Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category


Well, it’s official. Donald J. Trump, entitled trust-fund kid ($400+ million) and utter parasite, has just announced that he wants to reinstate his family-separation policy in order to terrorize (there’s no other word for it) already-traumatized immigrants fleeing desperate conditions.

In terms of domestic politics, the bad news is that approximately one-third of Americans are vicious, racist (“family values”) authoritarians goose-stepping behind the Glorious Leader, and they’ll enthusiastically support Dear Leader’s new exercise in state terrorism.

The good news is that two-thirds of us aren’t that bad.

Get out and vote on November 6.

 


This goes nearly a decade back, but I find it disgusting and revealing that one of the most obvious and profound truths ever uttered by a politician was met with near-universal ridicule. I’m referring to a statement of the bleeding obvious spoken by someone I otherwise despise: Donald Rumsfeld. That the left ridiculed him for speaking the truth in a somewhat awkward manner speaks more to the willful ignorance and maliciousness of much of the left than to Rumsfeld. Here’s the very short statement:

“There are known knowns, known unknowns, and unknown unknowns.”

Who in their right mind could disagree with this? What Rumsfeld very obviously meant, especially given the context of his statement, was that there are known threats, threats of which we’re aware of but of which we know no details. and threats we’re not even aware of.

Again, who could disagree with any of this? If you think about it, Rumsfeld was more than obviously correct. But the MSNBC (corporate-Democrat) “left” seized on the awkward wording and ridiculed Rumsfeld for it.

This speaks almost entirely to their bankruptcy of ideas and shameful desire to ridicule opponents. Rumsfeld is a liar and war criminal, but this is what they seized on? Please.

That’s utterly appalling. Let’s leave deliberate misinterpretation of statements, deliberate misrepresentation of reality, and deliberate seizing on trivialities to those on the right. We shouldn’t stoop to engaging in any of it.


RECTOCRACY, n. Government by assholes. The form of government that has replaced what once passed for democracy in the United States.

* * *

— (thanks to Dave Irish for this one) from The American Heretic’s Dictionary (revised & expanded), the 21st-century successor to Ambrose Bierce’s Devil’s Dictionary. (The link goes to 50 sample definitions and illustrations.)

American Heretic's Dictionary revised and expanded by Chaz Bufe, front cover


Let’s face it: Barack Obama paved the way for Donald Trump. Trump would never have been elected without Obama.

I’m not talking about the overt, always blatant racism of Trump and (since the mid 1960’s with its “Southern Strategy”) the GOP. That’s a given. Divide and conquer, a strategy they’ve been pursuing relentlessly since the ’60s, with great success. They’ve bullshitted their racist victims into voting for them and directing their anger onto scapegoats.

How do the Democrats fit in, how do they help convince the victims of economic injustice and exploitation to kiss the butts of their victimizers?

Going back just a decade, it’s easy now to see how Obama and his Wall Street backers did it: In 2008 the economy was in freefall, and with plentiful corporate money behind him Obama served up heaping helpings of vacuous “hope and change” bullshit. He won big, but didn’t deliver. He betrayed the people who elected him.

It would have been remarkably easy for him to have been a transformative president, to do great good. But, despite his rhetoric, he had no intention of doing so. He had huge majorities in Congress, could have raised the minimum wage, instituted mass public works projects that would have put millions to work, given relief to foreclosure victims, and at least tried for Medicare-for-all.  Instead, he chose to be Mr. Do Nothing, Mr. Status Quo. He proposed and got a stimulus just big enough to save the big banks, but not the eight million Americans who lost their jobs and/or houses. (About eight million jobs vanished and there were about eight million house foreclosures.) So, since Obama did nothing to help them, those who lost their jobs and homes sank into an economic abyss. He very evidently didn’t give a shit about them, and as a result they didn’t give a shit about him, and either sat on their hands or voted against Obama’s party two year later.

Instead of real change, he delivered a quarter-of-a-loaf healthcare package that left tens of millions uninsured and preserved the profits of the parasitic insurance industry and big pharma, with the pathetic real benefits delayed until 2014. What an achievement.

Not a one of the banksters who caused the collapse was ever charged with a crime. Not one. In the greatest financial crime in human history. Not one, thanks to Obama.

As for the disaster in 2010, he’s entirely responsible. People knew he’d betrayed them and stayed away from the polls in droves or voted for the Republicans. There’s no way to disguise this. (Hillary Clinton, the ultimate status-quo candidate, whose slogan should have been “No we can’t!” also bears large responsibility for the election of Trump and the Republican congress in 2016.)

When you see entertainers and pundits such as Steven Colbert and Rachel Maddow cozying up to Obama and Hillary Clinton, please remember that they have historical amnesia, are cozying up to those responsible for the 2010 and 2016 disasters, those who paved the way for Trump. And if the Democrats nominate another corporate tool, such as Booker or Biden, they’ll pave the way for a less personally loathsome, but smarter and even more dangerous fascist than Trump.

Obama et al. paved the way for the electoral disasters in 2010 and 2016. The first step to avoid an even worse disaster (and I very much hate to say this) is getting out and voting in November.

Do it. Vote the Republicans out. Then let’s organize for real change.

 

 


Alcoholics Anonymous: Cult or Cure? front coverby Chaz Bufe, author of Alcoholics Anonymous: Cult or Cure?

Of late, critics often accuse Donald Trump and his followers of being a cult. The problem is that they seemingly never define what a cult is, never define the characteristics of a cult, and of course never see how well Trump & co. match such characteristics. It’s time to do so.

Before I began writing AA: Cult or Cure?, I spent well over a year on research, much of it involving religious and political cults. I discovered that all cults, whatever their nature — religious, political, commercial (e.g., multi-level marketing scams) — have many characteristics in common. By the end of my research, I had discovered 23 separate characteristics common in cults; some cults exhibit almost all of them.

(Robert Jay Lifton in his groundbreaking and influential Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism lists eight cult-like characteristics; while I included Lifton’s characteristics in the list I compiled, I strongly believe that his book would have been better if he had included more such characteristics — ones I believe are obvious.)

Let’s see how many of the 23 Trump and his followers exhibit:

1) Religious orientation. Are Trump and his followers religiously based? Yes.

Trump’s core followers are conservative evangelicals. He received the votes of 81% of them in the 2016 election, and that level of support remains virtually unchanged. As well, Trump — who’s about as religious, and has about as much knowledge of the Bible, as the average poodle — routinely panders to evangelicals, flattering them endlessly and doing his best to ram through anti-choice, anti-LGBT judges and repressive, religiously inspired laws.

2) Irrationality. Are Trump and his followers irrational, do they discourage skepticism and rational thinking? Emphatically yes.

Trump and his followers are characterized by their ignorance of and contempt for science and rationality. The examples of this are manifold, with climate-change denial being the most obvious and dangerous. Climate scientists — who arrived at their conclusions through massive, decades-long research and application of the scientific method to the data they’ve gathered — are virtually unanimous in the conclusions that climate change is due to human activity (especially the burning of fossil fuels) and that it’s a dire threat to humanity. Trump and his followers irrationally and dangerously deny this.

3) Dogmatism. Are Trump and his followers dogmatic? Yes in the case of Trump’s followers, no as regards Trump himself.

Trump’s most fervent followers, evangelicals, Bible literalists, are by definition dogmatists. They believe (or at least insist that they believe) that a 3,000-year-old book written by Iron Age slaveholders is inerrant, true in every respect. This leads them to insist on absurdities, such as that the Earth is only 6,000 years old; that humans and dinosaurs lived at the same time (or that the devil placed fossils in the earth to mislead humans); that, for that matter, the devil actually exists; that the sun stood still; that a dead man arose after three days and walked out of his tomb . . . The list of dogmatic absurdities goes on and on. In contrast, Trump himself is an amoral opportunist with no apparent beliefs who will say and do anything as long as he thinks it’s in his self-interest to do so.

4) “Chosen People” mentality. Do Trump and his followers have such a mentality? Yes.

Trump’s evangelical supporters routinely and self-flatteringly refer to themselves using terms such as “God’s people,” “the elect,” and “the righteous.” They also consider themselves above other people, especially atheists and muslims, with a great many evangelicals (and other conservative religious folk) saying they would never vote for an atheist or muslim for public office. Trump himself is a very privileged rich kid with a massive sense of entitlement. He was a schoolyard bully as a child; he believes he has the right to grope women — and has bragged about that groping; and seems to abuse almost everyone unfortunate enough to come in contact with him. Only someone who thinks he’s better than other people, who thinks he’s entitled to do such odious things, would do them. One might also mention “American exceptionalism” here, a belief apparently held by almost all of Trump’s followers and, perhaps, by Trump himself.

5) Ideology above all else. Do Trump and his followers elevate their ideology over experience, observation, and logic? Yes, absolutely.

Again, the most obvious example is climate-change denial. But other examples abound, such as the insistence that grossly ineffective abstinence-only sex “education” is the only type that should be taught in public schools; that a few cells the size of a pinhead are, somehow, a “person” (apparently in the same manner that an acorn is an oak tree); that massive tax cuts for the top 1% are somehow good for the bottom 99%; and that America is the land of “equal opportunity” in the face of gross differences in wealth and income and equally gross differences in the quality of education for the rich and poor.

6) Separatism. Are Trump and his followers separatists? No.

We might be better off if they were. Instead of being separatists, they want to impose their beliefs on the rest of us through the coercive apparatus of the government.

7) Exclusivity. Do Trump and his followers present themselves as the exclusive holders of the truth. Yes.

Trump’s core evangelical followers, biblical literalists, by definition consider themselves the exclusive holders of the truth. (The same holds for his Mormon and conservative Catholic backers.) Trump, with his constant blather about “fake news,” insistence that he’s the only source of the truth and should always be believed (despite his near-constant and blatant lying), and his bald-faced statement to his followers, “don’t believe what you’re reading or seeing,” is equally if not more guilty of this.

8) Special knowledge. Do Trump and his followers claim to have special knowledge that will only be revealed to the initiated? No.

Not unless you count Trump’s for-profit “university” scam, and that would be a stretch.

9) Mind control. Do Trump and his followers employ mind-control techniques? No.

Even Trump’s most hardcore followers don’t employ mind-control techniques such as sleep deprivation, deliberate near-starvation, hypnotic chanting, and thought-stopping techniques (e.g., reciting a mantra over and over again to ward off unwanted thoughts).

10) Thought-stopping techniques. Do Trump and his followers employ thought-stopping language? Not really. 

The childhood religious indoctrination of Trump’s religious-believer backers (evangelicals, conservative Catholics, Mormons), in which children are routinely warned that doubt comes from the devil (and, from my childhood, that you should pray the rosary to ward off doubt), is as close as you’ll get to thought-stopping language in the Trump movement.

11) Manipulation through guilt. Does Trump manipulate his followers through guilt? No.

Rather, Trump manipulates his followers through fear, hate, bigotry, and scapegoating. His appalling attacks on Mexicans and his fear-mongering about an “invasion” of immigrants is only the most obvious example.

12) The cult of confession. Do Trump and his followers use confession for purification and to tie believers to the movement? No. 

The closest any of Trump’s followers come to this is the practice of conservative Catholics who use that “sacrament” for purification and to tie themselves to the church.

13) A charismatic leader. Is Trump a charismatic leader, and do his followers treat him as one? Clearly, yes. 

I’d use many other terms in place of “charismatic,” but the adoration of the Dear Leader by his glassy-eyed followers is all too obvious. The fact that by their own lights he’s moral garbage matters not a whit to them. Nor do his constant, obvious lies and boasting, frequent self-contradiction, bullying behavior, and shameful self-serving. All too many of Trump’s followers worship him no matter what.

14) Hierarchical, authoritarian structure. Do Trump and his followers belong to a hierarchical, authoritarian structure. Yes, several of them.

First and most obviously, the Republican Party, which has been on a decades-long crusade to restrict individual rights (notably reproductive and LGBT rights), and which has likewise been on a decades-long crusade to entrench itself in power via gerrymandering and voter suppression on a mass scale — that is to entrench itself in power by destroying what passes for American democracy. As well, Trump’s conservative Catholic and Mormon followers (and to a lesser degree the evangelicals) belong to clearly hierarchical, authoritarian — “thou shalt”; “thou shalt not” — religious structures.

15) Submission of the individual to the “will of God” or God’s appointed representatives. Do Trump and his followers insist on such submission? Yes.

Trump, hypocritically so. But all too many of his followers are sincere in wanting to use the coercive apparatus of the state to force everyone to submit to that “will” (as they define it).

16) Self-absorption. Are Trump and his followers self-absorbed? Yes.

Trump’s narcissism and self-absorption could hardly be more obvious. It’s almost equally so with his Republican Party, with its phony, preening nationalism, and its amoral, ends-justify-the-means mentality that pursues permanent entrenchment in power no matter how foul the means nor how much damage to the country. The current attempt to steamroll the installation of a blustering, bullying, highly partisan, alleged (have to get that alleged in there) sexual predator and apparent perjurer on the Supreme Court is only the latest instance of the Republican Party’s self-absorption.

17) Dual purposes. Does the Trump movement have dual purposes, are its real purposes other than those it presents to the publicYes, absolutely.

This is very obvious in very many ways. Trump — who received over $400 million from his dad — presents himself as the champion of the working man, yet he’s intent on squeezing money from the poor and working classes, and what’s left of the middle class, and transferring it to the top. He just gave the largest tax cut in history to (primarily) the top 1%; he opposes raising the federal minimum wage; he opposes labor unions; he and his minions in Congress have partially dismantled Obama’s (grossly inadequate) healthcare plan and have offered nothing to replace it; and he opposes extending Medicare to all Americans, thus ensuring that tens of thousands of poor and working class Americans die from medical neglect annually. His “family values” followers by and large support his vicious policy of ripping apart immigrant families at the border and throwing children into cages. And Trump and those same followers demand “religious freedom” which really means the “freedom” to discriminate against LGBT people in public accommodations. The hypocrisy of Trump and his followers, their “dual purposes,” is simply nauseating.

18) Economic exploitation. Does Trump economically exploit his followers? Yes.

Sometimes directly, as with Trump “University,” more often via government economic and taxation policies which work to the advantage of Trump and his billionaire buddies and against the rest of us.

19) Deceptive recruiting techniques. Do Trump and his Republican Party use deceptive recruiting techniques. Yes.

In addition to hypocritically presenting himself as the working man’s champion, “Cadet Bonespur” Trump presents himself as the embodiment of patriotism. But Trump’s “patriotism” is the exact opposite of real patriotism, which is trying to do what’s best for the country and following one’s own conscience, doing what’s right in the face of disdain and abuse. For Trump and his followers, patriotism seems to consist of making a fetish of the flag (instead of honoring what it supposedly stands for), robotically engaging in submission rituals at the start of baseball and football games, military worship, impugning the patriotism of those with opposing political views, bullying dissenters, and, of course, “patriotic” bumper stickers. One might also mention the deception of Trump and other Republicans in posing as guardians of morality when they themselves are moral sewers.

20) Possessiveness. Does the Trump movement go to great lengths to retain members? No.

Cults often go to great lengths to retain members, doing such things as threatening permanent disconnection of family members who leave the cult. Trump doesn’t do this nor does he advocate it.

21) A closed, all-encompassing environment. Has the Trump movement created such an environment? No.

Many cults (e.g., Rajhneeshees, Branch Davidians, People’s Temple, FLDS) set up isolated environments in which they control all aspects of members’ lives. The closest Trump’s followers come to this is having a single primary news source (Fox News for 60% of them) and being immersed in the Facebook echo chamber where they hear almost nothing but views they already agree with. But this is a far, far cry from Jonestown.

22) Millenarianism. Does Trump prophesy the end of the world? No.

The closest he comes is dire warnings about what will happen if the Republicans lose power. But some of his followers, hardcore evangelicals, do prophesy that the end is near and are actively trying to bring about Armageddon (through enthusiastic support of Israeli militarism and expansionism) so as to usher in “the rapture.” Still, Trump is definitely not a millenarian himself.

23) Violence, coercion, and harassment. Do Trump and his followers engage in or encourage these things? Yes.

Recall Trump’s remarks that some of the murderous neo-Nazis in Charlottesville were “very fine people.” Then recall his attacks on the press as “enemies of the people” and his encouragement of violence against protesters at his rallies. Then recall the huge uptick in racist violence by his alt-right/neo-Nazi supporters since he took office. Finally, let’s not forget that some of Trump’s “right to life” supporters routinely stalk, harass, threaten, and occasionally bomb or shoot abortion providers.

IN CONCLUSION

So, do Trump and his followers constitute a cult? Many of the cults I studied while researching AA: Cult or Cure? exhibit almost all of the above characteristics: the Moonies 22 out of the 23; the Church of Scientology and People’s Temple 21 of the 23; and Synanon 20 of the 23. In contrast, community-based Alcoholics Anonymous only exhibits 11 of the 23, “institutional” AA  (the 12-step treatment industry, which I dubbed “Cult Lite”) exhibits 16 of the 23, and the Trump movement exhibits 13 of the 23, so it’s not entirely accurate to say that the Trump movement is a full-blown cult, though it does have distinct cult-like tendencies. However, and disturbingly, almost all of the cult-like tendencies exhibited by Trump and his followers are also characteristic of fascist movements.


“I would very much like to watch my favorite baseball team [San Francisco Giants] play incredibly poor baseball in their own ballpark without having to hear the racist, mouth-breathing drone that is the tomahawk chop. Knock that shit off, Braves fans.”

–Kenny Kelly, Giants Lose Ninth Straight

(Kenny might have added never wanting to again hear the racist “war whoop.” Here, he’s distilled in a few words why I hate the Atlanta Braves ownership and the Braves’ [presumably Trump-worshipping, goosestepping] fans. This is no reflection on the players, some of whom are great, but this demeaning racist shit has gotta go. Any of you Braves fans reading this who claim you aren’t racists, get a clue: if you’re doing this disgusting shit, you are racists — or at absolute minimum engaging in racist behavior. Own it.)

 


(No links here to document anything. No need. Those who pay attention to multiple news sources and have some respect for objective reality already know all of this and/or can easily check it with google, Bing, Yahoo, or Duckduckgo [no record of your doing it] search. The members of the cult are immune to evidence.)

Let’s talk instead about the Trump Cult, the approximately one-third of registered voters who worship the glorious leader and take his latest lies as the gospel truth — never mind his daily contradictions and/or the abundant video evidence of him saying the exact opposite of what he most recently said — and the approximately half of white male voters who are members of the cult.

Rather than asking “What the hell is wrong with them?” let’s take as a given that they’re bad at evaluating evidence, aren’t the sharpest tacks on the board, search for even the sketchiest evidence confirming their biases, can’t read scientific studies contradicting their beliefs, are angry and frustrated, and want to lash out and hurt the first handiest scapegoats.

So, how do we on the left appeal to such people? Showing them evidence that they’re wrong doesn’t work. It just further maddens them. It might and probably does help with those on the fence, but it doesn’t help with hardcore, true-believing cultists.

So what does work? Rational argument and evidence don’t.

First off, offer them a better alternative — something that will address their desperate, day-to-day needs, the needs that produce their anxiety and fear. (Medicare for all comes to mind as a good first step).

Then show them the obscenely luxurious lifestyles of the 1%, the parasites who don’t work and live off the work of the rest of us. Ask them if that’s fair. If those doing no work deserve such luxury. (That the cultists will get no benefit from Trump’s tax scam will help here.)

Then ask them what’s wrong with their daily lives. How do they want things to be? What do they want for their kids?

Show them how Trump et al. can’t and refuse to deliver. And in turn be prepared to deliver — in spades.

The Obama/Clinton corporate-whore Democrats can’t and won’t deliver — remember Hillary’s “no we can’t” mantra, heaping scorn on Bernie’s common-sense, mildly reformist proposals. So the corporate, do-nothing Dems have got to go.

If we do all this, we might peel as much as 10% or 15% off of Trump’s core cult supporters.

The rest will remain the type of people who would have forced Jews onto boxcars 75 years ago.

But they’re a minority. (Thank what passes for god.)

If we can peel off that 10% or 15% and offer even mild relief to the miseries afflicting the others (and all us), that’ll do it.

For now.

La lucha continua.