Aphorisms for the Trump Era

I have a dislike for most political memes that are so popularly posted on Facebook and other social media. So many are crude, misleading, poorly written and contain doctored and photoshopped images and pictures. These memes are not meant to inform but inflame, frighten and mislead. What’s worse is that these memes are shared and spread like a cancer. An example of such a meme is described below:

If bullshit doesn’t come to a halt, you will see 83 million gun owners walk out of their homes like this. (picture of masked man carying a rifle and dressed in fatigues).

I am a collector of timeless aphorisms. Aphorisms are short, pithy observations, opinions and thoughts created by (mostly) wise and observant people, not by bots and trolls in their cellars.

Here are a few aphorisms that may have been written a century ago are relevant to what we experience today…

“The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.”

H.L. Mencken

 “Holders of power, almost inevitably desire their subjects to be emotional rather than rational, since this renders it easier to make those who are victims of an unjust social system contented with their lot.”

Bertrand Russell

“America is a pot that’s melting.”

John Alejandro King

“The hottest places in Hell are reserved for those who in time of great moral crises maintain their neutrality.”

Dante Alighieri

“A society of sheep must in time beget a government of wolves.” 

Bertrand de Jouvenel

“We don’t collect news to inform us. We collect news to affirm us.”

Frank Luntz

“The men the American people admire most extravagantly are the most daring liars; the men they detest most violently are those who try to tell them the truth.”

H.L. Mencken

A politician thinks about the upcoming elections, a statesman to the next generations.”

James Freeman Clarke

“The man who is always waving the flag usually waives what it stands for.”

Laurence J. Peter

 “Politics is the gentle art of getting votes from the poor and campaign funds from the rich, by promising to protect each from the other.”

Oscar Ameringer

“The only valid political system is one that can handle an imbecile in power without suffering from it.”

Nassim Nicholas Taleb

“Democracy the domination of unreflective and timorous men, moved in vast herds by mob conditions.”

H.L. Mencken

“The flag does not identify the nation, it identifies the wind.”

George Murray

Observations on a Hot, Steamy Sunday

My fear is that the next presidential election will not be determined by ballots but by bullets; not at the polls but on the streets.

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Axios: “80% of Americans say we are headed in the wrong direction.” I say that we have already arrived.

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The United States has rested on its laurels since 1945. Other than the moon landings, what have we done in terms of significant accomplishment, national pride and purpose? How did we earn our sense of exceptionalism?

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The coronavirus is the King Kong of our time. Scientists can’t stop it. Governments are powerless. It rumbles through with little resistance. Kong and the coronavirus did meet their match in New York City. Let’s call it a draw for now…

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I don’t write for an audience of today. I write for a reader or student 20-50 years in the future so they may understand our current times, tone and culture. My sense is that they will be in disbelief in how poorly we conducted our politics, economy and health.

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On Sundays, people used to buy the paper to read the “funnies.” Here’s what I read from the NewYork Times and Washington Post on Sunday and they are not funny.

America 2-27-20

 

Clearing Mental Cache II

My Top 12 SNL skits:

  1. Alec Baldwin as Donald Trump
  2. Celebrity Jeopardy with Will Ferrell as Alex Trebek, Darrell Hammond as Sean Connery, Norm McDonald as Burt Reynolds
  3. Mr. Robinson’s neighborhood with Eddie Murphy
  4. Close Encounters/Paranormal skits with Kate McKinnon and Cecily Strong
  5. Tina Fey as Sarah Palin
  6. Word Association (1975) with Richard Pryor and Chevy Chase
  7. Meet your Second Wife with Tina Fey and Amy Poehler
  8. Taran Killam as Jebediah Atkinson (cultural and political critic)
  9. Dan Aykroyd and Jane Curtin Point/counterpoint (“Jane, you ignorant slut”)
  10. More Cowbell (Will Ferrell and Christopher Walken
  11. Toonces the Cat with Steve Martin and Victoria Jackson
  12. The Continental (Christopher Walken)

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I would not be shocked if the winner of the next Presidential election is not determined by voters but by the military.

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Why does the re-opening of MLB, NBA and NHL along with the proposed start of NFL football seem like the start of an extended exhibition season for all sports? Does Las Vegas have an over/under of how many games each sport will have before they are forced to close down?

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Donald Trump may not have airports, government buildings or ships named after him as he leaves office but there will be wings of libraries stocked with shelves of books written about him and his presidency. Forget books written by those who worked with Trump or are historians, teachers and news analysts. The most incisive and reveling book will come from his third and recently divorced wife, Melania.

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Pornography is now better regulated on the internet than political propaganda and is often less obscene. (So I hear)

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What is more dangerous? Not wearing a mask in a crowded bar or being an attractive female working at Fox News?

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Capitalism-an economic and political system in which a country’s trade and industry are controlled by private owners for profit, rather than by the state. Can someone explain to me how we are a capitalist economy when the Federal Reserve is propping up the stock market with zero interest rates, while billionaires, large corporations and certain “churches” are receiving financial handouts even though many do not need the money?

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There has already been a lot of discussion about Trump’s presidency relative to his standing with that of his predecessors. Trump, himself feels a kinship to Abraham Lincoln. I decided to take a historical scenario and based on how Trump has handled current crises and project how he would have handled a crisis in the past. I am comparing how FDR actually handled events in WWII to how Trump may have handled them. (Depending on your point of view, you may think my comparison an amusing parody or you may think, “Yeah, you got it right.”)

FDR vs Trump

 

Book Review: The Room Where It Happened by John Bolton

I finished The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir by John Bolton. Bolton was Trump’s former National Security Advisor for about 18 months. Out of all the Trump related books written by authors who used to work with Trump that I have read, this appears to be the most detailed and documented. Since there has been no real pushbacks about the events described in the book, I assume that Bolton’s story is credible. Like many other of his appointees, Trump soured on Bolton but Bolton resigned first before Trump could fire him by Tweet.

It is a long book (494 pages) and drags at times. (If you are not into Presidential history, foreign affairs or the Trump presidency, you may want to skip this book and just watch Bolton’s various interviews on Youtube.)

Here are my six takeaways from reading the book:

1. Trump is incompetent. He runs his administration like he ran The Apprentice. He is disorganized, uninformed (doesn’t read or listens to intelligence reports), indecisive, easily manipulated and shows little respect or confidence in the opinions and expertise of those individuals who work for him. Hence the extremely high turnover in White House staff and cabinet officials.

2. Bolton devotes chapters to events and policies related to China, North Korea, Venezuela, Syria, Afghanistan, and Iran. Trump has managed to mishandle them all, particularly North Korea where Trump was schooled by Kim Jong Un.

3. Trump had a foreign affairs team that included Bolton, Mike Pompeo, General James Mattis, Jared Kushner, Nikki Haley, H.R. McMaster and General John Kelly. The Marx Brothers defending Freedonia  were more effective than Trump and his appointees in promoting our national defense and interests.

4. Trump does not have a dog in the White House. He does not need one—-he has Vice President Pence. Bolton claims that Trump has sole control over what Pence does or says. Trump has a touch leach on any ambitions that Pence may have. There are no examples of Pence trying to mitigate Trump’s influence or fix the various dysfunctions among various departments and cabinet members. Bolton alluded to the rumor that Haley could replace Pence on the GOP ticket.

5. Trump treats our allies (Britain, France, Canada, Japan, Germany, South Korea etc) with contempt while trying to cozy up to our enemies (Russia, North Korea and China.) Bolton claims that Trump asked for China’s help in his reelection campaign.

6. I have very little respect for John Bolton. My lack of respect also extends to most of Trump’s cabinet and appointees and to most of the Republican party. They all understand that Trump should have been removed as president and they have kept quiet about this. Now that the Trump presidency is ending, many former Trump supporters are bailing out so that history does not judge them as harshly as they deserve.

I have provided some notes and highlights from the book to provide a flavor of what Bolton was trying to communicate about Trump and how Trump mishandled foreign affairs:

Charles Krauthammer, a sharp critic of his, told me he had been wrong earlier to characterize Trump’s behavior as that of a 11-year-old boy. “I was off by 10 years,” Krauthammer, remarked. “He’s like a one-year-old.’ page 8

The White House announced Trump would make a major Iran address on October 12, so I (Bolton) decided to stop being shy, phoning Westerhout to ask for a meeting. By then, Tillerson had reportedly call Trump “a fucking moron,” which he refused to deny flatly. page 25

For a US president to grant Kim a summit with no sign whatever of a strategic decision to renounce nuclear weapons – – in fact, giving it away for nothing – – was a propaganda gift beyond measure. page 33

I met with Trump and Pence at 1:30 in the small dining room down the short hall from the oval. Trump spent a lot of time in his dining room, with a white screen television on the wall opposite his chair, usually turn to Fox news. page 53

Of course, Trump didn’t help by not being clear about what he wanted, jumping randomly from one question to another, and generally frustrating efforts to have a coherent discussion about the consequences of making one choice rather than another.” page 56

Although the first Abe (Japan’s prime minister)— Trump meeting was on political matters, our briefing room was filled with trade policy types who, having heard there was a briefing, wandered in. Trump was late so I said we would have a brief discussion on trade and then get to North Korea. It was a mistake. Trump, set off about a comment that we had no better ally than Japan, jarringly complained about Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor. Things went downhill from there.  pages 61 to 62

I joined one of the intelligence briefings Trump hat every week from the director of National Intelligence Coats, CIA director Haspel, and briefers who accompanied them. I don’t think these briefings were terribly useful, and neither did the intelligence committee, since most of the time was spent listening to Trump, rather than Trump listening to the briefers. I made several tries to improve the transmission of intelligence to Trump but failed repeatedly. page 89

Is it Finland kind of a satellite of Russia?” He (Trump) asked later that same morning if Finland was part of Russia. I tried to explain the history but didn’t get very far … page 128

He (Trump) then turned to his visits to Walter Reed, where the wounded soldiers had not the impact on Trump they’ve had on most people, impressing them with their bravery and commitment to their mission. Trump has simply been horrified by the seriousness of their wounds (oblivious also that advances in military medicine saved many men who simply would’ve died in earlier wars). page 219

As it was, Trump generally had only two intelligence briefings per week, and in most of those, he spoke at greater length than the briefers, often on matters completely unrelated to the subject at hand. page 224

I opened the door to ask where Kelly (Chief of Staff) was but no one knew. I went to the hallway; saw him speaking to someone; pulled him into the Roosevelt Room, which was empty; and shut the door. This was our second emotional conversation, even more intense than the first. “I’ve commanded men in combat,” he said “and I’ve never had to put up with shit like that,” referring to what just happened in the Oval. I could see his resignation coming, so I asked, “But what is the alternative if you resign?” Kelly said, “What if we had a real crisis like 9/11 with the way he makes decisions? page 232

Trump said approvingly (to Chinese President Jinping Xi) that there was great hostility among the Democrats. He then stunningly turned the conversation to the upcoming US presidential election, alluding to China’s economic capability to affect the ongoing campaigns, pleading with Xi to ensure he’d win. page 310

Flying to Washington, I concluded that Hanoi (location where Trump and Un met) showed the US still didn’t know how to deal with North Korea and its ilk. We spent endless hours negotiating with ourselves, whittling away at our own position before our adversaries even got to it… page 33

the-room-where-it-happened-9781982148034_xlg

 

 

7.23 Trillion Reasons Why Trump Should Not Be Re-Elected

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The Covod 19 deaths and infections continue to rise. I am not blaming Trump 100% for these numbers but he is not being given a pass. He reacted slowly to the spread of the virus to the United States and he has been cavalier about the latest rise in covid cases across many states.

Hopefully unemployment rate will drop but will still stay high for the next few years.

Not sure if or how much of Trump’s campaign rallies or golf outings are reimbursed by RNC or Trump.

Doanld Trump Jr’s secret service expenses and charges to taxpayers for use of Trump properties have recently been reported in the media.

The Trump Slump

2020 poll

A few observations about the CNN and other political polls:

1.  It’s way too early for the Democrats to celebrate. We still have close to five months before election day (hopefully). I don’t think that these polls represent a pro – Biden sentiment as much as it does an anti-Trump revulsion. There are ways that Biden could lose this lead and it’s not impossible that Trump could regain additional standings in the polls. As an incumbent, Trump can cause all sorts of mayhem and  boost up his base.

2. There are arguments that Biden should be more vocal and that his campaign should be more aggressive given Trump’s latest difficulties. However Trump is his own worst enemy and the more he tweets and the more he preens, the less support he gets. He’s worn out the American public.

3. It’s hard to believe that Trump still has the support of 40% of Americans. He has horribly mismanaged the coronavirus and his (to put it charitably) clumsy statements and behavior after the George Floyd killing has embarrassed most of the country, even some of his Republican supporters.

4. What does surprise me is that there is not more talk about removing Trump from the top of the Republican ticket. What are they waiting for? The convention is still a few months away and there should be more consideration to dumping Trump and going in a different direction.