Sunday, January 31, 2016

The future's not what it used to be

"Blind monks examining an elephant", an ukiyo-e print by Hanabusa Itchō (1652–1724). Via Wikipedia.
Shorter Monsignor Ross Douthat, Apostolic Nuncio to 42nd Street, "Trump, Sanders and the Revolt Against Decadence", New York Times, January 31 2016:
What makes the Trump and Sanders campaigns alike is that both are protests against decadence, at least if you redefine "decadence" to mean something completely different from what it usually means.
  1. 1:  the process of becoming decadent  [= "marked by decay or decline"; Simple English definition "having low morals and a great love of pleasure, money, fame, etc."]
      the quality or state of being decadent
  2. 2:  a period of decline

Ross Douthat, verbatim:

Saturday, January 30, 2016

You say you want a revolution, but what if you've got one?

William Howard Taft on carabao-back in the Philippines.
I'm not one of those who worries a lot about whether Bernie Sanders is electable or not, at least against anybody on the roster of Republican candidates including the imaginary ones like Romney or Ryan, and with the Democratic ground operation as it's developed over the past eight or ten years. He's a disciplined and attractive candidate, and he keeps saying things everybody knows to be true and nobody else does say. BooMan was quoting Dana Milbank the other day—
Watching Sanders at Monday night’s Democratic presidential forum in Des Moines, I imagined how Trump — or another Republican nominee — would disembowel the relatively unknown Vermonter.
—and I was thinking, are you crazy, Milbank? Since the whole Republican shtik is to pretend to this Catonian personal rectitude and an indignation at the corruptions of the times that Sanders actually exemplifies, simply standing next to Sanders at a couple of podiums might cause Trump or Cruz or Rubio to simply annihilate, in a blinding flash of cognitive dissonance.

That said, I don't have any real doubts about Clinton's electability either, I just don't think that's the question. I think the question needs to be how we see the two of them as president, and, like Krugman, I have a really hard time imagining what Bernie does in that situation. How does he pass those initiatives to reregulate the banking system, and overthrow the health insurance industry in favor of Medicare for all, with a Senate where a two-fifths vote counts as a majority that can defeat any bill? Elizabeth Warren was out in the Times the other day implicitly complaining about the Obama administration's failure to enforce the laws we already have on corporate misfeasance:

Friday, January 29, 2016

A Simple Matter of Fairness

Marguerite de La Motte and Claire McDowell in The Mark of Zorro (1920). Via Fritzi, of course.
David Brooks misses the good old days ("What Republicans Should Say", January29 2016) :
For a few decades, American and British conservatism marched in tandem. Thatcher was philosophically akin to Reagan. John Major was akin to George Bush.
That's precisely 1.2 decades when the tandem act was in effect, from Reagan's inauguration in 1981 to Clinton's in 1993 (Thatcher was prime minister 1979-90, Major 1990-97), but you were saying?
But now the two conservatisms have split. The key divide is over what to do about the slow-motion devastation being felt by the less educated, the working class and the poor.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Grace and Pity

Anne Baxter as Eve in Joseph L. Mankiewicz's All About Eve (1950), via FilmFanatics.
Monsignor Ross Douthat, the Apostolic Nuncio to 42nd Street, must be overdoing the fasting and prayer, because he's having hallucinations:
Bush, the well-funded front-runner whose poll numbers had been sliding since the summer, came prepared to swing at Rubio over his missed votes in the Senate. Rubio, the upstart running against his former mentor, responded with a mix of grace and pity, dismissing Jeb’s attack as a desperate flail, taken because “someone has convinced you that attacking me is going to help you.”
Or should that be a "frothy mix of grace and pity"? It was nothing of the sort: it was a mix of standard politician deflecting a legitimate question with an irrelevant counterattack and typical Rubio spat-out syringeful of canned snake venom—it was the Trump technique of answering criticism with "You're a loser!" but without Trump's affable understanding that it's all just a game.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016


Walking by the Beacon Theater and realized Joan Baez was playing a gig there tonight! Not as if I could go, but I wanted to put something up, and this piece of bizarrerie turned up (the Dead seem not to know the song at first, but they definitely make something).

It's also Mozart's birthday (the kid's just 260 and fresh as ever)!

R.I.P. Tarpman

So that fool LaVoy Finnicum managed, in the end, to make himself look tragic, or at least pathetic in the proper Greek sense, a subject of suffering, after all, and I feel bad, partly because this is starting to seem like another side of that distressed middle-aged undereducated white guy suicidal thing. I'm a serious comedy person, and what was great about this whole adventure was its comedy (#DaddySworeAnOath, and the request for throw rugs, and the dildos, and #Tarpman not least), and to me a gratuitous death of someone who may be stupid but still has a soul is a cheap way to ramp up the dramatic stakes, even when it's the Coen brothers.

Cheap shots, heels, and mountains of dreck

Yesterday I said something to the effect that Donald Trump was fearless, but I was wrong: as the Scarecrow had his terror of a lighted match, as Achilles dreaded an injury to his heel, so there's one thing the Donald fears: Questions from Fox News's ice princess.

Megyn Kelly. Photo by Alexei Hay/GQ, December 2010, via So that's what fuck-me heels are?
Amazing Conservative Logic of the Year:

I know it's still only January, but this from David Beckworth (Mercatus Institute) and Ramesh Ponnuru (American Enterprise Institute) in the New York Times is an instant classic:

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Brooks in denial, 'cause he's a crocodile

Clara Bow in William Wellman's Wings (1927) Via.
David Brooks really dislikes anger. I guess that's why he's decided to stick with stage 1 of his grief ("Stay Sane America, Please!", January 26 2016):
I am going to spend every single day between now and then believing that neither Donald Trump nor Ted Cruz nor Bernie Sanders will be standing on that podium. One of them could win the election, take the oath, give the speech and be riding down Pennsylvania Avenue. I will still refuse to believe it.... please allow me a few more months of denial.
Pretty standard horserace panditry today, the sort of thing I believe he does on television, and at first glance not wrong enough to be very interesting. It's cute how he has to set up a tag-team match to make a bothsiderist case with Sanders, Cruz for the equidistant-from-the-center argument (Cruz is as far right as Sanders is far left and therefore neither of them can win) and Trump for the outside-the-pale (Sanders isn't even a Democrat, therefore Trump really isn't a Republican, in spite of the latter's claims) and conclude that because Sanders will most likely not get the Democratic nomination therefore neither Cruz nor Trump will get the Republican one. That does not follow.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Let justice roll down like waters

Investigation of Planned Parenthood ends up busting the video fraudsters instead! Manny Fernandez, New York Times:
HOUSTON — A grand jury here that was investigating allegations of misconduct against Planned Parenthood has instead indicted two anti-abortion activists who made videos of the organization.
In a statement, the Harris County district attorney, Devon Anderson, said Monday that the director of the Center for Medical Progress, David Daleiden, had been indicted on a felony charge of tampering with a governmental record and a misdemeanor count related to purchasing human organs.
Another center employee, Sandra Merritt, was indicted on a charge of tampering with a governmental record.
The Center for Medical Progress had covertly shot videos of Planned Parenthood officials discussing the sale of aborted fetuses for research. Mr. Daleiden, 26, had posed as a biotechnology representative to infiltrate Planned Parenthood affiliates and surreptitiously record his attempts to procure tissue for research.
Ms. Anderson said in the statement that grand jurors had cleared Planned Parenthood of any wrongdoing. She did not specify in the statement what record or records were allegedly tampered with.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Cheap shot: Joe Walsh

Exchange: Trolled

Image via Scuzzfeed.
There was a troll in the comments to the Sarah Palin poem piece trying to bait commenter Avattoir. I don't block trolls, at least I haven't done so yet, but I do enjoy holding them up to public ridicule, especially when they are the kind of Breitbart commenter who thinks announcing he's gay entitles him to deny the validity of the trans woman's experience, and I'm much too vain to let my response languish at the bottom of the thread, so here it is:

Metaphorical overload.
Honestly, Palin did it better.

    Realms of Gold

    Key West, 1946, Via Steve Newman.
    "Are you familiar with the American author Ernest Hemingway?" Keats asked, lounging in front of the fire.

    "Certainly," said Chapman. "Indeed I knew him personally toward the end of his life."

    "Did you then? How was that?" Keats wondered.

    "Well, it was in Key West, of course. I was tutoring the children of some friends of his, in music and rhetoric, and he often popped in of an afternoon on a visit, after he'd finished his day's writing, and would stop by in the schoolroom to cast a critical eye on the lessons, though in fact he was hardly critical. And he admired my taste in vintage clothing."

    "He did?"

    "Naturally. I was well acquainted with all the town's thrift shops, of which there are many, and I was pretty well dressed in those days, on practically no income. I possessed some extraordinary hats, for instance."

    "Hemingway was interested in vintage clothing?" Keats raised his eyebrows a notch higher.

    "Not especially. But he was concerned about luggage, you see. He was planning a trip to Idaho, for some mackinaw fishing, or lake trout, and was in despair about his suitcases, which were in a state of disrepair. But while remarkably generous in many respects, and a wealthy man, you understand, he was deeply frugal on certain subjects, and luggage was among these. He hated the thought of shelling out hundreds of dollars on a suitcase. So he asked me to take him around the shops to see if he could find something suitable on a second-hand basis."

    Keats put another log on and stood up to stretch. "And did he?"

    "Did he what?"

    "Did he find something suitable?"

    "Ah! Unfortunately not. I did my best, but in the end Papa got a brand-new bag."

    Saturday, January 23, 2016

    You gotta be a football hero?

    But that's what the biography says:
    Despite his “class clown” reputation and low grades, Rubio played football throughout grade school and received a football scholarship to Tarkio College in Missouri. He attended for one year before transferring to Santa Fe Community College and then graduating in 1993 with a bachelor of science from the University of Florida. (Daily [Dog-]Signal)
    Why doesn't Boehlert think Rubio got a football scholarship to Tarkio? Because that's not exactly the way Tarkio was working in Rubio's freshman year 1989-90, the year before the college closed down for good, for reasons Anthony dePalma explained in the New York Times at the time:

    Don't Walk

    The Blizzard of '16.

    Cheap shot: Who's vulgar now?

    Image via News Corpse.
    Dr. William Kristol:
    In a letter to National Review, Leo Strauss wrote that “a conservative, I take it, is a man who despises vulgarity; but the argument which is concerned exclusively with calculations of success, and is based on blindness to the nobility of the effort, is vulgar.” Isn’t Donald Trump the very epitome of vulgarity?
    Would that by any chance be the same Dr. Kristol as the one who used to write a column for the New York Times, and who gently chided Ms. Noonan, in 2008, for complaining about the vice presidential candidacy of Sarah Palin as "symptom and expression of a new vulgarization of American politics"? Politics in a democracy has always been vulgar, my dear, he wrote at the time, "since democracy is rule by the 'vulgus,' the common people, the crowd":

    Winter music

    Image by WhoCares7 at Deviant Art. If you embiggen you can see that the fences in the middleground are musical staff notation.
    By pure and fairly extraordinary coincidence, I'm not the only one who has brought together Sarah Palin and late Beethoven: The pianist Jeremy Denk interviewed her in October 2008 on the subject of the piano sonata op. 106 ("Hammerklavier"). I'M NOT KIDDING (it's just possible that somebody else was kidding, though ;-)). Everybody needs to read it.

    Not sure I want to commit myself to listening to the whole Hammerklavier in the middle of a blizzard; I found a video of Denk playing the last sonata, op. 111, instead, which should be just about perfect:

    Friday, January 22, 2016

    Cheap shot: Relative pronouns

    I think "who", not "that". Unless you're inanimate. Oh, wait.

    We're off to slay the Wizard!

    David Brooks has a peculiar memory:
    The fact is, for all the problems we may have with Wall Street or Washington, our biggest problems are systemic — the disruptions caused by technological progress and globalization, mass migration, family breakdown and so on. There’s no all-controlling Wizard of Oz to slay.
    Watch your tropes, David! The job isn't to kill the Wizard, it's to get him to send you back to Kansas, where Toto buried your happiness out behind the storm cellar. And the problem is he—the Wizard, not Toto—can't do it for you, it's really up to you:

    Image via.
    Power, and potency, are on Brooksy's mind today. He's riffing off a fun essay by Anand Giridharadas on the theme of the 2016 election campaign being—this is a case where most sides do it—that whoever you are, you think somebody else has all the power:

    Wednesday, January 20, 2016

    Palin's Late Style: He Knows the Main Thing

    Henri Matisse, The Sorrows of the King, 1952. Image via KimLud.

    Editor's note: In her new work, dedicated to the real estate magnate and philanthropist Donald Trump, Sarah Palin has taken a remarkable step, in this writer's opinion, toward transcendence, toward what Theodor Adorno referred to, speaking of Beethoven, as a "late style", meaning not the conventional serenity of old age but the shudder of the dialectic between convention and a heightened subjectivity, as Edward Said described it:
    It is the episodic character of Beethoven’s late work, its apparent carelessness about its own continuity, that Adorno finds so gripping. When we compare such middle-period works as the Eroica with the Opus 110 sonata, say, we are struck by the cogent and integrative logic, the driven quality of the former and the somewhat distracted, often careless and repetitive character of the latter. Adorno speaks of the late work as ‘process, but not as development’, as a ‘catching fire between the extremes, which no longer allow for any secure middle ground or harmony of spontaneity’. 
    Palin's poetry has always made use of a superficial simplicity that melts away when the reader tries to follow her layered structures with a linear logic, but now those moments confront each other in jagged juxtapositions, and yet at the same time there is a lightness and playfulness in the startling use of rhyme and wordplay, almost randomly sprinkled through the text (do we detect here the influence of hip hop?).

    Old themes familiar from her past work recur as young, brightly lit, childlike images. She remakes Barack Obama's "they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them", for instance, into a kind of jolly nonsensical nursery song, while her own "Drill, baby, drill," formerly a bluesy erotic expression of her love for the petroleum industry, takes on the sudden violence of a toddler's unexpected rage, in a new context.

    But there is a classicism, too, right from the outset, in the way she turns Trump's slogan "you're fired" into an oblique reference to the fire-stealing demiurge Prometheus, I think; and the almost Sophoclean irony of the central paradoxical question, "What would the establishment know about conservatism?"

    But enough talk, you need to read the thing:

    Tuesday, January 19, 2016


    Image via PopCrush.
    Verbatim David Brooks, "Time for a Republican Conspiracy!" January 10 2016:
    Given the current strains on middle- and working-class families, many Republican voters want a government that will help the little guy; they just don’t want one that is incompetent, corrupt or infused with liberal social values.
    That certainly is a problem! Scylla, Charybdis, or accepting the need to live peaceably with people who are different from you.

    No, he doesn't go for door no. 3. His preference is for the Justin Bieber option:

    Monday, January 18, 2016

    Martin Luther King, Jr., Day: The Lord works in mysterious ways

    Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in Panama, in keeping with our annual custom of running a picture of Dr. King in a hat. Via Relaford Club.
    Let's not leave the long Martin Luther King Day weekend without our annual tribute visit to the Bizarro Dr. King who usually surfaces in the rightwing media around this time of the year, who if he had been alive would certainly have disapproved of the #BlackLivesMatter movement because they are the "sons and daughters of Stokely Carmichael and, to some extent, even Huey P. Newton" (former moderately good detective novelist Roger L. Simon, via Shakezula), and of the ongoing imaginary War on Police (Fox & Friends, via David at C&L); and Donald Trump, at the Dr. King tributes at Liberty University in the appropriately named Lynchburg, VA., praised the size of the crowd that came to see him as
    an honor in terms of Martin Luther King," Trump said. "We're dedicating the record to the late, great Martin Luther King." Trump made no other mention of the civil rights leader.
    In my usual stomping grounds at the National Review they haven't been able to come up with anything new this year, but they reran a piece by Lee Habeeb from January 2013:

    That's what Republicans do

    Image by Dorsey Shaw/Buzzfeed.
    So elements of the rightwing noise machine are working on the interesting project of attacking Hillary Clinton as a tool of rapacious capital, as in Karl Rove's hilariously inept-looking ad (h/t Marie3)—

    —like Rove and his masters think getting bought by Wall Street would be a bad thing ("$20 million, same as in town").

    And here's Jonah, right on cue, to castigate her for pretending she's on Obama's side:
    The thinking is pretty obvious. Obama is personally popular among core Democratic constituencies, particularly African-American voters in South Carolina and other states that come after New Hampshire and Iowa. That’s why she’s casting Sanders’ “Medicare for All” program as an attack on Barack Obama’s “legacy.”
    Pandering to those Negroes and their childishly personalized politics, wouldn't you know it. Speaking of childishly personalized politics, the reason Jonah knows Hillary really hates Barack is classic middle school:

    Sunday, January 17, 2016

    What kind of animal is Maureen Dowd?

    Crouching wolverine, via National Geographic Kids (an outfit that you'd think might know how to provide a photo credit, but never mind).
    So Sister Maureen Dowd has gone beyond worrying about what gender Hillary Clinton is to what kind of animal:
    Since we cannot know if a woman is going to overcompensate on machismo — as Hillary did on the unjustified Iraq invasion — we may want to look at it a different way.
    It may be more relevant to ask if someone is a cat or a dog.
    Or, in Shorter form:

    Saturday, January 16, 2016

    Trump's missed opportunity

    Image via Bored Panda.
    Who wouldn't want to see this movie?
    On a (just barely) more practical level, I think Donald Trump seriously blew the 2016 campaign with the role he chose, of being a candidate, a participant. You know the adage about Washington being Hollywood for ugly people? Why would he lower himself to that? I mean, going on WWE was bad enough, but it was a fairly short-term thing and he was able to control the storyline to make himself look good in the end, and the whole thing was a hoot anyway. Whereas here he is in a situation where somebody like Ted Cruz, representing everything that is slimy, ugly, and classless about Washington DC, can make Donald Trump a loser.

    What he ought to have done, the real Trumpery thing to have done, was run the campaign, from above, hors concours: he should have made it, or the debate sector of it, into a special season of The Apprentice.

    You see what I mean? Starting with a stable of 20-odd candidates, he'd shlep them around to a different problem location each week, Wall Street, the North Dakota oil fields, the California drought emergency, Netanyahu's office, Sheldon Adelson's office, Baghdad, and each week he'd fire one of them. "Rick, you handled this situation horribly, your understanding was very weak, frankly I think you're past your prime. You're fired."

    Reinforcing the idea that of course he's qualified to be president himself, he just can't be bothered. And he'd have kept the Miss Universe contract.

    Friday, January 15, 2016

    When Beauty Goes on Strike

    Francisco Goya, Los Desastres de la Guerra (1810-20) 11, inappropriately commenting on political events instead of leaving these matters to well-informed commentators, revealing himself to be a posthumanist artist, sadly unconcerned with the spiritual function of beauty in making us better, more gracious people. Via NapoleonGuide.

    Q: When is sex not sex?
    A: When David Brooks is writing about it. It has to be something nobler and more excellent. Like humanism, the view that "beauty conquers the deadening aspects of routine; it educates the emotions, and connects us to the eternal." Or having "a finer sense of how to move with graciousness through the tribulations of life." Or, oh hell—
    Verbatim David Brooks, "When Beauty Strikes", New York Times, January 15 2016:
    Today the word eros refers to sex, but to the Greeks it meant the fervent desire to reach excellence and deepen the voyage of life. This eros is a powerful longing. Whenever you see people doing art, whether they are amateurs at a swing dance class or a professional painter, you invariably see them trying to get better. “I am seeking. I am striving. I am in it with all my heart,” Vincent van Gogh wrote.

    Thursday, January 14, 2016

    The devil is a concern troll

    Juan de Flandes, The Temptation of Christ (ca.1500-1504). Image via David Lawson/Pinterest.
    Shorter Monsignor Ross Douthat, Apostolic Nuncio to 42nd Street, "The Tempting of Bernie Sanders", New York Times, January 14 2016:
    I'm just so concerned about Bernie, you know. He's so high-minded. He doesn't sling enough mud, and if he doesn't get more vicious fast he may not win the nomination, I mean sometimes you wonder if he even really wants to win as much as he wants to achieve some noble goal like making the Democrats a better party. When he criticizes Hillary Clinton it's over these wonky issues like her failure to support single-payer universal health care or to object to regime change policies, do Democrats really care about that shit? He should be talking about the intersection between character and policy, like the sordidness of the Clinton Foundation, with its slimy and rapacious funding of things like relief and economic development for Haitians, local projects around the world for combating climate change, and focusing on the health and well-being of American kids under five ("Too Small to Fail"), and connecting the dots between that and her immoral email account, which not only exposed national security secrets by the ton to our enemies and caused the deaths of Americans at Benghazi but brought on the entire Iraq War. And he needs to express himself pithily when he talks about foreign policy,  I just happen to have this 400-word diatribe right here he could use. You know me, I just have his best interests at heart.

    Tuesday, January 12, 2016

    David Brooks goes takfiri

    Q: Why is Ted Cruz like the Paul Reilly design for the Church of St. Frances de Chantal in the Bronx (1971)?
    A: Because he says he's Christian, but David Brooks says he's Brutalist. (Uncredited photo via American Guild of Organists, New York City chapter.)
    Shorter David Brooks, "The Brutalism of Ted Cruz", January 12 2016:
    I'm shocked, shocked to discover that one of the Republican candidates for the presidency is offering a hard, combative and gladiatorial approach, sowing bitterness, influencing his followers to lose all sense of proportion and teaching them to answer hate with hate, and seems to be a stranger to most of what would generally be considered the Christian virtues of humility, mercy, compassion and grace. Though I agree with some of his positions.
    Pause to note that grace would not generally be considered a Christian virtue in that it isn't a property of people at all but of God. Or by extension sovereigns ("God save our gracious Queen") and dukes and duchesses ("your grace"). So I have to say Brooksy's still not quite ready for his theology orals.

    Technical issues aside, far be it from me to dispute these takfir accusations; I don't think Cruz represents the Christian virtues or the liberal, forgiving spirit of the New Testament very well either. I do think it's kind of funny how Brooks seems to be putting himself in the position of warning the conservative evangelical community that their preferred candidate isn't very humble or merciful: does he think they're not listening to what Cruz says?

    Monday, January 11, 2016

    Oh no de Cologne

    Photo by Bernd Rosenbaum.Kölnische Rundschau.
    Merkel muß raus! Yep, Monsignor Ross Douthat, Apostolic Nuncio to 42nd Street, is demanding the resignation of the German chancellor:
    Angela Merkel must go — so that her country, and the continent it bestrides, can avoid paying too high a price for her high-minded folly.
    Does that count as a diplomatic incident?

    What it's about, of course, is the awful fracas of Silvesterabend in Cologne and some other German cities:
    ON New Year’s Eve, in the shadow of Cologne’s cathedral, crowds of North African and Middle Eastern men accosted women out for the night’s festivities. They surrounded them, groped them, robbed them. Two women were reportedly raped.

    Though there were similar incidents from Hamburg to Helsinki, the authorities at first played down the assaults, lest they prove inconvenient for Angela Merkel’s policy of mass asylum for refugees.
    Thus the Monsignor aligns himself with what Die Welt memorably calls "ein Shitstorm" of demands for Merkel to step down—