Quantum Divide

It is difficult to comprehend the extent to which there are two completely different Americas, existing side-by-side, like one of those science-fiction constructs, two intermingling realites, separated not in time and space but by alternate perceptions so drastically and radically different that neither is even aware of the other’s existence, except in fleeting moments when they brush up against each other. Sort of like the Thin Place you read about in tales of the supernatural, between the real world and the world of Fairie. The inhabitants of the two worlds look on events and see things the other would never recognize.

This difference in perception and conception does not mean, however, that both worlds are equally valid. Before this dichotomy took such a firm hold on our national consciousness, it is impossible to imagine that Trump’s behavior would ever have been seen as valid, much less admirable, by anyone. There was a time when incoherence, ignorance, lack of focus and a blatantly self-serving agenda  would have been perceived the same by everyone. But now we have a significant (a definite minority, but still significant) segment of the electorate invested in this president. Once they pulled the lever, they established a psycological connection that will find validation wherever and however they can.

This dichotomy is destroying the very fabric of our national character, eroding our ethos, undermining our unity. The only vain hope is to think that somehow, this madness will pass, the veil will be pulled back, the obvious insanity will be recognized by everyone, and the abominations that Trump has visited upon us will fade back into the shadows. But the greater likelihood is that this ignorant egomaniacal sociopath has effected too much damage, both on the institutions of our government, and upon the Office of the Presidency itself, for it to ever truly recover.

The most probable outcome is is a world devoid of decorum and good will, a landscape reduced to a pile of detestable rubble. No shining city on a hill, but a dystopic gutter replete with outlet malls and trash on the bottom, separated from a glitzy tackiness lounging on the top.

© 2018 Chuck Puckett

Down the Trump Care Hole

The examples of outright callous meanness and utter disregard for human decency that have been exhibited by the Humpty Trumpty administration are legion. Just consider a budget that eliminates Meals On Wheels and free after school lunches for poor children. That pulls the plug on the NEA and NPR. That ignores science and the future of our children with a 32% cut to the EPA because “we don’t believe in climate change and we’re not going to waste any money on it.” That cuts the State Department budget by 30%, mainly in foreign aid, including relief to millions starving in Africa. Meanwhile, the military budget sees a very hefty increase, even though American military might already dwarfs the all nations on the planet, combined. 

But TrumpCare offers an especially cynical stab at the less fortunate, right here in the U.S.A. And since it originates from Paul Ryan and his like-minded party, it reflects the kind of disdain for anyone not rich that so completely characterizes the party of Trump. He absolutely endorses the legislation, btw, even though it flies in the face of every promise he made w.r.t health care during the campaign.

Here’s what I consider the major flaw that lies at the heart of the darkness that is TrumpCare. Rather than scaling things so that richer people take on more, TrumpCare offers a single-size tax credit, regardless of the income of the recipient. I believe it’s $4000. The person gets the tax credit, and in some sort of distorted Objectivism, then negotiates his or her own health care. No mandate, you don’t have to actually get a plan.

Understanding health plans is complicated, as any one who has negotiated for one will attest. Throwing the entire population into the deep end of this pool means that only the well-off and the well-educated will swim successfully. Maybe that’s what Paul Ryan has in mind, as he re-reads Atlas Shrugged for the umpteenth time, and sneers at those who don’t meet his expectations. A healthy pruning of the gene pool never bothered a true believer in the “philosophy” of Ayn Rand. Let the wolves have the slow and the aged.

Now, put aside for a moment the aspects that have  (rightfully so) been castigated by opponents of the GOP “plan”. Namely, that low income and the elderly are going to take it on the chin, paying as much as 2-300% more for whatever health care they can get. Medicaid (for the needy) gets slashed way back. These are awful situations, and they will most severely affect (in many cases) the very people who were fooled into voting for the Trickster.

But here’s another hidden cost, one that will devolve directly onto the taxpayer. There is no mandate to purchase insurance. The one thing that makes health insurance work is having a large pool of fairly healthy people (read “young”) paying premiums, and this off-sets the costs of the elderly and seriously ill. But with no mandate, there’s no reason to buy a plan. So, instead of having lots of insured people to average out the cost, we’ll inevitably have very many young and, shall we say, not particularly forward-looking, people opting NOT to be insured. The result? An overall decrease in health, and lots of people showing up in emergency rooms, since they have no doctor (or insurance). The hospitals can’t refuse them, so the costs ultimately come back to the taxpayers.

The only solution that will ever make sense (economic and ethical) is universal single payer health care. Medicare for every American, and if the well-to-do want more, fine. Their choice. But if we only guarantee that that the wealthy are adequately covered, we have made a moral choice that reduces us to that of scavengers.

But wait… that happened when they decided to cut Meals On Wheels.

© 2017 Chuck Puckett

Burn Down the Mission

The student riots in Tuscaloosa at the University of Alabama. May, 1970. I remember those few days vividly, wrapping up my freshman year. That year had started innocently enough. Buckling down to the books as I made the transition from the high school educational experience to the newfound freedom of college. Classes every other day, and stretched out over the day, rather than closely sequential. And more intense, or so it seemed at first. High school had always been fun, and comparatively easy for me, and of course I knew everyone, including all the teachers and their reputations. But college brought with it the apprehension of uncertainty, and my response was to focus on the courses and the assignments.

Second semester, I had a better grip on things, and started looking around and noticing the rest of the college experience. New ideas, wider perspectives. I even began to pay close attention to the national political scene. The Vietnam War was raging. and the protests reached a fever pitch that spring, mainly on campuses across the country, although Tuscaloosa had managed to remain largely unaffected.

And then Kent State happened.

Kent State was so horrific, and in some way, so personal, that even the sleepy Capstone was stirred into action. Students gathered in groups, then into crowds, chanting and singing. It was hard to tell how real it all was, but it was really happening.

I remember Jerry Pruett and I going out to protest, with my bed sheet sign hung between us, “Gestapo Go Home” printed in large letters across the linen (we weren’t very creative). We stood on the corner of University Boulevard right at the edge of campus, across the street from The Dickery, holding our sign and waving our fists at the police cruisers that paraded endlessly up and down the road. This was the day after the Tuscaloosa cops had raided the frat houses on University Boulevard, in particular the Deke house. (Those houses are all gone now; the Bryant-Denny stadium expansion razed all of them to the ground). The police stormed into the frat houses, their name tags taped over, billy-clubbing and arresting the frat guys. As a result of this excessive use of force, the governor (or somebody) had called in the (believe it or not) much more responsible and well-trained State Troopers to control the situation.

Jerry and I got thru with our “protesting”, feeling pretty good about our radical selves. We walked back to my house, which was a couple blocks away. As we crossed an empty parking lot, a Jeep holding 4-5 Crimson Tide football players (they looked like linemen), zoomed up, screeched to a halt in front of us, and the jocks jumped out, surrounding us. They took our makeshift sign, unrolled it and started threatening us, yelling “Commie Fascist faggots!”, etc. I tried to calmly explain that you can’t be a Commie and a Fascist at the same time, but, to my utter surprise, this logic failed to impress them. Then I tried the tactic of letting them know that a year ago, I had been a fellow football player myself, in Cullman. This attempt at comradery also had no mollifying effect.

We were pretty sure we were on the verge of having the shit beat out us, when a State Trooper wheeled in beside the Jeep. The officer got out, and the whole thing broke up very quickly. Of course, the jocks were just told to move on, but Jerry and I were more than happy to withdraw from the battlefield, skulls and other body parts intact.

It was a grand moment in my personal history. No, there was no massive change in the overall face of the Capstone. In fact, there were only two concrete results of the “Riots of 1970”: An old abandoned building down near the river was burned down, but no arrests were made, and (suspiciously) that was where construction began on the new Ferguson Center almost immediately. The other thing that happened was the University cancelled all final exams that semester. Yes! I guess we showed the Man!

No, I don’t think any lasting changes occurred in Tuscaloosa. But there has always existed a liberal undercurrent at the University of Alabama, sometimes very well hidden. Nevertheless, it is a strong and persistent force for the same reason that Blue Dots in Red States are strong: we know how isolated we are, and therefore always seek out like-minded spirits.

© 2017 Chuck Puckett


The Thin Place

It is difficult to comprehend the extent to which there are two completely different Americas, existing side-by-side. It is like one of those science-fiction constructs, with two intermingling realities, separated not in time and space but by alternate perceptions so drastically and radically different that neither is even aware of the other’s existence, except in fleeting moments when they brush up against each other. Sort of like the Thin Place you read about in tales of the supernatural, that gossamer film between the real world and the world of Fairie. The inhabitants of the two worlds look on the same events, but see things the other would never recognize. If they spy a denizen of the alternate reality, it seems as if a shadow being is drifting by. A ghost at best, a dangerous threat at worst. The being in the other universe may speak, but the sounds, though they resemble English words, are difficult to hear, indistinct and they make no sense.

This difference in perception and conception does not mean, however, that both worlds are equally valid. Trump’s Press Conference of 16 February is a perfect example of this unequal regard. Before this split universe dichotomy had taken such a firm hold on our national consciousness, it would have been impossible to imagine that Trump’s behavior in that room would ever have been seen as remotely valid, much less admirable. But almost the whole of the Trumping universe perceived it as not only valid (and somehow comprehensible), but even praiseworthy.

There was a time when the incoherence and lack of focus he exhibited would have been perceived the same by every observer. But now we have a significant (a definite minority, but still significant) segment of the electorate who are vested in this maniac. Once they pulled the lever, they established a psychological investment that will find validation wherever and however they can. It will, I fear, be a long time before such a person can be pried away from their devotion and belief in Trump. The blatantly unconstitutional and even treasonous actions he has made his daily todo list either do not phase that loyalty, or else they do not understand that these actions are even improper, much less illegal in many cases. 

No, it’s very likely that only a terrible disaster, possibly even a deadly disaster, or the war that Bannon wants, or out and out criminal prosecutions at the highest level (a low probability event, given Sessions as Attorney General); only such a drastic event will dislodge those hypnotized by Trump’s so-called rhetoric. And perhaps even disasters of this magnitude will not be sufficient to push them back through the Thin Place. 

But when the jobs fail to materialize, that failure may be sufficient (although it will take time for this to sink in). If he succeeds in banning Muslims, the impact in our technical edge in the global marketplace may eventually be noticed. If millions of Latinos are deported, and somehow kept out, the sudden huge drop in the labor force, combined with a huge drop in contributions to the economy, will definitely be noticed. And if the Affordable Care Act is repealed, and no equivalent substitute is put in its place, there will be an outraged howl, raised from coast to coast, even among the hypnotized, so many of whom think “Obamacare” should be abolished, but don’t want anything to happen to the ACA.

The thing about the Thin Place is that it is thin. It doesn’t take much stark reality to punch through.

© 2017 Chuck Puckett

Never the New Normal

Is it just me, or does anyone else find themselves looking at “normal” life these days (and “normal” FB posts, and normal tweets and normal conversations) and think to themselves, “HOW CAN PEOPLE CARRY ON AS IF THINGS WERE NORMAL??! Don’t they realize WHAT’S AT STAKE HERE? Don’t they see WHAT’S GOING ON??!”

Look. I know I’m obsessed with this national catastrophe. And I realize that life goes on, oblah-di, oblah-dah. Hell, I’m in the middle of writing a musical, fer Chrissake, a Christmas musical, though I confess I wonder if there’s gonna be a place to stage it by then. And yes, being retired, maybe I have too many spare cycles to fixate on all of this. And yes, it does get wearying just trying to keep up with the Crazy Train to Trumpville.

But damn it, none of this is NORMAL! If I come across as a madman, please forgive me. If I seem irrationally perturbed, I understand the perception. But things are ricocheting out of control, and I feel like a ball on a billiard table in an earthquake, tossed from one outrageous event to the next, with no time to process it all.

I have always considered the abstract notion of “evil” as extremely problematic. Greed, yes. Hunger for power, of course. There’s no doubt may bad people are motivated by these bad motivations. But evil, as some abstract, other-worldly force…? That takes a leap into a metaphysical quagmire. I often contemplated whether Cheney might represent a possible real example of evil. But ultimately, I believe that was simply a naked attempt at power and money, combined with a stupid ideology.

But this? What is this, if it’s not real evil at work? In every “textbook” description of evil (and I think of C.S. Lewis and Tolkien as prime examples), the goal of evil is simply destruction. Dissolution. Chaos. It’s easy to recognize that kind of force at work in the Trump administration. Particularly given Steve Bannon’s public statements to that effect. And to hear Kelly Ann Conway distort perceptions so skillfully, and willfully, is to imagine the serpent whispering to Eve.

And if it’s not the evil goal of utter chaos, what is the end game? What do these people truly want? It seems to me that Trump is a mere tool, a pathetic megalomaniac, whose only agenda seems to be enrichment, aggrandizement and adulation. A man pitifully easy to manipulate in order to accomplish whatever goals are hidden behind the curtain. But wherefore the chaos? Wherefore the inward-directed destruction? Who benefits?

The only clear thing in this roiling shitstorm is the fact that the sheer volume of chaos will undoubtedly conceal the real goals very effectively. And it therefore behooves all those who resist and oppose to never falter from closer observation. Because eventually, the end game will be revealed.

Until then, we can never accept even an iota of this new world as even remotely “the new normal”.

© 2017 Chuck Puckett

Guessing (The End) Game

“What has happened down here is the wind done changed”
– Randy Newman, Louisiana 1927

The United States of America in January 2017 appears to be a madhouse. All the clichés being bandied about seem completely inadequate: unchartered territory. Terra incognita. Off the map. Never seen this before. The Twilight Zone.

Indeed. The sheer numbers of conflicting and absurd actions spewing out of the White House is enough to keep our collective heads spinning. Each new day brings a new craziness, and it seems impossible to discern any pattern. What in holy hell do Trump and Company have in mind? Where are they trying to take us?

What’s the end game?

Look, everyone knows by now that Steve Bannon is an avowed Leninist, bordering on anarchist. As recently as 2013, he said as much in an interview with the Daily Beast. He claimed he wanted to see the Establishment come crashing down, all of it. The chaos that has so rapidly become the norm, less than two weeks into this Presidency, certainly seems to bear out that strategy.

The Muslim Ban, in all its ineptitude, lack of prior dissemination to the very people required to implement it (Justice, State and ICE), and internal contradictions (eg, including green card holders and permanent residents), is a perfect example of orchestrated chaos. Trump issued the thing without prior discussion or even announcement, and ICE and Justice were suddenly faced with implementing a drastic action, while having absolutely no forewarning or direction. Of course, all hell broke loose. Meanwhile, the entire top echelon of the State Department had been fired only a few days before. So any possible nuanced international response was spayed from the gitgo.

Bannon must certainly be happy. Bannon almost certainly orchestrated the whole thing. God knows Trump doesn’t have the mental wherewithal to conceive, much less implement, such a long-term (ie, 2-3 days) tactic. Anything beyond 140 Tweet characters is quite beyond his ability to focus.

But even postulating Bannon as the mastermind (and, just to be totally Ian Fleming about it, we should include Vladimir Putin’s “invisible hand”), surely to God we can’t expect the entire entourage to buy in to such a “plan”. Pence, for all his abhorrent ideology, is the furthest thing from an anarchist. He requires an operational government in order to further his personal religious agenda against abortion and LGBT. Kelly Ann Conway is an attack dog with no detectable ethics, willing to lash out at anything that moves in the Opposition, but probably not interested in destroying the government. Priebus? Come on, he’s about as Establishment as you can get.

The cabinet nominations are also not noted for their anarchical tendencies. Jeff Sessions is a lap dog (and, please God, find some way to derail his confirmation; the Monday Night Massacre at Justice and ICE have revealed exactly how much regard the Trump administration has for an independent Justice Department. Answer: Zero). Besides, Sessions is incapable of even imagining the country under attack from within.

DeVos, Pruitt, Price all have ideologies, but they seem mainly constrained to dismantling the specific department for which they are targeted. Oddly enough, the one silver lining is perhaps Rick Perry, who, while obviously not the sharpest tool in the shed, seemed genuinely surprised to learn what useful things the Energy Department does, and even eager to do them. Not that he’d be given any leeway to act.

Because then we have Tillerson. It seems blatantly obvious that one critical move in the end game (or perhaps this is more in the opening gambit), is to reverse the sanctions on Russia due to their Crimean invasion, and thus open the way for Exxon to finally take advantage of its half a trillion-dollar investment in Artic drilling in Russia. Cleaning out the upper management at State, while putting the nation at a severe disadvantage in normal avenues of diplomacy, is nevertheless a perfect first step towards that goal. With no one to gainsay anything, no expertise left in house, getting the sanctions cancelled will be much easier. As for other potential barriers, one must at least wonder how many Congresspeople own Exxon stock. I’ll bet it’s popular. In fact, CNN Money reports that Exxon is among the Top Ten stocks owned by members of Congress.

The point is, it is almost impossible to detect a cohesive and structured end game for all the insane machinations being instigated by Trumpville. Is it a coup to gain autocratic control? Seems like the military would have to be involved down to the last battalion, and that seems absurdly unlikely. Even with Mattis as DoD. Is it just a blatant grab at self-enrichment on a colossal scale, via Russia and Exxon? Is it somehow possible that Bannon is orchestrating a way to destroy the Establishment, and by some trick, no one in the inner circle has noticed? I can imagine Mike Pence playing a waiting game, thinking that impeachment is inevitable (a good bet), and standing ready to step up and take the reins. Maybe Priebus and other minor players are simply intoxicated by being on “the inside”. The allure of proximity to power has corrupted many with far more integrity than this bunch has exhibited.

And maybe there simply is no end game. Maybe this Hieronymus Bosch landscape is simply the natural result when the “man in charge” has no policy nor agenda whatsoever, while the various factions that do have agendas are all playing their own games, and the result is a chess board that obeys no rules.

Whatever the case, rest assured that when checkmate does occur, the end result will not advance national harmony or prestige. In fact, the end game may simply be the board and all its players summarily thrown off the table.

Game over.

© 2017 Chuck Puckett



Over the Rainbow

You know what’s hard these days? Obtaining any kind of perspective. The swamp that was not drained has instead managed to mire many of us in a deadly quicksand. Reach for a vine to pull yourself out, the vine turns out to be an anaconda.

It’s next to impossible to climb to the top of the jungle canopy and see any hopeful light. Everything is a gloomy pall, and behind every bush and thicket, it feels certain there lurks nothing but more pitfalls and predators.

But this constant depression is unhealthy. Unless we can at least envision an alternative to this current darkness, somewhere, sometime down the road, then we’ll never find the strength to pull ourselves out of the quicksand. We must at the very least keep the shining City On the Hill as a goal in mind.

Don’t confuse this notion with some sort of Pollyannaism. It’s going to be bad. It’s going to be awful. The effects of the losses and setbacks this nation is about to experience will be with us long after I have left this terrestrial vale, and our children will be dealing with it forever. Climate change alone will not recover from the deregulation and unconstrained excess that will be unleashed, and our offspring will certainly reap that whirlwind. Clean and healthy water, air, food and a host of common necessaries will be compromised, and only vigilant consumers will protect themselves. Education will be undermined even more than it currently is. The recent incredible advances in clean energy will be reversed, and the entire initiative scrapped. With Big Oil firmly in control, and nothing opposed, it’s katy bar the door. The party is ON, dudes! Grab it all now, it’s never gonna be easier.

The situation w.r.t. the intelligence community and the State Department is horrifying, and probably the greatest existential threat of all. Executive orders are, I think, all that is required when the FBI, CIA, NSA, etc. all report directly to the President. I don’t know what, if any, Congressional oversight applies in these areas, but I am pretty sure that we can expect essentially NO such oversight or interference from the current Congress. At least not until massive damage has already been done.

So, yes, it’s going to be terrible, awful, horrible. What effect will these changes have in our daily lives? That’s hard to say. At the very least, as wealth concentrates even more densely into an obscenely rich oligarchy at the tippy top, and no jobs of any consequence appear for the middle class, I expect greater economic hardship. Health care is about to take a nosedive, and that will certainly be felt in many households. But it will take time for the effects of deregulation to work their black magic on the environment, water and air. And if they actually succeed in privatizing Social Security and Medicare, it’s doubtful that those currently enjoying the benefits will be immediately affected, although new cohorts of retirees come flooding in every year, and they will certainly feel the pinch.

Whether the promised rollback and “restructuring” of intelligence agencies will affect the everyday American is a more subtle question. We can almost certainly expect even more Russian election (and commerce) hacking as our cyber protections are compromised. So the midterms could well be affected, as well as individual companies and industries

So how to best cope with the certainty of imminent darkness?

I am convinced that we must never lose sight of the goal, of the the world that will eventually replace this inevitable dystopia. What is upon us will be a passing storm. All things must pass, change is the only constant. But without a firm vision of the outcome we wish to take its place, it will be the easiest thing in the world to become hopelessly (the word is specific) mired in the Badness.

Yes, things will be irreversibly changed. Yes, those changes will not be pleasant, will even be dangerous. But then we will persevere and prevail and come through them. Unlike the apocalyptic view of the world favored by evangelicals, this will not happen because a Cosmic Judge descends from the heavens, and with lightning and cataclysm destroys the unrighteous and restores the kingdom of justice. It will happen because good people, with good intentions and a clear vision of hope, never failed to keep working for that vision.

And never failed, by all legitimate means, and at every step along the way, to oppose the Darkness.

© 2017 Chuck Puckett

Another Election Mystery

The election that will result in the worst President that this country has ever seen (a confident prediction, even before he officially begins his term), has many mysteries. Why were the polls were so horribly wrong? What was the actual impact of the Russian hacking? Why did Comey and the FBI wait until the last minute to reveal information they had possessed for many weeks? And so on.

But one mystery that has been bothering me lately has to do with the voters that actually voted for Drumpf . That almost certainly were going to vote for Drumpf regardless of the various external forces. And I’m not talking about the idiots who didn’t have a freaking clue. Those incredibly stupid fools who got trotted out on The Daily Show (and other such outlets), being interviewed and revealing they had no idea what was wrong with their candidate: unconstitutional promises, lack of human decency, bigotry, a complete lack of ethical behavior, or even simple good manners. No idea, and even if they considered these offenses, simply didn’t care. See no evil, hear no evil.

No, there’s nothing to be done for those imbeciles. “Against stupidity, the gods themselves strive in vain.” It is the other component of the electorate that voted for Drumpf that have me completely mystified. I am talking about the significant numbers of intelligent, informed and even (generally) well-meaning votes who voted for Drumpf anyway. The men who have wives and daughters, yet who, despite his unbelievable crudeness with respect to women, voted for him. The wives and daughters themselves, who, knowing his misogynistic contempt, voted for him. People who voted for him, yet were fully cognizant of all the shortcomings I listed above: bigotry, lack of ethics, etc.

These are people who under normal circumstances would have never even considered a person of such despicable character. And I know some of these people, personally. Hell, I’d bet good money that several of them are related to me. People who, were they to meet Donald Drumpf in person, would almost certainly be repelled by his lack of decent behavior, his crass manners, his dishonesty, his immature, childish bullying. The man is so disgusting that his very presence would be an affront to these people. And every action he has taken, both before the election, but especially after, would be anathema to almost everything these people stood for.

Unless that thing was Change. Coupled with distaste bordering on outright hatred for Hillary Clinton.

But even given that motive, it is an unfathomable mystery to me that any of these otherwise decent, intelligent, educated and informed citizens actually brought themselves to vote for Donald Drumpf. There were alternatives. A third party candidate, or even simply abstaining (courteously). Anything besides pulling the lever for the most notoriously unqualifed and abhorrent person to ever seek, let alone win, the Presidency.

There is, as they say, no accounting for taste. But surely to God there must be an accounting for flagrant disregard of the every sign and portent he provided to his supporters.

I wish this could be explained. The vacuum of reasoning that allowed this result to happen is perhaps the most frightening aspect of this moment in time. It seems to signal a deeper wrongness, a cognitive dissonance between the obscenity in front of us and our better angels, a mental barrier that borders on cultural psychosis.

So, like Bob Seger sang, I’m working on a mystery without any clues. In the dark, with winter closing in.

© 2017 Chuck Puckett

Existential Threat: No Longer An Exaggeration

The fact is, I am no longer concerned about mere ideology: statism vs. states rights, left vs. right, etc. It has now become simply a matter of the irrational and completely unacceptable behavior by the man the Electoral College will elect as POTUS. It has become a terrifying existential threat, and I am in no way employing hyperbole, at least not from my personal perspective.

The array of Drumpf’s Cabinet choices stands as powerful testimony to an implicit agenda that should make every American tremble. Ignore for a monent whether you favor or oppose “active government involvement.” If a Department of Education exists, then shouldn’t the appointee at least support public education? If the EPA (a Nixon creation) exists, does it make sense to name as its head a client-denier and a man who has never said no to the fossil fuel industry? Who has actively supported less regulation of specific toxins? Does it make sense to load up the Cabinet with recently retired generals, and in particular, the DoD, which has, almost without exception, been headed by a non-military man  since the founding of the Republic? A Labor secretary who opposes unions and raising the miniimum wage? A HHS secretary who has been the most active opponent of not only Obamacare, but essentially all forms of health subsidies? Rick Perry for Energy? The man who was unable to remember the name of this department when he tried to list the three departments he would get rid of as president. He had been vowing to get rid of the Deaprtment of Energy all during the primary season.

Add to these choices the nomination of Rex Tillerson, the man who received from Putin the highest civilian honor Russia has to bestow, a man who has closer personal ties to Putin than almost anyone in the West, as Secretary of State?? This is an all-out assault on the workings of the federal government at every level.

Then there’s Drumpf’s refusal to attend the daily presidential intelligence briefings (“I’m too smart”). And then to simply dismiss the CIA’s assertion that Russia was actively involved in working for Drumpf’s election via cyber-attacks, an assertion that had the CIA’s strongest possible confidence level, as “ridiculous, nobody knows after the fact who did the hacking.” I, and almost all tech-oriented people, are very well aware that, yes, tools absolutely exist that can detect who did the hacking.

His endless tweet storm, which is what we are obviously going get in lieu of press briefings. His personally attacking SNL, Boeing, union heads, and anyone else who has expressed opposition or pushed back on his actions. His breaking four decades of a “one China” policy without apparently even noticing what a diplomatic blunder that represented. Or worse, not giving a damn. And now his shady connections to Turkish strong man Erdogan, positioning himself to be ready to extradite the rebel leader Turkey wants back.

The component of outrage that is represented by his business conflicts, and the absurd way he plans to “take care of all that”, that’s almost petty in comparison to all the rest. Which is amazing, when one thinks of the scandal this would represent if it were the sole blemish we had to deal with. It’s the sort of thing that would normally lead to resignation or indictment.

All of this, and whatever each new day is going to bring, makes me cringe in horror. I find it difficult to even breathe sometimes, when I attempt to contemplate the totality. So, no, ideology is no longer my concern. We are so far past such niceties as to make that discussion seem laughably pedantic.

When China has already begun flying nuclear bomber sorties over the South China Sea, and Putin continues to move his armies and missles around the borders of Eastern Europe, I think the the term “existential threat” is completely justified.

© 2016 Chuck Puckett


I will call them Trumplanders. They live in a special land, unlike the humdrum factual world we live in. They live in a world of Newly Found Magic, where Down is Up, In is Out, All is None, and Evil is Good. Where everything is bigly fantastic and huge. Their landscape is non-Euclidean, non-Linear and non-Sensical. The rest of us, peering in, might think it a Heironymous Bosch nightmare scene, but those who live in Trumpland see only rainbows and lemon drops. And the wicked witch’s castle is waaay over there, out of sight, her flying monkey thugs waiting like the Luftwaffe, eager to swoop and punish.

Trumplanders are all, like “Oooh, it’s time to get payback on the Liberal Elite!” You know, those who have somehow managed to make the lives of these common folk miserable. Never mind the uncountable billions of dollars condensed into a 1% who truly hold power, who actually have the capacity to either make their lives bearable or horrid. Who have chosen, and will continue to choose, horrid.

Most of us out here in the hinterland of the real world stand verklempt as we view the Trumpland that is unfolding before our continuously flabbergasted eyes. Even faster than the outrages we were daily presented with during the election, Trump’s outrageous actions during the transition occur like endless uppercuts to the jaw, making us reel back in disbelief. Appointing a climate denier as EPA Administrator. Secretary of State to be the head of Exxon, a man who received from Putin Russia’s Order of Friendship medal, their highest civilian honor. When the CIA revealed that Russia most definitely hacked the DNC and other institutions so as to favor a Trump election, Trump retaliates by dissing the CIA and dismissing the report. But that makes perfect sense to a man who has refused to attend the daily Presidential intelligence briefing. Why? He says he is “too smart” to be bothered by this daily irritation.

What can explain the behavior of this lunatic America has elected, by a signicantly lower popular vote than his opponent? He follows no norms of behavior that civilized people exhibit. He reacts like a spoiled child to the slightest provocation. He rails at Alec Baldwin and SNL because they ridicule him. He is driven solely by his ego and his anger. He praises only those who toady up to him, kiss his ring and feed his ego. He lashes out furiously at the slightest criticism. What could cause such irrational behavior?

The answer is that Donald Trump is a sociopath, pure and simple. What does that mean? That he is empty, void of any moral or ethical consideration. That he makes no action that is not intended to make HIM the victor, and anyone else, by definition, utterly defeated. There is no nuance, no proportional response. It means that only adoration is allowed. Those who oppose him are understood not as philosophical opponents, but as threats to his very being. Those he opposes, he crushes and humiliates, rather than make any attempt at compromise or finding common ground. They are twirled like puppets, voodoo dolls whom he has somehow convinced that the pins he is sticking them with are in fact soothing acupuncture.

This sociopath is so utterly concentrated on himself, that he has no love or regard for anyone or anything else. That includes America, writ large. Donald Trump is not making decisions based on what is good for America, or motivated by his love for America. He is incapable of such feeling. The good of the many is a concept completely beyond his ability to embrace. He is not going to suddenly, or indeed, ever become even vaguely “Presidential”. He is only going to continue to act solely with his personal interests in mind, the rest of the world be damned. And unfortunately, as President of the United States, the rest of world could very well be damned.

Trumplanders could care less. They are content in their Bubble of the Beautiful, completely happy to bask in the orange glow of Trump. As adorers, their symbiotic relationship with Trump is complete. And just as Trump is not going to ever gain a modicum of decency or diplomatic behavior, Trumplanders are not going to suddenly emerge into enlightenment, at least not in time to turn back the tidal wave of damage that is looming over our nation.

So, does there exist some path out of the hell that is being constructed around us? The Left doesn’t have the numbers to do anything but offer a slight puff of resistance. Without active help from the GOP, those efforts can have no meaningful effect. But will anyone in the GOP be willing to stand up and have the guts to help save the nation? Or are they so enamored of their new power, and chance to suck at the enormous teat being dangled before them, that they will sell the nation, and the world, down the fiery road to perdition, all for a bit of corruption all their own?

There are indeed a few signs of hope here and there. John McCain and Lindsay Graham have made clear they will lead an investigation into the Russia hacking findings by the CIA. And McCain has indicated that Exxon CEO Tillerson will receive a deep scrutiny. He is not at all happy with Tillerson’s ties to Putin, whom McCain calls a bully, a tyrant and a murderer. The point is, not everyone is a sociopath. Many of these men and women truly love their country. Eventually, we can only hope that true patriotism will exceed the lust for money and power.

We can never hope, however, that Trumplanders will ever have any such realization. Not until the dust blows in from the dystopic desert that will form the backdrop to their shattered expectations. Not until Trumpland itself collapses under the weight of its false prophet.

© 2016 Chuck Puckett