Thursday, March 31, 2016

Why Not Throw Women in Prison?

Philosophers have argued for centuries about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin, but materialists have known all along that it depends on whether they are jitterbugging or dancing cheek to cheek. ~ Tom Robbins
Once again, Donald Trump's plain, if spongy-brained, speaking has trapped conservatives in their own positions. Anti-abortionists have long sought to punish women seeking abortions, going so far as compelling them to undergo simulated rape in the form unnecessary transvaginal probes. If, as they say, "abortion is murder" then seeking an abortion is attempted murder and ought to be punished.

In fact, until yesterday many anti-abortionists advocated prison for women who have abortions. National Review writer Kevin D. Williamson just two years ago argued that women who have abortions should be executed by hanging.

Anti-abortionists are now twisting themselves into knots trying to come up with a way they can make abortion illegal without calling abortion seekers murderers. Their bizarre philosophy contents that women are dimwitted simpletons manipulated by evil doctors into abortions. Once all gynecologists are imprisoned these women will all meekly submit to their only proper purpose of being vessels for God's gift of pregnancy.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Republicans Break Vows

A verbal contract isn’t worth the paper it’s written on. ~ Samuel Goldwyn
The great and noble pledges all the Republican presidential candidates made to support the eventual winner are falling away like dandruff at a Vin Diesel look-a-like convention.

It looks like Donald Trump is not going to stand on that stage in Cleveland and gracefully hoist Ted Cruz's hand in solidarity. Cruz, it seems, is not going to accept the second spot in a grand unity ticket with Trump. More likely is that one of them will spit in the others eye. The Republican Convention may devolve into a Three Stooges skit where the winner is the one with the least cream pie up his nose.

Make plenty of popcorn.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Why Ultra Religious People Are Assholes

My flight from Newark to Tel Aviv saw a quick immersion into a different culture. Over forty Hasidic Jews from New York were on the flight and it was kind of bizarre.

They had bought their tickets late and so were scattered around the economy section. That shouldn't be a problem except their women could only sit next to relatives while the men were forbidden to sit next to strange women. The plane was grounded for an hour while seating was renegotiated and people moved around the cabin to accommodate their religious strictures.

With all that settled out the next problem was getting them to sit down. The flight attendants would finally get the last two seated when three other men would get up to have an urgent conversation with men elsewhere on the plane. This process repeated. Corralling the Hasidim was like herding cats with ADHD.

This was a red-eye flight and things quieted down until the plane was in the middle of the North Atlantic and it caught up with twilight dawn. With the plane bouncing about in heavy turbulence like a tennis ball in a washing machine the Hasidim got up to rummage through the overhead compartments to get their prayer shawls and religious kit then stood in the aisles praying. The plane jerking about in the turbulence saw the praying men bumping into the passengers trying to sleep. The flight attendants, in both English and Hebrew, were begging the praying men to take their seats but they were ignored.

A half-hour before landing passengers are instructed to take their seats. This is a safety requirement in case the pilot has to take emergency maneuvers to avoid a missile. The announcement to take our seats was interpreted by the Hasidim as permission to get out of their seats, rearrange the overhead compartments, have urgent conversations with other Hasidim, and play musical chairs, changing seats for no discernible reason. More begging from the flight attendants. The pilot ended up having to threaten the passengers, we will not enter Israeli airspace until everyone is seated!

This all reinforced what I already knew, extremely religious people of every religion have one thing in common, they are all selfish pricks. In the United States, ultra religious Christians demand that their every prejudice and hatred be codified in law in the name of "religious liberty." In Israel, the ultra orthodox are constantly demanding that every other Jew be declared not a "real" Jew. While fundamentalist Muslims dial assholery up to eleven and use their religion as an excuse for serial murder.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Back Into the Election Abyss

For two weeks I have been in the relative safety and sanity of the Middle East, 9000 kilometers from the lunacy of American presidential politics. And loving it.
In the Mad Tea Party that is the Republican campaign, Ted Cruz is the delusional March Hare, John Kasich is the somnolent Dormouse, and Trump, of course, is the demented Hatter.

I wasn't totally ignorant thanks to widely available public WiFi in Israel. While Israelis were polite and refrained from mentioning our national embarrassment, my fellow American tourists were less restrained in discussing the ongoing madness back home. And there was one cute, young British lass who observed, "You Americans are scaring me." To which I replied that my fellow Americans were scaring me too.

I can't say I was surprised to return to America and discover that the National Enquirer had become the newspaper of record for the Republican race. Ted Cruz, desperately trying to out-crazy Trump, has proposed installing an armed occupation force in "Muslim communities" in the United States.

And in the darkest corners of the internet, I've found Trump supporters suggesting Trump will declare martial law over the entire country after becoming President so Congress and the courts can't interfere with his efforts to make America great.

I felt far safer standing alone on the Golan Heights looking into war-torn Syria than I do reading political news in the United States.

Monday, March 07, 2016

Are You Ready to Take the Oath?

In Orlando a few days ago, Donald Trump had the people at his rally raise their right hands and swear an oath of allegiance to him. Many people noticed how much it looked like a Sieg Heil. More chilling than the Naziesque look of the rally was Trump's closing joke(?).

Remember, you raised you hand, you swore. Bad things happen if you don't live up to what you did.
Bad things happened in the 1930's to people who refused to take the Führer Oath. "I swear by almighty God this sacred oath: I will render unconditional obedience to the Führer of the German Reich and people, Adolf Hitler."

If you were lucky you would just lose your job and be ostracized by polite society. Many soldiers who refused the oath were executed by beheading while civilians frequently ended up in concentration camps.

Is this only the first time that the obscene shadow of the Trump Salute is cast over the American nation? If the time comes that you are ordered to pledge obedience to Donald J. Trump, will you have the courage to refuse?
This blog is going dark for a couple of weeks as I take a bucket list trip to Israel. Here's hoping I don't have to beg for political asylum while there.

Friday, March 04, 2016

Trump True Believers

In 1951, philosopher Eric Hoffer wrote a small book, The True Believer, where he analyzed the psychology of mass movements and fanaticism. I read it a half-century ago and went back to it in the past several weeks trying to understand the Trumpism Movement.

Birth of Trumpism
It is a truism that many who join a rising revolutionary movement are attracted by the prospect of a sudden and spectacular change in their conditions of life.
The core of Trumpism is ultra-nationalism. He promises a revolution where millions of "foreigners" will be uprooted and expelled from the country, where one religious faith will be banned from entering, where foreign countries will be brought to heel and surrender to his will, and where the curse of "political correction" will be lifted from white people and non-whites will be returned to subservience. Trump promises to accomplish these things and elevate the United States from "crippled" to "great" just two years. His followers think they are inferior and fervently believe Trump will make them masters of this country.

The Seeming Irrational Attraction of Trump
When people are ripe for a mass movement, they are usually ripe for any effective movement, and not solely for one with a particular doctrine or program.
Observers have been bewildered by the fact that evangelicals have fallen for a crude, thrice married adulterer. They have been baffled that conservatives could follow a man who backs seemingly liberal policies.

Hoffer notes that mass movements appeal to the same type of people and, therefore, mass movements are interchangeable. People will migrate towards whatever movement is most compelling. This is why Hitler managed to attract a few thousand Jewish supporters and Trump can brag that Latinos have voted for him.  The movement attracts them like moths to a flame, to their own destruction.

Hate and Trumpism
Mass movements can rise and spread without belief in a God, but never without belief in a devil.
Hitler is quoted as saying that if the Jews did not exist they would have had to be invented. "It is essential to have a tangible enemy, not merely an abstract one." Trump has many unifying agents but the most prominent is Hispanics. They are the "rapists and murderers" that pollute the purity of America. Reading the comments section of conservative websites and you will hear that all the evils of the world are caused by gardeners, maids, and lettuce pickers.
Whence come these unreasonable hatreds, and why their unifying effect? They are an expression of a desperate effort to suppress an awareness of our inadequacy, worthlessness, guilt, and other shortcomings of self. Self-contempt is here transmuted into hatred of others.
Republican Party Made It's Own Devil
There has to be an eagerness to follow and obey, and an intense dissatisfaction with things as they are, before movement and leader can make their appearance.
Many people have correctly observed that the Republican Party and Fox News created the fertile ground for the growth of Trumpism. They cultivated dissatisfaction with the country for its own sake without offering alternatives. The growing frustration and feelings of impotence created a movement just waiting for a demagogue.

None of last year's "deep bench" of Republican candidates offered the strength and charisma to spark a movement. None but Trump.

Qualities of Leadership
Exceptional intelligence, noble character, and originality seem neither indispensable nor perhaps desirable. The main requirements seem to be: audacity and a joy in defiance; an iron will; a fanatical conviction that he is in possession of the one and only truth; faith in his destiny and luck; a capacity for passionate hatred; contempt for the present; a cunning estimate of human nature; a delight in symbols (spectacles and ceremonials); unbounded brazenness which finds express in a disregard of consistency and fairness...
Read that text from 65 years ago, it is an exact description of Donald J. Trump. Eric Hoffer opined that among the most decisive qualities was audacity and the ability to attract able lieutenants. Up until a couple weeks ago it seemed that Trump lacked that last quality but Chris Christie and Jeff Sessions are the first willing sycophants to join the "TrumpTrain."

Other Points
Suspicion too is an ingredient of this acrid slime, and it to can act as a unifying agent.
Trumpism is awash with conspiracy theories, every act of opposition to Trump is bombarded with charges of conspiracy against the people and their chosen leader.
Mass movements do not usually rise until the prevailing order has been discredited.
Republican discrediting of President Obama and Tea Party dismissing the RINOs of the Republican establishment paved the way for Trumpism.

Eric Hoffer's book is a must read for understanding how and why Trumpism came into being and why it is possible that none of the attacks directed against Trump will succeed.

Wednesday, March 02, 2016

Trump's "Moderation"

Some pundits are saying Trump (#MakeDonaldDrumpfAgain) presented a moderated, general election version of himself at his Super Tuesday victory press conference. This is another place where historical perspective is important.

In the early 1930's when Hitler was trying to moderate his image to appeal to the broader German electorate, he stopped wearing his uniform with the red swastika armband and began wearing a conservative suit and tie. Changing his clothes did not change his psychopathy.
These same pundits also noted Chris Christie behind him and credited Christie with moderating Trump. There is a parallel for that as well.
Hitler with Hermann Goering celebrating Hitler's appointment as chancellor.
In the 1930's Hitler had one quasi respectable ally, the obese, drug addicted Hermann Goering. Goering would tell the politicians that Hitler was only saying outrageous things to appease the mob and that he would be reasonable once in power. Goering, of course, was just as much of a thug as his Führer. Charitably, Christie is a bully like Trump and sees him as a kindred spirit to be idolized not moderated.

Like Trump's original family name is Drumpf, Hitler had a less appealing original family name. His father, Alois, was named Schicklgruber, his mother's name. When Alois was 39 years old his surname was changed to Heidler and later Hitler.

Adolph Schicklgruber is not an inspiring name for a mass movement.