Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Joe Did What? Rent

 

Charles "Careless Whispers" Cooke of the National Review got prematurely excited when he was celebrating the end of the CDC's Covid emergency eviction ban scheduled for 31 July, and the joyous anticipation of seeing tens of thousands of people unable to pay their rent put out on the street, because it didn't happen, at least not yet. Whether exclusively because of the homelessness demonstration of Rep. Cori Bush camping on the Capitol steps or not just that, President Biden reversed his decision to let the ban lapse if Congress failed to renew it, and the CDC has issued a two-month extension on the order.

It's a bit of a mystery what Biden was intending to do on this in the first place, as Ed Kilgore said, or why it took him so long to act, except that it had to do with a Supreme Court decision—

Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Not Good

 

Text messages from a Cuomo accuser, via Gothamist.


Do we have to talk about Andrew? I'm afraid we do, just briefly.

This case seems to me different from all the other cases from harassment to assault, in a very particular way. Not that it's worse, though it's certainly very bad and I think Cuomo should resign now and will certainly get impeached if he doesn't.

It's that it's so textbook, if I can put it that way. Like so many of us, I have to go through this annoying harassment "training" every year, sometimes the one for managers, mostly watching videos and taking quizzes cumulating with a final test where you have to score 100%. It's irritating and repetitive. The filming and acting aren't great, though I'd like to shout out a couple of actors, one terrific trans woman with the courage to look really plain and irritable and office-workery, not even slightly exotic, and the asshole who keeps asking her horribly inappropriate questions, who gets a wonderful wistful look when he's getting chewed out ("We're not allowed to joke?") that makes you see him being an asshole because he thinks assholes are probably more attractive than he is—which doesn't mean his behavior should be tolerated, it shouldn't, but allows you a glimpse of the fact that he's still human.

Monday, August 2, 2021

SocioLOLogy

Jerry Lewis and Stella Stevens in The Nutty Professor, 1963. Via Wikipedia.

Thing I learned: the word "bobo", a contraction of "bourgeois-Bohemian" apparently coined by David Brooks in his amusing 2000 sociological bestseller Bobos in Paradise: The New Upper Class and How They Got There, grew extremely big in France (and Québec), even as it never caught on in the US. 

Brooks himself didn't have anything particularly ambitious in mind, as he pointed out in his preface, partly because he didn't have any particular knowledge of how to practice sociology, or any interest in learning how:

There aren't a lot of statistics in these pages. There's not much theory. Max Weber has nothing to worry about from me. I just went out and tried to describe how people are living, using a method that might best be described as comic sociology. The idea is to get at the essence of cultural patterns, getting the flavor of the times without trying to pin it down with meticulous exactitude. Often I make fun of the social manners of my class (I sometimes think I've made a whole career out of self-loathing), but on balance I emerge as a defender of the Bobo culture. In any case, this new establishment is going to be setting the tone for a long time to come, so we might as well understand it and deal with it.

Just as the fraudulent psychic Sibyl Trelawney in the Harry Potter books does at one point manage involuntarily to do a real prophecy, Brooks in his career has done one actual creative thing, the invention of the bobo concept; but it was just a little comic sociology, nothing pretentious, except for the interesting claim, which I'll get back to, that he's a bobo himself ("my class" for which he advertises his "self-loathing", the "creative class" as he often calls it, following Richard Florida, the holders of "intellectual capital"), even though there was nothing even slightly Bohemian about his life at the time, living in a suburban house in Bethesda with the stay-at-home wife and kids, attending a Conservative shul on Saturdays, writing for Kristol's Weekly Standard, and wearing a suit on PBS. While very much something of belonging to a "new establishment" as he cheered on the electoral triumph of the neoconservatives under George W. Bush the year the book came out, and the advent of the Iraq War.

Saturday, July 31, 2021

Channel Your Paranoia

 


Nothing to Get Hanged About

Then again, she also seems to think something bad happened—a "tragedy"—because she's blaming it on Speaker Pelosi, as Alexandra Petri notes at the Washington Post:

Thursday, July 29, 2021

Supercharged Penumbra

Royal Bengal Tiger at Nehru Zoological Park, Hyderabad. Photo by Karthik Easvur, 2016, via Wikimedia Commons.

Reading it so you don't have to, because this could be one of those pieces that may be briefly famous, or infamous, from celebrated socialist firebrand and anti-abortion activist Elizabeth Bruenig at the Atlantic, defending the right of Yale Law School faculty members to groom future reactionary Supreme Court justices:

A natural provocateur, Chua has vexed the Law School for years: First with Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mothera wry ode to the high-pressure parenting tactics of Chinese matriarchs, which didn’t thrill the gently-brought-up sorts who sometimes pass through New England’s finest universities....

"Wry ode"! "Matriarchs"!

There once was a lady called Aeode
Who was good at composing a wry ode,
   But mental distress
   Turned her into a mess
And more polarized than a diode.

Let the record show that many thousands of ethnic Chinese persons, some less gently brought up than others, were revolted by Chua's embrace of Orientalist stereotype to defend her abusive upbringing of her kids. My old lady, who certainly wouldn't enjoy being called a matriarch, herself born in the Year of the Tiger (and at night too, which is said to make for still fiercer women, to the extent that her mother used to joke that that was the reason she had to marry a foreigner), being one of them, though she too was very keen on the kids getting good grades and having music lessons (I know circles where that's called "being Jewish" but let that pass).

But say what you will, she's great at transferring her favorites, including one of her daughters, finally freed from the piano practice terrorism, into the Elect, for instance as clerks for Justice Kavanaugh. Isn't that just what a committed socialist like Bruenig stands for?

It's Still Not There

 

City of 2050, credit to VRayGuide/CGarchitecht.

Well, so, the Senate has agreed to consider the bill that it refused to consider last week because it didn't exist yet, although it still, in point of fact, doesn't exist:

The 67-to-32 vote, which included the support of 17 Republicans, came just hours after senators in both parties and the White House reached a long-sought compromise on the bill, which would provide about $550 billion in new federal money for roads, bridges, rail lines, transit projects, water systems and other physical infrastructure programs.

While a final Senate vote on the legislation is days away, the test vote on Wednesday marked a major victory for Mr. Biden, who has pressed for the plan for months, and a validation of his faith that a bipartisan breakthrough was possible even in a polarized Washington.

Well, it sort of exists, but contrary to some rumors it hasn't been passed, and it really hasn't been written yet, and it's honestly not very encouraging. It seems to represent $550 billion in new federal spending in contrast to Biden's request, in the traditional-infrastructure American Jobs Act, for $2.3 trillion, none of which is actually new spending but instead "repurposed" spending from the Covid relief bills, unemployment supplements not used by Republican states that dropped that program, "more robust reporting around cryptocurrencies", and "economic growth resulting from a 33 percent return on investment in these long-term infrastructure projects”, or in what looks like a more accurate report from Washington Post, ¯\_(ツ)_/¯:

Monday, July 26, 2021

For the Record: Political Journalists

Following up on this now deleted tweet:


Starting with this CBS News reporter, whose Twitter bio says she's an "unrepentant candy corn apologist" and "Cheez-Its stan",  showing I guess that she's not afraid to make the tough calls:



I had a lot of intellectual trouble with that survey result, anyhow.

Sunday, July 25, 2021

It's Complicated, Ross

 


Monsignor Ross Douthat, apostolic nuncio to 42nd Street, has a new complaint, or meta-complaint, above and beyond the usual ones that liberals are too permissive about sex (1960s hippie edition) or not permissive enough (2010s feminism)—that we can't make up our minds between the two at all ("Can the Left Regulate Sex?"):

in its retreat from the Polanski era, its concession that sometimes it’s OK to forbid, cultural progressivism entered into a long internal struggle over what its goal ought to be — to maximize permissiveness with some minimalist taboos (no rape, no sex with children) or to devise a broader set of sexual regulations that would reflect egalitarian and feminist values rather than religious ones.

This tension is visible all over recent history. The mood in which liberals defended Bill Clinton’s philandering was an example of the more permissive option. The mood of the #MeToo era, which condemned cads as well as rapists, is an example of the more regulatory approach.

Taken for granted that "we" literally have to "regulate sex", because

Friday, July 23, 2021

Stupid Economist Tricks: Sex, Lies, and Deficit Terror

Tom Toles did not cite a source for that 97% figure. Then again, unlike Michael Strain, he is paid to be a cartoonist.


Actually, no, no sex, just Michael Strain of the American Enterprise Institute, warning readers of The New York Times that

Biden Is Asking for $4 Trillion. Congress Shouldn’t Give It to Him.


He seems to like this headline format. Last time I had reason to deal with him, in 2015, it was with reference to a WaPo piece recommending the repeal of the Affordable Care Act:

End Obamacare, and people could die. That's okay.

Spoiler: my commentary concluded that it was not okay. And the GOP Congress, failing to end Obamacare, sort of agreed! I mean not exactly, but we won.

Anyway, the reason Strain would like Congress to refuse Biden the money, or at least the $3.5 trillion of it to be appropriated through the budget reconciliation process without requiring any Republican votes, is ostensibly the raging inflation he (Michael Strain) sees and expects to see continuing through next year even without this extra spending, and which would surely be aggravated by the increased demand for stuff (where "demand" means, as it usually does in this style of economics, "ability to pay for things you really need that you couldn't afford before") that the spending on the expanded child tax credit in particular will bring on by yanking people out of their God-appointed poverty, while the Biden administration makes no plans for increasing the supply of stuff, other than by PROVIDING THE UNIVERSAL FREE PRE-K EDUCATION that recipients of the child tax credit are most likely to be spending it on, but you can't expect Strain to make that connection.

So in the course of his argument he gives a lot of attention to an analysis of the Biden program by Moody's, in which for some reason he doesn't offer a link to it:

Thursday, July 22, 2021

For the Record: Debt Ceiling

The original debt ceiling crisis of 2011, as captured by cartoonist Jen Sorensen.

Did you all realize that the US debt ceiling actually doesn't exist, and hasn't existed for the past eight years? Though it will return, like a zombie, at the end of the month if Congress doesn't manage to stop it.

I did know, without realizing I did until our friend Dr. Volts asked:

Bipartisanship?

James Gillray, 1791, "The Hopes of the Party Before July 14", showing the Whig leader Charles James Fox as ready to chop off the head of George III, while Queen Charlotte and the Tory leader William Pitt the Younger, upper right, have already been executed. That's what I call partisanship! British Museum, via Nynorsk Wikiwand (they had the best resolution). 


Nice piece wondering about the way we fetishize "bipartisanship", by the historian Nicole Hemmer at CNN's website, localizes the moment we're nostalgic for, when bipartisanship was apparently good in its own right:

For much of US history, bipartisanship was not lionized. It was only in the mid-20th century that bipartisan compromise began to confer a golden sheen on legislation. That's in part because it was more attainable, and because at times, the results were profoundly beneficial. The two major parties had become a mishmash of ideologies: there were liberal Republicans and conservative Democrats, and on the major issues of the day, bipartisanship made life-changing legislation possible. The Social Security Act, the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights ActMedicare, Medicaid — all bipartisan.
    In the 1940s and 1950s, with the threat of totalitarianism looming large in the American imagination, there was something particularly beneficial to politicians about championing bipartisanship. It showed voters (along with foreign leaders and allies abroad) that American lawmakers followed a standard higher than simple party interests. Compromise elevated them to the ranks of technocratic statesmen (they were nearly all men) who were unencumbered by devotion to party, who were instead dedicated to higher ideals and first principles.

    I think that may be understating how weird that time was historically, and not quite healthy, and how much the very tenuousness of some of those accomplishments is related to the peculiarity of the situation.

    Wednesday, July 21, 2021

    If Chris Ran the Circus

     

    The Spotted Atrocious.

    The Most Chris Cillizza Thing Ever:

    If you ever held any hope that the House select committee on the January 6 US Capitol riot might produce a report that would help us understand what happened in the lead-up to that day and, in so doing, provide us avenues to keeping it from happening again, you should give up on those hopes now.

    The reason? Speaker Nancy Pelosi's decision Wednesday to reject two of the five nominees -- Jim Jordan of Ohio and Jim Banks of Indiana -- put forward by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy to serve on the panel.

    Absolutely! How could be possibly come to understand what happened in the lead-up to January 6 without Gym Jordan flapping his arms, barking like a dog, and running back and forth on the tabletops? We completely depend on Gym Jordan and Jim Banks for our ability to understand virtually anything!

    Wait, who is Jim Banks? He's somebody who's gone from backing the Mueller investigation during his first term

    Monday, July 19, 2021

    Class War Comix

     

    Class War Comix 1, by Skip Williamson, ca. 1970


    Eric Levitz at New York informs us:

    In a 2019 report, the consulting firm Cerulli Associates projected that, over the next quarter century, roughly 45 million U.S. households will collectively bequeath $68.4 trillion to their heirs. This transfer will constitute the largest redistribution of wealth in human history. Generation X stands to inherit 57 percent of that $68.4 trillion; millennials will collect the bulk of the rest.

    Millennials, in other words, are one day going to be a lot richer (or at least, some millennials are). In the coming years, that reality is likely to heighten the generation’s class contradictions – and just might redraw the dividing lines in American politics.

    How many millennials, exactly? Not too many, apparently. Levitz calls it about 10% who will be getting all that money, while the other 90% will continue being "one of the the poorest generations ever", crippled by debt and largely unable to build wealth, unstable in employment, often deprived by employers (in the gig economy) of benefits, and delayed in starting families. The typical Millennial holds 41% less wealth than an adult of similar age did in 1989, according to one report in 2019, and these meager holdings are very unequally distributed, especially on ethnic-racial lines:

    Sunday, July 18, 2021

    Vaccine Skeptics

    Pyrrho of Elis, founder of the Skeptical School, holds rigorously to principle. Existential Comics.
     

    Predictably, it turns out that liberals are to blame for vaccine hesitancy—Murc's Law again—because we're "condescending" and that hurts the feelings of people who might otherwise go for it. We're treating them as mulish when they're in fact skeptical, Michael Brendan Dougherty opines at National Review:

    Proponents of the vaccine are unwilling or unable to understand the thinking of vaccine skeptics — or even admit that skeptics may be thinking at all. Their attempts to answer skepticism or understand it end up poisoned by condescension, and end up reinforcing it.

    Skeptics! So we should be persuading them with sweet reason, not treating them as idiots, as, according to Michael Brendan Doughterty, we are all doing, as when Senator Cornyn says the doubts are "based on conspiracy theories" or Senator Romney calls it "moronic":

    Friday, July 16, 2021

    American Identity Politics

    Can't find a decent credit for this photo, but I think it's Kabul in 1960s sometime.

    Shorter David F. Brooks, "The American Identity Crisis", New York Times, 16 July 2021:

    Why can't liberals be more neoconservative? Don't they have any moral consistency at all?

    Really, that's about the whole thing. He's regretting the withdrawal from Afghanistan, and while he recognizes that the Bush-era invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan were a catastrophe causing the US to lose confidence in its ability to spread democracy and be a lamp unto the nations, he doesn't get why that should prompt us to quit. Just because our adventure in Afghanistan is a total failure, is that any reason to quit Afghanistan? 

    I guess what befuddles me most is the behavior of the American left. I get why Donald Trump and other American authoritarians would be ambivalent about America’s role in the world. They were always suspicious of the progressive package that America has helped to promote.

    But every day I see progressives defending women’s rights, L.G.B.T.Q. rights and racial justice at home and yet championing a foreign policy that cedes power to the Taliban, Hamas and other reactionary forces abroad.

    We told you not to invade in the first place! We've been telling you for 40 years! You can't liberate people by force! They need to liberate themselves!

    Literary Corner: Made of Garbage


    Via eBay (sold already).


    Star-Maker

    By Donald J. Trump, 45th President of the United States of America

    Nobody had ever heard
    of some of these people
    that worked for me in D.C.
    All of a sudden, the Fake
    News starts calling them.
    Some of them—by no means all—
    feel emboldened, brave, and
    for the first time in their lives,
    they feel like "something special,"
    not the losers that they are—
    and they talk, talk, talk!
    Many say I am the greatest
    star-maker of all time.
    But some of the stars I produced
    are actually made of garbage.

    Thursday, July 15, 2021

    It's All True Department

     

    "Donal'd Džan Tramp"

    Interrupting our irregularly scheduled programming to bring you this scoop from Luke Harding, Julian Borger, and Dan Sabbagh at The Guardian:

    Vladimir Putin personally authorised a secret spy agency operation to support a “mentally unstable” Donald Trump in the 2016 US presidential election during a closed session of Russia’s national security council, according to what are assessed to be leaked Kremlin documents.

    The key meeting took place on 22 January 2016, the papers suggest, with the Russian president, his spy chiefs and senior ministers all present.

    They agreed a Trump White House would help secure Moscow’s strategic objectives, among them “social turmoil” in the US and a weakening of the American president’s negotiating position.

    Wednesday, July 14, 2021

    For the Record: Crenshaw Is a Wanker

     

    Image via howtofightantisemitism, 2018.

    I've been superbusy. Hope material in this thread isn't too familiar:

    Because a lot of people forget that the Democrats persisted in the North, especially in big cities like New York and Boston, where they already stood not for slavery but for labor, and the vulgar immigrants from Ireland and Germany.

    Tuesday, July 13, 2021

    Hi it's Stupid: Four Little Children

     

    Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images via Women's Health.

    Hi, it's Stupid to say we need to keep responding to this bullshit as if there were a chance that it would make a difference in the world—Kevin Kruse and Imani Gandy are both practically weeping with fatigue at the thought of having to push that filthy stone another half an inch up the hill, and you really can't blame them, because they've been struggling for a lifetime and the opponents NEVER LEARN ONE SINGLE THING, but I thought of a slightly new line of argument I"d like to preserve for the record—

    Namely, that when Dr. King said he had a dream that one day his four little children would be judged by the content of their character and not by the color of their skin, he meant something by it, and in particular he had a reason for using the word "dream": because he knew when he woke up it wasn't going to be true. And he knew it wasn't going to come true in 1964, and in spite of all the ungratifying work he'd put in to elect a Southern Democrat to the presidency to build on the Civil Rights Act and prevent Republican Barry Goldwater from getting the opportunity to destroy it it wasn't going to come true in 1965 either, or 1967. It was going to take more than his own shortened lifespan to get there, and maybe more than those of his children as well, because the problem of racial injustice was so deeply ingrained into the fabric of American society—because it was, as we now call it, systemic. He was a master of critical race studies before they existed:

    Glimmerings

    Via.

    Jeff Greenfield in Politico's magazine ("The Democrats Need a Reality Check") laid it out in pretty grim terms: President Biden can't be FDR in 1933, or Lyndon Johnson in 1964, because he doesn't have the votes in the Senate: a majority as thin as a razor blade and no cooperation from anybody in the opposition party. He thinks expanding the Supreme Court is a terrible idea (don't know if he's aware the Lincoln administration did that in 1863, adding a tenth justice in the hope of hemming in the vile chief justice Roger Taney) and getting rid of the filibuster is bad too; the John Lewis and For the People acts can't pass, and even if they could wouldn't solve the problem of state legislatures claiming authority to overturn national election. The only hope for Democrats, Greenfield concludes, is to find a way to "win more"—in "messaging", apparently, like by announcing every day that they want Jeff Bezos to start paying his fair share in taxes, an overwhelmingly popular idea with the American public. But it's difficult, because of the "political climate":

    Of course this is a whole lot easier said than done. A political climate where inflation, crime and immigration are dominant issues has the potential to override good economic news. And 2020 already showed what can happen when a relative handful of voices calling for “defunding the police” can drown out the broader usage of economic fairness. (It’s one key reason why Trump gained among Black and brown voters, and why Democrats lost 13 House seats.)

    Which, as Steve points out, is a problem Republicans (and bothsider journalists) have actively worked to create:

    Monday, July 12, 2021

    Shot, Chaser, Meta-Chaser

     

    "In. a matter of mere months, Joe Biden has brought this country to the brink of ruin." That's Stephen Miller, of course—the alliteration tells the tale. The Edgar Allen Poe of political speechwriting, in more ways, perhaps, than one.

    Part of the answer should be obvious: you have to really want to believe it.

    Saturday, July 10, 2021

    Nostalgie de la Boue Journalistique

    Book cover by Lau Rivers, 2021.

    A fascinating-appalling journalistic inside-baseball piece from Julia Ioffe, who seems to be engaged in the development of some as yet unnamed United Artists–like project where the journalists run the show, and in the meantime has started a sort of blog under the appropriately Russian-sounding title Tomorrow Will Be Worse, on a not very well-designed platform. The post ("The Agony and Ecstasy of the Trump Reporters, After the Fall of Trump") deals with the post-Trump crash in reportage futures:  

    True to everyone’s predictions, cable news ratings have gone off a cliff. In the second quarter of 2021, Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC each lost at least 30 percent of their audiences. Viewership at CNN, Trump’s favorite punching bag, was down a whopping 45 percent. “There’s a reason that TV networks cover plane crashes and condo crashes, and Trump was the plane crash of democracy,” said Susan.

    That's Susan Glasser of The New Yorker, of course, spouse and occasional collaborator of Peter Baker of The New York Times, a couple of Ioffe's informants for this piece. I'm very fond of Ioffe in particular, of course, on account of the Russia connection, which leads her to do work that I think is often really valuable, unlike most White House political coverage, which she doesn't herself do, as she carefully points out, unlike so many of her friends and cable talking-head colleagues.

    Thursday, July 8, 2021

    Culture War Update

     

    Not for much longer: Photo by Jae C. Hong/AP, July 2016, via WBUR radio Boston.

    Just as we were getting into the subject, some new research showed up in a report on NPR

    Two dramatic trends that for years have defined the shifting landscape of religion in America — a shrinking white Christian majority, alongside the rise of religiously unaffiliated Americans — have stabilized, according to a new, massive survey of American religious practice.

    What was once a supermajority of white Christians — more than 80% of Americans identified as such in 1976, and two-thirds in 1996 — has now plateaued at about 44%, according to the new survey, which was conducted by the nonpartisan Public Religion Research Institute. That number first dipped below 50% in 2012.

    The feared white Evangelical Protestants, around 19% in the Pew survey of 2015, have stabilized at just 14% of the population, which leaves them for the first time in donkeys' years behind the white members of respectable mainline churches at 16%, while white Catholics constitute 12%.

    Meanwhile the number of "nones", people of all racial groups who claim no religious affiliation at all, having more than tripled since their expansion began in 1990s, has plateaued at 23% (it was around 26% in 2016). 

    Darker Aspects

     


    "Wit & Wisdom," an English language arts curriculum, has been widely criticized in recent weeks by Williamson County parents.... Arguments against the curriculum fall into two buckets. The first being the belief that "Wit & Wisdom" content isn't appropriate for younger students, and the second being that the curriculum teaches concepts of critical race theory.

    Community members and local advocacy organizations have come forward in disapproval of books like "Ruby Bridges Goes to School," "Separate is Never Equal," and "George vs. George," their argument being that teaching about the darker aspects of racism in United States history isn't appropriate in elementary grades. 

    One of the most vocal groups has been the Williamson County chapter of Moms for Liberty started earlier this year. The group includes members with children in and outside of Williamson County Schools. [Moms for Liberty head Robin Steenman] said she disapproves of guidance for teachers to teach words like "injustice," "unequal," "inequality," "protest," "marching" and "segregation" in grammar lessons.

    —Anika Exum, Nashville Tennesseean, 11 June 2021


    Long, long ago, there was a kindly, Republican chief justice called Earl Warren, and one day he heard that some people in Topeka were not judging children by the content of their character. Not in Tennessee! Topeka is in Kansas.

    It was true. In those days there were schools in America where there were no African American children! This is hard for you to imagine, since schools in America are not like that now, except if your Mom for Liberty schools you at home or a special religious liberty school or if you don't have a lot of African American people in your neighborhood for some reason. Some people have a shortage of African American children in their neighborhood! That has nothing to do with your parents or their mortgage broker!

    Tuesday, July 6, 2021

    I don't have to!

     

    Image by Chloe Cushman, The New York Times.


    Monday, July 5, 2021

    Murc's Law on Steroids


    "Explaining the Rise of Americans With No Religious Preference:Politics and Generations", GSS Social Change Report no. 46, 2001.

    In around 2000 researchers for the General Social Survey (GSS) noticed a startling development in the 1990s: after a long period (at least 20 years) in which the number of Americans claiming to have no religious faith had remained steady at around 7%, it had doubled in a decade to 14%. Other surveys were finding around the same pattern. What was going on?

    Michael Hout and Claude Fischer (paper linked in the picture caption above) looked, and found that the change wasn't actually about religion, but politics:

    Streams of Story

    Unidentified illustration from the Brittanica article on the 11th-century Kathāsaritsāgara ("Ocean of the Streams of Story") by Somadeva.

    Frank Wilhoit showed up in the comments yesterday with some criticism I'd partly take issue with, but which forces me to note that the original post was a real soggy bloggy mess, structurally, about too many things at once, and I feel I really ought to pull it apart a little bit, to clarify.

    Wilhoit wrote:

    Dismissing Brooks has by now become a deeply-ingrained reflex. To be sure, he has earned that; but if you are going to quote him and try to refute him (which I have previously diagnosed as a poor use of your time), then at least spot his key words. This time the key word is "stories": and he has stumbled over something much too large and important for his limited comprehension.

    "Stories". Not philosophy; not pseudophilosophy; not propaganda; not "lies": stories. Think that through, right to the bottom.

    As far as Brooks goes, I'll say it again: I get a few different things out of playing with Brooks that I wouldn't want to give up, though I've slowed way down in recent years as his well gets dry. One of these things is just fun: because he's such a bad writer and bad researcher, it's easy to make fun of him, and satisfying because his social status is or used to be so high. 

    But there's generally more to it than that, and I almost never mean to be actually writing about Brooks at all, but about the subjects he wants to discuss. Like anyone who writes, I write largely in order to find out what I think, and to inform my thought through the process, and I'm interested in a lot of things I'm not very well informed about at all. So is Brooks! Though not interested in the same way—mainly in elevating his status as a pandit or universal expert over the widest imaginable range of material, and too lazy to learn much of anything or to learn any of it right.

    Sunday, July 4, 2021

    Annals of Derp: Brooks Stabs at an Answer, Answer Fights Back

     Independence Day 2017, reposted

    The new Brooks backyard.
    Happy Independence Day! Here's former New York Times columnist David Brooks to celebrate by swallowing 50 hot dogs' worth of American history in ten minutes, without once mentioning any of the things we traditionally think about on the Fourth of July, like self-evident truths, or letting facts be submitted to a candid world, or fireworks.  Instead he wants to know, "What's the Matter with Republicans?", in the context of the fact that as Trump and the Republican Party work to take away benefits from the American working class, Trump's base of 40% or so remains faithful to him and Republican candidates win special elections in Kansas, Montana, Georgia, and South Carolina:

    What’s going on? Why do working-class conservatives seem to vote so often against their own economic interests?
    Let's see, how can we think about this question without addressing any of the discussion that has taken place since Thomas Frank asked it 13 years agoI know! Put it down to the good old frontier ethos!

    Saturday, July 3, 2021

    Literary Corner: No Comment

     

    Image via Perez Hilton.


    I Like Kirstie

    by Donald J. Trump, 45th President of the United States of America

    ABC should make Kirstie Alley
    on The View! Much BETTER
    than HACK Meghan McCain!
    I like Kirstie. HIRE Kirstie!

    Actually I think this is a fake. It's not posted at the website.

    Friday, July 2, 2021

    It's the Same Old Story

     

    Plato and Aristotle, ontology and epistemology, red and blue, in the School of Athens: you can see a hint that craftsman Raphael had a preference.

    In epistemology—the philosophy of how we know things—it's been commonly understood that there are three basic kinds of knowledge, best known in the 1949 formulation of Gilbert Ryle: 

    • propositional knowledge or knowledge-that a particular thing is true (I know Oxford is in Oxfordshire);
    • procedural knowledge or knowledge-how to do something (I know how to finger-pick "Gospel Ship"); and
    • acquaintanceship knowledge or knowledge-of something that you're familiar with (I know the 1-train stop at Columbus Circle)

    In today's column, noted epistemologist David F. Brooks ("How to Destroy Truth") offers a remarkable new picture in which it is possible to know something without knowing whether it is true or not, and reducing the types of knowledge to two.

    Great nations thrive by constantly refreshing two great reservoirs of knowledge. The first contains the knowledge from the stories we tell about ourselves.

    This is the knowledge of who we are as a people, how we got here, what long conflicts bind us together, what we find admirable and dishonorable, what kind of world we hope to build together.

    Thursday, July 1, 2021

    Hi, It's Stupid: Critical Race Pedagogy

     

    Pledging the flag to conceal their wicked aims. It's what they always do, the swine, especially the first graders. Via Learning for Justice, and some great big explication of what "CRT" in the classroom is actually like (it works extremely hard to not make anybody feel bad, white kids in particular).

    Hi, it's Stupid to say critical race theory is being taught in school classrooms all across the USA. Do you want to get good teachers in trouble? Anyway it's not really critical race theory, and it's certainly not being taught. 

    But then I ran into somebody smart saying something similar, my tweep Nathan Newman, professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, in a post at his substack ("Critical Race Theory IS In Our Schools—And It Needs to Be Defended):

    The rightwing legislators seeking to ban “Critical Race Theory” from our classrooms are lying about what CRT teaches about race in our society – but they are not lying that CRT has been influencing how children are being educated.

    Some progressives want to pretend that Derrick Bell is some kind of Gnostic learning, taught only to the select in the cloisters of elite law schools, but that does a disservice to the profound impact, Bell, Richard Delgado, Kimberlé Crenshaw and other CRT scholars have had on our culture, including in the field of education and teacher training in particular.

    Because it indeed is not the case that there are any grade school teachers imparting this gnarly body of theory to their charges, but there are some who are applying it, or what Newman suggests calling a "critical race pedagogy" (at the moment I like "CRT-informed pedagogy"), in the classroom, and it's a really good thing. Kids don't have to learn CRT, but teachers should learn about it and bring it to the way they do their practical everyday work, as an aid to the way they handle the difficult feelings about race they may encounter in the kindest and most productive possible way:

    Wednesday, June 30, 2021

    Nil Nisi Bonum Department

     

    Gerald Ford's chief of staff Don Rumsfeld, right, and his deputy Dick Cheney, 1975. Photo by Harvey Georges/AP, via The New York Times.

    In defense of that vile reprobate Donald Rumsfeld, now on his final journey to whichever circle of Hell it is that houses those who believe their own parochial interests outweigh the suffering of millions, it is not at all true that he spoke incomprehensible gobbledygook in the way Sarah Jones suggests in her otherwise excellent farewell note in New York:

    Iraq will be Rumsfeld’s legacy, with all of the lies, all of the torture, all of the killing. While many hands bear responsibility for such loss, two belonged to Rumsfeld, who had Saddam Hussein in his sights for years before 9/11 gave him the excuse he’d wanted to attack Iraq. Rumsfeld lived out the rest of his days with his impunity. His victims weren’t so lucky.

    Tuesday, June 29, 2021

    Narratology: Folie à Trois

     

    Salvador Dalí, Swans Reflecting Elephants (1937), via Wikipedia.

    Well, well, well, gossip genius Michael Wolff seems to be releasing a third volume on the Trump administration, under the title Landslide: The Final Days of the Trump Presidency, to arrive July 27, and New York magazine has a promo excerpt dealing with the events of 6 January, with which I am totally fascinated.

    Not that it tells you the story of an unfolding coup attempt: it doesn't. One of the inherent defects of the genre, whether the author is a patrician-reporter like Bob Woodward or a literary slumdweller like Wolff, is that it's forced to take its sources' self-serving stories at more or less face value. If a coup attempt was really taking place, none of Wolff's sources said so, whether because they didn't know or because they were pretending not to know, understandably, so he effectively couldn't tell the story by the means at his command. 

    And it really seems from the excerpts as if none of his sources might have known such a thing; the characters divide neatly into two groups, one consisting just of the truly delusional Trump and Giuliani, in a remarkable kind of folie à deux, who were genuinely hoping that Pence would decertify the election with his imaginary vice presidential powers, and everybody else in and around the White House, who knew this would not happen, but didn't know how to tell the boss. And they nearly all sound as if whoever is talking to Wolff is more or less telling the truth.

    Monday, June 28, 2021

    For the Record: Fact Checking


    Steve points out something that is very wrong about former Attorney General Barr deciding to tell the truth to Jonathan Karl, namely that he doesn't think there was anything morally wrong about trying to overthrow a democratic election, he just didn't think it was going to be successful. It occurred to me that there were a few other things:

    He seems to have ordered up an awful lot of investigations for which there was no justification to satisfy his vindictive client. He looks more and more like John Mitchell to me.

    A more complex thing was a very annoying "fact check" in Washington Post, where Glenn Kessler assigned four Pinocchios to Biden for saying that the 2nd Amendment didn't allow you to buy a cannon in the 1780s:

    Sunday, June 27, 2021

    Literary Corner: One Small Step For a Speechwriter, a Leap Too Far For a Former Guy

     

    Image by Steve Bronstein/Getty Images, via Foreign Policy, August 2017.

    A lovely moment from Trump's rally last night in Wellington, Ohio, where he was seeking vengeance against Rep. Anthony Gonzalez, one of the Republicans who voted to impeach him in January, backing a primary opponent, former Trump White House aide Maxwell Miller, remarkable for having been

    arrested multiple times for assault, resisting arrest and disorderly conduct and... caught falsifying his personal resume and educational background after stating that he had been a Marine recruiter, which he had not.  


    A Brave Young Man From Ohio

    By Stephen Miller and Donald J. Trump, 46th President of the United States of America


    America is still the nation
    that conquered the wild West,
    that vanquished the murderous dictators,
    that ended the evil empires,
    and that sent a brave young
    man from Ohio to a plant.
    Think of it. You know the man
    I'm talking about? Who am I
    talking about? You know who it is?
    The Stars and Stripes on the face
    of the moon, do you know who it
    is? Huh? You know who it is.


    Yes, I know who it is, and I know what happened here: Miller's awful text for the peroration, an hour and a half in, was building America up to make an elegant reference to a local boy, Lieutenant (jg) Neil Armstrong, and the teleprompter said that America "sent a brave young man from Ohio to plant the Stars and Stripes on the face of the moon," but The Former Guy just couldn't get there through the Specific Reading Comprehension Deficit, or remember Armstrong's name.