Friday, December 31, 2021

Brooksy New Year

Happy New Year!

Updated 1 January.

Death of Mimì. English National Opera, don't know the date or cast.

David F. Brooks, winding up the year in his traditional way with the annual presentation of the "Sidney Awards", not a red carpet ceremony by a list of magazine article recommendations, oddly dominated this year by human interest stories, tales of personal obsession productive and unproductive (a man loses his son on 9/11 and becomes a 9/11 truther; a man who was sexually exploited as a young teenager now studies "rooms occupied by Ghislaine Maxwell"; a novelist receives a fan letter from a convicted murderer and, convinced he's innocent, puts her own life on pause in a crazed crusade to get him out of prison), but among the more typically Brooksian choices is a piece by a former research assistant of his at The Times, April Lawson, in a magazine, Comment ("Public Theology for the Common Good"), edited by another former research assistant of his at The Times, Anne Snyder. 

Snyder, of course, is also Mrs. Brooks, as well as

Director of The Philanthropy Roundtable‘s Character Initiative, a Fellow at the Houston-based Center for Opportunity Urbanism [now known as the Urban Reform Institute, with our and Brooks's old friend Joel Kotkin serving as executive director, wouldn't you just know it], and a Senior Fellow at The Trinity Forum. She holds a Master’s degree in journalism from Georgetown University and a B.A. in philosophy and international relations from Wheaton College (IL).

while Lawson was a co-founder and Associate Director of Weave: The Social Fabric Project, which Brooks founded for the Aspen Institute in early 2019 only to be forced to abscond from it when BuzzFeed revealed that Aspen was paying him six figures for it even as he puffed it up in his Times column, as well as puffing up Facebook's participation in it in remarks for which Facebook seemed to have paid him as well (see my report on this from last March, apparently at the same time as Snyder's book, The Fabric of Character: A Wise Giver's Guide to Supporting Social and Moral Renewal was issued by The Philanthropy Roundtable, $14.95 in paperback, sorry I didn't get to this when we were all planning our end-of-year donations, as I'm sure the suggestions from this incestuous web of do-gooding are completely sensible and not at all self-serving).

And Lawson is now Director of Debates at Braver Angels, a Weavy nonprofit (not connected to the Aspen Institute as far as I know; but praised in print by David Brooks as early as Feburary 2018), devoted to bridging the distance between Red and Blue, and her essay, "Building Trust Across the Political Divide", retails what she's learned in a couple of years conducting debates on Braver Angels principles: everybody must be sincere, everybody gets to speak, and everybody always addresses the chair, as a way of avoiding the pitfalls that generally afflict such efforts, largely, as Lawson says, because they are generally run by liberals:

Thursday, December 30, 2021

Voter Fraud

Why do people think this is a smart argument? If Biden had really won on the strength of fraudulent votes (which of course he did not, that is a Big Lie) in the district where Congressman Gringe (R-Toejam) handily won his own race, on the same day with the same ballots under the same system, then the fraudulent votes were obviously Democratic, and Gringe won in spite of them. If the (imaginary) fraud had not been committed, Gringe would have won by a bigger margin. If he actually believed his nonsensical story, he would have no reason to suspect that his own election might be tainted.

So to accuse him of hypocrisy for not questioning his own election doesn't make any sense.

Of course he doesn't actually believe it. If the House actually believed in fraud delivering the White House to Democrats, they'd be challenging their Democratic friends across the aisle on their elections. They'd be going after Jason Kander and Conor Lamb and Mikey Sherrill and whoever for getting elected on the basis of the same fraud that (supposedly) benefited Biden, and they don't do that either. That's because they know there isn't anything to it that would survive the most minimal scrutiny. If you want to hound them, you should hound them on that basis.

Plus, you should also lean on the fact that virtually all the demonstrated voter fraud in the 2020 election or any US election of the last 20 years, has been committed by Republicans, from the rare cases of voter impersonation to Trump's wild attempt to shake down the (Republican-run) Georgia state department, except in transparently bogus cases like that of Crystal Mason, a Black woman from the Dallas area with a felony conviction for getting excessive refunds for her clients in a tax preparation business who thought she was entitled to vote in 2016 after she'd finished paying her debt to society.

Crystal Mason was arrested, and found her life newly upended. Mason’s family had often been in conflict with other residents in their predominantly white community—for a variety of reasons, including, Mason and her lawyers believe, outright racism. When her children were younger, she told me, a neighbor had once brandished a shotgun as her son passed by; her then-husband reported the incident, and she said that local authorities added a bus stop closer to her home so that her children could keep away from the neighbor’s house. Now she faced charges brought by the local district attorney. There was no way to keep a low profile. She lost her job.

The district attorney offered a deal: 10 years’ probation. But the deal required an admission of guilt, which Mason could not accept. It also would have put her back in prison: The mere fact of a conviction would mean that she had violated the terms of her supervised release. The only way for Mason to remain free was to prove her innocence. She chose a trial before a judge.

The state court ended up giving her five years in prison, upheld by a three-judge appeals panel, for reasons I can't even begin to comprehend, unless the Texas law on vote fraud was indeed framed with the purpose of giving local Texas authorities power to intimidate people trying to exercise their right to vote (if you fear there might be something "wrong" with you, don't even try!). When we're talking about the harm done by voter fraud, let's talk about the harm done by vicious accusations of voter fraud, because I think they constitute a fraud in their own right, presenting the public with the idea that the vote is a privilege rather than a right, something you're required to earn. I don't think so. I'd love to see it tested out in the Supreme Court, too,  if there was a Supreme Court that cared about the Constitution. Maybe some day.

Wednesday, December 29, 2021

How to Steal a Horse Race: Get to the Finish First

Ruidoso Downs, New Mexico.


Speaking of ignorant tweets by contenders for the Most Obnoxious Republican Senator title. Paul doesn't seem to notice that the process he describes as "done in a legally valid way" is done in a legally valid way, or, in short, is legal. Like, he's waxing indignant at the way Democrats win elections by getting more votes.

In reality, the article he links to, by somebody called William Doyle at Rod Dreher's American Conservative, does have a suggestion of some nefarious and possibly illegal activities, but doesn't make it very explicit, possibly because he knows he's lying, and poor Rand evidently can't follow the argument,  so he just posts this quote from it, hoping the sound of it will be scary enough.

The story Doyle is trying to convey is not what the extracted paragraph seems to be saying, that Democrats somehow cheated by successfully getting out the vote in 2020, but rather that Mark Zuckerberg, that well known radical leftist firebrand, did it:

Monday, December 27, 2021

For the Record: God Rest You Merry


Ecumenical Holiday Ugly Sweater via Zazzle, $31.05

Just in case it's not totally clear what Ted is attempting to do here, it's to vilify Kwanzaa without sounding like My Little Margie here:

Sunday, December 26, 2021

Swift and Certain

Every year around this time I run a photo representing one of the many meanings of the Italian word batocchio in honor of the host of the Jon Swift Memorial Blog Roundup, and this one is the best ever, a kind of deep-fried pizza from the restaurant Isabella de Cham in Naples (the batocchio Nonno Peppe, in this case, named for somebody's Grandpa Joe, apparently no longer on the menu; there's a batocchio Donna Isabella that comes with arugula, provola and caciocavallo cheeses. lemon zest, pepper, and basil, or a batocchio completo, with tomatoes, cicoli—pressed and dried leftovers from the lard-rendering process—and ricotta, pepper, and basil). Oh, and the annual Jon Swift Memorial collection of the year's favorite blogposts, as chosen by the bloggers ourselves, is up tonight. Happy reading!

 Cross-posted at No More Mister Nice Blog.

Saturday, December 25, 2021

Last Christmas I Gave You My Heart


Remember the political situation this time last year? I seem to have been predicting that the soon-to-be Former Guy wouldn't be endorsing vaccines by way of claiming credit for inventing them, but would mainly be hanging out at Mar-a-Lago pretending he was still president. I missed the coup in Washington, and he did ultimately go pro-vaccine a year later,  but I feel there was something not exactly wrong there. Anyway happy birthday Sol Invictus, I'm running it again


'Twas the day before Christmas
And all through the House
All the Members had gathered
To schmooze and carouse;

The president's bluff
On the stimulus bill
Had been called and dismissed,
To the joy of the Hill,

With a pair of amendments,
Just one for each side,
To which, by agreement,
A vote was denied.

"Give us two thousand bucks!"
Representative Hoyer
Had exclaimed as Republicans
Filed through the foyer.

Friday, December 24, 2021

Conservatives in Caves


Hey, gang,

You're familiar with me as the guy on speedballs and helium who can rant on the day's Murdoch talking point for eight minutes without taking a breath, displaying astonishing erudition and common sense as I disembowel the liberal line, and I know how much you treasure that experience, because you're an essential part of what has made my enterprise and my self the incredible successes we are today. And I am one hundred percent that guy, but I'm so much more. For example, I like to just hang out shooting the shit with my Intellectual Dark Buds in the den. In my new series, Conservatives in Caves Having Coffee, we'll be setting up the camera in my basement and you'll get to be a fly on the wallpaper as I share some of my most intimate thoughts with friends like Dr. Jordan Peterson in his suit and sweater vest. 

Instead of the harsh light and monochrome background for my talking head, we'll have a softer and more relaxed set, though with masculine furnishings like the classic wire wheel coffee table, and I'll be in lighter makeup. Jordan doesn't drink coffee, but maybe I can talk him into a cup of bone broth, and even if he's not drinking anything, it'll be a thrill for you to hear us chat about the masculinity crisis and stuff like that. Stresses of modern marriage. How to raise your kids with the moral backbone they'll need to survive the coming radical left gay trans socialist takeover of our country.

And speaking of child-rearing, you'll be crazy about Badminton? Goodminton!, my new show where I lead my kids and their friends in backyard net games like badminton and volleyball, filmed in natural outdoor light, and you'll get to see me in shorts and sneakers engaging with some of the most precious people in my life. You'll get a sense of what it would be like to have me as a fun but firm father, enforcing the rules but leaving time for hearty laughter. And every once in a while I'll throw a stick at the camera and you can pretend you're the dog.

And then for evenings we'll be streaming My Date With Ben, a series where I go out with my wife, Dr. Shapiro, for some wholesome entertainment. You'll be sharing our table at the tango club as we nurse our glasses of Malbec and joining us on the dance floor trying out some fancy moves, or giggling with us at the bowling alley as I score strike after strike. Or some nights simply behind our heads, perhaps, when we're on the couch relaxing with some Netflix. You'll be wondering if you could make me as happy as Dr. Shapiro does, holding hands and enjoying some fresh-popped popcorn, repeating our favorite lines from whatever the film happens to be. I love her a lot, obviously, but I do love you too. Facts may not care about your feelings, but I do, and I always will.

Cross-posted at No More Mister Nice Blog.

Literary Corner: Pray Away the Cray

AP Photo/Butch Dill, via AP News.

On the John Lewis Voting Rights Act

by Herschel Walker of Texas, Georgia senatorial candidate.

You know what's sad about that —
to use the name of a great man
to brand something that is so bad,
I think it is terrible to do.
Senator Lewis was one of the
greatest senators that's ever been
and for African Americans that
was absolutely incredible. To throw his name
on a bill for voting rights I think is a shame.

That gesture to bringing back rhyme, even just in the last couplet there, is a beautiful nod to tradition, even though, as far as tradition goes, the actual John Lewis, who was never a senator, was widely viewed during his lifetime as an advocate for voting rights who probably wouldn't object to the bill bearing his name at all. But why insult the man by reminding people of that? 

Also, not only does he have the coveted Trump endorsement, but he wears a soul patch.

Can't understand the spiteful critics harping on these finicky points, anyhow, at a time when Donald Trump, as opposed to John Lewis, is still alive. Trump makes "mistakes" like these (as we have long been chronicling here) in virtually every public appearance. True, Walker is in traditional terms seemingly somewhat disabled, what with the trouble he's faced over the occasional death threat against an ex-wife and other eccentric activities. symptoms of a regrettable case of dissociative identity disorder (DID):

A watershed moment, he writes, came in February 2001, when he drove around suburban Dallas, hunting for a man who he said was avoiding his calls after being days late delivering a car Walker had purchased.

“The logical side of me knew that what I was thinking of doing to this man — murdering him for messing up my schedule — wasn’t a viable alternative,” Walker wrote. “But another side of me was so angry that all I could think was how satisfying it would feel to step out of the car, pull out the gun, slip off the safety, and squeeze the trigger.”

Ultimately, Walker wrote, he had a change of heart after seeing a “SMILE. JESUS LOVES YOU” bumper sticker on the man’s car-hauling truck. He decided to seek professional help.

He's literally standing behind an effort to pray away the cray! 

How does that, or the possibility that a career of getting hit very hard in the head may have led to a case of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), make him any less worthy than Trump himself? 

Cross-posted at No More Mister Nice Blog.

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Stop Trying to Make Fear Happen


You know what they say about the 1960s,  "If you can remember it, you probably weren't there"? There's something like that going on about inflation in the 1970s, as in this column by Barron's retirement columnist, Neal Templin:

When I was a young reporter in the 1980s, my newspaper gave me raises twice a year for a while. I’d like to tell you I earned the salary boosts through extraordinary merit, but all the reporters got them.

The reason: The inflation rate was so high then that it was considered a hardship to go a full year between raises. Amazing, huh?

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Pettiness on Display


Image via

And it's back to no, according to yesterday's interview with West Virginia MetroNews Radio. Jennifer Psaki was just too mean.

Manchin said he would not say "the real reason" talks failed.

But when asked what that was, he said: "The bottom line is ... it's staff. It's staff purely. ... It's not the president. It's staff. And they drove some things and put some things out that were absolutely inexcusable."

That's more important than the United Mine Workers, probably among the most important factors in electing him as a Democrat in one of the most Republican states in the union. It was the UMW that convinced me he'd end up voting for the bill back in April, when union president Cecil Roberts showed up with him to endorse the BBB climate change provisions. Nah, he threw those guys under the bus:  

The labor union noted that the bill includes an extension of a fund that provides benefits to coal miners suffering from black lung disease, which expires at the end of the year. The UMWA also touted tax incentives that encourage manufacturers to build facilities in coalfields that would employ thousands of miners who lost their jobs. 

“For those and other reasons, we are disappointed that the bill will not pass,” Cecil Roberts, the union’s president, said in a statement. “We urge Senator Manchin to revisit his opposition to this legislation and work with his colleagues to pass something that will help keep coal miners working, and have a meaningful impact on our members, their families, and their communities.”

He didn't think much of the mothers of West Virginia either:

Monday, December 20, 2021

Literary Corner: Wit's End


Drawing by Dick Wright/Daily World.

Sonnet: The Living Crap
by Senator Joseph Manchin III

I’m not blaming anybody. I knew
where they were, and I knew what they
could and could not do. They just
never realized it, because they
figured surely, dear God, we can move
one person, surely we can badger and
beat one person up, surely we can get
enough protesters to make that person
uncomfortable enough they’ll just say,
“I’ll go for anything. Just quit.”
Well guess what, I’m from West Virginia.
I’m not where they’re from and they can
just beat the living crap out of people
and think they’ll be submissive.

You'll never beat the living crap out of Senator Joseph Manchin III of West Virginia, because there's just too much of it.

Friday, December 17, 2021

Narratology: American Reichstag

Uncredited photo via Washingtonian.


One of the most baffling things for me about the insurrection of 6 January has been Trumpers' insistence that "antifa"—the disorganized collection of goodhearted but unstrategic young campaigners against fascism taking inspiration from the antifascist streetfighter youth of Germany at the end of the Weimar Republic and the later European and American kids who used to show up at punk venues to protect concertgoers from attacks by skinheads—were somehow responsible for the mayhem of the assault on the Capitol.

Because there just wasn't anything you could interpret that way, in the videos we all saw, or the reports. It was easier to consider the theory that FBI provocateurs were involved, but basically it was the Trumpiest crowd imaginable, basically the indignant white petits-bourgeois, the middle-aged Beavis and Butt-Head, plus the retired cops and military, and later research backed up the impression:

Thursday, December 16, 2021

Something is happening and I don't know what it is

So many signals and so much noise I don't even know who to quote on these developments. Maybe Uncle Dick—

—but I'm getting the impression that the whole strategy in Congress and in the White House has turned upside down, with the BBB mess entirely postponed until the new year and some kind of voting rights bill replacing it as the administration's before-Christmas target, and I'm not sure how I feel about it. Are there commitments from Manchin and Sinema to skip the filibuster on voting rights legislation? Manchin yesterday seemed to be saying no, nothing's changed as far as he's concerned:

“A rules change should be done to where we all have input . . . because we’re all going to live with it,” he told reporters Wednesday. “Because we’ll be in the minority sometime.”

And Sinema as well. Even though they both seemed perfectly cheerful about ignoring the filibuster rule to raise the debt ceiling, as Senator Warnock noted:

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

For the Record: Families of Color Playground Night

Image by Lia Kantrowitz/New Republic (with a splendid piece by Talia Lavin).

"Critical Race Theory"  witch hunter Christopher Rufo has a new horror story, a Colorado elementary school that hosts a "Families of Color Playground Night" on the second Wednesday of each month, and the rightwing noise machine is out in force to denounce it:

Monday, December 13, 2021


Squirrel stash, North Dakota, September 2021. Photo by Bill Fischer/Facebook via Driving.

This crazy story by Roger Sollenberger in Daily Beast about one of the organs of the Trump fundraising machine goes back to early August, but it didn't seem to have any legs, and Sollenberger is now trying to push it on Twitter, which seems a little pathetic, but hear me out:

America First Policies, a nonprofit which does not have to disclose its donors, was the core of a pro-Trump dark money network, with an organizational scheme that seems confusing by design....

According to IRS records first obtained by the Center for Public Integrity, America First Policies filed to change its name to America First Works in October. But on Friday, a spokesperson for America First Works told The Daily Beast it wasn’t a name change—America First Policies had been “sold” to America First Works “in a private deal” earlier this year, he said.

Saturday, December 11, 2021

The Great Awokening: Can They Be Trusted?

  Update: Text a good deal more edited than it was when first posted.  

In the Forest of Illusion.

Newman, the sociologist and labor-left Substacker who's been influencing my own thinking an awful lot lately, posted a response to Brooks's big Atlantic article on his great awokening, or final departure from the conservative fold, around the same time I was writing my own

My post was mostly about Brooks's outline of the history of conservatism, in which Burkean "modesty" was invented decades before Burke was born, in reaction to the terrible religious wars in 16th- and 17th-century Europe, when they all decided to abjure fanaticism and have governments that did less, which would have come as a big surprise to intolerant Catholic Louis XIV and equally intolerant Protestants William and Mary, who all probably would have thought they were pretty conservative if anybody had been using the term at the time.

Friday, December 10, 2021

Skowronek Season



Ah, it's Skowronek Season already! Coming unusually early this term, when pundits gather to ask themselves what kind of relationship the current presidency is going to have with the longer-term current "regime", or complex of ideologies and interests out of which politics of a whole period are made, according to the framework put together by political scientist Stephen Skowronek in the 1990s: will it be a presidency of reconstruction, effectively opening a new regime, like those of Jefferson, Jackson, Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt, and Ronald Reagan?  Or of articulation, clarifying and maintaining the ideological goals of a reconstructive predecessor, like Madison, I suppose, Van Buren, Grant, Truman, G.H.W. Bush? Or of preemption, struggling for change against a resilient regime that remains more powerful than they are, like the Democratic presidents, A. Johnson, Cleveland, and Wilson, of the Lincolnian regime (Skowronek, I'm told by a critic of the theory, doesn't have a lot to say for this category), or of disjunction, over a regime in collapse (Quincy Adams, Buchanan, Hoover, Carter)? 

So Corey Robin, who came out strong in 2019 for the theory that the Trump presidency was a disjunctive one, is already out with a judgment on Trump's successor on the Times op-ed page ("Why the Biden Presidency Feels Like Such a Disappointment"), which is, well, that it's disappointing, or "feels" disappointing, which may come down to the same thing. Because while Robin doesn't say what kind of presidency Biden's is going to be, he's pretty sure it won't be reconstructive, and a lot of people, including himself, had hoped it might be.

In the first place, because the Trump presidency had been so extremely disjunctive, like nothing the nation had ever seen before, with a Congress unable to accomplish anything but preserve itself (tax cuts and deregulation to hold onto its donors, and judicial nominations, and judicial nominations to prolong such power as it was able to retain) and a president unable to accomplish anything at all, not even build his stupid wall or withdraw from Afghanistan, let alone his promised revolutions in infrastructure and health care. And then of course with the arrival of the Covid pandemic a situation of actual collapse from which it took the Democrats in the House of Representatives (and the Federal Reserve) to begin rescuing the nation, with the extraordinary "stimulus" bills of 2020. 

And then after the disappointment of Robin's own hopes for a Sandernista revolution, the disappointingly "moderate" Biden roused new hopes by beginning seemingly to transform himself with an idea of reconstructionism, to be trying to picture himself in the shoes of FDR or at least Obama with his "big fucking deal":

The combination of the Covid economy, with its shocking inequalities and market failures, and a summer of fire and flood seemed to authorize a left-leaning politics of permanent cash supports to workers and families, increased taxes on the rich to fund radical expansions of health care, elder care and child care, and comprehensive investments in green energy and infrastructure, with high-paying union jobs.

Most important, the package cohered. Instead of a laundry list of gripes and grievances, it featured the consistent items of an alternative ideology and ascendant set of social interests. It promised to replace a sclerotic order that threatens to bury us all with a new order of common life. 

Which, of course, the Congress has indeed begun to pass, for $3 trillion so far in the American Rescue and BIF packages, with another trillion or two to come in the BBB, in spite of the Democrats' precarious hold on the legislature (compared with Roosevelt's massive majorities from the 1932 election).

But it's all ashes in Robin's mouth because of what Biden has not accomplished after 11 whole months in office—the end of the filibuster, the curbing of the gerrrymander, statehood for Puerto Rico and DC, essential reform on voting rights and election procedures, and "labor law reforms, enabling workers to form unions," because of the factors we all know about.

I really think this is a mistake, and not only because it's not being given enough time. I'm saying it because, if Skowronek's theory really is any kind of theory, it positively predicts that these other elements will come, sooner or later, because the structural conditions for a reconstructive presidency are met, and the Biden plans (as Robin describes them, including the things Biden hasn't done yet) responds to it so neatly. Unless there is some completely different kind of transformation in the offing, like the end of democracy altogether in Bannonite fascism, which Stephen Bannon, and Erik Prince, and the other rich-boy fascist cosplayers, don't have the skills or energy to produce (Stone and Manafort did). 

The other possibility we're looking at right now, the Republican takeover of the presidential election system through GOP legislatures in blue or blueing states (Michigan, Wisconsin, Arizona, North Carolina, Georgia, Texas) is a preemptive attempt to prolong the agony, not a decisive reconstruction, in my opinion. It'll be awful, and could take a very long time, but it won't overturn whatever gets passed in the Biden agenda and it won't achieve anything permanent. The "new order of common life" Robin sees in the BBB will survive—just barely, perhaps, the way the Affordable Care Act did in the first round—for the time when the reconstruction proper begins.

(1) Reconstructive presidencies are most likely to follow moments of extreme crisis, like the secession of the Confederate states in 1860 or the Great Depression, the worst crises the Union has ever endured (Pearl Harbor was very scary, but the government in late 1941 was very resilient. The Reaganaut regime has been in effective collapse for a long time, since at least 2005 or 2006, when it became clear what disasters the two Bush wars were, followed by Hurricane Katrina and then by the 2008 financial collapse; the Obama administration decided to rescue it without attempting a reconstruction, even as they pushed through very important legislation on healthcare and banking, only to see their successor plunge the country back into crisis with unsustainable deficits, an unplanned withdrawal from foreign engagements, and finally a lethal plague.

(2) Robin is certainly right to say that 

What each of these presidents had at their back was an independent social movement. Behind Lincoln marched the largest democratic mass movement for abolition in modern history. Alongside F.D.R. stood the unions. Each of these movements had their own institutions

—but Biden has two of those: an extraordinarily rejuvenated labor movement that has taken off in the middle of the pandemic to win unprecedented wage gains for workers, and an extraordinarily successful group of Black activists, mostly female, who were behind Biden's victory in the South Carolina primary (while Robin was still mooning over the Nevada caucuses) and the conquest of Georgia in the general election.

(3) The Biden administration has saved the economy in a way that's much clearer to the public than the way the Obama administration did in 2009, as Professor Newman says:

In fact, the US is the only leading economy where real household income - which takes into accounts inflation- as well as overall GDP, are higher now than before the pandemic hit. Every country has struggled with pandemic recovery challenges, from reopening schools to dealing with supply chain disruptions, but strong government action meant the U.S. has recovered far better than other countries.

Something huge is going to happen, if there's anything to Skowronek's theory, and it's just as likely to be the nice thing as the dreadful thing—indeed, at least a bit more likely, to the extent that the dreadful thing hasn't ever happened before and the nice thing has, quite a lot, considering.

Cross-posted at No More Mister Nice Blog.

Thursday, December 9, 2021

Slave of the Passions


David Brooks in his longform gig at the Atlantic going on about how No True Conservative can be a Republican any more ("What Happened to American Conservatism?") finds himself in a funny predicament, contemplating Hume's moral philosophy:

Your emotions can be trusted, the conservative believes, when they are cultivated rightly. “Reason is, and ought only to be the slave of the passions,” David Hume wrote in his Treatise of Human Nature. “The feelings on which people act are often superior to the arguments they employ,” the late neoconservative scholar James Q. Wilson wrote in The Moral Sense.

The key phrase, of course, is cultivated rightly. A person who lived in a state of nature would be an unrecognizable creature, scarcely fit for life in society, locked up within and slave to his own unruly desires. The only way to govern such an unformed creature would be through a prison state. If a person has not been trained by a community to tame his passions from within, then the state would have to continuously control him from without.

The "key phrase, of course" is the one Brooks just made up? Because you must be a slave to the passions (by which Hume means nothing more than "emotions", or "sentiments"), but only the correct ones, otherwise you might be a slave to the passions, and that would be terrible?

Tuesday, December 7, 2021

More Good News!


Drawing by Kevin Siers, Charlotte Observer, June 2021.

You know how upset conservatives are about "cancel culture" and how they've reacted to this menace by going on a spree of banning thoughtcrimes like "critical race theory" and their proponents from educational institutions (it's not an attack on freedom of speech, it's just for the children's sake)

It's weird to imagine terms like "culturally responsive teaching" or "abolitionist teaching" or "free radical therapy" or "normativity" in an 8th-grade classroom, or a 12th-grade one either. Why wouldn't they ban them in the teacher training institutions where they might get used? I'm glad they're just banning the words and not the practice—abolitionist teaching sounds like a good thing

Monday, December 6, 2021

Good News!

Good cruise ship turning takes time—usually. Via.

1. You know how Bill de Blasio ran for the New York City mayoralty on a promise to do something about the "inequality crisis" as he called it in the 2013 campaign:

“Right now, as we’re gathered this morning, one New Yorker is rushing past an attended desk in the lobby of a majestic skyscraper,” de Blasio began. “A few miles away, a single mother is also rushing, holding her two young children by the hands as they hurry down the steps of the subway entrance…” The first New Yorker is thinking about how to profit from the bull market in stocks; the second is trying to figure out how to pay her grocery bill. 

And in the intervening years since he's been mayor every once in a while somebody pipes up to announce that he failed to do anything: from the not-at-all biased Manhattan Institute in 2017 to the not-at-all biased Manhattan Institute in late 2020. Well, I guess it wasn't that widespread. Still, de Blasio himself admitted just last month that he hadn't solved inequality in New York yet, in spite of having had eight whole years to do it.

On Wednesday, with his time in City Hall approaching its end, de Blasio sounded far less idealistic and admitted that his lofty promise to fix New York’s economic disparities remains unfulfilled.

“I don’t think anybody — literally, I don’t know a single person — who thought we were going to solve all the inequalities of society in four years or eight years,” he said in his daily morning briefing.

What a quitter, right? Not one single person? What about all his supporters at, you know, the Manhattan Institute, who were totally expecting him to fix inequality and so disappointed at his failure?

Anyway, guess what?

Saturday, December 4, 2021

Movin' to Montana

Deeply exasperated by this op-ed in The Times from Steve Bullock, former Montana governor, former appallingly bad Democratic presidential candidate, and most recently crushed Senate candidate (he didn't lose as badly as Biden did in Montana, by ten points compared with Biden's 16, but still), lecturing us all about what Democrats are doing wrong ("I Was the Governor of Montana. My Fellow Democrats, You Need to Get Out of the City More."):

Friday, December 3, 2021

Abortion Science II

Guest of honor at a Singapore Full Moon party, via


Shorter David F. Brooks, "Abortion: The Voice of the Ambivalent Majority":

No, I don't mean abortion is the voice of the ambivalent majority. I mean I am the voice of the ambivalent majority, and I think the solution to the problem is obviously to be of two minds, which is what all but the extremists want, so I support overturning Roe and Casey without overturning Roe and Casey. This is the only appropriately moderate position.

That is: Brooks believes the Court should uphold the Mississippi ban on abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy, in defiance of the finding of Roe v. Wade (1973) that the state's interest in protecting the fetus applies to a fetus that is 28 or more weeks old, and the revision in Casey v. Planned Parenthood (1992) changing that to the standard of "viability", a fetus that is capable of living outside the womb (28 weeks in the received medical opinion of 1973 but by now 23 or 24 weeks, sometimes set as low as 22); or in other words should allow Mississippi to introduce an entirely random standard whose only possible purpose is to reduce the number of abortions overall  (not that much—95% of abortions in the US are before 15 weeks) and then claim they hadn't overturned Roe and Casey even though they obviously had:

"Mississippi's ban on abortion, two months before viability, is flatly unconstitutional under decades of precedent," Center for Reproductive Rights Senior Director Julie Rikelman said during oral arguments. "Two generations have now relied on this right, and 1 out of every 4 women makes a decision to end a pregnancy."

Or, in Brooks's own words,

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Abortion Science


Image via Ms. Magazine.

Shorter Monsignor Ross Douthat, Apostolic Nuncio to 42nd Street, "The Case Against Abortion":

In the bad old days, we were dependent on philosophers, theologians, and lawyers to decide moral issues, which obviously led to a lot of disputes, for example on the question of abortion, but now we have science, which proves unequivocally that abortion is objectively evil.

No, seriously:

There is no way to seriously deny that abortion is a form of killing. At a less advanced stage of scientific understanding, it was possible to believe that the embryo or fetus was somehow inert or vegetative until so-called quickening, months into pregnancy. But we now know the embryo is not merely a cell with potential, like a sperm or ovum, or a constituent part of human tissue, like a skin cell. Rather, a distinct human organism comes into existence at conception, and every stage of your biological life, from infancy and childhood to middle age and beyond, is part of a single continuous process that began when you were just a zygote.

We know from embryology, in other words, not Scripture or philosophy, that abortion kills a unique member of the species Homo sapiens, an act that in almost every other context is forbidden by the law.

Monday, November 29, 2021

McWhorter Postscript


Lofgren writes in comments to yesterday's post:

I don't think McWhorter is proposing an alternative, "better" timeline. He's just making an observation about how the shift from Black-led street action to (often) White-led government action affect his own feelings as a Black man. Even in the quoted section, he explicitly says that he wouldn't want to live in the alternate timeline that you are proposing. It's not as though this observation is unique to him, though it is usually not framed around a personal feeling. Usually it is framed around historicity, specifically how ending segregation and the Civil Rights movement are often portrayed as great leaps forward for White people, who have learned an important lesson about sharing and caring and are graciously letting Black people act like they are equals (for now). A not so subtle implication, which MAGAs pick up on even if Liberals don't, is that all of this equality is kind of a trial offer from White America, which we can revoke whenever we want because it was not properly "earned" – i.e. taken from us – if it causes us too much trouble. This is not some crazy, out-there observation by McWhorter. He's not crazy to feel this way. It's the way the story is taught and the way that a majority of White America still views it.

I think you are being more than a bit unfair in your tweets and you seem to have missed important nuance. Like most eggheads, McWhorter wallows in nuance and likes to introduce extra nuance whenever possible, even when it is probably counterproductive or even illusory. You're criticizing him for failing at sci-fi style world building but he's just trying to express his feelings, not propose a spec script for HBO. It's not even like he is pretending to be rational. He's explicitly talking about emotions, not logic or reality. I don't think it's right to invalidate those emotions out of hand because they might lead to less optimal outcomes if he ever gets his hand on a time machine.

I have no idea where this reading is coming from. I was not criticizing McWhorter for "failing at sci-fi style world building". As Lofgren notes, McWhorter himself says that "none of us would want to rewind the tape and play things out again without the Civil Rights Act..." I was certainly not proposing an alternate timeline either. Did he read the tweets?

For the Record: McWhorter

Divinity, via Cold Belly.

Apparently John McWhorter doesn't think being eminent in the field of linguistics qualifies anybody to talk about history or politics.

But it's OK if you're a Republican. That's where people really value amateurism.

Friday, November 26, 2021



William S.L. Jewett "The First Thanksgiving Dinner" wood engraving for Harper's Weekly, 1868, via The Clark Museum. The first federal Thanksgiving, that is, proclaimed by President Lincoln in fall 1863 to express the Union's gratitude for the victory at Gettysburg, which is perhaps what Father is focused on while the children tuck in.

Happy 400th Thanksgiving! Though I guess it's understood that the first one wasn't, technically, a thanksgiving. That is, they must have held one after that 1621 harvest, but in church, praying all day, not feasting, and not inviting the heathen savages in, and that's not what we're historically informed about. The feast, actually three days of feasting, undoubtedly took place too, as Edward Winslow wrote in a letter to a London connection, George Morton (sent with the ship that brought their first harvest of "Indian corn" and barley for sale on the English market, because they'd done much better, with Squanto's help, than just being able to feed themselves), 

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Class Interests


The Branko Milanovic–Christoph Lakner "Elephant Chart" showing global growth rates from 1988 to 2008 arranged by income percentiles, with its four major highlights: mediocre growth in red for the poorest people, or most people in the poorest countries, extraordinary growth in green for most people in the emerging economies of Asia, especially China, serious stagnation in blue for the pretty rich people of western Europe and North America in particular, and fabulous growth in purple for the global super-rich (not as fabulous as China, but keep in mind that the 1% are starting with a lot more money, ending up by 2020 with 43% of all the wealth in the world).

This post from Nathan Newman ("Education Polarization in Elections: People Are Voting Their Class Interests"), giving me at long last a way of thinking about that "White Working Class" that makes some sense, has been sitting in an open tab on my computer for almost a month. He's looking at the same voting pattern as everybody else, but he's seeing it in the historical context of how it effectively happened that the outsourcing economy of the last 40-odd years primarily affected white workers in relatively rural areas; because that's how the distinction between workers in the growing service industries and and those in the shrinking manufacturing industries had sorted itself out in the US, where the former remained as traditional multiracial and urban, the latter came to be concentrated in

For the Record: Brandon


Makeup by Kevin Kirkpatrick, via Vulture, January 2012.

Posted this in comments at Roy's SubStack, on the "Let's Go Brandon" phenomenon, in response to a comment by SundayStylie wondering "are we supposed to believe that the Fuck Your Feelings crowd have suddenly decided to revert to dainty euphemisms?" and thought it was something I'd want to remember:

It's middle school boys pretending to clear their throats--"A-whore! A-whore!" The immaturity is kind of the point. It's pretending Biden is your mom or your teacher, baffled and unable to respond, whereas if you just said "fuck" they could just yell at you and not let you go to the dance.

This is what Trump is particularly a master of, not just saying the quiet part out loud but claiming deniability as he does it. "You know, they have a word. It sort of became old-fashioned. It’s called a nationalist. And I say, really, we’re not supposed to use that word. You know what I am? I’m a nationalist, OK? I’m a nationalist." Why is he not supposed to use the word? Because he's telling you he's a Nazi.

But whether you embarrass yourself by calling him out for it, or by not calling him out, you're the one who gets embarrassed, and all the cool boys in the class can't get over how funny it is.

I keep telling you Trump's base is middle-aged Beavis and Butt-Head.

Cross-posted at No More Mister Nice Blog.

Monday, November 22, 2021

For the Record: Apotheosis


I can't seem to find anything about the source of this image, but I can't let it go.

Suburban Skies

Coffee Clatch, Park Forest, Illinois, 1954. Photo by Bob Sandberg, via National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution.

 Monsignor Ross Douthat, apostolic nuncio to 42nd Street, peering into his Kristol ball for a way to advance-explain the Republican victory in the 2024 presidential election (he takes their win in 2022 for granted) without mentioning the word "gerrymander" ("The Diminishing Democratic Majority") It's all about those suburbs:

I’ll call this, to be provocative, the “emerging Republican majority” scenario, in which it turns out that of the two big political migrations of the Trump era — affluent suburbanites turning more Democratic, working-class whites and then Latinos turning more Republican — the first one was temporary and provisional, and the second one permanent and accelerating.

Ross doesn't know, by the way, that there's a big intersection between "affluent suburbanites" and Latinos, because US suburbs are turning increasingly Latino, many neighborhoods resegregating as young whites seek to move into cities and old ones to exurbs; 54% of the Latino population lived in suburbs by 2016, by no means all of them very affluent of course, and that's growing, so you don't know what's going on. Also, not to repeat what I've said a million times, Latins are not a monolithic group and if you can't tell the differences in orientation between Venezuelans in the Houston area and Tejanos along the Mexican border, Puerto Ricans in Harlem and Dominicans in the Bronx, Cubans in New Jersey and Ecuadorans in Queens, you're going to be missing important parts of the picture. Moreover, that possibly "permanent and accelerating" swing toward Trump between 2016 and 2020 was from 18% the first time round to 27% in the second, not an emerging majority.