Friday, January 31, 2020

A Senate Trial

To the tune of:

a Senate trial, with no witness—
a steaming pile of shit it is
I thought we would be saving our threatened nation
instead it looks like wasted anticipation

a Senate trial of impeaching
across the aisle they're not reaching
I haven't seen Republicans crack a smile
it's never been their style
this is a Senate trial

a Senate trial without judging
the whole defense is Matt Drudging
the prosecution can't seem to get attention
with all the parties dreaming of their convention

a Senate trial with no sentence—
we don't believe in repentance
defendant is quite happily in denial
or maybe that's his guile
this is a Senate trial

a Senate trial with no ending
the solons' fear is heart-rending
they seem to think the Emperor is bionic
too bad the rules forbid them a gin and tonic

a Senate trial with no moral
I'd better stop or we'll quarrel
I'm turning off the radio for a while
it's filling me with bile
this is a Senate trial

Thursday, January 30, 2020

For the Record: Whistleblower

If the whistleblower violated some article of White House protocol to get the document to the place IG Atkinson agreed it needed, urgently, to go, that's a good thing! If he hadn't done it, Zelenskyy would have gone on CNN on schedule, humiliated himself and disheartened his voters (and the rest of the world) by announcing his imaginary investigations of an imaginary crime (and Trump might have gone on holding the aid, as I suppose Putin asked him to do in the secret 31 July phone call, but you don't have to pay any attention to that). It was a win for the rule of law!

Or is somebody claiming that IG Atkinson was wrong about whether or not the complaint was credible and urgent? I don't hear Trump and his lawyers doing that. I hear Trump and his lawyers making fitful attempts to stop us from thinking about it altogether, kicking up the identity of the whistleblower like sand in our eyes. Which is kind of their only alternative, but please don't let yourself be affected by it.

While I'm up, a weird and distasteful thread on Biden and his press problems, beginning with the great Elizabeth Drew weighing in with her opinion:

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Rudy confesses

On an unrelated quest, I just ran into this letter from last November to Lindsey Graham (it was covered by Fox) in which, it seems to me,  Rudy confesses:

I assure you, despite the false rumors and exaggerations of reality, everything I did was to defend an innocent man, in this case, the President of the United States. Not only from false charges but from a deliberately planned conspiracy to prevent him from being elected, and then the insurance policy to remove him by false charges and illegal methods.
Defending your client from not getting elected isn't what a defense attorney does; it's the work of a political agent. But it's the only thing Giuliani has done (what "false charges" against Trump has he dealt with, as a lawyer, or true ones either? I haven't heard of him addressing Trump's illegal behavior in the Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal payoffs, or the long list of obstruction of justice counts in the Mueller report, have you?).

In the letter, he still seems to be trying to get visas for Ukrainian informants, maybe Shokin, against the "Biden Family" (promoting Joe with that capitalization to full-scale Godfather status)
There are at least three (3) witnesses who have direct (non-hearsay) evidence of Democrat criminal conspiracy with Ukrainians to prevent Donald J. Trump from being President, with the alternative to remove him from office based on contrived charges. This has been most recently established by Mark Zaid, the discredited anonymous informant’s lawyer, who called for a coup ten days after the January 2017 inauguration. These witnesses have oral, documentary, and recorded evidence of the Biden Family’s involvement in bribery, money laundering, Hobbs Act extortion, and other possible crimes. They do not seek anonymity, like the disappearing informant. They desire a visa and it will not be granted by Ambassador Bill Taylor’s embassy in Kiev. The Ambassador, apparently, has been too busy starring on mid-day soap operas, providing us with inadmissible second and third-hand information, including guesses and surmises. Some of which I personally know is false because his information about me is largely untrue.
Last night we were looking at the assertions of Trump lawyers in the Senate trial:
“He was not on a political errand,” Raskin argued. “He was doing what good defense attorneys do. …
Wrong. He's always been on a political errand.

Rudy Rude: The Best Defense Is Pretty Offensive

By Jen Sorensen.

So the Republicans finally did get around to mentioning Rudolph Giuliani's name after all, yesterday, for 15 minutes of their 24 hours (which seem to have reduced themselves by about half, no surprise there), in the person of counselor Jane Raskin, who explained that Rudy was simply a "colorful distraction" introduced into the story by Democrats:
“The House managers would have you believe that Mr. Giuliani is at the center of this controversy,” Raskin said. “They’ve anointed him the proxy villain of the tale, the leader of a rogue operation. Their presentations were filled with ad hominem attacks and name-calling … but I suggest to you he’s front an center in their narrative for one reason alone: to distract from the fact that the evidence does not support their claims.”
Because it wasn't the way the Democrats saw it when he and Lev and Ihor, and the hack journalist John Solomon, and the hack Ukrainian prosecutors Viktor Shokin and Kostiantyn Kulyk and Yuriy Lutsenko, and the very rich Ukrainian crook Dmytro Firtash, worked to concoct their stories of how the real thieves of the Democratic National Committee emails were an imaginary Ukrainian firm called CrowdStrike (overlapping in their alternative universe with the American company of that name in ours); and the US ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, was a secret member of the anti-Trump resistance; and Joe Biden's son Hunter had done something unspeakable and indeed undefinable, but very bad.
Raskin asserted that Giuliani’s pursuits were not about the 2020 presidential election, citing the fact that he undertook the effort before Mueller’s report on Russian interference was released and before Biden announced his presidential bid. She said he was driven by a motivation to defend his client against the Mueller probe. 
“He was not on a political errand,” Raskin argued. “He was doing what good defense attorneys do. … He was gathering evidence about Ukrainian election interference to defend his client against the false allegations being investigated by special counsel Robert Mueller.” 
Let's just take a look at that, focusing on the timing:

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

For the Record: Dersh

You won't believe what's happened to handsome Martha's Vineyard lawyer Alan Dershowitz!

I was kind of astonished by Dershowitz, by his vigor and concentration, of all things, which make his languid and uncertain teammates look pretty bad, to say nothing of the bleating old Kenneth Starr. When his former students tell you what a good professor he was, I bet they're not kidding. At the same time, you didn't need a lot of legal sophistication to see he was wrong.

I thought it was mildly funny how he started out off the bat emphasizing how he's taken up "doing his own research", as struck me earlier ("I didn't do research back then, I relied on what professors said"), rather than looking at what current scholars are doing, bragging about the "dusty old volumes" he's been consulting:

But his main point seemed to be doubling down on a very well-understood error, the error that says an impeachment has to accuse the defendant of some statutory crime:

Sunday, January 26, 2020

The Mustache Sings

I will point out for no good reason except Joanie will like it if she shows up that I knew Shashi Tharoor, now for some years the Congress Party's greatest Twitter exponent, very slightly when he was UN High Commissioner for Refugees in Singapore—he used to play cricket with some friends of mine. This is a picture of John Bolton hating on him and anxious to stop him from becoming UN Secretary General, via DNAIndia.

So fired National Security Advisor Bolton apparently confirms the bribery attempt, not calling it a "drug deal" in his literary effort (man doesn't know a catchy phrase when he sees it, even when he made it up himself); Haberman and Schmidt for NYTimes inform us:
WASHINGTON — President Trump told his national security adviser in August that he wanted to continue freezing $391 million in security assistance to Ukraine until officials there helped with investigations into Democrats including the Bidens, according to an unpublished manuscript by the former adviser, John R. Bolton.
The president’s statement as described by Mr. Bolton could undercut a key element of his impeachment defense: that the holdup in aid was separate from Mr. Trump’s requests that Ukraine announce investigations into his perceived enemies, including former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and his son Hunter Biden, who had worked for a Ukrainian energy firm while his father was in office.

"Could undercut" LOL. Could confirm what all the evidence tends to show.

Looks like Bolton dishes on Pompeo (for knowing there was no basis to claims against Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch and passively allowed Trump to do what he wanted without ever backing her up) and Barr (Bolton asked Barr why Trump had included Barr in his "talk to Rudy" advice to Zelenskyy; Barr has denied having heard about that call until a month later). And Mulvaney (for lying about whether he listened to Trump-Giuliani discussions).

The White House evidently suggesting that it knew Mr. Bolton only for a very short time and maybe he was the coffee boy—and inevitably admitting what he said was true but regretting that he was naughty enough to say so and hang on to the documentation:
In recent days, some White House officials have described Mr. Bolton as a disgruntled former employee, and have said he took notes that he should have left behind when he departed the administration.

If it doesn't have a groove, you must not remove

Drawing by W.S. Gilbert, from the 1864 "Bab Ballad" on which his and Arthur Sullivan's first opera was based. Via Wikimedia Commons.

Ladies and gentlemen, we will only take up of couple of hours of your time this morning sketching out the full and completely fact-based argument on behalf of my client that we will be presenting to you as soon as we've finished drafting it sometime Monday afternoon, because we don't plan to make you wait for us to start repeating ourselves the way the Democrats did, with their hysterical and deeply improper attempts to talk you into accepting witness testimony before you'd even been given a chance to hear the witness testimony summarized.

We intend, in contrast, to start the process of repeating ourselves immediately, with a kind of "coming attractions" reel of all the fine points we expect to be making next week, all of which will refer themselves exclusively to the evidentiary record that the Democrats laid out for us this week, and no reference at all to that time Trump asked somebody to "take out" Ambassador Yovanovitch at dinner in April 2018 before Rudolph Giuliani even got involved with the case*. We will not even bore you by acknowledging that Rudolph Giuliani exists, and this is a promise.


Transfigured version of the Monet room, via Quartz.

Jordan Orlando's big piece on the newly renovated and expanded Museum of Modern Art and the "paradoxical alignment of capital and counterculture", "The Once and Future MOMA", has arrived at, or you could always read it on paper if you wanted to wait until Tuesday, but digital access to the magazine is available for fifty bucks a year, so don't deprive yourselves any longer. Life is too short.

Friday, January 24, 2020

Can I Get a Witness?

Thanks for the shout-out, Tengrain!

One last word on Hunter Biden. It's clear that the case is irrelevant to the question of Trump's strong-arming the Ukrainian president and should be dismissed out of hand from the impeachment trial, but there's something else that just occurred to me, starting from two fairly simple questions:
  1. Why do they want to call him, given that if he has done anything illegal he has a constitutional right not to testify?
  2. Why don't they call somebody else who will testify as to what they think he's done?
The answer to the second being, I suddenly realize, though it's obvious, there isn't anybody. They don't have any witnesses to wrongdoing by Hunter Biden.

There were a couple, to be precise, ex-prosecutor Kostiantyn Kulyk, who was removed from his position in late November after failing to show up for an anti-corruption interview, and ex–prosecutor general Yuriy Lutsenko, under criminal investigation in Ukraine since the beginning of October for abuse of power (conspiracy to to "provide cover" for illegal gambling businesses in Ukraine), both of whom played roles in providing President Trump's personal attorney Rudolph Giuliani and hack journalist John Solomon with materials accusing Biden, and Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, of some kind of undefined misconduct, but they're not looking very helpful to the Republican cause, since not only are they apparently criminals, but everything they said about Yovanovitch has collapsed in the face of her sworn testimony to the House Intelligence Committee, and everything Giuliani and Solomon has said has been dismissed in the testimony of the State Department's George Kent, who told the committee
that Solomon’s reporting, “if not entirely made up in full cloth,” was filled with “non-truths and non-sequiturs.
and Lutsenko (also under fire for his collaboration with Floridian rowdies and indicted Giuliani companions Lev Parnas and Ihor Fruman) has announced that the accusations against Hunter Biden were all false as well,

There are no witnesses at all to Hunter Biden's alleged misconduct, and the closest thing there was to a witness has withdrawn his accusation and it really looks like the simplest explanation is that there wasn't any misconduct.

(It's also clear that he was qualified for the position, which didn't require an energy expert, they had enough of those already, but an international lawyer, which he was, with a Yale law degree and plenty of board experience. I won't talk about the obscenity of the pay and the way it tends to go to celebrity names, since that's in no way Biden's fault but the system's, but the man paid off his dead brother's student loans!). Why do Republicans want to call a putative criminal to testify on a crime when there's no evidence that a crime took place?

Because that's the only avenue left for them to suggest there was a crime.

Not by getting him to testify about it, but in the hope of getting him to take the 5th over some detail or other. They can't get anybody to accuse him of a crime, but maybe they can get him to not deny it. That's why they want to call him, and the aim isn't to catch him in some skullduggery, which nobody would have cared about even if he had done it, but to provide a reason for thinking that Trump's not guilty. Because reasons for that are extremely scarce.

So my considered recommendation to the Democrats is that they should agree to subpoenas of Hunter and Joe Biden if and only if Republicans can provide testimony from a respectable source to back up the idea that there's some crime one of them committed. And articles by or citing the discredited John Solomon (fabricating these stories was one of the reasons The Hill fired him) need not apply. I'm pretty sure they can't.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Why is a blastocyst like a slave?

Via Psychology Today New Zealand.

Republicans abolished both of them? No, that can't be right...
Saw this and thought, well, time to re-up my piece from 2015 on that crazy analogy:

I think Marcelo Garcia means, "This only makes sense to those who are actually on drugs." I think Ben Shapiro is mistakenly under the impression that being pregnant is similar to being a white man in the antebellum South, in that um what? Pregnant women can lawfully terminate their pregnancies in all states through the first semester and white men in the antebellum South could force their slaves to work without pay in appalling conditions, buy and sell them separating their families, and treat them with extreme cruelty in many ways, and there is some kind of analogy between these two situations...

For the Record: Miscellany

Twitter is like an intellectual equivalent of the southeastern Australian coast right now, deadly brush fires everywhere you turn demanding your attention so you don't know where to focus.
Trump doubling down on his belief that there were no US casualties in the Iranian raids on bases in Iraq, after the army announced that there were a number of cases of traumatic brain injury (TBI)

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

The Details Where the Devil Is

Neoclassical balcony, Athens, via Dreamstime.

I guess so. Trump has outsmarted justice the way Putin outsmarted Obama, by locking the goods up with the understanding that there aren't any cops who are going to stop him.

Spending time watching the Senate proceedings, moved as always by the coolness and commitment and command of the material that our guys show—I missed Zoe Lofgren, but caught performances by most of the others, and they're so good at it, and doing something very ingenious, as they plead for the witnesses and documents to be released to public view one witness or source at a time, using their time to build up a rich narrative of the Ukraine matter as they do it (it's got the feel of one of those postmodern documentary novels like Brad Leithauser's A Few Corrections, 2001, which took the form of corrections to a newspaper obituary).

Not that it matters. Looking at the reporting, I find it's dedicated to the discussion of Mitch McConnell's maneuvers, with the work of the House managers getting attention only in the color commentary, like Hakeem Jeffries introducing a reference to the notorious B.I.G., or a dustup between Nadler and the Trump team's Cipollone

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Literary Corner: Ah but I was so much wronger then

One of the most precious things about this piece (from Dersh's interview yesterday with Anderson Cooper) is the implication that 20 years ago, when he was a famous expert in constitutional law, he "didn't do research" whereas now that he's become a disreputable shyster who must publicly announce that he kept his underwear on during a massage and complain that he gets no dinner invitations on Martha's Vineyard, he does it all the time. But it gets better:

I Didn't Do Research Back Then
by Alan J. Dershowitz
I didn't do research
back then, I relied
on what professors said ... 
because that issue
was not presented
in the Clinton impeachment
Everybody knew
that he was charged
with a crime, the issue
is whether it was
a hard crime
Now the issue is
whether a crime
or criminal-like behavior
is required. I've done
the research now --
I wasn't wrong,
I am just
far more correct
now than I was then
There's some semiotic interest in the way two legitimate arguments whimper in the corner of this poem, like captured slaves being put to unspeakable uses, the arguments that "high crimes and misdemeanors" need not be statutory crimes on the one hand—there wasn't even any Federal statute law at the time the Constitution was written, so the Founders plainly couldn't have meant that—and statutory crimes aren't necessarily impeachable on the other. Both these things are indeed true, and "a lot of people don't know that" as Trump would say, but they don't do the thing he's trying to say they do.

That is, what Dershowitz said in 1998
"It certainly doesn't have to be a crime if you have somebody who completely corrupts the office of president and who abuses trust and who poses great danger to our liberty, you don't need a technical crime," he said on "Larry King Live" at the time.
is certainly true, period, although the use of the term "technical" is pretty annoying—I'm assuming that he means a crime defined by a particular statute, but "well, technically it was a crime" is an expression used to minimize the criminality, as in the case of Trump's blocking of congressionally mandated spending in the Ukraine shakedown (though it's a crime that has never been punished). This is directly relevant to the Clinton impeachment, when Dershowitz was speaking publicly in defense of the president. He put it more intelligently and usefully in an interview with the Washington Post during Clinton's Senate trial in January 1999:
Prof. Dershowitz, this trial has been called both a legal and political proceeding. What do you see it as. And how do you regard yourself, as a legal or political actor?
Prof. Alan M. Dershowitz: None of the above. I think this is a constitutional proceeding that should not be legalistic, nor should it be crassly political. The central point is whether the allegations, if true, constitute treason, bribery or high crimes and misdemeanors.
To answer that question, we don't need testimony about who touched who where, but rather about the intent of the framers, the nature of our constitutional system and the criteria for removal of the president. This should not be a trial in the legal or political sense. It should be a great constitutional debate about the meaning of our system of checks and balances.
Since Clinton's misbehavior (giving false testimony to a grand jury about his relationship with Monica Lewinsky) did not have any relationship to his performance of his official duties, and wasn't even related to the case he was testifying in (it was Kenneth Starr's grand jury, which was supposed to be investigating the Whitewater land deal and had ended up investigating his relationship with Paula Jones instead), it could hardly be considered a "high" crime, and arguably wasn't a crime at all, not even "technically":
I am not a strong personal supporter of President Clinton [LOL, he's still using that]. I am a strong opponent of the misuse of the impeachment and removal power against him. I do not think he committed the technical crime of perjury, but nor do I think that he has shown himself to be an honest person.
In that, I guess, perjury is supposed to be when you tell a lie that's material to the matter you're testifying about, and this wasn't.
Were President Clinton to be removed, I believe this would be the first case in Anglo-American history of impeachment and removal of anyone, ever, for trying to cover up and even lying about a consensual sexual encounter. It would legitimate sexual McCarthyism and make sex a weapon in the political wars. The closest precedent we have is the House Judiciary Committee refusing to impeach President Nixon for committing perjury in his filing of a fraudulent tax return. Nixon's actions were closer to being governmental, since they involved the tax deductibility of government papers, but a bipartisan vote ruled that it was too close to the personal side to warrant impeachment.
Well put! And these are exactly the points he is skipping over in his defense of Trump: what Trump unarguably did in regard to the Zelenskyy government—and as we keep being told, there's no dispute on the facts—may or may not be a violation of this or that criminal statute, but it certainly involved the bending of US foreign policy to gratify Trump's personal urgencies, as Hamilton put it in Federalist 65,
A well-constituted court for the trial of impeachments is an object not more to be desired than difficult to be obtained in a government wholly elective. The subjects of its jurisdiction are those offenses which proceed from the misconduct of public men, or, in other words, from the abuse or violation of some public trust. They are of a nature which may with peculiar propriety be denominated POLITICAL, as they relate chiefly to injuries done immediately to the society itself.
You can certainly argue that it's made up of statutory crimes (criminal bribery, wire fraud, obstruction of justice) anyway, as Schiff persuasively did last month, to say nothing of all kinds of plainly illegal "misdemeanors" like his retaliation against Maria Yovanovitch, for which any CEO in a US business could be fired, or the defiance of Congress in withholding Ukraine funds, recently declared illegal by the GAO, but nobody can argue that it isn't "criminal-like". It's as criminal-like as it gets.

Monday, January 20, 2020

Why I Hate the New York Times: The Endorsement That Wasn't

Bad cork. Via Wine For Real People.

As Steve says,The New York Times's weird "endorsement" of two candidates for the price of one, Warren and Klobuchar, isn't really an endorsement at all. In fact it's a kind of protest against the irritating choice they feel they've been given, between Biden and Sanders: "Waiter, I'm afraid this bottle is corked, could you get us another one?"

With which I'm actually kind of sympathetic, because I've been feeling that way myself from the beginning, that these two superannuated white male cartoon representations of their different ideological stances are just not the best candidates we could end up having to choose between, and I hate the thought that I might have to vote for one of them in the primary just to stop the other one from getting the nomination. I too would like it if Warren and Klobuchar were the front runners, or Warren and Harris for that matter, or Castro and Klobuchar, or Castro and O'Rourke, or Booker and Buttigieg, or whatever, but very much the couple the Times chose as the bottle they'd meant to order in the first place.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Vast Open Spaces and Tense Little Monopolies

Monk by the Sea, Caspar David Friedrich ca. 1809 via Wikimedia.

Seems Yuval Levin has written a David Brooks column for the Times this week ("How Did Americans Lose Faith in Everything?")
When we think about our problems, we tend to imagine our society as a vast open space filled with individuals who are having trouble linking hands. And so we talk about breaking down walls, building bridges, leveling playing fields or casting unifying narratives.
But what we are missing is not simply greater connectedness but a structure of social life: a way to give shape, purpose, concrete meaning and identity to the things we do together. If American life is a big open space, it is not a space filled with individuals. It is a space filled with these structures of social life — with institutions. And if we are too often failing to foster belonging, legitimacy and trust, what we are confronting is a failure of institutions.
Well, don't you tend to imagine our society as a vast open space filled with individuals attempting and failing to hold hands with each other? I mean, when you're thinking about our problems? I guess when I think about our problems I tend to think about our problems, like rising inequality, failure to provide huge numbers with what they need to live satisfying lives, and headlong rush to the destruction of possible human habitats. When I think about what's a creative-sounding analogy for society, I don't regard myself as thinking about our problems at all. I guess that must mean I'm a liberal. Though I have nothing against analogies in principle. Rest assured.

But if American life is a big open space (suddenly it's not American society any more), then it's not a big open space, but a space that is not open at all. This is a point where you might be better advised to move to a different analogy, or give up on reading the thing altogether, which was my choice.

Meanwhile, as if in revenge, Brooks has written a kind of Yuval Levin piece ("The Bernie Sanders Fallacy"), to adduce the economic proofs that there is no such thing as class struggle in the United States, along with possibly attempting to prove on the basis of irrefragable logic that there is no "culture war" either, though he forgets all about that after the initial bothsiderizing in paragraph 4:

Saturday, January 18, 2020

For the Record: Two Warren Topics

Cherokee Freedmen, undated, via Mid-Continent Public Library.

Wanted to try giving Roger an answer here:

Friday, January 17, 2020

Dopes and Babies

Boss Baby, via South China Morning Post.

Washington Post book promo, adapted from Philip Rucker's and Carol Leonnig's A Very Stable Genius: Donald J. Trump’s Testing of America, coming out next week, on the meeting of 20 July 2017, arranged by Mattis as a kind of emergency education session for the president to familiarize him a little bit with the ins and outs of foreign and national security policy, on which Trump was imperfectly informed ("Mattis, Tillerson, and Cohn feared his proposals were rash, barely considered, and a danger to America’s superpower standing. They also felt that many of Trump’s impulsive ideas stemmed from his lack of familiarity with U.S. history and, even, where countries were located")—the meeting where Rex Tillerson came to understand that Trump was a "fucking moron":
“We should charge them rent,” Trump said of South Korea. “We should make them pay for our soldiers. We should make money off of everything.”
That's how to run a country like a business. It's all about the shareholders, whoever they are.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

A little depressed

This is for the fam here, and stuff I'd rather not be talking about at the moment, but it's weighing on me too much.

It looks to me, for starters, like Biden won the last debate and will get the nomination. Or, if you prefer, like Sanders won it for him, with the dramatic murder-suicide of Warren's and his own campaign, when he made her angry enough to break the pact that had helped them create a kind of left coalition that had a kind of a chance.

That is, they'll try to repair it, perhaps, but I don't think it will work; as in 2016, when Sanders's officially expressed support for Hillary Clinton came too late to have an effect on his enraged and WikiLeaks-propagandized young stans in crucial places like Detroit and Milwaukee and Madison and they decided not to vote (reporting has clarified that few Sanders supporters voted for Trump or fringe candidates, but as ever it mostly fails to consider nonvoters, who obviously don't show up in exit polls). Sanders may well win in Iowa (caucus state) or even, less likely, New Hampshire, but he never had a chance of getting the nomination (though as I've said he could win the election if he did somehow get nominated), and Warren (who I think, disclosure, would make a much better president than Sanders and a somewhat better candidate) won't be able to win it in the toxic atmosphere the stans are busy creating in the debate's aftermath. It was already pretty terrible in recent weeks, and this has made it a lot worse.

Yes, I'm sorry to say I think he's been lying. That is:

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

For the Record: Ignorance

One of the best of a lot of online proposals that could really change his life if he wasn't so goddamned dumb. iPetitions: Give Trump a Military Haircut.

Monday, January 13, 2020

Healing a Divided Nation

Luo Kisii people of Nyanza, Kenya, photo by E.E. Evans-Pritchard, 1936, Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford.

Well, I suppose maybe it means thinking about the future, and your place in it. Are you going to dwell in the easy randomness of Downtown, its walkable maze of streets where you disappear whenever you want, or the formal determination of Uptown, where you take taxis and elevators in and out of, and up and down in, the hierarchy? Brooks opted for seriousness in that sense, and read Burke's Reflections on the Late Revolution in France instead of Huckleberry Finn and Women in Love.

But there is something we're worrying about all the same, isn't there? In the concept of a "divided nation"? Isn't this about something or other important? Whether we're afraid of the hot civil war Republicans keep threatening us with if Trump isn't reelected or that "epistemic crisis" David Roberts/Vox was lamenting in November, on the divide between those who work within what they hope is a transpartisan morality and those whose morality is "tribal":

Saturday, January 11, 2020

Yes, Bernie can win. And he's not the only one.

Annette Nancarrow, portrait of a young Mexican girl and mirror, no date, via Rosemary Carstens.

Who is Mr. Bret Stephens warning, or threatening ("Of Course Bernie Can Win"), as the case may be?
The warning applies to me as much as to anyone else who has spent the past months, or years, insisting that the senator from Vermont doesn’t have a chance. What it comes down to is this: We don’t want Sanders to be elected, so we tell ourselves he can’t.
Is he talking to readers? Is he talking to his colleagues in the panditry? The general problem of confusing your desire with your forecast—you could call it the Bill Kristol problem,  because he's the one who made it the cornerstone of his thinking—is mostly more widespread among readers, I think, while typical pandits are more interested in realizing interesting or contrarian "takes" that they don't necessarily believe at all, like this one, which is interesting because the Very Serious People are united in believing Sanders is unelectable.

Is he talking to the staid conservative readers in The Times's audience, trying to spread panic so early in the season, and for what? What does he expect them to do about it? Register as Democrats and work for Biden or Bloomberg to nip the nightmare in the bud?

He's arguing against those who say that Sanders is doomed because he can't get enough votes:

For the Record: In the Bank

Stock photo via Rosenblum Law New Jersey.

Friday, January 10, 2020

What does "imminent" mean?

Update below

To the tune of:

(Isaac Cole Powell in the incoming Broadway revival of Leonard Bernstein's West Side Story.)
“There is no doubt that there were a series
of imminent attacks that were being plotted
by Soleimani. We don’t know precisely when
and we don’t know precisely where but this
was real”--Secretary of State Mike Pompeo
That's so darn imminent,
might already have been sent!
How would you know?
But whenever when it is,
then it is
ready to go!
Over here, over there,
that thing could be anywhere—
past the next bluff!
Or if it's some other hill
there it will
be close enough!
You can't predict it!
You cannot say precisely!
This imminence is nicely
Is it real? Sure it is!
If it's not that's just show biz,
I am no fool.
When I called it imminent
I just meant
it would be cool.
It's really scary
and very military,
who knows?
I have just one reply:
we have got to kill that guy!
Maybe tonight.
Maybe tonight.
Maybe tonight.


Pompeo clarifying his working logic here:
Trump was apparently pretty clear in private about what his motivations for the strike on Soleimani were:
The way the strike was handled has drawn scrutiny from Democrats and some Republicans. Critics say the decision was hasty, considering the risk of all-out war. They also question whether the intelligence that prompted the action was as clear-cut and alarming as the White House has said, and see the move as doing little to further U.S. interests in the region.
Mr. Trump, after the strike, told associates he was under pressure to deal with Gen. Soleimani from GOP senators he views as important supporters in his coming impeachment trial in the Senate, associates said. (PoliticusUSA picking up on a buried lede from Wall Street Journal)
He killed a man because he thought it might help corrupt his jurors.

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

The Persian Wars

Screen capture from The Persian Wars, via Ancient History Lover/YouTube.

OK so that was a pretty exciting war that had us glued to the TV last night, but it clearly didn't change the basic outcome, that Iran had already won on 3 January, with the US killing of two Iranians, Qassem Soleimani and one other whose name I'm not finding, and five members of Iraq's Popular Mobilization Forces including deputy commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis and his son-in-law Mohammed Reza al-Jaberi, the group's public relations officer: with that, the casualty list included

  • Iran: 1 American dead and no Iraqis (per latest report)
  • US: 2 Iranians dead, 27 Iraqis
It's attention to these details that makes Iran the winner.

Monday, January 6, 2020

Really/Not really, Tom

Just for the hell of it, and because it was actually pretty good, and possibly a very fine example of literary detective work, and because I didn't explain the Friedman parody concept very well in the previous post, re-running my September 2013 tribute to the blogger Really Tom Friedman:

From Dorothy Gambrell's Cat and Girl, via the dead blog Pynchonoid.
Finally [in September 2013, when this was written] got a copy of the new Thomas Pynchon novel, Bleeding Edge, purportedly about the 9/11 attacks (I won't be reading any reviews all the way through at least until I'm done with the book), and opened it up to the first page to find to my amazed delight that it starts almost exactly where I would have been on that fictional day, on the day that comes every [jump]

Sunday, January 5, 2020

Hey la hey la my Friedman's back

Trump Offs Iran’s Most Pathetic  Statesman- Terrorist

Suleimani thought he was an empire builder, but turned out to be a grave digger instead, and it was his own grave, har har.
Opinion Columnist
“Suck on this,” said Abubakr, passing me a Wadi al Taym nightshade reefer in the cold hills outside Beirut, but I had a deadline to meet, maybe the deadline I'd been waiting a lifetime for, to comment on, to illuminate, to swoon over the process that will lead one day to the renaming of Azadi Square in Tehran as Donald Square, as God is my witness.