This is how to understand Trump

Last week I linked to a David Roberts tweetstorm on how to interpret Trump.  Being a good Vox journalist, he basically made it into an article.  So good.  Read it!  That said, my favorite parts:

On Twitter I talked about “theory of mind,” a basic capacity humans develop around the age of 2 or 3 to recognize that other people are independent agents, distinct minds, with their own beliefs, desires, fears, etc. We learn to “read” behaviors as evidence of those internal states.

And because we are relentless pattern seekers, we are constantly developing theories of people, seeking to explain what they do through reference to their beliefs and plans.

This has badly misled us with Trump. Much of the dialogue around him, the journalism and analysis, even the statements of his own surrogates, amounts to a desperate attempt to construct a Theory of Trump, to explain what he does and says through some story about his long-term goals and beliefs.

We badly want to understand Trump, to grasp him. It might give us some sense of control, or at least an ability to predict what he will do next.

But what if there’s nothing to understand? What if there’s no there there? What if our attempts to explain Trump have failed not because we haven’t hit on the right one, but because we are, theory-of-mind-wise, overinterpreting the text?

In short, what if Trump is exactly as he appears: a hopeless narcissist with the attention span of a fruit fly, unable to maintain consistent beliefs or commitments from moment to moment, acting on base instinct, entirely situationally, to bolster his terrifyingly fragile ego… [emphasis mine]

That’s who he is: a disregulated bundle of impulses, being manipulated by a cast of crooks and incompetents, supported by a Republican Party willing to bet the stability of the country against upper-income tax cuts. We need to stop looking for a more complicated story.

Image result for trump's brain

Chart of the day (it’s all good)

Pretty cool Gallup chart looking at the moral acceptability of various practices.  Lots of them are at all-time highs– even polygamy!  (Alas, for polygamists, that’s still only 17%)

20170511_MoralIssues3

Quick hits (part II)

1) As I’m currently reading Anne-Marie Slaughter’s Unfinished Business, I found this NYT Op-Ed about the role of daughters in providing care to aging parents quite interesting and quite relevant (and on the bright side, I have a daughter):

As Washington debates the relative merits of Obamacare or Trumpcare, many families have already come up with what is arguably the most reliable form of care in America: It’s called daughter care.

The essential role that daughters play in the American health care system is well known but has received little attention. But some health care analysts are beginning to sound the alarm about the challenges women face as caregivers — not just for children but for aging parents — often while holding full-time jobs.

This week, the medical journal JAMA Neurology highlighted a looming crisis for women and their employers: the growing ranks of dementia patients who will end up relying on family members, typically daughters, for their care.

“The best long-term care insurance in our country is a conscientious daughter,” wrote the authors, all of whom are fellows at Stanford University’s Clinical Excellence Research Center, which studies new methods of health care delivery.

2) Thomas Edsall takes on the AHCA, “The Republicans don’t feel your pain.”

3) Evan Osnos on Trump and Comey:

That Trump believed he could fire the person leading law enforcement’s Russia investigation without a meaningful response from another branch of government is a sign of his unfamiliarity with the separation of powers, and, most perilous to himself, an enduring notion of impunity. Before entering the White House, Trump operated by a principle that, as he put it in a moment of “locker room” candor, “When you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.” The Constitution disagrees, and, by firing Comey and making a baldly contestable claim to his motives, Trump has invited a new investigation into why he took that step, how he described his reasoning, and whether it represents an abuse of office.

4) So apparently there’s a service you can get that will send telemarketers to a talking robot that keeps them on the line with carefully placed “hmmm” “uh-huh” etc., as long as it can to waste their time.  Okay, I’m not paying for it, but it makes me happy just knowing it exists.

5) Julia Azari and Seth Masket on how Congress must be the check on Trump to prevent a Constitutional crisis.

6) Are their any political creatures more craven and narrow-minded that NC Republican state Senators.  Possibly not.

7) Yes, there really is a four-year old living in the White House.  Trump insists he gets more ice cream scoops than his guests.  Seriously.  What a tiny, pathetic little man.  The fact that anybody supports him truly demonstrates just how powerful partisanship is (and that there’s a lot of other small-minded people out there).

8) Philip Bump on the “one little number” that is all the protection Trump needs.  Yes, yes, yes.

Those engaging in such speculation [about impeachment], though, are warned: There’s one little number that makes such a move unlikely. That number is 84 percent, Trump’s job approval rating among Republicans in the most recent weekly average from Gallup.

9) I think it is cool just how incredibly fast fidget spinners have become the lastest fad.  NYT with a timeline of just how fast they blew up.  And, yes, I’m using one right now while.

10) Thomas Mills on the two North Carolinas:

The Carolina I live in today has a vibrant downtown with plenty of restaurants and a healthy merchant class. Our schools are among the best in the state and some are ranked among the best in the nation. We have well-groomed parks, bike trails, bus service and sidewalks. We’re fifteen miles from a major airport and both north-south and east-west interstates are just minutes away. Our crime rate is low and our biggest struggles concern balancing growth with maintaining our quality of life.

In contrast, the Carolina where I was raised is losing population and the unemployment rate is above the state as a whole. The downtown of Wadesboro is a shell of the place where I sold newspapers and bought everything from clothes to bicycles to baseball gloves. A major artery connecting downtown to Highway 74, the major road running through the county, stayed closed for more than year because the town didn’t have resources to repair a collapsing bridge. Other towns in the county are essentially empty, devoid of any businesses other than a convenience store or two…

Republicans claim their tax cuts have led to magazines citing North Carolina as among the best states for business. That may be true, but those national publications are talking about places like the Triangle, the Triad, and Charlotte, not places like Anson County, Scotland County or Wilkes County. The GOP budget has hung those places out to dry…

In many of those areas, the state is the largest employer, but the Senate would stop providing health insurance to state government retirees for anybody joining the state workforce after 2020. That’s a great recruiting tool.  It’s like throwing an anchor to a sinking boat.

If rural North Carolina is going to catch up and compete they need a serious investment in infrastructure including broadband internet, not more tax cuts.

11) In recent years I’ve become convinced the key to the greatest success in men’s college basketball is getting not the best recruits– who invariably leave after only a year– but, the next best recruits (say, roughly those ranked 25-50) who are still really good but much more likely to give you 3-4 good years of basketball.  Gary Parrish with a nice piece arguing essentially this.

12) Great Charlie Sykes column on how so many conservatives have simply become anti-liberal:

If there was one principle that used to unite conservatives, it was respect for the rule of law. Not long ago, conservatives would have been horrified at wholesale violations of the norms and traditions of our political system, and would have been appalled by a president who showed overt contempt for the separation of powers.

But this week, as if on cue, most of the conservative media fell into line, celebrating President Trump’s abrupt dismissal of the F.B.I. director, James Comey, and dismissing the fact that Mr. Comey was leading an investigation into the Trump campaign and its ties to Russia. “Dems in Meltdown Over Comey Firing,” declared a headline on Fox News, as Tucker Carlson gleefully replayed clips of Democrats denouncing the move. “It’s just insane actually,” he said, referring to their reactions. On Fox and talk radio, the message was the same, with only a few conservatives willing to sound a discordant or even cautious note…

But perhaps most important, we saw once again how conservatism, with its belief in ordered liberty, is being eclipsed by something different: Loathing those who loathe the president. Rabid anti-anti-Trumpism…

actions, his conservative champions change the subject to (1) the biased “fake news” media, (2) over-the-top liberals, (3) hypocrites on the left, (4) anyone else victimizing Mr. Trump or his supporters and (5) whataboutism, as in “What about Obama?” “What about Clinton?”

For the anti-anti-Trump pundit, whatever the allegation against Mr. Trump, whatever his blunders or foibles, the other side is always worse.

But the real heart of anti-anti-Trumpism is the delight in the frustration and anger of his opponents. Mr. Trump’s base is unlikely to hold him either to promises or tangible achievements, because conservative politics is now less about ideas or accomplishments than it is about making the right enemies cry out in anguish.

13) Dahlia Lithwick with Laurence Tribe’s case for impeachment regarding the Comey firing.

14) Why everything we know about salt may be wrong.

15) Of course the Trump administration and Betsy DeVos are doing all the wrong things on student debt:

But with a series of regulatory changes, the Trump administration is taking us in the wrong direction, making student loans riskier, more expensive and more burdensome for borrowers.

First, the Education Department has weakened accountability for the companies that administer student loans. Second, it has made it more difficult for borrowers to apply for, and stay enrolled in, income-based payment plans. Third, Betsy DeVos, the education secretary, has given banks more leeway to charge borrowers high fees — as much as 16 percent of the balance owed — if they fall behind.

16) The Atlantic’s Adam Serwer and Peter Beinart on Comey.  Both really good takes.

17) Donald Trump wants steam catapults on aircraft carriers, damnit!  If it was good enough for Maverick and Ice Man…

18) Honestly, it never ceases to amaze how breathtakingly ignorant Donald Trump is about policy and how incoherent he is when attempting to discuss it.  Yglesias breaks down his recent Economist interview.

19) Big 538 piece on the long, complicated story behind all the false voter fraud claims from the right.

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