Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Trail of human wreckage

David F. Brooks looking for something cutting-edge to condemn that has nothing to do with sexual assault, tax cuts for the rich, or Russia, asks "How Evil is Tech?"

He's not talking about 3D printing, gene therapy, or cancer vaccines, of course, but the Internet of Kids, who are spending too much time on their damn phones, making them sad and suicidal:

Some now believe tech is like the tobacco industry — corporations that make billions of dollars peddling a destructive addiction. Some believe it is like the N.F.L. — something millions of people love, but which everybody knows leaves a trail of human wreckage in its wake.
Surely the people in tech — who generally want to make the world a better place — don’t want to go down this road.
Who are "some"? And don't call me Surely. But that sounds pretty scary: how many kids are dying, on average, from their habitual phone use?

it is destroying the young. Social media promises an end to loneliness but actually produces an increase in solitude and an intense awareness of social exclusion. Texting and other technologies give you more control over your social interactions but also lead to thinner interactions and less real engagement with the world.
As Jean Twenge has demonstrated in book and essay, since the spread of the smartphone, teens are much less likely to hang out with friends, they are less likely to date, they are less likely to work.
No, really, they're less likely to work (and this has nothing to do with the fact that traditional teenage jobs have largely been taken over by desperate older adults, from single mothers to over-65s who can't live on their meager Social Security—it's the Internet addiction!). And less likely to date! As Twenge says in that Atlantic article ("Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?"):
Today’s teens are also less likely to date. The initial stage of courtship, which Gen Xers called “liking” (as in “Ooh, he likes you!”), kids now call “talking”—an ironic choice for a generation that prefers texting to actual conversation. After two teens have “talked” for a while, they might start dating. But only about 56 percent of high-school seniors in 2015 went out on dates; for Boomers and Gen Xers, the number was about 85 percent.
The decline in dating tracks with a decline in sexual activity. The drop is the sharpest for ninth-graders, among whom the number of sexually active teens has been cut by almost 40 percent since 1991. The average teen now has had sex for the first time by the spring of 11th grade, a full year later than the average Gen Xer. Fewer teens having sex has contributed to what many see as one of the most positive youth trends in recent years: The teen birth rate hit an all-time low in 2016, down 67 percent since its modern peak, in 1991....
Oh, the humanity! The Internet is making kids do what David Brooks has been urging them to do throughout his career! This must be stopped!

But as everybody who has ever met a Millennial knows, the newer generations don't date in the first place because they travel in packs rather than couples, and this actually doesn't stop them from having sex if they really want to. As to the other thing, the unhappiness, maybe we ought to think about taking that seriously:
The time that seniors spend on activities such as student clubs and sports and exercise has changed little in recent years. Combined with the decline in working for pay, this means iGen teens have more leisure time than Gen X teens did, not less.
So what are they doing with all that time? They are on their phone, in their room, alone and often distressed.
This sounds pretty alarming, as Brooks summarizes Twenge's data:

Eighth graders who spend 10 or more hours a week on social media are 56 percent more likely to say they are unhappy than those who spend less time. Eighth graders who are heavy users of social media increase their risk of depression by 27 percent. Teens who spend three or more hours a day on electronic devices are 35 percent more likely to have a risk factor for suicide, like making a plan for how to do it. Girls, especially hard hit, have experienced a 50 percent rise in depressive symptoms.
Yipes! Then again, as I learn from Alexandra Samuel for JSTOR Daily (via Lisa Guernsey/Slate), maybe not. The most immediate thing would be that the project from which Twenge found these appalling trends, the National Institute on Drug Abuse's annual Monitoring the Future, found that the American teenagers of 2013 were the happiest they'd been since 1972, as Twenge and colleagues reported two years ago; so the decline from there to to 2015 could be simply reverting to the norm. Indeed, not only does this turn out to be the case, but the curve isn't even all that steep:

And the difference in happiness between high school students who use more social media and those who use it less is really not appreciable at all, in the big picture.
We've got, in short, a big nothing finding here, though it shouldn't be a surprise, since "the MTF dataset does not measure anxiety and depression, so it is not possible to test changes in mental health using these data" anyway, as Jean Twenge (!) said in 2010.

If this is the kind of data our famous academic psychologists are using to terrorize us, it must be time for a blogger ethics panel, as Atrios used to say.

Nor is it the first time this kind of thing has happened. Twenge keys her "finding" to the triumph of the smartphone around 2012, but 15 years ago it was the personal computer that was making teenagers suicidal, according to the stereotype expectations examined by Elisheva F. Gross of UCLA:
Among them were the following: (1) that gender predicts usage, i.e., that boys spend more time online, surfing the web and playing violent games, while girls chat or shop online; (2) that Internet use causes social isolation and depression, especially for teens; and (3) that adolescents use the Internet for anonymous identity experimentation
Detailed reporting of California 7th- and 10th-graders' Internet (including detailed logs of instant messaging) and school-based adjustment showed, however, that
adolescent boys’ and girls’ online activities have become more similar than different. On average, boys and girls alike described their online social interaction as (1) occurring in private settings such as e-mail and instant messages, (2) with friends who are also part of their daily, offline lives, and (3) devoted to fairly ordinary yet intimate topics (e.g., friends, gossip). No associations were found between Internet usage and well-being.
Note the crucial element there: that the students' Internet relationships weren't sad, "thin" substitutes for meatspace relationships, but extensions of the friendships they already had, adding another dimension of hanging out. This is all not to minimize the suffering and confusion involved in being an adolescent, by the way—just to insist it's ridiculous to blame it on any particular technology, when it's been with humanity forever.

But there's another cohort of people whose smartphone use has drastically increased, the 18- to 49 -year-olds, and as Samuel remarks,
What does that have to do with teens? Well, let me give you another name for 18-to-49-year-olds: parents. While teens were old hands at social networking by that point, they were still stuck texting on their feature phones. Meanwhile, their parents started catching up on the social networking front—with the added opportunity of accessing LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter on their shiny new iPhones and Androids.
I’d love to tell you we used this shiny new tech to look up educational resources for our children, or play them classical music in utero. And sure, there was a bit of that. But you know what smartphones and social media are really great at? Tuning out your children.
Teens do have a problem with smartphones, but not necessarily their own smartphones—with Mom's and Dad's, whose faces are glued to the screen just when Junior really needs some affirmation. It's also adults who use the Internet for anonymous identity exploration (guilty as charged!), and maybe in conjunction with loneliness and depression. Don't know if Brooks wants to lecture us on any of those scores, but I suspect he doesn't. Everybody needs to get out more, including adolescents, and read more on paper, and interact in the physical world, no doubt.

Something else—it's admirable, if a little surprising, to see Brooks coming out against the cruel rapacity of capitalism, shocked-shocked to learn that companies are creating these products in order to make profits,

the tech industry... is causing this addiction on purpose, to make money. Tech companies understand what causes dopamine surges in the brain and they lace their products with “hijacking techniques” that lure us in and create “compulsion loops."
But he's missing a couple of things here, too. In the first place he's missing the important point of how the social media platforms are making money, which is not analogous to tobacco companies; it's by selling advertising. And the second thing is that the kids are out front in resisting that: blocking ads or ignoring them, and using the social media as their own virtual territory, building institutions and rituals completely distinct from the shopping platforms the enemy is trying to entice them into. Come to think of it, so do we all, bottom up, making a "confidently plural" country, with all the national narrative you can swallow. You'd think Brooks would have some appreciation for that, right?

And the wicked corporations are ripping off other wicked corporations, not us. It's got its horrible aspects, to be sure, but we can work with it, and it hasn't killed many of us so far; the trail of human wreckage is someplace else.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Pissed off by Kristof

There was an old Timesman called Kristof
Who just got me royally pissed off
   By fudging his points
   With invidious joints
That I couldn't quite follow the gist of.

Discussing the "paradox" according to which "Blue States Practice the Family Values Red States Preach":

The liberal impulse may be to gloat: Those conservatives thunder about “family values” but don’t practice them. But there’s also perhaps a measure of hypocrisy in the blue states. As Cahn and Carbone [Red Families v. Blue Families: Legal Polarization and the Creation of Culture, 2010] put it: “Blue family values bristle at restrictions on sexuality, insistence on marriage or the stigmatization of single parents. Their secret, however, is that they encourage their children to simultaneously combine public tolerance with private discipline, and their children then overwhelmingly choose to raise their own children within two-parent families.”

Annals of derp: Have mercy on me!

Update below

I guess it's perfectly true that Trump has not courted Italian fascism—yet. I mean, there's not as much Italian fascism kicking around for him to deal with. Other fascisms, from Britain to the Philippines, are another matter, as is Stephen Bannon's apparent interest in the "radically anti-egalitarian, anti-liberal, anti-democratic" writings of Baron Evola, but I think it's a more lively question whether Silvio Berlusconi, currently making some kind of comeback, is courting American fascism with his frequent praise of the most Berlusconian of US politicians. Anyhow where was I?
So somebody shows up with an ambiguous message. Not sure what it meant, but thought it might be a teachable moment:

Saturday, November 18, 2017

David Brooks thinks a new national narrative is his mother

David F. Brooks clinging to the conservative interpretation of Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address. Image via Simply Psychology.

Funny thing happened to David F. Brooks on the way to writing his column on the Republican tax bill, which is what the URL (https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/16/opinion/elites-taxes-republicans-congress.html) suggests it was meant to be: he got lost in the woods of a completely new argument, beginning with the great British psychiatrist John Bowlby:

John Bowlby is the father of attachment theory, which explains how humans are formed by relationships early in life, and are given the tools to go out and lead their lives. The most famous Bowlby sentence is this one: “All of us, from cradle to grave, are happiest when life is organized as a series of excursions, long or short, from the secure base provided by our attachment figures.”
Actually that's not the case, though it may not add up to a Radio Yerevan joke: first of all, the last word of the quote (from his 1988 collection A Secure Base: Parent-Child Attachment and Healthy Human Development) has a parenthesis in it, "figure(s)" (along with definite articles with "cradle" and "grave"), and as we'll see that's not a trivial mistake.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Sparing you the sarcasm

Senator Hatch at the keyboard in 2006. Photo by Cameron Craig/Associated Press via New York Times.

So Orrin Hatch (R-UT) lost his temper with Sherrod Brown (D-OH), for saying, "That whole thing about higher wages, well, it’s a good selling point. Just spare us the bank shot, spare us the sarcasm, and the satire."

Mr. Hatch, who had wearily tolerated hours of debate on a bill that Republicans have always planned to push along party lines, had heard enough.
“What you’ve said is not right,” Mr. Hatch said. “I come from the lower middle class originally, we didn’t have anything, so don’t spew that stuff on me.
“I come from the poor people, and I’ve been here working my whole stinking career for people who don’t have a chance, and I really resent anybody saying I’m just doing it for the rich,” he said. “Give me a break.”
Well, OK, I'll spare you the sarcasm for a change, more or less.

I hate everything

Alicublog on Friday afternoon, before the women show up.  Actually Pompeii around 60 C.E. Via Early Church History.

I really hate everything. I certainly hate Al Franken, though I obviously hate Roger Stone a lot more.
"Stone Cold Truth" is Roger Stone's Twitter account that he uses because his other Twitter account was "permanently suspended" after he called CNN's Don Lemon a "dumb piece of shit", "dull witted ignorant partyboi", and "ignorant, lying covksucker" (that last word must have been short for "covfefesucker"). Because being permanently suspended from Twitter doesn't mean exactly what you'd think.
Nevertheless, Franken has made it possible. Roy has made me feel a little better, and it looks like a great party could be getting started over it his place, follow the link.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Share your sandwich with a gladiator pagan fan

Anonymous miniature, 1496-99, from an incunable print in the Biblioteca Nazionale, Turin, via Wikipedia.

David Brooks asks ("The Siege Mentality Problem"):

The siege mentality ends up displacing whatever creed the group started with. Evangelical Christians, for example, had a humane model for leadership — servant leadership — but, feeling besieged, they swapped it for Donald Trump, for gladiator pagan leadership.
Why is this mind-set so prevalent now? 
Noah Rothman was just wondering about that too:
Conservatives, and Republicans to a lesser extent, are wrestling with a siege mentality. It is a common condition that occurs when one party soundly loses a national election. The right feels beset on all sides by enemies, both within and without the walls of the conservative citadel. 
Wait, no, that was in 2013. I meant Wayne Slater in The Dallas News:

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Multiracial working class

This is completely irrelevant to the following post, but I couldn't resist:
It's always exciting when the Real World of Journamalism catches up with something a blogger has been doing for a couple of months, especially when it's me. Here's Lee Drutman of the New America think tank, writing about the Democracy Fund Voter Study Group study I was telling you about in July, in which he was a participant, and coming to something the same conclusion in The New York Times, sort of, about where the Democratic Party needs to go shopping for voters.

That piece was about the different categories of Republicans as classed by their various attitudes and aspirations into Staunch Conservatives, Free Marketeers, American Preservationists, Anti-Elites, and the Disengaged, and I was arguing that if you wanted to increase the Democratic vote from 2016 from the Republican pool, you would want to go not to the American Preservationists, those rustic white patriots The New York Times writers want us to be exclusively concerned with, but the Anti-Elites, who are more multiracial than other Republican voters, and more interested in government largesse; but that it would be best to forget about Republican voters altogether and recruit nonvoters.

Drutman is working from a different breakdown, according to who voted for whom in the 2012 and 2016 elections, with a focus on those who changed parties in 2016, and asks the questions:

Sunday, November 12, 2017

New Trump poem: That's very important for somebody to believe

Clap! Image by Above_Average.

In his latest outing, performed at a press conference with Vietnamese president Trần Đại Quang, Trump tackles the age-old question of belief, not in the conventional terms of metaphysical mystery, gods and demons, life after death, right and wrong, but of our direct perception of our own actions: of President Vladimir Vladimorovich's belief ("I believe that President Putin/ really feels, and feels strongly") that he didn't "meddle" with the 2016 US general election.

If there's anything you could "know", you'd think, you'd know whether or not you "ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the US presidential election [in order] to undermine public faith in the US democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency",  as the publicly posted January assessment by the US Intelligence Community put it,  or "personally ordered the email hacks of Democratic Party officials as part of a broader campaign to influence the US election in Trump’s favor" before "evolving into an attempt not just to hurt Clinton but to outright elect Trump... as potential ally — someone with the right policy views and the right dealmaking disposition."

Or that "the GRU relayed material it acquired from the DNC and senior Democratic officials to WikiLeaks." Or that "RT — as well as Sputnik, another Russian government–funded English-language propaganda outlet — began aggressively producing pro-Trump and anti-Clinton content starting in March 2016" and "aired a number of weird, conspiratorial segments — some starring WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange — that cast Clinton as corrupt and funded by ISIS and portrayed the US electoral system as rigged."

I'm sure if I ever got up to that kind of thing I'd have a distinct memory of it.

Documents, and different things

Operatic Monkey, via, is a great hero, and in the end of the story a Buddhist saint, but the part of the story everybody loves is the part where he's making maximum trouble.

Remarks from the press availability aboard Air Force One, on the way to Hanoi, this morning:
It's been a -- I think it's been a great trip. In certain ways, it's been very epic. I think things have happened that have been really amazing. Prime Minister Abe came up to me just at the end, and he said that since you left South Korea and Japan, that those two countries are now getting along much, much better. That's from Prime Minister Abe -- that there's been a real bonding between South Korea and Japan. So that was great.
Yes, they're working as hard as they can to revive the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement without the United States. Since Trump ended US membership in the TPP at the beginning of his term and pulled out of the US-South Korea FTA in September, they've seen more and more incentive to work together, in spite of the obvious rivalry between the two similar economies, through the current insanity. They have to come up with ways of stabilizing the situation without US participation, and they hope to do it without surrendering to Chinese hegemony. It's the same for Malaysia, Singapore, and Vietnam. They are united in the face of the threat posed by Donald Trump to the Asia-Pacific order.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Somewheres over the rainbow

"Somewheres out there", via Buy Some Damn Art.

Damned if I can figure out what Brooks is up to today ("The Existing Democratic Majority"), unless it's just cranking out original-sounding copy in the wake of this week's election surprises in Virginia. He's got a new "there-are-two-kinds-of-people" breakdown, imported from Britain, and the opinionist and think tanker David Goodhart, whose most recent book, The Road to Somewhere: The Populist Revolt and the Future of Politics, came out over the summer, but he doesn't give us a link to the book, or even tell us its name, which echoes his own The Road to Character, which—oh, wait:

He was just googling himself again, and got curious about who was knocking him down to second place. He leaves out the title in hopes we won't catch on.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Is that rude?

Image via Buddy "L" Trucks.

So some of us thought it was hilarious when Trump, in Japan, asked Japanese car makers to start manufacturing cars in the United States, when in fact they build 4 million vehicles a year in the US, in comparison to the 1.5 million they export here (in 1986 it was 3.5 million)—"Is that possible to ask? That's not rude. Is that rude?"—and some didn't think it was hilarious at all, like this Aaron Blake bloke writing for the Washington Post:

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Every silver lining has a cloud

Since yesterday's election results felt so great even Steve M, the Schopenhauer of the Intertubes, can't resist feeling a little giddy about them, I felt it might be a good idea for somebody to try looking for some bad news, and found some with Nate Cohn of the Upshot (the Nate with whom the Times replaced Nate Silver when he broke up with them, because you've got to go to battle with the Nates you've got rather than the Nates you might wish to have, but it's a mistake to go into battle with no Nates at all), who points out Ralph Northam's victory in the gubernatorial race in Virginia didn't look any different from Hillary Clinton's victory there a year ago, and even the stunning Democratic surge in the legislature races seemed to echo 2016:
The big surprise of the night was the huge Democratic surge in Virginia’s house of delegates, but that also came in Clinton Country. Of the 16 districts where Democrats currently lead in Virginia, Mrs. Clinton won 15 of them and received 49.7 percent of the vote in the other, according to data from the Virginia Public Access Project and Daily Kos Elections. Twelve of those 15 districts voted for Mrs. Clinton by at least five points.
So it sounds as if Democrats got the same results last night as they would have gotten then, and in that sense something new hasn't happened. 

The other side is that one reason it was so like 2016 is that so many people voted—47%, the highest turnout in a Virginia gubernatorial election in 20 years.  In a normal off-off-year election, the same kind of idiocy we're stuck with in New York City and New Jersey, the candidate of the leisured, the management, the retired, has an advantage. Not this year: voters just came out.

And not just voters; candidates too. In 2013, 56 out of 100 districts had no opposition (mostly Republican seats), and no election was required at all; 71 of them in 2015. But in 2017 there were just 12 Republican seats with no opposition (28 Democratic seats unopposed by Republicans), because Democrats came out in Virginia to challenge everybody they could, and they won such a startling number those seats because they showed up. That simple. (Apparently Trump really inspired folks to run, particularly women, just by being so disgusting.) (Guy on MSNBC—Stuart Stevens, Wikipedia says he's a travel writer—saying every woman running as a Democrat nationwide just won her race.)

Actually I can't make myself feel pessimistic at all. I did my best!

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

David Brooks, Reluctantly

Unsigned print via The Oatmeal

David Brooks writes ("The Clash of Social Visions"):
A familiar number on the caller ID screen. I gave it three rings, enough to grab a shluk from the vodka bottle and stash it back in the desk drawer, then picked up. The voice was familiar too, male, patrician, a little weary. "Brooks?"
"Not exactly."
"Listen, pal," I said. "I don't work for you any more. I'm a public intellectual. I serve a higher purpose now, I'm reweaving the fabric of our out-at-the-elbows society." It was true. Only the week before I'd lectured the nation about the dangers of excessive partisanship, and pointed out that sexual predation is caused by guys getting bored with the hookup culture, which they should not have joined in the first place, preferably by remaining forever 11 years old and remembering the lessons learned from reading Jane Austen, or at least watching the stuff on PBS. "The partisan's over."
Beat. Then he went on: "Listen, Brooks, it's not a lot we need, just a kind word on the tax bill."



Virginia, New Jersey, New York City, don't forget to vote. And bring a loved one.

Manhattan voters, if you're still pissed off at District Attorney Cy Vance Jr. for his decisions not to prosecute Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump Jr. for criminal fraud (against buyers in the failed Trump Soho project) and Harvey Weinstein for groping a model even though there was evidence on tape,  even as these criminals seemed to be feeding him very substantial campaign contributions (well-told version of the story at Vogue, of all places), and who is running unopposed for reelection:

  • your protest alternative is to WRITE IN THE NAME OF MARC FLIEDNER, who is actually qualified to be district attorney and has taken no contributions from Trumps or Weinsteins, though he doesn't have a chance of winning

Also in New York, the Board of Election seems to be engaged in some kind of really boneheaded voter suppression, not for the usual reason but just to be stupid: they changed the poll sites for some 20% of the voters before the September primary, that's about 300,000 people, and if you go to your old polling place and it's changed there's a good chance you won't see a sign telling you where to go instead. The City Council passed a law requiring the Board to post such signs, but the Board replied nah nah nah nah you're not the boss of me.

I'm not even kidding:
"I’m sorry — the Board of Elections does not have the right to pick and choose which laws it is going to follow," [City Councilman Dan] Garodnick said. "And the Board of Elections is choosing to ignore a law that would help voters know when their poll site is moved."
The board’s stated position is that the City Council does not have jurisdiction to tell it what to do.
Common Cause and NYC Votes have posted signs at some of the old places. If you voted in the primary then you know where your place is, and if you missed it there's an automated lookup service at the WNYC website.

Monday, November 6, 2017

The calls are coming from inside the House. And the Senate.

Image via JaneAustenRunsMyLife.

Watching it slowly dawn on Monsignor Ross Douthat, Apostolic Nuncio to 42nd St., that the Republicans keeping Trump alive are his own Republicans, is like watching the double take in a horror movie ("Can Republicans Escape Trump in 2020?"):

Trump’s unpopularity is stark, but not among his party’s voters. His approval ratings with Republicans have lost a few points off their peak, but they are still stable at about 80 percent. And one of the striking features of Trump’s support is that he seems to have consolidated especially the Republican voters who once were most resistant to his charms — not the populists and nationalists and celebrity-struck centrists, but the ideological conservatives and party loyalists who probably mostly voted for Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz.
In a big new Pew Research slicing-and-dicing of the American electorate, it is these voters, the “Core Conservatives,” who give Trump the highest approval ratings — higher than what Pew calls “Country First” and “Market Skeptic” Republicans, the groups that you naturally associate with Trump’s populist campaign.
That's a pretty interesting breakdown, related to the one by the Democracy Fund Voter Study Group I got interested in in July. Pew's is like this:

Sunday, November 5, 2017


Bicycle path, West Side Midtown, with one of the new concrete barriers installed wherever a big vehicle could possibly enter but not many cyclists out today in the misty weather. The rakish angle and the day-glo orange make it a little sporty and attractive, runners need to dance around them. I had a microagression moment with a cyclist who wanted to squeeze by the same side of one of them as I did, on my right and his left. I'm not sorry it's there though. I stood aside.

Meanwhile, everybody's going to forget about our New York terrorist for the next few days because of this guy in Texas who shot up a whole Baptist church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, a town of 362 people, killing 27 of them, as if the gun gods were jealous of the truck gods, or the Anglo crazies of the Muslim crazies, for all the attention they got last week. It's a lot of people. On October 29 the shooter sent out a picture of his new AR-15–type rifle on social media, with the caption "She's a bad bitch." He went into the Air Force out of high school in 2010 and was dishonorably discharged in 2014, with a court martial. He's dead now too, sources aren't sure how. Don't know whether the church opted in or out of the new Texas gun law, which came into effect January 1 2016, requiring churches to decide if they want to allow open or concealed carry in the sacred place, or whether it would have made a difference one way or another. I'm sure somebody will bring that up on TV and then they'll be condemned for "politicizing" this sad moment. The guy taught a month of Vacation Bible School once, so I wonder if anybody's going to speculate that's when he got radicalized.

Don't really have anything new to say myself, I just think attention must be paid, as the poor old salesman said.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Brooks on sexual predation

Image via The Hairpin.

It's world-famous sexopathologist Dr. David F. Brooks, here to give us the skinny on why it is that some men become sexual predators ("Lovers, Prospectors and Predators"), because

I don’t think good men wake up one morning and suddenly start thrusting their tongue down the throats of women they barely know. 
Gosh no, I don't suppose they do. Unfortunately he can't find out what does happen, whether because the research assistant called in sick or because it's just too darn complex and ambiguous, so he'll just have to make something up:

You’ve got to walk through a certain number of doors before you’re capable of that kind of behavior.
That's the high-metaphorical language of a Brooks who is about to tell us something theological but that he didn't quite understand at the time he heard it, so he's trying to reconstruct how it sounded. And his theory is indeed theological, a narrative of the Fall, those doors being analogues to the chutes down which we slide toward perdition (the architecture of Brooks's path to Hell is of course suburban, so it's set on a single ranch level), starting with the state of grace we know as childhood:

Friday, November 3, 2017

Does the House tax bill subject all Donald Trump's income to a 25% marginal tax rate?

Via. May I play through?

How much of a tax cut is Donald J. Trump hoping to give himself in this week's House bill?

I think the correct answer is it's not clear yet, but there's certainly a good chance that it's meant to get him down to a top marginal rate of 25%, and a likelihood that that's what it's intended for, him and people like him.

The crucial question is that of the taxation of what is called pass-through income, or income a person receives purely by virtue of owning a business.

According to the conservative economic orthodoxy, making money this way is more virtuous—more beneficial to society—than mere working, because when you invest your money, or one of your ancestors does it for you, you are taking the heroic risk on which capital itself depends, whereas if you're just putting goods and services together you're just selling your labor. Investors are makers, workers are takers, as Willard Mitt Romney put it, or was it Paul Ryan, and this is why investment income should be taxed at a lower rate than labor income, as we do with capital gains (when you cash in the profits on a previous investment).

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Enough to make a difference

Ushguli, Upper Svaneti region, Georgia, via Travel Promotions Georgia.

Something else you can do with Google Translate—invite them to translate a particularly boring piece of Chinese text (from the magazine Renmin Yinyue/People's Music, April 2016). But don't tell them the text is in Chinese. Tell them it is, for instance, in Georgian. The results are exotic in the extreme:
And when he had taken the rest of the soul
into the lake of fire,
and set it in order upon the four winds,
for the sake of the rest of the world,
it is not enough to make a difference
in the quality of the arts.

The first three Chinese characters in this remarkable performance aren't in the Chinese text, and the rest are its last sentence. A more conventional English version would have no souls, lakes of fire, or making a difference; it might read,

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Who Does General Kelly Resemble?

Unveiling of the Robert E. Lee statue in Richmond, Virginia, 28 May 1890, via Danish Wikipedia.

After General Kelly's somewhat thoughtless remarks about the Civil War to Laura Ingraham on the TV—
“I would tell you that Robert E. Lee was an honorable man,” Kelly told Ingraham. “He was a man that gave up his country to fight for his state, which 150 years ago was more important than country. It was always loyalty to state first back in those days. Now it’s different today. But the lack of an ability to compromise led to the Civil War, and men and women of good faith on both sides made their stand where their conscience had them make their stand.”
—everybody's dumping on old Kelly.

(I should mention that no, it was not always loyalty to state. The Union Army called itself the Union Army because it believed that the Union trumped the individual state, and the language of the Constitution, including the oath sworn by guys like General Lee, backed that up.)

Not just exposing his deep and startling ignorance of history as Ta-Nehisi Coates did  (in tweets repeated at TPM). No, people are accusing Kelly of being, disappointingly, no different from Trump himself. Not to mention refusing to apologize for his public false statements about Rep. Frederica Wilson. Chris Cillizza, of all people, the most slack-minded, smirky politics fashionista in town, accuses Kelly of being Trump's "Mini Me":
increasingly, it seems as though Trump is drawn to Kelly for another reason: Because they see the world similarly. Trump likes people who affirm his views and who are willing to battle political correctness and the media at every turn. Kelly appears to be ready and willing to take up arms in those fights.
So in the name of simple fairness, I'd like to clarify that General Kelly's thinking is not like Donald Trump at all. It's more like David F. Brooks.


A "typical reunion" of former students of the Instituto Politécnico Superior "General San Martín" in Rosario, Argentina, from the school's Wikipedia article. Photo by Fernando Lopez Anido. I was just looking for a campus picture and found this.

Sitting at a desk a couple of miles from the killing yesterday afternoon watching it unfold on the Twitter, heart-sickening. Those paths, a ribbon of parkland, only a few yards wide in places, almost completely ring Manhattan nowadays, and I spend a lot of time in them, on the Hudson River side, mostly not that far downtown. They are really peaceful and happy places. Every once in a while a little Parks vehicle tootles by, and everybody scurries easily out of its way. I can't get the thought out of my mind of the five men from Argentina, Hernán Mendoza, Diego Angelini, Alejandro Pagnucco, Ariel Erlij and Hernán Ferruchi, who were in New York, in a party of eight, to celebrate the 30th anniversary of their graduation from the Escuela Politécnica in Rosario, when the truck hurtling up the path cut them down and killed them. How incomprehensibly random is that?

There are Jews in the world who run moneylending operations charging exorbitant interest rates, in addition to millions of non-Jewish usurers. There are African American men who are shiftless and lazy alongside shiftless and lazy people of other races. There are Muslims who commit appalling acts of terror. It's so disheartening every time you have to acknowledge the existence of such people reinforcing the worst stereotypes. In mid-afternoon it seemed possible that this was some kind of road rage incident; there were reports of a violent quarrel between two truck drivers. Then the news that the killer driver had shouted the "Allahu akbar", at first from unreliable sources, at last corroborated by authorities. The haters on the Twitter grew palpably more and more excited, taking a savage joy in seeing their hatred justified and their beliefs confirmed.

Trump is already blaming the whole thing on Chuck Schumer. He heard it on Fox & Friends.

Not a word about why Uzbekistan isn't on his #MuslimBan. Or Europe, for that matter, since Col. Shaffer brought it up.

Comically enough, Schumer is not only not responsible for the Diversity Lottery (he did help create it, in 1990, as a Brooklyn congressman; it allows in some 50,000 immigrants a year from unusual countries, mostly in Africa), he voted to abolish it in 2013, as part of the "Gang of 8" immigration reform proposals that died from the opposition of the Trumpiest anti-immigrant Republicans.

The most consoling thing is New York City, which doesn't get terrorized, as Roy notes.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017


Via openaccess.net.

New York Times
catching up with Smut in policing the world of predatory journals:

Recently a group of researchers invented a fake academic: Anna O. Szust. The name in Polish means fraudster. Dr. Szust applied to legitimate and predatory journals asking to be an editor. She supplied a résumé in which her publications and degrees were total fabrications, as were the names of the publishers of the books she said she had contributed to.
The legitimate journals rejected her application immediately. But 48 out of 360 questionable journals made her an editor. Four made her editor in chief. One journal sent her an email saying, “It’s our pleasure to add your name as our editor in chief for the journal with no responsibilities.”
The lead author of the Dr. Szust sting operation, Katarzyna Pisanski, a psychologist at the University of Sussex in England, said the question of what motivates people to publish in such journals “is a touchy subject.”
“If you were tricked by spam email you might not want to admit it, and if you did it wittingly to increase your publication counts you might also not want to admit it,” she said in an email.
While Smut's moved on to used books published before the new ones come out, or possibly pirated from the future.

Correspondence: About those emails

Martyr Procopius, Sinai, 12th century, via IconReader.

Procopius wrote, re yesterday's post:
"Those would be the 20,000 emails from the Clinton campaign from John Podesta's personal Gmail account, which was hacked in March 2016." Wait a minute -- where did this interpretation come from? I thought they were supposed to be part of the 30,000 emails Hillary supposedly deleted? Why would anybody get excited about Podesta's emails which were already open to the public? I thought the reason to be angry about the proposal was because it showed that the FSA, the Russian intelligence agency, had been spying on Hillary's emails and stole them before she deleted them so able to expose her illegal behavior.
Also, "... (though they knew that the meeting itself, entertaining an offer of campaign assistance from a foreign governments, was unlawful) ." Wow. You're able to read minds! That must be fun. I think most people knew that campaign contributions in the form of money was illegal, but I don't think that many people realized that providing opposition research was also illegal. Has that actually been tested in court?
I spent so much time answering that I might as well just post it here:

Monday, October 30, 2017


Image via Oprah!

Very glad to hear Paul Manafort and his confederate Rick Gates have been busted for some of their many crimes against the people of the United States, and I'm not going to lie, it was bigger than I was expecting, but it's this morning's other Trumprussia story that really makes my heart beat faster, because it's really Trumprussia, and it looks like my story, the one I've been constructing, developing in an extremely major way, in the guilty plea of George Papadopoulos, the Trump campaign foreign policy adviser who kept trying to set up meetings between Russian officials and the campaign: pleaded guilty on October 5, we learn today, to lying in an interview with the FBI in January, and what he lied about was a meeting with a "Russian professor":
A “statement of the offense” document released by the special counsel’s office states that “on or about March 31, 2016,” Papadopoulos attended a national security meeting with Trump and other advisers, at which Papadopoulos stated that he “could help arrange a meeting between then-candidate Trump and President Putin”.
Papadopoulos told investigators as part of the plea that he befriended a London-based professor with “substantial connections” to Russian government officials after he became an adviser to the campaign.
Papadopoulos initially told investigators that he met the professor before joining the campaign.
The professor was not named in court documents but is described as a person with close connections to the Kremlin who told Papadopoulos that Russia had “dirt” on Clinton in the form of “thousands of emails”.

For the Record: Shocked-shocked to find that this high-powered DC law firm charges clients a lot!

Image via Above the Law.

As the screws tighten with the ongoing arrestation of Paul Manafort, the noise machine is starting to thrash, and the attempt to discredit the Steele dossier gets ever crazier, as exemplified by that Fox News thing we were looking at yesterday, or this remarkable report from The Federalist, transmitted or not exactly transmitted through the Trumpian Twitter:

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Tell me what evidence of collusion looks like? THIS is what evidence of collusion looks like

AP photo via The Independent.

This reported in The Hill is virtually insane, in the sense of a story that seems to have been melted into a kind of narrative plasma in which everything is equivalent to everything else and then extruded into a narrative of persecution, more or less, of dark forces conspiring against Chris Wallace's tribe:
Fox News anchor Chris Wallace said Friday that “there is more evidence at this point of Democratic collusion with the Russians than there is of Republican collusion with the Russians” in last year’s presidential election....
“The fact that Hillary Clinton, or at least her campaign and the DNC, was doing business with a foreign national, a British spy, to get information from the Russians for this dossier certainly blunts the idea, ‘Well, it was the Trump campaign and it was outrageous the Trump campaign was having anything to do with the Russians to maybe affect at the election,'” Wallace told “America's Newsroom” anchor Sandra Smith. 
“This is far more evidence than we’ve ever seen involving President Trump and his campaign that the Democrats were directly involved in trying to get information from the Russians to affect the 2016 campaign,” Wallace said.
A DC law firm closely connected to the DNC, Perkins Coie, was doing business with regard to the 2016 presidential campaign, looking for scandalous information about Donald Trump, with an American research association of a bunch of old Wall Street Journal reporters, Fusion GPS, which had previously been investigating Trump for a Republican newspaper, the Free Beacon, on behalf apparently of Marco Rubio; and Fusion GPS contracted some work to a former MI6 officer, Christopher Steele, who interviewed a bunch of sources with knowledge of the activities of members of the Trump campaign in Russia, his area of expertise, and prepared the 17 memos known as the Steele Dossier on that basis.

That other dossier

Via Evi L Blogger Lady.

Remember my theory that the anti-Clinton documents Natalya Veselnitskaya brought to the June 9 2016 Trump Tower meeting were printouts from the stolen DNC emails?

A whole host of developments have come up since then while I wasn't paying attention to suggest I probably got it all wrong; namely, Veselnitskaya came out herself, right at the beginning of the scandal in early July, to explain what she brought to the meeting, and what she said didn't sound like the DNC emails. (It was a "memo" about "a company run by a former US citizen. She believes this company didn’t pay taxes in either Russia or the US and may also have made donations to the DNC,"  she was quoted as saying.) Then again she's also said she couldn't have offered the Trump campaign any incriminating information on Clinton, since she didn't have any ("It is quite possible that maybe they were longing for such an information. They wanted it so badly that they could only hear the thought that they wanted"), and nobody believes that—if only because the correspondence between Rob Goldstone and Donald Jr. made it clear that they thought she did, and Donald Jr. ("I love it!") wouldn't have agreed to meet her otherwise. So perhaps she's not telling the whole truth about the documents as well.

In September, in any case, some details about her document showed up on CNN, through the offices of Scott Balber, who is the attorney for US matters of Aras Agalarov, the real estate developer and sometime Trump business partner whose son Emin originally requested the meeting and also of Irakly "Ike" Kaveladze, the "eighth man" at the meeting. And in early October Foreign Policy obtained exclusive access to the whole thing, a five-page set of notes in English that she hoped to leave with her hosts following her lecture about the injustice of Bill Browder getting the US Congress to pass the Magnitsky Sanctions when he was in fact a bad person whose company Hermitage Capital Investment didn't pay taxes to the US (noted, he gave up US citizenship long ago) or Russia, and neither did Ziff Brothers Investments, a US firm with a big investment in Hermitage, which not only failed to pay taxes to Russia but were also Democratic donors ("It cannot be ruled out that they also financed Hillary Clinton campaign").

Sadly, according to Veselnitskaya's report, the Americans were not interested in these fruits of her legal research:

Friday, October 27, 2017

Donald Trump's October Revolution

Feast of the Supreme Being, France 1794, via AlphaHistory.

Or, Ten Days That Snooked the World. Or, in David Brooks's own headline formulation, "The Week Trump Won". Trump is apparently Lenin, Bannon is Trotsky, Mitch McConnell is the hapless Kerensky of the defeated Mensheviks, and I guess the Democrats must be the bewildered nobility, not yet regrouped, or fleeing to France and Germany with our diamonds sewn into the lining of our immense fur coats:

One hundred years ago on Friday, John Reed was in St. Petersburg watching Lenin, Trotsky and the rest of the Bolsheviks take over Russia. It was interesting to read his account, “Ten Days That Shook the World,” this week — the week when Donald Trump and Steve Bannon solidified their grip on the Republican Party and America’s national government.
No, I'm really not seeing that. I'd say it's ten days in which, if anything, Mitch McConnell won some signal victories against the forces of what he regards as Bannonite chaos and darkness, from the calls Trump made last week to Senators on Stephen Bannon's kill list, John Barrasso of Wyoming, Deb Fischer of Nebraska and Roger Wicker of Mississippi, promising them endorsements, to the House's 216-212 vote to approve the Senate-passed budget resolution yesterday morning, and let's just say nobody's talking about Bannon's proposal for a 44% marginal income tax rate (his Breitbart home page headlines don't include any mention of the budget or tax proposals at all: it leads with praise for Roy Moore, the Alabama Senate candidate Trump unsuccessfully opposed, and attacks on Obamacare, immigrants, and Jared Kushner).