Monday, December 12, 2016

Fellow Commandantes,

It has been a while -- a heartbreaking while -- since our last blog.  Internet availabilities in New Hampshire are unreliable and intermittent, and until recently I was submerged imaginatively in drafting a new novel, Treacherous Intimacies, which its few literary readers insist is going to take its place quickly as the American Madame Bovary.  Several publishers are looking it over at the moment.  When it is out there, you will know.

Another reason I have laid back throughout the summer was the fact that The New York Times seemed to be letting the sawdust out of Donald Trump and the sociological renegades lunging along behind his banner, so why me too?  Trump had no shot, I assumed, although Hillary seemed to me to be presenting herself in less than compelling fashion -- smug, by-passing the rust belt, where all those unhappy white laid-off workers might decide the election, belting forth liberal cliches in that strident, grating voice.  Her basket of deplorables?  A worse put-down of voters she would need than Mitt Romney's 47%  freeloaders aside.  I will not mention the pantssuits.   Early in the Clinton administration I had been in the room when Hillary and her sidekick Ira Magaziner blundered into the process of drafting a bill for effective universal medical coverage, which Ted Kennedy and Jay Rockefeller had well in hand, and left the entire initiative in shreds for a generation.  What had four years as Secretary of State produced?  Still, compared with the prospects for a Trump regime....?

With the Trump takeover less than a month from now I find my apprehensions even deeper than I expected.  Most alarming to me is the recurring evidence that several of those presumptuous youngsters advising Trump expect to continue waging their war on reality  As the lead editorial in yesterday's New York Times pointed up, Trump and his people don't merely challenge unwelcome information.  "There's no such thing, unfortunately, anymore, as facts," one of them asserted.

Ours is a science and technology-based civilization, which means that pretty much everything that we are and manage to accomplish is based on measurable reality, empirical facts.  Epistemology permits our engine to run.  To abandon this requirement in favor of whatever happens to serve Donald Trump's momentary purposes amounts to cultural suicide.  How this works out was displayed in the dictatorships of the last century, when the likes of Hitler insisted that Germany would rule the world if only she exterminated her Jews.  The Slavs?  Degenerate primitives, incapable of a reliable technology -- until an ocean of Soviet T-34 tanks rolled over the Panzer Divisions at Kursk and crushed the Third Reich.

Donald Trump brings to our politics the same ominous pattern of self-delusion.  Climate change?  A hoax.  The evidence that more Mexicans have left the United States during the last ten years over the Rio Grande than have stolen across?  Poppycock, build that wall!

Nothing guides us better than the truth.  Nothing guarantees failure like self-deception.  We have now taken the bait, and we are about to start paying the price.

Keep every flag flying.  This too shall pass.

Burton Hersh

Sunday, March 20, 2016

The Trump Sunami


I know, another blast on the Trumpet.  But when will we have another target like this -- bloated, cock-sure, catastrophe in a cap?  Bear with.

I wish I could feel a little more honest resentment, but it is very hard for me to write off entirely the figure who introduced the term "pussy" to our political discourse.  Somebody really new, an utterly fresh presentation, if you can stand the smell.

The fact is, Trump is pretty largely what both parties deserve.  The years of starving out education, overpaying a handful of plungers while deflation eroded the blue-collar community, sitting on the minimum wage, permitting bankers to feast on brutally high interest payments crippling the newly-educated poor -- what had the gentility expected?  They created this dumb-ass electorate, why shouldn't it take the government away from the greedy and the privileged?

Bernie Sanders may be exhorting the masses to take the government back and parcel out the benefits, but it is Donald Trump who is cannibalizing the established parties.  By bringing up the issue of trade, the results of exporting so much of American manufacturing consequent to NAFTA and the subsequent agreements during the Clinton presidency, Trump nails Bob Rubin and the policymakers of the nineties. Why was Glass-Steagall abandoned, derivatives and credit default swaps conceded to the unscrupulous bankers around Bill and Hillary Clinton, three-strikes-and-out instituted to control the unrepentant blacks in the streets, welfare slashed  -- whatever it seemed to take to propitiate the rising Democratic elite?

After which Trump  rounds on the Republicans.  What about the heretofore unmentionable blundering into Iraq, the broken bodies and wasted trillions of dollars resulting from that misbegotten oil-grab?  Where was our intelligence community when those Muslim volunteers were learning to fly into the World Trade Center?  When do we start to penalize the corporations that ship their jobs and profits overseas and duck American taxes while Detroit goes dark?

Trump is definitely a primitive.  If there were history and government courses at Wharton when he was gracing the institution Trump obviously stayed away. To call his grasp of  the Geneva Conventions and parliamentary procedure shaky would amount to a cover-up.  Challenge Trump one time too many about his manhood and he is likely to show the mob out there.

Still, Trump has held up this far because he speaks to -- and for -- the aggrieved millions.  Obama has brought the overall society back much of the way, but so many millions are failing.  Donald Trump is speaking to them.  We had better listen too, or The Donald is likely to achieve his fantasy.


Burton Hersh

Sunday, February 28, 2016

The Dawn of Trump

Fellow Contemporariones,

The hour is late.  On Tuesday Super Tuesday will rear up and gorge on all our political prospects.  Let me throw in a few observations, an idea or two, at least a little of which you might find relevant.

The political appetite incarnate blotting out the sky at the moment is the candidacy of Donald Trump.  I know, I've attempted to deal with Trump before, but enough has come through to deserve another round.  Bear with me, and I will be patient with you.

For months the pundits dealt with Trump as an obstreperous but passing entertainment, a kind of Borscht Belt quasi-Yankee popoff who couldn't possibly last.  He has lasted, in part by gnawing away at treasured elements of Republican Party mythology the party establishment seems to hold sacred.  Universal, government-run single-payer health care might not be too bad, Trump has suggested, better than the patch-and-fill of Obamacare.  Tax the hedge fund impresarios at normal rates. Face up to the gross misjudgments that induced the Congress to authorize the invasion of Iraq and leave the country with so many thousands of crippled and deranged veterans and a two trillion dollar national debt.  Hang onto Planned Parenthood, except for the subsidizing of abortions.

As Trump sets his charges under the planks of Republican orthodoxy it is hard not to agree with Jeb Bush:  This rabble-rouser is not a Republican at all.   While the drums were beating to go into Iraq in 2003-4 I myself was talking to senior CIA officials and passing on their confessions that there were no WMD  of consequence in Iraq to Ted Kennedy and John Kerry.  Kennedy, at least, listened.  We went in anyhow and have been paying the price.
Many of Trump's revelations are overdue, especially on the Right.  Bernie Sanders is well advised -- our tax policies need revision. The unexpected demise of Justice Scalia doesn't seem to me grounds for his premature canonization -- this was the leader of the Supreme Court faction that delayed federal efforts to clean up toxic coal emissions and foisted Citizens United on the unwary public and by doing so authorized the flood of money that hardened into place the oligarchy Sanders decries.  And on what grounds -- First Amendment, free speech!

The most serious problem I see with Donald Trump's candidacy is his willful ignorance, his habit of throwing phrases and bromides at situations without understanding what has gone on so far and what the likely consequences of his outbursts might turn out to be.  In this respect -- I've suggested this before -- he reminds me of Hitler, who peddled the notion of getting rid of the Jews, or rolling into Lebensraum in the East, and finally found himself compelled to follow up on all the rhetoric.  In the end six million Jews were exterminated along with perhaps twenty million young Germans, a generation the loss of which I would discover when I lived there still tortures the entire nation.  The problem with loose talk is that it leads to unimaginable tragedy.  Trump's claim that he would throw out eleven million Latinos, or execute the relatives of radical Islamists, or permit the government to torture its suspects far beyond mere waterboarding -- a rant like this raises hackles.

I broke off writing this to watch a rebroadcast of Bill Maher's show this week.  His guest was General Michael Hayden, head of both the NSA and the CIA during his time in government.  If Trump makes good his promise to "do waterboarding and a whole lot more" the entire military establishment would revolt, Hayden insisted.  Universal disaffection looms.

We may very well be at a historical crossroads.  Let's hope even Joe Sixpack is starting to understand that.

Keep your powder dry.

Burton Hersh