Thursday, November 26, 2015

Cheap shots: Thanksgiving

Former McDonalds restaurant, Broadway near 82nd St. The manager of the property, named in the placard at lower left, is some kind of Marxist joke.

For those who don't know the alphabet, the book in Vladimir Vladimirovich's hand is labeled "Krym" for Crimea.

And a little more below the fold:

Spiritual wut?

La Sainte-Cène du Patriarche, Jean Huber, 1772-73. Image via German Wikipedia. I think Diderot is the wigless man in black seated at right; Voltaire, in the red cap, the Patriarche of the title and the host of the gathering at his exile home in Ferney, is waving for attention, about to make a quip. 
Just the same old shit, obviously, that according to the Declaration of Independence all men are
endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights
which means that they're spiritual rights, not political rights, since the Lord laid them on us without even asking which ones we wanted, though it seems to me like a questionable reading in the first place; I mean honestly what is spiritual about "liberty" or "the pursuit of happiness"? If you believe in a kind of personal Creator, who endowed you with a nose, does that mean your nose is a spiritual rather than physiological property? If it's thanks to the Deity that we have a propensity to argue about politics, does that mean political discussion itself is spiritual rather than political?

I may actually have something new to say on this subject (I'm going to sketch an argument that Jefferson's formulation of natural rights owes less than commonly understood to the good Protestant Locke and much more to the atheist Diderot), but I want to work toward it backwards, starting on the more familiar territory of what Jefferson, as opposed to the Declaration, said.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

If life gives you grenades...

...can you make grenadine? I guess not, but maybe if you're sufficiently "deluded in good ways about your abilities" you might think you can, and perhaps that's all you need.

Charley Chase in  Mighty Like a Moose (1926), directed by Leo Carey.
Shorter David Brooks, "Tales of the Super Survivors", November 24 2015:
This is the age of terror, when people are constantly subject to unexpected stabbings, shootings, and bombings, but I think we need to maintain some sense of proportion here. After all, scientific research demonstrates that a good 75% of people never develop post-traumatic stress disorder under these kinds of conditions. So really. what's all the fuss about? Moreover, of those who do get PTSD, some are "super survivors" who heal from the damage, and come out radiating love and joy, and you know how I feel about people who radiate stuff.

In which we go Godwin

You know who else used to talk nonstop about freedom? Via TodoPorMéxico.
Via Mother Jones:
At a campaign event in New Hampshire, Carson noted that many people believe a situation like what took place in Germany in the 1930's and 1940's could never happen in America. "I beg to differ," Carson said. "If you go back and look at the history of the world, tyranny and despotism and how it starts, it has a lot to do with control of thought and control of speech."
At a press conference after the speech, reporters asked Carson who he thinks is like Adolf Hitler in the U.S. "I'm not going to go into that that. I think that example is pretty clear," he responded, without elaborating.
Running away, as you see, from his poison remarks. Carson loves to complain about "political correctness" preventing him from talking about slavery and Nazism, though as has been noted, he talks about them unhesitatingly all the time, but what's really wrong with what he does is the cowardly way he does it, throwing those scary words out into the discourse and then just leaving them there, refusing responsibility.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Exchange: Liberal Fascism Watch, eugenics section

The embodiment of Liberal Fascism (well, he said he was a Liberal, from 1904 to 1924, Jonah, rather more than Hitler said National Socialists were socialists): Winston Churchill as First Lord of the Admiralty sharing a moment with Kaiser Wilhelm II, 1913. Via MaritimeQuest.

From a comment thread at Crooked Timber:

ZM 11.23.15 at 1:37 am
Thinking about re-appraisals, Woodrow Wilson was a fan of the children’s author Jean Webster who wrote Daddy Long Legs and Dear Enemy. I read these when I was in mid primary school, re-reading them a few years ago as an adult was weird (apart from just due to me reading one backwards from end to start — this is as they are epistolary novels so I read the last letter, then I read the second last letter, and so on back to the first letter of the book — I didn’t mean to do this, I was just flicking through the end but I got hooked and read to the beginning to see how it started) — because the former was more socialist than I remembered, and the latter was disturbingly in favour of eugenics, which I didn’t remember at all:
“The Fabian Society in the early 1900s advocated the ideal of a scientifically planned society and supported eugenics by way of sterilisation.
If you’d like to see the charming side of Fabian Socialism, you should read Jean Webster’s two delightful books: Daddy Long Legs and Dear Enemy. Both are epistolary novels written in the 1910s. One is set at a women’s college (Vassar-ish) and the other is set in an orphanage. The former presents a pretty picture of Fabian Socialism and the latter sweetly and ardently advocates eugenics.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Cheap shot: Worst Brooks in the world

Mo Brooks, via The Last of the Millenniums.

Really, while I yield to none in my contempt for David Brooks of the New York Times and Arthur Brooks of the American Enterprise Institute, Representative Mo Brooks (R-AL) is the worst Brooks we have:
Instead of viewing refugees as people fleeing the violence that has claimed more than 200,000 lives, Brooks saw a host of incoming welfare queens intent on taking advantage of Americans’ generosity.
“We’re paying them about $15,000 a year in free health care, free food, free shelter, free clothing, free transportation,” Brooks said. “That answers very quickly why so many of them want to come to the United States of America.”
“We’re paying them to come here,” the Alabama congressman concluded. “It’s a paid vacation!” (Think Progress)
"Shut up, kids," says father as shrapnel from another barrel bomb blows in the window, severing Abdul's left leg, "we'll have dinner when we get to America. Get a tourniquet, Rukmini! In fact with that $15K we may well get breakfast too, once in a while. It's a paid vacation! Those Americans are such saps, it's just there for the taking. If you can hold out till 2017."
Brooks also went on to accuse Democrats who support giving shelter to Syrian refugees and protecting the rights of Muslims of only doing so in order to win their votes.
Because that 0.8% of the population is enough to sway any election.* Explains everything. Tell me about your so-called compassion, you panderer. You'll just do anything to win.

*An Ipsos poll of November 2014 found Americans think the percentage is around 15%.

And another TPP of the hat

Debris at Bento Rodrigues, Minas Gerais, after the dam collapse. Photo by Ricardo Moraes/Reuters via The Guardian (which along with a number of sources spells "Rodrigues" without its second r).

Erik Loomis reports, and there's more information and pictures at greenpeace, on a dam collapse in the state of Minas Gerais, Brazil, on November 5, releasing millions of cubic feet of mining waste, mud poisoned with arsenic, lead, chromium, and other heavy metals—more than "25,000 Olympic swimming pools"—into the mining community of Mariana, where it has killed at least 17 people and displaced hundreds more, and that's just the beginning:
The mud surged through rural communities and into the Rio Doce, the major river in southeast Brazil. Since November 5th, it has been slowly working its way downstream — contaminating the drinking water of hundreds of thousands of people and turning protected forest and habitat into a desert of mud. The tragedy will continue to spread over 500 kilometers as contaminants from the sludge make their way towards the Atlantic coast, eventually endangering the Abrolhos National Marine Park. 
Loomis notes,
Brazil has issued a preliminary fine of $66 million and that will no doubt be higher in the end. But Brazil has also gone straight ahead with its modernization program that includes cutting down the Amazon for cattle ranchers and allowing mining companies to do basically whatever they want to. The government might act in a time of crisis like this, but it’s opened itself to resource extraction as its path to modernization, whether the government is right or left... It would be nice if the voters held [president Dilma] Rousseff accountable, but given the power of the mining companies, it’s unlikely that there are going to be any successful anti-mining political movements.
And it suddenly occurred to me that in a better world there might be something that could be done in a case like this.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Profiles in Courage

Updated 11/22/2015
How can you be sure they're not Belgian terrorists? Their passports could be fake too! Image via LifelineSyria.
Rep. Steve Israel (D-NY), in a position of unofficial leadership as former head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, joined 46 other Democrats in support of the American Security Against Foreign Enemies SAFE Act to stop screening refugees for admission to the United States while regulations are written to lengthen the two-year period it already takes.

Because there may be a massive refugee crisis radiating out from destroyed Syria to the rest of the world, and it may have been caused by the terrible social and physical destruction brought on in the Iraq-Syria region in the ten-year war fought by the United States against, well, whoever they were fighting against, it kept changing from month to month, as the new Salafist forces that had never been in the region before began to establish themselves in the chaos outside the zone the US forces were able to control, and we may now regret our refusal to admit refugee Jews to the US in 1938-42 making us directly responsible for as much as a third of Hitler's six million, but—

Let them eat bacon

Terrorists don't expect the Spanish Inquisition. Via Food is Love.

Via John Amato at C&L:
Jeb Bush on Tuesday dug in further on his position that the United States should prioritize bringing in Christians from among the refugees of the Syrian civil war — and he insisted that people can even prove that they’re Christians.
“Well you’re a Christian,” Bush started off saying to reporters. “You can prove you’re a Christian. It’s—”
“How?” a reporter asked.
Bush gave a shrug: “I think you can prove it — if you can’t prove it then, you know, you err on the side of caution.”
I know how you do it. Make them eat pork! Technique developed in Spain 500 years ago for outing secret Muslims, and Jews of course, always works.
The Spanish Inquisition — officially known as the Holy Inquisition Against Depraved Heresy — was established in 1481 in the city of Castile and subsequently spread throughout the Christian territories. The Inquisition was directed against conversos, former Jews, who were accused of religious heresy and political subversion through secret Jewish practice. To establish such practice, the Inquisition trials (under the direction of Grand Inquisitor Tomás de Torquemada, who, perhaps not surprisingly, was also of converso origin) took testimony about the accused’s alleged Jewish activities — many of them, as it happens, culinary in nature. (Forward)
Some people might think adopting the methods of the Spanish Inquisition sounds a little un-American, but I'd just call it conservative. That's what "err on the side of caution" means, right? If you're a little bit suspicious, better to let them die, bcause why should we bear any of the risk? Tough times call for tough measures.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Even sensible Sunnis

Karl Dane in Roscoe Arbuckle's The Red Mill (1927).
Well, David Brooks seems to think Hillary Clinton might be a better president than Donald Trump, at least from the foreign policy/national security standpoint. Hard to argue with that.

Though maybe I'm just getting lulled into sleep by those elaborate repetitions—he's increasingly turning into a kind of Philip Glass of political prose:
While other candidates are content to issue vague calls to get tough on terror, Clinton offered a multilayered but coherent framework... For example, instead of just issuing a generic call to get tough on the terrorists, she pointed to the reality that ISIS will be toppled only if there is an uprising by fellow Sunnis. 
Oops, what was that? Did you hear that thumping sound, honey? Did he just say she wants them to do like Warsaw in World War II? No, wait, he's thinking less of an uprising than a crossrising:

Thursday, November 19, 2015

West of Eden: Note on Paris

Paris s'éveille.
Jay Inslee for president.

I've felt really uncomfortable trying to make a statement about the Paris attacks themselves, for simple reasons—what do I have to say that's not being said by everybody?—and complex ones, like a kind of shame that I got so emotionally tied up to this and so comparatively indifferent to the 43 killed and hundreds injured by suicide bombers in a Beirut Shi'ite neighborhood around the same time, or the 224 innocent Russian holidaymakers blown up in the air over Sinai last month, and so on and so on, and yet not really, because Paris is personal (I've probably spent a total of two weeks there in my entire life, in four or five visits, last time 25 years ago, but it was instantly the city I fell physically in love with, and it's always been my home-in-books). And ain't I sensitive-and-sophisticated? (It's not about you, Yas.)

And then I'm so afraid of slipping into the tone of a Daily News headline—that trembling indignation when somebody weak hurts somebody powerful and you compete with the Post over who can find the most violent way of calling the attacker a monster, as if that were somehow a courageous and surprising opinion—yes, the attackers were monsters, and?... But on the other hand #NotAllDailyNewsHeadlines.

Looking for an example of a typical jowl-shaking Daily News front page, and wouldn't you know it, I ended up finding a really great one instead, yesterday's, speaking pointed truth to power, and in fairness to the News I had to share it.