Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Stressed

Mosaic, Villa Romana del Casale. via Historia Magazine

Weird from Marc Thiessen at Wapo in defense of Ronny Jackson's nomination as head of the Veterans Admimistration, starting off with a headline that really sounds like something that might mean something—
VA doesn’t need a manager. It needs a leader.
Until you ask yourself, well,  this guy certainly doesn't seem to be a manager, but, um, wait maybe it does need a manager.

Of course Thiessen seems to have been writing when this story was at a fairly early stage in its evolution,
Jackson’s nomination hearing has been postponed because of last-minute allegations that he created a “hostile work environment.”
before we started hearing about the misbehavior on overseas trips with President Obama, and the passing out of Percosets and writing prescriptions for himself, and the hostile working atmosphere turning out to be on the Game of Thrones model,
‘flat-out unethical,’ ‘explosive,’ ‘100 percent bad temper,’ ‘toxic,’ ‘abusive,’ ‘volatile,’ ‘incapable of not losing his temper,’ ‘the worst officer I have ever served with,’ ‘despicable,’ ‘dishonest,’ as having ‘screaming tantrums’ and “screaming fits,’ as someone who would ‘lose his mind over small things,’ ‘vindictive,’ ‘belittling,’ ‘the worse [sic] leader I’ve ever worked for.’
or he might at least have devoted some time to suggesting the stories might be fictional.

But I think he goes wrong in a somewhat less silly way here:

Cheap shots


I got nothing but this junk going on. There's a slightly new Dinesh angle at the bottom.




Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Muddling

From the I Naibi Tarot deck of Giovanni Vecchetta, 1893.
Here's another big idea about what's going on since the 2016 election, and how it ends, from Dylan Matthews at Vox: that it doesn't end, or not in any satisfying way: maybe we get rid of Trump relatively soon, that is, and maybe we don't, but the dysfunctionality of our poor old model of government, the lameness of it, isn't going away any time soon. There's not a happy ending, or a cathartic ending, or a redemptive ending. The lovers' misunderstanding won't be resolved, the wicked will mostly remain unpunished, no new king will show up out of exile.

There's no reason to think Adam Davidson is wrong, particularly, in contending that the Trumpery itself has come to the top of the wheel of Fortune and has begun its inevitable trajectory to death. There's no special reason, in Matthews's view, to think he's right, either, or, at least, to think it's such a crucial question:

Monday, April 23, 2018

Jew know what I mean?

12th-century German painting of two Jews for which I'm not finding a helpful source. Is the one on the right a little on the sleepy-eyed side?

I don't know if everybody's heard about the theory that Trump calling an NBC newscaster "Sleepy-Eyed Chuck Todd" is an anti-Semitic slur. Like a lot of people, I'd never heard of such a thing, but this thread from Stonekettle (who had also never heard of such a thing) made me take it seriously:

Dinesh D'Souza, of course, didn't believe a word of it. Show me some evidence! I couldn't resist the challenge and gave it about five minutes of Dr. Google:

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Literary Corner: Ring Around the Comeys

Kurt Schwitters, Blauer Vogel (Blue Bird), ca.1922, Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Murray A. Gribin, Beverly Hills, CA, via Arftchive.

Donald Trump is really a spoken word artist, with the flash and spontaneity that implies, and one almost always feels in his written work a certain stylistic cramping, an inhibition, an overworked quality (you even see this in the time stamps, which allow you to calculate the time he's taken to compose his 280 characters, often 30 or 40 minutes apiece even when they're in a tight sequence, even, as in the first piece below, broken in the middle of an adjective phrase), but once in a while, as we've seen before, a fresh emotion lifts his tweet into lyricality, and this seems to have happened last week with the arrival in bookstores of James Comey's A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership, with its narrative of Trump attempting to get the FBI director to halt investigations of Trump's friends, divulge the secret of whether Trump himself was under investigation, or simply swear personal fealty to the president, and Comey's presence all over the television ably defending his motivations (though not so able when it came to explaining why he had twice, at critical moments of the campaign, divulged secret information about the Bureau's pointless ongoing investigation of Hillary Clinton).

Or maybe it was just spring in the air. These new songs have a peculiar lightness, skippy, almost like children's rhymes, except for not rhyming. Below the fold:

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Act of Contrition

Courtesan Confessional by Aurora Maryte/Deviant Art.


Amy Chozick of The New York Times promoting her about-to-appear memoir of life on the Hillary Clinton beat since 2008 (WSJ, and the Times from 2013), Chasing Hillary: Ten Years, Two Presidential Campaigns, and One Intact Glass Ceiling, with a book excerpt that includes an unexpected confession:

The Bernie Bros and Mr. Trump’s Twitter trolls had called me a donkey-faced whore and a Hillary shill, but nothing hurt worse than my own colleagues calling me a de facto instrument of Russian intelligence. The worst part was, they were right.
Note the trivial inaccuracy (it was "donkey-faced cunt") and slipped-in bothsiderism (suggesting her reporting must have been fair, since Hillary had some opponents who hated it as much as her supporters did). Still and all, she seems to be the first reporter from the big show to acknowledge playing a role in electing Donald Trump to the presidency through a series of journalistic failures, and that's pretty brave, right?

Nah. The only thing she pleads guilty to is spending too much time writing stories about pirated emails in the Trump-Clinton campaign, in which, as she carefully points out, she was not alone: "Every publication," she says, quoting Eric Lipton, David Sanger, and Scott Shane in the December postmortem, "including The Times, published multiple stories citing the D.N.C. and Podesta emails posted by WikiLeaks, becoming a de facto instrument of Russian intelligence." Though her own contribution (six stories and a blog post) to the stampede was not exactly small.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Pompey the Great

Gnaeus Pompeius Magnius, by Tom Rutjens/Deviant Art.

Noah Rothman of Commentary yesterday morning, explaining to NPR why Mike Pompeo is qualified to be secretary of state, makes some very peculiar arguments:
ROTHMAN: Well, among them being that he was just in North Korea conducting a very high-level diplomatic mission. To the extent that he has been acting as a diplomatic ambassador now - and this was apparently leaked to convey to the press and to Democrats that he is essentially functioning as a diplomat...
GREENE: You're saying leaked to the - you're saying the White House wanted this out there so - to try and convince Democrats about his credentials.
ROTHMAN: Oh, we've learned yesterday that that was apparently the case. And it was a very smart move. It established his...
GREENE: But isn't that just one trip? Isn't that just one trip?
ROTHMAN: Well, yeah, but it's one very effective trip, apparently.
It is just one trip and we have no way of judging how effective it was, other than what the White House says, which is what this White House always says, that everything they do is totally great and making America great again only they can't tell you in just what respect.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Groomin'

Male chimps grooming (da da da da) on a Sunday afternoon, Via Cooler Insights.

David Brooks ("The Blindness of Social Wealth") begins with a story from Robert E. Hall's This Land of Strangers: The Relationship Crisis That Imperils Home, Work, Politics, and Faith (2012) illustrating how you can you take a concept of "social wealth", understood here as a kind of capital of human relationships, as literal wealth, money in the bank, that you may be able to draw on in a tight financial spot, a share in a company you thought went bankrupt long ago and that turns out to be thriving:
Bob Hall was a rancher. In 1936, in the midst of the Depression, he was suffering from a cancer that was eating the flesh on the side of his face. His ranch had dwindled to nearly nothing, and weeks after bankers took the last of his livestock, Hall died, leaving his family deeply in debt.
His sons pleaded with anybody they could find to make a loan and save the family ranch. No one would do it. Finally, in desperation, they went to their neighbor, Buzz Newton, who was known for his miserliness, and asked him to co-sign a loan. “I always thought so much of your dad; he was the most generous man I have known,” Newton answered. “Yes, I’ll co-sign the note.”
Bob Hall’s grandson, also named Robert Hall, drew out the lesson in his book “This Land of Strangers,” noting: “The truth is, relationships are the most valuable and value-creating resource of any society. They are our lifelines to survive, grow and thrive.”
Which seems like a dubious moral to me; old Bob Hall had saved the ranch for his children not by the strategic investment in relationships but by heedlessly befriending anybody at all—all the decent people he'd been friends with turned the kids down. It was the least likely friend who came through, like the little man in the forest in the old fairy tales who gives the simple-minded third brother woodcutter a treasure in exchange for a charitably offered sandwich. Old Bob Hall wasn't a capitalist of friendship, he was a nice guy.

Guess who just found out the Korean War isn't over yet?

In the Demilitarized Zone,via CNN; can't find a name for the bird.

Yesterday's story in The Times:

But analysts said South Korea was aiming for a comprehensive deal, in which the North agreed to give up its weapons in return for a security guarantee, including a peace treaty. Mr. Trump’s comments suggested he backed that effort.
“They do have my blessing to discuss the end of the war,” he said. “People don’t realize that the Korean War has not ended. It’s going on right now. And they are discussing an end to war. Subject to a deal, they have my blessing.”
You know what he means when he says, "People don't realize". That's what he always says when he's gobsmacked by some revelation, like Lincoln having been a Republican

I'm not going to lie, I'm feeling pretty pleased with myself for prognostications since at least January as to what was going on from the "my button is bigger than your button" tweet through the Winter Olympics, which is that the South Korean government has realized that Trump's ignorance and mercuriality mean it can take over the 64-year-old peace process from the AWOL United States. Which may not be the way it looks to you, with these crazy events in which somebody with no more official status than Dennis Rodman, in between jobs as Director of Central Intelligence and Secretary of State (if he can get confirmed by the Senate, which has been looking very iffy), travels to negotiate with the Cute Leader or whatever they're calling him to arrange a meeting for him with Emperor Bigbutton. You may think that the US is not merely actively engaged but hyperactively engaged.

But that's my point, really: hyperactivity isn't coherently directed at anything. Trump doesn't know whether he wants a war or wants peace, or care, as long as he's acclaimed the winner of whatever it turns out to be. He's not in charge, and President Moon Jae-in is.

The news today that DPRK and ROK truly are talking about a peace treaty is just astonishing, though, and I'm not even sure what to think. The upshot may not turn out exactly the way Pompeo expects, but it sounds like progress from here for the moment.