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The vast rightwing conspiracy, 2016-style

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Back in the 1990s, Hillary Clinton famously referred to the “vast rightwing conspiracy” that formed to take her and her husband, President Bill Clinton, down. That conspiracy was led by conservative radicals who today have morphed into what is known as the alt-right, a branch of the Republican party that, twenty years ago, was considered fringe even by senior Republicans like Bob Dole, but has now taken over the party, and may be about to take over the United States of America.

This conspiracy always has been comprised of white nationalists, eccentric Christians, and under-educated rural blue collar workers, mostly men, whose resentments were easy fodder for the conspiracy’s leaders to stoke. The players over these twenty years have changed, although some of them—Rupert Murdoch’s minions, Rush Limbaugh, Newt Gingrich, remain—but they are all cast from the same mold. Why did Hillary call it a “conspiracy”? Because it was hatched in darkness and anonymity. It remains there today, fueled by dark money, only its leaders now are the foursome of Donald Trump, Wikileaks’ Julian Assange, Vladimir Putin and James Comey.

This requires some explaining on my part. Trump is, of course, the latest leader of the conspiracy. With his insults, smears, bullying, racism, misogyny and xenophobia (have I left anything out?), he perfectly articulates the hatred and anger of the alt-right, elevating it to undreamed of rancor. Wikileaks has joined the parade, as I pointed out last week when I showed that Julian Assange is hoping a President Trump will release him from the awful exile he is suffering within the Ecuadorean Embassy in London, a fate he brought upon himself. Putin, who has renewed the Cold War with America and brought it to its most dangerous level in decades yet is admired and even courted by Trump, has joined the conspiracy by having his security forces hack into Democratic emails and then send them on to Wikileaks. And then we come to the most interesting suspect of all, James Comey, the director of the F.B.I., an avowed Republican, lifted to power by George W. Bush. Why did Comey take this particular moment, on the eve of an election Hillary Clinton was bound to win, to drop this phony bombshell? Because he, like Putin and Assange, wants Trump to be President. His motive? We can only speculate, but let history be our guide.

Back in the 1920s, after Germany had lost the First World War and the country was filled with rightwing resentment—as America is today–a conspiracy arose to undermine Germany’s legitimate, democratically-elected government. This conspiracy was between two groups: (1) unofficial, secret, armed rightwing partisans, known as the Freikorps, which were much like today’s tea party-inspired open-carry rightwingers (think of Cliven Bundy and his gang); and (2) the official expression of German power, the German Army. We can think of Comey, and the F.B.I. in general, as the official branch of U.S. armed security power. We thus have, in this unholy alliance, a tacit agreement for the seizure of power by unofficial and official groupings, come together to undermine the Democratic Party and its candidate.

This conspiracy troubles me a great deal, and it should trouble you too. (The German conspiracy, after all, led to Hitler and World War II.) It now looks like Hillary Clinton may lose this election. As you know, I hope not, but if she does, so be it: life goes on, and Democrats will live to fight another day. But I hope, and expect, and will demand, that Democratic leaders, from Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer on down, will examine this bizarre and troubling gang-up with all the power they have at their disposal. There may be little they can actually do about it, if Trump is elected and the House and Senate remain Republican. But Republicans themselves should want an explanation, even in the delirium they will undoubtedly have should their candidate win. The combination of foreigners—Putin and Assange—and rogue government officials, undermining and influencing an American Presidential election, is unprecedented. It represents a huge threat to the legitimacy of our country. For the director of the F.B.I. to be associated with a plot to bring down a Presidential candidate is treacherous, if not treasonous, and demands explanation. A Democratic Senate or House subcommittee, even in it be in the minority, simply must hold hearings; and the American media simply must pay attention.

No matter who wins this election, we Democrats cannot sing Kumbaya, join hands with a tea party that hates and wishes to destroy us and our values, and let Republican hegemony go unchallenged. We will have to go to the mattresses. If Hillary does indeed win, Republicans will pull out every dirty trick they have, and they have a lot of ugliness in their toolkit, as Trump has shown. If Trump wins, that event should be seen for what it actually is: a calamitous event in the history of our nation. Either way, fasten your seatbelts. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.

That upcoming Trump University trial: Trump doesn’t want jurors to hear the evidence



Imagine you’re a juror at the upcoming class action trial against Trump University, scheduled to begin Nov. 28 in San Diego federal court. The now-defunct Trump University, you’ll recall, was the phony “real estate school” that promised to teach students “the secrets of real estate success.” It bilked hundreds of them out of tens of thousands of dollars each by claiming to reveal “Trump’s secret insights into how to make money in real estate.” Of course, it was a scam—which has prompted the class action suit. The presiding judge, you may also recall, was Gonzalo P. Curiel, the same judge Trump called “a hater” who was “unfair” to him because Curiel is “Hispanic,” and because Trump is building that infamous wall along the Mexican border.

Trump couldn’t prevent the lawsuit from going forward, but he wanted Curiel thrown off the case. It didn’t work, but the judge did kindly allow the trial to be postponed until after the Nov. 9 Presidential election.

Now there’s another twist. Trump’s lawyer now is demanding that Judge Curiel not allow the jury to hear  important evidence, including any of Trump’s remarks about Curiel—or about Trump’s taxes, or his numerous bankruptcies,, or even the videotape of Trump bragging about grabbing women’s “pussies.”

Trump’s lawyer, Daniel Petrocelli—who represented Fred Goldman in the wrongful death suit against O.J. Simpson and won the Goldman family $8.5 million—said he wants the above information banned from the jury because the trial should not be a test of Trump’s “character,” which even Petrocelli by this argument apparently concedes is horrible, but of Trump’s “management of the university.”

That’s what we call chutzpah in my family.

So if you were a juror in that trial, would you want to hear about Trump’s decades of bad behavior, questionable business practices and other instances of ripping people off, like not paying vendors? On the other hand, it’s almost inconceivable that any of the prospective jurors have not heard all that stuff by now, given the amplitude of media coverage. I would imagine Petrocelli, during voir dire jury selection, will look for the most ignorant, uninformed citizens he can find, incurious, uneducated yahoos who don’t pay attention to current events. After all, that’s Trump’s base, isn’t it?

By the way, if you’re still undecided—which, if you’re reading this blog, you’re probably not—here’s one reason to turn the House of Representatives blue. Republicans are already planning to impeach President Hillary Clinton. WTF you say? But it’s true. She hasn’t even been elected yet, and these Tea Partiers are sharpening their pitchforks and oiling up their torches. Isn’t it depraved?

Tax shelters for the rich, and the Republicans who want to keep them secret



In a little-noticed event, a high-ranking United Nations official is urging the world to make the elimination of tax havens a priority to ensure that corporations, billionaires and ‘kleptocrats’ pay their fair share of taxes.”

The richest one percent is hiding “as much as $32 trillion…held offshore in secrecy jurisdictions escaping just taxation,” the official said. The prime hiding places are Switzerland, Hong Kong and the United States, with “other high-profile jurisdictions” being Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Belgium, Malta, Cyprus, Singapore, Liberia and Panama.

The U.N. official is Alfred de Zayas, a human rights expert; in his press conference he urged the U.N. to “take concerted action” against “speculators, hedge funds and transnational enterprises.”

This fits in well with the current discussion about disparities of wealth and the governments that permit it to exist—a powerful discussion here in America, where Bernie Sanders used it as a centerpiece of his populist campaign.

It used to be thought that the extremely wealthy were blessed by God, and so were beyond criticism. We now know that the one percent got their money, and hold onto it, not through God’s intervention, but through a tax system that does not function properly or democratically. When the extremely wealthy have undue access to the highest levels of government—including elected officials and regulators—they often are able to persuade them that laws which would more heavily tax the wealthy actually hurt the poor. This is, of course, Orwellian, but it is an argument to which the Republican Party is particularly receptive.

Even so, at some point, popular disgust with the rich avoiding taxes—a primary cause of income inequality—has risen to such an extent that even Donald Trump is attempting to take advantage of it–falsely, of course. The likely election of Hillary Clinton, as well as the probability that Republicans will keep the House of Representatives, means that if income and estate taxes do go up on the rich, something Hillary Clinton has proposed, Paul Ryan will have to go along. However, the Speaker is adamant in insisting that he will never be party to any plan to raise taxes on anyone.

This would seem to let the rich off scott-free: so much for income and estate taxes. But there is a possibility that, at the very least, Republicans and Democrats could come together on the de Zayas proposal. It’s not clear what the U.N. itself could do; the world organization cannot mandate laws for individual countries. It can, however, place pressure on member states to create their own laws restricting the extent to which the one percent, including corporations, can park their money in tax havens. Even Republicans, after all, might be susceptible to moral arguments concerning the unfairness of tax havens.

Bernie Sanders of course railed against the one percent, and as this position paper he wrote during the primary campaign suggests, he is well aware of tax havens, which he deemed “unacceptable.” As for specifics, Sanders called for new laws to “prevent corporations from avoiding U.S. taxes by claiming to be a foreign company through the establishment of a post office box in a tax haven country. However, it’s not clear how such a new law would work, or whether it could effectively recover large amounts of money currently out of reach of taxes, or whether it also would apply to the wealthiest individuals and families.

Even if a Clinton administration were to craft specifics about regulating tax havens, would a Ryan-led House go along? Back in 2011, the Obama administration did indeed propose new laws to “crack down on offshore tax havens [that] could produce $210 billion in new tax revenue over the next decade.” Republicans staunchly opposed it, and the proposal went nowhere. And earlier this year, once again, Obama urged Congress to end corporate tax havens that, he said, are “gaming the system.” Republicans again opposed, and the proposal died in the Republican-controlled Congress. The Republican rationale for opposition was expressed by one of the organizations that represent the one percent: This is a misguided approach that could have a freezing effect on attracting global employers and will damage U.S. competitiveness, which may very well be measured in lost jobs, wages and GDP.” That’s the standard Republican pitch for not regulating tax havens. Who said it? The CEO of the Organization for International Investment, a Washington-based nonprofit funded by some of world’s biggest corporations, including GlaxoSmithKline, Toyota, Deutsche Telekom, Credit Suisse and Chubb. These clearly are the kinds of wealthy entities that hide their money in tax havens. Of course they would be opposed to transparency and paying their fair share. They, with their Republican friends, can be expected to strongly oppose any attempt to regulate tax havens, which means that—even if the Senate turns Democratic–as long as the House of Representatives remains controlled by Republicans, wealthy individuals and corporations will continue to hide their money overseas, and avoid paying their fair share.

We can only dream about how much better America would be if we could recover even a portion of the trillions of dollars now being hidden by the rich. The money could go into roads, bridges, tunnels and the rest of our decaying infrastructure. We could increase teacher salaries, as well as those of our volunteer military. Cities and local jurisdictions could better invest in affordable housing for the middle class. We could invest more in alternative energy, in early childhood education, in daycare, in preventive healthcare, in training and career education. The wish list goes on and on. Sadly, Republicans, for some bizarre reason known only to them, do not appear to want such good things to happen. When they say they do, they lie: watch their deeds, not their words.

Exposed: The secret Trump-Duterte tapes

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Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte has made international headlines with his inflammatory rhetoric, extra-judicial killings of drug dealers and users, and, most recently, his announced “severing of ties” with the U.S. (since walked back)—all of which makes Donald J. Trump his number one fan! Wikileaks has just published a recording made of a leaked telephone conversation between Duterte and the GOP standard-bearer. was lucky to obtain a link to the tape because a family member of mine works for Wikileaks. The conversation occurred on Oct. 17.

DJT: Hello? Hello? Kellyanne, I can’t hear a damn thing. Fix it.

RD: Hallo. Yes, this is President Duterte.

DJT: Mr. President! May I call you Rodrigo?

RD: Of course.

DJT: And please call me Donald.

RD: Yes, hello Donald, how are you?

DJT: Fantastic! Great! I love Filipinos! I employ many, many Filipinos in my hotels and casinos. Great workers! They never complain. And so pious! Like me, they are believers. A tremendous people. Nobody respects Filipinos more than me. And nobody turns down a bed like a Filipino! I love lumpia! We are going to win this election, you know.

RD: Yes, Donald. Here too in the Philippines we have the crooked rigged media.

DJT: I wanted to ask you some questions, Rodrigo, on how to govern when I am President.

RD: Certainly, my good friend, as you Americans say, “fire away,” haha!

DJT: Now, here in America, we also have a problem with drugs, especially with Mexicans. And this I can tell you, with all due respect, that it is a worse problem than it is in the Philippines. A huge problem. You have had great success in your war on drugs. I understand you’ve killed several thousand dealers.

RD: Well, not myself, personally, Donald. Just two or three. I am too busy with affairs of state to hunt those dogs down. But, yes, it is true that my security forces, and those Filipino citizens loyal to me, are doing great service to the nation by rubbing out these animals.

DJT: That’s what I’m talking about, Rodrigo! We have to get rid of the animals, too! Tell me, when your people are rubbing out the animals, do they sometimes make a mistake and shoot your political rivals as well?

RD: [giggles] Well, I’m not aware of any specific instances, Donald, but let me just say, it is not beyond the realm of possibility!

DJT: Because, just between me and you, Rodrigo, I would like to institute a similar program in the U.S., and if some of my enemies get caught in the crossfire, I wouldn’t exactly cry about it.

RD: I think I know to whom you are referring, Donald. A certain H.R.C., perhaps?

DJT: She’s crooked, you know, Rodrigo. Very crooked. Nasty, too. I call her “Imelda Rodham.” Of course, there are others who theoretically could be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Obama…Ryan…McCain…and that Michelle. She’s the worst, you know. Except for Hillary. She should be in jail!

RD: You know, Donald, we know how to deal with such people in the Philippines.

DJT: I wish things were that simple in the U.S., my friend, but we have too many crybabies in this country. They’re not tough enough. Not like you, Rodrigo, or my friend, Putin. Or Hitler, for that matter. Did you ever meet him?

RD: Who? Hitler?

DJT: No, no, Putin.

RD: I have not yet had the pleasure. But my new best friend forever, Chinese President Ji, has promised to introduce us.

DJT: You’ll love him, that I can tell you. What a guy! Maybe you can both visit me at Mar-a-Lago after I’m elected. We have a lovely beach. Putin loves taking off his clothes. He has a pretty good body, by the way. Nice abs. I used to have nice abs. Melania bought me a treadmill for my birthday, but to tell you the truth, I hate the damn thing. It’s impossible to tweet when you’re on a treadmill. Melania’s hot, though, don’t you think?

RD: Donald, she is what we call, in the Tagalog language, a MILF.

DJT: I’ll tell you, Rodrigo, if she was my wife, I’d do her.

RD: But Donald, she is your wife!

DJT: Oh, right, right. I was thinking of Ivanka. Say, tell me this, Rodrigo, do you have voter fraud in the Philippines?

RD: Oh, no, Donald, that is not a problem. We are a very law-abiding peoples.

DJT: Because we do. Massive. Huge. You wouldn’t believe it. And it’s all from the Democrats.

RD: How do you mean, Donald?

DJT: It’s rigged! They have Clinton people out in cemeteries, looking for dead people to vote. I read it on Twitter! Unbelievable, right? I know they’re planning on fixing the election, how much I don’t know, you tell me, but a lot. That I can tell you: a lot. Probably enough to take millions of votes away from me, especially in swing states. Rodrigo, maybe you can tell all the Filipino-Americans to vote for me.

RD: I will do my best, Donald.

DJT: All right! You are a good man, my friend. Let me know if you’re ever in New York. Steaks at Trump Tower! And don’t worry about the bill.

RD: Thank you, Donald. And let me wish you good luck with the election.

DJT: Thank you, Rodrigo. Hang in there, okay?

RD: Will do, Donald—or should I say, “Mister President”? [giggles]

Trump and Goebbels: “Ve Vill Vin!”



March, 1945 was not a good time for Hitler’s Nazi government. The war was essentially lost: Russian troops pouring in from the East, British and American troops from the West. Allied air power had reduced scores of German cities to rubble: Berlin, the capital, had no electricity, no transportation, and no food. The German people themselves were so demoralized, they were hoisting white flags from their windows in anticipation of being liberated by Americans. Germany had lost millions upon millions of soldiers, and more were falling every day. The whole world knew that Germany had lost the war—except for the most fanatical of the Nazi leadership, who believed against all odds that “a miracle” would save the day.

Those fanatics were led by Hitler himself. But just below Hitler was the number two man in Germany, Hitler’s Minister of Enlightenment and Propaganda, Joseph Goebbels. We are fortunate, from a historical point of view, to have his personal diary, which contains a day-by-day account of almost the entire war period. (The diaries were recovered by Allied troops. Some pages had been burned in an obvious attempt to destroy them, but most survived. The diary is housed at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution.)

Goebbels understood on some level that the cause was lost, but he could not admit it. He wrote, on March 14, “…the German economy can [only] hold out for another four weeks…”. His own ministry headquarters had just been bombed to smithereens; by his own admission, Germany was “defenseless” against Allied bombing. “A vast number of worrying problems now come before me,” he writes. “One wonders where on earth a way out of this terrible war dilemma is to be found.”

There was, of course, no way out. Within six weeks, Hitler was dead, by his own hand. Goebbels killed himself, too, along with his wife, who before she took poison gave cyanide capsules to their six young children. Germany signed the act of surrender the first week of May. The war in Europe was over.

But Goebbels lived in his fantasyland until the last moment. Despite the wedge closing in on Berlin, “…it is essential to keep a cool head and not to lose one’s nerve,” he wrote. Armed with books about Frederick the Great and the Punic Wars—metaphors for snatching victory from the jaws of defeat–Goebbels convinced himself (and tried to convince everyone who would listen to him) that a miracle would occur. “One must accept defeat after defeat in order to emerge victorious,” he wrote, adding: “There is no question of any doubt in my mind regarding the possibility of victory…”. All it takes is “the will” to see things through.

Doesn’t that sound like Trump? The refusal to recognize reality, the threat to fight on and on regardless of the consequences, the grim determination that even though everything is collapsing, will power alone will seize victory from the ashes of defeat—it’s all so Goebbelsian, or should I say Trumpian. As Germany’s collapse became increasingly clear in April, Goebbels still refused to give up; he formed so-called “Werewolf” squads, assassins and terrorists who would continue to battle, guerilla-style, even as the German Army and Air Force vanished. He vowed to fight on, to contest the results of the war, which Germany was losing through “treachery.” Germany had been “sold out” by “traitors,” not because she was a loser.

And here we have Trump, in basically the same position. He will lose, badly. As with Goebbels, on some level he knows it. But he’s living in a delusion. He will never give in, never concede defeat, never be gracious, as every prior losing candidate for President has been. His “traitors” are the media, Hillary Clinton, crooked election officials. If he loses, it’s because the election was “rigged.”

When he loses, will Trump have his own Werewolves? If there are recalcitrant die-hards who cause trouble, they’ll come from the Trumpistas we see on television, in their Trump hats and red, white and blue Trump costumes, the defiant ones, open-carrying firearms, who snarl about revolution and civil war. Their chant isn’t “Heil Trump,” it’s Jail her!” Will Trump’s Werewolves form a sort of Fifth Column—sleeper cells of violent partisans, fighting for a lost cause, like those Japanese soldiers who refused to admit they’d lost the war in the Pacific, and hunkered down in caves on remote islands for decades, getting crazier and crazier?

We’re about to find out.

On the eve of destruction, Republicans turn against each other

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With little ammunition remaining to fend off the impending disaster to their party and candidate, Republican Trump supporters are resorting to the most specious and rhetorical of arguments. Consider, for instance, the Wall Street Journal’s William McGurn.

He’s a longtime columnist for the newspaper, which allows us to take a peek at his track record. Gay marriage? After the Supreme Court’s historic decision approving it, McGurn, an avowed Catholic, was in full poopy-pants mode: “A triump for gay rights but not for democracy,” he opined, with lip-licking malice.

Global warming? According to McGurn, President Obama—who just a week ago presided over the strongest climate-change agreement in history, the Paris accord—has “squelch[ed] further inquiry” into the science (!!!!!) of climate change, because he (Obama) chooses to believe the 99.5% of climate scientists who believe in it, not the .05% of Republican hacks who don’t.

But I digress! Onto All Things Trump! Let’s look at McGurn’s column from yesterday, entitled “The Cheap Moralizing of Never Trump.” He attempts to dismiss the anti-Trump movement by, essentially, insulting its adherents. How? First, he says that calling Trump “coarse and boorish” is only to be expected from Democrats: “It’s an old argument for the left.” But, as he’s sadly forced to concede, “Republicans are now hearing it from the right as well.”

This is an inconvenient truth. No longer can McGurn simply vilify Democrats. Now, his own party—large segments of it—has joined the anti-Trump parade. What’s a conservative columnist to do? Instead of claiming that Trump isn’t “coarse and boorish” (how could McGurn? Trump is), McGurn instead deflects the argument by focusing on the insinuation (by the anti-Trump crowd) that Trump’s supporters must be “evil…or…invincibly stupid.”

Well, I’ll give him that. There is a belief on the left (which I share) that anyone who would vote for Trump at this point is, somehow, mentally unhinged. Now, I won’t use the word “evil” because its definition is too tricky, but I do believe Trump voters are “stupid.” (“Invincibly” is a nice writer’s word but I’m not sure there are degrees of stupidity when it comes to bad political choices). Not all Republicans are stupid, and not all evangelicals are stupid; but those Christians who believe in the literal inerrancy of the bible are stupid, and I’ll tell you why.

There are different types of intelligence, according to the respected American psychologist, Howard Gardener, who, in 1983, listed them. Several aren’t relevant here (natural intelligence, musical intelligence, spatial intelligence, etc.) but the most important one, from the point of view of what makes for a good citizen, is logical intelligence. This is what fuels the process of reason; it enables people to discern the truth of things, as opposed to being misled by fantasy, superstition, ignorance and deceitfulness.

In this sense, evangelicals (and apparently Trump himself) have proven they aren’t as logically intelligent as are Americans who actually believe in science. We are blessed, in this modern era, to have the greatest array of scientific knowledge ever collected in the history of mankind; and scientific knowledge is a good thing. It helps us in every aspect of life, has resulted in the healthiest, most progressive human culture ever. (Whether we’re happier is another story…) It therefore follows that anyone who rejects scientific knowledge, as evangelicals do, has a mental problem; labeling them “stupid” is harsh, but we have to call a spade a spade. When it comes to logical intelligence, they really are stupid.

McGurn’s argument is so thin and specious, it could have been expressed in two sentences. But that’s not enough to fill an entire column, so, for the rest, he puts on his pit bull costume and goes after—who else?—Hillary Clinton, with the usual B.S.: she “lies” (no proof offered), her “public life has been a series of scandals” (courtesy of who? McGurn’s Republican Party, which has smeared Hillary for 25 years and come up with absolutely nothing), she would be “a third term for disastrous Obama policies.” Maybe someone forgot to tell McGurn that President Obama’s approval rating is consistently in the low- to mid-fifties, whereas his predecessor, George W. Bush, had an approval rating of only 34% just prior to leaving office. Americans therefore strongly disagree with McGurn: they believe in large numbers that Obama has been an excellent President. This is further corroborated by the polls, in which Hillary Clinton is poised to win red states: Ohio, Arizona, North Carolina, Nevada; and even Alaska, Texas and Georgia are turning pink! Clearly, Americans do not feel like Obama has been a disaster; quite the contrary. If Hillary Clinton governs as well as Obama has, most of us would welcome it.

So McGurn is struggling. Even the arch-conservative Jonah Goldberg—son of Lucianne Goldberg, one of Bill Clinton’s nemeses, a tattling gossip who did her best to bring Bill Clinton down—assaulted McGurn in yesterday’s National Review. He did so rather anemically, but still, the fact that these two radical rightwingers, McGurn and Goldberg, are at war is further proof of how Trump has been a bomb in the Republican Party, blowing it up, turning it against itself, and exposing for all the world to see its internal incoherence.


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