How does one go about getting adopted by Calvin Trillin?

I want in on all of this.


NYT reports from the dark depths of Mitch McConnell’s soul

I hate headlines like this:

McConnell in Private

If Mitch McConnell is doing something “in private,” then how would the NYT know?  How would anyone know that?  It’s an incorrect use of the word “private.”

In the error, the NYT reveals just how gullible they are.  If we are to believe them, then here’s what happened:

  1. Mitch McConnell had a private emotional experience of doubt.
  2. Wittingly or unwittingly, McConnell honestly and accurately communicated his internal doubt to someone in his inner circle (his wife?  his chief of staff?).
  3. That confidante decided that he/she had a duty to make it publicly known that the majority leader was experiencing a specific emotion.
  4. He/she reached out to a reporter at the most celebrated newspaper of our time and honestly and accurately described McConnel’s emotional state.
  5. The NYT dutifully passed along this important information to the public.

Isn’t it possible that the NYT might have been played by McConnell or his staff?  How can you write this article and not admit that your source likely has a vested interest in having the NYT readership think that McConnell is experiencing doubt?

If I’m McConnell, my emotions have gone way beyond doubt by this time.



Kevin Williamson on the “giant dork parade”

Kevin Williamson at the NRO:

A great many of these young men have an interest in evolutionary psychology and evolutionary sociology — they like to think of themselves as “alpha males,” as though they were living in a chimpanzee troop — but it never occurs to them to consider their own status as rejects and failed men in that context…The fantasy of proving that they are something else is why they dream of violence and confrontation.

By violently confronting these folks, we give them exactly what they want.

The ACLU has the better approach.

“You may not be allowed to say goodbye.”

In the New Yorker, Larissa MacFarquhar takes a brave look at what happens when parents are considered to be a danger to their children.  She describes one particular case in detail,  an African-American mother named Mercedes who has her children taken away by the Administration for Children’s Services and the Bronx Family Court in New York.

MacFarquhar dares to consider the POV of both the mother who loses her children and the investigators/judges who must make very difficult decisions about when/how to intervene.

If you’re a Progressive person–someone who believes that the goverment can play an active role in righting social wrongs–then you have to deal with two major problems of Progressive policies.  First, programs that offer government benefits to those in need are often hijacked by more privileged groups, so that government ends up redistributing resources to the middle class.  (See the racist housing policies of the FHA in the 1930’s and 1940’s, as detailed by Richard Rothstein in The Color of Law.  Or see the mortgage interest tax deduction today.  Or Medicare.  Or the Social Security retirement program.)

Second, programs that aim to intervene in the lives of the most needy are often administered by folks who may feel uncomfortable with the reality of poverty and who don’t share a cultural background with the people whose lives they are disrupting.  They have to make judgment calls, and their judgments are often clouded by misunderstanding.  Thus, the white lawyer who asks the court to take away the children of a woman who smokes marijuana daily….even though his own friends might do the very same thing.  It just feels different to him–and more problematic–when he sees it done by someone who is poor and black.

Still, it surely can’t be that the government can never take away the children of someone who poses a threat.  And someone has to make that choice.   It’s not very satisfying, but I find myself agreeing with Martin Guggenheim, a professor of law at NYU and a former lawyer with the Juvenile Rights Division of the Legal Aid Society, who tells MacFarquhar:

“We need to understand that destroying the parent-child relationship is among the highest forms of state violence. It should be cabined and guarded like a nuclear weapon. You use it when you must.”

Science as “competitive storytelling”

Adam Gopnik in the New Yorker considers several books that attempt to sell a version of secular Buddhism to the American public.

Our feelings ceaselessly generate narratives, contes moraux, about the world, and we become their prisoners. We make things good and bad, desirable and not, meaningful and trivial. (We put snappy titles on our tales and then the titles own us.)… Meditation shows us how anything can be emptied of the story we tell about it:

But the books themselves impose stories onto the practice of Buddhism and meditation, specifically scientific stories that attempt to measure and explain the impact of meditation on the human brain.

Gopnik writes:

What Wright correctly sees as the heart of meditation practice—the draining away of the stories we tell compulsively about each moment in favor of simply having the moment—is antithetical to the kind of evidentiary argument he admires. Science is competitive storytelling.

It’s a great sentence.  Science is competitive storytelling.  I suspect it’s true in more ways than Gopnik thinks.

WaPo zings the Mooch on the way out – with a Biblical reference

The Washington Post deadpans:

Later, [Scaramucci] clarified that [he and Preibus] were like Cain and Abel, two biblical brothers whose tumultuous relationship ended in tragedy. Cain murdered Abel before he was punished by God and condemned to a life of wandering.

I’d like to think that this is what you get when you compare yourself favorably to a murderer.

The Chickenshit Club

It’s the 10th anniversary of the start of the Global Financial Crisis.  Hooray!

In the New Yorker, Patrick Radden Keefe attempts to answer a question that’s been niggling at the back of my brain for, oh, about 8 years:  Why weren’t any of the bankers or lawyers prosecuted?  Pro Publica and others have uncovered illegal activity at many of the major banks, illegal activity that contributed to the crisis and caused much pain for people up-and-down the socioeconomic ladder.

So why are almost all of the individuals still running free?  I guess I figured that it had something to do with the politicians and their reliance on Wall Street donations.

But the story’s much more interesting than that.  Turns out that:

(1) the federal prosecutors have incentives — both financial and reputational — to cut deals with the companies rather than going after individual white-collar criminals

You might suppose that the glory of convicting a blue-chip C.E.O. would be irresistible. But taking such a case to trial entails serious risk. In contemporary corporations, the decision-making process is so diffuse that it can be difficult to establish criminal culpability beyond a reasonable doubt.

Much easier to negotiate a billion-dollar fine with the company in exchange for a commitment to “change the culture.”

(2) The mechanism that prosecutors use is something called “deferred prosecution” which allows the company to admit to wrongdoing without actually pleading guilty to a specific crime.  According to Keefe, deferred prosecution was originally a “progressive” tool that allowed individuals to get their lives together and avoid a criminal record.

This gets my “Welfare for the rich” tag, because it’s another example of a progressive policy co-opted to protect the rich and powerful.