Monday, January 16, 2017

Dr. King: Honor bestowed on he

It's the day when conservatives who vilified Dr. King as a communist for 40-odd years nowadays come out to tell us he was really a conservative, and "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character" somehow turns out to mean that he was against affirmative action. Including Sarah Palin reporting Alveda King's (false) testimony to King's (imaginary) anti-abortion views, with some very stirring prose:
Today, it is uplifting to see honor bestowed on he who will forever be seen as the face of the movement to ensure equal opportunity for all....
As powerful, the movement led by King caused long-overdue cultural change resulting in equal treatment regardless of skin color. It would be the norm. It would be unfathomable to think otherwise.
Unfathomable indeed!

All the troops on our side are out nowadays explaining that this is wrong, so I thought I'd rerun an old piece (January 2013) suggesting King—a real radical in praxis, not a hipster radical with a purist theory—might not have been an opponent from "the left" of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton and the Democratic party as it is today either.

Getting stoned before it was mainstream. Sorry, that's pretty cheap. Uncredited image (20th-c. Greek?) from some larcenous Christian's blog.
On Saturday [January 26 2013] came the stately March On or About Washington, the first of two commemorations of the 1963 March On Washington, an often moving ceremony, and a bizarre Internet storm around a series of Tweets from David Sirota, who wanted to tell us how Dr. Martin Luther King would have felt if he had been able, like Tom Sawyer, to attend the service, which quickly degenerated from dumb to dreadful as he stumbled into lecturing black people on the subject of what black people think.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Tirade on blame

Buster Keaton in The Playhouse (1921), I think, via.
As far as recriminations go over what happened in November, I liked Thers's idea (welcome back to Cyberspace, Andrew!) a lot:
As to who on the Democratic side, or the Left, is to blame, I'm only going to say this once, and then we're going to just let it go.
It was your fault.
You fucker.
It was my fault.
Me fucker.
FUCK ME. This was our job, and whatever it is we tried to do, we fucked it up, even if most Americans broadly agree with us.
Nevertheless there's something about BooMan's non-apology FUCK ME that I can't let go of:
One thing I know I really didn’t do in this campaign was to defend Clinton. It was difficult for me to accept that she would be our party’s nominee, although I accepted it fully even though I didn’t vote for her. Spending my energy defending her was generally just too much for me, however. I thought she could pull off a victory because I gave the public too much credit for being able to see through Trump. Nonetheless, I saw the main threat as the possibility that they wouldn’t. Trump was getting a lot of press coverage, and I thought it was most important to counter the positive attributes and narratives he was receiving.
The last thing I felt like doing was writing about Benghazi or her email server or (especially) the Clinton Foundation. That appears to have been a mistake on my part. The real threat was that Clinton would be brought down to Trump’s level and seen as equally unacceptable.
Speaking as one who did try to make the positive case for Clinton, ad nauseam (52 posts from March through November under the label "Is Hillary Clinton the Worst Human Being in the Universe?" and I'm sure there were many more without the label), including on the damn emails and Benghazi and the Clinton Foundation (and its ruthlessly corrupt acceptance of money from Norway, Canada, Australia, Great Britain, and, yes, Algeria and Saudi Arabia and some other excessively foreign countries), I'd take it back a step and argue that you didn't try to find out whether there was a possible defense of Clinton. You swallowed a bunch of idées reçues from the self-denominated left (including such notable social democrats as Glenn Greenwald and Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin) and never asked yourself whether they were even true.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Ferociously fragmented, frenetic chaos

Buster Keaton in The Navigator (1924).
Well, Brooks has been looking at problems that are several different kinds of problem at once, like house-hunting, which is emotionally, psychologically, cognitively, and even morally difficult, or Trump advisor Stephen Bannon's neo-fascist (Brooks coyly calls the philosophy "populist ethno-nationalist") critique of the post–World War II order, which is simultaneously moral, religious, economic, political and racial.

Now he's looking at the problem of devising a Republican replacement for the Affordable Care Act, and specifically the question whether market incentives "work" in health care, which is both economic and psychological:

This is really two questions. The economic one: Would market mechanisms improve quality and reduce costs? The psychological one: Do people want the extra cognitive burden of shopping for health care, or would they rather offload those decisions to someone else?
Really, it isn't two questions, in the sense that the incentives will only function if the consumers are incentivized: improvements in quality and cost won't happen unless shoppers are willing to shop.

I think the weak point here is the implication that the Affordable Care Act doesn't use market incentives, which shows that he still, six years after its passage, hasn't found out what's in it. The ACA is an overhaul of the health care system that is entirely based on market incentives!

Wednesday, January 11, 2017


Zeus visiting Danae in the form of a shower of gold, by the Russian artist Aleksandr Sigov (1980).
That's my proposed pet name for the scandal in which "golden showers" of micturation—the pleasures of urolagnia—play such a prominent role.
If golden showers
Should come your way
You'll linger hours
In fragrant spray
No, stop that. I have no difficulty believing the Trump could be into such things, which goes along with my sense of his sexual infantilism, as in that desire, discussed in the Billy Bush tape, to assault women with showers of kisses:
 I just start kissing them, it's like a magnet. Just kiss. I don't even wait.
He has a baby's desires and preoccupations, as I was saying back then,  and your excretory functions are a central part of that, and so is the interest in humiliation and being humiliated. When he says, to prove the story can't be true, "I'm a germophobe!"—well, of course! And yet the peeing parts of the body are central to sex. Fear of and fascination with urine heighten his excitement.

Sorry about this. And sorry to get all Freudian on you, but sometimes that stuff just works.

An argument from The Guardian suggesting something wrong with the Russia dossier:

Monday, January 9, 2017

Public Art

Taipei Main Station, not by Jeff Koons but Tsai-chin Ni, who is not a knockoff artist (perhaps this piece is meant as a satire of Koons).

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Expensive shots: Shanghai


Muskcat Coffee, in the park across the river from the Bund, where they sell a wide range of exotic coffees including, at least in theory, the famous Sumatran civet cat coffee roasted, they tell us, from beans extracted from the scat of the civet, 228 RMB per cup. This young woman has ordered a very sweet-looking parfait drink and enormous dessert of eight wedges of something caky surrounding a mountain of whipped cream, all by herself, and appears to be Instagramming it to her circle of friends.

I'm back!

It was raining the whole time we were in Shanghai., until the last morning...
Hi folks,

Just spent a couple of days in Shanghai, first visit to the People's Republic, in spite of a long engagement with things (and persons) Chinese. Which is why the website has been dark, because in the People's Republic there is no Google, and no Google products: no Gmail, no Chrome, no Google Maps and Google apps, and not leastly no Blogger with which to create a post. Also no New York Times, Washington Post, Frankfurter Allgemeine, and I don't know what-all else. Yahoo is fine.

Funnily enough, Yahoo is also a vehicle of rebellion against this state of affairs; when you open it up, it hits you with display ads inviting you to join a VPN (Virtual Private Network) from which, for a price of course, you can go wherever you want. As ever, the restrictions aren't meant to apply to those with the wherewithal to evade them. I imagine members of the full-time Chinese elite and foreign residents of a certain status do all the Googling they want in this simple and appealing way. (Our friend in Shanghai, an extremely low-level member of the academic elite, certainly does.)

I was able to get the Guardian and the Twitter on my phone eventually, I think because they send me notifications independent of the Google world (so does the Times normally once a day, but they don't seem to be doing it at the moment, perhaps because the dead-tree subscription is suspended). I was frankly a little unwilling to use the Twitter, not wishing to make it too easy to figure out that Yastreblyansky is the same person as the the alter egotist whose phone Y uses, for anybody who happened to be Watching, if you know what I mean.

Anyhow we're in Google-embracing Taiwan now, attending to the primary purpose of the voyage, which is to pick up our baby boy from his semester abroad, so it's time to get back. But I need to catch up on the news first. Did anything happen?

...because as long as it's raining the air's pretty clean, and otherwise it can be pretty scary.

Thursday, January 5, 2017


Shanghai theater company, late 19th century, photographed by William Saunders, via BBC.

I'm afraid I kind of like David Brooks's column ("The Snapchat Presidency"). Though that central image—the Snapchat—isn't really right, in that Trump's midnight utterance doesn't in fact disappear 24 hours later, even if Trump sometimes seems to think it does, but it does have a kind of strange evanescence, like a sudden flower that wilts and browns before your eyes. Indeed, I thought for a moment that someone might have ghosted it for him.

Brooks is good on the way they originate, though the flabbiness of his own prose spoils it a little:
He’s tweeted out policy gestures in recent weeks, say about the future of America’s nuclear arsenal. But these gestures aren’t attached to anything. They emerged from no analytic process and point to no implemental effects. Trump’s statements seem to spring spontaneously from his middle-of-night feelings. They are astoundingly ambiguous and defy interpretation.
But he doesn't really get how the sense that they mean something is part of that efflorescence, when everybody starts analyzing the tweet and trying to guess what its policy implications might be. The evidence of it remains online, but the meaningfulness decays and dies. It's more as if the Snapchat picture didn't disappear but merely blurred slightly, so that it became hard to identify who's in it.

Anyway, the shorter—
Donald Trump being president is not normal.
—suggests a topic more for Driftglass than me, offering multiple instances of how Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush did the same sort of thing as the Trump is doing it now, maybe less in your face.

I'm off on an Asian trip, and the blog is going to be quiet for a couple of days at least, I think. Here are some links to old, mostly silly stuff, to tide you all over: Keats and Chapman stories on Hemingway and cricket, a Blast from the Future: How David Brooks will welcome Trump's wall (from April 2016), a Sarah Palin poem that never got a wide readership, and the Green Eggs and Ham parody. Catch you later!