Monthly Archives: February 2016

The Destruction of Language

It makes no difference what The Donald says. Words don’t matter anymore. They are emptied of meaning. Take the latest f’r instance: The Constitution says the President should nominate a candidate for the Supreme Court and the Senate should vote on that choice. It’s not going to happen. McConnell has simply scrubbed the words in the Constitution clean of meaning, and that’s the end of it. “Not a snowball’s chance in hell” the words will mean what they say, says the Majority Leader.
So The Donald said whatever yesterday or last year or whenever. Not relevant. It doesn’t matter what he said. Words may as well be grunts.  With the destruction of language comes the loss of mind. What is left is concrete thinking. The Wall Trump will build on the Mexican border is a Thing. The Wall the Constitution places beteween the three branches of government is a symbol and its meaning can only be grasped by mind.

Paul Krugman has said repeatedly that the responsibility for this break-down is not symmetric. The Republicans have destroyed language in obstructing every function of government and the consequence is a political system that is non-existent. That break-down in symbolic language has resulted in the improbable triumph of Trump. He promises action, and that’s all one has with the obliteration of symbolic powers.

A Republican seer described last night’s Republican debate a “fight between third graders over monkey bars.” It is hardly the injunction, “Come, let us reason together.” It is war, simply at a third-grade level. But Trump and company are vying for the position of leader of the free world.

It is reported that Republican senators, when confronted by reporters about the Supreme Court vacancy, recoil in terror. That is comforting. Concrete thinking is an attribute of madness.

 

 

 

 

 
 

 

 

Trump’s Mojo

The Republicans insist they will not vote on a new Justice for the Supreme Court. Fools! They play right into the hands of that noted neuro-surgeon…No! not Ben Carson…Dr. Donald Trump, specialist for curing political quadriplegia.

The mood of our country is exactly as described by a great English poet, A.E Hausman.

Up, lad, up, ’tis late for lying:
Hear the drums of morning play;
Hark, the empty highways crying
‘Who’ll beyond the hills away?’

Up, lad: thews that lie and cumber
Sunlit pallets never thrive;
Morns abed and daylight slumber
Were not meant for man alive.

Clay lies still, but blood’s a rover;
Breath’s a ware that will not keep.
Up, lad: when the journey’s over
There’ll be time enough to sleep.

Notes
thews: Brit for thighs
pallets: night blankets

From another great communicator, Ronald Reagan:

“It’s morning in America.”

And from that whirling dervish, The Donald:

“We’ll make America great again.”

Miitch, baby, are you listening?

 

The Donald’s Secret

Well, isn’t that a surprise! Trump is now favored to win the Republican nomination for President of the United States, a job held by the likes of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln and FDR. Imagine having predicted that a year ago! Unthinkable, and yet it is now common wisdom.

Let’s do a thought experiment and see whether we can make sense out of The Donald. You are a football player. You have been injured severely.  You are a quadriplegic. And, mirabile dictu, suddenly you can move your toes. You can move your fingers. In a short while, movement has returned and you escape from the abyss.  You swoon with relief.

Trump is pure action. He has not a millimeter of depth. He thinks not at all. As Joe Klein of Time magazine pointed out, he knows nothing. He had just demonstrated on TV his ignorance of Medicaid. However, Trump promises one thing:

ACTION!

He personifies action. He is endowed, within his person, so he claims, of irresistible energy. He will move the country. He will make agreements that ride rough-shod over any obstacles. Gathered, in that mighty frame, is the force to do away with Obamacare and pathetic treaties and unemployment. Americans aren’t ideologues. They’re doers!

His entire campaign has one message in its deep structure: Trump will end the nation’s quadriplegia. It is a fact that between Mitch McConnell and John Boehner our government has become paralyzed. Year in and year out, every effort to govern, to take action, was speared like a head-hunter in football.  It was and is maddening. It was and is enraging. It goes on now with The President about to name a replacement for Scalia. And the American people, including Republicans, beg, DO SOMETHING! Wiggle your toes. Move your arms. Give some assurance we are not helpless, trapped. This is as much the cry from Republicans as from Democrats. Remember, Trump won the Republican primary yesterday. The approval rating for the Republican Congress is in single digits. And the fury at this self-imposed quadriplegia has Trump leading the Republicans.

Trump is a peerless man of action. He takes on his fellow contenders with reckless abandon. He criticizes the Pope. He speaks truthfully about Iraq and 9/11.  Whatever! He grabs Americans in their Go-Go. We’re a Can-Do lot. We find new frontiers, the West, The Moon, Cancer. We’re pragmatic. McConnell and Boehner have made cowards of us all. We’ve lost our birthright, the American Dream.

Trump has destroyed the Republican Party. So far, so good. He now looms as a threat to our nation. His shallowness is terrifying. Action without thought is as devastating as lack of action entirely. I’ve thought for years that the Congress was under control of home-grown terrorists. The Tea Party openly avowed the destruction of our government. McConnell openly stated his chief agenda was to destroy Obama. The night of Obama’s inauguration, the Republicans met in secret, plotting how to destroy the new President. Is that terrorism or what?

Hillary has to defeat Trump in the General, if it comes to that. And Democrats have to regain control of the Senate. In that case, Trump will have served the country.

Any other outcome is unthinkable.

 

 

 

 

 

Chaucer, Shakespeare and Scalia

This week-end, the second most powerful man in our country died, Antonin Scalia, an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court. The New York Times summarized his judicial philosophy:

 “Justice Scalia’s most important legacy will be his “originalism” and “textualism” theory that judges should decide cases according to the ‘public meaning’ of the words in the Constitution or its Amendments as understood by the American people in the state constitutional ratifying conventions.  ‘The only good Constitution is a dead Constitution,’ Scalia claimed. ‘The problem with a living Constitution in a word is that somebody has to decide how it grows and when it is that new rights are – you know — come forth. And that’s an enormous responsibility in a democracy to place upon nine lawyers, or even 30 lawyers.’ ( Such modesty from our Supreme Court Justice.) For him, the Constitution was static, unchanging and enduring.”

Chaucer wrote The Canterbury Tales in 1400 A.D. 200 years later, Shakespeare wrote Hamlet. The English language had evolved so extensively Chaucer’s English is not understandable without a translation. 200 years ago, the American colonies ratified the Constitution. Rap evolved from the language of James Madison. Nothing evolves faster than language. Words are breathed into the world by living human beings. They undergo infinite permutations. Words aren’t alive but the folks who use them are. Paraphrasing Heraclitus, we humans don’t step in the same river twice.

And Scalia, a grand Poo-Bah, claimed that the only way to master words is to throttle them. KIll the darlins’! “Sorry, folks, but what has to be has to be. We must recognize that the only good Constitution is a dead Constitution!” That’s what the man said. He was an “Originalist,” a fancy word for appropriating a people’s vision and burying it in his own back yard. His Constitution is written on clay tablets. The poet laughs him to scorn,

“Clay lies still, but bloods a rover.
Breath’s a ware that will not keep….”

The Constitution takes each generation back to the future. It looks before and after. It is an horizon that moves forever and forever with time past and time present and time future. It is not an antiquity displayed amid the accumulated rubbish of some special group.

Scalia thought like the fundamentalists and the evangelists. For them, the Bible is, literally, the  Word of God. It is a Thing.  These Christian sects claim ownership of the Godhead! They have The Kingdom, The Power, The  Glory in their hands! Actually, it’s a world-wide thought disorder. Have you heard of the Sunnis and the Shias? (How ’bout Republicans?)  Well, that’s how Scalia thought about the Constitution. What was so remarkable about Scalia is that he claimed not even 30 lawyers could accurately render the meaning of a living text. Heaven forbid! But one exegete, himself, could piece out the meaning of a dead document. He was known for not changing his opinion on any issue. If you have THE TRUTH in your possession, in your hot little hands, it does not lend itself to modesty or cooperating with others on the absurd notion they might have something to offer.

There’s a further problem. What to do with “new rights?”  What to do with enlarging human powers? with an evolving world? John Adams’ daughter had a mastectomy without anesthesia! Has medicine evolved in the last 200 years beyond belief? And sexual mores? Homosexuality has been discovered deep in biology. Contraception is a magnificent power only recently available to the race. What about savages and the findings of anthropology?

Scalia was a politician in judicial robes. He was deeply Catholic.  Like his church through the piled-up centuries, Scalia was ignorant and ruthless, vicious really, about human sexuality. He could be incredibly stupid. I heard his response today to a question about Citizens United. “It enlarges speech. After all, newspapers have the freedom to support a candidate.” The interrogator said that speech in Citizens United meant secret money. The grand Poo-Bah didn’t blink.

Physics and Politics

Physics – gravitational waves are HEARD from an explosion 1.3 billion years ago. How? You put two detectors half a continent apart, fire laser beams at each one, and because you can measure…this is beyond belief! because you can measure the distance from earth to the nearest star with an accuracy the width of a human hair, you get a gravitational chirp. It’s all written down in today’s New York Times. I’m not making this up.

Politics – Kissinger and the Pol Pot genocide were heard from again. And the Nazi Death Camps – a 93 year old German went on trial for 170,000 murders. And shrieking from Syria and 400 drowned refugees. From the width of our planet, rumbling empty stomachs, shouting and howling of the bombed, a chorus of cacaphony. And over the din,

A chirp.