Thursday Thoughts

He wrote me beautiful letters — then we fell in love!

W.J. Astore

Here are a few random thoughts I’ve had over the last few days.

1. I’m still reeling from Donald Trump confessing how he and Kim Jong-un “fell in love.” Imagine if Barack Obama had gushed about falling in love with a communist dictator? Fox News and the Republicans would have crucified him.

2. Brett Kavanaugh is now a Supreme Court justice. But imagine if he’d been black. Would he have survived sexual assault allegations from three white women?  Or imagine if he’d been a woman and boasted of liking beer, lots of beer, while losing self-control before the Senate judiciary committee.  A female Kavanaugh would have been dismissed as hysterical and unsuited for the pressures of the court, methinks.  In sum, a certain type of privilege still exists for certain types of white males.

3. Last night, Donald Trump accused Hillary Clinton of colluding with the Russians. Trump’s tactics on this issue have run the gamut from denying he colluded, to saying it’s not illegal to collude, to charging his opponent with the (apparent) crime of colluding.  This is not to say I believe Trump colluded with the Russians (though his constant denials make me think he’s got a lot to hide).  While we wait for the Mueller investigation to conclude, it’s worth recalling that candidate Trump asked the Russians to hack Hillary’s server to find her missing emails. Perhaps this was merely a snide remark by an unhinged candidate, but why were Trump campaign staffers meeting with Russians? To help speed adoption of Russian kids by Americans?

But here’s a key point: Trump didn’t win because of Russian “collusion.” He won because Hillary ran a poor campaign. The collusion story (assuming there’s something to it) is a minor issue compared to the real damage Trump does every day as president, e.g. dismissing the perils of climate change as a “Chinese hoax.”

4. At, Juan Cole has a fine piece on Islamophobia and how it’s promoted by the Trump administration. It has at least three components.  The first is resentment stemming from 9/11, which embarrassed the Republicans since it happened on their watch.  The second is religion, that old crusading spirit of evangelicals and conservative Catholics.  The third is entitlement/resentment.  You know the saying: Who put America’s oil under the desert sands of the Middle East?  America’s leaders, and so many of their countrymen, believe all that oil should be theirs.

5. There’s an argument that Trump is no worse than other politicians like Obama or the Clintons. Indeed, that in some way his mendacity is refreshing: that he’s torn the mask off American exceptionalism, revealing all the hypocrisy, all the duplicity, all the crimes against humanity, that other politicians work to keep hidden.

It’s tempting to say “they all do it.” But Trump’s dishonesty is constant. He lies just to stay in shape. And his lies are calculated to sow discord — to divide. Divide and rule is his strategy. Reaping profit for himself is his goal.  He’s always been a con man, but now the entire country, indeed the entire world, is his mark.

Because he’s anti-democratic, because he’s a divider, because he loves dictators while mocking people weaker than him, for these and many other reasons, Trump is worse.  Trump is making cruelty normal, even admirable (at least to his followers).  He’s not so much ripping a mask off America as he is reveling in his own nastiness while encouraging likeminded people in America and around the world to join him.

Trump: Making the world nastier again.

15 thoughts on “Thursday Thoughts

  1. Agree on all points. About a year ago, I sat down and read Hoffmann’s History of the German Resistance:
    And was struck by the structural similarities between 1930s Germany and present-day America. Conman sells a story to just enough people that even though they can only muster a bare plurality of the vote in a free election, they end up in a position of power. Their movement embraces a weird form of victim narrative that ultimately boils down to: WE deserve better, and THEY are what is keeping us from our just due. A disorganized opposition fails to realize the threat until it is too late, and the wicked organism gets in a position to formally change the rules of national politics. Tragedy ensues.

    I have this nasty feeling that we’re re-living the first half of the 20th century, in much the same way it was a replay of the early 19th. There may be something inherent in the nature of the Westphalian state system that produces episodes where a major power goes rogue, and takes the world system down with it.

    To make things even more ‘interesting’, the global economy is due for another recession, and things are looking an awful lot like 2007 all over again – but nobody aside from the Fed is paying attention, because in the USA so long as stocks stay buoyant, Wall Street traders could care less about economic fundamentals. Here’s a piece detailing some of the mechanisms at work:

    And the climate, of course, is the long-term risk nobody in power is willing to mitigate, because no one wants to bear the up-front costs, no matter how beneficial a restructuring of the global economy to promote local production, fair trade, technology transfers to developing nations – all that good stuff – would be in the long term.

    Here’s a good one looking at the impact of a completely unprecedented event near where I grew up – a place where a strong majority of voters (and this in California) love Trump, hate immigrants, and don’t believe in climate change.

    And for those in the Southeast, there’s the endless procession of record-breaking hurricanes, which sooner or later will cause insurance companies to raise rates so high that people won’t be able to live along the coast, and will have to move somewhere (probably altering politics in the South in the process).

    America’s political elites remain paralyzed, and I think are playing ‘wait and pray’ much like Europe’s elites did during the Euro Crisis (which hasn’t fully ended) and the UK elites are doing with the Brexit fiasco. Unfortunately for the USA, Trump isn’t Brexit, though both have similar backers. You can’t just pull the world’s leading military and economic power out of the system it created and sustained for eighty years without serious consequences. Brexit will probably go down in a general election or referendum.

    Trump? Listen to the rhetoric. He, like any conman, tests and probes his audience. He sees what he can get away with. Hence, “I could shoot someone in Times Square”, “millions of illegals voted”, so on. He’s telling people exactly what he wants to do, and because he suffers no meaningful consequences he’ll keep on doing it.
    (check his approval numbers on 538:

    And yet, the Democrats can’t even agree on whether to run against Trump. Just got my Oregon voter pamphlet in the mail, and does Kurt Schrader (D) even mention opposition to Trump? Nope.

    A political crisis of unprecedented magnitude, and no one in power wants to accept the reality, outside of op-eds and stump speeches. Just wait and pray and kick that can down the road, leaving the initiative to the people with the capability and, I suspect, the will, to destroy the Republic.


  2. In the not-at-all-random-thought department, after all the Sturm und Drang surrounding the Kavanaugh confirmation circus, we have the typical cave-in from the usual-suspect “opposition”:

    Democrats Agree To Confirm More Of Trump’s Judicial Nominees — Again. They believe campaigning for November’s midterm election is more important right now., by By Igor Bobic, Huffington Post (10/11/2018)

    “WASHINGTON ― Democrats on Thursday agreed to expedite votes on 15 of President Donald Trump’s nominees to lifetime federal court seats so they could allow vulnerable members to campaign less than a month before the November midterm elections.”

    “Normally, Senate rules require up to 30 hours of waiting time for each nominee ― something Democrats typically take advantage of to delay action on confirming Trump judges. But with a handful of endangered Democrats up for re-election this year, they agreed to vote immediately on three Circuit Court judges and 12 District Court judges, who were all successfully confirmed on Thursday, and head home on recess.”

    Buy some Republicans, they’ll shout “Gawd Bless!”
    Rent a few Democrats, they’ll lose for less.

    And working-class people should vote for the Democratic party congressional candidates because they’re “not” the Republican party junior varsity?


      1. It is funny you should bring up the name of Joe Biden for 2020. I had dyed in the wool Democrat the other day give me a lecture on why Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are “too” Progressive for America. Her choice – drum roll please – Joe Biden.

        No matter how far Right the Reactionary-Right Wing-Evangelical Republican Party goes the Democrats continue to turn right with them. The Center is shifted to the Right.


        1. I’ve had similar conversations with a few dyed-in-the-wool Democrats that all go pretty much the same way. That, and decrying the danger of populism.

          Sitting in on a political science graduate seminar recently, I was shocked by the number of times the professor stated that in the discipline, mass-participation in policy is considered a bad thing. Just presented as a flat-out binding assumption, kind of like the rational choice assumption in economics.

          When even the people who are supposed to have the expertise and understanding to carefully analyze what is happening in the world and come up with solutions, simply fall back on reiterating their particular in-group’s tribal wisdom, alarms go off in my head.

          This is systemic paralysis. A whole society stuck in deer-in-headlights mode as the political, economic, and social crisis converge.

          I keep waiting for a group of billionaires to figure out Trump effectively bought the presidency for a few billion in free advertising, and launch a viable 3rd party.


          1. Thanks you 3 above; WJS, AT, & ML, for making me feel young again! A Biden/Kerry ticket?! Yikes! Time’s up for the “New American Century”! lol


  3. From the above: “Trump is making cruelty normal, even admirable (at least to his followers). He’s not so much ripping a mask off America as he is reveling in his own nastiness while encouraging likeminded people in America and around the world to join him.”

    This is a true statement. Now those who responded to the dog whistles, have their hero in President Agent Orange and Pastor Pence, loud bells and sirens of a brutish call to arms feed the beast.

    The 1% may have been uncomfortable with President Agent Orange at first for tearing the make up off of them and revealing their vile intent of dominating we Proles by any means necessary. Funny thing though a significant section of the Proles ate it up. A totally Corporate Hillary, who came across as the embodiment of entitlement – It’s Her Turn – was dredged up. Clinton will go down as a joke for losing to a reality TV Show Barker.


    1. Before she lost to a billionaire rookie politician, real-estate fraud, and cable-tv game-show host in 2016, You-Know-Her (because everybody does) lost to an unknown black community organizer and freshman U.S. Senator from Chicago in 2008. Still, Bill Clinton’s other half of “two for the price of one” alienated me long before that by bungling the Health Care portfolio in her husband’s first administration followed by her craven and stupid endorsement of Deputy Dubya’s stud-hamster vendetta against the toothless Sadam Hussein in Iraq. So, eleven years ago, with the corporate media already anointing her the chosen successor to Dubya the Dimwit, I did my tiny little part to undermine in verse the once-and-future Goldwater Girl’s delusions of political/military (but I repeat myself) grandeur:

      An Ersatz Commander in Knickers

      Before a mirror now she stands
      Saluting with her two right hands
      “Commanding” like some jaded Joan of Arc
      A warfare welfare mother slick
      Another monkey on a stick
      She gladly held the match that lit the spark

      She clearly failed to look and see
      The dwarf dyslexic chimpanzee
      Who made baboons of her and Bubba Bill
      Attacking those upon the left
      Who saw through Dubya’s lack of heft
      She now sounds less a leader than a shill

      In thrall to medals on the chest
      Not nearly brightest nor the best
      She signed off on a jingoistic jaunt
      No judgment did she bring to bear
      Emitting only heated air
      Her bad decisions have returned to haunt

      And now with knickers in a bunch
      She lives to rue the fateful hunch
      She followed on her first blind date with war
      It seemed like such a little thing:
      A rapt submission to a fling
      That’s left her used again like Dubya’s whore

      Yet unrepentant at the ease
      With which war caused her brain to freeze
      Our You-Know-Her wants us to make her queen
      She’s got this urge to have a go,
      She’d like us all to truly know,
      In spite of all that we have heard and seen

      She now says she would like to fight
      And not just pander to the right
      She says the middle finger them she’ll give
      But calculating cons and pros
      She tallies up the “yea”s and “no”s
      And then displays a pinky as her shiv

      It simply doesn’t seem to work
      This “centrist” mush served by a jerk
      Who likes the times that buy men’s souls just fine
      For having sold her own soul cheap
      She now can utter not a peep
      When voters choose someone more genuine

      Michael Murry, “The Misfortune Teller,” Copyright © 2007

      Also, from a year-and-a-half ago on, a rather succinct tweet about the corporate-tool Democrats and their idea of a political campaign strategy:

      “@wikileaks, If the DNC were miners in the gold rush, their strategy would have been to trick the competition into going to California— Gatsby (@GatsbyNC) January 6, 2017


      1. And then we have the following from the conclusion of Peter Van Buren’s article, What Kavanaugh Tells Us about the Midterms, (October 13, 2018):

        “The point of politics is to change people’s minds, not declare them unfit to walk among decent folk. Kavanaugh proved the Democrats (and their partnered media) are still unaware [that] while this may be the year of #MeToo in Washington, New York, and Hollywood, it’s still just 2018 in West Virginia.

        The Democrats failed in 2016 when they tried to make the election a referendum on Trump’s behavior. They failed again this week with the same strategy, even after elevating Kavanaugh to a psychopathic POTUS mini-me. With no tailwind from Russiagate, Democrats move toward November with little more than more of the same, throwing in some mumbled threats to impeach Kavanaugh off the Supreme Court (will that be before or after they impeach Trump?) if they take the House.

        It’s bad enough to pick the wrong hill to die on. Even worse to do it three times.” [emphasis added]


  4. If the Democrats have any smarts, they’ll run Tulsi Gabbard for president in 2020. Maybe Kamala Harris as VP. I know Harris is older, but I prefer Gabbard for her more progressive views. Her guts and military experience make Gabbard a great choice despite her relative youth. (She’s about 37.)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree 100% WJAstore. She’s the only breath of youth & fresh ideas in the empty world of hair plugs and tanning salons. For a gal with a military background, she sure doesn’t have much nice to say about the MIC. GO TULSI!


      1. I keep forgetting about Gabbard, and a Harris-Gabbard (whichever order) ticket would work for me. Though that may be my own Pacific Coast bias speaking!

        Maybe someone can explain Michael Bloomberg to me. Every recent election cycle his name gets floated, and I can’t figure out why, except that New York City thinks it IS America. Is that just another artifact of the ancient Wall Street + New York Times alliance?


        1. I’ll try. I lived & worked in Manhattan 1963 – 75. Perhaps the handsomest, elegant, John Lindsay was a bomb as a Mayor – he and his pretty wife better suited to manage a Greenwich CT country club. Along came Beame & Koch; 2 more disasters. Then David Dinkens, black, intellectual, suave: eaten alive by the bureaucrats. Then Gulianni of 911 fame, then…….Michael Bloomberg. I was gone to Connecticut, but he made his fortune in Bloomberg News, later TV. Friends say he wasn’t bad; knew how to control the bureaucrats, worth a fortune, he kinda’ bought his mayorship. He’s got the dough to buy any entrance to a political job he might fancy, but he’s honest, doesn’t need government graft.


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