Sunday, December 31, 2017

Which Hunt

Kensington Wine Rooms, Notting Hill. Via Britain Magazine.
Here we are again, trying to figure out which emails we're talking about.

The new Papadopoulos episode in The New York Times, in which young George, in the Kensington Wine Rooms with Australian High Commissioner to Great Britain (which is the Commonwealth equivalent of ambassador, that's bonus info that even Matty didn't have) Alexander Downer, drunkenly informs his excellency that Russians are in possession of thousands of emails that could sink Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign, in May 2016, which the high commissioner then shares with the FBI after an interesting delay, launching the FBI's investigation of a possible conspiracy between the Russian government and the Trump campaign, raises some questions for people with a better understanding of the big picture than I have, like Marcy at Emptywheel:
the few GOPers who have responded to this news raise another question: did the Aussies even know what emails Papadopoulos was talking about?
As I noted in October, we actually don’t know what emails Joseph Misfud [recte Mifsud] was talking about when he told Papadopoulos had dirt on Hillary. Trumpsters are now suggesting these emails might be those Guccifer 1.0 stole from Hillary, but they could be a range of other emails.
This story would be far more damning if the NYT knew for sure that the emails were ones freshly stolen from DNC, John Podesta, or the Hillary campaign itself, but they don’t.
But I think from the standpoint of my own little patch in the garden it's not all that complicated. Not that I've got a story that meets the evidentiary standards you'd want the Times to apply, but we do know enough for a reasonable person to speculate with.

Saturday, December 30, 2017


Via Zenpundit.

I think that really gets it about right. I'll go further: I think the Michael Schmidt interview of Trump at the Palm Beach golf club isn't pure-stenography enough. I can't understand why they don't print the entire, unedited transcript, as with the one with the Washington Post editorial staff, Frederick Ryan, Fred Hiatt, Ruth Marcus, back in March 2016, where we could have learned everything we needed to know, as Taylor Dibbert blogged at the time:

Friday, December 29, 2017

The Song of Dershowitz

Pablo Picasso, "Old Man Seated", Mougins (1970), via Artchive.

The Song of Dershowitz
by Donald J. Trump

He’s been amazing.
And he’s a liberal Democrat.
I don’t know him.
He’s a liberal Democrat.
I watched Alan Dershowitz the other day, he said,
No. 1, there is no collusion,
No. 2, collusion is not a crime,
but even if it was a crime,
there was no collusion.
And he said that very strongly.
He said there was no collusion.
And he has studied this thing very closely.
I’ve seen him a number of times.
There is no collusion,
and even if there was,
it’s not a crime.
But there’s no collusion.

Cross-Posted at No More Mister Nice Blog.

Annals of Derp: The Gallup Most Admired

William-Adolphe Bouguereau, Gypsy girl with Basque drum. Via Enigm-Art.

You know who's really the most admired woman in the United States? Somebody you've never heard of. I'm not even kidding: that was the answer 13% of the respondents in Gallup's 2017 survey, "friend/relative". The most frequent answer, given by 27%, was "don't know". Hillary Clinton only came in third, at 9%. Or maybe she was more like 13%, or 5%, because there's a four-point margin of error.

Puttting it another way, this is a really dumb survey, and always has been. It may tell you how many Americans say they admire Hillary the most of all women, around nine in a hundred, or around 94 of their 1,049 respondents (the given number is some manipulation of the raw numbers of those who named her as first and as second choice both). It doesn't tell you who America admires the most—that would take a different kind of poll, maybe taking the top 50 names on these lists and asking a second sample to rank them all.

It doesn't signify nothing. There is some kind of meaning to the suggestion that Barack Obama is more admired than Donald Trump (though only 17% to 14%, well within the margin of error), or that Hillary Clnton is still definitively on the women's list (9% to 7% for Michelle Obama). But it isn't much.

And down below the scale, where Condoleezza Rice and Melania Trump are tied for seventh place at 1% each, about the same as Bernie Sanders (7th place) and Bill Gates (8th place) on the men's list, it's really meaningless. It's comical and a little pathetic when the Free Beacon calls attention to the prime minister of Israel:

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is America's most admired foreign democratically elected male leader, according to an annual Gallup survey.
Netanyahu was ninth overall on the list of most admired men by Americans, with about 1 percent of respondents naming him. He is currently the second-longest serving prime minister in Israel's history after David Ben-Gurion.
The Dalai Lama was 11th on the list.
Fewer than one in a hundred think of naming Netanyahu, and fewer still of the Dalai Lama (who's actually tied for 10th place, with Mike Pence and Jeff Bezos). What differentiates him from Justin Trudeau at 13, Theresa May (14 on the women's list), Aung San Suu Kyi (much further down), Vladimir Putin, Tony Blair, and Nelson Mandela and Benazir Bhutto, the last two not even alive though the questionnaire specified that they had to be, is pretty much random error.

It's fun to talk about these numbers, but you should avoid thinking you learned anything from them,

Cross-posted at The Rectification of Names.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Profane and Rambunctious

One disadvantage of a largemouth. Via AnimalSake.

Dr. Victor Davis Hanson, celebrated military historian and literary stylist, in the National Review Online, on Harry Truman ("The Bigmouth Tradition of American Leadership"):
Harry Truman talked too much. He swore. He drank. He played poker. He was petty to the point of stooping to spar with a music critic who dismissed his daughter’s solo performances. His profanity was an open secret, as well as his temper. His advisers constantly cautioned him to tone it down.
As a Missourian who had once gone bankrupt and recouped with a political career though the help of the corrupt Prendergast machine, Truman carried a chip on his shoulder throughout his political career on the East Coast.
Yes, he's arguing here, on a somewhat circuitous path, that Truman (as compared to reticent, non-swearing, non-drinking, non-gambling Eisenhower) is pretty much the same as his alphabetical neighbor Trump.  Or "Think Andrew Jackson of [sic for "or", no copy editing at NRO] Teddy Roosevelt." (Disregarding the other cliché possibility of reminding us that TR advised everybody to "speak softly".)  Or William Tecumseh Sherman (as opposed to taciturn, but hard-drinking Grant, who was also, Hanson informs us, "naïve about the scoundrels who surrounded him"), or General Patton as opposed to General Bradley (who was "steady if not, on occasion, obsequious to his superiors in public and haughty to his inferiors in private", glad to hear he was occasionally not obsequious to his superiors, that's certainly praiseworthy):
Mercurial Is Not Always Wrong
Not saying Trump is exactly like Truman. "Yet":
For all his first-year achievements, an unpopular Trump is hardly yet an accomplished Patton or Truman. Nonetheless, we need to take a deep breath and concede that sometimes past mellifluous appeasement is more dangerous than present flamboyant deterrence — just as the sober and discreet can be more adroit in warping the Constitution through distortions and corruptions of the Justice Department, the IRS, the FBI, and the FISA courts than are the profane and rambunctious.
He's such a terrible writer. Lovely how he unlashes himself there from the mast of cliché ("take a deep breath") only to tumble into the rough sea of senselessness ("sometimes past mellifluous appeasement"). Glad to hear that Trump will be less adroit than some at warping the Constitution. I personally find the past to be always less dangerous than the present, but maybe that's just because I don't live there.

Cross-posted at No More Mister Nice Blog.

Jon Swift Memorial Roundup 2017

Image via WeAreTeachers.

This is the time of year for one of blogdom's sweetest traditions, the Jon Swift Memorial Roundup, curated by Batocchio, where dozens of bloggers submit a favorite piece of writing from the previous year to a wildly varied, hilarious and horrifying feast for readers, founded by the great satirist and friend to the little blogger Jon Swift/Al Weisel, who died in 2010 at the age of 46, and carried on as a commemoration and celebration of his life and writing.

Everybody gets a trophy, because we all brought our own. There's always some terrific writing from somebody you've never heard of and would like to know better, as well as friends you might have been neglecting over the previous year. So check it out.

Cross-posted at No More Mister Nice Blog.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

American Visigothic

After a chaotic start, the Roman Senate—sometimes working with Emperor Honorius holed up in Ravenna, sometimes against him—racked up a solid record of conservative accomplishment in 409, firmly letting their British colony know that it would have to defend itself from here on (Italia First!); improving troubled relations with Alaric the Visigoth by making him commander-in-chief of the Western Empire (magister utriusque militiae), paying him a substantial bribe, and naming an alternative local emperor, Priscus Attalus, more to Alaric's liking; not to mention passing an edict forbidding anybody to wear trousers within the city walls.

Actually the edict on the trousers dated back to 399, but you see what I mean.

Evariste-Vital Luminais (1821-96), Alaric's forces in the sack of Rome, 410.

Monday, December 25, 2017

Yule be sorry

Photo by jag9889 at Flickr.

For my whole life, Macy's Herald Square, the World's Largest Store, recycled an increasingly dingy-looking window display every Christmas consecrated to the store's own peak presence in popular culture, the 1947 film Miracle on 34th Street, starring Natalie Wood as the little girl raised not to believe in fairy tales and Edmund Gwenn as Mr. Kris Kringle, the man who believes he is Santa Claus and who ends up not only convincing the little girl that he exists but in bringing about a Christmas truce between the warring titans of capitalism, Macy's and Gimbel's.

But a couple of years ago they finally abandoned it in favor of something new, referring to the story of Virginia O'Hanlon, the eight-year-old who asked the New York Sun, in 1897, to confirm for her the same saint's existence, to which the editor Francis Pharcellus Church notoriously replied, "Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus," in language attempting to double-speak the audience between parents who'd see the line as a metaphor and children who wouldn't:

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Buyer's Remorse

Drawing by Chan Lowe, July 2016.
Can't help feeling some Schadenfreude on this, via Bloomberg:
Wall Street traders who rake in hundreds of thousands of dollars a year or more eagerly awaited a Republican overhaul of the U.S. tax code. Now, many are huddling with accountants and concluding the real gains will go to billionaires and other captains of the industry. Those in trenches -- the merely wealthy -- are grousing.
Atop their list of worries: New limits on deductions for mortgage interest and state and local taxes -- relatively high throughout New York, New Jersey and Connecticut -- will cost them thousands of dollars annually while depressing the value of their homes. That would chop local tax revenues and erode the quality of schools and other amenities traders expect for their families.
I could have told them. Most New Yorkers are getting a much less terrible break than feared a couple of weeks ago, because the first $10,000 in state and local tax is deductible, and while our income tax rates seem pretty high, they're also pretty progressive, only very few paying the scary marginal rate of 10.3% (state and city combined), and the property tax is actually quite low (effective 0.72% in NYC). But a lot of us, and not necessarily just the wealthier, are going to see at least slightly higher taxes, and not just in New York and California and Maryland and New Jersey and Oregon—it's Iowa and Nebraska, Idaho and Maine, Wisconsin and South Carolina, where I expect quite a number of deduction-itemizing Trump voters are going be a bit surprised to see their taxes going up as well:

Taking Names

Partying hearty in Pyongyang after the ballistic missile test of August 2016. Photo by Reuters via The Independent.

Yes, 128 United Nations delegations insisted on sticking with their decades-long foreign policy and voting their disapproval of Emperor Trump's whimsical decision to declare Jerusalem the capital of the Jewish state without any acknowledgment of the interests of a Palestinian state that is supposed to have its capital in the same city, in contravention of decades of US policy as well and against the fervent pleas of his own national security advisers, even though Ambassador Haley had told them:
Haley writes: “As you consider your vote, I encourage you to know the president and the US take this vote personally.
“The president will be watching this vote carefully and has requested I report back on those who voted against us,” she continued.
He's taking it personally. This isn't just a political decision, it's an attack on the august person. I can't get over this. So Haley swung remorselessly into action, like my dear sister Nancy when she was around four or five and would say, when anybody disrespected her, "You're not coming to my party!" That's speaking softly and carrying a big stick, huh?

Coincidentally, when the Security Council unanimously adopted a tightened sanctions regime against the Democratic People's Republic of Korea last week, the Kim Jong Un regime was swift to make its move:
“We define this 'sanctions resolution' rigged by the U.S. and its followers as a grave infringement upon the sovereignty of our Republic and as an act of war violating peace and stability in the Korean Peninsula and the region,” North Korea's foreign ministry said in a statement on state media Sunday.
Kim will be having a party too, undoubtedly, but he won't be inviting any countries. Not even Guatemala and Honduras. That's how a real emperor does it. Eat your hearts out, running dog capitalist roaders!

Cross-posted at No More Mister Nice Blog.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

For the Record: American Idolator

Image by Thor.

I made a contribution to the #IfTrumpWereSanta hashtag:
I want to pitch a new reality show, American Idolator, where the contestants all have to live for some months in a bubble under a crazed and capricious authority figure whose rages and terrors must be placated at all costs, and they all bad-mouth each other in anonymous interviews (on-camera silhouettes with disguised voices); each week somebody is voted out of the bubble as the subject of the most damaging leak. The hook for an episode is some incident where the Leader makes himself look like an idiot and all the contestants work to devise ways of helping him feel good about himself (like the early episode where he insists, against easily available evidence, that his poorly attended inaugural festivity is the largest inaugural festivity in history), etc. The last segment in each episode is a "cabinet meeting" in which the contestants go round the table vying for attention through extravagant flattery of the Leader, after which the Leader says "I'm not happy with" the preselected victim and they must pack up and go home. When they're down to the last two, the winner gets a Golden Calf or a big stone Ten Commandments or something.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Trump Tax Cut and Golf Club of 2017 Act

This tragic-looking iced concoction in a giant brandy balloon is a $15 Trump Grill vodka martini. You and a date could spend your Trump tax cut for next July on several of them.

What I've been feeling on the Democratic response to the tax bill is really, really uncomfortable every time somebody says, "This is a tax hike on the working class," even though that is true in a completely nonmystical sense, because people are mostly not going to see it until 2024, if ever. Whenever the IRS figures out how to implement this thing, in March or April if they're lucky, people who study their pay stubs are mostly going to notice that they really did get a tax cut, just as Trump promised they would, and they're going to think we're liars or hysterics.

Which is where I find myself intersecting with this piece by John Judis for TPM:
I don’t buy the argument – voiced by Democratic pundits, political consultants, and even a few economists – that the bill will doom the Republicans to defeat in 2018 and even 2020. Like many things I read or hear these days from liberals, it’s wish fulfillment disguised as analysis.
Though I really don't understand the emphasis on what the "bill will" do as opposed to what the Democrats should or shouldn't do with it. If the 2018 election was going to be this coming Tuesday it seems clear that Republicans would really lose in a wave, because they hate the bill, but they don't know what's in it, and hardly anybody believes they'll see a cut, which is wrong, and partly a consequence of Democratic messaging.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Cheap shots: Collins

Oh, she takes just like a woman,/ and she makes love just like a woman, yes she does,/ and she aches just like a woman,/ but she breaks promises to her constituents just like Senator Corker. Screengrab from CNBC.

Vixen's rundown
on which Senators took which bribes to vote yes on the #TaxScam includes this:
And let's talk about Sen Collins, who was hailed as a hero for stopping the repeal of the ACA. She was going to wait and see if she got certain provisions regarding health care coverage, and didn't. And criticizing her for voting yes on this turd is sexist! (Why was the coverage so focused on Collins? Because she made it seem like she had a reason to vote no and was reachable. Our bad, obviously--but criticism of a US Senator isn't sexist--it's about whether she's good on her word. Was she being seen as reachable because she's a woman--or because she said she was? Hm. Seems like it's on her.)
That's why she thought it was sexist! People thought she might keep her word just because she's a woman, as if a woman can't be just as cynical and dishonest as any man going if she puts her mind to it. It's the hard bigotry of high expectations!

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

For the Record: The Week in Shapiro

American Tory. Russell Kirk with his ancestral home, Piety Hill, in the background. He would be startled to learn that Ben Shapiro thinks his views are anti-conservative. Via The Imaginative Conservative.

This was funny, from an outraged Ben Shapiro who knows more about conservatism than his elders:
Uh, no, with all due disrespect to old Axis of Evil David Frum:

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Something is not rotten in the state of Denmark

A rare moment of disharmony in Copenhagen came in 2010, when Carlsberg workers struck over management demands that they drink beer only during lunch hour. Via CBS News.

What's David Brooks wrong about today? He's startled to note that the congressional Republicans haven't offered any help to the workers who, he believes, put them in office ("The Workers Paradise", missing apostrophe sic):
I am appalled that Republicans didn’t seek to balance this tax bill with an equal effort to help the people who actually got them elected. The central problem of our time is the stagnation of middle-class wages, the disintegration of working-class communities and the ensuing fragmentation of American society.
So he's got one of those laundry lists of "reform" conservative proposals from the American Enterprise Institute, the Manhattan Institute, and National Affairs, including of course "mobility vouchers" to help people flee their dying villages and go where the jobs are, which is a great way of halting the disintegration of working-class communities, as is well known (another effective method is hurricanes).

Thing that really stood out for me was this:

Monday, December 18, 2017

Just passing through


"I'm shocked, shocked to find an item in this legislation that will save me some hundreds of thousands of dollars a year!" "Your winnings, Senator."
Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) sent a letter on Sunday to Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) asking how a provision that would potentially benefit real estate moguls, including Corker, made it into the final version of the Republican tax-reform bill.
“Because this issue has raised concerns, I would ask that you provide an explanation of the evolution of this provision and how it made it into the final conference report,” Corker wrote.
Which provision is that, Senator? The part that says you can deduct 20% of the real estate rental income in your portfolio—somewhere between $240,000 and $1.4 million—from your gross income, lowering your effective marginal rate to somewhere south of 30%?

People are finding it hard to believe he didn't know, since John Cornyn (second-ranking Republican on the conference committee) has explained on national television that the provision in question was added in the scramble to "cobble together the votes we need to get this bill passed" and Corker's vote was the only one we know they didn't have.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Spaghetti Toss

Spaghetti against the wall, via My Simply Princess.

Hot take from Mr. Bret Stephens proposing to reveal "The Real Russia Scandal"—the real reasons behind the otherwise impenetrable mystery of why our president is so darn intent on doing nice things for President Putin, which can't be, as Trump's "apologists" suggest, because he's simply "right to try to find common ground with Russia" or "merely naive" like George W. Bush in 2001 or Barack Obama in 2009 (who was actually working, as people like Stephens never remember, to undercut Putin and build up the profile of an alternative power figure, President Dmitry Medvedev):

The better explanations are: (a) the president is infatuated with authoritarians, at least those who flatter him; (b) he’s neurotically neuralgic when it comes to the subject of his election; (c) he’s ideologically sympathetic to Putinism, with its combination of economic corporatism, foreign-policy cynicism, and violent hostility to critics; (d) he’s stupid; or (e) he’s vulnerable to Russian blackmail.
Each explanation is compatible with all the others. For my part, I choose all of the above — the first four points being demonstrable while the last is logical. But let’s have that conversation at another time. There’s no need to obsess about electoral collusion when the real issue is moral capitulation. 
Translation: There's no need to talk about legal actions that could help us rid ourselves of this most corrupt administration in our history when we could be taking the opportunity to moan, in heartrendingly plangent tones, over the terrible decay in our public virtue.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Annals of Derp: Man to Mann

Image by shooteradolf/deviantart.

David Brooks, in spite of his faith in "the glory of democracy" ("The Glory of Democracy"), fears that democracy is on its way out:

Tribalism and authoritarianism are now on the march while the number of democracies declines. Far worse has been the degradation of democracies, especially in our own country. The Congress barely functions. We have a president who ignores facts and violates basic decency. On college campuses, according to a Brookings/UCLA survey, 50 percent of students believe that “offensive” speech should be shouted down and 20 percent believe it should be violently crushed.
Question to Radio Yerevan: Is it true that 50% of college students believe "offensive" speech should be shouted down and 20% that it should be violently crushed?

Answer: In principle, yes, but (according to Lois Beckett's report at the Guardian, which it took Dr. Google less than two minutes to locate)

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Turnout turnout turnout

Judge Moore heading into the sunset on a horse that clearly doesn't like him very much, via Deadspin.

My favorite statistic from yesterday's Alabama Senate election is this, as reported in the Washington Post:
 “These swings can be seen in counties majority white and black, Republican and Democrat. And that means it couldn’t have just been a surge in African American turnout, or just rural Trump voters staying home, or just Republicans crossing over to vote for Jones. Jones’ campaign was able to achieve a combination of the three that drove him to victory. Despite it being an off-year special election in December, Jones got 92 percent of Hillary Clinton’s vote total. Moore just got 49 percent of Trump’s.” 
The authorities were expecting a 25% turnout, meaning really big for an out-of-season race, and instead they got 40%, but that unexpected crowd was not symmetrical. Half of Trump's voters couldn't bring themselves to vote for Moore, but nearly all of Clinton's voters came out for Jones.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017


Gleichschaltung der Kulturen. Drawing, 2003, by Walter Wesinger ("Waldah"), via staatenlosinfo,org.

David Brooks ("What's Wrong With Radicalism") in the grips of a kind of interesting thought today: that the policies promoted by our two big political parties aren't really very radical:

Stylistically and culturally, Trumpian populism screams “blow it up” and “drain the swamp.” But Donald Trump’s actual policies are run-of-the-mill corporatist. The left-wing radicals talk a lot against the systems of oppression and an institutionalized injustice. But they are nothing like the radicals of the 1930s or the 1960s.

Today’s radicals do not want to upend the meritocracy, which is creating a caste system of inherited inequality. They don’t want to stop technical innovation, which is displacing millions of workers. They don’t have plans to reverse individualism, which atomizes society and destroys community. A $15 minimum wage may be left wing, but it’s not Marxist-Leninism.
If that's true, then isn't Brooks's whole shtik misplaced? He's been telling us for ten years that we need to situate ourselves humbly in the sweet, quiet spot between the extremes of left and right; now he's saying we're already there, but it's so noisy in here we don't realize it? Or what?


Monday, December 11, 2017

Too many things coming to a head here

My screengrab.

If Emperor Trump wanted to create some kind of Reichstag fire excuse for declaring a national emergency, if you know what I mean, he couldn't do better than declaring that the Palestinian peace process is dead and that from the US point of view Israel is basically all the land between the Jordan and the Mediterranean. I'm not saying that's what he did—I don't think it is at all what he did—but I'll bet at some point as Mattis and Tillerson were trying to talk him down from his decision to proclaim his intention of moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, one of them said it would provoke terrorist incidents, possibly even inside the US, and he made one of those dumb macho responses to the effect that we can't let the terrorists tell us what to do.

As I've said before, the object of these people is never to prevent bad things happening but to dramatize the difference between the Good, us, and the Evil, them.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

What kind of Christianity is that?

Speaking of Calvin...

So obviously what stopped me there was the "tenants" of the faith ("Of course not," I want to say, "they despise people who pay rent, they follow the landlords of the faith"), but it also struck me that there's a theological error there; the tenets of the faith of conservative American evangelicals are completely consistent with supporting Trump.

That's the problem. You can't get anywhere by telling them Trump is a bad man because this increasingly Calvinist denomination doesn't believe there's any such thing as a good man; man is born totally depraved. Nor is there any necessary relation between the kind of depravity a man displays in his character and the work God has selected him to do; Trump's idea that he should be judged in terms of all his "winning" sounds right to them, the manifest sign of his predestined status.

We started seeing this years ago, in the 1980s, in the scandals inside the church of Jim Bakker and Jimmy Swaggart, in which the faithful didn't see these men's sexual escapades as disqualifying for the ministry but instead thrilling dramas of sin and redemption. In the same way what Trump may have done in the distant past (e.g. when he was in his 60s, at the time of the Access Hollywood video) is of no relevance to the heroic things he may be doing now, singlehandedly protecting us from the vicious enemies surrounding us, except to the extent that if he was that bad then, the fact that he's so good now illustrates God's awesome power to exalt the weak and humble the great, or something.

Fox News was suggesting God had punished the Olympic skier Lindsey Vonn for criticizing Trump a couple of days ago:

They later deleted the tweet, but the Washington Examiner kept the idea in their headline:

And then, it's not exactly relevant, but there was the Alabamian in the Frank Luntz focus group who thought,
Forty years ago in Alabama, there’s a lot of mamas and daddies that’d be thrilled that their 14-year-old was getting hit on by a district attorney.
It's just not the kind of nice, earnest, naggy but well-meant Christianity you mostly see on television. These people are in a different moral world.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Toward the state-and-a-half solution

Still from Rona Yefman's 2006 video, "Pippi L. at Abu Dis", depicting Pippi Longstocking, strongest girl in the world, attempting to take down the Wall separating Israel from Palestine.

Has there ever been anything in history quite as overdetermined as Trump's insistence on recognizing Jerusalem as the eternal capital (he didn't say "undivided", which may be a clue that he or his writers didn't mean all that much anyway) of the Jewish state and agreement to move the US embassy there from Tel Aviv at some point in the future? There are so many competing ways of explaining why it had to happen that it might be be more useful to ask what could have stopped it.

First there's Jared Kushner, designated unofficially by the Emperor-elect as Middle East Peace Tsar way back in November 2016—

Friday, December 8, 2017

Hip to Hip

Urban Bush Women Hip to Hip, via University of Florida Performing Arts/

David F. Brooks ("The G.O.P. is Rotting") really seems to have got out of the wrong side of the bed. He doesn't even have anything good to say about his own people, the humble folk who occupy the middle, like ideological magpies looking for sparkly ideas to decorate their nests!

A lot of good, honorable Republicans used to believe there was a safe middle ground. You didn’t have to tie yourself hip to hip with Donald Trump, but you didn’t have to go all the way to the other extreme and commit political suicide like the dissident Jeff Flake, either. You could sort of float along in the middle, and keep your head down until this whole Trump thing passed.
Wait, when were those good old days when the good and the honorable thought there was a middle ground between Trump and suicide? The announcement of Flake's political suicide was on October 24! He's talking about a month ago!

I should also mention that if you're tying yourself to somebody hip to hip is the wrong way to go. That knot's going to slip something terrible (see illustration above).

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Update: Veselnitskaya again

International Spy Museum, Washington, D.C.

Boom. There's now some followup email relating to the beloved Trump Tower meeting of June 9 2016, from the famed English music publicist and funny hat fancier Rob Goldstone who arranged the meeting with Donald Jr. on behalf of Emin Agalarov, to Trump's ex-caddy and social media guy Dan Scavino (the one who writes the mostly literate tweets and retweets the impossibly racist ones) and to some Russian friends, obtained by CNN. It's the latter that especially interests me and our own little patch in the public garden, with a reference that means more to us than it does to most investigators:
In one email dated June 14, 2016, Goldstone forwarded a CNN story on Russia's hacking of DNC emails to his client, Russian pop star Emin Agalarov, and Ike Kaveladze, a Russian who attended the meeting along with Trump Jr., Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner and Manafort, describing the news as "eerily weird" given what they had discussed at Trump Tower five days earlier.
One of the sources familiar with the content of the email downplayed the interaction, saying news of the DNC hack was surprising because in the run-up to the Trump Tower meeting, the Russian participants had promised information on illicit Russian funding of the DNC. But that dirt was not provided to Trump Jr., Kushner and Manafort during the meeting, according to accounts from the participants.
The DNC hacking was not brought up at the meeting, another source said, explaining it would not be 'oddly weird' if the topic had been broached.
Well, excuse me, there's one thing that's completely new here, the idea that "the Russian participants had promised information on illicit Russian funding of the DNC", because I'm pretty sure I've never heard anything like that before. Have you? The most specific thing I remember is the suggestion in Veselnitskaya's memo, prepared for the meeting, that Bill Browder's Hermitage Capital "may also have donated to the DNC", which would be illegal but British, not Russian, and the allegation that the all-American Ziff brothers were Democratic donors (and "It cannot be ruled out that they also financed Hillary Clinton campaign"). And then the folder of printouts described by Rinat Akhmetshin, which sound so much like certain pages from the DNC emails as we know them from WikiLeaks.

But you know what would have been extremely oddly weird? Given that nobody had publicly heard of the DNC hack on June 9, it would have been at least memorable if the subject had been broached, and folks would remember it when the news story came out a few days afterwards.

It would have been spectacularly oddly weird if the topic had been broached in a scenario like the following: If one of the Russians present at the meeting had said that the Democratic National Committee had been hacked and they had the stuff, and the American said, oh, that's ridiculous, we would have heard if something like that happened, get the fuck out of here, and then five count 'em five days later it turned out on CNN that the DNC had indeed been hacked!

Where did that crazy Russian lady leave her folder last week? somebody might have wanted to know. I don't have a clue, Manafort could have said with a quizzical smile. You know what I mean?

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

More Veselnitskaya

Maat, goddess of truth, via Stillness in the Storm.

Is this story from NBC News on the true side?
Donald Trump Jr. asked a Russian lawyer at the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting whether she had evidence of illegal donations to the Clinton Foundation, the lawyer told the Senate Judiciary Committee in answers to written questions obtained exclusively by NBC News.
The lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, told the committee that she didn't have any such evidence, and that she believes Trump misunderstood the nature of the meeting after receiving emails from a music promoter promising incriminating information on Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump's Democratic opponent.
It's not exactly what she herself told NBC in July 2017. In fact it's totally different—in that story Junior wasn't interested in the Clinton Foundation but the Democratic National Committee:

RIP Johnny Hallyday

The great French rocker has died, at 74. Obituary here.

From 1976.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Let them eat crumpets!

Via Sarah's Pinterest.

David F. Brooks, back from his Thanksgiving vacation, solves the gay wedding cake conundrum ("How Not to Advance Gay Marriage"):
the neighborly approach would be to say: “Fine, we won’t compel you to do something you believe violates your sacred principles. But we would like to hire you to bake other cakes for us. We would like to invite you into our home for dinner and bake with you, so you can see our marital love, and so we can understand your values. You still may not agree with us, after all this, but at least we’ll understand each other better and we can live more fully in our community.”
That "bake with you" is so precious! You build these relationships by emphasizing the things you have in common, you see, not the things that divide you, and as Brooks knows all gay men make these fantastic muffins and scones, and their ambition is to run a bed-and-breakfast in a charming New England town. With quilts. They'd disarm the baker with their respect for his technical expertise and artistry, and he'd quickly come to understand we're all the same under the skin. Better yet make it brunch, lubricated with Bellinis!

It's just like the way Oliver Brown invited the Topeka school board over for barbecue and gospel music, back in 1951 (in Brookstopia, not on our own sad planet), and they educated each other; Oliver teaching the board members about how his daughter was a human being as deserving of a good school as their own children were, and the board members teaching him about their deep religious belief in the separation of the races and their anxieties about cultural and economic change. It didn't get the Topeka schools integrated, but it was so warming and civilized, and made them feel so good about themselves, and they didn't have to bring a bunch of lawyers into it!

More, with bonus Frederick Douglass quote (he's done an amazing job and is being recognized more and more!), from Drifty.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Will this be the most delicious headline of the Trump era?

Something like all of them, actually. Seems when they were scrambling around looking for ways to plug in the holes in the tax plan left by giving Collins her $10,000 mortgage deduction and Johnson his 23% deduction for pass-through income (instead of the 17-something in the draft) and the like, they grabbed at a passing hunk of driftwood that turned out to be the cancelled alternative minimum corporate tax and clung to it for dear life.

So in the bill as passed by the Senate over the weekend, the corporate tax, as you'll recall, is fixed at 20%, and there's an alternative minimum corporate tax which as it turns out is also fixed at 20%, meaning Mr. Corporation can decide either (a) to take no deductions and pay that basic 20% rate or (b) take all the deductions he can, but not so as to pay less than the alternative minimum 20% rate.

In short, all your corporate tax deductions will now be imaginary.

Complicity: Totebaggers edition

Riverside Park South, December 3, where apparently spontaneous sculptures rhyming with the remains of old piers have popped out of the rocks.

Remember Congressman Gerry Studds (D-MA), who was censured by the House in 1983 for having an "inappropriate relationship" with a (male) House page and then regularly reelected by the good folk of his South Shore and Cape Cod district six times, till he retired in 1997? NPR brought him up as a kind of bothsiderist counterpoint, I think, to Alabama senatorial candidate Roy Moore, exemplifying how
Justice has been swift for some of the men accused of sexual harassment in media and entertainment. But in politics the consequences haven't been as swift or decisive. The biggest reason: democracy.
Voters are slow to react, unlike the brave people in public broadcasting—it's been some season for them, with revelations of the abuses of PBS's Charlie Rose, NPR's Garrison Keillor and Michael Oreskes, and WNYC's John Hockenberry, previously thought to have gotten the sack last summer because he was getting so terrible at his job, which was also true (and a miscreant against women on the air, constantly interrupting, dismissing and mansplaining, as listeners could have told and possibly did tell them years ago)—and today's Alabamians are no different from yesteryear's Cape Codders.

Naturally I think there's something else going on there, which is about the march of cultural change in the first place.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Strzok by surprise (October Surprise, that is)

Update December 3 2017:

We now know why Peter Strzok was pulled off the TrumpRussia investigation in August, and it isn't really prefigured in any of the hypotheses offered here or in the comments. A bunch of people have been looking at this old piece, presumably because I managed to spell Strzok right more than twice, and that's always a plus with Dr. Google, so I thought I should add a word and let it rerun.

Strzok was removed, The New York Times reports, because of

 the discovery of text messages in which Mr. Strzok and a colleague reacted to news events, like presidential debates, in ways that could appear critical of Mr. Trump.
“Immediately upon learning of the allegations, the special counsel’s office removed Peter Strzok from the investigation,” said a spokesman for the special counsel’s office, Peter Carr.
The Fox News universe is now undergoing floods of excitement over the possibility that "the Mueller investigation may be biased, under the heroic leadership of 2nd Lieutenant (Intellectual) Ben Shapiro.
My Twitter response follows:

It strikes me that Strzok may actually be feeling guilty for the role he played in the Giuliani-Stone October Surprise, with the thought that he had it briefly in his power to stop the clown psychopath from getting elected. Anyhow, the old post is below the fold: