Admiral Janeway was extraordinarily dear to me and, on Monday, February 12, it seemed to me that the best possible way to express my gratifude for her fifteen years with me was to share my home with another cat who needs it.
First, another look at Admiral Janeway:
She will always be precious to me.
And now, introducing Patches, who comes to me from Lake Pet Rescue, via the PetSmart store in Rohnert Park:
Patches grabbed onto me with all her claws. She is intensely affectionate and still learning about her new home.
And this is part of why it’s taken me a while to catch up on the news.
Internet service at the house and all my systems went down yesterday afternoon because the plug for my big uninterruptible power supply had become dislodged. So the UPS ran down its battery and then cut off power because it had none left to offer.
- Originally published, February 12, 5:21 pm.
- February 14, 8:36 pm:
- Raphael Ahren analyzes Binyamin Netanyahu’s mistaken claim that he had discussed any form of West Bank annexation with the Trump administration. (Israel)
- What we have here is yet another example which presumes, utterly without justification, that the elite will reform and become more responsive.
- I initially dismissed the Rob Porter scandal as yet more of the same. The real difference I see here lies in the strength of the evidence supporting his ex-wives’ claims—we have a photograph, a police report, and testimony to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. (In sexual assault cases, such as those that inspire the #MeToo movement, evidence is often weaker by the usual standards of the injustice system.) But everything else about this is the same sickening script.
- I am not caught up.
- February 15, 5:36 pm:
- Apparently, “[a] Princeton University professor has canceled his course on hate speech, blasphemy, and pornography after his use of a racial slur during a class discussion sparked arguments with students that resulted in some walking out and another dropping the course.” He had, evidently, taught the course on a number of previous occasions and was trying to get his students to consider the question of whose sense of blasphemy, whose sense of hate speech should be protected. (Political correctness)
- Adam Schiff says that Democrats will consider redactions, not revisions, to their rebuttal to the Nunes Memo. (James Comey)
- Another federal judge has blocked Donald Trump’s order to end the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals program. (Unauthorized migrants)
- John Cassidy examines John Kelly’s role in the Rob Porter scandal.
- Prospects for me catching up anytime soon currently seem remote.
- February 15, 8:53 pm:
- The Brookings Institute has posted a warning, authored by ex-Central Intelligence Agency analysts, against any so-called “bloody nose” attack on North Korea.
- Here’s another one from the Brookings Institute, this time something some—I thought most—of us have known for decades: For-profit institutions aren’t worth it.
- I guess I don’t see so much the infighting that the headline, “Porter saga exposes bare tensions in Trump’s White House,” might suggest as much as I do an administration at war with reality, for example in its claim (later modified) that the Federal Bureau of Investigation had not completed its check on Rob Porter. And I guess it’ll be a neat post-modernist experiment to see how far they can play it out.
- Apparently the Star-Spangled Banner has a horribly offensive and rarely played third verse, which led a high school in San Ramon to ban the entire anthem. (Political correctness)
- I am finally caught up to yesterday.
- February 15, 11:37 pm: I am finally, unbelievably, caught up. We’ll see how long it lasts.
Becca Noy, “White House says West Bank annexation talks with Netanyahu never happened,” Jerusalem Online, February 12, 2018, http://www.jerusalemonline.com/news/politics-and-military/politics/netanyahu-talking-with-washington-about-annexing-settlements-34550
Times of Israel, “Trump: Not sure Israel truly wants peace, settlements ‘complicate’ peacemaking,” February 11, 2018, https://www.timesofisrael.com/trump-unsure-israel-genuinely-wants-peace-with-palestinians/
Raphael Ahren, “With annexation gaffe, Netanyahu blunders into first real crisis with Trump,” Times of Israel, February 13, 2018, https://www.timesofisrael.com/with-annexation-gaffe-netanyahu-blunders-into-first-real-crisis-with-trump/
I’m really not into the personality parade aspect of White House coverage. But Rob Porter says something about misogyny at the White House. And if John Cassidy’s inclination (he stops well short of a prediction) that Chief of Staff John Kelly will resign proves true, then the man credited with bringing some order to the Trump White House will be gone. So, um, what happens then? And how much more chaos will Congressional Republicans tolerate?
Katherine Timpf, “The White House Response to Rob Porter’s Resignation Is Sickening,” National Review, February 12, 2018, http://www.nationalreview.com/article/456322/donald-trump-rob-porter-statement-trivializes-domestic-abuse
Michael C. Bender, Rebecca Ballhaus, and Peter Nicholas, “FBI Director’s Timeline of Porter Probe Contradicts White House,” Wall Street Journal, February 13, 2018, https://www.wsj.com/articles/fbi-director-defends-handling-of-background-check-of-former-trump-aide-1518542822
Kaitlan Collins and Kevin Liptak, “Porter was up for promotion despite abuse allegations,” CNN, February 13, 2018, http://www.cnn.com/2018/02/13/politics/rob-porter-promotion-west-wing/index.html
Jordan Fabian, “White House plays defense after FBI testimony,” Hill, February 13, 2018, http://thehill.com/homenews/administration/373743-white-house-plays-defense-after-fbi-testimonyJordan Fabian, “White House plays defense after FBI testimony,” Hill, February 13, 2018, http://thehill.com/homenews/administration/373743-white-house-plays-defense-after-fbi-testimony;
Joseph Tanfani, “FBI finished Rob Porter’s background check last year, director says. That contradicts the White House account,” Los Angeles Times, February 13, 2018, http://www.latimes.com/politics/la-na-pol-essential-washington-updates-fbi-handed-in-a-background-check-on-aide-1518541645-htmlstory.html
Rebecca Ballhaus, “Lawmakers Ask Kelly, Wray About Rob Porter Security Clearance,” Wall Street Journal, February 14, 2018, https://www.wsj.com/articles/house-launches-probe-of-rob-porters-white-house-role-1518622438
John Cassidy, “Can the White House Chief of Staff, John Kelly, Survive the Testimony of the F.B.I. Director, Christopher Wray?” New Yorker, February 14, 2018, https://www.newyorker.com/news/our-columnists/can-the-white-house-chief-of-staff-john-kelly-survive-the-testimony-of-the-fbi-director-christopher-wray
Some of this is good:
To some degree, of course, the unresponsiveness of America’s political system is by design. The United States was founded as a republic, not a democracy. As Alexander Hamilton and James Madison made clear in the Federalist Papers, the essence of this republic would consist—their emphasis—“IN THE TOTAL EXCLUSION OF THE PEOPLE, IN THEIR COLLECTIVE CAPACITY, from any share” in the government. Instead, popular views would be translated into public policy through the election of representatives “whose wisdom may,” in Madison’s words, “best discern the true interest of their country.” That this radically curtailed the degree to which the people could directly influence the government was no accident.
Only over the course of the 19th century did a set of entrepreneurial thinkers begin to dress an ideologically self-conscious republic up in the unaccustomed robes of a democracy. Throughout America, the old social hierarchies were being upended by rapid industrialization, mass immigration, westward expansion, and civil war. Egalitarian sentiment was rising. The idea that the people should rule came to seem appealing and even natural. The same institutions that had once been designed to exclude the people from government were now commended for facilitating government “of the people, by the people, for the people.”
The shifting justification for our political system inspired important reforms. In 1913, the Seventeenth Amendment stipulated that senators had to be elected directly by the people, not by state legislatures. In 1920, the Nineteenth Amendment gave women the vote. In 1965, the Voting Rights Act, drawing on the Fifteenth Amendment, set out to protect the vote of black Americans. The once-peculiar claim that the United States was a democracy slowly came to have some basis in reality.
That basis is now crumbling, and the people have taken notice. In no small part that’s because the long era during which average Americans grew more wealthy has come to a sputtering stop. People who are asked how well they are doing economically frequently compare their own standard of living with that of their parents. Until recently, this comparison was heartening. At the age of 30, more than nine in 10 Americans born in 1940 were earning more than their parents had at the same stage of their lives. But according to eye-popping research led by the economist Raj Chetty and his co-authors, many Millennials do not share in this age-old American experience of improving fortunes. Among those Americans born in the early 1980s, only half earn more than their parents did at a similar age.
But then there’s this:
America does have a democracy problem. If we want to address the root causes of populism, we need to start by taking an honest accounting of the ways in which power has slipped out of the people’s hands, and think more honestly about the ways in which we can—and cannot—put the people back in control.
It is true that to recover its citizens’ loyalty, our democracy needs to curb the power of unelected elites who seek only to pad their influence and line their pockets. But it is also true that to protect its citizens’ lives and promote their prosperity, our democracy needs institutions that are, by their nature, deeply elitist. This, to my mind, is the great dilemma that the United States—and other democracies around the world—will have to resolve if they wish to survive in the coming decades.
We don’t need to abolish all technocratic institutions or merely save the ones that exist. We need to build a new set of political institutions that are both more responsive to the views and interests of ordinary people, and better able to solve the immense problems that our society will face in the decades to come.
So, okay, this is a book excerpt and I suppose it is possible that Yascha Mounk gets to all this. But right away, how is it “also true that to protect its citizens’ lives and promote their prosperity, our democracy needs institutions that are, by their nature, deeply elitist?” And how is it, really, that an elitist, masquerading as meritocratic, system can “curb the power of unelected elites who seek only to pad their influence and line their pockets” (or maybe even elected ones)? But the phrases I pose as questions, Mounk poses as (unsupported) conclusions. He has some explaining to do and it isn’t to be found in this excerpt.
Yascha Mounk, “America Is Not a Democracy,” Atlantic, March 2018, https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2018/03/america-is-not-a-democracy/550931/
I avoid using the N-word because when uttered by an older white man, the word carries an entirely different connotation than when others use it. But “Lawrence Rosen, a professor of anthropology at Princeton, used the slur three times throughout a February 6 lecture on oppressive symbolism in the course, ‘Cultural Freedoms,’ according to a Daily Princetonian article that quoted multiple students in the class. He asked students whether it was worse for a white man to punch a black man, or a white man to call a black man the N-word.” In another example of an orthodoxy on the Left that may not be challenged even in a context where we are trying to weigh competing ethical claims, Rosen felt compelled to cancel the class.
Emma Kerr, “Princeton Professor Cancels Course After His Use of a Racial Slur Angered Students,” Chronicle of Higher Education, February 13, 2018, https://www.chronicle.com/article/Princeton-Professor-Cancels/242539
Victor Morton, “High school bans ‘outdated and racially offensive’ national anthem from rallies,” Washington Times, February 13, 2018, https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2018/feb/13/san-ramon-california-high-school-bans-racist-natio/
Brett Samuels, “Schiff: We’re not going to revise Democratic memo,” Hill, February 13,2018, http://thehill.com/homenews/house/373742-schiff-were-not-going-to-revise-democratic-memo
Dan Levine, “Second U.S. judge blocks Trump administration from ending DACA program,” Reuters, February 13, 2018, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-immigration-ruling/second-u-s-judge-blocks-trump-administration-from-ending-daca-program-idUSKCN1FX2TJ
I guess, save this. Dredge it out after the Trump administration commits whatever foolishness it has in mind and North Korea foolishly lashes back. Watch what happens.
I guess then we’ll know for sure what happens. But, on the other hand, if what they say is anywhere near on, I’m gonna be waiting for it. . . . Waiting. . . . Waiting. . . . Waiting. . . .
Because we know how the administration will defend itself. It’s a memorable phrase, now: “No one could have foreseen . . .” Right, you mother fuckers.
Jung H. Pak, Sue Mi Terry, and Bruce Klingner, “Ex-CIA analysts explain why a bloody nose policy on North Korea would backfire,” Brookings Institute, February 12, 2018, https://www.brookings.edu/blog/order-from-chaos/2018/02/12/ex-cia-analysts-explain-why-a-bloody-nose-policy-onth-korea-would-backfire/
Stephanie Riegg Cellini, “Gainfully employed? New evidence on the earnings, employment, and debt of for-profit certificate students,” Brookings Institute, February 9, 2018, https://www.brookings.edu/blog/brown-center-chalkboard/2018/02/09/gainfully-employed-new-evidence-on-the-earnings-employment-and-debt-of-for-profit-certificate-students/