Saturday 12 September, 2020

Quote of the Day

“Marry me and I’ll never look again at another horse”.

  • Groucho Marx in A Day at the Races

Musical alternative to the morning’s radio news

“Don’t think Twice” as you’ve never heard it before: Bob Dylan with Eric Clapton


Personally, I much prefer the classic version with that lovely clawhammer pick.

Is Trump Planning a Coup d’État?

Did I really write that? I did: I was just typing out the headline on a sobering cover story in The Nation about Rebublicans who are worried that Trump is indeed preparing for an illegal holding-on to power. And they are organizing now to stop him.

This summer, shortly after scores of camo-wearing, heavily armed federal agents descended on Portland, Ore., to attack protesters, Charles Fried, Ronald Reagan’s solicitor general, pondered the implications of what he was seeing on the streets. What he saw scared him; he remembered the use of paramilitaries by fascist leaders in 1930s Europe, where he was born, and he feared he was now witnessing a slide into paramilitarism in the United States. (His family fled the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia.) Fried felt that President Trump was using the Department of Homeland Security and other government agencies in a way that was “very menacing. You might as well put brown shirts on them. It’s a very bad thing.”

A Harvard Law School professor who still counts himself as a Republican and a board member of groups such as the Campaign Legal Center, Checks and Balances, and Republicans for the Rule of Law, Fried has grown increasingly worried in recent months about Trump’s willingness to stir chaos and violence as an electoral strategy in the run-up to November’s vote and about the willingness of his attorney general, William Barr, to burn the country’s democratic institutions to the ground to preserve this administration’s hold on power. Like earlier authoritarians, Trump could, Fried fears, utilize “agents provocateurs, getting right-wing people to infiltrate left-oriented and by-and-large peaceful demonstrations to turn them violent to thereby justify intervention.”

Fried, a student of history who chooses his words carefully, has concluded that Trump and his team are “certainly racist, contemptuous of ordinary democratic and constitutional norms, and they believe their cause, their interests, are really the interests of the nation and therefore anything that keeps them in power is in the national interest. Does that make you a fascist? It kind of looks that way, doesn’t it?”

The next two months are going to be increasingly weird.

What happens when populists encounter reality?

Lovely Financial Times column by Simon Kuper today. Sample:

Mostly, the Conservatives and Five Star have found a different route out of policy populism: by dropping the novelties and returning to some semblance of a traditional party. The Tories are veteran shapeshifters. In just five years, they have been David Cameron’s austerity Remainer party, a get-Brexit-done movement, a Boris Johnson cult and now an economically almost Corbynista anti-austerity pro-state-aid party, usually while providing the main opposition to themselves.

In other words, populists can campaign but can’t govern. And their policies, such as they are, tend to disintegrate when confronted with reality. But this is no consolation if people continue to elect them.

Jake Sullivan on the coming world order

If Joe Biden becomes president, then Jake Sullivan will have a big role in determining US foreign policy. I’ve just been reading an account of an interesting session he did recently with the Asia Society, in which he put forward this intriguing metaphor:

The future of the global order, said Sullivan, was among the most profound questions facing the next president. Asked to name an idol, Sullivan chose Harry Truman, who he said had been “more responsible than anyone else for building a global architecture for the 20th century.” The tandem of President Truman and his Secretary of State Dean Acheson, Sullivan said, had represented “the best traditions of American statecraft.” The two leaders, he said, had “built a web of institutions, alliances, across the Atlantic of a depth and texture that doesn’t exist across the Pacific.”

That post-World-War II order, Sullivan argued, had been “like the Parthenon,” with columns that included the United Nations, NATO, and the various Bretton Woods institutions. Now? “We’re entering a phase of the Frank Gehry international order,” he said, referring to the architect known for his complicated designs. “It’s not clean lines. It’s surprising, it’s sometimes formal and sometimes informal, sometimes linear and sometimes ad hoc, sometimes shiny and sometimes not. That is hard for people who grew up with a certain view of how rules and institutions are supposed to operate.”

Just to cheer you up, here’s a pic of one of Gehry’s buildings.

Michael Cohen’s “twisted umbilical cord” to Trump

Interesting interview in Vanity Fair with Micheal Cohen’s daughter. Here’s the bit that initially caught my attention:

That summer day felt like all the others before it, standing alongside Trump outside the pool area, discussing what Cohen writes was “some pressing business matter, like the size of the breasts of a woman sunbathing on a lounge chair.” Somehow Trump’s attention was diverted to another skirt walking off a tennis court. “Look at that piece of ass,” Cohen recalls Trump saying, as he whistled and pointed. “I would love some of that.” It so happened that Trump was referring to Cohen’s then 15-year-old daughter, Samantha.

Cohen informed Trump of his mistake. “That’s your daughter?” Trump responded.“When did she get so hot?” When Samantha reached her dad, Trump asked her for a kiss on the cheek, before inquiring, “When did you get such a beautiful figure?” and warning her that in a few years, he would be dating one of her friends.

In the interview, a steely Samantha has an interesting and revealing perspective on this incident:

I would have given a different account of the interaction. My dad always tuned out everything negative Trump said about him, but what I remember was Trump saying, “Thank God she got those looks from her mother. She certainly didn’t get them from you.” That’s the part that stood out to me. I was not desensitized to someone putting down my dad and insulting him and degrading him. That was one of the reasons I hated Trump so much.

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