Wednesday, October 25, 2017


Image by the Blockhead Film Festival at the Art Institutes International Minnesota, a worthy thing that seems to have died, sadly, around October 2014.

Hi readers!

According to the Rectification avatar, Dr. Johnson in his bag wig, "No man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money."

The donation box newly installed in the upper right over the search box does not mean that we have abandoned our precious blockhead status, but only that I've had to buy a new computer, as the old one was getting really balky and slow, with a row of sticky keys from t to o and all kinds of applications that couldn't be updated because the system software was so old, and I'd really appreciate some assistance paying for the thing, if, and only if, you can truly spare it.

We'll return shortly to our irregularly scheduled programming. I'll leave this pinned for a few days. Thanks!!!

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Coup who?

Giraffe, Air Mountain, Niger via African Rock Art.

Masha Gessen's New Yorker article noting the resemblances between General John Kelly's speech style and the language of the military coup:
Before walking off the stage, Kelly told Americans who haven’t served in the military that he pities them. “We don’t look down upon those of you who haven’t served,” he said. “In fact, in a way we are a little bit sorry because you’ll have never have experienced the wonderful joy you get in your heart when you do the kinds of things our servicemen and women do—not for any other reason than that they love this country.”
You know who in particular that applies to, right? The guy with the heel spurs, from which he may still suffer, judging from the style in which he exercises, riding his little golf cart from fairway to hole to fairway, getting on foot only those 36 times to make his brief gestures with the clubs and then climbing back in. I'll never forget that golf cart ride he took in Taormina last spring while the rest of the G-7 leaders were walking uphill 700 yards to the town piazza (The Hill notes that he did join them on the way back down).

Why would General Kelly be publicly humiliating the president that way?

What was the point of that pantomime of limiting questions to reporters from "Gold Star families" or their friends—

Friday, October 20, 2017

Nobody Expects the Spanish Disquisition

Chiron giving young Achilles his lyre lesson. Roman fresco from Herculaneum, 1st c. C.E., in the National Archaeological Museum of Naples, via Wikimedia Commons.

David Brooks ("The Essential John McCain") would like us to believe he is on intimate terms with a book by the Spanish philosopher Javier Gomá Lanzón, La Ejemplaridad Pública, 2009, of which no English translation has yet been published, and Gomá's thoughts on the topic of paideia, the ancient Athenian idea of education for citizenship:

Topics in Post-Revolutionary Socialism

Wood engraving byVladimir Favorsky, via polis.

Shorter Monsignor Ross Douthat, Apostolic Nuncio to 42nd Street, "What's the Matter With Republicans?", October 18 2015:
When Thomas Frank's What's the Matter With Kansas came out in 2004 with the thesis that working class voters in places like Kansas voting Republican were voting, insanely, against their own economic interests, it was wrong, because Republican presidential administration did all kinds of great things for those people, like Reagan didn't get rid of Social Security and Medicare, and everybody could get a subprime adjustable-rate mortgage, and then in the Bush first term there was Medicare Part D and No Child Left Behind. And everybody would get a tax cut! Not just the millionaires.
And yet now everything that Frank said that was false then is true! Thanks, Trump!
It wasn't false, was it? The "middle class tax cuts" were pathetic, the easy credit for creating an "ownership society" went sour, Part D had a doughnut hole, and children were getting left behind all over the place. These things were clearly designed to benefit not consumers but rent seekers with an interest in the industries involved, from drug companies to educational publishers, and in the case of the banking deregulation, that even went bad for the bankers. And compassionate conservative George W. Bush still wanted to privatize Social Security.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Transhumans and Cishumans

Image via

It's transhuman activist David F. Brooks with a new opus in his beloved there-are-two-kinds-of-people genre, "Upswingers and Downswingers", which looks on its face as if it might be drawing its inspiration from boxing, or maybe wife-swapping—Upswingers are couples who like to swap with couples of higher social status, while Downswingers descend to their inferiors, and in politics it's sort of similar:

Both right and left are dividing into upswinger and downswinger camps. Among Republicans the upswingers embrace capitalist dynamism, global engagement and the open movement of people and ideas. The downswingers embrace ethnic and national cohesion and closed borders.
On the left it’s between those who believe the only realistic path is to reform existing structures and those who think they are so broken we need to start over.
But no, it turns out that it's based on a kind of typo inside Brooks's memory, projected onto the science fiction writer and futurology professor born as F.M. Esfandiary (1930-2000), and his 1973 Up-Wingers: A Futurist Manifesto, which

Monday, October 16, 2017

For the record: We have always been at war with D'Souza

Just sayin. Who knows if he does it on purpose? Via KnightErrant at Kos.

That's not correct; it was in 1914 that he was thrown out of the Partito Socialista Italiano, of which he was at 31 one of Italy's most prominent members, after starting a newspaper, Il Popolo d'Italia, supporting Italian participation on the Allied side in the Great War, which the party regarded (with some justice) as a disgusting and immoral imperialist-capitalist adventure on both poxed sides, and called for strict neutrality. That was in November, and by December he was denouncing "orthodox" socialism and its focus on class struggle and egalitarianism in favor of a patriotism of language and culture and race:

For the Record: White House Follies of Early October

Trumpy saw an economist on TV!

Sunday, October 15, 2017

President Trump is Not Authorized to Speak for the Trump Administration, Part 418

Via TPM, following up on this morning's post, h/t Jordan:
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and United Nations ambassador Nikki Haley on Sunday insisted that the United States will remain in the Iran nuclear deal.
President Donald Trump on Friday said he would likely pull the U.S. out of the deal unless Congress and the other nations in the seven-country accord made a handful of adjustments he demanded.
“Let’s see if we cannot address the flaws in the agreement by staying within the agreement, working with the other signatories, working with our European friends and allies within the agreement,” Tillerson said on CNN’s “State of the Union”....
“Before the Senate not long ago, your counterpart at the Pentagon, Secretary Mattis, was asked if he thought staying in the agreement was in the best interests of the United States,” Jake Tapper said, referring to Secretary of Defense James Mattis. “It sounds like you agree with that as well.”
“I do agree with that,” Tillerson said. “And I think the President does as well.”
On the same day on which President Trump has skipped the deadline, as he announced Friday he would, for sending the congressionally mandated letter to Congress certifying that Iran is in compliance with the JCPA and that the agreement is in the national security interests of the United States, on the grounds, we're told, that he does not think it is in the national security interests of the United States, not at all.

But then as usual, how would Trump even find out what he thinks? It's not like Fox News covers that in any depth.


Interior of the Armenian Apostolic Cathedral of the Holy Savior (completed 1664) in Isfahan, Islamic Republic of Iran, via Wikipedia
Shorter Bret Stephens, "Donald Trump Takes a Hostage", October 14 2017:
Some people think Trump should have certified that Iran is in compliance with the JCPOA simply because Iran is in compliance with the JCPOA. What kind of dubious argument is that, for heaven's sake?
When the Republican legislators stuck that provision in the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act (INARA) of 2015 requiring the president to certify every three months that the Iranian government was in compliance with the agreement, they meant it for the specific purpose of torturing President Hillary Clinton, presumably; every 90 days she'd have to come out and say the Iranians hadn't started building a bomb yet and the whole Republican noise machine would come out to gin up a scandal about Iranian cheating, including your figures of respect like, ah, Mr. Bret Stephens, who was working the beat for his WSJ readers in July 2016, with the most elegant and arcane information sources, and Marc Thiessen picking it up for the American Enterprise Institute for those of us who don't go behind WSJ's paywall:

Friday, October 13, 2017

David Brooks used to build things? Who knew?

Via Health-Politics.

We Used to Build Things

, laments David F. Brooks. Things like the University of Pennsylvania, the Philadelphia Fire Department, The Pennsylvania Gazette, The American Philosophical Society, and the Pennsylvania Hospital, in Franklin's day, and the Boy Scouts and the settlement house movement in the Progressive Era. Why, even the government used to build things! Brooks doesn't mention Franklin's US Postal Service, but he does list the Forest Service (where even people who didn't go to Yale could distinguish themselves, he marvels: "The 10,000 men who were rounded up to fight the fire were led by a small group of young foresters, many of them from the Yale School of Forestry, which graduated its first class in 1904. One of the foresters, though decidedly no Yalie, was Ed Pulaski"), the Federal Reserve, the Food and Drug Adminstration, and the compulsory schooling movement, and then

In the 1930s, the alphabet soup of New Deal agencies were created. The late 1940s saw the creation of the big multinational institutions: the U.N., NATO, the World Bank, the I.M.F., the beginnings of the European market.

The Fart of the Deal

It's so hard to imagine what Trump believes he's doing, but it looks as if he may, personally, be enjoying the brainfart idea of a "deal" where he would show those stupid Republican Senators how a real businessman president gets shit done, just as he did in the immigration case in his Chinese dinner with Schumer and Pelosi on September 13, although it currently seems he didn't, because "The White House" didn't ("The White House" is now informing us that its "principles" rule out the concessions Trump made to the Democrats and require various new anti-immigrant brutalities that Democrats can't accept, another instance where we see Trump doesn't have authority to speak for the White House and thus no effective power to make a deal in the first place).

In the same way, it's not clear what "The White House" intends with yesterday's moves on health care provision, or whether it has any singular view of what it's doing. Unlike in national security and foreign policy issues, there aren't any generals in charge, and HHS doesn't even have a secretary at the moment, Tom Price having taken a very expensive charter flight clear out of office.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

New York note

Marc Fliedner, via New York.

I'm pretty creeped out at the moment by the startling news that's been coming out about Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. (yes, his papa was Jimmy Carter's patrician secretary of state while Mika Brzezinski's papa was doing all the foreign policy work, in an illustration of how our country seems to have developed a full-blown aristocracy since I was a kid), as summarized by David Freedlander at New York Magazine:
Vance, first elected in 2009, is running for a third term in November without an opponent from any party on the ballot after winning the Democratic primary without opposition in September. In the last couple of weeks Vance has come under withering criticism, first from a ProPublica/WNYC investigation into a decision not to prosecute Donald Trump Jr. and Ivanka Trump for misleading prospective buyers about their Trump Soho property, and then after The New Yorker revealed that Vance declined to prosecute Harvey Weinstein for allegedly sexually assaulting 22-year-old model Ambra Battilana Gutierrez even though Gutierrez came forward with a recording of Weinstein discussing the assault.
In both cases, lawyers for the accused made sizable donations to Vance’s campaign, with Trump personal lawyer Marc Kasowitz giving Vance a $32,000 check on the heels of a private meeting with the district attorney, and Weinstein lawyer David Boies donating $10,000 after Vance dropped the investigation into his client. Vance has since returned the Trump money, and denied that the fundraising had anything to do with the decision to not prosecute, saying that neither case had enough evidence to prove criminality.
To paraphrase Lady Bracknell, bumbling into the appearance of having been bribed to not indict an extremely socially powerful criminal may be regarded as a misfortune; but doing it twice looks like carelessness.

And then there's learning the news at this particular moment, less than a month before the election, when there's seemingly nothing that can be done to stop him from getting a third term if we're not satisfied with his explanations, which we really aren't so far—independent nominations closed off, New York laws making it impossible to think about getting an alternative name anywhere on the ballot, not even a Republican to vote for.

But a write-in candidate has bubbled up today, a civil rights lawyer named Marc Fliedner who ran in the summer primary for Brooklyn DA and says he's willing to move across the river, and a background that's both intersectional (he's gay) and Bernieish (Berners backed him in the Brooklyn race, in which he got 10% of the vote):
“I’m not doing any fundraising, I don’t have any staff, but it is accurate to say that I am a candidate via this grassroots write-in effort,” Fliedner said in a phone interview this morning. “It’s important we give voters an ethical choice in a landscape totally devoid of women’s rights and equal justice.”
No, I don't think he's going to win, and I can hardly even believe Vance could be as bad as he looks at the moment (I wish I could hear some acknowledgment that he knows how bad he looks). It's just a thought that not absolutely everything is necessarily going to hell.

For the Record: When Republicans were Radicals

Dinesh seems to have heard me telling him that the 1850s Republicans were the most radical party in US history, and he's not buying it.

Looks like he's reading me, but a little frightened to respond directly. He issues the following, to nobody in particular:

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

I hate everyone in this house! I'm running away!

This is the kind of chart they were looking at in a meeting with the Joint Chiefs last summer, when Trump apparently started complaining about how bad that blue line looks. Where, he wanted to know, did all our nuclear weapons go?! We hardly have any for Christ's sake! Why don't we have them like we did in 1960? We should have more than we had then!" When the news media says he demanded a "tenfold increase" in the stockpile, they're trying to make it sound like an idea. But he didn't do the math, believe me.

Video below is from back in September but I hadn't heard of it (savvy son told me), it doesn't seem to be on the radar, and I didn't want anybody to miss. This version is a little manipulated, with a wonderful looping sequence inserted, not to give you a false idea of what happened but to push its emotional point home.

Lord of the Inner Rings

Snoots are also tubes used by photographers to control the direction and dimension of a light beam as in this stargazer fish, shot by Ryo Minemizu at Osezaki, Shizuoka, Japan.

David F. Brooks ("The Art of Thinking Well") is off on this year's Nobel Prize for Economics, awarded to Richard Thaler for his work in behavioral economics, a completely justified critique of economics proper and its reliance on the fiction of a Homo economicus whose behavior is always governed by rational self-interest.

Not for me to second-guess the Nobel committee, even on as whimsical a science as economics, but I've complained about Thaler before (also in the context of a Brooks column, as it happens), on the way that essential insight—people's behavior is not governed by rational self-interest, but is in fact emotional, often poorly informed, and frequently nuts—never gets plowed back into theory for the construction of less utopian models of the economic behavior of real humans. Instead behavioral economists find themselves working on techniques whereby you and I can overcome our irrationality and outsmart our neighbors; on the broad scale methods of tricking the public into acting in their own self-interest, as in Thaler's and Sunstein's celebrated Nudge, but in the hands of lesser thinkers than Thaler into the territory of the economic self-help book, as in Gary Belsky's and Thomas Gilovich's Why Smart People Make Big Money Mistakes And How To Correct Them: Lessons From The New Science Of Behavioral Economics (1999), the kind of economics that David F. Brooks can really sink his teeth into.

Brooks, indeed, starts out kvetching that Thaler's work isn't self-helpy enough:

Tuesday, October 10, 2017


Headline at a news site I generally kind of like:

Is that right, now? Turns out Trumpy actually has a strategy, and one key statistic explains it?

Sadly, no:
Why would the president consider meddling in those primaries and pursuing policies that will further alienate a majority of the country? Because the base is all he has left....
It’s too early to know how Trump’s historic unpopularity will impact the 2018 midterm elections or the president’s re-election bid. But it has become clear that his core supporters — the 25% of Americans who are with him to the end — are increasingly the only group that supports Trump’s agenda.
It's exactly the opposite; the key statistic is the number of voters who will stick with him if he has no strategy whatever, if he's just being his helter-skelter self.

Trump hasn't "adopted a strategy", ever, though his minions may at one time or another try to do it for him, with the knowledge that he's not likely to cooperate very effectively. That's the minions' job, while his is to be the Leader. He will continue to seek out opportunities to make himself feel good, whether tooting around a golf course or fulminating in a stadium. The latter makes him feel great! And the 25% don't care what he does, though they love the fulmination. They don't love him for his strategy, they love him for appearing not to have one, and I wish the press would try to understand that the fans are right about that, he really doesn't.

Moron this after the break

The story in the strip is that Trump is supposed to be visiting Tampere, Finland, so the town authorities decide to put up a welcome billboard with a local dialect expression meaning "Good morning!"

Via Raw Story, Emperor Trump on the subject of being called a fucking moron by his secretary of state:
“I think it’s fake news,” Trump told Forbes, “but if he did that, I guess we’ll have to compare IQ tests — and I can tell you who is going to win.”
He continued his public attacks on Tillerson’s diplomatic work with North Korea, which he said was helpful to the secretary of state.
“He was wasting his time,” Trump said. “I’m not undermining, I think I’m actually strengthening authority.”
I wish people would grasp when he says things like this that he's showing he is effectively not the president. When he tells Twitter that he's mad at Sessions for refusing to work his will with the Mueller investigation, he is acknowledging (correctly) that he has no power to tell the attorney general what to do, and when he tells Twitter, or Forbes, that he wishes Tillerson would stop attempting to negotiate with DPRK, he's suggesting (weirdly) that he has no power over the secretary of state either. He's identifying himself as a concern troll ("I'm just trying to give him some good advice"), not as the executive to whom the secretary reports.

Monday, October 9, 2017

A (Truly) Modest Proposal: Goodbye Columbus

No rapist, Amerigo Vespucci, in yellow tights, chastely declines a proffer of women in Honduras, 1497. Illustration by Theodor de Bry, ca. 1592, via Wikipedia.

An interesting wrinkle in this year's pro–Columbus Day noise is the suggestion that if you don't like Columbus Day you must be allied with the Ku Klux Klan. Why? Is the Klan supporting a national holiday honoring our indigenous peoples?

Sadly, no. It's all about identity politics, and the Klan's denial of the Italians' ethnic pride. As we read from Jarrett Stepman at Heritage Foundation's Daily Signal:
Much of the modern rhetoric about Columbus mirrors attacks lobbed at him in the 19th century by anti-Catholic and anti-Italian groups like the Ku Klux Klan.
In fact, Columbus Day became a nationally celebrated holiday following a mass lynching of Italians in New Orleans—the largest incident of lynching in American history....
As the pro-Columbus website The Truth About Columbus points out, the Ku Klux Klan worked to stop Columbus Day celebrations, smash statues, and reverse his growing influence on American culture.
According to The Truth About Columbus, in the 1920s, the Klan “attempted to remove Columbus Day as a state holiday in Oregon,” burned a cross “to disturb a Columbus Day celebration in Pennsylvania,” and successfully “opposed the erection of a statue of Columbus in Richmond, Virginia, only to see the decision to reject the statue reversed.”
Attempts to quash Columbus failed, but they have re-emerged in our own time through the actions of far-left groups who want to see his legacy buried and diminished forever.

Question to Radio Yerevan: Is it true that the lynching of 11 Italian immigrants in New Orleans in 1891 was the worst lynching in American history?

Sunday, October 8, 2017

That's funny, because I happen to have Professor Bell right here...

Anonymous meme.

So yesterday mainstream historian Kevin Kruse took on parody historian Dinesh D'Souza, with whose "book" The Big Lie I have been having a kind of personal war, and his claim, in connection with the book, that "mainstream historians have never disputed my research or my conclusions" (partly true, hardly any would mention him at all in their normal existence, since his work is so obviously deviant it doesn't need professional refutation), and hilarity ensued. Check out the thread.

So when I came online this morning I saw this, in reference to Dinesh's claim that he "exposed" the fact that Southern Democrats used to support slavery and then Ku Klux Klan terror and Jim Crow laws (screenshots, just in case he blocks me this time):

Frenetic denials, huh?

I've gotten him to respond once before, to comical effect. This time he may not have recognized me in my Halloween costume (I dress as Edgar Allan Poe). An hour and forty minutes later, Gunga Dinesh thinks he's got me.

Sadly, no. It took me five or ten minutes to worm it out of the GoogleBooks version:

Cross-posted at No More Mister Nice Blog.

Update: Another hour and a half later...

Saturday, October 7, 2017

The Unbearable Epiphenomenality of Firearms

Genteel Victorian elite, via Petticoats and Pistols.
Shorter David Brooks, "Guns and the Soul of America":
Well, so according to fellow Canadian and fellow David David Frum, whenever there's one of these grotesque mass shootings, America's state legislatures jump into action to start passing gun laws, only not the way you might imagine. Instead of passing laws to make mass shootings less likely, they start passing laws to make guns easier to get, or easier to carry around. 
In fact Luca, Malhotra, and Poliquin 2016 found that a single mass shooting in a given state raises the number of firearms bills that will be introduced in that state's legislature that year by 15%, and the number of enacted laws that loosen gun restrictions instead of tightening them will be 75% higher, if it's a Republican-controlled state, though not a Democrat-controlled one.
Which really blew my mind, because how are you going to explain this result other than by saying that the Republican party and the National Rifle Association exploit every such shooting as an opportunity to poison the population with fear and the irrational sense that they'll be safer if they just own more guns, and bring them to more different places, like schools, bars, and churches? 
Which is obviously ridiculous, I mean, what could the Republican party and the National Rifle Association have to do with that?
So I think the first thing has to be that it's not about guns at all. Guns are merely an epiphenomenon. The reason Republican state legislatures pass so many more bills loosening gun restrictions after a horrifying gun tragedy must be postindustrialization. The more we keep postindustrializing, the more the voters will demand more restriction-loosening gun laws. That just stands to reason.
And what can we do about this situation? What I've been telling you forever, moar narrativium! We need a new story on the postindustrialization/populism front, like Theodore Roosevelt's new American nationalism, but like different. And I want mine with extra mayo, don't disappoint me.
I know you all hate Frum, but let's just say The Atlantic has much better editors than the Bush administration did and his work is a lot better than it was in the Axis of Evil days. I may disagree with what he says, but I will defend to the death his right to say he did his homework, if I think he did, which I do at least in this case.

Which I can't, as usual, say about David F. Brooks:

Friday, October 6, 2017

For the Record: Can you name one rightwing group persecuted by Hitler?

Jean-Léon Gérôme, 1883, The Christian Martyrs' Last Prayer, via Wikipedia.

I love that. "I can so!"

But can he? It's true that most of the 2,720 clergy imprisoned at Dachau (of 160,000 prisoners total, over 100,000 of them political prisoners) were Catholic priests, but I don't find any record of any of them being killed, while Nazis killed between 80,000 and 200,000 Freemasons and 2,500-5,000 Jehovah's Witnesses (because of their refusal to swear fealty to the Reich)...

Wait, you define Christianity as "a rightwing group"?

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Annals of Derp: Does the NRA buy influence?

Marco Rubio chomps on a moneyburger, as Mr. Adelson and Mr. Koch look on benignly, via Cuban Insider.

According to Mr. Bret Stephens:
The National Rifle Association does not have Republican “balls in a money clip,” as Jimmy Kimmel put it the other night. The N.R.A. has donated a paltry $3,533,294 to all current members of Congress since 1998, according to The Washington Post, equivalent to about three months of Kimmel’s salary. The N.R.A. doesn’t need to buy influence: It’s powerful because it’s popular.
That's funny, Bret, because according to, writing last November, the NRA spent $3.2 million on Marco Rubio's 2016 Senate race alone:

Emperor News

Photo via Flying Penguin.
David Graham of the Atlantic turned up on my radio this morning discussing the Emperor's Puerto Rico visit, which he has described for his magazine with some extremely pithy elegance:
Throughout the aftermath of the storm, Trump has often appeared more interested in the political ramifications of the storm than on the human effects, focusing on approval of himself and the federal government (though he doesn’t really draw a distinction between the two). This was also true at Muñiz Air Force Base. In praising Governor Ricardo Rosselló, for example, Trump reached for the lens of partisan affiliation.
“He’s not even from my party and he started right at the beginning appreciating what we did,” Trump said. “Right from the beginning, this governor did not play politics. He was saying it like it was, and he gave us the highest rates.”
This was an implicit jab at San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz, who has been critical of relief efforts, and whom Trump claimed over the weekend was doing so because Democrats had put her up to it. As I noted, his broadside against Cruz serves as a warning to politicians like Rosselló not to follow her lead, lest Trump punish them too. (Speaking in Washington Tuesday, before taking off, Trump said of Cruz, “Well, I think she’s come back a long way. I think it’s now acknowledged what a great job we’ve done, and people are looking at that.” It’s unclear what he is referring to. She attended Tuesday’s briefing.)
(Incidentally, Cruz, not Yulín, is the family name, in full Cruz Soto;  I've checked this, and "Yulín" is the second part of her given name, transmitted from a grandmother.)

On the air (bit starting around 16:00), he said something that struck me as kind of shocking, to the effect that Cruz handled the situation badly in comparison to Rosselló (I think there's some speculation she may be running for governor herself, and in that sense competing with Rosselló): because she made Trump mad, which could be bad for San Juan, and Rosselló made him happy, which would be good for the island. She's not "politically astute". Better to flatter him! And we'll learn later "whether that was the right strategy or not."

Tuesday, October 3, 2017


From "Doctor Strange and Doctor Doom: Triumph and Torment", Marvel 1990, via Bleeding Cool.
David F. Brooks opens up like a classic monster movie, where the Orange Swamp Thing that had been ravaging the countryside has made his way into the metropolis and crunches up and down its avenues as girls in attractive déshabille scream by—crushing buildings underfoot and sweeping airplanes out of the sky with his careless hand: all the best guys bring out their best guns, one at a time, but to no avail ("The Philosophical Assault on Trumpism"):

Establishment Republicans have tried five ways to defeat or control Donald Trump, and they have all failed. Jeb Bush tried to outlast Trump, and let him destroy himself. That failed. Marco Rubio and others tried to denounce Trump by attacking his character. That failed. Reince Priebus tried to co-opt Trump to make him a more normal Republican. That failed.
Paul Ryan tried to use Trump; Congress would pass Republican legislation and Trump would just sign it. That failed. Mitch McConnell tried to outmaneuver Trump and Trumpism by containing his power and reach. In the Senate race in Alabama last week and everywhere else, that has failed.
I think there are some missing elements in that picture, like J.E.B.! and Little Marco were pretty busy trying to destroy each other, while the Wisconsin lads were working fairly closely together with the Majority Leader on what counts as a single project, not three different ones. If I were making this movie, I'd start off—after the requisite shot of the massive orange head lifting out of the mud, early morning light, and blinking—in a busy open-plan office, guys in shirtsleeves and rep ties rushing by the desks, with Reince and Ryan in hot conversation on some huge urban demolition plan that will net them billions of dollars but so destructive to human life that the authorities won't sign off on it, so that afterwards, when the Thing is ravaging the city, you see the two of them look at each other with a shock of realization: If we could just guide this creature somehow, like dangling a carrot in front of a mule, we could get our job done! They'd never be able to stop us! And old Uncle Mitch, beaming at the lads, giving them the go-ahead with the slightest of nods.

But then of course Brooks isn't making that movie, is he? He isn't concerned about the toll in human life and property damage. To Brooks, the problem with the Thing is that he's making the Republicans look bad:

Monday, October 2, 2017

Thoughts 'n' Prayers Day

The Classics IV in 1968.

Happy Thoughts 'n' Prayers Day, folks! Today's the day we have thoughts 'n' prayers, because it's Too Soon to have anything else.


Sunday, October 1, 2017

Ross Douthat writes about Bill Clinton

Woodcuts from the Dance of Death, Hans Holbein the Younger, ca. 1525, via WikiArt.

Monsignor Ross Douthat, apostolic nuncio to 42nd Street, thunders old Hefner into hell with apocalyptic hatred ("Speaking Ill of Hugh Hefner"):

Hugh Hefner, gone to his reward at the age of 91, was a pornographer and chauvinist who got rich on masturbation, consumerism and the exploitation of women, aged into a leering grotesque in a captain’s hat, and died a pack rat in a decaying manse where porn blared during his pathetic orgies.
Hef was the grinning pimp of the sexual revolution, with quaaludes for the ladies and Viagra for himself — a father of smut addictions and eating disorders, abortions and divorce and syphilis, a pretentious huckster who published Updike stories no one read while doing flesh procurement for celebrities, a revolutionary whose revolution chiefly benefited men much like himself.
Poor Updike!

Speaking for myself, I'm here to bury Hefner, not to praise him, or not even that—let the dead bury their dead. If you want to read about Hefner, blogfriend Lance Mannion did a great post.

The Monsignor doesn't really want to write about Hefner either, but he can hardly stop himself with the fulminations, paragraph after paragraph. He really wants to write about Bill Cosby, the nightmare Negro rapist, who literally did to women the things that liberalism figuratively does to Ross's raw heart all day long and thus proved that Ross's terrors are justified—and what he wants most of all is to link three names with hyphens, toward the end:

Saturday, September 30, 2017

What the emperor did for Puerto Rico

Bankruptcy photo, via CNN Money.
It is totally unfair, as the Washington Post fact checkers say ("Three Pinocchios", though PolitiFact gives it a less dismissive "Half-True"), to suggest that Donald Trump is in any way responsible for the $33 million added to Puerto Rico's debt by the failure of the Trump International Golf Club Puerto Rico (formerly known as the Coco Beach Golf and Country Club).

The worst you can say is that he took something north of $600,000 ($600K for the first five years of the deal), or "many millions" according to Eric Trump,  to rescue Puerto Rico from the debt, without doing a goddamned thing, in spite of his promises that he would be "very actively involved" and substantially invested financially.
“Puerto Rico is a fantastic place and deserves the best, which is what we will deliver,” Trump said at a 2008 news conference on the island. “Every detail will be important to me.”
Eric Trump, appearing at the same news conference, said that the Trumps would be “very actively involved in this development at all levels” and that they had “a very substantial equity contribution” in the project.
But public records filed as part of the bankruptcy show that the Trumps had no equity in the property.

The emperor is displeased

Downtown San Juan at night, a week after the hurricane, photo by Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times/Getty via CNBC.
On Wednesday September 20, Hurricane Maria, the tenth most intense Atlantic storm in history, the strongest to hit the US possession of Puerto Rico since 1928 and the second wettest, dumping almost 38 inches of water on the eastern mountain city of Caguas, began wiping out 100% of the power grid on the island, leaving 3.4 millions American citizens without electricity, and with no access to food and safe drinking water beyond what they'd managed to lay in getting ready for the storm, or gas.

On Thursday the 21st, President Trump headed off for a long weekend at his Bedminster golf club, interrupted only by a visit to Alabama (campaigning for Senator Luther Strange, who lost his primary on the 26th).

Friday, September 29, 2017

There's always something multilayered

Taylor Swift in "Look What You Made Me Do". As Lionel Trilling writes, "Society requires of us that we present ourselves as being sincere, and the most efficacious way of satisfying this demand is to see to it that we really are sincere, that we actually are what we want our community to know we are. In short, we play the role of being ourselves, we sincerely act the part of the sincere person, with the result that a judgement may be passed upon our sincerity that it is not authentic."

It's world-famous music critic David F. Brooks with an exciting new discovery ("What Sincerity Looks Like"): Chance the Rapper. He is sincere, whereas Taylor Swift is merely authentic.

In Lionel Trilling’s old distinction, sincerity is what you shoot for in a trusting society. You try to live honestly and straightforwardly into your social roles and relationships. Authenticity is what you shoot for in a distrustful society. You try to liberate your own personality by rebelling against the world around you, by aggressively fighting against the society you find so vicious and corrupt.
No, really. Swift's recent "This is What You Made Me Do" is "a song for a society without social trust." It "contains a string of references to Swift’s various public beefs — with Kanye West, Kim Kardashian, Katy Perry, and so on. If Donald Trump or his political enemies made a video about their Twitter wars, it would look like this." Its crucial lyric is 'I don’t trust nobody and nobody trusts me.' The world is full of snakes. The only way to survive is through combat."

In this Taylor Swift "has lost touch with herself and seems to have been swallowed by the ethos of the Trump era." She resembles Johnny Cash in his work of the 1950s:

Thursday, September 28, 2017

For the Record. III: Big Switch

Fanny Lou Hamer of the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee and the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party. Via Ujima Magazine.

For the Record. II: God Bless America

Irving Berlin in 1906 (18 years old), already unable to play in any key other than F#, via Wikipedia.

For the Record. I: Socialist Hitler

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

The travel ban, whatever it is

Wabash River, via Indiana Policy Review.

Why Sudanese Are No Longer Banned from Traveling in the United States but North Koreans Are, Even Though Their Goverment Doesn't Allow Them to Try to Get In
A Poem
by Donald J. Trump
Well, the people —
yeah, the people allowed —
certain countries — but
we can add countries very easily
and we can take countries away.
And as far as the travel ban
is concerned, whatever it is,
I want the toughest
travel ban you can have.
So I’ll see you in Indiana.
We’re going to go over
some more points that
have not been talked about.
Text from Think Progress.