Wednesday, November 11th, 2020


Grand Theft Autogolpe

How, after four years of this, can many Americans keep finding themselves shocked by Donald Trump's behavior. As my psychoanalyist friend Dr. Michael Levin explains: "This disconnect exists because we're living in a world that is grounded and checked by reason. His is grounded only in his emotional needs and fantasies. I think this is a useful framework to understand why we all have repeatedly been shocked by his behavior for years. It's just a bridge too far for most of our psychological imaginations ... Most of the commentary I'm seeing in the press about his narcissism seems not to get that, deep down, it's not about feeling good. It's about psychic survival. I think this is the case with most of his base too. It's not the garden variety narcissism of someone like Elon Musk or Bill Clinton. It's much more desparate and psychotic." Indeed, we keep applying strategic goals to what is a narcissistic sociopath's emotionally disturbed reaction to a fear of shame and humiliation. Trump truly believes he's being cheated because the alternative is too brutal and painful to accept; even if democracy has to be destroyed so his fantasy, and thus his psychic existence, can survive. When we see mental illness play out in public or celebrity spheres, we often view it as a sideshow. When we encounter it in real life, we know it's the whole show. Those politicians who cynically use Trump as a battering ram for their own ends will be able to let go of him when his usefulness declines. For his true believers, the relationship is less transactional and operates more like a religion. And that's a lot to ask someone to give up because of the small reality of a few million votes. Will the unnerving and democracy-smashing coup-like attempt continue? How far will the GOP enablers take this? I don't know. But I do know that the psychic frenzy it's stirred up among millions of Americans cannot be turned off with a switch. An addiction to falsehoods is not easy to relinquish. And no one wants to go cold turkey for Thanksgiving.

+ "Many of those I questioned see this discrepancy as stemming from Trump's individual personality and characterological deficiencies — what they call his narcissism and his sociopathy. Others offer a more starkly political interpretation: that the refusal to accept Biden's victory stems from the frustration of a Republican Party struggling to remain competitive in the face of an increasingly multicultural electorate. In the end, it appears to be a mixture of both." Today's must read: Thomas B. Edsall in the NYT: What Is Trump Playing At?

+ Greg Sargent in WaPo: "Whatever the details of this encounter, everyone knows Republicans are feeding the idea that the outcome remains in doubt for purely instrumental purposes. They would be perfectly happy for Trump to win through illicit means, but with that looking less likely, they still need Trump voters worked up for the Georgia runoffs, which will determine Senate control. Admitting Trump lost could deenergize them. What's telling is that Trump is angry at Republicans for falling short in this regard."

+ Dahlia Lithwick: "So here we go again. It's either a creeping authoritarian coup, or just a really annoying sequel to a horror movie that seems never to end. We're either experiencing something really profoundly worrisome, or this is just the coddling of a narcissist who just needs a cozy offramp. My own impulse, as it has been for the past four years, is to contend that both can be true at once."


Smooth Operators

Meanwhile, back in reality, states cite smooth election, despite Trump's baseless claims. And from the NYT: "The president and his allies have baselessly claimed that rampant voter fraud stole victory from him. Officials contacted by The Times said that there were no irregularities that affected the outcome."

+ A Pennsylvania postal worker whose claims have been cited by top Republicans as potential evidence of widespread voting irregularities admitted to U.S. Postal Service investigators that he fabricated the allegations. (Bad news for his postal career. Good news for his political aspirations...)



Meanwhile, back in even more stark reality, the US has recorded more than 1 million new Coronavirus cases in the past 10 days, more Americans are in the hospital with Covid-19 than ever before, and this surging coronavirus is finding a federal leadership vacuum. The administration (the ones who don't currently have covid) won't do anything, and because of the anti-democratic moves by the boss, they won't let the incoming administration do anything either.

+ The Atlantic: The Worst Day of the Pandemic Since May.


Defense Mechanism

Among the more concerning moves during the post election period have been Trump's wholesale changes at the top of the Pentagon. They've also been among the most confusing. WaPo's David Ignatius suggests that it could be related to Russia in the 2016 election. "Trump's ceaseless attempts to argue that the Russia investigation was a "hoax" — and to force the intelligence community to declassify information he believes would support this view — may animate some of his otherwise inexplicable moves." A furious behind-the-scenes battle to counter Trump's threat to national security.


For Those About to Rock

"Many details of the plan, which is still in development phase, will rely on three separate components -- the Ticketmaster digital ticket app, third party health information companies like CLEAR Health Pass or IBM's Digital Health Pass and testing and vaccine distribution providers like Labcorp and the CVS Minute Clinic." Concerts may come back in 2021. But things won't be normal for a while. Billboard: How Ticketmaster Plans to Check Your Vaccine Status for Concerts. (And you can only safely smoke weed if you promise not to exhale.)


Gross Point Blank

Alaska Republican Sen. Dan Sullivan has held off the challenge by Al Gross and will maintain his Senate seat. That puts all eyes (and dollars) on Georgia's two runoffs. FiveThirtyEight: Georgia's Runoffs Will Determine Control Of The Senate. Here's What We Know So Far.

+ Meanwhile, Georgia Will Conduct A Hand Recount Amid GOP's Baseless Fraud Claims.


Taking a Stand for Democracy

"Today,' said pro-democracy legislator Fernando Cheung, 'is definitely the darkest day in Hong Kong so far.' Cheung is among 19 lawmakers who announced they'll resign en masse on Thursday to protest the disqualification of four fellow pro-democracy legislators. 19 pro-democracy lawmakers to resign in Hong Kong's 'darkest day ... so far.'


It’s Britney, Sitch

"Britney Spears has not controlled her financial affairs or many of her career decisions since 2008 under the court-enacted agreement. A conservatorship is usually granted for individuals who are unable to make their own decisions, like those with dementia or other mental illnesses. Essentially, for the last dozen years, her father and attorney have managed her assets and personal life - including being able to restrict her visitors and communicate with doctors about her treatment." Britney Spears loses court bid to remove father's control over estate.


Dog Daze Are Over

"Researchers in Hungary have spent more than two years searching for dogs who could recognise the names of their different toys, advertising for owners to come forward on social media. Now the canines they have discovered are set to take part in a series of livestreamed experiments, called the Genius Dog Challenge." (One of my beagles regularly comes when I call him for a treat and then leaves, forgetting to actually take the treat out of my hand. We'll be sitting this competition out.)


Bottom of the News

"There's something comforting about the smell of a bookstore, the nostalgic memory of opening a novel and embracing the scent that comes with the pages before engulfing yourself in the story. Now Powell's City of Books, the popular Oregon-based bookstore, has released a unisex fragrance, named 'Powell's by Powell's,' that puts that exact scent in a bottle." (I'm sticking with my current odor: Kindle by Kindle.)

+ Let's harvest some cranberries...