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review 2018-01-09 07:37
I read it for the First Amendment ;-)
Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House - Michael Wolff

I won't lie. This was a hoot; so long as I treated it like pure fiction.


It's hard not to fall into the trap of almost enjoying the craziness of this story and its characters, until you remember these people are real and in charge of the largest nuclear arsenal, a powerful military, not to mention our country. Then it's just terrifying, despite the juicy bits. The whole Jarvanka v Bannon subplot is delicious. Jared Kushner comes off like a little boy, with a low IQ. Trump does too of course. Most of them do. Probably because this tale is clearly Steve Bannon's tale, and as such, we should take it with a big dose of salt and probably some Valtrex.


It's a fast and easy read showing a horrendous reality -- even only 1/10th of this is true.

Once I picked it up, it was like rubbernecking a traffic accident. It was hard to look away despite the horror. I finished it over a day or so, staying awake far into the night because after reading any of this, sleep is even more impossible than it was before. There's not a ton of new important information here. It's all fairly obvious (no reading, no curiosity, no ability to listen to anyone or think or stay tuned in to anyone but the TV and his own image, defensiveness, anger and bile...)


The revealing parts are that everyone around 45 thinks the same things we do.

I'm really torn on this one because if it was fiction, I think I'd feel it was pretty low-brow, absurd yet really funny. I would think it was satire. Since it's not fiction, the whole thing is making me nuts. I wouldn't say it's a "must read" beyond the part where the President of the US is trying to have the book banned. So let's just say I read this for the First Amendment -- yeah, that's the ticket!


I do hope that some of the players in this drama will get honest with the country sooner rather than later. I very much doubt that will happen though.

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text 2018-01-09 00:28
Fire and Fury - the conclusion
Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House - Michael Wolff

First off, the question that you might be asking at this point is "is this book worth reading?"


There are lots of ways to answer this - are you interested in the shit show that is the Trump White House at the one year mark? (Answer: Yes, read it) Do you ever use the phrase "Fake News" in an unironic manner? (No - you won't get anything out of it) Are you sufficiently emotionally stable that you can stand to read more than 300 pages about all of the ways in which the Trump presidency is dysfunctional? (Yes, but be prepared).


But ultimately, I will say that for me, the point of the book wasn't to point fingers and laugh at Trump. He's exactly what you think he is: an intellectually small, puerile man who is obsessed with himself, who has some profoundly weird quirks. But the quirks aren't really all that important. It's funny to read about his weird fetish about people picking up his clothes, or his fear of being poisoned, or his bizarre practice of staying up late and talking on the phone with his billionaire boys club buddies.


The real lesson of this book, though, in my opinion, is this:


Washington D.C. and the GOP is a personality cult full of treasonous enablers who are watching Trump destroy our Republic for short term personal gain. The stench of Trump is pervasive, and, at the end of this sad tale, they will be judged with the weight of history.


Sometimes, I use the expression "Nero fiddling while Rome burns," and I think that this is apposite here (regardless of its likely historical inaccuracy." But it is not Trump who is Nero. Nero is Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, General McMaster, Reince Preibus, John Kelly, and the rest of the men who have purported to be public servants, who have made careers out of "putting the country first," (ha, I know) who are ignoring Trumps unfitness for short term gain. They are, quite literally, fiddling while Rome burns.


"Arguably—and on many days indubitably—most members of the senior staff believed that the sole upside of being part of the Trump White House was to help prevent worse from happening. In early October, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s fate was sealed—if his obvious ambivalence toward the president had not already sealed it—by the revelation that he had called the president “a fucking moron.” This—insulting Donald Trump’s intelligence—was both the thing you could not do and the thing—drawing there-but-for-the-grace-of-God guffaws across the senior staff—that everybody was guilty of.


Everyone, in his or her own way, struggled to express the baldly obvious fact that the president did not know enough, did not know what he didn’t know, did not particularly care, and, to boot, was confident if not serene in his unquestioned certitudes. There was now a fair amount of back-of-the-classroom giggling about who had called Trump what.


For Steve Mnuchin and Reince Priebus, he was an “idiot.” For Gary Cohn, he was “dumb as shit.” For H. R. McMaster he was a “dope.” The list went on. Tillerson would merely become yet another example of a subordinate who believed that his own abilities could somehow compensate for Trump’s failings. Aligned with Tillerson were the three generals, Mattis, McMasters, and Kelly, each seeing themselves as representing maturity, stability, and restraint. And each, of course, was resented by Trump for it. The suggestion that any or all of these men might be more focused and even tempered than Trump himself was cause for sulking and tantrums on the president’s part."


But here is the thing, there comes a point - and we are well past that point - that a person cannot excuse the fact that they are profiting by chaos by claiming that they are trying prevent chaos.


They are treasonous ratfucks, every last one of them. 


Trump isn't Nero - he is the infantile Dauphin, a toddler throwing a tantrum over the toy he can't have, and he is the Harvey Weinstein of government. It is an open secret that he is utterly unfit for the office of the President of the United States of America. According to Wolff, everyone knows it. 


And you know what, this is believable, because WE ALREADY KNOW THAT IT IS TRUE. You know it. I know it. Even his stupidest supporter knows it, they're just so delighted that he's a finger in the eye of the liberal elite that they don't care. 


So, in the end, this book makes Trump look bad. But it makes the people around him look worse. They are the capable ones. They are responsible.


And history will judge them. Harshly.

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text 2018-01-09 00:14
Fire and Fury - part three
Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House - Michael Wolff

As a lawyer and a woman, the thin undercurrent of contempt that this president possesses for smart women has been fairly obvious, and continues to be a thread that can be followed through the book. Trump has a problem with women that he does not want to fuck.


As the book explains it, specifically in relation to Trump’s Sally Yates problem, there was


“... a certain kind of woman who would immediately rub Trump the wrong way—Obama women being a good tip-off, Hillary women another. Later this would be extended to “DOJ women.”


Donald Trump cannot conceive of women who aren’t purely decorative. He is never surrounded by substantive women - he has a limited understanding of two kinds of women: wives and socialites.


“The effort among a new generation of wealthy women was to recast life as a socialite, turning a certain model of whimsy and noblesse oblige into a new status as a power woman, a kind of postfeminist socialite. In this, you worked at knowing other rich people, the best rich people, and of being an integral and valuable part of a network of the rich, and of having your name itself evoke, well … riches. You weren’t satisfied with what you had, you wanted more. This required quite a level of indefatigability. You were marketing a product—yourself. You were your own start-up.”


I have a few things to say. The first one is "ugh." As the second, I would point to that terribly tone deaf book "written" by Ivanka Trump called something silly like "Women Who Work - How To Have Your Cake And Eat It Too As Long As Your Daddy Is Super Rich And You Can Hire People To Actually Do The Work." Also, Louise "Marie Antoinette" Linton and this picture:


Image result for louise linton money


The last thing I will say is this: let it never be said that women can't be just as pathetically shallow as men.


But when it comes to a woman like Sally Yates, a DOJ woman, a prosecutor, a woman who is, although extremely interesting and attractive, completely unfuckable as far as DJT is concerned, and a woman who could outwit him using a paltry 10% of her intelligence, he simply does not know how to handle her. So he hates her:


“To Trump, he was just up against Sally Yates, who was, he steamed, “such a cunt . . .


“Yates is only famous because of me,” the president complained bitterly. “Otherwise, who is she? Nobody.”


She was the Acting Attorney General of the United States. She was and is a fine prosecutor, a woman of integrity, brilliant, interesting and confident. No wonder he was baffled by her. He'd never met anyone quite like her.


I’ve come to the conclusion that if there is anything that will save us from Trump, it’s women like Sally Yates. Which will bring me to my final post on this shit show of an administration.

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text 2018-01-08 23:44
Fire and Fury - part deux
Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House - Michael Wolff

My last review ended with finding where the policies being espoused by Trump are coming from, since he, himself, is so disengaged that they clearly aren’t coming from him.


When I was thinking about an analogy to describe my theory on the “Trump White House.” I basically came up with Trump as an ocean on a more or less dead planet with three moons. His policy-related activities are the result of the tidal effect of whichever of moons - Bannonus, Jarvanka Major and/or RNC #1 - is currently on the rise. The only activity that comes directly from Trump himself, independent of these tidal influences, are the self-focused tweets and the personal feuds, which are a result of the bacteria extant in the primordial soup of TrumpWorld. He has no policies of his own that he is focused on.


It is easy to see how these influences interact. Only one of them can be ascendent at a time. The immigration stuff, the nationalist nonsense - that’s all a result of Bannonus. The tax bill and the Obamacare repeal - we get that when RNC#1 is on the rise. And Jarvanka Major is a small but powerful moon that is almost wholly focused on self-preservation, so its ascendancy resulted in the Comey firing and the Scaramucci debacle. This the reason that so much of what comes out of the White House is contradictory - none of it is actually coming from Trump. It’s all coming from whatever faction has the power at that precise moment. And all three of the factions hate each other with million watt intensity.


I promised some quotes, so here we go:


“The candidate and his top lieutenants believed they could get all the benefits of almost becoming president without having to change their behavior or their fundamental worldview one whit: we don’t have to be anything but who and what we are, because of course we won’t win.


Indeed, while everybody in his rich-guy social circle knew about his wide-ranging ignorance—Trump, the businessman, could not even read a balance sheet, and Trump, who had campaigned on his deal-making skills, was, with his inattention to details, a terrible negotiator—they yet found him somehow instinctive. That was the word. He was a force of personality. He could make you believe.”


This is from the beginning of the book. I think we’ve all seen Trump’s preposterously terrible negotiating skills at work.


Bannon on Trump:


Bannon described Trump as a simple machine. The On switch was full of flattery, the Off switch full of calumny. The flattery was dripping, slavish, cast in ultimate superlatives, and entirely disconnected from reality: so-and-so was the best, the most incredible, the ne plus ultra, the eternal. The calumny was angry, bitter, resentful, ever a casting out and closing of the iron door.


Katie Walsh on Trump:


Trump, observed Walsh, had a set of beliefs and impulses, much of them on his mind for many years, some of them fairly contradictory, and little of them fitting legislative or political conventions or form. Hence, she and everyone else was translating a set of desires and urges into a program, a process that required a lot of guess work. It was, said Walsh, “like trying to figure out what a child wants.”


Katie Walsh is probably the most interesting character in the Trump White House, as I see it. She was quite young, and an RNC operative who went into her job (Deputy Chief of Staff, IIRC) thinking that her role was to help the Commander in Chief put together his agenda. She was accustomed, presumably, to dealing with grown-ups who were capable of actually having an agenda. She didn’t last long, and probably the most telling quote of the entire book is this one:


“To Walsh, the proud political pro, the chaos, the rivalries, and the president’s own lack of focus and lack of concern were simply incomprehensible. In early March, Walsh confronted Kushner and demanded: “Just give me the three things the president wants to focus on. What are the three priorities of this White House?”


“Yes,” said Kushner, wholly absent an answer, “we should probably have that conversation.”


I’m almost done with this post - I am loosely planning on two more, one to discuss Trump’s intense dislike of women in general, and smart women in particular, and then a last one to synthesize what I took away from this book.


I want to leave you with this thought: we have elected a President who has no policy priorities. Who is less engaged than your horrible Aunt Mildred who ran for the local School Board because she wanted to make sure that those devil books about gay people didn’t make into the library.


He could not care less about anything. You name it, DJT does not give a fuck about it. Unless, of course, it directly relates to his infantile need for immediate self-gratification. There is nothing deeper here than that, which isn’t exactly a newsflash. But seeing Wolff spell it out in black and white is . . . disconcerting.


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text 2018-01-08 20:48
Fire and Fury - a review in parts
Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House - Michael Wolff

I started this book at around 6:00 a.m. my time Friday morning, and then read about 50% Friday evening and Saturday. Life intervened, and I finished it last night. It’s probably obvious, but I’m not a Trumpette or a Trumpateer or whatever his supporters are calling themselves these days. In that sense, Wolff’s book merely corroborated what I already had concluded given my analysis of the news coming out of the White House.


I would start by saying that, overall, this book isn’t really plowing a lot of new ground. Going in, I believed that Donald Trump was ignorant, self-absorbed and incompetent. Finishing the book, my belief was strengthened. DJT is ignorant, self-absorbed and incompetent. A buffoon, a clown, a feces-flinging shitgibbon. Whatever your preferred insult might be, insert it here.


There are a few things, though, that I would point to as “new” information. The first of those comes out right at the beginning, where Wolff lays down his initial thesis: no one expected, or wanted, DJT to become president. His candidacy was nothing more than a long con - a complicated grift, a sting operation - that was designed to ultimately benefit DJT, the Trump business empire, and his “associates” in very specific ways. They saw profit in him losing - a new Trump network; coveted slots on cable news shows, name-recognition. They neither expected, nor really wanted, him to win. This explains why his transition was such a mess. There was no transition preparation done, because the transition for which they were preparing was this one: transitioning back into the private sector to continue their profitable grift as the Clinton opposition.


Why is this so important? Because it tells us the true story of the Trump presidency: he never wanted to be president. He has never, not for one second of one minute of one day, wanted to be president because he had an agenda to implement. What this means is that all of the rhetoric that talks about his incredible ability to connect with voters, his “progressive conservatism,” his desire to help the common man - it’s all bullshit. He cares about no one whose last name isn’t Trump. That’s it, that’s all it’s ever been.


He is now, as he was then, a blank page, an empty vessel, vacant and hollow. He has no animating principles, no core ideals and no executive or legislative agenda. If you want to find his agenda, you must look to the people who surround him. And this explains everything.


I’ll be back to continue my thoughts - with quotes - in a bit!

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