The Insightful Troll

Rants and ruminations.

A Performance of Fascism

When you use your own military to attack the citizenry’s constitutional right to assemble and protest, it is not a show of strength. It is a show of fascism.

Masha Gessen:

What I am seeing is the performance of Fascism. Donald Trump has told us before, but never quite as clear or frightening, he is showing us what he thinks power looks and sounds like. Troops on the steps of the memorial or guarding the White House.

We are seeing military force and display to refuse to be accountable in any way. The fact that the troops are refusing to identify themselves. The fact that they are unmarked terrifies me. He thinks power sounds like Blackhawk helicopters used to clear protesters. He thinks it looks like tear gas used to clear protestors. He uses words like ‘Dominate’ over and over in his phone call with governors. It is a performance of power and fascism. Everything we know about fascism. It is power that is concentrated in the hands of one nation, one race, and its brutality suppresses dissent. we see that now. He has chosen his road, whether he realizes it or not.


I don’t make predictions, but I can tell you what we are observing. A power grab always begins as a performance. A claim is made and then an autocrat sees if it is accepted - if the performance is believed. That is what we are asking right right now.

What Leadership Looks Like

No police, national guards, helicopters, FBI, tear gas, rubber bullets, riot gear or military equipment. Just the US citizenry in a peaceful march down the street led by the POTUS.

I miss the good old days of 2015.

Trump Builds the Wall

Donald ‘Bunker Boy’ Trump finally built the wall he has been dreaming about for years. Instead of building it along the southern border, he built it in Washington DC. Complete with concrete barriers and fencing. Paid for by your tax dollars - not Mexico

All he can do is run and hide like a little bitch

Tump on Tiananmen Square

Donald ‘Bunker Boy’ Trump in a 1990 interview:

When the now-Republican presidential frontrunner was asked his impression of the Soviet Union, the then-43-year-old replied:

“I was very unimpressed… Russia is out of control and the leadership knows it. That’s my problem with Gorbachev. Not a firm enough hand.”

He was asked whether he meant a “firm hand as in China?”, to which Trump replied:

“When the students poured into Tiananmen Square, the Chinese government almost blew it. Then they were vicious, they were horrible, but they put it down with strength. That shows you the power of strength. Our country is right now perceived as weak… as being spit on by the rest of the world.”

Trump has been a dictator wanna be since the 1990s. And he wasn’t smart enough to hide it. He definitely isn’t hiding it today. People weren’t paying attention in 2016, hopefully they are paying attention now.

James Mattis Denounces Trump

From The Atlantic:

Donald Trump is the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people — does not even pretend to try. Instead he tries to divide us. We are witnessing the consequences of three years of this deliberate effort. We are witnessing the consequences of three years without mature leadership. We can unite without him, drawing on the strengths inherent in our civil society. This will not be easy, as the past few days have shown, but we owe it to our fellow citizens; to past generations that bled to defend our promise; and to our children. […]

We know that we are better than the abuse of executive authority that we witnessed in Lafayette Square. We must reject and hold accountable those in office who would make a mockery of our Constitution. At the same time, we must remember Lincoln’s “better angels,” and listen to them, as we work to unite.

General Mattis, by saying we can unite without the Commander In Chief, General Mattis is essentially giving the US military and its citizens a vote of no confidence of the US President.

War Zone

Trump shows his true colors - a wannabe dictator. The latest political ad from the Lincoln Project:

Police Warrior Training

The Minneapolis Police Department’s motto is “To Protect with Courage, To Serve with Compassion!”. However their training is the antithesis of that honorable goal. Melissa Segura for BuzzFeed:

More than a year before a Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin, pinned George Floyd to the ground in a knee chokehold, Mayor Jacob Frey banned “warrior” training for the city’s police force.

Private trainers across the country host seminars, frequently at taxpayer expense, teaching “killology” and pushing the notion that if officers aren’t willing to “snuff out a life” then they should “consider another line of work.” Frey explained that this type of training — which has accompanied the increasing militarization of the police over the last few decades — undermined the community-based policing he wanted the city to adopt after a string of high-profile killings in the region.

But then the police union stepped in.

The Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis worked out a deal with a company to offer warrior training. For free. For as long as Frey was mayor.

People Pushed to the Edge

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in an oped for the LA Times

Yes, protests often are used as an excuse for some to take advantage, just as when fans celebrating a hometown sports team championship burn cars and destroy storefronts. I don’t want to see stores looted or even buildings burn. But African Americans have been living in a burning building for many years, choking on the smoke as the flames burn closer and closer. Racism in America is like dust in the air. It seems invisible — even if you’re choking on it — until you let the sun in. Then you see it’s everywhere. As long as we keep shining that light, we have a chance of cleaning it wherever it lands. But we have to stay vigilant, because it’s always still in the air.

You Are Not Seeing Socialism

The Covid-19 pandemic has revealed that American democracy and our economic system is extremely fragile. Ok, unless you’re wealthy, in which case you will do fine - you will most likely come out with even more wealth. Of course, that is part of the plan.

Paul Field’s Facebook post says it best

You are not seeing Socialism. What you are seeing is one of the wealthiest, geographically advantaged, productive capitalist societies in the world flounder and fail at its most basic test. Taking care of its people.

What you are seeing is a quarter century of technological brilliance being reduced to a narcissistic popularity contest. You’re seeing the folly of basing the health and welfare of an entire society on personal greed. You’re seeing all the necessary tools, for us to shrug off this crisis, go unused while people argue over who should get the credit and profit. Even worse, you’re seeing vital help withheld because recipients might not, “deserve it…”

You’re seeing a lot of things nobody thought they’d ever see, but you’re not seeing Socialism…

U.S. Deaths Near 100,000

In the past five months - since March, more Americans have died from Covid-19 than in the decade-plus of the Vietnam War and the death toll is a third of the number of Americans who died in World War II.

Putting 100,000 dots or stick figures on a page “doesn’t really tell you very much about who these people were, the lives that they lived, what it means for us as a country,” Ms. Landon said. So, she came up with the idea of compiling obituaries and death notices of Covid-19 victims from newspapers large and small across the country, and culling vivid passages from them.

Alain Delaquérière, a researcher, combed through various sources online for obituaries and death notices with Covid-19 written as the cause of death. He compiled a list of nearly a thousand names from hundreds of newspapers. A team of editors from across the newsroom, in addition to three graduate student journalists, read them and gleaned phrases that depicted the uniqueness of each life lost:

“Alan Lund, 81, Washington, conductor with ‘the most amazing ear’ … ”

“Theresa Elloie, 63, New Orleans, renowned for her business making detailed pins and corsages … ”

“Florencio Almazo Morán, 65, New York City, one-man army … ”

“Coby Adolph, 44, Chicago, entrepreneur and adventurer … ”

The magnitude of loss is incomprehensible. The fallout of this will echo for decades, and touch each of us. When we get past this, the one thing we cannot do is forget all of these people. Each of these people was someone special, who in their own way, was contributing to make this nation great. And we owe to them to make this mean something. We owe it to them to rethink our supply systems, our health care system, and how we view each other.

Billie Joe Armstrong - Manic Monday

“Manic Monday” performed by Billie Joe of Green Day with the help of Susanna Hoffs from The Bangles. By the way, this is yet another song written by Prince. Billie Joe is an absolute beast - he should make an album of him doing covers of the 80s. I can’t believe Susanna Hoffs is 61 – still rock'n as ever!

Math Magic

Mathemagician Arthur Benjamin explores hidden properties of that weird and wonderful set of numbers, the Fibonacci series. Could you imagine if high school math classes were taught with the same excitement?

Dr. Seuss in the Pandemic

Designer Jim Malloy has reimagined the books of Dr. Seuss for the coronavirus age and changing the author to “Dr. Fauci”. You can check out the results on Instagram and in this Instagram Story.

Harvard's Reinhart and Rogoff Predict a U Shape Recovery

What will the economy look like when we finally turn the corner? And how ling will it take. That is the primary question on people mind. Despite what the Trump administration says, looks like we are in for a U shape recovery. And it will take five long years. At best.

Bloomberg Markets spoke to Reinhart, a former deputy director at the IMF who’s now a professor at the Harvard Kennedy School, and Rogoff, a former IMF chief economist who’s now a professor at Harvard. It turns out this time really is different.

So what does the economic recovery look like?

Carmen Reinhart:

And you want to talk about a negative productivity shock, too. The biggest positive productivity shock we’ve had over the last 40 years has been globalization together with technology. And I think if you take away the globalization, you probably take away some of the technology. So that affects not just trade, but movements and people. And then there are the socio-political ramifications. I liken the incident we’re in to The Wizard of Oz, where Dorothy got sucked up in the tornado with her house, and it’s spinning around, and you don’t know where it will come down. That’s where our social, political, economic system is at the moment. There’s a lot of uncertainty, and it’s probably not in the pro-growth direction. There is talk on whether it’s going to be a W-shape if there’s a second wave and so on. That’s a very real possibility given past pandemics and if there’s no vaccine. One thing that’s clear is the numbers are going to look spectacularly great in some months simply because you’re coming out from a base that was pretty devastated. That doesn’t imply that per capita incomes are going to go back in V-shape to what they were before.

The shock has disrupted supply chains globally and trade big-time. The World Trade Organization tells you trade can decline anywhere between 13% and 32%. I don’t think you just break and re-create supply chains at the drop of a hat. There are a lot of geographic changes that are being necessitated because, if the economic downturn has been synchronous, the disease itself hasn’t been synchronous.

Another reason I think the V-shape story is dubious is that we’re all living in economies that have a hugely important service component. How do we know which retailers are going to come back? Which restaurants are going to come back? Cinemas? When this crisis began to morph from a medical problem into a financial crisis, then it was clear we were going to have more hysteresis, longer-lived effects.

Kenneth Rogoff:

In our book, Carmen and I use the definition of recovery as going back to the same income as the beginning. That, by the way, is really not the Wall Street definition of recovery, where recovery is going back to where the trend was. So we use a much more modest version of recovery. And still, with postwar financial crises before 2008-09, the average was four years, and for the Great Depression, 10 years. And there are many ways this feels more like the Great Depression.

Also you probably need a debt moratorium that’s fairly widespread for emerging markets and developing economies. As an analogy, the IMF or Chapter 11 bankruptcy is very good at dealing with a couple of countries or a couple of firms at a time. But just as the hospitals can’t handle all the Covid-19 patients showing up in the same week, neither can our bankruptcy system and neither can the international financial institutions.

So there are going to be phenomenal frictions coming out of this wave of bankruptcies, defaults. It’s probably going to be, at best, a U-shaped recovery. And I don’t know how long it’s going to take us to get back to the 2019 per capita GDP. I would say, looking at it now, five years would seem like a good outcome out of this.

You Went to Harvard Right?

Bill Burr sums up the US college system perfectly:

The funny thing about that scandal is that they got their dumb kids in there but then they were able to handle the curriculum with no problem. None of them flunked out. So evidently, the real difficulty is getting in. Once you are in, you are fine.


Yea. Yea.


You went to Harvard right?

Obama’s HBCU Commencement Speech

In his first national address since the Covid-19 pandic, former President Barack Obama delivered a commencement speech to graduates at historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) Saturday.

On our current leadership in America:

More than anything, this pandemic has fully finally torn back the curtain on the idea that so many of the folks in charge know what they’re doing, A lot of them aren’t even pretending to be in charge.

On the Covid-19 pandemic:

Let’s be honest, a disease like this just spotlights the underlying inequalities and extra burdens that black communities have historically had to deal with in this country. We see it in the disproportionate impact of Covid-19 on our communities, just as we see it when a black man goes for a jog and some folks feel like they can stop and question and shoot him if he doesn’t submit to their questioning.

And finally on challenge ahead for us:

And on the big unfinished goals in this country, like economic and environmental justice and health care for everybody, broad majorities agree on the ends. That’s why folks with power will keep trying to divide you over the means. Because that’s how nothing changes. You get a system that looks out for the rich and powerful and nobody else. So expand your moral imaginations, build bridges, and grow your allies in the process of bringing about a better world.

A Contemporaneous History of the Absurd

Edward Luce in a well researched article for The Financial Times:

What has gone wrong? I interviewed dozens of people, including outsiders who Trump consults regularly, former senior advisers, World Health Organization officials, leading scientists and diplomats, and figures inside the White House. Some spoke off the record.

Again and again, the story that emerged is of a president who ignored increasingly urgent intelligence warnings from January, dismisses anyone who claims to know more than him and trusts no one outside a tiny coterie, led by his daughter Ivanka and her husband, Jared Kushner – the property developer who Trump has empowered to sideline the best-funded disaster response bureaucracy in the world.

People often observed during Trump’s first three years that he had yet to be tested in a true crisis. Covid-19 is way bigger than that. “Trump’s handling of the pandemic at home and abroad has exposed more painfully than anything since he took office the meaning of America First,” says William Burns, who was the most senior US diplomat, and is now head of the Carnegie Endowment.

“America is first in the world in deaths, first in the world in infections and we stand out as an emblem of global incompetence. The damage to America’s influence and reputation will be very hard to undo.”

Density Does Not Spread Covid-19

The spread of Covid-19 is not a cause by density, but by poverty and the massive wealth disparity in the United States. Combined with a weak to non-existent safety net for millions of displaced workers, the conditions are ripe for contagion spread. Dr. Mary T. Bassett, in an excellent article in the New York Times:

Imagine a low-wage worker, who holds two jobs to support her family and pay the rent, who has to work during this pandemic because her job is “essential,” who works when sick because she has no sick leave. She travels on a crowded bus, puts off medical care because she lacks insurance, and then returns to an apartment crammed with young children and elderly family members. Maybe she fills in on the night shift as an aide at a nursing home.

This all conspires to make her especially vulnerable to the coronavirus — with the result that her household, her nursing home and her neighbors all are liable to become sick as well. In this scenario, “the city” is not to blame for the explosion in cases of Covid-19.

That disease is devastating cities like New York because of the structure of health care, the housing market and the labor market, not because of their density. The spread of the coronavirus didn’t require cities — we have also seen small towns ravaged. Rather, cities were merely the front door, the first stop.

It’s not that there are too many people in cities. It’s that too many of their residents are poor, and many of them are members of the especially vulnerable black, Latino and Asian populations.

Prince and the Revolution Live Show Airs Tonight

As part of a benefit for Covid-19 relief, The Prince Estate will be broadcasting a classic concert by Prince & the Revolution from 1985’s Purple Rain tour on YouTube. The stream (embedded below) will begin on Thursday, May 14 at 8pm ET and will only be available through Sunday, May 17.