Fun stuff.

Preparing to talk about John Cheever tomorrow, I take a look at his Paris Review interview.

This is no reflection on Hollywood, but it’s just that I seemed to have a suicide complex there. I don’t like the freeways, for one thing. Also, the pools are too hot . . . 85 degrees, and when I was last there, in late January, in the stores they were selling yarmulkes for dogs — my God! I went to a dinner and across the room a woman lost her balance and fell down. Her husband shouted over to her, “When I told you to bring your crutches, you wouldn’t listen to me.” That line couldn’t be better!

Circuitously, UD happens on a saying she likes.

She’s been following – vaguely, because she doesn’t like posting on sexual harassment stories – the increasingly icky case of Gabriel Piterberg, a UCLA history professor who seems to have sexually harassed two graduate students. (UD shies away from these stories because they are typically insanely complicated, with claims and counterclaims galore, and everything grows into intricate lawsuits which spawn further lawsuits… I mean, of course, UD does post on quite a few such stories – they’re obviously important. But you often feel the ground shifting uncomfortably under you as you try to make sense of them.) They sued, and the university settled. Piterberg got some financial and other punishments (required seminar in foundations of not sexually harassing women; keep the office door open), and is now, at the beginning of spring semester, back at work.

But lots of people aren’t happy about that (38 of his colleagues wrote this protest letter), and they’ve been protesting/disrupting his classes. He hasn’t really been able to teach.

The story has jumped to major media outlets, and, in the context of plenty of recent California-university-based sexual harassment incidents, looks bad for UCLA.

Making matters worse is the notorious anti-Zionism of Piterberg, who grew up in Israel and came to regard the Zionist project as rank colonialist folly. One of Piterberg’s colleagues, the father of Daniel Pearl, has not hesitated to condemn him:

“Piterberg belongs to a group of extreme left so-called historians who see their role as the reinterpretation of history to fit their political agenda,” Pearl said.

Pearl said that Piterberg has greatly damaged UCLA and its history department by trying to legitimatize anti-Israel movements on campus and “demoralizing Jewish students.”

Let’s face it: Not a popular guy on campus. Students figure he’d be happy to get the hell out if UCLA gave him a good severance.

What they’re forgetting is that he probably has nowhere else to go.


Anyway, in reading about Piterberg and his work, UD came upon this comment, from someone reviewing one of his books.

While he knew all about the contradiction in “religious Zionism”, [Chaim] Bermant was more indulgent towards his Labour friends, and overlooked that other contradiction – what George Steiner has perceptively called Zionism as a secular-political movement invoking a scriptural-mystical justification “to which it could not, in avowed honesty, subscribe.” Or as the Israeli writer Amnon Raz-Krakotzkin, cited by Piterberg, puts it, “There is no God, but He promised us the Land”…

UD likes this very much – “There is no God, but He promised us the land.”

Wow. We sure make classy fascists here.

In 2001, [Richard B. Spencer] received a B.A. with High Distinction in English Literature and Music from the University of Virginia and, in 2003, an M.A. in the Humanities from the University of Chicago. He spent the summer of 2005 and 2006 at the Institute Vienna Circle. From 2005-07, he was a doctoral student at Duke University studying modern European intellectual history…

More on Spencer.

And more.

The writings of Friedrich Nietzsche made a lasting impression; Spencer found his critiques of equality and democracy darkly compelling. He identified with the German philosopher’s unapologetically elitist embrace of “great men” such as Napoleon Bonaparte and the composer Richard Wagner. Yet Spencer found little in Nietzsche about the organization of the state; it was only after entering the humanities master’s program at the University of Chicago that he discovered Jared Taylor, a self-proclaimed “race realist” who argues that blacks and Hispanics are a genetic drag on Western society. [Taylor has nothing to do with U of C; Spencer discovered him online.]

… He was attracted to the writings of the late University of Chicago professor Leo Strauss, a Jewish German-born philosopher who had been accused by some of supporting fascism. Spencer’s master’s thesis was an analysis of German philosopher Theodor Adorno, who he argued was afraid to admit how much he loved the music of Wagner because Wagner was an anti-Semite championed by the Nazis. “If you looked at what I was doing, there was a clear interest in radical traditionalist right-wing German philosophy, a semi-fascist type thing,” Spencer says. “But there was always plausible deniability to it all.”

By the time he entered Duke as a Ph.D. student in European intellectual history in 2005, his views were on his sleeve. Fellow students recall Spencer openly sharing his opinions on biological differences between races and endorsing books such as Harvard professor Samuel Huntington’s Who Are We?, which argues that Hispanic immigrants are less suited than Europeans for assimilation. One Caucasian woman who was a student at the time recalls Spencer saying that people with her level of education needed to bear more children. Yet Spencer was charming enough to maintain collegial relations with his peers; an official graduate student party that he hosted at his spacious apartment was well attended. “Not many of us had ever come across as an out-and-out fascist,” says a college professor who studied in the same history Ph.D. program as Spencer. “We didn’t know how serious he was.”

… “In this weird way that Trump is trying to give mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to America, [Spencer says,] he’s also, like, bringing America to an end in the sense that he is a first step to white identity politics, which will bring about fragmentation… This is where I am kind of a Hegelian. Whenever you see a phenomenon, you see its negative aspect. There is a dark side to something that is happening, and I think that is Trump’s dark side, that he is reviving America and accelerating [the end of America]… That’s why I love him…”

Sure, it’s more than a little too-too.

But Chris Kluwe explaining to Donald Trump what gets said in actual locker rooms is pretty funny.

I was in an NFL locker room for eight years, the very definition of the macho, alpha male environment you’re so feebly trying to evoke to protect yourself, and not once did anyone approach your breathtaking depths of arrogant imbecility. Oh, sure, we had some dumb guys, and some guys I wouldn’t want to hang out with on any sort of regular basis, but we never had anyone say anything as foul and demeaning as you did on that tape, and, hell, I played a couple years with a guy who later turned out to be a serial rapist. Even he never talked like that.

And I’m Waiting for Dominique Strauss-Kahn.

“They got Roger Stone and now they got Roger Ailes,” Hillary Clinton loyalist James Carville told The Daily Beast, not bothering to suppress a giggle over the rogue’s gallery of misfits that seems to be populating the Trump campaign. “I’m waiting for Dick Morris.”

DSK not only shares with several Trump operatives warm links with Ukraine; he will be able to reinforce Ailes’s advice on how to appeal to women.

Breakfast, lunch, and afternoon.

On other campaigns, we would have to scrounge for crumbs,” says a senior Clinton adviser. “Here, it’s a fire hose. [Trump] can set himself on fire at breakfast, kill a nun at lunch and waterboard a puppy in the afternoon. And that doesn’t even get us to prime time.”

Yikes. It really CAN’T buy you happiness.

While unexpected, the death [of the Duke of Westminster] has not come completely out of the blue.

“He was a depressive and had been unwell for many years,” a source tells The Daily Beast.

UD’s Law School Colleague, Jonathan Turley, Takes You There!

From his USA Today article about the Rio Olympics:

[T]he IOC accepted pledges [from Brazil] that were almost laughable in their implausibility, like transforming the polluted bay into a model of water treatment purity in a few years. After pledging $1 billion to clean up its cesspool, Rio later announced it would cut that budget down to around $51 million. One Brazilian expert put it simply, “Foreign athletes will literally be swimming in human crap.”

La Nausée, Chapitre Deux

UD has already employed Sartrean nausea to evoke the feelings of many of us in this election cycle (go here); now the President of France, Francois Hollande, has made things more explicit.

Trump’s excesses, Hollande said in a press conference this afternoon, “make you want to retch.” The verb there was “vomir,” which makes all sorts of sense; but, expanding on his theme, Hollande also referred to said excesses giving him haut-le-coeur.

Who knew that in French the beautiful phrase high heart actually means ready to puke?

‘I sat next to an attractive woman who rang no bells. She was really not up for any kind of chitchat. Later, when I repeated the name I’d seen on her place card, Kelly Ripa, I learned that this was a deeply celebrated television artist; I felt bad that she had voyaged all the way down to Florida only to find herself stuck next to the wedding’s one nobody, and I understood her taciturnity and the pain that lay beneath it.’

A New Yorker writer remembers Trump’s most recent wedding.

“Once, when she was in Paris with her daughter, Rachel, who is now an animal-rights lawyer in Denver, she peed in the garden of the Tuileries Palace at night.”

First sentence of a great short story in search of an author.

“When I woke up 5 days later I didn’t remember anything. I thanked everyone at the ICU for my life, went home, and then slowly as the opiates faded away, remembered the trauma of the surgery & spent the first two days home kind of free-falling from the meds / lack of meds and the paralyzing realization that nothing matters. Luckily that was followed by the motivating revelation that nothing matters.”

Wonderful writing, post-op, from Sarah Silverman.

But he’s TOTALLY into circumcision!

[Trumper Warning]

I’ve seen this guy hold his grandsons at a bris.

Life in These United States

The company’s drivers expressed safety concerns that FedEx trucks were being stopped on the road by online pharmacy customers demanding packages of pills and that the delivery address was a parking lot, school, or vacant home where several carloads of people were waiting for their drugs, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

“Trump proved that many evangelical voters, supposedly the heart of a True Conservative coalition, are actually not really values voters or religious conservatives after all, and that the less frequently evangelicals go to church, the more likely they are to vote for a philandering sybarite instead of a pastor’s son.”

I dunno… UD can’t stand Trump, of course, but…

Doesn’t something hopeful lurk in Ross Douthat’s sentence?

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