Friday, February 28, 2020

David Brooks Joins Cancel Culture

Ilya Salavskiy, right, at a protest action in Oxford, May 2016. Euromaidan Press.
David Brooks ("No, Not Sanders, Not Ever"):
We all start from personal experience. I covered the Soviet Union in its final decrepit years.
Actually, no. As Brussels-based deputy editorial page editor of the Wall Street Journal from 1990 to 1994, Brooks got his byline on exactly four articles mentioning the Soviet Union, suggesting two visits to Moscow (and none after the Soviet Union collapsed in December 1991):
  • A puff piece ("It's too late for a party congress", 2 July 1990) extolling Ilya Saslavskiy, a Ukrainian Oxford graduate and member of the National People's Congress, calling him a "combative intellectual" and "New Soviet Man" representing the "real action" in the Communist Party. Saslavskiy became an American and was working for BP's Russian operations when he and his brother Oleksandr were arrested for spying on behalf of the US and Ukraine in 2008—not because they were actually spies, but because Putin found it useful in his campaign to turn BP into Rosneft. I'm glad to report the brothers (who were sentenced to two years probation) seem to be OK, see photo at top. The Soviet Union, of course, had no future.
  • A review ("The Soviet Reality: Murder, Apathy, Dishonesty", 17 July 1990) of Stanislav Govorukhin's 1990 documentary We Can't Live Like This which, Brooks notes, was applauded by the mayors of Moscow and St. Petersburg.
  • A lengthy opinion piece ("In USSR, possession is better than the law", 16 May 1991) illustrating the collapse of rule of law with the case of an astrophysicist, "Maxim Hlobov", who succeeded in stopping the KGB from stealing his new apartment. He got the name wrong (should be Khlopov—he's in France now, working in the Astroparticles and Cosmology Laboratory of the Institut National de Physique Nucléaire et de Physique de Particules). 
  • A travel piece ("An American in Moscow: Hard-currency god", 21 May 1991).

Thursday, February 27, 2020

For the Record: Affirmative Action

InterTribal Youth/Young Native Scholars visiting UC San Diego and a La Jolla beach, July 2014, via UCSD News



Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Handicap

Via League of Legends.


The family dined in Chinatown last night, standing by our conviction that we're no more likely to catch Covid-19 (or Trump Flu, as Misfit, via Ten Bears, via Bethesda71 is calling it) there than anywhere else in town (for the moment—we are not adopting President Chucklehead's position that there's nothing wrong, or that the virus is just a CNN trick to make him look bad), and I had the opportunity to miss the entire debate—didn't even look at my phone until we were on the way home, and I'm pretty happy about that. Judging from the clips it was awful, though I'm glad in principle that Elizabeth Warren said the things she said about Michael Bloomberg, whom I continue to consider to be a danger to the country, and about Bernard Sanders, in terms I'd like to have used myself:
“Bernie and I agree on a lot of things, but I think that I would make a better president than Bernie. And the reason for that is that getting a progressive agenda enacted is going to be really hard, and it's gonna take someone who digs into the details to make it happen,” Warren said. “Bernie and I both wanted to help rein in Wall Street. In 2008 we both got our chance, but I dug in, I fought the big banks, I built the coalitions and I won. Bernie and I both want to see universal health care. But Bernie's plan doesn't show how we're gonna get there, doesn't show how we're going to get enough allies into it, and doesn't show enough about how we're going to pay for it. I dug in, I did the work, and then Bernie's team trashed me for it.”
As I mentioned in my angry note of 17 February.

I have the funniest feeling at the moment of really seriously not knowing what's going on in this election at all, and of nobody really knowing. Some of the less obnoxious class of Berners on my Twitter feed were going on about what Bernie would do if Bloomberg were to win the nomination (of which fivethirtyeight estimates the chances at about 4%), betray his following by keeping his promise to support the nominee, or split off and lead the Revolution on some kind of outside, you couldn't tell whether in an independent candidacy or a mass people power movement or what, and everything about this scenario seemed so implausible to me that I stopped reading, but I didn't have a more probable one myself.

For the Record: Cherokee


A group of citizens of the Cherokee Nation, United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians, and Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians issued an open letter to Senator Elizabeth Warren to which I posted the following response as s sympathetic interloper with a background in cultural anthropology:



“By publicly equating race and biology with Native identity, your DNA test promoted the exact same logic the Right is currently using to try and destroy Native rights.” Although a strong Warren supporter, I have to agree with this statement.
But the Cherokee Nation applied the same discredited race science in denying tribal membership to Black Freedmen for years up to 2017 with arguments like, “only those with Cherokee blood should be citizens and a legal ruling otherwise would be an affront to its sovereignty” https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2017/09/15/why-the-cherokee-nation-is-ending-its-decades-old-fight-to-deny-citizenship-to-descendants-of-its-former-slaves/
The Nation rightly accepted the district court’s ruling on this in the end, and seems to have had little problem forgiving itself for it. Can’t it try to show the same spirit of forgiveness to Senator Warren, who has worked to understand her error and to learn from it?

I'd add that rather than taking the moment as an opportunity to blame others for failings that I have been and may still be guilty of myself, I'd like to take it as a further opportunity for everybody to achieve a deeper understanding of what's wrong with a DNA-based definition of ethnic identity, of the differences between "race" and ethnic-cultural identity and their importance in people's lives. And to emphasize that anybody, no matter how virtuous, is capable of doing or saying a racist thing and anybody, no matter how benighted, is capable of learning to do better.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

For the Record: Obstruction by Obfuscation

Drawing by Barry Blitt from The New Yorker, September 2018.

A little applied narratology:

Sunday, February 23, 2020

For the Record: Is Sanders a Russian tool?

Do Popes shit in the woods? More relevantly still, is the Bear Catholic?

Via.

Whether Sanders ends up being the nominee or not, if you don't like him it would be better not to dislike him on the basis of fake news: I was really annoyed by this:




Update 3/1/2020: Wrong on that last item: Sanders and Whitehouse both voted against the second bill implementing Magnitsky sanctions as well.https://www.senate.gov/legislative/LIS/roll_call_lists/roll_call_vote_cfm.cfm?congress=112&session=2&vote=00223

What brought it on, obviously, is the Washington Post story on Russian efforts to "help" Sanders, of which he was apparently informed by national security officials a month or so ago. I don't see why anybody should be surprised to hear about these Russian efforts, by the way—they did the same thing in 2016, for the same reason, to foment quarrels and disaffection in the Democratic party and eventually as part of their strategy to boost Trump, not out of any desire for a Sanders presidency, as old Boot noted in the original tweet up there, and it's not a secret:

Saturday, February 22, 2020

It's how emperors roll

Kaiser Wilhelm II, via Encyclopedia Brittanica.

Well, well, who could have imagined something like this?
WASHINGTON — When President Trump’s national security adviser, Robert C. O’Brien, convenes meetings with top National Security Council officials at the White House, he sometimes opens by distributing printouts of Mr. Trump’s latest tweets on the subject at hand.
The gesture amounts to an implicit challenge for those present. Their job is to find ways of justifying, enacting or explaining Mr. Trump’s policy, not to advise the president on what it should be. (Michael Crowley and David Sanger)
Oh, me, for instance, in April 2018:
Trump doesn't have any idea how to mobilize power except by screaming at people. He issues a tweet and thinks it's an imperial rescript, but it doesn't make anything happen. He doesn't understand the forms for that, and he's losing everybody who has a clue, or they're learning how to ignore him.
The national security apparatus has to do without him, essentially, not in the first place because they want to, but because he's basically AWOL. He won't pay attention and he won't speak coherently. They have to figure out what to do themselves and convince him it's what he asked for. Of course they also don't literally want to blow up the world or the US economy except for the random stupid hires like Miller or Bolton or that ass Navarro...
And when he really fucks up publicly and demands something they can't pretend to be doing at all, this [the 2018 kerfuffle about pulling US troops out of Syria] happens. Or they try to do half of it. It's getting to be a bigger problem, with the Kim invitation and the Putin invitation and the trade war.
Glad to see they're getting down to reporting it.

This is how emperors roll too:

Friday, February 21, 2020

Tragic: The Gathering

Via Viz.

Sanders opponents can take heart: David Brooks thinks he's going to win ("Why Sanders Will Probably Win the Nomination"):
My takeaway from Wednesday’s hellaciously entertaining Democratic debate is that Sanders is the only candidate telling a successful myth. Bloomberg, Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar all make good arguments, but they haven’t organized their worldview into a simple compelling myth. You may look at them, but you don’t see the world through their eyes.
He's partly right here: Sanders really does do something the other candidates haven't been doing very well (Biden has shown a lot of skill at it in the past, but somehow never as a presidential candidate, only when he was running, brilliantly, for vice president). It goes beyond Brooks's somewhat limited concept of what a myth is—

Hi It's Stupid: Barr



Hi, it's Stupid to say old Billy Barr was literally angry with Trump last week when he told ABC News, on the subject of Trump's Twitter polemic against the Justice Department in re the Roger Stone sentencing,
I cannot do my job here at the department with a constant background commentary that undercuts me. To have public statements and tweets made about the department, about people in the department, our men and women here, about cases pending in the department and about judges before whom we have cases, make it impossible for me to do my job and to assure the courts and the prosecutors in the department that we're doing our work with integrity.
Everybody knows he was just pretending to be mad because Trump tweeting his denunciation of the DOJ sentencing request just before Barr was about to up and withdraw it, and then tweeting his praise of Barr after he did that thing revealed that Barr is just a toady for Trump who does whatever abusive thing Trump wants and—

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

If You Can Keep It

Via Ars Technica, "That time Benjamin Franklin tried (and failed) to electrocute a turkey".

Maybe I need to apologize for being so ill-tempered in the comments yesterday. I really am feeling angry at the Sanders forces for exploiting Elizabeth Warren's honesty, as I see it, to sink her candidacy, if it is in fact sunk, when she acknowledged that the achievement of universal health care would be difficult (showing how to do it) and they continued to pretend it wouldn't until just around now.

Also I'm not sure everybody understood that's what I was saying, or that my concern isn't with relative leftness or rightness but presidential effectiveness; which is frustrating, because I really didn't want to say it twice. I really wanted to be ready to move on and support Sanders as hard as I can, if necessary, as seems likely at the moment, against Biden, against Bloomberg, against Trump if we get that far.

I'm really upset about Bloomberg, not because of how many inches on the "right" he is situated with respect to his rivals, distressing as that may be, but because of the money, which is just horrifying to me, and I don't think people are getting that at all. If he's spending a billion dollars before he's even in a primary (I don't know if it's that much, but $344 million on ad buys alone in the last three months, plus 150 field offices with 2400 full-time staff members), if he's staging rallies the way you stage an album launch, with alcohol and hors d'oeuvres and light shows, if he's paying operatives $6,000 a month, he is entirely changing the way politics is conducted in this country. Especially that last point, because nobody else is going to be able to hire skilled operatives. The best campaign people are going to start feeling they can't afford to work for less. He's putting presidential campaigns out of the reach of anybody who isn't more or less as rich as he is. President Bloomberg, meet President Bezos. President Zuckerberg. I am not down with this.

Monday, February 17, 2020

Now they tell us

Premature anti-fascists, via The Typescript.


In fact downright pissed off, as I start to think about it, given that the heat was coming primarily from them, and has gone on for the whole three months since 15 November, when Warren finally explained, after tons of pressure to which the Sanders camp was never subjected, that her method for achieving Medicare For All was going to take some time to implement,
beginning with passing a bill at the start of her presidency that would create a new government health plan that would cover children and people with lower incomes for free, while allowing others to join the plan if they choose. It’s a particularly expansive version of a public option.
Only later, in her third year in the White House, does Warren say she would pursue Medicare-for-all legislation that would actually prohibit private health insurance, as would be required for the single-payer program that she says she, like Bernie Sanders, wants.
Which I loved, of course, as evidence that she really did have a plan for that, that she meant to achieve it, not just represent it, like a totem animal, as a branding element, the way the other guys did, with Sanders's preposterous assertion that all it would take to pass the bill would be staging rallies in Kentucky, and the total absence of ideas on how the nation would transition into the new system. Not only did Warren chart a timetable for getting to the single-payer ideal, she had staged it in such a way as to ensure that even if she failed at any given point, the nation would still be better off in terms of healthcare accessibility than it had been at the time of her inauguration.

But not everybody loved it. Like Krystal Ball, writing for The Hill:

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Horse race stuff

Caucus race, by John Tenniel. No allegorical interpretations of who Alice and the Dodo respectively represent, if you don't mind. Via Wikipedia.


Molly Jong-Fast at Washington Post has what looks initially like a hot take on the miseries of the current Democratic presidential nomination contest: that it's all Biden's fault for screwing up his assigned role.
After a fourth-place finish in Iowa and a fifth-place finish in New Hampshire, it’s time to take a good, hard look at former vice president Joe Biden, the once-dominant, now-floundering Democratic “front-runner.” Not to get too technical about it, but I would like to postulate that the Democratic front-runner should be, you know, in front....
With all respect—she's a very sharp writer—I think she's misplacing the blame, if blame is due, in not asking who appointed Joe; who failed to give him that good hard look ten months or so ago, when he obtained that front-runner label though he'd been running unsuccessfully for president for OVER THIRTY YEARS and had a history of alienating the very voters he was going to have to depend on the most, from backing agitators against school busing to patronizing Barack Obama as "the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy" (although this seemed to have greatly improved starting in late 2008).

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Domestic Emoluments

GORGEOUS 3 BD 2 FULL BTH 2 HALF BTH COUNTRY FARM HOUSE W/HEATED AND COOLED 700 SQ FT OFFICE/STUDIO OVER 3 CAR GARAGE, IN-GRD HEATED POOL, 5 STALL BARN ON OVER 7 ACRES IN THE HEART OF BEDMINSTER. $6.,000.month as opposed to almost three times that if Secret Service is writing the check. Via Zillow

Something I'm not hearing, as in this otherwise perfectly good NBC story
On Wednesday night, when President Donald Trump addressed supporters from behind a Trump Hotels lectern in a room at his Trump International Hotel Washington, D.C., one of his company's most faithful customers accompanied him.
The U.S. Secret Service.
The government agency charged with protecting the president has paid his businesses at least $471,000 to fulfill its congressional mandate, according to documents The Washington Post recently obtained via the Freedom of Information Act. That's money from U.S. taxpayers flowing to the Trump Organization, with a venerable 155-year-old law enforcement organization being used like one of Michael Cohen's Delaware shell companies and serving as a conduit for presidential profit. And that $471,000 figure? It's only through April 2018.
—is that it's another violation of the Constitution, just as serious as taking money from the Saudi Arabian government, when he gets money from our own government; a violation of Article II, section 1, clause 7, the Domestic Emoluments Clause,

Friday, February 14, 2020

Brooks Explains Education

Victor Sjöström, The Phantom Carriage (1920).


David Brooks all excited about his new proof that socialism doesn't work, because it doesn't account for the greatness of Scandinavia, contrary to popular opinion, and the unpopular reasons are wrong too ("This Is How Scandinavia Got Great"):
Progressives say it’s because they have generous welfare states. Some libertarians point out that these countries score high on nearly every measure of free market openness. Immigration restrictionists note that until recently they were ethnically homogeneous societies.
But Nordic nations were ethnically homogeneous in 1800, when they were dirt poor. Their economic growth took off just after 1870, way before their welfare states were established. What really launched the Nordic nations was generations of phenomenal educational policy.
See, the Nordic countries adopted the German concept of Bildung, a much larger and more holistic idea than the idea of "education", the "formation" of the whole person, not just training in the 1870s Scandinavian equivalent of STEM, but "the complete moral, emotional, intellectual and civic transformation of the person", which I think is not quite right—it's more the creation of the person: you don't want to take the preschooler and make her into somebody different, but to fully realize the flower latent within the bud. Also, of course, the Germans adopted it too, it's their concept, but they took some pretty alarming detours along the way which would complicate Brooks's argument in a way he'd prefer not to do.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Literary Corner: We Are Funding For New Hampshire




Funding For New Hampshire
by Donald J. Trump
We are funding
for New Hampshire
the New Hampshire Army
National Guard
Readiness Center,
just a few miles from here
in Pembroke
and in Concord.
Concord, I love Concord!
I love Concord, oh, Concord!
You know how famous Concord is?
Concord --
that's the same Concord
that we read about
all the time right?
Concord!
No, as others have pointed out, if you read about Concord all the time it's probably a different Concord. On the other hand Trump may have been reading about the Concord, NH Army National Guard Readiness Center that afternoon, or more likely as he was speaking, from a sheet of talking points, because it got a grant of $6 million to upgrade their aviation facility in November's NDAA. Some bright spark on the staff who has read about the kinds of things normal politicians do thought Trump should try taking some credit for this exciting local development, maybe just in the hope of making him sound for a minute like a normal politician, but what he got instead was this splendid example of Trump realizing that he's just read something that makes no sense to him, and trying to work his way out of it, aspirationally like Monk building a spectacular edifice on what sounded like a mistake, but in reality more like a multiple car crash.

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Big Structural Change in Small Packags

Via.

Ezra Klein ("Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, and America's politics of epiphany") usefully points out something that may come as a bit of a downer: no Democratic presidential candidate is going to be able to carry through much of their program, and it's perfectly possible they won't be able to carry through any at all. Biden expecting "an epiphany among many of my Republican friends" is every bit as delusional as Sanders with his project of recruiting the masses to do it, the way Woodrow Wilson forced Republican senators to ratify the Versailles Treaty and join the League of Nations:
“You go to Mitch McConnell’s state of Kentucky, which is a state where a lot of people are struggling, and you say to those people, ‘Okay, this is my proposal,’” Sanders replied. “We’re going to lower the age of Medicare from 65 to 55, and we’re expanding it to cover, as I mentioned, dental care and home health care and eyeglasses and hearing aids.
“What percentage of the people do you think in Kentucky would support that proposal? My guess is 70 percent, 80 percent of the people. And my job then as president is to rally those people and tell their senators to support it. I think we can do that.”

Sunday, February 9, 2020

Narratology: Dinner with Lev and Igor

It's always the dinner. Thomas Couture, Les Romains de la Décadence, 1847, Musée d'Orsay, via Wikipedia.

Don't stop me if you've heard this one, or if you think you've heard it. We've all heard it, in fact, or rather most of us have heard most of its elements and been more or less scandalized, but I believe we haven't really heard it as story: I know I hadn't until this morning, when WNYC's Ilya Marritz showed up on the radio to give some publicity to the latest episode of the Trump Inc. podcast, produced by the radio station and Pro Publica, and he didn't exactly tell the story in the way I mean, and neither does the podcast, I think, but I felt I was hearing it for the first time.

So there's this Trump-related superPAC, America First Action, that's been involved in some pretty dodgy things, like the case of Randy Perkins, the founder of a company called AshBritt, who made a donation of half a million dollars to the group the day after he received a supplemental contract award worth about the same amount ($460,000), for cleaning up wildfire damage, to a contract he had with the Defense Department. Which may have been completely unrelated to the donation (Perkins said, "I actually think this administration cares deeply about children and mental health issues"), but was illegal all the same—federal contractors aren't allowed to contribute to political campaign organizations, and when a watchdog organization found out about it the money had to be returned. Or the way it may have illegally taken donations adding up to almost $2 million from a foreign company (Canadian) laundered through its US subsidiary. Or the way the Trump campaign may have illegally coordinated with America First Action and its dark-money sibling America First Policies, with Trump personally soliciting donations for them.

Saturday, February 8, 2020

For the Record: Debate


Via The Log Cabin Sage, who retails a great story from the 1858 Senate campaign of how Douglas snidely noted that Lincoln had managed a grocery store in the course of his career, and showed himself to be "a very good bartender". Lincoln came back to it in his response: “What Mr. Douglas has said, gentlemen, is true enough. I did keep a grocery, and I did sell cotton, candles, and cigars, and sometimes whiskey; but I remember in those days, Mr. Douglas was one of my best customers. Many a time have I stood on one side of the counter and sold whiskey to Mr. Douglas on the other side; but the difference between us now is this: I have left my side of the counter, but Mr. Douglas still sticks to his as tenaciously as ever.”
Touché, gentlemen.

Candidate Yang made a couple of really annoying historical errors, when he suggested that folks in the ancient times when they used to debate socialism and capitalism never anticipated how economies would be transformed by automation
and claimed the support of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., for his silly "universal basic income" program
Other than that, the candidates were on their best behavior, and I was impressed:

Friday, February 7, 2020

Cleverly

JFK reporting on fulfilled campaign promises in 1962. Via NPR.

David Brooks suggests in his concern-troll headline that Democrats are doing it wrong  ("Are Democrats Going to Give This Election Away?"), but the column seems to be all about how Emperor Trump is doing it right: "this was the most politically successful week of Trump's presidency."

One of the odder reasons is this one:
Fourth, Trump has cleverly reframed the election. I can see why Nancy Pelosi ripped up his State of the Union speech. It was the most effective speech of the Trump presidency.
In 2016, Trump ran a dark, fear-driven “American carnage” campaign. His 2016 convention speech was all about crime, violence and menace. The theme of this week’s speech was mostly upbeat “Morning in America.”
"Cleverly."

As Steve points out, all the memorable parts of the speech were about crime, violence, and menace, from immigrants penetrating inside our borders and terrorists outside and the need for constant vigilance and  retribution, and I'd add that the optimism supplied by that cheery alliteratonist Stephen Miller certainly wasn't very convincing—

Thursday, February 6, 2020

The Third Dimension

White mochi with macha filling, via Uncut Recipes.

So Jordan was wondering over in the comments how David Brooks might have reacted to the Clinton impeachment 20 years ago, and I found something kind of—unsurprising might be the right word, from David Nyhan writing for the Boston Globe in January 1999, who watched a Brooks appearance on PBS looking back at the failure of the Senate trial, and, spoiler, no, he didn't talk about how Gingrich's House ought to have been working on infrastructure bills instead:
"This is a Great Lost Cause," he enthused of the Republican drive to snuff out the Clinton presidency. "We fought for truth, for justice," he said. That notion was novel to me. This whole thing has looked like a down-and-dirty political ambush from the word go, to me and to most Americans. I could never buy the William Bennett Moral Crusade; I always suspected that was a book-tour con.
But Brooks found what he gamely phrased "a kernel of romance" for Republicans in this yearlong dive into the cesspool of semen-stained dresses, cigars in the wrong places, sneaky tapes of a ditzy young intern by a repulsive Republican operative (can anyone defend the taxpayers still paying $90,000 a year to Linda Tripp for her no-show Pentagon job?), and the greasy pawing-over of tapes, transcripts, appointment logs, Secret Service records, and other detritus of the 60,000-page House impeachment probe.
Brooks looked ahead to the Republican National Convention of 2000 and through the mist of the future, saw Henry Hyde, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, being summoned to the podium to accept the plaudits of a grateful party, with the crowd roaring for Hyde and his fellow impeachers: "They stood for principles against the polls."
It strikes me that there's more to this than simple hypocrisy, a simple double standard for Republicans vs. Democrats; or maybe I should say it's a motivated double standard.

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

For the Record: I Haven't Forgotten You Brooks


Lon Chaney in Herbert Brenon's Laugh Clown Laugh, 1928.



Coverup Is Everywhere

National Archives photoshopped blurring of a protest sign, via Vos Iz Neias.

I didn't even notice whether Governor Whitmer had mentioned the criminality of the White House occupant in her response to the State of the Union address of Individual no. 1, whose writers didn't of course find time to mention it at all. It turns out that she did allude to the Senate trial and Chairman Schiff's hopeful slogan at the very end:
As we witness the impeachment process in Washington, there are some things each of us, no matter our party should demand. The truth matters, facts matter, and no one should be above the law. It’s not what those senators say tomorrow, it’s about what they do that matters. Remember, listen to what people say but watch what they do. It’s time for action.
Meanwhile, the ongoing Trump administration violation of the Presidential Records Act goes way beyond the Stalinoid doctoring by the National Archives of a picture of the Women's March and the president's personal habit of tearing his own papers to pieces and throwing them out—National Archives staffers who tried taping them back together were fired, historian Matthew Connelly tells us in an opinion piece for The Times:

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Right Here in River City



Listening to NPR on location in Des Moines this morning to report the main story of the day, which was that they didn't have the story they were prepared for, the results of the Iowa caucus, through no fault of their own, I should say: as you know by now, blame goes to the Iowa Democratic Party, which—frustrated in its desire to have all the attendees vote by smartphone, which they had thought would be very groovy, but would apparently have been a security nightmare—had decided that precinct captains and secretaries would transmit all the results to headquarters by smartphone, through a specially developed app which apparently worked fine if you took the training but not if you thought you could just download it like Uber and dive in. It seems there were so many of the latter that the hot line set up to handle problems was immediately overwhelmed, and a lot of precinct captains and secretaries gave up trying to get through and went home. Republicans and/or Russians are already pushing conspiracy theories (the Biden and Buttigieg campaigns, and the Nevada Democratic Party, have been clients of the firm that developed the app), but I'd bet on incompetence every time. (Steve M has more to say about that.)

A thing that will stick in my mind was David Greene's interview with the Des Moines waitress who had told him 12 years ago that a Hillary Clinton had brought a party to her restaurant and stiffed her (which, it strikes me now, may or may not have been true) and now says that after voting for Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012 she voted for Trump in 2016 and plans to do so again, because "I'm not a racist but."

Monday, February 3, 2020

Postcard From Parliament Square


Pouring beer on the flag of the European Union is a thing somebody did. Photo credit to PA/Independent.

Not a postcard from me, but from Tom Peck for The Independent, observing how "on Friday 31 January, between the hours of 9pm and 11pm, Westminster’s Parliament Square played host to a static, knuckle dragging carnival of the irredeemably stupid."
I’ve listened back now to the sound on my dictaphone that records Britain’s moment of liberation and it goes exactly like this: “Ten! Nine! Eight! Seven! Six! Five! Four! Three! Two! One! FREEDOM!!!! YEAAAASSSS!!!! F****** FREEDOM!!!! WE F****** DID IT!!! F****** FREEDOM!!! F****** DO ONE!! F****** DO ONE!!!!”
It seems as worthy a catch phrase of the moment as anything else. F****** do one! Who exactly? Absolutely everyone. It doesn’t matter. Just f****** do one. Put that, as they say, on the side of the bus....
We have become the first country to throw off the yoke of an oppressor whom nobody else considers themselves oppressed by. We have won our freedom from our own imagined nightmares. We have liberated ourselves from the terrors of the monster under the bed that was never there. We are the children that never grew up.
Today, The Independent is informing its readers that
Donald Trump is facing fresh ridicule after tweeting his congratulations to the Kansas City Chiefs after they won Super Bowl LIV by saying they represented “the Great State of Kansas... so very well” when the team is, in fact, based in Missouri.
One of the most disturbing things for me about this Revolt of the Stupid is the way it calls into question everybody's commitment to democracy. The rebels, of course, have no interest in democracy; they're interested in owning the libs, permanently, and would rather not be asked to think about anything else. They gladly surrender their political power to an authority, preferably one as stupid as they are, who's willing to tell them all the lies they can listen to. But we, too, in our disgust that such people as Boris Johnson and Donald Trump are enabled to exercise that sort of democratically obtained power, are we really interested in democracy? Are we really not tempted to wish we could, at least, exclude the stupid from power? Are we really not secretly inclined to long for the rule of Plato's philosopher kings? Not, strictly speaking, undemocratic philosopher kings—I'd like underlings like me to be listened to—but more like a kind of weighting in the distribution of political power in which you get more if you know there are two Kansas Cities and only one has an NFL franchise, or grasp that the European Union isn't responsible for the presence in England of immigrants from the Caribbean and and South Asia.

I hope I'm not thinking that way. I hope I'm thinking the opposite way, that stupid people are in the minority and more effective democracy (bringing in the people who are smart enough to be too cynical to vote) would keep them out of power.

Sunday, February 2, 2020

Thanks, Mitch

Image via123RF.

Impressed by this observation from Jonathan Chait:
McConnell’s desired process of muscling through a wildly unpopular vote to suppress all evidence, followed by a vote to acquit, would rob the outcome of much of the legitimacy Republicans crave. It is instead widely and accurately seen as a cover-up...
McConnell may have finally made the miscalculation we've been dreaming of, that will shock voters out of their feeling that nothing seriously wrong has been going on, as I keep saying with reference to the Watergate scandal, when public support for impeaching and removing Nixon shot up from around 48% to 57% in a couple of weeks after the Supreme Court ruled 24 July that Nixon had to hand over the original White House tapes to Congress (he'd given them edited transcripts in April and the polling had hovered just below a majority for the three months).

They didn't get the story of how the CREEP and the Mitchell Justice Department and the Casey CIA and mad Nixon and his lieutenants had worked to create a kind of secret government inside the government to punish Nixon's enemies and reward his friends—very many people, maybe most, continued to suppose the "third-rate burglary" of Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate Hotel was the whole of the crime—but they could see there was a coverup. And, as they say, "It's not the crime, it's the coverup," meaning not that the coverup was worse than the crime but that the coverup was the perspicuous index of how bad the crime was, if you couldn't quite follow the latter.