Tuesday, October 31, 2017


Via openaccess.net.

New York Times
catching up with Smut in policing the world of predatory journals:

Recently a group of researchers invented a fake academic: Anna O. Szust. The name in Polish means fraudster. Dr. Szust applied to legitimate and predatory journals asking to be an editor. She supplied a résumé in which her publications and degrees were total fabrications, as were the names of the publishers of the books she said she had contributed to.
The legitimate journals rejected her application immediately. But 48 out of 360 questionable journals made her an editor. Four made her editor in chief. One journal sent her an email saying, “It’s our pleasure to add your name as our editor in chief for the journal with no responsibilities.”
The lead author of the Dr. Szust sting operation, Katarzyna Pisanski, a psychologist at the University of Sussex in England, said the question of what motivates people to publish in such journals “is a touchy subject.”
“If you were tricked by spam email you might not want to admit it, and if you did it wittingly to increase your publication counts you might also not want to admit it,” she said in an email.
While Smut's moved on to used books published before the new ones come out, or possibly pirated from the future.

Correspondence: About those emails

Martyr Procopius, Sinai, 12th century, via IconReader.

Procopius wrote, re yesterday's post:
"Those would be the 20,000 emails from the Clinton campaign from John Podesta's personal Gmail account, which was hacked in March 2016." Wait a minute -- where did this interpretation come from? I thought they were supposed to be part of the 30,000 emails Hillary supposedly deleted? Why would anybody get excited about Podesta's emails which were already open to the public? I thought the reason to be angry about the proposal was because it showed that the FSA, the Russian intelligence agency, had been spying on Hillary's emails and stole them before she deleted them so able to expose her illegal behavior.
Also, "... (though they knew that the meeting itself, entertaining an offer of campaign assistance from a foreign governments, was unlawful) ." Wow. You're able to read minds! That must be fun. I think most people knew that campaign contributions in the form of money was illegal, but I don't think that many people realized that providing opposition research was also illegal. Has that actually been tested in court?
I spent so much time answering that I might as well just post it here:

Monday, October 30, 2017


Image via Oprah!

Very glad to hear Paul Manafort and his confederate Rick Gates have been busted for some of their many crimes against the people of the United States, and I'm not going to lie, it was bigger than I was expecting, but it's this morning's other Trumprussia story that really makes my heart beat faster, because it's really Trumprussia, and it looks like my story, the one I've been constructing, developing in an extremely major way, in the guilty plea of George Papadopoulos, the Trump campaign foreign policy adviser who kept trying to set up meetings between Russian officials and the campaign: pleaded guilty on October 5, we learn today, to lying in an interview with the FBI in January, and what he lied about was a meeting with a "Russian professor":
A “statement of the offense” document released by the special counsel’s office states that “on or about March 31, 2016,” Papadopoulos attended a national security meeting with Trump and other advisers, at which Papadopoulos stated that he “could help arrange a meeting between then-candidate Trump and President Putin”.
Papadopoulos told investigators as part of the plea that he befriended a London-based professor with “substantial connections” to Russian government officials after he became an adviser to the campaign.
Papadopoulos initially told investigators that he met the professor before joining the campaign.
The professor was not named in court documents but is described as a person with close connections to the Kremlin who told Papadopoulos that Russia had “dirt” on Clinton in the form of “thousands of emails”.

For the Record: Shocked-shocked to find that this high-powered DC law firm charges clients a lot!

Image via Above the Law.

As the screws tighten with the ongoing arrestation of Paul Manafort, the noise machine is starting to thrash, and the attempt to discredit the Steele dossier gets ever crazier, as exemplified by that Fox News thing we were looking at yesterday, or this remarkable report from The Federalist, transmitted or not exactly transmitted through the Trumpian Twitter:

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Tell me what evidence of collusion looks like? THIS is what evidence of collusion looks like

AP photo via The Independent.

This reported in The Hill is virtually insane, in the sense of a story that seems to have been melted into a kind of narrative plasma in which everything is equivalent to everything else and then extruded into a narrative of persecution, more or less, of dark forces conspiring against Chris Wallace's tribe:
Fox News anchor Chris Wallace said Friday that “there is more evidence at this point of Democratic collusion with the Russians than there is of Republican collusion with the Russians” in last year’s presidential election....
“The fact that Hillary Clinton, or at least her campaign and the DNC, was doing business with a foreign national, a British spy, to get information from the Russians for this dossier certainly blunts the idea, ‘Well, it was the Trump campaign and it was outrageous the Trump campaign was having anything to do with the Russians to maybe affect at the election,'” Wallace told “America's Newsroom” anchor Sandra Smith. 
“This is far more evidence than we’ve ever seen involving President Trump and his campaign that the Democrats were directly involved in trying to get information from the Russians to affect the 2016 campaign,” Wallace said.
A DC law firm closely connected to the DNC, Perkins Coie, was doing business with regard to the 2016 presidential campaign, looking for scandalous information about Donald Trump, with an American research association of a bunch of old Wall Street Journal reporters, Fusion GPS, which had previously been investigating Trump for a Republican newspaper, the Free Beacon, on behalf apparently of Marco Rubio; and Fusion GPS contracted some work to a former MI6 officer, Christopher Steele, who interviewed a bunch of sources with knowledge of the activities of members of the Trump campaign in Russia, his area of expertise, and prepared the 17 memos known as the Steele Dossier on that basis.

That other dossier

Via Evi L Blogger Lady.

Remember my theory that the anti-Clinton documents Natalya Veselnitskaya brought to the June 9 2016 Trump Tower meeting were printouts from the stolen DNC emails?

A whole host of developments have come up since then while I wasn't paying attention to suggest I probably got it all wrong; namely, Veselnitskaya came out herself, right at the beginning of the scandal in early July, to explain what she brought to the meeting, and what she said didn't sound like the DNC emails. (It was a "memo" about "a company run by a former US citizen. She believes this company didn’t pay taxes in either Russia or the US and may also have made donations to the DNC,"  she was quoted as saying.) Then again she's also said she couldn't have offered the Trump campaign any incriminating information on Clinton, since she didn't have any ("It is quite possible that maybe they were longing for such an information. They wanted it so badly that they could only hear the thought that they wanted"), and nobody believes that—if only because the correspondence between Rob Goldstone and Donald Jr. made it clear that they thought she did, and Donald Jr. ("I love it!") wouldn't have agreed to meet her otherwise. So perhaps she's not telling the whole truth about the documents as well.

In September, in any case, some details about her document showed up on CNN, through the offices of Scott Balber, who is the attorney for US matters of Aras Agalarov, the real estate developer and sometime Trump business partner whose son Emin originally requested the meeting and also of Irakly "Ike" Kaveladze, the "eighth man" at the meeting. And in early October Foreign Policy obtained exclusive access to the whole thing, a five-page set of notes in English that she hoped to leave with her hosts following her lecture about the injustice of Bill Browder getting the US Congress to pass the Magnitsky Sanctions when he was in fact a bad person whose company Hermitage Capital Investment didn't pay taxes to the US (noted, he gave up US citizenship long ago) or Russia, and neither did Ziff Brothers Investments, a US firm with a big investment in Hermitage, which not only failed to pay taxes to Russia but were also Democratic donors ("It cannot be ruled out that they also financed Hillary Clinton campaign").

Sadly, according to Veselnitskaya's report, the Americans were not interested in these fruits of her legal research:

Friday, October 27, 2017

Donald Trump's October Revolution

Feast of the Supreme Being, France 1794, via AlphaHistory.

Or, Ten Days That Snooked the World. Or, in David Brooks's own headline formulation, "The Week Trump Won". Trump is apparently Lenin, Bannon is Trotsky, Mitch McConnell is the hapless Kerensky of the defeated Mensheviks, and I guess the Democrats must be the bewildered nobility, not yet regrouped, or fleeing to France and Germany with our diamonds sewn into the lining of our immense fur coats:

One hundred years ago on Friday, John Reed was in St. Petersburg watching Lenin, Trotsky and the rest of the Bolsheviks take over Russia. It was interesting to read his account, “Ten Days That Shook the World,” this week — the week when Donald Trump and Steve Bannon solidified their grip on the Republican Party and America’s national government.
No, I'm really not seeing that. I'd say it's ten days in which, if anything, Mitch McConnell won some signal victories against the forces of what he regards as Bannonite chaos and darkness, from the calls Trump made last week to Senators on Stephen Bannon's kill list, John Barrasso of Wyoming, Deb Fischer of Nebraska and Roger Wicker of Mississippi, promising them endorsements, to the House's 216-212 vote to approve the Senate-passed budget resolution yesterday morning, and let's just say nobody's talking about Bannon's proposal for a 44% marginal income tax rate (his Breitbart home page headlines don't include any mention of the budget or tax proposals at all: it leads with praise for Roy Moore, the Alabama Senate candidate Trump unsuccessfully opposed, and attacks on Obamacare, immigrants, and Jared Kushner).

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Adults in the Room

Via Tenor.

Old Tom Friedman was wondering yesterday ("General Mattis, Stand Up to Trump or He''ll Drag You Down") what old General Mattis should do next, now that he's won the Survivor game in the White House island, last of the so-called adults in the room, the generals and generaloids who are supposed to be managing our rambunctious young president, what with McMaster having failed to "build up much of a relationship with Trump," Tillerson having burned his bridges with the "fucking moron" epithet, and Pompeo and Kelly having sacrificed their moral authority with their public lying in support of the president's lying:

Well, Secretary Mattis, here’s some free advice to the last man standing: Don’t just stand there. If you just stand there, you’ll be next. Because Trump and Sanders will be looking to enlist your old uniform next in their defense — that is, if Trump doesn’t throw you under the bus first to escape responsibility for the bungled operation in Niger.
Secretary Mattis, we don’t need any more diagnosis of the problem. We need action. And I am not talking about a coup. I mean you need to lead McMaster, Tillerson and Kelly (Pompeo is a lost cause) in telling Trump that if he does not change his ways you will all quit, en masse.
I hate to tell ya, Tom, but I think something like that has already been done, with the "suicide pact" among Mattis, Tillerson, and treasury secretary Mnuchin that Buzzfeed reported a couple of weeks ago:

Wednesday, October 25, 2017


Image by the Blockhead Film Festival at the Art Institutes International Minnesota, a worthy thing that seems to have died, sadly, around October 2014.

Hi readers!

According to the Rectification avatar, Dr. Johnson in his bag wig, "No man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money."

The donation box newly installed in the upper right over the search box does not mean that we have abandoned our precious blockhead status, but only that I've had to buy a new computer, as the old one was getting really balky and slow, with a row of sticky keys from t to o and all kinds of applications that couldn't be updated because the system software was so old, and I'd really appreciate some assistance paying for the thing, if, and only if, you can truly spare it.

We'll return shortly to our irregularly scheduled programming. I'll leave this pinned for a few days. Thanks!!!

What, then, must be done?

Flake in January looking very concerned about the treatment of refugees in that #MuslimBan, photo by David Kadlubowski/The Republic in AZCentral. It strikes me that there were enough Senators, between him and Sasse and the Democrats, to make an effective noise against that depredation, except that the Majority Leader wasn't one of them and would never allow it, and if Flake wanted to actually accomplish something instead of displaying what a noble guy he is he should have been working on McConnell, not the uncomprehending Fox News viewer in the White House. 

What, then (NPR wanted to know), must be done, Senator Flake?
Asked by Steve whether he thinks "something needs to be done" about President Trump, the Arizona senator replies: "If you are asking if I think the president has committed high crimes or misdemeanors, I don't think so."
"And I don't think there is any Article 25 remedy," he says, referring to a clause in the U.S. Constitution that provides for removing a president who "is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office."
"I just think we just ought to stand up and require something better in terms of behavior and treatment of members of Congress and others, Gold Star families, you name it," Flake says. "But that doesn't have to involve any remedy like the 25th Amendment or impeachment proceedings."
Nothing that bad, for goodness sake. Just a little "casual undermining of our democratic norms and ideals" (Flake's words, yesterday) and "reckless, outrageous, and undignified behavior" and "threats against principles, freedoms, and institutions, the flagrant disregard for truth or decency." Congress should "require something better."

Require how?

I just want everybody to understand, before they fall into a swoon over the courage of this empty suit, what an abject surrender he has just made (he emphasized in the interview that he's still excited about the work he wants to accomplish in his remaining time in the Senate, including "getting the deficit under control", when he just voted five days ago for a budget plan that raises the deficit a trillion and a half dollars, for fuck's sake, after eight years during which the Obama lowered the annual deficit by two thirds against Flake's, and all congressional Republicans', relentless and unbending opposition) and what a sanctimonious poser he really is. Is he going to sponsor a Sense of the Senate resolution? That'll show that Trump! ANY FURTHER DEPLORABLE CONDUCT WILL BE OFFICIALLY DEPLORED AND WE REALLY MEAN IT!

Steve M suggests Flake was going to have a near-impossible time getting reelected anyway, for reasons that go back before Trump (every step he could take to placate the insane Republican primary voters was going to make him less sustainable among the general Arizona public, where his approval rating was at 27% as of March 2014). We're going to be hearing more and more of this using Trump as a convenient excuse for Republican collapse, when Trump is actually a consequence of that.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Who's a fanatic? Oh, *you* are.

Girona, Catalunya, via Auto-Europe.

David F. Brooks on the conversation everybody in the world is having ("How to Engage a Fanatic"):

I’ve had a series of experiences over the past two weeks that leave the impression that everybody on earth is having the same conversation: How do you engage with fanatics?
There are some tantalizing implications there that he doesn't get into: (1) that some of the people having the conversation are fanatics themselves, and (2) they're not having it from the standpoint that they're fanatics—they think you're a fanatic.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Lindsey Graham can't figure it out

Late 2013 was a particularly good time for peculiar and damaging interactions with women one doesn't know in the Ritz Carlton Moscow. If you've never heard this story from December 2013, you should.

Sadly, no, Nordlinger's piece doesn't explain it at all, it's mostly National Review harrumphing, though I wouldn't disagree with that part of the message.

Browder is, as you remember, the old-Russia-hand investor (the grandson of Earl Browder, who was secretary general of the Communist Party USA during the Great Depression and World War II) who made an enormous fortune out of the privatization of the former Soviet economy in the 1990s, fell out with Putin and the oligarchs, and was subjected to various indignities, banned from entering Russia (he lives in London, having given up his US citizenship in 1998, I'm sorry to say, to avoid US taxes), his business offices raided and employees harassed and arrested, companies he owned outright stolen, and $230 million in tax payments from his companies to the Russian state robbed, upon which his Russian lawyer, Sergey Magnitsky, was arrested, imprisoned, tortured—authorities were trying to make him confess that he'd stolen the $230 million himself, on Browder's orders—and beaten to death.

Annals of Derp: President Don and Sec of State Rex had a great time

So Prime Minister Lee, prime minister of Singapore since 2004, and the son of Lee Kuan Yew who was prime minister from 1959 to 1990 and "senior minister" and "mentor minister" after that, is visiting the White House, and nobody in the State Department or the White House seems to have been able to find out what his name was (Hsien Loong is his given name, and "Loong" on its own is something his mother might call him) until after they'd humiliated themselves by publishing it in the wrong format everywhere in sight:

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Concerned Monsignor is Concerned

California red-legged frog, via Amphibian Facts.

Monsignor Ross Douthat, Apostolic Nuncio to 42nd Street, is Very Concerned about the increasing radicalization of the Democratic Party, which has lurched violently to the left on issues such as abortion and immigration:

Consider recent developments in the state of Alabama, where the Republican Party has nominated a Senate candidate manifestly unfit for office, a bigot hostile to the rule of law and entranced with authoritarianism.
And who have the Democrats put up against him? An accomplished former prosecutor, the very model of a mainstream Democrat — and a man who told an interviewer after his nomination that he favors legal abortion, without restriction, right up until the baby emerges blue and flailing from the womb.
Question to Radio Yerevan: Is it true that Doug Jones, up against Ten Commandments idolator Roy Moore in the race to fill the Senate seat of Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, favors legal abortion without restriction right up until the baby emerges blue and flailing from the womb?

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Coup who?

Giraffe, Air Mountain, Niger via African Rock Art.

Masha Gessen's New Yorker article noting the resemblances between General John Kelly's speech style and the language of the military coup:
Before walking off the stage, Kelly told Americans who haven’t served in the military that he pities them. “We don’t look down upon those of you who haven’t served,” he said. “In fact, in a way we are a little bit sorry because you’ll have never have experienced the wonderful joy you get in your heart when you do the kinds of things our servicemen and women do—not for any other reason than that they love this country.”
You know who in particular that applies to, right? The guy with the heel spurs, from which he may still suffer, judging from the style in which he exercises, riding his little golf cart from fairway to hole to fairway, getting on foot only those 36 times to make his brief gestures with the clubs and then climbing back in. I'll never forget that golf cart ride he took in Taormina last spring while the rest of the G-7 leaders were walking uphill 700 yards to the town piazza (The Hill notes that he did join them on the way back down).

Why would General Kelly be publicly humiliating the president that way?

What was the point of that pantomime of limiting questions to reporters from "Gold Star families" or their friends—

Friday, October 20, 2017

Nobody Expects the Spanish Disquisition

Chiron giving young Achilles his lyre lesson. Roman fresco from Herculaneum, 1st c. C.E., in the National Archaeological Museum of Naples, via Wikimedia Commons.

David Brooks ("The Essential John McCain") would like us to believe he is on intimate terms with a book by the Spanish philosopher Javier Gomá Lanzón, La Ejemplaridad Pública, 2009, of which no English translation has yet been published, and Gomá's thoughts on the topic of paideia, the ancient Athenian idea of education for citizenship:

Topics in Post-Revolutionary Socialism

Wood engraving byVladimir Favorsky, via polis.

Shorter Monsignor Ross Douthat, Apostolic Nuncio to 42nd Street, "What's the Matter With Republicans?", October 18 2015:
When Thomas Frank's What's the Matter With Kansas came out in 2004 with the thesis that working class voters in places like Kansas voting Republican were voting, insanely, against their own economic interests, it was wrong, because Republican presidential administration did all kinds of great things for those people, like Reagan didn't get rid of Social Security and Medicare, and everybody could get a subprime adjustable-rate mortgage, and then in the Bush first term there was Medicare Part D and No Child Left Behind. And everybody would get a tax cut! Not just the millionaires.
And yet now everything that Frank said that was false then is true! Thanks, Trump!
It wasn't false, was it? The "middle class tax cuts" were pathetic, the easy credit for creating an "ownership society" went sour, Part D had a doughnut hole, and children were getting left behind all over the place. These things were clearly designed to benefit not consumers but rent seekers with an interest in the industries involved, from drug companies to educational publishers, and in the case of the banking deregulation, that even went bad for the bankers. And compassionate conservative George W. Bush still wanted to privatize Social Security.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Transhumans and Cishumans

Image via transumanity.net.

It's transhuman activist David F. Brooks with a new opus in his beloved there-are-two-kinds-of-people genre, "Upswingers and Downswingers", which looks on its face as if it might be drawing its inspiration from boxing, or maybe wife-swapping—Upswingers are couples who like to swap with couples of higher social status, while Downswingers descend to their inferiors, and in politics it's sort of similar:

Both right and left are dividing into upswinger and downswinger camps. Among Republicans the upswingers embrace capitalist dynamism, global engagement and the open movement of people and ideas. The downswingers embrace ethnic and national cohesion and closed borders.
On the left it’s between those who believe the only realistic path is to reform existing structures and those who think they are so broken we need to start over.
But no, it turns out that it's based on a kind of typo inside Brooks's memory, projected onto the science fiction writer and futurology professor born as F.M. Esfandiary (1930-2000), and his 1973 Up-Wingers: A Futurist Manifesto, which

Monday, October 16, 2017

For the record: We have always been at war with D'Souza

Just sayin. Who knows if he does it on purpose? Via KnightErrant at Kos.

That's not correct; it was in 1914 that he was thrown out of the Partito Socialista Italiano, of which he was at 31 one of Italy's most prominent members, after starting a newspaper, Il Popolo d'Italia, supporting Italian participation on the Allied side in the Great War, which the party regarded (with some justice) as a disgusting and immoral imperialist-capitalist adventure on both poxed sides, and called for strict neutrality. That was in November, and by December he was denouncing "orthodox" socialism and its focus on class struggle and egalitarianism in favor of a patriotism of language and culture and race:

For the Record: White House Follies of Early October

Trumpy saw an economist on TV!

Sunday, October 15, 2017

President Trump is Not Authorized to Speak for the Trump Administration, Part 418

Via TPM, following up on this morning's post, h/t Jordan:
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and United Nations ambassador Nikki Haley on Sunday insisted that the United States will remain in the Iran nuclear deal.
President Donald Trump on Friday said he would likely pull the U.S. out of the deal unless Congress and the other nations in the seven-country accord made a handful of adjustments he demanded.
“Let’s see if we cannot address the flaws in the agreement by staying within the agreement, working with the other signatories, working with our European friends and allies within the agreement,” Tillerson said on CNN’s “State of the Union”....
“Before the Senate not long ago, your counterpart at the Pentagon, Secretary Mattis, was asked if he thought staying in the agreement was in the best interests of the United States,” Jake Tapper said, referring to Secretary of Defense James Mattis. “It sounds like you agree with that as well.”
“I do agree with that,” Tillerson said. “And I think the President does as well.”
On the same day on which President Trump has skipped the deadline, as he announced Friday he would, for sending the congressionally mandated letter to Congress certifying that Iran is in compliance with the JCPA and that the agreement is in the national security interests of the United States, on the grounds, we're told, that he does not think it is in the national security interests of the United States, not at all.

But then as usual, how would Trump even find out what he thinks? It's not like Fox News covers that in any depth.


Interior of the Armenian Apostolic Cathedral of the Holy Savior (completed 1664) in Isfahan, Islamic Republic of Iran, via Wikipedia
Shorter Bret Stephens, "Donald Trump Takes a Hostage", October 14 2017:
Some people think Trump should have certified that Iran is in compliance with the JCPOA simply because Iran is in compliance with the JCPOA. What kind of dubious argument is that, for heaven's sake?
When the Republican legislators stuck that provision in the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act (INARA) of 2015 requiring the president to certify every three months that the Iranian government was in compliance with the agreement, they meant it for the specific purpose of torturing President Hillary Clinton, presumably; every 90 days she'd have to come out and say the Iranians hadn't started building a bomb yet and the whole Republican noise machine would come out to gin up a scandal about Iranian cheating, including your figures of respect like, ah, Mr. Bret Stephens, who was working the beat for his WSJ readers in July 2016, with the most elegant and arcane information sources, and Marc Thiessen picking it up for the American Enterprise Institute for those of us who don't go behind WSJ's paywall:

Friday, October 13, 2017

David Brooks used to build things? Who knew?

Via Health-Politics.

We Used to Build Things

, laments David F. Brooks. Things like the University of Pennsylvania, the Philadelphia Fire Department, The Pennsylvania Gazette, The American Philosophical Society, and the Pennsylvania Hospital, in Franklin's day, and the Boy Scouts and the settlement house movement in the Progressive Era. Why, even the government used to build things! Brooks doesn't mention Franklin's US Postal Service, but he does list the Forest Service (where even people who didn't go to Yale could distinguish themselves, he marvels: "The 10,000 men who were rounded up to fight the fire were led by a small group of young foresters, many of them from the Yale School of Forestry, which graduated its first class in 1904. One of the foresters, though decidedly no Yalie, was Ed Pulaski"), the Federal Reserve, the Food and Drug Adminstration, and the compulsory schooling movement, and then

In the 1930s, the alphabet soup of New Deal agencies were created. The late 1940s saw the creation of the big multinational institutions: the U.N., NATO, the World Bank, the I.M.F., the beginnings of the European market.

The Fart of the Deal

It's so hard to imagine what Trump believes he's doing, but it looks as if he may, personally, be enjoying the brainfart idea of a "deal" where he would show those stupid Republican Senators how a real businessman president gets shit done, just as he did in the immigration case in his Chinese dinner with Schumer and Pelosi on September 13, although it currently seems he didn't, because "The White House" didn't ("The White House" is now informing us that its "principles" rule out the concessions Trump made to the Democrats and require various new anti-immigrant brutalities that Democrats can't accept, another instance where we see Trump doesn't have authority to speak for the White House and thus no effective power to make a deal in the first place).

In the same way, it's not clear what "The White House" intends with yesterday's moves on health care provision, or whether it has any singular view of what it's doing. Unlike in national security and foreign policy issues, there aren't any generals in charge, and HHS doesn't even have a secretary at the moment, Tom Price having taken a very expensive charter flight clear out of office.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

New York note

Marc Fliedner, via New York.

I'm pretty creeped out at the moment by the startling news that's been coming out about Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. (yes, his papa was Jimmy Carter's patrician secretary of state while Mika Brzezinski's papa was doing all the foreign policy work, in an illustration of how our country seems to have developed a full-blown aristocracy since I was a kid), as summarized by David Freedlander at New York Magazine:
Vance, first elected in 2009, is running for a third term in November without an opponent from any party on the ballot after winning the Democratic primary without opposition in September. In the last couple of weeks Vance has come under withering criticism, first from a ProPublica/WNYC investigation into a decision not to prosecute Donald Trump Jr. and Ivanka Trump for misleading prospective buyers about their Trump Soho property, and then after The New Yorker revealed that Vance declined to prosecute Harvey Weinstein for allegedly sexually assaulting 22-year-old model Ambra Battilana Gutierrez even though Gutierrez came forward with a recording of Weinstein discussing the assault.
In both cases, lawyers for the accused made sizable donations to Vance’s campaign, with Trump personal lawyer Marc Kasowitz giving Vance a $32,000 check on the heels of a private meeting with the district attorney, and Weinstein lawyer David Boies donating $10,000 after Vance dropped the investigation into his client. Vance has since returned the Trump money, and denied that the fundraising had anything to do with the decision to not prosecute, saying that neither case had enough evidence to prove criminality.
To paraphrase Lady Bracknell, bumbling into the appearance of having been bribed to not indict an extremely socially powerful criminal may be regarded as a misfortune; but doing it twice looks like carelessness.

And then there's learning the news at this particular moment, less than a month before the election, when there's seemingly nothing that can be done to stop him from getting a third term if we're not satisfied with his explanations, which we really aren't so far—independent nominations closed off, New York laws making it impossible to think about getting an alternative name anywhere on the ballot, not even a Republican to vote for.

But a write-in candidate has bubbled up today, a civil rights lawyer named Marc Fliedner who ran in the summer primary for Brooklyn DA and says he's willing to move across the river, and a background that's both intersectional (he's gay) and Bernieish (Berners backed him in the Brooklyn race, in which he got 10% of the vote):
“I’m not doing any fundraising, I don’t have any staff, but it is accurate to say that I am a candidate via this grassroots write-in effort,” Fliedner said in a phone interview this morning. “It’s important we give voters an ethical choice in a landscape totally devoid of women’s rights and equal justice.”
No, I don't think he's going to win, and I can hardly even believe Vance could be as bad as he looks at the moment (I wish I could hear some acknowledgment that he knows how bad he looks). It's just a thought that not absolutely everything is necessarily going to hell.

For the Record: When Republicans were Radicals

Dinesh seems to have heard me telling him that the 1850s Republicans were the most radical party in US history, and he's not buying it.

Looks like he's reading me, but a little frightened to respond directly. He issues the following, to nobody in particular:

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

I hate everyone in this house! I'm running away!

This is the kind of chart they were looking at in a meeting with the Joint Chiefs last summer, when Trump apparently started complaining about how bad that blue line looks. Where, he wanted to know, did all our nuclear weapons go?! We hardly have any for Christ's sake! Why don't we have them like we did in 1960? We should have more than we had then!" When the news media says he demanded a "tenfold increase" in the stockpile, they're trying to make it sound like an idea. But he didn't do the math, believe me.

Video below is from back in September but I hadn't heard of it (savvy son told me), it doesn't seem to be on the radar, and I didn't want anybody to miss. This version is a little manipulated, with a wonderful looping sequence inserted, not to give you a false idea of what happened but to push its emotional point home.

Lord of the Inner Rings

Snoots are also tubes used by photographers to control the direction and dimension of a light beam as in this stargazer fish, shot by Ryo Minemizu at Osezaki, Shizuoka, Japan.

David F. Brooks ("The Art of Thinking Well") is off on this year's Nobel Prize for Economics, awarded to Richard Thaler for his work in behavioral economics, a completely justified critique of economics proper and its reliance on the fiction of a Homo economicus whose behavior is always governed by rational self-interest.

Not for me to second-guess the Nobel committee, even on as whimsical a science as economics, but I've complained about Thaler before (also in the context of a Brooks column, as it happens), on the way that essential insight—people's behavior is not governed by rational self-interest, but is in fact emotional, often poorly informed, and frequently nuts—never gets plowed back into theory for the construction of less utopian models of the economic behavior of real humans. Instead behavioral economists find themselves working on techniques whereby you and I can overcome our irrationality and outsmart our neighbors; on the broad scale methods of tricking the public into acting in their own self-interest, as in Thaler's and Sunstein's celebrated Nudge, but in the hands of lesser thinkers than Thaler into the territory of the economic self-help book, as in Gary Belsky's and Thomas Gilovich's Why Smart People Make Big Money Mistakes And How To Correct Them: Lessons From The New Science Of Behavioral Economics (1999), the kind of economics that David F. Brooks can really sink his teeth into.

Brooks, indeed, starts out kvetching that Thaler's work isn't self-helpy enough:

Tuesday, October 10, 2017


Headline at a news site I generally kind of like:

Is that right, now? Turns out Trumpy actually has a strategy, and one key statistic explains it?

Sadly, no:
Why would the president consider meddling in those primaries and pursuing policies that will further alienate a majority of the country? Because the base is all he has left....
It’s too early to know how Trump’s historic unpopularity will impact the 2018 midterm elections or the president’s re-election bid. But it has become clear that his core supporters — the 25% of Americans who are with him to the end — are increasingly the only group that supports Trump’s agenda.
It's exactly the opposite; the key statistic is the number of voters who will stick with him if he has no strategy whatever, if he's just being his helter-skelter self.

Trump hasn't "adopted a strategy", ever, though his minions may at one time or another try to do it for him, with the knowledge that he's not likely to cooperate very effectively. That's the minions' job, while his is to be the Leader. He will continue to seek out opportunities to make himself feel good, whether tooting around a golf course or fulminating in a stadium. The latter makes him feel great! And the 25% don't care what he does, though they love the fulmination. They don't love him for his strategy, they love him for appearing not to have one, and I wish the press would try to understand that the fans are right about that, he really doesn't.

Moron this after the break

The story in the strip is that Trump is supposed to be visiting Tampere, Finland, so the town authorities decide to put up a welcome billboard with a local dialect expression meaning "Good morning!"

Via Raw Story, Emperor Trump on the subject of being called a fucking moron by his secretary of state:
“I think it’s fake news,” Trump told Forbes, “but if he did that, I guess we’ll have to compare IQ tests — and I can tell you who is going to win.”
He continued his public attacks on Tillerson’s diplomatic work with North Korea, which he said was helpful to the secretary of state.
“He was wasting his time,” Trump said. “I’m not undermining, I think I’m actually strengthening authority.”
I wish people would grasp when he says things like this that he's showing he is effectively not the president. When he tells Twitter that he's mad at Sessions for refusing to work his will with the Mueller investigation, he is acknowledging (correctly) that he has no power to tell the attorney general what to do, and when he tells Twitter, or Forbes, that he wishes Tillerson would stop attempting to negotiate with DPRK, he's suggesting (weirdly) that he has no power over the secretary of state either. He's identifying himself as a concern troll ("I'm just trying to give him some good advice"), not as the executive to whom the secretary reports.

Monday, October 9, 2017

A (Truly) Modest Proposal: Goodbye Columbus

No rapist, Amerigo Vespucci, in yellow tights, chastely declines a proffer of women in Honduras, 1497. Illustration by Theodor de Bry, ca. 1592, via Wikipedia.

An interesting wrinkle in this year's pro–Columbus Day noise is the suggestion that if you don't like Columbus Day you must be allied with the Ku Klux Klan. Why? Is the Klan supporting a national holiday honoring our indigenous peoples?

Sadly, no. It's all about identity politics, and the Klan's denial of the Italians' ethnic pride. As we read from Jarrett Stepman at Heritage Foundation's Daily Signal:
Much of the modern rhetoric about Columbus mirrors attacks lobbed at him in the 19th century by anti-Catholic and anti-Italian groups like the Ku Klux Klan.
In fact, Columbus Day became a nationally celebrated holiday following a mass lynching of Italians in New Orleans—the largest incident of lynching in American history....
As the pro-Columbus website The Truth About Columbus points out, the Ku Klux Klan worked to stop Columbus Day celebrations, smash statues, and reverse his growing influence on American culture.
According to The Truth About Columbus, in the 1920s, the Klan “attempted to remove Columbus Day as a state holiday in Oregon,” burned a cross “to disturb a Columbus Day celebration in Pennsylvania,” and successfully “opposed the erection of a statue of Columbus in Richmond, Virginia, only to see the decision to reject the statue reversed.”
Attempts to quash Columbus failed, but they have re-emerged in our own time through the actions of far-left groups who want to see his legacy buried and diminished forever.

Question to Radio Yerevan: Is it true that the lynching of 11 Italian immigrants in New Orleans in 1891 was the worst lynching in American history?

Sunday, October 8, 2017

That's funny, because I happen to have Professor Bell right here...

Anonymous meme.

So yesterday mainstream historian Kevin Kruse took on parody historian Dinesh D'Souza, with whose "book" The Big Lie I have been having a kind of personal war, and his claim, in connection with the book, that "mainstream historians have never disputed my research or my conclusions" (partly true, hardly any would mention him at all in their normal existence, since his work is so obviously deviant it doesn't need professional refutation), and hilarity ensued. Check out the thread.

So when I came online this morning I saw this, in reference to Dinesh's claim that he "exposed" the fact that Southern Democrats used to support slavery and then Ku Klux Klan terror and Jim Crow laws (screenshots, just in case he blocks me this time):

Frenetic denials, huh?

I've gotten him to respond once before, to comical effect. This time he may not have recognized me in my Halloween costume (I dress as Edgar Allan Poe). An hour and forty minutes later, Gunga Dinesh thinks he's got me.

Sadly, no. It took me five or ten minutes to worm it out of the GoogleBooks version:

Cross-posted at No More Mister Nice Blog.

Update: Another hour and a half later...