Wednesday, May 31, 2017

The Petersburg Candidate. I

Via PressProgress/Canada.

Monsignor Ross Douthat, Apostolic Nuncio to 42nd Street, joining the emerging Serious Conservative consensus on the Russian collusion question ("The 'Manchurian' President?"):
The whole Russia affair might, in other words, just be what it looks like when an inexperienced, incompetent and, yes, sordid presidential apparatus tries to pursue a different foreign policy agenda than its predecessors.
Nothing to see here, folks! Just some of that there rookie naïveté that's been going around, and sordidity of course. It's bound to look as if the Trump administration has sold itself to the pursuit of Putinian interests, because that's the way the incompetent and sordid always roll, but that doesn't mean they actually have.

It's just the same as when the poorly trained Bullwinkle pulls a bear out of his hat instead of a rabbit. You think he must have done it on purpose, but it's really just an accident brought on by his inexperience. And sordidness.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Clannishing Act

Via Gifrific.

David Brooks writes ("The Politics of Clan: The Adventures of Jared Kushner"):
A familiar number on the caller ID screen. I gave it three rings, enough to grab a shluk from the vodka bottle and stash it back in the desk drawer, then picked up. The voice was familiar too, male, patrician, a little weary. "Brooks?"
"It's Memorial Day, for fuck's sake," I said. "Don't you have a parade to go to? I'm writing the column."
"David, David, you sound so hostile. You got something to write about? We could help you."
"I'm good," I said,
"Spiritual marriage? The need to remake the community on the model of Stuyvesant Town in 1965? Dump on Trump?"
"I'm out of the game," I said. "I'm not going to write any nice stuff on Trump. I'm married again, I don't want to be explaining a defense of pussy grabbing over the connubial dinner table. I did your George W. Bush for eight years, that was bad enough. At least he'd heard the rumor that compassion was supposed to be a good thing. Trump makes Bush look like Gandhi."
"We're not asking you to write nice things about Trump."

Monday, May 29, 2017

Memorial Day

Some Memorial Day music, by Roger Sessions (1971), to Whitman's poem:

And I saw askant the armies, 
I saw as in noiseless dreams hundreds of battle-flags, 
Borne through the smoke of the battles and pierc’d with missiles I saw them, 
And carried hither and yon through the smoke, and torn and bloody, 
And at last but a few shreds left on the staffs, (and all in silence,) 
And the staffs all splinter’d and broken. 

I saw battle-corpses, myriads of them, 
And the white skeletons of young men, I saw them, 
I saw the debris and debris of all the slain soldiers of the war, 
But I saw they were not as was thought, 
They themselves were fully at rest, they suffer’d not, 
The living remain’d and suffer’d, the mother suffer’d, 
And the wife and the child and the musing comrade suffer’d, 
And the armies that remain’d suffer’d. 

Passing the visions, passing the night, 
Passing, unloosing the hold of my comrades’ hands, 
Passing the song of the hermit bird and the tallying song of my soul, 
Victorious song, death’s outlet song, yet varying ever-altering song, 
As low and wailing, yet clear the notes, rising and falling, flooding the night, 
Sadly sinking and fainting, as warning and warning, and yet again bursting with joy, 
Covering the earth and filling the spread of the heaven, 
As that powerful psalm in the night I heard from recesses, 
Passing, I leave thee lilac with heart-shaped leaves, 
I leave thee there in the door-yard, blooming, returning with spring.... 

Cross-posted at No More Mister Nice Blog.

Modest Proposal

Pope Francis "appearing to make amends" with President Trump. with two unidentified Spanish princesses visiting from 1957.
Washington Post's "The Fix" may be even dumber without Chris Cillizza than with him, as Armando points out:


Borchers explains, for one thing,

It's getting ridiculous

Image via Indocop.

So they're not leaks coming out of the White House? Or the reporters are in the White House when they make them up?

I love the thought that he might have already completed his investigation. Like they got the entire staff together in some Trump hotel ballroom and said, "OK, who's leaking? If you've been leaking stuff to the media raise your hand." And when nobody's hand went up Trump was like, "OK, that settles that. No leakers, the press must be making shit up."

Seriously, though, what happened to the investigation?

(Another long read here...)

Sunday, May 28, 2017

It gets worse

Via Erik Wemple, Washington Post, March 28.

Donald Trump, in the press conference (the only formal press conference he has held during his presidency, that's a rate so far of 0.25 press conferences per month, compared to 1.71 for Barack Obama, 2.18 for George W. Bush, and so on, cutting in half the previous record low set by Ronald Reagan at 0.48, I just had to mention that) of February 16, following up on the Times story of February 14 in which it was asserted that the FBI was examining a history of "repeated contacts" between some unknown number of Trump people and Russian intelligence other than General Flynn, including, according to the Times from other reporting, his old friend and fellow Roy Cohn disciple Roger Stone, and Carter Page, the only person Trump had been able to name as one of his foreign policy advisers—"Carter Page, PhD!"—in an interview of March 2016 with the Washington Post—after dismissing Page as "a very low-level member of I think a committee for a short period of time—I don't think I ever met him":

Saturday, May 27, 2017

It rhymes

Jacob K. Javits Federal Building, Manhattan. The FBI Field Office is on the 23rd floor. Photo via Zimbio.

On James Comey and the Russian-produced Wasserman Schultz letter—
The Russian intelligence material related to a purported email exchange between then-Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz and a Clinton campaign operative who suggested then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch would help quash the FBI’s investigation.
According to CNN, Comey used the purported emails in part to justify his decision to publicly announce that no charges would be brought against Clinton, in a remarkable address [on July 5] that also accused her of being “extremely careless” in how she handled classified information on her private server. Comey did not consult with Lynch beforehand, and the speech broke FBI protocol to never comment on closed cases where no charges are brought.
The Washington Post reported Wednesday that the purported emails originated from a dubiously sourced Russian intelligence document, the veracity of which was never confirmed by the FBI. Officials aware of Comey’s actions told CNN that he knew that the document was bogus, but still factored it into his handling of the case. (Talking Points Memo)
There's a weird little relationship—history not repeating itself but rhyming as they say—between that story and the one from the end of October where Comey sent a remarkable letter to House Oversight Committee chairman Jason Chaffetz to inform him "out of an abundance of caution" that the investigation wasn't in fact closed, and that the FBI was looking at some possibly fresh material, which turned out to be Anthony Weiner's laptop and emails to Hillary Clinton that Huma Abedin had downloaded there (apparently to make print copies for the boss because, sadly, Clinton, like Donald J. Trump, prefers paper) (that beloved story is actually false; the emails were on Weiner's computer as an automatic backup arrangement with Abedin's phone; h/t Jesse at NMMNB).

In both cases, Comey is said to be making these unusual public disclosures out of fear for his agency's and his own reputation.

(Longish read below the jump.)

Friday, May 26, 2017

The four plus or minus two or three American narratives

Josh Kirby, Discworld.
Former New York Times columnist David Brooks writes ("The Four American Narratives"):
In spite of our many differences and the sheer size of the country, Americans have always been connected by a vast network of narrativium fibers, a single unifying story, or as I have called it "The Unifying American Story", also known as Passover without Jews, in which we told each other that all of us had reenacted the Exodus, escaping out of the oppressions of one Pharoah or another and into the wilderness, except instead of going to a land of milk and honey and killing all its people we stayed in the wilderness and killed all the people there and wrested the milk and honey into it with imported cows and bees and African guest workers, thus creating the last best hope on earth, so that when people around the world, similarly oppressed, were tempted to despair, they could always tell themselves, "At least there's America." 
Not that everybody could be allowed to come here, but they could still be glad to know it existed. We were so unified that even when we had a Civil War we were all on the same side, though this was not obvious to everyone at the time.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Annals of Derp: CBO

How crappy is a CBO that can't even guess what Chief Justice Roberts is going to do? What do you mean that's not part of the Budget? Image via Slate..

Senator Mike Rounds (R-SD) explaining why there's no need to give any thought to the Congressional Budget Office projections of how many people will be stripped of their health insurance by a given GOP tax cut health care bill, on NPR:
ROUNDS: Absolutely, but there's something else as well. You have to recognize the CBO doesn't exactly have the best reputation for being able to accurately describe 10 years out how many people you're actually going to have insured. And part of their suggestion is that since you take away a mandate saying you have to be insured, that means that people won't buy insurance. And so they're counting or trying to count the number of people who wouldn't buy insurance because they no longer have the mandate. [In fact one of the CBO's most serious miscalculations in 2012 was underestimating the number who would refuse to buy in spite of the mandate, so it's not likely they're overestimating the number who will refuse without it.]
They haven't exactly been accurate in the past on the number that they indicated would be buying insurance under Obamacare. [Most of the people who will lose coverage under "AHCA"—60% or 14 million—wouldn't have been buying insurance anyway but receiving Medicaid.] We don't think they're necessarily going to be accurate in this case, so we're not going to pay a lot of attention to that part.
The CBO failed in 2010 to predict that Justice Roberts and his minions would unilaterally rewrite the Affordable Care Act permitting Republican governors and state legislatures to refuse to expand their Medicaid programs to cover tens of millions of lower middle-income citizens. In the revised forecast of 2012, they did not at all fail to predict how many people would be buying insurance up until 2016, when the effects of congressional sabotage and wingnut propaganda began to take a serious toll on the growth of the individual market Exchange policies; but the overall coverage numbers remained pretty accurate all the same, as Republican states found their voters didn't mind getting some of that free money and many of them expanded Medicaid after all.

If you discount their inability to anticipate the legislative terrorism of a nihilist party in a desperate hurry to destroy the thing before the majority manages to vote them out of office, they did pretty well, and definitely better than anybody else. They may not "have the best reputation" but they should, because they did the best job. NPR shouldn't have let that fool on the air if they weren't prepared to correct his lies.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Required Reading

Rafflesia in Sabah, East Malaysia.

Why I Hate the New York Times, the Rafflesia of media-criticism blogging as I call it, after the Southeast Asian jungle flower that produces its huge and spectacular single bloom once every ten years or so, has just shown up with four months of material, and just as the Rafflesia smells like a corpse, the piece is as funny as hell, if you read it with attention: "How to Resist Trump" as the writers of the Times conceive it.

For instance, by not marching too much, the way the women did at the beginning of the regime:
Those ladies meant well, but they didn’t know what they were doing. “This movement focuses on the wrong issues…. Marchers…were marching under the conventional structure in which the central issues were clear.” That was their first mistake, according to known marching tactics expert David Brooks: Never march in a framework in which the central issues are clear. 
Or by being civil:

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Alienation of affectations

Of course four-star sheriff Clarke, with his Soviet-style chestful of fake medals and  murderous record as a jail manager, is literally a worse person than Brooks in most ways. Image via Wonkette.

BREAKING: We have a David Brooks Plagiarism Watch situation ("The Alienated Mind"), where former New York Times columnist David Brooks appears, not for the first time, to be committing the same infraction Milwaukee sheriff David Clarke just got busted for.

Paragraph 4:
Alienation, the sociologist Robert Nisbet wrote, is a “state of mind that can find a social order remote, incomprehensible or fraudulent; beyond real hope or desire; inviting apathy, boredom, or even hostility.”
Paragraph 6:
As Yuval Levin argues in a brilliant essay in Modern Age, “Alienation can sometimes make for a powerful organizing principle for an electoral coalition. … But it does not make for a natural organizing principle for a governing coalition.”
Yuval Levin, "Conservatism in an Age of Alienation"
“Alienated” need not be a putrid, Marxist designation. The great twentieth-century sociologist Robert Nisbet defined ­alienation as “the state of mind that can find a social order remote, incomprehensible, or fraudulent; beyond real hope or desire; inviting apathy, boredom, or even hostility.” This is precisely how Trump and many of his most vocal supporters frequently spoke about America over the past year.
What Clarke was busted for being, as you'll recall, that he'd lifted 47 passages from other writers without crediting them (in his 2013 master's thesis for the Naval Postgraduate School), even though he did credit the authors for other passages cited elsewhere in the thesis, which he seemed to think made it all OK: "only someone with a political agenda would say this is plagiarism," he told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, but it seems unlikely that the Naval Postgraduate School ethics guidelines were composed with a political agenda). This is precisely what Brooks does when he presents the Nisbet quote early in the column as if he'd picked it up directly out of Nisbet's 1953 The Quest for Community: A Study in the Ethics of Order and Freedom and then, a bit later, cites the source he actually got it from, as if turning spontaneously from the Nisbet book to Levin's article. We've seen Brooks doing this before.

Twenty-one Years

Updated 5/25

Photo by Manchester Evening News, June 1996.

Just 21 years ago, on June 15 1996, the city of Manchester (which has, like most big cities in the north of England, a very large Irish Catholic population) was rocked by the explosion of an enormous bomb, 1500 kg and the largest bomb ever detonated in Great Britain in peacetime, in a truck parked on Corporation Street. The perpetrators, the Provisional IRA, had sent a warning an hour and a half in advance, allowing the police to evacuate some 75,000 people from the area, and nobody was killed, but 212 people were injured, and you can imagine the chaos and distress in the city as friends and parents and lovers tried to assure themselves of each others' safety, and emergency medical workers sought out the victims—it's a whole story that they were confused by mannequins lying in the street after the blast blew them out of their shopwindows.

In the horrible business of deciding which terrorist attacks are worse than others, you'd have to say this bombing wasn't nearly as bad as last night's attack on the Ariana Grande concert audience at the Manchester Arena, which gave no warnings, aimed specifically at an event where most of the participants were children, and has killed at least 22 people, but it was horrible all the same.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Deep Donald

(New Google Translate poems at bottom)

Doughnuts by vegan chef Sam Melbourne, via Lost at E Minor.
In contemplating the science-fiction Singularity, we always picture the machines learning to think, and becoming more and more like people; not the possibility that the alienated humans will become more mechanical, but a cool idea from the neuroscientist Robert A. Burton in the Times's philosophy department suggests thinking this way about our Emperor Trump could account not only for his deep strangeness but also for his incomprehensible success:
If conventional psychology isn’t up to the task, perhaps we should step back and consider a tantalizing sci-fi alternative — that Trump doesn’t operate within conventional human cognitive constraints, but rather is a new life form, a rudimentary artificial intelligence-based learning machine. When we strip away all moral, ethical and ideological considerations from his decisions and see them strictly in the light of machine learning, his behavior makes perfect sense.
A "deep learning" program like Google's Deep Mind or IBM's Deep Blue, programmed to accomplish a specific task (like winning a chess game, or an election) by mapping the data of previous efforts onto the background of the current situation, the same kind of heuristic that is used by the Google Translate algorithm we've been having fun with.

Burton can suggest a startlingly persuasive account of how a Deep Donald could have won the election, by having the single objective of winning and undisturbed by any other motivations or calculations of consequence after the election:


Arab-owned olive grove on West Bank, surrounded by 30-foot wall and fences on all sides. Via Lighthearted Locavore.
As Trump Arrives in Israel, His Deal-Making Skills Face a Test
Says the Times headline writer. A "serious test" says the teaser headline on the online front page, but I can't imagine what they think is serious about it. They're talking about the deal between Israel and the Palestinians, which has eluded generations for almost 70 years, and which he himself has called "the ultimate deal" but also insists is "frankly, maybe not as difficult as people have thought over the years."

Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu has shown what he thinks the prospects are in the friendly gestures he's chosen to build confidence: for the Palestinians, at Trump's request, some permits to build houses on land they own in Area C of the West Bank and a temporary easing of border crossing restrictrions at the Allenby Bridge, and for the Jewish settlers in the West Bank, a three-year program to legalize unauthorized settlements and hilltop outposts. Saying to the Palestinians, in effect, this is what you'll get if you make a deal, and to the settlers, don't worry, there won't be a deal.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Annals of Derp: Believing Mensch

"Will-'o-the-Wisp", by ~robjenx/DeviantArt.

From Louise Mensch's Patribotics (can't decide whether that's a company that supplies orphans with android surrogate parents or a maker of red-blooded American yogurt) blog yesterday:
Multiple sources close to the intelligence, justice and law enforcement communities say that the House Judiciary Committee is considering Articles of Impeachment against the President of the United States.
That's seems like a kind of portentous way of describing a tweet from Ted Lieu, cheering as that might be—Lieu's one of the very best Congressional tweeters, and he certainly always gives me a lift.

But wait, there's more!

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Take care of the Pence and the hounds will take care of themselves

Governor Mike Pence in deep conversation with former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, in a photo I haven't been able to date, via Daily Kos.

Kyle Smith writes at National Review Online:
Should Mike Pence become president, the Left will surely lead us in a national chorus of “Whew! Back to normal.” Correct? After all, our friends in the Democratic party have been saying for many months that President Trump is not normal, that he is uniquely unfit for office, that his brand of mendaciousness, volatility, poor character, and immaturity have no precedent in the Oval Office, that he is a Nazi sympathizer and even a fascist, that he is an extremist who exists outside the bounds of ordinary political disagreement.
Mike Pence, on the other hand, is so normal that one of the things that the late-night comics mock him for is being too normal.
Well, if it's normal for a man in his late 50s to be afraid of being alone in a room with a woman he isn't married to, or to be in a room where alcohol is being served unless Mrs. Pence, who he calls "Mother", is there with him to preserve him from committing who knows what kind of desperate depravities, then sure, late-night comics mock him for that. Surely we can agree that he's as abnormal as Trump, only in a different and generally quieter way.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Barn Burning

Take a gander. Any gander! Via TodayIFoundOut.

From the deputy Washington editor of the Times, via Roy. A "barn burner" in the parlance of American journalism, I'm told, is a tremendously exciting event such as a closely fought sports competition, "in allusion to the story of an old Dutchman who relieved himself of rats by burning his barns which they infested" (per John Russell Bartlett's 1848 Dictionary of Americanisms), meaning perhaps that it was a form of popular evening entertainment in the Hudson Valley to go watch old Klaas burn his barn down?

What barn-burning thrills we're supposed to be getting from Stephens's column, "The 'Flight 93 Election' Crashes Again", is unclear to me. Maybe the sport is the hammer throw competition among Brooks, Douthat, and the new guy to see who can toss Trump farthest outside the Republican pale. Brooks was good on Tuesday calling him a child, and the Monsignor going with unfit and "egregious" and calling for the 25th Amendment. I'm wondering if the plan now, focusing on Trump's incompetence instead of his presumptive liberalism, is to demand the 25yh Amendment solution as the only way of avoiding impeachment and the consequent exposure of not just Trumpian but Republican dirt (starting with the unspeakable Pence and Ryan).

Stephens points out that even the most Trumpian of the conservatives seem to be having doubts about their man:

In recent days, the radio host Michael Savage has acknowledged “the administration is in trouble.” John Podhoretz in the New York Post and later The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page each compared Trump to Jimmy Carter — the most damning of all conservative indictments.
Then there’s Ann Coulter. In an interview with The Daily Caller, the author of “In Trump We Trust” said of the presidency that “it has been such a disaster so far,” and that it was possible that “the Trump-haters were right.” She even dropped the f-bomb — “fascist” — to describe Trump’s hiring of his relatives to senior White House posts. “If I’ve lost Cronkite, I’ve lost Middle America,” Lyndon Johnson is reputed to have said (perhaps it’s apocryphal) after the CBS anchorman said in 1968 that the Vietnam War was unwinnable.
Funny to think of Coulter as the movement's Cronkite.

The Flight 93 reference is, of course, to a Trumpist essay that appeared last September in the Claremont Review under the nym "Publius Decius Mus":
2016 is the Flight 93 election: charge the cockpit or you die. You may die anyway. You—or the leader of your party—may make it into the cockpit and not know how to fly or land the plane. There are no guarantees.
Except one: if you don’t try, death is certain. To compound the metaphor: a Hillary Clinton presidency is Russian Roulette with a semi-auto. With Trump, at least you can spin the cylinder and take your chances.
To ordinary conservative ears, this sounds histrionic.
Trust me, you should be able to get that effect with virtually any kind of ears.

Decius turned out to be Michael Anton, a former speechwriter for Rudolph Giuliani and for George W. Bush's National Security Council and communications executive for firms like Citigroup and Blackrock, and now Deputy Assistant to the President for Strategic Communications, so, as you'd expect from anybody with a résumé like that, he really hates conservative élites, whom he refers to in the essay as "the Washington Generals", evidently because we liberal éĺites are the Harlem Globetrotters, which is how we brought socialism to America while the hapless conservatives waved their arms, gaping. He likes Trump, and I guess the prospect of all that winning that we're going to get tired of.

"In the lurid imagination of the author," Stephens writes,
the American republic was Flight 93, a plane deliberately set on a course for destruction by liberals and their accomplices in the Republican establishment and the globalist “Davoisie.” As for Donald Trump, Anton implied that he was the political equivalent of Todd Beamer, the heroic passenger who cried “Let’s Roll” in a desperate bid for salvation.
There was always something remarkably stupid in the Flight 93 analogy that I meant to write about at the time but didn't get around to. The heroism of the 9/11 passengers was going to have an unambiguously good consequence, that they were going to stop the hijackers' terrorist designs (on the White House, as it turned out) at the cost of their lives. But the Trump campaign, assuming (correctly, as we can now see) that they didn't have any idea how to fly or land the plane, wasn't going to accomplish anything but crashing, at the cost of everybody's lives, because the aircraft of the analogy was the entire nation. We had to destroy ourselves in order to save ourselves in Anton's analogy, like a recursive version of the Vietnamese hamlet. We'd be murdered if we didn't kill ourselves!

Stephens doesn't quite get it, but he has an intuition of what's wrong, where the analogy breaks down:
Maybe 2016 was the Flight 93 election, or something like it. Maybe the pilots are dead. Maybe the passengers failed to storm the cockpit. Maybe the hijackers reached their target by landing on the White House after all.
No, the White House is in the cockpit! The hijackers were imaginary! But enough of the passengers believed in them that they were able to rush the cockpit, while the rest of us looked on stupefied, tie the pilots up, and take over the controls, or fail to take them over, and we're losing altitude.

Or, to go home with the analogy we came in with, we're burning the barn down from the inside.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Wingnut Annals: The Persecution and Assassination of Robert Spencer, as Performed by...

Well, Robert Spencer, mostly, because he fortunately survived this despicable and cowardly attack long enough to write it up. You can see his byline at lower left:

It seems Spencer was innocently minding his own business, which is spreading hatred and fear of persons of the Muslim faith (he's the editor of the JihadWatch blog, as I learn from Paul Fontaine at the Reykjavík Grapevine, listed by the SPLC as a purveyor of hate and racism, and has been barred from Britain, in 2013, on the grounds that his presence would be "not conducive to the public good"), in the Grand Hótel of Reykjavík, having wound up his lecture on the threat of jihad, adjourning to a local hostelry with some fellow hatemongers to celebrate his success, when he was accosted by a young man of apparently harmless demeanor, who smiled, claimed to be a huge fan of Spencer and his work, and effusively took his hand and shook it, after which another young man of apparently harmless demeanor approached, looked Spencer directly in the eye, still smiling, and said, "Fuck you."

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Crime and coverup

A Watergate salad, involving, according to RealHousemoms, "sweet pineapple, creamy whipped topping, mini marshmallows, crunchy walnuts and green pistachio flavored pudding! I like to add maraschino cherries to mine too." Speaking of coverups that are crimes.

Can everybody please stop saying "The coverup is worse than the crime because Watergate was a third-rate burglary"?

That characterization, coined by the late Ron Ziegler (he died in 2003, just as the Iraq war was about to begin and Ari "Palm Beach County is a Pat Buchanan stronghold" Fleischer was ready to take over his old title as history's most mendacious press secretary, though he himself only survived in the job a few months after that), became "inoperative", as Ziegler put it, on April 17 1973, when Nixon informed the gasping world that he had personally investigated the Watergate burglary himself, or that poor John Dean had, and concluded that some White House officials might have been involved.

You can't make this stuff up

Or if you can, there could be serious money in it.

François Truffaut, via Cinémathèque Française.

Narratology isn't admissible evidence in a criminal court, but there's something in the report of the Comey memo that really makes me believe, the psychological realism of what the Emperor is said to have said, and its tone:
“I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go,” Mr. Trump told Mr. Comey, according to the memo. “He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.”
It's the sound of a very wealthy father talking to the boarding-school principal after the entitled, psychopathic son has burned down his bedroom knocking over the bong, or assaulted the chambermaid. Or a mafia boss addressing a policeman on behalf of a dumb henchman picked up for cutting somebody with a broken margarita glass in a bar fight. "I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go—he's a good kid." No, he's not, but that's not even the point.

And only a crude-minded screenwriter would have the father holding out an actual check; there's no need for that, the idea of bribery or extortion is already there. This is a world where Trump is perfectly comfortable and competent. He's done this before, "dealing". (His difficulty is just that he isn't in that world any more and he has no idea who's a crook and who isn't.) You don't say, "I could fire you," he knows that. And we know that, because when he didn't get his way with Comey he did fire him. This really happened.

Cross-posted in No More Mister Nice Blog.

Trigger Warning: Some of the words in this post may have been written by Bret Stephens.

Bret Stephens of the New York Times addressing the graduating class at Hampden-Sydney College (and recycling the speech into a Wednesday column):

I’ve been thinking about safe spaces a lot lately. For those of you with the good fortune never to have heard the term, a “safe space” is not, as you may suppose, a concrete-reinforced room where you can ride out a tornado. It isn’t a bulletproof car, either.
Instead, a “safe space” denotes a place, usually on campus, where like-minded people — often sharing the same race, gender, sexual orientation or political outlook — can spend time together without having to encounter the expression of any ideas or opinions that they do not endorse.
Because the seniors at an all-male Presbyterian college in rural Virginia with an African American student population of 6.8% probably can't even imagine how horrible and soul-killing it is to be in the kind of situation you can wind up in at one of those schools like Brandeis or Wesleyan, voluntarily sequestered into a groupthink environment where like-minded people, often sharing the same race, gender, sexual orientation, or political outlook can spend time together without having to encounter the expression of any ideas or opinions that they do not endorse. Preach it, Brother Bret!

Actually they do have safe spaces at Hampden-Sydney. They just have different terms for them, like "fraternity", or "lacrosse team".

Cross-posted at No More Mister Nice Blog.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Why does David Brooks hate children?

Screen capture via WNEP, Moosic, PA.

It's getting so bad even former New York Times columnist David Brooks, freshly back from his honeymoon, is coming up with instant hot takes ("When the World is Led by a Child"):

At certain times Donald Trump has seemed like a budding authoritarian, a corrupt Nixon, a rabble-rousing populist or a big business corporatist.
But as Trump has settled into his White House role, he has given a series of long interviews, and when you study the transcripts it becomes clear that fundamentally he is none of these things.
At base, Trump is an infantalist.
Heh. He's an enumeration or compilation of a set of, or of items pertaining to, the daughters of Portuguese kings?

No, this is just a case of a little-known phenomenon, that it's possible to spell a word wrong even if you just made it up. He should have written "infantilist", meaning a person who advocates being infantile.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Annals of Derp: Voter ID

Drawing by David Horsey/Los Angeles Times.

This great thread by Matthew Chapman welcoming the Supreme Court refusal to hear North Carolina's appeal on the quashing of its stupid and vicious voter ID law got me wound up into the battle:

This one makes me completely insane. I've been through it before. "They're canceling out my vote!" What kind of egomaniac thinks that way? (A mathematically challenged one.)

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Gaggle: A Poem

Today's Doonesbury strip:

Since November Donald J. Trump has spent his whole life in this situation, or worse, in the sense that it's not only what he hasn't done, the homework, but also what he has done, whatever criminal baggage he's carrying, and the vulnerabilities it gives him, not only from the law, but also from whatever thugs he's employed or who have employed him, foreign and domestic.

That's a big part of why he sounds as if he's suffering from dementia. Between trying to hide that he doesn't know what he's talking about, which requires bullshit, and trying to hide his rich and varied personal culpabilities, which requires lies, he can't possibly speak coherently.

Thornton was asking on the Twitter this morning, "what if set of topics that press might ask about AND Trump is knowledgeable about is null?" He's not safe talking. No wonder he wants to spend so much time on the golf course, it's the one place he can be where nobody's expecting him to explain himself.


Hi, it's Stupid. Update

Donald Trump and Roy Cohn at the Trump Tower opening in 1983. Via Politico.

Picking up on a long comment from Jordan:
These are deep waters (as Sherlock Holmes would say). I am forced to agree point by point with the analysis — the “insecurity quotes” is particularly good — but I’m still not sure.
Because you just never know what he’s heard; what actual information he’s garbling and blurting out from that cement-mixer mind of his. I agree that the goons who generally supply his surveillance needs haven’t gotten anywhere near the White House, and I agree that the VoIP system isn’t something he remotely understands (we’ve seen him use “digital” to mean “electrical” just this week). But I wouldn’t rule out the existence of recordings of Trump’s conversations. He may have heard about this and assumed it’s all the conversations rather than just the Oval Office, or just the phone calls, or just some of the phone calls.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Hi, it's Stupid. III

Insecurity quotes, via Ben Yagoda for Lingua Franca.

Ben Jacobs, for instance, comments at the Guardian
The tweet, which if taken at face value would suggest Trump has been secretly taping White House meetings, came after the New York Times reported that he demanded “loyalty” from Comey in a private dinner held shortly after Trump took office.
The thing is, why on earth would you take it at face value? Trump said it FFS! And he pulled out his insecurity quotes, as with "wiretapping" in March, showing that he isn't himself confident that he's managed to say what he means.

Trump literally doesn't know whether his conversations in the White House are being recorded on tape or some new-fangled method, or rather he knows it wouldn't be tape but doesn't want to get caught not knowing what it is because the servants have been taking care of such things for him for years, so that decades of technological change have simply bypassed his brain. He doesn't know whether they are being recorded by somebody or not.

Friday, May 12, 2017

For the record

Image via Brigham Young University.

Quick response to the release by Trump's tax lawyers, Sheri Dillon and William Nelson, of a statement on the Emperor's financial relationship to Russians, just because I've been looking at this stuff on and off for quite a while:

13 Trump voters

Trump voter encountered outside Dahlonega, GA. Actually Baby Godzilla, of course, and the gravatar of Kevin C in his Yelp review of Dahlonega's Hickory Prime Barbecue.

...interviewed by the New York Times investigating this mysterious, alien world and its views of the firing of FBI director James Comey:

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Hi, it's Stupid. II

Homage of the Estates (nobility, clergy, and commoners) to Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I, from the 1515 Liber Missarum of Margaret of Austria. Via Wikimedia Commons.

Countess Maggie and the Chevalier de Thrush have a nugget of narratological interest, right in the lede:
After President Trump accused his predecessor in March of wiretapping him, James B. Comey, the F.B.I. director, was flabbergasted. The president, Mr. Comey told associates, was “outside the realm of normal,” even “crazy.”
They're using it for the titillation value, clash of the titans, oh-no-he-dit-unt, but the really useful information is when Comey was so indiscreet as to say those things, in response to the famous tweet:

Clinton did it, why can't I?

100PercentFedUp asks the tough questions:
Was the suspicious death of Vince Foster and the firing of Republican FBI Director William S. Sessions firing a coincidence? Did President Clinton need an FBI Director who was willing to look the other way when it came to the alleged criminal activities of the Clintons?
Hm, I wonder.

OK, make that a "probably a coincidence".

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Hi, it's Stupid

Drawing by wes and tony of amazingsuperpowers.
Hi, it's Stupid to say we understand with complete clarity why James Comey was fired as FBI director. So hold my beer, as the saying goes.


That's not narcissism. I mean, obviously it's narcissism, in the same way as obviously it's English—I mean it's in the only language Trump speaks—but it has a specific argumentative purpose, which is to tell a lie.