Book Reviews: Comparing and Contrasting Never Enough by Michael D’Antonio and MAGA Mindset by Mike Cernovich

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You can't get away from Donald Trump. He's the President. As with Barack Obama, Trump has those who worship his every move and those who hate his stinking guts.

But I am not here to praise him nor to bury him. No, I'm not even here to talk politics.

I'm here to talk books.

Regardless of your personal feelings, Trump is President. And it's always interesting, at least to me, to learn about our elected officials and see what makes them tick. Because, to be honest, one has to be a little touched in the head to want to go into politics. And so, I read (actually, listened) to two books about the man, one that painted him in a distinctly negative light, and another that was far more flattering.

Let's face it: Whether you love him or hate him, Donald Trump is an interesting cat. And he did beat both a veritable army of GOP insiders and the most favored candidate in American history, to win the election.

[Full disclosure: I voted for the guy. Mainly because, as a reluctant Republican, I have grown so disgusted with the party as I have with the Democrats, and Washington in general, that I relished the idea of sending a giant, human middle finger to the entire establishment. Regardless, one does have to admire his ability to accomplish what he sets out to do, even if you dislike him politically or personally. I felt much the same about Barack Obama (whom I did not vote for, twice–but still, the man knows how to accomplish what he wants and is also an interesting guy. There's a lesson there for all of us.)]

First up, the more "negative" book, Never Enough: Donald Trump and the Pursuit of Success by author and journalist Michael D'Antonio, published in 2015. I know that in 2016 D'Antonio updated the book and re-christened it The Truth About Trump, but I listened to the audio version, borrowed by my wife from our local library for me to listen to during my many long car trips between the D.C. Metro area and New England I had to make in the recent past.

Reviews of this book call it “A carefully reported and fair-minded account" (USA Today), “A brisk and entertaining read, drawing on interviews and documents and distilling decades' worth of news coverage to tell the story of Trump's childhood, family, business deals, and political forays” (The Washington Post), and "Balanced, well sourced, and perfectly timed" (Financial Times (UK)). Me, I find these claims of balance and a lack of bias laughable.

Let's get it out of the way: D'Antonio clearly does not like Trump. That said, the book is meticulously researched, well-written and constructed, and sheds a lot of light on Trump and what makes him tick.

Trump's family history is pretty fascinating, with his hellraising and, quite frankly, dishonest and kind of sleazy grandfather (who first built, and then lost, the family fortune), to his father Fred who, through hard work and good timing, nearly single-handedly rebuild the family fortune, to Donald himself, the story of the Trumps is one of sheer determination and will. No one will tell ANY of these men that they cannot do something, and they all have a knack for sniffing out an opportunity and exploiting it . . . even if that involves some unsavory steps along the way.

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What D'Antonio discusses definitely raises some red flags (and sensationally hints at far more sinister doings without much in the way of evidence, but I digress) about Trump's temperament and proclivities–his penchant for stretching the truth, if not outright lying; his habit of bending the rules to benefit himself and his family, if not outright breaking them; insinuating that he is a virulent racist and anti-Semite with no real proof; his cozy relationship with corrupt attorney Roy Cohn . . . but was it enough to make me pull the lever for his opponent? Absolutely not. For all of his vices–greed, arrogance, women, and a pathological inability to not fight back seem to be Donald's vices–to me at least, Hillary Clinton was far worse.

And yet, through it all, Trump comes across as an enthusiastic builder with an almost childlike sense of wonder about everything. One can imagine him looking at a building he fought tooth-and-nail to get built and being like, "Holy cow, can you believe it?" He clearly also believed in his designers and architects, going to the mat for many of them. And he, obviously, believes in himself.

He also tends to, let's say, exaggerate his accomplishments and disparage those of his opponents with stereotypical New York bravado. Continue reading “Book Reviews: Comparing and Contrasting Never Enough by Michael D’Antonio and MAGA Mindset by Mike Cernovich”

I Sincerely Hope Nobody Dies: Election Day 2016

American flag

It’s Election Day today, although given early voting and all of that, one could be excused for thinking that the big day has already come and gone.

But this is not a political blog. I am not in the habit of telling people what to do, and I am not in the habit of telling people how to vote.

I am also not in the habit of singing the “Both Sides Do It/They’re All The Same” Kumbaya so popular among people afraid to have an opinion. It is undeniable that one side behaves worse than the other. You’re smart enough that, regardless of your own politics, you know what I’m talking about.

When I do write about politics, I try to focus on the big picture, the key concepts that influence events and ourselves without getting bogged down into the wonky policy minutiae, the personality conflicts, and the he said/she said pettiness that everybody claims to hate but secretly can’t look away from.

I know this, because I can’t look away from the train wreck either.

I do not want to have to pay attention to politics. I wish I didn’t have to care. I wish government was like a machine we could wind up and walk away from, “set it and forget it” and know that the best possible outcomes will occur because those in power really care about us.

But you’d have to be in kindergarten, or have a kindergarten mindset, to believe that.

So I’m not going to get into the details and tell you beautiful people what to do. I’ve seen this happen on some of my favorite, decidedly non-political blogs, where the writer comes out with a huge dissertation about why one should vote for Hillary or for Trump, and how one is the Second Coming of Christ Him or Herself and the other is literally Satan and Hitler wrapped up into one neat bow, with a little Cthulhu and maybe some of Chuckie from Child’s Play. And they have the right to do this. It’s just not what I want to do with this blog.

But I’m not shy about sharing my political proclivities. It doesn’t take a genius to read between the lines on this blog and see my conservative/libertarian leanings. And if you check out my Twitter and Gab feeds, there’s no doubt as to who I am voting for this election. I’m voting for Donald Trump.

There. I said it on this blog. And you know what? Some of you might want to stop following me or reading what I have to say. That’s fine. I suspect you won’t, though, because you’re all civilized people and you can probably tell from my writing that I am not as horrible as many out there portray the man’s supporters.

This is the same way I know that Hillary voters are not all as horrible as many out there portray them.

I don’t write for the candidates themselves or their supporters. I write, honestly, for myself and for other people who want to come along for the ride. I’ve written about my mission before, so read that and understand that you are a part of it, no matter who you’re pulling that metaphorical lever for.

(As an aside, you shouldn’t be afraid to enjoy something despite the creator’s politics.)

If you want me to “talk politics,” check out my social media. But though I talk and debate and discuss and joke, you will notice that I (a) don’t tell people what to do, (b) don’t insult people who disagree with me (unless they start it, or they’re celebrities), (c) attack and criticize ideas and not people, and (d) try to maintain a level of self-awareness.

I’m also aware of history, ancient and current, to know that there will be rioting no matter who wins. Using my preferred method of pulling numbers out of thin air, and with a little help from my man Korla Pandit, here is my BOLD PREDICTION: Continue reading “I Sincerely Hope Nobody Dies: Election Day 2016”

Playing the Democracy Game: Why It’s Still Good to Vote

I got my absentee ballot, and I’m ready to vote! November 8 is right around the corner and–thank God!–this election cycle will soon be over.

I say this with a mixture of relief and regret. Relief, because this has been nasty, truly bringing out the worst in many of us. And yet, at the same time, I think we’ve also seen the best in some people, some strange political bedfellows that might be working to change the system, or at least raise serious questions about it that might lead to change.

What do I mean? Well, for starters, if you’re an American reading this, and even if you’re not, you’ve probably heard much hand-wringing from both presidential candidates about rigged votingOne has whined more than the other, but they’ve both gotten into the game.

(And yes, I know that there are technically four presidential candidates, maybe five in some states. But only two of them have a realistic chance.)

Before we all start pig-piling on political whiners, let’s make something clear: VOTER FRAUD IS AN INCREDIBLY IMPORTANT ISSUE THAT SHOULD BE TALKED ABOUT.

I’m not hear to talk about politics though. I’m hear to talk about voting as a concept in a system that has a high probability of being rigged.

Let’s assume arguendo that the system is rigged. Would you still vote?

I would, for four very important reasons:

  1. Voting is a really good habit to get into;
  2. Voting is one of the few really powerful rights that we still do have;
  3. If you vote and the election is rigged, you have a powerfully legitimate grievance that needs to be addressed; and
  4. Screw the man.

In a republic with democratically elected representatives with a winner-take-all election system, like we have here in the United States, those who show up, win.

Let’s talk about rigging for a second. It’s incredibly naive to think that American politics aren’t rigged. Voter fraud is an American tradition going back at least 100 years. Dead people vote, illegal aliens and other non-citizens vote, some people–dead or otherwise–vote twice (or more), there is voter intimidation, voter suppression, and all other kinds of nasty stuff going on.

In other words, the chances that your vote is negated by some form of fraud is incredibly high. Continue reading “Playing the Democracy Game: Why It’s Still Good to Vote”

Why #DNCLeaks Won’t Change Anybody’s Mind

Wikileaks search the DNC leaks

If you follow politics on the Internet–since the mainstream media is covering up this story–you’re aware that the professional muckrakers at Wikileaks yesterday released almost 20,000 emails from members of the Democratic National Convention. These emails show, among other things, how the DNC colluded with the media to defeat Bernie Sanders and helping ensure that Hillary Clinton received the Democrat Party nomination for President.

None of this is really a surprise to anyone who has been following this election, or American politics in general. The media is aligned with the Democrat party and coordinate stories with them? You don’t say.

The difference is that past belief was based on circumstantial evidence. This is all direct.

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But I’m not here to talk about the political angle. One, it’s not surprising to me, and two, Mike Cernovich at Danger and Play has been doing a much better job of discussing the details of the emails.

This story has many other fascinating layers to it, and I’m interested in it less for the politics and more for the insights into human nature.

Mind you, this is just based on my own observations about human nature. I am not a professional psychologist or psychiatrist, nor do I want to be.

With that disclaimer out of the way, here’s my conclusion about what these leaks mean:

I don’t think that the information contained in these leaks, showing the corruption of the DNC, the media, and the Clinton campaign, will change anybody’s mind. Continue reading “Why #DNCLeaks Won’t Change Anybody’s Mind”

Art as Art: Why It’s Okay to Like Something Despite Its Creator’s Politics

Richard Wagner

As I sit here listening to Richard Wagner‘s “Symphony in C Major,” I can’t help but think about the controversy that surrounds any discussion of Wagner:

Hitler liked him!

Yes, the Reductio ad Hitlerum canard also affects classical music. Is nothing sacred? Does listening to Wagner taint me with the brush of Nazi-ism?

Of course not. That’s just silly. But remember: A whole hell of a lot of people think this way!

That’s the funny thing about art: Like sports, we demand that our musicians, painters, actors, directors, and writers be Good Guys and Gals–otherwise, they won’t be getting our hard-earned dollars, dang it!

I find this argument just as silly.

It Is Possible to Enjoy Art as Art

We don’t need to be slaves to that Romantic myth that the artiste puts a little bit of his soul in everything he does. I mean, the artist does, but at the end of the day our enjoyment of the art is an individual act. We get out of it what we want.

Does this contradict the fact that art is emotional? Not at all. You can feel the emotion in Wagner’s music without becoming an anti-Semite by association. The exact same way you might enjoy Woody Allen or Roman Polanski movies without approving of their pedophilia. Or listening to Led Zeppelin independent of the fact that Jimmy Page kept a fourteen-year-old girl as a sex slave (yeah, that happened).

This has been on my mind since Rawle Nyanzi and I decided to go see the new Ghostbusters movie. Is this movie “anti-men”? I don’t know! I haven’t seen it! Maybe it’s good and not insulting to me, despite the pre-release buzz and the comments made by its writers and stars. Let’s say it is good. Will I care that Paul Feig or Kristin Wiig thinks men suck?

Pop culture is the most influential force out there. Politics is downstream from culture. If you want to understand what’s going on, you have to understand what affects people emotionally. Even if you’re not into politics, you cannot divorce yourself from your environment, because it affects everything.

Remember: If you really want to change the world, go into entertainment. Continue reading “Art as Art: Why It’s Okay to Like Something Despite Its Creator’s Politics”

Trolling for Amateurs and How to Make the Internet Work for You

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I had an Internet revelation recently: I am no good at trolling.

“Trolling,” according to one definition, is “mak[ing] a deliberately offensive or provocative online posting with the aim of upsetting someone or eliciting an angry response from them.” A lot of times this involves memes, those delightful pictures with funny captions on them, usually relating to pop culture, politics, or simple buffoonery designed to make you laugh.

No One Hides From Me meme

But you’re Internet-savvy, so you already knew this.

Trolling and memes are fun. They crack me up sometimes. And the best part is that they’ve infiltrated our normally stuffy and over-serious politics. Some see this as a symptom of societal decline. I beg to differ. I see it as using psychological operations to attack your opponent’s credibility using the tools available to us in this digital age.

Internet trolling is about:

  1. Throwing rhetorical bombs in order to get a reaction (reaction = attention).
  2. Using the power of images to back up your words.
  3. Appealing to emotion rather than reason or logic.
  4. Good old-fashioned hell-raising.

You know, standard ideological warfare tactics that have existed since the dawn of time.

But trolling is not for everyone. I thought I’d try my hand at it just to get a few laughs, draw some attention to my writing, and in general join in the fun. So I tried to create some memes.

They did not work.

For a brief, stupid moment I felt kind of left out of the “in” crowd. But then I had another revelation: Trolling isn’t me, so who cares?

The Internet is a wonderful thing. You can make it work for you, no matter who you are. You don’t have to troll or create memes to get some use out of this gigantic world-wide free-for-all. Continue reading “Trolling for Amateurs and How to Make the Internet Work for You”