Sunday, April 19, 2020

As COVID-19 Outbreak Crests, Tribal Political Phase Begins: Trump's Reptilian Brain Hones In On Risky But Possibly Shrewd Strategy of Fomenting Unrest Against Untenable "Democrat" Shutdown

Kanzan (or "Kwanzan") cherry blossoms at peak, Washington, D.C., 3:21 p.m., April 5, 2020

This image and the two directly below were taken in the parking lot of the Washington International School in Georgetown on one of my Sunday walks. More generally, all outdoor photo pictures in this entry -- except for ones that should be obvious -- were taken by me on various walks here in D.C. this month.

The weather this month has been, for the most part, very nicely spring with well-watered tender green leaves, Kanzan cherry blossoms (the Yoshinos were in March), and lots of tulips. The weather has featured pleasant days including those gusty and cool post-cold frontal weather conditions that I really like.

Except for the lead one, I'm not captioning any of them. Information on when and where they were taken is included in the file names, so download any you like. They are not topically related to the entry, but that's just as well.


For this entry, I'd like to discuss a bit about Trump's interesting reptilian - amoral, crudely Machiavellian, but nonetheless quite possibly shrewd "pivots" over the past week as the nationwide economic and social lockdown due to ongoing COVID-19 public health emergency reaches an ever-more-untenable situation -- precisely because the pandemic itself is cresting and (for whatever causal reasons) not nearly as catastrophically as it could have been. 

I'll try to explain in this entry -- but first let's go back to Monday, which in the current situation, is the psychological equivalent of "a long time ago"...

On this past Monday, April 13th, 2020, Trump held one of his now-daily multi-hour, pathological and pathologically lie filled carny carnival barking shows masquerading as a serious press conference for the ostensible purpose of having critical public briefings accompanying members of the White House Coronavirus Task Force.

While the task force includes some serious figures, most notably, Dr. Deborah Birx and Dr. Anthony Fauci, both of whom find themselves trying to handle a national public health emergency while babying a mad man leader at the same time, these daily shit shows have, for Trump, replaced his MAGA rallies.

In addition to regularly bragging about his massive TV ratings, he primarily uses these spectacles to even while rant and rave against his never-ending list of enemies -- to include the assembled "fake news" media reporters in the briefing room -- and to endlessly settle scores, at least in his mind.

He also sometimes peddles, hydroxychloroquine, the anti-malarial drug that the GOP cult insists is a miracle cure for COVID-19. This is all in order to say he "won" the daily news cycle -- which boosts his bona fides with his equal parts rabid and stupid Fox News / Talk Radio base -- while single-handedly solving the COVID-19 situation.

I should point out that MSNBC no longer airs them live -- and instead just summarizes what he said including all the crazy shit.; Fox News airs every second in awe. The Great Half-Nun, Half-Whore of CNN pretends to be conflicted -- and instead airs them, occasionally interrupting the more egregious and irrelevant parts, but mostly just has nasty chyrons that mean very little.

Anyway, on Monday, the cult-like crazy man who occupies the position of President of the United States, failed-everything-multiple times reality show fraud Donald Trump, claimed that his "authority is total" when it comes to deciding whether, when, and how to reopen society from the extreme lockdown condition necessitated by "social distancing that, in turn, is necessary to "bend the curve" downward of the SARS-CoV-2 infections and resulting COVID-19 pandemic.

Thereafter, a group of (mostly Democratic) state governors on the East and West Coasts formed d facto coalitions to decide how to have carefully measured, phased re-openings -- and thus effectively flipped off Trump, something his reptilian brain immediately understood as a power dominance thing and failure to praise and glorify him.

As context, all but eight states -- all one-party Red State flyover ones including those that have no business being standalone states such as North Dakota and South Dakota -- have some form of extreme social distancing mitigation measures in effect. Some of those states have (in GOP parlance) "Democrat" governors, others have Republican ones.

Predictably, those moves "undermining" Trump's perception of dictatorial powers and need for endless adulation set him off because everything to him is a zero-sum dominance game that he must always win no matter how much reality has to shape-shift day-by-day, hour-by-hour, minute-by-minute, sentence-by-sentence with Trump.

As an aside, even though Trump assumes he has dictatorial power and IS the law, as Andrew Sullivan has noted, Trump is actually "too lazy to be a tyrant" and is "attached to power insofar as power is attached to fame, and fame without criticism helps assuage his acute and disordered psychic needs." This makes him very different from, say, Hungary's Viktor Orbán, or, for that matter, China's Xi Jinping and Russia's Vladimir Putin.

Trump appeared to back off his claim of dictatorial powers by Thursday when he said it was up to the states to "call their own shots" when figuring out when to reopen -- just like he has left it up to them to solve the diagnostic testing mess that is no closer to resolution and instead is still a shit show. (The serology tests for antibodies isn't much better since many of the tests are of questionable accuracy.)

But by Friday, Trump decided to declare a sort of insurrection when he tweeted that people, i.e.., his supporters, should "liberate" various states -- including important ones to whatever thread-the-impossible-needle Electoral College victory he manages (and just know he will).

As the composite image above of the three ALL CAPS deranged tweets shows, he invoked that all-purpose Second Amendment of the Constitution -- the thing that can never actually be used to start actual armed insurrection against any level of government without all hell breaking loose, and probably ending quite badly for the assault-rifle-wielding clowns to start it because they'd be up against a veritable modern army of firepower that even your local mid-sized American city police force possesses.

Just fathom that on its own for a moment: A President of the United States urging civil unrest against multiple governors during a nationwide viral pandemic and for the sake of his own political survival. As other have noted, if Trump is leading a cult, then this is the death phase shortly before the Kool Aid is to be drunk by the fanatical followers.

With his reptilian brain amorality, Trump is calculating that the growing impatience, unease, and anxiety with the lockdown situation due to the resulting economic wreckage that has been created to include de facto flash economic depression -- feelings now being actively set afire with accelerant by the rightwing media / entertainment agitprop machine to include Fox News and Hate Radio -- can be harnessed for his reelection purposes.

At this late stage of Trump's grotesque existence, reelection is the only thing that matters to this solipsistic and antisocial personality disordered crazy man.

The salient issue here -- and it's a biggie -- is whether the indeterminate, months-long severe pain of the shutdown is inflicting across society and resulting loss of income, livelihoods, and that abstract Constitutional notion of "happiness" is "worth" it in order to save the lives of anywhere from a quarter of a percent to maybe 1 percent of the U.S. (and global) population who would otherwise die if no mitigation efforts were attempted -- and instead a "herd immunity" approach taken.

Of course, the Teabagger sorts who are demanding this aren't saying that -- instead dressing it up in word salad of horseshit libertarian gibberish that does not nor could it ever have the slightest thing to do with the public health emergency aspect of this and how to handle it.

This is because the Teabagger types who fancy themselves late 18th Century-style multi-talented, wise yeoman or artisan patriots in bicorn and tricorn hats are actually a bunch of corn syrup-filled obese, pasty, ignorant ass-hats that Trump and the forces of Oligarchical Dark Money are only too happy to exploit as (to quote Karl Marx himself) "bribed tools of reactionary intrigue."

That is, they picture themselves like this ... and this ...

When in fact they look like this ...

Armed protestors at the State Capitol in Lansing, Michigan, April 15, 2020

The fact that Michigan has a female Democratic Governor also comes into play here in a Hillary Clinton sorta way. Rightwing white men with gun fetishes go batshit crazy.


Or this...

This picture by Joshua Bickel shows protestors at the Ohio Statehouse (state capitol) in Columbus, Ohio, April 13, 2020; Yes, the zombie-apocalypse references have been noted.


Trump's tweets are meant to fan the "spontaneous" acts of tea-bagging all across the United States, or at least in the Electoral College-critical parts of it, that have been popping up in scattered places around the country.

In fact, certain states with Republican governors -- in particular, Texas and Florida -- are already easing restrictions even while other places, such as here in D.C., the opposite is true, where wearing masks even while outside on a windy, cool spring day and not near anybody else is a sort of virtue-signaling to the point that it is annoying.

Yes, you have to wear them in stores and stuff. I've made my peace with that and have a few masks -- well, one actual mask that I found on a sidewalk long 22nd St NW and washed in a water/bleach solution and then dried and two functional masks in the form of a bandana with shoe strings and a large cloth table napkin.

We're still at a fairly high point on the infection curve, a bit past peak in the worst spots but still in the 2,000-deaths per day range, primarily in the Mid-Atlantic region centered on New York City. The nationwide known death toll is a bit over 39,000 and number of known cases at 739,000 including those who died and 68,285 recoveries. It's on its way, according to the most recently updated IHME model, to 60,300 with a range of 34,000 to 140,400 by August 4th (a date that captures this season's wave but before next season's wave).

I mention all of this because if any states are reopening and there isn't any prohibition on travel between high-infection and low-infection parts of the country, then all the stuff taking place even in places like D.C. is more or less useless in the medium-to-long term.

What's more, the push to reopen things is understandably only going to get stronger UNLESS the daily death toll were to spike dramatically, say, reach 10,000 per day and remain that way for an extended period. Short of that -- and even with a steady number of 30,000 or so new cases per day -- the current situation continue much beyond early May.

That is, the current shutdown condition is unsustainable precisely because the pandemic is turning out to be only locally and regionally severe rather than cataclysmic (to include the strain on the health care system), so that the moral calculus really is between what is in the aggregate of a country of 329 million people a "small" number of deaths and many months of economic depression conditions for tens of millions of people.

The very fact that the United States has so quickly returned to its Manichean Red-Blue "tribal" split is indicative of the fact that this pandemic, even if it spreads through most of the population in the coming year or two, is not a civilization-upending event.

Rather, it is just a garden variety prolonged crisis that will eventually -- as more asymptomatic (i.e., less virulent) strains of the virus comes to predominate in the population -- settle into the background noise in the manner of the Spanish Flu, which became H1N1. Instead, especially vulnerable populations will just have to remain in semi-permanent seclusion.

On those last two points, I'm just quoting from this New York Times article: The Coronavirus in America: The Year Ahead.

Sub-headline / teaser: There will be no quick return to our previous lives, according to nearly two dozen experts. But there is hope for managing the scourge now and in the long term.

This is a comprehensive and useful piece. Note: The New York Times site blocks you after viewing a single article with a subscription wall, or for certain COVID-19 matters, at least registration. However, even that is pain in the ass because some browsers default to a condition that doesn't allow the paper's website to track you. I typically just clear out by Chrome browser -- a clunky workaround, but it is a workaround.

OK, I was going to post a few more links and excerpts, but this entry is long enough. I'll do that in my next entry. Instead, I'll sign off for now.


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