Saturday, June 30, 2018

Well Said, Mr. POTUS

John William Waterhouse (1845-1917), The remorse of Nero after the murder of his mother, pen and ink, via Artnet.

Do I detect—this is going to sound weird—a note of remorse in our poet-president's response to the newspaper office slaughter in Annapolis on Thursday? Because what does he mean, otherwise, with "shocked the conscience of our nation"? What "shocks the conscience" other than the awareness of guilt?

I'd Like to Address
By Donald J. Trump

I’d like to address the horrific shooting
that took place yesterday at Capital Gazette
newsroom in Annapolis, Maryland.
This attack shocked the conscience of our nation
and filled our hearts with grief. Journalists,
like all Americans, should be free from the fear
of being violently attacked while doing their job.
Horrible, horrible event, horrible thing happened.
In your suffering, we pledge our eternal support.
The suffering is so great... My government will not
rest until we have done everything in our power
to reduce violent crime and to protect innocent life.
I always feel the formula "I'd like to address" is apologetic in its own right, in the sense of if you'd like to, why don't you just do it? But yes, I'm thinking about the intemperate violence of the president's language toward journalists, the way he keeps them caged at his rallies and mocks them for the delectation of the fans, and the failure of society at large to recognize the signs, especially in the murderer's Twitter feed, as reported in the Baltimore Sun:

Friday, June 29, 2018

We-ness Envy

Lillian Gish in D.W. Griffith's A Romance of Happy Valley, 1919, via Giphy.

So world-famous moral philosopher David Brooks is really pissed off with Anthony Kennedy: not, of course, because Kennedy suddenly decided to retire from the Supreme Court last week, giving Trump a second opportunity to name a Supreme Court justice and reshape the court in the Federalist Society image for the next 30 or 40 years, but for something Kennedy did 26 years ago ("Almira Gulch, for 26 years I've been dying to tell you what I think of you!"), when he single-handedly turned the philosophical collectivism of our Founding Fathers into the amoral, dog-eat-dog philosophical jungle we've been living in ever since, which you may not have noticed but it looks pretty serious ("Anthony Kennedy and the Privatization of Meaning"):
America’s founders certainly believed in individual liberty, but they believed that liberty happens within a shared community. They began the Constitution with the phrase, “We the People.” We are all one thing — a people, a nation, a collective.
Yes, instead of starting off the Preamble with "I James Madison, I Alexander Hamilton, I William Samuel Johnson, I Rufus King..." as you would have expected, though it would have made the Preamble kind of long, they just used the plural, quietly inventing the great American concept of corporate speech.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Literary Corner: Dactyls

Suprematism  no. 5B, by Konstantin Malevich, 1916, via Arina Anoschenko

Trump's lyrical tribute to himself for getting the DPRK government to release the remains of the US's Korean War dead in his conversation with the supreme leader Kim Jong-un, has a springy, remarkably consistent, dactylic rhythm:

The Last Thing I Asked
by Donald J. Trump
It was the last thing I asked,
I said, ‘Do you mind?

would I be able to
get the remains back
of all those great heroes
     from so many years ago?’
And he said, ‘I will do that.’
And you probably read,
they have already done
     200 people. Which is so great.
Well, which might be so great if it was true, and all the parents of the fallen heroes, who would themselves be octogenarians if they were alive, Trump said there were thousands of them imploring him to take care of this, were now taking their children's bodies home, or somewhere. You probably haven't read it, because it didn't happen —can't remember where I originally got this from, thought it was Digby but it's not) :

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

It's in whose court?

Harriet Miers, by Mike Keefe, October 2005.
I think Mr. P. is absolutely right on this one. There's nothing dumber or more self-defeating than "Well it was totally wrong and illegitimate when McConnell refused to allow a vote or even a hearing on Merrick Garland so now I want to do the same thing." There's nothing better, or at least nothing better available, than explaining in detail that Trump can't be trusted, and I mean seriously: I mean he will try to get a nominee who will be personally loyal to him, the way he tried to work Comey (and fired him when it didn't work out).

If you've been wondering

Trump Doonbeg from the air.
First information on something I've been wondering about for a long time, but nowhere near the end of the story.

ProPublica has tried to get a fix on how much money Emperor Trump has pocketed from the use of his hotels, golf courses, and restaurants by his own campaign, the Republican Party, and federal and state governments since he declared his candidacy: at least $16.1 million.

For instance, in April 2017, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and two aides stayed at Mar-a-Lago during the visit of Chinese president Xi Jinping, and the state department shelled $546 per night for each of them, since the stay was "to meet with POTUS for a high level meeting." I love that: my president went to Florida and all I got was this lousy meeting. In March 2017, the Secret Service spent $27,724.32 at the golf course at Doonbeg, Ireland, "to support E. Trump Visit" the following month, when Eric Trump was there for a couple of days of business meetings. The State Department spent a total of $24,298.30 at Doonbeg at some points in time, but ProPublica wasn't able to find out when.
The vast majority of the money — at least $13.5 million, or more than 84 percent of what we tracked — was spent by Trump’s presidential campaign (including on Tag Air, the entity that operates Trump’s personal airplane). Republican Senate and House political committees and campaigns have shelled out at least another $2.1 million at Trump properties. At least $400,000 has been spent by federal, state and local agencies. (For example, the Florida Police Chiefs Association held its summer conference last year at the Trump National Doral Miami.) The state and local tally appears to be a gross undercount because of the agencies’ spotty disclosures and reporting.
A worker in the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Colorado who went to Washington for training in April 2017 was reimbursed $2,740 for five days at the Trump International, including room service and valet parking, since he rented a car even though he said he was staying there to be within walking distance of his conference so he wouldn't have to rent one.
When asked about cheaper nearby hotels and the parking costs, Snyder wrote in an email: “I could offer clarity, but I choose not to.”
That's an intriguing statement. The judge in the lawsuit conducted by the District of Columbia and Maryland against Trump's violations of the domestic emoluments clause (Article II, section 1, clause 7), Peter Messtite, has suggested that the parties "may very well" feel they're being shaken down to benefit the Trump properties. The data on the taxpayer dollars finding their way to Trump's pockets is incomplete because the 15 agencies they're investigating "are fighting disclosure," ProPublica says, but they're still working, so stay tuned.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Who Failed Conservatism This Time?

Image via TheNewsBuzz.

Longer™ David Brooks ("Republican or Conservative, You Have to Choose"):
You see, a while back we were walking along the yellow brick road, and—no, wait, it was other people, George Will and Steve Schmidt, who said it is time to leave the Republican party now that it's rotten to the core, and Dr. William Kristol, who says it's not, which is a good sign it is, given his record as the only New York Times columnist in history so consistently wrong about everything that the paper had to let him go, and when you recognize that I've still got my job, you'll understand that's saying a lot. But while I've posed this interesting question of whether it's time to leave the Republican party yet, I think it will be much more valuable to discuss something else, namely, since everybody in this discussion is a conservative, what is a conservative? Or, putting it more precisely, how can I bend the discussion into a book promo for Roger Scruton?
You see, as Roger Scruton reminds us, conservatism was invented during the Enlightenment, when thinkers in England, France, and North America were thinking about eliminating the monarchy. Since society was created by a social contract, these Enlightenment thinkers reasoned, in which free individuals came together to negotiate a sociopolitical order, therefore they should build an order based on reason, and the consent of the governed. Conservatives said, "We agree with this general effort, but it is based on a misunderstanding of human nature." There are no literally free individuals who can come together to build an order, they explained, so you must have the order first, and the freedom can come afterwards.

Literary Corner: Be a Man Jimmy!

Image by thevodkaboy/DeviantArt.

Sonnet: He Seriously Messed Up My Hair!
by Donald J. Trump

Jimmy Fallon is now whimpering to all
that he did the famous “hair show” with me
(where he seriously messed up my hair),
& that he would have now done it differently
because it is said to have “humanized” me--
he is taking heat. He called & said
“monster ratings.” Be a man Jimmy!
House Republicans could easily pass 
a Bill on Strong Border Security but remember,
it still has to pass in the Senate,
and for that we need 10 Democrat votes,
and all they do is RESIST. They want
Open Borders and don’t care about Crime!
Need more Republicans to WIN in November!
A sequence of two tweets broke into just 14 lines, so that by moving the first line of the second to the end of the first I was able to create a blank sonnet, communicating the urgent complexity of our emperor's life, wherein at one moment he's concerned with the remorses of a television comedian who was permitted to touch the imperial coiffure in public and now seems completely devoid of gratitude, to say nothing of sorry for the damage he did the coiffure, which probably had to be expensively repaired after the taping, and at the next moment with telling lies about the ability of the Republican caucus in the House of Representatives to pass an immigration bill—they can't, though Ohio representative Jim Jordan was on the radio this morning to say, "We were only 19 votes short, and it wasn't even whipped!" No cigar, Jim.

Monday, June 25, 2018

For the Record: The Race Card

Action figure by FCTRY of Brooklyn, via

This Dinesh-inspired thread touched what I think is an important point:

Sarah Jones's argument is about how the noise machine deals with discredited "intellectuals" like D'Souza, Charles Murray, Jordan Peterson, or Ann Coulter:

Sunday, June 24, 2018

For the Record: Little Red Hen

The Red Hen.

There's been an awful lot of remarkable derp on the Twitter today, starting with the horrors unleashed on Sarah Huckabee Sanders by the 26-seat Red Hen farm-to-table restaurant in Lexington, Virginia, which sent her party away after consultations between the owner, Stephanie Wilkinson, and the staff:

“They had cheese boards in front of them,” Wilkinson said. Like any other family. The kitchen was already preparing the party’s main course. Wilkinson interrupted to huddle with her workers.
Several Red Hen employees are gay, she said. They knew Sanders had defended Trump’s desire to bar transgender people from the military. This month, they had all watched her evade questions and defend a Trump policy that caused migrant children to be separated from their parents.
“Tell me what you want me to do. I can ask her to leave,” Wilkinson told her staff, she said. “They said ‘yes.’ ”
Which, naturally, brought out the 101st Keyboard Incivility Combat Troops:

For the Record: Just in case they delete the OP

Just to be clear, I am not opposed to the safety and security of US borders. I just think we've got that, and have had it since 1815. This is not a security issue. No terrorist has ever made it into our territory from Mexico (McCain kept insisting 9/11 hijackers entered from Canada, but he was wrong). They've all come by plane. Dangerous drugs, which often used to be snuck across in the desert or sent across wall barriers by catapult, now pass mostly through designated border control posts in legitimate-looking cars or arrive via the postal service. It might help our national security to have more immigrants to preserve our vital fruit and vegetable crops before we start having to import all our tomatoes and cucumbers, and ensure the avocado toast supply. It would help our national security to have more immigrants, period. Who's going to pay the payroll tax to keep us all alive when we're really too old to work? Don't talk to me about a few thousand people running away from gang violence in El Salvador, tell me about social security!

What Trump wants isn't for "the citizens of our country" or he'd pay some attention to the security of the thousands whose jobs depend on imported steel. All he wants ("We wants it!") is more excitement.

Cross-posted at No More Mister Nice Blog.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Getting Old


Kind of like the old bowling league. In these days of crumbling social institutions, emptying churches, declining volunteer fire departments and reading groups, when things start to fall quiet among the breakfast crowd at the Sweet Pie 'n' Bye, you can sense the 2016 nostalgia, and somebody's bound to say, "Say, why don't we call up the New York Times and tell them we're still Republicans? Maybe they'll send down that nice young Jeremy Peters!"

Brooklets Babbling

Rafaello Sanzio, "The Disputà over the Blessed Sacrament" (so called after the scholars around the center altar, debating the mystery of Transubstantiation), west wall of the Stanza della Signatura, Vatican, via Wikipedia.
Oh, Brooksie (The Fourth Great Awakening)!
There are certain melodies that waft through history.
It's Bad Poetry Day?

by Norris Clarion Sprigg, 1907.
I didn't bring my cymbols, though, or cymbals, or symbols. Just kidding, I've always got a symbol or two at hand. What else you got?
There are certain melodies that waft through history. One is the cultural contrast between Athens and Jerusalem. This contrast has many meanings, but the most germane one for our day is the contrast between the competitive virtues and the compassionate virtues.
Question to Radio Yerevan: Is the cultural contrast between Athens and Jerusalem a melody that wafts through history?

Surrounded by the Pale

Via American Civil Liberties Association.

I'm obsessed with this map (h/t emptywheel), which is being promoted by the ACLU, to make an important point: There are parts of the United States where the Fourth Amendment doesn't fully apply, where the Customs and Border Patrol is authorized to establish checkpoints where they can stop and search anybody without a warrant, on "reasonable suspicion" of an immigration violation or crime, and of course in practice
Border Patrol agents routinely ignore or misunderstand the limits of their legal authority in the course of individual stops, resulting in violations of the constitutional rights of innocent people. These problems are compounded by inadequate training for Border Patrol agents, a lack of oversight by CBP and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and the consistent failure of CBP to hold agents accountable for abuse.
It's just what sounds like a very small part of our enormous country, everyplace that's less than 100 miles from an external border, but it turns out that, as the map illustrates, that covers almost two thirds of the population. Thus the Constitution fails to protect most Americans, a pretty large majority, from these kinds of abuse.

But the map also dramatically corroborates all your suspicions about the craziness of American political geography, as you recognize what's in that 100-mile band: all of Michigan, New England (except a fragment of Vermont), New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland, Florida, and nearly all of Wisconsin, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Florida, California, and Washington; and how little there is in the vast interior. That "Flyover Country" they tell us about really is flyover country, in that nobody wants to go there, or has any reason to go there, with the exception of a dozen or so urban areas (themselves probably mostly in a 250-mile band, like Phoenix, Atlanta, Raleigh, Pittsburgh, I think Minneapolis, though not Denver or Dallas or Kansas City). Otherwise it's truly a kind of nowhere, dotted with tiny white-people shtetls, surrounded by the pale of settlement.

You could feel sorry for them, as the judicious newspapers are always begging us to do, with their isolation and lack of economic opportunity and increasing sense of representing a community in decay, but the thing is, the states with, say,  more than 1.75 representatives in Congress for every million people wield ridiculous amounts of political power! Maybe that's what's the matter with Kansas.

Cross-posted at No More Mister Nice Blog.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Zen and the Art of the Deal

Does a deal have the Buddha-nature?

Image via Food & Wine.

Peter Baker
in the New York Times:
His 17 months in office have in fact been an exercise in futility for the art-of-the-deal president. No deal on immigration. No deal on health care. No deal on gun control. No deal on spending cuts. No deal on Nafta. No deal on China trade. No deal on steel and aluminum imports. No deal on Middle East peace. No deal on the Qatar blockade. No deal on Syria. No deal on Russia. No deal on Iran. No deal on climate change. No deal on Pacific trade.
Even routine deals sometimes elude Mr. Trump, or he chooses to blow them up. After a Group of 7 summit meeting this month with the world’s leading economic powers, Mr. Trump, expressing pique at Canada’s prime minister, refused to sign the carefully negotiated communiqué that his own team had agreed to. It was the sort of boilerplate agreement that every previous president had made over four decades.

It's really remarkable when you think about it. He's literally in negative territory (having left the Paris climate accord, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and the Iran nuclear agreement, with the US-Korea Free Trade Agreement and NAFTA likely to topple next). We'd have gotten more of those precious deals, mathematically speaking, if we'd elected a can of Spam instead.

Cross-posted at No More Mister Nice Blog.

Lenny and the Wolfe

While you all were starting to attach the monstrous comment thread to yesterday's post, I found myself watching a video I'd never seen, or I think even heard of, a documentary thing, from 1967, extraordinarily awkward and even painful for me, starting off kind of randomly with what looks like outtakes of the composer, conductor, teacher, and all-round showman Leonard Bernstein of the New York Philharmonic trying to have something like an interview with the composer, producer, and singer Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys (I'm pretty sure, but I could be wrong, he's not identified), scowling at each other. Brian, of course, never could talk even before his famous breakdown, and Lenny couldn't stop talking, no matter how awkward it got, to the point where it seriously interfered with his work.

The Wilson episode breaks off and the show proper begins with the thing I was looking for, the spectacle of Bernstein sitting at the piano explaining in terms appropriate to an audience of people his own age, roughly my parents' age, a public TV audience, why he loves the Beatles, in the context of a broader discussion of why rock music at that Summer-of-Love moment is important, artistically and politically, addressed to people who think it's disgusting and frightening. It's everything I remember about Bernstein, the fluency in an academic language making him sound as if he isn't very familiar with colloquial English, the fluency at the piano illustrating his points effortlessly, the ridiculous barking conductor's singing voice, and the way he brings his immense technical understanding into the explanation with a deep trust that the listeners will be able to understand stuff they don't know, refusal to imagine they aren't after all just as smart as he is, the generous and democratic certainty that we'll get what he's saying even if we don't know all the words, and we do get it, precisely because he trusts us so much.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Literary Corner: Trump is Right!

Four Corinthians, the whole New Testament only has two. TV-room/mancave in the Trump Tower 63rd-story penthouse, not as good as Trump's own place upstairs because where's the gold, via

On the Elite
by Donald J. Trump

You ever notice they always call
the other side ‘the elite’? The elite!
Why are they elite? I have a
much better apartment than they do.
I’m smarter than they are.
I’m richer than they are.
I became president and they didn’t.
(From the Duluth rally, 20 June 2018)

He's absolutely right. This needs to be understood. People who use "elite" to refer to people who don't have money and power are using the word incorrectly. Who does that, anyway?

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

We don't have to prosecute them/but then we're not prosecuting them

Francisco de Goya, St. Peter Repentant, 1823-25. Via Wikipedia.

The truest Trump is perhaps the one who's spare and blank and at the same time musically repetitive, like the Eliot of "Ash Wednesday" ("Because I know that time is always time/ And place is always and only place/And what is actual is actual only for one time/ And only for one place...")—in this case literally true, because, speaking to the National Federation of Independent Businesses on their 75th anniversary, uncharacteristically using fairly elaborate notes but no prepared text, he found himself hovering around, if not quite landing on, a helipad of contrition:

by Donald J. Trump

We have one chance
to get it right.
We might as well
get it right or let's
just keep it going but
let’s do it right.
We have a chance. We want to solve
this problem. We want to solve
family separation. I don’t want
children taken away from parents
and when you prosecute the parents
for coming in illegally, which should happen,
you have to take the children away.
Now, we don’t have to prosecute them
but then we’re not prosecuting them
for coming in illegally. That’s not good.

It's the acknowledgment that this crisis of concentration camps for children is of his own making: he did it, personally, voluntarily, in some kind of knowledge of what the consequences were going to be. "We don't have to" but it "should happen" (dodging the responsibility with the impersonal verb).

And then what do you know? After contrition comes atonement, and lo and behold!

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

No True Conservative Would Ever Tear a Family Apart

In Tijuana, from the April "caravan", via CNN.

Now that Anthony Scaramucci and Franklin Graham are on board, Brooks ("The Rise of the Amnesty Thugs") is venturing out to say he doesn't think much of the Sessions-Miller-Trump family separation party either, and it's not so bad in parts, especially since he points out that it's not just the CPB at the border that's violently separating immigrant families, but also ICE in the heartland, with links:
Sontag and Russakoff capture the fabric of immigration enforcement today: a van-load of men coming back from an Alcoholics Anonymous gathering detained by a state trooper after a routine traffic stop; a magisterial district judge in Camp Hill, Pa., pre-empting a Tajik wedding by calling ICE on the groom and best man, who were led away in handcuffs; work sites raided, with the Latinos separated from everybody else and lined up face to the wall; police officers who ticket Hispanics at a rate of twice or even five times their share of the population.
But of course there's always a razor blade in that apple, as our friends Driftglass and Boswood likes to say, which is that what he wants to say about it isn't so much that it's bad, or that it has to be stopped, or that Republican Senators need to do something about it, which would be terribly commonplace, as to produce his own smoking hot take, which is to clarify that it's not conservative! Though it is anti-liberal, where "liberal" means, as is becoming usual in the movement, "conservative looking for liberal approval", or trying to lull liberals into argumentative cease-fire, or into uniting against the common enemy of Imaginary Collectivism—Black Lives Matter secretly planning to turn into the Great Leap Forward and enslave us all!

That is, what's wrong with the Trump policy is its relentless statism:

Monday, June 18, 2018

Literary Corner: Particular Vernacular

George Rose as Major-General Stanley in the Joseph Papp production of Pirates of Penzance at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park, 1980 (if you watch the video you'll get a glimpse of the stars, Linda Ronstadt and Kevin Kline).

Particular Vernacular (To the tune of "I Am the Very Model")

"He says things that are not true all the time," Karl said.
"I don't believe that," Bannon said. "I think
he speaks in a particular vernacular that connects
to people in this country." (ABC News)
Our president has mastered a particular vernacular
By turns appealing, angry, cheery, solemn, and spectacular,
A sort of synthesis comprising every kind of orat'ry
Like some concoction out of a rhetorical laborat'ry.
He calls down angry curses on the evils of society,
And feels the sorrow of our economical anxiety,
And praises his own genes and brains and beauty and tenacity,
But you must never, ever think to question his veracity!
[But we must never, ever think to question his veracity,
No, we must never, ever think to question his veracity,
No, we must never, ever think to question his veraci-racity!]
So if in certain circumstances pleasant or unpleasant, you
Should just occasionally hear him say a thing that isn't true,
Do not deny the substance of his utterance oracular—
It's only Donald doing his particular vernacular.
[We won't deny the substance of his utterance oracular—
It's only Donald doing his particular vernacular!]

Sunday, June 17, 2018


Gray-green Eminence: Stephen Bannon as depicted on the cover of Time. 2 February 2017, via Flickr.

Actually why is Stephen Bannon important again?

I started noticing something like a Bannon comeback around a week ago, when he turned up in back-to-back articles in the Times as a crucial window into the Trumpian mind, that hilarious Mark Landler piece on Trump's deep study of the North Korea issue—
“To the president, ‘duck and cover’ and the Cuban missile crisis were formative experiences,” said Stephen K. Bannon, Mr. Trump’s former chief strategist. “He knows the Korean War hasn’t ended, and he can accomplish what destroyed his idol, General MacArthur.”
And the next day in the latest iteration of the "Trump feels emboldened and is taking over now" theme, by Maggie Haberman and Katie Rogers:

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Consider the lilies: Update

From the 1952 Mosfilm production of Nikolai Gogol's Revizor, commonly known in English as The Inspector General.

One good reason why the FBI Inspector General's report has so little to say about the rogue agents in the New York field office who leaked information about the Clinton email investigation to Fox News, Rudolph Giuliani and James Kallstrom, and others and manipulated Comey into his very bad decisions—the investigation is ongoing, as Mother Jones reports:
The FBI leaked like a sieve in 2016, and those disclosures helped Donald Trump, according to a newly released inspector general’s report on former FBI Director James Comey’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation. The 500-page report from Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz suggests anti-Clinton leaking from the bureau’s New York office likely influenced Comey’s decision to announce the resumption of the email probe less than two weeks before the presidential election—a step that may have thrown the race to Trump. The FBI could be in for a bloodbath over these leaks: Horowitz says his office plans to report on multiple investigations into extensive “unauthorized media contact by FBI personnel.”
Josh Marshall is still inclined to doubt that they've taken it seriously, and I have to say the Mother Jones story seems kind of thin; the multiple investigations promised in the report aren't necessarily the ones that need to be done:
In addition to the significant number of communications between FBI employees and journalists, we identified social interactions between FBI employees and journalists that were, at a minimum, inconsistent with FBI policy and Department ethics rules. For example, we identified instances where FBI employees received tickets to sporting events from journalists, went on golfing outings with media representatives, were treated to drinks and meals after work by reporters, and were the guests of journalists at nonpublic social events. We will separately report on those investigations as they are concluded, consistent with the Inspector General (IG) Act, other applicable federal statutes, and OIG policy.
It certainly wouldn't cover leaking to Congressional bad actors like Devin Nunes, in a really startling story Marshall relates that Nunes told on himself on Laura Ingraham's show:

Friday, June 15, 2018

Consider the Lilies of the Field Office

Can't come up with a great credit for this, but it's indoors in the New York Field Office,  via

Not quite: there is a single mention, sort of, making it clear that the New York office was where they expected the leak of the Weiner laptop investigation to be leaked from, on p. 359 (h/t Tim Dickinson/Rolling Stone):

But no followup, and that's why Josh's frustration is justified. What made them confident the New York office would leak it?

Philosophic Nub

Not relevant to the post, but expresses something of the way I feel. xkcd via an old Language Log.

Are you sick of being forced to choose between (in the words of Margarita A. Mooney, Associate Professor of Congregational Studies at Princeton Theological Seminary, from a 2012 blogpost at Patheos describing lessons she learned when she was a grad student, on a flight to Paris with the eminent political scientist Paul Sigmund, a son-in-law of Ambassador Lindy Boggs)
Marxist materialism and other forms of collectivism in which the individual is subsumed to the communal and the individual has no inherent worth
the idea that economic prosperity is the final ends of individuals and societies

Then David F. Brooks (I think there may be a David Brooks Plagiarism Watch situation with Mooney, whose post he links in today's column only after 14 paragraphs of material most of which she discusses) has a philosophy for you! As he says, "Personalism: The Philosophy We Need". Are you sick of philosophies you don't need? Me too! Those things are just taking up space! Plus, they're a fire hazard, since they're entirely made of straw, and extremely dry.

Thursday, June 14, 2018


Still from Martin Scorsese's Goodfellas, starring, left to right, Jared Kushner, Michael Cohen, I can't think of somebody for Sorvino, and Anthony Scaramucci. No, wait. From a fun piece by Xan Brooks/Guardian on how Trump idolizes De Niro. That's why his heart is broken.

Oh, look who showed up at the if-you-insult-Nazis-you-just-make-people-vote-for-them party! It's the most ineffectual person who has ever written for the New York Times op-ed page, and I realize that's a pretty strong claim, Frank Bruni ("How to Lose the Midterms and Re-elect Trump")!

He'd have come sooner, but his tux was at the cleaners after a minor drooling incident:
Dear Robert De Niro, Samantha Bee and other Trump haters:
I get that you’re angry. I’m angry, too.
You're not angry, Frank. You've just got a little indigestion. It'll pass.

Not that he's necessarily wrong, precisely, about the value of what De Niro did at the Tony awards:
But anger isn’t a strategy. Sometimes it’s a trap. When you find yourself spewing four-letter words, you’ve fallen into it. You’ve chosen cheap theatrics over the long game, catharsis over cunning. You think you’re raising your fist when you’re really raising a white flag.... You permit them to see you as you see Trump: deranged. Why would they choose a different path if it goes to another ugly destination?
But he's completely wrong about its importance. Who does he think is watching the Tonys? It's full-time housewives in New Jersey, dentists and accountants with cultivated tastes in Ohio and Wisconsin, drama-loving teenagers in Florida and New Mexico. It's not that imaginary group of undecided coal miners and steelworkers. It's Frank Bruni, in fact. Is he going to go vote for Republicans now?

Surprise: Brooks Does It Both Sides

Startling news. I may not be able to bring myself to read the Haaretz article, but I do have a comment:

Contribution from Driftglass:

And for another point of view on the Singapore Summit

Hot take on the summit from blog SingaporeUncensored:

1. The US can’t pay because a nuclear yet cash-poor North Korea sees it as insulting:…/776055ce-9745-439e-9ee4-c0…
2. The US hinted to Singapore to pay, source: Singapore defense minister quoted in WaPo link above. This is key because it means US “owes” us a favor even if it’s just a small logistical detail.
3. Safeguarding Singapore’s FTA (Free Trade Agreement) partner status with an infamously anti-free-trade Trump: priceless. Trump just left all his G7 “allies” in Canada threatening a trade war. Last thing Singapore should do is stay on the sidelines and wait for Trump to call us out for “unfair” trade deals. Singapore has to step up and be counted. Paying $20M helps? Imagine how many more jobs or companies may suffer if trade margins get jeopardized.
Trump dumped Singapore and Malaysia under the bus when he abandoned the Trans-Pacific Partnership just when they thought they were getting a chance to become less cornered by Chinese expansion and forced into it, and the Singapore government, slavish and colonized as ever, is hoping to placate crazy Trump with friendly gestures. Business losses, I'm hearing, went well beyond the government's outlay as security closed down the whole of the downtown area from the Shangri-La Hotel where Trump was staying to the artificial island of Sentosa where Kim stayed and the summit was held.

Online Singapore, which is getting tougher and tougher, is not impressed. Things are happening in Southeast Asia, I haven't written anything about the astonishing events in Malaysia yet, and elsewhere.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

The avant-garde art of the deal

Nothing Trump builds in North Korea is going to top this ship-hotel above the beach of Jeongdongjin on the Pacific coast in northeastern South Korea. Via Rough Guides.

Hi, it's Stupid to say Trump failed to wring any concessions out of North Korea. I mean it's true they only agreed that they would "work toward the complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula" meaning, as you know, North and South and all the US troops and their nuclear-capable vessels and missiles and B-1 bombers, as opposed to the complete, verifiable, and irreversible dismantlement of the North Korean nuclear weapons program, on which the US has long insisted as a sine qua non, and with no timetables, verification methods, or fucking any reason to think they will actually do it, in return for diplomatic recognition and on top of the photo op that we understand is what Kim Jong-un was really longing for and, in a gratuitous deal sweetener Trump apparently threw in orally after the document was signed, a cessation of the defensive joint exercises with the South Korean military that the US has conducted regularly since the cease-fire (like a guy closing the sale on his apartment who shakes hands with everyone after everything's signed and stamped and then says to the new owner, "Hey, why don't you take my girlfriend too?").

Plus China's already throwing the idea of sanctions relief out there, as a participation trophy:

The Buffalo Who Cried Wolf

A friendly picture. German Federal Government/Jesco Denzel via Associated Press. Not clear what Trump meant by saying it was "put out by us."

David Brooks, "Donald Trump Is Not Playing By Your Rules", praises Trump's approach to international politics:
The core issue in our politics is over how we establish relationship. You can either organize relationship at a high level — based on friendship, shared values, loyalty and affection — or you can organize relationship at a low level, based on mutual selfish interest and a brutal, ends-justify-the-means mentality.
Unlike beastly Nixon and Kissinger, who visited a monstrously murderous, nuclear-armed Asian dictator in a crassly selfish bazaar-haggling spirit, an army of experts at their sides facing off suspiciously over every detail, Trump is open, fresh, ready for anything, "We'll see what happens," and above all trusting, as he told Stephanopoulos:

Starting From a Very High Plane
Well, you know, over my lifetime
I've done a lot of deals
with a lot of people, and sometimes
the people that you most distrust
turn out to be the most honorable ones,
and the people that you do trust
they are not the honorable ones,
so we are starting from a very high plane,
we’re starting from a very good relationship.
This has been a very big day in terms of the world.
I think it’s been, maybe I --
a lot of people have been saying it’s historic.
Haha, just kidding. Brooks thinks Nixon and Kissinger are among the good guys of the happy past, who organized relationship on a high level in creating the postwar order:

Monday, June 11, 2018

Give Peace a Chance


It was tons of fun mocking New York Times's Mark Landler for his silly piece announcing that Emperor Trump has "thought long" about the North Korea issue and "been preparing for it all his adult life" by going to military school and retailing mythical tales about General MacArthur, but in today's reality-based reporting from Singapore, the very same Mark Landler does some really good service detailing the progression in which Trump is surrendering to Kim Jong-un in the hope of getting to a place where he can declare victory:
The statement is likely to have three sections — dealing with denuclearization, security guarantees for the North and steps to be taken by both sides — according to a person briefed on the talks. But it was not clear that the Americans would succeed in extracting a more detailed commitment to disarming than North Korea has already offered.
If anything, the White House moved closer to Pyongyang’s language, saying it sought complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization “on the Korean Peninsula” — a clause that North Korea interprets as potentially requiring the United States to scale back troop deployments there or to shrink its nuclear umbrella over two East Asian allies, South Korea and Japan.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo insisted the administration’s policy had not changed. But he confirmed that the United States would offer security assurances that were different from what Washington had offered North Korea in negotiations under Presidents George W. Bush or Bill Clinton. He declined to outline them.

Hints of Desperation

Whose farmers? Bet I know more of them than Trump does. 79th Street Greenmarket, via Yelp.

One of the reasons Christopher Buskirk of the blog American Greatness thinks there will be a Red Wave in the 2018 midterms, if there is one, which he doesn't claim to know ("If There’s a Red Wave Election in 2018, This Will Be Why", in Sunday's New York Times, see Lemieux for more) is the president's pronoun usage, when he's speaking extemporaneously:
When he speaks off the cuff, he talks about “we,” “us” and “our.” He has said repeatedly that we love our farmers, our police, our flag and our national anthem — even our coal miners. It is an odd construction, or at least one we’re not used to hearing. It speaks to the essential fraternity of the nation, but when Mr. Trump says it — maybe when any Republican says it — too many people don’t believe that they are included in the “our.” They hear something much narrower than what is meant. People reject the essentially wholesome message because of the messenger. That needs to change because they are, in fact, our farmers, our police and our coal miners, and we should love them.
Well, yeah, in the first place, when I hear Trump saying, "We love our farmers," I do not feel included—I don't have any farmers. I mean, I've met lots of farmers, and I feel respect and affection for them, but I don't feel Trump has any sense of who I love, on my own part or as a member of the collective, that he can assert on my behalf, and what I hear is the "we" of a king or emperor, admiring the population as if it was his personal property, and even the flag and the anthem, which "we" love in opposition to the insults of professional football players (with the implication that if the rest of us stand, or kneel, with NFL players in favor of the civil right not to be killed by a policeman, we're out of the sunshine of his imperial beneficence and don't have a share in the song or the flag).

I'm not the only one who hears it, either—for one, Lauren Sergy did, right from the beginning, February 2017, in a very nice blogpost looking at statements like "…we are transferring power from Washington, D.C. and giving it back to you, the American People":