Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Turnout turnout turnout

Judge Moore heading into the sunset on a horse that clearly doesn't like him very much, via Deadspin.

My favorite statistic from yesterday's Alabama Senate election is this, as reported in the Washington Post:
 “These swings can be seen in counties majority white and black, Republican and Democrat. And that means it couldn’t have just been a surge in African American turnout, or just rural Trump voters staying home, or just Republicans crossing over to vote for Jones. Jones’ campaign was able to achieve a combination of the three that drove him to victory. Despite it being an off-year special election in December, Jones got 92 percent of Hillary Clinton’s vote total. Moore just got 49 percent of Trump’s.” 
The authorities were expecting a 25% turnout, meaning really big for an out-of-season race, and instead they got 40%, but that unexpected crowd was not symmetrical. Half of Trump's voters couldn't bring themselves to vote for Moore, but nearly all of Clinton's voters came out for Jones.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017


Gleichschaltung der Kulturen. Drawing, 2003, by Walter Wesinger ("Waldah"), via staatenlosinfo,org.

David Brooks ("What's Wrong With Radicalism") in the grips of a kind of interesting thought today: that the policies promoted by our two big political parties aren't really very radical:

Stylistically and culturally, Trumpian populism screams “blow it up” and “drain the swamp.” But Donald Trump’s actual policies are run-of-the-mill corporatist. The left-wing radicals talk a lot against the systems of oppression and an institutionalized injustice. But they are nothing like the radicals of the 1930s or the 1960s.

Today’s radicals do not want to upend the meritocracy, which is creating a caste system of inherited inequality. They don’t want to stop technical innovation, which is displacing millions of workers. They don’t have plans to reverse individualism, which atomizes society and destroys community. A $15 minimum wage may be left wing, but it’s not Marxist-Leninism.
If that's true, then isn't Brooks's whole shtik misplaced? He's been telling us for ten years that we need to situate ourselves humbly in the sweet, quiet spot between the extremes of left and right; now he's saying we're already there, but it's so noisy in here we don't realize it? Or what?


Monday, December 11, 2017

Too many things coming to a head here

My screengrab.

If Emperor Trump wanted to create some kind of Reichstag fire excuse for declaring a national emergency, if you know what I mean, he couldn't do better than declaring that the Palestinian peace process is dead and that from the US point of view Israel is basically all the land between the Jordan and the Mediterranean. I'm not saying that's what he did—I don't think it is at all what he did—but I'll bet at some point as Mattis and Tillerson were trying to talk him down from his decision to proclaim his intention of moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, one of them said it would provoke terrorist incidents, possibly even inside the US, and he made one of those dumb macho responses to the effect that we can't let the terrorists tell us what to do.

As I've said before, the object of these people is never to prevent bad things happening but to dramatize the difference between the Good, us, and the Evil, them.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

What kind of Christianity is that?

Speaking of Calvin...

So obviously what stopped me there was the "tenants" of the faith ("Of course not," I want to say, "they despise people who pay rent, they follow the landlords of the faith"), but it also struck me that there's a theological error there; the tenets of the faith of conservative American evangelicals are completely consistent with supporting Trump.

That's the problem. You can't get anywhere by telling them Trump is a bad man because this increasingly Calvinist denomination doesn't believe there's any such thing as a good man; man is born totally depraved. Nor is there any necessary relation between the kind of depravity a man displays in his character and the work God has selected him to do; Trump's idea that he should be judged in terms of all his "winning" sounds right to them, the manifest sign of his predestined status.

We started seeing this years ago, in the 1980s, in the scandals inside the church of Jim Bakker and Jimmy Swaggart, in which the faithful didn't see these men's sexual escapades as disqualifying for the ministry but instead thrilling dramas of sin and redemption. In the same way what Trump may have done in the distant past (e.g. when he was in his 60s, at the time of the Access Hollywood video) is of no relevance to the heroic things he may be doing now, singlehandedly protecting us from the vicious enemies surrounding us, except to the extent that if he was that bad then, the fact that he's so good now illustrates God's awesome power to exalt the weak and humble the great, or something.

Fox News was suggesting God had punished the Olympic skier Lindsey Vonn for criticizing Trump a couple of days ago:

They later deleted the tweet, but the Washington Examiner kept the idea in their headline:

And then, it's not exactly relevant, but there was the Alabamian in the Frank Luntz focus group who thought,
Forty years ago in Alabama, there’s a lot of mamas and daddies that’d be thrilled that their 14-year-old was getting hit on by a district attorney.
It's just not the kind of nice, earnest, naggy but well-meant Christianity you mostly see on television. These people are in a different moral world.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Toward the state-and-a-half solution

Still from Rona Yefman's 2006 video, "Pippi L. at Abu Dis", depicting Pippi Longstocking, strongest girl in the world, attempting to take down the Wall separating Israel from Palestine.

Has there ever been anything in history quite as overdetermined as Trump's insistence on recognizing Jerusalem as the eternal capital (he didn't say "undivided", which may be a clue that he or his writers didn't mean all that much anyway) of the Jewish state and agreement to move the US embassy there from Tel Aviv at some point in the future? There are so many competing ways of explaining why it had to happen that it might be be more useful to ask what could have stopped it.

First there's Jared Kushner, designated unofficially by the Emperor-elect as Middle East Peace Tsar way back in November 2016—

Friday, December 8, 2017

Hip to Hip

Urban Bush Women Hip to Hip, via University of Florida Performing Arts/

David F. Brooks ("The G.O.P. is Rotting") really seems to have got out of the wrong side of the bed. He doesn't even have anything good to say about his own people, the humble folk who occupy the middle, like ideological magpies looking for sparkly ideas to decorate their nests!

A lot of good, honorable Republicans used to believe there was a safe middle ground. You didn’t have to tie yourself hip to hip with Donald Trump, but you didn’t have to go all the way to the other extreme and commit political suicide like the dissident Jeff Flake, either. You could sort of float along in the middle, and keep your head down until this whole Trump thing passed.
Wait, when were those good old days when the good and the honorable thought there was a middle ground between Trump and suicide? The announcement of Flake's political suicide was on October 24! He's talking about a month ago!

I should also mention that if you're tying yourself to somebody hip to hip is the wrong way to go. That knot's going to slip something terrible (see illustration above).

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Update: Veselnitskaya again

International Spy Museum, Washington, D.C.

Boom. There's now some followup email relating to the beloved Trump Tower meeting of June 9 2016, from the famed English music publicist and funny hat fancier Rob Goldstone who arranged the meeting with Donald Jr. on behalf of Emin Agalarov, to Trump's ex-caddy and social media guy Dan Scavino (the one who writes the mostly literate tweets and retweets the impossibly racist ones) and to some Russian friends, obtained by CNN. It's the latter that especially interests me and our own little patch in the public garden, with a reference that means more to us than it does to most investigators:
In one email dated June 14, 2016, Goldstone forwarded a CNN story on Russia's hacking of DNC emails to his client, Russian pop star Emin Agalarov, and Ike Kaveladze, a Russian who attended the meeting along with Trump Jr., Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner and Manafort, describing the news as "eerily weird" given what they had discussed at Trump Tower five days earlier.
One of the sources familiar with the content of the email downplayed the interaction, saying news of the DNC hack was surprising because in the run-up to the Trump Tower meeting, the Russian participants had promised information on illicit Russian funding of the DNC. But that dirt was not provided to Trump Jr., Kushner and Manafort during the meeting, according to accounts from the participants.
The DNC hacking was not brought up at the meeting, another source said, explaining it would not be 'oddly weird' if the topic had been broached.
Well, excuse me, there's one thing that's completely new here, the idea that "the Russian participants had promised information on illicit Russian funding of the DNC", because I'm pretty sure I've never heard anything like that before. Have you? The most specific thing I remember is the suggestion in Veselnitskaya's memo, prepared for the meeting, that Bill Browder's Hermitage Capital "may also have donated to the DNC", which would be illegal but British, not Russian, and the allegation that the all-American Ziff brothers were Democratic donors (and "It cannot be ruled out that they also financed Hillary Clinton campaign"). And then the folder of printouts described by Rinat Akhmetshin, which sound so much like certain pages from the DNC emails as we know them from WikiLeaks.

But you know what would have been extremely oddly weird? Given that nobody had publicly heard of the DNC hack on June 9, it would have been at least memorable if the subject had been broached, and folks would remember it when the news story came out a few days afterwards.

It would have been spectacularly oddly weird if the topic had been broached in a scenario like the following: If one of the Russians present at the meeting had said that the Democratic National Committee had been hacked and they had the stuff, and the American said, oh, that's ridiculous, we would have heard if something like that happened, get the fuck out of here, and then five count 'em five days later it turned out on CNN that the DNC had indeed been hacked!

Where did that crazy Russian lady leave her folder last week? somebody might have wanted to know. I don't have a clue, Manafort could have said with a quizzical smile. You know what I mean?

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

More Veselnitskaya

Maat, goddess of truth, via Stillness in the Storm.

Is this story from NBC News on the true side?
Donald Trump Jr. asked a Russian lawyer at the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting whether she had evidence of illegal donations to the Clinton Foundation, the lawyer told the Senate Judiciary Committee in answers to written questions obtained exclusively by NBC News.
The lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, told the committee that she didn't have any such evidence, and that she believes Trump misunderstood the nature of the meeting after receiving emails from a music promoter promising incriminating information on Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump's Democratic opponent.
It's not exactly what she herself told NBC in July 2017. In fact it's totally different—in that story Junior wasn't interested in the Clinton Foundation but the Democratic National Committee:

RIP Johnny Hallyday

The great French rocker has died, at 74. Obituary here.

From 1976.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Let them eat crumpets!

Via Sarah's Pinterest.

David F. Brooks, back from his Thanksgiving vacation, solves the gay wedding cake conundrum ("How Not to Advance Gay Marriage"):
the neighborly approach would be to say: “Fine, we won’t compel you to do something you believe violates your sacred principles. But we would like to hire you to bake other cakes for us. We would like to invite you into our home for dinner and bake with you, so you can see our marital love, and so we can understand your values. You still may not agree with us, after all this, but at least we’ll understand each other better and we can live more fully in our community.”
That "bake with you" is so precious! You build these relationships by emphasizing the things you have in common, you see, not the things that divide you, and as Brooks knows all gay men make these fantastic muffins and scones, and their ambition is to run a bed-and-breakfast in a charming New England town. With quilts. They'd disarm the baker with their respect for his technical expertise and artistry, and he'd quickly come to understand we're all the same under the skin. Better yet make it brunch, lubricated with Bellinis!

It's just like the way Oliver Brown invited the Topeka school board over for barbecue and gospel music, back in 1951 (in Brookstopia, not on our own sad planet), and they educated each other; Oliver teaching the board members about how his daughter was a human being as deserving of a good school as their own children were, and the board members teaching him about their deep religious belief in the separation of the races and their anxieties about cultural and economic change. It didn't get the Topeka schools integrated, but it was so warming and civilized, and made them feel so good about themselves, and they didn't have to bring a bunch of lawyers into it!

More, with bonus Frederick Douglass quote (he's done an amazing job and is being recognized more and more!), from Drifty.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Will this be the most delicious headline of the Trump era?

Something like all of them, actually. Seems when they were scrambling around looking for ways to plug in the holes in the tax plan left by giving Collins her $10,000 mortgage deduction and Johnson his 23% deduction for pass-through income (instead of the 17-something in the draft) and the like, they grabbed at a passing hunk of driftwood that turned out to be the cancelled alternative minimum corporate tax and clung to it for dear life.

So in the bill as passed by the Senate over the weekend, the corporate tax, as you'll recall, is fixed at 20%, and there's an alternative minimum corporate tax which as it turns out is also fixed at 20%, meaning Mr. Corporation can decide either (a) to take no deductions and pay that basic 20% rate or (b) take all the deductions he can, but not so as to pay less than the alternative minimum 20% rate.

In short, all your corporate tax deductions will now be imaginary.

Complicity: Totebaggers edition

Riverside Park South, December 3, where apparently spontaneous sculptures rhyming with the remains of old piers have popped out of the rocks.

Remember Congressman Gerry Studds (D-MA), who was censured by the House in 1983 for having an "inappropriate relationship" with a (male) House page and then regularly reelected by the good folk of his South Shore and Cape Cod district six times, till he retired in 1997? NPR brought him up as a kind of bothsiderist counterpoint, I think, to Alabama senatorial candidate Roy Moore, exemplifying how
Justice has been swift for some of the men accused of sexual harassment in media and entertainment. But in politics the consequences haven't been as swift or decisive. The biggest reason: democracy.
Voters are slow to react, unlike the brave people in public broadcasting—it's been some season for them, with revelations of the abuses of PBS's Charlie Rose, NPR's Garrison Keillor and Michael Oreskes, and WNYC's John Hockenberry, previously thought to have gotten the sack last summer because he was getting so terrible at his job, which was also true (and a miscreant against women on the air, constantly interrupting, dismissing and mansplaining, as listeners could have told and possibly did tell them years ago)—and today's Alabamians are no different from yesteryear's Cape Codders.

Naturally I think there's something else going on there, which is about the march of cultural change in the first place.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Strzok by surprise (October Surprise, that is)

Update December 3 2017:

We now know why Peter Strzok was pulled off the TrumpRussia investigation in August, and it isn't really prefigured in any of the hypotheses offered here or in the comments. A bunch of people have been looking at this old piece, presumably because I managed to spell Strzok right more than twice, and that's always a plus with Dr. Google, so I thought I should add a word and let it rerun.

Strzok was removed, The New York Times reports, because of

 the discovery of text messages in which Mr. Strzok and a colleague reacted to news events, like presidential debates, in ways that could appear critical of Mr. Trump.
“Immediately upon learning of the allegations, the special counsel’s office removed Peter Strzok from the investigation,” said a spokesman for the special counsel’s office, Peter Carr.
The Fox News universe is now undergoing floods of excitement over the possibility that "the Mueller investigation may be biased, under the heroic leadership of 2nd Lieutenant (Intellectual) Ben Shapiro.
My Twitter response follows:

It strikes me that Strzok may actually be feeling guilty for the role he played in the Giuliani-Stone October Surprise, with the thought that he had it briefly in his power to stop the clown psychopath from getting elected. Anyhow, the old post is below the fold:

Trouble in Mind

Revised and Updated

Senator Hatch "has a rough time" with renewing the Children's Health Insurance Program.
About $14 billion a year, and it's true small kids are shamefully slow on paying their medical bills like "I think Daddy takes care of it right?"

Everybody—starting with Joe Scarborough!—took this a little bit out of context, I'm sorry to say. What Hatch said, as reported in The Guardian, is this:

Saturday, December 2, 2017

By the horns of his own chastity

Young virgin auto-sodomized by the horns of her own chastity, Salvador Dalí, via Wikipedia.

Young Ben Shapiro wants to know, over the news of Michael Flynn's guilty plea:

Is The Mueller Special Investigation Going To Result In A Massive Political Explosion...Over Nearly Nothing?

Because Flynn has only pleaded guilty to the one crime, and not much of a crime at that! Lying to the FBI about something he did that wasn't even illegal! Well, probably not. I mean, is that all they got?
Supposedly, Flynn spoke with Kislyak about backing off of retaliation against Obama administration sanctions, and also about delaying a late-Obama administration United Nations resolution designed to condemn Israeli settlements. It’s completely unclear why Flynn would lie about such conversations; they weren’t illegal. In fact, most Americans would want the transition team to talk to foreign governments about the policy to be implemented in mere weeks.
Jesus Christ on a graham cracker crust, Ben! I realize you became Internet-famous for proclaiming your preserved virginity at 21, but I can't believe anybody who's been brought up near a television set is that naive.

Haven't you ever heard of plea bargains given to a relative underling to elicit testimony against the relevant overling? Like John Dean?

Friday, December 1, 2017

Fix it behind closed doors

Per Jason Easley at Politicus USA: McConnell clarified this afternoon that nobody's allowed to read the bill until after they pass it.

Nobody gets the real reason for Flynn's guilty plea , which is that it's to distract us from the Senate Republicans passing this obscene tax bill (I don't know that it's really obscene, of course, and perhaps they're airbrushing out all the pubic hair as we speak).

The following report from CNN and some other material is offered without comment:

For the record: Self-plagiarism

This is so priceless, if I do say so myself.

I know how! You could recycle huge chunks of texts from one book into another book and sell them all over again, one book for the price of two, as Christine Kelly puts it in her review of a couple of books by, ah, Dinesh D'Souza.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Vote-O-Rama day

"I have a feeling we're not in regular order any more." Teri Garr in Mel Brooks's Young Frankenstein, via Film Misery.

I've been wanting to write something about the tax bill—

But it's like the wrong end of an acid trip, where you're getting disenchanted and ready for a nap and grousing, "God damn it, everything's still melting." (A very long time ago for me, I should stress, but I still remember that.)

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Code Talkers Vs. Dog Whistlers


One of the things that hasn't been noticed in Emperor Trump's smarmy, patronizing, shoulder-patting performance with three nonagenarian World War II Navajo Code Talkers at a Native American Heritage Month event at the White House yesterday, after the group's president, Peter MacDonald, had presented his own opening remarks summarizing their achievements. Not the characteristic narcissism—
And I want to tell you -- you said you're 90 years old? That's great, because you have good genes. That means the press has got me to kick around for a long time. (Laughter.)
(Trump is going to live for a long time because his guest has good genes?) Or the unceremonious decision not to read the remarks that had been prepared for him and just dump the text into MacDonald's hands—
I loved that and I loved your delivery. And the Code Talkers are amazing. And seriously, it is what I said. So what I'm going to do is give you my speech, and I want you to hold that. And I know you like me, so you'll save it. But that was so well delivered, from the heart. So I want to give you this speech because I don't want to bore them with saying the same thing you just said. And you said it better, believe me, because you said it from here. And I mean it from there too.
It's that he has no idea what they're being honored for, what the Code Talkers did, beyond being "special" and "brave" and displaying "love for the country"—didn't have any idea what it was before yesterday, hadn't read the remarks in advance, and had been daydreaming while MacDonald spoke, hearing nothing but a reference to Iwo Jima, until the very last bit (an appeal for help in putting together a Navajo Code Talkers Museum), which he did pick up on later on:

Monday, November 27, 2017

Socialism of the right?

Postmodern mariachis att Turnberry, June 2015 in The National.

I spent a ridiculously large part of the afternoon looking for a decent and adequately contextualized source for that quote, which originates from an especially poorly made and poorly documented WikiQuotes page), and ran along the way into a good deal of stuff that might be interesting beyond the usual spectacle of me throwing a pie in Dinesh's face, on the issue of what we're to do with these awful old terms of "right" and "left" and "fascist", especially relevant in the age of Trump.

The best source was a chapter, "Von der amerikanischen Sklaverei zum bundesdeutschen Kampf gegen Rechts: Metamorphosen des Rassismus " (From American Slavery to the Federal German Struggle Against the Right: Metamorphoses of Racism), from a 2008 book by Joseph Schüsslburner, quoting in turn from a 1987 book by the journalist Wolfgang Venohr, Stauffenberg: Symbol des Widerstands ("Stauffenberg: Symbol of Resistance", on the 1944 plot to assassinate Hitler):

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Time's not on my side.

Fake Liechtenstein via entrepreneur.

Well, that explains that. Trump called Time to ask why they hadn't reached out yet to schedule the interview/shoot, and they told him, nicely, that it PROBABLY wouldn't happen twice in a row.

It's a tidy example of my semiotic theory of lying, according to which the function of a lie is to hide some particular truth by occupying its proper semiotic space. Here, with some elementary transformations: he called Time, so in the lie Time called him, and they were forced to acknowledge that he PROBABLY wouldn't receive the honor, so he said he PROBABLY would.

I can't get over the instrumentation on this, which I just learned about recently, with Keith Richards on piano, Bill Wyman on cello, and poor Brian Jones, the composer of the song, in his ridiculous hat, on alto recorder (treble recorder, they say in England).

Friday, November 24, 2017

Fundamental and astounding

Presidential nominee, 1860, via The History Place.
David Brooks has finally come up with an idea for that new national narrative he's been talking about, I think, and it's a doozy ("America: The Redeemer Nation"), custom made for Thanksgiving: just as he's suggested in the past that Jews ought to celebrate Shavuot on Passover instead of Passover, so on Thanksgiving he's celebrating Lincoln's Second Inaugural address.

The story of America, then, can be interpreted as a series of redemptions, of injury, suffering and healing fresh starts. Look at the mottos on our Great Seal: “A New Order for the Ages” and “Out of Many, One.” In the 18th century divisions between the colonists were partially healed. In the 19th century divisions between the free and enslaved were partially healed. In the 20th, America partially healed the divisions between democracy and totalitarianism. In the 21st, we have healing fresh starts still to come.
The great sermon of redemption and reconciliation is Lincoln’s Second Inaugural.
That's such a bizarre picture of the Revolution, in the first place, "divisions between the colonists", as if the British government had nothing to do with it. It's true that some 15%-20% of the Americans nominally supported the Crown, though they never came out to fight in anywhere near the numbers the British hoped they would.

Talking of You Know Who

In the room the women come and go

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Thanksgiving Cheap Shots: And Farewell to Mark Halperin

Reconstruction Thanksgiving, Thomas Nast in Harper's Weekly, 1869. Uncle Sam carving the turkey, self-government and universal suffrage on the menu, and everybody, a Native with a feather in his hair, Germans, French, Spanish, African Americans, Chinese (the Chinese woman looks more Japanese, but the child she's admonishing is wearing a Qing-dynasty queue), even a disreputable but hopeful-faced Irishman at far right, among the guests. Identity politics used to be a thing Republicans approved of! Image via Millard Fillmore's Bathtub.
Happy Thanksgiving! I'm grateful Trump's too busy watching TV to do all the harm he might otherwise be doing, glad to have a voice and wonderful readers, happy to have a big extended family to go have dinner with, and schadenfreudig that the exodus of famous but bad men from social respectability includes Charlie Rose, Leon Wieseltier, and Mark Halperin.

Following Dylan Byers awful tweet (since deleted) about the catastrophic loss of talent in the media industry because all these sexual assault victims keep telling their stories, Jeet Heer:

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

RIP Dmitry Hvorostovsky

The great Russian baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky died, of brain cancer. He was 55 years old. I think I only saw him once, at the Met, as one of his trademark Verdi villains, the Count di Luna in Il Trovatore; wish I'd seen the Don Giovanni.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Trail of human wreckage

David F. Brooks looking for something cutting-edge to condemn that has nothing to do with sexual assault, tax cuts for the rich, or Russia, asks "How Evil is Tech?"

He's not talking about 3D printing, gene therapy, or cancer vaccines, of course, but the Internet of Kids, who are spending too much time on their damn phones, making them sad and suicidal:

Some now believe tech is like the tobacco industry — corporations that make billions of dollars peddling a destructive addiction. Some believe it is like the N.F.L. — something millions of people love, but which everybody knows leaves a trail of human wreckage in its wake.
Surely the people in tech — who generally want to make the world a better place — don’t want to go down this road.
Who are "some"? And don't call me Surely. But that sounds pretty scary: how many kids are dying, on average, from their habitual phone use?

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Pissed off by Kristof

There was an old Timesman called Kristof
Who just got me royally pissed off
   By fudging his points
   With invidious joints
That I couldn't quite follow the gist of.

Discussing the "paradox" according to which "Blue States Practice the Family Values Red States Preach":

The liberal impulse may be to gloat: Those conservatives thunder about “family values” but don’t practice them. But there’s also perhaps a measure of hypocrisy in the blue states. As Cahn and Carbone [Red Families v. Blue Families: Legal Polarization and the Creation of Culture, 2010] put it: “Blue family values bristle at restrictions on sexuality, insistence on marriage or the stigmatization of single parents. Their secret, however, is that they encourage their children to simultaneously combine public tolerance with private discipline, and their children then overwhelmingly choose to raise their own children within two-parent families.”

Annals of derp: Have mercy on me!

Update below

I guess it's perfectly true that Trump has not courted Italian fascism—yet. I mean, there's not as much Italian fascism kicking around for him to deal with. Other fascisms, from Britain to the Philippines, are another matter, as is Stephen Bannon's apparent interest in the "radically anti-egalitarian, anti-liberal, anti-democratic" writings of Baron Evola, but I think it's a more lively question whether Silvio Berlusconi, currently making some kind of comeback, is courting American fascism with his frequent praise of the most Berlusconian of US politicians. Anyhow where was I?
So somebody shows up with an ambiguous message. Not sure what it meant, but thought it might be a teachable moment:

Saturday, November 18, 2017

David Brooks thinks a new national narrative is his mother

David F. Brooks clinging to the conservative interpretation of Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address. Image via Simply Psychology.

Funny thing happened to David F. Brooks on the way to writing his column on the Republican tax bill, which is what the URL ( suggests it was meant to be: he got lost in the woods of a completely new argument, beginning with the great British psychiatrist John Bowlby:

John Bowlby is the father of attachment theory, which explains how humans are formed by relationships early in life, and are given the tools to go out and lead their lives. The most famous Bowlby sentence is this one: “All of us, from cradle to grave, are happiest when life is organized as a series of excursions, long or short, from the secure base provided by our attachment figures.”
Actually that's not the case, though it may not add up to a Radio Yerevan joke: first of all, the last word of the quote (from his 1988 collection A Secure Base: Parent-Child Attachment and Healthy Human Development) has a parenthesis in it, "figure(s)" (along with definite articles with "cradle" and "grave"), and as we'll see that's not a trivial mistake.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Sparing you the sarcasm

Senator Hatch at the keyboard in 2006. Photo by Cameron Craig/Associated Press via New York Times.

So Orrin Hatch (R-UT) lost his temper with Sherrod Brown (D-OH), for saying, "That whole thing about higher wages, well, it’s a good selling point. Just spare us the bank shot, spare us the sarcasm, and the satire."

Mr. Hatch, who had wearily tolerated hours of debate on a bill that Republicans have always planned to push along party lines, had heard enough.
“What you’ve said is not right,” Mr. Hatch said. “I come from the lower middle class originally, we didn’t have anything, so don’t spew that stuff on me.
“I come from the poor people, and I’ve been here working my whole stinking career for people who don’t have a chance, and I really resent anybody saying I’m just doing it for the rich,” he said. “Give me a break.”
Well, OK, I'll spare you the sarcasm for a change, more or less.

I hate everything

Alicublog on Friday afternoon, before the women show up.  Actually Pompeii around 60 C.E. Via Early Church History.

I really hate everything. I certainly hate Al Franken, though I obviously hate Roger Stone a lot more.
"Stone Cold Truth" is Roger Stone's Twitter account that he uses because his other Twitter account was "permanently suspended" after he called CNN's Don Lemon a "dumb piece of shit", "dull witted ignorant partyboi", and "ignorant, lying covksucker" (that last word must have been short for "covfefesucker"). Because being permanently suspended from Twitter doesn't mean exactly what you'd think.
Nevertheless, Franken has made it possible. Roy has made me feel a little better, and it looks like a great party could be getting started over it his place, follow the link.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Share your sandwich with a gladiator pagan fan

Anonymous miniature, 1496-99, from an incunable print in the Biblioteca Nazionale, Turin, via Wikipedia.

David Brooks asks ("The Siege Mentality Problem"):

The siege mentality ends up displacing whatever creed the group started with. Evangelical Christians, for example, had a humane model for leadership — servant leadership — but, feeling besieged, they swapped it for Donald Trump, for gladiator pagan leadership.
Why is this mind-set so prevalent now? 
Noah Rothman was just wondering about that too:
Conservatives, and Republicans to a lesser extent, are wrestling with a siege mentality. It is a common condition that occurs when one party soundly loses a national election. The right feels beset on all sides by enemies, both within and without the walls of the conservative citadel. 
Wait, no, that was in 2013. I meant Wayne Slater in The Dallas News:

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Multiracial working class

This is completely irrelevant to the following post, but I couldn't resist:
It's always exciting when the Real World of Journamalism catches up with something a blogger has been doing for a couple of months, especially when it's me. Here's Lee Drutman of the New America think tank, writing about the Democracy Fund Voter Study Group study I was telling you about in July, in which he was a participant, and coming to something the same conclusion in The New York Times, sort of, about where the Democratic Party needs to go shopping for voters.

That piece was about the different categories of Republicans as classed by their various attitudes and aspirations into Staunch Conservatives, Free Marketeers, American Preservationists, Anti-Elites, and the Disengaged, and I was arguing that if you wanted to increase the Democratic vote from 2016 from the Republican pool, you would want to go not to the American Preservationists, those rustic white patriots The New York Times writers want us to be exclusively concerned with, but the Anti-Elites, who are more multiracial than other Republican voters, and more interested in government largesse; but that it would be best to forget about Republican voters altogether and recruit nonvoters.

Drutman is working from a different breakdown, according to who voted for whom in the 2012 and 2016 elections, with a focus on those who changed parties in 2016, and asks the questions:

Sunday, November 12, 2017

New Trump poem: That's very important for somebody to believe

Clap! Image by Above_Average.

In his latest outing, performed at a press conference with Vietnamese president Trần Đại Quang, Trump tackles the age-old question of belief, not in the conventional terms of metaphysical mystery, gods and demons, life after death, right and wrong, but of our direct perception of our own actions: of President Vladimir Vladimorovich's belief ("I believe that President Putin/ really feels, and feels strongly") that he didn't "meddle" with the 2016 US general election.

If there's anything you could "know", you'd think, you'd know whether or not you "ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the US presidential election [in order] to undermine public faith in the US democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency",  as the publicly posted January assessment by the US Intelligence Community put it,  or "personally ordered the email hacks of Democratic Party officials as part of a broader campaign to influence the US election in Trump’s favor" before "evolving into an attempt not just to hurt Clinton but to outright elect Trump... as potential ally — someone with the right policy views and the right dealmaking disposition."

Or that "the GRU relayed material it acquired from the DNC and senior Democratic officials to WikiLeaks." Or that "RT — as well as Sputnik, another Russian government–funded English-language propaganda outlet — began aggressively producing pro-Trump and anti-Clinton content starting in March 2016" and "aired a number of weird, conspiratorial segments — some starring WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange — that cast Clinton as corrupt and funded by ISIS and portrayed the US electoral system as rigged."

I'm sure if I ever got up to that kind of thing I'd have a distinct memory of it.

Documents, and different things

Operatic Monkey, via, is a great hero, and in the end of the story a Buddhist saint, but the part of the story everybody loves is the part where he's making maximum trouble.

Remarks from the press availability aboard Air Force One, on the way to Hanoi, this morning:
It's been a -- I think it's been a great trip. In certain ways, it's been very epic. I think things have happened that have been really amazing. Prime Minister Abe came up to me just at the end, and he said that since you left South Korea and Japan, that those two countries are now getting along much, much better. That's from Prime Minister Abe -- that there's been a real bonding between South Korea and Japan. So that was great.
Yes, they're working as hard as they can to revive the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement without the United States. Since Trump ended US membership in the TPP at the beginning of his term and pulled out of the US-South Korea FTA in September, they've seen more and more incentive to work together, in spite of the obvious rivalry between the two similar economies, through the current insanity. They have to come up with ways of stabilizing the situation without US participation, and they hope to do it without surrendering to Chinese hegemony. It's the same for Malaysia, Singapore, and Vietnam. They are united in the face of the threat posed by Donald Trump to the Asia-Pacific order.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Somewheres over the rainbow

"Somewheres out there", via Buy Some Damn Art.

Damned if I can figure out what Brooks is up to today ("The Existing Democratic Majority"), unless it's just cranking out original-sounding copy in the wake of this week's election surprises in Virginia. He's got a new "there-are-two-kinds-of-people" breakdown, imported from Britain, and the opinionist and think tanker David Goodhart, whose most recent book, The Road to Somewhere: The Populist Revolt and the Future of Politics, came out over the summer, but he doesn't give us a link to the book, or even tell us its name, which echoes his own The Road to Character, which—oh, wait:

He was just googling himself again, and got curious about who was knocking him down to second place. He leaves out the title in hopes we won't catch on.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Is that rude?

Image via Buddy "L" Trucks.

So some of us thought it was hilarious when Trump, in Japan, asked Japanese car makers to start manufacturing cars in the United States, when in fact they build 4 million vehicles a year in the US, in comparison to the 1.5 million they export here (in 1986 it was 3.5 million)—"Is that possible to ask? That's not rude. Is that rude?"—and some didn't think it was hilarious at all, like this Aaron Blake bloke writing for the Washington Post:

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Every silver lining has a cloud

Since yesterday's election results felt so great even Steve M, the Schopenhauer of the Intertubes, can't resist feeling a little giddy about them, I felt it might be a good idea for somebody to try looking for some bad news, and found some with Nate Cohn of the Upshot (the Nate with whom the Times replaced Nate Silver when he broke up with them, because you've got to go to battle with the Nates you've got rather than the Nates you might wish to have, but it's a mistake to go into battle with no Nates at all), who points out Ralph Northam's victory in the gubernatorial race in Virginia didn't look any different from Hillary Clinton's victory there a year ago, and even the stunning Democratic surge in the legislature races seemed to echo 2016:
The big surprise of the night was the huge Democratic surge in Virginia’s house of delegates, but that also came in Clinton Country. Of the 16 districts where Democrats currently lead in Virginia, Mrs. Clinton won 15 of them and received 49.7 percent of the vote in the other, according to data from the Virginia Public Access Project and Daily Kos Elections. Twelve of those 15 districts voted for Mrs. Clinton by at least five points.
So it sounds as if Democrats got the same results last night as they would have gotten then, and in that sense something new hasn't happened. 

The other side is that one reason it was so like 2016 is that so many people voted—47%, the highest turnout in a Virginia gubernatorial election in 20 years.  In a normal off-off-year election, the same kind of idiocy we're stuck with in New York City and New Jersey, the candidate of the leisured, the management, the retired, has an advantage. Not this year: voters just came out.

And not just voters; candidates too. In 2013, 56 out of 100 districts had no opposition (mostly Republican seats), and no election was required at all; 71 of them in 2015. But in 2017 there were just 12 Republican seats with no opposition (28 Democratic seats unopposed by Republicans), because Democrats came out in Virginia to challenge everybody they could, and they won such a startling number those seats because they showed up. That simple. (Apparently Trump really inspired folks to run, particularly women, just by being so disgusting.) (Guy on MSNBC—Stuart Stevens, Wikipedia says he's a travel writer—saying every woman running as a Democrat nationwide just won her race.)

Actually I can't make myself feel pessimistic at all. I did my best!