Tuesday, November 12, 2019

The Problem with Paranoia

Silly dustups with people from our side spreading the claim that Trump stole $2.8 million from veterans' organizations, or, more realistically, raised the money for veterans' organizations and kept it for himself, which I agree would come to the same thing. Including the extremely estimable David Atkins, who put it in the Washington Monthly:
 it should still leave us speechless that only a few days ago the President of the United States was held liable by judge of defrauding veterans to the tune of millions of dollars via a fake charity he used for vainglorious personal and campaign expenses....
Only that's just not what happened.

Monday, November 11, 2019

The Coup that Wasn't, Maybe

Ex-president Carlos Mesa of the Revolutionary Left Front (Frente Revolucionário del Izquierdo), second-place finisher in the disputed Bolivian election, demonstrating last month. Photo by Juan Karita/AP via New York Times.

OK, let's do this. (With some uncredited help from blogfriend @pauloCanning who may show up to explain what I've gotten wrong here.)

Evo Morales, the Aymara coca workers' leader who came out of the Bolivian mountains in 1997 to overturn the ethnarchy of the white minority that had run the country since the colonial period, and finally became president in January 2006, was a hero, beyond question, and an extremely effective politician, whose administration accomplished enormous things in the way of promoting social justice and reducing inequality while growing the country's economy, admired by everybody from The Nation to the Washington Post as a model of how Latin American socialism can work.

He also just wanted to stay too long, for one thing (and not the most serious thing in my view; I'll get to others below). When he decided in the early days of his third term, in 2016, that he wanted to go for an unconstitutional fourth, and put the question to the people in a referendum, they disagreed. When he then went to the Supreme Tribunal of Justice to ask if he could ignore the referendum and run for a fourth term anyway, and the Supreme Tribunal responded by abolishing term limits for everybody, people started getting upset. When he went ahead and ran this year, the election results and the hiccups in the counting process looked pretty shady:

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Literary Corner: It must suck to be John Kennedy

Fiddlers Allemande, early 19th-century England? Via Jane Austen's World.

"In three short years, President Trump has doubled the growth in the greatest economy in all of human history. And do you know what our Democratic friends have done for him? Speaker Nancy Pelosi is trying to impeach him. I don’t mean any disrespect, but it must suck to be that dumb." (Senator John Kennedy, R-LA)
Kennedy's Villanelle
The Senate's premiere intellect
regards his audience as scum.
I don't mean any disrespect.
Though Oxford's where he's coming from—
a first at Magdalen, that's correct!
But it must suck to be that dumb.
I wonder if his mind was wrecked
by drugs like methedrine, or rum.
I don't mean any disrespect.
He cannot do a basic sum;
his grade-school taunts have no effect.
But it must suck to be that dumb.
And in faux bayou dialect,
such unremitting pabulum—
I don't mean any disrespect—
it needs to be severely checked
before we're all completely numb.
I don't mean any disrespect,
but it must suck to be that dumb.


Well, in 1747 Johann Sebastian Bach, then 62 and not looking for a more interesting job than the one he'd held for almost 25 years at the Thomaskirche in Leipzig, heard from an old acquaintance, the polymath Lorenz Christoph Mizler von Kolof, the first person after the Renaissance to lecture on music history at a German university, and at this point in his life court physician to King August III of Poland, and the founder and permanent secretary of the Corresponding Society for the Musical Sciences (Correspondierende Societät der musikalischen Wissenschaften); Bach was invited to become the society's 14th member. In return, he presented the society with a work of fantastical complexity and weirdness, Some Canonic Variations on the Christmas Song "Vom Himmel Hoch", and a portrait of himself, the famed painting by E.G. Haussmann, in which he is shown holding a copy of another one of those crazy last works, the triplex canon for six voices BWV 1076.

The melody had been composed by Martin Luther a couple of centuries earlier, and Bach apparently liked it a lot, having set it several times in church music works. A canon is a polyphonic work in which different voices play or sing the same melody starting at different times (Row, Row, Row Your Boat is a canon) and often at different pitches and sometimes different tempos. These five start off as two-part canons in the organist's left and right hands while the feet play the original Luther melody on the pedals, but they get more complicated. The graphics in this video do a brilliant job of showing how it works:

Friday, November 8, 2019

Sweet Charity. With an Unexpected Kallstrom Appearance

For the record: Donald writes:

Donald Trump has not given major money to charity.

The Trump Foundation may have made donations of $19 million in the course of its now terminated existence between 1987 and 2017, as Trump's personal lawyer Alan J. Futerfas has repeatedly claimed over the past couple of years without offering any evidence, but it's known that Trump himself contributed just over $5.4 million to it, just a little more than the $5 million WWE executives Vince and Linda McMahon are known to have given the Trump Foundation (though this looks like a way of paying him for his appearances on the 2007 Wrestlemania, in a way that allowed him to evade taxes), and Trump hasn't given it a dime since 2008. Oprah Winfrey, by contrast, who is not supposed to be as rich as Trump, has built up a fund worth $242 million through her own donations$22.5 million over the single year 2018-19.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Celebrity White House

One of the ideas kicked around by Burnett and the president was shooting a new version of the Trump-branded Apprentice, tentatively titled The Apprentice: White House, and to produce it shortly after the president leaves office. This time, however, the TV program would be explicitly politics-themed and take full advantage of Trump’s status as a former president of the United States and a newfound Republican kingmaker.
“There have been several discussions between Burnett and Trump about The Apprentice: White House,” a person with knowledge of the situation told The Daily Beast. “It is something Burnett thinks could be a money-spinner and Trump is very keen on doing.” 



Can't begin to tell you how psyched the network is about The Apprentice: White House. There are a bunch of obstacles that need to be worked through before you get the green light but if you guys can make your end happen and I'm sure you can this is looking to be the greatest reality show of all time and I'm not even kidding. You and I are going to be richer than Mr. Trump by the time this thing is over. I mean we already are richer than Mr. Trump but richer than Mr. Trump thinks he is.

Points that instantly come to mind are:

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

For the Record: Secret Hearings

‘Let the jury consider their verdict,’ the King said, for about the twentieth time that day.

‘No, no!’ said the Queen. ‘Sentence first - verdict afterwards.’

‘Stuff and nonsense!’ said Alice loudly. ‘The idea of having the sentence first!’

‘Hold your tongue!’ said the Queen, turning purple.

‘I won’t!’ said Alice.

‘Off with her head!’ the Queen shouted at the top of her voice. Nobody moved. (Via Gates of Vienna)
This was a weird exchange over more than a week that ended up unexpectedly plugging into the released transcript of the Yovanovich interview:

Of course inside the Wingosphere nobody pleads guilty just because they're guilty. There must be some occult thing going on. Mike Flynn pleaded guilty to save his obnoxious son Mike Junior from a fate worse than having a dad in prison, though it's never clear what the Feds might have on the lad, other than his being a ratfucking Twitter scandalmongerer and working in Mike Senior's criminal business, involving performing services for the Turkish government that should not be performed and taking unreportable money. "Son, I've decided to take the rap for all the crimes I could have tried to blame on you."

Monday, November 4, 2019

New York Note

I almost exercised my brand new right to vote before Election Day in New York, but the fact is my own polling place is less than two minutes away from home and news reports suggested early voting is doing great and it didn't need any encouragement from me to succeed and the fact is that while I enthusiastically endorse early voting as an option for those who have problems with Tuesdays, I also personally like participating in Election Day a lot, so I didn't.

Asked my family what they were planning to do and got one meaningful response, from the very smart Millennial who said she had sort of heard something about one of the five ballot propositions. Also, I hear that the propositions on the physical ballot or presented in 7-point type, and nobody's passing out magnifying glasses. So I decided that I should post a very short tutorial.

tl;dr: vote for all of them. Vote for Public Advocate Jumaane Williams to finish the term that Letitia James had to give up when she was elected state attorney general, and vote yes on everything else, viz., Propositions
  1. Ranked Choice Voting in all primary and special elections for Mayor, Public Advocate, Comptroller, Borough President, and City Council as of January 2021, which permits voters to register their second through fifth choices, which can in turn be used to create a kind of runoff vote when nobody earns a majority and encourages unexpected candidacies and interesting results and has worked really well where it's been tried in the US;
  2. increasing effectiveness of the Civilian Complaints Review Board for overseeing the city police, adding clout to the City Council and Public Advocate by giving them some nominations to the membership, and most importantly giving them more power to investigate cases, with subpoena power and the ability to investigate false cop statements;
  3. a miscellany of anti-corruption and good government initiatives including restrictions on lobbying for ex-officials; it's got a bunch of stuff good people can disagree on, and if you want to vote no on something this would be the place, but I won't;
  4. city budget reforms including a Rainy Day Fund, and
  5. land use reforms, giving more power to borough presidents and community boards to deliberate on land use proposals.
More information at The Gothamist, New York's best local paper, all online and now the property of WNYC radio.