Friday, July 31, 2020

Where Were You In the War on Reality

Demons in early 14th-century Provençal miniature of "Temptation by Lechery" attributed to Maître Ermengaud, British Museum, via The Conversation.

If it's true, as Stephen Colbert said, that "reality has a well-known liberal bias", does that mean we should give it less attention, just in pure fairness?

The latest is that the last phase of data collection for the 2020 census—what they call "nonresponse followup", the personal interviewing of residents who didn't fill out their forms—is being cut off early. Originally scheduled for 13 May–31 July and put off because of the pandemic to 11 August–31 October, it's now going to stop on 30 September, according to reporting from NPR:

The Census Bureau is cutting short critical door-knocking efforts for the 2020 census amid growing concerns among Democrats in Congress that the White House is pressuring the bureau to wrap up counting soon for political gain, NPR has learned.

Attempts by the bureau's workers to conduct in-person interviews for the census will end on Sept. 30 — not Oct. 31, the end date it indicated back in April would be necessary in order to count every person living in the U.S. given major setbacks from the coronavirus pandemic. Three Census Bureau employees, who were informed of the plans during separate internal meetings Thursday, confirmed the new end date with NPR. All of the employees spoke on the condition of anonymity out of fear of losing their jobs.

If this is really happening and the Commerce Department isn't announcing it, let alone offering an explanation, there can only be one fairly obvious reason: a new phase in the Trump administration's (and Republican Party's) effort to shrink the number of Democratic congressional districts (and state legislative districts as well). Following on their failure last year to force the census to ask the citizenship question, meant to intimidate noncitizens from responding (thanks, SCOTUS!), and last week's announcement that they plan to exclude undocumented immigrants from the census's congressional reapportionment numbers  (plainly unconstitutional according to the explicit language of the 14th Amendment, "Representatives shall be apportioned among the several States according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each State, excluding Indians not taxed", and it won't survive court scrutiny), just another day in the war on reality.

Since people who didn't answer the online census form are people without broadband access, predominantly minority members
there still exists a stubborn digital divide that disproportionately impacts Americans from underserved communities. One in three African Americans and Hispanics — 14 million and 17 million, respectively — still don't have access to computer technology in their homes. Similar dismal numbers, 35 percent of black households and 29 percent of Hispanic households, do not have broadband.
and immigrants trying to stay out of public attention, afraid (wrongly) that the data can be used by ICE to hunt down the undocumented, the undercount is concentrated in the urban areas where these people mostly live, as well as black rural districts in southern states, and these populations, who largely vote Democratic, will lose districts, and the overwhelmingly white suburban areas that provide most of the Republican vote will gain. (There are also rural broadband-challenged areas with mostly white populations in the "heartland" from West Virginia to Utah and North Dakota to Arkansas, but their populations are so small that census workers won't need as much time.) 

Reality discriminates against Republicans!

Then there's the word, also from NPR (I've been dumping on them lately, but the really good work they do deserves highlighting too, especially when nobody else is doing it), on the government's move to privatize the collection of data on Covid-19 hospitalization and shift it from the CDC to the Department of Health and Human Services:

The established system was disrupted by a memo dated July 10, issued to hospitals by HHS. In the memo, HHS took the unusual step of instructing hospitals to stop reporting the capacity data to CDC, and to instead use a reporting platform developed recently by the private contractor, TeleTracking. As NPR has reported, the details of how the contract was awarded to TeleTracking are unclear.

Hospitals got only a few days notice of the change and scrambled to adapt.

There was was plenty of outcry at the time (it was unsettling enough that the news was announced by Roger Stone's old mentee and chauffeur Michael Caputo, notorious anti-Chinese racist, whose public relations clients have included Vladimir Putin and Carl Paladino, now at HHS, though he has no health expertise): 

“Historically, C.D.C. has been the place where public health data has been sent, and this raises questions about not just access for researchers but access for reporters, access for the public to try to better understand what is happening with the outbreak," said Jen Kates, the director of global health and H.I.V. policy with the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation.

“How will the data be protected?” she asked. “Will there be transparency, will there be access, and what is the role of the C.D.C. in understanding the data?”

News of the change came as a shock at the C.D.C., according to two officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter. 

And now the results are in, and we're screwed:

The data now available to the public appears to be neither faster nor more complete.

When HHS took over the collection and reporting of this hospital capacity data, it promised to update "multiple times each day." Later, the agency walked that back to say it would be updated daily.

Those daily updates have yet to materialize. On Thursday, an HHS spokesperson told NPR via e-mail, "We will be updating the site to make it clear that the estimates are only updated weekly."

Current data at the site hasn't been updated since 23 July. And
The tallies do not include certain categories of hospitals, including rehabilitation or veterans' hospitals, which have suffered COVID-19 outbreaks. These rehabilitation and veterans' hospitals had previously been included in the data reported by CDC, says the official, who spoke to NPR on background because they were not authorized to speak on the record.
So maybe it's intended to make the situation look better than it is. Or maybe it's just contributor grift—in addition to the TeleTracking firm, the HHS project is powered by Palantir, the company of Trump's seventh largest donor Peter Thiel, which has also earned $1.5 billion from the Trump administration for a surveillance system for ICE. 

But meanwhile, Trump's promoting Dr. Stella Immanuel:

On July 27, the president and his son Donald Trump, Jr. tweeted a viral video featuring Dr. Stella Immanuel, in which the Houston pediatrician rejected the effectiveness of wearing face masks for preventing the spread of COVID-19 and promoted hydroxychloroquine to treat the disease.

Journalists quickly dug into Immanuel’s background and found that she’s also claimed that having sex with demons can cause illnesses like cysts and endometriosis.

I can't help feeling this is a war on reality on multiple fronts (the demon sex front included).

Thursday, July 30, 2020

The End is Nearer


I'm in the odd position of being happy to say Jonah Goldberg is right: the reason DHS goons were sent to Portland in their camos and unmarked vehicles wasn't to protect federal property, as the administration claimed, or to rehearse a fascist takeover of the country after he loses the election, as some have said on the left, but just an effort to get some good video of Trump taking care of some "chaos in the streets" for use in campaign ads and the Republican convention.

That's demonstrated by the ease with which they've slipped away:

For days, as fireworks and tear gas erupted in the streets of Portland, Ore., during the deployment of federal tactical teams cracking down on raucous demonstrations, President Trump campaigned against protesters he described as “sick and deranged anarchists & agitators” who he said had threatened to leave Portland “burned and beaten to the ground.”

But even as the president was doubling down, Vice President Mike Pence and other senior administration officials were negotiating an agreement with Oregon’s governor, Kate Brown, to begin withdrawing the federal tactical teams from Portland.

On Wednesday, Ms. Brown announced that the federal law enforcement agents guarding the federal courthouse in downtown Portland would begin withdrawing as early as Thursday. “We know where we are headed,” she said. “Complete withdrawal of federal troops from the city and the state.”

Federal officials confirmed an agreement but hedged on the timing, cautioning that a departure would depend on the success of the state’s promise to secure the area.

That last looks like a wary nod to the one unhappy camper, President Trump, who doesn't like people suggesting that he's ever quit anything—

—but it's pretty clear he did, or the courtiers did it for him, after realizing that Trump's mercenary force mowing down the Wall of Moms or the Wall of Vets was not going to be a good look.

There also seems to be some alteration in  the planned withdrawal of 12,000 US troops, about a third of the force, from Germany that Trump ordered in June without telling the Germans about it, because he hates Chancellor Merkel, or because he persists in believing Germany doesn't pay its "fees", as if NATO were a golf club membership
"Germany's delinquent. They haven't paid their fees, they haven't paid their NATO fees," Trump told Wednesday reporters outside the White House, even though no such "fees" exist for members of NATO. "Germany owes billions and billions of dollars to NATO. And why would we keep all of those troops there?"
forcing Defense Secretary Mike Esper to invent a different reason
The Pentagon chief cast the decision to cut U.S. forces in Germany as the result of a months-long review of American deployments in Europe aimed at bolstering defense [Sure, Jan].
"These changes will achieve the core principles of enhancing U.S. and NATO deterrence of Russia, strengthening NATO, reassuring allies and improving U.S. strategic flexibility," Esper said, even as he made clear that the repositioning of U.S. forces remains tentative. "I want to note that this plan is subject to and likely will change to some degree as it evolves over time."
Not so fast; literally, according to this morning's Security Brief from Foreign Policy, from my email:

While the Pentagon has rushed to begin plans to draw down troops from Germany at the president’s request, some U.S. service members stationed there are being told that these moves will take years to carry out, according to documents obtained by 

Some units that are moving back to the United States, including the 2nd Cavalry Regiment, based in Vilseck, Germany, have been told that the move will “likely take months to plan and years to execute.”
It's clear, in fact, that they're walking it, very, very, very slowly, back.

Now he's saying in a pinned tweet that he'd like to delay the election

but without saying how he plans to take over functions that have been entirely outside the control of the executive branch for 233 years. This is because, as usual, he really has no idea how these things are arranged or who takes care of them. (At top is the video documentation by Access Hollywood of what seems to have been Trump's first attempt, at the age of 58, to vote, shepherded by Mr. Billy Bush, in the 2004 election—he plainly didn't know that you are supposed to register first.) 

How exactly does he go about delaying elections? By issuing tweets announcing that elections have been postponed? By convincing Barr and the OLC to put together a case for postponing elections and try to convince Congress to implement it? I suppose so, but the chances that Congress would comply are nil. 

Steve asks,
And are we sure the Republicans won't just violate the law with impunity?
And Mike Pompeo, that grinning grease-faced fool, suggests that they will, but mainly reveals he hasn't read the Constitution in a long long time: 

Because where's the mechanism with which they'll do it?

And a founder of The Federalist Society, Trump voter and impeachment opponent, Steven Calabresi, has turned up calling the idea "fascistic"—
“Until recently, I had taken as political hyperbole the Democrats’ assertion that President Trump is a fascist,” he said. “But this latest tweet is fascistic and is itself grounds for the president’s immediate impeachment again by the House of Representatives and his removal from office by the Senate.”
But the main thing for me is, who does it? Barr writes a letter to 50 state secretaries of state and orders them to put the election on hold? Rapid Deployment Teams from DHS fan out to 3000-plus counties to bar the doors of the precincts?

One thing that seems certain to me: he really doesn't have the troops. He doesn't have the troops to do anything more than a demonstration of their impotence like Portland. He has the DHS's Protecting American Communities Task Force (PACT) created by Acting Secretary Chad Wolf on 1 July (with no advice in the official statement as to who's in it to safeguard "our nation’s historic monuments, memorials, statues, and federal facilities" and which can deploy Rapid Deployment Teams (RDT), with no advice to signal who's in them either, but apparently "made up of personnel from Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Transportation Security Administration, the Coast Guard, and Customs and Border Protection", and maybe the US Marshals Service. My guess is that it doesn't really exist. Wolf and his trusty SOPDDSHS Cuccinelli may be able to requisition a few dozen guys to occupy a couple of blocks in Portland to rescue the federal courthouse from being "burned and beaten to the ground", but they can't put the nation under martial law. That thing is just a complete fraud (nasty as it may have been for the victims in Portland itself).

More generally, it seems to me that the real ongoing story is the dwindling of Trump's power as everybody inside and outside the administration loses belief in it, hidden, particularly hidden from him, by all these projects, from the Space Force (an inexpensive reshuffling of ongoing projects to make it look like a real thing) to the Durham investigation of the origins of the FBI's Crossfire Hurricane, last in a series of desperate attempts in the inspectorate and DOJ and Senate committees to make it look as if McCabe and Mr. Mueller did something cripplingly wrong in investigating the Trump campaign's Russia connections, while Trump sits in his bed praising pizzeria owners for saying nice things about him.

The end—I realize I've said this before, but not that long ago—is near.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

For the Record: Happy Anniversary Bonus March! (With DACA Bonus)

Bonus Marchers and police, 1932. Photo by an unnamed Signal Corps photographer from the National Archives, via Wikipedia.

Just 88 years ago yesterday, in the midst of the worst economic calamity and one of the most consequential presidential elections in US history, the Bonus Expeditionary Force of 17,000 Great War veterans with their families and social justice warrior comrades were attacked with live ammunition at their Washington, DC campsite by local police, on orders from President Hoover's attorney general William Mitchell, two of them dying, and then driven out by an Army contingent under the command of General Douglas MacArthur.

Our friend Henry noted how much less respectful The New York Times was at the time toward President Hoover than they are toward President Trump today (one of the first papers to adopt a nonpartisan stance, as early as 1884, it had nevertheless endorsed every Democratic presidential candidate since 1912):

Also noteworthy was this:

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Trust, But Corroborate

Via Chris Cillizza (LOL), Washington Post, May 2014. I don't really believe in the significance of this but it's hypnotic.

Really irritated yesterday morning by a radio appearance from Andy Slavitt, a valued voice on medical care and coverage today, falling rhetorically into a pit of Brooksian cold oatmeal.

GREENE: But our next guest says the fundamental issue is not testing. It is not face masks or lockdowns or back-to-school guidelines. It is, fundamentally, trust. Andy Slavitt is a former acting administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and he joins me this morning. Thanks for being here.

ANDY SLAVITT: Morning, David.

GREENE: So why do you see this all about trust?

SLAVITT: Well, if we're wondering why, in the U.S., we're not doing as well as other nations are - and to be clear, other nations have really crushed this virus; whether you're talking about Europe or Asia, they really flattened that curve down to almost nothing. And we ask ourselves kind of why is it that we haven't done as well? Those other countries, what are they doing? Mostly, they're using gifts that they were born with - the ability not to spread the virus by not breathing on people, either using a mask or staying home. And the answer is that, in those countries, they are more unified and trusting in what they're saying. And I'll give you a couple of examples of...

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Crossing of the Barr (Also, Jonathan Turley Is Still a Hack)

Don't know whose this is.

A couple of developments in the Justice Department investigation of the prehistory of the Justice Department investigation of Donald Trump: the apparent identification of Christopher Steele's Primary Sub-Source, which I'll get to in a moment, and another surfaced document, this one supplied to Senators Chuckles Grassley and Ron Johnson (same Sherlocks who unmasked the unmasking of General Flynn in the celebrated report of the calls with Ambassador Flynn that turned out not to have been masked in the first place).

The latter is another FBI internal report, which according to Jonathan Turley (guesting in John Solomon's old spot at The Hill),
shows the FBI used a security briefing of then candidate Donald Trump and top aides to gather possible evidence for Crossfire Hurricane, its code name for the Russia investigation.
Namely, it's a report of the first Intelligence Community briefing received by candidate Trump, in the FBI's New York field office, accompanied by his national security adviser Mike Flynn (because, WaPo reported, Flynn was "somebody that I believe in") and his body man Governor Chris Christie on 17 August 2016, the day after the FBI opened its Crossfire Razor investigation of Flynn, as it happens,

Saturday, July 25, 2020

For the Record: Bad Boyfriend

It's so pathetic. House Republican Congressional Committee is begging Trump campaign for a few dollars, out of the $295 million the campaign and the Republican National Committee are sitting on, and Kushner, who apparently "oversees such decisions and has a greater say than RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel", just says no.

According to one anonymus,

Friday, July 24, 2020

The Luxury of Andrew Sullivan

Alla Nazimova in Salome (1923), via Pinterest.

Shorter David Brooks ("The Future of Nonconformity"):
The trouble right now is intellectual segregationism, where conservatives are excluded from academic life, working class voices are excluded from mainstream media, the Marxist left and theological right are marginalized, groupthink is practiced by all, and writers are expected to act as the representatives of a group, the left even more conformist than the right, and 62% of Americans are afraid to share their beliefs. Fortunately there's an obvious solution, in which the voices of nonconformity exclude everybody who doesn't want to subscribe to their SubStack or Patreon site and make lots of money from their self-selecting audiences.
It's intellectual feudalism replacing intellectual capitalism, a landscape dotted with castles dominated by figures of daring and resistance like Yascha Mounk, Andrew Sullivan, Judd Legum, Matt Taibbi, Jonah Goldberg, and David French defending themselves from behind their moats and battlements. That'll show those segregationists. Or, as David Brooks says,
Online writers don’t have to chase clicks by writing about whatever Trump tweeted 15 seconds ago. They can build deep relationships with the few rather than trying to affirm or titillate the many.
I would like the record to show that Judd Legum did not leave ThinkProgress, which he founded, because of its relentless cancel culture, but because he got sick of being an editor in chief, with which I can certainly sympathize:

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Mustache of Radical Love

When Thomas P. Friedman, better known as Thomas L. Friedman, gets depressed (I think of it as getting back on his meds) he can get insightful: today, on the subject of the bizarre war between the Department of Homeland Security and the municipal government of Portland, Oregon ("Trump's Wag-the-Dog War"), though he's still pretty crazy:

Some presidents, when they get into trouble before an election, try to “wag the dog” by starting a war abroad. Donald Trump seems ready to wag the dog by starting a war at home. Be afraid — he just might get his wish.

Trump's told us all about how he hates endless foreign wars, but he's not opposed to domestic ones.

Listen to how Trump put it: “I’m going to do something — that, I can tell you. Because we’re not going to let New York and Chicago and Philadelphia and Detroit and Baltimore and all of these — Oakland is a mess. We’re not going to let this happen in our country.”

These cities, Trump stressed, are “all run by very liberal Democrats. All run, really, by radical left. If Biden got in, that would be true for the country. The whole country would go to hell. And we’re not going to let it go to hell.”

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

For the Record: Good Reviews

Lajos Tihanyi, "The Critic", ca. 1916, via Wikipedia.

This is the thing I meant to do yesterday, but the poetry distracted me.

Monday, July 20, 2020

Literary Corner: A Very Exciting Two Weeks

Last five questions of a sample Montreal Cognitive Assessment test.

Fresh off yet another stunning performance on the Montreal Cognitive Assessment suggesting that he's probably not suffering from mild dementia, unlike Chris Wallace, he suggested in an interview with Chris Wallace

TRUMP:  It's all misrepresentation. Because, yes, the first few questions are easy, but I'll bet you couldn't even answer the last five questions. I'll bet you couldn't, they get very hard, the last five questions.

WALLACE:  Well, one of them was count back from 100 by seven.

TRUMP:  Let me tell you...

WALLACE:  Ninety-three.

TRUMP: ... you couldn't answer -- you couldn't answer many of the questions.

WALLACE:  Ok, what's the question?

TRUMP:  I'll get you the test, I'd like to give it. I'll guarantee you that Joe Biden could not answer those questions.

Like, how many words beginning with F can you name in 60 seconds? Can you name a similarity between a banana and an orange? Can you recall all five words "face, velvet, church, daisy, red", with or without clues? And the last, my favorite, can you tell me the date, month, year, what building and what city you're in?

—Fresh, as I say, off another triumphant demonstration that if Chris Wallace or Joe Biden is suffering from mild dementia (there's no evidence that either one is), then he may be suffering from it less, though odds are that Trump himself hasn't been told it's a diagnostic for cognitive dysfunction and believes it's a test of how big his genetically superior big brain is, he showed up for some virtuoso freestyling in his Chris Wallace interview that will take your breath away, for example in this dazzlingly surreal answer to Wallace's question on why his administration has failed to come up with a plan to replace the Affordable Care Act in its three and a half years:

Sunday, July 19, 2020

Hi It's Stupid: The FBI


Hi, it's Stupid to say the FBI didn't take the Trump-Russia story seriously until Trump fired the FBI director and they finally realized there was enough smoke that they might want to think about looking for the fire.

Nevertheless it's the only takeaway I'm getting from Senator Lindsey Graham (chairing the Senate Judiciary Committee since they took down old Richard Burr with an insider trading allegation) and his release of a couple of peculiar documents from February 2017. I thought he and the comrades wanted us to believe Peter Strzok and Lisa Page mounted a conspiracy to "spy on Trump" and "take him down" back in July 2016 or even earlier, but these releases make it pretty clear that wasn't the case. 

One document is what I think must be the first New York Times story on the investigation (by Schmidt, Mazzetti, and Apuzzo, "Trump Campaign Aides Had Repeated Contacts With Russian Intelligence"), from 14 February 2017, with contemporary annotations said to be by Strzok himself outright denying the story.

WASHINGTON — Phone records and intercepted calls show that members of Donald J. Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and other Trump associates had repeated contacts with senior Russian intelligence officials in the year before the election, according to four current and former American officials.

American law enforcement and intelligence agencies intercepted the communications around the same time they were discovering evidence that Russia was trying to disrupt the presidential election by hacking into the Democratic National Committee, three of the officials said. The intelligence agencies then sought to learn whether the Trump campaign was colluding with the Russians on the hacking or other efforts to influence the election.

No, says Strzok, this isn't true at all:

Honored to Know Him But Didn't Know Him Too Well

Stop me if you've heard this—

Would have been an even greater honor to know which great bald African American congressman who's died in the past year he was.

Not Rubio's profile pic any longer, of course, and he's come up with a correction featuring an actual shot of Lewis

Though he still couldn't do it without a typo "My" for "May").

A valuable lesson from one tweep:

Saturday, July 18, 2020

Necessary Trouble

One of the things I don't feel I'm hearing in the tributes to Representative John Lewis, who died yesterday of pancreatic cancer, at the age of 80, is his role as the spiritual heir of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., as the apostle of nonviolence.*

Not just a spiritual discipline but an effective weapon for change, of course, for which the training was practically military (as he explained in this interview with Krista Tippett)

And we had a teacher by the name of Jim Lawson, a young man who taught us the philosophy and the discipline of nonviolence. We studied. We studied what Gandhi attempted to do in South Africa, what he accomplished in India. We studied Thoreau and civil disobedience. We studied the great religions of the world. And before we even discussed a possibility of a sit-in, we had role-playing. We had what we called “social drama.”

And we would act out. There would be black and white young people, students, an interracial group, playing the roles of African Americans, or an interracial group playing the roles of white. And we went through the motion of someone harassing you, calling you out of your name, pulling you out of your seat, pulling your chair from under you, someone kicking you or pretending to spit on you. Sometimes we did pour cold water on someone — never hot — but we went through the motion.

But at bottom, the way of love:

Friday, July 17, 2020

Brooks on Biden's Green New Deal (Spoiler: He doesn't know it's there)

Mary Pickford in D.W. Griffith's The Hessian Renegades (1909), via Fritzi.

David Brooks Self-Shorter (President Biden's First Day):
Joe Biden may turn out to be what radical centrism looks like.
Then again, who can say? David Brooks has been talking about "radical centrism" for years and he still doesn't know what it looks like. 

David Brooks interviews Joe Biden:
I asked him to describe the big forces that have flattened working-class wages over the past decades. Other people would have spun grand theories about broken capitalism or the rise of the corporate oligarchy. But Biden pointed to two institutional failures — the way Republicans have decentralized power and broken Washington and the way Wall Street forces business leaders to focus obsessively on the short term.
He spun a grand theory about broken capitalism and the rise of the corporate oligarchy, but he didn't use any mean or divisive language, so Brooks didn't notice. Maybe. What does "the way Republicans have decentralized power" refer to? Is that a phrase Biden actually used, or a garbled expression in Brooks's notepad, or something Brooks simply made up? Here's how Biden's website accounts for stagnant wages:

Thursday, July 16, 2020

And the Grift Goes On

What's that line about the last refuge of a scoundrel?

Arkansas ex-governor and holy man Mike Huckabee has been worrying during the pandemic about the needs of stuck-at-home parents and their restless, educationally challenged children, and his special little thing, writes Jesselyn Cook at Huffpost, has been offering them a special deal on merch from his Learn Our History company, advertising it for hundreds of thousands of dollars on Facebook:

Wonder why "FREE" is in scare quotes in the ad? Well, partly because there's a $1 charge for each item in the bundle (such as "The Kids Guide to Coronavirus", "The Kids Guide to President Trump" and "Great Again" video, the "Civil Rights Bundle For Kids", and other units with more "positive, patriotic and unbiased" messages than those "found in many textbooks in use today."

But wait, there's more!

If you don't click there in the (non-scrollable) box and check out the complete Terms & Conditions, you won't find out that you've also committed yourself to 
a subscription to Learn Our History’s “Kids Guides” that come “around once a month for the low price of $15.95 plus $4.95 [shipping and processing] per set, billed conveniently to your credit or debit card on file,” as well as an additional subscription to EverBright Kids magazine for an extra $5.75.
You'll just keep getting the stuff and getting charged, and if you think it's going to be easy to cancel once you figure out what they've done to you, you would be wrong. Cook comments,
This isn’t the first time that Huckabee has cashed in on apparent scams. The former Fox News host has spent much of his post-gubernatorial life shilling for grifters, including the sellers of a $74 biblical cancer cure and a diabetes “reversal” treatment containing a “secret ingredient”: cinnamon. (“Let me tell you that diabetes can be reversed. I should know because I did it — and today you can, too!” he said in a 2015 infomercial before railing against prescription drugs, Big Pharma and the “mainstream medical community.”)
Why don't these people ever go to jail?

Wednesday, July 15, 2020


Siri, show me a stupid person's idea of a smart person.

It's the Intellectual Dark Singularity! Where on the same strange Tuesday, Andrew Sullivan gets the sack from New York Magazine

the young throwback artist Bari Weiss, representing the liberalism of the good old days of Woodrow Wilson and Alan Dershowitz, takes her departure from the New York Times editorial board, to an extremely gloomy response from National Review's Rich Lowry

and Squeaky Ben Shapiro the Straw Man King has emeritated hinself from the helm of the alleged publication he's been associated with, "The Daily Wire" (I have to admit while I haven't seen any proof it exists, I haven't looked very hard)

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Literary Corner: I Got Rhythm

Donald Trump's latest performance piece, Commuting Roger, a multimedia blizzard of tweets, video clips, official statements, and court papers, came out to rave reviews, as the president himself said ("I'm getting rave reviews"). Critics adored the extraordinarily swift pacing of the dénouement, in which the attorney general said Stone's prosecution was justified, Stone confessed that he'd committed his crimes (lying and intimidating witnesses) to cover up the president's high crimes, and Trump announced he'd paid the price of keeping Stone silent on the details in a Friday night news dump, all in an Aristotelian span of less than 24 hours:

July 9, 2020: Attorney General William Barr declares that Roger Stone’s prosecution was “righteous.”

July 10, 2020: After learning that his appeals to remain out of prison have been denied and that he must surrender to the Bureau of Prisons on July 14, Roger Stone tells reporter Howard Fineman, “I had 29 or 30 conversations with Trump during the campaign period. He knows I was under enormous pressure to turn on him. It would have eased my situation considerably. But I didn’t. They wanted me to play Judas. I refused.”

Also on July 10, 2020: Shortly after Fineman’s interview with Stone becomes public, Trump commutes Stone’s sentence and he becomes a free man. (Steven Harper/

But there were many remarkable effects along the way, not least the moment in the next day's epilogue, "Remarks to Stakeholders Positively Impacted by Law Enforcement" when he slipped, unexpectedly, out of his usual choppy free verse into 15 lines of unrhymed iambic pentameter, the line of Shakespeare and Milton:

Monday, July 13, 2020

Douthat and the only-two-countries-in-the-world model of Grand Strategy

Mahjong tiles revealing that China has words for "north", "east", "south", and "west".

Monsignor Ross Douthat, apostolic nuncio to 42nd Street, takes his Grand Strategy chops out for a spin ("The Chinese Decade"):

richer-but-not-freer China proved that it was possible for an authoritarian power to tame the internet, to make its citizens hardworking capitalists without granting them substantial political freedoms, to buy allies across the developing world, and to establish beachheads of influence — in Hollywood, Silicon Valley, American academia, the NBA, Washington, D.C. — in the power centers of its superpower rival....

So China has won twice over: First rising with the active collaboration of naïve American centrists, and then consolidating its gains with the de facto collaboration of a feckless American populist. Four months into the coronavirus era, Xi Jinping’s government is throttling Hong Kong, taking tiny bites out of India, saber-rattling with its other neighbors, and perpetrating a near-genocide in its Muslim West. Meanwhile America is rudderless and leaderless, consumed by protests and elite psychodrama and a moral crusade whose zeal seems turned entirely inward, with no time to spare for a rival power’s crimes.

Furthermore, Trump’s likely successor is a figure whose record and instincts and family connections all belong to the recent period of American illusions about China. 

One of those naïve American centrists, he means, Joe Biden, and of course sneaking in the reference to the familiar smear for the cognoscenti, because that's how Ross rolls—Biden's "family connections" meaning the bogus story from Peter Schweitzer's fabrication factory according to which Hunter Biden took some kind of illicit profit from associations with the Chinese government (I dealt with it briefly here in the form of a Radio Yerevan joke).

Saturday, July 11, 2020

The Ismus of Enema

Via the Brooklyn Meetup Philosophy Book Club.

Hi, welcome to the Philosophy Diner, I'm David Brooks ("Two Cheers For Liberalism! (Or Maybe One and a Half)"), and I'll be your server. Today's special is Liberalism, which is my favorite, but I have to warn you, this is not the spicy kind of Liberalism you get from Eleanor Roosevelt and Saul Alinsky, but a more traditional or even antique kind of Liberalism, which is based on the idea that reason is separate from emotion, so it tends to devolve into a detached, passionless Rationalism. Or it's based on the idea that the choosing individual is the basic unit of society, so it devolves into Atomism, in an alienated society of lonely buffered selves. Or if it's based on the idea that people are primarily motivated by self-interest, it could devolve into disenchanted Materialism. To say nothing of Racism, which reduces a human being to a skin color, and people nowadays who dehumanize themselves by reducing themselves to a single label and making politics their one identity, as when they say, "speaking as a Liberal...," leaving no room for the individual conscience. 
I guess basically the Liberalism just devolves no matter what you do, and to be honest I can't recommend it, though, speaking as a Liberal, I've been there all my life myself, in this peculiar Rationalist, Atomistic, and Materialist sense. I only give two cheers, like E.M. Forster on Democracy, or am I thinking of Kristol on Capitalism, or Jonathan Chait on Socialism, or something else? Or even less than two cheers, maybe one and a half, because you probably won't like it at all, if only because of the Individualism, which leaves an unpleasant roughness at the back of the palate. I'd advise you to order a small plate of Liberalism with a small plate of Personalism, which is not based on the idea that the choosing individual is the basic unit of society, but the idea that the individual with individual conscience is the basic unit of society. And a basket of freshly buffered selves on the side.
See the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy entry on Personalism, which is what Brooks's column is apparently really cheering, as opposed to any of these kinds of Liberalism, for further information. It seems to be a very specifically Christian and theologized kind of 19th-century philosophy working its way down to John Paul II, and a way of having your individualism and eating it too, if you know what I mean, often involving the recognition that God is a person too. That's undoubtedly a very crude oversimplification or schematic distortion but I'm not inclined to take it too seriously and just hope nobody cares a lot more than I do.

Friday, July 10, 2020

For the Record: Stupid or Wicked?

Kin Ming Estates, Tseung Kwon O, Hong Kong, housing 22,000 people. Image by Baycrest via Wikipedia.

Roy (subscription) asks, on the subject of the contrast between helpless Jonah Goldberg and Rod Dreher and malevolent Tucker Carlson, where we draw the line for conservatives between stupid and evil. It generated a huge amount of very interesting commentary, from which my main contribution:

I'm enough of an old-school love-me-I'm-a-liberal, by upbringing and temperament, that the question makes me kind of uncomfortable. Am I implicitly wondering whether we in the progressive community are really, really smart, or just really, really good?

There's a classic liberal answer according to which stupid and evil are two sides of one coin. People are evil because they don't know any better, and they're stupid because they're too selfish to bother learning. Chicken and egg. Conservatives are evil because they're so unconscious of the exigencies of life outside their own tiny and comfy community that they can't conceive how anybody could get into trouble unless they were bad people, and therefore feel no pity. There's a parallel failure of perspective among liberals like Dickens's Mrs. Jellyby, whose emotions were wholly devoted to starting a mission in Africa while she lost track of her neglected children and suicidal husband, but at least Mrs. Jellyby has some moral imagination.

If conservatives are forced to find out, they might learn. I think David French truly learned something about what it's like to be a black kid when he adopted one and his ugly-white community turned on them. Everybody knows about Mrs. Reagan realizing that stem-cell research isn't immoral when she was caring 24/7 for an Alzheimer's patient and heard that the research could help. That's why we love stories like The Prince and the Pauper or Trading Places.

The thing that distinguishes Tucker from Jonah is the energy he's willing to put into staying ignorant or, if necessary, turning to ignorance on a 1984 dime, as he did with the subject of mask-wearing the other day, adopting the Trump view after weeks of telling his audience the (scientifically correct) opposite. Jonah doesn't have any energy and trusts his friends to make the decisions (David Brooks has a wider circle of friends and adopts three or four contradictory viewpoints without noticing the contradictions). Tucker actively looks for the view that will advance his power goals whether it's true or not, and I agree that's evil. But he doesn't think it's important because he's too stupid to imagine the real-world consequences; he's just a high school kid taking the side the debate coach assigned him, doing his best to win it for the team.

The conversation quickly fell into worrying about "DLC Democrats" or "establishment Democrats", and I had something to say about that as well: