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.




Monday, December 2, 2019

Poem: Drifts

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



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

their scavenge 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



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

so much code coursing the Earth.
parades of happysad tomorrows.
joyous, brutal, shamed or mindless.
pensive or indignant.  
prayerful, cursing, obsequious.

all of it ignored, often,
and yet always read.

the phrases, 
they tended to make their own revisions,
rescript the plot,
fruit the novel's weight.

the intent, actually, had never been to finish. 
or specify a start.

emboldened ,
the twined characters wrote the writer ,
pulled that first afflatus
into their own expanding personas.

offshoots, once fiction,
launched on their own unprecedented trips.

no one could really take credit, though.
the garden existed before the growth.
its thorns had pricked the pace.

those first flowers,
they wanted to capitalize Love,
and stole the pen, in those most critical moments,
before the nuances in the ink
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 import foreign influence in the 2020 election.  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.


Sunday, September 1, 2019

Fascism Rises

In this age of the recrudescence of fascism, there is just one lesson to learn:  that the human race cannot afford it.  Charismatic leaders who summon visions of halcyon times to manipulate a targeted slice of the population are not only narcissists; they are required to be beyond reproach or shame.  That is how the dynamic works.  The chosen people go all-in on a messianic savior.  Leader and follower spin each other in a centrifuge of mind-narrowing ideology.

A faith-propped fascist is not concerned for future generations or even reality.  The goal isn't a strong country on the world stage.  It is self-aggrandizement.  Success in this goal insures dysfunction.   Instead of facing the titanic magnitude of the Amazon burning, the leader of Brazil blames liberals and demands apologies.  Donald Trump pulls the USA out of the Paris Accord, ignoring scientific consensus on global warming.

It has been said that in the nuclear age, war itself is the true enemy.  And yet Modi, envisioning India as a nationalistic Hindu country, eliminates the Kashmir's special status with police state tactics, shutting off internet and other media, while cordoning the area block by block.  This enrages Pakistan.  Both India and Pakistan have nuclear weapons and a history of modern, violent conflicts.  The repression in Kashmir is a reckless gambit in which no doubt there is some significant probability of sparking nuclear war.  Maybe it is even something like 1% or 10% or more.  We don't know.  No one does.

As worshipped fascists multiply, feeding off of fear and spreading us-vs-them extremism, the possibility of nuclear armageddon grows.  Two fanatic governments, neither able to back down, rattling sabers at each other, except now the sabers are ICBMs.

We can't do this.  For both military and environmental reasons, we can't abide fascist demagogues, The dynamic of a god-like leader with unthinking followers is inevitably cataclysmic.  The technologies we control now, and the eco-habits we develop, coupled with a population of 7.7 billion and growing, are self-destructive without farsighted wisdom.  They are too capable of inflicting a scale of tragedy never before seen in the history of civilization.  Martin Luther King, Jr. was right when he said we "are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny."

The only things that can save us are the advancement of reason and ethics.  Both are completely compatible with spirituality and emotion.  Indeed, they require them.  The more politics drifts away from the real and virtuous--the more it becomes about acquiring power for the in-group at the expense of the 'enemy'--the more evil it becomes.  Hate-mongering, race-baiting, misogyny, military repression, Orwellian mind games, and the cynicism of parasitic, plutocratic greed--all these and more result when ethics is abandoned for the national manifestation of egotism , which is fascism.

All countries have flaws and can learn from others.  What diversity teaches us is that people are amazingly malleable.  A great deal depends on how they are taught.  Think of this:  No human being born yet, not a single one, has ever been raised in a truly good society.  How would we turn out if we were?  We've made progress.  Incredible progress that many in the past called impossible.  Wouldn't it be wonderful if we gave future generations a chance to get closer and closer to the ideal?


Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Trump (and the GOP's) Long Term Strategy

Trump's recent psychological warfare salvo reveals not only a short term method to win in 2020, but also the perilous face of his long game.  He chose four minority congresswomen as effigies and tweeted for them to go home, that is, leave the country, even though three of them were born in America and one, Ilhan Omar, is a naturalized citizen.  It is worth noting the prodigious mendacity and calumny of his flimsy attempts at evidence, adjoined to claims that the congresswomen hated America.  Fact Checker, for instance, gave four Pinocchios to Trump's claim that Omar supported Al Qaeda.

Also noteworthy is the irony of language like "infested" from a man whose soul is ugly with voracious egotism and repugnant not only from an absence of conscience, but also a prevalence of depravity.  At his first rally after the 'go back' tweets, a pumped-up crowd chanted "Send Her Back!" referring to Omar.  Trump let this chant go on for 13 seconds without interruption, even though he claimed the next day to have resumed his speech quickly.

Mainstream pundits condemned this bald-faced manifestation of racism. They vilified the blatant use of well-known racist tropes, and underscored that dog whistles are out and fog horns are in.  But to some degree, at least, the media didn't convey the full threat. 

Take Morning Joe.  The parsing there was correct but limited.  The Republican Party, so the analysis went, shamelessly accepts Trump's moves to solidify the base.  However, in so doing they wed themselves to white jingoism, and lock themselves out of expanding demographic blocks. 

The conclusion of this 'death by math' argument, though, relies on a key premise:  that the US remains a democracy.  A POTUS-crowd chanting racist hate is a watershed, and it's past time to consider a danger we've too long kept at arm's length.  Namely, when fascist authoritarians have to, they aspire to win elections, but their ultimate goal is to make elections irrelevant. 

The counterargument is that Trump's base is too small to make him a President Putin.  But if you look at history, and the rise of dictators in republics, at some point they no longer rely on the vicissitudes of votes.  They seize power, usurping the right of the majority. 

It's worth point out that any seismic event of national significance, such as full scale war with Iran, could incite a bellicose stampede of fear that drives the citizenry right into Trump's hands.  Does anyone really think that someone who '"fell in love" with Kim Jong un--a totalitarian who demands worship of his statues--will shy away from conflict with Iran if it becomes his best route to power?

Trump's know-nothing mega-claque isn't going to pull back from the edge.  There won't be some magic moment when they see they are trading liberty for a protection racket.  Ignorance can take hold even in the smartest people, who then work to spread and defend it.  So ensconced, it gains immunity to the strongest logic, or even 'right before your eyes' evidence.  

The Republican Party is hardly worth mentioning as a safeguard for our democracy.  They have become Trump's puppets.  As for Trump himself, apologists have been arguing for years that he isn't as bad as he seems, or that others can control his 'impulses'.  There is a persistent idea that he is rash, stupid and incapable, even though he is perhaps the most successful con man in modern history.  At the very least, he has a genius for knowing how to exacerbate and exploit fear.  And he knows how to conjure efficacious chaos.  And yet commentators still continue to label him as inept, perhaps because their standard is a strong USA on the global stage, whereas Trump's goal is a crippled USA under his thrall. 

The idea that Trump's ineptitude could be a smokescreen for fascist ambitions hardly gets any airtime at all. He ambushed everyone in 2015, coming down a golden elevator after months of original, insightful calculation.  He became the most powerful man in the world.  Liberty requires perspicacious vigilance.  And yet we seem more than ready to be blindsided by Trump again.  What is our excuse at this point, after "Send Her Back"? 

In terms of actions, there is a straightforward one.  The Democrats could impeach Trump and thereby greatly alter public opinion.   Their willful violation of an oath to protect the Constitution bears the greatest part of the cataract in our collective blind eye.


Monday, June 24, 2019

Impeach Or War

House Democrats have a very limited amount of time to impeach Donald Trump before he gains an almost impervious protection:  an aegis of saber-rattling, news-dominating vitriol aimed at Iran, possibly followed very quickly by full-scale war.

There are many reasons why brink-of-war tension and war itself benefit the self-centered Trump, at least from his own blinkered vantage.  They relegate the Mueller report and other investigations of his conduct to the spectatorial shadows.  This is especially pertinent as the 2020 election looms, when negative press could unfavorably impinge on the minds of vulnerable voters in swing states. Trump wallows in the limelight, but better than playing defense are large-font headlines, just below the masthead, that showcase boldness and aggression.

It is well worth emphasizing that demagogues feed off of fear, hate and associated jingoism.  As has been shown in crisis theory, a climate of chaos and disaster leads to a disoriented, malleable public.  When people are terrified and off-balance, they run for the nearest psychological shelter, tossing critical thought aside like a heavy burden.  Trump is nothing if not an authoritarian harbor who offers easy port for his scared, angry followers.

War or near-war conditions usually rally citizens around the top.  George W. Bush gained a huge surge in popularity after 9/11.  Although that popularity waned over the next few years, he was able to win re-election on the theme of decisive action for the cause of national defense.  Trump could gain a big ratings boost through a favored tactic:  a nostalgic us-vs-them scenario that labels Iran as the world's greatest villain.

The Pelosians continue to ply their passive wait-and-see strategy, befuddlingly conventional, while our unconventional President pushes the numbers.  He breaks sacrosanct rules and aggressively bends political climates.  Just recently, Trump said he would accept oppo research from foreign governments.  This on top of his affinity for torturous dictators.  The sum of his lies, smears, dog whistles, corruptions, and Constitution-attacking behaviors, such as violation of the emoluments clause, indicate an egotist unfettered by shame or principle.  His goal is re-election by any feasible means, untroubled by havoc and carnage on a country-wide scale.

In this light, impeachment proceeding are no longer just about upholding the Constitution.  As if that weren't enough, they now could blunt our momentum toward an ill-thought-out war, at a time when the US is saddled with a myopic confidence man who craves the spotlight above all else.

Much has been said about how public opinion swung against Nixon as the evidence reached the public.  Democrats have a similar opportunity right now with Trump, though the window of opportunity is brief.  Mueller himself nudged them to move on impeachment in his one public appearance since the release of the eponymous report.

Those in the House swore an oath to protect our country.  As it stands, they are in violation of that oath.  It's bad enough that Republicans claims ignorance.  But even worse that Democrats admit that the President has committed impeachable offenses, and yet continue to do nothing.  Add war with Iran to the ante.  The Democrats are on the verge of self-induced tragedy.  A debacle of oath-breaking and mealy-mouthed cowardice.  Their failure will stand in history as a dark monument of how not to protect what you love--unless they act now.


Saturday, May 18, 2019

Feckless Representation


House Democrats need to impeach Trump.  Otherwise, they saddle themselves with the onus of stunning cowardice.  Not just in the eyes of our descendants, but in terms of current electability.  As it stands, Democrats are defending the Constitution by choosing not to defend it.  Trump's dictatorial bent assails our tricameral system with the dark charisma of an insurgent white nationalism.  Democrats see this. They offer stark warnings in their ominous oratory.  And yet they refuse to use their Constitutional powers.  Some, like Elizabeth Warren, have taken the plunge and now stand for impeachment.  Why does the leadership waffle?

The strategy, sadly, is to be political but unethical:  to avoid doing what's right--where right is based on the principle of challenging a burgeoning tyrant--until enough American citizens agree that it's right.  Even in terms of practical expediency, it is a pitiable bungle.  It means Democrats look passive.  False leaders.  Trump, on the other hand, comes across as seizing the helm, assertive, instead of letting the ship drift in the currents.  Importantly, although his mendacity is well-known, Trump presents as serving key constituent beliefs, whereas Democrats project timorous apprehension.

Strength versus weakness.  Principled offense versus compromised defense.  Which will 2020 prefer?

From a calculating perspective, some high-power Dems think they can win next year by not rocking the boat.  Polls show that a formidable number of voters refuse to cast a ballot for Trump.  Encouraging, also, is the momentum that flipped control of the House.  However, the zeitgeist of each political season is a fickle thing, and the mindset of voters is often misread, sometimes egregiously.  Witness, for instance, the much predicted Clinton victory that never came to pass.  Quantitative crunching cannot encapsulate qualitative irreducibles.

Democrats still aren't facing the framing factors that toppled both party machines in 2016.  It's fair to say that all voters want leaders who say and do what they believe.  High on the list of odious traits is mealymouthism, a rhetorical cloak of vacillation that often hides shady politics.  The extensive corruption, decades old, that erected a golden ladder for Trump is well-known across the demographic spectrum.  Any politician that wants a leg up this political season should use the wealth-gap distribution curve as their logo.

Right now, when it comes to protecting the Constitution, it is the Democrats who own mealymouthism.  Trump can legitimately say he is pushing to build the wall and punish China.  Can the Pelosians say they are defending the Constitution by holding Trump accountable?   House leadership says they are aware of the imminent, extreme danger that Trump presents, and yet they refuse to employ the powers assigned to them, for the very purpose of protecting the United States from people like our current President.  

Some say that impeachment proceedings will insure that Trump gets to 'run against the House'.  Guess what?  He's going to run against the House no matter what.  Spineless fence-sitting will make it even easier.   It's easy to imagine how it will go:  "Look at 'em.  They don't even have the guts to try and impeach me, folks.  Why?  Because they know I'm clean.  It's all a witch-hunt, folks."

Another objection is that, after the House votes for impeachment, the Senate won't vote to convict.  This argument gets things backwards.  Senate complicity in tyranny is all the more reason to stand up to tyranny.  Let's, please, avoid the metaphor of a nuclear power plant meltdown.  A situation in which none of the fail-safes meant to prevent a catastrophe actually tripped. 

Failsafe devices don't have a conscience.  Presumably our Democratic leadership does.  And if they don't act, their utter debacle will engrave itself not just on the history of the United States, but also world civilization.


Monday, March 18, 2019

The Imperative To Impeach

When Nancy Pelosi said, "He's just not worth it," referring to a Trump impeachment, we all know she meant something else, namely, that it's not politically viable.   This obvious sidestep is strike one for what seems the majority Democratic trend.  Unfortunately there are many more strikes, maybe enough to lose the game.   Let's look at various arguments that take into account how the American public might frame the current state of the nation.

The bat hisses through the air, missing again, when we acknowledge a simple premise:  the Trump threat is unique, and yet the Pelosi response is conventional.   One thing voters didn't like about Clinton was that her talking points seemed evasive and mealy-mouthed, the rhetorical embodiment of statistical calculations.  Clinton wasn't a leader, she was a follower.  A follower of the numbers.   Trump did the opposite.  He led the numbers.  He worked to change people's minds and it paid off in ways we are still not willing to face, and therefore cannot effectively counteract. 

Pelosi is making the same mistake as Clinton.  She's following the numbers, instead of being a truly great leader.  Trump's base frames him as a virtual god.  The reason is that his power to topple what we are as a country is real.  Polls show that the majority of Americans see him differently, as a villain.  To challenge him we need a champion.  Even after all we've seen in the last three years, the seismic upheaval and threat, the Democrats still waffle, sounding old- school status quo.

But constituents on both the right and left are fed up with congressional complacency.  Americans do agree on quite a bit when it comes to the obvious and entrenched corruption.  Here's some advice for any politician who wants to get a leg up this election season.  Make the graph of the income distribution curve your campaign logo.  It would look like a thin mutant boomerang, skewed on one side where the meek asymptote suddenly shoots upward, almost vertical, when you reach the rich.  The mathematics of the wealth in itself is telling.  It indicates a neofeudal system, not capitalism.  It exposes gross unfairness in hideously dysfunctional markets. 

Our entire medical health system is a glaring example (special props to Big Pharma for making insulin unaffordable for diabetics).  The ridiculous cost of a college education is another.  The American people, one and all, know that we are being fleeced.  The fleecing started long before Trump.  And when we see politicians that do the same old thing-- hedging, hemming and hawing--there's a nationwide  visceral reaction.  A big swing and a miss, then, for Democrats who shy away from heroism and instead hew to the mannerisms of kleptocracy.

The answer is simple.  Lead the numbers.  Call a crime a crime and act accordingly.  The absence of such a simple candor from the left has greased the anger rails for a xenophobic demagogue, one who now has gone far toward imposing his MAGA-version of monarchy.   

"He's just not worth it" effectively sends a message like, "Well, Trump has committed impeachable offenses, but it isn't practical to do anything about it, so let's just insult him a little instead."  This message puts politics above ethics.  Trump has attained great power because he has convinced people he is doing the opposite. 

What we need from our politicians is a rallying cry.  There's another reason to take a bold, courageous stand, maybe the most important of all.  None of us wants to think about the unthinkable, but if another major terrorist attack occurs, Trump will become impregnable.  His message of fear and hate will gain invincible traction.   It might very well be too late to do anything then except suffer and mumble out a furtive, "We should've been the voice of freedom when we had the chance."


Saturday, January 19, 2019

The Ultimate Test

The Ultimate Test

Little is more infuriating than someone who denies the obvious, while accusing those who point out the error of being blind.  It is more infuriating, still, when said person holds considerable power, from the obtuse office boss to the political demagogue, even a president who seduces millions of voters, turning them complicit, and thereby advancing an ego-fueled trajectory toward the center of everything,  until a land of freedom threatens to devolve into a soil for tyranny.

Catastrophically, this is the situation we face in the US. The obvious is denied, and yet those who object are vociferously labeled liars.  Climate-change denialists rant that those who believe the science are, not only ignorant, but also in fact malicious.  Racists and xenophobes,  gender bigots and sexists, angrily label others as prejudice, while adducing their own record as just and pristine.

As a coup de grace, these gaslighters, in effect, challenge a constitutional premise--that humanity can embrace equal and inalienable rights--with the bald example of their own behavior.  They do this, of course, while denying that they are doing any such thing, and casting hateful aspersions.

For those who wish to protect a government centered on rationalism, in the spirit of our Founders, this psychological warfare, this "no, it's you" mindset, is the ultimate test.  Patience, virtue, dignity, all can slide into petty invective in the face of such hair-pulling intransigence.  Any resort to insult or anger, however slight, only validates the stance of the gaslighters in their own mind.  If all you can do is mock them, clearly you have nothing better, no solid argument.

Maddeningly seamless aggression that accepts no blame, while thriving off double-standards and division. This is what those who wish to defend bipartisanship are up against.  Perhaps most frustrating of all, this tactic could work.  From ancient times to the present, kingdoms glued together by fanatic loyalty are not uncommon.  The last presidential election showed that a core constituency could be yoked to 'big lie' fear more easily than anyone thought.  Victory could be had by demonizing the 'other.'   

The genie is out of the bottle.  It is possible that in 2020 campaigns, some Republicans contenders will go much farther, moving past even the most threadbare insinuation to outright endorsement of white nationalism.  It will earn them the fanatic praise of millions, if they have the twisted charisma to wield the dark ideology.  In a way, Trump's corruption and  incompetence are a gift.  They give us a chance to prepare.  To address and redress, to heal and inoculate.

The death-swell of 20th century fascism, its dethroning of empires in an orgy of all-out slaughter, including the fire-bombing runs and the apocalyptic use of fission; how it bred the horrors of the genocidal concentration camps; has not stopped the grim specter from rising again.   

Those who wish to push upwards, against our current state of descent, need to remember two things.  This is the ultimate test of patience, and everything you believe in is at stake.