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A delirious divinity

[ 126 ] October 25, 2016 |


I came across Ann Coulter’s face and voice on TV the other day, and in the 3.7 seconds it took me to change the channel (damn you, painfully slow DirecTV remote), a repressed memory was triggered in my mind, or somewhere in the back of my mind, of the first time I encountered Ms. Coulter’s unforgettable prose style.

It was in letter to the University of Michigan law school student newspaper, and it was, as I recalled, or thought I recalled, some sort of bizarre rant about the law school’s “beach boy Dean,” who, while wearing fashionable sunglasses and working up a tan, had refused to expel or even seriously discipline some students who had protested the decision to allow the CIA to interview students at the law school (the protests had involved chanting and slamming file drawers and the like if I recall correctly which I probably don’t).

The dean in question was Lee Bollinger, who, it must be admitted was and is as handsome as Buffalo Bill, and who went on to be the president of the university as a whole, before taking over the top job at Columbia, where even now he resides in administrative splendor.

And I wondered, can I somehow find this exceedingly arcane text? And lo, within less than a minute the Google searched the Library of Babel, and found the very thing I sought:

To the Editor:

The Gang of Six who took time off from the Mao Youth League to write a ringing endorsement of our Beach Boy Dean gone native (letter March 16) can rest assured that their collective letter will not be perceived as a defense of “Authority.”

But that is only because spineless capitulation to a chi chi cause is not likely to be confused with authority, not because the writers’ stance is particularly iconoclastic. As an aside,this feigned courageous opposition to authority is frankly irritating to true iconoclasts, and the true iconoclasts in this environment are conservatives. None of the writers hail from West Point or even the University of Chicago: precisely which Incarnation of “authority” has been oppressing the Young Radicals’ consciousnesses?

Their schoolmarm lecture on courtesy, restraint, and process and chastising of Mr. Pinn for daring to suggest that his interest in interviewing with the C.I.A rose to the level of a “‘right” (a rather odd criticism coming from the people who make their careers off the proliferation of “rights”) could be dismissed as your garden-variety law student pomposity except for the rhetorical twist taken in the second half of the letter. That’s the part where the erstwhile purely earnest letter writers give the game away by mentioning that-by the way, we think the C.I.A. is a terrorist organization that probably shouldn’t be allowed to recruit here anyway. Oh, well, big surprise that they have nothing but adulation for the Dean’s caving in to the protesters. But, really, we could have done without the disingenuous lecture on humility and manners.

The remaining question is not obscured by self-righteous blithering about courtesy: Is anyone who supports national defense – defined as the protection of the free world as opposed to the establishment of homosexual rap groups –similarly enraptured with the Dean’s conduct? That I doubt.

So the Beach Boy opted to side with the herd of individualists, adjusting his Ray-Bans so as to eclipse those of us who favor national defense. The Young Republicans and Federalist Society are unlikely, after all, to be staging die-ins outside the Dean’s office. Congratulations to the Young Revolutionaries, your team won, but don’t expect us to applaud this as a victory for all in the name of “courtesy and restraint.”

Ann H. Coulter

Let me be outraged and annihilated, but for one instant, in one being, let Your enormous Library be justified. The impious maintain that nonsense is normal in the Library and that the reasonable (and even humble and pure coherence) is an almost miraculous exception. They speak (I know) of the “feverish Library whose chance volumes are constantly in danger of changing into others and affirm, negate and confuse everything like a delirious divinity.” These words, which not only denounce the disorder but exemplify it as well, notoriously prove their authors’ abominable taste and desperate ignorance. In truth, the Library includes all verbal structures, all variations permitted by the twenty-five orthographical symbols, but not a single example of absolute nonsense. It is useless to observe that the best volume of the many hexagons under my administration is entitled The Combed Thunderclap and another The Plaster Cramp and another Axaxaxas mlö. These phrases, at first glance incoherent, can no doubt be justified in a cryptographical or allegorical manner; such a justification is verbal and, ex hypothesi, already figures in the Library.

Jorge Luis Borges, “The Library of Babel”


So very tempting

[ 118 ] October 25, 2016 |


How much more Boulder could this be?

None. None more Boulder.

Actor Ed Asner will moderate the third-party presidential debate being held on the University of Colorado campus this week, organizers announced today.

Asner, the seven-time Emmy Award-winner best known for his performances in “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” “Lou Grant” and the animated film “Up,” will lead a discussion between presidential candidates Darrell Castle, of the Constitution Party; Gloria La Riva, of the Socialist Party, and Rocky De La Fuente, an independent candidate.

The debate is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. Tuesday and will be held at Macky Auditorium on the Boulder campus. The United We Stand Festival, which is being held in conjunction with the debate, begins at 4 p.m. in Macky.

The event, which will be streamed online, is being organized by the Free and Equal Election Foundation, a nonprofit that seeks to broaden electoral choices.

The event is free and open to the public.

Kweku Mandela, grandson of the late Nelson Mandela, will deliver the keynote address at the debate.

Ramsey Clark, who served as U.S. attorney general under President Lyndon Johnson, is also expected to attend the festival, according to organizers.

Musicians Ky-Mani Marley and Flobots are also scheduled to perform.

I’ll take “people you are surprised to learn are still alive” for $500 Alex.

Speaking of which, Jamelle Bouie on Black Jeopardy.

Trump Super PAC agreed to take millions in illegal campaign contributions from fictitious Chinese donor in explicit exchange for “influence”

[ 80 ] October 25, 2016 |

three card monte

This was not what one would call a subtle operation:

Donald Trump’s presidential campaign is facing a fundraising scandal after a Telegraph investigation exposed how key supporters were prepared to accept illicit donations from foreign backers.

Senior figures involved with the Great America PAC, one of the leading “independent” groups organising television advertisements and grassroots support for the Republican nominee, sought to channel $2 million from a Chinese donor into the campaign to elect the billionaire despite laws prohibiting donations from foreigners.

In return, undercover reporters purporting to represent the fictitious donor were assured that he would obtain “influence” if Mr Trump made it to the White House.

Last week Eric Beach, the PAC’s co-chairman, confirmed to the reporters at an event in Las Vegas that their client’s support would be “remembered” if Mr Trump became president.

The team of journalists who ran this sting also approached Clinton fundraisers with the same offer and didn’t get their messages returned, which I’m pretty sure means Both Sides Do It.

In all seriousness if the Clinton backers had gone for this and the Trump people had ignored it this would be the biggest political story in America this morning. But since it’s just another entry into the non-stop Trump Griftathon it’s dog barks at dog.

The man who invented the 60s

[ 161 ] October 24, 2016 |


RIP Tom Hayden.

Thomas Emmet Hayden was born in Royal Oak, Mich., on Dec. 11, 1939, the only child of John Hayden, an accountant, and the former Genevieve Garity, both Irish Catholics. His parents divorced, and Tom was raised by his mother, a film librarian.

He attended a parish school. The pastor was the Rev. Charles Coughlin, the anti-Semitic radio priest of the 1930s and a right-wing foe of the New Deal. . . .

In 1961, Mr. Hayden joined the Freedom Riders on interstate buses in the South, challenging authorities who refused to enforce the Supreme Court’s rulings banning segregation on public buses. His jailhouse draft of what became the 25,000-word S.D.S. manifesto was debated, revised and formally adopted at the organization’s first convention, in Port Huron, Mich., in 1962.

“We are people of this generation,” it began, “bred in at least modest comfort, housed now in universities, looking uncomfortably to the world we inherit.” It did not recommend specific programs but attacked the arms race, racial discrimination, bureaucracy and apathy in the face of poverty, and it called for “participatory democracy” and a society based on “fraternity,” “honesty” and “brotherhood.” . . .

In 1968, Mr. Hayden helped plan antiwar protests in Chicago to coincide with the Democratic National Convention. Club-swinging police officers clashed with thousands of demonstrators, injuring hundreds in a televised spectacle that a national commission later called a police riot. But Mr. Hayden and others were charged by federal officials with inciting to riot and conspiracy. The Chicago Seven trial became a classic confrontation between radicals and Judge Julius Hoffman, marked by insults, angry judicial outbursts and contempt citations. . .

His personal papers, 120 boxes covering his life since the 1960s, were given in 2014 to the University of Michigan. Besides troves on civil rights and antiwar activities, they included 22,000 pages of F.B.I. files amassed in a 16-year surveillance of Mr. Hayden.

“One of your prime objectives,” J. Edgar Hoover, the longtime F.B.I. director, said in one memo, “should be to neutralize him in the New Left movement.”

In April, Hayden explained why he was switching his vote from Bernie Sanders to Hillary Clinton in the California Democratic primary.

There are two Hillary Clintons. First, the early feminist, champion of children’s rights, and chair of the Children’s Defense Fund; and second, the Hillary who has grown more hawkish and prone to seeking “win-win” solutions with corporate America. When she seems to tack back towards her roots, it is usually in response to Bernie and new social movements. She hasn’t changed as much as the Democratic Party has, responding to new and resurgent movements demanding Wall Street reform, police and prison reform, immigrant rights and a $15-an-hour minimum wage, fair trade, action on climate change, LGBT rights, and more. . .

Voting on June 7 is a personal responsibility for myself and other Californians, just as it is for my friends and colleagues in New York on April 19. What is to be done in this agonizing situation? I still believe a united front against the Republicans is the best and most necessary strategy. But I can’t vote for a united front on June 7.

I intend to vote for Hillary Clinton in the California primary for one fundamental reason. It has to do with race. My life since 1960 has been committed to the causes of African Americans, the Chicano movement, the labor movement, and freedom struggles in Vietnam, Cuba and Latin America. In the environmental movement I start from the premise of environmental justice for the poor and communities of color. My wife is a descendant of the Oglala Sioux, and my whole family is inter-racial.

What would cause me to turn my back on all those people who have shaped who I am? That would be a transgression on my personal code. I have been on too many freedom rides, too many marches, too many jail cells, and far too many gravesites to breach that trust. And I have been so tied to the women’s movement that I cannot imagine scoffing at the chance to vote for a woman president. When I understood that the overwhelming consensus from those communities was for Hillary—for instance the Congressional Black Caucus and Sacramento’s Latino caucus—that was the decisive factor for me. I am gratified with Bernie’s increasing support from these communities of color, though it has appeared to be too little and too late. Bernie’s campaign has had all the money in the world to invest in inner city organizing, starting 18 months ago. He chose to invest resources instead in white-majority regions at the expense of the Deep South and urban North.

Bernie comes from a place that is familiar to me, the New York culture of democratic socialism. From the Port Huron Statement forward, I have believed in the democratic public control of resources and protecting the rights of labor. My intellectual hero is C. Wright Mills, a Marxist who broke with what he condemned as the stale “labor metaphysic” of the communist and socialist parties, embracing instead an international New Left led by young middle-class students around the world. Mills was fresh, honest, and always searching. The 1962 Port Huron Statement declared that we needed liberals for their relevance in achieving reforms, and socialists for their deeper critique of underlying systems. We did not declare ourselves for socialism but for a massive expansion of the New Deal, combined with an attack on the Cold War arms race. We called for a basic realignment of the Democratic Party through the force of social movements, but not through a third party. We even went “part of the way with LBJ” in the face of the 1964 Goldwater threat. From there the Democrats divided over race and Vietnam, eventually leading to Nixon. Even in the ’80s and ’9os, our campaign for “economic democracy” chose not to identify as a socialist movement. With the coming of the 2008 Wall Street crash and Bernie’s campaign, our political culture has changed profoundly in its tolerance of socialist ideas. But is it enough after this truly divisive primary season?

I wish our primary could focus more on ending wars and ending regime change too, issues where Bernie is more dovish and Hillary still harbors an inner hawk. Both Bernie and Hillary call for “destroying” ISIS, whatever that might mean—but it certainly means we are moving into yet another “war presidency.” At least there is strong bipartisan opposition to the open-ended deployment of troops on the ground. But Hillary’s penchant for intervention and regime change can only be thwarted by enough progressive Democrats in Congress and massive protests in the streets and online. Neither candidate so far is calling for the creation of a new peace movement, but that’s the only way to check the drift into another war.

So here we are, at the end of one generation on the left and the rise of another. Both camps in the party will need each other in November—more than either side needs to emerge triumphant in the primary. We still need the organizing of a united front of equals to prevail against the Republicans. It will take a thorough process of conflict resolution to get there, not a unilateral power wielding by the usual operatives. It’s up to all of us.

Hayden was subsequently a delegate at the Democratic national convention this summer. He fell ill there and never recovered.

You cannot stop elite media fluffing of Paul Ryan, you can only hope to contain it

[ 106 ] October 21, 2016 |


Actual lede of an actual New York Times piece:

WASHINGTON — He didn’t see it coming.

Speaker Paul D. Ryan was in a hotel room in Cincinnati last May when he learned that Donald J. Trump — a man he barely knew, with no institutional ties to his party and a mouth that had already clacked his nerves — had secured the Republican nomination for president.

Who knew that Paul Ryan was actually a Mongolian yak herder (and one without internet access)?

This is predictably a prelude to yet another explanation of how Paul Ryan, one of the two highest-ranking Republican elected officials in America, who endorsed Donald Trump for president months ago and continues to endorse him as of this morning, eighteen days before the election, is like totally in a bind not of his own making, and we should feel real sorry for him, and not hold any of it against him, because he ran a marathon to the top of Pikes Peak in 2:54 or something:

Mr. Sykes [Charlie Sykes, former right wing talk radio host and apparently now Paul Ryan’s errand boy] let Mr. Priebus know via text that Mr. Trump was no longer welcome in Wisconsin. Mr. Sykes said Mr. Priebus responded: “I am the guy trying to fix this! I am in tears over this.’” (A spokeswoman for Mr. Priebus acknowledged that he was upset, but denied any tears.)

Mr. Ryan agonized over his options. Ultimately, he chose not to withdraw his endorsement to keep Republicans motivated to vote, which still angered some of his conference. “I think they ask far too much of the speaker,” said Representative Jason Chaffetz, Republican of Utah, who has renounced Mr. Trump. “His job is to help House Republicans. Period.”

Mr. Ryan will soon find out if those members of his party who support Mr. Trump might come after him in the next speaker election. “We knew they had extreme views and you kind of rolled your eyes and said they were on our team,” Mr. Sykes said. “How much damage could they do?”

Don’t cry no tears around me.

Anyway, when the whole Trump thing is suddenly discovered to be a huge misunderstanding that also never really happened at all (I estimate this discovery will be made at approximately 5:17 AM UTC on November 9, 2016) Paul Ryan will be there to stare soulfully into the eyes of liberal journalists and thinkfluencers, while gently reminding them of the agonizing dilemmas he has endured for the sake of Paul Ryan’s political aspirations the good of the country.

I am Jack’s preschool temper tantrum

[ 83 ] October 20, 2016 |

fight club

Satirical novels always run the risk of going over the top, but this one has become just way too preposterous.

There are two scenarios in which a Clinton victory will guarantee that Trump disputes the legitimacy of the election

[ 140 ] October 20, 2016 |


If it’s close, and if it’s not.

Over recent days, as Trump’s claims about a rigged election have become ever-more fantastical and unhinged, a lot of commentators have claimed that the key to combating this kind of rhetoric post 11/8 is for Clinton to win by a really wide margin — by say more than the 9.5 million votes by which Obama defeated McCain.

I think this is a naive take. Suppose, as is becoming more likely every day, that the election is a true landslide: that Clinton wins by fifteen percentage points, which would translate into about 20 million more votes (the most one-sided presidential election in American history, in terms of total popular vote margin, was Nixon’s win by just under 18 million votes in 1972).

Does anybody really think that Donald and the Deplorables (buy their first album on Sire Records) will then say, wow, I guess we were really wrong about how millions of dead people and illegals were going to be bused into the “inner cities” (wink wink nudge nudge) to vote for Crooked Hillary? I thinks not, especially given that this highly scientific poll that Matt Drudge conducted on the afternoon of the election shows that Trump actually won by [insert large number here] votes etc etc.

In fact the more one-sided the election is, the louder Trump will squeal about how the “obviously” fake margin proves it was stolen.

Which is all the more reason to simply ignore him and everybody associated with him when he goes on his inevitable post-election tirade. Of course if people are literally rioting in the streets ignoring them is not an option. If some of those people end up getting shot they will have only themselves, Donald Trump, the Republican Party, the media, and American politics, culture, and society as a whole to blame.

Steve Bannon says that Trump is bringing a mystery special guest to tonight’s debate

[ 269 ] October 19, 2016 |


Besides Obama’s half brother and Pat Smith.

Using Donald’s Razor, i.e., the stupidest possible explanation is generally the best (I prefer the prosody of this phrase to John Scalzi’s formulation), let’s figure out who it is.

Perlstein on Trump, Clinton and the future of the “conservative” movement

[ 109 ] October 19, 2016 |


Rick Perlstein, the author of Nixonland, The Invisible Bridge, and Before the Storm (I’ve read the first two; they’re both great books), is interviewed by Isaac Chotiner. A couple of excerpts:

I’m kind of famous for coming up with a little epigram, “Conservatism never fails. It is only failed.” I came up with this during my long experience of studying the right, and realizing that basically anything that is politically successful is kind of labeled conservatism. Any failure is wiped off the books in this bad faith utterance that well, of course it failed because it wasn’t conservative. Romney wasn’t conservative enough. McCain wasn’t conservative enough. “Bush wasn’t conservative,” you began to hear in 2004, when the wheels came off the bus with Iraq, and all the rest.

That’s what we’ll hear, “Of course, Trump lost. He wasn’t conservative.” That allows everyone else in the Republican Party, basically, to push the infamous reset button. I think a lot of what we saw in the last couple of weeks with Trump’s various former supporters jumping ship, ostensibly because of this grotesque tape and the rest, is all about setting up that next move in the chess game. Everyone who has paid any kind of attention knew that Trump was this kind of guy in the first place. I think what we’ll see is the Paul Ryans and the Ted Cruzes, jockeying for the position of King of Conservatism saying, “We need to wipe the slate clean and go back to Reagan.” The dilemma that raises is that Trump has raised energies in the Republican electorate that may not be able to be so easily contained.

My father-in-law escaped Nazi Germany in 1939. My wife pointed out to him that if Trump was a decent family man who was able to discipline himself and was able to execute a smart campaign strategy that was designed by a sophisticated strategist … and my father-in-law cut her off. He said, “He would be a shoo-in.” And that’s the fear. This was the fear that you saw a lot in the decades after the European catastrophe of fascism, the fear that a demagogue who kind of broke the norms of American politics would have it easy, that it really was this sort of scrim of civility that kept the demons at bay.

You see it a lot in the correspondence of Lyndon Johnson when he’s agonizing over going into Vietnam. He would always talk about what happened in 1950 when McCarthy and the rest accused the Democrats of losing China. You saw Richard Nixon saying, “Sure, I’ve got to be tough, and basically do all of these demagogic things, because if I don’t, the real demagogues are going to come along.”

There are these sort of wildfires that can break out unless you have responsible grown-ups in charge of the Republican Party. They always understood that the forces that they were playing with were dangerous. This is why we see someone like George W. Bush going to a mosque the week after 9/11. I think he understood. He blundered into calling it a crusade, but he backed off right away. He wasn’t that smart and didn’t understand this language, but he was very careful not to turn this into a crusade against Muslims, because he knew if it did, we’d be seeing what we’re seeing now. As Sam Rayburn said about politics, anyone can knock down a barn, it’s building a barn that’s hard.

Chuck Berry

[ 35 ] October 19, 2016 |


Chuck Berry turned 90 yesterday, and announced he’ll soon be releasing his first record since the 1970s.

When the Voyager probe was launched in 1977, it included a “Golden Record,” featuring various sounds from Earth.

When the first communication is finally received from whichever extraterrestrials stumble upon this artifact, their message will most likely be some variant on “Send more Chuck Berry.”

He’s also pretty shiftless and always looking for a handout

[ 27 ] October 18, 2016 |

Already looking forward to the Twitter storm that should be hitting at about 2 AM tonight, Eastern Pharmacological Time:

President Obama said Tuesday that Donald J. Trump should “stop whining and go try to make his case to get votes.”

Speaking at a Rose Garden news conference with Matteo Renzi, the Italian prime minister, Mr. Obama also called it “unprecedented” for any presidential candidate to “discredit the elections” before any votes were even cast, as Mr. Trump has done repeatedly in recent days.

“I have never seen in my lifetime or in modern political history, any presidential candidate trying to discredit the elections and the election process before votes have even taken place,” Mr. Obama said. “It’s unprecedented. It happens to be based on no facts.”

Here’s a prompt that could be inspirational:

white power

Accidentally like a martyr

[ 231 ] October 17, 2016 |


Matt Taibbi argues that Donald Trump may turn out to be the best friend our tottering political status quo ever had:

Trump from the start had been playing a part, but his acting got worse and worse as time went on, until finally he couldn’t keep track: Was he supposed to be a genuine traitor to his class and the savior of the common man, or just be himself, i.e., a bellicose pervert with too much time on his hands? Or were the two things the same thing? He was too dumb to figure it out, and that paralysis played itself out on the Super Bowl of political stages. It was great television. It was also the worst thing that ever happened to our electoral system.

Trump’s shocking rise and spectacular fall have been a singular disaster for U.S. politics. Built up in the press as the American Hitler, he was unmasked in the end as a pathetic little prankster who ruined himself, his family and half of America’s two-party political system for what was probably a half-assed ego trip all along, adventure tourism for the idiot rich.

That such a small man would have such an awesome impact on our nation’s history is terrible, but it makes sense if you believe in the essential ridiculousness of the human experience. Trump picked exactly the wrong time to launch his mirror-gazing rampage to nowhere. He ran at a time when Americans on both sides of the aisle were experiencing a deep sense of betrayal by the political class, anger that was finally ready to express itself at the ballot box.
The only thing that could get in the way of real change – if not now, then surely very soon – was a rebellion so maladroit, ill-conceived and irresponsible that even the severest critics of the system would become zealots for the status quo.

In the absolute best-case scenario, the one in which he loses, this is what Trump’s run accomplished. He ran as an outsider antidote to a corrupt two-party system, and instead will leave that system more entrenched than ever. If he goes on to lose, he will be our Bonaparte, the monster who will continue to terrify us even in exile, reinforcing the authority of kings.

If you thought lesser-evilism was bad before, wait until the answer to every question you might have about your political leaders becomes, “Would you rather have Trump in office?”

Trump can’t win. Our national experiment can’t end because one aging narcissist got bored of sex and food. Not even America deserves that. But that doesn’t mean we come out ahead. We’re more divided than ever, sicker than ever, dumber than ever. And there’s no reason to think it won’t be worse the next time.

If you can read the whole linked article without cracking at least one internal smile you may need an anti-depressant or three.

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