Monday, April 30, 2018

Breitbart Fail

Stockholm street food, via.

Well, wait a minute. In what context? Failed how? What do they want to do about it??

I thought I'd go straight to the report of this survey (28,000 respondents from all 28 EU countries, held October 2017), just issued by the European Commission, instead of giving Breitbart a click, and quickly started seeing a story in which that's not the headline.

For example, the first thing you notice is that the number of people who are worried about it is in steep decline: those who list immigration as the most important issue facing the EU are down to 39% from a peak of 58% in fall 2015. That's higher than it would be if people were adequately informed, but they aren't in their own view—

For the record: Happy birthday Uncle Karl!

In 1861, via Wikipedia.

The old boy's turning 200 in a few days (May 5), and this guy called Jason Barker, who has written a piece of historical fiction in which Marx is the protagonist, got an op-ed in the Times to celebrate:

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Comedy

"Mother Nature is a woman because she’s trying to kill us in the most passive aggressive way possible. She’s like, ‘What? I raised the temperature a little. Maybe I wouldn’t have if you had taken out the recycling like I asked.’”

OK, so I love Michelle Wolf. Let's just come right out and say it. I think she's the best thing on the current iteration of the Daily Show—I like the whole thing fine, and I'm especially fond of Roy Wood Jr., but I think Michelle Wolf is truly gifted, funny, and original, deeply daring on subjects of sex and race, with a range from Gracie Allen ditzy to Stephen Colbert brutal, sometimes within the compass of a single clause, and always with that that Pennsylvania bray and  lunatic smile, like an overmedicated ten-year-old narrating the school pageant.



So in the first place I can't imagine why the White House Correspondents' Association offered her the gig at all, if only because she's so unpredictable. This is somebody who can start off sounding scholarly, though silly, on the Second Amendment, and veer into what seems like an approbation of "slave sex" before you know it. Did they watch any of her work? Or did they just Google "woman under 40 because #MeToo", the way Jared Kushner discovered Trump's expert on the China trade, the unspeakable Peter Navarro?

So if you think the routine wasn't her best work, I'm OK with that. I really think she's at her best in short bits with a straight man like Trevor, and I think she was creatively inhibited by the rigorous form of the thing, with its mandatory one-liners for each of 40 or 50 of the more famous guests.

Colbert in 2006 managed to break that thing, in a way that can never be repeated. Just watched it again for the first time in quite a while, and found myself unexpectedly very moved at the bit toward the end in his "audition tape" for the press secretary's job, where the late Helen Thomas chases him out of the White House demanding to be told why the US invaded Iraq. That's surely one of the greatest pieces of television in the history of the technology. But just don't blame Michelle Wolf, OK?



Is the United States Necessary?

With all respect, don't see why they expect me to think this picture represents something real.

I don't know why I let it happen, but I keep getting enraged by the emerging consensus that Emperor Trump did something positive to bring about whatever is going on on the Korean peninsula, from the wingnuts calling for him to be given the Nobel Peace Prize right away (don't wait for the Norwegians to do it, just steal Obama's and give him that one) to Mr. Magisterial David Sanger offering his balanced appraisal to readers of The New York Times:
President Trump insists that his own actions are responsible, that his threats of “fire and fury” and, more important, his intensified sanctions, forced Mr. Kim to this moment. He is partly right: Mr. Trump has shown an energy in confronting North Korea that President Barack Obama never did.
But disarmament experts who watched the Korean leaders meet in the DMZ agreed that Mr. Kim had been driving the events.
"Shown" being the operative word there: Obama certainly didn't tweet threats of nuclear war or offensive nicknames to the wider public. He did what he did quietly, without checking with David Sanger first, and Sanger still can't forgive him for that. He prefers a White House like that of George W. Bush or the current occupant flooding the press with 50 or 60 lies a day to one that puts him on a low-calorie diet of truth, in modest quantities.

But it isn't even the implied insult to Obama that bothers me: it is, once again, the continuing inability to recognize that South Korea has anything to do with it, or even exists.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

For the Record: Psychopathy

Via obviously psychopathic expert guy.

I felt we got somewhere interesting in the following:




As it happens, I ran across something relevant in an old thing, from The New York Times's David Sanger, from November 2016, on Trump's campaign interview with Haberman and Sanger the previous March:

To Mr. Trump, the Iran deal was not only misguided, but also badly negotiated. “They should’ve walked,” he said of Secretary of State John Kerry and his negotiating team. Mr. Trump said he would have left the negotiating room, doubled down on sanctions, and never agreed to give back billions of dollars, money that belonged to Iran and was frozen in American financial institutions.
But when pressed, he struggled to name any part of the deal he would have walked out of the negotiations to alter. With some prompting, he finally settled on a common critique: that after 15 years, Iran will be free to enrich uranium and reprocess plutonium again, in any quantity.
(My bold.) That's so Trumpy. He's got the crowd-pleasing condemnation of the JCPOA, which he's going to stick to, but no knowledge of what the JCPOA is or what it's supposed to accomplish to explain what it is he objects to, and he gets Sanger and Haberman to feed him a reasonable-sounding answer, giving Sanger a quote he's still working six or seven months later.  Not cunning enough that Sanger doesn't notice it, but enough that Sanger will just hint at it, with Church-of-the-Savvy obliqueness, not risking his access.


Friday, April 27, 2018

Literary Corner: I have a phony cloud over my head that doesn't exist


Mainstream media are concerned, inevitably, by the eccentricities of President Trump's call-in to the Fox & Friends show yesterday morning, in which he seemed to be growing more and more out of control as the half-hour wore on, and Doocy, Earhardt, and Kilmeade looked increasingly alarmed, until he finally began complaining, "I have a phony cloud over my head that doesn't exist."

Upon which they decided they'd better get him off the line, eventually shoving him away a little brutally when he didn't get the message ("We could talk to you all day but it looks like you have a million things to do") and Trump was able to hang up, turn his own TV back on, and crawl under the covers.
But here at Rectification Central we have another way of looking at it, of course, taking its point of departure with the form of what Trump says, as in the bit two thirds of the way in or so after he's moved on from North Korea and "Sleepy Eyes" Chuck Todd to the discussion of CNN and its "council of seven people and of the seven people every one of them is against me," and this startling exchange:

Thursday, April 26, 2018

The Silence of Kevin Williamson

Effie Deans, by John Everett Miilais. Lillie Langtry is said to have been the model. Via RubyLane.

Anti-abortion freak Kevin D. Williamson continued today to be silenced (in Lemieux's conception) by the thought hegemony of the international cultural Marxist left. This morning he was silenced in a full-length column in the Washington Post, "The Punishment I Favor for Abortion", in which he suggests that he's finally going to tell us whether or not he thinks women who have abortions should be executed by hanging, as would have happened to poor Effie Deans in the Edinburgh Tolbooth Prison in Walter Scott's The Heart of Midlothian (1818), if her brave sister Jeanie hadn't walked clear from Dumfriesshire to London to beg the queen for her life (though Effie was charged not with abortion, which wasn't covered by criminal law in Scotland in the 1720s or anywhere else, but with killing her newborn, and indeed turned out to be innocent of that as well, somewhat to her own surprise).

Which was a question of some suspense, for Williamson followers (see Roy), because he's been teasing us for a while now, not saying anything about it in the piece Wall Street Journal published when he was being silenced over there last Friday, refusing to tell Ed Kilgore of New York Magazine unless New York agreed to publish his essay on the subject, which he explained to us this week when he was silenced at The Weekly Standard:

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Stressed

Mosaic, Villa Romana del Casale. via Historia Magazine

Weird from Marc Thiessen at Wapo in defense of Ronny Jackson's nomination as head of the Veterans Admimistration, starting off with a headline that really sounds like something that might mean something—
VA doesn’t need a manager. It needs a leader.
Until you ask yourself, well,  this guy certainly doesn't seem to be a manager, but, um, wait maybe it does need a manager.

Of course Thiessen seems to have been writing when this story was at a fairly early stage in its evolution,
Jackson’s nomination hearing has been postponed because of last-minute allegations that he created a “hostile work environment.”
before we started hearing about the misbehavior on overseas trips with President Obama, and the passing out of Percosets and writing prescriptions for himself, and the hostile working atmosphere turning out to be on the Game of Thrones model,
‘flat-out unethical,’ ‘explosive,’ ‘100 percent bad temper,’ ‘toxic,’ ‘abusive,’ ‘volatile,’ ‘incapable of not losing his temper,’ ‘the worst officer I have ever served with,’ ‘despicable,’ ‘dishonest,’ as having ‘screaming tantrums’ and “screaming fits,’ as someone who would ‘lose his mind over small things,’ ‘vindictive,’ ‘belittling,’ ‘the worse [sic] leader I’ve ever worked for.’
or he might at least have devoted some time to suggesting the stories might be fictional.

But I think he goes wrong in a somewhat less silly way here:

Cheap shots


I got nothing but this junk going on. There's a slightly new Dinesh angle at the bottom.




Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Muddling

From the I Naibi Tarot deck of Giovanni Vecchetta, 1893.
Here's another big idea about what's going on since the 2016 election, and how it ends, from Dylan Matthews at Vox: that it doesn't end, or not in any satisfying way: maybe we get rid of Trump relatively soon, that is, and maybe we don't, but the dysfunctionality of our poor old model of government, the lameness of it, isn't going away any time soon. There's not a happy ending, or a cathartic ending, or a redemptive ending. The lovers' misunderstanding won't be resolved, the wicked will mostly remain unpunished, no new king will show up out of exile.

There's no reason to think Adam Davidson is wrong, particularly, in contending that the Trumpery itself has come to the top of the wheel of Fortune and has begun its inevitable trajectory to death. There's no special reason, in Matthews's view, to think he's right, either, or, at least, to think it's such a crucial question:

Monday, April 23, 2018

Jew know what I mean?

12th-century German painting of two Jews for which I'm not finding a helpful source. Is the one on the right a little on the sleepy-eyed side?

I don't know if everybody's heard about the theory that Trump calling an NBC newscaster "Sleepy-Eyed Chuck Todd" is an anti-Semitic slur. Like a lot of people, I'd never heard of such a thing, but this thread from Stonekettle (who had also never heard of such a thing) made me take it seriously:

Dinesh D'Souza, of course, didn't believe a word of it. Show me some evidence! I couldn't resist the challenge and gave it about five minutes of Dr. Google:

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Literary Corner: Ring Around the Comeys

Kurt Schwitters, Blauer Vogel (Blue Bird), ca.1922, Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Murray A. Gribin, Beverly Hills, CA, via Arftchive.

Donald Trump is really a spoken word artist, with the flash and spontaneity that implies, and one almost always feels in his written work a certain stylistic cramping, an inhibition, an overworked quality (you even see this in the time stamps, which allow you to calculate the time he's taken to compose his 280 characters, often 30 or 40 minutes apiece even when they're in a tight sequence, even, as in the first piece below, broken in the middle of an adjective phrase), but once in a while, as we've seen before, a fresh emotion lifts his tweet into lyricality, and this seems to have happened last week with the arrival in bookstores of James Comey's A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership, with its narrative of Trump attempting to get the FBI director to halt investigations of Trump's friends, divulge the secret of whether Trump himself was under investigation, or simply swear personal fealty to the president, and Comey's presence all over the television ably defending his motivations (though not so able when it came to explaining why he had twice, at critical moments of the campaign, divulged secret information about the Bureau's pointless ongoing investigation of Hillary Clinton).

Or maybe it was just spring in the air. These new songs have a peculiar lightness, skippy, almost like children's rhymes, except for not rhyming. Below the fold:

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Act of Contrition

Courtesan Confessional by Aurora Maryte/Deviant Art.


Amy Chozick of The New York Times promoting her about-to-appear memoir of life on the Hillary Clinton beat since 2008 (WSJ, and the Times from 2013), Chasing Hillary: Ten Years, Two Presidential Campaigns, and One Intact Glass Ceiling, with a book excerpt that includes an unexpected confession:

The Bernie Bros and Mr. Trump’s Twitter trolls had called me a donkey-faced whore and a Hillary shill, but nothing hurt worse than my own colleagues calling me a de facto instrument of Russian intelligence. The worst part was, they were right.
Note the trivial inaccuracy (it was "donkey-faced cunt") and slipped-in bothsiderism (suggesting her reporting must have been fair, since Hillary had some opponents who hated it as much as her supporters did). Still and all, she seems to be the first reporter from the big show to acknowledge playing a role in electing Donald Trump to the presidency through a series of journalistic failures, and that's pretty brave, right?

Nah. The only thing she pleads guilty to is spending too much time writing stories about pirated emails in the Trump-Clinton campaign, in which, as she carefully points out, she was not alone: "Every publication," she says, quoting Eric Lipton, David Sanger, and Scott Shane in the December postmortem, "including The Times, published multiple stories citing the D.N.C. and Podesta emails posted by WikiLeaks, becoming a de facto instrument of Russian intelligence." Though her own contribution (six stories and a blog post) to the stampede was not exactly small.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Pompey the Great

Gnaeus Pompeius Magnius, by Tom Rutjens/Deviant Art.

Noah Rothman of Commentary yesterday morning, explaining to NPR why Mike Pompeo is qualified to be secretary of state, makes some very peculiar arguments:
ROTHMAN: Well, among them being that he was just in North Korea conducting a very high-level diplomatic mission. To the extent that he has been acting as a diplomatic ambassador now - and this was apparently leaked to convey to the press and to Democrats that he is essentially functioning as a diplomat...
GREENE: You're saying leaked to the - you're saying the White House wanted this out there so - to try and convince Democrats about his credentials.
ROTHMAN: Oh, we've learned yesterday that that was apparently the case. And it was a very smart move. It established his...
GREENE: But isn't that just one trip? Isn't that just one trip?
ROTHMAN: Well, yeah, but it's one very effective trip, apparently.
It is just one trip and we have no way of judging how effective it was, other than what the White House says, which is what this White House always says, that everything they do is totally great and making America great again only they can't tell you in just what respect.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Groomin'

Male chimps grooming (da da da da) on a Sunday afternoon, Via Cooler Insights.

David Brooks ("The Blindness of Social Wealth") begins with a story from Robert E. Hall's This Land of Strangers: The Relationship Crisis That Imperils Home, Work, Politics, and Faith (2012) illustrating how you can you take a concept of "social wealth", understood here as a kind of capital of human relationships, as literal wealth, money in the bank, that you may be able to draw on in a tight financial spot, a share in a company you thought went bankrupt long ago and that turns out to be thriving:
Bob Hall was a rancher. In 1936, in the midst of the Depression, he was suffering from a cancer that was eating the flesh on the side of his face. His ranch had dwindled to nearly nothing, and weeks after bankers took the last of his livestock, Hall died, leaving his family deeply in debt.
His sons pleaded with anybody they could find to make a loan and save the family ranch. No one would do it. Finally, in desperation, they went to their neighbor, Buzz Newton, who was known for his miserliness, and asked him to co-sign a loan. “I always thought so much of your dad; he was the most generous man I have known,” Newton answered. “Yes, I’ll co-sign the note.”
Bob Hall’s grandson, also named Robert Hall, drew out the lesson in his book “This Land of Strangers,” noting: “The truth is, relationships are the most valuable and value-creating resource of any society. They are our lifelines to survive, grow and thrive.”
Which seems like a dubious moral to me; old Bob Hall had saved the ranch for his children not by the strategic investment in relationships but by heedlessly befriending anybody at all—all the decent people he'd been friends with turned the kids down. It was the least likely friend who came through, like the little man in the forest in the old fairy tales who gives the simple-minded third brother woodcutter a treasure in exchange for a charitably offered sandwich. Old Bob Hall wasn't a capitalist of friendship, he was a nice guy.

Guess who just found out the Korean War isn't over yet?

In the Demilitarized Zone,via CNN; can't find a name for the bird.

Yesterday's story in The Times:

But analysts said South Korea was aiming for a comprehensive deal, in which the North agreed to give up its weapons in return for a security guarantee, including a peace treaty. Mr. Trump’s comments suggested he backed that effort.
“They do have my blessing to discuss the end of the war,” he said. “People don’t realize that the Korean War has not ended. It’s going on right now. And they are discussing an end to war. Subject to a deal, they have my blessing.”
You know what he means when he says, "People don't realize". That's what he always says when he's gobsmacked by some revelation, like Lincoln having been a Republican

I'm not going to lie, I'm feeling pretty pleased with myself for prognostications since at least January as to what was going on from the "my button is bigger than your button" tweet through the Winter Olympics, which is that the South Korean government has realized that Trump's ignorance and mercuriality mean it can take over the 64-year-old peace process from the AWOL United States. Which may not be the way it looks to you, with these crazy events in which somebody with no more official status than Dennis Rodman, in between jobs as Director of Central Intelligence and Secretary of State (if he can get confirmed by the Senate, which has been looking very iffy), travels to negotiate with the Cute Leader or whatever they're calling him to arrange a meeting for him with Emperor Bigbutton. You may think that the US is not merely actively engaged but hyperactively engaged.

But that's my point, really: hyperactivity isn't coherently directed at anything. Trump doesn't know whether he wants a war or wants peace, or care, as long as he's acclaimed the winner of whatever it turns out to be. He's not in charge, and President Moon Jae-in is.

The news today that DPRK and ROK truly are talking about a peace treaty is just astonishing, though, and I'm not even sure what to think. The upshot may not turn out exactly the way Pompeo expects, but it sounds like progress from here for the moment.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

End Stage Addendum: But How?

Game Plan Template.

Because not everybody agrees with Adam Davidson (as I am inclined to do), for example, Jim Newell protesting at Slate:
Please Stop Predicting the End of Trump’s Presidency (Unless you can explain exactly how he gets impeached or why he resigns).
First, the meaning of "end stage": It doesn't mean it ends before cockcrow or in a few weeks or in less than a year or any particular time frame, at least not directly; as Davidson says,
We don’t know when. We don’t know the precise path the next few months will take. There will be resistance and denial and counterattacks. But it seems likely that, when we look back on this week, we will see it as a turning point.
It means, like the end stage of a disease, that there is no longer any doubt of the outcome, though our guess as to when exactly it ends could be way off the mark. Some stage 4 cancer patients, given six months by the doctors, go on for years, others collapse and expire before they've even absorbed the prognosis. The presidency will not die of natural causes unless the president does, from too much ice cream, but it can now be called terminal, and it will not survive to November 2020. How long it lasts is dependent on a number of factors, but I think the main thing is how long it takes the Republicans to realize it has to happen, presumably by summer 2019, before the presidential campaigning gets seriously under way.

End Stage

Drawing by Mike Luckovitch, New Yorker, 3 November 2008, via Boston.com.

So which is it? Have we entered at last, with the FBI raid on Michael Cohen's various document stashes, on the "End Stage" of the Trump presidency already, as Adam Davidson has just proclaimed in The New Yorker? Or is this just another illusory moment, as Steve M suggests, where we're thinking, surely the conservatives are going to realize now what kind of schmuck they've elected to the presidency while the voters themselves are going to say, with Greg Gutfield,
when America hears Comey whine that Trump is like a Mafia boss, they go, "No shit, Sherlock. That's why we like him." ... He may be a Mafia boss, but he's our Mafia boss.
I think—for one thing—I think they're writing about different things.

Davidson's piece is really interesting, backed up with some reporting memories, of the Iraq War, when the American masses eventually began to realize what an imposture the whole project was, and shortly thereafter the mortgage crisis, when it turned out that

Monday, April 16, 2018

Hurry Spring




Anne-Sophie Mutter, Beethoven sonata no. 5 op. 24, "Spring", with Lambert Orkis, piano.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

West of Eden: Mission Accomplished

Mission Accomplished banner, Arrested Development, via Arrested Development Wiki.
Screenshot just in case somebody tells Trump what he just did and the thing gets deleted. 
George W, in an undisclosed location, chuckles, remembering he's not the worst president in US history any more.

Meanwhile, special thanks from most of the world to Defense Secretary James Mattis and, I think, President Emmanuel Macron for satisfying our emperor's need to display his manly firmness and compassion at so little cost, taking no lives (apparently no casualties at all among Syrian troops or civilians, though hardly anybody seems to be asking, thanks BBC), and not making the Syrian situation markedly worse than it was before. Maybe even making it a little better, if it's true that facilities for making chemical weapons have really been damaged or destroyed.

I really do think there's something brilliant about Macron and the ability he's shown to mediate the behavior of the two emperors, Putin and Trump, with whom he's cultivated something like friendship, and I'm sure he deserves some credit for talking Trump down from demanding more war.

It was a scary moment last night when Trump (or the text written for him) suggested this might be the start of something big—

Friday, April 13, 2018

Intellectual Bubble

Grouchy old Tom Hobbes and smooth-talking John Locke in a quiet, conservative moment. Horse Feathers.

Le tout-Washington is talking about a new book, James Comey's memoir of the events leading up to his firing as FBI director (A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership), so David F. Brooks is talking literature as well, seeing "A Renaissance on the Right": "all the political turmoil is creating a burst of intellectual creativity on the right" in which "Young, fresh writers are bursting on the scene" (getting stuck using the word "burst" twice in a space of 13 words gives you an idea of how fresh David Brooks is) such as Charles C.W. ("Cromulent Whiskers") Cooke, Mollie Hemingway, and James Poulos among other even younger and fresher names I'm not so familiar with, but the youngest and freshest of all is our old friend Jonah Goldberg, entering the field with his own immensely subtitled new book, Suicide of the West: How the Rebirth of Tribalism, Populism, Nationalism, and Identity Politics is Destroying American Democracy, which might sound better in the original German (Selbstmord des Abendlandes).

Which I'm not likely to be reading any time soon, after the disclaimer with which it begins—

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Are you there, God? It's me, Ross.

Via St. Thomas More Catholic Church and Parish School, Houston, a St. Thomas that actually looks a little like Ross Douthat.

Or maybe the Blessed Virgin, but definitely requesting a miracle ("Why Not Mike Pence?"):
DOUTHAT: Ora pro nobis peccatoribus, nunc et in hora mortis nostrae, amen. And soften the hearts of the Republican caucus in the House, and let them impeach the Trump, for that is seriously a good idea to make Pence president before the midterms, if you can swing it. If they'd managed to convict Bill Clinton in 1998, see, and Gore had been president going into the 2000 election, he would have won, and...
B.V.M.: He did win. St. Thomas More intervened to stop the recount. I told him to leave it alone, but that man never listens to anybody.
DOUTHAT: Oh, yeah, well... Pence probably needs a bigger miracle than Bush did, because he has to get nominated in the first place.
So that's the general idea: there's old Pence, the exact sort of guy all those white evangelical men of virtue think of themselves as being, bland as a boiled potato and as fanatical under the blandness as his talk radio background could make him, positioned to become president without even having to go to the trouble of getting elected, if only the Republicans could make up their minds to do it.

The interesting part is that Douthat, the smartest of our rightwing columnists, as I've always said, though not the least dishonest, seems to have become the first to broach the possibility that the orange asshat could be guilty of something; putting it with the most extreme delicacy—

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Fail

Billie Burke in George Cukor's Dinner At Eight (1933).

David F. Brooks feels that "we" have failed ("The Failures of Anti-Trumpism"):
WACO, Tex. — Over the past year, those of us in the anti-Trump camp have churned out billions of words critiquing the president. The point of this work is to expose the harm President Trump is doing, weaken his support and prevent him from doing worse. And by that standard, the anti-Trump movement is a failure.
We have persuaded no one. Trump’s approval rating is around 40 percent, which is basically unchanged from where it’s been all along.
Not for the first time, I find myself wondering, "What do you mean 'we', white man?" In the sense, I mean, that nobody toiling in my vineyard is hoping to "weaken Trump's support" and persuade his approval ratings down. Especially not by exposing the harm he's doing. Exposing the harm he's doing just gets them mad. The only thing that's going to get them to stop supporting him—and it will come, I believe, sooner or later, as it came with George W. Bush—will be when he's exposed as not tough. And only circumstance will persuade them of that, not anything I can say.

No, the job from our point of view is to strengthen those who oppose the president, who have been an absolute majority of the population in the poll aggregates I look at without a break since 15 March 2017 (and rising most of this month with disapproval currently at 54.1%), and make sure those suckers vote this year.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

For the Record: That's Settled


That's a cruel Photoshop; the original is below:

And this was fun:


And below the fold, some more Dinesh fail.

For the Record: Trump's Very Bad Day



And in case you didn't get a chance to notice,
I didn't realize that was still pending in any way. "Your so-called lawyer got his office, apartment, and the hotel room he was staying in while his apartment was getting renoavated all raided by FBI agents looking for evidence of crimes of illegal campaign finance contributions, wire fraud, bank fraud, and by the way you need to write a check for $25 million to pay off all those people you defrauded back in 2010. Have another cheeseburger!"

Then there was this explosion quoted at TPM indicating that he's heard how the soybean and hog farmers feel about his trade war plans:

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Poser

First issue, 1857, via Wikipedia.


OK, so one last moment of engagement with the saga of Kevin D. Williamson, because as it turns out the whole thing really was about one tweet, apparently, or Williamson's inability to give a satisfactory explanation of it to the Atlantic's editor-in-chief, Jeffrey Goldberg:
Specifically, the subject of one of Kevin’s most controversial tweets was also a centerpiece of a [2014] podcast discussion in which Kevin explained his views on the subject of the death penalty and abortion. The language he used in this podcast—and in my conversations with him in recent days—made it clear that the original tweet did, in fact, represent his carefully considered views. The tweet was not merely an impulsive, decontextualized, heat-of-the-moment post, as Kevin had explained it. Furthermore, the language used in the podcast was callous and violent. This runs contrary to The Atlantic’s tradition of respectful, well-reasoned debate, and to the values of our workplace.
Kevin is a gifted writer, and he has been nothing but professional in all of our interactions. But I have come to the conclusion that The Atlantic is not the best fit for his talents, and so we are parting ways.
Which was the one issue I hadn't really given a lot of attention to, interested as I was in Williamson's general tendency to dehumanize whoever he doesn't like, from African American children in East St. Louis, Illinois to the Trump voters of Hardscrabble, New York and Childwhelp, Kentucky, and the success with which he masquerades (like William F. Buckley, Jr., or Mr. Bret Stephens) as the kind of writer somebody like Jeffrey Goldberg might refer to as "gifted".

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Power Down

Adults-only event at Legoland, Tempe, AZ, via TempeTourism.

Shorter David Brooks, "The New Power Structure", New York Times. 5 April 2018:


Shorter in the first place because it's missing the obligatory opening four paragraphs in which Brooks pretends that he is writing an opinion column rather than a publisher blurb for New Power: How Power Works in Our Hyperconnected World—And How To Make It Work For You, which was released on Tuesday, and tries to suggest that he's seen some other inferior "windows into this new world" to compare this one to:

Friday, April 6, 2018

Literary Corner: A lot of people don't understand what that means

Cy Twombly, Second Voyage to Italy (Second Version), 1962, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.
by Donald J. Trump
We can’t continue to have —
I spoke with Jim just coming in
and — Jim is a great businessman — and he said,
“You’re right.” Because we can’t continue
to allow this to happen, where hundreds
of billions of dollars is taken out
of our country and our system; where
if they make a car, they sell it here,
it’s 2.5 percent tax. If we make a car
and try and get it into China, number one,
they won’t take it. But if they did,
it’s 25 percent tax. So they pay 2.5;
we pay 25. They don’t even want to
take it. That doesn’t sound so good.
But it’s all like that. And we have
our intellectual property, and a lot
of people don’t understand what that means.
And it doesn’t matter if you understand
it or not. You understand the concept of
being taken advantage of, and we
can’t be taken advantage of any longer.
So we’re at a point where we had to
do this. Our economy is strong. Our jobs
are great. We’re going to come out with
numbers on Friday that, hopefully,
are going to be fantastic numbers.
Companies are doing really well, and
you have to go after the people
that aren’t treating you right.
Text from the president's Tax Reform Roundtable in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia yesterday.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

President Trump is Not Authorized to Speak for Himself

National Guard troops outside Hidalgo, TX, in 2011. AP photo via MPR.

Yesterday, in the wake of Trump's announcing to a press availability on Tuesday that he was pulling all the US troops out of Syria and "The White House" clarifying a few hours later that no, that was not in fact the case ("President Trump," they did not add, "is not authorized to speak for the Trump administration"), BooMan wrote,
He may be crazy and flat wrong on many details, but he is the president and if he wants to end our commitment to the region, you’d think that he could force a change in policy. But he can’t. Obama found himself handcuffed in some respects, too. If there is such a thing as the “deep state,” this is how it manifests itself. Even presidents have to bow to them on occasion.
I thought that was exaggerating both the existence of a "deep state" and this president's involvement in the government:

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

New York note

Hick's Orchard, Middle Granville.

In somewhat pleasant news from Albany, the the eight members of the "Independent Democratic Caucus" in the State Senate have abruptly decided to abandon their unholy coalition with the Republican majority, dissolve themselves, and rejoin the Democratic Party; Andrea Stewart-Cousins will continue as minority leader and IDC chief Jeff Klein will serve as her deputy. If the indications are correct and the Democrats win the two special elections in the Bronx and Westchester on April 24, she will be the majority leader, and the first woman ever to be one of the "three (or four) men in a room" who make all the real policy decisions in this traditionally not very small-d democratic state.

They were going to do it anyway, in theory, after the special elections, but this move, in addition to making it much harder for Klein to renege on the deal (as he might want to do, House of Cards character that he is), shows a political climate that is changing pretty fast. Most or all of the IDC members were going to be primaried this year by loyal Democrats, with the support of the Working Families partioid organization, and this move shows that they're scared; anxious to start proclaiming that just because they've been voting with Republicans doesn't mean they actually are Republicans, and take some of the wind out of the challengers' sails, suggesting to me that there's a lot more wind than I expected.

Governor Andrew Cuomo is also being primaried, as you've probably heard, by the actress Cynthia Nixon (with the endorsement of my candidate of four years ago, law professor Zephyr Teachout), and seemingly scared as well. He hasn't been as terrible a governor all round as some people will tell you (his defense of environmental regulation and work on economic development in Buffalo have had real results, and his response to Trump taxation terrorism this year has been creative and good), but he's never been good enough, he's never been able to free his management from the smell of corruption, hasn't even really tried, and his pointless war against Mayor Bill de Blasio over the past four years has been particularly bad for New York City, for our terrible transportation and housing issues. He's also held responsible by many (including me) for the Republican control of the Senate—it's said he prefers it divided. The swiftness with which he has achieved the breakup of the IDC—over dinner at a Manhattan steakhouse last night, we're told—reinforces the belief, showing that he could have done it all along.

But he has done it now, and I think I know why: because we-the-people are getting better at our job, of putting the pressure on.

Anyhow,

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Who Shall Deliver Us?

From one of the Peter Jackson films, I guess, in somebody's Tumblr.

Shorter David Brooks, "Vladimir Putin, the Most Influential Man in the World", New York Times, 3 April 2018:
Vladimir Putin is the most influential human being on the planet today. He has established himself as one pole in the great global debate of the era, the debate between authoritarianism and democracy. And who's the opposite pole, the single leader of the global liberal democratic camp? I can't think of a name.
I don't know, maybe if you're lamenting the lack of a single man we can look up to as the commanding embodiment of our aspirations toward "faith in the capacities of individual citizens" and "loyalty to a constitution, a creed, and a set of democratic norms" rather than to "a person.... [t]he man himself", you could be doing it wrong.

It's time for a little Lord of the Rings reference, I think, because the trilogy really does illustrate in a precise way how a war of "liberalism" against authoritarianism is conducted, not by setting up a rival authority figure, but by mobilizing everybody in our amazing diversity, humans and hobbits, Elves and Dwarves, wizards, and ambulatory trees. Heroes are needed, and even a king, but not the king of everybody, just of the Dúnedain or Elf-Friends of Arnor and Gondor (who themselves represent a kind of anciently pluralist tradition, the men who are friends with Elves, which Aragorn doubles down on when he marries Arwen). And intellectuals too, of course, but not like Saruman, succumbing himself to the simplicity of authoritarianism. That's something David Brooks should watch out for. Longing for a Real Leader is going to the other side.

One of the great things about Gandalf, incidentally, is his appreciation of the requirements of identity politics: his understanding that groups have interests that can conflict—Elves vs. Dwarves have real issues with an ecological foundation—, and patience in allowing them to talk it out, even though the ancient history can get very annoying and sound pointless. That's another thing David Brooks needs to learn. Nationhood politics, the insistence that we all have the same interest inside our borders and constant demands for internal unity, leads to war, or at the least Putinism. Ethnic-cultural-moral politics, transcending and overlapping borders, leads to negotiation and balance. In information theory, difference is what yields meaning, and in political and religious life the suppression of difference is what leads to the loss of meaning that Brooks is always upset about.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

And Something, You Know

The Trumpster Bunny.

What Easter Means to Me
by Donald J. Trump
Well, it really means something very special.
I'm going to church in an hour from now
and it's going to be—it's a beautiful church.
I'm in Florida. And it's just a very special—
time for me. And it really represents family
and get-together and—and something, you know,
if you're a—a Christian, it's just a very important day.

Satire

Boy representing the month of June in a Roman mosaic calendar, 3rd century, posted by user Saliko at Wikmedia Commons.


By unpopular demand, I feel obliged to say a few words about the Indiana journalist Adam Wren and his Politico Magazine piece "My 72-Hour Safari in Clinton Country", which has roused a lot of comment around the neighborhood, and about which I already expressed an unpopular view (over at Steve's place), which is that when Wren says his piece is "satire", he is being sincere, though probably wrong in the sense that he doesn't have a very clear idea what satire is like.

But he did have an idea of a target, apparently, when he was pitching the piece to Politico (or, in his version, they were pitching him):

My editors had given me this assignment as something of a lark. The idea: Just as reporters from New York and D.C. trek into Trump Country to visit greasy spoons and other corners of Real America™ to measure support for the candidate, I’d venture from Trump Country to the most stereotypical bastions of coastal liberal elitism, and ask the people I met whether they still support Hillary Clinton. An innocent abroad, I would leave Hamilton County, Indiana, a deep-red suburb north of Indianapolis that Trump won by nearly 20 points, the kind of place where the Koch brothers are presently carpet-bombing Democrat Senator Joe Donnelly with $2 million in television and digital ads for his vote against the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. Once on the decadent East Coast, I would luxuriate in its undiluted upscale liberal consensus at bookstores, wine bars, cafes and other Blue State institutions peopled by NPR tote-bagging sophisticates. Perhaps I’d drop in on something activist-y, a meeting of Resistance types.
When a hoo-ha erupted about the assumptions of the piece, that Clinton voters are all decadent, undilutedly upscale sophisticates who spend all their time consuming high-end products like books and booze except when they're whipping up the Molotov cocktails at their Resistance meetings (in spite of the fact that there are three million more of us than there are of them), and its procedure of looking only for evidence that confirms it, Wren explained that what he was producing was "satire":

Brooks is Risen

The Cruelest Month








April is the cruelest month, breeding lilacs out of the dead land, mixing memory and desire, stirring dull roots with spring rain.

First, winter kept us warm. It covered earth in forgetful snow. It fed a little life with dried tubers. Second, summer surprised us, coming over the Starnbergersee with a shower of rain. We stopped in the colonnade and went on in sunlight into the Hofgarten. Third, we drank coffee and talked for an hour.

The other day, a woman I'll call Marie told me, “I'm not Russian at all. My family is from Lithuania, authentic German, and when we were children, staying at the archduke's place, he took me out on a sled. The archduke is my cousin. I was frightened. He said, ‘Marie, Marie, hold on tight.’ ”

In the mountains, there you feel free. I read much of the night, and go south in the winter. What are the roots that clutch? What branches grow out of this stony rubbish? I can't speak for everybody, but I suspect it will be something higher and more lovely, reminding me of Abraham Lincoln, as things usually do.