Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Emperor Trump, continued

Image via Alabama Today, from a story on the nomination of Tom Price (R-GA) as secretary of destroying the Affordable Care Act. I have no idea why they ran this particular shot, unless Kellyanne wrote a song about it.
So it's my theory—trigger warning, this might make you feel a little sick—that the Romney concept really belongs to Barack Obama, as part of the Trump Whispering campaign.

Yes, I'm old enough to remember when Romney owned the world record for political lies per minute (about 0.76), but that was back in ancient times, before a presidential campaign in which Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, and Carly Fiorina, some of the most prolific and dedicated liars in US history, making the Mittster look like a gentleman amateur, were themselves completely outclassed by the winning candidate, our president-elect, who reached the stunning rate of a lie every 50 seconds (1.2 lies per minute) during the presidential debates. (Oh, and both sides do it, because Hillary Clinton once said she landed under sniper fire in Sarajevo in 1996, which was not true, but then Brian Williams, who seems to have claimed to have spent pretty much his entire life under sniper fire, still has a job as a news broadcaster, so who knows what it all means.)

Cheap shots: Cabinet of Curiosities

Cabinet of curiosities from the collections of the Victor Wynd Museum, via ChurchOfHalloween.
I'll be back later...

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Stuck in the middle with Milt

Leatrice Joy, Walter Long, and William Boyd in Paul Sloane's Eve's Leaves (1926).
World-famous Young-Hegelian dialectician David F. Brooks has some great news ("The Future of the American Center")—you know that election they just had this month? The center won!

What’s about to happen in Washington may be a little like the end of the Cold War — bipolarity gives way to multipolarity. A system dominated by two party-line powers gives way to a system with a lot of different power centers. Instead of just R’s and D’s, there will be a Trump-dominated populist nationalism, a more libertarian Freedom Caucus, a Bernie Sanders/Elizabeth Warren progressive caucus, a Chuck Schumer/Nancy Pelosi Democratic old guard.
The most important caucus formation will be in the ideological center. There’s a lot of room between the alt-right and the alt-left, between Trumpian authoritarianism and Sanders socialism.
I think it may resemble the end of the Cold War more in the way the vultures of privatization circle in to gather up the spoils of victory, led by the president-elect, to make sure there's no rent money left lying around on the battlefield, but maybe that's just me.

Then again, former conservative vulture Dr. Bill Kristol seems to have moved in on the carcass of the No Labels movement, in partnership with former liberal vulture (and No Labels co-founder) Dr. Bill Galston, who is possibly Dr. Kristol's only rival for the title of America's Wrongest Columnist, I dare you to click that link if you don't believe me. Dr. Bill and Dr. Bill have issued a manifesto

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Annals of Deception: Jeff Sessions

Photo via Politico.
From the Wikipedia biography (in its current state) of United States Attorney General–Designate Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, on his experience as US Attorney in Alabama in 1981-93:
Sessions' office investigated the 1981 killing of Michael Donald, a young African-American man who was murdered in Mobile, Alabama by a pair of Ku Klux Klanmembers.[13][14] Session's office did not prosecute the case, but both men were arrested and convicted.[15]
As a U.S. Attorney he filed several cases to desegregate schools in Alabama. And he also prosecuted Klansman Henry Francis Hays, son of Alabama Klan leader Bennie Hays, for abducting and killing Michael Donald, a black teenager selected at random. Sessions insisted on the death penalty for Hays.[16]
That second paragraph startled me for a few reasons, especially because it wasn't there last time I looked at this (which wasn't long ago at all), and because it directly contradicts the first paragraph, for which I'd checked the documentation—duh, of course Sessions did not prosecute the Michael Donald lynching case (nobody ever calls it a lynching, but the killers hung their victim's body from a tree), since he was US Attorney and the case was tried in state court by Mobile District Attorney Chris Galanos; and because in this way there is a demonstrable lie in a Wikipedia article, which really pisses me off.

The paragraph was added on November 25 between 17:46 and 17:59 by somebody under the username Azarbarzin, and the link is to a November 18 article by Mark Hemingway in the Weekly Standard, which seems to be based on lies Sessions told Hemingway:

Saturday, November 26, 2016

The work of providence

Pope Honorius I, via
Shorter Monsignor Ross Douthat, Apostolic Nuncio to 42nd Street ("His Holiness Declines to Answer", New York Times, November 26 2016):
You think you Americans are having problems, with your obscene president-elect and all, you should see what we members of the One and Apostolic Roman Catholic Church are experiencing, where the Holy Father is refusing to come out and say openly whether he thinks it's lawful for some divorced hussy to receive Holy Communion, as appeared to be suggested in the encyclical Amoris Laetitia, how cutting-edge scary is that? Some say the Holy Ghost has sealed his lips on the subject and prevented him from saying what he really thinks because if he did that he would surely say something contrary to Church doctrine and God will never allow such a terrible thing to happen.
That last bit is for real, a reference to the official teaching of the doctrine of papal infallibility, with the implication that Francis doesn't really want to be forced into a position where what he says on the subject crosses into that almost never invoked territory (strictly speaking, it's only ever been invoked twice, once in 1854 before the formal proclamation of infallibility for the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of Mary, whose parents conceived her, uniquely, without sin, and once in 1950 for her Bodily Assumption), but Ross pulls it all the way out for this colossally important issue, as usual not explicitly, but with a Trumpian "people are saying":

Friday, November 25, 2016

Zealously seized and manically attentive

Via SilentsPlease, from Alfred Lind's Il Jockey della Morte (1915).
Book report time from David Brooks ("Does Decision Making Matter?"), on Michael Lewis's The Undoing Project: A Friendship that Changed Our Minds about the story of the collaboration between Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky, the founders of behavioral economics, a book not yet released (it comes out December 6), so I can't tell you whether there's any evidence he's read beyond page 40, or how much the column plagiarizes it, or that kind of thing.

I can tell you Brooks spells Tversky's name wrong ("Twersky", 11 times), an error no editor has caught, though he's spelled it correctly in five columns since 2006.

The intellectual excitement over the work of Kahneman and Tversky was at its peak around 1979, when they published the seminal paper on "Prospect Theory: An analysis of decision making Under risk" which was at the center of the Nobel Prize in economics Kahneman received in 2002 (Tversky died in 1996), so at the time when Brooks was an undergraduate, so perhaps what he retains is a sense of their fashionableness, though in 2011 he wrote a column calling them "the Lewis and Clark of the mind" (in a book report on Kahneman's memoir, Thinking Fast and Slow).

Today he's pretty excited over the emotional intensity of the collaboration (Lewis's book sounds like a great read, and I mean that in a positive sense), but when he comes to what I think is the most important aspect of their work together, on the fundamental irrationality of human decision making, which should have had a revolutionary impact on the conduct of economics (human irrationality was already pretty well known to psychologists by the 1980s), and unfortunately didn't, a radical attack on the choice theory that is at the base of all conventional microeconomics and still used as the foundation of economic prediction and planning—when it comes to that, he's strangely dismissive, because after all decision making didn't play much of a part in Kahneman's and Tversky's lives:

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving

Image by blogfriend Fearguth, November 2015.
We spend a lot of time criticizing the Thanksgiving myth, of that first feast at Plymouth Plantation, where the Indians, having helped the Pilgrims survive into their first harvest, come to share its fruits at the same table; for its false consciousness and historical decontextualization, ripped out of the record of exploitation, theft, and violence that marks the white people's takeover of the continent, but maybe we ought to remember that it is, after all, a myth.

Athena didn't leap, an armed baby, out of Zeus's skull, either! You can't expect a myth to be true! Maybe we should be thinking about the fictionally happy picture itself, of that multicultural table, as something we yearn toward, prospectively, without any illusions about the actual festival of 1621, toward the time when we can all sit down together, conscious of our identities and willingly sharing across the boundaries, those who have more obliged to share more, or even better to make it real every day, or as real as we can, imperfect and selfish as we all are by nature.

The Thanksgiving myth is a myth, and it really is about celebrating diversity! But not 400 years ago, when it didn't happen: 400 years in the future, or this year if we want it!

It doesn't mean anything if everybody at the table is the same, or if we pretend we're all the same; it derives its meaning from the differences, from dramatizing whatever differences we have, even if it's just generations or genders, but ideally racial differences, and being generous about them, not just with food but with attention, and not just attention but a little surrender, maybe of allowing the other person to be touchy and ready to get indignant, maybe of noticing how touchy we're feeling (with good reason!) ourselves.

And tomorrow, Resistance! Have a great holiday.

Cross-posted at No More Mister Nice Blog.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Emperor Trump

Up on my list of things to be giving thanks for on the holiday is that President-Elect Trump is breaking so many of his campaign promises, to build a wall and make the Mexicans pay for it, to prosecute his Democratic opponent for crimes unspecified and unspecifiable, to restore torture to the CIA's toolbox, to withdraw from the agreement between Iran and the P5+1 powers, to dump the Paris climate accord, and to accept the backing of the alt-white movement, which he rejected in his meeting with the Times executives and pandits yesterday. I hope he decides to break more of them! And I hope the betrayed voters don't react too violently.

I also hope he never holds a press conference, as Michael Gerson (G.W. Bush's faith-based speechwriter, you'll recall) was suggesting on NPR. Because presidential press conferences are really dangerous with a president who's unable to control his tongue. Controlling one's tongue, also known as "political correctness". A careless word can jolt a market or put somebody's life in jeopardy. Reported hate crimes in New York City are up over 400% since this time last year because of the words of a politician who isn't even president, yet. I hope he never appears in public without a script and his words are as anodyne as Eisenhower's speeches were.

The worst fears of Monsignor Ross Douthat, Apostolic Nuncio to 42nd Street ("The Trump Revelations"), appear to him to have been confirmed: the man's a secret liberal, "in his heart"!—

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Try a little tenderness!

Louise Brooks in G.W. Pabst's Tagebuch einer Verlorenen (1929), via Gypsy Astronaut.
And it's look who's finally showing up for The Normalizing? David F. Brooks ("Fellow Trump Critics, Try a Little Listening") asking all his friends to take a hopeful and helpful attitude to the president-elect and his interesting plans:

Whether it’s reforming immigration or trade policy, his governing challenge is going to be astoundingly hard and complicated. Surely this is not the moment to get swept up in our own moral superiority, but rather to understand the specificity of the proposals he comes up with and to offer concrete amendments and alternatives to address the same problems.
It's just like November 2008, right, when he asked Obama's opponents to cut him some slack and assist him to govern responsibly, by engaging with the Democrats' proposals. Oh, wait, no he didn't, he told the president-elect to listen to his opponents and look for ways of engaging with them, because the election was a sure sign that America was moving to the right:

It's good to be the king. At least it's good for business.

Another YY Development Group project, Trump Tower Punta del Este, rises in Uruguay. Photo credit to Gentileza El País via  TheBubble.
The story of that November 14 phone congratulations-on-your-election call from Argentine president Mauricio Macri to Donald Trump in which Trump may have asked Macri to help him out in getting a building permit for a Trump Tower Buenos Aires (Macri's office has denied that) is getting a little thicker, thanks at least in part to an intrepid Twitter researcher who reads Spanish:

YY is YY Development Group, principals Felipe Yaryura and Moisés Yellati, the company that's actually developing the project—Trump, as is his usual practice, is simply supplying the brand name and the fabulous standards of excellence that go with it (he's said to have demanded that materials imported from outside Argentina, from bathroom fixtures to paint pigment). Felipe Yaryura, a pal of Eric Trump's, is the person from whom the Pink House (Casa Rosada, Argentina's presidential residence) got the president-elect's number when they placed the call (Macri, who publicly backed Clinton during the campaign, seems to have been pretty anxious to get on the phone with Trump, an old business associate of Macri's real estate magnate father).

Monday, November 21, 2016

Trump Did Not Explode in Anger, Aide Claims

Via Fusion.
They know how to write headlines at The Guardian:

Trump did not ask Argentina's president for business favor, spokesman says

Right-oh. This story comes from the award-winning Argentine journalist Jorge Lanata, best known for his investigations in the 2013 K-money scandal of embezzling and laundering money from public works projects in which the late president Néstor Kirchner and his wife the ex-president Cristina de Kirchner may be involved—the official (as opposed to journalistic) investigation is ongoing.

So somebody on current president Mauricio Macri's staff told Lanata that when Macri called Trump to congratulate him on November 14, Trump asked him to help out getting a construction permit for a 35-story Trump Office building in Buenos Aires, and Lanata reported it Sunday on his TV show, Periodismo para Todos:

Because Trump might not have enough yes-men

"Yes, Donald, you're so right, Donald, heck, I bet you yourself don't fully realize how right you are, am I right? Believe me, you don't get any righter." Via.

From the Times Monday Briefing copy:
One member of Mr. Trump’s inner circle who is considering joining the administration as an adviser is his son-in-law, Jared Kushner. “He is known as the staunchest defender of Mr. Trump’s judgment,” our reporter observes.
It didn't look quite so stark in the original article, somehow: There are lots of people willing to defend Mr. Trump's judgment down some pretty incredible rabbit holes, that's what he pays them for, but it's not an easy job. And there's nobody in the inner circle like Jared for defending it against all comers. That's the kind of guy Mr. Trump really needs, because you wouldn't want him to get the idea his judgment's not always sound, would you?

Come to think of it, I guess I missed this:
Unlike most of Mr. Trump’s advisers, Mr. Kushner is unfazed by Mr. Trump’s frequent fits of anger, sitting silently rather than flinching or fighting back when he is being dressed down, several campaign officials have said. The relationship between the two men is relatively uncomplicated. 

National Review gets into The Normalizing

Image via.
At the National Review, Kevin D. Williamson dips a toe into The Normalization:
I do not agree with Donald Trump about much of anything. Early in the primary season, I wrote a little book titled “The Case against Trump.”
An extremely little book (48 200-words-per-page sides, or maybe 30 pages of manuscript, rushed out to cash in on the #NeverTrump flutter in the conservative movement before it fainted and died) in the Encounter Broadsides series beginning with a lively complaint that if it were 160 years ago and Trump were British he would probably oppose the repeal of the Corn Laws, which I think has to be one of the weakest arguments against Trump that has yet been deployed—not that I'd be against Repeal myself, of course, if I were an Englishman in 1846, I just think it's very hard to be sure how Trump would have felt about it, if he were somebody else in a different place and a different time, and equally hard to see why it's important.

And going on to clarify that Trump is actually right about immigration, though illiberal and wrong at the same time, and not a racist, because the racists just happen to be right about immigrants: "The litany of complaints is no less true for being dear to the hearts of bigots", because he has some evidence to suggest that Latino people in the United States are generally poorer than white people, and also a little more criminal, as poorer people often are, though Williamson doesn't of course mention that immigrant Latinos as opposed to US-born ones are on the whole significantly less criminal—

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Stupid Senate tricks and WWC society ladies

Tengrain must have liked my GIFs. Hi MBRU cowpokes!

GIF by headlikeanorange.
Learned something about the possible fate of the Affordable Care Act from an NPR interview with Senator John Thune yesterday. Not from that tool Thune, but from the interviewer:
INSKEEP: We spoke with a health care analyst who thought you might do something like this - pass a repeal and then give yourselves a couple of years to come up with a replacement. And the way he phrased it was that then creates a crisis because there's a deadline, it's expiring, and you'll have a desperate situation where you'll have to agree to something. Is that what you really mean to do?
It's one of those Stupid Senate Tricks, like the infamous Budget Sequester of 2013, where Congress digs itself a deep hole with the express purpose of not falling into it. "We can't agree on how to replace the ACA but if we were forced to, we surely would." Can God create a stone so big He can't roll it? Can Congress write a law so ineluctable they can't evade it?

Obama doesn't pop off

Best result of googling "Gauthier proportions". Drawing by Manon Gauthier.
Commenter bluicebank writes:
In retrospect, I have realized that David Brooks is a punching bag.
In the last weeks of the Republic, why are we not discussing someone more powerful? As in, the Prez of the usa? Word. He is a black man, and cares about shit, and was arguably a great prez.
I hear lately that one Barack Obama is running tight-end for Trump. That's cool, I guess. But what bothers me is that Obama hasn't a fucking clue that this nation faces a crisis of gauthier proportions, blithely and as smooth-as-silk, almost cavalierly tossing the baton to Trump with fucking Vangelis in the background.
I've done two pieces on Obama's relationship with Trump in the past couple of weeks, plus one indirectly about it on Thursday, and I will undoubtedly do more.

I don't think there's anything in the least blithe or cavalier about what he is doing. I think he is more aware of exactly what kind of crisis we're dealing with here than more or less anybody in the world, and working on it with all the caution and delicacy of a sapper defusing a gigantic landmine, so carefully and so without vanity that we don't really know anything about it and can only speculate, but with all his intellect and patience engaged at the maximum.

He doesn't worry about whether you like how it looks, because he can't afford to, none of us can. It's not a fucking sports competition, as you know, not a question of who's the winner and who's the loser, it's a question of the health and maybe the survival of our whole polity, and if Obama doesn't mind showing up as a graceful loser at this time and even as a kind of friendly mentor to the incoming incompetent, it's because he always keeps goals in mind that are more important than he is. That's what it takes. Obama doesn't pop off.

He did say something in a conference call with supporters and organizers on Monday afternoon that you might have a look at, including this:
Understand that I'm going to be constrained in what I do with all of you until I am again a private citizen.  But that's not so far off.  It's basically six, eight weeks away.  And I will have some time for vacation, but you're going to see me early next year, and we're going to be in a position where we can start cooking up all kinds of great stuff to do. 
It's really not over.

Of course David Brooks is a punching bag, or the metaphor I've used before is that of a five-finger piano exercise. It's low-stakes calisthenics. I do it to keep fit, it's good for my style and fluency, and fun for me, in some sense relaxing, and I post them because a lot of people like to read them. Some don't. My youngest sister, who likes a lot of what I do, sees Brooks in the subject line and skips it, and that's just fine. You should feel free to do the same.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Don't miniaturize me, bro!

Image by Gawker Media, February 2013.
Verbatim David Brooks, "The Danger of a Dominant Identity", New York Times, November 17 2016:
But it’s not only racists who reduce people to a single identity. These days it’s the anti-racists, too. To raise money and mobilize people, advocates play up ethnic categories to an extreme degree.
I think we've reached peak bothsiderism, where the pro-racist and the anti-racist teams are fundamentally the same, and the implication is that a decent person would be neutral with respect to racism, dispassionate and not involved in anything so crass as raising money.

There's a very useful idea poking around the column, or a useful set of ideas, around what you might call the concept of Social Identity Complexity (he doesn't tell us what thinkers he's getting it from, and I'm not going to try to find out), or the obvious fact (it's obvious, but too many social scientists and pandits act as if it wasn't true) that everybody has more than one identity, in realms of gender, class, nationality, ethnicity, language, religion, music preference, brand loyalty, and so on, and more than one identity inside certain particular realms, including language and ethnicity (evidence is that the majority of the world's population is bilingual or multilingual, something that might surprise our fervently monolingual typical USian). But David Brooks, one of the worst offenders in the past months in the construction of a monolithic "white working class" (as opposed to the more up-to-date concept of an intersection among racial, class, and gender identities), is not the man to guide us through it.

Most comical bad writing in the column:
Anti-Semites define Jewishness in a certain crude miniaturizing way. Racists define both blackness and whiteness in just that manner.
Honey, I shrunk the Jews! Or, if you prefer, Don't miniaturize me, bro! There's something exceptionally strange going on in there, though, in the disjunction between anti-Semites and racists (anti-Semitism isn't a form of racism?), and the suggestion that "racists" do to the black and white alike what anti-Semites do only to the Jew and not to the Gentile. What it's pointing at, I'm pretty sure, is the invisible white guy, who happens to be Jewish and maybe not very comfortable with it, in the mirror where David Brooks shaves, and the concept of anti-racists mentioned above. What Brooks is objecting to overall is a kind of conspiracy to make him, Brooks, feel like a white man himself.

Well, he is a white man, of course, but that's such an indelicate, demeaning way of putting it, making it sound as if he's somehow complicit in racism himself, which is absurd! He's not really anything special, he's just regular, as my WASP mom used to put it before she got somewhat woke. It's so hurtful when you insist on putting him into that basket, when you tell him he has a race of his own. It's different for all those masses populating his columns, they're used to it, and they don't have his unique refinement.

That's how the racists and the anti-racists are alike, in making David Brooks feel as if he's in their quarrel instead of serenely above it. How dare they!

Driftglass caught the main point too. It's hard to think of a good reason for reading beyond that.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Working with Monsters

You do know what you get when you drain the swamp, don't you? All those Things wandering around in the open.

Some horrified ferment around the tubes this morning on the Times story outing Senate Democrats threatening to collaborate with our monstrous president-elect:
On infrastructure spending, child tax credits, paid maternity leave and dismantling trade agreements, Democrats are looking for ways they can work with Mr. Trump and force Republican leaders to choose between their new president and their small-government, free-market principles. Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, elected Wednesday as the new Democratic minority leader, has spoken with Mr. Trump several times, and Democrats in coming weeks plan to announce populist economic and ethics initiatives they think Mr. Trump might like.
Bernie Sanders was on local NYC radio yesterday saying much the same thing (and voicing strong support, by the way, for minority leader Chuck Schumer, who he says will be a great leader of our diverse organization), and one of my favorite Senate progressives, Sherrod Brown of Ohio, is quoted in the Times story as well, which may—I hope it will—help people rethink what this means.

There's a strong, and completely understandable, revulsion to the idea of working with Trump, who is a very bad and in many ways disgusting man, but I'd like to make a little more than a Devil's advocate case that Democrats or liberals-and-progressives or what you will should be prepared to do this, under certain circumstances that are not all that likely to obtain, as follows:

The Normalizing, continued

Maurice Sendak, The Night Kitchen, via The Merely Real.
Another thing we learn from today's Times, article by Julie Hirschfield Davis, is that the chaos of the presidential transition is normal:

Trump’s Transition in a ‘Long History’ of Rocky Presidential Handovers

This always happens, for goodness sake!
“There is a long history of unfortunate transition activity,” said Max Stier, the president and chief executive of the Center for Presidential Transition, a project run by the nonpartisan Partnership for Public Service.
And then the well, maybe a little different in the next paragraph (paragraph 9 of the story):
Still, he added, the Trump transition is different in that it appears to lack guidance from seasoned government professionals who grasp the magnitude of the bureaucracy he is about to inherit....  “This is distinctive in that there is not anybody in the inner orbit who has deep understanding of the institution that Trump is going to have to run.”
Cooking Thanksgiving dinner is always kind of screwy but today I'm doing it blindfolded in a Chinese restaurant kitchen where I've never been before. But hey, both sides do it, amirite?

Sanger Confesses: Tipped Scales for Ignoramus Candidate

Drawing by Jim Morin, May 16, for the Miami Herald, via.

I wish I was kidding: The Times's David Sanger, writing today about that bizarre interview he and Haberman conducted with Trump in March:

To Mr. Trump, the Iran deal was not only misguided, but also badly negotiated. “They should’ve walked,” he said of Secretary of State John Kerry and his negotiating team. Mr. Trump said he would have left the negotiating room, doubled down on sanctions, and never agreed to give back billions of dollars, money that belonged to Iran and was frozen in American financial institutions.
But when pressed, he struggled to name any part of the deal he would have walked out of the negotiations to alter. With some prompting, he finally settled on a common critique: that after 15 years, Iran will be free to enrich uranium and reprocess plutonium again, in any quantity.
Make that "with a lot of prompting". And a great deal more prompting afterwards that didn't yield anything they could use for their article.

I didn't really notice it at the time, because in the first place it was obvious to me that he didn't know anything whatsoever about what was in the JCPOA with Iran or how it worked but simply kept denouncing it as bad because that sounded right to him and his audiences, but Sanger was working in the interview to make Trump sound not like an idiot. Now he tells us, after the election, it was fixed so the average reader wouldn't notice how ignorant Trump actually is. I don't think Sanger realizes that himself.

Rudy's streets

Photo by Dave Winer/Flickr via Alternet.
It looks as if we might be spared the spectacle of Rudolph Giuliani as secretary of state, now that the Trump's looking at South Carolina governor Nikki Haley, though what qualifications she could have for such a job (and that's with all respect: I think she's a dreadful person and disagree with her on virtually everything but she's certainly much the most capable person on the whole Trump cabinet list so far), given that she has no experience in foreign policy whatsoever. Not that she's any less qualified than Giuliani for that matter, or deeply disqualified like John Bolton, and she doesn't look as if she's in the middle of a psychotic break.

Perhaps Trump thinks she's a kind of natural expert in foreign policy because she's a foreigner. Just as Judge Curiel is a hereditary Mexican because his parents immigrated from Mexico, and therefore unqualified to hear his fraud case, so Haley is qualified to be secretary of state as a hereditary Indian, because her parents came from Punjab.

I couldn't get over the words Giuliani used on the TV on Sunday in regard to the spontaneous traffic-stopping street demonstrations brought on by our distress over the Trump election, suggesting that he still rules the city he stopped being mayor of 15 years ago, and doesn't just rule it but rules it absolutely, and isn't just its autocrat but its owner:
I have a zero tolerance for riots. I, you know, took over a city that had two riots in four years and I had none. And they knew they couldn’t riot on me. And when I saw the people on the street in New York City, I said to myself, you’re breaking Giuliani’s rules. You don’t take my streets. You can have my sidewalks, but you don’t take my streets, because ambulances have to get through there, fire trucks have to get through there.

Better get on that right away, Rudy.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

I believe in closed, Alfie

Bound fabric. Hand-dyed "Dark Shadows" by Blackberry Primitives, via Etsy.
I shouldn't totally give up on last Friday's Brooks, outlining his post-Trump plans for that third party, which don't seem to be that different from the pre-Trump plans, but there's some very funky argumentation, starting from a pious hopefulness that the coming cataclysm won't be the end of humanity:
If [Trump]’s left to bloviate while others are left to run the country and push through infrastructure plans, maybe things won’t be disastrous. The job for the rest of us is to rebind the fabric of society, community by community...
What makes him think that Paul Ryan's House and Mitch McConnell's Senate are interested in pushing through infrastructure plans is anybody's guess. Ryan's already on record as saying they spent quite enough on infrastructure last year, thanks very much:

TPP News

The Trans-Pacific Partnership is, of course, dead, as Loomis reports at LGM:
I can’t really comment on how this affects U.S. relationships with its allies in Asia but given the utter disaster that Trump’s foreign policy is going to be, I imagine China is going to be a huge winner in the next 4 years with or without the TPP. Not subjecting even more workers and more national laws to the ISDS courts is a good thing. Rejecting the TPP is at least a sign that maybe, just maybe, the U.S. is going to start revisiting its 50 year tradition of encouraging American jobs to go overseas and then call anyone who questions that as the greatest thing in history a moral monster.
The end of TPP is an enormous victory for China in its own right, right at the start, since it eliminates competition with China's own scheme, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) bringing together Brunei, Burma (Myanmar), Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea, and New Zealand. Just as China and India were missing from the TPP, so the United States is uninvited to RCEP, and in this way China will now be setting the terms of trade as well as labor and environmental standards (i.e., none) for the region without the participation of the US.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

What's a blind trust? What Rudy's asking us to have.

These people have families to take care of! Don't take away their livelihood and sense of personal worth! Have a little compassion! Via Business Insider.

Trump presidency is going to be all about jobs:
Rudolph W. Giuliani, a close adviser to Mr. Trump, said on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday that excluding Mr. Trump’s family from a role in his businesses “would basically put his children out of work.” The public, Mr. Giuliani said, needs to trust Mr. Trump.
Ivanka's, Donny's, and Eric's jobs.

Rudy's going to be such a great secretary of state, huh? "You need to trust him, Sergei!"

RIP Gwen Ifill

Image via Raw Story, though not from the page where Google Images thinks I'll find it.
David Brooks is eulogizing the wonderful late Gwen Ifill today and I'm really not interested in criticizing him on this. In fact partial praise for one confessional sentence:
She worked doggedly on her programs, and whenever I did anything that diminished the “NewsHour” she let me know directly.
Sounds like it happened fairly often, and makes me respect and miss Ifill even more.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Scoop: Trump is a Republican

Image from Groundhog Day (!) 2012, from CNN.
So now there are signs of Trump as a conventional Republican of the Romney type, after all, a representative, that is, not of the Republican voter class, but of the donor class, whose interest is not in all that silly low-class stuff that is said to move those poor white working men but in the monetary interests of his own class: taxes and business regulation.

Thus the communications over the weekend in the Sixty Minutes interview on a quite different immigration policy than the one we were led to expect. There aren't going to be any deportation forces, we're told, for the 11 million undocumented migrants living here. There's going to be an approach that sounds indistinguishable from the Obama approach, except for the Trump-signature pulled-out-of-the-ass numbers:

Sunday, November 13, 2016

RIP Leon

Sorry about this, it was the shortest thing I could find to communicate my feelings about the sublime pianist and singer and extraordinary composer and guitarist and wonderful human Leon Russell, who died today at the age of 74.

No wait, there's this if you've only got ten minutes.

11 "Medley: Jumpin' Jack Flash/Young Blood... by yoshiyuki-harada

Still ranting

A finalist from Naomi Robbins Bad Graph Contest, May 2012

Not that it ultimately makes any more sense than Bill's—electoral votes and popular votes simply don't belong in the same chart—but at least it doesn't tell any lies.


Saturday, November 12, 2016

Bannon fodder

The critical position of chief of staff — the gatekeeper for the president inside the West Wing — is expected to come down to a choice between Mr. [Stephen] Bannon, the editor of Breitbart News who was chairman of Mr. Trump’s campaign, and Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee. (NYTimes)
Oh, what's Mr. Bannon up to, now that the election's over? You could have seen him this weekend, had you been so minded, at The Breakers in Palm Beach where the David Horowitz Freedom Center is holding its 2016 Restoration Weekend, alongside his old Breitbart comrade Milo Yiannopoulos, Governor Mike Huckabee, two congressmen (Jim Bridenstine and Sean Duffy), two National Review stalwarts from our Bad Writing stable (Victor Davis Hanson and Monica Crowley), Gunga Dinesh D'Souza, and Member of the European Parliament (Ukip) Nigel Farage, the Stupidest Man in England, and many other distinguished speakers, for a mere $1,750 ($2,750 a couple, not including the $370 per night special room rate, and more exclusive pricing, from the $5,000 Bronze to the $20,000 Platinum, for opportunities to schmooze a little more closely or golf with the good and great).

Cocktails and Islamophobia, and probably some furtive outdoor trumping in the gardens after dark. It's how the biggest Trump backers relieve their economic anxiety, don't you know.

There is so much money in the world of our new overlords! And the normalizing of alt-right evil, in the persons of Bannon and Yiannopoulos for a start, continues apace. It's almost more shocking to me than the advent of President-Elect Trump that it's accompanied by the creeping out of the shadows of people like Stephen Bannon:

The Trump Whisperer

Photo via Robert Costa.
A weird little sidelight to the discussion of Obama's meeting with Trump on Thursday: at the same time as it was taking place in the Oval Office, White House chief of staff Denis McDonough was out taking a walk on the White House grounds with Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner. Last time Denis McDonough made news going for a walk on the White House grounds, it was with Obama himself, on August 30, 2013, when the president decided not to ask Congress for an authorization to use military force in Syria, so it sounds a little momentous.

Politico, focused as ever on handicapping the palace intrigue as it relates to titles and pecking orders, speculates that Kushner could be in line for the chief of staff job himself, which is of course completely wrong, because forbidden by Title 5, §3110 of the US Code, representing the Federal Anti-Nepotism Statute of 1967 preventing any federal official hiring a relative to a position the official supervises or manages. No cigar, Politico!

I can imagine something else, building on our own speculation on Thursday over here, that inside the Oval Office the president made clear to Trump exactly how desperate his situation was, how little he could trust the fools and ideologues by whom he was surrounded, and what he needed to do to escape from the next four years with some of his dignity intact, which would be to do whatever Obama tells him, or as Trump told the press after the meeting,
 I very much look forward to dealing with the president in the future, including counsel. He’s explained some of the difficulties, some of the high-flying assets and some of the really great things that have been achieved. So Mr President, it was a great honor being with you, and I look forward to being with you many, many more times in the future.
What was going on between Kushner and McDonough would have been another aspect of the same negotiations, with the same message, focusing on its mechanical aspect. Kushner won't be chief of staff, but he will be a very important unpaid adviser, Trump's link to the haut monde whose approval he yearns for and never gets, and he can serve this relationship as well.

Steve M today is noting that Trump's suddenly favorable views on parts of the Affordable Care Act seem to be connected to the Oval Office meeting, as I suggested might happen (he says parts, the provisions on pre-existing conditions and children on their parents' policies up to age 26, but as Jared Bernstein among others points out you can't have those without the rest, and I think President Obama knows that), and thinking about how susceptible he is to the advice of whoever speaks to him last before he makes an important decision, and suggests
that's how Barack Obama can save America, or at least salvage some of what needs preserving: He should make it his goal to speak to President Trump as often as possible, and be the last person to talk to him about every important issue.
He should be, Steve says, the president whisperer. I'd add there's some hope that this is already happening.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Occupying Sixth Avenue

Just for a few blocks. Heading to the subway latish from work, I ran across a few hundred very good-hearted young persons of varied races and affiliations heading uptown in the middle of the street, chanting, and I tagged along, while thousands cheered on the sides. Every time we got to a cross-street with a red light in our direction people from behind would rush it, presumably to make sure the traffic couldn't take advantage of a weak spot in the formation. At 46th Street we ran into a very large number of cops, and almost everybody moved to the sidewalk on the right, with what further intentions I don't know, because I went to the sidewalk on the left and wandered home, but it was certainly bracing to spend a little time in that crowd.

He's probably a handsaw too

Red-tailed Hawk taking flight in the Marin Headlands, with the Golden Gate Bridge in background. Photo by George Eade/Golden Gate Raptor Observatory.
Trump's national security adviser James Woolsey was on BBC earlier (you might find the audio here) saying if you want to know how Trump is going to handle foreign policy issues you shouldn't look at anything he said during the campaign; he seemed to think was a very silly idea to judge a candidate on the basis of the candidate's public statements. He said we should be looking forward, to the particular problems he's going to face. The answer, my friends, is in the future.

In private, he said, Trump is very calm and judicious about foreign policy. Personally I have some questions about Woolsey, Bill Clinton's first Director of Central Intelligence who was forced to quit, it seems, after the exposure of the CIA mole Aldrich Ames, because of his refusal to hold anyone accountable in the agency for Ames's destruction of CIA operations in the Soviet Union and then Russian Federation. He was a member of PNAC and an anxious booster of the Iraq War, going on TV to blame Saddam Hussein for the 9/11 attacks hours after they took place, and a participant in war profiteering (Booz Allen, Paladin Capital, Lux Capital).

He decided to support Trump, we read, because of Trump's big plans for upping spending on weapons systems in all four branches of the service:
“I think the problem is her budget,” Woolsey said of Trump’s opponent, Hillary Clinton. “She is spending so much money on domestic programs — including ones that we don’t even have now, and the ones we have now are underfunded — I think there can be very little room for the improvements in defense and intelligence that have to be made.”
Woolsey has previously called for NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden to be “hanged by the neck until he’s dead, rather than merely electrocuted.”
Anybody who didn't want to vote for Clinton because they've heard she's a hawk and Trump after all was such a vigorous opponent of the Iraq War and has such a peaceable approach to the Syria situation (except for the people over there he wants to "bomb the shit out of") and to Ukraine and getting rid of NATO and so forth, here's somebody who's spoken to Trump about these issues claiming to know more about than you do, and suggesting you shouldn't have trusted what Trump said on the stump. And guess what, judging from the number of demonstrable lies Trump told on the stump the odds are Woolsey is right on this one.

Stage IV already?

Buster Keaton in James W. Horne's College, 1927, via.
Dr. Krugman:
Americans, no matter how secular, tend to think of themselves as citizens of a nation with a special divine providence, one that may take wrong turns but always finds its way back, one in which justice always prevails in the end.
I know. We call it exceptionalism, and mock it in others, and yet I for one keep believing in that contract between the Madisonians and the Hamiltonians as if it conferred some kind of magic power on the polity, in defiance of the evidence.
Yet it doesn’t have to be true. Maybe the historic channels of reform — speech and writing that changes minds, political activism that eventually changes who has power — are no longer effective. Maybe America isn’t special, it’s just another republic that had its day, but is in the process of devolving into a corrupt nation ruled by strongmen.
Well, look at that. I guess we did denial on Tuesday night, "They can't win in Wisconsin! They can't win in Pennsylvania!" and I was certainly on for anger on Wednesday and bargaining on Thursday, and here we are at depression: it's occurred to me, maybe also to some readers of the same age as I am, that I'll die without seeing a Supreme Court that effectively protects civil rights or reads the Constitution without the self-imposed blinkers of the Scalia hermeneutic, or realization of the dreams of universal health care and free tertiary education and a national pension system that doesn't starve people. I'll die without the sense that it will ever happen. While the damage to our planet from ungoverned carbon consumption becomes increasingly irreversible.

But I'll definitely be angry again later this afternoon, and probably bargaining some more on the weekend, so don't be worried. And I'm definitely not getting to acceptance any time soon.

It's not Donald's problem

The view from Cristiano Ronaldo's $18.5-million apartment, via Business Insider.
Verbatim David Brooks, "The View from Trump Tower", New York Times, November 11 2016:
Trump’s main problem in governing is not going to be some fascistic ideology; his main problem is going to be his own attention span, ignorance and incompetence.
I'll buy that. Fascistic ideology is never a problem in governing, come to think of it. In fact it makes things a lot easier. You just say, "I'm the Leader and this is what I want," and everybody has to do it. It's a lot like running the Trump Organization. Could be a problem for the rest of us, though.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Barack Obama's Art of War

Via QuotesGram.
Nice meeting, from the turkey's point of view:
This was a meeting that was going to last for maybe 10 or 15 minutes and we were just going to get to know each other. We had never met each other. I have great respect – the meeting lasted for almost an hour and a half, and it could have, as far as I’m concerned, it could have gone on for a lot longer. We really, we discussed a lot of different situations, some wonderful and some difficulties. I very much look forward to dealing with the president in the future, including counsel. He’s explained some of the difficulties, some of the high-flying assets and some of the really great things that have been achieved. So Mr President, it was a great honor being with you, and I look forward to being with you many, many more times in the future.
Looks like Obama is following the Putin rule of negotiating with Trump, as Trump formulated it: "'If he says great things about me, I'm going to say great things about him." And Trump has met somebody he thinks is worth taking advice from. Is that the first time he's ever even said something like that about anybody? As far as I remember, last time he talked about taking advice he said "I'm speaking with myself, number one, because I have a very good brain and I've said a lot of things." This is a distinct improvement.

Demographic note

Aritzona primary, August 2016, via AZCentral.
Yesterday I posted my picture of big lines around my polling place, and all over the country journalists and twitterati were doing the same, in the liberal equivalent of measuring a candidate's popularity by the number of yard signs (forgetting, among other things, that more Democrats live in urban settings and/or have less money and are therefore less likely to have a yard to put their sign in), and assuming a massive, groundbreaking turnout, the most ever, because everyplace I went seemed to have a pretty fantastic turnout, and what's that you say? I only went to one place?

And a lot of people probably still think there was a heavy turnout, but there wasn't, as it happens. In fact it was pretty mediocre all round, as we learn from the numbers collected by the US Elections Project, and by a considerable way the lowest since the dreadful year 2000 (though far from as bad as it was in 1996, the year of the Great Triangulation):