Saturday, December 31, 2022

Narratogy: Cigar Bar


Oh, by the way, one of the things that happened in 2022 was how we learned that Paul Manafort really did make a deal with the Russian government where he would help them try to take over Ukraine and they would help him try to elect Donald Trump to the US presidency in 2016. Not that there were any new details, exactly, in this excellent piece by Jim Rutenberg, The Untold Story of ‘Russiagate’ and the Road to War in Ukraine, which appeared in the New York Times Magazine November 18, and has been sitting in my open tabs ever since, but that it's among the first attempts to tell that part of the story with what you might call a healthy helping of narrativium, helping a reader understand the plot the plot of the plot, and I've been wanting to take it just a little bit further.

Monday, December 26, 2022

Jon Swift Memorial


Commedia dell'arte cover art, 1920s. Via MareMagnum.

Happy Boxing Day and good Kwanzaa! I may be back with something later, but in the meantime there's probably something terrific from this year that you haven't read yet in the Jon Swift Memorial Roundup for 2022 of blogposts chosen by the bloggers, created by the great blogger Jon Swift/Al Weisel and curated since his untimely death by Batocchio. 

Sunday, December 25, 2022

Christmas Present


I fell in love with this opening to the January 6 Report the moment I saw it last week. Telegraphing the ending instead of jumping into the medias res, it's not Dickens or Tolstoy, but it's the powerful jolt of narrativium I've been longing for in all these productions for the last three or four years. And the report is Dickensian or Tolstoyan in the extreme length of the thing, the panoply of grotesque characters among the occasional sincere and tormented person you can identify with, caught up in the war and seeking redemption.

In fact it's Christmas! It's a big fat novel your parents put under the tree when you're big enough—I know I was pretty young when I first read David Copperfield or Ivanhoe—where you come back from sledding or skating or whatever and you curl up on the couch with it and a cup of cocoa. It's really what I'd want to do over the next week or so, if only there were some snow and a print edition (I'm ordering mine from, an anti-Amazon gesture, but it'll be a while before I get it) and an actual vacation to work with.

Friday, December 23, 2022

For the Record: The Twitter Files

There's just so much news flooding in before I can absorb it, I'm thinking maybe I just have to resign myself to being a week or so behind on everything. I don't want to let go of the efforts of Mr. Musk's Kancelculture Kids to expose the woke leftist FBI's brutal censorship efforts at Twitter, where they succeeded in silencing the entire NewsCorp organization for [checks notes] a full day before Twitter changed its mind and its policy, in October 2020, nearly spoiling Rupert's special October Surprise revelations of Shirtless Hunter. 

Installment #7 of "The Twitter Files", by noted plastic straw advocate Michael Shellenberger, showed up on Tuesday to defend the story he, Weiss, and Taibbi have been developing: 

I mean, for one thing, the story of the blind computer repairman John Paul Mac Isaac turning the laptop over to the FBI was dodgy enough, the way Mac Isaac told it:

Wednesday, December 21, 2022

Heirs of Joseph de Maistre

Mockery for Edmund Burke's support for Catholic emancipation, by James Gillray - Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division.

The historian Thomas Zimmer is doing some interesting (and scary!) analysis on his SubStack of what's been happening in the livelier precincts of the American right, at The Federalist and the Claremont Institute and the like, where they've decided to stop calling themselves "conservatives" because they're really revolutionaries, and they're ready to throw out the whole apparatus of representative government:

In a more recent piece entitled “Hard Truths and Radical Possibilities,” which came out in American Greatness in November, [Claremont thinker Glen] Ellmers reacted to the midterm results – by rejecting the legitimacy of elections altogether: “Elections – and therefore consent and popular sovereignty – are no longer meaningful.” Once again, his issue is not that the midterms were fraudulently stolen; it is actually much worse: “even if conducted legitimately, elections no longer reflect the will of the people.” There certainly isn’t much of a conserving spirit to be found here. Ellmers rails against the “woke oligarchy” which, based on a massive state bureaucracy that is entirely dominated by “the Left” and unresponsive to the will of the real people, has already completely destroyed the constitutional republic. There is, in this view, very little time to stand up to the “left-wing masters.”

That's a pretty weird turn. Elections are bad because they install a "woke oligarchy" in power. What kind of political process implements the "will of the people" instead? What is the will of "the" people as opposed to the will of most people?

To understand that, you should understand that most Americans aren't "authentic" Americans:

Tuesday, December 20, 2022

Literary Corner: Wild Spewing


Jean Tinguely, 1970, Débricollage. Tate Gallery, London.


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

They say that the Unselect Committee of Democrats, Misfits, and Thugs,
without any representation from Republicans in good standing,
is getting ready to recommend Criminal Charges
to the highly partisan, political, and Corrupt ‘Justice’ Department
for the ‘PEACEFULLY & PATRIOTICLY’ speech I made on January 6th
This speech and my actions were mild & loving,
especially when compared to Democrats wild spewing of HATE.
Why didn’t they investigate massive Election Fraud
or send in the Troops? SCAM!

OK, in the first place, as the Select Committee made plain, the "PEACEFULLY & PATRIOTICLY" speech is the least of it. 

The Capitol insurrection goes back to weeks earlier and all the tweets Trump sent starting December 19: 

Saturday, December 17, 2022

Literary Corner: A New Voice


Christmas Season

by Kevin O. McCarthy

We’re Christmas season.
A talk of the majority right now
who wants to put a small continuing resolution
to bump all the members up
two days before Christmas,
to try to vote on a package they cannot read,
written by two individuals who will not be here,
on spending for the entire government.

The Democrats have been in power.
They've had the House, the Senate, and the presidency.
They did not do their work.
But they should not jam us now.
They should not jam the American public.
We cannot afford it.

We should not move a short-term C.R.
We should move one further into the new year.
Allow the American people what they said
a month ago. To change Washington
as we know it today. We can't afford
to continue to spend the way the Democrats have.
The future generation
cannot afford it as well.

Wednesday, December 14, 2022

No Foul, No Harm


Vintage Space Jam T-shirt via.

I've been thinking about sports lately, partly no doubt because it's that one time in a quadrennium when I start following a sport myself with some assiduity (maybe should be twice in a quadrennium now that I've found out about the women's game), and wanting to say something about how Republican politics relates to sports, but it wasn't coming together until this remarkable series on Mark Meadows texts from the effort to overturn the 2020 election began coming out at Talking Points Memo, and then something Hilzoy said (Hilzoy is the philosopher Hilary Bok, one of the great bloggers until she quit blogging in 2009, and still a really valuable presence on Twitter) crystallized it for me:

Saturday, December 10, 2022

Narratology: From the #TwitterFiles

 The Republican noise machine, including this putz, a former reporter who got fired from BuzzFeed in 2014 after 41 of his stories were busted for plagiarism, now reinvented aa a podcaster for "God, Family, America", with gigs on NewsMax, Parler, and Charlie Kirk's Turning Point USA (coincidentally I just removed him from my Twitter yesterday in my #ProjectMute program, which is why I know all this at the moment), is shocked! shocked! to learn that Twitter's Trust and Safety officers were meeting regularly with the FBI during the 2020 election campaign. 

This from the #TwitterFiles "investigation" being carried out by famous independent journalists Matt Taibbi and Bari Weiss ("investigation" in scare quotes because the investigating seems to consist basically of reading the stuff Mr. Musk gives them and trying to squeeze it into some kind of narrative arc).

Pretty sinister, huh? And Twitter's deputy general counsel at the time, Jim Baker, used to be

Friday, December 9, 2022

For the Record: Trolled Again


It's a little self-indulgent on my part to run this whole idiotic thread, but it's about some misinformation in the Mar-a-Lago stolen documents case which seems to be leaving a lot of people really confused.

Wednesday, December 7, 2022

Narratology: Night of the Hunter

Catherine Herridge interviews Donald Trump July 14, 2020 for CBS—the one where she asked him why Black people are killed by police and he replied, "So are white people."

A couple of weeks or so ago, CBS News ran a story about the Hunter Biden laptop that didn't get a lot of attention outside the rightwing outlets, by Catherine Herridge, who joined CBS in April 2021 after two decades as a correspondent for Fox News, because she wanted to be on "a team where facts and storytelling will always matter," she said at the time, but it quickly began to look as if it was because a better place to launder the "exclusive" propaganda material from dubious rightwing sources that has long been her stock in trade.

I didn't watch the CBS piece, but I did read an account of it at Rupert Murdoch's New York Post, under an alarming headline:

Sunday, December 4, 2022

Literary Corner: Meat Mountain



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

So, with the revelation
& DECEPTION in working closely
with Big Tech Companies, the DNC, 
& the Democrat Party, do you throw
the Presidential Election Results of 2020
OUT and declare the RIGHTFUL WINNER, or
do you have a NEW ELECTION? A Massive Fraud
of this type and magnitude allows for the
termination of all rules, regulations, and articles,
even those found in the Constitution. Our great
"Founders" did not want, and would not condone,
False & Fraudulent Elections!

Sir, this is an Arby's, and today's Meat Mountain is penis.

Namely, the prodigal penis of presidents' progeny (sing it in rolling hexameters, Muse, and lubriciously!), of which somebody (I assume connected with Rudy Giuliani) posted a photo on Twitter during the 2020 presidential campaign. Intrepid journalist Matt Taibbi has discovered (actually no, he didn't discover anything; the assignment editor, Mr. Musk, gave him the relevant documents) that the Biden campaign asked Twitter to pull the picture, and Twitter obliged, after some earnest in-house debate, on the grounds that Twitter rules forbid the publication of hacked material, which seems like as good a reason as any.

Apparently Retired Emperor Trump believes this was the decisive moment of the whole campaign—deprived of a chance to look at that cockshot, America's voters, or at least the Twitter users, lost their ability to make a decision and stumbled blindly into voting for Biden instead, with the deplorable results we all know (I see he's slipped back into admitting he didn't get as many votes as Biden, that's nice). That's the massive and widespread fraud and deception we're talking about, the collusion between Democrats and Big Tech, violating Giuliani's freedom of speech, invalidating the whole election, and abrogating the Constitution. 

And apparently Taibbi and his assignment editor, Mr. Musk, believe it too, though they don't seem to offer any clear ideas on who would throw out the 2020 election and reinstall Trump in the White House—former Vice President Pence? General Mike Flynn? Maybe the House can elect Trump Speaker in January and then Biden and Harris can resign so Trump becomes president automatically. I'm sure everybody will agree with that, and Biden owes it to us, since it's all his fault. It's what the "Founders" would want, scare quotes and all. Biden's always talking about unifying the country, why doesn't he do something?

Friday, December 2, 2022

For the Record: Election Handicapping


Photo via.

Following up on the previous, some thoughts I had with regard to a longstanding with Thornton/Henry, who's right on this problem with election forecasting (not polling, forecasting, claiming to know with a certain probability who's going to win):

Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Likely Story

RKO, 1947.

I've got what may be one of those big ideas, that I've been nursing since Election Night and the Red Wave that never broke in spite of the handicappers, which is that there's something defective about the pollsters' traditional collection of data for adults, registered voters, and likely voters—they really need to be collecting data for unlikely voters, because they're the ones who make the difference.

This is just another way of putting a claim I've made before. What I normally say is that the normal pollsters' picture, where the electorate is made up of partisan voters who know what they want and swing voters who have trouble making up their minds whom to vote for, is wrong; the unpredictable part is really the people who have trouble making up their minds whether to vote at all.  

Those who get engaged enough to do it can be the ones, in principle, who decide the winner, if there are enough of them, as just happened on November 8, when the officially likely voters seemed to be red-waving as predicted, but the winning edge came from younger women fired up by the Dobbs decision, actually the most committed to voting, but counted as unlikely because they hadn't voted that regularly (or ever) before. Then again there was Florida, where the opposite happened, and unlikely Democratic voters disappeared altogether, in terrible turnout:

Wretched Excess


All right, you guys, just stop it right now.

Thursday, November 24, 2022

Blog in the strict sense of the term: Thanksgiving


Narragansett turkeys, Murray McMurray Hatchery

This blog is produced on land belonging to the Lenape people.

Cut the pastry for a one-crust pie, and it's resting in the refrigerator. One of the bloody-minded things I'm up to today involves forcing people to eat pumpkin pie and (theoretically) discover that it's really good. At the big extended-family Thanksgiving in New Jersey we've missed since the pandemic began (and which I don't feel great about missing again—maybe next year!) there are about five pies so you've always got an excuse for skipping the pumpkin, but this is a small one and I'm managing it. Tough luck, skeptics!

The other particularly bloody-minded thing is that I spent an ungodly amount of money on a "heritage" turkey (Narragansett or Bourbon Red), also in the fridge, since yesterday morning, in a dry brine of fresh herbs, salt and pepper, and juniper berries, in a similar effort to convince them that turkeys are fully edible. It's going to be fantastic, too. With oysters in the stuffing, not dressing (no need to worry about bacteria with these pampered birds, I'm told). The oysters aren't bloody-minded but rather on request. I like how they work too, though, almost dissolving into the mix but contributing a beautiful briny perfume.


The pie is in the oven for its final baking, with a crust somewhat the worse for wear, and some pumpkin filling dribbled out to the oven floor, where it's creating some smoke.

I'm thankful I almost certainly don't have prostate cancer, if you want to know the truth. I got a bad test result at the beginning of October, saw a urologist and got some meds, and a very good test result in the email yesterday. It's been a pretty stressful couple of months, with a lot of medical attention neglected over the last years. I also have cataracts in both eyes, which I can't start fixing until the end of December (I thought it was under socialized medicine that you had to wait in line for three months for essential care), and they make working difficult, both in the day job and here at the blog; rather than a blur when I'm looking at text onscreen I get a sense as if the air ahead of me were divided into vertical planes and the text is inscribed on a plane somewhere behind the one I'm looking at. 

It's weird that I'm doing this, but the post I'm working on is not as exciting as I want and I always do some kind of Thanksgiving post, usually on the plight of North America's Indigenous peoples. I'm thankful, by the way, not just on their behalf but everybody's including my own, that the most blatantly racist anti-Native president in recent American history is out of office and that the current president is Joe Biden, whose plans as he signaled them shortly after inauguration

“It is a priority of my Administration to make respect for Tribal sovereignty and self-governance, commitment to fulfilling Federal trust and treaty responsibilities to Tribal Nations, and regular, meaningful, and robust consultation with Tribal Nations cornerstones of Federal Indian policy,” Biden wrote.

were kind of breathtaking, when you think about it, and accompanied by real-world progress in the unprecedented commitment to hiring Indigenous people for Senate-confirmed positions, financial commitments to tribes in the American Rescue plan and Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act,  and attention to the protection of culturally and spiritually important territory (though not above criticism). And the revival of the Obama administratioin's annual Tribal Nations Summit dropped, of course, under the Trump administration—this year's will be held Wednesday and Thursday.

Even as the Supreme Court seems intent on ditching the Indian Child Welfare Act

passed by Congress in 1978 to address the nationwide epidemic of American Indian children being forcibly removed from their homes by child welfare agencies and placed into non-Native homes at disproportionate rates. Throughout history, federal and state governments have sought to undermine and threaten the existence of tribes via the forced separation and assimilation of Native children. 


Turkey's been in for a couple of hours, which means it will be coming out fairly soon (it's just eight and a half pounds), assistants have been peeling potatoes, my intention of boycotting Qatar has weakened for US vs. Wales, of all the silly places for one's resolve to break.

Somebody on the radio mentioned that the first fourth-Thursday-in-November proclamation was issued by President Abraham Lincoln, in 1863, and I thought I'd look up the text, apparently written by radical Republican secretary of state William Seward, and what I noticed is that it's got nothing to do with Miles Standish and Priscilla Mullins and Squanto and the shining city on a hill; and this being the greatest country in the world.

Indeed, what the Union was invited to be grateful for in November 1863 was basically that they hadn't lost the war yet;

In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom.
And bought Alaska. 

Though Wikipedia suggests that Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's 1858 poem "The Courtship of Miles Standish" had something to do with the 1863 Thanksgiving proclamation,

In the United States, the story brought the Pilgrims to the forefront of American culture, contributing to the establishment of a national Thanksgiving holiday in 1863.

Because not only does the Proclamation not mention the First Thanksgiving, Longfellow's poem (composed in the same weighty hexameters as Evangeline, "In the old Colony days, in Plymouth the land of the Pilgrims/To and fro in a room of his simple and primitive dwelling...") doesn't seem to mention the First Thanksgiving either. It's got lots of social details about the Pilgrims, but the Indians don't play any personal role at all. No doubt the feast described in the primary sources (which wasn't a Thanksgiving, a religious event, but a multiracial party) took place, but the national holiday decreed by Lincoln had nothing to do with it, or Longfellow either—all this narrative we have so much fun with in South Park and  The Addams Family is stuff that was actually invented after the end of Reconstruction.

Saturday, November 19, 2022

Twitter Is People


Note the presupposition, now that he's the proprietor, that it's some kind of extension of his self, like a puppet in his hands, or a pet. "What trick should I teach it?"

But it really isn't his; I mean, I guess the proprietary software is, but the community isn't. That's something that's assembled itself over the years, and can't be owned.

Wednesday, November 16, 2022

Tuesday, November 15, 2022

For the Record: Ego


Win McNamee/Getty, via Newsweek.

Thursday, November 10, 2022

Red Ripple


Heh. I guess that last unpleasant fantasy I had, that GOP talking up the Red Tsunami was setting up for a Stop the Steal movement after Democrats won big, was way off base. Not that Democrats didn't win big, in this peculiar and ambiguous way where who actually won remains uncertain (I'm calling 51 Democratic senators when it all washes out and a Republican majority in the House so narrow that Speaker McCarthy will be effectively Gym Jordan's puppet), but that Republicans seem really kind of humbled, some of them reduced to whimpering about how long it's taking them them to count the votes in Arizona and Nevada, or holding their fire a bit even over the vote-counting system, like my little Margie here, who seems to think she hard at work counting them herself

While others lend themselves to intraparty recriminations, like these Dolchstoss allegations from the house Nazi

Monday, November 7, 2022

Election Eve

So here we are, helplessly watching MSNBC and clutching the arms of the chair, and feeling a compulsion to type in what the great anthropologist Bronisław Malinowski called a "diary in the strict sense of the term"—

I wish people had realized, back in mid-2021, that 40 years without significant inflation didn't mean it was gone forever, and just maybe sent out some warning that it could happen, not necessarily that it would, and if it did it would probably take some time to beat it back and it wasn't going to be fun. The whole conversation got politicized so quickly in the antics of the Republicans and Joe Manchin trying to stop the Build Back Better plan. It would have been useful if Team Transitory had just said something like, "It's true, some of this stuff might put some upward pressure on prices, and if it does we'll have to deal with that if it does—but worrying about it is no reason not to do the stuff we need to do now, to keep people alive..." To have some kind of preparation, and regular reports from Biden and Yellen, to clarify that Democrats and the Federal Reserve were in fact getting ready for it, just in case, being responsible even though they weren't expecting it, because if it did happen it wasn't going to be easy.



If you haven't got a sawbuck for an
Impoverished billionaire,
Then you really don't belong at all
In Elmo's "public square

Saturday, November 5, 2022


Photo by Getty Images.

I have a message of reassurance with regard to that NPR/Marist survey on voter enthusiasm on the way to Tuesday, which found that people most likely to vote Republican—the old, rustic, the evangelical, the white—are fired up with wild enthusiasm while those likely to vote Democratic—the young, the urban, the relatively poor, Latin, and Black—are not:

In the last few weeks, however, as more voters have begun tuning into the election — and with inflation persistently high — Republican enthusiasm has outpaced Democrats'. It's not so much that Democrats aren't gaining in their enthusiasm levels — they are — it's that Republicans have increased theirs by more in that time.

Democrats are also losing ground on the generic congressional ballot test. That's when pollsters ask who a respondent would vote for if the election were held today, a Republican or Democrat.

Namely, that it's clearly misleading in some important way, if you contrast this with the pattern showing up in the actual vote in early voting, which has started in 47 states, easily beating the records set in the watershed 2018 midterms, and younger, more diverse, and more Democratic, and in some key states—Arizona, Nevada, and Pennsylvania—even more than 2020, but also very strong in Michigan, Wisconsin, and particularly Georgia

Georgia, in particular, is seeing significant early voting turnout among Black voters. More than 130,000 more Black voters have cast ballots so far than at this point in 2018. While there are also roughly 371,000 fewer Black voters this year than in 2020, so far Black voters make up the same share of Georgia’s early electorate in 2018 and an even larger share than in 2020.

In addition to high Black voter turnout, the majority of Georgia early voters who didn’t cast a ballot in 2018 are non-White. Nearly 40% of non-voters in the Peach State are a race or ethnicity other than White – a higher share than in any other key state.


The youngest voters – those aged 18-21 years – are showing up in higher numbers in all six key states compared to this point during the 2018 general election. The number of these youngest voters in Michigan has risen from fewer than 500 in 2018 — before absentee voting was available to all in the state — to more than 23,000 so far this year. In every state except Wisconsin, 18-21-year-old voters are roughly the same or a larger share of the electorate than even this time during the 2020 election.

That and Ohio

As of Tuesday, 265,062 people across the state have voted early in-person — 88,016 more than had voted early a week before the statewide gubernatorial election in 2018. Overall, 817,644 ballots have been cast in Ohio so far, an 11% increase from this point in 2018.... Much of the state's increase in early voting numbers can be attributed to a higher early voter turnout in urban counties.

and North Carolina

The Lake Lynn location has been the busiest early voting site in the state this year, according to data from the Wake County Board of Elections.

Before polling sites opened Saturday morning, the North Carolina State Board of Elections reported about 1.97 million votes cast either in person or by mail, which means nearly 27 percent of all registered voters already had voted.

(Wake County being the state's most populous).

Which doesn't mean, obviously, that Democrats have won already—we all know that Republicans have a  tendency to favor election-day voting just as Democrats favor early and absentee—but it does point at some kind of defect in the Marist survey, and it seems to be concentrated in those states where the real nailbiter Senate contests are (minus Michigan, which isn't voting for a senator this year, and plus New Hampshire, which doesn't have early voting).

It's as if the voter enthusiasm itself was distributed that way, weak in states where Democrats have it easy (in New York a lot of people don't even realize Schumer is running, but nobody imagines he's going to lose) or where they're felt to not have a chance (in Florida early voters seem to be mostly Republicans, sad to say), focused on the places where it has a real chance to win those Senate seats. And if there's a similar lumpy distrbution in congressional districts, even the House. Just saying.

More best-quality hopium here, on the same themes, from Robert Kuttner at the Prospect.

Wednesday, November 2, 2022

Hurray For the Biden Economy! But Is Anybody Going to Notice?

Honestly, this Indiana senator is on the committee (Commerce, Science, and Transportation) where the Gas Price Gouging Prevention Act died last spring, and maybe he didn't like that one, but he hasn't offered any alternative proposals either, or accomplished a single thing on the issue, or any other issue as far as I know.

Tuesday, November 1, 2022

Freedom Isn't Cheap


The funniest part, said Checkmark @shannonrwatts, "is that Elon Musk thinks the issue is that Stephen King is balking at the $20 per month fee." Indeed.

Hi, I'm Elon Musk, Twit-in-Chief here at National Public Cheerio, and with me in the studio is some anonymous tool who will cheerfully nod assent to everything I say and let me do all the talking, the Silk to my Diamond or Diamond to my Silk as the case may be, and we're interrupting your doomscrolling, as we do two or three times a week, to ask you all for your support.

Because Twitter isn't like all the other platforms selling your eyeballs at a profit, though we do sell quite a lot of them of course, but just not enough to make a profit, and indeed not enough to pay expenses, which have gone up a bit since I took on $13 billion in debt to acquire the site and those interest payments won't pay themselves! Will they?

Instead, Twitter has a unique membership model, where I may own it but you are all members, taking advantage of all the freedom of speech I generously offer you, freedom you can rely on to let you say whatever you want without intrusive monitoring, or at least not very much monitoring, or at least as long as our very few advertisers don't mind, and all I ask is that you think about sending me a little money from time to time, not that you have to do it, Twitter is a public square open to all who wish to speak their minds and will always remain so, but it would still be nice if you'd send me some money, is all I'm saying.

By which I mean you're much more of a member if you pay in a little more than the treasure of your unique and freely expressed opinions and exotic beliefs. Whatever you can afford, but let's say $60, which would make you a Basic Twit, that's just $5 a month for a year of Twitter membership, and all the rage and misinformation you can communicate, without any need to interact with the people you went to high school with, unlike that other platform. Isn't that alone worth the price? 

And to show my appreciation I'll send you a high-quality canvas Twitbag you can take along when you're shopping, to the beach, or any of the other activities you might perform when you're not sitting at the screen.

Or for $240, only $20 a month, I'll make you a Checkmark, my guarantee that you're an at least moderately famous person, a key to thousands of Follows, Likes and Retweets, Quote Tweets and Responses, that will in fact demonstrate how famous and influential you are to anybody who needs to know. With discounts of up to 60% (just $8 a month!) if you're really really famous.

Or any amount at all. And now is the best possible time, because I'm in a matching period where every dollar you pledge will be matched by an anonymous donor who is definitely not from Saudi Arabia, so your $1,000 pledge will be worth $2,000, your $,5000 pledge worth $10,000, and so on. You'll be doing so much more for the public square and for freedom of speech this way!

Act now during this special matching period, and as an extra-special gift the algorithm will let you cut into lines, allow you to post long videos, and show you 50% fewer ads. Membership has its privileges!

Call me today, at 1-866-CHEERIO, or visit me at and press that "DONATE" button! Operators are standing by! 

Actual Twitbag, by Tabitha Maud, $21 (on sale!) from Society6.

Friday, October 28, 2022

For the Record: Hypothesis


Wallenstein's siege of Stralsund, May-August 1628, by the workshop of Frans Hogenberg, 1628, via Wikipedia.

And a hypothesis below the fold:

Tuesday, October 25, 2022

October Surmise

This is kind of weird (and gets much weirder below the fold)—a letter to President Biden issued yesterday from 30 members of the House Progressive Caucus urging him, very respectfully, and without any cheap bothsidesing of the respective positions of Ukraine and Russia, to work toward a negotiated settlement of the Ukraine war, mainly reacting to the scarily increased risk of nuclear conflict:

Given the destruction created by this war for Ukraine and the world, as well as the risk of catastrophic escalation, we also believe it is in the interests of Ukraine, the United States, and the world to avoid a prolonged conflict. For this reason, we urge you to pair the military and economic support the United States has provided to Ukraine with a proactive diplomatic push, redoubling efforts to seek a realistic framework for a ceasefire. This is consistent with your recognition that “there’s going to have to be a negotiated settlement here,” and your concern that Vladimir Putin “doesn't have a way out right now, and I'm trying to figure out what we do about that.” 

We are under no illusions regarding the difficulties involved in engaging Russia given its outrageous and illegal invasion of Ukraine and its decision to make additional illegal annexations of Ukrainian territory. However, if there is a way to end the war while preserving a free and independent Ukraine, it is America’s responsibility to pursue every diplomatic avenue to support such a solution that is acceptable to the people of Ukraine.

I wouldn't sign it myself—looks like a signal of doubt and disagreement among Democrats that I don't think it's helpful for Russians to see, and then I'm pretty confident that whatever negotiation with Russia is possible right now is being done anyway, not just by US but NATO as a whole, maybe with Türkiye (formerly known as Turkey) in the lead—but it's really hard to object to the substance of the thing, such as it is ("Mr. President, please do what I think you're doing"). But why, and why now?

Sunday, October 23, 2022

Concern Trolling: Go Truss Yourselves

 (Part 3, I think, of a continuing series)

Via Scottish Daily Express.

What might help Republicans’ prospects? Losing the House in November.

Hear me out, Republicans! It's true that, as Steve M was arguing the other day, you're not in anything like the awful position Britain's Conservatives are in—deeply unpopular, no doubt, but nowhere near as unpopular as the Tories in the short unhappy life of the Truss premiership, and besides, Democrats are pretty unpopular too.

Then again, one of the reasons you're not as unpopular as the Tories is that you haven't been in power for the last 12 years, and most particularly the last two years, when you've been locked out altogether, except for a Supreme Court determined to do the most unpopular things it can right away, as if they expected to be losing their own majority next year. You can't really be blamed for anything else, especially the thing you've managed to focus public attention on, the pump price of gasoline and the other price rises that go along with it. You can block almost anything you don't like in the Senate, and you have no responsibility for offering anything better. You can spend all your time on Twitter, like Ronny Jackson or Marjorie Taylor Greene or Gym Jordan, and not think about legislation at all. The setup is working for you.

Friday, October 21, 2022

Coroner Brooks


Autopsy seen by Thomas Eakins, 1875. Imagine if the patient wasn't dead yet!

David Brooks ("Why Republicans Are Surging") has posted his autopsy of how Democrats lost the House and perhaps even the Senate, which gives me a little wan hope that that may not happen—it's not November 9 yet, and the proverbial fat lady just started her warmups in early voting in Georgia, where turnout began with an extraordinary bang, in numbers exceeding those of presidential-year 2020, suggesting a wild Democratic enthusiasm, or rage against those who have tried to suppress it if you prefer to think of it that way, at least in Georgia, which is a pretty important state this year.

And besides, most of Brooks's analysis is pretty weak-looking, dependent on that annoying Times-Siena poll Steve M and Joan Walsh have been dunking on, in which the likely voter screen focused on people who voted in one of the last four national or local elections (somebody with an effective 25% chance of showing up is a likely voter?) and underestimating the floods of mostly women who registered for the first time after the Supreme Court's decision overturning Roe v. Wade

Sunday, October 16, 2022

Raging Centrist


The "raging centrist" in question is a market researcher called Rich Thau who is running a Swing Voter Project in six battleground states  (AZ, GA, FL, NC, PA, WI) for Axios, studying voters who went for Trump in 2016 and Biden in 2020 in monthly focus group meetings, who has gotten the attention of Paul Kane, Washington Post's congressional bureau chief, with his finding that these swingers don't want a Congress full of "mini-Trumps" but are "quite sour" on Democrats as well, who leave them "indifferent... mixed to indifferent.. bored... ambivalent... "

Even though they strongly back abortion rights and disapprove of the overturning of Roe v. Wade, and don't blame Democrats for inflation, which they understand as a consequence of the fight against COVID-19, and really don't have a lot of ideas one way of the other about current policy debates (not well covered in their preferred news sources of local TV, CNN, Fox, and Facebook).

So of course inevitably Thau and his colleagues are "pleading" with candidates to "steer toward the middle".:

Friday, October 14, 2022

Lite Supremacy


Protestors outside Los Angeles City Hall on Wednesday. Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images, via The New York Times.

The Times used the above photo twice this week, once yesterday in news coverage of the big scandal of the Los Angeles City Council, and once in a blown-up splash under the headline for today's David Brooks column ("This Is What Happens When Race Is Everything"), without any explanation of what it is actually a picture of, or in the Brooks piece even a passing reference, which isn't what you'd easily think of if you were following the story anywhere other than the L.A. Times (I heard about it on NPR but noticed I was hearing it only because it's something I've been thinking about a lot lately).

Namely, these people are protesting something quite different from the thing Brooks wrote about, or thought he was writing about:

Council President Nury Martinez — who has since resigned from the Council — along with two colleagues and a labor ally talked about a range of subjects, including redistricting, but two assumptions undergirded much of what they said. Their first assumption was that America is divided into monolithic racial blocs. The world they take for granted is not a world of persons; it’s a world of rigid racial categories.

Thursday, October 13, 2022

Thy Hand, Great Anarch! Two kinds of stupid



Apparently President Putin has spent the last four days raining death and destruction on Ukrainian civilians not because it's some kind of military strategy—wrong, it's of no strategic value at all—and also not because he just has too much weaponry and is trying to use it up, like trad Catholics using up all the animal fat in the house on Pancake Tuesday, but out of fear of people in his orbit who are even more rabid than he is. It's the "more serious" response he was promising last month if Ukraine continued refusing to be conquered:

“Recently, the Russian armed forces have inflicted a couple of sensitive blows. Let’s assume they’re a warning. If the situation continues to develop like this, then the response will be more serious,” he said.

Though there's nothing serious about it, other than that he seems to be seriously afraid of his own puppets:

Thursday, October 6, 2022

Narratology: Eastman's First Draft


Video (no longer new) of Roger Stone and his boys at a rally on December 11 2020, via Just Security

Christian Vanderbrouk of The Bulwark has turned me on to a fascinating document issued by the Claremont Institute and Texas Public Policy Foundation a couple of weeks before the 2020 election, in a kind of Bizarro-World counterpoint to a paper of August 2020 by the bipartisan Transition Integrity Project, "Preventing a Disrupted Presidential Election and Transition", reporting on a scholarly gaming out of what the nation might do to deal with the likely event that Donald Trump lost the November election and refused to concede defeat, making some kind of attempt to stop Biden's inauguration.

The Claremont/Texas paper, in contrast, "79 Days to Inauguration", presents a literal "wargame" simulation of how such an attempt might succeed, starting with an ambiguous election night in which an apparently easy call of victory for Biden yields to confusion, as Texas (initially an upset Biden victory) reports its systems have been hacked by a foreign power, Pennsylvania and Florida remain too close to call, and in Michigan, where Trump is ahead, thousands of those pesky mail-in ballots are destroyed in an unexplained fire in Detroit. 

Friday, September 30, 2022


Photo by Riley on Unsplash

Sometimes I wonder if what I write is so pessimistic I've given up hope about the future of our Nation.  That changed recently with the post I did about 9/11.  And last Saturday, my hope for America found further reinforcement from another New York City event, this time personal but quite patriotic nonetheless.

I think many of the regulars here know that I am a New Jersey immigration lawyer.  Most, but not all, of my agency and court appearances occur in Newark.  The Newark USCIS Field Office is nearly alone in naturalizing applicants the same day they appear and pass the interview.  It just doesn't happen in New York City.

At least that is what I thought going with my wife and her daughter to a Saturday morning interview in the "Brooklyn Field Office" at 26 Federal Plaza in Manhattan.

The place was nearly empty when we arrived for her 11:20 interview.  Her application was squeaky clean. When we got to the waiting room, there were maybe five other applicants there with us.

The appointment began only 15 minutes after we checked in, and it only took another 15 minutes to complete.  Both the wait and the interview were unusually fast.  (I have waited over an hour in Newark just to be called.)  Then to my surprise, the officer said to my "client," "Would you like to become naturalized today?"  And, to my delight, within another 10 minutes we and about ten other applicants assembled in a small room with a podium and table just off of the main waiting room.

After about 30 minutes, my wife's daughter, who is like a daughter to me, took the oath of allegiance to the United States and joined the ranks of US citizens, along with her Russian mother.

Afterward, we celebrated in a Laotian restaurant halfway between 26 Federal Plaza and the PATH train station near the WTC.  

It so happened that our waitress was Russian, prompting me to think that only in New York City would it be possible to find such an ethnic combination.

But, the larger lesson is that our country really is "A Nation of Immigrants." In my opinion, it is only through the initiative of immigrants that our country, despite all its faults and societal inequities, occasionally achieves moments of greatness that allow even me to regard America as "the leader of the free world" still -- though these are times when I only think so in comparison to the places where our immigrant communities come from.

I will close this small post with the brief observation that it is the smile and hope on this new citizen's face that makes me keep doing what I do, and that so motivates me to oppose the forces of fascism and white racism plaguing the body politic today.  Sam Alito has done us all a huge favor by revealing the loss of freedom we will all suffer if we don't fight back at the ballot box.  Maybe this November will result in a Democratic victory that will mark the beginning of the New New Deal I felt was within our grasp in 2008.  I hope so.