Friday, November 30, 2018


Ironic words uttered by a man who represents the epitome of McCarthyism, Donald Trump protests and projects too much.  He intends to finish as he began ... with verbal assaults against any critic, smears against any opponent, deceptions, defamations, and falsehoods.  Trump bends spoons with his mind.

Is Trump a rogue politician?  Or the stereotypic Republican following standard operating procedure?  Republican defeats in the recent election give rise to speculation about the future drift of the party.  Which faction will survive: The conservative wing?  The nativist wing?  Or the evangelical wing?  With each faction more right-leaning and reactionary than the last, we ask: Are there any centrists or pragmatists left in the GOP?

No longer the party of Lincoln, modern Republicanism is the offspring of Senator Joseph McCarthy, and his legacy has become the DNA of the GOP.  McCarthyism determines how Republicans … past, present, and future … run for office.

McCarthy stumbled upon opportunistic fear-mongering by accident.  He gave postwar America a new, more sinister, more implacable enemy than defeated fascism.  He gave us subversive communism, arch villain of the Cold War.  From Korea to Vietnam and beyond, McCarthy bequeathed a powerful electoral weapon that has driven American politics for the past 75 years.  Communism is gone, but Trump has conjured new enemies to fear.  He scapegoats impoverished immigrants and refugees and their children.  He calls them as ‘rapists and murderers,’ and his base of suckered bumpkins believe every word.

Remember: Trump voters were Nixon voters before they were Reagan voters, and every GOP president owes a debt of gratitude to McCarthy.   

Today’s GOP draws support from rural America, Dixie America, and the ‘value’ voters of evangelical America.  Nativist and xenophobic, these voters long for a fabled past when life was simple and America was great before the evils of modernism, globalism, and internationalism invaded their lives. 

In Trump, we have the culmination of toxic populism raised to the level of demagoguery.   Long after Trump is gone, the McCarthy gene of the GOP will still be with us … spawning the next demagogue de jour.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018


No!  I am not Lord Cthulhu, nor was meant to be;
Am an attendant mollusk, a hammed up clam,
To advance progress, eat a crab or two,
Evince a wince, no doubt, or play the fool,
Existential, unessential, easy to confuse,
Full of pretense, a silly catawampous;
At times, indeed, almost ridiculous –
But always your intrepid Octopus.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Roger and #MeToo

This post is not about Michael Moore and his acclaimed film.  The title refers to Roger Stone, the presumed triggerman behind the political assassination of Senator Al Franken.

The speed of a social movement often outpaces the checks and balances needed over time to curb exploitation.  No doubt, predatory sexual misconduct is more widespread than thought.  Victims hide their abuse under silence in fear of shame and retribution. The correct term is ‘victim blame.’

In politics, the name of the game is obfuscation.  To discredit one accuser is to discredit all accusers.  To defend one rogue is to hang clouds of suspicion over honorable men.  Welcome to the Art of the Smear.

Comedy often relies on sexual innuendo, and dirty trickster Roger Stone knows a comedian will push boundaries for a laugh.  He knows an out-of-context publicity photo will incriminate the man and incite his base.  These conventions of show biz turned Senator Franken into an easy mark.

Roger Stone concocted a double-bind smear with locked exit doors, a virtual fire trap with no means of escape.  An honest investigation may have exposed the scam, but Senator Franken was preemptively sabotaged by his own colleagues and denied due process. 

Dirty tricks create a perverse reality of reverse polarity.  An honorable man resigns in shame; the Groper-in-Chief endorses a pedophile for senator.  Most repugnant of all, a false victim discredits all true victims of predatory abuse.

A false equivalence is not easy to debunk in the best of times ... and next to impossible in the worst of times.

Monday, November 13, 2017


"I look at Gotham, my friends, and what do I see?  Gangs roam the streets attacking at will” (spoken by the arch villain Ratcatcher in a Batman adventure, circa 1995).
The dystopian vision of a comicstrip may not be as farfetched as we think.  Let us recall the work of Thomas Malthus whose essay, Principle of Population (1798), foreshadow modern concerns of over-population versus sustainability.  When human population growth far outstrips the available food supply, the result is called the Malthusian Catastrophe … a apocalyptic descent into poverty, starvation, armed conflict, and death.

Citing modern advances in agriculture and birth control, contemporary critics reject the ideas of Malthus.  Not so fast, I say.  Let us recall Rumi's time-honored tale about the blindfolded men and the elephant.  Even a consensus view fails to complete a picture.  A research hypothesis rarely offers a fully satisfying explanation. More often, studies raise more questions than answers.

How can we account for a rash of mass murders that defy explanation but have become all too commonplace?

Perhaps it is time to revisit the research of John B. Calhoun, who studied the effects of over-crowding on social animals at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).  Originally published in 1962, his findings have profound implications in the fields of architecture, urban planning, criminology, and the psychosocial sciences.

Imagine a fully enclosed 9-foot by 9-foot square box.  Introduce fours pairs of breeding mice and supply unlimited amounts of food, water, and nesting material.  In essence, Calhoun created a perfect utopian environment free from predators.  All things being equal, the only test variable under study was the confined space of a box.

Calhoun watched the population double every 55 days.  He observed profound breakdowns in social structure over time and a dramatic increase in the rate of internecine violence.  After 315 days, dominant males ceased courtship; non-dominant males no longer defended themselves; immature mice were expelled from nests before weaning, and females ceased to reproduce altogether.

By Day 600, the population had grown to 2,200 mice after which time the population crashed … to extinction. Mice removed from this overcrowded environment remained permanently damaged and never recovered.

Does Calhoun’s experiment serve as a metaphor for the future fate of human beings on this planet? Was Malthus right after all? When will the next Ratcatcher Strike?

Wednesday, October 4, 2017


NRA: “Now is not the time to talk gun control.”

Aurora - 12 killed, 70 wounded
“Now is not the time …”

Columbine - 12 students and 1 teacher killed
“Now is not the time …”

Fort Hood - 13 killed and 30 injured
“Now is not the time …”

Sandy Hook - 20 children and 6 faculty killed
“Now is not the time …”

Tuscon - 6 killed and 13 wounded
“Now is not the time …”

Virginia Tech - 32 killed and 17 wounded
“Now is not the time …”

Washington Navy Yard - 12 killed and 3 wounded
“Now is not the time …”


Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Death in Vegas

Expecting yet another round of amorphous generalities and off-the-shelf solutions to the problem of determining in advance just which solid citizen will become a psychotic citizen, I tuned into Rachel Maddow last night. Much to my surprise she seemed to know what she was talking about and got right to points that needed to be heard through the clamor and frenzy.

How do I know these were important points? Because I've been trying to make them, that's how. And wouldn't you know the worst and most angry attacks against some simple ideas have come from our young Liberal friends who see any departure from dogma as anathema. Background checks would have been useless here. the weapons weren't bought at a gun show nor would registration have made a difference. Other things might have. Can we talk?

The first thing that occurred to me Monday morning and to Maddow on Monday evening was the strange fact that a man could bring at least ten rifles into a hotel room, along with tripods and cases of ammunition without anyone taking notice or bothering to have a hotel security person or even housekeeping take a look. The hotel didn't know where to find the shooter because nobody took notice.  Locating him minutes sooner would have saved lives.  So far only Ms Maddow has suggested such a small thing might have allowed this horror to have been averted. "Customers will kindly check rifles at the front desk." Hotels already have the right to do this. Anyone can refuse to allow guns on their property.  Why don't they? Little by little, step by step we can get to a better place.

But of course the degree of mayhem was so high because in some fashion some legal guns had been converted whether legally or illegally (we still don't know how) to something like fully automatic weapons. To the layman, that means machine gun or a smaller caliber submachine gun. This might involve drilling some holes and replacing some parts, or it could involve gadgets added to the trigger or the stock. Some of these are legal in Nevada and elsewhere, some are prohibited by Federal Law which heavily regulates gas or recoil operated automatic weapons, but ignores other forms.  Suggest that and the reaction is anger and mistrust. "We don't want that, we want sensible gun control."

Instead of the same old and vague cries for gun control, would some good Congressman suggest an effective way to get these devices off the market? Can we start there and not drown the idea in ad hominem attacks or raging about the NRA?

Such high rates of fire, it can be and has been well argued, are too dangerous for private ownership and perhaps those 100 round or 75 round magazines I see for sale aren't much less so. I'm not naive enough to think banning them would get rid of them any time soon, but it would be more effective to argue for such specific action than to blather endlessly about demanding things which demonstrably don't work and pretending they do.  Weapons that are not "military style" can also be modified of course. I've seen kits to combine ordinary hunting rifles to make perfectly legal multiple-barrel "Gattling" guns.  Let's add them to the list of things: destructive weapons, the Feds have successfully kept off the streets for many, many years. 

Monday, August 21, 2017

Trump Gives White Nationalists the Legitimacy They Desire But Don’t Deserve…

Since our pretend pResident fully and unabashedly showed his true colors following the white supremacy gathering in Charlottesville, VA this weblog has remained silent. It will no longer do so.

Trump’s stunning lack of historical perspective, his obvious soft spot for white nationalism and the white supremacy movement is unprecedented. No former president of the modern era has ever filled the sails of the white nationalist and white supremacist ideology and movement as Trump has done. Disgraceful at best, evil and dangerous at its worst.

Trump deserves condemnation by all ethical and moral people, conservatives, moderates, progressives, democrats, republicans, democratic socialists, religious and non-religious folks alike. America defeated Nazism and white supremacy in the 40″s, or so we thought. The ugly head of this ideology and movement has raised once again, fed by the Trump administration. It must be resisted, defeated, and relegated to the dust bin of history once and for all.

More right HERE.

Friday, July 28, 2017


“Obi Wan, weak mindedness is strong in this one.”

In the morning edition of our void and vapid tabloid, one letter writer tells us to “stop whining and support the president” (Bill Sances of Vero Beach, Florida). He speaks of “elite, whining, bleeding-heart liberals who seemingly dominate the letters section of this newspaper.”

If POTUS #45 says “jump off a bridge,” would Mr. Sances take his chances? He reminds me of the Jonestown mass suicide cult. For years, we witnessed Donald Trump’s own voice on videotape:

  • The self-worshipping egotist;
  • The deadbeat who failed to pay bills and wages;
  • The charlatan who operated a phony university;
  • The demagogue who fanned the flames of discord;
  • The bully who praises dictators and demands obedience;
  • The hypocrite who fills the swamp of nepotism.
Such soundbites would sink any candidate … unless your followers happen to be the Three Troglodytes of Hear No, See No, and Speak No Evil.

Trump’s secret to success is the motivated reasoning of his followers. They ignore his defects of character, filter only the evidence they want to hear, and willfully deceive themselves. In Jonestown, the diehard lemmings died hard. When a leader gaslights an entire nation, we get fascism.

Yes, Obi Wan. There are Sheeple everywhere who refuse to learn the lessons of history. Sheeple suckered by self-glorifying narcissists … from Il Duce to Pinochet … who brought entire nations to ruin.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017


A Letter to the Editor of our local rag asks a simple question. “What’s really behind Trump’s demand for voter information,” asks Mary Oliver of Jensen Beach, Florida. A reasonable question for voters of every persuasion, nevertheless it triggered this online exchange:

“Mary you must be a liberal. Only liberals are afraid of checks on voter Fraud. then you people can't vote numerous times and in different polling places or have your dead relatives vote,” argues Christine Possidente Bilello.

Letters reveal much about people. Mary eats potatoes; Christine knows instinctively they will never see eye-to-eye. Why? Because …

Liberals vote many times ... and have many dead relatives who also vote. Christine never knew a straw man she didn’t like … or a liberal she didn’t hate.  

Mary prefers potatoes; Christine serves ad hominem grits tu quoque.

Look at all the lonely people. Where do they all come from? Do they act like, speak like, or think like you and me? Shall we smash their windows? Deport them to concentration camps? For Christine Possidente Bilello, liberals are la crème de la crème of the crematory.

Here’s how to build a straw man: Thought A collides with Exaggeration B which crashes into Defamation C and smashes into Fallacy D. Following this chain of illogic, Christine is a Nazi.

March 4, 2017: During a Trump rally in Maricopa County, Arizona, attendees chant “Kill Liberals” and “Deport Jews.” Another Trump supporter yells: “I can't wait for the liberal genocide to begin.”

June 13, 2017: Right wing broadcaster Michael Savage warns: “There’s going to be a civil war.”

June 23, 2017: Arch conspiracy theorist Alex Jones of InfoWars infamy says: “I don’t need some coming-of-age deal to kill a bunch of liberals.”

This is how all democracies end, Plato predicted 2,300 years ago. A democracy declines in decadence, succumbs to demagoguery, and ends in tyranny.

I hope these examples of magical thinking offend Christine, because this is how a Straw Man summons the Exterminating Angel.

Friday, July 21, 2017


When 58,000 mental health experts ignore a self-imposed ethics rule to issue a dire warning, it behooves us to pay attention.

Since 1973, a directive known as the Goldwater Rule has constrained psychiatrists and psychologists from issuing professional opinions about public figures. Character assassination by proxy compromises the integrity of the profession, and the purpose of the Goldwater Rule is prevent psychiatric name-calling. Moreover, totalitarian regimes have a history of abusing psychiatry as a tool of oppression. What motivates these mental health professionals to suddenly break ranks and violate protocol?

‘Mr. Trump’s speech and actions makes him incapable of serving safely as president,” claim 33 mental health experts in a public letter (New York Times, Feb 13, 2017).

“Donald Trump manifests a serious mental illness that renders him psychologically incapable of competently discharging the duties of President of the United States,” reads a petition posted on earlier this year.

For Professor Allen Francis of Duke University Medical College, “the antidote to a dystopic Trumpean dark age is political, not psychological” (NYT, February 14, 2017). Point taken.

Clinical impressions do not overturn elections. A diagnosis is neither a crime nor a guilty verdict in a court of law. And pop psychology should never stigmatize persons struggling with mental health issues. Nevertheless …

The new ‘normal’ is abnormal. The chaos is ‘unpresidented.’ What is the consensus opinion of these 58,000 mental health professionals? Here are the signature traits of narcissism (according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association):

  • A compulsive preoccupation with success and power; 
  • Self-absorption and exaggerated claims of superiority; 
  • Pervasive patterns of arrogant and haughty behavior; 
  • Constant demands for admiration and loyalty; 
  • A grandiose sense of entitlement; 
  • Employs dishonest means to achieve selfish ends; 
  • Ruthlessly exploits people without conscience; 
  • Intolerant of criticism with a tendency to lash out. 
Sound familiar? Years of recorded soundbites and anecdotal accounts reveal the character of the man:

A deadbeat who fails to pay bills and wages. A charlatan who operates a phony university. A demagogue whose appeals to bigotry fan the flames of division and discord. A bully who demands fealty while praising despots. A compulsive liar whose daily mendacities subvert reality. A hypocrite who fills the swamp of cronyism and nepotism to overflow. The leader of a democratic republic who disrespects the protocols of governance and violates the rule of law.

Have we learned nothing from the lessons of history? How self-glorifying narcissists hijack democracies? From Il Duce to Pinochet and beyond?
For all these reasons, 58,000 mental health professionals have signed petitions to inform journalists, the American public, and members of Congress. Despite past misuses and abuses, the consensus opinion can also be instrumental to forestall oppression. The antidote is political. Let the debate begin.