Fear In America

Before the election, some people worried out loud about our new President’s ability to steer with a steady hand.  There were few who had the courage to speak out then, and their impact small. 

Today, there are even fewer.  And, that is not because the President has assuaged anyone’s concerns.  Quite the contrary.  Today, there is even greater fear on the part of many that this President could easily create a major incident that could threaten our country, the world, our very existence.

Throughout, America’s psychiatrists have been particularly silent.  At a conference held at Yale Medical School recently, however, mental health experts came together finally to weigh their role in warning the public about the dangers posed by this President.  It was surprising that the meeting took so long to happen, given the potential import of their professional judgment.  But happen, it finally did.  And, the outcomes were even more alarming, not so much for what they discussed, but for what they were unwilling to say.

A number did speak up, arguing that the symptoms were visible to all, professionals and the least informed; that it was the duty of mental health professionals to warn the public of very real danger.  But not all spoke up.  A good many hid behind an outmoded Goldwater Rule, insisting that they could not speak out.

But, what was most pronounced at the meeting was fear itself.  Fear of speaking the truth.  Fear that the President is now so powerful and that he can and has already been ruthless to those who dared to speak out against him. 

And, so the silence is even louder today.  Psychiatrists who have never been very bold are cowering even more today.  They have let us all down, worried most about their own hides, they are unwilling to share their informed assessment of the seriousness of the President’s illness. Gripped by fear, they are letting the country and the world down, standing by in silence for fear of retribution.

That’s what happens in situations like this.  That’s what happened in Nazi Germany: fear took complete hold and silence reigned.  

Who is Managing The Store?

A couple of days ago, as North Korea was parading it’s latest missiles, Donald Trump announced that he had sent “an armada” to the Sea of Japan as a clear signal that “we are strong” and “not to be played with.”  Others in the government described it as a large strike force (the Carl Vinson and three other warships) steaming to positions in striking distance of North Korea.  Coverage of all this was widespread in the country and throughout the world.  Some cheered at its boldness, some worried about what it might mean, and many prayed.

The press pushed for more from the Secretary of Defense, the National Security Advisor, and the Press Secretary.  All sang from the same music sheet and all confirmed the story, adding useless detail.

The only problem was that it was a story and not true.  The “armada” was nowhere near the Sea of Japan.   Indeed, there was no American war ship or even row boat in striking distance of North Korea.  Instead, the Vinson was and always had been off the coast of Indonesia, thousands of miles from the Korean Peninsula.  The President’s strike force had been streaming south, not north the entire time.

This is, of course, not very funny.  In fact, there is no comparable example of anything like this throughout American history.  Never before had an American President made a public statement of this kind, only to learn later that it was a total fabrication.  It is mind numbing to think that the President and his people could have been so wrong or, worse, could have been playing so carelessly with its credibility and with a very dangerous and rogue nation. 

How we, as a nation and world power, recover from this is hard to see.  Clearly friend and foe alike will wonder about the next and the next pronouncement from the American government.  This event has caused nothing short of a major erosion of confidence in America and the credibility of it leaders.

Teresa May Wants to Lose on June 8

Teresa May has called for a snap election in Britain on June 8.

Having already triggered Article 50 to begin the two-year period negotiating Brexit, May could easily see England through this process.  Her current mandate as Prime Minister lasts until 2020.

When she announced the election on April 18, her stated objective was that she wanted a stronger mandate as she negotiates the UK’s exit from the EU.  She stated: “The only way to guarantee certainty and stability for the years ahead is to hold this election.”  She then laid down a challenge for those opposing Brexit, saying “this is your moment to show you mean it and that you aren’t just playing politics for a game.”

While May is very forceful, one needs to look carefully at these words, and to respect the fact that May is an incredibly bright and strategic woman.

When you do that, it is clear that May now realizes how dire the consequences of Article 50 can be for the British economy, including real isolation should negotiations not go as well as hoped and should Scotland secede from the UK.  She is probably also receiving strong counsel from members of her own party opposed to Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson as well as outside sources (that may include Prince William - the smartest member of the royal family) encouraging her to roll back on the risks to England’s economy and UK’s very existence.

And, the truth is that the only way out of this – or at least the easiest way out - is to lose control of government or at least to be able to point to gains by the Liberal Democrats, the opposition, on June 8 as grounds for slowing down the process.

Those of us in the US are familiar with this strategy of trying to give power to internal opposition in order to slow down an international position.  Barack Obama pursued it multiple times, including in 2013, when he allowed Congress to vote on whether to attack Assad after Syria violated the Geneva Convention by using chemical weapons on its civilians.   

Chicago's Slide to Ruin

Chicago has long been known as America’s second city.  Built along Lake Michigan, filled with stunning and architecturally beautiful buildings, home of renowned universities and businesses, the city has been for a long time an American jewel.  Because it is in the Midwest, it is overshadowed by New York and San Francisco, but still considered one of the great world cities.

But, Chicago has had it’s ugly side too, especially at key moments – the 1968 Democratic Convention when the infamous Mayor Daley called on its police force to attack and jail innocent protestors of the war in Vietnam, or the aftermath of the killing of Martin Luther King and the subsequent unrest in the city, or the totally unacceptable, ever increasing, and never ending murders in Chicago’s inner city today.

In the past, Chicago kept its secrets – good and bad – largely hidden.  Residents knew of its extraordinary beauty and vitality AND of its dark and dangerous side.  But the seamy side of America’s best kept secret – this second city – was mostly kept secret.

United Airlines, headquartered in the city, and its recent thuggish behavior toward one of it passengers, a Chinese American, has contributed to shining a new and high intensity dark light on the city, seen by many across the country and abroad.  So too has been the ongoing, daily killings in the city.  In fact, with a police force and metropolitan administration unable for years to stem the tide of huge numbers of murders or to reverse patterns of corruption citywide, Chicago is teetering at the edge of ruin, uncharacteristically so, and visibly for all to see.

Chicago is at the brink.  It is sliding toward ruin, and it doesn’t seem to have either the creativity or leadership to stem the tide.

America's Fabric is Tearing

A Chinese American was brutalized and dragged off a United Airlines flight after all passengers had boarded by three airport cops in order to make room for a United employee.  He was a doctor en route to his office and patients, and traveling with his wife.  He held a perfectly legal ticket and seat.  He was doing absolutely nothing to engender such behavior by United or the Chicago airport police.  He was a traveler like all others.

But United’s friendly skies were not so friendly.  The company behaved like a union of thugs intent on going to any extent to attend to their needs over those of their paid customers.  Very stupid for United, and even sadder for America.

And, if you think China was going to ignore such brutal behavior and corporate misuse of power, you are wrong.  This is the biggest news item there today, fully replacing yesterday’s attention to Trump’s recent bombing of Syria.  That China is outraged by the abridgement of human rights within the United States says volumes about how much and quickly things have changed America.

While China focused on the abused passenger’s heritage, news in this country barely mentioned that the passenger dragged off the plane was an immigrant.  In fact, almost all the coverage, and there was lots of it, said absolutely nothing about the fact that abused passenger clearly looked different from the average (if there is such a thing) American.  United Airlines could see it, and clearly thought the man would be a good one to throw off the plane.

As a nation, we are losing our rich and distinctive social fabric and replacing it with ignorant and boorish thuggery.  I am embarrassed for America.  I am distressed for America.  I am scared.  I personally hope that United will go out of business over this action.  And, I hope America will see in this most unfortunate incident the flashing light that it is.  America’s very fabric is tearing.   

Wouldn't It Be Amazing ...

Wouldn't it be amazing if Putin plotted everything the last three days.  After all, this is a man who acts viciously and maliciously worldwide with impunity.  He has been knocking off his adversaries inside and outside Russia for months, if not years.

Bashar al-Assad is his dependent and is taking instructions from Russia.  Were the instruction to come from Putin to use chemical weapons on his own people, he certainly would do it.

Putin himself is dealing over the last several weeks with not only increasing opposition to his autocratic rule at home, but the increasing likelihood that his direct coordination with Trump in the US election is about to be exposed.

In order to save himself and his puppet government in US, Putin very well may have set in play the events to precipitate an attack by the US against Syria, knowing it would enable Trump to wag the dog.  By diverting attention from their pre-election coordination for just a few days, Putin might just be able to keep his puppet in place.

Yes, it would be stranger than fiction if Putin plotted this whole thing to save Trump from impeachment. 

I lived in Russia.  I practiced law there.  It seems perfectly possible to me.