Thomas Paine Today

Reading time – 4:27; Viewing time – 6:36  .  .  .

Throughout his candidacy President Trump promised to “drain the swamp,” the fetid, stinking hole of Washington DC that had betrayed ordinary Americans. He railed against insiders, the people who made DC worthy of disdain. Then he populated his cabinet with Goldman Sachs banksters. You know, the financial masters of the universe who gambled with your money, then lost it and demanded that you cover their debts? Well, they’re in charge of part of the swamp right now and they’re continuing to grab ever more wealth for themselves and others, like Donald Trump.

Trump continues to pound the drum of accusation and demonization against the press and our judiciary. That’s convenient for any autocrat who wants to undermine the people who hold them accountable and stop their excesses. Actually, Trump sees these people as enemies and he attacks them viciously almost daily. That’s effective in numbing his “base” to the factual reports about his – let’s call them “dalliances” – from the Constitution.

Trump demanded Former FBI Director James Comey’s loyalty to him, which Comey sensibly refused. At the time Comey was looking into possible involvement of Trump and his election team with Russians who meddled with the U.S. election. Comey wouldn’t quash the investigation as Trump asked, so Trump fired him. Eliminating opposition is what autocrats do.

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Actually, Trump consistently demands loyalty to himself alone and doesn’t seem to recognize that all government hires – including the President – have pledged loyalty to the Constitution of the United States of America and not to the President. However, demanding personal loyalty is what autocrats do. Just recall that infinitely embarrassing (okay, vomitous) Cabinet meeting as his cabinet members took turns fawning over Great Leader. That must have made even psycho autocrat Kim Jung-un in North Korea envious.

Trump uses Twitter to maintain a constant barrage of outrageous, accusatory and false claims – the kind Kellyanne Conway promoted as “alternative facts.” Okay, you could call them lies. They keep us watching Trump’s latest shiny objects instead of his likely treasonous actions.

Trump has created a federal panel to collect all U.S. voter registration information in order to stop our nearly nonexistent voter fraud. Have you any doubt whatsoever that what he really wants to do is to restrict the voting rights of all citizens who are likely to vote against him? Remember, for an autocrat, it’s all about aggregating power.

Trump is trying to replace his chief toady, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, with someone who hasn’t recused himself from all things Russia. That will allow the new AG to fire Robert Mueller and end the investigation into Trump’s and the Trump organization’s possibly illegal and possibly treasonous behavior with Russia. Trump has tweeted that he wants the Justice Department to prosecute Hillary Clinton for something or other. It seems that Trump wants the people in the Justice Department to be his very own vigilantes and the FBI his thugs. Autocrats like that.

Trump is even looking into his ability to pardon his staff, his family and himself. Should that happen, who will hold Trump accountable? Who will stop him from committing yet more crimes? Given this nearly spineless Republican Party, what else will he be able to get away with? This is the stuff of would-be dictators stacking the deck for themselves so that they can get away with anything.

Earlier in the year Trump tried to refuse all Muslims entry to the U.S., even including returning American citizens who are Muslim. Later he pared down his hate list to people from 7 Muslim-majority countries, not even one of which had attacked us. On July 26 of this year President Trump issued an executive order banning all trans-gender Americans from the military. To whom would such enemy creation and hateful actions appeal? Garry Kasparov can help us understand.

Kasparov is likely the best chess player ever and is a Putin critic. Having lived in the Soviet Union he knows a thing or two about autocrats. Here is a Kasparov tweet from the day after Trump tweeted his banning of trans-gender Americans from the military:

That’s what autocrats do. They distract us with outrageous, divisive stupidities and get us to hate each other and then lash out against one another as they go about aggregating all power to themselves. It’s classic divide and conquer.

It’s always dangerous to make comparisons to Adolph Hitler, but there are parallels here. Like Hitler, Trump won a democratic election with less than 50% of the popular vote. Like Hitler, he surrounds

Click me for the article

himself with toadies who will never confront him. Like Hitler, he undermines the rule of law. Like Hitler, he makes bombastic, false declarations that polarize citizens. Like Hitler, he constantly accuses and humiliates others in order to diminish them and to create enemies for followers to hate. Like Hitler, he neutralizes those who might have power to check him. And like Hitler, he tries to incrementally take rights from the people and aggregate power to himself.

Many have warned us about the creep of fascism in America, including me here and here. It is something that I had never dreamed could happen, yet it was foretold by Henry Wallace, FDR’s Vice-President, Professor Timothy Snyder and others. It’s happening in plain sight right now in America.

In another time of peril heaped upon us by an autocratic ruler, Thomas Paine warned us clearly that, “These are the times that try men’s souls.” And so it is today. The bugle is sounding and we must answer the call or we will lose our democracy.

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Ed. note: There is much in America that needs fixing and we are on a path to continually fail to make things better. It is my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better. That is the reason for these posts. To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue.

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Copyright 2017 by Jack Altschuler
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4 Responses to Thomas Paine Today
  1. dominickpalella Reply

    Jack, you admit that Trump is an autocrat. Do you believe that other officeholders in our political system are any different? We have had a political system that functions as an autocratic republic, as defined by our US Constitution, from day one. It was but one form of “democracy” available in the 18th century. We can do better today in defining how a democracy should function in this 21st century.

    For example, only a few votes in Congress prevented 16 million people or more from losing their health insurance, with tax cuts for our wealthiest citizens a couple of days ago. Many of those voting against this legislation actually thought it was not draconian enough! This all came about without any hearings for public discussion. It could have just as easily gone the other way. Do you see any reason why this clearly autocratic conduct will not be repeated for other legislation our elected officials wish to pass to harm the American public in the near future?

    We now have the means to elect people who will honestly and transparently represent their constituents, instead of wealthy or corporate donors. My plan shows how honest people can run as Democrats or Republicans, easily win in debates, and have a clear advantage against career politicians, especially in local elections. Moreover, it is the fastest way to get corporate money out of politics. Unfortunately, those who call themselves “progressives” have yet to understand that their political beliefs are just as delusional as those calling themselves “conservatives”. In fact, those who think their ideas are better than the other, are unwittingly preserving a conservative political system for the wealthy and corporations to eventually rule over them with an iron fist.

    It seems near impossible to convince others to stop being subservient to politicians, instead of telling their government employees what to do. Years of political propaganda seem to keep even the smartest and highly educated stuck with being ruled over by politicians who obviously ignore them, and then to complain about their pitiful lack of power as citizens. I don’t know if you are still active in business, Jack, but would you hire people to work for you this way. That is, listen to their promises, give them a two, four or six year contract, allowing them to do whatever they like and agreeing that they will have no obligation to pay attention to you? http://TrueDemocracyNow.org

  2. John Calia Reply

    Well, speaking as a former Goldman Sachs bankster, I can point out so many factual errors in the first paragraph that it makes no sense to read on. GS didn’t gamble with taxpayers money; they invested their clients’ money. And, they didn’t lose it; their wealthy investors did. They also didn’t demand a bailout. It was shoved down their throats by the Sec of the Treasury.

    • Jack Altschuler Reply

      My take is a bit different – here’s my understanding.

      Goldman and the other investment banks lobbied hard to get the key Glass-Steagall bank separation provision lifted during the Clinton administration. They succeeded and that paved the way for the enormous expansion (to over $62 trillion) of diabolically creative “products” like credit default swaps (invented at J.P. Morgan), which have no required reporting requirements and which can be sold to people with no insurable interest, and derivatives, the explanation of which is a near-total black box, that almost nobody – not even the banks that promoted them – understood. That lack of understanding stemmed from the fact that they were unadorned crap in a very convoluted wrapper and were promoted as magic beans.

      In 2008 when the Goldman people saw that they had created a house of cards they began to unload their holdings in these worthless instruments and that is when the “bankster” moniker became most accurate. As they were unloading their hoard of worthless “assets” they were at the same time enthusiastically promoting them to their own customers. The words “fraud” and “SEC violations” spring to mind.

      Agree: Goldman didn’t gamble with taxpayers’ money – they invested (gambled) with their clients’ money. They did it because they could, and they danced in the streets over the fast and enormous hoard of money they pocketed.
      Disagree: They lost it when it became clear that they were selling vapor.
      Agree: They didn’t demand a bailout. George W. Bush demanded an immediate bailout for them. I wonder how he came to that sudden realization.
      Disagree: Not one of them pushed back saying, “Please don’t hand us that money.” There was nothing shoved down their throats as they faced insolvency.

    • John Calia Reply

      Again, you betray an astounding lack of understanding of financial markets and a set of opinions based on your very own fake news.

      Yes, GS and others lobbied to have Glass-Steagall repealed. However, according to Obama’s commission on the causes of the financial crisis, that did not contribute to the crisis. Indeed, the most stable institutions were those who had diversified their asset base to distribute the risk. None of the institutions that failed were combined investment/commercial banks. They were S&L’s (Washington Mutual), mortgage companies (Countrywide), and single purpose investment banks (Lehman and Bear Stearns) and commercial banks (Wachovia).

      CDO’s and CMO’s were not created in the wake of the removal of the Glass Steagall restrictions. They were created by the banking reforms in the wake of the 1990 S&L crisis. Glass-Steagall did not prohibit their issuance.

      I agree that GS was egregious in its actions when it became clear that the bottom was falling out of the market. They had purchased credit default swaps to protect themselves on the downside all while promoting CDO’s to clients. However, unless you’re a securities lawyer, I suggest you might be off base when you describe their actions as SEC violations or fraud.

      I was with GS in the early 80’s. At the time, its two co-CEO’s would show up on the trading floor on an irregular basis. Whenever they addressed the staff, they would always recite Goldman’s values. I don’t recall the exact wording but it went something like this…

      “Do the right thing. Do the right thing for our clients. And, when there is a conflict between the two, do the right thing.”

      Not sure what happened to those guys. Probably rolling over in their graves.

      As for the bailout, Andrew Ross Sorkin’s (formerly NY Times now CNBC) book reports it differently. Sheila Bair backs him up. Henry Kaufman sat across from the bank CEO’s and said take the money or I’ll have the FDIC audit you until we find something to hang you with. Why would he do that? Because they figured out they didn’t have enough money from Congress to buy up all the junk securities.

      GS and most of the others took the money and paid it back with interest as soon as the Fed would let them.