Monday, July 20, 2020

Diary

I finished reading Mary Trump's book and didn't find it enlightening at all. From reading it, you would never know that she is a Ph.D. psychologist, and the book was obviously rushed to press: it contains typos. I think that her level of analysis is crude, and too much of the book is devoted to salvaging the reputation of her father, Fred Trump, Jr., and blaming Fred Trump, Sr. From the information provided, I think that Fred Trump, Sr. was a fairly typical entrepreneur, not a sociopath, as she describes him. Successful entrepreneurs tend to be miserly, scheming and slightly dishonest, and that more or less sums him up. The fact that he had a cold, Germanic personality, I think, is incidental. Though his wife was Scottish, everyone in the family, including Mary, seems cold and tone-deaf. At times she also tries to portray Donald as a victim of abusive parenting, offering the standard theory used in developmental psychology. I think that the primary cause of coldness is in the family's genes.

The actual story of interest, which Mary doesn't describe accurately, is simply one of management succession in a family business, and in this respect the Trumps were hardly unique. The only one who knew the business – or cared about it – was Fred, Sr. The eldest son, as is usually the case, was the designated successor, and, as is quite common, he took no interest in it. Fred, Jr. grew up wealthy and liked rich-kid hobbies such as flying and boating, which his father considered frivolous. Fred, Jr. also seems to have been psychologically weak: he married badly, became an alcoholic, and died at the age of forty-two. Although Donald was not by disposition suited to running a real estate company, his father propped him up and allowed him to be the front man for the company, which was about all that Donald was good for.

Mary doesn't mention another obviously problematic real estate company succession example: the Durst family. The Dursts were far more prominent in New York City real estate than the Trumps and had done well in Manhattan, where Fred, Sr. hadn't. As a family, if anything, the Dursts were more dysfunctional than the Trumps. The successor to Seymour Durst was expected to be his eldest son, Robert. However, Robert didn't like the work and dropped out of management there. The current head of the Durst Organization is Robert's younger brother, Douglas. Rather than dying young from alcoholism, Robert went on to become a probable serial killer and is currently on trial, at the age of seventy-seven, for the murder of his friend, Susan Berman. Although the Dursts have their share of problems, on the whole they seem more sophisticated than the Trumps.

Mary Trump's book does include some new information, such as the fact that Donald hired someone to take the SAT for him, which helped him gain admission to the University of Pennsylvania. She also discusses Donald's attempt to assume full control of the Trump Organization by adding a codicil to Fred, Sr.'s will – which failed. There is also some discussion of probable tax evasion by Fred, Sr. and his children, which came to light earlier in the New York Times. Where Mary is accurate, I think, is in her depiction of Donald as a narcissistic person who eschews details and is used to getting his way by bullying. She makes clear that Donald was never a success in business and was propped up financially by Fred, Sr. for years. As soon as he started his own initiatives, such as his casinos in Atlantic City, they began to fail. His depiction of himself as self-made is a lie. The more that you look into Donald's background, the more obvious it becomes that he could never be anything other than a completely incompetent president.

In other news, I've been doing a little more stargazing and looked at the comet NEOWISE. It was larger than expected, and you can see it with the naked eye, but it shows more detail in binoculars. This comet was only discovered in March and won't be back for 6766 years. If you look north after sunset, it sits below the Big Dipper. It can be seen whenever it's dark, but will soon be moving out of view. Since it's far to the north, it may not be visible from the southern hemisphere.

I also came across these photos, which I think are very good. Most were taken locally in Addison County.

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