Friday, November 30, 2018

Keep watching

This thing where NPR is accused of falsely accusing Donald Trump Jr. of lying to the Senate Judiciary Committee—
—is getting things wrong in its own right, in the sense that when we're asked to distinguish between two distinct Trump Tower Moscow deals, one involving the high-class Junior and the Agalarov family, which died in 2014 of "deal fatigue", and the other involving the roughnecks Michael Cohen and Felix Sater, which was ongoing in 2016 when Trump was lying about it in every conceivable venue, that's a really false picture.

Watch this space

Watching Putin and MBS and their bro enjoyment of each other, high fives and all, he's like, oh, you guys think I'm a nobody because I never get to kill a journalist. Just wait!

Hard to believe that at the last G-20 summit, as the story of the Trump Tower meeting of 9 June 2016 was being revealed to an astonished public, Trump was unable to restrain himself, no matter how bad it looked in the circumstances, from having semi-secret discussions with President Putin—people watched them interacting, but couldn't find out what was being said—and at the current G-20 summit pretty much the same thing is happening!

Or not.

On Thursday, Donald announces from on board the plane to Buenos Aires that he's canceling the long-planned formal sidebar conference he was supposed to have with Vladimir Vladimovich. Not, ostensibly, with any connection to that morning's new guilty plea from Michael Cohen, establishing that Trump and his agents were trying to put together a Trump Tower Moscow deal for at least six months after Trump said no such thing was going on (and two years after Junior claimed to think the discussion ended) and that Trump had thus being lying outrageously throughout the campaign every time, and there were dozens, he said "I have no business in Russia"—no, he was canceling the sidebar because of the news of Russian aggression against Ukrainian ships in the waters off Crimea.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

No Puppet No Puppet Department

Reports of how the Manafort lawyers and Trump lawyers kept cooperating after Manafort made his cooperation deal with the special counsel's office have led to a bizarre trend of suggesting that Trump's tweets on the investigation represent some kind of privileged knowledge:
In his own recent Twitter attacks on the special counsel, the president seemed to imply that he had inside information about the prosecutors’ lines of inquiry and frustrations. “Wait until it comes out how horribly & viciously they are treating people, ruining lives for them refusing to lie,” Mr. Trump wrote on Tuesday.
In its most virulent form from, I'm sorry to say, Rachel Maddow:
She pointed out that, in a tweet Thursday morning, Trump referred to the "inner workings' of the Mueller investigation, a phrase he has never used before. Maddow argued that this indicates Trump has used his new dubiously appointed Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker to gain an unprecedented look inside the Russia investigation.
And even Digby!

Readers write

AP photo via NPR.

Very pleased to report the appearance of another New Yorker piece by Jordan Orlando, this one a tribute to the late William Goldman and the making of maybe his greatest screenplay, All the President's Men:
William Goldman, who died a week ago, had already written three Robert Redford movies when the actor contacted him in early winter of 1974 and asked him to write a fourth: an adaptation of Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward’s forthcoming book, a firsthand account of the two young Washington Post reporters’ Pulitzer Prize-winning investigation of the Watergate scandal. Redford was the one doing the asking because he was producing the movie under the aegis of his company, Wildwood Enterprises—Redford was among the first wave of post-studio-system, post-auteur-movement movie stars who, in the late nineteen-sixties and early nineteen-seventies, began taking direct control of their careers, forming companies that would choose projects; select co-stars, directors, and writers; and participate in the casting, writing, and promotion of their movies. But Redford’s involvement in “All the President’s Men” was unusually complex and deep, predating not just Goldman’s involvement but also the conception of the book itself. By most accounts, Redford is a big reason why the book—which launched Bob Woodward’s iconic career as the first modern “star” reporter and permanently changed the public’s understanding of journalism—assumed its innovative form, focussing on the reporters and the Post rather than Nixon and the White House. But it was Goldman, in the crowning achievement of his long, successful career as a novelist and screenwriter, who used his screenplay to forge the modern myth of the reporter as hero.
Glad to see that double-s "focussing" in the first graf just in case people don't believe it's really the New Yorker. This is starting to look like a career. Congratulations, Jordan!

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Got Paranoia? Disclaimer

Ecuadorian Embassy, Knightsbridge, AP Photo/Sang Tan, August 2012. Funny to think it's really been that long.

I should have emphasized—and didn't even really mention—that Luke Harding's Assange story hasn't yet been corroborated by any other news organization, except for one compelling detail on the Ecuador angle:
CNN contributor Carl Bernstein reported Tuesday that Mueller's team has been investigating a meeting between Manafort and Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno in Quito in 2017 and has specifically asked if WikiLeaks or Assange was discussed in the meeting, according to a source with personal knowledge of the matter.
That's an important exception, because quite a bit of the story seems to have been sourced in Ecuador, in particular these—

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Got paranoia? Manafort and Assange

Photo via The Mermaid's Tale.

This Guardian story, on Paul Manafort's previously unreported visits to Julian Assange's quarters in the Ecuadoran embassy in London, has colossal implications for my understanding of the whole history of Russia's engagement in the Trump campaign:
Sources have said Manafort went to see Assange in 2013, 2015 and in spring 2016 – during the period when he was made a key figure in Trump’s push for the White House.
In March 2016, to be precise, at some point in the sequence in which

Scared Senseless

Photo via LaffyTaffyDaphne.

David F. Brooks ("Liberal Parents, Radical Children") has been chatting up people who run organizations in blue states:
When I meet someone who runs an organization in a blue state, I often ask: Do you have a generation gap where you work?
I don't know why he only "often" asks the question. It would have more statistical validity if he asked it every time. We can't really tell whether the answer represents anything.

Is he doing a formal study of people who run organizations in blue states? Is he comparing them to people who run organizations in red states? Does he ask the red-state bosses if they have generation gaps, or not?  If not, why not? If yes, why doesn't he tell us. I mean, if there's a generation gap in blue states but not in red states, that's interesting. But if there are generation gaps in both kinds of states, then maybe it's just normal. I'm saying, how are we supposed to read this information?

Also what kinds of organizations? Any kind? Baseball teams? Garden clubs? Nonprofit companies? For-profit companies? Newspapers? Political parties? Labor unions? Lay confraternities? Sororities? Well, something like that; he's studying certain types of corporate entities, that do certain types of business:

Monday, November 26, 2018

For the Record: D'Souza as academic historian, Shapiro as historical hallucinogen

I know everybody's seen this picture, but I can't get over it: the evil, violent criminals invading our country, as Trump sees them, fleeing from tear gas. Photo by Kim Kyung-hoon/Reuters, via NBC.

One of the more fun D'Souza owns, short and sweet:

And below the fold, an exhausting encounter with a troll and with reference to this:

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Literary Corner: Days on the Border

One of the most 25th-Amendment things yet, from Trump's Mar-a-Lago Thanksgiving press availability, as reported at Huffington Post Canada, starting around 16 minutes in, when he informed the startled reporters that he had closed the US-Mexican border a couple of days earlier. Startled, I mean, because if he had done that they thought they probably would have heard about it, And of course they hadn't....

I. Closing the Border

Actually two days ago
we closed the border.
We actually just closed it.
We said nobody’s coming in
because it was out of control.
You take a look at Tijuana Mexico
and see what's happening there
it's really a bad situation.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Life Goes On

Cambrian ocean scene, featuring an Anomalocaris canadensis ("anomalous Canadian shrimp") chasing trilobites. Image by diorama artist Ken Doud.

In fact it's likely she meant the Cambrian, and I think it's very likely that a system of global warming, rising sea levels, and coastal erosion, worked in at least as disruptive fashion as it does now, if I'm getting this great post from Science News for Students and a Britannica article right. In a sense, I'll show, conservatives are right in their claim that the climate change phenomena we're experiencing now aren't that different from the climate change phenomena that have been around forever, and they certainly weren't caused by humans then. But don't get too comfortable, conservatives.

For the Record: McArdle on Climate Change

This video is so funny and at the same time so deeply frightening, like a Buñuel film. [Update: It's not Venice, obviously, as Arundel notes in comments: turns out to be Tenerife, in the Canary Islands, and the video is doctored. I stand by my Buñuel remark.]  It probably wouldn't bother Megan McArdle:

She'd calmly point out that Venetians [or Canarios as the case may be] in the pre-Cambrian era managed to make it through. Oh wait, there was no life, plant or animal, on land at the time, so perhaps nobody minded in those days. The hard-shelled creatures that had just started evolving at the end of the period, 540 million years ago, might have enjoyed watching the coasts wash away.

Friday, November 23, 2018

Leftover Turkey

I guess it's too late already.

Which of the following proposals from the bipartisan list released by Opportunity America ("Work, skills, community: Restoring opportunity for the working class") with cooperation from Brookings and AEI might not benefit "the working class"?
  • Make work pay by expanding the earned income tax credit to cover childless workers and experimenting with a new wage subsidy. 
  • Require state and local agencies that administer government benefits to make a priority of getting recipients back to work. 
  • Strengthen work requirements for some beneficiaries of means-tested government programs so long as jobs, training, treatment slots and other relevant services are available.
  • Reform unemployment and disability insurance to promote work. 
  • Reform federal education spending to fund programs that teach students, college-age and older, the skills they need for the jobs of the future. 
  • Mobilize communities to make the most of the job-creating investment we expect to be unleashed by the Opportunity Zone provision of the 2017 tax bill. 
  • Make the child and dependent care tax credit more available to working-class families. 
  • Create a new federal program to monitor and limit opioid prescriptions.
I guess it's the ones that look as if they're designed to loosen up the job market and keep wages from rising. I mean, what problem exactly does a member of their target population have

Thursday, November 22, 2018


Thought I'd rerun this piece of fragile hope from the fearful Thanksgiving of 2016:

Image by blogfriend Fearguth, November 2015.
We spend a lot of time criticizing the Thanksgiving myth, of that first feast at Plymouth Plantation, where the Indians, having helped the Pilgrims survive into their first harvest, come to share its fruits at the same table; for its false consciousness and historical decontextualization, ripped out of the record of exploitation, theft, and violence that marks the white people's takeover of the continent, but maybe we ought to remember that it is, after all, a myth.

Athena didn't leap, an armed baby, out of Zeus's skull, either! You can't expect a myth to be true! Maybe we should be thinking about the fictionally happy picture itself, of that multicultural table, as something we yearn toward, prospectively, without any illusions about the actual festival of 1621, toward the time when we can all sit down together, conscious of our identities and willingly sharing across the boundaries, those who have more obliged to share more, or even better to make it real every day, or as real as we can, imperfect and selfish as we all are by nature.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Cheap shot

Come on, how else is she supposed to make it through the thing?

Cloud lifting

Cloud Lifting via Pixabay.

Our friends at the Sherman Oaks Review of Books have obtained a copy of some of the answers President Trump wrote all by himself to the questions of Special Counsel Mueller:
After the resignations, what efforts were made to reach out to Mr. Flynn about seeking immunity or possible pardon?
Why would I want to seek immunity? I didn’t do anything wrong. Look, first of all, there was no collusion. Also, as you know, I already have immunity. You cannot arrest a sitting president—especially if he has no collusion, which is what was pertaining to me at that time and it still does.
As far as pardons are concerned, I think I’ve shown that I’m pretty good at pardons. Universities have told me that I have made some of the best pardons in history. A very smart person from a university called me up and said, “Sir, your pardons are incredible.” Who did Lincoln pardon? Nobody even remembers that.
My piece, that is, out tonight, here. Happy Thanksgiving!


Better "medicalize" it, subject to regulation and protection against abuse, than spiritualize it and make it a new grift industry.

Brooks ("Fighting the Spiritual Void") leading with the usual "it's a spiritual problem" maneuver as a way of explaining why nobody can do anything about it, or at least nothing that will cost him any tax money:
Our society has tried to medicalize trauma. We call it PTSD and regard it as an individual illness that can be treated with medications. But it’s increasingly clear that trauma is a moral and spiritual issue as much as a psychological or chemical one. Wherever there is trauma, there has been betrayal, an abuse of authority, a moral injury.
Note that he doesn't like calling it an "individual" illness. It's wherever "there is" trauma,  and "there has been" betrayal, like Trump's "there is no" collusion. It's a sickness of the social organism, not bound to any particular persons, which means that David F. Brooks suffers from it just as much as the Afghanistan vet. And he's not asking for any medication. What's wrong with you guys?

Monday, November 19, 2018



A couple of truly bizarre misinterpretations in Mark Landler's New York Times account of the emperor's views on the murder of Jamal Kashoggi—first,
Mr. Trump, who had once condemned the Saudi leaders for perpetrating “the worst cover-up in history,” praised Saudi Arabia this weekend as a “truly spectacular ally,” even after the C.I.A. concluded that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the kingdom’s de facto leader, ordered the murder.
"Condemned" is a very peculiar descriptor for Trump's initial remarks on the killing, and especially the cover-up—

And don't go mistaking Paradise for that Pleasure down the road

Paradise, 16 June, photo by AFP via BBC.

Meanwhile, Emily Jane Fox of Vanity Fair (h/t Raw Story) has been reporting on Emperor Trump's intense anxiety over the fate of his eldest son, Junior, expecting to be indicted over his involvement in the Russia business, and now she's looking into its motives. What's he anxious about?

Literary Corner: How Long Has This Been Going On?

Not sure how much future there is in these circumstructions, in which I try to use the simple convention of the line break to bring out the poetic meaning of the political utterance. I feel as if Donald J. Trump has started using it himself. But I did admire the bits of the Chris Wallace interview that sounded like something from a Broadway musical of 60 years ago. The repetition of the refrain in the first piece is kind of my own invention, but as usual I'm not making any words up.

Three Foxtrots
by Donald J. Trump

I. How Dark Is Your Mood? It's Very Light

[Tell me how dark
How dark is your mood
Tell me how dark
How dark is your mood]
It’s very light,
it’s fake news,
it’s disgusting fake news.
I read a front page story
in the Washington Post,
they never even called me,
nobody ever calls me.
You know, they hear –
I don’t even think they have sources
I think they just make it up like it’s fiction.
It’s very light,
it’s fake news,
it’s disgusting fake news.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

The Unbearable Whiteness of Chicory

Belgian endive.
One of the conservative voices I know of who can write a truly decent paragraph and show some genuine human feeling, at the same time, is Anne Applebaum, an American journalist married to the Polish politician Radosław Sikorski, who had a beautiful, colossally sad essay ("A Warning From Europe") in last month's Atlantic about crazy nationalism as it's expressing itself in Central Europe at the moment, particularly in Poland and Hungary, which is in some ways scarier, if only because of its echoes of a familiar 1930s and 40s, than the comical goings-on in Trumpy America or the infuriating stupidity of Brexit Britain—if you think I'm crazy to keep associating conspiracy theories about George Soros with traditional Protocols-of-the-Elders anti-Semitism, you just need to be looking at the anti-Soros propaganda coming from Soros's native Hungary, where they make it very explicit (and where Trump adviser Dr. Sebastian Gorka, member of a "Historical Order of Vitéz" reviving the Nazi-run Order of Vitéz of the interbellum era, got his doctorate at the sadly decayed Corvinus University). In Poland especially, where the Velvet Revolutions of 1989 took a particularly legitimate conservative form,  Catholic, under the influence of John Paul II and union leader Lech Wałęsa, Applebaum describes a wrenching split between what I almost want to call leftist conservatives, the European-minded, artistically and philosophically sophisticated, conservative mainly in a kind of sweet upper-class cluelessness that really doesn't mean any harm, and the ruthlessly careerist nationalists of the Kaczyński faction, dividing families and marriages, and wrecking friendships she herself has had for decades, but worse than that is the damage that the nationalists are industriously making.

So here's David F. Brooks to supply the tl;dr on that ("The Rise of the Resentniks") by way of applying it to the Americans and, presumably, soak up some of that pity I can't help feeling for the Sikorski-Applebaums of the world:

Literary Corner: Old Forester

Photo by Tim Allendörfer, soft forest floor, somewhere in Germany, I think, July 2015. I couldn't find an image of a really well-raked forest.

The Floors of the Forest
by Donald J. Trump

We have to take care of the floors,
the floors of the forest; it is very
important. You look at other countries,
they do it differently and it's a whole
different story. I was with the president
of Finland and he said: "We’re a forest nation."
He called it a “forest nation.” And they spend a lot
of time on raking and cleaning and doing
things, and they don’t have any problem.
And when it is, it is a very small problem.
So I know everybody is looking at that…
to that end. And it’s going to work
out; it’s going to work out well.
A lot of people don't know that Finland is a forest nation. I do like the picture of all the Finns patiently raking the obnoxious needles, like so many Zen monks cultivating it as a garden, and whisking them away to a decent burial somewhere, perhaps at sea. It's nice to see Donald in this contemplative and caring mood, anxious to make things better, though he's not well equipped for the task.

Friday, November 16, 2018

New York note: In defense of Bill de Blasio, don't @ me

Photo by Yeong-Ung Yang/New York Times.

My distinguished tweep Nathan Newman lays out a reasonable schema for how we should feel about the deal making Long Island City, Queens, one of Amazon's new HQ2s:
That is, it's a horrible feature of late capitalism that giant companies should be playing off localities against each other in a race to the bottom in which they award the prize to the one that allows them to exploit it the most, but given that that's the way it is, and the feds won't do anything to stop it, local authorities would be irresponsible not to see if they can get something out of it for their citizens.

I've been listening to Mayor de Blasio on WNYC radio explaining the Amazon deal under questioning from Brian Lehrer and a couple of callers-in, and he's obviously kind of defensive, under intensive criticism from everybody from Alexandria Ocasio-Córtez and Jumaane Williams to Rod Dreher and the National Review, as Roy points out at the subscription site, but I'm inclined, on the whole, to think he may have done this thing right, or at the least that he's not just kidding when he presents himself as a kind of Mitterand figure:

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Freedom's just another word for no follow-up questions

A much cheerier and more benign event than the press gaggle, but they have something in common.

A highlight of the Trump Daily Caller interview was this elegant number in the "No Puppet No Puppet You're the Puppet" series:

The Real Threat to Freedom of the Press Is the Press
by Donald J. Trump
I will say that I really think
when you have guys like Acosta,
I think they’re really bad for the country.
Because they show how fake it all is.
And he’s a grandstander and we’ll see
how the court rules, and then they talk,
"Oh, freedom of the press." But can you
really have — is it freedom of
the press? It’s actually the opposite.
Is it freedom of the press when somebody
comes in and starts screaming questions and won’t
sit down after having answered a couple of them?
And then won’t sit down and then I can’t ask you
guys because he’s standing — I don’t think that’s
freedom of the press, I actually think that’s the opposite.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

For the Record: Cheap Shots and an argument

William Simpson, The Charge of the Light Brigade (1855), via Wikipedia.

Other than that, I just wanted to lay out this argument:

Patriotism and nationalism

This is such a shot for a 1950s movie poster, isn't it. From the White House state dinner in April, photo by AFP/Getty.

Trump's making the US irrelevant, forcing the rest of the world to figure out how to do things without us. It's a good thing in some places, as I've said with reference to South Korea, which has taken to managing its own foreign policy because they can't trust Americans to be consistent or coherent, but I'm not sure about others. Very cool column by David Ignatius/WaPo interprets the Armistice Day events in Paris in this light:

Last weekend’s events in Paris offered a dramatic demonstration that “other things being equal” is not a safe assumption. The world is moving to adapt to the reality that Donald Trump is president of the United States. Our friends and allies may hope his election eventually will be reversed, and maybe they think the United States turned a corner with the 2018 midterm elections. But they can’t count on it, so these countries must consider that the United States may be a different country from what they had believed.
French President Emmanuel Macron articulated this reality last week. In one of his World War I remembrances, he told a French radio station that Europe needs a “true European army” at a time when the United States is a less reliable ally. “We have to protect ourselves with respect to China, Russia and even the United States of America,” Macron said.
Trump blasted Macron’s comments as “very insulting,” and he continued to complain in tweets Tuesday about French ingratitude and claimed that Macron was trying to distract from his “very low” approval ratings. But joining Macron on Tuesday was German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who told the European parliament that she shared others’ view that “a common European army would show the world that there would never again be war in Europe.”
That—Macron suggesting a "European army"—seems to have been a major part of what triggered Trump's weird behavior beginning over the weekend, alongside dawning realization that he just lost an election, bigly, and as we're told that Corsi and Stone and apparently Junior himself are getting busted, and that his brilliant maneuver of planting his own personal agent at the attorney general's desk to protect him is a failure, and maybe even, Steve suggests this morning, a crash from some prescription high.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

The Gentlemanly Spirit

British troops in France, 1917,  George Grantham Bain collection/Library of Congress, via Britannica.

Brooks's commemoration of the centenary of the 1918 Armistice ("The Struggle to Stay Human Amid the Fight") seems to have been written mostly by Brainy Quotes, but it does take a surprising angle, while everybody else is praising the sacrifice of the troops in the conventional way people do, Brooks is complaining about the cultural effects of the Great War, which is that it created an atmosphere of distrust in institutions and spoiled everybody's gentlemanly, sporting spirit.
Disillusionment was the classic challenge for the generation that fought and watched that war. Before 1914, there was an assumed faith in progress, a general trust in the institutions and certainties of Western civilization. People, especially in the educated classes, approached life with a gentlemanly, sporting spirit.
As Paul Fussell pointed out in “The Great War and Modern Memory,” the upper classes used genteel words in place of plain ones: slumber for sleep, the heavens for the sky, conquer for win, legion for army.
Paul Fussell did not point out that the British upper classes used genteel words for plain ones before the war. Winston Churchill did not ask Mrs. Churchill if she had a nice slumber, or take his steed out for a canter. Fussell is talking about writing: the awful, disembodied, euphemism-soaked literary language of the Edwardians and Georgians, particularly in poetry (p. 21?):

Monday, November 12, 2018

For the Record: Bad Sports

From Terry Zwigoff's Bad Santa (2003), via.

Sessions of Sweet Silent Thought. II

Drawing by Glenn McCoy, via Valley News.

I'm still stuck on this question of why Trump should be so offended at Sessions's insisting on recusing himself. As if it were a bad habit, you know, that people should be able to easily control; "What kind of man is this?":
"Jeff Sessions recused himself which he shouldn't have done or he should have told me," the president said. "Even my enemies say that Jeff Sessions should have told you that he was going to recuse himself and then you wouldn't have put him in.
"(Sessions) took the job and then he said 'I'm going to recuse myself.' And I said 'what kind of man is this?' By the way, he was on the campaign. The only reason I gave him the job was I felt loyalty. He was an original supporter. He was on the campaign. He knows there was no collusion."
Why should Trump in the wake of the election have expected Sessions not to recuse himself in the Russia investigation? Or rather why should Trump have assumed he knew what Sessions would say if somebody asked him to recuse himself from it, so he could subsequently be so disappointed with Session's failure to do it? Given how unclear Trump seems to be, at the same time, as to what "recusal" actually means?

Sunday, November 11, 2018

RIP Roy Hargrove

This great young trumpet player, 49 years old, died Friday of cardiac arrest in New York City after going to the hospital with kidney issues.

In this remarkable cut Hargrove and his band members systematically, though not directly, establish their place in the entire heritage of jazz from the 12-bar blues through the harmonic explorations of John Coltrane, through the mediation of the name of Charlie Parker:

For the Record: Mystery

Undated picture of the Aisne-Marne (spelled wrong by me below, with an extra -s), Belleau, France, via.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Congrats Jordan

Quick note: An auspicious historical anniversary this month—not the centenary of the 1918 Armistice—is being celebrated in the New Yorker magazine with a lovely appreciation by our friend Jordan Orlando, making his début appearance in that august publication, beginning:
To mark this month’s fiftieth anniversary of the Beatles’ ninth album, “The Beatles”—universally known as the White Album—several new expanded and enhanced editions are being released this week. These new versions were created under the supervision of Giles Martin, the son of the album’s original producer, George Martin. As was done last year with “Sgt. Pepper,” the new editions contain, along with a wealth of archival recordings and other material, a brand-new, digitally remixed presentation—a laborious retrieval and reassembly of the contents of the original multitrack master tapes, with a comprehensive scope far beyond that of all previous remasters and releases. The result reveals what might be called the greatest record ever made, not only in terms of its innovation and its strange, impenetrable, endlessly suggestive beauty but also because of its place at the apex of the Beatles’ career and its role as an aesthetic keystone for nearly all the rock-and-roll recordings that have followed.
Upon returning to England from Rishikesh, India, in April, 1968, John Lennon and George Harrison stripped and sanded the psychedelic paintwork off of their Gibson J-160E Casino guitars; Donovan, one of the many musicians who had accompanied them to the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s ashram for an advanced transcendental-meditation course, had told them that this would improve the sound. “If you take the paint and varnish off and get the bare wood,” Harrison explained later, “it seems to sort of breathe.” This stripping away of psychedelic symbolism was part of a larger campaign that the band undertook to remove the layers of Beatles mythology, habit, and convention that had accumulated since their beginnings, as Liverpool teen-agers—before Germany and America, before Astrid Kirchherr’s arty portraits had fetishized their mop-top haircuts, before Ed Sullivan and “A Hard Day’s Night,” and Shea Stadium, and the rest of it. Psychedelia, and the Beatles’ influential participation in it, had peaked with the release of their landmark 1967 album, “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” the surrealist tracks on which had beguiled the world and, many said, inspired the Summer of Love. The American political theorist Langdon Winner observed, “The closest Western Civilization has come to unity since the Congress of Vienna in 1815 was the week the ‘Sgt. Pepper’ album was released. . . . At the time I happened to be driving across the country on Interstate 80; in each city where I stopped for gas or food—Laramie, Ogallala, Moline, South Bend—the melodies wafted in from some far-off transistor radio or portable hi-fi. It was the most amazing thing I’ve ever heard.”
It's just a terrific piece, full of New Yorkerish thingy-ness but not a drop of twee. That Donovan anecdote at the top of the second paragraph filled me with a strange nostalgic joy so I was instantly gripped. Everybody needs to read it.

Friday, November 9, 2018

David Brooks Columns I Never Finished Reading

Sod House on the Prairie, Sanborn, Minnesota.

Jesus, Brooks ("What the Working Class Is Still Trying to Tell Us"):
I was ready for massive Democratic turnout for the election on Tuesday. But I was surprised how massive the Republican turnout was in response.
The Republicans who flooded to the polls weren’t college-educated suburbanites. Those people voted for Democrats this year....
These were high-school-educated, working-class Republicans.
In fact, as compared to two years ago, the Brookings Institution finds,

Sessions of Sweet Silent Thought. I

Another secret Muslim fundamentalist using the evil tawhid gesture? Via Buffalo News (once your correpondent's hometown paper).

Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III was certainly, as the ACLU said yesterday, the worst attorney general in modern American history

(only modern? well, there was Roger Taney, author of the Dred Scott decision, who managed to pack an amazing amount of evil into his brief stint as Andrew Jackson's attorney general in 1833, when he ruled that it was legal for South Carolina to ban free blacks from entering the state and held that the descendants of slaves could not be citizens, before Jackson moved him over to Treasury in a recess appointment and he proceeded to destroy the Second Bank of the United States without congressional authorization by withdrawing all its money; on account of which, when Jackson eventually submitted his name to the Whig Senate, he became the first nominee ever to be rejected for a cabinet position—come to think of it, he seems to have had a work ethic and personality type and effect on others quite a lot like Sessions)

and so it's somehow fitting that Trump should have fired him for the only thing he ever did right, just like the worst secretary of state ever, who got the sack for correctly referring to the emperor as a "fucking moron"; Sessions's crime was to take legal advice and turn over the supervision of Special Counsel Robert Mueller to his deputy, Rod Rosenstein, since he himself had become implicated in the matters under investigation, after his lies to Congress on the subject of his contacts with Ambassador Kislyak. Nothing in his career became him so much as the way it kicked him out.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Homeopathic Populism

Raspberry peach pie via Taste of Home.

I'm so tired of this hoary and false take on the 2016 election, as from Monsignor Ross Douthat ("Midterms Deliver an American Stalemate"):
Instead, after its nominee traded a lot of suburban voters for stronger working-class support in 2016, the Trump-era Republican Party has continued to hemorrhage suburbanites while also giving back some of those Midwestern, blue-collar gains. The political strategy for Republicans after Trump’s victory should have been obvious: Seal the working-class realignment with a dose of economic populism, hold the suburbs by dialing back the Trumpian excesses. Instead the president let congressional Republicans have their way on policy, and they let him be himself in other ways — which makes the Democratic sweep in the House exactly the outcome that both the soon-departing Paul Ryan and the president deserve.
Suburbia voted Trump by a 5% margin two years ago, compared to 2% for Romney in 2012:
Suburban voters particularly put Trump ahead in the crucial Midwestern states of Michigan, Wisconsin, and came close to winning him supposedly deep blue Minnesota. This is where the Democratic falloff from the Obama years was most evident, notes Mike Barone, falling from  dropping from 54 percent for Obama to 2008 to 45 percent [in 2016].
In fact people who work with their hands are allowed to live in the suburbs nowadays, perhaps contrary what the Monsignor has heard. It has actually been going on since the 1940s.

I love that concept of a "dose" of economic populism. It's a theory of homeopathic political medicine. You hold off revolution by administering tiny, almost undetectable gestures, like the Marco-Ivanka childcare proposals.

As to the reining in of "Trumpian excesses", does he think they haven't tried?
What about Democrats? If Republicans just spent two years squandering a chance at a populist realignment, their rivals spent Election Day proving that they have solved some of their Obama-era problems — midterm turnout, above all — without finding way to turn a popular-vote advantage into the Senate majority that, no matter how unjust liberals increasingly find the existence of the Senate, they still need to somehow win.
It's been obvious since long before the campaign started that the particular third of the states electing Senators this year were the wrong batch for Democrats. It's like when you go to the greenmarket during peach season and Ross says "Birkenstock-wearers still haven't found a way to turn flour, fat, fruit, and sugar into pumpkin pie." Just go away, please.

Bonus: I don't need to bother with Mr. Bret Stephens:

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Moment of Zen

Bloedel Reserve, Bainbridge Island, WA, via 2TravelDads.

Woke up sometime between 4:00 and 5:00, neither on purpose nor insomniac, just quietly listening to the brainchatter, when I suddenly realized I had forgotten all about the election—it had been absent from my mind for, I don't really know, the whole ten or fifteen minutes I'd been awake. That was kind of nice.