Can’t Keep Up

I’m can’t keep up. Every hour, the automatic news alerts or the twitterfeed sends me some new notice of hell-in-a-handbasket. It’s insanity. Now, Mexico is backing of a meeting with Donald Trump, because of the wall craziness. KellyAnne Conway was doing her truth bending exercises on the Today Show this morning. I would love to put a blog post announcing ever new twist in politics, but I can’t. I am barely keeping my own shit together at the moment. (All the college stuff has pushed parenting responsibilities into hyperdrive. Plus new work opportunities. Plus my usual volunteer stuff for special needs kids.)

I did an article for the Atlantic last week that required a million rewrites, because change is happening too rapidly. And then it hardly mattered, because the news was old by the time the article was finished. It still did well thanks to attention from Autism Speaks, but it wasn’t on the Most Popular list for very long. Donald Trump controls the media agenda right now and he keeps doing new things every hour or so.

Pipeline. The Wall. Nukes. The NEA. ACA. Every minute, it’s something new.

Politics isn’t supposed to work this way.

And then the bureaucrats respond. And what about Melania? Do we feel sorry for her?

I don’t even have time to find the hyperlinks for those articles.

29 thoughts on “Can’t Keep Up

  1. Yes about the state of chaos, in every activity that has any interaction with government, from energy, to science, to education. People at NIH are waiting grant suspension email (i.e. the one that the EPA has gotten, suspending disbursement of funds).


  2. Well, I felt sorry for Melania when I saw the story that she came back to NYC with Barron Sunday night so he could get to school on Monday, and then learned Monday morning that school was closed for three days. It’s funny because, as I have mentioned, Barron’s school is right next door to my building and I noticed on Monday that they were closed, though I didn’t see Melania and Barron showing up to the closed building. Those private schools have an ungodly number of days off, usually for “teacher training.” It’s easy to make that kind of mistake, especially if one of the spouses is distracted by non-childcare responsibilities.

    Possibly this indicates that Melania isn’t that close with the other mothers and Barron doesn’t have that many friends, but I might be reading too much into it. Melania has had a bit on her mind, no doubt.


    1. Or she knew it was closed but tries to spend as little time with The Donald as possible. I would say that’s as likely as any other reason.


  3. I wonder which American companies a 20% tax on imports from Mexico would harm most? And if there’s any way it doesn’t make Smoot–Hawley Tariff 2.0?


  4. Do I feel sorry for Melania? She certainly looks unhappy in a lot of the photos I see, and I am the worst sort of knee-jerk empathizer.

    However, the list of people I feel sorry for is a very long one, starting with people who have been made homeless through civil unrest and war. She is the very last person on a very, very long line.

    I don’t care what it says in her pre-nup, she could sell off her jewelry and get a job as a translator or greeter at a Wal-mart. Public school is good enough for my kid, it’s good enough for Barron.

    Or she can move back to Slovenia, or wherever she is from. Do I sound like a Tea Partier? Goose, gander.


  5. No need to feel sorry for Melania. She’s an immigrant success story, isn’t she? From an apartment block in Yugoslavia to the White House. As she’s now a citizen, she’s now from the USA, one of millions of Americans.

    I feel sorry for everyone in show business, but that’s just me.


  6. I am currently worrying about my Iranian scientist friends (there’s a strong neuroscience program in Iran, and so a number of excellent young computationally oriented neuroscientists are Iranian, so I happened to know Iranians, from the list of Trump’s target countries that is circulating as a draft). One issue I’m facing in talking to them, is that I think I need to warn them to know the power of their enemies (a reference to a quote from a Jonathan Chait article — “No community in the United States is more aware of the power of its enemies than African-Americans.”).

    We post 1965 immigrant scientists have been very fortunate in this country, offered great opportunity (and, yes, made great contributions). We have also been insulated from our enemies. I came to the US as a six year old, as a permanent resident, but didn’t bother to become a citizen until my mid 20’s, because I was lazy, and there was no significant need. I travelled out of the country with a residency card that had my picture as a five year old on it, and negotiated with the border agent when they wanted to tell me I couldn’t use it again (I had a conference coming up in Canada soon), and they agreed to give me extra time to replace it. I never felt any danger. I never felt my American-ness questioned, at least when it mattered. We were, on the whole, a community that didn’t worry about the power of our enemies.

    The Iranians who came here more recently have also been insulated, largely, in the international world of science. Since many were out of the country, studying, in 2009, were vocal in the 2009 Iranian Student protests. They are smart; they know the power of the Iranian government, and how it is wielded against enemies (which have included them, their friends, and their family). But many believed in something better from us. I am warning them not to be naive.


    1. I don’t think you have to worry about your Irani friends being naive or in denial any longer. Today’s latest from Dolt 45 took care of that 😦


  7. The latest I’ve been hearing from Vichy Republicans is that we should all just Calm Down. It’s only been a week. This is how Trump negotiates. He asks for something more than what he wants and then he settles for something in between and declares victory. Of course, I am trying to explain to VRs that human beings are not property or assets, but they seem to have broken empathy chips or something. They should take their empathy chips back to their creator and have them repaired or replaced.


    1. Here’s something you’re going to hate even more–but which I think is also true.

      Trump, being a narcissistic dude, has a bottomless need for ear scratches and belly rubs.

      To get him to do what you want, he has to be jollied and kept in a good mood. If the belly rubs stop, he turns very nasty. (I think we’ve all seen this a dozen or so times in the last year.)

      Unfortunately, he isn’t the sort of person who is driven by either rational self-interest or some sort of abstract principle–it’s all about the belly rubs.

      That’s a good news/bad news thing. On the one hand, he’s not a principled conservative of any known breed (so good news for you!) but on the other hand, it means that fighting him makes him fight harder (bad news for you!). So, it’s almost certainly the case that Democrats would get better results cozying up to him (perhaps by sending long-legged female staffers to win him over–ideally of Slavic ancestry?). This is all very gross, but this is the ride we happen to be on.

      Of course, Congress will probably flip in two years anyway, so there might not be much point to doing that, but a hyper narcissistic guy can get a lot done in two years!

      In any case, your Republican friends do have a point. Nobody can manage to be continually outraged for 2-4 years–so occasional outrage breaks are necessary.

      Speaking from experience, I eventually got pretty indifferent to Obama’s presidency.. Heck, toward the end, there were weeks at a time where I almost forgot he was president.

      Also, I think this is (as many conservative writers have pointed out) a good time to meditate on the question–exactly how powerful do I want the president and the federal government to be?

      None of us will always have our preferred party at the controls.


      1. Nobody can manage to be continually outraged for 2-4 years–so occasional outrage breaks are necessary.

        That’s demonstrably untrue from very recent history. Not everybody can be actively outraged all the times, but you can just form organizations which pay people to be outraged. There are many dozens of millionaires from doing this to Obama.

        I think a better question for conservatives and Republicans to meditate on is how they explain to some largely apolitical moderate that Trump was really not a Republican or that he was not a “principled conservative” ™. Because it is certainly true that the Democrats don’t have the ability to stop much of what Trump is doing, but unless they are stupid enough to roll over, they can force Republicans to do this stuff through the actual mechanisms of government and thus make Trump actions things on the record of Republicans who would otherwise try to play both side of the aisle and treat Trump like kind of “ride” outside of normal politics as opposed to what he is, the winner of the primary of one party that is supposedly rooted in a variety of abstract principles.


      2. Prediction is hazardous, but from where I sit, the Democrats seem to be planning on moving hard to the left, which will probably lead to a repeat of 1972, when a president engaged in an unpopular war, facing some economic headwinds, and despised by the chattering classes, won reelection rather handily.


      3. I was at Berkeley then, and I remember that the paper at our sister campus at Davis was headlined the next day “McGovern Sweeps Massachusetts”
        He had that paper framed and up on his Senate office wall for years afterwards.


      4. Apparently, letting green card holders enter the country is now hard left.

        Also, you’re still not looking at history thoroughly. For one thing, Nixon was further to the left on many social and welfare issues than even the Democrats today. For another, you’re projecting backward on Vietnam. Vietnam is was unpopular and Nixon was unpopular after Watergate, but Nixon didn’t start the war and was campaigning on the fact that he had scaled down U.S. involvement in the war. He had “opened China” prior to that election. Nixon could credibly claim to be trying to find a palatable solution to a war started by Democrats. Also, Nixon’s approval ratings were pretty good in 1972, even in parts of the chattering classes. Watergate had been in the papers for a very long time before Nixon’s ratings ever dropped below 50%. Trump has never even come close to that high.


  8. MH,

    No individual can be outraged 24/7 and stay a happy, functioning person. Heck, even Hitler took breaks.

    I can’t really follow your second paragraph.

    What I was saying about belly rubs applies to Republicans as much as Democrats–if anything, it’s worse for Republicans. Trump is not a guy with party loyalty (as you can see from his erratic party registration record), and during the campaign, he was pretty much threatening to declare war on the people who were (theoretically) supposed to be his party allies.

    Also, any Republican (no matter what course of action they pursue) is going to wind up being being punished when the public turns against Trump. That’s baked into the cake. I agree with Jonah Goldberg (to fight Trump when he’s wrong but give him head pats when he’s right)–mindless negativity toward Trump will just lead to what (as a mother of a child on the autism spectrum and a teen) I have learned to call the “spiral of doom.”

    The way to deal with Trump is a heavy program of positive reinforcement and as little negative reinforcement as possible–maybe even throw in some ABA for good measure.

    I imagine that virtually no other president in US history has needed that sort of treatment, but there’s probably never been a president who was so unformed and completely governed by his id.


    1. (to fight Trump when he’s wrong but give him head pats when he’s right)

      That’s just nuts. Even if he’s right on a specific policy issue, the problems with him that aren’t policy related (say, that Bannon is now an official of the United States government or that Trump is using the office of the presidency to boost revenues at his hotels) remain and are more that sufficient to make anybody not opposed to him tainted by association.


      1. A sense of proportion is appropriate, but I don’t see it much. Bad or incompetent presidential advisors are a major problem. Presidential venality–which I don’t believe is Trump’s motivation anyway, anymore than I think selling books was Obama’s motivation–is a peccadillo.


      2. Trump is absolutely unique for a president of the modern era in terms of his financial disclosure and lack of steps to prevent a financial conflict of interest. Probably I don’t even need that “modern era” qualifier but I don’t know the history.


    2. I keep seeing this again and again: “Really, Trump is harmless.” And I don’t think he is at all. He is ruled by Bannon, and no one in his administration seems to show any indication of accepting the rule of law.


  9. For the people who think that we shouldn’t be outraged, what do you think about stories of innocent helpless people being stranded in dangerous situations? Children stuck in third countries, refugees fleeing for their lives being granted asylum and then sent back, families who have spent decades to make a better life in the US getting turned away at the airport. Is this simply collateral damage? Do you simply not feel bad about these people’s lives being seriously messed up or worse? I’m genuinely curious.


  10. You know I was going to make a joke, and realized I find absolutely nothing funny about any of this. I have friends directly affected by this ban and it has also created a general feeling of unease. I’ve actually had a Canadian Greencard holder wonder about whether they feel safe. After all, none of us has any control over what our countries of origin might do that might attract Trump’s ire.

    I will take breaks from outrage, but only by avoiding the inputs. Telling people that they should avoid outrage because they should jolly the narcissist along, or because their outrage might annoy the people enacting the policies is downright dangerous, if you don’t support the path we appear to be on.

    An important feature of collective outrage is to give people cover for taking a stand. An article I read on Sunday said that the companies and universities affected by the ban, those recalling their employees early, advocating to bring their students back, taking a stand increased over the course of the day. And undoubtedly the stronger statements were influenced by, for example, outrage about Uber. Silence helps the oppressor. I’m pretty confident that a liberal boycott of Uber wouldn’t be reversed by Trump voters (who probably aren’t heavy Uber users).

    Only four senators appear to have come out in support of the ban; Many Republicans are engaging in deafening silence. Ten Republicans, Lamar Alexander, Susan Collins, Bob Corker, Jeff Flake, Cory Gardner, Lindsey Graham, James Lankford, John McCain, Rob Portman, and Benjamin Sasse have come out against the ban (to some degree or another). If they are taking a moral stand, they need know that they have support on the issue.


    1. Many Republicans are engaging in deafening silence.

      They’re trying to decide if they are Eric Cantor or Ernst Röhm. And I’m barely joking.


  11. And, the caution and comparison to 1972 is only relevant if proposing some other course of action that might be more effective.

    I do think that it’s important to channel the outrage into productive outlets. Marches, occupations, endless boycotts can be ineffective while raising ire (though they have their value, as well). But, key effort has to be to use whatever tools we have to oppose the results. People’s lives changed on Saturday, some because the efforts didn’t come through quite quickly enough, but others because they did, because lawyers wrote briefs, and judges held emergency sessions.


    1. I think there’s value to keeping up pressure that this isn’t normal and we’re paying attention. We talk about the Nazis like the only thing that could have stopped the Holocaust was giant armies, but the one country who really tried active, sustained, moral pressure in the form of speaking out and protests succeeded in protecting their Jews, even Jews deported to Germany, with an almost 100% success rate. Keeping a floodlight on helps prevent people from doing stuff they know is wrong. It doesn’t help with the Trumps and the Bannons, but it helps with all the other moral cowards like the Paul Ryans and Mitch McConnells who know they’re doing the wrong thing but do it for expediency and because they think no one will be watching.


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