Overweening Generalist

Thursday, March 31, 2016

On Meeting Writers We Admire

"This passion for wanting to meet the latest poet, wanting to shake hands with the latest novelist, get hold of the latest painter, devour...what is it? What is it they want from a man they didn't get from his work? What do they expect? What is there left of him when he's done his work? What's an artist, but the dregs of his work? The human shambles that follows it around. What's left of a man when the work's done but a shambles of apology?" - from William Gaddis's novel The Recognitions (1)

This take interests me, mainly the part about the artist as a "shamble" after the work's been done. It reminds me of ideas about memes using us to spread themselves around. Genes have told me they do the same. (But did I tell Them I was buying their line?) In Michael Pollan's terrific book, The Botany of Desire, tulips, apples, potatoes, and cannabis have all manipulated us to get what They want. Like the devil whose greatest trick was convincing us He doesn't exist, these things - including the works of Art in this Gaddis case - use us, making us think we're the ones in charge. It's a deeply amusing turn for me: the Artist as Host for the Art itself, leaving us as "dregs" and in "a shambles."

And still, I want to shake the hand of Cannabis.

I saw Douglas Rushkoff give a talk in LA on his tour for Nothing Sacred: The Truth About Judaism, and bought a copy and lined up to have him sign it afterward. When I got up to him I spewed that I'd just talked to Robert Anton Wilson, who was mildly disappointed that Rushkoff seemed to have problems with his friend RAW's disbelief in anything, as captured in an interview Rushkoff did for the Maybe Logic documentary. I told Rushkoff - a long line behind me - that RAW said one can feel strongly about something but still be agnostic, and that he wished Doug would read his book The New Inquisition. I could tell Rushkoff thought I was a weirdo, talking too fast and too intensely about something sort of personal along a quasi-arcane minor tiff between me and him and RAW, and this had nothing to do with his energetic talk about Judaism, and he didn't really respond to what I said, but smiled and signed his name, writing on the title page, "To Michael: Enter Chapel Perilous..." just above the subtitle "The Truth About Judaism." Was this his little joke? I think so. Maybe. By his body language I think he was glad to be rid of me. To this day, it's the only Rushkoff book I own that I still haven't read. I've thumbed through it, yea, but read? Well then, why did I buy the new hardcover for $22 (or whatever it was)? I guess I just wanted to be in Rushkoff's presence, give him my insider info about what RAW said to me about him. I felt foolish. Meeting admired writers can do this to us.

                                  George Saunders, photo by Tim Knox

This topic turns out to be more popular (as I infer from googling) than I'd thought. An idea I see over and over in articles about this: we readers have spent a lot of time in our solitary inwardness "with" the writer and created a detailed image of what the writer "is really like," but this is usually revealed as an illusion. I like what George Saunders told Margo Rabb:

A work of art is something produced by a person, but is not that person - it is of her, but is not her. It's a reach, really - the artist is trying to inhabit, temporarily, a more compact, distilled, efficient, wittier, more true-seeing, precise version of herself - one that can't replicate in so-called "real" life, no matter how hard she tries. That's why she writes: to try and briefly be more than she truly is. (2)

I've been on the other end, in a way: as a rock guitarist. When I'm playing it's sort of another version of "me" that I've spent a lot of time cultivating through long hours of practice. Admirers seem to approach that other "me" when I'm back to my "ordinary reality" and what they say often seems to apply to someone else: someone better than I feel I "really" am. But they have sweet intentions, so I try to sort of smile and play along, "Thanks, man. That makes me feel really good. Rawk on!" All the while I know Steve Vai and a thousand other guys can play circles around me...

Concomitant with this, I've been trying to get used to the idea that our default mode is as essentialists, much as it pains Korzybski. Cognitive psychologist Bruce Hood's experiments show that we want and need "Distributive existence over time and with others." (3) By being in the presence of an admired figure we hope, on some odd level, to share in the artist's essence. What a thrill to put on a sweater once owned by George Clooney! Or to hold Einstein's writing pen. Or to decline when asked if we want to try on a hat once worn by Hitler. Perhaps this best explains getting the book signed and a brief exchange of pleasantries with some admired writer: we want to distribute ourselves into the admired writer's psychological domain, at least for a few seconds. (Others want to increase the value of the book for eBay sales, I know...)

In our celebrity kulch, this desire to make contact with quasi-mythic figures seems loudly and abundantly clear; I'm perhaps no different than any other fan who goes nuts over spotting a Kardashian in Beverly Hills. But there aren't many celebrities I'd bother if I were in the room with them. I just don't care all that much about the people who entertain me on screens. It's some of the musical and authorial Beings that have the potential to get me going and make an ass of myself. I was working in a library in ritzy Palos Verdes Estates and there was a summer live music concert in the park outside: families bring picnic baskets and blankets, that sort of thing. And I turn around and Joe Montana is at the counter, asking, "Is there a back way out of here?" He had been trying to enjoy the concert, but people were pestering him for autographs and photos. I never said, "Wow! You're the greatest quarterback ever!" I thought it. Then I dutifully walked him through the library and out the back door into a quiet dark evening and he said thanks. It was weird.

                               Douglas Rushkoff, photographer unknown

It's cheery to read about a fan having a good experience meeting their favorite writer, as for example Jean-Luc Bouchard when meeting Kazuo Ishiguro. (4) The takeaway for me, here: say you loved the one book that got panned the most, or neglected. I told Robert Anton Wilson I loved Right Where You Are Sitting Now (which I do, but it's not my favorite), and he seemed delighted, saying similar things to me about that that Ishiguro said to Bouchard. RAW once quoted Confucius in another interview about bad reviews: it's as if the critic is saying something nasty about one's children, and Confucius said that we naturally love what grows up in our own homes.

I went to a talk and book signing by Erik Davis, in Berkeley, after his book Visionary State came out. I thought he was my age, so I said something to the effect about him being more accomplished and I was slacking. With what I took to be a slight annoyance, he told me he was seven years younger than I thought, then resumed his banter with photographer Michael Rauner. Not exactly the stellar level of repartee I was hoping for. Later I realized I'd had my own version of that bit where comedian Chris Farley gets to interview Paul McCartney and all he can think to say is, "Remember...when you were in the Beatles?" (Okay, I wasn't that bad.)

Now that I've thought about it, the next time I meet a favorite author I'm going to psych myself up by assuming they'll be unpleasant no matter what I say, and if/when they are not a drag, it's a win-win. Or probably: just a win for me. He's still that great Erik Davis when I read his books, the one I invented without knowing it, and damn that "real-world" exchange I had with him. It...was a mere anomaly. Dude's the coolest! Yes...

Speaking of Robert Anton Wilson, I spent the better part of an afternoon with him at his condo in Capitola/Live Oak/Santa Cruz and he was far beyond sweet and brilliant and kind and hilarious and understanding; I got lucky. My favorite living author (along with Pynchon, but good luck with him!) talked to me like a longtime friend. It was beyond my wildest imagination.

David Foster Wallace had an interesting take on all this. I don't subscribe to his ideas here, but I think they're very interesting:

DFW was disappointed to hear how his favorite writers sound: their actual voices interfere with his reading of them. I wonder how this relates to seeing a picture of the author on the book jacket? Anyway, in a 2005 interview with Didier Jacob: 

Q: Which writer, living or dead, interests you most, and which one would you most like to talk to? Pynchon? Hemingway? Salinger? (Or Shakespeare, or somebody else...)

DFW: I am not very curious about the lives or personalities of other writers. The more I like someone's work, the less I want personal acquaintance to pollute my experience of reading her. I have briefly met some of the US writers I admire - Cormac McCarthy, for example, and Don DeLillo, and Annie Dillard - and they all seemed like fine, pleasant people. But I found that I did not want to "chat" with them. In fact, I did not even like hearing them speak. In their books, each of these writers has to me a very distinctive "voice," a kind of sound on the page, and it has nothing to do with their actual larynx or nasality or timbre. I do not want to be hearing their "real" voice in my head when I'm reading. I'm not sure whether this makes sense, but it's the truth. There are, on the other hand, some writers I exchange letters with, and this I enjoy very much. Because the consciousness in the letters feels to me like much more like the consciousness I admire in the work." (6)

When I read Woody Allen's comic essays (which I love and greatly admire), I can't help but hear him in my head, but I think it adds to my experience. And maybe because he's always trying to get laffs. If I read something by him that was sad, it would be jarring. When I listen to Pound and Joyce read their work, it's like some alien broadcast: I didn't think they would sound so static-y. No, but seriously: their voices sound so overly "for" that newfangled microphone thing, knowing it's going out to the masses...I still don't hear their voices when I read them. DFW's ideas seem almost Asperger-ish to me. Take it further into, say, Roland Barthes's idea of ecriture blanche, or "white writing," in which any text requires nothing from the Reader: all terms are transparent and obvious. (Okay, now DFW's ideas seem far more sane than that.) Still...I mean, reading Burroughs and Philip K. Dick is weird and thrilling, but knowing about their lives (and especially hearing Burroughs's voice!) makes their texts even better. To me, that is...

Recently I read an amusing article by a critic who was assigned to review a book by an academic: Abstract Bodies: Sixties Sculpture in the Expanded Field of Gender, by David J. Getsy. Critic Jarrett Earnest is so appalled by the academicese and preciousness of the writing he wants to write a hatchet job review; he can't stand this asshole academic. But before he does his hatchet job, he feels compelled to find Getsy and see what sort of person this writer is face-to-face. He tracks down Getsy. He finds he likes Getsy and in talking to him he understands where he's coming from. Earnest ends up writing a good review of Getsy's book. I'm sure this sort of thing has happened before, but this is the first instance I can think of. (5)

Furthermore on Robert Anton Wilson, when I talked with him he told me he was in a German film called 23, in which he plays himself, because the famous German hacker Karl Koch admired Illuminatus! so much, and as a hacker he was named "Hagbard." RAW said he'd love to see the film, but it wasn't playing in Unistat. I told him I'd seen it a couple months earlier in Hollywood. He seemed a tad miffed. I don't know if he ever got a chance to see it. In the film, Koch/Hagbard attends a lecture by RAW near Hannover and then gets his autograph before RAW is whisked away in a car. Koch said he read the 805 page Illuminatus! "Eighty times." Who knows who really burned Karl Koch to death with gasoline in an isolated wooded spot? The KGB and CIA had their reasons. It was ruled a suicide, but not many of Koch's friends buy it. I will link to a YouTube copy of the film 23 below and hope the reader who clicks on it doesn't get a busted link. (7)

1.) hat tip to Roman Tviskin for this quote, found on his dormant blog, Zuihitsu Bits
2.) Fallen Idols, Margo Rabb, NYT, July 2013
3.) see about 3/4 down in my blog about hoarding HERE
4.) What It's Like To Meet Your Favorite Author, Bouchard, Buzzfeed Books, March, 2015
5.) Abstract Bodies: Sixties Sculpture in the Expanded Field of Gender, reviewed by Jarrett Earnest, Brooklyn Rail, Feb, 2016
6.) found in Conversations With David Foster Wallace, p.166
7.) YouTube copy of 23, accessed 31 March, 2016. RAW is seen around 13:42 to 14:15. I saw a print with English subtitles at the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood soon after it came out. See the actor August Diehl playing hacker Karl Koch/Hagbard pick up a girl at a party and bring her back to his room and tell her his own computer is called "FUCKUP" (from the novel) and how important Illuminatus! is, starting around 9:42

                                           graphic art by Bob Campbell

Sunday, March 27, 2016

On Psychedelic Frames and Peter Bebergal

I've just finished Peter Bebergal's 2011 memoir, Too Much To Dream: A Psychedelic American Boyhood and found it gripping because much of it seemed to speak directly to my own boyhood. Bebergal grew up in a suburb of Boston around the same time I was "growing up" (for some reason that term suddenly felt alien to me, ergo the quotation marks) in the sprawling 'burbs of Los Angeles.

A huge difference between Bebergal and me: here, in Bebergal, is once again a subspecies of character structure that I'm fascinated in and love to read about, but which seems alien to me: Bebergal is a "god intoxicated" person. All his forays into dropout punk culture (hilariously, he gets into 1960s-70s "psychedelic rock" after his punk phase), hanging out with street people and smoking pot, doing LSD (a couple of bad trips are rendered very well here), alcohol, cocaine, etc. Trying to "know" god or the Ultimate Transcendent Whatsit and chasing it with drugs and a fierce autodidacticism. Bebergal grew up in what looks like a non-observant rationalist Jewish home; I grew up in a non-theist, broken home. From the most rudimentary ideas in world religion, I had to teach myself what all the fuss was about. It wasn't discussed and my parents didn't bring my brothers and I up in any faith and we never went to church. I asked my father about this many years later and he said that he and mom had a talk about this: they'd seen far too much damage done to their friends and families in the name of religion than anything that might be considered uplifting. I was most decidedly not god-intoxicated, but I did want the gnosis, although it would be many years before I ever encountered the term.

                                  Peter Bebergal (photo: Andrea Shea/WBUR)

Throughout, Bebergal wants that gnosis, he wants direct experience of life-shattering knowledge of The Transcendent. I think I was looking for whatever blew my mind and made me think. I confess I seem to have not changed much since then, which may explain the quotation marks used above under "growing up."

Eventually, Bebergal crashes hard, gets into AA, and realizes he's an addict. He's been "clean" for 20+ years now, has a family, works at M.I.T., and also wrote a wonderful book on the underrated influence of occult ideas on the history of rock and roll, briefly reviewed by my colleague Tom Jackson.

Here's a short passage that gives us the tone of yearning in Bebergal's late adolescence:

Staying connected to even an idea of some transcendent reality without devolving into the psychedelic dreamspace was a challenge, and one I was not convinced I had to let go of. How to make it work without being lured back to the drugs themselves? Could I have a psychedelic experience - or even a shadow one - sober from my head to my toes, in my brain and in my blood?

In the final quarter of the book, Bebergal shifts his tone. He's straight but still wanting to unite with the transcendent. His tone turns scholarly, he goes to Divinity School, he reads like mad about magic, mysticism and illumination. After a marvelous observance about Hermes in his own life, he writes, "The difference between ecstasy and illumination is the same as that difference between magic and mysticism. Magic is often about instant results. Mysticism, while often characterized by dramatic singular moments, is about the long haul. In the same way I mistook magic for mysticism, I mistook ecstasy for illumination." (pp.191-192)

Problem With The Psychedelic Frame
Bebergal begins following the work of Strassman with DMT and other (resurgent) experiments done by academics and doctors with psychedelics and healing. After most of the book's peripatetic and picaresque episodes of a bright young god-seeking loveable fuckup, we see Bebergal, sober, as the thoughtful intellectual who knows his stuff. I did not know that, in 2000, two guys named Pickard and Apperson got busted for making probably 70% of the LSD used at raves in Unistat. Pickard got two concurrent life sentences. Bebergal discusses Rick Doblin, Dr. Strassman, Leary, William James, Aldous Huxley. He addresses why psychedelic researchers started using the term "entheogen" over "psychedelic" (too much cultural baggage) and "hallucinogen" (too misleading).

Then, the famous Johns Hopkins double-blind, active-placebo-controlled psilocybin experiments done under Dr. Roland Griffiths. (The active placebo here was Ritalin.) In effect, this was a chance to confirm the Harvard "Good Friday"experiment done at Marsh Chapel by Walter Pahnke under the auspices of Timothy Leary, in which divinity school students who did receive the psychedelic said many years later it was one of, if not the most important experiences in their lives. The same thing happened under Griffiths and Robert Jesse. One of those who received the psilocybin was a Psychologist and self-described "Zen Catholic" named John Hayes, who had never taken a psychedelic drug but who said he had had mystical experiences:

"It was like, 'Alright, what's the big deal?' Then, ba-boom!" he says. "There was a sense of moving in some sort of astral space with stars whizzing by me. It was like getting the big picture."

Hayes tried to describe his psilocybin trip, using "elusive" and "dream" and like he'd experienced something from another space-time dimension. Then, he fell back on his religious vocabulary. Here's where it got really interesting to me, and the book is worth reading if only for this final stretch: the problem of psychedelic experience and inadequate language. Culture - especially religious culture and its terminology - will lead to a sort of Heisenbergian Uncertainty Principle: there is no unmediated mystical or psychedelic experience. Our culture flows through us. Metaphors and framing are in the very air we breathe. And we don't know - can't know?, objectively? - if your experience is the same as mine when we walk through the forest on that Perfect Day, or ingest 2 1/2 grams of psilocybe cubensis. It's in the realm of qualia, no?

At Johns Hopkins the researchers took great care to prevent "expectancy": when someone doesn't know a thing about psychedelics, they tried to keep others who did know from using language or metaphors that might subconsciously alter the expectations of a subject who might not get the placebo. But Bebergal says there's nothing to do about the "deep pop-cultural language or preconceptions that most of us share. It is easy to imagine someone signing up to be a participant in the research and then immediately going home and googling all the associated terms, reading about Marsh Chapel and the studies of the past, even watching movies on YouTube of Timothy Leary describing his psychedelic breakthroughs." (p.179)

The language used in the questionnaires furthered this contamination of expectancy. Internal unity, God, transcendence of time and space, ineffability, awe, noetic qualities: from which area of world culture do these terms seem to emanate? Berkeley professor of East Asian languages and culture Robert Sharf had a problem with the language in the experiment, saying religious experiences can't be reduced to a "supposedly value-neutral, empirical, scientific kind of domain." Bebergal reminds us the late great scholar of Jewish mysticism, Gershom Scholem, said there was no such thing as a generic mystical experience, there is only Hindu mysticism, Jewish mysticism and Christian mysticism. (Bebergal studied the Sufis too, so probably would have wanted to argue with Scholem there was an Islamic mysticism, or so I'd guess he would've.)

It seems that Dennis McKenna - whose framing about psychedelic experiences seems quite different from his more famous brother Terence - had the most articulate arguments for Bebergal about why psychedelics have too much religious language baggage around them. Foremost these substances are "tools to explain consciousness" and that when the experience is described in spiritual terms this is merely an interpretation. (My emphasis...to draw us back to Bebergal's most active god, Hermes, who gave us Hermeneutics.) Dennis McKenna also thinks we give too much power to shamanic experts and other guides, because "Ultimately, the experience is yours." McKenna says that for people without a grounding in a spiritual tradition (this was me in my late adolescence), psychedelics can be used to solve problems, gain insight into natural phenomena, "or simply explore what human consciousness is capable of." It was with that last one that I received the message, and have since hung up. (For now.) McKenna says the experience can be so mindblowing that people want to share it through language and they create a context and try to get others to buy into that context.

Do we have a non-religious vocabulary to describe non-church-related ineffable experience? Is it in poetry? Blake? Ginsberg? Wordsworth? Rumi? Pound?

Talk About Cultural Baggage!
This week, meditating and reading, I happened upon a news story: one of our best writers on the War On Certain People Who Use The Wrong Drugs, Dan Baum, had interviewed John Ehrlichman, one of Nixon's right-hand men. Ehrlichman told Baum in an interview that the advent of the all-out War on Drugs (1971) began as a way to marginalize and imprison Nixon's enemies: hippies and blacks. ("Oh you're such a conspiracy monger, OG!") This way, every night on the TV news, Nixon's "silent majority" would see what scum all those weirded-out blacks and hippies were, with their pot and their LSD, etc. It worked. Enough of our fellow citizens bought it. It seems to me profoundly criminal that this was done. Also, I bet few reading this blog think this is all that "newsworthy" because of course this was how it was done. And furthermore, we've been trying to call attention to it for 40 years. Talk about cultural baggage and imagery that infects minds about certain drugs Control doesn't want used in the population...

Too Much To Dream was put out by one of my favorite publishing houses, Soft Skull Press, and I have not done the book justice. Bebergal has some terrific insights on music and psychedelic phenomenology, among other things. Read it!

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Every Last Tie, by David Kaczynski: Review

David Kaczynski, brother of Theodore, AKA, "The Unabomber," has written a memoir subtitled, "The Story of the Unabomber and His Family." It's Dostoeyevskian but all-too true. I've been fascinated with Ted Kaczynski since a few years before he got busted, and in all my readings the thing that bothered me most were the tropes explaining Ted as "evil," and his brother's book rectifies this. It's a much-needed book in the Unabomber literature and it's filled with Buddhist compassion.

                             Ted Kaczynksi, with parrot on his shoulder, his little brother 
                             David at his side. This was their mother's favorite photo of them,
                             although the cover of David's book doesn't cut his face in half.

While the book is filled with the sorrow and psychic weight of a family member who turned out to be a serial killer, it sheds light on mental illness in Unistat and lends insight into a mind like Ted's that only a brother could. In a 26-page Afterword by David's friend, James L. Knoll, another Buddhist but also a Forensic Psychiatrist, we're invited to practice "forensic empathy" in order to put oneself in the mind of someone of a schizoid personality, which comes closest to a diagnosis of Theodore Kaczynski.

The schizoid craves human intimacy but is filled with terror over the possibility of humiliation or exploitation of their emotions by others. They desperately need but at the same time cannot allow themselves to have what they need. Knoll brilliantly contrasts the semantics of Buddhist's "attachment" and Psychology's "attachment," which has to do with the at times profound influence on infants of their caregivers.

When Ted was nine months old, he broke out in a rash that covered his body. At the hospital, Ted was separated from his parents, who were only allowed to see him every other day. David's mother told him, "I remember how your brother screamed in terror when I had to hand him over to the nurse and she took him away to another room."

Knoll elaborates on the schizoid personality - which is not the same as the "hearing voices" paranoid schizophrenic. (That was my brother.): "Such individuals inevitably choose the only 'reasonable' route: isolation and inwardness." Knoll notes that such suffering can be found in ordinary persons, and in writers such as Beckett, Kafka and Salinger. With time and distance, the ability to check one's own well-being becomes inaccessible, and their inner struggles constantly echo in their own minds, in self-imposed isolation.

David Kaczynski paints his family as lower-middle class secular Jews: intensely rational and progressive intellectually. When Ted threatened to kill more if the New York Times and Washington Post didn't print his Manifesto, someone at the Post read what "The Unabomber" had to say about progressive leftists in Unistat. This unnamed person found the serial killer so harsh toward US liberals that Unabomber was at first thought to be a "neoconservative." In fact, Ted was intensely technophobic and thought liberals were more to blame for the technology that was destroying Nature.

Ted was also reacting against his family. After he disappeared into the Montana woods for good, he at first sent long letters home to his parents and his brother. These letters gradually become emotionally violent toward his parents, who by all accounts were loving, nurturing people. In 1977 he sent his parents a 23 page letter accusing them of emotional abuse, filled with details from childhood of, as David writes, an "immense, dark tapestry of rejection and humiliation." Like when mom yelled at Ted for throwing his dirty socks under the bed. His parents were devastated but continued to their dying days to worry about Ted's well-being.

David always looked up to older brother Ted, who was always the most brilliant student in class. It's one of the darkest moments in the book, for me, when, David writes to Ted that he'd like to come visit him again in the woods. It had been a long time. Two weeks later a reply arrived:

I get just choked with frustration at my inability to get our stinking family off my back once and for all, and "stinking family" emphatically includes you. I DON'T EVER WANT TO SEE YOU OR HEAR FROM YOU, OR ANY OTHER MEMBER OF OUR FAMILY, AGAIN.

This was at the point when Linda, David's wife who had never met Ted but who listened to the family talk about him, had brought up the idea that Ted might be the Unabomber. David didn't really watch TV (he himself spent eight years alone in the wilderness, in West Texas) and had barely heard the word "Unabomber." Linda convinced David to read the Manifesto to look for tones, word choice, or a voice that reminded him of his brother. Or not. The very first time David ever used Internet (1995) was in a college library, reading the Manifesto. He and Linda walked out, and he whispered to her, nervously, "To be honest with you, some parts of it do sound like him..." He told Linda he'd estimate there's one chance in a thousand that Ted was the Unabomber.

After holing up together after work night after night, Linda and David reading the stacks of old letters from Ted and the Manifesto, David eventually thought there was a 50/50 chance his brother was the ingenious serial killer. Linda, a Philosophy professor, reminded David of Plato's dialogue Gorgias, in which Socrates argues that treating others unjustly harms the perpetrator too, not just the victims. The FBI gets called in, then a media frenzy, and a grappling with stigma, which the pioneering sociologist Erving Goffman defined as "a process by which the reaction of others spoils normal identity."

At its peak, the FBI employed 125 agents full-time on the Unabomber case, spending millions, but Linda solved the case. Prior to her textual analysis (which, by the way, see the chapter on literary forensic techniques and the Unabomber case in Don Foster's thrilling Author Unknown), Linda had connected her moments listening to David and his parents talk about Ted - what she took as emotional violence from Ted - with someone who might commit physical acts of violence as well. David needed a lot of convincing, and admits to a terror of "ratting" on his brother, or worse: provoking a violent FBI standoff with his brother. Why did he and Linda eventually call the FBI? They didn't want anyone else to be a victim of Ted's violence, if indeed Ted was the Unabomber. I tried to place myself in David's shoes throughout the book, and it was emotionally traumatic at times. I can't imagine the stress!

David Kaczynski depicts vividly his brother, mother, and father, which was something I needed, being a minor scholar of the case. But David - from the same genes and environment as his serial killer brother - somehow manages to combine his intense rationalism with a profound compassion based in Buddhism. He became good friends with one of his brother's victims who wasn't killed. (Which speaks to the exceptional forgiveness of Gary Wright of Salt Lake City as well.) David helped run a shelter for runaways and has given more than a thousand talks about the need for improved mental health treatment in Unistat, as well as many talks against the death penalty.

Finnegans Wake exegetes: try on David and Ted as yet another warped version of Shem and Shaun?

Some who read this review who also followed the Unabomber case will be saying to themselves by now, "Where's the talk about what happened to Ted as a CIA MK-ULTRA subject at Harvard?" What David was willing to cover ran lightly from pages 10-12.

Personally, I think Prof. Harry Murray's Harvard work for the CIA probably had at least as much to do with why Ted eventually lost it, at least as much as childhood trauma or an errant gene and this Harvard criminality probably influenced Ted to perpetrate unspeakable harm to people he didn't even know, in the most devilishly clever ways. But David must not see it that way. For those interested in this aspect of Ted's life, I direct them to Alston Chase's terrific Harvard and the Unabomber, and the documentary The Net, by Lutz Dammbeck.

I wrote in the opening paragraph that I had problems with explaining Ted (or other schizoidal, wounded narcissist mass-shooters in Unistat) as "evil." This term will never get us closer to alleviating the problem, because we know it from myth and ancient stories. Clearly, we need to highlight a more empathic bio-social model, and I've been cheered the last few years over the anti-bullying and "It Gets Better" campaigns in schools. Hey, it's a start.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Donald Trump...POTUS? (Vol.2)

Carrying on from yesterday...

Chris Hedges at truthdig 2 March, 2016:

Comment: Lots and lots of Hedges on fascism here, and as one of the more prominent Jeremiahs on the Unistat Left, it's one of the tunes he knows best. Longtime readers of the OG know I'm prone to invocations of FASCISM! and have been since I read 1984, followed by Brave New World, followed by Fahrenheit 451 one summer vacation, for "fun." I don't go to horror movies and instead prefer TV "news" to give me the twitchy creeps.

There was a time when, if someone asked me if I was a Democrat or Republican, I'd rapidly fire back, "I'm an anti-fascist!"

Subsequent reading and thinking over the last 15 or 20 years has led me to agree with Hegel: it's not sufficient to be only "against" something; you should be "for" something else too. So now I'm some sort of what Chomsky has called himself, a Libertarian Socialist (AKA anarchist), with heavy Green leanings but also with much sympathy for 19th century Unistat Libertarianism and European varietals of anarchy. I'm against anything that prevents our technology from becoming smaller, cheaper, more efficient and less-polluting (i.e., Buckminster Fuller's inevitable process of omniephemerlization). I'm for Basic Income (which still seems taboo in Unistat politics), for universal health care and education, for cutting the military budget by 5% every year and reallocating that money for R&D into renewable energy. I think the rich should be taxed at the level they were in the 1950s. At this point I'd like to quote one of our martyrs:

You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one

Anyway: Hedges is really against fascism, which is a jejune thing to write, I know. Just about anyone who's read a book is "against" it, but some seem quite a lot more haunted by its historical specter than others. Hedges seems one of the truly haunted, maybe even more than I am, which impresses me in an ironic sense. The "revenge of the lower classes" is equivalent to fascism, and in a classic Hedges riff: it's because of our college-educated elites who aligned themselves with power and privilege and not with The People. That's a dramatic riff on socio-historical dynamics that's long intrigued me. The true Owners play divide and conquer, and they always win. Educated "elites" are still human and feel they are better than the Owners, and seek to fulfill their prerogatives (this is not Hedges, but my own reading of interesting Leftist sociologists and historians, like Alvin Gouldner, Howard Zinn, and Noam Chomsky), so they pay lipservice to the Great Unwashed but want the Good Life too. I know Hedges is with me here...

Hedges: "College educated elites, on behalf of corporations, carried out the savage neoliberal assault on the working poor. Now they are being made to pay." By facing a POTUS named Donald Trump or Ted Cruz.

And Hillary Clinton is a NeoLiberal to the bone, by the way...

Hedges has read all the books and authors that have roused me. His article quotes at length the neo-pragmatist Richard Rorty (died 2007), who is in turn warning about fascism in 1998 because of insufficient care about what to do with displaced workers in a post-industrialized society. Hedges quotes Rorty, who quotes Edward Luttwak the brilliant amoral political philosopher and author of Coup d'Etat: A Practical Handbook, which was read by a character in the Illuminatus! Trilogy. Luttwak's readings have led him to guess that fascism is in Unistat's future and one of the reasons is people whose jobs have been "offshored" and unskilled workers will be forced to realize no one they've elected is trying to help them.

Hedges cites Sinclair Lewis's 1935 novel It Can't Happen Here (which I read within a year after my summertime of Orwell/Huxley/Bradbury), quotes at length from a book I have not read, Anatomy of Fascism, by Robert Patton. It's scary, oh yea. Hedges quotes Hannah Arendt, he reminds us of Durkheim's term anomie, he brings up the one Great Thinker on this subject I would've had I been commissioned to write a piece on Creeping Fascism in America, Walter Benjamin, who said that fascism has occurred when politics has become aesthetics. Hedges seems borderline trivially correct when he says fascist movements do not build off the actions of politically active people; they are built on politically inactive "losers."

Trump's supporters are brimming with a transcendent ressentiment and can't wait to get revenge on intellectuals who've told them they can't yell out "Spic!" or "Nigger!" or "faggot!" like the good old days. Also, they'd love to be able to use violence on non-whites with impunity. (Pssst! ever read The Turner Diaries?) All gains made by people of color and gays will be wiped out. Also, says Hedges, Trump's brownshirts hate "intellectuals, ideas, science and culture." (This also describes very neatly just about the only group of people I do not wish to party with.)

To paraphrase from an old Woody Allen joke:

On one hand, we have Hillary Clinton, who stands for just about everything that got us in this mess.
On the other hand, we'll have violent, uneducated racists running wild, who hate culture and ideas.
Let us pray we have the wisdom to choose correctly.

Hedges even goes here: There will be salutes to the flag and cross (instead of swastika and fasces), and "mass recitations of the Pledge of Allegiance" which will be a "litmus test for detecting the internal enemy." Now that is some haunted jit.

Hey, when they say, "Now let us all stand and sing our National Anthem" at baseball games, I have been that guy who remains seated. Sure, people glare at me for nine innings, but the idea of compulsory saluting and singing of some abstract idea about "freedom" is just too ironic for me. I've been like this for 20 years. Hedges goes down a turgid path here, but maybe he's right and I really hope not. If he is and this blog disappears around January 20, 2017, after the inauguration of King Trump, I guess I was wrong.

(Quick book recommendation from the OG: Alfred Jarry's Ubu Plays)

Hedges - who recently said he's voting for Green candidate Jill Stein - finishes his jeremiad with this: the only thing that will save us is a massive social movement to defeat fascism, but it will not come out of the Democratic Party. (Does he even realize that's basically saying, "We're all so royally screwed!"?)

Hedges always delivers with his apocalyptic Leftist jeremiads, and he always overdoes it. It's like Performance Art to me. Nonetheless, I feel for a guy like Hedges because I think we're of the same intellectual and emotional gene pool. Therefore...

Grade: B
ProfB AKA @hilzoy on Twitter, in a series of Tweets, 29 February, 2016:

Comment: I don't know who this person is, but I admire the judo move of having empathy for Trump supporters and explaining why. The GOP has spent decades destroying trust in science, legitimate experts and the press, constantly messaging that "America is being destroyed" when a corporate Democrat is trying to do some moderately sane thing for humans or the environment. After years and years and years of this, now they're fucked and don't know who to trust. Republicans have been dismantling their quality of life, shipping jobs overseas.

Enter: Trump. He "speaks his mind" and can't be bought. When the mainstream Republican party says, "Don't trust this guy!" well, the Trumpanistas  have just about had it with them too. And who can believe anything in the MSM?

Message: the Republican party made this mess. It's entirely their own fault. They broke it, now they have to buy it, take it home and try to glue it back together. These ideas are seen in very many of the articles that seek to explain the rise of Trump, but I applaud "ProfB" or "@hilzoy" for encapsulating these spot-on ideas so tersely. And again, the empathic turn? Admirable.

Grade: A-
Prof Rick Searle at IEET (Institute for Ethics and Emergent Technologies), 7 March, 2016:

Comment: Searle's thesis is that Trump's candidacy is a result of "dark epistemology" and Trump is the perfect character to use this epistemology on the mass stage for his own gain.

Searle gives us his own history lesson-spiel: Neoliberalism starts in 1945 when Friedrich Hayek shows that Soviet-style central planning is no good, but continuous distributed feedback loops of information yields a better economy.

Still, Unistat gradually went for a Welfare State/social safety net in addition to State capitalism. J.K. Galbraith alerted us to the problem of manufactured "needs" and this muddles things a bit for our values/economy/understanding of where we're at. Nixon created the EPA and flirted with Basic Income (really: the FAP), but by the time of Reagan and Thatcher, the welfare state had suddenly become something evil, or at least that's what our real-life versions of C. Montgomery Burns wanted us to believe. Bill Clinton converted the Democrats to Neoliberalism and bragged about ending "welfare as we know it" before his term was out in 2000. The political philosophy of Neoliberalism led to the Collapse of 2008. (NeoConservatism seems merely a more Far-Right version of Neoliberalism to me. - OG)

[Again: Hillary Clinton is NeoLiberal to the marrow. Think before you vote. Off my soapbox...]

Hayek was for Basic Income, by the way. It's a rare day indeed when I hear a Libertarian who mentions the greatness of Hayek's thought who also mentions he was for Basic Income.

The "dark epistemology" Searle addresses has to do with the acceleration ("flood") of information, which also inundates us with deception, conspiracy theories and manipulation. He seems quite influenced by Shiller and Akerlof's Phishing For Phools. Both authors won the Nobel Prize in Economics.

Searle: "We live in a media environment in which no one can be assumed to be telling the truth, in which everything is a sales pitch of one sort or another..."

He also brings up Agnotology, a term coined by Stanford's Robert Proctor, and it's the study of manufacturing doubt in the face of overwhelming scientific evidence. Big Tobacco saying "the science isn't really in whether smoking causes lung cancer or not" (when internal memos showed they knew it did long ago, but that tar in your mom's lungs was making them rich), and now the best example is probably the "doubt" fossil fuel companies have spread about anthropogenic climate change.

Now that is some dark epistemology! And with Internet and all the other fear-buttons being pushed, I don't think it's too much of a stretch to say that all of Searle's dark epistemologies are a way of Dumbing Down the population, but as if this process was being done, to use a postmodern metaphor, "on steroids." If so, by which agency? Rogue gummint forces? Corporations? Ourselves? All of the above plus more? Do we need to go back and read Jung now? Is Trump a continuation of some Top Secret CIA mind control plan that began with Herman Cain's run four years ago? Are we hopelessly mired in a funhouse mirror-reality inside a Simulated Universe run by the Nine Unknown Men, who foisted The Matrix on us to throw us off the track while they keep us from realizing we're all only brains in a vat, run by the Illuminati? Or am I seriously lacking sleep from my bronchitis?

Grade: A-
Chris Lehman at In These Times, March 1, 2016:

Comment: This seems almost the essay form of the Twitter artist @hilzoy/ProfB, but with more bile and far less empathy. The GOP made their bed, now we're all forced to lie in It. We get the requisite quote from It Can't Happen Here. We've had decades of antipolitics and bigotry from the GOP, but there's no time for schadenfreude because if Trump gets in we're all fucked, etc.

Lehman cites NeoCon Robert Kagan, who calls Trump a "Frankenstein monster."

Yes, a monster that YOU helped build, you brain-truster for war criminals.

David Brooks was with the NeoCons and now we're supposed to pretend we can't look at his old articles and call him out as the profoundly overrated, lightweight hypocritical blowhard he is. Brooks says Trump is "a cancer." Yes, and you are a gallon of dioxin poured into the local brooks, Brooks.

Ross Douthat of the NYT, another complete zero of a thinker, in my opinion: Trump is Obama's fault. He should have literally mailed that one in.

Mitch McConnell, who Lehman calls a "procedural nhilist," which I find apt and yet somehow too kind, says the GOP will drop Trump "like a hot rock" if he gets the nomination. I don't, and never have, believed this turtle-man. Not for one second. He's as fascist as Trump, but he's the old-fashioned kind: he keeps it to himself and his friends. When there's no mics around. As a matter of fact, I consider McConnell a traitor to the US, because, with no actual principle invoked, said as soon as Obama got elected, he and his beige fascist Do-Nothing Nihilist Republicans will oppose Obama on everything. If Obama says the sky is blue, they say, no, we say it's red. It's better if we don't even listen, much less talk. There is no democracy, no fixing the infrastructure, no exchange of ideas. The Republicans have no ideas. This traitor seemed proud to announce his only purpose was to make Obama a "one-term President." I guess: fuck the constituents who didn't bankroll your run for Senate. And forget about moving the country forward in any way. No thinking, no need to even show up. Vote symbolically to repeal Obamacare SIXTY TIMES.

Oh, McConnell would love Trump in office. You Kentuckians have been had.
On the House side, John Boehner wasn't dipshit enough for these do-nothing decent Nihilists.

My favorite line from Lehman: this Trump run is a "Theater-in-the-round production of Falling Down."

Lehman thinks Trump really is pro-choice and more in favor of single-payer health than Hillary, about which I'll address subsequently.

If it feels like I really went off on McConnell, I did. Guilty as charged, but what's a blog for? And besides, I'm pissy from being inside for five straight days with bronchitis. So there.

Grade: B+
                           The reason for this image will become clear when you read 
                                the last article in this spiel.

Paul Krugman at the NYT, March 8, 2016:

Comment: Nice geometrical diagram, (Krugman calls his own diagram "silly") but overall a tad flippant. How bad would Trump be vs. not-Trump? Krugman thinks, "Who cares?" It has to do with likelihood of being elected. Trump is awful, but not much more awful than the others.

Krugman thinks, as I do, that Cruz is a total ass and paranoid conspiracy nutjob, and Krugman has fun with pretending he's been fomenting a conspiracy that Cruz has bit into: "Progressives should be cheering Trump on (which is why my secret committee has been orchestrating that conspiracy Cruz talks about.)"

Just an aside: how do you vote for a guy like Cruz, who, no one who has ever met him liked him? Are the evangelicals that fucking stupid? I could give a long, detailed and wonky answer, but instead I'll just say: yes. Yes, they are that fucking stupid. Take the most idiotic reading of the Bronze Age text and its sequel, factor in the "decades" of anti-politics and bigotry Lehman cited, next swirl in the dark epistemologies Searle talked about: bake for however long Pat Robertson tells you to*, and voila!: a brain is a terrible thing to waste, but millions of brains wasted this way gets you a Ted Cruz who's still in this thing.

Krugman is no Chris Hedges, I'll give either guy that! (Wha?)

I'm sure Nobelist and science fiction lover Krugman would have more to say about Trump, but this time he'd handing in something a tad light.

Grade: B-
Evert Cilliers AKA Adam Ash, at Three Quarks Daily,  2 March, '16:

Comment: Either this guy is fucking with us, or...something else.

Clinton, W43 and Reagan were so bad, Trump would be much better, because he's smarter than the GOP "(not that this says much)" and the thing to note: Trump is bullshitting his way to the nomination. He and his minions sat up and took notice when an anti-immigrationist nobody named Dave Bratt startled everyone and beat Eric Cantor in Virginia.

For Cilliers, Obama is the best POTUS we've had since FDR.

The building of a Mexican wall: isn't meant to be taken seriously by anyone who can combine a few neurons into a thought.

What Trump's true believers like is that he has no respect for Republican leaders. Just recall what he said about McCain, Romney, and Jeb.

Cilliers seems to believe that we can get jobs back from China by imposing punitive tariffs, which goes against NeoLib doctrine. Maybe it's true, but China has bought up our debt. What about that? And how many jobs will this bring back, with rapid automation? I have my doubts. This seems more Mexican wall-ish to me than a real idea.

Cilliers - as is required - calls Trump a "narcissistic blowhard vulgarian" and a "walking wish fulfillment of every poor guy." The OG qualifies as a poor guy, but I have not for a second in my life wished for anything Trump has. This all feels a bit glib, doesn't it? Now for the conundrum:

"Don't forget, Trump is a socially liberal New Yorker, and not a dyed-in-the-wool conservative by any measure. That's why he's got nothing against Planned Parenthood, Social Security, abortion or any of the socially retro bugaboos so beloved by the troglodyte GOP."

Cilliers asserts Trump's from the elite, so if he wins, he'll surround himself with Bloomberg-like types. (Yea, maybe. But even so, that's not exactly exciting...)

If you read the article, someone in the comments section challenges Cilliers about Trump on the social issues like Planned Parenthood, abortion, etc, with links. Here's where it gets into our problem with dark epistemology. I read the articles the commenter cited. Then I looked to see if Trump has reversed his stance. He has. As of today, it appears Trump is all for Social Security, Planned Parenthood, a woman's right to choose (this one he's hedging on a bit, but that's the way it goes with politicians and abortion: if your constituency wants to end Roe, you must appear to be trying to stop it, all the while knowing what a disaster it would be), etc.

[An example from simple searches: Trump on Planned Parenthood last Oct:
It should be de-funded:

but on March 1st: he's for Planned Parenthood:

Now: who do we believe? This reality TV blowhard billionaire who has burned the playbook of every politician by getting rid of any semblance of decency and decorum and protocol, assuring us his dick is plenty big, insulting people to their face on TV, etc?

This, to me, is some dark epistemology, mi amigos y amigas.

And even if Trump is socially liberal and he's playing the clueless to get votes, he's eerily too adept at it, even for a politician. And Cilliers has nothing to say about Trump with the Launch Codes or drone strikes/a private murder list that Obama currently has.

But: For fucking with my head so well in such a short piece, I have to give Evert Cilliers AKA Adam Ash:

Grade: A
*The OG was informed four hours after this post that Pat Robertson has called for a Trump-Kasich ticket. It remains to be seen how much this harms Cruz, helps Trump, or gets particular members of the flock closer to Jeebus.

Okay, my mommy says it's time to stop playing and come in for din-din. If you like this stuff, I'll do another one manana.

                                           artist: Bob Campbell

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Donald Trump...POTUS? (Vol.1)

I've had a nasty rhinovirus lately, and I've been resting, drinking lots of fluids, looking at porn. But many of the "experts" say, due to the psychosomatic synergy of mind/body, the unwell ought to convalesce with happy, humorous, less stressful mind-stuff.

And yet: I found myself spinning out into a YUGE pileup of "what does it mean to have Trump doing so well?" articles. It's the atavistic need for a bad time when there's a bad time to be had, I guess. Or: my masochism takes on ever-odd hues.

Anyway: I will link articles with my comments and, because I found while reading these articles (and what follows is merely a handful; please feel free to link to ones I didn't in the comments and say why you thought the opinion was interesting) that I was interested in the epistemologies used, and how they resonated with my idiosyncratic take on this Horror Show. Furthermore, I will act the schoolmarm and give pissy "grades" to each opinion piece.

Here goes...
Scott Adams of the famous "Dilbert" comic strip, from his blog way back on 13 August, 2015

Comment: In what will become fairly standard in these articles, Trump is a "narcissistic blowhard" without any political credentials. I'm guessing, were Trump to confront Adams he'd say, "Damn straight, but I'm the best narcissistic blowhard you've ever seen and I get things done...I've got a lot of money my friend. A lot of money." Just a guess.

The meat of Adams's analysis is that Trump is using classic hypnosis techniques, like "intentional exaggeration" and "brand management" and "taking the high ground" (when accused of being a whiner, Trump said he was the "best whiner of all time").

And then there's deflection: when called out on his misogynistic remarks, Trump said yea, I've said some nasty things about Rosie O'Donnell, knowing his pathetic sans culottes universally revile Ms. O'Donnell. And hey, those chicks had it comin'. Adams sees Trump making a deal with Fox honcho Ailes over ratings: hey Rog, you don't like me, but your ratings go up when I appear on your network, so let's make a deal.

As of last August, Adams didn't know Trump didn't write The Art of the Deal. It was written by Tony Schwartz, who has since said Trump only "read it."

Adams seems to genuinely think Trump is so adept with his hypnotic billionaire's business ju-ju that he could make Mexico build a wall and pay for it.

Scott Adams has studied hypnosis himself, so he's spotted it. To me, it's soooo missing the point. Nassim Nicholas Taleb might call this a petty case of "tunneling," which is the neglect of sources of uncertainty outside the plan itself. Others use the term "cherry picking." I will settle with "missing the point."

There's no need to invoke hypnotic techniques; Trump seems to be obviously (to me) saying things with a certain style that appeals to downtrodden, uneducated whites who feel like they're losing.

Grade: C-
Freddie Gray in The Spectator, 5 March, 2016

Comment: For Gray, Trump is a "fulminating demagogue with more than a whiff of mad dictator about him." Articles about Trump are your chance to really let your high-minded invective riffs out. And who can blame the writers? It's appropriate, no?

Gray calls Trump a "foreign policy moron," which I think is true. There's no way he could find Aleppo on an unmarked map. A true Murrkin, that Trump. Gray says Trump is "narcissistic and nihilistic," and I think the first term is obviously true and hope to hell the second one is not. It's an easy riff. He gets in the requisite allusion to fascism: Mussolini and the KKK. Gray also says Trump "tramples all over the corpse" of W43: the failed wars, the financial crisis. I have no problem with anyone raking W43 over the coals.

Also: Trump attracts millions "precisely because he is a rude thug." Aye, too true. Or at least Trump's playing the rude thug. (This will get complicated.) We know politics has been about bluster for a long time, but Trump takes it up a notch - hell: 23 notches! - and it makes the more sensitive among us who have read history a bit unnerved. Believe it or not, there are some of us Ordinary Unistatians who have never bought any of the lines about American exceptionalism, and do fear that It Can Happen Here. (Book recommendation from the OG: The Mass Psychology of Fascism, by Wilhelm Reich.)

Here's where the conservative Freddie Gray loses me:
Unistat with Trump is seeing "the most benevolent superpower in history turning nasty." My gawd, you need to actually read outside your dipshit reality tunnel, Gray. Tell the people of Hiroshima about our benevolence. Tell everyone in Latin America. Tell the East Timorese. Show the Vietnamese peasant burned with napalm about "nasty." I could literally go on for days here.

Also, Gray apparently thinks our garrison state economy is just ducky. What an asshole. He seems to actually admire our military expenditures. And here's a line that seems ripped out of a rich kid's 7th grade essay:

"America has always tried to do the right thing." How do you get a job writing..? Ahh...conservative. Probably favors Rubio and his more foreign wars/tax cuts for the rich brilliance. Trump's ideas about protectionism are like "national socialism" and what about "free enterprise"?

Finally, Gray had to do it: he ends his piece by asserting that Trump is the "logical consequence of Obama" who "swept into power on a wave of demented hope."

Grade: F
Andrew Bacevich from Tom Dispatch, 1st of March, 2016

Comment: The intro by Nick Turse, about Trump's "Trumpiso" and his "xenophobia, political bromides, and so-light-it-floats policy proposals" are well-taken by me. Tonight I watched Trump talk about how he'd handle ISIS: he'd find a really really tough guy like Gen. George Patton. That's pretty light. Politically speaking, it's roughly the equivalence in density of a neutrino.

I liked Turse's memory of his 1980s and the commercial for Trump's Atlantic City gaudy pleasure palace. It gave me a minor bad-trip flashback to the time I got stoned and watched Robin Leach on "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous," which put me off pot for a long time. Like maybe even a week. But to Bacevich.

Andrew Bacevich has been on my radar since the Awful Years of Cheney, W43 and that entire cadre of NeoCon war criminals. Bacevich is an American historian who retired as a career US Army officer. His son died fighting in Iraq in 2007. He specializes in diplomacy, military history and foreign policy and said W43's "preventative wars" in Iraq and Afghanistan were "immoral, illicit and imprudent."

About Trump: he's not a big fan. Trump is to American politics what Martin Shkreli is to Big Pharma, and that Trump as POTUS will "demolish the structural underpinnings" of what we've called "democracy." So: Trump as POTUS = no more constitutional democracy, with Trump playing a Juan Peron character, with Melania as Eva. And even if things don't get better for Trump's desperate supporters, at least he'll be more fun to watch on the teevee.

Bacevich understands the public anger, but he has some insights on Trump's use of that anger: that Trump understands that the difference between the ostensibly serious and the self-evidently frivolous has collapsed, and that "celebrity confers authority" at this stage.

Thinking is a sacred disease and sight is deceptive. - Heraclitus

Trumpism "is an attitude or pose that feeds off of and then reinforces, widespread anger and alienation." In addition, his followers like the fact that Trump knows all about the bullshit corporate "news" journalists and gatekeepers and other "reality show" producers and calls them out on their bullshit, because apparently it takes one to know one.

For Bacevich, Trump is a carnival barker selling magical potions to fix health care, immigration, the economy and war.

Then it gets dark. By which I mean I think Bacevich is right: Trump, Cruz and Rubio (this last guy will now have to drop out as of his showing in primaries within the past eight hours, as of the moment I'm writing this) all say - and maybe even believe - that things were great until Obama got in, so on "day one" they'll reverse...all...that. - Playing to the childish electorate who apparently think the Prez is a guy with a Big Dick who is OMNIPOTENT. Cruz, Trump and Rubio look at the rest of the world, and Unistat's place in it and see nothing but military solutions. (Not that Obama is all that different!)

(Suddenly I'm reminded of a George Carlin bit about campaigns and telling the truth. Carlin would have run on this slogan:

The People Suck
Fuck Hope)

Finally, Bacevich predicts - and he's not the only one - that this means the Republican Party as we've known it is gone. Even if Cruz or Trump don't win.

Which brings me to my next guy, but first a grade for Bacevich:

Grade: A-
Bruce Bartlett in Politico, July 27, 2015

Comment: A supply-sider and former Reagan advisor who worked in the Treasury under Bush41 and who is a longtime Republican party apparatchik, Bartlett thought W43 and his NeoCons had dangerously departed from true conservatism and has been vocal about the increasingly disastrous path his beloved party has taken. Bartlett voted for Trump in order to speed the demolition of the Republican party. This seems almost mythic to me. If not mythic, it's at minimum chock-full of pathos.

I've seen Bartlett talk recently. Let's lose this one, big, so we can start over with Adults in the room, and get away from the racists, borderline fascists, religious nutjobs and know-nothings in the party.

Fat chance, Bartlett. But I feel for ya, man.

(NB: Bacevich thinks the Trump/Cruz run means the end of the Republicans. Maybe. But we'll see how/if they reorganize. But I can picture Bartlett in his mansion, reading Bacevich's piece with glee. Maybe he even pushes away from his 250 year old cherry oak desk and dances a little jig, late at night, alone, with some vodka in his system.)

"Trump's nomination would give what's left of the sane wing of the GOP a chance to reassert control in the wake of inevitable defeat..." Ummm...how many "sane" ones are there? I can count 'em on one hand, right?

Bartlett seems somewhat comforted in that he thinks Trump would lose big like Goldwater did in 1964, which seems his model for restructuring. (Bartlett thinks it's good Goldwater lost in '64 because it paved the way for Nixon!) Methinks times have changed, especially with Citizens United and people like the Koch Bros. But hey: good luck on this one, Bruce.

Bartlett thinks: When the Republicans get trounced in November, we'll have someone running in 2020 who is less right-wing than either McCain on Romney were. Really? I don't see it. As a matter of fact, I think guys like Bacevich and others are right: there will be more Trumps and Cruzes in 2020, unless something is done to staunch the flow of jobs overseas, the falling wages, the shitty jobs, the hopelessness of much of the country. About this Bartlett, the Party Man, has nothing to say.

He does make an interesting point when talking about the 1960s and the history of the Republican party: that conservatives and country club Republican Party members "have always been uncomfortable allies." That's my favorite line in Bartlett's piece.

But then Bartlett tries to paint Wm. F. Buckley as for civil rights (he opposed the 1964 Civil Rights Act, but to his credit, later said it was a mistake to oppose) and that Buckley tried to purify the party by distancing it from Birchers and Randroids, which I find equivocal. Buckley wanted to appear to distance the party from extremists, but he knew they needed as many factions as possible. And Bartlett goes on with this louse-ridden history lesson by reminding us that Irving Kristol and his NeoCons were a way of getting moderate Jews into the party. How did that work out for you, 2000-2008?

Bartlett mentions nothing about the sort of anger that would give rise to Trump. I think he's been too well-fed and protected and privileged to even think about this.

Bruce says some true things about his political god, Ronald Reagan, who "raised taxes 11 times, gave amnesty to illegal aliens, pulled American troops out of the Middle East, supported environmental regulations (not so much- OG), raised the debt limit, and appointed many moderates to key positions, including the Supreme Court."

I hope Bartlett doesn't think Scalia was a "moderate."

Grade: C
Well, that's all for today 'cuz I'm weak with bronchitis, but I'll go over some more of these tomorrow, if only get all this this off my chest. (<----did you catch the lurking pun?)

                             a graphic depiction of my inner state after watching footage of 
                             U. of Louisville student Shiya Nwanguma surrounded by white
                             supremacists at a Trump rally a week ago