Saturday, June 25, 2016

Edgy David Brooks

George Caleb Bingham, "Raftsmen Playing Cards", 1847. Saint Louis Art Museum via New York Times. David Brooks at left in the green trousers, left out because he's a four-flusher and can't count.
Shorter David Brooks, "At the Edge of Inside", New York Times, June 24 2016:
When you are located neither in in the core of an organization nor outside it, but just at the edge of the core, you could be a genuine reformer, like Senator Lindsey Graham or Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Some people might not like you very much, but we need such people now more than ever. Lincoln, too, and the behavioral economist Richard Thaler, co-author, with Cass Sunstein, of Nudge (2008), whose theories can "make it easier for people to save money, eat healthily and more," according to the TED Radio Hour, which shows you just how edgy-on-the-inside he is.
Actually that's not what Brooks says about Thaler. He says,
When the behavioral economist Richard Thaler uses the lessons of psychology to improve economic modeling, he is operating just inside the edge of his own discipline and making it better.
But I don't feel that's 100% accurate. I think you could say Thaler uses the lessons of psychology to explain what's wrong with economic modeling as it's done (its presumption of rationality on the part of homo economicus), rightly I'm sure, but he doesn't use it to improve modeling; he does it to justify his own work as a purveyor of interesting anecdotes instead of models, and assert that you can do useful work even if you're no good at math:

Friday, June 24, 2016

E pluribus multum


I'm literally grieving. This should not have happened. If the European Union isn't democratic enough, the point ought to be to democratize it, not to retire into your island fastness.

Western pond turtle, via Aquarium Tidings.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Poem: I'm Tired of Being Divided Against Each Other



Rectification Central welcomes Marco "Cuban Heels" Rubio, statesman and poet (see below), back into the world of public affairs and the 2020 presidential campaign!

Yes, he's decided to offer himself to the people of Florida for a few months in 2017-18 as their continuing Senator, in spite of the inconvenience and suffering it will cause him and his lovely young family, so he can have a good-paying job he doesn't have to show up for when the campaign starts rolling and #RepublicansInDisarray after the Trump debacle might be desperate enough to turn to him. What a hero!

Not that it wasn't a struggle, between the quiet, self-effacing Rubio who longs for nothing so much as to live in private dignity, caring for his loved ones and in-laws, and enjoying the simple life of an attorney in a rainmaker sinecure and a few corporate board positions, and the deeply committed Rubio who says, no, I just can't let the people live without the benefit of me telling them what's what—they're depending on me!

This deep division—these two souls warring in a single breast—was the subject of a short but poignant lyric he wrote in the thick of the 2016 campaign. I wanted to run it then, but he dropped out so quickly I never got around to it, and I'm happy to have the chance to do that now, beneath the fold.

All your base are belong to us

Do Smut Clyde's fans declare their allegiance in this frank and appealing manner? I THINK NOT. When was the last time you saw an enthusiastic young person proclaiming herself a "SMUT QUEEN"? Photo by Lauren Gambino/Guardian.
Update: Knowing what "Yas queen" means would likely have inhibited me in the construction of that joke, so I held off finding out, but for readers who are even less hip and even lazier than I am, it is probably not affiliated with me; it is a catchphrase expression of affirmation associated with the television program "Broad City". "Yas" means "yes" and "queen" is a term of address that the young women may use on each other, though I could be wrong about that. And Hillary Clinton has some connection with it, but I don't want to stretch my brain too far.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Make Florence Great Again!

And finally they decided to burn Savonarola in the public square instead. Anonymous painting, 1498, via Wikimedia Commons.
Shorter Thomas L. Friedman, Mystax Vanitatum, "Another Age of Discovery", June 22 2016:
What with the internet, virtual reality, Donald Trump, Facebook, sequencing of the human genome and machines that can reason better than people, our current era seems like a completely new ballgame in human history, but isn't it all kind of familiar? I mean, I'm thinking of that High Renaissance, 1450 to 1550, when they got movable type, the heliocentric model of the planetary system, and a western route to India, stuff that is a lot like the Internet. And then where we have Trump, they had Girolamo Savonarola, who took over Florence from 1495 to 1498 even though he was completely uncool and not even that popular, so it's practically the same thing, and whose relatively short sermons and pamphlets were just like Twitter.
Inorite. I'm heading down to Mar-a-Lago with all my Armani suits, the 10,000-bottle wine cellar, and the collection of fancy old erotica to burn it all in the public square. Does Mar-a-Lago have a public square?

I love how Trump has raised himself from monastic obscurity to fame by denouncing the corruption of the clergy, like when he met with the conservative evangelical leaders just yesterday, promising to stuff the courts with anti-abortion judges and give everybody religious freedom to interfere with the freedom of people they disapprove of, and Huckabee thanked him in advance for the way he's going to "lead the nation out of the abyss". And the way he's convincing us all—nobility, rich merchants, prosperous artisans and guild members—that we have to dump all our fabulous Renaissance-style luxuries and clamp down on sodomy, adultery, drunkenness, and immodest dress (though Savonarola did promise to make Florence "more glorious, more powerful and richer than ever, extending its wings farther than anyone can imagine").

Well-heeled vs. well-healed

Japanese World War II storage bunker on the grounds of Saipan International Airport, via TracesOfWar
A possibly trivial detail from yesterday's Brooks and the "Nation of Healers":

Earlier in the day I’d met Jade Bock. When she was 17, Bock lost her father to a workplace accident. Now she’s found her calling directing the Children’s Grief Center.
That's all true, except that the workplace in question was a Cessna 310R six-seat monoplane that the father, Jesse Richardson, was trying to land at Saipan International Airport in the Northern Marianas, October 27 1992. He was a retired Marine major who had uprooted his family from the town of Moon in Virginia's Middle Peninsula to take a pilot job with Pacific Island Aviation, based in Saipan, and he'd only been on the job a couple of months when he died in this apparently inexplicable runway crash.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Heart of Brooksness: Addendum

Illustration by Lisl Weil.

*Fun discovery: You know how Trump transforms his reading into action, as Jordan was describing it in comments yesterday?
staffers do a Google News search for "Donald J. Trump" every morning, print out the results, and bring them to Trump, who goes through them with a marker pen and indicates which passages piss him off or whatever and then tells [his 27-year-old assistant press agent Hope] Hicks to add the authors of the offending material to his "banned" list, where they linger indefinitely until he changes his mind.
There's a remarkable affinity between that and the way Brooks writes a column, as reported by Danny Funt at Columbia Journalism Review, including an apparent reluctance to use a computer, clearly something you might call a basic of the modern economy, but more than that:
Brooks writes each column on the day of its deadline. For every column, on his office floor, he creates a pile for each paragraph made up of news clippings, cut-out scans of book pages, and handwritten notes. When he referred in his book to his current assistant, the 28-year-old [April] Lawson, as his “editor,” it wasn’t far from true. After he gives her a draft of his 806-word column (he tries to hit that number on the nose every time), she returns a list of notes that’s often just as long. Brooks’ assistants resemble Supreme Court law clerks: They do significant research, they have hefty roles in writing, and they’re often drawn from the Ivy League.
Of course Trump wouldn't use the floor. "Disgusting!"

Heart of Brooksness: Oh, the places you won't go!

Heart of Darkness illustration by Matt Kish.
The Odyssey's over! David Brooks ("A Nation of Healers") has completed that voyage into the heart of whiteness, out of the bourgeois strata, across the chasms of segmentation, and into the pain, where folks are in such distress that they will even consider voting for Trump, as a less addictive alternative to Oxycontin. He's finished changing the way he does his job so he can report accurately on this country, getting socially intermingled and listening carefully.

At least I think he has, because there's an elegiac, retrospective tone to the way he brings up some of the things he's learned along the way—

I’ve been traveling around to the most economically stressed parts of this country.
You see a lot of dislocation on a trip like this. In New Mexico, for example, I met some kids who lost their parents — to drugs, death, deportation or something else.
It's a terrible thing when you dislocate your parents.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Potemkin Campaign

"And God sometimes uses potěmkinium." (Necyklopedie, the Czech version of the Uncyclopedia, has an entry on potěmkinium, an element in the "Mareseyevian", as opposed to Mendeleyevian, periodic table. After the World War II fighter ace Aleksey Petrovich Mareseyev, whose life was portrayed in Boris Polevoy's novel, and sadly Sergey Prokofiev's opera, The Story of a Real Man.)
It's getting so bad the journos don't have the heart to counter it with a #DemocratsInDisarray number. Corey Lewandowski, the granite-headed little woman-whacker who has been sort of running the Trump campaign, was kicked out this morning, during a war council in Trump Tower with various captains and lieutenants including the 27-year-old spokesperson Hope Hicks, with whom Lewandowski has not gotten along very well—when he first became campaign manager, a year ago, and she rejected his ultimatum that she abandon Trump corporate for Trump political,
“He made her cry a bunch of times,” Nunberg said. In Nunberg’s telling, Lewandowski said to Hicks, “You made a big fucking mistake; you’re fucking dead to me.” Lewandowski declined to either confirm or correct Nunberg’s recollection. “I don’t recall the specifics of that,” he told me. (Olivia Nuzzi, GQ, via The Guardian)
Hicks gets along with Ivanka, who is the Trump she started off with, and it seems that Ivanka is the one who said Lewandowski had to go. She's the unofficial campaign manager now. Why not? She's already launched a successful line of handbags, fragrances, outerwear, eyewear, and shoes.

My favorite Lewandowski stories are the ones where he was busted with a handgun and ammunition in the Longworth Building when he was working as a congressional aide there, in 1999, when he was 26; and the 2002 losing campaign for New Hampshire Senator Robert Smith when he was primaried by John Sununu, and Lewandowski painted Sununu as a possible terrorist sympathizer because of his Lebanese ancestry (Wikipedia for both of these).

Sunday, June 19, 2016

I smell a rat. Do you smell a ship?

Does this Rattus rattus creeping down the guy rope have a hint of red hair? (Can't get a good credit for the image.)
So Dowd's reconsidering her relationship, or whatever it is, with the Trump:
HE won’t pivot. So I have to.
Time was, she was certain Trump wasn't the apotheosis of evil:
Having seen Donald Trump as a braggadocious but benign celebrity in New York for decades, I did not regard him as the apotheosis of evil.
That's right, benign. Now she's not so sure. Maybe he is the apotheosis of evil. We just don't know. Who can say? Maureen's never been wrong before.
I certainly never would have predicted that the Trump name would be uttered in the same breath as Hitler, Mussolini and scary menace, even on such pop culture staples as “The Bachelorette.”
The Bachelorette brouhaha also involved a sweet potato. And George Bush. Dan told Chad hanging out with him (Chad) would be dangerous for his (Dan's) reputation, in the same way as hanging out with Hitler, Mussolini, Trump, or Bush.

Across the Pondering

Members of the Not In My Name campaign, a group dedicated to opposing the so-called Islamic State, in Luton, Bedfordshire. None of these men is an immigrant from the European Union.

Megan McArdle finally found herself!
This past weekend, I found myself in the British borough of Luton, pondering a British exit from the European Union. “How did you find yourself in Luton?” you will ask, and I will reply, “That is a long story, and alas, a very dull one"...
Shit Megan, you sound just like fucking Thackeray. That British air has such a bracing effect upon one's literary style!

Though there's a clue to the mystery, in that
this dull story involved many hours spent in a horrible third-tier European airport with middle-class Britons heading home from their holidays.
"I'll tell you, Watson, I suspect the Luton episode of this supposedly long, dull story involves an episode of travel from England to the United States." "Good God, Holmes, how do you deduce that?" "Elementary: travel is an almost constant concomitant of presence in airports." As turns out to be the case; she had a long layover there on an EasyJet flight, and the main point of the story may well be a complaint about Bloomberg's stinginess with the expenses.

So there she was, at one of an apparently inadequate number of phone-charging stations,