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CSotD: One True Sentence

Deb Milbrath made me laugh this morning and that’s worth something.

And she’s right: His nightly pep rallies have lost all but the tiniest fig leaf of “public information” and become beefing sessions. He is, indeed, #CryBabyInChief.

Anyone who has dealt with bullies knows they tend to burst into tears from a good punch in the nose, and watching Trump put more and more energy into screaming “Did not! Did not!” certainly suggests something along those lines.

Plus there’s that old wisdom, cited here before, that if you tell the truth, it’s easier to keep track of what you’ve said.

Which means that, if you haven’t built up a record of 16,000 or 18,000 lies, you don’t get your tail caught in this sort of crack:

I know one thing: I haven’t left the White House in months, except for a brief moment to give a wonderful ship, the Comfort … (Yamiche Alcindor: You held a rally in March) … Did I hold a rally, I’m sorry, I hold a rally. Did I hold a rally?

Hey, Big Guy, she was going easy on you.

According to your own official calendar, you left the White House 11 times in March, including a full weekend in Mar-a-Lago, which means you left the White House on well more than a third of the days in that month.

This includes the pep rally in Charlotte she alluded to, as well as a Fox Town Hall and a Florida fundraiser, two speeches to supporters in DC and a few trips that were actually related to your job as President.

This is like the Inaugural Crowd boast he told his first day in office: What dumbass would tell a lie that is so easy to disprove?

In any case, Trump is better than Hemingway, because, in order to get started, Hemingway had to write one true sentence.

Trump suffers under no such limitation.

 

But people do believe him and there have been (too) many “Liberty or Death” cartoons in which the MAGA people go out to their rallies protesting the lockdown and wind up dead.

If only it were that simple.

If only they all lived south of the Mason-Dixon line and all the intelligent people lived north of it and so the cult members would only infect each other.

I prefer Mike Luckovich‘s take, which is that the victim of this toxic fraud is not a dying MAGAt but Trump’s own credibility, metaphorically portrayed as the mob’s willingness to adopt a rabid, pugnacious rebel image.

It’ll come, won’t it? It has to!

We’ve already seen examples, reported in the news and joyously shared on social media, of people who publicly defied the lockdown and encouraged others to do the same and then died of COVID-19.

It is at once a shameful example of schadenfreude and a worthy example to set forth, by which I mean that it’s wrong to crow over it but it’s worthwhile to point it out.

Not that the people who most need to hear it are going to listen.

 

The President’s foolishness leaves his followers grasping at straws, and Antonio Branco provides an example: Nancy Pelosi, in a playful interview, admitted that she’s stocked up on good ice cream to get her through the lockdown.

The fascisti were absolutely horrified to discover that a US Senator isn’t buying Sealtest down at the local bodega.

And that she has a nice refrigerator. I’m sure Republican members of Congress are chugging along with 12-year-old Kenmores.

Mostly, as Branco points out, it’s appalling that she held up the next line of relief checks to make sure the small business funding would go to the small businesses it was intended for, rather than getting once more misdirected to large corporations.

If you don’t think anyone listens to such partisan foolishness, you don’t exactly have your ear to the ground.

And they vote.

 

Maybe we’re just too close to the subject

The view from Singapore, as drawn by Heng, is of a president who spends a significant amount of time looking for scapegoats to explain his failures instead of addressing, and attempting to fix, those failures.

 

Dear Leader’s latest initiative is to sign an executive order banning all immigration, and we can let the courts sort the legality of that out, but, in the meantime, those outside the US may be looking at it the way Canadian Graeme MacKay views living in a nation with intelligent leadership versus the one that is right across the border.

 

And the issue can be viewed with even more clarity from the opposite side of the globe, where New Zealand cartoonist Rod Emmerson notes the impact of having not only intelligent leadership but leadership that doesn’t dither and change directions and lie and squirm.

Funny thing is that we’ve often thought of the ANZAC nations as where you’d go in the wake of an atomic war, but that little one isn’t even letting the people from the big one come visit.

Smart folks, those kiwis.

 

Not all the bullshit is coming from the right

Now let’s take on the popular claim that Newton did his best thinking while being self-quarantined in the countryside during the plague.

Having studied Sir Isaac in college, I knew the apple story was apocryphal and that the story of his dog Diamond burning his research was doubtful, but mostly I knew that he was an extremely eccentric person and I strongly doubted quarantine made any difference.

Here’s a fellow from the New Yorker confirming it.

If you’ve always wanted to grow a beard, quarantine is an opportunity. It’s also a lovely time to adopt a puppy, since you have plenty of spare time for training it and, yes, to keep it from burning up your treatises.

Which you may be writing, because it’s also an opportunity to get some excellent work done.

But only if, as that article suggests, you were a genius before the quarantine and will continue to be a genius after the quarantine.

Don’t let Trump bullshit you, but don’t bullshit yourself, either.

 

Here singeth one:

 

Community Comments

#1 Brian Fies
April/21/2020
@ 9:17 am

Minor point of disagreement, maybe our first in 15 or so years: my understanding, after researching the matter for a book that’s never gonna happen, is that Newton’s apple story was true. It didn’t bonk him on the noggin, but Newton told biographer William Stukeley that seeing an apple fall from a tree–and more importantly, toward the center of the Earth before it was abruptly intercepted by the ground–gave him a key insight into gravity. Now, Newton may have been puffing up his own mythology (wouldn’t have been beyond him), but since he was the only witness I’m inclined to believe him.

But the dog thing was bullshit.

#2 Mark Jackson
April/21/2020
@ 9:53 am

Last Saturday Stephen Collins had something to say about Newton and quarantine as well: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/ng-interactive/2020/apr/18/stephen-collins-on-discoveries-in-lockdown-cartoon

#3 Paul Berge
April/21/2020
@ 10:27 am

Well, next thing you know, they’ll be telling us that penicillin was discovered by Christopher Marlowe.

#4 Mike Peterson
April/21/2020
@ 10:45 am

Ah, the apple story is covered well in the New Yorker piece, which I thought was a little lax in discussing the shoving of a needle into his eye, not describing it fairly but certainly amusingly.

Neither of us mentioning how far from ideal living conditions he likely found going home and living with Mummy. Or that it was a little late in the Enlightenment to still be messing around with alchemy.

Any more detail about Sir Isaac and I’d have had to shift from “If you weren’t a genius before, quarantine won’t make you one” to “If you weren’t one strange duck before quarantine …” because that might be a topic some people would be willing to argue.

Mostly next-of-kin.

#5 Mary McNeil
April/21/2020
@ 5:01 pm

“Don’t Tread on Me” is the Gadsden Flag. It is not a Confederate flag. at all. (Indicative of how much history these “rebels” actually know.) It’s from the time of the Founding Fathers’ (Ben Franklin famously also used a snake to illustrate “Join or Die.”)

https://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/the-shifting-symbolism-of-the-gadsden-flag

#6 Charles Bosse
April/22/2020
@ 9:30 am

My undergrad was physics, so lies about Newton particularly irk me, especially when we over-credit him, which is more about English politics than the truth of “singular genius”.

There is a pretty good book, “Where Good Ideas Come From” that rather thoroughly disputes the solitary genius idea, but if you had wanted to REALLY stop scientific progress, you would have had to travel in time to stop Galileo, Faraday and Feynman, not Newton or Einstein. While these were all great contributors to scientific ideas, the first group were also science popularizers, which is far more important for accumulating knowledge than a few short leaps given an abundance of data and well laid groundwork.

Let’s take gravity and force, for example: Galileo figured out a lot in terms of conservation of momentum and Copernicus and Kepler had done some fabulous measurements that laid most of the groundwork for gravity. All that was left was calculus, which was obviously “in the air” as it were, given Leibnitz came up with the idea (and a better notation, see Charles Babbage’s memoir) at roughly the same time. The laws of thermodynamics are a bit more of a leap, but it’s not such a jump to see how you get there once you have force and momentum and have to clean up some of the obvious messy stuff where there are a bunch of forces that only pop up when things are moving, for instance. Newton himself referred to “the shoulders of giants” and it doesn’t take a lot of digging to figure out who this “giants” were, or that they were also riding on the knowledge and thinking of their time.

Einstein and Darwin never claimed to be the solitary geniuses Newton seemed to think he was, but Darwin has a pretty clear record of bouncing his ideas off his peers (and had competition to publish) and Einstein very clearly relied on Faraday’s law, Lorenz, Bohr, and some broadly discussed topics of the day in order to put together special relativity and his paper on quantum behavior.

I am not here to say these people weren’t great thinkers or contributors to science, but a clear theme is that all of history’s “greatest scientists” worked with other people, or at least other people’s ideas, far more than we are inclined to credit them with. One wonders, in fact, if Newton had been a bit more collegial, if we wouldn’t have understood a fair bit more about the behavior of light a few hundred years earlier. That said, don’t mistake my assertion that people need to work together as a lambasting of introverts: there’s a difference between working well with some quiet and space and believing that all ideas magically appear from genius without the constant contributions of others. Moreover, it is important to recognize that the majority of great science wasn’t done by a white man sitting alone in a room and thinking, but by large groups of diverse people developing and sharing tools, disagreeing, and being at least a little open to being wrong.

#7 Mike Peterson
April/22/2020
@ 3:47 pm

I’ve never been a fan of the “Great Man” theory of history, but the “Great Idea” approach makes sense: You get to a point where — given what else has gone on — some Great Idea begins to float out there, waiting for someone to put the pieces together and recognize it.

I found Christian Huygens more approachable and persuasive than Newton on Optics,but, then again, I thought Betamax was superior to VHS.

#8 Archie Days
April/22/2020
@ 3:57 pm

Interesting research here! Sheds light on an obscure footnote to American history!! Some geographic info would have been nice to understand the regional local societal aspects of the logo!!! Also how it fared in the voting process!!
! Thanks!

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