Monday, July 15, 2019

Roundup Wound Up

Don't know if this was connected to the raids or not.
Trump's ICE roundups seem to have ended up more Ruritania than Third Reich, as our valiant anti-immigrant paramilitary couldn't find anybody to arrest, at least in New York City, per NPR:
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said Saturday that ICE officers had already attempted to make arrests in the city, but they were not successful.
Activists have been spreading the word to migrants to not open their doors if an immigration agent knocks, since they cannot use force to enter a residence.
While across the river, The Times reported,

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Then there's the trope of maddening indirection

Drawing via Corner Poetry.
The New York Times:
WASHINGTON — President Trump on Sunday weighed in on the friction between a group of four freshman Democratic congresswomen and Speaker Nancy Pelosi: He suggested that the congresswomen — none of whom are white — should “go back and help fix” the countries they came from. His message was immediately seized upon by Democrats, who called it a racist trope.
Trope? Reader, Democrats did not call it a trope of any kind. Speaker Pelosi said it was "xenophobic"

and Ben Ray Luján said it was "racist":
“That is a racist tweet,” Mr. Luján said on “Fox News Sunday.” “Telling people to go back where they came from — these are American citizens elected by voters in the United States of America to serve in one of the distinguished bodies in the U.S. House of Representatives. I think that’s wrong.”
And Ted Lieu has called him "a racist ass". What I say is

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Is This Phase One of Lumpy Identity Politics?

In a really annoying exchange with some Rose Twitter folks:

Erased! That's a funny idea of what polls are supposed to do. "Waiter, send this poll back! It's ignoring me, merely because I belong to a minority!"

Friday, July 12, 2019

Above His Pay Grade

Four Epstein victims, Twitter/Miami Herald via Women in the World.

I see Alex Acosta didn't do much reverting, during his command performance for Trump yesterday or his resignation today, to that weird little thing he'd told the Trump transition team:
“Is the Epstein case going to cause a problem [for confirmation hearings]?” Acosta had been asked. Acosta had explained, breezily, apparently, that back in the day he’d had just one meeting on the Epstein case. He’d cut the non-prosecution deal with one of Epstein’s attorneys because he had “been told” to back off, that Epstein was above his pay grade. “I was told Epstein ‘belonged to intelligence’ and to leave it alone,” he told his interviewers in the Trump transition, who evidently thought that was a sufficient answer and went ahead and hired Acosta. (Vicki Ward via TPM)
Yesterday he said Justice Department regulations forbade him to talk about it, the Washington Examiner thinks, but I think they may be trying to hard to interpret nonsense:
“So, there has been reporting to that effect. And let me say, there’s been report to a lot of effects in this case. Not just now but over the years. And again, I would, I would hesitate to take this reporting as fact,” Acosta said.... This was a case that was brought based on the facts,” said Acosta. “And I look at the reporting and others. I can’t address it directly because of our guidelines.”
I'm pleased to report that I instantly thought the story was bullshit:

News From Eurasia

Trisulti Monastery east of Rome, where Stephen Bannon maintains his gladiator school/"populist" academy in defense of the Judeo-Christian way of life in spite of being evicted five weeks ago, apparently. Photo by M. Williams/DW

This BuzzFeed story doesn't seem to be getting any play in the US—I heard it on BBC—but it involves hard evidence (Lordy, tapes!) of a meeting (reported in the news magazine L'Espresso in February) between Russian officials and representatives of Italian deputy prime minister Matteo Salvini's fascistoid Lega party at Moscow's Metropol Hotel in October. BuzzFeed has a recording of the meeting, in which participants develop a plot for the Kremlin to deliver $65,000,000 to the Lega in advance of last spring's European elections, violating Italy's campaign contribution law (which allowed foreign donors up until a new law this January, but only up to a maximum of €100,000) and evading European anti–money laundering and Know Your Client regulations:

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Grand Collusion

Pierre Fresnay and Erich von Stroheim in Jean Renoir's La Grande Illusion (1937), via NYTimes.

There's so much going on on all Trump fronts at the moment it's almost unbearable trying to pick a subject, but this thing from Michael Isikoff at Yahoo looks to me like the smokingest gun ever, maybe not that smoking, in the Trump-Russia matter, and I don't think it's been getting enough attention—that the Seth Rich Deep State conspiracy murder theory was originally concocted by Russian intelligence:
Russia’s foreign intelligence service, known as the SVR, first circulated a phony “bulletin” — disguised to read as a real intelligence report —about the alleged murder of the former DNC staffer on July 13, 2016, according to the U.S. federal prosecutor who was in charge of the Rich case. That was just three days after Rich, 27, was killed in what police believed was a botched robbery while walking home to his group house in the Bloomingdale neighborhood of Washington, D.C., about 30 blocks north of the Capitol.
and offering a conspiracy theory to account for the crime, claiming

Standing Orders

Photo via Reuters Money Control.

Typical Donald. His "donation" of his salary, $400,000 annually while his sole proprietorship businesses make $434 million (according to the 2018 report), amounts to less than one thousandth of his income (0.09%). It's a casual tip to the nation, like John D. Rockefeller's dimes. The America First Action PAC alone spent more than that, $427,000, holding campaign events at Trump properties, which he wouldn't have earned if he weren't president. We went through some of that, and the money taxpayers provide for government officials and White House aides to spend in his properties, last month. To say nothing of the money taxpayers spend on his air travel to visit his properties with his entourage every weekend or golf carts for him and the secret service to toddle across the greens in.

Trump's own argument seems to be that it would be "ridiculous" for him to obey the Constitutional strictures on foreign and domestic emoluments because that would be bad business practice: "I'm taking a loss as it is!"

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Trump's Book

Commenter Thundermonkey reminds us that Trump used to have a book he was attached to. We've all heard this before, but I never did read the original context of its write-up by Marie Brenner, in Vanity Fair, September 1990, reprinted at the beginning of the last presidential campaign:
Donald Trump has always viewed his father as a role model. In The Art of the Deal, he wrote, “Fred Trump was born in New Jersey in 1905. His father, who came here from Sweden . . . owned a moderately successful restaurant.” In fact, the Trump family was German and desperately poor. “At one point my mother took in stitching to keep us going,” Trump’s father told me. “For a time, my father owned a restaurant in the Klondike, but he died when I was young.” Donald’s cousin John Walter once wrote out an elaborate family tree. “We shared the same grandfather,” Walter told me, “and he was German. So what?”
Although Fred Trump was born in New Jersey, family members say he felt compelled to hide his German background because most of his tenants were Jewish. “After the war, he thought that Jews would never rent from him if they knew his lineage,” Ivana reportedly said. Certainly, Fred Trump’s camouflage could easily convey to a child the impression that in business anything goes. When I asked Donald Trump about this, he was evasive: “Actually, it was very difficult. My father was not German; my father’s parents were German . . . Swedish, and really sort of all over Europe . . . and I was even thinking in the second edition of putting more emphasis on other places because I was getting so many letters from Sweden: Would I come over and speak to Parliament? Would I come meet with the president?”

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Spectrum Disorder

Photo by Bill McCullough, New York Magazine, April 2019.

This turned out to be a post by Jeet Heer, and not nearly as idiotic as The Nation's teaser makes it look; he was thinking not of the celebrated public philosopher of centripetality David Brooks and a campaign such as Brooks might design on the basis of his own political thinking, but of the fictional David Brooks who was the protagonist of Brooks's column of 28 June, looking for a Democratic presidential candidate he could support. But it was kind of idiotic:
The best thing about Brooks’s column is his frank use of the first person singular. Although he makes gestures to other hypothetical moderate voters, he is candid that the question is whether the Democrats will nominate someone “I can vote for.” This “I” is honest, since Brooks is speaking for a tiny faction, Never Trump conservatives, who twice demonstrated in 2016 that they were a powerless rump minority in the real world of politics.
But he's wrong about that for starters, since Brooks in fact isn't honest at all—he claimed at the outset to be speaking for 35% of the electorate:

Saturday, July 6, 2019

It's the literacy

The big thing you need to know about what happened in Trump's Fourth of July speech was in an AP story—I found it in The Hollywood Reporter, appropriately enough:
The White House did not release a text of the speech that had been prepared for him so it's not known what he meant to say.
They didn't release the text because if they did we'd all have a clear view of exactly what went wrong, and by extension of exactly what's wrong with the president, something as important, maybe, as the narcissistic personality disorder: his reading disability.

I've mentioned this in other venues before, but I think I've never laid it out here, and I'm really annoyed by everybody laughing at Trump for believing there were airports in the period from 1776 to 1814, which is silly and entirely misses the point.

The reading disability isn't something familiar like dyslexia, where the problem is in decoding the letters into speech sounds; he's good enough at that to make it most of the way through reading a 45-minute text aloud. It's in comprehension, recognizing the meaningfulness of what he's reading, and its name in the business is Specific Reading Comprehension Deficit or S-RCD, defined in the DSM as

Friday, July 5, 2019

Fifth of July

Blythe Danner as Martha Jefferson with William Daniels (Adams) and Howard da Silva (Franklin), from Barb Spangler's Pinterest.

Found myself watching the 1972 movie musical 1776 (based on the Broadway show, with music and lyrics by Sherman Hunt, book by Peter Stone, directed by Peter H. Hunt) on the teevee at the end of the day, a dramatization of the Continental Congress activity in Philadelphia over the two or three months leading up to that first Fourth of July. Not a very plausible subject for a musical comedy, with dozens of male characters and basically no women (the female lead, Abigail Adams, is hundreds of miles away in Quincy the entire time and appears on stage only in John Adams's daydreams, or staged reconstructions of their very extensive correspondence, depending on how you look at it), and there really aren't enough songs in fact, or too many words (it's almost three hours).

What they really did right dramatically, I thought, and it feeds into the way we should think about the history, is to present it in terms of a series of conflicts among the delegates, in which everything could go wrong at any moment, principally between a startlingly obnoxious, pushy Adams (we like him, and know he's right, but we see why Franklin is the only one of the characters who does) and more or less everybody else, simultaneously or in sequence, beginning with his rage at them all for their preoccupation with trivia and refusal to understand the colonists' need to separate themselves from the empire that's trying to kill them all.

Rectification: Roundups

While we've been talking about the correct use of the term "concentration camp" to describe the Customs and Border Patrol encampments at the Mexican border to hold thousands of people in illegal detention in unsafe and unsanitary conditions for weeks and months at a time (including children, who are required by law to be released within 72 hours), blogfriend Bethesda 1971 has been musing at Daily Kos on another word, "roundup", to refer to planned ICE activities across the country:
President Donald Trump said Monday that U.S. immigration officials will start raids after July 4 as part of a nationwide roundup of undocumented immigrants.  Bloomberg, July 1, 2019.
Trump says immigration roundup will start next week. Reuters, June 18, 2019.
Trump administration plans unprecedented roundup of 2,000 family members in deportation raidsABC, June 22, 2019.
This has a Shoah pedigree too, as in one famous roundup in Vichy France, from July 1942:
Over 11,000 Jews were arrested on the same day, and confined to the Winter Stadium, or Velodrome d’Hiver, known as the Vel’ d’Hiv, in Paris. The detainees were kept in extremely crowded conditions, almost without water, food and sanitary facilities. Within a week the number of Jews held in the Vel’ d’Hiv had reached 13,000, among them more than 4,000 children. Children between the ages of two and 16 were arrested together with their parents. Among those detained were Jews from Germany, Austria, Poland, the Czech Republic and Russia. .  .  .  .In the week following the arrests, the Jews were taken from the Winter Stadium to the concentration camps of Pithiviers and Beaune-la-Rolande in the Loiret region south of Paris, and to Drancy, near Paris. At the end of July and the beginning of August, the Jews who were being detained in these camps were separated from their children and deported.
Of course they weren't being deported to misery and lethal danger in the Central American Northern Triangle but to certain death in Auschwitz and other death camps, but the similarities are otherwise pretty striking. And yet we use the word "roundup" without a second thought. Anyway you should read the whole piece, linked above.

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Fourth of July

The third movement of Charles Ives's symphony New England Holidays, depicting a small-town Connecticut Fourth from early morning to a collision of at least two parades (one of the great things about this video is the two conductors), takes its time getting where it's going, and by the time it arrives it's practically over, but it's a wondrous piece of music.

And here's the whole symphony (couldn't find one with any video worth looking at though)

Literary Corner: Decompensation

Our emperor,  crumpling into tears as he thinks about how "nice" he is and how misunderstood and getting whisked out of the room.

The speed with which the handlers react suggest this is something that's happened more than once.

The strangest and most colossal moment in the Tucker Carlson interview was the extended riff on the homelessness issue, which he seemed to think had first become a problem shortly after his inauguration ("a scene that nobody would have believed possible three years ago"). Not that he was taking responsibility for it; on the contrary, he suggests he "quickly" put a stop to it in Washington when it was "starting to happen" (which isn't true, as you might imagine; it happens to be true that the homeless population in DC has been declining significantly for the past three years, but the credit generally goes to Mayor Muriel Bowser and the family-oriented plan she introduced in 2015; Trump's budgets, meanwhile, work to eliminate one of the organizations that has done the most in the capital, the Interagency Council on Homelessness—not that Trump would know anything about that, it's one of Mulvaney's numerous jobs, but still).

For the Record: Bribery

Me, yesterday:
Steve, this morning:

I knew there'd be something sleazy. And then, via Crooks & Liars (my bold):
As HuffPost noted, the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, found that Trump’s nearby Washington, D.C. hotel, which he still owns and profits from, is sold out for the 3rd and 4th despite charging double what the other luxury hotels are charging around the holiday.
How neatly that works with the fact that, as even Fox correspondent Ellison Barber reported, “The White House is reportedly giving some VIP tickets to Republican donors.”
Gee, where might those donors dine or stay if they’re from out of town?

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Literary Corner: Sir Thing

Ridley Scott's Exodus: Gods and Kings (2017), via.

I liked this, from the Tucker Carlson interview, not just for its sonnet shapeliness but still more for the way it elevates the sir story into the hypothetical mood. When Trump imagines what it's like to be president, it's exactly the way he expects his TV and rally audiences to imagine it, like the court in a sword-and-sandals movie, where the sovereign stands, or sits enthroned, in the midst of a crowd of heroic-looking guys who "walk up to" him to announce their concerns.

Corollary to that is the insight that he must be aware he isn't, in fact, effectively president, to the extent that these scenes aren't really taking place, much as he clearly wishes they would. That's why . they figure so strongly in the stories he makes up.

Sonnet on the Poet's Theoretical Plan to Remove All the Troops From Afghanistan
by Donald J. Trump
But I would leave very strong intelligence
there. You have to watch because they do --
you know, okay, I'll give you a tough one.
If you were in my position and a great looking
central casting and we have great generals,
a great central casting general walks up
to your office, I say, "We're getting out."
"Yes, sir. We'll get out. Yes, sir." 
I'll say, "What do you think of that?"
"Sir, I'd rather attack them over there, than
attack them in our land." In other words, them
coming here. That's always a very tough
decision, you know, with what happened
with the World Trade Center, et cetera et cetera.
If the general's good-looking enough, George C. Scott type, it's war. There's a chance we haven't gone to war yet in Iran because it's John Bolton pushing the case ("If we don't fight them there..."), with his stupid facial hair.

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

The Audacity of Moderation

Why does David Brooks think Norway doesn't have a generous social welfare safety net? Because they obviously can't affjord it! Image stolen from some stupid conservative Australian website that didn't credit it anyway.

Shorter David Brooks, "Moderates Have the Better Story", New York Times, 2 July 2019: 
Have I got a story for you! Not the tired old progressive story, the gloom and carnage mind-set of Donald Trump and Elizabeth Warren, in which global capitalism is a war zone and government must be on a war footing, controlling and protecting the population and giving it free stuff, but a new, boldly moderate story of a world where everything is just great now, with our new global middle class providing more creativity than ever before. The job of government could be to create a citizenry with the vigorous virtues—daring, empowered, always learning, always brave—as they do in the Nordic countries, which are not socialist wonderlands, whatever you may have been told. Why, they don't have minimum wages or estate taxes! Unlike Elizabeth Warren, who won't allow private day care and uses her so-called Green New Deal to stifle free trade. 
Honest to God, he's that crazed today, I don't even know where to start.
First, learn from the Nordic countries. American progressives sometimes imagine that the Nordic countries are socialist wonderlands. They are not. The Nordic countries have strong social supports and also open free-market economies. In fact, they can afford to have strong welfare policies only because they have dynamic free-market economies.
I guess I should start by acknowledging that the Nordic countries are not socialist wonderlands. It's true and it's true that a lot of people don't know that! (Including, I'm sorry to say, Senator Sanders.) Rather than adopting the socialist program of replacing private capital with public capital and putting the means of production under the ownership of the state, they have chosen to regulate private capital so as to minimize its ferocious injustices and abuses. They are social democracies:

Monday, July 1, 2019

2020 Polling Takes Shape

The new CNN poll of 2020 Democratic candidates, first to follow the first debates, is so startling that you think it has to represent something serious, in the trends at the top:

The fall of Biden and Sanders (the former from runaway leader to just leader and the latter from 2nd to 4th place) and concomitant rise of Harris and Warren better than doubling their previous numbers looks an awful lot like a trend, though you can't really say it is, even if it's the way you'd like to see things going, which (disclosure!) it is for me. (It's also of some interest that it looks so bad for people down in the middle of nowhere who looked good in debate, from Buttigieg to Gabbard, and especially Julián Castro, who seem to be bleeding support that barely existed in the first place.)

I wonder if it's OK at this point at something that's not changing, but possibly starting to clarify itself, on health care, the evidence that voters generally want something as radical as the Sanders Medicare For All program and the continuing existence of private health insurance at the same time.

Sunday, June 30, 2019

What Do the Simple Folk Think?

"What part of 'ordinary people' do you not understand?"

What conclusions, Mr. Bret Stephens would like to know, should "ordinary people" draw from the first round of Democratic debates last week, as to what Democrats stand for?
Here’s what: a party that makes too many Americans feel like strangers in their own country. A party that puts more of its faith, and invests most of its efforts, in them instead of us.
They speak Spanish. We don’t. They are not U.S. citizens or legal residents. We are. They broke the rules to get into this country. We didn’t. They pay few or no taxes. We already pay most of those taxes. They willingly got themselves into debt. We’re asked to write it off. They don’t pay the premiums for private health insurance. We’re supposed to give up ours in exchange for some V.A.-type nightmare. They didn’t start enterprises that create employment and drive innovation. We’re expected to join the candidates in demonizing the job-creators, breaking up their businesses and taxing them to the hilt.
Unfortunately readers didn't all recognize that that was an op-editorial "we", and stumbled into thinking Bret Stephens was himself an ordinary voter, which was just beastly of them!

In which I agree with Bari Weiss

Photo by Robert Cherny for The Frisc.

Sort of. "From the left," as you might say, with Weiss's views ("San Francisco Will Spend $600,000 to Erase History") on
the San Francisco school board’s unanimous decision on Tuesday night to spend at least $600,000 of taxpayer money not just to shroud a historic work of art but to destroy it.
By now stories of progressive Puritanism (or perhaps the better word is Philistinism) are so commonplace — snowflakes seek safe space! — that it can feel tedious to track the details of the latest outrage. But this case is so absurd that it’s worth reviewing the specifics.
It's about the 13 fresco murals painted in 1936 inside George Washington High School in San Francisco by Victor Arnautoff, a Communist student of Diego Rivera, under the auspices of the WPA, depicting a less sanitized version of the life of George Washington in which the Father of Our Country is shown managing the enslaved workers on his tobacco plantation at Mount Vernon (not cotton, as too many reports including Weiss's claim), and as a land speculator pushing the colonization of the frontier literally over the dead body of a murdered Native.

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Literary Corner: President Litella

Soviet Jewelry from Gal Beckerman on Vimeo.

Aaron Blake for WaPo had issued a very good take on these remarkable passages from Trump's Osaka news conference at the conclusion of the G-20 meeting, but I was already committed to reading them as poetry and believe there's more to be said:

Kamala Harris, Joe Biden, and the Viability of Busing in School Desegregation
by Donald J. Trump

I. Where Do You Stand on Federally Mandated Busing?

Before I get into that,
I thought she was given too much credit.
He did not do well, certainly. And maybe
the facts were not necessarily on his side.
I think she was given too much credit
for what she did. Was it that outstanding?
I think probably he was hit harder
than he should have been hit. I thought
he was hit actually harder.
As far as that, I will tell you in about four weeks
because we are coming out with certain policies
that are going to be very interesting
and very surprising to a lot of people.
Shortly after this appeared, valued tweep snowmanomics wrote, "No doubt Trump thinks the busing controversy refers to the typical method students get transported to school," and shortly after that this preposterous joke turned out to be true:

Friday, June 28, 2019

The Rest of the Moral Case

Loretta Young demonstrates how to be agreeable in Laugh, Clown, Laugh (1928), via Fritzi.

"The rest of the moral case" against Trump, David Brooks was saying, "means hitting him from the right as well as the left."

We're good at calling Trump a racist and an immigrant hater, he's saying, but we ought to be accusing him of things conservatives don't like?

And then David Brooks would consider voting for us?

Why doesn't the left attack Trump from the right, and other dilemmas

William S. Hart in Hell's Hinges (1916), via Fritzi.

Well, here's an urgent question: how is the Democratic party going to get David Brooks's vote in 2020 ("Dems, Please Don't Drive Me Away")?
I could never in a million years vote for Donald Trump. So my question to Democrats is: Will there be a candidate I can vote for?
According to a recent Gallup poll, 35 percent of Americans call themselves conservative, 35 percent call themselves moderate and 26 percent call themselves liberal. The candidates at the debates this week fall mostly within the 26 percent. The party seems to think it can win without any of the 35 percent of us in the moderate camp, the ones who actually delivered the 2018 midterm win.

Brooks now identifies as one of those soccer moms, I guess. I'm just so fatigued with the one-dimensional view of politics—everybody standing on that line, with everybody else to their left or their right, and the politician's job being to capture a majority by dominating a particular line segment. You'd think if we'd learned nothing else from Trump, we'd have learned that that's not how it works.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Hi It's Stupid: White Working Class edition

Cooperative Congressional Election Study 2016.

Hi, it's Stupid to say there's no such thing in the United States as "the white working class", but there's an elegant new way of saying it, from Thomas B. Edsall, the New York Times columnist so colorless that nobody even knows whether they hate him or not, but I often kind of like him, when I remember to take a look, as in this case, where it's right in the headline: "There Are Really Two Distinct White Working Classes".

The idea, which is drawing on polling for the AFL-CIO that I think I don't have access to, is that when you look at the polling category of white people without college degrees (standing in for the hopelessly ill-defined "white working class" category), which would be an enormous group if it was in fact a bloc, from 48% to 54% (see above chart) of the electorate, they are very sharply divided by political behavior, around 40% of them being Democrats or Democrat leaners, and about 50% Republicans or Republican leaners (the leaners being pretty small groups on both sides), with the balance being true independents.

They're also distinct in other demographic ways, as you might expect. The non-college white Democrats are a lot younger, twice as many of them under 38 or so as the Republicans, and a lot more female (59%-41%, as opposed to 51%-49%). They are markedly less Christian, and less evangelical/born-again in particular. Edsall doesn't give any figures for income, but I think these factors make it obvious that the Democrats have a good deal less money, and from there I would speculate, on lines I've talked about before, that the non-college white Democrats are much more likely to be low-level employees, while non-college white Republicans are the ones who have mastered the art of getting rich without a college degree, the proprietors of small or tiny businesses. Hold that thought for a few minutes.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Mueller: The Off-Broadway Trumpfenfestspiel

Somebody had one of the same ideas I had for familiarizing people with the Mueller Report, that of a dramatic reading of enough of the witness testimony to add up to an intelligible story—

In fact, a distinguished playwright did, Robert Schenkkan, perhaps best noted for another political piece, All the Way, which won the Best Play Tony for its Broadway run in 2014, starring Bryan Cranston as Lyndon Baines Johnson, meaning somebody who was able to get the thing done, which happened last night, at the Riverside Church in uptown Manhattan, presented by a nonprofit education-and-advocacy organization called Law Works, and directed by Scott Ellis, with a pretty amazing cast including John Lithgow as a diabolical but engaging Donald Trump (you haven't lived until you've watched Lithgow crumpling into despair as he says, "Oh my God. This is terrible. This is the end of my presidency. I'm fucked") and Annette Bening as a counter-narrator reading the occasional sidebar of text that was not from the Report.

The performance was streamed live (as I learned too late to see it, but I watched it this afternoon) and is freely distributable on any website you want to distribute it from, so the first thing I want to do is give it to you right here before I move on to any spoilers:

After which just a few words on what I think it is and what it's likely to work at.

Weird Endings

Image by Kate Peters/Financial Times

A classic Brooks in strictly formal terms ("How Artificial Intelligence Can Save Your Life"): 13 paragraphs on how nice AI can be, presented as interesting things he's been learning about in his wide reading on the subject, and then in paragraph 14 a first reference to a book by this guy he just met at the Aspen Ideas Festival, from which 10 of the previous paragraphs are in fact culled (Deep Medicine: How Artificial Intelligence Can Make Healthcare Human Again, by Eric Topol, 2019).

At the end, he brushes up against an issue that might be interesting: something I never know quite what to think about, anyway, the privacy issue, the way these genuinely lifesaving capacities are connected to the existence of intimate information about us all over cyberspace, in this case the AI programs that can estimate how serious texts sent to a suicide hotline are by analyzing their vocabulary, or diagnose depression on the basis of Instagram posts. But where Brooks wanders is really peculiar:
You can imagine how problematic this could be if the information gets used by employers or the state.
But if it’s a matter of life and death, I suspect we’re going to go there. At some level we’re all strangers to ourselves. We’re all about to know ourselves a lot more deeply. You tell me if that’s good or bad.
and that's it. What the hell? The Internet is going to force us all to attain self-knowledge? (Brooks was very hot on opposing self-knowledge in 2014.) It threatens our ability to keep things private from ourselves?

Monday, June 24, 2019

West of Eden: Surrender Documents

Jews and Palestinians sharing the street at the Jaffa Gate in Old Jerusalem before World War I, via +972.

This is making it pretty explicit:

The famous Jared Kushner "peace plan", part of which the White House unveiled a sketchy picture of over the weekend, isn't a settlement but a surrender in which Palestinians are being asked to permanently abandon their claims of nationhood in return for something more than $25 billion (but much less than the $50 billion you'll see in the headlines, since almost half of that is devoted to funding projects in Egypt, Lebanon, and Jordan) in bribe money over ten years, ponied up not by Israel or the United States but by the "wealthy Gulf states and nations in Europe and Asia, along with private investors" who should be represented at the formal rollout in Manama, Bahrain, this week—no Palestinians, who are boycotting the conference, will be there, and no Israelis either; since they have no obligations under the proposal, why should they bother?

Nor will the "regional business leaders" the plan depends on, according to the Washington Post. Why wouldn't they want to invest a billion dollars in Gaza and West Bank tourism? Well, there's not going to be an airport for the West Bank, and the only internal options are buses, shared taxis, or a dicey experience with a rental car:

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Take a look at your optimism!

Verdon and Fosse, April 2018, screengrab from NBC via.

The Todd-Trump conversation broke down irretrievably over Todd's attempt to ask a pretty interesting question on a passage from the Mueller Report (I:117), as to whether Junior, who "declined to be voluntarily interviewed" by the Mueller team, might have involuntarily testified to the grand jury, as an immediately following redaction hints, maybe:

TODD: So did you not read the Mueller report?
TRUMP: Let me tell you, I read much of it.
TODD: The unredacted version or no?
TRUMP [unable to risk revealing that he doesn't know what the correct answer is supposed to be]: I read -- No I didn't.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Donald don't do this number—

—it's the only one you own...

There was a pretty funky smell, I thought, to the remarks on NPR of acting ICE director Mark Morgan on the subject of his agency's plan for a big sweep of some thousands of undocumented immigrant families starting Sunday:
"My duty is not to look at the political optics, or the will [of] the American people, that's for the politicians to decide," Morgan said. "What the American people should want us to do as law enforcement officials is to enforce the rule of law and maintain the integrity of that system."
Did he mean there was some special reason for enforcing the rule of law this weekend, as opposed to the rest of the time? Launched Monday by an out-of-the-blue presidential tweet (the night before he officially opened his reelection bid in Orlando)?

No politics there for sure! Though there did seem to be some kind of alleged reason, in Morgan's telling:

Friday, June 21, 2019

My God How the Money Rolls In

Re-upping these lyrics from February 2017, in honor of the new reporting from David Fahrenthold, below the fold:
My prezzie owns several nice golf clubs
With carts you can take for a spin
And when he's there serving as tummler,
My God, how the money rolls in!
Rolls in, rolls in,
My God, how the money rolls in, rolls in,
Rolls in, rolls in,
My God how the money rolls in!
My prezzie is not quite a genius
He's dumber than General Flynn
But at dinnertime at Mar-a-Lago,
My God how the money rolls in!
Rolls in, rolls in,
My God, how the money rolls in, rolls in,
Rolls in, rolls in,
My God how the money rolls in!
My prezzie knows practically nothing
Except how to cheat and to win
But when he's at work on the weekends
My God how the money rolls in!
Rolls in, rolls in,
My God, how the money rolls in, rolls in,
Rolls in, rolls in,
My God how the money rolls in!

If you think you're getting away with this, Buster, you're making a big—

—error such as we all make from time to time, don't we, I mean after all who among us doesn't have to deal with a loose and stupid general? Or national security adviser with a mustache that looks like a goddamned exotic vacuum cleaner attachment, amirite?

Or, Donald Trump Became President Today, sometime between TV time at 7:15 in the morning

and noon or so, when he was on his way to lunch with Prime Minister Trudeau for the hour-and-a-half of his work day that wasn't devoted to executive time:

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Literary Corner: On Second Thoughts

Strom Thurmond, in contrast, Joe really liked. Via Current Affairs.

Vice President Biden's Literary Corner entry evokes the Wordsworth of the Lyrical Ballads, with its plain and natural diction organizing itself, as if by magic, into rhyme.

In Memory of James O. Eastland
by Joey Biden
He never called me "boy",
He always called me "son".
At least there was some civil-
Ity. We got things done.
It also occurs to me, on second thoughts, that he's not (at least this time, he's done it before) talking about being friends with these people. He says of Herman Talmadge that he was "one of the meanest guys I ever knew, you go down the list of all these guys" and a possible reading of the "boy" remark is "Maybe I didn't have to suffer Eastland's racist filth, but he did give me shit over my youth."

[Update: Steve came up with this hypothesis last night, a good eight or nine hours before I did. I should have known.]

Which seems pretty likely, given how young Biden was during the brief period they served together, 1973 to 1978, as the sixth-youngest senator in US history, 31 at the start, when Eastland was turning 69, and what a nasty, peremptory old fool Eastland was. I'll bet Eastland smacked him down in Judiciary Committee.

So he too was pained by Eastland, in this more modest way, he might be trying to say. He too hated those bastards, and they hated him, but it didn't stop them from legislatin' up a storm, as it might do today, now that all the vilest racists are holed up in the other party.

And there's something to that. You could say the racists were better back in the day, but mainly the lesson is that you can forget all that Aaron Sorkin sentimentality, Tip'n'Ronnie and all: politics is about people who can't stand each other getting things done. Though it certainly doesn't sound like something Biden would say, and it's not an argument for voting for him either, because it's pretty clear if he did have some special technique for dealing with fellow Democrats Talmadge and Eastland (which I doubt: Eastland liked being courted by presidents from Roosevelt through Carter and important senators like Kennedy and Mondale, not first-term pipsqueaks like Joe), it's not going to work on Republican Mitch McConnell.

It's not an argument for voting for Biden and his incorrigible verbal carelessness, which often makes it next to impossible to guess what he's trying to say and sets him up to be accused of all sorts of awful things, but it's an argument for not hating on him any more than you already did.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

The Shuffleboard Lane

Happy Juneteenth, but this is too much:
Joseph R. Biden Jr., defending himself on Tuesday night against suggestions that he is too “old fashioned” for today’s Democratic Party, invoked two Southern segregationist senators by name as he fondly recalled the “civility” of the Senate in the 1970s and 1980s....
“I was in a caucus with James O. Eastland,” Mr. Biden said, slipping briefly into a Southern accent, according to a pool report from the fund-raiser. “He never called me ‘boy,’ he always called me ‘son.’”
This is not a good way to defend yourself against suggestions that you are too old-fashioned for today's Democratic party. It suggests you're too old-fashioned to have been alive in 1966, when 14-year-old Janis Ian's song "Society's Child"  was released ("I could understand your tears and your shame—she calls you 'boy' instead of  your name").

Tuesday, June 18, 2019


Cuba, 1896-97, via latinamericanstudies.
In 1896 General Valeriano Weyler, leading Spanish imperial forces against a Cuban guerilla insurgency, decided like many imperial commanders from Napoleon to Westmoreland that it's a problem when your enemy consists of irregular forces blended into the general population, and came up with a novel method of separating them out: he'd take the non-militant members of communities off their land and "reconcentrate" them in central locations where he could stop them from helping the guerillas with food and shelter and keep them out of harm's way, in what he called, with a military bureaucrat's gift for dulling a concept with neuter phrasing, campos de concentración. The policy was, effectively, race-based, as was the war:
'"...del millón seicientos mil habitantes que aproximadamente había en Cuba cuando empezó esta guerra, unos doscientas mil eran españoles, quinientos mil negros o mulatos, unos ochocientos mil blancos cubanos o criollos y un número no determinado de chinos, jamaicanos, haitianos y otros. Los españoles, con alguna notable excepción en especial dentro del clero, se mantenían fieles a España y en contra de la revolución de los cubanos. Los negros, salvo conductas puntuales, estaban entusiásticamente unidos para apoyar a los rebeldes bajo promesa de abolición de la esclavitud, y por que intuían que al final triunfaría la rebelión contra España...Esperaban que bajo el nuevo régimen tendrían condiciones muy similares a las de la vecina república de Haití... soñaban con una Cuba libre ..." 
[Out of the approximately 1.6 million inhabitants of Cuba about 200,000 were Spanish, 500,000 Negroes and mulattos, 800,000 white Cubans and Creoles, and an undetermined number of Chinese, Jamaicans, Haitians, and others. The Spaniards, with some notable exceptions in particular among the Catholic clergy, remained faithful to Spain and opposed to the Cuban revolution. The Negroes, except for particular cases, were enthusiastically united in support of the rebels under a promise that slavery would be abolished, and because they had an intuitive sense that the rebellion would win... They hoped that under the new regime conditions like those in the nearby republic of Haiti could be created, and dreamed of a free Cuba...]

Brooks on Harvard

Reading Room, Langdell Hall, Photo by John Phelan via Wikimedia Commons.

An interesting take from moral philosopher David F. Brooks ("Harvard's False Path to Wisdom") on the case of Kyle Kashuv, the gun nut Trump acolyte among the survivors of the Marjorie Stoneman Douglas high school shooting, whose Harvard acceptance has been rescinded after the discovery of some extremely offensive text messages and other communications he wrote "years ago", in his words, or in some cases 18 months, as in the below example (via Steve M):

Most conservative commentators focused on the unfairness of Harvard's decision, as Ben Shapiro, a mentor of Kashuv's, described it:  "Harvard's auto-da-fe sets up an insane, cruel standard no one can possibly meet", because who among us has not as a teenager typed things like this?