Monday, February 27, 2017

The Face Of The Post-Trump Generation

If you had to narrow that face down to just one, you could do far worse than choosing Janet Mock.

A self-described "black and Native Hawaiian trans girl from a single-parent home," her Op-Ed piece in the New York Times describes in vivid detail her struggles to be accepted for who she is, and for the challenges she and many others face from the Trump Administration's determination to roll back the protections that former President Obama attempted to put into place for the LGBT community. It does so with candor, with intelligence, and with a determination to not surrender to hatred.

She is part of the generation that will pick up the pieces when the current Disaster-in-Chief and his cronies has ceased to embarrass the nation, the world, and history.  And make no mistake about it. Far more than they are local, all politics are generational.  I have no doubt that, if we can make it through the next four years (or less, G-d willing), she and her generational compatriots will put things back together so that they will be in far better shape than they were before.

To look at Ms. Mock, to listen to her, to learn of her accomplishments, one wonders why she inspires such fear in the likes of Trump and his followers.  Is is merely that she is "different"?  Or is it something else, such as the fact that she is obviously comfortable with being "different"?

This much is certain:  unlike the dispossessed whites who sit around living off public benefits financed by blue states and waiting for the factories to come back, Ms. Mock is not sitting around waiting for someone to hand her the future.  She, and others in her age group, are building it for themselves.

And, perhaps without realizing it, for the rest of us as well.  Thank you, Ms. Mock.  Somehow, I have hope that you, I, and the rest of us will pull through this together.  And yes, we'll ultimately be "different."  But we'll definitely be better.

They Literally Don't Know What They're Doing!

I have said many times, in this blog and elsewhere, that the secret to successfully believing in conservatism over a sustained period of time is for the believer to not pay any attention to what he or she thinks or says.  Because, in the instant that the believer does so, he or she realizes it's nonsense, and is no longer a believer.

So I was not surprised when I read about an incident at the Conservative Political Action Committee conference the other day, in which audience participants were given red, white, and blue flags with the word (I can scarcely call it a name) "TRUMP" printed on it in gold letters.  Gold, of course, is Herr Twitler's favorite color; just look at any of his buildings.

So what? Red, white, blue, and "TRUMP."  Nothing wrong with that, right?

Well, almost nothing.  You see, the Russian flag also uses red, white, and blue, and the colors on each flag, in this case, were arranged as they are arranged on the Russian flag.  Take a look.

Did anyone notice?  Well, not right away.  The CPAC audience waived them wildly, thinking nothing of it, until someone caught on to what was happening and had the flags confiscated.

You know what was going on, folks?

It's called hiding in plain sight.  And it, along with the Flynn and FBI scandals, are why we need an independent investigation to find out whether or not we actually did elect the Manchurian Candidate.

Before we become just another republic in Putin's reconstituted U.S.S.R..

THIS Is The Sort Of Thing That Makes America Exceptional

No, not attacks on Jewish cemeteries.  Sadly, that is very unexceptional.  But what about Muslims raising money to repair the damage from such an attack?  Over $91,000, to be precise?

Well, it actually has happened, so let's talk about that for a second.

We have, at the moment, a President and a Congress who believe that the solution to our security problems is to ban an entire class of people, based on a demographic characteristic that supposedly predicts this class of people to be a public menace.  Specifically, their religion.  And never mind the fact that any such ban, as applied to citizens, would be facially unconstitutional.

As currently designed by the President and as supported by the Congress, this ban would not even apply to all nationalities whose populations, on a majority basis, follow the religion in question.  It would only apply to nationalities that have been shown to have never launched an attack against the U.S.. What about nations that have done so, like Egypt and Saudi Arabia?  Well, those nations have construction projects being built by the real estate company still owned and, for all practical purposes, controlled by the President, who has declared himself to have no conflicts of interest (even when he does).

This makes the President, and the Congress that supports him in this, decidedly unexceptional.  It puts them both in line with nearly every despotism, past and present, on the face of this planet.

And the Muslims who are rebuilding the Jewish cemetery?  They're just trying to act the way they've been told that Americans act in a crisis, by coming together with those in need, even if they are different.

I can't think of a more magnificent, and exceptional act, than the one being performed by these Muslims.  Maybe the rest of us should have more faith in the impact of living here than is true of our President and Congress.  They're the ones behaving like a menace.

Well, Gee, Ross, Then You Should Have Voted For Hillary

I mean, seriously.

Ross Douthat, one of the New York Times' nods to conservatism in its Op-Ed pages, decides, five weeks into the Trump nightmare, that a plan that puts displaced workers to work using a mix of tax cuts and additional spending, even if that means adding to the national debt, because, well, civilization is worth it?

Well, as George Will is fond of saying.

I've got bad news for you, Ross.  There was a candidate in the race last fall who would happily have signed off on such a proposal.  In fact, her campaign was largely organized around the kind of thinking you're now proposing.  As are the positions of most Democrats in Congress.

You may have heard of this candidate, Ross.  Her name was Hillary Clinton.  And she would have been more than happy to work with you and many like-minded souls, if you and those souls hadn't spent all of that time agonizing over whether or not to make the supreme sacrifice of abandoning any hope for America's future, for the sake of preserving the short-term existence of the Republican Party.

But you didn't care.  The enemy--and that's how you and your fellow-travellers think of the other side, Ross--can never be an opportunity for collaboration.  Why, that would mean deciding that being an American would be more important than being a conservative.

But, now that ol' Hillary's gone for good (presumably), and an all-GOP government is assured, it's safe to take middle-of-the-road Democratic thinking and re-brand it as mainstream Republicanism.

The question is, will Herr Twitler let you do it?  Don't count on it, Ross.  He doesn't care about you any more than you really care about him.  You guys are Republicans.  In the end, you only care about yourselves.

Will America Ever Be Ready For A Woman In The Oval Office?

While catching up on my Sunday newspaper reading, I read this interview with Chelsea Clinton in the New York Times Book Review.  I was impressed, while certainly not surprised by the intelligence and poise reflected in her responses to the questions.  I've read quite a bit about how Chelsea allegedly does not come across well in public appearances involving large audiences, but does better in small-scale encounters like this one.  For that matter, I've read the same thing about her mother. In this regard, given a choice between her parents, she fell close to the wrong tree.  In other regards, I think it's just as well that she fell closer to the tree she fell next to.

In those moments when I'm not ruing the reality of living with Donald Trump as President, I have spent some time wondering how Hillary Clinton managed to lose to him.  It certainly wasn't a lack of either experience or intelligence; she easily outweighed Trump in both departments.  It may have been a lack of public speaking skills, though I don't think it can be honestly said that Trump had much of a lead over her in that department.  To me, her loss is best explained by two things.  The first is her inexplicable decision to not campaign, or under-campaign, in the Upper Midwest, whose electoral college votes she desperately needed.  That seems to reek of cockiness; she felt so certain that those states were in her back pocket that she wasted money and energy campaigning in states that were more likely than not to end up in the GOP column simply because that's where they usually ended up.

And the second thing?  Her husband, and her relationship as well.

I have always thought that Clinton escaped impeachment not because the public felt that his relationship with Monica Lewinsky was unimportant, but because they disapproved of congressional Republicans elevating it to the level of a constitutional crisis.  And too, he presided over one of the greatest periods of economic expansion in post-World War II history.  No one was in mood to have the Republican lust for power ruin the Clinton jobs parade.

Somehow, however, the Clintons seemed to believe that all was utterly forgiven, and they were free to take Bill's eight years in office and turn it into the key to an international fortune, cloaked under the guise of spreading good will around the globe.  No one doubts that they did a lot of good in the process, but everyone noticed that, personally, they did fairly well for themselves at the same time. And, in any case, no one (including me) really believed that Bill had become a different human being when it comes to women.  As Gennifer Flowers, one of his conquests, reportedly once said, "A leopard never changes his spots."

Which is why, despite my support for Hillary, I was a little uneasy about the thought of Bill back in the White House, subject to the same temptations of power and (a) without the discipline of a Presidential agenda, and (b) more time and privacy as First Gentleman to indulge his worst tendencies outside of the prying eye of the media.  A lot of Democrats and independents didn't want to say so publicly, but I suspect many of them felt the same way--enough to deprive Hillary of the votes she needed.

But, having said all of that, I hasten to add that there is more than a little bit of a double standard here.

Hillary stood by Bill thoughout all of his infidelities, and the impeachment process as well.  This was, however, not seen as a case of marital fidelity, but rather a case of Hillary hanging on to her political meal ticket when it came to her own ambitions.  That perspective, rightly or wrongly, was supported by subsequent events--her election to the U.S. Senate, and her service as Barack Obama's Secretary of State.  A former First Lady, Senator and Cabinet Secretary--what better political portfolio could a potential presidential candidate have?

On the other hand, if this was a case of a man standing by a powerful woman in trouble, would it be seen the same way?  I tend to doubt it.  Men, because of the access to power their traditional gender role gives them, would never be seen as needed help from a woman to gain that access.

So, putting her own campaigning mistakes aside to a degree (and not completely in any case), it can and should be fairly said that Hillary Clinton lost the election because she is, well, a she.  The United States is simply not ready at the present time to elect a woman to serve in the Oval Office. Were it otherwise, I believe, she would have survived her campaign blunders against such a transparently obvious disaster as Donald Trump.  It is not otherwise.  And she, as well as we, didn't.

And if you want to know what Republican men think about women who attempt to speak truth to male power, the media is replete with examples as ugly as you can imagine.  Perhaps uglier.  I've shared many of them myself with you; here's one more recent example (and do you think he would have flinched if there had been an actual woman, instead of glass, underneath that gavel?).

And yet, instead of inspiring despair, this reality of last fall's election outcome seems to have inspired a desire to fight back.  I'm not just talking about the Women's March on Washington, in which I was proud to participate.  I'm also talking about women running for office, which they appear to be ready to do in greater numbers than in past years.  Take a look.  If this comes to pass, it will almost certainly mean that Hillary's run will not have been in vain.

Will America ever be ready for a Madame President?  One day, hopefully.  I'm not all that optimistic that I'll live to see it.  Then again, I didn't think I would live to see Obama happen. So who knows?  I do feel it will happen eventually.  Let's hope the idiotic male we have in power now doesn't blow us up first.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Unfortunately For Conservatives (And For All Of Us), Character Really Does Matter

Yes, character matters.  And conservatives know all about it.

After all, if you are old enough to remember the Clinton years, you discovered that character mattered a lot to conservatives.  Or so they said.  They started saying it, in fact, in 1992, from the moment that Bill Clinton became a serious presidential candidate, and Clinton's recreational sex life became public knowledge and thus part of our political debate.  Still, since conservatives are a little squeamish on the subject of sex, they decided to transform the discussion of Clinton's extra-marital life info something a little bit loftier, and therefore suitable for a presidential campaign.  And so, the character issue was born.

Fast-forward a quarter of a century, and the character issue is alive again.  Only not in a way that is designed to please conservatives.  One of their own is in the White House and, though he could be charitably described as a character, he cannot honestly be said to possess it.  He is a trust-funded, bankrupt con artist who has no true position on anything, except as it may relate to his self-promotion.  You take his word at your peril.  Sadly, many good people have learned that lesson the hard way.  Now, together, we will all learn it, whether we want to are not.

So it should come as no surprise that conservatives, and their media allies that pride themselves on maintaining a bipartisan reputation (above all else), have found a way to, well, reposition the character issue.  Suddenly, it's no longer about the person being elected; its about the people doing the electing.  It's about the voters.  But not about all of the voters.  It's about "white working class" voters, and the neglect that has been heaped on them by "elitists" (translation:  liberals with more than a high-school degree).

Only it's the voters who have been heaping that abuse on themselves.  For the better part of 35 years, these same voters have been voting for the same conservative candidates, swallowing the same empty promises of pain-free solutions to everything in their lives, solutions that depended on the voters' willingness to hate people who weren't like them.  Last November, those voters proved that even at rock bottom, they were still willing to look up and believe in those empty promises--even from a messenger that was laughing at them behind their backs.

Where's the character in that?  Where's the character in voting for a man who spent months demeaning the humanity of every group under the sun but "white working class" voters?  I will go to my grave wondering why Trump's presidential campaign didn't go down in flames the minute the footage of him mocking a disabled reporter was made public.

The answer is simple.  There is no character in this at all.  In fact, there's a certain degree of slander in saying that Trump's support is rooted in the grievances of the white working class.  A large number of people who could arguably fit into that categorization didn't vote for Trump after all.

To put it another way, as this author puts it, the likelihood of someone voting for Trump is in an inverse relationship to the quality of that person's character.  Trump voters are still people who are looking for easy answers, still looking for empty promises that have no price tags, and don't care who gets hurt in the process of making and keeping those promises, as long as they get treated like it's not about all of us, just them.

Or, as this author put it:
There is a sickness in America’s political culture. It was brought about by systemic problems rooted in neoliberalism, the politics of economic austerity, a frayed and broken social contract, and an assault on the very notion of political community and civil society. The ascendance of Donald Trump is a symptom of these troubles, but not the cause.
Ultimately, however, Donald Trump’s voters made a moral decision. They chose to support a candidate who is a clear and present danger to American democracy and to the core values of our pluralistic, multicultural and cosmopolitan society. In the spirit of “personal responsibility,” these people must be held accountable for their decision.
And so, they must be accountable for the effect they have on others, especially children.  And Jews. And Christians who try to practice what they preach.  And all others they and their Fearless Leader step on in the pursuit of their naked self-interest.  And, when they blind themselves to reality in the process (see here and here)), they must be held accountable for that as well.

Character matters.  But character is much more than keeping one's zipper up.  Character matters in every moment in every hour of everyday any of our elected (and especially our un-elected) officials are in power, and have the opportunity to use that power.  Or misuse it.  It matters in every decision that is made or not made, about every issue that may have an impact on everyone.  I repeat: everyone. Not just the supporters of one person.  Everyone.

And character is reflected above all in fidelity to the truth, whether or not that truth is personally painful. Power in this country is not meant to be handed out for personal enrichment.  It is distributed as a public trust, to be used only on behalf of the public.

If we are ever to be a democracy once again, that's the type of character all of us need.  The voters, and those for whom they vote.  Hopefully, that's something that all of us can agree upon.  Soon.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Theater As A Force For Good

This article about the Ghostlight Project, an effort by members of the theater community across the country to band together and speak out about issues affecting both theater and the nation, and this one about the restoration of the Hudson Theater in New York are inspirations to me in the context of all three of my careers:  an attorney, an actor/aspiring producer, and a historic preservationist.

My lifelong interest in theater, for which I have my mother and her late sister (my aunt) to thank, has as much to do with theater as a force for social good as with theater as an artistic medium. Perhaps that partly reflects my father's influence, given his interest in politics.  At any rate, to me, a theater that has no consequences (good ones) for the culture around it is no theater at all. Fortunately, in spite of the fractured nature of American culture, our theater has had tremendous consequences for our culture, especially in the area of tolerance, whether it does with the aspirations of an African-American family ("A Raisin in the Sun") or young people dealing with their sexual orientation ("Falsettos").

I have often read critics who wished out loud for a National Theater such as the one Great Britain has.  Of course, Great Britain has was it has because it has a more unified culture.  But even as the culture of the UK breaks down and leads its people to turn inward, the role of the NT is currently a subject of heated debate.  Perhaps, in its own way, the Ghostlight Project is as close to a National Theater as the U.S. can get.

As for the Hudson, I rejoice in having yet another example of celebrating a building whose existence, design, and history of productions tells us so much about where we have been, as well as where we are going.  It's not an accident that historic preservation actually increases the value of adjacent properties, instead (as some might suspect) of having the opposite effect.

It's a miracle that, in a highly technological age, that theater survives at all; it's even a greater miracle that it is actually flourishing.  I know of no greater testimony to its value than that fact. May we continue to do all that we can to support it, so that it may flourish forever.

More Light In The Darkness

Forbes magazine (along with its Web site, is, to borrow a phrase I like to use a lot, nobody's idea of a bleeding-heart liberal publication.  In fact, there was a time when the magazine mocked Communist slogan-making by using the phrase "Capitalist Tool" as an advertising slogan. It may still do this, for all I know; I confess to not being a regular reader.

In any case, you can understand (and you may very well share the feeling) why I was shocked and pleased to come across this article.  Nothing about its contents surprises me in the least.  But its location inside a medium controlled by Forbes is utterly astonishing.  One might expect a Catholic newspaper or magazine questioning the infallibility of the Pope to be as likely.  In effect one of the two or three leading press organs that exist to promote the efficacy of capitalism as the best economic system for the largest number of people has declared capitalism to be dead.  Or, at least, to have gone on the record as saying that capitalism has a definite expiration date.

Even more remarkable is the fact that the article goes on to make the case not only for sustainable development, but for changes in the ownership structures of enterprises that would allow employees the opportunity to manage businesses.  I've been an advocate for decades of expanding the use of ESOPs and similar structures as a way of getting past the investor-versus-labor divide that has dominated economic life around the world for centuries.  And here it is, being advocated by a leading advocate of the interests of the investing class.

All I can say in response, Forbes, is:  from your pages to G-d's ears.  And from G-d's mouth thereafter to the ears of many others as well.

Admit It, Baltimore: We're Part Of A Megalopolis

As much pride as I have in my home town of Baltimore, I have always been frustrated by the determination with which it has traditionally isolated itself, economically and culturally, from the rest of the world.  Even within its borders, its is a collection of neighborhoods that are more like an archipelago than a single entity.  That lack of cohesiveness gives many of those neighborhoods a significant degree of strength.  But, at the same time, it isolates many of the weaker ones from avenues (pardon the pun) of help that would change their destiny for the better.

But, worst of all, it tries to isolate itself from its 40-miles-distant neighbor, Washington, D.C., a city that has proven the power of the federal government to transform an entire region into an economic powerhouse (sorry, "free-market" conservatives).  Despite this effort, the nation's capital has still had a positive spillover effect on the development of Baltimore's downtown commercial market, and also on the housing market in the city's southern neighborhoods near Interstate 95.  In fact, the spillover effect has reached the point at which the Monumental City is attracting more direct investment from south of its borders.  Here's an example of one major investor, one whose vision of the region's potential extends all the way to Richmond.  In fact, it could extend to Richmond in the south and perhaps even Harrisburg in the north.

How to get to there from here?  Well, one solution would be to extend the current light-rail line south so that it connects to the Green and Red lines of the Washington Metro, and then perhaps extend it at the northern end as well.  Maybe even across the Pennsylvania border to York, where a signification population of commuters to Baltimore live.  But, more than anything else, Baltimoreans need to embrace the idea that becoming part of a larger whole is the key toward a healthier, more prosperous, more enduring Baltimore.  There truly is no future in trying to go it on our own.

Light In The Darkness

This blog has had to become so much more relentlessly negative over the past three months, and especially the past four weeks, that it becomes even more necessary than it would otherwise be to report good news when you can find it.  So here are two good pieces of news on the subject of climate change.  First, a bold declaration by former Republican Governor of California Arnold Schwarzenegger of his belief in the existence of the problem, and of the urgent need to solve it. And second, a proposal by officials from the Nixon, Reagan, and Bush (both of them) Administrations to address the problem by way of a carbon tax--a solution formerly limited in its support to supposedly "die-hard lefties."

Schwarzenegger's support is important, even if for no other reason than the fact that he's a movie star as well as a politician, and any support he gives for an issue is that much more likely to flow across party lines.  Personally, if I were President, I would be happy to make him my Secretary of the Interior, but for his past treatment of women.

The support for a carbon tax from the likes of James Baker, Henry Paulson, and George Shultz, in some ways, is even more significant.  All three of them have managed to survive in the political swamp known as Washington, D.C., and know their way around the proverbial corridors of power. If, as I hope, they are serious about moving forward with their proposal, there may be a slim chance that, one day, the proposal could become a reality.

First, of course, we'll have to get rid of the self-promoting, bankrupted con artist who currently occupies the White House (when he isn't in Florida or running for re-election), and who thinks climate change is "bulls--t."  His word, not mine.  And that process can happen soon enough.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

"He Will Die In Jail"

You've got to say this much for the 45th President of the United States.  He's set a record, albeit not one anyone should be proud of holding.  He's reached Watergate-levels of impeachment in just four weeks of holding the office.  Of course, the emoluments problem guaranteed that he would hit that threshold the moment he took the oath of office.  But Donald Trump, a man who likes to build things that are gilded, has now gilded the lily of the argument against his serving out his term.

I am talking, of course, about the resignation of his national security advisor, Michael Flynn, in the wake of charges (now confirmed) that he communicated with Russian officials and withheld that information from Vice President Pence.  This, of course, begs a whole host of additional questions, and demands an investigation of Flynn's conduct in this matter, regardless of where that investigation may lead.  And it may very well lead to the door of the Oval Office.  It could very well beg Howard Baker's infamous Watergate question:  what did the President know, and when did he know it?

Keep in mind that this story follows in the wake of an election campaign in which credible questions were raised about Trump's business dealings--and, quite possibly, other dealings--with Russian officials and businesses, dealings that might have the effect of compromising his ability to fully represent American interests here and abroad.  Those questions were repeatedly shoved under the carpet by Trump, his campaign, his supporters and the GOP.  Unfortunately, those questions now form a lump in that carpet around which tiptoeing is neither possible nor advisable.

Further, keep in mind that this comes against a background in which Trump is under siege from the two segments of American government that, as a Republican, should be in his back pocket for support: the military, and the intelligence community.  Let's start with the military.  Specifically, let's start with the disastrous raid in Yemen, a failure in every conceivable sense, a human tragedy for those who lost the lives, and an expedition based on intelligence so incomplete that Trump's predecessor, Barack Obama (and G-d, how I miss him), decided against proceeding with the raid. But not Trump, a man who's accustomed to sacrificing the needs of others for the sake of his ego. And military men and women, whose lives rest on the sake of good information and selfless decision-making, are not fooled by bluster:  they don't like what they see, and they're telling it like it is.

And now, for the intelligence community (full disclosure:  I have a close relative who is a member of that community, about whom I can say no more).  They, too, pay a high price for the work that they do and the information that they obtain, and are in no position to see that work misused by a "leader" who refuses to safeguard that information and its sources in a way that protects this country and its people.  I'm referring, of course, to this.  Think about it for a moment:  the man who was, just a few months ago, up in arms about Hillary Clinton's e-mail server doesn't give a damn if he throws a party and classified documents are one of the main courses.

Is it any wonder, given this incident in particular, that the intelligence community, on whom all of us depend, has turned against Trump?  Is it any wonder that they want to "go nuclear," and ensure the prediction of one official that "[H]e will die in jail"?

It shouldn't be.  But this should make you wonder.  To paraphrase former Senator Bob Dole, where's the outrage?

There's plenty of it in the streets, at public meetings, and all over social media (and elsewhere on the Internet).  But what about Congress, and the media?  I am old enough to remember the zeal and seriousness with which both of them pursued Richard Nixon out of office and into the disgrace of history.  Any chance of that happening now?


Congress, of course, is controlled by the President's party, which in turn has the backing of all sorts of political money.  That money has been spent on redistricting, on enacting voter restrictions, and on "fake news" designed to ensure that the GOP stays in charge of Congress indefinitely.  And the members of the current congressional majority feels quite sure that they will stay in charge.  All they have to do is produce more tax cuts, more deregulation, more burdening of the nation's needs on the shoulders of those who can barely bear them, so that those who bear almost nothing at all can bear even less.  Someone like Jason Chaffetz is a walking embodyment of all this.  Investigating Trump and his minions would be a direct threat to this happy little arrangement.

And the press, as we used to call them?  For that matter, the Fourth Estate, as we used to call them? When the press was regarding as a "fourth branch" of the federal government.  Forget about all of that, too.  They are a branch of nothing, except the Corporate Estate that owns Congress as well as them.  They are little more than a PR outlet for Wall Street.  Even in a direct confrontation with Trump, they are easily swept aside.

We may only have the courts, at this point.  The courts that rightly put a stop to Trump's proposed immigration ban (at least for now).  But we may not have them much longer, either.

Somehow, it's got to be up to the rest of us.  Somehow, we've got to find a way to make sure that the prophecy of the unnamed intelligence official comes true.  Trump's got to end up in jail, before America ends up only in the records of history.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Where Will The Reichstag Fire Be This Time?

If you're a student of 20th-century European history, you know that Adolf Hitler knew how to stage a crisis for his own advantage.  His underlings set fire to the building that housed the Reichstag, the parliament of the German Weimar Republic, and he then used the "crisis" he had created to invoke emergency powers that allowed him to transform himself from an elected official into the dictator that history is reluctantly forced to remember, if only to guard against the possibility that someone similar might re-emerge again.

Someone similar has, in fact, emerged again.  But not in Germany.  After decades of belief that "it can't happen here," there are unmistakable signs that it is, in fact, just beginning to happen here.

Paul Krugman knows it.

The Economist (not known for its knee-jerk liberalism) knows it.

The White House staff knows it.

The Federal bureaucracy knows it.

And, out in the so-called "heartland," in places such as Michigan and Kansas, people are agitating for it.

An end to democracy, and the beginning of a totalitarian state.

And, after all, it's not like we haven't seen this story before.  We've seen it during the early part of this century.

A president elected by the Electoral College only, winning neither a majority nor a plurality of the popular vote.  An administration that stumbles through the day-to-day business of the American people, finding time to reward its political patrons, but neither able or interested in anything else. A Commander-in-Chief who prefers vacations to reading intelligence briefings, especially ones that warn about an attack being planned by a member of a family with whom his family has had business dealings.  And then, seemingly out of nowhere, an attack on American soil that was then used to manipulate popular opinion against the political opposition--with the facts behind the attack dumped down the "memory hole" of history.

We will never know to what extent the 9/11 terrorist attacks were a purposeful "Reichstag fire," or a kind of accidental one that allowed George W. Bush and Dick Cheney to monopolize government power in an almost unprecedented manner.  But make no mistake:  there was nothing accidental about that monopolization.  Bush and Cheney, especially Cheney, saw an opportunity to turn American grief and anger into a political coalition that they thought could last forever.  The trouble is, of course, that empires don't last forever; conservatives, who are supposedly students of history, should know that.

But conservatism in the purely classic sense no longer exists in any meaningful way in our political system.  It has been replaced by a reactionary effort to recreate a mythical past, one in which white male Christians ruled, and everyone else was under their heels.  And no one is more devoted to the fulfillment of that effort than Donald John Trump, the trust-funded bankrupt who currently lives in the house with the fireplace in which are carved the words of John Adams:  "May none but honest and wise men ever rule under this roof."  Trump may not be the first President to disappoint Adams from his vantage point in Heaven, but he is no doubt our second President's greatest disappointment yet.

And with Steve Bannon in his self-appointed spot on the National Security Council, and Bannon's professed belief (desire?) for American involvement in another major war, it's hard not to wonder where our next Reichstag fire will be.

And how big it will be.

And how lasting its scars will be.

And how successful it will be in creating a Fourth Reich on American soil.

Then again, consider Trump's refusal thus far to provide disaster-aid funding to California, a state that may have cost him a popular-vote victory in the election.

Maybe the fire has already been it.  I pray that we are not too late to put it out.