climate disruption were just another “issue.” People who are comfortable usually resist accepting that major changes are necessary. That is understandable. However, when lives are so disrupted that denial is no longer a plausible option, a sudden realization that we are ‘up against the wall’ will occur. At that point, a new dilemma arises. What if it is too late? What if by then we cannot do enough to dampen the positive feedback loops that will continue even if right now we stopped emitting any more carbon?

One Choice, If We Make It

A few climate scientists, such as Guy McPherson,* are now estimating that we have already reached the tipping point. McPherson believes we have pushed the climate past the point where it can still be re-stabilized. The radical environmental changes we have wrought will result in human extinction. Yet, does it matter whether he is right or wrong, since we cannot know for sure “until the results are in”? The biggest mistake would be to think, “If it is too late, then we might as well enjoy ourselves in the time we have before the inevitable end of humanity.” This is really a form of the old statistical mistake of confusing the probability of error in estimating an outcome with the importance of the outcome itself. Whatever the odds, we must try. If we don’t, then the prediction of human extinction becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy, dooming the prophet.

In the case of climate disruption, the only thing that matters is the extent to which we can and are willing to take all necessary actions to avoid the worst outcome. If it is already “game over,” then any efforts we make will not have mattered – yet we will at least have gone out fighting. However, if the worst-case scenario is not inevitable and there is a slim chance for human survival, then it will have been the stupidest thing that humanity has ever done to accept as an inevitability an estimate that could be in error.

Republicans and Democrats be damned. Full speed ahead on ending the fossil-fueling of our extinction.
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* Guy R. McPherson, Going Dark. Baltimore: PublishAmerica, 2013.