Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Correspondence: America has a tremendous fantastic president

By Moristotle

Who’s mutinying? I don’t see any impeachment quorum forming. “Trump’s Madness Invites Mutiny” [Charles M. Blow, NY Times, May 15]. Excerpt:
...[Trump] is talking and tweeting himself into legal jeopardy. He can’t seem to help himself. Something in the man is broken.
    He is insecure, paranoid and brittle, jostling between egomania and narcissism, intoxicated with a power beyond his meager comprehension and indulging in it beyond the point of abuse.
    Some people are ebulliently optimistic that the abomination is coming undone and may soon be at an end.
    But I would caution that this is a moment pregnant with calamity.
    The man we see unraveling before our eyes still retains the power of the presidency until such time as he doesn’t, and that time of termination is by no means assured.
    Trump is now a wounded animal, desperate and dangerous. Survival is an overwhelming, instinctual impulse, and one should put nothing beyond a being who is bent on ensuring it. [read more]
It is the Republican Senators that we have to reach, as the President’s nominee for FBI Director is subject to approval by the Senate. We need enough Republican Senators to vote no with the Democrats to overcome the Republican Party’s numerical advantage. I’ve written to my state’s Republican Senator:
I am a long-time...resident and voter...I am writing as a private citizen and not being paid by anyone to write to you. President Trump has attacked the judiciary, the First Amendment, Congress, and now the independence of criminal investigations from political influence. He is essentially attacking the whole system of checks and balances that is the central concept of the Constitution and trying to set up a Presidency that cannot be criticized or challenged by other branches of government. I urge you to fight this attack and protect our system of government by assuring that the next FBI Director approved by the Senate will maintain the independence of the FBI and continue to vigorously pursue the investigation of the Russian attack on our elections.
A Tesla Model S, which has
18 moving parts, one hundred times
fewer than a combustion engine car
Serious considerations! A must read: “Petrol cars will vanish in 8 years, says US report from Stanford economist” [Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, Financial Review, May 15]. Excerpt:
No more petrol or diesel cars, buses, or trucks will be sold anywhere in the world within eight years. The entire market for land transport will switch to electrification, leading to a collapse of oil prices and the demise of the petroleum industry as we have known it for a century.
    This is the futuristic forecast by Stanford University economist Tony Seba. The professor’s report, with the deceptively bland title Rethinking Transportation 2020-2030, has gone viral in green circles and is causing spasms of anxiety in the established industries.
    Mr Seba’s premise is that people will stop driving altogether. They will switch en masse to self-drive electric vehicles (EVs) that are 10 times cheaper to run than fossil-based cars, with a near-zero marginal cost of fuel and an expected lifespan of 1 million miles (1.6 million kilometres).
    Only nostalgics will cling to the old habit of car ownership. The rest will adapt to vehicles on demand. It will become harder to find a petrol station, spares, or anybody to fix the 2000 moving parts that bedevil the internal combustion engine. Dealers will disappear by 2024. [read more]
Unfortunately, this hoked-up photo captures the reality. “When the World Is Led by a Child” [David Brooks, NY Times, May 15]. Excerpt:
...[M]ost people of drinking age have achieved some accurate sense of themselves, some internal criteria to measure their own merits and demerits. But Trump seems to need perpetual outside approval to stabilize his sense of self, so he is perpetually desperate for approval, telling heroic fabulist tales about himself.
    “In a short period of time I understood everything there was to know about health care,” he told Time. “A lot of the people have said that, some people said it was the single best speech ever made in that chamber,” he told The Associated Press, referring to his joint session speech.
    By Trump’s own account, he knows more about aircraft carrier technology than the Navy. According to his interview with The Economist, he invented the phrase “priming the pump” (even though it was famous by 1933). Trump is not only trying to deceive others. His falsehoods are attempts to build a world in which he can feel good for an instant and comfortably deceive himself.
    He is thus the all-time record-holder of the Dunning-Kruger effect, the phenomenon in which the incompetent person is too incompetent to understand his own incompetence. Trump thought he’d be celebrated for firing James Comey. He thought his press coverage would grow wildly positive once he won the nomination. He is perpetually surprised because reality does not comport with his fantasies. [read more]
Super pictures, especially the giant X of two crossroads crossing. “The new view from above: drone photography captures city symmetry – in pictures” [Francesca Perry,Guardian, May 9]. Excerpt:
Instagrammers around the world are using drone technology to capture breathtaking new perspectives on their cities. We round up some of the best. [read more, see the photos]
A catechism for impeachment? “The Republican’s Guide to Presidential Behavior” [NY Times Editorial Board, May 13]. Excerpt:
It wasn’t so long ago that Republicans in Congress cared about how a president comported himself in office. They cared a lot! The president...should act at all times with the dignity his station demands. It’s not O.K. to behave in a manner that demeans the office and embarrasses the country. Shirt sleeves in the Oval Office? Disrespectful. Shoes on the Resolute desk? Even worse. Lying? Despicable, if not impeachable.
    Now seems like a good moment to update the standards. What do Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, and other Republican leaders think a president may say or do and still deserve their enthusiastic support? We offer this handy reference list in hopes of protecting them from charges of hypocrisy in the future. They can consult it should they ever feel tempted to insist on different standards for another president....
    If you are the president, you may freely:

  • attack private citizens on Twitter
  • delegitimize federal judges who rule against you....
  • fire the F.B.I. chief in the middle of his expanding investigation into your campaign and your associates....
  • employ top aides with financial and other connections to a hostile foreign power
  • blame the judiciary, in advance, for any terror attacks
  • call the media “the enemy of the American people”....
    If you’re a Republican legislator, stick this list on the fridge and give it a quick read the next time you get upset at a president. [read more]
Grateful for correspondence, Moristotle


  1. How timely is this? “Should Psychiatrists Speak Out Against Trump?,” by Jane Mayer, New Yorker, May 22 – the issue with the cover that mimics the infamous United Airlines incident, with Attorney General Jeff Sessions dragging FBI Director John Comey down the aisle while Donald Trump supervises over Sessions’s shoulder. Excerpts:

    ...“I’m struggling not to discuss He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named,” a psychiatrist named Jerrold Post said last week...a distinguished life fellow of the American Psychiatric Association, whose professional code of conduct forbids members to publicly comment on the psyches of living public figures whom they have not personally examined.
        The ban, known as “the Goldwater rule,” is the legacy of an embarrassing episode from 1964. That year, Fact magazine published a petition signed by more than a thousand psychiatrists, which declared that Barry Goldwater, who was then the Republican Presidential nominee, was “psychologically unfit to be President.” Goldwater lost the election, but he won a libel suit against the magazine. The bad publicity seriously tarnished the reputation of the profession.
        More than fifty years later, Trump appears to be testing the limits of the Goldwater rule. In March, the Washington, D.C., branch of the A.P.A. convened a meeting of its members to debate the rule. Post and several others argued that, given the President’s erratic behavior, the organization was infringing on its members’ freedom of expression. Psychiatrists, they insisted, have a responsibility to serve society at large. “I think there’s a duty to warn,” Post said. “Serious questions have been raised about the temperament and suitability of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.” He added, “It seems unethical to not contribute at this perilous time.”
        ...“It’s my view that Trump has a narcissistic personality disorder,” [psychiatrist John] Zinner said later. “Trump is deluded and compulsive. He has no conscience.” He said that psychiatrists have a constructive role to play in advising policymakers to add checks on the President’s control over nuclear weapons. “That supersedes the Goldwater rule,” he said. “It’s an existential survival issue.”

  2. We already knew that the White House needs adult supervision. “Dangerous Times for Trump and the Nation,” by Nicholas Kristof, NY Times, May 17. Excerpt:

    [T]here are dangers ahead. One is that America will be incapacitated and paralyzed by Mueller’s investigation and the suspicions — this partly explains the stock market’s big fall on Wednesday — and foreign powers may take advantage of this to undertake their own mischief. I would worry about Russia in both Ukraine and the Baltic countries, and we must make clear that we will work with allies to respond in kind.
        Another danger is the risk of an erratic, embattled, paranoid leader at home who feels that he may be going down the tubes anyway. In domestic policy, presidents are constrained by Congress and the courts about what damage they can cause, but in foreign policy a president has a largely free hand — and the ability to launch nuclear strikes that would pretty much destroy the world.
        In 1974, as Richard Nixon’s presidency was collapsing, he was drinking heavily and aides worried that he was becoming unstable. Fearing what might go wrong, Nixon’s defense secretary, James Schlesinger, secretly instructed the military not to carry out any White House order to use nuclear weapons unless confirmed by him or Henry Kissinger.
        This was unconstitutional. And wise.
        Schlesinger also prepared secret plans to deploy troops in Washington in the event of problems with the presidential succession.
        We don’t know how Trump will respond in the coming months, and let’s all hope for smooth sailing. But as with Schlesinger’s steps, it’s wise to be prepared.
        There have been calls for Trump aides to resign rather than ruin their reputations, but I hope the grown-ups — H. R. McMaster, Jim Mattis, Dina Powell, John Kelly, Rex Tillerson — grit their teeth and stick it out. The White House has never needed more adult supervision.
        The cabinet has the constitutional power to remove a president by majority vote under the 25th Amendment (if the president protests, this must be confirmed by two-thirds of each chamber of Congress). Such a vote is unlikely, but in the event of a crisis like the one Schlesinger envisioned, it would be essential.
        I hope that cabinet members are keeping one another’s cellphone numbers handy in case an emergency meeting becomes necessary for our nation.

  3. Trump doesn’t act like a child? “4-Year-Olds Don’t Act Like Trump,” by Alison Gopnik, New York Times, May 20. Excerpt:

    The analogy is pervasive among his critics: Donald Trump is like a child...
        But the analogy is profoundly wrong, and it’s unfair to children....
        Four-year-olds care deeply about the truth...Of course, 4-year-olds, as well as adults, occasionally lie. But Mr. Trump doesn’t just lie; he seems not even to care whether his statements are true.
        Four-year-olds are insatiably curious...Mr. Trump refuses to read and is bored by anything that doesn’t involve him personally.
        Four-year-olds can pay attention...They pay special attention to events that contradict what they already believe. Mr. Trump refuses to pay attention to anything that clashes with his preconceptions.
        Four-year-olds understand the difference between fantasy and reality...Mr. Trump seems to have no sense of the boundary between his self-aggrandizing fantasies and reality.
        Four-year-olds have a “theory of mind.”...Mr. Trump contradicts himself without hesitation and doesn’t seem to recognize any conflict between his past and present beliefs.
        Four-year-olds, contrary to popular belief, are not egocentric or self-centered...Mr. Trump displays neither empathy nor altruism, and his egocentrism is staggering.
        Four-year-olds have a strong moral sense...Mr. Trump admires authoritarian leaders who have no compunctions about harming their own people.
        Four-year-olds are sensitive to social norms and think that they and other people should obey them...Mr. Trump has time and again shown his contempt for norms of behavior in every community he has belonged to.

  4. Well this will teach me to catch up on Moristotle by reading most current postings first. My apologies, Morris, for invoking the "five-year-old" Trump prognosis (in my comments to your May 22 article): your last tidbit above blows that rationale to smithereens. You are exactly right: children behave much better than Trump does. Nonetheless, I still don't want him impeached until we have a decent alternative. Although Pence probably won't start a nuclear war, he will likely advance the GOP agenda much more swiftly than would Trump. Thanks for these great excerpts!

    1. Eric, we can rationalize by allowing that the five-year-old Trump was not the mature child cited in the article, and he has never grown up.