SocraticGadfly

October 19, 2020

'Melanin and Me,' er 'Melania and Me': Resist a read

Melania and Me: The Rise and Fall of My Friendship with the First Lady

Melania and Me: The Rise and Fall of My Friendship with the First Lady by Stephanie Winston Wolkoff
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This is an updated and expanded version of my Goodreads review, where I said that I was torn between one and two stars.

I occasionally turn book reviews into blog posts, but much more commonly with in-depth intellectual books.

But, because The.Resistance.™ (I see what I did in this blog post's title) has touted this baby, this is the rare occasion where I do that with a political book.

Let me start by saying that, by the 50-page mark, I not only felt no more sympathy for pre-White House Melania Trump than before (which was basically zero), but was feeling less and less for author Stephanie Winston Wolkoff by the page.

I also switched from reading to skimming and grokking. No way I wanted to plow through this boring nightstand read word for word.

Wolkoff calls herself a people pleaser. I'd use two other, closely related words, instead. One is "suck-up" and the other is "sucker."

On the suck-up side? She worked for First Lady Melanin for free for a reason. Access, or beyond that, exposure. And, rich people can work for the coin of "exposure." You and I can't. The name-dropping of couturiers, etc., makes it clear to this reader that Wolkoff, with her Anna Wintour connections (also name-dropped repeatedly) that she liked this "exposure." And, since that's the way "society" New York City works, I have little doubt she hoped to turn this exposure into money. And, maybe, despite bemoaning her legal fees, etc., she DID! And, I'm sure that she's already making a penny off her getting dumped. She may not be a biological descendant of Harry Winston, but she got enough skin in the game.

On the sucker side? Not every people pleaser is a sucker. Actual or self-alleged people pleasers who are in a position to stop it, and keep doing it anyway, are suckers. They're even more suckers when they try to make excuses over being just a people pleaser. To put it more bluntly? Claiming you're a people person when you're really a sucker who's a busted suck-up is a high level of passive aggressiveness.

The fact that Wolkoff knew who the Donald was in advance and still voted for him speaks volumes, including that she almost certainly knew who Melanin was all along but thought "it will never happen to me."

Shock me, though, that media glitterati like Anderson Cooper and Madcow Maddow would be suckers for this book, per this review.

As for Melanin?

Not only do I not have any more sympathy for her than before, I have less. In Wolkoff's telling, she comes off as even more sociopathic in some ways than Donald. And that's hard to do.

As for other tidbits, like Ivanka supposed sabotaging Melanin's speech that plagiarized Michelle Obama? Somebody on Ivanka's staff might do that. Ivanka herself might have signed off, if she heard about it. But Ivanka's too dumb to orchestrate that. That said, the belief that she would says something, both about what Wolkoff thinks about Ivanka and about the lengths she would go to, to defend Melanin.

So, actually, the tidbits I learned are probably the only thing keeping this from a one-star rating.

Seriously, if you're a #TheResistance Dem, and you "need" this book to help fight Resistance battles, you're almost as bad off as Wolkoff.

Speaking of, in today's new era? With her having name-dropped the likes of Harvey Weinstein? How much "enabling" has Wolkoff done elsewhere? 

And, this good capitalist also wants to know how much of an advance Wolkoff got for this book, and how far in advance she and Simon and Schuster kept this thing on the QT with the early fall publish date as a target?

This good skeptic also wants to know how much of the book was actually written by SWW and how much is a ghosting product?

View all my reviews

October 16, 2020

Safety protocols are coronavirus Kabuki theater

That's far more true than the Kabuki of temperature taking, which leads me to the main point.

North Texas Oktoberfest event.

Held in a technically not enclosed but yes semi-enclosed performance hall. It's a big rectangular building with commercial double-wide garage door openings on both long sides for vendors to move in and out, etc.

Early October, sunny weekend, so everything is open. 

Nonetheless.

You're running a good 1,000 people in there at a time.

The "safety plan," approved by local government, includes neither
1. Temperature taking;
2. Mask mandate in the semi-enclosed area.

The safety plan was approved before Trump shot himself in the foot, but, it was still too weak even with that.

After the fact of his diagnosis? Not stiffening it up, even if you were worried about enforcement work, etc.? Semi-criminal, all in the name of greed if you were worried about scaring people away.

And, giving it's in the middle of #TrumpTrain land, a refusal to do the work needed to go beyond the tissue paper of the approved plan smacks as being close to denialist.

October 15, 2020

Texas Progressives: Voting shenanigans, Seth Rich news, more

Lots, lots of stuff related to elections, Texana, Trump Train snowflakes melting in the heat, Royce West kicking MJ Hegar, and more.

We've got regional, statewide and national political and non-political news both, in fact, so let's dig in.

North Texas

SocraticGadfly asks if the Sunday morning programming of Dallas' WRR, entering its centennial year, violates the First Amendment.

Let's hope Flower Mound's Jason Lata pays through the ass on the civil side, and police find more charges on the criminal side.

What, Oncor lie about environmentalism?

Houston

The Houston Chronicle and The Root give Monica Roberts a suitable eulogy. 

John Coby is puzzled by the Harris County Republican Party's latest campaign finance report.

The Texas Civil Rights Project reports how Fort Bend ISD helped gets its 18-year-old students registered to vote.

Texas-non election

Meet Nate Paul, the man behind who a bunch of (presumably now former) friends of Texas AG Ken Paxton have asked for both state and federal investigations of him.

Off the Kuff hardly knows where to begin when there's three years' worth of news in a single week, but start here and then follow the other links to get an intro and somewhat deep dive into the burgeoning new Ken Paxton scandal.

Meet Shaun Lucas, whose egregious fatal shooting of Jonathan Price was so bad the Rangers recommended a murder charge. More on Price, the incident and Wolfe City here.

Grits for Breakfast highlights the extremely politicized nature of Greg Abbott's complaints about local police funding.

Texas-elections

This is about exactly the date I expected for the SD30 runoff. Abbott buried it on Dec. 19, hoping to bury Shelley Luther enthusiasm, no doubt.

Rethugs are challenging curbside / drive-through early voting lanes. Given the state Supremes said earlier this summer that "don't ask, don't tell" was the constitutionally correct stance for county clerks and election offices on people claiming a medical reason for an early ballot, if rightly ruled, the Rethugs will lose this one. What's also funny is that you have SoS Ruth Hughs having already OKed this before Kenny Boy Paxton decided to try to bigfoot it.

Speaking of lose? A three-judge panel of the Fifth Circuit, at the federal level, upheld a district judge in ruling SB8, Texas' attempt last year to severely restrict second-trimester abortion, is unconstitutional.

A big regular election Texas Senate battle shapes up in SD19, as Dems hope to reclaim a seat they long have held.

Combine Lupe Valdez' mismanagement at Lew Sterrett in Dallas County with some of the wingnuttery, and wingnut-pedestaling, of Joe Arpaio, and you have Tarrant County Sheriff Bill Weybourn.

Without Green David Bruce Collins and without Libertarian Kerry McKennon, I didn't watch the Texas Senate debate between former Libertarian voter MJ Hegar, representing ConservaDems, and Ted Cruz' lapdog, John Cornyn.

And, speaking of speaking of? Royce West said he wasn't voting for her, in part because she is "crazy" (hey, Royce, she's a former Libertarian) and because she didn't ask for his endorsement. That led to this WHOPPER level lie by her:

"She has never reached out and it is what is with her and I’m not voting for her, I’m not voting in that race," West told the Statesman. ...
At the debate, Hegar said she hadn't reached out to West because it was not her style to seek such endorsements. "Personal endorsements tend to come with quid pro quo that I believe are a big part of what's broken in politics," Hegar said. 
She added that she believes "Sen. West is supporting me, because I know that we’re on the same page and we share so many of the same values."

Hegar? My newspaper email inbox has been full of endorsements you have touted. I'm sure you went hunting for them, and know they have strings attached.

Matt Angle compares our current moment in state politics to the 80s, when Texas went from Democratic to Republican.

Texana

The Monthly previews a pending Willie Nelson special issue.

Tom Hanks' new Western movie is due out at Christmastime. Assume you'll be watching it at home on pay-to-stream rather than in a theater.

Hispanic racism (as in BY, not against) remains on display in El Paso. The part about the Klan — and Gutzon Borglund — having connections to the Oñate statue is new to me; the rest of the history, to this person who grew up in New Mexico, is not.

Meet Dr. Marcellus Cooper, Texas' first black dentist, finally getting historically recognized.

National-non election

Twitter has until Oct. 20 to reveal information about who's behind the account @whyspertech, which created a fake alleged FBI document that was a major factor in fueling the Seth Rich conspiracy theory. It's about damned time.

"Murder, They Say." Pro Publica reports that feds in Portland — including and primarily local and state law enforcement deputized by the feds — did not identify themselves before fatally shooting Michael Forest Reinoehl. (That said, and not excusing feds' behavior, this doesn't whitewash the fact that he was kind of a lefty wingnut.)

The Overton Window is real. Contra Politico, Rob Portman is not a "moderate."

"Nice" to see Orthodox Jews fully uphold being part of the Religious Right, including on being anti-mask coronavirus conspiracy theorists.

Between age and now, apparently, age-driven dementia, plus that she's never been that pergressuve, Sen. Betty Crocker, I mean Diane Feinstein, is a poster child for what's wrong with national Democrats in general, and even more, California Democrats in particular.

Silicon Valley? Hucksterman's pro-winger leanings are not an anomaly.

George Floyd's uncle lives in Gettysburg, S.D., which for JUST 11 of its 137 years, has incorporated the Confederate battle flag until he called it out. The wingnuts, in a town settled in part by Civil War Union vets, went ballistic. Then, as an ex-Missouri Synod Lutheran, is this unsurprising bit.

Pastor David Otten of the local Emmanuel Lutheran Church declined to address the conflict. He issued broad guidance: “When you post something on Facebook, are you building the person up or are you tearing them down? We’re supposed to be building people up.”

The denomination says its officially got anti-racism initiatives, but this is more its reality.

In addition, that patch? Goes back to the old "reconciliation" meeting at Gettysburg of Union and Confederate veterans which had no Black involvement. The reunion, in 1913, got Woodrow Wilson's official whitewash imprimatur, and, we all know about Wilson's long racist history even before becoming president. So, the chief at the time saying "no harm" was meant? Either a liar or an idiot.

And, contra the wingnuts, other than one lone flyer, no, Confederate veterans were NOT involved with the settlement.

Mark Pitcavage provides a bit of background on that Michigan terrorist attempt to kidnap Governor Gretchen Whitmer.

National-election

Your political laugh for the week: "Navajos for Trump."

Your political non-laugh for the week: The Dallas FBI office has warned about an election-based breakout of far-right extremism.

Havana Ted Cruz is worried about a national "bloodbath of Watergate proportions" for the GOP.

With the town hall debate cancelled, what are the odds that, due to more petulance by Trump, the final one is cancelled as well? And, if you're tired of both duopoly candidates, won't you be glad?

October 14, 2020

Yes! Donaldine and Melania are together in COVIDity as they Don't Fear the Virus, courtesy Blue Öyster Cult



All our bugs have come
Here but now they're gone
Seasons don't fear the virus
Nor do the wind, the sun or the rain, others can be like us

Come on baby, don't fear the virus
Baby take my hand, don't fear the virus
We'll be able to fly, don't fear the virus
Baby I'm your man

La, la, la, la, la
La, la, la, la, la

Regeneron’s done
Here but now its gone

Donaldine and Melania
Together in eternity, Donaldine and Melania
40, 000 men and women everyday, Like Donaldine and Melania
40, 000 men and women everyday, Redefine happiness
Another 40, 000 coming everyday, others can be like us

Come on baby, don't fear the virus
Baby take my hand, don't fear the virus
We'll be able to fly, don't fear the virus
Baby I'm your man

October 13, 2020

Coronavirus news, week 28

1. Trump's touting of Regeneron is a two-edged sword for its maker, which faces additional problems based on its being developed off stem cells from an aborted fetus. (For that matter, the second link notes that's also true of Remdesivir.) Plus, Moderna, AstraZenica and Johnson and Johnson's vaccine development work all involve fetal stem cells. Beyond that, Regeneron has enough of its product for ... oh, 50,000 people if that.

Indeed, this is such a problem that wingnuts, not only at their own blogs and websites, but in comments poaching on liberally religious and secularist blogs, have been spinning like crazy on this aborted fetal cells issue. And failing.

2. Meanwhile, COVID cases have spiked again, with nine states, including the South Dakota where Gov. Kristi Noem hates American Indian check points but panders to Sturgis superspreaders, setting records on cases per day and South Dakota and a couple others setting death records.
 
Wingnuts have been spinning hard on this one as well, with websites like American Thinker, just linked, talking about things like "what is a case," when the CDC and state health departments have never changed their determination of what a COVID case is. 

Sorry, wingnuts, and sadly, wingnuts, it's all true. Witness the New Mexico resurgence.

3. Here in Texas, coronavirus 2020 has already lapped over into 2021, as the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo announced last week it was scrubbing next year's event.
“With more than 1.2 million stock show guests, exhibitors, visitors and competitors converging into the various buildings on the Will Rogers complex during our 23-day show, the chances to harbor and spread coronavirus well beyond the North Texas region, especially in the midst of flu season, is too great a risk to take for the public good,” stock show president Brad Barnes said.
What else is there to say, other than? #WearADamnMask, rural COVIDIOT Texans. It's funny, or rather, "funny," and sad, that wingers don't see something like this, even, as a wake-up call.

4. In light of that? Increasing national mask rates from 50 percent to 95 percent could save THOUSANDS of lives.)

5. In a semi-cancelled North Texas event, the drive-through mini-State Fair has reportedly been as badly traffic-snarled as the Mixmaster.

October 12, 2020

LeBron is No. 1; Michael Jordan is 1A

I wrote about this just 14 months ago, as the just-finished, COVID-interrupted NBA season was about to start.

And now, with LeBron James winning his fourth Finals MVP, and with only Michael Jordan having more? AND, with LeBron now the only person to win the Finals MVP with three teams?

It's time to head back and refresh.

I had gotten halfway tired of this question on Quora, and eventually left because I was FULLY tired of the wingnut lies on politics and Quora concern trolling ME when I called them out. 

That said, rather than retyping myself and going back to Basketball-Reference time after time, it's easier to take my latest answer, add some stuff to it, and have it ready to post.

Lebron's career sabermetrics, updated from the start of season: PER 27.5 WS/48 .234 VORP 133.7 VORP/100 Games (my addition to Basketball Reference stats) 10.57.


OK, next?

Jordan, with fewer career games, career minutes and mid-career rest break: PER 27.9 WS/48 .250 VORP 104.4 VORP/100 G 9.739.

So, especially if one makes allowances for Jordan’s rest time, etc.? It’s arguable LeBron is 1 and Jordan is 1A.

As for the blinder Jordan fans? More finals wins/titles mean that LeBron never had a wingman as good as Scottie Pippen for starters. Don’t go there. And, no, don’t be such a Jordan homer over a Bulls homer to claim that Dwyane Wade is better than Scottie Pippen. He does have a year or two better by VORP, but otherwise? You know it’s not true; they're maybe about even, and that's maybe. Nor was Kyrie Irving, when paired with LeBron after he came back to Cleveland. He's not close.

Yes, LeBron has Anthony Davis this year. But? He didn't in the past. Period. And, while Chris Bosh was a good contributor with Miami? Bulls had Ron Harper, Steve Kerr, Toni Kukoc. Today's Lakers have nobody that close as a No. 3 option. And no, Danny Green is not at the Kukoc level, and Harper was as good as him on fewer minutes. The rest of that team? Yes, a shorter schedule, but still, JaVale McGee the only other player with 1.0 VORP or higher. (The 1996 and 1997 Bulls had six players there, as a counterexample, and five of them were over 2 VORP.)

Also? LBJ is 22nd in career assist percentage and Jordan is not in the top 100. In other words, LBJ worked harder to make his teammates better and more involved in the offense, and was better at it.

For Jordan fellators who LOL on Finals appearances vs titles?

Let’s put this another way.

LeBron's last year in his first stint in Cleveland? 61-21, lost in the East semis. Should have beaten the Celts, but set that aside. Next year, after he left? 19-63. 1993 Bulls? Won a title, 57-25 regular season.  Went 55-27 the next year, made it to the East semis. Went 47-25 the year after that, even, with Michael's late season comeback of just 17 games. Cavs? 21-45 in the strike-shortened second season after LeBron. And last year's Cavs, after losing LeBron the second time? 19-63. Get the picture? Click those two links above; compare the 2010 Cavs to 1993 Bulls, let alone 2011 Cavs to 1994 Bulls.

I would compare their age-35 seasons, but? Michael Jordan WAS RETIRED!!!!! Their age-34? Jordan 7.1 VORP and .238 WS/48.

Commenters, if I get any?

Jordan fans, given that I’ve already tackled the titles issue, find better arguments. The one and only good one, per ESPN's Zach Lowe and others, is LeBron spitting the bit in the 2011 Finals against the Mavericks. That said, this argument, the way it's usually presented, comes off as a diss of the Mavs. The Mavs did finish second in the West, as Miami did in the East. (People forget that.) Was Miami arguably the better team? Yes. Were all of its top players, not just LeBron, sniffing their own press clippings too much? Arguably, yes. Did they give the Mavs too many press clippings over Dirk's flu? Yes. But, Dallas had to win that series.

On the flip side, The Ringer reminds us of just what all is involved with winning the Finals MVP with three different teams, and how quickly LeBron elevated Miami, the returned-to Cleveland, and now LA.

Mamba fans wondering where Kobe Bryant is?

Not in the picture. Because he ain’t. He’s an A-minus, even more ball-centric, version of Jordan.