Geschrieben am 1. September 2023 von für Crimemag, CrimeMag September 2023

Thomas Adcock: Summer Hellfire

Summer Hellfire

& The Zombie Trump

‘I feel kind of sick’

by Thomas Adcock

Copyright © 2023 – Thomas Adcock

MARTHA’S VINEYARD, Massachusetts—U.S.A.

Overwhelming the abominations of Donald J. Trump and his cult of conspiracist fools and fascists who would trash common decency and smash the soul of American democracy is a profoundly greater horror: climate change that is burning our planet, a reality that Mr. Trump dismisses as a “hoax” invented by China.   

Since global weather statistics were established in 1850, no summer has been more hellish than in Year 2023. No summer has provided a more urgent warning of the potential for apocalypse.

June and July were the standouts of statistical alarm: The United States and virtually all other nations measured them as the hottest months ever recorded—“by a lot,” according to a press release from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The chaotic path of climate change is the theme of book that will trouble all but the determinably obtuse: “The Uninhabitable Earth,” a cri de cœur from journalist David Wallace-Wells.

The author writes of predictive consequences to man’s long violation of Mother Nature, the hidden depths of that violation, the seen and unseen scars that camouflage such abuse. Mother’s retribution did not come about overnight; it has roots that cry out for examination, should we care to know.

For example, the roots of ferocious August 8 wildfires in Maui, one of an archipelago of mid-Pacific islands that comprise the American state of Hawai’i. Especially affected was the island’s principal city, Lahaina, capital of the once sovereign Kingdom of Hawai’i, overthrown in 1893 by a militarized coterie of U.S. corporatists who then built vast sugar and pineapple plantations. Maui is today dominated by the resort industry.

The Geneva-based International Panel on Climate Change determined that the Maui wildfires, stoked by Hurricane Dora, fell victim to the lethal combination of violent weather and real estate development that radically altered the island’s topography.

“The crisis is rooted in the exploitation and degradation of the environment, [indigenous] people and cultures [as] foundational principles of colonialism,” according to the Geneva agency. “Settlers prioritized immediate resource gains over long-term ecological health, shunning indigenous land management practices as outdated barriers to progress.”     

So, too, there is a tangle of socio-political roots to explore. How did voters elect a man of lifelong malignancy to America’s highest public office? To what degree does this man reflect us? Do we care to know?

Besides the concern of Mr. Wallace-Wells for our rickety natural environment, consider the New York Times front page of August 23 and its lead article, headlined SEVERE WEATHER RAVAGING GLOBE, AND MORE LOOMS—

“In the United States alone, a tropical storm swept across the Southwest, another struck Texas, Maui [part of the state of Hawai’i] burned, and a blistering heat dome sat atop the middle of the country. In India, torrential rains triggered deadly landslides, Morocco and Japan hit heat records, and southern Europe braced for another scorching heat wave.

“…Where public alerts and education worked, death and destruction were minimized. Where they didn’t, the results were catastrophic. Maui has so far recorded more than one hundred fifteen deaths from the [wildfire] blaze that started August 8, and that number is projected to rise…”

Maui’s historic city of Lahaina, population 13,216, is today a pile of crushed homes, hotels, and vehicles. The know dead have been carried away. Rescue workers and cadaver-sniffing dogs search daily for people still missing, or at least their body parts.

The rescue crews sift through sunbaked, ash-strewn beaches and building rubble. The search is granular, purposed in discovering genetic markers that might correspond with the DNA of relatives. Presumed dead, families of the missing need the closure of scientific identification.

Hot spots remain here and there on the ground of Lahaina, even now so many weeks since the wildfires. Veterinarians tend to the search dogs’ singed and bleeding paws.

In the indigenous Polynesian language of Hawai’i, the city of Lahaina carries a name that translates to “Cruel Sun.”

Then there is the continuing scourge of Donald Trump, whose four years in office (2017-2021) inspired journalist Adam Serwer to write a chronicle of the dark and dishonorable era, “The Cruelty is the Point: The Past, Present & Future of Trump’s America.”

“Cruelty” was published in the final year of the ex-president’s regime, a year that began with a bang, as it were: On January 6, 2021 an armed mob of thugs devoted to Mr. Trump bashed their way into the Capitol building in Washington; rampaged through the office corridors of Congress, urinating and defecating and vandalizing as they went; assaulted police officers with clubs and broken bottles; erected a functioning gallows; and chanted death threats against U.S. Vice President Mike Pence.

Mr. Trump, who sat for hours in front of a television set in the White House to watch live coverage of the mayhem, would say of the insurrection, “Love was in the air.”

Prior to his election to the presidency in 2016, Donald Trump survived decades of scandal, debauchery, and business failure. Such behavior carried over into White House years, when he would emerge anew from disgraces that would consign anyone else to burial in the political graveyard. Yet time after time, he arose from the dead—zombie-like.     

But the zombie Trump may have met his end.

He faces four criminal indictments in four different jurisdictions—the borough of Manhattan in New York City, the federal courts of Florida and Washington, D.C., and the state of Georgia. Collectively, he is charged with ninety-one felony counts. The charges range from squalid (laundered hush-money payments to a pornographic movie queen) to traitorous (illegal possession of top-secret intelligence documents, including contingency plans for a military invasion of Iran; inciting the Capitol stormtroopers of January 6).  

So serious are his alleged crimes that, taken together, he faces more than six hundred years behind bars. Upon conviction of even a single charge, and by the physics of a turning calendar, the 77-year-old Donald Trump could die in prison.

Further entries into the rap sheet of Donald Trump:

• In Manhattan Federal Court last year, he was adjudged to have sexually abused New York journalist E. Jean Carroll and ordered to pay a total of $15 million (€14 million) for twice defaming her over the years since then.

• Settlement was reached in 2019 pertaining to a civil lawsuit filed by New York State Attorney General Letitia James against the preposterous online Trump University. The “university” was unplugged, so to speak, and ordered to return $25 million (€24 million) to its defrauded students.

• Likewise in 2019, Ms. James forced closure of the equally preposterous Trump Foundation in settlement of charity fraud charges. Mr. Trump, in presidential office at the time, was forced to acknowledge fraud and ordered to return $2 million (€1.84) to eight different charities.

• In 1975, Donald Trump and his father Fred settled a housing discrimination suit filed against them in Brooklyn Federal Court by paying out millions in civil penalties. Trump père and fils were accused of refusing to rent apartments to qualified tenants with complexions darker than their own.

• Years later, in 2017, Trump the Younger entered into settlement on fresh charges of housing discrimination—once again in Brooklyn Federal Court.

• During his presidency, Mr. Trump was twice impeached by the U.S. House of Representatives: in December 2019 for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, then in late January 2021 for inciting a fascist mob to pillage the Capitol building.

In the two-hundred and forty-five years’ history of the United States—the world’s oldest continuing democracy—nobody has ever seen anything like the dishonor of the Trump era.

As he awaits a string of trials to begin as early as next month, an increasingly manic albeit typically remorseless Donald Trump has revived his successful “Make America Great Again” campaign slogan from 2016—a variation of Hitler’s “Mach Deutschland wieder Großartig“ from 1932.

Having been rejected by voters in his 2020 bid for reëlection—never mind his insistence, to this day, that a conspiracy of “leftwing radicals” robbed him of victory—Mr. Trump seeks yet another opportunity to befoul the White House.

God help us. Two-thirds of Trump‘s slavish Republican Party favors his return to Washington, according to all political opinion polls.

How to explain the appeal of a criminal lout to tens of millions of Republican voters? Here again, I see Donald Trump as a wily zombie. It is said that zombies feed on the brains of live humans. Perhaps Mr. Trump has eaten the brains of his acolytes.  

Meanwhile on the climate front, the Boston-based Union of Concerned Scientists recently issued a startling finding: One third of the U.S. population of 344 million lives under routine government alerts of dangerously extreme summer weather. “Dangerous” meaning a projection of increased deaths due to unusually high heat and brutal storms, destruction of homes and commercial structures, flash flooding of roadways and bridges, devastating wildfires and power outages.  

In an online discussion with colleagues on the topic of summer 2023, University of California scientist Daniel Swain said, “Twenty years from now, this is going to feel like a mild summer. In terms of the incredibly frenetic pace of global extremes we are seeing [and] in terms of temperature and precipitation, [it’s] only going to get worse as the climate continues to warm.”

The grim climatic news has brought me from the swelter of my briar patch—a Manhattan district called Hell’s Kitchen, of all things—to August refuge here at Martha’s Vineyard, a seaside island of quaint villages, cool breezes, pine forests, pristine ocean beaches, fields lush with wild grapes, and multi-colored sandstone bluffs looking westward to the peninsula of Cape Cod in Massachusetts.

However brief my time in one of the vanishing Edens of the world, I am at comfortable remove from environmental upheaval elsewhere. (For now.) And surrounded as I am by people who are by no means recruitable prospects for the Trump cult, I am gratefully buffered from the specter of a one-man crime wave who somehow walks free.

Selfish of me, I know. Naïve, maybe. But in the autumn of my life, I do not begrudge myself the lull of a summer holiday where and when I may blind my eyes to the savage ills of the world, for a little while at least.       

Yet even here, I am unable to be fully blind. Or deaf.

For even as I enjoy the Vineyard paradise, a musical warning from my youth worms its way back into my ears. Namely, the lyrics to “Eve of Destruction,” a 1960s-era ballad famously recorded by Bob Dylan:

Don’t you understand what I’m trying to say?
Can’t you feel the fears I’m feeling today?
Take a look around you, boy, it’s bound to scare you, boy
And you tell me…
Over and over and over again, my friend
How you don’t believe
We’re on the eve of destruction…

It began on the eve of June 6, a Tuesday.

Hour by hour, dark filth descended upon Hell’s Kitchen, preventing a morning’s true light of day.

 Black and grey plumes of smoke, tinged in a sickly orange, had whooshed in from distant wildfires in Canada’s prairie provinces to the west and from Québec to the north. The acrid mess of it blanketed my neighborhood and the rest of the city; as well, upstate New York and all throughout the northeastern U.S.

At twelve o’clock noon on “Terrible Tuesday,” as it came to be known, I photographed the sky over the west side of midtown Manhattan from the vantage point of my apartment terrace, forty-three storeys above the street and three blocks in from the Hudson River. A view to kill, as local real estate agents say.

—NOTE: Look up from what you’re reading just now to see what I cannot rightly convey in a hundred words, or a thousand. Look! Up there above this essay’s headline: the photo I snapped on June 6—at noon. Normally, the daylight “view to kill” would include the Hudson River at its widest point, just beyond a cluster of shoreline buildings. But that Terrible Tuesday? Invisible.

Invisible, too, were the elegant sea-going cruise ships in port; the tugboats and sailboats and barges and scows that ply the river; the brick exteriors of warehouses re-purposed as snazzy shops and residential lofts; the clutch of silvery skyscrapers on this side of the city; the opposite bank of the river, with its piers for ferry boats that crisscross the Hudson between the states of New Jersey and New York.

All that you see in this photo is a giant scrim of haze and smudge.
It was like this for one of the longest weeks I hope to know.

Wildfires that brought the filth were slow to dissipate. By July 16, the New York Times was reporting—

“[T]he Canadian fires continue burning along an off-the-charts trajectory…across the Atlantic to Europe. In the first twenty-five days of June, more land burned in Québec than had burned there over the previous twenty years combined. Across Canada as a whole, more than twenty-two million acres (8.9 million hectares) have now burned…more than double the totals from the most destructive American seasons of the past sixty years…”

In Manhattan, the soupy midnight sky of June 6 gave way to the grit of foul air that had us coughing, had our noses running, our eyes burning, our lungs aching. By the hundreds, later by thousands, the young and elderly and those with compromised respiratory health checked into medical clinics and hospitals.

For even the most robust, it hurt to be outdoors for more than five minutes. Over the next forty-eight hours, the toxic atmospheres of urban China and India had nothing on the largest metropolitan area of the United States.

“At this point, New York City had the worst air quality in the world,” said Mike Faveta, co-founder Climate Without Borders, the international meteorological organization. “The pollution was bad enough to cancel outdoor activities for more than a million students in the largest public school system in the country, and prompt a shift to remote learning for the following days.”

Infernal heat of July and August struck most severely along an unbroken band of America’s southern states. Instances abounded of charred skin from outdoor contact with sunbaked metal, or even sidewalks.

Nobody had ever seen anything like it.

From southern California eastward through Arizona and New Mexico and Texas and Louisiana and Mississippi and Alabama and Georgia and clear to Florida came week after unrelenting week of extraordinarily high temperatures. Consecutive days at more than 100 degrees Fahrenheit (37.78 Celsius), sometimes reaching 130F (54.4C).

People died.    

During these weeks, rightwing activists of the Republican Party issued a thousand-page environmental manifesto called Project 2025, an organization funded by lobbyists for corporate polluters to the tune of $22 million (€20.07 million). Sponsors hope to sign all Republican candidates for next year’s presidential election to a “battle plan” that encapsulates the anti-science notions of Donald Trump, et al.

Essentially, Project 2025 calls for “shredding regulations to curb greenhouse gas pollution from cars, oil and gas wells and power plants, dismantling almost every clean energy program in the federal government and boosting the production of fossil fuels—the burning of which is the chief cause of planetary warming.” So wrote Lisa Friedman, a very worried environmental journalist based in Washington.

Something called the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a multi-million dollar Washington think tank formed to “advance the principles of limited government, free enterprise and individual liberty,” is a party to Project 2025. Recently, the tank issued its opinion of the summer of 2023:

“Climate change does not endanger the survival of civilization or the habitability of the planet.”

On the Wednesday evening of August 23, eight Republicans of lesser import than Donald Trump took stage in the city of Milwaukee for a televised debate among candidates seeking to become the party’s standard-bearer in the presidential election of November of 2024. (The U.S. election campaign season is notoriously long.)

Confident of winning the ‘24 nomination, Mr. Trump chose not to join his lesser in Milwaukee. Not with polls showing him ahead of his top rival by twenty-three points. Besides, he could use the time in preparation for the very next evening—Thursday, August 24—when he was obliged to appear at the execrable Fulton County Jail in Atlanta, Georgia, there to be formally arrested on state RICO charges (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations).

The Georgia matter is Mr. Trump’s fourth criminal indictment since April of last year. This time, as in the federal indictment in Washington on the first of August, the cause of action was the same: a Trump-led conspiracy to remain in power by overturning the 2020 victory of President Joe Biden.

During the “debate,” climate change was given only passing mention by the eight candidates. The Republican consensus was best voiced by the most irksome debater—38-year-old Vivek Ramaswamy, a biotech billionaire whose hyper-kinetic manner and high-pitched voice is remindful of a small dog that refuses to stop yapping.

“The climate change agenda is a hoax,” declared Mr. Ramaswamy, without explaining “agenda” details.

Contradicting what he just said, and again minus details, he added, “The reality is, more people are dying of bad climate change policies than they are of actual climate change.”

Fuzzy as they were, Mr. Ramaswamy’s sentiments raised his partisan polling numbers several notches upward to an almost even position with the Number Two man behind Donald Trump—the book-banning Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida, who seeks to criminalize abortion and legalize the open display of semiautomatic weapons of war anywhere in the state. (Weapons that only days later would slaughter three Floridians.)

Mr. Trump is unlikely to lose the overwhelming support of Republican voters. Or that of party leaders who preside over a political structure collapsing under the weight of its ethical rot, should they care to notice. In fact, Donald Trump’s political stock among the Republican faithful has risen like a rocket with release of the mugshot taken during his aforementioned arrest at the Fulton County jail in Georgia.

The twice-impeached, quadropoly-indicted ex-president arrived at the jailhouse in a forty-car motorcade. Inside, he presented a bail bond in the amount of $200,000 (€185,000), and was duly fingerprinted, photographed, and anointed with a sheriff’s department inmate number.

For the mugshot, Mr. Trump arranged his face in a performative glower. He primped his hair into a meringue of gold. He plumped his eyebrows.

In the minutes prior to posing for the camera, he was asked to self-indicate his physical proportions.

He lied a little bit about his height. He lied big-time about his weight, which he claimed as proximate to that of a strapping young athlete. Never mind how it is evident in television news coverage that Donald Trump’s obesity renders him unable to button a suit jacket over the stomach that precedes him.

The final week of August in America closed out in familiar fashion: mass shootings, environmental catastrophe, and Donald Trump’s millions of dollars in campaign donations from the brain-eaten suckers on his internet listserv.

• According to Gun Violence Archive, a Washington-based research group, assailants shot three or people in thirty-seven incidents from coast to coast—including in Jacksonville, Florida, when a young white male who etched swastikas on his legally purchased AR-15 modified machine gun cut down three African-Americans unknown to him, then killed himself with a legally purchased Glock semiautomatic pistol.

• On August 25 in the southern Louisiana city of Garyville, a giant oil refinery along the Mississippi River exploded, sending towers of petroleum-slicked smoke into the already polluted air of a region casually known as “Cancer Alley.” Resultant damage to ecological networks affecting climate are being studied and tabulated, should anyone care to know.

• Donald Trump, alias Inmate No. P01135809, enjoys his latest windfall of campaign cash by way of his latest scrape with the law, the lucrative result being a goldmine of a mugshot. That image was slapped onto such merchandise as T-shirts, available from his campaign website at $24.99 a copy (€23.09) and coffee cups at $34.99 (€32.33).

Van Jones, a political commentator for CNN Television and former environmental advisor to President Barack Obama, held forth on all that has happened in the summer of 2023 during a recent panel discussion.

Grimacing at the conclusion of his remarks, he said, “I feel kind of sick.”

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