Sunday, December 30, 2018

ANS -- Why Trump Supporters Believe He Is Not Corrupt

Here's a fairly short article explaining what the fascist right means by "corruption", and it isn't Trump.  It's from last August, but still true.  

Why Trump Supporters Believe He Is Not Corrupt


On Wednesday morning, the lead story on was not Michael Cohen's admission that Donald Trump had instructed him to violate campaign-finance laws by paying hush money to two of Trump's mistresses. It was the alleged murder of a white Iowa woman, Mollie Tibbetts, by an undocumented Latino immigrant, Cristhian Rivera.

On their face, the two stories have little in common. Fox is simply covering the Iowa murder because it distracts attention from a revelation that makes Trump look bad. But dig deeper and the two stories are connected: They represent competing notions of what corruption is.

Cohen's admission highlights one of the enduring riddles of the Trump era. Trump's supporters say they care about corruption. During the campaign, they cheered his vow to "drain the swamp" in Washington, D.C. When Morning Consult asked Americans in May 2016 to explain why they disliked Hillary Clinton, the second-most-common answer was that she was "corrupt." And yet, Trump supporters appear largely unfazed by the mounting evidence that Trump is the least ethical president in modern American history. When asked last month whether they considered Trump corrupt, only 14 percent of Republicans said yes. Even Cohen's allegation is unlikely to change that.

The answer may lie in how Trump and his supporters define corruption. In a forthcoming book titled How Fascism Works, the Yale philosophy professor Jason Stanley makes an intriguing claim. "Corruption, to the fascist politician," he suggests, "is really about the corruption of purity rather than of the law. Officially, the fascist politician's denunciations of corruption sound like a denunciation of political corruption. But such talk is intended to evoke corruption in the sense of the usurpation of the traditional order."

Fox's decision to focus on the Iowa murder rather than Cohen's guilty plea illustrates Stanley's point. In the eyes of many Fox viewers, I suspect, the network isn't ignoring corruption so much as highlighting the kind that really matters. When Trump instructed Cohen to pay off women with whom he'd had affairs, he may have been violating the law. But he was upholding traditional gender and class hierarchies. Since time immemorial, powerful men have been cheating on their wives and using their power to evade the consequences.

The Iowa murder, by contrast, signifies the inversion—the corruption—of that "traditional order." Throughout American history, few notions have been as sacrosanct as the belief that white women must be protected from nonwhite men. By allegedly murdering Tibbetts, Rivera did not merely violate the law. He did something more subversive: He violated America's traditional racial and sexual norms.

Once you grasp that for Trump and many of his supporters, corruption means less the violation of law than the violation of established hierarchies, their behavior makes more sense. Since 2014, Trump has employed the phrase rule of law nine times in tweets. Seven of them refer to illegal immigration.

Why were Trump's supporters so convinced that Clinton was the more corrupt candidate even as reporters uncovered far more damning evidence about Trump's foundation than they did about Clinton's? Likely because Clinton's candidacy threatened traditional gender roles. For many Americans, female ambition—especially in service of a feminist agenda—in and of itself represents a form of corruption. "When female politicians were described as power-seeking," noted the Yale researchers Victoria Brescoll and Tyler Okimoto in a 2010 study, "participants experienced feelings of moral outrage (i.e., contempt, anger, and/or disgust)."

Cohen's admission makes it harder for Republicans to claim that Trump didn't violate the law. But it doesn't really matter. For many Republicans, Trump remains uncorrupt—indeed, anticorrupt—because what they fear most isn't the corruption of American law; it's the corruption of America's traditional identity. And in the struggle against that form of corruption—the kind embodied by Cristhian Rivera—Trump isn't the problem. He's the solution.

ANS -- Brad Hicks on Politics

This is a short piece by Brad Hicks.  Please read and heed it.  It's about politics and staying involved.  

Somebody just brought up, in a Q&A with Bruce Sterling, the fact that '18 was the 50th anniversary of the Whole Earth Catalog; they wanted to know what he, as someone who worked on the WEC and its sequel magazines Coevolution Quarterly and Whole Earth Review, thought its legacy was. And I'm going to brutally (and possibly unfairly) summarize his answer as: it didn't have one, because it was an interesting, but fundamentally bad idea. Sterling pointed out that the Whole Earth organization, and its products, were about where can you find the tools to do interesting things *by yourself* -- and nothing that lasts ever gets done by lone individuals.

Thinking about that, it's important to remember that the Whole Earth Catalog was huge on tools and textbooks for urban and suburban readers who were moving to rural areas, abandoning "civilization" to found subsistence farms, or at least for people who were fantasizing about doing so. I read about it at the time, and read more about it in first-person histories in the '80s: the disastrous '64 "Summer of Love" and the election of Richard Nixon in '68 felt, to a lot of leftists, like the end of the world: nothing more could be done to save, let alone advance, the social democratic project of broadly shared prosperity and universal human rights. And we certainly did see the high-water mark of post-World-War-II liberalism during Nixon's years in office; it's been nothing but retreat since then.

And after hearing Sterling's comments about the misguided (but fascinating) Whole Earth project, I wonder if the fact that so many leftists gave up on organizing altogether after '68 wasn't WHY things have only gone downhill since.

Personal story: to save me from increasingly murderous bullying, my parents dumped me in a downright cultish private high school funded by the John Birch Society, and I came out of it a Reagan Republican, a dedicated follower of Ayn Rand. But once I got out from under that cult, into the real world, and once I did some reading of actual academic historians and not the political hacks the movement promoted, it took me only a couple of years to flip back to the Rooseveltian social democracy I had been raised in. But it's left me complaining about something ever since ...


That's what I spent decades waiting for: for the Democratic Party, or ANY other mass organization, to stand up and actually make the case for, to recruit followers of, the basic ideas behind social democracy. It's what drew me and so many others to Sanders' doomed '16 run, what drew me to even more doomed (and flawed) politicians like Edwards before him -- I wanted somebody who would recruit an actual movement for an alternative to the Reaganomics consensus.

So here's the thing I want to say at the end of 2018, two years into the reign of Donald Trump. DO NOT REPEAT THE MISTAKE THE BABY BOOMERS MADE back in the late '60s and early '70s. Do not react to Donald Trump the way that they reacted to Richard Nixon, by disengaging altogether from society and concentrating on what can you do, as a lone individual, to live a safer or more virtuous life or whatever. Band together. If you can do it in a political party, awesome, but even if you can't, stay engaged.

Because there's historical precedent: social democracy itself didn't emerge full-grown from Franklin Roosevelt's brow like Athena bursting from the forehead of Zeus. It originated when the muck-raking journalists, and their subscribers, banded together behind Upton Sinclair's political movement in the first years of the Great Depression. Upton Sinclair ran headlong into the same buzzsaw that took down Bernie Sanders, and for all of the same reasons: old people in both parties weren't looking for a new set of solutions, they were only interesting in arguing about who should manage the same old (Wall Street endorsed) solutions.

But it was the vast numbers of young people that Upton Sinclair brought into the Democratic Party, who stuck with the Party even after their leader's political destruction, who stood up for Roosevelt in '32 even though he wasn't really one of them, but then held his feet to the fire throughout the '30s in exchange for defending him from the center-right Democrats in the '34 mid-terms and the '36 primaries. You've never heard of most of them. But they saved the world, and built almost everything worth protecting in America.

Don't be a hippy in '19 and '20. Be a reform democrat. Don't retreat into your home and fantasize about going back to the land. Speak up. Organize if you can. But stay involved.

Saturday, December 29, 2018

ANS -- The Four Steps of American Collapse

This is sarcastic, but true -- about the horrible way America is managing her economy.  Note that the prescription is from the Libertarians, who seem to have conquered us.  He doesn't say that here, but....

The Four Steps of American Collapse

A User's Guide to Collapsonomics

Homeless people living at Macy'sDomino's Pizza paving the streetsA Walmart that became an internment camp for little kids separated from their parents.

Dystopian enough for you? Welcome to daily life in modern day America, or as I call it, Collapsonomics 101.

I want to tell you the story, in four principles, of how, in just a few decades, a generation of crackpot economists, addle-brained pundits, and fanatical Soviet politicians imploded the world's richest society into such an astonishing, grotesque, bizarre, and grim dystopia, that people now live in abandoned department stores, depend on pizza delivery companies to repair roads, and Walmarts are used to imprison kids.

Don't invest in society, ever, period, full stop. Everybody should be self-reliant. Let's go back to the stone age, where we're all carving our own arrowheads.

For sane people, a society, like anything else we wish to grow and appreciate in wealth and value and worth, from our home to our selves, is something we should therefore invest in. Yet a society is the only thing that we don't see as an "investment", isn't it? Hence, in 1950 or so, American government expenditure was 20% of GDP. In 2018, it was…20% of GDP. But every other rich country spends north of 40% of GDP socially. Advertising tells us shoes are an "investment", crackpots tell us that buying guns for teachers is an "investment", and banks tell us that the stock market is an "investment". But most of those things are not investments at all — and none of those things are nearly as good as investment as society itself.

Why? Because a modern post-industrial economy is not made of factories, smokestacks, and assembly lines. It needs educated people. It needs healthy people. It needs safety nets, so people can be bold and take big risks. All of those things allow people to be creative, imaginative, entrepreneurial, adventurous, free-thinking, reasoned, civilized, kind, decent, and humane. Here are a few things that happened roughly between 1950 and 2018: antiobiotics, chemotherapy, the internet, the UN, the EU, human beings landing on the moon, and the discovery of DNA — because people relied on each other's expertise, creativity, boldness, and knowledge, not because everyone was whittling their own arrowheads on the banks of the nearest river.

But if you are a self-reliant atom struggling to exist, because your politicians are taking healthcare away from your kids, because you'll never retire, because you are never allowed to rely on anyone else — you'll never fully be any of those things on the first list, much less accomplish world-shaking things like on the second list, all of which depended critically on people investing in, or relying on, each other. You'll be productive and efficient — a cog in a machine. But a machine of what? Don't worry — we're getting to that. For now, here is the point. Only investing in a society can yield benefits like longer, happier, saner, healthier, closer, gentler, wiser lives. And so if you want to collapse a society, the first step is to do what America did: never invest in it, a single penny more, forever, so that things fall apart. That's the first principle of collapsonomics.

Waste as much money as possible on everything that's not an investment. Make sure that corporations, banks, and hedge funds create as little real value as humanly possible. If you really want to collapse a society, the next step after not investing in it is to spend lots of money on everything else that's wasteful, pointless, and useless — especially things which create nothing of real value whatsoever.

Hmm, what meets that criterion? Thankfully for us — we're collapsonomists now — lots of things. Banks, hedge funds, insurance companies. They are only mechanisms to allocate things of value — whether cars, computers, books, or time — but not to create them. Ads, targeting, marketing. Again — ways to allocate things of value — but not to create them. That's a basic economic truth.

Guess what? Over half the American economy is now composed of things that create nothing of real value, like advertising and finance. Why is that? It's because those are the sectors that are the most heavily subsidized, by a very long way. The banking sector gets trillions in bailouts — and is still on life support. Advertising doesn't have to repay society for creating the Internet and WWW — it can bank the profits thereof till kingdom come. Subsidy after subsidy — the growth of a false economy, that's over half…bullshit.

Walmart's profits? $10 billion. How much it costs to support Walmart's workers, by way of food stamps, public housing, and healthcare? $8 billion. 80% of Walmart's profit isn't the real thing — it's merely internalized public spending, aka your money and mine.

So there are two next steps to collapse an economy. Waste money on stuff that creates nothing of real value — prop it up, subsidize it, throw fortunes at it. And instead of using public spending on investments like education, healthcare, transport, finance, or media, use it to pay the wages corporations should be paying — so that shareholders and execs can rake in millions, while everyone else struggles to make ends meet. That way, a society grows impoverished in four ways, not just one. The public purse is drained. Social investments are never made. And inequality begins to spiral out of control — as value itself, stuff that really improves and transforms human lives, is begins to get sucked out of the economy.

Ah, but how far, and hard, can we really suck all the value out of an economy? We've just scratched the surface.

Privatize public goods. Make everything a market. That way, no idea or notion of the public interest or common good can ever come to be — and progress itself will never be possible. The next step in collapsing an economy is to reverse centuries of progress in a single swoop. This is where the real action is, as every good kleptocrat knows. Take a nation's existing public assets — whatever they might be, energy grids, universities, hospitals, schools — and begin selling them off. Why? Well, there's always a reason, if you look hard enough. The debt! The deficit! A war! Any pretext will do, really, because people don't understand economics, because, well, you've been cutting school spending, so who's going to teach it to them?

So. Privatize every last public good that you can think of. National monuments? Parks? Libraries? How about the postal service? There's a long list, if a country's been around at least a century or two.

But don't just privatize it in any old way. Sell it to the lowest bidder. The real bastards. The vultures, the carrion-eaters. Sell the energy grid to the private equity fund who'll fire half the staff, make the other half work twice as much for half the money, raid the pension scheme, and funnel all that money — earned not through any real work, by bettering anyone's life, but only by making a whole lot of lives a whole lot worse — right back into the financial system that creates no value. That way, you get a trifecta of collapsonomics: the economy "grows", but people's incomes shrink, and their savings implode. Now we're talking.

Remember the principle — nothing should be a public asset, or even held in trust or stewardship, every single thing in a society should be privately owned, juiced and squeezed for maximum profit, preferably as quickly as possible, so all the value, all the wealth invested in it so carefully over decades, maybe centuries, by generations, can be sucked out of it in years, preferably quarters. That's why you hire the vultures, after all. And don't forget to let them keep at most of what they take — why else would anyone do such a disgusting job?

That way, if you do all the above, you'll get two extra trifectas of collapsonomics: inequality spikes again, huge swathes of jobs vanish overnight, and the ones that are left are dead-end jobs, without benefits, safety nets, stability, security. But because now the bar is lowered for everyone, the quality of the average job goes down across the board. If you're lucky, jobs might even become gigs, as people become desperate just to work at all. Soon enough, nobody will really remember that society was once a thing built for a notion of a common good.

That's what American leaders did for decades — and look what a fantastic job they did collapsing their economy. If you're lucky, you'll end up where they did — imploding your middle class in less than twenty years.

Don't ever measure anything in society but profit. Don't let people suppose anything else matters in any way whatsoever. The point of every instant of every human life should be to maximize profit. Consider this. The American economy's GDP is "growing" — but life expectancy is falling. That might strike you as, well, completely backwards — but that's because you are still a sane person. To the average economist, pundit, or other advocate of collapsonomics, that is reason to stand up and cheer. Everything's great!!

So if you really want to finish the job of collapsing an economy, create a measure that adds up all the profit across the economy — and make sure it leaves out anything and everything that really matters, like people dying young. You've already sucked all the value out of the economy, anyways. The economy is now a thing that makes profit not by creating stuff of real value anymore — but by selling stocks, bonds, ads, targets, audiences, eyeballs, psychological profiles, influence, misinformation, propaganda, duplicity, extremism, fearmongering, Ponzi schemes, insulin that costs pennies to make at thousands, fresh teenage blood, on-demand butlers, apps that listen to your every word, rage, misery, loneliness, despair, greed…all to the lowest bidder, who might just be Vladimir Putin, LLC. But who cares?

Wait, you ask. Isn't that, well, the very stuff of human folly itself? Of sheer ignorance and rank stupidity? Of course it is. That is precisely how we will finish the job of collapsing society.

You see, then our work is done. All that we have to do is say — "but the economy is growing!!", and when people say, dumbfounded, "Wait! Hold on!! My life isn't!", all that we have to do is reply, "well, that is because you are not working hard enough. You must work harder. You must punish yourself, and everyone else, a little more. You are the problem! Not the system. The system is perfect and big and smart, and you are little and imperfect and quite dumb. Who do you trust — you, or the system?"

That's the coup de grace of collapsonomics. The finishing move. Checkmate, game over.

We have made people unwitting cogs in the machines of their own ruin. The harder that they work, the poorer they will get, and the poorer they get, the harder that they will work. They will never aspire to great and grand and noble things anymore, and great and grand and noble things will never inspire them, either. All you have to do is tell them that step by step, the promised land, is coming closer. There! See the light?! It's just a little further down the abyss.

Welcome, my friend, to the wonderful world of Collapsonomics. I hope you enjoy your stay in paradise.

 June 2018

Friday, December 28, 2018

ANS -- The Year of the Old Boys

This one is fairly long.  I recommend you read it, but if you don't, -- read enough to get the gist and then read the last paragraph or two.  It is about the attitude and world view of the ruling Old Boys.  


Photo illustration of Donald Trump, Brett Kavanaugh, Rudy Giuliani, and Les Moonves.

Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images, Reuters/Rick Wilking, Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images, and Reuters/Kevin Lamarque.


The Year of the Old Boys

It's hard to overstate the extent to which childish masculinity revealed itself in 2018 as the engine of power in America.

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Many of us have spent 2018 trying to wrap our heads around how, exactly, the country whose slightly priggish brand was once meritocracy, competence, and moral authority has turned out to have instead nourished and enriched an elaborate network of overripe, decadent, and not particularly clever criminals. What's confusing about that isn't that the myth of our virtue was greatly exaggerated—that much was clear to anyone with a passing knowledge of American history. No, what's confusing is the extent to which the fiction of decency (whether political, financial, or sexual) seems to have been unnecessary all along.

If Donald Trump has served a salutary function, it's that he has stripped those fictions bare. 2018 has ended euphemisms and pretenses and politesse, and however much some claim to miss the country's more decorous days, there's something to be said for having the outsides match the insides. The myth of the great male American leader has been as robust as it's been ruinously incomplete. It needed to be exposed, and Trump did so with a beautiful absence of care. He's not going to behave at a funeral. He won't sing the opening hymn or the national anthem or participate in a communal gesture unless it centers him. He'll wander off the stage he's sharing with the Argentine president, insult a dying senator, forget to sign things once he's gotten his applause, publicly praise men for not snitching on him. He'll use his Twitter account as a burn book, and what he's most grateful for at Thanksgiving is himself. The definition of American "greatness" he has embodied is as precise as any we've had.

What these powerful men share is arbitrary cruelty, pleasure in retribution, bullying, shouting, and an unusual dependence on golf—the traits of aging manchildren.

Understanding how a system broke requires taking the full measure of the leaders it produces and the qualities for which they're embraced. Trump is valued, by his supporters, for much of the above. That's not entirely new. In overvaluing a certain kind of masculine ethos, the United States has always glorified impoliteness; there have long been people who confuse boorishness with power and find courtesy effeminate. But what's interesting about Trump's conduct is that while it's unmannerly, it's not rude in that classic hard-nosed, stick-it-to-'em, I-got-no-time-for-niceties way. His aren't power moves that command respect. Rather, they're puffy and decadent—the qualities associated with the kind of bratty, spoiled boy we met when the term affluenza was first used as a legal defense on the grounds that someone so ruined by financial privilege can't understand ethics or consequences. Trump isn't too busy for etiquette; he has nothing but time. He spent Barbara Bush's funeral on Twitter denying that he called Jeff Sessions "Mr. Magoo" and Rod Rosenstein "Mr. Peepers." There's a crusty entitlement to this species of maleness that makes it feel at least as geriatric as it is juvenile. Though Trump's petty malice puts him in (roughly) seventh grade, it has a doddering petulance, too. He is, in effect, an old boy. And when you step back and think about it, you realize America is full of them.

That America is an old boys' club is a boring truism. The expression exists for a reason; we've seen the mutually exonerating mechanisms of boys' clubs pop out into the open in a variety of ways this year. The sulky mulishness of many a Great American Man has long been kept decorously half-secret with the invocation of code words like uncompromising and choleric. Not anymore. The Old Boy needs attention as well as power, and with this presidency, the former has finally trumped the latter. The results are disconcerting. So is the troubling scope of the problem. From Trump to Brett Kavanaugh, from Les Moonves to Jeffrey Epstein: This year we saw with startling clarity that what many of the nation's powerful men share is less talent and vision than arbitrary cruelty, pleasure in retribution, bullying, shouting, sneering, a sense that they're above consequences, and an unusual dependence on golf—the traits of aging manchildren.

The Old Boy is immensely fortunate, but his core drive is greed. He has power and wealth, but it's always less than he thinks he deserves. He's bratty and cross and past his prime. He doesn't feel good. He's distant from conventional masculine markers in ways a suit usually helps to mask. His defining features are a puffy softness and a basic, uncultured greed that's fed by status symbols. The Old Boy has a vile temper and makes others responsible for his moods. But he has allies.

The only thing the Old Boy hates more than being told no is being questioned. He is both fussy and smug—think of Paul Manafort seething, arms crossed, as he stared at underling Rick Gates in court, or Sen. Lindsey Graham theatrically yelling "This is hell" about a hearing process his own party devised.

The Old Boy is so essentially dishonest that his lies seem almost innocent. An Old Boy lies fluently and to your face, and he will explode in rage if you point this out to him not because you're wrong (this is key) but because you don't matter and neither does the truth; an Old Boy gets to say and do what he likes. The Old Boy recognizes some authorities. He smiles at those he considers fellow Boys—there's a faintly embarrassing abjection to this performance when it happens. (See Kavanaugh bowing and scraping to Trump when Trump introduced him as his nominee, or how solicitously Trump acts around Vladimir Putin.)

The flip side is that the Old Boy considers his mere presence a gift to those he sees as his inferiors. As a result, any honor conferred upon him is no more than his due. So yes, he lies, but only because that's what a blinkered world requires in order for him to get what he is owed. To bring about the correct outcome, he gets to lie, and you get to believe it. That's your privilege.

If you opt out of this peculiar script on which so much of the Old Boy's worldview depends, the subtext of his answer to any question is "how dare you"? (Think of Kavanaugh addressing Sen. Amy Klobuchar during that hearing, or of Trump addressing the press. "No, no, we don't answer that," Bill Cosby replied when he was asked about the allegations against him.) This makes Old Boys slippery and confusing to deal with. The Old Boy doesn't really answer a question because he denies that he can be questioned. And money and power have gotten plenty of people to play along and make this true. The Old Boy is fragility itself, buttressed by a hot and constant wind.

Many of the traits of the large adult son are there—the arbitrary meanness, the fury at repercussions that feels like evidence of a coddled child gone to seed—but he has teeth.

If 2017 helped us understand the blundering ubiquity of the "large adult son" with help from Jia Tolentino, 2018 has revealed the extent to which the Old Boy has been the driving figure in the smoky backrooms of American public life. The Old Boy doesn't quite have the large adult son's air of goofy ineffectiveness. In part that's because his father is at least symbolically dead—powerless enough, anyway, that said father's habit of keeping calendars can inspire nostalgic tears even though he's alive. It may be that large adult sons like Don Jr. and David Huckabee grow up into Old Boys. But whereas both figures are spiteful, lumpy, appetitive, status-obsessed, entitled, ill-tempered, conniving, and at best semicompetent, the Old Boy—however absurd he first seems—has real power. "At first it was funny," Illeana Douglas wrote of Moonves shoving his tongue down her throat. "It was like one of those '60s movies where someone chases you around a desk and a couch. Then it was more like a French film with him on top of me on the couch, and finally it was like a '70s disaster movie where I screamed a lot and nobody heard me." She would try to make a joke of it. He would punish her.

Many of the traits of the large adult son are there—the random meanness, the fury at repercussions that feels like evidence of a coddled child gone to seed—but he has teeth. It's possible that the Old Boy's abuse stems from his resentment at having been a large adult son—drowned in luxury but thumbed down by constant filial humiliation. But whatever the psychological backdrop, the result is that the Old Boy is powerful in material terms and definitionally impossible to satisfy. His enormous greed turbocharges his mere adequacy so that it sometimes scans to the casual observer as genius—or is narrated that way by acolytes. ("He has something a physicist would call physical intuition," one scientist funded by Jeffrey Epstein said about him.) Result: Acts of childish cruelty, like Moonves grabbing a woman's head and casually forcing her into oral sex, are priced into the story of his greatness.

The Old Boy's defining characteristic may just be that he wants. It's not clear what he wants, and in the end, it doesn't much matter. His drive lacks focus and can't be satisfied, but it can't be stopped by things like ethics or law or introspection. And he's terribly scared of losing.

Trump's mainstreaming of Old Boy behavior set the stage for the biggest Old Boy spectacle of the year. Having been accused of sexually assaulting Christine Blasey Ford while both were in high school—and laughing hysterically while his friend Mark Judge watched and she feared for her life—Kavanaugh, who had tried to maintain a choirboy veneer throughout his Supreme Court confirmation hearing, abruptly dropped the mask. He sputtered with rage in a paranoid and partisan diatribe that seemed to threaten dire consequences to the republic if he didn't get his way. He wept. He turned bright red. He lied repeatedly under oath. If there was any doubt this man responded poorly to being told no, he dispelled it. Some onlookers felt sympathy for Kavanaugh during what appeared to be his final act as a judge, since no judge would conduct himself in such a way and expect to remain employed—I confess I was one of them. And then, in the end, he got what he wanted.

The Old Boy regards all of life as a strategic contest to be won. "Puerility makes everything into a game, even things that are not games, even things that must not be games. Puerility is detailed, nitpicky, often rulebound, but always in the service of play," Natalia Cecire argued in one of several essays on the role of a certain kind of boyishness in American life. This is what "scoring" means, of course, and that logic seeps into how men like these think of everything, from business deals to electoral fraud to abuse to murder.

Convicted rapist Brock Turner's father—quite likely an Old Boy himself—suggested that his son shouldn't be punished for what he described as "20 minutes of action." Les Moonves' pal Arnold Kopelson didn't care that Moonves had assaulted one of Kopelson's friends—she'd told him while warning him not to join the board. Not only did he join anyway (to him, getting on that board was the game); he doubled down in Moonves' defense. "I don't care if 30 more women come forward and allege this kind of stuff," he said of Moonves during a board meeting. "Les is our leader and it wouldn't change my opinion of him." Old Boys' opinions don't depend on demonstrated wrongdoing; that's why Trump maintains that Mohammed bin Salman's innocence is plausible. The Old Boy's drives reduce, in a way that's almost embarrassingly basic, to naked self-interest. When Trump was recently shown data about the consequences of his ballooning the national debt, he "referenced the first year [it would explode] and said, 'Yeah, but I won't be here.' "

There are other dangerous varietals who work in related but slightly different terms: Steve Bannon, for instance, isn't an Old Boy. He's an actual ideologue. And while Jared Kushner advises Mohammed bin Salman on how to "weather" the stories of his involvement in the murder and dismemberment of a journalist, it's clear that neither of these two spoiled princelings are Old Boys—perhaps because they got power early, or because they haven't yet felt the dissatisfied throes of middle age.

To the extent that the Old Boy is effective (outside of inherited wealth and its associated power), it's because he sees nothing besides his own game. Kavanaugh sacrificed Americans' confidence in the legitimacy and independence of the judiciary to his own ambition. Rudy Giuliani seems not to actually care about anything except being on TV. Trump's self-involvement is extreme enough that the shock of it can sort of impair our cognitive reflexes in ways he'd interpret as victory. Take that quote above: He doesn't care about the country or the debt he's saddling it with; he cares about himself.

The Old Boy is immensely fortunate, but his core drive is greed.

This is the kind of Trump story we read all the time, but (if you're like me) you're still not great at dealingwith it. It stuns you at a core register that's hard to nail down or even access, because it's still feels axiomatic that the president is supposed to care about more than just himself. When he doesn't, when he acts like the weird thing would be caring about the long-term effects of his policies on the people he governs, it's tough to react because you don't even know at what point to start explaining why that's a problem. Communication requires a shared frame of reference, but it's not clear whether any premises of governance are held in common. Trump is a public servant, but there is no public interest in his framework; there's only Trump.

To anticipate Trump's moves, you have to try to model the Old Boy's thought process and his worldview. It's an exercise that degrades, but it must be done, because most Old Boys genuinely believe that everyone secretly thinks as they do: If Kavanaugh assaulted Christine Blasey Ford, so what? If MBS was behind Jamal Khashoggi's murder, who cares?

Whereas the large adult son longs for paternal validation, the Old Boy's only (extremely provisional) loyalty is to his fellow Old Boys. One Old Boy, Roger Ailes, launched the juggernaut of propaganda that became Fox News, building a network of enablers who protected him as he assaulted and harassed women. Jeffrey Epstein's network—which included Donald Trump and Bill Clinton—appears not to have objected to riding on Epstein's private plane, known as the "Lolita Express." Trump even joked about Epstein's predilection for "very young" girls.

This was the year we saw exactly how the Old Boys dismiss high-stakes favor exchanges as silly male play. The nexus these Old Boys form isn't just class- or age- or power-based, and the alliances being revealed don't reduce to simple profit seeking. Profit alone does not explain why Alexander Acosta, then the U.S. attorney in Miami, helped Epstein reach a nonprosecutionagreement structured in a way that locked the victims out. He is now Trump's labor secretary; an outcome like that one no doubt figured into his calculus. Profit alone doesn't explain why Michael Cohen—aspiring Old Boy—claimed he'd made hush money payments to Stormy Daniels out of the goodness of his heart, or why the publisher of the National Enquirer paid Trump's former doorman $30,000 in 2015 for the rights to a story that Trump fathered a child with an employee—only to never use it. It wasn't simply profit that inspired Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke to respond to the hurricane damage in Puerto Rico by awarding a $300 million contract to a two-person company from his hometown. It's profit-plus. It's what pushed Chris Christie into Bridgegate. It's the timeworn social code of the Old Boys' network, in part. But it's also the thrill of feeding appetites that can't actually be satisfied, of gloating, of winning the game.

And the dangerous thing is that they never feel like they've won. Hence their ill-temper, and their astonished outrage when asked to account for their actions. The Old Boy is in a double bind of his own devising. His loyalty to his own greed means he can never, by definition, be satiated. If you notice Old Boys getting more abusive, or flailing more desperately, this is why: The philosophical endpoint of a junkie's increasing resistance is panic that satisfaction will never come. All the money and power in the world won't get the Old Boy what he wants because what he wants isn't a thing but the dopamine rush of victory (and nothing wears off more quickly). What he wants isn't anything in particular; it's just more