Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Gulliver in Lilliput

I had to do a spit-take yesterday as Himself's Twitter-poutrage in the morning contradicted his afternoon effusions over the budget deal worked out by congress. Of course this is par for the course, "normalized" Trump behavior. He'll contradict himself in the same sentence, and hardly anyone bats an eye any more. It's just him being him, yanno?

It's become very clear to me as an observer, however, that his powers and authority are very tightly constrained, more so every day. He can babble all he wants in interviews and on the Twitter Machine, but what he can actually do is more and more limited by the rest of the government apparatus either ignoring his demands or actively thwarting them.

The courts, of course, took the lead in the matter of reining in the God-Emperor (I recently discovered that term has actually been utilized by parts of the White Right -- and Ann Coulter(!) -- in reference to Himself) and I doubt at this point that even the SCOTUS with the New Boy will overturn the lower courts, at least on the matter of what the president can do by diktat.

From my vantage point very far outside the halls of power, what appears to have happened is that the military and the security state have taken the lead in doing their own thing as they see fit and necessary while the rest of the government is in a leaderless anarchic state that could turn chaotic but so far hasn't. Inertia can sometimes be a good thing, no?

I observed a somewhat similar effect during the first few months of the Obama administration. He set out to do this, that or the other thing, and he was thwarted and constrained in his actions by the will of the other branches of government -- and he didn't resist. Not even a little bit. This was disappointing to some of his loyalists who saw it as betrayal, but most saw it as simply accepting "reality".

Trump seems to see Himself as a Boy-God-Emperor in a sandbox who can do anything he wants, because he is a God and that is that. Only he can't. And isn't. As he is thwarted, he yields, though his rhetoric may become ever more shrill and his next move may be even more outrageous and radical.

Will we soon be seeing him drop his pants and pee in the Rose Garden? Wouldn't surprise me in the least.

Something similar to Trump's reining in happened with Reagan, Schwarzenegger and Ventura, among other celebrities elected to high office. They set out to be huge change agents, and really Reagan was the only one who succeeded -- and that by the skin of his teeth. I think he managed to cause as much change as he did because he brought with him 1) a coherent plan (created by his sponsors) and 2) sufficient personnel familiar with the workings of the government apparat to do what his sponsors wanted. That and his personal charm (he could be quite a charming fellow. I met him a few times) were enough to enable many of the changes he wanted.

Trump lacks the charm of Reagan, but he also operates by alienation. Rather than developing allies, and building coalitions, he reverses the process by driving would-be allies away, insulting and dismissing them, and by shattering -- or trying to shatter -- coalitions that might support him so as to work on individuals instead.

This habit became untenable very early in his regime, and one after another, potentially supportive  power centers turned their backs or shut him off.

As other observers have pointed out, you may be able to get away with this sort of behavior in business -- whatever Trump's business really is -- but not in government. Not in the US government anyway. So he's thwarted and the major aspects of government carry on as if he weren't there.

That brings up the question of whether they are operating on a contingency plan: "What happens if the presidency is 'vacant?'" Could be. I don't know.

He's stated directly that he has authorized "his" military to do what they think best -- apparently without consulting him -- in the various wars under way. That kind of carte blanche is dangerous, of course, but it could be less dangerous than letting him direct military operations.

There is one sector of the Security State that appears to be operating on his direction (though maybe not), and that would be the border, customs and immigration forces who have been causing immense disruption and panic in immigrant communities. "Sticking it" to immigrants and their descendants, particularly ones from South of the Border, seems to be something our dauntless border agents have longed for, despite the rather extraordinary deportation statistics prior to the advent of Trump in the White House. WTH?

I look at this targeting of brown immigrants or suspected illegales as potentially extremely dangerous over the long term. The Obama regime exercised considerable discretion in their targeting for deportation. It appears that the Trump regime is consciously dispensing with discretion and is sweeping up anyone and everyone they want and throwing them out with no compassion or conscience at all.

The question then becomes "where does it end?" And you know it won't. Not unless something is done to stop it. Anyone can be targeted. Anyone can wind up in the camps (privately run of course.)

That so many have risen in opposition to the regime is important. Millions upon millions have taken to the streets to show solidarity with one another -- despite many political disagreements -- and their unity in opposition to the regime and its figurehead leader. The streets have filled with protest over and over again, and it has been sobering to The Powers That Be. Elected officials have been confronted over and over again by citizens demanding accountability for their too often gross, cruel and corrupt actions. That, too, has been sobering.

What I see right now is that the governing situation is anarchic but not yet chaotic. Chaos can easily be induced however. Whether we'll get to that point, I can't say. I can't even be sure I'd recognize it if it came because we've been whipsawed so often already.

This is perhaps tangential, but I'd like to encourage people to watch Adam Curtis's "HyperNormalization" embedded below. It doesn't explain everything, and the visuals sometimes seem to be part of some other documentaries, but it offers plenty of clues to how we got to this point and what may have to be done about it. Our rulers always have the option to do the right thing. As a rule, they do just the opposite. Correcting course is difficult and fraughtful, but sometimes there is no alternative.


  1. What we've got here, Che, is the final act in the oligarchic takeover of this country. Think the USSR before it broke up, Ukraine, fascist Italy, etc - any country ruled by an oligarchy that looted the country's treasury for personal gain. Hard to take the country back once it's been raped and pillaged this way.

    Check out the latest article on TomDispatch by Nomi Prins (Nomi is always great!):

    In this essay, she writes about the Trump empire and the many ways the family is using their newfound positions for personal financial gain. I have been shocked by the openness with which the Trumps are able to get away with what is blatantly illegal and abusive. Where the hell is Congress? Looking forward to their turn, I guess, to answer my own question.

    That budget bill they just passed included new spending just for the Trumps: $61 mm to reimburse NY and Fla for their police force expenses in providing protection for the Trumps. This is just to reimburse those states for the first quarter of this year. Multiply that by 4 and you have $244 mm/year, or $976 mm for one presidential term.

    But that does not cover the federal expense. To cover the increased costs of the Trump protection by the secret service, Congress allotted another $131 mm for the secret service costs (on top of their normal budget) which will only cover the increases until Sept., when Congress has to come up with another new budget for next year. That will equate to roughly $393/year, or $1.572 bb for a 4-year term, and remember, that's on top of the regular ss budget.

    And that's why they had to cut back on food stamps and the EPA.

    I heard Trump is supposed to sign an executive order tomorrow, which Pence and his religious tranche have been dreaming of for years. They call it the "religious freedom order". It allows for employers, under the guise of their right to freedom of religion, to refuse to hire gays, or to fire them if the employer finds out later that someone is secretly gay.

    Someone asked Sean Spicer about this a couple of minutes ago, and he was very pissy about it and said he would never discuss EOs before they are signed. Actually, he wasn't just "pissy", he was PISSED that someone asked. No doubt he knows what an uproar this will cause if Trump actually signs such a thing.

    I am sorry to hear about your physical agonies. I think about you so often and wish there were some miracle "thing" available. Take care, old internet chum, and do know that there are people out in the inner webs who are offering up thoughts and prayers. (And incense, and all sorts of other goodly things.)

    Keep on trucking'.

    - Teri

    1. Thanks for your good wishes, Teri. It's been a difficult period, but I'm determined not to let it overwhelm me. Of course, we don't always have control of these things, do we?

      As for the topic, I'm sketching out a post tentatively titled: "Do We Need an Emperor?"

      I've long seen parallels or analogies or rhymes between our national situation and that of Rome toward the end of the Republic. I think that's actually baked into our constitution and governing systems. Inescapable.

      We're not repeating Rome's transition from sclerotic Republic to Glorious Empire, but it's not all that different, either.

      Octavian arose to "save the Republic" but as Augustus he was responsible for irrelevating it. The people -- they say -- loved him for it.

      What came after Augustus looks pretty awful and chaotic from centuries and centuries hence, but at the time, I doubt that Romans and tributary peoples thought all that badly of it.

      It worked more or less well for most people most of the time, even as it was in decline and falling apart.

      And of course, the oligarchs of the era were actually the ones running things. The emperor was their tool. The symbol of their power.

      So long as the Rabble wasn't too badly treated too often, and so long as they had plenty of bread and circuses, they wouldn't bother to rise against the system. And if the did, they could and would be handily crushed like those slaves who followed Spartacus.

      And I'm wondering, is it all baked in?

      Thanks for the link to Nomi Prins. The details of what the Trump family is getting away with -- hardly a peep in objection -- are destined to be studied with interest for generations to come.

      And now Mark Zuckerberg wants to be God-Emperor? Why not....?