Thursday, January 28, 2016

Live-blogging the last 2016 Republican debate before the voting starts

It's also the first time Donald Trump hasn't participated in a 2016 Republican debate. I'll be live-blogging it here. Keep reloading this post for more updates.

For more live-blogging, check out National Review, TPM, the New Republic, Althouse (my mom), and Alex Knepper.

9:03 — Megyn Kelly starts by asking Ted Cruz about "the elephant not in the room tonight — Donald Trump." Cruz responds: "I'm a maniac. Everyone on this stage is stupid, fat, and ugly. And Ben, you're a terrible surgeon. Now that we've gotten the Donald Trump portion out of the way . . ." [VIDEO.]

9:06 — Marco Rubio says Trump is "the greatest show on earth," but the election isn't about him — it's about America, "the greatest country in the world." He also takes a jab at Hillary Clinton for her recent suggestion that future-former-President Obama could be a good choice for Supreme Court.

9:07 — Jeb Bush: "I kind of miss Donald Trump! He was a little teddy bear to me!"

9:08 — Bush breaks some news: he's part of "the establishment."

9:10 — Chris Christie brushes off a question about whether he's too much about compromising and reaching across the aisle. He says that kind of thing just doesn't matter to the 45-year-old construction worker who's lost money under the Obama administration.

9:11 — Rand Paul is asked if he made a mistake by not getting an earlier start in embracing his father, Ron Paul, who might have caused more of the excitement of his 2008 and 2012 campaigns to rub off on his son.

9:12 — Cruz gives a shout-out to the Pauls for trying to audit the Federal Reserve.

9:13 — Rubio says: "I respect Rand." Rubio's tautological reason for this: "He believes in everything he stands for."

9:16 — John Kasich is asked if he's too establishment. He says he isn't in the outsider lane or the establishment lane; he's in "the Kasich lane." However, he sounds pretty establishment, talking about how he's worked with Democrats and balanced the budget.

9:17 — Carson: "I don't think you have to be a politician to tell the truth. In fact, sometimes it's the other way around." He actually said something a little different because he jumbled his words — staying true to his statement that he wouldn't have any "polished political speeches."

9:19 — Cruz talks about how he's going to destroy ISIL, but denies that he's "talking tough" on ISIL. Rubio responds by saying Cruz's record on military spending is the same as Rand Paul's.

9:20 — Rubio refers to Dabiq, Syria, then clarifies: "Not Dubuque[, Iowa]! I pronounced that incorrectly last time!" Alex Knepper wonders why he'd say that, other than "nerves." My answer: So viewers won't mishear it — especially Iowa viewers who are going to caucus in 4 days.

9:26 — Christie forcefully attacks Hillary Clinton for saying she used a private server for email "for her convenience." "She put the nation's security at risk — for her convenience. . . . Hillary Clinton is not qualified to be president."

9:27 — Cruz tussles with a moderator, Chris Wallace, over whether Cruz is allowed to respond after Wallace's question to Christie mentioned Cruz. Wallace says no, because Christie's answer didn't attack Cruz. Cruz keeps trying to cut in, as if he doesn't understand the rule Wallace explains over and over. [VIDEO.]

9:30 — After Bush criticizes Cruz, Wallace finally lets Cruz respond. But Cruz doesn't have a substantive response — instead, he whines about how many of the questions have asked the candidates to attack him. (This prompts loud booing from the audience.) Wallace retorts: "It is a debate, sir!" Cruz coyly threatens to walk off the stage if there are too many negative questions about him — an allusion to Trump's absence. [Added later: After I point out that Cruz was being facetious, Alex Knepper says, "I thought he was being serious! I guess not. Didn't deliver the line very well." My response: "It's safe to say that if as savvy a political observer as you thought he was being serious, his sarcasm wasn't effective enough to work on prime-time TV a few days before Iowa."] [VIDEO.]

9:34 — Rubio says he's open to closing down mosques, diners, etc. where people are being "radicalized," despite the concerns raised by Megyn Kelly about infringing on the First Amendment right to free speech. Rand Paul strongly disagrees with Rubio.

9:38 — Megyn Kelly asks Ben Carson about a Muslim woman who recently asked Hillary Carson whether America is the best place for her to raise her children. Carson responds toughly: "We need to stop allowing political correctness to dictate our policies — because it's going to kill us if we don't!" 

9:49 — Christie is asked if he can name just one thing the federal government does that he doesn't think it should do. "Yeah! Ya want one? . . . Let's get rid of funding for Planned Parenthood." The moderator, Brett Baier, asks if he has "anything bigger than that." Christie says he can't think of anything "bigger than the murder of children in the womb."

9:52 — Why does Bush always seem to get the questions about minor issues? He's asked about statehood for Puerto Rico. Earlier, he was asked about allegations that the Wounded Warrior Project spends too much of its money on itself. In an earlier debate, he was asked about whether to regulate betting on fantasy football.

9:59 — Megyn Kelly plays a long clip show of Rubio in about 2009 talking about how phrases like a "path to citizenship" are "code" for "amnesty." Then Kelly suggests he then supported amnesty once he later became a Senator. Rubio denies he's flip-flopped. Bush responds that he's "kind of confused" by what Rubio's said — although Bush admits: "I supported you, 'cause you asked me to!" Bush also plugs his book on immigration — "You can get it for $2.99 on Amazon!" [A little later, an Amazon reviewer gave the book 1 star for being much more expensive than $2.99.]

10:04 — Kelly plays a clip show of Cruz talking about what he now claims is a poison pill he used to kill Rubio's immigration reform. In the clip, Cruz passionately declares: "I don't want immigration reform to fail! I want immigration reform to pass!" After the clip, Kelly asks a devastating question: "Was that all an act? It was pretty convincing!" Cruz starts his response by talking about the short word count of his amendment to the bill relative to the long length of the bill. How many voters really care about those kinds of legislative metrics? [VIDEO of the Cruz and Rubio clip shows.]

10:08 — Paul and Rubio both say Cruz is lying on immigration. Rubio to Cruz: "You want to trump Trump on immigration! We're not going to beat Hillary Clinton with someone who's willing to say or do anything to win an election!" Cruz responds with back-handed compliments about Rubio: "He's very charming. He's very smooth." [VIDEO.]

10:10 — Christie says it's fine for Rubio or Cruz to "change their mind," but the difference is that Christie, as a governor, will "admit it."

10:12 — Carson seems so irrelevant by this point.

10:17 — Bush takes a veiled shot at Trump: "This is bean bag compared to what the Clinton machine is going to do to the Republican nominee."

10:17 — For the second time, Rubio criticizes Hillary Clinton's comments about the possibility of appointing Obama to the Supreme Court. I understand why he's bringing it up, but is that really important enough to be his repeated refrain in this debate?

10:19 — Rubio: "I think Bernie Sanders is a good candidate for president — of Sweden!" [VIDEO.]

10:20 — Christie is asked about the New Jersey bridge closing scandal. He says three investigations were done and showed: "I knew nothing." [But WaPo's Fact Checker says only one of the investigations reached that conclusion.]

10:25 — The moderator announces that they're going to start talking about "social issues" to appeal to evangelicals. This is where I tune out . . .

10:30 — Rubio: "I will always allow my faith to influence everything I do."

10:38 — Kasich might be the best-qualified but the least interesting to listen to.

10:43 — Rand Paul is asked if we should hold Hillary Clinton responsible for Bill Clinton's behavior toward women. Paul says if any CEO acted toward a 22-year-old intern the way Bill Clinton acted toward Monica Lewinsky, the CEO would be fired and never hired again. Paul suggests that this could make it harder for Hillary Clinton to call for women's rights, but he doesn't address the tougher issue of whether Hillary had any role in enabling or defending Bill's treatment of other women.

10:56 — Christie starts his closing statement with something he's said in a previous debate — that on September 11, 2001, he didn't hear from his wife for hours, while she was trapped in her building near the World Trade Center, and he had to contemplate the possibility of becoming a single father of three. "I've faced it. I've prosecuted terrorists."

10:56 — Bush has a bad habit of tripping over his prepared words. He's just not a compelling speaker, and he's running against several compelling speakers.

10:58 — In Cruz's closing statement, he mentions that it's now going to be "up to the men and women of Iowa to decide." The phrase "men and women" has long been used to refer to the military, but I feel like this election it's been used to refer to voters more than ever before. Has "people" become a bad word?

The Washington Post lists the "winners and losers." I agree that Cruz was one of the latter:

Cruz did the thing I hate the most in debates -- complain about the rules -- when he tried to game a bit more talking time and got shut down by moderator Chris Wallace. The Texas Senator's joking threat that if he kept taking incoming from the other candidates he might leave the stage (Donald Trump reference!) fell flat. He was on the wrong end of a scolding by Paul over his conservative righteousness. And, time and time again, Cruz found himself insisting that on a panoply of issues -- military spending, immigration etc. -- everyone was either wrong about his position or didn't understand it well enough. That's too much defense for Cruz to play -- especially in a debate without Trump.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

"John Althouse Cohen is just sick, sick, sick, sick, sick."

This is what happens if you go ahead and freely express yourself on the internet: If you Google my full name, you'll see this on the second page of results (unless you're logged in to Google, which can affect the results). According to that post, I'm "a gay man" who thinks President Obama "isn't normal" because he's "black." (The fact that I've never said those things is apparently beside the point.) And I'm an example of "the problem of white supremacist's [sic] seriously dangerous mental problems." In conclusion: "John Althouse Cohen is just sick, sick, sick, sick, sick." LOL.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

"The case for antidisestablishmentarianism"

Jeffrey Tucker writes at FEE:

The state power we oppose is not identical to the establishment we reject. You can overthrow the establishment and still be left with a gigantic machinery of legalized exploitation. All the agencies, laws, regulations, and powers are still in place. And now you have a problem: someone else is in charge of the state itself. You might call it a new establishment. It could be even more wicked than the one you swept away. Indeed, it usually is. . . .

Here’s the problem with political revolutions. One group leads the revolution, while others follow. If the revolution succeeds, the leaders expect a payout. The main payout is the control of the state apparatus that outlives the establishment’s overthrow. It makes sense that the results will tend to be more ruthless, vengeful, and bloody than anything that came before.

This is not a case for the establishment. It is a case against disestablishmentarianism as an ideal. The ideal is liberty, not the overthrow of existing elite structures as such. Rampant and unchecked populism can be as much an enemy of liberty as unchecked rule by an entrenched power elite.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Why Cruz's attack on "New York values" was both wrong and against the Republican party's interests

National Review's Kevin Williamson writes:

What to make of Senator Ted Cruz? He is a very, very smart man who apparently believes that the median Republican presidential primary voter is very, very dumb. There’s some evidence for that proposition — Donald Trump still leads in the national polls. . . .

But sneering at New York values isn’t very smart for conservatives. Not in the long run.

It has been said that you cannot understand America without understanding New York City, and the first thing to understand about New York is that it isn’t very much like the rest of America. That is true, unquestionably. But New York’s traditional virtues — its brashness, its hustle and enterprise, its anything-is-possible attitude — are the traditional American virtues, just as the city’s vices — its materialism, its self-importance, its fascination with the transitory and the impermanent — are the American vices, too. Conservatives, of all people, should be more attuned to the virtues of the nation’s commercial center; let the nation’s art-school dropouts sneer at that great collision of money and culture. . . .

To the extent that “New York values” is another way of saying “urban values” — and it is, to a great extent — conservatives would do well to develop a keener appreciation of them. (Never mind, for the moment, the notion that Donald Trump’s values are identical to the values of New York, in which he is a figure of fun rather than a figure of respect.) From a matter of pure self-interest, Republicans would be in much better shape if their presidential candidates did not start in an electoral hole, with California, New York, New Jersey, and Illinois wrapped up in a bow for the Democrats. It isn’t California ranchers and Illinois farmers who have handed those states to the Left, but city-dwelling people who believe with some reason — Ted Cruz has just given them another — that Republicans hate them. . . .

When Ronald Reagan was elected, 74 percent of the U.S. population lived in cities; today it is 82 percent. From 2000 to 2010, the nation’s population grew by 9.7 percent — but the city population grew by 12.1 percent. And those urbanites are not entirely pleased with the Democratic monopolies that govern most of them: In Flint, the Democrats are literally poisoning the children; in Atlanta, the schools are so corrupt that teachers and administrators had to be sent to prison; elsewhere, urban Americans are literally up in arms (Molotov cocktails, at least) over their treatment at the hands of the city powers they interact with most often: the police. New York City is sliding back into pre-Giuliani chaos. And what are Republicans doing? Sneering at “New York values,” when they should be seeking to satisfy the best of those values, such as the entrepreneurial spirit and the hunger for advancement — which are, after all, the best of American values, too.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Live-blogging the Republican debate

I'll be live-blogging the debate here. Keep reloading this post for more updates.

This will be the first main debate without Rand Paul, and the first debate without Carly Fiorina since . . . the first debate.

For more live-blogging, check out National Review, TPM, the New Republic, and Alex Knepper.

As always, I'll be writing down quotes on the fly, so they might not be perfectly verbatim, but I'll try to keep them reasonably accurate.

9:06 — Ted Cruz is asked why he disagrees with what President Obama said in his last State of the Union — that anyone who says the economy is declining is "peddling fiction." Cruz goes populist, saying the economy is getting better — for "lobbyists, millionaires, and billionaires."

9:08 — John Kasich takes a more pro-business, more technocratic, and less populist tone: the standard conservative line about how we need to cut taxes in order to stimulate economic growth and have "fiscal discipline."

9:09 — Chris Christie, in response to a question about when he'd use military action, starts out: "On Tuesday night, I watched story time with Barack Obama, and it sounded like everything in the world is just amazing!" His answer to the question is that he'd use it only when "absolutely necessary" to protect America — not to be "the world's policeman."

9:12 — Jeb Bush says Obama's claim that things are better now than when he took office is "totally an alternative universe."

9:13 — Bush says: "Terrorism is on the run." Wait, isn't that a good thing?

9:14 — Bush reminds us that Hillary Clinton is under investigation, and says her "first 100 days" might be "going back and forth between the White House and the courthouse."

9:16 — Marco Rubio is really on fire in his first answer. He says Clinton would not only be "a disaster" — "she's disqualified" by her email debacle and by "lying" about the Benghazi attacks.

9:21 — Cruz is asked about an apparent financial impropriety which was reported in the New York Times. He takes this as an opportunity to lambaste the Times for being biased against him. He admits to a "paperwork error" but says it isn't important.

9:27 — Cruz is asked about his constitutional eligibility to be president. Cruz sarcastically responds: "I'm glad we're focusing on the important issues." Cruz says the law is clear that he's eligible, and says some would even argue that Donald Trump isn't eligible since his mother was born in Scotland and later naturalized. Trump forcefully argues that Cruz shouldn't keep running without going to court to ask for a "declaratory judgment" to resolve the issue. Rubio starts talking but apologizes for "interrupting this episode of Court TV."

9:38 — Rubio and Christie go after each other. Rubio says: "Governor Christie has endorsed many of the ideas that Obama supports." He says someone like that can't be the nominee. Christie throws Rubio's past words back in his face, recalling a prior debate when Bush attacked Rubio, and Rubio responded that someone must have convinced Bush the attack would work. Christie also quotes Rubio's past praise of him as a "conservative reformer." Then, Bush finds a loophole, saying he was mentioned by Christie, so he's allowed to respond — but wait a minute, that doesn't really make sense. No one was attacking Bush, and Bush wasn't responding to any criticism of him. Carson satirizes Bush by jumping in: "I was mentioned too — he said 'everybody'!" And the moderators actually let Carson use that to take a turn!

9:44 — Kasich tells us about how his parents instilled the American dream in him — by saying: "Johnny, we don't hate the rich — we want to be the rich."

9:46 — Carson is asked whether "Bill Clinton's indiscretions" are "a legitimate issue" (to which several audience members yell, "Yeah!"), and what he thinks of the theory "that Hillary Clinton is an enabler of sexual misconduct." Carson dodges the question by responding purely in abstractions, like "Our strength is in our unity" and "There is such a thing as right and wrong."

9:55 — Rubio is asked about the fact that he's said Obama wants to take Americans' guns away, yet gun ownership has actually skyrocketed during the Obama administration. "That sounds like people are afraid the president's gonna take their guns away!" Rubio also cleverly reminds the audience of Obama's statement during the 2008 campaign that Americans "cling" to guns out of bitterness.

9:59 — Christie speaks directly to Obama: "We are going to kick your rear-end out of the White House come this fall!" Alex Knepper has a good catch about how part of Christie's message to Obama was a bit self-contradictory:

"Obama, we think you're a petulant child and a dictator. But we aren't against you - just your policies!" - Christie
10:03 — Maria Bartiromo asks Cruz what he meant when he said that Trump "embodies New York values." Cruz says most people know what that means. Bartiromo retorts: "I'm from New York, and I don't!" Cruz ripostes: "You're from New York, so you might not know!" Cruz ends by saying: "Not a lot of conservatives come out of Manhattan" — a twist on Trump's odd stump-speech line that not many evangelicals come from Cuba (like Cruz). Trump points out that many conservatives have "come out of Manhattan" — including the founder of National Review, William F. Buckley. Trump goes into an extended, emotional account of how New York rebuilt after the attack on the World Trade Center, and ends by saying that Cruz's statement was "very insulting." Cruz doesn't even try to respond.

Earlier, Christie said the Second Amendment was put second because it's so important. Bill Scher is skeptical: "The amendments are ranked in order of importance? My response: Sure, I'd much rather lose my right to a trial by jury than have soldiers non-consensually quartered in my house!

10:19 — Trump is asked if he'll rethink his ban on Muslims entering the US. He says, "No," but emphasizes: "I said temporarily — I didn't say permanently." He adds that his "Muslim friends" have been thanking him for the proposal. Bush says he hopes Trump will reconsider it, since the ban would make it "impossible" to work with our allies to "take out ISIS." Instead, Bush would tighten up our visa policies.

10:26 — Christie criticizes Trump's proposal as simplistic: "You can't just ban all Muslims. You have to ban radical Islamic jihadists."

10:27 — Rubio takes a more understanding approach toward Trump's proposal: "Donald's tapped into some real anger about this issue." Rubio says he wouldn't allow anyone into the country if we didn't know why they're coming here.

10:37 — I've been spacing out during the discussion of China, tariffs, currency fluctuations, tractors, and soybean sales.

10:55 — Christie says everyone else has been avoiding answering the question on entitlements "because it's hard — it's a hard problem." I don't know if he's right, because I missed a bunch of stuff when Fox Business's live stream stayed on the break for too long. Rubio meekly offers to answer the question, but Christie shouts him down: "No, you already had your chance, Marco — you blew it!"

11:12 — The breaks keep staying away for too long, so I've missed more stuff. It comes back in the middle of Rubio giving a litany of Cruz's flip-flops. "That is not consistent conservatism — that is political calculation." As Cruz defends himself, the audience yells over him.

11:25 — Cruz lists things that need to "end," including Clinton "apologizing for saying 'all lives matter.'"

11:26 — Trump uses his closing statement to talk about the "terrible sight" of American sailors being held hostage by Iranians, and says we got them back only because we made such a bad deal with Iran. Of course, this wouldn't have happened under Trump, who would make great deals and "win" at everything.

"If elected, Clinton will be another 'war president' at a time when America desperately needs peace."

So says the Nation, endorsing Bernie Sanders — only the third presidential endorsement the magazine has made in 150 years. Excerpt:

Hillary Clinton is a candidate who combines unmatched experience with intelligence, grit, and strength. She has responded to the populist temper of the times: questioning the sort of free-trade deals that Bill Clinton and Barack Obama have championed; calling for reforms on Wall Street and tax increases on the wealthy; courageously defending Planned Parenthood; challenging the National Rifle Association; and supporting trade unions. If nominated, she would be far more preferable to any of the extremists running for the GOP nomination (and so would former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley). We understand that keeping the presidency out of the hands of right-wing Republicans is crucial, especially when the next president will reshape the Supreme Court. And there is no denying that if she were elected, Clinton would shatter the thickest glass ceiling and champion women’s rights in a way that no other president has.

But the limits of a Clinton presidency are clear. Her talk of seeking common ground with Republicans and making deals to “get things done” in Washington will not bring the change that is so desperately needed. Clinton is open to raising the Social Security retirement age, and her plan falls short of increasing benefits for all. She rejects single-payer healthcare and refuses to consider breaking up the big banks. We also fear that she might accept a budgetary “grand bargain” with the Republicans that would lock in austerity for decades to come.

On foreign policy, Clinton is certainly seasoned, but her experience hasn’t prevented her from getting things wrong. Clinton now says that her 2002 vote to authorize George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq was a mistake, but she apparently learned little from it. Clinton was a leading advocate for overthrowing Moammar El-Gadhafi in Libya, leaving behind a failed state that provides ISIS with an alternative base. She supported calls for the United States to help oust Bashar al-Assad in Syria, an approach that has added fuel to a horrific civil war. She now advocates a confrontation with Russia in Syria by calling for a no-fly zone. Her support for President Obama’s nuclear agreement with Iran was marred by an explicit rejection of better relations with that country and bellicose pledges to provide Israel with more arms. If elected, Clinton will be another “war president” at a time when America desperately needs peace.

Sanders’s approach is different and better. The senator hasn’t talked as much as we would like about global challenges and opportunities, and we urge him to focus more on foreign policy. But what he has said (and done) inspires confidence. An opponent of the Iraq War from the start, he criticizes the notion of “regime change” and the presumption that America alone must police the world. He rejects a new Cold War with Russia. He supports the nuclear-weapons agreement with Iran, and he would devote new energy to dismantling nuclear arsenals and pursuing nonproliferation. He has long been an advocate for normalizing relations with Cuba and for reviving a good-neighbor policy in the hemisphere. Sanders’s foreign policy would also create conditions for rebuilding a broadly shared prosperity at home. He would lead an international effort to end the crippling austerity that threatens to create another global recession, and he would champion a green New Deal to combat climate change. And as a leader of the opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, he would undo the corporate-defined trade regime that has devastated America’s middle class.

Critics of Bernie Sanders dismiss him as an idealist (he is!) on a quixotic crusade. Meanwhile, the corporate media has paid shamefully little attention to his campaign’s achievements, instead lavishing attention on the latest outrageous pronouncements by Donald Trump and the Republican candidates struggling to compete with him. Nonetheless, polls show that Sanders—even as he still introduces himself to many voters—is well poised to take on the eventual GOP nominee, frequently doing better than Clinton in these matchups. Moreover, in contrast to the modest audiences at Clinton’s campaign stops, the huge crowds at Sanders’s grassroots rallies indicate that he’ll be able to boost turnout in November.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Hillary Clinton is asked about her "white privilege"

I'm less interested in her answer to that question than I am in knowing when and how the word "privilege" started to take over virtually all discussions of race, gender, sexual orientation, class, etc. It seems to have happened fairly recently — I'd say within about the last 10 years. When you hear the explanations of what it's supposed to mean, you can probably think of other words that would have been used in the past. But today, simply uttering the word "privilege" has become a signal that you're one of the enlightened ones.

I have some thoughts on what might be motivating the constant use of this word, but I'll have to get to that another day.

Monday, January 11, 2016

David Bowie (1947 - 2016)

David Bowie has died of cancer at age 69.

The New York Times notes that his musical career was active until the very end:

The multitalented artist, whose last album, “Blackstar,” was released on Friday — on his birthday — was to be honored with a concert at Carnegie Hall on March 31 featuring the Roots, Cyndi Lauper and the Mountain Goats. He also has a musical, “Lazarus,” running Off Broadway.
More from the NYT obit:
"Mr. Bowie was his generation’s standard-bearer for rock as theater: something constructed and inflated yet sincere in its artifice, saying more than naturalism could. With a voice that dipped down to baritone and leapt into falsetto, he was complexly androgynous, an explorer of human impulses that could not be quantified."

He also pushed the limits of “Fashion” and “Fame,” writing songs with those titles and also thinking deeply about the possibilities and strictures of pop renown. . . .

In the late 1960s, Lindsay Kemp, a dancer, actor and mime, became a lasting influence on Mr. Bowie, focusing his interest in movement and artifice. Mr. Bowie’s music turned toward folk-rock and psychedelia. The release of “Space Oddity,” shortly before the Apollo 11 mission, gained him a British pop audience and, when it was rereleased in 1973 in the United States, an American one.

By then, with the albums “Hunky Dory,” “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars” and “Aladdin Sane,” Mr. Bowie had become a pioneer of glam rock and a major star in Britain, playing up an androgynous image. But he also had difficulties separating his onstage personas from real life and succumbed to drug problems, particularly cocaine use. In 1973, he abruptly announced his retirement — though it was the retirement of Ziggy Stardust, not of Mr. Bowie.

He moved to the United States in 1974 and made “Diamond Dogs,” which included the hit “Rebel Rebel.” In 1975, he turned toward funk with the album “Young Americans,” recorded primarily in Philadelphia with collaborators, including a young Luther Vandross; John Lennon joined Mr. Bowie in writing and singing the hit “Fame.” Mr. Bowie’s 1976 album “Station to Station” yielded more hits, but drug problems were making Mr. Bowie increasingly unstable; in interviews, he made pro-fascist pronouncements that he would soon disown.

For a far-reaching change of environment, and to get away from drugs, Mr. Bowie moved in 1976 to Switzerland and then to West Berlin, part of a divided city with a sound that fascinated him: the Krautrock of Kraftwerk, Can, Neu! and other groups. Mr. Bowie shared a Berlin apartment with Iggy Pop, and he helped produce and write songs for two Iggy Pop albums, “The Idiot” and “Lust for Life.”

He also made what is usually called his Berlin trilogy — “Low,” “ ‘Heroes’ ” and “Lodger” — working with Mr. Eno and Mr. Bowie’s collaborator over decades, the producer Tony Visconti. They used electronics and experimental methods, like having musicians play unfamiliar instruments, yet songs like “ ‘Heroes’ ” conveyed romance against the bleakest odds.

As the 1980s began, Mr. Bowie turned to live theater, performing in multiple cities (including a Broadway run) in the demanding title role of “The Elephant Man.” Yet he would also reach his peak as a mainstream pop musician in that decade — particularly with his 1983 album “Let’s Dance,” which he produced with Nile Rodgers of Chic; the Texas blues guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan also performed on the album. But by 1989, Mr. Bowie was determined to change again; he recorded, without top billing, as a member of the rock band Tin Machine.

His experiments continued in the 1990s. In 1995, he reconnected with Mr. Eno on an album, “1. Outside,” — influenced by science fiction and film noir — that was intended to be the start of a trilogy. Mr. Bowie toured with Nine Inch Nails in an innovative concert that had his band and Nine Inch Nails merging partway through."
This is from a 2002 article based on an interview with Bowie and others:
"You can still put on 'Ziggy Stardust' and it [sounds] like it could have come out last month," commented [Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails], for a Bowie "Biography" to run on A&E later this year. "It set the foundations for a lot of trends that are happening now."

Following "Ziggy Stardust," Bowie began shifting personae "like an actor rather than a singer," as Glover puts it. Without such moves, a later chameleon like Madonna would have been unimaginable. Small wonder it was she who inducted Bowie into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996. . . .

In 1978, Bowie was asked by a British journalist to assess his greatest contribution to rock. "I'm responsible for starting a whole new school of pretension," he famously quipped.

But looking back now at his first theatrical elaboration of the music, he reacts with both bemusement and pride. "It's 30 years ago," he says. "But it feels like 60. Everything, and everyone, has changed. I was recently looking at an old cover of New Musical Express from 1973. It's me and Mick [Jagger], and he's just found glam a little late. He's wearing this jumpsuit with epaulets, and he's dripping in makeup and mascara. And I'm on the other half of the page with this net costume with hands stuck everywhere. You look at it and think, 'What was that all about?'

"But it really did look great, and it was so exciting. My God, that period will never be repeated. It was a hell of a fk off to what came before."

To be specific, to hippie-dom.

"God, I hated the hippie period," Bowie says with a laugh. "They talked about being so creative, but there was so little creativity to it. Glam really did plant seeds for a new identity. I think a lot of kids needed that that sense of reinvention. Kids learned that however crazy you may think it is, there is a place for what you want to do and who you want to be.

"And I needed that myself," Bowie continues. "Even though I was very shy, I found I could get onstage if I had a new identity. And then I learned to discard that identity to become a real self maybe not real to the point of Bruce Springsteen," he adds sarcastically. "But at least an approximation of reality on stage." . . .

Today, he says, "I'm frighteningly happy. I don't see ever wanting to change things in my personal life. Iman and I are very happy, and we have the most fabulous baby."

Yet, as a consequence, he says, he's lost what younger men have namely, "a sense of becoming. At a certain age, you realize you are no longer becoming. You are being. I like knowing what's up. But I do miss the excitement of not knowing quite what's around the next corner."

However content he is in his day-to-day existence, and while he may have "fewer and fewer questions about life," Bowie says this has focused him on "the questions that are unresolvable."

Namely, the existential ones. "I'm approaching those questions in the new songs," he says. "At first, I thought, 'Well, if I write about this, I won't have anything left to write about.' But then I realized that what life is about is quite a subject to take on. "And at the moment," he says, "I feel like I've only scratched the surface."

Bowie with Arcade Fire, performing the band's song "Wake Up":

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Pierre Boulez (1925 - 2016)

Boulez, the composer and conductor, died yesterday at age 90. From the New York Times obituary:

"Mr. Boulez belonged to an extraordinary generation of European composers who emerged in the postwar years while still in their 20s. They wanted to change music radically, and they did. Mr. Boulez was at the forefront of their crusade.

As a young composer — and throughout his life as an insistently private man — he matched intelligence with great force of mind: He knew what had to be done, according to his reading of history, and he did it, in defiance of all the norms of French musical culture at the time. His “Marteau Sans Maître” (“Hammer Without a Master”) was one of this pioneering group’s first major achievements, and it remains a landmark of modern music.

But his influence was equally great on the podium. In time he began giving ever more attention to conducting, where his keen ear and rhythmic incisiveness could produce a startling clarity. (There are countless stories of him detecting faulty intonation, say, from the third oboe in a complex piece.)

He reached his peak as a conductor in the 1960s, when he began to appear with some of the world’s great orchestras, including the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, the Berlin Philharmonic and the Cleveland Orchestra. By the early ’70s he had succeeded Leonard Bernstein as music director of the New York Philharmonic, an appointment that startled the music world and led to a fitful tenure.

His conducting style was unique. He never used the baton, preferring to manipulate the orchestra by means of his two hands simultaneously, the left indicating phrasing or, in much contemporary music, counterrhythm.

His characteristic sound — unemotional on the surface but with undercurrents of intemperateness, at once brilliant in color and rhythmically disciplined — depended on his famously acute ear and suited his core repertoire: Stravinsky (several of whose works he introduced to Europe), Debussy, Webern, Bartok and Messiaen. . . .

A defining moment came when he heard a broadcast of Stravinsky’s “Song of the Nightingale” conducted by Ernest Ansermet; it was a work to which he often returned throughout his conducting career. Rejecting the wishes of his father, who wanted him to study engineering, he went to Paris in 1942 and enrolled at the Conservatoire.

In 1944-45, he took a harmony class taught by Olivier Messiaen, whose impact on him was decisive. Messiaen’s teaching went far beyond traditional harmony to embrace new music that was outlawed both by the stagnant Conservatoire of that period and by the German occupying forces: the music of Schoenberg, Stravinsky, Bartok and Webern.

Messiaen also introduced his students to medieval music and the music of Asia and Africa. Mr. Boulez felt his course was set; but he also knew he needed to go further into the 12-tone method that Schoenberg had introduced a generation before. . . .

In 1960, he conducted the orchestra in the first performance of his “Pli Selon Pli,” an hourlong setting of poems by Stéphane Mallarmé for soprano, with an orchestra rich in percussion.

That lustrous score allowed the conductor certain flexibilities in assembling its fragments. A musical work should be a labyrinth, with no fixed route, Mr. Boulez often said. It might also never have a fixed ending. From then on, he began starting more works than he ever brought to completion, while at the same time submitting older pieces to rounds of revision.

As a conductor, he showed much less hesitation. Where his first concerts had been devoted entirely to 20th-century works, he began, in the early 1960s, to explore earlier repertoires — Haydn, Bach, Schubert, Mozart, Beethoven — with the Concertgebouw and the Southwest German Radio Symphony Orchestra. He made his debut with an American orchestra, the Cleveland Orchestra, in March 1965. The program, a typical one for him, comprised Rameau, his own music (“Figures-Doubles-Prismes”), Debussy and Stravinsky (“The Song of the Nightingale”). . . .

His appointment to the New York Philharmonic in 1971 presented great challenges. As music director, he had to enlarge his repertoire rapidly. Until then, he had conducted very little Romantic music other than Berlioz’s; now Schubert, Brahms, Dvorak and Borodin joined his programs, not always convincingly. Though he refused to compromise on Tchaikovsky, he was becoming much more like a regular conductor.

Part of his individuality was lost in the colossal task of maintaining important positions on both sides of the Atlantic, his post with the BBC Symphony demanding much of his time as well. . . .

Both his programming and his handling of an older repertoire met with some resistance from audiences, critics and, it was said, even some of his musicians. Harold C. Schonberg of The New York Times called Mr. Boulez “a brainy orchestral technician” whose “scientific approach” lacked heart. Reviewing a 1972 concert that included Edgard Varèse’s 1927 composition “Arcana,” Donal Henahan of The Times reported that “perhaps a quarter of the downstairs audience” at Philharmonic Hall “fled as if from the Black Death” before the piece was performed." . . .

“He never ceased to think about subjects in relation to one another; he made painting, poetry, architecture, cinema and music communicate with each other, always in the service of a more humane society,” the office of President François Hollande said in a statement."

Boulez as a composer:

Boulez as a conductor:

Monday, January 4, 2016

"I am a manufacturer of economic inequality."

Paul Graham writes:

Since the 1970s, economic inequality in the US has increased dramatically. And in particular, the rich have gotten a lot richer. Some worry this is a sign the country is broken.

I'm interested in the topic because I am a manufacturer of economic inequality. I was one of the founders of a company called Y Combinator that helps people start startups. Almost by definition, if a startup succeeds its founders become rich. And while getting rich is not the only goal of most startup founders, few would do it if one couldn't.

I've become an expert on how to increase economic inequality, and I've spent the past decade working hard to do it. Not just by helping the 2400 founders YC has funded. I've also written essays encouraging people to increase economic inequality and giving them detailed instructions showing how.

So when I hear people saying that economic inequality is bad and should be eliminated, I feel rather like a wild animal overhearing a conversation between hunters. But the thing that strikes me most about the conversations I overhear is how confused they are. They don't even seem clear whether they want to kill me or not.

The most common mistake people make about economic inequality is to treat it as a single phenomenon. The most naive version of which is the one based on the pie fallacy: that the rich get rich by taking money from the poor.

Usually this is an assumption people start from rather than a conclusion they arrive at by examining the evidence. . . .

we grow up in a world where the pie fallacy is actually true. To kids, wealth is a fixed pie that's shared out, and if one person gets more it's at the expense of another. It takes a conscious effort to remind oneself that the real world doesn't work that way. . . .

Even people sophisticated enough to know about the pie fallacy are led toward it by the custom of describing economic inequality as a ratio of one quantile's income or wealth to another's. It's so easy to slip from talking about income shifting from one quantile to another, as a figure of speech, into believing that is literally what's happening....

Economic inequality is sufficiently far from identical with the various problems that have it as a symptom that we'll probably only hit whichever of the two we aim at. If we aim at economic inequality, we won't fix these problems. So I say let's aim at the problems.

For example, let's attack poverty, and if necessary damage wealth in the process. That's much more likely to work than attacking wealth in the hope that you will thereby fix poverty. And if there are people getting rich by tricking consumers or lobbying the government for anti-competitive regulations or tax loopholes, then let's stop them. Not because it's causing economic inequality, but because it's stealing.