Days 221 and 222 of 1,461 (or 2,922)

“Butterfly” is the LAST song that you should do a mournfully slow version of. The DDR gods wept.

  • Trump wanted a deal with Russia during his campaign. Felix Sater bragged that the (aborted) deal would get Trump elected. There are no data points in favor of Trump.
  • Good hate from The Baffler:

To understand Trump is also to understand his appeal as an aspirational brand to the worst people in the United States. What his intransigent admirers like most about him—the thing they aspire to, in their online cosplay sessions and their desperately thirsty performances for a media they loathe and to which they are so helplessly addicted—is his freedom to be unconcerned with anything but himself. This is not because he is rich or brave or astute; it’s because he is an asshole, and so authentically unconcerned. The howling and unreflective void at his core will keep him lonely and stupid until the moment a sufficient number of his vital organs finally resign in disgrace, but it liberates him to devote every bit of his being to his pursuit of himself.

  • Houston’s unchecked development created an ideal environment for catastrophic flooding. We are not remotely prepared.
  • One thing I don’t understand about Trump Twitter bots is how automated they are. Do the disinformation artists have to craft each deranged Tweet manually, or are the Markov chains good enough at this point?
  • ***SPOILER*** A certain demise in the Game of Thrones finale was even more disappointing to me than the ending of Death Note. Don’t set up geniuses and then have them act stupidly. ***/SPOILER***
  • The Lions will be disappointing in ways other than allowing their franchise quarterback to walk. I am grateful.

Days 212, 213, 214, 215, 216, 217, 218, 219 and 220 of 1,461 (or 2,922)

A total eclipse of the sun is one of the most beautiful, exhilarating things you can ever see. You owe it to yourself to catch one in your lifetime.

  • Don’t take it from me, take it from Randall Munroe.
  • Luckily, we only have to wait seven years for the next eclipse, which will be twice as long and darker.
  • But nothing is safe from the taint of Trump. Not even the eclipse.
  • Stay safe, Houston.
  • Fuck Trump for pardoning Joe Arpaio. Fuck Trump for discriminating against our trans citizens.
  • Oh, and in the fight against ISIS Trump has already killed more civilians than Obama ever did. It can always get worse.
  • From anecdotal evidence and gut feeling, I think the Internet’s adoration of punching Nazis is yet another tedious expression of threatened masculinity. And global war as an analogy for social change movements within a democracy should be self-evidently nonsense, but I guess not.
  • Paul Waldman:

So let’s say this really slowly: It’s possible to simultaneously acknowledge that 1) Clinton made plenty of mistakes, and 2) there were egregious problems with the way the campaign was covered, problems that contributed to the outcome. Calling attention to the latter doesn’t negate the former.

  • You know a part of the media that hasn’t abased itself in the age of Trump? Teen Vogue, featuring Lauren Duca.
  • “Wasn’t me” is an abhorrent response to a fellow human being being mistreated. An illuminating Twitter thread on why #NotAllMen and #NotAllWhitePeople are so scorned.
  • Sam Wang put together a depressing site about gerrymandering.
  • I appreciate The American Scholar doing a series on Detroit, but could they not get a black person to write it?
  • This season of Game of Thrones was an entertaining hot mess. Take it away, Onion.
  • Valve ain’t never making games again. What could have been?
  • Malibu Beer sounds utterly revolting. At least it gave us a cathartic review.
  • Rest in peace, Tobe Hooper. A bad summer for horror.

Days 208, 209, 210 and 211 of 1,461 (or 2,922)

A certain someone is going to be watching a certain astronomical event on Monday, so updates will be sparse. Take care!

  • He’s an abysmal human being in every way.
  • Unite the Right appears to have been a tactical failure.
  • Bannon’s out. Maybe deranged on-the-record interviews are a bad idea.
  • If you condemn bad behavior, it’s also fair to at least note good behavior. Congressional Democrats are behaving well.
  • A shit-ton of Democrats are looking to join those Congressional Democrats in 2019. That’s good.
  • We are all complicit. We’ve always been complicit. The question is what we do with that knowledge.
  • Don’t let fascists rope you into debating facts that aren’t up for debate. This is when ad hominem comes in handy.
  • The inimitable Dahlia Lithwick:

The result is an alarming form of censorship: Nonviolent demonstrators lose their right to assemble and express their ideas because the police are too apprehensive to shield them from violence. The right to bear arms overrides the right to free speech.

In American history, states’ rights have been mostly a means, not an end, a tool rather than a principle—a truth demonstrated once again in the recent disputes about Florida’s ballots in the presidential election. Republicans supposedly in favor of states’ rights pressed their case in federal courts while Democrats looked to state courts. In antebellum America, Southerners controlled the national government most of the time until 1860 and they used that control to defend slavery from all kinds of threats and perceived threats. They overrode the rights of Northern states that passed personal liberty laws to protect black people from kidnapping by agents who claimed them as fugitive slaves.

Books You Oughta Read: Fear Itself

One of the book’s little detours that I wish to spotlight, because it’s relevant to the white supremacist march on Charlottesville, is the bizarre fact that southern Democrats were easily the most gung ho about going to war with the Nazis. This despite Hitler’s open admiration of Jim Crow, slavery, the genocide of Native Americans, etc. Before the war, Nazi officials even came to the South to try to build rapport, but they were rebuffed. FDR’s war policies could not have passed without the uniform support of the South.

The Book

Fear Itself: The New Deal and the Origins of Our Time

The Author

Ira Katznelson, Ruggles professor of history and political science at Columbia

The Question I Should Have Previously Asked But Did Not Ask Until Reading This Book (QISHPABDNAURTB)

“Why, if FDR won reelection in 1936 with a landslide vote and even greater Democratic margins in Congress, was his second term so lacking in lasting New Deal legislation?”

The Review

Fear Itself is amazing, all 720 pages of it. It’s hard for me to do it justice in a review, which is why I’ve been unable to complete this two months after finishing the book and seven months after checking out the book (the library closed down in the interim). Plus, the book came out four years ago. You can read better reviews here, here and here. But recent events in Charlottesville make me want to share my piece.

Fear Itself explores just how much the solid South did to shape and control the achievements of the Roosevelt/Truman years. The imperfections this created in the crown jewel of the American welfare state linger today. This is a book centered on the legislative branch; those two great presidents are in the supporting cast.

Here is the basic story: With the ascension of FDR and Democratic majorities in both chambers of Congress, the solid South saw the New Deal as an opportunity to finally catch up economically with the North. They only felt comfortable doing this because Jim Crow was so entrenched that they couldn’t fathom any serious challenge to the racial order. Plus, FDR was friendly to the South. His Cabinet and court picks were packed with Southerners. Laws could be shaped to exclude blacks, and regulators could be selected to exercise proper discretion. It’s no coincidence that so many New Deal programs were delegated to regional or state-based administrators — the South could continue to rule itself.

However, despite the best intentions of racist southern Democrats, the New Deal couldn’t help but help blacks as well as whites. Democratic majorities were elected all over the non-South with the fusion of labor and black voters, who defected from the Republican Party en masse. And with the influence of northern Dems and people like Eleanor Roosevelt, sometimes FDR couldn’t help but be egalitarian. Some regulations started to prohibit racial discrimination. Anti-lynching laws started to get votes in Congress. Jim Crow was not invincible, it turned out.

Therefore, southern Democrats, who, being senior, still controlled the pivotal committees of Congress, started to oppose FDR whenever he would interfere with the racial order. They would even vote with Republicans if necessary. And FDR needed their support if he wanted to get anything done. So the madcap pace of Roosevelt’s first four years gave way to relative stagnation until the largest war in human history. There is your answer to the QISHPABDNAURTB. Back in high school history class, they told us that the Supreme Court was the culprit, but that doesn’t explain the anemic response by the other branches of the government.

Essentially, the New Deal represents the last time the South welcomed rather than opposed direct federal intervention with the economy. It only let its guard down for a moment; as soon as the racial order was threatened, it closed ranks. But in that window of opportunity the American government forged the modern welfare state. It was a miraculous accomplishment.

I oversimplify, for the sake of a cleaner story. The book gets into a lot more. You can read about Mussolini and get a sense of how fragile democracy and capitalism seemed to be by the time FDR took office. You can read about World War II, when America became a planned economy. You can read about a bill to let overseas soldiers vote, seemingly noncontroversial but quashed by southern Democrats nonetheless. You can read about the decline of government planning and the rise of the budget as a more hands-off approach to managing the economy. It’s not a coincidence that that suited the South. It’s all there.

One of the book’s little detours that I wish to spotlight, because it’s relevant to the white supremacist march on Charlottesville, is the bizarre fact that southern Democrats were easily the most gung ho about going to war with the Nazis. This despite Hitler’s open admiration of Jim Crow, slavery, the genocide of Native Americans, etc. Before the war, Nazi officials even came to the South to try to build rapport, but they were rebuffed. FDR’s war policies could not have passed without the uniform support of the South.

How did that happen? Katznelson speculates on a few possibilities. Was it white-on-white racism, with Anglo-Saxon, Scotch-Irish southerners rejecting the Teutonic hordes? Was it the economic setback that war in Europe would inflict on the South? Was it a defense mechanism to cope with the fact that they weren’t so different? The answer is unclear, but the fact that it happened is astounding.

Occasionally the book doesn’t hang together. You could write separate books on the New Deal, World War II, fascism, unions, the Manhattan Project, etc. Instead, they’re all jumbled together in one. But that is the fault less of the author than of the source material. We are an assemblage of contradictions and paradoxes bundled together into something we call “America.” To draw such a powerful and persuasive narrative from it is a magnificent feat by Katznelson. Fear Itself reshapes the way you view the world while leaving you hungry for more. You should read this book.


Day 207 of 1,461 (or 2,922)

There is so much selfishness and ignorance and hatred in this county, and they have found their concentrated embodiment in Trump, who bludgeons us with the worst aspects of humanity every single day. This is self-evidently traumatic for the body politic, harming our capacity for empathy and reason and decency. And yet it is difficult to express just how awful it is: how it makes us worry for our children in existential terms, how it makes our lives a little more sordid every day, how it slowly bleeds our world of joy and purpose.

  • Dahlia Lithwick made me feel a little better. Ultimately, the Ku Klux Klanazis were marching because they’ve been dealt several losses over the last half-century. They feel confident now, yet their overreach will be their doom.
  • Already, Lexington plans to get rid of its statues, while Durham went and did the job itself.
  • Some might say that supporting neo-Nazis is deplorable. Whoever came up with that sure was prescient.
  • Now this is how you disown a son.
  • Continuing with the Department of Backlash theme, I now think that Colin Kaepernick’s cause has benefited from his obvious blacklisting, even if the man himself has suffered. Once again, the NFL’s own heavy-handedness works against itself.
  • There is one week until the eclipse! Get hype!

Days 202, 203, 204, 205 and 206 of 1,461 (or 2,922)

We’re 14 percent through.

“He has no historical view. He is only dealing with these issues now, and seems to think the world started when he took office,” a diplomat told BuzzFeed News, pointing to Trump’s remarks and tweets about defense spending. “He thinks that NATO existed only to keep the communists out of Europe. He has a similar attitude in Asia-Pacific with Japan, ignoring that the US basically wrote their constitution.” During his presidential campaign, Trump called out Japan to pay more for the security US provides, including for hosting the US troops in the country. Japan’s constitution restricts its military options.

They also believe Trump’s foreign policy is chiefly driven by an obsession with unraveling Barack Obama’s policies. “It’s his only real position,” one European diplomat said. “He will ask: ‘Did Obama approve this?’ And if the answer is affirmative, he will say: ‘We don’t.’ He won’t even want to listen to the arguments or have a debate. He is obsessed with Obama.”

  • Trump is a massive cock.
  • There’s a pushy, pushy poll showing that some Republicans are OK with postponing elections if Trump does it. The number should be zero.
  • For those who despair, Democrats have been cleaning up in state special elections, most recently in Iowa. Going by the thesis that conservatives’ main motive is pissing off liberals, perhaps it’s best to make every race as low-profile as possible? No more messiahs.
  • Voter suppression is still a massive problem, though. I’m trying to learn more about this — will the courts be our main tool of resistance? What is Let America Vote planning?
  • Nina Turner is a hack obsessed with idiot publicity stunts. Whatever potential Our Revolution had will be squandered by her.
  • In a small victory, Jeffrey Lord has been fired after tweeting unambiguous Nazi stuff. Hallelujah.
  • I look forward to DNA code becoming a mainstay of techno-thrillers for years to come.
  • Asshole calls half his coworkers biologically inferior, claims persecution for being fired. It’s gaslighting.
  • Of course, David Brooks comes out with another worthless take. Why must The New York Times let him get away with it?
  • #YesAllWomen:

Any woman that works in sports journalism will tell you that at some point in her life, she has been subjected to a quiz by someone who thinks they know more about sports than she does. It could be someone close to them, like a friend or family member, or someone that she’s just met, like a guy in a bar, your barista or mechanic.

  • Eli Manning should be given the Nobel Peace Prize and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, preferably on the same day that Tom Brady is tried at the Hague.
  • Modern singing may be ruining our singers. Maybe.
  • It’s from a while back, but Disney villains now have their own postage stamp series. Government is good.
  • Not funny, Onion. 😦

Days 194, 195, 196, 197, 198, 199, 200 and 201 of 1,461 (or 2,922)