Post-Truth Nation

December 20, 2016

nuclear-tweet

This is the fundamental danger of Donald Trump: he’s set himself on a path of normalizing chaos. Trump’s success is a tale of façade. Everything we know of him is superficial —as lies in fact are superficial. Falsehood’s erected like a stage set backed and supported by temporary bracing. It’s meant to look true for cameras, not to house veracity (and DT does love cameras). Facts however are fundamental. Truth is fundamental, and being unsure of what the facts are does not make them less factual. Not knowing what the facts are is actually a definition of ignorance.

But let’s be clear, DT is not the first political liar. Lies are systemic in politics, how else could you come to represent a population as varied, erratic and self-interested as humans? There’s never a perfect consensus in policy solutions or even the reality of existing conditions. Ideas and opinions form a gamut. They run up and down scales like broken chords —like discordant arpeggios. They exist in all categories of human philosophy and politics. So, politicians have for centuries crafted careful lies as an expedient means to ends: as tools on paths to power to maintain temporary accord and avoid chaos. Hardly anyone likes or benefits from chaos. Constitutions are written and ratified to avoid chaos. Constitutional law (flawed as it may be) exists to avoid chaos, but law must be founded in fact. The normalization of mendacity and ignorance is a first step on the stampede to chaos.

But, regarding lies, the difference between where we were before the DT campaign and where we are now is that DT has taken us a long way toward normalizing factlessness and fabrication. Before, there was a general sense that lies were unacceptable and that if caught in a lie some consequence ensued. But DT has proven that lying or fabricating to the brink of The Big Lie (and perhaps beyond) are acceptable tactics and might even be admirable, not only in politics but in one’s personal life as well. He’s convinced a justifiably angry constituency that his lies are not lies and has publicly encouraged his supporters to spread them.

In a recent article political theorist Jacob Levy wrote“…often a leader with authoritarian tendencies will lie in order to make others repeat his lie both as a way to demonstrate and strengthen power over them. Is there anyone who doubts DT is an authoritarian? DT is a full page ad for authoritarianism. And does DT revel in displaying his power —naysayers please raise hands  …not many honest takers?   

Levy continues, “Saying something obviously untrue, and making your subordinates repeat it with a straight face in their own voice, is a particularly startling display of power over them. It’s something that was endemic to totalitarianism.”

In fact the danger of DT is how he’s laid the groundwork for disorientation and, eventually, chaos. As philosopher Hannah Arendt commented (referring to the events of the Second World War), “The result of a consistent and total substitution of lies for factual truth is not that the lie will now be accepted as truth, and truth be defamed as a lie, but that the sense by which we take our bearings in the real world is being destroyed.”

And this is where I part ways with those who want to gloss over the character of the man who will (incredibly) be president, who would avert ears to the content of a campaign full of pretty much nothing but BS, nonsense, blatant lies and calls to arms —at times almost literally. I part ways with them on the basis of DT’s demonstrated character —by what’s come from DT’s own mouth and from his deeds: from the evidence of those he’s stiffed as standard business practice, to those he’s sued into submission because he could, to those he’s groped and mocked, etc. A man’s character is not transformed by the outcome of an election.

There was a “Madman Theory” applied to Richard Nixon during the Vietnam war which suggested that if the president “…appeared to be crazy enough to use nuclear weapons … North Vietnam and the Soviet Union might back down.”Dana Milbank,Washington Post. Well, we’ve seen how that worked out; nearly 59,000 American dead, not to mention countless Vietnamese.

Milbank continues, “But in Trump’s application of the Madman Theory there seems to be less theory than madman. There may be advantages to keeping foes and opponents off guard, but Trump is baffling friends and allies, too. In foreign affairs, unpredictability spooks allies and spreads instability. And unpredictable policy at home has long been seen as toxic for business.” —and, I’d add, national sanity.

For those expecting a different DT than we’ve seen in his campaign and throughout his life, you’ve jumped aboard the chaos wagon. What we’ve seen is who we’ve got, and we can realistically expect that a man who’s gained power by strangling truth to legitimize lies, will not shrink from using lies and tweeted distractions to disorient the nation to the point of intellectual confusion and moral chaos while president. It would not be against his thoughtless nature to initiate mayhem with a nuclear tweet in a moment of pique.

I’d like nothing more than for this to turn out an entirely discredited fear, but there’s too much evidence on the ground (and growing) to dispel it. It’s in the wind, it’s taken root.

by Jim Culleny
12/26/15

Thunder on the Mountain

November 19, 2016

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thunder-mountainThe Wall Street Journal is being “cautiously optimistic” here about the installation of a Leninist in the White House —but while hope may spring eternal so does reality.

“I’m a Leninist,” Bannon told a profiler for the Daily Beast, “Lenin wanted to destroy the state, that’s my goal too. I want to bring everything crashing down and destroy all of today’s establishment.”

“Brietbart publishes offensive items, but we doubt the site will inform the State of the Union Address.”

“Brietbart will need to persuade the public…”

Those last two statements are particularly startling given the first one. Is the idea that Trump will have to persuade the public that Bannon is not a Leninist in the sense Bannon himself described Lenin? And will that persuasion have the color of the persuasion that characterized Trump’s campaign rhetoric, filled with falsehood and implicit violence, but muted, coded?

The WSJ in wrapping up says (as if to blithely gloss over 60 years or so of Soviet rule) that it didn’t work out well for Lenin. Well, Jesus! it didn’t work out well for the Russian people either, even the ones who initially followed him thinking they’d finally had a leader they could trust.

As Nobel winner Dylan has written, “The writing’s on the wall, come read it, come see what it say.” —Thunder on the Mountain

 


Jim Culleny
11/19/16

On Growing Up

November 17, 2016

trump-ridicules-nyt-reporter

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There’s been a lot of talk lately of losers being whiners and that the left should just “grow up”, but when “growing up” means buying into the leadership of a man who has, in so many ways, run against the grain of common decency, against minorities and women throughout his business career and life, continuing through his campaign and now up to this moment by choosing as his chief strategist Steve Bannon who from the bottom of his apparently rage-filled heart has said things like:

“In fact, the women that would lead this country … would not be a bunch of dykes that came from the Seven Sisters schools up in New England.”

Or who has sanctioned headlines at his Breitbart News such as:

BIRTH CONTROL MAKES WOMAN UNATTRACTIVE AND CRAZY 

and

THERE’S NO HIRING BIAS AGAINST WOMEN IN TECH, THEY JUST SUCK AT INTERVIEWS

and

THE SOLUTION TO ONLINE HARASSMENT IS SIMPLE: WOMEN SHOULD JUST LOG OFF

and

WOULD YOU RATHER YOUR CHILD HAD FEMINISM OR CANCER

Or who ran a headline calling Bill Kristol a “renegade Jew.”

Or who’s ex-wife has testified, “…the biggest problem he (Bannon) had with Archer (school) is the number of Jews that attend. He said that he doesn’t like Jews and that he doesn’t like the way they raise their kids to be ‘whiny brats’ and that he didn’t want the girls going to school with Jews.”

Or who is praised by the Klu Klux Klan as being an “excellent” choice as strategist (I wonder, what would Bannon’s racial strategy be if he’s thought well of by the KKK?)

Or who ran a Breitbart article that “depicts an invasion of France and the white Western world by a fleet of starving, dark-skinned refugees, characterized as horrific and uncivilized ‘monsters.’”

Breitbart news has, of course, been characterized as being racist, white ethno-nationalist, misogynist, xenophobic, and anti-Semitic.

If “growing up” is another way of saying, “Accept the leadership of Trump, Bannon and the entire Republican leadership,” I’m not in. In fact, I believe that accepting that leadership is itself a sign of arrested development, not to mention closeted bigotry. I believe that accepting that leadership is the first step on the path to the terminal decline of what was the idea of “America”.
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Jim Culleny
11/17/16

swords-and-plowshares

This is a problem: the ease religion takes in reducing hard questions to simple answers (just like politics).

It’s said that god made the world and we see that this world is spectacularly complex and nuanced, we see that it changes without cessation from moment to moment yet scriptures, held up as the “word of god”, are said to be immutable. But the universe itself may fairly be considered the word of god, a word that predates anything coming from the pen or mouth of Man.

We invented religion, so it reflects our small thoughts and minds. “God” (for want of a better identifier) is just too big to be reduced to scripture and dogma. Religion in the hearts of the good will be good, in the hearts of the evil it’ll be evil.

 



Religion and scripture: gospels and surahs,

Qurans, Hadiths, Bibles and Torahs
may be tools like any other,
used to injure or uplift
—in this they are not sacred,
but are as practical as plowshares, 
swords and word tricks
(as of the earth as fauna and flora)
.

Jim
11/6/16

Prescient statement?:

“When the problems get bad enough, as they might do with another serious terror attack, or another financial melt-down, some one person will come forward and say, Give me total power and I will solve this problem. That is how the Roman Republic fell. Augustus did not become emperor because he arrested the Roman Senate, he became emperor because he promised to solve problems that only he could solve… that is what you should worry about at night.” —Supreme Court Justice David Souter.

https://www.facebook.com/#

Genghis Don

October 2, 2016

genghis
With the death of Atilla the Hun, the sad passing of Napoleon, the last breath of Stalin, the strung-up wake of Mussolini, the suicide of Mien Kampf’s author, the passing of Mao, the croaking of Cambodia’s Pol Pot, the last noose of Sadam Hussein, a vacuum’s been left that needs filling and many Americans, ready for something old dressed as something new, big and flashy but void of substance, think they’ve found the dirt to fill it: the Hun of New York, Manhattan’s Lord Beeleevmee, he with small but ever grasping hands, purveyor of campaign violence, disser of constitutions, user of women, the one and only … Genghis Don!

As we’ve learned over the past year a man with no appropriate experience, little curiosity, with no real policies, short on empathy or understanding beyond his own needs, who stiffs people as a standard business practice, is a misogynist who’d demean any sister, daughter or wife he did not find attractive, is in a close contest to become president of the United States.

My father (blue collar as they come) would have referred to Big Don as a bull-slinger (though with a semantic twist). “Guys like him are a dime a dozen,” he would’ve said, “although with a slinger with that big a head the cost would be far greater.”

Dad could size up a fraud. His bull-slinger detector was well calibrated and though I think I’ve inherited some of his bull-slinger sensitivity it doesn’t take a genius to get at the working of Genghis Don’s primitive brain (the part that directs his streaming tweets and rally rants) you just have to listen to what he says.

First, regarding bull-slinging, Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo recently recalled Trump’s interview with Matt Lauer. Lauer asked Trump about his plan for dealing with ISIS. Trump responded as he usually does by saying nothing (but redundantly and with as many nonsense words as possible) and ended with his stock assurance to everything, “Believe me.”

Marshall summed up Trump’s answer this way: “Here Trump has very little idea what he’s talking about, and when pressed on a clear contradiction he starts making up new nonsense to avoid addressing the question … I think this exchange is pretty obvious for people in a way that transcends politics and ideology. Trump is the kid telling the teacher the dog ate his homework. Then the teacher points out he has no dog. But he’s not going to apologize or come clean. He’s just going to keep talking.”

Donald Trump’s ascent may be a sign of our loss of a collective sense of reason and decency. Trump may be karmic payback for former national arroganceconquest and  moral mistakes. Maybe we’re fated to follow a leader who, at his rallies and in his late night tweets openly proposes, suggests and pushes authoritarianism, xenophobia, misogyny, racism, and political violence outright as if to say, “Here I am with all my character dysfunction, what you see is what you get and, if you think otherwise you’re as naive as every business owner I’ve stiffed to make a killing.”

Trump makes no bones about what motivates him: money, sex and power. He lays it all out. As they say, he says what he thinks.

And so: a sampler of what he thinks (with some editorial comments):

—“Donald pulled me aside at his wedding. (and) said, ‘you know, I am getting remarried, but Howard, vagina is expensive.’ I will never forget those words. Those were the exact words!” —related by Howard Stern, one of Trump’s late night radio host buddies.

As testament to his fundamental view of women, Genghis could not be more… uh… fundamental.

—“You have to have the right genes. I have a certain gene, I’m a gene believer. I have great genes and all that stuff …I was born with a certain intellect. God helped me by giving me a certain brain. I mean, I am a smart person. You know I’m proud to have German blood. There’s no question about it, great stuff.” —transcribed from a video of Genghis’ self evaluation.

As a characteristic testimony to his greatness Genghis will not be less than a Narcissist-in- Chief.

—At a recent rally Trump bragged about his Christian conservative support and asked those audience members who were not Christian to identify themselves.

Raise your hand if you’re not a Christian conservative, Trump said. “I want to see this, right? Oh there’s a couple people, that’s all right,” Trump said as he dismissively waved a hand. “I think we’ll keep them, right? Should we keep them in the room, yes? I think so.”

And if not, what? As an implicit threat to shred the 1st Amendment Genghis could not have been more clear.

These are just a few of Trump’s what-he-thinks revelations, but there are many more as illuminating. Trump’s only saving grace in the context of this campaign is that he has the mouth of a four-year-old: he says what he thinks even when it’s ignorant, false or absurd. Even his own forces spill the beans, of which I include one example:

—”One ally described Trump as the kind of guy who can’t simply be told a stove is hot — he has to touch it to see for himself.”

Or, in more pertinent terms: Genghis is the kind of guy who can’t simply be told nuclear war is more than hot– he has to start one to see for himself.

Many of us are fearful and angry, but there’s a price to pay for operating on the basis of those emotions. As Adam Gopnik of The New Yorker writes, “Countries don’t really recover from being taken over by unstable authoritarian nationalists of any political bent—left or right.

Whether you like it or not it’ll be Trump or Hillary. It comes down to a case of risk assessment.

Assess well, my friend.
most-interesting-man

Jim Culleny
10/2/16

Wrong Number

September 24, 2016

time-machine
I’ve felt I’ve been in a fog lately but just realized the problem was I’d actually time-jumped to 2020 instead — 2020 where vision is especially clear even if too late.

What snapped me out of it was a message from a friend pointing out that I’d mis-dated a poem I posted, one I’d written a year ago (this one). Its date read 4/19/20. I was about to fix it when I had a odd sense of having just been there, four years from now, in 2020. So I wrote this to my friend, ML:

ML,

To 2020 and back in two-shakes of a Trump’s tale, thanks for the heads up on the date.

Yes, I was there, and let me tell you, you think it’s getting bad here? You have no idea, brothers are still killing brothers there, but with much less baggage of guilt or regret. And it gets great ratings.

It’s the Jerry Springer Show meets The Apprentice meets The Walking Dead but really, really live. And very, very chaotic no one knows who to trust. Civilians with many, many guns, police with many, many guns and tasers and pepper spray. Everywhere you turn it’s Trump Trump Trump (kind of like marching booties thudding), believe me. 

Ted Cruz is Chief Justice, Rick Santorum’s head of the Department of Religion, Sarah Palin’s running the Department of Dumb-down, Anne Coulter’s The Head Forked-Tongue of the Federal Propaganda Agency, David Duke’s the Imperial Wizard of the Department of Whiteness, Vladimir Putin is Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Stiffs (he be running the military while moonlighting from his regular job as Supreme Dick-taker of Russia), and the Department of Bullshit is being personally overseen, overwritten and overwrought by the Big Emperor His-self whose comb-over, nested in very very small hands, is the central motif of the official Seal of the Monarch (formerly the presidential seal). 

But many, many, many people (many experts I know tell me) are blissfully content not having to think about anything except being very, very careful of what they say and even verier and verier of what they think given the universal issue of thinking caps everyone must wear —a new technology that automatically Instant Messages all thoughts to the Directors of Control run jointly by Rudy Giulliani and Chris “Shut-up” Christie who both still live in the Cloud —a very, very dark one. 

Well, gotta go. I’d stay, but I only came back to fix the date-typo of my poem (thanks again, ML, for the heads up). I have to get back to see if I can undo the done with a new poem. 

Ha! 

Everyone’s delusional in 2020. It’s catching.

 

Jim
2016, or 2020 …whatever.