Sunday, March 26, 2023

War Between the Orthodoxies


This tanky website

(where by "tanky", I mean "person who sees Putin as the heir to Stalin and thinks that's a good thing" for the world proletarian revolution, even if thinking so involves trying to think that a good Marxist is obliged to give deference to the Russian Orthodox church because "Western values") is engaging in some especially vicious propaganda, obviously not as bad as the continuing claims that Ukraine is run by Nazis, but in the same family. I think I've touched on this before, but I need to go through it in some detail, because it's just too wrong to be borne.

Thursday, March 23, 2023

For the Record: Parental Rights


From New Adventures of Superboy #1 (January 1980). Art by Kurt Schaffenberger, via Wikipedia.

Pretty sure I really mean that. People affecting to believe in a big sociocultural wokery conspiracy trying to change "our society" (the society those gents thought they owned) are at bottom angry with their kids or grandkids or nieces and nephews, for being smarter and stronger and better looking and eventually getting more sex no doubt (that's the human condition all parents must live with), but more particularly for challenging their authority—not just for being irreligious or sexually different, though those obviously matter when they happen, but especially for being broad-minded, not narrow, liberal for want of a better word, going beyond what the previous generation wanted to allow. I'm not saying all conservative parents are like this, either, or that only conservative parents have conflicts with their kids, but that this particular kind of conflict is directly connected to this particular kind of political conservatism.

Wednesday, March 22, 2023

The Great Awokening

Drawing by Carl Newman (1858-1932), Smithsonian Museum of American Art via Wikimedia Commons.

Headline courtesy of Monsignor Ross Douthat, Apostolic Nuncio to 42nd Street, who has decided to take on the job of defining "woke" ("What It Means to be Woke") in a style that really looks intended in a kind of admirable way, attempting to get inside the viewpoint of people who might be called "woke" themselves, of "the left" with its traditional aims of transforming the ideals of liberty and equality into "lived realities", and with a certain amount of initial respect. It's just a fantasy, of course, he isn't asking any members of the "woke left" to tell him what they think, he's just making it up out of his own expert punditry, but does sound as if he means to understand it: 

Monday, March 20, 2023

For the Record: What Was That Civil War About, Anyway?


Blacks in the Civil War. Until very recently, the list of Civil War casualties stopped about about 620,000 dead. but this was missing something like 130,000 Black combatants killed by Confederate and in some cases Union troops, and mostly by the same enemies that killed most of the white troops: pneumonia, yellow fever, and smallpox.

Some Lost Cause buffoon defending the original (1865) Ku Klux Klan in the course of yet another version of the beloved claim that the Civil War had nothing to do with slavery: 

Saturday, March 18, 2023

New Light on a Familiar Conspiracy

"October surprise" via Merriam-Webster website.

I hate the American "paranoid style" in its usual rightwing form and in the leftwing form too, but there are some conspiracy theories that are just the right size and weight, and of these my favorite, possibly, is that of the 1980 October surprise, when somebody in the Reagan presidential campaign, most probably the old spymaster and future CIA director Bill Casey, is said to have worked to torpedo the Carter administration's negotiations with the revolutionary government of Iran and get the Iranians to delay the release of their American hostages until after the election, to stop the Carter campaign from benefiting from it, promising them that a Reagan administration would give them a better deal than Carter. 

The theory didn't in the end work in the most explicit form, that developed by journalist Robert Parry—Casey hadn't been visiting the places he was said to be—but that didn't mean it was wrong, just that the narratology wasn't adequately developed, and a lot of people continued to think there was something to it, including expert Gary Sick, and by at least some reports President Carter himself, and now there's something else, reported in today's Times by Peter Baker of all people: a story of how Casey may have planned the operation but the go-between was somebody else, former Texas governor John Connally, on a somewhat mysterious series of trips to the Middle East in summer 1980 on which he was accompanied by a rising young Texas Republican called Ben Barnes.

It's Barnes, now 85, who is telling the story, apparently struck by remorse at having kept it quiet for so long and moved by the condition of the former president, now in hospice care:

Thursday, March 16, 2023

The Emperor's New Dog-Whistle

Yesterday's discussion has gotten very "interesting" from the standpoint of our pugnacious new friend Alfredo, but my understanding of what's interesting is different from his, and I'm bowing out of it after one last word, suggested this morning at Roy's place: the last word being "n****r-lover".

The progress from “n****r-lover” to “woke” as the favored pejorative of bigots could make for a book-length study; but I will say the earlier, cruder version had this much going for it: It didn’t come with a bunch of alleged intellectuals trying to explain it.

Except I don't think it needs a book. Rather, the progress involved is pretty simple: "woke" means "n****r-lover" with deniability. That is, it is "n****r-lover" for those who would like to deny that they're the kind of person who uses "n****r-lover". With the scent of Black English Vernacular (as I noted somewhere in the comments) giving it a Trumpy kind of pungency (like Trump's use of "nationalist"—"but I'm not supposed to use that word"—when he wants to confess, with deniability, that he's a Nazi). Much more satisfyingly vulgar than the whiny old standby "politically correct".

Wednesday, March 15, 2023

What Woke Means


Though she adds that she devoted a whole chapter in her book to defining "wokeness", so she must have an idea of some sort, and I thought of checking it out. The book being Stolen Youth: How Radicals Are Erasing Innocence and Indoctrinating a Generation, by Bethany Mandel and Karol Markowicz and published by Ben Shapiro's Daily Wire Books. There's no online preview, but the authors' promo op-ed in the New York Post did in fact offer a bit of an effort at unpacking the meaning as the authors use the term, as an "ideology" to which they are apparently opposed. Only I'm sorry to say it quickly fell into a pit of circularity and never really re-emerged:

Tuesday, March 14, 2023

Literary Corner: Nicely, Nicely

As you know, former vice president and reputed presidential candidate Michael Pence boldly confided to the attendees of the Gridiron Dinner on Saturday (no cameras), that the Former Guy's launch of his irregulars' attack on the Capitol was constitutionally ill-founded, and also insensitive to Pence's personal needs: 

“President Trump was wrong; I had no right to overturn the election,” Pence told the gathering of reporters and politicians on Saturday. “And his reckless words endangered my family and everyone at the Capitol that day. And I know that history will hold Donald Trump accountable.”

I'm sure he's right and January 6 will live in infamy as Pence Family Endangerment Day. 

Meanwhile,  the Former was quick to respond, basically, that Pence had endangered himself:

Sunday, March 12, 2023

The Cancel Culture Was Calling From Inside the House


From the farewell column kissing all us Mongoloids goodbye.

This is from behind a paywall at Vanity Fair, but I'm reading it at Alternet: Rod Dreher, writer at The American Conservative now living as an expatriate in Hungary, has been fired as a columnist at the instance of the donor who has paid his 6-figure salary for the last 12 years, banking heir Howard Ahmanson, Jr., who felt Dreher's columns (published by special arrangement directly to TAC's website "without any revisions or legal oversight," we're told) "had simply gotten too weird."

He has warned that so-called sissy hypnosis porn is 'profoundly evil;' detailed the 'formal' Catholic exorcism of a friend's suicidal wife; and recalled—in unsettling detail—the time he witnessed a Black classmate's uncircumcised penis.

The last was the memorable reference to the "primitive root wiener" in October 2021, which may be what Ahmanson regarded as the coup de gross. Rod will continue to function as an editor at large, but has taken his writings to Substack.

I don't have anything particular to say about it, except to note once again, for the record, that when cancel culture really strikes it tends to attack from the right.

Thursday, March 9, 2023

Today in Conservatives Are Too Emotional


Image by Ben Allan/Political Quarterly UK.

Wednesday, March 8, 2023

A Little Hopy-Changier

Palestinian farmer in Tubas, West Bank, after planting an olive tree, 2014. And in 2023...

BBC yesterday morning ran an interview on the Israel situation with retired general Dan Halutz, who was chief of staff of the IDF in 2005-07, and who said something that surprised me: that the reason Prime Minister Netanyahu is pushing so hard on these constitutional changes (they're kind of a national version of the Independent Legislature theory, taking away the Supreme Court's ability to practice judicial review and giving the Knesset power to override Supreme Court rulings, and also to put the nomination of judges wholly in the power of the government, i.e. of the prime minister and cabinet) is to increase his chances of staying out of prison. Period.

The interviewer (the great Rasia Iqbal) was surprised too, and made him repeat it—to the effect of (as I remember it, I don't have a transcript): "You're really saying that the prime minister wants to change the Basic Law to keep himself out of prison?" "Of course!" Halutz said. "Well, for one thing."

Tuesday, March 7, 2023

Pandemic lies

 Nate Silver, on venues where he's frightened of catching COVID-19:

I don't know how commonplace this knowledge is, but in my younger years, when I had a number of opportunities to visit the Louvre, I learned that you shouldn't bother to try to look at the Mona Lisa, because you won't be able to. There are too many bourgeois there with their checklists of things you have to do in Paris, and looking at the Mona Lisa, the all-time no. 1 greatest painting ever, is the thing they need to do, and be photographed doing, when they go to the Louvre, and they've always got it surrounded, whenever you can get into the museum. The biggest and most ironical thing being that right there in the same space was a spectacularly complicated and gorgeous Leonardo that nobody was looking at, depicting a Virgin sitting on her mother's lap as the baby Jesus plays with a baby lamb, and these fantastical landscape configurations, that you can stare at forever.

Thursday, March 2, 2023

And Moar Yellow Peril


Via Wikipedia.

The other thing I wanted to say about the lab leak hypothesis goes more or less like this: 

We don't know anything with "high confidence" about whether the SARS-CoV-2 originated in a laboratory or not, but we do know with a good deal of certainty that if it did, it's the first pandemic virus to have originated that way.

While there is quite a long history of pandemics and epidemics that got started with what's called a zoonotic transfer of some infectious agent, virus or bacteria or fungus or parasite, to a human population: Ebola and HIV, bird flu and swine flu, measles and smallpox, hantoviruses and cold-causing coronaviruses, not to mention SARS-CoV-1 and MERS and RSV, and of course bubonic plague, the king of them all. 

Of course it's also true that the kind of research the lab leak partisans are most interested in hinting at, in which scientists might have, say, taken some coronavirus found in bats and purposely made it more capable of jumping to humans, has only been possible in the last ten or twelve years in the advent of the CRISPR technique, so it wouldn't have happened very often, at least not yet. On the other hand, however, the other scenario, of a virus or other pathogen leaping from its normal animal host to a human, happens literally all the time. Most pathogens new to the human race are the results of such a spillover. While scientists believed for a long time that the spillover event is pretty rare, I learned from a recent NPR report that it actually isn't rare at all; it just usually isn't possible to say how it happened:

Tuesday, February 28, 2023



From the Cerrahiyetü'l Haniyye (Imperial Surgery) of Serafeddin Sabuncuoglu (1385–1470), the first illustrated atlas on surgery, and the last major medical treatise from an Islamic source, composed in Turkish in 1465; from the collections of the Millet Library in İstanbul-Fatih.

Surgery yesterday went extremely well, by the way. Looks like I may not have to do the other eye, I've gained so much function already. I was surprised and initially a bit freaked out to learn that they don't knock you out—my GP kind of lied to me about that, or seriously didn't know. They give you an extremely relaxing medication with IV, but you're conscious, and your eye is obviously open. But the thing they could have explained to me, which I am going to explain to you, is that your fear is based on a childish misunderstanding: I was assuming, unconsciously, that my open eye would be watching what was being done to it, and that's not true. You're not in fact seeing anything, at first because there's nothing visible going on, because it's lasers, not tiny scalpels or scrapers, that are going the work of scrubbing away the cataract, and soon enough because your eye is completely disabled—there's no lens enabling you to "see" anything at all. Your optic nerve does what it can with the light signals it's getting, but they don't add up to anything like an image, and as they're installing the new lens, that turns into a real psychedelic light show, too bright to be quite comfortable, but kind of beautiful all the same; I was looking at three lumpy objects in the lower part of a field, swelling and changing colors, from a pale lemon to a vibrant purple, to some kind of electronica soundtrack, too, of the machinery's noises, some of them pitched including one that sounded a lot like a good old Hammond organ, a real (though abstract and inconclusive) fragment of melody. It was spectacular. Then they tell you it's time to close the eye, and when you open it again, under the transparent plastic shield they've taped over it, you just see the room, already a little sharper than it was when you came in.


I won't give names or photos or links to the press coverage, but I have to say my Israeli nephew and his partner were at Saturday's giant demonstration in Tel Aviv against the Netanyahu plot to keep himself out of prison by taking away the independence of the judiciary, and she was among the arrested, for allegedly biting an officer's finger; "You have to ask," she commented afterwards, "what his finger was doing inside my mouth in the first place." She lost two teeth in the scuffle, and was eventually released from custody.

Yellow Peril Redux


Udo J. Keppler, "The Yellow Peril", Puck, 1905. Via Wikipedia.

Here we go again with the "lab leak" story attempting to convey the idea that the Communist Party of China was somehow responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic that has killed almost 7 million people around the world in its four years and infected close to 700 million, because the virus that causes the disease might have started out by infecting workers at a research facility, the Wuhan Institute of Virology, instead of as it's generally believed to have done, by leaping from an animal (maybe one bought at a market where exotic meats like bat are sold) to a human, and the lab is thought to be more under the control of the Communist Party of China than the markets are, which is probably true in a sense, as far as the way the funding works.

The actual current news story is about the US Department of Energy, which has belatedly responded to a call from the Biden administration in May 2021 to the intelligence community to resolve this question in the next 90 days. All the other agencies involved had finished work on it in somewhat more than 90 days, by that October, concluding "with low confidence" that the virus had a natural origin (there was a lot of disagreement inside the community, though, with the FBI in particular assessing with "moderate confidence" that it had originated in the lab. Now, 15 months later, DOE has shown up with its own conclusion with "low confidence".that it happened in the lab, making the final score Community Spread 5, Laboratory 2 and Undecided 1.

Or, as Michael Gordon (remember him? Judith Miller's partner in a large number of NYTimes stories denouncing Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, which turned out to not exist?) and Warren Strobel reported in the Wall Street Journal on Sunday,

Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Annals of Artificial Intelligence


Friendly robots via Vector Stock.

If you can't think of anything nice to say, ask ChatGPT:

Me: Please summarize Jeff Gerth's article on "The Press Versus the President" in Columbia Journalism Review.
Bot: Jeff Gerth's article "The Press Versus the President" in Columbia Journalism Review examines the strained relationship between the media and former President Donald Trump. Gerth argues that Trump's presidency has highlighted the need for journalists to be persistent, vigilant, and independent in their reporting.
Gerth notes that Trump's attacks on the media have been a constant feature of his presidency, with the president regularly referring to the press as "fake news" and "the enemy of the people." Gerth argues that these attacks are part of a broader strategy to undermine the credibility of the media and to control the narrative of his presidency.
Despite these attacks, Gerth contends that the media has largely risen to the challenge of covering Trump's presidency, producing a steady stream of investigative reporting that has uncovered numerous scandals and abuses of power. Gerth argues that this reporting has been essential in holding Trump accountable and in ensuring that the public is informed about the actions of their government.
Gerth also notes that the media has faced significant challenges in covering Trump's presidency, including the president's tendency to lie and to manipulate the truth. Gerth argues that journalists must be vigilant in fact-checking Trump's statements and in holding him accountable when he makes false or misleading claims.
Overall, Gerth's article emphasizes the important role that the media plays in a democratic society, particularly in holding those in power accountable. While Trump's attacks on the media have been a significant challenge, Gerth argues that the media has largely risen to the occasion, producing reporting that is essential for a well-informed citizenry.

Actually Gerth does not argue that Trump's attacks on "fake news" and the "enemy of the people" are part of a strategy to accomplish anything: he argues that Trump is justified by the misconduct of the journalists, who, far from blaming Trump, have no one to blame but themselves for the public's mistrust:

Tuesday, February 21, 2023

Housekeeping: On his blindness

John Milton dictating Samson Agonistes.


Posting at Rectification Central has really slowed in the last few months, for what may be a couple of reasons, one of which is that my eyes are in really terrible shape—old people's cataracts, in both of them—and it's taken a ridiculous amount of time, since early last October, to make an appointment to fix them. You know how they told us if we had socialized medicine everybody would have to wait months and months for urgent medical care like all those poor people in Canada? Well, it turns out not only, as you all know, that that doesn't actually happen in Canada, but it has happened here without any socialism.

The symptoms for me are very different than the myopic blur I've had especially in the left eye for practically all of my life, and aren't corrected by glasses; it feels as if the field I'm looking at is divided into dozens of transparent planes parallel to my face of which I can only focus on one at a time. Going down stairs is scary, because I'm not sure if the next step is exactly where it seems to be, and I find myself  clutching the bannister like Trump; and when I'm reading, online or off, type keeps disappearing from the plane I'm looking at to the one behind it, especially if it's small, or in an alphabet or writing system other than the roman alphabet, which is hellish at my job, where I have to look at quite a lot of Chinese and Japanese in addition to the occasional bit of Bulgarian or Greek or what have you; and worse if the light is not quite right, too bright, too dark, or too contrasty, which is most of the time. Researching the blog posts out of my 40 open tabs, with all their different fonts and degrees of brightness, is the hardest part, and slows me down so much that I get bored with a topic long before I've finished, or get scooped and there's no point in finishing. And the corollary thing is that the more aware I've been of it since the diagnosis in October, the blinder I feel, 

Long story short, I'm getting the left eye done on Monday, at last, the right eye at some undetermined point soon after, and supposedly will see some immediate improvement, and maybe we can get back to normal. But I'm thinking of myself as taking a break from now (and still on Twitter, unwilling to surrender to Noel Skum—dark mode makes a serious difference in what I can take anyway).

Monday, February 20, 2023

You Had One Job Department


How bad is New York City's jail at Rikers Island? You've heard about the weapons, the drugs, the urine and feces and blood on the floors, the gangs in charge because the guards let them—with unlimited sick leave in their contracts, they don't even show up for work half the time. You've heard of the escalating violence, the inability to get inmates to medical care, the horrifying death rate (19 prisoners died there in 2022, in a population of around 6,000). Here's another one, from today's Gothamist—they now can't even reliably get inmates to their court dates:

According to the most recent Mayor’s Management Report, just 72.2% of those detained from September through December last year were brought to court on time. In the prior fiscal year, it was 79.1%, which was the lowest annual rate since at least before 1999. In years prior, this wasn’t a problem: As recently as the 2021 fiscal year, the percentage of detainees brought to court on time was 94.6%, and every year from 1999 to 2012 it was higher than 95%.

Detainees are typically woken up around 4 a.m. to be handcuffed, shackled and transported by bus from the island in the East River to one of the borough courthouses where their cases are heard. Detainees have about 12,000 court appearances each month, according to Department of Correction data.

People, that's the entire purpose of jail. Some judge at arraignment decides this person can't be trusted to show up for trial, or the person can't raise bail, so they park them in jail while the court system does whatever it does to follow the Sixth Amendment's promise of a speedy trial, though

The average length of stay in DOC custody has steadily gone up over the past three years, records posted online show. The average number was 125 days as of July this year, up from 105 in 2021, 90 in 2020, and 82 in 2019. Those figures include people who were in and out of custody within one day.  

And also includes some who have been there six, seven, ten years. 

Meanwhile, in the one state where serious bail reform has been implemented, New Jersey, since 2017,

The number of people imprisoned pre-trial on bail of $2,500 or less fell from more than 1,500 before the bail reform laws to just 14 people last year, according to the New Jersey court system. At the same time, the rate of people awaiting trial who commit additional “indictable offenses” has remained flat at 13.8%. And the appearance rate — how often people awaiting trial come back to court — increased slightly last year, from 90% in 2019 to 90.9% in 2020. 

People can get themselves to ther pretrial trial and trial appearances much more reliably than Rikers Island can (and there's no evidence, whatever Mayor Eric Adams may profess to believe, of a relationship between bail reform and the increase in crime rates of 2020-21). Rikers simply does not do anything worth doing. It must be closed.

Friday, February 17, 2023

Liberal Bias

Certified demonstrative leftist journalist Mehdi Hasan on TV having a kind of fight with NPR's certified defender of Fortress Neutrality David Folkenflik refusing to tell Mehdi what he wanted to hear on the subject of the not exactly shocking revelations from the Dominion Voting Systems defamation suit against Fox News,   that Fox's stars were knowingly peddling bullshit after the 2020 presidential election—who'd have thunk!?

The hosts Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham, as well as others at the company, repeatedly insulted and mocked Trump advisers, including Sidney Powell and Rudolph W. Giuliani, in text messages with each other in the weeks after the election, according to a legal filing on Thursday by Dominion Voting Systems. Dominion is suing Fox for defamation in a case that poses considerable financial and reputational risk for the country’s most-watched cable news network.

“Sidney Powell is lying by the way. I caught her. It’s insane,” Mr. Carlson wrote to Ms. Ingraham on Nov. 18, 2020.

Ms. Ingraham responded: “Sidney is a complete nut. No one will work with her. Ditto with Rudy.”

The really interesting part of the story, which Folkenflik was laying on pretty thick, was that Fox's insane coverage of the Big Election LIe was driven pretty much entirely by business considerations, not ideological ones: after the excitement of Election Night, when Fox (correctly) called Arizona for Biden, launching the (correct) narrative of Biden's overwhelming victory over Trump, which of course enraged Trump himself and became a central theme on his Twitter, the Fox powers began to worry that they were alienating their audience, poetntially driving viewers to the outlets with even lower standards than their own, Newsmax and OAN, and possibly even threatening the share price!

Thursday, February 16, 2023

For the Record: Positive Thinking

Dr. Norman Vincent Peale's 88th birthday party, photo by Ron Galella! Remember him?), via NPR.

There was a point there, maybe it was Miller, but in any event this was a funny thought bringing in the Artificial Intelligence everybody's talking about

Following upon which Some Dude who does not understand the meanings of "style", "prompt", or "negative" took issue:

Monday, February 6, 2023

For the Record: Pompeo's Memories


Photo by Photo by John Anvik on Unsplash, via.

Saturday, February 4, 2023

From the Gerth to the Moon


Jules Verne's From the Earth to the Moon in the Greek animated version by Angelos Spartalis.

Jeff Gerth opens his massive report on "The Press Versus the President" (24,000 words, according to David Corn of Mother Jones) novelistically:

The end of the long inquiry into whether Donald Trump was colluding with Russia came in July 2019, when Robert Mueller III, the special counsel, took seven, sometimes painful, hours to essentially say no.

“Holy shit, Bob Mueller is not going to do it,” is how Dean Baquet, then the executive editor of the New York Times, described the moment his paper’s readers realized Mueller was not going to pursue Trump’s ouster.

Actually it was Baquet (speaking that August to a group of staffers angry at the paper's restrictions on words like "racist" and "lie") who was fictionalizing: it doesn't seem particularly important, but the hearings in which Mueller testified under subpoena on July 24 2019, House Judiciary in the morning, House Intelligence in the afternoon, were not when the New York Times readership learned that the special prosecutor would not be prosecuting the president; they'd learned that exactly four months earlier. March 24, when Attorney General Barr issued his four-page report on Mueller's report. Mueller's report itself was released to the public, in redacted form, on May 18. What Mueller said no to on July 24 was any questions, more or less, asking him to say anything beyond what was in the report—he was really determined not to say anything that wasn't already public. 

Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Gerth of a Nation

Mae Marsh hearing no evil in Birth of a Nation (1915).

Why Trump was forced to fire the FBI director, according to Jeff Gerth in the august pages of the Columbia Jourmalism Review, of all places:

Trump, by the spring of 2017, was more than uneasy with Comey. In one of his chats [the ones that so alarmed Comey that he memorialized them in detail after each meeting, but Gerth doesn't mention that, or the way Trump kept asking Comey for a statement of personal loyalty] , he told the director his policies were “bad” for Russia because he wanted “more oil and more nukes” and the FBI inquiry was creating a “cloud” over his dealings with foreign leaders, according to Comey’s notes.

Because the investigation was getting in the way of his plans to get more oil and nukes. Which would be bad for Russia. Comey was actually preventing him from being bad for Russia. This had to stop! 

Finally, he had enough. Trump met with senior officials, and his deputy counsel told him that firing Comey would prolong, not curb, the FBI investigation and possibly result in the appointment of a special counsel, according to lawyers briefed on the meeting.

“The president acknowledged” the dire prognosis in the meeting, according to William Barr, who, as attorney general in 2019, oversaw the end of the Mueller inquiry. But the president didn’t care, declaring, according to Barr: “I’m still going to fire the son of a bitch.”

Barr wasn't a senior official at that point, and wasn't at the meeting he's reporting, of course, any more than he was at the meeting Trump had with Foreign Minister Lavrov and Ambassador Kislyak when Trump explained he'd had to fire the "nutjob" because, "I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off." 

Gerth displaying the bear trap mind  with which he pinned down Bill Clinton's criminality in his Whitewater investigation 30 years ago. Well, he didn't actually pin down Bill Clinton's criminality, but that was his editors' fault:

Gerth claims that editors, without his knowledge, rewrote his first and best-known Whitewater article and saddled it with factual errors. The unsettling revelation, buried in a Her Way endnote, raises even more questions about Gerth, the Times, and their Whitewater misadventure. (The great Eric Boehlert, back in 2007) 

Now Gerth is jumping on The Times itself the way he jumped on Clinton back in the day, evidently in the hope of providing a road map for the House Select Committee on the Jordanization of Government when the put the paper under the microscope, but just like the early road map (for House Judiciary, I guess), it's a map of leaps that don't add up, and seem to be avoiding particular territories as much as seeking them.

So I'll be fisking more of it later.

Sunday, January 29, 2023

For the Record: Can Black Cops Be Racist?

Photo by Tyre Nichols.


The big reaction on the right to the murder of Tyre Nichols by the five Memphis police officers who beat him to death on the suspicion that he might have been "driving recklessly" has been to deny that racism had anything to do with it, because the cops in question were Black, like their victim.

We heard the same thing after Freddie Gray was caught avoiding police and having a (legal) knife in his shirt pocket, and rattled to death—a ride so rough it severed his spine—in the police van taking him to the station in 2015, and three of the six cops involved, including the driver, were African American. But I think it's a good deal more anxious and urgent now, maybe because we're in the age of George Floyd and they're feeling more threatened than before. 

Saturday, January 28, 2023

Narratology: White Whale

Narratology really starting to come into its own, as the Special Counsel picks up on the stuff I've been telling you, and the Mar-a-Lago documents case merges with the case of Trump's effort to incriminate the Crossfire Hurricane and Mueller investigations, as I've been saying it should; according to The Independent and the great Murray Waas:

Investigators working for Justice Department Special Counsel Jack Smith have reportedly questioned multiple ex-Trump administration officials about the fate of a large tranche of classified documents pertaining to the FBI probe into Russia’s campaign of interference in the 2016 election.

A report by Murray Waas, a freelance investigative reporter and former National Journal staff writer, wrote on Wednesday that “at least three” figures in Mr Trump’s inner circle have been pressed by prosecutors on whether Mr Trump took “thousands of pages” of documents from the White House — including many bearing classification markings — with an eye towards making them public in attempt to discredit the Justice Department’s probe into alleged ties between his 2016 campaign and the Russian Federation.

I'd hope the three or more figures would include Cassidy Hutchinson, who witnessed the process, on the cooperative side. We've known something about these documents for a long time—Trump started claiming he had already declassified a stash of documents on the subject as early as a Tweet of October 2020—

“I have fully authorized the total Declassification of any & all documents pertaining to the single greatest political CRIME in American History, the Russia Hoax. Likewise, the Hillary Clinton Email Scandal. No redactions!”

 —which, like so many Trump statements, was more aspiration than fact; it wasn't, in fact, until January 19 2021, the day before the Biden inauguration, that, with some documents in hand, in a "binder" he'd received from the Justice Department on December 30, he finally issued a memorandum to the attorney general, DNI, and DCI directing them to declassify it, with the redactions demanded by the FBI. I don't think it's been reported whether they obeyed this order, but it also seems certain that at least one copy of those materials, probably without redactions and with intact classification markings, was among the stuff stolen and sent to Trump's Palm Beach club that day, along with at least one copy of the classified stuff stolen from the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence by Chairman Nunes and Chief of Staff Meadows that the staff had made so many photocopies of on the same day

What I'm saying is that Jack Smith seems to have come to the same conclusion as I did on a motive for at least some of the Mar-a-Lago document theft—his long quest to avenge himself on the FBI and everyone who exposed his collusion with Russian intelligence in the 2016 election, and (taking it, as I always do, just a notch farther than the reported story) that will be the basis on which Trump is indicted in this case. As, I think, I've been telling you.

Not only that, but also this week is the wonderful reporting in The New York Times by Charlie Savage, Adam Goldman, and Katie Benner that shows former attorney general Billy Barr pushing special counsel John Durham on the same quest to incriminate the FBI and others over the Crossfire Hurricane and Robert Mueller investigations in the face of the fact that there was no evidence of any wrongdoing to begin with, and of course practically none squeezed out after millions of dollars and years of effort (one minor deception in the filing of the third renewal request on the surveillance order against Carter Page, discovered not by the special counsel but the FBI inspector general. Corroborating what I've been telling you since October 2019  at least, including anticipations of this week's stories in

  • that snipe hunt for evidence in Italy where Barr and Durham came up dry, in October 2019, and the switch to a criminal investigation, of which I wrote at the time

"It's about Trump, and the idée fixe of Trump's increasing paranoia: that he must get to his enemies by using their weapons, of saying "bad things" and getting "dirt". Investigate them all! Lock them up! And its failure so far, which has been accelerating in recent weeks, as Barr's meta-investigation falls apart. "

  • the pressure on inspector general Horowitz to come up with the stuff in April 2020, with a nod to John Solomon's participation in the effort going back to August 2019

"My [i.e., Solomon's] reporting, including interviews with four dozen U.S. officials over the last several months, actually identifies a much larger collection of documents — about a dozen all together — that, when declassified, would show more completely how a routine counterintelligence probe was hijacked to turn the most awesome spy powers in America against a presidential nominee in what was essentially a political dirty trick orchestrated by Democrats"

  • the use of Russian intelligence disinformation to hint at a bogus case against Hillary Clinton "to vilify Donald Trump by stirring up a scandal claiming interference by the Russian security service" in October 2020 (with a guest appearance by the big binder mentioned above, delivered by DNI John Ratcliffe to Barr's DOJ)

It's always seemed me that this was one big story, starring mad Trump as Captain Ahab after the white whale of the FBI, and all Trump's henchmen from Solomon and Patel back to Bully Barr as the Pequod's doomed crew (Cassie Hutchinson is Ishmael, alone escaped to tell thee?), only it's not a ship but a criminal outfit. And now the news narrative is finally coalescing to my point, under Jack Smith's guidance. I think there could be a lot of indictments, though sadly not of Barr and Durham, who are in some ways the most reprehensible of all (committing some of the exact same crimes of which they falsely allowed Hillary Clinton, together with Comey, McCabe, Mueller, and others, to be accused), and it's looking as if I've had pretty good instincts on this up to now.

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

For the Record: Token? What Token?


They also seem to have forgotten to notify Donalds how serious they were about nominating him, since he voted for McCarthy in the first two rounds. Photo via Yahoo News.

From the "Black Democrats are the real racists" department, Heritage Foundation offered this specimen on Rep. Cori Bush (D-MO), who was mean to Rep. Byron Donalds (R-FL) after insurgent Republicans offered his name in nomination in the first 12 rounds of the Great Speakership Battle

Pundits inevitably made an issue of Donalds’s race and of the fact that the lawmaker the Democrats proposed, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), is also black. “It was the first time two black candidates for speaker of the House … were nominated simultaneously,” averred Fox News.

It was at that point that Bush channeled her inner mean girl and tweeted, “FWIW [For What It’s Worth], @ByronDonalds is not a historic candidate for Speaker. He is a prop. Despite being Black, he supports a policy agenda intent on upholding and perpetuating white supremacy. His name being in the mix is not progress—it’s pathetic.”

Actually, as Fox News noted, it was Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX) who made an issue of the races of Rep. Donalds and Leader Jeffries in that way, followed by nominators Matt Rosendale and Scott Perry, who also took care to mention it

While praising Donalds, Roy also tipped his hat to Jeffries, the Democratic minority's choice for Speaker.

"And for the first time in history, there have been two Black Americans placed into the nomination for speaker of the House," Roy said.

Even as Roy also complimented Donalds for "moving past diversity", from inevitably fatherless Black kid to "Christian man", diversity being generally populated, as we all know, by bastards and unbelievers and people with bad character content in general, with the requisite quotation of the only words known to have been uttered by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in his entire life:

"We do not seek to judge people by the color of their skin, but rather the content of their character," Roy said. "Byron Donalds is a good man — raised by a single mom, moved past diversity, became a Christian man at the age of 21, and has devoted his life to advancing the cause for his family and this country. And he has done it admirably."

or, as Fox News put it,

emphasized his belief that race itself was never a consideration in nominating Donalds.

Sure, Chip, you've made that totally clear, except:

As of today, January 24, Donalds's website still can't tell us what committees McCarthy has given him.

Saturday, January 21, 2023

Cancel Me


Album cover by the Japanese-American ska punk band Kemuri.

This is kind of hilarious but also important, from a team at Washington Post: the January 6 committee found, in extensive interviews with social media employees, according to a memo prepared by committee staffers but not among the things the committee made public (the Post has posted it here), that, far from censoring rightwingers, the companies worked really hard at not doing it, violating their content moderation rules to avoid offending Trump and his supporters:

Congressional investigators found evidence that tech platforms — especially Twitter — failed to heed their own employees’ warnings about violent rhetoric on their platforms and bent their rules to avoid penalizing conservatives, particularly then-president Trump, out of fear of reprisals. The draft report details how most platforms did not take “dramatic” steps to rein in extremist content until after the attack on the Capitol, despite clear red flags across the internet.

“The sum of this is that alt-tech, fringe, and mainstream platforms were exploited in tandem by right-wing activists to bring American democracy to the brink of ruin,” the staffers wrote in their memo. “These platforms enabled the mobilization of extremists on smaller sites and whipped up conservative grievance on larger, more mainstream ones.”

Thursday, January 19, 2023

For the Record: Young Rawls at War

And in questions we don't normally ask here at Rectification Central, do we need a John Rawls biopic?

Gil, a finite mode, a philosophical tweep whose tweets are protected from piracy, thinks not. It may be true that Gary Oldman looks a lot like Rawls, and it may be equally true that Rawls is a signally important and lovable philosopher, with his idea of "justice as fairness", seeming to be deep, technically proficient, and heartwarming all at the same time, but Gil knows what philosophers do all day, and it is not the stuff of which movies are made.
"watching a world class actor pretend to think really hard and come up with the idea of pretending you don't know stuff, for justice. maybe he did that so much he was a bad husband. or idk maybe he was good to his wife. I'm so bored either way"

(Gil doesn't admire that zero-based budgeting style of Hobbes/Locke/Rousseau that commences by imagining a bunch of people who don't have a community and tries to imagine a rigorous philosophical method by which they could invent one, and I get that; in fact I've possibly thought about it more than he has—people are apes, my friends, homonini, meaning they had rich and complex social organizations long before they invented talking, so they had to do it without talking about it at all, let alone laying out a system of postulates and axioms, and deliberate social organization can only begin with a group that is already extremely organized.). 

Some might feel we would be better served by a Lou Rawls biopic (he's the king of them all, y'all), and I'm sympathetic to that point of view too. But thanks to Wikipedia I'm no longer so sure: