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



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


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: