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Tue, Feb

From Gray Coats to Political Overtures: A Week of Oddities and Ominous Signs

GELFAND'S WORLD

GELFAND’S WORLD - It used to be that you could write something starting with, "It's been a weird week," and go on from there. Of course that was in the pre-internet days when there were maybe two or three columnists contributing to any newspaper. But in this day of massive overkill, how can you top an article like this one? Titled Melania Trump's Color Choice at Rosalynn Carter's Funeral Sparks a First Lady Wardrobe Debate, the article explains that tongues were wagging because Melania Trump wore a gray coat to the Carter funeral rather than the more traditional black. Now as any person who knows me would attest, I don't know fashion. It's dictates haven't managed to impinge upon my world view. But the idea that a gray coat is disrespectful to the deceased strains my imagination. But more to the point, it was a bit curious that this article ran on the front page of the ATT/Yahoo site. The other curious thing was that there was lots of national news on television about the Carter funeral, and I didn't hear one word about any fashion controversy. I'm left to conclude that the Yahoo editors have decided to pursue controversy for its own sake. Perhaps they are trying to mimic the former president.

Another 1970s era leader who lived a very long life and just passed on was Henry Kissinger. The network news shows put together their obligatory clips explaining that Kissinger worked for Nixon and won the Nobel Peace Prize. But I didn't hear anybody give the other side of Kissinger, which amounted to hundreds of thousands of dead people. Here is the Erik Loomis version which can be summarized here as Viet Nam, Cambodia, and Chile. Loomis argues, based on credible accounts by legitimate historians, that Kissinger sabotaged the 1968 Viet Nam peace attempt in order to get Richard Nixon elected president. By itself, the extension of the war contributed to thousands of American deaths.

See-sawing back to contrived fashion controversies, here's another one that caught my eye. It turns out that there is a successful model by the name of Emily Ratajkowski, and she posed for one photo wearing a pair of baggy jeans.  This sparked the anger of plus-size advocates, who feel that she was bragging implicitly about being thin, or something like that. We seem to be in a world where contrived outrage gets you into the gossip columns.

I don't understand anything about fashion or fashion controversies. But I do have one thought, which is that people who don't want to be judged on their fashion sense should be able to opt out. This even includes presidents who wear brown suits.

And that drags us back to the subject of that former president, who -- in the span of a few hours -- threatened to exterminate us vermin (was it really a page taken from Adolph Hitler's book?) and then resurrected the topic of abolishing the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare. You can read a take on the latter story here

There is, I think, a story that is gradually coalescing out of the myriad Trump comments, speeches, Tweets, and courtroom outbursts: Donald Trump is showing mental changes of a distinctly negative form. He used to be motivated mainly by greed and egotism, and now he spends most of his time expressing his need for revenge. It looks like Trump is showing the changes that his supporters have been accusing Joe Biden of suffering.

We have to take Trump's mental deterioration seriously, but only because he could be president once again. I'm reminded of the old story that when a military junta takes over the government of a small country, the first thing they do is to shut down the television station and the radio stations. And now, this is what Donald Trump is threatening as he rants on about MSNBC and how they should be punished for saying bad things about him.

Take a look at what Scott Lemieux says about Trump and fascism here. Lemieux sums up Trump's recent rants about MSNBC, attacks on the woman who won a court case against him for sexual assault, attacks on the wife of judge Engoron, and so many other recent outrages that demonstrate that Trump is deranged.

Yes, it was a weird week for me in that I noticed the fashion articles with their near-Trumpian sense of outrage. But these dragged me back to the sense of peril that some fairly sophisticated people are now feeling about the political climate. Personally, I would like to think that Trump's problems will gradually whittle a few percent of traditional Republicans away from voting for him, and that is all it will take. But in the meanwhile, we have to remain aware and consider things carefully.

(Bob Gelfand writes on science, culture, and politics for CityWatch. He can be reached at [email protected].)