How bullies see the world

Bullies, because they have never felt safe, loved, or cherished, grow up supremely defensive, perpetually hurt, ashamed of their weakness and inconsolably angry. They were emotionally neglected, humiliated for ordinary human needs, bullied by someone they depended on when they were very young. These tiny victims grow up to see life through the eyes of a hurt child, a zero-sum game pitting the strong against the weak, a contest fated to end only in dominance or submission.

To berate and dismiss, or otherwise beat you, is to dominate you. To sincerely apologize to you when I see I have hurt you is to bend the knee in humiliated weakness. Bullies see a simplified black and white world, a series of grim transactions to be fought to victory or defeat. Victory feels fleetingly great, the agony of defeat is well-known and terrible to behold, particularly in a bully.

This inconsolable rage in the heart starts in the bully’s earliest life, continues year after year, making the young person harden himself against pain until finally he succumbs to sadism. The ability to dominate and bully people is not without its rewards in the world of business and politics, but it is a shit thing just the same. When a bully in control of others creates a culture of bullying, where only brutality in service to the bully is rewarded, it is a shit thing and often a deadly thing.

I just finished listening to the fascinating The Drama of the Gifted Child by Alice Miller. Though the book, in its first edition, was published in 1978, it ends with a seemingly prescient insight, though it addresses a perpetual human failing — the falling into angry mobs because the unbearable anguish of your life compels you to take out your rage on strangers, in the name of a belief system. Here is the very end of Alice Miller’s popular book:

A person who can honestly, and without self-deception, deal with his feelings has no need to disguise them with the help of ideologies. The basic similarity of the various nationalistic movements flourishing today reveals that their motives have nothing to do with the real interests of the people who are fighting and hating, but instead have very much to do with those people’s childhood histories.

The mistreatment, humiliation and exploitation of children is the same worldwide as is the means of avoiding the memory of it. Individuals who do not want to know their own truth collude in denial with society as a whole, looking for a common enemy on whom to act out their repressed rage. But as the inhabitants of this shrinking planet near the end of the twentieth century the danger inherent in self-deception is growing exponentially, and we can afford it less than ever. Fortunately, at the same time, we now have the tools we need to truly understand ourselves as we were and as we are.

For most bullies, the path away from sadism is too painful. What they have suffered as vulnerable children is too painful to seek insight into. They feel in control only when dominating others, as they were brutally dominated.

We learn, to nobody’s surprise, that as children Donald Trump and Charles Koch (born 1946 and 1935 respectively), both had driven, largely absent fathers who were brutal, intolerant and demanding, people who might fairly be called unloving pieces of shit. They were raised to believe that only the ruthless pursuit of money and power made them worthy of love (which it is unlikely either of them ever found in later life.)

Fred Koch was an admirer of the Nazis, he was introduced to Hitler before the war and Koch Industries built the oil refineries that the Luftwaffe would need for their high octane fuel to lead Hitler’s blitzkreig. Fred Trump was arrested as a young man at a Ku Klux Klan rally in Queens. Fred Koch was one of the founders of the John Birch Society, the lunatic fascist fringe of the far-right in the years after Brown v. Board of Education made public school segregation illegal in the U.S., the Birchers responded by calling for the Chief Justice’s impeachment. Fred Trump took millions in tax subsidies to build post-war working class housing, passed most of it on to his children tax-free through various frauds (read the New York Times investigative story about Frederick Christ Trump’s elaborate tax fraud and tax evasion schemes, a factual article never challenged in court [1]) and kept his housing developments racially segregated (no Puerto Ricans either, thank you) until the Fair Housing Act and the federal court forced him to stop discriminating. Characteristically, Fred Trump, and his second choice protegée. Donald [2], admitted no wrongdoing and claimed victory in the case, although “minorities” were now able to rent Trump apartments.

Charles was the second oldest of four Koch brothers (he and David beat the other two in a bitter, decades-long court battle for the right to Koch Industries), Donald was the third of four Trump children. Fred Koch believed his sons should fight it out, to see who was fit to be the boss. When they were toddlers Fred Koch, who was rarely at home, hired a strict German nanny to make sure the boys all used the toilet at the same time every day, and she raised young Charles, his older brother Fred Jr. and the babies, until the Nazis took France and she returned to the homeland to celebrate with the Fuhrer. Fred Trump openly favored his older, brighter son, a golden boy named Fred Jr., beloved of everybody. Young Donald didn’t know what to do with himself until he got a little brother to bully. It beat the hell out of his life before he had a weak baby brother to practice sadism on.

Bullies see the world as a desperate fight not to be injured and their main weapon is attack. They find people weaker than themselves to prey on, if someone shows fear, they attack. The way not to be bullied is to stand up to a bully, though few of us consistently have this ability. In the case of Donald Trump, any time he has been forcefully opposed he has backed down. We saw this at several key moments during his time in office, even at the very end, while vehemently denying his electoral loss, when he backed down from replacing the Attorney General with a man who would lie to confirm Trump’s lie about a stolen election, after a three hour shouting match, in the face of a unified threat from leaders of the Department of Justice and his loyal White House Counsel.

The bully as an individual is one thing, and sickening enough. The bully as a mob, a thousand, or a million strong, gathered to take out their limitless hurt and rage on those who can’t defend themselves, an ongoing tragedy of human history. Insight might be extremely painful for a bully to attain, but it is probably less painful than being tortured, with your neck in a noose, at the mercy of your fellow enraged bullies.


In spite of this threat, a brilliant example of the fiercest legal puffery money can buy, inserted in a very droll matter by the Grey Lady, between two paragraphs detailing the fraud with great specificity:


Freddie, Fred Trump Jr., (Mary Trump’s father) had disappointed his father with a lack of ruthlessness, demonstrated dramatically when he replaced drafty windows in freezing Trump apartments in a complex he was managing without forcing the tenants to take their powerful landlord to court. It cost Frederick Christ Trump millions to replace the windows, (for no reason!} and was the decisive blow against his chosen son, Fred Jr. as his successor.

Fred Sr. realized he’d have to train the vain little juvenile delinquent to run the Trump empire, once the kid proved that, even though he had little business smarts, he was a ruthless killer who’d do whatever was necessary to increase the family fortune. Fred Jr. ended his days drinking himself to death as a custodian in one of the Trump buildings. His family would be cheated by the other Trumps when the patriarch finally died, naturally. Donald would finally be able to defy his father by selling off all his properties, in express violation of his stated wishes. He sold his father’s real estate empire for well under its appraised value, naturally.

Confederate flag in the Capitol

They had Trump flags and flags that said “Fuck Biden” but it was the Confederate battle flag paraded inside the breached Capitol, as incendiary and hateful to Black people as the fucking black and white swastika on a blood red field is to me as a Jew, that said it all. The symbolism of those kind of symbols is hard to miss.

The mob’s message was clear, as their leader expressed love toward his flag waving followers: the world is better without you parasites and getting our way by violence is a party for us.

It’s like what Ted Cruz snarled at Merrick Garland a few months later while excoriating him about DOJ overreach, feds running to the aid of threatened school board members. “Jeez, it was only a Nazi salute,” he sneered “which you admit is protected by the First Amendment,” he didn’t even have to add “Jew”, it so naturally suggested itself as the Texan lambasted the mild-mannered Garland. Cruz is that fucking good. Many of them are, and all very fine people. Waving a Confederate battle flag, as you do, when you’re a patriot.

Snapshot of how a top criminal uses noncriminals

“Oh, the honor system, of course, of course, we’re on the honor system, on my honor. I’m on my honor, absolutely. You have my word, 100%. I swear to you on the grave of my sainted mother, on my sacred honor.”

On September 29, Trump went to his scheduled debate with Democratic candidate Joe Biden, arriving too late for testing. Chris Wallace of the Fox News Channel, who was the moderator at the debate, later said the event was relying on the “honor system.” Trump railed and snarled at Biden, who was close enough to him to have been in danger. Trump’s contingent refused to wear masks despite rules at the venue to do so. At least 11 people tested positive after the debate.


This honorable gentleman’s assurance was given after a man famous for his punctuality contrived to arrive at a live debate hosted by a FOX moderator too late for mandatory testing, three days after the first (undisclosed) positive test for the strongman who thought wearing a mask made him look vulnerable, weak, who’d made a strong branding decision to be the tough guy, like Bolsonaro in Brazil, as opposed to the wimpy and unmanly mask-wearing Pence, who he’d soon blame for betraying him and send a mob down to threaten, chase, perhaps rough up, or maybe actually hang. The strong contrast to weak, old Biden with his comically gigantic mask.

The tough guy assuring the others “on his honor” that this time he was actually not lying, that he’d never tested positive for Covid in recent weeks (let alone three days earlier) must have been thinking what easy marks, what pathetic losers noncriminals are… as he concealed his recent positive test for a disease that was ravaging the world, one he’d dismissed as a hoax as America led the world in Covid deaths, one he swore on his honor that he’d tested negative for (still his story).

That massive Covid disruption was not his fault in any way, whatever those exaggerated, fake death tolls supposedly were, he’d totally delegated that, to his dimwit alter-ego, his son-in-law the Covid Czar (rewarding his glorious work making historic peace in the Middle East, fixing the federal bureaucracy and ending the Oxycodone overdose crisis). Pence was also assigned Covid Czar, with equal responsibility for the outcome, but with less power than Kushner and a much better guy to send an angry mob after than the husband of his cherished daughter.

Of course, by refusing to wear a mask while bellowing at Biden he was probably hoping to spew enough active Covid to infect and kill the old man he hated and had vowed he could only lose to in a rigged election. He gave the people who prepped him for the “honor system” debate Covid. Loyal Chris Christie got a serious enough case of the deadly disease to need heroic, very expensive emergency treatment at a hospital, and hospitalization, extraordinary measures necessary to save his life. Measures unavailable to virtually any of the hundreds of thousands of Americans who died of the pandemic and continue to die of it.

But really, when you’re at the top of the food chain, the apex predator, the only question is, how many more times with this stupid “honor system” bullshit? Isn’t it enough, already, with the make believe about honor systems, not lying, even if it helps you, being nice just so somebody else can fuck you? Nobody has honor, let’s face it, why insult people’s intelligence? You’re a mark that’s going to get strongly played if you believe in that honor bullshit, take my word for that, loser.

Now, did you take care of that little thing we talked about?

Parent and child

I recently spent two years, every day, writing about my troubled, troubling father. Many of the sessions were spent in a kind of dialogue with the skeleton of my dead father. We had some excellent and revealing chats, picking up where he left off the last night of his life. Most days our talk seemed genuinely like an actual conversation with a wiser version of the droll, insightful person I’d been raised by, reflecting the realizations he’d had right before his death. The skeleton was humbled by his death, and looking for reconciliation.

I did this every day for two solid years, thinking about the project when I was not writing, imagining my father’s earlier life, trying to get to the bottom of how damaged my father was and the often subtle, but in many ways disabling, harm he inflicted on my sister and me. It was a great project and I actually learned a lot, whether or not I eventually rewrite the pages into a marketable book. The most amazing and unexpected outcome is that now I can see everything from his point of view, though I still disagree with most of the harmful things he did.

The other day I suddenly realized that some of the best men I’ve ever known have struggled (though much more successfully than my father) to be good fathers, some of the best women struggle with being unfailingly good mothers. Children who have wonderful parents and enviable childhoods sometimes grow up to be tormented, anxious, selfish, insecure, vain, perplexed. This point likely seems too obvious to make, perhaps, to anyone who has raised a child, who lives as a parent, but to me, having no children, it was a long time dawning on me what difficult, sometimes thankless work it is to always strive to be generous, to do one’s best, and still experience that sharper than a serpent’s tooth-inflicted pain that comes from an ungrateful, angry or oblivious child. We all have better days and worse days, and there is no real training on how to be a parent or how to be a child.

I knew a young mother, who’d been raised by difficult, immature parents, who decided to be the opposite of the way she saw her own mother. During her pregnancy she fell under the influence of a group of women called the La Leche League. According to her, their theory is that babies never manipulate a parent, they only ask for what they truly need. A child who is breast fed whenever they ask, and given every bit of affection and attention they seek, will grow up to be strong, confident and self-motivated. She breast fed her first child until the baby was three or so, then weaned her when the little brother arrived. He nursed until he was able to say things like “mom, I need to nurse now, if that’s OK with you.” It was a great bonding experience for the mother, and I have read that the oxytosin released during breast feeding can be quite addictive. What’s not to love about perfect love?

This young mother was fond of pointing to how wonderful her children were, the proof that she had learned mighty lessons from her own childhood and become the kind of 100% nurturing mother she never felt she’d had. “The proof is in the pudding,” she would say with a proud smile, pointing at her perfect children, who had never wanted for unconditional love and were clearly both amazing children as a result. I lost track of the family after a while, but the last I heard, the daughter is, according to the mother, a fearless genius and the son, also a genius, is a very insightful young man and something of a saint.

This young mother once spent the day with her husband and two year-old daughter, visiting old friends of mine. The next time I saw my friends I asked how they’d gotten along (I’d introduced them). They told me it had been an extremely long couple of hours, that they’d found the young parents’ zealous belief that they’d created the perfect child hard to bear. “Parents are one factor, one factor in dozens, as to how your child turns out, parenting doesn’t have that kind of one-on-one correlation with how the kid turns out in the end,” my friend told me. “To think otherwise is a kind of madness bordering on megalomania,” the other friend added.

I think of this now in connection to my own father, and his often problematic parenting. He was one factor among many in how I turned out, though he always loomed as a supremely difficult one. A parent who is often angry, and takes out their frustrations on their child, tends to be a large factor in how the kid grows up to see the world. Just as I am sometimes unable to disentangle myself from the abuse I suffered at his hands, in his life, and the reason he often lashed out at his own children like an injured two year-old, is that he had actually been a deeply injured two year-old.

One of the first things he told me when I returned to his hospital room around 1 a.m. that last night of his life, in that weak, croaking voice dying men often seem to have, was “my life was basically over by the time I was two.” I knew the bones of his story. I had learned them from a witness, an older first cousin, my father’s references to his harrowing childhood were always oblique, opaque.

His mother, a tiny, bitter, deeply religious woman with an unquenchable temper, living in a viscerally unhappy arranged marriage to a very poor man, used to whip her tiny son across the face, from the time he could stand. Picture that, and how much worse it is for a baby than verbal abuse, neglect, icy silence in the face of expressed concerns, or sarcastic dismissal.

Each of my father’s techniques for keeping his children, and his own demons, at bay were less atrocious than taking the rough, heavy cord of an old fashioned steam iron, and whipping your tender young child in the face, from his earliest memory. I finally concluded he did better than he’d experienced, though he admitted late in his life that verbal abuse is as damaging as physical abuse.

Over the years I sometimes thought beatings would have been preferable, since at age fifteen or so, skinny as I was, I would have started fighting back (he already showed fear of me by that age) and soon been able to kick the shit out of him if he lifted a hand against my sister or me. But that is a surmise I rarely think about.

What I think about more and more is how to take the lessons of my troubling childhood and lay them out clearly for others, in the name of becoming more forgiving, of oneself and the people you love who have hurt you. To explain simply, for the possible benefit of any reader who has been struck by the sharper than a serpent’s tooth cruelty of an unfairly angry parent, how I went from hardening my heart against an asshole father, to learning about and understanding the humiliating abuse he’d suffered in a truly hellish childhood, to opening myself, as he was dying, to simply listen to his deep regrets, and encourage him to say the things he felt it so important to say that he used his last breaths to say them.

Remember to be thankful today

It’s easy to forget, living in the overblown shit show we all have front row seats for, that we have a lot to be grateful for. A short anecdote for Thanksgiving and we’re off to spend the day with cousins.

I was working as a bicycle messenger, fighting New York City traffic and the me-decade of the 1980s, angry all the time. I had big dreams for my life, and being a cog in a corporate wealth machine was not part of those dreams. I found myself wasting time waiting for a slow elevator in a small building where some successful person had an important business that needed an important package immediately delivered to another office, it was a super rush. Time was literally money for me too, I didn’t get paid to wait around, I made money by being fast (which also allowed me to work as few hours as possible).

When the elevator finally arrived I got in and there was an older Black woman (probably younger than I am today) already in it, she had been delivered to the lobby for no reason. We watched the doors slowly close and the elevator began to lurch slowly upwards, then stop, then lurch a bit more. I muttered that it was not my day.

“Never say it’s not my day!” the older woman said, “if you’re alive, it’s your day!”

I nodded, attempting a smile that was probably more like a Clint Eastwood grimace. The old lady was 100% right though, and I salute her now, many decades later. It is good to take a moment to remember to be thankful sometimes, for something as elemental, and irreplaceable, as simply waking up alive in this precious life.

A gas chamber looks better by gaslight

I offer this anecdote to illustrate how even a very smart person, perhaps especially a very smart person, can create a world of shit simply by selectively using their intellectual gifts. You can turn anything into anything else, with the will and the skill. We see this all the time in public life now, not even done skillfully much of the time, but it is also sadly prevalent in personal life.

The common phrase for somebody pissing on your leg and dismissively insisting it’s raining is gaslighting. That term is based on an old movie where a guy, to drive his wife insane, makes the gaslight dimmer and dimmer and, when the wife keeps commenting on the increasing dimness in the house, insists the light is the same as it always was, and that the wife is insane, which eventually breaks her, I think.

I once worked for a brilliant man who had a very smart assistant and an armed guard in the room where he presided. He had a good sense of humor, and of the absurd, but he was also used to being listened to, respected and having the final word.

He had a theory about why so many people act out in our society, and a term for it: Honor Anemia. In this country we are not listened to, given even the minimal respect or recognition that every human being needs, so we are constantly seeking it, sometimes by acting out, even becoming criminals. The theory made a certain amount of sense to me.

We were having lunch one day, in the crowded outside area of a restaurant near the meatpacking district. He asked me if I had any theory about why child molesters, of all criminals, are so universally despised, even by rapists and murderers. I said it was probably because they prey on the most vulnerable of victims and pretty much destroy their young lives. This answer didn’t satisfy the philosophical man, who continued to probe.

Wasn’t it possible, he asked, if the adult truly loved the child he was sexually involved with, and always gentle to and considerate of, that the relationship wouldn’t harm the child? I told him that could theoretically be true, but even if it was true in 50% of cases, it didn’t account for the terrible wound it inflicted on the other 50%. Putting the traumatic damage to the kid on a coin toss, for the sake of sexual gratification for the adult seemed a very callous bet, to me.

I pointed out that the likelihood of lifelong harm to the child was probably closer to 99% than my hypothetical coin flip. I also said that if the adult truly loved the child he wouldn’t risk destroying the kid’s life to have sex with the child, he would wait until the kid was an adult to begin a romance. He chewed on this and we continued to talk.

It became less and less clear to me what he was talking about. Whenever I’d ask for clarification, he would nimbly digress to some other point I couldn’t grasp. I finally told him “look, I’m happy to talk about whatever you want, and I’m not squeamish about this subject, or any subject, it’s just that I don’t have any idea what you’re talking about at this point.” He thanked me, for being willing to talk about the taboo subject, telling me that nobody else had ever let him discuss it so frankly. I told him he was welcome, but that, really, I hadn’t gotten the point he was trying to make.

As we left the restaurant, walking over to meet his wife, he asked me what I thought of Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning, two whistleblowers who had been much in the news. I offered a tepid defense of both of them, pointing out that whatever their criminal exposure, both of their revelations, which had required great personal courage to disclose, had been of immense public importance. He immediately began to snarl that they both had committed textbook treason, then raised his voice, denouncing me as an idiot, as someone obviously unaware of the findings of a series of great sociologists and political scientists of yesteryear that I’d never heard of, let alone read.

He raged at me so long that his wife, an intolerable termagant, a harping harridan, told him to let me get a word in. He did not. We were in his car, crossing the bridge back to Queens, then on the highway, I was a sitting duck.

I was no longer working for him and had no reason to forgive or forget his merciless tongue lashing. He called to apologize, then asked me to do him a favor, procure a bit more of something for him that was then still illegal in New York State. For reasons I can’t understand now, I did him this one last favor. When he came to pick up his contraband I foolishly accepted a ride to Sekhnet’s with him. Now he wanted to take me to dinner. I only wanted to not interact with him anymore, already regretting the favor I’d done. I declined his invitation, he insisted.

It was important that we had a good meal and talk everything over, he told me, we were friends. Friends, I pointed out, don’t mercilessly bully their friends over a difference in opinion. No, he said, we have to talk this out, over dinner. He pulled up in front of his favorite restaurant. I started heading for the nearest subway, but he grabbed me in a bear hug. “Please,” the large man said, “let me treat you to dinner.”

I was in my fifties at the time, he was in his early seventies. If you wound the clock back a few decades, he would have been in his thirties, I would have been around ten. None of this escaped me as I disentangled from his embrace without shoving or striking him. For reasons I also don’t understand, I went into the restaurant, ate a meal, and we had a talk I recall not a word of. It was like talking to a mummy, I suppose.

The next time I ran into the purveyor of contraband he asked me about my former boss, who’d been a good customer of his. I told him the story; the incomprehensible shift from thanking me for listening to his odd rambling meditation on child molestation to his rage that we disagreed about the nature of what Snowden and Manning had done.

“Psychology 101,” he said “he revealed that he was probably a child molester, and you’d been understanding in some way, and he hated himself for that and had to immediately make you hate him too.”

Though my neighbor is not generally known for his psychological astuteness, I thought he put things in a very insightful nutshell. If I had any doubt about my former boss’s intention in the odd discussion of child molestation, it was removed when he bodily intervened to prevent me from leaving him at the restaurant. It was a distinctly rapey move. Another kind of man would have roughly shoved him away, told him to fuck himself, slapped him hard if he persisted, knocked him to the ground, if necessary. I ate a plate of linguine and watched his mouth move without hearing anything he said, then it was all over.

Beautiful writing

I was sitting in the Fresh Meadows public library one afternoon, this was probably almost fifty years ago, turning the pages of a book by Russian writer Maxim Gorky. I recall reading a very short piece, maybe half a page long, where a shell-shocked soldier sees the blown up body of one of his comrades, hanging from the dark branches of a dead tree.

The corpse’s glistening organs have spilled out, festooning the branches, and the first birds were arriving. The light catches the entrails as the soft breeze makes them sway. The shell-shocked soldier, who narrates the anecdote, takes this in and immediately bursts out in uncontrollable laughter, he laughs until he can’t stand, throws himself on the ground and continues laughing his ass off.

I mention this beautifully drawn anecdote by Maxim Gorky, which I read many years ago, to illustrate that the most beautiful writing may be used to evoke the most terrible horrors. In fact, the more beautifully you can describe an atrocity, the more forcefully the and poignantly yhe horror of it hits you.

Beautiful writing at the moment, it seems to me almost every day, needs to be marshaled to illuminate and clarify the horrors we are up against. To mobilize readers to get involved in standing against atrocity, and the enraged irrationality that always accompanies and justifies atrocities.

The Department of Defense, years back now, did a study that concluded the disruption of populations as a result of global warming making areas uninhabitable was the biggest defense threat we face as a nation. Around the equator it would soon become so hot and water starved that people living on the land would have to migrate north. Island nations and coastal areas, including many of our largest cities, would be under water, former inhabitants of these places on the move by the tens of millions.

Picture any zombie movie you’ve ever seen and then imagine tens of millions of real life homeless refugees, climate refugees, moving en masse in search of food. It would not take long for cannibalism to take hold among these hungry hoards. Then the wealthy nations would have to “cleanse” the world of these cannibals, for the sake of the rest of the delicious population.

That scenario, by itself, should be enough to get every person of conscience on the earth to join an energetic search for solutions. Sadly, we are not that kind of wise ape, homo sapiens.

We read the most beautifully written accounts of the greatest joys we can imagine, and that is a good thing from time to time, to reconnect with the miraculous side of being alive. On the other side of the scale, the ticking time bomb of the earth’s greediest, sacrificing millions of lives, daily, for the sake of greater acquisition and perpetual hoarding by the few, the entitled, ain’t no unlikely hypothetical employed by right-wing defenders of torture. It’s as real as the soldier’s guts, swaying gently, and hilariously, from those branches as the birds get ready for a good meal.

Fifteen years

Fifteen years is long, for a prison sentence.  Fifteen years for the rest of your life seems like the wink of an eye.  As my father was dying, talking to me suddenly as his beloved son and not a lifelong adversary who’d gotten his young father’s back up by staring at him accusingly from my crib, he expressed a feeling that stays with me.

“I wish we could have talked like this fifteen years ago,” the dying man told me, after getting a lot off his chest, with no grief for either of us.   

At the time I thought “seriously, you’d settle for fighting like rabid rats for 35 years and then 15 years of peace?”   A sadly modest request that fifteen years seemed to me.

He died the next evening and I suddenly understood that fifteen years to speak humanely to each other would have been a great blessing to everyone.   So would fifteen months have been, or fifteen weeks, or fifteen days, or even fifteen more hours.  

When the other person breathes his last, there is only the silence and the love that might have been. 

Footnote (and John Eastman’s 6 point plan for Pence to steal the stolen election on January 6 for himself and his boss)

Trump has no friends, his type never does. They regard men as base coin to gratify their passions, in a phrase used to describe Napoleon’s attitude toward other humans. Some humans’ blindly driving ambition is useful, can greatly benefit the man who knows how to skillfully use others to his own advantage. As base coin, these ambitious types can be cast away at any time and replaced by other tarnished instruments.

Nobody truly likes a deeply damaged, loveless motherfucker [1] like our former president except for ambitious lackeys and angry mobs. Angry mobs adore his relentless in-your-face, norm and common decency smashing assault on liberals, queers, mass media, disloyal party members, Muslims, Mexicans, women of color, disloyal Jews, Blacks, cripples, losers, non-Scandanavian immigrants, socialists, anti-fascists, etc. He rules his spineless, platformless (2020 RNC platform — whatever the big guy wants) party by terror. The famously vindictive man’s sure, vicious revenge, guaranteed to be visited on anyone opposing his will, is a constantly reinforced reminder that he will not be opposed, no matter how insane his demands. Here’s the thing:

This particular angry, boastful, lying Orange maniac did not invent any of the corrupt, lying, authoritarian routine he practices, and while he certainly wasn’t their first choice, radical right billionaires have found their audacious front man to be very useful for their larger purpose, keeping everyone distracted and enraged as they game democracy to protect the privileges of vast inherited wealth in perpetuity. This Orange Polyp, since he is a malignant narcissist and an amoral opportunist, is their go to guy in the war of the few to keep hold of everything, in the face of the rising threat of the John Birch and Federalist Society’s great enemy, ‘majoritarian tyranny’.

Here is what former Trump lawyer John Eastman [2] advised Trump to do in a two page Privileged and Confidential memo entitled Scenario for January 6. This is the action plan part of what Glenn Kirscher and many others have called a blueprint for insurrection.

1. VP Pence, presiding over the joint session (or Senate Pro Tempore Grassley, if Pence recuses himself), begins to open and count the ballots, starting with Alabama (without conceding that the procedure, specified by the Electoral Count Act, of going through the States alphabetically is required).

2. When he gets to Arizona, he announces that he has multiple slates of electors, and so is going to defer decision on that until finishing the other States. This would be the first break with the procedure set out in the Act.

3. At the end, he announces that because of the ongoing disputes in the 7 States, there are no electors that can be deemed validly appointed in those States. That means the total number of “electors appointed” – the language of the 12th Amendment — is 454. This reading of the 12th Amendment has also been advanced by Harvard Law Professor Laurence Tribe (here). A “majority of the electors appointed” would therefore be 228. There are at this point 232 votes for Trump, 222 votes for Biden. Pence then gavels President Trump as re-elected.

4. Howls, of course, from the Democrats, who now claim, contrary to Tribe’s prior position, that 270 is required. So Pence says, fine. Pursuant to the 12th Amendment, no candidate has achieved the necessary majority. That sends the matter to the House, where the “the votes shall be taken by states, the representation from each state having one vote . . . .” Republicans currently control 26 of the state delegations, the bare majority needed to win that vote. President Trump is re-elected there as well.

5. One last piece. Assuming the Electoral Count Act process is followed and, upon getting the objections to the Arizona slates, the two houses break into their separate chambers, we should not allow the Electoral Count Act constraint on debate to control. That would mean that a prior legislature was determining the rules of the present one — a constitutional no-no (as Tribe has forcefully argued). So someone – Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, etc. – should demand normal rules (which includes the filibuster). That creates a stalemate that would give the state legislatures more time to weigh in to formally support the alternate slate of electors, if they had not already done so.

6. The main thing here is that Pence should do this without asking for permission – either from a vote of the joint session or from the Court. Let the other side challenge his actions in court, where Tribe (who in 2001 conceded the President of the Senate might be in charge of counting the votes) and others who would press a lawsuit would have their past position — that these are non-justiciable political questions – thrown back at them, to get the lawsuit dismissed. The fact is that the Constitution assigns this power to the Vice President as the ultimate arbiter. We should take all of our actions with that in mind.




Of course, sometimes motherfucker simply means motherfucker, but a few words are in order about using this vulgar and inflammatory phrase to describe a vulgar man who treats others like his slaves.

My father, during a few years of my school life, taught a group dynamics seminar where, at one point, he asked Black kids and White kids to give their thoughts on the word “motherfucker.” It’s origin on the plantation, of course, was a guy like Thomas Jefferson, rich, powerful, entitled, who, if he found your mother beautiful, was at liberty to fuck her, since he actually owned her body and controlled her actions. If a child was born, the motherfucker owned another slave, it was win-win for him. So the term was always ambiguous and multi-edged for male slaves on the plantation, you hated the motherfucker, but also, damn.

My father asked an Italian gang leader from a Brooklyn high school what the word motherfucker meant to him.

That’s the last word you hear before the fists start flying and the chains and gravity knives come out,” he said, looking across at the Puerto Rican and Black gang leaders. The Black kid smirked. My father asked him what ‘motherfucker’ meant to him.

Where I come from ‘motherfucker’ is one of the most useful and versatile words we have,” he said. “Contrary to the usage given by my Italian-American colleague over there, it doesn’t generally mean I want to fight you, unless I say it right before I’m going to fight a motherfucker. In that case, I use it as a deliberate provocation, otherwise it means a lot of things, depending on the context.”

For example?

The late great John Coltrane played like a motherfucker. Miles Davis is a motherfucker. Are you crazy, motherfucker? That motherfucker is hilarious. Motherfucker… please… That algebra test was a motherfucker. This motherfucker thinks his shit don’t stink. That motherfucker can’t take a joke. Relax, motherfucker. Motherfuckers were dancing in the street. Motherfucker be like…” and he imitated an idiosyncratic motherfucker they all knew.

My favorite dictionary definition of all-time is Merriam-Webster’s explanation of the word ‘squeamish’: “Exhibiting a prudish readiness to be nauseated.” This language-scrupulous Caucasian motherfucker has a prudish readiness to be nauseated by the word ‘motherfucker,’ and also by the unexpurgated ‘n-word’ and the common ‘f-word’. Oh, my.


Eastman spoke at the January 6 rally that preceded the attack on the Capitol. He retired from his position as a professor at Chapman University a week after January 6, which occurred amid protests from faculty at the Southern California university over his participation in Trump’s efforts to overturn the election.

Eastman told the Washington Post that his memo merely “explored all options that had been proposed.” In an interview on Tuesday, Eastman told CNN that the two-page memo had been only a preliminary draft. He provided CNN with a longer six-page memo laying out numerous other scenarios for Pence to follow on January 6. Eastman told CNN that during the January 4 meeting he’d had in the Oval Office with Trump and Pence, he had told Pence he should only delay certifying votes in the seven states, not try to throw the election to Trump.

The reality, however, is that a delay was simply another avenue to stop Biden from taking office.