Friday, September 22, 2017

Exorcising the history of conservatism, Part 1,727

Sam Francis, untitled painting 1962, Jacobson Gallery, via WideWalls.

David Brooks discusses the reactionary, anti-immigrant and (at least theologically) pro-slavery, Machiavellian writer Samuel T. Francis (1947-2005) , not to be confused with Sam Francis (1923-94), the wonderful abstract expressionist colorist ("The Coming War on Business"):
The only time I saw Sam Francis face-to-face — in the Washington Times cafeteria sometime in the late 1980s or early 1990s — I thought he was a crank, but it’s clear now that he was at that moment becoming one of the most prescient writers of the past 50 years. There’s very little Donald Trump has done or said that Francis didn’t champion a quarter century ago.
OK, I'm going to stick my neck out and say it was probably 1986, the year David Brooks left his first adult job, at the Moonie Times as we call it, to move on to the more respectable Wall Street Journal, and Samuel T. Francis, then 39, joined the Times as a columnist. It seems easier to imagine them being in the paper's cafeteria at the same time during however many months it was both of them worked there than at any other time. "Prescient" is a really peculiar word choice: Francis wasn't foreseeing the advent of Trumpery on the basis of interesting theoretical labors, or a prophetic gift, he was actively working for it, in the form of what Pat Buchanan called "paleoconservatism".

This is going to be one of those efforts to show how completely unexpected and foreign Trumpery is to the Republican Party and the conservative movement, waltzing into the Washington Times cafeteria one day out of nowhere. The thesis is that it was Francis, "wickedly brilliant" but sadly "infected with racism"—

Wednesday, September 20, 2017


Nancy: "He can't use chopsticks, can he?" Chuck: "He can't use judgment." Via New York Daily News.
I can't really stand to write about the congressional health care agita unless I can see a glimmer of hope somewhere, and it's obviously been looking very bleak for the last week or two over there and getting bleaker, reaching a kind of climax of awfulness yesterday, when Lamar Alexander of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee announced he was giving up on the bipartisan bill he and Patty Murray had been working on to keep the Obamacare marketplace going through another year, just as it had started to sound like a negotiating breakthrough, and the project of saving the PPACA that had seemed so hopeful a week or two ago was dead.

Then there was something weird about that: according to the Washington Post's Jennifer Rubin (yes, in this brave new world I can be reduced from time to time to quoting Jennifer Rubin, and retweeting David Frum too), it wasn't an inability to bridge that partisan divide that had killed the Alexander-Murray bill, it was Majority Leader McConnell:

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Your debutante just knows what you need

Shanghai speciality, Four Happiness braised pork, one of those idiotically simple and unbearably delicious Chinese ways of slow-cooking pork, via The Spruce.
David Brooks starts off aspirationally ("When Life Asks for Everything"):

I’d like to offer you two models of human development.
Heh. He'd like to, but unfortunately he didn't bring any with him. He's only got these Great Chain of Being hierarchies of—well, of two different things, one of which is sometimes applied to development:

The first is what you might call The Four Kinds of Happiness. The lowest kind of happiness is material pleasure, having nice food and clothing and a nice house. Then there is achievement, the pleasure we get from earned and recognized success. Third, there is generativity, the pleasure we get from giving back to others. Finally, the highest kind of happiness is moral joy, the glowing satisfaction we get when we have surrendered ourselves to some noble cause or unconditional love.
The second model is Maslow’s famous hierarchy of needs. In this conception, we start out trying to satisfy our physical needs, like hunger or thirst. Once those are satisfied we move up to safety needs, economic and physical security. Once those are satisfied we can move up to belonging and love. Then when those are satisfied we can move up to self-esteem. And when that is satisfied we can move up to the pinnacle of development, self-actualization, which is experiencing autonomy and living in a way that expresses our authentic self.
The first of these is is a philosophical paradigm, fundamentally the four different kinds of satisfaction different humans aim at, as defined by Aristotle in the Nicomachean Ethics—material gratification, money making, political action, and contemplation—with the theotropic interpretation, God-haunting at the fourth level, projected on it by centuries of Roman Catholic doctrinal development, dimmed in the fog of Brooks's suburbanity, which can imagine only kinds of happiness available to guys at a certain income level living in Montgomery or Westchester County. The second is Abraham Maslow's psychological paradigm aiming at characterizing the different kinds of need that are common to all people. It's not about how "we start out" but how the world starts out with us. A primary way in which they are completely unrelated is right there: Aristotle and successors are addressing you on what you can do for yourself ("What kinds of things can I want?") and Maslow, the therapist, is telling people how to help set goals for others ("What kinds of emotions does my child or patient need?").

Brooks thinks both hierarchies are moral scales, arranged from the lowest to the highest good, but this is completely wrong.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Spicey Meatball

Melissa McCarthy, via Death and Taxes.
You know what I'd like Sean Spicer to do? I'd like him to show up on national television to tell everybody in the world that taxpayers were paying him substantial sums of money to tell the American people lies so incredible he could hardly keep a straight face, and that rather than being ashamed of this abuse of the public trust he actually thought it was kind of funny.

Oh wait, that's what he did.

The narrative of what a terrible thing Colbert and the Emmy producers did in having Spicey on the show, participating in the mockery of his character, is being led by folks like Chris Cillizza

and Frank Bruni

Forgotten but not gone

Click to embiggen for the full effect.
Don't think everybody's heard about this yet: Utah-based fine artist Jon McNaughton's new oil, returning to the composition of his 2016 painting The Forgotten Man in a piece entitled You Are Not Forgotten, in which his clear allegorical style has given way to something more strange and fanciful, even surrealistic. Below the same park bench in front of the White House where the forgotten man sat in despair in the earlier work, the dirt has been paved over with little stones, between which a tiny plant has unexpectedly bloomed (like the pilgrim's staff in the opera), and the forgotten man is starting to dig it out with his trusty trowel, presumably planning to take this federal parks property home, while a woman and girl watch, solemnly—the woman holding a Kool-Aid pitcher of water ready to pour onto the back of his neck, or perhaps into his hood, in case he gets overheated. At his left, a very slender but slightly stooped President Trump in his characteristic red tie stands where President Obama trampled the Constitution underfoot in the first painting, hand outstretched in an Ecce Homo gesture pointing the formerly forgotten man out to his diverse audience of mostly veteran and serving members of the military (I can't recognize any of them by name, other than maybe Pence just behind his right shoulder), just in case they haven't remembered him yet. A serpent (the don't-tread-on-me snake of the Revolutionary War?) is biting him in the ankle, and his right hand has miraculously grown to twice the size of his left.

The original Forgotten Man.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

The Emperor's New Information

Illustration by Thórarinn Leifsson for H.C. Anderson's story, 2004.
Jordan was commenting the other day on Trump's knowledge, or lack thereof, of the health care system in the US, I mean the whole thing of how it's paid for, insurance and the PPACA:
I don't think he's ever dealt with it in his own life, and I don't think he pays any attention to his employees' plans or is even aware of how any of that works. Just give everyone health care, for cheap...and remove the taint of Obama...what's the problem? I literally think that there was no more to his thinking than this, until after he was elected and he vaguely understood that something "complicated" was being dealt with (the way a wealthy socialite listens impatiently to a mechanic's description of the problem with the Mercedes, only grasping that she a) can't drive it now and b) will have to pay a lot of money), but even those ideas (along with any chance of his grasping the filibuster, the budget reconciliation maneuver, or those people approaching Australia in boats) were gone the moment those people left the room.
It put me in mind of something Trump said back in October that I never managed to write about, that proves the point pretty effectively, at a staff event at his Doral golf resort in the Miami area:

For the Record: The Little Lies

I think I may have come to the end of this series on Gunga Dinesh and his Big Lie; I've managed to prove he's a liar twice in one thread, and I know he's listening, because he gave me a bit of a response.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

For the Record: Interpretive dance in Kentucky, and much ado about voting.

And in some possibly more serious news that almost got interesting for a few minutes,

Friday, September 15, 2017

Brooks says it ain't broke...

Margaret W. Tarrant (1888-1959), Fairy Market, via sprookjeswereld.
It's world-famous economics critic David F. Brooks—we haven't heard from that one in a while!—with some cheerful news ("The Economy Isn't Broken"): there are no structural flaws in the economy!