Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Stinkeroo

Nancy: "He can't use chopsticks, can he?" Chuck: "He can't use judgment." Via New York Daily News.
I can't really stand to write about the congressional health care agita unless I can see a glimmer of hope somewhere, and it's obviously been looking very bleak for the last week or two over there and getting bleaker, reaching a kind of climax of awfulness yesterday, when Lamar Alexander of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee announced he was giving up on the bipartisan bill he and Patty Murray had been working on to keep the Obamacare marketplace going through another year, just as it had started to sound like a negotiating breakthrough, and the project of saving the PPACA that had seemed so hopeful a week or two ago was dead.

Then there was something weird about that: according to the Washington Post's Jennifer Rubin (yes, in this brave new world I can be reduced from time to time to quoting Jennifer Rubin, and retweeting David Frum too), it wasn't an inability to bridge that partisan divide that had killed the Alexander-Murray bill, it was Majority Leader McConnell:

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Your debutante just knows what you need


Shanghai speciality, Four Happiness braised pork, one of those idiotically simple and unbearably delicious Chinese ways of slow-cooking pork, via The Spruce.
David Brooks starts off aspirationally ("When Life Asks for Everything"):

I’d like to offer you two models of human development.
Heh. He'd like to, but unfortunately he didn't bring any with him. He's only got these Great Chain of Being hierarchies of—well, of two different things, one of which is sometimes applied to development:

The first is what you might call The Four Kinds of Happiness. The lowest kind of happiness is material pleasure, having nice food and clothing and a nice house. Then there is achievement, the pleasure we get from earned and recognized success. Third, there is generativity, the pleasure we get from giving back to others. Finally, the highest kind of happiness is moral joy, the glowing satisfaction we get when we have surrendered ourselves to some noble cause or unconditional love.
The second model is Maslow’s famous hierarchy of needs. In this conception, we start out trying to satisfy our physical needs, like hunger or thirst. Once those are satisfied we move up to safety needs, economic and physical security. Once those are satisfied we can move up to belonging and love. Then when those are satisfied we can move up to self-esteem. And when that is satisfied we can move up to the pinnacle of development, self-actualization, which is experiencing autonomy and living in a way that expresses our authentic self.
The first of these is is a philosophical paradigm, fundamentally the four different kinds of satisfaction different humans aim at, as defined by Aristotle in the Nicomachean Ethics—material gratification, money making, political action, and contemplation—with the theotropic interpretation, God-haunting at the fourth level, projected on it by centuries of Roman Catholic doctrinal development, dimmed in the fog of Brooks's suburbanity, which can imagine only kinds of happiness available to guys at a certain income level living in Montgomery or Westchester County. The second is Abraham Maslow's psychological paradigm aiming at characterizing the different kinds of need that are common to all people. It's not about how "we start out" but how the world starts out with us. A primary way in which they are completely unrelated is right there: Aristotle and successors are addressing you on what you can do for yourself ("What kinds of things can I want?") and Maslow, the therapist, is telling people how to help set goals for others ("What kinds of emotions does my child or patient need?").

Brooks thinks both hierarchies are moral scales, arranged from the lowest to the highest good, but this is completely wrong.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Spicey Meatball

Melissa McCarthy, via Death and Taxes.
You know what I'd like Sean Spicer to do? I'd like him to show up on national television to tell everybody in the world that taxpayers were paying him substantial sums of money to tell the American people lies so incredible he could hardly keep a straight face, and that rather than being ashamed of this abuse of the public trust he actually thought it was kind of funny.

Oh wait, that's what he did.

The narrative of what a terrible thing Colbert and the Emmy producers did in having Spicey on the show, participating in the mockery of his character, is being led by folks like Chris Cillizza

and Frank Bruni

Forgotten but not gone


Click to embiggen for the full effect.
Don't think everybody's heard about this yet: Utah-based fine artist Jon McNaughton's new oil, returning to the composition of his 2016 painting The Forgotten Man in a piece entitled You Are Not Forgotten, in which his clear allegorical style has given way to something more strange and fanciful, even surrealistic. Below the same park bench in front of the White House where the forgotten man sat in despair in the earlier work, the dirt has been paved over with little stones, between which a tiny plant has unexpectedly bloomed (like the pilgrim's staff in the opera), and the forgotten man is starting to dig it out with his trusty trowel, presumably planning to take this federal parks property home, while a woman and girl watch, solemnly—the woman holding a Kool-Aid pitcher of water ready to pour onto the back of his neck, or perhaps into his hood, in case he gets overheated. At his left, a very slender but slightly stooped President Trump in his characteristic red tie stands where President Obama trampled the Constitution underfoot in the first painting, hand outstretched in an Ecce Homo gesture pointing the formerly forgotten man out to his diverse audience of mostly veteran and serving members of the military (I can't recognize any of them by name, other than maybe Pence just behind his right shoulder), just in case they haven't remembered him yet. A serpent (the don't-tread-on-me snake of the Revolutionary War?) is biting him in the ankle, and his right hand has miraculously grown to twice the size of his left.

The original Forgotten Man.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

The Emperor's New Information

Illustration by Thórarinn Leifsson for H.C. Anderson's story, 2004.
Jordan was commenting the other day on Trump's knowledge, or lack thereof, of the health care system in the US, I mean the whole thing of how it's paid for, insurance and the PPACA:
I don't think he's ever dealt with it in his own life, and I don't think he pays any attention to his employees' plans or is even aware of how any of that works. Just give everyone health care, for cheap...and remove the taint of Obama...what's the problem? I literally think that there was no more to his thinking than this, until after he was elected and he vaguely understood that something "complicated" was being dealt with (the way a wealthy socialite listens impatiently to a mechanic's description of the problem with the Mercedes, only grasping that she a) can't drive it now and b) will have to pay a lot of money), but even those ideas (along with any chance of his grasping the filibuster, the budget reconciliation maneuver, or those people approaching Australia in boats) were gone the moment those people left the room.
It put me in mind of something Trump said back in October that I never managed to write about, that proves the point pretty effectively, at a staff event at his Doral golf resort in the Miami area:

For the Record: The Little Lies

I think I may have come to the end of this series on Gunga Dinesh and his Big Lie; I've managed to prove he's a liar twice in one thread, and I know he's listening, because he gave me a bit of a response.





Saturday, September 16, 2017

For the Record: Interpretive dance in Kentucky, and much ado about voting.




And in some possibly more serious news that almost got interesting for a few minutes,

Friday, September 15, 2017

Brooks says it ain't broke...

Margaret W. Tarrant (1888-1959), Fairy Market, via sprookjeswereld.
It's world-famous economics critic David F. Brooks—we haven't heard from that one in a while!—with some cheerful news ("The Economy Isn't Broken"): there are no structural flaws in the economy!

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Foils! Cursed Again!

Via SevenDaysVT.




Is this the sound of thinking, in some respect? What does Trump think is going on here? How does he think things happen? What does he think might require him to use his veto power, that wouldn't have happened if the Republicans had succeeding in getting a something through the Senate? Is the single-payer proposal a kind of asteroid homing in on America, through Bernie's diabolical will, that the Senate Republicans could have deflected by quick action? But it's not really a problem because Trump can deal with it now?

Does he think the Republican failure to pass one of their stupid Repeal 'n' Replace bills means the Republican majority will now be forced to pass a single-payer plan against their own will? Does he think, a little less crazily, that because of their failure voters will ineluctably give us a Democratic Congress next year, which will ineluctably pass that Berniecare bill, forcing Trump to veto it, which he wouldn't but for the lucky fact that he loves our country?
 
Is it a real curse? Like, "I, Bernie, ask the powers of Evil, Hecate, Eris, and Dis, to inflict the horrors of single-payer upon the wicked Americans!" "No!" cries Trump, "Never, you hate-filled monster, not while I'm alive!" What universe does he come from, and how can we get him back there?

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

The Fire Next Time. II

The important part about the David Brooks flood column that commentators seem to have missed is asking, if Noah had such terrible leadership qualities—
What does Noah do now? Once again, Noah is silent. He does nothing. He sits in the ark for another seven days twiddling his thumbs. He is waiting for God’s permission to disembark.
—why did old JHWH pick him for the gig in the first place? I'm sure there must have been some much more suitable candidate.

Look at ingenious Greeks Deucalion and Pyrrha, who figured out how to broaden the gene pool for repopulating the earth after their flood (the Titaness Themis gave them the oracular advice to "throw your mother's bones behind you", so they threw stones—the bones of Mother Earth—over their shoulders and these turned into new people). Did Noah think of anything like that?

Deucalion and Pyrrha casting stones, from relief in the Labirint d'Horta, Barcelona, via Encyclopedia Brittanica.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

The Fire Next Time

Abraham and Lot separate because their household servants and herdsmen won't stop fighting with each other, Genesis 13:7. Etching by Wenceslas Hollar (1607-77), via fandom.
Shorter David Brooks, "Harvey, Irma, Jose, and ... Noah", New York Times, September 12 2017:
In this fearful season of wind, storm, and flood, we naturally find ourselves asking whether humanity can learn anything from these events, in the form of questions like, Who was the best biblical patriarch, Noah, who had to deal with a worldwide flood, or Abraham, who didn't? Clearly, as many rabbis have said, Noah, who failed to argue with God and try to stop him from drowning all of humanity except for the Noah family, lacked the leadership qualities of Abraham, who protested against the destruction of Sodom. It is possible that Noah drank out of survivor guilt. Noah took an attitude of blind obedience, whereas Abraham had what Rabbi Sacks calls a "hearkening mentality". This is why Noah failed to recreate the world successfully, because he wasn't a strong individual willing to link himself to collective institutions. What, did I say that?
Bonus snuck-in climate change denial:
Today we live amid many floods. Some, like Harvey or Irma, are natural. Others are man-made.

Monday, September 11, 2017

For the Record: Funny, I just happen to have Eric Foner right here with me




Oh, Eric Foner, huh?

Of course I mean the 1960s in the Deep South. Elsewhere the Klan was an impotent force among Democrats well before that. I know in my hometown area in upstate New York near the Pennsylvania border there were Klan rallies as late as the 1950s, but they had nothing to do with the party—in fact those dairy farmers were Republicans already (not for race reasons but for milk price supports).

The general point is very well known; in 1924, the Ku Klux Klan was powerful enough in the Democratic party to prevent the presidential nomination of the Catholic governor of New York, Al Smith (people sometimes forget the Klan used to hate Catholics as much as they hate blacks and Jews—still do, maybe), and by 1928 they didn't any more, and Smith got the nomination, as well as that great "Happy Warrior" speech at the convention from Franklin Roosevelt (it was in the runup to that campaign, on Memorial Day 1927, that Protestant son of a German brothel keeper Fred Trump got arrested in a brawl following a Klan march in Jamaica, Queens, Fred's neighborhood, which happened to be turning strongly African American during the period, though nobody is telling me if that has something to do with the march and fight.

Hey, some of my best friends are lizard people

I really do live in a bubble—when I've seen references online to the shape-shifting lizards running the US government, I thought they were snarking, but it seems there is a guy who makes a living hustling this theory for real, and 12 million Americans who believe him. You still wondering why Trump got 63 million votes in November? I'm guessing he's a shape-shifting frog, and folks see him as their only defense against the reptilians.

A funny thing happened to the international Jewish conspiracy led by liberal financier George Soros, the shape-shifting lizards who constitute the world's elite, including the British royal family (who knew?), and the pallid, hook-nosed, grasping members of the Bavarian Illuminati and their Masonic associates: they started focusing their immense and evil power through former Israeli Labor prime minister Ehud Barak and attorney Eldad Yaniv, head of the anti-corruption Eretz Hadasha party,  on....

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Heiress Apparent?

Grand Duchess Ivanka Donaldovna in Harper's Bazaar, 2007, via Time.
I never really know how serious I am talking about Emperor Trump and Grand Duchess Ivanka and so on, or when I call Ross Douthat a monarchist for that matter, but here's the Monsignor calling for Her Grace to succeed His Imperial Highness, not exactly with great enthusiasm, but remarkable equanimity, as a logical next development ("The Ivanka Way"):
in a White House where everything is inappropriate, Ivanka has been considerably less embarrassing than most, and in an administration whose populist agenda keeps misfiring, she has stayed surprisingly on target.
Trumpism as an ideology is on life support, but its 2016 success means that at some point, Trump will have a would-be ideological heir. It could be some enterprising Republican senator, some as-yet-unknown governor, even a political neophyte. Or it could be yet another celebrity with an aspirational brand, critics to her left and right, and an instinct for heterodox-but-popular ideas.
In our increasingly imperial republic, sometimes the most likely heir is already in the line of succession.
The Grand Duchess's heterodox-but-popular ideas Ross cites because they "reminded me of Ivanka’s father’s 2016 approach to many questions—the Trumpian habit of ignoring the ideological assumptions around an issue, and groping toward views that more Americans might be likely to support" are

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Previously endorsed


There's a primary in New York City on Tuesday, for the mayoral and city council elections, and not much reason for most readers to get excited—Bill de Blasio will win the Democratic spot, and that's all you really need to know at a national level, to run in November against Staten Island assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis, the Fox News candidate (she spends so much time on their air I think she may be auditioning for a full-time gig there after she loses). But there's a fun piece of rhetorical flimflam in a brochure from the council race in my district on the Upper West Side, pictured above.

In which "previously endorsed by The New York Times" means, in point of fact, not endorsed by The New York Times, which has come out for the incumbent, Helen Rosenthal. They endorsed Mel Wymore four years ago, when Rosenthal won, and Rosenthal this year.

Stupid Economist Tricks: Hurricane Pricing

Image via The Pediatric Insider.
On September 5 professional economist Tyler Cowen was explaining over at Bloomberg (via Edroso's Twitter feed) about how

Price Gouging Can Be a Type of Hurricane Aid

Higher prices can help resources get to the people who need them most.
And on September 6 we began hearing about airlines dealing with the advent of Irma by jacking prices up almost exactly 900%:

Because who needs a flight out of Miami most? The one who can afford to pay $3600 for the privilege. By Paul Ryan's famous definition of freedom—

Friday, September 8, 2017

Annals of Derp: Silliest Headline Award

Café La Pallaresa, Barcelona, via Yelp.

Raw Story, picked up from Good News Network:

Drinking coffee might make you live 64% longer than those who don’t: study



So, suppose coffee drinkers generally make it to 82 before they die, those who abstain would be dead at 50?

Happily, no. You can feel sorry for those poor souls who don't drink coffee, but not that sorry. In a very large sample of Spanish university graduates who were an average of 37.7 years old in 1999, those who drank four or more cups of coffee a day were 64% less likely to die of all causes from ischemic heart disease to bathtub accidents over the period of a ten-year study, though an overwhelming majority did not die at all during that time (mortality was 337 out of 19,896, or 1.6% of the total; if I've got the arithmetic right, approximately 205 non–coffee drinkers in the sample and 132 indulgers died in those ten years, which is absolutely a significant difference, but not a big number). It doesn't even mean that the abstainers died younger. But if they did, it was definitely less than 32 years. That news story is a totally false and scientifically illiterate account of what the study said.

Incidentally, drawing on my extensive knowledge of Mediterranean cultures based on several months spent in a small town in central Italy a long time ago, people in Spain don't drink coffee at home, and don't drink it in their cubicles or at their factory stations. People who drink four or more cups of coffee per day in Spain are people who stay in the pavement café or bar-cafeteria before work longer than the 20 or 30 seconds it takes to swallow your first café solo or cortado to drink another one and get a bite of something sweet, and come back for more before lunch. They hang out. I'll bet this peculiar little effect has as much to do with that extremely low-intensity, low-risk socializing as it does with the biochemistry of the beverage.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

P.M. Pelosi: Postscript

Trump on a somewhat idealized Fifth Avenue, coloring book, via Dwight Newman.
New detail coming out (and it doesn't take much detail) from Ryan Lizza, via Lemieux, seems to confirm my feelings about this:
The plan was perfect for the G.O.P. The House would pass a “clean” debt ceiling that most Republicans would probably support. In the Senate, Mitch McConnell, the Majority Leader, would add the Harvey money and pass the two bills together with the help of Democrats. The plan was to raise the debt ceiling for eighteen months, which would kick the next difficult vote past the 2018 midterm elections. In the House, such a bill likely would have lost some votes from both parties, but, given the urgency of the hurricane aid, it was a decent bet to pass. Best of all, for G.O.P. leaders, the bill would have taken away the Democrats’ debt-ceiling leverage from the coming debates on immigration, government spending, and health care.
But, when conservative Republicans came out vocally against McConnell and Ryan’s plan, Schumer and Nancy Pelosi, the top Democrat in the House, saw an opening. They called for the three-month debt-ceiling deal, which would kick the issue into mid-December, allowing them to maintain their leverage as Congress worked out agreements on other agenda items.
That is, it was the refusal of the "conservatives" to play along—the inability of congressional Republicans to work as a caucus—that aborted Ryan's and McConnell's plan. When they got to the White House they literally had nothing to offer Trump at all, and Pelosi and Schumer had something for which they could deliver the votes. The Republican party has stopped working—it's broken.

Lizza or his New Yorker editor, like Talking Points Memo, has a headline suggesting that "Trump got rolled", but I don't think that's really true at all: Trump got the only thing he seriously wanted, the sense that he'd accomplished something. (As ever, if you think he cares about the content of legislation, you're reading it wrong. He may care a good deal about how it's received, and he hates being accused of breaking promises, but he's not bothered one way or the other about what happens to a few million medical patients or a few hundred thousand involuntary immigrants.) And a big bonus in the particular case, that he's able to avenge himself on McConnell and leaks to the New York Times about how McConnell can't get along with and doesn't respect him. NBC News calls it "payback". (More on that from Jim in comments to previous post.)

We're told this Tweet was Pelosi's idea (h/t Roving Youth Pastor):

That was fairly prime ministerial advice on her part.

Prime Minister Pelosi

In the Grand Cordon of the Order of the Rising Sun, received from Emperor Akihito in May 2015.
So Schumer is now Lord Chancellor of the Exchecquer, and Pelosi is Prime Minister, or something like that, presenting his imperial majesty with a fiscal program while Ryan and McConnell bite their lips in frustrated rage. Trump's decided to accept a deal in which the debt ceiling is raised (just enough to last three months) and current spending levels are maintained, and there's $8 billion for the victims of Hurricane Harvey, just a few hours after Ryan announced that that deal couldn't be done (he and McConnell want something much longer-term so that Democrats won't have any leverage with them until after the 2018 elections).

All right on schedule, and foreseeable from the day the Senate Republicans couldn't pass that stupid last-ditch health bill, if not earlier. The Republicans are really broken as a parliamentary party now, and getting anything real done in Congress is going to require not just Democratic votes, as we've started understanding, but Democratic leadership.

BooMan is seeing it this way too, at least in part: we shouldn't be seeing Schumer as some kind of genius negotiator, he emphasizes, and still less Trump, because this deal was inevitable from the moment Ryan and McConnell sold Trump the intrinsically doomed idea of beginning the term with the repeal of Obamacare followed by a big tax reform:

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

The Pretzel of Power

Image via Rudi's Organic Bakery.


Longer Donald J. Trump:
Those Dreamers—young people brought to America before they were six so that they've never known any other country, with stainless records of crime-free goodness, enterprise, and service, but without green cards—are the best thing ever, and nobody loves them more than I do, but unfortunately they are innocent collateral damage in a terrible attack on the Constitution by merciless ex-dictator Barack Obama.
At least that's what I learn from Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, Stephen Bannon, and other tyranny experts in or formerly in my administration. In working out this system allowing Dreamers to stay here longer than criminal aliens and other non-Dreaming types, instead of waiting for Congress to stop refusing to do it, has Violated the Separation of Powers, and this tyranny cannot stand!
Therefore I'm personally annihilating it and ordering Congress to recreate the situation I just destroyed immediately and if they don't I'm going to do it myself just like Obama did, maybe.
Because my respect for the Separation of Powers is so immense.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Dream a Lttle Dream

Charlie Chaplin and Edna Purviance in The Immigrant (1917), via ChaplinALife.com.

Call me a contrarian, but I'm convinced Trump's, or Sessions's, cancellation of Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program is the best thing that could have happened with the issue, for the DACA recipients in particular, at the very least because if Trump were to have approved the program that lawsuit to stop it threatened by ten state attorneys general would surely have succeeded in the Supreme Court. Not that there are any constitutional flaws in Obama's order establishing the Dreamer category of unauthorized immigrants whose deportation is "deferred" or the argument that it's a function of normal prosecutorial discretion, but that the nine-member Court with Gorsuch is likely to be as relentlessly partisan as the old one with Scalia, and DACA survived in June 2016 only because the Court was tied, with the possible swing vote, Kennedy's against the Dreamers (I've lost track of the excellent Twitter thread that clarified this for me).

Whereas as things are, the six-month implementation delay really does give Congress a chance to act, as it should have done long ago, particularly in 2010-11, when the GOP minority filibustered it to death in line with the McConnell program of not permitting Obama a legislative victory no matter what the merits of the bill (which is why Obama ordered the DACA program in the first place; it was an emergency, and Congress was AWOL). I'm getting the impression the issue may have undergone one of those American sea changes, like marriage equality a short few years ago, and our fearless legislators can't help noticing how Dreamers are suddenly enjoying overwhelming public support—

Monday, September 4, 2017

Metablog

The moth Darwin predicted must exist, Xanthopan morganii praedicta, using its preternaturally long proboscis on the orchid Angraecum sesquipedale, pollinating it, via Encyclopedia Brittanica.
This is in reaction, I'm not sure it qualifies as response, to comments from Thornton on yesterday's Douthat post, in which he suggests I should stop arguing with Douthat (admittedly not a very dignified position), mentioning Marx, or being "ideological". I think. And some other stuff.
I'm so sick of idiots tied to masts: the First Amendment Liberals obsessed with Antifa, the Socialists obsessed with single payer health care (now that the economy makes it harder to obsess about nationalizing the banks), and the Conservatives convinced that they have to come up with some deeply principled reason for everything they do. Because trying stuff and seeing what works is just so... unprincipled.
Well, there you go. "What works" at accomplishing what? What do you want to get done? That's a question of principles, which don't necessarily have to be based on a big philosophical system. I want cops to stop killing black people, and I want the government to make sure everybody in the US gets good medical care as is done without too much fuss in other countries, because duh, or because I'm a Rawlsian, or because I'm an unbelieving Jew, or whatever, or because I picked a goddamned side from my Democrat parents. But the other side won't let me, for reasons I consider specious and unprincipled indeed, and on the basis of arguments made in what I call "bad faith". That's my problem, Republicans, Not being tied to a mast, though I understand how one gets annoyed with the one-issue hobbyhorse who won't even allow you to agree with him if you don't use the magic words.
Reality that politics is about identity and that ideology is just identity for educated elites from the majority race.
So really, he's a Marxian thinker himself, this being the fundamental point of the manuscripts Marx and Engels assembled in 1845-46 but couldn't find a publisher for, that came out at last in 1932 under the title The German Ideology. Blindness to the identity origins of one's ideology is where bad faith comes from.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

All Our Base Are Belong to Sam Bee

Does Ross Douthat read The Rectification of Names? Redux.

The heretic Pelagius and his learned opponent St. John Chrysostom, depicted in the Nuremberg Chronicle, 1459, via Wikipedia.
Last time I thought he was borrowing my two-headed calf. This time Monsignor Ross Douthat, apostolic nuncio to 42nd Street, seems to have picked up ("Right-Wing Books, Wrong Answers") on my preoccupation with the execrable Trumpist wormtongue Dinesh D'Souza, and specifically the idea that that repellent poisonous newt has something in common with an apparently respectable Republican who angrily opposes Trump. But where I was thinking of former senator John Danforth and the party's misreading of American history, the Monsignor is picking on current senator Jeff Flake and the party's economic policy:

D’Souza’s book embodies the outrageous right-wing style that Flake’s book condemns. Which makes it all the more striking when D’Souza, the Trump-defending huckster, comes around to many of the same economic policy prescriptions as Flake, the Trump-abjuring would-be statesman. Whether in the name of honorable libertarianism or frenzied, “I’m not saying they’re Nazis, but they’re Nazis” anti-liberalism, the senator and the demagogue both
think that conservatives need to … cut social programs in order to cut taxes on the rich.
(And an "I'm not saying, I'm just saying" crack for good measure.)

I'm having trouble finding any statements on tax policy by D'Souza more recent than 1999, though The Economist pulled out this delicious bit in 2010—

Antifa Madness



There's something wrong with this Politico story by Josh Meyer that is getting huge play in the rightwing outlets with the claim that the so-called antifa is now officially regarded as practitioners of "domestic terrorist violence":
Federal authorities have been warning state and local officials since early 2016 that leftist extremists known as “antifa” had become increasingly confrontational and dangerous, so much so that the Department of Homeland Security formally classified their activities as “domestic terrorist violence,” according to interviews and confidential law enforcement documents obtained by POLITICO.
It's that after that opening graf you can't find any information about how that DHS "formal classification" is sourced. Interviews and documents are cited, but none of them say that. They say that
A senior state law enforcement official said, “A whole bunch of them” have been deemed dangerous enough to be placed on U.S. terrorism watch lists.
and that
recent FBI and DHS reports confirm they are actively monitoring “conduct deemed potentially suspicious and indicative of terrorist activity” by antifa groups.
and that federal officials launched an investigation in spring 2016
To determine whether the U.S.-based anarchists might start committing terrorist bombings like their counterparts in “foreign anarchist extremist movements” in Greece, Italy and Mexico, possibly at the Republican and Democratic conventions that summer.
They did show up at the Republican convention, where Alex Jones charged them rhinoceros-fashion with a megaphone in one hand and then fled in fright, but escaped with the assistance of the police, who saw no reason to arrest anybody. But there's no indication that DHS and FBI have even determined that there is a group in a coherent sense, let alone "formally classifying" it as anything.

That first paragraph is either a gross editing blunder or a silly clickbait lie, but I'm starting to think, beyond that, that there could be a lot less to this antifa story in general than meets the eye. And here's something else weird: Dr. Google finds me an instance of a government labeling antifa as "domestic terrorists", but it's not the US government: it's New Jersey, according to Kim Kelly for Al-Jazeera:

Saturday, September 2, 2017

How Emperors Decide

François Flameng (1856-1923), After Waterloo, via Wikimedia Commons.
So it's like that story, which I assume is false, about Napoleon's hemorrhoids being responsible for the French loss at Waterloo—Trump decided to fire James Comey as FBI director because of the bad weather in New Jersey on the weekend of May 6.

It was keeping him indoors at the Bedminster club, with no breaks from the Fox News broadcast other than occasional furtive switching to CNN, where one of the big stories was presumably Comey's testimony to the Senate of the previous Wednesday in which the director said he was "mildly nauseous" at the suggestion that his actions of late October and early November might be the decisive factor that got Trump elected. Meaning, I think, at the shadow on his reputation (he'd been blundering into the situation of influencing the election for months, and it made him look like a bad director), not at the horror of Trump becoming president, but the latter is what Trump heard, of course, because everything's always about him.

Friday, September 1, 2017

David Brooks columns I may not finish reading

Holy R > G, Batman! Image via.


Verbatim David Brooks, "In Praise of Equipoise", September 1 2017:
Today, the world feels like a hostile environment to. … well … everyone. I had assumed that as society got more equal we would all share a measure of equal dignity. But it turns out that without an obvious social hierarchy we all get to feel equally powerless.
Maybe if our society hadn't been getting less equal throughout David Brooks's adult life his assumption could have been tested, but it has. This is not a secret. If the existence of a social hierarchy in the US that is more rigid now than at any time since the 1920s, reinforcing itself in a vicious cycle, is not obvious to David Brooks, then he's really in the wrong line of work.

From Isabel V. Sawhill and Edward Rodrigue, "Wealth, Inheritance, and Social Mobility", Brookings Institution, January 2015, arguing for closing loopholes in the taxation of inheritance.  

Thursday, August 31, 2017

For the Record: Leif 'Em Laughing




Why does he assume they didn't make a decision to stay on the west side of the Atlantic? Things seemed pretty good in North America back in the day, when there weren't any Europeans mucking it up.

Update: Smut points out in the comments that this is not quite true, and I can't believe I didn't even look it up. No enslavement, but the Norsemen and the native inhabitants of Vinland did not in fact get along perfectly. It's not possible to quantify from the sagas (written down from oral tradition 250 years after the events), but it seems clear that at least six natives and one Greenlander (Leif's brother Thorvald) were killed over the four or five years of the colony in a series of fights. It is likely that they killed more of each other, when Leif's sister Freydis led the Greenlanders in the party to slaughter all the Icelanders, including five women, in their sleep, for unexplained reasons—were the Greenlanders Odin-worshipers like Eirik the Red and the Icelanders all Christians like Mrs. Eirik? Eirik's Saga, in any case, says that "after several years away from Greenland, they chose to turn back to their homes when they realized that they would otherwise face an indefinite conflict with the natives," which proves my main point that they were morally superior to their Spanish, Portuguese, and English successors who chose genocide instead of retreat.

Leif Eiríksson, in Boston by Anne Whitney, 1887 (Amateur archaeologists were looking for Norse sites in Massachusetts at the time, in vain). Photo via Medieval Karl. It does not carry the motto, "Just because you're white doesn't mean you have to kill everybody," but it could. Nice work, Leif.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Paradise Paved

Bison hunters bringing hides to market, Taylor County, TX, sometime around maybe 1870, via TexasBeyondHistory.
A huge landmark moment in media coverage of climate science occurred yesterday, but nobody seems to have noticed it, including the writer who did it, David Leonhardt ("Harvey, the Storm that Humans Helped Cause"), in The New York Times:

The daily surface temperature of the Gulf of Mexico last winter never dropped below 73 degrees. You can probably guess how many previous times that had happened: Zero.
This sort of heat has a specific effect on storms: Warmer weather causes heavier rainfall. Why? When the seas warm, more moisture evaporates into the air, and when the air warms — which has also been happening in Texas — it can carry more moisture.
The severity of Harvey, in other words, is almost certainly related to climate change.
Yes, I know the sober warning that’s issued whenever an extreme weather disaster occurs: No individual storm can be definitively blamed on climate change. It’s true, too. Some version of Harvey probably would have happened without climate change, and we’ll never know the hypothetical truth.
Not sure what the "hypothetical truth" is doing in that sentence, actually. I'd say the hypothetical truth is what we do know, and what we'll never know is whether it's wrong.

But that sober warning is no longer regarded as quite true, is the thing. I can't remember where I first saw it, sometime in the last few months, but the science is now there; the new scientific consensus is that, while you can't blame a particular extreme weather event on human-caused global warming, you can blame that for the extremity, within certain probability limits.

Annals of Derp: Feihu

Photo via Wikipedia.

Mr. Erik Prince, patriot, writes ("Contractors, Not Troops, Will Save Afghanistan"), for some unknowable reason published in the New York Times though even General Mattis knows he's full of shit:
In 1941, shortly after Pearl Harbor pulled the United States into World War II, a group of volunteer American aviators led by Gen. Claire Chennault known as the Flying Tigers fought Japanese aggression in China. They were so successful that many people believe they were decisive in holding back Japan, eventually leading to its defeat.
Question to Radio Yerevan: Is it true that many people believe Colonel Chennault's American Volunteer Group  (later known as the Feihu飞虎 or Flying Tigers) was decisive in holding back Japan in China shortly after the Pearl Harbor attack, leading to the Allied victory?

Answer: In principle, yes. But first of all the 87 pilots and 300 ground personnel arrived in Burma before the war began, and spent half their tour there, not in China; and second of all, in spite of truly heroic performance, they did not exactly hold Japan back but retreated from Rangoon in February 1942 and from Burma altogether in March, and although they definitely played a crucial role in preventing Japanese forces from moving from the west on Kunming and Chongqing over the next couple of months, they were disbanded in July and so their influence was pretty limited, given that the war lasted a lot longer than the seven months of their deployment. Third of all, only if by "many people" you mean General Chennault, because you don't find anybody else making the claim. At least he's the only one Wikipedia can find:

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Compelled to Choose.

Heroic Colonel Theodore Roosevelt in front of the American Museum of Natural History on Central Park West, flanked by his trusty shirtless abject minority attendants, American Indian at his right and African at his left. Photo by The Researching Librarian.
Shorter David Brooks, "How Trump Kills the G.O.P.", August 29 2017:
There was a notable absence of racism in the Republican party in the period from 1984 through 2003, when I worked for Republican journalistic organs and most of my friends were Republicans. It arrived sometime after 2005, when the party became the vehicle for white identity politics, which is not the same thing as simple racism but overlaps with it. White identity politics is probably worse than identity politics on the left, though I can't be sure. It is certainly wrong to make a parallel between Black Lives Matter and White Lives Matter, because claiming these are comparable ignores history and current realities. Nevertheless I just compared them. The worst thing about white identity politics is that it forces Republicans to choose whether they embrace it or not, which could lead to the party's dissolution.
I don't know, I'd say it's an even bigger problem for members of minority groups facing employment and housing discrimination, shut out of opportunity networks, casually harassed by police and sometimes murdered by them, imprisoned for crimes that members of the majority aren't imprisoned for, and deprived of voting rights, than it is for Republicans, on the whole, maybe that's just my opinion. Members of minority groups are remarkably missing from today's column, though. Indeed, all sorts of people were missing during the period when there was no racism in the Republican party, since it consisted only of the pleasant and urbane people in Brooks's social circle:

In that time, I never heard blatantly racist comments at dinner parties, and there were probably fewer than a dozen times I heard some veiled comment that could have suggested racism. To be honest, I heard more racial condescension in progressive circles than in conservative ones.
Oh, by all means, do be honest. "To be honest, I think my opponents are more evil than my comrades, though they insidiously claim they aren't." Speaking of identity politics. That's political identity identity politics. It's practically the oldest kind of identity politics there is, but you don't see me whining about it.

Monday, August 28, 2017

For the record: Is Trump a 19th-century president?

There's something genuinely Trumpish in pictures of Millard Fillmore, here in an 1849 daguerrotype by Matthew Brady, via Wikipedia, in his pouchiness, peculiar hair, and attempt to display a flinty manly firmness. I'm not the first to notice; it was noted a couple of years ago by Michael Beatrice.
Somebody else was thinking about 19th-century American history:

The idea that for most of the 19th century, between A. Jackson and T. Roosevelt or from Van Buren through McKinley presidents really weren't very important, with the giant exception of Lincoln; small staffs and restricted functions, not that much to do, which is somewhat true, and Trump with his lack of interest in policy and failure to offer moral leadership is not so different from John Tyler or Benjamin Harrison. If I look at that graphic without really looking, I see Trump in a nightcap with a tassel.

I think Azari's idea is a mistake, and I left a thread. It gets a little apocalyptic toward the end...

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Engaged

Image by 731/Bloomberg.


"In a simple ceremony at Camp David, attended only by a few close friends, President Donald Trump asked the Gulf of Mexico to marry him, and the well-known North American body of water, dressed in a gauzy wrap dotted with clouds and a very large hurricane in its northwest, agreed, pending completion of the pre-nuptial agreement by their attorneys..."

No, not that kind of engagement. But there's something that did strike my funnybone about Landler's story:

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Weekend long read: Party of Lincoln

Image via C.K. Coleman.
I've  been paying a ridiculous amount of attention lately to rightwing academic fraud Dinesh D'Souza and his new booklike object, The Big Lie: Exposing the Nazi Roots of the American Left, an extended argument that the party of Nancy Pelosi, Tom Perez, and Keith Ellison is objectively pro-slavery, since it was founded 190 years ago by slaveholders, and therefore Nazi, because Hitler's Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei was directly inspired by those leftists John C. Calhoun, James Buchanan, Jefferson Davis, and the Ku Klux Klan and Senator Theodore Bilbo, and Al Smith and Franklin Delano Roosevelt too, who were all essentially the same person, as you can tell by the presence of the word "sozialistisch" in Hitler's party name. And the progressive birth control advocate Margaret Sanger is in there because tying the tubes of intellectually disabled women without asking them for permission, which she thought was a good idea, seems wrong to us, and gassing Jews seems wrong to most of us as well, so that proves gassing Jews is a progressive program*, though only in a Democratic, Woodrow Wilson sense of "progressive", not a Republican, Theodore Roosevelt** sense.

I know it's so stupid it's not worth thinking about in serious times like these, but the thing is D'Souza's thesis is a reductio of a kind of thinking that can be found all over the place, for example in a piece in yesterday's Washington Post by somebody who seems like the opposite of D'Souza in almost every respect, the calm and dignified, indisputably honorable and honest, eminently moderate, compromise-loving, Episcopal priest and former Republican Senator from Missouri John Danforth, an unwavering Trump opponent (in theory at least; I can't find him publicly mentioning Trump's name between December 2015, when he found Trump revolting, and now, when he still does), who writes:

Friday, August 25, 2017

Constantly asking me



I'll bet you any money Corker has never once asked Trump if he should run in 2018. This is a key to one particular form of Trump falsehood (as when he claimed that at his dinner in Hamburg with Shinzo Abe and Moon Jae-in "everybody was talking about John Podesta"). In reality he does all the talking and doesn't realize that everybody else is silent. He has nothing to talk about with Corker (chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a key supporter of Trump's idiotic proposal to repeal the PPACA without replacing it) except lecturing him about whether he should run in 2018 or not, so that's what he does every time they meet, and then he comes away with the improbable belief that Corker wanted to know what he thought.

Happier times. Image via CNBC.
Cross-posted at No More Mister Nice Blog.

David Brooks is stardust. David Brooks is golden. David Brooks is billion-year-old carbon.

Photo by Julie Larsen Maher © WCS, via National Geographic. Talking about preserving it when our EPA is run by a tool of the agents of pollution and greenhouse gas production is dreary policy and politics, isn't it? Let's make it into a deep-sounding allegory instead!

Verbatim David Brooks, "This American Land":

These days I often ask people what percentage of our nation’s problems can be solved through policy and politics. Most people say that most of America’s problems are pre-political. What’s needed is a revival of values, fraternity and a binding American story.
Question to Radio Yerevan: Is it true that David Brooks often asks people what percentage of our nation's problems can be solved through politics and most of the respondents say that most of America's problems are pre-political?

Answer: David Brooks refuses to release his visitor logs, so we can't ascertain for sure.

Today we have some entirely original thinking from David Brooks as 1950s New York intellectual, armed with quotes from Thoreau and Whitman and aiming at the Great American Summary Statement. I'm trying to imagine how stressful it is to have a conversation with him:
BROOKS: Say, Yas, just offhand, what percentage of our nation's problems can be solved through policy and politics, would you say?
YAS: Uh.
BROOKS: I mean, I'd say not that many.
YAS: Well, um, sure. I mean the question would be, what other means are you talking about? What's your no-policy, no-politics approach to national problem solving? Who's in charge?
BROOKS: I don’t know all the ways that revival of spirit can come about, but even in the age of the driverless car and Reddit, I suspect some of the answers are to be found in reconnecting with our ancient ideals and reconnecting with the land.
YAS: Oh. Ah. Reconnecting with the land. To be sure.
BROOKS: So I can chalk you up for revival of spirit, and fraternity, and a binding American story?