Saturday, July 29, 2023

If You Can't Think of Anything Nice to Say, Ask Me

Unisex cotton tee from, $19.99.

Josh Marshall wrote something I thought was extremely important yesterday, in his Backchannel blog for subscribers. I'm not going to work through the whole thing, but read it if you get a chance; this link ought to get you behind the paywall.

It was about Joe Biden's age, and the basic message was that Democrats should stop worrying about it—not because it doesn't matter, maybe it does and maybe it doesn't, but because there's nothing anybody can do about it other than learn to live with it. It was baked into the 2024 campaign during the 2020 campaign four years ago, and because he was far and away the best candidate then, he's the only candidate now; he's the incumbent, he's very popular inside the party (consistently around 80% in the Reuters-Ipsos tracking poll), and it's just structurally how it works with an incumbent willing to seek a second term. They virtually always get the nomination. Truman in 1952 and Johnson in 1968 volunteered not to run, for different reasons, and it was terrible for their parties.

And it's not just about Biden, but the whole party:

No one runs to be a one-term president. And no one runs for president and succeeds without an overweening level of ambition. So what the incumbent president wants is never going to be in doubt. That’s a given. What matters is that a whole apparatus of patronage, expected appointments, intra-party compromises and incumbent advantage for the political party as a whole is layered over that individual president’s overwhelming ambition. All of that gets tossed aside if the president just decides out of the blue he’s cool with a single term. Countless people are heavily invested in that reelection effort. And while others who aren’t as clearly sold on or allied with the incumbent are less invested, they don’t matter as much since their guy isn’t in power.

There's not going to be a way of getting rid of him, if you did want to. Even a Ted Kennedy couldn't dislodge a relatively unpopular Jimmy Carter—all he was able to do was get Reagan elected. You don't want to do that. 

So you need to deal with it. And look, it's not an accident. Biden is an extraordinarily skilled politician and he's been an exceptionally good president. He's got the whole Democratic coalition, the labor unions, the organized minority groups, the intellectuals, and a whole bunch of those soccer moms, behind him. He ought to have the literal left behind him too, given the amount of work he's put into making a reality of the Elizabeth Warren agenda, but I realize you can't have everything. Nevertheless, he's the best positioned to beat Trump and has done it already once.

And the fruits of Bidenomics are starting to become really evident, as the inflation finally goes down and the stock exchanges go up. So do the charging stations for EVs, all over the place, and the other infrastructure projects in the congressional districts, and the number of jobs and the prevailing wage. 

Sure he's old. He's also incredibly fit for 80, exercises and is good at making sure he gets his down time, and you can see by what he's been doing with the legislature and the regulatory work and on the foreign policy circuit and in the campaigning, and the occasional flashes of Dark Brandon, that he's not in any kind of cognitive decline, regardless of what some Republicans want you to believe (they also want you to believe that he's a brilliant and ruthless fiend, personally throwing all his enemies in jail the way Trump tried and utterly failed to do with his). Somebody who's made it to that age in that condition is more likely than not to continue the same to 85 and 86. Nothing is certain, he could have a catastrophic health issue at any moment, chas veShalom, but it's going to be something unpredictable, and then we'll have to deal with that.

My first mother-in-law, a woman of great generosity and indefatigable cheer (at least compared to her daughter, heh-heh) was down on worrying. "Worrying never fixed anything," she'd say, and she was right. You can try to be prepared for likely problems, but the unlikely ones are the ones you can't prepare for, and you just have to deal with them as they come.

The most likely catastrophe on the horizon is, duh, the re-election of Donald Trump, the unkillable Grigory Rasputin of American politics. I don't really think that's ineluctably likely either, but there's no denying it's a serous danger. That, too, has already happened once. 

I think what Democrats need to be doing right now is defending our country against that, and one of the ways they could be doing it would be if they could learn how to say Biden is worth voting for, instead of moaning in every forum about how unsatisfactory he is, and predicting his imminent physical collapse. And as far as that goes, showing some love to vice president Kamala Harris, too. Criticize Biden by all means, for cause, on the specific ways he's let you down (I've had trouble with the places where he's failed to turn around from Trump-era policy especially on immigration and trade, though I think for those we need a better Congress more than a better president), but don't panic in public over the idea that he's the wrong nominee.

Yas's Corollary

Wednesday, July 26, 2023

Sue me, sue me, what can you do me?

Faith Prince and Nathan Lane. If you don't know the show, what makes it sublime is that he really does have to go to a prayer meeting, not because he's got religion but because he's lost a bet.

All right, explain this to me like I'm a five-year-old. I mean with a fairly big vocabulary for a five-year-old, but some innocence:

Rudy Giuliani, who served as a lawyer for former president Donald Trump, is no longer contesting as a legal matter that he made false and defamatory statements about two former Georgia election workers — but argues in a new court filing that what amounted to false claims about vote-rigging in the 2020 presidential election was constitutionally protected speech and did not damage the workers.

"So I made a bunch of false and defamatory statements about you, that's some kind of reason for taking me to court?"

Yes, Rudolf, that's supposedly how it works. He was sued by Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss, the mother and daughter working on the Fulton County ballot count who were seen on video doing something Giuliani described as pulling fake ballots out of suitcases, like drug dealers "passing out dope", and "crooks" who "obviously" stuffed ballots, an accusation subsequently taken up by then-president Donald Trump, with the result that the two women's lives were completely upended, as they told the House January 6 committee a little over a year later: 

Tuesday, July 25, 2023

But Tell Us About That Terrible Leftist Cancel Culture


Protesters in Austin, 2013, against back-door creationism in public schools. Photo by Patrick Michels/Texas Observer.

This was some headline, in the Texas Tribune, which is a treasure of an online newspaper:

Texas A&M suspended professor accused of criticizing Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick in lecture

Like an "accusation" of such a crime is enough to get you in trouble with the administration.

The professor, Joy Alonzo, an expert in opioids, wasn't even at her own institution; she was giving a guest lecture at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, to a class of first-year medical students including the daughter of Dawn Buckingham, Texas Land Commissioner, a former state senator from the time when Dan Patrick was a state senator too, and a friend of Texas A&M chancellor John Sharp. Shortly after the lecture ended around noon and she was driving home, Buckingham was on the phone with Patrick, and also to the system's vice chancellor for government relations; Sharp opened an investigation, sending Patrick a text a couple of hours later:

“Joy Alonzo has been placed on administrative leave pending investigation re firing her. shud [sic] be finished by end of week.”

At 4:22, the course coordinator in Galveston had sent an email to the class with a "STATEMENT OF FORMAL CENSURE":

Friday, July 21, 2023

Javi and Chita


You know how I've been screaming at the political punditry for a few years now over their theory of the Latin voting bloc becoming more Republican over time as the community's inherent conservatism asserts itself, because

  1. It's not a bloc, and
  2. that's hiding what's happening

—and hiding from it, of course—it's about race. As with Allan Sherman's upwardly mobile young Jews in the early 1960s who

Traded their used MG
for a new XKE
switched to the GOP
that's the way things go

it's about the social construction of whiteness.

But I didn't really have any data for it, or know how to find it or whether it could possibly exist, until I saw this message from Jonathan Chait: 

Wednesday, July 19, 2023

Literary Corner: Memorandum Opinion


Juan Gris, Still Life With a Guitar, 1913. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

Memorandum Opinion Denying Defendant's Rule 59 Motion

by Judge Lewis A. Kaplan

The jury in this case did not
reach "a seriously erroneous result."

Its verdict is not
"a miscarriage of justice."

Mr. Trump's motion for for a new trial
on damages or remittitur (Dkt 204)
is denied. SO ORDERED.

Tuesday, July 18, 2023

Left, Right, and Enter


You guys have seen the map before. I've written it up longer, and I hope more coherent, with new material, and corrected French history (which now looks very poorly done in the old post, especially the art history), so there's a lot to read that you haven't read. It was also a lot of work, which is a reason I haven't been here much, so I hope you'll all read it.

Friday, July 14, 2023

His Wonders to Perform

Photo via


I don't have a Hardcore email account like Edroso's, but I do get some crazy off Twitter, from nuts there who have followed me at one time or another (I always follow back), for reasons I can't generally reconstruct. One of whom goes by "Question Ray Epps". It's also come to me that outside the depths of the Slough of Paranoia most people don't have a very clear idea of why Ray Epps is a thing, whereas, because of my Twitter connection, I've spent some time trying to figure it out, so I probably have a slightly clearer concept than most of you of who Ray Epps is, and the enjoyable Ray Epps news that has surfaced this week, and I thought I should share that.

Epps was an ex-Marine, the owner with his wife of a wedding-venue business in Arizona, and a pretty high-ranking  Oath Keeper, president of the Arizona chapter, who didn't get charged in the January 6 investigations, although he was captured on video during the rally the night before, telling an interviewer and later a crowd that "We've got to go into the Capitol! That's where our problems are!"—"Peacefully! Peacefully!" he added the second time,  leading the crowd to begin chanting, "Fed! Fed! Fed!" And the next afternoon just at the moment of the breach on the Capitol itself, where he's briefly seen whispering to an unidentified person outside the barriers, who then joins the others knocking the barriers down and punching the cops on the other side, while Epps disappears. There's a pretty good mashup of these glimpses in this story at The Independent.

Then, as Ted Cruz was telling the FBI's representative in a Senate hearing on January 11 2022, a mysterious development:

Cruz then noted that Epps initially appeared on a poster issued by the FBI seeking information about people connected to criminal activity on Jan. 6, but was absent from another FBI “seeking information” poster distributed July 1.

“Magically, Mr. Epps disappeared from the public posting,” he said. “According to public records, Mr. Epps has not been charged with anything. No one’s explained why a person videoed​ urging people to go to the Capito​l​,​ a person whose conduct was so suspect the crowd believed he was a ​fed​,​ would magically disappear from the list of people the FBI was looking at.”

I can tell you something about that one: the FBI wasn't looking for him any more, because when the first poster went up and Epps realized they were looking for him, he immediately called them and gave them whatever evidence he had to give (The New York Times checked his phone records and found he'd spoken to them for an hour), so it's really not all that magical.

Tuesday, July 11, 2023

Joe Did What? Lake NATO


Remember all those earnest realists explaining how the Russian Federation was literally forced!—forced, I tell you!—to march into Ukraine because of the increasingly threatening expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization through the states of the former Warsaw Pact from the Balkans to the Baltic, as we kept hearing from Professor Mearsheimer and Messrs. Greenwald and Carlson and most recently Bob-Bob Kennedy. 

I wrote about it with some sympathy myself back at the beginning of February 2022, in the context of the argument I was making back then, that there wasn't going to be any invasion of Ukraine because Vladimir Vladimirovich couldn't possibly be that stupid.

Friday, July 7, 2023

Literary Corner: Vital Caselaw (of Which There Is Much)


You're welcome!

A No, No!

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

Vital caselaw, of which there is much,
further confirms that the Presidential Records Act (PRA)
is the only statute which applies
to Presidents and their records.
These cases build on the Clinton Socks case
in making it clear that Presidents have
complete latitude and authority
when it comes to documents, as well as that
the PRA has no criminal enforcement mechanism.
Deranged Jack Smith knows this, but refuses
to even mention the words "Presidential Records Act'"
in his Scam Indictment of Biden's Political Opponent
(who is leading by a lot) in the middle of a Campaign —
a No, No!

Wednesday, July 5, 2023

Fifth of July: Antidisestablishmentarians

State of the Stupid, 2023: 

You can build this strawman out of any old resentments and prejudices you have lying around the house or in the garage, without an expensive and time-consuming trip to the Hobby Lobby. 

The genius of Rubio's tweet is in his focusing his hostility on those who see the US as "built on stolen land" as if it wasn't obviously true that Europeans and their descendants had appropriated virtually every bit of North America from its indigenous inhabitants between landfall in Mexico in 1519 and the closing of the frontier in 1890. A gasbag like Ted Cruz would have insisted on adding something about African chattel slavery beginning 1619 to the sentence, but there's not an ounce of fat on Marco's argument: he heads straight for the single most indefensible lie you can tell about the history of the continent and tells you you're "nuts" if you try to argue with it.

As well as possibly "influential" (unlike, say, Senator Rubio), rich (in contrast to Senator Rick Scott), famous (as opposed to infamous like Senator Lindsey Graham), or holding a "fancy degree" (instead of a no-frills plain one like Josh Hawley's Yale J.D., 2006). 

Tuesday, July 4, 2023

Dream Piece, 2018

An early lucid dream, originally posted on July 4, 2018, re-upped.
Statue of Wilson in Tirana, Albania, via wikimpia.

Upstate, kept waking up before dawn to some extraordinary bird call, and then ended up sleeping until 8:00. Dreamed Trump decided to name Woodrow Wilson to the Supreme Court.

I was on 84th Street, at PS 9, only in the middle of a vast and empty parking lot with a statue of Wilson—you couldn't see anything else, not even the school itself, it was as big as Kansas—waiting for my wife, who was in there applying for a job, which is in itself bizarre, if she were looking for a job it wouldn't be at an elementary school. I had my phone and was looking at Twitter and gradually began to realize it was trending that Trump had picked Wilson.

My first thought was spitefully noting that he'd gone back on his pledge to stick to the Federalist Society list. The man never keeps his promises! Only then did I realize it was much worse than that. "But he's been dead since 1919!"

It may have been making this error or realizing it was an error—his stroke was in 1919 but he stayed alive till 1924—that woke me up. Happy Independence Day.


Saturday, July 1, 2023

Unsettled Law

Thanks for the heads up, Michael.

Pretty weird to be out again wanting to defend an institution when I don't even think it should exist—or maybe I just think it should be nationalized, like Oxford and Cambridge, except for the law school and business school, those have to go. But it's not really about Harvard, anyway. North Carolina is probably a much more important example, because what will happen there is that Black and Latin people will have less chance to go to Chapel Hill and fall into the less prestigious campuses of the state's system, where they will be less likely to graduate, less likely to go on to postgraduate studies, and overall make less money in the course of their careers. While the white and presumable Asian students who replace them in Chapel Hill won't actually do any better there than they would have done at Asheville or Wake Forest or wherever, because this is what my man Zachary Bleemer found when he looked at the corresponding situation at the University of California when they abandoned affirmative action after a state referendum, Prop 209, ordered them to: