Trump so far why so far?

So how come Trump has got this far?

First off we must not forget his good fortune in facing such weak, even pathetic, rivals.

Yes, he is a constant liar and tireless bullshit artist, with contempt for just about everybody, especially his women.   He is incurious and ignorant.   He has almost created his own brand of narcissism.

Long ago, Merv Griffin ate his lunch and he then managed to boast anyway about his Art of the Deal.   His “deals” from New Jersey to Scotland are shams and scams.  He is not particularly rich in wholly owned assets, like say, John Kerry or John McCain, but he is a genius at leveraging credit and Other Peoples’ Money.

Despite all this, he is a formidable candidate because his vices and defects are a perfect fit to the superficiality of media formulaic coverage of wooden narratives and lowest common denominator moral assumptions all wrapped up in cheap rhetoric.

Trump is a walking short-term business plan in an area that has become a low-grade downmarket sale-athon.

Peculiar to the GOP arrangement [increasingly shared by Democrats]The Long Con – The BafflerRight Rules State GovernmentsThe Triumph of the Hard Right by Garry Wills | The New York Review of Books is the marriage of very big money, very rationally dispersed by hired experts for the maximum desired triumph of  our oligarchy.

It is a social control machine whose well-oiled pistons keep the robo-rabble [in part created by the same money over a longer term] spinning on command.   So we have the media endorsing the cover story that we must stay indefinitely in the Middle East to “maintain peace”.  This means   perpetual “war” (really endless armed struggle for the sake of immensely profitable cash machines like the F-35, aircraft carriers, and crackpot applications of expensively procured minds-and-hearts programs that are really not judged on whether they work but on how much money they can reliably chew up, etc.) – in short, ensuring the entrenchment of the National Security State with an enormous infrastructure and truly unaccountable bureaucracy (except to lobbyists) — an essential part of this machine.   The whole thing almost perfectly transfers wealth from the middle class to the top one percent or so.   Orwell meets Marx.

All this can happen because we have created an unprecedented promotional culture, a perpetual pageant of deceit that has obliterated taste and decency for the sake of control.   Trapped “consumers” in hospital waiting rooms, car dealership lounges, airports and malls are subjected to a constant buzz of vacuous singing and dancing sales pitches and product placement.   Mostly they don’t listen or look, but they are thus trained not to listen or look carefully at anything.    The money pouring into campaign goes in large part to fill those same screens with a scream version of the same mindless buzz alternating with the Iago tones of suspicious resentment.

Aldous Huxley meets Chomsky.

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Tax and Spend Or . . . What?

For good or for ill, we left the barter economy behind a few thousand years ago aside from the occasional church supper or tag sale.   That means, as the poet has it, “getting and spending” or nothing happens; there is no economy.  The principal means governments use to function is money for salaries and materiel and skills and services.  So all governments, even those of China or Venezuela, must spend to function and must tax to get (even if borrowing is the first step).   So the question is not “tax and spend” but who is taxed how much for what kind of government functions.   War is the most expensive government undertaking (in blood as well as in treasure) and the current two “wars” have been financed entirely by borrowing.  If one is opposed to the wars, one should point out how it does not work to achieve its stated goals, that it uses immoral means, and so forth.  It is not an argument against war as such or even a particular military adventure to say that it is the most colossal example of “borrow and spend”.


So if you are opposed to a government program, attack its effectiveness, efficiency, fairness, proportionality, necessity, and so forth.  It is not an argument to say it is another instance of “tax and spend.”   Everything a government does, including running Gitmo and border patrols, is a matter of taxing and spending.

The same with taxes.  If you are opposed to taxes you are against all government.  So you must attack a particular tax because of its type, or its amount, or its distribution, or (in the case of fees or user tax) its utility.

It is politically arduous to attack social security or health care or designated infrastructure investment as bad spending.  It is hard to denounce progressive taxation that distributes burdens according to abilities.

So one just attacks deficits and taxes in the obligingly convenient abstract.   Just a coincidence it follows the Koch Brothers’ Kochtopuss playbook.


Recall that tobacco companies never promoted smoking over public health measures.  They only promoted freedom.


Obama has for a while been trying to assert the necessity of worthy government taxing and spending by calling it “investment” — which surely education, infrastructure, R & D, etc., are.  Subsidies for agribusiness and sugar growers and exemptions for oil corporations, as they have developed by very powerful entities gaming the system, are surely not true investments, but examples of wasted spending that loot tax revenue.


Since the status quo of welfare for the rich and corporatist self-interest must be defended at a time when the outrageous nature of these abuses is more broadly known, we are hearing a great deal about deficits and taxing and spending totally divorced from context, unless it is the context of entitlements and social services.


“Investment” according to the current GOP line, is code for “tax-and-spend”.   I would say that if you call a clear description of a program goal, code, while pretending “tax and spend” is an honest straight matter of fact with no political hidden agenda, I have a name for you which requires no code at all.


It is a shame that such obvious truths must be paraded because there is such a tsunami of cultivated ignorance in public discourse.  But the essential evasion of “tax-and-spend” is part of a broad suite, from “competitiveness” to “constitutional.”  Ironically, this comes at a time when political rhetoric is subjected to an entire industry of media criticism solely from the point of view of rhetoric blithely free of substantive policy relevance.


John Stuart ran a clip of a Fox “debate” where the Fox moderator petulantly cut off the Democrat who was listing the actual parts of the health care program that people favored.  “Please, we are not discussing what’s actually in the bill, we are debating the name of the bill (Job Killing or Job Destroying) to repeal it.”


Recently, a freshman tea party congressman stated that direct election of the Senate made it the only branch of government that was “unconstitutional” and he was not Steve Colbert in disguise.  Nobody laughed or vomited.

Just What Do “Studies Show”

. . . any damn thing you want them to, usually the bloody obvious.   The starving think of food obsessively; busy people are less sleepy than the idle,  fear motivation often backfires, and furthermore and so forth.   Such studies are often the result of artificial conditions set up as an “experiment” in craven emulation of honest-to-God experiments in the hard sciences.

Counterintuitively, it seems studies that rely on carefully controlled long panel interviews, hopefully by qualified psychiatrists, not just psychologists, even though the N is a low figure, I have found most illuminating.   The classics in this regard are Robert Jay Lifton’s intense, just sub-psychoanalytic, long panel interviews with survivors of Hiroshima, escapees from Mao’s brainwashing, re-education, or thought reform programs (the same process with different labels), and Vietnam vets — these offered scintillating insights into the marks left by extreme experiences.   The bomb, the totalitarian horror show, and the pointless endurance of close-in war under mutual hypocrisies, these were all the “experiments” needed.

First-class psychological social scientists produced a similar landmark with their study of Cold War attitudes (Smith, Bruner, and White) among Bostonians as it all began.

So I was not so much shocked as negatively reassured by a recent long-term panel study of investment bankers in London.  It turns out they consciously refused to personally identify with their jobs, and thus did better as “robots”.   In the jargon of the study world, these bankers practiced “teflonic identity maneuvering”  (don’t you just love it!)  Suddenly the utter detachment and seemingly sincere declarations of not knowing what was going on from the likes of Jamie Diamond and Hank Paulsen, tobacco executives with straight-faces telling Congress under oath that cigarettes are “non-addictive”, to say nothing of Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld-Wolfowitz the-buck-never- gets-to-here ploys fell into the same mosh pit.

I say, old boy, just another instance of  “teflonic identity maneuvering.”

Now just what do the GOP Presidential candidates have in common?   Passionate incoherence syndrome?  Fear-and-loathing bonding disorder?   Boast inflation competitive obsession?

Whatever, they are pathological, though certainly not absolved of guilt.

Mass Persuasion

When I first started thinking about this stuff, that is the “Post-War World” long promised during WW2 and how everything would be gloriously Disneyfied with folks seeing Levittown USA in their Chevrolet, around the time I graduated from Xavier High, 1950, it seemed that all the war propaganda from Rosie the Riveter to the Buy War Bonds campaigns would just easily shift over to getting Americans to fit in to the corporate dream of a big perpetual market of bigger better brighter under the benign patriarchy of GM/Ford/GE/General Mills/Kellogg/CBS/Bell Telephone/RCA. . . and a dozen or other big boys.   Aspiring young men joined big companies doing big stuff in big tall buildings where they would literally rise up to a big corner office.   It was also the beginning of the corporate culture of the Pentagon, a really big building, if spread out not towering.

All this was contrasted with the dark gray world of East Berlin and the Communist myrmidons of Communist China and wintry Moscow.   Light against dark.

From a literary perspective, it was a race between 1984 and Brave New World.   As a middle-aged professor, I felt South Africa under apartheid was the embodiment of 1984, complete with iron-fisted propaganda machines and controlled media, all in the name of “Freedom.”   I went there and wrote a short book about it [1987].   My plan was to go to Singapore next, where Harry Lee was creating an island kingdom of Brave New World, but health and family intervened.

When the Berlin Wall fell, many of us thought Huxley not Orwell would have proven the better prophet.   But the perfect storm of Osama bin Laden meeting Dick Cheney brought back an unimaginable Yankee Doodle Dandy version of 1984, co-existing with Brave New World.   Bush was more insightful than he knew when he advised everyday Americans to fight terrorism by shopping.

Today’s Super Bowl, a total creation of PR and Advertising, sums the whole show up.   An epic skull-cracking struggle, wrapped in the Stars and Stripes and brought to you by all those friendly caring job creators on the one hand and tough-love coaches on the other.  A veritable orgy of mass persuasion, where the ads are celebrated as the powerful yet lovable tools they are.

. . . . . But I digress.

Silicon Valley has been added to the mix in a way that the Coen Brothers could not invent, embodied in the — wait for it — Captology Program at Stanford University.  Led by Dr. B.J. Fogg.

Captology!   Could Tom Wolfe when he still knew how to write come up with a more italic-worthy topic?    Has Brave New World become the salesman for 1984???

This amazing site deserves a fairly thorough gander, check out About and Projects, for instance.

I recommend their Newsletter, but don’t get cut on the edge.

Life imitates Satire.

Feeding the Beast

Last October, before the military trial of Sgt. Bergdahl, accused of endangering the lives of those sent to rescue him from his long months of Taliban captivity, there was growing evidence of his mental instability due to multiple tours and other personal pressures.   Senator McCain, chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee, publicly ranted that he would hold investigative hearings if Bergdahl were acquitted.   His lawyer rightly accused McCain of exerting improper Congressional influence on the trial, especially since the commanding officer must appear before the Committee and his career could be torpedoed if the military tribunal made the “wrong” decision.    Shades of the old Joe Stalin Russian Army, when “Political Commissars” outranked top officers, undoing their orders, interfering with discipline and generally cheering on the purge of politically incorrect officers.

McCain’s public bluster, ignoring the Constitution and especially the Bill of Rights, was hardly the beginning, but certainly a big step in the GOP “nullification policy” of any law or procedure, lawfully established, if a given result is not to their liking.   This has now culminated in the GOP urging the President not to even try to appoint any replacement for Justice Scalia, until the next President who will reflect “the will of the American People.”

Say what?   Why not bar any Senator up for reelection this year from participating in the “advise and consent” process until the will of the American People in their State is made known in the coming election.   We have a President twice elected by American People although some in the electorate cannot accept a black man as a legitimate president on any schedule.   Over fifteen nominations to federal appellate courts have been left in limbo for years.

This obstructive obduracy is in a political context where serious GOP presidential hopefuls have just winged out the most outrageous lies as the groundwork for more lies.

Regrettably this is the familiar Beast Within of our very own Zombie Fascism.

Back to Sgt. Bergdahl.  The Army investigators determined that Bergdahl’s actions were credibly explained by his story and they recommended no jail time and a discharge just below honorable.   He had been brutally imprisoned for five years by the Taliban.   So he was released and assigned to administrative duties in Texas.

Much to the outrage of all those McCain patriots out there.   Guess what.  General Abrams, the commander under whom the original process took place, just before Christmas ordered Bergdahl to be charged with desertion facing a minimum five years in prison to the maximum of death.   Way to go, Senator McCain!

During all this time his home town stayed loyal to him, doing the yellow ribbon thing.

Guess what.   Those who know he is a foul traitor and secret Muslim are going to make all these deserter coddlers pay.  Big Time.

The old Confederacy may be gone, but we sure have a damn convincing imitation going on around us.   Counterfeit Nation strikes again.