Saturday, April 18, 2015

A softening in the moral sphere

Image of Louise Brooks as Lulu in the G.W. Pabst film of Die Büchse der Pandora (1929), from a time of moral softening, when a narcissistic and relativistic generation replaced the modest and self-sacrificing folks who brought us World War I. Or was that the 14th century? Who knows, I have a deadline.
Shorter David Brooks, "When Cultures Shift", New York Times, April 17 2015:
In the course of my research for THIS BOOK I'VE BEEN WRITING NOT THAT I CARE IF YOU LOOK AT IT OR ANYTHING BUT IT JUST CAME OUT I learned, surprisingly, that the 1960s actually started in the 1940s. That's just the kind of remarkable contrarian stuff that you can find out if you stick with me.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Loud Speaker



Don't know why they gave Israel a bishop, or a pawn down there among the Marsh Arabs. Via Gordon Campbell Plans to Bomb Iran's Nuclear Facilities. No, he didn't really, and it was 2009.

So BooMan gave his readers a challenge: to read what Mr. Speaker Boehner said this morning about the ongoing negotiations between Iran and the P5+1—
Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Friday said he hopes the Obama administration fails to reach a deal on Iran’s nuclear program.
Boehner said he did not believe Iran would ever live up to its side of a bargain that would lift U.S. sanctions on Tehran.
“I’ve never been optimistic that we’d get to an agreement, a real agreement that would stop the nuclear threat from Iran and I don’t think the Iranians have any intention of giving up their desire for a nuclear weapon,” Boehner told Fox Business Channel’s “Opening Bell with Maria Bartiromo.”
Asked whether he’s expecting an agreement, Boehner said: “I would hope not.”
“I don’t think we can get to agreement with people who have no intention of keeping the agreement,” he added.
—and then answer a question:

And if I ever go looking for a concrete moral vocabulary again

I won't go any further than my own back yard, because if it isn't there, um, then it's probably in the storm cellar or someplace. Or maybe I left it in the office.

Image via WikiQuote.
From the introduction to The Road to Character:

Populist vs. metapopulist

James Albert Wales, 1880: Senator Roscoe Conkling tries to work out the Republican presidential campaign. Image via Wikipedia.

So I'm listening to this piece on WNYC radio (locally produced, not NPR) about Clinton and Rubio introducing their campaign using the same "populist" language, and how savvy observers recognize that they're actually the same candidate, because we don't know what policies Clinton is going to propose (but we know she has Wall Street backers who aren't worried that it's going to be too radical) and we do know the Republicans aren't going to propose any policies at all, other than a rain dance imploring the money to trickle down from the stratosphere.

Only there's something I did notice about the language, that I think makes a big difference: Clinton's populist language is aimed at the concerns of the population of the United States, Rubio's at the Republican party.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Finesse continued

Art by Gilbert Shelton.
Just when I was bragging on the president's ability to make the Senate Foreign Relations Committee do the right thing, he went and got the Finance Committee to jump rather higher than many of us are going to be comfortable with:
The leaders of Congress’s tax-writing committees reached agreement Thursday on legislation to give President Obama “fast track” authority to negotiate an ambitious trade accord with 11 other Pacific nations, beginning what is sure to be one of the toughest legislative battles of his last 19 months in office.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Cheap Shot: First world problems


Jeff Gordinier, New York Times:
It is one of life’s nagging mysteries: Why is a sandwich you order at a restaurant so invariably and intensely better than a sandwich you make at home? 
I'd say it depends on what restaurants you go to. I hardly ever confront that problem.
Is there some immense secret realm of sandwich-master knowledge that mere mortals have no access to? Why do you find yourself in the kitchen, pressed for time, bereft of inspiration, staring slack-jawed into the refrigerator and succumbing to yet another bland slapped-together calorie blast of cold turkey and mealy tomatoes on supermarket white? With every bite, you taste only regret.
Then again, you might be an idiot.

Many grocery stores nowadays sell actual bread, and it will make a difference. This one, as it happens, is from a restaurant, Parsley in Denver. 

Executive finesse

Finesse and Reptile, via ComicVine.

Obama Yields, Allowing Congress Say on Iran Nuclear Deal

says the New York Times, but between you and me, BooMan captured the story a little more accurately: Senator Corker got rolled. I say "between you and me" because it wouldn't be really helpful for Corker to understand this just at present, or (more likely) be compelled to acknowledge in public that he understands it. A huge part of the art of negotiation as our president understands it is to leave the other person thinking that she or he has won, at least for the short term.

Let me, as Friedman would say, explain.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Half-formed thoughts and delicate emotions

Via BenSwann.
Oh, Brooksy. For some reason, possibly involving the fact that there is finally, as of last Tuesday, film of a policeman murdering an unarmed black man (Walter Scott of North Charleston, South Carolina, on April 4) so plainly brutally that it can't be dismissed or denied, he's on about cops wearing cameras, which he has decided to support (as does this page). Only the whole column is about what a bad idea it is, which makes it a tad confusing. He was for it before he was against it, but then he was for it again in the last paragraph.

Driftglass is way ahead of us on this one, and Roy Edroso has found it necessary to weigh in, so there's really not much left to say, but a couple of Brooksological points deserve consideration.

One is the problem of privacy in police-civilian interaction:

Monday, April 13, 2015

RIP Günter Grass


Photo via Lebendiges Museum Online

I saw Günter Grass in 1969 in the south German town where I was (in theory) studying, in a campaign appearance for the Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands, which was, as I hardly understood at the time, about to end the 20-year reign of the Christian right with the chancellorship of the great Willi Brandt. He lectured all us soixante-huitards and hippies on the subject of revolution, with avuncular indulgence; we could talk about Marx and Mao and Marcuse all we wanted, but young Germans had to vote SPD, because nothing else would change things. His mustache was one of the most spectacular things I'd ever seen. I just wanted to say that. And that the dazzling radicalism of his writing made the bumpy pragmatism of his politics believable and, in the end, clearly right.

Superawkward audio: Interviewed by Patricia Marx on WNYC in 1964.

White House Fool Report: The Long Day Whines

The long day wanes; the slow moon climbs; the deep
Moans round with many voices. Come, my friends.
'T is not too late to seek a newer world...
(J.W.M Turner illustrating Tennyson's "Ulysses", image via gleamsthatuntravelledworld.)
I made up the headline (invoking Anthony Burgess) for Fox and the Breitbartlets and so on, but they frankly seem a little too stunned by the events in Panama City for any real whining. NRO literally has nothing! I think it's going to take them a few days to rev up.

For my part I was very glad, obviously, to see Presidents Barack Obama and Raúl Castro having an amicable chat, but the biggest thing for me was the strange little cuckoo's egg in the words Obama addressed to the Civil Society Forum in Panama City, as he was defending their freedom of speech and assembly and explaining that the US would continue to have their back:

That was one long-ass arc!

Cheney and Rumsfeld next!
The [Blackwater] sentences were a long-fought diplomatic victory for the United States, which asked a skeptical Iraqi government and its people to be patient and trust the American criminal justice system. That faith was tested many times over the last eight years as the case suffered several setbacks, many of which were of the government’s own making.

In the end, the Justice Department said, the case showed the world that the United States judicial system worked, even in war zones, and even when the gunmen were Americans and the victims were Iraqis.
Image via Bend the Arc. Dr. King wasn't the only one to borrow from Theodore Parker; another famous guy liked his line about "of all the people, by all the people, for all the people".
Also,
Robert Charles Bates, the 73 year-old insurance-executive-turned-volunteer-cop who wascaught on video fatally shooting an unarmed black suspect wascharged with second degree manslaughter on Monday. The charges allege that Bates demonstrated “culpable negligence” when he shot and killed Eric Harris while Harris was fleeing police.

This does not constitute an endorsement...

But I found myself really liking the video, at the same time as I realized how manipulative it was. Kind of the way I feel about Puccini.



And the words devoted to the theme of inequality.

There was a young woman called Hillary
Who deserved to be more than ancillary;
But when she essayed
To come out of the shade,
She always got put in the pillory.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Virent ova!

"Virent ova! Viret perna!" (The eggs are green! The ham is green!)

Politico headline:
GOP not arguing science on Iran
Apparently they're conceding that everything in the agreement framework the White House says will stop Iran from building a nuclear weapon will, in fact, stop Iran from building a nuclear weapon. Instead, the Republicans (and Chuck Schumer) will argue, in essence, that they don't like it anyway:
although key Republican critics— including Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas— are citing the work of David Albright, a physicist and former inspector of Iraq’s nuclear program, his new technical analysis only argues that some of its provisions should be stronger.
“We’re not going to say ‘chuck the deal’ or anything,” Albright said. “We’d like to see the framework strengthened, but we have to accept that the framework exists.”...
Instead, Republicans are planning to make their case on other grounds. They’ll keep insisting that Iran should just end its nuclear program (and rolling clips where President Barack Obama has said the same thing in the past).... Caroline Rabbitt, a spokeswoman for Cotton, said the White House “is pushing the science-heavy argument for the Iran deal because they know they have nothing else.” For example, the administration talks about the science of enriching uranium, but “that’s because Iran is still going to be enriching uranium—a major concession by the United States that shouldn’t be happening,” she said.
It's a classic rhetorical strategy, the Argumentum ad Sam-I-Amum.

Rich Little Poor Man

Mary Pickford in Maurice Tourneur's The Poor Little Rich Girl, 1917.
Shorter David Brooks, "The Moral Bucket List', New York Times, April 12 2015:
The people I admire most are leftist women (Dorothy Day, George Eliot, Frances Perkins) whose lives follow a pattern of stumbling, defeat, recognition, and redemption, and moments of pain that they turn into occasions of radical self-understanding, facing their imperfect nature with unvarnished honesty, with the opposite of squeamishness. These are the people we want to be.

Cheap shots: The gray divorcé



Well, that cat is out of that bag, as I learn from our genial comrade Driftglass (h/t Redhand). Our Mr. Brooks's amphibolic divorcery has disambiguated on national TV:
And I don't want to personally, I don't want to legally talk about it, but yes, I am divorced.
I guess that must mean he's been talking about it illegally all along, and that's why we couldn't be sure.
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