Tuesday, November 22, 2016

FOUR DAYS OF TRUMP TELLS US ALL WE NEED TO KNOW

All this rot about running off to Canada or Europe. Why would anyone possibly leave the United States now, when we who are here have a ringside seat to a spectacle few ever thought we’d see in our lifetimes – namely, 1920’s and 1930’s style totalitarianism brought home to the United States of America. And it’s happening so quickly!

That’s the surprising thing: Trump is giving it to us at hyper-speed. Probably this is because he is so enormously stupid. No subtle waiting around for Hindenburg to die or messing around with that pesky Reichstag fire, this guy is go-go-go. Like a sea cucumber designed only to breathe, eat, and shit sand, Trump simply does what he does, which in his sea cucumber way is wave power, threaten, bully, and get even with anyone who has ever ridiculed him or anyone who looks like they might ridicule him -- which, when you think of it, is all of us.

In short, Trump is already off his nut. It will be interesting to see how our much-vaunted system of checks and balances deals with this.

There are certainly plenty of indicators to work from. And I don’t need to talk about things as dry and dull as the appointment of Mike Flynn or Steve Bannon.

Today, for instance, Trump called together a collection of the top TV journalists in the country, as well as their producers and network executives. Big time stuff. The media thought it was going to be a mending of fences, but apparently, Trump was combative right off the top. He had called them to Trump Tower, he explained, to tell them how unfair they had been to him, and how they had “failed to provide their viewers with fair and accurate coverage…. [he] told them they failed to understand him or his appeal to millions of Americans.” (Washington Post).

When one brave soul asked Trump what “fair” was, or truth, Trump replied that his definition was “truth.”

Read that again if you want.

This was Monday. We only have to go back a few days to see the pattern being set. Thursday, say.

On that day, Trump tweeted to the world that “I worked hard with Bill Ford to keep the Lincoln plant in Kentucky. I owed it to the great State of Kentucky for their confidence in me!” In fact, Ford never had any plans to cut jobs at their Kentucky plant and none of this had anything to do with Trump. But Trump must be the champion and the center of attention, so in his scenario he not only convinced Ford to save Kentucky jobs, but Kentuckians knew he could do it and invested him with all their confidence! This, of course, is simple delusion.

A few hours after this weirdly invented self-aggrandization, there was the announcement that Trump was settling the Trump University lawsuits for 25 million, an arrangement Trump said he sought, not because he had done anything in the way of swindling anyone, but because a frivolous lawsuit would get in the way of his making America great again. I would give him that, but then he clearly had a second, darker, more worrisome thought: what if people think he’s weak? You can almost feel the sweat of such an idea dripping onto the next tweet, which came shortly after: “The ONLY bad thing about winning the Presidency is that I did not have the time to go through a long but winning trial on Trump U. Too bad!”

Like any other manic depressive, Trump would mood swing only hours later, after he heard about Vice President-Elect Pence being lectured from a Broadway stage by an actor in the musical “Hamilton.” Pence took it well enough, apparently, but Trump went on such a tweet rampage you can practically see his face bulging outward in Red Hulk fury. First, “Our wonderful future V.P. Mike Pence was harassed last night at the theater by the cast of Hamilton, cameras blazing. This should not happen!” Then, shortly after: “The Theater must always be a safe and special place. The cast of Hamilton was very rude last night to a very good man, Mike Pence. Apologize!” Then – and I picture him now pacing up and down the living room of the Trump Tower penthouse, infuriated thumbs jabbing recklessly at the keypad -- he offered up a third epistle: “The cast and producers of Hamilton, which I hear is highly overrated, should immediately apologize to Mike Pence for their terrible behavior.” (Isn’t the “which I hear is highly overrated” the great tell here? Always having to get the extraneous, unnecessary, and unverifiable jab in).

Unfortunately for mental equilibrium, the next day Trump made the mistake of watching Saturday Night Live and Alec Baldwin’s impersonation of him. Why he would bother to do such a thing, as clearly this portrayal has upset him in the past, is baffling. Psychiatrists around the world speculate. But Alec’s turn engendered this furied missive: “I watched parts of @nbcsnl Saturday Night Live last night. It is a totally one-sided, biased show - nothing funny at all. Equal time for us?” This indicates that Trump not only doesn’t have a sense of humor, but he doesn’t understand the difference between a comedy show produced by a private entertainment production company, and network news, where equal time is offered to candidates during an election, which we’re not having, for which he is no longer a candidate, because he won. He also has missed the news that Presidents, from the beginning of time, are the butt of every manner of joke. Trump doesn’t know about jokes.

Monday, as I said, brought with it not just the meeting with the news folk (remember, the truth is what Trumps says is the truth) but also stories about Trump’s unwillingness to divest himself of businesses that could stand in direct conflict with his role as President of the United States, despite Article I, the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution, which forbids public officials from receiving special treatment in commercial dealings with foreign interests. Trump waved this off in a tweet around 6pm Monday. “Prior to the election, it was well known that I have interests in properties all over the world. Only the crooked media makes this a big deal!”

Okay, people.  

We need to have a grown-up conversation.

This isn’t about Making America Great Again. Nor is this about the error of believing Trump when he said he would return jobs to the rust belt or anywhere else in the country where jobs were found missing (jobs that don’t exist anymore, and never will again, and we all know it), or “draining the swamp” of Washington or building walls or stopping immigration or whatever pack of lies many bought before pulling the lever or putting an X beside Trump’s name.

This is about the country. Land of Lincoln. The office in which FDR sat. The role Ronald Reagan knew to play to the hilt, comporting himself with complete dignity and decency.

Whether we like it or not, America must wake up to the fact that we have elected a mentally unbalanced child; an angry, petulant, uninformed thug to whom the country – because “the rules are the rules” – is going to give the awesome power of the United States military.

Forget nonsense like the wall – that’s peanuts.  With the U.S. military Trump can do anything he wants -- at least until Congress can stop him, at which point it’s probably too late. This isn't election year ennui or economic anger playing itself out.  This is deadly serious.

Because we’ve seen this before. When the bully tells you his truth is the truth, that anyone who speaks against him or his gang must apologize, or that the rules don’t apply to him, you have just been introduced to the madman.  And madmen don't just stop with military adventurism.

As I said, what’s amazing is that he’s going at it so early. He doesn’t even have the actual power yet, but he’s waving around that gun like he’s already got everyone in the bank held hostage. This may work in our favor. I think he truly doesn’t understand what power he does and doesn’t have, what he’s allowed to do and not allowed to do, and where the limits are. In fact, I don’t think he knows there are any limits to his new role, which has taken on Sultanic, even Tsarist values in his mind.  He just knows he’s won, has power, and people are gonna pay for being mean to him. 

This is where we are.

The good thing – if there is one – is that we still have exactly two months before he takes office. I itemized the fun of four days. Imagine four years.

So why go to Canada or Europe, when we can stay right at home and watch the destruction of the United States and maybe more from the safety of our living rooms, and all because people were too lazy to read a newspaper or open a book? Or maybe not the destruction of the country. How about a national intervention of some kind, as the American people recognize they’ve made a mistake, and they’re going to snatch sanity from the jaws of sheer idiocy and preserve the Land of Lincoln, the office wherein FDR sat, and the role that Reagan played?

Everyone says it’s too late, but it’s never too early to stop something like this. Imagine if we had real leaders able to take the bull by the horns and do what’s right and remove this man -- traditions and rules be damned.  He is bold enough not to follow them.  Why should we?


Thursday, November 10, 2016

WE MUST NEVER NORMALIZE TRUMP

Obama has no choice but to normalize Trump.  He has to go through the rituals, in one of his last, but not the last, acts of decency in his presidency.  The rest of us are being asked to do the same, usually in the name of giving Trump room to succeed.  We are all supposed to wipe the slate clean, something which made sense in pretty much every election that has gone before, no matter how hard fought.  Soon the media, in order to keep their own wheels greased, will join Obama in asking us to normalize Trump.

But as citizens we can't, nor should we, wipe the slate clean or normalize Trump.

Trump is not Mitt Romney.  Nor is he John McCain.  Nor is he Obama, nor is he George W. Bush or John Kerry. 

Trump is exactly what he wishes to be: unique, an outlier, something that the country has never seen before. 

This has nothing to do with politics.  Only a fool believes this is a right-left thing or a Democratic/Republican thing, or anything akin to the Republicans assault on Obama when he took office, or when the Democrats thought they were ripped off by George W. Bush.  

Trump is unique and an outlier because he is the first fully blown fascist the United States has ever elected to the Presidency.  He is a monster of cruelty and indecency, and his arrival at the Presidency is one of the foulest deeds every perpetrated upon the American people and now, in this post World War II epoch, the rest of the planet.   

Nor is this about Trump's policies, such as they are.  There is many a Republican who espouses getting rid of Obamacare, rejigging the tax code in favor of the rich, suppressing minorities and rolling back Roe v. Wade.  That I could live with.   Half the country despised Richard Nixon but we went on, just as half the country was disgusted by Bill Clinton and went on. 

Again, Trump is different.  

It's not just that he's wholly unqualified for the job, or that he knows nothing of the history of the country, its traditions, beliefs, or its people, or even what he doesn't know; it's that Trump believes in suppression;  police brutality against those who disagree with him, and using the power of the Presidency to jail his enemies if not incite their murder.  

We have never seen the likes of this before.

So if it's not a Republican-Democrat or a right-left situation, where are we?  Well, simply put, I believe we have reached a point where one half of the country is pitted against the other. One half wants a basic liberal democracy officiated over by anyone who can deliver anything approximating same (Hillary Clinton if we have to have her, but John Kasich just as well, or Jeb Bush, or Joe Biden) and the other half wants a Strongman. 

My guess is that the people who voted for Trump don't know what a Strongman is.  This is what a Strongman is:

Mussolini was a Strongman, Adolph Hitler was a Strongman, Josef Stalin was a Strongman.  So were Pinochet and Papa Doc and Idi Amin.  History is littered with these lowlifes.  The United States, by virtue of its basic liberal culture and diversity in faiths, was usually deemed immune to Strongmen, but in the age of Twitter and Snapchat and a mainstream press that utterly fell down on the job (first Iraq, now Trump), it's clear that we aren't immune at all.  

The miserable part of all this is that, despite what everyone is going to tell you to do, we can't really afford the luxury of making peace with our neighbor and healing the wounds. The reason is that our neighbor probably voted for Trump, and if he voted for Trump, history tells us that he won't be paying attention when truly crazy Trump stuff starts to happen.   In fact, what history tells us is that if we all reach out to one another and "get back to normal", that's when the Strongman can really get away with serious stuff, because not only is no one watching, but no one wants to tear the fabric of their community and society apart again.

So once we normalize Trump and make peace with the folks who voted for Trump, who is going to take note and object when he finds a crisis that requires a State of Emergency, when he penalizes the press that rebukes him (Washington Post) and rewards those who support him (Fox); when he collects on the goodwill he's built up with the law enforcement officials he has so carefully cultivated (they who are so pissed off with the rest of us); when he really utilizes the awesome ability he has to communicate and connect with the TV-dumb masses, and when he settles finally on an Other who is responsible for our woes (thus far he has tried many: Hispanic, women, gay, Muslim, African-American, and, always reliably, Jew).

Once normalization takes place, we are going to be blinkered when any of these things come to pass, and I guarantee you they will come to pass in some way or other.  History tells us so.

I hate writing like this.  I wish I had the icy cold, level-headed optimism of an Obama as he greets Trump in the Oval Office with courtesy and deference.  I wish I could be that calm and sure that "America will never go that way" and that people like me are fringe voices in the internet wilderness.  But the problem is, Obama told us there was no way Trump was going to win the Republican nomination, and later, with great certainty, he said there was no way that he was going to win the Presidency.  Well, Obama was President of the United States, with access to all the intelligence that entails, and he got it wrong. The proof is the maniac standing in his office. 

So let Obama be the one to do the normalizing.   Let television news turn Trump into a charming, if odd, uncle. The rest of us have to keep our eye out, if only to preserve the standards that we used to believe the country stood for. 

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

HOW MAINSTREAM MEDIA ALMOST ELECTED A FASCIST DICTATOR


When Trump loses the Presidential race, what is the media going to say?

Not what is Trump going to say. That’s easy to figure; he’s going to say whatever he needs to say to keep feeding the ego-circus. He’ll probably have more rallies and say it was all rigged. Yes, more rallies.

Yet, already you can feel he’s a hop-skip-and-jump from becoming as marginal a character as Sarah Palin, who dropped out of her governorship in favor of cheap cable shows wherein she shot wild animals from a chopper. Trump might be a little higher class and actually have a movement, but most of us will say, in wonder, “That guy once had the nomination?”

But what about the mainstream media? Aye, there’s the real story. Because the mainstream media botched this one. Therefore, the safest thing for them to say when Clinton wins is, “See? The system worked! The good guy/woman won!”

Well, just because your teenage son and his idiot buddies went drunk driving and came back alive doesn’t mean the system worked; it means everyone got very very lucky.

The truth, in the case of the 2016 election, is this: the establishment media almost gave the United States of America its first fascist dictator, and an idiot to boot. 

How did they do it?   And why?

Well, firstly, the guy meant ratings, so they made him an equivalent not to Hillary Clinton, but to Jeb Bush and John Kasich and those other creepy phonies who are, nonetheless, acceptable to me because they at least nominally adhere to the Constitution and probably read books in their spare time. For its part, the Republican Party almost gave the country Trump because they are craven worms who simply don’t care about their country.

(That sounds over the top, but let’s stop being kind. Republican Party chairman Reince Priebus is an appliance salesman who, I guess, views his job status as more important than the welfare of the other 330 million Americans he shares the continent with. God knows what he tells himself at 3 a.m. Same goes for Kellyanne Conway, who is the modern-day Goebbels, or Leni Riefenstahl at best, but without the camera skills. And, of course, the Profiles in Gutlessness gang, headed by Paul Ryan, John McCain, and the rest of the GOP creepy squad, not only gassed up the car, they gave the teenagers the alcohol and told them to enjoy themselves spinning around town, and don’t mind the speed limits or cross-walks.)

The second thing the media did was close their eyes to what’s really going on around the country. They did this years ago, and that’s why right off the bat they missed the truth about Trump – that he was so appealing – and they missed the threat until it was too late. 

This is eerily reminiscent of how the media marched in weird patriotic lock-step with Dick Cheney when it came to the Iraq war.

The problem is that TV journalists in particular make too much money, live too close, and pal around with politicians in a proximity and equality that’s antithetical to decent journalism. They are now as much a part of the problem as Priebus and even Trump himself. And they won’t risk being out of favor.

Case in point: 

I watched Kellyanne Conway doing her glib performing-dog act of deflecting every criticism of Trump and stressing that he’s just, let’s face it folks, Mr. America while Hillary is Lady MacBeth. In this, Kellyanne was defending and doing everything she could to elect America’s first fascist dictator. Once this interview was over, Chuck Todd of NBC told the rest of us, “That was Kellyanne Conway, folks, who has one of the toughest jobs in politics right now, but let me tell you something – and this is important -- she’s a good person.”

No, Chuck! No! This isn’t a game. This isn’t high school. This is serious.

Chuck, I like you. I want you to be our tribune. Our defender. In short, I want you to be a journalist of some sort. But you should have beaten that woman to the wall. You should have nailed her on every inanity she uttered. But after your usual two or three crocodile tries, you gave in. “She’s really a swell person, folks.”

Chuck, when you tell us you know Kellyanne Conway or that you’re friends with her, that she’s a good person, you reveal that everything you’re doing is a show, a sham. You don’t have to be insulting to Kellyanne, but to sell her to us is to give the whole thing a wink. Imagine Edward R. Murrow telling us, “And it’s important to remember that Senator McCarthy is still a decent man who loves his mother.” Unthinkable. Because we didn’t need Murrow for that. We needed him for something loftier.

This is it in a nutshell. Politics is media and media is politics. They pal around, they dine with one another, they make sure they’re all in favor with one another, and they all make too much money. To them it’s a game. The rest of us have our faces pressed against the window. For this reason, they will never report the real story of the 2016.

The real story is not that we didn’t elect America’s first fascist dictator, it’s that we almost did.

A TRIBUTE TO BERNARD SLADE

The last time I posted to this blog, I was writing a memorial to my father, Rod Coneybeare, who passed away on Sept 5, 2019.    The in...