Friday, September 30, 2016

That 3 AM Call

Image from Getty via Politico.
Dear non-tweeters, something like this doesn't happen very often, but when it does you feel strangely proud to have been a part of it.

Too much action, not enough words!

Playboy reactionary. Ross Douthat used this picture, by Richard Corkery for the New York Daily News, 2003 via Getty Images, in a column of August 17.
World-famous cultural critic David Brooks ("The Death of Idealism") suggests that Hillary Clinton is in Zeitgeist terms actually 20 years older than Donald J. Trump:

This presidential election is a contest between the oldest of the baby boomers. Yet Donald Trump, 70, and Hillary Clinton, 68, represent two very different decades in the formation of that generation. Donald Trump became famous as a classic 1980s type, while Hillary Clinton first attained public notice as a classic 1960s type.
That would make David Brooks and Donald J. Trump roughly Zeitgeist contemporaries, since Brooks just happened to be there himself, as one of the writers:

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Did Trump strike a blow against imperialism in Cuba? Hahaha.

Except that's not what the story is, and there's nothing incoherent about it.

Trump's henchpeople in Cuba in 1998 weren't heroically braving the unjust embargo. They were acting on the belief that the Clinton administration might be moving to lift the embargo, and trying to get a jump on the other gangsters before it happened. The program was not to support the Cuban people but to extract rent from them by operating casinos, infusing new blood into Trump's failing hotel business and helping to turn the island back into the gigantic brothel it was in the 1950s.

And as he was doing it he was loudly proclaiming to Miami's old Cuban fascists what a fervent anti-Castro person he was and how he would never stand for collaborating with those filthy Communists:
The payment by Trump Hotels came just before the New York business mogul launched his first bid for the White House, seeking the nomination of the Reform Party. On his first day of the campaign, he traveled to Miami where he spoke to a group of Cuban-Americans, a critical voting bloc in the swing state. Trump vowed to maintain the embargo and never spend his or his companies’ money in Cuba until Fidel Castro was removed from power....
“As you know—and the people in this room know better than anyone—putting money and investing money in Cuba right now doesn’t go to the people of Cuba,’’ Trump told the crowd. “It goes to Fidel Castro. He’s a murderer, he’s a killer, he’s a bad guy in every respect, and, frankly, the embargo must stand if for no other reason than, if it does stand, he will come down.”
So no, telling this story isn't red-baiting. Calling Trump out on Cuba is no more "anti-left" than calling out Meyer Lansky. Read the fucking article, Curry.

American in Havana, 1953. Photo by Constantino Arias, Wikimedia Commons, via Mother Jones.

Zandar properly stresses another aspect, the characteristic Stupid Trump Trick of covering up his lawbreaking under the guise of charity.

Cheap shot

Newsstand around the corner from Trump Tower, on 57th Street. Photo by Rachel Barrett

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Scoop: Who's the second-most unpopular presidential candidate in US history?

Hint: It's not Hillary Rodham Clinton. Not, at least, today, according to this morning's Ipsos-Reuters daily tracking poll (data collected September 22-26, and thus not reflecting Monday night's debate). And it's not the first time it's happened—just before the Republican convention was one time, and just after the Democratic convention was another, but this time it has the long gradual slope of a real trend, since September 7 or so, and she's gotten down to two points underwater, 51% unfavorable to 49% favorable, and the effects of her debate victory and that shimmy will be showing up in the next few days. This could be a real scoop, because I haven't seen anybody else reporting it in these terms. (I sent out a couple of Tweets but they did not attract huge attention.) We'll see.

Who's the no. 1 most unpopular presidential candidate in US history? That hasn't changed all year. It's the guy with the short fingers, gold-plated toilet seats, and somewhat insensitive attitude toward women. He's got the Deplorables, and their conventional conservative hostages, but a very substantial majority of the population really doesn't like him. (Though at the end of September 1992, George H.W. Bush, who may be the second-most unpopular presidential candidate in US history, was actually more unpopular than Trump is now, 16 points underwater compared to Trump's 14, and he never really did climb out of there until near the end. Just sayin.)

The question is how many people who truly detest him will end up voting for him. I'm sure a good number of those with seven-figure incomes will, because the deal just looks too good to pass up: one or two hundred thousand dollars a year, if he's able to push it through.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Give me that old-time conservatism, it's good enough for me

Typical symposium, from the Diver's Tomb at Paestum, Campania, ca. 475 B.C.E., or about 60 years before the poet Agathon threw the unforgettable party, after his victory in the playwrights' competition in the Dionysia of 416, that Plato (who wasn't there) dramatized in his great Symposium three or so decades afterwards. Via Wikipedia. You guys on the right get a room, for Apollo's sake!
Shorter David Brooks, "The Age of Reaction", September 27 2016:
The real problem is the crappy conservatives we have nowadays. Conservatives in my time used to be people you could look up to, with positive ideas, moderate but optimistic religiosity like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and a humanistic appreciation for progress, and now they're all nothing but a bunch of reactionaries. These kids make me sick.
So he's a kind of meta-reactionary himself, yearning to go back to when the conservatives were the right, clubbable sort. That's after castigating Hillary Clinton on Friday for being mired in the tired ideas of the 20th century.

Obviously I'm psyched about the debate, but everybody's writing great stuff about it, and I was really busy all day, and here's Brooks, and this strange doom of mine to deal with him week after week. There's a couple of laughs coming, in any event.

It's book report day at Brooks's shop. He must have had to file early yesterday afternoon so he could get over to the PBS studio for the Great Debate, where he was needed to deliver such deathless insights as

Monday, September 26, 2016

Pre-Debate Entertainment: Hitting them out of the park

Later on in the evening there was a great hashtag war over #TrumpSoftballs, the questions an anxious press would address to the Trump to make sure he didn't think they'd rigged the game against him. Instead of participating I found myself trying to think of ways Trump could hit them out of the park:

Twentieth-Century Box

One of Hillary Clinton's old-fashioned, 20th-century celebrity endorsers, like Streisand and Cher. Photo by Ramona Rosales via Billboard.

Oops, I forgot all about David Brooks and his Friday column ("The Clinton Calendar")! And now there are fine posts out by Steve and Driftglass and Bethesda 1971. And here's Dr. Krugman, as usual not referring to Brooks by name but as "pundits":

Here’s what happens every election cycle: pundits demand that politicians offer the country new ideas. Then, if and when a candidate actually does propose innovative policies, the news media pays little attention, chasing scandals or, all too often, fake scandals instead. Remember the extensive coverage last month, when Hillary Clinton laid out an ambitious mental health agenda? Neither do I.
For that matter, even the demand for new ideas is highly questionable, since there are plenty of good old ideas that haven’t been put into effect. Most advanced countries implemented some form of guaranteed health coverage decades if not generations ago. Does this mean that we should dismiss Obamacare as no big deal, since it’s just implementing a tired old agenda? The 20 million Americans who gained health coverage would beg to differ.
That's a direct response to Brooks's complaint on Friday that Clinton had failed to join us here in the 21st century:

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Sunday morning tweetstorm

Image via Seen2.

So somebody this morning got pissed off by something I tweeted last night, when—though I usually try not to engage at all with the Steinsters—I sort of couldn't help myself:

I'll spare you the next six items, where I outlined the Politifact case that it wasn't anything like "all" the uranium rights, that Clinton had relatively little to do with the decision, and that there's no evidence Clinton Foundation donors had anything to do with it anyway, under the assumption (undoubtedly correct) that @PoliticallyLib would never click the link. In fact my interlocutor couldn't even read my responses, or at least respond to them:

Exchange: Mark Cuban sandwich

In regard to the scandal of Monday's debate, where Donald Trump retaliated against the expected presence of his old pal Mark Cuban  (who fairly loudly thinks Trump may not be fit to be president) by inviting Ms. Gennifer Flowers, who is said to have done the nasty with Governor Bill Clinton back in the day.

Update: Of course it was all bullshit and Flowers wasn't really invited (they've said she wasn't "formally invited" though she seems to have thought she was), or it wasn't and they've changed their minds, but it isn't happening. Nice to see the evidence of how hysterical and indecisive and uncoordinated they are, the day before the crucial TV moment.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Charitable interpretation, continued

Update 9/25: Welcome Crooks, Liars, and Fans—thanks, Blogenfreude!

Image via Jacques Exclusive Caterers, which handled the Foundation's 2012 Summer Solstice Gala.
In the course of reading up on the activities of the Trump Foundation I came across a story that seems to have been told a lot but not enough, or we'd all know it: that of the Drumthwacket Foundation of New Jersey, a nonprofit devoted to maintaining Drumthwacket, the Greek-revival governor's residence in Princeton, ten or eleven miles from the State House in Trenton. The governor doesn't in fact live there (only one Jersey governor, the ill-fated Jim McGreevey, ever has done it full-time), but uses it as a venue for official events, on the order of 70 a year.

When Chris Christie took office in January 2010, Christina Wilkie wrote for the HuffPost in 2014, the character of the Drumthwacket Foundation began to change quite rapidly. The CEO of the Prudential insurance company and his wife, John and Mary Kay Strangfeld, volunteered to serve as chair and vice chair, and Mary Pat Christie, the governor's wife, assumed the presidency, a new position, and they announced a new vision to encourage the citizenry to take pride in the mansion and fundraising through a New Jersey Pride Corporate Campaign which octupled the foundation's annual income, from around $125 thousand to $1 million.

It doesn't have a Charity Navigator rating, and I can't find any specific information on what's been done for it with that million dollars a year other than making it accessible to persons with disabilities, which is certainly a good thing (but the first floor was already accessible when Jon Corzine moved in to recuperate there after his 2007 car accident left him temporarily wheelchair-bound, and he had a wheelchair lift installed so he could occupy the second floor).

But it has, as you might suspect, given lots of opportunities for wealthy people with business with the state of New Jersey to show what nice people they are, starting with Prudential itself, which has given more than $150,000 to the foundation and in November 2011 received a $250-million tax break ($527,000 per job created). Down to Jared Kushner's Uncle Murray, whose KRE Group made a $10,000 donation and got $33 million in tax incentives for their Journal Square project. And guess what, Jared Kushner's father-in-law, Donald J. Trump shows up as well!

He gave them $10,000 a year from 2010 through 2013, and got approval in 2013 to build a personal cemetery on the fairway of the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, ten graves, just for his immediate family, which turned out two years later to be another Trumpian lie; he plans to spend eternity in Florida and turn this site into a 548-grave site for club members. At a substantial profit, obviously.

I should say that, like the Clintons, Christie doesn't get any actual money out of this arrangement, and unlike the Clintons, he can't even get much prestige, since nobody could possibly care very much about whatever he's done for this admittedly very handsome Princeton building. And yet there's clearly something wrong with it that isn't wrong with the Clinton Foundation. Christie himself memorably lied about it as if it were embarrassing, falsely claiming that Trump had contributed to Hurricane Sandy relief on the first morning of the Republican National Convention, and then being forced in the afternoon to admit that it was Drumthwacket that had received the Trumpian largesse. And you can make a case with specific evidence of a pay-to-play phenomenon here (lots more examples in that HuffPost article) in a way that you can't for the Clinton Foundation at all.

What's it about with these things? People talk about donations to a presidential library, say, as contributing to a "legacy", and say that could be worth it to Bill Clinton or George W. Bush as a payment for political favors, and I can sort of understand how that could add up if it did (which in the Clinton case, as I've argued lots before, I think it doesn't). But the Drumthwacket Foundation? Really? What kind of pathetic quo for your quid is that?

Is it about being "high society" at all those gala events, the same thing that makes Christie long for a hug from Jerry Jones in the Cowboys skybox? Yearn so hard that he's willing to sell tax favors or a valuable lease from the Port Authority to get it? Or is it building general relationships with the great, without any particular plan, that might just pay off some day when Donald Trump has a job he could give you?

Photo by Jonathan Ernst, for Reuters, via Kos.

Charitable interpretation

Jean-Baptiste de Saive the younger, no later than 1624, portrait of an aristocratic couple as vegetable sellers. Via Wikimedia Commons.
Most revealing line in Friday's Brooks ("The Clinton Calendar"), I think:
Thanks to reporting by The Washington Post, we’ve learned that the Trump Foundation makes Trump University look like a model of moral rectitude. Donations Trump raised through that foundation went to pay his company’s legal bills and to buy two portraits of himself.
Question to Radio Yerevan: Does the Trump Foundation make Trump University look like a model of moral rectitude?

No, I can't even. It doesn't. Quite the opposite. The Trump Foundation is clearly pretty bad, and presumably guilty of a good deal of illegal business, but Trump University was much worse.

The Foundation took money from Trump's wealthy friends and friendly organizations, from $5 million from WWE to thank him for his assistance in promoting Wrestlemania, a cause that gives so much joy to so many underprivileged 8-year-old boys (surely some of them are underprivileged) to $150,000 for young Barron's baby pix—

Friday, September 23, 2016

Axl Grease

Image via Alternative Nation.
Whistling, as ever, in some kind of darkness possibly of his own making, Monsignor Ross Douthat, apostolic nuncio to 42nd Street, projects his anxieties into concern-trolling somebody else, Democrats of course, warning us ("Clinton's Samantha Bee Problem") that we may be repeating that moment at the cusp from the 1960s to the 1970s where "the culture" moved left but the politics moved right:

That Nixon-Reagan rightward shift did not repeal the 1960s or push the counterculture back to a beatnik-hippie fringe. But it did leave liberalism in a curious place throughout the 1980s: atop the commanding heights of culture yet often impotent in Washington, D.C.
I'm so deeply tired, by the way, of this kind of plate-tectonics analysis of sociocultural change, especially when it suckers people I admire, like BooMan, into taking it seriously. Whatever is happening isn't happening to a territory of some kind, where Samantha Bee and Trevor Noah have commandeered the troops invading the late-night frontier while putschists seize the Oscars and MTV awards and a fifth column of intellectuals assaults the high ground of the Ivy League—

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Out of the Swamp

Image by Jacqueline Mellow for Alec McGillis's February 2014 piece in The New Republic.
How to talk to a New Jersey jury:
A vicious guy. He’s a bully, he’s an asshole, he’s a horrible person, he’s the most complicated person I’ve ever met. He’s a vindictive person who would destroy your life, he’s known for lying, he has a twisted mind, he’s maniacal, he’s a miserable prick.
That's Michael Baldassare, Bill Baroni's lawyer in the Bridgegate case, describing David Wildstein, who was Governor Christopher Christie's agent of evil in the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey at the time and is now the felon in the case who has been "cooperating" with the feds since he took a plea in May 2015 to help them build a case against Baroni, his former deputy at the Port Authority, and Bridget Kelly, Christie's former chief of staff. (In return for a lighter sentence, it still hasn't been decided how much lighter, than the 15 years he was likely to end up with.) The coverage on WNYC radio (by Andrea Bernstein and Matt Katz) has been enthralling, but it's even better reading it on the website, linked above, where you get some color you can't get on the radio.

The main thing that's been emerging so far is the way that same description seems to apply to the governor. The prosecution and defense are in pretty much complete agreement on that, and more specifically that Christie definitely did play the leading role, in concert with Wildstein, in locking up traffic in Fort Lee, NJ, and on the George Washington Bridge, for three days in September 2013—the first week of the school year, to make it as nasty as possible for Fort Lee mayor Mark Sokolich, a Democrat, as vengeance for his failure to endorse Christie, a Republican, in that year's gubernatorial race, to which Christie had taken offense, having wooed Sokolich a lot more energetically than we realized: in testimony yesterday Sokolich explained that he

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

The residual sadness of the lonely heart

David Brooks's new poem, below the fold, building off his encounter with a Kentucky senior citizen, capped his haunting column of September 21 (reported in my own piece here), as if the emotion couldn't be confined in prose. The work universalizes that moment into a statement of mourning, for the life you led in the 1960s on the Philadelphia Main Line, from which everyone that matters is no longer barbecuing in the back yard but distressed, divorced, alone. The immortality of suburban living promised by Brooks's old friend the suburban futurologist and now Trump backer Joel Kotkin suddenly seems unattainable; those green and family-oriented spaces, swing set and sycamore, mall and megachurch, the old Welcome Wagon, haven't conquered the fact that we suffer, grow old, and die. Thanks, Obama!

Image from Wikimedia Commons via CityMetric.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

A stochastic, episodic nature

So it turns out David Brooks has been holding out on us: he really did run across a working class white guy in the course of his voyage into the heart of whiteness—at least one of them ("Dignity and Sadness in the Working Class"). He was dignified and sad.

A few weeks ago I met a guy in Kentucky who’d lived through every trend of deindustrializing America.
He grew up about 65 years ago on a tobacco and cattle farm, but he always liked engines, so even while in high school he worked 40 hours a week in a garage. Then he went to work in a series of factories — making airplane parts, car seats, sheet metal and casings for those big air-conditioning fans you see on the top of buildings.
Leaving the family farm to work in a factory was a trend of deindustrializing? (The original one—old Jefferson tried to warn everybody, but they wouldn't listen.)

He’s in semiretirement now, but he hasn’t been able to take a vacation for four years because he and his wife take care of her elderly mother, who has trouble swallowing. He’s saved her life 10 times so far with the Heimlich maneuver, and they have to be nearby, in case she needs it again.
No wait, you can't blame deindustrialization for that. I'm not saying it's not bad luck. Let's see, if he grew up around 1951 he'd be what, 80-something? And he has a mother-in-law whose life he's obliged to save two or three times a year in that energetic fashion? That's asking a lot of a man that age, and everybody deserves a vacation. (Most likely he was born around 65 years ago and grew up somewhat later—is there a copy editor in the house?)

Monday, September 19, 2016

Dismember of the Wedding

Image via Pharyngula.
I don't know that anybody's put this together before—if they have, let me know, and I'll gladly give them credit; but another thing is that Donald Trump himself provides some evidence that you can't bribe the Clintons by donating to the Foundation, because he claims to have done it himself, you know, and there's something a little bit wrong with his story:
When they call, I give. And you know what? When I need something from them two years later, three years later, I call them, they are there for me,” Trump said. “With Hillary Clinton, I said be at my wedding, and she came to my wedding. You know why? She didn’t have a choice, because I gave. I gave to a foundation that, frankly, that foundation is supposed to do good. I didn’t know her money would be used on private jets going all over the world.”
Problem being that you really can't get somebody to do something in 2005 (the year of Trump's most recent wedding) by paying them off in 2009. Little thing called physics, according to which traveling backwards in time is only for subatomic particles:

Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to describe the Clinton Foundation without making it sound nice, because that would be biased

Updated 9/20/2-16:
Corddry: How does one report the facts in an unbiased way when the facts themselves are biased? 

Stewart: I'm sorry, Rob, did you say the facts are biased? 

Corddry: That's right Jon. From the names of our fallen soldiers to the gradual withdrawal of our allies to the growing insurgency, it's become all too clear that facts in Iraq have an anti-Bush agenda. (Daily Show, May 3 2004, via Slapnose.)
Sometimes I think journalists have taken up Colbert's famous aphorism about reality having a liberal bias (2006, after Rob Corddry as cited above, h/t commenter Jim Tarrant) without realizing it's a joke. Seriously. They have the most fervent regard for the journalist's commandment of reporting without fear or favor, and bias is the worst crime in the book, right?

So if an overly insistent commitment to the facts makes you sound as if you're taking sides, well, then facts have to go under the bus. Not my job, says Chuck Todd.

Image via Viva Chuck Todd.
One of the weirdest stories of the weekend was out of the Times's Upshot department, by Lynn Vavreck, reporting on a survey of what registered voters know about the Clinton Foundation, or rather, as the headline said, what they don't know about the Clinton Foundation, because a good half of the respondents, 45% of the Republicans, 44% of the Democrats, and 52% of the independents) said they didn't know enough to answer any questions about it and what it does.

(Which is, for the record, to spend $200 million a year on a very wide range of activities ranging from supplying AIDS drugs to almost 12 million people to working to reduce childhood obesity in 31,000 US public schools, doing it well enough to earn an overall quality score from Charity Navigator of 94.74 out of 100 in its rating, posted just this month, as compared to, say, 97.46 for Healing Hands International, or 83.94 for Catholic Relief Services, international humanitarian agency of the US Roman Catholic community, which spends nearly three times as much money—the lower score reflects its relatively weak financial performance in growth and sustainability.)

Rather more interesting than that is the number of things they know that aren't true. Asked to respond to a series of true-or-false statements,

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Brooks on Civic Religion: The Other Radio Yerevan Joke

The secret weapon that could make Austria permanently more patriotic than we are? I don't know, but that's what some people are saying! Image via Elliot's Trackside Diner.

David Brooks ("The Uses of Patriotism", September 16 2016) writes:

Over the years, America’s civic religion was nurtured the way all religions are nurtured: by sharing moments of reverence. Americans performed the same rituals on Thanksgiving and July 4; they sang the national anthem and said the Pledge in unison; they listened to the same speeches on national occasions and argued out the great controversies of our history.
All of this evangelizing had a big effect. As late as 2003, Americans were the most patriotic people on earth, according to the University of Chicago’s National Opinion Research Center.
Question to Radio Yerevan: Is it correct that as late as 2003, Americans were the most patriotic people on earth?

Answer: In principle, yes, according to a study published in 2006 by Tom W. Smith and Seokho Kim, using data from the International Social Survey Program (ISSP). But

Friday, September 16, 2016

Brooks on Civic Religion: The Eighth Grader Appears

José Clemente Orozco, 1926, Cortés and La Malinche. Via WikiArt.
A paragraph by David Brooks:

When Europeans first settled this continent they had two big thoughts. The first was that God had called them to create a good and just society on this continent. The second was that they were screwing it up.
"You know what, Malinchita?" said Cortés to his Aztec beauty, his special favorite of the 20 women he'd kidnapped from the town of Tabasco after conquering it in 1519, "I just had a big thought: God called me to create a good and just society on this continent."

"So how are you doing?" asked La Malinche.

"I think I'm screwing it up."

"You're certainly screwing me up, you racist pig-eater."

Or was it Jacques Cartier reaching Newfoundland in the spring of 1534? Nope, he was supposed to "discover certain islands and lands where it is said that a great quantity of gold and other precious things are to be found". And the Northwest Passage. Or maybe I'm thinking of Captain Smith and the Virginia Company in 1607? Uh-uh, their charter said they were in it mostly for the same thing, and 20% for His Majesty: "to have and enjoy the goulde, silver and copper to be gotten there of to the use and behoofe of the same Colonies and the plantacions thereof; yeilding therefore yerelie to us, our heires and successors, the fifte parte onelie of all the same goulde and silver and the fifteenth parte of all the same copper soe to be gotten or had, as is aforesaid, and without anie other manner of profitt or accompte to be given or yeilded to us, our heires or successors, for or in respecte of the same").

Actually the first big thought seems to have been stolen from Washington Archbishop Donald Wuerl, and his homily at St. Matthew's Cathedral before the first Obama inauguration, January 18 2009:

Brooks on Civic Religion: The Radio Yerevan Joke

Update at bottom 9/17
Camilla Williams (1919-2012), first African American to receive a regular contract with a major opera company (the New York City Opera, in 1946), who sang the national anthem at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, August 27 1963.
From David Brooks, "The Uses of Patriotism", New York Times, September 16 2016:
Martin Luther King Jr. sang the national anthem before his “I Have a Dream” speech and then quoted the Declaration of Independence within it.
Question to Radio Yerevan: Is it correct that Dr. King sang the national anthem before his "I Have a Dream" speech and then quoted the Declaration of Independence within it?

Answer: In principle, yes. But

Brooks on Civic Religion: The Shorter

Photo by Yong Kim for Philadelphia Inquirer, used for today's Brooks column. The Times caption (not the Inquirer's) reads: "Some members of the Woodrow Wilson High School football team in Camden, N.J., knelt during the national anthem last Saturday," where "some" means "at least one fewer than all". Could Brooks be writing his own captions? I can't imagine any normal person would have done that.
Shorter David Brooks, "The Uses of Patriotism", September 16 2016:
America's high school football teams need to stand up and sing the national anthem before the game rather than kneeling in silence in emulation of 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Because if they don't they are violating the Commandments of our Civic Religion, as Martin Luther King understood, which is all about our radical hope and desire for change and social justice and furious penchant for criticizing our society, so if you do something so rude you'll bring a terrible curse and God will hate us and Donald Trump's nationalism, which is the dark opposite of America's traditional universal nationalism, will win.  
Not everybody in his audience thought America's traditional universal nationalism was all that universal.
Cross-posted at No More Mister Nice Blog.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

I'm only worried about you, Donald

Image via IN slideshare.
Now that the question of the candidates' health is making so many headlines, can we revert back to the question of mental health?

I realize we were all wrong piling on a few months ago diagnosing Trump's narcissism or sociopathy or psychopathy at a distance and without professional expertise, which is a terrible and unethical thing to do if you are a trained psychiatrist according to the so-called "Goldwater rule", and possibly unhelpful if you're an amateur since there are so many things about Trump that are worth complaining about without bringing this up, but as the man says I don't know, it's just something a lot of people are saying.

I mean, I'm just asking questions. Can we get a medical report on that?

Also there's some interesting news suggesting that Donald Trump is at serious risk of being a psychopath, about 21 times greater than the average person. I'm not even kidding; this is literally true, because of his lifestyle choice of being a corporate CEO.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

My president went to Laos, and all I got was this lousy temporary injunction on building the Dakota Access pipeline

This is a real rather than speculative case of the "If the Tsar only knew" trope, and another item on the general indictment of the American press, and a note on something very important that doesn't seem to be getting a lot of notice in my sector of Left Blogistan, which is that oil pipeline that private interests are attempting to construct through the sacred ancestral land of the Standing Rock Sioux band in North Dakota (though not on their existing reservation) and under the Missouri River from which they get their drinking water. And it has a happy ending, or semi-ending.

The pipeline is intended to carry light sweet crude from the Bakken oil fields of northwestern North Dakota southeast to the tank farm of Patoka, Illinois, from which it could be trucked to the nearby refineries if the price ever goes back up high enough to make it worth the trouble (it fell 3% today on nonexistent demand, as it happens), or maybe out another pipeline to Louisiana, but it started getting controversial a month or so ago as it reached the neighborhood of the Standing Rock Reservation and the stretch of the Missouri just upriver from the reservation that they were threatening to pollute.

Via InsideClimateNews.

Trust, Buster!

Image via emgn, Auckland.
Back in Projection Central, David Brooks ("The Avalanche of Distrust") finds out that not only are Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump not trusted by the American people, they are in turn not very trusting, as you can see by their obstinate refusal to reveal any personal information about themselves:

The two main candidates, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, are remarkably distrustful. They have set the modern standards for withholding information — his not releasing tax and health records, her not holding regular news conferences or quickly disclosing her pneumonia diagnosis. Both have a problem with spontaneous, reciprocal communication with a hint of vulnerability.
Both ultimately hew to a distrustful, stark, combative, zero-sum view of life — the idea that making it in this world is an unforgiving slog and that, given other people’s selfish natures, vulnerability is dangerous.
I'll show you mine when you show me yours, Davy. How's your love life these days, and what's that new religion you're always throwing out hints about having acquired? Why does your voice keep emerging disembodied ex cathedra as if you'd never had an emotion or experience since that time you smoked weed in high school? Why don't you communicate more spontaneously? Why are your hints of vulnerability—the wry self-deprecating note of the humblebrag, "I only teach at colleges I couldn't have gotten into out of high school"—always scripted, and repeated word for word on public occasions? Don't you trust me?

Monday, September 12, 2016

New York note

Micah Lasher appearing for tenants' rights.
For New Yorkers, another primary tomorrow, which makes three in total this year, which I think may be some kind of record. This one is for the state legislature candidates, and some judges, and I don't have much of anything to say about what's going on outside my own neighborhood (except if you're in downtown Manhattan in the 65th Assembly District, Lower East Side and Chinatown and the money places, please do not vote for Alice Cancel, Sheldon Silver's picked woman who replaced him in the special election last April as he was getting sentenced to federal prison for selling favors through imaginary legal fees; vote for Yuh-Line Niou, who has a cool website), but there is something important going on, which is the question of control in New York's dysfunctional State Senate.

For many years, New York was perfectly gerrymandered so that the Assembly would always be run by Democrats and the Senate by Republicans, which is where the famed Three Men in a Room system came from, where most important decisions were made by three men (and I don't mean men or women), the governor, the Senate majority leader, and the Assembly speaker, while I don't know exactly what the others were getting paid for. Except you could always find reasons to like your own people and keep voting for them.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Cheap shots: Get well, Hillary!

Whose side are you off?

Leaf from a Manichean book, 8th-9th c., from the ruins of Karakhoja in the Taklamakan, Xinjiang, Museum für Indische Kunst, Berlin, via Silk Road Seattle.

Monsignor Ross Douthat, apostolic nuncio to 42nd Street, tackles the tergiversations ("Our Russia Problem") on Russia policy of Republican presidential candidates over the past 16 years, from George W. Bush gazing enthusiastically into President Putin's soul through Willard Mitt Romney fighting the Soviet threat 30 years after its death to Donald Trump getting seduced by Putin's honeyed tongue. It just goes to show—what?—how incoherent the Democrats are:

Over the same period, Democrats have gone from mocking George W. Bush’s naïveté about Putin … to mocking Mitt Romney for describing Russia as America’s main geopolitical foe … to spinning theories about Trump being an agent of Russian influence that seem ripped from a right-wing periodical circa 1955.
Sorry, but Bush was ridiculously naïf at that point, though his administration eventually reached a more cautious approach.

Romney, too, was eminently mockable for calling Russia "the main geopolitical foe". It wasn't quite as bad as the way Douthat puts it, as if Romney was ignoring China or "radical Islamic terrorism" (say the magic words, Ross)—Romney was talking about Russian conduct in the UN Security Council, not geopolitics in general. But he was totally wrong about that: Russia was doing many things the US didn't like much, but the traditional Russian obstruction in the Security Council hardly existed any more, at all; in fact Russia was especially cooperative on the issues the US cared most about, Iran and North Korea. Obama's debate wisecrack was clearly justified:

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Basket of Deplorables

Former Longaberger headquarters in Newark, Ohio. Via Columbus Dispatch.
Clinton was pretty much right, let's just go ahead and assert it. Shemade her rhetorical mistake, I think, in starting with the wrong basket; she should have begun with the Trump voters she feels for, about whom she was almost a little too nice, sounding like David Brooks:
people who feel that the government has let them down, the economy has let them down, nobody cares about them, nobody worries about what happens to their lives and their futures, and they’re just desperate for change. It doesn’t really even matter where it comes from. They don’t buy everything he says, but he seems to hold out some hope that their lives will be different. They won’t wake up and see their jobs disappear, lose a kid to heroin, feel like they’re in a dead end. Those are people we have to understand and empathize with as well.

Trump's putting all his oicks in one basket

Trump used to dream of elegance
He longed to be respected
But that aspiration has passed
For every classy thing he did
Was haughtily rejected
Now he'll just do Donald at last

Trump's putting all the oicks in one basket
he's betting every penny on deplorable
Trump's putting all his chips on one four-flush
It would be awful but it's so adorable

He's built a fabulous team
Around his huge self-esteem
And those great guys determined
That all the vermin
Is horrible but scorable

Trump's putting all his oicks in one basket
He's betting every penny on deplorable

After the great song by Irving Berlin (1936). If you want to sing it, and I'd certainly think you would, note that all the one-syllable -oo rhymes of the original have been replaced by three-syllable rhymes in -orable; you can get a sense of how it works if you imagine the original with "I'm betting everything I got on you-de-do".

Friday, September 9, 2016

Cheap shots and big likes

Flattery will get you everywhere
LAUER: Do you think the day that you become president of the United States, he’s going to change his mind on some of these key issues?
TRUMP: Possibly. It’s possible. I don’t know, Matt. It’s possible. And it’s not going to have any impact. If he says great things about me, I’m going to say great things about him. I’ve already said, he is really very much of a leader. I mean, you can say, oh, isn’t that a terrible thing — the man has very strong control over a country.
Foreign leaders, this is how to manage Trump. If you've every had an office job, or worked in the government of Uzbekistan, you know what you need to do.

And in other local news, we get liked:

Molten cores and racial wedgies

Image via DNews.
World-famous futurologist David Brooks has big political plans for you, people ("Time for a Realignment"):

There’s a good chance many of you will be switching political parties over the next 15 years. You may be a corporate executive who’s voted rock-solid Republican for decades, but you may be a consistent Democrat by 2024. You may be an African-American community activist in Cleveland, but don’t be surprised if you someday call the Republican Party home.
It's another stab at that "realignment" column he tried writing a couple of months ago, where everything is going to change or has already changed because of Trump or in spite of him, as the case may be, the details are still pretty fluid, and we will end up with a new party system representing the open vs. the closed, in the picture you might get by jumbling recent research by fascist Charles Murray and liberal Robert Putnam and David Brooks's own journey into the heart of whiteness of earlier this year, where, as you'll recall, he crossed from the bourgeois strata across the chasms of segmentation into the pain to interview a couple of high school principals and factory owners in Pittsburgh, and possibly some other folks in some other towns as yet not revealed:

Thursday, September 8, 2016

United States Health Care Reform: Progress to Date and Next Steps

Robot psychiatrist by Rauhid Bondia, for Star Pirates Comics.
Before I lay off the health care subject for a while, I've really been wanting to call people's attention to this great academic article that was in the Journal of the American Medical Association last month, by a relatively young legal scholar who's been out of the scene for a while (in this and that government job), assessing the Affordable Care Act so far and what needs to be done.

It's a little bit harsh on Republicans:

Losing their grip

Photograph by The Nation, which also has some great coverage.
A labor story that doesn't seem to be getting a lot of play outside of New York City is the epic of the contract dispute at Long Island University's Brooklyn campus, whose 400 AFT faculty members have been ordered off campus, cut off from their classrooms and email accounts, and stripped of their salaries and health insurance, as the semester begins, and students find their classes being taught, or not, by "replacement workers". Rumor had it that ballet courses would be taught by Dean David Cohen, an elderly biology professor who specialized in plant morphogenesis.

The issues are gross inequities in salary between the faculty in Brooklyn and at the school's Post campus in Brookville, Nassau County, and the treatment of adjuncts, in the new cost-cutting contract the administration offered. Alana Semuels writes in a great piece in The Atlantic:
Arthur Kimmel has been an adjunct at LIU’s Brooklyn campus for more than 20 years. Under the terms of the proposed contract, he would have his income cut by 30 to 35 percent, he said. That’s because, in addition to the $1,800 or so per course he teaches, he has received pay for having office hours and money from an adjunct-benefits trust fund to help defray the cost of health insurance. Kimmel says the university’s proposal would eliminate the adjunct- benefits trust fund and payments for office hours, among other cuts. The new proposal would also decrease the number of credit hours he could teach, and establishes a two-tier system for adjuncts so that new employees would receive less than Kimmel does.
When the faculty overwhelmingly rejected the contract on Tuesday and the faculty senate overwhelmingly voted no confidence in the president, the administration made its move.

It's not completely surprising, in these times of increasing corporatization, when academic institutions come more and more to be run by business-administration types with little or no teaching experience of their own (LIU president Kimberly Cline has "experience as a president of a multicampus institution, as a CFO of a university system and as a university attorney, bringing a rare trifecta of managerial, financial and legal expertise to her new role" but clearly hasn't taught a class since she was a grad student, Doctor in Educational Administration, at Hofstra), to see teachers treated with such contempt, though it is distressing.

The contempt for the customers, fee-paying students, on the other hand, and their parents, as the academic year begins and the administration refuses them the education they've paid for (tuition is $34,000 a year), is just astonishing and anything but corporate. It's people who are supposed to be hard-headed and focused on the bottom line succumbing to emotionalism, dominated by rage and spite, against its own economic interests. It shows, I think, a CEO class that is losing its grip, in much the way the Donald Trump phenomenon does, doing terrible damage as it thrashes and fails.

Wrote this up partly because I didn't notice that Erik Loomis had done so, but he has. Loomis also notes how you can donate to the LIU Lockout Solidarity Fund.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Ground Chuck

Is this peak Chuck?

Clinton was certainly "on the defensive" as she submitted gamely to sustained machine-gun fire from all sides (left, right, and unlabeled) and the constant interruptions of the host, who had far too many questions, from the audience and his own, mostly about those pesky emails. She wasn't defensive in the sense of self-justifying and special pleading, at all, but the defense was the side she was placed on, and she played it as well as she could.

(There was only one question, I think, that she didn't answer—sadly, it was the hippie one, asking her how we could be sure she wouldn't be too belligerent, and I don't think she understood it at all. Her answer was not too reassuring, though she piously said force is always the last resort; on the Iran question, though, she finally convinced me that she has some appreciation of the value of the agreement.)

Trump, in contrast, simply didn't attract many questions—I think when we see a transcript that will be borne out—and didn't see any reason to attempt answering any of them, preferring to change the subject and talk about how great he is in a general sense, and how terrible the president and the Democratic candidate are. Lauer interrupted him only once, at the very beginning, to clarify that he would like it if Trump would lay off the personal insults, but Trump didn't listen to that either.

That's a funny expression, that Trump "lacked a lot of substance", as if you could weigh and measure how much substance he didn't have and it was a really big pile of the stuff. "There was so much substance in the event, and he lacked almost all of it!"

VDH is in flux, and all the old referents are at the bar

Russell Lee, 1938, Drinking at the Bar in Pilottown, Louisiana. 

The funny thing about this rhapsody from Victor Davis Hanson at National Review isn't that this doughty #NeverTrump is backing Trump—
No one knows how long Trump can stay on message. (He turns out to be an effective teleprompted speaker who, unlike Obama, can go off the script for brief moments without stuttering and seeming confused.) No one knows how long he can continue to take on taboo topics in different and often innovative ways....
some of the missing 15 percent of the Republican establishment will decide to swallow their pride and board the Trump train before it leaves the station. as they ponder the rare possibility in 2017 of a more conservative presidency, Supreme Court, and Congress. It may not be the sort of conservatism that they want, but it’s certainly better than what they were likely to get otherwise....
Trump has taken a vicious pounding from the press, in unprecedented fashion, and somehow not lost his cool in a way that everyone thought he would....
the entire Republican party is in flux, and all the old referents are beginning to matter far less.
—but that fact that he himself doesn't know it yet. It may take his mind another couple of weeks to catch up with his mouth.

More on the progressive Trumpening of the old-line conservatives from Steve.