Trump in Defeat Will Get More Erratic, Not Less.

NEW BLOG PHOTO_edited- 3Among (quite a few) guilty pleasures is “Morning Joe”, MSNBC’s daily pundit Woodstock. Yeah, Joe Scarborough is a putz and a blowhard, and since it’s his name on the show, guests who are actually expert in serious things have to pretend to tolerate his stem-winding rants. But when Scarborough is modulated or (praise lord!) off on vacation, checking in with what “The Circus” boys, Mark Halperin and John Heilemann, “legendary” ex-newspaperman Mike Barnicle, etc. is a far better use of my super valuable morning time than the brain gelatinizing insipidness of “The Today Show” or “Good Morning America.”

Lately, ex-CIA and NSA chief Michael Hayden has been getting a lot of airtime. Tuesday morning, coming off FBI Director Jim Comey’s stunning yet-unsurprising revelation that Trump’s campaign has been under investigation since … late July, “Morning Joe’s” assembled deep thinkers were grasping for new and better ways to describe the unprecedentedness (an actual word, I looked it up) of a sitting president, two months in office!, being investigated for colluding (or “coordinating” if you’re Comey) with the friggin’ Russians to rig the election that got him where he is.

But it was Hayden, the old spy hand, who after handing it to the Russians for “the biggest W” in the history of espionage chicanery, posed the question of how this whole Trump-Russia thing began? As an old spy, he said, you always ask if what you’re seeing is the result of “malice or incompetence.”

Here the easy answer of course is, “a little of both.” But we can narrow that a bit. It was a marriage. The Russians brought the malice. Trump supplied the incompetence.

Incompetence, something a majority of voters recognized last November, is now a vivid, permanent reality that even The Wall Street Journal editorial page, akin to a Vatican declamatio to pious conservatives, has come to accept as a fact of life.

Say the cossetted white sages employed by Rupert Murdoch:

“If President Trump announces that North Korea launched a missile that landed within 100 miles of Hawaii, would most Americans believe him? Would the rest of the world? We’re not sure, which speaks to the damage that Mr. Trump is doing to his Presidency with his seemingly endless stream of exaggerations, evidence-free accusations, implausible denials and other falsehoods. … Two months into his Presidency, Gallup has Mr. Trump’s approval rating at 39%. No doubt Mr. Trump considers that fake news, but if he doesn’t show more respect for the truth most Americans may conclude he’s a fake President.”

It’s that intro that bothers me, because obviously it’s on the minds of anyone seriously watching the astonishing farce being played out hour-to-hour in D.C.. If Trump loses his Obamacare repeal tomorrow it will be a gut punch defeat. He will of course blame Paul Ryan and everyone down to the West Wing cleaning crew for what has been an object lesson in his incompetence and laziness. Is there a single person anywhere who honestly believes he has read or thoroughly educated himself on what Ryan’s six years-long piece of legislation will do? Of course not. All Trump wants is a bill — a victory — he can sign and wave in front of his next Red Cap rally, never mind that his shrieking fans are exactly the people getting the forced colonoscopy.

But to the Journal’s opening line. With the FBI on him, the details of his long Russian canoodle becoming more apparent every day, “health care reform” (insert laugh track here) about to spiral into a fiery grave and his approval rating dropping to George W. Bush levels, it is (very) likely Trump will become more erratic, not less.

So what is a solution to getting the media, Congress and most importantly the Red Cap Brigade to ignore all that “fake” noise and see him as The Great Leader? Well, a war of some kind might do it. And since we’re talking about a guy who only wins, a winnable war. With lots of “shock and awe”, only biglier.

The North Korean scenario is foremost on a lot of peoples’ minds because Kim Jong-un is another guy trapped in a corner, desperate and reckless. It’s another marriage made in hell. But if you need an excuse for distracting fireworks — Re: the latest TSA Homeland Security alert — a bomb on an airplane will do just about as well.

I’ve mentioned this before, because knowing what the intelligence agencies and the Pentagon know about Trump, their response to his pushing the button for military action is by no means a certainty.  Does anyone believe the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the permanent bureaucracies of the CIA and NSA haven’t thoroughly assessed the psychological fitness of their Commander-in-Chief? Are you certain they would comply with an order from … Donald Trump, oft-bankrupt casino developer, reality TV show host and inveterate liar … ordering them to place American troops and possibly the American public in harm’s way?

I’m as cynical as it gets about “aye-aye sir” toadyism and group-think, but I have an extremely hard time imagining characters like Admiral Mike Rogers (NSA) following go-to-war orders on Donald Trump’s say-so.

Trump style incompetence (born out of psychological dysfunction and laziness) may be exactly the grenade the Red Hat Brigade and tribal Republicans who rationalized him as a better choice than “crooked Hillary”, wanted rolled into DC when they pulled the lever for him in November. But I seriously doubt that quality of cynicism applies to the people who have to commit people under their command to possible death.

More to the point. As crazy and ridiculous as Trump-involved political events have been these past two months, it has been notably quiet in terms of international crises. Experience tells you such lulls are always broken.

Who Knew [Insert Issue] Was So Complicated?

NEW BLOG PHOTO_edited- 2Personally, I too was gobsmacked to learn that our World’s Greatest Health Care System is, “so complicated.” What’s next? Quantum physics can’t be explained on a 4×6 note card?

The revelation that washed over His Orangeness the other day, that he or Steve Bannon, can’t order “it” done, without explaining what “it” is, fits an already familiar pattern. Bold promises of bold action meets, damn it all anyway, the real world. The real world where people a lot smarter than either of them, with much more experience in specific disciplines, not too mention entire careers they want to protect, react to “boldness” with expressions of incredulity and, yeah, skilled resistance.

Then, aside from that already familiar pattern there’s the matter of … not wearing ourselves out while reality and resistance beats this new White House crowd like the proverbial herd of rented mules.

My growing concern, based on conversations with friends and family over the past couple months, is that our expressions of stunned dismay, outrage and vilification don’t take more of toll on us than Team Trump. We are the people who want to defeat and survive The Know Nothing Pitchfork Revolution.

What I’m hearing too much of are exercises in what you might call “competitive anxiety”. One person, rightfully horrified at the latest “who knew it’d be so complicated” tweet from Trump, or Goebbels-like assertion from Stephen Miller, (“the President’s authority will not be challenged”) goes off on a rant about the stupidity and horror of this stuff. In response the next person twists the dial from “7” to “8”, the next from “8” to “9” and pretty soon, you guessed it, the amps are blasting at full “11”.

On one level it’s cathartic and bonding. We’re all pissed and full of righteous, well-informed indignation. We didn’t pay attention in school, do our homework, pass tests, acquire adult skills and behave in a (mostly) conscientious manner all these years just to watch a collection of cynical hucksters take over the country by playing the chumps for chumps (with the enormous assistance of tribal Republicans — i.e. 53% of white women — for whom there is an even deeper level of hell.)

“Putting up with it” is not in our vocabulary, and why should it?

My point here is the need to individually monitor our acidic juices. There is a point beyond which all this indignation compounds the misery. Most of us, the majority of voters disgusted by what Trump represents, are encouraged by the level of resistance throwing flames on his recklessness and stupidity. This is something new and intensely gratifying. An insurgency of the informed! All hail!

But how about practice a form of therapeutic compartmentalization, if we can? If Trump-rage spills out over every other facet of our lives, kind of like the terrorists, he wins. More to the point, individual energies are limited. There’s only so much raging and grand displays of principled contempt any person can heave up before they’re too sapped to fight what is not going to be a quick war.

Even if a videotape of Trump and Putin and a dozen Russian hookers colluding to rig the election was televised tomorrow, it’d be well over a year or more before this debacle of American Berlusconi-ism reached a conclusion. (Do you think the hardened Trumpists clogging Florida airplane hangars care that much if the election was rigged? He has a base line of support that Nixon never had.)

There is a facet of our cultural psychology that rewards overt self-dramatization. (I blame the Kardashians). They who best and most frequently display emotional injury and stress receive a disproportionate share of available attention. Their particularly self-focused displays of concern have the effect of convincing others that they are the only ones taking this crisis seriously. There’s a unique status that comes with being the most stressed-out person in the room.

So to friends, family and allies: There’s plenty of fight to be had. It’s not going to be over anytime soon. If survival is part of the end game, let’s run regular checks on our personal levels of humor and sanity in response to the abundant stupidity and fraud.

 

President Nickelback

NEW BLOG PHOTO_edited- 3A couple years ago, horrified at the thought Nickelback, (aka “The Worst Rock Band in the World”*) would touch down in the United Kingdom, a guy started a petition to keep them out. Now it’s Donald Trump. Similarities abound.

Those of you who have either never heard of Nickelback or been exposed to one of their “songs” are the lucky ones. Kind of like what happens when you Google “Rick Santorum”, the “Nickelback” search field is populated with unflattering references. A review in The Guardian says, “Canadian rockers Nickelback aren’t universally popular. Some 55,000 American football fans once signed a petition to attempt to stop them playing at half time. A dating website has voted their music the No 1 “musical turn-off”. In a particularly low moment, Nickelback haters set up a Facebook page to demonstrate that a pickled cucumber could get more fans. … Their lyrics flirt with misogyny, and women are routinely depicted as ‘naughty’ or strippers. You become thankful for small mercies, like when Kroeger tells a ‘dirty little lady with the pretty pink thong’ that she ‘looks much cuter with something in your mouth”, it turns out he’s referring to her thumb’.”

Other classic Nickelback anthems: “Something In Your Mouth,” “I’d Come for You,” and “S.E.X.”

And now the Brits, the people who taught us our manners if you believe “Masterpiece Theater” are debating whether to ban … the President of the United States from soiling Jolly Olde with his Nickelbackian presence. Specifically, the House of Commons had a very long and loud set-to over the weekend about rescinding an invitation conservative, pro-Brexit Prime Minister Theresa May extended seven days after His Orangeness was in office.

Said The Guardian, “The debate, which took place in Westminster Hall, was prompted by the petition signed by 1.8m people saying Trump should be denied a state visit and it was opened by the Labour MP Paul Flynn who, in a wide-ranging attack, described Trump’s intellect as ‘protozoan’.” And, “… Flynn said that only two US presidents had been accorded a state visit to Britain in more than half a century and it was ‘completely unprecedented’ that Trump had been issued his within seven days of his presidency. Flynn – who started the debate because he is on the petitions committee – said Trump would hardly be silenced by the invitation being rescinded, accusing him of a ‘ceaseless incontinence of free speech’. Asked by Caroline Lucas, co-leader of the Green party, if Trump’s views on climate science should also be taken into account, Flynn responded that the president had shown ‘cavernous depths of scientific ignorance’ on the issue.”

Damn, but the Brits get off some good lines.

The expectation is that one way or another, with The Queen or without her, Trump will land in Britain sometime later this year, if only because pro-Brexit conservatives need to firm up their economic bona fides with someone, now that they’ve pissed off most of the rest of the European Union. (It has not escaped notice that The Queen has previously hosted the likes of Nicolae Ceausescu, a dictator of Stalinesque depravity),

But Trump will go to Britain because … also like Nickelback, which has sold over 50 million records and will be the opening night act at the Minnesota State Fair the summer … Trump is popular with “a small majority”, (key word: “majority”) of Brits, people, surveys show, convinced open border immigration is polluting the essence of Britain.

My point here is, I guess, limited and obvious. No matter how reviled by wordsmith music critics, an act like Nickelback is giving an enormous audience exactly what it wants, which is, as I always like to say, The First Rule Of Show Biz. The crassness of it, the swinish vulgarity of it, the shameless artlessness of it, the misogyny, the … well, you can fill in the rest … is not only not off-putting to the ears and minds of Nickelback’s fans … it is damn near exactly what they want, and have wanted now for 22 years.

People proud of their cultured tastes, people whose critical antennae are tuned to discern unimaginative pandering in guitar licks and drumming, and irony-free lechery in lyrics, could do worse than keep Nickelback’s enduring commercial success in mind as they calculate Trump’s “inevitable” implosion.

Now, to the best of my knowledge Nickelback has not been fed life-saving loans by Russian gangster/oligarchs or colluded with a murderous dictator to undermine the popularity of a better band, like say Pearl Jam. Nor are currently under investigation by the FBI. So the comparison falls apart on that score.

But … writing about Nickelback’s success for The New Yorker, Ian Crouch concluded by saying, “… to be hated is to be something. And to be hated by an army of anxious, élitist, Pitchfork-reading coastal snobs may be enough of a foundation on which to build an enduring fan base in the shrunken marketplace of the digital age. I think that [lead singer Chad] Kroeger is probably right that the haters have made Nickelback stronger, in that they have given what had been a bland, soft-metal, post-grunge band the outsider, bad-ass edge that it had always projected but never earned. As an old saying goes, ‘To be loved is to be fortunate, but to be hated is to achieve distinction’.”

Make of that what you will.

*An “alternative fact”.

 

Gen. Flynn and the Dam About to Burst

NEW BLOG PHOTO_edited- 3If you’ve been worrying about the big Oroville dam in California bursting open, this Gen. Flynn thing could bring a much bigger flood. After 24 days, three and half weeks, the regime of Our Orange Leader is already up to its spray tanned jowls in a scandal bigger than Watergate.

That’s hyperbole!, you say? Well, no one ever accused Richard Nixon of regularly communicating with the Russians while they were doing their nefarious best to screw with an American presidential election. And G. Gordon Liddy was not the President’s key and, according to reports, sole advisor on foreign affairs. Baby, oh baby.  Even I thought it’d be mid-summer before Trump got himself into something so outrageously, cartoonishly foul that the usual “Let’s move on, nothing to see here, folks” Republican “leaders” would be on TV demanding to know what exactly there is … to see here.

But that’s where we are … three and a half weeks into this fiasco. Clearly, some Republicans have already decided Trump is too ludicrous an embarrassment to protect with sealed-off, behind closed doors committee investigations. Moreover, if reports are true that U.S. intelligence agencies are withholding intelligence from Trump and his team of Russian-compromised know-nothings, the sooner the swap-out of Mike Pence for Trump happens, the better.

The schadenfreude-rich beauty of the Flynn debacle is how it whips the spotlight back around, away from the sideshow of fools and scoundrels joining Trump’s cabinet, and zeros it back in on what kind of business Trump has been doing with the Russians for the past 30 years. We have a pretty good idea, but to date none of the circumstantial (and better) assertions have grabbed the full attention, simultaneously, of our brave Congressional leaders and the national media herd.

The cynical assumption is that this Flynn business, which as we now know has been going on for months, not just between Flynn and various Russian officials, but other members of Trump’s campaign/administration, will be stifled and prevaricated over by Republican-led committees. They’ll muddle it and obscure it until the “failing” The New York Times and Jake Tapper lose interest or are distracted by the next farcical scandal or, god forbid, bona fide international crisis.

But I don’t see that happening, and I lived through Watergate. Why? Because this Flynn episode is hair’s breadth from the rich, juicy essence of Donald Trump — namely, the high likelihood he was bailed out of chronic bankruptcy by Russian money and has engaged in colossal tax fraud for decades. Being first to expose what so many, in and out government and media believe to be a monumental con game comes with guarantee of heroic historical standing of the eternal, name-in-schoolbooks variety.

My pal, Joe Loveland, correctly assessed the Republicans’ predicament over disposing Trump for Mike Pence. Basically, they’re prepared to do it, preferably before the 2018 mid-term elections, as long as they don’t have to take any responsibility for it. Most Republicans, batshit craven and otherwise, live in fear of Trump’s low-to-no information base. But if Trump brings the… house of cards … down on himself with a ceaseless bombardment of revelations about scheming with … the f****ing Russians for chrissakes (every old school Republican’s ultimate boogeyman) … they can stand back like mere horrified observers, while doing everything they can to polish up the medieval dunce Mike Pence as the only acceptable replacement.

The wild and terrifying card in this drama is of course the “Reichstag fire” scenario, where Team Trump plots to distract public/Congressional/media attention by either inventing, grossly exaggerating or ineptly bungling some serious international crisis. In normal times you, dear reader, would be excused for rolling your eyes at the wild-eyed lunacy of such a scenario. I mean, stuff like that doesn’t happen in The United States.

Unfortunately, like the dossier with stories of the Rooskies storing video of Donald and hookers, um, “micturating” on Obama’s hotel bed in Moscow, there’s a level of plausibility to almost every obscene, outrageous thing you can imagine about Trump that we’ve never dealt with before. Not even with Dick Nixon.

Man, am I tired of winning so much.

The Resistance Is Being Televised, And A Lot Of It Is Pretty Funny

NEW BLOG PHOTO_edited- 3So I’m down in Florida for my sister Lu’s birthday bash, strolling around the quaint/funky old neighborhood of Key West minding my own business, and I pass by a guy parked on his Vespa talking on the phone.

“Look,” he says to whoever, “we can’t do this every day. It was a half hour yesterday and”, looking at his watch, “it’s already 20 minutes this morning. We can’t spend all this time talking about that asshole. It’s draining.”

Now, he could have been talking his drunken brother-in-law’s latest faceplant. But I kinda doubt it. The conversation was way too familiar to stuff I’m hearing everywhere I go. Hell, my wife and I were recently at a wake … a wake, for chrissakes … and every conversation was about Trump, “that asshole”. To the point that it struck me the guy is such a menace to psychic health he’s a goddam buzzkill … at a wake.

Scrolling through social media and other blogs, every liberal I know is in a competition to outdo the last in the level of vilification, disgust and personal offense they’re taking to Trump (and all things Trump). I can hardly plead innocence. It’s like, “No, I’m more outraged and appalled than you are!”, and there’s going to be some kind of awards banquet for the most righteous, apoplectic takedown of our Our Mendacious, Incompetent Orange Comb Over-in-Chief. (See?)

So here’s a little sunlight and flower-sniffing to counter-balance all the stomach-churning rage. The resistance undermining Trump (and Steve Bannon, and Betsy DeVos and all the other cartoonish trolls who have moved into D.C.) is flourishing and, apologies to Gil Scott-Heron, is actually being televised.

There’s nothing monolithic about modern media. It’s a million different sources for 320 million different interest groups. But as badly as “the media” failed us during the campaign, it is now reacting predictably — and pretty well — to the clown car chaos and buffoonery of the Trump administration. (Thanks in large part to its own craven ratings-chasing) “the media” now has a singular target of unprecedented size and authority to dissect, delegitimize and de-pants … hourly … day after day, with no conceivable end in sight. I’m convinced this is true because Trump, a demonstrably ill-formed, unstable and isolated personality, is not capable of transforming himself, like Madonna or Lady Gaga, to meet changes in public tastes. As this resistance grows, as it has with each adolescent Tweet, white nationalist/mega banker appointment and bungled military operation, Trump can only double down … and down and down again … as the rage swells up.

So here are a few things I’ve recently taken encouragement from.

1: The Harley-Davidson people, fully understanding the certainty that a Presidential visit to their Milwaukee headquarters would fire up an enormous and angry demonstration outside their factory, kind of ruining their anniversary party, thought better of Trump in Wisconsin. So the motorcycle execs went to the White House instead. This is a fascinating precedent. How does Trump go … anywhere … without inciting angry, mocking protests? Presidential factory visits are about as routine as it gets. But not with Trump, and not ever is my bet. He may be able to pull off a completely cordoned-off, quarantined “victory lap rally” in, I don’t know, West Virginia opioid, I mean, coal country, but where else? And even then the perimeters of that scene would be pretty unruly. Put another way, can you imagine Trump wandering around Minneapolis for a couple days, having a come one-come all appearance at Minnehaha Falls and knocking back a Juicy Lucy at Matt’s a la Obama? The mind reels at the protest possibilities, not to mention Matt’s owners pleading with him to stay away. Hell, good luck to any member of Congress risking a town hall in their own district with this fool in office.

2: Earnest, hyper-cautious second-tier newspapers like the Star Tribune, which have long relied on The New York Times for their national and international news coverage, are routinely re-printing Times stories full of appalling-to-hilarious details of Trump’s corruption and incompetence. The Times recently added $5 million to its budget to excavate more of Trump’s astonishing malfeasance. I’m still waiting to hear how NPR and MPR adjust to this new reality, but every outlet relying on the Times is running (some of) its stuff and feeding the fires of the resistance, with real facts, not the alternative ones. There’s no reason to think that will stop or slow down since, as the song goes, we’ve only just begun.

3: Pop culture, which I’ve mentioned before, is rapidly and with near unanimity coalescing around the concept of Trump as Toxic, Racist Buffoon. From Melissa McCarthy’s spit-take inducing takedown of the hapless Sean Spicer, to Alec Baldwin (and Bannon the Grim Reaper), to a refocused and re-energized Stephen Colbert, to an explosion of wall art around the world ridiculing Trump, to a ceaseless flow of GIFs and social media memes Trump is gold, or is it orange? manna dropping from the skies like a bombardment of frozen turkeys. (Note multiple metaphors.)  And if you argue that all those “smug, urban elites” are just flogging the choir, check out the sports stars, most of them black at the moment, declining the “honor” of shaking Trump’s hand. Steph Curry of the Golden State Warriors today, and I have a real hard time seeing LeBron James grippin’ and grinnin’ with a shameless liar and unrepentant race-baiter if the Cavaliers repeat this spring. Not good optics, man. Much like the boycott of his red neck inaugural gala, being publicly-and-loudly opposed to Trump is a badge of honor for an overwhelming percentage of America’s cultural heroes.

So yeah, Bannon and DeVos and Jeff Sessions and KellyAnne and the rest of the preposterous mob are in office, screwing things up and doing what they can to recreate some kind of white, patriarchal fiefdom here in the US of A. But, unlike anything we’ve ever seen before, there is a broad, clever, swelling, well-informed and deeply invigorated resistance undermining, mocking and vilifying them for being the walking frauds and catastrophes they are.

And it’s all on TV. It’s the American way.

Predictions for the Age of The Donald

NEW BLOG PHOTO_edited- 2Now that my blood pressure has settled back into the “Only Occasionally Fatal” zone I’m prepared to make several predictions about the coming Age of Donald.

To begin with matters of least concern to you and me and build up to the really scary stuff … .

The Inauguration Have you stopped to imagine what a cheesy freak show this is going to be? A highlight from last week was a Trump-o-naut breaking the news to the world and Elton John that Sir Elton would be performing at the Donald’s coronation ceremonies. It took Mr. John about three nano-seconds to fire back something to the effect of, “Like [bleep] I am!” Point being, who will lend their name, reputation and career for the “honor” of celebrating the election of a cartoonish sleazeball like Trump? Complain all you want about smug, intolerant Hollywood/show biz liberals, taking a gig crooning and high-kicking for Trump will be, during the inauguration and throughout the Trump regency, the equivalent of the French collaborators in occupied Paris. Go ahead if you must, but expect to be shunned and stigmatized wherever you go thereafter. Look instead for a patriotic medley from Ted Nugent and Lynyrd Skynyrd MC’d by Pat Sajak and Scott Baio. Totally super classy. If he wants to feel the adoration of the (minority of the) people who elected him he’d be better-advised to stage his swearing in at an airplane hangar in Hays, Kansas.

Protests  I don’t know about that Million Woman March the day after, but the Day Of will be … unprecedented. Serious, traditional news organizations observed the usual niceties during George W*’s installation in 2001, cutting away from and not endlessly replaying tape loops of protestors hurling garbage at Bush’s limo as it rolled up to the Capitol. But having dragged standards for common decency and campaigning down the toilet and clogged the sewer, Trump will not be extended similar courtesies. Why? Because he doesn’t deserve it. Security will be drum tight, but with opposition to Trump already red-lining the meters there will be no end of displays of disgust, some funnier and more shaming than others.

Forget New York … and Los Angeles … and San Francisco … and London … .  Ever since he got that no interest loan from daddy and bootstrapped his way into New York society Trump has sought the approval and adulation of culture leaders — celebrities, philanthropists, big thinkers and doers, anyone with the kind of cred that gets them on the A-list for the annual Met Gala. He never has. He’s always been too transparently cheap, too much of an obvious grifter with too little contribution to culture to be accepted by “that crowd.” And now it’ll get worse. It will a matter of pride and integrity for “finer society” everywhere to shun everything Trump, a position made easier to do by Trump’s overt appeal to racism and what will certainly be weekly outrages against accepted decency. Think no further than Anna Wintour, fashion empress and editor of Vogue. How much do you think she and the culture she presides over will have to do with either Trump or Melania? I say little to nothing. The Trump “brand” where once cheesy is now toxic, as huckerstering little Ivanka will soon find out.

Bigger than LBJ and Nixon.  The existence of the draft largely explained the millions who poured out on to the streets during the hottest pitch of the Vietnam War, vilifying Lyndon Johnson and Tricky Dick. In reaction, America’s warrior class smartened up and switched to an all-volunteer Army, which led to W* and Cheney sending National Guard recruits through multiple deployments to Iraq. But Johnson and even Nixon arrived in office with at least a semblance of experience thinking about and seriously judging world issues. Trump arrives with nothing of the sort, other than slapping his name on hotels someone else is building. Has the guy even read a history of WWII or Vietnam? Moreover again, based entirely on how he has conducted his adult life and how he campaigned he arrives in office one “Day One” as every bit the shameless ogre and far more the self-serving fraud Lyndon and Dick ever were.

Gutless liberals.  It is accepted wisdom among the crowd that inhales Breitbart and fake Facebook news like meth fumes that liberals have no fight in them. I generally like to avoid making monolithic references to any sub-group, but the people revolted by Trump were a majority of voters in the recent election and remain well-armed with facts, organization and the platforms to stage constant resistance to every calamitous, authoritarian move he tries to make, which as I say, will continue with appalling regularity. Congress may (or may not) have Trump’s back, depending on how well he toes the GOP party line. But off Capitol Hill a lot of very smart, very well-funded people will see blunting Trump as a patriotic duty. The sort of thing that gilds their legacy. If the Left Behind/Didn’t Keep Up rubes or the Clod Culture crowd who see this stuff as lunkheaded team sport think their boy is safe from paralyzing criticism and skullduggery, they should prepare themselves for (another) slap of reality. You want a culture war? You’re going to get it.

The Gutless Press. Having taken the tradition-breaking step of calling Trump a liar throughout the last phases of the campaign, media standard-setters like The New York Times and The Washington Post have been given no good reason to step back and call him anything different as President-elect. Trump’s honeymoon with the serious end of media/journalism will never happen. Judging from New Yorker editor David Remnick’s reporting on the TV celebs who scuttled over to Trump Tower to be dressed down for dishonesty and lying … by Donald [bleepin’] Trump! … fingers are already twitching at the trigger for anything. The commercialized crowd, the Gayle Kings, Matt Lauers, Joe Scarboroughs and most of the lower tiers of the country’s newspapers will begin with a facade of dutiful respect. But that facade is about as thick and durable as the gold spray paint on a Trump penthouse. When … not if … he finds himself mired in an epic scandal he better have Sean Hannity under lifetime contract. Moreover, it’s not hard to foresee a co-mingling of interests and resources between the aforementioned well-heeled liberals and press franchises eager to make history by forcing Trump’s finances and conflicts of interest into the light of day. Can you say “bounty” for whatever hacker, whistleblower or disgruntled former employee hands over Trump’s taxes? As for all the other inevitable scandals, it’s a target rich environment kids. Kind of like Jed Clampett out huntin’. The stuff is so close to the surface all you have to do is take a shot at a squirrel and something will bubble up.

Finally, The Terrorists.  Death and horror are only two facets of every global-thinking terrorist’s strategy. As Osama bin Laden said, the primary goal is to get western powers, the U.S. in particular, to overreact and inflame the situation beyond all control, which is precisely the bait W* and Dick Cheney took by blundering into Iraq. But with Trump’s name on buildings all over the world, imagine, if you dare, his response to simultaneous attacks on Trump hotels in separate Arab countries? Even one attack would negate the power and profitability of his brand. Two would be … what? And who will stop him from doing what in response, to prove to the Left Behinds/Didn’t Keep Ups and the Clod Culture sportsmen that he is a whole lot tougher cat than your average over-thinking liberal?

Enjoy your day.

My “Deplorable” Buddies

NEW BLOG PHOTO_edited- 3With Hillary Clinton’s lead in the popular vote pushing on towards two million I had to get away to northern Wisconsin over the weekend, the land of the Deplorables.

Post-election sniping at who to blame for Trump has left a field of corpses from Portland (ME) to Portland (OR). Let’s see if I can list them all:

Women: 54% of voting white women went with the thrice-married, gleeful pussy-grabber who has bragged in public about strolling, “Benny Hill”-style, into the dressing rooms of naked women and adolescent girls. I get that gals like the bad boys … they’re rarely dull … but really ladies, can we talk?

Bernie zealots: In several key swing states that Clinton lost, votes for Gary Johnson and/or Jill Stein more than covered the margin to flip the electoral college. In Michigan, Florida, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, Stein’s percentage alone blended with less than 20% of Johnson’s would have done the trick. So enjoy your righteousness, folks. History (Nader) has repeated itself.

Latinos: Clinton pulled in 6% less of the Latino vote than Obama did in 2012, never mind The Donald threatening to send all or most of them back to Mexico, even if they were born here. But that’s no reason why the rest of us can’t enjoy our next chimichanga and Modelo.

Hillary the Terrible Candidate:  No, she can’t speechify like Bubba and Barack, and she is so … so … compulsively wonky. All those statistics! All those programs! All that snoozy detail … that was completely ignored by TV’s liberal media during the campaign. Yeah, maybe the newspapers were a little better, but every one of them endorsed her, so how credible are they?

Facebook: Since reading newspapers, or anything longer than 150 words without a picture cat picture is no fun, all those “breaking news” posts from whacked-out Uncle Gene down in his Sun City trailer court made a bigger impression on busy voters than the New York Times. Mark Zuckerberg says that’s ridiculous. But even this morning Uncle Gene is saying Zuckerberg and Hillary are members of the same “Eyes Wide Shut” sex and satan-worshipping cabal, so who are you going to believe?

Liberal “bubble-dwellers” with no pity for the “left behinds”.  Now we’re getting to the meat of it.

By every demographic measurement, other than vast wealth, I’m your classic liberal elitist. I’m here to confess. I read novels that don’t have serial killers … and The New York Times (on-line). Ditto: The Atlantic (subscription), Esquire (love me that Charlie Pierce!), Kevin Drum, Wired, Talking Points Memo, Slate, Vox, yadda yadda. I live in an inner-ring suburb in a large metropolitan area. We own two (foreign) cars. (I like the new Mustang. But I don’t see that thing lasting the six-seven years I keep these things.) I watch a lot of “weird” foreign movies. Did you see “Embrace of the Serpent”? Or that Russian thing, “Leviathan”? Fabulous! I also think Rachel Maddow is … a lot … smarter than anyone on FoxNews. So, yeah… guilty as charged.

But … what I plead innocent to is avoiding any exposure to or contact with the pissed-off white males who came out in very big numbers for The Donald. A lot of non-college educated whites actually fired up their Dodge Rams, went out and voted this year, 67% for the (alleged) billionaire pussy-grabber who wasn’t named Hillary and they think is a lot like them.

Next confession: I like to hang with these people, most of them guys. It’s not like I’m there for every meat raffle. But I’m kind of a regular at the Wisconsin bar a mile from our cabin. I sure as hell know the regulars. Moreover, one of my personal pleasures is road-tripping. Jump in the vehicle and hit the backroads of the good old USA. (If you’re reading this on my whacked-out Facebook page you can dial up photo shows of “Bad Bars of the Mojave”, “Bad Bars of the Great Basin” and soon, “Bad Bars of Montana”.)

Part of it’s anthropological, but part of it is like comfort food. I grew up with people like you meet in road house bars. Their language and humor is entirely familiar. Plopping down on a stool in some joint 200 miles out on U.S. 50 in Nevada and chatting up a bunch of guys in from a morning of elk hunting is a lot like back home in Montevideo, (aka The Garden Paradise of Western Minnesota.)

Contrary to what some might think, my first impulse isn’t to hit these guys with, “Why are you people such a bunch of stupid, racist [bleeps]?”

The better approach, in my experience, is always old-fashion curiosity. Everyone comes with a story. What’s theirs? As a wise man (i.e. me) likes to say, “I never learned anything listening to myself talk.” So, you ask a couple semi-flattering questions then shut up and listen. “You got 10-ply tires on your truck?” “Is the road over the pass open?”

Generally speaking, they size you up pretty fast. “Not from here.” “But not an a-hole … as far as we can tell, so far.” Soon thereafter, as they talk, you get the feel of The Other Bubble.

My years-long, anecdotal but first-person survey says a couple things for sure. These aren’t the drooling, opioid-addicted KKK-loving crackers too many liberals imagine. They may drink too much, but for the most part they are holding down jobs. But the work they do is rarely anything all that skilled. They drive things. Trucks. Construction equipment. Delivery vans. Not a lot of math and computer stuff. And they have a tribal discomfort with everyone different, not just blacks and Muslims, people who they almost never have anything to do with one-on-one. Blacks come in three varieties: Sidekicks on TV shows, athletes and criminals on the evening news. Muslims? Forget it.

The tone of the conversations shift with any topic that suggests comparison or competition. They are guys after all. Which means “Who’s dominant here” is a meter constantly scanning in the background. But hell, if “the dominance game” is your thing, get ten journalists or corporate middle-managers together and watch the overt weinie-measuring that goes on.

Human nature: We’re this much above a pack of gorillas.

The idea being sold this past week is that Hillary lost because liberals failed to understand AND fully, totally commiserate with guys like my road house bar compadres, the so-called “left behind”, the victims of globalization and technology. As though if only liberals would react sympathetically to self-pity everything would be great again.

What’s ironic is what’s missing from this theory. Namely, the old-style Republican tough love of “personal responsibility”. That was a big deal in Montevideo.

Yeah, “my guys” have been left behind … mainly because “they didn’t keep up”. For whatever the reasons, because this is where they were born, because dad drove a fork lift, because they can’t stand city traffic, because they never got a tutor for algebra, because they’d rather spend their free time hunting and snow-mobiling with their pals than getting more job training, because the only news they regularly see is the local affiliate’s headlines, weather and sports, with a few minutes of Bill O’Reilly for a nightcap, they are falling further behind the elite of the pack. And they know it.

When their tribal thing starts in on the bill of resentments, as it very often does — every politician is a crook and liar and the Clintons and that crowd are the worst of the bunch — I constantly wonder how much happier these guys would be if they turned off the damned TV and radio and just enjoyed their life on their terms? Most made a choice not to become white collar drones. They like ranching, farming, construction, living away from the city and feeling like … men. But who told them they were going to get rich doing that? And who’s telling them now they’re being cheated out of something they’re entitled to, even though they never wanted it badly enough to radically change the way they live their lives?

These guys aren’t drooling racists. But they are creatures of their own self-restricting bubble, and the predicament they find themselves in, which has an upside if they’d stop comparing themselves to “elites”, is mainly because of choices they themselves did or didn’t make. But they are not comfortable with people different from themselves, so in effect their racial fears work out the same. Most also have thing about male dominance. Not a lot of gal bosses on the job site. Home is one of the few places where they still give the orders. But by all indications the ladies around them put up with it, because the guy pool is a little thin. And they don’t work real hard at figuring out what’s real and what isn’t.

Point being, I never doubted there were enough of these people to swing an election. The question always was whether they were motivated enough to drive over and vote? Turns out they were.

Last year a remarkably far-sighted gentleman, a seer really, forseeing a possible Trump victory wrote this:

” … to prissy, wine-sipping elites like me his standard comeback of, “Who cares what you say? You’re a loser” seems beneath the dignity of a President of the United States. But I’m not the crowd that could put Trump up on the south steps of the Capitol Jan. 20, 2017.

“Trump’s game, and so far he’s succeeding at it, is to rally millions of your and my fellow ‘Muricans who haven’t voted in probably 25 years, and even then Ross Perot didn’t have anything like Trump’s pop personality appeal. The psycho/sociological specs on this large herd of regularly untapped voters are pretty well known. They’re not ideological. They’re not particularly religious. They’re certainly not evangelical unicorn people. But they are pissed off. Chronically, and pretty much about everything, certainly everything that reminds them that for one reason or another they’ll never be “great again”, never mind that they never were.

“These people, fueled by a vast methane-like sea of resentments, are indisputably ill-informed. But so what? Their vote counts as much as yours and mine. … the great revolutionary dynamic becomes this: Does that same crowd — chronically angry and ill-informed — feel a mojo they’ve never before felt in their lifetimes, a pleasurable tingling sensation that says, ‘My time has finally come’?

A time to pull the damn rug out from all the self-serving, prevaricating, ‘smartest kids in the class’ who have deprived them of their, well, self-respect to put a fancy phrase on it, and install someone totally different? Someone who sees, or at least describes a world exactly as they see it, full of thieves and killers, and with whom they feel entirely comfortable, in part because he’s already so familiar to them by virtue of having been on TV most of their adult lives?

The choice then is Trump, as the official Doomsayer Party nominee, still taunting, confident and funny or Hillary Clinton, yet another one of ‘them’ … .”

Oh wait, that prophet was me.

So, you’re welcome.

I’ll have another Keystone Light, and with luck I’ll make Tonopah by sunset.

The Donald’s Lost Twitter Rampage

NEW BLOG PHOTO_edited- 3Apparently 12 million Twitter followers and the press were so flabbergasted by The Donald’s graveyard shift rantings Thursday night they missed all the good stuff that followed. Fortunately, I’ve captured everything since, including misspellings

8:35 am … Wheels up on classiest plane ever. Chik-Fillet brunch. First class company w/first class people. Mayor Rudy telling very funny Mexican joke. #CrookedHillary still eating krumpets? Let’s see those cankles! #NoCanklesOnMelania.

8:46 am …  Saw no ratings @MorningJoe  w/#RiggedMedia calling ME crazy!? Where did Mika spend the night? @Joe’sPlace? Lots of people say so. Must be true. So many low class #DyingNewYorkTimes  “experts” Not!

8:52 am …  #PuckeredForDemocratsCNN “amazed” by me calling out #CrookedHillary for getting duped by #SexTapeMissU. Know what’s amazing? #ClintonNewsNetwork still in biz. Loser TV for losers!

8:55 am … Bloomberg TV. Show some kohonays and watch #FatTrampMissUSexTape. Total trash!!! WORST MissU ever!!! Couldn’t do sit-ups when I sat on her. Will fix Bloomberg problem when in WH!!!

9:01 am … #BestInBizFox&Friends says it like it is. #BlubberButtMissU Clinton Democrat. People say in 1996 too. Probably true. #Brilliant Steve Doozey in better shape than #FlabbyArmsMissUWhiningDemocrat. #NoFlabOnMelania.

9:06 am … Got call from #ShouldBeOnSupremeCourtSeanHannity saying #RiggedMedia unfair as usual. Watched #AlwaysBloatedThirdWorldMissUSexTape. Says it proves #AlwaysRightDonaldJTrump was against Iraq war in ’96. #CorruptRiggedNYTimes will ignore. Unfair!!!!

9:11 … #CrookedHillary still not showing cankles! Why hiding? Hobbled on stage at empty rally. People saying she has gout and Alzheimers. Must be true. WHO is “unhinged”?????? Did #OneGuyYouCanAlwaysBelieveDonaldJTrump give LON WET KISS to ISIS? No. #RiggedMedia will not report.

9:14 am … #NoRatingsChannelsABCNBCCBSMSNBC still saying I lost debate! Total losers! #TrustBreitbart says #DonaldJTrumpInKnockOut cleaned #CrookedHillary’s flabby clock. #DrudgeBest poll said so BEFORE DEBATE WAS OVER!!!! #MelaniaClockNotFlabby.

9:22 am … #PatheticSenateRepublicans “embarrassed” by #ReallyNastySoDirtyYouGottaSeeItPorkyMissUSexTape. So many losers. Have you seen their wives? Reason why. #MelaniaStillRockingBikini.

9:33 am … Just got note from #BrilliantWillBeOnTrumpSupremeCourtRogerAiles. Says #CrookedHillary paying off #RiggedMedia. Roger very misunderstood. Very unfair what #LowRatingsDyingMedia saying about him. Smart viewers like blondes. Everyone knows. #EvenThoughMelaniaNotBlonde.

9:41 am … #OldFlabbyThinksShe’sFunnyDemocratSenatorMcGasket says I should have daily “weigh in”. Ask Dr. Oz! 236 pounds! Great stamina!!! Ask #NoBodyFatMelania. So many lies!!! SO UNFAIR!!!  America wants change. #VeryStrongDonaldJTrumpWillJailFlabbyDemocrats.

10:03 am … Landed for #HugeEnormousRally. People say crowd lined up since July. Must be true. I don’t know. Three miles long. Sounds right. Democrat fire marshall refused so many. Very unfair! #DemocratFireMarshallsWillBeFired.

10:17 am … Fabulous reception in #GreatestAmericanCityEastBogaloosa from #OnlyGreatAmericansWantDonaldJTrump!!!!  Great looking “Bikers for Trump” supporter w/Trump’sNoPussy face-tattoo said it best. “Save Us from Crooked Cankle Bitch!” So many good-looking people!

10:44 am … Called out #LousyCrummyRatingsRiggedMediaReporters at back of rally! Really unfair!!! So biased.!!! #PutinRealLeader knows what to do. Not like #VeryWeakKenyanWithPeopleStillSayingNotRealBirthCertificate. So many not so great looking girl reporters. #JealousOfMelania. Many with #ButtAsBigAsFatSluttyWorstMissUEver. Disgrace!!!!

11:13 am … Wheels back up. First class lunch on #World’sMostFabulousAirplane. Chickenfingers. Gravy. Coke. Best in world American food!!! #MelaniaSickInToiletButStillHotterThanRosieO’DonnellThatPig.

Hillary Won the Battle, But Donald Could Still Win the War

NEW BLOG PHOTO_edited- 3In the 20 minutes it took me to drive home from a debate-watching party last night the “elite media” decided that Donald Trump badly lost the first debate with Hillary Clinton and that as ridiculous as he looked and sounded (the sniffing!) it wasn’t going to matter all that much.

In 2016 when everyone with a smartphone is a pundit and a publisher, citizen-satirists spat out some hilarious bits overnight. Like, for example, Donald Trump’s constant sniffing set to Eric Clapton’s “Cocaine”. We also got a re-visit of Rose O’Donnell’s Trump imitation, and her “Daily Show” “history of The Donald”. Not to mention, if sick jokes are your thing, scalding fact-check after scalding fact check. Not that, the cable heads reminded each other, either Trump or his people care all that much about facts..

Conventional wisdom this morning is that Trump was exposed to well over 80 million people, many of whom have never seen him one-on-one with a serious opponent who wasn’t pandering to the same low-information voter base. The jabbering mess that he was last night may move a few “educated white suburban voters” away from him. Either that  or away from the voting booth entirely.

Other speculation I’ve seen over the last eight hours suggests “independent-minded” millennials clinging to either Jill Stein or Gary Johnson may … may … decide that since Hillary didn’t come off like Margaret Hamilton as The Wicked Witch of the West they might, y’know like, go for her after all. Despite “all that crooked stuff about her”, almost none of which they can explain with any detail or coherence.

But as much as I thought Hillary did just fine — she can drop the “trumped up trickle down” line — I watched Trump and kept thinking, “This works for him. It makes no sense at all. But it sounds like the same gilded-Mussolini, tough strutting egomaniac that ‘his people’ adore.” What they saw last night was the same thing they’ve seen since the get-go. Namely, “The guy who is going to stick it to everyone and everything that has made my life the mess it is.”

My belief about that is based on what I have come to accept as a fact. Namely, that wonky policy stuff — nuclear triads, strategic alliances, pre-school baby care and all that liberal, nanny state think tank BS — matters far, far less to the average “Trumpist” than, “blowing shit up”, for lack of a better phrase. Trump’s is a grievance and resentment campaign. His people don’t want “change” so much as they want vengeance on everyone that FoxNews, Rush Limbaugh and Breitbart say have done them wrong. There’s nothing constructive, no “making America great again” about it.

As along as Trump keeps picking scabs and pressing hair-trigger emotional buttons like he did in the debate, with his visions of roaming gangs of gun-wielding immigrants turning Chicago into Aleppo, he won’t lose a single vote of the irrationally terrified, angry and under-informed. Or the “37.5% who will vote for a bag of cement with an ‘R’ painted on it”, to quote Trump-despising GOP operative Mike Murphy.

A year ago I said I could see a path to Trump actually winning (although I still don’t think he will). It was based on this simple math. If he rallies even 10% of the “low information” crowd who rarely if ever vote, and adds them to the “37.5%” who will vote for any Republican no matter if he is an “orange anus”, to quote Rosie O’Donnell, he becomes POTUS 45.

The gobsmacked “elites” (that’d be TV talking heads everywhere but on FoxNews, all Democrats but mainly Hollywood liberals, and anyone who went to college and reads books with multi-syllable words) continue to flounder about trying to explain why Trump hasn’t cratered. Theories abound. But one explanation that hasn’t been examined closely enough is Trump’s vernacular and speaking rhythm, its similarity to religion and advertising, and how effective that is with an audience almost entirely “informed” by TV and pop culture.

Allow me to quote from length, James Fallows in this month’s Atlantic cover story

***

“Donald Trump’s language is notably simple and spare, at every level from word choice to sentence and paragraph structure. Of a thousand examples I’ll use just a few.

In the second Republican debate, hosted by CNN and held at the Reagan library, in California, moderator Jake Tapper asked Trump to explain his ‘build a wall’ immigration plan. Tapper said that fellow candidate Chris Christie had called it impractical. How would Trump respond? He did so this way:

‘First of all, I want to build a wall, a wall that works. So important, and it’s a big part of it.

Second of all, we have a lot of really bad dudes in this country from outside, and I think Chris knows that, maybe as well as anybody.

They go. If I get elected, first day they’re gone. Gangs all over the place. Chicago, Baltimore, no matter where you look.

We have a country based on laws.’

Bad dudes. A wall that works. Gangs all over the place.

After the first GOP debate Jack Shafer, of Politico, ran the transcript of Trump’s remarks through the Flesch-Kinkaid analyzer of reading difficulty, which said they matched a fourth-grade reading level. One of Trump’s press conferences at about the same time was at a third-grade level.

 In political language, plainness is powerful. ‘Of the people, by the people, for the people’. ‘Ask not what your country can do for you’. ‘I have a dream’. This is especially so for language designed to be heard, like speeches and debate exchanges, rather than read from a page. People absorb and retain information in smaller increments through the ear than through the eye. Thus the classic intonations of every major religion have the simple, repetitive cadence also found in the best political speeches. ‘In the beginning’. ‘And it was good’. ‘Let us pray’.
But Trump takes this much further, as he does with so many other things. Decades ago, when I worked on presidential speeches, some news analyst made fun of me for saying in an interview that we were aiming for a seventh-grade level in a certain televised address. But that is generally the level of effective mass communication—newscasts, advertising, speeches—and it is about where most of the other Republicans ended up when Shafer ran their transcripts through the analyzer. (Ben Carson, Mike Huckabee, and Scott Walker were at an eighth-grade level; Ted Cruz at ninth; and John Kasich at fifth.)

Another illustration: At a Fox Business debate in January in Charleston, South Carolina, Maria Bartiromo asked Trump about criticism from South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, also a Republican, that his tone was too angry. The transcript shows:

‘I’m very angry because our country is being run horribly, and I will gladly accept the mantle of anger. Our military is a disaster’. [The outlier word here is mantle.]

(APPLAUSE)

‘Our health care is a horror show. Obamacare, we’re going to repeal it and replace it. We have no borders. Our vets are being treated horribly. Illegal immigration is beyond belief. Our country is being run by incompetent people. And yes, I am angry’.

(APPLAUSE)

‘And I won’t be angry when we fix it, but until we fix it, I’m very, very angry. And I say that to Nikki. So when Nikki said that, I wasn’t offended. She said the truth’.

This is the classic language of both persuasion and sales—simple, direct, unmistakable, strong.”

***

Trump’s sustained viability has nothing to do with any specific remedies he has for the end-of-days apocalyptic disaster he imagines outside our windows. He is where he is because he, and he alone of everyone running this year, speaks in a way — full of terse, resonant, “See Dick run” emotional cues — that an astonishing/appalling chunk of the population finds reassuring and inspiring.

Weird as that sounds.

 

 

Add Friendships to the Wreckage in Trump’s Wake

NEW BLOG PHOTO_edited- 3We might want to add personal friendships to the havoc Donald Trump is wreaking on the Republican party and the USA’s international reputation. Elections have a way of dropping a cleaver between next door neighbors. For example, you can’t believe the Blows across the street have put up a McCain-Palin or Romney yard sign. Have they lost their minds? But eventually Election Day comes and goes and things settle back to waving as you pass on the street and making jokes at block parties.

This time though … . There’s something so unequivocal about Donald Trump’s ethics and mental fitness that listening to someone, an acquaintance or neighbor, say they’re for the guy is like having a rusty spike driven into your mental data-bank. You’re not likely to forgive it. You’re certainly never going to forget.

In terms of deal-breakers, support for Trump is such a reckless display of poor judgment and contorted logic that it’s just not possible to shrug it off and ignore it. Trumpism leaves a permanent stain. Put simply, as a test of intelligence, by which I mean the ability to make rational judgments on matters of importance, support for Trump self-identifies you as someone indifferent (at best) to common sense and decency as well as a person comfortable with blatantly racist sentiments. I don’t know about you, but I have a hard time stirring up a batch of gin and tonics for people like that.

As an old, not particularly enlightened friend once said to his (third) wife at a school fund-raiser filled with Filipino parents, “NOK, D.” (“Not our kind, dear.”)

Now I’m as guilty as anyone with the temporary cleaver thing. I can rant and fume with the best of them. But even in the case of George W. Bush, prior to Trump the least qualified, most intellectually lazy guy to run for President in my lifetime, I could process Joe and Sally Blow thinking he was a better bet for economic improvement and national security than Al Gore or John Kerry. The Blows were spectacularly wrong on both counts. But I could get to what formed their decision, albeit the fact that they always do the tribal thing and vote Republican probably accounted for 80% of their decision.

But cynical bigotry never entered into my assessment of their choice, or their fundamental values. White privilege, maybe. But a racist impulse? No.

I also get the rote tribal denunciations of Hillary Clinton as a “liar”, never mind fact-checkers like PolitiFact regularly rating her among the most honest of today’s national politicians. “Lying Hillary” is standard-issue competitive political “messaging”, especially important to today’s Republicans who quite literally have no coherent, detailed policy on any important public issue. (If you can think of one, e-mail me.) Whipping up Hillary hatred is pretty much their entire game this season.

Likewise, I get the psychological profile of the crowd packing into Trump rallies. Hell, I even pity them. If for no other reason than self-pity seems to be their primary emotional default. With that crowd the odds of the “knowing better” about a lot of things, not just politicians, are slim from the start.

But harder — make that “nearly impossible” — to understand and tolerate are traditional tribal Republicans supporting Trump so long after evidence of his bigotry-enabling rhetoric has become indisputable, and as I say, become a stain on the reputation of the party/tribe. These people, like the Blows across the street, are normally pretty confident of their savvy and quality judgment. My assumption is that while they’re much too Minnesotan to make a show of it, they count themselves among life’s winners. People who paid attention, worked hard and have put some separation between themselves and the spittle-flecked herd.

Until now.

Somewhere in their better-than-average educated, normally placid brains a snake has uncoiled and revealed their kinship with a crowd that is unabashed in their enthusiasm for dog whistle racial rhetoric and a career of managerial incompetence verging on fraud.

Way, way back the nuns at St.Joe’s in Montevideo taught me to forgive. There are worse crimes committed every day than showing yourself to be an agitated fool. But making a show of supporting Donald frickin’ Trump is like telling the world you’re so far around the bend you don’t give a damn who out there will never forget.

Bottom line: More gin and tonic for me.

And the “Republican establishment” is who, again?

NEW BLOG PHOTO_edited- 3Frankly, I don’t know how anything, much less anyone, can survive the next five and a half months. After spending most of last summer, fall and winter assuming/hoping Donald Trump would slither back under his gilded rock, we now have accept that he not only isn’t going away, but he’s going to be louder, cruder and more reckless than ever … because he’s convinced that’s what “his” Republican party wants.

Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton has to figure how to sell competent management (zzzzz) through news cycle after news cycle dominated by the next ludicrous-to-offensive thing Trump says and the herd media loves to cover pretty much to the exclusion of everything else. Personally, I’m confident Team Clinton, arguably the best-oiled political machine of the last generation, already knows how it’s going to play the game ahead. But that doesn’t mean the vulgar absurdity of Trump will abate in any way.

Among the innumerable ironies of the past month or so, as Trump achieved inevitability and “presumptiveness”, are the persistent eulogies for the Republican party. It’s as though the GOP “establishment”, which I’m not sure but I guess means the Bush Family, John McCain, Mitt Romney, Grover Norquist and the Wall Street Journal editorial board, was this cherished national treasure, a font of high-minded enlightenment guiding the masses with unimpeachable Socratic logic and rewarding the faithful with effective, far-sighted governance and benefits of indisputable value to the forever “hard-working” middle class.

What a colossal crock. After Romney augered in four years ago, I wasn’t the only one who said that if the “Grand” old party truly wanted to remain relevant in national elections it had to make a handful of serious changes. There was the “Hispanic problem”, which in truth is also a problem with pretty much every other minority group as well. There was also “the woman problem”, even though the Mittster did pretty well with white women. But most of all, IMHO, there was the need to be something more than a careerist messaging apparatus for anti-government “public servants” and actually, truly, genuinely do something for the middle class. Hell, the party itself said essentially the same thing, with the exception of, you know, that doing something part.

But because modern conservatives have been in the sales game and out of the doing something game for so long, bloviating about “freedoms” and “Constitutional rights” and “limited government” while incessantly licking the boots of the donor class that keeps them in office, they have no street cred with the crowd Trump tapped in to. Other than gun rights, Trump’s people have about as much of a focus on Constitutional freedoms as a diabetic bonobo. But damn! They know what they despise.

More to the point, the “messaging” they were getting injected with every day had nothing to do with the Bushes or even the Wall Street Journal. Their “establishment”, the real Republican establishment, was led by Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin, Laura Ingraham and Sean Hannity, a pack of self-serving entertainers pushing a much more digestible product. Namely, “Everything is [bleeped]. We are the ultimate authorities and the only people you can trust. And, you are the real victims of the DC con game.”

McCain’s top advisor in 2008, Steve Schmidt, recently went off on a rant about exactly this.

In small part he said, “[Mark Levin] is series-A round investor in the demise of the conservative movement in the Republican Party. He, very famously, a woman calls up his show and has the gall to just disagree with Mark Levin, who calls himself the great one. Talk about a narcissist. Talk about self-aggrandizers. Mark Levin asked, ‘Do you have a gun in the house? Go find it and blow your brains out’. This is the tone that has emanated from talk radio and this cancer has spread and that tone has infected the whole of the party. And so this moment that we’ve arrived at, where there’s been a severability now between issues and conservatism, and the test of who is the conservative in the race is who has the loudest voice of opposition.”

(As for bona fides, never forget that it was Schmidt in 2008 who signed off on Sarah Palin.)

A lot of liberals I listen to are smug in their belief that that kind cloddish rage has appeal only to the usual low-information, angry white (aging) male crowd. But the fact is Hillary Clinton’s high “unfavorable ratings” are directly connected to the same dynamic. The woman has been accused of one scandal after another since 1992. From Travelgate, to Whitewater, to Benghazi to this e-mail nonsense, all of it stoked and relentlessly marketed by the same entertainment “establishment”, (with the Bushes, McCains, Romneys and Wall Street Journals happily nodding along).

Point being, when I hear ardent progressives and marginally liberal people both talk about Clinton’s “untrustworthiness” I have to ask, “What do you mean, exactly?” And after valid stuff like her Iraq vote and coziness with Wall Street, the bulk of the examples are utter crap, like Whitewater and Benghazi. False reality, junk facts and manufactured outrage force fed by conservative entertainment “messaging” like milk to credulous veal calves. But so much of this “message” has been shoved down the public’s throats for so long, it has become a DNA marker in the body of the general public, conservatives, liberals and agnostics alike.

“There must be something to it. They always talk about it.”

So follow the dots: The cynical fecklessness of the Republican establishment class meant it kowtowed to its entertainment mouthpieces. Those mouthpieces cultivated an enormous audience of lazy-minded cynics. Those cynics, after 25 years, have now ridiculed and booed the “establishment” off the stage in favor of an actual TV performer-celebrity. That performer is, big surprise, another self-serving populist demagogue. A character who manifests, mainly, not any grand issues or policies, but rather the disposition the GOP’s target audience acquired from their regular habit of tuning in to be reassured they were right to feel sorry for themselves.

Well done, establishment conservatives.

Revenge on the Revenge of the “Unmoored”

NEW BLOG PHOTO_edited- 3Prior to Tuesday night’s results, which all but officially certified a Donald Trump v. Hillary Clinton smackfest  … for the next seven and a half months … the news item I found most heartening was the anarchist/prankster/hacker group Anonymous announcing it would be devoting its full energy to derailing The Trump Express, a mission it described in terms fever-eyed missionaries used to use for smoting the Prince of Darkness.

“We have been watching you for a long time and what we’ve seen is deeply disturbing. You don’t stand for anything but your personal greed and power. This is a call to arms. Shut down his websites, research and expose what he doesn’t want the public to know. We need you to dismantle his campaign and sabotage his brand.”

The thing of it is, the Anonymous folks will not be alone. Far, far from it. Given the relentless, exponential growth of social media, with hundreds of new, mocking, guerrilla videos being posted every day, any two characters running for president in 2016 would be targets for an unprecedented bombardment of ridicule. But with Trump, a Twitter-addicted, internet-trolling, infomercial-like charlatan taking control of … The Party of Lincoln … we are about to witness an astonishing convulsion of high(er) tech sabotage and satirical mockery.

The atmosphere, with a candidate as ludicrous (and dangerous) as Trump has never — ever — been so ripe for an open competition of can-you-top-this pranks, righteously dirty tricks and street theater. It is already well beyond anything that we could have imagined nine months ago, when we were convinced this was going to be yet another dusty, deadly dull Bush v. Clinton affair. And, as the treacly old song goes, “We’ve only just begun.”

So … I want to be on record saying how genuinely wonderful and entirely appropriate all this is going to be.

Trump likes to say he’s shaking up the game, and he is. He has. But, [full Trump voice here], I absolutely guarantee you, he is not prepared for the cosmic bombardment of derision that will rain down on him from now until election day.

The number of low-information authoritarians throwing themselves at his feet seems impressive in the current GOP primary vacuum. But those “angry” folks are neither a majority or among the country’s shall we say most facile wits. Even Trump himself, for all his show biz theatrics, strikes me as fundamentally literal-minded, with a very limited feel or patience for satire, especially at his expense, especially when it comes in the form of a million daggers puncturing his phoniness and bigotry.

One of this country’s most reassuring resources is our vast, fathomless pool of pomposity-mocking skeptics, professional comedians, satirists now multiplied by an uncharted universe of amateur snarks and miscreants; each of them eager and capable of claiming 15 minutes of fame by sticking the day’s most viral knife in a character — The Donald — who is an absurdist comic’s wet dream.

This assault is already well underway, but will explode now that Trump is a 99% certainty. The barrage — I guarantee — will also make collateral damage of Trump’s brawling, chanting, sucker-punching, saluting masses. They may be proud now of their association with a “movement” that has lifted up such a “strong leader”. But they too are about to endure/suffer an intensity of social shaming and disapprobation far beyond anything they’ve experienced before, no matter how badly they think they’ve already been victimized by all those “others” Trump has them rallying against.

Within a very short time their open support of Donald Trump will be the cultural equivalent of scrawling, “Kick Me, I’m a Racist Fool” on their own backs.

In the long run, this relentless shaming and ridiculing of a large chunk of people who already feel “unmoored” from fast-evolving modern society, (to use a trendy word), probably won’t go over so well. Their likely response to being constantly publicly ridiculed will be more anger, not less. It’s not hard to imagine more bare-knuckled, physical eruptions of the culture wars Republicans have been cultivating for the last quarter century.

But every haymaker-flailing goon in a “Make America Great Again” baseball cap becomes instant fodder for a 1000 comedy riffs, skits and viral videos.

Bottom line, the “unmoored” are unmoored for a reason. The “whys” and “hows” of their perceived mistreatment may be varied, but the basic fact remains they haven’t adapted to the world they’re living in. The 21st century simply moves faster and thinks faster than they do. They are people who habitually misjudge what is and isn’t in their best interests. And for that there are always social consequences … blowback that in this case will only get worse the more overt they get about who they’ve foolishly put their faith in this time around.

Along with The Donald they are about to experience a hellfire of ridicule and scorn beyond anything they thought possible.

The Donald’s Primitive Appeal

NEW BLOG PHOTO_edited- 3With Trump-mania continuing to build, a lot of time and energy is going in to trying to understand why. Not among his most enthusiastic supporters, of course. Those folks, the ones proudly and completely without irony offering Nuremberg-like salutes pledging fealty to The Donald, seem to be pre-introspection. In their own odd way they’re hippie-like in the “If it feels good, do it” approach to tribal leadership.

Elsewhere though there’s plenty of cogent analysis of Trump’s basic, and I do mean “basic”, appeal. One of the best I’ve read is this piece by Amanda Taub on Vox a week or so back. (Hat tip to PM for recommending it.)

Taub writes about fresh research on the appeal of authoritarian personalities by several teams of socio-psychologists, serious professionals building on numerous previous studies that established the significantly greater, almost instinctive respect conservatives have for authority — group consensus, workplace bosses, police, the military, cultural and government leaders in general — than liberals.

Or as Taub writes, “ … a psychological profile of individual voters that is characterized by a desire for order and a fear of outsiders. People who score high in authoritarianism, when they feel threatened, look for strong leaders who promise to take whatever action necessary to protect them from outsiders and prevent the changes they fear.”

And, “Authoritarians are thought to express much deeper fears than the rest of the electorate, to seek the imposition of order where they perceive dangerous change, and to desire a strong leader who will defeat those fears with force. They would thus seek a candidate who promised these things. And the extreme nature of authoritarians’ fears, and of their desire to challenge threats with force, would lead them toward a candidate whose temperament was totally unlike anything we usually see in American politics — and whose policies went far beyond the acceptable norms.”

The problem with most previous surveys is that they began in an unambiguously political context which likely led interviewees to shade their responses so to appear more or less authoritarian-minded, depending on how they felt they might be judged. More to the point, it was hard to get an honest answer to questions like, “Do you fear Muslims?”

The beauty — the elegance — of these new tests, and some are based on work began 25 years ago but largely ignored until recently, is the way scientists masked the intent of the survey by asking subjects about their philosophy of … parenting.

Sample questions:

  1. Please tell me which one you think is more important for a child to have: independence or respect for elders?
  2. Please tell me which one you think is more important for a child to have: obedience or self-reliance?
  3. Please tell me which one you think is more important for a child to have: to be considerate or to be well-behaved?
  4. Please tell me which one you think is more important for a child to have: curiosity or good manners?

As the article lays it out, the parenting line of questioning proved far more accurate in identifying people with latent authoritarian impulses — the desire to be protected, guided and feel part of a conforming mass. Beyond that the correlation with Trump’s devotees, who are clearly something beyond traditional authoritarian-minded conservatives, was even more startling.

“The third insight came from [Vanderbilt professor Marc] Hetherington and American University professor Elizabeth Suhay, who found that when non-authoritarians feel sufficiently scared, they also start to behave, politically, like authoritarians.

But Hetherington and Suhay found a distinction between physical threats such as terrorism, which could lead non-authoritarians to behave like authoritarians, and more abstract social threats, such as eroding social norms or demographic changes, which do not have that effect. That distinction would turn out to be important, but it also meant that in times when many Americans perceived imminent physical threats, the population of authoritarians could seem to swell rapidly.

Together, those three insights added up to one terrifying theory: that if social change and physical threats coincided at the same time, it could awaken a potentially enormous population of American authoritarians, who would demand a strongman leader and the extreme policies necessary, in their view, to meet the rising threats.”

It’s a long read, but I think a valuable one for anyone trying to comprehend the appalling spectacle we’re all watching.

By coincidence I’ve been reading “Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind” by Yuval Noah Harari, a reexamination of biological and social evolution, very much rooted in primitive concepts of personal safety, tribal unity, resistance to change and suspicion of “others”. The takeaway for me, not that it offers any great consolation for the sight of thousands of well-protected, reasonably prosperous Americans pledging fealty to a TV celebrity, is that the evolutionary process of survival of the fittest — in this case the success of those best able to manage irrational fear — is at minimum, a process thousands of years from completion.

The two-to-five thousand years of global-scale human interaction doesn’t even yet amount to a blink of the evolutionary eye. While the agricultural revolution, the industrial revolution and today’s cyber revolution have/are forcing radical adaptations (i.e. evolution) on us sapiens, slowly diminishing our primitive fears of any/every new tribe intruding on our hunting ground, there’s no good reason to believe we aren’t still hundreds-to-thousands of years away from the demise of the last over-active, primordial amygdala.

As I say, there’s no great comfort in considering this thesis. But in the face of something as primitive as Donald Trump any kind of explanation helps.