Monday, March 2, 2020

Why Sanders?




Many Democratic pundits seem flummoxed by Bernie Sander’s ascent.  It’s a source of existential apprehension.  The blue sky is falling, dissolving into a far-left madness that signals a rosy red election.  Part outraged, part querulous, the anti-Sanders faction insists that a unifying, moderate candidate is necessary, someone ‘safe’, like the Obama-associated Biden, to beat Donald Trump.

Whoa.  Hype overlord.  Sanders isn’t toting serious socialist bona fides.  NY Times columnist Paul Krugman points out that Bernie’s “democratic socialism” is basically the ideology of Norway’s social democrats.  Sanders isn’t nearly as far left as Trump leans right. 

Trump is an imminent threat.  He advances white nationalism while pushing for dictatorship.  But it would be a gross mischaracterization to even tacitly suggest, let alone normalize, a Trump vs. Sanders polarity.  

Sanders is not some horrible antipode, as if he and Trump were two endpoints of a line, one on which the only sane point is somewhere in the middle, between the two insanities.  The metaphor of a line with terminal ends is easy to adopt, especially given all the talk about a ‘middle’ or a ‘moderate’; and yet it is false framing at its deceptive finest.

If Sanders is after an “I am the State” takeover, he’s done a perfect job hiding it behind progressive, egalitarian, private-ownership-affirming policies.  Irrational fears notwithstanding, all industrial countries except the US have universal paid healthcare.  


The paranoia and hype are real.  And yet despite the fuel they supply for jet-engine takedowns, Sanders is still doing exceeding well in the delegate count and the popular vote. 

Why?

The answer is that the American people are infuriated.  Atrocious corruption has parasitized them for decades.

The best, most honest logo for a 2020 candidate would be the national wealth distribution curve.  The graph looks like a very thin boomerang, with one side much longer than the other, indicating the outrageous pinnacle of the richest sliver. 

It only takes a glance at this mutant boomerang to reveal the egregious graft, a monster of avarice that took a half century to bring into its current state of grotesquery.  Indeed, compare it to the wealth curve of 1960’s, when one blue collar income could buy a house, two cars, and a good, lifelong trajectory for an entire family.

Also obvious, to those not under their spell, are the longstanding tricks of the trade, the catchy ideas, used to advance and maintain the parasitism of the public.  These are sources of vast frustration. 

Four of these catchy ideas are as follows:  giving tax breaks to the rich is good; big government is bad; consumers should spend instead of save; and, lastly but most importantly, ‘our’ traditional society (read straight and white, with male leadership) is under attack.  


The last is the worst, enhancing the effectiveness of the rest.  It embodies many forms of oppression and xenophobia.  But let’s go through all four of these GOP tricks.

‘Giving money to the rich is good’ is just trickle down economics.  The idea is that tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy will, in fair proportion, benefit everyone in society.  

After five decades of this kleptocratic chestnut, we can easily and safely say, Nope.  Yes, profits are up. Yes, productivity is up.  And yet wages are stagnant.  Not only that, essentials like education and doctors are much more costly.  #TrickleFail


 ‘Government is bad' is a Ronald Reagan mantra.  The unstated implication is that if the needy get less help, there’s more room to cut taxes for the rich.  

Depression era virtues of thrift, humility, and charity were still fairly strong in the 1980’s, as were worries about unbridled greed.  Reagan successfully fought against this ethos.  He replaced it with conspicuous consumption.  The effective slogan became 'spending is good'.  

Americans were given credit cards and told to live it up.  Welcome to MasterCard.  Bank accounts were drained.  We went from a creditor nation to a debtor nation.  The fictional Gordon Gekko proclaimed “Greed is good,” and that became the actual practice of Wall Street.  


A friend to Wall Street, Reagan de-regulated the markets, allowing Gekko-esque gambling to run rampant.  One quick result was the destruction of the savings & loans industry.  It was the biggest bank collapse since the Depression, and a colossal scandal.  Tax payers had to pay for most of it, over $100 billion, as the fat cat culprits at the top, who ramped up the banks’ debt to play the stocks, were never caught.

Corporate raiding became the thing:  Hostile takeover, gut and destroy for short-term stock profits.

However, the Republican’s most powerful mind control idea, the trickiest of all tricks is ‘the loathing of the Other’:  traditional white communities are under attack.  This is the psychological cement that turns followers into sheep.

People allow themselves to be further duped if you've convinced them you are saving their 'purity' from ethnic annihilation.  Fear and loathing tend to turn off one's faculties of higher thinking, preventing such questions as, "Why are we giving our money to the rich, again?"


Amp up ignorance with faux nostalgia.  It's simple and effective hate-monger propaganda.  The wonderful world described in the fiery speeches by the racist politician never truly existed, but hey, so what.  

The classic example comes from 'he who should not be named', and yet, in our times, he must be named:

https://www.thoughtco.com/what-was-volksgemeinschaft-1221370

Even without the full development of a fascist Volk. racism works for the dark side.  Nixon’s Southern Strategy.  Reagan’s welfare queen, a black woman, in her golden Cadillac.  H.W. Bush and W. Bush both dived into racist demagoguery to win elections and appease the base. 

The content of the infamous Willie Horton add used by H.W. was grossly unfair and misleading.  But that came out too late for his opponent, Michael Dukakis.  Racism helped Bush win the election in a landslide:


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Io9KMSSEZ0Y

All these hate-filled sops thrown to a constituency-Cerberus.  Wag the dog of prejudice.  And win.  

Trump of course has now taken it in the only direction it could go:  much closer to outright white supremacy; much closer to a fascist white state. 

Fifty years of economic parasitism, prejudice, and spin.  Republicans led the sordid way, down into darkness.  But they were abetted by Democrats, whether corrupt, compromising, or apathetic.

Sanders has been a lone voice in the wilderness, speaking out on the wealth curve.  His jeremiads have been steady and forceful, in effect isolating him from both major parties.

He makes simple points, using honest math. He speaks to the lopsided boomerang.  He backs it all up with damning details, say, the per capita cost of healthcare in America compared to anywhere else.  He encapsulates powerful arguments with accessible sentences like, “All other countries have been able to do it, why can’t we?”

Fifty years of being cheated and swindled.  Many Americans, more than the mainstream media want to admit, view ‘moderate’ candidates as shifty, to say the least.  These candidates want to work within the current system.  For instance, they want to keep third-party insurance companies.  But that entails, in effect, a compromise with kleptocracy.  But what could that mean, except a way to continue the corruption?


When you look at the long history of economic parasitism and political casuistry in this country, a half century’s worth--a time frame that has seen a once-prosperous middle class brought to its knees--Bernie Sanders doesn’t seem like the one who is out of touch.

=======

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Does Truth Matter?




Every American should be staggered by Adam Schiff's closing argument in Donald Trump's impeachment trial.  In his momentous and immortal speech, he states with brimming emotion, "If the truth doesn't matter, we're lost."  This is an almost unreckonable sentence.  Here is the chief House Impeachment Manager, standing before the Senate to make a cataclysmic claim.  The podium is physically small and yet the stance invites global judgement. 

Schiff is certain that his side's case is beyond reasonable doubt.  The president withheld crucial aid to pressure Ukraine.  Why?  Because he wanted our NATO ally to announce an investigation of Joe Biden, a political rival.  To smear him.  Trump, in other words, employed his vast executive power to monkey wrench the cogs of our sacrosanct electoral process.

Sadly, Schiff is correct.  Not only in rhetoric, but in substance.   The implication is beyond dire.  If Trump eludes congressional oversight, he escapes our failsafe of checks and balances.  He achieves the mantle of dictator, one who also happens to be the most powerful man in the world.

It's easy to balk at such an enormous conclusion.  Politicians will be politicians.  And yet this impeachment trial, only the third in the history of the United States, is extraordinary even among its peers.  Bill Clinton, the last president impeached, committed a sex act.  Andrew Johnson, right after the Civil War, fought to re-establish slavery despite the law.  But Trump is the first to seek out foreign aid to subvert the Constitution, something he swore an oath to protect.   

Even a casual look at Trump's behavior shows something frightening:  a rejection of the obvious for the fruits of the devious.  If Trump had wanted a serious investigation of Biden, why not ask the CIA, instead of Ukraine?  One might further inquire why the Republicans, who controlled Congress for the first two years of Trump's presidency, showed nary a spark of interest in Biden during that time.

When confronted with the above point, both the president and the GOP sidestep without agility. Indeed, clumsy is inevitable when you ignore every known fact to firebreathe conspiratorial claims--claims that mesh with Russian propaganda--and that lack even a scintilla of merit. 

For instance, US intelligence services have repeated stated that Russia interfered in the 2016 elections.  But both Trump and the GOP continue to weave webs around Ukraine.

Even more damning is what could be called "The Coincidence Con."  According to Trump's defenders, it is mere coincidence that Biden was the person singled out by our president for investigation.  The timing, they adamantly protest, is just a fluke of chance.  Trump's goal was merely to investigate corruption.  It had nothing to do with getting votes.  Nothing at all.

Adding another layer of absurdity to this response, Trump does not express any interest in corruption in the transcript where he talks to the Ukrainian president.  The word doesn't appear at all.  Trump does, however, ask for a "favor" and then goes on to push for an investigation of Biden.

The above are just specks of frost on the tip of a deep iceberg.  Throughout the procedures of the hearing and the trial, Trump's defenders have flouted logic and eschewed dignity to ballyhoo the specious and the fallacious   Some Senate Republicans have outrightly revealed that they have no inclination to be impartial. 

We know that, under established dictatorships, minions knuckle under at the threat of jail or worse.  Whatever the king or queen decrees.  Off with their heads.  But what to say about the Republican party in this cancerous moment for our country?  Why do they follow Trump when all reasonable roads lead to condemnation? 

However mysterious the failure of the GOP, while we flounder as a bastion of freedom, it shall go down in world history as a singular failure.  It presents us with a most awful scourge, a tragedy that tips a telecommunicated planet toward darkness, an indelible  exemplar of the most despicable in human beings.  

==

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Political Abuse



Political abuse involves a tyrannous leader.  It has a lot in common with domestic abuse.  In both contexts, those on the outside, disengaged from the inflictor-victim dynamic, don't understand what's really going on. 

The first reaction is to express outrage and exasperation for the abuse, and to state the obvious.  It doesn't help.  Such reactions stem from a righteous ignorance that crystallizes in questions like, "Why don't you just leave?" or "Why can't you see what's really going on?"
 
Ending abuse isn't like showing someone how to solve a math problem.  Abusive relationships solidify over time and are highly resistant.  They involve a calculative mind control, one that is both strategic and tactical.  It is a common misconception that the inflictor 'just has an anger problem' or some other pity-worthy condition. 

Although mental disorders may well be present in an abuser, what's going on is something else entirely:  an observant manipulation that proceeds in careful stages.  A house of abuse is built with an insidious and devious carpentry.  When looked at in full light, it is unrepentant, malign and premeditated.  

If you ask counselors at any domestic violence agency, they will tell you eye-opening stories.   An abuser can spin on a dime from ranting and raving to looking calm and polite the next.  Many of them will relentlessly blame others, especially the victims, and never accept blame themselves.  If mandated for anger management, they use that opportunity to share and improve their techniques with other perpetrators.

The analogy in politics is a spin artist who lusts for total power without conscience.  Such a leader first seeks to ensure the faith and trust of their followers, then uses that to isolate them further from the facts.  This goes on an on, a conspiratorial wooing, until a kind of singularity event:  the constituency reaches a place where they will sacrifice their dignity, freedom, health and money rather than question.  They have at this point bought into a loyalty test, one that requires them to see falsely in order to retain their leader's approval. 

All abusers latch onto insecurity and weakness.  If a victim has a fear of being alone, the abuser strives to become the sole source of comfort and understanding.  If the victim has a distrust of others, the abuser does everything they can to expand that fear. 

Intimidation and threats are common.  This means 'flexing the muscles.'  At the political level, this could involve tariffs, building walls, military action, or selective disaster aid.  It includes vicious verbal attacks against those outside the flock--the enemy--or those who stray.

The goal is authoritarian:  "I alone have the power.  I can send my support elsewhere, should I deem you unworthy.  I can cast you out completely." 

An essential element is flipping.  Always blame others even when you are clearly at fault.  Always claim others are hateful or prejudice, even when, by that very proclamation, you are the one spreading prejudice and hate.

In domestic violence, flipping means that the victims end up blaming themselves for being abused.  In politic abuse, it means that the people or institutions (like the media) who criticize the leader are denounced as enemies of the state.

What could be called a strategic instability keeps victims on edge and alert to the abuser.  Such behavior, such as an unexpected act of violence, can look erratic or spontaneous.  Maybe it is. But it also meshes with a larger strategy, creating useful crisis, mudding the calm waters of objectivty, and in effect reminding followers of the need for continuous servitude.

No examples of an abuser leader have been given in this article.  This is intentional, to make a further point.  There is indeed an abuser in our country right now at the highest level.  However, Democrats and Republicans will disagree on who that is.  This reinforces how deeply we are stuck in a morass of human frailty.  And though one party is right, neither of them grasps the depth of the problem.



==========

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Almost Shut Down


I seem drawn to painful truths, and have been so throughout my life.  The repetition, to an extent, inoculates me from matters that others habitually flee.  I often claim, maybe with some hidden pride, that I am tired or even exhausted.  Perhaps it is ironic to take pride in the analysis of tragedy.  But it is a necessary pursuit.  Otherwise injustice reigns unchallenged.  Yes, there can be joy in facing injustice--in wielding a sword of reason and light.  But of course, as everyone knows, the study of human darkness can be depressing and lonely.

This year my tiredness, my exhaustion, almost shut me down.  Donald Trump threatens to become a dictator.  If he does, America falls.  And if America falls, the world falls.  It would be the defeat of the epoch of democracy.  In its place, we would install a type of governance that already has a strong grip:  the rulership of populist fascists.  Putin in Russian.  Erdogan in Tukey.  Modi in India.  Xi in China.  Kim in North Korea.  Duterte in the Philippines, Trump in the United States.  And so on.

Here are some of the implications if fascism becomes world dominant. 

First, efforts to combat global warming will become even weaker than they are now, almost insuring a maximized environmental catastrophe.  Extinction.  Resource depletion.  Climate and geological havoc, leading to mass human migration, fear and panic.  Given the dissipation of human rights, the result will be massacre and genocide.  The wealth gap, already obscene, will stretch into a full-blown neo-feudalism.  Nobles behind walls, a servant professional and artisan class, and teaming masses of the poor.

Racism and sexism, along with other forms of traditional, cultural oppression, will become far worse.  In the USA, what we are looking at is this:  a white nationalist heteronormative patriarchy, with an emphasis on evangelical jingoism.  

Police functions employing advanced AI and robots will allow (a) quick enforcement, (b)  instantaneous identification, (c) ubiquitous surveillance, and (d) privacy-erasing 'citizen scores'.  Standardized 're-education' practices will insure not only conformity but also loyalty.  With police and army functions robotized, the chance of a successful revolution by a 're-educated' people will be minimal.

Furthermore, given a geopolitics of totalitarian dynasties, centered on charismatic tyrants, the genesis of World War Three seems inevitable.   Narcissists with god-complexes cannot back down.  Sooner or later they violently clash.

It might seem far too much to attach all the above to the success of Donald Trump.  But if you look at the high-tech facial recognition platform in China, and also the capacity for complete subservience evinced in North Korea, it becomes more plausible.  Take into account humanity's current willingness to continue to rape the planet Earth (a recent WaPo article says the Amazon rainforest is at a tipping point (1)), and also our eagerness to fall into line behind dictators, adopting their views with fanatic glory, and it becomes more plausible still.

The USA has the mightiest military in world, and the largest economy.  Once it goes dark, there will be enough tenebrosity to snuff out the rest of the light.  No one will be left to check tyranny.

As an ethicist, I've argued that people can be good, that we can eliminate war, that we can defeat oppression.  There are plenty of examples of people changing, culture shifting, and human rights rising up.  Women getting the vote was a big deal.  So was, before that, the idea that people should get to vote.

Looking at the world now, however, I see that human psychology is even more labyrinthian than I feared.  How could so many Americans embrace Trump and his hate, worship him, in fact, Christian people even, at the expense of their country, their dignity, the environment, and world stability?

It's much easier to understand why third-world minions, under mortal duress, obey a dictator than it is to fathom why the Republicans in the Senate of the United States are throwing away our country's two-hundred year old project of rationalism and freedom.   

As for me, I've had a good life.  I was born in a lucky place and time where the middle class was able to enjoy freedom of speech to a large degree, and where the women's movement and the civil rights movement were making progress.  I lived on a planet that was not yet showing obvious massive strain from vast climate change, a change taking place far faster than any other before it in the 4 billion year history of life on Earth (2).

Whatever happens to me next, I at least had these things, and others, that were very special.  I had tragedies and terrible hurdles to overcome, and I'll have more, no doubt.  I've been desperate and on the edge many times.  Maybe I'll go down pathetically.  But on the whole, I've had the chance to get an education, to improve my psychological health, and spend time on creative, philosophical and artistic projects that relied on freedom of thought.  I've enjoyed much time hiking and meditating out in 'nature'. 

For some reason, though, like billions of other people, I am not entirely selfish (Imagine that!).  I am still tremendously saddened by the possibility that democracy is going to die, that our planet is going to be wrecked, and that nuclear war will probably come.  And yes, that Donald Trump is ascendant. 

The problem, in the end, is that, while billions of people feel saddened and worry for the future, billions of others, those who praise and prop tyrants, do not seem to care, not in their public actions or beliefs.  Perhaps they have no choice, either because they were born with no choice, as in North Korea, or they gave up their ability to choose, somewhere along the way, as the people of the United States are in the process of doing now.

(1)  https://www.washingtonpost.com/climate-environment/top-scientists-warn-of-an-amazon-tipping-point/2019/12/20/9c9be954-233e-11ea-bed5-880264cc91a9_story.html

(2) https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/2019/12/06/ghosts-future/      



===

Monday, December 2, 2019

Poem: Drifts

Dust swept off the surface.  A poem's flirt with obscurity stalled.  For a while.

==


Drifts

clouds drift in leonine fever,
laced with ennui and tinsel,
doomed to stalk the hauteur of a perfect plane.

their scavenge seems hopeless,
as dismantled as the motives of pterodactyls,
or glassy, strewn toadfish
with swirling gills and fluid ribs.

the drifts, they are road signs
scattered in a lust-drained aftermath,
only hints of lurid pagan beasts.
over-hammered remnants.

but the fire grips them just before night,
renewing their bedlam,
until they sink once again,
no longer ebullient,

anchored to a guttering horizon.


=======

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Poem: Written

I have poems lying around, buried and crumpled under books, squashed in miscellanea, etc.  Here's one

======



Written

it was written.
the holes between the letters formed small eyes.
looked up.

all that code coursing the Earth.
parades of happysad tomorrows.
joyous, brutal, shamed or mindless,
often ignored
yet always fresh.

the phrases would make their own revisions,
rescript the plot,
fruit the novel's weight.

it was never intended to finish,
or specify a start.

now created,
the twined characters wrote the writer back,
pulled that afflatus
into their expanding personas.

offshoots, once fiction,
launched on their unprecedented trips.

no one could take credit.
the garden was embodied before this all began.
its thorns pricked the pace.

those first flowers
had wanted to capitalize Love,
and had reached for the pen, in those final moments,
before the nuances in the blood
nestled into a glisten of skins
to breathe.




========

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

We Can't Just Let The Next Election Decide


==

The evidence is clear that Donald Trump extorted a foreign government, not for any old sort of personal gain, such as vulgar lucre, but instead with a turpitude that cracks a cornerstone of our essential way of life:  the electoral system.

Alarmingly, GOP leaders have produced an absurd and grotesque defense, remonstrating with crude tactics that struggle to even qualify as guile.  From behind a slapdash barricade of featherweight theories and evasive accusations, they toss out a dismissive claim:  that whatever Trump did, or didn't do, it wasn't so bad.  Let the voters decide.

Given the temptations of power and the frailties of the human psyche, some might tend to forgive such flip-the-script mendacity from the GOP, disheartening and benighted though it is. 

And yet we should not accept such a facile excuse for their behavior, nor does it dilute their timeless condemnation.

Humor me.  Assume, even if you balk, that the president did the deed.  Granted, this could be difficult, even though it is evident.  The implications are beyond tremendous.  Let's see why it would be utterly nation-changing.

If you dare the assumption of extortion--that is, if you go with the body of evidence--then the fig leaf for the Republicans, their 'shady politics as normal' claim, gives way to a bottomless trench. 

First of all, if Trump can seek dirt on a rival candidate using foreign muscle--and get away with calling it "perfect," which he did--what 's to stop him from doing it again and again, until multiple countries or international agencies pour their efforts into a psy ops crusade on his behalf?

Realize that the kind of shock smear roused by such grift has already been dreadfully effective.  Birtherism, Pizzagate, West Coast voter fraud, these and others have found much serious traction to energize blinkered outrage. 

Right now, the Republicans are peddling what could be called Crowdstrike mania, which pins 2016 election interference on Ukraine.  US intelligence agencies have assiduously established the culprit as Russia. 

A terrible revelation emerges:  If the US intelligence community is powerless to blunt Trump's big lies, who can?  If the failsafes in the Constitution cannot prevent the president from turning other countries into his personal Monopoly cards, what will?

The next link in the above chain of reasoning merits a full precautious seriousness.  Namely, if left unchecked, Trump will likely win the 2020 election.  Not through democratic struggle, not through legitimate debate, but rather because he has already succeeded in becoming the tyrannous king that our Founders feared.

The proposition, then, that we should 'let the election decide' cannot be accepted.  We should not hang the fateful choice between two inimical types of governance--crown jewels versus common vote--on a process overlorded by an impervious president, who with invisible conscience suborns foreign meddling. 

Meddling, actually, is a euphemism.  Psy ops, originating in foreign lands and hence beyond the reach of our laws, will seed the populace with slanderous fear, hate, and disgust.  It is a design intended to prejudice the vote, yes, and yet also to cripple and rupture whatever remains of our national comity.

Our very country, in other words, totters on the brink.  That's why Republicans cannot be forgiven for their shameless anti-truthism.  There are cliffs, even in the twisted odysseys of politics, that, once crossed, plunge a people into a depths from which their 'city on a hill' can never be regained.

Understandably our sensibilities shy from such painful matters.  And yet when you accept the obvious, the extortion, and draw reasonable conclusions, the abstract picture, ominous enough at a distance, takes form and flesh.

It's certainly true that Trump might not win.  Even copious underhanded support, which Senate Republicans are poised to allow, might not be determinative. 

But the magnitude of the gamble urges us--urges us-- not to stake our democracy on the roll of such weighted dice.  The words "Let the Election Decide" are happy morsels for a hungry narcissist, one ready to sully the mightiest office in the world to win at all costs, and thereby ensure his mass and continuous praise.





============


Thursday, November 14, 2019

The L'Etat C'est Moi Defense



The impeachment hearings mark a titanic event in our nation's history.  Can a sitting president coerce a foreign government to publicly investigate a political rival for personal benefit?  The implications are unimaginable for those of us raised on the sacrosanct principle of free elections, that is, the integrity of the United States.

The GOP has said that no such attempt took place. But testimony given behind closed doors undercuts that claim.  The testimony came from non-political career officials, many of whom possess outstanding, bipartisan reputations.   Their statements reveal a shadow operation that circumvented official channels.  The players in this secretive process include Rudy Giuliani, president Trump's fixer-lawyer, the apparent replacement of his previous one, who is now incarcerated for illegal campaign hush payments. 

The public hearings, if at all like the closed-door sessions, will be dramatic.  They will overwhelming show a calculated extortion of Ukraine, one that involved withholding vital military aid--aid already approved by Congress--even while Ukranian citizens were dying in an ongoing war with Russia.

Republicans claim the military aid wasn't withheld in the end.  No harm, no foul.  First of all, there was harm:  the death of Ukrainian citizens while the aid was delayed.  Second, aid was only released because of the now famous whistleblower, still tenuously anonymous, who followed the letter of the law and who, in consequence, has been maligned virulently and incessantly.

Republicans have shuffled through a bunch of defenses for Trump, a confused parade of prevarications.  The president merely wanted to root out corruption.  He had no bad intent.  The situation is unethical, perhaps, but not impeachable. 

All these, however, have been countermanded by Trump's own tweets.  His vociferous defense is that his behavior was "perfect."  He demands that congressional Republicans, who have already exhibited extraordinary toadyism and spinelessness, fall into line.

Trump has always claimed, without evidence, that his actions are the biggest, the bravest, the boldest, the best.  Only he can save the country.  Only he is always right.  Among many notable narcissists, both pompous and grandiose, perhaps the most comparable is Louis XIV.  L'etat c'est moi.  I am the state.

Mir a lago becomes Versailles.  Monarchic intrigue becomes the golden T of Trumpian Truth, which stands for "alternate facts" that call out for absolute devotion and faith.

And so we reach a dangerous, pivotal moment in the 243-year-old lifespan of our nation.  If a president can subvert our elections by inducing foreign nationals, even an entire government, to become a propaganda arm for his purposes, and get away with calling it "perfect," what remains of our freedom?  What is left of our values to cherish?

What is to stop such a president from targeting any citizen of the United States, via foreign agents, for harassment or worse?

This is a unique time.  It tests the mettle of every citizen, and the decency of our United States.  Will we accept the imposition of a national loyalty test, one that requires us to ardently believe the claims of one man, even if those claims are lies?  One that requires us to subject ourselves with devotion, however capricious and wicked the dictates? 

Or will we defend the Constitution and the Declaration, which have always been mighty, stalwart trees; and yet, as the Founders warned, quite vulnerable unless watered with bravery and vigilance.


=====

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

The Sky Is Red



The sky is red, even though we see blue.  That in effect is what Republican defenders of Trump are claiming.  They see no wrong in a president who solicits a foreign country to investigate Joe Biden, an opponent far ahead in the polls.   If this isn't election interference, nothing is.  The transcript of the phone call is clear.  Trump asks for a "favor" and urges investigation of Biden.  The Ukrainian president does his best to flatter.  Trump held up military aid a week before, and Ukraine is at war, 13000 citizens dead, and Crimea already taken by the Russians. 

There's no evidence of Biden corruption, but even if there were, that's not the point.  The Republicans are gaslighting on a national scale.  Using their power, not only to deny reality, but also to confer carte blanche on a president eager to gain foreign influence in 2020.  If they succeed, it means Trump is much more likely to win.  If he seizes another term, abetted by the dreadful ability to commit high crimes and call them "perfect," the deterioration of our already wobbly democracy will be complete. 

Those with open eyes are rightly shocked that Republicans somehow 'just can't see' the blue; that they claim, with blinkered will and fulminous bluster, that the sky is in fact red.  In the ranks of Trump's avid claques, his leveraging of a foreign leader to find dirt on Biden makes him a hero.  He is a champion against the "deep state," a fictitious entity as absurd and yet menacing as Pizzagate, a conspiracy theory turned violent that grew out of a crazy reading of Hillary Clinton's emails.

 The danger of a 'sky is red' psy op is great. The perversion of justice vast.  The result unspeakable.  It is a Constitution-trampling threat, in effect the engine of a coup, that shreds the separation of powers by elevating a glorified Trump to an impervious, monarchic status.

The GOP blindness is a manifestation of force and deceit.   It is akin to the tactics used by other gaslighters to sculpt a powerful form of mind control.  In a household, this means fawning servitude, and absolute belief in the domestic abuser's irreality.  These traits, servitude and belief, constitute a kind of implicit loyalty test.  On a national scale, this loyalty test also means striving with devotion to spread the propaganda, however Orwellian, of the charismatic authoritarian leader.

Recognize that the word "transactional," often used to describe Trump and his worldview, is a pretermitting term for gaslighting.  We associate transactions with legitimate business deals, but Trump's 'transactions' are ridden with force and fraud.   Euphemizing this malignant narcissist initiates a process of scary normalization, one that brings out an important point: What is unsaid is often far more important than what is said, when it comes to systematic oppression.

Those woke in the fight against racism know all about the silences and deceits of privilege--how white patriarchy inflicts its own loyalty tests and irrealities.  In asking why GOP leaders, and Trump's base, give him such praise, we cannot ignore that we live in a moment where longstanding mechanisms of racism are facing a serious, perhaps unique, challenge, due in part to changing demographics.  Equality is on the move.

When you realize that Trump's gaslighting is a way to reinforce traditional, racist gaslighting, a fuller picture emerges.  A fight against Trump is a fight against racism itself.  It is a fight against a powerful dark force that often controls from the shadows of minds, and orchestrates social conduct through the psychological template of the tyrant and the abuser.

=============

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

The End Of Ethics




Whether or not it turns out that Trump resorted to bribery, in the form of US aid, to pressure the Ukrainians to investigate Joe Biden's son, it is yet another example of an impeachable offense. The Mueller report's evidence of obstruction of justice.  Violation of the Emoluments Clause through money paid by foreign officials to Trump's hotel chain.  Hush money, breaking campaign finance law, given to a porn star by a fixer, something our president at first denied knowledge of, but then admitted.  The list could be expanded.  And yet neither the Democrats nor the Republicans stand up.  Neither will do what's right, even when faced with an urgent threat to the very nature of our country and its dignity. 

The Constitution  provides checks and balances for dealing with a perilous president.  None of those have been employed.  Oaths to protect the Constitution have not been honored.  The implication is that there is no faith in the nation's core values among our congressional leaders.  Our most cherished principles are seen, at best, as feeble tools, and at worst as loadstones. 

Implicit in the dismissal of standards like equality, truth and justice is another force just as chilling:  a denigration of the American people themselves.  There's no confidence among our leaders that confronting  a would-be tyrant will result in effective public support.  Instead of trying to lead, instead of trying to change minds and hearts, the politicians cower.  Instead of being ethical, instead of asserting the spirit of freedom that made America a marvelous, maverick nation, a daring champion of a higher state--rationalism above monarchy--our leaders acquiesce while a would-be monarch grows more emboldened and reckless.

Our leaders now endorse, de facto, the corrupt tactics that flow from Trump like an incessant stream of noxious sludge.  Demagoguery.  Duplicity.  Division.  Our president has brought everyone down into the muck of darkest cynicism.  His provocations keep pulling us deeper, toward a place where we cannot recover our torch of freedom and light.  It's an abyss without virtue, where the norm is to get away with whatever you can, to sow chaos, spread ignorance, and revel in double standards in a quest for plaudits, power and spotlights.

The Republicans, who once called Trump out, have utterly fallen at his feet in lickspittle subservience.  They have joined his quest to create a fiction-fueled hierarchy, one based on loyalty, not truth.  Part of this loyalty requires an aggressive, passionate defense of Trump, regardless of his behavior.  It was a soul-crushing moment when the GOP capitulated.  It will go down in US history as one of the worst.  We don't know exactly why they did it.  A cynic would say to gain their own little perch in the kleptocratic pyramid.

The Democrats are the best hope to inject decency back into politics.  And yet they evince exceptional spinelessness.  Stymied by the quotidian numbness of an obdurate Nancy Pelosi, they do nothing.  And as long as they do nothing, they kneel before Trump's view of human nature:  that to act for a higher cause, to seek the good, is to be foolish and weak, even in defense of one of humanity's greatest achievements:  the conception, enactment and evolution of human rights.

While our leaders cower in pathetic fear, or hop on the bandwagon of white nationalism, Trump wheedles help from foreign governments to influence our next election.  He usurps the congressional power of the purse to build his wall.  At this point, the politicians on both sides are fully repugnant.  They need to lead, to wake up the spirit of freedom in the populace, not fret about statistics and polls.  Otherwise, they surrender to a heavy premise, one that takes America back to a time before 1776:  the idea that humanity simply wasn't meant to be free, honest, or ethical.

===================