Thursday, February 23, 2017

Tsar Complex

We think of Donald Trump as borderline deranged, out of control, rabidly narcissistic. And of course he is. We see him as a creation of — an escapee from — a reality television show. That too.

But it's too little noticed that when Trump presided over the Apprentice and the Celebrity Apprentice he was most humane when taking pity on guests, like Andrew Dice Clay, for example, whose careers had tanked, in Clay's case because his trademark misogyny had become too predictably  ugly to amuse. Trump could pity guests like Clay,  spare a few kind words. The kindness, though, was predicated on his power being absolute.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

A Liberal

I'm savoring a quote that's been kicking around for a while but I only came across lately, reputedly attributed to Robert Frost:

A liberal is a man too broadminded to take his own side in a quarrel.

I'm a liberal, but far from that kind of liberal.

Some liberals I know think we weren't kind enough, respectful enough to the white working class (its shattered remains), the rural population, whatever, whomever, wherever, and that's why we lost.

Let me suggest, on the other hand, that those who propose this are megalomaniacal enough to think it's all on us, that if we'd zigged instead of zagged Nov. 8 it would have been different.

Because aren't we, basically, when you get down to it, irresistible?

I don't think that way. I think they're out there, really, the ones who don't know their asses from holes in the ground, who chose not to make that kind of distinction, think it elitist, and are out to get those of us who can manage it.

The bad guys won. The Stupids stepped out (great children’s book, check it out.)

It's their world, at least for now. To fail to register that fact is to dodge it, is denialism, in other words, a kind of cowardice.

Along with the preening pretension that it all could have been different, if only we were as seductive as we can be.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

More on McCain

More on McCain, who seems never to have encountered a conflict that to his mind should not have been resolved better by the sustained application of American military force. Whether it's Iran or the Ukraine, war is his answer. I dimly recall that he somewhere expressed some measure of regret for his 23 bombing sorties over Hanoi, and the civilian casualties incurred, but even if so this did nothing to modify his passion for military might.

By all accounts, he was a fuck-up at the Naval Academy, graduating near the bottom of his class and perhaps only because he was the son of Admiral McCain. I've heard the same from someone who served with him, and thought him the wildest womanizer he'd ever known.

Wild and crazy John McCain. 

McCain's Finest Hour

Senator John McCain, at age 80, is having his finest hour. At the Munich Security Conference on Friday he put an end to his deferring and dodging and pretending that Donald Trump was just another righteous conservative. As per a Washington Post headline, he "systematically dismantled Donald Trump’s entire worldview."

Speaking of the United States, McCain said that founders of that conference "would be alarmed by [its] increasing turn away from universal values and toward old ties of blood and race and sectarianism.” 

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Just Make It Great Again

Trump: "Make America Great Again."
Putin: "Make Russia Great Again."
Mussolini: "Make Italy Great Again."
Hitler: "Make Deutschland Great Again."

Monday, February 13, 2017

Kasparov v. Trump

Garry Kasparov is known not just for his feats on the chess board — he became the youngest world chess champion ever in 1985 at age twenty-two, holding the title until  2000 — but for opposing Vladmir Putin's tyranny and before Putin, that of the Soviets. A citizen of the United States now — it would be dangerous for him to remain in Russia — he has a wealth of experience in supporting democracy against its enemies.

It should be said that Kasparov's politics veer to the right; he has supported John McCain's run for presidency, for example. But politics are transmuted in the age of Trump, and if you care about preserving democratic values, Kasparov is a wizened ally.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Two Rasputins

Steve Bannon has been called Trump's Rasputin, and it is scary to think about the alt-right ideologue influencing the world view of the commander-in-chief. But if Bannon is Trump's Rasputin, exerting his malign influence on our chief of state, Bannon is subject to a Rasputin, too — Italian thinker Julius Evola (1898-1974).

It's not rhetorical overkill to call Evola a fascist; he identified as such and was comrade in arms of Mussolini, until he found fascism too mild for him:

Evola eventually broke with Mussolini and the Italian Fascists because he considered them overly tame and corrupted by compromise. Instead he preferred the Nazi SS officers, seeing in them something closer to a mythic ideal. They also shared his anti-Semitism.

Evola is two degrees of intellectual separation —  a mere two Rasputins — away from the mind of Donald Trump, which was bad enough without intervention by any mind parasites at all.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

New Resistance

This is a fine piece in the current New York Review of Books — "The New Resistance" by Michael Greenberg.

Greenberg makes the point that to find as massive an outpouring of popular protest as we are seeing in relationship to Trump, you'd have to refer back to the movement against the War in Vietnam. He stresses that the current movement has coalesced rapidly, whereas the anti-war movement took years. He adds that in the current situation, much of those involved in the deep structure of American democratic processes — governors, attorney's general, mayors, police chiefs, cops — have taken a stand quickly, allying themselves with protest.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Cult of Ignorance

There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that 'my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.

Isaac Asimov, science and science fiction write , wrote these words in 1980 but they're as good as new.

Let me go on: it's something of a fashion for what's loosely termed the left to indulge — to self-indulge, to preen, to wash itself — in self-blame. Well, sure, nobody's perfect. But there's an element of denial in this, a refusal to face the unpleasant truth that some conflicts really are zero-sum, as the one between ignorance and knowledge.

Where are the pollsters for that distinction?

In any case, ignorance won big-time in November and continues, dangerously for us all, to hold forth.

I want to spit when I hear that we — loosely defined — weren't nice enough to ignorance during the campaign, didn't give it due respect, and therefore we lost. Bullshit. Many factors go into explaining the presidential election — it's over determined, as they say —  but one of these factors, the one so many on the left can't talk about and want to deny, for fear of being politically incorrect, or facing a very nasty truth,  is it was about ignorance v. knowledge, and, this time, not for the first time, it was way too bad for knowledge.

And therefore for us all.