"Iron Fists" Are "Smart"
The Trumpian view of democracy.
1. Trump Loves Him Some Dictators
We haven’t talked about Donald Trump’s weekend rally in Pennsylvania yet. The full transcript is here. Let me give you some highlights:
On Joe Biden: “He’s an enemy of the state, you want to know the truth. . . . How’d you like the red lighting behind him, like the devil?”
“Before our very eyes, our beloved country is being taken over by the very people who turn democracies into dictatorships, and into, ultimately, ruination.”
“I got to know a lot of the foreign leaders, and let me tell you, unlike our leader, they’re at the top of their game. These are like central casting. There’s nobody that could play the role in Hollywood, all of Hollywood, nobody can play the role of President Xi China. Nobody could play the role. He’s a fierce person. Putin, fierce, is smart. A lot of times I’ll say somebody’s smart and the fake news will go, “He called President Xi smart.” He rules with an iron fist 1.5 billion people. Yeah, I’d say he’s smart. Wouldn’t you say he’s smart?”
“So I’m with President Xi and I got along with him very well. . . . I really had a great relationship with him. And then I asked him a question. I said, “President,” He’s president for life, by the way. So I call him King. I say, “King.” He said, “But I am not king.” I said, “You are to me. You’re president for life, it’s the same thing.” He will be very soon.
Semi-fascist seems about right, no? Trump called the democratically-elected American president an “enemy of the state” and then gushed about how smart the Chinese and Russian dictators are. About how ruling “with an iron fist” is “smart.”
And, as Charlie pointed out this morning, Trump has been seeking to undermine elections in America for a solid decade. He called on people to march for a “revolution” following Romney’s 2012 defeat. And also to “fight like hell” because America “is not a democracy.”1
Oh, and he insisted that Mitt Romney won the popular vote. Which is a position that even Ginni Thomas probably didn’t believe at the time. (Romney lost by 5 million votes.)
Anyway: Sure, you can think that Joe Biden shouldn’t be taking on semi-fascism rhetorically. Or that he did it inelegantly. Or whatever. That’s more or less where I am, as you know.
On the other hand: It’s forking true.
The once and possibly future president of the United States said it, out loud. Again.
2. London Bridge Is Down
It’s going to be a big news day. This piece from 2017 should give you an idea of what to expect:
Her eyes will be closed and Charles will be king. His siblings will kiss his hands. The first official to deal with the news will be Sir Christopher Geidt, the Queen’s private secretary, a former diplomat who was given a second knighthood in 2014, in part for planning her succession. . . .
Geidt will contact the prime minister. The last time a British monarch died, 65 years ago, the demise of George VI was conveyed in a code word, “Hyde Park Corner”, to Buckingham Palace, to prevent switchboard operators from finding out. For Elizabeth II, the plan for what happens next is known as “London Bridge.” The prime minister will be woken, if she is not already awake, and civil servants will say “London Bridge is down” on secure lines. From the Foreign Office’s Global Response Centre, at an undisclosed location in the capital, the news will go out to the 15 governments outside the UK where the Queen is also the head of state, and the 36 other nations of the Commonwealth for whom she has served as a symbolic figurehead . . .
For a time, she will be gone without our knowing it. The information will travel like the compressional wave ahead of an earthquake, detectable only by special equipment. Governors general, ambassadors and prime ministers will learn first. Cupboards will be opened in search of black armbands, three-and-a-quarter inches wide, to be worn on the left arm. . . .
When the Queen dies, the announcement will go out as a newsflash to the Press Association and the rest of the world’s media simultaneously. At the same instant, a footman in mourning clothes will emerge from a door at Buckingham Palace, cross the dull pink gravel and pin a black-edged notice to the gates. While he does this, the palace website will be transformed into a sombre, single page, showing the same text on a dark background.
Screens will glow. There will be tweets. At the BBC, the “radio alert transmission system” (Rats), will be activated – a cold war-era alarm designed to withstand an attack on the nation’s infrastructure. Rats, which is also sometimes referred to as “royal about to snuff it”, is a near mythical part of the intricate architecture of ritual and rehearsals for the death of major royal personalities that the BBC has maintained since the 1930s. Most staff have only ever seen it work in tests; many have never seen it work at all. “Whenever there is a strange noise in the newsroom, someone always asks, ‘Is that the Rats?’ Because we don’t know what it sounds like,” one regional reporter told me.
Here’s the part of the plan that probably comes next:
The most elaborate plans are for what happens if she passes away at Balmoral, where she spends three months of the year. This will trigger an initial wave of Scottish ritual. First, the Queen’s body will lie at rest in her smallest palace, at Holyroodhouse, in Edinburgh, where she is traditionally guarded by the Royal Company of Archers, who wear eagle feathers in their bonnets. Then the coffin will be carried up the Royal Mile to St Giles’s cathedral, for a service of reception, before being put on board the Royal Train at Waverley station for a sad progress down the east coast mainline. Crowds are expected at level crossings and on station platforms the length of the country – from Musselburgh and Thirsk in the north, to Peterborough and Hatfield in the south – to throw flowers on the passing train. (Another locomotive will follow behind, to clear debris from the tracks.) “It’s actually very complicated,” one transport official told me.
We’re creeping up on October and we should all pause for a minute to appreciate this Dodgers’ team. They’re going to win close to 115 games. Their season run differential will be largest in the history.
How dominant are these Dodgers? Jayson Stark points out that the Dodgers have won 51 games by 4 runs or more. The Marlins have only scored 4 or more runs in 50 games.
This team is loaded.
And also fun to watch. Trea Turner. Mookie Betts. Freddie Freeman. Will Smith. Justin Turner. How much fun? This much fun:
Anyway: I mention all of this as prelude to arguing that baseball has a looming analytics problem.
Joe Maddon was an early adopter and both he and Theo Epstein have noticed that baseball’s obsession with data has merged with technological advances in data-gathering (sensors, high-speed cameras, etc.) to create an uncanny valley. Here’s Maddon:
When it comes to all this information, the players, when you’re (throwing) your bullpen, it’s not about throwing the pitch (or) how did it feel to execute the pitch? … It’s (about running) right to the machine. What was the spin rate?
Managers barely even manage games anymore. The analytics department tells them what the numbers say they have to do. And that’s that.
This is new.
As I said, baseball has always been obsessed with quantification. It’s the most stat-heavy sport and practitioners have long used statistics to make decisions and guide their development.
Which makes sense. But there is a difference. We used to measure outcomes in baseball: Ball or strike? Hit or out? Technology has revolutionized our ability to measure process. Spin rate. Hand speed. Exit velocity.
And these process-based analytics have the potential to reduce to reduce baseball to a spreadsheet.
Boo. No me gusta. Make it stop. Kill it with fire.
Math undergirds everything. (Pour one out for the Time Lords.) But we don’t have the ability to see that deeply into the math. Nor should we.
Trying to drill baseball all the way down to pure math and statistics without technological advances is like trying to look into the eye of God.
It shouldn’t be done.
The irony of Trump complaining about the illegitimacy of the Electoral College before the Electoral College made him president despite the majority of the country voting against him is darkly funny. Or maddening. Take your pick.