Sunday, February 18, 2018

The Lighter Side of Intersectionality

Super tree frog picture I'm not finding a credit for. Here for instance.


David Brooks ("The Rise of the Amphibians") says he's been interviewing Millennials—why do I imagine a voice going, "Dad, this is so awkward"? No, it's not like that at all:

I’ve begun a little tour in which I gather millennials for interviews and ask them what they have faith in and how they are going to lead us in the years ahead.
So I guess he proceeded the same as when he was making his Journey Into the Heart of Whiteness in search of the Trump voter last year, driving to towns he suspected might have some good Millennials and asking the local authorities—ministers, aldermen, a dean in the local college—to hook him up with them. "Kelly, nice to meet you! I'm David! So... ah... what do you have faith in?"

He didn't have anything in particular to say about what they have faith in, but he did notice something nice, though he didn't quite get it:

Saturday, February 17, 2018

For the Record: Hope this is clarifying

A week after the election, via Daily Beast. How much better we'd know your scalp a year later!


For the Record: There will be so many indictments we'll be sick of indictments

Via BitsAndPieces.



It's an unceasing astonishment to me that Trump can seem completely unaware that the predicament of the "incredible kids" is something he caused himself with his "arbitrary and capricious" action, as Judge Nicholas Garaufis of New York's Eastern District called it, in the opinion blocking the action:
If the decision is allowed to go into effect prior to a full adjudication on the merits, there is no way the court can “unscramble the egg” and undo the damage caused by what, on the record before it, appears to have been a patently arbitrary and capricious decision.

Friday, February 16, 2018

For the Record: It's the RPM, Stupid.

Three rounds per minute and sometimes you still needed a sword. Sean Bean as Richard Sharpe, via WhiteRoseWritings.




Thursday, February 15, 2018

Gun and Done

Drawing by Rob Tornoe, 2015.

I don't see how anything I say is going to interfere with the grieving of anybody's family—I doubt any of the Broward County families whose children, brothers and sisters, and friends and teachers were murdered yesterday are hanging on Twitter waiting to see what Tomi Lahren or I have to say about it. If they are and they'd like us to stop, they're welcome to let me know, but that's not the impression I'm getting from Steph, or Glenn Greenwald's niece, who seem to need to talk, right now:


Ben Shapiro at the Direly Wail claims that

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

More Prayers


Don't have the heart to write much about Parkland, Florida, and another mass murder of children, but something Rubio said got to me:


Trumpism Without Trump

Betty Bronson in the 1924 version by Herbert Brenon of Peter Pan, with Virginia Brown Faire as Tinker Bell, via Raiders of the Lost Tumblr.

Shorter Monsignor Ross Douthat, Apostolic Nuncio to 42nd Street ("The Pull of Populism"):
Crude and demogogic, haphazard, hypocritical, and often stupid, but you've got to hand it to the Trump administration, they're doing the right thing.
Which is, to be exact, getting the isms under control, with the "nationalism-infused deficit-financed populism" implementing the "Trumpian or George W. Bushian mix of cultural conservatism and economic populism", which sounds like an item from one of those farm-to-table restaurants (Champagne-braised leg of Long Island rabbit in a bath of fennel-infused truffle broth napped with ginger-cloudberry Ranch dressing) but "is in fact the natural basis for an American center-right majority".

Or in English, if you prefer, he thinks there's something there that might win elections, a composite new ism, and if there are any conservatives who don't like it they should shut up.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Use your mentality

Pieter Bruegel the Elder, Peasant Wedding, 1567, from Todorf's Pinterest.

Shorter David Brooks, "The End of the Two-Party System", February 13 2018:
All of humanity, or most of it at any given moment, shares this thing I call an unconscious mind-set, and back in the good old days of the early 1990s, which I observed first-hand from Brussels when I was nothing but a young sprout myself, employed by the Wall Street Journal, the unconscious mind-set of the world population was an abundance mind-set, which means that everybody thought stuff was abundant, thanks to democratic capitalism, prejudice was falling away, and everywhere you looked was a win-win situation, except Yugoslavia. Yugoslavia, as I now have come to understand it, had a scarcity mind-set, that is to say one in which stuff seems to be scarce, and therefore they were attracted to authoritarian populism, acquired a warrior mentality, regarded each other as enemies, and saw every situation as zero-sum. This is exactly what happened to us in 2007, when stuff became scarce over here. Now we too have acquired warrior mentalities, have become nasty and brutish, if not actually short, and bitterly partisan. I don't know what's going to happen, but I'm afraid we may end up with—a European-style multiparty system!
Or maybe that's supposed to be a happy ending.

Trump Gets CLAP From Maduro Regime

CLAP packages. Via Venezuelanalysis.
My UK tweep Paul Canning, an expert observer of, among other things, Venezuela, noticed something familiar in the Trump budget proposal to turn half of the SNAP program into church basement–style distribution of beans and rice, to stop the poor from indulging in their well-known habit of blowing all their food stamps on crab legs and pomegranate juice:





I like my headline, but Republicans might prefer "Trump Picks Up On Bolivarian Socialism".

Monday, February 12, 2018

Lincoln's birthday


Happy birthday, Abraham Lincoln!


Unknown artist, portrait of Belva Ann Bennett Lockwood (1830-1917), first woman to argue a case before the Supreme Court, in a campaign poster from her first presidential race, in 1884. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution.

Abraham and Tad Lincoln, 1865, in a photo by Alexander Gardner. Looking for an unfamiliar picture of Lincoln in the NPG collections is what set me off on this,

Nunes Declares War

I really couldn't pass up gentleman farmer Devin Nunes taking time out from his busy schedule fabricating plots by the FBI, the Democratic Party, the retired journalists of the Wall Street Journal and the retired spies of MI6, and I believe the Order of the Templars, to spy on the totally innocent businessman Carter Page in the hope that this would somehow stop Donald Trump from getting elected sometime after he got elected (good cooking takes time!)...

... using his appearance on Fox News to invoke the specter of class war:
Really. I didn't expect to agree with Devin Nunes about anything, but he's got a point, when you think about it. I think about Speaker Paul Ryan and his famous account of who he thinks are the people who make this country work:

Sunday, February 11, 2018

For the Record: Windy Olympics

Mr. Vice President and Mrs. Pence in their matching jackets in Pyeongchang, painfully aware that the baleful eyes of Madam Kim Yo-jong may be on them. Screenshot via Fox.

It's a good thing that the South Korean and North Korean athletes are competing together, as a single country in a slightly half-assed way, and an even better thing that the South Korean president Moon Jae-in is contemplating a meeting with mad North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un. To say that is not to say that Kim Jong-un is a good person, and I'm getting a little cheesed with rightwingers suggesting that it is (though I'd agree with them that CNN's crush on the dictator's sister Kim Yo-jong is, ah, unnecessary):
To me, it is the South Koreans who are especially winning this initiative, and last night I tacked on a couple of additional details to Jeet Heer's thread:
And then spent the rest of the evening happily watching non-Korean skaters, and in the morning there was sour-assed Ben Shapiro, still whining, and his fans:

Saturday, February 10, 2018

All you need is cognitive empathy-based living for the good of all

One of the 33 bakeries preserved in Pompeii by the Vesuvius eruption of 79 C.E. Via Classofoods.

That's what changemakers have, according to David F. Brooks ("Everyone a Changemaker") :

For example, Ashoka fellow Andrés Gallardo is a Mexican who lived in a high crime neighborhood. He created an app, called Haus, that allows people to network with their neighbors. The app has a panic button that alerts everybody in the neighborhood when a crime is happening. It allows neighbors to organize, chat, share crime statistics and work together.
To form and lead this community of communities, Gallardo had to possess what Drayton calls “cognitive empathy-based living for the good of all.” Cognitive empathy is the ability to perceive how people are feeling in evolving circumstances. “For the good of all” is the capacity to build teams.
Question to Radio Yerevan: Is cognitive empathy the ability to perceive how people are feeling in evolving circumstances? I mean, I'm left wondering if there's some kind of noncognitive or pre-cognitive empathy for perceiving how people are feeling when circumstances aren't evolving.

Also, how exactly is "for the good of all" the capacity to build teams? Fortunately I'm a semanticist. I can check this out by a simple substitution test: if Brooks's hypothesis on "for the good of all" is correct, the following two sentences should be equivalent in meaning:
  • You've sacrificed yourself for the good of all!
  • You've sacrificed yourself the capacity to build teams!
Nope. I don't think that works.

Ashoka is the name of a nonprofit organization that used to be about the cultivation of social entrepreneurs, who are, if I'm understanding this right, people who bring the skill set of Internet startup managers to the pursuit of social goals, like giving people panic buttons and the ability to share crime statistics. The term was invented by Bill Drayton, Ashoka's founder and CEO, and Brooks first wrote them up in 2008 ("Thoroughly Modern Do-Gooders"), when he seemed particularly impressed that they weren't hippies—
These thoroughly modern do-gooders dress like venture capitalists. They talk like them. They even think like them. That means that aside from the occasional passion for heirloom vegetables, they are not particularly crunchy. They don’t wear ponytails, tattoos or Birkenstocks. They don’t devote any energy to countercultural personal style, unless you consider excessive niceness a subversive fashion statement.
I dated an heirloom tomato once, but it didn't last.

Drayton is now working out what sounds like a more cosmic kind of issue, the problem that automation seems likely to deprive most of us of our livelihoods:

For millenniums most people’s lives had a certain pattern. You went to school to learn a trade or a skill — baking, farming or accounting. Then you could go into the work force and make a good living repeating the same skill over the course of your career.
But these days machines can do pretty much anything that’s repetitive. The new world requires a different sort of person. Drayton calls this new sort of person a changemaker.
Changemakers are people who can see the patterns around them, identify the problems in any situation, figure out ways to solve the problem, organize fluid teams, lead collective action and then continually adapt as situations change.
For generations (from around 1840 to 1940) most people wrote "millenniums", but "millennia" has been much more current for almost 80 years. Just saying. We know Brooks is conservative, but this is a case where it is plainly preferable to be right.


But if you're talking about millennia, I think the historical period during which anybody has gone to school to learn farming has been a very short one. It would be more accurate to say that over the long term most people were born on farms and didn't go to school at all.

Accounting goes back a good 7,000 years, and clearly involved some training—the rulers of Persia hired professional accountants in the 4th and 3rd millennia B.C.E., and Chanakya, the adviser of the first sovereigns of the Mauryan empire in the India of the 4th century B.C.E., wrote a textbook on the subject, though apparently not a very useful one for the historians of bookkeeping (my impression is historians of economics get more out of it—I should add this is all Wikipedia, not stuff I could literally know), but most people were certainly not accountants. Or bakers, although that too is a pretty old profession, originating in Egypt, where the first commercial yeasts were developed, and in the late Roman Republic there was a collegium or guild of foreign bread bakers, suggesting some kind of apprenticeship.

I don't think there's ever been a time when most people went to school to learn the skills that they would practice in working life unless maybe in Germany since World War II. The idea of most people going to school at all is a pretty recent development, compulsory schooling having originated in Germany and North America in the 19th century; and if you think back to your own education, you'll realize that few of us learned skills that actually served us in working life beyond basic reading and math, and hardly any of us outside the formal professions specifically trained for the jobs we ended up doing.

Which is not to say people shouldn't worry about technology stealing their jobs (a fear that goes back to the the Luddites of early 19th-century England), but there is a weird little Brooksian disconnect here between the idea that everybody must be a changemaker, as in Ashoka's vision
Because we live in a changemaker world, everyone must be an effective and confident changemaker.
For many generations, society was organized around a few people at the top telling everyone else to repeat their specialized skills faster and faster. Today, all of us have the means to lead and get big things done. This is causing social change to explode in every direction.
—and the real tendency of programs like this, which is clearly the nourishment of lower-elite management classes to mediate between the rulers and the "teams"; those kids you've heard of if you've had kids of your own in school over the past 20 or 30 years who organize mass online movements like the Ice Bucket Challenge (which will in fact get them into schools where they will learn to be tax attorneys, or princes among the accountants, performing work so repetitive it would drive them to suicide if not for the boat or the Hamptons place):

Once a kid has had an idea, built a team and changed her world, she’s a changemaker. She has the power. She’ll go on to organize more teams. She will always be needed.
Drayton asks parents: “Does your daughter know that she is a changemaker? Is she practicing changemaking?” He tells them: “If you can’t answer ‘yes’ to these questions, you have urgent work to do.”
Too late!

Brooks's writing in this piece is really awful beyond the usual standard, and as far as that goes Drayton's is worse, like a Thomas L. Friedman for whom writing actually isn't a priority or a computer-generated Prosperity Gospel preacher—
It is a fact that the rate of change and the degree of human interconnectedness have been accelerating exponentially since 1700. Change now begets change—ever faster and more broadly. 
This is the new reality. 
It brings with it a new definition of what success in growing up (and therefore parenting and education) entails. Because value now comes from changemaking, today’s key measure of success is: “What percent of teens know that they are changemakers?” They can only know this if they have actually had a dream, built a team, and changed their class or school or community. Practice is the only way they can master the four critical underlying skills—cognitive empathy, new types of teamwork, opposite forms of leadership, and changemaking. One cannot know one is a changemaker without knowing one is well on the way to such mastery.
He may well be doing good work—how would I know?—but linguistically he's a conman. Maybe opposite forms of leadership are going to be my thing. I'll try to keep you updated.

Friday, February 9, 2018

KAG!



Sometime early Thursday morning, I think, the phrase "ignoring Trump", captured on the screenshot from my phone, disappeared from the New York Times teaser headline in the computer version, although "disregarded President Trump's threats" remained in the body copy:


Then again, Trump had moved in Wednesday afternoon to claim implicit credit for the coming resolution:

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Or did Steele fire the FBI?

Image via Graeme Shimmin.

According to the Nunes memo, former MI6 agent Christopher Steele, hired in summer 2016 to help Fusion GPS out in its (now Democrat-funded) investigation of Trump's Russia connections, after taking his findings to the FBI, lost the Bureau's confidence when he went to various journalistic outlets as well, and they "terminated" him, which sounded pretty odd, because I hadn't heard any suggestion that they'd given him a job in the first place.

But a new story by Tom Hamburger and Rosalind Helderman in the Washington Post quotes Steele as saying he was in fact in "talks" with the FBI about doing some contract work with them, but broke off at the end of October 2016, when James Comey announced on the 28th that he was reviving the investigation of the private email server Hillary Clinton had used as secretary of state, which he had seemed to be publicly ending the previous July, after giving him the impression that every detail of their ongoing investigation of the Trump campaign must be concealed from the public, because
Bureau officials repeatedly told him they were extremely cautious about taking actions that could be viewed publicly as influencing an election, associates said.
In other words, he began thinking, as many of us out here in the audience began thinking, that forces within the FBI might be acting to take it in a pro-Trump direction, as we've already heard from the House Intelligence Committee hearing with Glenn Simpson—

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Constitutional Crisis

King Salman and President Sisi induct President Trump into the Order of the Orb, May 2017, via Harvard Political Review. Did he give them anything in return for admission to the sacred mysteries? Who knows, but what was that Qatar thing about?

The only Trump bribery case I've really worked on is the way he acquired a legal opinion from the General Services Administration allowing him to keep the lease on the federally-owned Old Post Office building on Pennsylvania Avenue for the Trump International Hotel in DC, although "No member or delegate to Congress, or elected official of the Government of the United States or the Government of the District of Columbia, shall be admitted to any share or part of this Lease, or to any benefit that may arise therefrom". During the transition, it was the GSA's view that Trump couldn't be allowed to hold the lease. Then,
Shortly after Trump’s inauguration, an Obama-appointed General Services Administration official named Norman Dong became acting administrator, according to an agency email obtained by POLITICO. Seven and a half hours later, Trump replaced Dong with Tim Horne a Denver-based GSA official who had coordinated the agency’s transition with the Trump team, a second email showed.
Then in late March, the relevant contracting officer, Kevin Terry, found that Trump was legally entitled to keep the lease; the previous GSA opinion, he held, had "reached simplistic 'black and white' conclusions regarding the meaning and implications of the clause"; the lease belonged not to Donald J. Trump but to DJT Holdings LLC, DJT Holdings Managing Member LLC, Don OPO LLC, Donald J. Trump Revocable Trust, Donald J. Trump, Jr. Revocable Trust, Eric OPO LLC, Eric Trump Revocable Trust, Ivanka OPO LLC, Ivanka Trump Revocable Trust, Trump Old Post Office LLC, and Trump Old Post Office Member Corp., and was therefore not violated, even though Trump did own at least some of the companies. And since his share of those companies was in his "revocable trust", he wouldn't be able to take any money out of the hotel until he stopped being president, unless the revocable trust felt like giving it to him, which it can any time it wants.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Mud From a Muddy Spring

The Peterloo Massacre of August 16 1819, engraved by Richard Carlile, Wikimedia Commons.

Another day, another Brooks ("How Nations Recover")Ten paragraphs of a miscellany of facts about early 19th-century British political economy, from around 1819 to 1847, finally naming a book, David Cannadine's Victorious Century: The United Kingdom. 1800-1906, which gets its official release February 20—you can't see any text online at all yet, and it won't be possible to do any kind of David Brooks Plagiarism Watch on this until we've forgotten this particular column, four Brooksdays from today (indeed I expect I will have forgotten about the column by sometime this afternoon)—and then three more paragraphs of purloined anecdote and a couple of paragraphs of a Magisterial Thesis, that, as you might expect, their politicians were sadly better, back in the day, than ours are now, when both sides did it but in a good way:
We have not passed a steady drumbeat of pragmatic reforms the way the Whigs and the Tories did. Over the past 15 years, the United States has managed to pass just a few major pieces of social reform — Dodd-Frank, Obamacare and I guess the Trump tax reform.
The biggest gap is in the realm of political leadership. The Victorian politicians had a stewardship mentality. They listened to the people, but stood slightly apart, deliberating, seeing governance as a shared professional responsibility. Our leaders come from a much broader swath of society, but they have lower standards of behavior, and less of a shared stewardship mentality.
Yes, if we must have two parties, why can't both of them be the same, with a "stewardship mentality" and a commitment to "pragmatic reforms" the way they were in the United Kingdom in the 1840s? It's a mystery!

Monday, February 5, 2018

For the Record: Rant on Retroaction

Reporter from the Future, by Flickr/The People Speak. Via Sputnik International, I'm sorry to say, which may have meant for the picture to be taken as news.

I may be starting to repeat myself a bit, but Donald Jr. kind of got me going:


Really shouldn't have missed failing to take care that the laws be faithfully executed, from the endless sabotaging of the Affordable Care Act to blatant refusal to implement the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, signed into law by Donald Trump on August 2, though he called it "seriously flawed" in his signing statement, after votes of 98-2 in the Senate and 419-3 in the House.

That's for the constitutional crisis, but that "take down a duly elected president" bullshit struck me as illustrating a deep retroactionary confusion that is a big part of this Nunes idiocy.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Literary Corner: Economy of Abstraction

Asobu (Play), by Japan--Calligraphy (that's a dumb nym, but it's a lovely piece) at DeviantArt.


Two of the endless fascinations of Donald Trump's work are its peculiarly bloodless but potent economy of abstraction, absence of sensuality or thinginess, reduction of experience from sensation to pure value terms; and its use of repetition. They come together for a remarkable effect in the new work, offered to the press in the Oval Office Friday after he signed off on the declassfication of the Nunes memo, which is the poem's subject:

It Was Declassified
by Donald J. Trump


I. I Think It's a Disgrace
I think it's terrible
you want to know the truth
I think it's a disgrace
what's going on in this country 
I think it's a disgrace
the memo was sent to Congress
it was declassified 
Congress will do whatever
they're going to do but
I think it's a disgrace
what's happening in our country

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Mister Imaginary

Piggy, from Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends.

David Brooks ("The Abortion Memo") turns his column over to somebody called "Imaginary Democratic Consultant", who can't understand why so few Democratic Senators voted for a blanket federal ban on terminating a pregnancy after it's been going on for 20 weeks, so that the bill ended up filibustered to death:
Last week I watched as our senators voted down the Republican bill that would have banned abortions after 20 weeks. Our people hung together. Only three Democrats voted with the other side. Yet as I was watching I kept wondering: How much is our position on late-term abortions hurting us? How many progressive priorities are we giving up just so we can have our way on this one?
And two Republicans, Collins and Murkowski, voted with our side. How much is it hurting them? But do tell, Mr. Imaginary. How many progressive priorities is it?
No, that's not what Mr. Imaginary means. He's talking about elections: he's claiming there are millions of voters who would vote Blue in a fetal heartbeat if they had anti-abortion Democrats to vote for, because in 1971 Teddy Kennedy was a pro-lifer. Plus Millennials:

For the Record: Memo Juggalos

Devin Nunes in the Chamber of Secrets. Via Fandom/Harry Potter Wiki.

In the weird situation of sort of agreeing with Glenn Greenwald about something, though I wouldn't put it in such intemperate language:



Friday, February 2, 2018

Memo Random


You'll be reading sounder versions of this all weekend, no doubt, but I wanted to organize and shovel out some initial reactions.

Stan Laurel in Pick and Shovel (1923), from gfycat.

Carter Page first attracted the attention of the FBI in 2013 as the subject of a conversation between two Russian agents recorded by US intelligence:
Mr. Podobnyy tells his Russian colleague that Mr. Page frequently flies to Moscow and is interested in earning large sums of money. Mr. Page was apparently interested in striking a deal with Gazprom, the Russian state-run oil firm, according to the transcript. Mr. Podobnyy called Mr. Page an “idiot” but said he was enthusiastic.... “I will feed him empty promises,” he was overheard saying.
The recruitment effort doesn't seem to have gone anywhere; nevertheless, by the summer of 2014, Page was being monitored under a US surveillance warrant (according to an August 3 2017 report from CNN). We don't know what that was about or how it further developed, but it seems he was still under surveillance when he suddenly surfaced in public in March 2016 as first on the list of Donald Trump's foreign policy advisers, "Carter Page, PhD", just behind citizen George Papadopoulus, now a convicted though not sentenced criminal in the Mueller investigation.

At the end of June or beginning of July Christopher Steele, who had been studying relations between Trump and the Trump campaign and Russians at the behest of the Fusion GPS research firm, which had been studying Trump's business affairs for a rightwing newspaper, the Free Beacon, from fall 2015, and subsequently for a Democrat-connected law firm, Perkins Coie, increasingly alarmed at the stuff he was hearing from his informants, sent the first memo from the subsequent dossier to contacts in the FBI.

That July, Page traveled to Moscow to deliver a peculiar commencement address to that year's graduates of the New Economic School:

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Preventing the President of the United States

By Giphy.
And the heart (big, fat, and beautiful) is in the delivery!

There's an answer to Steve's question! We were looking for the heart in the wrong place, in the formation and implementation of policy. Trump's heart isn't in that; the man is a born trouper. It's in the greasepaint and the greenrooms and that connection with the crowd, and the ratings of course, although that seems a little backward—the fact that you turned it on, if you did, doesn't prove that it was good, because you didn't know whether it was good or not ahead of time. Ratings are a measurement for advertisers, as you know, advertisers are interested in whether you get the eyeballs, not their critical esteem, and you can get the eyeballs with a slow-motion train wreck. Also Fox didn't make any money on it, since you don't interrupt the SOTU with commercials, although they did presumably benefit from the before and after color commentary.

Nevertheless Trump achieved his personal goal, of whacking his way through reading the text without a fail and achieving more applause breaks—turns out all you have to do is ask for them, leading the applause yourself from the dais!—than any of his predecessors, stretching a thin speech out to an astounding 90 minutes and making the Republicans do all the work. I didn't hear him say, "Believe me," or fluff any difficult words, at all, though I wasn't listening attentively all the time. Paul Ryan blew more lines than he did, I thought, even though he only had one, which he began, "I have the high honor and distinct privilege of preventing..." before pulling back.

And the ratings were tremendous! Well,

Our path breaking insurance companies

Looks like I got a check in the mail and didn't even notice it. Good thing, because I'd be in real trouble now.

Dumbstrzok


This is really too much.  This was kind of my first hypothesis about the case of extremely senior agent Strzok last August, after he became a mini-Trumprussia celebrity when he was taken off the Trump-Russia investigation and exiled to the FBI's personnel department, either as punishment for some blunder or to separate him from some security issue, and I began learning that Strzok had played some kind of central role in Rudy Giuliani's October Surprise of 2016.