Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Neoconservative Denial

Afghanistan National Institute of Music (ANIM).

I want to stop, but maybe just one more column, this one from Robert Kagan of the Kagan dynasty, co-founder with Dr. William Kristol of the Project for a New American Century, and prophet of neoconservatism, as he defined it in 2008, as a kind of political faith going back to 1776 and Alexander Hamilton, whose tenets are

a potent moralism and idealism in world affairs, a belief in America’s exceptional role as a promoter of the principles of liberty and democracy, a belief in the preservation of American primacy and in the exercise of power, including military power, as a tool for defending and advancing moralistic and idealistic causes, as well as a suspicion of international institutions and a tendency toward unilateralism. 

(Though the quotation he uses to bring Hamilton to his side is pretty distorted, when he claims that "Hamilton, even in the 1790s, looked forward to the day when America would be powerful enough to assist peoples in the 'gloomy regions of despotism' to rise up against the 'tyrants that oppressed them"; in fact what Hamilton said, not in the 1790s but 1784, had no reference to "assisting" anybody in the future—merely to the young US already then setting an inspiring example, by its underdog victory in the Revolution: "The influence of our example has penetrated the gloomy regions of despotism, and has pointed the way to inquiries, which may shake it to its deepest foundations.")

But is, anyhow, very anxious at the moment from his (officially ex-neoconservative—he now identifies as "'liberal' and 'progressive' in a distinctly American tradition") position as Washington Post opinionist to assure us (contra WaPo's national security columnist, Greg Jaffe, who writes about the "hubris" of the American project) that the effort in Afghanistan was no effort in "advancing moralistic and idealistic causes" ("It wasn’t hubris that drove America into Afghanistan. It was fear."):

Monday, August 30, 2021

View From Nowhere


Spectroscope, British Library collections, via SolvingForPattern.

Peter Baker,  the New York Times reporter so devoted to the View From Nowhere that he notoriously refuses even to take sides in secret by casting a ballot in an election, has a characteristic take on the withdrawal from Afghanistan: that angry partisans missed a chance to find a compromise between the extreme positions, that US forces should withdraw or US forces should not withdraw ("All In or All Out? Biden Saw No Middle Ground in Afghanistan."):

“There was only the cold reality of either following through on the agreement to withdraw our forces or escalating the conflict and sending thousands more American troops back into combat in Afghanistan, lurching into the third decade of conflict,” Mr. Biden said as the Taliban seized Kabul this month.

Critics consider that either disingenuous or at the very least unimaginative, arguing that there were viable alternatives, even if not especially satisfying ones, that may not have ever led to outright victory but could have avoided the disaster now unfolding in Kabul and the provinces.

Sunday, August 29, 2021



Among the Sierra Nevada, 1868, Albert Bierstadt, via Wikipedia.

Re comments, I feel compelled to tell the story of my meeting with Malcolm Forbes, although it is completely unimportant.

It's from when I was the editor of a glossy magazine (actually more than one) in Singapore, a moment that was briefly brought up for me this morning when Scott Simon interviewed Jo Hamya, author of a new novel, Three Rooms, whose protagonist is a copy editor at a fancy London magazine, even as the author happens to have been a copy editor at The Tatler, a once-distinguished periodical (early 18th century I think) where she may have had experiences somewhat like those of her heroine:

after a passage where she'd visited her flatmate's parents' house, and there was this face wash in their bathroom that she uses to wash her face with after she's been crying. To her, it's a very sort of aspirational thing to have this home which she owns that she can fill with, you know, things to offer to guests to comfort them and ease them. And so at that point in the book, she skips out on a few days' worth of lunch to buy this face wash, I suppose to remind herself of what it is she's trying to attain rather mistakenly because the blueprint she's working off of is, you know, a kind of England that existed under Tony Blair, a kind of New Labour movement that was very preoccupied with social mobility. And she, of course, is working through a digitized gig economy that has been under conservative rule for a decade. And social mobility is not the byword.

Saturday, August 28, 2021

For the Record: A Very Sad Thing, supplement


Chris Cillizza, CNN opinionist, covered the Trump interview with Hugh Hewitt that we dealt with as a Literary Corner piece. He covered more of the story than I did, but did a shockingly bad job of it:

Friday, August 27, 2021


Drawings by Charles and Louis Haghe, from James Atkinson's Sketches in Afghanistan, 1842, via The New York Times.

So it seems we are now in a certain sense allies of the Taliban, by enemy-of-my-enemy standards, as the ISIS-K mounts a lethal suicide attack on the Kabul airport in order to demonstrate the weakness and incompetence of the Taliban, and 13 US service members are among the victims. Indeed, from the ISIS-K standpoint, we were already allies—they've been mocking the Taliban online for getting Afghanistan "on a silver platter" from the US, and suggesting that the US expects something from them in return. Which is also true in a certain sense: the Taliban are supposed to be protecting the American evacuation operations, right in the March 2020 agreement, which is what the negotiations over the last weeks have been about:

The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan which is not recognized by the United States as a state and is known as the Taliban will not allow any of its members, other individuals or groups, including al-Qa’ida, to use the soil of Afghanistan to threaten the security of the United States and its allies...

"But you can't stop us from threatening them!" says ISIS-Khorasan. That's what the attack was meant to demonstrate.

And by extension, we're allies, in a certain sense, with al-Qa'eda, the international group that has always been allied with the Taliban since the beginning (when the 9/11 attacks were masterminded from Afghanistan), and is unalterably opposed to ISIS.

Thursday, August 26, 2021

Literary Corner: Isn't That a Very Sad Thing?

Pompeo and Baradar in Doha, 2020, via Economist.

Trump's original report on his call of 3 March 2020, four days after the signing of the Doha Agreement on the withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan and swap of prisoners between the Taliban and the Afghan government (which was not a party to the talks, but ultimately complied and released 5,100 Taliban prisoners as US promised), and three days before the Taliban resumed its attacks on Afghan National Defense and Security Forces, leading by June to the worst ANDSF losses in the history of the war:

Trump confirmed the Taliban’s announcement Tuesday that he had spoken by phone with Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the Taliban’s top political leader.

“I spoke to the leader of the Taliban today. We had a good conversation. We’ve agreed there’s no violence, we don’t want violence; we’ll see what happens,” Trump told reporters at the White House. “They’re dealing with Afghanistan, but we’ll see what happens. We had actually a very good talk.”...

“I’ll be meeting personally with Taliban leaders in the not-too-distant future. And we’ll be very much hoping that they will be doing what they say they’re going to be doing: They will be killing [presumably ISIS] terrorists,” Trump said. “They will be killing some very bad people. They will keep that fight going.”

How he remembers it now, in conversation with Hugh Hewitt:

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

News From Bothsides

Evacuees at Ramstein Air Force Base, Germany. AP Photo by Matthias Schräder, via The Australian


Fred Hiatt at WaPo came up with such a classic ("In justifying one blunder, Biden may commit another"):

President George W. Bush let a foreign policy fiasco push him toward a sweeping pro-democracy doctrine that contradicted his prior aversion to nation-building and ended up doing more harm than good. Now, President Biden is in danger of making a similar mistake, in the opposite direction.


He has maintained that the central purpose of his presidency is to rebuild and defend democracy and democratic values, in the United States and around the world.

But facing criticism for the disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan, he at times has retreated to a realpolitik that might make Henry Kissinger proud.

“Look, let’s put this thing in perspective here,” he said last week. “What interest do we have in Afghanistan at this point with al-Qaeda gone?”

If I can prove that two sequences of policy decisions are perfectly symmetrical, that proves they are the same thing, so

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

For the Record: FUD

Pessimism has a pretty good pedigree too...

Me trying to explain the facts of life to one of those self-denominated "progressives" ended up someplace that could be moderately interesting:

Monday, August 23, 2021

For the Record: Space Opera


This is just to get Jordan to go nuts in the comments. A glorious time for once and all! My expressed opinions are not to be taken very seriously.

Mod Squad


Mods with modified scooters, Peckham, South London, May 1964, Daily Mirror via All That's Interesting.

This is making me crazy, on the subject of the push in the House, back early from August recess to deal with the double infrastructure package, the trillion-dollar bipartisan infrastructure proper, and the $3.5-trillion "human infrastructure" including the universal pre-K, universal two-year college, permanent child tax credit, expanded Medicare and Medicaid, and all the global warming initiatives that got cut out of the first one, to be passed by Democrats alone if necessary in the form of "instructions" to be carried out in the Senate.

As you've probably heard, the second part is threatened by a rump group of nine representatives who used to call themselves "Problem Solvers", led by New Jersey's Josh Gottheimer—now they're billed as "the Mod Squad"—insisting that they'd like to just vote on the first part for starters, in opposition to the 95 Rockers of the House Progressive Caucus, who have demanded starting with the second part, to forestall any cheating on the part of the Mods. Speaker Pelosi (who is solidly on the "progressive" side of the issue, contrary to some reports portraying her as in the middle) is said to have been working out a plan to do both of them more or less simultaneously.

So last night the nine issued a curious statement in the Washington Post—

Sunday, August 22, 2021

Pulling Out

Al-Nouri Mosque, Mosul, under reconstruction with UNESCO funding in 2020, via Archinect.

Ex-Proconsul Paul Bremer, the former viceroy of Mesopotamia, would like you to know that he's a champ at nation-building, through the Wall Street Journal. I'm dubious.

Of course the young Iraqi government had to call for a return of the US-led coalition to rescue them, but that's not the point. They also got plenty of help from Iran. 

Saturday, August 21, 2021



... but even Bunch has the same objection to "how" Biden left as all the embeds have: why did Biden bet that the Afghan government would be able to hold out for four weeks, giving us enough time to get all the journalists' friends to safety, along with the American business community and the Afghan employees of the military? Why didn't he realize it would collapse in a week and start moving everybody out earlier?

To which there's one obvious answer, if you give it a little thought: the moving-out process was going to be a trigger for the collapse, as the White House was warned—if we'd started three weeks earlier, it would have happened three weeks earlier, with the same results. Or 12 years earlier, no doubt.

Friday, August 20, 2021

Cheap Shots


Ioffe's Russian-themed title is the best part of her blog. I guess the martini is OK too, at least it seems to be a real one, with an olive. I haven't found out how to navigate it, the blog I mean, but she emails me the installments one at a time, which must be why I spend so much time talking about her. I think she's just toying with me, though, and I'm getting fed up.

There are actually some signs that tomorrow might be marginally better, but don't get too excited.

There are now an unprecedented almost nine million stories in the Naked City, according to the 2020 Census, 8.8 million residents, up 629,000 from 2010. Making nonsense out of pundits' belief that New York was getting emptied as folks fled the taxes and viruses. New York State is losing a congressional seat, but it's going to be a Republican one in the western part of the state.

“The city’s growth actually outpaced the growth of the nation,” said [chief demographer Peter] Lobo. “That is unusual for a mature city like New York.”

The great thing is the city managed to make what appears to be the most accurate count in its history in the face not only of a pandemic but also the determination of the Republican federal administration to make it fail:

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Narratology: Something Much Worse

I can't get over the videos of these Taliban fighters as ridiculous country boys. Sure they're woman-hating murderers, but so were the kids the US sent to Vietnam to take orders from Lieutenant Calley. Who's a bad guy? Think about it.

What actually happened, on the American side, is now getting a good deal clearer, thanks to the brilliant folks at Just Security and retired CIA analyst Douglas London, who has given them a statement ("Afghanistan, not an intelligence failure but something much worse") based on his own work as counterterrorism chief for South and Southwest Asia in 2018-19 and as a Biden volunteer in 2020:

By early 2018, it was clear President Trump wanted out of Afghanistan regardless of the alarming outcomes the intelligence community cautioned. But he likewise did not want to preside over the nightmarish scenes we’ve witnessed. Then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was the principal architect of America’s engagement with the Taliban that culminated with the catastrophic February 2020 withdrawal agreement, terms intended to get the president through the coming elections. Pompeo championed the plan despite the intelligence community’s caution that its two key objectives– securing the Taliban’s commitment to break with al-Qa’ida and pursue a peaceful resolution to the conflict — were highly unlikely.

America’s special representative, Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, was a private citizen dabbling on his own in 2018 with a variety of dubious Afghan interlocutors against whom the intelligence community warned, trying opportunistically to get “back inside.” Undaunted, his end-around to Pompeo and the White House pledging to secure the deal Trump needed which the president’s own intelligence, military and diplomatic professionals claimed was not possible absent a position of greater strength, was enthusiastically received. Our impression was that Khalilzad was angling to be Trump’s Secretary of State in a new administration, were he to win, and would essentially do or say what he was told to secure his future by pleasing the mercurial president, including his steady compromise of whatever leverage the United States had to incentivize Taliban compromises. (h/t djchefron)

As in other cases, it was the announcement Trump wanted, not the thing itself, and he wanted it in the early part of the presidential campaign—for the presidential campaign. 

Monday, August 16, 2021



Ration for five men in Kandahar, 2020, via France24.

Indeed. Maybe not Goldberg, who came to a point of rationality on Afghanistan as he studied Barack Obama, e.g. in 2015:

I think Obama had the tragic sense, early on, that there was no possibility of nation building in Afghanistan, and so he focused his efforts on decimating al Qaeda.... Afghanistan has confounded outsiders since the 1850s and earlier, and so it is not remarkable that Obama has failed to ameliorate the situation.

But honestly, these other guys, the ones who became NeverTrumpers because they believed Trump was some kind of pacifist and voted for Biden in the hope he'd be a warmonger can just shut up.

Although what really shocks me is the retired pros who seem to have had no idea the nation hadn't been built in Afghanistan, even as they kept begging presidents from Obama till now to keep the troops there, like James Stavridis just on Thursday, I mean four days ago:

Saturday, August 14, 2021

Afghanistan Note

Blue Mosque, Mazar-e-Sharif, site of the grave of Prophet Muhammad's son-in-law Ali. Photo by Steve Evans, 2005, via Wikimedia Commons.

Do we want to talk about Afghanistan? Not really. Maybe just to acknowledge that it feels pretty bad, and propose an official apology of sorts, not just for destroying the country, but for our inexhaustible conviction that we were actually fixing it, like deluded Americans in a Graham Greene story, the same story as always.

I feel especially bad because I found myself, in the last few weeks, starting to sort of believe people getting interviewed on BBC World Service, Afghan and US officials, suggesting everything might be fine, there's an excellently trained and richly equipped Afghan army. Everything was not fine, as we've been hearing for a while now. most importantly in this huge 2019 work from the Washington Post

Thursday, August 12, 2021

Purposely Naïve


Via Card-Cow Vintage Postcards.

Very peculiar impression from this New York Times column by Ezra Klein, "The Way the Senate Melted Down Over Crypto Is Very Revealing". I find it pretty informative, but I'm not sure what part of it is supposed to be the big reveal: the way the Senate melted down reveals mainly that

As I’ve said before: The Senate is a ridiculous institution, run by ridiculous rules.

Namely, the "meltdown" was over a provision the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill or BIB allowing the Treasury Department to force the "brokers" of cryptocurrency transactions to pay taxes owing on the transactions, written by (GOP) Senator Portman and backed by the White House, and predictably there was an outctry of pain among those senators who can't stand that an unenforced tax law should ever be enforced. In fact there was some good faith in the objections, notably over the way Portman's language didn't say very clearly what a "broker" is in this context, and a compromise amendment was duly worked out, involving pro-crypto liberal Ron Wyden, which might well have made the taxes in question a little easier to evade. But the Senate couldn't vote on this amendment Wednesday night, for reasons that had nothing to do with cryptocurrency at all:

New York Note: More Andrew

David Paterson and Andrew Cuomo, election night 2010. Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images via Politico.

Governor David Paterson (who succeeded after Eliot Spitzer was forced to resign) on the radio talking about the Cuomo-Hochul situation tells some great stories about Cuomo, in particular:

When word began circulating that Spitzer (then attorney general) was going to choose Paterson (then Senate minority leader) as running mate in the 2006 gubernatorial election, which was a huge public surprise, Cuomo gave him a call: "You can't pick David Paterson, he's got all this baggage that's bound to come out, an African American is going to bring down the ticket," etc., etc. Then, after the choice was announced, he called back to say, "Don't tell David I said that!"

"Sorry," said Spitzer, "we already told him." Immediately Cuomo was on the phone to Paterson, saying, "David, David, it's not true, I never said that!"

Which was sort of a tell (how, in that case, would Cuomo have known that he was accused of saying it?). "I never trusted Andrew for anything after that," Paterson said. 

It's possible, IMO, and hinted at here, that in the 2010 campaign, which started off with Attorney General Cuomo investigating Governor Paterson over an incident in which Paterson may have pressured a woman to drop her domestic violence case against an aide of his, David Johnson, continued with President Obama asking Paterson to drop out of the governor race, and finished with Cuomo running, successfully, for governor himself, Cuomo played a pretty unsavory role in bringing about this result (LA Times reported after Paterson dropped out that Cuomo was "practicing cartwheels in Albany today"). He certainly didn't continue the investigation of Paterson, which he should have done if he really believed Paterson might have been tampering with a witness in a criminal case.

Paterson was unpopular (not with me!) and seemed likely to lose to Rudolph Giuliani in the November election (except Giuliani ended up not running), so in terms of the politics I guess it was OK that Paterson was forced out, but I do wonder about that. At this point there isn't much ill you can say about Andrew that I'm not willing to believe.

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Joe Did What? Glass Half Full


Image via African Skies.

We've finally got some text on the Human Infrastructure budget reconciliation package, in the form of a one-page summary of budget topline items under four headings of spending categories (Families, Climate, Infrastructure and Jobs, and Healthcare), and a nine-page Memorandum addressed to Democratic senators, organized by committee, with very broad numbers for how much spending each committee is instructed to approve. Or saving in the case of the Finance Committee, which is instructed to come up with a plan to cut the deficit by "at least one billion dollars", which reminds me enough of Dr. Evil to make me laugh, but is evidently standard procedure in these matters, for reasons I'm not grasping:

There is ample precedent over the past fifteen years for using a nominal reconciliation instruction as a mechanism to allow a committee to bring forth legislation with larger budgetary implications than such an instruction suggests. Republicans used a nominal instruction amount to both the Finance and the Health, Education, Labor, and Pension (HELP) Committees to move forward with their efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act in 2015 and 2017. The instruction to each committee in each case was to reduce the deficit by $1 billion....  In addition, Democrats used nominal reconciliation instructions in 2010 and 2007 to achieve important changes to health care and education programs. The 2010 example, the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act (HCERA) included a nominal instruction of $1 billion in deficit reduction to both the Senate Finance and HELP Committees. According to CBO, That bill impacted hundreds of billions of dollars in meeting those targets.

But it seems to be about "flexibility", and connected to the fact that they won't be asking the Congressional Budget Office to score the programs before the vote:

New York Note: Excelsior


Brouwerij Corsendonk, Turnhout, Belgium.

Just a note for the pleasure of having a scoop:

"Excelsior!" (Higher! or Upwards!) is the official New York state motto, which he used in his peroration of thanks to New York for its heroic response to the Covid pandemic. It was weird, and it would indeed have been easy to miss the resignation bit, which had to do with how competent the lieutenant governor is (I thought he was talking about a temporary pull-back during the coming impeachment, which I think would be mandated under the state constitution) and the inevitable not wanting to be a "distraction" during this time of crisis with the Delta and all.

I'm certainly very glad, for all of us (including him!) and for the state's Democrats, who really shouldn't have to be thinking about him as we prepare for next year's election of—I hope—somebody else (on my radio, they're starting to wonder if he's planning to go on an apology tour and then run again—no! no! no!). 

And just for the fun of it, this peak New York Times fact check (caught by Matthew Yglesias):

One employee said she was concerned because she thought a vaccine had caused the characters in the film “I Am Legend” to turn into zombies. People opposed to vaccines have circulated that claim about the movie’s plot widely on social media. But the plague that turned people into zombies in the movie was caused by a genetically reprogrammed virus, not by a vaccine.


It's so crazy how these people—Politifact is a frequent offender—seem to have no concept of what a fact check is meant to accomplish.

Monday, August 9, 2021

The Playing Fields of Eton


Johnson at Eton, front and center as usual, in one of a number of pictures where he seems to be trying on a Mussolini face. Photo via The London Economic.

This fine Guardian piece by the novelist Richard Beard, talking about how upper-class boarding school nourishes and shapes the psychopathy of the Tory ruling class in UK, as typified by Old Etonians like David Cameron and Boris Johnson, is harrowing (see what I did there?):

One of the first things we learned – or felt – at prep school was a deep, emotional austerity, starting from the moment the parents drove away. That first night, and on other nights to come, the little men in ties and jackets reverted to the little children they really were – in name-taped pyjamas with a single soft toy (also name-taped), blubbing themselves to sleep and wetting their beds.

Saturday, August 7, 2021

Narratology: If You Have a Hungarian For a Friend...

Tucker and Viktor on Monday, photo by the Office of the Hungarian Prime Minister, via The New York Times.

Not how the old saying goes, but if you have a Hungarian for a friend, you might want to know who his other friends are.

I don't know to what extent readers are following the adventures of the wingnut brethren in Hungary, where Rod Dreher of The American Conservative has been serving as a visiting fellow of the Danube Institute since spring (his substack says he went 17 April, and was about to return to the US when he last posted on 4 August, but he's also traveled around a bit in France, Spain, Romania, and Poland, I think), exuding enthusiasm for the illiberalism of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and his Fidesz Party, one of the politicians who emerged from the velvet revolutions of 1989, a more or less conventional, pro-Western though very conservative, leader in his first premiership from 1998 to 2002 and an increasingly authoritarian one in his second, beginning 2010, during which he has battled immigrants (especially Muslim ones), LBGTQ+ Hungarians (that's important to Rod, of course), press freedom, and George Soros and his Open Society Institute (the Soros Foundation gave him a scholarship to Oxford in 1989, but he returned to Hungary to run for Parliament less than a year after starting).

On the press freedom, Rod rodsplains, in a post datelined Ljubljana (note how, for evidence, he cites himself, talking to an anonymous Slovene, reporting the authority of some anonymous Magyars without explaining what makes them authorities):

I mentioned to a conservative writer here that a couple of Hungarians told me that if Orban had not engineered the takeover of a number of Hungarian press titles by his friends and allies, there would be no conservative media presence at all in Hungary — this, even though conservative voters are a majority. Whenever you hear people on the Left demanding government intervention to guarantee “equity” — meaning equal outcomes [if I ever hear it, but I haven't so far, though I've heard talk about reviving the FCC Fairness Doctrine of 1949-87 requiring individual broadcasters to represent a range of views] — remind them that that is pretty much what Viktor Orban did with the Hungarian media landscape. I should say that I have serious misgivings [sure, Rod, that's why you're defending it] about the media operation Orban pulled off, but the de facto monopoly the Left has on the media, especially in a small country like Hungary, tempers my criticism. Orban is far more realistic about the world people on the Right actually live in, I think.

Thursday, August 5, 2021

Bad News From the New York Office

Rogue Agents.

Some discouraging news for those who are waiting to learn the truth about how rogue agents from the FBI's New York field office manipulated Director Comey into publicly revealing the bogus "reopening" of the Hillary Clinton email investigation in October 2016, which has looked statistically like the news story that finally tipped the presidential election to Donald Trump; it looks like it's not going to happen.

Namely, the Justice Department's Office of the Inspector General has issued a report on its investigation of the matter—

allegations that FBI employees improperly disclosed non-public information regarding the FBI’s investigation into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server. FBI policies strictly limit the employees who are authorized to speak to the media, and require all other employees to coordinate with or obtain approval from the FBI’s Office of Public Affairs (OPA)... 

—and it looks like they pretty much couldn't find out what happened, or decided they couldn't, because in the first place, um, unfortunately, some phones disappeared. OIG was collecting texts and electronic messages from agents fingered as suspicious by "senior FBI witnesses" and found that there was a gap in the record that the bureau couldn't account for. OIG then proceeded to impound the phones of the agents in question but couldn't get them all:

After the FBI informed the OIG of the missing text messages for the four employees, the OIG requested to take physical custody of the FBI-issued cellular phones for these employees. The OIG received Samsung Galaxy S7 devices that had been assigned to the four employees, and recovered text messages from these phones for the early 2017 time period.7 However, the FBI could not locate the employees’ previously assigned Samsung Galaxy S5 devices, which would have had text messages for the relevant time periods in 2016. Accordingly, the OIG was unable to review the 2016 text messages for four of the employees identified by senior FBI witnesses as being potential sources of disclosures of non-public information in 2016. 

And none of the messages that they were able to review had any evidence of those agents transmitting non-public information to the press. So it looks like either

Joe Did What? A Matter of Trust

Modification by Epic Games of a scene from the Peter Jackson movie, via The Verge.

From National Review tax expert Daniel J. Pilla ("Biden Gets More Aggressive With the Confiscation of Capital"), the most poetic description you'll ever see of a tax dodge: 

Trusts are used in estate planning as a means of putting the assets into the hands of a holder who is, so to speak, immortal. Families often put investment assets into trust to avoid probate, thus allowing the assets to continue to work and grow without the need to liquidate them upon the death of the owner.

Because trusts don’t “die” (or, to put it more technically, enjoy perpetuity of life, like a corporation), future generations can realize the benefits of income generated by trust assets but without the heavy hand of estate and gift taxes carving their way through the assets themselves.

Far from being a tax dodge, a beneficiary trust is a kind of beautiful alchemy, that gives your money eternal life! Protecting its integrity from the unseemly violence of probate! You may die, but your money lives forever, industrious and expanding, bringing happiness wherever it turns, not maimed and scarred by—well, yes, taxes, but not just because they're taxes. It's because they're heavy-handed taxes, kicking and slashing their way onto your deck like a pirate crew carrying cutlasses.

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


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.