Friday, March 31, 2023

Literary Corner: Who Is Your Retribution?

Yoon Lee, "Retribution (Bud)", 2014, from a 2015 show at Pierogi Gallery, New York. 

You Remember It Just Like I Do
By Donald J. Trump, President of the United States (Semi-Retired), with Stephen Miller

This is Political Persecution
and Election Interference
at the highest level in history. From the time
I came down the golden escalator at Trump Tower,
and even before I was sworn in as your President
of the United States, the Radical Left Democrats -
the enemy of the hard-working Men and Women of this Country -
have been engaged in a Witch-Hunt to destroy
the Make America Great Again movement.

You remember it just like I do:
Russia, Russia, Russia;
the Mueller Hoax; Ukraine, Ukraine, Ukraine;
Impeachment Hoax 1; Impeachment Hoax 2;
the illegal and unconstitutional
Mar-a-Lago raid; and now this.

The Democrats have lied, cheated and stolen
in their obsession with trying to "Get Trump,"
but now they've done the unthinkable -
indicting a completely innocent person
in an act of blatant Election Interference.

Never before in our Nation's history
has this been done. The Democrats
have cheated countless times over the decades,
including spying on my campaign,
but weaponizing our justice system
to punish a political opponent,
who just so happens to be a President
of the United States and by far
the leading Republican candidate
for President, has never happened before.

Let's just say for starters he doesn't "just so happen" to be a President of the United States. 

Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Going For Woke

Via Vox.

I'm always pleased to see somebody I admire catching up with some ideas I've been cherishing for a while, even more so when they're using words I might well have used myself, as in this from Washington Post's Greg Sargent on dated concepts of the US working class:

In the emerging Democratic reading, the old vision of a White, male, breadwinning working class concentrated in burly jobs shapes much political analysis, but it’s a pundit fiction. With service, retail and health-care sectors growing as manufacturing and mining jobs dwindle, the new working class is far more ethnically and culturally diverse — and more socially liberal — than commonly supposed.

What he's commenting on is the remarkable string of progressive legislation that's been coming out of Michigan all year since Democrats captured the state legislature in spite of its gerrymandering, most recently when they repealed the state's "right-to-work" law, enacted in 2012 to combat unions by disallowing closed shops so that workers could benefit from union contracts without paying union dues. 

Monday, March 27, 2023

For the Record: Costa Bravo

 Getting updated occasionally.

The leaks are coming from inside the pipe. Via.

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: