For you nonbelievers, this is Yiddish slang for someone who is or acts crazy. Four years ago, I claimed in a book, “Trump is the certified end of America as we know it.” Since then and even before, more evidence has piled up that the ex-president has moved from being an annoying but flagrant narcissist schmuck to someone with severe mental problems.

The press has seemed unwilling to recognize this. “Day after day the press was gaslighting the American people: Pathologizing Biden’s normal signs of aging, such as forgetting names, and normalizing Trump’s flagrant signs of dementia.” So says John Gartner who has been tooting this horn (his shofar, as religious Jews would call it) since 2017 as founder of the group Duty to Warn and a large group of concurring mental health professionals. Others contributed to a book about this a few years ago.

Read Gartner’s piece especially if you think you understand Trump. He looks at four areas of growing decline into dementia. The samples below are from Gartner’s essay. Trump’s language and usage, if you hadn’t noticed, has long been decaying: “A Boston Globe study found in 2015 that Trump was speaking at a 4th grade level, much lower than the other candidates, but more importantly much lower than his former self.” He used to be fairly literate, but in the last years the decline has accelerated. Of many examples: he confused Nikki Haley with Nancy Pelosi. He has claimed, eight times, to be running against Obama. “He uses non-words to replace real words: “space capsicle,” “liberalation,” “U-licious S Grant,” and so on. He posted this: “Joe Buden DISINFORMATES AND MISINFORMATES”

He drifts from one lunatic thought to another, and we’ve all heard him do it. “They’re weaponizing law enforcement for high-level interference against Joe Biden’s top and only political appointment. A guy named me. A guy named me.” He falls asleep in his recent New York hearings, and his outbursts outside of court become “ever more paranoid, aggressive and confused.” Judge Merchan can’t control him.

Now, you might say, the poor man has been under tremendous pressure. Yes, and if his behavior is disquieting now, what will it be like under the pressures (and the freedom) of the presidency? If he can’t think coherently now, what then?

Perhaps the infection is coming from fellow bizarro Republicans. You may remember this totally meshugenah remark from Marjorie Taylor Greene: “A wildfire in California was started by a laser beamed from space and controlled by a prominent Jewish banking family with connections to powerful Democrats.” Last month Trump noted: “Any Jewish person that votes for Democrats hates their religion, they hate everything about Israel and they should be ashamed of themselves because Israel will be destroyed.”

Or maybe the problem is simply his diet: see A Junk Food Diet Can Cause Long-Term Damage to Brains. A recent USC study on rats confirmed this. King Rat did not participate.

A Surfeit of Excess

You must have noticed that so many public figures are guilty of excesses of the grossest kind. Moderation is out, self-indulgence is in. Hate and acrimony have become the coin of the realm. No wonder antisemitism is on the rise.

The top newsmakers are all masters of excess, as they parade their unique versions of cultural debauchery: Putin’s historically induced fantasies of conquest verge on madness; Musk raises egotism to new heights; Greene glories in her own idiocy; Santos gives new meaning to the concept of truth; Bankman-Fried tries to outdo Bernie Madoff. Trump, to be sure, is godfather to them all.

For sheer cultural excess, the scourge of guns in America outdoes them all.

About a year ago in a sort of whimsical piece I took to praising Oscar Wilde and his notion that “nothing succeeds like excess.” Maybe I should have thought twice about endorsing this idea. The common American culture has become excessively debauched in so many ways, and not only by the far right.

Liberal identity politics has sometimes assumed that people from red states are culturally and politically backward—and so it offers a kind of “cultural imperialism” to help these benighted souls. This is a sort of culture shock, often just another form of chauvinism like American exceptionalism. American life is full of such examples, as in the half-century it took to finally give women the right to vote. Racism is an extreme form of cultural chauvinism.

In my Oscar Wilde piece, I took on the truism that nothing succeeds like success, the notion that Oscar parodied. Another way of saying this is that “North Americans commonly believe that anyone who works hard enough will be successful and wealthy. Underlying this belief is the value that wealth is good and important.” Mm-hmm, and do we really believe that the wealthy deserve all their privileges?

The values of our society, which used to represent ideal conditions or accepted truths, seem to have lost their power. The norms that enforce them, like expecting fairness in a transaction, are consistently breached. How are we supposed to judge the controversy over Hunter Biden’s laptop? Or the immigration debate, which has been clouded over with years of ranting on both sides?

My rant here is not going to change anything. To expect us to return to Aristotle’s golden mean—avoiding extremes, the measure of virtue—is a fool’s errand. Most people don’t know who Aristotle is.

Greene’s Gazpacho and Trump’s Toilets

The New Yorker

Yesterday the media reported endlessly on Greene’s continuing and insufferable stupidity and the ex-president’s propensity to flush documents down White House toilets. Hard to wake up to this stuff.

I still read the latest in politics each morning on the internet. This practice had begun to ruin my day so I’ve endeavored to change it. I try to make phone calls and email friends, walk to the bakery, get on my exercise machine. I’m still caught up with our political follies, but no longer to the point of writing about them or hashing them out with friends. It ain’t worth the angst.

Since most people can’t face the enormity of what’s happening in the U.S., the media’s fallback is to divert us with the folly of our political happenings. Politics and the reporting thereof have become a burlesque.

Yet I’ve spent too many years in politics not to take it seriously. It’s very hard to do that now. I mark all the many appeals for funds I get from Democrats as spam. I no longer follow Democrats Abroad. Most of the received opinions about the current crisis—the likely onset of a new civil war, gerrymandering, court packing, and so on—I find repetitious and half-baked. Or they keep telling us about the persistent Congressional standoffs.

So maybe we shouldn’t blame the media for telling us ad nauseum about the crocodile who finally got the tire removed from its neck. Yesterday I was looking for some freaky “good news stories” to write about, like the one about preventing Alzheimer’s with toothpaste. The idea was to lighten up the pervasive gloom about current events. I eventually tossed out that approach after realizing that such stuff was just clickbait. The media thrives on clickbait.

Since I spent quite a few years studying and teaching literature I tried to get back to reading more. That worked for a while but I always gravitated to the current affairs stuff on Kindle and got too absorbed in that. Interesting but invariably gloomy.

So I looked at the shelves of books that I had just unpacked after my recent move. Music, history, fiction, poetry, and culture were there in abundance. Could they be a passage to my recovery from boredom and disgust? The books looked back at me as if through a scrim of non-recognition, even though I had read them all and absorbed much pleasure from many. But I felt little urge to pick them up and explore them again.

Even so, I will do that with a few because they represent old pleasures and insights that were and are valuable to me. Literature is life rendered, after all, and mostly from a simpler and better time. It has always been a refuge for me, and perhaps it will be so again. In times like this, we need our sanctuaries.

A Sharp Dressed Man

Imposter that he is, Trump dressed like a Mafia Don. Biden is playing the long game and dresses like a president should. You can’t beat a navy blue pinstripe suit. I am reminded of the great ZZ Top tune from 1983, “Sharp Dressed Man,” and, not least, how power dressing used to count for something in public life. Mitch McConnell in his off-white suits doesn’t really get that.

Most of us are entirely worn out with the pandemic, the stimulus negotiations, the Greene affair, and the daily GOP turmoils. Republicans are thrashing around trying to patch up their broken party and keep in the game while Joe Biden is quietly upstaging them at every turn. Yesterday the House Dems voted to kick M.T. Greene off her committees, even while Kevin McCarthy, the GOP’s top turkey, gave her a pass.

Before this, Joe coolly met for two hours with ten Republican senators and overshadowed them all, likely winning the stimulus battle. Maybe the pinstripe didn’t matter. But maybe subliminally it did.

The Lemmings

The GOP’s answer to its post-Trump blues: More Trump

Marjorie Taylor Greene’s vile new antics highlight a 50-year GOP story

In the most recent Republican playbook, the lemmings continue to follow the Great Psychopath over the cliff until, as in the last moment of a Looney Tunes cartoon, he steps aside and they don’t. Reminds you a little of the Jonestown massacre, though Trump, unlike Jim Jones, is in no way going down with his ship. And we don’t finally know whether the gutless Republicans will continue drinking the Kool-Aid.

How could this mad devotion come to pass? No one can really explain it. Hard to believe so many would make this Faustian bargain for political power. The mass extinction of the GOP looms, one hopes. The only person who could begin to get inside the phenomenon is Hunter Thompson, and he is dead.

“The party risks tying its future to a one-term president whose deeply polarizing style cost the party both the House and the Senate during his four years in office.” So says David Siders in Politico. It’s worse than that, David. Some 80 percent of Republicans now approve of his record; and 56 percent of Republican voters believe that Trump should either probably or definitely run for president again in 2024. A new poll from YouGov and The Economist found that 72 percent of Republican voters—almost three in four—believed Biden’s win was illegitimate.

All but five of fifty GOP Senators now support Trump and his reelection fantasy. So the second impeachment is quickly moving toward irrelevancy. And “the Trumpster Visigoth wing of the Republican party” (thanks, Thomas Mallon) is in full ascendance. Someone should write a novel about all this. Characters like Giuliani, Bannon, Cruz and others in Trump’s Mafia are hard to come by in fiction. Then if you threw QAnon fancier Marjorie Taylor Greene into the story, it would test all credibility:

CNN reports that Greene “liked” a social media post that suggested “a bullet to the head” for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and seemed to approve of a suggestion that other prominent Democrats should be hanged.

She mocks the Parkland school shooting in which 17 died. Very few Republicans have chosen to comment on her crackpot assertions. In fact, there’s no fiction that could do justice to this woman’s sordid reality. For some of us, the Republican party has lost all reason for existence. The state-level actors in places like Pennsylvania are also losing all reason for existence.

GOP state legislative leaders called on Republican congressional members to object to the Electoral College results or “delay” their certification. Every House Republican in Pennsylvania’s congressional delegation, save one, obliged, voting to invalidate their state’s Electoral College votes.

As in other things, Hunter Thompson may have said it best: “I believe the Republicans have never thought that democracy was anything but a tribal myth.”