Inside Trump’s War on Regulations


Inside Trump’s war on regulations

The push to block, rewrite and delay scores of Obama-era rules may be the administration’s biggest untold success.

 

 

WASHINGTON, DC – MARCH 13: President Donald Trump shows an executive order entitled, ‘Comprehensive Plan for Reorganizing the Executive Branch’, after signing it beside members of his cabinet in the Oval Office of the White House on March 13, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Michael Reynolds-Pool/Getty Images)

 

The chaos of Donald Trump’s first four months as president has overshadowed a series of actions that could reshape American life for decades — efforts to rewrite or wipe out regulations affecting everything from student loans and restaurant menus to internet privacy, workplace injuries and climate change.

Trump and his agencies have already wielded executive actions and Republican control of Congress to postpone, weaken or outright kill dozens of regulations created by Barack Obama’s administration, often using delays in the courtroom to buy time to make those changes. Their targets have included protections for streams from coal-mining pollution and a directive on the rights of transgender students.

Other Obama-era regulations are in the crosshairs for possible elimination or downsizing, such as limits on greenhouse gases from power plants and rules meant to prevent concentrated ownership of media companies.

 

Rolling back the regs

The administration’s efforts to unwind regulations span the U.S. economy. The president’s aides say the goal is “systemic” change.

But Trump is going after even bigger targets, setting bureaucratic wheels in motion that could eventually ax or revise hundreds of regulations as agencies reorient themselves toward unwinding red tape and granting speedier approvals to projects. Just one of those efforts — an upcoming plan by Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross forreducing burdens on manufacturers — yielded 171 suggestions from business groups and others who submitted comments. Another executive order, requiring agencies to repeal two regulations for every new one they create, “will be the biggest such act that our country has ever seen,” Trump said in January.

If successful, these efforts could represent the most far-reaching rollback of federal regulations since Ronald Reagan’s presidency, especially if Trump’s proposed budget cuts make it hard for a future Democratic president to reaccelerate the rule-making apparatus. But Trump’s retrenchment faces multiple obstacles, including his slow pace in naming political appointees and his team’s overall inexperience in navigating the federal bureaucracy.

The goal of the effort is “systemic reform,” said Andrew Bremberg, director of the White House’s Domestic Policy Council — aiming for results that last well beyond Trump’s presidency.

In one sign of their ambition, administration officials say legislation to carry out Trump’s infrastructure plan will seek to overhaul the federal permitting process, including by proposing to rewrite the landmark1969 law that undergirds agencies’ reviews of projects’ environmental impacts.

“I think it’s something that’s just been lost on people in terms of the regulatory sediment that has built up — decade after decade after decade in many of these areas,” Bremberg said in a telephone interview. “You’re talking about legislation that was either passed at the beginning of the last century or somewhere in the middle of the last century, amended a couple times here and there, but whose statutory structure has largely stayed the same. Yet the regulatory structure has just layered — layer after layer after layer on a seemingly constant basis.”

Some progressives are unnerved by what Trump’s deregulation campaign has achieved already.

“He’s done tremendous damage,” said Rena Steinzor, a University of Maryland law professor who has tracked regulations for decades. “I’ve been watching through six presidents, and all that pales in comparison to this.”

Trump’s team has more executive orders and memorandums meant to further accelerate the deregulatory effort that have yet to be released, according to two people familiar with the administration’s planning.

Much of Trump’s rollback is an aggressive repudiation of one of Obama’s proudest legacies, his crusade to enlist the U.S. in the fight against climate change.

Trump signed off on congressional actions that used a seldom-invoked 1996 law to block four energy-related rules, including an anti-corruption regulation that required oil and gas companies to disclose their payments to foreign governments. He has also ordered the EPA to review — and most likely rescind — two sweeping Obama-era rules, one restricting power plants’ greenhouse gas pollution and one spelling out Clean Water Act protections for wetlands and waterways.

The administration has left the fate of several regulations in limbo by persuading federal judges to postpone action on legal challenges filed by industry groups and GOP-led states. Such delays have affected EPA’s power plant climate rules, along with regulations on toxic mercury pollution and smog-causing ozone. Administration lawyers have similarly sought to delay court action on rules regarding overtime pay, anti-union “persuaders” and Obamacare’s birth control mandate.

The fight is getting personal attention from Trump, whose desire to streamline regulations and speed up permits originated with his decades-long career as a real estate developer, according to people who have spoken to the president and his top advisers. Which regulations the administration should eliminate often comes up in Trump’s White House meetings with CEOs, according to three people briefed on the meetings.

Executives who meet with the administration often name regulatory reform as their top agenda item, even ahead of tax reform, according to officials have held discussions with hundreds of business leaders.

But the administration doesn’t automatically take every industry suggestion, said Chris Liddell, the White House’s director of strategic initiatives. “We’re not just taking away regulations for the sake of it,” he said, adding: “This is not about making companies more profitable. It’s about facilitating job creation.”

Bremberg said the administration recognizes that “we’re not the private sector industry. We are the government. We set the rules and we enforce the rules.”

“But we also have to recognize that the private sector is largely made up of entities that want to follow the rules,” Bremberg said. “They just experience a lot of frustration about the rules not being clear or the regulatory agencies taking a gotcha approach.”

Not every Obama administration rule is falling prey immediately to the anti-regulation campaign. The Labor Department’s much-contested “fiduciary rule,” which requires financial advisers to consider only their clients’ best interest when providing retirement advice, will be allowed to take effect June 9 after initially being delayed 60 days, Secretary Alexander Acosta said last week. (Acosta said he could find “no principled legal basis” for delaying it further, but left the door open to changing the rule later.) The Energy Department has also given final approval to an efficiency regulation for ceiling fans after two delays.

Trump’s efforts go well beyond reining in individual rules. He has issued broad directives meant to speed up environmental reviews for“high priority” infrastructure projects, ordered a wide-ranging review of tax regulations and created a task force to examine laws and rules that affect rural America, in addition to Ross’ review of impediments to domestic manufacturing.

The president has also directed Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to conduct a comprehensive examination of financial regulations, with the first report expected to come in early June.

White House officials say these actions are the first step in a broader rethinking of how the government regulates. Strategy discussions on that effort include regular meetings with Bremberg, Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney, senior adviser and presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner, White House counsel Don McGahn and Reed Cordish, who is helping to organize a new office tasked with downsizing the federal bureaucracy.

The administration also hopes to advance its deregulatory agenda through legislation to promote its infrastructure plan, which White House officials said will include an overhaul of the federal permitting process. That will include a push to revise the National Environmental Policy Act, a 1969 law that Republicans say slows projects’ approvals with overly burdensome environmental assessments.

“We will be fixing what is a broken permit process,” Cordish said in an interview, adding, “It’s literally hundreds of individual changes that we need to make legislatively and administratively to the current process.”

Trump’s advisers also hope to use data to find efficiencies in the permitting and regulatory process, an issue that Kushner and his Office of American Innovation have made a top priority.

Then again, most administrations come into office with grand ideas about making the government more efficient. But the federal bureaucracy is a slow-moving machine, and sweeping changes usually face skepticism in Congress.

Compounding those obstacles are Trump’s slowness to fill the ranks of the political appointees who would carry out his agenda — perhaps over the resistance of career employees — and the lack of government experience among the president and his top aides. Trump may see newness to Washington as a positive trait, but it could also keep him from accomplishing his goals.

“The administration might have some visions of what they want the agencies to be doing — not just about reversing course from the Obama years but advancing the jobs agenda or ‘America First,’” said Philip Wallach, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and expert on the administrative state. “Those moves require skillful coordination of the bureaucracy rather than a deconstruction of it.”

“If you don’t have political leadership in the agencies, then you’ve handed the keys to the bureaucrats,” said Jay Lefkowitz, who was OMB’s general counsel under President George W. Bush.

Even one White House official acknowledged that the administration’s unfamiliarity with government is getting in the way of restructuring it.

“In order to reshape it, you need to have an understanding of how it works,” said the official, who requested anonymity to speak freely. “I have not seen a lot of it among the folks I have worked with so far. It is an issue of folks not being able to get out of their own way.”

Officials in some agencies have been confused about how to implement Trump’s executive orders, such as the two-for-one mandate that includes strict limits on the costs of new regulations. (Groups including Public Citizen and the Natural Resources Defense Council have sued to block that order, saying it would force agencies to cancel regulations arbitrarily.)

The administration has also lagged in setting up regulatory reform task forces within agencies, as required by a separate order.

One career government official argued that Trump’s political appointees don’t understand the complexities of undoing regulations, which requires additional cost-benefit analysis, public comment periods and a lengthy process to rewrite rules — not to mention inevitable legal challenges.

Still, administration officials cite a series of early victories, including lawmakers’ use of the 1996 Congressional Review Act — never before invoked so aggressively — to overturn a flurry of late-Obama-era regulations. Trump signed 14 CRA resolutions, killing regulations that protected Planned Parenthood’s state funding, restricted gun sales to the mentally ill and safeguarded the privacy of broadband customers, among others.

But the deadline for using that law to thwart Obama’s rules has passed, so the administration will have to focus on other ways to deregulate.

Administration officials also note that Trump-appointed Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch has shown some skepticism toward federal regulations, a position that could help them if legal challenges reach the high court. Trump has also chosen Neomi Rao, a former George W. Bush appointee well-liked in conservative circles, to head the White House’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, the gatekeeper for new regulations.

Some Democrats are still deeply skeptical of the Trump administration’s boasts about reshaping the government.

“The vast majority of what he’s done so far is purely symbolic,” said Shaun Donovan, who was Obama’s OMB director from 2014 to 2017.

“Sound bites are one thing, but changing government really requires rolling up your sleeves and doing the work,” Donovan said in a recent interview. “And I haven’t seen any sleeves rolled up.”

Michael Stratford, Marianne LeVine, Alex Guillén, Jenny Hopkinson, Helena Bottemiller Evich, Patrick Temple-West and Margaret Harding McGill contributed to this report.

Trump is now threatening our National Monuments


24 national monuments threatened by Trump’s executive order

Corrections and clarifications: Based on information from the National Park Service and released by the White House, a previous version of this story erroneously included the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument on a list of sites subject to the executive order. According to Proclamation 8327, the monument is 6,310 acres – not square miles – and therefore would not meet the 100,000-acre threshold in the executive order, the Department of the Interior says.

WASHINGTON — At least two dozen national monuments are at risk of losing their federally protected status as a result of President Trump’s executive order asking for an unprecedented review of their designations.

Under the 1906 Antiquities Act, either Congress or the President can protect federal lands by designating them as a national monument. And while Congress has occasionally revoked that status for existing monuments, no president ever has. Trump’s order opens the door to that possibility.

Trump is targeting all or part of monuments that make up 100,000 acres or more, and were created by presidential proclamation since 1996. The White House released a list of 24 of them on Wednesday. They are:

► Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah, proclaimed by President Clinton in 1996. (1.7 million acres).

 ► Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument in Arizona, proclaimed by Clinton in 2000 (1 million acres).

► Giant Sequoia National Monument in California, proclaimed by Clinton in 2000 (327,769 acres).

► Vermilion Cliffs National Monument in Arizona, proclaimed by Clinton in 2000 (279,568 acres).

► Hanford Reach National Monument in Washington, proclaimed by Clinton in 2000 (194,450 acres).

► Canyons of the Ancients National Monument in Colorado, proclaimed by Clinton in 2000 (175,160 acres).

► Ironwood Forest National Monument in Arizona, proclaimed by Clinton in 2000 (128,917 acres).

► Sonoran Desert National Monument in Arizona, proclaimed by Clinton in 2001 (486,149 acres).

► Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument in Montana, proclaimed by Clinton in 2001 (377,346 acres).

► Carrizo Plain National Monument in California, proclaimed by Clinton in 2001 (204,107 acres).

► Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument in the Pacific Ocean, proclaimed by President George W. Bush in 2006 and expanded by President Barack Obama in 2016, (89.6 million acres).

► Marianas Trench Marine National Monument in the Pacific Ocean, proclaimed by Bush in 2009 (60.9 million acres).

► Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument in the Pacific Ocean, proclaimed by Bush in 2009 and enlarged by Obama in 2014. (55.6 million acres).

► Rose Atoll Marine National Monument in American Samoa, proclaimed by Bush in 2009 (8.6 million acres).

► Rio Grande del Norte National Monument in New Mexico, proclaimed by Obama in 2013. (242,555 acres).

► Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument in New Mexico, proclaimed by Obama in 2014 (496,330 acres).

► Basin and Range National Monument in Nevada, proclaimed by Obama in 2015 (703,585 acres).

► Berryessa Snow Mountain in California, proclaimed by Obama in 2015 (330,780 acres).

► Northeast Canyons & Seamounts Marine National Monument in the Atlantic Ocean, proclaimed by Obama in 2016 (3.1 million acres).

► Mojave Trails National Monument in California, proclaimed by Obama in 2016 (1.6 million acres).

► Bears Ears National Monument in Utah, proclaimed by Obama in 2016 (1.4 million acres).

► Gold Butte National Monument in Nevada, proclaimed by Obama in 2016 (296,937 acres).

► Sand to Snow National Monument in California, proclaimed by Obama in 2016 (154,000 acres).

One other national monument meets the 100,000-acre threshold but was not included on the White House list:

► The San Gabriel Mountains National Monument in California, proclaimed by Obama in 2014 (346,177 acres).

Unlike the other monuments, which are managed by the Interior Department, San Gabriel is managed by the Forest Service, part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Zinke spokeswoman Heather Swift said she could not rule out action on San Gabriel. The Department of Agriculture did not respond to an inquiry about the status of the monument.

The executive order also allows for a review of sites smaller than 100,000 acres “where the Secretary determines that the designation or expansion was made without adequate public outreach and coordination with relevant stakeholders.”

 

I thought it was important for all of us to know which public monuments Trump is planning to rob us of. They may be destroyed or drastically changed due to mining or excavation. I am sad for all of us. Especially I am sad for all of our grandchildren and the grandchildren from around the world who might have wanted to visit and see these natural wonders. Once again big corporations wins.

Namaste

 

Barbara

The American Health Care Act Fails


THE HEALTH-CARE DEBACLE WAS A FAILURE OF CONSERVATISM

 

Let the recriminations begin! Actually, the health-care-failure finger-pointing got under way well before Friday, when Donald Trump and Paul Ryan cancelled a House vote on the American Health Care Act. A day earlier, aides to the President let it be known that he had come to regret going along with Ryan’s idea of making health care his first legislative priority.

In the coming days and weeks, there will be more of this blame shifting, and, in truth, there is plenty of blame to go around. Ryan failed to unify the House Republican caucus. Trump’s staff allowed him to endorse a bill that made a mockery of his campaign pledge to provide health insurance for everybody. And Trump himself blundered into a political fiasco, apparently believing he could win over recalcitrant Republican members of Congress simply by popping over to Capitol Hill.

But this is just politics. The larger lesson here is that conservatism failed and social democracy won. After seven years of fulminating against the Affordable Care Act and promising to replace it with a more free-market-oriented alternative, the House Republicans—who are in the vanguard of the modern conservative movement—failed to come up with a workable and politically viable proposal. Obamacare survived, and that shouldn’t be so surprising. When it comes to health-care policy, there is no workable or politically viable conservative alternative.

Of course, that isn’t how conservative lawmakers, pundits, and policy wonks will spin this. They will argue that Trump and Ryan betrayed free-market principles: if only they had proposed the outright repeal of Obamacare, and put forward a bill that genuinely liberated the health-care industry from federal intervention, everything would have worked out well. That will be the story—and it is a fairy tale.

The fact is that the health-care industry, which makes up about a sixth of the American economy, isn’t like the market for apples or iPhones. For a number of reasons (which economists understand pretty well), it is riven with problems. Serious illnesses can be enormously costly to treat; people don’t know when they will get ill; the buyers of health insurance know more about their health than the sellers; and insurers have a strong incentive to avoid providing their product to the sick people who need it the most.

Since the days of Otto von Bismarck, most developed countries have dealt with these problems by setting up a system in which the state provides medical insurance directly, or else mandates and subsidizes the purchase of private insurance, setting strict rules for what sorts of policies can be sold. Obamacare amounts to a hybrid model. It supplements employer-provided insurance, the traditional American way of obtaining health care, with a heavily regulated (and subsidized) individual insurance market and an expanded Medicaid system.

It is far from perfect. But, in combining mandates with subsidies, regulation, and access to a state-administered system for the poverty-stricken and low-paid, it is intellectually coherent. (Many of the problems it has encountered arose because the mandate to purchase insurance hasn’t been effectively enforced, and not enough young and healthy individuals have signed up.) Since it leaves in place the basic structure of private insurance and private provision, Obamacare is also conservative. As is well known, parts of it resemble a proposal that the Heritage Foundation put forward in 1992.

Today’s conservatives act as if they can simply wish away some of the problems that Obamacare was created to deal with. The original version of the American Health Care Act left in place many of the A.C.A.’s regulations but cut back the subsidies and gutted its Medicaid expansion. Had it been enacted, it would have led to higher premiums, at least in the short term, and a huge drop in coverage—twenty-four million people over ten years, according to the Congressional Budget Office. As these implications of the G.O.P. proposal became known to the public, the plan’s approval rating fell and fell. In the end, according to a Quinnipiac poll, only nineteen per cent of Americans supported it.

The Freedom Caucus, a group of right-wing conservatives in the House, wanted a bill that stripped away more regulations, which they claimed would enable insurers to offer cheaper and more flexible plans. On the eve of the vote, Ryan agreed to change a clause defining the “essential health benefits” that insurers are required to provide if they sell policies on the Obamacare exchanges—benefits including maternity and mental-health services. But this change would have created two insurmountable problems.

Once insurers were able to craft individual policies without adhering to any list of required benefits, buyers would self-select. Young, healthy people would choose cheap, crappy policies, and older, sicker people would choose more comprehensive policies. Insurers, knowing this, would raise the prices of the good policies. “Worthless policies would get really cheap, but comprehensive policies would get astronomically expensive,” Mother Jones’s Kevin Drum pointed out. “Virtually no one would be able to afford them.The other problem was political. Americans need maternity coverage, mental-health benefits, prescription drugs, pediatric services, lab tests, and the other things included on the list of essential health benefits. When moderate Republicans in places like New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania heard that these services might be eliminated under the amended legislation, they abandoned it in significant numbers. It was their desertion that ultimately killed the bill.

O.K., you might say: The American Health Care Act was a disaster, but what about all the other Republican health-care proposals that are out there? Maybe one of them provides a workable alternative to Obamacare. Let’s briefly look at a few of them.

When he was in Congress, Tom Price, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, who supported the A.H.C.A., put forward a bill of his own. But it was basically a less generous version of the bill that just died: in gutting Medicaid and strictly limiting federal funding for high-risk pools to insure sick people, it would surely lead to a big rise in the number of uninsured. Something similar applies to a bill put forward by Senator Orrin Hatch, who chairs the Senate Finance Committee.

There are a few other plans kicking around conservative think tanks, some of which, like Obamacare, tie the level of subsidies to income. But all of these plans have other serious problems. In eschewing purchasing mandates, they run into the issue of younger people being unlikely to sign up for coverage. In giving insurers more freedom to offer different plans and different pricing structures, they encourage self-selection and undermine the risk-pooling that is at the heart of successful insurance schemes. And in cutting federal support for Medicaid, they dismantle the element of Obamacare that has been the most successful at insuring more people at a reasonable cost.

Another Republican plan that may now attract some attention is the proposal put forward by Senators Bill Cassidy, of Louisiana, and Susan Collins, of Maine. But, far from dismantling Obamacare, the Cassidy-Collins plan would allow big, populous states like New York and California to keep the current system in place, including the Medicaid expansion and the surtaxes on high earners. Red states that don’t like Obamacare would be able to take federal money and design their own systems to provide basic, catastrophic coverage plans to everybody.

Because it retains so much of Obamacare, this proposal seems unlikely to receive majority support inside the G.O.P. In the coming weeks, Republicans in the Senate and the House will be trying anew to come up with an alternative that they can unite around, portray as a big break from the A.C.A., and sell to the American public. The lesson of the past few weeks is that they are likely to fail. As a novice to the subject noted recently, health care is complicated. Too complicated for ad-hoc policymaking and simplistic conservative nostrums.

 

 

 

The Republicans Fold on Health Care

The House abandoned its legislation to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, handing President Trump and Speaker Paul Ryan a major defeat.

Alex Brandon / AP

Updated on March 24 at 6:28 p.m. ET

To a man and woman, nearly every one of the 237 Republicans elected to the House last November made the same promise to voters: Give us control of Congress and the White House, and we will repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.

On Friday, those lawmakers abandoned that effort, conceding that the Republican Party’s core campaign pledge of the last seven years will go unfulfilled. “I will not sugarcoat this: This is a disappointing day for us,” House Speaker Paul Ryan said at a press conference after he informed Republicans that he was ditching the American Health Care Act.“We did not have quite the votes to replace this law,” Ryan said. “And, so yeah, we’re going to be living with Obamacare for the foreseeable future.”Earlier in the afternoon, Ryan informed President Trump at the White House that the bill could not pass the House, as blocs of conservatives and moderates resisted a week of frenzied lobbying from the administration and were determined to vote no. The legislation had faced an avalanche of opposition from the outset. Democrats rejected any rollback of the Obama-era law, while conservative activists rebelled against a proposal that fell short of a full repeal. And as opposition mounted, Republicans representing swing districts and Democratic states began to pull their support, worried about cuts to Medicaid, a broader projected loss of insurance coverage, and a potential backlash from voters in the midterm elections next year. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office found that the proposal would increase the number of uninsured Americans by 24 million people over a decade, and a Quinnipiac University poll showed that just 17 percent of potential voters supported the plan, with 56 percent opposed.

Trump had initially insisted that Republicans hold a vote on the bill regardless of the outcome, wanting to see which members would defy him. He dispatched his top lieutenants to Capitol Hill on Wednesday night to urge rank-and-file lawmakers to fall in line, ending negotiations with the party’s right and left flank on further changes to the bill. But few members were persuaded, and by Friday, party leaders in the House wanted to spare their members from having to cast a vote in favor of an unpopular bill that would not become law. At a hastily arranged meeting in the Capitol basement, Ryan told Republicans he had called off the vote and said Trump was on board with the decision. Minutes later, stone-faced lawmakers left the meeting and prepared to head back to their districts for the weekend. One Republican staffer was in tears as she exited the room.

While conservative members of the Freedom Caucus withheld their support despite winning a last-minute amendment to broaden the repeal, it was the defection of more moderate and electorally vulnerable members that sealed its fate. Republicans could afford to lose no more than 22 votes to achieve a majority, and in a statement at the White House Friday, Trump estimated that they were 10 to 15 votes short. In perhaps the most ominous sign for the GOP leadership, the chairman of the powerful Appropriations Committee, Representative Rodney Frelinghuysen of New Jersey, announced he would oppose the bill on Thursday morning. In previous generations, it would be unheard of for a top committee chairman to oppose party leaders on such a major vote. Representatives Barbara Comstock of Virginia and David Joyce of Ohio followed suit about an hour later, sapping momentum from the effort less than a day after Trump delivered his ultimatum to Republicans to pass his bill or see Obamacare live on.

The White House and GOP leaders searched for votes wherever they could, but there were few lawmakers willing to suddenly support a bill they had already publicly denounced. Representative Walter Jones of North Carolina, a frequent dissenter in the party, said he waved off a last-minute call from the office of Representative Steve Scalise of Louisiana, the party whip. “I said, ‘Let me tell you: I don’t want to waste his time,’” Jones told reporters. “I don’t see anybody that was a no yesterday changing their vote.” He then ripped into the proposal and the leadership’s insistence that it pass. “This was absolutely a bad decision to move this type of bill this early,” Jones said.

Defeat on the floor dealt Trump a major blow early in his presidency, but its implications were far more serious for the Republican Party as a whole. Handed unified control of the federal government for only the third time since World War II, the modern GOP was unable to overcome its internecine fights to enact a key part of its policy agenda. The president now wants to move on to a comprehensive overhaul of the tax code, but insiders on Capitol Hill have long believed that project will be an even heavier lift than health care.

As the prospect of a loss became more real on Friday, the frustrations of GOP lawmakers loyal to the leadership began to boil over. “I’ve been in this job eight years, and I’m wracking my brain to think of one thing our party has done that’s been something positive, that’s been something other than stopping something else from happening,” Representative Tom Rooney of Florida said in an interview. “We need to start having victories as a party. And if we can’t, then it’s hard to justify why we should be back here.”Nothing has exemplified the party’s governing challenge quite like health care. For years, Republican leaders resisted pressure from Democrats and rank-and-file lawmakers to coalesce around a detailed legislative alternative to Obamacare. That failure didn’t prevent them from attaining power, but it forced them to start nearly from scratch after Trump’s surprising victory in November. At Ryan’s urging, the party had compiled a plan as part of the speaker’s “A Better Way” campaign agenda. Translating that into legislation, however, proved a much stiffer challenge; committee leaders needed to navigate a razor’s edge to satisfy conservatives demanding a full repeal of Obamacare and satisfy moderates who preferred to keep in place its more popular consumer protections and Medicaid expansion. They were further limited by the procedural rules of the Senate, which circumscribed how far Republicans could go while still avoiding a Democratic filibuster.
The legislation Republicans came up with would have eliminated Obamacare’s insurance mandates and most of its tax increases, but it left in place many of the consumer protections that the public broadly supported. Conservatives were unhappy that the proposal did not immediately end the law’s Medicaid expansion or scrap all of its regulations, while moderates worried that the bill ultimately would leave too many of their constituents uninsured or facing higher costs than they do under the current system.Both Trump and Ryan characterized Obamacare as a law in collapse, even as they acknowledged Republicans now were powerless to repeal it. But despite the challenges it still faces, Democrats rejoiced at an unexpected reprieve for an achievement that appeared to be doomed a few months ago. “Today is a great day for our country. It’s a victory,” declared Nancy Pelosi, the House minority leader who steered the Affordable Care Act to passage seven years ago this month. Hillary Clinton cheered the news on Twitter. “Today was a victory for the 24,000,000 people at risk of losing their health insurance, for seniors, for families battling the quiet epidemic of addiction, for new moms and women everywhere,” she said. “Most of all, it’s a victory for anyone who believes affordable health care is a human right.”With the leadership’s plan dead, Republicans said they would try to move on to other issues. But the party’s failure on health care will sting, and it will linger. On Friday, Ryan was asked what GOP lawmakers should say to their constituents after promising them for so long they would repeal and replace Obamacare. The speaker was stumped. “That’s a good question,” he replied. “I wish I had a better answer for you.”

 

Well, we have won this battle. Twenty four million will keep their health insurance. This is a huge win for these families and the future of America.

We must remember, however, that we have not run the war.  The Republicans still plan to pass a tax plan that will increase the burden of the middle class and decrease the taxes on the 1%.  Trump still plans to build at Wall – at tax payers’ expense – that will do nothing to make the country safer, but will undoubtedly make us foolish in the eyes of our allies and enemies.  The Republicans still plan to gut the EPA and the National Endowment of the Arts and Meals on Wheels.

We must still Resist.

But, just for today, we can celebrate.

 

Namaste,

Barbara

We the People


I asked 8 experts if we’re in a constitutional crisis. Here’s what they said.

 

 

I firmly believe that the Senate will protect our Democracy.  There are GOP members who will also help to prevent the destruction of Democracy. I would to hear your thoughts and would encourage good natured debate. I hope you will consider sharing your thoughts.

Keep It Up — The Resistance is WORKING


The big lesson of Trump’s first 2 weeks: resistance works

Protests, phone calls, and mobilization are making a difference.

 

Despite what the conservatives want to believe on Twitter, we are making a difference. The marching, the calling Representatives and Senators, the fundraising and volunteering for the DNC is working. We have become a thorn in the side of the GOP.  What should we do now? Keep doing what you have been doing. If you haven’t done anything yet, consider if you can do something. Perhaps if you just encourage your friends to do what you can’t or donate to the ACLU so they can keep up the important suits against Trump and the government. These are important in the effort to protect humanity from Trump and his followers who would have you believe that people who are not rich, white and male don’t matter.

 

We are the anti-Trump movement, known to us as the Women’s March Movement. I am proud to have found the political fire to get out there and begin marching and protesting again. Talking to friends, I have found that friends that never were activists before and are retirees, as am I, are breaking in new walking shoes marching and calling Senators and Representatives.

 

Not everyone I know agrees with my militancy. Or they support Trump. I believe that at my age it is better to go out speaking up and fighting to protect those that Trump would marginalize than to sit and play bingo and read magazines. At least for me, it is the right thing to do. Just think for what is the right thing for you to do in this place in your life and in America’s life.

 

The Doobie Brothers said it best:

You don’t know me but I’m your brother
I was raised here in this living Hell
You don’t know my kind in your world
Fairly soon, the time will tell

You, telling me the things you’re gonna do for me
I ain’t blind and I don’t like what I think I see

Takin’ it to the streets
Takin’ it to the streets
Takin’ it to the streets

Take this message to my brother
You will find him everywhere
Wherever people live together
Tied in poverty’s despair

You, telling me the things you’re gonna do for me
I ain’t blind and I don’t like what I think I see

Takin’ it to the streets
Takin’ it to the streets
Takin’ it to the streets
Takin’ it to the streets

Takin’ it to the streets
Takin’ it to the streets
Takin’ it to the streets
Takin’ it to the

You, telling me the things you’re gonna do for me
I ain’t blind and I don’t like what I think I see

Takin’ it to the streets
Takin’ it to the streets
Takin’ it to the streets
Takin’ it to the streets

Takin’ it to the streets
Takin’ it to the streets
Takin’ it to the streets
Takin’ it to the streets

Takin’ it to the streets
Takin’ it to the streets
Takin’ it to the streets
Takin’ it to the streets

Takin’ it to the streets
Takin’ it to the streets
Takin’ it to the streets
Takin’ it to the streets

Takin’ it to the streets
Takin’ it to the streets
Takin’ it to the streets
Takin’ it to the streets

Songwriters
Michael H Mcdonald

Published by
TAURIPIN TUNES

Read more: The Doobie Brothers – Takin’ It To The Streets Lyrics | MetroLyrics

 

Namaste

Barbara

Fact and Fiction in a post-Trump World


EICHENWALD: CAN TRUMP TELL THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN TRUTH AND HIS LIES?

Then Trump made it worse. In a private meeting with congressional leaders, he continued complaining about the press reports on the attendance for his inaugural. Then, as part of his effort to deny he lost the popular vote in November (he did, by nearly three million votes), Trump spent 10 minutes complaining that up to five million undocumented immigrants cast ballots in that election. Two days later, after a deluge of criticism that he was lying about that, Trump announced he was ordering a national, taxpayer-funded investigation into voter fraud.

moronU.S. President Donald Trump listens to remarks at the National Prayer Breakfast February 2 in Washington, 

The following week brought more such moments. The most discombobulating came after Trump’s executive order banning travel for 90 days into the United States by people from seven predominantly Muslim countries. As immigration officials detained legal residents and people traveling with valid visas, as major corporations such as Google issued emergency orders for executives from those countries who were traveling for business meetings to come back to the United States immediately, as protesters swarmed airports across America, Trump tweeted that “all was going well” with the ban.

The irrationality of Trump’s statements is astonishing. On the voter fraud claims, for example, government data shows there are 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States. By Trump’s five million voter estimate, that means undocumented immigrants had a huge turnout rate in the 2016 elections, and every one of them voted for Hillary Clinton. For all voters, the turnout was 57 percent.

So, in Trump’s world, close to half of all undocumented immigrants in the United States risked being caught and deported by turning up at polling places at a rate close to that of Americans whose only risk was they might be late for dinner.

Can Trump Acknowledge Reality?

No rational person could believe this. That leaves two possibilities: Trump intentionally dispenses falsehoods any smart person knows will be detected as lies, or worse, he cannot discern between reality and what he wishes was true. During his first White House interview, Trump told ABC News that two people were shot in Chicago as former President Barack Obama gave his farewell speech; the Chicago Tribune proved there were no such shootings. Then there are his statements of undeniable falsity, such as when he asked in a tweet on December 12 why no one had brought up the issue of Russian interference in the presidential election until after he won. But he stood on a stage 54 days earlier dismissing the intelligence community’s assessment of the Russian hacking. Was he knowingly lying? Or is Trump’s memory so poor that he could not remember a statement he made—or even that a discussion had taken place—about whether America was under cyberattack by a foreign power? Or, worst of all, did he not know what he said and tweeted was untrue?

As Newsweek reported during the campaign, Trump has made innumerable false statements under oath. That’s obviously important—former President Clinton was impeached because he lied under oath once to hide an affair; Trump did it numerous times, and usually just to puff himself up. He testified to Congress in 1993 that he had never tried to arrange any business deals with Indian casino operators; Newsweekdiscovered phone records, memos and an affidavit proving that was a lie. He said in a sworn deposition he had been paid $1 million for a speech when he had only received $400,000—he attempted to explain away the falsehood by saying the pre-speech publicity was worth $600,000 to him. He told Deutsche Bank in loan applications in 2004 he was worth billions; the bank concluded that was a lie and set his net worth at $788 million.

Of Trump’s many past fantasies, two stand out for what they reveal about how his mind works. He claimed to own 50 percent of a real estate project although he owned only 30 percent. When asked about the discrepancy in a deposition, he did not say he’d simply made a mistake; instead, he said, “I’ve always felt I owned 50 percent.” In another instance, he said that he knew companies had decided not to bring proposals to him after a journalist publicly questioned his net worth; when asked under oath what businesses had declined to deal with him, he said he could not name them because none of them had told him they’d made this decision, but he just knew they had snubbed him.

Think about that: the President of the United States said under penalty of perjury that he knew people had refused to bring him business even though he did not know who they were, had no facts to confirm they existed, and could not explain what deals their decisions involved. And he said that a contractual ownership of 30 percent was in fact 50 percent because that was how he felt.

Motives to Lie

This is not normal. This kind of story-telling does not fit with what scholarly, peer-reviewed studies have concluded are the motives and methods of lying. “To be told, a lie must be certain to achieve some valuable end,’’ Dr. Dale Hample, an associate professor at the University of Maryland wrote in a 1980 study on liars. “The liar knows that lies should not be told at all and so lies only when rewards are both assured and large.”

Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Ronald Reagan, Dwight Eisenhower and probably every politician ever has used spin or told some whoppers to achieve a specific goal. But the benefit from the stories Trump has spun recently was not only zero, it harmed him. No rational person could possibly have cared how many people attended Trump’s inauguration; anyone could see the same photographs and read the same data about television viewership and Washington’s mass transit usage as everyone else. None could have reasonably believed that the most incredible voter fraud campaign in American history had just taken place, with millions of illegal votes cast for Democrats, particularly when Republicans won most of the key Senate races in that election and maintained control of the House. He could have said nothing about those two topics and no one would have thought the worse of him. But if he knows he is lying, he not only accomplishes nothing, he harms himself by showing he will lie over irrelevant trivialities. And that raises the question of whether he knows when he is lying.

“Although deception is in almost everyone’s social repertoire, it is generally employed as a tactical or strategic option of last resort,’’ said Dr. Timothy R. Levine, a communications professor at Michigan State University who co-authored a 2010 report on experiments about lying. ”Absent psychopathology, people do not deceive when the truth works just fine.”

 

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NIGHTMARE

President Chaos Collides With Reality

 

moron-shrugging

The first two weeks smelled and felt utterly ad-hoc, with Trump and his team calling audibles, fumbling, and racing toward the next play rather than looking back at the wreckage of the first.

RICK WILSON

02.04.17 1:05 PM ET

The first two weeks of Donald Trump’s Presidency made it clear: Trump’s Gonna Trump.  No newfound dignity for him. It was instead, as the rules of Reality TV Presidency demand, quite a show: an ongoing street brawl with the media; post-truth “alternate facts” about voter fraud; a jealous hissy fit befitting a tween girl about inaugural crowd sizes, a graceless and weird performance in the CIA’s most sacred space. And, of course, our low impulse-control President is still up to his old tweeting tricks.

We had topsy-turvy Head-of-State calls where Trump insulted and demeaned our allies, executive orders that essentially pissed off 1-billion-plus Muslims, not-so-subtly threatened to invade Mexico (boosted by his threatened domestic invasion of Chiraq).  Steve Bannon displaced Generals on the National Security Council, a disastrous special-ops hit on Yemen that would have been attacked as ‘Benghazi 2’ if hatched by Hillary.  And a Supreme Court nominee received the Rose from Bachelor Trump.

On the upside, White Nationalist Richard Spencer became a permanent meme for getting cold-cocked on a DC street corner while talking about Pepe. In the age of Trump, we thank God for small moments of hope and humor.

Reading the two dense paragraphs above reminds me I barely scratched the surface of the Trump Show’s opening act. Obviously, President Bannon and Vice President Trump wanted the shock-and-awe phase to break the spirit of the media while throwing out a lot of candy to conservatives to amp them up in advance of the coming collision with reality.

His leadership rests on showmanship over substance, fear of the “other” over faith in our fellow Americans, and a revanchist politics like that puts the bully in bully pulpit like we’ve rarely seen.

That’s a problem; the world is coming at Trump’s White House, and fast. For those who have opposed Trump from the start, or those on both the right and left who still find him ideologically, politically, and morally repugnant, take heart. No Administration can run at this pace for long, and the Cat 5 Chaos Hurricane of the first two weeks is unsustainable.

As transgressive (and lucky) as Trump the campaigner proved to be, as President he faces something to which he’s never been accustomed to in his personal, business, or political life; accountability. That accountability comes not only in the awesome power to send men and women into war, but to the promises he made, to the people he now leads, and to the oath he swore.

We know he’s not good with promises, and we know he’s not good with commitments, but he’s not just Donald Trump, alleged-billionaire playboy and smack-talker. He’s now the President of the United States. The proverbial buck stops on his desk, and can’t be erased with a quickie divorce, a convenient bankruptcy filing, or racing to some new gimcrack casino opening or golf course ribbon-cutting.

Tweeting, insults, bluster, and bullshit aren’t going to substitute for promises kept and success demonstrated beyond the Two Minutes Signing of the daily Executive Order show. They’re not going to replace steady, outwardly-directed, mature leadership when crises hit…and crises will always, eternally, and inevitably hit. Externalities in foreign affairs, the economy, shifting approval numbers, natural disasters, scandals (and oh, what scandals we’ll have), the complexities of repealing Obamacare and an avalanche of other issues can’t all be blamed on duh liburl media or Barack Obama. As President, there will be plenty of retrospective blameshifting, just as Obama did to excess with George W. Bush, but Trumpian promises of miracles tailored to his base aren’t going to live or die based on Obama’s legacy.

The first two weeks smelled and felt utterly ad-hoc, with Trump and his team calling audibles, fumbling, and racing toward the next play rather than looking back at the wreckage of the first. As the SEALS say, the only easy day was yesterday. Overseas, our allies are in a rising state of panic at Trump’s willful destruction of the West’s global security alliance in favor of the Bannon-Flynn-Putin version of the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact in their war against Islam.

Congress — for now — has largely abandoned its role as a check against the onrushing chaos and inevitable abuses of Donald Trump. As Trump’s mistakes pile up, Congress will be left on cleanup detail. They’re already quietly chafing over it, but publicly they continue to live in abject terror of a Mean Tweet. As he leaves them holding the fecal end of the stick, expect the quiet mutterings to grow. Trump won’t have his town halls filled with angry seniors this Spring and Summer, but our Republican congressmen sure will.

The media is slowly – agonizingly, almost painfully – trying to find its way in the storm of Trump. In the election they played a dangerous game and lost. They helped select and elect Trump, played by his rules, on his tempo, and largely ignored the blazing alarms about his background, character, business entanglements, and mental fitness to serve as President until it was too late. They loved — and profited from — the spectacle of Trump. They assumed (as did every pollster in the known universe) he would inevitably lose to Hillary Clinton. Now, they’re facing a man who loves hagiographers with the same intensity he hates journalists, who has turned the White House press room into a pillory for professional reporters. They’ve finally learned to use the word “lie” to describe the mouth-hole movements of almost all Trump surrogates.

The right’s media long fought to promote conservative ideals, polices, and thinkers.  And while it desperately wants to use Trump as a singular weapon against the mainstream media, many know Trump is utterly contemptuous of conservative policy, indifferent to ideas, and operates on a calculus of how lavishly he has been praised. For outlets chasing the Hannity/TrumpBart front-runners in the Sucking-Up Olympics, they are utterly blind to the fact that in a race to see who can more vigorously stroke Trump’s colossal ego they will lose, and lose badly to the weaponized elements of the propagandistic nationalist populist “media” Steve Bannon and Donald Trump prefer.

It will be interesting to see how long the click-friendly posture many have taken will hold up against the reality that Trump’s handlers are (white and otherwise) nationalists. They’ll have to ignore the missteps, the personal weirdness, the lack of rigor, and look politely away from whatever authoritarian tendencies he displays, no matter how many statist economic absurdities he proposes, and no matter how he thoughtlessly compromises our national security for talk-radio solutions of complex problems.

The tensions are building. The collision with reality is coming. Welcome to week three.

 

We Can Never Forget, and We Must Not Repeat


NEVER FORGET

Remembering the Holocaust in the Time of Trump, When Jews Fleeing Horror Were Denied Asylum in America

A long-buried documentary, co-directed by Alfred Hitchcock and produced by Sidney Bernstein, provides unequivocal proof of the Holocaust’s horrors. Bernstein’s daughter, Jane Wells, opens up about the film—and why Donald Trump and Jared Kushner should see it.

MARLOW STERN

This Friday marked Holocaust Remembrance Day, the 72nd anniversary of the Soviet liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau—a network of Nazi concentration and extermination camps that claimed the lives of an estimated 1.5 million people, most of them Jews. President Donald Trump chose to commemorate the occasion by releasing a public statement omitting any mention of Jews or the scourge of anti-Semitism (breaking with past GOP and Democratic tradition), and signing an executive order barring refugees and citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States, including Syria, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Yemen, and Sudan.

“It’s repulsive,” Mark Hetfield, president and CEO of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, told CNN. “I mean, the timing is incredibly offensive. It was during the Holocaust that the world shamefully refused to give asylum to Jews and to others who were being murdered or about to be murdered in Nazi Germany.”

Indeed, during the Holocaust, as millions of Jews were being slaughtered by the Nazis, the United States enforced strict immigration quotas against Jews from Germany and Eastern Europe.

In June 1939, the ocean liner St. Louis sailed into the Port of Miami with 937 refugees onboard—nearly all Jewish and seeking asylum in the United States. They’d already been turned away from Cuba and Canada, and when they were denied entry into America, the ship was forced to return to Europe where many of its passengers were killed in the Holocaust. Even Anne Frank’s family made several desperate attempts to emigrate from Europe to America, only to be denied visas.

This closed-door policy was an extension of the Immigration Act of 1924, which sought to, in the words of dissenting Jewish-American politician Emmanuel Celler, create “a distinct American identity by favoring native-born Americans over Southern and Eastern Europeans in order to ‘maintain the racial preponderance of the basic strain on our people and thereby to stabilize the ethnic composition of the population.’” Both Congress and the public believed that these Southern and Eastern European immigrants, many of whom were Jewish, would take away jobs from Americans plagued by the Depression, and were racially inferior. Asians and Arabs were banned entirely.

A scene from the documentary 'German Concentration Camps Factual Survey.'

COURTESY OF 3GENERATIONS

A scene from ‘German Concentration Camps Factual Survey.’

There was also widespread paranoia concerning a “fifth column,” or the theory that, should Germany or Japan invade the U.S., embedded spies from those countries would help destroy America from the inside. This led to the cruel internment of Japanese-Americans, and the curbing of U.S. visas to those from Axis countries.

At a June 5, 1940, press conference, President Franklin D. Roosevelt stated: “Now, of course, the refugee has got to be checked because, unfortunately, among the refugees there are some spies, as has been found in other countries. And not all of them are voluntary spies—it is rather a horrible story but in some of the other countries that refugees out of Germany have gone to, especially Jewish refugees, they found a number of definitely proven spies.”

This fear of immigrant spies was mostly just that. With the exception of a few highly publicized cases, including that of 28-year-old German Herbert Karl Friedrich Bahr, there’s been no evidence of a mass influx of immigrant spies during this time. In fact, there exist striking parallels to the GOP and President Trump’s Muslim immigrant panic of today, given that, of the 784,000 refugees settled in America between September 11, 2001, and October 2015, only three have been arrested for plotting terrorist acts. “And it is worth noting two were not planning an attack in the United States and the plans of the third were barely credible,” wrote Kathleen Newland of the Migration Policy Institute. The terrorists behind the San Bernardino shooting, Pulse nightclub massacre, and Boston Marathon bombing were all U.S. citizens.

Earlier this month, the film German Concentration Camps Factual Survey was quietly released into select North American theaters. Produced by Sidney Bernstein, advisor to the British Ministry of Information, and co-directed by his pal Alfred Hitchcock, the documentary is comprised of footage shot by Allied American, British, Soviet, and Canadian combat cameramen as they liberated ten concentration camps, including Auschwitz, Bergen-Belsen, Buchenwald, Dachau, and Majdanek. The images are unforgettable, from Nazi physician Fritz Klein being interviewed on top of a pile of bodies at Bergen-Belsen to long, uninterrupted pans capturing stacks of eyeglasses, wedding rings, toothbrushes, human teeth, and bags of hair collected by the Nazis. There are even collections of lampshades made of human skin.

“The panning shots were Hitchcock’s idea,” says Jane Wells, the daughter of Bernstein whose non-profit, 3generations, put out Factual Survey. Hitchcock advised Bernstein and his crew of soldier-documentarians by phone, and suggested the continuous takes because “he felt that people wouldn’t believe what they were seeing otherwise.”

Unfortunately, the film was never completed for a variety of reasons. It wasn’t until 2008 that the Imperial War Museum, using the original filmmakers’ rough cut, script, and shot list, finalized the editing process. The 75-minute finished film premiered 69 years after it was shot, at the 2014 Berlin International Film Festival.

“I tried to enumerate the different explanations,” Wells tells me, before taking out a notepad and reading from it. “One was the fear it would alienate Germans when they were trying to rebuild Germany after the war. The second one is the British government didn’t want to build support for a Zionist state. The third is they didn’t want to create undue sympathy for Jews in particular, or to single Jews out for poor treatment. And the fourth one, which is the Imperial War Museum’s theory, is that its time had come and it had missed its moment.”

Its shelving was devastating to Bernstein, who refused to speak publicly about what Wells calls his “great secret” until he was interviewed for the 1985 documentary A Painful Reminder, which contained footage from his film. Parts of Factual Survey were also used in Billy Wilder’s 22-minute concentration camp documentary Death Mills (Die Todesmühlen), released in January 1946.

“Unless the world learns the lesson these pictures teach, night will fall,” Factual Survey’s narrator says. And according to Wells, “it’s hard not to see the parallel to today,” given the rise of white nationalism in the U.S. and abroad corresponding with the rise of Trump, candidate Trump dog-whistling to white nationalists during his campaign by sharing anti-Semitic memes that originated on neo-Nazi online message boards, and the ascendance of Steve Bannon, former overlord of the “alt-right” publication Breitbart turned Trump right-hand man, who’s been accused of serial anti-Semitism.

A scene from the documentary 'German Concentration Camps Factual Survey.'

COURTESY OF 3GENERATIONS

A scene from ‘German Concentration Camps Factual Survey.’

“To me, it’s horrific. I’d love to invite the President and Jared Kushner to come see this film, and love to encourage any Jews who supported Trump to come see this film. I know Jews who voted for Trump, and if you ask them about the rise of white nationalism or the ‘alt-right’ in the wake of Trump, they’ll say, ‘Oh, well his son-in-law is a Jew! His daughter keeps a kosher kitchen, how bad can it be?’” say Wells. “The rise of the ‘alt-right’ is completely awful. The way Jews have been called out on Twitter is horrible and disgraceful. I’d like some of these ‘alt-right’ people to also come see this film and try and explain to me why they think this didn’t happen or didn’t matter.”

“If you see this footage, “ she adds, “there is no way on God’s earth that you can argue this didn’t happen.”

Wells had initially planned to release German Concentration Camps Factual Survey theatrically on Jan. 27, 2015, in honor of the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. The film didn’t make it to cinemas until January 6thof this year, but she believes that, given the Syrian refugee crisis, it “will have more of an impact today than it would have even then.”

“It is a cry for reconnecting to our humanity, and I think that is a message that is very resonant today,” offers Wells. “When I look at the atrocities that are happening in Syria today, when I look at the situation with Native Americans in North Dakota, when I look at the rise of the fascistic far-right globally, it seems like we have forgotten some of our common humanity.”

 

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WORLD HISTORY ARCHIVE / ALAMY STOCK PHOTO

‘BEWARE THE BEGINNINGS’

How the Nazis Took Control of Germany

Hitler was not that popular when he first took office, but the Nazis quickly changed that, for the simple reason that power magnifies the ideas of those who hold it.

PETER HAYES

Today, Jan. 27, marks the 72nd anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. That event did not mark the end of the Holocaust—gassings continued until the eve of Hitler’s suicide on April 30, 1945, and thousands more died of the effects of starvation and mistreatment at places like Belsen even weeks after their liberation.

But Jan. 27 should put us in mind of the beginnings. How did this happen? In particular, how could Germany, by all outward indications a civilized and modern country, become a persecuting society, brutally indifferent to the fates of anyone outside its supposed “people’s community”?

These questions should worry people for all time.

Adolf Hitler was a minority choice to lead his country; when he took office, roughly 55 percent of Germans had never voted for him. Anti-semitism was prevalent in German culture but by no means dominant or respectable. The nation’s elites (the establishment) generally regarded the Nazi führer with disdain and mistrust and doubted his capacity to run a government, given his complete lack of experience at doing so. The consensus about the Nazis’ wild-eyed promises was captured by the oft-repeated German proverb, “Nothing is eaten as hot as it’s cooked.”

Six years later, most Germans were acquiescing, and many of them were trying to benefit from, the complete humiliation and dispossession of German Jews, their demotion to “subjects” of the Reich, and their forced expulsion from the country. Three more years on, most Germans, including those elite corporate leaders and civil servants who scorned Hitler in 1933, were not just turning a blind eye to, but facilitating enslavement and mass murder… and finding a great many helpers in the Axis-occupied and Axis-allied regions of Europe.

The key to understanding the transformation of Germans’ behavior is straightforward: power magnifies the ideas of those who hold it. Power enabled the Nazi regime to unleash the haters, to intimidate the squeamish, and to change the moral valence of prejudice from something frowned upon to something glorified as patriotic. Once that happened, individual self-interest took care of the rest.

Above all, power enabled the propagandists for Nazism to divide the world relentlessly into Us vs. Them and to shut down more nuanced perspectives. To Germans, the world became a perpetual struggle between poor, virtuous, and victimized Us, and malevolent, conspiratorial, and implacable Them. In such an unforgiving environment, all means of self-defense were justified, including preemptively striking Them—taking their rights away, concentrating them in camps and ghettos, wiping them out—before they supposedly had a chance to do their worst.

Demonization of “Them” is always the first step toward persecution and genocide. And an essential prerequisite for demonization is its proponents’ sense of victimization, of having been or being about to be robbed of a birthright. The adherents of modern anti-semitism, not only in Germany but elsewhere in Europe, were people displaced and diminished by the Industrial Revolution and threatened by the specter of communism. In our own day, the devotees of nativist populism, not only in the U.S. but also in Europe, are people declassed and disoriented by the digital revolution and alarmed by the rise of Islamism. Will they go the way of the Nazis toward ever escalating paranoia and persecution?

Only if governments help them. Populist movements, on their own, can’t make persecuting societies or generate genocides. These phenomena need office-holders to countenance, stimulate, and implement hatred. Only when powerful leaders choose to let discrimination and violence take hold, and then to accelerate these lusts, does systematic degradation, let alone mass murder, result.

That is the challenge the Holocaust poses all these years later: Which way will political leaders go? Toward feeding angry and vengeful segments of public opinion or toward promoting pluralism and progress? Because the prospects look chancy right now, we should all recall the words of another German proverb—“Beware the Beginnings”—and be ready to act on it.

Peter Hayes is professor of history and German and Theodore Zev Weiss Holocaust Educational Foundation professor of Holocaust studies emeritus at Northwestern University. W. W. Norton & Co. published his new book,Why? Explaining the Holocaust, on Jan. 17.

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I am sharing this with you because we just celebrated Holocaust Remembrance Day. Trump made a statement in which he mentioned all of the victimized people except the Jews. The Jews do know they weren’t the only people to be targeted; so were the Gypsies and  the Poles, the disabled, Catholics and homosexuals. Six million Jews were gassed, burned, died due to medical experiments, died from starvation, disease and exposure to the elements.

 

It is very dangerous when a leader goes after one particular group of people; when people in power say the “others” were less than human, responsible for all of the things that Germans found wrong with their lives; these “others” were sneaky and not to be trusted. We now have a man in the White House who is targeting Muslims, refugees, homosexuals and non-Christians, in exactly the same way, with most of the same rhetoric. How much is he capable of doing? Is he able to begin to round up people from these groups? Only time will tell.

 

In the meantime, I want to remind everyone that we all live here on this fairly small planet. I do believe in science, and science tells us the planet is suffering from our lack of proper stewardship. We are all brothers and sisters despite the minor differences between us. Whether you are black, red, brown, yellow, or white, we are all equal. Yes, I know that some people  say there is a difference but they are wrong. Those who savor their entitlement want to be at the top of the heap, but we all make a beautiful colorful mix together at the bottom.

 

No one race is better than another, no one religion is better than another. There is no reason to defile Islam by shedding innocent lives. There is no reason to condemn Shiites or Sunnis. Each is a journey to Allah.  Or Adonai. Or Buddha. Or any of the other Beautiful Names which people use when they speak of God. We are all children of the Universe, made from stardust. It matters not by what name we call God. Our prayers are heard, our petitions are accepted, and our gratitude pleases.

 

I believe Trump wants to divide people even more than they already are. I believe it is important to unite together to give support to each other, so no one ever has to stand alone. I am ready to register as a Muslim. I hope many of you will be also. Let us do what is right not what is expected.

 

Namaste

Barbara

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