Friday, December 16, 2016

Trump’s Only Path – Why Trump will Rule, but Never Govern

Trump is unpopular but he denies it and he says he doesn’t care. Trump is petty and vindictive, but that shows he does care– about respect and deference for his domination. He would rather gain popularity from sentiments of fear and awe than from gratitude for fulfilling forgotten and impossible promises. Bad and unpopular policies, corruption and plunder: these are of no significance to Trump, unless his follies and predations are exposed and the exposure triggers defections among his corps of fanatic followers. That won’t happen. They won’t know what hit them.

Trump will tell his true believers why they do not benefit from the successes he constantly proclaims. First and foremost, he will rant that he is too often balked or stymied by the bureaucracy, but also by the other branches– the Congress and the Courts. His exercise of the appointment power will eventually remedy the latter, and his threat of immediate reprisals will check intra-party opponents. The leverage of deep pockets, the availability of “purer” primary opponents, and the diminished power of the major political parties were already worrisome to incumbents, the vast majority of whom are opportunistic careerists.  

Trump won’t need to wait for the next election to punish his opponents. Trump will give the dial a further twist, and put them in fear for their lives. He will devote a Huge portion of his [public service] time to visiting the constituencies of recalcitrants, where he will hold 2nd Amendment-intensive vigilante rallies. He will blame his failures upon the fact that he has opposition. Opposition is inconvenient, inefficient. It gets in his way. Their way. 

Trump ran an incendiary campaign, and the fire he lit is now well beyond his control. Since he cannot deliver the recovery of his imaginary America’s putative “Greatness”, Trump must stoke the resentments that fuel loyalty to his vicarious magnificence. To that end, he must scapegoat the civil servants who comprise the Permanent Government until he gains unquestioning and leakproof compliance with his dictates; but more importantly, he must consolidate and expand zones of government classified secrecy and opacity to include his private profiteering, and his conflictual overseas interests as well as his tax returns and balance sheet. We may confidently expect Trump’s attacks on the press to form the centerpiece of his relentless, vicious, and merciless rallies. 

Our hopes for recovery of Constitutional government may depend upon the integrity of Jeff Bezos, or the Mexican patriotism of Carlos Slim. Their willingness to endure financial sacrifice may be the last bulwark of a free press and hence the rule of law: the exceptional, true, and very fragile American Dream.  The sad dilapidation of our constitutional structure has come to this: survival of the United States rests upon the integrity of a few individuals, much more than it depends upon public opinion or the decision of citizens who vote. Indeed, before the debacle of Trumpism is finished, we may come to rely upon the Mormons, the Koch brothers, and a military that knows the limits of Presidential power, to draw a line allowing the willing remnants of the GOP to initiate impeachment.

Tally the Rallies, and Make a Plan B!

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Major Advances on the Road to Dystopia

Last week, a grizzled Parthian veteran narrowly escaped being conned by a cold-calling robot. He began to wonder how much of his instinctual wariness had been eroded by age– how else could he account for the ability of a machine to keep him listening so far into her spiel? The veteran was no fool: he knew that his infirmity and seniority had been mined from his on-line activity, and that he was included on one of the more expensive demographically focused lists of land line phone numbers sold to shysters looking for a quick buck by exploiting early evidence of HDD.

Heuristic Deficit Disorder occurs in the general electorate, obviously; but it has not gotten the attention it deserves from investigators of the decaying brain. Before memory loss becomes obvious to the sufferer or his intimates, he experiences doubt about the reliability of his habits, his short-term memory, and his immediate plans. His first recourse is to rely tacitly and increasingly upon trusted others in his nuclear social network for confirmation and validation of his functional autonomy. As we age, we must be alert for this prodromal indicator of trouble ahead. Today, marketers (assisted by AI algorithms) may be more sophisticated diagnosticians than physicians.

As best he can remember, the robot’s relatively low-tech pitch went like this:


“Hello, ____, can you hear me?” [brief moment of static prevents immediate response].
“I’ve been having a problem with my headphones, [sudden increase in volume and clarity of the bright female voice] but I think we left our last conversation unfinished. I wanted to be sure you knew of our [extraordinary offer of a paid cruise and vacation to see a time-share property, or whatever else was promised].”

The artfulness of the con consisted in the brief technical disturbance at the outset, the clarity of the recorded voice (and her ability to insinuate credibly a previous business relationship), and her timing. Her timing was adjusted perfectly to allow no moment for interjection during the spiel. The vulnerability of the ruse consisted in its hackneyed hyperbole, the “wait, wait, there’s more!” as the script escalated its catalog of enticements.

The Arrow was reminded of this incident when he saw the New York Times coverage of dramatic improvements in the performance of Google Translate. According to the report, Google engineers had developed Artificial Intelligence software that is capable of rendering idiomatic and accurate translations from one language to another that are so convincing (if your prose style approximates Hemingway rather more than Faulkner) that we can see in the very near future a day when a server can pass the Turing Test.

We should have seen this coming faster than futurists predicted. The alternate reality proclaimed by Bannon and Trump, Murdoch and Hannity, proved that confident assertions of fictional conspiracies can be devised on the fly by real human actors.  Proficiency in the art of propaganda and the Big Lie requires less talent and training, and less creativity than machine translation. All that it requires is the subtraction of scruples. Or a lesion in the forebrain that prevents the victim from gaining a conscience about factuality, evidence, truth. To label the current purveyors of deceit as sociopaths may have some taxonomical advantages. It may even spur discovery of therapeutic devices, such as education, to address the few who are motivated to abandon their lucrative predations on the credulity of the large population of people who suffer from acute HDD.

No matter how hard fought the battle may be that we now face to establish a baseline of grounded and irrefutable truth, the victory will not go to the champions of reality once reality itself is an article to be produced, reproduced, replaced, amended, and ubiquitously asserted by machinery. Machines producing artificial political ‘reality’ may already exist. They seem certain to exist in the near future. One of their most worrisome outputs will not be waves of propaganda masquerading as fact, but the technological replacement of journalists by factitious reporters of plausible truths, peeking out from behind the curtain, where Putin and Trump, the wizards of schmooze, reign supreme. 

Saturday, December 3, 2016

The Disloyalty of Opposing Trump

The President-elect’s psychopathologies are well-known; his ignorance is on daily display.  The Press has begun to criticize people nominated to occupy positions of influence. Columns are devoted to speculating about the limits of Trump’s susceptibility to psychological manipulation. Who will prove best able control Trump’s vindictiveness, venality, and vanity?  Talk of political give and take is beside the point, if “politics” is no longer a matter of agendas, programs or policies. Here is how authoritarian rule will be established:

Rallies. Trump knows how to work an audience into a mob. He is addicted to adulation. He is a practiced demagog, who knows instinctively the tedious ritual that delivers mass hypnosis and hysteria. His mastery of crowds is the key to his power. He will demand and get more frequent and bigger rallies. As their size and fervency grows, so will Trump’s power to intimidate his party’s leaders. His first order of business will be to find a stage-manager for his spectacles. The second and more dangerous feature of his mobilization strategy will be his need to focus and direct the mob’s energy against selected scapegoats.

Suppression of the [Lame Stream] Media. Trump will start the process by intense attacks aimed at the already demonized press. He will refuse to hold press conferences, and rely instead upon the propagation of deceitful tweets. Once he consolidates a firmer grip on the judiciary, he will deliver on his threat to revise libel laws, and he will [ab]use his access to blackmail-worthy material (in the manner of J. Edgar Hoover) to limit and distort information about his administration. 

Emergencies and Disorders. Trump will dine with relish on protest marches and organized resistance by sanctuary cities, or other forms of civil disobedience. Riots will be provoked in order to be suppressed. He will encourage his partisans to “meet” violence with more violence, until he can justify the imposition of martial law. He will demand and receive unquestioned loyalty, enforced by harsh policing methods. Suspected categories will find their ranks tested though massive deployment of the technical resources of Big Brother. 

Subversive Conspiracies. The final phase of the forfeiture of our constitutional order will be a revival of the familiar phenomena of McCarthyism. Ted Cruz, Chris Christie, or Rudy Juliani– or all three of them– will be designated to lead “investigations” designed to delegitimize the defunded Planned Parenthood membership, as well as the ACLU, collective bargaining entities, and every other form of organized opposition.

You cannot deny you were forewarned, by history, and by sound prophecy!

Monday, November 21, 2016

Thursday Jeremiad

Misgiving Fast

Winnowing finished, harvest home, we huddle in fear:
Icemen blow fury tomorrow across the fruitless plane;
scores settled at last: resettled, sorted, zeroed out–
specious spies lurk interspersed among us to report
(in triplicate, with files attached) the secret script
and deep design that confounds our mildew march.

The family table warps. Our garden has no mulch;
 the sideboard groans for want of healthy fare.
Everywhere we look, signs some creature crapped.
 Acrid ashes coat comforter and counterpane.
Demonstrators meet denial and a cruel retort;
but trains run on time, arrive on the very dot.

The winners forgive themselves for every debt;
honor and legality just another way to mooch. 
Together, bended knee and burning cross consort–
Calumnies and fables never known before
Issue from the dais: his surrogates impugn
the camera’s motives, the taped transcript.

You thought you broke the story. You were scooped!
You set yourself a deadline, then missed the date.
The honesty of lies lies beyond you to explain–
on the field of rhetoric, you met your match:
defeated, you will hear a command to fire!
and die leaving no redress surviving you in court.

Marksmen with rifles invest the undefended fort– 
Once a treasure-house, which safely kept
archives and jeweled amulets that would confer
immunity from skeptics. Vigilantes now dare indict
democracy itself– use their freedom to besmirch
our youngest innocents, bullied to bend their spine!

Cerebrate a Barmecide Holiday:  banquet of spleen;
again a regime where women can’t safely abort,
its venues where initiatives fall victim to Mitch–
and rational policy’s sent to be scrapped.
A Senate too senile to see itself drool and dote,
Trumped by a gambler, the ultimate low-life high flier!

America, America, Fraud sped to disgrace thee!
Land of the rigged landslide, land of the rained parade
Pray splay your pussies wide: forget that ever you were free! 

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Liberty Laments

Trump’s victory surprised his opponents, currently called elites– or when they reflect on their errors, the condescending class. Trump’s revolution elicited the usual reaction to an ambush– a rush of adrenalin, or nausea, and the fight or flight reflex. Lady Liberty weeps because she is taller, and she sees farther than the rest of us. She knows that authoritarian narcissists evolve predictably according to a logic or program of their own.

She knows, as Hannah Arendt understood, how regimes like Trump’s do not claim the support of tradition (the secular rule of law) nor of established bureaucratic institutions, with their habits and routines. Trumpists can't simultaneously drink from and drain the same swamp without breaching the extravagant promises that fuel their revolution. Trumpism sprouted from the thin soil of blind rage and frustration suffered by the sinking "middle" or working class. He dares not betray the credulous chumps and losers who made him rich, first in funds and now in votes (or votaries). Trump’s understanding of his mandate is all that matters in today's politics, and he is all that matters to his followers. Faith in the Donald provides relief through obedience and dependence, not investigation of facts and policy choices.  Strong men gain power through empathic sharing of their own weakness, vengeful resentment, and paranoid demonization of opponents. Tyranny is stoked by imputing delays and obstacles to fiendish conspiracies visible only to the Leader.

So beware, take care, for a dodder-wigged dragon now controls the castle. The more you frustrate him, the more he will demonize you. He will mobilize his unemployable supporters from the hinterlands to round you up, humiliate you, and as the cycle escalates, you will become fodder for expiation through public spectacle–versions of latter-day autos da fe. He will boost the economy by providing abundant employment for unskilled labor. He will need and obtain wall-installers, infrastructure improvers, and police. Lots of police, turnkeys, and private prisons. Many new hires will be needed to smoke out sleeper cells, and irregular foreign elements hiding in the population. After summarily disposing of the easy culls, they will next round up the nasties: libelers and alien thinkers who forfeit their citizenship by treasonously rejecting Trump's restoration program, in the name of such sissy and dangerous ideas as civil rights.

The pundits who didn’t see dictatorial rule coming also fail to foresee how misplaced is their faith in habit and inertia, in constitutions, and checks and balances. Those things were then; this is now. Get with the program of making America great again, or get lost. If you’re not a purifier, you will be purified, and you will be lucky if purify means only shamed, exiled, or imprisoned. For frustrating the Leader's beautiful vision, after all, you deserve a bit of torture on your way out.

Sure, this is a hysterical rant. Today, our mistaken pundits push the idea that Trump is ephemeral. Facts will bring him down, the historical momentum of our “Institutions” and traditions will limit this binge. Then, a chastened country will come to its senses with a hangover and justified belief in our exceptionalism and the resilience of our democracy. 

The consolations offered by our wise men are delusional bafflecrap, every bit as dangerous as their polls and models of voting behavior. The tears of Liberty are shed because when the wise few wake to the danger and choose flight, where can they go? Liberty's torch is extinguished. The planet is dying of neglect and brutal exploitation. It has no Arcadia to offer the prescient refugee.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

A Ticket of Clerihews for Election Season

Republican candidate Michael Pence
Has yet to discover the present tense.
His Eminence: Humble, Pious Michael
Marks the nadir of our Viconian Cycle.

Donald, a paragon of sexual stamina 
Cavorts like a stallion filled with Viagra–
While rivals suffer collapsing lamina
Trump snorts in triumph, a virile Niagara!

Saturday, October 22, 2016

A Futuristic Counterfactual

Donald Trump’s tailspin slump has stimulated unseemly speculation about the reactions of post-election incumbents, constituents, and contributors comprising that ill-assorted mixture of interest groups and ideological movements that styles itself the Republican party. Where will insurrectionary alt-right fanatics invest their mistrust after they lose the Presidency by a wide margin to the elites and their brain-washed victims who follow the false gods of Reality and Reason? Intransigent hatred of Hillary may produce pop-up insurrections, or bubbling instances of McVeigh style domestic terrorism in the aftermath of Trump’s rigging rhetoric. More optimistic pundits foresee a period of internecine strife, forcing incumbents in Congress to extend the governmental stalemate that has subverted the legitimacy of Congress as well as popular respect for our constitutional form of government during most of the Obama administration. Trumpism may simply command too large and too determined a following to permit the Republican party to move in any direction except further down the familiar and fatal path traced by authoritarian regimes elsewhere.

Time will tell whether the GOP can reform itself and recoup its losses. This post raises a sub-issue: suppose that the next Congress exposes a stand-off within the GOP Congressional caucus. Allowed to fester indefinitely, a broken caucus compels the leadership to prolong our legislative stalemate. Fearful of retaliation from the alt-right core if they collaborate with the enemy, Republican incumbents led by Ryan might converge with Democrats who see a crisis facing party politics as traditionally practiced.  Party leaders could through parallel analysis perceive a common interest in understanding, codifying, and perhaps even regulating the nomination process. Impelled by shared fear and loathing of the forces behind Trump’s debacle of 2016, legislators might table their substantive disagreements and turn to procedural reform. For a start, they could investigate the organizational basis of Trump’s easy primary success and his even easier general defeat. They could couple this with investigation of the Clinton Foundation, as a loophole allowing an unseemly opening to foreign electoral influence.

The pretext of “under audit” will lose its bogus cogency after November 8 as an excuse for non-disclosure of Trump’s tax returns. Post-election, Trump will enjoy the equivocal status of a “private” public figure. His tax liability will remain publicly salient for the light it sheds on the question of Russian influence, and more broadly, the extent and sources of his wealth, his involvement with foreign hackers, and the nature of his access to free advertising in the form of news-commanding lies. 

The failed 2012 post-election Republican autopsy taught both a parties an important lesson. Trump’s repudiation of traditional norms of transparency justifies hearings to discuss enacting a Revenue Code provision to require Presidential candidates to release their tax returns in order to qualify for a place on the ballot (the Norway rule). Codification might be a bad or a good idea– the merits need to be debated in the context of concrete factual findings concerning the influence of money in the post-Buckley v. Valeo world of 2016, where cash and voice are legally synonymous.

Suppose Trump’s subpoenaed tax returns, together with intelligence data, show that far from being Putin’s stooge, Trump was his actual agent, because Trump has long been so over-leveraged that he is only an errand-boy for his creditors. Suppose his bad credit rating forced him to cede effective control of his business empire to secret Russian backers and other bankers of dirty money; and suppose even further, that Trump’s campaign turns out to have been an elaborate Russian espionage operation (conspiracy) to destroy the party of Lincoln and Nixon. 

This thesis loosely accords with the pundit consensus that Putin exploited Trump’s egotism with the goal of getting a disastrous fool elected. As further proof of the Kremlin’s pro-Trump intervention, we are asked to believe that Russian hackers are behind Wiki-leaks revelations of the Machiavellian working of the Clinton campaign’s inner councils. Trump admires Putin’s deep game, and maybe further investigation will vindicate Donald, in a stopped-clock sense. Post-election hearings might show that both parties were attacked: the Democrats by the Podesta hack, and the Republicans by a Manchurian candidate. Nothing would suit Putin better than bipartisan failure of our basic political fabric in an endless round of squabbles and stalemate.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

The Lysistratification factor

On the morning of the second “debate”, the Trump candidacy's death watch continues on its downward path, sucking Trump’s core of True Believers into a vortex spiraling to electoral catastrophe. Has the Donald brigade shrunk about as far as it can shrivel? Are 40% of America’s likely voters gripped by rabid despair? Broadcasters chatter about elite fears aroused by Trumpista fanaticism. Trump himself is hors d’combat, but those savior-seekers! The wheels came off their bandwagon before they could jump to safety. They remain so bellicose, so bitter and so desperate that insurrection has more appeal to them than defection. They face the certainty of unbearable disappointment. The Leader and his crowd grew more codependent as his propaganda grew more paranoid. They will lose; they know it; but they are certain their loss will fulfill Donald’s prophecy of a rigged election. 

Polling in the 2016 election has already begun. Pollsters continue to assess the preferences of likely voters, using demographic, economic, cultural, and many more parameters with ever-improving algorithms and swollen data bases that allow them to refine their predictions. Models and surveys show that most minds are made up. Donald’s Friday debacle will affect the gap by no more than 2-4 points overall, and most of that gain for Hillary will represent respectable suburban soccer moms, along with other women who aspire to higher social status. The assumption is that the gender gap will grow, without any offset by male locker-room solidarity.

Conventional wisdom underestimates another effect that is likely to swamp the gender difference. Let’s call it “Lysistratification": a factor that will reduce the Trump vote among blue collar males whose guns and religion signify their membership in a culture that sees voting as a household chore— another minor item of women's work.  A substantial subset of Trump’s base are domesticated males, dominated by their distaff kin. Hillary can expect a larger boost when they go to their survivalist jamborees instead of standing in line to cast a futile ballot. Some of them will vote as instructed by an outraged spouse, rather than fight over the candidates (or male privilege) in their kitchens. 

Other males will leave the game early, in about the same proportions that fans leave a stadium when their team is behind 6-0 in the bottom of the eighth inning. It is noteworthy that Trump’s rallies, like Hitler’s, rely upon mass hysteria, with catharsis achieved by immersion in the frenzy of a momentary mob. These patriots may regain their mental composure after they vie to outdo each other in a bidding war for best display of vituperation hurled at the common enemy. A "Game Over” mentality probably correlates more closely with wearing a cap with Make America Great Again, than with preferences expressed in surveys. Most of those guys won’t vote.

Donald’s demagogy has been directed at delegitimizing the outcome of the 2016 election all along.  Media pundits deceive themselves when they describe this contest as a “race” to be won by adding voters, until one party achieves a result >270 in the electoral colllege. Trumpism is in fact a movement grounded in the logic of Mitch McConnell and Grover Norquist, with the treasonous aim of overthrowing constitutional government.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Trump's Shame and Blame Game

Stalwarts from Mrs Pence to prancing Reince are having a fine weekend, pointing the finger of admonition at the superman with calisthenic arms. He asked for it!  Those steamy misogynistic boastful confidences, uttered in the naive belief that he was off the record (and bonding with trustworthy fellow studs) have provided Donald’s enemies with a helpless target at point blank range. The chorus of indignation includes more sopranos than baritones, but ideology does not divide his critics by political affiliation, nor very much by gender.  Such an inexhaustible source of sanctimony, in the context of a polarized, stultified, and angry electorate, is welcome political therapy indeed. 

Wait! Wait! –there will be more.  Rachel has good grounds to suppose that Donald ignored cameras recording abundant footage of a similar kind– unless (his?) production company destroyed out-takes while editing The Apprentice. Testimonial evidence will be validated by ostensive evidence, in a holocaust that will cook Trump’s goose to a crisp. More fodder for the opposition: split screen ads, denial on the left side, refutation on the right.

Mr. Trump takes advantage of his celebrity to liberate his libido in pursuit of the ancient sport of droit du entrepreneur, aka chick-banging.  His cultural circumstances taught him to presume he need not ask before he groped. He knows– doesn’t everyone? –that Hollywood is a vast bordello. Every stage-set is a room in the House of the Rising Sun. Tinsel-town is where ambitious nymphets go to exploit their beauty, diving headlong on the nearest casting couch, hoping to catch the attention of a billionaire celebrity. 

Donald’s humiliation is punishment enough. He won’t ever misbehave in presumed privacy again. Trust him! He learned a lot, schmoozing on the rope lines of a long campaign trail. Sorrowing women elicit his utmost sympathy. Hot ones will find their ardors quenched by his heat-seeking missile delivery system. He feels more vicarious feminine pain or rapture in a week than the Bills Clinton and Cosby inflicted directly in a lifetime. 

Watching this sordid circus, one wonders where Donald might go to find the white dudes’ ACLU, or a pro bono Public [Relations] Defender willing to point out that most of his Republican detractors still plan to vote for him. They will do so with heavy hearts and at great cost of conscience, and only because the Supreme Court might otherwise be reconfigured to regulate their private weaponry,  cancel their license for pretextual voter disenfranchisement,  and threaten the case law theology of bribery.  As Donald likes to say,  “C’mon! Gimme a break!”

Pity the rogue. Balance those ads about your daughter’s President by noting how Donald, the paragon of parenthood, doesn’t drink, or smoke. His sniffs betoken nothing more than a deviated septum. His sons respect him, and his gorgeous daughter’s allure commands his purely subjunctive desire to prolong and deepen their relationship.