‘Weiner’ offers nothing new about disgraced congressman

As the representative for the Ninth Congressional District, Anthony Weiner was the quintessential new century Democrat. An advocate for expanding Medicare and a protector of abortion rights, Weiner also voted for the Iraq war resolution and to bar the Palestinian delegation from the UN. But his effrontery distinguished him from the pack. During the nadir of the Democrats as a moral force, Weiner wasn’t afraid to insult GOP colleagues, often in monologues distinguished by their vituperative eloquence. The gaunt Weiner couldn’t “do” ingratiation, for sweetness; he had the teeth of a guard dog growling on a front porch. Audiences beyond Brooklyn saw more of Weiner after the Democrats took control of the House in 2007 and especially during the 2009 health care debates. Marrying Hillary Clinton’s top aide Huma Abedin the same year (Bill Clinton officiated) solidified the Weiners as party elites.

Then Weiner started living up to his birth name. In 2011 Weiner sexted pictures of himself to a woman on Twitter, triggering a chain reaction of dogged and implausible denials until he admitted the truth at a gruesome press conference where he once again demonstrated he had no talent for contrition. Although he resigned months later, New Yorkers were themselves in a contrite mood and for a while entertained the idea of electing him mayor in 2014 – electing Weiner, that is, not Carlos Danger, the unfortunate moniker under which Weiner sent more dirty talk and pics to an Indianan named, are you ready, Sydney Leathers, who had first approached him as a concerned citizen disgusted by the first sexting incident but not by the former congressman’s choice of a name redolent of a departed Interpol bassist.

“This is the worst: doing a documentary on my scandal,” Weiner shares at the beginning of Elyse Steinberg and Josh Kriegman’s eponymous film, which opens in South Florida after wowing’em at Sundance. I spent two paragraphs recounting the congressman’s disgrace to show how Weiner, which was shot as the scandal broke and boasts no talking heads, has nowhere to go once it puts the audience through the familiar paces. If it “raises questions,” to use the twaddle of political talk show guests, it’s in revealing the implicit collusion of legislators and the news-entertainment complex. A transactional arrangement, say: Weiner got more coverage for a mayoral race he knew he was going to lose while Colbert got material for penile puns.

If any figure emerges from Weiner with a crumb of sympathy, it’s Huma Abedin, complicit in the fate of the husband to whom she pledged in public to stand beside. Steinberg and Kriegman’s setups don’t extend the sympathy, though: with her crossed arms, set jaw, and implacable expression, Abedin is every smart woman who’s had to eat crow for the sake of an imbecile (that Abedin’s former boss was in the same quandary is a painful quirk of fate). After the first texting incident, Steinberg and Kriegman show her dutifully calling donors with the enthusiasm of a halfback at a ballet recital. “How was the engagement? Gimme all the details!” she chirps at a possibility (I don’t doubt one of Weiner’s own aides supplied Abedin with the biographical detritus of whoever is on the other end of the phone). When she served Clinton as her indispensable aide, Abedin never had to deal with the public; as the scandal hits it’s clear she and Weiner are in a race to see who is worst at soliciting anything from anybody. In almost as bad a pickle are Weiner campaign employees, one of whom confronts the boss at a heart-to-heart with, “I’m not in a good place,” which no person over the age of sixteen should be expected to bear.

Wearing its conventional cinéma vérité drag, Weiner doesn’t address whether Weiner owed his constituents something for asking his constituents’ forgiveness. When he resigned in 2011, recall, the seat went to a Republican in a special election. Whether Weiner would’ve run for mayor at all had he controlled himself is an obvious point. In a town hall meeting at which he thinks he can persuade voters to pay attention to the inequities of the tax code, a man disabuses Weiner of the idea that the mayoral candidate could expect to act as if nothing had ever happened. And there’s something to Weiner’s assertions, which meshed with his cutting instincts and well-cultivated sense of martyrdom, that the sexting concerned no one but him and his wife – and “my god” as he was wont to add during sententious moments. To accuse voters of caring unduly about a situation he started and to triumph anyway proved too dexterous a contortion feat for Weiner. No doubt he studied the career of Abedin’s former employer’s husband.

Reliant on the un-charm of its anti-hero, Weiner asks viewers to identify with the man’s outrage over the media’s obsession with banalities. An excerpt from Weiner’s interview with MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell ends with the candidate reducing the gasbag into guitar picks, thanks to O’Donnell’s imagining that he holds degrees in psychiatry and psychology (‘What’s wrong with you?” is the first question). Yet Steinberg and Kriegman only followed Weiner and Abedin around in the first place because of the sexting nonsense; they show no interest in public policy. This was the other reason for my mentioning Weiner’s political positions in the first paragraph. Reducing Anthony David Weiner’s profile to serial texter of naughty images might be the job of Wikipedia lead writers, but watching Weiner it’s unclear if that was its makers’ intention.

The LGBTQ-liberal dilemma

I suppose it’s dandy that corporate interests and LGBTQ rights align in 2016, for which I’m grateful, but what it portends for the future of the future of grass roots activism is hard to say. Certainly the number of corporations that have threatened to pull out of North Carolina and Georgia after they passed versions of “religious freedom” laws wouldn’t have done so if they hadn’t sensed that their bottom lines weren’t threatened.

Months ago I wrote a post based on Fredrick deBoer’s reluctance to applaud the trend of using bureaucratic channels to address university grievances:

Defining, roughly, corporatism as a system that exists to protect itself, deBoer calls for an activism that recognizes the danger of the institutions which the activists think need reforming. And his conclusions echo the shrewder critics of the American social compact. Ellen Willis was reminding her leftist readers in the late nineties that every right enjoyed by Americans since the nineteenth century came as a result of radical social movements: labor, the New Left, black and feminist liberation movements, gay pride. The role of the state since the heyday of the New Deal, Willis writes, was “to manage potentially destabilizing social conflict by offering carefully limited concessions to the troublemakers.” Hence the Nixon administration’s use of affirmative action to encourage social mobility instead of fixing the endemic racism. Which is not to dismiss the achievements wrought by this compact between the state and social movements; but Willis and deBoer remind us that investing too much energy in the institutions that once guaranteed these concessions results in skepticism if not hostility when the institutions err.

The last sentence is important because creating skepticism if not hostility towards institutions has been the GOP plan for twenty-five years. I don’t see a way through the dilemma. Embracing federal and state institutions when trust in them is so low that a political party is about to stick a samurai sword in its gut is its own (mild) kind of suicide. And Hillary Clinton doesn’t strike me as the establishment figure around whom liberals can rally to preserve these tenets; the Clinton have done their bit to undermine those tenets too, recall.

But a report by Victory Fund shows a correlation between anti-queer legislation and the number of queer state legislators:

“Nearly all of the states facing anti-transgender bills have only 1 or no openly LGBT people serving in their state legislatures,” the report notes.

“One of the reasons the LGBT movement has seen such rapid progress is because our allies have really stepped up. But allies aren’t enough. When LGBT people are serving in public office, and especially in state legislatures, they directly change the conversation,” Aisha Moodie-Mills, president and CEO of Victory Fund and Institute. told me. “Their visibility and their relationships with their colleagues mean the discussion quickly becomes about a real person with a real family. It’s not just political grandstanding on one side and allies pleading their case on the other. Representation matters. Our voices make a huge difference when we’re in those rooms.”

The first “but” is crucial. Representation is a crucial first step.

‘Naïve cynicism remains obdurate in the face of varied events’

You’ll search my published writing in vain for “cynical” and its noun form. I dislike them. The rare times I’ve used them I’m afraid I’ll get misinterpreted.

A cynic is often confused for a realist. Cynics often confuse themselves with realists. In fact, cynicism is the opposite of realism. The latter, having studied facts, makes a forceful conclusion that draws upon the best of his abilities and knowledge up to that moment; the former, a romantic gone to seed, has drawn conclusions before studying the facts. So afraid of being fooled (again) is the cynic that he will dismiss entreaties to look at information that will foil his predetermined conclusions.

Another definition of cynicism: the flouting of one’s own principles for the sake of short term victory (e.g. Reagan pulling Marines out of Beirut days after implying Tip O’Neill was a coward for making the same suggestion; Mitt Romney denouncing the Affordable Care Act for a federal-level mimicking of his health care plan for Massachusetts).

In an essay explaining how Occupy Wall Street and Black Lives Matter have been defined as failures, Rebecca Solnit explains cynicism in a way that coincides with my definitions:

Cynicism is first of all a style of presenting oneself, and it takes pride more than anything in not being fooled and not being foolish. But in the forms in which I encounter it, cynicism is frequently both these things. That the attitude that prides itself on world-weary experience is often so naïve says much about the triumph of style over substance, attitude over analysis…

…If you set purity and perfection as your goals, you have an almost foolproof system according to which everything will necessarily fall short. But expecting perfection is naïve; failing to perceive value by using an impossible standard of measure is even more so. Cynics are often disappointed idealists and upholders of unrealistic standards. They are uncomfortable with victories, because victories are almost always temporary, incomplete, and compromised — but also because the openness of hope is dangerous, and in war, self-defense comes first. Naïve cynicism is absolutist; its practitioners assume that anything you don’t deplore you wholeheartedly endorse. But denouncing anything less than perfection as morally compromising means pursuing aggrandizement of the self, not engagement with a place or system or community, as the highest priority.

I’ve said disparaging things about OWS myself, based on my brief experience at a Miami gathering. But the way in which the Democratic Party and to a far lesser extent the GOP has absorbed its platform impresses me — and shames me. To say that consequences aren’t immediately apparent is a banality. Barack Obama, in another display of his curiosity and understanding of dialectics, spoke at length about it to the NYT’s Andrew Ross Sorkin:

When you’re talking about inversions,” Obama said, referring to the practice whereby American companies effectively move overseas, “or you’re talking about C.E.O. perks or the gap between what the assembly-line worker is making compared to what the C.E.O. is making, all those things used to be constrained by the fact that you live in the city, you’re going to church in that city, your kids might be going to the same school as the guy who is working on the assembly line because public schools actually were invested in,” Obama said. “And all those constraining factors have been greatly reduced or, in some cases, eliminated entirely. And that contributes to the trends toward inequality. That contributes to, I think, a divergence between how the people who run these companies and economic elites think about their responsibilities and the policies that they promote with political leaders. And that’s had, I think, a damaging effect on the economy overall.”

Rejecting policy ideas for the sake of the lower middle class that also help the plutocrats strikes me as a cynical gesture.

Hillary Clinton has often been wrong and even dangerous. A president Trump or Cruz would be more wrong and even more dangerous. The cynic would counsel the hell with the three of them.

Dennis Hastert’s ‘inability to abide by the law’

Well into 1998, Newton Leroy Gingrich expected Americans to ratify his vision of himself as the United States’ prime minister, the head of an opposition government ready to clear the legislature of the Roundheads who accepted William Jefferson Clinton’s legitimacy as president. Then the midterm elections delivered the most stunning rebuke to a majority party since 1934. But the impeachment farrago took other casualties: Gingrich himself, of course, and wannabe replacement Bob Livingston, who admitted to his own pass behind the cricket pavilion and the bicycle shed. The beneficiary was the odious Tom DeLay, responsible for presenting a hulking nobody named Dennis Hastert to the House GOP caucus as its speaker. For the next six years, Hastert reigned as a benign non-entity, content to let people remind him that he was second in line for the presidency, a phenomenon that acquired an unexpected resonance after the 9-11 attacks.

At the height of impeachment fever, though, Representative Hastert delivered the following speech:

Mr. Speaker, I am saddened that there is clear and convincing evidence that the president lied under oath, obstructed justice and abused the powers of his office in an attempt to cover up his wrongdoing. I regret that the president’s behavior puts me in the position of having to vote in favor of articles of impeachment and pass this matter on to the U.S. Senate for final judgment. In facing this solemn duty, I looked to the wisdom of our founding fathers.

According to Alexander Hamilton in Federalist 65, impeachment concerns offenses with proceed from the misconduct of public men — or in other words, from the abuse or violation of some public trust. The evidence in President Clinton’s case is overwhelming, that he has abused and violated the public trust. In this nation, all men are created equal. Simply put, the president in our representative democracy is not a sovereign who is above the law.

Tomorrow, I shall cast a difficult vote. The president’s inability to abide by the law, the Constitution and my conscience have all led me to the solemn conclusion that impeachment articles must be passed.

Here’s a truth that Hastert’s beloved Hamilton knew and was wise to its consequences: those most obsessed with persecuting sex feel the most self-loathing.

(h/t Digby)

Austerity and public sector jobs

A little discussed consequence of our national obsession with austerity is the depletion of the government work force. When Rick Scott cuts state jobs, he’s trimming fat, but when two thousand people find private sector jobs in Naples he can promote himself as the jobs governor. Good on them! But here’s a startling fact: once unemployed, black women were “the least likely to find private-sector employment and the most likely to make a full exit from the labor force.”

A New York Times Magazine article explains how for millions of black Americans public sector jobs represented the best hope of a middle class job.

The public sector has long been home to the sorts of jobs that lift people into the middle class and keep them there. These are jobs that have predictable hours, stable pay and protection from arbitrary layoffs, particularly for those without college or graduate degrees. They’re also more likely to be unionized; less than 7 percent of private-sector workers are represented by a union, while more than a third of those in the public sector are. In other words, they look like the blue-collar jobs our middle class was built on during the postwar years.

Then Bobby Jindal came. Then Scott Walker. Meanwhile Sam Brownback won’t stop cutting services until he can drive from Topeka to Wichita on the bodies of the poor.

‘Exploit the fear factor’

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Question: from which Richard Nixon speech will you find the following line?

“Do it with very muscular language—there is no market for nuance in the terror debate.”

Give up? I asked a trick question. The origin of this drool is Jim VandeHei, editor of the nation’s premier source for campaign pornography and for learning the lurid imaginings of our farouche ruling elite. I saw VandeHei on Morning Joe today. He has the mien of a tenure aspirant at a university poli sci department: solicitous, sure, but use up his copy card budget and he’ll write passive aggressive emails. “I have spent the past two decades in the Washington, D.C., bubble—the heart of Establishment America—covering politics and building a company, Politico, focused solely on politics,” the first sentence announces, and I haven’t read a more honest admission of myopia in years. VandeHei is the sort of person immune to irony; he would use “bubble” like a boy showing off a new watch. Not for a second would it occur to him, after two decades “focused solely on politics” to find gainful employment elsewhere: as a substitute teacher, Kaplan tutor, or FedEx Office Center manager.

Here’s the gem:

Exploit the fear factor. The candidate should be from the military or immediately announce someone with modern-warfare expertise or experience as running mate. People are scared. Terrorism is today’s World War and Americans want a theory for dealing with it. President Obama has established an intriguing precedent of using drone technology and intelligence to assassinate terrorists before they strike. A third-party candidate could build on death-by-drones by outlying [sic] the type of modern weapons, troops and war powers needed to keep America safe. And make plain when he or she will use said power.

Delicious. Macaulay would nod. After almost eight years of at best maladroit interventions in Libya and Syria, and the targeting with drones of an American citizen without due process, the American electorate demands a candidate who can be tough and alliterative — an impossible trick. I especially like the graciousness he extends to a possible female president with the “he or she” pronoun agreement.

I think “House of Cards” showed this scenario in a ghoulish recent episode. But not even that show’s producers suggested the recruitment of VandeHei’s boy. The world isn’t ready for a President Mark Zuckerberg.

The education reform racket

The story of No Child Left Behind and Arne Duncan’s own “reform” efforts is a depressing nexus of good intentions and neoliberalist experiments in for-profit schools. Diane Ravitch, reform scourge, published a history in the form of reviews of two books examining the phenomena. At the center of the national politics of education reform is Cory Booker, former mayor of Newark and junior senator from New Jersey, to me one of the more untrustworthy rising stars; he would’ve been a model Democratic Leadership Council candidate in 2002. I find his smile sinister and his manner oleaginous. Ravitch:

Booker had been raised in the nearly all-white suburb of Harrington Park, New Jersey, and had graduated from Stanford, Oxford, and Yale. He was a frequent guest on national television shows, and he moved easily among the rich, the powerful, and the famous. Russakoff describes a ride that Booker took with Governor-Elect Christie through Newark one night in December 2009, when they agreed to create a plan for a radical transformation of the Newark public schools. The confidential draft of the plan that Booker sent to Christie proposed turning Newark into “the charter school capital of the nation,” weakening seniority and tenure, recruiting new teachers and principals from outside Newark, and building “sophisticated data and accountability systems.”

In July 2010, Booker attended an invitation-only meeting in Sun Valley, where he mingled with fabulously wealthy hedge fund managers and high-tech entrepreneurs. There he met Mark Zuckerberg. Booker knew that venture philanthropists were looking for a “proof point,” a city where they could demonstrate the success of their business-style school reforms. He persuaded Zuckerberg that Newark was that city. Booker believed that a great education would set every child on the road out of poverty, and he also believed that it would be impossible to do this in the Newark public schools because of their bureaucracy and systems of tenure and seniority. That’s why he wanted to spend money turning the city into an all-charter district, without unions, where like-minded reformers could impose the correct reforms, like judging teachers by test scores, firing teachers at will, and hiring whomever they wanted.

That September, Zuckerberg, Booker, and Christie announced the gift of $100 million on The Oprah Winfrey Show, to tumultuous applause. When Winfrey asked Zuckerberg why Newark, he responded, “I believe in these guys…. We’re setting up a $100 million challenge grant so that Mayor Booker and Governor Christie can have the flexibility they need to…turn Newark into a symbol of educational excellence for the whole nation.”

As readers might expect, I haven’t made my mind up about charter schools. My oldest niece attends one of the county’s best, and she’s reading and writing and doing multiplication tables at a rate that would have astonished five-year-old me. Teachers are held to ruthless standards of excellence. I’m myself a product of private and private Catholic education. But the idea of for-profit education smacks of undermining public confidence in a taxpayer-funded system. So does the testing racket. Intended to ascertain whether children and adolescents are learning at the same rate according to metrics, the tests also brutalize children and rob them, in my experience, of independent thinking (watching college students squirm during tests without multiple choice is grueling, I assure you). Teachers are no less pressured to forgo creativity (and Florida’s recent decision to tie high test grades to test performance has become a racket too). Parents resent “teaching to the test; they wish they could pull their children out of these public schools and stick them in private ones. And I tend to think that’s what Governor Jeb bush wanted all along.

‘Getting on each other’s nerves is our right’

In his review of Sarah Vowell’s Lafayette in the Somewhat United States, Chris Heller asks:

The question that lingers throughout Lafayette is why this democracy has lasted. If America has such an exceptional form of government, what is it that makes it so special? The answer, says Vowell, lies in our freedom to permit and accommodate protest. That’s why she sets a handful of late scenes within Lafayette Park at the White House, a site that’s probably seen more civil disobedience than anywhere else in the country, and is only a couple hundred yards away from the president’s bed. America, she’s saying, has a tremendous tolerance for insurrection.

“In the United States,” Vowell writes, “there was no simpler, more agreeable time.” We Americans, I wrote in my own review of Lafayette, don’t like paying for things we need; even in 1778, “infrastructure” was crumbling. Behold the complaints of Rep. David Nunes of California:

“I used to spend ninety per cent of my constituent response time on people who call, e-mail, or send a letter, such as, ‘I really like this bill, H.R. 123,’ and they really believe in it because they heard about it through one of the groups that they belong to, but their view was based on actual legislation,” Nunes said. “Ten per cent were about ‘Chemtrails from airplanes are poisoning me’ to every other conspiracy theory that’s out there. And that has essentially flipped on its head.” The overwhelming majority of his constituent mail is now about the far-out ideas, and only a small portion is “based on something that is mostly true.” He added, “It’s dramatically changed politics and politicians, and what they’re doing.”

When wackos, flame swallowers, four-headed babies, and Ayn Rand message board denizens start freaking out about the continued existence of Obamacare despite the fact that its namesake sits in the Oval Office with a veto pen uncapped, then even so fervent a conservative like Nunes must realize it’s not a disease from his constituents suffer – it’s imbecility created by the gutting of civics and social studies courses. Oscar Wilde, as usual, was correct: each man kills the things he loves. Men like Nunes stoke the fears of their flat earther constituents during elections but complain when the constituents insist on their guy turning the world into a tortilla.

Happy Thanksgiving — for what it’s worth

My family serves mushroom foie gras to accompany the venison and avoids heated arguments, but I know Syria, Barack Obama’s response, and other Democratic verities have come under scrutiny at other tables. Digby:

The difference between these two phenomena is best illustrated by the massive whining and tantrums that result from any joking around about it. And no, I’m not talking about the college kids. Yes, they might get frustrated and call their parents “haters” and flounce off to their rooms, but they are, after all, still kids. No, the people who are hysterical over this are conservatives who have worked themselves up into a full-blown hysterical meltdown over it.

This year, the Democratic National Committee put together a funny little website called “Your Republican Uncle” in which they use this annual holiday trope as a way to explain some of the issues important to Democrats in a mildly amusing format. Evidently, the right has been unaware up until now that Democrats don’t agree with them, because this clearly hit a very sensitive nerve.

Apparently the right wing is hip to our jive! I prefer to clip Charles Pierce’s response for a moment:

Giving thanks is about recognizing the obligations that we have to each other, as people, as Americans, and as members of the endlessly griping, endlessly wonderful human family. It is about recognizing the obligations that we have to each other as citizens, of this country and of the world. It is about recognizing the obligations we have to each other in what the president called the “hard and frustrating and necessary work of self-government,” which are the obligations, and which is the work, that we usually immerse ourselves in this shebeen on a daily basis.

Jeremy Corbyn, Hobbit destroyer

Although I don’t follow British politics like I should, the tergiversations of the Labour Party since Tony Blair poured gasoline on it interest me. Reading about the English establishment’s reactions to the election of Jeremy Corbyn on Saturday is a cracked mirror reflection of our own politics. A serious legislator with over three decades experience as an MP, Corbyn looks closer to the platonic ideal of the trade unionist for life. This frightens the fogies. Anthony Lane, squirting equivocations like a squid does ink, falls into a swoon:

He will not just lose the next general election, in 2020; he will be flattened. To those who study such arcana, it is an article of faith that you cannot hope to win a general election without securing the hearts, minds, gut feelings, and wallets of Middle England—that nebulous but sacred zone which, with its touch of Tolkien, refers to the millions of citizens who have acquired the hobbit-y habits of moderation, and who, having done O.K., would like to do better still. To them, the nineteen-seventies are not a paradise lost but a wrecking yard where British industry went to die, and where Labour governments got snarled in the machinery of the unions. It was the epoch when the lights went out, when garbage was stacked in the streets, and when the I.R.A. planted bombs in English pubs. And who was it, such folk may now remind each other, who invited Sinn Féin—assumed, at the time, to be the public face of the I.R.A.—to the House of Commons, only weeks after a bomb, intended for Mrs. Thatcher, had exploded at a hotel during the Conservative Party conference and killed five people? Jeremy Corbyn.

Garbage in the streets, hobbits, and the IRA boogeyman for good measure–mass hysteria, I tell you. In the former colonies, we’re hearing similar croakings of doom from unnamed sources coaxing Joe Biden into the race. I suppose I’l believe that the American and British electorates are inching leftwards when I see the 2016 results, but if there’s one thing I know, it’s that the public prefers a self-assured crackpot to a dithering intellect.

‘Careless self-interest and optimism’: Joan Didion

Joan Didion’s work after 1980 remains her best. The essays in Slouching Towards Bethlehem and The White Album boast too perfect a marriage between form and content. Covering the El Mozote massacre, the prestidigitators working in the Reagan administration, the Michael Dukakis campaign, and the Bill Clinton impeachment applied her talent for selective quotation to larger works concerned with the ways in which the political class sells fictions about itself to a public that wants to believe them (the title of her omnibus is We Tell Ourselves Stories In Order to Live). Friends looking for Didion recommendations know I push Miami, After Henry, and Political Fictions all the time.

Tracing how Didion shed her GOP roots in part by airing her disgust with the counterculture, Louis Menand argues that the New Left had little to do with it. In a review of Tracy Daugherty’s The Last Love Song, he writes:

Didion’s transformation as a writer did not involve a conversion to the counterculture or to the New Left. She genuinely loathed the hippies, whom she associated with characters like Charles Manson, and she thought that the Black Panthers and the student radicals were both frightening and ridiculous. She found Jim Morrison kind of ridiculous, too. Polsky, in his study of the Beats, had dismissed the theory, endorsed by some social critics in the nineteen-fifties, that disaffected dropouts are potential recruits for authoritarian political movements. Didion never rejected that theory. She thinks that dropouts are symptoms of a dangerous social pathology.

What changed was her understanding of where dropouts come from, of why people turn into runaways and acidheads and members of the Symbionese Liberation Army, why parents abandon their children on highway dividers, why Harlem teen-agers go rampaging through Central Park at night, why middle-class boys form “posses” and prey sexually on young girls—and, above all, why the press fixates on these stories.

The Californian ethos, in other words – what Didion called “careless self-interest and optimism.” Finally – traits that brought the counterculture and Ronald Reagan together.

Legion of Doom: GOP debate #1, Part 8

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10:32: Asked about #BlackLivesMatter, Scott Walker says #CopsMatter.

10:37: “If Iran was a stock, you guys should go out and buy it!” Also: Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl!

10:39: Ted Cruz reminds people that Iran released the hostages “the day that Ronald Reagan took office” and a few months after Reagan campaign people met with Iranian go-betweens (no, he didn’t say this).

10:40: Carson babbles about Ukraine and nukes. “If we don’t get our military right, nothin’ works” — unintentional admission of GOP authoritarianism.

10:42: Brett Baier looks excited about asking Huck about transgender soldiers.

10:43: Huck: “Lots of B-52s are flying”! They are today!

10:46: These guys falling over themselves trying to push plans to expand military, a rather large federal social program.

10:50: “We shall know them by their fruits,” Cruz says about the Democratic Party.

10:54: Rubio gets a yuk over God’s munificence and the number of candidates onstage.

10:57: “GOD IS WATCHING UUSSSS…FROM A DISTANCE.” Thanks, Bette.

10:59: Ben Carson forgetting he’s not on “Celebrity Matchmaker” talking about brains and Siamese twins.

11:03. Right. Back to Elizabeth Gaskell. Bye!