The Trump Kakistocracy

[kak-uh-stok-ruh-see] – Government under the control of a nation’s worst or least-qualified citizens.

Let us stipulate to the fact that Donald Trump has neither the discipline, stamina, intellect, or stomach to attend to the daily grind of the presidency. He will delegate the duties to his deputies, even more so than any other president in history, while he devotes himself to “Making America great again”, whatever that means.

He has said that he would hire “the best” people. By which he means not the most experienced, qualified, or skilled politicians, academics or soldiers, but the brown nosing, butt licking sycophants and hangers on who, like Chris Christie, sold their souls for a chance to carry Trump’s water in the White House, and none of whom are skilled, experienced or qualified.

Here is his rogue’s gallery of cabinet level and other strategic appointments:

Reince Priebus – Chief of Staff: former head of the Republican National Committee and chief Trump booster during the election.

Steve Bannon – Chief Strategist : former head of Breitbart, known for his White identity politics, ethno nationalism, and his ties to White supremacists, anti-Semites and foreign reactionaries in Europe and Russia.

Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn – National Security Adviser : He was removed from his position as Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency for fostering a “destructive climate”. He supports the renewed use of torture and the targeted killings of families of terrorists. He has also peddled fake news, conspiracy theories and anti-Jewish sentiments.

Senator Jeff Sessions (ALA) – Director Dept. Of Justice : This is a man whose nomination as a federal judge was dropped because of his racist views. He also perpetuates the myth of voter fraud. He once suggested that a white lawyer was a disgrace to his race because he represented black clients. He has referred to the ACLU and NAACP as “un-American” for “trying to force civil rights down the throats of people.”

Betsy DeVos – Secretary of Education: No education degree. No teaching experience. No experience working in a school environment. Never attended public school or university. Never put her own children in public school. Invested $200 million in Christian schools and organizations. Does not believe in or support public education. On the plus side, she donated $9.5 million to the Trump campaign. Also Trump first offered the job to Jerry Falwell Jr., who declined.

Dr. Ben Carson – was quoted as saying he felt he has no government experience or run a federal agency and that that the last thing he wanted to do was take a position that crippled the presidency. He is now being considered to head the Dept. of Housing and Urban Development. Extent of his expertise – he owns a house.

Gov. Nikki Haley (SC), Ambassador to the UN : foreign policy experience – zero.

Rudy Giuliani – Secretary of State : Mr “noun, verb and 9/11”

Jared Kushner – White House Adviser: experience – Trump’s son in law.

More to come. Get your popcorn and your worry beads.

Note: Trump ran as a champion of the working class. His administration’s combined net worth could be as much as $35 billion.

Welcome to the Shadow Presidency of Mike Pence

Donald Trump was notoriously loathe to buckle down and prepare for his debates with Hilary Clinton. It was evident in his garbled replies and stream of consciousness riffs in his replies to seemingly straightforward questions from moderators. Here’s a sample:

Trump on Social Security:

“If you listen to the Democrats, they want to do many things to Social Security and I want to do them on its own merit. You listen to them, what they want to do to Social Security, none of these folks are getting elected, OK, whether they can do it or not. I’m going to save Social Security. I’m going to bring jobs back from China.”

Trump on Aleppo:

“Well, Aleppo is a disaster. It’s a humanitarian nightmare. But it has fallen from the — from any standpoint. I mean, what do you need, a signed document? Take a look at Aleppo. It is so sad when you see what’s happened. And a lot of this is because of Hillary Clinton, because what’s happened is, by fighting Assad, who turned out to be a lot tougher than she thought, and now she’s going to say, oh, he loves Assad, she’s — he’s just much tougher and much smarter than her and Obama.”

Trump on cyber warfare :

“I have a son. He’s 10 years old. He has computers. He is so good with these computers, it’s unbelievable. The security aspect of cyber is very, very tough. And maybe it’s hardly do-able. But I will say, we are not doing the job we should be doing, but that’s true throughout our whole governmental society. We have so many things that we have to do better, Lester and certainly cyber is one of them.”

Trump’s “Art of the Deal” ghost writer, Tony Schwartz, in his New Yorker interview, said that he had been startled by his client’s short attention span. During their first interview, Mr. Trump endured just a few minutes of Mr. Schwartz’s questions before leaping up from his chair and declaring the entire exercise a waste of his time.

“He couldn’t tolerate doing interviews,” he tells me. “He just couldn’t stay focused for more than a few minutes at a time. And think about this, Michael, it was when he was talking about himself, which is his favorite subject.”

Frank Bruni, of the New York Times, said “I think of Trump as a toddler sitting in a high chair. And his advisers are saying ‘Donald, you must get through the meal without throwing your spaghetti on the wall.’”

Trump has embarrassed himself repeatedly by displaying a stunning lack of knowledge, or even curiosity, about the nuts and bolts of the job of President. He did not know what Hugh Hewitt was talking about when asked about the Nuclear Triad. And after his first foreign policy briefing, it was revealed that he asked three times why if we had nuclear weapons, could we not use them (pre-emptively, presumably).

During the Republican primaries, it was reported that his camp approached an adviser to John Kasich with an offer to make him the most powerful Vice President in history. The adviser said that Donald Trump Jr. offered Kasich a place on the ticket, and noted that his father’s running mate would be in charge of both domestic and foreign policy, according to the Times. When the adviser asked what that would leave for President Trump, Donald Jr. reportedly replied, “Making America great again.”

Kasich declined the offer, but it seems that Mike Pence was more than willing to become the new Dick Cheney.

Trump has shown, repeatedly, that he is no policy wonk; nor is he interested, or even capable of putting in the work that is required of the position. He likes the idea of being called Mr. President far more than actually being the President, with all its responsibilities and the intellectual and moral weight that entails. To his own great surprise, he has succeeded in the ultimate con, and the reality of it must just now be dawning on him.

He will spend the next four years tweeting at 3am, making enemy lists, and basking in the world’s attention, positive or negative, while delegating the presidential responsibilities to a coterie of yes men headed by Pence and his Three Amigos – Gingrich, Giuliani and Christie (although given Christie’s fall from grace, he may just be relegated to midnight runs to Burger King.)

Nero had his fiddle. Trump has his twitter account. The results, for civilization, may well be the same.

So long, and thanks for all the fish.

Donald Trump, who initiated his political career by questioning the legitimacy of America’s first black president, now gets the chance to undo eight years of progress under Barack Obama, who created America’s first truly progressive, compassionate government after years of conservative dogma, all while pulling the country out of its worst economic crisis since the great depression.

Here is a partial roll call of policy and legislation on the chopping block:

  • The Affordable Care Act (Obamacare): Trump has said he would repeal it and replace it with…oh right, nobody knows, because he failed to provide details. But certainly, 22 million previously uninsured will once again be on their own. Trump has also said that he will turn Medicaid into a block grant program, which will leave millions more uninsured.
  • The EPA’s Clean Power Plan and Obama’s legacy of fighting climate change: Trump has called climate change a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese.
  • The Dodd-Frank Wall Street reforms. Big Corporations will be free to run roughshod over the middle class and make policy that only benefits the financial overlords.
  • Trump has promised huge personal and corporate tax cuts for the rich, which will have to be paid for by cuts to social programs.
  • Immigration Policy : Trump’s signature stump speech featured a call and response about the Mexican wall. He also famously spoke of deporting 11 million immigrants and sealing the border to all Muslims.
  • Most distressingly, He will now get to pick at least one and up to three Supreme Court Justices. It is possible that by the end of his term, there will be 7 conservatives on SCOTUS, putting Roe v Wade at risk and perpetuating the iniquities of the Citizens United decision.
  • NATO and other international commitments: Trump has said he will “renegotiate” international treaties, including the Iran nuclear deal and the Paris Climate accords. The world will have to learn how to deal with a capricious, unstable, incoherent president whose word is not worth the breath he expended in uttering it.
  • The First Amendment : he is openly hostile to journalists and has mused about making it easier to sue them (his weapon of choice – he is involved in about 3500 lawsuits)
  • Nuclear Treaties : Japan gets a nuke!  South Korea gets a nuke!  Saudi Arabia gets a nuke! Everybody gets a nuke!

Keep in mind that he is unfettered by a divided congress, since the Republicans retained both the house and senate. For the first time since 1928, Republicans control the White House, Senate and House of Representatives. If they retain their majorities into 2020, they will get to continue their gerrymandering to safeguard Republican districts in perpetuity. To see what happens in a State that has a Republican governor and house with no Democrat opposition, look no further than Sam Brownback’s Kansas.

Trump will enter the White House as the most powerful president in recent history. Together with his penchant for authoritarianism, his thin skin and his obsession with payback for slights no matter how venial, that also makes him the most dangerous individual to ever hold this office. His self esteem is both high and extremely fragile. Did we really want a big baby who asked why we shouldn’t use preemptive nuclear strikes in charge of the nuclear codes? Apparently yes.

Trump is more than a disaster for America. He is an existential danger for the entire planet. I guess there’s just one more thing to say.

So long, and thanks for all the fish.

The Ugliest American


There is patriotism. And then there is jingoism. But beyond the bottom of the barrel of nativism, there is Trumpism. Although Donald Trump is less an ultra nationalist than an opportunistic narcissist, willing to traffic in the language of demagoguery to achieve his goal of total brand domination, that brand being Trump himself.

There are those of whom it is said they just like to watch the world burn. In Trump’s case, the bonfire he is creating is not of his vanities, but of the republic for which he would stand.

He first entered the race to be the most powerful leader in the world, not for any noble cause, but as a marketing tool; not really in it to win it, but as a way to enhance the Trump name and future business prospects. But then like a mythical prospector, he stumbled upon a hidden vein of anger in the tea party wing of the Republican party, which led him to a subterranean wellspring of malcontents who became famous as the Alt-right, a motley collection of frightened, angry white men (and not a few women). He unexpectedly, even to himself, wiped the floor with the Republican field in the primaries, and got it into his head that perhaps he could really spin this thing into something Yuge!

Lacking the temperament, self discipline or even basic knowledge for this most demanding job, he nevertheless allowed himself to dream of what ifs, and decided that this competition, which he took on as an expensive PR lark, might yield him an even bigger stage to sell his Trump branded real estate, water, faux university degrees and steaks.

He was able to win against a divided Republican field, as establishment conservatives were unable or unwilling to coalesce behind a conventional standard bearer, and their internecine infighting opened the way for this ultimate huckster to con his way into the nomination.

But the tactics that aided him in the primaries – elementary school insults, empty boasts, repeating catchy yet meaningless slogans – are not serving him as well in the general. He faces, in some current polls, an 11% deficit. His chances of winning are in the single figures and falling daily as he cannot resist putting his foot in his mouth with every pronouncement, or firing off tweets at 3am to lash out against any slight, no matter how inconsequential. It is not so much the fact that he might lose the election that burns him so much as losing at all. He never really cared to actually be the president, with all the responsibilities that the position entailed, he just wanted to be able to say that he won.

Now that he is about to be exposed as a loser (a word for which he reserves the ultimate contempt), he is making preemptive excuses for his inevitable humiliation, by claiming election rigging and voter fraud, even though he has no credible evidence to support his assertions. That he could do lasting damage to the Republic and undermine America’s democratic system with his outright lies, is of no concern to him. His ego is so fragile that he would rather burn down the house than to admit that he lost in a fair fight. He will slink away to fight another day, perhaps in an enterprise he has already initiated – The Trump News Network, to profit from the fury that he himself whipped up in his millions of duped followers. Just as he has done in his other enterprises, he will leave a trail of disgruntled would be partners, the bodies of those he has used and discarded, and the wreckage of once proud institutions in his wake.



The Stochastic Terrorism of Donald Trump

Eight years ago, John McCain was the Republican presidential nominee At a town hall session, a man said he was “scared” of an Obama presidency. McCain responded that Mr. Obama “is a decent person and a person that you do not have to be scared of as president of the United States.”

Later, a woman told Mr. McCain that she couldn’t trust Mr. Obama because “he’s an Arab.” “No ma’am,” Mr. McCain replied. “He’s a decent family man, a citizen, that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues. And that’s what this campaign is all about.”

When his supporters went low, John McCain went high.

Fast forward to 2016. A selection of statements from this year’s GOP nominee and his surrogates –

  • Trump suggested he would pay the legal fees of a man charged with hitting a protestor at one of his rallies.
  • “I’d like to punch him in the face” Trump said about a protestor being ejected.
  • “I love the old days,” Trump said about another protestor. “You know what they used to do to guys like that when they were in a place like this? They’d be carried out on a stretcher, folks.”
  • “I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters,” Trump said at a campaign rally.
  • “Take the bitch down!” – A school aged child (who looked about ten) when Hillary Clinton was mentioned by Trump.
  • “Lock her up” – repeated refrain at the Republican National convention.
  • “Hillary Clinton should be put in the firing line and shot for treason.” – Al Baldasaro, Trump adviser on veteran affairs.

And his latest hit (as of 4:03pm 9 Aug, 2016) :

  • “If she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks. Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is, I don’t know.” Donald Trump, North Carolina

He and his surrogates have tried to spin it as appealing to 2nd Amendment supporters to vote to prevent a Clinton victory, and that is what many of his supporters will believe.  But to the rest of America and the world, Trump just slyly advocated the assassination of a political opponent and/or some federal judges.

Trump claims to know words – “ I know words, I have the best words…” – and that may be true (no, not really), but the question is whether he is an evil genius wordsmith, precisely calculating the effect his dog whistle will have on his frenzied supporters, while offering him plausible deniability; or just a loudmouth dick who doesn’t care about the consequences of his projectile alphabet vomit. It’s probably the latter, but it doesn’t really matter what his actual intent is, because what does matter is what some crazed supporter, hanging out in his mother’s basement will hear. In other words, Trump may not know which dog will hear his whistle, but by putting it out there, he should realize that some dog will hear it.

Valerie Tarico wrote about this form of stochastic terrorism following the Planned Parenthood murders in Colorado.

As Tarico wrote (with its application to Hillary Clinton in parentheses):

       1. A public figure with access to the airwaves or pulpit demonizes a person or group of persons. (“Crooked Hillary”,    “unhinged”, “liar”, “an unbalanced person”)

  1. With repetition, the targeted person or group is gradually dehumanized, depicted as loathsome and dangerous—arousing a combustible combination of fear and moral disgust. (Clinton is a criminal who needs to be locked up – “Lock her up, Lock her up”)
  1. Violent images and metaphors, jokes about violence, analogies to past ‘purges’ against reviled groups, use of righteous religious language—all of these typically stop just short of an explicit call to arms. (“If she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks. Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is, I don’t know.”)
  2. When violence erupts, the public figures who have incited the violence condemn it—claiming no one could possibly have foreseen the ‘tragedy.'” (I was joking!)

Trump knows how volatile his supporters are.  Unlike, John McCain, he does nothing to dispel their bloodthirsty fervour and even encourages mob mentality (he told a crowd in Iowa in February. “Seriously, okay, just knock the hell. I promise you, I will pay for the legal fees; I promise, I promise.”)

He is also priming his supporters for a violent reaction to his inevitable loss in November. “ I’m afraid the election is going to be rigged, I have to be honest.” He followed up on Sean Hannity’s show “I’m telling you, November 8th, we’d better be careful because that election is going to be rigged. And I hope the Republicans are watching closely, or it’s going to be taken away from us.”

His longtime adviser, Roger Stone, dispensed with all pretense of metaphor, by stating outright “If you can’t have an honest election, nothing else counts. I think (Trump’s) gotta put them on notice that their inauguration will be a rhetorical, and when I mean civil disobedience, not violence, but it will be a bloodbath. The government will be shut down if they attempt to steal this and swear Hillary in. No, we will not stand for it. We will not stand for it.”

How far the Grand Old Party has fallen – it has become a refuge for thugs and demagogues. The apotheosis of the Fox News fed Republican’s deliberate appeal to the basest instincts of its supporters has resulted in electing as its standard bearer, a man-baby with no filter between his febrile, narcissistic brain and his filth spewing mouth.

The best way to remove this malignant tumor from the body politic is to disavow it in no uncertain terms. Trump has to lose and lose big – all fifty states big. There should be no question as to where the American public stands. Yes, he will get some votes, perhaps millions of them, but his brand of identity politics must be decisively quashed, and reasonable Americans must repudiate him once and for all, so that the trolls who support his brand of politics can be banished to the dank bridge whence they came.

I Shook Muhammad Ali’s Hand

I ran the Los Angeles marathon in 1998. I could have commuted from my home in Irvine, just an hour away from the start, but decided to make a weekend of it. The whole family, including my ten year old daughter and six year old son joined me at the downtown hotel where many of the runners were staying.

The day before the race, we explored the area and upon our return, spotted Ali near the entrance. “Hey,” I said, “isn’t that….?   It was. He was by himself waiting for a car, no entourage, just one other person with him, a bodyguard, or a handler maybe. He saw us staring and started walking over to us. He was listed at 6’3”, but he seemed much bigger, an enormous presence. He took my hand in one of his and it felt as big as a baseball mitt, but as soft as plush leather. Then he shook my wife’s hand. I looked at the kids who were standing shyly, uncomprehending, and I said “Say hi to the champ.” Instead of shaking hands, he gave each one a hug. Then he smiled as he turned away and we left him to his business. All of this took perhaps thirty seconds and throughout, he did not utter a single word.

I had seen him on TV in 1996, lighting the Olympic flame in Atlanta. Along with a billion others all over the world, I willed him to fight through the Parkinson’s tremors that threatened to derail the opening ceremony. It came as a shock to see him so frail. I had read of his health problems of course, but the last time I had watched him, he had defeated Leon Spinks in a unanimous decision in 1978, even though his skills had already diminished considerably. I didn’t even want to watch him take on Larry Holmes the following year, well past the twilight of his boxing life, desperate for the payday. Sylvester Stallone, who was a spectator, said it was like watching an autopsy on a man who was still alive. Angelo Dundee, his long time trainer, mercifully stopped the fight in the 11th round, Ali’s only fight to be ended by knockout.

I remember tearing up watching the Olympic ceremony, a lump in my throat as I witnessed this once magnificent athlete, the king of the world, brought down by human frailty and the injuries sustained during his tumultuous career.

Now in Los Angeles, I had a different reaction: not pity for the proud boxer succumbing to the many beatings he had willingly endured in the ring, not sadness for a demigod who had been revealed to be simply human, not regret for an icon whose time had passed. But wonder that I had been in the right place at the right time, to encounter the gentle man who had once been larger than life; to abandon my world weary cynicism and allow myself to be awestruck by my encounter with a titan of history.

Now at last, he gets to rest. And I get to feel the gamut of emotion I experienced from afar, when he was a bright but distant star; to wonder at his speed and skill, to laugh at his quick wit and sometimes cruel japes, to admire his principled stand against war, and to mourn the truth that time is a cruel and relentless mistress.

But above all, I feel profound gratitude. That I had had the chance to meet Ali and to take his hand. He must have met thousands, no, millions of people and shaken their hands. I have no illusions that he would have remembered every encounter. But for every one of us who had that opportunity, to look him in the eye, to exchange a few words, to shake his hand, it is something that will stay with us for the rest of our lives. That we had the chance, in our lifetime to stand in the presence of greatness.

Benghazi! Benghazi! Benghazi!

There were at least twelve attacks on US Embassies during the George W. Bush presidency.
January 22, 2002. Calcutta, India. Gunmen associated with Harkat-ul-Jihad al-Islami attack the U.S. Consulate. Five people are killed.

June 14, 2002. Karachi, Pakistan. Suicide bomber connected with al-Qaida attacks the U.S. Consulate, killing 12 and injuring 51.

October 12, 2002. Denpasar, Indonesia. U.S. diplomatic offices bombed as part of a string of “Bali Bombings.” No fatalities.

February 28, 2003. Islamabad, Pakistan. Several gunmen fire upon the U.S. Embassy. Two people are killed.

May 12, 2003. Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Armed al-Qaida terrorists storm the diplomatic compound killing 36 people including nine Americans. The assailants committed suicide by detonating a truck bomb.

July 30, 2004. Tashkent, Uzbekistan. A suicide bomber from the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan attacks the U.S. Embassy, killing two people.

December 6, 2004. Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Al-Qaida terrorists storm the U.S. Consulate and occupy the perimeter wall. Nine people are killed.

March 2, 2006. Karachi, Pakistan again. Suicide bomber attacks the U.S. Consulate killing four people, including U.S. diplomat David Foy who was directly targeted by the attackers. This is the third Karachi terrorist attack in four years on what’s considered American soil.

September 12, 2006. Damascus, Syria. Four armed gunmen shouting “Allahu akbar” storm the U.S. Embassy using grenades, automatic weapons, a car bomb and a truck bomb. Four people are killed, 13 are wounded.

January 12, 2007. Athens, Greece. Members of a Greek terrorist group called the Revolutionary Struggle fire a rocket-propelled grenade at the U.S. Embassy. No fatalities.
March 18, 2008. Sana’a, Yemen. Members of the al-Qaida-linked Islamic Jihad of Yemen fire a mortar at the U.S. Embassy. The shot misses the embassy, but hits nearby school killing two.

July 9, 2008. Istanbul, Turkey. Four armed terrorists attack the U.S. Consulate. Six people are killed.

September 17, 2008. Sana’a, Yemen. Terrorists dressed as military officials attack the U.S. Embassy with an arsenal of weapons including RPGs and detonate two car bombs. Sixteen people are killed, including American newlyweds, a student and her husband when the attack occurred). This is the second attack on this embassy in seven months.

What was remarkable about these incidents, which were rightfully considered tragedies, was that not a single one of them provoked the same level of scrutiny and self righteous Republican hand wringing as the Benghazi attack.

Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) insists that the Select Committee on Benghazi is not a partisan attack dog for the Republican party created and designed for the sole purpose of undermining Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid.
The evidence suggests otherwise.
The Republican’s former chief counsel on the committee, and two Republican representatives, including Kevin McCarthy, who was at that point the House speaker, admitted that the committees investigation was a politically charged hit job to bring down Clinton.

So far, the Benghazi committee has been working for more than two years and has cost about $7 million. Other government entities have spent an additional $13 million responding to the committees requests.
Gen. Carter F. Ham, who led the United States Africa Command on the night of the attack has yet to appear before that panel, even though he has been interviewed at least nine times by investigators scrutinizing the events in 2012 that led to the death of US Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.
Despite grilling Hillary Clinton for over eleven hours, the panel failed to unearth any damaging evidence against her.
Lest anyone forget, this is Benghazi by the numbers :
8 congressional hearing by Trey Gowdy’s committee into the Benghazi tragedy.
10 congressional committees have taken part in the investigation.
33 other congressional hearings, public or private, held on the same event.
3,194 questions asked in public hearings
244 witness appearances before house and senate committees and staff
11 published reports
784 pages of published reports
100,000 pages of documents provided by the State department
11 identifiable leaks of documents or information from the Benghazi committee


Will it surprise anyone that the Gowdy Report will drop either just before the nominating conventions or the November election?

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