Occasional blogging, mostly of the long-form variety.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

National Poetry Month 2020

April is National Poetry Month, so I wanted to post a poem before the month was out, and as usual, I'll link the wonderful Favorite Poem Project. I encountered the poem below earlier this year and thought it was especially apt for the times.

blessing the boats
By Lucille Clifton

(at St. Mary’s)

may the tide
that is entering even now
the lip of our understanding
carry you out
beyond the face of fear
may you kiss
the wind then turn from it
certain that it will
love your back may you
open your eyes to water
water waving forever
and may you in your innocence
sail through this to that


My archive on poetry is here. Feel free to mention or link a favorite poem in the comments.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

The Emperor's New Mutiny

This is extraordinary. Just a few days ago, I posted a piece mentioning that Trump was "trying to out-crazy Onion stories" and comparing him to "an imbecilic Captain Ahab – obsessive and prone to reckless decisions that endanger those he is supposed to lead, but without any redeeming qualities like, oh, basic knowledge of his chosen profession." Now he is choosing to compare himself to Captain Bligh in Mutiny on the Bounty, which he claims "was one of my all-time favorite movies." But apparently Trump has never seen it, or completely misunderstood it, because Bligh is the villain, and does not fare well. (Or maybe Trump identifies with the villain and is so delusional he thinks others share his worldview… or can be bullied into accepting it.) Trump also brings to mind the obsessive, unstable Captain Queeg in The Caine Mutiny. (Pick your favorite unfit captain, or combine them all!) This episode is reminiscent of Trump retweeting a meme of him playing the violin that was originally posted by his social media director Dan Scavino. It instantly drew comparisons to the tale of Nero fiddling while Rome burned, and apparently neither Scavino nor Trump got the reference.

To recap, Trump has said "I don't take responsibility at all" about a key pandemic response failure and also claimed, We're a backup. We're not an ordering clerk," meaning he has no responsibility to all the states lacking critical supplies.

Meanwhile, Trump keeps insisting he can command governors to reopen their states, when that pesky Constitution and case law say otherwise. The Washington Post covered one of these incidents in "Trump's propaganda-laden, off-the-rails coronavirus briefing":

Trump also used the briefing to repeatedly suggest he had absolute power to deal with the situation, despite the Constitution and centuries of Supreme Court precedent. He said he had "ultimate authority," adding: "The president of the United States has the authority to do what the president has the authority to do, which is very powerful. The president of the United States calls the shots." He said later that "when somebody is the president of the United States, the authority is total, and that's the way it's going to be."

In other words, in his usual angry, incoherent style, Trump is simultaneously refusing any responsibility but insisting he has absolute power. It's characteristically lazy, clueless and dickish.

Speaking of which, Trump is especially vicious to women (and people of color, and particularly women of color) and here's a news segment on Trump's propaganda that also shows him being petulant and remarkably nasty to CBS' Paula Reid:

Needless to say, governors, many constitutional lawyers and everyone who remembers basic civics disagreed with Trump's tantrum assertions. As New York Governor Andrew Cuomo pointed out:

"We don't have a king," Cuomo said on NBC's Today. "We have a president. That was a big decision. We ran away from having a king, and George Washington was president, not King Washington. So the president doesn't have total authority."

(Dick Cheney and David Addington, with their batshit, authoritarian, unitary executive theory might agree with Trump if they were still in power, but even the loathsome Liz Cheney chimed in to criticize Trump at least this once, and Trump has backpedaled somewhat.)

Trump likes to pretend he's an absolute monarch, attacking career officials doing their jobs and serving their country instead of Trump as "the deep state"; he stands exposed as a buffoon like the emperor in Hans Christian Anderson's tale; he is railing against a nonexistent mutiny because on this and many matters he doesn't actually possesses authority to overthrow; he's an oversized brat throwing a tantrum for not getting his own way.

It bears mentioning, though, that as much as Trump deserves mockery, he deserves scorn much more. His staggering incompetence and corruption have made the pandemic crisis shockingly worse, and many people will die or suffer because of it.


That's the political part of this post. I did want to spend a little time on the films.

The historical Captain William Bligh was a complex figure and not a straightforward villain; some accounts have painted him much more favorably. The general consensus seems to be that Bligh was a superb navigator (and the Bounty tale includes a striking example of this), but not a natural leader or good manager of his crew.

The 1935 Mutiny on the Bounty is the most famous film version of the story, directed by Frank Lloyd, starring Charles Laughton in a great performance as Bligh, and Clark Gable as Fletcher Christian. It was nominated for eight Oscars and won Best Picture. It's well worth a look; I find Laughton a particularly interesting actor. (Incidentally, he played Nero in Cecil B. DeMille's film The Sign of the Cross.) The one part that feels odd is the moment of Fletcher Christian's rebellion – several incidents occur that stir him but don't clinch the decision to mutiny, which comes rather suddenly after a lull. It's a great film of the era, though, and clips along despite being a bit over two hours.

The 1962 version of Mutiny on the Bounty, directed by Lewis Milestone, stars Marlon Brando as Fletcher Christian and Trevor Howard as Captain Bligh, and clocks in just under three hours. Richard Harris and Hugh Griffith have supporting roles. This version is handsomely filmed, but it feels slower and lower energy to me and I've never really gotten into it. I also prefer Brando in many other films. But it certainly has its fans, and you may be one of them.

I do like the somewhat underrated 1984 film The Bounty directed by Roger Donaldson, starring Anthony Hopkins as Bligh (doing a proper Cornish accent) and Mel Gibson as Fletcher Christian. Bligh comes off as harsh but not entirely without cause, and is sympathetic and even admirable at points. Fletcher Christian comes off as popular and charismatic, but also an immature dilettante. The film also has Laurence Olivier, Daniel Day-Lewis, Liam Neeson, Bernard Hill and Edward Fox in supporting roles, plus a screenplay by Robert Bolt, some pretty scenery and a score by Vangelis.

Finally, The Caine Mutiny is a very good film set during WWII directed by editor-turned-director Edward Dmytryk. It boasts a superb performance by Humphrey Bogart as the prickly, paranoid, slowly unraveling Captain Queeg. Even when Queeg is outwardly calm, he fidgets with some metal balls in his hand, one of the great character-prop choices in acting and directing. The supporting cast includes José Ferrer, Van Johnson, Fred MacMurray, E.G. Marshall and Lee Marvin.

(Naturally, film buff Digby posted on this story as well and includes a key scene from The Caine Mutiny.)

Saturday, April 11, 2020

From Fox News' Heart I Stab at Thee

It's hard to keep up with all stories of Donald Trump showing he's unfit for office, whether due to incompetence, idiocy, corruption, nepotism, trying to out-crazy Onion stories, or some deadly mix. That extends to his decision to put his equally incompetent son-in-law, Jared Kushner, in charge of key portions of the pandemic response, when the unqualified dolt shouldn't be running anything. Several stories over the past couple of weeks have particularly stuck with me.

The Disaster I Caused Is All Over the News

On 3/29/20, Trump went on a crazier-than-usual bragging stint about how great the "ratings" were for the pandemic briefings, taunted the media, and bragged about how Republicans didn't trust the news:

Even for Trump, this is astounding. People are dying, and in alarming numbers, but Trump only cares about his ratings and "beating" his chosen foes. And as covered in more depth in a previous post, Trump bears significant responsibility for how bad the COVID-19 pandemic is in the United States by downplaying the coronavirus threat for months, dismantling or trying to underfund the agencies built to fight pandemics, lying and giving misinformation constantly, failing to coordinate national efforts and often actively interfering with those trying to bring some competency to bear on the crisis, and cheering on the reality-denying habits of his adoring, authoritarian followers. COVID-19 was going to be a grave challenge no matter who was in charge, but Trump's incompetence has been disastrous.

I'll leave formal diagnoses to mental health professionals, but in general layperson terms, Trump is a narcissist, a megalomaniac, a sociopath, and a soulless, cruel, self-absorbed asshole. Trump is like an imbecilic Captain Ahab – obsessive and prone to reckless decisions that endanger those he is supposed to lead, but without any redeeming qualities like, oh, basic knowledge of his chosen profession. As covered in that previous post, Trump cares much, much more about public adulation than human lives. He will sink and doom everyone around him, and unfortunately, he can adversely affect most of the country (and interfere with other nations as well). Yet most Republican politicians and voters don't care, and many continue to cheer him on, perhaps most of all the professional dissemblers and sycophants at Fox News.

I'm Not a Doctor or Expert and I Can't Play One on TV, Either

Trump seems extremely fond of his son-in-law Jared Kushner, perhaps because, like Trump, he's an incompetent rich kid who's advanced mostly if not entirely due to his family connections. Both of them frequently sound like the kid who didn't read the book trying to bullshit his way through a presentation. Reportedly, Trump has heeded Kushner for some of Trump's most idiotic and dangerous statements, and for some reason, Trump gave Kushner (or allowed Kushner to take) a key role in shaping the already-chaotic White House's pandemic response – a "senior official described the Kushner team as a "frat party" that descended from a U.F.O. and invaded the federal government." Kushner quickly showed how out of his depth he was when, on 4/2/20, he complained petulantly and incorrectly to reporters about the Strategic National Stockpile:

The notion of the federal stockpile was, it's supposed to be our stockpile. It's not supposed to be states' stockpiles that they then use.

This is the answer of a high school student who's completely failed basic civics. Who does Kushner think the Strategic National Stockpile is for? Obviously it should be used to help U.S. citizens, who live in, what are they called, oh yeah… states. He was justifiably savaged for this dangerously ignorant response. It's hard to guess what Kushner was even thinking. Maybe he meant that he thought that the Strategic National Stockpile was for him and Trump to dispense to their pals as political favors like cut-rate Mafioso wannabes and, like Trump, he was dumb enough to say the quiet parts out loud? Or does that give him too much credit for actual thought? Why is someone with so little basic knowledge of an essential job during a major crisis being given power? Coordinating a response to a deadly pandemic is not a nepotistic patronage gig – it requires actual experience and competence.

Predictably, Trump lashed out at a reporter for asking about Kushner's inaccurate remarks and gave a nonsensical defense. And Trump has made similarly ludicrous claims that individual states are responsible for their own disaster relief and the federal government is supposed to serve only as a backup – "We're a backup. We're not an ordering clerk" – which isn't true and makes little sense. Trump also clearly doesn't actually believe that, otherwise he wouldn't keep stealing supply orders from the states. As usual, Trump is asserting both that he can do whatever he wants but that he's not responsible for the consequences.

On top of that, as was widely reported, the Trump administration made the Orwellian move of changing the stockpile website description to better match Kushner's incorrect remarks. It bears remembering that one of Trump's first actions as president was directing his then-press secretary Sean Spicier to yell at reporters for not accepting obvious, Trump-flattering lies about the crowd size at Trump's inauguration, which was clearly much smaller than Obama's. Apparently, Trump, who believes whatever reality suits him in that particular moment and expects everyone around him to kiss his ass, also expects the same treatment for his idiot son-in-law.

Michelle Goldberg summed up the concerns about Kushner nicely in a 4/2/20 column titled, "Putting Jared Kushner In Charge Is Utter Madness" (originally titled "Jared Kushner Is Going to Get Us All Killed"):

Reporting on the White House's herky-jerky coronavirus response, Vanity Fair's Gabriel Sherman has a quotation from Jared Kushner that should make all Americans, and particularly all New Yorkers, dizzy with terror.

According to Sherman, when New York's governor, Andrew Cuomo, said that the state would need 30,000 ventilators at the apex of the coronavirus outbreak, Kushner decided that Cuomo was being alarmist. "I have all this data about I.C.U. capacity," Kushner reportedly said. "I'm doing my own projections, and I've gotten a lot smarter about this. New York doesn't need all the ventilators." (Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country's top expert on infectious diseases, has said he trusts Cuomo's estimate.)

Even now, it's hard to believe that someone with as little expertise as Kushner could be so arrogant, but he said something similar on Thursday, when he made his debut at the White House's daily coronavirus briefing: "People who have requests for different products and supplies, a lot of them are doing it based on projections which are not the realistic projections." . . .

The journalist Andrea Bernstein looked closely at Kushner's business record for her recent book "American Oligarchs: The Kushners, the Trumps, and the Marriage of Money and Power," speaking to people on all sides of his real estate deals as well as those who worked with him at The New York Observer, the weekly newspaper he bought in 2006.

Kushner, Bernstein told me, "really sees himself as a disrupter." Again and again, she said, people who'd dealt with Kushner told her that whatever he did, he "believed he could do it better than anybody else, and he had supreme confidence in his own abilities and his own judgment even when he didn't know what he was talking about."

It's hard to overstate the extent to which this confidence is unearned. Kushner was a reportedly mediocre student whose billionaire father appears to have bought him a place at Harvard. Taking over the family real estate company after his father was sent to prison, Kushner paid $1.8 billion — a record, at the time — for a Manhattan skyscraper at the very top of the real estate market in 2007. The debt from that project became a crushing burden for the family business. (Kushner was able to restructure the debt in 2011, and in 2018 the project was bailed out by a Canadian asset management company with links to the government of Qatar.) He gutted the once-great New York Observer, then made a failed attempt to create a national network of local politics websites.

No wonder Trump likes Kushner – he's his spitting image, inept and arrogant. As The Washington Post has reported, "The U.S. was beset by denial and dysfunction as the coronavirus raged." The article features several chilling passages, including this:

Other officials have emerged during the crisis to help right the United States' course, and at times, the statements of the president. But even as Fauci, Azar and others sought to assert themselves, Trump was behind the scenes turning to others with no credentials, experience or discernible insight in navigating a pandemic.

Foremost among them was his adviser and son-in-law, Jared Kushner. A team reporting to Kushner commandeered space on the seventh floor of the HHS building to pursue a series of inchoate initiatives. . . .

This isn't a game – Kushner's heavy involvement has pushed out more competent leadership, and like Trump, he appears to be actively interfering with positive efforts to mitigate the pandemic crisis. As covered by Vanity Fair's article, "Lawmakers Want to Know: WTF Is Jared Kushner Doing?," congressional Democrats have pressed the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to explain why supplies to the states have been delayed or hijacked by the Trump administration and what Kusher's role is. (" 'It would be like high school cafeteria drama if it weren't life or death,' political consultant Jared Leopold, the former communications director for the Democratic Governors Association, told the [New York] Times.") The buck should stop with Trump, not that he will ever accept responsibility. As The Washington Post piece sums up:

If the coronavirus has exposed the country's misplaced confidence in its ability to handle a crisis, it also has cast harsh light on the limits of Trump's approach to the presidency — his disdain for facts, science and experience.

He has survived other challenges to his presidency — including the Russia investigation and impeachment — by fiercely contesting the facts arrayed against him and trying to control the public's understanding of events with streams of falsehoods.

The coronavirus may be the first crisis Trump has faced in office where the facts — the thousands of mounting deaths and infections — are so devastatingly evident that they defy these tactics.

More Lunacy

What else? Well, where to begin?

Protective gear in the national stockpile is nearly depleted. FEMA is not operating well; Rear Admiral John Polowczyk, the FEMA supply chain task force lead, has made remarks that suggest the U.S. is flying in supplies but then giving them to private companies and letting the states bid on them competitively, which has driven up prices. That's an unnecessarily bad system, and "some governors and critics say the White House distribution approach of mixing federal and state entities with private health care companies continues to create confusion, anger and state bidding wars that waste time and money." Adding to the mess, only 3,200 of the 100,000 new coronavirus ventilators FEMA is sourcing will be ready in time for the peak of the pandemic. Meanwhile, the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA), a Department of Defense agency that is well-positioned to handle supply chain issues, is not being used. Even some Republicans have criticized Defense Secretary Mark Esper for a lack of leadership. Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer asked Trump to appoint a military czar to coordinate supplies and suggested some candidates, but Trump defended his current team and immaturely made personal attacks against Schumer. (No crisis is ever more important than Trump's wounded ego.) A recent New Yorker article by Susan B. Glasser asks and answers, "How Did the U.S. End Up with Nurses Wearing Garbage Bags?" It starts with Eric Ries, a Silicon Valley CEO approached by the White House to help with the pandemic response:

What [Ries and others] did not foresee was that the federal government might never come to the rescue. They did not realize this was a government failure by design—not a problem to be fixed but a policy choice by President Trump that either would not or could not be undone. "No one can believe it. That's the No. 1 problem with the whole situation: the facts are known, but they are inconceivable," Ries told me. "So we are just in denial."

Independent reporting has corroborated what Ries and other volunteers saw for themselves: "a fragmented procurement system now descending into chaos," as the Associated Press put it. The news agency found that not a single shipment of medical-grade N95 masks arrived at U.S. ports during the month of March. The federal government was not only disorganized; it was absent. Federal agencies waited until mid-March to begin placing bulk orders for the urgently needed supplies, the A.P. found. The first large U.S. government order to the big U.S. producer 3M, for a hundred and seventy-three million dollars' worth of N95 masks, was not placed until March 21st—the same day that Ries got his first phone call about the Kushner effort. The order, according to the A.P., did not even require the supplies to be delivered until the end of April, far too late to help with the thousands of cases already overwhelming hospitals.

(The Glasser article is disturbing and should be read in full; you'll be shocked to learn that Trump attacked government officials who reported problems and accused them of being politically motived. As Glasser summarizes, "There was a window for action. It wasn't just closed. It was slammed shut.)

Meanwhile, Trump keeps shilling the malaria drug, hydroxychloroquine, astonishingly telling people to try it, because "What have you got to lose?" Although hydroxychloroquine is being tested, its efficacy for COVID-19 remains unproven, and obviously Trump should not be dispensing medical advice or silencing Dr. Fauci, an actual expert, as Trump did when a reporter tried to ask Fauci about the drug. To be fair, hydroxychloroquine has actual value for malaria treatment and might have other uses, but Trump isn't making his statements based on facts, careful thought, or expert advice, and simply doesn't care about such things, including the potentially dangerous side effects of the medication. Even if hydroxychloroquine proves to be a wonder drug, what Trump is doing should be seen as part of a long conservative tradition of shilling snake oil. Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revised some guidance from its website about hydroxychloroquine and other drugs for COVID-19 on its website. The earlier, pro-hydroxychloroquine "was crafted for doctors at the request of a White House coronavirus task force, which had urged prompt action." So unlike the Strategic National Stockpile website change, the CDC site became more accurate, but in both cases, the Trump administration interfered with a government agency and peddled misinformation for political purposes.

If that weren't enough, Trump recently fired inspector general Glenn Fine, who was the chairman of the panel that would have overseen the $2 trillion stimulus package. As The Washington Post reports, "In just the past four days, Trump has ousted two inspectors general and expressed displeasure with a third, a pattern that critics say is a direct assault on one of the pillars of good governance." Nancy Pelosi called Trump's actions "part of a disturbing pattern of retaliation by the president against independent overseers fulfilling their statutory and patriotic duties to conduct oversight on behalf of the American people." The other inspector general Trump fired was Michael Atkinson, apparently in retaliation for heeding the whistleblower in Trump's Ukraine scandal. In a statement, Atkinson wrote, "The American people deserve an honest and effective government. . . . Please do not allow recent events to silence your voices." Atkinson's firing continues a pattern of retaliation by the obsessive Trump, and congressional Democrats are "seeking legislative proposals that could restrict Trump's ability to remove or demote inspectors general for political reasons." It's important to remember that the Trump administration isn't just incompetent; it's deeply corrupt.

The Trump administration's incompetence is so staggering, so jaw-dropping, it would have been rejected as implausible in fiction not long ago. Science fiction author Ted Chiang observed:

While there has been plenty of fiction written about pandemics, I think the biggest difference between those scenarios and our reality is how poorly our government has handled it. If your goal is to dramatize the threat posed by an unknown virus, there's no advantage in depicting the officials responding as incompetent, because that minimizes the threat; it leads the reader to conclude that the virus wouldn't be dangerous if competent people were on the job. A pandemic story like that would be similar to what's known as an "idiot plot," a plot that would be resolved very quickly if your protagonist weren't an idiot. What we're living through is only partly a disaster novel; it's also—and perhaps mostly—a grotesque political satire.

Scott Z. Burns, the screenwriter for the quite good movie Contagion (2011), made similar observations:

I never contemplated a federal response that was so ignorant, misguided and full of dangerous information. I thought our leaders were sworn to protect us. . . .

I would have never imagined that the movie needed a "bad guy" beyond the virus itself. It seems pretty basic that the plot should be humans united against the virus. If you were writing it now, you would have to take into account the blunders of a dishonest president and the political party that supports him. But any good studio executive would have probably told us that such a character was unbelievable and made the script more of a dark comedy than a thriller. . . .

The virus doesn't care what TV network you watch or newspaper you read. We now have more sick people in this country than anywhere else in the world. And even with a three-month head start, we find ourselves scrambling to provide protective gear for our doctors and tests for our neighbors. That is not the fault of the virus. That is something everyone who called it a hoax has to answer for. . . .

I never thought in a million years that the scientists and public health people would be questioned and doubted and defunded and, in many cases, dismissed from their posts. That was something as a screenwriter and storyteller I would have never anticipated, because the threat is so obvious.

The problems aren't limited to the Trump administration, either. Wisconsin governor Tony Evers, a Democrat, tried to delay the 4/7/20 state primary and expand voting-by-mail due to increased COVID-19 concerns, but was blocked by state Republicans, a Republican-controlled state supreme court, and the Republican-controlled U.S. Supreme Court. As Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who wrote the dissenting opinion said, "the court's order, I fear, will result in massive disenfranchisement." Voter suppression is a diabolical conservative tradition, and it's been noticeably bad in Wisconsin for several years at least. These latest voter suppression efforts by Republicans were mainly to try to keep control of the state supreme court. The scene on election day was appalling, with voters unnecessarily endangered, especially due to moves like reducing Milwaukee's polling places from 180 to a mere 5; other cities also had reductions, if not as drastic. On top of that, thousands of requested absentee ballots were never delivered. To be fair, some of those issues weren't due to Republicans, but unfortunately far too many problems in the state are –Republicans keep trying unprincipled power grabs in Wisconsin. (Nor has it been the only state so afflicted, unfortunately.) The insanity and hypocrisy of the Republican position was perfectly captured by Republican Wisconsin State Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, dressed in protective mask, gown, and gloves, telling voters, "You are incredibly safe to go out."

We could keep going; the crazy and disturbing news keeps coming. But what do we know from all this?

As the saying goes, conservatives say government doesn't work, and when in charge, they set out to prove it. As Digby has often pointed out, incompetence is a feature, not a bug, of corruption.

Conservatives want their chosen political foes to die.

Conservatives don't care if their own constituents and supporters die.

Conservatives don't care that they are risking death and great harm themselves.

So what do we do now?

Ideally, Republicans would not have voted for Trump. Ideally, congressional Republicans would have voted to impeach and convict Trump to remove him from office.

Congressional Republicans could still do the right thing and ask for a new vote. The House and Senate could vote unanimously to impeach and remove Trump. (But that ain't gonna happen.)

Trump's cabinet could also invoke the 25th Amendment and remove him from office. (But that's extremely unlikely, too.)

Trump and many other conservatives and Republicans can be voted out of office in November. But registering people to vote and making sure they actually can vote is essential – Trump's admitted several times that greater turnout and making voting easier would hurt Republicans – "You'd never have a Republican elected in this country again." (Shades of Paul Weyrich.) Trump, ever shameless and incoherent, has also simultaneously argued without evidence that voting by mail is corrupt and defended voting by mail himself. Voter suppression is a serious issue for the general election.

Meanwhile, considerable harm can be done to the American populace by horrible governance before a new administration could take office, should one be elected. Residents of states with sane governors and decent resources can count themselves lucky; that's mostly been Democratic governors but fortunately some Republican ones as well. So far, the worst responses have been from conservative Republican governors, especially in the South.

Governors could bypass the Trump administration as much as possible, make deals to benefit their states and coordinate among themselves. Some of them are already doing this. Oregon is lending 140 ventilators to New York. California was reportedly lending 500 ventilators to the Strategic National Stockpile, and in theory they're being shipped to four states and two territories. Given the chronic corruption and incompetence of the Trump administration, however, it may prove wiser for state leadership to manage such transactions directly unless trustworthy federal leadership emerges.

Sadly, that seems unlikely. Good federal leadership coordinating a national response, purchasing supplies and distributing them to the states, would be invaluable and could significantly reduce unnecessary death and suffering. Letting experts and other qualified people lead the way would help immensely, and should be a no-brainer. But the Trump White House is drowning in incompetence and threatens to sink America with it. We need national leaders who work to serve their fellow citizens rather than elevating the inept, acting on whims or pursuing personal obsessions.

Towards thee I roll, thou all-destroying but unconquering whale; to the last I grapple with thee; from hell's heart I stab at thee; for hate's sake I spit my last breath at thee. Sink all coffins and all hearses to one common pool! and since neither can be mine, let me then tow to pieces, while still chasing thee, though tied to thee, thou damned whale! Thus, I give up the spear!

– Captain Ahab in Moby Dick

(Cross-posted at Hullabaloo.)