Monday, January 20, 2020

Why I Hate the New York Times: The Endorsement That Wasn't

Bad cork. Via Wine For Real People.

As Steve says,The New York Times's weird "endorsement" of two candidates for the price of one, Warren and Klobuchar, isn't really an endorsement at all. In fact it's a kind of protest against the irritating choice they feel they've been given, between Biden and Sanders: "Waiter, I'm afraid this bottle is corked, could you get us another one?"

With which I'm actually kind of sympathetic, because I've been feeling that way myself from the beginning, that these two superannuated white male cartoon representations of their different ideological stances are just not the best candidates we could end up having to choose between, and I hate the thought that I might have to vote for one of them in the primary just to stop the other one from getting the nomination. I too would like it if Warren and Klobuchar were the front runners, or Warren and Harris for that matter, or Castro and Klobuchar, or Castro and O'Rourke, or Booker and Buttigieg, or whatever, but very much the couple the Times chose as the bottle they'd meant to order in the first place.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Vast Open Spaces and Tense Little Monopolies

Monk by the Sea, Caspar David Friedrich ca. 1809 via Wikimedia.

Seems Yuval Levin has written a David Brooks column for the Times this week ("How Did Americans Lose Faith in Everything?")
When we think about our problems, we tend to imagine our society as a vast open space filled with individuals who are having trouble linking hands. And so we talk about breaking down walls, building bridges, leveling playing fields or casting unifying narratives.
But what we are missing is not simply greater connectedness but a structure of social life: a way to give shape, purpose, concrete meaning and identity to the things we do together. If American life is a big open space, it is not a space filled with individuals. It is a space filled with these structures of social life — with institutions. And if we are too often failing to foster belonging, legitimacy and trust, what we are confronting is a failure of institutions.
Well, don't you tend to imagine our society as a vast open space filled with individuals attempting and failing to hold hands with each other? I mean, when you're thinking about our problems? I guess when I think about our problems I tend to think about our problems, like rising inequality, failure to provide huge numbers with what they need to live satisfying lives, and headlong rush to the destruction of possible human habitats. When I think about what's a creative-sounding analogy for society, I don't regard myself as thinking about our problems at all. I guess that must mean I'm a liberal. Though I have nothing against analogies in principle. Rest assured.

But if American life is a big open space (suddenly it's not American society any more), then it's not a big open space, but a space that is not open at all. This is a point where you might be better advised to move to a different analogy, or give up on reading the thing altogether, which was my choice.

Meanwhile, as if in revenge, Brooks has written a kind of Yuval Levin piece ("The Bernie Sanders Fallacy"), to adduce the economic proofs that there is no such thing as class struggle in the United States, along with possibly attempting to prove on the basis of irrefragable logic that there is no "culture war" either, though he forgets all about that after the initial bothsiderizing in paragraph 4:

Saturday, January 18, 2020

For the Record: Two Warren Topics

Cherokee Freedmen, undated, via Mid-Continent Public Library.

Wanted to try giving Roger an answer here:

Friday, January 17, 2020

Dopes and Babies

Boss Baby, via South China Morning Post.

Washington Post book promo, adapted from Philip Rucker's and Carol Leonnig's A Very Stable Genius: Donald J. Trump’s Testing of America, coming out next week, on the meeting of 20 July 2017, arranged by Mattis as a kind of emergency education session for the president to familiarize him a little bit with the ins and outs of foreign and national security policy, on which Trump was imperfectly informed ("Mattis, Tillerson, and Cohn feared his proposals were rash, barely considered, and a danger to America’s superpower standing. They also felt that many of Trump’s impulsive ideas stemmed from his lack of familiarity with U.S. history and, even, where countries were located")—the meeting where Rex Tillerson came to understand that Trump was a "fucking moron":
“We should charge them rent,” Trump said of South Korea. “We should make them pay for our soldiers. We should make money off of everything.”
That's how to run a country like a business. It's all about the shareholders, whoever they are.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

A little depressed

This is for the fam here, and stuff I'd rather not be talking about at the moment, but it's weighing on me too much.

It looks to me, for starters, like Biden won the last debate and will get the nomination. Or, if you prefer, like Sanders won it for him, with the dramatic murder-suicide of Warren's and his own campaign, when he made her angry enough to break the pact that had helped them create a kind of left coalition that had a kind of a chance.

That is, they'll try to repair it, perhaps, but I don't think it will work; as in 2016, when Sanders's officially expressed support for Hillary Clinton came too late to have an effect on his enraged and WikiLeaks-propagandized young stans in crucial places like Detroit and Milwaukee and Madison and they decided not to vote (reporting has clarified that few Sanders supporters voted for Trump or fringe candidates, but as ever it mostly fails to consider nonvoters, who obviously don't show up in exit polls). Sanders may well win in Iowa (caucus state) or even, less likely, New Hampshire, but he never had a chance of getting the nomination (though as I've said he could win the election if he did somehow get nominated), and Warren (who I think, disclosure, would make a much better president than Sanders and a somewhat better candidate) won't be able to win it in the toxic atmosphere the stans are busy creating in the debate's aftermath. It was already pretty terrible in recent weeks, and this has made it a lot worse.

Yes, I'm sorry to say I think he's been lying. That is:

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

For the Record: Ignorance

One of the best of a lot of online proposals that could really change his life if he wasn't so goddamned dumb. iPetitions: Give Trump a Military Haircut.

Monday, January 13, 2020

Healing a Divided Nation

Luo Kisii people of Nyanza, Kenya, photo by E.E. Evans-Pritchard, 1936, Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford.

Well, I suppose maybe it means thinking about the future, and your place in it. Are you going to dwell in the easy randomness of Downtown, its walkable maze of streets where you disappear whenever you want, or the formal determination of Uptown, where you take taxis and elevators in and out of, and up and down in, the hierarchy? Brooks opted for seriousness in that sense, and read Burke's Reflections on the Late Revolution in France instead of Huckleberry Finn and Women in Love.

But there is something we're worrying about all the same, isn't there? In the concept of a "divided nation"? Isn't this about something or other important? Whether we're afraid of the hot civil war Republicans keep threatening us with if Trump isn't reelected or that "epistemic crisis" David Roberts/Vox was lamenting in November, on the divide between those who work within what they hope is a transpartisan morality and those whose morality is "tribal":