Rothman At-Large

President Trump's Enemies List

July 31, 2016

Richard Nixon’s enemies list was a black-tie affair. What a party! The twenty original names included such luminaries as film star Paul Newman, Congress member Ron Dellums, and journalist Daniel Schorr. Some powerfulVIPs almost felt slighted not to make The List.


The Nixon people later added scores of other individuals, as well as groups, but they could conveniently amass only so many names, given how primitive the technology was compared to today.


Of course, there was also the earlier McCarthy era, with its less exclusive blacklists of scads of subversives. But at least Sen. Joseph McCarthy didn’t sit in the Oval Office. Nor could he track ordinary Americans to the extent that law-enforcement and intel agencies can today—if nothing else, by monitoring social media postings on Facebook and elsewhere.


Now flash ahead to the possible presidency of one Donald Trump and consider the need within the bounds of ethics to pull out all stops to prevent him from sullying the White House. We already understand how vindictive and litigation-minded The Donald can be—just look at his  dreams of using the presidency to make antitrust trouble for Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon and owner of the Washington Post, to name one of many examples. But did you know that Trump has his own indirect McCarthy ties, by way of the late Roy Cohn


Having served as one of McCarthy’s most vicious aides, Cohn went on to eventually become a thuggish lawyer for Trump, as documented in The Truth about Trump, a well-researched biography by Michael D’Antonio, a veteran journalist who helped Newsday win a Pulitzer.


Cohn tutored Trump in press manipulation and during the Nixon administration did his best to bully a young Justice Department attorney working on an anti-discrimination suit against The Donald.


Might Trump and his allies give us a turbocharged reinvention of McCarthyism, using databases to track his enemies with far more than Stasi- and KGB-level efficiency? And could an outspoken ebook, pbook or blog turn into a genuine threat to your health—maybe even a fatal one, if Trump emulates his hero Putin, under whom so many Russian journalist have died under suspicious circumstances? Keep in mind Trump’s own love of violence, as demonstrated by his incitement of it at his rallies.


The conventional wisdom among establishment Republicans is that the usual suspects would tame Trump rather than the other way around, one excuse that major GOP politicians have used to justify their party’s bizarre nominee for President. I’m not so certain of that. If you read the D’Antonio book, you’ll find a recurring pattern in The Donald’s life—a grotesque swollen ego and a hair-trigger temper mixed with an eagerness to inflict pain on others. “At Kew-Forest,” D’Antonio writes of his subject’s elementary school days, “Donald Trump was a bit of a terror. He once said that he gave a teacher a black eye ‘because I didn’t think he knew anything about music.’ According to Trump, he was then already the person he would always be. ‘I don’t think people change very much,’ Trump would tell me. ‘When I look at myself in the first grade and I look at myself now, I’m basically the same. The temperament is not that different.'”


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The Orlando Massacre: How Books & Tech-Era Empathy Building Might Have Saved 49 Lives

June 13, 2016

The Donald was predictable in the wake of the Orlando horrors, when 49 people died and 53 were wounded in the worst mass shooting in U.S. history. He tweeted:


Donald J. Trump


Appreciate the congrats for being right on radical Islamic terrorism, I don't want congrats, I want toughness & vigilance. We must be smart!

12:43 PM - 12 Jun 2016


Do we really need Trump-style “toughness,” however, against Muslims, complete with a ban on their coming here?


Instead we need stricter laws against powerful weapons, more money for mental health counseling, faster identification of potential beneficiaries of therapy, and smarter homeland security in general. (The killer was even able to work for a private security firm.) Yes, those should be the main precautions.


But how about something else—a concerted effort to use libraries and schools to promote empathy in American society, including empathy toward people with different religious, political or sexual preferences? That, in turn, should mean more encouragement of reading, especially of certain books. Check out The K-12 and economic cases for a national digital library endowment on the LibraryCity site, and you’ll find detailed references to the powers of the right kind of books as empathy builders. Also of interest might be Cell phone book clubs: A new way for libraries to promote literacy, technology and community.


I’m not saying that this particular killer,  Omar Mateen, 29, a gay-hater born to Muslim immigrants, would have joined such a club on his own and turned into a law-abiding, community-minded soul. But given his love of technology, think about a different scenario. What if Mateen had undergone mental health counseling soon enough, including bibliotherapy (here and here), perhaps along with others in a cell phone book club targeted at individuals with similar problems?


Mateen did not just venerate radical Islam. He also loved his cell phone and social media, probably far more important to him than the Koran. What if society had reached out to him in a tech-savvy way, with bibliotherapy as part of this? It isn’t enough just to wage propaganda wars against ISIS online. Rather we also need to consider why maladjusted people like Mateen are susceptible in the first place to radical Islam (quite different from the peaceful mainstream version) and act accordingly.


Bibliotherapy, cell phone book clubs and the rest would hardly be definite preventatives. But perhaps this hate-filled bigot would have been less likely to go on to kill 49 gay people. He may not have stopped being a hater; but if nothing else, he might not have been so eager to listen to ISIS or the blood-thirsty demons inside him.

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R.I.P. Sadie - The Sheltie Who Belonged in an Austen Novel

May 30, 2016

Sadie never made it into a Jane Austen novel, not even a modern e-book sequel, and that’s too bad; for she would have fit right in. My sister’s pure-bred Sheltie was the consummate lady, just as the photo of her with me would suggest. Notice the more dignified of the two of us?


Most of all, Sadie showed her innate refinement at mealtimes. Never did Sadi threaten to leap up for the forbidden. Instead she would quietly put her snout in Dorothy’s lap when she wanted to share food. About her worst offense was to bark on hearing Dorothy empty the dishwasher or tear aluminium foil from a roll, and always, always she was gracious with visiting dogs or her uncle. I was unabashed in my fondness of Sadie and twice posted threats on Facebook to puppy-nap her. My wife and I would have loved owning a dog. But Carly is allergic to them—her unsuspecting Golden Retriever sent her to the emergency room: my wife almost died. So Sadie was our surrogate pet.


Sadie was a member of the canine gentry to the end. The last few days at my sister’s house, she was too weak to climb the stairs at all, much less with her usual grace, and Dorothy let her sleep downstairs. On Saturday Dorothy took Sadie to the vet, who, like my sister and brother-in-law, recognized the need for the inevitable. Sadie died at 14, close to 100 in dog years. I’m confident that a decorum-minded creature like her would have agreed with the decision.


But back to Jane Austen. Just for the fun of it, I searched Pride and Prejudice for mention of a dog of any kind. Nothing popped up. Why? Perhaps the Bennetts were too wrapped up in each other and in social climbing to bother caring for one. Oh, well, a pug shows up in Mansfield Park, thereby inspiring an academic’s spirited condemnation of the owner, Lady Bertram: “Pathetically bred out of any doggy usefulness as hunter or protector, the pug also inadvertently points up the loss of wildness and purposeful living that man’s meddlesome dominance and forced breeding have caused not only the animal kingdom but societies of imperialized humans as well.” Ouch. What to say? Dorothy is not ready for another dog now, but if one enters her life again, it just might be a shelter dog, and maybe even a mutt. That’s fine with me. Forget breeding and pedigree: let judgments of character be dog by dog—not such a bad idea to apply to humans, too.

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