Wednesday, May 29, 2013


Doris Day, uncredited and undated.
The last time Anthony Weiner started becoming a little bit famous, toward what was meant to be his reelection to Congress, it was as a kind of gritty northeastern industrial-grade Alan Grayson figure, a speaker of truth to power in no uncertain terms, and some of us [jump]

Monday, May 27, 2013

Exploding syntax

Senator Linsey-Woolsey Graham (R-SC):
At the end of the day, this is the most tone deaf president I've ever -- could imagine and making such a speech at a time when our homeland is trying to be -- attacked literally every day.
Obviously you can't hold a man responsible for the particular meanings of his words when he's passed over into this kind of agrammatical shrapnel field, but do you think that "trying to be attacked" is trying to tell us something? Like, perpetual war is not just OK with him but something to be actively worked for?
Exploding Head Syndrome, from Modern Medical Dictionary:
a type of hypnagogic auditory hallucination in which a person perceives one or more very loud noises which he or she likens to an explosion, crashing waves, screams or clanging, often accompanied by flashes of light but not pain, which seems to come from inside his /her head... The attacks typically occur shortly after falling asleep, are clustered over several days to weeks followed by months of remission and are not linked to dreams, as they may occur whilst awake. They are more common when the patient is stressed or exhausted. 

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Our words

Self-supplied shorter David Brooks: New York Times, May 21, 2013, "What our words tell us"
Evidence from crude data sets like these are prone to confirmation bias. People see patterns they already believe in. Maybe I’ve done that here.
Yes, you have. Welcome to Big Data. Also, in English we generally say "evidence...  is", not "evidence... are".

It turns out, a particularly eminent member of the fraternity of bloggers dedicated to exposing the errors of the philosopher David Brooks is Professor Mark Liberman of Penn, editor and chief contributor to the Language Log. I never noticed this before! Perhaps it's because whenever Brooks says something especially egregious about the social and behavioral sciences I'm busy trying to write the column up and have no time to read Language Log.

This week, in any event, Brooks's errors are demanding ones, and I'm particularly fatigued for unrelated reasons and have not been able to write the column up to my satisfaction, so I'm very glad to point to a masterly takedown here. As well as this, by the great Robin Lakoff.
By Jayson Musson from The Art of Obama.

Friday, May 24, 2013

The voice of that woman

Re Medea Benjamin:
Mr. Obama then departed from his text and said: “The voice of that woman is worth paying attention to. Obviously I do not agree with much of what she said, and obviously she wasn’t listening to me in much of what I said. But these are tough issues, and the suggestion that we can gloss over them is wrong.”
Folks, I do believe that's the first time in my life a US President has gone so far even as to acknowledge the humanity of the hippie resistance—let alone suggesting that it could somehow make a contribution to the national discourse. The speech would have had me on the Obot end of the pendulum swing anyhow, but this one beats all: My gob, it is smacked.
Image via Robert Sietsema, Village Voice.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Because the world needs more Jean Valjean

Bob Greenstein, Huffington Post:
In today's Senate debate on the farm bill, Senator David Vitter offered -- and Senate Democrats accepted -- an amendment that would increase hardship and will likely have strongly racially discriminatory effects.
The amendment would bar from SNAP (food stamps), for life, anyone who was ever convicted of one of a specified list of violent crimes at any time -- even if they committed the crime decades ago in their youth and have served their sentence, paid their debt to society, and been a good citizen ever since.  In addition, the amendment would mean lower SNAP benefits for their children and other family members.
So, a young man who was convicted of a single crime at age 19 who then reforms and is now elderly, poor, and raising grandchildren would be thrown off SNAP, and his grandchildren's benefits would be cut.
But hey, he'll still be able to get a gun, right? Senator Vitter wouldn't interfere with that! So he can just knock over a grocery store.
Image from CBS8 SanDiego.

You can never be too rich or too thin


It should be, you can never be too rich and too thin. You can easily be too thin if you're not rich enough.
Alhambra grounds, Granada. Photo by DitchtheCube.

Monday, May 20, 2013

When servants go uncivil

Edward Lear, Uncle Arly.

Brooks's column, "When Governments Go Bad", begins with a quote:
Government, Clinton Rossiter once wrote, is something like fire: “Under control, it is the most useful of servants; out of control, it is a ravaging tyrant.”
This is however an awfully carefully pruned version of what that humblest of American New Conservatives actually said in his Conservatism in America: The Thankless Persuasion (1955): [jump]

Friday, May 17, 2013

Cheap shots and asparagus shoots

Correction: May 13, 2013
An earlier version of this column contained an erroneous byline. The column was written by Bill Keller, not the Editorial Board.
Moapa people in Las Vegas as it was. Wikipedia.
Via Juan Cole:
“Southern Nevada’s Moapa Band of Paiutes are calling for the closure of the Reid Gardner coal plant and a transition to clean renewable energy future for [jump]

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Sixteen Scandals (continued)

David Brooks can tell a perfectly lucid story, you know, when he feels like it, especially when it's more or less true—truthfulness being a good writer's most elegant technique for achieving verisimilitude, though little appreciated.
Mosaic from Leptis Magna, Libya, via Mosaik.
Not that he's off the hook for today—in fact he turns out to be more than usually slimy—but truthful lucidity is one of the things he does with his column on Victoria Nuland, the State Department spokeswoman at the center of the BENGHAZI! scandal, as some have called it:

Call for signatures

From Wired.
By Sean Crane.

 Please sign. It's not just for the orangutans but for the carbon-absorbing forest and its biological diversity, the lungs of future generations, and the conscience of President Yudhoyono (apparently he just started tweeting, so he might like getting the message).

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Rhetorical Questions Department

Can't find a credit for this painter, evidently 20th-century and perhaps Mormon? It depicts Jesus teaching a very young, bearded McCain to waltz in the water, for some dream-logic reason in the Verde river near Sedona.
Nicole Belle at Crooks & Liars on Sunday morning:
So why on earth is John McCain on my screen again, for the tenth time this year?
What the hell is that? Lack of imagination? Lack of creativity? Or is it more likely a lack of interest in having any kind of real conversation or discussion of the issues?
My vote is the latter.
This negative view is undoubtedly correct, but it cannot answer the question completely, since it would be easy to have a television program with no real conversation or discussion of the issues without John McCain. Indeed, a lack of real conversation and discussion of [jump]

Preach, Brother Leitch, Preach!

Mr. Disqus keeps inviting me to share things I read in awkward ways and sometimes I give it a click. Today seems to be religion day anyway. But all I had was a comment, not a damn essay.

Will Leitch, via Mollie at GetReligion:
When Josh Hamilton electrified Yankee Stadium in the Home Run Derby in 2008, here's what he said afterward: "It's amazing, the last few years, what God's done in my life, and how quickly he's done it."

Now, here's what non-believers hear when he says that:

God decided that I would start hitting a ton of home runs. He likes me more than He likes anyone else in this competition. Therefore, He helped me launch those blasts. I am so close to God that He has decided I should be great in this Home Run Derby. A couple of those balls I hit, God picked them up and carried them extra feet so they would get over the fence. God cares, specifically, about this Home Run Derby, more than He cares about poverty, starvation and disease. If God liked you as much as He liked me, you might hit home runs too. But He doesn't.

But this is absolutely not what he is saying. What Hamilton is saying when he thanks God is not that God somehow chose him over others. He is in fact saying the opposite: It is a humble acknowledgment that nothing any person does can ever be attributable to themselves. It's a guard against pride.

Christianity isn't some peripheral notion of Hamilton's life; it is his life. When you live a Christian life, everything you do, from showing up to church on Sunday, to going to the grocery store, to pumping gas, to hitting a home run, to striking out, is done for the glory of Christ. Hamilton isn't thanking Jesus for helping him hit a homer; he is thanking Jesus for everything. From the homers to the strikeouts to the millions of dollars to all the boos.
Sorry, I don't get it. Leitch's account of what the non-believer hears is from this non-believer's point of view spot on. But the alternative interpretation not so much. It's amazing, the last few years, how much time God has given me at the grocery store, and how many boos He has permitted me to hear? That was not what Hamilton meant.

Don't believe I ever saw any pictures of Tim Tebow kneeling in the gas station either.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Cooke's Tour

Jim Dine, Late Friends, 2012, via Pace Gallery. All illustrations from ArtObserved, March 2013.
Charles C.W. Cooke (Christoph Willibald?), the latest and most convincing Evelyn Waugh imitator to be recruited by the National Review (true, he sounds less like Waugh himself than Lord Sebastian Flyte imitating Waugh, but that's much closer than Mark Steyn has ever gotten, and besides old Mr. Buckley would have been a bit suspicious of Steyn for being, um, [jump]


Josh Eidelson's reporting for the Nation on the Detroit fast food strike includes the story of the Gratiot Avenue McDonald's where the company brought in a group of scabs (or so they thought) to replace 20 picketing workers. But the replacement workers joined the picket line instead!

Image via SumOfUs.
Workers are asking for $15 an hour and the right to union representation. Share the photo on Facebook.

Sixteen scandals

Do not talk to this man unless a State Department lawyer is present. Jason Chaffetz, AP photo.
Thanks to Peggy Noonan, with her expert knowledge of how things work in a conspiratorial White House, I am starting at last to get a fix on what might have happened during the Benghazi incident in the alternate universe where Republicans are right about things.


President's private office, White House, 11 September 2012, 4:00 PM.

HENCHMAN: Mr. President? Bad news from Libya, I'm afraid.

OBAMA: Curses! Ex Africa semper aliquid novi! What is it this time?

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Here we go again

Lines from Khalil Gibran, from Freescop.
A Tunisian man has been accused of seeking to develop a terrorist network in the United States and of proposing to poison the water or air to kill up to 100,000 people, federal prosecutors said in court papers unsealed on Thursday.
Mr. Abassi has been indicted on two counts of making false statements in an application to the immigration authorities for a green card and a work visa to facilitate an act of international terrorism, prosecutors said. He has pleaded not guilty.
Sounds pretty deadly, but...
In court, a prosecutor, John P. Cronan, told the judge that the government would be providing “voluminous” amounts of discovery materials to the defense, including “many, many hours of recordings” between Mr. Abassi and an undercover agent for the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
During which the undercover agent no doubt explains how to apply for a green card, discusses the relative merits of poisoning the water and air, brews the coffee, fixes lunch, interviews potential girlfriends for the defendant, darns his socks, reminds him to pray, and takes him shopping for fuses, fertilizer, shoes, underwear, one of those cool little fedoras, and a copy of Khalil Gibran.

One good thing about having the FBI responsible for who becomes a terrorist in the US is that they can make sure nobody dangerous takes it up. They've kept us safe! Most of the time.

Why can't Johnny read?

Hmm, let's see.

BBC (by Paul Danahar):
The situation in Syria is complicated. If you are not confused by what is going on there, then you do not understand it. 
I also know the situation in Syria is complex and there are no ideal options. But the basic choice we face is not complicated...
Firstly, the FSA - that you have been hearing so much about - does not exist.... the Syrian opposition's political leadership - which wanders around international capitals attending conferences and making grand speeches - is not leading anyone. It barely has control of the delegates in the room with it, let alone the fighters in the field.
we should work with our closest friends and allies to support opposition groups inside Syria, both political and military, to help them organize themselves into a more cohesive and effective force that can put an end to the bloodshed and force Assad and his loyalists to leave power. 
America is not acting because it does not know what to do or whom to do it with. Neither do the European countries. Having spent the last few days in Beirut and Damascus, talking to the international community, Western diplomats, FSA activists and Syrian regime supporters, it is clear that nobody knows how to end this crisis. That's just about the only thing all sides agree on.

The benefit for the United States in helping to lead this effort directly is that it would allow us to better empower those Syrian groups that share our interests—those groups that reject Al Qaeda and the Iranian regime, and commit to the goal of an inclusive democratic transition, as called for by the Syrian National Council. If we stand on the sidelines, others will try to pick winners, and this will not always be to our liking or in our interest.
Maybe the thing McCain liked so much wasn't actually the article, just the 8 words mentioned in the tweet. I.e., the part he knew already. And the part that makes him happy. What a tool.
Via Stuck on Stupid.

The terrifying trend that is terrifying everybody, with real terror

Image by Nightmare Soldier at DeviantArt.
I wanted to get in on the big scandal rocking the US military and found something totally astonishing, but let me build up to it first.

Chief of Staff of the United States Air Force weighs in on possible reasons for the increase in unwanted sexual contact in our armed services, from 4.4% of women in active duty in 2010 to 6.1% last year (don't even ask about the men).
“Some of it is the hookup mentality of junior high even and high school students now, which my children can tell you about from watching their friends and being frustrated by it,” Gen. Mark A. Welsh III said at a Senate hearing on the issue.
You think that might be it? Nasty public-school kids infecting the services with their nasty civilian behavior? Or maybe not, because when 4.4% of women in active duty were [jump]

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Open wound

German immigrants in Madison, Wisconsin, 1897. Spartacus Educational, UK.
Brooks is scratching at the open wound in the conservative movement, which is the issue of immigration. When the Nixonians first pitched the big tent of the Southern Strategy which was to join together the Republicans of yacht club and country club with the unreconstructed nullificationists of the South, it was always a doomed coalition, and immigration was [jump]

West of Eden: Update

The Times leads:
The White House insisted Monday that it would not be thrown off its cautious approach to Syria, despite Israeli military strikes near Damascus and new questions about the use of chemical weapons in the civil war there.
Booman thinks the paper is actually gunning for war, with Bill Keller's abominable column ("Syria is not Iraq"—well, whoop-de-doo, and it's not New Jersey either, Sparky, is it? I guess you could say every country is unique in its own way, or better still, you could shut up) yesterday and now this story. (Per Anne Laurie at Balloon Juice it's just blowback from their being bored with Afghanistan. Also it's not just the Times.)

It's certainly a very curiously constructed opening sentence. Are they suggesting it would have been less newsworthy if the White House were inspired by these to become less cautious???
Reuters via Al Jazeera.
This is pretty hard to take, but I think we need to appreciate Obama's discipline, when he is using any means necessary, including those verging on the unscrupulous, to avoid military stupidity: when the pressure becomes just immense. As on the subject of Iran (where he doesn't mind a rather cruel strategy of extremely harsh sanctions as long as war itself is averted), Libya (where there was a non-stupid approach available), Yemen and Somalia (where as bad as the drone campaign looks it is nevertheless a minimizing of how bad it might be).

Because clearly some kind of intervention in Syria, though unlikely in the extreme to save even a single life, is clearly deeply desired by a lot of people. Not that they've finally noticed how many people are being killed. I imagine there must be some kind of Syrian Chalabi  (the new prime minister-in-exile Ghassan Hitto, conveniently domiciled in Texas from 1980 until recently?) making the cocktail rounds in Georgetown. Or the Syrian Support Group?
Officially formed in the spring of 2012 by a group of Syrian expatriates living in the U.S. and Canada, the SSG has acted as a conduit for information between Syria's Supreme Military Council, which commands the rebel armies, and outside governments ever since the U.S. severed diplomatic ties with Syria in February of 2012. It has also been raising money from private donors to support the Syrian rebels and lobbying Congress and the Obama administration to send military assistance to the fighters.
Syrian expatriates such as executive director Brian Sayers and  media relations director Dan Layman. Huh.

Monday, May 6, 2013


Dr. Turk writes:
No matter how much they want to say otherwise, it's pretty clear that that gay guy, John Maynard Keynes, was absolutely right in how important spending is to job growth.
That's what it's about, isn't it? The evidence shows he's right, so they have to find some other reason why he's wrong. E.g., Al Gore is fat.
Shortly after the discovery of the vacuum cleaner, ancient Egyptians learned that puppies weigh exactly the same as bowling balls.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Insider Pooper Scoopers: Who're you gonna call?

Looks like young Dylan got him a Scoop! With anonymous source and all, and writing it up like he's reading it off his Hildy Johnson Junior Journalist Secret Decoder Ring:
The Rush Limbaugh Program is considering ending its affiliation agreement with Cumulus Media at the end of this year, a move that would bring about one of the biggest shakeups in talk radio history, a source close to the show tells POLITICO.
Son of a gun! How did that happen, O source close to the show?
According to the source, Limbaugh is considering the move because Cumulus CEO Lew Dickey has blamed the company's advertising losses on Limbaugh's controversial remarks about Sandra Fluke, the Georgetown law student.
Personal disclosure: My name undoubtedly figures among the petitions to various advertisers asking them to dump the Rushster, so I'm getting a little quiver of We Built That. So is he [jump]

Questions, questions...

Cares about the future.
With him it's just sex, sex, sex.
Did Niall Ferguson say something true?
Harvard historian Niall Ferguson posted an "unqualified apology" on his personal blog on Saturday after saying that British economist John Maynard Keynes did not care about the future because he was gay and had no children. The comments were "as stupid as they were insensitive," Ferguson wrote.
Well, they were that. (He also said they were "off the cuff", suggesting he really needs to start patronizing a different laundry, since he has found the same remarks on his cuff before.)

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Something Wiki this way comes

The other day Jared Bernstein, contemplating the Reinhart-Rogoff massacree, was inviting us to note that from an institutional point of view the fact that the peer review issue was less important in the general fiasco than the issue of the openness of the data—nobody could figure out what the authors had done, let alone what they had done wrong, until they finally released their spreadsheet. It made me imagine a world of open economic data, a Wikinomics database where any unaffiliated idiot could test a hypothesis—association between gun deaths and Evangelicalism?—on reputable numbers.

Well, it looks like the retroactionary gods were listening, because today I learned from a Guardian article that there already is a Wikidata, still in its infancy, part of the Wikimedia family.
If you have a Wikipedia name and password you can log right in and start working, although you will have to be more patient than me to find out what kind of work is available. When I say in its infancy, I mean there is really nothing for users at this point—it is in the care of the truly dedicated and technically endowed. But it's going to be wondrous!

The opposite of leadership; or, Why it's always projection

CNN at the NRA convention in Houston, via BooMan:
Palin argued the president was practicing the "politics of emotion" by "flying in grieving parents on Air Force One, making them backdrops in his perpetual campaign-style press events."
Par for the course, the 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee faulted the media for being a "reliable, poodle-skirted cheerleader for a president who writes the book on exploiting tragedy."
Politics of emotion, she argued, won't make the country safer. "It's the opposite of leadership. It's the manipulation of the people by the politicians for their own political ends. It's not just self-serving. It's destructive and it must stop."
Our media. From Glamour Daze.
Leadership is:
  1. the politics of Vulcan rationality
  2. making grieving parents take the bus
  3. not campaigning for things
What interests me the most is the implication that Obama is using the Newtown families, for example, for some hidden purposes of his own; not, that is, to pass gun control legislation, but to achieve an end he doesn't name. What do you suppose it could be? Is he a short-seller betting heavily on a fall in Remington shares? Does he represent a clandestine freemasonry or trade union of burglars hoping to rid Middle America of the ubiquitous semi-automatic under the bed? Is he part of a vast conspiracy against the Third Amendment aiming at quartering troops in everybody's master bedroom?

She's not going to think it through that far, naturally; or she'll toss her grappling hooks to New World Order or Socialism and just hang on. But she knows that you can use emotion to suspend people's judgment and make them do what you want, chiefly involving their checkbooks. It's always projection because that's all the sociopathic imagination can do, really.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Cheap shots, and a Sex On The Beach for the minority leader

The Tim Brando sex tape? From Every Day Should Be Saturday.
Depends what's on the tape, Tim. What have you got? Here's a suggestion: judging from how far you got your foot in, you seem to have a pretty Deep Throat, so you might want to think along those lines.

Hello, sailor! What's your poison? Via TPM.
Senator McConnell attempting to look friendly, with Clint Eastwood's chair and glass of wine evidently for the prophet Elijah or St. Joseph, depending on your persuasion and the time of year. Actually, no: the chair and the drink are both of course supposed to be for President Obama. Two questions raise themselves immediately in the mind of the structural anthropologist. First, why the chair instead of the barstool, so that if the president does sit down, his eyes will be at the level of the senator's substantial embonpoint? Second, why does the senator give himself a beer while the president is invited to take a dainty glass of pinot noir? I think I know the answer to the second one, that he wishes to present himself as Mitch Sixpack and the other guy as the Sheriff of Nottingham.

If so, I'm here to warn you, Senator, this is not going to work. As a Kentuckian, you could get away with bourbon, at least on Derby Day, but there's no way anyone will accept you as a beer guy. They will flee in fear.
Hint: Policies don't do anything, Mr. Speaker. Until your legislature enacts them.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Engaged or disengaged?

David Brooks has gotten a huge amount of attention from some of the right people for his really egregious self-serving self-portrait in yesterday's Times, earning a notable scolding from Jonathan Chait and a wonderful parody by Atrios.

As you probably have heard by now, Brooks is doing one of his two-roads-diverged numbers, addressed to an imaginary young writer who wants to grow up to be Brooks; he divides the world of writers on politics and policies into two classes: the "engaged", by which he actually means rabid partisan hacks like Paul Krugman, and the "detached", or transcendent sages like his oh-so-humble humility professor self.

The only thing I have to add to the discussion is to note that this is just four days after a column in which Brooks predicts the failure of Obamacare in terms that could virtually have been read aloud from the Republican talking points sheet for the weekend, i.e., provides an example of partisan hackery that is indistinguishable from what Mitch McConnell's chief of staff might have said.

Which is not to say that Brooks is a partisan hack. He can do partisan hack pretty well, as he showed especially during his tenure at the Weekly Standard, except for the math anxiety issues that sometimes affect his judgment, but it's not his only shtik. What he's engaged in in this column is denial.

Or, as Driftglass puts it,
Did I mention that this is all coming out of the face hole of the same guy who literally bought himself a mansion with the proceeds of a professional lifetime spent pimping one crackpot Republican idea after another? 
The road less traveled. Via People Polarity.