Saturday, August 19, 2017

For the record: Declining and falling

Marble bust of Emperor Gaius Caligula, with original color restored, via Wikipedia. Paul Krugman made a pretty good case yesterday that he was a better emperor than Trump.

I really have such a bad feeling on this aspect, that Republicans will emerged unscathed from the cataclysm, shaking with indignation when anybody suggests they had anything to do with the rise of this ill-bred person.

Friday, August 18, 2017

For the record: I get my Bernie on

Men harvesting wheat with reaping-hooks, on a calendar page for August. Queen Mary's Psalter (Ms. Royal 2. B. VII), ca. 1310, via Wikimedia Commons.
Our good friend Bethesda1971 published a diary at Kos suggesting that
Dems Must Seize the Tax Cut Issue: Demand Working/Middle Class Cuts; Ignore the Deficit
and I was a little bit like wait a minute, really? A middle-class tax cut? Isn't that kind of small ball? And found myself banging out a response on my phone in the subway in which I seem to have chased myself out to the left of Bernie Sanders (well, people have been saying he's not a real socialist for years),  and I thought I might as well memorialize that.

But as you say people don't even notice it.* And people below median income are hardly paying income tax as it is. You need a program that people can picture making a difference in their lives, and this sounds like (Bill) Clintonism, competing with Republicans on their turf.** Worst, the tax cut doesn't make more than a tiny dent in inequality.
I agree on taking focus away from deficit, but I would prefer to see increase in thresholds for earned income benefits for us, and for the rich equalizing tax treatment of capital income and inheritance to tax at same rate as wages.*** And then massive efforts to make capital accessible to people with lower incomes, like post office banking or more credit unions. And forcing Fed to met inflation targets before it raises interest rates. If there's something Democrats need to "seize" it's the inequality argument.****

* I mean, that as tax rates continued to fall for middle class payers throughout the Obama administration, polls never stopped showing people believing their tax rates were going up.

** And it's not as if we had a real chance of passing a serious program any time in the next three years. Even in the unimaginably best impeachment luck, President Pelosi and the Republican Senate would have their hands completely full with ethics legislation repairing the legal holes that allow Trump more or less unlimited corruption. Budgeting will be by continuing resolution until 2021. And there's no point in making your compromises ahead of the negotiation, unless you're as cunning as Obama. Might as well think big while we have the time!

*** Bernie insisted on the deficit-hawk gesture of a middle-class tax hike. Of course my health insurance program (starting from the ACA and more or less Germanizing it) is a lot less expensive than "single payer".

**** Why are so many of us forgetting this? More and more Americans have no pensions or property and face literal destitution in old age, while people like Trump can gratify every whim without even thinking about it. Marx and Piketty were both right, this isn't sustainable. If we don't move forward we'll be going back to feudalism.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Turnout troofing

Yesterday the Times Upshot ran a piece by Nate Cohn analyzing the 2016 presidential election in terms of what looks to me like another take in the Legendary White Working Class family of takes, identifying the crucial factor in Trump's victory as that particular set of white-no-college voters who voted for Obama in 2008 and/or 2012 but for Trump in 2016, and who are said to have made this remarkable switch mostly out of racial resentment (I actually don't think that's as bizarre as it sounds, but the obvious question it raises, of why a white person who voted for Obama one year would turn around against Clinton out of racial resentment the next time, is one Cohn doesn't even discuss) and then out of disappointment with Obama and then lastly because they agree with Trump's policy prescriptions as they understand them.

Which Cohn does not take to mean that Democrats need to appeal more to racists, even though that's what his data makes it sound like, but that we should take positions more like those of imaginary Trump, in favor of lots of infrastructure spending, and trade protectionism, and relatively relaxed sexual views. The great Zandar of Kentucky, though, hears Cohn thinking it, and he doesn't like it:

What that means is that Cohn is strongly suggesting that in order to be competitive, Democrats have to make a sea change to attract voters that harbor no small amount of racial resentment. Trump was able to leverage that resentment into massive distrust of the Obama administration and Democrats in general.
The problem is that this will come at a cost, and the cost will be borne by black, Latinx, and Asian voters and candidates [and female candidates too, I'd add].  I've said before that this path is suicidal for the Dems and so far Trump is making it incredibly easy to make the Democrats be the party of inclusiveness in comparison by simple dint of Trump's overwhelmingly awful racism, if not open support of white supremacists.

Nor do I.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

What part of anti-fascist didn't you understand?

Image via New York Times.

Not long after retweeting (and then untweetting) an image of the Trump train evidently emulating the automobile of that murdering Nazi in Charlottesville to mow down the CNN mascot, Emperor Trump
showed up at Trump Tower to inform the press of a new executive order:
“I’ve just signed a new executive order to reform the nation’s badly broken infrastructure permitting process,” Trump announced, suggesting that his directive would streamline the process of approving constructions on highways.
But according to my source (the Mic Network), it was actually just rear-ending an order of 2015 from the Obama White House, revising the Federal Flood Risk Management Standard

Flailing to Byzantium

Albrecht Dürer, 1514, St. Jerome in his Studio, via Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Verbatim David Brooks, "How to Roll Back Fanaticism", New York Times, August 15 2017:

Donald Trump is the perfect snake oil salesman for this moment. He lacks inwardness and therefore is terrified by the possibility of anxiety. He has been escaping self-scrutiny his whole life and has become a genius at the self-exculpating rationalization. He took a nation beset by uncertainty and he gave it a series of “explanations” that were simple, crude, affirming and wrong.
Question to Radio Yerevan: Is it true that Donald Trump's lack of inwardness causes him to be terrified by the possibility of anxiety? Or putting it another way, if you have more inwardness, does that make you less anxious that you might get anxious? Or does inwardness make you more anxious so that you realize anxiety isn't that frightening? I can see how an embrace of self-scrutiny can lead you to inculpate yourself if you have stuff to feel guilty about, but I don't quite get how fleeing from self-scrutiny would make you "become a genius" at explaining why you're not guilty and in any case Trump doesn't really do self-exculpation—he just denies. If he's a genius, it's at gratuitous lying. You could say he started off as a genius in avoiding self-scrutiny, which enables him to be unaware whether he has or hasn't done anything at all, and just assume that if anything is nice he's responsible for it and if anything's not nice it's somebody else's fault, or they're lying about it. David F. Brooks may have "become a genius" in avoiding self-scrutiny in the columns he wrote in summer 2014 on the subject of how it's narcissistic to examine oneself, at the same time as Brooks himself was publicly pretending he hadn't just smashed up his 30-year marriage by having an affair with his 25-years-younger research assistant, but let that pass. Another and much more important classic example, involving Iraq, comes from Driftglass, vintage 2010.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Jack Kennedy was a (distant) friend of mine, and you, sir...

From Joseph Simms, 1873, Nature's Revelations of Character, Or, The Mental, Moral and Volitive Dispositions of Mankind, as Manifested in the Human Form and Countenance.
Shorter Monsignor Ross Douthat, Apostolic Nuncio to 42nd Street ("The Missiles of August"):
No reason to worry, Trump is basically John Fitzgerald Kennedy: disgusting, but not really dangerous.
a reckless, lecherous U.S. president obsessed with his own vigor and out of his depth on foreign policy faced off against a thirtysomething dictator armed with nukes. If we survived the Cuban missile crisis without a thermonuclear war, there’s probably a way to get through this one, too.
I don't think it's quite right to describe Trump as "lecherous", though he'd probably like that himself. My sense, especially from the famous Billy Bush tape, is that he's less interested in having lots of intercourse with many different women than in assault, peeping, and especially getting his presumed exploits talked about. It's hard to imagine JFK calling the New York Post under an assumed identity to get them to write about how much sex he was having.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Annals of Derp: The Paul Popenoe Story

The early ‘Can This Marriage Be Saved?’ columns have an unpleasant chiding tone. Popenoe, along with his organisation’s marriage counsellors, thought of female clients as unrealistic babies: immature, and expecting too much glitz from their marriages. There was a strong element of intergenerational critique in their counsel – a sense that young women were seduced by popular culture, and hopelessly unable to ‘keep house’ and make sacrifices. ‘Don’t expect too much romance,’ Popenoe’s counsellors said over and over again. In treating ‘Ralph’ and ‘Alice’ (February 1953), a young couple who had four children in the space of five years, the counsellor wrote that Alice needed to be convinced to stop ‘nagging’ her husband for affection: ‘Ralph’s way of pronouncing his love was not in extravagant speech but in coming home to her and the children, and displaying his willingness – indeed, his determination – to support them.’ The happy ending was for her to provide: ‘When Alice recognised this fact and acknowledged that the language of courtship and juvenile dreams is seldom the language of marriage, she started keeping household accounts and padlocking her tongue.’ (via Aeon, illustration from Redbook.)
I was kind of thinking I'd take a bye on Dinesh D'Souza's newly emitted project, The Big Lie (from Regnery, already getting remaindered at $4.95 five days after publication!), aimed at persuading us that Jonah Goldberg's Liberal Fascism was too mild, because Jonah left out the important bit about how liberals are also Nazis, which isn't how I remembered it, but this tweet kind of called out to me to find out what it was about.

Question to Radio Yerevan: Is it true that the progressive eugenicist Paul Popenoe, an associate of the birth control advocate Margaret Sanger, gave the German Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei the idea of "lethal chambers" for killing the disabled and unwanted?

Answer: It's incredible how much wrong D'Souza can pack into 21 words.

Friday, August 11, 2017

I'd say: The Damore Memo

Image via Phawker.

David Brooks ("Sundar Pichai Should Resign as Google's C.E.O.") picking villains:

There are many actors in the whole Google/diversity drama, but I’d say the one who’s behaved the worst is the C.E.O., Sundar Pichai.
Am I alone in thinking there's something weird about conducting an examination of this case around the question "who has behaved the worst?" There are many actors in Shakespeare's Hamlet, but I'd say the one who behaved the worst was Polonius. What a dick that guy is. I'm glad he's dead.

No, I'd say the job is to understand what happened and what, if anything, it means. I'm fond of worrying through the argument of who was the worst person in the George W. Bush administration (on the whole, I go for Wolfowitz, who was better intellectually equipped than Cheney or Rumsfeld to know what they were doing and thus has a greater responsibility than those two simple-minded sociopaths), but only in the context of a broader analysis of the story.

What happened at Google was that sometime in July a software engineer called James Damore attended a mandatory company diversity training session that made him really mad (he said it was "secretive" and "shaming"), so on a flight to China, to while the time away and assuage his hurt feelings, he wrote a lengthy note under the title "Google's Ideological Echo Chamber"