Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Coronavirus (Covid-19) is a wake-up call. Pandemics happen & we need to be prepared

Among major disasters that can potentially affect large percentages of the human race, few are as regularly recurring and as able to be mitigated as pandemics. In the 92-year period from 1918 to 2010 alone there were five influenza pandemics:

Image may contain: 1 personSpanish flu (1918–1920)
Asian Flu (1957–1958)
Hong Kong Flu (1968–1969)
Russian Flu (1977–1978)
H1N1/09 Flu Pandemic (2009–2010)

So, we know they are coming and there are more pandemics than just those caused by influenza viruses as we are now discovering.

We are currently in the midst of a Covid-19 pandemic as declared today by the World Health Organization. The World Health Organization has extensive literature and guidance on how to prepare for and respond to epidemics and pandemics. There is no reason for the countries of the world to not be prepared, but we were unprepared and that needs to change.

Covid-19 is a serious concern. It is more infectious than the flu, current estimates are that it is twice as infectious as the flu, and its mortality rate seems to be several times higher than with the flu pandemics of the last 100 years. The World Health Organization's last estimate of its mortality rate is 3.5% whereas the 1918-1920 influenza epidemic had a mortality rate of 0.9%.

At the same time we are very lucky. Children do not seem to experience serious infection by Coronavirus. The mortality rate for a pandemic could just as easily be 10%, 30%, 70% or more. If we experienced something like that in our current state of preparedness, we could lose significant proportions of the global population and the disruption afterwards to the economy, infrastructure and global supply chain could take years or even decades from which to recover.

That is why, once this crisis is over, it will be time for the globe to focus on exactly what to do once a pathogen seems to be on its way to becoming a pandemic. There should be several well thought out scenarios with triggers depending on infectiousness and mortality rate. Something like Covid-19 or worse should, among other measures, prompt a rapid shutdown of non-essential air travel, cruise travel and a mandatory 14-day quarantine for any people traversing international borders. Had that occurred towards the beginning of the crisis, we would likely not have had the virus spread even remotely as much as it has. There should also be stockpiles in each country of the medical supplies and equipment one might need in such a situation to include standby space to house the sick while they are receiving treatment. 

One of the concerns right now is that few if any countries have the ventilators, ECMO and intensive care equipment and facilities in necessary supply that might be required to give all those who become afflicted with the more serious forms of Covid-19 a chance to survive. There are also not enough respiratory therapists to treat those who will need these kinds of treatments nor can you train respiratory therapists quickly enough. This specialty requires a minimum of 2-4 years of training.

All of these types of concerns should be addressed quickly after the current crisis has abated. WE must do this planning. We know these pandemics are coming. We are paying for our lack of preparedness this time around. Let's not let this happen again.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

We remember John McCain as the Senator from Arizona, but he should have been the 43rd President

Historians will have a lot to go over when they ponder the life of Senator John McCain who passed on Saturday after a valiant struggle with brain cancer.

He is one of the people with whom I would have loved to sit down and have an off the record conversation. There are dozens of pieces of history he was connected with that I would have wanted to discuss with him. One of those that had a pivotal impact on history was the lead-up to the 2000 South Carolina Republican Presidential primary.

You see Senator McCain had just beaten George W. Bush in the New Hampshire primary. He had momentum and was expected to win the South Carolina primary. Had he won South Carolina, he would have all but wrapped up the Republican nomination for President. We all remember what happened in the 2000 general election. George W. Bush lost the popular vote but won the electoral college by the slimmest of margins 271-266 and then only on the strength of the 25 electoral votes via the (ahem) disputed vote in Florida which he only won officially by 527 votes.

McCain, a much less polarizing figure known for reaching across the aisle, would almost certainly have been a better general election candidate and would have likely won the election in a much more convincing fashion. But, let’s for a moment return to the 2000 South Carolina primary. What was it that stopped McCain’s momentum and gave George W. Bush the victory in that state that turned around the race for the Republican nomination?

It turns out this is one of the ugliest moments in intraparty politics. The Bush campaign attacked McCain with three nasty and untrue rumors. First, they spread a rumor in South Carolina that McCain had been a traitor in Vietnam. Second, they insinuated that McCain’s wife Cindy was a drug addict. Worst of all, the Bush campaign engaged in race baiting, asserting that McCain’s then 9 year old daughter Bridget, who was adopted from an orphanage in Bangladesh and fairly dark-skinned, was in fact the product of an extra-marital liaison with a black woman.

As I stated earlier, all other things being equal, without the dirty tricks by George W. Bush’s campaign, McCain wins the South Carolina primary, the nomination and, I believe, the election and becomes the 43rd President of the United States instead of George W. Bush.

Then how history might have diverged becomes interesting. I ruminate on the following on occasion:
  • If a President McCain had been warned that bin Laden intended to attack the United States, as Bush was warned, does he ignore the warnings like Bush did? To refresh your memories, on August 6, 2001, President Bush received a CIA report about al Qaeda and the possibility of airline hijackings. This was 36 days before 9/11. By 2000, McCain had served 13 years on the Senate Armed Services Committee, an assignment befitting his prior service to this country. Part of his daily work concerned thinking about military and other threats to the country and how the senate should help the President deal with those threats. I do not believe he would have taken the August 6th briefing as lightly as Bush did.
  • Would a President McCain have lied us into war in Iraq in the aftermath of 9/11? Part of the reason George W. Bush invaded and deposed Saddam Hussein was out of a sense that his father had not finished the job in Iraq. McCain had no such baggage. That is besides the fact that as many issues about which I disagree with Sen. McCain, I don’t get the sense he was a liar. He might have still gone to war in Iraq (although I don’t think so) but if he did, I think he would have been straight with us about the reasons why he thought we should. Some might think it doesn’t matter, but I think it matters a great deal. In the aftermath of that war, when no WMD were found, the US became known as a country that went to war and invaded other countries without justification. Another term for this, the international legal term for this is, “An unprovoked war of aggression”. This is a war crime according to international law. If McCain was President, I believe the US does not commit this war crime.
  • Torture. Does anyone believe that a John McCain, who suffered torture for 5 ½ years at the hands of the North Vietnamese, would authorize/instruct the intelligence agencies and armed forces of the US to engage in torture? We don’t really have to guess, when Bush administration torture policies came to light, McCain was the most vigorous critic of the policies on the Republican side. McCain famously said regarding waterboarding “It is not a complicated procedure. It is torture,” McCain spoke out against all so-called enhanced interrogation methods. The US use of torture is a stain on the reputation of this country that should never have happened.
Obviously, as a Democrat, my preferred outcome, if I could go back in time and change history with regards to the 2000 election, would be to have Gore seated as President. I still believe Gore was cheated and was the real winner of Florida if all ballots had been fairly counted. But the country is worse off because before he got the chance to cheat Gore, George W. Bush secured the nomination via dirty tricks against John McCain. McCain was also denied his rightful place in history as the 43rd President of the United States.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Alan Colmes and being the Liberal on Conservative media shows

I was shocked when I received a google alert that Alan Colmes had passed. I knew he wasn’t what many of us would consider to be “old”. I wasn’t aware of his struggles with Lymphoma. I offer my condolences to his wife and family to include his sister in law, Monica Crowley, against whom I have faced off several times on different shows.

The coverage in the aftermath of Alan’s passing was predictable to me because like Alan, I am one of “those Liberals” who regularly faces off against conservative media personalities on what is considered right wing media. I know the controversy that causes among fellow Democrats and Liberals. I would have easily predicted articles like the one from Slate’s Isaac Chotiner who reductively referred to Colmes as “Buffoon and Patsy, Was Fox News’ Original Liberal Weakling” along with various other superficial and nasty missives.

Silly criticisms like Chotiners are the gig if you are a Liberal who goes on those shows. Some Liberals just don’t get it. Many do, and I am thankful for those that do but I’m really surprised that like Slate’s Chotiner, there are so many who don’t.

What’s the “it” to get? I think Lloyd Grove at the Daily Beast summed it up best:

Ellis Henican, who has often substituted as host on Colmes’s nightly Fox Radio Network show, especially as the latter succumbed to illness in recent weeks, said such critiques—and they were numerous—reflected a misunderstanding of Colmes’s role in the political cosmos, especially from mid-1996 to January 2009, when Colmes co-starred as the progressive voice on the eponymous prime-time cable program.

“Being a liberal commentator on Fox is like being the visiting team; the audience, by and large, doesn’t agree with you, your co-host doesn’t agree with you, most of the guests don’t agree with you, so you live with the daily challenge of needing to perform in front of an audience that is not inclined to like you,” Henican told The Daily Beast. “You can’t just shout. I would tell the people who felt he was not sufficiently bombastic to go see how well they would do if their technique in front of an audience like that is just to be a bigger asshole than the other guy.”
“You have to use other techniques—you have to use humor, you have to use charm,” Henican said. “You have to learn to twist a question in some unexpected way. If you don’t, you’re gonna get run over like a freight train. That was both Alan’s talent and his challenge.”

I’ve told people who ask me about my appearances that the first thing you must ask yourself about appearing on Conservative media as a Liberal is, if you decided to go on, what would you be trying to accomplish? Everything about whether to accept and how to deal with the challenge flows from how you answer that question.

For me, the answer to that question was and always has been, is there a possibility for me to move the needle? Can I handle my appearance such that someone who disagrees with the Liberal viewpoint on an issue might have their mind changed by what I say and how I conduct myself? It doesn’t have to be a ton of people, just a few, a handful. That’s how change happens, a few minds changed at a time.

I think Alan had the same reason for appearing. At least it seemed so to me when I had that internal discussion and determined how I was going to comport myself on those shows. It really is obvious once you look at it that way. As Daily Beast’s Grove quoted Ellis Hennican, “Being a liberal commentator on Fox is like being the visiting team; the audience, by and large, doesn’t agree with you, your co-host doesn’t agree with you, most of the guests don’t agree with you, so you live with the daily challenge of needing to perform in front of an audience that is not inclined to like you…You can’t just shout.”

That’s right and it’s hard to understand how any thinking person wouldn’t immediately come to that conclusion. Shouting louder or being a jerk isn’t going to convince anyone who disagrees with you. I’ve never had my mind changed by someone acting like a jerk, why would I think that if I acted like a jerk that I would be more convincing? On the contrary, the more off-putting you conduct yourself, the less likely that anyone who disagreed with you at the onset of your appearance is likely to put serious thought to anything you had to say. When you are trying to convince someone who disagrees with you, you have to give them as few reasons to tune you out as possible. 

And let me also say that I follow discussions in the Conservative blogosphere where my appearances are discussed. While the majority of the discussions are what you might expect, i.e. variations of "I hate Leser that Liberal SOB blah blah" there are also after each appearance typically a number of of, "Well, I checked out what he said about X and that is kinda true. He's still a Liberal so and so, but he was right about X." And that is why I do what I do with all the challenges and criticisms.

If your reason for appearing on Conservative media as a Liberal is to vent your frustration with the right wing and the hosts and you don’t care about convincing anyone, then sure, yell, shout, scream, be rude. I’ve known a few folks who have done that. They have the video of their lone appearance as a keepsake (they were never invited back) and they re-watch the video every now and then and get a chuckle, but they didn’t accomplish anything. Two hours after their appearance, no one ever thought about them again.

I find an interesting contrast in people who only go on shows where the audience and host and everyone else generally agrees with them. I’ve gone on Liberal shows and I enjoy that too, but what’s the purpose of only appearing in front of people who agree with you all the time? What are you changing by doing that? Why would anyone celebrate those people and instead offer only criticism for those who share their ideology but go on “the other guys” shows to try to change minds? Perhaps it really is as simple as people who offer that criticism just don’t get it.

My goal is to try to change people’s minds. That, in my opinion, is the only worthwhile reason for a Liberal to appear on Conservative media. I believe that is what Alan was trying to do as well. Alan was much more patient about it than I am. I listened, for instance, to a few segments of his radio show where he would have conservative listeners call in and he would patiently listen to them and try to convince them of his viewpoint. I never did that with my radio show. I’m gearing up to relaunch it in the coming months, perhaps as a tribute to Alan I may try more on air discussions with Republican listeners. Perhaps. As I said I am not that patient.

Alan probably changed minds during his appearances, not millions of minds at a time or even thousands or perhaps even hundreds, but I would bet dozens at a time, sure. That is something that every Liberal should be celebrating. 

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Imagine the Reverse of Friday Evening's News and Hillary had won the election after Putin Intervened on Her Behalf

I read today’s (12/9/2016) bombshell news in the Washington Post about the CIA’s assessment that Vladimir Putin, the Russian President, intervened in the US elections to try to help Donald Trump and after taking that in for a few minutes, I had an amusing thought. What if the reverse had happened? What would that be like now?

It’s funny to me because as a Liberal/Democratic pundit, I have for years faced off on camera against Republican pundits over every over-engineered scandal they have tried to manufacture against President Obama, Hillary, and other Democrats. Republicans are experts at making mountains out of ant hills (or out of nothing at all) never mind mole hills. What would they do if presented instead with an actual mountain, to continue the metaphor, as we have now?

If Putin had sent GRU, SVR and other Intelligence Service descendants of the KGB out to do whatever they could do to help Hillary as it seems he has done to help Trump and after she won evidence of that came out as it has now, the outcry from Republicans and their friends in the conservative segments of the media would be deafening.

Republicans in the House would already be drafting articles of impeachment, Rush Limbaugh would spend three quarters of every one of his daily three hour shows talking about it. Every Republican elected official from county executives to mayors all the way up to congressmen and senators would be going in front of cameras saying Hillary is disqualified as a President and she should say she will not take the oath of office and that the electors should vote for the other candidate. My conservative pundit friends would be analyzing the scandal from every possible angle during every segment of every show on conservative networks.

This news is big stuff. A militarily strong foreign power that has been behaving antagonistically towards the United States for the last 3-5 years has meddled in our Presidential elections to try to get their preferred candidate elected and that candidate won. Who is to say what effect that meddling had? A mere 80,000 votes spread out over three states, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania, determined the outcome. That’s not a lot of votes at all. Did the role the Russian’s played in WikiLeaks, hacking, and publicizing the DNC’s emails and other efforts to make Hillary and the Democrats look bad influence things enough to turn 80,000 votes in those states?

That is a question that everyone should be thinking about because 80,000 votes spread out over three states can change if a candidate trips while walking up the stairs or other similar trivial campaign occurrences. It is a very small percentage of the vote totals. Virtually anything that happens during a campaign can move the vote totals by that much. So, I would argue yes, the meddling by Putin did play a factor in Trump’s victory.

It gets better. The Washington Post reported that Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, the highest ranking Republican elected official at the time, threatened the Obama administration that if they released the information about Putin’s efforts to meddle in the election before election day, he would come out and call the Obama administrations statements “an act of partisan politics”. McConnell, in effect, worked to deny the American public a vital piece of knowledge they should have had in making their decision for whom to vote.

The other question that should be on everyone’s mind is, why does Putin want Trump to win. What advantage does Putin think he gets from that and why? I have many issues with Putin and the things he does and says. What I would never say is that Putin is stupid. He is a very smart guy. The actions he takes are very deliberate and he has a clear objective in mind when he takes them and he considers all possible consequences and factors them in. Meddling in our election is a very risky thing to do. First one must consider what might happen if his meddling is discovered before the election. Second, what if it is discovered and his chosen candidate loses. What kind of relationship would he have with the new President?

Whatever Putin thinks he gains from a Trump Presidency he believes is worth all those risks. That fact should greatly concern every American.

I will be very interested to see the response to this from grassroots, and elected politicians and pundits from all parts of the political spectrum. I know what the reaction would be like if the situation was reversed.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Team Trump's chilling harassment and threatening of Megyn Kelly before possessing real power is a frightening preview of what is likely to come.

Threatening journalists and attacking or killing them is, or at least has been, one of the things we Americans point to regarding third world dictators and other oppressive regimes as justification of why our system of government is so great in comparison. The State Department and other Executive Branch agencies complain about those kinds of governments and their practices and try to influence them to change their ways, well at least up until now.

Freedom of speech and freedom of the press are important values for Americans and central to the rights afforded to us in our Constitution and Bill of Rights.

Megyn Kelly is one of the most prominent political personalities in media today and she has the support of the top folks of a powerful network behind her. Trump and his team went after her and harassed and threatened her. They encouraged their supporters to harass and threaten her.

The fact is that despite all the help and resources supporting Kelly, her last year was something that sounds to me like a nightmare. What will happen to those in the media who criticize Trump who don't have the kind of support and protection behind them that she does?

The question that every member of the media is now asking themselves is, once inaugurated, when team Trump is upset with a journalists coverage, will they engage the security services of the country against them? When I write of security services, I am referring to the FBI, CIA and NSA. Is there any thinking person out there who thinks that kind of abuse of power and disregard for Constitutional freedoms is beyond team Trump? Does anyone think it is beyond Trump himself? I would answer no to both questions.

This would be yet another piece of evidence supporting the idea that Trump is leading the country into oppression, hate and Fascism. If this starts to happen, Americans need to quickly mobilize to stop it.


See the full interview of Megyn Kelly here where she details even more about her harassment by Trump himself and members of his campaign leadership team and his supporters:

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Trump's First Post-Election Statement on Violence against Minorities, LGBT, Jews and Muslims is Woefully Inadequate

While the world watched as hundreds of acts of hate and violence in the US were perpetrated against women, Jews, African Americans, Latinos and Muslims in the wake of Trump's election on November 9th, there was near complete silence from Trump and his team for three days. The only statement was from spokesperson Kellyanne Conway that Hillary and Obama needed to fix any protests or issues in the country happening right now.

That statement by Conway suggests that she and Trump don't understand to what position he was just elected. There is no issue or policy in the country outside of your responsibility when you become President.

As Harry Truman noted, when you get elected President, The Buck Stops Here with you.

Conway and Trump need to meditate on that concept because at least right now they clearly don't get it.

Finally, five days later, Trump broke his silence on the subject of bigoted members of his followers engaging in hate crimes. On 60 minutes, Trump had the following to say about it:

Lesley Stahl: Do you want to say anything to those people (those perpetrating hate crimes)?
Donald Trump: I would say don’t do it, that’s terrible, ‘cause I’m gonna bring this country together.
 Lesley Stahl: They’re harassing Latinos, Muslims--
Donald Trump: I am so saddened to hear that. And I say, “Stop it.” If it-- if it helps. I will say this, and I will say right to the cameras: Stop it.

"Stop it". That's Trump's tepid comment on the subject. After five days of hate crimes with nary a comment by him that is a wholly inadequate response.

I wrote on my blog "The Shadow President" what any President or President-elect should say if these crimes were being committed by their supporters:

"My fellow Americans. My transition team and I have been receiving reports about an increase in hate crimes since election day. These reports have been disturbing to me but what has been even more disturbing is that it appears some of them have been done in apparent support of me or in my name. 
I categorically reject any and all acts of hate against any group whether that group is ethnic, racial, religious, gender, orientation or any other segment of American society. 
America is a place where all are created equal and where all afforded the same rights and that is what my administration is about. Anyone who commits acts of hate is a criminal whose support I do not want and who should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law and I will make it a priority of my administration to do that. 
Steven Leser
The Shadow President"

That's how you handle something like that. A Willy Wonka-esque "stop, don't"

not only doesn't cut it, it will further embolden the bigots doing this to engage in more hate crimes.

If those of us who are Jews or Black or Latino or Muslim or LGBT wanted to hear something that would make us feel better about whether Trump would stand up for equality, instead this statement seems to confirm our worst fears.

On the LGBT front, Trump seemed to try to assuage fears he would try to rollback marriage equality with this exchange:

Lesley Stahl: Well, I guess the issue for them is marriage equality. Do you support marriage equality?
Donald Trump: It-- it’s irrelevant because it was already settled. It’s law. It was settled in the Supreme Court. I mean it’s done.
Lesley Stahl: So even if you appoint a judge that--
Donald Trump: It’s done. It-- you have-- these cases have gone to the Supreme Court. They’ve been settled. And, I’m fine with that.

I thought about this for a while and I realized it is not a reassurance at all. Lots of cases have gone to the Supreme Court and been decided one way and then have been reversed years or decades later. Trump is about to completely change the composition of the court. One vacancy is pending and at least one or two more will come up during his first four years. Appointing two or three conservative, anti-LGBT judges would almost certainly be enough to overturn the marriage equality ruling.

Trump saying "I'm fine with that" referring to the existing ruling is no reassurance at all and here is part of why I think that. Later in the interview, Trump had this to say about Supreme Court justices:

Lesley Stahl: During the campaign, you said that you would appoint justices who were against abortion rights. Will you appoint-- are you looking to appoint a justice who wants to overturn Roe v. Wade?
Donald Trump: So look, here’s what’s going to happen-- I’m going to-- I’m pro-life. The judges will be pro-life. They’ll be very—
Lesley Stahl: But what about overturning this law--
Donald Trump: Well, there are a couple of things. They’ll be pro-life, they’ll be-- in terms of the whole gun situation, we know the Second Amendment and everybody’s talking about the Second Amendment and they’re trying to dice it up and change it, they’re going to be very pro-Second Amendment. But having to do with abortion if it ever were overturned, it would go back to the states. So it would go back to the states and--
 Lesley Stahl: Yeah, but then some women won’t be able to get an abortion?
 Donald Trump: No, it’ll go back to the states.
The kind of Conservative activist judges that are looking to overturn Roe v Wade are overwhelmingly also anti-LGBT equality. Not 100% of them, sure, but it's not easy to find those that are for one but not the other.

Trump was talking out of both sides of his mouth during discussions on equal rights for all minorities. There was no statement that he supports equal rights for any of these groups. We must all stay vigilant and be prepared to demonstrate and fight to support equality in the face of an incoming administration that is either hostile or indifferent to those rights.

The entire 60 minutes interview transcript and video can be seen at 

Saturday, November 12, 2016

I told you all that hate crimes would increase with Trump’s election and it’s happening

In my article election night at 3:21am (Technically Wednesday November 9th), “Hate wins an election - America at Risk of Becomingthe Fourth Reich?”  I said:

… Trump rose to the position of winning the Republican nomination by attacking/blaming a lot of the country’s problems on Latino immigrants and by attacking Muslims. Trump was also cited early in his real estate career for discriminating against African Americans, refusing to rent them apartments in his buildings…  Let’s also not forget that an important part of Trump’s base is the alt-right who are basically Neo-Nazis, KKK members and other White Nationalists
Something else is coming too and much faster than legislation-enabled bigotry. In Russia, right after Putin passed the anti-gay laws three and a half years ago, anti-gay bigots in Russia felt empowered by the support in the government and the frequency of attacks by bands of bigots in Russia against the LGBT community there immediately went up by several orders of magnitude. That’s what happens when bigots feel empowered by the government, they act on that empowerment. Will we see that here? I have no doubt about that whatsoever. Once Trump is installed as President, I expect attacks on Muslims, Latinos, African Americans, Jews and LGBT to begin or accelerate.

It looks like that is what has happened. From the November 12 article in USA Today “Post-election spate of hate crimes worse thanpost-9/11, experts say” :

What may seem like a dramatic rise in the number of hate harassment and hate incidents happening across the country in the wake of Tuesday's general election is not in anyone's imagination, experts say. 
There indeed has been a spike in the number of reports of such incidents, say representatives for two organizations that track such occurrences. A representative for one group, in fact, said the rise appears to be even worse that what was took place immediately after the terror attacks in 2001. 
"Since the election, we've seen a big uptick in incidents of vandalism, threats, intimidation spurred by the rhetoric surrounding Mr. Trump's election," Richard Cohen, president of the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Ala., told USA TODAY. "The white supremacists out there are celebrating his victory and many are feeling their oats," Cohen said.
The SPLC, which tracks hate crimes, says it has logged more than 200 complaints since the election, and while it could not provide a figure for the average number of complaints it takes in each day, Cohen assured that the number is much larger than what is typical. Anti-black and anti-immigrant incidents are generating the highest numbers followed by anti-Muslim incidents, Cohen said. Part of the reason it is happening is that hate group leaders are encouraging members to intimidate people, according to Cohen.

Among the reports of events occurring in the aftermath of the election:
A San Diego State University student walking to her vehicle had her purse, backpack and car keys taken by two men making comments about the president-elect and the Muslim community, university police said. She walked away to report the incident, and then returned to discover her vehicle was missing. Police are investigating the attack as a hate crime. 
A short video posted Wednesday and viewed at least 250,000 times on Facebook showed students at a school carrying a Trump sign while someone can be heard saying "white power." Two students at York County School of Technology in Pennsylvania walked with a sign into the lobby and chanted "white power" twice before the director "squelched it," said communication outreach coordinator Renie Mezzanotte, who added that "the administration has been absorbed by" the incident for two days, the outcry has become disruptive to instruction, and that instruction and student and staff safety are always the school's priorities. An officer at the York Area Regional Police Department confirmed that they investigated the incident.

Police were investigating the appearance of a swastika, the word "Trump" with a swastika replacing the T and the words "Seig Heil 2016," on a store front in South Philadelphia hours after the election was called. The Anti-Defamation League said it was disgusted to learn of the graffiti.

If you want to get close to a real-time report of a good number of the hate crimes that have been happening, browse to Shaun King’s twitter feed

I take no pleasure in being right about this. First, it wasn’t that hard to predict. As I said in my election night article, this is what happens when hate groups feel empowered and emboldened because of having a person or party they perceive as being on their side in power. Bigots of all kinds are generally base, visceral and undisciplined people who act on impulse and are thus their actions are easy to predict.

This is America with the election of Trump. It will be interesting to see the reaction from Trump; it will tell us a lot about the rest of what I talked about in my election night article. So far Trump and his team have been silent and I know they have seen the same reports about an escalation in hate crimes, so perhaps we have our answer.

Here are some photos from the above articles and from people who have reported hate crimes to Shaun King on Twitter.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Hate wins an election - America at Risk of Becoming the Fourth Reich?

This article has been written in my mind since the moment Donald Trump won the Republican nomination. I wanted to write it before now, but I think it would have been discounted in the run-up to the general election as election theater and strategy. It very much is not that.

I’ve wondered since before I was a teen what it would be like to have been my father growing up. My father was born in Hamburg, Germany, July 23, 1927 and that side of my family is Jewish.

When he was five and a half years old Hitler was elected Chancellor of Germany. The Nazis influence and antisemitism in Germany of course did not begin with Hitler’s election. From his earliest years, my father had to contend with growing up in a country with a political party and movement that virulently discriminated against him and scapegoated him and people like him for all the problems in the country going back to the loss of the first world war fifteen years earlier. At age five and a half that party and movement came to power and began to pass laws that enshrined in law Jews as inferior people with ever decreasing rights.

The German state itself, under the Nazis, hated my father, my family and other Jews. Jews were forced to leave their homes and apartments and live near each other in depressed areas of the city that became known as ghettos. My father was required to leave his school and go to a Jewish school. Jews were required to wear yellow stars of David on their clothes. The state, it’s leader and its movement and party hated Jews. There was no question about that. That hatred would ultimately end in the deaths of over 6 million Jews. The Nazis also hated many other groups of people. They hated LGBT, Roma, Slavs and various other groups and they killed many of those people too. My father and his family were sent to concentration camps in 1941 a few months after his thirteenth birthday. His mother, father and brother were killed in the camps along with almost all the rest of the extended family I would never get to meet. My father was starved on 600 calories a day, tortured and worked nearly to death 18 hours a day 7 days a week under unhuman conditions in the freezing weather of the Baltics with inadequate clothing for the climate and this was during ages 13-17. My father told his story in the German magazine Welt back in 2011

From my earliest readings about the Third Reich in my pre-teen years I wondered what that would have been like for my father. I tried to imagine it. How can one imagine that level of hate, persecution and torture? I concluded as a kid that I should stop trying to imagine what it was like to be in the camps because that kind of hell you have no chance of imagining, but the run up to that happening, the decent of the state into raging over the top bigotry towards you, what would that be like? I spent a lot of time thinking about that. I felt secure and lucky that I would never have to experience such a thing. The naivete of youth.

I thought about this with Trump because Trump rose to the position of winning the Republican nomination by attacking blaming a lot of the country’s problems on Latino immigrants and by attacking Muslims. Trump was also cited early in his real estate career for discriminating against African Americans, refusing to rent them apartments in his buildings so his racism and bigotry goes beyond Latinos and Muslims.  In terms of Latinos, just earlier this year Trump issued verbal attacks against a Latino judge who was born here as someone who could not be impartial because he was a Latino. The other side of my family is Latino. Yes, among other nationalities and backgrounds I am Latino and German-Jewish. Let’s also not forget that an important part of Trump’s base is the alt-right who are basically Neo-Nazis, KKK members and other White Nationalists who hate Jews, Latinos, LGBT, African Americans and various other people. Trump and his supporters would try to counter my bringing up the alt-right in connection with him by saying that he has repudiated some elements of that group on occasion. Sure, but there have also been plenty of moments where it seems he and his campaign deliberately reached out to them and that includes his adult son tweeting out a picture which included alt-right icon Pepe the frog.

These groups will now have a President in the White House. Trump and his surrogates can try to deny it but they are a significant part of his base. This part of Trump’s base recently tried to reassure people by holding a press conference in early September where they expressed their affection for Donald Trump and expressed their hopes for a white homeland. this will help you understand what they are about:

The three alt-right leaders who gathered in D.C. this afternoon made two things very clear: They think white people are genetically predisposed to be more moral and intelligent than black people, and they do not want to share their envisioned utopian ethno-state with folks of the Jewish persuasion. There’s some disagreement in the alt-right on what they refer to as “the Jewish question.” But the big take-away was that Jews are suspicious.

Jared Taylor, who founded the white supremacist American Renaissance site, explained the alt-right as predicated entirely on the belief that some races are inherently superior to others—the movement, he said, is “in unanimity” in rejecting “the idea that the races are basically equivalent and interchangeable.” There are genetic differences in race that make some races more ethical and intelligent than others, he said. That’s what the alt right is all about.

“They also differ, as a matter of fact, in the patterns of the microbes that inhabit their mouths,” he said.

Thus, he continued, we shouldn’t expect black kids to do as well in school as white kids.

This philosophy, nationalism plus racial superiority, added to economic conservatism which isn’t indicated above but is part of the alt-rights belief system, is classic Nazism.

Do I still need to wonder as a mental exercise what it would be like to be my father existing in a country where the leader of the state and the movement that elected that leader hates him and people like him? I don’t think so, I think we are there. We have a President and movement that hates Latinos, Muslim and Black people and that movement also hates Jews. The only reassurance we have that Trump doesn’t hate Jews is that he refers to his Jewish son in law which is perilously close to the “I can’t hate Jews/Black People/etc because I have some as friends” cringe-worthy kind of statement. 

No, I think I’m right where my father was in 1933 with the added bonus of being hated for two plus parts of my heritage, not just one. Don’t forget that the Concentration camps and Death camps that we think of when we think of the Holocaust didn’t open until 1940-1941 (I’m discounting the earlier incarnation of Dachau that began housing prisoners after the Nuremberg laws in 1935 as not being part of the holocaust per se until later). That kind of discrimination was 7-8 years away in 1933. Few Germans in 1933 foresaw that things would go so far.

Things might not get that bad, sure. A guy who spent the entire campaign scapegoating vulnerable minorities may not turn out to be the kind of guy who follows up that scapegoating with action. Or that action may not be so severe. I don’t find that kind of thinking reassuring.

Some of you may argue we have three branches of government and a Constitution and that would stop things from becoming too bad here. That sounds good, except, the next President, now Donald Trump, will get to appoint three Supreme Court Justices. He can mold the court in his image and the court decides what is Constitutional and what isn’t. And the congress? Do you think the Republican congress would stand up to a President Trump? They might at some point if Trump tries to go too far too fast but I bet in the beginning, you will see a lot of racist legislation aimed at Muslims and Latinos that the Republican congress will happily pass.  

If Trump moves in that direction I think it will become the boiled frog syndrome with congressional Republicans. The Republican congress will pass what it considers to be minor and acceptable racist and bigoted legislation against Muslims and Latino immigrants desired by Trump and it will get worse and worse from there and expand to other ethnicities. By the time the Republicans in congress realize what is happening they will have gone too far. The water temperature will have been turned up slowly until the frog boiled before he knew what was happening.

Sound farfetched? Is Trump not that bad? Well, a lot of Germans would have thought so in 1933 too. Those who lived through it and are still alive will tell you that. My father in the above linked article briefly discusses how his family had tickets to leave Germany and go to Shanghai but then decided things wouldn’t get so bad and that his father mused that Hitler would be stopped by the British before long.

Of course, if you are familiar with the internet and its culture, the use of a reference to Nazis in an article is the same as begging someone to accuse you of violating Godwin’s law . Godwin himself however noted that if you are talking about actual Nazis, which the alt-right definitely contains (See ) then Godwin’s law isn’t actually violated. Godwin also acknowledged that it can be appropriate to use Nazi references with Trump (See the above wiki article). If you don’t understand the Godwin’s law reference just move past it in this article, it isn’t that important.

Getting back to my point about Trump and bigoted positions and policies. Something else is coming too and much faster than legislation-enabled bigotry. In Russia, right after Putin passed the anti-gay laws three and a half years ago, anti-gay bigots in Russia felt empowered by the support in the government and the frequency of attacks by bands of bigots in Russia against the LGBT community there immediately went up by several orders of magnitude. That’s what happens when bigots feel empowered by the government, they act on that empowerment. Will we see that here? I have no doubt about that whatsoever. Once Trump is installed as President, I expect attacks on Muslims, Latinos, African Americans, Jews and LGBT to begin or accelerate. Trump has already said that he completely sides with the police in the disputes with the African American community so you can use your own imagination of how those kinds of issues will be repeated with more frequency. If you are a person of color, don’t even look crosswise at a police officer post January 21 because it will be open season on you and yes, more than it already seems like it is now.

The alt-right has tried for years to gain a foothold in the mainstream of American politics and now they and their hatred are here, thanks to Donald Trump.

Van Jones on election night on CNN described Trump’s election as a nightmare. That those of us who teach children not to be bullies, not to be bigots and to do their homework now must to contend with a President elect who is the opposite of those values and we are faced with the task of explaining that to our kids. Jones said he has Muslim friends texting him asking if they should leave the country and that he knows families of immigrants that are terrified tonight. Jones said this election was a “Whitelash”, a Whitelash against a changing country and a black President. I think he is right about all of that and the bigotry, bullying and disdain for knowledge about the job that it represents. Where I disagree with Jones is that Jones said it is the responsibility of Trump to come out and reassure all the people he insulted and offended, etc. That reassurance wouldn’t mean anything. Trumps bigotry against Muslims, Latinos and African Americans is too central to his candidacy and now Presidency and they are too central to who he is as a person. They are what he is about. Any such reassurance would be a lie in my opinion. I am upset at what Trump represents but I don’t want to be told reassuring lies about it either.

Should Muslims and undocumented Latino immigrants leave the country as Van Jones discussed? “For their safety” is the presumed ending to that question. How about Blacks and Jews? I can’t honestly answer that question. In the 1930s my family in Germany wrestled with that question and they made the wrong decision. How do you know when it is going to get that bad and when it is too late? I’m certainly not going to try to tell anyone else. I know that I personally will be watching very carefully how things develop, how bad the bigotry against Muslims, African Americans and Latinos gets and whether it expands beyond those groups. I would love to say I was going to try and do something about it, but Republicans will have a stranglehold on all branches of the federal government and control most of our state governments, and I remember from the Bush administration how unresponsive Republican administrations are toward concerns from citizens, particularly Democratic ones.

Here is part of the reason why I am so pessimistic, Trump doesn’t have much else in the way of polices beyond his bigoted proposals. That’s what he campaigned on and who he is. Everything else Trump talked about is silly nationalistic rhetoric. Put it another way, to discount my concerns, you would have to believe that 70% of what Trump talked about are things he cares nothing about and he instead has this brilliant set of policies he wants to implement that hid from view during the campaign even though some of the major knocks on him were his lack of ability to do the job and the dearth of real policy proposals.

So sure, we elected a bigot and energized the White Supremacist/Neo-Nazi alt-right bands of bigots but things may not get that bad. Sounds great. How many days until election 2020?

p.s. This will be the first of several articles that discusses the disaster that a Trump Presidency represents.