Tag Archives: world

When the World Is Led by a Child

Photo

President Trump in Washington on Monday. CreditDoug Mills/The New York Times

At certain times Donald Trump has seemed like a budding authoritarian, a corrupt Nixon, a rabble-rousing populist or a big business corporatist.

But as Trump has settled into his White House role, he has given a series of long interviews, and when you study the transcripts it becomes clear that fundamentally he is none of these things.

At base, Trump is an infantalist. There are three tasks that most mature adults have sort of figured out by the time they hit 25. Trump has mastered none of them. Immaturity is becoming the dominant note of his presidency, lack of self-control his leitmotif.

First, most adults have learned to sit still. But mentally, Trump is still a 7-year-old boy who is bouncing around the classroom. Trump’s answers in these interviews are not very long — 200 words at the high end — but he will typically flit through four or five topics before ending up with how unfair the press is to him.

His inability to focus his attention makes it hard for him to learn and master facts. He is ill informed about his own policies and tramples his own talking points. It makes it hard to control his mouth. On an impulse, he will promise a tax reform when his staff has done little of the actual work.

Second, most people of drinking age have achieved some accurate sense of themselves, some internal criteria to measure their own merits and demerits. But Trump seems to need perpetual outside approval to stabilize his sense of self, so he is perpetually desperate for approval, telling heroic fabulist tales about himself.

“In a short period of time I understood everything there was to know about health care,” he told Time. “A lot of the people have said that, some people said it was the single best speech ever made in that chamber,” he told The Associated Press, referring to his joint session speech.

By Trump’s own account, he knows more about aircraft carrier technology than the Navy. According to his interview with The Economist, he invented the phrase “priming the pump” (even though it was famous by 1933). Trump is not only trying to deceive others. His falsehoods are attempts to build a world in which he can feel good for an instant and comfortably deceive himself.

He is thus the all-time record-holder of the Dunning-Kruger effect, the phenomenon in which the incompetent person is too incompetent to understand his own incompetence. Trump thought he’d be celebrated for firing James Comey. He thought his press coverage would grow wildly positive once he won the nomination. He is perpetually surprised because reality does not comport with his fantasies.

Third, by adulthood most people can perceive how others are thinking. For example, they learn subtle arts such as false modesty so they won’t be perceived as obnoxious.

But Trump seems to have not yet developed a theory of mind. Other people are black boxes that supply either affirmation or disapproval. As a result, he is weirdly transparent. He wants people to love him, so he is constantly telling interviewers that he is widely loved. In Trump’s telling, every meeting was scheduled for 15 minutes but his guests stayed two hours because they liked him so much.

Which brings us to the reports that Trump betrayed an intelligence source and leaked secrets to his Russian visitors. From all we know so far, Trump didn’t do it because he is a Russian agent, or for any malevolent intent. He did it because he is sloppy, because he lacks all impulse control, and above all because he is a 7-year-old boy desperate for the approval of those he admires.

The Russian leak story reveals one other thing, the dangerousness of a hollow man.

Our institutions depend on people who have enough engraved character traits to fulfill their assigned duties. But there is perpetually less to Trump than it appears. When we analyze a president’s utterances we tend to assume that there is some substantive process behind the words, that it’s part of some strategic intent.

But Trump’s statements don’t necessarily come from anywhere, lead anywhere or have a permanent reality beyond his wish to be liked at any given instant.

We’ve got this perverse situation in which the vast analytic powers of the entire world are being spent trying to understand a guy whose thoughts are often just six fireflies beeping randomly in a jar.

“We badly want to understand Trump, to grasp him,” David Roberts writes in Vox. “It might give us some sense of control, or at least an ability to predict what he will do next. But what if there’s nothing to understand? What if there is no there there?”

And out of that void comes a carelessness that quite possibly betrayed an intelligence source, and endangered a country.

By David Brooks/NYTimes

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Noam Chomsky: America is an empire in decline

[This piece, the first of two parts, is excerpted from Noam Chomsky’s new book, Who Rules the World? (Metropolitan Books)]

Noam Chomsky: America is an empire in decline
Image: AP/Hatem Moussa
 When we ask “Who rules the world?” we commonly adopt the standard convention that the actors in world affairs are states, primarily the great powers, and we consider their decisions and the relations among them. That is not wrong. But we would do well to keep in mind that this level of abstraction can also be highly misleading.

States of course have complex internal structures, and the choices and decisions of the political leadership are heavily influenced by internal concentrations of power, while the general population is often marginalized. That is true even for the more democratic societies, and obviously for others. We cannot gain a realistic understanding of who rules the world while ignoring the “masters of mankind,” as Adam Smith called them: in his day, the merchants and manufacturers of England; in ours, multinational conglomerates, huge financial institutions, retail empires, and the like. Still following Smith, it is also wise to attend to the “vile maxim” to which the “masters of mankind” are dedicated: “All for ourselves and nothing for other people” — a doctrine known otherwise as bitter and incessant class war, often one-sided, much to the detriment of the people of the home country and the world.

More from Salon.com

Posted by the NON-Conformist

Pregnant women among African migrants trying to cross sea to Europe

Image: .aljazeera.com via AP

It took one Somali woman seven months and 4,000 miles to trek to Libya. From there, she hoped to cross the Mediterranean Sea so her baby could be born in Europe. She didn’t get there.

She was arrested as she was sailing north and is now one of 350 migrants being held in a facility just outside Tripoli.

Other pregnant women fleeing repression have come to Libya — many fleeing fighting that refuses to stop. They, like male migrants, are willing to risk their lives on crowded boats to make the final part of the trip.

The Somali woman’s baby, Sabrine, was born a week after she was detained.

Libyan officials are in a quandary. The prison head admitted to CNN there is no system in place to send these people home, jail them or let them go.

About one-third of the migrants are from Eritrea on the east coast of Africa. They denied they were heading to Europe and told CNN they just want to go home, which is several thousands of miles away.

In Malta, there are similar stories of death.

On Thursday, the bare, stark caskets came in one by one on the shoulders of Maltese soldiers.

More from CNN

Posted by Libergirl

Morning Must Reads: October 14

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (3rd L) and his wife Ri Sol-ju (2nd L) look on during a visit to Unit 1017 of the Korean People's Army (KPA) Air and Anti-Air Force, honoured with the title of O Jung Hup-led 7th Regiment, in this undated picture released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on June 21, 2013.

Image: KCNA—REUTERS

Posted by Libergirl

TIME

The Ebola Brain Drain

Health care workers fighting the Ebola outbreak in West Africa are facing hard choices, with doctors and nurses cut down by disease and fear, and those who remain or might still travel there are worried about the prospect of falling prey to the virus themselves

No Vatican Shift on Homosexuality

Despite its inclusive tone, a Vatican document on the Catholic Church’s stance toward homosexuality is a long way from actual policy change

Kim Jong Un Reappears in Public

The North Korean leader reportedly made his first public appearance in six weeks, ending rumors that he was gravely ill or deposed

Severe Weather Rips Through South, Killing at Least 2

A violent storm system wielding tornadoes, high winds, lightning, hail and rain walloped the South and Midwest on Monday, killing at least two people. The devastation stretched from Texas to Alabama, leaving a path of torched homes…

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The Politics of the Ebola Serum

Posted by the NON-Conformist

How to Change Course in Central African Republic

Posted by Libergirl

TIME

[time-related-module]

Recent outrages in Bangui, the war-torn capital of the Central African Republic (C.A.R.), lay bare that the world is dangerously close to failing the country once again.

On March 25, three Muslim boys went to play an interfaith football match in the city. Before they could reach the stadium, they were caught by fighters from the anti-balaka, the predominantly Christian militia. The boys were murdered and mutilated on the street, their chests cut open, their hearts ripped out and their penises cut off.

Just three days later, armed Muslim youths retaliated by attacking a church sheltering thousands of displaced persons. They used grenades and sprayed gunfire into helpless crowds, killing at least 15 and wounding 30. In response to the attack, youth pillaged and vandalized one of Bangui’s last mosques. The fear that the anti-balaka and mobs of civilians will unleash their fury on the remaining Muslims of C.A.R…

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Fast Food Workers to Protest Wages in 80 Cities Across the World

Demonstrators take part in a protest to demand higher wages for fast-food workers outside McDonald's in Los Angeles, May 15, 2014.
Image: Reuters

Posted by Libergirl

TIME

Fast food workers demanding higher wages are planning strikes in 80 cities across 30 countries Thursday to match 150 similar protests planned in the U.S.

Workers will take to the streets in Seoul, Dublin, Casablanca and Panama City, among other cities, the New York Times reports.

The most recent round of fast food wage strikes began more than a year ago, but they have failed to meet their goal of forcing McDonalds and other companies to raise workers’ wages to at lest $15 an hour. (The current federal minimum wage in the U.S. is $7.25.)

Protest organizers in the U.S. have turned to international workers to add global pressure on fast food companies in light of dwindling membership in American unions. That strategy could prove effective, as some of the world’s biggest fast food companies increasingly rely on international revenue in the face of falling U.S. sales.

“Fast-food workers in…

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