Monday, January 22, 2018

So, the shutdown has shut down. Next?

Image via fivethirtyeight.

I don't know. I'd appreciate if people didn't say "Democrats caved". I've been running around saying for three days that it's not the Democrats' shutdown. If we didn't do it, then it stands to reason we didn't give up on it.
Here's the Republican messaging: WE RULE! OUR DADDY IS THE BIGGEST!

For the Record: Junior

Image by Instagram via Deadspin.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Notes from the Undrained Swamp

Domenico Remp (1620-99) Wunderkammer or Cabinet of Curiosities, via Wikimedia Commons.

Happened to look at the Axios front page, at a report on this evening's meeting between Schumer and McConnell, which sounds like progress since they were reported to be not speaking to each other at all this afternoon, but didn't get anywhere, and checking out the White House gossip there for just the last few hours, which is really something else, as it adds up:

1. Trump is pissed off with Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, accused of "going rogue" when he was hanging out with Florida governor Rick Scott a couple of weeks ago and decided to make Florida exempt from Interior's program to force oil and gas drilling on all coastal states whether they like it or not, although Florida's Gulf Coast has the best reserves off any coast in the Lower 48, and although the way he did it is apparently illegal:
The department’s offshore leasing policies are guided by a strict process set by statute that can only take certain areas out of consideration gradually through a multi-year process that specifically weighs various factors, like environmental risks and oil and gas resource potential. By tweeting Florida would be removed just days after announcing the offshore leasing plan, and without considering any of those factors, Zinke didn’t follow the statute.
But he's not totally pissed off, because he really likes Zinke, who was a Navy Seal. I imagine it's somebody other than Trump who is truly pissed off with Zinke, and told Axios about his feelings as part of an effort to do something about this criminality. Good luck!
Foreign Policy wondered, for instance, "Does Trump want a 19th-century foreign policy?" He doesn't know
And so on. He has no precondition on anything except "I have to be the winner." And the "base" has to agree with it, which makes it quite a bit more complicated.
The whole episode left congressional leaders puzzled: Why, they wondered, would the president tweet something negative about their legislation and rattle Republican lawmakers without ever raising concerns with them — and then act as if nothing had happened?

Saturday, January 20, 2018

First they came for the oboes

And I was silent, for I was like who plays oboe?

Eleanor Roosevelt showed up

Don't know how visible she is--not wearing her pussy hat. Couldn't get a shot of Bill de Blasio or Shirlayne McRae, who is speaking now.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Hi, It's Stupid: Eros, Sex, and Comedy, Not

Eros, or sexual love, discovers Psyche, the soul, asleep in the garden. Edward Burne-Jones, ca. 1870, Yale Center for British Art.

Hi, it's Stupid to say I'm boycotting stories about the sexual errors, from misbehavior to actual crime, of male comedians, except maybe Bill Cosby, on whom I'm pretty sure I've passed judgement already so it's too late, and Fatty Arbuckle if any new evidence turns up. But I am. I'm not proud of this.

I might be interested in asking why it is that the current crop of stories of men abusing women fall so neatly into two categories, those involving men wielding immense political or financial power from Dominique Strauss-Kahn (a socialist, but that didn't stop me from denouncing him) through Harvey Weinstein (a noted supporter of liberal causes, but I'm not impressed) to Roger Ailes and President Trump, and those involving men who tell jokes for a living. With the peculiar overlap case of the man who used to tell jokes for a living and later became a Senator from Minnesota. What's up with that?

Thursday, January 18, 2018

President Trump is Not Authorized to Speak for the Trump Administration (continued)

Image via The Vintage Laundry

GOP lawmakers had spent the morning trying to make sense of Trump’s early-morning tweets, which seemed to directly contradict the Republican legislative strategy by calling for the separation of a long-term extension of the popular Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) from a short-term spending bill to keep the government open through mid-February.
While Republicans like Ryan suggested that the president was endorsing the GOP’s approach, others found the tweets inexplicable and unhelpful ahead of a possible election-year shutdown.
“We don’t have a reliable partner at the White House to negotiate with,” said Graham, entering the Capitol building on Thursday morning.

It's one thing to stage meetings between the Emperor and his legislators, preferably public, so he'll be able to refrain from using expressions like "shithole", giving him the opportunity to appear stern, thoughtful, and engaged in the legislative process, but Congressional Republicans really need to figure out ways of preventing him from actually participating, and especially through Twitter, which the entire nation at risk of being captured by whatever fascist blowhard is addressing Trump through the Fox cameras at the moment. He is too "uninformed" (General Kelly's word) and too self-involved to play any useful role other than signing the bill when it shows up at the White House and telling his base how great it is. Sometimes, as in this case, he threatens to torpedo the whole process and endanger the lives of millions of children out of pure ignorance.

If they're afraid he won't sign, in some fit of pique, and they really need to know what Trump thinks, General Kelly (who Trump seems to genuinely fear, even more than he fears Sessions and Tillerson) is a much better guide than the Twitter feed.

If There is No Wall

Vasily Kandinsky, Composition 8, 1923. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York.

Donald Trump is best known as an oral poet, a jammer, improvising his work for a live audience from a repertory of formulas, like an ancient Irish bard in the banquet hall of heroes. In his other main literary genre, the Tweet, many of the same features are found, the formulaic repetition, the hortation, the dart from topic to topic, but it has never seemed at least to this reader to add up to poetry—too instrumental, I think, too devoted to trying to dominate the reader with its threats and demands and even cries of pain, a combination of the imperial rescript, the child's whine, and the barking of the Labradoodle. The recent doubling of the maximum Tweet length from 140 to 280 characters may be changing that, though, giving him room to stretch and lyricize, if this morning's cycle is anything to go by.

Note especially the way he veers playfully off topic in the third section and then returns, bringing the larger work to a unifying close.

If There is No Wall
by Donald Trump

I. The Wall is the Wall
The Wall is the Wall,
it has never changed or evolved
from the first day I conceived of it.
Parts will be, of necessity,
see through and it was never
intended to be built in areas
where there is natural protection
such as mountains, wastelands
or tough rivers or water.....
II. NAFTA is a Bad Joke
....The Wall will be paid for,
directly or indirectly,
or through longer term reimbursement,
by Mexico, which has a ridiculous
$71 billion dollar trade surplus with the U.S.
The $20 billion dollar Wall
is “peanuts” compared to what Mexico makes
from the U.S. NAFTA is a bad joke!

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

The Women of Trump

Maybe he could take on a phalanx of female bodyguards, like Colonel Qadhafi. Photo by Yahoo via Pakistan's The Express Tribune.

This piece of op-ed by Jen Kerns in The Hill, enthusiastically acclaimed by Uday or Qusay, has something very odd about it:

It literally refuses to tell the reader its own story: That there's something "astounding" about the number of women the Emperor has hired as opposed to his three most recent predecessors. Why haven't the media been acclaiming this? Kern blames it on liberal bias, but why isn't she saying what it is?

Shriveled Nature

The phantom hatrack, or, Ronald Colman has had too many, From Sidney Franklin,  Her Night of Romance, 1924, via Fritzi.

Today, another mini-chapter outtake from David Brooks's The Road to Character, his study of how we should all adopt the moral style of the eminent liberals of the past, from Michel de Montaigne to Bayard Rustin, while abjuring their dangerously individualistic views on politics. Today, it's the central Victorian philosopher, John Stuart Mill ("John Stuart Mill Showed Democracy as a Way of Life").

This year we’ve been so besieged by Donald Trump’s shriveled nature that we sometimes forget what full and courageous human life looks like. And so today I’d like to hold up John Stuart Mill...
Brooks doesn't care much for the materialist, pragmatic, liberal, deeply egalitarian philosophy of course, so he denies it—

He staged a lifelong gentle revolt against his father’s shallow intellectual utilitarianism
—without noting that he did this by creating his own deep intellectual utilitarianism, or even using the word elsewhere in the column, leaving a casual reader with the impression that J.S. Mill wasn't a utilitarian at all himself.

He tells us the familiar story of Mills's weird upbringing, from the "shallow intellectual utilitarian" father's teaching him Greek from the age of three to his nervous breakdown at 20, and comments on how he was clearly unlike Donald Trump in important ways, just in case you were tempted to think they resembled each other:

Monday, January 15, 2018

Wait, a socialist?

With Yolanda and Martin Luther III on the Magic Skyway ride at the New York World's Fair in 1964. Via ABC News.

So Sarah Palin was astonished to hear CNN spreading rumors that Dr. King was some kind of non-Republican:
CNN however just set a new low bar for things to be said about the influential figure.
In a tweet, the media outlet said, “He’s an environmental hero. He was a socialist before it was cool. He never let a political disagreement turn nasty.”
Wait, a socialist?...
Appears CNN finally figured out that Martin Luther King Jr. was actually a registered Republican so in their desperation to IGNORE that inconvenient tidbit they decided to make him a socialist hero.
I sent her a note, but she hasn't responded.
He wasn't "actually a registered Republican" (or Democrat) either, as you might imagine, and took considerable care, as befits a professional religious leader, to remain detached from partisan politics, though he wasn't quite able to do that in 1964:

Is Conservatism a Thing?

Benjamin Disraeli, Earl of Beaconsfield, 1877, by Robert Antoine Muller, via

A lengthy comment from Jordan:
Maybe I'm in a contrary mood but despite the tremendous intelligence and accuracy of what both you and Jim are saying, I must emphatically disagree.
There is conservatism that's real. It's coherent and clear doctrine, and it's useful to ask and answer the question. Whenever I'm talking to conservatives -- just like when, say, talking to Evangelical Christians or Nazis or predatory capitalists or anarchists -- whether they're smart or dumb, erudite or ignorant, old or young, they all are saying the same thing.
What's happening in this thread is totally legitimate: you, Jim and I all disagree with Conservatism because we can see what's wrong with it; we know how it doesn't work, how it works by means of false or contradictory assumptions, how it falls apart when applied to reality...we can win the argument (which I've done, many times, just, presumably, as have you).
But you have to start with both positions on the playing field before one of them defeats the other. You have to let both attorneys make their cases -- you can't just object throughout the defense attorney's opening statement because the guy is guilty and why are we wasting our time with this sophistry.
Let them build the house and then, only then, let us tear it down. Let them say that all of their ideas of fairness and distribution of wealth and aid and education are based on meritocracy, as opposed to ours (because they do, they really do, whether they're truck drivers or billionaire donors), and, once we all agree that this is their position, we tear them down by showing how it doesn't work; how Brooks (say) reveals its self-contradiction...just like a really smart atheist can make a fundamentalist question his faith.
OK, so you're making me trot out old Marx again, and the base and superstructure story.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

It's happening and it's wrong

Separating Asylum Families at the Southern Border

Guest post by longtime commenter redhand, self-described "aging boomer" who practices immigration law in suburban New Jersey.

Photo from Auschwitz via Daily Mail

Last December The New York Times reported that the Trump Administration was considering a new policy of "Separating Families to Combat Illegal Immigration". As the NYT article notes, previous administrations have stopped short of resorting to policies like family separation, because of concerns that it could force people into the hands of dangerous smugglers who sell themselves as a way to evade the Border Patrol, or force people with legitimate claims for asylum to remain in life-threatening situations in their home countries.

The proposed practice would require that parents be put into detention while their asylum claims were determined.  At the same time their children would be put into separate "shelters" and have "sponsors" (other relatives residing in the United States) sought for their custody while the children's right to remain would be decided.

It is unclear whether this "policy" has been formally implemented by published Department of Homeland Security guidance, but in fact that is already happening.  The Houston Chronicle "has identified 22 cases since June in which parents … with no history of immigration violations were prosecuted for the misdemeanor crime of improper entry and had their children removed. Minors cannot be kept in federal prison."

A particularly horrifying case is detailed by The Houston Chronicle in an article titled "Her husband murdered, her son taken away, a mother seeking asylum tells a judge, 'I have lost everything'."  I have a number of such cases going back years where mother and child entered the United States illegally and were apprehended at the border, put into removal proceedings, and released after "credible fear interviews" disclosed that the mother had brought the child to the United States because of family-based persecution, in which the child was targeted to get at the parents.  In one such case a gang pursuing a vendetta against a Guatemalan family called the home, and the child picked up. The gang member said: "Tell your mother that we will kidnap you and deliver you back to her in pieces in a plastic bag."

I don’t see how prosecuting the mother in such a case for an alleged unlawful entry or "alien smuggling" (i.e. the child) and separating the child from her is anything other than a lawless subterfuge to deny this family the right to claim asylum.  How can such a child possibly advance an asylum claim on his or her own?  Are we as a society willing to deprive this family of a basic right to claim asylum because the Trump administration is unhappy with the influx of refugees (many of whom are admittedly just economic refugees) and doesn’t care if lives are lost in the process?

The American Immigration Council, a nonprofit public advocacy arm of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, together with other human rights groups has filed a complaint with the Department of Homeland Security detailing how this practice is both illegal (a due process violation of a foreign citizen’s right to claim asylum) and immoral.  One hopes that reason and humanity will prevail and that this despicable practice will be discontinued.

In the meantime, I urge all who know of foreign citizens who must flee to the United States to seek asylum to do so properly. The preferred way to make the claim, and one that should prevent the Department of Homeland Security from separating families (because no criminal charges can be filed) is simply to have the have the family go to a recognized border crossing and port of entry, where they can directly approach immigration officials and claim asylum.

I’ve had a number of clients do this. It is the best way to seek asylum where we see that the US Government will now resort to any legal artifice it can to deny foreign citizens their right to claim asylum.

For the Record: Family-based immigration

Americans: Friedrich and Elisabeth Trump and their three children, 1915. You can see the hereditary bone spurs in the odd way Friedrich positions his feet. The future neighborhood segregationist and Klan fan Fred is the weasel-faced older boy. Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

I love a mystery

Drawing by Barry Deutsch, via Bicultural Familia.

Meritocracy (merit, from Latin mereō, and -cracy, from Ancient Greek κράτος kratos "strength, power") is a political philosophy which holds that certain things, such as economic goods or power, should be vested in individuals on the basis of talent. Advancement in such a system is based on performance, as measured through examination or demonstrated achievement.
The Rise of the Meritocracy is a satirical novel by British sociologist and politician Michael Young which was first published in 1958. It describes a dystopian society in a future United Kingdom in which intelligence and merit have become the central tenet of society, replacing previous divisions of social class and creating a society stratified between a merited power holding elite and a disenfranchised underclass of the less merited. The essay satirised the Tripartite System of education that was being practised at the time.[1]
Meritocracy is the political philosophy in which political influence is assigned largely according to the intellectual talent and achievement of the individual. Michael Young coined the term, formed by combining the Latin root "mereō" and Ancient Greek suffix "cracy", in his [writing,] to describe and ridicule such a society, the selective education system that was the Tripartite System, and the philosophy in general.

We've often seen David Brooks inveighing against "meritocracy", and it really is mysterious, as Jordan noted in comments earlier today. Not mysterious that he should be against meritocracy, at least in the allocation of political power, which I think should be regarded as basic democracy, neither left nor right: there's no legitimate power above the people that's entitled to set an exam for who's going to represent us, I'm against that too—but that he should be convinced that it exists in the United States (outside of the civil service, which has used meritocratic principles very successfully since the 1883 reform, and is not something David Brooks has ever shown any interest in), and it really makes him angry, as something crass, utilitarian, not quite decent, as in these passages from The Road to Character:

The Main Cause of the Badness

From Sergei Eisenstein's ¡Qué Viva México!, 1933, via Screen Dance Studies.

Looking for David Brooks's column in yesterday morning's Times, I found a whimper with a headline so stale and dispirited ("How Democracies Perish") that I thought I must be looking at an old column I'd dealt with already, and figured he'd taken the whole Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend off.

As it turned out, of course, the title was so familiar because it was ripped off, from a book that's to be released on Tuesday and is already being talked about, Steven Levitsky's and Daniel Ziblatt's How Democracies Die, an assessment of the present danger to democracy, such as it is, in the United States. Brooks had written a new column—it merely looked like an old one, which isn't that unusual—and it's not totally boring, once you get down inside. Not that he's writing about Levitsky's and Ziblatt's book or even aware that he's indirectly referencing it; he's on the new book with a melancholy title that came out last week:

Friday, January 12, 2018


So weird. Sometime in the course of last night/this morning Rectification Central got 92 hits from people at Ann Althouse's blog, the Shithole post, but I can't find a link to account for it in her post or comments. It may have been in one of several comments that have been deleted.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Not the Real New York Times

Conway: Trump Not Authorized to Speak for White House

Shithole Countries

Holy racial hatreds, Batman, can we make this president go away now?
WASHINGTON — President Trump on Wednesday balked at an immigration deal that would include protections for people from Haiti and African countries, demanding to know at a White House meeting why he should accept immigrants from “shithole countries” rather than people from places like Norway, according to people with direct knowledge of the conversation....
When Mr. Trump heard that Haitians were among those who would benefit, he asked if they could be left out of the plan, according to the people familiar with the conversation, asking, “Why do we want people from Haiti here?” (New York Times)
Washington Post scooped the story, here:
Trump had seemed amenable to a deal earlier in the day during phone calls, aides said, but shifted his position in the meeting and did not seem interested.

Martin writes, at Washington Monthly,
That Trump would spout out such clear Nordic/Aryan supremacy in the midst of so many witnesses, including members of the opposing party, suggests that he’s either insane, or completely indifferent to how he is perceived about racial matters. Maybe, like when he suggests we should steal Iraq’s oil, he simply has no idea how that sounds to most people.
I don’t know, but whether he’s evil, insane, or stupid, there really needs to be a more concerted effort to put an end to this travesty of a presidency.

For the Record: For the Win

Weird result of searching for an image of Planē, Goddess of Error: John Collier, Clytemnestra After the Murder, 1882, from mollyoyo's Pinterest.

Not 702, that's a serious error—702 and Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court are used only for the surveillance of non-US persons; warrants on Page and Manafort (issued in 2014) and Flynn would be under section 1803 of FISA under the jurisdiction of a seven-judge panel appointed by the Chief Justice.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

A Handful of Bad

The following, improvised in response to a question on immigration from The New York Times's Michael Schmidt, December 28 ("So you’re not moving. You’re saying I’m more likely to do deals, but I’m not moving."), dark dystopian fantasy reads like the nightmare of a man nodding off to Lou Dobbs Tonight on the Fox, though I thought Dobbs's timeslot at 7:00 was more or less cheeseburger time in the Trump White House. Trump tries to imagine what immigration is like in terms of unfamiliar but ominous words, "chain", "lottery". Note the haunting beginning, in which he seems to divide himself from himself as these apparitions of chains approach:

Tuesday, January 9, 2018


Pablo Picasso, "The Tragedy", 1903. Via Dominicana.

Song of the Clean Bill
by Donald Trump

I think a clean DACA bill,
to me, is a DACA bill,
but we take care of the 800,000 people...
But I think, to me, a clean bill
is a bill of DACA, we take care of them,
and we also take care of security.
Text from Trump's immigration meeting with members of Congress, January 9 2018, as reported in Vox.

A Tale of Two White Houses

George III, anonymous contemporary etching, British Museum, via StreetsOfSalem

Longer™ David Brooks ("The Decline of Anti-Trumpism"):
I'll just start off with some observations that may startle you if you haven't been spending time at Washington dinner parties, think-tank lecture-recitals, and early-morning Stairmaster gym sessions with a lot of Republicans in the course of the past year (as I implicitly have, though I'm not giving you any details):

Monday, January 8, 2018


Update at bottom 1/8

Image vis

Looks like Rupert Murdoch is a little sorry about all the rude things he said about Trump to Michael Wolff: Not that this Michael Goodwin column in Murdoch's New York Post mentions any of them (for instance, "'What a fucking idiot,' said Murdoch, shrugging, as he got off the phone"); Goodwin focuses more on Stephen Bannon, and it's all good, anyway, because Bannon has only wrecked his own career. Trump will be more popular and successful than ever!
Bannon’s decision to go out in a blaze of personal attacks on the president and everybody else in the White House does Donald Trump and the GOP a giant favor. Bannon may live to fight another day, but, thankfully, Bannonism is dead.
But what of Trumpism? Is “Fire and Fury,” the Michael Wolff book where Bannon [not to mention Rupert Murdoch—ed.] leaks and vents, the beginning of the end of Trump’s presidency?
Maybe — but probably not. After all, every previous media-hair-on-fire moment has come to a forgettable dead end.
And think of how much worse things would be if Hillary Clinton were president! Sorry, Trumpism is Bannonism is Republicanism; they may fight among themselves, because power is the main thing, but the main theme is taking down the New Deal and the Great Society and the Obama presidency

Trump comes out a bit later to salute Goodwin's brave work:

Sunday, January 7, 2018

No Stalinist! No Stalinist! You're the real Stalinist!

Article from Moskovsky Komsomolets, 2011, cited by Rachael Allen, "Stalin and the Great Terror: Can Mental Illness Explain His Violent Behavior?" which has a pretty good bibliography. Translation of this material welcome.

Mr. President, please, we don't need that much backing

Joan Mirò, Animaux (lithograph, 1956, from a series of illustration for poems by Jacques Prévert), via Annex Galleries.

Wolff runs a much longer excerpt from the peroration of Trump's address to the CIA employees in January 2017 than I'd seen before (full transcript here; "Witnesses," says Wolff, "would describe his reception at the CIA as either a Beatles-like emotional outpouring or a response so confounded and appalled that, in the seconds after he finished, you could hear a pin drop"), where he tumbled into the discussion of the tragic events of Inauguration Day, when Zeke Miller of Time took almost as much as 50 minutes to correct his inaccurate tweet alleging that Trump had had the bust of Martin Luther King removed from the Oval Office, an hour that will live in infamy. At least as long as Donald Trump draws breath.

I've published his Black History Month poem touching the same subject; in the five chatty septets of the CIA poem, below the fold, the pain is fresher, and Trump works harder to ground it, establishing first how much Time owes him, for all the times he's furnished his face for the magazine's cover, 14 times altogether, or 15 this year alone, as the case may be, certainly more than the Patriots quarterback, and then broadens it out to the wider human issue, not that he's personally offended by Miller's journalistic malpractice but that "I like honest reporting."

Then he moves on to declare his love for the CIA, contrary to news reports of a "feud" between Trump and the US intelligence community, even though he had compared them to "Nazi Germany" a couple of times earlier in the month ("I am so behind you,“ Trump has told the CIA workers earlier in the address; “you’re gonna get so much backing, maybe you’re gonna say, please, don't give us so much backing, Mr. President, please, we don’t need that much backing.")

Referring perhaps to the fact that the appearance was scheduled for a weekend, so that only some 300 agency workers managed to attend, he seems to invite himself back to give the same speech again, for a bigger audience—perhaps so big that the CIA will need to build a new auditorium, just to accommodate the crowds of CIA workers yearning to look at him, and with no limited-view seats, and he seems to hint he might build it himself.

As editor, I'm very pleased with the relaxed lope in the stanza breaks, and the way I've used parentheses to mark the way his digressions are really interiorities or intergressions. The brackets in the third stanza represent the fact that he used a finger gesture instead of an oral word.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

The Wolff is at the door, but is that inside or outside?

Wolf attack. German engraving, 1517, via Wikipedia.

In March 2017, Kellyanne Conway is telling Olivia Nuzzi what she meant by the peculiar term she'd used in January to explain her contention that Donald Trump was right to claim that a million or million and a half people had attended his inaugural address in the National Mall, compared to a million for Barack Obama's first inaugural in 2009, though aerial photos clearly showed a much smaller audience for Trump—the "alternative facts":
“Two plus two is four. Three plus one is four. Partly cloudy, partly sunny. Glass half full, glass half empty. Those are alternative facts,” she said, further defining the infamous phrase as “additional facts and alternative information.”
Which doesn't make a lot of sense. The expressions "3 + 1 = 4" and "2 + 2 = 4" aren't "alternative facts", they're alternative ways of stating a single fact. The numbers Sean Spicer proposed, 250,000 plus 220,000 plus another 250,000 for different regions of the Mall, don't add up to a million or more no matter how many times you calculate it, and the total 250,000 of the Vox estimate based on the photographs isn't an alternative way of saying "one million". It's a different number.

In April, Conway had refined the explanation, in an interview with Molly Ball:

Friday, January 5, 2018

Brooks on Trafficking

No, not that kind of trafficking, that would be too controversial.

Image via YoungInRome.

We may or may not have skirted the danger of war on the Korean peninsula, the situations in Yemen, Ukraine, Myanmar, and other places continue to degenerate, President Macron is trying to take over the Middle East peace process, Congress is about to attempt to provide a real appropriations process for the first time in well over a year of living from continuing resolution to continuing resolution, news is out that Donald Trump tried to shut down the Russia investigation about eight separate times, fearless federalist attorney general Jefferson Beauregard is declaring war on the 29 states where some kind of marijuana use is legal, and a new book is out (four days ahead of schedule after Trump's advance denunciation of it increased demand to an irresistable level) providing credible evidence of the president's diminished cognitive capacity, so naturally David F. Brooks ("How Would Jesus Drive?") is writing about how grateful we should all be that some people have good traffic manners.

Moreover, Pope Francis agrees with him on that, in his homily for the New Year's Eve Vesper service at the Basilica of Saint Peter:

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Not too scared

Moon goddess from the Ohoe tomb no. 4, 6th-7th century, Goguryeo (or ancient Goryeo). via Wikipedia.

I'm going to say it again: as you know, there's no button, and the procedure you need to follow to order that strike is a fairly complex one, which I think Donald Trump in his current psychological state might have a hard or even impossible time following:
From phone call to phone call — and his day, beyond organized meetings, was almost entirely phone calls — you could lose him. He could not really converse, not in the sense of sharing information, or of a balanced back-and-forth conversation. He neither particularly listened to what was said to him nor particularly considered what he said in response. (Michael Wolff)
And whatever they tell you, our military are trained carefully that they must not follow an illegal order, and I don't think there's any doubt about this one, as Marjorie Cohn was explaining a couple of months ago at the HuffPost:

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Fire and fury like the world has never seen

Good times! The "fucking liar", as Ivanka calls him, and the "queen of leaks", as Bannon calls her, photo by Carlos Barria/Reuters via Telegraph.

On today's Guardian story pre-publicizing Michael Wolff's Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House, which certainly looks like it's going to be fun, when Stephen Bannon is quoted as saying the Trump Tower meeting between Junior-Jared-Manafort and Natalya Veselnitskaya in June 2016 was "treasonous", "unpatriotic", and "should have called the FBI immediately" and "bad shit"—
Bannon, speaking to author Michael Wolff, warned that the investigation into alleged collusion with the Kremlin will focus on money laundering and predicted: “They’re going to crack Don Junior like an egg on national TV.”
—don't think he means that like it was a bad thing or something. He means they did it wrong: they shouldn't have gotten caught, and Bannon should preferably have made some money out of it:
Bannon went on, Wolff writes, to say that if any such meeting had to take place, it should have been set up “in a Holiday Inn in Manchester, New Hampshire, with your lawyers who meet with these people”. Any information, he said, could then be “dump[ed] … down to Breitbart or something like that, or maybe some other more legitimate publication”.
And while hating Jared and Ivanka is fun, Bannon still hates them because they're Jewish. That's what "globalist" means ("Henry Kissinger, the former secretary of state, is quoted as saying: 'It is a war between the Jews and the non-Jews.'"). Enjoy them squabbling and trying to knock each other off as they skitter down the ropes, but they're all bad people.

The Oppressions of David Brooks

17th-century English print via May Morning Oxford.
So it looks like David Brooks ("The Retreat to Tribalism") went to this lecture Jonathan Haidt gave, "The Age of Outrage", at the Manhattan Institute last November. It was a big deal, Haidt was wearing a tux, and said that society is like a maypole, or kids dancing around a maypole, but in an especially odd way:

Imagine three kids running around a maypole, forming a chain with their arms. The innermost kid is holding the pole with one hand. The faster they run, the more centrifugal force there is tearing the chain apart. The tighter they grip, the more centripetal force there is holding the chain together. Eventually centrifugal force exceeds centripetal force and the chain breaks.
No, that's Brooks; Haidt just has an ordinary pole. Brooks's mistake is funny, too, because Haidt unlike Brooks knows exactly what a maypole is and uses the image more than once to make what I think is a kind of Straussian argument about the value of religion: gods are maypoles, the ribboned ones where at the end of the dance the maidens have twisted a colorful pattern around the pole as a byproduct, and in the same [?] way the worship of the gods "weaves" or "binds" the members of the community together, into a social coherence that's just as valuable as a newly decorated pole, though that seems a little confused: are the community members the ribbons, which are indeed bound together, or the maidens, who aren't, but move to some other activity when the dance is over?

Anyway with this pole it's the three kids who constitute the community, and the centripetal force that makes them hold tighter on to each others' hands is typically the wartime threat of external enemies, and what makes them keep running faster is the media, immigration and diversity, and the deadly dialectic of the "more radical Republican party" and the "new identity politics of the Left", which is different from the old identity politics of the Left, operated by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., which brought people together, because of the "high social trust" that existed in the Jim Crow era—

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Frenzy in the Times (spoiler: there isn't much)

Speaking of narratives about regnant white supremacy and misogyny among the Right, this year's White House interns. Via DiversityInc.

Heather Mac Donald of the Manhattan Institute welcomes the Heritage Foundation's naming of a new president, Kay Coles James, after the turmoil ending the reign of Jim DeMint:
If the new Heritage president had been a white male, the Times would likely have gone into bean-counting frenzy, tallying up all the other conservative think tanks headed by white males. But not only is James female, she is black. The Times [article here] buries this fact in its ninth paragraph, after characterizing James as a “safe choice.” A conservative organization opting for a black female as its “safety” candidate does not fit the Times’ narrative about regnant white supremacy and misogyny among the Right.
I'd like to point out that when DeMint was named to head the foundation in December 2012 the Times did not mention his race or gender at all. They did mention that DeMint was one of the least wealthy members of the Senate and could look forward to a significant boost in his standard of living. The only reference to race in the story was in mentioning that Governor Nikki Haley might pick South Carolina's first black congressman since Reconstruction, Tim Scott, to replace DeMint as Senator (which she subsequently did). Nor did Andrew Rosenthal's op-ed give any attention to DeMint's race and gender.

The most recent appointment of a new head to a conservative think tank I can find out about, when Thomas W. Gilligan became director of the Hoover Institution in 2015, was not covered in the Times at all, in spite of his white and male identities. The same goes for Arthur Brooks, who is also white and male, being named president of the American Enterprise Institute in 2009. Heather Mac's shop, the Manhattan Institute, has been headed by white guy Lawrence J. Mone since 1995, whose only mention in the Times, in 1997, also left the race question blank.

So the evidence is that when a white man is appointed to head a conservative think tank the Times never goes into frenzy, bean-counting or otherwise.