The scariest part of Trump’s first year as president isn’t how abnormal he is, it’s how normal he makes everything else look by comparison.
Trump’s relationship with Cohen, a lawyer so disreputable that no one else would want his representation, is off the charts.
Q: What kind of lawyer tapes his client (as Trump has asked in recent days)? A: Cohen, whose lack of standards is what made him so useful in the first place.
.. Trump’s supporters (most of them) acknowledge his serious shortcomings but think it’s more important to focus on his agenda and accomplishments. It’s difficult to find a further personal peccadillo that can budge anyone from these trench lines, since there’s no real contest over his character to begin with.
.. The irony is that Trump’s detractors hate him so much that they have created, perhaps, an impossibly high standard for his misconduct.
- It’s not damning enough for them that the Russians interfered in our election and Trump is dismissive of it;
- Trump has to be a quasi-Russian agent who actively colluded with the Kremlin, perhaps going back decades.
- It’s not damning enough that Trump had affairs with a porn star and Playmate; he has to have committed some serious criminal offense in the course of covering his tracks... When Giuliani says that the Cohen tape is exculpatory, he doesn’t mean that it proves there was nothing to the McDougal story and where does his client go to get his reputation back? He means that Trump was upfront and transparent about buying her story — he wanted to do it by check.
.. With Trump having delivered on important priorities for the Right and enjoying a hysterical opposition that pushes Republicans toward him, the Fifth Avenue principle applies now more than ever. To update it for current circumstances, Trump could pay off Karen McDougal with a black satchel full of cash in the middle of Fifth Avenue and not lose any voters
.. Perhaps there will be some inescapable legal dilemma for Trump that emerges out of the Cohen imbroglio. But the president has a very wide margin for error. The lesson of these controversies so far is that there’s nothing low expectations won’t do.
too many parts of society are oriented towards bottom line activities of mistake avoidance instead of top line activities of taking risk and creating value.
.. “You can think of this book as detailing the social roots of the resulting slow growth outcome and explaining why that economic and technological stagnation has lasted so long.”
.. Cowen identifies a country that very much has a cheerful, can-do spirit: China. “I have visited China many times over the past five years, for a different book project, and what I’ve observed there has made America’s social stagnation increasingly clear to me. That was one reason I came to write this book.”
.. Thinking about that point makes me wonder if economists are poorly-equipped to measure how an optimistic vision can propel growth.
.. “We are using the acceleration of information transmission to decelerate changes in our physical world.” Must our imaginations be limited by the screen? That would be a shame.
.. Maybe it can push forward nuclear fusion; it’s already been reported that American thorium scientists who could no longer develop the technology in the United States have taken their designs to China, which is happy to encourage their work.
.. One doesn’t have to admire Steve Bannon’s policy views to see that he’s lived a unique life. The recitation of his career path (born in Norfolk; Virginia Tech; HBS; officer in the Navy; Goldman; etc.) doesn’t sufficiently convey the diversity of his experiences. He has been involved with Seinfeld; Biosphere 2; the rescue effort of the Iran hostage crisis; a World of Warcraft virtual gold mining company; Titus (the Shakespeare adaptation featuring Anthony Hopkins); Breitbart; the White House; and surely other interesting ventures I’ve never read about.
.. He contracted Hepatitis C from a trip to Xinjiang in his 20’s; ongoing treatment has required his heart to be stopped over 100 times.
.. Let me take this opportunity to register a complaint with the term “open-minded,” which is increasingly praised as an important virtue.
I’ve started to dislike the term. First of all, it’s unobjectionable—who would profess he is not open-minded? More importantly, it’s not always clear what the term refers to, and this is worth thinking through. It might indicate the state of being “soft-minded,” in which one would readily be swayed by better arguments. But often it tends to connote “empty-minded,” in which one accepts anything and retains little. Many people are indeed open to different cultures and ideas, but they’re not necessarily conceptualizing their experience, nor active in seeking new experiences out.
.. I would like for everyone to be “hungry-minded,” in which one realizes that there is so much to know. A hungry-minded person senses that he is expert in so few areas of knowledge; that terrible gaps plague even his supposed areas of expertise; that there are important areas of knowledge of whose existence he is barely even aware; and that he should be fixing these deficiencies, now and ravenously. My favorite people to talk to are those who look for new experiences, think about them in an analytic way, and are eager to share their thoughts.
.. I’m slightly skeptical of thinking that we can save the world with indeterminate policies like looser monetary policy or housing reform. Are so many companies waiting to make things happen if only we’d cut interest rates by 0.25 percent? Will so many excellent service jobs be created if rents in Manhattan and the Mission were only cheaper by $250? To me these are policies worth advocating for, but I must say that they feel so marginal.
.. The most striking thing I learned from Harford is that the most success-oriented teams are usually the most miserable teams. For example, the amateur investment clubs that generate the highest returns are usually composed of people who don’t know each other well—it’s the only way to generate pushback on ideas that aren’t well thought through. Clubs composed of friends will find it more important to keep friendships intact rather than focus on returns.
.. Living a life that’s not so well-ordered can improve skill-acquisition.
.. It’s odd to me that a country that hasn’t experienced warfare for centuries would maintain such a militarized culture. The book makes it feel that being Swiss is the civic religion of Switzerland, and the service in the army is the annual demonstration of faith.
.. The biggest objections to this book will come from those who haven’t been steeped in Thielian arguments for techno-pessimism.
.. Maybe we can lay the blame for complacency at the feet of Carter, who again and again entreated Americans to lower their expectations. He’s the president who encouraged people to carpool, who put on a sweater and asked people to lower their thermostats, and oversaw repeated crises.
.. The chapter never explicitly mentions pot, except in the title. By introducing little oddities in the text, Cowen makes room for claims that are too difficult to baldly state; in other cases, watch for occasions in which he’s offering commentary on something other than what he’s directly writing about.