Living Large In Carson City: Stupid People Got No Reason To Live

Never underestimate the power of stupid people in larger groups. George Carlin

Since well before the 2016 election, like most thinking Americans, I was a little confused by Donald Trump. To be sure, all Americans can be forgiven simply on the face of what the man had to say. And of course, his penchant for telling lies. Who in their right mind would speak out loud what most four year olds know should only be expressed in their private thoughts. Who says, “I could shoot someone on 5th Avenue, and nobody would do anything?” Or the old standby he pulls out to make polite conversation, “I grab ’em by the pussy.”  I mean honestly who says things like that in the real world.

Fast forward to April 2020 where Mad King Donald has morphed into a clinical lab for conspiracy theories, ego infused proclamations that can sear one’s eyebrows clean off one’s face, and delusions of grandeur that would shame Kim Jong Un (if he is still alive). Americans have officially moved beyond the realm on reality to something not even the Twilight Zone would air. Yet, whereas two weeks ago, America was holding its collective breath in hopes that the Coronavirus would quietly go away and spare the nation more senseless deaths, Trump has gone full metal jacket and life as Americans use to know it is gone.

It’s near the end of April and the virus continues to rage on with no end in sight. Trump is pushing for an end to  social distancing in some areas of the nation, and still not admitting that it is the healthcare experts who should be running this shit show as to when it would be safe to open the country back up. His logic is that the economy has to restart to get businesses back up and running before the economy falls apart. Oil has tanked buy slowly reviving. The Stock Market is limping along like a homeless person wandering the streets of LA. And good people are clamoring to be set free from governmental regulations. More on these people later.

This is where it gets weirder. Last week, he claimed some pretty extraordinary stuff, not the least of which is that he has absolute power over the states, and basically, he is above, or maybe, is the law. Constitutional scholars were quick to point out that he has no such power. Backtracking the next day, he backed off of that claim only to reassert it in the following few days. Most Americans have heard his proclamation, yet, where is the hue and cry to have the bastard committed to the nearest jail or loony bin? The silence from the masses is deafening and surprising. Three years ago, only his basest base would have stood by and let such an outrageous statement stand. Now, it seems like all of America is his base. Possibly, Americans have heard so much crap come out of his mouth that numbness has set in or maybe the country has gone a little insane along with him.

The question is what will Trump’s assertion that “When somebody is president of the United States, your authority is total” as he said in a press conference recently mean in the long run. Most Americans will shake their head and say there goes Mad King Donald playing Napoleon again. But there are those like the ones mentioned above who will take a totally different stance.

On opening up the economy, there will be more protests like those that happened last weekend where seemingly intelligent, non-basket of deplorables types, will petition state governments to open up the economy to gets paychecks flowing back into the pockets of the working class. If that were the sole concern, it would be understandable. People have to eat. Theys have to pay their bills and on and on. Americans are frightened right now and will grasp at any hope if it promises them a safe haven.

Of course, the issue here is America is only at the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak, and it is going to be some time before infections peak and level off. Reopening the economy could have the exact opposite effect if a month from now infection rates increase and the economy has to be shut down again. It is a dilemma only the health professionals can speak intelligently on, certainly not Trump.

Yet, Trump is pushing for phase 1 to begin as soon as possible. Why now? Why take the risk? An answer can be found in the fitness industry.

Their inclusion follows a last-minute lobbying push by an industry not known for flexing its muscles in Washington. While not every major company was part of the effort, conversations with 10 leaders in the fitness-club business reveal an influential network of relationships that kicked into gear over the past few weeks and helped move gyms to the front of the line — even to the surprise of many in the industry.

Noteworthy figures in the effort include a Trump-loving fitness-center owner in Pennsylvania, Rudy Giuliani’s son Andrew, billionaire real-estate mogul Steve Ross and the US Surgeon General. CNN

Gyms are like the worst possible establishments to reopen. As the article notes they are places where people sweat, breathe on each other, and share unsanitized equipment as a natural course of action. Yet, there they are on the frontlines calling for relaxation of the social distancing mandates. If, as the story notes, “an industry not known for flexing its muscles in Washington” can have an effect on the president’s decision making process, what power would industries like oil and gas, the restaurant associations, airlines, or worse yet, the National Football League be able exert on Trump to open the country  -safeguards be damned.

Trump is too much of a capitalist screw up and fearful of his reelection prospects not to take some action to open things up on some level. The group that should strike fear in the hearts of Americans are his whacko base. The question should be asked why is it that some right wing protestors show up armed to the teeth simply to stand around on governmental building steps and look awkward and a bit unhinged. Still, these people are a growing concern to most thinking Americans.

While many Americans have been concerned that Trump’s base might turn ugly if he isn’t reelected, now with the onset of the virus and his reelection prospects in doubt, some in the psychiatric field are taking a more serious look at what his base might be capable of in times of crisis.

In an article by Igor Derysh for Salon titled “Trump’s lockdown protesters resemble ‘child soldiers’ and ‘urban gangs’”, he interviewed Dr. Bandy X. Lee, a forensic psychiatrist at the Yale School of Medicine, about her findings. Derysh also notes,

Lee is also “a project group leader at the World Health Organization Violence Prevention Alliance. She told Salon that Trump’s recent call to “liberate” Democratic-led states was a dog whistle to his core supporters.”

“Subconsciously, it is a loyalty test for the people,” Lee said. “In Africa, where I did some ethnographic work, child soldiers would be recruited and made to kill a family member to demonstrate their allegiance to the government and not to the family. Similarly, in urban gangs in America, one may be challenged to kill a police officer to prove one’s willingness to uphold gang rules over societal rules.

“When Donald Trump suggests that the virus be taken as a ‘hoax’, that people gather in churches or that people protest for their own sacrifice, he is actually testing people’s loyalty to the ‘laws’ of his mind over the laws of nature, or even impulse for survival. The more he abuses them, the greater their devotion grows, since the psychological cost of admitting their mistake is ever higher — and so it becomes easier to dig a well of unreality than to see the obvious truth. Salon

In recent days Trump has spoken from the podium at his daily press conferences about gibberish that makes him look totally deranged. Yesterday, he suggested his medical team look into injecting disinfectants or light into people’s bodies to eradicate the virus to the horror of medical staff looking on. As President Andrew Shepherd noted in the final scene from American President,

“America isn’t easy. America is advanced citizenship. You gotta want it bad, ’cause it’s gonna put up a fight.”

In the error of Trump, those words could not be more true.

Whacko Doodle of the Week

Las Vegas Mayor, Carolyn Goodman, in her interview with Anderson Cooper of CNN.

Living Large In Carson City: Delbert “Standing On Shaky Ground” McClinton Was Right Edition

200px-Fascist_Eagle.svg.png

Fascist Symbol

I learned a long time ago that reality was much weirder than anyone’s imagination. Hunter S. Thompson

What are we to do as Americans when we see everything this great country stands for being upended and torn asunder by a madman whose sole goal is to stroke his out sized ego, enrich himself and his family to the detriment of the rest of us, and generally breakdown the foundations of what makes America great? As pretentious as that sounds, it has become the reality for more than half of the population of this country. As bad as our fears might have been after the 2016 election, I honestly do not think any of us could have envisioned the level of tumult and dissension that is running through the very fabric of this great nation today.

Remember back in those early days of 2016 when we were all appalled by Donald Trump’s loose and easy association with the truth? He lied at times when lying did him no good. He lied because it is his nature to lie. Truth to Trump we learned was whatever Trump said it was. Do you remember being appalled when a cottage industry emerged whose sole purpose was to track the number of lies the president told. Were you concerned when his total lies topped a thousand? Two thousand? Three thousand? It is a frightening prospect, but I suspect the nation has become so punch drunk from the onslaught of falsehoods and misdirection that comes from the White House on a daily basis we simply look the other way and go about our business.

What is particularly disturbing is once his lies find the light of day his minions have no qualms about parroting the same lies as the party line and shouldn’t be questioned. Sarah Huckabee Sanders is a prime example of just how far of plumb the Republican Party has drifted. Sanders has taken Trump’s lying to heart and has started her own litany of untruths to support her boss. Across the board from the Senate, the House, his cabinet, and a bevy of political operatives, all have cashed in their moral integrity to worship at the throne of the Orange One with the hope of remaking America in their image.

It has become so problematic and relentless that Maggie Haberman of the New York Times told “CNN that that staffers are so ‘numb’ to Trump’s lies they don’t even bother correcting him”. This begs the question, “Why?” Haberman thinks it more practical than insidious although it is that as well. Haberman said,

. . . President Donald Trump is relentlessly lying ahead of the 2018 midterm elections because he’s found that it works for him. CNN

It works for him? Think about that a minute. The most powerful man in the world with the ability to change the course of history at his fingertips lies incessantly because it works for him. Considering the state of bankruptcy of the Republican Party when it comes to veracity, empathy, and dedication to a fair and free democracy, Haberman makes a good point. What Trump has been doing all of his adult life is trying to create an reality of America that embraces white males like himself who really believe they are masters of the universe and everything in it.

But at what cost? A New York Times video aired on dailykos.com details the research by Yale philosopher, Jason Stanley, which takes a long, hard look at fascism and how it develops, grows, and ultimately, takes control. In a short five minute video titled, ‘If You’re Not Scared About Fascism in the U.S., You Should Be’, should be required viewing by all Americans who already think America is great and fear the direction the country is taking today. His formula for how fascism takes root is fairly simple:

  •  The creation of a mythical “racially pure” and patriarchal past to instill feelings of nostalgia in the masses; the assertion that as long as “he,” the “strongman” remains in power, all will be well, and that without “him” the whole system will collapse;

Watch any Trump rally for five minutes and you will find this is a recurring theme that runs throughout his basic message. Make America Great Again was not chosen because it has a jaunty ring to it. The slogan hits home to older white Americans, alt right groups, and the working class who have suffered at the hand of what they see as the evil Democrats who want to give the country away to immigrants, sexual deviants, and a host of other people who are not like them. In my October 16, 2018 post, I explored what kind of people fall into lockstep with Trump and his vision for America. The point above dovetails a little too nicely into the mindset of the typical Trump supporter and reinforces Stanley’s argument.

  • Turning groups against each other: Germans and Jews, Hindus and Muslims; citizens and foreigners;  whites and blacks, etc.: “when you divide, it’s easier to control.”

In Trump’s world, there is no end to the possibilities that accompany this point. The group du jour to vilify in recent days are transgender folk who find themselves living in a body that does not fit into their sexual orientation. Republicans and the “transgender bathroom” debacle made  transgender Americans an anathema to all right thinking, sexually “normal” people (Trump’s base) who fear people who view their sexual orientation differently for their own.

A healthy nod needs to be given to right-wing, evangelical wackos who in the name of their god fomented the groundless charge that giving transgender people the right to use the bathroom of their sexual preference was merely a ruse for guys to dress up like girls to gain access to the women’s bathroom to do god only knows what to the poor unsuspecting young ladies. As a reality check, do a google search titled “sexual assault on campuses in bathrooms.” The result reveals transgender people aren’t the ones going into bathrooms and sexually assaulting females.

The list, however, has grown over the past two years of Trump’s presidency. Democrats are getting the brunt of his vilification currently. Canadians, Mexicans, NATO, reporters, and on and on have all been targets of Trump’s separation policy from his faithful base. Regrettably, it works.

  • Anti-intellectualism, and attacking the truth, because truth is essential to a free democracy, and therefore anathema to the fascist. This in turn creates a “petri dish” for conspiracy theories, with the ultimate goal of devaluing the truth altogether.

This point brings us full circle in the charade that is the Trump presidency. Facts to a fascist are the  kryptonite that undermines their message and the ultimate control that they have over their followers. Fake news is the perfect mantra for Trump and his followers whether they are Fox News watchers, alt right hoodlums, or even the run of the mill seniors, both male and female. These people want to believe everything Trump has promised them, so his word has become sacrosanct. They honestly believe that CNN, MSNBC, and others are literally making up news to tear down their leader, thereby, destroying the promises he made to them from day one.

While the truth suffers, and suffers badly, possibly even more damaging are the conspiracy theories that arise to support the ideas that the only truth is Trump’s truth. MS13 gangs rolling across the southern border of the United States by the thousands, Mexicans are rapists and hell bent on taking our women folk (or guys depending on their sexual orientation), or the lost Hillary emails and on and on.

Right now,  a caravan of immigrants is marching north from Central America approximately 400 miles south of the Texas border. Half of the group are women and children legitimately seeking political asylum due to the violence and mayhem they face in their home countries. In recent days, Trump, in an effort to get his base out to vote in the upcoming election, claimed the caravan includes terrorists and people of middle-eastern descent supposedly hell bent on destroying the American way of life. He offers no proof, but his echo chamber latched on to the idea and the drum beat of caustic rhetoric has grown to a fevered pitch. The thing about conspiracy theories is they do not feed off of the truth, but fear; something Trump uses as a cudgel to beat his base into a lather to do his bidding.

This morning Americans awoke to the news that bombs were mailed to George Soros, the Clintons, the Obamas, and the CNN headquarters in Manhattan. This afternoon, a total of eight bombs have been discovered mailed to prominent Democrats. However, Trump and his minions are never too ashamed to kick in the conspiracy theory to turn the table and the nation’s collective esprit de corps into something usable for the party.

Many in the right-wing media, including prominent voices like Rush Limbaugh, the popular talk-radio host, and Candace Owens, a frequent Fox News guest, have begun to promote a conspiracy theory that Democrats were behind several packages containing explosive devices sent by mail to top Democrats this week. Business Insider

If I am not mistaken, this quote hits all three points that make up a fascist agenda – a trifecta of sorts. Welcome to the brave new world of Trumpism.

Living Large In Carson City: On Soul, Rancid Tweets, Irony And “My Wonderful Son, Donald” Edition.

“Has there ever been anything as simultaneously dangerous and yet pathetic as the Trump-led Republican Party?”  from the Daily Kos’ Swamps and perjury traps and Trumps, oh my! by Ian Reifowitz

Reifowitz states the obvious, but as so many things these days in the world that Trump made, this past week represents a watershed of problematic claims that will surely follow the Trump White House for weeks to come. Honestly, however, to be fair, I thought the “pussy grabber” tape, or when he said, “I Could Stand In the Middle Of Fifth Avenue And Shoot Somebody And I Wouldn’t Lose Any Voters”, would be enough to sink the Trump Titanic, but no; his base ate it up.

The base is one of the main problems that plagues America today, and they are getting weirder.  News of the QAnon conspiracy captivated Americans last week once some of his supporters started showing up at his rallies sporting signs and casual wear (think a Sharpie and a t shirt) attributing them to an  online mystery man/woman who supposedly works undercover in the Trump White House. Q posts enigmatic messages the base interprets pretty much any way they damn well please. The whole phenomenon is a batshit crazy, patchwork quilt of innuendos, lies and half truths. Is it any wonder Trumpites fell so hard for this one? To me, it appears that the base is becoming just as disenchanted with the Orange One as the rest of us. By grabbing at straws represented by an invisible savior, they indicate that all is not well in the House of Trump. Far from it.

Then there were the tweets. For all of is claims like “I think that would qualify as not smart, but genius … and a very stable genius at that!”, Trump’s statements belie his grip on reality. One of his more controversial missives came last week when he posted:

 

Much was made of this tweet by the media and pundits. Some called it the smoking gun of tweets. Others simply fixated on the “wonderful son, Donald” statement which begs the question is Trump finally comprehending his actions and those close to him might be illegal and that there will be hell to pay? His halfhearted explanation, “This was a meeting to get information on an opponent, totally legal and done all the time in politics” simply does not wash. Reifowitz explains the import of this issue by quoting Vice-President Al Gore in his article,

In 2000, Al Gore’s campaign was sent George W. Bush’s debate prep materials—stolen materials. Gore didn’t seek them out, and he didn’t take a meeting or send his top guys to a meeting in order to receive it. What did he do? I’ll let Al tell you: “We immediately turned it over to the FBI.” And no, he doesn’t deserve special credit for following the law: that’s what anyone seeking the highest office in our democracy must do. It is, however, the opposite of what the corrupt Donalds did. Kos

When teaching irony in college English classes, we deal with three types of irony. Verbal irony is your garden variety of irony where words mean  or appear to say something different than what they say on paper. Situational irony is the difference between what is expected to happen and what actually happens. Finally, Dramatic Irony rears its ugly head when the audience is more aware of what is happening than a character or characters do. Othello is a great example of this. Played like a fiddle by Iago, Othello is wooed into destruction by the lies and hatred of his one-time foot soldier and comrade. He never sees the end coming until it is too late.

Trump’s tweet has them all. What is really interesting as pointed out by several authorities and legal minds, Trump’s tweet accomplishes nothing but muddy the waters and further implicate Trump, not as colluding, but rather, involved in a full-blown conspiracy that taints everyone involved with a veneer of dirt by plotting with a foreign enemy to subjugate American democracy.

His final line, “I did not know about it!”, would be laughable if it was not so pathetic. The entire tweet is an attempt to contort the facts to fit a narrative that is part schlock, part deception and part fairy tale. These are the ravings of a man on the brink of losing everything he worked for no matter how nefarious and over the top his goals might have been.

Never has there been a president that has been more obtuse and corrupt as the man who now occupies the White House. His lies are not even that interesting or effective anymore. Fake News has become little more than whatever comes out of Trump’s mouth at any given moment during any given day. He is unable to discern between truth and madness. This is why he and his ineffective advocate, Rudy Guiliani, are so afraid of allowing Trump to sit down and talk candidly with Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller. Mueller’s bullshit barometer would take Trump down in an afternoon of open questioning. This truth is shared by just about everyone in any position of power within the administration.

Whether or not anything comes of Trump’s revealing tweet is still up for grabs. Already he has ginned up the obfuscation engine that blows smoke across the nation. Possibly, that won’t be such a bad ending to this episode. The damage, however, has been done. Trump is grasping at straws and is getting sloppy as the content of this messages show. The pressure is mounting and the end seems near, or at least, nearer than it was last week.

Living Large in Carson City: Christine McVie Said It Best: “Tell Me Lies/Sweet Little Lies” Edition

Mark Twain, considering his legendary gift of storytelling, knew full well that “the lie” was as important as the truth in certain circumstances. In his satirical essay, On The Decay Of The Art Of Lying, he is both celebrating and bemoaning the right of individuals to lie when circumstances call for it. In his opinion lying was a pedestrian art form; an ad hoc means of pushing a conversation down the road . . . hopefully in the direction the liar intended for it to go. As he saw it, in a perfect world, lying was a means of softening reality, thereby, taking the edge off of the truth to protect those one met during the course of any day.

However, even for Twain, lying had taken on a cynical, corrosive nature that was too commonly used in ways that stepped over a line into a malignant creation that left behind the beauty of the lie when used correctly in polite society.  In another piece he wrote,

Anybody can tell lies: there is no merit in a mere lie, it must possess art, it must exhibit a splendid & plausible & convincing probability; that is to say, it must be powerfully calculated to deceive.  “The Ashcroft-Lyon Manuscript.”

In full disclosure, I find Twain’s satire about lying hard to square with the utterances that come out of Donald Trump’s mouth. I think Twain would find Trump a “special” case when it came to untruths, their utility, impact and just the preponderance of miss information that can be attributed to the 45th president’s verbal gymnastics. Only the most deluded, partisan blind (and deaf) followers can say with a straight face that Trump is a truth teller.

Whether its Trump himself or Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Don, Jr., Eric, Scott Pruitt or any number of other Trump sycophants doing the lying, no one can deny that the Trump White House is awash with untruths and falsity beyond what anyone has seen in the past. Our president lies on command, and in so doing, allows his troops his tacit approval of following suit. It’s all a part of the clown act that is the Trump administration.

Speaking of clowns, this video takes lying to a whole different level, or rather, the calling out liars, be it the president or those close to him.

They (journalists) take the next step . . . just present the facts. . .The journalists shouldn’t be the one to say the president or his spokesperson is lying . . .

Schlapp goes on to say what this does is it alienates 50 percent of the population and makes them feel like they aren’t credible anymore. How does that work? First of all, if the president or his spokesperson is a bald-faced liar like Trump often is, then facts are not the issue. It’s the lie that journalists seize upon. They are not the ones telling untruths. And how can 50 percent of America think they are not credible any longer because someone points out, “Uh, Mr. President, that is a lie?” Schlapp seems to be referring to Trump supporters. “Oh, sorry 50 percenters, your guy lied, so your lives are worthless?”

And what about his comment that journalists should just present the facts and let the American people make up their own minds. Huh? If the statements in question are lies, they aren’t facts. I think what Schlapp’s real objective here is to say that journalists should not call out the president on lies, thereby making them public record. This allows the 50 percenters to swallow everything Trump says without having the nasty experience of hearing that their orange idol just told a fib, or in most cases, a whopper.

The real issue here is not the lying end of the equation. It is the fact that Trump has a problem with the truth. Twain was no idiot. He understood the expediency of lying to avoid causing harm to another. Yet, his satirical lament about lying underscored the plain fact that the truth is the basis of all interaction in the world whether it be between husbands and wives, the police and the accused or the interaction between a politician and their supporters. Twain spoke of the truth in On The Decay Of The Art Of Lying. He “quotes” an old proverb that states,

Children and fools always speak the truth.

There is some debate dating back to the 14th century as to what this really means. On one level, it implies that children and fools speak the truth while not knowing the implications of how the truth will be received. Any husband understands this implicitly, “Honey, does this dress my ass look fat?” Depending on the individual circumstances, or not, the only answer to this is no, whether it is a lie or not. Children and fools in their naivety see the truth in an unvarnished way. It’s the truth. How can it hurt?

Trump, however, doesn’t make the connection to the truth and a lie. What he says at any particular moment is what’s on his mind. He uses lies to shape his follower’s minds into believing that he has the answers to all of their desires. Schlapp’s attempt to call into question journalist’s motivations about calling Trump and his followers on their lies falls a little flat. Even the Bible addresses this in John 8:32, “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”

But to Trump, what does this debate matter? He is a con artist that has no moral or ethical center to filter his thoughts through. Trump will say whatever comes to his mind to gain the upper hand. The larger concern is that his supporters know he is lying and simply don’t care. Let’s be honest. Trump will be gone and forgotten soon enough. The problem is the damage his lies do will be around a lot longer than his orange charisma. The harm  lies in how his supporters and the false empowerment it gives them will dictate how they go forward.

FYI: 3000 lies