Trump’s Second Term

Sunday night, after the rain clouds parted, Blanca and I headed due West like we were shot out of a cannon. Up and over the 4th St Bridge, she wanted to see Oyster Bay. We added on Ellison Loop NW for a little more climbing. That wall at the very end is a bitch, but I digress.

A beautiful night for a fling with your gfriend. Until we saw FOUR houses in a row with Trump/Pence signs. Trump’s gonna carry Oyster Bay?

No big deal you say, Washington is dark blue, no reason to let a few right wing nutters ruin a glorious ride.

But then, after we ducked into the driveway right before sunset, I finished reading Evan Osnos’s smartly written, “How Greenwich Republicans Learned to Love Trump.

Which is filled with insights into things I don’t understand. Like this:

“The (college) admissions case reminded me of the rationale I kept hearing for looking past Trump’s behavior toward women, minorities, immigrants, war heroes, the F.B.I., democracy, and the truth, not to mention his request that Ukraine “do us a favor” by investigating his political opponents: a conviction that, ultimately, nothing matters more than cutting taxes and regulations and slowing immigration.”

Osnos disabuses people like me that Trump’s base is just gun-toting, stay-at-home protesting, working class, modestly educated, rural people. Trump has massive support among the ultra wealthy, like Michael Mason, a mover and shaker in Greenwich, Connecticut, probably the wealthiest enclave in the (dis)United States:

“Mason knows that the President’s ‘culture’ still upsets many people in Greenwich. But, he said, ‘his policies over the last three years have gained more attention and probably more support.’ He predicts that the trauma of the pandemic will persuade some voters that Trump was right to want to cut immigration and lure back industries from abroad. ‘He had policies that he wanted to change on our borders, on immigration. I certainly think people in this country now are worried about that.'”

The Resistance is deluded to think this pandemic shitshow is going to ruin his chance at re-election.

Another depressing insight:

“If you are among the Greenwich élite, whether you love Trump or hate him, it is easy to count the ways that he has oriented his Administration to help people like you. When Trump introduced his tax bill, he called it a gift to ‘the folks who work in the mail rooms and the machine shops of America.’ That was absurd. The bill cut the corporate tax rate by fourteen per cent, and most of the windfall went to investors in the form of dividends and stock buybacks. . . . Though he limited the deductions for state and local taxes, wealthy citizens were compensated by new tax breaks, including some specifically for the commercial-real-estate industry and for wealthy heirs. On average, Trump gave households in the top one per cent a forty-eight-thousand-dollar tax cut, while those in the bottom twenty per cent received a hundred and twenty dollars, according to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, a nonpartisan think tank. Jim Campbell, the Republican organizer who embraced Trump early in 2016, told me recently, ‘I don’t know anyone who voted for Donald Trump in 2016 and won’t vote for him again. In Greenwich, he’ll probably pick up some votes.'”

I never thought the country would elect Trump president. Since 2016, his supporters have become less afraid, less self conscious, and more outspoken. Now, for the first time, I’m bracing myself for the fact that my friend, who promises “100% that Trump is going to be reelected”, may very well be right.

Thanks for that Osnos.

 

 

 

Coffee Is For Closers Only

Most writers, like recreational runners hitting the wall, don’t pace themselves. As a result, they shortchange their readers with uninspiring conclusions.

Evan Osnos, in his lengthy New Yorker expose on Facebook provides us writing mortals with a tour de force example on how to close. Dig his last three pgraphs. So good, let’s take them one at a time beginning with the third to last:

“The caricature of Zuckerberg is that of an automaton with little regard for the human dimensions of his work. The truth is something else: he decided long ago that no historical change is painless. Like Augustus, he is at peace with his trade-offs. Between speech and truth, he chose speech. Between speed and perfection, he chose speed. Between scale and safety, he chose scale. His life thus far has convinced him that he can solve “problem after problem after problem,” no matter the howling from the public it may cause.”

He saves a key insight to the very end—conventional wisdom on Zuckerberg is wrong. Then the Augustus reference reminds the reader of Zuckerberg’s fascination with Roman history nicely explained in the body. Then the three brilliant “Between” sentences which beautifully summarize the three tensions that weave throughout the piece. Then Osnos uses a few of Zuckerberg’s own words to thoughtfully wrap the pgraph.

The penultimate one:

“At a certain point, the habits of mind that served Zuckerberg well on his ascent will start to work against him. To avoid further crises, he will have to embrace the fact that he’s now a protector of the peace, not a disrupter of it. Facebook’s colossal power of persuasion has delivered fortune but also peril. Like it or not, Zuckerberg is a gatekeeper. The era when Facebook could learn by doing, and fix the mistakes later, is over. The costs are too high, and idealism is not a defense against negligence.”

Again, a wonderful payoff for sticking with Osnos to the end, another astute insight about “habits of mind” and the difference between growing a new business and leading a mature one. Instead of a mechanical “tell them what you told them”, Osnos leaves the reader thinking even more deeply. Will Zuckerberg be able to make the pivot Osnos so convincingly argues he must? That question gives the piece a stickiness that a typical “let’s just end this” conclusion never does.

And the last:

“In some sense, the “Mark Zuckerberg production”—as he called Facebook in its early years—has only just begun. Zuckerberg is not yet thirty-five, and the ambition with which he built his empire could well be directed toward shoring up his company, his country, and his name. The question is not whether Zuckerberg has the power to fix Facebook but whether he has the will; whether he will kick people out of his office—with the gusto that he once mustered for the pivot to mobile—if they don’t bring him ideas for preventing violence in Myanmar, or protecting privacy, or mitigating the toxicity of social media. He succeeded, long ago, in making Facebook great. The challenge before him now is to make it good.”

Whew, where to start? A vivid reminder that Zuckerberg and Facebook are in their very early years. Anything is possible. And again, respecting his readers’ intellect by leaving things open-ended, a question, does he have the will? There’s no hand holding, every reader will come to their own conclusion. The “pivot to mobile” phrase is a reminder from the body of the time period when Zuckerberg only took meetings with people if their proposals included ways to grow Facebook on mobile devices. Osnos cleverly uses that anecdote to remind the reader one last time of tremendous challenges facing Zuckerberg. And then the final sentence, which again, leaves the reader wondering, can he make it good.

Give the man a cup of coffee.

Postscript: Not a flattering portrait of Zuckerberg and FB. Increasingly, I wonder, why don’t I delete my FB account?

Friday Assorted Links

1. A Teacher’s Struggle With Student Anxiety.

“Anxiety has become the most significant obstacle to learning among my adolescent students. In a teaching career spanning more than 30 years, I have watched as it has usurped attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, which itself displaced “dyslexia,” as the diagnosis I encounter most often among struggling students. In contrast to dyslexia or ADHD, for which I have developed effective teaching strategies, anxiety in students leaves me feeling powerless. As a new school year kicks off, I am left wondering how anxiety has become so prevalent so quickly. What can I do about it? Might my teaching actually contribute to it?”

It doesn’t appear as if Doyle is familiar with Twenge’s recent work on how smart phones contribute to adolescents’ anxiety.

2. There’s nothing more addictively soothing than watching someone flipping homes on HGTV.

“HGTV was the third-most-popular network on cable television in 2016, a 24/7 testament to the powers of Target chic, the open-plan kitchen, and social conservatism. It unspools with the same bland cheerfulness as Leave It to Beaver, and its heart is in the same place. Many viewers — in red states and blue cities, in rent-controlled studio apartments and 6,000-square-foot McMansions — confess it’s a bedtime ritual, prelude to a night spent dreaming of ceramic-tile backsplashes and double-sink vanities. Over the past two years, it has become such a ratings and advertising sensation that it is largely responsible for the recent sale, this summer, of its parent company, Scripps Networks Interactive, to Discovery Communications for $11.9 billion.”

I confess, I’m an HGTV-er.

3. A university president held a dinner for black students—and set the table with cotton stalks and collard greens. I propose a term for this. . . macro aggression.

4. Even jellyfish sleep.

5. Evan Osnos’s take-aways from a trip to North Korea. Long time Pressing Pausers will know I’ve been a long time observer of North Korea. Osnos’s report is interesting throughout. He reports that if Kim Jong Un’s picture appears in a newspaper, North Koreans must avoid creasing his face. And being in a wheelchair disqualifies you from living in Pyonyang, the capital. Monitors on the city’s perimeter limit movement in and out of the capital. Most importantly, Osnos’s reporting strongly suggests North Korea wants better relations with the U.S. Which makes Trump’s approach—increasingly provocative threats—the exact wrong one at the wrong time. Heaven help us, and especially, the South Koreans.