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Trump gets COVID


Trump woke up that morning feeling bad.

Granted, he usually awoke grouchy, but this was more than that: his head ached, his muscles hurt, he had chills, his throat was on fire, and the pillowcase on his bed was wet with what he suspected was sweat.

His first impulse was to ring the valet for his usual breakfast: a bucket of KFC Extra Crispy with a side of Mac and Cheese and biscuits, followed by a bowl of vanilla ice cream. But then he realized he wasn’t in the least bit hungry. That was weird: he couldn’t remember the last time he’d woken up not being famished. But not today.

Huh, he thought, trying to remember what he’d eaten last night, and what time he’d gone to bed. Oh, yeah, of course: he’s eaten alone in his bedroom, while watching Fox News. Arthur, his night valet, had brought him two Porterhouse steaks—well-done, the way he liked his beef; a plate of meat loaf; a cold shrimp salad—well, two, actually; three orders of McDonald’s French Fries; and a large chocolate shake. That must have been around 9 p.m., because he recalled Hannity was on (good old Hannity). He must have gone to bed around 10, just as Laura Ingraham was starting. He liked Laura, although sometimes she was a little too liberal, but he’d been really tired, so he called Arthur again and told him he was hitting the sack.

It hadn’t been a particularly large dinner, in other words, so it was puzzling why he shouldn’t be hungry now. Then he realized he was feeling a little hot. He rang the valet buzzer: it was Henry, the morning guy. Trump asked for a thermometer. Henry brought the digital one from the bathroom, and Trump inserted it himself in his mouth. After a few moments, it beeped. Trump removed it and read his temperature: 102.

Henry had been watching. “Everything okay, Mister President?” he asked. “Want me to call the doctor?”

“No!” Trump yelled, a little too loud. “There’s nothing wrong with me. This damn thermometer isn’t working.”

“I get you another,” said Henry.

“No.” Trump realized he’d been a little violent with Henry. “It’s all right, Henry. You can go now. And please, not a word of this to anyone.”

Trump turned on the T.V. It was still tuned to Fox. America’s Newsroom was on. There was a graphic showing how coronavirus was surging throughout most of the country. It was especially spiking in Oklahoma and Arizona, two states he’d just had rallies in. Of course, Trump would never admit in public that he trusted the numbers—one of his tactics was to call such statistics “fake news from Democrats.” But he wasn’t stupid; he realized that the disease was spreading. Could he have been…(it was hard to form the words in his mind)…infected?

He dialed Donald Jr. His elder son was one of the few people in the world he trusted. Junior’s girlfriend, Kimberley, answered. “Hi, Mister President,” she said. Trump wasted no time. “Get me Junior.” “He’s not feeling well,” Kimberley replied. “He woke up sick, with a fever. I’m thinking of calling the doctor.”

That jolted Trump. Don Jr. had been with him at both the Tulsa and Phoenix rallies. Could they both have…?

“Don’t call anyone,” Trump ordered her. She was a nice girl, Kimberley, hot… It was weird that she’d been married to that psycho out in California, Newsom. But Junior liked her.

“Why not, Mister President?”

“Just don’t. Let me figure this out.” And he hung up. If he and Don Jr. both had COVID-19, the public impact would be horrendous. He’d be a laughingstock, even among many Republicans. He’d spent the better part of the Spring telling the country that coronavirus was a Democrat lie, that it would go away soon on its own, that barely anyone would die. Then, when his own CDC issued their orders, with face masks and all, he’d told America that masks were idiotic, that nobody needed to wear them, that it was okay to go out to ballgames and malls and bars. If he, and his son, were now to come down with the disease, he’d be the target of every comedian in the land. He might even lose the election.

So there was only one approach: complete silence. Not a word was to be leaked to anyone. He would simply disappear from public view for a few days. He’d done it before; maybe go to Mar-a-Lago and play a little golf. He’d let the news cameras catch him from a quarter-mile away; the photos would show that he was healthy. As for Don Jr., ditto. No public announcements, no appearances, just lay low and keep your mouth shut.

That afternoon, the coughing began. They wracked his body with explosive blasts. The chills got much, much worse. The fever shot up to 104.5; he was hallucinating. At one point, he saw fiery, erotic devils, fornicating; and he heard hysterical laughter. Henry came in to say Melania was wondering if everything was all right, and could she see him for a few minutes? “No,” Trump wheezed. He took four Adderalls, hoping they would help him sleep. They did not. There was no respite, no relief. Agony was all this sick, desperate man had.

A Trump T.V. talk show, post-presidency?


Trump is now more unpopular with the American public than he’s been at any point in his presidency since January, 2019. Some 55.4% of the people disapprove of his job performance, while only 41% approve. That’s the average of five respected polls taken in the third week of June, a month that’s been horrendous for Trump: the walk down the ramp, the shaky hands, the disaster in Tulsa, his rank incompetence in handling the pandemic, the firing of the SDNY head, the Bolton book, the ongoing snarling and crazy tweets. No President in the last 75 years has had a lower approval figure at this point in his term of office, with the exceptions of George H.W. Bush and Jimmy Carter, both of whom, of course, were defeated in their bids for re-election.

Americans finally are catching on. They’re exhausted by Trump’s failures and antics, angered by his obvious unfitness for the high office he holds, frightened by his threats, sickened (mentally and physically) by his complete mishandling of the pandemic. It is very, very difficult to imagine him getting re-elected in a mere 4-1/2 months from now. George H.W. couldn’t do it; neither could Jimmy Carter. The first Bush was up against an economic recession, not a horrible one by historic standards, but the public worried that a president who didn’t even know what a grocery store checkout scanner was, wasn’t qualified to lead them. Carter, too, faced a mild recession in 1980, but his doomed campaign foundered more on the failed rescue attempt of the Iranian hostages and a feeling in the country that, while he was a nice enough man, he was in over his head.

No one would call Trump a nice man, or a decent one, or an honest one. No responsible parent would leave her young daughter alone with him. Few would claim that Trump does not place personal interests over the national interest. The screamers and cultists who worship him at his rallies can be under no such illusions. No, they like him for other reasons—because he sticks it to people whom they hate: liberals, gays, minorities, Mexicans, Moslems, college grads, in other words, a majority of Americans.

Why do they hate so promiscuously? I can’t get inside anyone else’s head, but we humans infer things all the time about each other. I look at the faces of Trump lovers at his rallies–ugly countenances, twisted by rage, their gawping mouths chanting their Trump oath—the kind of faces we see in faded newsreels of Hitler rallies. Anger is only human, of course, but the way we handle our anger shows what we’re made of. Decent people recognize that their anger is usually the outgrowth of unresolved issues from childhood, and work on correcting them. Not so, these rightwing, white supremacist Trumpers. Used to being on top, they perceive their authority eroding on a daily business, as people they always thought were inferior to them acquire power. A person who was mentally and ethically balanced would recognize this psychological phenomenon and figure out ways to combat it, but not these Republicans. They give in to every resentment. They don’t have the capacity to see dangerous and unmoored tendencies within themselves—a basic requirement of a functioning democracy. Instead, they yield to their resentments. This is why they’re so dangerous. America is a patchwork quilt of races, religions, ethnicities, sexual practices, family backgrounds. Normal people realize that if America is to go forward, we have to learn to live with each other. That’s what “democracy” means: Let’s work out our differences.

Republicans, on the other hand, don’t want to work anything out. They want everybody to be like them: Christian (and I mean rightwing, theocratic Christian). Straight and homophobic. Anti-choice. White. Not too educated. They want to wall America off from the rest of the world, and systematically get rid of their internal enemies. How does one work with such extremists? You can’t, any more than the democracies could work with Hitler. The free world had a simple choice: defeat Hitler, or let him take over. There was no inbetween. Neither is there an inbetween now: there is no way to work with these radical, extremist Republicans and their leader, Trump, because they’re not interested in compromise. It’s their way or the highway. Americans know that’s wrong; and that’s exactly why Trump’s approval-disapproval numbers are what they are, and aren’t going to get any better.

I’ve worried incessantly about a civil war, stoked by Trump, who believes that if push comes to shove, his side would win. But with Biden’s lead, even in swing states, continuing to widen, I’m starting to think that, if Election 2020 is a Democratic blowout, not even Trump will be in a position to question it. He might just have to go peacefully into that good night. Post-presidency, maybe he’ll start a talk show on Sinclair, where he can have all sorts of fun guests: Tucker Carlson, Franklin Graham, Alex Jones, Jon Voight, Ted Nugent, Alan Dershowitz. He’ll also be contending with a tsunami of well-publicized lawsuits coming at him and his children. One thing’s for sure, the Trump saga as T.V. entertainment is far from over.

Trump at home


Trump: [to his valet] Antonio, I have to go potty.

Antonio: Yes sir, Mister President. Number one or number two?

Trump: Two.

Antonio: All right, sir. Take my arm. [They hobble to the bathroom.] You’re walking better, Mister President.

Trump: At least it’s not down that damn ramp. I’ll tell you, I was afraid I was gonna fall on my ass.

Antonio: We wouldn’t want that to happen, sir.

[Trump does his business. Antonio wipes him.]

Antonio: That was a nice one, Mister President.

Trump: Six burritos. Don’t flush, let me get up and look at it. [Stands. Antonio pulls his pants up, zips the fly.] OWWW! Watch it! You caught my schwang in the zipper!

Antonio: I’m sorry, Mister President. It won’t happen again.

Trump: [Admires his excrement in the toilet.] No way Sleepy Joe could make that.

Antonio: No, sir. Now, let me replace your adult dipey.

[Trump lies down on the bed while Antonio puts on his Depend.]

Trump: Did I ever tell you about the time in the Moscow hotel room with those Russian strippers?

Antonio: Yes, sir. Many times.

Trump: I want something to drink.

Antonio: What would you like, Mister President? Coke? Chocolate milk? Lemonade?

Trump: wsuiirbf fubr qwepheo.

Antonio: Sir, I’m afraid you’re slurring your words again.

Trump: Ginger ale.

Antonio: Coming right up! [Disappears, comes back.] There you go, sir.

Trump: [Takes the MAGA sippy cup. His hand is trembling.] Antonio, hold it for me.

Antonio: Yes, sir.

Trump: Get Tony Perkins on the line. [Antonio picks up a land line, dials, hands the receiver to Trump.] Hello, is that you, Tony?

Tony Perkins: Mister President! To what do I owe the honor?

Trump: I hear Bezos stopped donating to the Family Research Council.

Perkins: That is correct, sir. He stopped all of Amazon’s contributions to us because we’re supposedly anti-gay.

Trump: He’s a bad person, Tony. A Communist. You know, he owns the Washington Post, which is part of the fake media, like the failing New York Times.

Perkins: Bezos is evil, sir. I believe he made a pact with Satan.

Trump: What can we do to him?

Perkins: Well, sir, you could—is this line secure?

Trump: Antonio, is the line secure?

Antonio: As far as I know, sir.

Trump: Go ahead, Tony.

Perkins: Well, you could arrest Bezos for treason, the same way with Obama. We could put them both on trial.

Trump: Hmm.

Perkins: Or you could have your fake Antifa thugs firebomb Amazon’s headquarters.

Trump: I think Bezos is queer.

Perkins: I’m sure of it, sir. I’ve heard stories.

Trump: Such as…?

Perkins: Well, about him and Soros.

Antonio: Mister President, it’s Kayleigh McEnany. She says she has to see you.

Trump: Okay. Sorry, Tony, gotta go. But keep up the gay bashing!

[Antonio brings Kayleigh into Trump’s room.]

Kayleigh: Mister President, I have to tell you something.

Trump: What?

Kayleigh: I think I’m in love with you.

Trump: Well, I—I—I’m flattered.

Kayleigh: Is that all? Don’t you like young, pretty girls with boobs and long blonde hair?

Trump: Yeah. That’s why I hired you.

Kayleigh: Let’s make love.

Trump: Uh, Kayleigh, I have to be honest with you. I can’t get it up anymore.

Kayleigh: What?!!?

Trump: It’s all the hydroxychloroquine. Apparently, a side effect.

Kayleigh: Mister President, I don’t care! It’s not about the sex anyway. I just want to cuddle with you.

Antonio: [Re-enters] Mister President, Vice President Pence is here to see you.

Trump: Okay, Kayleigh. Fly away. [She leaves]

Pence: [Enters]: Mister President, let’s pray.

Trump: Aw, Mike, do we have to? You know I hate that crap.

Pence: It’s good for your soul, sir.

Trump: I don’t have a soul, Mike.

Pence: Whhaaaaattt????

Trump: I sold it to the Devil for this job.

Pence: [Grabs Trump’s hand.] Let’s get down on our knees, sir. I’ll ask Jesus to reclaim your soul for you.

[The two of them get down on their knees.]

Trump: Mike, I can’t stay down here much longer. My knees hurt.

Pence: “Lord, please heal the President’s knees. And restore his immortal soul back to him. In Jesus’s name, amen.”

[Suddenly a lightning bolt hits them both. They disappear in a flash of light and smoke.]

Antonio: Mister President!! Mister President!! Can you hear me? [Silence] Mister President!! Mister President!!

[A Secret Service man comes rushing in.]

Secret Service Man: What’s all the commotion, Antonio? Where’s the President?

Antonio: [Thinking] I think he’s gone away. For a long time. You better call Nancy Pelosi.

Secret Service Man: Why?

Antonio: She’s the boss now.

A string on


Hi everyone, I’m getting tired of finding my garbage and recycling bins overturned every morning. Homeless people evidently are going through them for bottles and cans, but they toss everything into the street, and I have to clean up the mess. Grateful for any solutions/suggestions. Thanks, neighbors! – Greta, Forest Heights

Greta, with so much going on lately, that’s what you’re worried about? Put aside your petty concerns and get involved in changing the system that creates homelessness in the first place! Edith

Greta, great. Another entitled white person bashing homeless people. They should recycle you. Ralph

Ralph, just because you’re homeless doesn’t mean you have to insult Greta. How would you like waking up to garbage every morning? Alicia

Alica, For your information, I’m not homeless. You clueless c**t. Ralph

Greta, you might try keeping your bins in your garage, instead of leaving them out on the street overnight. Then you can put them outside when you hear the trucks coming. Soren

Soren, I don’t have a garage. Greta

Greta, There you go again, complaining. “I don’t have a garage.” Boo effing hoo. You have a ROOF over your head! Be grateful and stop hating on minorities. Dennis

Greta, you are over-consuming, to judge by the quantity of garbage and recyclables you’re generating. Simplify your privileged life! Think of the Planet instead of your next yoplait. MotherHen

MotherHen And what are you doing for BLM? Hugging trees? Jamal

Jamal I happen to be a Black Woman. MotherHen

Greta, try putting your bottles and cans in a separate bin, so our unhoused brothers and sisters don’t have to dig through your dirty garbage. And while you’re at it, they could use bottled water, canned food, and clean clothes. Houdini

Greta, I hope you’re disinfecting everything in those bins. Homeless people are at high risk of COVID-19. For all we know, you’re infected yourself. It is incredibly selfish of you to put infected bottles and cans out there. You could easily be a super spreader! I’mNotDoctorBut

I’mNotDoctorBut I have been tested, and I can assure you I’m not infected. Greta

Greta You may not be. But what about the people you live with? Kaplan

Kaplan I’m 83 years old, and I live alone. Greta

Greta Say, are you that hottie with the walker I see around Forest Heights? Want to get together? Geezer

[Private message to Geezer] Send me your picture through private message. Full facial, please. Greta

Dennis, Greta is not “hating on minorities.” All she’s asking is for them to be neat while stealing her bottles and cans. There’s no reason for them to make a mess! PillarOfReason

PillarOfReason Take your white privilege and shove it. Dennis

Greta, what’s your problem with the garbage workers? They work extremely hard to clean up YOUR mess. Have you ever given them cash for Christmas, or even acknowledged their existence, beyond complaining? Forest Heights doesn’t need newcomer yuppies like you. MrStenson

MrStenson, I have lived in Forest Heights for 37 years. I’m hardly a newcomer. But thank you for the idea of giving them a little something for Christmas! Greta

Greta, I hate to puncture the white bubble you live in, but many if not most of our sanitation workers are African-American. They celebrate Kwanzaa, not Christmas. Please stop being so racist and if you don’t like it in Forest Heights, feel free to move to Miller’s Falls! Cedric

PillarOfReason stop gaslighting! PercivalThePirate

Greta, why do you assume that your overturned bins are the result of “homeless people”? We have, in Forest Heights, many wonderful animal brothers and sisters: raccoons, oppossums, deer and the occasional badger. They lived here before we did, and when we took away their ancestral hunting grounds, we left them no choice but to forage through our garbage. What we have done to them is a holocaust. Please respect our animal neighbors and stop being so selfish! PetaGirl

PetaGirl, it is outrageous for you to use the term “Holocaust” to describe properly-controlled animal management in our city. Six million Jews were murdered in the REAL Holocaust!! That word should not be bandied about willy-nilly. Read your history! RabbiRob

PercivalThePirate Go fuck yourself. Pillar of Reason

RabbiRob, you are hating on animals. God hates you. PetaGirl

PetaGirl, kindly do not take The Lord’s name in vain. I pray for your soul. SisterSister

SisterSister While you’re at it, pray for mine. I need it. Dennis

Dennis, what Forest Heights needs is less people like you. ConspiracyBuff

ConspiracyBuff, Forest Heights was settled by Aliens, the same beings who live in Area 51. Ralph

Ralph, that whole theory has been debunked. You should read my new book. Happy to DM you. ProfessorPoopyPants

ProfessorPoopyPants But what about the garbage workers? MrStenson

MrStenson Go ahead and spread COVID-19. Maybe you’ll die! Ha ha. Kaplan

Kaplan We’re going into the Third Wave here in Forest Heights. I’mNotDoctorBut

I’mNotDoctor But that’s absurd! We’re not even out of the First Wave yet! Moron! Dennis

Dennis We’ll get through this like we got through AIDS. Geezer

Geezer How dare you compare COVID-19 to AIDS?!?! Forest Heights has no room for homophobia! GayGreg

GayGreg Forest Heights used to be a decent, clean town before the gays arrived. PillarOfReason

Greta [to all]. I’m deleting this string. [Private Message to Geezer] I like your picture! Let’s meet at the Senior Center at 3. Remember to wear your mask!

The world’s most dangerous gangster


Lord Moran, Churchill’s physician, in his Diary tells of the time he accompanied the Prime Minister to Washington, D.C., for Churchill’s first wartime meeting with President Roosevelt. It was the night of Dec. 23, 1941; they were alone, in Churchill’s room at the White House. The conversation turned to Pearl Harbor, which had occurred less than three weeks before—the event that brought America into World War II at Britain’s side.

“Well,” Churchill sighed, musing, “when heads of states become gangsters, something has got to be done.”

The heads-of-state Churchill referred to were, of course, Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini and Emperor Hirohito, of Japan. Today, the world’s leading gangster head-of-state is Donald Trump.

We’re headlong into the race for the White House, and it has to be more apparent than ever that Trump must be defeated. Being the gangster that he is, he’s trying everything in his power to avoid losing. He knows that a large majority of Americans hates him and will vote against him, which is why his top priority is to prevent people from voting in the first place. And he’s getting away with it; long lines at the polling places, disenfranchisement of individual voters, challenges to vote-by-mail—these are the only ways he can steal the election.

The man is deranged. It’s an open secret in Washington. Everybody knows it, including the members of his Cabinet and West Wing staff. Isn’t it horrible that no Republican speaks out until after they’ve been fired? What Bolton is doing is the worst example of criticizing the cow after it’s already left the barn. Why didn’t he respond to Democratic requests to testify during the impeachment hearings? If he was so upset at the time—and he says that he was—he had his chance to let the country know. Instead, he sat idly by, dithering, working on his book deal. Now it’s too late. Nothing he says in his book will make the slightest difference.

What we see unfolding in front of us—in broad daylight—is a plot to seize control of the government by a fanatical, nationalist, racist, homophobic, religious extremist rightwing cult. Little by little, inch by inch, this plot is succeeding. Enemies are summarily disposed of; laws are routinely broken, subpoenas simply ignored. Facts are denied, replaced by lies so stunning in their fakeness that it takes your breath away. Trump is a danger, not only to the United States and our values of diversity and tolerance, but to the entire world. It is stunning how “Bolton-esque” world leaders are with respect to Trump. Where are Macron, Merkel, Trudeau? Why is not all of Europe screaming bloody murder about what’s happening in America? Why do those countries remain in NATO? Can you imagine if a majority of the NATO members held a press conference and announced they’re leaving the organization until Trump is out of office?

The crunch is coming, my friends. With every tick of the clock towards election day, the crisis increasingly bears down upon us. The most hideous part of the plot is the plan, by the Trump family, to have the little monsters Donald Jr., Eric and Ivanka, with her nasty-faced husband Jared Kushner, poised to inherit the power when Trump’s bloated, drugged body fails. America is fast becoming a banana republic, the kind of authoritarian dictatorship we had previously deplored. He still stop at nothing—nothing, not even full-blown Civil War, which he is convinced he will win, because he has, in his own words, “the police, gun owners and Army.”

Something has got to be done.

What is Trumpism?


I love Brian Klaas’s column in the Washington Post. Its headline explains the premise: “November is our chance to wipe out Trumpism, not just Trump.”  It argues that “Trump losing is not enough.” What is required to get rid of Trumpism is an historic landslide that will sweep Republicans from power in the presidency, Congress, and state houses and legislatures for a generation.

Of course, we all hope for a Democratic landslide, a Blue Wave. Klaas’s point is that a narrow Biden victory—say, 279 electoral votes—while it would get rid of Trump would still allow for the survival of Trumpism. But what exactly is Trumpism? We need to define it, outline its parameters and recognize it, so we can crush it whenever and wherever it arises in the future.

The BBC accurately, but not particularly helpfully, quotes a Republican operative as calling Trumpism “what the president believes on any particular moment on any particular day about any particular subject.” We could, by that definition, talk about Bushism or Clintonism or Carterism. Along these generic lines is this definition from “an outrageous or idiosyncratic statement made by Donald Trump.”

But Trumpism is something more fundamentally evil in its specifics. Klaas outlines some of those particulars in his WashPo column: “A deranged, racist conspiracy…racial dog whistles…authoritarian agenda…bogus claims.” But we need to go further. One of the earliest analyses of Trumpism came in The Hill, and actually predates the 2016 election; by January, 2016, enough was known about Trump for The Hill to define the “four characteristics of Trumpism” as celebrity, nativism, the outsider and populism. But we know so much more now than we knew then. Other traits that should be added are pathological lying, racism, xenophobia (these last two may be part of nativism), homophobia, anti-science bias, rage tweeting, encouraging foreign interference in U.S. elections, megalomania and an absolute ignorance when it comes to foreign affairs.

A more psychological analysis of Trumpism was on the website, Vox. It defined Trumpism in terms of Trump’s ardent followers, correctly describing it as “a cult,” similar to The Moonies of yesteryear. Among the elements of the Trump cult are (1) an “authoritarian pyramid structure,” (2) “a leader…who has access to the truth,” (3) “brainwashing,” (4) the “malignant narcissism” of the cult leader, (5) a “lack of empathy,” (6) the tendency to “lie without hesitation,” and (7) “sociopathic tendencies.” We see, in Trump, these malevolent and horrifying  characteristics clearly.

Perhaps the scariest aspect of Trumpism was described in a scholarly article in the European Journal of American Studies, published after Trump had been in office for only six months, but long enough for European analysts to appreciate Trump’s danger. The author of that study found “meta-violence” to be the essence of Trumpism. European political analysts view American politics, quite rightly, through the lens of their own history: centuries of war, death, revolution, social advancement and retrenchment, with fascism always sticking its nose into the tent. Examining Trumpism, the author found “extreme emotions, social antagonisms, and international tensions” marking the Trump movement. The “violence” she referred to includes, not just the physical violence Trumpism sparked in, say, Charlottesville, but “cultural violence” where “religion and ideology, language and art…can be used to justify or legitimize direct or structural violence.” This is, of course, reminiscent of the desire of rightwing anarchists, like Stephen Miller and Steve Bannon, to “let the whole thing [i.e. America] burn down.”

No words can better describe this violent aspect of Trumpism than Trump’s own. This is from a Fox News interview he gave in 2014: “You know what solves it [i.e. America’s problems]? When the economy crashes, when the country goes to total hell, and everything is a disaster, then you’ll have riots to go back to where we used to be, when we were great.”

Let that sink in. It’s already happening: Trump and Trumpism have indeed allowed America to begin to crash and burn to cinders, and have brought us to the brink of civil war. I don’t think it’s too late to reverse course, though, starting on Jan. 21, 2021, when Joe Biden is sworn in, the Senate and the House of Representatives both are controlled by the Democrats, and we begin the process Speaker Pelosi described last year: putting Trump “in prison.”

Wine rating systems: time for a change


I spent the better part of 30 years living and working in 100-point land: the wine-rating system used by my two former employers, Wine Spectator and Wine Enthusiast, as well as by Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate.

The 100-point system surely is the most popular in the world. It has survived decades of often fierce criticism. Critics said it was arbitrary and capricious, that it presented itself as scientific when it was anything but, that it had a deleterious effect on wine style because the most powerfully extracted, oakiest wines got the highest scores. All these things were true, but the 100-point system proved remarkably robust. When I retired from formal wine tasting eight years ago, it dominated the market, and, as far as I can tell, it still does.

The 100-point system looks like it’s here to stay, at least in America. There’s nothing looming on the horizon to replace it. Oh, sure, a new generation of wine drinkers has increasingly turned to peer-reviewing on social media; they no longer care what some (usually white) wine critic says, and that’s fine. But in that sense, the market may be ahead of the industry. Winery P.R. communications continue to tout high scores (anything over 90 points) in their campaigns. As long as that’s the case, wine samples will continue to be mailed to wine critics, who will continue to publish reviews using the 100-point system, which will continue to be touted by winery P.R. people, and on and on…It’s a cycle, and like most cycles, it’s hard to stop.

But a new development in China throws all this into an interesting perspective. Mike Veseth, the respected wine economist, just published an issue of “The Wine Economist” that reports on “China’s 10-Point Scale.” That gigantic country apparently is launching an official, national rating system of 10 points that will “score…each wine on the market taking into consideration…Chinese tastes, cuisine, and culture.” The new system is being rolled out in stages. It was introduced late last year, but The Drinks Business publication reports it “is not yet compulsory for all wines sold inside China [and] may serve as a base for formulating a national [wine] recommendation system.” That article quoted a Chinese expert as predicting that, eventually, “[the] majority of wines sold in China will adopt this system.”

Now that I’m not living and working in 100-point land, I have the benefit of hindsight about the 100-point system that provided such a nice job for me for so long. And the more I think about it, the sillier it seems to be. I used to be quite sincere when people asked how I could determine the difference between, say, 87 points and 88 points.. I would say, “Easy. To me, it’s obvious.” And I could go into great detail, if they wanted. At the same time, I always admitted that, if I tasted the same wine (from different bottles) on separate occasions, chances were good that I’d give it different scores. But, I argued, in general the scores would be close together. In the end, I always said, a wine review ought to be looked at as the taster’s impression of that wine, at a particular moment in time, and consumers were free to accept, reject or ignore the review.

Nowadays, I often cringe when I see how wine scores are used. There are so many critics across this land (and elsewhere) that a P.R. person has her pick of dozens of reviews to use in an advertisement. We, the consumer, often don’t know the qualifications of the reviewer, or the circumstances under which he reviewed the wine (blind? Open?), nor do we always know with precision what the relationship is between reviewer and winery. Has the reviewer been paid? These are important considerations. (Of course, the new Chinese system suffers, I would think, from the same drawbacks.) I turn to critics and scores to inform my own buying decisions, but I always feel a little guilty about it. I wish that all numerical rating systems would go away, and be replaced by something more esthetically satisfying: a short essay, for example, that showed real writerly qualities.

I think there’s a place for more intelligent, nuanced wine reviewing. As we emerge from the pandemic, it’s going to be a different world. After all these months of sheltering in place, people may well be more reflective, and less reflexive. I know that social media tends to work in the opposite direction, making people think less; but here and there I pick up on clues that younger people are getting tired of social media. They’re reading more books and spending less time scrolling through meaningless Twitter feeds. I’m hoping to see new publications emerge that treat wine consumers as intelligent, thinking adults, instead of like cows lining up for silage.

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