Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Conqueror Worm

Via Fritzi, Mae Busch in Rupert Hughes's Souls For Sale, 1923.

Shorter David F. Brooks, "Cory Booker Finds His Moment", 18 March 2019:
If you're tired of violent, angry demagogues like Donald Trump and Kamala Harris, you should be glad that Cory Booker is in the race, because although he's another socialist, so I couldn't actually vote for him myself, he is patriotic, religious, and grateful, which is what I need on my TV in this unpleasant moment. 
Comically, he doesn't provide any evidence that Booker is grateful, only that he should be, because his "family story" is a "success story", unlike Donald Trump or Kamala Harris I guess:

Monday, March 18, 2019

The Reprehensible and the Comprehensible

Two separate warnings this morning, from former US attorney Preet Bharara on NPR (doing a book promotion) and Georgetown Law professor and former OLC staffer Martin Lederman in Washington Post (cited in Raw Story): Mueller's report, to the extent there is one, is not going to contain a nicely wrapped case for the indictment of Donald Trump for crimes committed in the collaboration with Russian agents in the 2016 election.

For more than one reason, but the main thing is that it isn't in their remit to do such a thing, given the Justice Department ruling that a sitting president isn't supposed to be indicted, as Lederman concludes:
it would be surprising if it included any express conclusions about whether Trump’s conduct did or did not satisfy the elements of any particular criminal offenses. As long as Trump is in office, it will be up to the committees themselves — and Congress as a whole — to (in the words of the Jaworski road map) “determine what action may be warranted . . . by [the] evidence” presented in Barr’s notification.
That's probably too categorical; they could signal an opinion on his chargeability in indictments of other people, as an unindicted co-conspirator, as they've already done in regard to Michael Cohen and the Paramour Payoffs (can't decide whether that's the first novel in my detective series featuring a troubled metropolitan lawyer or a band name). But that will be ancillary to what I do hope will be an indictment of Donald Junior, if anything. I still believe he would be indicted in a case where his guilt was transparently unarguable—if he really killed that guy on Fifth Avenue—but this isn't one of those cases. The language in which he agreed to the basic bargain of Russia's assistance with the Moscow hotel and US election projects, if Mueller has it (and we know what he has from Cohen, not too damn much, and we know Manafort and Junior have said little and nothing respectively) will be couched in code, like all those mobster communications, and the way he tried to live up to his end by removing sanctions obscured inside a web of plausible deniability, opinions from foreign policy advisers and lawyers that he's entitled to do what he wants so he can argue he was just doing what he was told.

I guess I'm beginning to understand how unlikely it is that our story is going to have any kind of clean ending, where the public gasps, "OMG he did that?" and the president just has to leave.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

For the Record: The End of Omar



Under pressure of extreme irritation from some Twitter guy I assembled a lengthier set of thoughts starting with Representative Ilhan Omar and carrying it somewhere I haven't entirely been before. It probably duplicates some stuff I've said before, especially in the earlier bits, but I'd like to keep it here for the record in this format.




I probably should have realized at this point that I wasn't going to be able to make him understand what I was talking about.

The End of Meritocracy

Architects' rendering of plans for a parking lot in Harvard Yard. Just kidding: prank picture from the Harvard Satyrical Press, March 2009, attributed to the Committee For Endowment Preservation by Any Means Necessary.

Looks like the competition for which New York Times opinionist will be first to come out in defense of the millionaires who bribed their kids into Stanford and USC has a winner, and it's not David Brooks, as I was predicting—

—or Bari Weiss, but Harvard's finest, Monsignor Ross Douthat, Apostolic Nuncio to 42nd Street ("The Scandals of Meritocracy"). Oh, he doesn't quite come out and say it, and he adds a trollish recommendation for racial quotas just to keep you confused as to whether he's joking or not, but I think that's what it is:
The “more meritocracy” argument against both legacies and racial quotas implicitly assumes that aptitude — some elixir of I.Q. and work ethic — is what our elite primarily lacks.
But is that really our upper class’s problem? What if our elite is already diligent and how-do-you-like-them-apples smaht — the average SAT score for the Harvard class of 2022 is a robust 1512 — and deficient primarily in memory and obligation, wisdom and service and patriotism?
In that case continuity and representation, as embodied by legacy admissions and racial quotas, might actually be better legitimizers for elite universities to cultivate than the spirit of talent-über-alles. It might be better if more Ivy League students thought of themselves as representatives of groups and heirs of family obligation than as Promethean Talents elevated by their own amazing native gifts.
That's extremely interesting, the view of what problem "meritocracy" is supposed to solve, the problem of practical improvement, or building an elite of higher quality.

I mean interesting to me, at least, because I've literally never thought of it before, not that it doesn't make some kind of chilly sense.

Literary Corner: Area Man Bites Reality

Willem De Kooning, Inerchange, 1955, via Wikipedia.

In the press availability with the Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar on Thursday morning, our poet branched into a strange and dark new territory in which reality really begins to dissolve:


Songs of Zero Tolerance
by Donald J. Trump

I. Are Your Immigration Policies Cruel?
No, I don’t think they’re cruel,
I think they’re the opposite of cruel.
They become cruel because they’re so
ridiculous and it hurts people. It actually
does the reverse of what they’re supposed
to be doing. But no, they’re actually meant
to be the opposite. And they’re hurting people,
they’re really hurting people. A lot of people.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Comment




Dinesh D'Souza's response to the terror attacks on Muslim Friday prayers in Christchurch: Even though it's true and his story is imaginary, it's of the family of "fake news" because he feels it has the wrong emotional resonance. In this way he's the real victim, because now everybody's missing the point he would like to have made.

I sent him a question and he replied, in fact, after googling an example of a church that got attacked as proof that the media don't care:

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Breaking

Caucus Race. Emily Carew Woodard, 2015, via Classic FM.

1

A little literally breaking news on BBC News Hour, reporting on ongoing debates in the House of Commons: what the government is proposing to do after they lose the next vote they're going to lose, which will be to seek a longer extension (beyond 29 March) to the Brexit process than the one they were seeking before, and to use "the first two weeks" of that extension to try to "find a majority" either for her deal (which will be trotted out as a zombie, I guess, since it's pretty clear there will never be a majority for that) or for some unnamed cross-party alternative, as if the parties themselves were going to stand down from the debate and the MPs take over as individuals.

As if it were starting to sink in for them what we've all been seeing from the outside, that the deepest problem is the political incompetence of all the UK political parties as currently constituted, but who knows what's really going on. May herself has evidently understood that just asking for more time isn't a solution, so that's progress.

2

Also in semi-breaking news from Washington, the return of the rumor that the Mueller investigation is about to end, this time more convincing than usual, as the top money-laundering prosecutor, Andrew Weissmann, leaves the team:

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Just Deserts



A kind of poignant thing about this college admissions scandal is the way the kids themselves were protected, in many or most cases, from knowing that they were involved in a fraud:
Sitting very still and wearing a dark suit, [master criminal William Singer] described how he arranged for students’ SAT and ACT results to be falsified by sending them to take the exams in Houston or Los Angeles, where he had bribed test administrators. He described the students as believing they were taking the tests legitimately, but said that his test proctor would correct their answers afterward. Mr. Singer said he would tell the proctor the score he wanted the student to get, and he would achieve that score exactly....
Mr. McGlashan’s son was unaware of the scheme, according to court documents....
Mr. Singer told Mr. Caplan that his daughter would not know that her standardized test scores had been faked.
“Nobody knows what happens,” Mr. Singer said, according to the transcript of the call. “She feels great about herself.”
Some students may have been directly slipped test answers, but more of them just were given to understand that they'd succeeded in the test on their own, whether a confederate was changing their answers or simply retaking the test to replace their original scores; some participated in photo sessions where they were posed as star athletes, but they didn't necessarily know what the purpose of it was, and others were just entirely in the dark while their parents photoshopped their faces onto stock pictures of high school sports, but neither they nor the college administrations were aware that they were supposed to be star athletes, and nobody questioned why they didn't sign up for the soccer team or crew.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

A little horse-race pablum for the junkies

Colonel John C. Frémont, Republican candidate for the presidency in 1856, in a campaign lithograph, via.

So Monsignor Ross Douthat, Apostolic Nuncio to 42nd Street, is back on the theory that Donald Trump is Jimmy Carter.

No, really, this has been going on for a couple of years. Just around the time of the inauguration, Julia Azari, Scott Lemieux, and Corey Robin wrote pieces suggesting that the Trump presidency was likely to be what Steven Skowronek called a "disjunctive" presidency, that is one that takes place at the time when an old order or "regime", the long-term ordering of the ideologies and interests on which the politics depends, is falling apart and a new one is not yet clearly emergent; like Buchanan's, before the cataclysms of the Civil War and Reconstruction, or Hoover's, before the New Deal, or Carter's, before the beginning of what you might call the Era of Miniature Government.

Ross, with an authoritarian's inability to grasp a discussion of systemic factors, took this to mean that Trump must be personally like Carter in some respect, as in this from his contribution to the Times inauguration coverage, committed to the proposition that Trump is as smart as Carter was, with a "vision" that is similarly "new", though unlikely to succeed:
One such president was Jimmy Carter, who tried to maintain the creaking New Deal coalition while also grasping at a new vision for liberal governance. He failed because his party simply couldn’t accommodate the tension, and he himself couldn’t effectively blend the old and new.
Right now Trump looks like he might be similarly disjunctive. Like Mr. Carter with the ’70s-era Democrats, he has grasped — correctly — that Republican politics desperately needs to be reinvented. But his populist-nationalist vision has seemed too racially and culturally exclusive to win him majority support, and it’s layered atop a party that still mostly believes in the “populism” of cutting the estate tax.
Combine those brute political facts with Trump’s implausibly expansive promises, and a Carter scenario — gridlock, disappointment, collapse — seems like the most plausible way to bet. 
Which is pretty amusing in retrospect: whatever we may think about Trump's intelligence and vision, he's turned out to have an amazingly firm hold on his party, in spite of the claims to independence of a few crabby pundits. Today, anyway, Ross isn't going for retrospection, but instead prefers to look ahead, toward the question of who's going to play the "reconstructive" Reagan in this remake ("Bernie Sanders, Socialism's Reagan?"):

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Timelines: A Buried Lede

Image via Irish Examiner.

Here's a peculiar one, brilliantly reported by Christina Willkie at CNBC (but not so well edited, the story is extremely hard to follow), about one of the more purposeless-sounding lies Paul Manafort told prosecutors when he was pretending to cooperate after the first trial, about the origins of a payment of $125,000 that went to one of his lawyers in June 2017.

The money was obtained, it seems, from an old comrade called Laurance Gay who Manafort had put in charge of the Tom Barrack–created superPAC Rebuilding American Now (where he seems to have done exceptionally well, raising $24 million, the best performance of any Trump superPAC, though three quarters of the money came from just four donors—wrestling entrepreneur Linda McMahon for $6 million; Home Depot co-founder Bernard Marcus for $5 million; Hollywood real estate tycoon Geoffrey Palmer, not previously a well-known donor, though his experience in campaign money laundering goes back to 1991, for another $5 million; and the Arkansas poultry magnate Ronald Cameron, whose experience with campaign money laundering through his "Jesus Fund" is very extensive, for $2 million).

Gay got it from a company, Multi Media Services Corporation, or MMSC, which earned $19 million as the chief ad buyer for the Trump campaign, and whose silent owner turned out to be Tony Fabrizio, another old Manafort associate and the Trump campaign's main pollster, with whose company Gay had a slightly dodgy-sounding relationship:

Otherwise Blameless Life: Postscript

Andrew "Chef" Glick, ex-president of the Cape May branch of the Pagan Outlaws Motorcycle Club, knew enough about the 2012 hired killing of April Kauffman, a local radio host and doctor's wife who had threatened to expose the illegal opioid prescription racket her husband was running with the Pagan Outlaws, that he could have been arrested as an accessory. Cops instead charged him with crimes unrelated to the murder plot, illegal possession of methamphetamines, cocaine, and weapons, for which he could have gotten up to 40 years, according to the Philly Voice, and he testified against the murderers and did no time in his own case. That's what Manafort was supposed to do. It's not that complicated.

Also on the Manafort subject, I hope this isn't too obvious, but the fact that none of the crimes with which Michael Flynn, Michael Cohen, and Paul Manafort and Rick Gates have been charged with  feature direct collaboration in a Russian conspiracy doesn't mean they never committed any crimes on those lines.

Indeed, we know at least two cases in which Manafort and Flynn absolutely did collaborate in a Russian conspiracy: Manafort in that cigar bar meeting with Kilimnik of August 2016 when he passed him the 75 pages of polling data, Flynn in those phone calls with the Russian ambassador in December 2016 when they spoke about sanctions. That seems like a clear violation of the 1799 Logan Act

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Socialist Surrealism

Drawing most likely from the time of Milwaukee's first Socialist mayor, Emil Zeidel,  1910-12, though the city had two more of them, from  1916 to 1940 and 1948 to 1960. Via Milwaukee Independent.


Six weeks ago there was presidential candidate-flirt Michael Bloomberg:
Speaking with reporters after a second New Hampshire event, Bloomberg was asked about the wealth tax proposed by Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass. He said the presidential contender's plan was potentially unconstitutional, and compared it to socialism. "It's called Venezuela," he added.
Only there are no wealth taxes in Venezuela.

Then around the same time there was Mr. Bret Stephens, economic theologian, laying down the catechism of orthodox socialism ("Yes, Venezuela is a Socialist Catastrophe"):

Friday, March 8, 2019

The Rightness Lag

Via.


David Brooks has changed his mind ("The Case for Reparations"):
Nearly five years ago I read Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Atlantic article “The Case for Reparations,” with mild disagreement. All sorts of practical objections leapt to mind. What about the recent African immigrants? What about the poor whites who have nothing of what you would call privilege? Do we pay Oprah and LeBron?
But I have had so many experiences over the past year — sitting, for example, with an elderly black woman in South Carolina shaking in rage because the kids in her neighborhood face greater challenges than she did growing up in 1953 — that suggest we are at another moment of make-or-break racial reckoning.
Then he calms down a bit. He's got the theological idea, which I really do, no snark, appreciate, that systemic racism is a sin, for which white society needs to atone, but he's more interested in Christian confession and absolution for himself than Jewish atonement and repair for the victims: looks like it's not the money that he expects to do the job, but the process of talking about it:
Reparations are a drastic policy and hard to execute, but the very act of talking about and designing them heals a wound and opens a new story.
It'll make him feel all tingly, as David Brooks might say. So that's nice, and better than what his friends have done with the Universal Basic Income idea (used it as an excuse for planning the devastation of the social safety net), but it's pretty Brooksish in the end, and I'm not swooning.

Also it occurs to me that at the beginning of the week he seems to have read something about the Sanders "Medicare for All" proposal with "mild disagreement" and "all sorts of practical objections" and concluded that it was an "impossible dream". Does this mean that sometime in 2024 he's going to decide that it needs to be done, or at least discussed, after he has a conversation with an elderly diabetic who's been condemned to death by the price of insulin?

Come to think of it, wasn't it around 2008 that Brooks decided George W. Bush had made some "bad calls" at the beginning of the Iraq war? (He was applauding the "courageous and astute" 2007 surge)? Is Brooks installed with some kind of five-year rightness lag?

Cross-posted at No More Mister Nice Blog.

Otherwise Blameless Life

Obligatory: Manafort, Stone, and Atwater, 1985. Photo by Harry Naltchayan/Washington Post.

I have to laugh at Judge Ellis remarking that Paul Manafort had led an "otherwise blameless life" except for the period between 2004 and 2018 when he committed all the crimes he's charged with in the Virginia and DC cases. Does he believe Manafort went to Ukraine and suddenly became a professional criminal at the age of 55?

I have my doubts, above all over his work for Philippines dictator Ferdinand Marcos, reported by Ken Vogel in Politico Magazine back in June 2016, not long before Manafort's promotion from convention manager to campaign manager (the article was published literally the day after the meeting in Trump Tower with the anti-sanctions campaigner Natalia Veselnitskaya where he was reported to have fallen asleep, seemed later to have been taking desultory notes on his phone, and possibly, as Emptywheel pointed out, recorded the whole thing, which would now be in the hands of the Special Counsel, with Manafort's other electronic devices):

Thursday, March 7, 2019

November 2020

Not linking, but you can buy these little God-Emperor guys from Amazon. I like how his left hand in particular looks bigger than his head.

After Michael Cohen's testimony last week repeated the story that Trump didn't expect to or want to win the 2016 election, various people raised an issue they hadn't particularly raised the first time evidence of that was brought out, in Michael Wolfe's book, as here in The Hill, where it's used to suggest that Trump must be innocent in the Russian conspiracy:
On Russia: Cohen wouldn’t even venture to say that Trump “colluded” with Russia and said he was unaware of evidence that would prove such a thing occurred. Cohen claimed that Trump didn’t want to win the presidency, and didn’t think he would win. That undercuts the notion that Trump would have also conspired with Russian President Vladimir Putin to win.
Well, sure, except if that wasn't the conspiracy—if the conspiracy from Trump's point of view, at least initially, was rather, as some of us have been saying, and as Cohen's testimony completely reinforces (see Emptywheel), for Trump to follow Putin's playbook in contributing maximum publicity to the debate over Ukraine and sanctions, in return for which he'd get that Trump Tower Moscow built at last. He wasn't supposed to get elected in that scenario, but he was still Trump, and he'd still need desperately to look good. He can't bear to be laughed at. He constantly courts humiliation and dreads it more than anything, at the same time. I'm sure he wanted to come close to winning. Ideally, there'd be an outcome where he and his adoring following would feel he'd won, but he wouldn't have to move to Washington and go to all those meetings and be president in those horrible respects.

So what occurred to me then is that that explains all the talk toward the end of the campaign about how the election was going to be rigged in Clinton's favor, as his fabulation on Election Day itself, in a Fox interview:

Less information for you and me, more information for whoever Jared writes to


In my email, from Foreign Policy:

Trump to Cease Reporting Drone Deaths
Trump to Cease Reporting Drone Deaths
Top News: U.S. President Donald Trump has revoked a 2016 Obama-era executive order which required intelligence officials to publish the number of civilians killed in drone strikes outside of designated war zones, in places such as Libya, Yemen, and Pakistan.



The requirements were a bid to increase transparency around drone strikes, which increased ten-fold under Barack Obama. U.S. President Donald Trump looks to be on course to exceed that, launching substantially more drone strikes than Obama did in his first two years in office.



The Trump administration described the rule as “superfluous” and “distracting.”

But at least Trump can be relied on not to use improper methods of email storage, since he doesn't know how to use email, what better assurance could you have, though I guess we can't say that for Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump, and Stephen Miller—you don't suppose they'd ever send classified information to the wrong places, do you?

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Dual Loyalty Postscript



Also Kevin McCarthy is the most classic Elders-of-Zion believer in the House. Him accusing anybody of anti-Semitism is like Joe McCarthy calling somebody a drunk.

I'd completely forgotten about that ghastly meme of the three Jewish billionaires (Steyer's only half-Jewish, like me) threatening to buy the entire US political system which you could only save by sending Kevin McCarthy money, #MAGA.

And he's never apologized, unlike Ilhan Omar, merely denied:
Asked by Fox News Channel’s Harris Faulkner about his October tweet, McCarthy responded, “Well, that had nothing to do about faith; that was about Republicans versus Democrats.”
"Nothing to do about faith"! "Faith"! That smarmy word. No indeed, it was about race. Speaker Pelosi, please reprimand this man.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Dual Loyalty

Illustration, coincidentally, from this morning's installment of Roy Edroso's ongoing study of "Grandpa's Inbox". Note how the rightwing bottom-feeder scum associate one of the congresswomen with the theory that there's an incredibly wealthy Jewish financier working to bring the entire world under his secret personal control.

So much stuff I really don't want to think or write about, from the presidential campaign, above all Bernie and Biden, to the whole tsuris over Representative Ilhan Omar, a Somali-born freshwoman from Minnesota who wears the hijab, and her rhetorical approach to the pro-Likud lobbying forces in US politics, as described with some initial restraint by Jonathan Chait:
Earlier this month, Representative Ilhan Omar tweeted, “It’s all about the Benjamins, baby!” in response to a report about AIPAC, a pro-Israel organization. Omar’s tweet echoed a longstanding anti-Semitic trope — in particular, the implication that Jewish political influence operates entirely (“all about”) through money.
After wide condemnation, Omar apologized. It seemed fair to read her tweet generously: Perhaps she was not familiar with the particular vein of anti-Semitism she happened to echo. Indeed, progressives often make crudely reductive statements about the influence of money in supporting policies they oppose (to wit: everything Bernie Sanders says), so it wasn’t necessarily anti-Semitic for Omar to extend that thinking to Jews. Her apparently sincere apology seemed to set to rest a minor offense.
Chait is right about the more simple-minded of us progressives attributing everything bad in politics to money influence, but has the story itself completely wrong, in fact: there was no report about AIPAC. There was a report about House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who had issued a vague threat against Omar and another new congresswoman, Rashida Tlaib of Detroit, who had done something he didn't like which he equated with Iowa Rep. Steve King's remarks about not understanding when white supremacy became a bad thing:

Limerick

Photo byAP/Jose Luis Magana via The Nation.


Sunday, March 3, 2019

Timeline: Monsignor sets up a Steele trap

Amerigo Vespucci next to a Map of the Americas and East Asia. Detail from Universal Cosmography world Map by German cartographer Martin Waldseemüller, originally published April 1507, via reddit/map porn.

Now that so much material has come out on the Trump-Russia conspiracy that wasn't known or knowable to Christopher Steele, from George Papadopoulos's antics in the spring of 2016 through the Trump Tower "adoptions" meeting of 9 June to the odd fact that Paul Manafort sent some 75 pages of sensitive US election polling data in August 2016 to his old henchman Konstantin Kilimnik to transmit to two very wealthy Ukrainians, Serhiy Lyovochkin and Rinat Akhmetov (the richest man in Ukraine and the man who introduced Manafort to the Party of Regions in 2004-05) from whom he was at the moment expecting a payment of $2.4 million to come in November, though he'd had no money from Ukrainian politicians for well over a year, and if you think that polling data was just for Lyovochkin's and Akhmetov's personal entertainment and wasn't destined for somebody in Russia, I don't know what to tell you (Emptywheel thinks she has some solid evidence that it was going to the Russian Oleg Deripaska as well but refuses to speculate on the thing that interests me, who the end user might be)—

Now, I was saying, that we've heard a couple of hours of the testimony of Michael Cohen that Special Counsel Mueller thinks it's safe for the public to hear, though not the several hours that the House and Senate intelligence committees have heard in secret, to say nothing of Cohen's seven visits to the Special Counsel's office since he offered his guilty plea, Monsignor Ross Douthat, Apostolic Nuncio to 42nd St. ("The State of Russiagate"), thinks that
it’s worth returning for a moment to the document that established the darkest interpretation of all the Russian weirdness swirling around Donald Trump: the intelligence dossier created by Christopher Steele, late of MI6, on behalf of Trump’s political opponents, which brought together the reports and rumors that Steele deemed credible about the then-candidate, now-president’s Russia ties.

Literary Corner: New Republican Poetry

"We are already able to reach the notorious hamburgers of San Diego!" Via  Anita Pitsch, Australian National University Press.

Formal elegance meets wry surrealism in some of the new entries, like this Ionesco-like fantasy by Dr. Gorka, from the CPAC conference:

Joe Stalin's Dream

They want
to take your pickup truck,
they want
to rebuild your home,
they want
to take away your hamburgers.
This is what Stalin dreamt
about but never achieved.
Strictly speaking, I don't believe Comrade Stalin had any interest in rebuilding my home at all. I think he would have relished the uncontrollable overheating, the poor ventilation in spite of gaps exploited by wind and rodent, the ceiling fan in which only one of the four light bulb sockets actually works because of some crazy fault in the wiring. He would have seen it as irrefragable evidence of the collapse of the decadent West, as the contradictions of capitalism become too gross to ignore. I don't have a pickup truck, but I doubt he'd be interested in the occasional hamburger I consume, beyond asserting (no doubt falsely) that Soviet hamburgers are much, much better. Just saying.

Friday, March 1, 2019

For the Record: Baron von Troomp and the Mysteries of Authorship

Image via Express, August 2017. The book, from 1893, is real.

A funny word usage of Trump's on the Twitter this morning went toward answering a question Jordan has asked—Steve and I figured out a boringly rational explanation of why Trump believes he himself wrote The Art of the Deal and other books published under his name:


Ghostwriters probably gave him copies of their interview transcripts before they started the actual writing, and he gave these to the lawyers tasked with making sure he hadn't said anything that would get him in trouble and washed his hands of them, and felt his work was done. Obviously a man of his responsibilities can't sit down and type the thing, or whatever it is they do, but he's very confident that he authored it.

To Kill a Theater

Darryl Maximilian Robinson as Reverend Sykes in the 2011 staging of Christopher Sergel's To Kill a Mockingbird by the Glendale Centre Theatre of Glendale, California, via.

Heard a note on this on NPR this morning, found a more thorough treatment from Mark Kennedy/AP Entertainment at the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer:
Dozens of community and nonprofit theaters across the U.S. have been forced to abandon productions of "To Kill a Mockingbird" under legal threat by Broadway and Hollywood producer Scott Rudin. The combative move has prompted calls for a boycott of Rudin's work
Rudin is arguing that author Harper Lee signed over to him exclusive worldwide rights to the title of the novel and that Rudin's current adaptation on Broadway — written by Aaron Sorkin — is the only version allowed to be performed.
That means different adaptations have had to be scuttled in such small venues as the Grand Theatre in Salt Lake City; Mugford Street Players in Marblehead, Massachusetts; and the Kavinoky Theatre in Buffalo, New York, as well as a planned United Kingdom and Ireland tour. They had licensed the rights for a different version, written by Christopher Sergel and licensed by The Dramatic Publishing Company or DPC.
"Rudin's work", as if he'd created the thing, as opposed to scrounging the money from his social circle whose demands for profit are responsible for Broadway prices that make it impossible for most people ever to see a show. That's annoying in itself. And they're not saying Sergel's adaptation (written in 1970 and a staple of high school and college and community theaters all over the US ever since—Sergel himself died in 1993) can't ever be performed again, just that they get to decide whether a particular production can take place or not, since they plan to take Sorkin's play on the road, and the staging by the Mugford Street Players could cut into Rudin's take; if he wants to put it on in the Marblehead neighborhood local audience might think "Oh, we've already seen that" and stay home, I guess.

Thursday, February 28, 2019

My Dad Went to Hanoi and All I Got Was This Lousy Evidence That I'm in a Smurfing Conspiracy

Image via Medium.

Smurfing, or structuring, being the crime of making a financial transaction in a one-bit-at-a-time way sequenced and parceled so as to evade reporting requirements, like the $35,000 checks cut by the Trump Organization to Michael Cohen all through 2017 paying him back for his payoff of one of Trump's one-night stands (illegal under campaign finance law whether Trump repays it or not), of which we saw two on TV yesterday, one with Junior's signature on it.
Poor Junior!

Meanwhile, North Korea. Nicholas Kristof deals out some conventional wisdom ("After the Trump-Kim Failure"):

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Whose lies are they, anyway?

Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters, via The New Yorker.



It's remarkable that these people keep working to discredit Cohen's testimony by reminding us of the crimes Cohen pleaded guilty to—"He's a convicted liar so why should we believe him now?"—as if nobody had any way of finding out what he was lying about when he told the lies for which he's going to jail, or on whose behalf:

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

The Center of Nowhere, or the Rosy New Deal

Montsalvat. Painting by Alarie-Tano/DeviantArt.

You have to be totally lost before you can find it, so nobody can say where it is, but on a high plain somewhere, could be the kingdom of the Visigoths or Asian Byzantium, where the priests wear long beards and take wives, you'll be in some desolate treeless country and come on a castle of ancient stone, set in a marsh, apparently unguarded; you can cross the drawbridge and enter the yard, and penetrate into the great hall without hindrance, and on certain days you'll see a strange ceremony performed by a company of knights.

In silence, a chief or officiant goes to an aumbrey built into the wall next the fireplace, with the knights behind him, opens up the doors, and pulls out what looks like a wedding cake mounted on a silver charger. It is a wedding cake! But it seems to have been baked centuries ago, it's dull and gray, and it seems unnaturally heavy, as the chief struggles, grimacing, to bring it out the the middle of the hall. There, still in silence, with the knights forming a circle around him, he kneels, changes his grip on the charger so that his palms are underneath, stands again, and lifts it into the air as far as his arms will extend. Extraordinary emotions cross the faces, and some of the men begin to weep. After a few moments, he lowers it again, goes back to the wall as the circle of knights breaks to let him through, and shoves it back into the aumbrey.

At which point the silence finally breaks, the men begin chatting by twos and threes, and if you ask the right questions, you can learn the significance of what you've just witnessed. Or you can go to The New York Times, where David F. Brooks will lay out the catechism for you ("An Agenda for Moderates").

Monday, February 25, 2019

New York Note



Tomorrow is a special election in New York City, for the position of public advocate, a weird NYC institution dating back to 1993, in which the designated successor in case anything happens to the mayor is a kind of official opponent of the mayor, a citywide ombudsman or tribune whose main job is to complain to the city on behalf of the citizens and attempt to shame the mayor and city council and city agencies into action.

It's also become a significant factor in electoral politics, in that the last two public advocates have successfully used the job as a springboard to higher things, Bill de Blasio to the mayoralty and Tish James to the post of state attorney general, in last November's election, which is why this election is being held, to fill it until the coming November, when there will be another vote.

It's a nonpartisan contest, though I think in fact there are only two Republicans on the list. and there are 17 candidates, which is just insane; there is a statistical possibility that somebody could win with just 6% of the vote, which is clearly very unlikely, but a win with some horribly low number under 25% and an essentially random result based on the vagaries of turnout is not inconceivable at all, and there are candidates trying unapologetically to work this.

In particular, because my family is on I don't know exactly what list of of Chinese or Asian voters, our mailbox has been full of bilingual Chinese-English fliers from one of the Asian American candidates, Ron Kim, directly appealing to us to vote for "one of us", which really kind of bothers me (that's the Korean; the Chinese guy, Ben Yee, is not doing that at all)—it suggests the possibility that the election could be won by voters of a single ethnic group.

In the same way, one of the Republicans, Eric Ulrich, could quite possibly win just by uniting the tiny minority of Republicans; or Danny O'Donnell, who was a pioneer as a victorious openly gay candidate for the state assembly in 2003 and has served there ever since, could be swept into office by a unified gay vote. Or Nomiki Konst bringing together all the Young Turks fans or just those who have a sense they've seen her name before and she's some kind of celebrity. Not that there's anything wrong with any of these people, other than Konst—O'Donnell in particular has been a fine assemblymember and there's no reason to think he wouldn't be a fine public advocate. Most candidates seem to take very similar policy positions and indeed struggle to distinguish themselves from each other. But I hope whoever emerges from this circus will give a sense of having been backed by a cross-section.

To that end, I've had my eye on two candidates in particular, former city council president Melissa Mark-Viverito and Jumaane Williams, the city council member who was crazy enough to run as Cynthia Nixon's running mate in last year's gubernatorial primary but sober enough to be endorsed by the New York Times for tomorrow. And his mom likes him, as he has pointed out. Williams has been the favorite, and I'll be voting for him because of that, in the hopes of encouraging it to look like a mandate.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

How to Fix the Senate


Folks, I think I have this figured out, inspired by a sort of random threadlet from the genial Jamelle Bouie (a New York Times columnist since mid-January, but some of us have admired him since he started out as a blogger for The American Prospect in 2010):


The quotation is from Federalist 22, and it's written in justification of the novel idea of federalizing democracy in the new Constitution, where the impotent Continental Congress, in which each state had a single vote, like the UN General Assembly, was to be replaced by a bicameral legislature with one house representing the states with two votes for each, and one with a house representing the people of the nation as a whole, divided into constituencies with a population size quota (an idea the House of Commons didn't really evolve to until 1885).

Friday, February 22, 2019

Give Me Little Sign



Here's something curious from David F. Brooks ("The Lawyers Who Did Not Break"):
The S.D.N.Y. investigation seems to be zeroing in on the $107 million Trump inauguration extravaganza. From the hints dropped by the subpoenas, one gets the impression that the inauguration was a shambolic grabfest in which people with money tried to turn it into power and people who suddenly had power tried to turn it into money.
Some legal experts believe the inauguration is being aggressively probed as a racketeering operation — a continuing criminal enterprise, complete with mail fraud, wire fraud, money laundering and the rest.
So why aren’t the legal authorities wilting? One explanation: institutions and character. The legal institutions instill codes of excellence that are strong enough to take the heat.
I guess the obvious Big Thing here is the acknowledgment of a nexus of criminality in Trumplandia that really deserves investigation, like there's something bad about that. Last May ("Donald Trump's Lizard Wisdom"), Brooks was asking  us to consider the bright side of Trump's mob connections:

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Look, the Emperor Has No Balls Walls!

Illustration by Nurul Hana Anwar for The Nation, January 2018

While Trump devotes his time to getting Scavino to put together evidence like this that he's accomplished things he hasn't actually accomplished, his ability to influence, or even monitor what the government does is sinking into the swamp, as Jonathan Bernstein notes at Bloomberg:


Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Pie

I don't know what this is but it has a Facebook page.

Thomas P. Friedman, better known as Thomas L. Friedman, Mystax Crustorum, has put out a Pi Day column almost a month early ("Is America Becoming a Four-Party State?") on
the most important fault line in today’s Democratic Party — the line between what I’d call “redivide-the-pie Democrats” and “grow-the-pie Democrats.”
and its bothsider Doppelgänger the Republicans are likewise
divided between a “limited-government-grow-the-pie” right — but one that wants to just let capitalism rip — and a “hoard-the-pie, pull-up-the-drawbridge” Trump-led far right [and t]he limited-government-grow-the-pie faction is itself split between the Never Trumpers — who’ve refused to prostitute themselves to Trump’s serial lying, cozying up to Russia and other madness — and those who’ve hitched a ride on Trump’s wagon to get their tax cuts, conservative judges and deregulation.
Personally, I'd say if your pie is growing you should in general discard it immediately.