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Thursday, February 28, 2019


Now that I have recovered from binge-watching the Cohen hearings, I thought I would make a few comments.

First, it was a spectacular disaster for the Republicans, as countless commentators have noted.  The only Republican member of the Committee who uttered a word in defense of Trump was North Carolina’s very own Mark Meadows, who brought in a Black woman who works for the White House as evidence that Trump is not a racist.  I mean, really?  Rashida Tlaib took Meadows on about that and made a real rookie error that demonstrated that she is not ready for prime time.  As she should have known, it is a long established custom and rule of the House that Members cannot make attacks on other members.  There are all manner of elaborate rhetorical tropes that Members use to get around this rule, but she violated it by calling Meadows a racist.  This allowed Meadows to protest, and the Chair, the splendid Elijah Cummings, was compelled to side with Meadows and soothe the troubled waters.  I must confess I was not impressed with Tlaib.  Ocasio-Cortez, on the other hand, used her five minutes splendidly to elicit from Cohen a list of people who should be called to testify to one or another specific bits of Trumperie.  Well done!

As everyone has said, the high point of the entire day was Cohen’s dramatic production of the check, signed in Trump’s distinctive hand in the White House, for one-twelfth of the reimbursement to Cohen for the payoff to Stormy Daniels.  This was magnificent theater, and will be replayed uncounted times for years.

Now, a little complaint.  Among the many bad things Cohen said he did for Trump was to write a series of threatening letters to Trump’s high school, two colleges, and the College Board warning of law suits if they released Trump’s grades.  Now I know this is not at the top of most people’s lists, but I really salivated when Cohen said that and I wish someone would follow up. 

As for Cohen himself, I am an atheist, so I am not required to believe in redemption.  Cohen is a dirtbag, regardless of whether he loves his wife and children, but he is now our dirtbag, and God Bless Him.

All in all, it was a day well spent.


Jerry Fresia said...
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Jerry Fresia said...

"Our dirt bag." Ha, good one.

It is also interesting to note that Meadows was an outspoken birther.

Hey Man said...

Tlaib was of course correct, even if it was unwise to point out the truth in that direct fashion.

Cohen's "shame on you, Mr. Jordan" was rather enjoyable.

s. wallerstein said...

Why shouldn't atheists believe in redemption?

I'm an atheist and I do.

Robert Paul Wolff said...

No,no, Hey Man, of course she was correct, but by violating the rule in pointing it out she conceded the high ground to Meadows and stepped on her own message.

Chris said...

However, despite the lead up by many in the press and blogs, Cohen presented no evidence towards Russian collusion. In fact he actually provided the opposite demonstrating the steele dossier was contrived:

What did we learn from this hearing? Honestly, nothing new. Trump is a racist, a bigot, a jerk, a thief, etc. Non Trump supporters already know that. Trump supporters don't care. Getting off on Trump's extra marital scandals is about as appealing to me as getting off on Clinton and Lewinsky (i.e., not appealing). Moreover, it was never part of Mueller's M.O.

As you properly worded it, this was just theater. Sigh.

Chris said...

Wallerstein, I'm with you regarding redemption. (Albeit not ready to assign it to Cohen)

howard b said...

Dear Chris,

Politics is theater, especially these days, especially with Trump.
Think in terms of professional wrestling, he just got his reputation dragged in the mud, even though he is a low sort of person, people look up to him, this humiliation is not something that he can lie his way out of easily or use his so called charisma to blunt. If someone had humiliated him earlier, say in the election or primaries, we wouldn't be in this mess. There weren't any opponents who had the presence of mind or cleverness or acting skills to one up him. Charisma and politics are things that are acted out on stage, and Trump's humiliation was played out on the grand stage for all the world to see. This will damage his image, the sense of his magical powers, and he might not be clever enough to to damage control.
This might be the beginning of the end for this Trump fellow

Chris said...

*Politics is ->presently<- theater

To equate the machinations of the state with wrestling, which I agree is apropos, does not in anyway bring satisfaction to me, only horror. Hopefully, a la Wallerstein, we find a way out of this mess, in a future society, that offers us redemption, but will never amend such an obvious injustice.

I cannot bring myself to smile, applaud, laud, praise, or appreciate the historical direction we are taking, and it's troubling that so many people genuinely derive schadenfreude from Cohen's testimony. Again, a testimony that was once predicated on Russian interference in our elections, and has now reduced itself to cutting checks to porn stars. Does anyone care? Sigh.

Chris said...

(I'm reminded of Neil Postman's book, appropriately titled AMUSING OURSELVES TO DEATH. He also predicted a television personality would inevitably be our president)

howard b said...

Dear Chris

What is your vision of the future and what will you do about it? I think defeating Trump is order number one, and though we have to appeal to good people and their decency I think to a certain extent, we have to play by his rules and hit him where he's weak. I don't put the Cohen hearings in the same low territory that Trump occupies. I think it was just hitting him hard, and though I'll take more pleasure at the democrats winning the white house, this is a political war and our foe went nuclear long ago. A goal of peace is not the same as pacifism and pacifism, generally, does not win wars.
I think you're over applying social theory by the way. Social theory does not always win elections, either

s. wallerstein said...


I didn't say that Cohen (maybe a distinct relative of mine given my mother's maiden name) has redeemed himself. He may have taken the first step towards redemption. The second step might be to do something positive and decent for humanity since his testifying against Trump could be chalked up to vengeance or spite against his former boss.

Anonymous said...

On Chris's statement about the dossier being contrived, Mr. Steele has stated many times that some of the material was included in the dossier on his presumption of veracity of a number of his otherwise well-known trusted contacts, and that some elements had not been personally verified by him, but because they none-the-less fit the overall narrative, were included.

If one has a single rock in a bag of 100 marbles, it is specious to claim one is therefor not holding a bag of marbles.

The Daily Caller is replete with instances of using the rock in a bag of marbles logic to "prove" a point.

Sam Buckland said...
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LFC said...

OT: via Leiter, crediting S Wallerstein, I see that the UN Rapporteur for Human Rights says there is no humanitarian crisis in Venezuela. As a purported factual description of the sit this strikes me as absurd. A crisis is a crisis even if caused by various political, deliberate or semi-deliberate acts by multiple actors.

s. wallerstein said...


I believe that the UN has a specific technical definition of humanitarian crisis and that Venezuela does not fit that definition. In the interview the rapporteur speaks of Yemen where there is a humanitarian crisis and emphasizes that Venezuela is not in that league.
I would imagine that the UN rapporteur would not use that term loosely.

In general, from what I can see, the UN has tried to maintain a "cool and neutral eye" regarding Venezuela. Ex-Chilean president Michelle Bachelet is now UN human rights commissioner and while she has criticized the Maduro government for excessive police repression of the opposition, she and the UN in general do not recognize Guaido as president and still consider Maduro to be the legitimate Venezuelan president.

LFC said...

That's all well and good, but Leiter, even if pressed for time, shd have pointed out that a v technical definition is at issue here. As it is his brief post looks a bit weird, at least to me. And he compounds matters by not allowing comments on most of his posts. Well, whatever...

s. wallerstein said...

In my experience Leiter answers emails. Write him.

Danny said...

There is other stuff on the plate here, but I was distracted by this:

'I am an atheist, so I am not required to believe in redemption..'

The formula that occurs to me here is that if you're not engaged in evangelism and missions, then you don't really believe in etc. But of course you are. On the other hand, I think maybe you might not know what it is to be broken and in need of redemption. That would be a 'I write about faith because I almost lost mine' kind of deal. Let me see -- I am an atheist, therefore what? Therefore, you might suppose that we are very fortunate to have a loving and merciful God, but I am an atheist, and I think we are not so very fortunate. This is just offered as hypothetical deductive reasoning, though on the other hand, I really am an atheist. I guess that as an atheist, I can play Skyrim, and not ask myself whether someone can be truly redeemable, like, maybe people are not set in stone, we change all the time, maybe like Red from the Shawshank Redemption. The old Red knows just how stupid his younger self was. Yes; I absolutely believe in true redemption. But I'm just trying the statement on for size -- I'm not sure if I believe it redemption, when I hear someone say oh this prisoner truly feels bad for what they did they should give them a break now. Anyways, this week's dirtbag highlight is .. well, not 'our' dirbag, maybe 'your' dirtbag, though I'd muse about the Republican efforts to own him. That's a pun. Puns are pathetic.. and also other things..are pathetic..

talha said...

Chris said:

"However, despite the lead up by many in the press and blogs, Cohen presented no evidence towards Russian collusion. In fact he actually provided the opposite demonstrating the steele dossier was contrived:

What did we learn from this hearing? Honestly, nothing new. Trump is a racist, a bigot, a jerk, a thief, etc. Non Trump supporters already know that. Trump supporters don't care."

Truer words have never been spoken.

Alas, the import of this seems unlikely to be officially registered on this blog.

Chris said...

Thank you talha!

Wallerstein, I did not intend to imply that you thought Cohen in particular could be redeemed, but we do agree that as atheists redemption is not impossible in general. Whether or not it's possible at all for Cohen I don't know.

Chris said...

"What is your vision of the future"

Not an authoritarian, I don't write cook books for the future of which I expect all to abide by. But capitalism and rank hedonism aren't a part of a 'good' society.

"and what will you do about it?"

Are you moving in the direction of an ad hominem? I'm not going to tell you about my daily life, that's private. I do 'stuff', that's a sufficient answer for a blog of strangers.

"I think defeating Trump is order number one"

Trump is a symptom, defeating the disease is number one. He did't manifest out of a political, cultural, and economic vacuum. I would love it if he wasn't in office, but his not being in office doesn't mean I wouldn't fear a return of a more sophisticated trump if, again, the conditions that gave rise to him weren't improved.

"we have to play by his rules"

Furthers the disease and is a race to the bottom. This sort of mentality never works in the long run. In order to defeat terror we must be terrorist, in order to stop torture we must torture, in order to etc etc etc.

"I think you're over applying social theory by the way. Social theory does not always win elections, either"

Oh good, anti intellectualism. Is that another Trump strategy we can use against him? Winning elections is not the beginning and end of improving society. Honestly it's probably one of the least important factors given that they occur so rarely, and are practically rigged, whereas day to day struggles occur, well, day to day.

Howie said...

Dear Chris.

Trump is a symptom, not a disease- when a patient is wheeled into the emergency room, you treat the symptom, that the patient is dying and not the disease,

Oh, good, anti intellectualism, just citing an author isn't the same thing as making a real argument- what's your argument?

My ad hominem, is that posting on Professor Wolff's blog is a good start, but the point ain't to philosophize, but to change the world

Good point about playing by his rules- I'll qualify that, I wouldn't do just about anything to save America or the world, but I think we have to face up, to the fact that we have to win votes, and there's nothing wrong with making Trump look bad, it's not just about being right, it's about winning arguments, winning debates and winning votes, and I wish to build on 2018. Pragmatism can lead to cynicism, true, but politics is a cruel business

I don't think any of us are authoritarianism, but if you want to win votes I think the independents who bolted from the Republicans need to stay on and I don't think that your strong convictions, just showing up and chanting down with capitalism, down with hedonism, is going to beat Trump.

There's something moralistic about it, as in Shakespeare's Measure for Measure.

Maybe i'm showing my age, Chris, but I'm in favor of New Deal liberalism and a mixed economy. That's just an educated guess. I'm not anti intellectual or anti using our brains, I'm just suspicious of going by theory, except in chess.

I'm sorry if you felt like I was attacking you, I respect this blog and the level of discourse on it

Chris said...

Hey man, I'm strongly backing Sanders now just like I was in 16, and he's a new deal liberal with a mixed economy who is seemingly okay with drone strikes and thinks a class divided economy can be made to function smoothly. Part of that support comes from the fact that he can beat Trump according to basically every poll, and swings the swing voters in the swing states that turned on the democratic party <--- there has to be a better way to write that sentence :)

So this isn't pure principled moralizing. He is not an anti-capitalist candidate, none exist in the dominant parties.

Another benefit of Sanders is he simply has never been and will never be a spectacle by his own actions and will. It is literally inconceivable for instance that he would be given a talk show, take on celebrity, or become part of the culture industry by his own volition (that's not to say people can't impose his image into a spectacle via talk shows and youtube, etc). Which, again, strikes me as in some ways striking one of our diseases, and not a symptom.

So I have my pragmatic attitude too. I just don't find the Cohen hearing to fall into any level of pragmatics. As I said earlier, everyone that's already anti-trump (which I am!) knew everything Cohen revealed (except for those who are repressing the fact that he offers more evidence that russian collusion didn't occur). Everyone that is pro Trump simply doesn't care what Cohen revealed. So it strikes me as eventful only if one is blinkered. I don't mean that as a pejorative, I'm just not swayed that in the long run that testimony matters for defeating Trump, whereas I am fairly confident it's an exacerbation of the celebrifying, hedonistic approach our culture is descending into in which schadenfreude is an end in itself (as Wolff basically admitted in his most recent post!).

s. wallerstein said...

This podcast interview with Corey Robin where he explains Trump's continuity with previous Republican presidents and with some mainstream Democrats as well as the fact that even if he wants to be an authoritarian, Trump simply isn't and can't be one seems relevant here.

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