Ivanka and Jr. were being investigated for felony fraud. Then daddy’s lawyer stepped in with the DA.

In 2008/9, the Trumps found themselves trying to sell condo-hotel units in the Trump Soho. They suffered from impeccably bad timing, the global financial crisis had just hit and no one wanted to buy US real-estate. Ivanka and Jr. were in charge of sales and were struggling to sell units. Caught in a bind, they resorted to making stuff up to entice buyers.

New York prosecutors were preparing a case. Then the D.A. overruled his staff after a visit from a top donor: Trump attorney Marc Kasowitz.

In one email, according to four people who have seen it, the Trumps discussed how to coordinate false information they had given to prospective buyers. In another, according to a person who read the emails, they worried that a reporter might be onto them. In yet another, Donald Jr. spoke reassuringly to a broker who was concerned about the false statements, saying that nobody would ever find out, because only people on the email chain or in the Trump Organization knew about the deception, according to a person who saw the email.

— www.propublica.org/…

The New Yorker also has the story, this was a joint investigation with ProPublica.

From the story, it looks like the Major Economic Crimes unit had a good case. Then three things happened:

  • The Trump organization settled the civil suit with buyers and imposed a gag order as part of the settlement.
  • Trump’s personal lawyer, Marc Kasowitz went to see the Manhattan D.A., Cyrus Vance. Kasowitz had contributed to Vance’s campaign and would contribute again months later.
  • Vance instructed the Major Crimes Unit not to prosecute.

There’s a side-bar. Vance returned Kasowitz’s original contribution before killing the case. Conflict of interest you see. Except, a few months later, Kasowitz hosted a fundraiser that netted far more in contributions. Vance is now saying (five years later), that he will return all the contributions from Kasowitz. This is, of course, after being outed in the press.

I have three observations about this saga:

  1. The Trumps are con-artists. But we already knew that, this is why no one in NYC will do business with them. They need a steady supply of marks from the provinces, overseas.*
  2. Trump actively undermines the rule of law. He bays for punitive action against those he dislikes. He demands impunity for friends and family. This was problematic when he was a run-of-the-mill NYC billionaire since impunity for the powerful undermines our legal and political system. It is a critical threat with him as president.
  3. ProPublica does amazing investigative reporting. You should follow them.

*  People in NYC have a lot of information on Trump. We’ve seen him do business and operate for decades. 90% refused to vote for him, though he’s a native New Yorker. Simply by virtue of being in NYC, the Trumps have access to a steady stream of people who do not have any experience with them. It’s a target rich environment. Paradoxically, higher interconnectedness may exacerbate scams and cons. Immediate access to lots of information can create an illusory sense of confidence. A lot of breadth, but not enough depth to make informed decisions. This is an environment in which people like Trump can thrive despite repeated failures and mis-adventures. As long as they can maintain a thin veneer of success the new guy on the block will continue to fall for their cons.

— @subirgrewal | Cross-posted at NotMeUs.org

We were all mistaken. There are two Americas.

President Obama was mistaken, so were we all. There are two Americas.

One America wants justice for all. That America is ably represented by Colin Kaepernick and his family, like his mom, Teresa Kaepernick:

Mrs. Kaepernick tweeted this after the President called her child Colin a “son of a bitch” for taking a knee during the national anthem at football games.*

The other America is represented by President Trump and his supporters. This America wants supremacy for a few.

I’m with Colin Kaepernick and his mom. Yes Colin Kaepernick’s mom is white. Teresa and her husband Rick adopted Colin in infancy. Two of their own sons had previously died due to heart defects.

So, on one hand, you have a family that takes an two unimaginable heart-breaks and turns them into love. Raises a child who despite enjoying enormous success decides he needs to protest the imperfections in our country’s union.

On the other hand, you have Donald Trump.

It’s time we all decided which America we want to be part of.

— @subirgrewal

* Oh yeah, why is the national anthem played at football games anyway? And why are military planes doing fly-overs at these games? It couldn’t have anything to do with politics could it?


The most dangerous and violent narcotics cartel the world has ever seen.

President Trump, addressing African representatives at the UN:

“I have so many friends going to your countries trying to get rich, I congratulate you.”

To many observers, this remark sounded a whole lot like neo-colonialism. Colonialism was not kind to colonized peoples, and there’s no reason to believe neo-colonialism will be. Especially when leaders of major military powers have “friends” trying to make money in far away lands. Here’s an example from another century.

The British East India company was one of the first joint-stock companies in the world. Interestingly, its charter permitted it to wage war. It maintained a mercenary army and engaged in equal parts trade and conquest. In 1757, the company’s mercenary army defeated the nawab of Bengal, gaining control over the region. Bengal was attractive to the company since it was the primary source of opium, which the company traded to great profit. In a sense, you could say the East India company was a narco-cartel that took over an entire state, Bengal, with a population of 30 million people. Of course, it helped that there were backed by the military might of the nascent British empire. This is what Betsy Devos’ brother Erik Prince thinks should happen in Afghanistan, with Blackwater/Academi playing the role of the East India Company. Except it’s already been done, with predictably terrible results.

In 1770, the east Indian regions of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa suffered a terrible famine, while the company controlled the region. 10 million people starved to death, though some some studies indicate the death toll may have been as high as 15 million. Death rates in some towns were over 60%, and for the region as a whole, 33-50%. In comparison, the better known Great Famine of the 1840s (in another British colony, Ireland) merely caused 1.5 million deaths. Reports of the Bengal famine of 1770 reached Britain swiftly. The company and its agents were severely criticized in several quarters. Among others, Adam Smith wrote about the company’s policies in Bengal:

The great fortunes so suddenly and so easily acquired in Bengal and the other British settlements in the East Indies, may satisfy us that, as the wages of labour are very low, so the profits of stock are very high in those ruined countries. The interest of money is proportionably so. In Bengal, money is frequently lent to the farmers at forty, fifty, and sixty per cent, and the succeeding crop is mortgaged for the payment. As the profits which can afford such an interest must eat up almost the whole rent of the landlord, so such enormous usury must in its turn eat up the greater part of those profits. (In their transactions with the inhabitants of India, the British substituted violence for trade; and the price at which they bought or sold was often very different, therefore, from the value of the market. They took what they wanted at their own price, and it was by this violence that they drained the country of its wealth.) — Adam Smith: Wealth of Nations

Yet, almost two hundred years later, during WW-2, another British government would stoke another famine in Bengal, killing 2 or 3 million people.

The great famine of 1770 was triggered by a failed monsoon the prior autumn. A decade of predatory tax harvesting by the East India company had left rural Bengalis and Biharis with few monetary resources. The company had raised land taxes over the prior decade, sending the proceeds back to shareholders in London. When the monsoon failed in 1769, many now impoverished Bengali families had no way to buy food. The company’s officers had stolen their savings via extortionate “taxes”, often employing violence and torture. The company’s policy of replacing food crops with opium likely exacerbated the famine. Smallpox broke out among the starving survivors.

In a pattern familiar from the more extensively documented famines of the nineteenth century, peasants tried to sell their possessions, even the plows and bullocks they would need n teh future to till their fields. In desperation they ate their seed corn, then turned to eating grass, leaves, and bark. Children were sold to anyone who would buy them: some survived the famine only as slaved in European and Indian households. There were reports, as so often when the intensity of India’s famine passed beyond normal comprehension, of hungry people driven to the extremes even of cannibalism; “There were persons who fed on forbidden and abhorred animals, nay the child on its dead parent, the mother on her child.” Large numbers died of starvation or disease before they could find relief or because they were too worn out and malnourished to absorb the food they received. Mortality was greatest among agricultural laborers, poor peasants, and artisans (cotton and silk weavers, lime workers, and the like), with Bihar and western Bengal suffering most. Only toward the end of 1770 did the drought and famine abate. — David Arnold: Hunger in the garden of plenty

As it happens, killing a third of your labor force isn’t a good thing for any enterprise, even a narco-cartel with a side business in tax harvesting. Opium production fell after the famine, and the East India company came under immense financial stress. Since many members of parliament held East India company stock, it wasn’t difficult to convince them to pass laws to bolster the firm’s finances.

The Company created a powerful East India lobby in Parliament, a caucus of MPs who had either directly or indirectly profited from its business and who constituted, in Edmund Burke’s opinion, one of the most united and formidable forces in British politics. It also made regular gifts to the Court: “All who could help or hurt at Court,” wrote Lord Macaulay, “ministers, mistresses, priests, were kept in good humour by presents of shawls and silks, birds’ nests and attar of roses, bulses of diamonds and bags of guineas.” It also made timely gifts to the Treasury whenever the state faced bankruptcy. In short, it acted as what George Dempster, a stockholder, called a “great money engine of state”.


By 1773, the company had successfully lobbied the British parliament to grant it a monopoly on opium production in Bengal. That would solidify the company’s position as the largest producer and dealer of hard drugs in the world.

The East India company used the land taxes extracted from peasants to buy opium. Since it had a monopoly, it could control prices. The opium was then sent to China, to be traded for Chinese tea. And this is where the opium trade intersects with American history.

Goaded by the directors, Parliament passed the Tea Act of 1773. This legislation was meant to further bolster the company’s finances by allowing it to export tea, under preferential terms, to the American colonies. If this is beginning to sound familiar, it should. The Tea Act led to the Boston Tea Party, the Declaration of Independence and the American Revolution.

If 10 million Bengalis hadn’t been starved to death by an opium cartel owned by British lords, this country might not have thrown off the colonial yoke when it did.

Let’s talk about this tea which American revolutionaries gleefully dumped into Boston harbor. With their monopoly on opium production, the East India company had solved one of its biggest dilemmas. Thus far, British merchants had to scrounge up gold and silver to buy Chinese goods. But if they could get enough Chinese people hooked on opium, that would serve as currency. And since they controlled production and prices, let’s just say it was a good deal. Over the course of the 18th and early 19th century, the East India company increased its opium exports to China manyfold.

At the turn of the 19th century, the Chinese government moved to make the opium trade illegal. British merchant-pirates resorted to smuggling to continue the trade. The Chinese government’s efforts were largely ineffective. By the 1830s, a large portion of the population (perhaps as high as 20%) was using opium. The Chinese government sought to restrict the trade even further.

Faced with a direct threat to their lucrative opium-tea trade, British naval forces and the armies of the East India company joined together to wage China. British forces fighting alongside the East India company’s mercenary army won the First Opium War of 1840-42. Casualties on the Chinese side (both civilian and military) were in the tens of thousands. British forces engaged in extensive looting and destruction of art works. The Qing dynasty government was forced to sign the Treaty of Nanking. It granted British merchants free access to numerous Chinese ports, and ceded the island of Hong Kong to Britain. British merchants resumed distributing thousands of tons of opium to China every year. The loss and burden of making reparations to Britain weakened the Qing dynasty and helped spark the Taiping rebellion. That bloody civil war cost 20-30 million lives and the First Opium War continues to be viewed as a seminal event in Chinese history.

The government and the company were severely criticized by some in Britain for initiating this war. Famously, this included the future Prime Minister Gladstone, who had seen his sister turn into an opium addict. Opium was widely available in Britain and Europe at the time, most commonly sold as laudanum, a mixture of opium and alcohol. Those treating addiction among heir friends and family were appalled that their government would wage war on Chinese administrators trying to do the same. The criticism was laughably ineffective when there was so much money to be made via drug-dealing.

In 1856-60 the British government fought a second opium war, seeking to renegotiate the terms of the earlier treaty. A key demand was lifting all restrictions on  the opium trade. The British also sought to expand the coolie trade. This system of indentured servitude took Indian and Chinese laborers to Caribbean and South American plantations to grow commodity crops for . It has been called near-slavery. The “coolies” were often kidnapped from their homes or given false assurances. US traders participated in this human trafficking, most often by selling Chinese laborers to Cuban plantation owners. Lincoln eventually signed a law outlawing the coolie-trade.

Over a four year campaign, British and French forces defeated the Chinese army and navy. It’s worth noting that they were aided by the US armed forces. A naval vessel, the USS San Jacinto was actively engaged in the conflict. Can you imagine the response if the armies and navies of Columbia, Mexico and Afghanistan lay siege to the port of Los Angeles, demanding the unfettered right to sell heroin and cocaine to Americans? Yeah, that’s probably what most Chinese people thought about it.

There are dozens of interesting stories about these events. Tales of colonization and its impact on peoples across the world.  Stories of narco-privateers sailing under the British flag who enjoyed the protection of the world’s most powerful navy. There’s that one time the US navy fought alongside dealers and smugglers of hard drugs. The tragic history of a famine that killed ten million living, breathing human beings, just like you and me. There’s the story of Chinese and Indian leaders who sought to protect their people and countries from colonization.

Are you likely to see a mainstream movie about any of this? Not really. Hollywood is too busy rehabilitating Georgian and Victorian era aristocrats with period pieces that showcase their tastes in clothing and leisure activities.

We are treated to sympathetic movies about the madness of George III, Victoria and her Scottish servant, Victoria and her Indian servant, Victoria and her German consort-prince, Young Victoria, Old Victoria, Middle-Aged Victoria.

What should we learn from this? That the desire to absolve and gloss over runs deep? If so, it means thirty years from now, perhaps sooner, we’ll all be watching bio-pics about Trump’s lovable forgetfulness and his unlikely friendship with Ben Carson.

— @subirgrewal


Treasury’s doors are wide open to buy bombs, but we have no money to care for the sick.

The day before President Trump threatened to “totally destroy” North Korea, the Senate passed a bill authorizing another $700bn for the Pentagon.

In a rare act of bipartisanship on Capitol Hill, the Senate passed a $700 billion defense policy bill on Monday that sets forth a muscular vision of America as a global power, with a Pentagon budget that far exceeds what President Trump has asked for.

Senators voted 89-9 to approve the measure, known as the National Defense Authorization Act; the House has already adopted a similar version. — www.nytimes.com/…

Yes, you read that right. The Senate voted to spend even more than the president who wants to “totally destroy” a country with 25 million people in it.

When it’s time to educate our children, or care for the sick, or shelter the homeless, we see no end of hand-wringing about “cost concerns”. But, when it’s time to buy a few bombs, or jets and ships to launch them from, bipartisanship breaks out like a rash in DC. In these trying, divided times, we can still count on both parties to come together and claim the common ground that bombing other (preferably poor and brown) countries is a good thing.

In the bill, lawmakers boosted funding for the F-35 fighter jet by $1.2 billion for 11 more aircraft for a total buy of 74; the F/A-18E/F fighter jet procurement by $979 million for 12 more aircraft. — www.defensenews.com/…

That’s just the acquisition cost. The total cost of the F-35 program is well north of a Trillion dollars. Governing is about choices. We can’t have nice things like free public college, health-care for all and affordable housing, because the military-industrial-complex wants F-35s. So instead of building housing for our own people, we blow up houses across the world. Instead of paying for health-care for our own people, we kill and maim others across the world. Instead of paying to educate our children, we drop bombs on children somewhere else. Last year alone, we dropped 26,000 bombs.

After all, our politicians know there is no cost to starting wars, even when they lie to the American population to start them. They can expect to be invited to the talk show circuit and cocktail parties just like George W. Bush is. They can count on the media, and documentary filmmakers, to whitewash their actions as “honest mistakes” made by “well-meaning” people.

There are eight senators who voted against the National Defense Authorization Act. Rand Paul (R-KY) voted No because he wants to revoke the AUMFs for the 15 and 16 year old wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.  Mike Lee (R-UT) is concerned about the cost of our war budget. Bob Corker (R-TN) voted No because he’s deeply concerned about spending levels, he released this statement:

“Unfortunately, this legislation not only blows the budget caps by nearly $83 billion but also exceeds the president’s funding request by more than $32 billion and continues the abuse of OCO as a budget gimmick. While I support investing the appropriate resources to ensure our troops have the tools they need, we cannot continue to do things the same way and deepen the fiscal crisis jeopardizing our national security.” — www.chattanoogan.com/…

Patrick Leahy (D-VT) objects to the process and to the bloated bill. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) is concerned about waste in the DoD contracts and overall spending on war given other priorities. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) has not released a statement but her objections are likely along the same lines. Gillibrand did propose an amendment to overturn Trump’s transgender ban (it was not included in the bill). Wyden (D-OR) and Merkley (D-OR) have voted No in prior years. Sen. Wyden issued this statement to explain his No vote:

“I can’t sign off on another bill that OKs massive increases in military spending, including unnecessary military hardware even the Trump administration didn’t ask for. All this, when Congress can’t figure out how to pay for new roads, bridges, schools and other priorities Americans desperately need to create jobs.”  — www.wyden.senate.gov/…

The House passed the bill back in July, the vote was 344-81.

We have been at war almost without exception, somewhere in the world, for the past 100 years. We’ve currently got special forces deployed in 70 countries.

Here’s then MP, Tony Benn’s speech in the House of Commons in 2003. He went on to chair the Stop the Wars coalition.

Kirsten Gillibrand and 15 out of NY’s 18 House Dems support Medicare for All

New York has a long history of producing progressives focused on delivering health-care to all. Teddy Roosevelt was the first presidential candidate to propose socialized healthcare. FDR was the first president to actually deliver any kind of federal socialized health-care with the EMIC program and Social Security. EMIC provided some maternity and early childhood care, Social Security provided grants to states to provide programs for public health and services to benefit the blind and disabled.

Continuing in that long tradition, New York Democrats have stepped up to support John Conyers’ Medicare For All bill (HR 676). As of today, 15 out of the 18 Democrats in New York’s current Congressional House delegation support HR 676.

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand is also on record as supporting single-payer, and word is that she will support Bernie Sander’s senate version of Conyer’s Medicare For All bill.

This means three of the most prominent Senators mentioned as likely presidential candidates will co-sponsor the bill (Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren and Kirsten Gillibrand).

We are a far cry from the environment in 2009, when the party leadership was reluctant to bring a public option to a floor vote, or send it to the CBO for a score. The change in mood is perhaps best underscored by the journey that Max Baucus (D-MT) has been on. As  chairman of the Senate Finance committee, in 2009, Sen. Baucus helped kill public option proposals by Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and John D. Rockefeller IV (D-WV). Now retired, Max Baucus said he believes the time has come for single-payer.

Speaking of the party leadership, our state’s senior senator (and minority leader), Chuck Schumer has not declared his support for the bill, but he has said single payer is “on the table”. In Schumer’s case, it’s not clear whether he’s referring to a single-payer Medicare-For-All covering everyone, or a Medicare buy-in program with subsidies.

In contrast, 83% of NY’s Democratic delegation in the house has co-sponsored Conyer’s MFA bill, which expands Medicare to cover everyone, and improves benefits. They are:

Every Democratic Congressional representative from the nation’s largest city, NYC has co-sponsored HR-676. Dan Donovan, a Republican who represents Staten Island (11th district) is not a supporter.

There are three Democrats in New York’s house delegation who are not on record as supporting Medicare For All. They are Thomas Suozzi (D-NY-3), Kathleen Rice (D-NY-4), Sean Maloney (D-NY-18). Each of them represents NYC suburbs or exurbs including northern Nassau county (the Gold Coast), southern Nassau county (South shore) and Westchester/Dutchess. These areas are generally less diverse, wealthier and more conservative.


Sen. Heitkamp (D) will appear with Trump as he pitches lowering corporate taxes to 15%.

Somehow, reducing corporate tax rates always ends up being a “bipartisan issue”.

President Donald Trump is increasingly fixated on slashing the top corporate tax rate to 15 percent – a level that pretty much no one else working on the issue in the White House or Congress thinks is workable.In a White House meeting on Tuesday, Trump again expressed his strong desire to hit the 15 percent target, from today’s 35 percent. […]

On Wednesday, President Trump plans to travel to North Dakota – his second tax sales pitch in a week – to deliver a speech focused on the way tax reform it will boost the financial lives of the middle class and help businesses.

Accompanying him on Air Force One on the trip will be North Dakota Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, one of 10 Democratic senators up for re-election in 2018 in states that Trump won. A key part of the administration’s strategy to push a tax package through Congress is to earn these members’ support.

— www.politico.com/…

Given all the focus and concern about corporate profits, you might think they were in really bad shape. That isn’t the case though, the share of GDP going to corporations is close to an 80 year high (red line in graph below). The share of national income going to workers (blue line), is close to it’s low over 80 years.


Of course, the “middle class” did quite well when corporate profits were lower and workers got higher wages. You’d think Democrats would be concerned about worker’s wages, but Sen. Heitkamp marches to the tune of a different drummer. Most Democrats in the Senate are co-sponsoring a bill to raise the minimum wage to $15 over several years, Sen. Heitkamp isn’t among them. Though, to be fair, neither are the other red-state Democrats up for election in 2018, Joe Manchin (WV), Jon Tester (MT), Claire McCaskill (MO), Joe Donnelly (IN). It’s also worth noting that Sen. Heitkamp has opposed several of Trump’s priorities, though he won her state by a large margin.

Trump will be touting his tax plan at the Andeavor oil refinery in Heitkamp’s hometown of Mandan, just outside of Bismarck, the state capital.

The Democratic senator is expected to face a difficult challenge for reelection next year in a state Trump carried in 2016 by 36 percentage points, one of his biggest margins of victory. So Heitkamp may see a political advantage in being friendly with Trump and open to his ideas, even if she does not ultimately vote to pass his agenda.

In his speech Wednesday, Trump intends to pressure Heitkamp to support his tax-reform agenda — in part by reminding North Dakotans that the last time Congress passed meaningful tax reform, in 1986, during Ronald Reagan’s presidency, their Democratic senator voted yea.

— www.washingtonpost.com/…

Incidentally, Sen. Heitkamp’s hometown is named for the Mandan peoples who have lived in the area for a 1,000 years or more.

— @subirgrewal

Could the world’s largest democracies descend into sectarian violence?

Over a year ago, I wrote about how Trump reminds me of a politician I know from my youth, Bal Thackeray:

Bal Thackeray adopted a hodge-podge of ideological positions. His party controlled trade unions while he openly admired strongmen and dictators (including Hitler). The one constant throughout his career was the use of ethnic and religious divisions. His real talent was tapping into economic discontent, frustration and anger at corruption. He rose to prominence by fomenting resentment towards “immigrants” from other states in India. Bombay had been a melting pot for decades, attracting people from all over India who spoke a multitude of languages. Thackeray drove a wedge between Marathi-speakers (from the area around Bombay) and all others, convincing them South Indians, Gujaratis and Hindi-speakers were taking their jobs. Years later, when it became less easy to rouse people using linguistic differences, he moved on to exploit religion.

Thackeray’s party, the Shiv Sena, is allied with India’s ruling right-wing Hindu-nationalist BJP. Thackeray too had a knack for using media to rile up the worst instincts in his followers. He started his career as a political cartoonist. His entire political career was built on bombast and stoking religious, ethnic and linguistic differences. Like Trump, he made his home in the most integrated city in the country. And yes, Thackeray, like Trump, admired Hitler’s rhetoric and tactics.

Modi is far more coy about how he stokes sectarian fires, and projects the perception of competence. He is not above bombastic rhetoric when necessary, but it is not his natural mode. In his personal life, he cultivates a reputation for ascetic probity. Perhaps the right analogue for Modi is actually Mike Pence. That should make you pause and reconsider how much you want Trump removed from office.

Though their styles may differ, Modi and Trump do respond very similarly to violent attacks on minorities. Trump’s behavior after the Charlottesville attacks is very similar to what Prime Minister Modi’s half-hearted statements when vigilantes have lynched Muslim men suspected of eating beef (it’s happened multiple times). They wait for days, and then half-heartedly condemn the violence, often excusing it as being “provoked”. In Modi’s case, the provocation is beef-eating. In Trump’s it’s protesting racism.

Mihir Sharma, writing in Bloomberg today, advises that it’s a waste of time trying to get Trump to “say the right thing”. Most Indians have realized Modi’s winking statements reluctantly condemning Hidutva vigilantes are meaningless and satisfy no one.:

Even before he confirmed that he didn’t actually mean what he’d said, nobody could have believed that Trump genuinely meant what he’d said. Nor could anyone have believed that his stilted statement on Monday deterred or dismayed the neo-Nazis and white supremacists who descended on Charlottesville this weekend.  […]

We in India have played out our version of this dark farce for three years. Prime Minister Narendra Modi climbed to power with a record blemished by years of pandering to Hindu nationalists. Emboldened by his victory, the hardest core of his supporters asserted themselves across India through intimidation and violence. Muslims were lynched; people born into lower castes were publicly beaten. The prime minister was pressed: Why would he not address this violence?

For days after one particularly horrific lynching, Modi declined to respond. And then, when he did, nobody was really satisfied. Like Trump’s real reaction, there was a strong element of “both-sides-ism” in his response.  — www.bloomberg.com/…

Forcing Trump to “say the right words” when he clearly doesn’t believe them, is largely a waste of our time. He wears his allegiance to white supremacy on his sleeve, and that isn’t going to change. Modi ascribes to an ideology of Hindu supremacy, and nothing’s going to change him either. Neither of them is above claiming that they only seek to preserve a unique, especially wonderful “culture”.

There are many other similarities between them and their countries. They both instinctively understand democracy as “majority rule”, and by majority they mean the majority religion/race. They have limited patience for minority rights, I suspect they both ascribe to the view that minorities should “know their place”. Hindus are roughly 80% of the Indian population. That’s a soft number though, since there are very strong caste and linguistic divisions. Modi and the BJP in general, are viewed as an upper-caste, north-Indian party. Roughly 80% of the US considers itself Christian, and 80% is white/hispanic. Though again, there are numerous divisions and clearly Trump sees himself representing the non-hispanic white protestant population, which is the largest group.

Neither of them are particularly concerned with lower-caste, poorer population. When pressed, they’re likely to claim whatever benefits the majority or wealthy will eventually benefit the minority or poorer population as well.

Oh yes, I almost forgot. They are both firmly anti-Muslim. This is a bigger issue in India since Muslims are a larger part of the population. But in the US anti-Muslim rhetoric generally goes hand in hand with anti-black sentiment since for a lot of people Islam is associated with black people.

We can discuss what drives the forces that brought Modi and Trump to power, and they would certainly include technological disruption, globalization, climate change stress, and much more besides.

But the question I want to ask is whether our countries can descend into widespread sectarian violence. I don’t have an answer, it’s really more of a question. Both countries have a long history of violent pogroms (as frankly do almost all places).

The historian Ramchandra Guha was interviewed by Slate recently, and he was asked what he thought of Modi vs Trump:

In what ways do you think personally is Modi similar or different from the other demagogues we see around the world?

Trump is a maverick, an egomaniac really interested only in himself, whereas Modi is interested, of course in himself, he is an enormously vain man too, but he is interested in consolidating his party [BJP] and his philosophy’s control over India. He would like to leave a positive legacy behind. It’s unlikely that he will, but he likes to think of himself as a man of history. And he’s building upon this very well-entrenched, very motivated, and very dangerous RSS organization, which Trump certainly doesn’t have and [French leader of the National Front] Le Pen certainly doesn’t have and [Hungary’s] Viktor Orbán doesn’t have. In that sense, Modi has the capacity to do a great deal more damage because of the organizational depth of the RSS and the BJP. — www.slate.com/…

Guha’s right, Trump doesn’t have the brown-shirt like organization, Modi does. But, Guha also doesn’t appreciate the fact that the US population is far, far more heavily armed than the Indian population. The typical Indian riot involves machetes, knives and sticks. Virtually no one has firearms. The white nationalist militia people in Charlottesville were very heavily armed. The governor admitted this intimidated the police.

— @subirgrewal