In my files I find that in 1996 the brother of a former Mexican president, having salted away $80,000,000 abroad out of his government salary of $190,000 a year, was being investigated for the crime of “inexplicable enrichment.” Unhappily this is is not a crime in the United States, but let’s suppose. Manafort? Trump? Et ceteras beyond count. Think how dry the swamp would suddenly get, and not just in Washington.
I was on Trump’s case back in 1994 when one of my Tom Bethany mysteries, Strangle Hold, was published. Unfortunately it was fiction. The excerpt below describes a bit of improvisational theater. For the full literary experience, go here.
“A sperm bank! Who said that.” Ned pointed me out, making sure everyone would know where the idea had come from. “Let me just say, sir, that you have a genuinely sick mind.” Three or four other suggestions came from the audience, and then the players huddled off to one side as if they were discussing which one to build on. Then a frizzy-haired blonde left the huddle with a chair in hand, and sat down facing us. From rehearsals, I knew her name was Audrey Herman. Audrey made as if she were working at an imaginary desk, while the actor named Harvey came through an imaginary door and stood in front of her. It was all going according to the script:
DONOR: This the First National Sperm Bank?
NURSE: You the ten o’clock? (Looking down at schedule) The Donald?
DONOR nods. NURSE drains the last of an imaginary coffee cup and hands it to him.
NURSE: Fill ’er up.
DONOR: Right here?
NURSE: Go ahead and whip it out. I’m a nurse.
DONOR starts to do so, when ROBBER bursts in and grabs him around the neck while threatening the NURSE with an imaginary gun.
ROBBER: Hand it over!
NURSE and DONOR obey, although the DONOR is in obvious distress from the strangle hold the ROBBER has on him. As the other two speak, he fights silently for breath and his hands lower slowly to his sides.
NURSE: Are you crazy? This is the First National Sperm Bank!
ROBBER: I don’t give a rat’s ass what you call it, sister. Hand the dough over in unmarked tens and twenties or this guy gets it. (Presses gun to DONOR’S head.)
NURSE: You can’t kill that man!
ROBBER: Why not?
NURSE: He’s already dead.
ROBBER notices this is so, and lets DONOR fall to the floor.
ROBBER: Shit, what am I supposed to do for a hostage?
NURSE: You idiot! You’ve killed the most brilliant businessman in America. His sperm was worth a fortune.
ROBBER: Huh? Who is he?
NURSE: Donald Trump. He used to get two million bucks a wad.
ROBBER: Jeez, what kind of broad would pay that kind of money for somebody else’s sperm?
NURSE: Women married to rich morons. Speak of the devil, here comes Mrs. Quayle now.
MARILYN: Hi. I’ve come to pick up my order of Trump sperm. Wait a minute. Isn’t that the Donald on the floor?
ROBBER: He’s just resting. (Aside to NURSE) Keep your mouth shut, sister, and I’ll split with you fifty-fifty. (Back to MARILYN) If you could just step into the other room with my nurse for a minute, give Mr. Trump a little privacy—
MARILYN: Of course. (They turn their backs while the ROBBER retrieves the fallen coffee cup from the floor, turns away from the audience, and goes to work.)
ROBBER: Okay, ladies. All set. (They turn around again.)
MARILYN: Sorry to interrupt your nap, Mr. Trump. Mr. Trump?
ROBBER: He went right back to sleep, I’m afraid. It took a lot out of him.
MARILYN: (Looking into the cup the ROBBER has handed her.) Doesn’t look like much to me.
NURSE: Hey, you know what they say about the Donald, don’t you?
MARILYN: No, what?
NURSE: (Breaking into the old Brylcreem song—) Trumpcreem, a little dab’ll do ya. Trumpcreem, a little dabbledo—
ROBBER: Yeah, I know it don’t look like much, but there’s millions of them little suckers in there. So if you’ll just hand over the dough—
MARILYN: Not so fast. I’ve got to check it first.
ROBBER: (Looking into the cup) Looks okay to me.
MARILYN: (Shoving an imaginary purse protectively under her arm.) Yeah, well, you’re not getting my wad till I’m sure this is the Donald’s wad. I’m taking it to the Cambridge police for a DNA test.
ROBBER: Okay, lady, have it your own way.
(He shoots MARILYN dead and grabs her purse as she crumples, then shoots the NURSE dead, then shakes the purse upside down. Empty. He shoots himself dead.)
And that was the end of our skit. All four players popped back up to their feet, bowed, and exited to applause that did my producer’s heart good.
From Robert Paxton’s interpretation of fascism in The Journal of Modern History, March of 1998:
Fascism may be defined as a form of political behavior marked by obsessive preoccupation with community decline, humiliation, or victimhood and by compensatory cults of unity, energy, and purity, in which a mass-based party of committed nationalist militants, working in uneasy but effective collaboration with traditional elites, abandons democratic liberties and pursues with redemptive violence and without ethical or legal restraints goals of internal cleansing and external expansion…
In my usually hopeless quest for good news, I just came across this on Flagler Live. Full story here.
On August 16, Alphonso Brooks was pulled over as he drove through Bunnell for a traffic violation. Then a K-9 unit was brought in and allegedly alerted deputies to the presence of drugs in Brooks’s car. There would turn out to be no drugs. But Brooks was asked to exit the car so it could be searched. As he did so he appeared to reach for a gun. A deputy immediately rushed him and immobilized him against the car as other cops drew their weapons in a brief but extremely tense moment.
As they had on numerous previous occasions in the past five and a half years, sheriff’s deputies held their fire and defused the situation. What could have been a police-involved shooting turned into a basic arrest. A .32-caliber American Arms gun and five rounds of ammunition, kept separately, were recovered at the scene…
Today former President Barack Obama spoke to students at the University of Illinois. Read it.
And let me tell you something, particularly young people here, better is good. I used to have to tell my young staff this all the time in the White House, better is good. That’s the history of progress in this country—not perfect, better. The Civil Rights Act didn’t end racism, but it made things better. Social Security didn’t eliminate all poverty for seniors, but it made things better for millions of people.
Do not let people tell you the fight’s not worth it, because you won’t get everything that you want. The idea that, well, there’s racism in America, so I’m not going to bother voting, no point—that makes no sense. You can make it better. Better’s always worth fighting for…
…we had, not often but occasionally, politicians like George Norris of Nebraska, America’s greatest senator. (You could look it up.) He was a Republican for much of his career, long before that party had been hijacked by proto-fascists, and was the father of the Tennessee Valley Authority. (Also the grandfather, full disclosure requires me to add, of my wife.)
I think of George Norris often these days, with each new revelation from Trump’s squalid swamp. Whenever the senator had a buck or two to spare he invested it in U.S. Treasury bonds, for fear that investing in any private securities, might someday, somehow, unconsciously influence his vote. When the senator died in 1943, his estate consisted principally of a small house in McCook, Nebraska, and an old Buick.
And, oh yeah, the Rural Electrification Act, the Twentieth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, the direct election of U.S. Senators, and the Norris Dam.
Some thirty years ago I warned one of my classes at Harvard not to put off something or other, since "at my back I always hear time's wingèd chariot hurrying near."
They looked puzzled, as if I had broken into demotic Greek. Did what I just said sound like me? I asked. No. Did you think it might have been a quotation? Probably. Has anyone ever heard of a poem called "To His Coy Mistress?" Of Andrew Marvell? No and no.
The next day I handed out the easiest poetry quiz I had been able to put together. The students were to fill in the missing word or words from lines that I figured every high school over-achiever would surely know…
I figured wrong. None of the freshmen got, "The boy stood on the burning _____." None got, "Half a league, half a league, half a league _____." One got, "Beneath the spreading chestnut tree the village _____ _____." One got, "I met a traveler from an antique _____." Only one got, "You're a better man than I am, _____ _____." (Two others guessed, "Charlie Brown.") The highest score was 14 right out of 20 questions; the lowest was two right; the average was seven.
The only question everybody got right was a freebie I had thrown in: "This Bud's for _____." Actually I thought I had thrown in another freebie, "Winstons taste good, like a _____ _____," but only four students got it. Cigarette ads, I remembered too late, had disappeared from TV when they were barely out of diapers. Nor was my class an exception. When a colleague, the poet Felicia Lamport, gave the same quiz to her students, they did no better.
Stupidity can hardly have been the reason. Harvard undergraduates are by no means as brilliant as the world imagines, but most of them are above average and a few are very bright indeed.
Nor were my students likely to have neglected their poetry homework in high school. They didn’t make it to Harvard by neglecting homework. If they hadn't learned poetry, no one had given it to them to learn.Nor were my students likely to have neglected their poetry homework in high school. They didn’t make it to Harvard by neglecting homework. If they hadn't learned poetry, no one had given it to them to learn.
I have added a few words to this CNN story in the interest of clarity. See if you can spot them.
The bomb used by the Saudi-led coalition in a devastating attack on a school bus in Yemen was sold as part of a US State Department-sanctioned arms deal with Saudi Arabia, munitions experts told CNN.
Working with local Yemeni journalists and munitions experts, CNN has established that the weapon that left dozens of children dead on August 9 was a 500-pound (227 kilogram) laser-guided MK 82 bomb made by Lockheed Martin, one of the top US defense contractors.
The bomb is very similar to the one that wreaked devastation in an attack on a funeral hall in Yemen in October 2016 in which 155 people were killed and hundreds more wounded. The Saudi coalition blamed "incorrect information" for that strike, admitted it was a mistake and took responsibility.
In March of that year, a strike on a Yemeni market --- this time reportedly by a US-supplied precision-guided MK 84 bomb --- killed 97 people.
In the aftermath of the funeral hall attack, former US President Barack Obama banned the sale of precision-guided military technology to Saudi Arabia over "human rights concerns."
The ban was overturned by the Trump (a mass murderer's) administration's then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, a murderer, in March 2017.
As the US-backed Saudi-led coalition scrambles to investigate the strike on the school bus, questions are growing from observers and rights groups about whether the US bears any moral culpability. The US says it does not make targeting decisions for the coalition, which is fighting a Houthi rebel insurgency in Yemen. But it does support its operations through billions of dollars in arms sales, the refueling of Saudi combat aircraft and some sharing of intelligence.
"I will tell you that we do help them plan what we call, kind of targeting," said US Secretary of Defense James Mattis, a mass murderer. "We do not do dynamic targeting for them...."
The bomb's impact as it landed on the bus full of excited schoolchildren on a day trip was devastating. Of the 51 people who died in the airstrike, 40 were children, Houthi Health Minister Taha al-Mutawakil said last week. He added that of the 79 people wounded, 56 were children.
Eyewitnesses told CNN it was a direct hit in the middle of a busy market. "I saw the bomb hit the bus," one witness said. "It blew it into those shops and threw the bodies clear to the other side of those buildings. We found bodies scattered everywhere, there was a severed head inside the bomb crater."
Some of the bodies were so mutilated that identification became impossible. Left behind were scraps of schoolbooks, warped metal and a single backpack.
From ‘“Woe Unto You, Lawyers,” (Reynal & Hitchcock, 1939) by Fred Rodell, a Yale Law School professor:
The law not only can be bought, but most of the time it has to be bought. And since it has to be bought, its results tend to favor those who can afford to buy it . . . The law is constantly for sale, and generally to the highest bidder.”
I wrote this for our local newsletter, The Cornwall Chronicle, but the subject is much more than local. If you've noticed the same phenomenon elsewhere, let me know in the comments. I'm researching an article on the subject.
I was eight when the World War II started. We lived on Indian Mountain Road in Lakeville, in a house overlooking the long valley that runs south from the old iron pits. To the west was the mountain itself with an abandoned log cabin on top. In between were meadows, pastures, forest, rock ledges, a stream, a swamp, even a pond. All this, all summer long, was my playground and my laboratory. I wanted to be a naturalist or maybe a zoo keeper when I grew up, whatever would keep me around animals of all descriptions, insects to elephants.
Back then the largest of these available to me were deer and once I was lucky enough to see some from an upstairs window. They were far away across the valley, a doe and two fawns. I called my sister to bring up the binoculars and we took turns watching, excited.
We moved away after the war and when I got back here it was 1972 and deer had become a traffic hazard. The whole composition of wildlife seemed to have changed, almost turned upside down.
In the 1940s the only geese to be seen here were high overhead in V’s on the way to their winter homes on Chesapeake Bay after summering, presumably, in Canada. Crows had always been abundant but now ravens had appeared too. So had bald eagles ands vultures and Great Blue Herons.
In 1982 a yearling bear showed up in Canaan. Some idiot shot it, but more came. So did coyotes, moose, fishers, bobcats, and, very probably, mountain lions. (In 2011 one made it from South Dakota to the Wilbur Cross Parkway, where a car killed it.)
This has all been to the good, in my view. The more the merrier.
What isn’t good is the disappearance of the smaller creatures I remember from my boyhood. My considerable collection of mounted insects had been assembled by swinging a butterfly net at random through the cloud of insects that rose in front of me as I walked through unmowed fields. Try that today.
I seldom see even a grasshopper now. Or an anthill. Or a salamander. Or a toad. Or a daddy-long-legs. Summer nights were once noisy with the one-note symphony made by a thousand musicians. When was the last time you even saw one cricket?
What happened to those elaborate webs with an elegant black and yellow orb weaver spider at the center that used to decorate our fields? Huge Cecropia and Phoenix and Polyphemus and Luna moths used to be drawn to the light from our porches. No more. I have seen exactly one, a Luna, on our screens. Gardens were once alive with Monarch and Viceroy and Mourning Cloak butterflies, Wood Nymphs and Sulfurs and Fritillaries. Look them up on Google Images. That’s where they are now.
I have no proof of what happened to these all these small things, just a suspicion. We happened, with our insecticides.
In the large scheme of things, humanity is best considered as a swarm of mindless cancer cells, multiplying out of control as they feed on their helpless host. Now that this earth is finally dying from our blind greed, we head blindly out to find a new victim. The medical term for this is metastasis, and the process explains the space race. At the rate we’re stuffing this planet into our mouths, even Mars is starting to look pretty good.
What can they possibly see in each other? Themselves that’s what. They could be twins, although that seems unlikely. First cousins, maybe.
This is the most convincing analysis of the so-called “president” that I have seen anywhere, and so I reproduce it here, almost in full. It’s by Robert Epstein, senior research psychologist at the American Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology:
Trump is not mentally ill, and I doubt that he is even “living in his own reality,” as so many have claimed. He is simply fairly unique in a way that is hard for the public to understand. In a nutshell, Trump is highly vulnerable to what can reasonably be called “sympathetic audience control.” If that sounds jargony, I apologize. It’s actually a pretty simple concept and, in Trump’s case, it explains a lot — maybe even 90 percent of the behavior that seems so baffling.
All normal people are subject to “audience control” to one degree or another. That means simply that they regulate what they say and do based on who’s around them. They are respectful sitting in a church pew, a bit more daring sitting in a classroom, and somewhat wild sitting in the bleachers. Near a police officer, most people are cautious and deferential; near a best friend, people feel comfortable and speak freely.
Sometimes audience control goes haywire. You might behave one way with your parents and a very different way with your new romantic partner. When you finally bring your new friend home to meet the ‘rents, you might feel awkward and barely know what to do or say.
Except for situations like that, audience control doesn’t usually cause problems, and it also usually doesn’t persist when the audience is gone. But for Trump, audience control works in a special way:
When Trump is in the presence of someone he dislikes or distrusts, he attacks and will continue to lash out for a while, but not necessarily forever. When someone he perceives as a threat becomes deferential (Rocket Man, for example), Trump not only stops attacking, he also becomes highly vulnerable to influence.
In general, when Trump is around someone whom he perceives as supportive, or when he gets a phone call from a supportive billionaire, or when he hears a supportive commentator on Fox News, his thinking is rapidly influenced by what that person is saying. This is “sympathetic audience control.” With Trump, the impact is so strong that it persists after the person is gone — maybe even until another sympathetic individual comes along.
When Trump is in front of a large group of cheering people, his thinking is fully controlled by the crowd. It might seem he’s in control, but the opposite is actually the case. The supportive audience completely dominates his thinking, causing him to repeat, over and over, things he believes the audience wants to hear.
We need to add just one more element here to make sense of Trump’s roller coaster mind: Like my 92-year-old mom, Trump lives in a very small window of time, and no, I don’t mean he lives “in the moment” in that healthy, New-Age-y sort of way. I mean he has trouble looking backwards or forwards in time.
You might think he formulates and lives by long-term plans and strategies, but I doubt that very much. He is much more like a rudderless sailboat blown about by the wind, with the direction largely determined moment-to-moment according to who’s got his attention and whether he views that person as friend or foe.
Sympathetic audience control and a small time window produce most of the odd cognitive glitches we see in our president. Moment to moment, he either sees a foe and shoots, or he sees a friend and is influenced. In that kind of perceptual world, Trump inevitably — and without shame or even awareness — shifts his views frequently, sometimes multiple times a day.
Not only do his views shift, he also has no trouble denying, entirely without guile, in my view, what he said yesterday. All that’s shiny and real to him is what friends or foes are saying inside those small time windows. Everything else is fuzzy, and that’s why he can so easily tell so many lies. From his perspective, lying has no meaning. Only reacting has meaning. Trump reacts.
The small time window and sympathetic audience control also explain why Trump always seems to be creating foreign policy on the fly, why his meetings with world leaders rarely produce tangible results, why he can’t get congressional deals, and why he is almost certainly incapable of negotiating those famous bilateral agreements that were supposed to replace the multinational treaties he has swept aside.
If I’m right, and I’m pretty sure I am, Trump is capable of only a minimal level of analytical or critical thinking. Perhaps more alarming, our president — the putative leader of the free world — doesn’t believe in anything and he rarely, if ever, means anything he says. The impulsive tweets, the conservative court appointments, the unfunded tax cuts, the obsession with a wall, the swipes at immigrants — all are byproducts (dross, if you will) of sympathetic audience control operating in small time windows. There are no principles operating here, just gusts of wind.
And if I’m right, Trump will continue to function this way — blindly, erratically and reactively, without principle or direction — for the rest of his life.
There is still good in our world, if you look hard enough. Alan Tucker has:
There is a new term for those handwringing liberals who whine about poor people, human rights, and all the rest. The word is “snowflakes.” Snowflakes are weaklings, not strong people – not the real Americans who can take life the way it just is, and not simper about “Oh, dear me, the injustice….”
One of the snowflakes died recently, at the age of 97: Donald Seldin. Seldin was a Brooklyn-born child of the Great Depression. His father Abraham, a dentist, came from Bessarabia, in Eastern Europe. As a teenager, Donald worked summers at Grossinger’s resort in the Catskills.
Becoming a physician after he gave up his dream of being a poet, Seldin transformed an abandoned army barracks in Texas into one of the nation’s leading medical school, endowed with a faculty that has included six Nobel laureates: the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. He was only 30 years old when he began that transformation. In 1985 the Association of American Physicians awarded him its highest honor, the Kober Medal, as “one of the dominant intellectual forces in American medicine.”
Seldin defined the duty of doctors as “the relief of pain, the prevention of disability, and the postponement of death.” As for society’s larger objectives? According to him, it is to reach toward “a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being.” Pure socialist drivel.
Rest in peace, another fragile snowflake who sapped America’s inner strength – and another anchor baby of immigrants on top of that. When is enough enough? For the health of the nation, we must surely keep these people out. Right?
You will have noticed, of course, that Trump’s ex-bodyguard walked off with the so-called “president’s” medical records two days after his doctor for 35 years made a terrible mistake. Dr. Harold Bornstein had told the New York Times that Trump took Propecia, a hair-loss drug. This was a firing offense of course, and a White House clean-up squad was sent to disappear the doctor’s medical records.
Bornstein said the original and only copy of Trump’s charts, including lab reports under Trump’s name as well as under the pseudonyms his office used for Trump, were taken.Something queer here. Why not all pseudonyms or no pseudonyms? The doctor knew who was taking which drugs for what problems — so who was the secret being kept from?
I was all set to rant about the ineptitude of the Democratic party, but William Astore at Bracing Views beat me to the punch:
Meanwhile, Democratic officialdom is looking backwards, not forwards. The Democratic National Committee’s (DNC) idea of progress is to bring a lawsuit;against Russia, the Trump campaign, and WikiLeaks for the 2016 election. This act will “fire up the base,” or so leading Democrats appear to think. But it’s really sour grapes, a loser policy conducted by pols who remain out of touch with the pressing concerns of ordinary Americans (you know, things like health care, a living wage, and other issues associated with Bernie Sanders’s campaign). If only America had a true Labor Party instead of a DNC that mirrors the Republicans while lacking their focus and ruthlessness.
And it just gets worse. It turns out the the DCCC or the DNC or some other sclerotic party organ got their big six-figure brains cookin’ and came up with an exciting new message for the upcoming midterms. Or maybe not:
Democrats are looking back to the last time they took control of the House for lessons on what may work this year, and they’re starting to narrow in on a major theme: the Republican “culture of corruption, cronyism and incompetence.”Yes, the Democratic party, which has become a watchword for corruption, cronysim and incompetence, is running against corruption, cronyism and incompetence. Insert punchline here. In between attacks of aphasia, Nancy Pelosi has repeated the phrase numerous times:
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is bringing back her 2006 refrain for this cycle. It first appeared in an April 6 statement calling for the resignation of Environmental Protection Agency head Scott Pruitt, saying he was “a part of the Trump Administration’s culture of corruption, cronyism and incompetence.” It then popped up later that day in one of her press releases, and then three days later in a letter to her colleagues about their priorities in the coming months. In her weekly press conference the following day, she used the phrase twice, reminding reporters of that earlier election: “Some may recall that in 2005, 2006, one of our mantras during the campaign was to drain the swamp, to end the Republican culture of cronyism, corruption and incompetence, and that is exactly what we did. The president has misappropriated that term of art, ‘drain the swamp,’ and what does he do but have an administration that is wallowing in it.”Is there anything more inspiring than a seventy-eight year old establishment politician repeating a slogan from 2006 over and over again? It’s just the spark we need to beat Trump and the Republicans. If Chuck Schumer takes it up, I just might have to slip into something a little more comfortable.
Good God. Who will rid us of these moribund old fuddy duddies who haven’t had a new idea idea in thirty years? How much longer must the party be ruled by these stale, stagnant, calcified, ossified, visionless, unimaginative, doddering, corrupt cronyist incompetents? They’ve brought us nothing but defeat and humiliation. They’ve driven the Democratic party to the brink of extinction and delivered the country to Donald Trump. They are total fuckin’ losers and they need to go yesterday.
They lost to Donald Fucking Trump. Say those words over and over in a quiet dark room free of all distractions. Say them slowly. Let them linger. Wallow in each syllable until their full impact seeps deep into your brain: They lost to Donald Fucking Trump.
And just know that if the Dems don’t embrace a positive New Deal style populist agenda — an agenda that actually attracts new voters and enlarges the party — they will lose to him again.
But they won’t. They’ll sprinkle socially liberal confetti around to distract from the fact that behind closed doors they fellate the exact same banks, corporations and arms manufacturers who finance the Republicans. They’ll run an exact replay of the 2016 campaign, convinced, as always, of their superiority and wonderfulness. They’ll shiv progressives in the back, screech all day and night about Russia Russia Russia, and run against Trump’s bad manners. Meanwhile, they’ll continue to pray for St. Comey and St. Mueller to save us.
It’s possible that sheer revulsion over Trump might lead to a “blue wave” election, but I’m skeptical. The Democrats are just as arrogant and lead-footed as their standard bearer was in the 2016 campaign, and they show every sign of being similarly blindsided. One can’t escape the suspicion that they are sleepwalking into another massive defeat. They will not, cannot change their agenda. Nancy Pelosi came right out and said, in the wake of historic democratic defeats, “I don’t think people want a change in direction.” (She then gibbered on about “our values” and other such meaningless nonsense that party hack Tom Perez frequently employs). They’ll cling to their neoliberal Washington Consensus agenda until the whole ship fuckin’ sinks, which quite literally might happen, in a manner of speaking. Even if they should win, they must do something with their victory or Trump, or possibly Pence, will beat them again. At any rate, the pundits who are confidently predicting a blue wave also confidently predicted a Hillary Clinton victory (and before that, they confidently predicted that Bernie Sanders would be out of the race by the South Carolina primary; for the last year, they’ve been confidently predicting, on an almost daily basis, the imminent demise of Trump. Forgive me for not popping out the champagne quite yet.)
This picture sums up how incestuous and corrupt our political establishment is more than anything else I can think of. It clues us in to what we have in store in the event of Democratic victories (hint: not much).
That’s Paul Pelosi, Nancy’s son, partying hearty in the Hamptons with Ivanka Trump, who has replaced Sarah Palin as every seventy year old Republican's favorite masturbation fantasy. That shows you everything you need to know about the impossibility of change in our current system. Viva la Resistance!
You've been reading about Trump's unhinged performance on Fox News. You've seen snippets on TV. But that's like hearing snatches from a symphony. You've got to watch the whole half-hour to appreciate the thing. As a public service, here is a video.
Enjoy. Or something.
Now if Trump were to have a dog and for some reason it was neutered, do you suppose — Aw, forget it.
However, other procedures are more cosmetic — lifting saggy skin around the face or abdomen, for example. And apparently some owners opt to give their dogs testicular implants after neutering, so they’re (hopefully) less likely to notice or be bothered by the loss of their real testicles.
Former Republican governor of Indiana Mitch Daniels has a column in the Washington Post
in which he bemoans America’s historical illiteracy, its growing lack of empathy, its tribalism, and the “sneering denigration of American history and, it seems, almost all who made it.”
One of today’s premier historians has written that “historical illiteracy is the new normal.” How dismally true that is. The list of basic facts today’s Americans don’t know is too embarrassing and discouraging to repeat. The fundamental civic concepts of which majorities of both young and old are ignorant is equally appalling.But it’s not just historical illiteracy that has Daniels perturbed, it’s also the fallacy of presentism, by which “the values, mores and conventions of the present day are used to judge, almost always harshly and sanctimoniously, our predecessors.” Although he doesn’t explicitly say it, it’s pretty clear who is to blame for this woeful state of affairs: those divisive, America hating PC leftists. Who else?
No, really, who else? When your party controls the White House, both houses of Congress, the Supreme Court, thirty-two state house, twenty-six governorships, and when your agenda has been driving American politics, including education policies, for the better part of thirty years but the country still sucks, who, really, are you going to blame?
Well, certainly not Mitch Daniel’s own party and its jihad against public schools. No, their open, systematic, decades long attempt to undermine, defund and destroy public education in this country has nothing to do with our historical illiteracy. No, nothing at all. It’s not Republican education policies like No Child Left Behind. It’s not Rush Limbaugh routinely calling teachers “union thugs,” nor is it the Texas Board of Education’s decision to remove Thomas Jefferson from high school history textbooks and replace him with sections on Phyllis Schlafly and Jerry Falwell. And, of course, it has nothing at to do with starving schools of funds to pay for tax cuts.
Naw, those aren’t to blame. The real problem is leftists and their arrogant presentism.
And let’s also ignore the fact that the last two Republican presidents have been functional illiterates, men who scorn book learning and boastfully rule from gut instinct, and that their apologists and enablers like Mitch Daniels have no problem with this, even when those gut instincts lead us down bloody rabbit holes like Iraq. And let’s also forget that the current secretary of education is a fundamentalist Christian billionaire with no background in education and who wants to completely privatize all schools, despite that fact that charter schools, on the whole, don't perform much better than public schools.
But that’s not the problem. It’s those PC lefties who can’t get over slavery who are to blame.…Read on
From the late, great Philip Larkin:
HOMAGE TO A GOVERNMENT
Next year we are to bring the soldiers home
For lack of money, and it is all right.
Places they guarded, or kept orderly,
Must guard themselves, and keep themselves orderly.
We want the money for ourselves at home
Instead of working. And this is all right.
It’s hard to say who wanted it to happen,
But now it’s been decided nobody minds.
The places are a long way off, not here,
Which is all right, and from what we hear
The soldiers there only made trouble happen.
Next year we shall be easier in our minds.
Next year we shall be living in a country
That brought its soldiers home for lack of money.
The statues will be standing in the same
Tree-muffled squares, and look nearly the same.
Our children will not know it’s a different country
All we can hope to leave them now is money.
“Also the beauty that is being taken out of our cities, towns and parks will be greatly missed and never able to be comparably replaced!” added Trump, who appeared to be sympathizing with some of the white supremacists and neo-Nazis who rallied to protest the removal of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee’s statue.
This is from Flagler Live. V is for victim, S for subject.
V1 stated he was eating dinner when he heard a knock at the front door. V1 stated he opened his front door and did not see anyone. V1 stated he then heard glass breaking coming from his bedroom. V1 stated his neighbor, S1, exited the bedroom and was now standing in his living room. Responding deputies arrived on scene and found a broken window to the residence and S1 was still inside. S1 was charged with burglary to an occupied dwelling and criminal mischief.
S1 exposed his genitals to a detention deputy while booked at the Flagler County Detention Facility. S1 was additionally charged with exposure of sexual organs to an employee of a correctional facility.
I get a kick out of the all those hunky, “moderate,” Never Trump Republicans that Democrats love to love, like David Brooks, David Frum, Andrew Sullivan and George Will. Trump hatred has reinvigorated them in a way Viagra never could, enabling these former patsies, foot soldiers and propagandists for the Bush administration to now pose as civilized moderates sounding the alarm about the dangers of Trumpism. David Frum in particular is enjoying something of a renaissance, disproving, unfortunately, F. Scott Fitzgerald's observation that there are no second acts in American life.
You would never know that these rational conservative intellectuals, with their new found tender feelings for democracy and fair play, rode shotgun with the most vicious, hyper-partisan, wingnut loving administration in U.S. history prior to the advent of Trump.
Frum worked in the same White House as Dick Cheney and Karl Rove. Did he get the vapors when Cheney told Patrick Leahy to “go fuck yourself” in the well of the Senate? Where was Frum when his boss pushed the USA Patriot Act and lied us into war? Oh, yeah, he was boasting at Washington cocktail parties that he invented the term “axis of evil.” Likewise, when George W. Bush was riding high in the saddle, shocking and awing his way into historical infamy, Andrew Sullivan and David Brooks were cheering from the luxury boxes. I wonder, were their delicate sensibilities perturbed at the despicable swift-boating of John Kerry in 2004? What about Karl Rove’s smear campaign against John McCain in the South Carolina primaries in 2000, where Republicans let it be known that McCain had a little
pickaninny brown baby that maybe, just maybe, might have been the love child from an illicit affair with a dusky-hued mistress. And let’s not forget George Will, the towering, Burkean conservative intellectual who condescendingly lectures us about the evils of big government but thought it was just dandy to go nation building in Iraq, and who had a weird, embarrassing man-crush on Donald Rumsfeld. It should also be noted that his wife worked for Ted Cruz’s campaign — Ted Cruz, one of the oiliest, most unctuous, most vile right wing Christian demagogues in our politics.
Now David Frum and David Brooks, George Will and Andrew Sullivan profess to be horrified by Trump and his ignorant, racist base. They wring their hands like staid Victorian ladies who've just seen a young woman's ankle and decide to cry foul. Sorry. I'm not buying. They aided and abetted the most divisive, reactionary forces in American life for decades. Now the cute little baby crocodile that they nurtured in its swamp - feeding it, coddling it, and empowering it at every turn for their own short-sighted political advantage - has grown into a twenty foot long carnivorous monstrosity that is now, surprise, surprise, biting off their hands. Forgive me if I don’t weep.
But why? There isn’t much about Trump's agenda they oppose. Cut taxes on the wealthy? Check. Gut social spending? Check. Increase military spending? Check. Hobble and immiserate the EPA, the Department of Education, and other wicked manifestations of the nanny state? Check, check, check. He’s shrinking government to the size where he can strangle it in the bathtub, just as Grover Norquist, who is one of the most influential Republican operators in the country, has preached for years. Trump is picking up where Dubya left off and getting it done. So what is it about him that turns their stomach?
In part, I suspect, it’s simply a career move. Even dim bulb David Brooks has the percipience to know that anyone too closely associated with the Trump administration is going to look very, very bad in the cold glare of history. They won’t be in the same league as Himmler, Goering or Goebbels who, if nothing else, had the virtue of being such delightfully colorful villains; no, Trump’s underlings more closely resemble the gray, toadying, supine boot-lickers and mediocrities in Stalin’s inner circle, who countenanced all manner of abuse from their coarse, bullying, uncultured boss, up to and including seeing their wives imprisoned and themselves being threatened with execution, and always came back for more, just like Paul Ryan and Lindsey Graham do.
Trump is the living, breathing, rabid, petulant, grunting, crude, sexist, racist visage of the Republican base and there is simply no ignoring it. Republican elites could deny this as long they were calling the shots in the Party and the rubes, after each election, could be safely locked back up in their pens and revival tents. This is no longer possible. With each Trump Tweet, David Frums, David Brook, Andrew Sullivan et al. must confront the truth about the political party they belong to and their own complicity in birthing this nightmare.
But I think there are other, arguably more serious concerns at play. Namely, there might be deleterious social consequences for openly supporting gauche vulgarian Trump, such as having your membership at the Chevy Chase Country Club revoked or never being invited back to Cokie Robert’s house for tea and diet soda. Even though Trump was born to wealth, he still has the crass demeanor of the newly rich, and I think the beltway pundit’s hatred of Trump is largely based on sheer aesthetic revulsion and class snobbery. He’s just not one of them. He’s just not the right kind of people. If he had better hair and better manners, they wouldn’t make a peep.
Good news. It turns out that wicked super villain Vladimir Putin, master spy, enemy of democracy, and computer hacker extraordinaire, is actually quite weak in relation to the United States. Russia is encircled by NATO and US military forces, whereas there are no Russian troops on US borders. Its military budget of around $69 billion is a paltry sum compared to America’s, which is $600 billion and rising. Russia has one aircraft carrier, America has ten. Russia’s GDP is smaller than the state of California’s.
In fact, Putin is so weak, the only thing he could threaten us with was an astroturfing campaign that plagiarized hackneyed right-wing talking points from Fox News, Breitbart and the Drudge Report and disseminated them to an audience who was already sympathetic to their message.
That’s it. That’s all. The Lucifer in the Kremlin’s biggest play against America, the great opus generated by his devious and all encompassing, never-sleeping super villain brain, amounted to nothing more than cranking up the right-wing noise machine half a notch. I’m not impressed. In a country where political candidates are openly bought by wealthy plutocrats and special interests, and where such bribery has been legalized by the Supreme Court, you’ll forgive me if I don’t clutch my pearls and faint over Putin’s “attack” on our, ahem, sacred democracy.
And I have to say, hearing officials from the CIA and NSA gravely announcing that Russia is trying to “undermine faith” in our democratic institutions is obscene beyond words. It’s like watching a pedophile lecture against junk food because it causes diabetes in children. Those crocodiles have done more to undermine faith in American institutions than anything any foreign leader could ever do in their wildest, wettest dreams. At most, Putin merely exploited a climate of cynicism and disillusionment that their own underhanded conduct and blatant mendacity helped create.
There’s no proof of collusion, no evidence this influenced the outcome of the election, and all of the Americans who participated, save one, did so unwittingly. They were, to borrow Lenin’s term, merely useful idiots. The Russians who were involved won’t be extradited to stand trial, and this was all dumped on a Friday afternoon, where bad or embarrassing news is sent to die. In light of all the hype and hysteria surrounding this investigation, these developments are, to put it mildly, underwhelming.
People who’ve been pushing Russiagate the hardest insist this was a brilliant three-dimensional chess move on the part of Robert Mueller. It protects him from being fired by Trump and keeps the investigation alive. Maybe so, maybe not. I have no idea. Neither does anyone not involved with the investigation. At any rate, all of the hopeful speculation that Mueller “has the goods” and that there are bigger, juicier indictments on the horizon is beginning to smell like wishful thinking on the part of people who still, after more than a year, just can’t reconcile themselves to the fact that Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton, and that he did so not because he was helped by a hostile foreign power, but because he perfectly embodies the mental, moral, emotional, intellectual and epistemological retardation that characterizes an alarmingly high percentage of the US electorate. He’s our biological child, America. Get used it. He’s not Putin’s fault. He’s ours (we really do need to stop blaming others for our problems and shortcomings. It’s a positively Trumpian bad habit).…Read on
…that 17 years later we would all be plunged into their nightmares. From a 2001 UPI story long gone behind a dead link:
SANTA CRUZ, Calif., July 9 (UPI) -- Republicans have scarier and more frequent nightmares than Democrats concludes a prominent dream researcher.
“Republicans are nearly three times as likely as Democrats to experience nightmares when they dream,” Kelly Bulkeley, who teaches at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California, claims in findings to be released Wednesday at the 18th Annual International Conference of the Association for the Study of Dreams in Santa Cruz. “Half of the dreams of Republicans in my study were classified as nightmares, compared to only about 18 percent of the dreams of Democrats.”
…Sleeping Republicans inhabit scarier dreamlands, according to Bulkeley. Aggression, misfortune, and physical threats characterize Republican nightmares, while familiar settings and friendly characters populate the kinder, gentler bad dreams of Democrats.
Once again, Republicans are out in force urging us not to politicize a mass shooting while wasting no time doing precisely that. The Drudge Report (no link) has a picture of the shooter above a bold headline that says The FBI Was Warned, thus cleverly tying the Florida school shooting into Trump’s ongoing war against the FBI. Meanwhile, the ever unctuous Ted Cruz appears on Fox News to send his thoughts and prayers to an anxious nation, sermonize about the inevitability of evil, and, of course, take a few swipes at the Democrats:
Fox & Friends host Ainsley Earhardt noted that “Democrats are calling for gun control, they’re talking about not allowing you to buy the AR-15 anymore.” …And since it was Fox and Friends, and since he’s Ted Cruz, there was the obligatory swipe at Obama:
“The reaction of Democrats to any tragedy is to try to politicize it,” Cruz complained. “They immediately start calling that we’ve got to take away the Second Amendment rights of law abiding citizens. That’s not the right answer.”
Cruz also asserted that President Barack Obama shared the blame for a mass shooting that killed 26 at a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas.Just like that, Republicans turn the focus away from gun control and throw the blame entirely on the Democrats, all while lecturing us about not politicizing the tragedy. It’s transparently hypocritical and sleazy but it works: mass shooting keep happening and nothing is ever done about it. Democrats might make a few good speeches, as Obama did after Sandy Hook and Chris Murphy did yesterday, but in the end, they trudge to the podium like eunuchs and whimper about the need for “sensible” gun control, which, when translated, means any kind of cosmetic gun control law their donors and the Republicans will allow them to have.
“Had the Obama administration simply followed federal law and enforced the law, existing gun laws made it illegal for the Sutherland Springs shooter to buy a gun,” he opined. “But the Obama administration failed to report his criminal conviction so he wasn’t in the background check system.”
I was very saddened to learn of the death of Chuck Dupree. Though I didn’t know him well, I admired his writing a great deal. He was an erudite guy whose writing was informed by a knowledge Arnold Toynbee, Richard Hofstadter, Bertrand Russell and Sigmund Freud, and he could could write authoritatively about ancient history, psychology, philosophy, technology and, of course, politics. In fact, the first post I ever read at Bad Attitudes one of Chuck’s pieces about Edward Gibbon. It got me hooked and made this blog one of my daily reads.
After I started blogging here, Chuck tutored me along on how to use this platform. He received more than a few emails and phone messages from me that began, “Hey, Chuck, I made another stupid and embarrassing mistake. How do I go in and fix it? Please help, quick!” Luckily for me, he always responded promptly and courteously, regardless of where he was or what he was doing (he called me back from a city bus in San Francisco one time en route to his eye doctor to help me fix some dumb mistake I had made). He was always patient and helpful, a really cool guy, and he would occasionally send an encouraging email, “Loved your latest! Keep ‘em coming!”
It’s a source of endless consternation to me that fuzzy headed boobs like David Brooks and Peggy Noonan are hailed as important thinkers, whereas genuinely insightful commentators are pushed to the margins and don’t receive the recognition they deserve. Oh well, such is life in our big dumb
republic empire, and which Chuck, as a devotee of Richard Hofstadter, well understood. I’d encourage you to visit Chuck’s old blog Belisarius Blogs! It tapers off around 2007, but it’s well with your time and attention to revisit (good writing always is). Besides, it's still relevant. Here’s an excerpt from a post called “Appealing to the Dolts” from 2007:
There was a time when the US was the best educated country in the world. Before that, Tocqueville reported, there was a time when even illiterate citizens understood how their government worked and were full participants in its implementation.But the American system has been about dumbing down the populace for several decades now. We’ve shifted our resources from education to incarceration, and our tax base from wealth to work, thus simultaneously freeing the rich from paying their fair share and providing them with cheap labor, either from convicts or from poorly educated, non-unionized workers.A process of dumbing down which the Bush-Cheney regime was more than happy to encourage and exploit, and their followers more than happy to go along with:
Basically, the Cheney administration is pandering to the dolts among us, those who’ve given up trying to understand the world because they’ve realized they’re not smart enough to do so. Disappointed by their own self-evaluations, they seek validation by forcing everyone else to believe the same historical lies they believe, and blaming their failure on oppression by the elite, by which they mean the smart.Change Cheney to Trump and Intelligent Design to climate change, and you have a description of Trumpism that could have been written five minutes ago (and should be pointed out to Clinton Democrats of the Rachel Maddow, Keith Olbermann school who seem to regard Trump as some sui generis phenomenon and have taken to the airwaves to issue apologies to George W. Bush). Unfortunately, Chuck won’t be here to witness the sordid and disastrous denouement of the psycho-social phenomenon he describes and that we are enduring now. It might be awful, but it will be interesting and provide loads of fodder for bloggers.
For example, take the concept of Intelligent Design, based on the idea that there are parts of the universe that are “irreducibly complex”—that is, too complex for stupid people to deal with. “I can’t understand it, therefore you’re not allowed to investigate it. If you figured it out, my belief system would be shown to be foolish.” This is the path the Roman Empire followed into the Dark Ages.
Thank you and farewell, Chuck.
Chuck Dupree, my invaluable partner in this blog since its beginning in 2003, died in San Francisco last month after a long struggle with cancer. Our acquaintance was mostly long distance (although happily not completely), and so I’m not the best one to write his obit. Let him do it, from his Linked In page:
I am currently a doctoral candidate in clinical psychology at the California Institute of Integral Studies. After too many years in the software industry I found joy in teaching children to play chess. I even taught through the first year of my graduate program, but the second year's schedule left no time for teaching.They will miss Chuck, and so do I.
Now that I've finished the coursework for my doctorate and gathering hours required for the degree I find that I'm truly loving my new profession. I get to work with, for, and around fascinating people who inspire me with their strength, resilience, and kindness.
So which is worse, Black Friday or the Super Bowl? Which of these spectacles most accurately embodies the degraded soul of contemporary America? I’m going with the Super Bowl. Let’s face it, Black Friday is strictly for the lower orders, a phenomenon of the poor and working classes, the kind of people who eat fast food, go bowling, shop at Wal-Mart and often have brown skin. As such, it can plausibly be explained away as an outlier in the greater glory that is American culture. But the Superbowl, ah, the Super Bowl, that implicates us all. Every demographic joins in for the fun, and the event itself contains every important theme of American life. Here is commercialism, nationalism, over-consumption and violent competition at its most hypertophic and grotesque, and it’s all centered around a sport that mimics warfare and causes brain damage in those who play it. Perfect.
This is what our descendants will remember us for when they’re languishing in post-industrial squalor, thirsty and famished, fighting over the few remaining scraps of arable land on an overheated planet. God bless America!
From The Week magazine of February 2:
Villagers in rural India were thrilled when a mysterious blue rock fell from the sky, thinking it was an “asteroid” or a piece of a UFO. When the 26-pound lump of ice landed in the middle of Fazilpur Badi, residents chopped off samples of it, said local official Vivek Kalia. But authorities determined that the ice was likely human waste that was discharged from a passing plane’s toilet, and that its bluish color was caused by liquid disinfectants.Back in the day I was an authority myself: Assistant Administrator for Public Affairs of the Federal Aviation Administration. I was well acquainted with blue ice, which occasionally showed up in the news, always treated as a harmless curiosity — a treatment we did nothing to discourage.
But this would change once a lump of frozen piss brained a cute little four-year old girl as she played in the backyard with Flopsy, her pet bunny rabbit. As the man who would have to face the press on that statisticaIly inevitable day I had better be armed with the facts.
Blue ice turned out to result from incomplete closing of the valve that drains airplane toilets. At cruising altitude the leakage freezes to the outside of the plane; at the warmer altitudes of the approach the giant ice cube melts free — and it’s curtains for Flopsy’s pet.
So what can we do about it? Nothing, I was told. There’s no way to punish the anonymous ground crew mechanic who didn’t tighten the valve properly. We don't know who he works for. He can't even turn himself in, because he doesn’t know he screwed up. Neither does the flight crew; there was no ice when the plane took off and none when it landed.
I thought about it for a while and then went to see the Associate Administrator for Aviation Safety. The problem is that there’s a missing link in the chain of evidence, I told him. Once we find out whose plane it is, the company can be fined or sued or something. Next time they’ll make damned sure those valves are screwed down instead of up. Yeah right, the Associate Administrator for Aviation Safety said. And how do you propose we find that out?
Simple, I told him. You put different-colored dye in the toilets. Orange for United, green for Delta, purple for Frontier, pink for American, whatever. He laughed, thinking I was joking. So there you have it. That's why Fazilpur Badi got shitbombed.
I watched as much of Trump’s
speech to the Reichstag State of the Union address as my forebrain, my common sense, and my generally good morals would allow. Trump’s lies didn’t bother me half as much as his open pitches to the worst, most reactionary, most fascistic sentiments in American life: We love our police. We love our military. We love Jesus, and we love patriotic little boys who place flags at the graves of our soldiers. You’d better not be one of those traitors who doesn’t stand for the national anthem, or one of those countries who votes against us at the U.N., or one of those brown-skinned freeloaders who gets here through chain migration and drags your MS-13 affiliated grandmas and grandpas with you. If you are, we’re comin’ for you. This is one nation under god, and we’re gonna build a fuckin’ wall to prove it.
And this was done with the full, enthusiastic support of the entire Republican establishment. There was the beaming, grinning visage of Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, who just received $500,000 from Charles Koch as a reward for delivering on tax cuts; and there was the approving, creepily repressed grin of Vice President Mike Pence, who wants to ban the burning of the flag and believes fetal tissue from abortions should have burials, and who derides non-coercive interrogation techniques (i.e., not torturous) as “Oprah Winfrey methods.” They all clapped and clapped. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has gloated that this was the “best year” for conservatives in his entire congressional career.
There is not one single, solitary Republican who will go against Trump, not one, not he-man Lindsey Graham, not lovely Miss Moderate Susan Collins, not dying Sunday talk-show ‘statesman’ John McCain. Trump has sprinkled just enough sugar around to ensure their craven compliance, and the venal little cowards are all too happy to oblige. “How eager they are to be slaves,” the Emperor Tiberius frequently said upon leaving the Roman Senate. Or, in the debased vernacular of our own grotesque reality TV dictator, “What a bunch a fuckin’ losers.”
We are one stock market crash, one war, or one terrorist attack away from this collection of Christian ghouls, reactionaries, grifters, militarists and thugs from taking over completely. How do I know? Easy: There is no opposition.
The Democrats, apparently thinking that the best defense against plutocracy is aristocracy, dredged up yet another Kennedy whom nobody ever heard of to low soothing cliches in our ears about what wonderful people we are, how nice we are, how tough we are, how resilient we are, what survivors we are, and how we can do anything we want when we put our minds to it and join together. Words like “heartland” and “audacity” sprang mechanically from his lips, and by the time he busted out the alliteration (“Mississippi to Massachusetts,” “teacher in Tulsa”), I was convinced I was hearing the work of one of Obama’s speech writers on Thorazine.
One could see the handiwork of Democratic operatives making sure that all the appropriate groups were duly mentioned, all the correct positions were duly taken, and all the appropriate boxes were duly checked: Struggling rural communities? check. Opioid abuse? check. Coal miners and single moms? check. Empty criticism about our rigged system? check. Obligatory stab at the Russians? check, check, and double check — this is, after all, America, where there is always a wicked foreigner plotting to ravish our goodness.
There was not a single memorable phrase, not a single original thought, and not a hint of genuine vision or conviction, just a dull litany of issues delivered with all the inspiration of a Sunday school teacher giving the eulogy for an insurance salesman, capped off with the words you say when there’s nothing left to say, nothing left to hope for, and nothing left to do except go home and cry: Have faith.
I couldn’t help thinking about how nifty he would look in a pink knit cap the next time the Democrats decide to make another bold stand against sexual harassment.
If this is the best we can do, you’d better renew your passport and get the hell out now.