Archive for the ‘stinking piece of shit’ Category

Trump’s depravity explained by his psychologist niece

September 13, 2020

There’s been much psychoanalysis of Trump. Though his depravity seems obvious to any objective observer, supporters dismiss that as baseless partisan slander. Mary Trump cannot be so dismissed. A professional clinical PhD psychologist, she also has intimate first hand knowledge of Donald, her uncle, having been quite close to the family for most of her 55 years. So her book, Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man is absolutely authoritative.

If she were writing to “cash in,” or vent family grudges, she’d have done it years ago, she says. To avoid any such appearance, she refrained during 2016. Now, however, Mary says her speaking out is a matter of “literally life and death” for the country. (Two hundred thousand, at least, have died so far.)

The book is a family saga. There’s a whole genre of “parents from Hell” memoirs. Donald’s mother was missing in action, too fragile and needy to give her five kids any nurturing. But the main character was Donald’s father, Fred Trump, who made a fortune as a property baron. Fred enjoyed only two things in life: money and cruelty. Devoid of human sympathy, his children meant nothing to him except as tools for his ego.

His eldest son was Fred Junior, “Freddy,” Mary’s father. Initially Freddy was tagged as Fred’s successor to run the property empire. He did spend most of his life employed there. Yet Fred himself sabotaged Freddy in that role. His whole existence was a desperate struggle to earn his father’s approval, but he never could; Fred made sure of it. Her father, Mary writes, “withered and died beneath the cruelty and contempt of my grandfather.”

I kept saying to myself, “Freddy, tell your father ‘fuck you,’ walk away, and live your own life.” But Freddy couldn’t. Instead he stuck around and allowed himself to be destroyed. Driven into alcoholism and dying at 42.

Enter Donald, Fred’s younger son. Watching Freddy’s tragic struggle for their father’s respect, Donald went the opposite way. Instead of sucking up to his father and making himself look weak in consequence, Donald acted out as the bad boy and defied his parents at every turn. And not only was he not punished — not only did he escape Freddydom — he quickly found this did perversely gain his father’s approval. Fred saw Donald as his own alter ego. Just as “tough” and ruthless, just as sociopathic. So Donald became the new heir apparent, and soon had the run of the castle.

Some who experience abusive childhoods repeat the syndromes in their own adulthood. Others can overcome that legacy, and, through social interaction with normal people, rebalance their personas into healthier ones. Donald was certainly in the former category. Indeed, the pathologies he developed growing up in that toxic family intensified, to a grotesquely extreme degree.

As Mary writes, throughout his life, Donald “continued to get away with — and even be rewarded for — increasingly crass, irresponsible, and despicable behavior.” At the final capstone — his election as president — she felt “This can’t possibly be happening.” (Her emphasis.)

Mary agrees with the oft-heard diagnosis of malignant narcissism. But it’s much worse than that — she also sees antisocial personality disorder (i.e., sociopathy) — entailing “lack of empathy, a facility for lying, an indifference to right and wrong, abusive behavior, and a lack of interest in the rights of others.” Surely accurate about Donald.

She says that as Donald grew up, “he needed his father to believe he was a better and more confident son than Freddy was . . . he began to believe his own hype, even as he paradoxically suspected on a very deep level that nobody else did.” Thus his insatiable craving for affirmations of his wonderfulness. Which not even becoming president assuages. So he stages cabinet meetings and pandemic briefings, etc., that are really just sycophantic praise-orgies. Foreign leaders quickly learned to play him like a fiddle with flattery. Indeed, Mary says, for all his posturing as the savvy tough “art of the deal” guy, Donald is actually a thoroughly manipulable patsy. As seen endlessly in his presidential performance.

The irony is that his focus on sustaining an image of vast competence has always blocked him from being competent. Like it’s never occurred to him to earn praise by actually being praiseworthy.

But he does have one true talent— for putting across the scam that his whole life constitutes. Fooling people. As Mary shows chronicling his business history: repeatedly leaving others holding the bag when his business disasters have blown up. Trump may be the most successful failure ever.

He’s often reported as enraged — by what is always really insufficient ass-kissing. So huge is his sense of entitlement that he constantly feels he’s being “treated very unfairly,” a phrase that’s virtually a verbal tic. Mary assesses his predominant emotion as fear. Fear of being exposed, finally, as the fraud he, deep down, knows himself to be. Staving that off is his life mission. (This is why he won’t accept, in the most literal sense, election defeat.)

Mary writes that we’ve “been shielded until now from the worst effects of his pathologies by a stable economy and a lack of serious crises.” But the pandemic, the economic collapse, and deepening societal divides “have created a perfect storm of catastrophes that no one is less equipped than my uncle to manage. Doing so would require courage, strength of character, deference to experts, and the confidence to take responsibility and to course correct after admitting mistakes.” Instead, Trump’s toolkit is limited to “lying, spinning, and obfuscating” — now leaving him impotent.

So what to make of that recorded February 7 interview where Donald said he knew coronavirus was really bad, but was telling the nation the opposite to avoid panic? Some say his only concern is re-election, not lives at stake. Surely true, yet this was no way to gain votes. He could have ensured his re-election with swift and strong covid action. But no — actually, he couldn’t. Was incapable of that.

It was himself he didn’t want to panic. A national catastrophe did not fit with his ideation of personal glory, so he tried to will it away. After all, he’d skated through his whole life on lies. Saying Covid was under control and would magically disappear was just one more. Lying to himself as well as the public. Donald’s biggest sucker is Donald.

Talking heads often discuss his actions as if there’s calculation behind them. Mary Trump makes clear what’s always been obvious — Donald is incapable of real calculation, foresight, or strategy. He’s an unguided missile. True too of his February 7 interview. A considered strategy of avoiding panic? No. That trope came into his head just as the words came out of his mouth.

Mary’s book anatomizes Donald’s depravity, but the picture has long been clear to anyone with open eyes. But too many American eyes were closed in 2016, and far too many still are. While Trump voters are filled with factoids that defy reality,* and too uninterested in learning the real reality. A charitable view is that they just don’t care. Less charitably, they’re so irresponsible it’s insane. No set of political views or supposed values or feelings or resentments can justify it.

Trump is trying to exploit fear of violence in the streets. A poll shows many now fear it more than covid. My own sister shocked me by falling for this. As if Trump isn’t himself greatly responsible for the societal divisions behind these “riots.” And as if they’re harming the country more than the pandemic. What does truly threaten our future is putting it in the hands of this corrupt, incompetent, lying sociopath. Street violence won’t destroy our democracy. Trump will.

*The Economist’s latest issue quotes one who “especially liked Trump’s commitment to reducing the national debt,” and another saying, “He’s made — who is it, China or Japan? — pay our farmers billions of dollars. He got health care done, which the Democrats could never do.”

The Schizophrenic Anti-reality Convention

August 31, 2020

Schizophrenia is characterized by disconnect between aspects of one’s personality; between reality and what’s in one’s brain.

Today’s Republican party, the Trump cult, is centered on white nationalism and nativism, on full display at its convention. Yet part of its brain knows how nasty this is. Dissonant to its desire to present a more positive image.

So they put on the screen just about every black face they could muster, telling us — with straight faces — how they’re all about equal opportunity for all, racial reconciliation, and suchlike warm and fuzzy bilge. Enabling Trumpsters to feel they’re not racist. While schizophrenically contradicting it with the symbolism of presenting the St. Louis couple arrested for pointing guns at Black Lives Matter marchers. Not a racist dog whistle, but a bullhorn. Honoring these lawbreakers while schizophrenically posturing as the law-and-order party.

Meantime Nikki Haley spoke proudly of how, as South Carolina’s governor, she had removed from its capitol a “divisive symbol.” A good courageous thing. But her courage didn’t extend to actually naming that “divisive symbol” — the Confederate flag. Knowing Republicans love it, precisely because of its symbolism that made her remove it in South Carolina. Thus in a single sentence Haley was totally schizophrenic.

While Donald Junior had no compunction endorsing retention of “Confederate” monuments. He and Nikki ought to have a debate.

They kept saying fetuses have a right-to-life. But not, apparently, the thousands of actually living children ripped from mothers’ arms and put in cages, many never to be reunited.

The most bizarre schizophrenic moment was Trump’s swearing in new citizens. As if he and his cult love immigration. As if hatred for immigrants and refugees, wanting to keep them out, were not a key Republican raison d’être. Trump’s citizenship ceremony sure was feel-good imagery. As long as you overlook his administration’s having virtually shut down the entire immigration system and slammed the door on refugees and asylum seekers. In fact it has even halted citizenship ceremonies — like the one he held — for immigrants who’ve already completed the whole rest of the process. Thus denying hundreds of thousands the right to vote in November.

Meantime Melania told us, again with a straight face, of her efforts against bullying, while one egregious bully looked on grinning. She also said we deserve honesty from a president! Well, many love that Trump “speaks his mind.” Unfortunately his mind is a cesspit of vile lies.

They even had the brass to throw the word “nepotism” against Democrats — in this convention where practically every other speaker was named Trump, and his son-in-law is his minister-for-everything.

The Democratic convention wasn’t perfect, but I was uplifted and inspired because its uplifting and inspirational quality was fundamentally authentic. It accorded with reality. You know, actual reality, out there, in the real world. (Or maybe you watch Fox.)

In contrast the Trump convention’s attempt at uplift and inspiration was a fraud. Because it flouted reality — the reality of this president, what he’s done, and what his administration truly represents. They solemnly invoke the American ideals and values they actually trample, making a mockery of them.

The relentless bogeyman portrayal of Biden was just preposterous. As if this most moderate of centrists is somehow fronting for wild-eyed socialists and aims to end freedom of speech. How many times did they say he wants to “defund the police?” Which he has repeatedly and explicitly made clear he opposes. (While in fact the Trump administration has cut money for policing.)

And how often did they say Biden wants to end the Second Amendment? That would require ratification by 38 states — impossible. Of course Biden doesn’t propose it. Nor “taking away guns.” What he does favor are reasonable measures like background checks and controls on the most murderous people-killing weapons, no-brainer reforms which are compatible with the Second Amendment, and which most Americans endorse. If Republicans want to debate these things, fine. But they don’t. They just want to scare people with lies.

Their main scare is saying America is “engulfed” in out-of-control “mob” (read: black) violence. Promising “we will have law and order.” You might think Trump is running against the administration responsible for what he attacks. Saying “this will be Biden’s America” as if Trump is not in charge right now.

But of course he takes no responsibility; while enflaming the animosities we’re seeing, throwing divisive racist bombs. He obviously wants more violence, to help him politically. Certainly threw fuel on the fire in Portland. So is Trump suddenly the right guy to calm things down and bring peace to our polarized society? And listening to Republicans you’d never guess that blacks’ treatment by police has anything to do with the unrest. No mention of cops who murdered George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and so many others. How about some law and order there?

Meantime, does the Republicans’ dystopian picture bear any resemblance to reality? We’ve had overwhelmingly peaceful protests. True, with a few isolated instances of unjustifiable violence. But at least 99.9% of Americans have experienced nothing of the kind. The “American carnage” picture Trump so darkly paints is absurd. And to claim Biden sanctions or encourages violence? “No one will be safe in Joe Biden’s America?” This nonsense insults our intelligence.

During the convention, protests in Kenosha followed police shooting an unarmed black man seven times in the back. Then two protesters were killed by a 17-year-old white Trump fan with a huge gun. When he tried to surrender to police, they passed him by — to go after protesters. Trump has defended him. “Law and order” Republican style? In that America no one is safe.

And Trump’s whole show was itself a flagrant violation of law: the federal Hatch Act prohibiting use of government property and personnel for partisan political purposes. Turning “the people’s house” into the Republicans’ house. Even literally putting Trump’s name in fireworks above the Washington Monument. He desecrates everything. I’ll never be able to look at that monument again with the same reverence.

No previous president has come close to so blatantly flouting the law, and basic ethics, with an extravaganza so expressly partisan on federal property. Such ruler glorification is what dictatorships do.*

And while Republicans hammer about violence in the streets, which has actually killed very few, Trump blew it in protecting us against the virus that has killed 183,000 so far. The convention’s biggest lie was a lie of omission — almost total refusal to acknowledge this gravest crisis facing America in modern times. The convention took place mostly in an alternate universe where time stopped in February. The keynote events, packing in people closely together with no masks, were saying, “Virus? What virus?” Some attendees will likely die (like Herman Cain after attending, maskless, Trump’s Tulsa super spreader).

While, on those rare occasions where the pandemic was mentioned, it was to tell us Trump did a tremendous job. Lying about numbers to deny that America’s are among the world’s worst. In the real world, the one we actually inhabit, the consequences of Trump’s deranged incompetence every one of us confronts every day.

Trump said Biden’s covid plan would crush our economy. As if it wasn’t in fact already crushed by Trump’s own covid response. So brainless that despite the economic pain it didn’t get the virus under control. Biden recognizes that as long as covid isn’t seriously tackled, our economy will stay crippled.

Listening to Trump’s speech, as a lifelong Republican, at many points I’d have applauded — if I didn’t know the reality. Republicans wouldn’t need to lie so much if they had a halfway plausible story to tell. But bankrupt of true achievement, and of morality, the only story they can tell is fake.

America is broken in many ways. Last time Trump said “Only I can fix it.” It should be glaringly obvious by now that he’s totally the wrong man for the job, making things much much worse. Especially deepening our divisions. Only we can fix it.

If you still support Trump, it’s your right. But at least be honest about why. Face up to the reality. Don’t hide behind a wall of lies.

Trump’s often called a “reality TV star.” But his real talent is in the unreality department. I am proud to support a true reality star — a man of decency, dignity, integrity, truthfulness, human feeling, caring about people other than himself, a genuine public-spirited patriot who really wants the best for this country rather than just to gratify a sick ego. That’s Joe Biden’s reality. Real reality.

* Making a citizenship ceremony a partisan show was an especially egregious violation of legal and ethical norms. Republicans don’t care.

Political violence: thinking about the unthinkable

August 27, 2020

It’s December 13, 2020. Trump’s been crushingly defeated, Democrats have won the Senate — and Ruth Bader Ginsburg has died.

Just three weeks of lame duck Republican control remain. Mitch McConnell, who blocked Supreme Court nominee Garland, calling it wrong to fill a seat during a president’s last year, now plans to rush through a Ginsburg replacement.

What could stop them?

It would be so civically destabilizing, so blatantly illegitimate, that forceful action would be justified. I could see legions of people marching on Washington, possibly to occupy the Senate chamber and physically prevent a vote. Non-violent civil resistance. The regime’s response would probably be very violent.

Steven Pinker’s 2011 book, The Better Angels of Our Nature, sets forth in exhaustive factual detail how much human violence, in all its many forms, has declined in modern times. And all the many reasons accounting for that. Cynics and pessimists mocked Pinker, but couldn’t refute him. The decline in violence is one of the things that makes me a believer in progress and an optimist about humanity.

But while opposing violence I am not a pacifist. I’ve always believed an ideology of pacifism fails to confront the true moral choices life sometimes presents. That some things are worth fighting for.

While the Ginsburg scenario is hypothetical, Trump’s defeat is highly probable. And with it, a very real danger of political violence. Trump openly says he will reject the election as fraudulent if he loses; laying the groundwork, by impugning mail voting. Even though it’s long widely been used with great reliability and security. Trump would like to create chaos by delaying the Postal Service’s delivery of ballots, and to delegitimize the whole election. Giving America a big black eye; hardly short of treasonous.

Important: a study by The Economist estimates that 80% of mail ballots could be cast by Democrats. Thus on Election Night, before mail ballots are counted, Trump may seemingly be ahead. He will claim victory and then ferociously insist it’s being stolen by fraudulent mail ballots, whose count he will try to disrupt. He’s intent on retaining power by hook or crook. “Will of the people” be damned.

A poll showed 29% of Republicans would back Trump if he refuses to leave office claiming vote fraud. No matter how big the eventual landslide against him? Does that sound insane? But for anyone to still support Trump at this point — after his disastrous record on covid, economic devastation, divisive racism, mountain of lies and corruption, vicious cruelty, and so much else — including trying to sabotage the postal service and the election — isn’t that already a bit insane?  And given all those powerful reasons why so many people will vote against Trump, can Republicans actually delude themselves that only fraud could defeat him?*

A lie cannot be worth fighting for. Yet not only are Trump diehards crazy enough to swallow all his lies, some are indeed the kind of people crazy enough to fight for them. Many of them are gun nuts — besotted with a fantasy of “defending liberty” against “bad people,” with bullets. Convinced, against all reality, that their führer’s been cheated of re-election. Trump’s last stand could well be, for them, a now-or-never, do-or-die moment.

A particular worry is the frighteningly large “QAnon” conspiracist network. Which Trump praises, having retweeted QAnon content almost 200 times. The FBI considers QAnon a domestic terrorism threat, with its members already responsible for gun violence. In their insane mythology Trump is the god, supposedly battling against a vast “deep state” conspiracy of Satan worshippers, engaged in child sex trafficking and even baby eating. His election defeat, accompanied by his flagrant incitements, will send these already deranged people way over the edge. With a very different sort of March on Washington.

This is our coming Armageddon. Ever since the Civil War the idea of an American political settlement through violence would have seemed inconceivable. No longer. What would this do to our democratic way of life? A democratic culture is one in which issues are decided by debate, with acceptance of pluralism, respecting the legitimate role of people who are different and have divergent opinions. Even accepting political defeat. With rule of law — not guns.

That is something worth fighting for. If attacked by people with guns, it must be defended. One might expect law enforcement and the military to do so. I doubt the military would be party to any sort of coup. But the traitor-in-chief being commander-in-chief is a wild card. We’ve already had a foretaste with his deployment of goon squads in Portland. And Trump is the kind of person who, if he can’t get his way, will try to burn the place down.

How all this will finally play out could be very ugly, leaving deep lasting civic wounds. One might rationally suppose a Trump putsch attempt would shred his last remaining political support. But don’t bet on it; rationality is in short supply in that cult. One report on a Trump rally showed a woman saying she’d welcome him as a dictator.

It’s becoming clear that whatever happens, this is not going to be a normal election with an orderly peaceful transfer of power. We’ve had 232 years of them. One way or another, that sterling American record is about to end, thanks to Trump. It breaks my heart.

I pray we can get past this very dark and dangerous passage in our history, that the plague Trumpism represents will finally dissipate, and America will resume its far longer climb toward building a better society for all.

*The same poll showed Democrats would be reluctant to accept an election outcome they believe was produced by Russian subversion, or another Trump electoral college win despite losing the popular vote. Those views would at least be grounded in rationality. But they’re likely moot because Biden is so far ahead.

Political insanity round up

August 23, 2020

While several commentators on a CNN panel lauded Biden’s superb speech Thursday night, stressing the character chasm between the candidates, the Republican Scott Jennings was burbling, “The policies! The policies!” About where Democrats would take the country. As a former Republican I wanted to grab him and shake him. Policies? Where Democrats will take us? As if Trump hasn’t taken America down the toilet. If you really cared so much about your precious “policies,” why did you put their fate in the hands of a man no responsible person could vote for? Taking down with him your beloved “policies,” whatever shreds they might still possess.

Friday I received a Trump-Pence e-mail headed, “The Biden Campaign is unhinged.” It said:

“No one is safe in Joe Biden’s America. Not only is he encouraging the lawlessness in Democrat cities, but his campaign donated money to BAIL OUT DANGEROUS criminals, including a serial rapist, from jail. Disgusting. Can you believe it, Frank?”

Actually, I could not. So, curious, I googled a bit and found that some Biden campaign people — not the campaign — made private donations to a fund bailing out folks arrested in George Floyd protests. No one charged with crimes like rape. So on the truth-o-meter, Trump’s message rates a solid PANTS ON FIRE.

Yes — “disgusting” indeed. Talk about a campaign being “unhinged.” Every Trump accusation or insult is always uncannily more descriptive of him than his target.

And talking about “lawlessness in cities,” the St. Louis couple arrested for unlawful firearms use, for pointing guns at Black Lives Matter marchers, has been slotted to speak at the Republican convention. A really smart move to dispel any stink of racism in Trump and his party, and spotlight their “law and order” bona fides. Reaching out to voters not already crazy enough to support him.

Then there’s Trump campaign spokesperson Katrina Pierson. Answering President Obama’s speech ringing the alarm about Trump’s threat to democracy, Pierson tweeted: “We are NOT a Democracy!! Not understanding this simple, yet critical fact, is likely the root cause of Trump Derangement Syndrome!”

I think a symptom of “Trump Derangement Syndrome” is imagining somehow that “We are NOT a Democracy” is a killer defense of Trump, a stirring campaign rallying cry.

The syndrome is contagious. When Michelle Obama’s speech, taped in advance, mentioned 150,000 U.S. covid deaths, Trump mocked her, tweeting, Wrong! It’s 170,000! What a brilliant riposte, sure to win him votes.

Trump meanwhile accuses the FDA of deliberately “slow walking” vaccine development until the election; part of a “deep state” conspiracy against him. While we have the “QAnon” network, seeing that conspiracy (inevitably involving Jewish George Soros) working to destroy Trump and America while engaging in child sex trafficking and even baby eating. The FBI considers QAnon a domestic terrorism threat. But Trump has now publicly endorsed QAnon, saying its devotees love their country (and him).

Then there’s messing with mail service. One analyst said this could finally be Trump’s undoing. No, wait, seriously! Worse than shooting someone on Fifth Avenue. Because so many people depend on timely delivery of checks and medications, etc. Trump does everything for political advantage. Yet is too insane to know what actually helps or hurts.

But alas political insanity is nonpartisan. A survey of 510 Sanders delegates to the Democratic Convention found 33% “strongly disapprove” of the Biden-Harris ticket. A further 19% “somewhat disapprove.” Just 17% “somewhat approve,” and a mere 7% “strongly approve.” Fortunately those hard core Sanders fanatics are —as the primary voting showed — actually only a fringe minority among Democrats. The great mass of the party has its head firmly on straight, not up its ass.

American ideals cannot survive four more years of government by lunatics.

One country, two planets

August 21, 2020

For half a century I would watch Republican conventions and feel reminded of what my Republicanism meant.

This week’s Democratic convention reminded me of everything my Americanism means. And how Republicans endanger it. What a contrast with them was Biden’s superb, uplifting speech.

During President Obama’s searing evisceration of Trump’s unfitness, Trump was busily at work corroborating the indictment with a disgorgement of disgraceful deranged tweets.* All this made me wonder what next week’s Republican convention will be like. How can they defend this monster and his vile record?

They can. They have their story to tell. A false one, but it will be told very slickly, and with the fervent conviction of true believers. How Trump is making America great again after all the Democratic failure, how he stands up for the little guy, for law and order, stands up to China, strengthens our military and border to protect us, rebuilds our international standing. Doing a great job battling Covid-19. While Slow Joe and Phony Kamala and the corrupt Democrats, tools of socialist radicals, want open borders, a weak America, abolishing the police, want our cities destroyed. They hate America, hate God, will take away your guns, and kill babies. (Maybe eat them, as QAnon conspiracists — lauded by Trump — now literally assert.)

A total inversion of reality. The whole Trump project a tower of lies. The mind reels at their ability to convince themselves.

One commentator on PBS, Sarah Smarsh, said that such people can actually be “psychologically rational.” What they see as true is a matter of what information they’re exposed to. They are outside the ambit of genuine information.

Another commentator, Gary Abernathy, disagreed. He said Trump supporters get access to the full spectrum of news sources out there, and take it all in, but they just evaluate it differently from others, and reach differing conclusions.

Smarsh wasn’t buying it. She responded that a person’s outlook is powerfully shaped by how they’re raised and acculturated. Citing a telling example: herself. Brought up in a conservative milieu, and accepting all the intellectual software thusly installed into her brain. Until she left that environment and was exposed to a whole new universe of information, changing her perspective entirely.

Hers is not an unusual case. Look how so many people just run their culturally pre-installed religious software. Oblivious that if they’d been born into a different culture, their faith would be radically different. Christians believe Christianity is true, with one god. A billion Hindus believe Hinduism is true, with 33 million gods. They can’t both be right. But that gives neither side pause.

I often discuss confirmation bias — the proclivity to embrace information confirming pre-existing beliefs, while creating rationalizations to dismiss dissonant information. Smarter people are indeed more adept at this. Abernathy’s picture of Trump supporters scrolling through all sorts of news sources, as though with pristine objectivity, ignored the huge impact of confirmation bias, and pre-installed cultural software filtering the information they see. It’s not a search for truth, but for comfort.

Meantime they’re actually bombarded with a blitz of seeming “information,” much of it Foxian, manipulative or bogus. Sipping news from a firehose; many aren’t fastidious about what gets through. Often it’s a witch’s brew that fails to include some of the most basic facts about what’s actually going on in the world (let alone what they might mean). How many people have a grounding understanding of such realities. equipping them to sensibly evaluate the “news” they see?

This is how people can live in one country but on two different planets. But both are not equally “psychologically rational.”

*Michelle Obama’s speech, taped early, mentioned 150,000 covid deaths. Insane Trump mockingly tweeted that it’s actually 170,000!

100 years of women voting

August 18, 2020

Today is the 100th anniversary of the constitutional amendment giving women the vote. That came just eleven weeks before the 1920 presidential election. In that short time, election systems all across the country had to gear up for a doubling of the vote. To get half the electorate registered to vote, for the first time. All without computers, the internet, and other modern technology.

Was there chaos, and cries of fraud? No. Nothing of the kind. Everything went perfectly fine. America made this huge adjustment with our traditional can-do spirit. A lot of men still opposed women voting. But nobody tried to stop them.

This November we will vote amid a pandemic, and unprecedented use of mail ballots. With a president determined to create chaos, lie about fraud, and keep as many people as possible from voting.

Are we at least as good a country as we were in 1920?

November voting: the coming train wreck

August 14, 2020

Remember “hanging chads” and all that Florida turmoil in November 2000? (Into December, actually.) Now imagine such presidential election chaos not just in one state but all over the map. With Trumpism in the balance.

Most states are greatly expanding mail voting. so citizens can avoid the health risks of voting in person. It’s now expected three fourths of citizens will vote by mail. Or attempt to.

A few states have utilized universal mail balloting for years, practically without fraud or other problems. But most states are woefully unprepared, and for them this is a looming logistical nightmare. Many of their election bureaucracies are understaffed due to the pandemic. Mail voting is more complex than in-person balloting. Signature verification is a major headache, and a fertile ground for partisan fistfights in a contested count. Even in routine elections tons of mail ballots typically get thrown out for signature issues or other technicalities. And just getting so many paper ballots counted will be a huge job. In some recent New York primaries it took six weeks.

Meantime, covid will also make for a shortage of Election Day poll workers (often elderly). Thus fewer polling sites open, and longer lines. While, in many places, grappling with unfamiliar new technology.

Congress has allocated $400 million to help states prepare, but that’s a spit in the ocean. Experts say at least $2 billion is needed. That figure itself seems a pittance in light of trillions in covid emergency measures. Yet Republicans block even that piddling $2 billion. They actually want election chaos.

Because they think it will hurt Democrats more. Disproportionately affecting densely populated urban areas where their voters concentrate. We’ve long seen Republicans trying to game elections, using phony fraud concerns to make it hard for citizens (especially minorities) to vote.

And speaking of citizens, hundreds of thousands of legal immigrants have qualified, but the administration has shut down the final step of certifying citizenship, thus denying them the vote as well.

Then there’s the Postal Service. Understaffed too due to covid. And the political donor Trump appointed postmaster general has announced operational changes that will slow mail processing. Limiting overtime, eliminating hundreds of mail sorting machines, and more. Even before all this,  I can attest (based on my mail order business) that mail deliveries had already slowed markedly. What will happen with scores of millions of ballots all mailed within a short time? In 32 states, ballots, even if mailed before, don’t count if not received by Election Day.

Without confidence that mail votes will be properly delivered, many people will feel forced to vote in person. Some will get covid and die.

Trump has now made the stunning, shameless public admission that he’s trying to wreck the Postal Service, starving it of money, explicitly to screw up mail balloting.* While the Republican party had previously boasted it was budgeting $20 million to fight against mail voting.

A responsible, patriotic president, dedicated to America’s democratic values, would be hard at work to tackle all the mentioned problems so voting can go as smoothly as possible. Trump is doing the opposite: trying to intentionally sabotage the election, and create such a mess that he can try to throw out the results if (when) he loses.

And let’s not forget the well documented Russian interference in our last election (no, it was not a “hoax”). It’s proven they tried to hack into local voter registration and ballot counting systems. Surely they’ll try again, along with, probably, China and Iran.

They all want, if nothing else, for America to come out with egg on its face. Running rigged elections themselves, they want to destroy all confidence in the processes of democracy.* Trump is their handy tool.

Widespread mail voting and resulting counting delays, and Trump’s scorched earth war on the results, may make “election night” last weeks — a shattering climactic battle in America’s partisan all-but-civil-war. A prolonged night of goblins and ghouls and conspiracism running riot.

With that cruel vile monster, having plunged the nation, by his fecklessness, into this covid holocaust, now striving to exploit it, using it to strike a final blow on our democracy. It’s he who hates America. To vote for him is insane. 

But I pray it will be over quickly and decisively. Then we can wake from the nightmare and commence the giant task of making America great again.

*”Defund the Postal Service?” Of course, this screws up much more than just the election; an efficiently operating postal service is vital to our economy and society in a million ways. A president deliberately hobbling it is beyond insane. “Making America Great Again?” Or turning it into a “shithole country?”

**This has just happened in Puerto Rico’s primary, an election meltdown in which many citizens were prevented from voting.

Biden and Harris: 46 and 47

August 12, 2020

A year ago I predicted the ticket of Biden and Harris. I’m thrilled that Biden has done the right thing, as I expected.

When in March he pledged to pick a woman, I didn’t think he should so limit his choices. But perhaps he already knew it would be Harris.

I can’t recall when a VP pick was so obvious. Harris is a twofer: a woman, and of color. But really, and more importantly, a threefer: also a political heavyweight, experienced, tough, smart, articulate, with the chops to serve admirably as president. (Look at this January David Brooks column; he seemed in love with her.) With Harris there’s no question of demographic pandering; she stands above such identity politics.

Making her both the best and safest choice. Sure, some people will nitpick, saying she’s too this or not enough that. That’s inevitable. But Harris, given her obvious strengths, minimizes scope for such backbiting.

Her father was an immigrant from Jamaica; her mother, from India. Their offspring rising by merit to the top in America does honor to the country. This is the America I love.

My wife reminded me of the racist backlash against Obama’s presidency, and the misogyny that dogged Hillary. Harris does invite both. But Obama, remember, did get elected twice, while already black. And anyone who couldn’t abide Obama’s race and Hillary’s gender was never going to vote for Biden anyway. Time for America to grow out of those primitive prejudices.

Harris is indeed positioned to be president after Biden.* Think not? It’s telling that it’s by keeping minorities from voting that Republicans try to win elections. They’re in a death spiral. Brooks wrote today: “They just aren’t making enough old white men.”

Within hours of the Harris announcement I received (as a past Republican donor) an e-mail from Trump. It said, “Mike Pence and I look forward to debating, with our worthy opponents, the serious issues confronting our country.”

Of course it said nothing of the kind. Don’t be silly.

“Phony Kamala Harris,” it headlined. Seems that’s Trump’s chosen Harris put-down. But phony? How so? No explanation. Doesn’t matter. As if Trump himself isn’t one of the biggest frauds ever.

“Corrupt.” How? Doesn’t say. Doesn’t matter. As if Trump isn’t certifiably the most corrupt president ever.

“Nasty.” As if . . .

You get the picture. More such empty schoolyard catcalls were flung. “Radical.” “Terrible record.” “LOVE anarchy and HATE America.” “Weak on crime and want[s] to see our cities burn.”

Seriously? This former prosecutor who’s actually been criticized for being too tough? (It’s Trump who really does “want to see our cities burn,” as evidenced in Portland, so he can posture as the law-and-order guy.)

Trump’s message even shamelessly sneers that Harris “attacked Joe Biden’s racist policies.” Are you fucking kidding me? With racism the very core of Trump’s campaign?

That sick, sad e-mail exemplifies Trump’s utter degradation of our civic culture.

(Of course Biden has said negative things about Trump. The difference is that Democrats have no need to lie. The truth provides ample ammunition.)

And here’s the real kicker. If Kamala Harris is so horrible — why did Trump himself more than once contribute thousands to her past campaigns??!!

I am proud to support Biden and Harris. I’ve never felt stronger for any candidate.

** My title says 46 and 47; but I’d rather say 45 and 46, being a stickler who doesn’t think Cleveland counts twice.

Alex Jones, Trump, and the war on sanity

August 6, 2020

Hillary Clinton is a serial killer. Worst ever. Chops up children. Literally. So declared Alex Jones on his “Infowars” show.

Cuckooland? Surely. Yet not only does Jones have a huge devoted fan base believing his ravings, it includes the President of the United States. Who’s appeared on Jones’s show, lavishly praising him (saying “your reputation is amazing” and “I will not let you down”). Trump has even often publicly parroted Jones’s words.

PBS’s Frontline recently broadcast an hourlong look at Alex Jones. He quickly learned that the more outrageously insane his show became, the more viewers he got — and the more money, not just from ads, but from hawking merch like “survivalist” gear and quack medicines.

Hence his stoking Hillary haters with over-the-top demonization — again literal, calling her Satan’s handmaiden. Jones also spread the “pizzagate” whopper, that Hillary was running a child sex ring out of a pizza parlor’s basement. Frontline showed a pathetic fool who (like millions) believed Jones, and shot up the restaurant, after making a video about sacrificing his life to save those poor child victims. Of course he found none there. The victim was him (and the pizza joint).

Jones also pounded the 9/11 conspiracy theory that the attacks were actually perpetrated by the U.S. government as a pretext for martial law (or something). Never mind that there was no martial law. Some 9/11 loonies concoct what they say is evidence to support their delusion (it doesn’t), but Jones himself never needs any facade of evidence. Like his fan Trump he’ll say anything simply because he can.

Hardly was the Sandy Hook shooting over when Jones called that too a government fake job (preparatory for confiscating guns, which of course didn’t happen either). Jones launched a jihad of vilification against the grieving parents, accusing them of being actors. At least one was forced into hiding from the onslaught of Jonesian troll mobs. Again Jones offered no evidence for his wild charges. Instead telling his fans to do their own “research.”

Oklahoma City bombing? Fake too. Apollo 11 Moon Landing? Fake of course. While Bill Gates is attempting genocide, and the government is creating hurricanes to kill people.

When finally sued by a Sandy Hook parent, Jones testified in a deposition that his behavior was caused by a psychosis making him believe everything is fake. Quite an admission — or a smarmy cop-out to deflect from his culpability. And it didn’t stop him from subsequently continuing the sick shtick.

Oddly, one thing Jones says is not fake is in fact the biggest fraud ever: Trump. The pair comprise a mutual admiration society, Jones calling Trump the real deal. Because Trump validates Jones’s phantasmagoria. Presidential endorsement confers a huge cachet of legitimacy, vastly leveraging Jones’s malign influence.

How low has America sunk. This is not some harmless matter of mere theatrics. And it goes way beyond the harm suffered by Sandy Hook parents. This deranged flight from reality is destroying the country.

Think that’s hyperbole? Look around you — at all the hospitals overflowing with the dying, all the economic devastation, shuttered businesses, unemployed and traumatized people, children who can’t go to school. What has that to do with Alex Jones? Everything.

Because Jonesian craziness made enough Americans throw responsibility to the winds to vote for Trump. And that’s why our pandemic performance is the worst of any advanced nation. We completely blew it, getting both economic and health disasters, because to this day Trump, stewing in his cesspit of derangement, has been incapable of leading a serious national response.

Even with the electorate appalled by this, Trump can’t get his act together on it. Instead imagining he can win re-election with divisive racism that freaks out respectable Americans, and by ridiculously smearing longtime centrist Joe Biden as a tool of raging extremists. And by messing up voting.

While Alex Jones does his usual act crying “fake” about the virus, leading anti-mask protests. Yet saying that if the pandemic gets bad enough he’s prepared to kill, skin, and eat his neighbors.

Trump doesn’t merely ignore science and rationality, he wars against them. Knowledgeable voices about covid are shunned. But Doctor Stella Immanuel he’s recently called “very impressive” and “spectacular.” Retweeting multiple times a video in which she appears, still touting . . . wait for it . . . hydroxychloroquine. The zombie quack cure Trump refuses to let die despite every responsible scientist’s debunking. This Stella Immanuel has also said that “alien DNA” is currently used in medical treatments, that gynecological problems are caused by dream sex with demons and witches, that scientists are working on a vaccine to prevent religion. Oh, and the government is partly run not by humans but “reptilians” and other aliens.*

“Spectacular” quoth our president.

Awash in all this lunacy, it’s no surprise the administration has its head up its ass about the pandemic, and millions of Americans still reject masks and other precautions. Actually, that’s only perhaps 20% of our population. But a recent analysis reported in The Economist calculates that those 20% are responsible for almost all the spike in covid cases and deaths we’re seeing.

So that hard core of fools matters greatly. Our covid epidemic is a direct consequence of an epidemic of epistemic disease. Epistemology refers to how we know things. If someone can’t see Alex Jones is either a raving maniac or a cynically dishonest con man, that person suffers from epistemic blindness. Same for Trump. Any rational person (without even knowing his rotten history) can see just by watching Trump how vile he is, how he degrades America.

Is this reality blindness, this affinity for balderdash, something new? The American character may not really have changed; but in past eras an Alex Jones would have had no way to reach a mass audience. There were gatekeepers, who took their responsibilities seriously, and protected the public from such poison. Now there are no gatekeepers, no gates, it’s a media free-for-all. Jones’s pyrotechnic performances are more compelling to watch than Walter Cronkite ever was. And Jones actually makes viewers feel smart by telling them they’re getting the real hidden truth. A lot of suckers, even seemingly educated ones, lack a sufficient base of knowledge and understanding about the world to properly evaluate what they’re hearing, and to see that it flouts reality.

My viewing the Alex Jones documentary was juxtaposed against the John Lewis memorial coverage. Reminding me of how much good this contradictory country also harbors. Lewis too had to battle against evil and ignorance. The battle never ends. America thrills my soul and breaks my heart.

An election looms (assuming failure of Trump’s efforts to wreck it). Forget issues. Forget ideology. This election is about sanity. Can we make America sane again?

* This “reptilian” trope is the foundation for an entire edifice of meshugaas built by professional conspiracy hawker David Icke (who insists his name is pronounced “Ike,” not “Icky”). Alex Jones has also promoted “reptilian” rubbish.

Campaign briefing

August 1, 2020

Apparently Trump’s campaign has “gone dark” in Michigan (giving up on the state). Recall that unexpectedly eking out Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin gave Trump his electoral college win. He could actually lose Michigan and Pennsylvania and still win if he carries Wisconsin — an extremely narrow path to victory — assuming all else remains as in 2016. But that’s unlikely; notably Florida is now probably lost to Trump. That would be game over.

Of course he still has tricks up his sleeve. There will be some “October surprise” like a phony Ukraine indictment, amid a blizzard of other lies. With surely the Russians in the game. Hopefully a majority of voters will have the sense to see all that for what it is.

The main dirty trick to steal the election is voter suppression. Making it as hard as possible for citizens to vote, especially targeting pro-Democratic constituencies — the young, the elderly, and particularly blacks. With onerous ID requirements; voiding their registrations; closing polling sites, resulting in confusion and lengthy waits; et cetera. In 2016 e-mail blasts even tried to divert blacks into fake online voting. They’ll also try to persuade them their votes won’t matter, because it’s all rigged anyway. And Trump is (falsely) calling mail voting a big fraud, preparing to make this the basis for chaos and delegitimizing the results on and after election day.

Recall all the absurd Republican whines that Democrats were trying to undo the 2016 election — well Trump is already, in advance, trying to undo his 2020 election loss.

As part of this effort he has even suggested postponing the election. (Though not school reopenings!) That pesky constitution does not allow this. (We had a presidential election during the Civil War when eleven states could not vote at all.) And fortunately a president has no power in this sphere, elections being under state and local jurisdiction. Trump, under intense criticism, has backed off. Yet suppose, nevertheless, the night before, he announces he’s cancelling the election. Just saying it will sow massive chaos. Some Republican officials might even try to implement such an illegal directive.

All this multi-faceted  assault upon our elections, their fairness, and their legitimacy, is deeply unpatriotic. Putin, who really does run rigged elections, is cackling with glee, to say, “See? America is just as corrupt.” This is why he worked to get Trump in the White House.

I keep writing during this presidency, “it will get worse.” So it has, and will continue to do, heading to a climactic November gotterdammerung. We can only hope it will be a catharsis from which the nation can recover its stability and sanity.

Speaking of sanity, given his otherwise inexplicable covid shtick, one might imagine Trump actually wants to lose. But the explanation for his behavior is mental illness. And nothing but winning matters to him now. If you think he’s acted crazy before, losing will destroy him psychologically. May literally kill him — possibly by his own hand.