Sunday, April 30, 2023

Brooks on Soul

What is a soul?

asks David F. Brooks ("Joe Biden and the Struggle For America's Soul"), with reference to President Biden's assertion, when he was announcing his candidacy in the 2024 presidential race, that we are still "in a battle for the soul of America," as we were in 2020, when that was Biden's campaign slogan.

Actually it's just a rhetorical question, because he knows the answer. In fact he knows more than one answer, and he also knows which answer Biden has in mind:

Well, religious people have one answer to that question. But Biden is not using the word in a religious sense, but in a secular one. He is saying that people and nations have a moral essence, a soul.

And what the hell is that, when it's at home? A "moral essence"? (Makes me think of the Essence of Chicken that Tiger moms in Southeast Asia give their children to endow them with strength to study harder, or the French word essence meaning "gasoline".) 

Wednesday, April 26, 2023

Tucker? I hardly know 'er!


Everybody has to put in their take on Tucker, I guess, including his pal Glenn Greenwald:

Or I guess it must be opposite sides of the same coin, Glenn's leftist Putinism (the story that the bloodthirsty US started the war in Ukraine by forcing pacifist Putin to launch another involuntary invasion like those in 2014 or in Georgia in 2008) serving as a beard for the fascist Putinism (Tucker's) he can't quit associating with.

That's basically Glenn's theory of why Carlson was axed at Fox—specifically, over Carlson's "passionate defense" of the four members of the African People's Socialist Front in Florida charged a couple of weeks ago with taking money from Russia's FSB foreign intelligence agency to "covertly sow discord in U.S. society, spread Russian propaganda, and interfere illegally in U.S. elections", or as Glenn puts it, being "dissidents" against US support for Ukraine. 

Saturday, April 22, 2023

Got Paranoia? More Stone


Brooks Brothers Riot of November 22, 2000. Photo by Colin Braley/Reuters, via Wikipedia.

A gold nugget of fact I had no idea of in a segment on my favorite radio show that was mainly about the Dominion Election Systems settlement with Fox News, but it goes back to a big New York Times report of 2019 on the whole history of the Rupert Murdoch enterprise, by Jonathan Mahler and Jim Rutenberg, that puts an awful lot of things together on Rupert's early days in the US, after he'd bought the New York Post:

In 1980, he met Roy Cohn — the former adviser to Senator Joseph McCarthy and a Trump mentor — who introduced him to Gov. Ronald Reagan’s inner circle. It was a group that included Roger Stone Jr., another Trump confidant and the head of Reagan’s New York operations, who said in a later interview that he helped Murdoch weaponize his latest tabloid purchase, The New York Post, on Reagan’s behalf in the 1980 election. Reagan’s team credited Murdoch with delivering him the state that year — Murdoch gave Stone an Election Day printing plate from The Post over a celebratory meal at the 21 Club — and his administration subsequently facilitated Murdoch’s entry into the American television market, quickly approving his application for American citizenship so he could buy TV stations too.

Friday, April 21, 2023

And Fox Shall Have No Dominion

Posted a response to the settlement of Dominion vs. Fox News on the Substack Wednesday, a little bit depressed along with Steve, and forgot to notify you all here, immersed as I was in the vileness of Milo and Ali and the rest of them, but anyhow it's at the above link, and I think it's got at least half an idea that might be of interest, and to which I might return sometime. If you haven't seen it, you could have a look.

Also on the Substack, a little housekeeping info: I'm still not completely sure what I want to do with it, or exactly why, except that it has to do with the broader project of detaching myself from the Twitter, as Elmo's mismanagement gets to be more and more of a problem—in the latest, celebrating his favorite holiday of 4/20, he took away all the blue checkmarks of verification from those who were verified, while keeping it for the marks who had ponied up $8, so now they are all like the imperial cronies who purchased baronies on the cheap from Napoleon III, so that the check is now literally an indication that the possessor is nobody, like the unfortunate Mr. Turd:

Thursday, April 20, 2023

"Just How People Get Into Politics"


Marcel Proust's fictional character Palamède de Guermantes, Baron de Charlus, in a drawing by Jean Cocteau, ca. 1921-23, via

Warning, this is incredibly distasteful, so much so that I think a lot of journalists are telling themselves it's not newsworthy so they can stop themselves from thinking about it, but if you do think about it, it starts to seem important, as a sign of what the Republican Party is now and where it's going, hopefully toward total collapse.

The story goes back to last January, when the House Republicans were struggling to elect a speaker over the hostage-taking tactics of their most radical faction, not including Georgia representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, who had made some kind of private deal, presumably over committee seats, with Leader Kevin McCarthy, and was supporting him.

Upon which a voice arose from outside of Congress, that of Ali Alexander, organizer of the Stop the Steal movement following the 2020 election and January 6 defendant, in a remarkably vituperative attack on Greene,

You are a harlot and a liar. You supported Q. You talked about Jewish people and now you denounce people who talk about Jewish power? Now you want to act like you're not into conspiracies? Girl, go get your teeth fixed. Mine are crooked cause I'm not a multimillionaire. Why are yours crooked?

culminating in a fairly specific threat:

Monday, April 17, 2023

Ad Insult to Injury

The trial of Fox News for its relentless defamation of Dominion Voting Systems was supposed to be starting this morning, but the opening got postponed for 24 hours, which I guess means the parties are looking at the possibility of a settlement (some radio reporter thought that damages could be lowered from $1.6 billion to $1 billion even, but that the real sticking point for Fox would be Dominion's demand for a public admission of wrongdoing and apology by each of the offending shows). Meanwhile...

Those are some pretty peculiar numbers, as several people were quick to point out, and pretty mysterious as well. You'll note the indication at the bottom says the poll is from 2023, but YouGov hasn't published a version of that poll in 2023, and the last time they did it, in April 2022, they had radically different results, with ABC and CBS both at 38%, CNN at 36%, and Fox News at 30% (MSNBC was at 28%, if you want to know).

In fact, it looks like the thing pictured in the ad isn't the YouGov poll of a representative sample of American adults as we know it at all; as the indication at the bottom clarifies, it's from a different division of the company, YouGov Profiles, which offers business clients analyses of their customer base:

Sunday, April 16, 2023

And Then There Were None

Still from Robin and Marian (Richard Lester, 1976).


The Haley story is from today's Washington Post, and not quite as interesting as it may at first sound. The story is that she has three fundraising committees, a regular presidential campaign committee, a "leadership PAC" from before she got into the presidential race, and a "joint committee"; the joint committee donated almost $3 million of its $4.4 million haul to the other two, and Haley's people counted that money twice when they reported to the press that they'd raised over $11 million in their first six weeks when they'd actually raised more like $8.3 million, and effectively $6.8 million, since the leadership PAC money can't be used for the campaign.

Saturday, April 15, 2023

A Bridge Quite Near

Xiamen City, Fujian, China, formerly known as Amoy, as seen from fortified shores of the closest piece of Taiwan, on the Kinmen islands, formerly known as Quemoy. Photo by Reuters via Taipei Times.

The previous post originally went up under the headline "A Bridge Too Far", which couldn't have made a lot of sense (I've changed it). 

The headline belonged to a different piece that got longer and longer and more and more essay-ish and ended up in the Substack, where, as ever, you're welcome to have a look. The Bridge is a conservative intellectual you've never heard of—neither had I before yesterday—called Elbridge A. Colby, who's running the Republican Party's increasing anti-Chinese paranoia.

That Bar Won't Lower Itself

Of course you know what Shapiro's doing here: not trying to demonstrate that Democrats are just as bad as Republicans, but rather that Republican bad things aren't really bad, because Democrats do them too. Look at that Biden! Sweetheart deal! Though it struck me as less than convincingly corrupt, if the value of the Biden house rose by a factor of six in a 20-year period, and a vacant lot not at all in a 5-year period. Why shouldn't that happen? should it have risen by 150% (i.e., one fourth of 600%) because house prices and land prices always change at a perfectly even and commensurable pace? Do they? How about if, while the lot remained undeveloped over the 5 years, they did some work on the house over the 20? What if they did a lot of work? 20 years is a while!

In fact, hard as it may be to believe, Eric got it wrong; it was a real mansion, 10,000 square feet and originally built by the Delaware Du Ponts, but a fixer-upper: in serious disrepair and slated for demolition when Biden picked it up in 1975 (when his salary was $44,600, not $174,000), and he renovated it extensively over the 20 years he lived there. And since, although Ben Shapiro and Eric Trump are evidently unaware of this, inflation exists, you should note that when comparing the prices: in constant 2020 dollars, he paid $895,014.87 for the house in 1975 and sold it in 1996 for $1,990,669.22, so far from sextupling in value, it had not quite doubled.

And even that's not the thing I was wanting to say, which is that even if this deal smelled as bad as Justice Thomas's deals with the billionaire sugar daddy who paid for him and Mrs. Thomas to go on an all-stops-out luxury vacation every year (both side they were vacationing together, but the description of the Indonesian holiday suggests Crow didn't go on that one), set up Mrs. Thomas in her own rightwing think tank where she paid herself a six-figure salary out of the funds he supplied, and bought the house Thomas was raised in by his grandparents so his mother could go on living there without paying any property taxes, along with a some properties on the block including the one next door where his mother felt the tenants were too noisy—even if it smelled that bad, it wouldn't have been illegal, and nor would the money Thomas took.

Because that's not the crime in Thomas's behavior (as far as we know, because nobody's proved it was all bribed): the crime is failure to report it.

And Biden reported it all, as he was required by law to do, and Thomas just didn't. And it doesn't matter in the least how deep and personal and satisfying his friendship with Mr. Crow was; he should have reported the transportation, the direct money and real estate gifts, and the wingnut welfare funding, regardless. 

There's a lot of this going on, trying to persuade the rubes that their boy was charged with a crime they weren't charged with—the most thorough effort has been the one saying Donald Trump was busted for bonking a porn star, which is idiotic and of course a bald lie: he was busted for falsifying business records of the payments his company made to silence the porn star (and maybe the Playboy Centerfold model as well, in a superseding indictment, because it was David Pecker who paid for that and they did interview him), in order to hide them from the public, because he didn't want voters to know in such detail about his bonking habits so soon after the appearance of the pussy-grabber tape; because the money the three of them (Pecker, Cohen, and Trump) spent on it consisted of illegal campaign contributions and illegally unreported loans, illegally structured and laundered in hope they wouldn't get caught.

Nobody's going to arrest you for consensual bonking! We're following the money!

And finally, there's Representative Empty Greene:

 No, Margie. His name is Jack, for starters. But not that there's anything especially wrong with white, male, Christian, or even antiwar (though this old hippie doesn't believe Empty Greene is really antiwar). That's shit that can happen to anybody. Texeira was arrested and charged for stealing sensitive military information and sharing it with people who didn't have the security qualifications to look at it.That's espionage. That's spying. And when Trump was doing it it was spying too. Don't tell me he was just doing it for entertainment, because that doesn't matter.

Tuesday, April 11, 2023

The Man in the Net

I think what I'm going to be using the Substack for might be less bloggy, more formally organized approaches to things I've touched on here, as in this piece, on the current legal situation of the Former Guy. The literary work is literary, but supposed to be clarifying the material, not making it fancier. The work involved in tightening it up somehow generates new stuff, whether it's new metaphors or new bibliographical references. Still free!

Teh Stupid It Burns


Image by Lightspring/Shutterstock via Psychology Today.

I can't get over how bogus this whole Texas Mifepristone case is, from start (the lawsuit was originally filed by a group calling itself the "Alliance Defending Freedom", because nothing spells freedom like getting the state to block women from taking control over their own bodies) to finish. 

The five (5)  pieces of by now completely outdated research the anti-abortion faction has been pulling out of its briefcases for the last 23 years to "prove" Mifeprestone was dangerous didn't prove anything of the kind, The New York Times reported in an exhaustive report covering over a hundred (100) different up-to-date studies on Friday:

Saturday, April 8, 2023

Trouble With a Capital T


Spooky things are happening in the world of social or semi-social media, not just at Twitter. I saw this note about Facebook's Instagram platform today

and in fact last week I went through something similar myself at Blogger, the Google subsidiary that generously provides this space for free to me and Steve and Roy (Alicublog) and huge numbers of people like us to expose our thinking to public notice; I had three old posts "unpublished" on grounds that it had been flagged by some anonymous user and found on review to violate Blogger's "Malware and Virus Policy", which is weird, because I'm not aware of passing on any malware or viruses at all, though I can imagine being found offensive from time to time to some sensitive soul and getting in trouble with the community guidelines that way.

Friday, April 7, 2023

Disorganized Crime

Disorganized Crime, 1989

Frank Wilhoit in comments:

"...don't think he's got the stuff or the staff [to do a full-scale Netanyahu and get elected]..." How are you using the word "got" here? He has been kiting off free media the whole time. Negative partisanship is the wind beneath his stubby little wings, and it is now self-perpetuating. Trump has no friends, no admirers, no sympathizers, never has had; he is purely an avatar for the rural mindset. Any avatar would do: undeniably he has been, down to now, a very good one, but there is a structural imperative to keep escalating, and I do not take for granted that Trump will be able to win that race to the bottom. Someone will arise who will outflank him on the right. The Republican nomination will go to someone who says -- explicitly, no more codetalk, no more allegories, no more private-versus-public: "You, the People, will save America, and you will do it by killing all the liberals, and I will bless you and hold you harmless."

And my response:

I meant "in his body" and "on the payroll". He's a racket boss. That doesn't mean he's a mastermind who works his will through his employees. Rather he's the flag under which they—from Stone and Bannon and Graham down through low-rent crooks like Boris Epshteyn and Jason Miller—have sought to work theirs. "Our boy can become president!" said Felix Sater to Michael Cohen. He was right on that, on two things: he did become president, and he was their boy—he doesn't own them, they own him. They're not the reason he became president, but they sustained him while it was happening, and I personally don't think they can do it again, I think the legal actions especially in Washington are giving them a very hard time (one of the reasons the New York demonstration was so pathetic yesterday was that so many guys who knew how to organize such things in 2021 are in jail or under indictment themselves), and many of the conditions that favored Trump in 2016 have changed.

I agree with you, of course, on the nature of his relationship to the Republican Party (except to note a good number of professional politicians have been willing to serve the mob as his employees, courtiers, couriers, court jesters, enforcers, "friend" simulacra, to be his made men as it were, while others are just using that flag to make their own political connections with the rustics).

Tuesday, April 4, 2023

For the Record: Arraignment Day Notes


Won't have time tonight to do a proper writeup. Here are some Twitter observations from the day:

But the Statement of Facts is a lot more narrative:

Lawyer C seems to be Costello

The theory is that you don't have to formally charge the crimes in aid and concealment of which the false statements were made, though you do have to prove them—they've got plenty of evidence on that, and enough of those crimes are crimes in New York State that it can't be criticized for belonging to federal law. I think the case is a winner, in principle, though that doesn't mean it has to win.

Looks like it'll be quite a while before the thing comes to trial—10 months or a year. It could imaginably be over by the time of the Republican convention, but Trump's ability to delay is legendary. I don't think it makes his nomination any less likely—the party will be denying there's any possibility of a guilty verdict until there actually is a guilty verdict. If there were no further indictments after this, it could go on forever, though I don't think he's got the stuff or the staff to do a full-scale Netanyahu and get elected.

Cross-posted at No More Mister Nice Blog.

Monday, April 3, 2023

Beyond Belief

Well, I guess at least we know now what would happen if Trump really did pull out a gun on Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody dead. The Manhattan DA would see to it that he got arrested if the cops didn't arrest him immediately, and everybody from Glenn Youngkin to Lauren Boebert would put out a strong statement condemning the politicization of New York's law enforcement community ("If they can come for Donald Trump, they can come for you!"). The otherwise fractious Republican party would be absolutely united in not mentioning that the former guy had, in fact, killed somebody. They could be showing the video on CNN and the Republicans would be shouting prosecutorial abuse, and probably racism ("Would anybody call for arresting Barack Obama on the basis of these flimsy allegations? No, it's only white ex-presidents who get treated this way!") and there'd be CNN pundits waggling their heads in agreement.

If it's beyond belief, Glenn, then stop believing it. Or pretending to believe it, as the case may be. What's a "manufactured basis" for an arrest? Do you mean it was manufactured by the federal prosecutors in December 2018 in the sentencing memo for Trump's attorney, Michael Cohen, for his felonious structuring of hush money payments that Donald Trump ordered him to do?

Attorneys from the Southern District of New York state explicitly in the court filing that Cohen “acted in coordination with and at the direction of Individual-1” in handling payments to two women who claimed to have an affair with Trump long before the election. Trump is identified in this and other filings by U.S. attorneys as “Individual-1,” who “was elected President.” (The women are Karen McDougal and Stephanie Clifford, known professionally as Stormy Daniels.)

Like nowadays it's not good enough for an indictment to be legally correct, it has to be original too?

Sunday, April 2, 2023

Does Trump's Prosecution Set a Dangerous Precedent? No. In Fact It's a Really Good Precedent.

Hogback Bridge, Winterset, Iowa. Were you aware that Joe Biden owns it, and falsely valued it at $100 million in his application for a $100 million business loan for his failing Madison County real estate organization, thus committing serious bank fraud? No? That's mainly because he doesn't—he doesn't have any business interests in Iowa at all, so the likelihood of the Madison County DA slapping him with a financial fraud indictment is really very small. You have to go where the financial crimes are committed, which is especially Manhattan for Donald Trump, who's been committing financial crimes there for decades, and pretty much noplace for Joe Biden, who isn't a businessman. Maybe you can nail him for sex trafficking in Florida, or issuing threats in Texas, but  I kind of doubt it. Via EncirclePhotos.

The singularly clueless former federal prosecutor Ankush Khardori offering his opinion to The New York Times ("Trump's Prosecution Has Set a Dangerous Precedent"):

How could something so big — the first criminal indictment of an American president — seem so small?

Mr. Trump was not indicted for his efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election or for engaging in egregious financial fraud to increase his wealth or even for allegedly obstructing the special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation...


He was not indicted for those crimes by the Manhattan grand jury, which doesn't have jurisdiction in the first and third cases. The Manhattan district attorney's office and the state's attorney general are in fact collaborating in a civil rather than criminal case on a lot of Trump's financial fraud, $250 million worth, which, if successful, will put an end to Trump's ability to do business in New York, and these people have succeeded before, in smaller but similar cases, in wiping out the Trump University and Trump Foundation frauds (with Alvin Bragg in charge, in the latter case as chief deputy attorney general), and making restitution to their victims.