Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

How Trump sinks U.S. global standing

June 28, 2020

One of Trumpdom’s most ludicrous lies is that’s he’s raising America’s world standing. In the Fox News alternate reality maybe. In the real world it’s the opposite.

As a longtime conservative Republican, no “isolationist,” I always supported constructive global engagement.* It’s not merely about national pride, but what’s good for people here and abroad. Following WWII, the U.S. undertook leadership to painstakingly build a rules-based world order grounded in a web of alliances and international institutions. (Not just the UN and NATO but many others like the global financial infrastructure, the World Health Organization, the World Bank, the World Trade Organization, the International Monetary Fund, etc.) All crafted to promote planetary prosperity and peace. A more peaceful world is better for America. A richer world is better for America.

Trump hates all this and tries to wreck it — his warped idea of “America First.”** Totally ignorant of how the system actually works and how greatly it has served U.S. national interests. That’s why we built it in the first place. Trump thinks all those Americans who did so were stupid, and his uninformed instincts are superior. It’s that kind of attitude that’s tragically stupid.

So he’s pulled us out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the World Health Organization, the Paris Climate accords, the Iran nuclear deal, arms control agreements, and on and on. Did you know he’s paralyzed the World Trade Organization just by refusing to fill the U.S.-designated seats on its court?

At one time America would have led (as we did with Ebola) a global pandemic response. Trump wound up not even leading among America’s own states. His self-congratulatory lies about our “tremendous” efforts fool only Fox fans. Other nations see the scandalous reality, a huge blow to our international stature. In fact, several European countries are banning travelers from America, because covid-19 is out of control in many states.

Indeed, most of the world views Trump as a boorish monster and Americans as nuts for electing him. That’s why Russia connived to elect him — knowing it would weaken America. Other national leaders quickly learned to play him like a fiddle, by flattering his deranged vanity with empty pageantry. Laughing behind his back.

U.S. global standing never rested mainly on our economic or military might. Instead the world looked to us chiefly for leadership as a force for good. America alone among nations was founded not on blood and soil but values and ideals. That’s not to say we’ve been perfect in living up to them. Of course not. Yet more than any other country America had striven to be guided by such principles.

And much of the world had seen us as representing a vision of democracy, openness, generosity, justice, and human progress toward all those ideals. Both at home and in our relations with others. That’s what’s called our “soft power,” but it doesn’t mean weak. Defense Secretary Mattis said soft power is stronger than the other kind. Trump is shredding it.

For him everything is just transactional. Natural to a man with no moral core. As if morality is just for dummies. But nothing could be dumber than throwing away America’s most valuable international asset — being seen as standing for what’s right. Lord knows not everyone has seen us that way. Now Trump is forcing those who did to revise their opinion. A recent global poll actually showed more people today look to China than to America for global leadership.

We’re certainly no longer seen as a haven. Taking in refugees, and even legal immigration, have been virtually stopped.

Our president used to be called “leader of the free world.” Under Trump we’re not the leader of anything. He has done nothing but undermine our relationships with those nations still committed to an idealistic vision of global progress — while shamelessly getting in bed with the world’s vilest regimes.

In Helsinki he stood up for Putin’s lies against the findings of our own intelligence agencies. When the Saudi ruler was implicated in a ghastly murder, Trump stood up for him too. Trump congratulated the Philippine president’s “drug program” of simply murdering thousands. When Turkey’s authoritarian ruler wanted to attack the Kurds in Syria — faithful U.S. allies — Trump stabbed them in the back and green-lighted Turkey’s invasion.

And while he postures as “tough on China,” we now learn that when China put a million Uighurs in concentration camps for trying to practice their religion, Trump told Xi Jinping he approved of it as a good idea. Unsurprising given Trump’s own policy of ripping children from parents and putting them in concentration camps. Another villainy that will long blacken America’s name in the eyes of humanity.

“Leader of the free world?” Trump has switched us to the other side.

* Thus I was very critical of Obama’s foreign policy squeamishness.

** Bolton says his foreign policy is really entirely “Trump First.” But much of it makes no sense from either standpoint. He just thrashes around blindly.

Ecce Homo

June 19, 2020

At a Buffalo NY Floyd protest, Martin Gugino, 75, longtime Catholic peace activist, was shoved backward by two policemen in full military gear. His head cracked on the pavement, spurting blood. The squad marched over him. One cop momentarily bent toward Gugino but another urged him forward. We all saw this sickening video.

Gugino was eventually taken to a hospital, listed in critical condition. The officers were disciplined. Their entire squad resigned in protest — from the squad, not the department — not against Gugino’s mistreatment but against the disciplining.

Five days later — with the nation in turmoil over repeated police brutality — Trump tweeted that Gugino “could be an ANTIFA provocateur,” was somehow trying to “black out” police equipment, and his fall may have been a “set up.”

Trump dredged this nonsense out of the sewer — from “One America News Network,” an extreme right broadcaster that, to quote columnist Michael Gerson (a Republican), makes “Fox News look like a model of journalistic integrity by comparison.” Trump apparently spends time viewing OAN.

Gerson says that if Trump believed OAN’s crap, he’s “a credulous simpleton.” If he didn’t, he’s “a cynical weasel.” But Gerson concludes he’s both.

I think it’s worse. What Trump tweeted was insane. And, even if he believed it, to imagine it was somehow a good idea to tweet it was doubly insane.

Gerson adds that for a president to single out a private citizen with such slander is “a serious abuse of power.” An “act of malice” that borders on inhumanity.”

Borders on?? It blows past the border. Trump is a full sociopath. Gerson does say: “If what you see doesn’t revolt you, you have lost the capacity for revulsion.”

Yet still some Trumpsters snidely attack Biden’s mental fitness!

Note to readers: this may feel wearying. I am weary. When Trumpery began, I resolved to let no travesty pass unremarked. Chronicling the tragic defilement of a nation that had been a great human achievement. But the task has proven impossible. I feel like a battlefield triage medic, forced to choose subjects for attention. Things that in a sane era would have been shocking monstrosities now seem pinpricks. (Like, the other day, the Treasury Secretary professing no need to reveal where hundreds of billions in covid relief actually went. And Bolton’s revelations.)

During my 53 Republican years, I could always understand the minds on the other side. Even now, much as I oppose the hard left, I can comprehend the thinking. But my bafflement over Trumpism grows. Assholes of course support one of their own. But how can so many others put their brains, their morality, and their humanity in deep freeze?

Trump’s death rallies

June 16, 2020

Many Trump supporters still think covid-19 is a hoax.* Now he invites them to stake their lives on that.

He’ll hold a rally June 20 in Tulsa, Oklahoma; later in Florida, Arizona, and North Carolina. The main thrust is to show America back in business. Evoking Admiral Farragut — “damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead!”

For the Tulsa rally, the New York Times reports, Trump campaign officials foresee no social distancing or mask wearing, because Trump doesn’t want to be seen with people doing that. And because such precautions “would be unnecessary because the state is so far along in its reopening.”

Most states are reopening. Some, like New York, cautiously, keyed to falling infection and death rates. Others — mostly red states like Oklahoma — willy-nilly, actually disregarding the disease’s trends, rising in many of them.

In Oklahoma the virus is not receding. And remember that Trump supporters are the most likely to ignore the threat, to have already heedlessly exposed themselves to it, and hence are the most likely to be walking covid bombs.** A rally with thousands of such people crammed closely together, indoors, with no protective masks, is called, in the lingo, a “super-spreader” event. Or let’s just call it insane.

That epitomizes Trumpdom.  Here we see this con man’s narcissistic vanity trumping even the very lives of his fans. Plumbing new depths of depravity, he draws them  literally to their deaths. (They’ll be required to sign waivers, promising not to sue.) And still they love him.

Insane.

But this is Trump’s political strategy in the face of the health and economic apocalypse his fecklessness surely worsened. Act like it’s all over with. Even as the death toll rises. Damn the torpedoes!

And even this may not be a bridge too far for Trumpsuckers already cocooned in the alternate reality he spins with Fox News’ help. If Fox simply stops talking about covid carnage, it won’t be happening. Except to those actually dying. It’s said doctors bury their mistakes. Trump is trying something similar.

* Coin World reports a widespread conspiracy theory that Australia’s $10 bill proves it’s a hoax, orchestrated by billionaires and governments to force vaccinations on the public. Pointing to design features they say picture the virus, and show Bill Gates at his desk. Those actually, Australia’s Reserve Bank says, show the country’s wattle plant, and the writer Mary Gilmore, so identified on the note. Also, it was introduced in 2017!

** The big annual national coin show slated for Pittsburgh in August has not (yet) been cancelled and organizers promise plenty of precautions. But I will likely skip it, sadly, because it will draw Trumpsters who blow off precautions and thus irresponsibly endanger others.

Save America: Boycott Fox advertisers

June 8, 2020

America is in deep trouble. The glue holding it together is dissolving. To say we’re divided into mutually hostile tribes is stating the obvious. But it’s not just differences of opinion. That you’ll always have in a vibrant democracy. What we’ve got are two tribes inhabiting very different realities.

I’ve written (in 2013) of my “ideology of reality.” That means one’s opinions being shaped by reality — as opposed to letting your opinions shape the reality you see. Applying that, I can see one of our conflicting tribal realities is basically true and the other is false. Tellingly, the latter is that embraced by what was previously my own tribe. The reality I saw changed my opinion. That’s objectivity.

It helps to have a deep grounding of knowledge about history, the world, how institutions work, science, etc. Not false “knowledge” from conspiracy theorists. The background knowledge I’m talking about equips one to properly judge what’s believable or not. Unfortunately such a knowledge base is rare.

Still, people ask me how Republicans can blind themselves to a reality so obvious as the Trump administration’s vileness. Trashing every value they supposedly once held dear. A key factor is today’s internet and social media echo chamber culture. I recall a study showing that with a group of generally like-minded people convened in a room, their average viewpoint tends to shift toward that of the most extreme among them. The internet and social media propel this.

But it’s increasingly clear the single biggest cause is Fox News. That about 40% of Americans still — still!— approve of Trump is largely thanks to the Fox alternative reality machine. People imagine there are two sides to every question, so you’re free to believe the one you like. And Fox, if nothing else, gives seeming legitimacy to its false reality, enabling people to feel okay believing it.

Fox was originally conceived as a counter to mainstream media’s liberal slant. Not an unreasonable concept. Mainstream media’s people do tend to share the generally liberal viewpoint typical among America’s educated intelligentsia. However, mainstream media nevertheless strives hard to play it straight. Take PBS’s “Washington Week,” with reporters discussing the news. Watching them, it’s always hard — maddeningly hard — to discern their personal opinions.

Not so with Fox. “Fair and balanced?” Well, they’ve dropped that slogan. Real news outlets draw a bright line between news reporting and opinion. On Fox, it’s all spin. Full of nonsense to boot. Fox people don’t go on “Washington Week.”

Still, if you want a broadcaster providing right-wing opinion, even right-wing nonsense and lies, it’s a free country. But Fox is not merely that either. It’s the regime’s propaganda mouthpiece. As in Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union, and today’s North Korea and Russia. We’ve never before had such a thing in America.

Scary enough if there were a normal presidential administration. But, worse yet, ours is not, with its war on democratic institutions, on truth, and on truthful media. Melded with a broadcaster accomplice, that’s a deadly combination.

So Fox is a central culprit in creating the false alternate reality its viewers inhabit. Where Trump is the good guy full of accomplishment making America great again, while his critics are the corrupt wicked traitorous lying criminals. A total black-is-white bizarro reality. Just look at Fox’s promotion of Trump’s vicious “Obamagate” hoax.

That’s not just my opinion. Most sensible people understand what Fox is doing, it’s such a blatant disgrace. And it won’t stop with Trump’s defeat. Expect Fox to mount a guerrilla war of lies against the Biden administration.

Fox corrodes the very fabric of our democratic society. When a future Gibbon chronicles America’s decline and fall, Fox News will be front and center, and readers will shake their heads in bafflement that we let this happen.

So what can be done?

Fox News could be bombed. Maybe catching Hannity, Carlson, Ingraham, Pirro, Dobbs all present. You could do that. “But it would be wrong.”

Or a Biden administration could investigate Fox to death, killing it with criminal prosecutions and fines. Or even just yank its broadcasting license. But that too would be wrong. (Very Trumpian.) Our First Amendment gives even the Fox creeps the right to spew their disgusting bilge.

My better answer: boycott Fox’s advertisers. That’s its lifeblood. They buy ads to make money, and if they’ll lose more business than they gain, they’ll quit. Tell them enabling Fox’s lies will tarnish their brands.

Small quiet acts of conscience by decent-thinking Americans aren’t enough. Make it loud and public to get advertisers’ attention. “Boycott Fox Advertisers” — BFA— has to go viral.

Googling, I found this list:

https://www.mediamatters.org/fox-news/these-are-fox-news-leading-advertisers

Also at least two online petitions for such a boycott:

https://act.freepress.net/sign/media_drop_fox/?source=web-action

https://action.mediamatters.org/secure/dropfox/thank-you?sid=767868

And, of course, please share widely what I’ve written here.

 

Today’s Biden speech

June 2, 2020

Read it: www.fsrcoin.com/yy.htm

 

While America burns

May 31, 2020

Nero, according to legend, played his fiddle while Rome burned. At least he didn’t fan the flames.

Trump’s presidency already represented a collapse of civic standards of decency we’d always taken for granted. Exacerbating ruinous divisions. Then came the pandemic. Together with economic meltdown. A hundred thousand dead; forty million out of work; businesses destroyed; trillions in costs; normal life up-ended; a nation traumatized and on edge. Needing just a spark to explode. Then police thugs commit a murder so callous it sears one’s soul.

The virus, and its economic fallout, had already disproportionately hit blacks, worsening our inequality divide. And now this. Reopening a long festering wound of racial injustice, rubbing salt in it. The resulting feelings of rage are entirely justified. The violence is desolating, making everything worse.

If ever we needed a real leader, a human being with a soul and heart, it’s now. Instead we’ve got the heart of darkness.

What is Trump doing while America burns? Not fiddling — pouring gasoline on the flames. Recycling old racist language; attacking “liberal governors and mayors;” threatening to escalate the violence with military intervention; denigrating protesters as having an illegitimate political agenda; threatening those outside the White House with “the most vicious dogs, and most ominous weapons, I have ever seen,” relishing the idea of unleashing them, and encouraging his supporters to mount counter-protests. While also still encouraging their onslaughts against his own government’s public health measures. Attacking and pulling out of the World Health Organization. Accusing President Obama and his whole administration of unspecified imaginary crimes. Accusing a critical news commentator (Joe Scarborough) of a murder that never happened. Launching a fight with Twitter for labeling his tweets false and glorifying violence. Threatening to shut down the postal system to stop voting by mail. Retweeting a supporter’s video saying “the only good Democrat is a dead Democrat.” Suggesting CNN had it coming when a crowd attacked its Atlanta headquarters.

Compare Biden’s May 31 statement: www.fsrcoin.com/Biden.html. Trump’s behavior in contrast stirs up the violence he decries.

Calling America a “sick society” was a longtime cynical trope I always used to reject. But today it’s very sick indeed. Sick in the head and heart. The sickness is embodied in Trump and the supporters who enable him. Trump is insane. Electing him was insane. Approving of this depraved monster is insane.

In November we’ll have one last chance to restore sanity.

Will Trump go in January? Our civic nightmare

May 30, 2020

Last time he said he’d accept the election result only if he won. This time he wields the power of the presidency to make that threat real.

Trumpsuckers cocksure of defeating a supposedly pathetic Biden look ever more delusional. Biden is a far stronger candidate, with a far more united party, than Hillary. Whom Trump just barely beat. Many more voters have become fed up with Trump’s vileness. His desperation will drive it to new levels. He has led (misled) the nation into catastrophe. Polls consistently show him losing all the swing states.*

In 2018, Floridians passed a referendum restoring the ballot to people who’ve served their time for crimes. The Republican-controlled legislature tried to negate that. Recently a court ruled their effort unconstitutional. Hopefully, that’s the end of it. And of Trump — most newly enfranchised voters being nonwhite. He was already behind in Florida. He cannot win without it.

Now, nationwide, Republicans are in a jihad against voting by mail. Trump, with bizarre candor, said mail voting would mean no Republican ever elected again. So much for their actually persuading voters, to win elections fair and square. Actually, it’s doubtful mail voting hurts Republicans. But they’ve convinced themselves to oppose anything making voting easier.

They’ve used “voter fraud” as a phony pretext to make voting harder — carefully targeting demographics likely to support Democrats. After 2016, stung by losing the popular vote by 3 million, Trump created a commission of flunkies to somehow manufacture a case that it was due to fraud. Too big a lift even for these liars. Now they’re trotting out this “voter fraud” crap again, to fight mail voting. But just as for regular voting, all the evidence shows mail ballot fraud is virtually nonexistent. (The only significant case of it, in a 2018 North Carolina congressional race, was perpetrated by Republicans.)

If the 2020 presidential election is stolen, it won’t be by Democratic voter fraud, but by pervasive Republican vote suppression tactics to deny ballots to as many Democrats as possible. Exploiting coronavirus to come up with new such tricks. In concert with Russian pro-Trump propaganda efforts as well as hacking our voting infrastructure.

But the Republican blitz against mail voting is also a cynical set-up for rejecting their increasingly inevitable 2020 election defeat. (After all their nonsense about Democrats supposedly refusing to accept 2016.)

No losing U.S. presidential candidate has ever failed to graciously concede. Even Al Gore, who many (not me) believed was cheated of victory, did so. This isn’t some mere nicety of etiquette, but goes to the heart of the kind of democratic society we constructed. A democratic culture requires accepting the legitimacy of opposing sides, and even their having power. This must not be taken for granted. It’s why Trump’s 2016 statement that he’d accept the result only if he won was nightmarish.

He actually didn’t think he’d win. But more importantly, had no power to do anything about it if he’d lost. This time is very different.

Trump has become even more insane,** his megalomania now off the charts. Believing cosmic justice demands his victory. His psyche incapable of accepting defeat.

Gracious concession speech? No, we’ll get a deranged tirade lashing out and calling the 2020 election rigged, a gigantic fraud that must not be countenanced. (Trump will already have been singing this song for weeks.)

What will Republicans do? Fall into line of course. When God says jump, you say, “How high?” When Trump cries fraud, his cultists will shout it from the rooftops. The closer the election, the worse it will be. Pray for a landslide.

Electoral votes are transmitted by each state to Congress, which meets in joint session in January and declares the result. Democrats will almost surely have a majority in that joint session.

Trump may meanwhile go to court challenging electoral votes with allegations of fraud. This would probably have to play out state by state. Could get very messy. Note that if any electoral votes for Biden are thrown out (unprecedented and unlikely), they wouldn’t go to Trump. He’d still need 270. If no candidate gets 270, the election is decided by the House of Representatives, with each state having one vote. You’d need a majority of states to win. In the current House, 26 state delegations have Republican majorities (so a single sane Republican could end the madness). The vice president is elected by the Senate. If no president or vice president is elected by inauguration day, the previous president does not stay in office. The Speaker of the House becomes president.

In sum, Trump will have no quasi-legal pretext to stay in the White House as of noon on January 20. In fact he’d be an unauthorized trespasser. It’s the duty of the Secret Service to protect the president. This should certainly include detaining and removing a trespasser.

Or Trump might hold an alternative inauguration. Would he find a judge foolish enough to officiate? But remember that Napoleon, at his coronation, grabbed the crown from the Pope’s hands and placed it on his own head.

This story may seem to be descending into opera buffa. But the threat of violence looms. Many Trump supporters are not just deranged, but deranged with guns, which are integral to their cult. Trump has previously darkly tweeted encouragement at the idea of such people not accepting a political outcome. Election defeat will destroy what vestiges of sanity he still retains. There will be blood.

The optimist view? Better this than four more Trump years. If this is what we must go through to be rid of this curse, so be it. Perhaps this gotterdammerung will be the final coda lancing the political boil that led to it.

* Polls in 2016 were actually very accurate in projecting Hillary about 3 points ahead of Trump.

** Look at his recent Joe Scarborough tweets.

Zoom event with Biden — is he up for the job?

May 25, 2020

I participated in a May 21 Q&A with Biden via zoom. It’s been called, in the press, an event for “Wall Street donors.” I’m no Wall Streeter, nor did some other attendees look to me like Wall Street types. (Though two ex Treasury secretaries were there.) And an issue has been made of reporters being barred.

So here you get my exclusive insider’s report.

Dillon

Campaign manager Jen O’Malley Dillon started it off recapping the election landscape. The campaign seems to be doing things right. Targeting, of course, swing states, especially the key three Trump unexpectedly won in 2016 — Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin. He’s losing those now, and several others he’d carried. Remember that his “great victory” was actually a squeaker. Dillon referenced polling data showing falling support among, notably, older voters and less educated whites. But she was mindful that Republicans will try to block as many opposition citizens as possible from casting ballots. (Like cutting Milwaukee’s 80 polling sites to five in the recent voting.)

Biden spoke briefly, mostly detailing Trump’s terrible Covid-19 performance, then answered questions for about an hour.

Hartley

The moderator was Jane Hartley, former ambassador to France. Overall, the Q&A spotlighted the daunting immensity of the task facing Biden come January 20. Putting right all the fundamental damage done, with a pandemic likely still raging, and a shattered economy. All together, worse than what FDR confronted in 1933.

Is Biden up for it? Yes, if any human ever could be. This event showed the ridiculousness of all the “sleepy Joe” nonsense, impugning Biden’s mental acuity.

He is known to have overcome stuttering, with vestiges in just occasional speech hesitancies. But Biden cogently answered questions at length and in depth, with intelligence, energy, and passion. Having to do this constantly must get wearying. But Biden didn’t show it.

His answers demonstrated the benefit of long decades of experience with policy issues. Biden knows what he’s talking about, and has clear informed ideas about what he wants to accomplish. All contrasting with the know-nothing “genius” in the White House whose mind is a cesspit of depravity.

One subject that came up several times was the shambolic mishandling of the Covid-19 rescue program. It’s so screwed up that very little help is going where it’s really needed, most scarfed up instead by big corporations. (Trump swiftly fired the Inspector General tasked with overseeing where the money went.) Biden stressed the importance of people having a sense of dignity about their work.

A key point was healing the nation’s divisions. That must sound like empty verbiage now. But I keep returning to it because tribal hatreds really impede tackling all our other problems. We even see it in politicization of pandemic measures. America may indeed be too far gone to heal, but gosh we must try. I supported Biden from the start as the candidate best suited for that. However, he warned that the coming campaign will be nasty — surely an understatement. I fear he’ll come to office so demonized by Republicans that they’ll continue warring against him with rabid derangement.

I didn’t love all his answers. Asked about returning to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, Biden was strong criticizing Trump’s blundering trade war, but actually sidestepped TPP. Well, too many voters are allergic now to “trade deals.” Then there was stale blather about reviving America’s manufacturing and stopping “shipping jobs overseas.” So twentieth century.

But as I always say, don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. I support Biden enthusiastically. I don’t expect perfection.

One subject not coming up was immigration, and the abominable cruelty of Trump’s policies. We’ve just learned of this administration deporting children unaccompanied by parents or relatives. Just imagine being a child dropped alone in some crime-ridden foreign land. This is America? Made great again?

We are in deep shit. Pray for Biden.

Harvey Havel: Dealing with rejection

May 23, 2020

This big fat book showed up unexpected in my mailbox. Harvey Havel is a fixture in the local literary scene. Chatting with him at a recent author talk, it had emerged that we’d both published blog essay collections. So he sent me his. He’s a sweet person. Also tormented.

The book starts with political essays (a decade and more old). Perhaps unusual for a professional writer of color, his viewpoint is determinedly centrist. And Olympian, looking past the issues of the day, in a larger perspective, trying to see the tectonic forces shaping our politics. As a professional writer, Havel has a glib command of the relevant lingo. Yet I found his analyses somewhat oversimplified, falling short of profundity. (Sorry, Harvey.)

So after reading some of this I decided to skip ahead to the later sections dealing with more personal matters, and stuff like sexual politics. This was much more engaging. Havel speaks from the heart with unsparing candor.

Like about his alcoholism. It nearly destroyed him; he believes it’s actually necessary to sink that low before one can overcome. He’s apparently been off the stuff for a good long time now, but alcoholism still looms as a big presence in his life.

He was also ruined, he says, by money. Given a big lump sum by his father upon college graduation, he lived the high life, as though it would never run out. Of course it did, while turning him into “a man of low morals and character,” blocking his capacity to grow. Thus he says he remained a child (as of 2005 anyway). He had to learn the meaningfulness of earning what one has. He feels his “relationship with money now is the happiness and satisfaction that I have somehow rid myself of it.”

Here, and elsewhere, he brings in belief in God, crediting that for positive change in his life. I know many people feel the same. But Havel never really analyzes this (as he analyzes so much else). I have no such belief. For me, divorcement from reality cannot be the basis for an authentically meaningful life.

One 2009 piece starts off, “read this poem and then we’ll have a discussion about it.” Titled “Qualm” it ostensibly debates pushing an airplane alarm button, and Havel does discuss it at length. Finding this in the book was a nice surprise, as the poet is Therese L. Broderick (my wife).

Havel is not one of those many people who write as a sideline or hobby. Instead, he decided out of college to make this his career. Now approaching 50, he’s been at it for decades. With little reward. He has self-published many books (including this one), but his indefatigable efforts with established presses have met with constant rejection. Publishers tend to be very picky; selling printed books that make money is extremely hard; so a stream of rejection letters is inevitably part of any writer’s life.

But, having indeed devoted his life to this, Havel cannot just shrug off the disappointment. He has quite a lot to say about it. Mostly he discusses this as a sociological/cultural phenomenon. But one essay tells of his reading a terrific short story. Bringing on an attack of FAS — “Failed Author Syndrome” — and its corrosive resentment of others’ literary success. (He doesn’t mention dissecting that story to tease out what made it so good.)

I am no stranger to literary rejection myself. I spent years struggling to get my magnum opus (The Case for Rational Optimism) published. UntiI finally remembering the press that, over 30 years prior, had reissued my Albany political book. I’ve had ten book publications and made money on all but one. But the loss on that one exceeded all the gains. So I guess I’m no literary success either.

Havel also writes about rejection by women. This too resonated with my own history.

He has a “thing” for white women. Who, he says, generally refuse to view him romantically because of his color. For me it was height (or its lack). One guy’s recent radio essay related how he’d meet women for dates and see their “libido drain away” when he’d stand up, revealing his shortness. I was clueless in my own younger days (part of my problem), but in hindsight being 5’4″ explains a lot.

Back to Havel and his attraction to white women. One entry in the book is actually titled “In Defense of White People.” I was expecting something sardonic. But no. Havel explains that at one time he did share the stew of negative feelings toward whites that some non-whites hold. However, he says, he joined a white family for a time — what he means by this wasn’t clear to me — but anyway, he received acceptance and love, leading him to reject, as simply incorrect, the standard indictment of whiteness.

Of course that doesn’t mean all whites are good. But white people are, mainly, just people, and most people are good. Yet it almost seems as though Havel puts whites on a pedestal.

Perhaps this partly explains his attraction to white women. Then again, a majority of American women are white, so Havel may actually be conflating an attraction to women with one for white women. But he does feel his color is a barrier with white women in particular.

I found this odd. No doubt some racist women would manifest this, but in my observation, many if not most females are sexually receptive to nonwhites, many indeed positively attracted to them. Secondly, while Havel is slightly brownish, his ethnicity is far from evident visually. In fact, being of Indian ancestry, he is caucasian. Also, while I’m no great judge of this, I would rate him pretty good looking.

So what, really, was the trouble? Relating an actual romantic debacle might have helped elucidate this, but Havel includes none. The book makes it sound as though he never actually had a relationship (despite a lot of sex). However, there are some clues in the book regarding his mindset about women. It smacks of that old stereotype, “objectifying” women. He wants one not just white, but beautiful, well-educated, and affluent; it’s very much a package. He seems to believe the ideal way to get such a woman is to fight for her — literally. Physically fighting other men. His writing so often of “winning” women does make it sound like a competition. And he posits that what a woman most wants from a man is to be protected by him.

How about just relating to a woman as a fellow human being?

Obamagate: Biggest political scandal ever

May 19, 2020

We’re in the worst national catastrophe of our lifetimes — death toll nearing 100,000, millions losing jobs, normal living suspended. Worsened by Trump’s feckless response. So what does he now come out with?

Obamagate! Biggest political scandal ever! Pile on the hyperbole. And of course drag in Biden.

Asked at a press conference to explain just what, exactly, is the crime he’s talking about, his truculent answers ranged from “You know!” to “Very obvious!” to “everybody knows!” But whatever this crime might be, Trump says it’s horrible and people should be jailed — for fifty years!

Duly, Fox News rocketed into full hysteria mode — Hannity, Ingraham, Pirro — shrill with fake indignation over bombshell revelations sure to come.

Trump’s Obama obsession has long been deeply psychotic. On his deathbed he’ll probably be muttering, “Obama, Obama . . . . ”

If Trump himself can’t quite explain “Obamagate,” let me help. It’s a rehash of “spygate” (whose promised bombshells fizzled) —  the idea that “deep state” villains in the FBI and intelligence agencies, and now Obama and his whole administration, somehow nefariously conspired from the get-go to bring Trump down. A “coup” he calls it. The Mueller investigation part of it — a “witch hunt” based on the Russian election meddling “hoax.” So too, somehow, the prosecution of Flynn.

Whew. Now for some reality.

Russia’s pro-Trump subversion of our 2016 election, with his campaign’s encouragement if not collusion, is indisputable fact. The FBI’s investigation of it proceeded from ample proper cause. Trump obstructed it.

It’s been documented that the Obama administration, knowing of the Russian attack, was in a quandary about responding. Obama didn’t want it to seem partisan. He shared the intelligence with top Republicans, to organize a bipartisan response. Mitch McConnell nixed that.*

But one simple fact refutes the conspiracy theory of a “coup” against Trump:

During the 2016 campaign, the FBI made public its investigation of Clinton’s e-mails. And its reopening just days before the election. That likely sank her. But the investigation of Russia’s pro-Trump subversion was never revealed before the election. It would have sunk him.

So if there was a conspiracy, it was against Clinton, not Trump. If there was a scandal, it was the FBI shielding Trump.

And most of the supposed “Obamagate” story actually unfolded not during Obama’s presidency, but Trump’s. That’s when Flynn’s crimes were prosecuted. The Mueller investigation was initiated by Trump appointees in Trump’s Department of Justice.

But don’t let reality spoil your fantasy. Trump, knowing how dirty he is, still desperately craves whitewash. His base is full of people prone to conspiracy theories and racist Obamaphobia. Thus “Obamagate.” Talk about witch hunts, hoaxes, and fake news!

Farcical as all this sounds, it’s no laughing matter. It’s unbefitting for a great nation, descending into a squalid pit of derangement. And an immunity to facts and reality is literally deadly, as the pandemic shows. (Refusal to wear protective masks is now a badge of Republicanism.)

“Obamagate” takes lying to a whole new level. Not just lying about a story’s facts, but making up the entire story. Trump says the things he says simply because he can. Reality irrelevant. He’s long since learned he can indeed say literally anything, however absurd, and his cult devotees will swallow it, parrot it, even embellish upon it. If mainstream media squeals, all the better.

For all the stones thrown at mainstream news media, they are not in fact partisan, work hard to report the truth, and correct the record when they err. If their coverage of Trump seems mostly negative, it’s because his character, behavior, and record stink. I think they’ve actually gone too easy on him, even empowered him, indulging the pretense that his crazy flailings have some rationale, that his outlandish utterances must be treated as if serious.

Then there’s Fox, a propaganda broadcaster masquerading as a news network. In the Fox universe, politics no longer entails actual debate about actual issues, it’s just propaganda. And even if it were true that CNN and the others are partisan, at least they are independent voices; whereas Fox being a regime mouthpiece is a much scarier thing. That’s what they had in Nazi Germany, and have in countries like Russia, China, Venezuela, Cuba, North Korea, etc. Something we’ve never had in America, until now. Trump tries to tear down legitimate news sources to clear the field for his flacks on Fox to spread his poisonous lies. Fox’s totally dishonest “Obamagate” jihad shows just how pernicious this is. Colluding with a war on truth by the president himself, this profoundly corrodes the foundations of our democratic civil society.

That’s why the “Obamagate” story may indeed be the most scandalous in U.S. political history.

* See the book Russian Roulette by Isikoff and Korn.