Posted tagged ‘Politics’

Apple Doesn’t Fall Far From The Tree

July 22, 2016

Josh Marshall has a tweet stream going talking about the Trump-Russia alliance.  As he sees it, the Manchurian-by-way-of-Queens Candidate isn’t even trying to hide his alliance with/subservience to Putin.

I’m not sure I wholly believe it, but I can’t come close to ruling it out, and that cranks the dangers of this election up to eleven.  Which is why I found this story a welcome bit of comic relief:



Shop Ivanka’s look from her #RNC speech: #RNCinCLE


This isn’t Ivanka Trump tweeting, technically. It’s @IvankaTrump, but that’s the Twitter handle If one has one’s own clothing line, it seems natural that you’d wear pieces from it; perhaps the marketing folks saw an unplanned opportunity to plug the outfit on Twitter. It’s $138 at Macy’s; apparently her father’s boycott of the chain doesn’t apply to her. The garment is described as a “sophisticated sheath dress” that “works wonders at both social and professional occasions” — and, clearly, political ones.

Oh, also? The dress is “imported,” according to its description.

So perhaps this was a just a smart move by the site’s marketing team to capitalize on the moment. Possible. Or perhaps Ivanka Trump has been doing this for the entire convention, posting a series of photos from the event at her website with personalized captions to each — and links to where you can buy all of the things she’s wearing or carrying.

So yeah, maybe the Trump campaign is Putin’s Hail Mary attempt to reverse the outcome of the Cold War.  And maybe it’s just one long grift, the true family business now being carrie on by the smart child.

Of course, there’s no reason that what we’re seeing couldn’t be both a floor wax and a dessert topping.

Image:  John Singer Sargent, Madam X (Madame Pierre Gautreau)1883

Which Of These Is Not Like The Others?

July 21, 2016

Andrew Sullivan — yes, I know, and I’ll get back to that in a moment — is live blogging the RNC for New York Magazine.  His reaction on Day 2  to the Christie-led witch trial “lock her up” frenzy was as it should have been:  it was vile and the mark of a neo-fascist campaign.  That evoked a response from a reader Sullivan then posted to the blog, which argued, reasonably enough, that errors in office are not criminal offences.  For example, that reader wrote and Sullivan published:

Politicians and presidents make serious ethical mistakes. Reagan/Bush 41 on Iran-Contra, Bush 43 on WMD intelligence/torture, Bill Clinton on perjury.

Let’s review.

Iran -Contra:  trading with a reviled adversary to fund an illegal covert war that killed thousands of the most vulnerable, least powerful people in our hemisphere.


WMD intelligence/torture: launch a war on false pretexts that left thousands of Americans, and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis dead, many more wounded, millions displaced, an ongoing conflict that has spawned attacks on innocents all over the world, and that has led the United States government at its highest level to countenance war crimes.


Perjury:  lying about a blow job.


That one could write that sentence without a hint of irony is a measure of the damage done to US politics by the Republican party made as far back as 1968 to put power at all costs before all else.  That Andrew Sullivan could disseminate it without comment reminds us of his own Clinton Derangement Syndrome, and his unreliability as any kind of moral arbiter.

Sullivan is a clever man, a fast and fluid writer, and does get some things right; certainly, for all his CDS, he’s got no illusions about Trump as anything more than a Mussolini wannabe.

But for all that, he’s a terrible thinker.  Through the live blog (I’ve gotten through day 1 and most of day 2 so far) he talks repeatedly about the GOP’s focus on feeling at the expense of facts and reason — and he’s right of course.  But when the issue strikes one or another of his standing emotional chords, he’s no better.  I hope tomorrow to have the time to write up his stuff on Black Lives Matter.  It is everything you’d expect, and the current debacle turns on his unwillingness to do the intellectual work needed to test his own assumptions.

OK — it’s over to you, and back to the problem of figuring out 17th century share prices from one end of a coffee shop to another for me.

Images:  Fra Angelico, The Massacre of the Innocents 1450.

James Sowerby, Coloured Figures of English Fungi or Mushroomsplate 43, 1798.

Ito Jakuchu, Elephant and Whale Screens, 1797.

All Hail Acting President Mike Pence!

July 20, 2016


From The New York Times:

One day this past May, Donald Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., reached out to a senior adviser to Gov. John Kasich of Ohio, who left the presidential race just a few weeks before. As a candidate, Kasich declared in March that Trump was “really not prepared to be president of the United States,” and the following month he took the highly unusual step of coordinating with his rival Senator Ted Cruz in an effort to deny Trump the nomination. But according to the Kasich adviser (who spoke only under the condition that he not be named), Donald Jr. wanted to make him an offer nonetheless: Did he have any interest in being the most powerful vice president in history?

When Kasich’s adviser asked how this would be the case, Donald Jr. explained that his father’s vice president would be in charge of domestic and foreign policy.

Then what, the adviser asked, would Trump be in charge of?

“Making America great again” was the casual reply.

Two obvious thoughts:

First:  the Trump folks can’t be bothered to hide the con, not even a little.

Every Trump voter out there, know this:

Remember:  in any good confidence game, most of the work is done by the sucker.  So you Trump voters?  You’re marks. Chumps. Just the latest in the long, long line of folks whom the ferret-headed Mussolini-of-Queens-County has played for losers.  You think you’re electing a tough guy who can get things done? He tells you himself that’s bullshit.

Second: as we confront the FSM-help-us-and-save-us possibility that Trump actually wins come November, who Pence is, what he thinks, and what he wants to do are much more important than they should be, more vital even than the Cheney history would remind us.

And that should scare the living piss out of us.  “Scare” isn’t the right word, actually.  Try “terrify.”  With Trumpismo as the public face of the United States and a theocratic, misogynist, bigoted incompetent administrator with zero effective knowledge/experience of the world beyond our borders in charge of domestic and foreign policy?….

Heed the words of Master Bruce:

Image: Francisco de Goya, Night Scene from the Inquisition1810

Understatement Of The Year Competiton May Already Be Over

July 1, 2016

Still too swamped to do much in the way of serious posting, but I’ve got something too sweet not to share.

Seems that there is a little trouble in paradise with the new hires to Herr Drumpf’s campaign — the folks brought on post-Lewandowski to bring adult supervision to the romper room masquerading as the national campaign of the GOP’s presumptive nominee.  Here’s what Keven Kellems, in charge of surrogate operations, had to say [Politico link] as the door was flapping shut:

“While brief, it has been an interesting experience.”


I’ll bet.

Image:  James Tissot, The Farewell, 1871.

Everything I Love About Bernie

June 8, 2016

Attention Conservation Notice (w. apologies to Cosma Shalizi)What follows is roughly 1,000 words of navel gazing on the subject of winners, losers and charity.  The shorter: In this I’m with some of our sane Bernistas in thinking this is chill time, not the occasion to go all Michael Corleone on the Sanders campaign over the next couple of weeks.

The longer:

I think y’all know I’m a Hillbot.  I have said as clearly as I can that I affirmatively prefer her to Bernie on her substantive policy choices, and that where I disagree with her, I at least understand what she’s on about.*

And now I love Bernie and his (sincere) supporters.  Not because I have come to agree with his or their view of the Presidency, or the likely shape of the fall campaign, or the most effective path to actually changing policy, and hence lives, on the ground.

Rather, I love Bernie and the Bernistas for a couple of reasons.  At their best, they’re making the right call:  C.R.E.A. all of us — and whatever we can do to get more cash in the hands of the poor and the middle class we should do. That’s a core Democratic Party value and it has to be reasserted every damn election.

They’ve made the right call (one anticipated and shared by Hillary) that Citizens United and all it’s substructure is a disaster.

They’ve made the right call on student debt, even if the slogan that passes as policy isn’t likely to get us far; at bottom, the theft of opportunity my generation has committed against the next several is both stupid and wrong, and we should be looking for all the ways to redress that harm.

These are all basic Democratic views, and it’s good to be reminded of them, and it will be excellent to remind the electorate that Democrats know how to address such issues in ways that the Republicans simply cannot — for to do so would require them to cease being Republicans and become Democrats.  I don’t think for a moment that Bernie knows how to do what needs to be done to advance the Democratic vision in response to those policy goals, but one of the things you hope for in a presidential campaign is for the candidates between them helping the party figure out what it is and what it needs to do.  Bernie, at least on his best days, did all that.

TL:DR for the above:  Lord, how I love the Bernie that reminds us that Democrats think about society when Republicans think about their friends.

And second, I love Bernie and the Bernistas because they and we now have a job to do together.


I take second place to no one in my rage and disdain for the worst moments in the primary campaign.  I loathed how, it seemed, the Sanders camp would scorch the earth with right wing talking points leaving Hillary an utterly wounded candidate (shades of 1968, and to some extent, 1980) — or, in the vanishingly unlikely event of a Sanders upset, present the GOP with a perfect punching bag of a candidate that, to me, was unbelievably vulnerable to the GOP-thug noise machine. (Socialist who honeymooned in Moscow and willl raise taxes to fund more intrusive govt….)

And then I remember 2008, and a Democratic primary in which the losing candidate painted her opponent as feckless, young, not to be trusted close to the button….and (say this softly) Black!

And going even further back, I turn to that sage of sages, the good Dr. Hunter S. Thompson.   His Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail captures one aspect of American politics perfectly:  there is no insanity like the madness that flares in the heat of a campaign.

Bernie got close — far closer than he expected of (as is now obvious) planned for.   You get that near to power and you change — I don’t think there’s any doubt of it.  Hell!  Most of us have experienced a pale version of that fever, that rush of hope and expectation and fear of disappointment and all the rest when we get called back for the second interview, or submit the application that feels like the one and so on.  Magnify that times a gazillion and you have politics at the highest level.

All of which makes me — after the contest is over — to find some charity where a couple of weeks ago I felt only contempt for a Bernie who couldn’t seem to let go of what most of us recognized as obviously already beyond his grasp.

In other words:  it’s hard as hell to lose, and it’s impossible for all but saints to do so with full and instant equanimity.  That’s why I can’t go all “F**k Bernie and his demands.”  I just can’t.  It may not be fair that the winning side has to extend the olive branch first, and maybe most…but it’s fully human, and in the context of a non-zero possibility of any Republican in the White House, it’s necessary too.

So, unless he doubles down, unless he heads further down that path of excoriating Clinton and Democrats in general, unless he acts to sabotage the most important campaign I can recall — the need to defeat America’s home-grown fascist — I’m ready to like me some Sanders, and his Sandernistas too.

I’ll come to love him and them if they take the last step: not just get out of the way of the campaign to come, but dive in.  Which many of them will, with or without Bernie himself.  Were I betting man, I’d take long odds that Bernie will find his way on this.  He’s got plenty of reasons, some base, some noble, (just like all of us) to  do so, and having come so close, I don’t think he wants to stumble at the final straight-away.  I could be wrong, but I’m not going to assume I am until events force me to.

TL:DR — The parable of the prodigal, like all good stories, can be read many, many ways.  But the simple reading is the one Hillary gave us last night. We are stronger, and very much better — together.

*For one example:  a post I’ve not yet and may never get around to writing is on how the Rwandan genocide shaped the views of those on whose watch it occurred.  Hillary was one of those, and I think what some see as neo-colonial interventionism is at least party shaped by a “never again” reaction to the collective failure that allowed such evil to(re)occur.

Image: Jan Sanders (no relation) van Hemessen, The Parable of the Prodigal Son, 1536.

Trump’s First General Election Ad

June 2, 2016

I saw something today that captured the essence of Donald Trump’s political rhetoric:

Here’s the transcript:

Applebee’s now has trained meat cutters cutting every steak by hand.

For the juiciest, most tender steak ever.

Don’t believe us?

Ask the guy with the knife.

Think about it:  this is every Trump claim ever:

My steaks are the best!


Because reasons.  (Some guy in the back (of a warehouse three states over) cut a boneless piece of meat into smaller pieces!)

But trust me:

Believe me:  they’re the best.

How can you tell?

Because I say so.

And my guy can kill you.

For the record:  I do not plan to order a steak at Applebee’s, should I ever find myself with no other alternative than to eat in one. But this ad did give me some comfort.  It’s the kind of thing that can pass as kind of a coherent claim on a single, inattentive viewing.

But as the backbone of a five month long attempt to convey plausibility?  Not so much.  Not at all.

Open thread, everyone.

Some Mostly Stolen Thoughts On That Old Politics Vs. Revolution Thang

May 25, 2016

So this morning I’m reading a diary on the Great Orange Satan about political doings over in Bagdad By The Bay.  Though I grew up in the San Francisco area, I’m not really current on what’s happening, aside from the fact that I couldn’t afford a shack in SF itself anymore — notamidst all those Twitter-, Apple-, and Google-erati.  So I gobble down the story, assume/accept the big-city, big-money corruption narrative, and move on.


I do have friends and relatives back by the Bay, as it turns out, and one of them has worked in city government for a long time.


He’s got first hand knowledge of San Francisco’s allegedly lost progressive mindset as it works within local government, and he weighed in.

I’ll excerpt his comment below, but first I just want to say this was an object lesson for me, a reminder of how easy it is trip up in the way that I’ve criticized some of the most extreme of the Bernie camp for doing.

That is: there’s a ton wrong with our politics, our society, and our engagement with each other.  It’s so tempting to leap from a clear problem — the impact on middle and low income residents of the gentrification of San Francisco (and elsewhere!) driven by extreme income inequality — and assume that political actors are obviously complicit.

The reality?  Sometimes they are, sometimes they aren’t, and it takes some effort to figure out the five Ws and the H in each case.  Worse yet — if the problem is truly complex, then political action is at best an incomplete tool to deal with the issue.

Which is why, in the end, I think Obama is a truly great president: he gets all of that.  The need for policy and politics; the insufficiency of politics on its own; the agonizing difficulty of addressing any truly major problem — which translates into rage-inducing slowness to see the change take shape; and the need to keep plugging away.

I feel that rage often enough, and I know that I don’t have the qualities of character our president does, the off-the-charts focus and persistence required to make sh*t happen, and to wait — years if necessary, decades — to see the results.

I have high hopes for Hillary on this score.  Not that I’ll agree with her on everything — I don’t and won’t, just as I haven’t always with Barack Hussein Obama.  But I trust her (yes, that word) to pay attention, to know her stuff, to hire good, smart folks, and to soldier on and on and on — as the job and the world requires.

Here the sermon endeth…and an excerpt from my old Bay Area companion’s comment takes over:

I’ve worked on the financial administration side for the City of San Francisco for many years, and the truth is that under successive mayors and Boards, San Francisco has put more money behind progressive goals than almost any other city in the country.

The City spends billions of dollars a year on its amazing public health programs, including a universal health access program for City residents that predates and goes well beyond Obamacare, and many hundreds of millions of dollars on programs to help the poor and homeless, including thousands of units of housing for the poorest of the poor and people with severe mental illness and other health problems.  The City spends hundreds of millions a year subsidizing its transit system and setting aside funds for children.  The City spends hundreds of millions a year subsidizing its transit system and setting aside funds for children. 

Mayor Lee …supported not just measures to attract and keep higher-paying tech jobs but also continued one of the largest and best City subsidized jobs programs in the country…

These are great progressive achievements….

You can read more at the link. The writer goes on to acknowledge that despite all this, the reality is that San Francisco’s housing costs put enormous stress on too many, and argues that the drivers of that are at best barely subject to direct political control — and that policy responses offer very tricky alternatives.  The challenge for progressives, among whom he numbers himself is thus to..

examine what housing policies we should we be pushing for that can help the most people of different income levels that need housing (not just the poorest of the poor).

TL:DR:  electioneering — and definitely punditizing —  is easy.  Governating is damn hard, which is something to be mindful of at this and every season.

Over to y’all.

Image:  J. W. M. Turner, Dido Building Carthage, 1815.


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