Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Turnout turnout turnout

Judge Moore heading into the sunset on a horse that clearly doesn't like him very much, via Deadspin.

My favorite statistic from yesterday's Alabama Senate election is this, as reported in the Washington Post:
 “These swings can be seen in counties majority white and black, Republican and Democrat. And that means it couldn’t have just been a surge in African American turnout, or just rural Trump voters staying home, or just Republicans crossing over to vote for Jones. Jones’ campaign was able to achieve a combination of the three that drove him to victory. Despite it being an off-year special election in December, Jones got 92 percent of Hillary Clinton’s vote total. Moore just got 49 percent of Trump’s.” 
The authorities were expecting a 25% turnout, meaning really big for an out-of-season race, and instead they got 40%, but that unexpected crowd was not symmetrical. Half of Trump's voters couldn't bring themselves to vote for Moore, but nearly all of Clinton's voters came out for Jones.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017


Gleichschaltung der Kulturen. Drawing, 2003, by Walter Wesinger ("Waldah"), via staatenlosinfo,org.

David Brooks ("What's Wrong With Radicalism") in the grips of a kind of interesting thought today: that the policies promoted by our two big political parties aren't really very radical:

Stylistically and culturally, Trumpian populism screams “blow it up” and “drain the swamp.” But Donald Trump’s actual policies are run-of-the-mill corporatist. The left-wing radicals talk a lot against the systems of oppression and an institutionalized injustice. But they are nothing like the radicals of the 1930s or the 1960s.

Today’s radicals do not want to upend the meritocracy, which is creating a caste system of inherited inequality. They don’t want to stop technical innovation, which is displacing millions of workers. They don’t have plans to reverse individualism, which atomizes society and destroys community. A $15 minimum wage may be left wing, but it’s not Marxist-Leninism.
If that's true, then isn't Brooks's whole shtik misplaced? He's been telling us for ten years that we need to situate ourselves humbly in the sweet, quiet spot between the extremes of left and right; now he's saying we're already there, but it's so noisy in here we don't realize it? Or what?


Monday, December 11, 2017

Too many things coming to a head here

My screengrab.

If Emperor Trump wanted to create some kind of Reichstag fire excuse for declaring a national emergency, if you know what I mean, he couldn't do better than declaring that the Palestinian peace process is dead and that from the US point of view Israel is basically all the land between the Jordan and the Mediterranean. I'm not saying that's what he did—I don't think it is at all what he did—but I'll bet at some point as Mattis and Tillerson were trying to talk him down from his decision to proclaim his intention of moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, one of them said it would provoke terrorist incidents, possibly even inside the US, and he made one of those dumb macho responses to the effect that we can't let the terrorists tell us what to do.

As I've said before, the object of these people is never to prevent bad things happening but to dramatize the difference between the Good, us, and the Evil, them.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

What kind of Christianity is that?

Speaking of Calvin...

So obviously what stopped me there was the "tenants" of the faith ("Of course not," I want to say, "they despise people who pay rent, they follow the landlords of the faith"), but it also struck me that there's a theological error there; the tenets of the faith of conservative American evangelicals are completely consistent with supporting Trump.

That's the problem. You can't get anywhere by telling them Trump is a bad man because this increasingly Calvinist denomination doesn't believe there's any such thing as a good man; man is born totally depraved. Nor is there any necessary relation between the kind of depravity a man displays in his character and the work God has selected him to do; Trump's idea that he should be judged in terms of all his "winning" sounds right to them, the manifest sign of his predestined status.

We started seeing this years ago, in the 1980s, in the scandals inside the church of Jim Bakker and Jimmy Swaggart, in which the faithful didn't see these men's sexual escapades as disqualifying for the ministry but instead thrilling dramas of sin and redemption. In the same way what Trump may have done in the distant past (e.g. when he was in his 60s, at the time of the Access Hollywood video) is of no relevance to the heroic things he may be doing now, singlehandedly protecting us from the vicious enemies surrounding us, except to the extent that if he was that bad then, the fact that he's so good now illustrates God's awesome power to exalt the weak and humble the great, or something.

Fox News was suggesting God had punished the Olympic skier Lindsey Vonn for criticizing Trump a couple of days ago:

They later deleted the tweet, but the Washington Examiner kept the idea in their headline:

And then, it's not exactly relevant, but there was the Alabamian in the Frank Luntz focus group who thought,
Forty years ago in Alabama, there’s a lot of mamas and daddies that’d be thrilled that their 14-year-old was getting hit on by a district attorney.
It's just not the kind of nice, earnest, naggy but well-meant Christianity you mostly see on television. These people are in a different moral world.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Toward the state-and-a-half solution

Still from Rona Yefman's 2006 video, "Pippi L. at Abu Dis", depicting Pippi Longstocking, strongest girl in the world, attempting to take down the Wall separating Israel from Palestine.

Has there ever been anything in history quite as overdetermined as Trump's insistence on recognizing Jerusalem as the eternal capital (he didn't say "undivided", which may be a clue that he or his writers didn't mean all that much anyway) of the Jewish state and agreement to move the US embassy there from Tel Aviv at some point in the future? There are so many competing ways of explaining why it had to happen that it might be be more useful to ask what could have stopped it.

First there's Jared Kushner, designated unofficially by the Emperor-elect as Middle East Peace Tsar way back in November 2016—

Friday, December 8, 2017

Hip to Hip

Urban Bush Women Hip to Hip, via University of Florida Performing Arts/

David F. Brooks ("The G.O.P. is Rotting") really seems to have got out of the wrong side of the bed. He doesn't even have anything good to say about his own people, the humble folk who occupy the middle, like ideological magpies looking for sparkly ideas to decorate their nests!

A lot of good, honorable Republicans used to believe there was a safe middle ground. You didn’t have to tie yourself hip to hip with Donald Trump, but you didn’t have to go all the way to the other extreme and commit political suicide like the dissident Jeff Flake, either. You could sort of float along in the middle, and keep your head down until this whole Trump thing passed.
Wait, when were those good old days when the good and the honorable thought there was a middle ground between Trump and suicide? The announcement of Flake's political suicide was on October 24! He's talking about a month ago!

I should also mention that if you're tying yourself to somebody hip to hip is the wrong way to go. That knot's going to slip something terrible (see illustration above).

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Update: Veselnitskaya again

International Spy Museum, Washington, D.C.

Boom. There's now some followup email relating to the beloved Trump Tower meeting of June 9 2016, from the famed English music publicist and funny hat fancier Rob Goldstone who arranged the meeting with Donald Jr. on behalf of Emin Agalarov, to Trump's ex-caddy and social media guy Dan Scavino (the one who writes the mostly literate tweets and retweets the impossibly racist ones) and to some Russian friends, obtained by CNN. It's the latter that especially interests me and our own little patch in the public garden, with a reference that means more to us than it does to most investigators:
In one email dated June 14, 2016, Goldstone forwarded a CNN story on Russia's hacking of DNC emails to his client, Russian pop star Emin Agalarov, and Ike Kaveladze, a Russian who attended the meeting along with Trump Jr., Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner and Manafort, describing the news as "eerily weird" given what they had discussed at Trump Tower five days earlier.
One of the sources familiar with the content of the email downplayed the interaction, saying news of the DNC hack was surprising because in the run-up to the Trump Tower meeting, the Russian participants had promised information on illicit Russian funding of the DNC. But that dirt was not provided to Trump Jr., Kushner and Manafort during the meeting, according to accounts from the participants.
The DNC hacking was not brought up at the meeting, another source said, explaining it would not be 'oddly weird' if the topic had been broached.
Well, excuse me, there's one thing that's completely new here, the idea that "the Russian participants had promised information on illicit Russian funding of the DNC", because I'm pretty sure I've never heard anything like that before. Have you? The most specific thing I remember is the suggestion in Veselnitskaya's memo, prepared for the meeting, that Bill Browder's Hermitage Capital "may also have donated to the DNC", which would be illegal but British, not Russian, and the allegation that the all-American Ziff brothers were Democratic donors (and "It cannot be ruled out that they also financed Hillary Clinton campaign"). And then the folder of printouts described by Rinat Akhmetshin, which sound so much like certain pages from the DNC emails as we know them from WikiLeaks.

But you know what would have been extremely oddly weird? Given that nobody had publicly heard of the DNC hack on June 9, it would have been at least memorable if the subject had been broached, and folks would remember it when the news story came out a few days afterwards.

It would have been spectacularly oddly weird if the topic had been broached in a scenario like the following: If one of the Russians present at the meeting had said that the Democratic National Committee had been hacked and they had the stuff, and the American said, oh, that's ridiculous, we would have heard if something like that happened, get the fuck out of here, and then five count 'em five days later it turned out on CNN that the DNC had indeed been hacked!

Where did that crazy Russian lady leave her folder last week? somebody might have wanted to know. I don't have a clue, Manafort could have said with a quizzical smile. You know what I mean?