Tuesday, May 31, 2016

A Sublime Thing, Like Space or Mathematics

From the Sublime to the Brooksiculous!

Richard Barthelmess contemplates whacking a policeman with a ukulele in D.W. Griffith's The Love Flower (1920). Via Fritzi.


David Brooks ("Big and Little Loves", May 31 2016) is interested in the concept of the sublime!

Ever since the days of ancient Greece, philosophers have distinguished between the beautiful and the sublime.
Sadly, no. According to my trusty Wikipedia, while an interest in the sublime goes back to classical antiquity, the dichotomy between beauty and sublimity as exclusive categories was invented in England, in the late 17th century, by John Dennis, who found himself, on a trip to Switzerland, struck by the contrast between his previous experience of the beauty of nature as a "delight that is consistent with reason" on the one hand, and on the other the spectacle of the Alps "mingled with Horrours, and sometimes almost with despair". And explicitly argued for the first time by Edmund Burke in his 1756 Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful.

Brooks is working clearly on pure memories from something like 35 years ago, when he was first curating his self-image as the sort of interesting young man who has a favorite philosopher nobody else in the dorm has ever heard of, Burke, of course, and his lovely distinction between the dreadful revolutionary categorical continentals and the modest, conservative, whimsical, hobbity Englishmen of the 1790s. He wrestled, no doubt, through the first four or five pages of Burke's gnarly and unpleasant treatise on aesthetics—life was so hard in the days before Google!—for an only partly cribbed term paper, and what remains of it in his frazzled, weary brain has gotten divorced from Burke's name:

The Strange Case of the Missing Lieberman

One version of the Lieberman proposal; the Arabs get all the pink dots, while the IDF patrols the spaces in between. Viable Opposition.


From the National Review, in an article that does not once mention the name of Avigdor Lieberman:
Obama’s Childish Attempt to Undermine Israel’s New Government
The administration’s dislike of Benjamin Netanyahu trumps its stated Israel policy.
By Josh Gelernter — May 28, 2016
Well, that's one interpretation. I for one have a hard time seeing how the addition of Avigdor Lieberman as defense minister and Sofa Landver as immigration and absorption minister will make the coalition any more likely to back a two-state solution, since the Likud still has a large majority in the cabinet and claims it supports a two-state solution too (Netanyahu's position is so vague that there are literally public debates in Israel over what he actually means, but the majority of his party's members reject the concept).

Monday, May 30, 2016

The stupid! It scathes!

Happy Memorial Day! Another bloody long one—mostly because of all the quotes. I'd have made it shorter but I didn't want to take the extra time.

I vote for Gene too. Mara's honest-and-trustworthy numbers are going through the floor. Image tweeted sometime in late March by Stacy Smallwood.

Mara Liasson on NPR yesterday morning:

This was a bad week for Hillary Clinton. The State Department inspector general released a report that was very scathing. And it contradicted a couple of assertions she's made in the past about her using a private server for her emails. She'd said in the past that the arrangement was allowed. Now, she never said she asked for permission and got it. But she did say it was allowed. And the inspector general said no, it wasn't allowed. And if she had asked us, we wouldn't have let her do it, or we would've told her not to do it.

The report was "very scathing"? What was the thing about it that "scathed", "scorched", "seared", or "assailed with withering denunciation"? The next sentence begins with "And", indicating that it's about something in addition to the scathe factor, which remains unexplained. The report's conclusion, in full, states:

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Annals of Derp: Douthat Gets a Head Start

Via.

Monsignor Ross Douthat, Apostolic Nuncio to 42nd Street, has stopped calling the Trump a would-be "caudillo"—I guess his confessor must have gotten to him and explained carefully that to a properly conservative Catholic, caudillo means the "Caudillo by the Grace of God" Generalísimo Franco and not a bad guy, just because he didn't care for elections or trade unions or people speaking languages other than Castellano. (He's been proclaimed a saint by Pope Gregory XVII of the Palmarian Catholic Church, whatever that is). Unless you're one of those Vatican II modernists and heretics, in which case you probably think saints shouldn't be sponsoring torture and rape, death squad killings, concentration camps and political penal colonies, stealing children from their parents, and medical experiments meant to "establish the bio-psych roots of Marxism".

Now he's calling Trump something new—
Donald Trump is many things — man’s man, ladies’ man, strength-worshiping Poujadist.
The link there doesn't work (the fact that it hasn't been repaired suggests that nobody ever checks out Ross's links, which doesn't surprise me); it's meant to go to the Wikipedia biography of the mid–20th-century "populist" politician Pierre Poujade, who was the scourge of the Fourth French Republic, with his Union de Défense des Commerçants et Artisans (Union for the Defense of Shopkeepers and Artisans), a forerunner of today's Front National (the youngest member of parliament after the 1956 elections was none other than a 28-year-old Jean-Marie Le Pen, head of the Poujadiste youth wing).

Poujade's UDCA was meant to represent the French petite bourgeoisie against the elites of the Parisian Grandes Écoles and especially against the contribuable or social security tax that funds the French welfare state. It was anti-intellectual (Poujade boasted about his lack of formal education), pro-colonial (angry at France's ongoing loss of Indochina and Algeria), and xenophobe. In short very much a typical American Republican, with the obvious differences of time and place (Poujade was especially exercised by a Jewish prime minister, Pierre Mendès-France, US Republicans are driven mad by an African-American president).

Yes, Trump's a kind of Poujadiste, but he's not alone.

Today's device for endorsing Trump while continuing to pretend he's not endorsing Trump is in the Safirian form of offering himself up as a Trump speechwriter, or in this case debate coach, suggesting lines Trump could use in debates this fall, on the example of how he might attack Clinton's plans to approach or achieve universal pre-K:

Clinton: “… been fighting for working families for my entire career. That’s why I have a detailed plan to offer tax credits that make day care affordable. I’ll double funding for Head Start. I’ll partner with states to expand universal pre-K. And I’ll guarantee 12 weeks of paid family leave.”
Moderator: “Mr. Trump?”
Trump: “We are not winning. America is not winning. And here comes — this is typical, folks — here comes Crooked Hillary, and of course she wants America to become more like France....”
One of the things Trump needs to do, naturally, is reference Douthat:

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Those chads didn't hang themSELVES, you know!


Doctor Steins with Tardis. Via wibbilywobblytimeywimey.
Steve M is being a worrywort again, this time on the possibility that Dr. Stein, the Green candidate, could do to Secretary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic candidate, what Nader did to Gore 16 years ago, in the election that Changed Everything (including giving birth to the anguished political blog: Josh Marshall's Talking Points Memo made its first appearance a week after the ballot, specifically to track developments in the elections theft, on November 12 2000, though the earliest post I can find is from November 13).

Because if the cool-kid Sanders supporters can't vote for Sanders in the general election they will be voting for Stein rather than voting for Clinton, judging from the popular press (BuzzFeed and The Atlantic), and this could take the election away from Clinton the way the Nader vote took the election away from Gore in 2000. Really?

Friday, May 27, 2016

David Brooks penetrates the student movement. Well, not quite.

Image via Amazon Fashion.
David Brooks is jumping today ("Inside Student Radicalism") into the rightwing crowd howling around Nathan Heller's "Letter from Oberlin" on the perils of intersectionality in the little to medium-sized private liberal arts college, in the current New Yorker, which offers many hilarious examples of campus excess, the student who wanted trigger warnings posted for Sophocles's Antigone (students could be affected by the heroine's argument in favor of suicide), or the theater professor who slipped on a Groucho Marx nose or something like it ("a rubber nose and glasses") during an interview, while Heller wasn't looking ("a grown man, having a meeting with a reporter from The New Yorker, behaving that way", shrieks Rod Dreher, who will certainly behave with the utmost sobriety if a New Yorker reporter ever interviews him), or the president who likes to talk over issues with students over ice cream, because "There is nothing like ice cream to bring people together".

(For Dreher, that function is better filled by "a salade gourmande, which was a green salad with haricots verts (those matchstick-thin French green beans), fresh mushrooms, in a mustard vinaigrette, with a side slab of pâte de foie gras" to start, followed by chicken in a creamy sauce with fresh morels. It's astonishing, by the way, what a timid Anglo eater Dreher is, considering how sophisticated he thinks he is, ordering the chicken in Lyon where he's afraid to try tripe, andouillettes—the man is from Louisiana!—or even the house specialty of pike quenelles. And he believes tripe [stomach lining] and chitlins [small intestine] are the same thing, the ignoramus.)

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Economic downturns kill people. With cancer.

Architect David Adjaye's rendering of the projected Gahanga International Children's Cancer Center near Kigali, Rwanda, where health insurance is mandatory (with zero premiums for the poor). Via De Zeen
And government-run health care systems prevent it. A study by Mahiben Maruthappu, Johnathan Watkins, et al. reported in The Lancet this week found in a study of cancer outcomes in 75 countries from 1990 to 2010 that
Unemployment rises were significantly associated with an increase in all-cancer mortality and all specific cancers except lung cancer in women. By contrast, untreatable cancer mortality was not significantly linked with changes in unemployment. Lag analyses showed significant associations remained 5 years after unemployment increases for the treatable cancer class. Rerunning analyses, while accounting for UHC [Universal Health Care] status, removed the significant associations. All-cancer, treatable cancer, and specific cancer mortalities significantly decreased as PEH [Public Expenditure on Health] increased. Time-series analysis provided an estimate of more than 40 000 excess deaths due to a subset of treatable cancers from 2008 to 2010, on the basis of 2000–07 trends. Most of these deaths were in non-UHC countries. 
Let's just say that again.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

West of Eden: Fascism may be here.

Image via emaze.

Thomas P. Friedman, better known as Thomas L. Friedman, Mystax Malinconicus, is in a saturnine humor as regards a former favorite country of his:
Israel has recently been under intense criticism on the world stage. Some of it, like the “boycott, divestment, sanctions” (B.D.S.) campaign, is a campus movement to destroy Israel masquerading as a political critique. But a lot of it is also driven by Israel’s desire to destroy itself — thanks to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s steady elimination of any possibility that Israel will separate itself from the Palestinians in the West Bank.
That somewhat comical formulation—"This is no time to be committing suicide, there are people out there trying to kill you!"—points at some kind of truth, but it's not something Tom really wants to hear.

The formula on BDS is a little like one of those Radio Yerevan jokes from the former Soviet Union:

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Yond Hillary has a workaholic look

Let Brooks have men about him that are fat,
Sleek-headed men and such as sleep a-nights.

Buster Keaton in Roscoe Arbuckle's His Wedding Night (1917). Via Oh, So?
Shorter David Brooks, "Why Is Clinton Disliked?", New York Times, May 24 2016:
I think I've got the answer to this vexing question—it's got to be because we don't know what her hobby is. Why, she may not have a hobby at all! You can't expect Americans to put up with that!
Because it can't possibly have anything to do with a 25-year campaign of calumny, libel, and prurient fantasies accusing her of everything from insider futures trading to murder, with allegations of sexual oddity, support for terrorists, simple bribery, and selling the influence of the secretary of state to fund her gigantic appetite for um funding Haitian earthquake relief and bolstering her hated husband's reputation as a humanitarian, with the eager complicity of the media widely reporting every story ("some say, said some") though it can never show a foundation in fact for any of them. Somewhat abated after 2000 when she wasn't running for president and then when Barack Obama was, but revived since a couple of years ago at triple the original force.

No, it's because we don't know whether she collects cat figurines, or works on cryptic crosswords in her spare time:

Monday, May 23, 2016

Please don't feed the neocons

This is a thing you can do in Ethiopia, feeding hyenas. Via Lipstick Alley.
The neoconservative eminence Robert Kagan endorsed Hillary Clinton for president in February, in the second-last sentence of a lengthy denunciation of the Trump that doesn't otherwise mention her at all, and taking the distressed tone of a father suggesting that the family will have to sell little Clara into slavery, regrettable as that option might be, if everybody is to survive:
For this former Republican, and perhaps for others, the only choice will be to vote for Hillary Clinton. The party cannot be saved, but the country still can be.
This week Kagan came up with a still more furious condemnation of the Trump, "This is How Fascism Comes to America", in which I notice that he doesn't mention Clinton at all, and Corey Robin noticed another thing, which is that Kagan's argument against Trump takes the mirror image of a familiar form:
According to Kagan:
What he offers is an attitude, an aura of crude strength and machismo, a boasting disrespect for the niceties of the democratic culture that he claims, and his followers believe, has produced national weakness and incompetence.
This, remember, is what makes Trump not a normal political candidate. It’s what makes him a candidate whose appeal and program “has transcended the party that produced him.”

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Douthat on the Great Facebook Massacre

Image via Michael Ferry at First Draft.
So apparently deep in the subterranean regions of the Facebook world, the News Curators toil, unseen and unappreciated, writing their headlines and teasers for the trending topics in the upper right of your timeline, and a little bit more. It turns out that the Trending Module algorithm doesn't work quite as well as advertised, or, more to the point, as well as Twitter's, and it needs to be goosed from time to time, and one of the things they do is to "inject" stories that fail to trend on their own into the mix, from the front pages of ten different big-time sources (CNN, the New York Times, BBC, and the like), or just stories that seem so serious that it's embarrassing not to have them (the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight 370, the killings of the Charlie Hebdo staff, Syria stories, #BlackLivesMatter). They're also empowered to switch a story from its coverage in a less respectable source like RedState or Breitbart to a more trustworthy one, or deactivate it altogether, if not enough sources are covering it.

Perhaps because their backgrounds are more literary than techie, they're not regarded as real Facebook people but "disposable outsiders". They're not employees but contract workers, like proofreaders or Uber drivers, supplied by a temp agency, a dozen or more squeezed into makeshift quarters in the New York offices. Though they have fancy degrees from Ivy schools and résumés from the New York publishing scene, they are not invited into the Facebook world. If there's an 8:00 happy hour for the proper employees, the News Curators aren't invited; they keep working, into the night. The turnover is pretty high. They believe that their real function is to train the algorithm—one day it will know how to do their jobs and they'll all be fired.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Harping, Carping, and Barking: Hooey, baby




Jonah Goldberg, back from a National Review Cruise on the Danube:
NR Cruises are special things. They are filled with friends of National Review, often lifelong friends. No one who hates the magazine plunks down that much hard-earned money to spend a week drinking, eating, and touring with its writers and editors (and other passengers who are fans of the magazine). As a result, nearly all disagreements are like family disagreements.
It's so cute how he feels the need to explain why there weren't any passengers who hate NR. Strictly speaking, I suppose it would be more correct to say nobody on board hates NR except the staff, who don't have to pay, and the undercover reporters from Harper's, which if nobody has ever done that before I'd like to say I'm totally available for the next cruise, if they'd spot me a wardrobe. Just kidding!

It's going to be aboard the MS Nieuw Amsterdam, taking seven days to circumnavigate the island of Cuba, mostly at a safe distance from its Communism-tainted territorial waters—

Friday, May 20, 2016

The Golden Chain


Barbara Stanwyck in Alfred E. Green's Baby Face (1933), via An Honest Ghost.
Shorter David Brooks, "The Fragmented Society", New York Times, May 20 2016:
I'm so clued in that Yuval Levin name-checks me in his new book, and yet there are things in that sucker even I didn't know, on virtually every page, although all the examples I can think of seem to be things I say myself all the time, like political polarization in Congress seems to be on the rise since its period of decline in 1910-40 and income inequality, diminishing from 1925 to 1970, has also begun to rise, and immigration, slowing from 1910 to 1975, has been going up. These factors, as opposed to the Internet, which arrived later, have caused us to become a fragmented society. Levin argues that our politics are based upon nostalgia for a less fragmented time. Conservatives lament the new lack of social cohesion and liberals complain about the inequality. Both are wrong, in Levin's view, because that's just the way things are nowadays and we can't do anything about it. These phenomena are the downsides of choices we have made for perfectly good reasons, like the desire to enjoy more flexibility, creativity, and individual choice, as when we buy cheap products around the world, and so there's nothing to be done. Therefore what we do will have to be the opposite of what we have done in the past. Unlike the policies of the Nixon, Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton, and Bush administrations when all this unfortunate fragmentation took place, we will have to adopt subsidiarity, devolving more power and choice from the federal government to local authorities. This is all quite true, but I'd like to say that I disagree with it in part. I think it is important, as we are taking away power from the federal government, that we should also give more power to the federal government, for example by instituting radical new ideas like national service and OMG look at the time and I've run out of space.
Levin's book is The Fractured Republic: Renewing America's Social Contract in the Age of Individualism (Basic Books, 2016), and I don't know if it's as much of a mess as the way Brooks portrays it, although it's inevitable that it should suffer from that cognitive dissonance between the fatalistic declinism of the conservative narrative (nostalgia aside, you can never have it as nice as it used to be) and the need to claim that your prescriptions are going to do the patient some good (you'll be as good as old!)

Brooks's basic argument, that he has thought of a way to disagree with Levin's argument even though Levin mentions him by name, is contained in paragraphs 14-16 of his column:

Friday cheap shots: Baseless Rhetoric

Image via the Toms River Patch.
Now we know what the price of Christie's Trump endorsement was: cash (via WNYC).
At a rally of about a thousand people at the armory in Lawrenceville, New Jersey, Thursday, Governor Chris Christie introduced the guest of honor, saying: "Let me bring you the next President of the United States, Donald Trump!"
But this was no ordinary political Trump rally. Tickets cost $200 a person, and the money was used to pay off Christie’s debt left over from his presidential campaign.
WNYC's Matt Katz says that with about 1,000 people attending the rally, that went a long way toward wiping out Christie's $250,000 debt. And that wasn't all. 
"Before the event, Trump did a roundtable fundraiser that cost between $20,000 and $25,000 a person, There were about 18 people there," Katz said. "That money was actually used to pay off Bridgegate lawyers that the state Republican party had hired after they got hit with subpoenas more than two years ago. There’s a half-million dollars owed to those Bridgegate attorneys. And now, thanks to Trump — who six months ago campaigned against Christie by saying he knew about Bridgegate — that debt is mostly paid off."
And what Trump gets out of it is a representative of the "conservative establishment" he can victimize in public, to his (pained) face:

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Douthat, just saying: His angst evident in his hair

Macy's bone structure is completely different, but he could capture some of the psychotic character of Bill Kristol.
Monsignor Ross Douthat, Apostolic Nuncio to 42nd Street, does something really peculiar ("The Dying of the Third-Party Dream"):

Of all the strange images of this strange campaign, I find myself particularly struck by this vision: Mitt Romney, pacing alone in one of his many houses, his angst evident in his faintly mussed-up hair, placing pleading phone calls to Republican politicians asking them to run as a third-party candidate against Donald Trump.
That bizarre, existential one-act play — “Conversations About Trump,” opening Off Broadway, with Josh Brolin as Romney and the voice of William H. Macy as John Kasich — is apparently where the quest for a conservative alternative to Trump and Hillary Clinton ran into a wall.
I'm an idiot about celebrity news, so it didn't occur to me that that bit was meant rhetorically, and I was quite disappointed when the link led not to further information on this imaginary play but to a dumb insider article about Republicans in the Washington Post, by Philip Rucker and Robert Costa, the GOP's earnestly savvy ambassador to the wider world. And Dr. Google couldn't uncover any information about Conversations about Trump either.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

For the record: #FeelTheDerp

Hey, it's not Latinos that made the mistake!
Wishful thinking is not generally effective thinking. Accepting something you noticed in somebody's blog ("Sanders has a significant lead among Hispanic voters and other races" in a May 5 poll), and then translating it into a more majestic sentence that means something totally different ("Bernie has won most Latino votes to date") does not get you closer to the truth but further away. Not checking the link, or not noticing that there is no link, doesn't help either. It is likely that Clinton has received considerably more total Latino votes than Sanders to date, and on the other hand it is likely that Sanders's current popularity in the Latino community is nearly as high as Clinton's and could be even higher, and it's really hard to judge how true either is, because the exit polls are not perfectly reliable and the samples of ethnic minorities within broader samples are just too small. Storify from this morning below the fold:

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

There's more than one way of being ripples

Lost Hills, California. Photo by Chloe Sorvino/Forbes.
Another day, another dateline. Another little chunk of David Brooks's life. Stung by his failure to realize that Donald Trump was going to be the Republican presidential nominee this year, he's ripped himself yet again out of the bourgeois strata where he generally spends the the big chunks, and gone where he feels least comfortable, out into the pain, as his preferred approach to leaping across the chasms of segmentation, "One Neighborhood at a Time".  We all have some responsibility to do that.

Thus in early May he seems to have visited decaying Pittsburgh, where he chatted with school principals and factory owners, and the whitewater rafting country of West Virginia, where I could see no evidence he ever wandered as far from his room as the hotel's bar.

Today it's Lost Hills, California, where I'm afraid he's not going to find a lot of Trump voters; underemployment is no problem, because everybody has a job on the 70,000 acres of Paramount Farms, world's largest vertically integrated supplier of pistachios and almonds. Nor are there a lot of broken families:

Monday, May 16, 2016

Monday Trump Dump


Image from Reddit via Giphy.
Trump responds to allegations from British prime minister:
“Number one I’m not stupid, I can tell you that right now. Just the opposite. I don’t think I’m a divisive person. I’m a unifier.” (Via Independent)
Well, then, that settles that. Who would know better than the man himself? He's not so sure whether he's divisive or not, but he's positive on the stupid issue. No pussyfooting or equivocation, no "I have no recollection of being stupid" or "it depends on what the meaning of 'stupid' is". Just boldly acknowledging the fact.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Douthat on what bigots can teach us

Mayor Sadiq Khan of London (newly elected in the "biggest individual mandate in British history") poses for a selfie in a lovely, typical London crowd. Photo by Daily Mail
In what seems to be a kind of collateral damage from the Trump campaign, Monsignor Ross Douthat, apostolic nuncio to 42nd Street, has really gone full troll; there was that crazed column a few weeks ago where he urged us to pay more attention to neo-reactionaries, monarchists, Falangists, and advocates of Empire (cafeteria-style, just picking up on the good ideas and leaving the anti-Semitism in the steam table), and today he's giving us the generalized version, "When the Wrong are Right".

It's all about those Trump voters, of course; the undereducated, underemployed white working class. Douthat accepts the conventional wisdom that those are the people putting Trump ahead in the Republican primary contest, and accepts the premise that they are a bunch of racial bigots, and then asks:
What happens if the bigoted sometimes get things right?
I'd guess for those questions on which bigots are generally right, non-bigots tend to be right too, so that the bigoted view isn't that important. It doesn't make much sense to imagine questions where you'd only be able to get a correct answer from a bigot in the dictionary sense, that is from a
person who is obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices; especially :  one who regards or treats the members of a group (as a racial or ethnic group) with hatred and intolerance
since he or she, being unreasonably prejudiced by definition, is clearly less likely to be right on any particular point where others are wrong than a non-bigot, whose mind is subject to change in the face of evidence. How do you like that Jesuitical logic, Ross?

A question that needs to be re-addressed here is whether the Trump voters really are more or less equivalent to the undereducated, underemployed white working class at all, which a lot of us including me seem to have tacitly accepted without wondering if there's any evidence for it; because Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight has done some modeling from exit poll data that calls it into question:

Saturday, May 14, 2016

For the record: Is Hillary Clinton the Worst Human Being in the Universe?

Photoshop by somebody who doesn't like her, but it doesn't have that effect on me.


You won't believe this one stupid trick the Washington Post used to get clicks

You can't use a simple algorithm to decide which way is left; you have to apply some real-world conteztualized knowledge.
Seeing some chatter originating in the Wapo this morning about the startling new Trump strategy of "running to Hillary's left", wooing the Sanders voters:
“Now, I’m no fan of Bernie Sanders, but he is 100 percent right,” Trump told a crowd [in Eugene, OR] this weekend. “He is 100 percent right: Hillary Clinton is totally controlled by the people that put up her money. She’s totally controlled by Wall Street.”
It's obviously worth asking yourself to what extent this is "left", as opposed to typical Republican populist posturing—how it's different from Ted Cruz railing against "crony capitalism" and "corporate welfare" and the "Washington cartel". What's Trump's proposal? You know, for not being controlled by Wall Street, other than claiming that he's as rich as Lloyd Blankfein, and therefore incorruptible, just like um wait a minute.

Friday, May 13, 2016

And today in international Trumpery



New Zealand Prime Minister John Key, reacting to news reports last week in the Panama Papers leak on how New Zealand has become a haven for international tax cheats and money launderers (the Mossack Fonseca law firm from which the Panama Papers come has a prominent and profitable office in Auckland), responded with bizarre accusations that notable charities—Amnesty International, Greenpeace, and the International Red Cross—are somehow culpably involved in the same corruption, and that a Green MP, Mojo Mathers, is the holder of a foreign trust.

Then on Wednesday afternoon, addressing a question from Mr. Shaw, co-leader of the Green Party, as to why he refused to apologize for these allegations, he shouted until the speaker ejected him from the house. Today's international conservative movement, people, showing the way of Burkean civility and restraint.

I started thinking of it as a kind of modest preview of President Trump. Trump's not going to be a prime minister, of course, so he won't be hanging around in Congress, except there's that annual State of the Union address, nominally presided over by the Speaker of the House:

Don't mean a thing


The singer and actress Audra McDonald showed up on the TV talking, nothing wrong with that, she knows how and all, but I felt the need to listen to her sing something. So there's this Ellington tune, with the New York Philharmonic.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Keep hope alive!

Via Tracy Viselli/Feminists Will Kick Your Ass.
Mr. Pierce is out there concern-trolling Hillary Clinton, or that's really the wrong way of putting it, because his concern is plainly sincere (he's glad to say that she's "the only sane and plausible choice available" and that the added benefit of electing a woman president is a "genuinely big honking historic deal"), and sort of meaningless in that he doesn't seem to doubt she'll win in any case, but the effect is trollish all the same:

as a seeker of votes, as an applicant for the world's most powerful temp position, for the second time in a row, she's proving to be something of a mediocrity. I realize that the results last night in West Virginia will not mean very much down the road. They are products of skewed demographics and the playfulness of a number of voters who would not vote Democratic in the fall if you paid them in gold to do so. I realize that a large part of the difference between her winning margin in 2008 and her losing margin Tuesday night can precisely be measured as the difference between running against the "black guy" and having worked for the "black guy." I also realize that she only lost the delegate count to Bernie Sanders 16-11, which does little to slow her grim and inexorable march to the podium in Philadelphia this summer. But, dear god, she really leaves West Virginia with a very clean clock.
How clean? Well, Jesus, Charlie, 234,027 voters showed up (in an open primary) to vote for a Democrat, giving Bernie Sanders 51% of the vote to 36% for Clinton (the bulk of the balance going to local attorney Paul T. Farrell, Jr., representing the zombie coal industry, insisting if you keep pretending it's not dead it might turn out to be alive). Whereas in 2008, there were 359,910 voters in the Democratic primary splitting 67% for the same Hillary Clinton and 26% for young Barack Obama. That latter is what I would call a dear-god clock-cleaning. Whatever happened to young Obama, by the way? Did he find some more friendly career opportunity where he wouldn't have to depend on that vote-getting?

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Cheap shot: Pat McCrory


Why is this governor smiling? "I'm Pat McCrory, and I approved forcing this so-called 'trans man' into the ladies' room in North Carolina because it says on his birth certificate he's a lady!" Authentic image from the StandWithPat website. Not sure what they meant to accomplish with it. H/t Tengrain.

Instant Grits

One of my late mom's (it's four years this month, still miss you daily) best jokes, belated Mother's Day tribute:
Shopper: I'd like some grits, please.
Attendant: Hominy?
Shopper: Oh, two or three...
True Grits by NibbleMeThis.
David Brooks has put his humble-failed-political-journalist baseball cap back on the rack and shown up in his world's-greatest-education-expert mortarboard, for the first time in weeks or months ("Putting Grit in its Place", New York Times, May 10 2016):
We all know why it exists, but the grade-point average
No, you mean like any time you have a set of integers between 0 and 4 you can calculate the mean and—
is one of the more destructive elements in American education.
No wait, I think I don't know why it exists. Can we go back over that, Prof?
Success is about being passionately good at one or two things,
It is? In what sense? Is it a limit, like it's not OK to be passionately good at three things, or that's the best you can hope for? Is it what high schools or colleges should be aiming at, graduating kids with a minimum number of passionate skill sets, or is it a choice the kids should be making, in contradistinction to aiming at a high GPA, say? Is it a definition of success in school, or is it about preconditions for success in their future lives, that if they don't come out of school with those passionate skill sets they will end up failures as adults?

Monday, May 9, 2016

Nick gives himself a sad

H/t PJ for the idea.

Buster Keaton and Roscoe Arbuckle in Oh, Doctor! (1917), via SilentWeeks.
Shorter Nicholas Kristof, "A Confession of Liberal Intolerance", New York Times, May 7 2016:
Golly, folks, we progressives are supposed to be so open and accepting, so how come conservative intellectuals in our academic institutions are forced to use separate drinking fountains and bathrooms and summer camps? I've been thinking about this because I wrote about it on Facebook. 
That last bit is practically verbatim:

I’ve been thinking about this because on Facebook recently I wondered aloud whether universities stigmatize conservatives and undermine intellectual diversity. The scornful reaction from my fellow liberals proved the point.
He tried saying something about it without thinking, and that didn't work out, so now he's looking at this alternative approach. What strikes me here is something I've never noticed about Kristof, which is that he's really not very good at thinking; his idea of thinking is to assert that something is bad, enumerate many examples of its badness, and declare that something needs to be done about it, for which he may or may not have some specific suggestions which may or may not be of some use; there's no dialectic between, for instance, different ways of approaching the problem.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

A Staggering Work of Heartbreaking Something

Portrait of Don DeLillo learning that he has fans in the corridors of power. Just kidding. But it's a nice picture. Via Alchetron.
This deeply annoying David Samuels profile of Obama's youthful deputy national security advisor for strategic communications in the Times Magazine—

The Aspiring Novelist Who Became Obama’s Foreign-Policy Guru

How Ben Rhodes rewrote the rules of diplomacy for the digital age.
—has been arousing a lot of comment in my Twitter timeline, though very little to none here in our quarter of Left Blogistan, and I feel as if I ought to be reporting on it, even though I'm not quite sure why it's worth noting. Fact is, I'm not quite sure what it's attempting to accomplish, because it seems to be doing two different stories, somewhat overlapping, one about what a gigantic crush Samuels has on Rhodes (they both love the novelist Don DeLillo! It's Kismet!) and the other about how he thinks Rhodes has led some kind of Benghazi-like conspiracy to hide the Truth About the Iran Deal, which is that Obama started negotiating it with Ayatollah Khamenei before the election of President Rouhani, as evidenced by
the letters that Obama covertly sent to Khamenei, in 2009 and in 2012, which were only reported on by the press weeks later.
OK, a conspiracy, if there was one, to delay the truth about the Iran deal for several weeks on two separate occasions in the years before it was negotiated, because I don't know but it looks to Samuels like proof that Rouhani and Republican Guard factions in Iran aren't really at war with each other and thus the Iran deal is really a huge trick being played on somebody by somebody else. Perhaps. Or I may be reading it wrong, because frankly the prose is so simultaneously purple and clichéd, from its first DeLillo name-check—

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Annals of Derp: Jonah's MacGuffin Theory

Via Amy Sterling, who's a little worried about Jonah's diet: "heart attack waiting to happen". Seriously, you need to ease up on the brandy and beef suet—and Froot Loops too— and pay some attention to the vegetables.
The derpetology practice here at Rectification Central too often focuses on rebarbative matters like statistics or money or earth science with which your correspondent himself is, to tell the truth, not all that in love or even very familiar. If it's just David Brooks misreading a chart, that's one thing, but frequently we are obliged to deal with the work of real scientists—or economists, which is even worse, imaginary scientists or scientists of the imaginary—and I really have to wonder why I'm working so hard. Can't some qualified person take over?

So it's pretty refreshing when we get Jonah Goldberg turning to film theory, riffing off a 2013 piece by the so-called Ace of Spades, "The MacGuffinization of American Politics".

The Ace's original complaint was the not very original thought that American politics has been turned into entertainment, which he believed had suddenly happened with the election of Barack Obama as president:

Friday, May 6, 2016

Brooks's Imaginary Problem

Alfred Hitchock's The Lodger, 1927. Via somebody's Tumblr.
Shorter David Brooks, "Clinton's Imagination Problem", New York Times, April 6 2016:
Hillary Clinton seems very nice, but her ideas for revitalizing the lives of Appalachian coal miners whose livelihood has disappeared are just the same old stale Democratic nostrums, like trying to create new jobs to replace the lost ones. Instead, she needs to consider some fresh approaches such as that of David Cameron's Conservative Party in Britain, of reweaving the social fabric through relationship counseling and parenting classes. I mean who needs a job when you can get a social reweave?
So he's returned from his excellent adventure in West Virginia, though it remains unclear whether he ever did manage to get out of that hotel room; the only West Virginia experience he discusses is reading the local papers (Charleston Gazette-Mail) online.

From which he learned, of course, that things are pretty dire in West Virginia, as he probably might have suspected already. Indeed he might have been afraid to leave his hotel room, under the impression that the entire population consists of fiendish drug addicts, which would be an exaggeration. As he did earlier this week, he offers some evidence that he recently did go outdoors in Pennsylvania for some reason, and there, certainly, the drug addicts are pretty much wall-to-wall:

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Cheap shots: Latino outreach

Like, he hasn't changed his mind, but is vice president a man's job exactly? Image via NewsMax (sorry).
Buried lede department

This paragraph down near the bottom of the Times report struck me this morning: Is Trump selecting a VP candidate?
Still, in some quarters, reconciliation between Mr. Trump and his onetime critics is underway. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, who clashed bitterly with Mr. Trump before dropping out of the presidential race, has had multiple phone conversations with him recently, according to Republicans close to Mr. Trump. (Aides to Mr. Rubio declined to comment.)
I wasn't the only one. The Trump-Rubio (Short Hands and Little Heels) ticket could actually be a thing, The Hill was saying, though by afternoon Newsmax was claiming Dr. Ben, the leader of the search team, had ruled it out. Why???

I believe it's because Donald's got a different strategy for getting that all-important Hispanic vote:

Poor Jonah

Update: Hi MBRU fans, thanks Blogenfreude!

Pieter Aertsen, The Egg Dance, 1552. Rijksmuseum Amsterdam, via Wikipedia.
Goldberg is so guileless, really, it's almost kind of sweet:
Donald Trump almost never uses the language of traditional American conservatism, with its emphasis on classically liberal notions of limited government, constitutionalism, individualism, and free trade. He prefers to talk about “strength” and “winning” while vowing to restore the “greatness” of yesteryear through his indomitable will.
The language of traditional American conservatism, dear boy, has never won an election and never will, because the voters don't give a shit about it, unless you mean when you're talking about their taxes, and they're the kind of voters (as we mostly are, unfortunately) who look at their paystubs and don't realize that the bulk of what's deducted from the gross pay is insurance for old-age health care, pension, and unemployment, and the amount dedicated to cash for welfare clients and foreigners vanishingly tiny.

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 Lansing. 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...