M Verant

Author’s Commentary

Power in the Age of Lies is fiction but satirizes some disturbingly real events. I’ve listed references below with my personal notes.


Russia

[1] “The Russian effort was extensive, sophisticated, and ordered by President Putin himself for the purpose of helping Donald Trump” / Zengerle, Patricia. “Key senators: ‘no doubt’ Russia sought to interfere in U.S. election.” Reuters, 16 May 2018.

[12] We’ll probably never know Trump’s private conversations with Putin about Russian sanctions, but we do know Trump’s National Security Advisor Michael Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with the Russians, and “…Flynn had assured him sanctions on Russia would be ‘ripped up’ and a vast nuclear power scheme they had worked on together would be clear to go forward. A lot of people were going to be rich…” / Ewing, Philip. “Flynn Promised Russia Sanctions Were To Be 'Ripped Up,' Top House Democrat Says.” NPR, 6 Dec. 2017

[19] The New York Times published “Treason Against the United States” on January 25, 1861, so the topic has come up before. “SHALL SUFFER DEATH” is in caps in case you missed the point. www.nytimes.com/1861/01/25/news/treason-against-the-united-states.html

[20] Trump invited the Russian news agency TASS for private photos with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in the Oval Office on May 10, 2017. / Vitkovskaya, Julie and Erickson, Amanda. “The strange Oval Office meeting between Trump, Lavrov and Kislyak.” Washington Post, 10 May 2017

[25] “Putin alone controls more than ten billion dollars” — That’s probably low; estimates range from $40 billion to more than $200 billion. Impressive, considering Putin’s official salary was only $137,000 in 2015. / Mills, Curt. “The Richest Man in the World Could Be Putin.” U.S. News, 17 Feb. 2017

[28] “Putin has had people killed before” — Filipov, David. “Here are 10 critics of Vladimir Putin who died violently or in suspicious ways.” Washington Post, 23 Mar. 2017

[33] “like Russia did in the Ukraine. Annex them” — It’s remarkable how little consequence Putin paid for this. Americans seem to have forgotten already, and it was only 2014. / Reuters. “How Russia took Crimea without a fight from Ukraine.” Newsweek, 24 Jul. 2017

[49] “they caught FSB agents planting bomb” — A reasonable reader would assume I’m making this up, but: “All available evidence points to Putin’s complicity in the 1999 apartment-building bombings in Russia. Those who have tried to investigate have been killed off, one by one.” / Satter, David. “The Unsolved Mystery Behind the Act of Terror That Brought Putin to Power.National Review, 17 Aug. 2016

[60] Despite Trump’s calls to end it, the investigation of whether Trump’s campaign colluded with Russian continues. Fox News’s Shep Smith: “The president again calling the Russia investigation a ‘Democratic hoax.’ It is not. Fox News has been reporting and will continue to report that two people have pleaded guilty.” And Wolff’s quote of Bannon is fun: “Even if you thought that this was not treasonous, or unpatriotic, or bad shit, and I happen to think it’s all of that, you should have called the FBI immediately.” Finally, don’t forget it’s acknowledged fact that they met: “…in attendance: Trump Jr., Kushner, Manafort, Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, Akhmetshin and publicist Rob Goldstone.” / Anapol, Avery. “Fox's Shep Smith fact-checks Trump on-air after Russia comments.” The Hill, 10 Jan. 2018 / Wolff, Michael. Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House. Henry Holt and Co., 2018 / “Trump Tower Russia meeting: At least eight people in the room.” CNN, 15 Jul. 2017

Climate and Energy

[4] Clairsboro is fictional, but the severe economic depression in the Appalachian coal mining region is very real. / Krauss, Clifford, and Corkery, Michael. “A Bleak Outlook for Trump’s Promises to Coal Miners.” New York Times, 19 Nov. 2016.

[5] “Cleanest coal you’ve seen. Beautiful.” — Trump seems to think you make clean coal by washing it; it’s actually power plant carbon capture technology. / Grandoni, Dino. “Trump keeps saying ‘clean coal.’ It does not mean what he thinks it means.” Washington Post, 23 Aug. 2017.

[9] The Wall Street Journal, owned by Rupert Murdoch, has published many editorials denying climate change. It’s rather sad as decades ago the WSJ championed important science-based journalism, such as the link between smoking and cancer. / Nuccitelli, Dana. “The Wall Street Journal denies the 97% scientific consensus on human-caused global warming.” The Guardian, 28 May 2014.

[22] Everett Ferris is a fictional climate change denier, but here’s a real example: “…admitted that his views on climate change are based … a non-peer reviewed document crafted by scientists who are reportedly each paid $300,000 by Heartland to argue against the scientific evidence…” / Atkin, Emily. “Weather Channel Rebukes Its Co-Founder On Climate Change.” ThinkProgress, 29 Oct. 2014

[29] Climate change metrics have been unambiguous to an impartial observer for decades, hence the overwhelming scientific consensus. But climate change deniers got a lot of mileage from cherry-picking surface temperature samples that included the 1997 El Niño outlier data. Check out https://climate.nasa.gov/ while you can, as Trump is trying to cut NASA funding for climate change research. / Karlis, Nicole. “Trump’s proposed federal budget will slash climate change–related NASA missions.Salon, 11 Dec. 2017

[32] What risk of environmental catastrophe should we accept to avoid paying marginally higher energy costs? Climate change deniers argue that if there’s any uncertainty, we should ignore the problem. I believe the opposite; until we can prove we aren’t going to destroy the ecosystem, paying slightly more for energy is bargain-priced insurance. A scenario with a billion deaths is in the “unlikely” category (agricultural food chain collapse), but it’s not even close to worse case: “The Earth has experienced five mass extinctions … The most notorious was 252 million years ago; it began when carbon warmed the planet by five degrees, accelerated when that warming triggered the release of methane in the Arctic, and ended with 97 percent of all life on Earth dead”. / Wallace-Wells, David. “The Uninhabitable Earth.” New York Magazine, 9 Jul. 2017. / “Of the many things that keep climate scientists awake at night, tipping points may be the scariest.” / Hood, Marlowe. “Climate science bedeviled by 'tipping points'.Phys.Org, 19 Jan. 2017.

[58] “Chinese … environmental standards will probably exceed ours in a few years” — “China is waging an aggressive, multi-front campaign to clean up coal before eventually phasing it out — reducing emissions from existing plants, mothballing older plants, and raising standards for new plants. Unlike the US, it is on track to exceed its Paris carbon reduction commitments.” / Roberts, David. “By 2020, every Chinese coal plant will be more efficient than every US coal plant.” Vox, 16 May 2017

[59] Diseases of despair—drug and alcohol overdose, suicide, and alcoholic liver disease—have long occurred at much higher rates inside Appalachia. / Cunningham, Paige Winfield. “The Health 202: Appalachian death from drug overdoses far outpace nation’s.” Washington Post, 30 Oct. 2017.

Corruption and Lies

[2] “Look how many Trump advisors had been indicted” — As I write this, the Mueller investigation has charged 32 people. At least five people associated with Trump’s campaign or his White House administration have pleaded guilty or been convicted. / “Everyone Who’s Been Charged as a Result of the Mueller Investigation.” New York Times, 21 Aug. 2018.

[10] The Pelofarsa Club is fictional, but this anecdote is true—Trump appropriated the coat of arms of the prior owner of Mar-a-Lago, and for bonus irony, he replaced Integritas with Trump. / Hakim, Danny. “The Coat of Arms Said ‘Integrity.’ Now It Says ‘Trump.’New York Times, 28 May 2017.

[14] “The school vouchers are self-funding. We just take the money from the public education budget” — Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is a strong proponent of school vouchers, perhaps because rich people need help paying their private school tuition (she’s a billionaire). But even ignoring the ethics of education, vouchers just plain don’t work. / Johnson, Jake. “Will These Studies Finally Make Betsy DeVos Admit School Vouchers Are a Total Scam?Common Dreams, 26 Jun. 2017.

[16] Lobbyists really do write their own laws: “…with no public hearings and few modifications, the House voted to approve the measure — outraging victims’ rights advocates … Lobbyists then crowed about the achievement, boasting that the House-passed measure was nearly identical to one they provided to the House Judiciary Committee.” / Kindy, Kimberly. “In Trump era, lobbyists boldly take credit for writing a bill to protect their industry.Washington Post, 1 Aug. 2017

[26] Trump’s refusal to release his tax returns is another frightening precedent that seems forgotten. Before Trump, presidents released their tax returns and divested themselves of their investments to avoid conflict of interest. How quaint. We can only guess how much wealth Trump has gained from the tax cuts he advocated.

[34] Martial law is not explicitly mentioned in the Constitution, but Article 1, Section 9 provides the legal justification “… Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it.” Martial law has been declared several times in U.S. history, the most famous being when President Lincoln declared martial law during the Civil War.

[36] No Supreme Court judge has been impeached in the history of our country, but I was shocked by the indifference of the public when the Republicans robbed Obama of a legitimate court appointee. With today’s win-at-any-cost politics and Trump’s attacks on the courts, impeachment of dissenting judges seems quite plausible during a crisis. / Judd, Kevin and Watters, Keith. “Trump's attacks on courts undermine judicial independence.ABA Journal, 28 Jun. 2018

[40] The scene with Madison and Trump’s wife is fiction, but there’s been at least one public confrontation between a Trump wife (Ivana Trump) and a Trump mistress (Marla Maples), reportedly beginning “Are you in love with your husband? Because I am.” / Christensen, Jeff. “Donald Trump’s Divorce: Marla Maples, Ivana and the Split that Gripped New York.” Newsweek, 25 Aug. 2017.

[44] Trump loves his name on buildings, whether he owns them or not. “Because a lot of buildings have been branded as Trump properties, it’s assumed that Trump owns a lot more than he does.” / Babin, Janet. “When You See ‘Trump’ On A Building, It Might Not Be What You Think.” NPR, 31 Aug. 2015

[48] “Wealthy people spend more money every election and buy more control” — The 2010 Citizens United ruling was a frightening acceleration of this trend. The court’s claim that corporations share an individual’s right to free speech is asinine, as demonstrated by Stevens’ sarcastic dissent “Under the majority’s view, I suppose it may be a First Amendment problem that corporations are not permitted to vote.” Kennedy was the swing vote on the decision. His justification “Disclosure permits citizens and shareholders to react to the speech of corporate entities in a proper way” is laughably naïve, demonstrated both by the trivial ease with which Super PACs conceal their funding, and by the idea that disclosure through—the press? the magic, egalitarian internet?—can somehow offset the power of billions of dollars of professionally produced, paid propaganda. / Miller, Erin. “What Should Congress Do About Citizens United?SCOTUSblog, 24 Jan. 2010

[50] “after war, politicians just forget to give freedom back. Patriot Act, Freedom Act, yes?” — The Patriot Act became law in 2001, a response to the 9/11 attack. It expired in 2015 and was replaced with the Freedom Act, which continued most of the provisions. So, 17 years and counting

[52] “President Trump shot a 73 in windy and wet conditions!” — This was inspired by Lindsey Graham’s display of grotesque ingratiation. / Hart, Benjamin. “Lindsey Graham Almost Certainly Lied About Trump’s Golf Score.” New York Magazine, 9 Oct. 2017

[56] “How many things have we done that some judge said was unconstitutional” — There are already too many to list here, but here’s a recent example: / Lam, Katherine. “Trump ‘sanctuary cities’ executive order is unconstitutional, US appeals court rules.FOX News, 1 Aug. 2018

[57] “They do it openly now—voter suppression” — I could fill a book on voter suppression and gerrymandering, but here’s a single reference: “These laws have a disproportionate effect on minorities, which is exactly what you would expect given that members of racial and ethnic minorities are less apt to have valid photo ID” / Hajnal, Zoltan et al. “Do voter identification laws suppress minority voting? Yes. We did the research.” Washington Post, 15 Feb. 2017

[61] “press passes for today had been granted only to FOX” — “The White House barred several news organizations from an off-camera press briefing on Friday, handpicking a select group of reporters that included a number of conservative outlets friendly toward Donald Trump.” / Siddiqui, Sabrina. “Trump press ban: BBC, CNN and Guardian denied access to briefing.” The Guardian, 25 Feb. 2017

[67] “As has been stated by numerous legal scholars, I have the absolute right to PARDON myself” / Trump, Donald J. Tweeted on 4 Jun. 2018

[69] I’m writing this on Aug 31, 2018, and Trump attacked Hillary again yesterday at a rally in Evansville, Indiana. Here are some older stats: “Trump has tweeted or retweeted a message about Clinton approximately 837 times since 2012, and 56 times since the election.” I figure he’s insecure because Hillary got 2.9 million more votes than he did. I hear her hands are bigger than his, too. / McCammond, Alexi. “Trump's Hillary Clinton obsession.” Axios, 18 Nov. 2017

Racism and Hate

[24] “white supremacists on the California border” — It’s frightening how many of these exist. “California ranks No. 1 in the nation with 79 active hate groups … [There are] 917 hate groups actively operating across the United States. Florida ranks second … with 63 active hate groups.” It may be fairer to rank states per capita, then the order is: #1 is Montana, #2 Idaho, #3 Mississippi. / Sorci, Anthony. “States listed with most hate groups. Where does California rank?” The Sacramento Bee, 15 Aug. 2017. / Frohlich, Thomas C., et al, “10 States With the Most Hate Groups.” 24/7 Wall St., 14 Aug. 2017

[30] “People decide to believe what makes them comfortable” — I believe the hyper-personalized, addictive platforms of social media are intrinsically dangerous. Xenophobia is hardwired into our brains, and the mob anonymity of the internet magnifies it through confirmation bias and echo chambers. / Pariser, Eli. The Filter Bubble. Penguin Books, 2012

[46] “Don’t be too nice. I'd like to punch him in the face! Knock the crap out of them!” — These three sentences are literal Trump quotes from speeches and rallies. / Jacobson, Louis, and Tobias, Manuela. “Has Donald Trump never ‘promoted or encouraged violence,’ as Sarah Huckabee Sanders said?PolitiFact, 5 Jul. 2017. / Eversley, Melanie. “Trump tells law enforcement: ‘Don't be too nice’ with suspects.” USA Today, 28 Jul. 2017

Gun Violence

[6] “We need more guns in schools” — Trump proposed giving teachers a “bit of a bonus” to carry guns, and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is investigating paying for it with federal funds despite “overwhelming criticism from educators, lawmakers and law enforcement officials.” / Green, Erica. “Betsy DeVos Eyes Federal Education Grants to Put Guns in Schools.” New York Times, 23 Aug. 2018.

[62] The claim that the Second Amendment grants individuals a right to own a gun is only a few decades old, a marketing triumph of the modern NRA which Chief Justice Burger characterized as “one of the greatest pieces of fraud, I repeat the word fraud, on the American public by special interest groups that I have ever seen in my lifetime.” An “originalist” interpretation of the Second Amendment is clear—it was written only to ensure that states could maintain their own “well regulated militia” (the National Guard) as a check on Federal power. When passing the amendment, “Twelve congressmen joined the debate. None mentioned a private right to bear arms for self-defense, hunting, or for any purpose other than joining the militia.” / Stevens, John Paul. “Repeal the Second Amendment.” New York Times, 27 Mar. 2018 / Lopez, German. “How the NRA resurrected the Second Amendment.Vox, 4 May 2018

Sexism

[7] Trump famously rated women while on the Howard Stern show, but even as president, he has greeted professional women as “beautiful” or complimented their “nice smiles.” His behavior in the past is even worse: “From walking into a teen dressing room to joking about his obligation to sleep with contestants, Trump's a storied pageant creep.” / Alexander, Harriet. “RTE reporter Caitriona Perry tells of her surprise at 'creepy' Donald Trump moment in White House.” The Telegraph, 28 Jun. 2017. / Stuart, Tessa. “A Timeline of Donald Trump's Creepiness While He Owned Miss Universe.” Rolling Stone, 12 Oct. 2016.

[17] “She’s built for PR” — Trump’s real comments about woman are far more insulting than anything I’ve used in the book. You’ve all heard the “grab ’em by the pussy” quote, so I’ll draw from the embarrassment of riches for a different one: “You know, it really doesn’t matter … as long as you’ve got a young and beautiful piece of ass. But she’s got to be young and beautiful.” / Sebastian, Michael. “30 Times Donald Trump Has Been Completely Insulting to Women.” Cosmopolitan, 29 Jun. 2017.

[21] “dress like a woman” — Apparently this was a real policy. / Leaper, Caroline. “Donald Trump's directive that female staff should ‘dress like women’ causes another social media backlash.” The Telegraph, 3 Feb. 2017.

[47] The public accusations of Trump’s sexual assaults are much cruder and more physical than the scene between Trump and Madison. / Blau, Max. “These women have accused Trump of sexual harassment.CNN, 24 Oct. 2016

Incompetence

[11] Trump continues to use his Mar-a-Lago resort despite the security risk. “…former Secret Service and intelligence officials say the resort is a security nightmare vulnerable to both casual and professional spies.” / Samuelsohn, Darren. “Trump’s Mar-a-Lago is heaven — for spies.Politico, 3 Mar. 2017

[13] “Give or take, depending on staff turnover” — Twenty-two of Trump’s senior staff left in the first ten months. Remember Sean Spicer? Now that was quality entertainment. And how about The Mooch! “The revolving door at the Trump White House was ready to spin again…” / “Factbox: Trump turnover - Tillerson would be latest to leave administration.” Reuters, 30 Nov. 2017.

[23] Trump watches a tremendous amount of TV, but Fox & Friends is his obsession. / Marantz, Andrew. “How “Fox & Friends” Rewrites Trump’s Reality.” The New Yorker, 15 Jan. 2018

[35] “‘No taxation without representation.’ What is that anyway, some British thing?” — Obviously, this was a rallying cry of the American revolution. But I could believe Trump is this clueless about American history, after all, when “…Sam Nunberg was sent to explain the Constitution to the candidate: ‘I got as far as the Fourth Amendment before his finger is pulling down on his lip and his eyes are rolling back in his head.’” / Wolff, Michael. Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House. Henry Holt and Co., 2018

[38] “‘Have you met Trump’s Secretary of Energy?’ She laughed” — Trump’s Energy Secretary is Rick Perry, famous for the “Oops” moment in a Republican presidential debate when he forgot the name of the Department of Energy. Trump appointed him to lead the agency he couldn’t name and wanted to abolish, and yet, it still exists. / Reilly, Katie. “Rick Perry Infamously Forgot About the Department of Energy. Now He Might Lead It.” TIME, 13 Dec. 2016

[51] “his tweets more childish and unhinged than ever” — “Each insider account of the White House … portrays a president more isolated, more frustrated, and more rage-prone than the last.” / Lind, Dara. “The latest White House leaks showcase Trump's art of the tantrum.” / Vox, 10 Oct. 2017

[53] “I should have dedicated that trophy. Like I did for Puerto Rico” — Yes, he did it. / McAfee, Tierney. “Trump Slammed for Dedicating Golf Trophy to Hurricane Victims.” People, 2 Oct. 2017.

[66] “he is a psychopath—that is not so rare in American business leaders” — I hesitated before using “psychopath” in the text because colloquially we use that word (inaccurately) to mean very violent criminals. However, this references an Australian study concluding that one in five corporate executives are psychopaths, so I settled on the clinically correct word. Now the fun question: Is Trump a psychopath? Compare Trump’s symptoms with the Hare Psychopathy Checklist-Revised (PCL-R). I especially like the list for Factor 1: Personality "Aggressive narcissism": Glibness/superficial charm, Grandiose sense of self-worth, Pathological lying, Cunning/manipulative, Lack of remorse or guilt, Shallow affect (genuine emotion is short-lived and egocentric), Callousness; lack of empathy, Failure to accept responsibility for own actions.

[68] Concern that an unbalanced president could launch nuclear weapons began in the final days of Nixon’s presidency: “[the Defense Secretary] feared that the president, who seemed depressed and was drinking heavily, might order Armageddon.” Regarding Trump, in testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee: “an order from President Donald Trump or any of his successors to launch nuclear weapons can be refused by the top officer at U.S. Strategic Command if that order is determined to be illegal.” But even if the launch order is refused, nothing prevents the president from firing officers until the order is accepted. / Graff, Garrett. “The Madman and the Bomb.” Politico, 11 Aug. 2017 / Burns, Robert, and Lardner, Richard. “Retired US general says nuclear launch order can be refused.” FOX News, 14 Nov. 2017

Arrogance and Ego

[39] “Trump upstaged…not pretty” / Edelman, Adam. “Trump ‘frustrated’ and ‘jealous’ about Pence’s strong debate showing, experts and reports suggest, as running mate declares it was mogul who won the night.” NY Daily News, 5 Oct. 2016. / Related: Hartmann, Margaret. “Trump Fires Longtime Event Organizer Over Sparse Crowd at Phoenix Rally.” New York Magazine, 29 Aug. 2017

[41] “That hair medicine he takes, he cannot do it” — I don’t particularly care if Trump renders himself impotent to protect his hair. However, a person who can launch nuclear war should not take a vanity drug that is “…under increasing scrutiny in recent years by regulators in the United States and Canada because of a possible link to mental health issues.” / De Graff, Mia. “Donald Trump's hair loss drug tied to anger, depression, self-harm and erectile dysfunction.” DailyMail, 16 Jan. 2018

[45] “I went to that Camp David. What a dump that place is” — Trump dislikes Camp David, but to be fair, it was the White House he called a dump. / Berry, Deborah Barfield. “Trump heads to Camp David for first stay as president.USA Today, 17 Jun. 2017. / Eberhardt, Robin. “Golf journalist: At least 8 people heard Trump call the White House a ‘dump’.The Hill, 3 Aug. 2017

[55] “In my hotel, in Manhattan, I knew” — Trump bragged during the campaign that he had tremendous foresight and opposed the Iraq war, but the evidence does not agree. / Ponnuru, Ramesh. “Trump’s Iraq-War Revisionism.” National Review, 27 Sep. 2016.

[64] “Donald Trump’s description of Haiti, El Salvador and some parts of Africa as ‘shithole countries’ has sparked unprecedented international outrage” / Barron, Laignee. “‘A New Low.’ The World Is Furious at Trump for His Remark About ‘Shithole Countries’.TIME, 12 Jan. 2018

Religion

[15] “Honor the Lord with your wealth; then your barns will be filled to overflowing” — Proverbs 3:9-10 are popular quotes for prosperity gospel preachers. Although prosperity gospel is condemned by mainstream Christian organizations and most of the evangelical community, Trump chose two prosperity preachers among the six clergy members for his inauguration. “…it is not surprising that a billionaire like Donald Trump — who, I suspect, has almost no real acquaintance with Scripture — would latch on to this particular slant on the Gospel … It probably makes him think that his wealth is a sign of favor from God” / Fiedler, Maureen. “'Prosperity gospel' preachers at the inauguration.” National Catholic Reporter, 19 Jan. 2017.

[18] “The floodgates of heaven rain prosperity on those who believe.” — More prosperity gospel preaching, paraphrased from Malachi 3:10. It’s a popular prosperity verse perhaps because it begins “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse,” which is interpreted to mean your congregation should give you 10% of their income.

[37] “the thought of an atheist babysitter” — Some background on atheism is relevant to Hannah’s story: About 3.1% of Americans identify as atheist—more than Jewish, Mormon, or Muslim, all of which get vastly more political attention than atheists (not that Muslims would feel that’s a good thing). But the percentage of Americans who do not believe in God is much higher, between 10% and 30% depending on survey methodology. The large gap is probably because Americans have very negative views of atheists, so people closet their non-belief. It’s remarkable that admitting you don’t believe in supernatural beings would effectively disqualify you from the presidency but being accused of sexual assault by a dozen women does not. / Cox, Daniel. “Way More Americans May Be Atheists Than We Thought.” FiveThirtyEight, 18 May 2017

[54] “A woman should learn in quietness and full submission, not assume authority over a man.” — 1 Timothy 2:11, 2:12. A bit off topic but thematically relevant. 1 Timothy was originally attributed to Paul, but modern scholarship disagrees—more likely it’s just letters written by some random person (pseudepigraphical). If you read the whole epistle, I think it’s fair to say it’s disturbing—at a minimum, whoever wrote it had a serious problem with women. However, that does not diminish its popularity with evangelical preachers who consider it canon (authoritative, or even the word of God). The attacks on research questioning 1 Timothy authorship tend to be theological versions of “Fake News!” because American evangelical churches are fans of inerrancy (the bible cannot be wrong), as this post politely points out: “Aaron is clearly of the view that to admit that the Pastorals are not authentically Pauline is to deny inerrancy. This would be disastrous, he maintains, because without inerrancy, the whole edifice of Christian belief crumbles.” / Sparks, Kenton. “Did Paul Write the Pastoral Epistles?” cognitivediscopants.wordpress.com/2011/11/13/did-paul-write-the-pastoral-epistles/

[70] “Use the Constitution text, please” — This is a request for the Speaker to administer the oath as written in the Constitution, i.e. not to append the extra words “so help me God” which has become common practice only in the last few decades. This request is not an anti-religion statement, nor is it related to personal religious views. “So help me God” is a Christian oath, and if the Speaker prompts for it, he is violating both the Establishment Clause and Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment (despite what some conservatives claim, those clauses really do prohibit the state endorsement of a religion), and Article Six of the United States Constitution "no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States." The new president is swearing to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution—so their first act in this role is to request the original text. Of course, they are free to add any additional phrase they wish after the oath without being prompted, which could be “so help me God,” although “wallahi” (“I swear to God” in Arabic) is equally suitable and would likely raise eyebrows.

Just for Fun

[3] Joe Biden was elected to the Senate in 1972 when he was 29 years old—too young to serve in the Senate—but turned 30 before he was sworn in.

[8] A 500 HP excavator may not sound like much in our era of 500 HP sports cars, but that is a massive excavator, weighing 90 tons.

[27] Nevada does not hold special elections to fill empty Senate seats—they are appointed by the governor. This was artistic license as Nevada politics and geography worked well for the story. The rest of the book follows law and historic precedent as closely as possible.

[31] “provided you were into nerds… Her personal experience was not big enough to be significant. Statistically, that is” — My favorite joke of the book, although probably only funny to math nerds. Madison is blithely unaware that her test for whether she’s into nerds is ridiculously nerdy.

[42] “surrounded by the vibrant colors of a rainforest” — The Osher Rainforest exhibit at the California Academy of Science in San Francisco. Very cool, I recommend a visit.

[43] “Canada brings other benefits” — And we’d get dreamy Justin Trudeau. / Cresci, Elena. “Pictures of ‘swooning’ Ivanka Trump and Justin Trudeau go viral.” The Guardian, 15 Feb. 2017.

[63] “The art of the deal” — From Trump’s book: “You can't con people, at least not for long … if you don't deliver the goods, people will eventually catch on.” It’s unclear if we’re still in the “con” phase, or this is “delivering the goods”. Either is disturbing. / Trump, Donald, and Tony Schwartz. Trump: the Art of the Deal. Ballantine Books, 2017.

[65] Want some fun reading? Google “trump paranoid narcissism.” Here’s one: “If you take President Trump’s words literally, you have no choice but to conclude that he is psychotic.” / Gartner, John. “Donald Trump's malignant narcissism is toxic: Psychologist.USA Today, 4 May 2017