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DONALD TRUMP IS ELECTABLE AS PRESIDENT, BUT…

John Chuckman

I think it entirely possible Donald Trump could be elected President. I am not in favor of it – but then neither am I in favor of any of the other candidates on offer – yet I do think his election is increasingly possible. America displays every four years – almost like a temporary clothesline erected on the front lawn of the White House loaded with soiled and tattered undergarments – the sheer poverty of its political system. Every four years, a gang of mediocrities and thugs spend vast amounts of money to say, from coast to coast, nothing worth hearing.

Sometimes I wonder why anyone bothers to run for office in a long, costly, and exhausting contest which if won means four years of taking directions from the Pentagon and seventeen security agencies. America is not a democracy, and the last president who actually tried to exert some significant influence on affairs left much of the right side of his head in the streets of Dallas. But ego is a mighty powerful motivator, and the gang engaged in national American politics has plenty of it, even if few other redeeming qualities.

Trump could make Hillary Clinton regret she ever shared a stage to debate with him, especially a Hillary Clinton whose past has finally begun to catch up with her, now finally wounded by her long record of dark intrigues and vicious lies. Trump is no angel by comparison, but his focus has been on making money and aggrandizing his name, things most Americans respect. He has no political record for which to account or apologize.

He has said many things which make him sound like a juvenile given to insulting people’s appearances, and he has some proposals which would prove impossible for anyone to implement, yet somehow he has hit on some issues which find a welcome hearing by many, especially unsophisticated people who might even once have been Democratic voters. Americans are tired of unresponsive politicians, something of which they have stables full. They are also tired of the bewildering events in a world at the center of which invariably the United States finds itself. Most Americans never voted for such things and have no interest in them. Only dishonest appeals about supporting the troops keep them from rebelling, and their own increasingly difficult economic lives generate a lot of stress. America is full of frustrated and angry people, many of them not even sure what it is they are so angry about and many of whom have no time or patience to understand the world in which they live. Hard-hitting simplicities are music to the ears.

One of the sharpest ironies of Trump is that not all of his views are simplicities. Some are dead-on assessments of things which could have been avoided and leaders who failed the country. So this man comes bundled with a wide-ranging group of political goods, far more so than anyone I can recall in recent times. Just think of the simple-minded recitals of senior American politician after senior American politician. They all sound rather like Sarah Palin reciting her money-generated mantra but with differing levels of sophistication and vocabulary. She is the basic template while other models come with little tweaks and feature, but they all say nothing worth hearing. There is a very real reason for that: under America’s establishment-run, aristocratic political system, there is almost zero latitude for change either in domestic or foreign affairs, except in the field of war where more seems always welcome.

No matter what you think of Trump’s views – and the author should confess he is not an admirer of most of them – many people find it utterly refreshing to hear him touch subjects none of the usual Washington politicians touch. He goes far beyond the pathetic high-school recitation of lines by Sarah Palin. Or, I might add, the paid lies of men like Newt Gingrich and scores of others who will literally speak in absurdities in return for multi-million dollar campaign contributions. I only mention Newt because the last time he tried to campaign, he ran around the country saying there really was no such thing as a Palestinian, his quid pro quo for nearly twenty million dollars in funds from a man with claustrophobic ties to Israel.

Just think of the all the bland, say-nothing-worth-hearing types, epitomized by Jeb Bush who resembles nothing so much as a well-groomed hamster both in the sounds he makes and in his blinking-into-the-camera, insipid-smile looks. And think of all the grotesque liars who run for high office in America never telling people what really motivates or enables them or what special interests pay their way. It all really is a parody of democracy.

You might think a brash and independent-minded guy like Trump is just the answer to changing some of that, and I can well understand the hopes, but there are very powerful barriers in American society as it now has come to be organized against such hopes being realized. The first day of sitting at a huge polished conference table, greatly outnumbered by arrogant country-club security chiefs with secret budgets you cannot imagine and rigid generals whose uniforms glitter almost like Christmas trees, might just test the mettle of a Trump. Add to that the heads of great corporations each worth hundreds of billions of dollars making private appointments. And then the polished heads of mighty special interest lobby groups used to getting their way. And just who are your allies and confidants in opposing some of the things they demand? You have no political background from which you would have built such relations.

It’s a daunting and dreary picture, and you have to remember, these powerful people who compose the formidable American aristocracy are the very ones who allowed and encouraged the ugly situations into which America is straight-jacketed.

Despite Trump’s freshness and energy, a Trump victory could prove a disaster. Not because he would flirt with atomic war, something Obama now already does regularly, or create vast new domestic schemes. Of course, the scheme of building a fence across Mexico and rounding up and returning all illegal migrants is vast indeed – a virtual moon-landing project from scratch – but this author thinks it would fortunately prove impossible. Even if the American aristocracy permitted him to pursue such a Don Quixote project, it would only be in order to gain his compliance in other, far more important and consequential matters such the vast, destabilizing, and murderous wars in the Middle East and the bullying of Russia and China.

On top of all that, Trump has made some deadly serious enemies, and number one on the list is Israel and its supporters who view him as not adequately friendly to Israel’s interests.

When Trump, for example, speaks, entirely sensibly, about leaving Syria for Putin to sort out, he goes dead against a dark and costly scheme which was in part created by Israel. They want Assad dead. They want Syria Balkanized much as Iraq is. And they are enjoying the stolen, discount-priced oil they get indirectly from ISIS through Turkey.

And they don’t want Russia gaining genuine influence in the Mideast, the United States being Israel’s source of seemingly inexhaustible assistance, permission, and protection – the provider of vast subsidies of every kind imaginable. Moreover, Netanyahu and other leaders in Israel have long striven to have Israel assume a geopolitical role in the Mideast as a kind of miniature replica of what the United States is in the world, a bully hegemon. There’s no room in that picture for Russia.

If you read the kind of columnists who regularly serve as apologists for Israel’s brutality – there’s at least one filling that role on the staff of every mainline newspaper – you find a universally negative attitude towards Trump. It has nothing to do with conservatism versus liberalism, and it certainly has nothing to do with human rights. The columnists use words about human rights to make their view more palatable to the general population of readers and to serve as a smokescreen for what it is with which they are really defending.

After all, Israel’s Netanyahu is perhaps the world’s most flagrant violator of human rights, holding about five million people completely against their will with absolutely no rights or freedoms, periodically stealing their homes and land, violating the sanctity of their religious places, and frequently just killing large batches of them – always undoubtedly with an eye to making them so miserable that they will pick up and leave. The people of Gaza are not even allowed to import cement to repair Israel’s recent destruction of their homes and institutions. I simply do not know of crueler circumstances in the world completely tolerated by America’s aristocracy.

There have been several ugly outbursts recently, including one from an executive of Colorado’s American Civil Liberties Union who was yelling about assassinating Trump voters, words I just could not believe when I first read them.

But then in past years we have had extremist defenders of Israel propose many horrible measures including one from an American lawyer who proposed summarily killing the entire families of any Palestinian acting as a “terrorist,” so the raving speech is not without precedent. The executive’s words communicate the intense level of hate which simmers. I am sure this disturbed man – since forced to quit – is not the only one with such thoughts bubbling like sewerage through his mind.

Always admirers of political hamsters and gerbils as candidates with dark eminences behind them doing the necessary filth, the Bush-Cheney model if you will, or indeed the Eisenhower-Dulles or Reagan-Casey one – the Republicans will make every effort to stop Trump with backstage political manipulations, such as a brokered convention, but they may well not succeed, his position being made quite strong by the possibility of his running as a third-party candidate, and one with huge financial resources to boot.

But if they fail, and he wins, look out for the darkest possibilities.

All this is quite terrible, but that is simply what America is today, terrible.

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TRYING TO IMAGINE HELL

John Chuckman

 

Christians have always had it wrong. Hell is not a place loaded with terrifyingly dramatic scenes and flaming Hollywood special effects. That not only seems improbable, it actually is rather unimaginative.

Hell must be a place where all the people you would hate spending five minutes with become your intimate neighbors for eternity. It would be filled with people who never had an interesting thought, who never cared about the beauties of the universe, who only ever grasped for more, and people who spewed hate and ignorance their entire lives.

Of course, it contains figures like Hitler, and the Fuhrer’s closest associates sit gathered around to feel the mind-deadening, unremitting pain of hearing his views repeated in late evening monologues forever. Henry Kissinger will sit at Hitler’s feet, forced eternally to just listen, learning from the master as it were. One also finds the banalities and droning platitudes of George Bush. Imagine an eternal replay of his barely-literate mumbling, often stumbling over his own tongue while reciting his contributions to democracy and the goodness of America. Tony Blair will smirk, count his blood money, and display the smug stupidity of his smarmy smile forever. Madeleine Albright sits holding broken children’s bodies in her arms, an impious parody of Michelangelo’s Pieta.

But the halls of hell must also resonate with the sounds of lesser dark figures: the chirping vapidity of Sarah Palin pleading for campaign contributions over a bleeding moose carcass; the cowardly John McCain alternating between the black-faced rage of a world-class spoiled brat and his pose as the boyish hero who was shot down while bombing civilians in Hanoi; Bill Clinton’s syrupy Arkansas slop about integrity; Jonathon Edwards reciting his sugar-plum visions of America a million, million times; Newt Gingrich posed in a perpetual tableau telling his wife dying of cancer that he’s divorcing her for a hot babe; J.Edgar Hoover, cross-dressed as he was wont to do in his off-hours, shares an eternal loveseat embrace with his beloved Clyde Toland.

Folks who spent their entire lives grasping desperately for the substance of others fill the halls of hell with their moral emptiness, grasping still where there’s nothing left to grasp. There are puffed-up philanthropists sitting eternally on corporate thrones in castle-like headquarters, one pretending to humility in turtleneck sweaters, offering dollops of tax-free interest earnings from their foundation-intact fortunes to humble petitioners. Phony pitchmen of every description spend eternity repeating and refining their insincere friendliness. You hear the words “folks” and “my friends” echoing frequently. An eternity of unwanted telephone calls, unwanted mail offers, and e-mail spam awaits everyone in hell.

The phony pitchmen of American think-tanks will be generously represented, still posing as genuine academics while regurgitating their paid propaganda eternally, much resembling actors in white lab coats pretending to be scientists in television headache commercials. Indeed, when you think about it, Americans seem very likely to fill a disproportionate space in hell.

The Jerry Falwells, Pat Robertsons, Franklin Grahams, and Jimmy Swaggarts thump their Bibles, sputter, gush theatrical tears, drop to their knees, and beg for money endlessly – all done to a background accompaniment of Tammy Faye Baker warbling hymns in a voice resembling a cat in heat at midnight in the backyard. Imagine, ten quadrillion years of that, and then in the words of the wonderful old hymn, “with no less time…than when we first began.”

I suspect Hell actually looks a great deal like the world in which we live. It just excludes all the things that give us any hope and beauty and truth in life.

 

A STRANGE, SOULLESS MAN AND HIS UTTERLY FAILED PRESIDENCY

 

John Chuckman

 

How vividly I remember the photos of Obama in Berlin during his campaign in 2008: streets literally flooded with people keen to get a glimpse of a promising young politician, expressing for us all how exhausted the world was with the most ignorant and contemptible man ever to have been a president. Reporters said a quarter of million turned out to see a man who was a junior senator and had no claim yet to being a world figure. It was intoxicating to think this bright, attractive figure might replace the murderous buffoon, George Bush, and his éminence grise, Dick Cheney, a man who might comfortably have served any of the 20th century’s great bloody dictators.

A few years later, in 2013, an estimated 4 to 6 thousand showed up for a major speech by then-President Obama, and one is surprised even that many showed, but then there is always a set of people who just want to be able to say they saw a celebrity. After all there are inexplicable people who travel to places associated with genuine monsters, notorious murderers and torturers, and have snapshots of themselves taken standing in front as though they were at the Grand Canyon or Disneyworld.

In 2009, the Norwegian Nobel Committee, excited at seeing Bush replaced with a promising man, just as the earlier crowd in Berlin, awarded President Obama its Peace Prize after he had been in office for less than year and had achieved nothing of substance towards peace or any other worthy goal. But the Peace Prize often is awarded in hopes of influencing and encouraging a leader rather than in recognition of genuine achievement.

In Obama’s case, the hopes and encouragement fell stillborn and lifeless, and he has proved himself one of the least worthy recipients, keeping historical company with killers like Kissinger or Begin, winners whose awards also were based on futile hopes and encouragement. Obama’s distinctions in the sphere of peace include abandoning the Palestinians to their tormenters, abandoning the Egyptians to a new tyranny, pitching the people of Syria into a bloody civil war, never speaking out about the suppression of people in places like Bahrain and Saudi Arabia and Yemen, pitching the people of Ukraine into chaos, establishing a new hi-tech death-squad approach to the extrajudicial killing of people, not standing up to Israel over its unwarranted threats of war against Iran, and force-feeding the military-intelligence establishment so that it resembles a gigantic waddling Pâté de foie gras goose.

He has done nothing for his own people, signing not one worthy piece of legislation to better the lives of less fortunate Americans. His only major domestic legislation is a costly, almost unworkable compromise on health care that will enrich insurance companies in the only Western nation not having a form of national health insurance. He will also leave his country with an almost incomprehensible debt, a debt America’s people are not asked to pay down through taxes and other appropriate fiscal and budgetary measures, ultimately leaving all the world’s holders of dollars to be cheated through the dollar’s future decline, a scam that beggars the size of Bernie Madoff’s pyramid operation or the Nigerian industry in e-mail invitations to share in vast wealth just by providing your bank account. It is irresponsibility on a colossal scale, all of the gains from the scam having served American interests from investment bankers to the military and military contractors. Obama’s force-fed military will have all its stuffing supplied involuntarily by non-Americans who have no interest in what he has done. In truth, America doesn’t have a single honest dollar to spend on anything.

The sense of dignity Obama displayed in the early days is gone too, simply evaporated, although I am open to the suggestion that my judgment is affected by grim disappointment in his non-achievement and display of what I can only regard as a form of moral cowardice, not different in quality to that displayed by George Bush. He made some noises early on about closing America’s torture gulag, about ending its pointless wars, about pushing Israel into a decent settlement for millions of Palestinian captives, about new starts in general, but it has all blown away like so much dust on the wind. Now we have a man who almost never utters an inspiring or even meaningful word, never takes a risk to do anything worthwhile, and actually looks quite ineffectual at times. Imagine, the first black President of the United States at the funeral of a world-figure like Nelson Mandela, sitting next to his wife and flirting with the blond prime minister of Denmark, taking “selfies” during the service? It was contemptible behavior. It wasn’t the silly flirting that mattered: it was the complete lack of a statesman’s demeanor, communicating to millions of eyes the sense of a small man behaving like a hormonal teenager on a solemn international occasion.

I remember, too, another picture of Obama, taken in Hawaii where he had gone to visit during his campaign a gravely ill Madelyn Dunham, the grandmother who had raised him. The picture showed him walking profile in sandals, and the image immediately gave the impression of a self-confident, independent-minded man which I quite relished. But all sense of that image of Obama is gone, save the almost surrealistic right wing descriptions of him as a communist, a view whose origins it is difficult to imagine, although his wearing sandals a few times might qualify in the Palinesque world of American right wing politics.

Of course the American institution most accurately described as communistic is its massive military-security-police apparatus, a monstrosity whose scale and scope make the old East German Stasi seem almost quaintly amateur, although aspects of it would immediately bring a smile of recognition to the lips of retired Stasi agents: matters such as the soliciting of general public informers, the blackmailing or bribing of others to serve as informers inside groups and organizations, the interception of virtually all messages, or the scrutiny of what people are reading at the library and on-line. This all predates Obama, and he has done nothing but ardently support its growth. But I guess you just cannot do enough for these ghastly institutions to avoid being called a communist by people who share Sarah Palin’s intellectual gene pool.

During Obama’s first election campaign, there was a mindless controversy over his not wearing a flag pin on his lapel. That is the kind of seemingly insignificant detail which sets the “you can never have enough patriotism” mob to a fever pitch, bellowing voices about freedom from intolerant men with bellies sagging ponderously over their belts, comparable in intensity to prayer vigils over embryos or “support the troops” parades in small towns (who cares that they’ve invaded some unfortunate land no one ever heard of and are busy killing civilians?). Remember Jonathon Edwards, that syrupy-voiced wealthy tort lawyer running for Vice President in 2004, offering a homily in one of his speeches where he suggested American families should gather together each morning to discuss the blessings of America over their bowls of Coco Puffs? Presumably Papa Bear would lead the service before he and Mommy Bear and all the Baby Bears rushed off in gas-guzzling trucks and four-by-fours through a landscape of sprawl to their corporate cubicles and private schools.  And Edwards was regarded – ugh, foul word that it is considered in America – as a liberal.

How refreshing I thought Obama at the time of this nonsense over whether someone else’s patriotism was being adequately displayed, again a self-confident, independent-minded man who did not see the need to follow the herd of American politicians who resemble nothing so much as members of the old Soviet Politburo with red star pins on their lapels. He didn’t need to parade the obvious fact of an American running for office in America. He didn’t need to display what has become an American fetish, a voodoo charm, the totem of a secular religion, and, at the same time, a symbol, for a great many of the world’s people, of arrogant power and almost endless bloodshed. Of course, today Obama is never seen without a ridiculous flag pin. He probably has a drawer full of them in a bureau of his bedroom, a Secret Service man being solemnly tasked to keep it stocked and to drop a few (respectfully, mind you) into his pocket as back-ups for any trip. It must be the last thing Obama’s butler at the White House does each morning, too, making sure a pin is on the suit to be worn that day, the correct lapel, leveled properly, and polished. How very inspiring, like a Rotarian executive preparing for a club luncheon.

We perhaps can never know what has motivated Obama’s behavior as President. Certainly the memoirs of retired Presidents rarely enlighten us on anything of importance. Is he, as some in his own party have suggested, simply not up to the job? Of course, when they say that, they are not using the same criteria this writer does. In America, even the supposed left is never far from mounting a horse and charging up San Juan Hill. Is he merely responding to the fact of the awesome power of America’s unelected government? Is he satisfied to give them their way, enjoy the 8-year ride, and retire with full pension and benefits, avoiding that haunting nightmare of the last President who seriously challenged just a few of the establishment’s assumption, John Kennedy, in the streets of Dallas?