SL 724

Hi all. Been working on multiple projects this week, so blogging got bumped down the priority list. I’ll be back with a proper post soon.

Here are some items that caught my eye this weekend:

Ta-Nahisi Coates’s article about Kanye is interesting mostly for his discussion of himself and how he dealt with his sudden fame. And the writing is just fabulous.

Steve and I want to get lost in the edges of Scotland. Maybe next year.

Elevator joke gone wrong.

I’m a big fan of Michael Avenatti. I’ve been tweeting about him since he first appeared on the morning news shows. He’s smart and is running some sort of long game that has nothing to do with the Stormy Daniels case. He’s a political entrepreneur, a random factor, and ultimately he’s Trump worst nightmare. Because until someone like Avenatti takes down Trump (I mean an impeachment plus a conviction), my pol sci friends says that Trump will win in 2020.

51 thoughts on “SL 724

    1. You guys have to be related somehow.

      (I’m not saying that to be mean, just talking about the genealogical probabilities.)


  1. The elevator story certainly refutes the test previously proposed by one commenter that, “If you wouldn’t say it to a man, don’t say it to a woman,” in favor of my rather sterner rubric for workplace behavior, which is, “Camaraderie and jocularity have no place in a mixed-sex workplace. Keep the friendly, jovial part of your self at home, come in, do your job, and leave.”


    1. There’s a lot of room for artful, fun, witty banter between “if you wouldn’t say it to a man…” and “…keep the friendly, jovial part of your self at home…”.


      1. I try to have a friendly and jovial workplace. I try to stay inside the edge of okay behavior, and it helps my freedom to know that at any time I can retire in a week.


      2. “I can retire in a week.”

        That is nice for you (and me), but what a sad world we are leaving our children, in which they cannot have work friends of the opposite sex.


      3. Yeah, I’m having trouble with this idea that the only way to have camaraderie in the workplace is to be able to make jokes about sex or what women look like (or their undergarments!). I’ve had two main jobs in the last 20 years and have a lot of male work friends, and don’t recall having had a conversation about either of these things with any of them. We bond over work stuff (“can you believe this TPS report?”) as well as family news, kids and aging relatives, movies, travel, home improvement, gardening, and a thousand other things that I can’t believe I actually have to list. Basically everything I discuss with my partner and close friends except (in some cases, depending on the person) religion and politics, and (in all cases) sex. It’s not that difficult.


      4. No religion, politics, or sex. Also I assume not money (at least I’ve never been in an office where people discussed that, once they got past the junior stage of lockstep compensation). Also not health (HIPAA!). Miss Manners rules!

        Now, TBH, I would not have thought of that dumb sixth-grade elevator joke as being about sex, but that just shows how risky any sort of jocularity can be. At the last wedding we attended, our table discussed how the bridesmaids’ outfits stayed on (and up)–there was a separate top which covered the bodice and made the mechanics somewhat obscure. I don’t know if Miss Manners would have approved of the conversation, but clearly you couldn’t have that discussion in a modern office.


      5. In thinking of my best male work friend who is not also a friend outside of the office (it’s a small town, so there’s a lot of crossover), I would say we mostly avoid politics, religion, and sex, but this is by no means a shallow relationship, or one without any friendliness or fun. He’s a conservative Christian (yes, we have those in academia!) who I was in a department with for twelve years. We spent a huge amount of time working together trying to save the department, writing reports, having meetings, strategizing and talking, and have also talked a lot about our students, and our families, and other things. We both work hard and respect each other and trust each other. Talk about religion has mostly been limited to a few conversations about Aquinas and one about how our respective churches (Baptist and Unitarian) pay for musicians; talk about sex to one time when he asked me if a particularly gross thing some fraternity had done should be considered part of “rape culture.”

        I could give you other examples from this workplace and others, but this stands out to me as an example of the kind of friendship that’s possible at work. Manners are not always terrible oppressive things. I’m surprised I have to say that to a conservative.


      1. Are you laughing because Democrats still have standards or because you have a particular grief against him.


      2. MH said,

        “Are you laughing because Democrats still have standards or because you have a particular grief against him.”

        Presumably y81 has been following Schneiderman’s career for some time.

        Here’s another one:

        This one it’s hard to do the “Democrats still have standards” thing, because he seems to have been an open secret.

        “He Was Accused Of Attempted Rape. He Became A Progressive Star Anyway.”

        “For more than a decade, women alleged that Clay Johnson, a leader in political tech, physically and verbally abused them.”

        “On April 28, 2008, Sarah Schacht received an email that terrified her. The Sunlight Foundation, a government transparency group, had invited Schacht, the head of a budding good-government nonprofit, to join a conference call. There on the invitation list was Clay Johnson — a man she says once tried to rape her.

        “Reeling, Schacht called a friend at Sunlight, who told her the foundation had just hired Johnson. Within an hour, she said, she was on the phone with Sunlight’s executive director, Ellen Miller.

        “Schacht said Miller received her story with a stern voice and a battery of excuses: “Well, I’m sure there was some confusion, it was so long ago, he was so young at the time, and now he’s in this great relationship,” Schacht recalls Miller saying. In her disbelief, Schacht blurted out that she wasn’t Johnson’s only victim, but that didn’t seem to faze Miller either.”

        “For more than a decade, women have accused Johnson, a leader in the world of political technology, of physical and verbal abuse. They’ve complained to some of the most powerful people in Washington’s nonprofit and progressive circles — only to watch, horrified, as Johnson became a powerful figure, too.”

        “During Johnson’s first job in politics, on Howard Dean’s 2004 presidential campaign, Schacht and a fellow campaign worker separately accused Johnson of sexual assault. Word of both women’s complaints reached several of Dean’s top deputies. But Johnson kept his job, and his work on the campaign became his ticket to a high-profile career.”

        “He went on to co-found a pathbreaking political consulting firm. Powerful groups and people sought his thoughts on the future of tech in politics; his Twitter banner shows him cracking a joke to a roomful of government officials including President Barack Obama. Despite Schacht’s warning about his behavior, the Sunlight Foundation chose him to head its flagship technology division. He left amid a staff insurrection over his lewd and menacing behavior. And still, he rose higher.

        “His reputation seemed to be an open secret.

        “”People would go, ‘Oh yeah, that’s Clay,’” said Erie Meyer, a tech worker who said Johnson harassed her at a 2013 conference. “And I’m thinking, ‘How have you all been letting him wander the halls of progressive power and know he’s like this?’””

        I think when you say “still” you actually mean, “have standards NOW.”


      3. Oh, yeah, and the pastor who thinks that women should let their husbands hit them, because it might bring the men closer to god. A Republican, right?

        The key here is not that there are bad men, bad behavior who align with different politics, but what we do about it. There’s clearly a difference now.


      4. “I think when you say “still” you actually mean, “have standards NOW.”

        Yes, but have the Republicans actually got worse? Or are they just still the same?


      5. bj said,

        “Yes, but have the Republicans actually got worse? Or are they just still the same?”

        Sadly, a lot of people on the right have given up on having standards the last couple years, because a) they’d rather win and b) some have this weird whataboutism where they feel entitled to do exactly what Bill Clinton did and got away with because that’s somehow “fair” and c) they’ve got a sort of PTSD from years of Republican presidential losses, so they don’t see the point of being principled, if being principled means losing. And yes, there were many years when the Republican circular firing squad dispatched various scandal-plagued colleagues–there’s a phrase from the old days that doesn’t apply as much anymore to the effect that “Republicans shoot their wounded.” For example, a number of big Republicans lost their careers in the aftermath of the Clinton impeachment, whereas Clinton sailed on.

        For somebody who started interneting during the late 90s, it’s been really weird to see “what about Clinton” brandished as a get-out-of-jail card for bad behavior–there is a subgroup of Republicans who just stopped caring about anything other than winning.

        That said, I have to point out that there is reason for some on the right’s exhaustion with virtue. Mitt Romney was as squeaky clean, self-controlled, and responsible as anybody could want in a president–but he never got to be president. He got painted as paranoid about Russia (really funny now!), waging a War on Women, and the dog-on-car-roof episode was treated as expressing some kind of deep truth about his moral depravity.

        Also, some on the right who cheer a collapse in standards are just really young and/or have some kind of homoerotic hero worship thing going with Trump. (I’m not kidding, by the way.) This is particularly true of Trump admirers in the alt-right or manosphere.

        There are a lot of things to say to tired-of-being-good conservatives, and believe me, I have. Some things I’ve said or would like to say:

        –Your timing stinks.
        –You may give up your principles to win, but what is winning for without principles?
        –Also, you’re eventually going to lose, and at that point you’ll have neither power nor principles.
        –What exactly do you think you’re winning?

        Here is my Underpants Gnomes version of certain young alt-right-ish Trump supporters:

        1. Win election with multiply bankrupt, contractor-stiffing, three times married, serial adulterer, party-registration switching reality show star with tiny attention span.

        2. ????

        3. Save Western Civilization!

        I just don’t see how you get from 1 to 3.

        That said, if Hillary Clinton were in the second year of her presidency, we wouldn’t be doing #MeToo, because way too many people close to her have been perps and pervs. The reason we’re doing #MeToo is that Trump is president.

        At least some young alt-right-ish folk are inspired by Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals. One young man I was chatting to online recently was very enthused about, “A good tactic is one your people enjoy.” This is an interesting insight, I think, because it demonstrates a) how politics can turn into entertainment (say what you will, Donald Trump is entertaining) and b) how easy it is for means to become more important than ultimate ends.

        You really can’t underestimate the entertainment factor in Trump’s success or support.

        And one more thing–I have to say that one of the most gratifying things about the last couple years has been discovering the integrity of many on the right. National Review has been rock solid, employing a multitude of gifted and honest writers and Jonah Goldberg continues to grow as a writer and a thinker.

        (Haven’t read it yet–I’ll do it real soon.)

        For obvious reasons, Jewish conservatives have been especially valuable and insightful the last couple years. I’ve been very pleased to discover/rediscover John Podhoretz, Ben Shapiro and Bethany and Seth Mandel on Twitter.

        It’s not hard to find intelligent conservatives with integrity online…if you are interested in finding them.


      6. Unfortunately, Republicans, who at least try to have ideas about how to get from 1 to 3 don’t have any influence on the Republican party as it currently stands (as Krugman pointed out in “Unicorns of the Intellectual Right”).


      7. bj said,

        “Unfortunately, Republicans, who at least try to have ideas about how to get from 1 to 3 don’t have any influence on the Republican party as it currently stands (as Krugman pointed out in “Unicorns of the Intellectual Right”).”

        The thing is, there is no route from 1 to 3.

        It’s like asking, how do I make beef bourguignon from the contents of my kitchen trash can?

        If you want beef bourguignon, you need beef bourguignon ingredients.


    1. There is something kind of poetic in Ronan Farrow being the one to bring down so many of these assholes.


    1. I forgot to mention the New Yorker in my list of “papers/periodicals I subscribe to”. It IS amazing this year – much more relevant with some incredible writing/reporting. Like Ronan’s work, showing how it can/should be done.


    2. I saw Coates speak at a independent school conference. I wasn’t expecting a lot, because, really, what can he say that’s new, in that format. But, he was still interesting (in the question/answer format). He talked about his experience in schools (bad, he illustrated how he was full of wonder, and the schools killed it, until he rediscovered it for himself and of his own son’s experience, positive, in an independent school.)



    3. I read 3 amazing pieces in the New Yorker in one week, which was a wakeup call that I was being an asshole for not subscribing. So I did.


  2. Ronan Farrow’s commencement address to Loyola Marymount:

    I have to wonder whether the Schneiderman thing is one more “everybody knew” case. The New Yorker team found quite a few witnesses.

    I would say this is neither a Democrat nor a Republican failing. It’s power. And pride. And the fear of consequences on the part of victims and witnesses to say anything. I would expect to see more of such flagrant behavior in “one party states.”

    It’s alleged Schneiderman threatened to tap a lover’s phone, and to have her followed. Do we know he didn’t?


    1. Yes, the failing is almost certainly not tied to ideology. It’s the reaction that seems to be in the present day.


  3. cranberry said,

    “I have to wonder whether the Schneiderman thing is one more “everybody knew” case. The New Yorker team found quite a few witnesses.”

    Right. He’s a 60-something guy–there’s been plenty of time.

    Also, a number of media outlets have been referencing a 2013 Donald Trump tweet where Trump wrote, “Weiner is gone, Spitzer is gone – next will be lightweight A.G. Eric Schneiderman. Is he a crook? Wait and see, worse than Spitzer or Weiner.”

    That could be pure coincidence–or maybe the fact that Schneiderman had issues was common knowledge among NY people in the know. Or maybe New York politicians just are that terrible?

    “And the fear of consequences on the part of victims and witnesses to say anything. I would expect to see more of such flagrant behavior in “one party states.””

    That’s a very interesting point. A lot of people with issues might have their careers nipped in the bud a lot earlier in two-party states than in, say, Alabama or New York.

    “t’s alleged Schneiderman threatened to tap a lover’s phone, and to have her followed. Do we know he didn’t?”

    That’s an interesting question. He had a lot of resources available to do Bad Things if he wanted to.


  4. By the way, I haven’t read the Coates piece, but some quotes I saw jumped out at me, namely the ones about how white freedom is about lack of responsibility.

    There may be some WEIRD intellectual cross-pollination going on, because I’m actually very familiar with that whole “lack of responsibility” argument from a completely different context.

    The thing is, it’s a commonplace of the manosphere that women want freedom without responsibility or accountability. Here’s a specimen:

    I suspect that the belief that people of one’s preferred hate demographic are out there enjoying freedom without responsibility may indicate a lack of empathy and/or life experience.


    1. Coates is writing in reply to somebody who blamed black people for slavery. I think he’s on pretty solid ground.


      1. OK, skimming through the Coates piece (we are almost exactly the same age).

        ” He hailed Trump, as a “brother,” a fellow bearer of “dragon energy,” and impugned those who objected as suppressors of “unpopular questions,” “thought police” whose tactics were “based on fear.”

        Kanye and DJT obviously have a LOT in common temperamentally and psychologically–a lot more in common than Kanye and Obama. So, good on Kanye for self-awareness.

        “And, like Trump, West is shockingly ignorant. Chicago was “the murder capital of the world,” West asserted”

        Coates must be a lot more easily shocked than I am.

        “when in fact American unity has always been the unity of conquistadors and colonizers”

        “Always” is a tricky word–if this were the SAT, that would be a tip-off that this is a wrong answer. Houston during Hurricane Harvey in 2017 was pretty freaking amazing in terms of mutual help. South Central Los Angeles in 1992 immediately after the LA riots was also an amazing time and place–Los Angeles residents turned out en masse to clean up.

        Reading the paragraph that starts, “Everything is darker now.”

        Basically, Coates is bashing Kanye for not being the god that Coates wanted Kanye to be.

        “One of my best friends, who worked in radio, came up with the idea of a funny self-deprecating segment about me and my weird snobbery.”

        The word “snob” has come to mind a couple times while reading this.

        “But it was now clear there was another way—a life of lectures, visiting-writer gigs, galas, prize committees.”

        This part is good–about the temptations of success.

        OK, starting to skim hard. The editor really went to sleep in the middle of the piece.

        I have an awful fact to convey to Coates–Kanye really does have a lot more in common with Trump than with Coates. It’s not even close.

        “the rapper T.I. was stunned to find that West, despite his endorsement of Trump, had never heard of the travel ban.”

        I’m not surprised–there’s a lot of stuff out there to know or not know, and a vast multitude of distractions.

        Possibly more in a bit.


      2. More Coates.

        “West calls his struggle the right to be a “free thinker,” and he is, indeed, championing a kind of freedom—a white freedom, freedom without consequence, freedom without criticism, freedom to be proud and ignorant; freedom to profit off a people in one moment and abandon them in the next; a Stand Your Ground freedom, freedom without responsibility, without hard memory; a Monticello without slavery, a Confederate freedom, the freedom of John C. Calhoun, not the freedom of Harriet Tubman, which calls you to risk your own; not the freedom of Nat Turner, which calls you to give even more, but a conqueror’s freedom, freedom of the strong built on antipathy or indifference to the weak, the freedom of rape buttons, pussy grabbers, and fuck you anyway, bitch; freedom of oil and invisible wars, the freedom of suburbs drawn with red lines, the white freedom of Calabasas.”

        This was the bit I was talking about earlier–the belief that being white means freedom without consequences, criticism or responsibility.

        Come to think of it, Kanye was every bit as ignorant before he and Trump became BFFs–and yet Coates didn’t notice his ignorance then…

        “And so for Kanye West, I wonder what he might be, if he could find himself back into connection, back to that place where he sought not a disconnected freedom of “I,” but a black freedom that called him back—back to the bone and drum, back to Chicago, back to Home.”

        Because I am a bad person, I wonder what kind of neighborhood Coates lives in and what the racial and socioeconomic breakdown is of his kids’ school.

        Having read the whole thing, I think the worst thing about it is that Coates doesn’t talk about mental health issues. If you’ve ever seen an interview with Michael Jackson, it’s clear–this was a very odd duck (he sounded like a little child as a middle-aged man). Kanye also has obvious issues–at the very least with impulsivity and grandiosity. I think it’s wrong to turn to people with their obvious issues and demand that they save others, when people like that do very well just to stay alive and functioning.

        In many respects, Coates is way, way more privileged than Kanye–for example, Kanye will be doing very well if he makes it to 60 (that’s like 120 in musician years), whereas Coates is likely to live to a ripe old age. And yet Coates doesn’t spend a minute talking about all the ways in which he is more fortunate than Kanye.

        One last thing–Black Panther is pretty good, so Coates has that going for him.


      3. Not to be a thread hog, but I have to add that the macho, confident, musical virtuoso stage version of Michael Jackson was a completely different person than off-stage Michael Jackson, who was like a shy little boy who never grew up.

        It’s just weird to expect that this reclusive former child star from a very abusive family, who never knew anything like a normal life, would be capable of living up to Coates’s expectations of a black savior or avatar of blackness. That just isn’t a fair expectation.

        Another issue that comes to mind is that Coates sees Michael Jackson as primarily shucking off his blackness–but was that the whole story? As people have noted over the years, Jackson at some point seemed to be Single White Female-ing his sister Janet, and eventually, it looked like he was trying to look like a white woman, not a white man. He may have been fleeing masculinity just as hard as he was fleeing blackness, if not harder. You can also make a case that he was fleeing adulthood. (Hence, living in “Neverland Ranch.”)

        (At some point some years back, it clicked and I started wondering if Jackson hadn’t been autistic. I see from the internet that I’m not the only person to have asked that question.)

        You might well ask–why was it unforgivable for Jackson to run away from being black, but not unforgivable for Jackson to run away from being a male and an adult?


      1. Getting from 1 to 3 for me was (1) win to (3) fix the world. I see no plan in the current Republican party for that (or even, smaller goals of fixing anything at all).

        My guess is that Iran just got closer to having nuclear weapons in the next five years or so and I know that the factions in Iran who think that’s the only way to protect their national integrity just got a big boost.


  5. bj said,

    “My guess is that Iran just got closer to having nuclear weapons in the next five years”

    That’s assuming a lot about the efficacy of the Iranian deal.

    Note that a lot of parties on the ground are pleased with the U.S.’s actions:

    “Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies basked on Wednesday in what they saw as a political victory over Iran, their rival for regional influence, after Washington withdrew from the international nuclear accord with Tehran.”

    “Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain swiftly backed U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to reimpose sanctions on Tehran, reflecting their concern about Iran’s ballistic missile program and support for militant groups.”

    A Saudi says, “Every couple of days, we have missiles coming from Yemen and we see evidence that they are made by Iran … It is interfering in Syria, Yemen, Morocco. Other countries may accept that, but here in Saudi Arabia we don’t,” he said.”

    The Israelis also approve. Presumably, all of those countries have a pretty good idea which side their bread is buttered on.

    And by the way, isn’t it interesting to discover that Israel and Saudi Arabia are experiencing a rapprochement? Strange bedfellows. But being under looming nuclear threat from Iran does focus the mind.

    On a somewhat different topic, here’s the invaluable Ben Shapiro:

    “Opposing Trump with a presidential primary challenger would be an exercise in futility—polls show that a huge majority of Republicans want to see Trump renominated. But that doesn’t hold true among younger Republicans. An incredible 82 percent of Republican and Republican-leaning voters between the ages of 18 and 24 say they “want another Republican to challenge President Trump for the party’s nomination in 2020.” So do 57 percent of those aged 25 to 34 and 58 percent of those aged 35 to 44. Compare that number with the 74 percent of Republicans over the age of 65 who oppose a primary challenge, and you’ve got a chasm the size of the Grand Canyon.”

    That’s interesting, but not surprising–I am in the 35-44 group, and I’d also like to see Trump primaried.


    1. It’s Trump’s party now. In retrospect, it seems inevitable this kind of thing would happen once the internal party dialogue delegitimized any “this is too far right” or “maybe open white supremacy is a good idea” sorts of arguments. I suppose it might be possible to reclaim the party once the older cohorts of the Baby Boom die, but I suspect that the Never Trumps (especially the younger ones) will leave the party at faster rate than the Trump contingent can die.

      (On the destruction of the Republican Party’s standards, you really can’t top George Will’s column.)


      1. I’m too busy to look up the source, but older baby boomers are significantly to the left of younger baby boomers and older gen Xers. Them dying isn’t going to help in the short term.


      2. That would explain why I’ve always been most annoyed by people ten years older than me instead of 20 or more.


    1. Imani Gandy points out the idiocy of this argument:


      1. I’m not going to make myself responsible for emotions of people who aren’t capable of managing their own despite most of them having more years than I. That’s a suckers’ game to even try, like putting out seeds for the mice and expecting them to go away because you’ve paid them off.


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