Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Seven Habits of Highly Effective Oligarchs

Image via Axiomatica.
Most David Brooks columns are about romantic love, or at least sex. But today's piece, "A Unifying Leader", is more about the relationship between a CEO and his 535-odd vice presidents, so you don't get the charged romance you get in normal columns, where a teenage girl is trying to decide whether she should finish high school and go to Yale or sign up for food stamps and her Obamaphone. Instead, there are slightly different kinds of love, probably involving quantum mechanics, in a rhythm of forgiving your partners or sending them into exile depending on which paragraph you wander into, or the relationship between a part-time writer with a full-time salary and a vast right-wing conspiracy with which he is either engaged in a torrid affair or back on the payroll he left a few years back. Just kidding.

David Brooks columns I didn't finish reading:

Hagel's dialectic

Would you take a Titus Andronicus from this man? Henry de Vere, 18th Earl of Oxford, via Wikipedia.

I'm generally very hesitant to take issue with anything Marcy Wheeler says, because I realize she has tens of thousands of pages of legal filings, some incredibly technical, virtually committed to memory, and woven into an apparently nearly coherent narrative, and when I can't follow her arguments I have to assume it's my fault because I'm not smart enough, but the fact is that when I can penetrate the narrative I'm not completely sure I can differentiate it from the kind of narrative that shows how the Earl of Oxford wrote all of Shakespeare's plays and poems (you can make up a story, but it only makes sense if you really want it to), and yesterday, when the folks at Emptywheel were dealing with documents I can understand and vying amongst each other over who can be angriest about how poor pacifist Chuck Hagel was tossed out of the Pentagon because of his interference with the president's plan to plunge the world into perpetual war as Emperor of Mesopotamia, I just got fed up.
In recent days, the press has reported that President Obama signed an order (or on second thought, maybe it’s just an unsigned decision that can’t be FOIAed, so don’t start anything, Jason Leopold) basically halting and partly reversing his plans for withdrawal....
And now that Obama has made it clear he will spend his Lame Duck continuing — escalating, even — both forever wars he got elected to end, he has fired forced the resignation of the Secretary of Defense he hired to make peace.
Aside from noting that there is no reason to suppose that the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan is being in any way halted, let alone reversed, "basically" or otherwise, as opposed to what has been announced, that the boots are going to be in some sense slightly more on the ground than seemed to be the plan, Hagel has been fighting the cuts he was hired to implement in the defense budget from July 2013 until four days ago. His chief firing offense, according to the Times account, was his hysterical public disagreement with the president's hopeful suggestion that the "Islamic state" was less than an existential threat to the entire world:

Monday, November 24, 2014

Not just blaming the victim...

...But convicting and sentencing him.

McCulloch said that we should work to make sure nothing like this ever happens again, although he also seems to think that nothing untoward happened. Or that Officer Wilson at any rate did nothing he should not have done. He doesn't seem to have needed a reason for what he did, because none was suggested.

McCulloch also denied that the grand jury's declining to charge means that police officers can kill young black men with impunity. He looked quite startled by such an idea. But what does "impunity" mean again? Wilson is not going to be punished. Impunity is exactly what he got.

Who got punished was Michael Brown. It was apparently up to him to not get killed. That's what you need to do to make sure this never happens again, young black men: don't frighten the cops, which you can do simply by existing, because they can't be held responsible. We don't call it impunity, maybe we could call it immunity.

Liked what President Obama had to say and in particular his relaying a generous and activist and peaceful message from Michael Brown's father. That's about the only positive thing I have.

Vincent van Gogh, Old Man in Sorrow. Via.
Also Holder's statement.
At a time when we must seek to rebuild trust between law enforcement and the local community, I am deeply concerned that the deployment of military equipment and vehicles sends a conflicting message. At my direction, Department officials have conveyed these concerns to local authorities.
Good. Although it seems it was too late. We'd been hearing about the Ferguson police preparations for tonight for weeks, now, I think, and I'd imagine the Justice Department could have been hearing about them too, and relaying their concerns a little sooner.

On the plus side, the 17-year-old ran out to demonstrate peacefully up Broadway. He also escaped doing the dinner dishes so his motives may not have been wholly pure.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Question beggars can't be question choosers

Emperor Ninkō of Japan (1800-46). Wikipedia.
Shorter Ross Douthat, Apostolic Nuncio to 42nd Street, "The Making of an Imperial President":
How did Barack Obama, campaigner against the imperial presidency, turn into the autocrat of America, ruling our country as Nero ruled Rome?
1. The public keeps expecting him to do something, because they're so weird nowadays.
2. The opposition doesn't know what it wants and is hard to deal with, leaving him to be an autocrat by default.
3. He wants to be the liberal Ronald Reagan, which makes him the liberal Richard Bruce Cheney.
Nice to see you acknowledging, Monsignor, that emulating Ronald Reagan is an anti-democratic approach, and confirming our fears that Cheney exercised imperial power during the so-called "Bush administration".

That said, there are a couple of things wrong with the picture presented in this column.

White House Fool Report: Power

Little did these guys imagine that one day adult white Republicans would be in an almost identical position, suffering from somebody not getting deported. Via Libraries Linking Idaho.

So young senator Rand Paul thinks there's a parallel between the Obama order to delay deportation on 5 million undocumented immigrants last week and Franklin Roosevelt's order of February 1942 to throw 120,000 documented Japanese residents (barred on racial grounds from becoming citizens but nearly all of them either living in the country for a minimum of 34 years or born here, since no immigration had been allowed since 1908) into internment camps?

Hahahahaha. I guess they had in common that both were entirely legal. (Some people might claim that the victims of internment had a worse time than the victims of, um, say, who are those victims?)

The president probably wouldn't mind having the kind of congressional cooperation FDR got over the internment of Japanese, as BooMan reminds us, with the Senate and House practically competing that March to see which could move their legislation out fastest, and only one mild dissenter, Mr. Republican, Senator Robert Taft of Ohio, who complained that the penalties for disobeying the law (basically, for being Japanese in an unauthorized area meaning more or less everywhere outside of a camp) weren't stiff enough:

Saturday, November 22, 2014


David Brooks columns I didn't finish reading:
Most Hollywood movies are about romantic love, or at least sex.
Googling "2014 Hollywood movies" yields a banner listing X-Men: Days of Future Past; Transformers: Age  of Extinction; Guardians of the Galaxy; Dawn of the Planet of the Apes; Dumb and Dumber To; Captain America: The Winter Soldier; How to Train Your Dragon 2; The Amazing Spider-Man 2; Interstellar; The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Nations; Hercules...

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Cheap shots and free associations

Poster by Mungo Thomson, 2004.

No, of course, how could a branch of government institute reform in a government agency? Like, how would that even work? It makes no sense at all!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The Troll in Winter

John Ford, The Quiet Man (1952), via The Age of Discernment.
David Brooks writes:
A familiar number on the caller ID screen. I gave it three rings, enough to grab a shluk from the vodka bottle and stash it back in the desk drawer, then picked up. The voice was familiar too, male, patrician, a little weary. "Brooks?"
"Who wants to know?" I asked, knowing all too well.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Friends don't let friends practice Jesuitical casuistry and drink tequila at the same time

Image via gopixpic.
Shorter Ross Douthat, Apostolic Nuncio to 42nd Street, "Who's Afraid of Executive Action?", New York Times, November 17 2014:
Sure the president's proposed immigration actions aren't illegal, but if they were they'd have exactly the same consequences. So how is that not frightening?
Yesterday the Monsignor, who may not as a matter of fact be quite on board with the Church's immigration policy, came out to join the chorus complaining about Obama's "caudillismo"—Ross's elegant term—in insisting on his presidential prerogative in the decision over which undocumented immigrants get deported, even though he himself had said it would be a "betrayal of our political culture" to do so, according to an exposé in the Free Beacon of his wicked designs.

Actually, "betrayal of our political culture" is Ross's own elegant terminology too; he is not quoting the FreeBea quite accurately, to say nothing of what Obama in fact said to the National Council of La Raza, 25 July 2011:

West of Eden: It's the least you can do

Sumerian temple worshiper, alabaster with shell eyes, late 28th c. B.C.E. Via Wikipedia.

Major Bateman chez Mr. Pierce falls, sadly, into McCain-style boilerplate:
Two major questions leap out: First, what exactly is the strategy? Second, before we put training troops into Iraq, has Iraq agreed to a new Status of Forces Agreement? The first problem is, perhaps, the more problematic. In part this is because the President really has not described one. Right from the outset he has not said what our new national military strategy will be in this new conflict. Although apparently that omission was entirely missed by the majority of reporters covering this story.
Incidentally can anybody tell me when this became a thing, that the authorities have to publicly detail and justify their strategy? "General Eisenhower, it's May 1944, we've been at war with Germany for two and a half years and they're still occupying most of Europe. What's your strategy for getting the Wehrmacht out of France?" "Sure thing, Chuck. Our atom bomb is a little behind schedule, so we'll be invading Normandy in a couple of weeks, depending on the weather. Just don't tell those Jerries! Anything else you need?"
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