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Immigration: how we got here

By Peter Eisner

Seems like a fine day to point out how I, along with millions, am an American by the choice and search of my ancestors for freedom. My paternal grandfather, Louis Eisner, came to this country one hundred eleven years ago, fleeing Jewish persecution in Russian-controlled Poland. He did not undergo extreme vetting — which might have determined that he had at one point attended a few Bolshevik organizational meetings.

Ten years later, in 1916, he became an American citizen and pledged loyalty to the United States, and renounced allegiance to the Russian leader of the moment, Czar Nicholas II. It was a year before the Russian revolution.

Here’s to American freedom and democracy!


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Trumpism –“You cannot petition the Lord”

By Peter Eisner


I have seen people of goodwill writing petitions and appealing to the good sense of the president of the United States. “Look at my case,” they implore, “look at the suffering, look at …” (And Trump has answered that no one has a bigger heart than he has — huge)

Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times wrote an emotional column entitled — Mr. Trump, Meet My Family — that included pictures of his immigrant family and their story. At the end of his piece, he writes:

“Mr. President, please remember: This is a country built by refugees and immigrants, your ancestors and mine. When we bar them and vilify them, we shame our own roots.”

Many decent people — Americans are a decent people — have beseeched and petitioned this president to listen to reason and emotion. Such petitions, I do believe, fall on deaf ears.

I was left thinking of the introduction of Jim Morrison’s song written, impossibly, 48 years ago, Soft Parade, with The Doors. (Coincidentally, the song opens with a person begging for refuge)

When I was back in seminary school, there was a notion there that you can petition the lord with prayer, petition the lord with prayer, petition the lord with prayer….YOU CANNOT PETITION THE LORD WITH PRAYER.

Donald Trump will feed on dissonance and anger, and will not be swayed by entreaty and prayer. A petition is a document of conscience, of good faith. Understand, this man is self-referential and cares not for your petitions and prayers.

Elsewhere on the same New York Times opinion page, Maureen Dowd interviews Michael D’Antonio, my friend and colleague, who is among those who has confronted Trump in lengthy interviews and has come closest to shrinking him.

Some of Michael’s comments:

“Donald’s manic without being depressive,” he muses. “The only thing you can do is keep him distracted for a day and then one more day so that he doesn’t do anything disastrous.”

Just like Obama and May, D’Antonio says, “a lot of people over the years have tried to mollify him and accommodate him day by day. And eventually you get a year behind you. Everybody else wants stability, but he thrives in turmoil.”

This president has received his first judicial rebuke. There will be more. The Roberts Supreme Court looms. How will Chief Justice John Roberts operate? — he has shown signs of concern for his legacy.

It will not long before this president questions once more the legitimacy of judges, anyone who stands in his way.

“You cannot petition the lord.”



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“How Dare you, Sir…. (Come on, people)

“How dare you, Sir,  impugn the character of…… (John Lewis, Meryl Streep, a Gold Star mother, a journalist with disabilities, or the target du jour)

Come on, people, it won’t work. Laughter, mockery and good cheer are a more effective antidote. Make a plan and do not presume to issue answers.

The problem we face is wrongly characterized. We need a strategy. A newspaper wrongly described the entity’s response to John Lewis as “a feud.” This was not a feud. It was a judgement by a great American statesman, followed by a predictable response from the entity. John Lewis need not respond.

The entity you are addressing feeds on your anger and outrage. The entity is happy that you are offended and does not care.

In Star Trek (original, Captain Kirk, third season, episode seven), just such an entity was discovered in the realm of a human colony on Beta XII-A. “A glowing entity of pure energy” had destroyed the settlement on Beta XII-A and proceeded to take over the Enterprise.

It took some time before Captain Kirk realized that the entity was provoking anger and outrage among the crew. It had already destroyed the planet below.

The captain convinced his crew to begin to joke and laugh loudly, fight off angry emotions.

The entity lost power, skulked away and the ship was saved. Too late, though, for the planet.

When will we learn?

In the meantime, don’t bother to respond to the entity’s tweets or to treat it as you would treat other Earthlings.

And laugh along with Alec Baldwin and others who have gotten the idea.


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What did the Trump campaign know and when did it know it? Is the Russian hacking investigation ongoing?

An intriguing exchange on Meet the Press between Chuck Todd and Senator Lindsey Graham left the impression that federal investigators are still looking at whether someone in the presidential campaign knew BEFORE the election about Russian hacking and discussed the matter with the Russian government.

Graham appeared to answer yes — that an investigation is underway. “I believe that it is happening.”

According to the transcript of the program, Todd asked this:

But what about– should there be an investigation about whether any of the campaigns had any interactions with Moscow….

Senator John McCain was also on the program and spoke next, but didn’t answer that question, saying:

I would like to see a select committee. Apparently that is not in agreement by our leadership. So we will move forward with the Armed Services Committee and I’m sure Foreign Relations and Intelligence Committee will as well. But it is possible if enough information comes out, that that decision could be reversed. I still think it’s the best way to attack the issue.

Todd returned to the question:

Are there still active investigations going on to try to figure out if there was coordination between campaigns and Moscow?

Graham answered this time, but didn’t exactly answer:

You asked me what should we do. We should get to bottom of all things Russia when it came to the 2016–




–election. Period.

But Todd didn’t leave the question at hand. Here’s the rest of the exchange:


Wherever it leads.


Yeah, wherever it leads in whatever form. Because–


Is that currently happening now in other investigative agencies? F.B.I., a joint task force, anything like that?




Is that currently happening?


I believe–


And just we don’t know about it?


I believe that it’s happening. But you need to talk to them because I don’t want to speak for them. Here’s what I think we should do as a nation. We should all, Republicans, Democrats, condemn Russia for what they did. To my Republican friends who are gleeful, you’re making a huge mistake.

So far, Donald Trump has only condemned NBC News.

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A Man in a High Castle

Season two of the alternate history series, The Man in The High Castle, has hit Amazon, and I will be watching.

The show, which debuted in 2016, posits a divided United States which lost World War II — following such events, it appears, as a nuclear attack on the homeland and invasions from East and West. America is then divided and shared uneasily by Imperial Japan — capital in a grey, subservient version of San Francisco — and The Reich, with its headquarters in New York, patrolled by the SS and spiffy American brownshirts. The two sides have established a buffer zone between them, a Wild West territory filled with conspirators, rebels and spies somewhere in the vicinity of Denver and the Rocky Mountains.

Nazi flags fly on Broadway and are festooned over the Statue of Liberty. In this version of reality, the High Castle is not a skyscraper on Fifth Avenue. Jews are in hiding if they are alive, people judged substandard, along with the Jews, are rounded up and killed.


Alexa Davalos in “The Man in the High Castle” (Credit: Liane Hentscher/Amazon Prime Video)


A review in the New York Times draws some unavoidable parallels with life these days:

“…it would be hyperbole to treat the series like a documentary, it would be denial to say it plays no differently now than it did before. …

The series producers say they did not intended to make a political statement.

“But you can’t wish the reminders away. A new “High Castle” story line involves a Japanese-American woman who survived the wartime internment camp at Manzanar, in California — one constant, it turns out, between its fictional timeline and ours. On Fox News shortly after the election, a supporter of Mr. Trump defended a proposal to register immigrants from Muslim countries by citing the actual camps as precedent.”

You get the idea. Last year, I asked myself, how easy is it for a country to fall passively into fascism?

This year, I look for clues in Season Two. Will the people of this nightmarish version of America fight for democracy and seek to oust the insanity?

Yep, I’ll be watching.

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Electors: Listen to Alexander Hamilton

The Electoral College has been a formality these 230 years,  though the College has a specific role handed down by the Founding Fathers of the United States.

Alexander Hamilton warned and described the Electoral College as a body of last resort. He wrote this in the Federalist Papers 68 on March 14, 1788.hamilton

The Electoral College, said Hamilton, is intended to protect the nation:

The process of election affords a moral certainty, that the office of President will never fall to the lot of any man who is not in an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications…..

And that the electors should be wary of foreign influence….

… should be opposed to cabal, intrigue, and corruption. These most deadly adversaries of republican government might naturally have been expected to make their approaches from more than one quarter, but chiefly from the desire in foreign powers to gain an improper ascendant in our councils.

And that they should consider the merits of the chosen leader….

Talents for low intrigue, and the little arts of popularity, may alone suffice to elevate a man to the first honors in a single State; but it will require other talents, and a different kind of merit, to establish him in the esteem and confidence of the whole Union…

And that the person elected president ..

Should be independent for his continuance in office on all but the people themselves. He might otherwise be tempted to sacrifice his duty to his complaisance for those whose favor was necessary to the duration of his official consequence.

Here is hoping that the electors recognize their duty, outlined by Alexander Hamilton long ago.

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Handling the Truth (about Russian hacking)

Can we handle whatever the truth might be about Russia and the elections?

The chain of events since the election is this (at least what we know):

November 17: Admiral Michael Rogers:

“There shouldn’t be any doubts in anybody’s mind: This was not something that was done casually, this was not something that was done by chance, this was not a target that was selected purely arbitrarily…This was a conscious effort by a nation state to attempt to achieve a specific effect.”

November 29: All Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee senate-letterto President Obama.

“We believe there is additional information concerning the Russian Government and the U.S. Election.”

December 6: Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.), after repeatedly warning about Russian interference, says he will lead a Senate probe.

December 7: Time Magazine reports interview with Trump, including question about the Russian hacking charges. He repeats denial and says he thinks the intelligence information is politically motivated. “I don’t believe it. I don’t believe they interfered.”

December 9: President Obama orders intelligence services to produce “a full review” before he leaves office.

The question is: how serious was this and the old question about who knew what….when…..

Can we handle the truth? We must know…regardless the consequences.

What comes next?

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Pizza and Sanity

Sanity in society, even our perception of reality, depends on mutual agreement. Sky is up, world is round, men walked on the moon. So we say.

      But what if the majority is insane? Or a controlling minority?

“In a mad world, only the mad are sane.” Akira Kirosawa.

      The ascension of an unstable man to the presidency surrounded by zanies could be the tipping point.
     This long, but chilling story about a pizza parlor not far from my house is one of the signposts on the road to the Twilight Zone. (Checkout the  comments beneath it.) Welcome to the fun house!

Pizzagate: From rumor, to hashtag, to gunfire in D.C.

What was finally real was Edgar Welch, driving from North Carolina to Washington to rescue sexually abused children he believed were hidden in mysterious tunnels beneath a neighborhood pizza joint.

What was real was Welch — a father, former firefighter and sometime movie actor who was drawn to dark mysteries he found on the Internet — terrifying customers and workers with his assault rifle as he searched Comet Ping Pong, police said. He found no hidden children, no secret chambers, no evidence of a child sex ring run by the failed Democratic candidate for president of the United States, or by her campaign chief, or by the owner of the pizza place.

What was false were the rumors he had read, stories that crisscrossed the globe about a charming little pizza place that features ping-pong tables in its back room.

The story of Pizzagate is about what is fake and what is real. It’s a tale of a scandal that never was, and of a fear that has spread through channels that did not even exist until recently. READ THE STORY


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Doublespeak, double back propaganda

Echoes of a strategy coming out of Moscow  catch attention in Washington.

The Russian government has accused the Ukraine government of undermining the candidacy of Donald Trump during the election.

Ken Vogel and Julia Ioffe reported on Politico:

A spokeswoman for Russia’s Foreign Ministry on Thursday contended that the Ukrainian government over the summer damaged Trump’s campaign by implicating his then-campaign chief Paul Manafort in a corruption scandal involving a pro-Russian Ukrainian political party funded by oligarchs.

Besides the chutzpah of it all,. the charge is very much part of the MO of Trump and the people around him. He tends to blame his enemies for qualities and deeds he himself can be accused of.

His attacks on his Republican primary opponents, on Hillary Clinton, on media are often on the schoolyard level. But when you have the Kremlin pulling the same thing, it graduates from school bullying to agitprop right out of the book.

  • Say that Hillary is sickly and not up to the job, but Hillary is the one who has released her medical history. How healthy is he himself?
  • Charges that Clinton Foundation is corrupt, but slides by when his foundation is charged with malfeasance.
  • Charge that the system is rigged before the fact, and then tries to suppress any chance of checking the system after he has won.

You can make your own list and add to it daily.

Cynthia Boaz, an associate professor of political science at Sonoma State University, called it “projection and flipping”. She listed this method among 14 propaganda techniques often used on Fox News

It involves taking whatever underhanded tactic you’re using and then accusing your opponent of doing it to you first. We see this frequently in the immigration discussion, where anti-racists are accused of racism, or in the climate change debate, where those who argue for human causes of the phenomenon are accused of not having science or facts on their side. It’s often called upon when the media host finds themselves on the ropes in the debate.

Interesting that Trump and Putin allies appear to work from the same handbook.

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Morning — Peter Eisner

This morning…We will wake up, stand up for the values we share, look to our friends for support.

via Morning — Peter Eisner

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