Friday, November 18, 2016

Donald the Dread

This might sound perverse, but as part of my post-Trump therapy I've been reading a biography of Ivan the Terrible.

No, I am not steeling myself for the dark days when the American Tsar (Caesar) and his corporate coalition of Oprichniki flay his political opponents alive before poking holes in the icy Potomac to dispose of their dismembered bodies. (especially since it's been the Hottest Year on Record for each of the last several hot years.) And I really doubt that Trump will personally murder one of his own sons and drink his blood for dessert. (although, once Obama hands over his unrevised Drone Kill List playbook to Trump, never say never. A taste for blood is said to be an acquired one)

But there are disturbing similarities between the dead autocrat and the would-be living autocrat.

Both are clinical paranoiacs, alternately attracted to and repelled by their various advisers --  who always run the risk of banishment or worse whenever their thin-skinned leader inevitably suffers one of those twittering fits of pique.

 So, to all the liberal pundits out there, clutching their pearls and biting their nails over every Trump appointment or rumored appointment:  Just wait a short attention-spanned Trumpian minute. Where Chris Christie went, so too may eventually go Steve Bannon and the rest of Trump's mutant coalition of alt-right racists, Ayn Rand ideologues and demented military men.

I learned from my reading that just like Donald, Ivan was a beauty contest junkie/owner/operator. He chose each of his suspiciously short-lived wives from "bride-shows." After his minions scoured the Russian countryside in search of babes to be brought back to Moscow, he ordered the terrified women stripped naked for his inspection. Just like Donald, he had his own rating system.  Among his diplomatic skills was the demand that the wife of the Swedish king be awarded to him as the price of a truce between the two realms.  (She voluntarily opted for prison.)

Toward the end of his sadistic reign, Ivan even made some moves (from afar, through her trade reps) on Elizabeth I of England. When she politely rebuffed him, he pressed her for the hand of one of her younger relatives. The trade rep suggested a young niece named Mary. Horrified, the canny but diplomatic Elizabeth sent word to Ivan that Mary was sadly not only not a Perfect Ten, she was scarred by smallpox. This was a lie, but it was more than enough to scare Ivan away forever. 

Like Ivan, Donald is a kleptocrat. Ivan the Terrible looted the rich as well as the peasants. Donald the Dread has been looting ordinary American taxpayers as well as wealthy investors for decades, via his status as a tax-dodging indebted billionaire real estate speculator holding all his bankers hostage. If he fails, they all fail. And that is probably what Barack Obama meant when he said that if Trump succeeds, America succeeds. America, of course, is code for the oligarchy.

Like Ivan before him, Donald Trump is a feared man, but even his base of voters and the powerful men and women now groveling at his gilded feet for a job in his administration don't actually love, or even like him.

Finally, the bland smiley politician-face is in neither man's limited repertoire of expressions.


I suspect that before too long, Donald's only true believers will be his wife and his children. Ivan's only true believers were the occasional wife and the rare surviving child.

At least, unlike in Ivan's 16th century Russia, we do have a Constitution and alleged checks and balances in the form of a Congress and a court system. All that Ivan's subjects had to protect them was a corrupt Church and a simpering monk or two to keep him under control at extremely rare intervals. Despite his atrocities, he believed in God and quoted the Bible. He simply thought that a stint in Hell didn't apply to him, the anointed one.

Donald is more into the modern capitalist worship of Mammon, and rarely if ever utters the standard platitude "God Bless America." He is the only god he needs. It will be interesting to see whether he continues the presidential tradition of the Prayer Breakfast, the annual gala for global bigwigs to do their wheeling and dealing and looting in the name of the lord. He might just end up sending his theocratic veep Mike Pence in his stead.

So, although Sinclair Lewis's warning that "It" (fascism minus the anesthetizing liberal sheen) does indeed appear to be happening here, "It" will not likely happen overnight. We might just succeed in barely hanging on by our fingernails as we hope that once Trump wears out his welcome, he won't be succeeded by another Wall Street Democrat.

And that brings me to  Paul Krugman's premature Elegy for Medicare, published in today's New York Times. As I have written previously, because it will not be the Clintons triangulating merrily and stealthily with the Republicans in the latest round of safety net slashings, those battered, semi-delusional Democrats might actually screw up the gumption (along with their base) to "fight back" against Trump and his own mad monk, that simpering Ayn Rand fanboy named Paul Ryan.

But who's counting on the corporate Democrats, or Krugman's feeble boast that pundits like him are the only antidote to Republican lies? The same columnist who so sneeringly sniped against Bernie Sanders's Medicare for All proposals now purports to be an ardent defender of Medicare for the Few. Krugman sprays out his cheap, sickly-sweet room freshener to vie with Trump's own rancid skunk cabbage patch for just the right neoliberal share of the mass asphyxia.

My published comment:
The Howard Zinn aphorism "what matters most is not who is sitting in the White House, but who is marching outside the White House" has never been truer or more urgent.

In the face of the almost unbelievable eagerness of the political leadership to "work with" Donald the Dread, it is imperative for the three-quarters of the electorate who DID NOT vote for him to make our voices heard.

It's heartening that a coalition of Black Lives Matter and Occupy Wall Street activists staged a sit-down in Minority Leader-elect Chuck Schumer's office this week. And that thousands of high school students are leaving their places of learning and closing down highways to protest looming deportations and threats to climate change agreements. Young people are learning the most valuable lesson possible: they're learning that they have power and agency.

It's up to all of us to strike fear into the alleged hearts of those in Congress with a sudden psychopathic hankering to do business with a psychopath. If they won't protect Medicare and Social Security and other safety net programs out of a sense of altruism and duty, then perhaps they'll do the right thing out of fear of losing their cushy seats.

Trump is beyond redemption. This is a guy who once cut off his own sick nephew's health insurance when Fred Trump neglected to provide for it in his will.

It was only bad publicity that eventually changed his mind.

So let's make Trump and his Ayn Rand co-conspirators an offer they can't refuse.
And here's the excellent riposte from Meredith-NYC:
 Lack of affordable health insurance still afflicts millions, as premiums rise, or insurance co’s pull out. Families deprived of bread winners to illness, or who have to pay for their elders' soaring medical costs, can lose what security they’ve managed to build up in our Darwinian economic system.

But Krugman is still not giving us info on many other countries, where citizens of all ages, working or not, pay their taxes for and use their medical services —at much less expense than ACA. US Medicare and the supplemental still cost hefty monthly premiums.

He avoids discussing America’s basic flaw---health care as a maximum profit center. And contrast this with govts abroad who negotiate insurance costs, or are single payer. Even their rw parties don’t aim to destroy this. Backward America needs these role models publicized by the media, to demand reform.

A friend in his 30s complains of having to read through dozens of pages of documents to choose his insurance enrollment. And it’s complicated legalese---what does he have to pay for basic catastrophic coverage if he gets hit by a bus? And if he’s traveling and needs emergency care, how does he know a nearby hospital is in his network? He can’t know. So if he’s hit by a bus out of town, he may also be hit by tens of thousands in expenses as well.

Yes, bash Trumpf, but how can Americans demand standards common in the rest of the civilized world, if our liberals with a conscience don’t even use this in their arguments?


Meredith NYC said...

Thanks, Karen for citing my comment. The replies had a wide range.

1 or 2 said I should reread Krug’s column and past ones, that he has cited other nations h/c. And that the media has often too.
Well, to me, it’s been conspicuously missing, like it’s on another planet. Not enough to include 1 sentence to say ours is higher cost than abroad, but then not explain the how and why, and underlying attitudes.

What ever happened to journalist TR Reid, who years ago did intl comparisons on PBS and a book? We need him now.

One UK commenter says Brit Tories are indeed trying to ruin their natl health system, while another cites how good it is, saying:

“An example might help I am 88 and had a fall ...had three visits to doctors, two blood tests, a chest Xray, an Ultrasound scan...ECG and been prescribed drugs which I will have to take for the rest of my life. Total cost to me has only been the cost of getting to the appointments. Medical costs zero.
During my working life I paid quite affordable National Insurance contributions. Britain spends half as much per person on health as USA but average life expectancy is longer.”

Only from comments do we get these stories.

Karen, to your comment, a reply said:
“We need more than a bunch of marginalized minorities to march against this Republican putsch. They'll just be ignored and derided as kooks and "takers". Americans better wake up before it's over.”

He does have a point---BLS and Occupy are marginalized and labeled as radicals almost, even if much of the wider public may agree with a lot of their points. Our politics didn’t give Occupy a way to realize its goals.

The white middle class has to get out on the streets before anything will happen. I think they did do this at least for the huge Climate Change march in 2014 (?) in Manhattan—biggest march ever maybe? Hundreds of thousands marched and thousands more lined the streets watching, like it was the Macy’s parade. I recall one took a photo of the sign I carried --- “Things Go Worse With Koch.”

Karen Garcia said...

Yes, maybe a group of Gray Panthers or the Knitting Ladies from Occupy can converge on Washington, strip naked right in front of Trump, and scare him into not only saving Social Security and Medicare, but expanding them to proportions that even Bernie Sanders couldn't envision in his wildest, most revolutionary dreams. Anything, anything to make the less-than-Perfect Tens put on some clothes.

Actually, I thought the convergence of Occupy and BLM in the office of an establishment Dem was pretty radical, all things considered. Perhaps it's a sign of solidarity among many diverse groups to come. In Chicago, immigration rights activists, mental health activists, prison rights activists, the teachers' union, etc. have been quite successful in annoying and discomposing Mayor 1% Rahm Emanuel, if not quite managing to oust him from office.

Elizabeth Adams said...

Not "perverse". Very intriguing, yes. With his presentation of what we have been getting with the "pretty" PC version a la the Democratic Party (via the corporatocracy), the Dawn/Don of the Dread is setting in much more quickly. It is interesting to see how quickly certain groups went to extreme outrage and disbelief, oblivious to the preexisting ingredients, conditions, and chefs in the kitchen. It really shows how much U.S.ians can be swayed by the packaging.

Jean Helfer said...

Karen, I agree. There are striking similarites between the dead autocrats from the century which you refer to and the ones we have today running our country. Very scary times indeed! My mother is a follower of your blogs and she passes along your articles to me. Thank you for your outstanding research and sharing of real truth politics!

Karen Garcia said...

Elizabeth, I was perverse in the sense that I am not following the Democratic recipe of comparing Hillary's defeat to a death sentence. I am indulging in a bit of the hair of the dog that bit us. I mean, how many articles can we read on the Five Stages of Political Grief before throwing up? I found Ivan very therapeutic.

And Jean, glad to meet another reader. Thanks!

Neil said...

Karen, don't dread, 'tis the season to celebrate.

The Clintons are gone! The Clintons are gone! (hopefully forever)

The Clintons are gone, thanks to Trump.

Now the bell tolls for Trump.

Trump's antics will now stand alone, without the convenient foil of HRC, just voter sobriety, and increased public scrutiny.

Karen Garcia said...


Yeah, class half-full!

Just because we're bummed about trumpism doesn't mean that we can't indulge in some of ye olde holiday hillarity. Look at it this way - the peeps wouldn't marching in the streets were there an Empress in Waiting, and the cast of Hamilton likely wouldn't have lectured Tim Kaine over his odious "Project Exile" initiative to break up black families.

Neil said...


I just see it as politics. This story says Melania Trump is not moving into the White House in January (to keep son Barron in the same NYC school)

I question how long Trump stays in office. Trump's workload will increase as U.S. president, but his salary will decrease from billions to $400K. Trump's perceived lifestyle may also decline. Trump Tower Penthouse vs. The Whitehouse. Mar-a-Lago vs Camp David. Air Force 1 vs. Trump Jet. US President vs. Corporate President.

Trump's Secret Service detail is clogging up traffic around Trump Tower. That can't be popular with the locals.

Neil said...

Got Trump dread? Just Shake It Off

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