This Song is for You, Hans

Hans hears “America First” and thinks “Deutschland über alles.“  And so do we all.

After today’s abomination of an inauguration speech, Aardvark takes cold comfort in this thought: a cleverer fascist would probably do a much better job of concealing his hand.

In addition, there’s the widespread revulsion that followed the speech.

That said, it CAN HAPPEN HERE. I don’t think it will, in the end, but it can.

We need our friends in Europe to keep on reminding us of the lessons of history.

And so, Hans, this song is for you.


P.S. To add to the footnote in my last post, here’s an additional shoutout to Aardvark’s readers in Israel, Ireland, and Canada.

Yes, There Will be Clusterfucks


Ross Douthat—though far from Aardvark’s favorite pundit, even among conservative pundits—does ask the right questions this afternoon:

Will [Trump’s] rhetoric actually define the policy that gets made in the halls of Congress, where a more Reaganite conservatism still theoretically holds sway? Or will his words be a Buchananite patina on an agenda mostly written by supply-siders and Goldman Sachs appointees? Or will the conflict between the two tendencies simply make his administration less epochal than incoherent, less transformative than simply ineffective?

Trump believes in Winning Through Intimidation. That is his life strategy. Just as some people’s life strategy is being beautiful, some succeed by working harder than anyone else, and some succeed by mastering a professional discipline, Trump has enjoyed success by intimidation, bluster, and showmanship.

He told the Republicans today that he bloody well intends to intimidate them to a fare thee well, by exploiting their craven fear of the folks who have bought into Trump’s cult of personality.

There are limits to life strategies. Being beautiful doesn’t improve your SAT scores. And intimidation has its limits.

First, some people are more subject to intimidation that others, especially on some subjects. Who thinks that John McCain is going to be intimidated into loving Russia?

Second, while you can intimidate some people, some of the time, you can’t intimidate reality. You cannot, for example, intimidate the health care system into providing costless, generous universal coverage, nor can you intimidate away the robotic revolution in manufacturing.

Third, while there remain millions of cultists, some are already beginning to leave.

So, yes, there will be clusterfucks. As old Ross puts it,

Combine … brute political facts with Trump’s implausibly expansive promises, and a Carter scenario — gridlock, disappointment, collapse — seems like the most plausible way to bet. But on the evidence of this speech, Trump has no intention of playing it safe: He will either remake conservatism in his image, or see his presidency fail in the attempt.


Aardvark is grateful for his readers in Germany and the United States, welcomes new readers in China and South Africa, and continues to be a little concerned about the readers in Russia.

And by the way, the painting depicts King Canute, whose relation to the subject matter of the post will be apparent to anyone who knows the good king’s story.

It was, incidentally, a hard choice between Canute and Æthelred the Unready.


Inauguration Day: It’s Mourning in America


Thanks to Vasari for sharing the headline.

Thanks to Hans Jungfreud for this observation from Germany:

On January 30, 1933, as hordes of Nazis paraded in Berlin to celebrate Hitler’s inauguration as chancellor, Max Liebermann, the aged impressionist painter and president of the Prussian Academy of Fine Arts, said: “I cannot possibly eat as much as I would like to vomit.”

Thanks to David Brooks, who tells us this morning that Trump’s incompetence will save us from Trump’s fascism:

If the figure at the center can’t give consistent, clear and informed direction, the whole system goes haywire, with vicious infighting and creeping anarchy.

Some on the left worry that we are seeing the rise of fascism, a new authoritarian age. That gets things exactly backward. The real fear in the Trump era should be that everything will become disorganized, chaotic, degenerate, clownish and incompetent.

The real fear should be that Trump is Captain Chaos, the ignorant dauphin of disorder. All the standard practices, norms, ways of speaking and interacting will be degraded and shredded. The political system and the economy will grind to a battered crawl.

Thanks to someone named Maria Konnikova, who writes, in a learned and deeply pessimistic article (Trump’s Lies vs. Your Brain), of how Captain Bullshit’s prevarications are bound to overwhelm us all.

Thanks to Fox News—an unimpeachable source if there ever was one—for confirming, with its own polling, what other polls have shown: that Trump’s approval rating has dropped precipitously. 54 percent of registered voters “disapprove of how Donald Trump is handling the presidential transition,” 37 percent “approve,:” and six percent “don’t know.”

The audience is already getting tired of the clown show.

Nine Things to Listen for in the Inaugural Address


  1. An exaggerated sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements)
  2. Preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love
  3. Believes he is “special” and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions)
  4. Requires excessive admiration
  5. Has a sense of entitlement
  6. Selfishly takes advantage of others to achieve his own ends
  7. Lacks empathy
  8. Is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him
  9. Shows arrogant, haughty, patronizing, or contemptuous behaviors or attitudes


You Don’t Have to be Unitarian to Sign It


A Declaration of Conscience published today, January 18, by the Unitarian Universalist Association and the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee:

Declaration of Conscience

At this extraordinary time in our nation’s history, we are called to affirm our profound commitment to the fundamental principles of justice, equity and compassion, to truth and core values of American society.

In the face of looming threats to immigrants, Muslims, people of color, and the LGBTQ community and the rise of hate speech, harassment and hate crimes, we affirm our belief in the inherent worth and dignity of every person.

In opposition to any steps to undermine the right of every citizen to vote or to turn back advances in access to health care and reproductive rights, we affirm our commitment to justice and compassion in human relations.

And against actions to weaken or eliminate initiatives to address the threat of climate change – actions that would threaten not only our country but the entire planet – we affirm our unyielding commitment to protect the interdependent web of all existence.

We will oppose any and all unjust government actions to deport, register, discriminate, or despoil.

As people of conscience, we declare our commitment to translate our values into action as we stand on the side of love with the most vulnerable among us.

We welcome and invite all to join in this commitment for justice.  

The time is now.

John Hancock signed his name in large, clear letters, so that the king could read it without his spectacles. To follow his example and sign your name, go here.

Washington Post Columnist Makes World’s Stupidest Argument, or, In Your Guts You Know He’s Nuts


In a column entitled Why progressives shouldn’t despair over trump, someone claiming to be Barton Swaim argues

  1. Progressives mainly object to Trump because of “appearance, attitude, style and language”—for example, he is “proudly, ostentatiously nouveau rich” and “embosses his comical surname on buildings.”
  2. Progressives ought to prefer Trump, “who might shift left or right depending on the circumstances and his mood” to a more consistent conservative who would (Aardvark’s words) know the difference between his ass and a hole in the ground.

No, you blithering idiot. Progressives’ concerns are not aesthetic. Progressive are worried because our country has conferred enormous power on an immoral man child.

Yo, numbnuts, just click on over the Politico and take a gander at What Worries Ben Rhodes About Trump:

What concerns me is the things that happen every week. I don’t think people realize how many decisions the president of the United States makes about military action. The Iranians harass some vessel of ours in the Persian Gulf: What do we do in response? There’s shelling around our diplomatic facility in X Middle Eastern country. The Chinese pass too close for comfort by a U.S. Navy ship in the South China Sea. These decisions come all the time, and they’re going to come from Day One. I would be more focused on that. Because a dust-up with the Iranians or the Chinese could get out of hand very fast.

The Oval Office Effect, Vindictive Tweets, and No Freakin’ Idea*


Once again this morning, Morning BLO and his merry band plead with the Donald to start acting like a grownup and try to marshal evidence that his long awaited maturity from childhood into adolescence might at least be taking place.

Meanwhile, Tom Friedman reports that he has pretty much given up on any hopes for mature and decent behavior—and marshals overwhelming evidence of “immaturity, a lack of respect for the office he’s about to hold, a person easily distracted by shiny objects, and a lack of basic decency.” He illustrates his point with multiple retweets.

Will Trump take a stroll down the road to Damascus, or will he be be the same person that 48.2 percent of us wisely voted against and 46.1 percent of us unwisely voted to elect? The correct answer comes, of course, from Joe Biden: “We have no freakin’ idea what he’s gonna do.”

*Thanks to Vasari for calling the image to my attention. It’s subject to copyright, but this is fair use.

Reforming Health Care through Magical Thinking, or, Governance as the Art of Pulling Stuff out of your Ass


Unlike some people he could name, Aardvark understands the difference between a hunch and a proven fact. Aardvark does not claim his hunches are proven facts. What follows is a hunch.

Trump claims that he has an Obamacare replacement bill all ready to go, but for a few minor tweaks and maybe a final run through spellcheck; that this bill will provide insurance for all; that the copays will be much lower than those available under Obamacare; and that the quality of health care will be much better than what is currently on offer.

I don’t think there is a bill. I think he just pulled it out of his ass.

And why might he do such a thing? Five reasons:

  1. He wants to stop Congress from destroying American health care.
  2. He wants to cater to the chronic magical thinking of his base.
  3. He wants to stop Bernie Sanders from stealing his crowds.
  4. His life experience has taught that promises are made to be broken, and
  5. He has a weak grasp on the difference between reality and fantasy.


Where are the Clowns? Send in the Clowns


This morning, in a column titled The Lords of Misrule, David Brooks brilliantly relates Trump’s tweets to medieval carnival culture—a way of venting over injustice that often got out of hand. He writes,

The first problem with today’s carnival culture is that there’s an ocean of sadism lurking just below the surface. The second is that it’s not real. It doesn’t really address the inequalities that give rise to it. It’s just combative display.

This is a resolution I’m probably going to break, but I resolve to write about Trump only on the presidential level, not on the carnival level. I’m going to try to respond only to what he does, not what he says or tweets. I really wish some of my media confreres would do the same.

Brooks’ observations nicely complement Morning Joe’s better than average morning BLOviation today–the burden of which is that the tweets are hurting Trump’s poll numbers, the manufactured chaos is wearing everybody down, and that, in his own interest, our new minority president should be much more discriminating as he twitters.

Don’t you love farce?
My fault, I fear
I thought that you’d want what I want
Sorry, my dear
But where are the clowns?
There ought to be clowns
Quick, send in the clowns

The Oval Office Effect

Oval Office at the Clinton Center

Some, mindlessly optimistic, have predicted that when Trump parks his butt in the President’s chair, he will be overawed by the magnitude of the office, and grow up. That would be very nice. But it won’t happen.

The alternative is that Trump will become the poster child for Lord Acton’s observation that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

We are, however, informed on good authority that this proposition is inaccurate. See Why Power Corrupts: New research digs deeper into the social science behind why power brings out the best in some people and the worst in others.

In sum, power doesn’t corrupt the incorruptible; what it does is magnify, give greater scope to, the innate personality of the newly powerful person.

In Trump we have a new President with deeply ingrained narcissistic personality disorder. When attacked, he fights back with whatever weapons he has.

As surely as God made little green apples, when he is attacked while his butt is planted in the big chair in the oval office, he will order his henchmen to take illegal actions against his attackers.

Said henchmen will either obey orders, or they will disobey.

Once to Every Man and Nation
James Russsell Lowell, December 11, 1845

Once to every man and nation, comes the moment to decide,
In the strife of truth with falsehood, for the good or evil side;
Some great cause, some great decision, offering each the bloom or blight,
And the choice goes by forever, ’twixt that darkness and that light.

Then to side with truth is noble, when we share her wretched crust,
Ere her cause bring fame and profit, and ’tis prosperous to be just;
Then it is the brave man chooses while the coward stands aside,
Till the multitude make virtue of the faith they had denied.

By the light of burning martyrs, Christ, Thy bleeding feet we track,
Toiling up new Calv’ries ever with the cross that turns not back;
New occasions teach new duties, time makes ancient good uncouth,
They must upward still and onward, who would keep abreast of truth.

Though the cause of evil prosper, yet the truth alone is strong;
Though her portion be the scaffold, and upon the throne be wrong;
Yet that scaffold sways the future, and behind the dim unknown,
Standeth God within the shadow, keeping watch above His own.

None Dare Call it Treason, вторая часть


Trump declares NATO obsolete.

Kremlin rejoices.

European leaders shocked as Trump slams NATO and E.U., raising fears of transatlantic split.

 And by the way, Aardvark doesn’t know anyone in Russia, but someone in Russia knows him. (WordPress gives you stats.)

So this is for you, Vladimir.

Trump объявляет устаревшие НАТО.Кремль ликует.Европейские лидеры в шоке, как Trump хлопает НАТО и E.U., поднимая опасения трансатлантического раскола.


Megabluster Versus Megabucks: the Coming Health Care Clusterfuck Gets Worse


From the Washington Post this evening comes word that

President-elect Donald Trump said in a weekend interview that he is nearing completion of a plan to replace President Obama’s signature health-care law with the goal of “insurance for everybody,” while also vowing to force drug companies to negotiate directly with the government on prices in Medicare and Medicaid.

Aardvark knows Pharma and, trust me, ladies and germs, we are talking about billions and billions of dollars here. We are talking about platoons of lobbyists at both the federal and state levels. We are talking campaign contributions in an amount that would make Croesus green with envy.

And so, in the remote event that Trump is to be believed, we are about to see a colossal confrontation between financial interest and fear of Trump’s mob. “’They’re politically protected, but not anymore,’ he said of pharmaceutical companies.”

“I think we will get approval. I won’t tell you how, but we will get approval. You see what’s happened in the House in recent weeks,” Trump said, referencing his tweet during a House Republican move to gut their independent ethics office, which along with widespread constituent outrage was cited by some members as a reason the gambit failed.

Depicted at the top of this post is a stopped watch from Poland. It is right twice a day. Just so, the Donald is right to advocate “insurance for everyone” and price negotiations with the drug companies.

But is he right to think that bluster, bullying, and fear of Trump voters will overcome profound financial self-interest on the part of those in the pay of Big Pharma? Will all those folks who take Pharma’s shilling experience a mass Damascus experience?

I don’t think so. And corporate America may be poised to learn that while Marco Rubio and Mike Pence may yearn to be their well groomed, well spoken, well compensated towel boys in the corporate brothel, Trump yearns to be their master, the capo di tutti capi. It’s the billionaire class that is about to stroll down the road to Damascus.

And the revelation they will receive is that the time has come to take down the Donald and replace him with the Pence.


Mene Mene Tekel Upharsin

“Character is destiny,” said Heraclitus. Trump’s character is bad, and so will be his destiny–because the king’s character is the source of the writing on the wall.

Old friend Hans Jungfreud, who lives across the ocean and shares our pain, has shared these items, beginning with his observations on our new royal family.



Henrich Heine, tr. by J. Reed

Towards midnight now the hours moved on,
In silent sleep lay Babylon.

Only up in the castle there
The vassals shout, the torches flare.

Up in the hall of the mighty King,
Belshazzar’s feast was in full swing.

His armoured men sat glittering round,
Goblet on goblet of wine they downed.

The goblets’ clinking, the liegemen’s cheer,
Are what the dour king likes to hear.

His face is flushed, his cheeks aglow,
The wine it makes his courage grow.

Blindly he’s drawn beyond all bounds,
Till a sinful challenge to God resounds.

He boasts and blasphemes against the Lord,
To the roaring cheers of his servile horde.

The King commands with an eye that burns,
A servant hastens and returns.

With golden vessels his back is piled;
Jehovah’s temple has been defiled.

And the King he seizes with hand of sin
A sacred vessel filled to the brim.

And he drains it hastily, drains it dry,
And with foaming mouth they hear him cry:

‘Jehovah, your power is past and gone —
I am the King of Babylon.’

But scarce the awful word was said,
The King was stricken with secret dread.

The raucous laughter silent falls,
It is suddenly still in the echoing halls.

And see! as if on the wall’s white space
A human hand began to trace.

Writing and writing across the stone
Letters of fire, wrote, and was gone.

The King sat still, with staring gaze,
His knees were water, ashen his face.

Fear chilled the vassals to the bone,
Fixed they sat and gave no tone.

Wise men came, but none was equipped
To read the sense of the fiery script.

Before the sun could rise again,
Belshazzar by his men was slain.

Percy Bysshe Shelley

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed:
And on the pedestal these words appear:
‘My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!’
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.


Take the Cheese, Donald! Take the Cheese!


A propos of l’affaire Lewis, many pundits of a progressive bent have made these points:

  1. President Elect Birther lacks standing to complain of attacks on the legitimacy of his presidency.
  2. If anyone does have standing to make such an attack, that person would be John Lewis.
  3. Trump is a lout to attack a civil rights hero on MLK day.

Aardvark agrees, though his agreement is bootless.

What strikes me about this affair is that Congressman Lewis played Trump like a violin. Mixing the metaphor, the good congressman put a large and smelly piece of cheese on a large and lethal mousetrap. He knew exactly what he was doing, and he knew why he was doing it and when he was doing it. Rep. Lewis exhibited no particular subtlety or finesse, nor, plainly, did he need any subtlety. He just put the cheese on the trap and the mouse pounced, right on time, utterly heedless of the consequences.

To follow up on the previous post, if my name were Vladimir Putin, I would be scared shitless to have a guy this childish as my agent.

Buyer’s Remorse in Moscow?

This morning Nicholas Kristof asks, trenchantly discusses, but does not answer the question whether Trump is “Kremlin Employee of the Month”—concluding, “We can’t afford even the perception that our president is the Kremlin’s man in Washington.”

Well, that’s right. We can’t afford it, but it looks as if we have bought it anyway.

Meanwhile, from the Washington Post we learn that “There’s no joy in Moscow after tough talk from Trump appointees.” This comes amid other reports of possible buyers’ remorse at the Kremlin.

Which would you want, a stable, predictable enemy, or an unstable, mentally challenged tool? Hmm … That would depend on how unstable and how mentally challenged, wouldn’t it?


Why is Trump Publicly Infatuated with Putin?


Many are wondering. I don’t know the answer. But I did take a shave with Occam’s razor this morning and determined that the explanation that best fits the known facts is that old Vladimir has Trump by the short and curlies.

Whether the blackmail involves golden showers in a Moscow hotel is another matter. Probably it’s something else.

And here’s another puzzlement: if Trump doesn’t want to be perceived as Putin’s bitch, why does he go to so much trouble to act like Putin’s bitch?



Did the Russians Elect Trump? Or, We have Met the Enemy, and He is Us


It is January 14. As we count down toward Doomsday, the public conversation is dominated by two questions:

  1. Is it true, as Rep. John Lewis has claimed, that Trump would not have been elected but for Russian interference, and is his presidency therefore illegitimate?
  2. Why is Trump so publicly in love with Putin?

This post addresses the first of these two questions. By the way, Trump attacked Lewis this morning and Lewis has just responded by emailing the Aardvarks to ask for a monetary contribution. Dr. Aardvark and I are considering whether to click the $50 button or one of the others.

That said, Aardvark agrees with Kathleen Parker, who wrote today that we will probably never know whether Russian influence actually tipped the scale.

The fundamental question about the election is not does not involve the source of supply of fake news, it involves the source of demand for fake news. Think of it like this. Just up the road from Happy Acres, conveniently located, lies the Humongous Booze Barn, which offers a wide selection and highly competitive pricing to complement its geographic convenience.

Does the convenient location of the Humongous Booze Barn contribute to Aardvark’s consumption of strong drink? Yes, maybe a little. But despite the enticing selection of alcohol they offer, no one at the store forces Aardvark to buy the stuff. He buys it because some evenings sobriety is too painful to endure.

For many millions of our fellow citizens, reality itself has become too painful to bear. I suspect that a lot of them are aware, at least dimly, and in the back of the mind, that they are consuming fake news. But they go on pouring it down their gullets because it makes them feel good. And if they can’t get it from one source, they will get it from another.

What would happen if the Humongous Booze Barn ran out of Jack Daniels? Won’t happen, but what if it did? Would Aardvark be disappointed by the temporary absence of his favorite tipple? Yes, he would. Would he say to himself, “It’s Jack Daniels or nothing,” and leave the store? Or would he buy another brand? You know the answer.

If the National Enquirer runs out of fake news from Pravda it will get fake news somewhere else, and its customer base will keep on consuming the product.



The Manchurian Candidate


As Aardvark writes on the evening of Friday the 13th of January, the gyre keeps widening, and we remember Nixon’s integrity, patriotism, and trustworthiness with increasing fondness.

Senator Burr, Republican of North Carolina, and Senator Warner, Democrat of Virginia, have released the following statement, and I quote:

Joint Statement on Committee Inquiry into Russian Intelligence Activities

WASHINGTON – Senator Richard Burr (R-NC), Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and Senator Mark Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, today issued a joint statement regarding the Committee’s inquiry into Russian intelligence activities:

“As part of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence’s oversight responsibilities we believe that it is critical to have a full understanding of the scope of Russian intelligence activities impacting the United States.

In the course of its regular work, the Committee conducts oversight of the Intelligence Community’s collection and analysis related to Russia; however, the October 7, 2016, joint statement on election security from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), combined with the declassified Intelligence Community Assessment (ICA) of “Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent US Elections” raise profound concerns.

The Committee will, therefore, conduct a bipartisan inquiry of the intelligence reporting behind the Intelligence Community assessments from January 6, 2017 on this subject.

The scope of the Committee’s inquiry will include, but is not limited to:

  • A review of the intelligence that informed the Intelligence Community Assessment “Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent US Elections;”
  • Counterintelligence concerns related to Russia and the 2016 U.S. election, including any intelligence regarding links between Russia and individuals associated with political campaigns;
  • Russian cyber activity and other “active measures” directed against the U.S., both as it regards the 2016 election and more broadly.

The Committee plans to:

  • Hold hearings examining Russian intelligence activity;
  • Interview senior officials of both the outgoing and incoming administrations including the issuance of subpoenas if necessary to compel testimony; and
  • Produce both classified and unclassified reports on its findings.

The Committee will follow the intelligence wherever it leads.  We will conduct this inquiry expeditiously, and we will get it right.  When possible, the Committee will hold open hearings to help inform the public about the issues.  That said, we will be conducting the bulk of the Committee’s business behind closed doors because we take seriously our obligation to protect sources and methods.  As the Committee’s investigation progresses, we will keep Senate leadership, and the broader body, apprised of our findings.

We have received assurance from the Director of National Intelligence that the Intelligence Community will fully and promptly support our requests for information related to the investigation, and we have every reason to believe that commitment will be honored by the incoming administration.

Majority Leader McConnell and Democratic Leader Schumer have made it clear they expect any investigation into Russia’s involvement in our nation’s elections to be conducted in a bipartisan manner.  It is a charge the SSCI takes seriously, as bipartisanship—in fact, non-partisanship—is at the very core of the Committee’s charter and is essential to preserving the intelligence equities involved.”

In addition to the joint statement, the Senators offered additional comment separately.

“As I indicated in my December statement, the SSCI has focused a great deal of attention on Russia’s behavior around the world,” said Chairman Burr.  “Over the last two years, we have held more than ten hearings and briefings on these issues, with four reviewing Russia’s so-called ‘active measures.’”

“The SSCI was established to oversee the intelligence activities and programs of the United States Government, and to ensure that the appropriate departments and agencies provided informed and timely intelligence to our nation’s leaders,” Burr added, “and part of our inquiry will necessarily be focused on what happened, and what didn’t happen, in this case.”

Of the investigation, Vice Chairman Warner said, “This issue impacts the foundations of our democratic system, it’s that important. This requires a full, deep, and bipartisan examination. At this time, I believe that this Committee is clearly best positioned to take on that responsibility, but whoever does this needs to do it right. If it turns out that SSCI cannot properly conduct this investigation, I will support legislation to empower whoever can do it right.  That is my position now, and it will be my position for the duration of the investigation. I look forward to working with Chairman Burr on this tremendously important matter.”

* * *

And now, our national anthem.