Thursday, July 19, 2018

Hair of the Dog

Vladimir Putin meeting Russian diplomats on Thursday --

With all the difference in views, we agreed [with Trump] that Russian-American relations are in an extremely unsatisfactory state. In many ways, even worse than during the Cold War. Of course, it would be naive to believe that the problems accumulated over the years will be resolved in a few hours. But no one expected it.

Donald Trump at the post-summit news conference --

But our relationship has never been worse than it is now. However, that changed as of about four hours ago. I really believe that.


Wall Street Journal ($) with the processology of the Trump flight home from Helsinki --

Bill Shine, the newly minted deputy chief of staff for communications and a former Fox News executive, voiced concern that the White House needed to provide a new TV image so that networks would stop broadcasting images of Mr. Trump's news conference in Helsinki, a person familiar with the matter said.

Mr. Trump would heed that advice, making a televised statement from the Cabinet Room during a meeting with lawmakers that was originally supposed to be closed to the press. Mr. Shine didn't respond to a request for comment.

Which is a good example of the Fox News methodology and the role of visuals and assumed media laziness in it: TV will keep running the latest clip until ... they get another clip. Which would work fine if everyone was in "move on" mode. But Trump can't help himself, and Fox News is thus less able to help him. 

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

If only there'd been someone there to speak for Ireland

Kate Hoey, in the House of Commons yesterday, one of the three Labour defectors forming the Tory government majority on the soft-Brexit wrecking amendments --

The right hon. Gentleman [Sammy Wilson, DUP] is quite right; there seem to be an awful lot of people who do not really understand what goes on at the [Irish] border now. Why would anyone who supports Northern Ireland even think of voting against new clause 37 tonight? The new clause clearly puts it out there that we want Northern Ireland to be treated the same way as the rest of the United Kingdom, so in voting against it, people would actually be supporting the Republic of Ireland.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Occupy Montgomery County

New York Times profile of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh --

But as with any nominee, Judge Kavanaugh and his supporters are carefully shaping his narrative for the diverse Senate and the broader American public: his mother the judge, not his father the lobbyist; his parents’ early struggles, not their second homes in the Florida Keys and on Maryland’s Eastern Shore; his service as a children’s sports coach and a Catholic volunteer, not his participation in some of the most bitter partisan fights in recent times. They do not let on that Judge Kavanaugh is by legacy and experience a charter member of elite Washington: His family’s government-centric social circle, his two summer jobs on Capitol Hill, his White House service, his golfing at the capital’s country clubs, his residence in one of the richest suburban enclaves in America. Nor do they note that Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination is the culmination of a 30-year conservative movement to shift the judiciary to the right.

If you rely on liberal punditry for your world view, you might want to second-guess the Move along folks nothing to see here stance of those pundits on Richard Reeves' Dream Hoarders which was published around this time last year. Yes, we're repeating ourselves, but one topic that has been shuffled to the dark side of the moon is the path to high opportunity through the ranks of the upper middle class -- not the 1 percent -- and the political consequences thereof. 

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Question Point

Janan Ganesh in the Financial Times ($) theorizing that what makes a stereotypical "British" accent novel to the American ear is not the intonation per se, but the absence of uptalking/ upspeaking:

Upspeak in excess can be unlistenable. I have given up on an otherwise illuminating podcast about American politics because the hosts pile slanted sentence upon slanted sentence, sometimes ten in a row, each cresting a bit higher until the final words are lost on all but our canine friends.

He's too polite to say that he surely means the Vox Weeds politics podcast, a self-admitted den of Harvard-influenced uptalkers. 

Moscow Mailbag

Donald Trump might be feeling shy about asking Vladimir Putin to extradite the Russian agents named in Friday's indictment for the DNC hack. He had no such shyness in 2013 when he was demanding that Edward Snowden be extradited to the USA to face charges for the NSA leak, and he used multiple opportunities to link his demand for Snowden's return to Trump's own trip to Moscow for the Miss Universe pageant in November 2013. The above tweet is just one example. Incidentally, the Moscow trip is the one with the infamous allegation about that tape. But tape or no tape, can't Trump at least tweet a request for the extradition of the Russian government hackers?

Thursday, July 12, 2018

God Bless England

Donald Trump in the already infamous Sun interview --

We presented him with an England shirt when we interviewed him at the US Embassy in Brussels on Wednesday, ahead of the Nato summit. “Oh wow. I love gifts,” he said, happily obliging our photographer Paul Edwards by holding the personalised top up with a trademark grin. “You don’t hear the word England as much as you should,” he continued. “I think England is a beautiful name.”

Trump at the National Day of Prayer in May --

Jon and Richard, you are a living testament to the power of prayer. (Applause.) Your story reminds us that prayer changes hearts and transforms lives. It uplifts the soul, inspires action, and unites us all as one nation, under God. So important. And we say it here. You know, a lot of people — (applause) — they don’t say it. But you know what? They’re starting to say it more. Just like we’re starting to say, “Merry Christmas” when that day comes around. (Applause.) You notice the big difference between now and two or three years ago? It was — Paula, it was going in the other direction rapidly. Right? Now it’s straight up.

In his world, there are forbidden words like God, Christmas, and England, and that animates his politics, and no doubt, his supporters. 

That new Brexit plan in full

Er, that's it!

But seriously, that's figure 1 from the Brexit white paper chapter on institutional arrangements for the UK - EU relationship. An amateur Powerpoint chart with none of the boxes yet filled in.

Damascus Gate

The al-Assad / Maduro fanboys are so certain in their worldview that there's not much that could disrupt it, but one wonders if they ever do a moment's reflection on why, if Bashar al-Assad is so great, and Vladimir Putin is so great for supporting him, that Benjamin Netanyahu and Vladimir Putin seem well aligned on where things are headed? Above, Netanyahu popped into the Kremlin on Wednesday before heading to the England v Croatia match. 

Costly thy habit as thy purse can buy

If your view of American conservatism is that it's all driven by 1 percenters, then you're going to be a tad surprised that Brett Kavanaugh, Supreme Court nominee, is, in cash terms, broke. The incipient faux-scandal to cause a pothole for his nomination is that he's been running up revolving debt on a credit card to pay for, gasp, major league baseball tickets. But as we've gone hoarse (metaphorically) stating, if you think there's a political salience to the distinctive role of the upper middle class in American politics, then it's all completely unsurprising. Kavanaugh is asset-rich, cash-poor, and exhibit A for status-income disequilibrium, a Brooksian category with which much of liberal punditry refuses to engage. 

Wednesday, July 11, 2018


Brilliant cinematography in From Russia With Love as the train journey from Istanbul through eastern Europe is conveyed through station signs and alphabets, with Zagreb being the first one in the Roman script. A subtle way to convey the diversity of what was then one country, Yugoslavia.

Bobos in minivans

Liberal pundits have their blind spots. None is more obvious at the moment than their ability to pivot from ridiculing attempts to draw attention to the upper middle class as a group politically relevant to America's polarization (see the reactions to Richard Reeves and David Brooks) to being outraged at favourable media coverage of Trump's US Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh drawing from his professors at Yale and his carpool parent friends.

Of course, if you're an actual Marxist, it's easy: Kavanaugh is simply a bourgeois tool of the all-controlling 1 percent whose own views and lifestyle are inconsequential.

But without that lens, you're looking at the politics and trying to figure out: how is it that amid all the possibilities and Trump volatility, the Ivy Leaguer, the diligent Catholic school parent with his own upbringing of "deferred gratification" parents, and yes, the reliable carpooler, came out of the mix? The horrible possibility is that it's the political power of that class that keeps them in the top layers of government even with severe cross-currents below.

UPDATE: The Tiger Mom (Amy Chua) endorses Kavanaugh on the basis of her daughter's (a Yalie) successful judicial clerkship with him!

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Up the Republic

Donald Trump, capping what rolling news endlessly hyped as his Supreme Court "reveal," referred to the Constitution as "the Crown Jewel of our Republic." Which reveals that he doesn't understand that two words in there are direct contradictions of each other. 

Sunday, July 08, 2018

Pictures came and broke your heart

Not that we needed proof of Donald's Trump co-dependence with cable news, but he woke up this morning, like every morning, expecting to be the dominant topic, and he wasn't. So he had to find a way to enter the drama. 

Tuesday, July 03, 2018

Her darkest hour

Financial Times on latest Theresa May sales pitch for her still unseen commercial borders plan --

An EU diplomat said Mrs May was asking her European allies to put pressure on other European leaders and Brussels to make sure her Brexit white paper was not rejected out of hand when it was published next week. “She wants to ensure it is not shot down straightaway,” said one EU diplomat. “She doesn’t want to be fighting on two fronts.”

Is it really a good idea to be presenting your tactical problem to a group including Germany in terms of the difficulties of a two-front war? Of course, if she wants to take that analogy seriously, you pick the front where you can score the more rapid victory first.

Monday, July 02, 2018

Middle class drinking

Bild --

Am Samstagabend hatte Merkel Innenminister Horst Seehofer noch ins Kanzleramt eingeladen. Bei Wasser (Seehofer) und Wein (Merkel) versuchten sie, in ihrem erbitterten Asylstreit eine Lösung zu finden.

Saturday night, Angela Merkel met with her turbulent Interior Minister Horst Seehofer to discuss the asylum crisis.

He drank water. She drank wine.