Saturday, March 24, 2018

Kevin Williamson's Heart of Darkness

In honor of Kevin D. Williamson's accession from the National Review to the hallowed precincts of The Atlantic, I'm reposting what I'm pretty sure is the funniest piece I've written about him and his remarkable literary style (plus bonus Duke Ellington), from August 2014:

Papa K illustrating the "West Side" sign, possibly making a universal gesture of primate territorial challenge as well.
I just found out (via Sick Horses) that National Review has taken to running literary fiction, starting with a charming effort by its "roving correspondent" and Chancellor of the Exchequer Kevin Williamson, entitled "Where the Sidewalk Ends: Danger and Despair in Pat Quinn's Crumbling Illinois".

The story is a journey narrative, a re-imagining of a trip to East St. Louis, Illinois, as an enchanted, surreal landscape seen through a child's eyes, taking its cue, as the title makes clear, from Shel Silverstein's poem:

Friday, March 23, 2018

Brooks is Asking This Sincerely

Hannah Arendt in the US, 1944. Photo by Alamy, via The Guardian.

Dsvid F. Brooks, "Speaking As a White Man", which sounds hilarious, of course, because we all know David Brooks isn't speaking as a white man but as the raceless and genderless voice of pure reason, a kind of Ken doll of the mind (even the passionless multicentenarians of 32,000 years from now in Shaw's Back to Methusaleh are divided into He-Ancients and She-Ancients, but Brooks thinks it's so obtrusive to insist on one's gender as if you thought it might make a difference, and really not very genteel to force on other folks the possibility that you might possess a dick), just wants somebody to answer a simple question:

How much are you in control of your own opinions? I ask this sincerely because, as you’ll see, I’m trying to think this through and I’m not sure how.
No, he's not asking this sincerely because, as you'll see, it's not the question he wants to explore, he's thought it through already, and he knows exactly how he wants to approach it.

What he really wants to know is how he can stop people from insisting that they are black, or gay, or Zoroastrian, and insisting that that gives them a right to say they know something he doesn't know and challenge him, because it makes him feel bad. And his chosen way of addressing it is to complain that the blacks and gays and Zoroastrians of today, unlike those of the good old days, have adopted the belief that your opinions are entirely dependent on your identity and that nobody can have thoughts that are not black or gay or Zoroastrian or white man's thoughts and that must explain why they keep telling him to shut up.

Or something.  I'm just trying to read this through and I'm not sure how.

For the Record: Bolton Addendum

John Bolton as the proverbial boy with a hammer, by the inestimable Donkey Hotey, March 2015.

I forgot a couple: A response to somebody who thought it was funny that Senator Rand Paul opposes Bolton
And to CNN's Josh Rogin, who was concerned that Bolton was being characterized as a "neocon" which is apparently inaccurate in the terms of the intensive difference-splitting of the American right

For the Record: First Thoughts on Bolton

Another secret Muslim betrays himself with the tawhid. Photo by Dennis Cook/AP via Breitbart (I won't link them).

I mostly thought the Bolton nomination was funny at first:

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Flatulent, Infidelistic Literature

David Brooks attempts to wrestle the woolly American spirit—"Vive, the attack -- the perennial assault! Vive, the unpopular cause -- the spirit that audaciously aims -- the never-abandon'd efforts, pursued the same amid opposing proofs and precedents"—to the ground. Photo via Mommy Poppins: Get More out of Houston with Kids.

David Brooks ("What Holds America Together") muses on the Houston Rodeo:

Last week I went to Houston to see the rodeo. That rodeo is not like other rodeos. It’s gigantic. It goes for 20 days. There can be up to 185,000 people on the grounds in a single day and they are of all human types — rural ranchers, Latino families, African immigrants, drunken suburban housewives out for a night on the town.
When you are lost in that sea of varied humanity, you think: What on earth holds this nation together?
There are quite a lot of immigrants from African countries—Nigeria and Ghana, Ethiopia and Kenya, and many others—in Houston, and they certainly deserve to enjoy themselves at the rodeo, as do the drunken suburban housewives, though I hope they weren't driving. Take an Uber, girls!

I'm not sure I'd be asking myself, "What on earth holds this nation together?" But David Brooks certainly did:

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Hillary and Libya: Update

That's "Aidez-moi!" on his fingers. Image via Freaking News.

The extremely remarkable news coming out of France this week about ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy, under arrest in a grotesque illegal campaign financing case, sheds unexpected light on a question we were working on two years ago, as the presidential campaign and the calumny campaign against Hillary Clinton were intensifying, and one of the angles of the latter was the portrayal of Clinton as a bloodthirsty warmonger against peace-loving Donald J. Trump, as in this example featuring a strange pro-Trump alliance among Instapundit Glenn Reynolds, Green candidate Jill Stein, The New York Times, and young Conor:

Tuesday, March 20, 2018


The Thunderbolt, Coney Island, over the Kensington Hotel, before it was razed in 2000. Photo by Charles Denson, via New York Folklore Society.

Jordan, in comments to yesterday's post (the thread's gotten so long that I feel we have to start a new post):
It's everywhere now. Digby's got it again, and Slate, and a dozen other places. "Trump unleashed." All those people who could talk him out of things (which is a way of reading the Wolff book, at least) are now gone -- so it's not that Trump has changed ("feeling his power" etc.) but that his idiotic moves get unchallenged.
I don't know what to make of all the Republican Senators/Congresspeople (Lindsay Graham etc.) coolly assuring reporters that there's no need to create legislation to prevent Trump from firing Mueller because they're sure that could never happen.
I'm genuinely puzzled by this whole thing. It's very easy to jump at shadows right now...and there is a lot of historical precedent for this particular nervousness and confusion (and, the scare images of jumping too late in the correct direction)...but I don't trust either side of that argument right now.
"Now that I don't have any friends, look how powerful I am!"

Sadly, no, Donald. You're just crazier.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Trumps Fall Apart

Drawing by John Darkow, 1./28/16, via George H.'s Pinterest.

At the end of an anxious post Friday, Digby wrote:
Trump is getting stronger every day. Don't let the chaos fool you. 
Which is somewhat the opposite of what I've been thinking, that he's starting at last to really fall apart, which is pretty daunting. I'm diametrically disagreeing about something with Digby! A friend was shocked enough to ask about it, by email, but it's going to take me a while to get around to the point, so bear with me.

A lot of people, Digby included, think we can't know much about the official grounds for the firing of Andrew McCabe until an official report is issued—
It is certainly true that we don't know all the facts underlying the firing of Andrew McCabe. Maybe he was leaking damaging information to the press about Hillary Clinton and/or Donald Trump and then blatantly lied about it. From what we understand his crimes so far, they are much more vague than that but we'll have to wait and see. 
—but that's not quite correct. Matt Apuzzo and Adam Goldman for The New York Times seem to have found out a good deal, though they also don't seem to think it's a very important part of the story, and don't get there until paragraphs 22-23, and it turns out to be about an FBI investigation of the Clinton Foundation:

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Was Lukoil just asking for a friend?

Lukoil station in New York City, via Wikimedia Commons.

Well, this (from Danny Hakim and Matthew Rosenberg at the Times) is sort of interesting:

When the Russia question came up during a hearing at the British Parliament last month, Alexander Nix did not hesitate.
“We’ve never worked in Russia,” said Mr. Nix, head of a data consulting firm that advised the Trump campaign on targeting voters.
“As far as I’m aware, we’ve never worked for a Russian company,” Mr. Nix added. “We’ve never worked with a Russian organization in Russia or any other country, and we don’t have any relationship with Russia or Russian individuals.”
Only Nix's interrelated companies, the UK SLC Group and US Cambridge Analytica, the Robert Mercer–created "psychographic profiling" firm hired by Brad Parscale and Jared Kushner to create the in-depth picture of how Trump's message resonated around the country that dictated the candidate's travel scale in 2016, did claim that they worked in Russia in some of their promotional material (SLC says one employee did "commercial work" for a "private company" in Russia 25 years ago, but the brochure suggests that SLC has clients on its active list with the firm's elections division), and then apparently they had at least three meetings in 2014 and 2015 with executives from the privately owned but deeply government-connected Lukoil oil export firm, discussing some possible work that never got going.