Saturday, November 28, 2020

Literary Corner: What's First and What's Last?

Image via Steemit.



Sonnet: On the Poet's Plans for his Last White House Thanksgiving
By Donald J. Trump


Q: Mr. President, do you have any big plans for your last Thanksgiving at the White House?

Well, we don’t know what is last, if you look
at what’s going on. You have to really take a look
at what’s going on. They’re finding tremendous
discrepancies in the votes. Nobody believes those
numbers. Those numbers are incorrect numbers. A lot
of numbers have already been reported that's incorrect.
You’re going to see things happening over the next
week or two that are going to be shocking to people —

if you look at the numbers in Michigan, if you
look at the numbers in Pennsylvania, if you
look at fraudulent voting and fraudulent votes.
So I can’t say what’s first and what’s last, in
terms of is this the last one or is this the first
one of a second term. We’ll see what happens.

That's just the beginning, of course, It was an enormous explosion of Trumpian analysis of the election fraud alleged in the 35 or so lawsuits his campaign had lost to date (last I heard it was 40 and no signs of slowing down) and no word whatever on what his Thanksgiving plans might be. I'm convinced he and his lady ("Who gives a fuck about Christmas stuff and decoration, but I need to do it, right?") don't particularly recognize Thanksgiving as a part of their American lives, and I'm not at all convinced Melania and her son are even in Washington at this point. The White House announced that the president celebrated with his "immediate family", but declined to say who was there, while his children by his first two marriages and their partners showed up at Camp David, Maryland, which they seem to have come to regard as their party place; Big Donald doesn't much like the place (too summer-camp primitive, and anyway he prefers to work during presidential time off, schmoozing with the customers at his businesses, since he gets plenty of relaxation on official work days at the White House, lying in bed with the TV and a cheeseburger or two), but flew in to say hi on Black Friday, perhaps in the hope of selling them something, such as an election fraud narrative.

Friday, November 27, 2020

Victim-Blaming With a Human Face

 

Gloria Swanson in Lewis Milestone's/Richard Rosson's Fine Manners (1926).

David F. Brooks fries up some tasty leftover turkey and stuffing ("The Rotting of the Republican Mind"):

In a recent Monmouth University survey, 77 percent of Trump backers said Joe Biden had won the presidential election because of fraud. Many of these same people think climate change is not real. Many of these same people believe they don’t need to listen to scientific experts on how to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

We live in a country in epistemological crisis, in which much of the Republican Party has become detached from reality. Moreover, this is not just an American problem. All around the world, rising right-wing populist parties are floating on oceans of misinformation and falsehood. What is going on?

Many people point to the internet — the way it funnels people into information silos, the way it abets the spread of misinformation. I mostly reject this view. Why would the internet have corrupted Republicans so much more than Democrats, the global right more than the global left?

Why indeed? Brooks goes to the well of journalist and Brookings fellow Jonathan Rauch, who became well known after the 1993 appearance of his Kindly Inquisitors: The New Attacks of Free Thought, which explained in the nicest, most clubbable possible way how the project of "political correctness"—the idea that one should refrain from using language that demeans and abuses and hurts members of racial, ethnic, sexual, and other kinds of groups less powerful than one's own—was in spite of its "wonderful moral clarity" actually "inherently deadly, not incidentally so—to intellectual freedom and to the productive and peaceful pursuit of knowledge". No, that's not the one Brooks is citing today. Today he's talking about Rauch's 2018 essay "The Constitution of Knowledge", which examines the relative success in misinformation-spreading of Trump and his army of "epistemic trolls" and points at—well, he points at the Internet, actually, like the other many people Brooks mostly rejects, but you have to read well over 20 paragraphs of the piece to find that out, and that's not the idea Brooks wants at the moment.

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Covid vs. Fervid

 

Siyum haShas observances—the day everybody finishes the last page of the Talmud at the end of a seven-and-a-half year cycle—at the MetLife Stadium in New Jersey, 2012. Some religions really are fun, I get that. Via KVPR radio, California.

The Supreme Court's ruling in favor of two applications for "relief" from the threat of Governor Andrew Cuomo, one from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn, one from the ultra-orthodox Agudath Israel organization and their Kew Gardens synagogue, that he might at some point go back to issuing restrictions on the number of people allowed to attend religious services in a given area, to 25 people for an "orange zone" and 10 people for a "red zone", even though they allowed the governors of California and Nevada to do the same thing in May and June, and even though it's not actually going to happen

In a letter to the court last Thursday, Barbara D. Underwood, New York’s solicitor general, said that revisions to the color-coded zones effective Friday meant that “none of the diocese’s churches will be affected by the gathering-size limits it seeks to enjoin.” The next day, she told the court that the two synagogues were also no longer subject to the challenged restrictions.

(yes, there's a new justice since June, and she's said to be very big on what they now call "religious freedom") is smelling as good as roast turkey to some of the usual suspects, and has got my proverbial goat:

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Pre-Thanksgiving

 

I had approximately the same idea as Emptywheel, though I obviously can't make it sound that technical: Trump didn't do this right. Flynn made a plea deal in his two guilty pleas of 2017 and 2018, in which he basically acknowledged a decent number of crimes that he wasn't being charged with, mainly involving the hundreds of thousands of dollars he earned working as an undeclared agent of a foreign government while being the president-elect's national security adviser and they agreed not to prosecute him for them as long as he stuck to the terms of the agreement, which he promptly violated, in particular by lying to Judge Emmett Sullivan, which is yet another serious federal crime, and

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

For the Record: In Defense of Haberman

Drawing by KAL for The Economist, 11 July 2019.


Collaborative piece by Matt Flegenheim and Maggie Haberman opening caused some howls I thought weren't justified:

It's hard for me to imagine how Dean Baquet has any control over this prose at all, let alone a sinister plan of some kind—to achieve what? Lull us into believing that Trump likes some things better than others when he really doesn't?

Monday, November 23, 2020

Transition

Don't even talk to her if you didn't do the homework. Photo by C-Span via The Guardian.

So beastly Emily Murphy has caved, apparently in terror of being questioned by Katie Porter. First she attempted to postpone it for a week and get somebody else to do it for her, per CNBC,

the head of that agency, General Services Administration chief Emily Murphy, will not be leading that briefing, despite the demand from House Committee chairs that she “personally” explain herself.

Rather, a GSA spokesperson said in a statement to CNBC that Deputy Administrator Allison Brigati will “host a 30 minute briefing on Monday, November 30” — a week later than Democrats had asked for in a frustrated joint letter sent to Murphy last Thursday.

and then, after the congresscritters turned this option down and ordered her to show up tomorrow, changed her mind and forestalled the ordeal by releasing the presidential transition funding, informing Biden in a pretty remarkable letter, in which she seems to suggest she is releasing the funds because the election results have been challenged:

Sunday, November 22, 2020

Stupid Coups

Temple Trees, Colombo, Sri Lanka. Photo by Jack Moore/The National.

In October 2018, Sri Lankan president Maithripala Sirisena decided to get rid of his "extremely liberal" prime minister, Ranil Wickramasinghe, and replace him with his own predecessor as president, the authoritarian Mahinda Rajapaksa, a man with a reputation as a Sinhalese "ethno-nationalist populist" involved in war crimes against the Tamil insurgents during the Civil war and blatant corruption during his political career (the corruption was a big theme of the presidential campaign in which Sirisena defeated him, which made Sirisena's choosing Rajapaksa as PM seem particularly odd). The move was blatantly unconstitutional, since Wickramasinghe hadn't lost his parliamentary majority, and launched a seven-week constitutional crisis, with Wickramasinghe refusing to move out of the PM's residence, known as Temple Trees, and his partisans including numerous Buddhist monks occupying the grounds, massive street demonstrations from both sides, MPs throwing chairs and chili powder at the Speaker, and at last

Member of Parliament Range Bangara released an audio recording of a call that substantiated rumors that Rajapaksa’s allies were offering bribes of up to $2.8 million in exchange for political support.

When the call went viral on social media, the political tide began turning against Rajapaksa, according to Sanjana Hattotuwa, a senior researcher at the Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA), a local think tank.

“The scrutiny of the bribes was a severe embarrassment. Nobody could have taken the money after that and survived politically,” he said.

Following which embarrassment, Sirisena gave up and decided instead to dissolve Parliament and call a general election. When the Supreme Court found this move unconstitutional, he had no choice left but to recall Wickramasinghe to finish his term.

It was a "stupid coup", writes Indi Samarajiva at Medium, but its inevitable defeat wasn't exactly a defeat:

Saturday, November 21, 2020

The Lyin' in Winter

 

Cheriss May/NurPhoto via Getty Images via Business Insider.

We're at this bizarre moment when Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff winning the Georgia Senate seats—both of them—suddenly starts to seem conceivable. One thing is those exit poll numbers from 3 November:

Washington Post.

Biden won just 30% of the white vote (up from 21% for Clinton in 2016), but that was enough, combined with the overwhelming preference of Black and Latino voters, if only because there were so many of the latter, testimony to the extraordinary work of Stacey Abrams and thousands of people like her getting out the vote in historic proportions (not just minority members but also anybody under 45, who preferred Biden by 53% to 44%). 

But some Georgia Republicans are blaming Trump for depressing white turnout with his attacks on ballot security, and may now be making it worse for the GOP Senate candidates by insisting that it's still his election the voters should be worried about

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Literary Corner: Rudolfo's Solliloquy

Via Jacobean Tragedies.

Just when America needed a new poetic voice, a sound out of Jacobean tragedy, violent and baroque—


I Can't Give You All These Affidavits

by Rudolph Giuliani

Now, I don’t know. You’re going to tell me
that sixty people are lying? They didn’t just
tell me this. They swore under penalty of perjury,
which is something no Democrat has ever done.

You don’t even ask Biden about this. You don’t
put them under penalty of perjury. He doesn’t
even get asked questions about it. He doesn’t
get asked questions about all the evidence
of the crimes that he committed. These people
are under penalty of perjury, the names that are
on our affidavit. They swear that they weren’t
allowed to carry out their function as inspectors.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Narratology: What Polling Data?

The Grand Havana Room, New York City.

Remember how we've learned that Paul Manafort passed a lot of confidential Trump polling information ("'topline' data, which included the results of internal polling including state, dates, generic, decided GOP, and other such numbers") to his Ukrainian confederate Konstantin Kilimnik, culminating on 2 August 2016, when Kilimnik flew in to New York in the early evening and met with Gates and Manafort (fresh from a 5:00 meeting with Trump and Giuliani at Trump Tower) at the Grand Havana Room at 666 Fifth Avenue (yes, Jared's white elephant building), where Manafort explained, at considerable length, his plan for achieving a Trump victory?

Kilimnik told Patten that at the New York cigar bar meeting, Manafort stated that they have a plan to beat Hillary Clinton which included Manafort bringing discipline and an organized strategy to the campaign. Moreover, because Clinton's negatives were so low [sic]-if they could focus on her negatives they could win the election. Manafort discussed the Fabrizio internal Trump polling data with Kilimnik, and explained that Fabrizio 's polling numbers showed that the Clinton negatives, referred to as a 'therm poll, ' were high. Thus, based on this polling there was a chance Trump could win. (Senate Intelligence Committee Report on Russian Election Interference, vol. 5)

And how Kilimnik relayed the stuff to various persons including their Russian patron Oleg Deripaska and some Ukrainian oligarchs, to the displeasure of Rick Gates, who didn't trust Kilimnik and didn't see the point?

I've struggled with wondering what exactly Russian intelligence might have been able to do with this information and what they wanted it for and found myself too ill-informed to think of anything that made any sense—it was all mixed up in my mind with the Facebook operation. So a few days ago I ran into something that's simple enough to be true, in a kind of summary by Rob Waldeck of material from his October book The Black Ledger: How Trump Brought Putin's Disinformation War to America—that it was simply a presentation of polling data

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

The Party of People Who Don't Have Much Money

Jean-Michel Basquiat, Hannibal.


Shorter Will Bunch ("A less-racist brand of Trump populism could bring a GOP dynasty unless Dems do something"):

Wait, I guess that was the shorter—some headline! Also if I looked more like Rafael Nadal I could be having a lot of trouble fighting the women off, but as long as I don't look even slightly like Rafael Nadal, I'm not allowing myself to worry too much about the prospect. 

I think Steve is completely right about Bunch's argument as far as that goes: a Trumpy candidate who's not appealing to racism and who offers a program that genuinely responds to working class needs isn't going to get anywhere with Trump's base and doesn't have a chance of getting the GOP nomination (a candidate who poses that way, like Josh Hawley of Missouri, making sure the voters know he's lying about the racism and the donors know he's lying about the populism, is a different matter, but I don't think that approach works in a national election either), so it's not a serious question. Voters—OK, maybe not all the voters, but certainly some indispensable proportion of them—voted for Trump because they were fine with the racism and donors funded him because they knew the populism was bogus. Bunch's imaginary founder of the new Republican dynasty isn't going to exist.

But I want to take some time to look at the wider premises Bunch starts with about the party that's already less racist and more genuinely responsive to working-class needs—

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Do you believe in magic?

Alfred Hitchcock, Rear Window.

 



You know what this is? It's the horse race metaphor, and the lack of practice in sober thinking. Of course people know perfectly well that all of the ballots have already been cast, and nothing that happens after the polls close is going to change them, but that's not what they see, as they're watching the returns on TV: they're experiencing a moment in which the situation is constantly changing, and one candidate is "pulling ahead" while the other one is "falling behind".

It's like the GIF above, where you read the turn of James Stewart's head as a response to a noise and the cut to the window scene as showing the source of the noise toward which he turned, the cause of his head turn—it's easy to understand that the two segments weren't really filmed at the same time, and what he's really turning toward is Hitchcock's instructions; but you have to think about it, and that isn't what a life of film watching accustoms you to doing—the normal thing is to ignore the editing and absorb the intended narrative.

A very stable genius like Donald Trump, who's always lived on the cusp between reality and media, who never quite thought he had even had an experience until he read about it on Page Six and literally became something like a billionaire by appearing on television pretending to be a billionaire, whose sense of self-worth is. by now completely tied to the concept of ratings, can't even be made to understand it's impossible for Fox calling Arizona to change the overall election results. But perfectly ordinary people, used to TV, may not try to understand it, absorbed as they are in the narrative of Trump getting stabbed in the back by the news network for which he has done so much, and won't listen if you try to explain it, not because they're too dumb but because they're too emotionally invested in the story.




Saturday, November 14, 2020

Literary Corner: Time Will Tell

Mark, Rothko, No. 6 (Yellow, White, Blue over Yellow on Gray), 1954. Via WikiArt.



This Administration Will Not

by Donald J. Trump

According to some estimates, a national lockdown
costs fifty billion dollars a day and hundreds of
thousands of jobs every single day. Ideally,
we won’t go to a lockdown. I will not go.
This administration will not be going to
a lockdown. Hopefully, whatever happens in the
future, who knows which administration it will be.
I guess time will tell, but I can tell you,
this administration will not go to a lockdown.


Heritage Foundation on 20 April guessed that an 8-week national shutdown would lower economic output by $2 trillion, which only comes to $357 million a day, and cost 14 million jobs from February's 152 million total employed, or 250,000 jobs per day. This was under the assumption that the only region of the country seriously affected by the coronavirus was the New York area, and that this would remain true. 

In the event, in the real world as opposed to Heritage's modeling factory, total US economic output declined at exactly that rate, for a total of $3 trillion in the second quarter of 2020, while the number of jobs declined by 25 million or nearly 300,000 jobs per day, without a national shutdown, so if Heritage's estimates were correct a national shutdown would actually have led to a small but significant improvement, but never mind that. 

Friday, November 13, 2020

Forget it, Dave

English mezzo-soprano and raconteuse Anna Russell (1911-2006). Via.

Shorter David F. Brooks, "How Biden Could Steer a Divided Government", New York Times, 13 November 2020:

If Joe Biden wants to accomplish something as president, the last thing he should do is follow Senator Elizabeth Warren's advice to issue a bunch of executive orders to fix problems in desperate need of attention, like the Covid-19 pandemic, systemic racism and increasing income and wealth inequality, or the climate crisis. 

Instead he should form gangs with Republicans anxious to cooperate, like Senator Susan Collins, on some attainable goals like an infrastructure bank, or creating more factory jobs in the industrial Midwest to reduce our dependence on China, and persuade Majority Leader McConnell that it's in his own interest to allow the bills on the floor, to help increase his Senate majority in the 2022 elections.

And then, if that doesn't work, he should follow Senator Mitt Romney's advice to issue a bunch of executive orders to fix problems in desperate need of attention.

I'm not making this up, as opera comedian Anna Russell used to say when she was explaining the plot of Wagner's Ring des Nibelungen (when Siegfried, having been drugged by the villainous Hagen into forgetting that he just got married to Brünnhilde, instantly falls in love with Hagen's half-sister Gudrun, Russell would say, "Well! She's the first woman he's ever met who wasn't his aunt!").

Paragraph 5:

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

For the Record: Song of Ben Shapiro

 

Wheee! 445 new infections per million in the US and headed for the sky, while France (which reached peak at 840 on Monday) is down to 340 (unfortunately not yet on the map). World in Data.




And here's Ben:

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Got Paranoia? Everywhere Except Pennsylvania


I Was Proved Fucking Right department:

HARRISBURG (KDKA) — For months, there has been talk swirling that if Joe Biden wins Pennsylvania, Republicans in the state legislature could bypass the popular vote and appoint electors who are favorable to President Trump....

On Friday, State Senate majority leader Jake Corman said Republicans will honor the wishes of the voters.

“Our role is to monitor the process, our role is to provide oversight and call out questions where they might need asked, but certainly want to stay with the tradition of the popular vote winner getting the electors,” Senator Corman said.

Corman says the vote is certified by the state and the governor appoints the electors.

He says the legislature will follow the law. (KDKA TV Pittsburgh)

Yes, some Republicans in the General Assembly are calling for a "legislative audit" of the election results to be completed before secretary of state Book—some sources say it's a "bipartisan call"


but they don't seem able to name any of the non-Republicans involved in the move, and others reporting the same occasion disagree:

Monday, November 9, 2020

Got Paranoia? General Services Administration

My screenshot from video via the Independent, 4 February 2017.

Can we please jail Emily Murphy, the GOP political hack running the General Services Administration, who has apparently decided to single-handedly kneecap the Biden transition?

The administrator of the General Services Administration, the low-profile agency in charge of federal buildings, has a little-known role when a new president is elected: to sign paperwork officially turning over millions of dollars, as well as give access to government officials, office space in agencies and equipment authorized for the taxpayer-funded transition teams of the winner.

It amounts to a formal declaration by the federal government, outside of the media, of the winner of the presidential race.

But by Sunday evening, almost 36 hours after media outlets projected Biden as the winner, GSA Administrator Emily Murphy had written no such letter. And the Trump administration, in keeping with the president’s failure to concede the election, has no immediate plans to sign one. This could lead to the first transition delay in modern history, except in 2000, when the Supreme Court decided a recount dispute between Al Gore and George W. Bush in December.

Which ended after the Supreme Court intervened on the Bush campaign's instance to stop the recount of Florida ballots, and Vice President Gore conceded on 12 December:

Saturday, November 7, 2020

Literary Corner: Mr. Vice President, Say a Few Words

 


The neighborhood erupted at about 11:30 this morning, shouting and singing and pot-banging, and for a second I couldn't imagine what was happening, even though I had the radio on and the network had broken into "Wait Wait Don't Tell Me" with the news. 

I think I'm really starting to accept that it's time to be happy about this, just for its own sake, as Jordan started saying, because it feels like a liberation and a lightening, like a rock rolled off our collective chests, a Happy Day. Regardless of the pain and embarrassment we will continue to feel and the way things won't get altogether better, regardless of what President Biden will or won't be able to do (or even want to do, as some of the young folk wish to remind us), regardless of whether the criminals are brought to justice, regardless what goes down from here on in, it's just a good feeling. We will get over Trump, we will be done with this particular anomaly. We're already over him! Poof! He's deflated, whizzing around the room for an instant and dropping to the floor!

One of the things that's been distressing me since Tuesday is the sense that that isn't happening, the thing I'd been really looking forward to, the moment when his followers would suddenly come to realize that he's nobody, a loser, an ill-stuffed shirt, the moment when they lose their faith in him. 

Friday, November 6, 2020

Worser Angels

 


You probably thought we just went through a national election, but it turns out what really happened was Most Americans were sending a message in a bottle, and for some reason which will go unexplained they were addressing it to David Brooks's information bubble so he could get a better idea of what's going on in Most Americans' lives and share it with his readers ("What the Voters Are Trying to Tell Us"):

Yup, I wanted a grand rebuke, too. I wanted Trump demolished by 10 points. But elections are educational events. Voters are not always wise, but they are usually comprehensible. They know more about their own lives than we in our information bubbles do, and they almost always tell us something important.

The first thing we heard from most Americans — since Joe Biden’s popular vote victory seems all but certain — is that Donald Trump is unacceptable. We live in a divided, dug-in nation, but millions more white evangelicals voted Democratic in 2020 than in 2016. Many people voted against partisan predilections to remove a man who is a unique menace to the foundations of this country. That is no meager accomplishment.

The second thing voters told us is this: Separate church and state. We’ve long had political polarization in this country and we still will. But over the last few years polarization has transmogrified into something worse: a religious war.

Even the worser angels of David Brooks's nature are so much better than ours, it's no surprise that the better angels are totally insufferable.

We don't at the moment know by what percentage Biden has beaten Trump, other than that it wasn't by 10 points, as David Brooks would have wished, but we do know how to interpret it, in a way that David Brooks coincidentally might approve of. It's enough to prove that nobody wants Donald Trump to be president, but not enough to prove that those of us who wanted Donald Trump not to be president were right. I hope that's clear.

Thursday, November 5, 2020

Winkin', Blinken, and Nod

Majority Leader Palpatine here. Via TigerDroppings.


So it's clearly at least 290 electoral votes for Biden-Harris where I'm sitting, plausibly 306—with the Republicans filing one stupid lawsuit after another and dueling videos in which they're mobbing election centers in Detroit chanting "Stop the count!" and in Phoenix "Count those votes!" because they can't make any effort at all toward coherence any more. The cable outlets, and the dueling Nates Cohn and Silver, struggle to create some suspense on matters that just aren't suspenseful.

Might as well go visit Axios and learn what "people familiar with the matter" and "a source close to Mitch McConnell" have to say on the subject of what happens starting Monday or so over the next four years, which begins with McConnell asserting his intentions of dictating Biden's cabinet choices:

Republicans' likely hold on the Senate is forcing Joe Biden's transition team to consider limiting its prospective Cabinet nominees to those who Mitch McConnell can live with, according to people familiar with the matter.

Naturally since it's Axios the focus is on where that leaves the celebrities, in particular Democratic senators who ran for president this year (gossip writers have been pushing Warren for treasury secretary and Sanders for labor, in the apparent desire that for the first time in US history anybody would know the names of the treasury and labor secretaries), even though Biden already made it clear he wasn't interested in nominating any Democratic senators, with good reason—it's a really good idea to have some Democratic senators who know what they're doing in the Senate.

That and "radically progressive" nominees who are "controversial with conservatives"—read African American women like Susan Rice (ideal pick for State, among other possibilities), and Stacey Abrams. Instead McConnell is said to be asking for 

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Goat Rodeo notes

Goat Rodeo Roundup, via the Isaac Brock Society.

This guy collapsed two of our scariest preoccupations on Trump—his cognitive disability and über-authoritarian inclinations—into one:

It's really true. In Trump's mind, the thing he sees on TV, the "state of the race" expressed as a percentage, is more real than the things he can't see, the ballots, and he can't bring himself to understand that the election itself stopped last night—if that's true how come the numbers keep changing? He can't bear the fluidity, and he feels as president he ought to be able to put a stop to it.

By putting his lawyers on it, of course, as he told the world on Monday:

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Curate's Egg

 

Right Reverend Host: "I'm afraid you've got a bad Egg, Mr Jones!"; The Curate: "Oh no, my Lord, I assure you! Parts of it are excellent!" "True Humility" by George du Maurier, originally published in Punch, 9 November 1895, via Wikipedia.

Jordan in comments yesterday insisting that, even though Bret Stephens must have been wrong about what happened in the 2016 primary campaign, something did after all happen, and it was important:

that the 2016 Republican primaries were a fundamentally transformative moment in American Conservatism, like the Counter-Reformation, with Trump as Martin Luther -- suddenly, the conflict between scripture and practice wasn't tenable any more, and the voters rebelled (for real, unlike the fake, astroturf "rebellion" of the Tea Party period, but borrowing the same frameworks), followed by the politicians, who were dragged hopelessly along until they awakened to the possibilities that the Trump movement had opened and became true-believers (like Goebbels and other Third Reich figures).

I'm not so crazy about the Reformation analogy, with its implication that Trump had an idea (let alone 95 of them). I've used the Hitler analogy, of course, with a different emphasis, thinking about the surprise the German conservatives got when the idiot to whom they'd offered the chancellorship turned out not to be controllable. 

Sunday, November 1, 2020

Goodbye Principled What?

Illustration by Alex Cai via Streak Club.


Say, what's in this barrel ("Goodbye Principled Conservatism" by Bret Stephens)? It appears to be full of fish!

How did the conservative movement reach this pass? Hemingway’s great line about how one goes bankrupt — “gradually, then suddenly” — seems apt. But the tipping point arrived on a precise date: July 20, 2015. That was the day Rush Limbaugh came to Trump’s political rescue after the developer nearly self-immolated with his remark that John McCain, who spent more than five years as a prisoner of war, refusing early release at the price of gruesome torture, should not be considered a war hero.

I don't know, I'd go for 1957 myself:

In 1957, Buckley wrote National Review’s most infamous editorial, entitled “Why the South Must Prevail.” Is the white community in the South, he asked, “entitled to take such measures as are necessary to prevail, politically and culturally, in areas in which it does not predominate numerically?” His answer was crystal clear: “The sobering answer is Yes—the White community is so entitled because for the time being, it is the advanced race.” Buckley cited unfounded statistics demonstrating the superiority of white over black, and concluded that, “it is more important for any community, anywhere in the world, to affirm and live by civilized standards, than to bow to the demands of the numerical majority.” He added definitively: “the claims of civilization supersede those of universal suffrage.”

Why don't conservatives care about manners any more?

Friday, October 30, 2020

Turkey Trot

 

Illustration via Quartz, April 2017.

I'll get to Trump in a minute, but first: imagine you're Vice President Joe Biden, August 2016, on an official visit to Turkey five or so weeks after the coup attempt in Turkey that July, and President Erdoğan gets you under a tree at some point and starts complaining about this state-owned bank, Halkbank, that the New York Southern District is investigating for evading US law by smuggling billions of dollars' worth of gold and other commodities into the sanctioned Islamic Republican of Iran—they've already indicted a guy, Reza Zarrab, and Erdoğan claims the whole thing is a hoax invented by his enemy the cult leader in Pennsylvania, and can Biden please get Obama to make it go away by firing the US attorney in the case, Preet Bharara, and the judge, and extradite the cult leader because he's the one who did the coup as well?

(It's also widely believed in a variety of places that the cleric in question, Fethullah Gulén, had in fact nothing to do with the coup, which Erdoğan has been using in the four years since as a kind of personal Reichstag Fire enabling him to move against all sorts of perceived enemies, depriving them of their livelihoods and public voices and jailing tens of thousands, and Erdoğan's regime has been credibly accused of a practice not at all distant from Vladimir Putin's or Donald Trump's of "post-truth politics".)

We know how Joe responded to the last bit, thanks to this big Times report by Eric Lipton and Benjamin Weiser, and also because the answer is publicly available: with a courteous, but firm no: Sorry man, but no can do:

Thursday, October 29, 2020

In Which David F. Brooks Undergoes a Self-Criticism

 

Cultural Revolution image via Lawyers, Guns, and Money.

No kidding. After decades of refusing to apologize for denying the existence of racism, promoting the sliming of Bill Clinton without having any clue what the so-called "Whitewater scandal" was actually about, backing the Iraq War ferociously and then, when that had become impossible, blaming it on everyone else, and spreading completely wrong misinformation on everything from whether "Asians and Westerners think differently" to the menu at Applebees, he's acknowledging having been wrong about something. He may have been too mean to Donald Trump, in the course of his career as a member of the "anti-Trump camp (The Floor of Decency"):

Nobody has emerged unscathed. Those of us in the anti-Trump camp will be smiled upon by history I imagine, but we might pause for a moment to consider the mote in our own eye. Our own sins are the only ones we can control.

Over the past four years we’ve poured out an hourly flow of anti-Trump diatribes and in almost every case they rise to the top of the charts — most liked, most retweeted, most read.

Even when justified, permanent indignation is not a healthy emotional state. We’ve become a little addicted to our own umbrage, addicted to that easy feeling of moral superiority, addicted to the easy affirmation bath we get when we repeat what we all believe. Trump-bashing has become a business model.

Isn't that special.

Those rats won't fck themselves

 

Via.

Me, on 28 October 2016:

There is no chance, as far as I'm concerned, and based on what actual journalists are reporting, that the FBI has any new information that is of any relevance to the question whether or not Hillary Clinton ought to be president, regardless of your feelings about that question, since the emails that "may have been related to" Clinton's private server, which Huma Abedin seems to have chosen to print from a home laptop that was also used by Anthony Weiner to transmit pictures of his penis, or not, as the case may be, are neither from Clinton nor to Clinton, and are absolutely not documents that have been withheld from the investigation; the FBI is already perfectly familiar with their content, at least so far (there are thousands, naturally, and it will take many weeks, until long after the election is over, to finish looking at them). They could conceivably be relevant to the question whether Huma Abedin mishandled classified data, but nobody's saying that there's any likelihood of that either; they're just checking them out from an "abundance of caution".

Comey's conduct in making this non-information public 11 days before the presidential election is said to be from an "abundance of caution" too, or, as we say in English, covering his ass against accusations that he ended the Clinton investigation too early, just in case the Bureau does somehow learn something of interest to somebody. Yes, it's really improbable, but Comey's going to be ready. Not only does he wear a belt and suspenders but he also has his trousers surgically attached to his waist and ankles:

In trying to strike that balance, in a brief letter and in the middle of an election season,” he noted, “there is significant risk of being misunderstood.”

(Via Jane Mayer's piece in the New Yorker, which you need to read.) Comey seems to think the worst thing that could ever happen to our republic would be if somebody criticized him. With the result, naturally, that he comes in for a lot of criticism, much of it very richly deserved. 

OK so I was wrong about how long it would take for FBI to go through the material (it took exactly just long enough to poison the electorate and ended just in time for Comey to pretend it hadn't done that), and I was obviously wrong about whether this nonsense could affect the vote outcome (Steve was more doubtful). But I was right about the utter nullity of the scandal.

Me, almost exactly four years later:

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Brand Coherence


Joe Biden approved this message.

Over at Steve's they're talking about these darn mild-mannered Democrats who never say anything mean and those terrific Republican rat bastards Rick Wilson and Steve Schmidt and Dr. Bill Kristol who tell it like it is with their Lincoln Project and show us how the pros do it and why can't we have some more of that inside the party and I just don't know.

You know where.

I do know I specifically don't want Joe Biden to go around pretending to be a mean person, if only because—duh—he's not going to do it very well. And we're stuck with him, if you want to look at it that way, so there's not much point. But he has his virtues too, and they aren't doing too badly, if you've been looking at the polls. He's consistently ahead, 9.2 percentage points today, with an absolute majority (51.8% to Trump's 43.1%), meaning that even if the election were held today and Trump got all the undecided votes Biden would still have a majority (as we know that doesn't mean winning the presidency, but Samuel Tilden in 1876 was the only candidate who ever lost that way, with an edge of 50.9%, and it wasn't the Electoral College but his party literally selling him out), but that's not happening:

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Literary Corner: Does That Make Sense Now?

Drawing by Mike Luckovitch, via Orlando Sun-Sentinel.


Death, Death—Cases, Cases

by Donald J. Trump

Now it used to be that if you had it, you were immune for life,
right? For life. With me, they say I’m immune for four months.
In other words, once I got it, the immunity went down from life to
four months. I don’t know. They don’t know either. Who the hell
knows? All I know is that for a little while, for at least four months,
I could run in there and kiss everyone, men and women. I’ll kiss
every one of them. I’ll kiss them. No, no. You get over it, then
you’re immune, for whatever period of time. No, it’s true,
though. You heard, for life, you’re immune. Right? That’d be it.
As soon as I got, I said I was immune, they said, “Only for four months.”
They brought it down to four months because that’s the fake news.
They’re fake. The cases are up, but listen to this, they’re all
talking about cases. You don’t see death, death—cases, cases.
You know why we have cases? Because we test so much. And in
many ways, it’s good. And in many ways, it’s foolish. In many ways,
it’s very foolish, because every time you test… Like, for instance,
Barron Trump. Did you ever hear of Barron Trump? He’s a rather
tall young man. He’s tall, and he’s a good kid, and he’s strong,
but he had it. They said, “Sir, Madam, I’m sorry to inform you
your son has tested positive, apparently.” I said, “Oh no.”
Fifteen seconds later, “Sir, your son no longer has it.” No,
it’s true. I said, “How’s Barron doing?” “Oh, he’s fine.
He’s fine.” I said, “What do you mean? You just don’t…”
No, he’s fine. They have a very strong immune system. Ninety-nine
point nine something, right? Ninety-nine point nine. Go back
to the school, North Carolina. Go back to the school. Barron Trump.
A legend. He’s a legend, he got rid of it so fast, but the kids get
rid of it fast. Strong immune systems. The mortality rate is down
eighty-five percent because of the therapeutics and all that they
learned. I mean, they know what to do. In other words, by doing
all of this testing, we’re the best in the world, the most…
I get calls all the time from leaders, “Your testing is the
best in the world.” I said, “Do you test?” “No.” I said,
“You don’t test?” “No.” “That’s why you have no cases.”
Well, very few cases. You know, the cases they have, when
somebody’s sick, they call it a case. I said to one gentleman
that’s very tough, very tough man, runs a tough country,
I said, “Do you test?” “Yes. When somebody comes into the
hospital and throws up all over the floor, we test, but we never
test other than that.” I said, “So you have cases.” “No, we show
very few cases.” So we show more cases because we test. So Barron
Trump, as an example, it’s a case. All the kids are a case. And by the way,
they’re very young now. They’re testing schools and high schools
and this and that and every… And what it does is it gives the
fake news media something to talk about. So they say,
“Cases are up in the United States.” That’s because we test.
India has one point five million people and they do testing. They
test a tiny fraction of the number of people that we test.
So the good is that we know where it is, et cetera, and we
have to protect our seniors, and that’s really the most
important thing. But when you see all this stuff, watch,
they’ll go home, “Cases are up, cases are up.” And I saw it
today, but that’s because of tests. Does that make sense now? If we
cut it in half… And by the way, wasting a lot of money on testing
too We're not allowed to say that. We’re not allowed to say,
“We’re spending millions of dollars on testing.” But if we tested,
half, cases would be half, and they’d have a headline, “Cases
drop magnificently,” but they want us to test, test, test.

(Rally, Lumberton, North Carolina, 24 October)