Sunday, July 31, 2016


The brilliant, lovely, and dutiful 23-year-old brought home fresh copy of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, which she read in company with a friend reading her own copy this afternoon, and is now turning over to me. I have a post in the works but it will just have to wait.

Noma Dumezweni (Hermione Granger), Jamie Parker (Harry Potter) and Paul Thornley (Ron Weasley). Photo by MANUEL HARLAN via Telegraph.

No Comment

Photo by Dorian Santiago via NBC News.
Tomorrow's the 50th anniversary of the day Charles Whitman of Austin, Texas, 25-year-old white man, Eagle Scout and Marine, son of a violent authoritarian father, speed freak and college student, killed his wife and his mother in their homes and then went to the University of Texas campus where he gunned down 49 people, killing 16 of them, mostly from the observation deck of the Main Building Tower.

It is also, apparently by coincidence, the day the new Texas "campus-carry" law goes into effect, as I learned from NPR, allowing anybody with a Texas handgun license to carry a concealed handgun on any Texas college campus including, obviously, UT Austin.

The NPR story went to bed too early to incorporate another Austin story, where the 6th Street nightlife district was terrorized early this morning after the bars closed by reports of an "active shooter situation" in the neighborhood. But not to worry, that was just a rumor! The fact was that there were two shooters in completely unrelated incidents, and they were just working out their own private relationship issues, I guess, and only one woman got killed and four seriously injured, so it's just Texas. The one shooter who succeeded in murdering somebody is still at large, but he isn't "active". The Second Amendment escaped unharmed.

Cross-posted at No More Mister Nice Blog.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Convention bounce

Misty Copeland, via Shape.
John Cole puts it very nicely:
We Democrats get ALL THE GOOD SHIT NOW. We get the most progressive platform and agenda in my lifetime, we get to cheer for our troops and say NO MORE STUPID WARS. We get to stand up and say Black Lives Matter and thank the cops who risk their lives because we’re fucking smart enough to hold two god damned ideas in our heads. We get to stand up for a woman’s right to choose and gay people to marry and still get to rock the house as Rev. Barber brings down the fucking roof in the name of the almighty.
Our heroic frontline troops have rushed Patriotism Hill while the enemy was sleeping off their mean-drunk hangover, and they've seized it, and from that high ground they can control more or less everybody's movements.

Oh, and you know how they keep telling us Hillary's not a great orator like Bill and Barack? Well, she probably doesn't dance like Misty Copeland either, and I bet she can't work up a salmon filet with beurre rouge like I can, but there are a number of people around in comparison to whom she is a terrific speaker, and some of their names are Willard Mitt Romney, John McCain, and George W. Bush. Newt Gingrich? Senator Tom Cotton? Mike Fucking Pence? How come nobody ever compares her to those guys?

And don't even talk about the Trump, who's an adequate trash talker by WWE standards but not even close to old Mick Foley.  Or Jennifer Granholm either, speaking of first-class trash talk. Also he's severely mentally ill, and decompensating, and lurching into a pronounced turn for the worse. Meanwhile I'm crying from looking at pictures of Bill Clinton playing with balloons.

I'm having my own personal convention bounce, is what it is. That was such a splendid convention, from start to finish, from the unspeakable nobility of Mr. Khizr Khan (which Fox News apparently felt it had to censor) to the silly dad tricks of Senator Kaine. If you were watching with a little ideological checklist, you probably noticed a bunch of boxes that didn't get checked, but if you let yourself enjoy the big picture, you saw that this really is the "most progressive platform the Democratic party has ever run on" and everybody from Warren to Bloomberg ready to work within it.

No doubt reality will be kicking in shortly, but I feel pumped.

Cross-posted at No More Mister Nice Blog.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Open terrain

Otto von Bismarck escorting the arrested Emperor Napoléon III after the Battle of Sedan, French corpses littering the side of the road. Painting by Wilhelm Camphausen, 1877, via Wikimedia Commons.
Shorter David Brooks, "The Democrats Win the Summer", July 28 2016:
Now the Democrats looks like nice middle-class folks who care about their families and their country and feel empathy for others. Thanks a lot, Donald!
Naive people like me commonly think of politics as if it ought to be a confrontation of ideas on what the polity needs to do, but of course it's really a confrontation of people, organized into teams, a kind of war or a game of field control, and ideas are the field, the territory the teams contest, the largely static semiotic map across which we crawl out of our ideological trenches, trying to plant our flags in enemy ground.

Which means that what the fight is mainly over is the territory of ideas on which we all basically agree, the motherhood and apple pie; our job is to own those ideas, and deny them to the enemy. If I can convince the voter that I'm really strong on motherhood, with an unquestionable commitment, that will suggest that the other guy really isn't—that he's suspect, unreliable on motherhood, dangerous and dishonest.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Maybe he wasn't committing treason: Postcript

Image by Brian Watt via Ricochet.
BooMan notes a weird confusion in Trump's plea to Russian intelligence to hack US institutions, between the internal emails of the Democratic National Committee which were leaked to Wikileaks by Russian government hackers and the "30,000 missing emails" of the private server used by the former secretary of state :
Trump seems to have gotten a smear campaign mixed up with something real, and he wasn’t just asking Russia to release everything they have from the DNC. He was asking them to go find (if they haven’t already) emails that Clinton wrote as Secretary of State.
I'm pretty sure that confusion didn't originate with Trump; I think you can see it being staged, in a weird little flurry of rightwing reports from last spring, with some interesting Russian fingerprints on it, summarized in a story Media Matters ran at the time:

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Maybe he wasn't committing treason on TV, but that doesn't mean he's not being vile

Updated below: There's a lot wrong with this post, too much to fix by editing.

Harry Langdon in Mack Sennett's Picking Peaches (1924). Via.
So Donald Trump is publicly inviting Russian intelligence to hack the computer files of the former secretary of state:

Donald J. Trump said Wednesday that he hoped Russia had hacked Hillary Clinton’s email, essentially encouraging an adversarial foreign power to cyberspy on a secretary of state’s correspondence.
“Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing,” Mr. Trump said, staring directly into the cameras during a news conference. “I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.”
Which sounds remarkably like what we usually refer to as treason. I want to argue that what he's really doing isn't so much treason as a classic McCarthy trick, sneaking a very nasty lie into the discussion by packing it into his presuppositions, where it can poison our minds without being noticed, in seeding the conversation with the story of those "30,000 emails that are missing".

Because they AREN'T MISSING, and haven't been missing, certainly not since FBI INVESTIGATORS RECOVERED THEM ALL LAST SEPTEMBER after Clinton turned the equipment over to the agency in August.  And there aren't 30,000 of them, but actually two or three thousand, together with some mails from Huma Abedin. Now the investigation is finished, and they're being sent in batches to the State Department, which is processing them for release to the public, starting last Thursday.

Of course there are surrogates out to say he's merely joking:

First Feminist

Photo via the Politics and Elections Portal.
Watching the proceedings on MSNBC last night, and after the Big Dog spoke I was interested and puzzled by the way the station's Tough Babes, Rachel and Republican Nicole, dismissed him for that long lingering nostalgic wedding-toast intro taking the audience in some detail from his first cute meet with the candidate to their dumping of Chelsea in the dorm 20-odd years later (he stood at the window concealing his tears while Hillary worked to perfect the environment). "Weak" and "meandering", they thought, though the audience plainly mostly loved it.

It was a remarkably limited view, it seemed to me, as if there's only one thing a speech can do—to overwhelm everybody and be the winner—and a kind of unfeminist view, too, with its assumption that if Bill wasn't the powerful winner of the evening then he was a failure.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

When you come to a fork in the road, take the middle

Pola Negri in Mal St. Clair's A Woman of the World (1925). Image via Fritzi, who has her own review.
David Brooks, still incredibly unfired ("Hillary, This Is Why Democrats Are Still Struggling", July 26 2016), may think the candidate is "squirrelly" and "willing to blatantly lie to preserve her career", but that doesn't mean he wouldn't offer her some heartfelt advice:

PHILADELPHIA — Dear Hillary,
Donald Trump has presented you with an amazing opportunity to become a world historical figure! If you crush him in this election, you could create a new Democratic majority and reduce the G.O.P. to an ever-declining rump of ethnic nationalism. On the other hand, if you fail to beat Trump, you will go down as America’s most hapless political loser and be vilified forever for enabling an era of American Putinism.
No pressure! Have fun in Philadelphia!
(There's the 145th career use of "amazing/amazingly".)

No, I don't see any concern trolls. Do you see a concern troll? Really? You mean you think Brooks doesn't sincerely want Clinton to create a new Democratic majority and reduce the GOP to an ever-declining rump of etc.? You cynic you.

Monday, July 25, 2016

I mean, you can't have a newspaper going around making people feel they're *wrong* about stuff

Drawing by Jen Sorensen, 2013, via The Political Carnival.
A reader calls my attention to the replacement of the great Margaret Sullivan as Public Editor of the Times, Liz Spayd (I'm sorry, that really looks like a fictional name), who is worried that news and opinion writing at the Times may not be really good for the paper's marketing. Did I even type that?

I HAVE been here less than a month, but already I’ve discovered something that surely must be bad for business if your business is running The New York Times. It comes via the inbox to the public editor, from people like Gary Taustine of Manhattan, who writes: “The NY Times is alienating its independent and open-minded readers, and in doing so, limiting the reach of their message and its possible influence.” [Or] James, an Arizona reader: “You’ve lost a subscriber because of your relentless bias against Trump — and I’m not even a Republican.”
If your coverage of Donald Trump impresses James, who is not even a Republican, as relentlessly biased against the candidate, that can't be good for business.

Feel the Burn. But don't get too excited.

Hi MBRU Cowpokes! Thanks, Tengrain (for all the style quirks I stole from you for this piece)!

Really, Russian intelligence? Karla would be rolling over in his grave, were he not a fictional character.
Poor Debbie!

Turns out that while certain self-denominated progressives have been demonizing Wasserman Schultz as the personification of a rigged Democratic Party run by powerful hidden capitalist overlords, that whole party has been longing to get rid of her, at least if you trust
Several senior Democratic officials with ties to Hillary and Bill Clinton
two people with direct knowledge of the conversation
one former West Wing adviser
a senior Democrat
a DNC staffer
a source familiar with the discussion
one state party chair

Ah, Politico! "Some said, said some..." Nevertheless, I think there are solid reasons for trusting them on this one: many people who would like the news out that Wasserman Schultz's departure is a welcome development, but few who want their names out there as saying so. It really seems to have been everybody, from the president and his political staff (Jim Messina, as far back as the wake of the 2012 election), Hillary Clinton and her people, starring John Podesta and Robby Mook (since fall 2015), and her own staff: as she began to not show up for scheduled events,

Come se dice "vast carelessness"?


The best, classiest, hugest review ever of The Great Gatsby now available in the tongue of Dante and Ariosto, at Sotto il Vulcano, blog of the Italian publisher Edizioni SUR (which specializes in writing from and on the Americas).

The 2013 Daisy Buchanan, pretty winsome, Carey Mulligan.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Why, Grandmother, what big margins you have!

The better to short you with, my dear!

New York Times Sunday Review, July 24 2016.
What that un-Timesly moat of white represents, of course—vast spaces for meditating—is the column inches meant to be occupied in the spread by the 800-some words of the David Brooks column entitled "The Dark Knight", until some bright spark noticed, sometime Friday morning, that that piece was about 50% plagiarized from the David Brooks column entitled "The Death of the Republican Party", which had appeared that morning in the usual spot.

Or perhaps "The Death of the Republican Party" was plagiarized from "The Dark Knight", it's not easy to say. I'm guessing the assistant who wrote "Trump is Even Trumpier", which appeared in Brooks's spot on Tuesday, also wrote "The Death of the Republican Party", and Brooks himself produced "The Dark Knight", and they didn't so much plagiarize one from the other as they worked from duplicate sets of Brooskian Duplo blocks, each turning the embryonic paragraphs to a somewhat different use. You can check out the evidence at my previous post on this fascinating question, if you have not already done so.

The editors decided to split the difference, deleting "The Death of the Republican Party" from the online edition and "The Dark Knight" from the paper one, and that, with its traces in those margins on the Op-Ed spread, is the whole story, I suppose.

But for one thing I don't think the assistant is supposed to be writing the column, no matter how busy Brooks is with his TV appearances. And all that white space has to be embarrassing. If I were Andrew Rosenthal, I think I'd have to conclude this was a firing offense. But hey, I've said that before.

As a notorious billionaire once said, just what in the hell is going on?

Image by Elizabeth Griffin for Esquire, December 2015.
Everybody's got a reason why Donald Trump won't release his tax returns. Some say it's because he's one of those rich free riders taking advantage of loopholes to bring his income tax bill down toward zero, a bloodsucker who gets an infinite amount more out of government than most of us do but doesn't give anything back. For others, it would reveal that he's far less wealthy than he claims, putting a hole in his Prosperity Gospel argument that you should vote for him because he's made himself so damn rich he's bound to make you rich too, although that argument surely has enough holes in it already. Then there's the possibility that he's getting a lot of income from some unpleasant place he doesn't want us to know about.

Here's another hypothesis with some elements of all-of-the-above: that the tax returns would show he's seriously dependent on money from sources in the Russian Federation and Kazakhstan, people in the orbit of Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, sponsoring his ventures and covering for his colossal mistakes.


Saturday, July 23, 2016

Yes We Kaine

Also, he plays harmonica. How can you not love that?
So I took it a little personal at first...
Still, in the cold light of day, or what would be the cold light if it wasn't 99 degrees Fahrenheit in New York today, reading about Kaine has been kind of reassuring. He's been to a great extent a victim of the kind of dumbass stereotyping we once did with Joe Biden—very specifically, people used to worry about whether Biden would be a reliable voice for abortion rights, given his Catholicism, but he's always been very clear that his personal views have no impact on his views of what should be legal, and the same applies to Kaine, who has been maybe even more emphatic:

Friday, July 22, 2016

In Which David Brooks Should Sue David Brooks for Egregious Plagiarism

A little while after midnight this morning some Times editor signed off on a feuilleton-style piece by David Brooks for the paper's "Campaign Stops" rubric, to which Brooks has never contributed, just as he more or less refuses to post a blog or to Tweet as the others do and has withdrawn from the back-and-forth jollity with Gail Collins and generally demands privileges of non-work that are accorded to no other Times opinionist.

The piece had apparently been written in the wake of Senator Ted Cruz's passionate non-endorsement of the Republican presidential candidate, which Brooks had personally witnessed on Wednesday night; he's been in Cleveland all week with the PBS-NPR team broadcasting the color commentary, as I mentioned in my own response to his Tuesday column. Although he seemed at his most clownish and disengaged on the TV, gesticulating wildly, woggling his head, and smiling with embarrassment, having apparently nothing to say—I can't remember a single thing he said and I think I was having some trouble understanding him—the piece was extremely dark and disturbed, under the headline "The Death of the Republican Party", describing the convention as a fatal catastrophe and Senator Cruz as its suicidally brave Cassandra.

I'm not linking it, for a reason that will become clear below, if you don't know about it already.

Brooks Endorses Cruz

Love before it went sour. Congressional Quarterly via Esquire.
Nailed it: In comments yesterday over at Alicublog, I predicted:
There's the narrative of Cruz as heroic resister, coming not just from the NRO right (e.g. Jonah) but young Master David Frum, who was kvelling non-ideologically over Cruz's bravery on the radio this morning. I expect it to be the subject of David Brooks's column tomorrow.
Sure enough, he's back in the saddle this morning (after his week in Cleveland helping with the color commentary on PBS, leaving the Tuesday column to be cranked out by a possibly snarky research assistant, I wasn't sure he'd actually show up), with a piece under the GÖPperdämmerung title "The Death of the Republican Party" singling out the repellent Texas senator:

I’m not a Cruz fan, but his naked ambition does fuel amazing courage. As the Republican Party is slouching off on a suicide march, at least Cruz is standing athwart history yelling “Stop!” When the Trump train implodes, the docile followers who are now booing and denouncing Ted Cruz will claim they were on his side all along.
(I think that's his 144th career use of "amazing/amazingly" in his time as a Times columnist. He's been slowing down; nos. 141 and 142 were back in February, and I seem to have missed no. 143. In contrast, it's just the fourth time he's used "athwart" in an echo or direct quotation of old Mr. Buckley's famous definition of "conservatism".)

It's the beginning of the next narrative, of how conservatism can never fail but only be failed, as we'll hear it over the next four years. The "courage" it took Cruz to risk, ah, what exactly? To risk looking obnoxious to the person who called him a liar several times a day for months and who is on his way to what Brooks himself predicts will

end catastrophically, in November or beyond, with the party infrastructure in tatters, with every mealy mouthed pseudo-Trump accommodationist permanently stained.
Cruz is positioning himself, as he always does, for the next act, that's all.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Prosecution for the Witness

Donald Trump's lawyer, by Runt-of-the-Web.

Famed prosecutor Christopher "Wormtail" Christie has never actually argued a case or cross-examined a witness in his distinguished career, that's one of my favorite facts about him, but decided to make his debut at the Republican convention on Tuesday, roaring out his list of charges against Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and asking the audience to agree: "Guilty or not guilty?" Massive audience response, with chants of "Lock her up!" Leading inevitably to more calls to execute her for her crimes, though even Christie didn't manage to allege any of those. It was one of the most fascist moments of this increasingly fascist campaign.

I got into a very lengthy debate with a Trumpet Strumpet on the Twitter machine when I should have been writing a blog post, and here most of it is. At least it has a couple of jokes, and a few references if you want to argue about Libya with anybody (including me), below the fold:

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

King Donald I

Carlo Brogi portrait of Victor Emmanuel III. 1895, via Wikimedia Commons.
First of all, let's dispel with this fiction that this candidate wants to be the fascist dictator of America. This candidate does not want to be the fascist dictator of America. He wants somebody else to be the fascist dictator, as we learn from the details of his attempt to recruit Governor Kasich for the post:

according to the Kasich adviser (who spoke only under the condition that he not be named), Donald Jr. wanted to make him an offer nonetheless: Did he have any interest in being the most powerful vice president in history?
When Kasich’s adviser asked how this would be the case, Donald Jr. explained that his father’s vice president would be in charge of domestic and foreign policy.
Then what, the adviser asked, would Trump be in charge of?
“Making America great again” was the casual reply.
What does making America great again consist of, if it's not covered in domestic and/or foreign policy? Uniforms!

Trump wants to be the constitutional monarch, as I've suggested, but in a fascist regime, like Victor Emmanuel III in Mussolini's time, who shows up to dedicate things, urge people to be charitable, model his baseball cap, and receive bouquets from the hands of properly dressed young persons of all races and conditions, while Governor Pence (apparently the fifth choice or so after Kasich, Condoleezza Rice, Joni Ernst, and Bob Corker turned him down) does all the unconstitutional stuff of banning persons from "terrorist territories" from entering the US, outlawing all abortions, tearing down civil rights protections for workers in favor of "religious freedom" for employers, making the Patriot Act permanent, prohibiting same-sex marriage, and "deny[ing] jurisdiction to any Federal court, and appellate jurisdiction to the Supreme Court, to hear or decide any question pertaining to the interpretation of the Pledge of Allegiance or its validity under the Constitution" (Mike Pence on Civil Rights). Or whatever, you know, why should Trump immerse himself in the unpleasant details?

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Speaking of getting borne ceaselessly into the past...

The Trump Tower triplex. Note Two Corinthans biblically holding up the lintel at left. I believe he got his interior decorator from Saddam Hussein. Via ViralSpots.
Donald Trump's first huge, classy, very expensive book review, of Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, ghostwrutten by me, is up at the huge, classy, absolutely free Sherman Oaks Review of Books. Go read it fast. 

The Mysterious Planet David

From Bobbie Crusoe and the Pink Planet (Debbie #129, August 2 1975).
It's world-famous literary critic David Brooks out to do some analysis on the epic style of Donald Trump ("Trump is Getting Even Trumpier"). It's actually pretty good analysis—
his remarks had a distinct through line, anchored by the talking points his campaign had written down on pieces of paper. But Trump could not keep his attention focused on this through line — since the subject was someone else — so every 30 seconds or so he would shoot off on a resentment-filled bragging loop.
In fact I'm going to come right out and suggest most of the column (except for a couple of panicky paragraphs at the end worrying that Trump might end up winning the election) was written by an especially talented research assistant, as Brooks had to spend all Monday afternoon and evening at PBS with Mark and Gwen and Judy and Amy being a talking head for the #RNCinCLE event (a designation that makes me imagine a quiescently frozen Priebus, or REinCICLE), and was thrown off his normal last-minute writing schedule.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Abraham Lincoln was a 21st-century Democrat

From Marvel's salute to the 2009 Obama inauguration, the digital comic Gettysburg Distress.
Here's another distressed Republican, Peter Wehner ("Can We Find Our Way Back to Lincoln?"), a veteran faith-based public relations flack of the Reagan, Bush A, and Bush B administrations, to complain that his party has been hijacked by
repulsive elements, people who were attracted to racial and ethnic politics and moved by resentment and intolerance rather than a vision of the good. This group was larger than I ever imagined, and at important moments the Republican Party either overlooked them or played to them. Some may have been hoping to appeal to these elements while also containing and moderating them, to sand off the rough edges, to keep them within the coalition but not allow them to become dominant. But the opposite happened. The party guests took over the party.

I think the operative part was "played to them". Wehner might not have known anything about the size of the repulsive elements, but the party knew the exact number: enough to win all but one of the presidential elections from 1968 through 1988. And they systematically built a bridge between the government-hating patricians and tycoons of the conservative movement and the race-haunted white voters of the South and the industrial northeast (I don't think enough of a point has been made, by the way, of how many white southerners migrated north to Michigan and Ohio and so on after World War II, changing those states' political complexions more than the African American movement in the same period did) and the Mexican-fearing southwest.

Climaxing with Ronald Reagan's famous visit to the Neshoba County Fair near Philadelphia, Mississippi, where he dogwhistled "states' rights" to an audience made up, perhaps, of the very people who had protected the murderers of the civil rights workers James Earl Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Mickey Schwerner 16 years earlier, in a speech focusing on libertarian economic theories and condemning an activist federal government.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Real Pocahontas says vote for Hillary Clinton

An Astroturf group supposedly consisting of 12,000 "pro-family" donors but actually just ratfuckers Roger Stone and Donald Trump spent a million dollars running dishonest anti-Indian ads like this in local Upstate New York papers in 2000. Full story by Joseph Tanfani in the Los Angeles Times, June 30.

Thin-skinned Donald Trump is terrorized by the accurate remarks of Senator Elizabeth Warren, brilliant law professor and crafter of the legislation that led to the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which Donald Trump hopes to eliminate.

I imagine he doesn't think much of consumer financial protection. The CFPB has been working to provide banks with tools that will enable them to help their older customers avoid the kind of financial elder abuse that the late and unlamented Trump University used to practice, speaking of litigating fraud, for which Donald Trump will be facing trial in a few months (unfortunately after November 8, and not on criminal charges, but that could and should still come). In this way Senator Warren represents everything Donald Trump hates and fears. No wonder he has a meltdown every time she mentions him!

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Both sides don't do it? Then we need some new sides!

I think I'm finally getting a fix on what David Brooks has been trying to do with this concept of the ongoing political realignment away from the traditional left-vs.-right polarization to a new polarization between advocates of the "open" and advocates of the "closed" that he introduced a couple of weeks ago.

What it is is, he's coming at last to recognize at some crushed level that both sides in the traditional polarization don't do it—it's been one side doing it all along, and indeed the one in whose defense he's been engaged for the last 30 years or so. The realignment is something he's designing for himself, along with a few other fragile souls like James Traub and, it transpires, Jonathan Haidt (him again, really?), now billing himself as a "moral psychologist", whatever the fuck that is, and Michael Lind. For Brooks it serves as a way to maintain his own self-regard: creating an imaginary political world in which both sides keep doing it, and his magisterial position above it all can remain serene, if a little melancholy, and unshaken.

Like the East German government needing to elect a new people in the 1950s, Brooks needs to construct a new party system, at least inside his head, so his interpretation of it will be true.

There's another column on the subject today, under the headline "We Take Care of Our Own", and the project emerges from its bewildering peroration:

Friday, July 15, 2016

Cheap shots: Have we reached peak Kristol?

"For what it's worth!" How much was it worth, exactly, in one of those magic markets, where rationally self-interested folks make their myriad tiny decisions and the true price of everything emerges out of the wisdom?

Obviously the reason it's still there is that Dr. Kristol would have had to pay them to take it away, but its negative value was so great he couldn't afford it.


Newtie (via Raw Story), seeking to exploit the horror on Promenade des Anglais for his own personal profit, goes way beyond Trump's illegal proposal. He wants to give that Muslim test not just to people who want to travel here but to people who are here already, including citizens by naturalization and by birth:
“Western civilization is in a war,” Gingrich told Fox News host Sean Hannity. “We should, frankly, test every person here who is of a Muslim background, and if they believe in Sharia, they should be deported. Sharia is incompatible with Western civilization. Modern Muslims who have given up Sharia? Glad to have them as citizens. Perfectly happy to have them next door. But we need to be fairly relentless about defining who our enemies are.”
I'm not going to make any effort to figure out what he thinks "Sharia" means. The man has a PhD in history and should learn to use technical terms correctly. But Sharia is a religious law and our First Amendment guarantees the right of anyone to follow its principles (not to institute it in American civil and criminal jurisprudence, or to do things that violate US law), just as it permits people to keep Kosher or even to refuse blood transfusions or throw their money away on Scientology. And how would you "test" people on whether they "believe" in it or not anyway?

Thursday, July 14, 2016


Garden gnomes. From Fox59 Indianapolis

I've got Trump-Pence
jolly jolly Trump-Pence
I've got Trump-Pence
to last me for a week, I've got
bigots to thump and
dummies to stump and
bags of that masculine mystique!
Sad! Weak!

No friends have they to feel for them, no more
thugs outside the structure to steal for them, just
secrets by the gross to conceal for them, as
we go rolling to the polls

to the polls
(wow wow wow)
to the polls
(wow wow wow), by the
light of the silvery scree-ee-een, all the
journos full of glee, when they
pick the nominee, as
we go rolling to the polls

Cheap shots: Boris

Boris with bagel, New York, February 2015. Via Telegraph.
Everybody wants to know why UK prime minister Theresa May has decided to name New York–born Alexander Boris von Pfeffel Kemal, aka Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, as her foreign secretary. One possibility is that she's confused about what a foreign secretary is. Obviously Johnson is the most foreign Conservative MP, with his Germano-Turkish roots, French particule nobiliaire, and transatlantic birthplace, and therefore the most foreign secretary she could get.

A more plausible hypothesis would be that there's some UK equivalent of Dr. William Kristol (trusted by conservatives and invariably wrong) telling her that Donald Trump is sure to win the presidency.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Exceptionalism, again

The Qianlong Emperor (reigned 1735-96), via Venice Clay Artists.
Hi, it's Stupid to say Democrats need to worry about letting ourselves get infected with the virus of American Exceptionalism.

Really? Shouldn't we be doing the opposite? Shouldn't we be protecting ourselves against rightwing accusations that we're not Exceptionalist enough, with our pacifist instinct and insistence on letting all the big bully countries do whatever they want? Shouldn't we be wrapping ourselves in the flag a little more, with symbolic gestures, to show how patriotic we are?

No, we should not, at least not in the way we've been doing it, with these big denunciations of attacks on our national sovereignty, like the one Jared Bernstein insists on tacking onto a recent routine denunciation of the Trans-Pacific Partnership:
We should eliminate provisions that allow investors to challenge sovereign laws...
The TPP is dead in any case, people, though the 3200 international agreements currently in force with provisions for Investor-State Dispute Resolution arbitrations are still there, and still don't threaten US sovereignty in any way (they can "challenge sovereign laws" but they can't make the challenge stick, or at least they haven't succeeded in doing it yet). It can't be just voted on in some Friday-night session in November; before votes can be scheduled, there need to be congressional hearings, and those would have to start in September, in the middle of a presidential campaign in which the Democratic candidate is going to have to be out proving she's really against it every day while the Republican candidate has succeeded in making it a Republican issue too. (The Republican platform committee has decided it's too hot for the convention and cut it out altogether.) There will still be Republican votes for the agreement, but not enough to pass it.

Oh, guess what, Orrin Hatch is currently against the TPP too, because it doesn't protect Big Pharma enough:

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Smile when you say that

"When you call me that, smile," says The Virginian, drawing on a fellow card-player. From a copy of the first edition in the holdings of the Toppan Rare Books Library, American Heritage Center at the University of Wyoming.
Shorter David Brooks, "Are We on the Path to National Ruin?", New York Times, July 12 2016:
I've never really understood how fascism could have come to Europe, and we're not close to that, though we're closer than we've ever been, which might suggest that we are close; but then again I've never really understood how a nation could rise as one and completely turn itself around. So one of the two is bound to happen, right?
He's on the road again—still journeying into the heart of whiteness, apparently, because he's got another dateline, this time from San Antonio. Though the only thing he has to report from San Antonio is something he got out of an article in The Atlantic, which isn't something you normally have to travel to Texas to see, even if you don't use a computer:

Littlefinger the Kingmaker

Sorry. Image via.
BooMan was wondering yesterday why Indiana's governor Mike Pence would be under serious consideration as Trump's vice presidential nominee: why he'd want the awful job in the first place (because he's not so confident he can get reelected governor, though not in as desperate shape as Chris Christie, but in more of a hurry than Christie, whose term has another two years to go); and what use he is to Trump, which as far as Boo is concerned is about nil—he's a real rightwing extremist on moral, economic, and foreign policy issues, and a prissy, humorless drip, unlikely to dissuade any business leaders, women, and young people from voting for Clinton.

I had a hypothesis which is pretty dumb, but fairly entertaining.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Mo Do Row Your Boat, Ceaselessly into the Past

Tatttoo design by Judith Whitener.
Teaser copy in the contents page for Maureen Dowd's column, "The Clinton Contamination":
They were careless people, Bill and Hillary, they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness. 
Dowd didn't write that, of course, nor did the waggish subeditor who presumably submitted it, substituting "Bill and Hillary" for "Tom and Daisy"—F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote the sentence in its original form—but Dowd does compare our Clintons to Fitzgerald's Buchanans today, for what turns out to be the sixth time since 1995: the fact that Hillary Clinton is getting endorsed by Barack Obama for the presidency instead of getting fired from the State Department is
the corkscrew way things go with the Clintons, who are staying true to their reputation as the Tom and Daisy Buchanan of American politics. Their vast carelessness drags down everyone around them, but they persevere, and even thrive. 
She first used the analogy in August 1995, taking it from Newsweek's Joe Klein, who had been outraged to hear that Hillary Clinton's chief of staff, Maggie Williams, had incurred $140,000 in legal bills when she testified before Congress in the Whitewater matter. Klein wrote,

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Some methodological errors in the thinking of David F. Brooks

John Agar in Nathan H. Juran's The Brain from Planet Arous (1957). Via Chandler Swain Reviews.

David F. Brooks is still writing that column about how somebody needs to give Western society a makeover, because it's getting awfully tatty and mean. As a matter of fact the column is getting pretty tatty too.

This time it is called "The Power of Altruism", under the influence of the French biologist and Vajrayana monk Matthieu Ricard, whose Altruism: The Power of Compassion to Change Yourself and the World came out in English just a year ago, horrible self-help book subtitle and all (the French title, Plaidoyer pour l'altruisme: La force de la bienveillance, sounds a lot more dignified, presented as a lawyer's brief for the defense, and using the noble "benevolence" instead of the sickly "compassion", and omitting the self-help how-to coda).

I am totally on board with the idea that it would be a good thing for all of us to spread around a little more of that "love and kindness" as my girl Hillary Clinton likes to call it, if we can, and loath to cast any doubts on the soundness of Ricard, who is a trusted French translator for the Dalai Lama, but as far as Brooks goes, you know, odds are always that he's doing it wrong, whatever it may be, and this train of thought as he represents it is no exception. Indeed, the new piece presents an especially clear opportunity for explaining Brooks's inability to understand what societies are, how they work, and what could be done to improve them, starting with his bizarre first sentence:

I'll let you know after it happens

Donald Drumpf the Pancake Führer. Painting by Dan Lacey.
Did you hear how Trump refuses to commit to serving as president should he get elected?

Presented in a recent interview with a scenario, floating around the political ether, in which the presumptive Republican nominee proves all the naysayers wrong, beats Hillary Clinton and wins the presidency, only to forgo the office as the ultimate walk-off winner, Mr. Trump flashed a mischievous smile.
“I’ll let you know how I feel about it after it happens,” he said minutes before leaving his Trump Tower office to fly to a campaign rally in New Hampshire.
I don't see anybody taking this seriously (BooMan gives it a try, but not very hard), but I have the strangest sense he really means it, however trollish his smile may be.

This is because of something else that came out Thursday, not from him but from Paul Manafort, speaking with Howard Fineman at HuffPost about the importance of the vice-presidential selection. I like the way Cristiano Lima put it for Politico:

Friday, July 8, 2016

Hi, it's Stupid

A happier Dallas protest moment, September 24 2015, from NBC-DFW.
Back in the day when Left Blogistan was just a couple of mud huts and a stray cow, and I was a dumbstruck lurker, there used to be a poster at Kos (I think, even that detail is getting vague) calling himself Stupid, who would always begin, "Hi, it's Stupid to say..." and go on to say something so naive and helpless that none of the smart and savvy news junkies was smart enough to think of it. As in—

Hi, it's Stupid to say there's something left to be learned from the horrible events in Baton Rouge and St. Paul and Dallas over the past week. We know it all already, don't we? And yet nothing changes.

Except it does, you know. What I've been learning, listening to the radio all morning (including a wise Mayor Bill de Blasio on his weekly call-in on WNYC):

Thursday, July 7, 2016

They didn't read them the rights. In fact they didn't even have any.

One of the things that's passed a lot of people by with the Trump's scandalous praise for the dictator Saddam Hussein—
"He was a bad guy -- really bad guy. But you know what? He did well? He killed terrorists. He did that so good. They didn't read them the rights. They didn't talk. They were terrorists. Over. Today, Iraq is Harvard for terrorism," Trump said.
—is that he's actually been doing it for quite a while, in pretty much the same language, as in the Tweet above referencing an event in South Carolina in February, and back as early as 2004, in a tally presented by Margaret Hartmann at New York Magazine. "Iraq is Harvard for terrorism." It started off as a tough-guy way of objecting to the 2003 invasion: it wasn't wrong because it killed a lot of people for no good reason, but because it was good for terrorists, who also kill a lot of people for no good reason, but when they do it it's worse than when we do it, because they're terrorists QED. I hope that's clear.

Like many of us, I agree in a very general way that had the Bush administration not invaded Iraq it would have been a good thing all around, but especially for people in Iraq, Syria, and the old neighborhood, but I cannot agree that Saddam Hussein had the right approach to dealing with terrorists, especially the not reading them the rights or talking part.

That approach led to the killing of somewhere between 250,000 and 500,000 Iraqis who were probably not terrorists but who were caught in such suspicious activities as receiving money from relatives working abroad, or being Kurdish. Hussein's approach to terrorism was to assume that everybody who showed signs of disagreeing with him was a terrorist who needed to be tortured and their families killed. I don't know why Trump says Hussein was a "bad guy", given how much they have in common.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Tony Blair, War Criminal

Drawing by Jon Stich, 2014: "I did this sketch of a vampire on the flight home from LA. It kind of looks more like a psychopathic Tony Blair though, which I’m okay with."

War criminal Tony Blair in his address today:
The decision to go to war in Iraq and remove Saddam Hussein from power in a coalition of over 40 countries led by the USA, was the hardest, most momentous, most agonising decision I took in 10 years as British prime minister.
For that decision today I accept full responsibility, without exception and without excuse.
And then proceeds to list his exceptions and excuses for what seems likely to be hours of self-justifying and lies. I heard him going on about how the Iraqi military just unexpectedly "melted away" in the face of the invasion, for instance, leaving the Iraqi public defenseless against an eruption of Sunni-Shi'a conflict, without somehow remembering old Proconsul Bremer's orders to disband the Iraqi army and "de-Baathify" the government (which literally created the Sunni "insurgency" when it deprived all those skilled and angry and in many cases extremely violent people of their livelihoods).
For all of this I express more sorrow, regret and apology than you may ever know or can believe.
No, we know exactly how much you express.

And earlier, in his prepared statement: