Saturday, March 31, 2018

More Rhetorical Excess

Via.

More Stephens on Williamson:
Dear Kevin, 
I’m sorry to have to write you, for two reasons. Sorry, first, that you have to endure having your character assailed and assassinated by people who rarely if ever read you and likely never met you. Sorry also that your hiring as a writer for The Atlantic has set off another censorious furor in media circles when surely there are more important subjects on this earth.
(1) "I'm sorry to have to write you" is the form of an apology, when you're going to give somebody pain but your position obliges you do to it, as in "As Tiffany's teacher, I'm sorry to have to inform you that she is a very unpleasant little girl." Since this is not your plan, why are you doing that? (2) You don't have to write Kevin D. Williamson in any way, as a matter of fact. If you did, publishing your letter in The Times isn't the best way to get to him. I'm sure you could just pop him an email. Moreover, it's clear that you're not writing him. You're writing me, as a subscriber to the paper. And I didn't ask you. (3) I don't think anybody is in fact assailing, still less assassinating, Williamson's character. I think they're complaining about the shit he writes for public consumption, which is his job, which, to be sure, makes him look as if he had a pretty bad character (it's unlikely somebody would try to hide his true character by saying he believes women who have abortions deserve the same punishment as criminal homicides). I must say I love the idea that people can't judge your writing unless they've met you. (4) So this column is to quiet the censorious furor in media circles by publishing a column on the subject, in a censorious tone, in The Times? Or is that what you meant in the first place? "I'm sorry my censoriousness obliges me to contribute another 800 words to the furor when I'm sure you and everybody else would prefer me to be writing about something important."

Rhetorical Excess



Mr. Bret Stephens writes a letter to his pal Kevin D. Williamson, newly appointed columnist for The Atlantic, commiserating with him over the sad fate of being criticized ("The Outrage Over Kevin Williamson"):
The case against you, as best as I can tell, rests on three charges. You think abortion is murder and tweeted — appallingly in my view — that doctors and women should perhaps be hanged for it. You believe “sex is a biological reality” and that gender should not be a choice. And you once boorishly described an African-American boy in East St. Louis, Ill., “raising his palms to his clavicles, elbows akimbo, in the universal gesture of primate territorial challenge.”
My view is that there are more important charges than these: he is a bad writer and dishonest. For example, he falsely accused Jonathan Chait of using a strawman argument in a piece in which he himself used an idiotic strawman argument, an awful ad hominem argument, and two serious falsehoods, followed by a second post in which he falsely accused Chait of dishonesty, and falsely claimed that the great socialist writer Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., agreed with him (Williamson) that human inequality is genetically determined (of course the basic criticism there applies to Stephens too). I wrote it up in 2015:

Friday, March 30, 2018

Trepidation Now, Trepidation Forever

I think it's Hindi. From somebody's tumblr.

David Brooks's headline, "Integration Now, Integration Forever" (which I'm pretty sure he wrote himself, as marked by the fact that it's in the url), composed by palimpsest over George Wallace's famous cry of defiance of 1963, sounds like a pretty stirring call to action that I wouldn't want to be arguing with, but what he came up with is more ambivalent, on more than one dimension, indeed so ambivalent that it doesn't make any sense at all:

Shorter:
The prospect of racial integration in the United States, which seemed so promising in the 1960s as the integration of the school system began, has clearly failed, gone the way of the gramophone and the nylon stocking, as people failed to create intimate bonds across racial lines, as Tamar Jacoby observed 20 years ago. This depressing outcome is probably because integrating schools was the wrong way to go. The authorities should have begun by integrating neighborhoods instead. This is proven by the fact that neighborhoods have become more integrated over time, and people have created intimated bonds across racial lines, as intermarriage rates have climbed and churches have become multiracial. Therefore we need to integrate neighborhoods by building public housing in low-poverty areas, eliminating exclusionary zoning, and more gentrification, and schools will integrate themselves. Also everybody should join an organization where they meet once a week with people who are different from themselves.
Terrifyingly, this glass is half-empty! Fortunately, it's half-full! We must do something to rectify this situation by making it more the way it already is, I think!

Thursday, March 29, 2018

For the Record: Ben Shapiro's Working Class


I didn't watch Roseanne back when she was still alive, so to speak, s so I can't imagine why I'd be watching her now, but I've still managed to acquire enough opinions to take issue with young Ben Shapiro, who's pissed off because Roseanne and Dan voted for Trump but are not in his opinion authentic Trump voters, who are all, in his view, identical:
I started out trollishly agreeing with him:

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Smash-Mouth Liberalism

Apparently Smash Mouth was the name of the first band to give Trump permission to use their music at his rallies. Not sure how that relates to the way Douthat's using the expression, but it must be relevant.
Monsignor Ross Douthat, Apostolic Nuncio to 42nd Street, does not love the kids; he is deeply distressed by them, in particular their chillingly violent calls for the destruction of Senator Rubio ("Marco Rubio Must Be Destroyed"):
Since the Parkland shootings in Florida, Senator Marco Rubio has done many of the things liberals say they are desperate, desperate for decent Republicans to do. He has changed his position on gun control, expressing support for new restrictions: age limits on gun purchases, new background check rules, possibly magazine restrictions. He has co-sponsored legislation encouraging states to issue restraining orders that temporarily would strip people deemed dangerous of their guns. Some of these measures have conservative support, but in other cases the Florida Republican has effectively bucked the N.R.A.
When he showed up for the CNN town hall he met boos and heckles; one of the shooting survivors told him that just looking at him was like staring down the barrel of an assault rifle. Notwithstanding his subsequent policy concessions, at the March for Our Lives the students wore price tags around their neck, $1.05 each — the amount of money Rubio’s campaigns have received from the N.R.A. divided by the number of students in Florida schools. David Hogg, one of their leaders, began his speech with the price tag line, and told a CNN interviewer that if anything he feels that their attacks on the Florida senator haven’t been provocative enough.
I'm not having any luck finding cases of liberals saying "I am desperate, desperate for decent Republicans to" do anything. It's certainly not something I would say. I suspect Ross is making this up.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Privilege Has Its Memberships

Naomi Wadler, 11, via Mother Jones. David Brooks is pretty sure she's too nice to check his privilege, but I wouldn't be so sure if I was him.

Isn't this nice! David F. Brooks ("In Praise of Privilege") loves the kids! He thought the Saturday marches were terrific!
The crowd was good-hearted, gracious, diverse and welcoming. At a time when trust in democracy is waning, everybody kept underlining their faith in our democratic system, that voting is the way to make change. There was no culture war nastiness, no hint of resentment. Hunters and farmers and vets were celebrated. There was no ill will toward anybody but the N.R.A.
A little ill will isn't such a terrible thing!

Monday, March 26, 2018

Stormy Monday Morning Quarterbacking

Barbara Stanwyck in Alfred Santell's Breakfast for Two (1937).

The brethren on the "Sure Trump is awful but he's not a criminal like Hillary" right have had an easy time as you'd expect deciding that "he fucked her and lied about it to the American people" is a triviality after all and they're mystified as to why anybody should care about it—
—but cannot comprehend that we don't care about it either, any more than we did when Bill Clinton was president, beyond the sheer fun and Trumpery of it; I especially liked the detail that the rolled-up magazine she spanked him with was not Forbes but Trump, and the scene as Stormy narrated it could just about have been played by Barbara Stanwyck:

It lacks (damn the word!) empathy

Another Blast From Kevin D. Williamson's Past Remember how he took on the white working class Trump supporter in March 2016 as "whelping human children with all the respect and wisdom of a stray dog"? That's the kind of spirit they need at The Atlantic!

Mr. Trump Potato Head, by Hannah Rothstein. Via Time.
Kevin D. Williamson of the National Review, a day or two ago, telling us how he really feels about those white working class Trump voters (rearranging slightly):
If you spend time in hardscrabble, white upstate New York, or eastern Kentucky, or my own native West Texas, and you take an honest look at the welfare dependency, the drug and alcohol addiction, the family anarchy — which is to say, the whelping of human children with all the respect and wisdom of a stray dog — you will come to an awful realization.... Nothing happened to them. There wasn’t some awful disaster. There wasn’t a war or a famine or a plague or a foreign occupation. Even the economic changes of the past few decades do very little to explain the dysfunction and negligence — and the incomprehensible malice — of poor white America.... nobody did this to them. They failed themselves.
You seem nice, Kevin.

And now he can't believe everybody's so pissed off with him! Well, I guess he remembers it a little differently, because he doesn't wonder if he was wrong to compare people to dysfunctional, negligent, incomprehensibly malicious stray dogs who are 100% to blame for whatever suffering they may endure. What? No, he thinks it's about the advice he gave them; he's

Sunday, March 25, 2018

For the Record: How Many Divisions Has the National Review?

Via.


The genial Jeet Heer of what we used to call Even-The-Liberal-New-Republic is flummoxed, and he's not the only one, by the Atlantic's hiring of Kevin D. Williamson not just because he's a colossally bad, pretentious and malapropic writer (in The Atlantic of all magazines, whose founders included Emerson and Longfellow and whose first editor was James Russell Lowell, with a history of immense literary distinction down to Ta-Nehisi Coates), not just because he's unable to refrain from insulting persons of genders or skin colors other than his own—but just because who cares what Kevin D. Williamson thinks, or the brave little coterie of anti-Trump conservatives in general (including Bret Stephens recently posted from the Wall Street Journal to the New York Times, and Megan McCardle from that same Atlantic to the Washington Post a movement of less intellectual significance now than it has had for more than 60 years, a bunch of utterly discredited cranks with no ideas at all:

So I believe I actually have a piece of an idea:

Meanwhile, in the Palace

W.W. Denslow, "Dorothy and the Giant Head". from L. Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900).

Struck by this tweet:


Really? What sources?
two people familiar with the matter said on Saturday.
Trump agreed with the recommendation of advisers and the expulsions are likely to be announced on Monday, the people said, though they cautioned that Trump’s decision may not be final. Trump is prepared to act but wants to be sure European allies will take similar steps against Russia before doing so, aides said....

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Kevin Williamson's Heart of Darkness

In honor of Kevin D. Williamson's accession from the National Review to the hallowed precincts of The Atlantic, I'm reposting what I'm pretty sure is the funniest piece I've written about him and his remarkable literary style (plus bonus Duke Ellington), from August 2014:

Papa K illustrating the "West Side" sign, possibly making a universal gesture of primate territorial challenge as well.
I just found out (via Sick Horses) that National Review has taken to running literary fiction, starting with a charming effort by its "roving correspondent" and Chancellor of the Exchequer Kevin Williamson, entitled "Where the Sidewalk Ends: Danger and Despair in Pat Quinn's Crumbling Illinois".

The story is a journey narrative, a re-imagining of a trip to East St. Louis, Illinois, as an enchanted, surreal landscape seen through a child's eyes, taking its cue, as the title makes clear, from Shel Silverstein's poem:

Friday, March 23, 2018

Brooks is Asking This Sincerely


Hannah Arendt in the US, 1944. Photo by Alamy, via The Guardian.

Dsvid F. Brooks, "Speaking As a White Man", which sounds hilarious, of course, because we all know David Brooks isn't speaking as a white man but as the raceless and genderless voice of pure reason, a kind of Ken doll of the mind (even the passionless multicentenarians of 32,000 years from now in Shaw's Back to Methusaleh are divided into He-Ancients and She-Ancients, but Brooks thinks it's so obtrusive to insist on one's gender as if you thought it might make a difference, and really not very genteel to force on other folks the possibility that you might possess a dick), just wants somebody to answer a simple question:

How much are you in control of your own opinions? I ask this sincerely because, as you’ll see, I’m trying to think this through and I’m not sure how.
No, he's not asking this sincerely because, as you'll see, it's not the question he wants to explore, he's thought it through already, and he knows exactly how he wants to approach it.

What he really wants to know is how he can stop people from insisting that they are black, or gay, or Zoroastrian, and insisting that that gives them a right to say they know something he doesn't know and challenge him, because it makes him feel bad. And his chosen way of addressing it is to complain that the blacks and gays and Zoroastrians of today, unlike those of the good old days, have adopted the belief that your opinions are entirely dependent on your identity and that nobody can have thoughts that are not black or gay or Zoroastrian or white man's thoughts and that must explain why they keep telling him to shut up.

Or something.  I'm just trying to read this through and I'm not sure how.

For the Record: Bolton Addendum

John Bolton as the proverbial boy with a hammer, by the inestimable Donkey Hotey, March 2015.

I forgot a couple: A response to somebody who thought it was funny that Senator Rand Paul opposes Bolton
And to CNN's Josh Rogin, who was concerned that Bolton was being characterized as a "neocon" which is apparently inaccurate in the terms of the intensive difference-splitting of the American right

For the Record: First Thoughts on Bolton


Another secret Muslim betrays himself with the tawhid. Photo by Dennis Cook/AP via Breitbart (I won't link them).

I mostly thought the Bolton nomination was funny at first:

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Flatulent, Infidelistic Literature

David Brooks attempts to wrestle the woolly American spirit—"Vive, the attack -- the perennial assault! Vive, the unpopular cause -- the spirit that audaciously aims -- the never-abandon'd efforts, pursued the same amid opposing proofs and precedents"—to the ground. Photo via Mommy Poppins: Get More out of Houston with Kids.

David Brooks ("What Holds America Together") muses on the Houston Rodeo:

Last week I went to Houston to see the rodeo. That rodeo is not like other rodeos. It’s gigantic. It goes for 20 days. There can be up to 185,000 people on the grounds in a single day and they are of all human types — rural ranchers, Latino families, African immigrants, drunken suburban housewives out for a night on the town.
When you are lost in that sea of varied humanity, you think: What on earth holds this nation together?
There are quite a lot of immigrants from African countries—Nigeria and Ghana, Ethiopia and Kenya, and many others—in Houston, and they certainly deserve to enjoy themselves at the rodeo, as do the drunken suburban housewives, though I hope they weren't driving. Take an Uber, girls!

I'm not sure I'd be asking myself, "What on earth holds this nation together?" But David Brooks certainly did:

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Hillary and Libya: Update

That's "Aidez-moi!" on his fingers. Image via Freaking News.

The extremely remarkable news coming out of France this week about ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy, under arrest in a grotesque illegal campaign financing case, sheds unexpected light on a question we were working on two years ago, as the presidential campaign and the calumny campaign against Hillary Clinton were intensifying, and one of the angles of the latter was the portrayal of Clinton as a bloodthirsty warmonger against peace-loving Donald J. Trump, as in this example featuring a strange pro-Trump alliance among Instapundit Glenn Reynolds, Green candidate Jill Stein, The New York Times, and young Conor:

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Coaster

The Thunderbolt, Coney Island, over the Kensington Hotel, before it was razed in 2000. Photo by Charles Denson, via New York Folklore Society.

Jordan, in comments to yesterday's post (the thread's gotten so long that I feel we have to start a new post):
It's everywhere now. Digby's got it again, and Slate, and a dozen other places. "Trump unleashed." All those people who could talk him out of things (which is a way of reading the Wolff book, at least) are now gone -- so it's not that Trump has changed ("feeling his power" etc.) but that his idiotic moves get unchallenged.
I don't know what to make of all the Republican Senators/Congresspeople (Lindsay Graham etc.) coolly assuring reporters that there's no need to create legislation to prevent Trump from firing Mueller because they're sure that could never happen.
I'm genuinely puzzled by this whole thing. It's very easy to jump at shadows right now...and there is a lot of historical precedent for this particular nervousness and confusion (and, the scare images of jumping too late in the correct direction)...but I don't trust either side of that argument right now.
"Now that I don't have any friends, look how powerful I am!"

Sadly, no, Donald. You're just crazier.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Trumps Fall Apart

Drawing by John Darkow, 1./28/16, via George H.'s Pinterest.


At the end of an anxious post Friday, Digby wrote:
Trump is getting stronger every day. Don't let the chaos fool you. 
Which is somewhat the opposite of what I've been thinking, that he's starting at last to really fall apart, which is pretty daunting. I'm diametrically disagreeing about something with Digby! A friend was shocked enough to ask about it, by email, but it's going to take me a while to get around to the point, so bear with me.

A lot of people, Digby included, think we can't know much about the official grounds for the firing of Andrew McCabe until an official report is issued—
It is certainly true that we don't know all the facts underlying the firing of Andrew McCabe. Maybe he was leaking damaging information to the press about Hillary Clinton and/or Donald Trump and then blatantly lied about it. From what we understand his crimes so far, they are much more vague than that but we'll have to wait and see. 
—but that's not quite correct. Matt Apuzzo and Adam Goldman for The New York Times seem to have found out a good deal, though they also don't seem to think it's a very important part of the story, and don't get there until paragraphs 22-23, and it turns out to be about an FBI investigation of the Clinton Foundation:

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Was Lukoil just asking for a friend?

Lukoil station in New York City, via Wikimedia Commons.

Well, this (from Danny Hakim and Matthew Rosenberg at the Times) is sort of interesting:

When the Russia question came up during a hearing at the British Parliament last month, Alexander Nix did not hesitate.
“We’ve never worked in Russia,” said Mr. Nix, head of a data consulting firm that advised the Trump campaign on targeting voters.
“As far as I’m aware, we’ve never worked for a Russian company,” Mr. Nix added. “We’ve never worked with a Russian organization in Russia or any other country, and we don’t have any relationship with Russia or Russian individuals.”
Only Nix's interrelated companies, the UK SLC Group and US Cambridge Analytica, the Robert Mercer–created "psychographic profiling" firm hired by Brad Parscale and Jared Kushner to create the in-depth picture of how Trump's message resonated around the country that dictated the candidate's travel scale in 2016, did claim that they worked in Russia in some of their promotional material (SLC says one employee did "commercial work" for a "private company" in Russia 25 years ago, but the brochure suggests that SLC has clients on its active list with the firm's elections division), and then apparently they had at least three meetings in 2014 and 2015 with executives from the privately owned but deeply government-connected Lukoil oil export firm, discussing some possible work that never got going.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Lamb Chop

Via Breath on Paper.

Steve and Drifty and Mr. Pierce have all weighed in on yesterday's Brooks, on the victory of Democratic candidate Conor Lamb in Tuesday's special congressional election in western Pennsylvania to replace the Republican anti-abortion fanatic who had to resign after it was revealed that he'd asked a girlfriend to get an abortion after getting her pregnant in the course of an adulterous affair, in which Brooks naturally explains Lamb's victory by saying that Lamb was just like Brooks, unlabeled and putting country ahead of party, with a boldly eclectic or Chinese-menu list of policy ideas left and right, where left is represented by universal healthcare, rejection of Trump's tax robbery, and passionate union support, and right by taking the same position on abortion as Mario Cuomo and Edward M. Kennedy did, the same position on assault weapons as Bernie Sanders and Kirsten Gillibrand when they were in the House, and announcing that he wouldn't vote for Nancy Pelosi, or Paul Ryan, for Speaker if he has the opportunity when the new Congress convenes in 2019, which he may not, since he'll have to run again in a redrawn district in November first (the DCCC doesn't seem to have gotten too upset over the threat, giving his campaign a million dollars).

No, it's a little more complicated than that, but not much. The man's a Democrat, with some western-Pennsylvania views I don't much like, including supporting the steel tariff (like no more than half of Republicans and a fairly large number of other Democrats) and declining to speak ill of Trump (a rule Brooks ought to like because it shows respect for those phantom WWC voters, but doesn't follow himself). I'll probably get mad at him at some point.

Brooks disagrees with practically everything he says but doesn't care because he has "character" (he's kind of crushing, to tell the truth):

Friday, March 16, 2018

Deep

Deep state: Vanuatu's underwater post office ("All you need is a deep breath and a waterproof postcard"), via Smithsonian.

The New York Times editorial page sighs with relief:

Finally, Trump Has Something Bad to Say About Russia

But that's not what it says in the fine print, I mean the editorial itself:

The West’s response to Russian aggression has usually been too little, too late, and devoid of the one voice that really matters — President Trump’s.
But at last, his administration is taking action, and Mr. Trump has spoken out, tentatively. On Thursday the Treasury Department announced it was imposing sanctions for the Kremlin’s interference in the 2016 election. Officials have denounced the poisoning of a former Russian spy in Britain and Russia’s devastating bombing missions in Syria.
"Tentatively" is putting it mildly: in his St. Patrick's press availability yesterday with the Irish prime minister, Leo Varadkar, later in the morning after the Treasury department issued its announcement, he answered one question:

Because We're So Stupid: Mystery Maybe Solved


"Whaddaya mean they make cars in Canada? Where, for Christ's sake?" Image via Greenpeace.

I think I may have a fix on what happened (as discussed in yesterday's post, and thanks to a comment from Professor Fate) when Trump was enjoying himself telling the Missouri Republicans how he makes shit up the other day, if you bear with me for a minute here, starting with the fact that he's told the story about his brilliant defeat of Prime Minister Trudeau before, notably at the Pensacola rally in support of Roy Moore, December 8, via Toronto Globe and Mail:
"I like the prime minister very much. Prime Minister Trudeau. Nice guy. Good guy. No, I like him. But we had a meeting... He said, 'No, no, you have a trade surplus.' I said, 'No we don't.' He said, 'No, no you have a trade surplus,"' Trump told the Florida crowd.
"(Trudeau) said, 'I'm telling you that Canada has a deficit with the United States.' I told my people – in front of a lot of people – I said, 'Go out and check'."
He said his staff found Trudeau left out some key details, pertaining to trade in goods: "(Trudeau) was right. Except he forgot two categories: Lumber timber; and energy. Other than that, he was right. When you add them all together, we actually have a $17-billion deficit with Canada."

Literary Corner: Because We're So Stupid

Update here.
After blanking on the name “Canada”, U.S. President Donald Trump was overheard referring to Justin Trudeau as the “leader of the igloo people”, as the two met for crunch talks. The incident occurred during the President’s sit down meeting with the Prime Minister in the Oval Office. While Trump was commenting on how “great” the PM was, he paused mid sentence at: “And you’re honestly a terrific leader of…” Unaware that his microphone was on, or that everyone else in the room could easily hear him, Mr. Trump leaned over to his advisor Kellyanne Conway and whispered: “Ah, what do they call themselves again, those people,” Trump said while discreetly pointing upwards. “You know, up there where it’s cold,” he added, snapping his fingers. Before an alarmed looking Conway could respond, Trump bluttered, “the igloo people, is that it? He’s the leader of the igloo people, right?” (Satire, I should say, from the Burrard Street Journal. Photo by Carlos Barria/Reuters.)


I hate to tell you all, but she's almost right. Lying, but only over one nonsensical detail. Trump is not exactly making that up in his fundraiser speech for senatorial candidate Josh Hawley in St. Louis on Wednesday . Or he is, but he isn't lying: he's creating; he's not trying to tell his audience what happened as much as giving them the drama of how it felt. He's messing it up in a very odd way, too, but that's another matter. There's just one real lie in his account, which Sarah is lying about in turn in a more calculated and yet brazen way. But Trump is like Herodotus, giving you the sting and the rush of it:

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

It's the principal of the thing

Good budgeting makes good schools in Chicago as elsewhere, and everybody knows it, even the Republicans complaining about Rahm Emanuel while the Democrats complain about Bruce Rauner. They just want somebody else to supply the money. Photo via Illinois Review.

Sorry about the headline, but yesterday's Brooks ("Good Leaders Make Good Schools") really kind of forces my hand, because it turns out that principals are the thing that will bring on the Brooksian social transformation:

When you learn about successful principals, you keep coming back to the character traits they embody and spread: energy, trustworthiness, honesty, optimism, determination. We went through a period when we believed you could change institutions without first changing the character of the people in them. But we were wrong. Social transformation follows personal transformation.
All "we" have to do is change the character of "our" principals, making them energetic, trustworthy, honest, optimistic, and determined, and "we" will change everything. This is simple. We'll send them to principal reeducation camps. (Actually we have something like that in New York City, but Brooks is all on about Chicago for some reason.)

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

KAG! Redux

What KAG! really means.


Just to note while I'm up: I called Trump's new campaign slogan, "Keep America Great", or "KAG!", over a month ago. Watch this space!


For the Record: Bannon Song

Hotel Tweet Tweet Nest in Pattaya, Thailand. Via.


That last line really should have read
When you realize that
 I'm a filthy (((globalist))). 
And odds and ends and some Dinesh below the fold:

Monday, March 12, 2018

Protecting Our Elections

William Franklin, governor of New Jersey 1763-76. Spent infinitely more on street repairs in Trenton than he did on protecting his state from invading British troops. That's because he was on their side. The Revolution wasn't a war between Englishmen and Americans, it was a war between Tories and Whigs. Portrait attributed to Mather Brown, 1790, via Wikipedia.


This language is really starting to give me an abreaction; I mean, not from Martin in particular, everybody uses it, I'm sure I've used it myself, but the rhetoric of nation-to-nation war, of Russia and America, and they attacked our country, misses to me the essential point that this is a partisan contest, not a national one, a series of attacks by the forces of reaction on the forces of liberality, not Russia against America (and Britain and France and Germany and Denmark and Ukraine and Georgia and Albania, please read this new story, and even a bit Italy) but Putin's international party of local chauvinism, fear, and hierarchy of the strong over the weak against our international party, in the broadest sense, of cosmopolitanism, hope, and liberty-equality-fraternity, going beyond local party, as in the UK where the Brexit issue transcended those groupings, but not necessarily: in the US it was an attack on Democrats, and it wasn't an attack on Republicans. Once the Republicans had chosen their candidate, it was an attack on their behalf.

Republicans and Putinists are allies now. They share the vision of a society in which the traditionally strong—the white and wealthy, the male, the publicly pious—monopolize the power, keeping the masses hypnotized with the theater of nations, flags, parades, and xenophobia. Republicans benefited from the Russian state's interference in our elections. All this is true even if the collusion story isn't true. Why should they spend money protecting the elections from that?

I mean obviously Republicans can prove me wrong on this. They can impeach Trump, for instance; refusal to implement sanctions overwhelmingly passed by the Congress in flagrant violation of Article II section 3 or, even more, to give the NSA and Cyber Command authority to act against Russian hacking operations are perfectly good grounds. Asked by Swedish reporters last week what he was going to do about it, Trump said,
Certainly there was meddling. Probably there was meddling from other countries.... I think you have to be really watching very closely. We won't allow that to happen. We're doing a very, very deep study and we're coming out with, I think, some very strong suggestions on the '18 election.
The impersonal verb ("there was"), the gratuitous everybody-does-it reference to other countries, and the "very, very deep" all mean nothing is going to be done. It's 2018 already. We've seen our first primaries. Impeach him, Republicans!

When they do, I promise I'll take it all back.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Brooxplaining: Postscript

Riotous students, 15th century Paris?, via Times Higher Education.


Following up on yesterday's Brooks, from a Reddit thread on "self-authoring" exponent and Canadian psychology professor Jordan Peterson:



The freedom of speech we're talking about here isn't freedom of speech but freedom of business:
Peterson's freedom to take home $30,000 and more for an easy afternoon's work, which the angry emotions of a bunch of scraggy college students should not be permitted to interfere with. I'll bet he could do 20 of these a year, netting up to a million dollars in addition to his book royalties. Campus speech should be regulated not in terms of the First Amendment but the interstate commerce clause.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Wilbur is Some Pig



Andy Warhol, 1962, Museum of Modern Art,  New York.


Haunted by NPR's interview with commerce secretary Wilbur Ross the other day, and a particular detail of the conversation
RACHEL MARTIN: All right. Well, we spoke to Glenn Hubbard yesterday on the program. He chaired the Council of Economic Advisers under President George W. Bush. He helped craft steel tariffs against China back in 2002. And he says they did not work. Let's listen to this.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)
GLENN HUBBARD: While you do gain jobs and incomes in protected industries, you lose more in others. You know, it's not just makers of steel and aluminum. Steel and aluminum are inputs into cars, into cans, into metal that we use. And consumers are worse off, and people don't see that.
MARTIN: As you know, prices are going to go up for these products that contain steel. So the American consumer will lose in the end.
WILBUR ROSS: That's not the case at all. Let me give you, again, the actual numbers, not theoretical hypotheses. On a can of soup, on a can of beer, on a can of soda, the total impact of the increase in metal costs will be less than one-half of one cent. A fraction of one cent is not going to change life.
No love for Hubbard, who kind of blew that with the focus on consumer prices instead of job loss, but he's an exemplar of scientific probity next to Ross.

In particular, I can't get over the unhesitating prevarication when Ross equates Hubbard's experience of being centrally involved in an imposition of steel tariffs which failed with "theoretical hypotheses", and his own prop of a soup can purchased for him by some underling (he pretended he'd bought it himself, an 80-year-old near-billionaire in a bodega someplace) with "the actual numbers" even though the Trump program hasn't been implemented (or even drawn up) yet so that there certainly are no actual numbers! What a committed fraud.

Brooxplaining

Eugène Ionesco, Rhinoceros, from a 2014 production by the Idiopathic Ridiculopathy Consortium of Philadelphia.

A funny thing happened to David Brooks on his voyage last month into the heart of Millenniality: he sapped himself with a blackjack, stole all his money, and left himself for dead in a gutter ("Understanding Student Mobbists").

Or, putting it another way, when he went on his
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
he apparently forgot to ask them the stuff he really wanted to know, or was too shy, and decided that the best expedient was to make up his own answers. He literally admits to this fabrication:

Friday, March 9, 2018

The Fire-and-Fury Next Time

Carl von Clausewitz, via ZenPundit.

As I've been arguing, the best thing that could have happened in the North Korea issue was that South Korea should take command of the diplomatic process, and this has happened in more spectacular form than I could have imagined, with intrepid South Korean negotiators wangling Kim Jong-un into inviting Donald Trump to hang out some time in the spring and Trump into accepting.

Congratulations President Moon Jae-in and people of the Republic of Korea, delivered, at least for what's probably quite a long moment, from the threat of devastating war! And shame on the US press for continuing not to notice them, and the real responsibility for this achievement, from Moon's New Year démarche inviting a DPRK delegation to the Pyeongchang Olympics and persuading the US to postpone the annual ROK-US military exercises, to South Korea's national security adviser Chung Eui-yong getting the invitation from Kim on Monday, passing it to our dotard emperor yesterday, and managing, as they say, to be the last person to talk to him and get the word out to the press before some courtier had a chance to change his mind, although that seems to have been Trump's own idea, as if he was afraid any delay at all might break this moment of lucidity:

Thursday, March 8, 2018

One Billion Dollars

From March 2017, via The Wrap.

Trump over the weekend, as reported by The Hill, seemed to be letting an awfully big cat out of his bag:
President Trump said late Saturday that North Korea must “denuke” before any talks with the U.S.
“Now we are talking and they ... called up a couple of days ago. They said that ‘we would like to talk.’ And I said, ‘So would we, but you have to denuke, you have to denuke,’ ” Trump said at the annual Gridiron Club dinner in Washington, D.C., Reuters reported.
“We will be meeting and we’ll see if anything positive happens,” he said.
“I won’t rule out direct talks with [North Korean leader] Kim Jong Un. I just won’t.”
He took a phone call from North Koreans? They discussed entering formal talks and he made a proposal? Actually no, it seems this did not happen. As explained by an unnamed National Security Council official and confirmed by the White House and noted in Newsweek, the president misspoke:

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Cillizza's New Fashion Sense

Drawing by Red Cheeks Factory.

Re Chris Cillizza's essay, "Donald Trump is producing the greatest reality show ever", and the outraged response from Soledad O'Brien, formerly of CNN:


I'm kind of baffled by the audience members talking about how O'Brien has "destroyed" or "totally owned" Cillizza in this argument—unless she's speaking in defense of the reality show industry, seriously maligned by a comparison to an operation as ill-scripted, aesthetically disastrous, and unprofitable as the Trump White House seems to be.

Personally I think this is the best writing I've ever seen from Cillizza, with that signature breathlessness, but really well observed and tight:

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

General Priapic Lewdness

From a profile of Silvio Berlusconi from 2009, actually, by our new friend Michael Wolff for Vanity Fair. Illustration by Darrow.

David F. Brooks ("The Chaos After Trump") is suggesting we take a look at the Italian election results for clues as to what's going to happen to the US after the Trumpery goes away, presumably because Trump is the same person as Silvio Berlusconi:

What happens to American politics after Donald Trump? Do we snap back to normal or do things spin ever more widely out of control?
The best indicator we have so far is the example of Italy since the reign of Silvio Berlusconi. And the main lesson there is that once the norms of acceptable behavior are violated and once the institutions of government are weakened, it is very hard to re-establish them. Instead, you get this cycle of ever more extreme behavior, as politicians compete to be the most radical outsider. The political center collapses, the normal left/right political categories cease to apply and you see the rise of strange new political groups that are crazier than anything you could have imagined before.
Which is as good an opportunity as any to note that Trump is not, in fact, the same person as Silvio  Berlusconi. Berlusconi is, for one thing, extremely rich—his family ranks fifth on the Forbes list for Italy, with assets of $7 billion—though not as rich as he was when he was prime minister, when he often ranked first, because he was very good at using his political situation (originally as friend of the "Socialist" prime minister Bettino Craxi, later as "center-right" prime minister himself) to build up his fortune (it's incredible what small-ball Trump plays in this respect, with his tummler act at Mar-a-Lago and selling of presidential seal tchotchkes—no, I don't believe he's a billionaire). He fathered a media empire (Trump was begotten by one). He managed to avoid getting convicted for any of his crimes until he was too old to go to jail, by Italian law, which was clearly a major goal of his political career. He has surrounded himself at certain times of his life with a kind of harem of lovely young women ready to satisfy his every whim. He never felt a need to call up the newspapers to assure the public that his potency was undiminished, as Trump has done since he was in his forties. He's still beautifully dressed, slim, and cheerful at 81. His hair looks real, though I'm sure it isn't.

Berlusconi has been a shameless crook, deeply dishonest politician, bad prime minister, and monstrous narcissist, but never less than competent in his chosen way of life. Berlusconi is who Trump tries unsuccessfully to play on TV.  Berlusconi is who Trump is in his dreams.