Sunday, March 29, 2020

A Couple Of Mixed Reactions To The Movie Queen And Slim

‪I just watched Queen And Slim and as I watched it I was loving it. ‬

The one small qualm I had was the opening scene with the insanely aggressive cop and the situation escalating as quickly as it did. It seemed to me somewhat contrived rather than organically credible. But regardless I accepted it and went on, as I say, to love the movie, specifically the evolving relationship between Queen and Slim as they went on the run.‬

‪My feeling took a hit though at the final scene when the army of cops massacres them. I simply didn’t find that credible; and this wasn’t a small qualm. There is no way, I thought, that an army of cops are going homicidally to drop two people like that even if they don’t get on the ground as commanded. After all, they shoot Slim carrying Queen in his arms when holding her so prevents him physically from posing them any immediate danger.‬

‪Still the beauty of their growing relationship continued to engross me even as I did have a niggle about the subsequent mythologizing of them. ‬

‪Then, movie over, I started thinking a bit and one big thing struck me on reflection: the dash cam footage had the entire incident covered. Slim’s self defence was made patent by it. And so while it makes arguable sense for Slim and Queen to run not knowing of the footage, it doesn’t make sense after they find out about it when getting their car fixed. ‬

‪You’d think Queen as an apparently excellent criminal defence lawyer would readily understand their position as eminently legally redeemable. And a nuance of that is that she played no part in the shooting of the cop; she was but evident victim of his insane aggression. ‬

‪For them to keep running knowing of the dash cam footage is a major and problematic incongruity. The implication is that regardless of the dash cam proof of self defence there is no defence to be had for any black person accused of killing a white cop no matter the circumstances.  Nor is there any defence for anyone in the company of that person, here Queen. 

Actually, the dash cam itself heightens the incongruity. Dash cams represent a progressive policy in wanting to keep cops accountable by providing proof of cop civilian interactions. Their existence cuts against a justice system so racist that a black person killing a white cop will be found guilty every time even in the face of dash cam proof otherwise. 

That view is paranoid but that’s what Queen And Slim is suggesting.‬ And by encircling the criminal justice system within its ideological purview, Queen And Slim presses its ideology of racism in America to include her institutions. So, in a nutshell, the film suggests the existence of American systemic racism. 

‪My initial small qualm, this incongruity, the paranoid implication and the over the top final massacre of passive Queen and then Slim carrying her by the army of cops all add up to make a highly ideological point that, at minimum, pits white cops in eternal racist enmity with blacks. And in a certain sense Queen And Slim is an argument for that point.  Reinforcing it is the nearly universal support the black communities give the fugitive couple every step of their way, including the black cop who waves them on in the face of being dissed by his racist white partner. ‬It’s enmity, Queen And Slim wants us to understand, between whites and blacks in America.

‪In the result, I have a bifurcated view of this movie: I love, as I say, the evolving relationship between Queen and Slim as their picaresque road trip proceeds; but I reject the movie’s ideological push, the distorted view, it seems to me, of black white relations, as though wanting to be a film version of Ta-Nehisi Coates’ paranoid vision of race in America. ‬

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Informal Exchange On Phenomenology, Narrative As Reification And The Idea Of Theme In Literature


‪What you say here accords with what I’ve read and what I understand ph to mean. And yours is a nice, terse account of it. My abiding problem is that I don’t really get it, its utility, how it has an insight beyond what we commonly do in engaging experience. I see a flower. I don’t immediately bring in what I understand of botany—nothing much as it happens. I look at it as it appears to me and for as long as I like, take in as much as I want to about it, its colour, its elaborate delicacy, its fragrance, and then later in my repose it or a field of them may dance before my inward eye. Isn’t art the “science” of how the world we live in appears to us? What does ph have to tell us about engaging the appearing world that we didn’t know already or that’s different from what art reflects and illuminates, I wonder. I’m not suggesting there’s no answer to these questions, just that I’m having a hell of a time understanding one. I’m talking to a few people about the same issue. And from them,  not you, I’m getting a lot of verbiage that doesn’t make much sense to me.‬


‪I've never read more than a few pages and it seemed incomprehensible.  I took my examples from an article and my general sense likewise.  ‬

‪Your doggedness in wanting to know what's going on is pretty admirable. ‬

‪ Maybe because I had to slog through Derrida, and such I have lost patience.  I would get angry lecturing on Derrida because every other word was an equivocation that even I could see through.  I ended up thinking that it was a lousy and perverse kind of poetry, a kind of intellectual fiction building out concepts rather than characters.  ‬

‪Freud too.  His ego, id and superego are personifications so that the ego is caught between the demands of the id and superego like people in a play.  This is what some intellectuals do.  ‬

‪A great literary theorist said that Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit is a novel with Spirit (Geist) as the hero in which the hero comes to be aware of himself at the end but having had to go through many stages.  A kind of non-divine divine comedy.  I look at these systems (Freud, Marx, etc) as our epic poems. ‬

‪And now you might see why I don't like "themes," for students take them to be the reality behind the characters and I don't think there is any.  The characters, fictional though they be are the reality seen through a temperament as Zola said.  (The theme idea came out of nowhere, I had never seen the connection between it and other interpretive methods, but it is the best, if one must, because of its modesty and it is not a story itself but the (alleged) thread that ties the parts together, and there I just think it's the plot, but since stories have pervasive concerns (but not "a" theme) and theme and concern kind of mingle, it's way better than the systems with their own drama that takes over the story, just as the cultural people make the social narrative (left, right, classes, etc.) take over each story of individuals.  Grrr. ‬


‪Such a great, rich note, thanks for it.‬

‪I agree ph seems incomprehensible, and I’d add what is comprehensible seems incoherent to me insofar as it seeks to say something new.‬

‪My doggedness has a good and bad side. It also informed my lawyering. Good in being stubborn and wanting to wrestle things down and bad in not knowing when enough is enough.‬

‪Derrida is another guy. My experience reading him was different than my few brief excursions into Heidegger. I thought with Derrida that I was understanding him till I inevitably reached a point where I felt like I was drowning in words or had overeaten the word salad such that it lost all taste for me.‬

‪Aren’t Freud’s id, ego and superego reifications? And aren’t narratives that are meant as true accounts but are indifferent to contrary evidence  (for example, George Zimmerman shooting Trayvon Martin fits within the historic American pattern of white men killing young black men—pace Ta-Nehisi Coates’ “They want our bodies”) reifications as well? They’re as opposed to narratives meant to be fictions. That’s one thing about reification, it purports to be the truth. ‬

‪As for themes, I’ve always thought in our disagreement about this, you seem to exclude a middle. Why can’t a story evince an idea without losing the discrete, concrete reality of the characters and the particulars of the story? The presence of the idea might be self conscious for some writers and arise simply organically for others. ‬

‪We have different views for example, about Huckleberry Finn. I think in it there’s a pervasive theme about social formation that makes a lot of the story pull together. And if I was writing a paper about the novel I’d explore and expand that. It needn’t be universally accepted to provide a rich perspective on the novel. Yet, and this is my point, it may be my favourite novel because anytime I look at any page of it—it’s one of the very few books I’ve reread— I simply fall in love with Huck as a character, with his sensibility, and am full of amazed wonder at how Twain etched in such a wonderful young boy. Theme and character here, theme and plot or story, needn’t and don’t exclude each other.‬

Thursday, March 26, 2020

A Trans Reading Of Some Like It Hot

Suggested by:‬

‪I re-watched Some Like It Hot and I can see how it’s amenable in a send up, tongue in cheek way, to a trans perspective. ‬

‪Tony Curtis, Joe, Josephine, maintains his masculinity throughout despite his necessary cross dressing. Even his assumed name is a derivative of Joseph. Meanwhile, Jack Lemmon, Jerry, originally calling himself Geraldine, takes the non derivative name Daphne and slowly but surely as Joe E Brown, Osgood, pursues him, becomes Daphne. ‬

‪Jerry/Daphne becomes totally immersed in her role as Daphne as s/he tangos the night away with Osgood, as all the while Joe/Josephine is getting very together with Marilyn Monroe, Sugar Kane. ‬

‪After the night of dancing, Jerry/Daphne considers herself engaged to Osgood and is excited at the prospect of marrying a millionaire. Joe/Josephine  has to  keep reminding Jerry/Daphne that “he’s a boy, he’s a boy,”(while on the train Joe has to keep reminding Jerry that he’s a girl, he’s a girl.) Joe, the voice of at least some conventionality, tells Jerry/Daphne that‬ s/he can’t marry Osgood, it’s just not done, there are laws, customs, conventions, it’s just not done. Jerry/Daphne is comically distraught at being so reminded. “I’ll never find a man who’ll ever treat me as well,” s/he intones. ‬

‪If we see the movie as (again, comically) Daphne becoming transgender, the movie’s ending is like a scene where a trans woman has to come out to her boyfriend, or is trying to break up before he discovers her trans identity. Osgood is the ideal guy who can’t care less. The ending may be seen as suggesting that Daphne and Osgood will go on and get married anyway (though I’m entirely unsure about them living happily ever after.) The ending of course, as the movie frames it, is an absurd joke, but a sly winking one. ‬

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Exegesis Of Mohammed Dib’s These Quiet Things

These Calm Things‬

‪Mohammed Dib‬

‪Did you have to leave?‬
‪The children play outside.‬
‪They don't stop yelling.‬

‪How many girls,‬
‪how many boys!‬

‪And the people neither eye‬
‪nor face to face going up‬
‪going down, going up again.‬

‪How many people,‬
‪how many unhappy fools!‬

‪And one staying. One,‬
‪that the things looked at,‬
‪very calm, in a circle.‬

‪How unwise a guy,‬
‪how quiet a guy is he!‬

‪One, like them. One‬
‪in whom a poignant envy‬
‪burns to stay calm.‬

‪How legless,‬
‪how lousy a guy is he!‬

‪Devouring isolation,‬
‪banana-split lapped up for two.‬
‪Remember, Jessa. ‬

‪I’ll take a shot.‬

‪It’s elusive as hell but I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt.‬

‪He seems to be talking to Jessa, who I assume is a woman, and either actually talking to her or talking to her only in his mind. ‬

‪Jessa, it seems, has left him, and has done so, I take it, permanently. He notes, as against his own loneliness, that children play outside, noisily bothersome. And they’re an indiscriminate mass. They seem to be precursors of the people who ascend and descend, stairs or elevator side by side going up and down, who never look at each other, simply pass each other by. ‬

‪The same question arises for the ascending and descending people as to the number of boys and girls—how many. It’s the same indiscriminate mass. How many of them are, perhaps like him, unhappy fools, alone and without meaning now that his woman has left him. ‬

‪But one—the specificity of one contrasting with how many—doesn’t move, just stays. And this one is looked at by the zombie-like people—the things. It seems he’s made a circular space for himself as he sits legless. He is quiet and unwise: why? This seems to be the expressed chorus like judgment of the people looking at him, a legless cripple, mute and dumb he seems. ‬

‪Then their judgment stops and the voice of the poem continues and observes that the legless man objectifies the people looking at him. He’s like them. In his apparent mute dumbness, is his desire for legs, for motion, to be able to go up and down like the people. That is his envy. It’s acutely sad and regretful that he cannot be like them. And it’s inexpressible. ‬

‪So the people again, as against his quietness, expressing their judgment,  note chorus like his leglessness, how bereft he is. Yet he’s like them: they’re an indiscriminate mass alone in and meaningless in their lives. The chorus like language of “how lousy a guy is he!” then becomes more poetic—“devouring isolation” as we move back into the mind of the narrator. This metaphor of devouring isolation suggests how, in a way, ferocious seems his isolation. He seems to  take it into himself, laps it up, as if devouring something pleasurably gratifying—“banana split lapped up for two.”‬

‪This is something the poet did with Jessa, “Remember, Jessa,” but no more. The poet, now left by Jessa, can only cling to small memories. In his dehumanizing aloneness he’s not so far removed from the indiscriminate mass of noisy children playing, or the people going up and down without seeing each other but commenting on the legless man or from the mute, bereft legless man himself.‬

‪That’s the shot: but I wouldn’t put any money on it. ‬


I read your notes on mine on the poem. I think they’re sensitive and acute and improve on my sense of the poem, particularly that what the poet describes is own perception of what he sees given his own state and not their objective truth. 

This poem got inside me. I felt it in my bones. And I’m not lonely even though I don’t eat banana splits for two with anyone—in fact not even for one. And it seems to me natural, uncontrived.   

A question that interests me is whether our different senses of the poem, contrived as against natural, can be argued out, with evidence from the poem and arguments based on it as to whether contrived. My sense is that at least in principle one of us should be able to convince the other.  

But just as an example, take the image of the legless man ferociously devouring the isolation, a more poetic, high flown image than the just precious colloquialism of what a “lousy guy” he is. I find it evocative of both the shifts in the poet’s mind as he surveys what’s about him and inside him and of the very idea of the legless man seeming aggressively to take it inside him, lapping it up pleasurably, when he’s poignant envious of the very opposite of his isolation. 

Saturday, March 21, 2020

On Doc Miles Davis: Birth Of The Cool


‪Excellent though uneven doc on Netflix, Miles Davis: Birth Of The Cool.‬‬

‪BE Miles, ie Before Electric Miles, is my favorite jazz musician and Kind of Blue, Porgy and Bess and Sketches of Spain are my favorite jazz records.‬

‪So the doc up to BE Miles is magical: it captures the essence of impact and beauty of his BE music. ‬

‪The doc to that point is utterly compelling ‬

‪As he in his life degenerates, and degenerates in his music, to me at least, the doc stays good but loses the magic that his best BE music imbues it with. So the doc about Electric Miles, the person and the music is interesting and well done but is at this point just another doc.‬

‪Stanley Crouch, a writer I liked a lot when I read him many years ago, says in the doc about Electric Miles, paraphrase, “I don’t get what people like about this music. I don’t like it. It doesn’t even sound good.”‬


‪Curious as to your reaction to the doc.‬


‪I watched it last week.  I agree, both with the sweet spot in his discography and your take on the documentary.  I loved the first third of it, the early stuff up until after Kind of Blue, and John Coltrane and  BIll Evans went their own ways.  From about when he was playing with Charlie Parker in the 40s to the early 1960s is also my favourite period.  I love the music.  Davis isn’t my favourite jazz musician - that’s Duke Ellington, but he’s right up there in the pantheon for me.  ‬

‪I like but don’t love the later 60s stuff and agree with Crouch (who I think may have been channeling Duke Ellington’s quote about there only being two kinds of 🎵 ).  I’ve got a lot of electric Miles - Bitches Brew, On the Corner, etc. I’m glad I’ve heard them...once.‬

‪I thought the guy who did Davis’ voice was fantastic...he sounded to me exactly like Davis.  I thought they gave too much prominence and air time to the ex-wives, though I can understand why.‬


‪Two good points among others you make in your nice note:‬

‪The voice of Miles: I thought it was him culled from interviews with him. I thought maybe Quincy Troupe had conducted some or some such. So I was taken aback to learn from the credits it wasn’t actually him.‬

‪And the partial focus on the wives and women: it had occurred to me there was a lot of it, but as you suggest, the doc is a kind of bio which weaves the predominance of his music to together with the the strands of his life. ‬

‪We get the first glimpse of him beating on women with Frances Taylor—to whom time hasn’t been kind, she still thinks she’s hot stuff, mind you she was stunningly beautiful—and that’s for me the pivot on which the doc turns for the worse. ‬

‪The wife/woman beating bleeds into our sense of his music in the doc and we see the the mix in him of a bullying, selfish asshole and a lyrical musical genius. The beating and abusiveness distance us from him to an extent whereas before its revelation in the doc, for as much as we generally knew about it, the music is so compelling that we’re drawn into him by the doc without reservation, or at least I am.  ‬

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

‪An Essay On Judith Shklar That’s Unsatisfactory:‬

‪An Essay On Judith Shklar That’s Unsatisfactory:‬

‪And it’s all too typical of what I generally find in Aeon. ‬

‪I studied Shklar in a jurisprudence course I took in law school but remember nothing of what of her I studied.‬

‪So I was interested to read this and try to get back some sense of her critique of liberalism and its relation to her thinking about justice.‬

‪But this essay, easily read at one sitting, is a God awful hodgepodge I think.‬

‪Ideas are averted to but not developed and those that stand alone seem trite: for example, American liberalism has been too sunshiny and has in the past overlooked the country’s historic ills persisting to the present days; or that history is best studied as an account of the immiserated.  ‬

‪There’s an awful lot of name checking in this essay but not enough said about the names or their relation to Shklar that’s in any way helpful.‬

‪If I sensed any thesis in the hodgepodge it’s this:‬

‪... She maintained that to give injustice its due demands not only a different perspective but also a different type of narrative, one that helps to identify and recognise the many victims of injustice. Such a new critical approach, she argued, could tell us more about the many faces of injustice than following the false hope of striving for an ever-more perfect state of justice, including the idea of a perpetual amelioration of the laws...‬

‪So we might expect from this some sympathy with more radical thought, but then we read:

‪....Shklar’s political thought presents particular challenges to triumphalist and exceptionalist narratives. She detected that the legacy of slavery made America’s commitment to democracy often sound hollow. To her, discrimination remained a major scar that had not healed, despite all the rhetoric of equality and hard-fought-for improvements such as citizenship. She clearly sympathised with the civil rights movement and Martin Luther King but also remained skeptical about more radical methods that she thought didn’t contribute to bridging the colour line....‬

‪This essay triggered no recollection for me nor suggested a different insight into justice. And I fail to understand a notion of liberalism or justice that has cruelty as its core focus. ‬


Read the piece on Shklar finally, and largely agree with your take. The "liberalism of fear" -- don't know if that's her phrase or the authors' -- is a particularly awkward and inapt expression, if it isn't actually wrong. And the concluding paragraph is mush -- if she was for open borders, just say so, and if not, what is "citizenship" supposed to mean? But I did like the short bit about the "rather minimalist conception of politics, free from utopian ideals" in M and M. Otherwise, the focus on injustice threatens to devolve into the SJW's obsessing over intersectional microagressions and the like.‬

‪Also, in general, prefer Quillette to Aeon too, and especially to Areo. Wonder if the last two are related? ‬

Saturday, March 7, 2020

Robert George’s Twitter Thread On Confronting Meritorious Views Opposed To Yours

‪1/ Faculty viewpoint diversity is a vaccine against groupthink and an antidote to groupthink where it has set in. The trouble is that, once groupthink HAS set in, it’s nearly impossible to persuade people who are in it of the need for the antidote. ‬

‪2/ It’s certainly true that there is sometimes blatant, conscious, obviously deliberate discrimination against people who dissent from campus ideological orthodoxies. But the more fundamental problem and challenge is something else. ‬

‪3/ We humans have trouble appreciating meritorious work when it challenges our own opinions, especially when we’re strongly emotionally attached to those opinions. This isn’t a distinctively liberal problem, or a progressive or left-wing problem. It’s a human nature problem. ‬

‪4/ Anytime an ideological orthodoxy has hardened into place--it doesn’t matter whether it’s progressive or conservative--it’s difficult for people to distinguish between “work I disagree with despite its being really very good and challenging, and interesting, and important,” and ‬

‪5/ “work that goes contrary to what I just know to be true on issues that are important and critical to me and, perhaps, bound up with my identity as a, fill in the blank: _______.” People will suppose that those who deviate from the orthodoxy must be either stupid or malicious. ‬

‪6/ People will experience challenges to dominant opinions as attacks on them personally, indecent assaults on “essential values,” threats to what is good and true and right and just, intolerable violations of the norms of “our community.” ‬

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Focusing On Kobe Bryant’s Alleged Rape After The Helicopter Deaths

‪Responding to someone.‬


‪I just read this.‬


‪I have mixed feelings.‬

‪There is some apparent unclarity about what went on between the two of them. She was sexually open up to a point. Then not. On balance, I believe her account of what happened. And I see it, for him, as the conduct of an immature, spoiled, coddled, self assumed and self entitled “prince” of the world who then thought his celebrity and the reverence for him paved the way for him to do what he wanted at the expense of somebody else and get away with it. And he didn’t fully get away with it, at least to the extent that he had to dig into his own pocket somewhat to square matters with his victim (and on the personal side with his wife.)‬

‪OTOH, as bad as that rape was, and it was very bad, it happened when he was 24, which is to say, almost 20 years ago, 17 to be exact. And it seems that since then, he had rehabilitated himself, continuing to excel in his sport to be one of its great players, in his personal life as far as I know, and apparently with burgeoning promise in his post basketball life both creatively and entrepreneurially.‬

‪He is commonly perceived now as a larger than life exemplary figure who had a sordid, inexcusable incident in his somewhat distant past.‬

‪So, for me, to some extent, the other hand brackets the first hand.‬

‪And my sense is on balance, on what I now know and understand, that his death together with the deaths of his daughter and the others on the helicopter deserve to be grieved over and his and his daughter’s lives deserve to be celebrated without that incident being thrust into their midst. ‬

‪There will be plenty of opportunity, if people want to, to dwell on and stress the rape. But, IMHO, immediately after his and his daughter’s and the others’ deaths and during the celebration of their lives was not the time and place. ‬

‪I stress “humble” in IMHO because I can see the force of seeing the issue differently and I wouldn’t be strident in asserting that I’m right. ‬
‪Response :‬

‪Thanks for your reaction, Itzik. I don't have major disagreements with you here.‬

‪I would say that if, on balance, you're inclined to agree with her version of events, he looks pretty awful. The choking, the way he spoke to her, and his actual sexual behaviour are hard to overlook and don't deserve to be overshadowed by the fact that he went on to become fabulously wealthy and successful as an NBA player in my mind.‬

‪Furthermore, his remarks to the police about how he should do what Shaq does and just pay women up front to keep quiet makes me think he wasn't particularly broken up about his infidelity, or what transpired that night. Perhaps him continuing to do this (even consensually) wouldn't bother you, but it bothers me. ‬

‪Anyway, it was a very long time ago. And in the absence of any newer evidence, we should probably give Bryant the benefit of the doubt that he turned a page. But rape is a special category of awful, and I do think it wouldn't have been inappropriate to highlight this shortly after celebrating him. But as I said, I think your position is pretty reasonable.‬

Is Taste In Art Arguable?

‪Me: I send my immediate family a new poem every day usually with a small note about the poet.‬

‪I was especially moved by the this one short one below.‬

‪I’d never heard of the poet.‬

‪I like the hard c in “crying” against the soft leaf sounds. I like the double meaning in want, a lack and a desire. And I like the main contrast between that which is wispy, barely seen and heard, traces,  against the impactful explosion of emotion in the last line. ‬

‪The Want Of You       ‬

‪Angelina Weld Grimke        ‬

‪A hint of gold where the moon will be; ‬
‪Through the flocking clouds just a star or two; ‬
‪Leaf sounds, soft and wet and hushed, ‬
‪And oh! the crying want of you.‬

‪R:  It does not move me, because it feels like the speaker knows, and likes it, that she is being poetic in the approved manner.   Including those elements you point to.  ‬

‪Me: Hard to think of a lot of revered poems, when the poet or if you prefer, the voice of the poem, or speaker, isn’t being self consciously poetic in an approved manner. You could point to any number of effects, like coupling, or the contrasts in euphony, and so on and on, and not them as instances of that.‬

‪How to distinguish them here as a matter of literary criticism and evaluation?‬

‪R:  Wordsworth persuaded an entire culture that his poetry was a true expression of the human soul and that the previous poetry was artificial, rhetorical, e.g Johnson's Vanity of Human Wishes, a complex imitation of a poem by Juvenal.    As Coleridge pointed out, Wordsworth claim is false, just a new convention, but his poems didn't (and sometimes still don't) feel that way,  Wordsworth dominated poetry in the 19th (though some followed Keats in the elaborate tradition), and some people may still pull it off, but most sound (to me) like poor imitations of the real thing.  Pound, Eliot, etc. tried to react against this, by making the image do all the work, (no, "Oh!"s for example) and that led to a convention of flatness that can work but now most often sounds merely dull to me.  ‬

‪Me: ‬
‪... but most sound (to me) like poor imitations of the real thing..‬

‪That’s my question.‬

‪From a literary criticism, evaluation perspective, how do you show that the little poem I sent you doesn’t work?‬

‪Or how do I show it does?‬

‪If we base our our view of that on our feelings on reading it, then that’s entirely unhelpful in wanting, if possible, to make an objective assessment of it.‬

‪Of course it may be that an objective assessment is impossible in these matters.‬

‪But it is possible at least with extreme examples.‬

‪“Roses are red violets are blue‬

‪Your face looks and smells like poo.”‬

‪So why not with less than extreme examples?‬

‪R: There is no disputing about taste.  One can point others to what gives you pleasure, but you can't make them drink of it.  What I care about is whether people's accounts of what they are responding to make sense to me.  I always feel your critiques do, but not your finding themes.  There is just agreement about Harlequin among those people who are taken by the right people to be good judges of literature.  Hume has made the most widely admired case for something like that view of taste.  Arguments are not involved, and philosophers have explained why. ‬

‪Me: I don’t know his case and I don’t know the explanation. ‬

‪Can you summarize them? ‬

‪Something must underlie the agreement, some set of reasons. And if there are reasons, then it seems to me there’s an argument or there are arguments.‬

‪Consensus on such things doesn’t arise out of whole cloth. What is the basis of this agreement? Would it be hard for you to explain why doggerel isn’t good poetry, is bad poetry, why Harlequins aren’t great books, are bad books?  ‬

‪And where there is evaluative disagreement on specific works, there is, I’d think, usually a common starting point for what standards apply. ‬

‪R: I just finished Judas.  2/3 of the book is the story of a very odd, touching, and unusual relationship between an older woman (but not that old) named Atalia and a younger man (but not that young) named Shmeul. .   1/3 consists of long sections in which the father-in-law of Atalia talks about the rights and wrongs of the path Israel took from the 20s on.  ‬

‪The two are tied together plot-wise because Atalia lives with her father-in-law and hires the Shmeul to converse with the father-in-law, who is a cripple, and do a few simple chores.  She shares the house because her husband was brutally killed in one of the Arab Israeli wars and the house was left to her and her father in law. and their relationship, as slight as it is, transforms Shmeul.  ‬

‪The intellectual section consist of two parts, first,. a rehash of the debate about how Jews should relate to the Arabs and Palestinians, while the second is about Jewish attitudes to Judas, the subject of  Shmeul's abandoned  academic study.  ‬

‪I don't think serious students of this matter would find the intellectual stuff very impressive.  I think the intellectual stuff is there to give a slight but lovely novella (a genre that is hard to publish)  some intellectual heft and novelistic length.  And if there is some connection it is aridly abstract, some parallel that illuminates neither, but weakly justifies its inclusion.  ‬

‪For example, the moral might be (crudely stated in a way that connects the 2 sides)  that while intimacy can transform people, it cannot triumph over political reality.  (Atalia's father was very close to many Arabs, but that meant nothing politically).  ‬

‪I would bet a lot that some found the intellectual part very good, and perhaps even the basis of the work's value, while I feel the reverse.  I can't see how any argument could alter that. However, over time a consensus will emerge as to where the book stands in his oeuvre, and where the oeuvre stands in modern Israeli lit, and where in world lit.  But not because some arguments demonstrated its worth.  ‬

‪Me: I haven’t read this book, in fact had never heard of it. ‬

‪But what you say exemplifies some of the nuances in the question of whether taste is arguable. As I’ve noted, at the extremes, lousy doggerel poetry, formulaic, poorly written novels, all bad art at the extreme, invite defensible, easily argued points about why appreciation of them, not seeing them for what they are, reflects bad taste. ‬

‪And there will be, is, a consensus about that. ‬

‪My intuition is that the easier judgments about taste in extremes suggest that taste is arguable in better works like, say, Oz’s, even as there may be virtually intractable evaluative and, too, literary critical disagreement over them. ‬

‪To view differently whether, say, the link between the intellectual part and the story part in Oz works means what if the issue comes up? ‬

‪You’ll say you found the connection arid and forced and your opposite will say he didn’t. Then you will be pressed to give reasons and clarify the criteria from which you are judging and that you are applying and so will your opposite. And it’s entirely probable you’ll agree on the criteria while disagreeing on their application in this instance. And one of you may or may not persuade the other. ‬

‪I’ve had experiences of my judgments about works being changed or qualified by being given reasons for difference I found persuasive. ‬

‪You detach taste from our response to art, which, taste, is just a dimension of the engaged whole of us, mind, emotion, intuition, perception, erudition and so on; and you locate taste in some inviolable, unreachable sphere. ‬

‪You take our tendency generally to stick to what we feel about works of art as beggaring the possibility of persuasive argument. ‬

‪Your very last point betrays a category error. I guess there is a sociology of and a psychology of the consensus you lastly speak of, using Oz’s novella as a hypothetical instance. And you say once consensus is entrenched, that’s that and argument has nothing to do with it. ‬

‪But that doesn’t account for the arguments that led to a conventional view in the first place. ‬

‪And that same that doesn’t account for re-evaluation. ‬

‪And it doesn’t account for any individual’s experience with a work and for him getting into, so to say, a quarrel with convention. ‬

‪Nor does it account for differing schools of thought on any number of issues raised by works of art and their creators too. ‬

‪That’s the error: your brief descriptive account of how consensus gets formed and is what it is, is different from people experiencing works afresh or again and rethinking them. ‬

‪The first, it is obvious, doesn’t logically or practically entail the impossibility of the second. And the second will articulate itself in arguments. ‬

‪R: There is no history of such arguments making a difference.  Musical works last by being attended over long periods of time.  Same with all works of art.  In the short term there has been no time for time's winnowing.  The best short description of criticism I know is "discourse grounding evaluation."  One can see why the person says what they do, they are seeing the same work, but you just respond differently.  ‬

‪Me: It’s never happened to you?     ‬

‪R: Quite often I just don't get a New Yorker cartoon.  Someone then tells me what is going on.  Then I can enjoy it (or not) and the judgement is there.  It also happens with poems.  I did not understand for quite some time that the speaker was a river in Hart Crane's Repose of Rivers (I think that is the title), once I did, boom, I got it, and loved it.   Often when people don't like something they simply don't understand it.  A student hated Portnoy until I read it aloud and he saw it was funny.  Then he loved it.  I think we can point people to what is going on so they are sure they get it, and then they can judge.  So, no, no-one has ever persuaded me that my judgment about something I understood perfectly well was better or worse than I found it.  You can change understanding, but not the judgment of something that the person believes they understand.  I have persuaded only by pointing out what was not understood.  One teaches what one understands and let's the chips fall where they may.  ‬

‪R: I should add that people point out things in works that I have missed but which do not alter my judgment, just add a bit to it.  Also, bad interpretations have confused me.  For years people said that Kafka's Address to an Academy was an allegory of Freuds Civilization and Its Discontents.  I like the story but that somehow ruined it.  Then I read that it was an allegory of Jewish efforts to assimilate to German society, and suddenly it was genius---as so often with Kafka.  No argument, just a change of the whole gestalt as we used to say, and then boom. ‬

‪Me: “... So, no, no-one has ever persuaded me that my judgment about something I understood perfectly well was better or worse than I found it....”‬

‪Another problem with what you say beyond what I’ve noted is this: no one understands complex works “perfectly.” So taste will always be informed by a better understanding, which always takes the form of an argument. ‬

‪Me: “ Hume reminds us of the radical difference in kind between matters of fact and the pronouncements of sentiment. Verdicts of sentiment lack a truth-value. So it is surprising to find him endorsing the position that many judgments of taste are “absurd and ridiculous” (SOT, 269). Small differences affect taste, yet most people notice only “the grosser and more palpable qualities of the object” (SOT, 278). Only judges with a more refined taste will respond to the “universal” appeal of superior art. Because refinement demands considerable practice, such critics are few in numbers.”‬

‪R: Sure, but no arguments are involved, just sensitivity to detail and we learn quickly which critics are insensitive.  But that is what I said when the critic is reading the same book, that their comments indicate they get it.  But I can then disagree with their judgment.  ‬

‪Me: How does sensitivity to detail or whatever it is in any instance, it’s unlimited, that makes for a superior apprehension of a work get communicated save by reasoned discourse, which is to say, an argument? ‬

‪Me: Plus, you haven’t dealt substantively with this small account of Hume saying what I say, that bad taste at the extreme is easily judged and explained and good taste will reflect itself in an apprehension “of the ‘universal’ appeal of superior art,” that refined taste “demands considerable practice,” which all suggests what I’ve been arguing about taste itself being arguable. ‬

‪R: Show me one.  Give me an example.  ‬

‪Me: Sure. Here’s one that took me just under 12 seconds to find: (In this essay, a critic disagrees by a series of arguments with Eliot’s criticism of Hamlet as a flawed play and shows why Eliot is wrong.)‬

Sunday, March 1, 2020

A Note On The Idea Of Social Class

‪L, we once argued, if remember rightly, over whether there is such a thing as social class. If I remember, you said there isn’t and I said there is. If I’ve got this botched, let me know. Anyway, I’m coming to the very end of Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle. And from it, a thought has come to me with respect to that argument. The Marxist notion of class is, to put it one way, metaphysical, is deterministic, is rooted in an analysis that class is in an essential part constituted by a necessary idea of social forces moving along a singular path through history that will in the end necessarily fulfill themselves, virtually apocalyptically. Class consciousness is coming to understand the idea of those forces, and embodying it, hastening it. If class is that, then I agree with you: class as that doesn’t exist. But insofar as class is an aggregate of people meeting certain economic criteria and tending generally to exhibit certain attitudes and self consciousness, tending generally to a discernible cultural cluster, then I think it exists. One way of putting it may be that the Marxist conception of class is prescriptive and the more prosaic sociological idea of class is descriptive. Another way may be that the former sees class as a collective and the latter sees it as—the word I just used—an aggregate.

Sunday, February 16, 2020

A Bit Of A Bit More On Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle

‪  The Jungle:‬

‪I’ve started the 2nd 1/3 of the book.‬

‪No one will say Sinclair is subtle or has a fine literary touch.‬

‪The saying is, “Never use a sledgehammer when a scalpel will do.”‬

‪Now, I understand that exposing rapacious capitalism at one of the heights of its rapacity is no work for a scalpel. But it is becoming too much in the unrelenting deepening of this family’s misery. Which makes it more to the point that it’s more tract than anything else. ‬

‪The changes in Gurgis as he deteriorates are told to us mechanically, not shown. After the wedding, there’s not a spot of joy to be found anywhere, only deepening, darkening misery, which we’re told about now shown, caused by heartless capitalism.‬

‪What is a literary critic to say generally of this book that as literature is mediocre at best but as social document bearing witness is powerful and shocked so many consciences that it generated ameliorative changes in the law?‬

‪I’d think just that, or something like it.‬

‪Question: would ought it be put on a syllabus in a course of early 20th century American literature and why or why not?‬

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Brief Note In Midst Of Reading Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle

‪The wedding scene is an amazing cross section of that swathe of immiserated, exploited, grimly existing immigrants carving out a tragedy-enhancing moment of pleasure in the midst of their terrible social affliction. Here, in this scene, the showing and telling seem to be in accord. From then on, The Jungle devolves to tract-like telling under the veneer of fiction, whatever Sinclair thought he was achieving. And yet, as I say, what he describes, and it gets gloomier and darker as it proceeds, is powerfully resonant. So, maybe there’s another way of seeing what he does, that the thin simulacrum of people living their lives all so externally presented, almost fable like, is enough humanity as to make resonantly work the endless description of the conditions creating their deepening misery.‬

Friday, February 7, 2020

My Tweet On Just Having Seen Parasite

‪Color me contrarian. Just saw Parasite. I say meh. At times exhaustingly boring, at times simple minded, at times a cartoon, its abiding weakness is its exaggeration intended as satire and as shock, but which falls flat thematically/intellectually and emotionally. At best 2.75/5‬

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

An Answer To Jonah Goldberg’s Answer To Dershowitz On Criminality Anchoring Impeachment

‪Jonah Goldberg:

‪Goldberg:  For instance, the president has unreviewable pardon power. But if he encourages unlawful behavior with the promise that he will pardon it after the fact, Congress can impeach him for it.‬

‪Me: Conspiracy to commit that behaviour  ‬

‪G: Again, I’m no constitutional scholar, but I’ve yet to find many actual constitutional scholars on Dershowitz’s side of the argument.    ‬

‪Me: Credentialism ‬

‪G: Does it make any sense that a president has to violate a criminal statute to be impeached? When the Constitution was ratified there were no federal criminal statutes?‬

‪Me: There were common law crimes and codifying them in statutes was known to be forthcoming. ‬

‪G: Remember, the 25th Amendment doesn’t enter the picture until 1967. So basically any crazy behavior would have to be addressed with the impeachment power.‬

‪Me: Crazy behaviour isn’t criminal or criminal like, isn’t a “high crime or misdemeanor” like treason or bribery. Why was 25th Am passed, if not to fill this gap?‬

‪G: A president who spends his time in a smoke-filled VW van isn’t fulfilling his oath to see that the laws are faithfully executed.‬

‪Me: How is such conduct criminal or criminal like? How does it fit in with the language of “Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors,” given the construction rule ejusdem generis? Better a further amendment to deal with this gap, certainly preferable to the latent dangers in the elasticity of vague criteria.‬

‪G: Impeachment is a political process by intention and design and senators are supposed to be statesmen who take the health of the body politic and constitutional order into account. ‬

‪Me: No, it’s an unruly mix of law and politics. It sounds in criminal law. It has its closest analogue to criminal law. It is replete with the language of criminal law. To excise that analogue, to locate impeachment solely within the political, defies that it’s governed by the Constitution, America’s overarching legal framework, denies the applicability of the rules of natural justice—note the deeply unfair House process— and lands you in the land of Maxine Waters: “In impeachment, there is no law.” The flawed impeachments of both Clinton and Trump, both partisan attempts to short circuit their presidencies, demonstrate the dangers of impeachment by way of lawlessness. The anchoring of impeachment by crimes in the nature of bribery or treason, models for the kinds of offences against the state, which inform one of the big ways impeachment is in part political, drives you to your ludicrous examples—“spends his day in a smoke filled van”—to try to demonstrate the lurking danger with only a criminal underpinning. ‬

‪Another absurd hypothetical:‬

‪“If the president routinely went on TV dropping racial epithets and anti-Semitic broadsides, he would be completely within his rights to do so. But I would like to think we live in a country where the democratically elected legislative branch would say, ‘this is unacceptable’ regardless of what the criminal justice system has to say about it.” ‬

‪But put this absurd example against the real examples of impeachment, a most grave and awesome remedy, devolving to but a mere quiver in the politically partisan bow, trying to undo a duly constituted presidential election out of partisanship, which attempt has happened before and is happening now. ‬

‪G: We elect a president and vice president on the same ticket in large part to protect the will of the voters. To say that removing a president overturns the will of the voters is to say that the voters cast ballots for any impeachable behavior the president commits. This is a logical and moral absurdity. ‬

‪Me: No, again, no. To say that criminal or criminal-like behaviour must undergird impeachment is to say that the will of the people will not be overturned unless there is a concrete delict in the nature of a felonious crime against the state, that the democratically expressed will of the people will not be sacrificed on the altar of partisan advantage.   ‬

‪G: Now, none of this is to say that criminal behavior doesn’t make the case for impeachment easier. ‬

‪Me: To say it’s “easier” is absurdly reductive of the repeatedly explained reason for concrete, enumerated, decisive Articles. “Easier” makes a mockery of the founders’ anxious concern over the devolution of impeachment into manifest factionalism, the result turning only on which party has the most votes. ‬

‪G: But that is not Dershowitz’s claim. He flatly says abuse of power in itself is not impeachable. ‬

‪Me: It’s fitting that this part of your finale-flourish betrays a failure to understand what Dershowitz argues. He doesn’t say that abuse of power isn’t impeachable. He doesn’t say it flatly or otherwise. He, rather, stresses the distinction between the motive for impeachment—at its most general, “abuse of power”—and the grounds of the abuse, which must be concrete, enumerated and anchored in specific and articulated  modes of wrongdoing, criminal acts. It must be so in order to check the legislature from rising both above the law and the will of the people by a partisan exercise of raw political power, and in order to check the legislature’s ascension over the executive. ‬

‪Dershowitz’s analogy to criminal law is perfect and correct. There is no criminal law of abuse of power. Rather, it’s the rationale for specific criminal laws, assault, battery, rape, and so on. ‬

‪If you are charged with and arrested for abuse of power, with no notice of what specific law you have broken, you may wish to retain Alan Dershowitz. ‬

On Dershowitz’s Argument Before The Senate In Trump’s Impeachment Trial


‪addendum.  I realized I'm not sympathetic.  My guess is he knew what was coming, ie not serious criticism but insults, etc, and would have been disappointed by silence.  And Trump had no need of him.  The fact that he made the opposite argument (so I read, maybe not) re Clinton is also not charming.  I know he thought more deeply this time, etc.  but he should not have gone ahead given that.  He likes (needs?) the limelight.  ‬
‪Yes, none of this says his arguments aren't right or interesting, but . . . ‬

‪I assume you mean you’re not sympathetic to Dershowitz.‬

‪That like a moth he’s attracted to the flame of notoriety is neither here nor there save at least for one aspect: he has the substance to merit the attention, which is to say, he’s not an empty suit being celebrated for being celebrated. He’s got a brilliant legal mind and what says needs to be paid heed to, agree or disagree. ‬

‪There has not been one presentation in what I’ve seen of the Senate trial, some of it, that can approach in range and depth and analytic brilliance and passion too that of Dershowitz. Except to some extent Ken Starr, So other than the point on substance, that he has a large ego is beside all points that I can think of.‬

‪ How can you say that Trump had no need of him? What analysis have you made of what’s going on that leads you to this conclusion? Some of the most reputed lawyers in America who’ve shaped the defence team thought differently than you, as did Trump. I see Trump’s defence as a coherent whole, in which Dershowitz’s argument played a significant part both substantively and strategically. ‬

‪Your notion—that Dershowitz has changed his mind as to what he argued 20 some years ago is not “charming”—is beyond bizarre. What does what’s charming or not charming have to do with anything?‬

‪ Dershowitz, a constitutional scholar, before this impeachment exercise began, evolved in his thinking about the need for criminality to ground impeachment. Where is the relevance of charm? ‬

‪He made his evolved thinking publicly clear before this exercise began. Where is the relevance of charm? ‬

‪Trump’s lawyers asked him to join their team to argue his changed view and he agreed. Where is the relevance of charm? ‬

‪He made a brilliant and effective presentation, agree or disagree. Where is the relevance of charm? ‬

‪He confronted in his presentation the fact that some two decades ago he argued to the contrary but has come to new judgments about the issue after further research and reflection. Where is the relevance of charm? ‬

‪And same questions on the idea that he shouldn’t have gone ahead this time—an even odder proposition. ‬

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

More On Scruton And Conservatism And Liberalism

‪Roger Scruton: ‬‬


‪I thought Scruton was giving an account of the philosophical roots (or root, since he pretty much makes it one guy) of what now appears to us as more or less the natural way to be.  If you offer custom as a rationale you lose the debate.  Or authority, the reason you should do this, you tell your child, is because I say so.  ‬

‪He was also claiming that this has great drawbacks.  Maybe he underestimates our ability to live a la Rousseau (though Rousseau seems to have had some problems with it) but I have no idea about that.  My gut keeps saying, we now demand of all what only some can manage (self-regulation) so I am sympathetic to his view.  ‬


‪Listen, I’m not taking anything away from his essay. I think it’s great, bears rereading and thinking about. ‬

‪But I don’t know why the balance between stability and tradition on one hand and change on the other is so complicated.‬

‪The argument against the overemphasis on custom as the repository of accumulated wisdom is the hobbling of change and innovation. The argument against the overemphasis on progressive change is precisely the jettisoning of the wisdom of accumulated bottom up experience over time evident in custom. Incremental change is what Scruton plumps for but what exactly is incremental begs the question in specific cases and its overemphasis is an interference when something more than incremental is necessary. ‬

‪Society is massive and complex. Programmatic slow change can lead to reactionary stasis with its own reactionary reflexivity. Progressivism has its obvious menu of flaws, not the least throwing out babies with bath water. ‬

‪So that’s exactly where Meiklejohn comes in. ‬

‪Here is a nice description of the Liberal both believing and doubting by Alexander Meiklejohn, which provides a striking contrast to what might be called the Conservative cast of mind shown in the argument from caution (unintended consequences)and in the argument from tradition, both Scruton’s via Burke:‬

‪...Liberalism both believes and doubts, and “indicates a pattern of culture which criticizes itself. It has customs and standards of behaviour. But it also has the attitude of questioning its own dominant beliefs and standards. The liberal both believes and doubts and if an individual or a group will hold fast both to custom and intelligence, then its experience will inevitably be paradoxical and divided against itself. The being who seeks intelligence is a divided personality...‬

‪This is a succinct account of the very needed balance between tradition and reform. It’s no guarantee of perfection of course. In fact, the end of the quote speaks to the division—social and personal, uncertainty and anxiety that doubting and believing cause. ‬

‪Further, that very tension relates to the tension in the dramas of literary works, their essence being their paradoxical nature, emotion and ideas pulling against each other.‬

‪Scruton argues the wisdom of the common law exemplifies the bottom up accumulation of wisdom manifest in custom and tradition as opposed to legislating from on high as exemplifying progressive top down social engineering:‬

‪...As F. A. von Hayek has shown in Law, Legislation, and Liberty (1982), the common law, for example, contains information that could not be contained in a legislative program--information about conflicts and their resolution, about the sense of justice in action, and about human expectations, which is dispersed through the record of the law and is never available when legislation is the sole legal authority. Hence, the attempt to remake the legal order, through a legislative code that embodies all permissible solutions, is profoundly irrational. Such a code will destroy the source of legal knowledge, which is the judgment of the impartial judge as he confronts the unforeseeable course of human conflict...‬

‪When I before raised a criticism of Scruton’s account of the wisdom of the common law and the irrationality of legislating from on high with a view to, from on high, addressing all problems, my criticism included that Scruton’s account is unreal, that nowhere known to either of us is there a purely legislative approach to law as opposed to cases on specific points, you said, “It’s a point of principle. In the real world it’s a mix.” ‬

‪What’s the use of a point of principle that has no application to or existence in the real world. Even civil code jurisdictions, which in theory start top down from a code, a compendium of all laws, of necessity have cases that gloss the provisions of the code. And I’m unaware of common law justice being being superior to civil code justice, say comparing Quebec civil code law with the common law base of the rest of the provinces and territories in Canada or say UK justice and French justice. ‬

‪My intuition is that the modernity and liberalism of a society will inform more than anything else the quality of justice that emanates from the rule of law in it and that the differences are on the margins. 

Here, the example of our Criminal Code is apt. In a way, the codification of the common law of crime was a rejection of the inefficacy and even incoherence of the latter. Having the Criminal Code makes going back to an uncodified common of crime simply unthinkable. ‬

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Legislation vs Common Law

Agree or Disagree?‬
‪Roger Scruton:‬

‪..As F. A. von Hayek has shown in Law, Legislation, and Liberty (1982), the common law, for example, contains information that could not be contained in a legislative program--information about conflicts and their resolution, about the sense of justice in action, and about human expectations, which is dispersed through the record of the law and is never available when legislation is the sole legal authority. Hence, the attempt to remake the legal order, through a legislative code that embodies all permissible solutions, is profoundly irrational. Such a code will destroy the source of legal knowledge, which is the judgment of the impartial judge as he confronts the unforeseeable course of human conflict..‬

‪I’m inclined to disagree.‬

‪What about statutes that codify the common law and then get case law on their provisions to meet individual instances accompanied by and subject to a continuing project of reform?

‪Take the (Canadian) Criminal Code for example.‬

‪I can’t imagine that an uncodified common law of crime is to be preferred to it. 

‪The French and Quebec Civil Code  provisions generate case‬ law that glosses them. ‬

Monday, January 13, 2020

Interesting Point In The Debate Over The Legality Of Killing Suleimani

‪Interesting point in the argument over the legal justification of the killing of Suleimani. ‬

‪Here is the Obama justification for killing Anwar al- Awlaki, an American terrorist in Yemen. The Obama administration posited the following legal theory:‬

‪...By its nature, therefore, the threat posed by al-Qa’ida and its associated forces‬
‪demands a broader concept of imminence in judging when a person continu-‬
‪ally planning terror attacks presents an imminent threat, making the use of‬
‪force appropriate. In this context, imminence must incorporate considerations‬
‪of the relevant window of opportunity, the possibility of reducing collateral‬
‪damage to civilians, and the likelihood of heading off future disastrous attacks...‬

‪This quote is from, a link to a paper arguing generally for necessity subsuming imminence as the one criterion for for justified self defense. The paper deals principally with domestic instances but in Part V, starting at page 22, it accessibly and straight forwardly deals with imminence as an essential element in justifiable self defense in international relations. ‬

‪The thrust of the argument, btw, in Part V is that the language of imminence in such situations is linguistic window dressing to attempt to meet conventional legal formulae for the legal use of force. In reality, the argument is, necessity supplants imminence and imminence is a distraction in these kinds of contexts. ‬

‪That the previous administration made this argument doesn’t necessarily make it legitimate but it ought at least give pause to reflexive arguments from partisanship that what Trump did here was obviously illegal—ie, the shoe on the other foot test. ‬