Sunday, July 14, 2019
The floor is yours.
I just finished reading Philip Roth’s The Plot Against America. The book is from 2004, but it’s received renewed attention in the Trump era, and it’s reportedly being made into a TV miniseries. The premise is that in 1940, instead of FDR winning a third term as in the real world, the presidency is won by Charles Lindbergh, the famed aviator who was also a rabid isolationist and Nazi apologist.
The account of Lindbergh’s rise to the presidency is somewhat fanciful. He shows up at the GOP convention, wins the nomination, and runs on the slogan “Vote for Lindbergh or vote for war.” He ends up not only defeating FDR, but doing so in a massive landslide where he wins all but two states (indicating that Roth’s understanding of American electoral politics makes The West Wing‘s look sensible by comparison). The book’s ending is also underwhelming and unconvincing. It just sort of fizzles out, as if Roth lacked the courage of his convictions.
In the real world, of course, FDR faced Wendell Willkie, who came from the interventionist wing of the party though sometimes struck isolationist themes, and FDR for his part claimed on the campaign trail that he wouldn’t bring the country to war. He defeated Willkie in a comfortable landslide, albeit not quite as massive as his first two elections. There really were Republicans calling for Lindbergh to enter the race, but he himself never expressed any interest.
The book is told from the perspective of Roth himself, as a child in this alternate history watching as the situation in the country rapidly worsens for Jews while the rest of the country view Lindbergh as a hero for making a nonaggression pact with the Axis powers. I began thinking back to our recent conversation where James Joyner argued that Trump couldn’t be called an authoritarian if he didn’t actually transform the US government into an authoritarian system. If Joyner applied that logic to this novel, he’d wind up arguing that Lindbergh in the novel could not be described as a fascist, despite the known fact that the real historical figure very much was. Even with the wave of state-sanctioned anti-Semitism that follows his rise to the presidency, the US government in the novel retains its basic democratic character.
In the novel, there’s a famed rabbi who becomes a staunch supporter and ally of Lindbergh. That may seem astonishing and unbelievable. Me, I found it plausible enough that I had to check to make sure he wasn’t based on a real person. (There are a number of real historical figures in the novel.) I’d just like to quote in full his defense of President Lindbergh, because I think it’s a testament to the power of self-deception and the idea that “it can’t happen here”:
“I was congratulating him…on the significant inroad he had made into allaying the Jewish suspiciousness that dated back to his trips to Germany in the late thirties, when he was secretly taking the measure of the German air force for the U.S. government. I informed him that any number of my own congregants who had voted for Roosevelt were now his strong supporters, grateful that he had established our neutrality and spared our country the agonies of yet another great war…. Admittedly, before his becoming president he at times made public statements grounded in anti-Semitic cliches. But he spoke from ignorance then, and admits as much today. I am pleased to tell you that it took no more than two or three sessions alone with the president to get him to relinquish his misconceptions and to appreciate the manifold nature of Jewish life in America…. Because there is ignorance as well among Jews, unfortunately, many of whom persist in thinking of President Lindbergh as an American Hitler when they know full well that he is not a dictator who attained power in a putsch but a democratic leader who came to office through a landslide victory in a fair and free election and who has exhibited not a single inclination toward authoritarian rule. He does not glorify the state at the expense of the individual but, to the contrary, encourages entrepreneurial individualism and a free enterprise system unencumbered by interference from the federal government. Where is the fascist statism? Where is the fascist thuggery? Where are the Nazi Brown Shirts and the secret police? When have you observed a signle manifestation of fascist anti-Semitism emanating from our government?”
I finished season 2 of Discovery. I was a bit underwhelmed.
I appreciate they take a whole season to tell one story. That worked very well in season one. Season two was ok, but I was left with a time travel hangover, as is common with many time travel plots. But I also counted some plot holes.
For example, when they set up to capture the Red Angel, the only way it would work, if their assumptions were correct, would be to kill Burnham. Otherwise the Red Angel would know she need not come. Spock does fix that flaw, by holding the ground-side crew at gun point and making Burnham’s death certain.
Of course, their assumptions were wrong.
Which leads to something else. They finally do capture the Red Angel and she tells them she did not set the signals. Well, then, that should bring up the question of how Spock learned of the signals before they appeared. This was never addressed, as far as I recall (I may have gone over the season too quickly to remember all clearly).
BTW, at the height of Trek The Next Generation, there were jokes about the next series being named “Star Trek Reset Button.” It wasn’t named that, but season two of Discovery may as well be described that way. The holograms, the magic mushroom drive, and even Spock’s sister get reset so we can enjoy the reruns of the first series without wondering about them…
On other things, I shot through season one of Disenchantment. It’s odd the story got interesting only in the last episode. Before then, it was funny, but not Furturama-level funny (but then, what is?) The personal demon, though, that was brilliant.
Did you know there’s a group theory theorem in RL called the “The Futurama Theorem” because the head writer (who has a PhD in applied mathematics) had to prove it to resolve one of the episodes and then later published the proof?
With all the Epstein stuff in the news, I now find that when I am quickly skimming through article headlines in my RSS feed, I keep misreading “Philadelphia” as “Pedophilia”.
To be fair, the actual literal meaning of “Philadelphia” isn’t too far away.
I appreciate they take a whole season to tell one story. That worked very well in season one. Season two was ok, but I was left with a time travel hangover, as is common with many time travel plots.
I liked Number 1 and the evil Georgiou, but I wasn’t very interested in time travel or a rogue AI, so a lot of the season just didn’t pull me in.
Saru losing his ganglia and his overwhelming fear was unfortunate — I really liked the first version of the character.
And I continue to dislike Burnam’s “I’m about to do something rash and stupid” expression. While it would be nice if she would sometimes not do the rash and stupid thing, and wasn’t so predictable, it would be nicer if she didn’t make that face.
Episode 2, with the people pulled from WW III, was probably the high point for me. It felt the most Star Trekky. The last episode, with the giant space battle with all the shuttles as star fighters… that did not feel like Star Trek.
I did. It comes from the episode “The Prisoner of Benda.”
@Kathy: @Gustopher: I’ve sometimes found myself wondering whether I was missing anything when I saw pitches about Discovery from CBS All-Access. Now I know. Thanks!
Are we in another bubble market? Core inflation tame, yet housing, education, healthcare cost is ridiculous and rising to ridiculous levels driven by cheap borrowed money. Things seem normal (insert joke) but seriously, am I the only one who thinks markets are inflated and the economy is just staggering along with little to nothing that shows strong future growth?
Saru losing his ganglia and his overwhelming fear was unfortunate — I really liked the first version of the character.
He was like a rational version of Niven’s Pierson’s Puppeteers.
About Georgiou, I was left wondering what her motivation is. Sure, given her background and upbringing, she’s a natural for the Dark Side of Starfleet. But given her previous position, anything she does is a huge step down, or several. I hope she’s on the next season.
@Jc: Housing costs tend to follow supply and demand. Around here home prices have increased as demand outpaces supply. Builders are going as fast as they can. A new house, 2,000 sq. feet or so can be had for around $180, 000 and up. There are many moving out here to get away from the city, about twenty minutes away. So the roads are busy here twice a day. After evening rush hour, this place is dead. Contractors are short on workers.
On the way to the beach, homes in those small towns are really cheap. But employment opportunities are not plentiful.
@Tyrell: Yes, it is relative to location, but it does not help to have cheap rates. There is a breaking point in cost, commute, house size. Housing appears inflated, as it should be with easy lending and cheap rates, and demand but to me, in NVA it’s approaching bubblesque levels again. I just don’t get why rates are held low when there is obvious inflation in things we need, and now they talk of rate cuts! It’s bizarre. Education cost is insane. Like you seeing more moving out further i think you are going to see more trying to do education in the cheap as well. Is it right? Is the market right for these things? Seems leaning…
Ezra Klein had an interesting article in VOX a few days ago. Trump has been known to have somewhat flexible opinions on policy. This allowed a couple of political scientists to construct an interesting experiment. They had people self identify on a scale from Strong Liberal to Strong Conservative. Then they asked their opinion on various policy positions, but with some subjects they just asked about the policy, for others they indicated Trump’s position. They used policies where Trump had stated both a more liberal and contradictory more conservative position. For strong conservatives Trump’s position, either way, strongly influenced the subjects stated opinion.
“The fact that stronger conservatives are the ones most likely to react to the treatment — regardless of the ideological direction of the treatment — suggests that the nearly ubiquitous self-placed ideology measure is less a measure of principled conviction and more of a social identity,” write Barber and Pope.
What this experiment suggests — and what Amash, Sanford, and other philosophically conservative politicians have found — is that the Republican form of conservatism is first and foremost an identity group. That identity group sees Trump as their champion, and his critics, be they left or right, as threats to the group’s interests.
This is a way in which our political language fails us. The terms we use to describe ideologies are often describing social identities. And what matters to an identity group is whether their group is winning or losing. Trump understood this better than most. He’s always framed his political project as about winning rather than about conservatism, and he’s been proven right again and again and again.
As long as they believe FOX that Trump is winning, he’ll be their guy.
McCain and Romney also had, shall we say, full spectrum policy positions. But they failed to get voters to form as strong a sense of identification. Trump has shown the next GOP how. You can’t say ni, ni, ni anymore, but you can say immigrant, immigrant, immigrant.
@Kathy: I think exploring Georgiou’s motivations would lead to terrible television. She’s fun, in a cartoonish way, and makes a great minor character because of that.
Otherwise, you’re waiting to the inevitable betrayal and the predictable long speech about good and evil and all of that. Or something that shows that deep down, she’s a murderous tyrant with a heart of gold. Cringeworthy.
But, in small doses, we get moments like where she suggests blowing up a star and killing billions of people, to power the thingy and then being taken aback by everyone’s reactions and saying “I thought we said there were no bad ideas”.
Trump has shown the next GOP how. You can’t say ni, ni, ni anymore, but you can say immigrant, immigrant, immigrant.
You’re too kind.
Trump dropped the euphemisms. The Republicans had been saying immigrant, immigrant, immigrant, and it wasn’t quite connecting with the racists until Trump said that Mexicans were rapists and murderers, and then brought up shithole countries.
@Jc: healthcare costs have been rising higher than the base rate of inflation for basically my entire life. Definitely my adult life, and I’m pretty sure Nixon wanted to reign it in.
Housing has had bubbles in the past, but since the crash, and the recovery from that, the price gains have been in major metropolitan areas that are growing.
Seattle can’t build housing fast enough, and isn’t upzoning enough to allow denser housing. That causes prices to rise. And people who want the jobs of the city, but to live in a exurb are causing prices to rise for an hour or two outside of the city. Seattle is booming.
Eastern Washington is still pretty cheap.
But, if you look at Washington State statistics, it looks like there is a huge problem. (There is, but it’s that Eastern Washington has not been given to Idaho).
There may be a bubble on top of that, but it’s largely natural supply and demand.
but to me, in NVA it’s approaching bubblesque levels again.
Amazon announced they are building a big development center there, HQ2. That’s a lot of high paying jobs. Prices may be rising speculatively based on that, anticipating the higher demand, but there’s every reason to believe the higher demand will materialize.
If anyone hasn’t seen or read Gillibrand’s comments on white privilege (*cough* certain hosts, and our Republican friends *cough*), I think they should do so.
It’s a really good explanation, even as lots of white people are struggling.
(I like her more than most Democratic primary voters do, but this point, as she is mired in the 2%ers, And might as well not be running at all. It’s still the best explanation of white privilege that I have seen, and the eventual nominee should just repeat this if ever asked…)
(I’d be happy with the vast majority of our candidates breaking through the pack and become the nominee. We have a lot of good people, and Tulsi Gabbard as well. Plus Yang, who I would not vote for because I live in a safe state and I can strategically throw away my vote…)
(I like Tulsi Gabbard’s hair — at the first debate, she had a very nice gray streak that was clearly a deliberate affectation, and I approve. The rest of her policies are just “better than trump,” but her hair policies may be best in field.)
@Jc: No. I’ve just given up thinking about it here because to think about the economic semi-stagnation reminds me about the problems with having gutted the middle class, which only triggers “those people” talk.
@Tyrell: That’s pretty reasonable. In the neighborhood where I lived before I went back to grad school, a new house can be had for $1.2 million. Or you can get a bigger one for $2.6 million.
ETA: @jc: Yeah. Complicating the situation in my old neighborhood is that there are currently 6 or 8 total house in the listings that are pending foreclosure. Good times!
So there was some discussion above of relevant TV shows. I’ve been watching the first few seasons of “Un Village Francaise” on Hulu, a 2009-16 series about life in a French town occupied by the Germans in the early 1940s. It’s an excellent soap opera/drama.
One of the things I notice is that even most of the slimiest Vichy collaborators seem at least slightly self-aware and ashamed of their own treasonous/racist actions. Not so today’s Republicans.
Dayton newspaper reports that FBI raid on man’s home finds thousands of top secret documents from Wright – Patterson AFB* in Ohio! Note: this is not some weird conspiracy story.
This man worked there as a contractor and had a high-security clearance. He gave the FBI his computer, cell phone, and external hard drive. This raid originated from an earlier investigation by the local police who were looking for “marijuana plants”.
Air Force officials confirmed this and that the documents were “related to top-secret special access programs”. I think we can safely infer what that means.
Look for this story to disappear quickly from the news. I expect that this man will be held indefinitely where he can’t talk.
Too bad the documents were not released to local reporters and the internet. Now it is guaranteed that the public will never see them.
See Dayton Daily News and Forbes
* For those who may not know this, Wright – Patterson is the location of Hanger 18. Research on UFO’s has been done there for decades. That place is so off limits that the powerful US Senator Goldwater was not even allowed access!
@Tyrell: Wow. Had no idea where you were going with that until the end.
Someone pointed out that when portable cameras were clunky and film was black and white, we got only the occasional fuzzy and hard to interpret photo of these space aliens. Then, when cameras became more portable and more widely available and film was color, finally we got… only the occasional fuzzy and hard to interpret photo of these space aliens. But then the era of high quality amateur photography took hold with perhaps millions of people tromping around all over the globe with 35mm SLR and telephoto lenses that zoom in on remote and hitherto fuzzy objects, so at last we got… only the occasional fuzzy and hard to interpret photo of these space aliens. And now we live in an era that has literally billions of people walking around everyday with a high resolution camera in their pocket or even in their hand and so now, finally, at last we get… (you know how this turns out).
@MarkedMan: It’s also those who don’t have a habit of watching the skies who report the most UFOs.
Look up “the planet Venus”, idiots.
Make a one-time donation
Rand Paul Holds The Senate Floor To Talk About PATRIOT Act Renewal, Civil Liberties
Why Rand Paul’s Filibuster Mattered
Jeff Flake: I’ll Oppose Trump’s Judges Unless I Get A Vote On Bill To Protect Mueller
Senator Elizabeth Warren Silenced By Senate During Debate On Sessions Nomination
Understanding how Congress Works