Friday, July 29, 2016

Open terrain

Otto von Bismarck escorting the arrested Emperor Napoléon III after the Battle of Sedan, French corpses littering the side of the road. Painting by Wilhelm Camphausen, 1877, via Wikimedia Commons.
Shorter David Brooks, "The Democrats Win the Summer", July 28 2016:
Now the Democrats looks like nice middle-class folks who care about their families and their country and feel empathy for others. Thanks a lot, Donald!
Naive people like me commonly think of politics as if it ought to be a confrontation of ideas on what the polity needs to do, but of course it's really a confrontation of people, organized into teams, a kind of war or a game of field control, and ideas are the field, the territory the teams contest, the largely static semiotic map across which we crawl out of our ideological trenches, trying to plant our flags in enemy ground.

Which means that what the fight is mainly over is the territory of ideas on which we all basically agree, the motherhood and apple pie; our job is to own those ideas, and deny them to the enemy. If I can convince the voter that I'm really strong on motherhood, with an unquestionable commitment, that will suggest that the other guy really isn't—that he's suspect, unreliable on motherhood, dangerous and dishonest.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Maybe he wasn't committing treason: Postcript

Image by Brian Watt via Ricochet.
BooMan notes a weird confusion in Trump's plea to Russian intelligence to hack US institutions, between the internal emails of the Democratic National Committee which were leaked to Wikileaks by Russian government hackers and the "30,000 missing emails" of the private server used by the former secretary of state (which are, once again, two to three thousand and not missing):
Trump seems to have gotten a smear campaign mixed up with something real, and he wasn’t just asking Russia to release everything they have from the DNC. He was asking them to go find (if they haven’t already) emails that Clinton wrote as Secretary of State.
I'm pretty sure that confusion didn't originate with Trump; I think you can see it being staged, in a weird little flurry of rightwing reports from last spring, with some interesting Russian fingerprints on it, summarized in a story Media Matters ran at the time:

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Maybe he wasn't committing treason on TV, but that doesn't mean he's not being vile

Harry Langdon in Mack Sennett's Picking Peaches (1924). Via.
So Donald Trump is publicly inviting Russian intelligence to hack the computer files of the former secretary of state:

 Donald J. Trump said Wednesday that he hoped Russia had hacked Hillary Clinton’s email, essentially encouraging an adversarial foreign power to cyberspy on a secretary of state’s correspondence.
“Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing,” Mr. Trump said, staring directly into the cameras during a news conference. “I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.”
Which sounds remarkably like what we usually refer to as treason. I want to argue that what he's really doing isn't so much treason as a classic McCarthy trick, sneaking a very nasty lie into the discussion by packing it into his presuppositions, where it can poison our minds without being noticed, in seeding the conversation with the story of those "30,000 emails that are missing".

Because they AREN'T MISSING, and haven't been missing, certainly not since FBI INVESTIGATORS RECOVERED THEM ALL LAST SEPTEMBER after Clinton turned the equipment over to the agency in August.  And there aren't 30,000 of them, but actually two or three thousand, together with some mails from Huma Abedin. Now the investigation is finished, and they're being sent in batches to the State Department, which is processing them for release to the public, starting last Thursday.

Of course there are surrogates out to say he's merely joking:

First Feminist

Photo via the Politics and Elections Portal.
Watching the proceedings on MSNBC last night, and after the Big Dog spoke I was interested and puzzled by the way the station's Tough Babes, Rachel and Republican Nicole, dismissed him for that long lingering nostalgic wedding-toast intro taking the audience in some detail from his first cute meet with the candidate to their dumping of Chelsea in the dorm 20-odd years later (he stood at the window concealing his tears while Hillary worked to perfect the environment). "Weak" and "meandering", they thought, though the audience plainly mostly loved it.

It was a remarkably limited view, it seemed to me, as if there's only one thing a speech can do—to overwhelm everybody and be the winner—and a kind of unfeminist view, too, with its assumption that if Bill wasn't the powerful winner of the evening then he was a failure.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

When you come to a fork in the road, take the middle

Pola Negri in Mal St. Clair's A Woman of the World (1925). Image via Fritzi, who has her own review.
David Brooks, still incredibly unfired ("Hillary, This Is Why Democrats Are Still Struggling", July 26 2016), may think the candidate is "squirrelly" and "willing to blatantly lie to preserve her career", but that doesn't mean he wouldn't offer her some heartfelt advice:

PHILADELPHIA — Dear Hillary,
Donald Trump has presented you with an amazing opportunity to become a world historical figure! If you crush him in this election, you could create a new Democratic majority and reduce the G.O.P. to an ever-declining rump of ethnic nationalism. On the other hand, if you fail to beat Trump, you will go down as America’s most hapless political loser and be vilified forever for enabling an era of American Putinism.
No pressure! Have fun in Philadelphia!
(There's the 145th career use of "amazing/amazingly".)

No, I don't see any concern trolls. Do you see a concern troll? Really? You mean you think Brooks doesn't sincerely want Clinton to create a new Democratic majority and reduce the GOP to an ever-declining rump of etc.? You cynic you.

Monday, July 25, 2016

I mean, you can't have a newspaper going around making people feel they're *wrong* about stuff

Drawing by Jen Sorensen, 2013, via The Political Carnival.
A reader calls my attention to the replacement of the great Margaret Sullivan as Public Editor of the Times, Liz Spayd (I'm sorry, that really looks like a fictional name), who is worried that news and opinion writing at the Times may not be really good for the paper's marketing. Did I even type that?

I HAVE been here less than a month, but already I’ve discovered something that surely must be bad for business if your business is running The New York Times. It comes via the inbox to the public editor, from people like Gary Taustine of Manhattan, who writes: “The NY Times is alienating its independent and open-minded readers, and in doing so, limiting the reach of their message and its possible influence.” [Or] James, an Arizona reader: “You’ve lost a subscriber because of your relentless bias against Trump — and I’m not even a Republican.”
If your coverage of Donald Trump impresses James, who is not even a Republican, as relentlessly biased against the candidate, that can't be good for business.

Feel the Burn. But don't get too excited.

Hi MBRU Cowpokes! Thanks, Tengrain (for all the style quirks I stole from you for this piece)!

Really, Russian intelligence? Karla would be rolling over in his grave, were he not a fictional character.
Poor Debbie!

Turns out that while certain self-denominated progressives have been demonizing Wasserman Schultz as the personification of a rigged Democratic Party run by powerful hidden capitalist overlords, that whole party has been longing to get rid of her, at least if you trust
Several senior Democratic officials with ties to Hillary and Bill Clinton
two people with direct knowledge of the conversation
one former West Wing adviser
a senior Democrat
a DNC staffer
a source familiar with the discussion
and
one state party chair

Ah, Politico! "Some said, said some..." Nevertheless, I think there are solid reasons for trusting them on this one: many people who would like the news out that Wasserman Schultz's departure is a welcome development, but few who want their names out there as saying so. It really seems to have been everybody, from the president and his political staff (Jim Messina, as far back as the wake of the 2012 election), Hillary Clinton and her people, starring John Podesta and Robby Mook (since fall 2015), and her own staff: as she began to not show up for scheduled events,

Come se dice "vast carelessness"?

Italianofili!

The best, classiest, hugest review ever of The Great Gatsby now available in the tongue of Dante and Ariosto, at Sotto il Vulcano, blog of the Italian publisher Edizioni SUR (which specializes in writing from and on the Americas).

The 2013 Daisy Buchanan, pretty winsome, Carey Mulligan.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Why, Grandmother, what big margins you have!

The better to short you with, my dear!

New York Times Sunday Review, July 24 2016.
What that un-Timesly moat of white represents, of course—vast spaces for meditating—is the column inches meant to be occupied in the spread by the 800-some words of the David Brooks column entitled "The Dark Knight", until some bright spark noticed, sometime Friday morning, that that piece was about 50% plagiarized from the David Brooks column entitled "The Death of the Republican Party", which had appeared that morning in the usual spot.

Or perhaps "The Death of the Republican Party" was plagiarized from "The Dark Knight", it's not easy to say. I'm guessing the assistant who wrote "Trump is Even Trumpier", which appeared in Brooks's spot on Tuesday, also wrote "The Death of the Republican Party", and Brooks himself produced "The Dark Knight", and they didn't so much plagiarize one from the other as they worked from duplicate sets of Brooskian Duplo blocks, each turning the embryonic paragraphs to a somewhat different use. You can check out the evidence at my previous post on this fascinating question, if you have not already done so.

The editors decided to split the difference, deleting "The Death of the Republican Party" from the online edition and "The Dark Knight" from the paper one, and that, with its traces in those margins on the Op-Ed spread, is the whole story, I suppose.

But for one thing I don't think the assistant is supposed to be writing the column, no matter how busy Brooks is with his TV appearances. And all that white space has to be embarrassing. If I were Andrew Rosenthal, I think I'd have to conclude this was a firing offense. But hey, I've said that before.

As a notorious billionaire once said, just what in the hell is going on?


Image by Elizabeth Griffin for Esquire, December 2015.
Everybody's got a reason why Donald Trump won't release his tax returns. Some say it's because he's one of those rich free riders taking advantage of loopholes to bring his income tax bill down toward zero, a bloodsucker who gets an infinite amount more out of government than most of us do but doesn't give anything back. For others, it would reveal that he's far less wealthy than he claims, putting a hole in his Prosperity Gospel argument that you should vote for him because he's made himself so damn rich he's bound to make you rich too, although that argument surely has enough holes in it already. Then there's the possibility that he's getting a lot of income from some unpleasant place he doesn't want us to know about.

Here's another hypothesis with some elements of all-of-the-above: that the tax returns would show he's seriously dependent on money from sources in the Russian Federation and Kazakhstan, people in the orbit of Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, sponsoring his ventures and covering for his colossal mistakes.

Really?

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Yes We Kaine

Also, he plays harmonica. How can you not love that?
So I took it a little personal at first...
Still, in the cold light of day, or what would be the cold light if it wasn't 99 degrees Fahrenheit in New York today, reading about Kaine has been kind of reassuring. He's been to a great extent a victim of the kind of dumbass stereotyping we once did with Joe Biden—very specifically, people used to worry about whether Biden would be a reliable voice for abortion rights, given his Catholicism, but he's always been very clear that his personal views have no impact on his views of what should be legal, and the same applies to Kaine, who has been maybe even more emphatic: