narrative

Rather Quite Obvious (Priorities)

#PutiTrump | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson arrives in Mexico City on 22 February 2017. The visit is the second foreign trip of Tillerson’s tenure at the State Department. (Carlos Jasso/Reuters)

The lede from Reuters:

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson plans to skip an April 5-6 meeting of NATO foreign ministers for a U.S. visit by the Chinese president and will travel to Russia later in the month, U.S. officials said on Monday, a step allies may see as putting Moscow’s concerns ahead of theirs.

And a bit of the detail:

State Department spokesman Mark Toner had no immediate comment on whether Tillerson would skip the NATO meeting or visit Russia. Two U.S. officials said Tillerson planned to visit Moscow on April 12.

“It feeds this narrative that somehow the Trump administration is playing footsy with Russia,” said one former U.S. official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

“You don’t want to do your early business with the world’s great autocrats. You want to start with the great democracies, and NATO is the security instrument of the transatlantic group of great democracies,” he added.

(more…)

Advertisements

The Rohingya Arson Berserker Story

This is going on in the world:

Public Radio InternationalIf Myanmar’s notorious army is to be believed―that’s a very big if―its soldiers are facing a highly deranged adversary.

Along Myanmar’s marshy coastline, villages keep going up in flames. All of them belong to the Rohingya, a horribly persecuted Muslim group. The arsonists? Muslims themselves, according to the army.

The Rohingya, we are told, are burning their own homes to attract well-armed government platoons―and then sprinting at them with knives, berserker style, so that they can get mowed down by the dozens.

Patrick Winn offers the obvious analysis, “This narrative defies logic”. The headline is even more direct: “This Muslim purge in Myanmar is so awful you can see it from space”.

____________________

Winn, Patrick. “This Muslim purge in Myanmar is so awful you can see it from space”. Public Radio International. 15 November 2016.

Clinton|Trump|Deux

So after a couple days like that, Donald Trump turns up zombified and sniffing.

There is no point to the observation, yet, as we have yet to see if he brought anything other than concussed spite. But the first bit has been, shall we say, strange.

(more…)

A Note on Narrative (Gregariously Pensive)

Democratic vice presidential nominee, Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia, speaks at a rally for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton at Florida International University in Miami, Saturday, 23 July 2016. (Photo: Mary Altaffer/AP Photo)

Setting aside the extraordinarily stupid headline … okay, look, Trip Gabriel explains::

The meeting of Mr. Pence, a Republican, and Mr. Kaine, a Democrat, two pensive and little-known nominees, might be the least anticipated vice-presidential debate in 40 years.

Indiana Governor Mike Pence speaking at the 2015 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland on February 27, 2015.  (Photo: Gate Skidmore)Pensive? I’m sorry, but, really?

When Sen. Kaine was named the Democratic running mate, “gregarious” is a word that went around quite a bit. And while the two words are not specifically listed as antonymous, the one includes synonyms like affable, convivial, and outgoing, while the other matches up with absorbed, wistful, and withdrawn.

How about a show of hands among the press: How many of you just say or write whatever because the word sounds sexy or artistic or, you know, like, whatever?

This is a fun challenge for the day: Craft a narrative sentence properly describing someone as “gregariously pensive”.

____________________

Image notes Top ― Democratic vice presidential nominee, Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia, speaks at a rally for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton at Florida International University in Miami, Saturday, 23 July 2016. (Photo: Mary Altaffer/AP Photo) Right ― Indiana Governor Mike Pence speaking at the 2015 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland on February 27, 2015. (Photo: Gate Skidmore)

Gabriel, Trip. “After Trump-Clinton, Vice-Presidential Debate Isn’t Exactly ‘the Return of Elvis'”. The New York Times. 1 October 2016.

The Ben Carson Show (Reality Curve)

Dr. Ben Carson spoke at the Conservative Political Action Conference, 8 March 2014, in National Harbor, Maryland.  (Photo: Susan Walsh/Associated Press)

This is why it matters:

During the aftermath of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination, for example, Carson―then, a junior at Detroit’s Southwestern High―claims to have heroically protected a few white students from anger-fueled attacks by hiding them in the biology lab, where he worked part time. But The Wall Street Journal could not confirm the account through interviews with a half-dozen of Carson’s classmates and his high school physics teacher. All of the students remembered the riot, but none could recall white students hiding in the biology lab.

It’s one of several biographical claims upon which Carson has relied in an effort to appeal to evangelical voters, who value the retired neurosurgeon’s personal journey from troubled youth to pious doctor. As Carson has shot to the front of the Republican presidential pack, however, parts of that narrative have been called into question.

(Margolin; boldface accent added)

It just seems that in this time of religious identification and public displays of piety in order to be seen by others, the degree to which false witness has helped Dr. Carson’s fame becomes significant. Launching his campaign, Ben Carson would have had us believe that he is “not a politician”. Watching his campaign try to fashion a response to the cracking and crumbling of the superficial Ben Carson myth, one might be tempted to suspect otherwise.

(more…)

A Bug With Nipples

Detail of 'Bug Martini' by Adam Huber, 20 May 2015.This is the quandary: We could accept the narrative explanation. But it is much more fun if we don’t.

All the usual disclaimers go here, including the bit about how it all goes downhill from there.

Actually, I think doomed from the outset is the better phrase.

What? It’s a Bug with nipples. And nipple rings. Where can you possibly go from there, save straight into the chasm?

Sisyphus, stay!

____________________

Huber, Adam. “Ring Around the Dopey”. Bug Martini. 20 May 2015.

A Bushwhacking

Detail: Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush speaks at the Economic Club of Detroit meeting in Detroit Wednesday, Feb. 4, 2015. The Detroit event is the first in a series of stops that Bush's team is calling his "Right to Rise" tour. That's also the name of the political action committee he formed in December 2014 to allow him to explore a presidential run. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

“It’s almost enough to make you feel sorry for Jeb. All he did was participate in a time-honored tradition among political elites – giving each other awards as a celebration of shared power and influence. It probably didn’t even occur to him that by putting a medal around Hillary Clinton’s neck he was implicating himself in the most significant and far-reaching political scandal of our age.”

Simon Maloy

One might be tempted to wonder what chance Jeb Bush has if the hard right not only isn’t behind him but, actually, stands in specific opposition. And, certes, we have the example of Mitt Romney to consider. But then arises the question of just how far a hardline conservative candidate can make it in the general election; while a Clinton-Bush showdown is often spoken of as a tiresome prospect, who here really thinks enough people in enough states will be able to rationalize, even to themselves, the idea of being an “independent” or “centrist”, and give their vote to a Rubio or Paul? True, most people who call themselves “independent” are actually Republicans afraid to admit their real party identification, but the way in which they push back against that argument is to reject the hardliners.

As Simon Maloy explains:

The explanation ForAmerica offers for why this video disqualifies Jeb is that Hillary will use it to defang any attacks he might direct at her record as secretary of state. “Jeb has absolutely no credibility to criticize her because he has already anointed her as a great public servant.” Eh, perhaps? If you go and watch Hillary’s full remarks, she celebrates Jeb and the whole Bush family for sharing her love of America and the wisdom of the Founding Fathers. Treating praise for the enemy as an unforgiveable political sin is problematic since part of being a politician is showing magnanimity by mechanically lauding your opponents’ patriotism and shared love of public service.

But this is Benghazi we’re talking about, and there’s nothing more important in the minds of conservative activists when it comes to Hillary Clinton and 2016. Jeb hasn’t really said a whole lot about Benghazi (at least not compared to some of his 2016 rivals) but when he has remarked on it, he’s said what conservatives want to hear – that it showed weakness, emboldened enemies, etc. If there’s danger for Jeb, it’s that he’ll come off as a squish compared to other would-be candidates like Ted Cruz or Rand Paul, who declares every few months or so that Benghazi disqualifies Hillary from ever holding public office again.

The reality television market sector has nothing to compare to the 2012 GOP presidential primary, and the upcoming electoral season―the Ames Straw Poll is all of six months away―would appear to be promisimg an even bigger spectacle. GOP 2016 is going to be a show of shows, and Americans who plan to travel abroad between then and the presidential election should probably spend some time rehearsing their sheepish shrugs and noncommittal answers for when our international neighbors ask them just what the hell is going on in the U.S.

Such as it is, one fun exercise in smacking our heads against desks will come in trying to comprehend how the Republican clown car steers its way back toward the political center; leading prognostications suggest the press will help by moving the center in relation to wherever the GOP troupe crashes.

(more…)

Something Useless

Sometimes it happens that something strange and seemingly inconsequential occurs, and for some reason you can’t let it go. To wit, Steve Benen of msnbc, earlier today:

It’s generally been assumed that the Republican presidential field in 2016 wouldn’t just be competitive – it’d be enormous. The Huffington Post’s Pollster chart ranking the GOP presidential hopefuls by poll support shows literally 15 candidates.

Now, the truth is that Benen goes on to discuss what is wrong with that thesis, but I also think some of the problem is his own setup insofar as he seems to be simply reminding people of the obvious:

Looking ahead, it’s easy to imagine a Republican presidential field that includes (in alphabetical order) Jeb Bush, Ben Carson, Chris Christie, Ted Cruz, Carly Fiorina, Lindsey Graham, Mike Huckabee, Bobby Jindal, John Kasich, George Pataki, Rand Paul, Mike Pence, Rick Perry, Mitt Romney, Marco Rubio, Rick Santorum, and Scott Walker. That’s 17 people. It’s also easy to imagine a handful of fringe figures – John Bolton? Herman Cain? – dipping their toes in the water, too.

msnbcBut I’d bet good money that some of these folks will do exactly what Paul Ryan did: think about running, have some serious conversations with their families and aides, enjoy some of the media attention that comes with being a possible candidate, and then stand down.

Every once in a while, I pause to wonder if Benen one-drafts his blog posts the way we often do in our insignificant corner of the world. And, yes, those occasions often arise because of something like this; one would expect him to tack the punch line onto that first paragraph like a proper thesis, or even in the guise of mere foreshadowing.

(more…)

Something About Happiness Having Nothing to Do with a Warm Gun

Detail of cover art for Golden Earring's 'Cut' Lp.

A brief note on narrative, and how details can change the context.

Alexis Krell of The News Tribune posted this lede today:

A man was shot Tuesday in Federal Way while trying sell a phone, police said.

On the surface, it sounds like a routine, run-of-the-mill, idiots-all-around neighborhood crime. According to police spokesperson Cathy Schrock, the buyers stole the phone, the seller chased them down, and in the resulting struggle someone shot the seller.

And some might pause here to wonder why one would chase multiple criminals; it didn’t work for a boxing champ, and Federal Way is a town with few boxing champs.

Maybe if one was, say, a Triwizard Champion, or some such.

It turns out there is a reason, though, one might wonder why one would chase multiple criminals, getting shot in the process, for a phone. After all, few secondhand phones transfered in street deals are worth much money.

But guns are; hence the update as more accurate facts came in:

Police said it appears the man was selling a gun, not a phone, and that he was shot with the gun he was selling, Schrock said. The victim is about 21 years old.

The victimized gun trader will live. At least there is that.

____________________

Krell, Alexis. “Police: Man shot with gun while trying to sell it in Federal Way”. The News Tribune. 18 November 2014.

The Future, Revealed?

Jobs, jobs, jobs ... j'abortion!

We might for a moment pause to recall 2010. Republicans achieved a majority in the U.S. House of Representatives, but the real story was in the state houses, where the GOP made astounding gains by hammering away at the economic instability their Congressional partners worked so hard to create.

And then they tacked away from jobs. As Rachel Maddow memorably put it, “Jobs, jobs jobs … j’abortion”. State-level Republicans passed record numbers of anti-abortion bills, knowing that most of them were unconstitutional. And it is certainly an old conservative scheme, to tilt windmills, lose, and then bawl that the sky is falling because the Constitution is Sauron and Democrats and liberals the armies of Mordor.

With many predicting a Republican blowout in the 2014 midterms, some are looking ahead to figure out just what that will means in terms of policy and governance. And some of those are Republicans.

Yet there is a week left; perhaps this isn’t the best time to be telegraphing the Hell they intend to call down upon the Earth.

Or, as Lauren French and Anna Palmer of Politico explain:

Conservatives in Congress are drawing up their wish list for a Republican Senate, including “pure” bills, like a full repeal of Obamacare, border security and approval of the Keystone XL pipeline — unlikely to win over many Democrats and sure to torment GOP leaders looking to prove they can govern.

Interviews with more than a dozen conservative lawmakers and senior aides found a consensus among the right wing of the Republican Party: If Republicans take the Senate, they want to push an agenda they believe was hamstrung by the Democratic-controlled chamber, even if their bills end up getting vetoed by President Barack Obama.

Their vision could create problems for congressional leaders who want to show they aren’t just the party of “hell no.” And while conservatives say they agree with that goal, their early priorities will test how well John Boehner and Mitch McConnell can keep the party united.

Two points: Swing voters can’t say they weren’t warned. And conservative voters complaining about gridlock should admit that’s what they’re after.

(more…)