Monday, January 28, 2019

Keep your eye on the timeline, redux

Via boundary2.

Christopher Christie, in contrast, is not being wholly candid in his own superbly subtitled memoir, Let Me Finish: Trump, the Kushners, Bannon, New Jersey, and the Power of In-Your-Face Politics, as reported by Maggie Haberman:
On Feb. 14, 2017, Mr. Christie and his wife, Mary Pat, had lunch scheduled with the president. It happened to be the day after Mr. Flynn — whom Mr. Christie did not back for the national security adviser role — was dismissed for lying to the vice president about his contacts with the Russian ambassador during the transition. Mr. Kushner decided to attend.
As Mr. Kushner tucked into his “typical salad,” Mr. Christie wrote, the president said to him, “This Russia thing is all over now, because I fired Flynn.” Mr. Christie said that he started laughing, and the president asked why.
“‘Sir,’ I said, ‘this Russia thing is far from over,’” Mr. Christie wrote. Mr. Trump responded: “What do you mean? Flynn met with the Russians. That was the problem. I fired Flynn. It’s over.” Mr. Kushner added, “That’s right, firing Flynn ends the whole Russia thing.”
Which looks at first sight like evidence of Trump's attempts to obstruct the investigation, but that's not at all what the ex-governor meant to suggest, heavens no:

On the Loose

Overhills Mansion, in Catonsville, MD.

Mar-a-Lago isn't the Florida White House, the White House is the mid-Atlantic Mar-a-Lago, where the amiable proprietor wanders the halls looking for guests to schmooze with, because he can't just watch television all day. Unlike some people. Via Raw Story, Washington Post report on the forthcoming Team of Vipers: My 500 Extraordinary Days in the White House by Cliff Sims, former Special Assistant to the President and Director of White House Message Strategy, who "soon found himself pulled into the President’s inner circle as a confidante, an errand boy, an advisor, a punching bag, and a friend. Sometimes all in the same conversation":
“Most people want to keep parts of the White House private for their families and themselves,” said presidential historian Douglas Brinkley. “[Trump]’s very restless and doesn’t like desk work. He’d rather roam around and B.S. with people than hunker down.”
Trump frequently tells guests that his private dining room was in “rough shape” when he arrived, and two White House officials and two other sources confirmed that he claims President Barack Obama spent much of his time there watching television.
“He just sat in here and watched basketball all day,” Trump told a recent group, and then bragged that he had gotten a much bigger TV than Obama had.
You know what he really wants is to use the place for sales conferences, team-building exercises, and as a wedding venue. White House Weddings, where you're not just the father of the bride, for a couple of days you're a senior adviser to the most powerful man in the world. A few renovations and he could make tons of money out of it.

Note from Yglesias:

Trump's right on that last point, anyway. He is certainly the tour-givingest president ever, since all the previous ones found they had work to do.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Not to Mention

Ronald Coleman as seen through the eyes of a tipsy Norma Talmadge in Kiki (1926), via Matinee Moustache.

Shorter Monsignor Ross Douthat, Apostolic Nuncio to 42nd Street, "A Case Against Impeachment: Three (provisional) reasons not to put the president on trial":
Hi, I've called for siccing the 25th Amendment on our president, but that was before I became world-weary and cynical a few months ago. Now I'd like to adduce three (provisional) reasons for rejecting Yoni Appelbaum's call for Congress to begin a formal impeachment inquiry: because (1) Trump hasn't succeeded in doing a large number of the harmful things he has promised to do; (2) we knew he was a snake before we took him in; and (3)
That was probably really the subeditor's fault for writing the stupid cross-hed. There were three reasons (paragraphs 1-4) for thinking the president might not last through the end of 2020, one of which was that Appelbaum and others are interested in impeachment, and "several" reasons for not impeaching (the rest of the column, but only two are numbered, so that it's unclear whether the other stuff is additional reasons or instantiations of the first two), and the subeditor got confused.

It's funny to bring up Trump's incompetence as a reason for not getting rid of him:

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Stone Crazy

Via District of Calamity.

I hope you're not confused with the Roger Stone indictments by people claiming them as proof that "there was no collusion" because Stone is not accused, in point of fact, of interacting with any Russians in any of these instances, only with "Organization no.1", which is the thing called WikiLeaks. The main thing is it might as well have been Russians, since WikiLeaks had become, by this point in summer 2016 if not a good deal earlier, basically a Russian asset, curating and publishing materials stolen by Russian intelligence in the furtherance of Russian intelligence aims to weaken future president Hillary Clinton or even prevent her from getting elected.

In a relationship that went back to at least 2010, as Nancy LeTourneau just reminded us, and including at least at one point getting WikiLeaks some funding at a financially difficult moment for the organization (Nancy citing The New York Times, 1 September 2016):

Friday, January 25, 2019

In which we compare Nancy Pelosi to Arjuna

Arjuna and Krishna at the Battle of Kurukshetra. Via.

Well, good old Nancy, being the prime minister I always hoped she would be, teaching our lazy and learning-disabled emperor who holds the purse strings. If as they say he's really signing the bill he refused to sign five weeks ago, it's been a very expensive lesson for all of us, not just for him, but I think well worth it; if, as I suspect, what really kicked the White House and the Senate over was this morning's airport chaos, it's even testimony to the power of labor unions, because all the TSA workers who couldn't make it in were signaling to the obdurate rulers just what a strike would be like, you know. Yesterday, these fools couldn't imagine a TSA strike, and now they can, and it's terrifying.

Though it could just as well have been dim Ron Johnson screaming at McConnell:

At the End Things

Kurt Schwitters, En Morn (1947). via Culture24.

This is your Brooks on drugs ("Your Loyalties Are Your Life"):
Royce took his philosophy one more crucial step: Though we have our different communities, underneath there is an absolute unity to life. He believed that all separate individuals and all separate loyalties are mere fragments of a spiritual unity — an Absolute Knower, a moral truth.
That sense of an ultimate unity at the end things, shines back on us, because it means all our diverse loyalties are actually parts of the same loyalty. We all, he wrote, “seek a city out of sight.” This sense of ultimate unity, of human brotherhood and sisterhood, is what is missing in a lot of the current pessimism and divisiveness.
The column is a collage composed of scraps from an essay by the Civil War historian Allen Guelzo that ran in First Things in January 2016 (Brooks links it in the first paragraph, he's not trying to hide this), contrasting two great Harvard philosophers of the late 19th century and very early 20th, pragmatic William James and idealist Josiah Royce, and concluding that Royce is "worth remembering today as a moral contrast to the utilitarian viewpoint, a reminder that the good must always be subordinated to the Good" or as Brooks puts it "the philosopher we need today" as opposed to, I guess, next Tuesday.

I believe it's part of a longstanding effort to prove that the progressive Royce was "really a conservative" just like Dr. Martin Luther King (whose concept of the "beloved community" comes from Royce). Guelzo's essay seems pretty lucid on the surface, though if you push inside it reveals itself as a collage in its own right, fragmenting into dada:
“Those who have believed in the being whom they called Christ,” Royce wrote gingerly, “were united in a community of . . . perfectly real and divine Universal Community, and were saved by the faith and by the life which they thus expressed.” In The Problem of Christianity, Royce declared I believe in the Holy Catholic Church to be the “capital article of the Christian creed,” and added that it “should be philosophically expounded and defended.” If you “merely take a cross-section of the social order at any one moment,” it will only yield “the predominantly pluralistic form” of “detached individuals.” The Church “has a past and will have a future,” and “its more or less conscious history, real or ideal, is part of its very essence.” 
Brooks, attracted like a magpie to all these glittering words, builds what we must call a meta-collage out of them and sits in it, like a new living room set, which is pretty much what philosophy is to him, a refined interior décor of the mind in which you will probably be confident and comfortable enough to make less panicky life-decisions, if you ever get it finished. At the end, or at the end things, he's contemplating his work and you can see him falling into a gentle snooze:
Royce’s philosophy is helpful with the problem we have today. How does the individual fit into the community and how does each community fit into the whole? He offered a shift in perspective. When evaluating your life, don’t ask, “How happy am I?” Ask, “How loyal am I, and to what?”
If I tried to squeeze all the possible laffs out of this material it would get pretty tedious before long. Nothing against Josiah Royce, about whom I know very little, but Roger Stone is under arrest and indicted, incoming flights into LaGuardia Airport have been halted because of the air traffic controller shortage caused by the government shutdown and more airport chaos seems to be happening from Atlanta to Newark, and it's going to be a busy day.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Venezuela note

Secretary of State Marco Rubio thinks he's engineered a coup in Venezuela, and he's so thrilled he can't stand it, but I want to say that this doesn't mean people on the progressive side should believe him and come out to denounce whatever has just happened as a return to the old banana republic policy where the US government can "make the right decision for Venezuela" as triumphal Eli Lake puts it in the attached Bloomberg article, instead of Venezuela making its own decisions, because it's more complicated than that, and reducing it to a war between Trump and Maduro is exactly the wrong way to look at it (though exactly what Trump and Maduro would prefer you to do).

As indicated by the way the international community is reacting, with all but one of the members of the Lima Group founded in August 2017 to work toward a resolution of the Venezuela situation without the help of the Trump government (Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, and Peru), as well as Ecuador (which hosts a couple of thousand Venezuelan refugees, see map below), backing the self-declared temporary president, Juan Guaidó against actual president Nicolás Maduro—while the exception, Mexico, is remaining neutral, as is the European Union.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Literary Corner: The Endless Endgame

by Donald J. Trump
Somebody in my Twitter feed was saying there should be a poem in response to this, but it was too hard to find a rhyme for "criminal", a challenge I couldn't resist, so this somewhat Freudian contribution (heavily revised from the initial Twitter version):
There was an incompetent criminal
Whose castration fears were subliminal:
     "If I try to get fancy
     With creepy Ms. Nancy
The men won't kill me but the women'll!", 

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

News from Satyagraha

My screenshot from Christopher Bouzy's video, see below.

Wanted to say something about the Saturday incident at the Lincoln Memorial of the kid with the arrogant smirk blocking the path of the Native elder drumming and singing, but wasn't sure what until it occurred to me that this is such an MLK holiday story, with the setup of its being that weekend, when hosts from the now divided Women's March to the anti-abortion fanatics of the "March For Life" come to the capital in tribute to the legacy of peaceful protest associated with Martin Luther King, Jr., if not very often to the legacy of nonviolent civil disobedience: and that the performative utterance of the Omaha Nation's Nathan Phillips represents, precisely, a deployment of Dr. King's weapon of nonviolence against the forces of monocultural tribalism and hatred.

That is—I've seen a lot of contextualizing information—
and what I think are the relevant portions of all the video, some of it really well curated—

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Mitch Switch

Yellow-headed temple turtle with retracted head, via Wildscreen Arkive.

The weirdest thing about Trump's dead-in-the-water proposals (for $5.7 billion he'll free the 800,000 hostages he took over Christmas and ensure a three-year air supply to hundreds of thousands of immigrant hostages he took earlier in the year) is McConnell's evidently positive response: he'd been saying for weeks that he wouldn't allow a budget bill on the Senate floor unless it was something Trump and Democrats had both signed onto, and now he says he's ready to push this one, although it's completely unacceptable to Democrats:
This bill takes a bipartisan approach [his office announces] to re-opening the closed portions of the federal government. It pairs the border security investment that our nation needs with additional immigration measures that both Democrat and Republican members of Congress believe are necessary. Unlike the bills that have come from the House over the past few weeks, this proposal could actually resolve this impasse. It has the full support of the President and could be signed into law to quickly reopen the government.
[Narrator: nobody including McConnell believes the immigration measures on offer are "necessary" or sufficient, for that matter; the DACA recipients are safe for another year at least anyway, since the Supreme Court has turned down the administration's request to hear their their arguments that the program is illegal; and in October the administration's attempt to take away Temporary Protected Status from 300,000 Haitians, Sudanese, Nicaraguans, and Salvadorans was found unconstitutional by Judge Edward Chen in California's Northern District, and another TPS case in New York will be getting through its first round in March, and who knows how long the appeals on these cases will stretch, with the odds better than even that Trump will turn out not to have the power to wreck the programs anyway:

Friday, January 18, 2019

Brooksy Gets Tingly

Pola Negri in Ernst Lubitsch's The Wildcat (1921).

David Brooks, "Students Learn From People They Love":
A few years ago, when I was teaching at Yale, I made an announcement to my class. I said that I was going to have to cancel office hours that day because I was dealing with some personal issues and a friend was coming up to help me sort through them.
I was no more specific than that, but that evening 10 or 15 students emailed me to say they were thinking of me or praying for me. For the rest of the term the tenor of that seminar was different. We were closer. That one tiny whiff of vulnerability meant that I wasn’t aloof Professor Brooks, I was just another schmo trying to get through life.
That unplanned moment illustrated for me the connection between emotional relationships and learning. We used to have this top-down notion that reason was on a teeter-totter with emotion. If you wanted to be rational and think well, you had to suppress those primitive gremlins, the emotions. Teaching consisted of dispassionately downloading knowledge into students’ brains.
This is apparently from when he was teaching Humility at Yale and his wife threw him out and his girlfriend fled to Houston and it's very sweet, except as you see there's no attempt whatever to demonstrate his point. He doesn't say how this glimpse of the Brooksian humanity helped his students learn more or better of what he was teaching them, or even betray any knowledge of whether they were learning anything at all or display any interest in it. He's only interested in what he himself learned about how likable he is.

They broke the Brexit

Don't buy this house without a thorough inspection! Via

Conservative MP Bin Afolami from Hitchin and Harpenden, North Herts, a Remainer constituency, who voted to Remain but supports the prime minister now, sort of, on NPR yesterday morning, offering his view in the current chaos, which is that the Norway solution is still in some way available, and that he rejects the idea of a People's Vote that would give the population an opportunity to do a retake, though he's opposed to referenda in general—at one point in the fall he was arguing that you couldn't do a retake because the 2016 referendum wasn't legally binding:
the nexus between the triggering of article 50 and the referendum is weaker than if the referendum had been legally binding. Does that not weaken the case for the referendum result to be overturned or for article 50 to be rescinded, because Parliament is making an even more independent judgment than would otherwise have been the case?
Anyway I was struck by his more elaborated reasons for not doing it, in the NPR interview:
And I don't believe, if you - if you go down the route of having referendums - and I personally don't think they're a very good idea. But once you've gone through that, to then say, well, you know, we've tried it for a couple of years, it's all been a bit difficult; let's do it again, is something that is profoundly difficult for a lot of people, the majority of whom voted to leave.
They will say, we voted to leave. We gave the - our politicians a simple instruction, to get that done, and you've manifestly failed to do so. What that does to trust, not just in politicians themselves, but also to our political system, that if you vote for something very clearly, that you at least get that, I think that's very difficult.
"We made an awful mistake, so we mustn't do anything to try to fix it, because that would just make people cynical."

Thursday, January 17, 2019


Photo by AFP/Getty via Daily Mail.

Oh my ears and whiskers, Giuliani:
"I never said there was no collusion between the campaign or between people in the campaign," Giuliani told CNN's Chris Cuomo, who immediately pushed back on that point.
"I have not," Giuliani said in doubling-down on his first remark. "I said the president of the United States. There is not a single bit of evidence the president of the United States committed the only crime you could commit here, conspired with the Russians to hack the DNC."
When Cuomo pushed back on that line as well, Giuliani said Trump "didn't collude with Russia either!"
Giuliani may not have said "there was no collusion" but his client certainly did, hundreds of times, sometimes four or five times or more in a single day. He says it more often than he says "Believe me." Are we now to understand that there was collusion? Glad to hear it! The Mueller investigation is clearly worthwhile whether or not the president has committed any crimes.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

For the Record: Wall that Fall

Serbian-Hungarian border (I think), 2015. Photo by Getty via Politico Magazine.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

For the Record: There is a crisis at the border

First installment of the Trump barrier, $18 million, Calexico CA. Photo by Earnie Grafton/Reuters.

It's just not what Marco thinks it is.

And this sequence, which went sort of viral:

The Demoralization of the Market

Via DiasporaBR.

Brooks's headline last Friday ("The Remoralization of the Market") was so hilarious I found myself feeling the column couldn't possibly live up to it. With the appeal to some good old days from, I don't know, 1750 to 1970, when the Market was Moral, virtuous, kind, diligent, and generous, feeding the sick and clothing the hungry, and then came the Me Decade, and selfish individualistic investors suddenly deciding they were just in it for the money.

He really did kind of write it:
A deadly combination of right-wing free-market fundamentalism and left-wing moral relativism led to a withering away of moral norms and shared codes of decent conduct. We ripped the market out of its moral and social context and let it operate purely by its own rules. We made the market its own priest and confessor.
And that's how the Market got Demoralized. I guess the "left" is to blame for constantly telling grasping shareholders, "Hey man, if greed is your thing, hey, whatever feels good, as long as you don't hurt anybody." We should have found some kind of leftist language for telling capitalists they were doing the wrong thing, I wonder what that would look like.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

He's Misbehavin

The Life of Trumply. Adam Gabbatt/The Guardian, photo by Joshua Bright.

I'm in the White House
I'm all alone
my silent night house
just tweetin on my telephone
I'm misbehavin
ravin cause I miss you

don't see nobody
it never ends
it's kind of cruddy
just hangin with my Fox and Friends
I'm misbehavin
ravin cause I'm missin you

like a fox here
in a box here
out of luck here
guess I'm stuck here
forever if Pelosi don't come through
—believe me

don't call it chaos
it isn't true
if you betray us
I'll shoot you on Fifth Avenue
I'm misbehavin
ravin cause I'm missin you

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Tighten up

That gasping sound you hear around the media at the news that Donald Trump has been under an FBI counterintelligence investigation since early May 2017, looking into the question of whether he might be or have been effectively serving as an agent of the Russian government during his presidential campaign and into his presidency, at least as far as the Oval Office meeting of 10 May when he told Ambassador Kislyak and Foreign Minister Lavrov how pleased he was that he'd fired his FBI director because it relieved him of a lot of pressure, and passed them a tidbit of secret intelligence that happened to come from our Israeli allies, in a meeting that was barred to the US press but well reported, with pictures, in Russia—

That is, I mean, if there's anybody surprised to learn that that was when the FBI opened up a file with Donald Trump's name on it to join those on Papadopoulos, Page, Manafort, Stone, and Flynn in the ongoing investigation of who in the Trump campaign might possibly be a Russian agent, they have to either have been not paying attention or journalists.

Speaking of journalists, get Natasha Bertrand:

Friday, January 11, 2019

Literary Corner: Song of the Wall

The remains of the Anastasian Wall west of Istanbul, under forest cover for the past 1,500 years. Photo credit to TheyDivideUs.

Song of the Wall and the Wheel
by Donald J. Trump
They say a wall is medieval,
     well so is a wheel.
The wheel is older than the wall,
     you know that?
There are some things that work.
     You know what? 
A wheel works and a wall works.
     Nothing like a wall.
Personally I think we should put America on wheels. Then we could scoot away from the danger.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Keep your eyes on the timeline

Tom Barrack, in blue tie, applauding the president at the inauguration, photo by Joe Gromelski/Stars and Stripes. Barrack has denied the report in Michael Wolff's Fire and Fury that he ever said Trump is "not only crazy—he's stupid."
At some point yesterday morning I became aware of a story that had showed up overnight in the New York Times that made me want to give up writing about Trump and Russia altogether, because it suggested that everything I thought I understood about the thing was not just wrong but incoherent; the story, elaborating yesterday's story about Paul Manafort transmitting some Trump-campaign polling data to his confederate Konstantin Kilimnik, that the data was destined for the Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska.

What the hell was that? This information transfer supposedly took place in spring 2016, as Manafort was just settling into his job with the Trump campaign, and two months later Manafort was writing to Kilimnik, essentially, "Hey Kostya does Oleg know about my new gig?" and offering to supply Deripaska with a bunch of private information from the campaign, in the hopes of getting some slack over the $10 million or whatever it was (I've seen quotes from $8.5M to $16M) he owed Deripaska. How could he be doing that if he'd been sending Deripaska information since May?

Well, I can't link that story, because it doesn't exist any more. The Times story was wrong:

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Do your ears a favor

This could be the most perfect piece Beethoven ever wrote. I was somehow thinking about bits of it in the afternoon, and found this knockout performance by Daniel Barenboim when I got home from work. In the first movement listen to how the work seems to be explaining what it's doing, premise to conclusion, with extraordinary clarity, describing its own structure, and in the third there's a kind of opposite approach, in which the same kind of clarity emerges, from some misty region that sounds like too much pedal, every time the rondo theme recurs, until it finally bursts, after a long preparation, into the helter-skelter tempo you've been waiting for and it's so clear that it's almost unbearably joyous.

Citizens Agenda

Photo by Reuters via The Atlantic.

Jay Rosen has been pushing the concept of a "citizens agenda" in political campaign coverage, meant to ground the coverage in the discussion of what voters want to hear the candidates talking about:
It revolves around the power of a single question: “What do you want the candidates to be discussing as they compete for votes?” From good answers to that everything else in the model flows.
Judging from this interview of Senator Kamala Harris, who has just published a book and may or may not be a presidential candidate in 2020, by Rachel Martin on NPR, it's going to be a long, hard couple of years for the citizens agenda.

Questions on the political purpose of writing the book:

People like you write books like this mostly when they are getting ready to launch a campaign — it's a "get to know me on a national level."

Questions on material in the book, relating to her parents:

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Too Much Leadership

Image from New York Magazine, October 2014.

I'm compelled to give David Brooks ("Washington's New Power Structure") half a pass today: he's written a column that deserved to be written and even contains a little Brooksian witticism that's not entirely unfunny:
Dear Senate Republicans,
I really enjoy spending time with you. You are interesting and excellent company (I really mean that!). When I’m with you, we often enter a magical land in which Donald Trump doesn’t exist. You’re eager to tell me about the issues you’re working on, and sometimes we have these substantive conversations in which we get to ignore the raging dumpster fire on the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue.
In fact, sometimes I think the Senate isn’t a legislative body; it’s the world’s most expensive writer’s colony. Half the senators I meet are writing books.
The point being one that has been made again and again over on our side, that Republican Senators seem to have lost the sense that they have any power. Flake and Corker issuing their style critiques of Trump as if their oath had been sworn to the Constitution of the United Tastes are gone, but Willard Mitt Romney is carrying the work on with the same indignation, surprise, and impotence.

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Wall Together Now

Photograph by Bjarni Grimsson for MAGA, a nonprofit arts group led by the Swiss-Icelandic artist Christoph Büchel which aims to preserve the eight prototype Wall samples in San Diego as sculptures with a cultural value as historical "land art", seen here from the Mexican side of the existing barrier, January 2018, via the Guardian.

It's a mystery!

I'll get to my hypothesis eventually, but I want to remind you that the look of the thing, if not Democrats' attitude toward it, has been a big factor in Trumpy's wallthink from the beginning, when you think about it—Trump always insisted that his wall was going to be "big and beautiful", and was very insistent on the importance of aesthetics when he issued the call for design proposals in March 2017:

President on Strike

Thisbe, Wall, and Pyramus in the 2010-11 production of A Midsummer Night's Dream by the University of Delaware Resident Ensemble Players.

Well, that's a relief:
JERUSALEM – President Donald Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, said Sunday that the U.S. military withdrawal from northeastern Syria is conditioned on defeating the remnants of the Islamic State group, and on Turkey assuring the safety of Kurdish fighters allied with the United States.
Trump's not going to pull US troops out of Syria until all the reasons for not pulling troops out of Syria go away. He's totally going to do it, just not as long as it's a really bad idea. As soon as it's a good idea he'll be there.

Or, putting it another way, the Anonymous Resistance is still at work even though "Mad Dog" Mattis has bowed out. All we have to do is wait until Trump's obsessed with some other crazy project and you can correct the current mistake without him noticing, at least as long as the mistake is so terrible even Bolton and Pompeo and Netanyahu know it's a mistake and they all get on board.

Friday, January 4, 2019


Buster Keaton in Convict 13, 1920, via.

It's David Brooks, speculating, from his home on one of Saturn's most popular moons, what human beings on Earth might be like these days, now that Abraham Lincoln, Mother Teresa, and Nelson Mandela have all died ("The Morality of Selfism"). He suspects some of them are probably self-absorbed:
You probably want to be a good person. But you may also be completely self-absorbed. So you may be thinking, “There is no way I can be good if I’m also a narcissist. Isn’t being good all about caring about other people?”
If David Brooks were completely self-absorbed, which he probably isn't, he'd probably worry about it. It could interfere with his project of being a good person by caring about other people, which is essentially what being good is all about, as in the well-studied cases of Abraham Lincoln, Mother Teresa,  and Nelson Mandela, probably. But according to his anonymous sources, there are all sorts of people on earth at the moment who don't react this way. It makes him so mad he can't stop himself from being a little sarcastic about it!
But how wrong you are!
We live in a culture of selfism — a culture that puts tremendous emphasis on self, on self-care and self-display. And one of the things we’ve discovered is that you can be a very good person while thinking only about yourself!

Thursday, January 3, 2019

My Unpopular Opinion: In favor of Paygo from the left

It looks as if the new House of Representatives is going to adopt what is known as a "Paygo" rule for legislation, short for "pay as you go", which reminds us all of deficit-busting hysteria from 1990 through 1997 and the worse that came after, and is going to cause a lot of howling out here in the peanut gallery, and I've been reading around a little bit about it, and I'm afraid I'm going to ask folks to calm down a little bit—not that congresscritters who have promised constituents to vote against it should go back on their word (if only because I'm sure Speaker-to-be Pelosi knows who she can spare in the vote), though Progressive Caucus chairs Mark Pocan and Pramila Jayapal will in fact be voting in favor

—but that persons of progressive views in general need to understand that there are a lot of serious misconceptions going around about what Paygo is and what it isn't: and that it is not a neoliberal conspiracy to privatize Social Security, as I've been learning from a piece from early December by Robert Greenstein for Dean Baker's Center on Budget and Policy Priorities suggesting that "Paygo" is a tool that can further progressive goals, especially if you're among those of us who believe the reduction of economic inequality entails taking away wealth from those who have too much, in the very stern terms laid down by Anand Ghiridaradas:

LIterary Corner: Walls Within Wheels, Man

Poster for the 1965 film by Wakamatsu Kōji, via Etsy.

Sonnet: Some Things NEVER Get Better
By Donald J. Trump 

The Democrats will probably submit
a Bill, being cute as always, which gives
everything away but gives NOTHING
to Border Security, namely the Wall.
You see, without the Wall there can be no
Border Security - the Tech “stuff” is just,
by comparison, meaningless bells & whistles...
Remember this. Throughout the ages some
things NEVER get better and NEVER change. You have
Walls and you have Wheels. It was ALWAYS
that way and it will ALWAYS be that way!
Please explain to the Democrats
that there can NEVER be a replacement
for a good old fashioned WALL!
I just like the fact that you can make it add up to 14 lines, many in pentameter. There's lots more to say, though, about the philosophy of it, of nothing beats a good old-fashioned wall for, um, holding a ceiling up? That's my favorite use for walls. Wheels, in contrast, do a lot of different stuff, like pottery, or supporting gears, in addition to the transportation thing. 

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Three-Horse Open Sleigh

Troika caravan, via Mir Corporation.

Happy New Year! Even David Brooks ("2019: Year of the Wolves") knows what day it is and has written a column for it, and his hidden overlords seem to have given him the green light to do something unexpected with Emperor Trump, which is to go beyond criticizing his manners and misstatements and other spiritual inadequacies to suggest he is, in fact, probably a criminal, although he clearly doesn't want to get too specific about it:
It will be a year of divided government and unprecedented partisan conflict. It will be a year in which Donald Trump is isolated and unrestrained as never before. And it will be in this atmosphere that indictments will fall, provoking not just a political crisis but a constitutional one.
There are now over a dozen investigations into Trump’s various scandals. If we lived in a healthy society, the ensuing indictments would be handled in a serious way — somber congressional hearings, dispassionate court proceedings. Everybody would step back and be sobered by the fact that our very system of law is at stake.
But we don’t live in a healthy society and we don’t have a healthy president.
The quality of indictment is not strained, it droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven; when Brooks first saved the file, as the URL tells you, it was called "Trump Indictment" but he has decided to depersonalize indictments into something that's just in the atmosphere and "ensues". Giving the impression that he may not be aware of the 36 indictments that have already dropped on

I Dreamed I Saw Steve Moore

Joe Hill ashes envelope, November 1916, via The Labor Martyrs Project.

Our friend Boswood aka Bethesda 1971 has produced a parody of "I Dreamed I Saw Joe Hill"* on the subject of Stephen Moore, who is sort of to Trump and economics what Andrey Zhdanov was to Stalin and arts criticism, and to whom Trump dedicated a recent tweet:
I admired it after he posted it at Kos yesterday (if you like it go rec him there!), and he kindly invited me to reproduce it here, so here goes:

The Ballad of Steve Moore
by Bethesda 1971

I dreamed I saw Steve Moore last night
But Steve you are a right wing hack
“Oh that I am said he
Oh that I am said he.”
You hate the workers don’t you Steve
Their wages are too high
Says Steve “I have a goal in life.
The unions all must die.
The unions all must die.”
And sitting there on my TV
And looking like a jerk
He says “my way to kill them
Is by passing right to work.
By passing right to work.”
From strategists to lobbyists
Through every open door
Where Plutocrats rake in their cash,
It’s there you find Steve Moore.
It’s there you find Steve Moore.
I dreamed I saw Steve Moore last night
But Steve you are a right wing hack
“Oh that I am said he
Oh that I am said he.”
I dreamed I saw Joe Hill last night is a song by Alfred Hayes and Earl Robinson. Joe Hill was a union organizer for the IWW (Wobblies) [and poet—ed.]. He was framed for a murder in Utah and executed by firing squad in 1915. “His body was sent to Chicago where up to 30,000 people attended the funeral. Joe was cremated and his ashes divided into 600 envelopes that were sent to IWW branches across the globe.” Joan Baez sang  I dreamed I saw Joe Hill last night” at Woodstock. Here it is: