Quote of the Day

“Saint Petersburg in revolt gave us Vladimir Nabobov, Isaiah Berlin, and Ayn Rand. The first was a novelist, the second a philosopher. The third was neither but thought she was both.”

Corey Robin, The Reactionary Mind.

Negative equilibrium

From The Economist:

The two major parties are incompetent as well as divided. Their leaders, a charisma-free robot and a superannuated Marxist, are two of the most unimpressive in recent history. The cabinet and shadow cabinet are stuffed with hangers-on. Chris Grayling made a thorough hash of things as justice secretary, only to be put in charge of transport, where he has made an even bigger mess. Leslie Rowse, a historian of Elizabethan England, argued that the basic rule of academic life was that second-raters would always appoint third-raters over first-raters. Rowse’s rule now applies to politics on both sides of the parliamentary aisle.

The result is a negative equilibrium. The government can get away with being useless because it faces a useless opposition, and vice versa. The political system is designed to hold regular tests of strength, as government ministers explain their policies to Parliament. But these tests of strength have turned into tests of weakness, as incompetent opposition spokesmen fail to hold incompetent ministers to account. It is notable that the only serious blow against a minister in recent months was struck by a backbencher, Yvette Cooper, who dispatched Amber Rudd, then home secretary, during a committee meeting.


Michael Tomasky, writing in the New York Review of Books:

Arguably every single tweet the president writes about the investigation, attacking Mueller’s “13 Angry Democrats” and denouncing it as an invariably upper-cased Witch Hunt, is an attempt to obstruct justice; if you don’t think so, get yourself placed under federal investigation and try mimicking Trump’s Twitter habits and see what happens to you.

All of this doesn’t begin to detail what Mueller and his team have learned from interviews about what took place in private. It’s a reasonable bet, then, that Mueller will find that Trump and others around him—former press aide Hope Hicks, possibly his son Donald Jr., maybe Jared Kushner, other campaign associates and hangers-on—have lied or tried to quash or in some way compromise the investigation.

If that happens, what comes next? Three days before Trump’s inauguration, the neoconservative Bush administration official Eliot A. Cohen wrote that “this will be a slogging match until the end.” He felt confident, however, that “the institutions will contain him and the laws will restrain him if enough people care about both, and do not yield to fear of him and whatever leverage he tries to exert from his mighty office.”

Of those forty-five words of Cohen’s, the most important is “if.”

Spot on. And, given the current crop of Republicans in both the House and the Senate, I think we know the answer.

Quitting Twitter

Ian Betteridge has had enough:

Why should I make an investment both in time and emotion in a service that actually cares so little about its users — and, in fact, about the health of the society it now influences? The excuse that Twitter holds up a mirror to wider society is hogwash: it has consistently and with an outstanding level of ill-judgement given a platform to and cultivated people with utterly reprehensible views.

If you’re an out and out vile individual, like Alex Jones, Twitter gives you a free pass. If you’re a conspiracy theorist who wants to get traction for your lies, Twitter is your friend. If you’re a racist, Twitter will defend your “free speech rights”.

But if you’re a woman getting vile, violent and consistent abuse, Twitter will do precisely nothing to stop it.

Without Twitter, the insanity that is QAnon couldn’t have gained the traction it has. Confined to 4chan, it would have been yet another crackpot piece of tomfoolery. Amplified unchallenged by Twitter, it becomes a series of signs held up at Trump’s rallies, and a truck parked across a highway. It won’t be too long before it becomes a death.

Yep. Sometimes, in recent times, I’ve been wondering which of the networks is the most anti-social. Twitter is now probably the worst. The fact that it’s smaller than Facebook provides some consolation, but not much.