A week of Trumpism... Trying to make sense of the political climate that is shaping up to be a Horror Movie

One of hundreds of artistic responses to Donald Trump's presidency."Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it"; a quote from George Santayana, has been running through my mind since with every new decree (that is what they should be called- NOT executive orders) signed by President Donald Trump but probably written by the 'power behind the throne', Steve Bannon.

The similarities between what is happening now with historical events are too close for comfort.

The ban on people coming from the seven Muslim countries named but not those where Trump has business interests reminds me of the closing of the doors to coming to the United States in 1920 which immigration quotas where established to keep out many from Asia, Eastern and Southern Europe. Those groups were deemed at the time to be inferior to the 'Nordic' types and this was 'proven' by the introduction of the IQ test by the US Army during World War I. There was a whole field of study known as eugenics or also known as 'Social Darwinism' that pushed the US government in doing this!

Add the need to keep out Communist/Socialist/Anarchists as part of the ban, you can see the strong comparison to today's need to keep out Muslim/terrorists as the battle cry of Trump and his administration. The use of immigration quotas was the cause of many European Jews to be turned away during World War II and condemned to be killed by Nazis.

Recently I read a book, Joe McCarthy and the Press by Edwin R. Bayley (1981) in which the author who was a reporter for a Milwaukee newspaper during the McCarthy era of the 1950s wrote about how McCarthy was able to manipulate the news media. McCarthy would put out news releases or having press conferences on his Communist witch-hunt in such a way that left those he accused to scramble to respond. Does this sound familiar?

Another tactic that is being used by this unconstitutional government is to change by decree a number of issues -- immigration, healthcare, climate change -- for example making difficult to organize as a cohesive movement, although there appears to be some indications of it happening. The other underlying cause of doing this is to keep the media from looking at other atrocities being committed such as putting Bannon on the National Security Council but removing the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the director of national intelligence, who will now attend only when the council is considering issues in their "direct areas of responsibilities."

i am reprinting three article here but there are so many that need to have your attention.

The first is from Yonatan Zunger dated January 30, 2017 in which there is an analysis of events in the past 24 hours. It can help you to process what is happening.

The next piece is an opinion piece on how there should be a General Strike which might not be feasible given how we are a fractured society right now.

The last article is from the Washington Post where the Women's March can maybe be a launching pad for a larger social movement.

Trial Balloon for a Coup? Analyzing the news of the past 24 hours by Yonatan Zunger

The theme of this morning’s news updates from Washington is additional clarity emerging, rather than meaningful changes in the field. But this clarity is enough to give us a sense of what we just saw happen, and why it happened the way it did.

I’ll separate what’s below into the raw news reports and analysis; you may also find these two pieces from yesterday (heavily referenced below) to be useful.

News Reports

(1) Priebus made two public statements today. One is that the ban on Muslims will no longer be applied to green card holders. Notably absent from his statement was anything about people with other types of visa (including long-term ones), or anything about the DHS’ power to unilaterally revoke green cards in bulk.

The other was that the omission of Jews from the statement for Holocaust Remembrance Day was deliberate and is not regretted.

A point of note here is that Priebus is the one making these statements, which is not normally the Chief of Staff’s job. I’ll come back to that below.

(2) Rudy Giuliani told Fox News that the intent of yesterday’s order was very much a ban on Muslims, described in those words, and he was among the people Trump asked how they could find a way to do this legally.

(3) CNN has a detailed story (heavily sourced) about the process by which this ban was created and announced. Notable in this is that the DHS’ lawyers objected to the order, specifically its exclusion of green card holders, as illegal, and also pressed for there to be a grace period so that people currently out of the country wouldn’t be stranded — and they were personally overruled by Bannon and Stephen Miller. Also notable is that career DHS staff, up to and including the head of Customs & Border Patrol, were kept entirely out of the loop until the order was signed.

(4) The Guardian is reporting (heavily sourced) that the “mass resignations” of nearly all senior staff at the State Department on Thursday were not, in fact, resignations, but a purge ordered by the White House. As the diagram below (by Emily Roslin v Praze) shows, this leaves almost nobody in the entire senior staff of the State Department at this point.


The seniormost staff of the Department of State. Blue X’s are unfilled positions; red X’s are positions which were purged. Note that the “filled” positions are not actually confirmed yet.

As the Guardian points out, this has an important and likely not accidental effect: it leaves the State Department entirely unstaffed during these critical first weeks, when orders like the Muslim ban (which they would normally resist) are coming down.

The article points out another point worth highlighting: “In the past, the state department has been asked to set up early foreign contacts for an incoming administration. This time however it has been bypassed, and Trump’s immediate circle of Steve Bannon, Michael Flynn, son-in-law Jared Kushner and Reince Priebus are making their own calls.”

(5) On Inauguration Day, Trump apparently filed his candidacy for 2020. Beyond being unusual, this opens up the ability for him to start accepting “campaign contributions” right away. Given that a sizable fraction of the campaign funds from the previous cycle were paid directly to the Trump organization in exchange for building leases, etc., at inflated rates, you can assume that those campaign coffers are a mechanism by which US nationals can easily give cash bribes directly to Trump. Non-US nationals can, of course, continue to use Trump’s hotels and other businesses as a way to funnel money to him.

(6) Finally, I want to highlight a story that many people haven’t noticed. On Wednesday, Reuters reported (in great detail) how 19.5% of Rosneft, Russia’s state oil company, has been sold to parties unknown. This was done through a dizzying array of shell companies, so that the most that can be said with certainty now is that the money “paying” for it was originally loaned out to the shell layers by VTB (the government’s official bank), even though it’s highly unclear who, if anyone, would be paying that loan back; and the recipients have been traced as far as some Cayman Islands shell companies.

Why is this interesting? Because the much-maligned Steele Dossier (the one with the golden showers in it) included the statement that Putin had offered Trump 19% of Rosneft if he became president and removed sanctions. The reason this is so interesting is that the dossier said this in July, and the sale didn’t happen until early December. And 19.5% sounds an awful lot like “19% plus a brokerage commission.”

Conclusive? No. But it raises some very interesting questions for journalists to investigate.

What does this all mean?

I see a few key patterns here. First, the decision to first block, and then allow, green card holders was meant to create chaos and pull out opposition; they never intended to hold it for too long. It wouldn’t surprise me if the goal is to create “resistance fatigue,” to get Americans to the point where they’re more likely to say “Oh, another protest? Don’t you guys ever stop?” relatively quickly.

However, the conspicuous absence of provisions preventing them from executing any of the “next steps” I outlined yesterday, such as bulk revocation of visas (including green cards) from nationals of various countries, and then pursuing them using mechanisms being set up for Latinos, highlights that this does not mean any sort of backing down on the part of the regime.

Note also the most frightening escalation last night was that the DHS (Department of Homeland Security) made it fairly clear that they did not feel bound to obey any court orders. CBP continued to deny all access to counsel, detain people, and deport them in direct contravention to the court’s order, citing “upper management,” and the DHS made a formal (but confusing) statement that they would continue to follow the President’s orders. (See my updates from yesterday, and the various links there, for details) Significant in today’s updates is any lack of suggestion that the courts’ authority played a role in the decision.

That is to say, the administration is testing the extent to which the DHS (and other executive agencies) can act and ignore orders from the other branches of government. This is as serious as it can possibly get: all of the arguments about whether order X or Y is unconstitutional mean nothing if elements of the government are executing them and the courts are being ignored.

Yesterday was the trial balloon for a coup d’état against the United States. It gave them useful information.

A second major theme is watching the set of people involved. There appears to be a very tight “inner circle,” containing at least Trump, Bannon, Miller, Priebus, Kushner, and possibly Flynn, which is making all of the decisions. Other departments and appointees have been deliberately hobbled, with key orders announced to them only after the fact, staff gutted, and so on. Yesterday’s reorganization of the National Security Council mirrors this: Bannon and Priebus now have permanent seats on the Principals’ Committee; the Director of National Intelligence and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff have both been demoted to only attending meetings where they are told that their expertise is relevant; the Secretary of Energy and the US representative to the UN were kicked off the committee altogether (in defiance of the authorizing statute, incidentally).

I am reminded of Trump’s continued operation of a private personal security force, and his deep rift with the intelligence community. Last Sunday, Kellyanne Conway (likely another member of the inner circle) said that “It’s really time for [Trump] to put in his own security and intelligence community,” and this seems likely to be the case.

As per my analysis yesterday, Trump is likely to want his own intelligence service disjoint from existing ones and reporting directly to him; given the current staffing and roles of his inner circle, Bannon is the natural choice for them to report through. (Having neither a large existing staff, nor any Congressional or Constitutional restrictions on his role as most other Cabinet-level appointees do) Keith Schiller would continue to run the personal security force, which would take over an increasing fraction of the Secret Service’s job.

Especially if combined with the DHS and the FBI, which appear to have remained loyal to the President throughout the recent transition, this creates the armature of a shadow government: intelligence and police services which are not accountable through any of the normal means, answerable only to the President.

(Note, incidentally, that the DHS already has police authority within 100 miles of any border of the US; since that includes coastlines, this area includes over 60% of Americans, and eleven entire states. They also have a standing force of over 45,000 officers, and just received authorization to hire 15,000 more on Wednesday.)

The third theme is money. Trump’s decision to keep all his businesses (not bothering with any blind trusts or the like), and his fairly open diversion of campaign funds, made it fairly clear from the beginning that he was seeing this as a way to become rich in the way that only dedicated kleptocrats can, and this week’s updates definitely tally with that. Kushner looks increasingly likely to be the money-man, acting as the liaison between piles of cash and the president.

This gives us a pretty good guess as to what the exit strategy is: become tremendously, and untraceably, rich, by looting any coffers that come within reach.

Combining all of these facts, we have a fairly clear picture in play.

Trump was, indeed, perfectly honest during the campaign; he intends to do everything he said, and more. This should not be reassuring to you.

The regime’s main organizational goal right now is to transfer all effective power to a tight inner circle, eliminating any possible checks from either the Federal bureaucracy, Congress, or the Courts. Departments are being reorganized or purged to effect this.

The inner circle is actively probing the means by which they can seize unchallenged power; yesterday’s moves should be read as the first part of that.

The aims of crushing various groups — Muslims, Latinos, the black and trans communities, academics, the press — are very much primary aims of the regime, and are likely to be acted on with much greater speed than was earlier suspected. The secondary aim of personal enrichment is also very much in play, and clever people will find ways to play these two goals off each other.

If you’re looking for estimates of what this means for the future, I’ll refer you back to yesterday’s post on what “things going wrong” can look like. Fair warning: I stuffed that post with pictures of cute animals for a reason.

yonatanzunger. (2017, January 30). Trial balloon for a coup? Retrieved January 30, 2017, from


Forget protest. Trump's actions warrant a general national strike by Francine Prose

Political movements rarely succeed without causing discomfort and inconvenience

On the morning after Donald Trump’s so-called Muslim ban went into effect – preventing all Syrians from entering the US, halting refugee admissions for 120 days and banning the citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries for 90 days – I received an affecting email featuring the photographs and names of Jewish men, women and children who died in Nazi concentration camps because “the US turned me away at the border in 1939”.

Now, America is repeating its mistakes of the past. But our fellow citizens did not stand by idly as this happened. On Saturday, a large crowd of protesters had gathered outside Terminal Four at John F Kennedy international airport, and similar demonstrations were in progress at airports across the country.

These protests succeeded in several significant ways. Two Iraqi men, Hameed Khalid Darweesh (a former interpreter for the US military) and Haider Sameer Abdulkhaleq Alshawi were released, through the valiant efforts of ACLU lawyers. Ann Donnelly, a federal judge in Brooklyn, as well as federal judges in Massachusetts, Virginia and Washington, ruled that those still being held in detention could not be sent back to their home countries.

But what was also extremely important was that the demonstrators at the airports – and the thousands more cheering them on from home – had been given concrete, inspiring evidence that their protests had made a difference. Their active refusal to let innocent people be sent home, perhaps to die, had mattered.

Since Trump’s election, we’ve seen dozens of demonstrations – most notably, the Women’s March on Washington – that have reinforced our sense of solidarity and provided encouraging evidence of how many Americans oppose our government’s fundamentally anti-American agenda.

But the trouble is that these protests are too easily ignored and forgotten by those who wish to ignore and forget them. The barriers go up, the march takes place, the barriers come down. Everyone goes home happier.

One reason that Saturday’s protests were so effective was that, while peaceful, they were disruptive. Terminal Four was closed, incoming flights were delayed. One traveller wrote, on Twitter, that his fellow passengers applauded when their pilot announced the reason why their plane would be landing an hour behind schedule.

Taxi drivers went on strike in solidarity with the detainees, and arriving passengers were forced to find alternate ways on getting home. Many used Uber, a company whose CEO, Travis Kalanick, serves on Trump’s economic advisory board, and which thoughtfully suspended “surge pricing” to make it easier and cheaper to subvert the taxi strike.

The struggles for civil rights and Indian independence, against apartheid and the Vietnam war – it’s hard to think of a nonviolent movement that has succeeded without causing its opponents a certain amount of trouble, discomfort and inconvenience.

And economic boycotts – another sort of trouble and inconvenience – have proved remarkably successful in persuading companies to cease supporting repressive governments. Of course, nonviolence has often been met with violence, but one can only hope that our hearts have not so hardened that we, as a nation, would not be troubled and shamed by the spectacle of peaceful people being arrested and bloodied, as they were in Selma and Birmingham.

So what can we do to protest our current government’s callousness about our environment and our health, its rampant greed, its disrespect for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness?

I believe that what we need is a nonviolent national general strike of the kind that has been more common in Europe than here. Let’s designate a day on which no one (that is, anyone who can do so without being fired) goes to work, a day when no one shops or spends money, a day on which we truly make our economic and political power felt, a day when we make it clear: how many of us there are, how strong and committed we are, how much we can accomplish.

Meanwhile, I’m deleting my Uber account and adding Lyft (which donated generously to the ACLU) in its stead. Leaving Uber is not uncomplicated, and it’s taken me the better part of a day to persuade them to let me go. But in the process, the site asks subscribers why they are leaving, and it’s a pleasure – a small pleasure, but a pleasure nonetheless – to let them know.

Prose, F. (2017, January 30). Forget protest. Trump’s actions warrant a general national strike. The Guardian. Retrieved from


Why the Women’s March may be the start of a serious social movement by Emily Kalah Gade

Description: from Iowa City gather near the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 21 for the Women’s March on Washington. (Astrid Riecken for The Washington Post)

This is the fourth post in our series on what social science can tell us about the Women’s March on Washington. Here are the first, second, and third. — TMC editors

It didn’t take long after the historically massive Women’s March on Washington (and sister marches around the world) — just one day, in fact — before skeptical commentators began asking whether this was a movement or a one-day wonder. Part of the question, as previous contributors to this TMC series have noted, was whether its many different demands and interests could be channeled effectively.

Can a movement embracing such wide-ranging goals — from protecting immigrants to stopping climate change, from racial justice and religious diversity to reproductive freedom — channel its support into sustained political action? Other recent movements, like Black Lives Matter and Occupy Wall Street, may have offered insight into and prominence for their issues, but they haven’t delivered major policy shifts.

Research into civil resistance (the term commonly used by nonviolence activists) suggests five reasons the Women’s March may succeed as a movement where others have failed.

1. This march drew support from many different corners of society.

Civil resistance scholars Erica Chenoweth and Maria Stephan argue that the success of civil resistance hinges on its ability to bring in support from many corners of society. Having broad and diverse sources of support means that state security forces, officials, bureaucrats and police are more likely to know someone who is a member of the movement. They are, therefore, more likely to be sympathetically swayed by their message, less likely to enforce policies that go against the movement handed down by the government and less likely to take negative actions even under direct order, like firing into a crowd.

Similarly, other scholars find movements are more likely to succeed when they have members in positions of power within governments, and movements with broad reach are more likely to accomplish this.


Hundreds of thousands of people took part in the Women’s March on Washington Jan. 21. Here’s what some of them had to say. (The Washington Post)

The Women’s March drew support from a broad swath of civil society, from old guard civil rights organizations like the ACLU to the new guard like Black Lives Matter. It mobilized groups working on issues like climate change, immigrants’ rights, LGBT rights, religious and interfaith initiatives, upper-middle-class white women who felt their equality and bodies under threat, and survivors of sexual violence.

In other words, the Women’s March movement has something that Black Lives Matter and Occupy haven’t been able to harness (although the LGBT movement did): crosscutting mainstream appeal to the moderate and the wealthy. People who didn’t feel threatened didn’t mobilize for Black Lives Matter or Occupy, leaving those movements isolated in society at large. But those moderate and wealthy people feel threatened now, ready to go into the streets for principles they hold dear.

2. The march was successfully nonviolent.

No arrests were made in these marches. While that is in part because white middle-class women are far less likely to be arrested than black men or women, it does bode well for the potential for this to become a movement. Research shows that disciplined nonviolence helps a movement’s chance for success — and makes it more than twice as likely to succeed as a violent movement.

3. The U.S. has a strong, independent court system

Some of the rights people are arguing for in this movement already exist. For example, grabbing women without their consent is a crime (indeed, many states class it as felony sexual assault); same-sex couples nationwide won the right to marry under Obergefell v. Hodges; and federal hate-crimes laws protect people based on their race, color, sex, disability status or country of origin nationally.

That may mean this movement may have better success at protecting the rights of certain members of the movement than it will at protecting others. Though certainly it is possible to erode existing rights, it is harder for a government to remove rights than it is for a social movement to gain new ones.

Rights established in the law can’t be abridged or eliminated without due process of law, meaning, a fair hearing in court — and as we have just seen with the refugee travel ban, the courts are willing to step in.

Creating new law, on the other hand, or expanding legal protections to apply to a group that has been historically excluded, requires establishing precedent through the Supreme Court or through the legislature.

Related: Yes, Trump will build his border wall. That’s because most of it’s already built.

Studies show independent courts are critical to the rule of law and upholding democracy. Social movements have deep (and complicated) relationships with the law and are more likely to succeed in democratic countries.

Legal systems offer a valuable tool for social movements and can help social movements move from protest to policy change. While Trump’s Supreme Court appointees could alter the landscape over time, for now, the U.S. judiciary is considered to be one of the strongest and most independent in the world. Only Japan and Luxembourg have more independent courts, according to one study. That’s great news for the Women’s March and its new brand of liberal populism’s chances for success.

4. Movements need a common elevating goal.

Many have critiqued this lack in the Women’s March. Across the history of successful protest, most movements have been focused on a single issue or tightly related group of issues. In the United States, women’s suffrage, civil rights protections or the 1960s antiwar movement were all narrowly drawn.

For the people marching on Saturday, opposition to Donald Trump as president — and not a single, well-defined issue — is the unifying goal. Outrage and opposition to a sitting government have prompted a variety of movements internationally, including, recently, the “color revolutions” in Eastern Europe, as well as much of the Arab Spring.

While the Jan. 21 march didn’t have a goal as coherent as toppling a government perceived to be dictatorial, what unity there was came in part from outrage at the new president’s conduct and, among some, a sense that his election was illegitimate. Unity also came in part from what was expressed as patriotism, with some carrying American flags, and marchers chanting “this is what democracy looks like.”

5. “Relative deprivation” is a powerful motivation for action. That’s the fear that your rights and opportunities will be diminished. Political scientist Ted Gurr, in his findings on revolution, offered the idea of “relative deprivation.” According to his model, people only revolt if the rights and opportunities they received were less than those they expected to receive. People took to the streets on Saturday not because of new issues, but because values and protections they thought they could safely rely upon were under threat.

All this suggests not a one-time eruption, but a movement that’s about to dig in.

Gade, E. K. (2017, January 30). Why the women’s march may be the start of a serious social movement. Washington Post. Retrieved from


Add your own comment (all fields are necessary)

Substance readers:

You must give your first name and last name under "Name" when you post a comment at We are not operating a blog and do not allow anonymous or pseudonymous comments. Our readers deserve to know who is commenting, just as they deserve to know the source of our news reports and analysis.

Please respect this, and also provide us with an accurate e-mail address.

Thank you,

The Editors of Substance

Your Name

Your Email

What's your comment about?

Your Comment

Please answer this to prove you're not a robot:

1 + 3 =