Thursday, May 11, 2017


A bloated man in a bathrobe is screaming and cursing his televison set in the White House.  There are questions:  does he wear under his bathrobe his underwear (boxers or briefs? t-shirts or singlets?) or his pajamas?  Does he sleep with that hair still on?  Are only his face and hands orange or his whole body?  Has anyone seen him in a short sleeved shirt much less a Speedo?  All his suits look the same but he’s gaining weight.  Are those suits hung by size somewhere?

Most of all, we want to know how to get rid of him.  There’s a lot of opinionating about how he won the presidency.  It’s certainly a challenge to the idea that crowd-sourcing is a good way to choose a leader.  We’d have been better off electing Donald Duck than Donald Trump.  He told us he could grab people by their private parts (altho if he’d said “grab men by their dicks” the reaction would have been different), that he could shoot someone in the middle of Fifth Avenue, and no one would stop him.  He was right.  Or so it seems so far.

But I think the better question is why he was the candidate offered by the Republican Primary.  There were a few who were worse, but none who were more ridiculous.  I think Trump was the candidate who was most likely to let the Repub oligarchs go on sliding along their racist and sexist Sour Grapes programs and sideline critiques without ever having to govern out in the open by developing alternatives.  Exhibit A is health insurance.  

I’m happy to grant that the Clintons were and are just as much bought-out by international corporations, as much locked into the past, and will even grant that Obama was not the detached and enlightened alternative many of us hoped.  But Trump added major monetary dependence on Putin’s Russia.  That’s different.  It’s not blackmail as much as bribery and subsequent extortion.  To him it was a cause for pride — he has no consciousness that it was disloyal, a kind of golden shower more shameful than peeing.

He never would have accepted the primary nomination if A) he had understood his fortune -- or the lack thereof -- would be exposed and destroyed, and B) he had understood that his faux lifestyle of “wealth” would be worthless, hardly different from some old guy holed up in a decrepit motel in a town the Interstate has by-passed, cursing at the television set.  At least in the White House he probably has a huge flat-screen tv.  And his best decision all along has been not to drink or he might be throwing bottles at his expensive screen.

Becoming a traitor is not a concept Donald understands, along with all the other things he doesn’t understand.  I think the possibility of conviction and incarceration are just now penetrating his gold-plated cloud, but his children and cohort are also just now realizing that they are vulnerable.  Michael Flynn, not yet a gone goose because of his evidence value, knows what he’s facing.  Melania, a hardened survivor, has known all along.  The staff in the White House says they are gradually understanding how to manage the Donald: don’t present alternatives, offer one path and make sure it’s flattering.  No one has explained how they’ve been keeping him from phoning Michael Flynn for advice and reassurance.  Many people have suggested destroying that cell phone.

One of my favorite quotes from Bob Scriver is that if someone does something outrageous enough, they can get away with it.  Conventional expectations blind us to the endless alternatives that Trump should never have pointed out to him.  Although probably his best alternative at this point is to leave for his favorite island, but that’s a conventional thing to do.  Run.  Some of those not fired yet have taken that “door,” to use Comey’s metaphor.

When they say we’re in a Constitutional Crisis, what they mean is that the framers were well aware of having to guard against kings and aspiring kings taking over, so they put the main power in the Congress.  But — in spite of “The Madness of King George III” (I recommend the movie with that title) — there was no real check on a madman.  We just declared independence.  (The South tried that, but that’s a different issue.)

The Internet has changed everything.  IMHO, the study described as “A Billion Wicked Thoughts” has blasted open our understanding of ourselves and given access to our indulgence of our worst side.  I don’t mean sex — I mean narcissistic preoccupations that we hide even from our own idea of who we are.  Big Data means that everything is knowable and cannot be erased, no matter how embarrassing.  Hacking means even enemies can know how much Preparation H you buy.  Video, including monitoring street and security cameras, reveals much, satellite surveillance (sometimes controlling weapons) is universal and incredibly detailed.  GPS supplies a way to code and follow locations far beyond the capacity of maps.

The same generation that has grown up with video games of amazing complexities has suffered through education that never addresses the principles of honor and courage for fear of offending someone.  The way we think of secrets seems to be a matter of concentric circles:  the tightest secrecy is telling no one, next entitled is the spouse or immediate family, then the cohort (far more powerful now that the generations have broken apart), the job, the local government (city, county, state), and so on.  In other words, it’s not an abstract principle that guides us but rather loyalty to persons.  Therefore, who they are, criminal or destructive or ridiculous, counts more than legal or literary or religious ideas.  The idea of "God" as an ultimate standard, omnipotent, knowing "hearts", is no longer operative in the US.  It's telling that our money is labeled with God.

Our legal pretense that businesses and institutions are “persons” subjects them to the same peculiar assumptions as real persons.  “Limited Liability Corporations” are able by law to escape from lawsuits, penalties, and so on.  “Shell corporations” are zombies and yet they “own” huge sums of money.  One can “own”, launder, disguise, and disappear the shells and their records.  One can own the rights to Donald Duck.  The right to use the name “Trump” is a big part of his wealth.  I hear the name is being taken off buildings to avoid attack by folks who are displacing their feelings about Donald.  Live by the name, go broke by the name.

It’s hard — maybe impossible — to separate Trump the man from Trump the Shell Corporation.  Maybe we don’t care.  Maybe we should concentrate on keeping the USA from being merely a shell corporation.

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