Tag: Trump

They really are burning down the house

You know what the hardest thing for me to accept about Trump’s structural support is? Not the ignorance and neediness of so many Americans, which is sad but commensurable. It’s the cynicism and fundamental lawlessness of the people they trust to lead them. I look at McConnell and Rudy Giuliani, at Mike Pompeo and Mike Pence and I wonder if they bother to pay for the TicTacs they pick up at airport newsstands, never mind their taxes. They lie, they cheat, they steal–they don’t give a damn about anyone or anything but themselves. They make me feel like such a sucker I can’t tell you. Why did I ever waste a minute feeling guilty about anything when I could have been robbing my neighbors blind?

When you read about early Protestantism, you’re struck by the terror they had of antinomianism–the heretical belief that once Jesus saves you, you can rob, murder, and fornicate to your heart’s content. Someday if I catch him sober, I’d like to have a chat about that with Jerry Falwell, Jr.

Don’t kill the protesters

More journal:

6/12 Remember when the Soleimani killing was presumed to be the most consequential event of 2020? Thought it would be interesting to revisit some of Trump’s tweets from January 12, 2020, six months ago, when he was in the midst of his maximum pressure campaign against Iran. At 9:48 am he issued an all cap warning to the country’s leaders: “DO NOT KILL YOUR PROTESTERS,” adding “The World is watching.” At 10:06 he said that John Kerry regrets “ridiculously giving the 150 Billion Dollars Plus” to the regime. At 10:26, he quoted an op ed extolling his Iranian deal making and at 12:12, he plugged Jeanine Pirro’s show. After spending the rest of the afternoon on the impeachment hoax, at 7:46 pm he once again cautioned Iran not to “kill your protesters,” but in lowercase this time.

Wonder what they think about our own protests in Iran now–and Trump’s vow to dominate the streets. “The Americans have for years lectured other countries on human rights,” Ayatollah Sadeq Amoli Larijani said yesterday. “And now it has been revealed for the whole world that the issue of human rights for the US is nothing but a means to achieve its objectives.” The account I read noted that “the senior cleric predicted that what happened to the former Soviet Union awaits the US due to the oppression and the crimes that Washington commits against innocent people.”

6/10 Even as Sweden admits that maybe its “herd immunity” plan sacrificed more people than it needed to, the US is throwing up its hands and letting the coronavirus burn. I think I understand the Republican thinking: if 120,000 or so excess deaths didn’t bring down the house in three months, then 250,000 in six months, or a million in a year won’t do much harm to them either.

It seems astounding until you look at it from a perspective that puts capital before people. Setting aside the elderly and people with chronic conditions (“takers,” as Mitt Romney might have called them, when he thought he still had a chance to be president), the virus pretty much maps exactly with poverty and race. If Americans are able to live with the vast health, wealth and justice disparities that exist for non-white and low-net worth demographics, then why should a higher death rate change anything? Look at all the other things Americans have made their peace with: school and workplace shootings, medical rationing, high infant and maternal mortality rates, and open voter suppression.

It’s really no wonder that people who don’t see through that particular lens are out in the streets. The virus isn’t the worst thing we’re facing after all.

6/8 “Can you imagine if stop-and-frisk Mike Bloomberg, who used police as a weapon, had somehow won the nomination?” Charles Blow tweeted this morning. “Dems would be dead in the water in this moment of protest against police brutality.”

Counterthought: That’s WHY Bloomberg got so little traction–because Democrats aren’t the least bit hungry for a rich authoritarian of their own. Neither are independents. This is a very different race than we had four years ago.

Things are tipping everywhere you look.

6/6 Childhood memory: I was a nice Jewish boy, raised in the suburbs by loving, overprotective parents. I’m about ten, so it’s 1967. My father and I are in a car with my bohemian Uncle Archie, a one-time Communist who made good on Madison Avenue. We’re driving through Westchester, and we pass a building whose workers had been on strike. “The cops came in,” Archie was saying, “And broke their heads.”

“Why did they do that?” I piped up from the back seat. My father gave my uncle a look and they both fell silent. I sat there thinking about broken heads for the rest of the ride.

A Ray of Hope

Today, for the first time in a long time, I want to post something that’s a little optimistic. Living at ground zero in Brooklyn as I do, I don’t see these demonstrations as a shock to the system. While the looting is unfortunate, the police violence horrific, and DeBlasio’s meltdown pathetic, the protests themselves feel very cathartic in, to borrow Mattis’s weirdly apt word, a “wholesome” way.

It’s been a hellish three years, and an even more hellish three months. Something had to give way and it has. All of these documented examples of police violence that are surfacing—the old man in Buffalo yesterday, the girl they were kicking somewhere else, the journalists being clubbed in Brooklyn—have been a revelation to white America. They were to me. So were Trump’s and Cotton’s declarations of war.

It’s been more than fifty years since rioting broke out in Newark and spread across the country after the police beat a black taxi driver. The long hot summer of 1967 and then the student disturbances in 1968 felt like a terminal spasm of the liberal consensus–the end of the New Frontier and the Great Society. The unrest today feels more like a therapeutic blood-letting. A lot of terrible things can happen between now and November and they undoubtedly will. The pandemic has yet to peak; Trump has lots more mischief up his sleeve. But the boil has been lanced; maybe soon the fever will break too.

More From my Plague Year Journal

6.4 So Tom Cotton is selling a narrative in which New York has fallen into the hands of elite white gangs of leftists, whose leaders drive Mercedes around the city ordering random attacks on minority business owners while its effete liberal mayor insists that the police stand down. Nice scenario for a low-budget post-apocalyptic movie starring some ex-wrestlers, but in reality, the NYPD has been running riot every night and the mayor, who won election as a police reformer, won’t stop weakly defending them. DeBlasio has been under siege from both the left and right for his pandemic response too–there is as big a crisis of leadership in this city as there is in Washington, and it’s frankly hard to understand.

There was a shooting a couple blocks from my house last night. Someone stabbed a policeman in the neck and grabbed his or her gun. Shots were fired and three police and the assailant are in the hospital. No one is saying yet whether he or she was a protester, a looter, antifa, white, black, pro-Trump, or anti, but you can be sure that there will be confident stories that they were all of those things before very long.

If we get to November without riot police or federalized National Guard or Bureau of Prison enforcers shooting bullets into a crowd, I will be amazed. If there is an election, Trump is going to lose it in an unprecedentedly huge way. I can’t imagine how he will leave office without violence–and for every Mattis that can quote the Federalist papers, there are a thousand angry cops. Trump is a cornered animal, and I am afraid the militarization in Washington is a rehearsal for the fall.

6.3 I more and more believe that the conspiracists get all the details wrong, but are right about one thing: that there is indeed a hidden explanation that unifies the seeming randomness of events. The deity that we worship as God is really a demonic ringer; the deep state framed Oswald; Trump is on a crusade to rescue America’s children from pedophiles. Their stories are completely nuts, of course, but they’re grasping at an intimation that things are not what they seem: That our great national experiment–with its melting pot, endless entrepreneurial opportunity, and love of liberty–is a flimsy front. Scratch the surface of most conspiracists’ writings and the hidden power turns out to be Jewish. But the critical race theorists have broken a real code: they’ve seen that America’s liberal humanism is built on a foundation of race supremacism, religious chauvinism, land theft, and chattel slavery. Some of the American dream is real, of course. Ethnicities have melted into the mass over time (very few of us think of people with Slavic features, like Melania Trump, as non-white anymore); anti-Papism is mostly a thing of the past in this once militantly Protestant country. Some Americans really have pulled themselves up by their own bootstraps, and we have a body of law that gives great deference to individual liberty. There are are real American heroes and role models, though pretty much all of them, like pretty much all heroes and role models everywhere, have feet of clay.

But we also–as most nations do–have a horrific past defined by rape and violence that is not even past. Its unacknowledged omnipresence is what gives Trump his strength; our desire to deny it distorts our thinking to the point that cognitive dissonance (like Freud’s repression) has come to define us. Harold Bloom was thinking of something else when he said that the American religion is Gnosticism, but I tend to think he got it right.

6.1 Call me naive or racist, but I had been under the impression that George Floyd had been caught passing a bad check. It wasn’t until I read about the 911 call this morning that I learned that a store clerk accused him of buying cigarettes with a counterfeit $20. You’d think we’d know about it by now if there was a counterfeit bill in that grocery’s cash register, so I’m guessing he was innocent.

I live a couple of doors down from Brooklyn’s very urban Flatbush Avenue. A couple of weeks ago, the guy at the pet food store told me that people try to pass him counterfeit bills almost every day, so I know it does happen. Some of them must get through, which means that if a citizen like me used a $100 bill to buy a big order of cat food, I might end up with one in my wallet. But I’m pretty sure the police would give me the benefit of the doubt if someone caught me trying to pass it.

On a different but related topic, my gut tells me that Trump and Karl Rove (who I would bet big money will end up running his campaign) believe that they have been dealt a winning hand. By pushing the pandemic out of the headlines, the civil unrest in blue cities has given them the opportunity to strike a decisive blow against anarchy and racial identity politics once and for all. I am expecting military deployments, monkey trials, curfews, and states of emergency for the rest of his term.

Whether voters reward Trump for the American carnage is an open question. My hope is that the hunger for normalcy favors Biden and the Democrats, but my gut also tells me that there will be a lot of state violence unleashed right around November 3, with an aim to discouraging voting.

Hurricane Maria only killed 64 people in Puerto Rico

When Trump did his paper towel toss in Puerto Rico, he marveled at how low the official death toll was (just 16 at the time), comparing it to a “real” tragedy like Katrina (whose numbers he also understated). Many thought it was an obscenity at the time. Certainly, it is the template for what is happening now.

The reality of this pandemic in NY and certainly in the rest of the US is that the recorded death rate (ie, the percentage of cases that result in a fatality) is too high, because most people being tested are sick enough to be in the hospital. On the other hand, the numbers of reported deaths are likely many orders of magnitude low. Add all the infected people who have pneumonia or heart attacks on their death certificates and the number skyrockets. Add all the people in the hot spots who can’t or won’t go to the ER and who are postponing other vital medical procedures, and you get a Puerto Rico-sized adjustment (about 700 percent, according to the Harvard study).

Since the sole aim of the Trump administration is to play down the depth of the crisis while exonerating Trump himself of any responsibility for it, expect to hear the exact opposite message from him and his minions over the next terrible weeks–that most of the people who are dying of COVID-19 were about to die of something else anyway. In other words, that while Trump’s efforts have been heroic, Herculean, and altogether successful, the disease isn’t such a big deal.

Not sure they’ll be able to sustain that when MAGA people are dying at scale, but we’ll see.

A few random thoughts…

Some random thoughts…..After this, I’m going to stop posting so much. I feel a little like I’m writing angry letters to the editor as Armageddon unfolds.

1) This will be going on for a long time–months and years. People might want to wait and consolidate their comments instead of reacting to every hiccup willy nilly.

2) This is going to be unendurable. Unlike 911, whose immediate impact (as opposed to the subsequent war on terror and the Iraq invasion and everything else) was only felt directly in three locations, virtually every American is going to know someone who gets sick. Many will be within one or two degrees of separation of someone who dies.

3) The economic effects will be deep, deep, deep. The Trump boom is over. The market will come back fairly quickly once people get used to the idea of millions of people dying, but it’s not going to change the fact that a huge part of the workforce will be idled because there’s no demand for what they do. The inequality that you’ll see over the next ten years is going to make the last ten years look like Communism.

4) Yes, a huge amount of this is Trump’s fault, but to make it about him to the extent that the media and we Trump-haters do is to play into his hands. He wants it to be about him because he wants everything to be about him.

5) His press conferences are his rallies, and COVID-19 is his reelection platform. His wedge issue is himself. Don’t waste your time pointing out his inconsistencies, because you’ll just be amplifying his message. If it serves him in one news cycle to say that no one is really dying, he’ll say that. If it serves him to say that the people who are dying deserve to die, he’ll say that. If it serves him to say that people are dying and his liberal enemies are celebrating, he’ll say that. If it serves him to say that, thanks to him, only a 100,000, 200,000, a million, two million have died, he’ll say that.

6) Be careful not to get too carried away with the war metaphors and the celebrations of our service class heroes. Not that this isn’t like a war and not that they’re not heroes, but there’s a danger of normalizing the terrible risks they face out of their need to work and support their families. I mean, they’re making sacrifices, but they’re not doing it for God and country, they’re doing it because they don’t have any choice. Calling them heroes may make us feel a little less ashamed that they’re dying in the numbers that they will be to keep the people who do have choices fed and clothed and safe.


If you are looking beyond stupidity and narcissism for Trump’s complacency during the pandemic’s early days, here’s David Corn in Mother Jones on his fatalism:

“In a 1990 interview with Playboy, he was asked to describe his “longer-term views of the future.” Trump replied, “I think of the future, but I refuse to paint it. Anything can happen. But I often think of nuclear war.” He then explained that he thought nuclear war was inevitable: “I believe the greatest of all stupidities is people’s believing it will never happen…What bullshit.” In other interviews, Trump has indicated nuclear war was likely to occur. On one occasion, he noted that because of this he preferred to “really live very much for the present.”

And if you are looking for an explanation for his seeming vindictiveness towards not just blue state governors but the blue states themselves, there’s this:

“In a 2007 speech, he noted his first rule of business: “It’s called ‘Get Even.’ Get even. This isn’t your typical business speech. Get even. What this is is a real business speech. You know in all fairness to Wharton, I love ’em, but they teach you some stuff that’s a lot of bullshit. When you’re in business, you get even with people that screw you. And you screw them 15 times harder.”

And what is the presidency if not a family business? He sees the political class as his employees and the rest of us as customers. If we’re not his customers, then we’re his enemies. It’s as if Coke was doing all that it could to ensure that Pepsi drinkers die.

Trump’s call to cure the cure

I’m not as worried about Trump’s insane call to end the pandemic by fiat in two weeks and turn Easter into a national day of Thanksgiving to him as I am about a lot of other things, because 1) He’s already proven that every decision he makes is the worst possible, so what else could we have expected? and 2) Because two weeks from now might as well be a thousand years from now. Things have long since passed out of his or anyone else’s control.

As to what it will take to wake up the GOP, the answer is pretty clear. People who Republican lawmakers and their contributors care about (meaning themselves and their immediate families) have to get sick and die. That’s always been the case, no matter what the malady–as long as it’s a gay problem, a Hispanic or black problem, an immigrant or poverty problem, or a New York and California problem, they dismiss it with censure or suggest that the victims cure it with prayer. When it hits closer to home, they demand action. And that’s already starting to happen.

Out of the frying pan…

If we hadn’t had three years of slow boiling normalization, I think people would be even more astonished than they are by Trump’s breathtaking stupidity and incapacity to lead. The worst of it isn’t going to be that he prematurely orders the country to reopen for business, causing people to start dying in droves. It’s that he’s going to order the country to open for business WHILE people are dying in droves. When the economy isn’t magically restored, he’s going to threaten to punish the states that are hurting the worst because they’re doing the least to help his reelection.

I am so certain that a declaration of martial law is coming that I can’t even write about it. It doesn’t matter what the Constitution says–he’ll Tweet it or say it during one of his press conferences and half the country will take it seriously. The military will have to decide what to do next. I predict the tipping point will come much sooner than next November–likely it will be when some of the octogenarians on the court and in the Senate start dying.

Am I being too paranoid? I hope so.

Time is out of joint

3/20 The weirdest thing about all this is that the knock-on effects are being felt before the virus itself has landed the full-on body blow that it’s expected to deliver. It’s as if the fallout has preceded the blast. The markets are devastated, the work-a-day-world frozen, and the government a zombie (Trump is finished no matter what the polls say—today’s job report was terrific too, for all that that’s worth—and the GOP’s insider trading has likely doomed its control of the Senate). But the numbers of deaths worldwide are still in the low five figures, not the millions that seem all but inevitable.