Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Spreading Derangement

Calling Dr. Laing! Image from Wikimedia Commons via IRETA.

The good news coming from last week's attempted murder by USPS package delivery of everybody Trump denounces in his rallies, from George Soros through Hillary Clinton to Maxine Waters, and the actual gun murders of Vickie Lee Jones, 67, and Maurice E. Stallard, 69, in a Kroger's where the gunman looking for black people to kill resorted after he was frustrated in his efforts to shoot up the nearby First Baptist Church of Jeffersontown, Kentucky, and of the 11 congregants of the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, I can't name them all but their memory is a blessing...

The good news, I was saying, for David Brooks ("The New Cold War"), is that we don't have to worry so much about racism or anti-Semitism or guns or the president's poisonous language, or any other problems that a community might set about trying to solve in a practical effort:
These mass killings are about many things — guns, demagogy, etc. — but they are also about social isolation and the spreading derangement of the American mind.
Killing sprees are just one manifestation of the fact that millions of Americans find themselves isolated and alone. But there are other manifestations of this isolation, which involve far more carnage.
The bad news is that that violence is nothing compared to self-murder, quickly by gun or slowly by hypodermic, and as far as I would know the numbers he offers are correct:

Monday, October 29, 2018


I got this screenshot after the tweet itself had been deleted, for obvious reasons: the doctor hadn't really meant to argue that fabricating quotations is OK as long as one's intentions are genuine. So I don't actually know what it's referring back to. But I think it's such a precise representation of the intellectual spirit of the Trumpery, in which Anthony Scaramucci can tell us that Trump deserves special regard because he's not an ordinary liar but lies "intentionally", to troll the left. 

It was the Hebrew Immigrants Aid Society, I realize, that met up with Aleksey Yastreblyansky, may his memory be a blessing, in Galveston early in the 20th century, a couple of years after he survived the Kishinev pogrom of 1903, and suggested that he might want to call himself Alec Bloom instead, to make himself a little more digestible for American society. In family mythology in the second and third generations, we just called them "German Jews", that is representatives of an earlier wave of immigration, with a slightly resentful sense of how they didn't trust their eastern European brethren to be wholly civilized ("My zeydi spoke more languages than your zeydi!"), but it was definitely HIAS, and I'm making peace with them, with effect from right now. They were right about Yastreblyansky, how would anybody even have spelled it? And they were right 20 or 30 years ago when they began broadening the scope of their work to include distressed and abandoned and persecuted people from everywhere, of every religion, putting the Passover commandments into the most powerful possible effect. They are the best.

Quickly and Violently

This was at a private White House dinner with evangelical leaders last Monday, where somebody made a tape that was revealed over the weekend. He didn't warn, as you might imagine from the headline, that disappointed rightwingers will rise in violence, with their belief that US elections are manipulated by "illegal" immigrants and their belief that Democrats want to turn the nation into Venezuela and their belief that the Second Amendment overrides the rest of the Constitution and licenses revolution. He was saying that the victorious Democrats would be violent:

I guess antifa will be in charge of restoring health insurance coverage to the people deprived of it by the Trump administration's sabotage of the Affordable Care Act, in their black balaclavas and wielding sticks? Maybe they'll cruelly whip the legislation through Congress.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Sunday morning

Tree of Life Holocaust memorial at the Great Synagogue in Budapest, via.

Donald just found out about Dinesh D'Souza and his theory that Donald is basically the same as Abraham Lincoln, and he's intrigued:
Interesting! He's got that way of watching his own TV show from the real outside. He's a student of himself, but he always retains the ability to be surprised by the remarkable things he does, when an eminent critic points it out.

Friday, October 26, 2018

But does it enchant in your mind?

Unboxing the Statue of Liberty, 1885, via Rare Historical Photos.

Shorter David Brooks, "Yes, I'm an American Nationalist", New York Times, 26 October 2018:
I'm magically attached to New York but I'm romantically attached to the United States, Rockies, Declaration of Independence, World War II, Silicon Valley, madness, diversity. I'm an American nationalist, and this proves that Donald Trump isn't one, because I'm a nice guy and he isn't.
Quotes from the six-paragraph peroration of Ernest Renan's 1882 Sorbonne lecture, "What is a nation?", with no indication of where he got it from, likely Dr. Google and www.nationalismproject.org, which runs it without the rest of the text:
The 19th-century French philosopher Ernest Renan argued that “a nation is a soul, a spiritual principle”: “These are the essential conditions of being a people: having common glories in the past and a will to continue them in the present; having made great things together and wishing to make them again. One loves in proportion to the sacrifices that one has committed and the troubles that one has suffered.”
That's not really what Renan (a great rationalist, though also I'm sorry to say an anti-Semite, who is remembered best for his 1863 Vie de Jésus, depicting the life of Jesus with no miracles, as somebody who is not the son of God) "argues". By ignoring the rest of the piece—he may not even realize it exists—Brooks misses all the argumentation, which is a shame, because some of it is pretty funny, anticipating the great Benedict Anderson:

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

For the Record: A Little Joke

Via somebody's Pinterest.

Gunga Dinesh leapt to the defense of Emperor Trump for calling himself a nationalist:
It's a question, I guess, of "nationalist" as opposed to what? Ho was a nationalist for Vietnam as opposed to imperialist water-carrier for the French or the Americans, or the Chinese for that matter (who had fought to control Vietnam for a thousand years, from the Han dynasty through the Song, before they finally conceded defeat). Gunga Dinesh is an imperialist water-carrier for the British, that's why I like to call him that, when he talks about the Raj or East Africa. Dinesh isn't a nationalist with respect to India, though he may be a nationalist with respect to his adopted USA.

Ho, and Castro, also sometimes called themselves "nationalists" in opposition to "communists", when they were explaining their positions to a certain type of friendly Westerner at certain points in their careers. "No, no, he's just a nationalist. Go away, Mr. Quiet American." In this, I'm sorry to say, they were lying, though not without some justification.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

It Was Good For the Hebrew Children

Hebrew Children in the Fiery Furnace, from Robin's Great Coloring Pages.

I've been neglecting David Brooks since he came back from his recent book-generating aestivation (an aestivation or estivation is like a hibernation only in summer), for reasons akin to those cited by blogfriend Andrew Johnston; he's really not giving me enough material that I haven't already dealt with (Drew shows convincingly that you could write a really thorough review of the new book before it's even published, so that it's impossible to see why you'd want to even look at it, let alone slaving over an analysis of the text).

There's a moderately funny bit in today's column, though, a pre-election whine about Democrats failing to make a serious attempt to get his vote by offering a spiritual program ("The Materialist Party"), instead of talking about health care, health care, health care, or
“The top three issues this year are health care, health care and health care,” J.B. Poersch, of the Democratic-aligned Senate Majority PAC, told CNN....

Monday, October 22, 2018

Restless Natives

Poster for the 1985 film by Michael Hoffman.

A slightly fresher version of the thesis about how "we" cosmopolitans, I guess, need to listen to "them" rednecks, or whoever the enemy is supposed to be, as long as you understand they're not supposed to be the enemy, came on my radio yesterday morning, at 6:00, and I found myself not going back to sleep. It was an interview with the sociologist Arlie Hochschild, a clearly better qualified person to defend any thesis than David Brooks or Bari Weiss in the New York Times, but I still got irritable right away.

Hochschild, a Berkeley professor emerita who has been hanging out ethnographically with people from southwestern Louisiana since 2011, whose "deep story" she elicited and wrote up in her Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right, which came out last January and has been praised as "humble" by David Brooks and "masterly" by Atul Gawande:
The metaphor for the right-wing deep story that I describe in Strangers is that you’re waiting in line for the American dream that you feel you very much deserve. It’s like waiting in a pilgrimage, and the line isn’t moving. Your feet are tired. You feel you are properly deserving of this reward that’s ahead. And the idea is, you don’t begrudge anyone in this right deep story. You’re not a hateful person. But then you see — the second moment of the right-wing deep story — somebody cutting ahead of you. Why are they getting special treatment?
Then, in another moment, the president of the country, Barack Obama, who should be tending fairly to all waiters-in-line, seems to be waving to the line cutters. In fact, “Is he a line cutter?” — the idea is. How did his mother — she was a single mother, not a rich woman — afford a Harvard education, a Columbia education? Something fishy happened. That was the thought there.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Trust me, Clinton wouldn't have done this

MBS couldn't stop himself from cracking up during his March visit as Trump bragged on the "deal" he'd made with the cheesy visual aids his staff prepares for him. "Look! Airplanes!" Photo by Mandel Ngan/AFP. Don't believe Saudi Arabia is America's generous pal. And his claim that MBS is giving the United States $110 billion worth of business is bullshit, as you probably know by now. As Yglesias writes today, Saudis are far more dependent on the US than the other way around; this special relationship has been out of date for many years.

A couple of years ago, during the presidential campaign, America was all exercised about the fact that the Saudi Arabian government seemed to have made donations, some of them possibly while Hillary Clinton was serving as secretary of state, totaling over $10 million, conceivably as much as $25 million, to the charitable organization run by Clinton's husband and daughter, where the money would be used for things like buying AIDS drugs for patients in impoverished countries, microcredit for poor business owners, and programs to empower women and girls, which never seemed to get a mention in the news stories, along with the fact that Norway had put in approximately the same amount, and other countries donating smaller but still big sums included not just the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain and Qatar and Morocco and Algeria but also Australia, Canada, the Netherlands, UK, and Germany.

They did sometimes mention that Clinton's opponent, Donald Trump, was also vaguely rumored to have some funky business relationships with some other countries, as in this 20 August 2016 story by Amy Chozick (remember her?) and Steve Eder:

Friday, October 19, 2018

Literary Corner: The Whirlwind Out of the Voice

Uncredited image from the website named in lower left. 
You Can't Fake It
by Donald J. Trump
Let me tell you: your Senator is disgraceful what he did. This election, you will decide which party is in control of Congress, that's true, and if they win, even if they win the House, it's going to be just fighting, fighting, fighting, it's going to be—will be—
You love my hair. Thank you. She knows what to say. She knows how to make me happy. "I love your hair." Well the one thing that has been really great about this whole endeavor, I used to say— "He wears a hairpiece, he wears a hair—" They don't say that anymore. They—these people have seen me under every condition known to man. I haven't heard that one in over a year. You know when you're walking around and the wind is going crazy and you're inspecting, like I did the other day. The incredible hurricane, this horrible hurricane, Michael, that devastated Florida and Georgia and Alabama got hit hard and then a couple of weeks before—and Michael got a piece of them too—but a couple of weeks before̦ I went to North Carolina, South Carolina, you look at what happened in a little piece of Virginia and you walk around in those conditions. You can't fake it, can't fake it. So that's one good thing: nobody ever says that anymore. That's one of the—might be one of the best things that's happened to me a long time, because my whole life they said, "Is it or isn't it?" Barbara Walters interviewed me: "Do you mind if I play with your hair?" Remember that? And then numerous people have done that, but that's OK
—but the choice could not be more clear: Democrats produce mobs, Republicans produce jobs. True.

(Missoula rally 18 October 2018, 26:27-28:17)

David Choi/Business Insider believes Trump was directly claiming that his experience with hurricanes proves his hair is real, if anybody is still doubting. I just wanted to point out the masterful control exhibited in this interrupted intermezzo wrapping a hurricane inside a hair story inside a campaign slogan without—I won't say without skipping a beat, because there isn't any beat as such, just an enormous pulsation—but without allowing the hurricane to escape.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Warren again

Undated map, via..

Jordan wrote, in comments (read the whole thing).
This whole thing confounds me terribly, because the only operative question, the only one that means anything at all, is Should Warren have done this, and as far as I'm concerned the answer is a blindingly obvious Yes, but according to nearly everyone on the Left and the Right, the answer is No....
In terms of political expediency I don't even know where to start. She got Trump on the defensive, rocking back and sputtering, and I don't understand why people still don't understand how difficult and important that is.
I wonder. My first response was delight, and then I got perturbed by the Cherokee Nation statement, and more of that on NPR in the morning, and then I started working through it, as reported on Tuesday, and got a kind of sour taste in my mouth about the whole thing, and that exhaustion that gets at us all lately all the time, like what's the point. I agree that she absolutely did the right thing, and it's great that the test came out with dispositive evidence, but for one thing it's not going to stop them, the smarter ones have just been moving the goalposts all week.

The latest (a scandal that was raised by Boston radio personality Howie Carr in 2012, so "latest" is likely not the right word—my version, Britlaundered from Breitbart, is that of the Daily Mail, but wingnuts have been trotting it out for a revival all week) is that a couple of the recipes published under Warren's name in the Pow Wow Chow cookbook in 1984 turned out to have been lifted, from old Pierre Franey's New York Times column in 1979, credited to Henri Soule of Le Pavillon, which makes a lot of sense, given that they're both rather elegant recipes featuring crab, and the Cherokee, whose ancestral homeland was the Great Smoky Mountains before they were driven west, can't have had a big cultural affinity with crab, which comes, you know, from the sea.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Literary Corner: Nobodaddy

Eric Bakke, Nobodaddy, oil, ca. 2013.

Trump tells AP he won’t accept blame if GOP loses House

AP: So my question is, if Republicans were to lose control of the House on November 6th — or a couple of days later depending on how long it takes to count the votes — do you believe you bear some responsibility for that?
Trump: No
Or as AP put it in the story under that headline,
“No, I think I’m helping people,” Trump said. “I don’t believe anybody’s ever had this kind of an impact.”
That is, far from being to blame if the Republicans lose, he'll be convinced that they would have done even worse without him; in fact, his value to the campaign is unparalleled in the history of electoral democracy, and this will be true no matter how the results turn out. It's like if Joshua ended up losing the battle of Jericho in spite of the Lord halting the solar system for an hour to give him an assist, you wouldn't say that was old JHWH's fault, would you?

I'm afraid I have to rule in Trump's favor on this, though.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

For the Record: Warren

I was a little perplexed and saddened by this, from the Cherokee Nation to the world, on the subject of Senator Warren's response to the Trumpian challenge ("If a DNA test shows you're an Indian I'll give a million dollars to the charity of your choice), but I figured it couldn't be helped.

Though not everyone agreed, and that made me kind of sad for a while:

Monday, October 15, 2018

Laboratories Against Democracy

Drawing by Steve Benson/Arizona Republic, February 2010, via.

Our nation's laboratories of democracy, as Justice Brandeis called them, the state legislatures, don't seem very excited about democracy at the moment: downright hostile, in fact, according to some cool new reporting by Timothy Williams/NYTimes*: reacting to popular referendums by tossing them out, like South Dakotans' attempt to put some breaks on their legislators' socializing with lobbyists, which could have threatened the ALEC wine and cheese party:
The gatherings — 107 events in all during the Legislature’s 38-day session— are popular with lawmakers, but less so with the public.
South Dakota voters were sufficiently fed up in 2016 to pass a statewide ethics initiative that was meant to diminish the influence of lobbyists. But the Legislature in Pierre, the state capital, swiftly struck back: It repealed the referendum and replaced it with its own slate of bills, which critics denounced as a watered-down substitute — and a slap in the face to voters.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Literary Corner: Mob Rule

Painting by Lennon Michalski.

Songs for Kentucky
by Donald J. Trump

I. The Democrats
The Democrats have become
totally consumed by their
chilling lust for power.
You can either vote for
Democrat mob rule or you can vote
for a Republican party that stands
proudly for law and order, fairness,
freedom and justice. Simple as that.
They want to get rid of ICE.
They think ICE
isn't nice.
II. Xi Jinping
The absolute head.
This is an absolute
head of China.
III. The Space Force
You know it's all about space.
It's all about space. Defense,
offense, everything is going to
soon be all about space.

Rally, Richmond, Kentucky, 13 October 2018. Text via Daniel Dale.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

2018 Democrats: Too Punk?

Stainless Steel Skull Skeleton Head Tongue Ring going for £1.05 from ebay.co.uk.
Fearless anti-Trumper Mr. Bret Stephens complaining that these young Democrats in the ongoing millennium ("Democrats Are Blowing It, Again") are just too goddamned punk:
Michael Kelly, the legendary journalist who died covering the invasion of Iraq in 2003, once wrote that the “animating impulse” of modern liberalism was to “marginalize itself and then enjoy its own company. And to make itself as unattractive to as many as possible.”
“If it were a person,” he added, “it would pierce its tongue.”
(Kelly wrote that in 1996 in his debut column as the liberal-hating editor of even-the-liberal New Republic; Stephens's link is to a Maureen Dowd eulogy in which she manages to mention that she once bought Kelly a couch, but doesn't say if it was a fainting couch.)

He seems to really mean to move beyond concern trolling, too—he's suggesting he really wants Democrats to win in November:

Friday, October 12, 2018

Brooks Gets a Big Thing

Photo via CafeMom.

Ladies, rejoice! David F. Brooks ("Two Cheers for Feminism") thinks you're OK! I mean, not on the unpleasant issues like demanding equal pay, or impeaching Brett Kavanaugh, but:
I disagree with academic feminism a lot — with those vague oppressor stories about the patriarchy, with the strange unwillingness to admit inherited-gender differences and with the tone of faculty lounge militancy. But academic feminism is right about the big thing.
Which turns out to be—uh, what? What does the hedgehog of academic feminism know that the rest of us foxes are missing?
The big thing is that for thousands of years social thinking has been dominated by men — usually alpha men — who saw life as a place where warriors and traders went out and competed for wealth and power.
What? The big thing is that academic feminists have spent millennia in the wilderness? I don't want to quibble here, but that sounds more like a big meta-thing, not about the findings but about the methodology, and it also sounds like a vague oppressor story about the patriarchy.

So not exactly: there's a big thing about the big thing, which is that the academic masculists have been missing something important:

Thursday, October 11, 2018

An American Nightmare

Mrs. Barker ("I'm a professional woman"), after she's removed her dress, and Mommy, in red, in Albee's An American Dream. Cherry Lane Theater, New York, 2008.

Olivia Nuzzi's enchanting new absurdist comedy My Private Oval Office Press Conference organizes itself around the kind of Catch-22 dilemma that's endemic to the human condition: the protagonist, a president of the United States and former businessman, wants to fire his chief of staff, a retired Marine general, but doesn't know how, or can't summon up the courage, even though, ironically, he literally became famous for pretending to fire people who were pretending to work for him in a television show devoted to the ritual firing of the different characters who wandered on and off the set. But in the diegetic "real life" of Nuzzi's film, which is coincidentally a kind of real life, the only person in the White House who has the necessary skills and balls is the chief of staff himself.

The best the president can do is to try once or twice a week to get him to fire himself—"I really need you to leave, John," he'll say—but General Kelly pays him no attention, carrying on as if Trump hadn't said anything, neatening up the Resolute desk, ordering supplies, and firing those people he thinks it's necessary to fire, and looking pained when Trump makes a faux pas, like Jeeves the time Bertie insisted on wearing the white mess jacket:

Jeeves: I assumed it had got into your wardrobe by mistake, sir, or else that it has been placed there by your enemies.
Bertie Wooster: I will have you know, Jeeves, that I bought this in Cannes!
Jeeves: And wore it, sir?
Bertie Wooster: Every night at the Casino. Beautiful women used to try and catch my eye!
Jeeves: Presumably they thought you were a waiter, sir.

Anyway, a lovely young reporter called Olivia wanders into this standoff, for an assignment from New York Magazine, where the editors are more fun-loving than those of The New York Times, and just as she's leaving by the North Gate from a hard morning's reporting, the press secretary beckons her back into the building with a phone call and then a solemn, wordless gesture, like a mute attendant, though she turns out not to be mute after all:

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Trump has an opinion

USA Today did choose a picture that made his fist look especially tiny. Photo by Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images.

In USA Today today, an op-ed by some dude using this silly pseudonym:

Donald Trump: Democrats 'Medicare for All' plan will demolish promises to seniors

The Democrats want to outlaw private health care plans, taking away freedom to choose plans while letting anyone cross our border. We must win this.

I don't know who really wrote it, but that gratuitous lie "while letting anyone cross our border"—if Democrats really did have an open borders policy, which they certainly don't and are not likely to, what relationship would it have to health insurance policy?—is authentically Trumpy, isn't it?

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Literary Corner: Which Group Drew It?

From World Habitat Day 2011, via.  That's a Russian factory (zavod) over on the left, in the land of industrial pollution,  and I imagine the drawing was made by a Russian kid, who might be imagining the West as a land of joy and balloons and cafés of course, in contrast to his blighted Ekaterinburg or Smolensk, but there seems to be a time dimension represented in the rainbow-sailed boat headed over the waterfall, and my sense is that the picture should be seen as a story, not an invidious contrast, and a warning, not to just one country but all of us.

On the Report of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
by Donald J. Trump

It was given to me, and
I want to look at who drew it.
You know, which group drew it.
Because I can give you reports
that are fabulous and I can give
you reports that aren’t so good.
But I will be looking at it, absolutely.
Text via Talking Points Memo. Sometimes it gets to be just too much. Who talks like that? "I want to know who drew it." Have they prepared a special graphic version for him—"The End of the World as We Know It in Twenty Years, for Dummies"?

A "fabulous" report is one that suggests that he's doing the right thing in whatever realm it deals with, and it's done, or drawn, by a good person, obviously, in the sense that the actual meaning of "good" is "in support of Donald J. Trump". A "not so good" report is one that suggests he might be doing the wrong thing, and that's done by a wicked person. So he needs to find out in the first place who that United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is, exactly, before he can really comment. But who would say that?

Literary Corner: The Art of Sinking

This Cannibalistic Cycle
by Victor Davis Hanson

Diane Feinstein, Joe Biden, Nancy
Pelosi, and the Democratic fossils
on the Senate Judiciary Committee
may in their golden years try to lumber
onto the departing progressive train,
but their septuagenarian and octogenarian
creaky efforts to get on board grow sad.
Joe Biden was reduced to threatening
to beat Trump up behind the locker room.
Diane Feinstein staged a clumsy eleventh-
hour ambush of the hearings that proved
pure bathos. Even leftists such
as Nancy Pelosi and Elizabeth Warren
fear that they are suddenly pseudo-revolutionaries,
compared with the new, far more radical Jacobins,
who in cyclical French Revolutionary style
call for massive repeals of all student debt,
free tuition, packing the Supreme Court,
Medicare for all, a specified end to fossil
fuels, quotas based on identity politics,
and an abolishment of Immigration and
Custom Enforcement. No one quite knows
how far this cannibalistic cycle will go.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Literary Corner: Women. Women. Women.

Panel from Edward Armitage, A Dream of Fair Women, 1870s, via ArtUK.

A Tremendous Number of Women
by Donald J. Trump

The people that spoke to me most vocif—
really in the strongest of terms in his favor
were women. Women. Women were outraged
at what happened to Brett Kavanaugh, outraged,
and I think that’s a total misnomer because
the women, I feel, were in many ways stronger
than the men in his favor. So you have
a lot of women that are extremely happy.
A tremendous number of women. Because
they’re thinking of their sons, they’re thinking
of their husbands and their brothers, their uncles,
and others. And women are I think extremely happy.
A lot of the voices clamoring inside the president's head this week seem to have been voices of women, for some reason. Mrs. Trump was out of town, and the "violent mobs" terrifying the timid Senators as they voted (50-48) to confirm Judge Kavanaugh to a seat on the Supreme Court were  mostly female, experienced as a band of frenzied Maenads—

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Trump's a Criminal

The New York Times really is like a whole country, in which the White House press corps is just one colorful but tiny Village, with inexhaustibly interesting gossip but maybe a lot less significance than it thinks, as represented in Baker's clueless lede.

Meanwhile, the very same paper really did give nearly two years (that's why it didn't get published before the 2016 election, don't @ me) to this extraordinary investigation by The New York Times bylined by David Barstow, Susanne Craig, and Russ Buettner (now out in the print paper), detailing how the Trump Organization has always been a criminal organization dedicated, like Al Capone's, to hiding its wealth from the tax collectors.

The narrative framing is mostly about how Trump's been lying all these years about being a self-made man—

Saturday, October 6, 2018

They said it couldn't be done

Georgetown Prep Moot Court squad.

It's amazing when you think about it. Back in February of 2016, when old Antonin Scalia's heart choked on its choler and he died, McConnell's reaction, an hour after news of the death came out, seemed whimsical:
The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice. Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president.
I mean, also without legal foundation, deeply irresponsible, and remarkably ruthless in the wielding of a power to which he had no constitutional entitlement, but also just silly and pointless, as the presidential campaign began to warm up, with the best prepared candidate in history on one side and an unspeakably ridiculous carful of circus clowns on the other.

What could he think he was accomplishing? Just putting the task off for Hillary, whose Supreme Court nomination less than a year away would likely be less friendly to conservatives than Obama's. Maybe she'd just go ahead and name Obama!

But McConnell held firm (and didn't go as far as Cruz and McCain, who said if Clinton won they'd refuse to ever confirm a justice to replace Scalia). And with the help of Vladimir Putin and Alexander Nix a president was put into office representing a reactionary minority, and a reactionary minority reshaped the Supreme Court in its own narrow and selfish image (I can't get over that Gorsuch and Kavanaugh both went to the same repulsive Slytherin prep school, or that the new court will still have not just five reliable conservatives, but all of them once again conservative Catholics, with all the narrowness and nasty-mindedness that implies). Sheer improbability certainly played an essential role in this, but McConnell really did do something.

Friday, October 5, 2018

A Devastating Blow to Intellectual Humility

Uh, humbly?

Hey la hey la my Brooksie's back! From his "book leave", meaning there's apparently a book coming from him that will be about some subject or other, but for now he's leaping back into action, because, folks, there's a war on ("A Complete National Disgrace"):
Over the past few years, hundreds of organizations and thousands of people (myself included) have mobilized to reduce political polarization, encourage civil dialogue and heal national divisions.
Mobilized! It's a war on political polarization, fought by the legions of Brooks?
The first test case for our movement was the Kavanaugh hearings. It’s clear that at least so far our work is a complete failure. Sixty-nine percent of Americans in one poll called the hearings a “national disgrace,” and the only shocking thing is that there are 31 percent who don’t agree.
You see, the Polarized are united in an overwhelming majority. The beleaguered un-Polarized, who don't think the hearings are a national disgrace, teeter on the brink of extinction!

Thursday, October 4, 2018


A couple of weeks ago, after the release of the famous 65-woman letter in defense of the teenage character of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, when folks were wondering how a kid in an all-boy Catholic school managed to be acquainted with that many girls, I thought I knew something about it—not from any personal experience, right, but probably from reading too much fiction set among the upper classes—and let the Twitter know. Upon which I got a response:
Cool of Twitter to send me confirmation so quickly! So I filed that in my memory, and when it turned out the following week that Christine Blasey's school was Holton Arms, I said to myself, well, there you go.

And there she did go, indeed, in Thursday morning's testimony:

FORD: During my time at this school, girls at Holton-Arms frequently met and became friendly with boys from all-boys schools in the area, including the Landon School, Georgetown Prep, Gonzaga High School, as well as our country clubs and other places where kids and families socialized. This is how I met Brett Kavanaugh, the boy who sexually assaulted me.
During my freshman and sophomore school years, when I was 14 and 15 years old, my group of friends intersected with Brett and his friends for a short period of time. I had been friendly with a classmate of Brett’s for a short time during my freshman and sophomore year, and it was through that connection that I attended a number of parties that Brett also attended. We did not know each other well, but I knew him and he knew me.
Which made it all the more surprising to notice this nugget in the Thursday hearing transcript:

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Nous Sommes Tous Brett Kavanaugh

Salvador Dalí (1959), Our Lady of Guadalupe, via Cuevas.

Shorter Monsignor Ross Douthat, Apostolic Nuncio to 42nd Street, "The Meritocracy Against Itself":
When you're listening to people criticizing Brett Kavanaugh, an obnoxious entitled Catholic prep school douche with a brilliant conservative mind, you should note that many of them come from approximately the same world as he does. I'm not sure why I'm telling you this. On the other hand if you look up my Wikipedia page which I urge you not to, you'll notice I went to Hamden Hall Country Day School in Connecticut, and I'll also mention that I've criticized Kavanaugh myself (I'm afraid his apparent hatred of women might in the long run be bad for the anti-abortion cause). This does not in any sense prove that I'm an obnoxious entitled, through brilliantly conservative, Catholic prep school douche, but it does show you what a big world after all Harvard (where my many working class friends felt even more uncomfortable among the local Kavanaughs than I did) is.
You tell me what game he's playing this time, because I have no idea, unless it's just to clarify for us commoners that the whole business is nothing to be alarmed about, just the gentry having their fun. It's what you do when you're too old for lacrosse. He may have gone full avant-garde.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Cutting him loose?

Posted at CNN 2:21 PM:
Washington (CNN)President Donald Trump said Tuesday his Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh is "doing very well" but said his fate will depend on an ongoing FBI investigation.
Speaking to reporters on the South Lawn, Trump also drew a line on lying to Congress.
"I don't think you should lie to Congress and there are a lot of people over the past year who have lied to Congress," he said. "For me, that would not be acceptable."
I think this is the end of the beginning-of-the-end that started Friday, after the crazed doings in the Senate Judiciary Committee that led to the ongoing investigation or pseudo-investigation of the ever-multiplying allegations against Judge Brett Kavanaugh, with Trump's unbalanced encomium , where he praised both Christine Blasey Ford and Kavanaugh but then returned to her:

Monday, October 1, 2018

State of the Kavanaugh, continued

Emily Bazelon and Ben Protess for The New York Times have the skinny on Kavanaugh's bar fight, which Chad Ludington,  one of Kavanaugh's Yale basketball teammates, has been trying to convey to the FBI: it was ice, not beer, that Kav threw on his antagonist, and somebody else seems to have done something to rip up the guy's ear and send him to the hospital, though the person who was arrested for this offense continued to deny it:
Mr. Dudley denied the accusation, according to the report. For his part, speaking to the officers, Mr. Kavanaugh did not want “to say if he threw the ice or not,” the police report said.
That's the Brett we know, already refusing to answer questions about his inappropriate or criminal behavior, at such an early age. I wonder if he asked the cops, "Do you ever throw ice at people?" Or does he reserve that rhetorical maneuver for Senators?

The date of the kerfuffle and a tantalizing paragraph of the story enabled me to learn something that others seem not to have noticed:
Yes, a couple of years out of high school and now in Connecticut, he was still drinking underage.

I wonder if she'll notice me. Probably not, huh?

R.I..P. Charles Aznavour

State of the Kavanaugh

Alessandra Mondolfi/The Nation.

I'm having a hard time transitioning from the way I felt on Thursday, and the statements of Kavanaugh and Graham like allegorical representations of evil taking off its mask and showing its serpent fangs, and likely to triumph in the end, to the way I ought to feel after Friday, whatever that is. I hadn't finished processing the first thing, at all, and now it's all changed, or not, as the case may be, with Senator Jeff Flake's quixotic moment of allowing himself to see why somebody different from him could feel disrespected and ignored and dehumanized, if that's what he did, and to try to do something about it.

Because I definitely don't want to buy the widespread hypothesis offered, for instance, by bmaz at emptywheel, that the whole thing, the offer of an additional week of FBI investigation of the allegations against Kavanaugh before the Senate votes on the nomination, is nothing but a "trumpian sham". In part because that's just senseless paranoid-style thinking; I don't mean to claim there's no sham in it, even on Flake's part, though I'm honestly more inclined to think he meant well—I mean I don't see it as possibly confabulated between Flake and the White House, for some kind of mutual benefit. That's just too complicated, if nothing else, especially for this chaotic administration.

As the situation develops, we start to get a more familiar picture of what's going on in Trumplandia, where there's no real plan at all, just competing power centers in the White House reacting to events over on the Hill, the better organized getting their oars in first, starting with White House Counsel Don McGahn seizing the initiative to issue that list of instructions to the FBI: