The Wires

Mrs. McCrabbie: This actually seems crazy to me:

New York Times: "A shiny stainless steel sculpture created by Jeff Koons in 1986, inspired by a child’s inflatable toy, sold at Christie’s on Wednesday night for $91.1 million with fees, breaking the record at auction for a work by a living artist, set just last November by David Hockney. Robert E. Mnuchin, an art dealer and the father of Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, made the winning bid for Mr. Koons’s 1986 'Rabbit' from an aisle seat near the front of the salesroom."

Might as well just get this -- it's vintage! it's "authentic"! -- and give it pride-of-place in the front hall. Sure, visitors will think you're tasteless & nuts, but in such a vintage, authentic way.

UPDATE: (May 19): New York Times: Mnuchin would not reveal the identity of his client; i.e., the purchaser of Stainless Bunny is. During an NYT interview, "He was near tears when asked about his son Steve and refused to comment about their relationship. But friends said that he is in an impossible predicament, conflicted over his sense of duty about being a loyal father and his concern as a citizen that President Trump is bad for America."

David McCullough Is a Crap Historian. Rebecca Onion of Slate reviews his book on the history -- okay, make that "hagiographic platitudes" -- about the settlement of the Northwest Territory. "Its success (it is No. 10 on Amazon’s best-seller list for books, as of Friday) shows how big the gap between critical history and the “popular history” that makes it to best-seller lists, Costco, and Target remains.” Mrs. McC: Onion doesn't mention it, but I get the impression all the "settling" was done by men; apparently the women's tasks were of no account. Somehow I don't think most of the "ladies" sat around drinking tea & doing needlepoint in their pretty parlors.

Guardian: "The Duke and Duchess of Sussex have introduced their newborn son to the world and revealed he is to be called Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor. The name was announced shortly after the Queen met her eighth great-grandchild for the first time at Windsor Castle, where earlier the couple showed him off to the cameras."

Guardian: “The Duchess of Sussex has given birth to a baby son, weighing 7lbs 3oz. Mother and child were both doing well, Buckingham Palace announced. The Duke of Sussex was present for the birth, which happened at 5.26am on Monday. The child is seventh in line to the throne, and an eighth great-grandchild for the 93-year-old Queen.”

Washington Post: "Cheap Chinese caviar is flooding the U.S. market, causing prices to plummet, and with it, the product’s cachet. Wholesale prices have fallen more than 50 percent since 2012, down 13 percent just in the past year. According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, the import price has gone from $850,000 per ton in January 2012 to $350,000 per ton in November 2018." Mrs. McC: This makes me very happy. I love caviar (I've only had the cheaper kind), but I seldom buy it because of the expense. I have some in the pantry now, but I'm going to check the price at the grocery store now in hopes it's something I can enjoy more often. Status symbol? I couldn't care less.

New York Times: "Pulitzer Prizes were awarded on Monday [April 15] to news organizations that uncovered instances of malfeasance and outright fraud in President Trump’s financial past, a nod to journalists’ perseverance in the face of the president’s ever-sharper attacks on a free press. The New York Times received the explanatory reporting prize for an 18-month investigation that revealed how the future president and his relatives avoided paying roughly half a billion dollars’ worth of taxes. The Wall Street Journal won the national reporting prize for disclosing clandestine payoffs by the president’s associates to two women who were said to have had affairs with Mr. Trump in the weeks before the 2016 election. The South Florida Sun Sentinel won the prize for public service, considered the most prestigious of the Pulitzers, for documenting the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. The paper’s in-depth articles revealed a series of failures by local officials and law enforcement that, the paper wrote, cost children their lives."

Medlar's Sports Report. New York Times: "Tiger Woods’s comeback from personal and professional adversity is complete: He captured his fifth Masters title and his 15th major tournament on Sunday, snapping a championship drought of nearly 11 years. It was a monumental triumph for Woods, a magical, come-from-behind win for a player who had not won a major championship since his personal life began to unravel on Thanksgiving night in 2009, when a marital dispute led to a car accident and a succession of lurid tabloid headlines. On the golf course, he had a series of back and leg injuries that led to an addiction to painkillers and culminated in pain so searing that, before surgery in 2017, he had questioned whether he could play professionally again." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Oh yeah? Trump can beat Tiger any day.

Tom Jones of Poynter picks the top 25 movies ever about journalism.

New York Times: "For 340 days, Scott Kelly circled the Earth aboard the International Space Station, gathering data about himself." His twin brother Mark Kelly, planted on Earth, did the same. "On Thursday..., NASA researchers reported that [Scott Kelly's] body experienced a vast number of changes while in orbit. DNA mutated in some of his cells. His immune system produced a host of new signals. His microbiome gained new species of bacteria. Many of these biological changes seemed harmless, disappearing after he returned to Earth. But others — including genetic mutations and, after his return, declines in cognitive test scores — did not correct themselves, provoking concern among scientists."

Farhad Manjoo of the New York Times: now does his first drafts of columns as well as other traditional writing tasks by speaking into his phone. "I open RecUp, a cloud-connected voice-recording app on my phone.... Every few days, I load the recordings into Descript, an app that bills itself as a “word processor for audio.” Some of my voice memos are more than an hour long, but Descript quickly (and cheaply) transcribes the text, truncates the silences and renders my speech editable and searchable.... New advances — like smarter and more ubiquitous voice assistants; better text-to-speech synthesis; easy-to-use audio and video production apps like Descript and Anchor; and gadgets that burrow the internet into your ears, like Apple’s AirPods and Amazon’s reported forthcoming AirPod clones — point to a profound shift in computing. Soon it might be possible to conduct a large slice of digital life, including work, without being glued to a screen."

New York Times: "In a cave in the Philippines, scientists have discovered a new branch of the human family tree. At least 50,000 years ago, an extinct human species lived on what is now the island of Luzon, researchers reported on Wednesday. It’s possible that Homo luzonensis, as they’re calling the species, stood less than three feet tall. The discovery adds growing complexity to the story of human evolution. It was not a simple march forward, as it once seemed. Instead, our lineage assumed an exuberant burst of strange forms along the way.Our species, Homo sapiens, now inhabits a comparatively lonely world. 'The more fossils that people pull out of the ground, the more we realize that the variation that was present in the past far exceeds what we see in us today,' said Matthew Tocheri, a paleoanthropologist at Lakehead University in Canada, who was not involved in the new discovery."


Anatomy of a Eulogy

By Akhilleus

Reading Jon Meacham's eulogy of 41, it struck me that, in a single paragraph, he encapsulated the problem with holding HW up as an avatar of American political greatness and courage.

For Lincoln and Bush both called on us to choose the right over the convenient, to hope rather than to fear, and to heed not our worst impulses, but our best instincts.

Let's set aside the absurd Lincoln comparison. 41 was no more Lincolnesque than so many of the Johnny-come-lately R's who try to burnish their record of racism, greed, and stupidity with some laughably spurious connection to Honest Abe.

Right over the convenient? Nope. When Bush had the opportunity to spill the beans on Iran Contra, an illegal, astoundingly unconstitutional move to sell weapons to our sworn enemies for political gain, he knuckled under and went along to get along. So much for courage.

Hope rather than fear? Forget that thousand points of light scam. The whole idea there was a Reaganesque "government is bad so it's all up to you" broadside. And leave us not forget that Poppy routinely went along with the up and coming troglodytes led by the lying scam artist Newt Gingrich, who preached fear, fear, fear, and hatred of anyone who didn't agree with our side. So much for hope.

As for heeding our best instincts as opposed to worst impulses, Bush went along with the government haters and did his infamously stupid John Wayne "Read My Lips" bullshit in order to stoke the fires of ignorance in hopes of getting re-elected. Also, deciding to invade Iraq so that he wouldn't look wimpy, he opened the door to a Middle East malaise that makes the 1970's problems look positively quaint. So much for best instincts.

Did he do some good things? Sure. Unlike Trump (and most of his son's history), he did a few good things. But to con the public into comparing this guy with Lincoln is the sort of canard that a real historian should be ashamed of. I hearby resolve never to read another bullshit book (or article) by Jon Meacham.


Reader Comments (9)

Thank you, Akhilleus, for your excellent take-down of Meacham’s praises sung (both self-reflected and sycophantic).

Let us also not forget Herbert Walker’s silence regarding AIDS and his belief that LGBT persons were not “normal”. I can attest that none of my gay buddies feel any gratitude at his having “mellowed” (self-attribution) regarding these subjects until long out of office and, perhaps, contemplating his own mortality.

December 5, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterAuntHattie

Several days ago Chris Hayes had on Jennifer Rubin and Charlie Pierce and they were discussing Poppy Bush's legacy. Ole Charlie started in on Bush's Iran/Contra involvement among other things but Rubin wouldn't have it––the two of them started in on each other–-reminded me of two cats in an alley. Chris, not wanting any claw scratching spoiling his space went for a commercial and said bye, bye to J. and C.

I suppose it's bad form to diss the dead, especially in this era where our "Fatty" in charge is charged with so much corruption. Instead of Meachan's encomium of Bush, wouldn't it been grand to have him compared to the guy sitting out front in the first row. But of course that would not have been cricket.

It's clear that Bush was beloved by his family and friends and that he had some wonderful qualities. The fact that he could be ruthless and insensitive in some policy decisions is par for the course even though as many said today–-"He was always for the country not for himself" which almost made me lose my grilled cheese.

I started watching these proceedings a little late––missed Meachan's speech and the next speaker but got into Alan Simpson's very amusing speech. I have always loved listening to Simpson–-seldom agreed with him, ( he'd slaughter you in a nano second) but his folksy way of drawing you in was charming. I turned off the sound during the sermons–-but thought the music was splendid. I thought Bush's speech about his father was done well and at the end the grief spilling over brought tears.

And watching the contrast between Trump's face and Obama's was interesting. Obama was reacting–-you could almost hear him "thinking" while Trump remained sullen with arms folded. He was sitting on the outside of the row––absolutely fitting, I'd say.

December 5, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterPD Pepe

Meachem is the perfect historian to represent a cervical symbolism of our times: a combination of laziness and intellectual chicanery.

Reaching into the history of the GOP today only requires a superficial façade of knowledge of two leaders: Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan. Every one else in the history of the Republican party has been stuck in a box and suffocated somewhere out of sight.

Conservative "intellectuals" have decided that hitching their wagons to these two Presidents gives them their best opportunity to sell their party's "values", regardless of the lack of continuity in policies and practices. Rather than looking at the (oftentimes) harsh light of reality, conservatives cherry pick quotes or ideas and then build their imagined reality upon those shaky foundations.

Meacham thus looks for a way to evoke Lincoln to prove his intellectual "bona fides" of today's stale historians, and grasps on to Lincoln's "better angels" wisdom. From what I've gathered about his speech (full disclosure, I skipped the Bush accolades) it seemed to be a recycled version of the book he's been hawking on teevee for the last few months about how Lincoln's appeal to a better nation inspired generations of civil rights leaders and ordinary Americans who fought for a more inclusive society. The problem is, it seems he geared up his intellectual laziness to recycle his analysis of America as a better nation by parachuting George HW Bush right into the middle of a story that was largely absent of his presence.

As others have noted, Poppy Bush was far from exemplary as a Lincoln-esque figure of promoting our "better angels". His politically-convenient go ahead with the racial fear-mongering Willie Horton ad, fomenting the nation's worst racial impulses, automatically disqualifies him from any "better angels" qualification, rendering any Lincoln comparison obsolete. Meacham should know that, but he's a book to sell.

December 6, 2018 | Unregistered Commentersafari

Last night PBS aired a splendid documentary (American Experience) on Bush 41. It presented a man of high standards, high expectations, and clay feet like most. Someone said that Bush was what Reagan pretended to be. I think that's exactly right.

Something I hadn't known or just forgot was Bush's negation of LBJ's Civil Right's bill (at the time Bush was chairman of the Republican Party–-a position Nixon put him on after Bush had been the UN Ambassador –-to be "used" as a promoter of Nixon's polices or scams). But eventually Bush sided with LBJ –-said he had to do "the right thing". His people turned against him–-hate mail, hate phone messages, etc. Bush finally said he had to give a speech explaining his thinking on this but was warned not to do it. He did it and he did it beautifully and at the end got a standing ovation. He had swayed the crowd. This was in 1968.

As for the Willy Horton ad, James Baker swears it was not their campaign but some rogue group that put the ad on. Even if that is true, why would the Bush people leave that ad on for weeks?

Lee Atwater gave Bush the deranged muscle he needed to win–-the message being you can't win being the kinder, gentler kind of politician–-he won, but lost in a significant way.

December 6, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterPD Pepe

The basic theme of Meacham's book, The Soul of America, is do not worry, everything will be alright. He does not recognize the deterioration of our democracy. He has no fear. He is a dangerous supporter of our oligarchy. He is an eloquent cheer leader.

December 6, 2018 | Unregistered Commentercarlyle

I've always found Meacham to be a bit glib, as are so many who seem to have to reach with all their earnest intellect and academic credentials to attain some sort of grasp of the obvious. That's about all the praise I can muster for him.

December 6, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterFleeting Expletive

@Fleeting Expletive: Meacham has relatively meager academic credentials. He holds a bachelor's degree from Sewanee. That's it except for some honorary doctorates. There's nothing wrong with being self-taught, but Meacham hasn't learned much.

December 6, 2018 | Registered CommenterMrs. Bea McCrabbie

Fleeting Expletive,

(Love that name, by the way), to corroborate Marie's sense of the abilities of the autodidact, I give you the great Barbara Tuchman, who held a BA from Radcliffe College in the 30's but bolstered her credentials as a historian with life experience, excellent research and writing chops, and, as she put it, freedom from the expectations of an academic appointment.

She has long been one of my favorite historians.

Jon Meacham, not so much. Well, okay. Not at all. Meacham is a TV show historian in that his narratives eschew the complexities and nuances of serious historiography (at least in that venue) for EZ Hist-O-Ree that can be absorbed without much effort by viewers with one eye on the TV, another on their Facebook page, and the occasional glance at the stove or microwave to make sure the soup doesn't boil over.

Tuchman he ain't.

December 6, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

@AK: Tuchman: the best! Her "March of Folly" ends with this:


“If men could learn from history, what lessons it might teach us. But passion and party blind our eyes, and the light which experience gives us is a lantern on the stern which shines only on the waves behind us.”___Samuel Coleridge

The image is beautiful but the message misleading, for the light on the waves we have passed through should enable us to infer the nature of the waves ahead.

December 6, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterPD Pepe
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