My friend and colleague on SiriusXM radio, Dean Obeidallah, reminded me yesterday when we were chatting on his show that he pointed out last week that "air rage" incidents have exploded this year. He wrote a great op-ed about it for CNN here.
The FAA says there have been 2900 reports of air rage since the first of the year, and 2200 of those involved people becoming enraged over mask requirements.
And we're not just seeing it on airplanes. Road rage is up, people challenging (and, yesterday, murdering) retail workers is up, even mass shootings are up right now.
Dean correctly points out that a lot of this has to do with wearing masks, and Donald Trump set the tone for the nation in ridiculing them and even ridiculing candidate Joe Biden for wearing one, saying it made him look "weak."
Other commentators point to the confluence of stressors hitting Americans right now ranging from having spent a year in lockdown to fear of illness to a devastated economy that has destroyed the lives of tens of millions of Americans.
These are all excellent points, and all are no doubt highly causal to today's situation.
But what concerns me beyond what may be a transient mask kerfuffle is that Trump didn't just set the tone for defying authority or generally acting like an asshole. The truly deadly thing he did, in and to our society, was to put down the psychopath marker and use it to call together his neurological tribe.
About 1% of Americans are psychopaths, although such people tend to be concentrated in some areas: as many as 12% of major corporate CEOs are believed to be psychopaths, and about 15% of people in prison.
A psychopath, for all practical purposes, believes that he's quite literally the only "true human being" on planet Earth.
Everybody else is an actor of some sort, a prop, in the grand play of the psychopath's life. Everybody else is here to make him happy and meet his needs, and he doesn't have to worry about hurting them or not meeting their needs because they are not "real people" like he is.
The clinical terminology is that psychopaths "lack the ability to feel empathy." Weirdly, this lack of empathy can make them more successful in big business and in criminal and prison environments.
This defines Donald Trump, as numerous mental health professionals have pointed out over the past few years on my show, in numerous books and articles, and across other media.
When Donald Trump was just a corrupt real estate developer in New York his psychopathy only damaged the people in his immediate circle: his family, the people who did business with him, and people he fleeced like students for Trump University or contractors he refused to pay.
But when he became president, he became our nation's "father." This can't be emphasized enough; in the US the president is both head of government (like Prime Minister Johnson) and head of state (like Queen Elizabeth). The president thus sets the tone for the country and establishes the norm for how a person with privilege and power is expected to behave.
And Americans have a history of emulating our presidents, from FDR's enthusiasm to JFK's haircut to Bush's war fever.
It's sort of like how you can generally predict that the kid who cheats at the high school football game, gets caught, and goes off on a loud, profane against the referee is going to have a parent who taught him those behaviors.
Thus, Trump's presidency has massively empowered the psychopaths among us. The people who, if their life had taken just a slightly different turn at some point, would today be a member of a prison gang or a CEO. They recognize themselves in him and are empowered by him.
As president, Trump made being a psychopath fashionable, and his fellow psychopaths across the nation are having a huge coming-out party.
This is how Trump has unleashed a wave of newly-empowered psychopaths who are now rapidly rising up through Republican political and judicial ranks, pushing the non-psychopaths out of the way (as psychopaths are wont to do), and generally terrorizing the American public.
Elderly people who've spent their lives volunteering or working as election workers are getting phone calls telling them that they will soon die a slow and painful death if they don't quit and turn their jobs over.
People who dare have a Biden/Harris bumper-sticker on their car or a Pride flag in their window find themselves the victims of vandals, arsonists and worse.
Asian Americans, including elderly Asian Americans, are increasingly victims of these Trump-psychopathy fueled individuals chanting Trump's racist virus epithet.
Teachers simply trying to explain the simple history of America are on the receiving end of not just death threats, but a loss of livelihood that could leave them homeless and without healthcare.
Trump's tribe of psychopaths are finding each other on social media and coming together in armed groups, plotting their revenge against a society they feel has unfairly tried to constrain their selfish impulses and behaviors.
The last time this happened in a major western nation was 1933, when Adolf Hitler — another high-functioning psychopath — took over leadership of Germany. For a republic, having a psychopath at the top of leadership is extraordinarily dangerous and usually leads to the psychopath so corrupting the political process that democracy is badly damaged or even destroyed and replaced with oligarchy or fascism.
Joe Biden is doing a great job of showing the country what a "normal parent" politician is like, but a large handful of psychopaths with major rightwing media platforms continue to stir Trump's tribe in order to get higher ratings and make money.
And the more money these performers make for their psychopathic CEOs, the more they're rewarded for this insanely destructive behavior.
At some point, hopefully, the fever will break. It will probably take a disaster of some sort, the way it took the 1996 mass shooting in Tasmania to wake up Australians enough to institute rational gun control and re-stabilize their society.
Ideally that scenario can be avoided, but as long as the awesome, multi-billion-dollar radio and TV media infrastructure conservatives have built over the past 40 years continues to crank up the heat, the pot will continue to boil until it explodes.
Americans are dining out in record numbers as pandemic restrictions lift, with restaurants struggling to keep up with demand amid a labor shortage, data released by review site Yelp showed Tuesday.
Yelp data showed more than 3.7 million diners seated using its app in May 2021, the highest number ever, surpassing pre-pandemic highs, according to Yelp restaurant marketplace manager Devon Wright.
The number of diners was 48 percent higher than in May 2019, according to the data.
The surge comes with a growing number of Americans having been vaccinated, and local governments gradually lifting mask mandates and limits on indoor dining.
"As diners head back into restaurants, new restaurant and food businesses are opening at near pre-pandemic levels," Wright said in a blog post.
"Nearly 6,600 new restaurant and food businesses opened in May 2021, a 42 percent increase from May 2020 and down by only 21 percent from May 2019."
Yelp also counted 16,500 reopenings in April 2021, with that number dipping to 5,000 in May.
The jump in restaurant dining has been especially pronounced in some cities seeing more tourism such as Honolulu (up 853 percent) and Las Vegas (up 589 percent), Yelp said.
Wright said restaurants are increasingly turning to technology to help manage the spike in light of difficulties in finding workers. This includes more use of digital menus, contactless payments, smartphone waitlists, reservations and table management.
Pandemic restrictions have been gradually lifted in the US with just over 52 percent of the US population, or 174 million people, have already received at least one dose, according to health officials.
The constant drip of "revelations" about the Trump regime's crimes are about to become a torrent and a flood. In all, these "revelations" are very much like a firehose tied in a knot that is about to burst.
Over the course of the last few weeks, it has been revealed that the Trump regime spied upon journalists at the Washington Post and CNN who were reporting on Russian influence in the 2016 election.
The American people have also learned that the Trump regime's official policy of cruelty towards nonwhite refugees and migrants was even worse than publicly known: children were stolen from their parents by the United States government even when they could have been deported together as an intact family.
We now know that Donald Trump actually wanted the Army National Guard to be used as a protection force for his followers on January 6 as they gathered together prior to launching their lethal attack on the Capitol.
In keeping with his paranoia and aspirations to be an American Nero, Trump's loyalists at the Department of Commerce spied upon employees and members of the public deemed to be "disloyal" because they opposed changes to the United States Census which were designed to undercount nonwhite people, especially Hispanics and Latinos.
No longer the stuff of speculation, it is now an indisputable fact that Trump's campaign advisor Paul Manafort was sharing internal polling and other information with a known Russian spy during the 2016 presidential campaign.
In addition, audio of a 2019 phone call has been released in which Trump's personal attorney and emissary Rudy Giuliani explicitly attempts to intimidate the leaders of the country of Ukraine into participating in a disinformation campaign against then-candidate Joe Biden, with the goal of influencing the outcome of the 2020 presidential election.
Over the last few days, there have been more "revelations" about the Trump regime's apparent high crimes, abuses of power, and other misdeeds.
CNN and the New York Times have reported that following Trump's defeat in the 2020 presidential election, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows pressured the Department of Justice to find ways to overturn the results in order to keep Trump in power.
On Thursday, the New York Times reported that the Trump regime spied upon House Intelligence Committee Democrats (and their family members and staff) who were investigating the Russia collusion scandal.
This surveillance was ostensibly designed to stop "leaks" of "classified" and other "privileged information" to protect "national security." Although I would suggest that the real goal was to gain information about what the House Intelligence Committee knew about Trump's and his inner circle's contacts with Russian and other foreign agents.
On Sunday, the New York Times also reported that in February 2018 the Trump regime ordered the Department of Justice to obtain the phone records and other information of then-White House attorney Donald McGhan and his wife. Such an order appears to be part of a larger pattern, whereby Donald Trump and his agents were obsessed with "leaks" and "traitors" and "disloyalty."
How has the Biden administration responded to these continuous revelations about the Trump regime's obvious high crimes?
Instead of bringing the full force of the law and other punishments down upon the Trump regime (including members of the Republican Party in Congress), the response by the Biden administration — as seen with former Attorney General William Barr's memos on not charging Trump for obstruction of justice, Trump's IRS tax documents and information about his D.C. hotel, the E. Jean Carroll lawsuit and other examples (most notably not creating a truth commission to fully expose and publicly document the horrors of the Age of Trump) — has largely been tepid.
Why is the Biden administration behaving this way?
Put simply, Joe Biden sees himself as a healer, a unifier, a type of secular national priest, and someone committed to consensus and bipartisan politics. This is his core temperament.
He truly (and incorrectly) believes that by "moving forward" from the Trump regime, and implementing public policies which help the majority of Americans, the country's wounds will be healed and neofascism defeated.
Joe Biden and the Democratic Party's leadership have convinced themselves that properly investigating the Trump regime and its Republican allies and enablers will be a distraction from their policy agenda.
Joe Biden and his administration also have an unwavering faith in and commitment to the stability and strength of America's political institutions. For them, the country's core institutions and their legitimacy must be protected at all costs.
But this involves an error in reasoning and assumptions: what if the institutions are already deeply flawed, and Trumpism only accelerated their decline (and perhaps even collapse)?
Moreover, the Biden administration and the Department of Justice are committed to maintaining precedent and protecting the presidency from what they see as undo limitations on the power of the office. Such a standard will only empower future authoritarians and dictators-in-waiting.
The above explanations are largely correct. However, they overlook the unifying and ominous explanation that is hiding in plain sight.
It is more likely than not that the true extent of the Trump regime's crimes are so great and horrible that the Biden administration and senior members of the Democratic Party have either actively decided or come to a tacit understanding that it is in the best interest of the country to somehow conceal them — or at the very least, to let these heinous acts leak out slowly, as to then be lost down the memory well.
In plain English, something about this whole thing stinks.
The image that comes to my mind is that of President Biden walking behind a Trump-Republican elephant with a shovel to pick up its endless waste. No matter how fast and carefully Joe Biden and his helpers scoop up the Trump-Republican elephant's turds, there is always a stink in the air and some residue on the ground.
Democracies fail a bit at a time, and then all at once. The United States is in a crisis moment. To slow the march of neofascism requires a great reckoning. Part of that reckoning demands a full public accounting of the Trump regime and its allies' and enablers' crimes against democracy and the American people.
In a new essay at Common Dreams, Thom Hartmann summarizes this idea of a great reckoning:
Prosecuting Trump, Barr, and the other corrupt members of his administration and people around him is not a matter of political payback. It has very little to do with Donald Trump or the Republican party, in fact: it's about the future of our republic.
They must be held accountable.
President Biden and Congress must appoint an independent, special prosecutor (or equivalent) and set up an office within the Justice Department to look into crimes committed in the White House during the previous four years.
If we fail to do this soon, it will become practically and politically impossible. And if America fails to hold its rich and powerful to account, particularly the man who corrupted the highest office in the land, we will have truly gone down the same path as an increasingly corrupted ancient Rome, leading straight to the death of our republic, too.
Are the American people mature enough to grapple with the true scale of what Donald Trump and his regime afflicted upon them and the country? I do not know. But the American people must learn the whole truth through public hearings and commissions, investigative reporting, from whistle-blowers, and all other available means if the country's democracy is to be saved.
Joe Biden may have convinced himself that it is best to protect the American people from such dangerous truths. And if Biden has indeed come to such a conclusion, it will be a stain on the legacy of his presidency and a note made in large print on the epitaph of American democracy.
Don't Sit on the Sidelines of History. Join Raw Story Investigates and Go Ad-Free. Support Honest Journalism.
$95 / year — Just $7.91/month
I want to Support More
$14.99 per month