Thursday, November 08, 2018

3rd rate hacks point the 🇺🇸 toward constitutional crises

https://www.desmogblog.com/2018/11/07/dark-money-donors-trust-trump-attorney-general-matthew-whitaker-jeff-sessions

Dark Money Paid New Trump Attorney General Matthew Whitaker’s Salary for 3 Years

Read time: 4 mins
Matthew Whitaker
Today, President Donald Trump announced on Twitter that Matthew G. Whitaker, who served as chief of staff for Attorney General Jeff Sessions, would replace his boss. Sessions was forced from office a day after the midterm elections, which were rough for climate and anti-fracking measures around the country.
Whitaker was appointed as Session’s chief of staff on September 22, 2017. Before that, he served for three years as the executive director of the Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust (FACT), which describes itself as “a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting accountability, ethics, and transparency in government and civic arenas.”
FACT has come under fire for its own lack of transparency, with the Center for Responsive Politics calling attention to FACT’s funding, which in some years came entirely from Donors Trust, an organization also known as the “Dark Money ATM of the Conservative Movement” and whose own donors include the notorious funders of climate denialCharles and David Koch.
In other words, an organization ‘dedicated to promoting accountability, ethics, and transparency’ gets 100 percent of its funds from a group that exists mainly as a vehicle for donors to elude transparency,” the Center for Responsive Politics wrote in 2016.
In 2014, FACT received $600,000 from Donors Trust — the only donation it reported that year, according to OpenSecrets.org. An additional $500,000 flowed from Donors Trust to FACT in 2015. And in 2016, Donors Trust gave $800,000 to FACTtax recordsshow.
In 2016, Whitaker earned $402,000 as FACT’s director and president, according to the organization’s tax filings. That followed reported compensation from FACT for Whitaker of $63,000 in 2014, and $252,000 in 2015.
His work included advocacy for causes backed by the fossil fuel industry.
As FACT’s executive director, Whitaker sought documents from the Attorneys General United for Clean Power Coalition, alleging in a 2016 op-ed that the Coalition “launched a campaign to silence many public policy organizations and even individuals for their work challenging liberal views on climate change, as well as private companies like ExxonMobil.”
That coalition, representing attorneys general from 17 states, included Eric Schneiderman, then attorney general for New York state, Maura Healey of Massachusetts, and Claude Walker of the Virgin Islands, who were all reportedly investigating ExxonMobil for failing to disclose what it knew about climate change to its investors for decades.
Whitaker labeled the probe of ExxonMobil, which has funded climate denial efforts to the tune of at least $33 million, “both unconstitutional and unethical” — but it recently led to charges against the company.
Last month, following three years of investigation, Schneiderman’s successor Barbara Underwood filed a 91-page lawsuit alleging that ExxonMobil had engaged in four counts of fraud.
Investors put their money and their trust in Exxon — which assured them of the long-term value of their shares, as the company claimed to be factoring the risk of increasing climate change regulation into its business decisions,” Underwood said in a statement, according to Courthouse News. “Instead, Exxon built a facade to deceive investors into believing that the company was managing the risks of climate change regulation to its business when, in fact, it was intentionally and systematically underestimating or ignoring them, contrary to its public representations.”
FACT has also come under fire for its right-wing partisan bent.
It’s perhaps worth noting that although FACT describes itself as a ‘non-partisan ethics watchdog,’ its ethics complaints are targeted overwhelmingly (though not exclusively) at Democrats, and it is funded entirely by an anonymous trust fund (a so-called ‘pass-through) favored by ultra-wealthy conservative donors, including Charles Koch,” the Global Anti-Corruption Blog wrote in September of this year.
As Acting Attorney General, Whitaker will replace Jeff Sessions, described as a “climate change skeptic” by the Washington Post for saying on the floor of Congress in 2015 that “Carbon pollution is CO2, and that’s really not a pollutant; that’s a plant food, and it doesn’t harm anybody except that it might include temperature increases.”
Main image: Matthew Whitaker in 2011 appearing on CSPAN. Credit: CSPANscreen shot

Monday, November 05, 2018

HUGE Election tomorrow ... VOTE~!~ ... Alan Farago

Tomorrow, vote like your life depends on the outcome.

Millennials: you stayed at home in 2016 and helped elect an illegitimate president whose victory owes to collusion with a hostile, foreign power. Russia. Tomorrow, vote.

Independents: this is your chance to express how you feel about the slide to authoritarianism under Trump and a Republican Party that bows to his whims.

Republicans: think. Read Washington Post columnist and conservative Max Boot: "Vote against Republicans. Every single one."
If you’re sick and tired, too, here is what you can do. Vote for Democrats on Tuesday. For every office. Regardless of who they are. And I say that as a former Republican. Some Republicans in suburban districts may claim they aren’t for Trump. Don’t believe them. Whatever their private qualms, no Republicans have consistently held Trump to account. They are too scared that doing so will hurt their chances of reelection. If you’re as sick and tired as I am of being sick and tired about what’s going on, vote against all Republicans. Every single one. That’s the only message they will understand.

And here is a personal wish: that Floridians will see through the Toxic Duo: Rick Scott and Matt Caldwell.

Both are Republicans. Both were selected by Big Sugar to move up the political ladder. Scott, to the US Senate. Caldwell, to the holding position: state agriculture commissioner.

The political careers of both Scott and Caldwell closely track the destruction of Florida's waters and Everglades. I've spent nearly three decades advocating for policies to protect Florida's economy and environment: these two have run hope off the rails. Whatever they claim to the contrary, is a lie.

Vote to remove Scott and Caldwell from Florida politics.

Yes, tomorrow vote against Republicans. Because they have not listened. Will not listen. And because they are arranging the legislatures and courts to remove the system of checks and balances that distinguished our democracy.

Help make America, America again.

Friday, November 02, 2018

Florida Voters: let's get this right on state agriculture commissioner ... Nikki Fried is the right choice ... by gimleteye


We've written extensively about Big Sugar's candidate for state agriculture commissioner. His name is Matt Caldwell and his entire political career has been in service of Big Sugar's goals.

The result is clear enough: Big Sugar, thanks to Caldwell, gets the water it wants, when it wants, and shifts the burden to taxpayers for the immense costs of pollution.

The right choice on Nov. 6th, is to vote for Nikki Fried for State Agriculture Commissioner. Fried has the endorsement of the state's major newspapers, including the Miami Herald and the Tampa Bay Times. We need change!

Thursday, November 01, 2018

The Stop Harmful Discharges Act would help immensely ... guest blog


The Stop Harmful Discharges Act would help immensely | Guest column

Peter Girard Published 10:14 a.m. ET Nov. 1, 2018 | Updated 10:15 a.m. ET Nov. 1, 2018
Peter Girard

Would we get less toxic algae if protecting people’s health were required by law?

Of course we would. The real question is, Why isn’t our health already a priority for the government agencies that decide whether to discharge toxic algae and pollution into our rivers?

Our toxic water sickened and killed dogs this year, made people choke and closed beaches. Medical researchers warn that just breathing air near the water boosts our risks of dying from ALS, Alzheimer’s Disease, Parkinson’s Disease and liver failure.

Our government is poisoning us.

Legislation introduced this summer can change that. The Stop Harmful Discharges Act (HR 6700) would force agencies “to include public health and safety as the primary consideration” in the central and southern Florida system that controls our water.

The U. S. Army Corps of Engineers met with U.S. Rep. Brian Mast, R-Palm City, at Stuart City Hall on Aug. 17, 2018, for a public meeting on how Lake Okeechobee is managed. Mast has filed a bill, the Stop Harmful Discharges Act, that would make public health and safety the primary concern in managing Lake O levels.Buy Photo
The U. S. Army Corps of Engineers met with U.S. Rep. Brian Mast, R-Palm City, at Stuart City Hall on Aug. 17, 2018, for a public meeting on how Lake Okeechobee is managed. Mast has filed a bill, the Stop Harmful Discharges Act, that would make public health and safety the primary concern in managing Lake O levels. (Photo: ERIC HASERT/TCPALM)
In other words, put people first.

We’ve been told that agencies already do that when they flush Lake Okeechobee into coastal communities to prevent a dike breach. But even this hollow excuse isn’t true — they routinely dump more water into the lake at the same time, actually making the dike less safe. That’s not putting people first.

The Stop Harmful Discharges Act does something else important: It requires agencies to manage the whole system together, instead of like an unconnected set of projects and measurements that make it hard for lawmakers and the public to see exactly where our water goes. We deserve to know that.

MORE: Health should be priority for Corps, Mast says

What the legislation doesn’t do is just as important: It doesn’t disrupt Everglades water-quality standards, it doesn’t disrupt existing agreements with the Miccosukee and Seminole tribes, and it doesn’t disrupt Everglades restoration.

Also, it doesn’t tell experts how to do their jobs. That’s crucial. When we put a man on the moon, the executive order didn’t tell NASA how to build a rocket. The Stop Harmful Discharges Act was drafted with input from policy experts and senior Army Corps officials, but the responsibility to execute it will fall to professionals.

And it won’t be rocket science. They’ll be asked to make it a last resort — not the first option — to discharge polluted water into communities where it can fuel toxic blooms. It’s their job to figure out how to do that without breaking existing laws.

Nothing in this legislation should divide a community whose river is poisoned year after year, but the opposition we’re hearing explains a lot about why these discharges have gone on for so long.

The introduction of the Stop Harmful Discharges Act required us to overcome a shameful tradition of political indifference, which comfortably switched between parties over the years. It required us to care more about what the bill said than who said it. It required us to put aside vanity and ask for help solving a problem that’s haunted us for generations.

The debate over this legislation isn’t honestly confronting the real reasons why we never solve this problem. Instead, we hear pleas for silence because if we try to change water policy, corrupt state agencies will punish us with junk solutions like deep injection wells, or they’ll take revenge by illegally dumping polluted water into the Everglades. Or sugarcane lobbyists will somehow turn the policy against us. Or because the exact wording might not be quite perfect. Or because the words came from the wrong people.

None of these is a good reason to stay quiet and let our government turn a blind eye to the human health impacts of its water management decisions. We deserve better. Every one of us — every family, every business owner, every taxpayer, every visitor, every Democrat and every Republican — deserves clean water.

Peter Girard is a spokesman for Bullsugar, an environmental activist group.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Comedy Central takes on Big Sugar, sort of ... by gimleteye

One interesting piece of news from this election cycle in Florida: Big Sugar’s campaign contributions  turned toxic. Except in the big money laundering scheme called political action committees.

Here is an interesting squiggle in state Democratic politics. Matt Dixon, for Politico, writes about Lauren Book — the attractive young daughter of the state’s top lobbyist, Ron Book — who is for some unexplained reason a rising star in the state senate.

Dixon writes that Book, sitting on a party war chest of a couple of million, has been unresponsive to the needs of struggling Democratic Senate campaigns. I’ll speculate why: there is some “ask” by the committees’ contributors. What would that “ask” be? I’ll speculate again: it would be on the order of  party discipline in delivering quad pro quos: the mother’s milk of American politics in the age of Citizens United.

Politico doesn’t venture into opinion, but I’d venture that the kind of grass roots activism that made Big Sugar’s money toxic in this election cycle makes the status quo very uneasy. One for all, and all for one?

Of course, Florida’s damaged tourism industry and reputation is directly linked to the fact the state is swimming in a sea of pollution, as a consequence of Big Sugar’s pollution of Florida’s waterways. The cartel operations of Big Sugar have controlled the state legislature for decades. Maybe Lauren Book needs a lesson plan how that worked, but not one scripted by her father.

https://www.politico.com/states/florida/story/2018/10/29/some-democrats-gripe-that-book-is-holding-back-in-senate-battle-670620

And from Comedy Central today:

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

For Immediate Release                                           Contact:  Frank Jackalone

October 30, 2018                                                                       frank.jackalone@sierraclub.org

Opening of Tamiami Trail Bridge Excludes Everglades Groups

St. Petersburg, FL – Rick Scott held a news conference today to announce the completion of the second phase of the Tamiami Trail bridging project.

In response, Sierra Club Florida Chapter Director Frank Jackalone issued the following statement:

“Governor Rick Scott held a self-serving, restricted attendance media event just one week before Election Day that was disguised as a major Everglades announcement.  It’s political pandering at its worst designed to benefit his election campaign against US Senator Bill Nelson.  

“What was the rush?  Scott’s advisory was released less than three hours before the Miami press conference.  

“Instead of using the media event to celebrate a shared federal-state success on the Tamiami Trail bridging, Scott used it to attack Congress for not spending more money on Everglades projects.  Could he get more political?  

“And the map that was linked in his ‘announcement’ is obvious electioneering.  Rick Scott is not the champion of 42 projects, many of which were begun way before he was first elected Governor.  

“Environmental organizations including the Sierra Club, the National Parks Conservation Association, Audubon Florida, Center for Biological Diversity, Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation, the Conservancy of SW Florida, Florida Oceanographic Society, and other members of the Everglades Coalition that advocated for the project and provided input on the Tamiami Trail bridging project to the US Army Corps of Engineers and the National Park Service for more than a decade weren’t invited to attend.  We learned about it from photos of the event posted this morning by Lieutenant Governor Carlos-Lopez Cantera.

“A great many people worked on building those bridges from the time the Sierra Club placed it on the public agenda as the “Everglades Skyway.” For the Governor to slight the very groups that brought us to this day is an insult and a rewriting of history to serve his political ends.  Did he fear that Everglades supporters would show up holding Red Tide Rick protest signs?
  
“Scott is desperately trying to whitewash his environmental record as he tries to unseat Senator Bill Nelson in the current election.  As Florida’s Governor, Scott gutted enforcement of clean water rules in Florida instead of stopping the pollution that fueled Florida’s toxic algae and red tide crisis.  He spent eight years blocking efforts to clean the very water that would go under the Tamiami Trail bridges and installing water managers to do Big Sugar’s bidding.

“Scott scuttled growth management in Florida and replaced it with plans for new sprawling cities that would eliminate much of Florida’s rural farmland, bulldoze over wildlife habitat, and threaten the State’s depleted water supply.  For eight years as governor, he stood idly by, denying climate change and abrogating his responsibility to work with state, national, and world leaders to stop the carbon pollution that is bringing rising seas and ever-stronger hurricanes to Florida and is threatening the very existence of the Everglades.  

“Scott sabotaged our best chance of restoring the Everglades and protecting the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee river estuaries when he publicly rejected Governor Charlie Crist’s historic contract to acquire 187,000 acres of sugar land that would allow us to move excess Lake Okeechobee water south to the Everglades.   In its place, he and his water managers have designed a risky, 23 foot deep reservoir on a tiny footprint that is missing the wetlands needed to clean the contaminated water from Lake Okeechobee that the reservoir will hold.
“Rick Scott is no champion of the Everglades – far from it.”  

###

VOTERS: Boycott the GOP ... by Alan Farago

As the most important election in our lifetimes approach, it is worth another look: the March issue of
Atlantic Magazine, in which Jonathan Rauch and Benjamin Wittes published, “Boycott the Republican Party: If conservatives want to save the GOP from itself, they need to vote mindlessly and mechanically against its nominees.”

https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2018/03/boycott-the-gop/550907/

(1) The GOP has become the party of Trumpism.
(2) Trumpism is a threat to democratic values and the rule of law.
(3) The Republican Party is a threat to democratic values and the rule of law.

I agree with this assessment, not out of loyalty to the Democratic Party, but out of loyalty to our democracy which is not under threat “by both sides.” It is under threat by one side: the GOP that has abandoned all conservative principles and thrown its lot in, with a president who stands for nothing but his own vanities and power.

Like Rauch and Wittes, who writes the invaluable Lawfare blog, I am repulsed by the willingness of the Republican leadership to tolerate the most divisive and dangerous administration in US history.

If you are a conservative voter, you will mechanically and mindlessly vote Democrat in this election because it is time to tear up the weeds and replant the garden. When so much is at stake — namely, the drift to authoritarianism — there is no their principled choice.


Monday, October 29, 2018

"Red Tide" Rick Scott needs a demotion not a promotion ... by Alan Farago

Photo courtesy of John Moran

In a world blasted by twitter storms, one fears it is difficult to hold any voter's attention for longer than 140 characters. But the Nov 6th election is critical and so attention is deserved especially in Florida, where "Red Tide Rick" Scott is trying to unseat incumbent Bill Nelson.

For eight years Rick Scott has served as a governor of Florida. During this time, we have gotten to know virtually nothing about the man.

The public record is clear enough: he is very wealthy. His public disclosures do not accurately capture his assets. He lives in a mansion in a secluded Port Royal section of Naples. He thought well enough of this isolation to support a new law restricting the rights of Floridians to public beach access.

Still, from the low tide line if you peer closely enough, it is relatively easy to see that Rick Scott's embrace of crony capitalism not only enriched him personally while in office, it is having massive impacts on the balance between federal and state interests where the outcome is defined by what major campaign contributors want. I'll get to these in a minute.

Scott's fortune derived from skirting the edges of federal health reimbursement regulations. He narrowly escaped the indictment that encumbered his business with the largest civil fine ever levied at the time; about $1.7 billion. Scott claims his assets are in a "blind trust". While governor, his net worth has skyrocketed, including from lucrative private investments that may have been made through contacts he established while governor. In July the Miami Herald reported that a single deal netted Scott more than $500 million.

It is all a little gauzy. A little hazy. But that's exactly how Rick Scott likes to keep it. The Sun Sentinel reported in September, "Gov. Rick Scott's mockery of a "blind trust":

Since he raised the subject, it’s fair game. The giant hole in his rags-to-riches story is the $1.7 billion that his hospital company, Columbia/HCA, was fined for defrauding Medicare and Medicaid. Scott left the company with a golden parachute four months before the federal inquiry became public. He has claimed he had not known about its systematic overbilling and other frauds.

Throughout his two terms, Scott has frustrated the intent of the Florida Constitution’s “full and public disclosure” requirement. On occasion, he has briefly disclosed the trust’s assets long enough to appear to comply with disclosure and to persuade the courts to dismiss litigation over the issue. He has always chosen the alternative disclosure that allows him to withhold his income tax forms and submit a statement of assets instead. In one of those cases, though, Judge Brad Thomas of the First District Court of Appeal warned that the law “may likely be incompatible” with the Constitution.

You see, Rick Scott has excelled at a version of political life that has crystallized during the Donald Trump era: it doesn't matter what you do as a leader. What matters is what you seem.

Rick Scott has seemed the role of governor without serving the public interest very much at all. His appearances are carefully staged and scripted. He abhors being captured on camera where critics somehow pierce the veil his team has created. He does not answer reporters' questions but sticks to talking points. He tightened down on public disclosure law in part to reduce his exposure to public scrutiny.

The most common time to see Rick Scott is during weather-related emergencies. Then, he is all over cable television news, always wearing a Navy baseball cap, and seeming to be an expert on big storms. But in the aftermath, Scott is carefully hustled from place to place without giving journalists much of a chance to squeeze through the scrum. It's all gloss. It is all appearance.

As an environmental leader I've had substantial exposure to the way Scott's top appointees -- his capos -- act in relation to Florida's significant environmental crises: ones that are imposing immense costs on citizens today like the blanket of toxic red tides threatening the state's tourism and real estate based business sectors.

It turns out, contrary to his staff's assertions, Rick Scott is a micromanager when it comes to the environment. Here are few examples of his fingerprints.

First, his appointees to the governing board of the South Florida Water Management District -- beginning with his decision to appoint Peter Antonucci, his personal counsel, as chairman -- were meant to strictly follow his guidance on the balance of interests between private industry (ie. campaign funders) and environmental resources. His guidance? To throttle civic and conservation voices plain and simple.

Shortly after his first election in 2010 (he had never served in any elected capacity, before that time) Scott killed the deal to buy US Sugar and its 130,000 acres of land in the Everglades Agricultural Area. He not only killed the deal, he personally reached down into the staffing of the South Florida Water Management District and imposed massive cuts on the agency's science capacity. If you don't ask good questions of science, you will never get answer you don't want to hear.

It was a key point of support of Big Sugar for his 2010 campaign, at a time when he had very few supporters beyond his investment advisors and the accountants who cut checks from his personal account to his campaign. Seven years later, the public got a "deal" for an Everglades reservoir that will cost at least twice as much as the US Sugar land acquisition would have. Its main benefits will not accrue to the environment. Will not relieve the damaged rivers and estuaries and Florida Bay. Its main benefits will be to provide guarantees of drought-protection for Big Sugar.

Getting to this point, where taxpayer interests have been so baldly and badly damaged took a lot of work. Part of that load was carried by the political appointees of the water management district who routinely criticized, derided, and otherwise insulted members of the public and environmental groups trying to inject fact and science into the public arena. That's not what Rick Scott wanted. His order to ban agency staff from using the words, "climate change", is along that same line. So was his tolerance for governing board members' support of crisis actors, paid by the sugar industry through Roger Stone, to oppose environmental protesters at governing board meetings.

One of Rick Scott's claims to environmental stewardship was his 2012 announcement of a state investment of $890 million in Everglades related protection and infrastructure. He never said, and mainstream media reports largely failed to report at the time, that the state was forced to invest at the point of a major loss in federal court. Even today, Rick Scott is appealing that decision alongside the Fanjul billionaires. And it is worthwhile understanding why his staff are appealing.

Scott believes, with Big Sugar, that the federal court "overreached" in its decision supporting environmentalists and the Miccosukee Tribe, whose Everglades have been gutted by polluted runoff from sugar fields. The right to externalize the costs of pollution are considered, by Scott, to be allowable under states' rights. Period. When Scott and the GOP state legislature, including electeds like Adam Putnam and Matt Caldwell (now running for Agriculture Secretary), condemned the effort by the US EPA to regulate nutrient pollution of Florida waters, they did so with the identical argument: leave us alone, let us pollute or regulate the way we want to.

So there you have it: this is not a matter of "seeming" after all. As governor, Rick Scott actively and deliberately pushed for measures that imposed huge, even unlimited liabilities, on taxpayers. "Red Tide Rick" really is "Red Tide Rick". And he wants to be Florida's next US Senator. Floridians will see, on Nov. 6th, how that goes.





Sunday, October 28, 2018

@brianklaas on the state of the nation and upcoming elections



Please read the following twitter thread by @brianklaas. He affirms reasons I will vote against Trump Republicans. For the first time in our nation's history, a cult leader occupies the White House. As all cults do, the Trump cult exploits nativist fears and demonization of minorities. Including Jews.

In just a few days , you will have the single opportunity to make America, America again. If Congress does not revert to a Democratic  majority, expect the trend to authoritarianism to accelerate. In 1932 Berlin, good citizens said “it can’t happen here”. It did, and the same viruses can be spread here. But only if voters allow it to happen.

Democracy is not a spectator sport.

1. There have always been violent extremists. But when attacks happened under Reagan or Clinton or Bush or Obama, you couldn’t point to insane anti-Semitic conspiracy theories they had recently spread. They didn’t praise neo-Nazis. They didn’t call reporters “enemy of the people”

2. They didn’t explicitly praise political violence by saying a man who committed violent assault was “their kind of guy.” They didn’t tell their supporters that they would pay for legal fees if they “knocked the crap” out of peaceful protesters.

3. They didn’t promote doctored videos of them violently knocking down their opponents by hitting them with a golf ball. They didn’t share video of them punching and tackling a news network that criticized them. They didn’t call political opponents “a stain on America.”

4. Their closing ads didn’t feature three prominent Jews (with ominous music) claiming they controlled the global levers of power. They didn’t share memes of their opponents with a Star of David and a pile of cash. They didn’t lead chants to “lock up” their opponents.

5. They didn’t explicitly demonize people because of the color of their skin or their religion. They didn’t say “2nd Amendment people” would need to take things into their own hands if their opponent won. They didn’t downplay attacks and amplify lunatics who called them hoaxes.

6. They didn’t absurdly suggest that their opponents had “founded” terrorist groups. They didn’t legitimize outlets like InfoWars, which stoke hate while spreading lunatic lies. They didn’t wake up every morning and target a new scapegoat who later received bombs in the mail.

7. When attacks happened, they didn’t lament that it was politically inconvenient. They didn’t “joke” that they were the real victim because the subsequent press conference gave them “a bad hair day.” They didn’t attack the victims of attacks the same day they were attacked.

8. This shouldn’t be a Democrat vs. Republican issue. It’s democracy vs. authoritarian populism; decency vs. bigotry; and empathy vs. cruelty. Presidents didn’t used to behave like this. They didn’t praise political violence. Vote—to bring the US back to decent leadership.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Why, as a Jew, I'm voting against Donald Trump Republicans ... by Alan Farago

Auschwitz-Birkenau: the shoes of murdered Jews

I am just returning from a visit to the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp in Poland where my paternal grandparents were murdered by Nazis in 1944. It was my first trip and overdue. The debts I owe my grandparents and father, who survived slave labor and immigrated to the United States in 1948, are personal. Here I want to write about the explicitly political as a form of redemption: Jews and the upcoming election in the United States.

The deal Donald Trump made to Jews to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem was intended to appease Jewish voters in the United States; particularly Sheldon Adelson whose casino fortune supplied over $100 million to Republican candidates and causes.

I am not appeased. I do not agree. I believe Trump is an illegitimate president who would not have been elected but for collusion with a foreign enemy, Russia, whose anti-semitism is less carefully concealed than among today's AltR message machinery. But rather than focus on the symbolism of the embassy move or Trump collusion, I would like Jews to focus on this reality: the extreme rightward drift -- the "nationalism" -- endorsed by Trump and his Republican party.

This is like touching an electrified fence. It is in my genetic makeup: I view any political effort to isolate minorities -- whether immigrants from Central America, or from the Mideast, whether they are African Americans or Native Americans, whether they are homosexuals in the United States or transgendered -- as a threat from the same strain of virus that infected Germans in the pre-war era that led, inexorably, to the Holocaust that claimed six million Jews including my two grandparents and members of my extended family.

I write these words from Berlin, a peaceful, cosmopolitan, first-world capitol filled with young people determinedly pursuing better, more prosperous lives. Aside from museums and monuments, there is no hint of the mass psychosis that gripped Berlin seventy-five years ago when ending Jews -- the "final solution" -- motivated an entire nation to pursue the extermination practices of the nationalists, the Nazis's death camps, with ruthless efficiency even as the war was a lost cause to the German people. Don't say it could never happen here.

I will vote against Republicans and against Trump because they have done the inexcusable both in domestic and international foreign policies: they are unleashing the furies that we experienced, as Jews, for centuries. The American Republic and liberal democracies around the world were designed by wise men and women to bar hatred to the maximum extent possible from infecting the normal conduct of human relations. We express those as the pursuit of liberty and freedom.

It is reprehensible to use poor impoverished people in a "caravan" to the United States for political purposes. That is what Trump and his Republican allies are doing. They are using the caravan to attack Democrats and freely lying to the public about Democrats' support for illegal immigration. In my life as a voter, although I am registered Democrat, I have voted for the candidate not the party. This election I am voting straight line Democrat.

I can't stand what Trump Republicans have done to conservative causes and principles. Moreover, I believe that any Jew who believes that the tables are not set to be turned with vengeance against minorities is living a dream. The caravan I join is a stream of voters to the polls in November to reject the GOP: a party willingly stoking fear, anxiety and hatreds for political gain.