Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Turnout tribulations

Harold Lloyd and Bebe Daniels in Young Mr. Jazz (1919), from Shari Lobdell.
"If the turnout is high, we win," quoth the Bern, and he keeps saying it, with the implication that all the nonvoters out there are just waiting for some explosion of progressiveness to stimulate them into showing up at the polling place, an attractive idea, certainly, to me; the indifference to politics of the many always seems to me like the main thing stopping this from being democracy, and the solution should be to offer them something worth voting for (which happened, clearly, in the relatively high turnout of November 2008).

Only by Super Tuesday you could see pretty clearly it was not true in the present case, and it began to really irritate me that Sanders kept on believing it, but I kind of stopped trying to prove he was wrong because he didn't seem to be wrong in a very interesting way—not so much a pattern he was missing as no pattern at all—and trying to get a properly numerical grip on it was really difficult, or boring, or both.

Then as the Indiana results started coming in I got interested again, with the exit polls suggesting there was some kind of surge among young voters, with an unusual 47% of the total younger than 45, Was the Sanders prediction starting to come true at last?

We interrupt this program

We're grieving over the Big Lose of Big Cruz, but life must go on!

Cartoon by Steve Benson, via the West Central Tribune of Willmar, Minn.
New from the Sherman Oaks Review of Books:
  • A letter from the imaginary editor of the even more imaginary Rancho Cucamonga Review of Books, C.W. (Crinkle Wrap) Charles, in which your correspondent had a collaborative hand
  • A follow-up on that infinite number of monkeys that typed Hamlet some time ago—those guys were geniuses, whatever happened to them?
  • A heroically individualistic eggplant recipe from the novelist and philosopher Ayn Rand
  • And much—some—more!!
"Farewell Cruz", via YouTube. I'm not watching it. Just saying.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

A choice of embarrassments

Endless Wall Trail over New River Gorge near Lansig. Via LiveAndLetHike.
So David Brooks ("The Choice Explosion") seems to have started his project of atoning for his failure as a journalist and changing the way he does his job, venturing out into that vast dark forest where the Trump voters lurk to get "socially intermingled" with them, trying to find out, as Trump himself would put it, "just what in the hell is going on". At least his column today has a dateline, just like a Friedman column—"Lansing, W.Va."

But he hasn't actually started on any of that social intermingling yet, though it looks like a location well supplied with undereducated and underemployed white guys—not even with a taxi driver.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

The real neo-monarchist

Still dead. Image lifted from an openly fascist website (in Spanish).

Stung, no doubt, by the shrieks of derisive laughter that greeted his essay on why our political thinkers should pay more attention to the thinking of neo-reactionaries (not the racism, of course, just the good parts), Monsignor Ross Douthat, Apostolic Nuncio to 42nd Street, has now issued his "Well, liberals are the real neo-reactionaries anyway" piece. Or liberals are the real neo-monarchists at least. Or "the center-left and center-right rather than the ideological extremes" in "a kind of moderate-middle enthusiasm for crown government, as a means of escape from congressional dysfunction and endless right-left war". Or those identical-twin princes Barack Obama and George W. Bush:

Executive-branch Caesarism has been raised to new heights by the last two presidents, and important parts of the country have responded by upping the ante, and — like ancient Israelites in the Book of Samuel — basically clamoring for a king.

West of Eden: Green Zone update

Sadrists invading the legislature. Photo via Al-Jazeera.
Faithful readers had a chance to learn about this weekend's startling news from Baghdad a month before it happened (as blogfriend MBouffant showed up to notice in comments there), or sort of, when I reported the beginnings of a mass joint Sunni-Shi'a protest movement threatening to break into the Iraqi capital's high-security Green Zone, where foreign VIPs and local politicians are normally able to cut their deals without fear of getting blown up or kidnaped. Or contemplating the faces of thousands of victims of their corruption and irresponsibility.

And now they're in the Green Zone, after I'd more or less thought the whole thing must have fizzled out already, and they're attracting the attention of the New York Times. They've busted in in the hundreds and perhaps thousands, mostly nonviolently and perhaps with the collusion of sympathetic security forces, and rioted inside the Parliament itself, breaking some furniture. So you can say you heard about it here first, if you did.

I seem to be virtually alone in regarding this as a positive development. Atrios and BooMan are sadly rolling their eyes and shaking their heads, and with good reason, over this new evidence of the endless chaos caused by George W. Bush and his companions. I agree it's that, but I think it's something more, as I've been trying to say...

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Annals of Derp: Tell me what is Kansas thinking?

Via YouTube.
Rachel Sheffield and Elmore Wallace over at the Heritage Foundation's Daily Dogwhistle write about a major success for Kansas governor Sam Brownback. If you're not reading the rightwing press you may be under the impression that Brownback hasn't been successful in anything
Brownback pledged to bring 100,000* new jobs to the state in his second term; as of January, he has brought 700. What’s more, personal income growth slowed dramatically since the tax cuts went into effect. Between 2010 and 2012, Kansas saw income growth of 6.1 percent, good for 12th in the nation; from 2013 to 2015, that rate was 3.6 percent, good for 41st.
Meanwhile, revenue shortfalls have devastated the state’s public sector along with its most vulnerable citizens. Since Brownback’s inauguration, 1,414 Kansans with disabilities have been thrown off  Medicaid. In 2015, six school districts in the state were forced to end their years early for lack of funding. Cuts to health and human services are expected to cause 65 preventable deaths this year in Sedgwick County alone. In February, tax receipts came in $53 million below estimates; Brownback immediately cut $17 million from the state’s university system. This data is not lost on the people of Kansas — as of November, Brownback’s approval rating was 26 percent, the lowest of any governor in the United States.
But no, apparently there's this one thing where he's accomplished something according to plan, kicking people off SNAP (or "food stamp") benefits if they don't get a job.

What pulled me in was Sheffield's and Wallace's obnoxious quotation from Lincoln:

Friday, April 29, 2016

Across the Chasms of Segmentation

Image by Peshkova/Getty Images (stolen by corporate bloggers too numerous to mention, at least I'm crediting).
Poor David Brooks ("If Not Trump, What?") back for seconds on the artisanal humble pie with pâte brisée and seasonal fruits, which he'll take à la mode, with a great big scoop of the butter-brickle self-congratulation:
I was surprised by Trump’s success because I’ve slipped into a bad pattern, spending large chunks of my life in the bourgeois strata — in professional circles with people with similar status and demographics to my own. It takes an act of will to rip yourself out of that and go where you feel least comfortable. But this column is going to try to do that over the next months and years. We all have some responsibility to do one activity that leaps across the chasms of segmentation that afflict this country.
Chasms of segmentation! Can't help imagining him somewhere out in the Heartland anxiously searching an Applebee's for the salad bar. "What did they do with it? Is this some of that downsizing?" For now, though, he needs to get ready for his excursion, and he's doing some online shopping:

Comedy is war

Cherry-picking at Stella Creek in the Adelaide Hills. Or maybe a stock photo.
I wanted to say something about that very long essay on liberal smugness or smug liberalism by Emmett Rensin (apparently an anagram, for "Eminent Terms", or maybe "Mr. E. Sentiment") in Vox, which I have not had a chance to read all the way through, as I was having my ironic smile straightened.

In fact I am not planning to read it all because there's too much of it, if you want to know the truth. I'm just going to cherry-fisk, so to speak, picking on the especially offensive sentences as they pop out at me and ignoring the no doubt very significant and judicious argument that Tem Tem Sinner worked so hard to assemble in favor of the stupid argument I discern from this superficial technique, and if you want to complain about it, why don't you just bring it up before the next Blogger Ethics Panel.

But first,
Q. How can you tell when National Review's famed Iraq combat attorney ("Cover me, Jack, I'm going in there as soon as the shelling lets up, with a motion to change venue") David French is lying?
A. When he claims to have had some human experience or other.
As in this contribution on the Rensinade, where he's discussing his own sad experience of the smugness of liberals:

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Ross Douthat's Electric Slide

GIF by ifoundabritty.
That Monsignor Ross Douthat, Apostolic Nuncio to 42nd Street, is such a sneaky guy! Here he is ("Trump and the Madness of Crowds") chewing yet again through the mystery of how an apparently nonconservative person such as Donald J. Trump seems to be capturing the apparently conservative Republican party:

1. They aren't really that conservative:

This [the party's refusal to nominate "mavericks" thought to be not purely conservative from McCain through Kasich] doesn’t mean that all Republican voters care about the conservative movement’s goals and shibboleths. Many clearly don’t, and it was obvious that there was an underserved constituency for policy heterodoxy among Republican voters — especially working-class voters— long before Trump came on the scene.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Getting a Zero

Cats in Finca Vigía. Ernest Hemingway Photographs Collection. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston.
Brooks is still in Cuba, or still using it as a dateline. Naturally his favorite spot on the tourist itinerary has been the farmhouse of Finca Vigía, a few miles outside of Havana, where Ernest Hemingway started making his main winter residence a little before his 40th birthday and his marriage (the third) to Martha Gellhorn, in 1939. Brooks's meditations at that melancholy spot are the subject of his new essay, "Getting to Zero", and it's pretty unnerving.

It takes the form of what could have been a sketch for a chapter on Hemingway in The Road to Character, starting with a quick description of Finca Vigía as the setting, then outlining the elements of the novelist's long decline, as human and writer, during the 20 years he lived there, with his many severe moral failings, and finally looking for that redeeming feature that you can use in your own struggle to become a nice person, with eulogy virtues, like St. Augustine or D.D. Eisenhower. As you work through it, though, you're drawn irrepressibly to another kind of reading. The first sentence—
Havana — Ernest Hemingway’s house in Cuba seems like such a healthy place. It is light, welcoming and beautifully situated.
—for example, immediately makes me think:
Cleveland Park—David Brooks's house in the D.C. area seemed like such a healthy place. It had vast spaces for entertaining.
And when I get to