Too Much and Never Enough

Thank you Dahlia Lithwick for explaining the key insight of Mary Trump’s new book so well and saving me from having to read it. Day one, a million copies. To quote Adam Sandler, “Not too shabby.”

“Mary Trump’s Book Shows How Donald Trump Gets Away With It.”

“. . . what she reveals is a devastating indictment of all the alleged adults who stick around Donald Trump, who came together to fail America, to leave vulnerable populations to fend for themselves, and who continue to lie and spin to pacify his ego. They do it because they can’t admit the payoff is never coming, and to save themselves from the embarrassment of having to admit they were catastrophically wrong.”

But let’s not forget the conscientious objectors.

The Demagogue’s Playbook

By Eric Posner. This podcast episode with Posner is excellent.

What, according to Posner, is a demagogue?

“Despite it’s overuse, ‘demagogue’ has a core meaning that has remained stable over millennia. It refers to a charismatic, amoral person who obtains the support of the people through dishonesty, emotional manipulation, and the exploitation of social divisions; who targets the political elites, blaming them for everything that has gone wrong; and who tries to destroy institutions—legal, political, religious, and social—and other sources of power that stand in their way. The demagogue is frequently considered to be (and in many cases actually is), crude, vulgar, and violent—contemptuous of manners, civility, and norms, which the demagogue sees as structures that keep the elites in power.”

Reminds me of someone, I just can’t put my finger on it.

Thursday Assorted Links

1. Why I’m Learning More With Distance Learning Than I Do In School. By Veronique Mintz, 13 years old. Starts strong.

“Talking out of turn. Destroying classroom materials. Disrespecting teachers. Blurting out answers during tests. Students pushing, kicking, hitting one another and even rolling on the ground. This is what happens in my school every single day. . . . Based on my peers’ behavior, you might guess that I’m in second or fourth grade. But I’m actually about to enter high school in New York City, and, during my three years of middle school, these sorts of disruptions occurred repeatedly in any given 42-minute class period.

2. Don’t forget the other pandemic killing thousands of Americans.

3. How Yukon’s ‘one caribou apart’ physical distancing campaign became a sensation. I really miss Canada.

4. Was Donald Trump good at baseball? I couldn’t help but smile throughout this one.

Trump said he shoulda, coulda, woulda gone pro, but an intrepid reporter dug deep into the archives only to find:

“Combined, the nine box scores I unearthed give Trump a 4 for 29 batting record in his sophomore, junior, and senior seasons, with three runs batted in and a single run scored. Trump’s batting average in those nine games: an underwhelming .138.”

Then the reporter asked Keith Law, a senior baseball writer for the Athletic and author of The Inside Game who covers the MLB draft, if Trump’s numbers sounded like those of a pro prospect.

“‘There’s no chance,’ said Law, who once worked in the front office of the Toronto Blue Jays assessing high school players. ‘You don’t hit .138 for some podunk, cold-weather high school playing the worst competition you could possibly imagine. You wouldn’t even get recruited for Division I baseball programs, let alone by pro teams. That’s totally unthinkable. It’s absolutely laughable. He hit .138—he couldn’t fucking hit, that’s pretty clear.'”

That may be my favorite quote about Trump of all time. Just flip the bat and touch em’ all.

5. The Best Television Shows To Stream Now.

Taking A Pass On Human Empathy

Susan Glasser in The New Yorker, “Fifty Thousand Americans Dead from the Coronavirus, and a President Who Refuses to Mourn Them”.

Impossible to argue with this description:

“To the extent that he discusses those who have died, he tends to do so largely in self-justifying, explicitly political terms, framing the pandemic as an externally imposed catastrophe that would have been much, much worse without him.”

Or this opinion:

“The numbers of dead citizens he throws about, meanwhile, seem to be abstractions to a President who believes that even the subject of mass death is all about him.”

Glasser with much needed historical context:

“Honoring the dead has long been one of the tests of American Presidential leadership. Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address was, after all, not just another political speech but a remembrance of those who were killed in the bloodiest single battle of the Civil War, in which some fifty thousand Americans became casualties and about eight thousand died. Twenty-five years ago this week, Bill Clinton’s lip-bitingly empathetic response to the Oklahoma City bombing, in which a white supremacist blew up a federal building and killed a hundred and sixty-eight people, was seen as a key moment of his tenure. He was dubbed the ‘mourner-in-chief,’ at a time when he was languishing politically. That speech is often said to have saved his Presidency. More recently, Barack Obama wept from the White House lectern in speaking about the deaths of schoolchildren in Newtown, Connecticut, and gave arguably the speech of his lifetime in Charleston, South Carolina, in 2015, singing ‘Amazing Grace as he mourned at a funeral service for nine African-Americans killed by a white supremacist at a church massacre. Even those Presidents who aren’t particularly good at speechifying—think of the two George Bushes—have considered public commiseration amid national tragedy part of the job description. Have we ever had a President just take a pass on human empathy, even of the manufactured, politically clichéd kind?”

Showing empathy is not something he could be coached to do, even if he was coachable. I wonder, do his supporters, some which are empathetic people, look for it in him or not?

Weekend Assorted Links

1. Jia Tolentino on “The Pitfalls and Potential of the New Minimalism.” Strong opening paragraph.

“The new literature of minimalism is full of stressful advice. Pack up all your possessions, unpack things only as needed, give away everything that’s still packed after a month. Or wake up early, pick up every item you own, and consider whether or not it sparks joy. See if you can wear just thirty-three items of clothing for three months. Know that it’s possible to live abundantly with only a hundred possessions. Don’t organize—purge. Digitize your photos. Get rid of the things you bought to impress people. Downsize your apartment. Think constantly about what will enable you to live the best life possible. Never buy anything on sale.”

2. Goldendoodle has new purpose.

3. A not so genius move. I feel really badly for him.

“Six years ago to the day, a pre-presidential Donald Trump said on Twitter that he sold his Apple shares, complaining about the fact that the company at the time didn’t sell an iPhone with a smaller screen. Assuming Apple’s post-earnings stock gains holds through the open of the markets on Wednesday, its price will have gone up 356% from the day of Trump’s tweet in 2014.”

4. San Fransisco bans cars on Market Street.

“San Francisco’s car-free move is part of a wave of cities around the globe pedestrianizing their downtown cores and corridors, from New York City to Madrid to Birmingham. And there are signs that SF’s effort will not end at Market Street: Local officials in the city are calling to remove cars from other sections of the city.”

5. An interview with the woman who wrote the viral 1,000 word job listing for a “Household Manager/Cook/Nanny”. $35-$40/hour to river swim? I’m in.

Donald Soprano

Or Tony Trump if you like alliteration.

Sometimes political pundits use mobster metaphors to describe the President’s behavior.

The metaphor makes increasing sense. Consider that the President wanted to repeal an anti-corruption law so US businesses could bribe foreigners. Consider that the President directed his “associates” to “take out” Marie Yovanovitch, Amabassador to Ukraine. Consider how quickly he turns on “associates” like Tillerson, Mathis, or Bolton who “rat him out”. Or how he denies knowing “associates” who run afoul of “the family”.

There are numerous other examples, but when it comes to Donald Soprano and Tony Soprano, there are two differences, one more obvious than the other. The obvious, Donald Soprano has never whacked anyone. The less obvious, Tony Soprano had just enough of a conscious to seek out a therapist. Consequently, he reflected on his criminality. In that regard, Donald Soprano is no Tony Soprano.

Weekend Assorted Links

1. Steve Spence’s legendary sub-5:00 mile streak comes to an end after 43 years.

2. Who do the Duke and Duchess of Sussex think they are? Afua Hirsch explains.

“If the media paid more attention to Britain’s communities of color, perhaps it would find the announcement far less surprising. With a new prime minister whose track record includes overtly racist statements, some of which would make even Donald Trump blush, a Brexit project linked to native nationalism and a desire to rid Britain of large numbers of immigrants, and an ever thickening loom of imperial nostalgia, many of us are also thinking about moving.

From the very first headline about her being “(almost) straight outta Compton” and having “exotic” DNA, the racist treatment of Meghan has been impossible to ignore. Princess Michael of Kent wore an overtly racist brooch in the duchess’s company. A BBC host compared the couple’s newborn baby to a chimpanzee. Then there was the sublimely ludicrous suggestion that Meghan’s avocado consumption is responsible for mass murder, while her charity cookbook was portrayed as somehow helping terrorists.

Those who claim frequent attacks against the duchess have nothing to do with her race have a hard time explaining these attempts to link her with particularly racialized forms of crime — terrorism and gang activity — as well as the fact that she has been most venomously attacked for acts that attracted praise when other royals did them. Her decision to guest-edit British Vogue, for example, was roundly condemned by large parts of the British media, in stark contrast to Prince Charles’s two-time guest editorship of Country Life magazine, Prince Harry’s of a BBC program and Kate Middleton’s at Huffington Post, all of which were quietly praised at the time.

Her treatment has proved what many of us have always known: No matter how beautiful you are, whom you marry, what palaces you occupy, charities you support, how faithful you are, how much money you accumulate or what good deeds you perform, in this society racism will still follow you.”

3. Trump takes credit for decline in cancer deaths. The American Cancer Society says he’s wrong. How long until their funding is cut further?

“The President has a history of proposing to cut funding from the National Institutes of Health’s budget, which includes funding for the National Cancer Institute, an agency that leads, conducts and supports cancer research. The final budgets that Congress approved ended up being more generous than Trump’s proposals.

Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz wrote on Twitter, in response to Trump, that ‘cancer rates dropped before you took office. Hopefully they keep dropping because Congress rejected your cruel research budgets, which sought billions in CUTS to @NIH and the National Cancer Institute. This is good news despite you – not because of you.'”

And so it goes, in these (dis)United States of America.

4. Why do people believe in hell?

“How can we be winners, after all, if there are no losers? . . . What success can there be that isn’t validated by another’s failure? What heaven can there be for us without an eternity in which to relish the impotent envy of those outside its walls?”

All The Books Donald Trump Recommended in 2019

28 in total. Take that Obama. AMAZING he got that many in on top of the tweeting, golfing, campaigning, draining the swamp, defending himself against the Do Nothing Democrats, and just generally making America Great Again. What further evidence do we need that he is truly a stable genius. Also impressive, the books are closely related one to another. People are saying no president in history has ever read with as much purpose.

 

 

The Divinely Perfect Destiny of Brilliant Donald Trump

I’m reading a biography of Kim Jong Un who Donald Trump seems to admire. One thing that fascinates me about North Korea is how an army of government apparatchiks use language (and song and art and media) to create as comprehensive a cult of personality as the world has ever seen.

What intrigues me seemingly inspires The Republican Congress and Donald Trump.

In an article titled “How the Kim cult of personality came to dominate North Korean life,” Fyodor Tertitskiy shares the most extensive title he has ever seen published in the Rodong Sinmun in December 1972, when Kim Jong Un’s grandfather was elected president for the first time. In one sentence, he was referred to as:

Peerless patriot, National Hero, Ever-Victorious Iron-Willed Brilliant Commander, One of the Outstanding leaders of the International Communist and Workers’ Movement, the Great Leader of our Party and of our people respected comrade Kim Il Sung, who founded the Marxist-Leninist Party – the Workers’ Party of Korea and the true state of workers and farmers – the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and steadily leads our Revolution on the way of victories.”

How long until Trump’s Republican backers “borrow” from the North Koreans minus the references to communism and begin addressing him along these lines:

“Dear Leader Trump Peerless patriot, National Hero, Ever-Victorious Iron-Willed Brilliant Commander, One of the Outstanding leaders of the World, the Great Leader of the United States and our people who resuscitated the Republican Party, made America Great Again, and leads our Revolution on the way of victories.”

Would that earn a retweet or is it insufficiently flattering?