Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Required Reading

Rafflesia in Sabah, East Malaysia.

Why I Hate the New York Times, the Rafflesia of media-criticism blogging as I call it, after the Southeast Asian jungle flower that produces its huge and spectacular single bloom once every ten years or so, has just shown up with four months of material, and just as the Rafflesia smells like a corpse, the piece is as funny as hell, if you read it with attention: "How to Resist Trump" as the writers of the Times conceive it.

For instance, by not marching too much, the way the women did at the beginning of the regime:
Those ladies meant well, but they didn’t know what they were doing. “This movement focuses on the wrong issues…. Marchers…were marching under the conventional structure in which the central issues were clear.” That was their first mistake, according to known marching tactics expert David Brooks: Never march in a framework in which the central issues are clear. 
Or by being civil:

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Alienation of affectations

Of course four-star sheriff Clarke, with his Soviet-style chestful of fake medals and  murderous record as a jail manager, is literally a worse person than Brooks in most ways. Image via Wonkette.

BREAKING: We have a David Brooks Plagiarism Watch situation ("The Alienated Mind"), where former New York Times columnist David Brooks appears, not for the first time, to be committing the same infraction Milwaukee sheriff David Clarke just got busted for.

Paragraph 4:
Alienation, the sociologist Robert Nisbet wrote, is a “state of mind that can find a social order remote, incomprehensible or fraudulent; beyond real hope or desire; inviting apathy, boredom, or even hostility.”
Paragraph 6:
As Yuval Levin argues in a brilliant essay in Modern Age, “Alienation can sometimes make for a powerful organizing principle for an electoral coalition. … But it does not make for a natural organizing principle for a governing coalition.”
Yuval Levin, "Conservatism in an Age of Alienation"
“Alienated” need not be a putrid, Marxist designation. The great twentieth-century sociologist Robert Nisbet defined ­alienation as “the state of mind that can find a social order remote, incomprehensible, or fraudulent; beyond real hope or desire; inviting apathy, boredom, or even hostility.” This is precisely how Trump and many of his most vocal supporters frequently spoke about America over the past year.
What Clarke was busted for being, as you'll recall, that he'd lifted 47 passages from other writers without crediting them (in his 2013 master's thesis for the Naval Postgraduate School), even though he did credit the authors for other passages cited elsewhere in the thesis, which he seemed to think made it all OK: "only someone with a political agenda would say this is plagiarism," he told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, but it seems unlikely that the Naval Postgraduate School ethics guidelines were composed with a political agenda). This is precisely what Brooks does when he presents the Nisbet quote early in the column as if he'd picked it up directly out of Nisbet's 1953 The Quest for Community: A Study in the Ethics of Order and Freedom and then, a bit later, cites the source he actually got it from, as if turning spontaneously from the Nisbet book to Levin's article. We've seen Brooks doing this before.

Twenty-one Years

Photo by Manchester Evening News, June 1996.

Just 21 years ago, on June 15 1996, the city of Manchester (which has, like most big cities in the north of England, a very large Irish Catholic population) was rocked by the explosion of an enormous bomb, 1500 kg and the largest bomb ever detonated in Great Britain in peacetime, in a truck parked on Corporation Street. The perpetrators, the Provisional IRA, had sent a warning an hour and a half in advance, allowing the police to evacuate some 75,000 people from the area, and nobody was killed, but 212 people were injured, and you can imagine the chaos and distress in the city as friends and parents and lovers tried to assure themselves of each others' safety, and emergency medical workers sought out the victims—it's a whole story that they were confused by mannequins lying in the street after the blast blew them out of their shopwindows.

In the horrible business of deciding which terrorist attacks are worse than others, you'd have to say this bombing wasn't nearly as bad as last night's attack on the Ariana Grande concert audience at the Manchester Arena, which gave no warnings, aimed specifically at an event where most of the participants were children, and has killed at least 22 people, but it was horrible all the same.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Deep Donald

(New Google Translate poems at bottom)

Doughnuts by vegan chef Sam Melbourne, via Lost at E Minor.
In contemplating the science-fiction Singularity, we always picture the machines learning to think, and becoming more and more like people; not the possibility that the alienated humans will become more mechanical, but a cool idea from the neuroscientist Robert A. Burton in the Times's philosophy department suggests thinking this way about our Emperor Trump could account not only for his deep strangeness but also for his incomprehensible success:
If conventional psychology isn’t up to the task, perhaps we should step back and consider a tantalizing sci-fi alternative — that Trump doesn’t operate within conventional human cognitive constraints, but rather is a new life form, a rudimentary artificial intelligence-based learning machine. When we strip away all moral, ethical and ideological considerations from his decisions and see them strictly in the light of machine learning, his behavior makes perfect sense.
A "deep learning" program like Google's Deep Mind or IBM's Deep Blue, programmed to accomplish a specific task (like winning a chess game, or an election) by mapping the data of previous efforts onto the background of the current situation, the same kind of heuristic that is used by the Google Translate algorithm we've been having fun with.

Burton can suggest a startlingly persuasive account of how a Deep Donald could have won the election, by having the single objective of winning and undisturbed by any other motivations or calculations of consequence after the election:


Arab-owned olive grove on West Bank, surrounded by 30-foot wall and fences on all sides. Via Lighthearted Locavore.
As Trump Arrives in Israel, His Deal-Making Skills Face a Test
Says the Times headline writer. A "serious test" says the teaser headline on the online front page, but I can't imagine what they think is serious about it. They're talking about the deal between Israel and the Palestinians, which has eluded generations for almost 70 years, and which he himself has called "the ultimate deal" but also insists is "frankly, maybe not as difficult as people have thought over the years."

Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu has shown what he thinks the prospects are in the friendly gestures he's chosen to build confidence: for the Palestinians, at Trump's request, some permits to build houses on land they own in Area C of the West Bank and a temporary easing of border crossing restrictrions at the Allenby Bridge, and for the Jewish settlers in the West Bank, a three-year program to legalize unauthorized settlements and hilltop outposts. Saying to the Palestinians, in effect, this is what you'll get if you make a deal, and to the settlers, don't worry, there won't be a deal.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Annals of Derp: Believing Mensch

"Will-'o-the-Wisp", by ~robjenx/DeviantArt.

From Louise Mensch's Patribotics (can't decide whether that's a company that supplies orphans with android surrogate parents or a maker of red-blooded American yogurt) blog yesterday:
Multiple sources close to the intelligence, justice and law enforcement communities say that the House Judiciary Committee is considering Articles of Impeachment against the President of the United States.
That's seems like a kind of portentous way of describing a tweet from Ted Lieu, cheering as that might be—Lieu's one of the very best Congressional tweeters, and he certainly always gives me a lift.

But wait, there's more!

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Take care of the Pence and the hounds will take care of themselves

Governor Mike Pence in deep conversation with former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, in a photo I haven't been able to date, via Daily Kos.

Kyle Smith writes at National Review Online:
Should Mike Pence become president, the Left will surely lead us in a national chorus of “Whew! Back to normal.” Correct? After all, our friends in the Democratic party have been saying for many months that President Trump is not normal, that he is uniquely unfit for office, that his brand of mendaciousness, volatility, poor character, and immaturity have no precedent in the Oval Office, that he is a Nazi sympathizer and even a fascist, that he is an extremist who exists outside the bounds of ordinary political disagreement.
Mike Pence, on the other hand, is so normal that one of the things that the late-night comics mock him for is being too normal.
Well, if it's normal for a man in his late 50s to be afraid of being alone in a room with a woman he isn't married to, or to be in a room where alcohol is being served unless Mrs. Pence, who he calls "Mother", is there with him to preserve him from committing who knows what kind of desperate depravities, then sure, late-night comics mock him for that. Surely we can agree that he's as abnormal as Trump, only in a different and generally quieter way.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Barn Burning

Take a gander. Any gander! Via TodayIFoundOut.

From the deputy Washington editor of the Times, via Roy. A "barn burner" in the parlance of American journalism, I'm told, is a tremendously exciting event such as a closely fought sports competition, "in allusion to the story of an old Dutchman who relieved himself of rats by burning his barns which they infested" (per John Russell Bartlett's 1848 Dictionary of Americanisms), meaning perhaps that it was a form of popular evening entertainment in the Hudson Valley to go watch old Klaas burn his barn down?

What barn-burning thrills we're supposed to be getting from Stephens's column, "The 'Flight 93 Election' Crashes Again", is unclear to me. Maybe the sport is the hammer throw competition among Brooks, Douthat, and the new guy to see who can toss Trump farthest outside the Republican pale. Brooks was good on Tuesday calling him a child, and the Monsignor going with unfit and "egregious" and calling for Article 25. I'm wondering if the plan now, focusing on Trump's incompetence instead of his presumptive liberalism, is to demand the Article 25 solution as the only way of avoiding impeachment and the consequent exposure of not just Trumpian but Republican dirt (starting with the unspeakable Pence and Ryan).

Stephens points out that even the most Trumpian of the conservatives seem to be having doubts about their man:

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Wingnut Annals: The Persecution and Assassination of Robert Spencer, as Performed by...

Well, Robert Spencer, mostly, because he fortunately survived this despicable and cowardly attack long enough to write it up. You can see his byline at lower left:

It seems Spencer was innocently minding his own business, which is spreading hatred and fear of persons of the Muslim faith (he's the editor of the JihadWatch blog, as I learn from Paul Fontaine at the Reykjavík Grapevine, listed by the SPLC as a purveyor of hate and racism, and has been barred from Britain, in 2013, on the grounds that his presence would be "not conducive to the public good"), in the Grand Hótel of Reykjavík, having wound up his lecture on the threat of jihad, adjourning to a local hostelry with some fellow hatemongers to celebrate his success, when he was accosted by a young man of apparently harmless demeanor, who smiled, claimed to be a huge fan of Spencer and his work, and effusively took his hand and shook it, after which another young man of apparently harmless demeanor approached, looked Spencer directly in the eye, still smiling, and said, "Fuck you."

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Crime and coverup

A Watergate salad, involving, according to RealHousemoms, "sweet pineapple, creamy whipped topping, mini marshmallows, crunchy walnuts and green pistachio flavored pudding! I like to add maraschino cherries to mine too." Speaking of coverups that are crimes.

Can everybody please stop saying "The coverup is worse than the crime because Watergate was a third-rate burglary"?

That characterization, coined by the late Ron Ziegler (he died in 2003, just as the Iraq war was about to begin and Ari "Palm Beach County is a Pat Buchanan stronghold" Fleischer was ready to take over his old title as history's most mendacious press secretary, though he himself only survived in the job a few months after that), became "inoperative", as Ziegler put it, on April 17 1973, when Nixon informed the gasping world that he had personally investigated the Watergate burglary himself, or that poor John Dean had, and concluded that some White House officials might have been involved.

You can't make this stuff up

Or if you can, there could be serious money in it.

François Truffaut, via Cinémathèque Française.

Narratology isn't admissible evidence in a criminal court, but there's something in the report of the Comey memo that really makes me believe, the psychological realism of what the Emperor is said to have said, and its tone:
“I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go,” Mr. Trump told Mr. Comey, according to the memo. “He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.”
It's the sound of a very wealthy father talking to the boarding-school principal after the entitled, psychopathic son has burned down his bedroom knocking over the bong, or assaulted the chambermaid. Or a mafia boss addressing a policeman on behalf of a dumb henchman picked up for cutting somebody with a broken margarita glass in a bar fight. "I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go—he's a good kid." No, he's not, but that's not even the point.

And only a crude-minded screenwriter would have the father holding out an actual check; there's no need for that, the idea of bribery or extortion is already there. This is a world where Trump is perfectly comfortable and competent. He's done this before, "dealing". (His difficulty is just that he isn't in that world any more and he has no idea who's a crook and who isn't.) You don't say, "I could fire you," he knows that. And we know that, because when he didn't get his way with Comey he did fire him. This really happened.

Cross-posted in No More Mister Nice Blog.

Trigger Warning: Some of the words in this post may have been written by Bret Stephens.

Bret Stephens of the New York Times addressing the graduating class at Hampden-Sydney College (and recycling the speech into a Wednesday column):

I’ve been thinking about safe spaces a lot lately. For those of you with the good fortune never to have heard the term, a “safe space” is not, as you may suppose, a concrete-reinforced room where you can ride out a tornado. It isn’t a bulletproof car, either.
Instead, a “safe space” denotes a place, usually on campus, where like-minded people — often sharing the same race, gender, sexual orientation or political outlook — can spend time together without having to encounter the expression of any ideas or opinions that they do not endorse.
Because the seniors at an all-male Presbyterian college in rural Virginia with an African American student population of 6.8% probably can't even imagine how horrible and soul-killing it is to be in the kind of situation you can wind up in at one of those schools like Brandeis or Wesleyan, voluntarily sequestered into a groupthink environment where like-minded people, often sharing the same race, gender, sexual orientation, or political outlook can spend time together without having to encounter the expression of any ideas or opinions that they do not endorse. Preach it, Brother Bret!

Actually they do have safe spaces at Hampden-Sydney. They just have different terms for them, like "fraternity", or "lacrosse team".

Cross-posted at No More Mister Nice Blog.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Why does David Brooks hate children?

Screen capture via WNEP, Moosic, PA.

It's getting so bad even former New York Times columnist David Brooks, freshly back from his honeymoon, is coming up with instant hot takes ("When the World is Led by a Child"):

At certain times Donald Trump has seemed like a budding authoritarian, a corrupt Nixon, a rabble-rousing populist or a big business corporatist.
But as Trump has settled into his White House role, he has given a series of long interviews, and when you study the transcripts it becomes clear that fundamentally he is none of these things.
At base, Trump is an infantalist.
Heh. He's an enumeration or compilation of a set of, or of items pertaining to, the daughters of Portuguese kings?

No, this is just a case of a little-known phenomenon, that it's possible to spell a word wrong even if you just made it up. He should have written "infantilist", meaning a person who advocates being infantile.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Annals of Derp: Voter ID

Drawing by David Horsey/Los Angeles Times.

This great thread by Matthew Chapman welcoming the Supreme Court refusal to hear North Carolina's appeal on the quashing of its stupid and vicious voter ID law got me wound up into the battle:

This one makes me completely insane. I've been through it before. "They're canceling out my vote!" What kind of egomaniac thinks that way? (A mathematically challenged one.)

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Gaggle: A Poem

Today's Doonesbury strip:

Since November Donald J. Trump has spent his whole life in this situation, or worse, in the sense that it's not only what he hasn't done, the homework, but also what he has done, whatever criminal baggage he's carrying, and the vulnerabilities it gives him, not only from the law, but also from whatever thugs he's employed or who have employed him, foreign and domestic.

That's a big part of why he sounds as if he's suffering from dementia. Between trying to hide that he doesn't know what he's talking about, which requires bullshit, and trying to hide his rich and varied personal culpabilities, which requires lies, he can't possibly speak coherently.

Thornton was asking on the Twitter this morning, "what if set of topics that press might ask about AND Trump is knowledgeable about is null?" He's not safe talking. No wonder he wants to spend so much time on the golf course, it's the one place he can be where nobody's expecting him to explain himself.


Hi, it's Stupid. Update

Donald Trump and Roy Cohn at the Trump Tower opening in 1983. Via Politico.

Picking up on a long comment from Jordan:
These are deep waters (as Sherlock Holmes would say). I am forced to agree point by point with the analysis — the “insecurity quotes” is particularly good — but I’m still not sure.
Because you just never know what he’s heard; what actual information he’s garbling and blurting out from that cement-mixer mind of his. I agree that the goons who generally supply his surveillance needs haven’t gotten anywhere near the White House, and I agree that the VoIP system isn’t something he remotely understands (we’ve seen him use “digital” to mean “electrical” just this week). But I wouldn’t rule out the existence of recordings of Trump’s conversations. He may have heard about this and assumed it’s all the conversations rather than just the Oval Office, or just the phone calls, or just some of the phone calls.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Hi, it's Stupid. III

Insecurity quotes, via Ben Yagoda for Lingua Franca.

Ben Jacobs, for instance, comments at the Guardian
The tweet, which if taken at face value would suggest Trump has been secretly taping White House meetings, came after the New York Times reported that he demanded “loyalty” from Comey in a private dinner held shortly after Trump took office.
The thing is, why on earth would you take it at face value? Trump said it FFS! And he pulled out his insecurity quotes, as with "wiretapping" in March, showing that he isn't himself confident that he's managed to say what he means.

Trump literally doesn't know whether his conversations in the White House are being recorded on tape or some new-fangled method, or rather he knows it wouldn't be tape but doesn't want to get caught not knowing what it is because the servants have been taking care of such things for him for years, so that decades of technological change have simply bypassed his brain. He doesn't know whether they are being recorded by somebody or not.

Friday, May 12, 2017

For the record

Image via Brigham Young University.

Quick response to the release by Trump's tax lawyers, Sheri Dillon and William Nelson, of a statement on the Emperor's financial relationship to Russians, just because I've been looking at this stuff on and off for quite a while:

13 Trump voters

Trump voter encountered outside Dahlonega, GA. Actually Baby Godzilla, of course, and the gravatar of Kevin C in his Yelp review of Dahlonega's Hickory Prime Barbecue.

...interviewed by the New York Times investigating this mysterious, alien world and its views of the firing of FBI director James Comey:

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Hi, it's Stupid. II

Homage of the Estates (nobility, clergy, and commoners) to Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I, from the 1515 Liber Missarum of Margaret of Austria. Via Wikimedia Commons.

Countess Maggie and the Chevalier de Thrush have a nugget of narratological interest, right in the lede:
After President Trump accused his predecessor in March of wiretapping him, James B. Comey, the F.B.I. director, was flabbergasted. The president, Mr. Comey told associates, was “outside the realm of normal,” even “crazy.”
They're using it for the titillation value, clash of the titans, oh-no-he-dit-unt, but the really useful information is when Comey was so indiscreet as to say those things, in response to the famous tweet:

Clinton did it, why can't I?

100PercentFedUp asks the tough questions:
Was the suspicious death of Vince Foster and the firing of Republican FBI Director William S. Sessions firing a coincidence? Did President Clinton need an FBI Director who was willing to look the other way when it came to the alleged criminal activities of the Clintons?
Hm, I wonder.

OK, make that a "probably a coincidence".

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Hi, it's Stupid

Drawing by wes and tony of amazingsuperpowers.
Hi, it's Stupid to say we understand with complete clarity why James Comey was fired as FBI director. So hold my beer, as the saying goes.


That's not narcissism. I mean, obviously it's narcissism, in the same way as obviously it's English—I mean it's in the only language Trump speaks—but it has a specific argumentative purpose, which is to tell a lie.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Letter of Certification

Golden Lady Justice via LiteracyBase.

“The President, obviously, was aware
of Sen. Graham’s suggestion after he
made it today and he’s fine with that,”
Spicer said Tuesday. “He has no business
in Russia. He has no connections to Russia.
So he welcomes that. In fact, he
has already charged a leading law firm
in Washington, D.C. to send a certified
letter to Sen. Graham to that point, that
he has no connections to Russia,” Spicer
added. “So that should be a really easy look.”
—Via Talking Points Memo.

Bornstein, Bornstein, Wellington and Bornstein
A Very Professional Top Law Firm—The Best

1100 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20004

Senator Lindsey Graham
The Senate
290 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

May 9, 2017

To Whom My Concern,

I am one of the large contingent of attorneys Mr. Donald J. Trump, currently and actually President of the United States, having won the 2016 elections with the largest majority ever witnessed in the Electoral College so just get over it, is constrained to employ to oversee the huge complexity of his legal affairs, as was my father, Maximilian Bornstein, P.C., before me. Over the past 30 years, I am pleased to report that Mr. Trump has not had any business in Russia of any kind. I have recently taken a desposition from Mr. Trump in which he answered all my questions fully and fairly, and with considerable style, to the effect that he has hardly ever been in Russia for any business purpose and not done any unless it was actually on television.

I would have more to say, but I may have to leave the office early to take up my new post as FBI director,


Filbert Bornstein, PC

Monday, May 8, 2017

L'Esprit des Lumières

Promising to "defend the spirit of the Enlightenment", from the Turkish French-language newspaper TRT.
I am feeling pretty good about the outcome of the présidentielle in France, though obviously not as thrilled as the Bothsides Twins, who were beside themselves, or at least beside each other, which is virtually the same thing:

Right now, Ron! This minute!

For the record

Screenshot from a YouTube video, 1.MOST IMPORTANT MCQ POINTS FOR PASS AUSTRALIAN MEDICAL COUNCIL (AMC) CAT EXAM, credited to "John Smith".

Money pouring in

Trump National Charlotte is a big wedding venue: "The Lakefront Ballroom is every bride’s dream come true. Nowhere else can you find a back wall of the reception hall open to a beautiful beach on Lake Norman. The bride and groom can even plan to enter and leave the reception by boat." It's certainly true that you can't find a wall open to a beach on Lake Norman anywhere other than on Lake Norman.
So golf writer (golf writer?!) James Dodson, hawking a newly published memoir (The Range Bucket List: The Golf Adventure of a Lifetime) on WBUR radio in Boston, was telling the interviewer about his day with the future president on the future president's Trump National Golf Club Charlotte, sometime in early 2014, when he was wondering where Trump was getting the $100 million he claimed to have to finance the purchase of all those golf courses in the middle of the Great Recession, and asked young Grand Duke Eric about it:
"So when I got in the cart with Eric," Dodson says, "as we were setting off, I said, 'Eric, who’s funding? I know no banks — because of the recession, the Great Recession — have touched a golf course. You know, no one’s funding any kind of golf construction. It’s dead in the water the last four or five years.' And this is what he said. He said, 'Well, we don’t rely on American banks. We have all the funding we need out of Russia.' I said, 'Really?' And he said, 'Oh, yeah. We’ve got some guys that really, really love golf, and they’re really invested in our programs. We just go there all the time.' Now that was three years ago, so it was pretty interesting."
Indeed it was. So you've heard about that. What I thought was funny was the reaction of some of the reactionary brethren, like Fox News's Brit Hume, to whom the whole concept of Trump being in debt to a Russian bank seemed completely unfamiliar:

Worse than refighting the last war... fighting the war you ran away from last time, regardless of whether this one is worth fighting.

A really annoying Times editorial, in a gravity-defying feat of bothsiderism, denounces both Donald J. Trump and Hillary Rodham Clinton for their failure to move beyond the divisions of the November election and into the healing our nation so desperately needs, as in

Six months on, both Mr. Trump and Mrs. Clinton are still waging last year’s campaign, undermining their promises to help America heal.
To be fair, The Times puts more blame on the Trumpster, "who after all has a nation to run", which he isn't in fact running, which I'm tempted to say is probably something of a good thing, except I don't want to imply that he could run it if he were so minded, or could ever play a role other than to hire and fire advisors according to whether he had a feeling for whether they were making him look pretty or not, which is a pretty terrible management technique—

Yet Mrs. Clinton, a person of greater substance, also seems unable to shake free.
This week, in a conversation with Christiane Amanpour, the television journalist, Mrs. Clinton was asked about Mr. Trump’s approach to North Korea and Syria, and about women’s rights around the world. Her insights were strained by insinuations against the president, whom she still refers to as “my opponent.”
Or, as the next few paragraphs explain, faced with questions from Amanpour on her views about Trump's conduct in office so far, she perversely insisted on talking about Trump's conduct in office so far. How rude, and divisive, is that?

Trump is a terrible, incompetent president! Those who have made sincere efforts to help him, starting with Barack Obama in the immediate aftermath of the election, have found that he does respond to flattery but the response is fleeting, and that he always descends, in the long run, to the stupidest position.

I'm annoyed with Clinton myself, to tell the truth, for proclaiming her support for the pointless Syria cruise missile mission of April 7, but that's not the point. I just want to report my suspicion, which has been growing over the past several years, that the Times and a few organs like it, that these guys feel guilty, for their failure in particular in the George W. Bush administration, and are constantly trying to make up for it.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

The Perils of Obamacare

Pearl White in an installment of The Perils of Paulline (1914), via The Hooded Utilitarian.
If you're counting how many lives or near-death experiences the Affordable Care Act has, like a cat's, I think you can say the current one is over, judging from the response of our distinguished Senators, like Jerry Moran of Kansas:
What I would say is it doesn’t matter that much in the Senate, because we’re going to start from scratch,” Moran, a Kansas Republican, said Friday after he briefed University of Kansas Medical Center researchers on National Institutes of Health funding increases. (Kansas City Star)
I love that little touch of noting that what Moran was in Kansas City KS for was the very opposite of trying to take away everybody's health care—he was taking credit for bringing home some pork. And I mean that in the most positive sense; the kind of pork that can be openly proclaimed, like research funding in a local institution, is a cornerstone of good politics, and the holier-than-thou Republicans who got rid of earmarks in 2010 were attacking democracy (some Republicans understand that, and tried to reinstate earmarks in November, but Ryan shut them down—maybe the idea will be revived this summer). Having nothing to apologize for, he was in better shape than his House Republican colleagues, who mostly seemed to hope that nobody would talk about the tax cut health care bill passed yesterday.

Not one of the 217 House Republicans who voted for the bill was willing to go on Joy Reid's MSNBC show to defend themselves, and Greg Gianforte, the Republican candidate to replace Ryan Zinke, the new Interior Secretary, as Montana's single representative, has been caught in flagrante trying to conceal from Montana voters the fact that he expressed support for it, in a meeting with some of them Washington DC lobbyists. I hear there are not going to be many town halls for Republican House members this recess, and today's with Raul Labrador (R-ID) demonstrates why:

Emperor heads to the front

After the first Saudi airstrikes in March 2015. AP photo via Al Jazeera.

As I've been telling you for quite a while, US engagement in the Saudi war on the people of Yemen may look ugly and is not cheap, but the intention under the Obama administration really was to save lives. That's clearer now that the Trump administration is showing us what really collaborating with the Saudis is like:

Friday, May 5, 2017

You say you want an honest conversation

Well, you know, we all want to change the subject...

Fantasy baseball cards? Via Topps Archives.

My favorite political scientist, Corey Robin, senselessly trolling me again:
Susan Sarandon says Trump’s election may help the revolution. Liberals scream, “IRRESPONSIBLE!”
The Democrats say that Trumpcare’s victory in the House will help the Democrats in 2018. Liberals say, “Strategy.”
Bernie Sanders says abortion shouldn’t be a litmus test. Liberals cry, “SOCIALIST CLASSBRO HATES WOMEN!”
Nancy Pelosi says—twicesecond time even more strongly—abortion shouldn’t be a litmus test. Liberals say…almost nothing at all.
It’s almost as if we’re not really having an honest conversation about our disagreements.
It's almost as if Corey would prefer not to have an honest conversation about our disagreements.

Sarandon's celebrated remark (in an MSNBC interview with Chris Hayes)—

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Bret Smart

Sugarcane field burning in Brazil, 2007, in a consequence of the drive to replace fossil fuels with "renewable" biofuels. UN photo by Eskinder Debebe via NASA's earthobservatory website, part of the NASA climate research program Donald Trump proposes to shut down because as Mick Mulvaney says, "We're not spending money on that anymore. We consider that to be a waste of your money to go out and do that." But Bret Stephens, while he certainly would say that's not smart, thinks it's more important to remind us that scientists do bad things too.

Shorter Bret Stephens, "Climate of Unintended Consequences", New York Times, May 4 2017:
What part of "I'm smarter than you" don't you understand?
Actually, he wrote his own shorter,  published on Monday, in replies to questions on his awful début:
A decade ago we were plowing money into ethanol subsidies as one response to climate change. But that turned out to be not just environmentally destructive but was also arguably responsible for the spike in food prices that soon followed, as farmers turned away from cultivating corn for human consumption to cultivating it for ethanol production. 
And today, still defending himself, spinning that bit out to 14 paragraphs plus a conclusion tacked on to the effect that we really can't do anything about global warming until we've done some more research because biofuels are a failure, and already Germans are paying the highest electricity bills on earth, which I'm not going to get to in this piece if ever.

Only for one thing the biofuels movement, as it worked out in the US under the George W. Bush administration ethanol push, wasn't a response to climate change.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Annals of Derp: Unemployment in the Le Pen philosophy

Photo by AFP/Getty Images via Daily Mail.

NPR Tuesday morning, interviewing a member of the Le Pen campaign, Mikaël Sala:
GREENE: Let me just step back and look at Europe and the world right now. There was a lot of talk that there was this populist surge across Europe and in the U.S. But, you know, recently Austria rejected a populist candidate for chancellor. Geert Wilders in the Netherlands did not do as well as expected. Angela Merkel seems safer now in Germany than a lot of people thought politically. I mean, is there really still a populist surge that you're seeing?
SALA: Sure. I'm going to tell you why it is really powerful in France. In France, we have two problems. We have a problem with mass immigration that we cannot afford anymore, and we have a problem with our economy which is unable to grow. And it so happens that in the Netherlands and in Austria, they have one of those two problems. They're facing mass immigration, but their economies are still going about all right. So it's not that we're not compassionate, it's that we can't afford, you know, welcoming any more people because we are on the brink of bankruptcy.
Doesn't that suggest anything to you? Like maybe if the Dutch and Austrian economies are growing in the teeth of all those immigrants—to say nothing of immigrant-friendly Germany and Sweden and Belgium—maybe immigrants aren't the problem?

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

It is the best and the fastest and the most beautiful

Wessex landscape, via YoungsRPS.


And the same
Wessex and Wessex
It is the best and the fastest and the most beautiful
TV and Radio, TV, Radio, TV and TV
Business, Finance, Real Estate, Real Estate, Real Estate, Real Estate
And the same
TV and Radio, TV, TV and Radio
TV and Radio, TV, Radio, TV, TV, TV,
Business, Finance, Banking, Finance, Banking, Finance, Banking, Finance, Banking, Finance, Insurance,
It is the best and the fastest and the most beautiful
And the same

(Arabic—typed consonants in Roman, allowed Google Translate to transliterate and choose the vowels, if any):

Lede, Buried: She's not promoting it

Via Mic.

Paragraph 10 of a massive interview story in the Times by Jodi Kantor (didn't she use to be a reporter? when did she join the Palace?), Rachel Abrams (late of Variety), and Maggie Haberman, on how "her goal was to be a moderating influence on the administration of her father, President Trump":
By inserting herself into a scalding set of gender dynamics, she is becoming a proxy for dashed dreams of a female presidency and the debate about President Trump’s record of conduct toward women and his views on them. Critics see her efforts as a brash feat of Trump promotion — an unsatisfying answer to the 2005 “Access Hollywood” recording that surfaced during the campaign and the seas of pink, cat-eared “pussy hats” worn by protesters after the inauguration — by a woman of extraordinary privilege who has learned that feminism makes for potent branding. (Ms. Trump is not promoting her book for ethics reasons.)
I misread the parenthesis there, as meaning, "Ethics reasons are not the reasons for which she is promoting her book," i.e., she has some other reasons for promoting it. What? Why would she be promoting it for ethics reasons—why wouldn't she just be promoting it as part of her marketing strategy? And then realized it was supposed to read, "She's not promoting it. For ethics reasons."

What book? Coyly introduced in paragraph 9:

For the record

Jackson in 1844 or 1845, via Wikimedia Commons. He'd have been 93 at the outset of the Civil War.

I want to add, to yesterday's poem, that Trump's rewrite of history isn't just silly ignorance. Who introduced Trump to the history of the Jackson presidency, as Peter Baker reminds us in today's Times, is Stephen Bannon, and as Baker fails to remind us, it's a pretty sinister, white supremacist story. Trump himself doesn't tell it right, so, in brief:

Monday, May 1, 2017

Mazel tov

Mazel tov to Brooks and Snyder, who tied the knot on Sunday, as reported by our trusty Driftglass, who had the date a week ago and was too nice to write anything explicit about it:

I'm not as nice a person as Drifty, mostly just too busy with the Trumpery, but I have followed these kids through their romance on and off for a long time now, and I don't want to let it go without saying anything.

Also the gift registry, which Driftglass discovered last week, from Zola, a marvelous name for an online trousseau supplier (one of Émile Zola's steamiest novels is Au Bonheur des Dames, a tale of the origin of Parisian luxury-goods department stores during the Second Empire), is still up, and if you hurry you can still pick up something that they will receive with gratitude, as symbols of the community that upholds them.
Welcome! Thank you for rejoicing in our marriage-to-be. We're touched by your presence in our lives. Here's a registry we put together, whose gifts we will receive with gratitude, and as symbols of the community that upholds us. Thanks for your love and generosity.
Because it's naturally not stuff they want, they have plenty of that, but symbols, like the Eucalyptus pewter napkin rings, the Graham champagne flutes, the Wildflower Study apron, with matching potholder and oven mit [sic], the Crate & Barrel Como Swirl dinner plates, the $44 apparently wrought iron cookbook holder, and the Vitamix Professional Series Heritage 750 blender ($598.99), because it's all about heritage, isn't it?

This, too: