Thursday, January 17, 2019


Photo by AFP/Getty via Daily Mail.

Oh my ears and whiskers, Giuliani:
"I never said there was no collusion between the campaign or between people in the campaign," Giuliani told CNN's Chris Cuomo, who immediately pushed back on that point.
"I have not," Giuliani said in doubling-down on his first remark. "I said the president of the United States. There is not a single bit of evidence the president of the United States committed the only crime you could commit here, conspired with the Russians to hack the DNC."
When Cuomo pushed back on that line as well, Giuliani said Trump "didn't collude with Russia either!"
Giuliani may not have said "there was no collusion" but his client certainly did, hundreds of times, sometimes four or five times or more in a single day. He says it more often than he says "Believe me." Are we now to understand that there was collusion? Glad to hear it! The Mueller investigation is clearly worthwhile whether or not the president has committed any crimes.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

For the Record: Wall that Fall

Serbian-Hungarian border (I think), 2015. Photo by Getty via Politico Magazine.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

For the Record: There is a crisis at the border

First installment of the Trump barrier, $18 million, Calexico CA. Photo by Earnie Grafton/Reuters.

It's just not what Marco thinks it is.

And this sequence, which went sort of viral:

The Demoralization of the Market

Via DiasporaBR.

Brooks's headline last Friday ("The Remoralization of the Market") was so hilarious I found myself feeling the column couldn't possibly live up to it. With the appeal to some good old days from, I don't know, 1750 to 1970, when the Market was Moral, virtuous, kind, diligent, and generous, feeding the sick and clothing the hungry, and then came the Me Decade, and selfish individualistic investors suddenly deciding they were just in it for the money.

He really did kind of write it:
A deadly combination of right-wing free-market fundamentalism and left-wing moral relativism led to a withering away of moral norms and shared codes of decent conduct. We ripped the market out of its moral and social context and let it operate purely by its own rules. We made the market its own priest and confessor.
And that's how the Market got Demoralized. I guess the "left" is to blame for constantly telling grasping shareholders, "Hey man, if greed is your thing, hey, whatever feels good, as long as you don't hurt anybody." We should have found some kind of leftist language for telling capitalists they were doing the wrong thing, I wonder what that would look like.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

He's Misbehavin

The Life of Trumply. Adam Gabbatt/The Guardian, photo by Joshua Bright.

I'm in the White House
I'm all alone
my silent night house
just tweetin on my telephone
I'm misbehavin
ravin cause I miss you

don't see nobody
it never ends
it's kind of cruddy
just hangin with my Fox and Friends
I'm misbehavin
ravin cause I'm missin you

like a fox here
in a box here
out of luck here
guess I'm stuck here
forever if Pelosi don't come through
—believe me

don't call it chaos
it isn't true
if you betray us
I'll shoot you on Fifth Avenue
I'm misbehavin
ravin cause I'm missin you

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Tighten up

That gasping sound you hear around the media at the news that Donald Trump has been under an FBI counterintelligence investigation since early May 2017, looking into the question of whether he might be or have been effectively serving as an agent of the Russian government during his presidential campaign and into his presidency, at least as far as the Oval Office meeting of 10 May when he told Ambassador Kislyak and Foreign Minister Lavrov how pleased he was that he'd fired his FBI director because it relieved him of a lot of pressure, and passed them a tidbit of secret intelligence that happened to come from our Israeli allies, in a meeting that was barred to the US press but well reported, with pictures, in Russia—

That is, I mean, if there's anybody surprised to learn that that was when the FBI opened up a file with Donald Trump's name on it to join those on Papadopoulos, Page, Manafort, Stone, and Flynn in the ongoing investigation of who in the Trump campaign might possibly be a Russian agent, they have to either have been not paying attention or journalists.

Speaking of journalists, get Natasha Bertrand:

Friday, January 11, 2019

Literary Corner: Song of the Wall

The remains of the Anastasian Wall west of Istanbul, under forest cover for the past 1,500 years. Photo credit to TheyDivideUs.

Song of the Wall and the Wheel
by Donald J. Trump
They say a wall is medieval,
     well so is a wheel.
The wheel is older than the wall,
     you know that?
There are some things that work.
     You know what? 
A wheel works and a wall works.
     Nothing like a wall.
Personally I think we should put America on wheels. Then we could scoot away from the danger.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Keep your eyes on the timeline

Tom Barrack, in blue tie, applauding the president at the inauguration, photo by Joe Gromelski/Stars and Stripes. Barrack has denied the report in Michael Wolff's Fire and Fury that he ever said Trump is "not only crazy—he's stupid."
At some point yesterday morning I became aware of a story that had showed up overnight in the New York Times that made me want to give up writing about Trump and Russia altogether, because it suggested that everything I thought I understood about the thing was not just wrong but incoherent; the story, elaborating yesterday's story about Paul Manafort transmitting some Trump-campaign polling data to his confederate Konstantin Kilimnik, that the data was destined for the Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska.

What the hell was that? This information transfer supposedly took place in spring 2016, as Manafort was just settling into his job with the Trump campaign, and two months later Manafort was writing to Kilimnik, essentially, "Hey Kostya does Oleg know about my new gig?" and offering to supply Deripaska with a bunch of private information from the campaign, in the hopes of getting some slack over the $10 million or whatever it was (I've seen quotes from $8.5M to $16M) he owed Deripaska. How could he be doing that if he'd been sending Deripaska information since May?

Well, I can't link that story, because it doesn't exist any more. The Times story was wrong:

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Do your ears a favor

This could be the most perfect piece Beethoven ever wrote. I was somehow thinking about bits of it in the afternoon, and found this knockout performance by Daniel Barenboim when I got home from work. In the first movement listen to how the work seems to be explaining what it's doing, premise to conclusion, with extraordinary clarity, describing its own structure, and in the third there's a kind of opposite approach, in which the same kind of clarity emerges, from some misty region that sounds like too much pedal, every time the rondo theme recurs, until it finally bursts, after a long preparation, into the helter-skelter tempo you've been waiting for and it's so clear that it's almost unbearably joyous.

Citizens Agenda

Photo by Reuters via The Atlantic.

Jay Rosen has been pushing the concept of a "citizens agenda" in political campaign coverage, meant to ground the coverage in the discussion of what voters want to hear the candidates talking about:
It revolves around the power of a single question: “What do you want the candidates to be discussing as they compete for votes?” From good answers to that everything else in the model flows.
Judging from this interview of Senator Kamala Harris, who has just published a book and may or may not be a presidential candidate in 2020, by Rachel Martin on NPR, it's going to be a long, hard couple of years for the citizens agenda.

Questions on the political purpose of writing the book:

People like you write books like this mostly when they are getting ready to launch a campaign — it's a "get to know me on a national level."

Questions on material in the book, relating to her parents:

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Too Much Leadership

Image from New York Magazine, October 2014.

I'm compelled to give David Brooks ("Washington's New Power Structure") half a pass today: he's written a column that deserved to be written and even contains a little Brooksian witticism that's not entirely unfunny:
Dear Senate Republicans,
I really enjoy spending time with you. You are interesting and excellent company (I really mean that!). When I’m with you, we often enter a magical land in which Donald Trump doesn’t exist. You’re eager to tell me about the issues you’re working on, and sometimes we have these substantive conversations in which we get to ignore the raging dumpster fire on the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue.
In fact, sometimes I think the Senate isn’t a legislative body; it’s the world’s most expensive writer’s colony. Half the senators I meet are writing books.
The point being one that has been made again and again over on our side, that Republican Senators seem to have lost the sense that they have any power. Flake and Corker issuing their style critiques of Trump as if their oath had been sworn to the Constitution of the United Tastes are gone, but Willard Mitt Romney is carrying the work on with the same indignation, surprise, and impotence.

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Wall Together Now

Photograph by Bjarni Grimsson for MAGA, a nonprofit arts group led by the Swiss-Icelandic artist Christoph Büchel which aims to preserve the eight prototype Wall samples in San Diego as sculptures with a cultural value as historical "land art", seen here from the Mexican side of the existing barrier, January 2018, via the Guardian.

It's a mystery!

I'll get to my hypothesis eventually, but I want to remind you that the look of the thing, if not Democrats' attitude toward it, has been a big factor in Trumpy's wallthink from the beginning, when you think about it—Trump always insisted that his wall was going to be "big and beautiful", and was very insistent on the importance of aesthetics when he issued the call for design proposals in March 2017:

President on Strike

Thisbe, Wall, and Pyramus in the 2010-11 production of A Midsummer Night's Dream by the University of Delaware Resident Ensemble Players.

Well, that's a relief:
JERUSALEM – President Donald Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, said Sunday that the U.S. military withdrawal from northeastern Syria is conditioned on defeating the remnants of the Islamic State group, and on Turkey assuring the safety of Kurdish fighters allied with the United States.
Trump's not going to pull US troops out of Syria until all the reasons for not pulling troops out of Syria go away. He's totally going to do it, just not as long as it's a really bad idea. As soon as it's a good idea he'll be there.

Or, putting it another way, the Anonymous Resistance is still at work even though "Mad Dog" Mattis has bowed out. All we have to do is wait until Trump's obsessed with some other crazy project and you can correct the current mistake without him noticing, at least as long as the mistake is so terrible even Bolton and Pompeo and Netanyahu know it's a mistake and they all get on board.

Friday, January 4, 2019


Buster Keaton in Convict 13, 1920, via.

It's David Brooks, speculating, from his home on one of Saturn's most popular moons, what human beings on Earth might be like these days, now that Abraham Lincoln, Mother Teresa, and Nelson Mandela have all died ("The Morality of Selfism"). He suspects some of them are probably self-absorbed:
You probably want to be a good person. But you may also be completely self-absorbed. So you may be thinking, “There is no way I can be good if I’m also a narcissist. Isn’t being good all about caring about other people?”
If David Brooks were completely self-absorbed, which he probably isn't, he'd probably worry about it. It could interfere with his project of being a good person by caring about other people, which is essentially what being good is all about, as in the well-studied cases of Abraham Lincoln, Mother Teresa,  and Nelson Mandela, probably. But according to his anonymous sources, there are all sorts of people on earth at the moment who don't react this way. It makes him so mad he can't stop himself from being a little sarcastic about it!
But how wrong you are!
We live in a culture of selfism — a culture that puts tremendous emphasis on self, on self-care and self-display. And one of the things we’ve discovered is that you can be a very good person while thinking only about yourself!

Thursday, January 3, 2019

My Unpopular Opinion: In favor of Paygo from the left

It looks as if the new House of Representatives is going to adopt what is known as a "Paygo" rule for legislation, short for "pay as you go", which reminds us all of deficit-busting hysteria from 1990 through 1997 and the worse that came after, and is going to cause a lot of howling out here in the peanut gallery, and I've been reading around a little bit about it, and I'm afraid I'm going to ask folks to calm down a little bit—not that congresscritters who have promised constituents to vote against it should go back on their word (if only because I'm sure Speaker-to-be Pelosi knows who she can spare in the vote), though Progressive Caucus chairs Mark Pocan and Pramila Jayapal will in fact be voting in favor

—but that persons of progressive views in general need to understand that there are a lot of serious misconceptions going around about what Paygo is and what it isn't: and that it is not a neoliberal conspiracy to privatize Social Security, as I've been learning from a piece from early December by Robert Greenstein for Dean Baker's Center on Budget and Policy Priorities suggesting that "Paygo" is a tool that can further progressive goals, especially if you're among those of us who believe the reduction of economic inequality entails taking away wealth from those who have too much, in the very stern terms laid down by Anand Ghiridaradas:

LIterary Corner: Walls Within Wheels, Man

Poster for the 1965 film by Wakamatsu Kōji, via Etsy.

Sonnet: Some Things NEVER Get Better
By Donald J. Trump 

The Democrats will probably submit
a Bill, being cute as always, which gives
everything away but gives NOTHING
to Border Security, namely the Wall.
You see, without the Wall there can be no
Border Security - the Tech “stuff” is just,
by comparison, meaningless bells & whistles...
Remember this. Throughout the ages some
things NEVER get better and NEVER change. You have
Walls and you have Wheels. It was ALWAYS
that way and it will ALWAYS be that way!
Please explain to the Democrats
that there can NEVER be a replacement
for a good old fashioned WALL!
I just like the fact that you can make it add up to 14 lines, many in pentameter. There's lots more to say, though, about the philosophy of it, of nothing beats a good old-fashioned wall for, um, holding a ceiling up? That's my favorite use for walls. Wheels, in contrast, do a lot of different stuff, like pottery, or supporting gears, in addition to the transportation thing. 

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Three-Horse Open Sleigh

Troika caravan, via Mir Corporation.

Happy New Year! Even David Brooks ("2019: Year of the Wolves") knows what day it is and has written a column for it, and his hidden overlords seem to have given him the green light to do something unexpected with Emperor Trump, which is to go beyond criticizing his manners and misstatements and other spiritual inadequacies to suggest he is, in fact, probably a criminal, although he clearly doesn't want to get too specific about it:
It will be a year of divided government and unprecedented partisan conflict. It will be a year in which Donald Trump is isolated and unrestrained as never before. And it will be in this atmosphere that indictments will fall, provoking not just a political crisis but a constitutional one.
There are now over a dozen investigations into Trump’s various scandals. If we lived in a healthy society, the ensuing indictments would be handled in a serious way — somber congressional hearings, dispassionate court proceedings. Everybody would step back and be sobered by the fact that our very system of law is at stake.
But we don’t live in a healthy society and we don’t have a healthy president.
The quality of indictment is not strained, it droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven; when Brooks first saved the file, as the URL tells you, it was called "Trump Indictment" but he has decided to depersonalize indictments into something that's just in the atmosphere and "ensues". Giving the impression that he may not be aware of the 36 indictments that have already dropped on

I Dreamed I Saw Steve Moore

Joe Hill ashes envelope, November 1916, via The Labor Martyrs Project.

Our friend Boswood aka Bethesda 1971 has produced a parody of "I Dreamed I Saw Joe Hill"* on the subject of Stephen Moore, who is sort of to Trump and economics what Andrey Zhdanov was to Stalin and arts criticism, and to whom Trump dedicated a recent tweet:
I admired it after he posted it at Kos yesterday (if you like it go rec him there!), and he kindly invited me to reproduce it here, so here goes:

The Ballad of Steve Moore
by Bethesda 1971

I dreamed I saw Steve Moore last night
But Steve you are a right wing hack
“Oh that I am said he
Oh that I am said he.”
You hate the workers don’t you Steve
Their wages are too high
Says Steve “I have a goal in life.
The unions all must die.
The unions all must die.”
And sitting there on my TV
And looking like a jerk
He says “my way to kill them
Is by passing right to work.
By passing right to work.”
From strategists to lobbyists
Through every open door
Where Plutocrats rake in their cash,
It’s there you find Steve Moore.
It’s there you find Steve Moore.
I dreamed I saw Steve Moore last night
But Steve you are a right wing hack
“Oh that I am said he
Oh that I am said he.”
I dreamed I saw Joe Hill last night is a song by Alfred Hayes and Earl Robinson. Joe Hill was a union organizer for the IWW (Wobblies) [and poet—ed.]. He was framed for a murder in Utah and executed by firing squad in 1915. “His body was sent to Chicago where up to 30,000 people attended the funeral. Joe was cremated and his ashes divided into 600 envelopes that were sent to IWW branches across the globe.” Joan Baez sang  I dreamed I saw Joe Hill last night” at Woodstock. Here it is: