Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Brooksie Awards

Kokoro ("Heart"), 17th-century Japanese calligraphy via Onmark Productions.
David Brooks writes:
In my work as projectile-eclectic philosopher and continental observer at good old Yale University, where I have served in recent years or at least months in an endowed chair as W.F. Buckley Memorial Professor of Humility Studies, I frequently have an opportunity to tell students eager to learn the writer's craft from a diligent if diffident craftsman that eighty percent of the work is done before a fellow puts thumb to thinkpad, in preparatory work, in the accumulation of the literary gold dust of fact and wisdom, and in hammering it into preliminary shape in the interior of one's mind.
Thus when it comes time for me to write a column, after a hearty breakfast and an hour's sitting meditation, I like to begin by gaming it out in [jump]

Monday, December 30, 2013

Singapore food pron

Lau Pa Sat satay. Via.
Woke up in the middle of the night with a blogger anxiety dream, I suppose engendered by the way I've neglected the site over the course of the Asian Vacasian, which is partly a function of various technical challenges, especially marshaling enough power points for sufficient time-periods to charge all our various devices and keeping track of where my reading glasses are. That and the power point issue are at least somewhat resolved at the moment.

It took a form like that of an indexing dream, where you toss and turn over an imaginary term that you might have spelled wrong, worrying that you'll lose it before you get to work: something I was determined to blog about but wouldn't have sufficient information [jump]

At the Sign of the Eminent Frog

Frog porridge shop, Lorong 19, Geylang.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

En route

Yastreblyansky is going on a short Asian vacasian. At the moment in the Cathay Pacific terminal at JFK near the M&Ms shop (pictured). There will be no WiFi on the plane I believe (difficult negotiations with the Chinese authorities as yet not concluded). So blogging will be not merely light but, between this afternoon and sometime in Singapore on the other side of the International Dateline, as it were lighter than air. God Jul and Buon Natale to all!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas Eve Sermon

Exotic pie. Ad art by Psyho Studio, Ukraine, via CK's Weblog.
The Christianists are saying that Piers Morgan was "smacked down" on the sodomy subject by Dr. Michael Brown, the former "LSD-using Jewish rock drummer" whose mission nowadays is to "proclaim salvation to the Jewish people". Actually, as you'd expect, the argument is quite familiar and easily dismissed (though only if you've either [a] memorized the Bible or [b] have easy and quick access to Dr. Google, as Morgan presumably didn't during the interview). But it also has a really funny twist that I'm sure I've never noticed before.
When Morgan asked Brown to cite just one instance of Jesus condemning homosexuality, he probably thought that he had already won the debate. But alas, he was hoisted on his own petard.
Brown cited not one, but three instances of Jesus condemning homosexuality.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Caption contest

Fairway Market, Broadway and 74th St., December 23 2013.

Et tu, Brute? Not exactly.

Moise Brutus.
Here's an inspirational tale being pushed by the rightwing wind machine, in today's Morning Bell from the Heritage Foundation: the story of Floridian Moise Brutus, who was 20 years old when a 2010 motorcycle accident left him a triple amputee and is now a college student and competitive cyclist in training for the 2016 Paralympics. The improbable villain of the story? Wicked big-government Medicaid! That is...

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Don't you wag your foot at me, sir!

Monty Python foot via ComicVine.
Peggy Noonan on Ronald Reagan, New York Times, October 5, 1989:
I FIRST SAW HIM AS A FOOT, a highly polished brown cordovan wagging merrily on a hassock. I spied it through the door. It was a beautiful foot, sleek, perfectly shaped. Such casual elegance and clean lines! But not a big foot, not formidable, maybe even a little . . . frail. I imagined cradling it in my arms, protecting it from un-smooth roads.
I was yanked from my reverie by the movement of an aide, who bent past the foot and murmured, ''You're in luck, Mr. President. The meeting with the speechwriters is canceled.'' The foot stopped, then wagged more merrily still. Talk and light laughter. Someone closed the door.
From Lawyers, Guns & Money, from Balloon Juice, from Eternity. I've restored the second paragraph which to my mind makes it less porn, but arguably more surreal.
Roman foot, by Fornasetti, Designer of Dreams.

Social Conservatives and Social Climbing

Shorter Ross Douthat, Apostolic Nuncio to 42nd Street, "Social Conservatives and Social Science", New York Times, December 18, 2013:
Why don't social conservatives become economists? Why don't they become social scientists at all? Can't be because they're innumerate, or unable even for the sake of argument to suspend their preconceptions and prejudices, can it? Must be because all those liberal social scientists make them feel weird and unwelcome.
Via glitternglue.
And I guess it's not their bold entrepreneurial spirit that keeps them away from academia in favor of the choice between running their own businesses or living on wingnut welfare, either. I think it's mainly that they can get all the benefits of studying social sciences (like Ross Douthat, Harvard 2002, magna cum laude in history and literature, who prognosticates on social science week after week) without actually studying them.


Image from ESL.culips.
This from the presidential task force on NSA abuse is a particularly valid response to an annoying thing Obama does a good deal:
It is tempting to suggest that the underlying goal is to achieve the right “balance” between the two forms of security. The suggestion has an important element of truth. But some safeguards are not subject to balancing at all. In a free society, public officials should never engage in surveillance in order to punish [jump]

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Jonah Ownah

I used the @twittername of Jonah Goldberg today, not in the hope of attracting his attention, but just because it autocompleted itself, in a remark about the use of the term by rightwingers to abuse the left:
"Fascism," my friend added, "is the control of government by corporations," and that did attract his attention, however; not with the explosive defensiveness of a Glenn Greenwald, but with a kind of weary patience:
Image via And Magazine.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Cheap shots: Advent Edition

Rhetorical question?
OK, it's meant to be cute (From Kathryn Jean's "casual corner" at Patheos):
What do Fifty Shades of GreyDownton Abbey, Andrea Bocelli, have in common with Benedictine nuns in Missouri? Billboard, and guess who’s been in the lead?
Habakkuk. Russian icon, 18th c. Via Wikipedia.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Single women look at the government as their husbands

Ann Coulter (via Asshole of the Day):
“By the way, Republicans don’t have a problem with women,” Coulter opined. “They have a problem with unmarried women who think, ‘No, we don’t need national defense, we need our birth control paid for.’”
“And why? Because single women look at the government as their husbands,” she added. “Please provide for me, please take care of me.”
Coulter has been engaged several times, but never married.
Now we know that's not exactly true! She's been sort of married the whole time.

How should I know? I'm just a federal judge!

NSA data collection. Photo by Julian Stratenschulte/EPA, via The Guardian.
Adam Serwer at MSNBC, showing how

Judge destroys ‘just metadata’ argument

it is the collection of metadata that Snowden’s leaked court order exposed – the frequency, duration, and identifying numbers for the calls – which can reveal a universe of information about a target even without capturing the content of the conversation. 

Monday, December 16, 2013


Wordburglar, composer of the only known rap on the subject of the croque-monsieur.
New York Times London bureau chief Baron Stephan von Erlanger, in breaking news from Monaco, reports that the Saudi, Israeli, and French foreign ministries do not entirely approve of President Obama's foreign policy. No, that's making it sound too exciting. Some old retired guys who may possibly in some sense represent the Saudi and Israeli [jump]

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Common to the Core

This (from NPR this morning) is the problem:
a southern California mom has created a new princess series with modern sensibilities. At the heart of her series, The Guardian Princess Alliance, is what animates any fairy tale: simple storytelling.
Publisher blurb:

Megyn Kelly was white--I mean right

Before everybody forgets about Kelly and her angry rejection of the idea of Santa Claus as penguin, which is somehow racist, and some of the responses which alleged that the historical St. Nicholas might have been sort of Turkish—
Father Christmas outsources to China!
"OK, elves, we need to hustle!!! Three million more VHS players and two million Barbies by Monday morning! Let's make those quotas!!" "Hao!!" (Via)
Just for the record, St. Nicholas, Bishop of Myra, was so not Turkish. Though his home province of Lycia was in the southwestern corner of what is now Turkey, it was culturally and ethnically Greek and had been for a very long time. The worship of Artemis of the [jump]

Friday, December 13, 2013

Bugger the imagination!

Dogg's Hamlet by the Whistler in the Dark company, Charlestown, Massachusetts.
Here's what Tom Stoppard claims to be willing, even eager, to put up with:
As for our spooks, I know what I want from them. I want them to eavesdrop on the phones, the emails, on every tap of the keyboard of anybody who comes under suspicion. Somebody somewhere has the responsibility, indeed the necessary duty, of identifying those who bear us ill. I would like there to be secret cameras in their houses. I would applaud the technological means to survey and interpret every breath they take.
Holy cow! Anybody who comes under suspicion? I am so not signing up for that! Why is it that Stoppard's protesting against our Surveillance State and I'm not? I'll get to that shortly.

What worries him to the point of getting him to sign on, with the rest of the 500-odd World's Leading Authors, to the petition published in Monday's Guardian for an International Bill of Digital Rights is something much, much worse—only it seems difficult to explain exactly what it is:

Thursday, December 12, 2013

So you don't trust Obama? Compared to the Eye of Sauron?

I'm pretty sure I really mean this, though it's always hard to be totally certain. Government is not always right by any means, and it may not be right in the present case, but if it is pitted against Microsoft, Facebook, Google, AOL, Yahoo, and LinkedIn that is to me a prima facie indication that it just might be right this time. Or not "right", that's absurd when you're talking about the behavior of intelligence agencies, but more interested than the corporations, in spite of appearances, in being on my side and on the side of the rabble in general.

Has there ever been a historical case where an elected government clearly in the wrong was opposed by the corporate establishment? Did the railway and telegraph magnates tell [jump]
Headquarters of Field Marshal Lord Raglan, sometime between 1855 and 1865. 

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Friedman on education: In a class of his own

Image used (post-ironically) at JudWilhite.com.
I wanted to write something about last Sunday's column by Thomas P. Friedman, better known as Thomas L. Friedman, the Mystax Sapientis, on this year's Program for International Assessment (PISA) results in the evaluation of American 10th-graders, but the Jersey Jazzman just about has it completely covered in fine style, and you really have to read his post if you have not already done so.

The Jazzman does, as it happens, miss the one little thing that got me most overwhelmingly exercised. His Mustacherie quotes at length from the views of the head of the Pisa project, Andreas Schleicher, on what makes a successful school, in words that make a great deal of sense:

The ends justify the medians

It doesn't. The link, to a blog post by James Pethokoukis, suggests the president is one of the "smart people" who disagrees for some perverse reason with James Pethokoukis:
So why do so many smart people keep advocating for a higher minimum wage? The best answer I can come up with is that they think it is more politically likely than the better economic answer: wage subsidies. I recently chatted with economist Noah Smith on this very topic, as part of a discussion of what to do if automation seriously depresses wages in the future.
Oops, wrong Jennifer Rubin! Again!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

When you say "Happy holidays" are you aborting Christ? Asking for a friend.

Drawings by Josh Lange, Credo Magazine.
 Update: Welcome BooManiacs! Nice to see youse.

Adams to Jefferson, 28 June 1813:
It is very true that the denunciations of the priesthood are fulminated against every advocate for a complete freedom of religion. Comminations, I believe, would be plenteously pronounced by even the most liberal of them, against atheism, deism,—against every man who disbelieved or doubted the resurrection of Jesus, or the miracles of the New Testament. Priestley himself would denounce the man who should deny the Apocalypse, or the prophecies of Daniel. Priestley and Lindsey have both denounced as idolaters and blasphemers all the Trinitarians and even the Arians. Poor weak man! when will thy perfection arrive?
Ex-governor Palin, as cited in Jezebel, on the War on Christmas:
“If you lose that foundation, John Adams was implicitly warning us, then we will not follow our constitution, there will be no reason to follow our constitution because it is a moral and religious people who understand that there is something greater than self, we are to live selflessly, and we are to be held accountable by our creator, so that is what our constitution is based on, so those revisionists, those in the lamestream media, especially, who would want to ignore what our founders actually thought, felt and wrote about in our charters of liberty – well, that’s why I call them the lamestream media,” Palin said....

Off the Ralls

The "leftist" cartoonist Ted Rall may at last have hit bottom in a drawing castigating the late Nelson Mandela for his inexplicable failure, during his four years as president of South Africa, to chase off the World Bank and eliminate inequality, run in what is now his practice with a lengthy self-justifying explanatory gloss (which explains Mandela's failure in terms of how he was just like those toadies Gandhi and King instead of—wait for it—Malcolm X; because Malcolm totally eliminated inequality in—oh wait, he didn't, he just died, gunned down, after adopting a more Gandhi-like set of principles, but never mind). I sent a comment on its appearance at the Sulia website (you can check out the link):
He obviously hadn't actually looked at the comment and I didn't have the heart to try to tell him a second time, but he's wrong there. It's not the audience's fault he has to tack [jump]

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Dim Sum of Despair

Updated March 30:

Welcome back David Brooks!
Wait wait, is Kathyrn Jean being kind of witty here, or transgressively ironic? Risking an inversion of the kind of tiresome and morally obnoxious cliché you'd expect her to be using, about suffering turning into wisdom: as in that's why God gives people, say, stomach cancer, so they can achieve wisdom, impressing friends and family in their last months with the depth of their understanding and serenity. Is she turning it around for some blackly comical purpose? Is she, God help us, doing a Shorter David Brooks?
Hundred-corner shrimp balls. Via The Gourmet Project.

Friday, December 6, 2013


Rehearsing Philip Glass's Satyagraha at the Metropolitan Opera, 2008. Photo by Sara Krulwich/New York Times. via Walker Art Center.
Nelson Mandela did not belong to the nonviolence movement; following the 1960 Sharpeville Massacre he concluded that the African National Congress would have to give up its nonviolent principles and join the armed struggle against the apartheid system in South Africa, and assumed the leadership of the struggle himself, and never expressed regret at [jump]

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Pencil Paradox

Obamacare can't work! There's a perfect logical proof of it at the Limbaugh factory:
CALLER:  Yes.  Thank you, sir.  I'm homeschooled, and I'm taking your Hillsdale economics course on the website, and I'm really enjoying it.  So I just want to say thank you guys for advertising that.  I just wanted to mention, I want to share with you something that I learned in our last lesson.  Lecture six, Dr. Wolfram was talking about the pencil industry, and he told this story.  He said, "The story goes like this.... this person goes up on Capitol Hill, and he was told, "You need to find out every business in the United States and how many pencils they need, and you have to keep them supplied with pencils every single day of the year, and you have to find out that they have the right amount of pencils, and you also have to allocate resources to give everybody these pencils."
That person couldn't do it for a single day because obviously there's however many million people in the United States, and he couldn't even possibly go around to find out how many businesses need pencils, how many people need pencils and make sure enough pencils are not a shortage of pencils.  And he tied that into the Obamacare, how they're trying to go to a central planner, how it's not gonna work because there is a huge lack of information of who needs health care, why they need health care, that there's enough resources of health care --
Via Photobucket.
Fact! When the worldwide pencil crash of 1929 occurred, people were baffled as to how to proceed. President Hoover asked Congress to come up with the necessary data, identifying every business in the US that uses pencils and determining how many pencils they actually needed so they could mark up the needed legislation, but the person tasked with the job had barely gotten to business no. 24 before business no. 3 was calling him back to say that they had gone shopping and didn't need any further pencils for the moment, and so forth. Then in early 1933 President Roosevelt tried the alternative approach of setting up the Works Pencil Association in which an army of otherwise unemployable pencil pushers attempted to foist their pencils on businesses regardless of whether they needed them or not. As everyone knows, the crisis ended only when the government withdrew from trying to run the economy in World War II, and the responsibility for the allocation of pencils reverted to the Invisible Hand. Thus demonstrating that no government program can ever work ever.

Of course Obama has tried to outwit the Pencil Paradox with his usual lazy-ass buck-passing technique. Instead of that guy on Capitol Hill getting down the names and addresses of everybody who needs health care and what and how much they need, he's come up with the idea of forcing people to apply for it themselves, naturally with catastrophic results: a website that took a full month before it would work properly.

And the suffering doesn't stop there. For example, do you realize Obamacare doesn't make house calls? I want my Invisible Hand back!

Monday, December 2, 2013


To all you people who thought when they said
Sanctae Romanae Ecclesiae Cardinalem Bergoglio qui sibi nomen imposuit Franciscum
that meant the new pope's Latin name was "Franciscum": It isn't. When you are saying what his Latin name is in English you must say it is Franciscus (nominative case). You say "Franciscum" (accusative case) only when you are speaking Latin and he is the direct object of your sentence (Habemus papam Franciscum = "We have a pope, Francis") or of a preposition such as ante (before Francis), ad (toward Francis), circum (around Francis), contra (against Francis), and so forth. Or perhaps if you gave the name to something neuter rather than masculine or feminine, such as an egg ("This is my pet ovum, Franciscum"). It also has, to English speakers, unpleasant and distracting letter sequences inside it, such as "scum". Don't do it.
Gianlorenzo Bernini, Monument to Pope Alexander VII, 1671-78. Uncredited photo via Turn Back to God.

What are Keats?

There is a discussion going on at Riddled about The Eve of St. Agnes and the unsettling fact that Full on this casement shone the wintry moon And threw warm gules on Madeline's fair breast. Madeline was obviously wearing far fewer clothes than her depiction here (by Edward H. Wehnert, 1856), and the casement as shown is hardly high and triple-arched. It also fails to show that the casement is set with stained glass, which is important because that's where the gules comes from—moonlight passing through the window projecting red lozenges on the sleepy beauty's bare body. I just wanted to write that, and it's my blog.

Update: An additional illustration
Caspar David Friedrich, Landschaft mit Mondregenbogen, 1808 or 1810. From de.academic.ru (whatever that is).

Lost in translation--accidentally on purpose

Medieval boy bishop. From Full Homely Divinity.
One of the happy bloggers (including James Pethokoukis) who spent the weekend trying to prove that Pope Francis didn't attack "trickle-down" economic theory in his apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium was Phil Lawler at CatholicCulture, who used Google Translate (!) to show that the Vatican-authorized English version of ¶54,
54. In this context, some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world...
was not what Francis meant, but an erroneous translation of the Spanish original

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Dog whistling

Uncredited photo of Debo Adegbile, via the National Review.
John Fund is very concerned about President Obama's nominee to replace the "highly controversial radical" Thomas Perez as head of the DOJ's Civil Rights Division by
someone who clearly shares Perez’s worldview, Debo Adegbile, the senior counsel to the highly partisan Senate Judiciary Committee. He will also be the fourth head of the division who has worked at the Washington office of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.... which has a rigid view of civil-rights enforcement...
Not only that, but

Used to get insurance from God, now she has to get it from Obama

Here's Whitney King-Johnson of Arlington, Texas, a 26-year-old new mother who really liked her insurance and couldn't keep it, as reported in LifeNews:
I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in the fall of 2010, and diagnosed with severe Osteonecrosis in the spring of 2013. I have been through two relapses that left me in the hospital over three weeks. I have had two surgeries, one plasma exchange, monthly infusions, IVIG treatments, intense steroid treatments, and the list goes on — all to help me maintain quality of life. I easily incur over $350,000 worth of medical bills per year. My insurance coverage has been a blessing from God.
You bet it has! It sure hasn't been a blessing from capitalism. If this story is true, her insurer, which could legally have refused to cover her (until now), has instead [jump]