Trump’s Grand Slam

With Biden safely ensconced in the Oval Office, the most vocal concern of the political classes is redirect the passions of the dispossessed electorate that Trump seized from the GoP in 2016. This is not principally a political concern, as factors have aligned to undermine the Republican strategy of minority rule. Trump did not certify the census, and with control of the both houses of Congress and the White House, Democrats can act rapidly to impose standards on election and apportionment procedures in the States. Power will tip to the Democratic Party, and the Republicans will confront the necessity of re-inventing themselves.

What are the forces that will define that re-branding? Politically, we focus on the ethno-nationalist minority of the party. As forgotten citizens, they – like seniors – have both motivation and time to organize politically, which brings them disproportionate power in the primary process. But they do not share the motivations that seal the loyalty of most Republican voters. For most Republican voters, the principal drivers are financial entitlement and resistance to reproductive self-determination. The latter is going to be resistant to reform, but the former is far more dangerous. They have money.

While most retrospectives on Trump’s presidency focus on his abusive manipulation of his adoring codependents, I think that we need to remember why Trump sought power in the first place. Trump’s twisted amplification of ethno-nationalism was almost a parody, but he was born into financial entitlement. That concerns provides a fairly coherent explanation for his policies while in office.

Remember that Trump did not enter the race intending to win. He wanted to build his brand. What was the nature of that brand? Trump leases his name to real estate developers around the world. Unfortunately, the brand was not compelling. Investigations of his business dealings in the Arab world showed that they were largely money laundering operations for organizations such as Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. This was also true of many of the investments made by Russians in the US property market.

But it was the only game he had. Remember his nominating convention, with “TRUMP” in 90,000 point font over the stage. This was not vanity. It was a branding.

Trump’s Administration was full of people like him. Mnuchin, Tillerson, Zinke, DeVos, and Ross were all of this mold. Others, such as Ben Carson, played the sport of presidential politics largely for the speaker’s fees. Among them were those who had come under scrutiny by the Obama Administration for consumer fraud or violation of foreign trade restrictions (Tillerson in Russia).

Trump and Tillerson were unique, however, in the global scope of their entanglements. The State Department hosted investigators sent out to scrutinize their activities, and attracted nationals seeking to curry favor by reporting on a man who had made himself Obama’s enemy. At home, the Department of Justice was the principal danger, with numerous investigations in Federal Districts underway. Treasury, auditing Trump’s tax returns, was another threat. All of these institutions were eviscerated or suborned for corruption.

And finally, there was the rest of corporate America, who considered Trump a buffoon. What we saw in Trump’s Administration was lifted directly from Vladimir Putin’s playbook in the aftermath of Boris Yeltsin’s abdication. Yeltsin was abused by the post-Soviet oligarchs, but Putin used his control over the levers of justice to slowly strangle them, eventually becoming de facto owner of Russia. This was Trump’s aim as well.

He almost succeeded. The financial markets soared, and the Wall Street Journal joined FOX News in giving Trump credit. What the market manipulators didn’t count on, though, was the method seized upon by Putin. There is no honor among thieves, and behind every wealthy man are ten underlings that would be happy to take his place. Trump cultivated them, and was perfectly satisfied that the Senate refused to take action on his appointees to vacant Cabinet positions. As for those beyond his reach: Trump’s attack on Jeff Bezos was a fascinating set-piece of global character assassination, and I assume that his Saudi Arabian allies participated with the aim of securing the arms they needed for their war in Yemen.

I am working on a craft project that will eventually manifest as a “Memorial to the Abuse of Privilege.” The foundation evokes the 400,000 COVID deaths in the last year of Trump’s term. The narrowness of the Biden victory should give us pause. It was not superior campaigning or a compelling vision of the future that propelled Biden to victory. Trump’s botched COVID response carried heavy financial consequences. The Lincoln Project sprang up to lead the opposition to his second term. I believe that without COVID, Trump would still be president, and American democracy would have died.

But talk to a Trump voter and QAnon conspiracist and you might be shocked. They want to go back to work because if we don’t, small business will die in America. They are not classically ethno-nationalist; they believe that the aggrieved ethnic and racial minorities have forgotten indentured servitude and corporate towns and the labor abuses of industrialization and violent suppression of unions and fighting in foreign wars and the deflationary gold standard and corporate welfare and globalization and think “Well, if you deserve restitution and opportunities, what about us?”

In other words, they recognize that the enemy are those that abuse privilege. They bet on Obama, and felt betrayed by his lax treatment of Wall Street raiders in 2009. If the Democrats choose to expose and fight global corruption, they’d win them back, and the Republican Party would have to drag its libertarian corporate pay masters back into a sustainable social contract.

Kleptocrats, Unite!

Rachel Maddow is building the case that Rex Tillerson’s actions at the State Department – and principally the firing of the top career civil servants – are consistent with the goals of Russian leader Vladimir Putin.

To those that understand Putin’s Russia, the goals are simple: transfer as much wealth as possible from the Russian state to private ownership. This is called “kleptocracy” – government serving the financial interests of the leadership. Putin has made an art of this game, becoming arguably the richest man in the world.

As CEO of Exxon Mobil, Rex Tillerson was awarded Putin’s “Friend of Russia” designation for his stand against U.S. sanctions that impeded Exxon’s ability to exploit oil and gas resources in Russia. The methods used to enforce those sanctions were situated in the U.S. State Department. Those methods were also used to bring pressure against Exxon for its actions elsewhere in the world.

So Tillerson’s business history supports the conclusion that the State Department, with its focus on human rights and equity, is a nuisance to those trying to get business done in the world. My guess is that this is consistent with Trump’s goals, particularly as it has become clear that our President is almost certainly in violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, for which the sentencing mandates jail time. Cleaning out the top of the State Department will allow the administration to identify and elevate career diplomats that share their priorities, and perhaps protect themselves from prosecution.

So Rachel, don’t push the Russian connection too hard. Trump and Tillerson share with Putin the attitude that government should be turned to the purpose of making money. Their kleptomania may be sufficient explanation for their policies. Regardless of whether Putin is using blackmail to coerce their actions, the Trump administration is composed of people that appear to be inspired by Putin’s success.

Disassembling the Sith Lords

When I was working at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in 2004-5, I was housed in an uncleared “holding tank” while waiting for my security clearance to be approved. Many of my office mates were foreign guests that had come to pursue research projects as part of the Department of Energy’s effort to build an international non-proliferation community. Among them was a Bulgarian post-doc that swam aggressively through the psychic pool, claiming the talents of others as his own.

In a social gathering one evening, he found that he couldn’t gain any purchase on me, and instead attacked a close friend of mine. Understanding the ways of the world, I didn’t get upset, simply getting a good bead on him so that I could deal with him later.

That night, when I entered REM sleep I found myself having a series of dreams about the Russian mafia. It was like watching clips from movies. After being bounced through that psychic chain, I came suddenly awake while reading a sign that said “Hard Men.” I was in the presence of a man, deep in Russian, who visualized placing a gun against the top of my head. I could literally fell the pressure on my crown. Pausing to let fear take hold, he then pulled the trigger. I simply refused to accept the visualization, and felt the psychic energy flood out over the top of my head and along my skull.

He paused then, and I led him into a future possibility: “Do that again, and I’ll simply bounce the energy back on you. The visualization of harm is forming in your mind, and so you’ll be unable to prevent its affect from appearing in you. Do you want to go that way?”

He removed the gun and walked off into the psychic mist.

I was diagnosed with situational depression in the course of my divorce, and so couldn’t afford health care for myself when Kaiser identified it as a “pre-existing condition.” I regained my Kaiser enrolment as an LLNL employee, and on my calendar that next week was my first annual health exam. The doctor refused to do the physical assessment, offering only this elliptical explanation: “My father had a massive stroke last week.”

This was my first confrontation with the psychic network used by Vladimir Putin to project his will across the world. I started calling him “Mama Bear” in those encounters. While I can’t penetrate his control of Kremlin, I’ve been working the process described in my book Ma as the “Battle of Sequia.” Every time he reaches out to beat up on good people, I connect with the peace-loving birds and animals of Russia, and take another chunk of land away from him.

In the review of my book Golem, the writer avers:

[Dr.] Balke has a Ph.D in particle physics, so he understands better than most of us the true potentialities of the forces he describes in this paean to our own little piece of green, the planet Earth. Surprisingly, perhaps, for a scientist, Balke gives final and absolute credit to Yeshua, an obvious stand-in for the messianic father of all.

This is true, to a point: the community of particle physicists no longer accepts me. The understanding that Love has allowed me regarding the structure of the universe is uniquely my own. So I possess visualizations of psychic processes that no other does.

The efficacy of these visualizations gives me the confidence to respond pithily to threatening figures such as Stephen Bannon, who yesterday told the liberal press to “Shut up,” claiming that “they didn’t understand how Donald Trump became president” before referring the himself as the “Dark Lord of the Sith.” On the NY Times site (copied to my Facebook timeline) I responded:

Lolz. Dear Bannon, you’re so cute. Trump was elected because his voters wanted to throw an IED into our constitutional system. Unfortunately, IEDs are consumed in the course of manifesting the intended effect. Enjoy the ride!

There is a strong bond between Trump and Putin: I perceived it clearly when watching a clip of Ryan and Trump trying to suborn the will of Chuck Schumer. Ryan smirked like a viper in the background while Trump loomed bearishly over the victim. So Putin (“Mama Bear”) was in the wings when Bannon came to confront me last night.

Psychic parasites achieve their power by using their emotional apparatus to project fear into their victims. But that apparatus was patterned on God’s image: it thrills to the touch of love. So when Bannon came at me, I simply used my visualizations to peel away that part of his personality, telling it:

Come over here where you won’t be abused.

Republicans probably take offense at my political commentary, most directly characterized by Jesus’s edict:

You cannot love both God and money.

But I have been here before: in the aftermath of 9/11, when Dick Cheney and Karl Rove played at being Sith Lords in the psychic field of another poor little rich boy president. In that era, I was again threatened with physical and psychic violence. My response was to pull forward the image of Obi-Wan Kenobi in the Death Star:

Destroy me now and I will become far more powerful than you can possibly imagine.

They perceive the endpoint of my visualizations, and walk away. I am less powerful alive than I would be dead – principally because I am still restrained by hope.

If only Hollywood understood the potentiality of love. I’ve done my best to explain it to them, but they are in the habit of trying to turn understanding into money. It is repulsed by their greed, and slips away. So the public is left without empowering visualizations. Instead, when they gather in hope, as at the Women’s March last Saturday, love stretches out to them as a warm affirmation and comforting bond in which they gather the power and will to resist fear.

You are undone, you Sith Lords. You are undone, you bears, eagles, lions, hawks, leopards, vultures and wolves.

You just haven’t yet resigned yourselves to it.

Epitaph for Syria

This came out of me in April 2014 in response to a prompt at a writer’s meetup. The “bear and falcon” in the third line are Russia and Iran. ISIS exists and is sustained in large part due to Putin’s intervention, early in the rebellion, to preserve Assad’s rule. The deployment of Russian forces to sustain Assad, though coupled with a call to arms against ISIS, is another manifestation of Putin’s pathetic reliance upon military force to command respect from the world. My sense is that, as in the eastern districts of Ukraine (where Russia has its own refugee crisis, largely hidden from Western media), Russian intervention will serve only to extend suffering.

I pray that President Obama will deliver him a fitting rebuke when they meet at the UN next week.

Land of sands and cypress, olives and figs,
Gnawed by neighbors from heights to river.
Convenient playmates of bear and falcon,
Proud kings feared their sons and daughters:
Your people breathed freely and fell silent.
Oh, Syria, your beauty has become dust.
Your streets are still, where voices called for prayer.
May Allah and God meet in the marketplace,
And grant your wanderers peace.

The Abuses of Tyranny

As I considered in The Uses of Tyranny, communities lacking experience in self-management often call forth people with over-sized egos to lead. Even when they are reviled, as was King Juan Carlos in Spain, the psychological bond is deep. Many Spaniards wept upon learning of his death, for fear of what the future might bring.

In the case of monarchy, at least there is some institutional structure passed on from generation to generation, which means that the monarch is bound, at the very least, by dependency on people who actually know how to get things done. This is something seen in growing up, and helps to check the ego of the ruler.

For nations undergoing dramatic social change, such as occurred after the retreat of the colonial powers, no such institutional checks exist. Leadership is established through visceral struggle, and held largely through intimidation and fear. Once the opposition has been beaten down, there is no brake upon the ego of the ruler, who may even imagine himself to be a divine favorite. Witness, for example, Idi Amin of Uganda.

Of course, it is rare for such nations to be able to project much power on the international scene. This can make them dupes for more sophisticated partners, such as negotiators from multi-national corporations. The convenience of the dictator as single point-of-contact are tempting to those negotiators. It is little known that militant Islam actually was born in Northern Africa, where the people used the ethics of the Qu’ran to structure their criticism of exploitative resource extraction. When Western governments and multi-nationals propped up the abusive regimes, jihad was declared against the West as a whole – and deservedly so, under the circumstances.

So perhaps the grossest abuse of tyranny is the tendency of tyrants to form privileged clubs that prop each other up. The ultimate downfall of such clubs is that they devolve into echo chambers, with the tyrants agreeing upon self-serving policies that cannot actually be implemented by the communities they control. This occurs in two parts: first, the tyrants become divorced from reality, and then they destroy social cohesion and resilience in their attempts to coerce their impossible outcomes. Such was the downfall of the planned economies in China and Russia.

It was this realization – that institutional structure was the ultimate victim of tyranny – that prompted Western philosophers to concern themselves with the creation of institutional forms that mitigated against tyranny. This has manifested not only in the constitutions of governments, but in the legal framework of corporate governance. Separation of powers is visible in the three branches of US government, but also in the allocation of responsibilities between corporate boards and executives. One of the primary benefits of these arrangements is survival of institutional memory, which means that situations that seem new and exciting to the surging tyrant are just old hat to the grey-beards in the institutions.

It is amusing to watch this psychology unfold in Putin’s relationship with the West. Putin paints Obama as his primary adversary, and broadcasts propaganda that projects the image that tensions will dissolve when he leaves office. As a tyrant, Putin does not understand that the West has a huge number of historians and policy analysts in corporate, academic and governmental circles that have studied Russian history, and recognize this view as the view of Stalin and Kruschev and Brezhnev and Andropov. Attack Obama all you want, and circulate as much propaganda among the European public as you want: our institutions have played this game before, and will win it again.

Understand, Putin: you are who you are because Western nations agreed to trade with Russia, providing you with the opportunity to siphon hundreds of billions of dollars into your personal accounts. Do you really think that they don’t have the means to discipline your international adventurism?

And what our institutions also remember is that, following Juan Carlos and Stalin, their nations adapted to the experience to establish systems that regulated tyrannical behavior. When that occurs, the tyrant’s legacy is erased. Yes, Vladimir, you are a big noise now in the world. You’re able to force a lot of people to think about you. But you’re on the wrong side of history. Your destruction and perversion of the institutions of the Russian state ensure that you will leave no lasting mark.

And hear as much, Koch brothers! How much money are you spending to force people to do what makes you money? And how much more could you make if you invested, as did Henry Ford, in their capacity to participate in new markets and opportunities?

What’s Foreign about Success?

When President Clinton’s team left office, they warned the incoming Bush Administration that some military response had to be mounted against Al Qaeda in the aftermath of the Cole bombing. The Bush security team, dominated by Cold War hawks, dismissed the warning as a Clinton albatross, and set off to renegotiate the arms treaties with Russia to allow construction of a nuclear missile shield.

The rest, of course, is history. Osama bin Laden, encouraged by U.S. flaccidity to believe that one last strike in the heart of America would cause us to curl up in a fetal position, set about planning the 9/11 attacks.

In the Middle East, we face a similar situation with Israel, still living in the memory of the Holocaust, and even after 60 years unable to build a lasting peace with its neighbors. They turn to America again and again for financial and military aid, but do not heed our requests to negotiate a lasting peace. Instead, as recent perusal of the Jerusalem Times reveals, they rewrite the history of Israel to present themselves as victims rather than armed aggressors.

I agree that the state of Israel should survive, but the conditions of that survival have to reflect the realities of the politics of the Middle East. That means, if we are going to pursue conflict against those that seek to destroy it, we must establish impeccable moral credentials. That means talking to the leaders of Israel’s enemies, and giving them the opportunity to participate in the success that comes with liberal economics. It means eroding the “American + Israel = Axis of Evil” rationale for suppressing Iranian dissent. Simply beating Iran down because Netenyahu says so is going to inflame the entire region against American involvement, bring terror back to us at home, and – given the asymmetrical practical realities in the region – ultimately result in Israel’s destruction.

So, people of Israel, you need to elect a different leader. And Republicans in Congress – you need to stop playing politics with Israeli lives.

The situation in Russia has similar characteristics. Arguably, Vladimir Putin is criminally psychotic, having recently awarded medals of honor to two members of the personal hit squad that has assassinated those attempting to document the costs to Soviet society of Putin’s psychosis (Metsov being the most recent). But the very fact that Putin caters to these men is a revelation of weakness. Where once he was heralded as the guarantor of economic stability in Russia, recent military adventurism (in Georgia as well as the Ukraine) has caused the West to unite in economic sanctions against Russia, and stimulated weaker neighbors to seek NATO membership. The oligarchy recognizes this, and so Putin is left with only one tool for managing opposition: murder.

The Soviet Union experienced such a reign of terror under Stalin, and one of the causes of Russia’s declining global influence in the ’70’s and ’80’s was the creation of a Politburo that ensured no one man would ever again wield that kind of power. Russians have experience with this kind of tyranny, and while it may take time, the oligarchy will not allow Putin to purge them as Stalin purged his foes. Putin’s adventurism is the death knell for his regime.

That President Obama defers to Germany’s Chancellor Merkel in this matter should be considered a blessing to us at home. It allows us to focus on the worsening situation in Syria and Iraq that is fanning sectarian tension and generating powerful sympathy for Iran among Iraqi Shias. That Merkel counsels against providing advanced lethal assistance to Ukraine reflects her nation’s experience in winning the Cold War. It was economic power that brought Germany back together, and it is economic power that will eventually hold sway in the Ukraine.

So, again, Senate Republicans, try to be good neighbors. Stop playing politics with the lives of our allies.