Low Ethics, High Dudgeon

 

Although Brett Kavanaugh slung a slew of lies under oath Thursday[1], he did get one thing right.  His reputation has been forever ruined, and by my reckoning, his sniveling lachrymose barking performance Thursday played a significant role in furthering tainting what he likes to call his “good name.”  Now we know that, not only was he a sloppy drunk who may have sexually abused more than one woman, but also that even as an adult, he’s a spoiled brat who thinks he’s better those below him (ie., everyone).

Ultimately, without corroboration, the allegation in question at the hearing amounts to a he said/she said stalemate.  On the other hand, his performance during that hearing makes it perfectly, unequivocally clear that he is an asshole in the league of Pride and Prejudice’s Lady Catherine de Bourgh.  We’re talking pantheon dwelling assholedom.  Zeus, Ted Cruz, Trump.

Yet, I read on Twitter that the White House was thrilled with his guns-blazing impertinence, saw it as “masculine.”

What?  Masculine?  If whining and anger denoted masculinity, Lindsey Graham = the Marlborough Man.

I’m gonna bite you, I’m gonna bite you

No doubt you’ve already seen this, but just in case:

 

Since when has pouting insouciance become to denote masculinity?

Kavanaugh seems to think that because he got into Yale, was a popular jock at a prestigious prep school, attended church, etc. that he is somehow above being questioned about a serious allegation.  When one senator asked him had he ever blacked out from over-drinking, he barked back, “Have you?”

I mean, his sense of entitlement out-neros Nero, which, according to philosopher Aaron James’ Assholes, a Theory is the defining trait of assholedom:

Our [i.e. James’s] theory has three main parts.  In interpersonal or cooperative relations, the asshole:

  1.  allows himself to enjoy special advantages and does so systematically;

  2.  does this out of an entrenched sense of entitlement; and

  3.  is immunized by his sense of entitlement against the complaints of other people.

If little Brett had any sense, he’d withdraw his name, resign his judgeship, and sign on with Fox News.  That would take care of his serious cash flow problems. His financial disclosure statements clearly demonstrate a lack of restraint, that the judge lacks good judgment. He buys houses he can’t afford, joins country clubs he can’t afford, etc.

Anyway, if his story teaches us anything, it’s that in the Republican Party, power trumps decency, that sexual assault isn’t taken all that seriously by lots of men, and that males and females are held to much different standards when it comes to their deportment in hearings.

Oh, yeah, and being an asshole in high school can come back to haunt your ass.


[1]Eg, in his yearbook, he referred to “the devil’s triangle” as a drinking game.  Here are two definitions from the Urban Dictionary:

1 A threesome with 1 woman and 2 men. It is important to remember that straight men do not make eye contact while in the act. Doing so will question their sexuality.

Larry: Did you hear that Eric and Brian were in a Devils Triangle with Sarah last night?
Brad: Yeah man, I did, what homo’s.
Larry: No man, its cool, they didn’t make eye contact.

2 A made up game of quarters with three cups arranged in a triangle. The rules are unknown because the inventor of the game, Brett Kavanaugh, could not explain them under oath.
“Hey Renate? Want to play devils triangle with Mark and I (sic)?” Brett asked.

A PR Disaster of Homeric Proportions

This Trump supporter is unhappy his dear leader has been removed from office

The ill-fated descent on that hellbound escalator to kick off Trump’s presidential campaign will go down as history’s most disastrous publicity stunt Eh-Ver.

escalator descent into hell

Even my then 8-year-old stepdaughter understood on that woeful Wednesday Trump really didn’t want the job.  She predicted he’d see all those presidential papers piled on his desk and say, “What?! I don’t want to do all THAT!”

Obviously, Trump didn’t think he’d win.  No one on his staff even bothered to prepare for the transition.  The idea was to amass a planet-load of free publicity for the Trump brand and hee-haw all the way to the bank[s]/slush fund[s].

Unfortunately — for us and for him — he did win, thanks in part to Russian interference, in part to the National Enquirer, and in part to those campaign donations to his former mistresses, if you can call them that. We’re talking a difference of 78,000 votes in three states, a margin narrow enough to claim that the Russians and the silence money could very well have tipped the election his way.

Well, that’s sewage under the bridge, to coin a phrase.  He is the president, perhaps not fair and squarely, but clearly.

No, he didn’t want to win. Why would someone who ran his business like a mob enterprise ever invite the scrutiny that being president is guaranteed to incur?  Why would someone put his children (including his son-in-law) in such jeopardy?

Let’s face it.  Being a close Trump associate has been the opposite of a boon (i.e., a curse), and let me tell you, Trump confidants are flipping like acrobats from Cirque du Soleil, —  Michael Cohen, Allan Weisselberg, and the delightfully named, David Pecker. He’s the CEO of American Media, Inc, parent company of The National Enquirer, and who no doubt has a Great Pyramid-sized subterranean stash of buried Trump stories involving god know what: groped women, spurned B-girls, urination fetishes.  I wouldn’t be surprised if even more pernicious peculiarities may be in the offingouting.[1]

The Trump presidency is doomed. There’s the treason thing. Add to that Emolument Cause thing.  The accounting flimflam fuckedupness of his financial empire. The Kushner culpability.  The catacombs of Don Jr.’s  and Eric’s slack ass shenanigans, no doubt sporting skeletons galore. Class action suits.  Even a dispute that in Chicago Trump Tower is violating environmental laws and contaminating the rivers.

And Mueller has hard evidence.  Hard drives. Trump’s tangerine tinted goose is cooked, which begs the question: how will this idiot told tale end?

Resignation? Impeachment?  Electoral annihilation?

Imagine this. Trump has been impeached, but he ain’t going gently.  He refuses to leave the White House.  His supporters have taken to the streets brandishing assault weapons.

Fun ahoy! Send out for some pillars and Cecil B DeMille. 


[1]E.g., an obsession with Lithuanian dwarves?

How Can Such a Clownish Spray-Painted Raccoon-Eyed, Combed-over Lard-Ladled Cement-Tongued Buffoon End Up Being a Cult-Figure?

Oh, good God, all these erstwhile free traders turned protectionists don’t give a flying flivver about Donald Trump’s backflip on whatever. He’s right.  He could gun down the Dalai Lama on the street, and his supporters would still worship him as a latter-day incarnation of Vishnu. Trump will get 40% of the vote in 2020, and given the bias the Constitution has for rural voters, again a minority might be enough.

What gives?  How can such a clownish spray-painted raccoon-eyed, combed-over lard-ladled cement-tongued buffoon end up being a cult-figure?

I blame Jerry Springer, pro wrestling, underfunded education, xenophobia, radon, and in-breeding – not to mention abstinence-only sex education.

Here is this century’s William Jennings Bryan[1] regaining Marco Rubio’s support by explaining that he meant to say “wouldn’t” instead of “would.”[2]

I thought that I made myself very clear by having just reviewed the transcripts—I have to say, I came back and I said, “what is going on, what is the big deal?” So I got a transcript, I reviewed it, I actually went out and reviewed a clip of an answer that I gave, and I realized there is a need for some clarification. It should have been obvious, I thought it would be obvious, but I would like to clarify just in case it wasn’t. In a key sentence in my remarks I said the word would instead of wouldn’t. The sentence should have been, “I don’t see any reason why I wouldn’t,” or “why it wouldn’t be Russia.” So just to repeat it, I said the word would instead of wouldn’t. And the sentence should have been, and I thought I would be maybe a little bit unclear on the transcript or unclear on the actual video, the sentence should have been, “I don’t see any reason why it wouldn’t be Russia.” So sort of a double negative. So you can put that in, and I think that probably clarifies things pretty good by itself.

Yes, Donald, your sensitive linguistic distrust of using a double negative does “clarif[y] things pretty good.”

It clearly demonstrates you’re an incorrigible liar.

So what we get this morning is a barrage of tweets, this one garnering the most absurd award:

Like I said, incorrigible liar.


[1]Imagine Donald at the Snopes trial.

[2]BTW, not seeing “any reason why it wouldn’t be Russia” is as mealy mouth as you get given the intelligence agencies VOCE MAGNAhave said yes, yes, very yes, it was, was, yes the Russians who hacked the 2016 election.

Holding His Leg, Screaming Something in Spanish, Still Breathing When I Walked Away

Suzanne Unrein, ” “Massacre”, 2006, Painting, Oil on Canvas,

We in the USA is exceptional, all right.

Exceptionally violent.[1]

Exceptionally stupid.[2]

Exceptionally greedy.[3]


[1] Americans killed on 9/11: 2,996; Americans killed by guns in 2017 so far: 11,652.

[2]  I have the right to access AK-47s because they will help me stave off a governmental attack (those strafing F-17s/those invading forces of D-Day).

Recently introduced legislation drafted to legalize silencers is called the “Hearing Protection Act.”

Republicans consider it insensitive to whisper gun control on the same day of a massacre.

[3] Check out how much your Senator or Representative has garnered from the NRA,  Bloody hands.

Trump Channels Lear and Caesar in Summer Stock

image via NY Times of Central Park performance of Julius Caesar

About a month ago, I posted a piece imagining Shakespeare writing a play about Trump’s presidency.

In that post, I suggested that Shakespeare would begin his Trump play with the inauguration speech, jazzing up clunkers like “for many decades we’ve enriched foreign industry at the expense of American industry;/ Subsidized the armies of other countries while allowing for the very sad depletion of our military” with some thumping blank verse that foreshadows an upcoming shitshow.

Interestingly enough – call it synchronicity or cultural convergence – Shakespeare’s and Trump’s names have been linked at least twice this week. First, the Public Theater’s Central Park production has spray-painted, as it were, the tragic protagonist of Julius Caesar an obvious shade of Trumpian orange.

Via Jesse Green of the Times:

The line “If Caesar had stabbed their mothers, they would have done no less” has been updated by the insertion of the words “on Fifth Avenue” before the comma.

This production, not surprisingly, has generated controversy. Some on the right, people ignorant of the play, suggest that this version endorsees the assassination of Trump.[1] However, Shakespeare’s staging a pro-regicide play in Elizabethan England would be the equivalent of someone painting an obscene mural of Mohammad and Salman Rushdie in flagrante delicto on the side of a building in Tehran.

In other words, not a good idea for the non-suicidal.

In fact, Julius Caesar dramatizes the disastrous effects of the assassination, not only for the conspirators themselves, but also, more significantly, for the state of Rome.

Even though I’m no fan of violence, it is sort of fun imagining Republican cabinet plotting and carrying out an assassination on stage.

Et Tu, Jeff Sessions?

Speaking of Trump’s cabinet, no doubt you’ve read about or seen the cringe-worthy abasement Trump subjected his minions to in his first cabinet meeting when he forced them to utter what an honor it was to serve him, what a privilege, etc.

In other words, he reconstructed the opening scene of King Lear, the greatest and most awful of Shakespeare’s tragedy.

Compare these two clips.

It’s even more fun – at least for me – casting a Trumpian Lear – with Ivanka as Goneril, Eric Trump as Regan, and poor Tiffany as Cordelia. Maybe Dennis Miller or PJ O’Rourke as the Fool? Jared as Edmund?

PaulScholfieldAlecMcCowen

Bring it on, Chris Marino.


[1] Delta and the Bank of America have withdrawn financial backing. However, no one seemed to mind that Bob Melrose staged an Obama as Caesar production in 2012 that you nor I ever heard about at all.

Trump, Shakespeare, and Willy Loman

Shakespeare would begin his Trump play with the inauguration speech. We’re now in Act 2, and the Comey sacking is a very important complication in the plot. Although the chaos of the firing and its aftermath is not what Aristotle called the peripetia, the turning point of a tragedy, it is the equivalent of the murder of Banquo in Macbeth, a brazen act that deepens suspicion.

Now, no one but a Kool-Aid swilling soul-selling Party Person (e.g., Jeffrey Lord) can dismiss that Trump has obstructed justice in the canning of Comey. After all, Trump has admitted as much on national television.

Speaking to NBC’s Lester Holt, Trump contradicted the farcical original rationale that he was just following the suggestion of the deputy attorney general who saw impropriety in Comey’s handling of the Clinton email scandal. No, Trump admitted that he had wanted to fire Comey all along: “When I decided to [fire Comey], I said to myself, you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made up story.” In other words, he canned Comey because of the investigation. Comey’s people have subsequently claimed that Trump demanded from Comey an oath of loyalty when he summoned him to dinner at the White House in the first week of the Presidency. Makes the conversation Bill Clinton had with Loretta Lynch on the tarmac seem way too much ado over nothing.

As one of my Twitter pundits put it, there’s a reason lawyers instruct their clients to keep their mouths shut.

The problem with this Shakespeare analogy, though, is that Trump lacks the stature to be a tragic figure. He’s more like Pantalone from commedia dell’arte than Macbeth or Julius Caesar. There is, however, something about him that evokes, at least in me, pity. He betrays a sort of childish vulnerability that suggests a boyhood devoid of love or attention. Like Willy Loman, he’s pathetic, not tragic. When he’s sitting down in an interview, I sense his insecurity in the shifting of his eyes and the movement of his hands.* He’s dying to be loved. Approval is his crack. He might be bigger than life, but then again he is so much less a man or woman than your average sympathetic bartender.

I suspect the peripetia is just around the corner in Act 3 when his taxes come to light.

Republicans will commence their ratlike run from Trump’s sinking ship, Spicer will continue play the role of the comic butt, and Bannon will eventually land a spot on Fox News.

In a tragedy, Bannon would hang himself.

We’re talking farce, not tragedy.


*Don’t get me wrong.  Trump is a buffoon whose brain resembles a pinball machine.  I’d love to see the above-mentioned pussy-grabbing hands stymied by a pair of handcuffs.

Language, Thinking and the Oratorical Donald

Sir Winston Trump

Can we at least all agree on this: when it comes to verbal expression, Donald Trump is no Winston Churchill?

Yeah? But is he as bad as the critics claim?

Sarah Sloat thinks not. On the website Inverse, she argues that rather than being an indication of stupidity, Donald’s Trump limited vocabulary “exemplifies sly intelligence.”

She takes issue with Philip Roth’s contention in the 30 January issue of the New Yorker that Trump is essentially a fucking imbecile, both intellectually and morally.[1]

Take it away Mr. Roth:

I found much that was alarming about being a citizen during the tenures of Richard Nixon and George W. Bush. But, whatever I may have seen as their limitations of character or intellect, neither was anything like as humanly impoverished as Trump is: ignorant of government, of history, of science, of philosophy, of art, incapable of expressing or recognizing subtlety or nuance, destitute of all decency, and wielding a vocabulary of seventy-seven words that is better called Jerkish than English.”

Because Trump has “a small vocabulary size,” Sloat argues, doesn’t mean “that the President is dumb.” I more or less agree with her on this point. A limited vocabulary doesn’t necessarily mean that a person can’t solve intricate quadratic equations or intelligently assess a potential business rival’s weaknesses. What I do disagree with, however, is that Trump’s use of an impoverished vocabulary is “the hallmark of a person sly enough to hook his listeners and persuade them using only a few words.” In other words, I don’t think Trump’s use of a small number of words in his speeches is a conscious action aimed at endearing him to downhome folk. I think he talks that way all the time.

For example, here he is discussing history with an interviewer on satellite radio:

They said my campaign is most like, my campaign and win was most like Andrew Jackson with his campaign. And I said, “When was Andrew Jackson?” It was 1828. That’s a long time ago. That’s Andrew Jackson. And he had a very, very mean and nasty campaign. Because they said this was the meanest and the nastiest. And unfortunately it continues.  His wife died. They destroyed his wife and she died. And, you know, he was a swashbuckler. But when his wife died, you know, he visited her grave every day. I visited her grave actually, because I was in Tennessee. And it was amazing. The people of Tennessee are amazing people. Well, they love Andrew Jackson. They love Andrew Jackson in Tennessee. I mean, had Andrew Jackson been a little later, you wouldn’t have had the Civil War. He was a very tough person, but he had a big heart, and he was really angry that he saw what was happening with regard to the Civil War. He said, “There’s no reason for this.” People don’t realize, you know, the Civil War, you think about it, why?

Trump isn’t shy about expressing his dislike of reading, which shows not only in the content of what he says but also in its expression.   The mind that produced the above is a mind not shaped by reading, a mind lacking the syntactical structures necessary for clear thinking, a mind with a threadbare vocabulary that limits the ability to detect and therefore articulate nuance.

It’s almost as if he’s invented his own brand of sub-literate Newspeak. Everything is either “bad” or “evil” or “great” and” tremendous.” Hence, the flip-flops. He doesn’t merely moderate his stances but completely reverses them. He rushes to judgement, proclaims something “tremendous” or “bad” but then after a discussion with a cabinet member pulls a 180.

Take his reversal on NATO, for example: “The secretary general and I had a productive discussion about what more NATO can do in the fight against terrorism. I complained about that a long time ago, and they made a change, and now they do fight terrorism. I said it was obsolete. It’s no longer obsolete.”

The implication is that NATO has just recently changed their posture towards terrorism because of Trump’s complaints, and now that NATO has changed, it’s no longer obsolete. This may be a clever strategy for hoodwinking his ardent followers but probably not all that an effective approach when it comes to our allies.

At any rate, what I most disagree with is Sloat’s conflating intelligence with ignorance. She writes, “Roth equates Trump’s small vocabulary with ignorance, [my emphasis] which is in line with the old-school view of verbal fluency.” But ignorance and intelligence are two very different matters. Unlike me, I suspect that Stephen Hawkins is ignorant of the various interpretations of David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive floating around the Internet; however, I dare say that he would beat me on an IQ test.

At any rate, Roth’s charge of Trump’s ignorance “of government, of history, of science, of philosophy, of art” seems to me indisputable. Trump’s vocabulary is beside the point here. The idea of Andrew Jackson’s preventing the Civil War is about as credible as Noah’s releasing two penguins on Mount Ararat. It’s grossly ignorant and would be just as ignorant if Churchill had expressed it in all of his sonorous eloquence.

Skillful orators alter their vocabularies depending on their audiences. Trump uses the same impoverished vocabulary whether he’s making a speech to a stadium of his supporters, answering policy questions from an interviewer, or hitting on a model.

He’s tripleplusinarticulate.


[1] Quoting Sloat quoting researchers, “A voluminous taboo lexicon may better be considered an indicator of healthy verbal abilities rather than a cover for their deficiencies.”  Oh fuck yeah!