Five Things: July 7, 2020

It’s thundering and storming outside, so let’s see if I can get these five things out before my power cuts out on me.

Donald Trump a father-damaged sociopath: Or so suggests niece Mary Trump in her new book about her uncle, and it’s difficult to argue the point. Advance copies of the book have made their way to various news organizations, which sounds slightly nefarious but is in fact just standard practice (review copies of books go out weeks and sometimes months in advance), and in this case has the laudable side effect of making any additional last-minute attempts to forestall the publication of the book irrelevant, since now all the juicy parts are already out there in the world. My own very quick take on the juicy parts that are out there is that this book is very likely not to tell us anything we didn’t already know about Donald Trump, it just adds additional context. And honestly at this point if you don’t know Donald Trump is a terrible person, it’s because you’ve decided you don’t want to know.

(Oooooh, the entire house’s electrical system just flickered.)

Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro tests positive for coronavirus: Which, well, good, since he’s pretty much the only major world leader further into denial about the virus than our own president. It is unkind and uncharitable to hope he dies from the disease, but I have to admit I wouldn’t feel entirely put out if the virus kicked his ass a little, or maybe a lot. Him coming out of this with minimal effect on his well-being would probably be even worse for Brazil than him not getting it at all, since he really does seem like the “see, it wasn’t so bad, fuck you for thinking otherwise” sort. Considering Brazil has the official second highest number of infections and death (after our own dear US of A), this wouldn’t have any upside for that country’s citizens.

Lin-Manuel Miranda with a healthy response to Hamilton criticisms: Now that the show’s out on Disney+, people are rolling up on it on how it portrays and deals with the issue of slavery, and other aspects of the Hamilton and Revolutionary-era story. Miranda’s response is basically “Sure, I had a lot to cover and two and a half hours to cover it all, choices were made, criticize away,” which is a) a very sensible way of dealing with criticism, b) easy to say when the art in question has garnered one Tonys and Pulitzers and literally millions of dollars. The latter point is not a criticism, by the way, since on a somewhat lower scale I feel the same way about criticism about my work — it might sting more if I hadn’t already been significantly materially rewarded for having made it. But as I was, sure, criticize away! Also, bluntly, criticism means the work is still alive in culture. That’s not chopped liver for an artist.

You’re made of starstuff, part the many: A new study suggests that most of the carbon in the universe (that’s the element the solid bits of you are mostly made of, by weight) come from white dwarfs, i.e., the cooling husks of old, dead stars. This is a less dramatic manner of stellar manufacturing than heavier elements, which get pumped out of supernovae and/or more exotic stellar entities, but, look, not everything has to happen dramatically. Also, “less dramatic” is a relative term here, considering what has to happen to a star for it to get to the white dwarf stage anyway. If you don’t know, hang around the earth for another four or five billion years; you’ll see.

New Far Side panels: Well, that only took a couple of decades. There are three new ones today from Gary Larson, two of which gave me a chuckle, and one of which I went “huh?” for. So basically, the same ratio as during the cartoon’s heyday. Can’t complain about that.

(Also, looks like I got through writing this whole entry without the power going ou

40 Comments on “Five Things: July 7, 2020”

  1. Cute ending.
    As for It is unkind and uncharitable to hope he dies from the disease, but I have to admit I wouldn’t feel entirely put out if the virus kicked his ass a little, or maybe a lot, are you familiar with the Danish poet Piet Hein? (He calls his poems Grooks, which is largely irrelevant except to explain the title:)
    I see
    and I hear
    and I speak no evil;
    I carry
    no malice
    within my breast;
    yet quite without
    a man to the Devil
    one may be
    to hope for the best.

  2. Your conclusion reminds me that I should reread two late-’60s works that ended similarly to see whether I still enjoy them: Silverberg’s time-travel novel Up the Line and Blish’s mostly comical end-of-the-world novella We All Die Naked.

  3. Boris Johnson got through his COVID-19 and it seems to not have changed him at all. There are none so blind as those who will not see.

  4. Do you think the last panel was meant to be a play on club sandwich? I don’t get it.

  5. Thanks for the Gary Larson!!!!! And yea, I’m dense. Not sure about #3 And Logophage for the Piet Hein. I’ve been think of it lately as “I won’t be sorry to hear they died.”

  6. I feel like there was something about bears eating their cubs floating around in the mediasphere recently. That’s my best guess about what Larson was thinking.

  7. and Bolsonaro is going to be just fine, or at least pretend that he is. Because this virus is determined to kick the living shit out of our species for our collective stupidity and selfishness.

  8. Regarding the Trump expose, one thing it does give us is an assessment of Trump from a clinical psychologist who is well acquainted with the patient. So when she says he meets every criterion for narcissism, that isn’t armchair psychologizing.

  9. Bolsonaro is likely not to suffer at all from Covid as unlike most people here in Brazil he has access to high quality private medicine and will no doubt choose it over the dilapidated public health system (although in all fairness he’s not alone to blame for that, ruining public health care the way it was ruined in Brazil was a work of many decades and many governments, all across the political spectrum). If anything I’d wager he’ll get hit harder with side effects from hydroxychloroquine, which he still champions and is reportedly taking, than anything else… Then again, he’s such a Trump fanboy we might get lucky, he could inject himself with Lysol.

  10. Bolsonaro is likely not to suffer at all from Covid as unlike most people here in Brazil he has access to high quality private medicine.

    Not quite how it works. Compare Boris Johnson (56, overweight). It’s true BJ would be dead now if he had received the normal level of care, but there is a lot of space between being dead and not suffering at all, and you can have high quality medical care and still spend three months dying of it. Bolsonaro is 65. What he needs right now more than good medical care is a little luck. With better luck (for him), he would have been asymptomatic. That would have been bad luck for everyone in contact with him, though.

  11. Or Shel Silverstein’s poem (as I recall it):
    The Slithergadee has climbed out of the sea,
    He may catch all the others, but he won’t catch me.
    No, you won’t catch me, you old Slithergadee,
    You may catch all the others, but you won’t

  12. I suspect that when Gary Larson, God bless him, travels overseas nobody finds him to be a chauvinist Ugly American. Heck, he can’t even be chauvinist for the human species.

  13. @ glc
    True, but I can’t quite care about it. He’ll live (which is more than can be said for 67000+ Brazilians and counting) and he’ll have access to the best not only in Health Care but in outright comfort… The hospital where he’ll probably stay – if it gets to that point (same one as he stayed after the attempt on him during the 2018 campaign); is one I’ve had the privilege of being treated in myself and it’s essentially a high end hotel with state of the art health care to boost. Compare that to people dying on gurneys in public emergency wards and however much he suffers from the disease itself is negligible.

  14. @Thiago
    Yes, I can’t say I thought this was very central to your point.
    Not really directed at you, just my usual reminder to the world that nobody is safe in themselves and even less safe in terms of the damage they may do to others.

  15. bitter NYC joke: life insurance not paying out for dead nurses because it was obviously suicidal behavior working in hospitals…

    Q: why wouldn’t C19 kill Trump?
    A: same reason Hitler never ordered Chamberlain’s assassination (i.e. best ally ever)

  16. @glc
    Couldn’t agree more, and second your point; even if one can afford the best in health care one should stay home if at all possible, mask up, maintain social distancing, the works. This thing is serious and young or old, fit or not, it can ravage your lungs and make you feel miserable even in the best hospital there is. If you stay safe you don’t need to get safe, amirite?

    It’s just I’m saving my compassion for all the people who are suffering, those who died, especially those who didn’t need to, and have little if any left for the idiot who couldn’t simply say “stay home” to avoid so many deaths… He can gasp for air from here to the next presidential election in 2 years for all I care, at least it’ll keep him from shouting bullshit…

    Sorry if this reads bitter, but the truth is, I’m bitter. I am Brazilian, I live in Brazil, I have lost friends to this disease. I haven’t seen any friends or family in over 4 months to do my part in slowing the spread and he and his minions have made mine and others efforts useless and lead to more people suffering and dying than was absolutely inevitable. Worst part is I can’t even tell what his endgame was, which for some stupid reason makes me even angrier.

    I’ve honestly found myself wishing the guy who stabbed him during the campaign two years ago had a fire arm instead of a knife because we sure as hell would be better with anyone else at the helm by now. Not proud of that but I really have.

  17. Howard NYC
    “A: same reason Hitler never ordered Chamberlain’s assassination (i.e. best ally ever)”
    Nope. Chamberlain at Munich bought Britain the time to rearm. If Britain had gone to war in 1938, they would have lost.

  18. On the WaPo page this morning – “Bolsonaro says he is taking hydroxychloroquine to treat coronavirus, expects fast recovery”

    So, he is in fact taking his health care cues from The Donald. Good luck, sir.

    You putz.

  19. With the deep partisan divide and the continuation that the ten most populous states still thinks the world revolves around them, I’m curious to know if everyone here will be continuing in the same vein of hyperventilating when he gets reelected?

    And honestly, if you think a book is going to change everyone’s mind, especially since he survived all the flak he got during the 1st campaign, I think everyone here is sadly mistaken.

    And while I’m not a complete Trump supporter, I will be voting for him in November, because ya know, I got this thing about bullying, which is what everyone here and out thee in the real world seems to be doing with great fervor these days.

  20. More than time to rearm, Chamberlain bought time for the British populace to support war. The population, not that you’d know it from Churchill’s version of history, was very anti-war in the 30s -on account of the whole death of a generation thing in “the war to end all wars” twenty years earlier- and unless Britain looked like it had done everything to avoid war and looked like the good guy, at the very first setback the British population might have ousted Chamberlain and had someone like Lord Halifax sue for peace. Even with the invasion of Poland, there was still a huge chunk of anti-war sentiment. Again, not that you’d know it from Churchill’s history. If anything, Chamberlain could have done with another year’s grace, to help and get the French government and populace more onside too, but there was this loud mouthed rabble rouser who was rushing us into war… I forget his name.

  21. The United States has been transformed into a plague-infested pariah among nations, mismanaged to an epic degree, hopelessly corrupt, locking up children in cages in concentration camps, enacting cruel policies with no realistic objective other than to hurt people, so I say to anyone who’d subject my homeland to four more years of such an atrocity just because they equate insufficient fawning over the most powerful person on the planet with bullying…

    …well, I can’t say it. Because anything that would be a sufficient response would go far beyond the realm of civility and beyond the patience of our gracious host.

    I will say this:

    I am exiled from the United States because of Donald Trump. I cannot return home because of Donald Trump. I face the real possibility of never being able to return home because of Donald Trump.

  22. G.B. Miller says:
    “… And while I’m not a complete Trump supporter, I will be voting for him in November, because ya know, I got this thing about bullying, which is what everyone here and out thee in the real world seems to be doing with great fervor these days.”

    Our Gracious Host – and the American commenters here present – are exercising their First Amendment rights. The rest of us might have opinions one way or another, but we’re excluded from the American electoral process by definition.

    The news media, the Internet, social media, and blogs like this one are not separate from the “real world.” And parts of it, such as talk radio, are still quite okay with Trump, so far as I can tell. And he with them, unless they should have the bare-faced (mask-faced?) audacity to fact-check him on statements he has made.

    More worrying is the implication that “people are saying terrible things about him!” is a good reason for electing someone to the highest office in the land – as opposed to, say, his record of achievements in office.

  23. @ G. B. Miller

    “And while I’m not a complete Trump supporter, I will be voting for him in November, because ya know, I got this thing about bullying, which is what everyone here and out thee in the real world seems to be doing with great fervor these days.”

    I’ll take “racism with extra words” for $200, Alex.

    I do agree that the book isn’t going to change anyone’s mind. It’s mostly a rehashing of common knowledge, plus some Trump family dirty laundry that I’m not really interested in.

  24. “Because of Donald Trump…” Not totally. I remember the 1960’s, that time of revolutions and colonies getting independence. I think 1960 was the mode year for Africa.

    Anyhow, in some sf book at the time a character said that if you assassinated a leader, then what happened was someone else would rush to the front of the (figurative) column and say, “I am the leader, follow me.”

    As journalist Gwynne Dyer noted, Trump is the giant orange canary in the coal mine. He has done us all a service by visibly showing there is something wrong. For society, there are no “get-fixed-quick” schemes, there is only a long road of consistent conscious effort.

    I think both the war in Vietnam and the war on drugs showed us that reaching—not “winning”— the “hearts and minds” starts with not being Ugly Americans but instead being willing to listen. Sometimes the research is out there as to why people vote (for communism or Trump) or drug, but we ignore it, claiming the research is not there. Easy to stay “with our own kind” in Saigon, hard to drive out and have the humility to ask. …

  25. Q: Why wouldn’t C19 kill Trump?
    A: Professional courtesy.

    Viruses really don’t care about us, but if we’re willing to help them find some more hosts to consume, they won’t say no. The problem here is that we keep happily helping them.

  26. @ G. B. Miller

    “And while I’m not a complete Trump supporter, I will be voting for him in November, because ya know, I got this thing about bullying, which is what everyone here and out thee in the real world seems to be doing with great fervor these days.”

    So that’s how people support racism and Fascism (and a candidate whose entire life is based on bullying), while pretending not to be a racist or a Fascist. I don’t expect such people to change.

    I’ve got criticisms of Hamilton (seems like wish-fulfillment fanfiction); but clearly it’s very successful. I hope it leads people to reading real history.

    No point in being coy; I hope Bolsonaro dies. The VP, Hamilton Mourão, at least seems more reasonable.

  27. Whoops, did someone upthread imply Trump’s not the biggest bully in the U.S. right now? Hahahahahahahaha . . . oh, wait, they were serious?

    (As if any of this were bullying, LOL.)

  28. @G. B. Miller:

    The irony of a racist supporter of a murderous, treasonous, racist, misogynist, xenophobic plague promoter (it also bears repeating that this person gassed and shot his way through a crowd of peaceful protesters for a photo opportunity) crying bully is so delicious it ought to be illegal.

    STGRB would be proud.

    And, gasp, you’re going to vote the way “everyone here” figured you would!

    Guess that’ll teach us to speak out against and work to counteract a dangerous, incompetent president and his cancerous, slavishly devoted supporters.

    And no, the book certainly isn’t going to be as impactful as a string of domestic and international atrocities (other posters have enumerated these beautifully), a toilet-water soaked economy, humiliation and distrust on a global scale, more than 130,000 deaths and one of the highest infection rates on the planet.

    As for who and what I think you are, I’m going to exercise some serious restraint here, as I fear the mallet.

    Also, I strongly suspect yours is a drive by comment; I’ll be shocked if you return to respond to your critics.


    I hear you and agree on all points.

    Leaders modeling such reckless and evil behavior reache levels of unconscionable I never imagined I’d see, even with all of the seemingly unprecedented atrocities our own wannabe autocrat has committed against humanity in the past three plus years.

    Also, I have a house full of elderly and immunocompromised people whose ethnicities put them squarely in the high-risk category.

    I have zero patience and compassion for active covid spreaders who feel entitled, even obligated to flout the written and unwritten rules of a pandemic because partisanship/racism/Darwinism/anti-intellectualism /religious bravado/” murican” rights and freedoms.

    I’d feel the same even if I hadn’t a strip of skin in this game.

    I have neither kindness nor charity for mass murderers, elected or otherwise, especially those who try to kill me and my family.

    The closest I’ll ever get to such things is wishing all infected covidiots and any of their likeminded housemates long, miserable and terrifying recoveries.

  29. If Britain had gone to war in 1938, they would have lost

    They really wouldn’t have. Both the British and French drastically overestimated how strong the German military was. In 1938 it was still quite weak — enough that German generals were convinced they were going to get beaten quite badly if Germany got aggressive in Europe.

    and unless Britain looked like it had done everything to avoid war and looked like the good guy

    I’m not sure how the Czechs felt about Chamberlain looking like the “good guy” after Munich. Actually, I’m quite sure. And, in fact, the Czech armaments industry was quite large, and materially aided the German war effort. Many of the tanks the Germans used to invade both France and later the Soviet Union were Czech designed and made.

    Appeasement is more complicated than the historical image but it was still a disaster.

  30. John: As others have mentioned, thank you so much for for this daily post. Everyone I know is struggling from distress over the current state of pandemic and entire spectrum political blight. I look forward to this daily break from the onslaught. Thanks for taking the time; it is helping many people.

  31. Threatening to sink states who don’t send students into petri dishes meets the constitutive criteria for, uh, bullying.

    I don’t believe for a 130,000th of a second that Trump and his supporters aren’t aware of the consequences of in-person classes in the Fall.

    This is nothing less than large-scale domestic terrorism; anyone who denies this is either woefully ignorant or a liar.

    On another note, I love how reports on the things Trump denies are fake news while the evil deeds to which he admits are 100 percent justifiable.

    Someone, anyone, please save us from teh stupid.

  32. @ Thiago:

    One bit of good news round *these* parts is that the disabled won’t have the financial rug pulled out from under them.

    “Peter Morley

    People w/disabilities who depend on SSDI can rest a little easier tonight.
    The new Labor-HHS 2021 budget PROHIBITS the proposed rule by Trump Administration to throw people off Social Security Disability & create barriers for people w/disabilities. YOUR voice matters!”

    Speaking as a disabled woman whose job prospects have flattened faster than any curve (turns out some businesses actually do value lives over dollars), this is reassuring news.

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