WTF but his e-mails edition

I just can’t figure out what is out there that makes releasing this tweet a good idea. Read about 3/4ths of the way down:

Update 1: A respected NatSec attorney’s reaction:

Degrading the public sphere (data edition)

Hannah Recht is one hell of a data visualizer and story teller on healthcare. She is assembling the bare county maps for Bloomberg and then she tweeted the following on Wednesday:

She goes on to explain how and why the government map is fundamentally wrong. It is a combination of people not being familiar with the data and an intent to deceive through malice or laziness.

American public data resources are an incredible asset. They are being degraded as we speak. This is why everyone who could yank a file from November 9-January 20, 2017 yanked files. We feared that there would be massive data degradation. And the solution of archiving public resource files on non-government servers is a reasonable solution to the feared problem of forgetting the past. It does nothing for the ongoing fear that current files will not be collected, corrupted or hideously and deliberately mis-interpreted.

This is just one small example in a domain where I have knowledge and passion. We know it is happening elsewhere such as the EPA and voting rights too. I think the safe assumption is that it is happening everywhere.

He can’t be wounded ’cause he’s got no heart

I have a question about the Bobo column that Tom eviscerated: what’s the purpose of saying there’s nothing there this early in the investigation? There’s no way to guess what exactly Mueller will turn up. All I can think is that Bobo is helping to lay down justification for eventually firing Mueller.

I also wonder what made Bobo decide he had to start carrying water for Trump. The vast majority of mainstream conservative pundits aren’t — Douthat isn’t, Stephens isn’t, no one at WaPo is except Thiessen. My guess is that Bobo wants to be careful to protect the conservative part of his “reasonable conservative” brand. Without it, he’s just an ostensibly straight version of Frank Bruni, wanking about college admissions and what extracurricular activities build character. That’s not going to pay his alimony. With it, he’s “hey there’s a conservative who supports funding for after school music programs”, to put it in totebaggerese.

To benefit from the lowered standards applied to conservative opinion writers, you have to maintain some amount of conservative cred. That means that if Trump wants to drop nuclear bombs, you have to at least support dropping conventional bombs. Otherwise you’re just another pinko.

We’ll probably see more and more conservative pundits work their way around to being anti-anti-Trump. It pays the bills.

Why wingy can’t read

The last two Republican presidents, Trump and W, are among the worst in American history. I’d say that in terms of qualifications and intellect, they are probably the two worst candidates to be nominated by a major party since World War II. There’s no way a Democrat like Trump or W would ever be nominated, let alone elected.

The Republican health care bill is a joke, and it was designed by the man the media holds up as the leading intellectual light of the Republican party. If the Democrats put a bill that bad, they’d be crucified.

How much of what’s going on with the Republican party is the result of the low standards they’ve been held to for the last 25 years (or longer) by establishment media? I don’t have the most generous view of human nature, and I think that if people can skate by with bullshit and shoddy work, they usually will.

I realize the dynamic is somewhat complicated. Democrats became the party of reality-based policy making, so of course most journalists end up favoring Democratic policies. Then they bend over backwards to be nice to Republicans to prove they don’t have teh bias. And then on top of that you have a conservative media that is totally unhinged that Republicans can run to if they get asked tough questions by regular media, and that makes regular media double down on lowering its standards for Republicans.

Is there anyway this turns around anytime soon? I just don’t see it.

When their eloquence escapes you

For some reason, friends of mine have been talking about Sting online recently, and when I talk about his album The Tepid Heart, they can’t tell that I’m kidding! I guess that’s because if someone told you there was a Sting album called The Tepid Heart and you didn’t google it, you’d just assume it was real. Anyway, that’s caused Sting to be on my mind, and now whenever I read a column by Sting’s fellow baby boomer soft-rocker David Brooks, I can hear Fields of Gold playing in the background.

But I’m not sure “tepid” even does this one justice:

As the impeachment investigation proceeds, it’ll be important for us Trump critics to not set our hair on fire every day, to evaluate the evidence as if it were against a president we ourselves voted for. Would we really throw our own candidate out of office for this?

Jesus, this one is easy: “YES”. Let’s suppose that Lanny Davis continued to take money from the Ivory Coast and Equatorial Guinea without telling anyone while working on Hillary’s campaign. Let’s suppose the Ivory Coast hacked Republicans’ email during the campaign. And then let’s say that Hillary made Lanny Davis her National Security advisor, and that Lanny Davis then had inappropriate phone calls with the Ivory Coast and made a strange foreign policy decision favored by the dictator of Equatorial Guinea. And then let’s suppose that when the FBI investigation of Davis was heating up, Hillary asked Comey to end the investigation, then fired him when he wouldn’t.

Would anyone (other than possibly Peter Daou) be saying Hillary shouldn’t be impeached and removed? I don’t think so.

In fact, I can’t possibly think of a worst example of trying to see things from the “other side’s” point of view. In fact, I think the main difference here is that many liberals, myself included, are ambivalent about impeaching Trump right now (for political reasons), whereas we would not be ambivalent at all about impeaching Hillary under the hypothetical scenario I described above.

Leaves you answered with a question mark

Charlie Sykes become the latest pundit to embrace cleek’s law:

If liberals hate something, the argument goes, then it must be wonderful and worthy of aggressive defense. Each controversy reinforces the divisions and the distrust, and Mr. Trump counts on that.

What may have begun as a policy or a tactic in opposition has long since become a reflex. But there is an obvious price to be paid for essentially becoming a party devoted to trolling. In the long run, it’s hard to see how a party dedicated to liberal tears can remain a movement based on ideas or centered on principles.

It stopped being a movement based on ideas or centered on principles a long time of course, but calling conservatism an irrational anti-liberal reflex is good description.

The Common Inheritance, The Common Defense

A bit of self promotion here, but I’ve got a piece in today’s Boston Globe that might be of interest to some here.

It’s a look at what the idea of the commons — not just the abstract, model commons of Garrett Hardin’s famous essay, but the historical commons as actually lived and used — can tell us about current problems.  The TL:DR is that commons are not inherently prone to tragedy, but that the preservation of communal goods requires…wait for it…communal action: regulation, self-regulation.

This is, of course, exactly what the Republican Party denies — more, loathes and condemns.  With Trump, they’re getting their way, but its vital to remember that the consequences that will flow from these decisions are not down to him, or simply so: the entire Republican power structure is eager to do this, and when we pay the price, we must remember who ran up the bill.

Anyway, here’s a taste from my piece.  Head on over to the Globe’s site if you want more.

The idea of the commons is deeply woven through the history of the English countryside. Shakespeare captured this idyllic approach to nature’s wealth in “As You Like It,” when the shepherd Corin explains to the cynic Touchstone the joys of his life. “I earn that I eat, get that I wear,” he says, adding that “the greatest of my pride is to see my ewes graze and my lambs suck” — in the unowned, readily shared Forest of Arden.

There can be trouble in such an Eden, as Hardin pointed out in an influential 1968 paper. Hardin asked what would happen if access to a commons were truly unfettered — if Corin and every other villager ran as many sheep as they could there. In such cases, Hardin argued, the endgame is obvious: Too many animals would eat too much fodder, leaving the ground bare, unable to support any livestock at all.

The evolution of resistance to antibiotics fits that story perfectly. The first modern bacteria-killing drug, penicillin, came into widespread use in 1944, as American laboratories raced to produce millions of doses in time for D-Day. The next year, its discoverer, Alexander Fleming, used his Nobel Prize lecture to describe precisely how this wonder drug could lose its power, telling the sad tale of a man who came down with a strep infection. In his tale, Mr. X didn’t finish his course of penicillin, and his surviving microbes, now “educated” (Fleming’s term), infected his wife. When her course of penicillin failed to eradicate these now-resistant microbes, Mrs. X died — killed, Fleming said, by her husband’s carelessness. It took just one more year for this fable to turn into fact: In 1946, four American soldiers came down with drug-resistant gonorrhea, the first such resistance on record.


Go on — check it out.  You want to hear about the great Charnwood Forest rabbit riot.  You know you do…

Image: Jacopo da Ponte, Sheep and Lambc. 1650.