Sunday, November 20, 2016

Correspondence: Post-apocalyptic fiction has been moved

Edited by Moristotle

I’m sure we’ll hear far too much about this one in the near future: “Donald Trump’s Great Bait and Switch” [John Cassidy, New Yorker, November 14]. Excerpt:
In her gracious concession speech last Wednesday, Hillary Clinton said of her victorious opponent, Donald Trump, “We owe him an open mind and a chance to lead.” That’s an admirable sentiment, but it doesn’t mean we can ignore how the President-elect puts together a government. Trump isn’t just another politician, and we shouldn’t pretend he is. Moreover, in 2008, we saw how the decisions taken immediately after the election proved immensely consequential. When President Obama brought in the Robert Rubin crew to run economic policy, he effectively committed himself to a bank bailout that stabilized the financial crisis and put the economy back on the road to growth, but also produced a huge populist backlash, which, as we saw last Tuesday, is still reverberating.
    Six days into the Trump transition, one of the biggest bait-and-switch operations in recent history is already well under way. Trump campaigned as an outsider who would overthrow a hopelessly corrupt Washington establishment. Now we learn that many members of that very establishment will play key roles in a Trump Administration. On Friday, Trump announced that his soon-to-be Vice-President, Mike Pence, a former head of the Republican Study Committee on Capitol Hill, would replace New Jersey Governor Chris Christie as the chairman of his transition team. On Sunday, that team announced that Reince Priebus, the head of the Republican National Committee, the Party’s principal fund-raising and organizational arm, will serve as Trump’s White House chief of staff, while Stephen Bannon, the former Goldman Sachs banker and head of Breitbart News, the controversial alt-right Web site, will serve as Trump’s chief strategist. And, on Monday, Bloomberg News reported that the transition team had recommended for the post of Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, another former Goldman Sachs banker, who served as Trump’s chief fund-raiser. [read more]
Trump is pushing a pre-Civil War-mindset Southern racist for Attorney General [Senator Jeff Sessions], a retired general for National Security Adviser who illegally lobbied for foreign countries [Lt. General Michael Flynn]....
    If the Electoral College doesn't do its job on December 19 [and throw enough votes to Hillary to block Trump], we need to get rid of the Electoral College.

The is a sad funny.

M.A.M.O.N. - Latinos VS. Donald Trump / Ale Damiani from Taxi Films on Vimeo.

“Automated Pro-Trump Bots Overwhelmed Pro-Clinton Messages , Researchers Say” [John Markoff, NY Times, November 17]. Excerpt:
SAN FRANCISCO — An automated army of pro-Donald J. Trump chatbots overwhelmed similar programs supporting Hillary Clinton five to one in the days leading up to the presidential election, according to a report published Thursday by researchers at Oxford University.
    The chatbots — basic software programs with a bit of artificial intelligence and rudimentary communication skills — would send messages on Twitter based on a topic, usually defined on the social network by a word preceded by a hashtag symbol, like #Clinton.
    Their purpose: to rant, confuse people on facts, or simply muddy discussions, said Philip N. Howard, a sociologist at the Oxford Internet Institute and one of the authors of the report. If you were looking for a real debate of the issues, you weren’t going to find it with a chatbot.
    “They’re yelling fools,” Dr. Howard said. “And a lot of what they pass around is false news.”
    The role fake news played in the presidential election has become a sore point for the technology industry, particularly Google, Twitter and Facebook.... [read more]

English is the world’s international language. It is often used to explain things to tourists coming in from other countries. But while English is well known, it’s not always well written, resulting in some truly, although unintentional, comic signs. Here are some of my all-time favorite broken English signs:
In an Austrian hotel catering to skiers. Not to perambulate the corridors in the hours of repose in the boots of ascension.

On the menu of a Swiss restaurant. Our wines leave you nothing to hope for.

On the menu of a Polish hotel. Salad a firm’s own make; limpid red beet soup with cheesy dumplings in the form of a finger; roasted duck let loose; beef rashers beaten up in the country people’s fashion.

In a Hong Kong supermarket. For your convenience, we recommend courageous, efficient self-service.
Grateful for correspondence, Moristotle


  1. With the line up Trump is putting in office we could see more people going to jail than under Nixon.

  2. Unfortunately, Ed, most of the several things that reinforced Nixon's forced resignation will not be available this time around, as an excellent New Yorker article by George Packer, "A Democratic Opposition" - to be excerpted Tuesday - explains. But just for you, here's a preview:

    Four decades ago, Watergate revealed the potential of the modern Presidency for abuse of power on a vast scale. It also showed that a strong democracy can overcome even the worst illness ravaging its body. When Richard Nixon used the instruments of government to destroy political opponents, hide financial misdoings, and deceive the public about the Vietnam War, he very nearly got away with it. What stopped his crime spree was democratic institutions: the press, which pursued the story from the original break-in all the way to the Oval Office; the courts, which exposed the extent of criminality and later ruled impartially against Nixon’s claims of executive privilege; and Congress, which held revelatory hearings, and whose House Judiciary Committee voted on a bipartisan basis to impeach the President. In crucial agencies of Nixon’s own Administration, including the F.B.I. (whose deputy director, Mark Felt, turned out to be Deep Throat, the Washington Post’s key source), officials fought the infection from inside. None of these institutions could have functioned without the vitalizing power of public opinion. Within months of reëlecting Nixon by the largest margin in history, Americans began to gather around the consensus that their President was a crook who had to go.
        President Donald Trump...has the temperament of a leader who doesn’t distinguish between his private desires and demons and the public interest. If he’s true to his word, he’ll ignore the Constitution, by imposing a religious test on immigrants and citizens alike. He’ll go after his critics in the press, with or without the benefit of libel law. He’ll force those below him in the chain of command to violate the code of military justice, by torturing terrorist suspects and killing their next of kin. He’ll turn federal prosecutors, agents, even judges if he can, into personal tools of grievance and revenge.
        All the pieces are in place for the abuse of power, and it could happen quickly. There will be precious few checks on President Trump. His party, unlike Nixon’s, will control the legislative as well as the executive branch, along with two-thirds of governorships and statehouses. Trump’s advisers, such as Newt Gingrich, are already vowing to go after the federal employees’ union, and breaking it would give the President sweeping power to bend the bureaucracy to his will and whim. The Supreme Court will soon have a conservative majority. Although some federal courts will block flagrant violations of constitutional rights, Congress could try to impeach the most independent-minded judges, and Trump could replace them with loyalists.
        But, beyond these partisan advantages, something deeper is working in Trump’s favor, something that he shrewdly read and exploited during the campaign. The democratic institutions that held Nixon to account have lost their strength since the nineteen-seventies—eroded from within by poor leaders and loss of nerve, undermined from without by popular distrust. Bipartisan congressional action on behalf of the public good sounds as quaint as antenna TV. The press is reviled, financially desperate, and undergoing a crisis of faith about the very efficacy of gathering facts. And public opinion? Strictly speaking, it no longer exists....