Never Let Me Go… Going… Gone.

Never Let Me GoNever Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Ishiguro probably isn’t the guy to read if you’re looking for closure in your literary experience. He’s the crown prince of the anti-climax, the pope of pointlessness, the CEO of ennui.

His methodology for doing so is downright demented genius. In the future, if reality show producers can implant cameras directly into the brainpans of contestants they’d still not produce something so focused on the minutiae of ego and dramatics in the face of everyday events. They’d still not capture the depths of Ishiguro’s prose. It’d require some sort of juicing equipment to squeeze the liquid pain right out of the neurons to get something equivalent. Honestly, it’s something of a bizarre experience. I got quite sucked into this one, but the whole time I was asking myself, “Why? Why am I reading this? I could not be doing something right now. I don’t have to read about someone else not not doing anything either…. Do I?”

I guess I do. I went right along for the ride. The fact that it’s a roller coaster that never really has any thrills doesn’t seem to enter into the equation. It just goes up, up, up, clicking away, building to a whole height of expectation and tension.  Just when you think you’re going to slip into freefall, the ride suddenly starts back up again, leaving you unsatisfied but still in a state of anticipation, so you stay in your seat as the ride climbs inexorably to a new height from which to plummet.  And then you get out. Next customer please.

So, with all that abstraction out of the way, let’s get to some confusing specifics, like how one would classify this novel. First off, it’s barely science fiction. There is cloning as will become obvious to anyone relatively soon after they pick up the book, but if Ms. Atwood can say that her work is really “speculative fiction” rather than science fiction, then I think a very similar argument can be made here. The existence of clones and mentioning some genetic improvement possible on the human genome are the only science fiction elements. Well, that and an apparently preternatural super-Englishness, if you will. More on that in a bit.

The premise of the book is that clones are bred, raised and then harvested as organ donors, which is hardly an original thought, let alone for something published in 2005. Where Ishiguro does differ is in portraying the subject of such a program in stark, emotional terms. He lavishes them with all the pettiness and foibles of kids in a more or less dominant and oppressive social structure. To wit: a British boarding school. It’s not really a boarding school, but a near equivalent for the raising and housing of future organ donor clones. However, it has all the elements of such an environment that will be recognizable to anyone who attended any sort of public schooling: bullies, teasing, humiliation, cliques, best frenemies, ridiculously empowered administrators with little meaningful authority, etc. In brief: the adolescent public/private school experience, and all the social interaction nightmares that entails.

Within that context, the book is very British. Or, rather, it’s very English. Hyper-English, with some expatriated Japanese self-sacrificial, suicidal servility on top.  (Which is no accident.  Ishiguro was born Nagasaki, and he and his family moved to England in 1960 when he was five.) Indeed, it is very upper-middle/lower-upper class English. Here’s a scene to illustrate what I mean:

But Miss Lucy was now moving her gaze over the lot of us. ‘I know you don’t mean any harm. But there’s just too much talk like this. I hear it all the time, it’s been allowed to go on, and it’s not right.’ I could see more drops coming off the gutter and landing on her shoulder, but she didn’t seem to notice. ‘If no one else will talk to you,’ she continued, ‘then I will. The problem, as I see it, is that you’ve been told and not told. You’ve been told, but none of you really understand, and I dare say, some people are quite happy to leave it that way. But I’m not. If you’re going to have decent lives, then you’ve got to know and not properly. None of you will go to America, none of you will be film stars. And none of you will be working in supermarkets as I heard some of you planning the other day. Your lives are set out for you. You’ll become adults then before you’re old, before you’re even middle-aged, you’ll start to donate your vital organs. That’s what each of you was created to do. You’re not like the actors you watch on your videos, you’re not even like me. You were brought into this world for a purpose, and your futures, all of them, have been decided. So you’re not to talk that way any more. You’ll be leaving Hailsham before long, and it’s not so far off, the day you’ll be preparing for your first donations. You need to remember that. If you’re to have decent lives, you have to know who you are and what lies ahead of you, every one of you.’

At that, all of the students, rise up and… go with it! ‘Well, so what? We already know all that.’ That’s the reaction. Seriously, that’s a quote from the book.

Can you imagine that scene playing out in a school in some other English speaking part of the world where calm, under-stated reserve isn’t a fetishized social value? I don’t see that even happening in a British/English school, mind you, but the idea of placing that scene in Scotland, Australia or–Heaven forbid–the United States just doesn’t jibe. Nonetheless, the point of Ishiguro’s story is that he never gives you a resolution for that injustice. In nearly any other piece of entertainment, one would take that kind of speech as a call for revolution. But Ishiguro will give no satisfaction to that emotional desire for injustice, build up, rebellion and resolution. In truth, such resolution is a rare commodity in real life–not nearly as pat and simple as it is generally portrayed in fiction–and in that sense he’s giving us a much more truthful representation of humanity.  And if one looks at the current state of the world, it’s hard not to recognize those self-same qualities in every nation on Earth.  They’re just not quite so British about it….

So, if you go through the whole book wondering when the penny is going to drop, it never does. Nothing drops. There is no penny.

Instead, we get a strange piece of literature, but one that is an illustration of how most people really fail stand up for anything. Even in the tumult of massive social change, there are only a few true participants. The rest are merely in attendance, lend little more than their numbers to the unfolding of events, and really have no more connection to events than to include themselves with that barest of participation trophies that we award ourselves, and upon which we place so much significance, but which have so little actual meaning, the feeble admonition, “I was was there.” What Ishiguro describes is a society where there are no movers and shakers, just a mindlessly grinding social machine that eats itself like ouroboros on Quaaludes. He’s showing us the commonality of humanity that led so many to walk impassively into the gas chambers while so many more looked on, that allows so many of us to turn a blind eye to the suffering around us right now, that prevents us–even as we espouse views that directly oppose such things–from doing anything in the face of the predation of the few on the many that we see every single day.

In doing so, he dips into some Orwellian language for his vocabulary that is chilling. The clones are not clones, of course, but students, then carers (when they provide company to their fellows as they go through the surgical procedures) and then donors. Their instructors are not teachers, but “guardians.” Clones do not die when they are finally put to death. Instead, they “complete.” These are horrific terms delivered with the deadpan indifference that is brutal, but completely recognizable in a world where newscasters and politicians use terms like “collateral damage” to describe the gory dismemberment of civilians with industrialized killing machines with cold, calculating cynicism.

If Ishiguro has a fault it is in the repetitive nature of his plotting and anti-climaxes. That is, his technique is to foreshadow a situation with a term or even just a word in a way that tantalizes the reader, and then over the course of the next few paragraphs, pages or even the whole book, reveal what he hinted at. It’s a fairly standard technique, but in this case, that foreshadowing inevitably leads to an anti-climax. For example, Ishiguro ends Chapter Eleven with one character, Tommy, discovering our protagonist, Kathy, leafing through some pornographic magazines. When Tommy asks her what she was looking for she gets coy, and Ishiguro ends the chapter with this sentence: “I did tell him eventually, but that wasn’t until a few months later, when we went on our Norfolk trip.”

That hint leads to what will be an anti-climax. To get to that anti-climax, however, we have another chapter with a trip to Norfolk that has it’s own set up, build-up, and anti-climax, and within that chapter there are a few minor set ups, build-ups and anti-climaxes. The whole structure of the book is a broad, looping series of set ups, build-ups and anti-climaxes until you get to the final one that was set up in the first chapter and then resolved (or not, as it is, after all, an anti-climax) in the last. From a structural standpoint, it’s quite an accomplished piece of work.

But it’s not a thriller. It’s all angst all the time. Angst and what folks today sometimes call “butthurt.” You could make a drinking game out of the number of times people stomp off in a huff over some triviality or another. The particulars of every expression and posture of characters are related in sometimes agonizing detail, and it does get repetitive. By Chapter Sixteen when I came across this paragraph:

But to explain what we were talking about that evening, I’ll have to go back a little bit. In fact, I’ll have to go back several weeks, to the earlier part of the summer….”

I actually blurted out “Oh, fer Chrissake!” and had to put the thing down for a while. At certain points, this book could try Jane Austen’s patience….

Do I recommend it or not?

I can’t give this one a thumb’s up for most folks. The subject matter isn’t at all difficult, and it did read well for me personally in that under-stated, Oh-so-English way, but thematically I think there are some real problems. He is using the idea of clones and organ donation to tell a story about the human condition, but that basic premise is already a dated one, and arguably has been dated for a long time. For all of it’s accomplishment in terms of theme, structure and emotive content, the story itself is highly affected and contrived. Not one character thinks to run away, to challenge the system that they are a part of, to even contemplate resistance. They don’t even discuss it. That means either these clones are modified away from humanity that they aren’t actually human–and we should, therefore, not be as concerned about their fate–or that presentation itself is ultimately inaccurate. The closest we get to bucking the system is a response to a rumor that under certain circumstances their fate might be “deferred” for a few years. As a result, the accomplishments of the book are vitiated, and even in appreciating them, we have to recognize them as abstractions. The lessons to be learned from the book are not direct, meaningful ones, but remote and generalized so far as to make them quite thin.

If you have an interest in structure and what I have to describe as an artfully depressing story, then I can highly recommend this one. For the average reader who isn’t interested in those things? Well, there are social satire/authoritative books all over the place, and if we didn’t already accept the fundamental humanity of clones then any number of more direct, action/adventure stories that precede this one wouldn’t exist. So, go read Orwell or Atwood for examples of speculative fiction. Those books might not be as carefully poignant as Ishiguro’s version, but they are more profound.

I gave it three (of five) stars on Goodreads, which probably isn’t even remotely fair; it’s a much more accomplished piece of work than that middling rating conveys.  But if anything one of the lessons of this book is that life isn’t fair, and that such things are personal and cruel even when we want them to be just and fair, so I’m sticking by that assessment.

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Criticizing Critical Thinking

A Field Guide to Lies: Critical Thinking in the Information AgeA Field Guide to Lies: Critical Thinking in the Information Age by Daniel J. Levitin

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the kind of book that should be distributed to high school juniors and seniors, and upon which tests should be composed which would determine whether or not students were to be issued diplomas. Maybe not this particular text. Levitin is writing for a broader market and more general audience than the average or below average high schooler whose mental powers need some sort of hammering into shape. But if not this one then one very similar.

As for adults, Levitin’s target audience, all I can say is that if the majority of lessons in this book aren’t ones that they’ve already absorbed, then reading this book alone might not be enough to penetrate. It’s remedial, but not so remedial that it can trick out an old dog. I’m increasingly finding a cold comfort in the words of the dearly departed George Carlin who said,

My point being, it might be too late for a lot of ’em. If you consider for a moment (using some of the mathematical probability ideas expressed in this book, or just some simple math) the lower half of that bottom half, then look around at the world in which we find ourselves, George’s axiom becomes pretty clear. We live in an age of unprecedented access to information. A vast amount of the knowledge of the human race is at our very fingertips. Yet, even with access to the World Library, tens of millions of Americans are unable to make a simple binary decision without being influenced by the most shallow and obvious lies. Now, we could argue that that is due to an equally unprecedented amount of disinformation to go along with it, and while that’s true, I think it ignores the basic problem. Even with access to knowledge, there is an unimaginably large number of people unwilling or unable to understand basic facts. They aren’t just Luddites who reject progress; they reject any value of truth itself. Think of the lower half of Carlin’s bottom half–the people upon whom that “average” person thinks, “Wow, what a dummy…” and reflect that such a person represents the top edge of the bottom 25% percent of the population. That’s well over 75,000,000 people in this country alone, the nominal democratic leader of the Western world.

Looked at like that, it’s kind of surprising that Vitamin Trump only got 62,984,825 votes.  I’m sure that remaining 12 million weren’t of age, or couldn’t find the polls, or were at home watching The Price is Tac-Toe Family Feud or wandered off into the night with a ballot stuck to their shoe.

With that in mind, I’m not so confident that the idealistic basis of this book can actually happen. The liars are in business for good, and they are thriving. What’s worse is that at this point, their audience is effectively insane. People who believe in chemtrails and that we faked the moon landing are almost quaintly idiosyncratic now. There’s a huge swath of the population who cannot entertain reality even when confronted with it in favor of a fantasy construct in which it is truly they who are the smart ones. Oh, sure, they don’t read books, or understand the math, or know anything about art, or history, or SAT vocabulary words, or science, or engineering, or how to compose a grammatical sentence, or cook without a microwave, but really THEY are the intelligent ones. Because all those things are for the smarty-pants, who are really dumb. Being smart isn’t about knowing things, or knowing how to do things, or what things are, or how they work. There’s a core center of instinctive intelligence that is much, much more importanter… importantly? importantism? Whatevah. You know whaddImean. Words are for those smarty-pants anyway.

How is a book that relates the basic workings of statistics going to compete with that mindset? These people would take their cues from The Real Housewives of Narnia before factoring the probability of life saving medical procedures to be performed on their relatives.

If we were to break up the population into thirds rather than halves as does Saint George, then I suppose it’s possible that a book like this one might be able to help some of the folks in that middle third… maybe the middle third of that middle third. Much to either side of that and you start running into people for whom it is a repetition of the stats class they took as an AP course in high school on one side and the people who think the layaway program at TJ Maxx is a really good deal on the other.

Still, it might be a good idea to start walking around with a few copies of this book under your arm to hand out to people who confront you with the latest round of, say, Russian-Collusion-with-the-White-House-by-way-of-Fox-News Hillary Clinton propaganda at the counter of your local diner while you’re just minding your own business trying to eat a fucking tuna melt. (That’s a true story, BTW.) Just slip a copy of this book across the counter towards them and see if they cringe away, hissing like Gollum. “Bookses! It readses bookses! They burns us, my Precious-Hannity! Burnsssss ussss!”

That one’s for you, brah:

Gollum J Trump

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Completely Change Your Life in 30 Seconds for Dummies

How to Completely Change Your Life in 30 SecondsHow to Completely Change Your Life in 30 Seconds by Earl Nightingale

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I read a bunch of Earl Nightingale decades ago. How to Win Friends and Speak in Public. That sort of thing. I picked this one up because it was literally lying around the house, and figured a little motivational prose might be a good way to clear my mind from the Trumpiness of the era in which we find ourselves. “Couldn’t hurt…” I thought. And it can’t. Not really. Not in a material sense. Not much. I don’t think so, but I’m not positive.

There’s a joke/anecdote I like to tell from time to time when talking with people about our health. If I ever write a book on the subject, it’ll be called Eat Less, Exercise More, and the entire text will be those four words, repeated as a mantra (or like the pages of “All work and no play make Jack a dull boy” in The Shining) and I’ll just sit back and let the cash and accolades roll in. I mention it because I remember Nightingale being more than a little relentlessly cheerful from reading his work in the past, and much of that is the kind of elaboration that starts to ring as superfluous very quickly in something longer than an article in a fitness magazine. So, in this case the secret to completely changing your life in 30 seconds that Nightingale is talking about could be boiled down to four words:

Make plans; think positive.

Most of the book is an exercise in restating those four words as elaborately and with as much enthusiasm as possible. Make plans mindfully. Make positive plans. Make plans cheerfully. Make good plans. Plan to think positively. Make happy plans. Make happy plans to plan your positive plans with cheerful plans that are planned positively then plan to do your plans positively as well. It’s less tiresome than that, but that’s the basic idea.

Where I think Nightingale goes off the rails is in two major bits of rhetoric.

Too happy 01
Every day is Christmas in the Nightingale-verse!

First, his use of superlatives and absolutes borders on the pathological. Saying things doesn’t make them so, but you’d never know that from reading tens of thousands of words of positive affirmations that is any given Nightingale book. In fact, his zeal for optimism transcends optimism itself to become evangelical. After a few chapters of this book in particular, it becomes clear that this isn’t a methodology so much as a belief system with all the saints, angels and faithful that such a religion implies (Nightingale is the pope in this metaphor.) And like any dogma, the promises of salvation are hyperbolic to an extreme. Nightingale’s version of the ultimate, karmic fairness of the universe is that all effort is returned to the person who put it forth with perfect and total reciprocity. It’s a “law of nature” he insists, like gravity. It is a lovely idea, but it is no natural law, and is also one that fails as soon as anyone who can gather just a moment of objectivity actually observes the real world.

Very quickly Nightingale’s work stops being about how to change your life, and about how to pretend your life isn’t what it’s really like because admitting fault and failure is tantamount to being at fault and failing. His account of the CEO who would insist at every possible problem that “That’s good!” is simply insane (and probably not true. Imagine someone coming to that boss and saying he has to take three days off for bereavement to be confronted with “That’s good!” like some manic version of the Joker in a business suit.) Not everything is an opportunity for growth and profit. There really are setbacks and things that must be overcome, and even in overcoming them we are less than we would be had that situation not been encountered at all. Not all tragedies are learning experiences, and anyone who tells you different is in denial. The effort to reject that basic reality is called post-rationalization and at a certain point the insistence to recast everything within such a narrow and illusory framework smacks of embracing a fantasy world more than the incremental and effortful work required to make one’s life a little bit better than it was the day before. Three chapters into Nightingale’s text I was pretty sure the mindset he insists is the only way to achieve success could be replicated by a blow to the head and a lifetime prescription of Prozac. Like the drug addled and delusional in a psych ward, firmly rooted in a world of perceptive illusion, those who embrace his ideal wouldn’t even be able to tell the difference between accomplishment and failure. “You’ve got a narcissistic personality disorder,” a doctor might say, only to get the standard response as if from some grinning automaton, “That’s good!”

Too Happy 03
Covered in blood and gore?   That’s good!

The second problem with Nightingale’s rhetoric is how reductive and dismissive it is of failure. Those who fail in his estimation are utterly responsible for that failure. Reward for effort is, he insists, a fundamental law of the universe, so any failure can only be the result of a lack of effort on the part of the person putting it forth. Further, if we “become what we think about” as he repeats is the basis of all success, then people who don’t achieve success are at fault on a personal and psychic level, not because the economy shifted, nor because of the circumstances of their birth, and certainly not because their efforts were stolen or sabotaged by rivals. There is no room for such things in the Nightingale worldview, and he has all the examples he needs to prove the point, no matter how much he may misrepresent those examples or how exceptional they might prove compared to reality. Yes, there are counter examples of people who succeed despite any of those things, succeed where others fail, or who take long odds and win, but those examples come from the whole of human experience, and many, if not most, of those stories are very likely the result of a bit of creative self-assessment from people who really succeeded through no meaningful effort of their own, or who succeed wildly out of proportion with the amount of effort they actually put in. Citing them has all the normative value of a lightning strike. Not only does the real world not work that way because of any number of issues ranging from random chance to the zeitgeist in which we abide, but Nightingale insists not just by implication but expressly that those who have failed have only themselves to blame (he says it in much nicer terms than that, but he does talk quite a bit about people who are at fault for their own bad attitudes and, therefore, failure in life as he assesses it.) Within the construct of Nightingale’s ideas, that failure can be based on no other influence than their own mental powers of positivity that just happen to line up perfectly with his own personal success or—at least—the version of it that he is presenting himself. So, in the end, if you fail that’s your fault, but if you win it’s all thanks to the ideas he describes or, in short, to him. You’re welcome.

Always look on the bright side of life

Or I should say Him there, because Nightingale does use the Bible as a source for an awful lot of his ideas. The Bible spends a lot more time telling people not to eat shellfish than to think positively, but Nightingale cherry-picks from the Bible those ideas that fit into the mental construct he insists is the only right way to look at the world. And, of course, where they don’t fit, he “interprets” them until they do. That’s a process that certainly predates Nightingale. It’s not like religious leaders, politicians and pundits didn’t selectively read passages from religious texts until he came along to show them how to do it.

Nigel Farage
I’m sure he knows what he’s doing.

Nightingale was not the first to apply that process to business and personal success itself either. It’s not hard to hear John Harvey Kellogg echoing all the way from Battle Creek in Nightingale’s pie in the sky fanciful writings, for instance. But he was almost certainly the most successful at it of his time, and though I’m sure he’d claim that was all due to the methods he applied, I’m very confident that he is just tapping into that same emotional weakness that people have to be accepted by the other primates in the jungle than much to do with actual financial, personal, social or even emotional success.

None of that is to say that a positive outlook is something of NO merit. It does have a lot of utility. There are a range of studies that show how it influences perception and how one is perceived. You can get more with a smile and a handshake than without one. Physically, a positive attitude taps into the same psychological conditions that lead to things like the placebo effect, hormonal balance and aids all kind of things like digestion and oxygen intake. It’s a real thing. It’s just not the end all, be all of human existence, and like moderation itself, must be taken in moderation. The guilt of failure that Nightingale puts on people is the dark side of his superlative use of language, and the zeal with which he presents his convictions. The sense of entitlement of those who have economic advantages and who justify themselves based on things that they never put effort into, were gained by chance, or even acquired unethically are all justified by the language of Nightingale’s ideas. And what’s worse, he doesn’t just fail to acknowledge that they exist, he insists that they do not. “You are what you think about.” All trouble is temporary or a blessing in disguise. In the long run, that lends itself to the most tragic kind of failure and collapse—the kind that we all must face as part of our fundamental humanity, and is incredibly vulnerable because the fragility of the logic means emotionally his ideas are even more delicate and, thus, easily shattered. To embrace optimism to the degree that Nightingale insists isn’t just an impossible standard, it is to live in a desperately delusional world of denial that is always on the brink of despair. That doesn’t sound like much of a route to success to me.

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Too Happy 04
Have a nice day!

The National Review Learns a Thing… And Mad Now! Mad! Maaaaad!

I suppose it had to happen eventually. The folks at The National Review learned a thing that didn’t come from a 19th century economics treatise on factory management.

This month, 3-4 decades late, they heard about the Bechdel Test and, predictably, they no like-y. So, words about it. Not smart words, of course. They don’t appear to have understood it, know anything about it’s application, or perused the materials from which they derive their examples. But those aren’t the kinds of things that stop an ardent crypto-intellectual who calls him/herself a “conservative” in a way that would probably have made Orwell dry-heave. They are, in fact, the soil from which they grow. Like weeds. And not the good kind that you can put in a pipe. Here’s a snippet:

Now, I’m not even going to get into why that particular example adds up to stupid. If it’s not readily apparent then explaining why it doesn’t make sense isn’t going to penetrate. Let’s just say that if you’re a fan of that kind of argument then, well, this article is full of it….

For those so inclined, here’s the full article:

Donald Trump Is Not Hitler, Part 1.3: Where Do We Go From Here?

I wrote this up in response to a Huffington Post article last January:

HUFFPO isn’t usually my muse. The stories on that site often have a certain word vomit quality that I find off-putting, which means HUFFPO-inspired bloviation becomes “a dog returning to it’s own vomit” literally/figuratively, and I have to admit that is more than a bit incestuous.  But we’re talking about the Man Who Would Be Dating His Daughter here, so let’s not get too worried about inspiration. Normally, I rely upon a kind of incipient wit and distrust in the intellectual powers of mankind for my political thoughts, and that seems to work out pretty well.  Nonetheless, I’m reposting it here because it was on Facebook, and Facebook makes me kind of sad these days, but also because people are actively talking about the 25th Amendment on this Fourth of July Weekend (on Tuesday) and I think these ideas are worth contributing to the blogosphere in that context.

There’s four options as far as I can see:

Trump Golf1. Trump will resign. The presidency is a job. Trump’s never had a job. Oh, he and his supporters will say he works hard, is a successful business man, etc. But the reality is that he’s a guy who inherited wealth, has spent most of his life squandering it, and been propped up by what is, effectively, a system of economic class exploitation. That’s not the same as having a job. All those folks who complain that the Obama administration, or just the left in general, have been waging “class warfare” are, essentially, right. But they’re right in that essential sense that the class war has been fought for decades and everyone below the upper classes has been losing. There’s a class war in the U.S. alright, but it’s the upper class preying upon everyone else. And Trump, through no initiative of his own, has been a beneficiary of that. Whether someone who has never actually had a job can suddenly step into the presidency for very long is a pretty dubious proposition. Traditionally, Republicans put in an awful lot fewer hours than Democrats in office, but it’s still an actual job, and that’s not the kind of thing Trump has been prepared for.

25th Amendment
The 25th Amendment, strangely, doesn’t say a thing about colluding with foreign powers.

2. The 25th Amendment. This one is basically about the succession, and what happens should the President become “incapacitated” or otherwise unable to do his duty. Now, this has been pretty seriously ignored and bypassed in the past (look up our illustrious first female president, Edith Bolling Galt Wilson, whose husband’s stroke, invalid condition, and seclusion made her effectively a shadow president for a time) but it’s hard to see that happening again in the 21st century. In the early 20th century a president could be secluded for weeks. Bush was in seclusion for days after 9/11 and it was so obvious that even his own party started criticizing him. Trump will very likely start exhibiting the symptoms of his several mental disorders over the coming months, and that could easily be grounds to declare hm unfit. Of course, then we’d wind up with Mike Pence at the helm….

Trump - Impeachment Clock3. As this article suggests, impeachment. Personally, I don’t see this happening before the midterms. It’s possible that Trump could be impeached by a Congress dominated by his own party, but that just doesn’t seem very likely to me. There could be any number of bases for impeachment. There’s already fodder enough given Trump’s refusal to divest from his financial conflicts of interest to his ties with the Russians, the mafia, let alone his activities in office. Still, we’ll have to see how this plays out. And we should bear in mind at this point that under Bill Clinton the bar for Impeachment was lowered so far as to include lying about getting a blowjob being cast as obstruction of justice.

4. The fourth option is that he serves his full four year term. Hell, maybe he’ll get a second term, or repeal the 22nd Amendment and become “President for Life” like any number of other tinpot dictators. Then he could just delegate the actual work of the presidency to his lieutenants, setting up a kind of Henry VIII-style monarchy in which some functionary or another has to fall on his/er sword whenever things go wrong. That looks to me like what he wants to do anyway, and would appear to be the deal struck with Pence. Hell, at this point, anything is possible.

King Trump
Just three more wives and he’ll beat his hero’s record!

Not a lot has changed since January.  Well, things have changed in the sense that the United States is a laughingstock around the world, and the core of our freedoms are being corroded from the inside, but when it comes to the solutions we have the same basic options.

What Passes For Intellect These Days….

Intellectuals and SocietyIntellectuals and Society by Thomas Sowell

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

This is a fascinating idea: a study upon the nature and influence of intellectuals themselves upon society. What more appropriate group for study than the people dedicated to study? Many people have described the nature of academia, or the processes of research and development in American life, but as far as I know, nobody has turned the spotlight on intellectuals as a group. That lack means that such an analysis is not only warranted, but even needful.

Unfortunately, Sowell fails in this analysis on every meaningful level. In describing the errors of what he deems to be the intellectuals of American society he makes several fundamental errors that fatally doom this effort to describe the processes of intellect, and he does so in ways that should have been obvious to anyone before they sat down to write. In brief, in his criticism of intellectuals in American culture, Sowell commits—almost systematically—every error of logic, shallow misinterpretation and sin of omission that he accuses his subjects of performing. In many cases he commits the error he is describing an intellectual of committing AS HE IS DESCRIBING IT. He does so without any apparent recognition of his own participation in the exact same processes in a way that must be recognized as irretrievably hypocritical if not pathetically naïve.

I can’t fully address the fallacious errors of this book because it is so rife with them that doing so would require a similarly lengthy text. Let’s just say that the logical errors are so fundamental, and Sowell’s embracing of them so complete, that they appear on nearly every single page, in every example, and in his every argument.

Let’s start with his first and probably least offensive error of logic. Sowell begins by defining intellect, its role in society and the differences between intellect and intelligence, or even that elusive concept: wisdom. “The capacity to grasp and manipulate complex ideas is enough to define intellect,” according to his definition. Or, more succinctly: “Intelligence minus judgment equals intellect.” Now, right off, we’ve got a problem because that’s simply not the operative definition of intellect in the common understanding of the word. Here’s what a dictionary has as a definition:

1. the faculty of the mind by which one knows or understands, as distinguished from that by which one feels or wills; capacity for thinking and acquiring knowledge.

2. capacity for thinking and acquiring knowledge of a high or complex order.

3. a particular mind or intelligence, esp. of a high order.

4. a person possessing a great capacity for thought and knowledge.

5. minds collectively.

Intellect is not intelligence less judgment. Judgment is part of understanding. You can no more divorce judgment from intellect than you can remove knowledge, thought or comprehension. One of the reasons we do not have an artificial intelligence is that we have been unable to develop a machine with judgment. Machines can rate, value and compare, but they do not judge. That’s what an intellectual does. Sowell’s definition “intelligence minus judgment” describes a machine, not an intellect.

Unfortunately, Sowell then goes on to further lobotomize the definition by casting it across society so broadly as to make it a meaningless standard. His examples are drawn from the halls of academia to be sure, but he also includes editorialists, journalists, playwrights, psychologists, politicians (notably some who were anti-intellectual) religious leaders, doctors and a range of industrialists. Now, it is certainly true that there are intellectuals amongst any or all of those groups of people, but what Sowell does in lumping them together so haphazardly is create a pool of intellectuals and—at best—non-intellectuals from whom he can draw his examples. He then picks and chooses amongst them to make his case. In doing so, he seems to have redefined “intellectual” to mean “anyone with a public voice” no matter where that voice comes from, nor how it is expressed.

Furthermore, according to Sowell, intellectuals cannot be people who go about actually implementing the fruits of their ideas. They are not “policy wonks” or social engineers. They leave such things to others. Specifically mentioned, therefore, as NOT intellectuals are people like Jonas Salk and Bill Gates, whose mental efforts actually produced something that changed society directly. Intellect, it seems, is intelligence less judgment, action AND success.

I suppose if one really wants to parse the concept down, one could exclude Bill Gates from the concept of intellectuals on the basis of the relative newness and specificity of his intellectual efforts on a global and historical scale. It would be an error to do so, but it’s a comprehensible one. However, I defy anyone to reasonably describe Jonas Salk as not an intellectual. Sowell had to turn a particularly strange and elaborate backflip in order to justify that one.

In short, Sowell defines intellect as anybody he deems foolish, ineffectual or shallow, and whose efforts have had no meaningful influence on society.

(Yet he seems to have no sense that he might himself qualify according to his own standards.)

This failure of comprehension permeates the entire book, and Sowell goes into rhapsodic fallacious detail in describing the common errors of human beings as the faults of intellectuals.

Just one, of many, examples of this error:

In short, at all levels of the intelligentsia, and in a wide range of specialties, the incentives tend to reward going beyond whatever expertise the particular member of the intelligentsia may have, and the constraints against falsity are few or non-existent. It is not that most of the intelligentsia deliberately lie in a cynical attempt to gain notoriety or to advance themselves or their cause in other ways. However, the general ability of people to rationalize to themselves, as well as to others, is certainly not lacking among the intelligentsia.

Here we again run into one of the constant logical loops that Sewell completely fails to acknowledge or, apparently, to recognize. He could very well be talking about himself in that paragraph. In fact, he *is* talking about himself. Sowell is trained as an economist. He’s written books on social theory and commentary, but his authority to do so is derived through his education and his experience as a pundit, not his expertise.

Furthermore, what he attributes to the intelligentsia is, in fact, simply part of the human condition. Everyone acts outside their specialties, and we are all incentivized to do so. Not to do so is to deny a fundamental human quality. Specialization has a role, but to only act within that specialization is to reject intelligence itself.

Where Sowell’s efforts to describe a social phenomenon don’t simply fail but become truly offensive is in his presentation of other’s ideas. Sowell either misrepresents the ideas that other scholars have presented or fails to comprehend them so badly as to make himself a fool exactly of the kind he is attempting to critique. I’ll give two examples, just to illustrate the point.

First, in his description of reactions to the police:

…many of the intelligentsia express not only surprise but outrage at the number of shots fired by the police in some confrontation with a criminal, even if many of these intellectuals have never fired a gun in their lives, much less faced life-and-death dangers requiring split-second decisions.

Now, here Sowell draws upon and stumbles over his experience as a pistol instructor for the Marine Corps. (This is the kind of error he attributes to many intellectuals early in the book.) The problem is that Sowell’s military experience has nothing to do with the objection, and his apparent inability to see past that training makes his assessment a problem. What he fails to recognize is that the nameless intellectuals (he avoids referencing anyone or a particular case on this issue–though it would have been much easier to do so than nearly any other example he cites–since the logic here gets quite shaky) he describes are not objecting to the actual number of shots fired alone. Intellectuals, in fact, understand not only the rate of fire of modern weapons but also their accuracy—just as most Americans, or anyone with a television, is capable of grasping that simple and obvious reality, regardless of their status as a combat veteran. When someone objects to the number of shots fired in a particular case it is done when there is also a contrast between that reaction and the situation with which the police officer was confronted. When it turns out the suspect was not armed, did not make any threatening move, was detained without proper cause, or was otherwise not an appropriate target of police fire at all. When a policing situation goes so far as to require a military style response, intellectuals are perfectly capable of understanding and recognizing that transition. No intellectual objected to the number of shots fired in taking down the Boston bombers, who were themselves armed with firearms and explosives. Intellectuals do not object to the more then 2,000 shots fired in the North Hollywood shootout in and of itself, though someone (including, say, a police officer reviewing the situation and preparing a report on it to his department) could quite legitimately ask why those robbers had 44 minutes to engage the police, thus allowing for such a long exchange AND so many shots fired.

When intellectuals object to the number of shots fired in a particular situation, they are pointing out that the transition between an everyday policing problem and the more military role of the police in suppressing violence has been blurred or bypassed. They are pointing out that shots should not have been fired at all, let alone dozens or sometimes hundreds of them. That Sowell is unable to recognize this objection for what it is, and must instead cite statistics about the number of hits at a particular range, illustrates his failure to comprehend even the most obvious of intellectual statements.

(You may be able to see one of the reasons Sowell didn’t cite examples for that particular objection. Doing so would make his argument and position quite vulnerable. He’d be in danger of siding with cases of police brutality and malfeasance, and that would undermine his true objective for this book. More on that in a bit….)

I could go into more detail about the specific examples that Sowell cites. Let’s just say that as he extrapolates into broader and even more meaningful areas (civil liberties, social justice, the justifications and prosecutions of war) Sowell goes from offensive to truly misguided and repugnant. In rationalizing the American participation in the Iraq War, for example, Sowell abandons any arguments where reasonable people can disagree and dives right into the horrific logic of submental rationalizations employed by the truly misguided. He engages in such sophistries as this:

In fact, all the Americans killed in the two Iraq wars put together were fewer than those killed taking the one island of Iwo Jima during the Second world War or one day [emphasis included] of fighting at Antietam during the Civil War.

I’m not going to describe why that bloody accounting is offensive, and if you need an explanation you’ll not be capable of understanding it, so let’s just leave it at this: comparing the casualties in wars for survival to the American involvement in Iraq is not to slip off the slope, but to leap from it.

I’ll conclude on this note: Where Sowell goes to some pains to explain that many of the people he describes as intellectuals are not engaging in their efforts cynically, having read this book I have no such expectation of Sowell. In fact, the only justification for this book that I can see is that it is as a resume. It is filled with so many errors of logic and assertion that it can only be a curriculum vitae for someone seeking grant money from think tanks funded by deep pockets. These organizations are actively and constantly seeking justification and arguments for the money they spend on political support. This book is a play for some of that funding, and the high-paying speaking engagements that go with it. It has no real value other than to outline the script for buyers of such a product. Nobody should bother attending such a lecture any more than they should bother with this book. It’s not, in fact, about intellectuals at all. It wasn’t written by one. It doesn’t serve any meaningful or worthwhile purpose other, perhaps, as an illustration of the lengths and breadths of mental hypocrisy and narcissism.

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The Ridiculous and the Sublime

Sometimes I wonder if I’m the only one who sees the world from this kind of perspective: alienated, hyper-aware, with a surreal consciousness of the sublime but also the omnipresence of the ridiculous and constantly cognizant of the ritualistic humiliation that is life.

But then I remember the time I saw a clown at kid’s birthday party taking a break. He had his big clown foot up against the stucco wall, propping him up a bit, and was smoking a cigarette. He said, “How’z it goin’?” when I walked by, and reflexively I said, “You know… same old, same old, man.”

“Yeah,” he said, and took another drag.

Then I walked in and got some cake. Home made. Not bad. The punch was watered down, but I found a bottle of vodka in the freezer and raided it. Kids ran by while I poured. The mommy/hostess said, “Help yourself…” with more than a hint of sarcasm, but I chose not to hear it. “Thanks,” I said, and poured a second cup of the stuff for the clown.

He took it without a word when I handed it to him, and even though it was at least as much potato go-juice as punch, he didn’t even twitch when he took a sip.

“Tough gig?” I asked.

“Beats workin’,” he replied. Fucker had it all figured out, man. Embrace it. Embrace it all. Every ridiculous bit.

Doing Twitter Wrong

I try to avoid certain topics on Twitter.  Or, I should say, I try to avoid a meaningful conversation about certain topics.  It’s just not the medium for anything really substantial.  Sure, there are little axioms or pearls of wisdom that one might be able to convey in 140 characters or less (with a graphic and emojis!) but that kind of format doesn’t lend itself to an awful lot of comprehension.  News updates.  Pithy one-liners or two-liners.  Jokes.  These are the things that Twitter is meant for.  Anything else requires a different venue like, say, a blog or something tiresome like that.  Even that wretched pit of distant family and moribund friendships maintained only by that most invasive of artificial life support, Facebook, is a better able to convey complex thoughts.

Tweet Limit 1To get around the limitations of the system, people employ a range of tactics on Twitter, probably the most obnoxious of which is the emoji storm.  Not just one, not just two, not just three, but a whole line of animated smiley faces graphically slapping away at mimed knees.  Hoo-boy!  That’s a hoot!  There’s always the site link, which is probably how most of the folks who might be reading this happened upon it.  My apologies for getting spammed by me.  My personal favorite is the text graphic in which someone puts text into through some shiny word processor, or just does a copy/paste over some longer text they’ve written and puts it into a picture attachment rather than the usual Twitter fare of pirated political cartoons and porn stills.  The text/graphic has got a certain charm if for no other reason than it games the system using the system.

Leap Year TweetProbably my least favorite way of getting around the Twitter character limit is the tweet thread.  I suppose under certain circumstances, it has some utility.  Live-tweeting a current event, for instance, maintains the Twitter sense of immediacy while also allowing one to convey more detailed information.  As a general rule, though, I try to avoid put things up on Twitter that are going to require a series of tweets.  It’s unavoidable sometimes, but tweet threads aren’t my thing.

But we’re in the era when nobody can stay in their comfort zone with a clear conscience, so here’s my contribution to Twitter verbosity:

Trump Thread 1-3

Top Gun, Part Deux

Many moons ago, I was having a chat with a friend of mine who was in film school. He’d attended a lecture given by the director of An Officer and a Gentleman, Taylor Hackford.  My friend said he asked Mr. Hackford about the possibility of a sequel to the film, to which Hackford replied, “Ha! They already made it! It’s called Top Gun!”

Now, if you’re having something of a “Huh?” moment putting those two movies together like I did, I think the reasoning kind of sort of goes: Navy and Navy, Aviator and Aviator, buddy-movie and buddy-movie.  Throw in a romantic interest.  A little poorly designed conflict resolution practices….  Blam!  Sequel!

Now, Mr. Hackford was very possibly pulling my friend’s chain, or it could have been a joke, and my pal didn’t get the irony of his comment, or any number of other possible explanations/interpretations for what Hackford was saying there.  Hell, he might have just been wistful about getting his La Bamba makin’ mits on some of that sweet, sweet Top Gun budget….  So, that aforementioned sequel reasoning might not have anything to do with Taylor Hackford’s thinking at all.

But something like it definitely has something to do with someone’s Hollywood thinking, because a sequel is happening.

OK, where to start on this? Well, I guess I should start with the most important thing. That is, after 30 years to develop this project, Top Gun 2 better have at least twice as much homoerotic subtext, or I am going to want—nay, I shall DEMAND!—my money back! “You can be my wingman any time, you hunka-hunka naval aviator man! Yeah! Back it on up in here! Back it up and SHAKE it! Faster, bitch!  Say my callsign!  Say it!”

Like that. You know, subtle.

Top Gun - Shower Scene
If you watch this scene with Madonna playing in the background it makes a lot more sense:
Strike a pose
Strike a pose
Vogue, vogue, vogue
Vogue, vogue, vogue

Second, who are they going to fight? Surely not “Russian/MIGs” in 2017? You want to end up on some Vladimir Putin shitlist in the Trump era? C’mon Hollywood! McCarthy was a chum-nugget compared to what could happen under the KGB. ::cough, cough:: I mean, the GRU. It’s all GRU nowadays. Nothin’ to do with that whole K of the GB.  And that’s to say nothing of the fact that the PotUS is all “Steam! Give me some steam!” like a Peter Gabriel wannabe at some bad karaoke night.

Third, have you heard of these things called drones? They’re this kind of killer robot that we Americans like to snuff people with from 10km away. That should make for a good movie. Let’s put those in there and watch them play really dark video games for two hours.

Drone Aircraft Carrier
U.S. Navy drones: Now with 100% less Goose and Maverick!

Fourth, please, oh, please, my Dark Lord of the Sith-entology: bring back Goose in a ghost image, a la Obi Wan Kenobi to be all, “You can do it, youngling! Watch the canopy!” I know Anthony Edwards is, like, 200% bald these days, but you can slap a wig on his pate and I promise we’ll pretend E.R. never even happened. (I kind of do that these days anyway. Ever since Oceans 11+ and Falling Skies came out…. A curse on both your houses, George Clooney and Noah Wyle! A curse on BOTH your houses!)

Fifth, you should hire the computer effects people who did 300. It’s the 21st century. The audience is no longer willing to believe in 1980s level abs. They must be computer enhanced, or the crowds will be all, “Ew! I can see some hint of humanity on his upper body!” and immediately vomit up their popcorn.

Last… please don’t do this. Please. I’m begging you. Please. Do you know what kind of douche-baggery I had to deal with because of this stupid fucking movie back in the day? Have you any idea? Well, it was epic. There was epic level douche-baggery. The kind of douche-baggery that is rivaled only by WWE fans and pot-bellied gunstore owners these days. Seriously, consider the state of your souls before you make this movie. From some things there’s no going back.

You could single-handedly ruin cosplay for a decade. We could go from this:

Princess Leia - Cosplay 1

To this:

Top Gun - Cosplay

Donald Trump is not Hitler 1.2 – Throwing Away the Key

Here’s a crazy scenario. Crazy, that is, a few months ago. But crazy is the new normal in 2017. Nothing is off the table, so while I do think this is unlikely, it could actually go down this way.

Trump is facing potential obstruction of justice charges right now, and that could very well be enough to end his presidency. It’s what ended Nixon’s, and it’s one of the more serious accusations that Bubba Clinton got charged with (rather than amateur sperm donation, because that doesn’t play in Peoria like “obstruction of justice” even if the question that he was supposedly obstructing is pretty far from a Whitewater inquiry… but I digress parenthetically.) Given that the allegations from which Trump’s obstruction charges arise are so profound, if the case turns that way then obstruction could be the least of his problems. His links to Russia could run so deep that they could constitute treason.Trump - Impeachment Clock

Now, my understanding is that the United States defines treason very narrowly for various reasons, but mostly because while we were under British rule it was defined so broadly, and the Founding Fathers no-likey that. Under the British, simply contemplating the death of the king/queen was treason. It literally was a thought crime. Of course, that contemplation was usually manifested by some sort of overt act, like wheeling barrels of gunpowder into a room under Parliament, but just asking “What if…” at the wrong time and in the wrong company could potentially get your head up on a spike back in the days when heads were considered decorative.

(Oh, don’t get all, “we’re so much more civilized now” on me. We just prefer our brutality launched from drones and video taped for all eternity these days, thank you.)

There are two main kinds of “treason” in the American definition.  The first is actually taking up arms against the United States. You can call yourself a rebel, a revolutionary, a fellow traveler, a kinsman or a crook all day long and that’s one thing.  Take a shot in outright rebellion, and that’s a whole ‘nother story.  Do that and you’re a traitor and we do things like shoot traitors or even tear down their statues 150 years after the fact while those who are not yet traitors look on all angwy, angwy mean-face!  Because reasons.  Like history (kinda.) And honor (kinda, sorta.)  And history again, but not really because they can’t possibly know the real history AND be mad about tearing down a few eyesores dedicated to traitors.

Louisiana Statue
“You must be at least this tall to rebel against your country.”

The other kind of traitor is the more slippery, vague kind.  The kind that Trump would have to qualify for in this scenario.  (Assuming he doesn’t start taking pot shots at sailors on leave in NYC, that is. Which he could do. He’s at least contemplated it.)  In order to be a traitor one can take up arms OR if one “adheres to their [the United States] enemies, giving them aid and comfort within the United States or elsewhere…” then that’s treason.

Now, there’s some wiggle room as to what “aid and comfort” might mean in the 21st century.  I don’t think anyone writing those words contemplated giving up details about, say, America’s secret spy shuttle, or the capacity of big data NSA analysis, for instance.  Further, I don’t think we’ve fully hashed out what an “enemy” means in that context.  The precedent would be an active opponent in a way, but it’s certainly not limited to that alone, just ask Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, how that whole “working with the Russians” (::cough, cough:: I mean “Soviets”) thing worked out for them.  They probably also didn’t consider that they might be directed at the Man Who, but you can hardly blame them for that.  I don’t think anybody else did until sometime in 2015.

Alan Dershowitz said the Rosenbergs were “guilty AND framed” which is kind of Zen.

As of the time of this writing, we’re not even four months into a Trump presidency, and people are quite seriously talking about impeachment.  They’ve been talking about it since before he took office, given that he’s refused to abide by the basic tenets of federal law like fully divesting from his businesses… but that’s just not sexy enough for 2017.  It has to be something with a little flare.  So, obstruction it is.  For starters.

But even in just four months, a person sitting in the Oval Office has access to information, and the sources of that information, that is well beyond the scope of even the guy sitting in the next chair.  Vice president Harry Truman didn’t even know about the Manhattan Project until he became president Harry Truman.  (Vice presidents are strange birds.  Some of them do little more than contemplate their navels while occasionally looking up to see if the president is showing signs of fatal illness.  Others run, effectively, a shadow presidency, using the president as a rubber stamp by controlling his appointments, and issuing cryptic, last minute observations.)  According to several accounts, Trump’s people vetting veep candidates did so by offering them control of “all domestic and foreign policy” which would seem to indicate that Trump intended to be more forthcoming with his backup player.

The point stands, however, that Trump suddenly gained access to the whole of the American intelligence community’s information. Given his penchant for blurting out secrets after inviting Russians with recording equipment into the Oval Office, can we assume that he’ll be somehow LESS forthcoming after what will, no doubt, play out in his mind as a massive, unmitigated attack on him personally?  Trump must already know information that could get any number of people in American intelligence agencies killed, let alone the operatives they’re running.  You know the stars on the wall of CIA headquarters?  There are 117 of them today, and that’s under presidents who didn’t blurt out state secrets in front of Russian operatives. A vengeful Donald Trump (is there another kind?) could engrave a whole ‘nother constellation on that wall.

Now, a lot of the intelligence that one gets in the White House has a shelf life.  Like anything, sources come and go, their access to information changes, and the relevance of information decreases over time.  I can’t say how long someone with presidential level access to information might have to be away from that access before he would be considered a security threat somewhere between the Secretary of Education and the White House chef, but it’s probably more than a few years, and any treasonous president would have to qualify for at least one of the penalties proscribed by law, which are:

Benedict Arnold
Benedict Arnold, presently the man most famous for not being Donald Trump.
  1. death.
  2. imprisoned not less than five years and fined not less than $10,000.

Now that second one is five years AND a fine, not and/or, so Trump couldn’t just cut a check and head on back to his gold-plated penthouse apartment in the sky.  Five years minimum.  $10,000 minimum.  They could, theoretically, say $10 billion.  That’s what he’s said he’s worth.  Why not?

But what to actually do with him.  There are federal prisons, of course.  Even high security federal prisons where the baddest of the bad go… and sometimes less bad folks.  But none of those places are designed to keep someone in this kind of situation.

So, I actually had the thought the other day:

Trump Tweet 4

But then I realized, it could actually get crazier than that.  Not that I would put it past him to try such a thing.  He sees the end coming, makes a dash for that stupid fucking airplane of his that looks like a plastic electric shaver with wings (I call the thing Hair Force One) but gets stopped on the tarmac by a sea of police cruisers and special ops vans a la some Ridley Bay/Michael Scott movie.

The more likely scenario is a raucous impeachment proceeding followed by a federal judge quietly issuing a broad gag order with a few classified “house arrest” type mandates that limit him to his properties and prevent him from having contact with anyone not vetted by the FBI. But here’s the short scenario version of what I’m getting at here, and if you think this is far-fetched… it is, but if you don’t think it’s possible then I don’t think you’ve been paying attention. Donald Trump could wind up spending the rest of his life (he’s 70 now) in a CIA black site.  That is, they could throw him in a hole and throw away the hole.  For anyone who might not know, a “black site” is the modern, technological equivalent of an oubliette.  It’s the kind of place they put people they can’t really talk about or have anyone talking to, and that’s exactly what we’re talking about when it comes to the unprecedented concept of treason at the presidential level. At the very least, if he winds up leaving office early, he’ll have to be kept under some sort of scrutiny, and that would include not giving him a passport so he could vacation in Moscow for a few weeks.  Because that would be bad.  Very, very bad.  Be it house arrest or something more extreme, at the very least, he’ll have to be, effectively, imprisoned until such time that he is no longer considered a risk.

What else are they going to do? Put him in Guantanamo Bay? With Muslims?! He’d get shanked before you could say falafel. While that would solve the problem, there are “the optics” to be considered, and that wouldn’t go down well.

And here’s the real kicker.  Right now, Trump has access to information gleaned from people in CIA black sites.  He can find out for himself what those places are like, what is done there, and how the prisoners respond to their treatment.  For a man who, on some level, must realize his sanity has been teetering on the edge for his entire adult life, that’s got to be a frightening possibility.  He is looking into the closest thing to the abyss that the United States government can muster. And as the man says, the abyss also looks into you, Donald.

Poland Black Site
CIA “black site” in Poland. Notice the pretty much normal fences with razor wire rather than a “big, beautiful wall” that other countries might pay for.