The Most Devastating Insult

Sinclair Lewis was the first American to win a Nobel Prize in Literature. He has been mostly forgotten, but he once wrote best selling novels, short-stories and plays. He had his own stamp. He was evidentially the inspiration for Howdy Doody.

He also wrote one of the greatest insult passages of all time:

She was a good woman, a kind woman, a diligent woman, but no one, save perhaps Tinka her ten-year-old, was at all interested in her or entirely aware that she was alive.

That passage is describing the titular character’s wife in Babbitt, a spectacular satire of American culture published in 1922. It tells the story of a hardworking man named George Babbitt who is a successful real estate agent, solid citizen and fervent supporter of prohibition (he drinks himself).

Do yourself a favor and read it. The best compliment I can give it is that you would only need to make a handful of changes today and the satire would apply to nearly all conservatives.

Hypothetical History: Talking Points with Eisenhower

The below is a history hypothetical. Inspired by Chuck Klosterman’s HYPERthetical’s, the following asks a seemingly ridiculous question rooted in historical fact. Remember, the premise is not 100% true, but is meant to stimulate an absurd conversations. In this case, Mamie Eisenhower did not make an emergency stop in Europe during WW2, but Eisenhower and Summersby were certainty involved. 

I

t is May 1944 and you just joined the army. D-Day is weeks away and planning is in full throttle. One small mistake could upend months of secret logistics and strategy. To your surprise you are assigned as General Dwight Eisenhower’s personal driver for the initiative. In an odd bureaucratic maneuver, you don’t report to the General, but rather Kay Summersby, a beautiful Irish girl who is his Senior Assistant and takes fencing classes every day from 6:30-7:30pm. You’ve been told it is a tremendous opportunity. You are responsible for chaperoning the leader of the invasion, and making sure his life runs smoothly. A fresh Eisenhower means a fresh commander, which means the Allies have a shot at winning the war.

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President Johnson and Thurgood Marshall: The Art of Persuasion

The following is the transcribed conversation of President Johnson asking Thurgood Marshall to become the first African-American Solicitor General of the United States.  The Solicitor General is essentially America’s lawyer, representing the Federal Government at the Supreme Court. It’s a remarkable display of persuasion.

President Johnson: I have a rather big problem that I wanted to talk to you about.

Marshall: Right.

President Johnson: I want you to give it some real thought because it’s something that I have thought about for weeks and I think that we can’t think of how it affects us personally. We’ve got to think about the world–

Marshall: Right.

President Johnson: –and our country.

Marshall: Yes, sir.

President Johnson: And our government. And then ourselves way down at the bottom of the list. I want you to be my Solicitor General.

According to Marshall he had no idea the question was going to be posed. When his assistant told him the President was on the phone, his response was, “The President of what?”  I love how President Johnson sets the stage and cuts right to the chase.

President Johnson: Now, you lose a lot. You lose security and you lose the freedom that you like. And you lose the philosophizing that you can do. And I’m familiar with all those things.

Marshall: The number one [unclear].

President Johnson: Well, you won’t lose any. And I want you to do it for two or three reasons. One, I want the top lawyer in the United States representing me before the Supreme Court–

Marshall: [Unclear]–

President Johnson: –to be a negro.

Marshall: Oh.

President Johnson: And be a damn good lawyer that’s done it before. That’s–so, you have those peculiar qualifiations.

Marshall: [Unclear.]

President Johnson: Number two, I think it will do a lot for our image, abroad and at home, too, that this is the man that the whole government has to look to to decide whether it prosecutes a case or whether it goes up with a case, or whether it doesn’t, and so on and so forth.

Look how President Johnson leads with the negative saying, “You lose security and you lose the freedom that you like…” At the time Marshall was a Federal Judge and had a lifetime appointment. Giving that up to become the Solicitor General, who serves at the leisure of the President was a big deal. President Johnson than quickly lays on the praise softening the news.

President Johnson: Number three, I want you to have the experience and be in the picture. I’m not discussing anything else–

Marshall: Yeah.

President Johnson: –and I don’t want to make any other commitments–

Marshall: Yes, sir.

President Johnson: –and I don’t want to imply or bribe or mislead you.

Marshall: Right.

President Johnson: But I want you to have the training and the experience of being there day after day for the next few weeks anyway.

Marshall: Right.

President Johnson: Maybe the next few months if you could do it. Now, I’ve talked to Ramsey Clark, whose father is on the Supreme Court.

This is where it gets into perfection. “I don’t want to imply or bribe or mislead you,” but after I talk about all the reasons you should take this I’m going to allude to the Supreme Court.

In about two years as Solicitor General Marshall won 14/19 cases he brought to the court, and in 1967 he found himself on it.

You can read the whole transcript in the archives.

Mike Tyson’s Mentor Cus D’Amato on Reading People

Via Mike Tyson’s Undisputed

Cus was much more than a boxing trainer. He instilled so many values in me. He was like some guru, always saying things that would make me think.

“No matter what anyone says, no matter the excuse or explanation, whatever a person does in the end is what he intended to do all along.”

The book itself is fairly good, although bits and pieces drag. I’d recommend either reading it or checking out Tyson’s great one man show.