Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Elle ne regrette rien

I got stuck in irritation at Jonathan Chait and his complaints last week ("Elizabeth Warren’s Book Shows She Has No Idea Why Her Campaign Failed") about Elizabeth Warren's memoir, Persist, which fails to be the book he wants to read, which will explain the thing he feels he already knows, which is that "progressive" Democrats in 2020 were so "disoriented" by the way the 2016 election had overturned all their assumptions about "electability" that they found themselves inside a "bubble" of believing the assumptions weren't true: 

Persist, Elizabeth Warren’s new memoir of her life and presidential campaign, is an excellent and informative account of how that bubble  formed. Her campaign was perhaps a prime case study in the delirious post-2016 atmosphere and the errors in political judgment it produced.

The problem is that she is so deep inside that bubble she seems not to recognize it for what it was. She can paint a compelling portrait of what the inside of the Democratic Party activist bubble looked like, but shows no awareness that there is anything outside of the bubble, or even that she was inside of one.

Excuse me, sir, this is an Arby's. Or, less metaphorically, a traditional inspirational text about the importance of persistence, and anything but a political operative's autopsy of a failed campaign. It opens not with the sorrow of her quitting the presidential campaign in March 2020 but the exhilaration of watching Biden and Harris winning in November, and eager anticipation of the hard work that must come next, and she remarks,

Monday, May 10, 2021

Conservatives Against Capitalism

Casting a vote for Chancellor Hitler's party, which took pretty good care of you if you were a member of the right group. Photo via Quartz, 2017.

Monsignor Ross Douthat, Apostolic Nuncio to 42nd Street, has a pretty oddly structured argument ("Is Capitalism Killing Conservatism?"), starting, in the first place, with the "grim" news of the falling birthrate in the US.

paragraph 1:

The report on Wednesday that U.S. birthrates fell to a record low in 2020 was expected but still grim. On Twitter the news was greeted, characteristically, by conservative laments and liberal comments implying that it’s mostly conservatism’s fault — because American capitalism allegedly makes parenthood unaffordable, work-life balance impossible and atomization inevitable.

Without saying exactly what's grim about it, though you can assume he's one of the characteristically lamenting conservatives. And reading into the comments of liberals something more than they (actually, she—there's only one of them) actually said:

What makes him think Vega is decrying "conservatism"?  Other than his own tacit assumption, you know, that that is where American capitalism comes from? And what does he mean by "atomization"? 

Saturday, May 8, 2021

Maybe she's just smarter than Kevin

Illustration by hotlittlepotato via Wired.

An interesting claim in this WaPo story: Liz Cheney seems to think there is evidence she has the politics right, and party management seems to be trying to hide the evidence from members:

When staff from the National Republican Congressional Committee [at an April retreat] rose to explain the party’s latest polling in core battleground districts, they left out a key finding about Trump’s weakness, declining to divulge the information even when directly questioned about Trump’s support by a member of Congress, according to two people familiar with what transpired.

Trump’s unfavorable ratings were 15 points higher than his favorable ones in the core districts, according to the full polling results, which were later obtained by The Washington Post. Nearly twice as many voters had a strongly unfavorable view of the former president as had a strongly favorable one.

Friday, May 7, 2021

Distrust Doom Loop

Doom Loop: Richmond Mural Project 2014, by Onur and Wes21, photo by Brandon Bartoszek, 2019.

Breaking: On further consideration, Brooks ("Our Pathetic Herd Immunity Failure") thinks the New Deal may have been OK:

The New Deal was an act of social solidarity that created the national cohesion we needed to win World War II. I am not in the habit of supporting massive federal spending proposals. But in this specific context — in the midst of a distrust doom loop — this is our best shot of reversing the decline.

Not, to be sure, because it rescued millions of Americans from hunger, homelessness, and despair, but because it created "cohesion". Which prepared us for the Second World War. And probably would have prepared us for the Covid-19 pandemic too, if we'd only had a good Great Depression beforehand for an excuse. You don't want a New Deal every day, because that's awfully expensive, but it's just the thing to get you out of a Distrust Doom Loop  (the phrase sounds like Tom Friedman having a panic attack, but is Brooks's own, premiered in an article in The Atlantic last October).

Maybe if Trump had offered people a little New Deal in 2019, he'd have saved us from the Distrust Doom Loop of 2020.

And if something had given David Brooks more of a social cohesion feeling he would have handled it better himself, almost exactly a year ago, as our friend reminds us:

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Literary Corner: The Committed Woke

In memory of the great Merle Haggard, who may not have smoked marijuana in Muskogee, but certainly did in every other town on the circuit:

We don't get up early in Biloxi
We don't set our radio alarms
We don't ever wear a mask on Main Street
Or brag on vaccinations in our arms

We don't go for wokie in Muskogee
Or Tupelo or old Sault Saint-Marie
We don't buzz on coffee in Kentucky
Cause dead asleep is where we want to be

I"m proud to be unwoke in Oklahoma
I'm proud to be asleep in Tennessee
I"m proud to linger in my bed in Texas
Cause I love livin right and sleepin free

We don't allow no racism in Tulsa
We drove it out a hundred years ago
We had to drive our black folks all out with it
But nothing in this life comes free, you know

We don't take to critical race theory
We like lettin well enough alone
Criticize your forebears if you want to
I"ll be here just sleepin like a stone

I"m proud to be unwoke in Oklahoma
I'm proud to be asleep in Tennessee
I"m proud to linger in my bed in Texas
Cause I love livin right and sleepin free

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Another Steele Dossier?

Updated 5 May

This is kind of interesting, reported in England by The Telegraph (paywall) and picked up by the Sydney Morning Herald: It seems Christopher Steele compiled a second dossier on Donald Trump, this one directly for the FBI, after Trump took office:

The second dossier contains raw intelligence that makes further claims of Russian meddling in the US election and also references claims regarding the existence of further sex tapes. The second dossier is reliant on separate sources to those who supplied information for the first reports.

The fact the FBI continued to receive intelligence from Steele, who ran MI6’s Russia desk from 2006 to 2009 before setting up Orbis, is potentially significant because it shows his work was apparently still being taken seriously after Trump took hold of the reins of power.

It was, was it? We'd been given to believe FBI broke off relations with Steele in November 2016, after David Corn revealed the existence of the original dossier in a Halloween article in Mother Jones—not that at that point that they didn't trust his research, but that they couldn't trust him to stay away from the press, which is understandable (I can also understand Steele's point of view, that the FBI didn't seem to be doing anything with the material he'd showed them, even as they publicly reopened an obviously bogus investigation into Hillary Clinton, and someone who appeared to be a tool of the Russian government was dangerously close to getting elected president of the United States, and he and Glenn Simpson felt morally obliged to do something).

But it's not exactly true that the FBI broke off with Steele. DOJ's Bruce Ohr kept talking to Steele, and the FBI was aware, and opinions on it in the Bureau differed:

Monday, May 3, 2021

Joe did what? He didn't—yet.



Republican Chuck Hagel and Democrat Joe Lieberman in 2008, when they were both being considered for cross-the-aisle vice presidential candidacies. Remember who won the vice presidency? Via Politico.

Really interesting tidbit from Anita Kumar/Politico, passing on what look to me like some pretty carefully orchestrated hints from the White House as to what's likely to happen to the Biden agenda this summer, after he's finished with the essential task of looking hopeful for Republican cooperation:

But Biden aides also are hinting that there are time limits to how long that engagement will last. They say the president hopes to make progress on both spending bills — either as a pair or individually — by Memorial Day and sign them into law this summer. And the calendar creates some urgency: By the end of his first year, members of Congress will be consumed by the midterms and then the next presidential race. The White House also knows how a drag-on legislative process can consume a presidency and party.

“Biden and the people around him understand you have to get as much done this year as possible,” said Republican Chuck Hagel, who served with Biden in the Senate and later served as Defense secretary in the Obama administration. “At what point then — if you’re not making any progress on any front and you've been willing to compromise on some things — do you have to go it alone. That’s a decision they’re going to have to make. You don’t have a lot of time.”

Unparliamentary Language


Erskine May, 1st Baron Farnborough, KCB, Under Clerk of the Parliaments from 1871 to 1886. Via Wikipedia.

Lovely buried lede in this Guardian story about Prime Minister Boris Johnson's inveterate lying, which is becoming increasingly hard for Britain to live with:

On Tuesday an exasperated cross-party group of MPs went to see [Speaker of the House of Commons Lindsay] Hoyle. Their message: the parliamentary protocols drawn up in Victorian times no longer work. “We need new rules for this Trumpian era of British politics,” Green MP Caroline Lucas told the Radio 4 Today programme. The MPs want to be able to call him out – and the charge sheet against him is long.

Under the ministerial code, an MP who makes a false statement to the Commons is supposed to correct the record. Johnson has repeatedly ignored this obligation, making a litany of inaccurate claims which he subsequently fails to fix. Seemingly, Erskine May, the sideburned baron who established parliamentary procedure, did not envisage a PM like Johnson.

Basically, they're asking permission to use unparliamentary language and call Johnson a liar, preferably to his face at Question Time.