Saturday, August 31, 2019

First they came for the obscenely wealthy Times pundits, and I said...

Drawing by Eli Valley. Please do not explain in the comments what "awoke from uneasy dreams" refers to. Those who don't recognize the phrase can refresh their memory here.

Shorter Bret Stephens, "World War II and the Ingredients of Slaughter", New York Times, 30 August 2019:
In commemoration of the German invasion of Poland 80 years ago on Sunday, I would like to note, as I often do, how frighteningly similar to those dark days our situation is now: with our rising dictatorships, failure of international organizations to stop them, and Twitter, which is practically the same thing as the Reichs-Rundfunk over which Hitler's propaganda was broadcast to 60 million Germans. Among the more haunting parallels is the dehumanizing rhetoric of infestation, in which people are associated with disease, or compared to bedbugs, of which all the examples I can enumerate seem to come from right-wingers, but I happen to know that the left is even worse.
Or, more precisely,

Thursday, August 29, 2019


Something I've been saying for quite a while now about the 2016 presidential election: that the Trump "base" isn't exactly like that pathetic picture of the bewildered "white working class" left behind by globalization. Yes, they're white and don't have college degrees, but the real core are financially pretty comfortable, typically owners of small businesses, with sufficient leisure to eat breakfast out every morning and give interviews to The New York Times pretending to represent the working class, while their abject and underpaid employees (who rarely vote at all) open the shops. That's who made the party what it is today, which is strangely similar to what it used to be, back when it was the party of the wealthy.

So now there's some relevant information, surfacing in the column of the Times opinionist nobody ever notices because he's too interested in reality, Thomas B. Edsall ("We Aren’t Seeing White Support for Trump for What It Is"), reporting research by Herbert Kitschelt and Philipp Rehm, and I can report that the numbers don't exactly support a strong version of the theory, but they do confirm that there's something there:
Kitschelt and Rehm found that the common assumption that the contemporary Republican Party has become crucially dependent on the white working class — defined as whites without college degrees — is overly simplistic.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Blindingly Obvious

Ladies and gentlemen, the First Minister of Scotland.

Literally wondering if Boris von Pfeffel Kemal aka Johnson was getting advice from Donald Trump in their sideline conference in Biarritz over the weekend, because that's how bad today's move is looking—asking the Queen to prorogue Parliament for five weeks, ostensibly (this would be the normal reason, but a normal prorogation would last five or six days) to give him time, as the new prime minister, to prepare his government's legislative program, but obviously being Johnson he hasn't got a legislative program and plans to wing it, and the real reason is to render them unable to act to stop Britain from falling involuntarily out of the European Union on the Halloween deadline.

Or as John Bercow, speaker of the House of Commons (in becoming speaker, he was required to give up all party affiliation, but he was a Conservative until then) put it:

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Literary Corner: A Very Big and Important Area

When the emperor was talking in Biarritz about his plan to be the G7's official hôtelier for its next meeting, at his Doral Resort and Golf Club in Miami-Dade County, so that he can collect all the moneys his colleagues spend during their visit to the US, the wall he stood in front of bore an interesting motto, apparently installed by the organizers of the summit:

"Lutter contre les inégalités", "Struggle against the forms of inequality". This could  be the best trolling of the whole weekend and I would like to offer a hearty salute to whoever thought of it.

By the way, the Doral is really struggling against the forms of going broke, and could use the money,
At Doral, which Trump has listed in federal disclosures as his biggest moneymaker hotel, room rates, banquets, golf and overall revenue were all down since 2015. In two years, the resort’s net operating income – a key figure, representing the amount left over after expenses are paid – had fallen by 69%.
Even in a vigorous economy, the property was missing the Trump Organization’s internal business targets; for instance, the club expected to take in $85 million in revenue in 2017 but took in just $75 million.
And then Doral settled a lawsuit from a guest who claimed to have been bitten by bedbugs.

Sunday, August 25, 2019


On the death of David Koch, I'm generally a nil nisi bonum kind of guy, but I think I might as well repost something from five years ago, which touches on some of the issues that have been coming up in the apologetics—that he wasn't really a moronic reactionary but a person compelled to his opinions by his special and enlightened philosophical bent, and that far from clinging selfishly and stingily to his fortune he spent it freely, but choosing his own causes rather than bowing to the will of the taxman—I was dubious then, and I haven't changed my mind:

Straw Dog photo from China News Service. Typical People's Republic, no credit to the photographer or even the author of the piece it illustrates, but there's an editor name, because hierarchy.
Via Steve M ("Libertarian Talk is Cheap"), I'm looking at a weird article by the editor in chief of Reason, one Nick Gillespie, who's been living by his own account off Koch brothers philanthropy for 21 years and wants us to know that old Charles and David are not hypocritical moralist Republican authoritarians but literally—wait for it—too liberal for the John Birch Society:

The Empire Strikes Out

Drawing by Kal for The Economist via Politico.

So it's a thing that seems pretty trivial in itself:

During a breakfast with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on the sidelines of the Group of Seven meeting in this picturesque seaside town, a reporter asked Trump whether he had any “second thoughts” about his escalating trade war with China. Trump responded, “Yeah, sure. Why not.”
“Might as well,” he said. “Might as well. I have second thoughts about everything.”
Trump then claimed that talks were going well with China and that he planned to back away from some of his recent threats, such as seeking to force companies to leave China.
But back in the White House, it's a fatal error! How can this be? First thoughts are all our emperor needs!

So they start spinning:
“The president was asked if he had ‘any second thought on escalating the trade war with China.’ His answer has been greatly misinterpreted. President Trump responded in the affirmative — because he regrets not raising the tariffs higher,” press secretary Stephanie Grisham said.
Right, While the president's chief economic adviser trots out an alternative, though even more transparent, lie:

Saturday, August 24, 2019

What did you do in the war against reality, Daddy?

George W. Bush in Texas with chainsaw. From Erynn's Pinterest.

I've been reading and digesting and rereading this essay, "Normalnost", in the current LA Review of Books, by Peter Pomerantsev and in conjunction with the marketing of his new book, This Is Not Propaganda: Adventures in the War Against Reality, which brings together the Russia theme and the Trump and Brexit themes across some unexpected parameters: not that Pomerantsev discounts the thing we've come to expect about "them" doing something horrible to "us", but that he sees the horrible thing that's happened to us as something that also happened to them, first, and something you could notice at first in the world of the arts, at the time of the breakup of the USSR, in the collapse of "a system of making sense of the world":
In History Becomes Form, the Russian art historian Boris Groys describes this process as the “Big Tsimtsum,” a term he borrows from the Jewish mystical tradition of the Kabbalah, an alternative version of creation where God first brings the word into being and then retreats from it. “[T]he withdrawal of Soviet power, or the Tsimtsum of Communism, created the infinite space of signs emptied of sense,” writes Groys. “Soviet ideology knew nothing of chance. […] It saw itself as the necessary product of historical development as understood by dialectical materialism. […] In the early 1990s this ideology was suddenly gone — and the world became devoid of meaning[, leaving Soviets] in a sea of empty signifiers.”
Which led to the Russian avant-garde of conceptualists and performance artists becoming increasingly fixated on the panic of meaninglessness, depicting meaning as disposable or abandoning language altogether or contrariwise trying to rebuild meaning as a kind of group-therapy activity, when

Friday, August 23, 2019

Grift for the Mill

Haunted by the story of the Executive Office for Immigration Review, which is where the Justice Department's immigration policy is administered from, and thus the employer of the nation's 400 immigration judges, and sends all its employees a near-daily bloggy compilation of memos and news clippings and the like:
But on Monday, tucked between stories from The Washington Post and a public radio station, the briefing included a summary of and a link to a blog post from what the Southern Poverty Law Center has designated a “Hate Group”:, a frequent platform for white nationalists espousing anti-Semitic and anti-immigration rhetoric.
The Vdare post singles out immigration judges by name, uses their photos and refers to them with an anti-Semitic slur. 
Coming the same week, as Reis Thebault notes at the Washington Post, as Trump scolded American Jews for being "disloyal" when they vote for Democrats and singled out the fanatical Jew-hater Henry Ford for praise, and a growing recognition that the White House may have an anti-Semitism problem. As the president of the judges' union, Ashley Tabbador, explained in a letter to the EOIR director James McHenry, the post was creating a hostile work environment:

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Literary Corner: To Greenland's Icy Mountains

The Way It Should Work
by Donald J. Trump

It was the G8 for a long time,
and now it’s the G7.
I could certainly see it being the G8 again.
If someone would make that motion,
I would be disposed
to think about it favorably.
As you know, for most of the time
it was the G8 and it included Russia.
I guess President Obama—because Putin
outsmarted him—President Obama thought
it wasn’t good so he wanted Russia out,
but I think it’s much more appropriate
to have Russia in. A lot of the things
we talk about have to do with Russia.
President Obama didn’t want Russia in
because he got outsmarted.
Well, that’s not really the way it should work.
That "if someone would make that motion", another evocation of how little he feels himself being the president, being in power—the idea that these things are accomplished at meetings to which he's not invited (it doesn't occur to him he could "make that motion" himself), conducted more formally than the things he sits in on. But also raises a mystery: in our world, the Russian Federation was expelled by the G8 after the internationally illegal Russian invasion of Ukraine, the most flagrant violation of territorial sovereignty since the Axis powers lost World War II, but in Trump's world it was—he "guesses"—because President Putin "outsmarted" President Obama. What?

I'll get back to the poem, but I'm really obsessed with his rage at Denmark for making fun of his plan to buy Greenland's 836,300 square miles:

Tuesday, August 20, 2019


Esther and Asahuerus at her banquet, with Haman lowering at the side, just realizing he's doomed, by Rembrandt, 1660, via Wikipedia.

Speaking of conservative Christians who recognize Trump for what he is but think that's what God wants him for, see Susan Glasser's terrific New Yorker profile of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo:

March 2016:
On March 5th, Trump and Senator Ted Cruz, of Texas, arrived in Wichita for the caucus. Rubio left his closing argument to Pompeo, who told the crowd at the Century II arena, “I’m going to speak to you from the heart about what I believe is the best path forward for America.” An Army veteran who finished first in his class at West Point, Pompeo cited Trump’s boast that if he ordered a soldier to commit a war crime the soldier would “go do it.” As the audience booed, Pompeo warned that Trump—like Barack Obama—would be “an authoritarian President who ignored our Constitution.”

August 2019:

Monday, August 19, 2019

One of the President's Humanoid Relationships

Inauguration Day. Photo by Joe Gromelski/Stars and Stripes.

Money quote from the Politico article on the sad breakup of Donald Trump and his friend and mentor Tom Barrack:
The key issue driving the two men apart: Barrack’s role as chairman of the president’s 2017 inauguration fund, which is under investigation by prosecutors.
Trump was “really upset” to read reports about Barrack’s role in allegedly making it easy for some foreigners and others to try to spend money to get access to Trump and his inner circle and whether some of the inauguration money was misspent, according to a senior administration official.
“The president was really surprised to read all about the inauguration and who was trying to buy access and how, because the president doesn’t get any of that money,” said the official.
Didn't bother him that Barrack was selling access to the president any more than it bothered him that Michael Cohen was (at least until after Cohen "flipped" four months after the story came out), or Corey Lewandowski, or his sons, or Zhang Yujing. Bothered him that he wasn't getting his cut.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Downward Trajectory

Cistercian Abbey of Mount St. Bernard. Photo by Financial Times.

A weird thought from the theologically-minded Elizabeth Bruenig, having dinner with some  evangelical Trump supporters in a small town an hour or so from Dallas during Easter week, in a big article in the Washington Post last week:
In some sense it seemed that Trump is able, by being less Christian than your average Christian, to protect Christians who fear incursions from a hostile dominant culture. But that paradox also supplies a handy solution to the question of whether Christians should direct their efforts to worldly politics or turn inward, shunning political life for spiritual pursuits. By voting for Trump — even over more identifiably Christian candidates — evangelicals seem to have found a way to outsource their fears and instead reserve a strictly spiritual space for themselves inside politics without placing evangelical politicians themselves in power. In that sense, they can be both active political agents and a semi-cloistered religious minority, both of the world and removed from it, advancing their values while retreating to their own societies.
It's like only Nixon being able to go to China without freaking out the rightwingers because his anti-communism was such a certain thing, or maybe the mirror image of that; the very extremity of Trump's worldliness, his open worship of money and sex and himself and his total lack of compassion, makes him the man who can achieve their aims or delay their downfall without corrupting any "good" people in the process. Since they believe all secular life is rotten with corruption it will take corruption on the grand scale to get it done, and he's corrupt enough already.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

For the Record: Devin's Farm

Apparently Devin Nunes, scourge of the House Select Committee on Intelligence and special secret emissary of the White House to the Hill, has gotten tired of all those people mocking him for claiming he's a Tulare County family farmer just because the family dairy farm moved to Iowa some years ago without him, where it's generally worked by undocumented immigrants, while he himself stayed in California growing fragrant and multiflowered paranoid fantasies about President Trump and the FBI, so he's bought himself a spread of acres in his district, well, maybe half an acre:
Nunes, R-Tulare, reported on a newly released financial disclosure form that he owns a Tulare County farm that generates no income for him and is worth less than $15,000.
Nunes has never before claimed a farm as one of his assets in annual financial disclosures, according to public records dating back to 2007.
That suggests he either bought a small part in a farm recently or he improperly filed previous financial disclosures, according to Delaney Marsco, legal counsel on ethics for the nonpartisan watchdog group Campaign Legal Center.
“Either he had a tiny stake in this farm all along and he’s been improperly filing financial disclosures, or he bought a tiny, tiny farm this year in order to protect his reputation as a farmer in his district,” Marsco said.
Except the reporters couldn't find any records that he or his wife had bought any land in 2018 either, so who knows? Anyway, I just couldn't really resist:

More Economic Opportunities

Mainland Chinese rapper VaVa registers her disapproval of Hong Kong demonstrators on her Instagram account (which is of course illegal in mainland China except for those with the money to maintain a VPN). This in no way makes her look as if she is cravenly currying favor with the Beijing government, except—well, yeah, it does.

How nuts is the entire world right now?

Well, India's only Muslim-majority state, Jammu and Kashmir, has had its constitution somehow revoked by the Hindu-nationalist government and now the entire state is under something like house arrest, under curfew and phone lines and Internet down for the past 12 days (these are supposedly being restored), politicians arrested, insulin and baby food running out, because that's how Prime Minister Modi thinks he can get the people "more economic opportunities".

That line is another one of the lines that enrages me, with its more than a hint of bribery: "Surely you can put up with a little oppression if we pay you enough." And its buried presupposition that the politician delivering the line is the only one who can deliver the cash, not so buried in the case of Trump:
"The bottom line is, I know you like me, this is a love fest, but you have no choice but to vote for me because your 401(k)'s down the tubes. Everything is going to be down the tubes," Mr Trump said. "So whether you love me or hate me, you've got to vote for me."
(The day after [checks notes] an 800-point drop in the DJI.)

Modi's economic policies, the thing that was going to make up for his party's overt "Aryan" chauvinism (not going to win him friends in the country's southern states) and Islamophobia, haven't actually been that great for the masses, in spite of continued high growth rates, because the growth isn't shared, but benefits only the top 10%, with persistent caste divisions (Modi and the BJP castigate "caste politics" the way Republicans talk about "identity politics", as a way of shutting down discussion of the issue) sharpening the inequality, which seems to be getting worse:
Annabel Bligh: The Modi government has been accused of withholding jobs data in the run up to the election because of how bad the official figures are. But the latest employment survey, which was approved by India’s national statistics commission, was leaked to the Indian newspaper the Business Standard in late January and showed unemployment was at a record high of 6.1%.
Indrajit Roy: By a lot of standards 6.1% is not a bad unemployment rate. But for India it’s very significant, according to Jens Lerche, because there isn’t strong welfare provision in the country. And the unemployment rate was just 2.2% in the 2011-2012 financial year.
Jens Lerche: Now unemployment is uncommon in a country such as India because poor people have to work. So, people being without jobs to some extent is people that can afford not to work – educated people that have a family background that they can live off for a while. But, what we have seen here is jobs that have disappeared also within the agricultural sector and low end of manufacturing sector. So it does appear as if poor people are also losing their jobs here.
And since his reelection in May things have started looking pretty gloomy for the business community as well:
Despite an uptick in August, Mumbai’s Sensex stock index is about as close to October’s lows as it is to June’s highs. In July foreigners pulled more money out of Indian equities than they put in. India’s cautious business press has begun to criticise the government. So too, even more gingerly, have its cowed business leaders. “There is no demand and no private investment,” groused Rahul Bajaj, chairman of Bajaj Auto, a motorcycle-maker, at its annual meeting in late July. “So where will growth come from?” The remark, widely interpreted as a swipe at Mr Modi, encapsulates Indian business’s disenchantment with the man they once regarded as their champion.
The immediate cause of the mood swing was the budget, presented on July 5th by Nirmala Sitharaman, the newly appointed finance minister. Business folk tuned in to the two-hour presentation expecting less red tape, fewer tariffs, more incentives for investment and lower taxes. They got the opposite....
So it seems likely that the timing of the Kashmir action could be related to the general sourness people are feeling about the government. For more, see this interview with the Kashmiri (but London-resident) novelist Mirza Waheed in The New Yorker.

Cross-posted at No More Mister Nice Blog.

Friday, August 16, 2019

Then again...

Regaliceratops peterhewsi, a.k.a. "Hellboy", a triceratops cousin discovered some 15 years ago in southeastern Alberta, via Smithsonian.

I've been in something of a funk, I don't mind telling you, and I think it must have been Matt Taibbi, someone I am normally able to regard with cheerful disrespect, who got me into the political part of it, with a big report from Iowa in late July in which he suggested that the Democratic party was making the same mistakes the Republicans made in 2016, in fielding a bunch of candidates nobody could possibly want:
The top Democrats’ best arguments for office are that they are not each other. Harris is rising in part because she’s not Biden; Warren, because she isn’t Bernie. Bernie’s best argument is the disfavor of the hated Democratic establishment. The Democratic establishment chose Biden because he was the Plan B last time and the party apparently hasn’t come up with anything better since. Nothing says “We’re out of ideas” quite like pulling a pushing-eighty ex-vice president off the bench to lead the most important race in the party’s history.
But I think Matt may have some difficulty recognizing that women politicians are interesting above the neck, humans you can have conversations with, and that some of them are more attractive than others in the same way as men politicians are. In any case, it's not clear the Republican process was a mistake at all, since for one thing they ended up with a candidate who won, in his own peculiar way, and would have been ready to accomplish all the party's principal goals if he weren't so incompetent as a people manager and so unable to delay personal gratification.

In a way, the 2016 thing was a Darwinian experiment, gathering together a collection of political mutants and seeing which mutations were adaptive, an alternative to the conventional method of seeking the candidate who conforms most to the stereotype the choosers feel comfortable with, and what came up was as big a surprise as the triceratops must have been, back in the day, but it wasn't ineffective. While the Democrats' process may have been too sober. This time around, maybe we're performing a similar experiment, and with some real results, in the sense that some of our oddest candidates are the ones who have risen to the top: our oldest candidates in history, our first professional academic to run since Woodrow Wilson (and a more talented academic than he was by far). We've had candidates who became famous as tough-guy prosecutors like Harvey Dent—Thomas E. Dewey, Estes Kefauver, Rodolfo Giuliani, Christopher Christie, all losers in the presidential stakes—but how about prosecutors famous for opposing the death penalty and being black and putting the screws on a sanctimonious, reptilian Supreme Court nominee?

What I'm trying to say is, maybe our candidates are weird enough this time around to shake up the formula and make this unnatural selection process yield something.

Cross-posted at No More Mister Nice Blog.

Thursday, August 15, 2019


Cleve R. Wootson, Jr. and Ashley Parker for the Washington Post on whether we want the next president to Make America Boring Again:
 All Brian Fisher wants is to make it through Season 2 of HBO’s “Westworld.”
Fisher, 65, retired from Silicon Valley to Alicante, Spain, where he imagined he’d spend his time catching up on television and enjoying the beach.  But now, he jokes, he can’t seem to do either — and for that, he blames President Trump.
 “You think, ‘Well, I’ll have my coffee and see what happened overnight in the States,’ ” he said, before describing a morning ritual that includes copious cable news and scrolling through the news alerts on his phone. “I can barely find time to go out to the beach. I live on the beach in Spain — that’s the whole point — but by the time I finish the news, it’s already getting dark.”
Don't know how come they have to report from Iowa to get a quote from the Valencian coast, but I guess that's our ever-shrinking world.

I'm not sure I can stand it any more.

Cross-posted at No More Mister Nice Blog.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Lift My Lamp

Not everybody agreed with the idea of the Emma Lazarus inscription on the Statue of Liberty at the time, including cartoonist Victor Gillam in March 1890 (h/t this blog post by Victoria Emily Jones). 

The All-New New Colossus
by Kenneth Cuccinelli

.................... Give me your tired, your poor,
At least if they can stand on their own feet,
But don't send us those homeless any more
Or people who don't have enough to eat.
Ship them back to their shitholes. Lock the door.

Via Splinter News, a story about Ken Cuccinelli's views on immigrants when he was Virginia attorney general (you'll remember him as the one who redesigned the state seal to conceal the left boob of the goddess Virtus, to make the state safe for Christians) that originally appeared in the lamented DCist: in a call to a conservative radio show in January 2012, he was complaining (falsely) about the District of Columbia catching rats and trucking them to Virginia instead of killing them and claiming (falsely) that the rules prevented them from "breaking up the families" of rats (it's true for some animal species, but rats and mice aren't among them):

Monday, August 12, 2019

Thread: Donald's Vacation

Screen capture from the original Dutch Big Brother, 2001.

"By accident" lol.

Cross-posted at No More Mister Nice Blog.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Swedish Phish

In February 2017, our friend the New York Crank told the readers of No More Mister Nice Blog a story about
an attack that in fact never happened — by “terrorist” immigrants who didn’t exist, in Sweden.
Said Trump recently, “You look what’s happening last night in Sweden. Sweden! Who would believe this? Sweden! They took in large numbers, they’re having problems like they never thought possible.”
This left the Swedes scratching their heads. Nothing had happened in Sweden on the night Trump referred to. How Donald Trump turned on his TV to Fox and Friends [which had in fact run a report claiming that the north Stockholm suburb of Rinkeby was an immigrant-dominated "no-go zone" where Christians were unsafe] and arrived at this conclusion is a job for the men with the white coats when he finally arrives in a straight jacket at the National Home for Daft and Bewildered Ex-Presidents.
Crank went on to talk about the international response to the incident as a good model for how we could start dealing with our then-new president, through merciless ridicule, as demonstrated by the group of Danish Facebook users who organized a "Pray for Sweden" vigil, or the German report of a new Ikea product:

Anyway, some unexpected follow-up to the story came up in today's Times,

Saturday, August 10, 2019

For the Record: Rehearsal

A couple of years ago, at the height of the #MeToo movement, when I found myself accusing myself of complicity in the case of the Metropolitan Opera conductor James Levine, an abuser I sort of knew was an abuser but whose victims I never gave any thought to, I mentioned some video I'd seen of him rehearsing the soprano Kathleen Battle, as an example of how an artist who is a bad man can also be a good man, and a great artist can also be a person of extraordinary tenderness and generosity, on the job, but I didn't post the video, or even look for it, and I just happened to run across some of the same tape, a longer thing featuring not only Battle but also the wondrous Jessye Norman, in the 1988 Met production of Strauss's Ariadne auf Naxos, and I wanted to post it now, for the record, by way of trying to explain the thing I couldn't articulate. I guess that means open thread.


Image by Mayday Productions.

As I was telling somebody with reference to the death of Jeffrey Epstein and the immediate batches of conspiracy theories arising around it, I can't stand it when real life starts resembling this schlocky kind of fiction. I'm contented to believe Epstein was ready to die and succeeded because of the ineptness and negligence of his guards, as explained by a couple of members of the fraternity on NBC:
Former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who resigned his post in May, wrote in a tweet that people who face charges similar to Epstein's are often at a high risk of suicide and that several defendants released on bail in cases in Maryland, where Rosenstein was formerly U.S. attorney, died of suicide.
"Stopping people from harming themselves is difficult," he said.
Jack Donson, a former longtime federal Bureau of Prisons case manager, told NBC News that suicide watch in federal lockup "usually only lasts a few days to week" due to the amount of manpower the 24-hour surveillance entails.
"It requires staff to do overtime shifts" and is "not considered a good use of resources," Donson said. 

And I don't even care. If anybody thought they were going to silence him, it seems likely they were wrong:

Friday, August 9, 2019

ICE raids: Where were the criminals?

Photo by Rogelio V. Solis/AP/Shutterstock used, as it happens, by Mr. Pierce, who reminds us of who did not get arrested on Wednesday, namely any of the actual criminals, the executives of the chicken-processing plants that illegally gave jobs to these workers.


I'm so old I remember when these massive ICE raids were being publicized as a stab at purging the violent criminal element in our midst, way back, oh, almost four weeks ago:
President Donald Trump on Friday insisted upcoming immigration raids set to begin this weekend will focus primarily on deporting criminals though he acknowledged his administration will target anyone who entered the country illegally.
“We’re really looking for criminals as much as we can. Trying to find the criminal population, which has been coming into this country the last 10 years,” Trump told reporters as he prepared to depart Washington. He touted his administration’s removal of members of the violent gang MS-13, claiming he’d deported them “by the thousands.”
Of course they had to scotch the operation after that, once again, but on Wednesday President Blabbermouth was able to restrain himself, or rather they managed to hide it from him, and don't mind admitting it—

Thursday, August 8, 2019

For the Record

This seems so much worse, and somehow sadder, than anything we're screaming at Maggie Haberman for doing:

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Death Struggles

William S. Hart and Robert McKim in Hart's The Return of Draw Egan (1916).

Shorter David Brooks, "The Ideology of Hate And How to Fight It", New York Times, 6 August 2019:
The typical mass murderer nowadays is not acting only out of psychological damage, loneliness, and pessimism, but also ideology, as we learn from reading their manifestos; an ideology which is not classic xenophobia or white nationalism but a combination of essentialism, separatism, and social Darwinism, or the belief that your ethnic group will probably be replaced, which is a form of antipluralism, which is a reaction against the diversity, fluidity, and interdependent nature of modern life, shared by Trumpian nationalists, authoritarian populists, and Islamic jihadists, engaged in a struggle with pluralism which is one of the great death struggles of our time, being fought on every front. Pluralists are people like me, who believe that each person is a symphony of identities, and that culture mixing has always been and should be the human condition, the adventure of life, a constant dialogue that has no end because there is no single answer to how we should live, about movement, interdependence, and life, whereas the enemies of pluralism dream of a pure, static world, and oh yes I said I was going to tell you how to fight them but look at me I'm all out of space again.

Two American Songs

Remember being on a long cross-country drive, family, and singing? In my time, we had a real repertoire and would go on thematic jags—all the songs you know focusing on a woman's name, or state names, which we'd try to do in alphabetical order, or animals. If people could do that today and I were leading a cycle of songs on American cities, I'd be bound to come up with these two wonderful works that keep popping up in my mind today, each a remarkable fusion of lyric and melody and iconic of the place it celebrates—the Randy Newman with its deep self-deprecating modesty and generosity, the Marty Robbins with its self-conscious biculturalism and the extraordinary combination of white-hot romanticism with cowboy deadpan.

Monday, August 5, 2019


This is the most deconstructionist thing that has ever happened: Screenshot from the official White House release of the president's remarks on the tragic shootings over the weekend in El Paso and Dayton and not, as I'm sure you have heard, in that other Ohio city:

Sous rature is a strategic philosophical device originally developed by Martin Heidegger. Usually translated as 'under erasure', it involves the crossing out of a word within a text, but allowing it to remain legible and in place. Used extensively by Jacques Derrida, it signifies that a word is "inadequate yet necessary";[1] that a particular signifier is not wholly suitable for the concept it represents, but must be used as the constraints of our language offer nothing better.
In the philosophy of deconstructionsous rature has been described as the typographical expression that seeks to identify sites within texts where key terms and concepts may be paradoxical or self-undermining, rendering their meaning undecidable.[2][3] To extend this notion, deconstruction and the practice of sous rature also seek to demonstrate that meaning is derived from difference, not by reference to a pre-existing notion or freestanding idea.[4]
But which, in the last analysis, are we looking at here, in the rature of "in Toledo"? Is it really "inadequate yet necessary"? or is it more "paradoxical or self-undermining"?

Horse race update

Edgar Degas, Race Horses, 1885-88, Metropolitan Museum of Art.

I never got around to explaining what it was that impressed me so much about Rachel Bitecofer's work, in the interest of talking about the specific predictions she was making,  and I don't want to let it go, because the more I think about it the more important I think it is: it's that she isn't really making predictions in the normal horse race fashion at all, which aims at anticipating the result at all costs, but deliberately making predictions that could easily be wrong.

She's making falsifiable predictions, in fact, in the service of testing a hypothesis, so that there's something to learn from it. When we follow a prediction through the election, we learn how smart Nate is, and if we're gamblers we may collect some money, but we don't learn anything in particular about how the political system is working. When we follow Bitecofer's prediction, say that Democrats would pick up 43 House seats in the 2018 midterm, we learn whether her particular hypothesis is consistent with reality or not. Bitecofer is putting some science into political science.

The hypothesis is basically that the old arrangement in which elections were decided by the independents no longer applies; it's the polarization that has followed the sorting of liberals and conservatives into the Democratic and Republican parties, and the different degrees of emotional engagement that accompany it:

More mass murder

You've heard of the Terror in Paris in 1794; this is from the White Terror of revenge against the Jacobins in 1795.

So here we are with a big bonanza of mass murder incidents—two in less than 24 hours, one white boy from North Texas who drove down to El Paso to murder a bunch of Mexican people in a Walmart after dropping a white nationalist manifesto on the public, one white boy from the Dayton metro region who drove into the Oregon entertainment district with his sister and her date to murder the two of them and seven other people, a total of six black victims, with no manifesto (but his Twitter feed identified him as a "leftist" and atheist supporter of Sanders or Warren and advocate of socialism and indeed of gun control, according to the pretty trustworthy What they obviously had in common was the race and gender and age group of the killer and weapons capable of filling an unforgiving minute with an awful lot of lethal rounds, and an argument for gun control.

Less than a week after the murder of three people of maybe varied ethnicity at the Gilroy Garlic Festival in Santa Clara County, California by a local boy of "Iranian and Italian descent" after he opened an Instagram account complaining about the "hordes of mestizos and Silicon Valley white twats" who came to the festival and pushing the ancient anti-Semitic tract Might Is Right by "Ragnar Redbeard", but the FBI is refusing to comment on whether he might have had an ideological motive.

I'm not going to play the game of arguing over whether all three were or weren't really white nationalist hate crimes, though I can't forbear noting that the "leftist" Dayton shooter was remembered by high school classmates as less than woke in regard to girls—

Sunday, August 4, 2019


OK sometime exactly that many decades ago I was a participant in a dance contest in Germany with my colleague Kathy in which this was the tune. We had never heard of Rod Stewart so we obviously didn't know he was in the band, if he was, which I think was not yet the case (he joined along with Ron Wood in 1970 when they had become The Faces). I would not have cared, though I probably would have been interested in the keyboard player, Ian McLagan. Kathy and I won second prize though I must acknowledge that there were only two couples on the floor.

Saturday, August 3, 2019

Horse race stuff

Théodore Géricicault, The Wild Horse Race at Rome, ca. 1817, via Wikiart.

I've been looking at extremely interesting ideas (warning: when I say "extremely interesting" I may really mean "in agreement with my naive expectations that nobody else agrees with or has corroborated", just the way most people do) about the US electorate being developed by a political scientist called Rachel Bitecofer at the Judy Ford Wason Center, Christopher Newport University, in Newport News, Virginia, making election predictions on the hypothesis that the behavior of "independents" isn't especially important, and the effects of what she calls "negative partisanship" are (it's not that simple: it considers a lot of factors, in two separate tiers, and regression analysis).

Which led her to predict last November's Democratic gain of 42 House seats (she said 43) in July 2018, when mainstream forecasters were unsure whether Democrats would win the 23 seats they needed to take the majority, which was a pretty remarkable feat, and is leading her now to predict a very solid Electoral College victory for the Democrats in 2020, without knowing who the candidates are. You'll have to check out the paper to get the details, because that's what I'm running this post to get you to do.

I was especially taken by Bitecofer's analysis of what happened in the 2016 election, because it not only puts to rest the zombie story of the "white working class" as decisive factor but also gives the first precise estimate I've seen (schematic, not numerical) of the influence of the Russian active measures:

Friday, August 2, 2019

The Pompitous of Love

David Brooks ("Marianne Williamson Knows How to Beat Trump") says this is no time  for wonkiness:
It is no accident that the Democratic candidate with the best grasp of this election is the one running a spiritual crusade, not an economic redistribution effort. Many of her ideas are wackadoodle, but Marianne Williamson is right about this: “This is part of the dark underbelly of American society: the racism, the bigotry and the entire conversation that we’re having here tonight. If you think any of this wonkiness is going to deal with this dark psychic force of the collectivized hatred that this president is bringing up in this country, then I’m afraid that the Democrats are going to see some very dark days.
Laugh all you want, you know, but I think there's something to it. I mean I wouldn't call it a "dark underbelly" (underbellies are usually pretty pale in most species, I believe), but don't we all feel something apocalyptic about this atmosphere? Psychic force, collectivized hatred, crisis, something hideous at our hearts that never dared to show itself before and now looks triumphant behind our incompetent and criminal emperor. Is it wackadoodle to see a cosmic struggle of some kind going on in the here and now?

Marianne Williamson, a noted lecturer on esoteric subjects

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Mr. Bret blames the Democrats

Library of the Philological Departments, in the still tuition-free FU Berlin, by Norman Foster, 2005.

Shorter Mr. Bret Stephens, "The Democrats Are Not Up To Their Historic Responsibility", 1 August 2019:
Due to circumstances beyond their control, Republicans are unable to provide a Republican candidate for the 2020 presidential election, so Democrats need to step up and offer one. This is their historic responsibility but I am sorry to say they are shirking it. Perfectly respectable Republicans like that guy Delaney and that other guy seek the Democratic nomination but are ignored. Instead the entire party seems to be focused on nominating a candidate who disagrees with me on important policy issues. This will not end well.
Besides, we wouldn't just be helping out the Republicans in a pinch, we'd be helping ourselves, because nominating a Republican is the only way we can win. This is proven by the fact that in the Democrats' 2018 capture of the House some of the seats were won by candidates who were more conservative than some of the other ones.

Steve was all over this silly column first thing in the morning, so I won't dwell. Suffice it to say that no, Democrats don't feel it's their historic obligation to supply Mr. Bret with somebody to vote for, because we disagree with him and everything he stands for.

But I particularly liked this:
I do not admire anyone embracing the bad idea of free college. The surest way to strip nearly anything of its value is to make it free.
Yes indeed. This is why Oxford and Cambridge, the Sorbonne and the Freie Universität Berlin and the Cooper Union in New York have become such despised places.