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. 

Saturday, November 20, 2021

For the Record: Don't Make a Federal Case of It (or Try If You Want to, But You'll Fail)


Because personally, if I'm a member of Congress and somebody portrays me as a cartoon serial murderer, I'm not going to think it's making fun of somebody else. If I were involved in it, of course, I'd put it more in the old Warner Brothers style than anime—that looks more satirical to me—putting Gosar's face on Elmer Fudd. And he'd fail to get his kill, that's a lot funnier, trust me.

And in Sinemascope

Friday, November 19, 2021

Sociological Bent

So two weeks ago was Bad David Brooks, and last week we had Self-Help David Brooks ("The Awesome Importance of Imagination", which read like a compilation of BrainyQuotes, though it actually wasn't), so naturally today Woke David Brooks is doing a shift ("Joe Biden Is Succeeding"), which among other things praises the Biden agenda to the skies. And then explains why he's qualified to disagree with the economist Lawrence Summers on the subject of whether last spring's American Rescue Plan might overstimulate the economy and lead to inflation

Larry is one of the most intelligent people I’ve ever known and someone I really admire. If I were an economist, I might have agreed with him. But I’m a journalist with a sociological bent. For over a decade I have been covering a country that was economically, socially and morally coming apart. I figured one way to reverse that was to turbocharge the economy and create white-hot labor markets that would lift wages at the bottom. If inflation was a byproduct, so be it. The trade-off is worth it to prevent a national rupture.

and then agrees with him anyway

Wednesday, November 17, 2021


Mr. Bret Stephens is just such a hack ("The Federal Bureau of Dirty Tricks"):

This month’s bombshell indictment of Igor Danchenko, the Russian national who is charged with lying to the F.B.I. and whose work turns out to have been the main source for Christopher Steele’s notorious dossier, is being treated as a major embarrassment for much of the news media — and, if the charges stick, that’s exactly what it is.

Put media criticism aside for a bit. What this indictment further exposes is that James Comey’s F.B.I. became a Bureau of Dirty Tricks, mitigated only by its own incompetence — like a mash-up of Inspector Javert and Inspector Clouseau. Donald Trump’s best move as president (about which I was dead wrong at the time) may have been to fire him.

"Bombshell indictment" is a matter of perspective, but readers would be better prepared to judge for themselves if Stephens would reveal exactly what Danchenko is alleged to have lied about and how many lies he told, but Stephens only says he is

Monday, November 15, 2021



Re the recent document dumps from the House Select Committee on the Coronavirus Crisis:

Remember 26 March 2020, when coronavirus task force coordinator and full-time Hermès model Deborah Birx gave an interview to the Christian Broadcasting Network featuring a surprising evaluation of President Trump's intellectual preparedness for dealing with the Covid crisis?

“He’s been so attentive to the scientific literature and the details and the data,” Birx said. “I think his ability to analyze and integrate data that comes out of his long history in business has really been a real benefit during these discussions about medical issues.” (via Aaron Rupar/Vox)

You might be surprised to hear it, but it turns out that she eventually changed her mind about that, if it's really what she actually thought at the time [Narrator Voiceover: "It's not exactly what she thought at the time"]. Healthcare advisor Andy Slavitt, talking to her that August, said she was chafing at having been dropped from Trump's circle of trusted advisers, where she'd been largely replaced by radiologist and Hoover Institution fellow Scott Atlas, who knew nothing whatsoever about epidemiology and had been busy on Fox News advocating a "herd immunity" strategy in which healthy young people would voluntarily expose themselves to Covid-19, especially kids:

Saturday, November 13, 2021

Jersey Note


Phil Murphy and Steve Sweeney in September, just before the first gubernatorial debate. Via insidernj.

This, from Nancy Solomon at WNYC, is a take on the New Jersey election that may not make it beyond the local radio audience, which would be a shame, because it could be a very useful corrective on a misinterpretation of what actually happened to cause the unexpected closeness of Governor Phil Murphy's race and the cataclysmic loss of the state's most powerful politician (I mean more powerful than the governor), Senate President Steve Sweeney, to a commercial truck driver, Edward Durr, who claimed to have spent a total of $153 on his campaign.

The received take being, as Sweeney put it, that it was a part of the same "Red Wave" that hit Virginia, or in the terms set by the losing Republican gubernatorial candidate,

Mr. Ciattarelli, a former state assemblyman, has said that the election results are a rejection of the left-leaning policies championed by Mr. Murphy, a former Goldman Sachs executive who notched a raft of progressive victories during his first term.

“Every single time misguided politicians take this state too far off track, the great people of this state push, pull and prod it right back to where it belongs,” Mr. Ciattarelli said on Friday. “Right back to where it needs to be: the common-sense center.”

Which seems like a dubious interpretation of the fact that it was the centrist kingpin, not the progressive governor, who lost—not to mention Mr, Ciattarelli himself (that was from his concession speech, too, which it took him ten days to work himself up to).

Friday, November 12, 2021

Made Men


Via Heavy.

I am going to be discussing how sorry I feel for Kyle Rittenhouse in a minute—not as sorry as I feel for the guys he murdered and their families and friends, and not so sorry as to doubt whether he deserves to be found guilty, and (of course) not as sorry as he feels for himsself, but something, a liberal twinge—but I need to work myself into it. 

From a headline, now gone, in The New York Times continuing updates page on the Rittenhouse trial:

Kyle Rittenhouse, who styled himself a medic, said he is now studying nursing.

As the report clarifies, he was lying both times. When he and his friend Dominick joined the crowd on the night of the shootings and he told people he was making it up. He doesn't even have a high school diploma—he dropped out of school three years ago, and I can't find any suggestion online that he earned a GED (he was taking online GED courses in June). Not that being a high school dropout makes you a bad person! But habitual lying does make you a liar. 

By the same token he is not studying nursing at Arizona State University, as he testified under oath:

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

It Ain't Necessarily So

A man learned in the Law stood up to test Jesus. "Rabbi," he said, "what must I do to attain eternal life?"

"What does the Law say?"

"It says to love the Lord with all your your heart and all your soul and all your might and all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself."

"Then that's what you should do."

"But who is my neighbor?"

Tuesday, November 9, 2021

Was Covid Everywhere Before It Was in Wuhan?


Image via Loyal Companions.

So sometime in the spring of 2017 doctors in Malaysia discovered a new coronavirus that didn't seem like a big problem, infecting a bunch of kids in a hospital but not dangerously. The interesting thing about it was that the kids had apparently caught it from dogs, and not from each other; genomic analysis showed that it was a canine virus (apparently there are a lot of canine coronaviruses).

At the same time, members of a team of American medical volunteers in Haiti, 11,000 miles away, were also getting infected by something: when they got home to Florida, some of them felt "a bit under the weather". Not exactly sick, but they had slight fevers and they weren't at their best. Because the zika virus was circulating in Haiti at the time, they got themselves tested, but they didn't have zika. The virologist who tested them, though, John Lednicky of the University of Florida, was curious enough to want to see if there might be some other virus in their urine samples, and there was: the exact canine coronavirus that was infecting kids on the other side of the planet, as it turned out, four years later, last May.

"The virus probably circulates widely, but no one has paid attention to it," Lednicky says. He suspects it's all over the world. And if you've been around dogs frequently, you might have been infected with this virus — or developed an immunity to it by exposure to similar virus. "We'll know when scientists start looking for antibodies inside older blood samples taken from patients with respiratory disease. How many of them were misdiagnosed all along?" 

The good news, says NPR's science correspondent Michaleen Doucleff, is that virologists are now really starting to work on identifying and tracing all kinds of viruses that aren't problems—at least not yet. But the thing that really struck me was the likelihood that SARS-2 CoV was probably circulating all over the world too, before December 2019:

"Almost certainly, SARS-CoV-2 was circulating for quite some time and making people either a tiny bit sick or not sick enough to be noticed," she says. If scientists had detected it at this stage, perhaps the world would have had time to develop a test for it, some promising treatments and even a preliminary vaccine. Perhaps the pandemic would have taken a much different — perhaps less deadly course.

It doesn't occur to NPR to say so, but the whole story looks to me like strong evidence that the science-fiction "lab leak" story of the Covid-19 pandemic is just wrong—the story that came out of Italy a year or so ago, and caused a lot of pushback in the Covid community, in which Italian scientists claimed to have found antibody evidence of the novel coronavirus in Lombardy two months earlier than the Chinese identified the virus itself in Wuhan, implying that whatever happened to the virus in Wuhan that made it transmissible among humans happened in Milan too, around the same time, becomes really plausible. 

Saturday, November 6, 2021

Tippy-Top Student Flamboyance

Update: Hit "Publish" a little prematurely on this one, late at night, and it's now somewhat revised and extended.

Flamboyants, via disney.fandom.

Say, what's woke David Brooks up to these days? A little less woke, to put it bluntly, castigating the élites, of course, as you'd expect from a part-time New York Times columnist and Aspen-backed social entrepreneur! Well, some élites ("Democrats Need to Confront Their Privilege"):

One of the Democratic Party’s core problems is that it still regards itself mainly as the party of the underdog. But as the information-age economy has matured, the Democratic Party has also become the party of the elite, especially on the cultural front.

Democrats dominate society’s culture generators: the elite universities, the elite media, the entertainment industry, the big tech companies, the thriving elite places like Manhattan, San Francisco and Los Angeles.

In 2020, Joe Biden won roughly one-sixth of the nation’s counties, but together those counties generate roughly 71 percent of the nation’s G.D.P.

Look, I know we're all tired of this, but in the first place unless you're a very old-fashioned Marxist you don't envisage a two-party system where one party is the ruling class and the other one is the advance guard of the proletariat. Most people are not "the élite", by definition, so a true "party of the élite" wouldn't be able to win an election. For a majority, you need some non-élite voters.

Thursday, November 4, 2021



Vie The Decision Lab,

You know who lost big in yesterday's election? Both sides—I mean, both sides of the "progressive"-"centrist" debate among Democratic party strategists. In Virginia, old-hat neoliberal Terry McAuliffe seems to have lost, just barely, to an empty-suit multimillionaire and the threat of Critical Race Theory. In New Jersey, Phil Murphy, one of the nation's most progressive governors, may or may not have just barely squeaked through against an empty-suit multimillionaire and the threat of "schools teaching sodomy in sixth grade." 

Murphy's bête noire, New Jersey Senate president Stephen Sweeney, ally of Camden kingpin George Norcross and leader of one of the most obstructionist "centrist" factions of Democrats, seems to be losing, also just barely, his own seat, which he's held for 20 years, in what they inevitably call a "stunning upset": 

Tuesday, November 2, 2021

For the Record: Whatever it is, Marquito is against it

Byzantine mosaic, 12th or 13th century, in the cathedral of Monreale; the two wayfarers Lot invites into his house in Sodom turn out to be angels, and warn him to get out of town. Photo by Ghigo Roli.

This wonderful move by the Biden administration  to compensate some of the horrors wreaked by the Trumpies deserves more attention than it's getting—

The Wall Street Journal first reported on Thursday that the Biden administration is in talks to offer separated migrant parents and children around $450,000 per person. That would mean that if a parent and a child were separated at the border, together they would be eligible for a combined payment of $900,000.

—and Republicans want to provide it, in the worst way:

Monday, November 1, 2021

The Art of the Impossible

Illustration by William Pène du Bois for his 1947 juvenile novel The Twenty-One Balloons,  via Swann Galleries.

Robert Kuttner, at The American Prospect:

In 1948, Republicans controlled both houses of Congress. Harry Truman’s approval rating was in the 30s. He was universally expected to lose. So Truman sent Congress a Roosevelt-scale program that he knew Republicans would vote down, and he went on the road to remind voters of the difference between Republicans and Democrats.
In 1964, Democrats were in solid control of both houses, but Lyndon Johnson, campaigning for the presidency against a lot of suspicion in his own party, in mourning for our handsome young murdered president from Massachusetts and not sure how we felt about the unelected Texan, did something rather similar. In May he gave a commencement address at the University of Michigan calling for the United States to become a "Great Society"—