trump and the cult of personality, dancer, rand the monster lover

Shy or just thoughtful quiet personalities have surely marveled at the cult of personality. In popular culture, certainly the movies, our poor protagonist wants to be like the popular person, but in real life many people look at the spectacle of popularity, and in many cases, especially outside of high school wonder if the attention is matched by substance and merit. Such was and still is to some extent, Sarah Palin. Donald Trump seems to be latest entry, Emperor Donald Trump Has No Clothes

“I haven’t seen anybody do anything for a long time that’s really tough coverage on Donald,” says David Cay Johnston, the Pulitzer Prize–winning reporter formerly with the New York Times, who has written extensively about Trump’s net worth as well as his business dealings in the gambling industry in his book Temples of Chance [3]. “He’s done exceptionally well at getting the media to treat him on the grounds that he wants—which is he doesn’t mind if you poke fun at him [4] as long as you’re writing about him and making him sound important.”

The media does have s short attention span, content to create and eyeballs to attract for its advertisers. The public loves a spectacle. I’m not an anti-reality TV snob, but how much of the same old petty trash can a culture digest before it gets bad case of gas.

He’s also had more business bankruptcies [6] than wives, and Johnston says Trump’s bravado about his wealth and business acumen contradicts his real record. According to Johnston, Trump typically does two kinds of deals: he borrows more than 100 percent of the purchase price for real estate and takes a fee off the top; or he’s paid a fee to put his name on a building.

Johnston suggests that Trump’s fortune relied on government favors and stiffing his creditors.

“Ordinary casino workers who got into debt had their licenses yanked or in one case their wages garnished, but Donald was not held to that standard,” says Johnston.

As Johnston describes in Temples of Chance, in 1990 one of Trump’s advisers told the New Jersey Casino Control Commission that Trump was one day away from uncontrolled bankruptcy. The commission then approved a privately negotiated deal that relieved Trump of millions in debts. Why did the bankers go along?

“Government rescued Trump by taking his side against the banks,” Johnston says, “telling them that if they foreclosed they would own three seaside hotels that lacked casino licenses.”

Not everyone of them, but more times than it should, it seems that the modern “entrepreneur” is someone who has learned the system and how to game it rather than produce products or services of genuine value. Trump does not seem to care about leaving legacy of value.

black and white water color


Brain illness could have affected Stalin’s actions, secret diaries reveal

It’s one of the great questions of history, and indeed philosophy: what does it take to create a Hitler or a Stalin? What circumstances does it require to produce such evil? Newly released diaries from one of Joseph Stalin’s personal doctors suggest that, in Stalin’s case, illness could have helped to contribute to the paranoia and ruthlessness of his rule over the Soviet Union.

Alexander Myasnikov was one of the doctors called to Stalin’s deathbed when the dictator fell ill in 1953, and, in diaries that have been kept secret up to now, he claims that Stalin suffered from a brain illness that could have impaired his decision-making.

“The major atherosclerosis in the brain, which we found at the autopsy, should raise the question of how much this illness – which had clearly been developing over a number of years – affected Stalin’s health, his character and his actions,” Dr Myasnikov wrote in his diaries, excerpts of which were published for the first time in the Russian newspaper Moskovsky Komsomolets yesterday.

Whether it is Stalin or Hitler or a serial killer it is common to use the word insane to describe them. The problem in ascribing Stalin’s or a murderers action to actual clinical insanity – due to a medical issue or not – is to deflect some responsibility for their actions away from conscious rational decision making. It seemed at times as though George W. Bush was insane, but that would be more descriptive of his actions, not his frame of mind. He made the decisions to be misleading, to exaggerate, to obscure facts.

How Ayn Rand Became an American Icon – The perverse allure of a damaged woman.

Alisa Rosenbaum (her original name) was born in the icy winter of czarism, not long after the failed 1905 revolution ripped through her home city of St. Petersburg. Her father was a self-made Jewish pharmacist, while her mother was an aristocratic dilettante who loathed her three daughters. She would tell them she never wanted children, and she kept them only out of duty. Alisa became a surly, friendless child.

Its hard to notice objects that are not in the room so it is not always noticed that Rand wrote very little about family. Families would require some selflessness and sacrifice. In most ways families, functional ones anyway, would be counter to most everything Rand wrote. Fine for loners, happy or bitter, but not what most people strive for. Young adults, freshly separated from real family, like to think of their friends as extended family. Their moral support away from home where they all look out for each other, even if not in perfect sit-com fashion.Very anti-Randian.

Her diaries from that time, while she worked as a receptionist and an extra, lay out the Nietzschean mentality that underpins all her later writings. The newspapers were filled for months with stories about serial killer called William Hickman, who kidnapped a 12-year-old girl called Marion Parker from her junior high school, raped her, and dismembered her body, which he sent mockingly to the police in pieces. Rand wrote great stretches of praise for him, saying he represented “the amazing picture of a man with no regard whatsoever for all that a society holds sacred, and with a consciousness all his own. A man who really stands alone, in action and in soul. … Other people do not exist for him, and he does not see why they should.” She called him “a brilliant, unusual, exceptional boy,” shimmering with “immense, explicit egotism.” Rand had only one regret: “A strong man can eventually trample society under its feet. That boy [Hickman] was not strong enough.”