Thursday, November 30, 2017

Vote-O-Rama day

"I have a feeling we're not in regular order any more." Teri Garr in Mel Brooks's Young Frankenstein, via Film Misery.

I've been wanting to write something about the tax bill—

But it's like the wrong end of an acid trip, where you're getting disenchanted and ready for a nap and grousing, "God damn it, everything's still melting." (A very long time ago for me, I should stress, but I still remember that.)

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Code Talkers Vs. Dog Whistlers


One of the things that hasn't been noticed in Emperor Trump's smarmy, patronizing, shoulder-patting performance with three nonagenarian World War II Navajo Code Talkers at a Native American Heritage Month event at the White House yesterday, after the group's president, Peter MacDonald, had presented his own opening remarks summarizing their achievements. Not the characteristic narcissism—
And I want to tell you -- you said you're 90 years old? That's great, because you have good genes. That means the press has got me to kick around for a long time. (Laughter.)
(Trump is going to live for a long time because his guest has good genes?) Or the unceremonious decision not to read the remarks that had been prepared for him and just dump the text into MacDonald's hands—
I loved that and I loved your delivery. And the Code Talkers are amazing. And seriously, it is what I said. So what I'm going to do is give you my speech, and I want you to hold that. And I know you like me, so you'll save it. But that was so well delivered, from the heart. So I want to give you this speech because I don't want to bore them with saying the same thing you just said. And you said it better, believe me, because you said it from here. And I mean it from there too.
It's that he has no idea what they're being honored for, what the Code Talkers did, beyond being "special" and "brave" and displaying "love for the country"—didn't have any idea what it was before yesterday, hadn't read the remarks in advance, and had been daydreaming while MacDonald spoke, hearing nothing but a reference to Iwo Jima, until the very last bit (an appeal for help in putting together a Navajo Code Talkers Museum), which he did pick up on later on:

Monday, November 27, 2017

Socialism of the right?

Postmodern mariachis att Turnberry, June 2015 in The National.

I spent a ridiculously large part of the afternoon looking for a decent and adequately contextualized source for that quote, which originates from an especially poorly made and poorly documented WikiQuotes page), and ran along the way into a good deal of stuff that might be interesting beyond the usual spectacle of me throwing a pie in Dinesh's face, on the issue of what we're to do with these awful old terms of "right" and "left" and "fascist", especially relevant in the age of Trump.

The best source was a chapter, "Von der amerikanischen Sklaverei zum bundesdeutschen Kampf gegen Rechts: Metamorphosen des Rassismus " (From American Slavery to the Federal German Struggle Against the Right: Metamorphoses of Racism), from a 2008 book by Joseph Schüsslburner, quoting in turn from a 1987 book by the journalist Wolfgang Venohr, Stauffenberg: Symbol des Widerstands ("Stauffenberg: Symbol of Resistance", on the 1944 plot to assassinate Hitler):

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Time's not on my side.

Fake Liechtenstein via entrepreneur.

Well, that explains that. Trump called Time to ask why they hadn't reached out yet to schedule the interview/shoot, and they told him, nicely, that it PROBABLY wouldn't happen twice in a row.

It's a tidy example of my semiotic theory of lying, according to which the function of a lie is to hide some particular truth by occupying its proper semiotic space. Here, with some elementary transformations: he called Time, so in the lie Time called him, and they were forced to acknowledge that he PROBABLY wouldn't receive the honor, so he said he PROBABLY would.

I can't get over the instrumentation on this, which I just learned about recently, with Keith Richards on piano, Bill Wyman on cello, and poor Brian Jones, the composer of the song, in his ridiculous hat, on alto recorder (treble recorder, they say in England).

Friday, November 24, 2017

Fundamental and astounding

Presidential nominee, 1860, via The History Place.
David Brooks has finally come up with an idea for that new national narrative he's been talking about, I think, and it's a doozy ("America: The Redeemer Nation"), custom made for Thanksgiving: just as he's suggested in the past that Jews ought to celebrate Shavuot on Passover instead of Passover, so on Thanksgiving he's celebrating Lincoln's Second Inaugural address.

The story of America, then, can be interpreted as a series of redemptions, of injury, suffering and healing fresh starts. Look at the mottos on our Great Seal: “A New Order for the Ages” and “Out of Many, One.” In the 18th century divisions between the colonists were partially healed. In the 19th century divisions between the free and enslaved were partially healed. In the 20th, America partially healed the divisions between democracy and totalitarianism. In the 21st, we have healing fresh starts still to come.
The great sermon of redemption and reconciliation is Lincoln’s Second Inaugural.
That's such a bizarre picture of the Revolution, in the first place, "divisions between the colonists", as if the British government had nothing to do with it. It's true that some 15%-20% of the Americans nominally supported the Crown, though they never came out to fight in anywhere near the numbers the British hoped they would.

Talking of You Know Who

In the room the women come and go

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Thanksgiving Cheap Shots: And Farewell to Mark Halperin

Reconstruction Thanksgiving, Thomas Nast in Harper's Weekly, 1869. Uncle Sam carving the turkey, self-government and universal suffrage on the menu, and everybody, a Native with a feather in his hair, Germans, French, Spanish, African Americans, Chinese (the Chinese woman looks more Japanese, but the child she's admonishing is wearing a Qing-dynasty queue), even a disreputable but hopeful-faced Irishman at far right, among the guests. Identity politics used to be a thing Republicans approved of! Image via Millard Fillmore's Bathtub.
Happy Thanksgiving! I'm grateful Trump's too busy watching TV to do all the harm he might otherwise be doing, glad to have a voice and wonderful readers, happy to have a big extended family to go have dinner with, and schadenfreudig that the exodus of famous but bad men from social respectability includes Charlie Rose, Leon Wieseltier, and Mark Halperin.

Following Dylan Byers awful tweet (since deleted) about the catastrophic loss of talent in the media industry because all these sexual assault victims keep telling their stories, Jeet Heer:

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

RIP Dmitry Hvorostovsky

The great Russian baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky died, of brain cancer. He was 55 years old. I think I only saw him once, at the Met, as one of his trademark Verdi villains, the Count di Luna in Il Trovatore; wish I'd seen the Don Giovanni.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Trail of human wreckage

David F. Brooks looking for something cutting-edge to condemn that has nothing to do with sexual assault, tax cuts for the rich, or Russia, asks "How Evil is Tech?"

He's not talking about 3D printing, gene therapy, or cancer vaccines, of course, but the Internet of Kids, who are spending too much time on their damn phones, making them sad and suicidal:

Some now believe tech is like the tobacco industry — corporations that make billions of dollars peddling a destructive addiction. Some believe it is like the N.F.L. — something millions of people love, but which everybody knows leaves a trail of human wreckage in its wake.
Surely the people in tech — who generally want to make the world a better place — don’t want to go down this road.
Who are "some"? And don't call me Surely. But that sounds pretty scary: how many kids are dying, on average, from their habitual phone use?

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Pissed off by Kristof

There was an old Timesman called Kristof
Who just got me royally pissed off
   By fudging his points
   With invidious joints
That I couldn't quite follow the gist of.

Discussing the "paradox" according to which "Blue States Practice the Family Values Red States Preach":

The liberal impulse may be to gloat: Those conservatives thunder about “family values” but don’t practice them. But there’s also perhaps a measure of hypocrisy in the blue states. As Cahn and Carbone [Red Families v. Blue Families: Legal Polarization and the Creation of Culture, 2010] put it: “Blue family values bristle at restrictions on sexuality, insistence on marriage or the stigmatization of single parents. Their secret, however, is that they encourage their children to simultaneously combine public tolerance with private discipline, and their children then overwhelmingly choose to raise their own children within two-parent families.”

Annals of derp: Have mercy on me!

Update below

I guess it's perfectly true that Trump has not courted Italian fascism—yet. I mean, there's not as much Italian fascism kicking around for him to deal with. Other fascisms, from Britain to the Philippines, are another matter, as is Stephen Bannon's apparent interest in the "radically anti-egalitarian, anti-liberal, anti-democratic" writings of Baron Evola, but I think it's a more lively question whether Silvio Berlusconi, currently making some kind of comeback, is courting American fascism with his frequent praise of the most Berlusconian of US politicians. Anyhow where was I?
So somebody shows up with an ambiguous message. Not sure what it meant, but thought it might be a teachable moment:

Saturday, November 18, 2017

David Brooks thinks a new national narrative is his mother

David F. Brooks clinging to the conservative interpretation of Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address. Image via Simply Psychology.

Funny thing happened to David F. Brooks on the way to writing his column on the Republican tax bill, which is what the URL ( suggests it was meant to be: he got lost in the woods of a completely new argument, beginning with the great British psychiatrist John Bowlby:

John Bowlby is the father of attachment theory, which explains how humans are formed by relationships early in life, and are given the tools to go out and lead their lives. The most famous Bowlby sentence is this one: “All of us, from cradle to grave, are happiest when life is organized as a series of excursions, long or short, from the secure base provided by our attachment figures.”
Actually that's not the case, though it may not add up to a Radio Yerevan joke: first of all, the last word of the quote (from his 1988 collection A Secure Base: Parent-Child Attachment and Healthy Human Development) has a parenthesis in it, "figure(s)" (along with definite articles with "cradle" and "grave"), and as we'll see that's not a trivial mistake.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Sparing you the sarcasm

Senator Hatch at the keyboard in 2006. Photo by Cameron Craig/Associated Press via New York Times.

So Orrin Hatch (R-UT) lost his temper with Sherrod Brown (D-OH), for saying, "That whole thing about higher wages, well, it’s a good selling point. Just spare us the bank shot, spare us the sarcasm, and the satire."

Mr. Hatch, who had wearily tolerated hours of debate on a bill that Republicans have always planned to push along party lines, had heard enough.
“What you’ve said is not right,” Mr. Hatch said. “I come from the lower middle class originally, we didn’t have anything, so don’t spew that stuff on me.
“I come from the poor people, and I’ve been here working my whole stinking career for people who don’t have a chance, and I really resent anybody saying I’m just doing it for the rich,” he said. “Give me a break.”
Well, OK, I'll spare you the sarcasm for a change, more or less.

I hate everything

Alicublog on Friday afternoon, before the women show up.  Actually Pompeii around 60 C.E. Via Early Church History.

I really hate everything. I certainly hate Al Franken, though I obviously hate Roger Stone a lot more.
"Stone Cold Truth" is Roger Stone's Twitter account that he uses because his other Twitter account was "permanently suspended" after he called CNN's Don Lemon a "dumb piece of shit", "dull witted ignorant partyboi", and "ignorant, lying covksucker" (that last word must have been short for "covfefesucker"). Because being permanently suspended from Twitter doesn't mean exactly what you'd think.
Nevertheless, Franken has made it possible. Roy has made me feel a little better, and it looks like a great party could be getting started over it his place, follow the link.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Share your sandwich with a gladiator pagan fan

Anonymous miniature, 1496-99, from an incunable print in the Biblioteca Nazionale, Turin, via Wikipedia.

David Brooks asks ("The Siege Mentality Problem"):

The siege mentality ends up displacing whatever creed the group started with. Evangelical Christians, for example, had a humane model for leadership — servant leadership — but, feeling besieged, they swapped it for Donald Trump, for gladiator pagan leadership.
Why is this mind-set so prevalent now? 
Noah Rothman was just wondering about that too:
Conservatives, and Republicans to a lesser extent, are wrestling with a siege mentality. It is a common condition that occurs when one party soundly loses a national election. The right feels beset on all sides by enemies, both within and without the walls of the conservative citadel. 
Wait, no, that was in 2013. I meant Wayne Slater in The Dallas News:

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Multiracial working class

This is completely irrelevant to the following post, but I couldn't resist:
It's always exciting when the Real World of Journamalism catches up with something a blogger has been doing for a couple of months, especially when it's me. Here's Lee Drutman of the New America think tank, writing about the Democracy Fund Voter Study Group study I was telling you about in July, in which he was a participant, and coming to something the same conclusion in The New York Times, sort of, about where the Democratic Party needs to go shopping for voters.

That piece was about the different categories of Republicans as classed by their various attitudes and aspirations into Staunch Conservatives, Free Marketeers, American Preservationists, Anti-Elites, and the Disengaged, and I was arguing that if you wanted to increase the Democratic vote from 2016 from the Republican pool, you would want to go not to the American Preservationists, those rustic white patriots The New York Times writers want us to be exclusively concerned with, but the Anti-Elites, who are more multiracial than other Republican voters, and more interested in government largesse; but that it would be best to forget about Republican voters altogether and recruit nonvoters.

Drutman is working from a different breakdown, according to who voted for whom in the 2012 and 2016 elections, with a focus on those who changed parties in 2016, and asks the questions:

Sunday, November 12, 2017

New Trump poem: That's very important for somebody to believe

Clap! Image by Above_Average.

In his latest outing, performed at a press conference with Vietnamese president Trần Đại Quang, Trump tackles the age-old question of belief, not in the conventional terms of metaphysical mystery, gods and demons, life after death, right and wrong, but of our direct perception of our own actions: of President Vladimir Vladimorovich's belief ("I believe that President Putin/ really feels, and feels strongly") that he didn't "meddle" with the 2016 US general election.

If there's anything you could "know", you'd think, you'd know whether or not you "ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the US presidential election [in order] to undermine public faith in the US democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency",  as the publicly posted January assessment by the US Intelligence Community put it,  or "personally ordered the email hacks of Democratic Party officials as part of a broader campaign to influence the US election in Trump’s favor" before "evolving into an attempt not just to hurt Clinton but to outright elect Trump... as potential ally — someone with the right policy views and the right dealmaking disposition."

Or that "the GRU relayed material it acquired from the DNC and senior Democratic officials to WikiLeaks." Or that "RT — as well as Sputnik, another Russian government–funded English-language propaganda outlet — began aggressively producing pro-Trump and anti-Clinton content starting in March 2016" and "aired a number of weird, conspiratorial segments — some starring WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange — that cast Clinton as corrupt and funded by ISIS and portrayed the US electoral system as rigged."

I'm sure if I ever got up to that kind of thing I'd have a distinct memory of it.

Documents, and different things

Operatic Monkey, via, is a great hero, and in the end of the story a Buddhist saint, but the part of the story everybody loves is the part where he's making maximum trouble.

Remarks from the press availability aboard Air Force One, on the way to Hanoi, this morning:
It's been a -- I think it's been a great trip. In certain ways, it's been very epic. I think things have happened that have been really amazing. Prime Minister Abe came up to me just at the end, and he said that since you left South Korea and Japan, that those two countries are now getting along much, much better. That's from Prime Minister Abe -- that there's been a real bonding between South Korea and Japan. So that was great.
Yes, they're working as hard as they can to revive the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement without the United States. Since Trump ended US membership in the TPP at the beginning of his term and pulled out of the US-South Korea FTA in September, they've seen more and more incentive to work together, in spite of the obvious rivalry between the two similar economies, through the current insanity. They have to come up with ways of stabilizing the situation without US participation, and they hope to do it without surrendering to Chinese hegemony. It's the same for Malaysia, Singapore, and Vietnam. They are united in the face of the threat posed by Donald Trump to the Asia-Pacific order.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Somewheres over the rainbow

"Somewheres out there", via Buy Some Damn Art.

Damned if I can figure out what Brooks is up to today ("The Existing Democratic Majority"), unless it's just cranking out original-sounding copy in the wake of this week's election surprises in Virginia. He's got a new "there-are-two-kinds-of-people" breakdown, imported from Britain, and the opinionist and think tanker David Goodhart, whose most recent book, The Road to Somewhere: The Populist Revolt and the Future of Politics, came out over the summer, but he doesn't give us a link to the book, or even tell us its name, which echoes his own The Road to Character, which—oh, wait:

He was just googling himself again, and got curious about who was knocking him down to second place. He leaves out the title in hopes we won't catch on.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Is that rude?

Image via Buddy "L" Trucks.

So some of us thought it was hilarious when Trump, in Japan, asked Japanese car makers to start manufacturing cars in the United States, when in fact they build 4 million vehicles a year in the US, in comparison to the 1.5 million they export here (in 1986 it was 3.5 million)—"Is that possible to ask? That's not rude. Is that rude?"—and some didn't think it was hilarious at all, like this Aaron Blake bloke writing for the Washington Post:

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Every silver lining has a cloud

Since yesterday's election results felt so great even Steve M, the Schopenhauer of the Intertubes, can't resist feeling a little giddy about them, I felt it might be a good idea for somebody to try looking for some bad news, and found some with Nate Cohn of the Upshot (the Nate with whom the Times replaced Nate Silver when he broke up with them, because you've got to go to battle with the Nates you've got rather than the Nates you might wish to have, but it's a mistake to go into battle with no Nates at all), who points out Ralph Northam's victory in the gubernatorial race in Virginia didn't look any different from Hillary Clinton's victory there a year ago, and even the stunning Democratic surge in the legislature races seemed to echo 2016:
The big surprise of the night was the huge Democratic surge in Virginia’s house of delegates, but that also came in Clinton Country. Of the 16 districts where Democrats currently lead in Virginia, Mrs. Clinton won 15 of them and received 49.7 percent of the vote in the other, according to data from the Virginia Public Access Project and Daily Kos Elections. Twelve of those 15 districts voted for Mrs. Clinton by at least five points.
So it sounds as if Democrats got the same results last night as they would have gotten then, and in that sense something new hasn't happened. 

The other side is that one reason it was so like 2016 is that so many people voted—47%, the highest turnout in a Virginia gubernatorial election in 20 years.  In a normal off-off-year election, the same kind of idiocy we're stuck with in New York City and New Jersey, the candidate of the leisured, the management, the retired, has an advantage. Not this year: voters just came out.

And not just voters; candidates too. In 2013, 56 out of 100 districts had no opposition (mostly Republican seats), and no election was required at all; 71 of them in 2015. But in 2017 there were just 12 Republican seats with no opposition (28 Democratic seats unopposed by Republicans), because Democrats came out in Virginia to challenge everybody they could, and they won such a startling number those seats because they showed up. That simple. (Apparently Trump really inspired folks to run, particularly women, just by being so disgusting.) (Guy on MSNBC—Stuart Stevens, Wikipedia says he's a travel writer—saying every woman running as a Democrat nationwide just won her race.)

Actually I can't make myself feel pessimistic at all. I did my best!

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

David Brooks, Reluctantly

Unsigned print via The Oatmeal

David Brooks writes ("The Clash of Social Visions"):
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?"
"Not exactly."
"Listen, pal," I said. "I don't work for you any more. I'm a public intellectual. I serve a higher purpose now, I'm reweaving the fabric of our out-at-the-elbows society." It was true. Only the week before I'd lectured the nation about the dangers of excessive partisanship, and pointed out that sexual predation is caused by guys getting bored with the hookup culture, which they should not have joined in the first place, preferably by remaining forever 11 years old and remembering the lessons learned from reading Jane Austen, or at least watching the stuff on PBS. "The partisan's over."
Beat. Then he went on: "Listen, Brooks, it's not a lot we need, just a kind word on the tax bill."



Virginia, New Jersey, New York City, don't forget to vote. And bring a loved one.

Manhattan voters, if you're still pissed off at District Attorney Cy Vance Jr. for his decisions not to prosecute Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump Jr. for criminal fraud (against buyers in the failed Trump Soho project) and Harvey Weinstein for groping a model even though there was evidence on tape,  even as these criminals seemed to be feeding him very substantial campaign contributions (well-told version of the story at Vogue, of all places), and who is running unopposed for reelection:

  • your protest alternative is to WRITE IN THE NAME OF MARC FLIEDNER, who is actually qualified to be district attorney and has taken no contributions from Trumps or Weinsteins, though he doesn't have a chance of winning

Also in New York, the Board of Election seems to be engaged in some kind of really boneheaded voter suppression, not for the usual reason but just to be stupid: they changed the poll sites for some 20% of the voters before the September primary, that's about 300,000 people, and if you go to your old polling place and it's changed there's a good chance you won't see a sign telling you where to go instead. The City Council passed a law requiring the Board to post such signs, but the Board replied nah nah nah nah you're not the boss of me.

I'm not even kidding:
"I’m sorry — the Board of Elections does not have the right to pick and choose which laws it is going to follow," [City Councilman Dan] Garodnick said. "And the Board of Elections is choosing to ignore a law that would help voters know when their poll site is moved."
The board’s stated position is that the City Council does not have jurisdiction to tell it what to do.
Common Cause and NYC Votes have posted signs at some of the old places. If you voted in the primary then you know where your place is, and if you missed it there's an automated lookup service at the WNYC website.

Monday, November 6, 2017

The calls are coming from inside the House. And the Senate.

Image via JaneAustenRunsMyLife.

Watching it slowly dawn on Monsignor Ross Douthat, Apostolic Nuncio to 42nd St., that the Republicans keeping Trump alive are his own Republicans, is like watching the double take in a horror movie ("Can Republicans Escape Trump in 2020?"):

Trump’s unpopularity is stark, but not among his party’s voters. His approval ratings with Republicans have lost a few points off their peak, but they are still stable at about 80 percent. And one of the striking features of Trump’s support is that he seems to have consolidated especially the Republican voters who once were most resistant to his charms — not the populists and nationalists and celebrity-struck centrists, but the ideological conservatives and party loyalists who probably mostly voted for Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz.
In a big new Pew Research slicing-and-dicing of the American electorate, it is these voters, the “Core Conservatives,” who give Trump the highest approval ratings — higher than what Pew calls “Country First” and “Market Skeptic” Republicans, the groups that you naturally associate with Trump’s populist campaign.
That's a pretty interesting breakdown, related to the one by the Democracy Fund Voter Study Group I got interested in in July. Pew's is like this:

Sunday, November 5, 2017


Bicycle path, West Side Midtown, with one of the new concrete barriers installed wherever a big vehicle could possibly enter but not many cyclists out today in the misty weather. The rakish angle and the day-glo orange make it a little sporty and attractive, runners need to dance around them. I had a microagression moment with a cyclist who wanted to squeeze by the same side of one of them as I did, on my right and his left. I'm not sorry it's there though. I stood aside.

Meanwhile, everybody's going to forget about our New York terrorist for the next few days because of this guy in Texas who shot up a whole Baptist church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, a town of 362 people, killing 27 of them, as if the gun gods were jealous of the truck gods, or the Anglo crazies of the Muslim crazies, for all the attention they got last week. It's a lot of people. On October 29 the shooter sent out a picture of his new AR-15–type rifle on social media, with the caption "She's a bad bitch." He went into the Air Force out of high school in 2010 and was dishonorably discharged in 2014, with a court martial. He's dead now too, sources aren't sure how. Don't know whether the church opted in or out of the new Texas gun law, which came into effect January 1 2016, requiring churches to decide if they want to allow open or concealed carry in the sacred place, or whether it would have made a difference one way or another. I'm sure somebody will bring that up on TV and then they'll be condemned for "politicizing" this sad moment. The guy taught a month of Vacation Bible School once, so I wonder if anybody's going to speculate that's when he got radicalized.

Don't really have anything new to say myself, I just think attention must be paid, as the poor old salesman said.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Brooks on sexual predation

Image via The Hairpin.

It's world-famous sexopathologist Dr. David F. Brooks, here to give us the skinny on why it is that some men become sexual predators ("Lovers, Prospectors and Predators"), because

I don’t think good men wake up one morning and suddenly start thrusting their tongue down the throats of women they barely know. 
Gosh no, I don't suppose they do. Unfortunately he can't find out what does happen, whether because the research assistant called in sick or because it's just too darn complex and ambiguous, so he'll just have to make something up:

You’ve got to walk through a certain number of doors before you’re capable of that kind of behavior.
That's the high-metaphorical language of a Brooks who is about to tell us something theological but that he didn't quite understand at the time he heard it, so he's trying to reconstruct how it sounded. And his theory is indeed theological, a narrative of the Fall, those doors being analogues to the chutes down which we slide toward perdition (the architecture of Brooks's path to Hell is of course suburban, so it's set on a single ranch level), starting with the state of grace we know as childhood:

Friday, November 3, 2017

Does the House tax bill subject all Donald Trump's income to a 25% marginal tax rate?

Via. May I play through?

How much of a tax cut is Donald J. Trump hoping to give himself in this week's House bill?

I think the correct answer is it's not clear yet, but there's certainly a good chance that it's meant to get him down to a top marginal rate of 25%, and a likelihood that that's what it's intended for, him and people like him.

The crucial question is that of the taxation of what is called pass-through income, or income a person receives purely by virtue of owning a business.

According to the conservative economic orthodoxy, making money this way is more virtuous—more beneficial to society—than mere working, because when you invest your money, or one of your ancestors does it for you, you are taking the heroic risk on which capital itself depends, whereas if you're just putting goods and services together you're just selling your labor. Investors are makers, workers are takers, as Willard Mitt Romney put it, or was it Paul Ryan, and this is why investment income should be taxed at a lower rate than labor income, as we do with capital gains (when you cash in the profits on a previous investment).

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Enough to make a difference

Ushguli, Upper Svaneti region, Georgia, via Travel Promotions Georgia.

Something else you can do with Google Translate—invite them to translate a particularly boring piece of Chinese text (from the magazine Renmin Yinyue/People's Music, April 2016). But don't tell them the text is in Chinese. Tell them it is, for instance, in Georgian. The results are exotic in the extreme:
And when he had taken the rest of the soul
into the lake of fire,
and set it in order upon the four winds,
for the sake of the rest of the world,
it is not enough to make a difference
in the quality of the arts.

The first three Chinese characters in this remarkable performance aren't in the Chinese text, and the rest are its last sentence. A more conventional English version would have no souls, lakes of fire, or making a difference; it might read,

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Who Does General Kelly Resemble?

Unveiling of the Robert E. Lee statue in Richmond, Virginia, 28 May 1890, via Danish Wikipedia.

After General Kelly's somewhat thoughtless remarks about the Civil War to Laura Ingraham on the TV—
“I would tell you that Robert E. Lee was an honorable man,” Kelly told Ingraham. “He was a man that gave up his country to fight for his state, which 150 years ago was more important than country. It was always loyalty to state first back in those days. Now it’s different today. But the lack of an ability to compromise led to the Civil War, and men and women of good faith on both sides made their stand where their conscience had them make their stand.”
—everybody's dumping on old Kelly.

(I should mention that no, it was not always loyalty to state. The Union Army called itself the Union Army because it believed that the Union trumped the individual state, and the language of the Constitution, including the oath sworn by guys like General Lee, backed that up.)

Not just exposing his deep and startling ignorance of history as Ta-Nehisi Coates did  (in tweets repeated at TPM). No, people are accusing Kelly of being, disappointingly, no different from Trump himself. Not to mention refusing to apologize for his public false statements about Rep. Frederica Wilson. Chris Cillizza, of all people, the most slack-minded, smirky politics fashionista in town, accuses Kelly of being Trump's "Mini Me":
increasingly, it seems as though Trump is drawn to Kelly for another reason: Because they see the world similarly. Trump likes people who affirm his views and who are willing to battle political correctness and the media at every turn. Kelly appears to be ready and willing to take up arms in those fights.
So in the name of simple fairness, I'd like to clarify that General Kelly's thinking is not like Donald Trump at all. It's more like David F. Brooks.


A "typical reunion" of former students of the Instituto Politécnico Superior "General San Martín" in Rosario, Argentina, from the school's Wikipedia article. Photo by Fernando Lopez Anido. I was just looking for a campus picture and found this.

Sitting at a desk a couple of miles from the killing yesterday afternoon watching it unfold on the Twitter, heart-sickening. Those paths, a ribbon of parkland, only a few yards wide in places, almost completely ring Manhattan nowadays, and I spend a lot of time in them, on the Hudson River side, mostly not that far downtown. They are really peaceful and happy places. Every once in a while a little Parks vehicle tootles by, and everybody scurries easily out of its way. I can't get the thought out of my mind of the five men from Argentina, Hernán Mendoza, Diego Angelini, Alejandro Pagnucco, Ariel Erlij and Hernán Ferruchi, who were in New York, in a party of eight, to celebrate the 30th anniversary of their graduation from the Escuela Politécnica in Rosario, when the truck hurtling up the path cut them down and killed them. How incomprehensibly random is that?

There are Jews in the world who run moneylending operations charging exorbitant interest rates, in addition to millions of non-Jewish usurers. There are African American men who are shiftless and lazy alongside shiftless and lazy people of other races. There are Muslims who commit appalling acts of terror. It's so disheartening every time you have to acknowledge the existence of such people reinforcing the worst stereotypes. In mid-afternoon it seemed possible that this was some kind of road rage incident; there were reports of a violent quarrel between two truck drivers. Then the news that the killer driver had shouted the "Allahu akbar", at first from unreliable sources, at last corroborated by authorities. The haters on the Twitter grew palpably more and more excited, taking a savage joy in seeing their hatred justified and their beliefs confirmed.

Trump is already blaming the whole thing on Chuck Schumer. He heard it on Fox & Friends.

Not a word about why Uzbekistan isn't on his #MuslimBan. Or Europe, for that matter, since Col. Shaffer brought it up.

Comically enough, Schumer is not only not responsible for the Diversity Lottery (he did help create it, in 1990, as a Brooklyn congressman; it allows in some 50,000 immigrants a year from unusual countries, mostly in Africa), he voted to abolish it in 2013, as part of the "Gang of 8" immigration reform proposals that died from the opposition of the Trumpiest anti-immigrant Republicans.

The most consoling thing is New York City, which doesn't get terrorized, as Roy notes.