Saturday, November 30, 2019

Concern trolling: Toward 2020

Via KnowYourMeme.

Some pretty advanced concern trolling from Monsignor Ross Douthat, Apostolic Nuncio to 42nd Street, has him advising his conservative readers that they should pray for Senator Sanders to get the nomination ("The Case For Bernie"), finishing his column thus:
This is why, despite technically preferring a moderate like Biden or Amy Klobuchar, I keep coming back to the conservative’s case for Bernie — which rests on the perhaps-wrong but still attractive supposition that he’s the liberal most likely to spend all his time trying to tax the rich and leave cultural conservatives alone.
What is why what? Well, the idea, which he's put forward before apparently, is that Elizabeth Warren has "fully embraced the culture-war breadth of the new progressivism while Sanders remains, fundamentally, an economic-policy monomaniac" so he's a safer bet for the terrorized conservative Roman Catholic who just wants his bathroom to be safe from complicated genders and his women dead if they have an ectopic pregnancy, just in case the Democrats win.

Friday, November 29, 2019

Brooks on Gut

Maybe young Mrs. Brooks is spending Thanksgiving with her family and Mr. Brooks is on his own in Capitol Hill,  because today's column ("The Wisdom Your Body Knows"), which looks like outtakes on the book Brooks had a contract to write before he discovered humility and decided to write something different, has a ton of references to work on neuroscience and none of those helpful links that somebody's been inserting for him recently.
This has been a golden age for brain research. We now have amazing brain scans that show which networks in the brain ramp up during different activities. But this emphasis on the brain has subtly fed the illusion that thinking happens only from the neck up. It’s fed the illusion that the advanced parts of our thinking are the “rational” parts up top that try to control the more “primitive” parts down below.
So it’s interesting how many scientists are now focusing on the thinking that happens not in your brain but in your gut. You have neurons spread through your innards, and there’s increasing attention on the vagus nerve, which emerges from the brain stem and wanders across the heart, lungs, kidney and gut.
Which made me wonder if he was finally starting to discard his traditional Cartesian dualism and accept that the mind is a function of the body rather than a distinct aetherial thing. Which I can't say he doesn't do, since he doesn't use the word "mind" anywhere in the column, or "cognition/cognitive" either, though he does talk pretty freely about the brain doing or sharing the doing of the "thinking". He mainly seems to have temporarily displaced the discussion of mind-body into an alternative discussion of brain-gut and an interest in who, brain or gut, is in control here, which may amount to the same thing.

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Lede, Buried

Protesters thanking the United States, via Sky News.

Speaking of gratitude, Hong Kong activists and some of their admirers have been tweeting out a lot of it to Donald Trump for signing the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act authorizing sanctions on Chinese and Hong Kong officials involved in the repression of the demonstrations and requiring the State Department to do an annual review of Hong Kong's special trade status, passed unanimously by the Senate and 417 to 1 by the House.

Those thanks may be a little misplaced. That the president signed the bill was inevitable given the majorities, though as a matter of fact he'd threatened to veto it before the votes; that isn't news. But the buried lede is that he issued it with a signing statement that the newspapers aren't running in full: I ran into it on Twitter.

That is to say, he reserves the right to not obey it if he finds it "interferes" with his "constitutional authority, just as he did with the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) authorizing sanctions on Russia for its interference in the 2016 presidential election, passed by similar majorities at the end of July 2017 (including some of those Republican senators now saying "Ukraine might have done it"), which he also threatened emptily to veto before signing it into law in 2 August. And successfully avoided implementing it for almost two and a half years at present writing, as I explained last June.

In short, there aren't going to be any sanctions on China in behalf of democracy in Hong Kong as long as Trump is president, because emperors don't submit to Congress if their grand viziers can figure out ways of avoiding it and their fellow emperors don't want them to.

Embarrassment of Riches

Well, thankful the Thanksgiving I attend won't have any of the assholes who will be competing in this Biggest Asshole contest. Not that there are necessarily no Trump voters there—it's a pretty big group—but standards of human decency still apply, and nobody gets anywhere near that drunk. NPR ran a piece this morning suggesting from I don't know what research that only 4% of Americans would actually be at a celebration where this is a problem, but went on like everybody else telling us how to cope with it anyway.

I really love Thanksgiving, from the inside out, warmth and family and the simplicity and breadth of the menu, but I have to say I'm not crazy about the theology of it, the thanks part, which seems kind of obnoxiously Calvinist, dividing blessed Me from the damned dude down the street who has little to be thankful for, without the equally Calvinist recognition that I don't deserve it because I'm just as vile a sinner as he is and God chose me essentially at random. I think there should be a little more embarrassment as opposed to simple acceptance. A gratitude day would be better employed in fasting and service, and I admire those who do the latter, but I just want to be in a hot room with all those smells and a glass of red and football on the TV and noisy kids and people I love but haven't seen in a few months, laughing and talking, including talking about things other than politics. But we'll definitely gather in corners and talk about politics too.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Monsignor Worries About Answered Prayers

Sad Republican senators at the White House, 7 August 1974, via Medium.

Shorter Monsignor Ross Douthat, apostolic nuncio to 42nd Street ("How Trump Survives"):
Looking through the lenses of their own partisanship at the total history (all two cases) of 20th-century presidential impeachment for clues as to what is to come, liberals tend to think that Nixon ended up out of office because, unlike Clinton, he was guilty of high crimes and misdemeanors, while conservatives believe it is because the senators of the Republican minority in 1974 were more high-minded than the senators of the Democratic minority in 1998. But my hot empirical take, drawing on Twitter commentary by the political scientist Jacob Levy is that it was the oil shocks and stagflation that brought Nixon down. Meaning not "the economy, stupid," but a cascade toward economic debacle, foreign-policy catastrophe or late-1960s civil strife, as the case may be, which convinced Senator Goldwater and the others that Nixon was going to have to go.
The moral being that you won't get rid of Trump just because he's a criminal, but only if you're cascading toward economic debacle, foreign-policy catastrophe, or late-1960s civil strife, and if you want that to happen you're a bad person. I'm not saying you shouldn't impeach him, because he's an extremely bad person, but you should hope that you fail.
You think I'm kidding?

Monday, November 25, 2019

For the Record: Just to make sure it's clear

Sunday, November 24, 2019


Drawing by Alfredo Martirena.

At the risk of being boring, because I spent a bunch of time on it, I'd like to work back through the timeline of Ukraine Quid Pro Quo no. 1, about which I think we know quite a bit more than we did a few weeks ago. In fact the story as we first imagined it, as a kind of prequel to Quid Pro Quo no. 2, in which Trump gives Ukraine the missiles in return for Ukraine dropping their cooperation with the Mueller investigation, falls apart entirely, but there are some jewels we can pick out of the rubble.

This comes in the first place from the testimony of Catherine Croft, the NSC veteran who served as Kurt Volker's deputy in the special envoy to Ukraine department, to the House Intelligence Committee. Her main function was to talk about the crazy vendetta against Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch (led by lobbyist Bob "I'm Not a Lobbyist" Livingston, formerly the seniormost congressman who was an implacable supporter of the Clinton impeachment and almost became Speaker before his own fervent adulterousness was revealed by Larry Flynt, ha ha ha, and who now may be facing criminal charges for his pains), but Democratic counsel Dan Goldman asked her about the military aid, with particular attention to the long months in 2017 when Trump was unwilling to yield to the pressure from McMaster, Mattis, and Tillerson to let Ukraine have the $47 million worth of military aid, including 210 Javelin antitank missiles and 37 launchers as well as nonlethal communications equipment, armored vehicles, and radar that are actually much more important than the missiles to the Ukrainian soldiers in their day-to-day tasks.

Not for the boring reasons the Obama administration had chosen—that giving them the weapons might lead Russia to escalate the conflict in Russia—but at least officially because he just doesn't like foreign aid:

Friday, November 22, 2019

People Against Populism

The "populist" Maximilien Robespierre, in a contemporary cartoon, via The New Statesman, July 2017.

What accounts for the following"?
Crowds are chanting “Death to Khamenei” in Iran while the regime kills them en masse and shuts down the internet. Throngs are marching to preserve democratic rights in Hong Kong, Warsaw, Budapest, Istanbul and Moscow. The masses are angry in Pakistan, Indonesia and Saudi Arabia and toppling leaders in Lebanon and Bolivia.
David Brooks has an important idea, naturally ("The Revolt Against Populism"):

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Literary Corner: He was not in a good mood

Detail from Gino Severini, Hieroglyphic of the Bal Tabarin (1912)

So in his testimony, EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland was filling in the time gap in those famous text messages on 9 September, after Ambassador Taylor spooked him with his phrasing about the mysteriously frozen $390 million in security aid to Ukraine:
[9/9/19, 12:34:44 AM] Bill Taylor: Counting on you to be right about this interview [that President Zelensky was now expected to give to CNN, in which he would announce his plans to investigate the imaginary crimes of Andrea Chalupa, Joe Biden, and others], Gordon.
[9/9/19, 12:37:16 AM] Gordon Sondland: Bill, I never said I was “right”. I said we are where we are and believe we have identified the best pathway forward. Lets hope it works.
[9/9/19, 12:47:11 AM] Bill Taylor: As I said on the phone, I think it’s crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign.
[9/9/19, 5:19:35 AM] Gordon Sondland: Bill, I believe you are incorrect about President Trump’s intentions. The President has been crystal clear no quid pro quo’s of any kind. The President is trying to evaluate whether Ukraine is truly going to adopt the transparency and reforms that President Zelensky promised during his campaign I suggest we stop the back and forth by text If you still have concerns I recommend you give Lisa Kenna or S a call to discuss them directly. Thanks. 
As we know, Sondland called Trump for advice on what he ought to say to Taylor in response, and then sent the last text. What he told the Congress was that he had told Trump
he had gotten mixed signals from the Trump administration about what it sought from the Ukrainian government, and so he pressed Trump on what he wanted.... Trump repeatedly told him on the call “I want nothing” and there was no quid pro quo. (Andy Kroll/Rolling Stone)
Proving, evidently, in Trump's mind, that there was no quid pro quo, although Sondland had said in considerable detail that there was, and he hopes "it's all over". Seeing that on the television was the stimulus for what I think must be one of Trump's most powerful works, presented to the press today in the usual helicopter ambience, with the repetitions in epic style, in the technical sense (epic as a genre of orally transmitted culture is full of repetition and formula—that's how the performers, bards, remember the long texts), thudding like cannon fire.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

The End of Whatabout

"Meanwhile," said Trump in Louisiana on Thursday night, "the far left Democrats in Washington want to abolish the production of oil and natural gas. How do you like that idea? How about this clown, [inaudible]? He was against guns, religion and oil, and he lives in Texas. That's not going to work." I don't even know who he's talking about (it wasn't the Democratic gubernatorial candidate he'd come to attack, incumbent John Bel Edwards, who ended up winning in spite of Trump's efforts, as you've heard).  Image via Bruce Gagnon/Organizing Notes.
One way for a blogger to deal with the firehose aspect of the news these weeks is to just resign oneself to being a couple of days behind and looking for the bits that nobody's managed to pick up yet.

Thursday afternoon, 14 November, a strange commotion took place in the Oval Office while the helicopter was waiting to deliver Trump to the plane to Bossier City, Louisiana for a rally in his losing campaign to unseat Democratic governor John Bel Edwards, and it seems they were discussing the forthcoming report from FBI Inspector General Michael Horowitz on the "origins" of the Trump-Russia investigation (focusing, we're told, on the FBI's decision to put a FISC order on Trump's former "foreign policy adviser" Carter Page, Ph.D., some weeks after Page left the campaign, although the investigation had already begun, over the alarming story of the indiscreet former "foreign policy adviser" George Papadopoulos).

A lot of faithful Trumper paranoids have been looking to this report to prove to the world that the Trump-Russia investigation was actually a conspiracy among the "angry Democrats" who are naturally in charge of the FBI's counterintelligence activities to take down Trump's presidency (it had to wait for Trump to become president to go into real action, though you'd think it would be more efficient to just stop him from winning, but apparently the sinister cabal was expecting Hillary to win, like everybody else, and this conspiracy roping together the forces of the FBI, CIA, intelligence services of UK, Italy, and Australia, and possibly the White House, was just an "insurance policy"), and they've been waiting for this thing to come out with increasing excitement.

Not that any of this is going to happen. As with his report on Andrew McCabe, Horowitz will make an attempt to be pissy about some of the people Trump is after but nobody is going to be anywhere near locked up, because they didn't do anything wrong (Marcy Wheeler has suggested there may have been cut corners in the warrant on Dr. Page, but added that whatever they did has been done much more abusively to many, mostly Muslims, in recent years, and it's kind of ridiculous to single out this particular case of somebody who obviously needed to be watched and who had practically no remaining connection with the Trump campaign at this point anyway).

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Don't Care

Drawing by Peter Brookes.
Roger Cohen, a columnist from whom I sometimes learn sort of useful and nonpartisan things, in The Times, on the kinds of voters he thinks Democrats should be aiming at for 2020:
Chuck Hardwick, lifelong Republican, former Pfizer executive, now retired in Florida, voted for Donald Trump in 2016, but not without misgivings. He’d met him in the 1980s and noted a “consuming ego.” Still, elections are about choices, and he disliked the “scheming” Clintons. He was mad at the media for first mocking Trump during the primaries and then turning on him as nominee.
Three years later, Hardwick, 78, whose political career included a stint as speaker of the New Jersey General Assembly, is unsure how he will vote in November 2020. Trump confounds him. He admires the president’s energy, his courage in taking on difficult issues like China “stealing its way to prosperity,” his corporate tax cuts, and what he sees as a revitalizing impact on American ambition.
“But if I was on a board that had hired Trump as C.E.O.,” Hardwick tells me, “I’d have to say to him: ‘You’ve got good traits but you can’t manage people. You’re fired.’”
Steve M is pretty savage about the piece, which more or less pulls a Salena Zito on us in suggesting there is any possibility that this man, a mainstay of the New Jersey GOP though the 1980s who worked hard for National Right to Life and NRA endorsements, is a necessary element of a Democratic victory:

Saturday, November 16, 2019


Oh, Brahms. In 1890, at 57, having grown his famous beard, he thought he'd retire from composing, not in any despairing way, but just feeling he'd said what he needed and wanted more time doing nothing—he was dating, in fact, for the first time since his broken engagement of 1859, a 28-year-old mezzo-soprano, Alice Barbi, whatever that may have meant in Vienna in 1890, and hanging out with the most famous pop musician in Vienna at the time, Johann Strauss II, who was eight years older than he was. But when he went to a music festival in Meiningen in January 1891 and heard the clarinetist Richard Mühlfeld playing the Weber concerto and the Mozart clarinet quintet, the dark intimacy of the instrument's sound with a genius player gave him a longing to do that thing, and he unretired himself, writing a trio, a quintet like Mozart's which is the one I love best, and two extraordinary sonatas, of which this is the second. Among a bunch of great pieces that are not for clarinet.

OK here's the trio too.


Friday, November 15, 2019

The Trump Doctrine: I Only Care About Big Stuff

Beach at Biarritz, via

Everything you assumed was true is going to turn out to be true. Most outlets don't even have time for this one tonight, on top of the Marie Yovanovitch testimony and the Roger Stone verdict, but I just love it. Especially in the summer.

Remember how Trump announced in August at the Group of Seven meeting in Biarritz that he thought next year's summit should be held at the Doral Golf Resort in Miami? And on October 17th it turned out to be true, in a bravura press conference performance by Mick Mulvaney?
So we use the same set of criteria that previous administrations have used.  We started with a list of about a dozen, just on paper.  And we sent an advance team out to actually visit 10 locations in several states.  We visited California, Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, Michigan, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Utah.  Now, we got that list down to just under 10, and the advance team went out to visit those.  And from there, we got down to four finalists that our senior team went out to look at.  They looked at — I think it was one in Hawaii, two in Utah, and then the Mar-a-Lago facility in Florida.
And it became apparent at the end of that process that Doral was, by far and away — far and away — the best physical facility for this meeting.  In fact, I was talking to one of the advance teams when they came back, and I said, “What was it like?”  And they said, “Mick, you’re not going to believe this, but it’s almost like they built this facility to host this type of event.”
Actually, no, according to emails sourced by the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington and reported in the Washington Post. Starting in late May, by early July the Secret Service had whittled the list down to four sites in Hawaii, California, Utah, and North Carolina, and were preparing to send senior staffers for a final trip, when something happened to make them chop the California and North Carolina sites and add Miami:

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Method to Madness

Illustration via La Cuadra Magazine, October 2013.

Marc Thiessen:

Incompetence is not an impeachable offense

Oh right. Hard to argue with that. If the Founding Fathers, in their practically infinite wisdom, had thought the nation should be enabled to do something when a president turns out to be an imbecile who believes in invisible airplanes, can't read, and changes his mind 120 times a day, surely they would have said something!
What we saw on display Wednesday were two dedicated, experienced career foreign policy officials who had been desperately trying to figure out what the president wanted — and inferring his intentions based on snippets of information from others. But their efforts to divine Trump’s desires presume that the president knew what he wanted. It’s not clear he did. His handling of Ukraine seemed less the execution of an intelligible plan than a chaotic mishmash of constantly changing urges and demands. According to Sondland, “President Trump changes his mind on what he wants on a daily basis.”
.... it looks as though the entire Ukraine debacle may be the result less of intent than incompetence. And unfortunately for Democrats, incompetence is not an impeachable offense.
Unfortunately for Democrats! Having a stupid, certifiable, uncontrollable maniac in the White House isn't a problem for the nation as a whole—in fact it's good for Republicans! Suck on it, libtards!

I can't help feeling there's something imprudent about choosing this hill to die on, as Republicans from Lindsey Graham

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

The Problem with Paranoia

Silly dustups with people from our side spreading the claim that Trump stole $2.8 million from veterans' organizations, or, more realistically, raised the money for veterans' organizations and kept it for himself, which I agree would come to the same thing. Including the extremely estimable David Atkins, who put it in the Washington Monthly:
 it should still leave us speechless that only a few days ago the President of the United States was held liable by judge of defrauding veterans to the tune of millions of dollars via a fake charity he used for vainglorious personal and campaign expenses....
Only that's just not what happened.

Monday, November 11, 2019

The Coup that Wasn't, Maybe

Ex-president Carlos Mesa of the Revolutionary Left Front (Frente Revolucionário del Izquierdo), second-place finisher in the disputed Bolivian election, demonstrating last month. Photo by Juan Karita/AP via New York Times.

OK, let's do this. (With some uncredited help from blogfriend @pauloCanning who may show up to explain what I've gotten wrong here.)

Evo Morales, the Aymara coca workers' leader who came out of the Bolivian mountains in 1997 to overturn the ethnarchy of the white minority that had run the country since the colonial period, and finally became president in January 2006, was a hero, beyond question, and an extremely effective politician, whose administration accomplished enormous things in the way of promoting social justice and reducing inequality while growing the country's economy, admired by everybody from The Nation to the Washington Post as a model of how Latin American socialism can work.

He also just wanted to stay too long, for one thing (and not the most serious thing in my view; I'll get to others below). When he decided in the early days of his third term, in 2016, that he wanted to go for an unconstitutional fourth, and put the question to the people in a referendum, they disagreed. When he then went to the Supreme Tribunal of Justice to ask if he could ignore the referendum and run for a fourth term anyway, and the Supreme Tribunal responded by abolishing term limits for everybody, people started getting upset. When he went ahead and ran this year, the election results and the hiccups in the counting process looked pretty shady:

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Literary Corner: It must suck to be John Kennedy

Fiddlers Allemande, early 19th-century England? Via Jane Austen's World.

"In three short years, President Trump has doubled the growth in the greatest economy in all of human history. And do you know what our Democratic friends have done for him? Speaker Nancy Pelosi is trying to impeach him. I don’t mean any disrespect, but it must suck to be that dumb." (Senator John Kennedy, R-LA)
Kennedy's Villanelle
The Senate's premiere intellect
regards his audience as scum.
I don't mean any disrespect.
Though Oxford's where he's coming from—
a first at Magdalen, that's correct!
But it must suck to be that dumb.
I wonder if his mind was wrecked
by drugs like methedrine, or rum.
I don't mean any disrespect.
He cannot do a basic sum;
his grade-school taunts have no effect.
But it must suck to be that dumb.
And in faux bayou dialect,
such unremitting pabulum—
I don't mean any disrespect—
it needs to be severely checked
before we're all completely numb.
I don't mean any disrespect,
but it must suck to be that dumb.


Well, in 1747 Johann Sebastian Bach, then 62 and not looking for a more interesting job than the one he'd held for almost 25 years at the Thomaskirche in Leipzig, heard from an old acquaintance, the polymath Lorenz Christoph Mizler von Kolof, the first person after the Renaissance to lecture on music history at a German university, and at this point in his life court physician to King August III of Poland, and the founder and permanent secretary of the Corresponding Society for the Musical Sciences (Correspondierende Societät der musikalischen Wissenschaften); Bach was invited to become the society's 14th member. In return, he presented the society with a work of fantastical complexity and weirdness, Some Canonic Variations on the Christmas Song "Vom Himmel Hoch", and a portrait of himself, the famed painting by E.G. Haussmann, in which he is shown holding a copy of another one of those crazy last works, the triplex canon for six voices BWV 1076.

The melody had been composed by Martin Luther a couple of centuries earlier, and Bach apparently liked it a lot, having set it several times in church music works. A canon is a polyphonic work in which different voices play or sing the same melody starting at different times (Row, Row, Row Your Boat is a canon) and often at different pitches and sometimes different tempos. These five start off as two-part canons in the organist's left and right hands while the feet play the original Luther melody on the pedals, but they get more complicated. The graphics in this video do a brilliant job of showing how it works:

Friday, November 8, 2019

Sweet Charity. With an Unexpected Kallstrom Appearance

For the record: Donald writes:

Donald Trump has not given major money to charity.

The Trump Foundation may have made donations of $19 million in the course of its now terminated existence between 1987 and 2017, as Trump's personal lawyer Alan J. Futerfas has repeatedly claimed over the past couple of years without offering any evidence, but it's known that Trump himself contributed just over $5.4 million to it, just a little more than the $5 million WWE executives Vince and Linda McMahon are known to have given the Trump Foundation (though this looks like a way of paying him for his appearances on the 2007 Wrestlemania, in a way that allowed him to evade taxes), and Trump hasn't given it a dime since 2008. Oprah Winfrey, by contrast, who is not supposed to be as rich as Trump, has built up a fund worth $242 million through her own donations$22.5 million over the single year 2018-19.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Celebrity White House

One of the ideas kicked around by Burnett and the president was shooting a new version of the Trump-branded Apprentice, tentatively titled The Apprentice: White House, and to produce it shortly after the president leaves office. This time, however, the TV program would be explicitly politics-themed and take full advantage of Trump’s status as a former president of the United States and a newfound Republican kingmaker.
“There have been several discussions between Burnett and Trump about The Apprentice: White House,” a person with knowledge of the situation told The Daily Beast. “It is something Burnett thinks could be a money-spinner and Trump is very keen on doing.” 



Can't begin to tell you how psyched the network is about The Apprentice: White House. There are a bunch of obstacles that need to be worked through before you get the green light but if you guys can make your end happen and I'm sure you can this is looking to be the greatest reality show of all time and I'm not even kidding. You and I are going to be richer than Mr. Trump by the time this thing is over. I mean we already are richer than Mr. Trump but richer than Mr. Trump thinks he is.

Points that instantly come to mind are:

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

For the Record: Secret Hearings

‘Let the jury consider their verdict,’ the King said, for about the twentieth time that day.

‘No, no!’ said the Queen. ‘Sentence first - verdict afterwards.’

‘Stuff and nonsense!’ said Alice loudly. ‘The idea of having the sentence first!’

‘Hold your tongue!’ said the Queen, turning purple.

‘I won’t!’ said Alice.

‘Off with her head!’ the Queen shouted at the top of her voice. Nobody moved. (Via Gates of Vienna)
This was a weird exchange over more than a week that ended up unexpectedly plugging into the released transcript of the Yovanovitch interview:

Of course inside the Wingosphere nobody pleads guilty just because they're guilty. There must be some occult thing going on. Mike Flynn pleaded guilty to save his obnoxious son Mike Junior from a fate worse than having a dad in prison, though it's never clear what the Feds might have on the lad, other than his being a ratfucking Twitter scandalmongerer and working in Mike Senior's criminal business, involving performing services for the Turkish government that should not be performed and taking unreportable money. "Son, I've decided to take the rap for all the crimes I could have tried to blame on you."

Monday, November 4, 2019

New York Note

I almost exercised my brand new right to vote before Election Day in New York, but the fact is my own polling place is less than two minutes away from home and news reports suggested early voting is doing great and it didn't need any encouragement from me to succeed and the fact is that while I enthusiastically endorse early voting as an option for those who have problems with Tuesdays, I also personally like participating in Election Day a lot, so I didn't.

Asked my family what they were planning to do and got one meaningful response, from the very smart Millennial who said she had sort of heard something about one of the five ballot propositions. Also, I hear that the propositions on the physical ballot or presented in 7-point type, and nobody's passing out magnifying glasses. So I decided that I should post a very short tutorial.

tl;dr: vote for all of them. Vote for Public Advocate Jumaane Williams to finish the term that Letitia James had to give up when she was elected state attorney general, and vote yes on everything else, viz., Propositions
  1. Ranked Choice Voting in all primary and special elections for Mayor, Public Advocate, Comptroller, Borough President, and City Council as of January 2021, which permits voters to register their second through fifth choices, which can in turn be used to create a kind of runoff vote when nobody earns a majority and encourages unexpected candidacies and interesting results and has worked really well where it's been tried in the US;
  2. increasing effectiveness of the Civilian Complaints Review Board for overseeing the city police, adding clout to the City Council and Public Advocate by giving them some nominations to the membership, and most importantly giving them more power to investigate cases, with subpoena power and the ability to investigate false cop statements;
  3. a miscellany of anti-corruption and good government initiatives including restrictions on lobbying for ex-officials; it's got a bunch of stuff good people can disagree on, and if you want to vote no on something this would be the place, but I won't;
  4. city budget reforms including a Rainy Day Fund, and
  5. land use reforms, giving more power to borough presidents and community boards to deliberate on land use proposals.
More information at The Gothamist, New York's best local paper, all online and now the property of WNYC radio.

Sunday, November 3, 2019


Jason Leopold of BuzzFeed has begun posting a bunch of documents from the Mueller investigation that he obtained through a FOIA request, starting with some pretty heavily redacted 302s (FBI informal records of agent interviews) of sessions with Paul Manafort's second-in-command, Rick Gates, now in prison for his part in some of Manafort's Ukraine misdeeds (there's also material on Michael Cohen and Stephen Bannon that I haven't worked through yet). But these interviews are about the Trump campaign, and particularly the months around 9 June 2016 and the meeting at Trump Tower, which Gates didn't attend or necessarily even know about—he carefully told the FBI that Trump Jr. never spoke to him about the Veselnitskaya meeting, didn't say he never heard of it (weird detail: when that story broke in June 2017, Manafort asked Gates if he'd been at the meeting—I wonder what he would have asked next).

They don't naturally tell us anything directly about the meeting itself, but they're pretty enlightening, in my view, about its context, in such a way as to add some new clarity to my own reconstruction, and I wanted to blog my way through it right away, before I find out what everybody else is doing with it.

The interviews are structured more or less chronologically, and they start off (interview of 10 April 2018) with the lead-up to the Veselnitskaya meeting, in April and May 2016, when the atmosphere in the Trump campaign was all about emails: "interest in the emails was ratcheting up in the April-May 2016 timeframe because it was likely the emails could help campaign":

Saturday, November 2, 2019

Don't shoot the comedian

Volodymyr Zelenskyy last March, at a taping for his comedy series Servant of the People. Photo by Sergei Supinsky/AFP/Getty Images via NPR.

Pleased on Thursday to note Washington Post confirming my speculation of Wednesday ("Vindman heard Trump himself asking Zelenskyy for the same thing, as a "favor", so you can see how serious it must have begun to seem, to him and to Eisenberg too, who decided to hide the transcript away before they had even finished editing it"):
Moments after President Trump ended his phone call with Ukraine’s president on July 25, an unsettled national security aide rushed to the office of White House lawyer John Eisenberg....

Friday, November 1, 2019

Something to see here, move on anyway

Harry Langdon in Soldier Man (1926), via Fritzi.

David Brooks may have seen the House vote for impeachment as the death of civility in the United States, and a signal to move to the bargaining stage of grief ("Impeach Trump. Then Move On.")
The evidence against Trump is overwhelming. This Ukraine quid pro quo wasn’t just a single reckless phone call. It was a multiprong several-month campaign to use the levers of American power to destroy a political rival.... But there is little chance [Democrats] will come close to ousting the president. So I hope they set a Thanksgiving deadline. Play the impeachment card through November, have the House vote and then move on to other things.
OK, just the tip, if you have to, but then let's move on, or back, to the real problem, which is "elite negligence" in the face of "national decline", which cuts both ways among voters, he thinks,
Many Trump voters take it as a matter of course that for the rest of their lives things are going to get worse for them — economically, spiritually, politically and culturally. They are not the only voters who think this way. Many young voters in their OK Boomer T-shirts feel exactly the same, except about climate change, employment prospects and debt.
I don't know that anybody blames these things on negligence exactly. We're Americans, after all, heirs of the "paranoid style", and we're more likely to blame our problems on an actively hostile enemy, which is not necessarily an "elite" for the Trump voter, who feels assaulted by African Americans and immigrants, gay people, uppity women, college graduates, and people who think they're cool—people he feels have maybe not more status than him, but more status than they deserve compared to him—or just access to mysterious stuff whether it's cash welfare or college admissions. The young Brooks is talking about would presumably have a more focused sense of being persecuted by the elite of wealth: rapacious corporations destroying the planet, keeping the majority in chains of low wages and indebtedness, and dominating government to widen inequality.

Oh, Republicans.