Dostoyevsky Describes Trump Voters

The Supporters of Trump: A Great Mystery?

I am re-reading the Richard Pevear and Larissa Volkhonsky translation of Fyodor Dostoeyevsky’s Notes from the Underground. Suddenly, I saw the following passage, which predicted the emergence of Trump and his supporters:

Man really is stupid, phenomenally stupid. That is, he’s by no means stupid, but he’s so ungrateful that it would be hard to find the likes of him. I, for example, would not be the least bit surprised if suddenly, out of the blue, amid the universal future reasonableness, some gentleman of ignoble, or, better, of retrograde and jeering physiognomy, should emerge, set his arms akimbo, and say to us all: “Well, gentlemen, why don’t we reduce all this reasonableness to dust with one good kick, for the sole purpose of sending all these logarithms to the devil and living once more according to our own stupid will!” That would still be nothing, but what is offensive is that he’d be sure to find followers: that’s how man is arranged. And all this for the emptiest of reasons, which would seem not even worth mentioning: namely, that man, whoever he might be, has always and everywhere liked to act as he wants, and not at all as reason and profit dictate; and one sometimes even positively must (this is my [i.e. Dostoyevsky’s] idea now).


Serendipity: The Art of the Deal?

Let’s Not Leave Foreign Policy to Rank Amateurs!

The following is the first paragraph in an article in the April 18, 2019 issue of The New York Review of Books entitled “What Happened in Hanoi?”

Shortly after the success of The Art of the Deal (1987) made Donald Trump a supposed expert on negotiation, he lobbied the George H. W. Bush administration to put him in charge of arms reduction talks with the Soviet Union. The position went instead to Richard Burt, an experienced diplomat and arms control expert. When the two men met at a New York social event, Trump pulled Burt aside to tell him what he would have one—and what Burt should do—to start off the negotiation. Greet the Soviets warmly, he said. Let their delegation get seated and open their papers. Then stand up, put your knuckles on the table, lean over, say “Fuck you,” and walk out of the room.

Burt didn’t follow Trump’s advice, to which which we owe the fact that the world didn’t end in a nuclear holocaust well before the start of the new millennium.

The News: All Trump All the Time

In Whatever Direction You Turn, There He Is!

In Whatever Direction You Turn, There He Is!

Every time Trump is mentioned on the news, Martine either hits the mute button or turns the channel. The problem is: Donald J. Trump is everywhere. Whether one is watching ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, Fox, BBC, RT, or France 24, the news seems always to feature our lunatic president and his stumbling failures.

It’s not my problem, because I never watch the news—except on the Internet. And there I am in complete control of my news feed. I know that could be a problem, but no way am I going to watch Breitbart or Sean Hannity or Bill O’Reilly without shooting my cookies. I can generally tell right from wrong, and I know that everything our Trumpery president represents is very, very wrong.

So don’t worry. I won’t push Trump at you unless he really gets to me and makes my temperature rise. I really prefer to write about books, films, places, history—anything but the Cheeto Monster with his orange leer.

I Have Had Enough

It’s Time To Do Something

It’s Time To Do Something

Many of my friends are still saying they’ll take a wait and see attitude toward Herr Trumpf. Maybe I have a shorter fuse: It’s time for me to enter the political sphere long enough to send him back to the real estate profession where he has performed so abysmally. I would rather he build more stupid Trumpf Towers with gold plumbing fixtures and Trumpf Golf Courses than upend my country and send it reeling into the abyss. He will, of course, go bankrupt again. But that’s okay, so long as he doesn’t bankrupt all of us.

How long before we burn all our allies and enter into unfriendly relations with everyone—except for Dear Putin. Even he will realize that the Trumpf is not something one wishes upon one’s worst enemy.

George Orwell did not write 2017: That’s something our President with his supinely cowardly Congress is in the process of doing. Poor Orwell got out while the going was good. We are not quite so lucky.

Next week I intend to call my Congressman and both of California’s Senators. I know they will secretly sympathize with me, but I would still like to see what they could do. No one could move Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan—who have supped and continue to sup with infamies.

It Doesn’t Even Require Impeachment

It’s All There in the 25th Amendment

It’s All There in the 25th Amendment

Read the following four sections of the 25th Amendment to the Constitution and consider the possibility that Donald J. Trump is mad:

Section 1. In case of the removal of the President from office or of his death or resignation, the Vice President shall become President.

Section 2. Whenever there is a vacancy in the office of the Vice President, the President shall nominate a Vice President who shall take office upon confirmation by a majority vote of both Houses of Congress.

Section 3. Whenever the President transmits to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives his written declaration that he is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, and until he transmits to them a written declaration to the contrary, such powers and duties shall be discharged by the Vice President as Acting President.

Section 4. Whenever the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President.

Thereafter, when the President transmits to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives his written declaration that no inability exists, he shall resume the powers and duties of his office unless the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive department or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit within four days to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office. Thereupon Congress shall decide the issue, assembling within forty-eight hours for that purpose if not in session. If the Congress, within twenty-one days after receipt of the latter written declaration, or, if Congress is not in session, within twenty-one days after Congress is required to assemble, determines by two-thirds vote of both Houses that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall continue to discharge the same as Acting President; otherwise, the President shall resume the powers and duties of his office.

My Last Word … for Now!

It Says It All

It Says It All

As a combined Hungarian-Slovak-Czech-Bavarian, I am always interested to see how my people view what is happening in the United States. This cartoon is from Marian Kamensky of Slovakia. I will have nothing more to say about Trump for the time being. Let’s see how fast he and his fragile ego unravel.

TV for Dunces

Whatever Happened to Real Stories?

Whatever Happened to Real Stories?

Television used to be first class entertainment. There was great comedy (Sid Caesar and Milton Berle), great speculative fiction (Twilight Zone), great whodunits (Perry Mason), and great quiz shows (You Bet Your Life). The shows were either scripted or with great impromptu acting. There was talent in front of the camera and in the smoke-filled rooms where the shows were planned.

That was then. Somewhere along the line, the TV producers decided that reality TV was cheaper to produce and would be accepted by the viewing public. And it was: with hundreds of channels of cable, there were scads of shows like Antiques Road Show, The Kardashians, Dog the Bounty Hunter, Pawn Stars, and a million forensic crime shows reprising old crimes.

Instead of entertaining the viewers, these shows sedated them. One of the stars of the genre was Donald J. Trump of  The Apprentice. All he had to do was glower and say “You’re fired!” and everything was golden.

Now this same Donald J Trump is our next (and perhaps last) president. All he has to do to solve the problems of this poor country is strike a few attitudes and tweet his uneducated opinions in the middle of the night. Advance planning no longer exists. We are now being governed by a bunch of untalented poseurs.

A REMINDER: Don’t forget to turn off your TV for tomorrow’s inauguration. Reality TV types hate having a bad Nielsen rating.

A National Day of Mourning

You Have Better Things to Do This Friday

You Have Better Things to Do This Friday

Maybe you’re curious to see how badly Mr. Cheeto-Head blows it on Friday, January 20, when he becomes the 45th and worst President of the United States. Don’t bother: You’ll hear all about it later on. I would prefer that all the stations reporting on this non-event register a big loss. After all, our country will be registering a major loss. For either four years or such time as he is impeached and convicted, we will have had it up to here with his negative tweets and failure to abide by any rule of law.

Move Along! There’s Nothing to See Here

Move Along! There’s Nothing to See Here

If the Orange Demon has any sense of decency, he will bow out the way William Henry Harrison, our 9th President, did in April 1841: Ol’ Tippecanoe died from a cold he got at his inauguration a month earlier.

Does This Remind You of Anyone?

An Amazing Coincidence

An Amazing Coincidence

When I read Teffi’s essay on Rasputin in Tolstoy, Rasputin, Others, and Me: The Best of Teffi, couldn’t help comparing the dread Siberian starets to an American political figure in the news. Here are three instances, from which you can draw your own conclusions:

The Black Automobile

According to Teffi:

The “Black Automobile” remains a mystery to this day. Several nights running this car had roared across the vField of Mars, sped over the Palace Bridge, and disappeared into the unknown. Shots had been fired from inside the car. Passers-by had been wounded.

“It’s Rasputin’s doing,” people were saying, “Who else?”

Dealings with Women

Teffi was seated next to Rasputin, who tried to get her to have some wine:

Rasputin was drinking a great deal and very quickly. Suddenly he leaned towards me and whispered, “Why aren’t you drinking, eh? God will forgive you. Drink.”

He kept trying to get her to drink and to come to his place, but she wisely refused.

He “Sows Discord and Panic”

Finally, Teffi writes:

He profits from everything black, evil and incomprehensible. Everything that sows discord and panic. And there’s nothing he can’t explain to his own advantage when he needs to.

Now I could add that he tweets nasty, ad hominem attacks in the middle of the night, but that would be giving it away, wouldn’t it?





A Hopeful Holiday

Christmas Decorations from the Grier-Musser Museum

Christmas Decorations from the Grier-Musser Museum

Here I sit with my fingers crossed, afraid to check the news and seeing what our new elected Fuehrer has to astonish and dismay the world. I could really work myself into a state about this turkey, but I have decided to concentrate this Christmas on the people I love. There is nothing I can do to buck the Electoral College majority for the Cheetoh-headed moron, so I will leave him to the scorn of history. (That will not prevent me from opposing him in a more substantial way if the opportunity arises.)

What is Christmas really all about? I think the operative word is “love.” According to John 3:16 in the King James Bible, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Christian doctrine says it was all an act of forgiveness to cancel out the “original sin” of Adam and Eve for eating the fruit of the forbidden tree of knowledge. God the Son incarnated as a human being and died a horrible death by crucifixion just so we’d all stand a chance. In this light, Christmas is a feast of divine love.

But not everyone believes this, and I myself tend to cherry-pick Christianity, adopting what I like and brushing the rest aside. I like the idea of giving gifts to the people who mean the most to me; and I like using this time of year to cement my closest relationships, whether with Martine, my family, or my closest friends.

Unfortunately, Christmas has been weighted down with a whole lot of paraphernalia. There are stores open twenty-four hours a day for last-minute shopping. (My shopping is all done—and I would never visit a retail store at this time of year because of the crowds.) I have no twinkling lights about my apartment: I don’t even have a Christmas tree or a wreath on the door. I don’t wear any ugly Christmas sweaters. Unlike most male Americans, I don’t watch any bowl games—or, in fact, any sports at all. Instead, I look forward to a nice Christmas dinner and an exchange of gifts with my oldest friends. Martine and I will watch the 1951 Alastair Sim version of The Christmas Carol, and maybe even A Christmas Story (1983) if I can. And I will read one of Charles Dickens’s lesser-known holiday works, such as “The Chimes” or “The Cricket on the Hearth.”

Use the real meaning of Christmas to become stronger in your emotions. Perhaps what the 2016 election really means is for us to look after ourselves, because most assuredly no one will look after us.