Sunday, August 18, 2019

Downward Trajectory

Cistercian Abbey of Mount St. Bernard. Photo by Financial Times.

A weird thought from the theologically-minded Elizabeth Bruenig, having dinner with some  evangelical Trump supporters in a small town an hour or so from Dallas during Easter week, in a big article in the Washington Post last week:
In some sense it seemed that Trump is able, by being less Christian than your average Christian, to protect Christians who fear incursions from a hostile dominant culture. But that paradox also supplies a handy solution to the question of whether Christians should direct their efforts to worldly politics or turn inward, shunning political life for spiritual pursuits. By voting for Trump — even over more identifiably Christian candidates — evangelicals seem to have found a way to outsource their fears and instead reserve a strictly spiritual space for themselves inside politics without placing evangelical politicians themselves in power. In that sense, they can be both active political agents and a semi-cloistered religious minority, both of the world and removed from it, advancing their values while retreating to their own societies.
It's like only Nixon being able to go to China without freaking out the rightwingers because his anti-communism was such a certain thing, or maybe the mirror image of that; the very extremity of Trump's worldliness, his open worship of money and sex and himself and his total lack of compassion, makes him the man who can achieve their aims or delay their downfall without corrupting any "good" people in the process. Since they believe all secular life is rotten with corruption it will take corruption on the grand scale to get it done, and he's corrupt enough already.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

For the Record: Devin's Farm

Apparently Devin Nunes, scourge of the House Select Committee on Intelligence and special secret emissary of the White House to the Hill, has gotten tired of all those people mocking him for claiming he's a Tulare County family farmer just because the family dairy farm moved to Iowa some years ago without him, where it's generally worked by undocumented immigrants, while he himself stayed in California growing fragrant and multiflowered paranoid fantasies about President Trump and the FBI, so he's bought himself a spread of acres in his district, well, maybe half an acre:
Nunes, R-Tulare, reported on a newly released financial disclosure form that he owns a Tulare County farm that generates no income for him and is worth less than $15,000.
Nunes has never before claimed a farm as one of his assets in annual financial disclosures, according to public records dating back to 2007.
That suggests he either bought a small part in a farm recently or he improperly filed previous financial disclosures, according to Delaney Marsco, legal counsel on ethics for the nonpartisan watchdog group Campaign Legal Center.
“Either he had a tiny stake in this farm all along and he’s been improperly filing financial disclosures, or he bought a tiny, tiny farm this year in order to protect his reputation as a farmer in his district,” Marsco said.
Except the reporters couldn't find any records that he or his wife had bought any land in 2018 either, so who knows? Anyway, I just couldn't really resist:

More Economic Opportunities

Mainland Chinese rapper VaVa registers her disapproval of Hong Kong demonstrators on her Instagram account (which is of course illegal in mainland China except for those with the money to maintain a VPN). This in no way makes her look as if she is cravenly currying favor with the Beijing government, except—well, yeah, it does.

How nuts is the entire world right now?

Well, India's only Muslim-majority state, Jammu and Kashmir, has had its constitution somehow revoked by the Hindu-nationalist government and now the entire state is under something like house arrest, under curfew and phone lines and Internet down for the past 12 days (these are supposedly being restored), politicians arrested, insulin and baby food running out, because that's how Prime Minister Modi thinks he can get the people "more economic opportunities".

That line is another one of the lines that enrages me, with its more than a hint of bribery: "Surely you can put up with a little oppression if we pay you enough." And its buried presupposition that the politician delivering the line is the only one who can deliver the cash, not so buried in the case of Trump:
"The bottom line is, I know you like me, this is a love fest, but you have no choice but to vote for me because your 401(k)'s down the tubes. Everything is going to be down the tubes," Mr Trump said. "So whether you love me or hate me, you've got to vote for me."
(The day after [checks notes] an 800-point drop in the DJI.)

Modi's economic policies, the thing that was going to make up for his party's overt "Aryan" chauvinism (not going to win him friends in the country's southern states) and Islamophobia, haven't actually been that great for the masses, in spite of continued high growth rates, because the growth isn't shared, but benefits only the top 10%, with persistent caste divisions (Modi and the BJP castigate "caste politics" the way Republicans talk about "identity politics", as a way of shutting down discussion of the issue) sharpening the inequality, which seems to be getting worse:
Annabel Bligh: The Modi government has been accused of withholding jobs data in the run up to the election because of how bad the official figures are. But the latest employment survey, which was approved by India’s national statistics commission, was leaked to the Indian newspaper the Business Standard in late January and showed unemployment was at a record high of 6.1%.
Indrajit Roy: By a lot of standards 6.1% is not a bad unemployment rate. But for India it’s very significant, according to Jens Lerche, because there isn’t strong welfare provision in the country. And the unemployment rate was just 2.2% in the 2011-2012 financial year.
Jens Lerche: Now unemployment is uncommon in a country such as India because poor people have to work. So, people being without jobs to some extent is people that can afford not to work – educated people that have a family background that they can live off for a while. But, what we have seen here is jobs that have disappeared also within the agricultural sector and low end of manufacturing sector. So it does appear as if poor people are also losing their jobs here.
And since his reelection in May things have started looking pretty gloomy for the business community as well:
Despite an uptick in August, Mumbai’s Sensex stock index is about as close to October’s lows as it is to June’s highs. In July foreigners pulled more money out of Indian equities than they put in. India’s cautious business press has begun to criticise the government. So too, even more gingerly, have its cowed business leaders. “There is no demand and no private investment,” groused Rahul Bajaj, chairman of Bajaj Auto, a motorcycle-maker, at its annual meeting in late July. “So where will growth come from?” The remark, widely interpreted as a swipe at Mr Modi, encapsulates Indian business’s disenchantment with the man they once regarded as their champion.
The immediate cause of the mood swing was the budget, presented on July 5th by Nirmala Sitharaman, the newly appointed finance minister. Business folk tuned in to the two-hour presentation expecting less red tape, fewer tariffs, more incentives for investment and lower taxes. They got the opposite....
So it seems likely that the timing of the Kashmir action could be related to the general sourness people are feeling about the government. For more, see this interview with the Kashmiri (but London-resident) novelist Mirza Waheed in The New Yorker.

Cross-posted at No More Mister Nice Blog.

Friday, August 16, 2019

Then again...

Regaliceratops peterhewsi, a.k.a. "Hellboy", a triceratops cousin discovered some 15 years ago in southeastern Alberta, via Smithsonian.

I've been in something of a funk, I don't mind telling you, and I think it must have been Matt Taibbi, someone I am normally able to regard with cheerful disrespect, who got me into the political part of it, with a big report from Iowa in late July in which he suggested that the Democratic party was making the same mistakes the Republicans made in 2016, in fielding a bunch of candidates nobody could possibly want:
The top Democrats’ best arguments for office are that they are not each other. Harris is rising in part because she’s not Biden; Warren, because she isn’t Bernie. Bernie’s best argument is the disfavor of the hated Democratic establishment. The Democratic establishment chose Biden because he was the Plan B last time and the party apparently hasn’t come up with anything better since. Nothing says “We’re out of ideas” quite like pulling a pushing-eighty ex-vice president off the bench to lead the most important race in the party’s history.
But I think Matt may have some difficulty recognizing that women politicians are interesting above the neck, humans you can have conversations with, and that some of them are more attractive than others in the same way as men politicians are. In any case, it's not clear the Republican process was a mistake at all, since for one thing they ended up with a candidate who won, in his own peculiar way, and would have been ready to accomplish all the party's principal goals if he weren't so incompetent as a people manager and so unable to delay personal gratification.

In a way, the 2016 thing was a Darwinian experiment, gathering together a collection of political mutants and seeing which mutations were adaptive, an alternative to the conventional method of seeking the candidate who conforms most to the stereotype the choosers feel comfortable with, and what came up was as big a surprise as the triceratops must have been, back in the day, but it wasn't ineffective. While the Democrats' process may have been too sober. This time around, maybe we're performing a similar experiment, and with some real results, in the sense that some of our oddest candidates are the ones who have risen to the top: our oldest candidates in history, our first professional academic to run since Woodrow Wilson (and a more talented academic than he was by far). We've had candidates who became famous as tough-guy prosecutors like Harvey Dent—Thomas E. Dewey, Estes Kefauver, Rodolfo Giuliani, Christopher Christie, all losers in the presidential stakes—but how about prosecutors famous for opposing the death penalty and being black and putting the screws on a sanctimonious, reptilian Supreme Court nominee?

What I'm trying to say is, maybe our candidates are weird enough this time around to shake up the formula and make this unnatural selection process yield something.

Cross-posted at No More Mister Nice Blog.

Thursday, August 15, 2019


Cleve R. Wootson, Jr. and Ashley Parker for the Washington Post on whether we want the next president to Make America Boring Again:
 All Brian Fisher wants is to make it through Season 2 of HBO’s “Westworld.”
Fisher, 65, retired from Silicon Valley to Alicante, Spain, where he imagined he’d spend his time catching up on television and enjoying the beach.  But now, he jokes, he can’t seem to do either — and for that, he blames President Trump.
 “You think, ‘Well, I’ll have my coffee and see what happened overnight in the States,’ ” he said, before describing a morning ritual that includes copious cable news and scrolling through the news alerts on his phone. “I can barely find time to go out to the beach. I live on the beach in Spain — that’s the whole point — but by the time I finish the news, it’s already getting dark.”
Don't know how come they have to report from Iowa to get a quote from the Valencian coast, but I guess that's our ever-shrinking world.

I'm not sure I can stand it any more.

Cross-posted at No More Mister Nice Blog.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Lift My Lamp

Not everybody agreed with the idea of the Emma Lazarus inscription on the Statue of Liberty at the time, including cartoonist Victor Gillam in March 1890 (h/t this blog post by Victoria Emily Jones). 

The All-New New Colossus
by Kenneth Cuccinelli

.................... Give me your tired, your poor,
At least if they can stand on their own feet,
But don't send us those homeless any more
Or people who don't have enough to eat.
Ship them back to their shitholes. Lock the door.

Via Splinter News, a story about Ken Cuccinelli's views on immigrants when he was Virginia attorney general (you'll remember him as the one who redesigned the state seal to conceal the left boob of the goddess Virtus, to make the state safe for Christians) that originally appeared in the lamented DCist: in a call to a conservative radio show in January 2012, he was complaining (falsely) about the District of Columbia catching rats and trucking them to Virginia instead of killing them and claiming (falsely) that the rules prevented them from "breaking up the families" of rats (it's true for some animal species, but rats and mice aren't among them):

Monday, August 12, 2019

Thread: Donald's Vacation

Screen capture from the original Dutch Big Brother, 2001.

"By accident" lol.

Cross-posted at No More Mister Nice Blog.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Swedish Phish

In February 2017, our friend the New York Crank told the readers of No More Mister Nice Blog a story about
an attack that in fact never happened — by “terrorist” immigrants who didn’t exist, in Sweden.
Said Trump recently, “You look what’s happening last night in Sweden. Sweden! Who would believe this? Sweden! They took in large numbers, they’re having problems like they never thought possible.”
This left the Swedes scratching their heads. Nothing had happened in Sweden on the night Trump referred to. How Donald Trump turned on his TV to Fox and Friends [which had in fact run a report claiming that the north Stockholm suburb of Rinkeby was an immigrant-dominated "no-go zone" where Christians were unsafe] and arrived at this conclusion is a job for the men with the white coats when he finally arrives in a straight jacket at the National Home for Daft and Bewildered Ex-Presidents.
Crank went on to talk about the international response to the incident as a good model for how we could start dealing with our then-new president, through merciless ridicule, as demonstrated by the group of Danish Facebook users who organized a "Pray for Sweden" vigil, or the German report of a new Ikea product:

Anyway, some unexpected follow-up to the story came up in today's Times,

Saturday, August 10, 2019

For the Record: Rehearsal

A couple of years ago, at the height of the #MeToo movement, when I found myself accusing myself of complicity in the case of the Metropolitan Opera conductor James Levine, an abuser I sort of knew was an abuser but whose victims I never gave any thought to, I mentioned some video I'd seen of him rehearsing the soprano Kathleen Battle, as an example of how an artist who is a bad man can also be a good man, and a great artist can also be a person of extraordinary tenderness and generosity, on the job, but I didn't post the video, or even look for it, and I just happened to run across some of the same tape, a longer thing featuring not only Battle but also the wondrous Jessye Norman, in the 1988 Met production of Strauss's Ariadne auf Naxos, and I wanted to post it now, for the record, by way of trying to explain the thing I couldn't articulate. I guess that means open thread.


Image by Mayday Productions.

As I was telling somebody with reference to the death of Jeffrey Epstein and the immediate batches of conspiracy theories arising around it, I can't stand it when real life starts resembling this schlocky kind of fiction. I'm contented to believe Epstein was ready to die and succeeded because of the ineptness and negligence of his guards, as explained by a couple of members of the fraternity on NBC:
Former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who resigned his post in May, wrote in a tweet that people who face charges similar to Epstein's are often at a high risk of suicide and that several defendants released on bail in cases in Maryland, where Rosenstein was formerly U.S. attorney, died of suicide.
"Stopping people from harming themselves is difficult," he said.
Jack Donson, a former longtime federal Bureau of Prisons case manager, told NBC News that suicide watch in federal lockup "usually only lasts a few days to week" due to the amount of manpower the 24-hour surveillance entails.
"It requires staff to do overtime shifts" and is "not considered a good use of resources," Donson said. 

And I don't even care. If anybody thought they were going to silence him, it seems likely they were wrong:

Friday, August 9, 2019

ICE raids: Where were the criminals?

Photo by Rogelio V. Solis/AP/Shutterstock used, as it happens, by Mr. Pierce, who reminds us of who did not get arrested on Wednesday, namely any of the actual criminals, the executives of the chicken-processing plants that illegally gave jobs to these workers.


I'm so old I remember when these massive ICE raids were being publicized as a stab at purging the violent criminal element in our midst, way back, oh, almost four weeks ago:
President Donald Trump on Friday insisted upcoming immigration raids set to begin this weekend will focus primarily on deporting criminals though he acknowledged his administration will target anyone who entered the country illegally.
“We’re really looking for criminals as much as we can. Trying to find the criminal population, which has been coming into this country the last 10 years,” Trump told reporters as he prepared to depart Washington. He touted his administration’s removal of members of the violent gang MS-13, claiming he’d deported them “by the thousands.”
Of course they had to scotch the operation after that, once again, but on Wednesday President Blabbermouth was able to restrain himself, or rather they managed to hide it from him, and don't mind admitting it—

Thursday, August 8, 2019

For the Record

This seems so much worse, and somehow sadder, than anything we're screaming at Maggie Haberman for doing:

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Death Struggles

William S. Hart and Robert McKim in Hart's The Return of Draw Egan (1916).

Shorter David Brooks, "The Ideology of Hate And How to Fight It", New York Times, 6 August 2019:
The typical mass murderer nowadays is not acting only out of psychological damage, loneliness, and pessimism, but also ideology, as we learn from reading their manifestos; an ideology which is not classic xenophobia or white nationalism but a combination of essentialism, separatism, and social Darwinism, or the belief that your ethnic group will probably be replaced, which is a form of antipluralism, which is a reaction against the diversity, fluidity, and interdependent nature of modern life, shared by Trumpian nationalists, authoritarian populists, and Islamic jihadists, engaged in a struggle with pluralism which is one of the great death struggles of our time, being fought on every front. Pluralists are people like me, who believe that each person is a symphony of identities, and that culture mixing has always been and should be the human condition, the adventure of life, a constant dialogue that has no end because there is no single answer to how we should live, about movement, interdependence, and life, whereas the enemies of pluralism dream of a pure, static world, and oh yes I said I was going to tell you how to fight them but look at me I'm all out of space again.

Two American Songs

Remember being on a long cross-country drive, family, and singing? In my time, we had a real repertoire and would go on thematic jags—all the songs you know focusing on a woman's name, or state names, which we'd try to do in alphabetical order, or animals. If people could do that today and I were leading a cycle of songs on American cities, I'd be bound to come up with these two wonderful works that keep popping up in my mind today, each a remarkable fusion of lyric and melody and iconic of the place it celebrates—the Randy Newman with its deep self-deprecating modesty and generosity, the Marty Robbins with its self-conscious biculturalism and the extraordinary combination of white-hot romanticism with cowboy deadpan.

Monday, August 5, 2019


This is the most deconstructionist thing that has ever happened: Screenshot from the official White House release of the president's remarks on the tragic shootings over the weekend in El Paso and Dayton and not, as I'm sure you have heard, in that other Ohio city:

Sous rature is a strategic philosophical device originally developed by Martin Heidegger. Usually translated as 'under erasure', it involves the crossing out of a word within a text, but allowing it to remain legible and in place. Used extensively by Jacques Derrida, it signifies that a word is "inadequate yet necessary";[1] that a particular signifier is not wholly suitable for the concept it represents, but must be used as the constraints of our language offer nothing better.
In the philosophy of deconstructionsous rature has been described as the typographical expression that seeks to identify sites within texts where key terms and concepts may be paradoxical or self-undermining, rendering their meaning undecidable.[2][3] To extend this notion, deconstruction and the practice of sous rature also seek to demonstrate that meaning is derived from difference, not by reference to a pre-existing notion or freestanding idea.[4]
But which, in the last analysis, are we looking at here, in the rature of "in Toledo"? Is it really "inadequate yet necessary"? or is it more "paradoxical or self-undermining"?

Horse race update

Edgar Degas, Race Horses, 1885-88, Metropolitan Museum of Art.

I never got around to explaining what it was that impressed me so much about Rachel Bitecofer's work, in the interest of talking about the specific predictions she was making,  and I don't want to let it go, because the more I think about it the more important I think it is: it's that she isn't really making predictions in the normal horse race fashion at all, which aims at anticipating the result at all costs, but deliberately making predictions that could easily be wrong.

She's making falsifiable predictions, in fact, in the service of testing a hypothesis, so that there's something to learn from it. When we follow a prediction through the election, we learn how smart Nate is, and if we're gamblers we may collect some money, but we don't learn anything in particular about how the political system is working. When we follow Bitecofer's prediction, say that Democrats would pick up 43 House seats in the 2018 midterm, we learn whether her particular hypothesis is consistent with reality or not. Bitecofer is putting some science into political science.

The hypothesis is basically that the old arrangement in which elections were decided by the independents no longer applies; it's the polarization that has followed the sorting of liberals and conservatives into the Democratic and Republican parties, and the different degrees of emotional engagement that accompany it:

More mass murder

You've heard of the Terror in Paris in 1794; this is from the White Terror of revenge against the Jacobins in 1795.

So here we are with a big bonanza of mass murder incidents—two in less than 24 hours, one white boy from North Texas who drove down to El Paso to murder a bunch of Mexican people in a Walmart after dropping a white nationalist manifesto on the public, one white boy from the Dayton metro region who drove into the Oregon entertainment district with his sister and her date to murder the two of them and seven other people, a total of six black victims, with no manifesto (but his Twitter feed identified him as a "leftist" and atheist supporter of Sanders or Warren and advocate of socialism and indeed of gun control, according to the pretty trustworthy What they obviously had in common was the race and gender and age group of the killer and weapons capable of filling an unforgiving minute with an awful lot of lethal rounds, and an argument for gun control.

Less than a week after the murder of three people of maybe varied ethnicity at the Gilroy Garlic Festival in Santa Clara County, California by a local boy of "Iranian and Italian descent" after he opened an Instagram account complaining about the "hordes of mestizos and Silicon Valley white twats" who came to the festival and pushing the ancient anti-Semitic tract Might Is Right by "Ragnar Redbeard", but the FBI is refusing to comment on whether he might have had an ideological motive.

I'm not going to play the game of arguing over whether all three were or weren't really white nationalist hate crimes, though I can't forbear noting that the "leftist" Dayton shooter was remembered by high school classmates as less than woke in regard to girls—

Sunday, August 4, 2019


OK sometime exactly that many decades ago I was a participant in a dance contest in Germany with my colleague Kathy in which this was the tune. We had never heard of Rod Stewart so we obviously didn't know he was in the band, if he was, which I think was not yet the case (he joined along with Ron Wood in 1970 when they had become The Faces). I would not have cared, though I probably would have been interested in the keyboard player, Ian McLagan. Kathy and I won second prize though I must acknowledge that there were only two couples on the floor.

Saturday, August 3, 2019

Horse race stuff

Théodore Géricicault, The Wild Horse Race at Rome, ca. 1817, via Wikiart.

I've been looking at extremely interesting ideas (warning: when I say "extremely interesting" I may really mean "in agreement with my naive expectations that nobody else agrees with or has corroborated", just the way most people do) about the US electorate being developed by a political scientist called Rachel Bitecofer at the Judy Ford Wason Center, Christopher Newport University, in Newport News, Virginia, making election predictions on the hypothesis that the behavior of "independents" isn't especially important, and the effects of what she calls "negative partisanship" are (it's not that simple: it considers a lot of factors, in two separate tiers, and regression analysis).

Which led her to predict last November's Democratic gain of 42 House seats (she said 43) in July 2018, when mainstream forecasters were unsure whether Democrats would win the 23 seats they needed to take the majority, which was a pretty remarkable feat, and is leading her now to predict a very solid Electoral College victory for the Democrats in 2020, without knowing who the candidates are. You'll have to check out the paper to get the details, because that's what I'm running this post to get you to do.

I was especially taken by Bitecofer's analysis of what happened in the 2016 election, because it not only puts to rest the zombie story of the "white working class" as decisive factor but also gives the first precise estimate I've seen (schematic, not numerical) of the influence of the Russian active measures:

Friday, August 2, 2019

The Pompitous of Love

David Brooks ("Marianne Williamson Knows How to Beat Trump") says this is no time  for wonkiness:
It is no accident that the Democratic candidate with the best grasp of this election is the one running a spiritual crusade, not an economic redistribution effort. Many of her ideas are wackadoodle, but Marianne Williamson is right about this: “This is part of the dark underbelly of American society: the racism, the bigotry and the entire conversation that we’re having here tonight. If you think any of this wonkiness is going to deal with this dark psychic force of the collectivized hatred that this president is bringing up in this country, then I’m afraid that the Democrats are going to see some very dark days.
Laugh all you want, you know, but I think there's something to it. I mean I wouldn't call it a "dark underbelly" (underbellies are usually pretty pale in most species, I believe), but don't we all feel something apocalyptic about this atmosphere? Psychic force, collectivized hatred, crisis, something hideous at our hearts that never dared to show itself before and now looks triumphant behind our incompetent and criminal emperor. Is it wackadoodle to see a cosmic struggle of some kind going on in the here and now?

Marianne Williamson, a noted lecturer on esoteric subjects

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Mr. Bret blames the Democrats

Library of the Philological Departments, in the still tuition-free FU Berlin, by Norman Foster, 2005.

Shorter Mr. Bret Stephens, "The Democrats Are Not Up To Their Historic Responsibility", 1 August 2019:
Due to circumstances beyond their control, Republicans are unable to provide a Republican candidate for the 2020 presidential election, so Democrats need to step up and offer one. This is their historic responsibility but I am sorry to say they are shirking it. Perfectly respectable Republicans like that guy Delaney and that other guy seek the Democratic nomination but are ignored. Instead the entire party seems to be focused on nominating a candidate who disagrees with me on important policy issues. This will not end well.
Besides, we wouldn't just be helping out the Republicans in a pinch, we'd be helping ourselves, because nominating a Republican is the only way we can win. This is proven by the fact that in the Democrats' 2018 capture of the House some of the seats were won by candidates who were more conservative than some of the other ones.

Steve was all over this silly column first thing in the morning, so I won't dwell. Suffice it to say that no, Democrats don't feel it's their historic obligation to supply Mr. Bret with somebody to vote for, because we disagree with him and everything he stands for.

But I particularly liked this:
I do not admire anyone embracing the bad idea of free college. The surest way to strip nearly anything of its value is to make it free.
Yes indeed. This is why Oxford and Cambridge, the Sorbonne and the Freie Universität Berlin and the Cooper Union in New York have become such despised places.

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Hi It's Stupid: Medicare For All

The Doctor's Visit. Jan Steen, 1663-65, via Hetkoen International.

Hi, it's Stupid to say you shouldn't call it Medicare For All just because it isn't Medicare. Or at least that was the upshot of a conversation with Nathan Newman, probably the smartest person I know on Rose Twitter, who was rosesplaining why I was wrong until I had to give up and come over here before he decided I was stupid for real.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness dribbling out of their ears

Herbert Brenon, Peter Pan, 1924

OK, so I'm getting a little concerned about David Brooks, who seems to have started worrying about whether he's great or not, and if not, why not? ("Do You Have to Be a Jerk to Be Great?").

Is it because of his lack of insanely single-minded commitment to a single goal? He's been looking at another book (You Must Change Your Life: The Story of Rainer Maria Rilke and Auguste Rodin by Rachel Corbett, 2016) about Great Men, and the "total dedication" that enabled them to produce their awesome works:
Rilke had the same solitary focus. With the bohemian revelry of turn-of-the-century Paris all around him, Rilke was alone writing in his room. He didn’t drink or dance. He celebrated love, but as a general outlook and not as something you gave to any one person or place.
Both men produced masterworks that millions have treasured. But readers finish Corbett’s book feeling that both men had misspent their lives.
They were both horrid to their wives and children. Rodin grew pathetically creepy, needy and lonely. Rilke didn’t go back home as his father was dying, nor allow his wife and child to be with him as he died. Both men lived most of their lives without intimate care.
I mean, do you know of any famous people alive now who have been horrid to the wife and kids and may not now be getting the "intimate care" they were envisaging when they married somebody 25 or 30 years younger than they are?

Monday, July 29, 2019

It's about the RPM

How it's supposed to be: Gilroy Garlic Festival 2018.

I've never heard of a case that puts it in starker terms than this shooting spree in Gilroy, California (not too far from where I spent half my childhood in the suburbs of San Jose, which meant the story immediately grabbed me—we never went to the festival, but Gilroy's devotion to garlic was something that delighted us when we drove by on Highway 101 on the way to the beach or a camping trip):
At least three people are dead and 11 people are injured after a shooting at the Gilroy Garlic Festival in Northern California, according to law enforcement and medical officials.
Gilroy Police Chief Scot Smithee said the shooter was fatally shot by officers who engaged him within one minute of the shooting.
One minute! Police performance was obviously superb, but they couldn't stop him from shooting 14 people, killing at least three, including a six-year-old boy. That's because the shooter had a semiautomatic weapon, though reports aren't yet clear what kind. Maybe it used one of the illegal Glock conversion devices that ATF officers found a whole bunch of in Gilroy, as it happens, last May. One way or another, those were the rounds per minute that make such guns so much more dangerous in these episodes than other weapons might be, and that was the minute in which they take place.

That's why these weapons have to go. It's not a matter of the type, dear gun nuts, please don't try to engage me in a tech-and-terminology debate because I don't have the patience for it today, it's a matter of how many bullets it shoots in 60 seconds.

Cross-posted at No More Mister Nice Blog.

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Brooks sights the rare White Democrat

How White Opinion Columnists Moved Centerwards

Racial equity has become the defining issue of the moment.
David Brooks
Opinion Columnist
People are always changing their minds, day to day. But over the past 20-odd years one group has shifted to an astounding degree: highly educated white opinion columnists. I’m not sure I understand why this group has undergone such a transformation, but it has, and the effects are reshaping our politics.
The easiest way to describe the shift is to say that educated opinion columnists have moved steadily to the center. In 1994, only about a sixth of pundits who had gone to graduate school said they were neither liberal nor conservative but really appreciated the ideas on both sides and wished everybody would be more civil. In 2015, more than 50 percent did. In 1994, only 12 percent of pundits with college degrees said they were consistently neutral. Eleven years later, 47 percent did, according to the Pew Research Center.

Friday, July 26, 2019

For the Record: The Impeachment Agnostic

Update below:

Image by Simone Noronha/New York Times.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Jordan's new New Yorker piece, saying farewell to an icon:

A World Without Mad Magazine

Image via Fandom.

And Then the Critics

Image via The Clyde Fitch Report.

The way I received it, listening to the Judiciary hearing on the radio (unlike Chuck Todd, I don't get to criticize the "optics", and I didn't listen to the Intelligence hearing at all, though I've got the transcript in an open tab and I'm working on it), Mueller had a pedagogical task I thought he was living up to pretty well, with the intense cooperation of the Democrats on the committee. Namely, he wasn't going to read us the Report ("Hey kids, it's story time!"). He was going to make us read it, or the committee members on our behalf, because that's what you need to do in this class: if the professor spoonfeeds you the material, you're not going to get it, you have to master it for yourself.

And Mueller really wants us to read the Report. "The Report speaks for itself," he keeps saying, like Dorothy insisting she just wants to go back to Kansas. He's aware, I think, that nobody has read it, but he's put so much into it that he doesn't have much left for himself.

So he wouldn't give them a lecture, he gave them a "recitation", or what's called a tutorial in UK, in which the congresscritters read it to him, and he signaled to what extent he thought they were getting it right:

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

The Loudest Thing Mueller Didn't Say

Image via NBC.

Rep. Ted Lieu during the first Judiciary session with Mueller this morning:
“I’d like to ask you the reason, again, that you did not indict Donald Trump is because of OLC [Office of Legal Counsel] opinion stating that you cannot indict a sitting president, correct?” Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA) asked Mueller.
Mueller’s response was straightforward: “That is correct.”
And Mueller walking it back after the break:
“I want to go back to one thing that was said this morning by Mr. Lieu who said, and I quote, ‘you didn’t charge the president because of the OLC opinion.’ That is not the correct way to say it,” Mueller said in his statement. “As we say in the report and as I said at the opening, we did not reach a determination as to whether the president committed a crime.”
Via Vox, which argues that it isn't a big deal:
It’s understandable why many have latched onto the Lieu moment. After all, it would be a massive admission by Mueller under oath. But it seems he was a bit imprecise in answering the lawmaker, or at least didn’t make his true feelings clear.
I totally disagree with that assessment; I think Lieu absolutely won a vital point here, and Mueller said as much. Not "what I said is not true" but "that is not the correct way to say it". And not the correct way to say it not because he doesn't believe that, but because it was not "as we say in the report".

What Lieu succeeded in doing is getting Mueller to say something that isn't in the report, to express his "true feelings" in violation of the constraints he's been imposing on himself since his formal statement of 29 May,
So beyond what I’ve said here today and what is contained in our written work, I do not believe it is appropriate for me to speak further about the investigation or to comment on the actions of the Justice Department or Congress. And it’s for that reason I will not be taking questions today, as well.
And saying something he very specifically didn't want to say, as prefigured in the statement he co-signed with Barr, released 30 May:

The Attorney General has previously stated that the Special Counsel repeatedly affirmed that he was not saying that, but for the OLC opinion, he would have found the President obstructed justice.
Not that it isn't true, but that he's "not saying it". In contrast to Barr's categorical statement in his deceptive letter of 24 March, that
Our determination was made without regard to, and is not based on, the constitutional considerations that surround the indictment and criminal prosecution of a sitting president.
So under questioning from Ted Lieu, he said it. And then turned around with the explanation that he had said it in an "incorrect" way and "corrected" it to make it agree with the official stance.

It's not so earthshakingly important in itself, but it's a kind of skeleton key to all the other things he's been carefully not saying that we've been reading between the lines, that he did have cases for coordination and conspiracy against people in the Trump campaign who were never charged, including Trump himself (just not quite strong enough to send to court), that he could have written an indictment against Trump for obstruction of justice, and that he does intend that Congress should take over the case of Trump himself with the tool it has, of impeachment. All these things he successfully didn't say today are the rest of the iceberg we glimpsed when he was responding to Lieu. The way we've been reading the report, as the basis of articles of impeachment, is the right way.

Cross-posted at No More Mister Nice Blog.