Saturday
Aug012015

Does journalism have time to think now?

Elizabeth Drew in this week's Washington Post Magazine: "It depends on what the job is, and it depends on who the journalist is. You can take the time. You can say, 'Wait a minute, what does that mean? And why is that person saying that?' That's a fundamental question that we always have to keep in mind. Why is he or she telling me this? It's more of a problem now because there's so much coming at us. But you have to learn to sort it out and still ask yourselves the same question: What is really going on here?"

Friday
Jul312015

On Bernie Sanders

Teamed up with Michael Crowley for this today:

In June 1986, the House of Representatives voted to send $100 million in U.S. military aid to Nicaragua’s contra rebels. It was a major victory for Ronald Reagan’s hardline anti-communist foreign policy.

In Burlington, Vermont, Mayor Bernie Sanders sprang into action. Sanders quickly called an emergency board of aldermen meeting to discuss how the lakeside college town should respond.

This was not a surprising or unprecedented move for the young socialist mayor, who considered it his small city’s responsibility to craft a foreign policy in opposition to the Reagan administration’s. The previous summer, for instance, Sanders had presided over a local meeting to protest Reagan’s invasion of Grenada. Keep reading.

Sanders stuff from earlier this month: 1. Bernie Sanders Has a Secret. 2. 14 things Bernie Sanders has said about socialism.

Thursday
Jul302015

Donald Trump's first book

37 things I underlined in The Art of the Deal:

1. I don't do it for the money. I've got enough, much more than I'll ever need. I do it to do it.

2. I rarely stop for lunch.

3. ... if it can't be fun, what's the point?

4. Sometimes it pays to be a little wild.

5. Sometimes — not often, but sometimes — less is more.

6. My nine-year-old son, Donny, calls to ask when I'll be home. I always take calls from my kids, no matter what I'm doing. I have two others — Ivanka, six, and Eric, three — and as they get older, being a father gets easier. I adore them all, but I've never been great at playing with toy trucks and dolls. Now, though, Donny is beginning to get interested in buildings and real estate and sports, and that's great.

7. ... I have a tendency to make a few more calls when I get home.

8. ... I can't stand small talk.

9. I like the casino business. I like the scale, which is huge, I like the glamor, and most of all, I like the cash flow.

10. ... it pays to move quickly and decisively when the time is right.

11. ... sometimes your best investments are the ones you don't make.

12. I've always felt that a lot of modern art is a con, and that the most successful painters are often better salesmen and promoters than they are artists.

13. I happen to like earth tones. They are richer and more elegant than primary colors.

14. Most people think small, because most people are afraid of success, afraid of making decisions, afraid of winning. And that gives people like me a great advantage.

15. I wasn't satisfied just to earn a good living. I was looking to make a statement.

16. One of the keys to thinking big is total focus. I think of it almost as a controlled neurosis, which is a quality I've noticed in many highly successful entrepreneurs. They're obsessive, they're driven, they're single-minded and sometimes they're almost maniacal, but it's all channeled into their work. ... I don't say this trait leads to a happier life, or a better life, but it's great when it comes to getting what you want.

17. People think I'm a gambler. I've never gambled in my life. To me, a gambler is someone who plays slot machines. I prefer to own slot machines. It's a very good business being the house.

18. It's been said that I believe in the power of positive thinking. In fact, I believe in the power of negative thinking.

19. Some people criticize Stallone, but you've got to give him credit. I mean, here's a man who is just forty-one years old, and he's already created two of the all-time-great characters, Rocky and Rambo. To me he's a diamond-in-the-rough type, a genius purely by instinct. He knows what the public wants and he delivers it.

20. ... you have to convince the other guy it's in his interest to make the deal.

21. There are singers in this world with voices as good as Frank Sinatra's but they're singing in their garages because no one has ever heard of them. You need to generate interest, and you need to create excitement. One way is to hire public relations people and pay them a lot of money to sell whatever you've got. But to me, that's like hiring outside consultants to study a market. It's never as good as doing it yourself.

22. One thing I've learned about the press is that they're always hungry for a good story, and the more sensational the better. It's in the nature of the job, and I understand that. The point is that if you are a little different, or a little outrageous, or if you do things that are bold or controversial, the press is going to write about you.

23. Sometimes they write positively, and sometimes they write negatively. But from a pure business point of view, the benefits of being written about have far outweighed the drawbacks.

24. The final key to the way I promote is bravado. I play to people's fantasies. People may not always think big themselves, but they can still get very excited by those who do. That's why a little hyperbole never hurts. People want to believe that something is the biggest and the greatest and the most spectacular.

25. In the second grade I actually gave a teacher a black eye — I punched my music teacher because I didn't think he knew anything about music and I almost got expelled.

26. I can always tell a loser when I see someone with a car for sale that is filthy dirty.

27. ... I tend to size people up pretty quickly.

28. "Hello, my name is Donald Trump, and I'd like to buy the Sixtieth Street yards." The simplest approach is often the most effective.

29. Sometimes, part of making a deal is denigrating your competition.

30. It's strange how things can turn around.

31. Controversy, in short, sells.

32. If most malls succeed in part because they're so safe and homogeneous, I'm convinced that the Trump Tower atrium succeeds for just the opposite reasons. It's larger than life, and walking through it is a transporting experience, almost as if you're in a wonderland.

33. From day one, we set out to sell Trump Tower not just as a beautiful building in a great location but as an event. We positioned ourselves as the only place for a certain kind of very wealthy person to live — the hottest ticket in town. We were selling fantasy.

34. What really means something is when a celebrity is willing to pay full price for an apartment.

35. ... while I can't honestly say I need an eighty-foot living room, I do get a kick out of having one.

36. If you allow people to gamble in the stock market, where more money is made and lost than in all the casinos of the world put together, I see nothing terribly different about permitting people to bet on blackjack or craps or roulette.

37. Sometimes by losing a battle you find a new way to win the war. What you need, generally, is enough time and a little luck.

Thursday
Jul302015

Something Donald Trump wrote

In his 1987 book, his first book, The Art of the Deal:

You can't con people, at least not for long. You can create excitement, you can do wonderful promotion and get all kinds of press, and you can throw in a little hyperbole. But if you don't deliver the goods, people will eventually catch on.

I think of Jimmy Carter. After he lost the election to Ronald Reagan, Carter came to see me in my office. He told me he was seeking contributions to the Jimmy Carter Library. I asked how much he had in mind. And he said, "Donald, I would be very appreciative if you contributed five million dollars."

I was dumbfounded. I didn't even answer him.

But that experience also taught me something. Until then, I'd never understood how Jimmy Carter became president. The answer is that as poorly qualified as he was for the job, Jimmy Carter had the nerve, the guts, the balls, to ask for something extraordinary. That ability above all helped him get elected president. But then, of course, the American people caught on pretty quickly that Carter couldn't do the job, and he lost in a landslide when he ran for reelection.

Ronald Reagan is another example. He is so smooth and so effective a performer that he completely won over the American people. Only now, nearly seven years later, are people beginning to question whether there's anything beneath that smile.

Wednesday
Jul292015

Florida

From Marc Caputo's Florida Playbook today:

BUBBLE, BUBBLE … HOUSING TROUBLE? — “As Tampa Bay foreclosures plunge, prices jump,” by Tampa Bay Times’ Susan Taylor Martin: “According to a report Tuesday by the data analysis firm CoreLogic, 3.7 percent of Tampa Bay homes with mortgages were in some state of foreclosure in May. While higher than the national rate, that marked a decrease of almost 3 percentage points from a year ago and the lowest percentage since January 2014. Also encouraging: The percentage of bay area homeowners more than 90 days delinquent on their mortgages — 7.53 percent — was the lowest in 18 months.”

HOW THE BUBBLE HELPED BUSH — “Under Jeb Bush, housing prices fueled Florida’s boom. Then it all went bust,” by Washington Post’s Jim Tankersley: “On the campaign trail, Jeb Bush has repeatedly emphasized his record overseeing Florida’s boom economy as the state’s governor. … But according to interviews with economists and a review of data, Florida owed a substantial portion of its growth under Bush not to any state policies but to a massive and unsustainable housing bubble — one that ultimately benefited rich investors at the expense of middle-class families. The bubble, one of the biggest in the nation, drove up home prices and had many short-term benefits for the state, spurring construction, spending and jobs. But the collapse of the housing bubble as Bush left office in 2007, after eight years of service, sent Florida into a recession deeper than that in the rest of the country, and hundreds of thousands lost their homes.”

What it is.

Consider this passage in the book Fifty Feet in Paradise, written by David Nolan, published in 1984: "The 1920s boom was one of those episodic madnesses in history so concentrated and so colorful as to erase the memory of similar but less startling events. This is unfortunate because it consigns the madness merely to the past, whereas nothing is more certain than that it shall happen again."

Up and down, down and up, he wrote, "is in fact the basic pattern of Florida's growth."

The state, he said, sounds like this:

BOOM!

POP! Click.

If Florida can be used as an adjective, the ’20s were, and remain, the most Florida decade. It is the original stretch of time of the many facsimiles that have followed, boom and bust, boom and bust, again and again, over and over, the essential cycle of the Sunshine State over the last hundred years. Click.

Saturday
Jul252015

Carl Hiaasen in Florida Trend

Five things he said in the August issue:

1. "Mostly, we produce construction jobs in Florida — construction for the sake of construction. That's basically the same mechanism as a cancer cell."

2. "There's no question that there's a glorious abundance of weirdness and depravity in Florida. As a parent and a grandparent, you have to wonder if this is really where I want my kids to grow up? Is this really what I want my kids to see and experience? But more selfishly, as a writer, you think, 'I'm in heaven.'"

3. "If you get into the business of journalism or the business of writing novels and think you're going to change the world, you're either a madly deluded egotist or you're just mad period. That isn't why you do it. It's enough to know that you've changed a few people's way of thinking or you've plugged into an audience that feels passionate about something."

4. "When people see their newspapers diminish, and they think, well, so, it put some reporters and editors out of work. No, no, it's much worse than that. These are your eyes and ears in the community. If you want to know what's going on in your community, you need journalism."

5. "You can go online and see what stories are getting the most hits. If there's a story in the Herald tomorrow that says 'Kim Kardashian Grows a Third Ass Cheek' and another story, 'Iran Tests a Nuclear Weapon Next to Israel,' which one do you think is going to get the most hits? That's a bitter pill for all of us who believe people gravitate to what's really important."

Wednesday
Jul222015

I worry about this too

Claire Messud in the August Harper's:

When I recall my formative years, of course there was loads of reading, and travel, and biking, and TV. But there was also a whole lot of boredom. I guess that’s what concerns me, as a parent: that my kids, who lack for nothing even more than I did, are not only unversed in material deprivation and insufficiently familiar with self-restraint but, most terribly, they know nothing of nothingness. Having no truly empty time, they’re unfamiliar too with the unexpected and exhilarating flowers that can grow there.

I want my children to embrace doing nothing, to embrace the slowing of an afternoon to a near standstill, when all you can hear is the laborious ticking of the clock and the dog snoring on the sofa, the rain’s patter at the window, the occasional swoosh of a slowly passing car. Remember those days? The exasperation, the excruciating itchiness of them? My kids would have to dive in, live through the agony, and come out the other side. They’d have to learn to lie on the lawn watching ants scale the grass blades; they’d have to linger, digits pruning, in the bathtub; they’d have to stop, to be still, and then to wait, and wait, and wait, allowing time to fatten around them, like a dewdrop on the tip of a leaf. And then, only then, who knows what they might imagine or invent?

Wednesday
Jul222015

This month's Findings

Three things I underlined in the new Harper's:

1. Parakeets are the only non-mammals to yawn contagiously.

2. The first fraction of human ejaculate contains the best sperm, while the remainder exists mostly to foil competition.

3. Men who smell a T-shirt recently worn by a fertile woman drink more nonalcoholic beer.