Monday, July 16, 2018

A Psychological Examination

If you are rich, you will seldom be required to sit for a psychological examination.

In case you missed it, the NY TIMES published a story on the rules that Latino children must follow when detained at our border. These children, separated by guards from their parents, classified as "unaccompanied," are ordered not to touch one another, not even your own little brother or sister. No hugs. Some are required to learn our salute to the American flag. And so on.

The people who wrote and enforce these rules are probably (mostly) stupid rather than evil. To do this sort of thing (or to vote for President Trump, a mentally disturbed weakling) you first have to know nothing about psychology and have no insights into your own behavior or Trump's. 

It isn't that psychology is infallible or a science like physics. But psychology offers insights. It provides a way to recognize trolls who are as openly narcissistic and stupid as President Spanky. Republicans with this kind of knowledge turned against Trump before he was nominated--but there weren't many of them, and now we--like Putin--end up staring in amazement at continuing  monumental and cruel folly.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

The Cruelty of the Stupid

I accuse Donald Trump of child abuse and ask that he be tried in a California state court.

I don’t know how the laws on child abuse read, but I assume that if I grab a child and put it in a cage—even if it is my own child—I’ll end up in prison. To explain why this should be the case  I’ll turn to Oscar Wilde, who had observed children imprisoned in the jail where he did time. He noted that when a warder gave three small children cookies, he was immediately fired.

The quotations are from HARPER'S, August issue.

“Ordinary cruelty is stupidity. It is the entire want of imagination. It is the result in our days of stereotyped systems, of hard and fast rules, and of stupidity.”

Wilde wrote: “The child, consequently, being taken away from its parents by people it has never seen, becomes an immediately prey to the first and most prominent emotion produced by modern prison life—the emotion of terror. . . .To shut up a child in a dimly lit cell, for twenty-three hours out of the twenty-four, is an example of the cruelty of stupidity.” 

Wilde called for the severe punishment of anyone abusing children in this way. Trump should, if found guilty, be locked up.

Friday, July 13, 2018

The Liberal Democracies

Like others I am not watching as much TV news as I used to. In my case that’s because I can watch a woman deliver the news in the morning, and at night I get exactly the same news repeated by a man (because, as night falls, gravitas requires deeper voices).

Tonight I saw a damned fool from the editorial dept of the NY Times explain, for the ninth time, that when he refers to the liberal democracies of the world, he does not mean nations that lean left. Instead he is talking about a broader and older meaning of “liberal,”  one based on a belief in the democratic process, the rights of women, racial diversity, fair wages, the civil service, gay rights and health care for everyone. But none of the lefty stuff, no, ma’am. Never.   

Tuesday, July 10, 2018


Last month I visited the Rene Magritte exhibition at the SF MOMA with Mowry Baden, an artist and a friend from childhood. I hadn’t paid much attention to Surrealism in the past, but the Magritte show fascinated me. MOMA presents a display that challenges preconditioned perceptions of reality, something almost inevitable in the Age of Spanky Trump.The art shifts repeatedly between illusion and reality, facts and “alternate facts.”  

What has struck me hardest in Trump Time has been a shift in my perception of human nature. About 30% of  American voters approve of Trump’s snatching infants away from their mothers and putting the infants in cages (where often diapers are not changed) along the Mexican border. That is obvious cruelty. Anything over 1% approval of it is shocking.  

Trump did this to discourage Latinos from seeking asylum in our country, which Trump hopes to make Whiter. About two-thirds of the voters disapprove of the absurd cruelty, but a third support these vicious actions with all their hearts. I didn't expect that, and I find it unforgivable. At age 83 the ground has shifted under me. My illusion about the goodness of ordinary people hasn’t matched  reality.   

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Theoretical Checks Will Not Save Us

Any governance system devised by humans can be corrupted by humans. The Founding Fathers attempted, with our Constitution, to make the system as hard to corrupt as possible, but in the end it is up to ordinary citizens to defend the republic against sociopaths, con men, imbeciles and authoritarians like Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump. 

James Madison wrote: “Is there no virtue among us? If there be not, we are in a wretched situation, No theoretical checks—no form of government can render us secure.”

About 3,000 local people turned out Saturday in Santa Rosa to protest against sticking Latino infants in cages. We can stop the sociopaths if ordinary Americans act and act, time after time. 

Saturday, June 30, 2018

The Answer

Suppose someone tells you that the basketball star Lebron James owns two gigantic mansions in Los Angeles. He doesn't even play in California (so far). Why does he need two mansions? you ask.

My brother's answer: Lebron bought one 20-bedroom place, and his wife's relatives joined him there. So he bought a second mansion for himself.  And soon he will be buying a third.

John McCain owns seven mansions.

Thursday, June 28, 2018


A few reasonable experts on TV are beginning to say that Trump is another Benedict Arnold. Putin’s got something on Trump. He’s playing Trump like a juice harp. Putin owns him.

That might be the case. The current Republican leadership has become morally bankrupted by its quest to retain power. If staying in power requires treason, so be it. They won’t save the country.

The Democratic leadership is ancient and feeble. If called on to confront treason, they may opt instead for longer afternoon naps.

Americans better get out in the streets on the 30th. 

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Our One Hope

It’s more than 150 years since the Civil War ended. Lincoln and Grant were, at that point, determined that Black peoples’ votes would count. But we have a Supreme Court today in which a 5 to 4 majority is set on supporting the New Jim Crow and anti-Black gerrymandering. The Court also favors barring Muslims and Latinos, keeping America White and Christian. 

We can chalk the situation up to Nixon, who developed the Southern strategy for the party of Lincoln and Grant, corrupting it utterly until Trump is now its true example. Spanky has the backing of 90% of Republican voters. They like him because he is heartless, nasty and pointlessly vicious (which they call leadership), and because he flails about incompetently, refreshing the voters’ hate for diversity (except for Mexican food),

The alternative to outright, enforced bigotry is the Democratic Party, led by dated, compromised, national weaklings and servants of Wall Street. Deal-cutters. That’s our one hope in 2018. They have my vote. 

Friday, June 22, 2018

The Holocaust Style

If you haven't seen this yet . . . the controversial "I don't care" shirt that Melania Trump wore to visit Trump's orphans in Texas was made by a company called Zara. This stylish manufacturer is best known for having made and sold a fetching Holocaust victim's shirt, like the ones worn in Nazi death camps. The Zara version features a gold Jewish star on the chest, just like the originals, against background of stripes that, in truth, pleases the eyes in ways that the 1940s original can't match. 

This is a fact. 

I wonder how this product ended up on Melania. She is mostly a mannequin, I guess, and a walking ad for Botox, but I doubt if she chose a Holocaust shirt-maker knowingly. Probably the junk was pushed on her by one of the proto-fascists hanging around the White House these days who wanted to promote the products of a Trump-supportive manufacturer. That's my guess.