The Bezos Story Is Big

And it’s got a little bit of everything.

Yes, Bezos has dealt with it brilliantly. It helps — how shall I put this delicately? — that his pride got the better of his embarrassment, and that there was nothing embarrassing about his pride.

.. It also helps that Bezos has the financial means and journalistic tools to get to the bottom of the hacking. I don’t know if the government did the hacking — the truth is probably prosaic, but Pecker’s friendship with Trump raises an eyebrow — but if it did it would be a scandal for the ages.

.. Even now the connections are tantalizing. Why is Pecker “apoplectic” about Bezos’ investigation into who leaked the story to the Enquirer and whether the leak was politically motivated? And how might the potential withdrawal of legal immunity that Pecker obtained last year in connection with his handling of Trump’s hush money payments to his mistresses affect the Southern District’s investigation of Trump’s probable violations of campaign-finance laws?

Going forward, I think we need to start describing all of these ties as the Axis of Pecker. Just saying.

.. But I think context and intention matter. Billy Crystal did “blackface” for a Sammy Davis Jr. impression, and I don’t think Crystal is racist in any respect. Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel and Sarah Silverman, to name a few boldface names, have all done blackface. If we’re going to start excommunicating people from public life for this, we’re going to destroy a lot of people who almost surely intended no harm.

Gail: Yeah, but I don’t remember Billy Crystal doing his act with a guy wearing a sheet.

Bret: That’s true. And I think that’s in a different league in terms of offensiveness. But again, I think we need to better understand the context, whether it was connected to a pattern of behavior, and whether it was ever repeated. And again, we are talking about an incident from 35 years ago followed by an admirable life without any hint of racial bias.

Right now, Northam’s real moral jeopardy is that he has contradicted himself and is doing a duck-and-cover move. He has a good opportunity to rise above it, first by clarifying how exactly that photo ended up on his yearbook page — and whether he’s one of the people in the picture, as he now claims he isn’t — and then by explaining why the casual racism of a past generation mustn’t be communicated to the present.

.. There was a time when I thought term limits were a great idea. But I’ve cooled on it. When you’ve got a politician who isn’t going to be able to run for re-election, you’ve got a politician spending a whole lot of time planning how to get the next job. Plus you get a lot of … strange people. Rest my case.

.. I’m as eager as anyone to see what’s in Trump’s tax returns. But how do Democrats handle this to make sure it doesn’t redound to Trump’s political benefit?

.. You mean how do they avoid having so many people investigating him the public begins to feel sorry for him?

.. I mean, going down every rabbit hole means that you are going to come up empty many times. That can do as much to obscure criminal behavior as it can to expose it, and to desensitize the public to the significance of truly scandalous disclosures when they are merely bobbing in the sea with not-so-scandalous ones.

.. It doesn’t help when cable TV is obsessing about this stuff 24/7. I think the investigations would be better helped if news about them came out only once every other week, with Representative Adam Schiff or someone like him saying: Here’s the stuff we’ve learned, here’s why it matters, here’s what we’re going to look into next and here’s why.

Gail: Well, cable TV does cover other stuff — I’m just sitting here watching CNN cover climate change in Louisiana. But the producers know what the public is obsessing about, and so do politicians. When they see their constituents these days, the first question a lot of them get isn’t “How’s the infrastructure bill doing?” It’s “What are you going to do about Trump?”

.. I think Trump’s calculation is that he can do a Groundhog’s Day in reverse: That is, shut down the government again and again, and behave worse with each successive iteration. This rallies his base while, at some point a majority of Americans will say, “Just give him his darn wall.” Or so he figures. But we’ll have to see how he reacts to the “agreement in principle” that the House and Senate seem to have reached.

The alternative narrative, and the more convincing one, is that Trump has continued to play games with the livelihoods of American workers for the sake of a bit of fencing that solves nothing except his own political problems.

One thing that is becoming clear is the G.O.P. campaign theme for 2020. They are going to claim Democrats are the party of

  • socialism,
  • open borders,
  • nationalized health care, and an
  • environmentalist agenda that will wind up outlawing
    • air travel and
    • steaks and maybe even
    • milk, too.

The Republicans are indeed ranting now about the Green New Deal, which Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and other Democrats put forward. A.O.C. did mention eliminating “emissions from cows or air travel,” but — contrary to Trump’s swipes — that was a rather lighthearted description of a perfect future rather than a part of the plan.

And Trump has been playing the socialism card, but I don’t think it’s going to work. There are a number of Democrats who’d like to move toward a society that offers health care for everyone, free college tuition for those who can’t afford to pay, and federal work programs for the unemployed — paid for by much higher taxes on the rich. Most Americans want the same things. If the Democrats are smart about the way they present the programs, things should be fine.

I am aware, Bret, that this sort of talk causes you great pain. That’s why we’re in different political camps.

.. It causes me great pain because I’m attached to no party: I can’t support the Trumpian G.O.P. but I can’t support the Democrats, either, as long as they’re repudiating their belief in traditional liberalism for the sake of an anticapitalist, ruinously expensive policy agenda. I would love to hear a Democrat say, as Hillary Clinton did, we are not Denmark! And I fear the Democrats’ new progressivism will so turn off voters that they’ll re-elect Trump as the better of two bad alternatives.

All of which is to say, we’ll have plenty to converse about in the months ahead. And maybe we might even disagree a bit more.

Gail: Amen.

Brené Brown | Daring Classrooms | SXSWedu 2017

We need to understand how scarcity affects the way we lead and teach, we have to engage with vulnerability and we need to learn how to recognize and combat shame. What would it mean for our schools and classrooms if we showed up for tough, honest conversations about what it takes to bring our best, most authentic selves to work? These conversations may sound risky and vulnerable, but risk and vulnerability are essential to courageous schools. A daring classroom is a place where both teachers and students commit to choosing courage over comfort, choosing what is right over what is fun, fast or easy and practicing values rather than professing them.

Shame can not survive being spoken because it depends upon you thinking you are alone.

The antidote to share is empathy.

Shame is fed by empathy:

  • Secrecy
  • Silence
  • Judgement

Perspective taking: take the perspective of others

Every time someone talks about hate, substitute the word “pain”.

Catphishing or Emotional Terrorism or Both: You Decide

Because of embarrassment, victims rarely admit they were scammed. Most victims are women over fifty years old, single, and looking for a relationship, as reported CBS news’ Meg Oliver explained.

Reed had fallen for a catphish she met on Facebook. He called himself “Scott Humpal,” and he evidently asked Reed for money to pay medical bills. Despite never having met him, she sent this stranger more than $50,000 over several months. Reed’s family reported the scam after she ran out of money and showed signs of plotting to kill her 88-year-old mother for the life insurance. Reed has been charged with fraud and conspiracy to commit murder.

There is in fact a real Scott Humpal, although he wasn’t the one in touch with Reed. Effectively a victim of stolen identity, he lives in Corpus Christi, Texas. Humpal’s wife had died in a plane crash, and shortly after the tragedy, he began receiving suspicious Facebook messages. Humpal didn’t know the people sending him messages. He responded only to be told that the people who’d contacted him had been conversing with someone claiming to be him on an Internet dating platform. Humpal discovered that scammers had created multiple profiles using his name, and that “hundreds” of women had fallen for the fake Humpal.

Adam Levin, founder of Cyber-Scout, calls catphishers “emotional terrorists, not caring whom they destroy or how they destroy them. All they are after is money.” Levin said Humpal was the ideal victim of identity theft for catphishing: he’s a handsome and well-to-do widower.

Trump’s Reckoning Arrives

The president’s unpredictability once worked to his advantage—but now, it is producing a mounting list of foreign-policy failures.

.. Trump’s election jolted almost every government into a frantic effort to understand what to expect. Other countries’ uncertainty enhanced Trump’s relative power—and so, perversely, did Trump’s policy ignorance and obnoxious behavior.

.. presidents are surrounded by elaborate staff systems to help them—and oblige them—to think through their words and actions.

If we impose tariffs on Chinese products, how might they retaliate? What’s our next move after that?

If we want to pressure Iran more tightly than our predecessors, what buy-in will we need from other countries? What will they want in return?

What do we want from North Korea that we can realistically get?

Team Trump does not engage in exercises like this.

.. Team Trump does not do it because the president does not do it. His idea of foreign policy is to bark orders like an emperor, without thinking very hard about how to enforce compliance or what to do if compliance is not forthcoming.

The administration canceled the Iran deal without first gaining European, Chinese, Japanese, or Indian cooperation for new sanctions.

Trump started a trade war with China without any plan for response to the inevitable Chinese counter-moves.

.. The U.S. has abjured its right to inspect Iranian nuclear facilities without any workable plan to impose global sanctions instead. India and China each trade more with Iran than with the entirety of the European Union—and neither is very vulnerable to U.S. pressure.
.. First, because he talked so much and tweeted so much, he revealed much more of himself much earlier than other presidents. His ego, his neediness, his impulsiveness, and the strange irregular cycles of his working day—those were all noted and analyzed before any formal action of his presidency.
.. for example, Australia, his offensive words had limited the ability of Australia’s democratically accountable leaders to cooperate with him.
.. Second, foreign leaders have concluded that the shortest path to Trump’s heart runs through his wallet. Oil states such as the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia have rushed to be helpful to the business interests of Donald Trump and his son-in-law Jared Kushner, seeking an advantage over regional rivals like Qatar. Authoritarian leaders who could hamper Trump-licensed businesses—like Turkey’s Recep Erdogan and Rodrigo Duterte in the Philippines—have exploited their perceived leverage, acting with apparent impunity.
.. Third, Trump’s highly suspicious dealings with Russia before the election potentially put him at the mercy of countries in a position to embarrass him.
.. Only 17 percent of South Koreans trust Trump to do the right thing
.. At a time of relatively low military casualties and strong job growth, the president’s popularity at home roughly matches that of George W. Bush’s during the worst months of the Iraq war, 2005–2006, and Barack Obama’sduring the most disappointing months of the weak recovery from the recession of 2009.