Quick hits (part IA)

It was a crazy day yesterday, but I wanted to have at least some of these up and ready at the crack of dawn Saturday (just in case super-reader DJC wants to read a few before walking 42km to celebrate his 42nd birthday).

1) Wired article argues that the latest Mueller filings near the worst case (for Trump, that is) scenario:

A year ago, Lawfare’s Benjamin Wittes and Quinta Jurecic outlined seven possible scenarios about Trump and Russia, arranged from most innocent to most guilty. Fifth on that list was “Russian Intelligence Actively Penetrated the Trump Campaign—And Trump Knew or Should Have Known,” escalating from there to #6 “Kompromat,” and topping out at the once unimaginable #7, “The President of the United States is a Russian Agent.”

After the latest disclosures, we’re steadily into Scenario #5, and can easily imagine #6.

2) Really liked this Post piece on the few homes that survived the wildfires in California.  Short version– with more thoughtful design, we can do a lot better.  There was also a great 99% Invisible podcast on this this past summer.

3) NYT asks, “North Carolina Republicans Targeted Voter Fraud. Did They Look at the Wrong Kind?”  Ummm, unequivocally, yes.

It was a triumphant moment for North Carolina Republicans in 2013 when they enacted one of the nation’s most aggressive voter-identification laws.

The measure would combat voter fraud, they argued — though, as federal courts later ruled, it would almost certainly reduce African-American Democratic turnout. At the same time, the law made it easier to obtain mail-in absentee ballots, a form of voting that Republicans used more than Democrats.

But now, with an investigation underway into potential abuse of absentee ballots in a disputed House race, North Carolina’s tangled, partisan history of voting rights and fraud is under a spotlight — and Republicans find themselves on the defensive about whether their reliance on voter identification to combat fraud focused on the wrong source of trouble.

“The history of fraud in North Carolina is mostly in absentee ballots,” said Bill Gilkeson, a former lawyer for the General Assembly who worked on election issues. “That’s where the fraud really happens, and there’s a long history.”

4) A nice appreciation of Nivana’s Nevermind in the New Yorker.  I’d definitely put this among my top 5 favorite albums.

5) Interesting look into the psychology of Michael Cohen and why he is cooperating so much with Mueller.

6) Vanity Fair with what it’s like to be a politically conservative woman at UNC.

7) I hate gender reveal parties.  Shouldn’t take a transgender person to make clear just how wrong they are (though, this transgender columnist does a great job of it).  Mind you, I’m a big fan of finding out the gender before birth, for reasons I’ll happily discuss, but there’s just so much wrong with gender reveals, even when they don’t start wildfires.

8) Enjoyed Franklin Foer on GHWB as “the last WASP president:

The world overflows with affection for the man long known as Poppy—that clubbable, slightly daffy avatar of decency. But the encomiums for George H. W. Bush are coated in thick, water-beading layers of nostalgia. On the surface, obituaries for 41 carry the longing for a time when American politics was ruled by men of “high character” and a sense of “public duty,” the very antithesis of the present partisan era’s coarseness.

What goes unstated, however, is the subtext of that yearning. All the florid remembrances are packed with fondness for a bygone institution known as the Establishment, hardened in the cold of New England boarding schools, acculturated by the late-night rituals of Skull and Bones, sent off to the world with a sense of noblesse oblige. For more than a century, this Establishment resided at the top of the American caste system. Now it is gone, and apparently people wish it weren’t.

9) And Jeet Heer’s balanced take:

There are genuine reasons to praise Bush. Although he could be brutally demagogic when running for office—aside from the racist “Willie Horton” ad released by his allies, Bush’s 1988 campaign relied on the portrayal of Bush as a true American who loved the Pledge of Allegiance, as opposed to the unpatriotic “Greek” Michael Dukakis—Bush was an institutionalist who tried to make government work. That meant reaching across the aisle and working with Democrats in a way that now seems inconceivable, leading to the passage of Americans With Disability Act, the amendment of Clean Air Act, and accepting tax increases to lower the deficit. Bush’s institutionalist instincts also stood him in good stead in foreign policy, where he dealt with world-changing events like the end of the Cold War and Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait by deftly deploying alliances and international organizations like NATO and the United Nations…

Still, to remember Bush only for his successes ignores the grievous faults of that Establishment—particularly its cruelty towards socially marginal groups. Foer, along with David Greenberg writing in Politico, does well to remind readers how Bush opportunistically opposed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 in his failed bid to win a congressional seat in Texas. As a member of the Reagan administration, he opposed sanctioning Apartheid South Africa. The Willie Horton ad is rightly seen as a precursor to Donald Trump’s race-baiting politics.

A cynical willingness to deploy racism isn’t the only point of overlap between Bush and Trump. Bush stuck with a flawed Supreme Court candidate—Clarence Thomaseven after credible allegations emerged that he was guilty of sexual harassment. And Bush’s cynicism about human rights (notably his mild response to 1989’s Tiananmen Square massacre in China) calls to mind Trump’s equal indifference to the issue.

10) I have always found not the Civil War itself, but the years leading up to it and the ideological clashes involved to be the most fascinating part of American history.   Gordon Wood with a great essay on these clashes based on two new books about the pre Civil War era.  Short version: it’s complicated.  Long version: read it.

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