At last I "get" a pattern I never understood before. "The Weekly Sift" offered the clue. Doug Muder is a former mathematician who now writes about politics and religion. He is a frequent contributor to UU World. weeklysift.com
This is the post in question. What makes Donald Trump so smart?
June 3, 2019 It addresses the claim that Trump makes that he is the highest IQ, smartest guy in the world, a stable genius. https://weeklysift.com/2019/06/03/what-makes-donald-trump-so-smart/
First Muder quotes all the people who have worked with Trump and who agree the guy is about as smart as a box of hammers. Then he deduces Trump's criteria for "smart." Eight rules to observe to become a bazillionaire. Details of evidence at the Weekly Sift.
Avoiding military service is smart.
Stiffing your contractors is smart.
Choosing the right parents is smart.
Dealing with Russian oligarchs is smart.
Trading in your wives is smart.
Employing undocumented immigrants is smart.
Cheating people who trust you is smart.
Profiting from public office is smart.
Changing your beliefs is smart.
Morality has nothing to do with it. How do people get to thinking like this?
It's about survival first -- that one's social group is so endangered that anything is justified in order to survive. The ultimate intelligence is whatever cunning or repulsive action will keep you alive. One of the main requirements is wealth and another is status. If other people have those things, it's because they did whatever was necessary. So this ties "intelligence" to one's feelings of attachment to a group. The smaller it is, the more likely it is to be endangered. For Trump, "family" is the only group to which he belongs. To his mind the cleverness and lack of boundaries in his father is what has kept the family alive.
This creates a hierarchy that is separate and often opposed to the larger world. People who are not family are "marks," "rubes," "fools" for the taking. Wives are not family. not even his mother. Children are family. So far he has cheated wives and sex partners, but not his children, though you could make a case about Barron and Tiffany. It is ironic that Barron has quirks and Eric sometimes seems a few hammers short of a package. They are dependents and don't compete with their father. But from a biological point of view, they are survival. It's not "smart" to think about that.
This point of view -- that a small circle of people with whom one identifies has a boundless justification for cheating, stealing, lying, or even murder -- is a description of mafia. But it is also perilously close to a reason or at least description for the appeal of super-conservative socio-economically-obsessed right wing churches which have corrupted Christianity's assurance of life after death into a guarantee of success for those who belong. They form a community that cooperates to withstand the larger world that endangers their survival.
This is a natural "mammal" impulse -- to belong, to consider it a privilege and a safety, and to turn against the others if necessary in order to survive. It's not just religious and it's not just human. It's quite American, undergirded with the merciless treatment of the indigenous, legendarily inflated hardships on frontiers, the family-splitting Civil War, the desperation of the two World Wars, and all the smaller wars since. The Depression taught this "truth" to survivors. It's in our sports, our business practices, and our movies. We always look for the edge and we are convinced that the good die young. This forms the baffling oxymoron that it is stupid to be virtuous. Virtue is boring.
It also explains the Repubs' failure to step out of line, to leave their group which is their safety and their moral justification. They have no sense of themselves belonging to a larger group than this self-reinforcing circle of privilege and entitlement. The Dems, therefore, especially the ones who accept "lesser" minorities, form a weaker group more susceptible to dispersal and destruction.
What about the Rule of Law. It's a GAME, man! Learn to be a gamer and game the law, education, business, climate. You'll need to play the long game: get to the rules themselves and quietly change them to favor what you want to do. Then use this hang-up about justice step-by-step in order to manipulate time, foot-drag, starve the trial system so that there aren't enough people to be timely, keep people in jail for lack of bail, even if the length of time far exceeds what the likely penalty for the offence would have been. (Incarceration is a great little money-making racket.) If that doesn't work, corrupt the administrators -- even the Justices of the Supreme Court. It works. One of their weakest points is arrogance about belonging to such an elite group, thought to be irreproachable. Next is their children, who are more corruptible.
An excellent strategy in law games comes through the definitions. A weakness of language itself is that it is essentially arbitrary in meaning. "Dog" means one thing here, another thing there. One can resort to Latin or just big uncommon words one went to law school to memorize. Fertile ground for this game strategy is the "emergency" or "exceptional" situation relating to national security. Or you can always reference a different culture and define the relevant "culture" as a demographic group that's stigmatized.
The possibility that there are other ways of managing a nation (if nations matter) is as inconceivable as whatever ran the world before the Rule of Law. Kings, right? Let's go back there. It would be a big relief to a lot of people to no longer have to vote or be on juries -- all that stuff. Although a big emotional rally is always fun. We could give them hats. It takes so little. (This is irony, kids.)