Category Archives: Popular Culture

Trump’s Art Of The Deal

Thoughts from Jonah Goldberg, with which I completely agree:

I am coming around to the position that the vast bulk of punditry in defense of Donald Trump is little different from hepatoscopy, chiromancy, tasseography, and other “sciences” that imbue essentially random phenomena with deep and prophetic significance (this is not to say that orbistry, the practice of explaining everything weird in this crazy world, is not 100 percent correct).

Let’s just look at the past week. On the campaign trail, Trump vowed to “immediately terminate” the DACA program if elected. In June, he flipped and said it would stay in place. Going into this week, the White House signaled that it would get rid of the program. On Tuesday, Trump’s attorney general came out and declared that the program was unconstitutional. And, in a move I praised, Trump said that he would give the task of dealing with the issue to Congress. But, after watching negative TV coverage and bristling at Barack Obama’s criticism, Trump flopped. In a tweet, Trump suggested he wants Congress to legalize the program, not get rid of it. And if Congress failed, he might have to “revisit” the issue, implying that Trump might use the same unconstitutional measures Obama used.

Now, in fairness to Trump, he’s always been torn on the issue, and rightly so. Deporting the “Dreamers” is a terrible idea. But the position of most immigration hawks has always been that we should trade some form of amnesty in exchange for serious border-security measures and/or implementation of E-verify or similar steps.

So, let’s consider instead the other big news this week. President Trump threw Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, and the House Freedom Caucus under the bus to cut a deal with “Chuck and Nancy” on a short-term extension of the debt ceiling. Wait, scratch that. He didn’t “cut a deal” with the Democrats, he simply took their first offer in exchange for . . . nothing. He took a “deal” to get Harvey relief passed despite the fact that Harvey relief would have passed anyway. This was not The Art of the Deal. It was — to borrow a phrase from Seth Mandel — The Art of the Kneel.

Trump kicked the can to December, when his leverage will be weaker, apparently in a glandular act of spite against McConnell and Ryan. John Boehner was hounded out of office by tea-party types for even considering cutting far better debt-ceiling deals with Barack Obama. In both of these cases, the response from legions of Trumpers was rapturous approval of his genius and/or his willingness to punish McConnell and Ryan.

It’s almost as though his vaunted ability to do deals is highly overrated.

Also, read on for a devastating critique of Rachel Maddow’s misleading history of the Wilson administration.

Service For Pournelle

An email I missed from Alex when I was on the plane Tuesday:

As you have probably heard, my father, Jerry, passed away on Friday, September 8, 2017. He had attended DragonCon as a guest, was lauded by thousands, and had a tremendously good time. As an author, it would be difficult to think of a better way to be sent off.

Our family also appreciates the outpouring of memorials and reminiscences, both public and private, which have followed.

The public service will be this Saturday, September 16:

12N PT: Services at St. Francis de Sales Church, 13368 Valleyheart Drive Sherman Oaks, CA 91423

We will be working to livestream the service as well.

Please let those who should know about the service. If you will be in town, we hope to see you there.

I’ll be going, hope to see a lot of old (in both senses of the word) friends.

[Late-evening update]

Jeff Sessions

So Trump called him an idiot, and told him to quit? Well, he is, and he should. But why does he still have his job? For someone who became famous in part for publicly firing people, Trump sure seems to have a hard time actually doing it.

[Update a couple minutes later]

Speaking of idiots, Joe Biden is saying that people who support due process under the law are just like Nazis. Right.

Jerry Pournelle

Rest in peace (I have no idea how to copy/paste on these damned finger painting devices, but Instapundit has a text from his son, Alex)). He was an amazing person with an amazing life. I last saw him when I dropped by Chaos Manor a couple years ago to give him a copy of my book, which he reviewed very nicely.

I’ll have more to say when I’ve survived the hurricane and gotten back to a real computer.

[Sunday-morning update, as the winds rise outside our Boynton Beach apartment]

Sarah Hoyt remembers someone she considered a friend and colleague.

When I stopped by to see him a couple years ago, we talked about what was happening with SpaceX and NASA in general, and reminisced about our long-time mutual friend Bill Haynes, whom he hadn’t been aware had been killed in an auto accident on Palos Verdes on his way to church a couple years earlier (both Buzz and I had delivered a eulogy, but I think that Jerry was too sick at the time). It was a tough conversation because his hearing was shot, both from the brain cancer that he’d survived, but long-term from being an artillery handler in Korea. When Roberta let me into the library, I had to figure out how to get his attention without startling him, because the bell wasn’t doing so. I was unsuccessful, but he had no problem once he realized the unexpected intruder was me.

Heading back to LA, probably Tuesday, maybe Wednesday, Irma and American Airlines willing. I hope I’ll be able to attend the service and see a lot of old (sadly, in both senses of the word) friends.

[Late-evening update on Sunday]

J. Neil Schumann has some remembrances, too. I suspect we’ll see a lot of this over the next few days.

[Monday-morning update]

Glenn Reynolds writes that, as a kid in the gloomy 70s, Jerry gave him (and many others) hope for a better future.

Norm Augustine

A conversation with him. The transcription has a few problems, but it’s interesting. His thoughts on space tourism:

Much like the airlines once you get more people you got to fly the cheaper the flight, the tickets cost or the more tickets you could sell the cheaper it is to operate an airline and you get this happy, just the opposite of the death spiral that some people talk about. So I think that there are a lot of people today, and I don’t mean billionaires, who would pay a fair amount of money to uh… I don’t mean just go up on a rock and come back to L.A. I mean go into orbit for a day or two and look through telescopes and have lectures on space, experience weightlessness and get to get sick and all these great things. But I do think that that will be the change agent. I don’t see anything that’s going to reduce the cost of space transportation by a factor of 10 other than a much higher volume…

And if we can get people involved, and I think we can, in tourism it will make a lot of difference. I’ve had the good fortune to, I’m kind of an amateur explorer or whatever and I’ve been to the South Pole three times and the North Pole once I’ve rafted the Grand Canyon and I you know you go through this long list of stuff. And people say well you know not many people want to go into space. Who would want to do that? Well I think back when I rafted the Grand Canyon I think there were 14000 people a year going through the Grand Canyon on a raft at that time. If you’d ask Wesley Powell the first person to do if, what 75 years later 14000 people will be into the canyon he would say you’re crazy if you’d asked the Wright brothers that the population of Detroit gets on an airplane every day and complains because they’ve already seen the movie and the food’s bad. The Wright brothers would have thought you were bonkers or something. You know there are many other examples one can go through of that kind of thing and people do want to experience these things and I think that will be the biggest change agent of all.

I’ve been preaching this for three decades.

Trump’s Support

Clive Crook has it right:

The first theory, if it were true, would be an argument against democracy. If tens of millions of Americans are racist idiots, how do you defend the popular franchise? That isn’t a sliver of reprehensible people who’ll be safely overwhelmed when elections come around. And there’s plainly nothing, according to the first theory, you can say to change their minds. Why even go through the motions of talking and listening to those people?

This sense that democratic politics is futile if not downright dangerous now infuses the worldview of the country’s cultural and intellectual establishment. Trump is routinely accused of being authoritarian and anti-democratic, despite the fact that he won the election and, so far, has been checked at every point and has achieved almost nothing in policy terms. (He might wish he were an authoritarian, but he sure hasn’t been allowed to function as one.) Many of his critics, on the other hand, are anti-democratic in a deeper sense: They appear to believe that a little less than half the country doesn’t deserve the vote.

The second theory — the correct theory — is a terrible indictment of the Democratic Party and much of the media. Why aren’t the intelligible and legitimate opinions of that large minority given a hearing? Why must their views be bundled reflexively into packages labelled “bigotry” and “stupidity”? Why can’t this large minority of the American people be accorded something other than pity or scorn?

Those who scorn Trump’s supporters might argue that none of their opinions are in fact intelligible or legitimate. After all, don’t their views on immigration boil down to racism and white supremacy? What about their idea that the Charlottesville protesters and counter-protesters were morally the same? Or their morbid fear of change? Or the hypocrisy of their opposition to “big government,” when everybody knows that Trump-voting states such as West Virginia are the biggest net recipients of federal money? If you read the New York Times, you know they have an endless supply of stupid, evil opinions.

In fact, this automatic attribution of stupidity and bad faith is just another kind of bigotry.

Yes, and it’s the kind that gave us Trump, and will continue to do so, because they can’t help it. As Glenn notes, a key element of being a leftist is the psychic income of feeling morally superior to better, happier people than you. I just wish that we could have gotten a Trump that is just as harsh on the media and the left, but did so in a less ignorant and buffoonish manner. I could certainly do it.