Bronze casting of sheep entrails reading
Back in the good old days – to say the days of the Roman Empire – they practiced haruspicina, in which a person trained and practiced in haruspex examined the entrails of sheep or chickens and were said to divine the future therein. Today we might say our endless list of bloviating pundits and columnists do much the same, from the “liberal” side of the spectrum to the rabid right: Christiane Amanpour, Paul Krugman, Frank Rich, Charles Blow and a host of others, and then mincing to the middle perhaps Thomas Friedman or David Brooks (both formerly of the murmuring Right) and finally over to the farther Right, the shrieking of Limbaugh, Coulter, Beck and all the rest to be found on radio and TV talk shows, and regulars on Fox “News” – the official propaganda go-to broadcaster for America’s livid “conservatism.”
Since Donald John Trump secured the Republican nomination for President, the Republican Party has, in a grand, slightly slo-mo, display, disemboweled itself in full public view. The Grand Old Party, once the home of the stodgy keepers of the flames of moral and political rectitude, where “character” mattered, and “family values” reigned supreme, and fiscal tight-fistedness was closely clutched to the breast and deficits were anathema, has done a U-turn on nearly all this. Pundits and politicians, who previously foreswore Trump as unthinkable, uncouth, unfit, and otherwise utterly beyond the pale, now extol his wonders. Newt Gingrich debases himself before the new Caesar; Chinless of Tenn, smarmily embraces him, and myriad others who pontificated loudly against the garish real estate criminal from New York now – as in the early cabinet meeting when each of the supplicants offered their absurdist praises – suck the slurry of his absent mind. Others, having twisted themselves into pretzels to accommodate the inversion of all they believed, finally snapped and departed or were sent packing for failure to genuflect in sufficient depth.
This past week, in a demonstration of how yesterday were the old shibboleths of Republican propriety, the Senate rammed through the nomination of Judge Kavanaugh, a privileged son of modest wealth, party animal, Yalie, and accused sorta rapist and self-convicted perjurer. Once, in apparently some other life, he had complained forcefully of the disgusting behavior of Bill Clinton, while working with the Starr investigation for impeachment purposes. In his papers from that other life he delved into what in hindsight seems a perverse delight into the very specific sexual nature of the former President’s actions:
Taken from a New York Times article on Kavanaugh’s notes for the Starr inquest:
“The president has disgraced his office, the legal system and the American people by having sex with a 22-year-old intern and turning her life into a shambles — callous and disgusting behavior that has somehow gotten lost in the shuffle,” Mr. Kavanaugh wrote.
“He has committed perjury (at least) in the Jones case. He has lied to his aides, he has lied to the American people.
“It may not be our job to impose sanctions on him, but it is our job to make his pattern of revolting behavior clear — piece by painful piece Aren’t we failing to fulfill our duty to the American people if we willingly ‘conspire’ with the president in an effort to conceal the true nature of his acts?”
To that end, Mr. Kavanaugh wrote, Mr. Clinton should be asked extremely detailed questions unless he first either resigned or admitted to perjury and publicly apologized to Mr. Starr.
Mr. Kavanaugh listed 10 possible questions based on Ms. Lewinsky’s testimony, saying that he would “leave the best phrasing to others.” Among them were these:
“If Monica Lewinsky says that you had phone sex with her on approximately 15 occasions, would she be lying?”
“If Monica Lewinsky says that you ejaculated into her mouth on two occasions in the Oval Office area, would she be lying?”
“If Monica Lewinsky says that you masturbated into a trash can in your secretary’s office, would she be lying?”
During his confirmation hearings, in his new life, Judge Kavanaugh showed a remarkable imagination in giving new meanings to old words:
“Boofing,” which amongst his peers meant “anal sex” in his mind became “flatulence;” “The Devils Triangle,” among the peers meaning a sexual threesome of 2 guys, 1 girl, became a card game; and the Renate Club, known to his pals as confirmation you’d had Renate, became an honorific compliment to said Renate.
Mr Kavanaugh also lied to the Congress about numerous other things in his testimony, including rather serious matters. And yet, when the time came for a vote, 50 Republicans and 1 Democrat voted to confirm him for a seat on the highest court in the land, shortly after he’d committed a handful of crimes before their very eyes and ears. It is rumored that President Trump is considering the appointment of a horse for candidate for the next Senate seat open.
In a harsh political calculation the Republicans clearly thought that having having a toady on the Supreme Court, as Kavanaugh has given his bonafides for such a role over his long public service, was worth burning bridges with half the nation’s population, or at least the part of that half that doesn’t take kindly to undesired sexual manhandling or other such symptoms of misogyny. Senator Flake’s feint towards the women with his call for an FBI investigation added a small ripple of hope to the matter for those against the confirmation, while providing a few senators, including himself, for whom the vote was politically dicey a transparent fig leaf with which to vote “yes.” Whether this calculation will prove wise remains to be seen in the coming election and beyond. The Grand Old Party, always a stalwart gathering of men, has defiantly secured its position as a club for sexist white men (and house “niggers”) only, aside from those women who seem to beg for maltreatment, of which there seems an ample blonde supply. The Trumpian change-over is complete, and the rank hypocrisy – formerly visible only to the moderately discerning – is now blatant and overt. Family values and all the rest be damned: grab that pussy. And the Fundamentalist “Christians,” the most strident shouters of moral rectitude in the land, have shown their true colors, with a twisted “moral logic” which even the Catholic Church, a secret conclave of pederasts, would have difficulty accepting: hate the sin, love the sinner. And boy do they love Donald Trump. Of course there is a long and still present history of grifter ministers, from the fictional Elmer Gantry, to Jimmy Swaggart and Jim Bakker on to our current “prosperity” televangelists flying in private jets, like Joel Osteen, and living the lives of millionaires, tax-free. (Hmm, just like the President). The religion of PT Barnum is alive and well in the Trump era.
And so, peering into the entrails of the now gutless Republican Party, what can we find? First perhaps the vivid signs of racism, announced by Trump in his initial forays into politics when he took out a full page ad regarding the “Central Park Five” – a story ripe in American stereotyping, in which 5 young black men were accused of raping a white female jogger in New York’s Central Park, supposedly confessed and spent a long period in prison before the case was dismantled and they were proven innocent, their confessions coerced, etc. Trump was instrumental in building up the hysteria around them, and when it was found he was in error, he never apologized.
As Barack Obama headed towards the Presidency, Mr Trump became a “birther” – someone who questioned the legitimacy of Obama’s Presidency on the grounds that he had not been born in the USA and was hence not eligible for this office. The claim was completely fictitious – a lie, something which comes as naturally to Donald as breathing. Again, the grounds were pure racism. But Trump kept hammering away and behind him a growing mob quietly mutated into a viable political mass. It was his calling card for his future political intentions, built on the thick veins of deep racism running through America’s social DNA. Trump was hitting the mother lode.
Where earlier Republican candidates had deployed myriad forms of “dog whistles” to signal their racism, Trump was upfront and blatant about it – with regard to Mexicans, blacks or anyone else not as white as he is. After the “politically correct” suppression of the Obama era, in which it was said we were in a “post-racial” time and the use of “bad” words was chastised, this new-found “honesty” burst like a major oil hit, opening the sluice gates of raw unadulterated All-American racism wide. We are now drowning in a deluge of cellphone videos of racist harangues and attacks in public, harassment on up to the stream of murdered-while-living-black cop killings. ICE is rounding up mostly south-of-the-border “POCs” and impounding 14,000 (seeming count of late) “illegal” children in internment camps.
Mucking around further in the slurry of this Republican display one finds a remarkable unity of purpose, a submission to authority such that members are able to invert their supposed beliefs in an instant. They can pontificate on the sanctity of the family in the same moment they kow-tow to a thrice married man whose vulgarity is unchained. They can mouth platitudes about patriotism while dodging service with bone-spurs or class-born deferments. They can rail about Jesus while lining their pockets with silver, and thread the needle slicker than a camel. One can list a thousand things of this kind which all distill into a common ground: pure and utter hypocrisy, most appropriately summarized in their leader, who is the literal embodiment of falsity while bellowing loudly about the Fake News of all else.
While I do not purport to be a Cassandra, nor do I believe in the reading of entrails to discern the future, I do foresee a few things – drawn not from such mystical sources, but rather a hard-nosed reading of history. It has been said that history repeats itself, first as tragedy and then as farce. I don’t really concur with this, rather I see history as sequences of patterns which rise and fall, like waves coming in at the beach. Each wave follows the same law of physics as the next, and is modulated by whatever disturbances enter into the equation. Each deposits a line of sand, looking much like the prior and much like the following, but each unique and different. And so does history. The rise and fall of empires follows a pattern. And while the United States has never openly declared itself an empire, is has been and is one. And it is following a similar process of all the empires which rose before and collapsed, only in these times accelerated by the technological means which mark our epoch. Time does not go faster, rather we ourselves move through time more quickly.
The United States of America is already in the last stages of its undeclared empire. It is internally corrupt, it is vastly over-extended militarily, it is bankrupt from the expenditures on that military at the cost of domestic infrastructure. It is collapsing and as is customary in such imperial end-games, it is taken over by the most zealous, the fanatics, and will doubtless suffer a period of police-state modern Fascism as it crumbles. It is already doing so. Fascism is not so farcical.
The tragedy is that while it is preoccupied with its internal turmoil, the wider world, deeply impacted by America’s dominant role in the last 100 or more years – the world’s biggest polluter over time (now matched by China in the contemporary period), the greatest consumer of the world’s resources (25% for 4.4% of the globe’s population) – is facing a vast terminal threat largely instigated by western technology and its political handmaiden, capitalism, uniquely embodied by the USA. So while the United States is distracted with its political stresses, it carries on inflicting damage on the the globe, and with the current administration even doing so with gleeful intent. The consequence will be globally fatal, at least for most species, including us, on the planet. All for the god almighty buck, America’s true religion and bottom line.
For further reading on some of the things mention here see