Tuesday, December 30, 2014

We'll just have to muggle through

Hogwarts. Image via Blithe Sea.
[Note: Looked at Brooks this morning, plugging a "moral meditation" by Yuval Levin, and asked myself wearily, "Doesn't he ever go on vacation any more?" Actually he goes on vacation quite a lot, of course. As a year-end exercise I thought I'd rerun this, from one of those happier times, last August, a piece that didn't get read all that much at the time.]

As our nation lurches from crisis to crisis this summer, with ominous movements taking place everywhere from Afghanistan to Scotland and an increasing climate of unquiet here at home, where institutions as important as Meet the Press rock and teeter toward a possible doom, when what we need most is a voice of unity to speak to our fears and hopes with a calm but convinced voice, one key figure appears to have gone AWOL, abandoning us for the golf course or whatever he does when he's not working, puttering while Rome burns, vanishing on an unprecedented number of vacation days in the face of the people's anxiety and uncertainty.

It's a bird! It's a plane! It's a kamikaze bot?

It's pretty likely, of course, that it can't fly either. But be very afraid, Bibi, because that's what the voters like. Image via Farsnews.
Prime Minister Netanyahu greeting Senator Graham:
Iran today conducted an exercise with a suicide drone. I don’t have to convince you, Senator, that the most important task before us is to prevent this dangerous regime from having nuclear weapons. And I believe that what is required are more sanctions, and stronger sanctions. And I welcome your leadership in this effort. 
Suicide drone? What?

Matt Novak at Gizmodo:
Today Iranian military forces tested various unmanned aircraft that some are calling "suicide drones." Because "suicide drone" sounded more intimidating than "model airplane that we could fly into things nearby."
Oh, of course.

Cheap shots: Steve Scalise

Image: Suprematist Non-Objective Poetry FS1987CT03, Cecil Touchon, 12x9 inches, collage on paper (1987).

From the Washington Post:

Monday, December 29, 2014

¡Cuomo lo deseas!

Image from last September via WNYC Radio. Don't they look as if they're taking an exam and Andrew's thinking about cheating?
Governor Andrew Cuomo, fresh from his turn as Pontius Pilate in the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation review of natural gas fracking in the state—they came to the right decision, which is a really good thing, but it's evident that Cuomo's chief concern was to not be seen as making a decision at all, and instead of welcoming the ban and its protection for the health of New Yorkers and the integrity of the environment he gloomily predicted a "ton of lawsuits" that are not in fact going to take place at all

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Benevolent Despots

Bill de Blasio and Chirlane McCray arriving for the service. How the rank and file really feel when the PBA bosses aren't choreographing them. Photo by Mike Segar/Reuters in the Daily News.
I didn't fully get the picture that the cops turning their backs on Mayor de Blasio as he gave a eulogy for murdered officer Rafael Ramos yesterday were outdoors performing for the cameras, out of the mayor's sight, while inside the church things were different, as they should be:

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Jon Swift Memorial

One of the eleventy meanings of the Italian word batocchio (a blind man's cane, a door knocker, a comedian's slapstick) is this long-nosed style of Venetian Carnival mask.

The Jon Swift Memorial Roundup 2014 is out, with a feast of self-selected best pieces of the year from bloggers big and small curated by the great Batocchio at Vagabond Scholar. So read it.

Global whacking: Clarifications

Robert Salmon, Storm at Sea (1840). Wikimedia Commons.
Duff writes, in comments, with reference to the previous post:
"Sabine, Feely et al. 2004 modelled the time scale of acidification" [my emphasis]. Ah yes, that titchy little word that means so much!
Modeling, Duff, is how science is done. Copernicus and Galileo did not truck around the solar system with surveying equipment measuring where things were in relation to each other ("Got to the sun yesterday, about 93 million miles from Cracow!"); they stayed home and imagined how it might be structured and what consequences such a structure might have that you could observe from earth.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Annals of Derp: Global whacking

John Shortt-Smith, Storm Blowing up over Edeowie.
Storm blowing up! House troll duffandnonsense in comments over at No More Mister Nice Blog has been touting a climate-science scandal that "eclipses even the so-called climategate event" according to its discoverer, a somewhat long-in-the-tooth graduate student (he got his BS in Plant and Soil Science in 1980) working on a PhD at the University of New Mexico, Mike Wallace, who is accusing Dr. Richard A. Feely of the Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory (PMEL) of fraud.

Though not, as far as I can tell, at his own website; he's leaving that to the experts at American Thinker and the Arizona Daily Independent and WattsUpWithThat, and Marita Noon at the climate change denial website CFACT.

Feely, it seems, is responsible for the following graph, purporting to illustrate the increasing acidification of the oceans in tandem with an increase in atmospheric CO2 levels, referenced a couple of weeks ago at the San Francisco PBS affiliate science website Quest:

My Weakly Reader

Rudolph Valentino and Agnes Ayres in The Sheik (1921).
Somewhat Shorter David Brooks, "The Sidney Awards, Part 1", New York Times, December 26 2014:
As always, over the past year I looked at a number of magazine articles that I wasn't able to parlay into columns on their own, some of which might as well be listed as the best magazine articles of the year, either because they are or because they're useful for underscoring some little point I wanted to make:

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Don't they know it's Christmas?

This secularization of Christmas has got to stop! Relentless commercialism, nonstop shopping, eating, and promiscuity; greedy children; pretentious, drunken hipsters and their lowlife girlfriends, merciless mockery of solid entrepreneurs, not one mention of the Blessed Child. And of course the bourgeois gets stuck with the bill!

Christmas Eve in Paris, 1837. And whatever you do don't let Rush Limbaugh watch this video because he'll go apeshit. (Note: the video isn't really 40 minutes: the act is only 20 minutes long, and then it repeats)

Happy Yule,  everybody!

Cross-posted at No More Mister Nice Blog.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas Exceptionalism

Away from a manger. Nicolas Poussin, La Nourriture de Jupiter (1636-37). Wikimedia Commons.
"Biblical theologian" Scott Hahn, author of Joy to the World: How Christ's Coming Changed Everything (and Still Does) (2014), doing a book tour interview with Kathryn Jean Lopez at NRO in that curious style of hers, where she always seems to be working backwards, taking a prepared text and interpolating questions into it:
LOPEZ: Why is it important to notice that Jesus “doesn’t behave like a conventional hero”?

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

I' faith, you have drunk too much

From Sergey Eyzenshteyn, The Battleship Potemkin, via.
David Brooks has read every single modern book on religious faith, enabling him to say with perfect confidence:
The best modern book on belief is “My Bright Abyss” by my Yale colleague, Christian Wiman. (paragraph 2)
Also he's so in at Yale, as Brady-Johnson Distinguished Practitioner of Grand Strategy at the Jackson Institute for Global Affairs (course load of one class per year and a little team teaching), that he has colleagues in the Divinity School now.

But I'm not so sure he's really read all that much, because he sounds surprised at having heard quite recently how much reading is involved:

Cheap shot: Dr. Ben

Takes a tough man to make a tender superPAC. But you can keep fucking that chicken, Dr. Ben, as long as you don't marry it. Image via 365 Bars.
The Times seems to be interested in taking Dr. Ben Carson seriously as a presidential candidate:
One of the clearest indicators of his intention to run is that he has met recently with communications experts to tone down his remarks. In an interview, he blamed “the P.C. police” for frequently twisting his meaning. “When I mention bestiality or pedophilia in the same sentence with homosexuality, people say ‘Carson says they’re the same.’ Of course they’re not the same,” he said. “That point was if you change the definition of marriage for one group, you’ll have to change it for the next group and the next group.”

Monday, December 22, 2014

J'accuse, Ed Mullins

Montage from The Conservative Treehouse (Motto: "I want you to be Andrew Breitbart"), dated December 7.
Saturday afternoon, when many of my tweeps and I were watching in horror as the news of the killings of Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos dripped out of Bedford-Stuyvesant, the Daily News came out, in one of the most circumstantiated early reports, with a weird detail, that the suspected killer, Ismaaiyl Brinsley, might have been a member of a gang known as the "Black Gorilla Family" or "Black Guerilla Family" that had been threatening to avenge the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner by attacks on the New York police. It's vanished from the much-updated original story, but still extant at the moment in a followup from later that evening, from which the screenshots below are taken:

Sunday, December 21, 2014

In which I pitch Seth Rogen

Think The Great Impersonation meets Gung Ho
As I watched the trailers for The Interview, repeatedly—like a lot of us I'm not likely to be watching TV unless it's at 11:00 to midnight Monday through Thursday and they were advertising it constantly, in connection, I fear, with the interviews of the stars by Stewart and Colbert which I assume are the quid for the quo—I was really bothered by a lot of things about the movie, though concern with the possibility that it might hurt the feelings of First Secretary Kim Jong-un of the Workers' Party of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea was not among them.

Friday, December 19, 2014


Just to get you in a good mood...

Over at the World O' Crap, a blog whose greatness really does not need discussing, the proprietors are face to face with a pretty serious, though temporary, emergency involving not having enough money, and would appreciate some help, which some of you might be able to participate in extending to them. They've given you a lot of uncompensated joy over the years, and if they haven't it's your fault for not reading them. Please click the link provided.

Truthiness from David Brooks

Montreal cops in 2008 or 2009 protesting against government messing with their pensions by dressing down. They are a real union. You never hear of Montreal cops killing unarmed black men. Coincidence? You decide. Via CyberSmokeBlog.
Shorter David Brooks, "The Union Future", December 19 2014:
I'm not going to lie, police departments are pretty abusive. Kind of like teachers, refusing to fire incompetent officers, refusing accountability in the form of body cams, refusing to apologize. Some socialists accuse them of racism, but even-the-liberal-Conor-Friedersdorf will tell you the real problem is they're unionized.

Happy Trails, Stephen

Thursday, December 18, 2014


President Theodore Roosevelt leaving the White House on Bleistein, 1903. Via White House History.
Peter Baker in the Times annoyed me a bit—
The historic deal broke an enduring stalemate between two countries divided by just 90 miles of water but oceans of mistrust and hostility dating from the days of Theodore Roosevelt’s charge up San Juan Hill and the nuclear brinkmanship of the Cuban missile crisis.
—leaving the impression that he and his copy editor don't realize San Juan Hill is in Puerto Rico.


Via a colleague at work. Somewhere in Germany an Edeka supermarket, 13 hidden cameras, and 9 (rehearsed) cashiers.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

National Review Fail of the Week: Addendum

Mojitos via CopyKat.
National Review was in a hurry this afternoon to get out of the gate with an early condemnation of the diplomatic recognition of Cuba:
The State Department has listed Cuba as a sponsor of terrorism since 1982:

National Review Fail of the Week

Chilly Willy, via Rufio Jones.
Oh hai, Charles C.W. (Chilly Willy) Cooke:
Why Gun-Control Advocates Lie about Guns 
The facts aren’t on their side. 
Oh, well, that would be a reason. Which facts are those? It's that desperately mendacious Mike Lupica writing in the Daily News over an unsettling Pew poll:
Over the course of 900 words, Lupica lambasted the public for continuing “to protect gun nuts,” chided the “mouth-breathing” NRA for its murderous myopia, and contended emotively that “there are no words” available to describe the horror of “a recent poll that says a majority of Americans believe it is more important to protect the right to own guns than it is for the government to limit access to guns.”
Are you seriously denying that the NRA is composed of mouth breathers, Charles? No,

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

For whom the Brooks trolls

Via Bette's Classic Movie Blog.
Couldn't figure out what Brooksy is up to today with seven paragraphs of book report on his Kindle searching of Elizabeth Warren's A Fighting Chance.

He didn't want to actually read the thing, that sounds a little like work, so instead he just called up all the instances of the words "fight" or "fighting"—224, he tells us—and culled his quotations from there, and then he devoted the remaining six paragraphs to speculating on whether she's running for president or has a chance of winning, like it was last May—to be fair, he's only a day behind Steve Inskeep at NPR.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Cheap Shots and Big Times

Scott Shane went full Driftglass this morning, writing a report on the Big Dick's pro-torture appearance on Meet the Press (which the real Driftglass couldn't make himself watch, like me, and had to report out of the written-language coverage). He wasn't trying to be funny or anything, at least most of the time, but a few items really stood out for me as pretty grand in the guignol department.

Via TransmissionAtelier.
Language, language
“Torture is what the Al Qaeda terrorists did to 3,000 Americans on 9/11,” Mr. Cheney said in his latest interview defending the C.I.A. program. “There is no comparison between that and what we did with respect to enhanced interrogation.”
No, that's not torture. It's bad, it's morally wrong, it's illegal in most states (not sure about Texas), it's premeditated murder, aggravated by being a hate crime. It's just that torture is something different. Like I'm really against burying people alive but I don't call it child rape. As Merriam-Webster put it, simplifying down a bit from the legal definitions,

Heck of a job, capitalism!

Capitalists of the world, unite! Viktor Deni, 1920. Via.
Gail Collins writes:
One of the most unnerving parts involves the fact that the waterboarding, ice baths and wall-slamming were conducted under the direction of an outside contractor. It isn’t the first time the government turned to private enterprise and wound up with a human rights disaster — think Abu Ghraib. Or Blackwater.
Actually Abu Ghraib is a part of it (torturers there were trained by torturers from Guantánamo from the private enterprise torture-training program)—it represents, perhaps, the very beginning of the Bush administration drive to privatize everything they could from State Department security (that's where Blackwater came in) to Social Security (sorry, not privatization but the proposed "introduction of private accounts" which is totally not privatization except to the extent that it is that did not actually get done anyhow, though the former president persists in regarding it as his top achievement in domestic policy).

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Falsus in uno, falsus in cromnibus

Can't find a source for this; it's been on Twitter a lot.
Atrios writes:
One trick elite editorial boards regularly play is offering narratives of "bipartisanship" and "compromise" that don't really conform to their readers' understanding of those words. I mean, compromise is a good thing, right? Who doesn't love compromise!

But true bipartisanship, where lots of members of both parties actually agree on something (even if they pretend not to), is the way that Congress passes things that voters actually hate. Actual compromise would involve Dems giving up something in exchange for something Republicans want, and vice versa, not "let's pass this piece of shit that everybody but Fred Hiatt and our donors hate."
That's not exactly how I've seen it, from a partisan point of view: to me there's a clear asymmetry between "what Democrats want" and "what Republicans want" in that the former as a party are relatively more interested in voters and the latter in donors (and in Fred Hiatt, for whatever strange reasons), so that talking about the possibility of compromise between Democrats and Republicans is misreading a bit what the options are.

Friday, December 12, 2014

The sun was shining upside down

Harold Lloyd in Girl Shy (1924), via Popthomology.
Old David Brooks ("In Praise of Small Miracles") has been doing some heavy reading, in the World Bank's new report on behavioral economics, Mind, Society, and Behavior,  and so have I, but I seem to be getting a totally different message from the thing.  He doesn't actually mention the report till paragraph 7, so as to make it look, as always, as if he knew all this stuff before reading it, and he calls it "amazingly good" as if he were evaluating it against some vast secret knowledge he has of the subject. But, as we'll see, he's missed an awful lot of it, including its central message.

Like, Brooks keeps worrying about
a bias in the way governments often work. They tend to gravitate toward the grand and the abstract....

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Businessy risk

Look out, it's America's worst law professor!
Ignoring Risks to National Security 
The Feinstein report reflects the Democratic party’s contempt for U.S. intelligence agencies. 
Happened to catch this minutes after seeing Valerie Plame getting interviewed on MSNBC—remember her, the Cheney administration (Karl Rove in particular) got pissed off with her husband for casting doubt on its account of Iraq's imaginary uranium shopping and decided to punish him by revealing her identity as a CIA operative running a clandestine network in Iran, thereby destroying her career and incidentally wrecking for years the US ability to collect intelligence from inside Iran, a country said to be kind of important.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Ex-VP Nabbed in Flagrant Truthfulness

Image credit to UrantianSojourn.com via TPK at Kos.
Out of his own mouth:
“What I keep hearing out there is they portray this as a rogue operation, and the agency was way out of bounds and then they lied about it,” Mr. Cheney said in a telephone interview. “I think that’s all a bunch of hooey. The program was authorized. The agency did not want to proceed without authorization, and it was also reviewed legally by the Justice Department before they undertook the program.” (New York Times)
Yes, I think at the very least Cheney himself and his office, and the Office of Legal Council, and various people in the Department of Justice, must have known exactly what kind of violence the CIA was perpetrating in our name, right from the Memorandum of Understanding of September 17 2001, as Emptywheel was explaining a couple of years ago:

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Of assholes and em-dashes

Image via Business News Daily.
Shorter David Brooks, "The Cop Mind", New York Times, December 9 2014:
I spent literally months in 1983 as a police reporter, between college and starting on my internship with old Mr. Buckley, so you can trust me, I know cops.
But what he knows is not in any way different from anything else you can read from any cop-sympathetic source or for that matter from watching cop-fiction series on television, and it's neither right enough to be interesting nor wrong enough to be worth arguing with.

The only slightly interesting thing about today's column is mainly of interest to copy editors: not the revelation that Brooks knows the word "asshole" but the way the fit-for-the-Times version is styled, where he's discussing the hardbitten and cynical culture that sometimes grows out of policemen's suffering:

Monday, December 8, 2014

Fascist is as fascist does

The Tweet got deleted before I thought of making a screenshot, but this was the picture.
Not that we should judge people by their looks anyway, but no, as Dr. Google found out fairly quickly, this is Russian propaganda at its most brazen and ridiculous. It's not the interior minister.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

White House Fool Report: Which side are you on?

Playing Guantanamera. Image from Gocce di Note.
At LGM, Loomis took note of the ghastly report by Eric Lipton in yesterday's Times on Republican state attorneys general under the leadership of Oklahoma's Scott Pruitt acting directly at the bidding of energy industry puppet masters to fight against Obama administration regulations. Just as ALEC writes right-to-work and anti-environment bills for state legislatures, so do energy company lawyers draft letters to go to the EPA over an attorney general's signature demanding revisions of rules they don't like or recalculation of evidence that makes them look bad. Both AGs and legislators openly selling themselves to powerful interests that value profit over clean air and safe water.

And it's not just that; the AGs have their own officially constituted gang! The so-called "Rule of Law" campaign,

West of Eden: Weltanschauungsschmerz

As the price of oil falls, so does the Iranian riyal, so that people have increasingly less money to buy increasingly expensive things; Peter Kenyon's NPR story paints a picture not so much of starvation as a constant grind of gradually worsening hardship and a sense that it will never get any better without a lifting of US and international sanctions against the country's economy, which won't ever happen, they fear.

Because Republicans and the Israel lobby don't want it to happen, of course. I've got a theory about that, which is that those people would like to see the Rouhani government defeated and a more conservative government in place in Iran; they'd like to see the relatively progressive forces fail—they'd rather have the return of mouth-breather Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (who is apparently mounting a comeback attempt), why? To preserve their world-view. Because the way things are gives them a perfectly clear sense of who is good ("We are!") and who is bad ("Them!") and being forced to rework that would be so unpleasant. They literally can't bear the prospect.

Mausoleum of the poet Saadi (ca. 1210-92), Shiraz, via Wikimedia Commons.
Speaking of sanctions, Richard Silverstein yesterday:

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Catholic League of Legends

Druid ritual at Stonehenge, 2007? Via Wikipedia.
Right Wing Watch, via Tom Boggioni:
Asked by host Malzberg about his statement that atheists and agnostics die earlier and represent a large proportion of Americans in mental institutions, [Catholic League president Bill] Donohue replied, “Absolutely. You take a look at secularists and compare them to people of faith, there’s a huge difference when it comes to health and happiness: mental health, physical health, individual happiness.”

Friday, December 5, 2014

Or maybe they're just looking at you and your fly is open

Image via SodaHead.
Shorter David Brooks, "Why Elders Smile", New York Times, December 5 2014:
According to scientific research, people in their early 80s are the happiest. They say it's because of biology, with the degenerating brain being better able to ignore unpleasantness, but I'd like to think it can be learned, so I could get there early if I practice hard enough. 

Thursday, December 4, 2014

"I don't see race"

I actually heard somebody say that, on the bus heading uptown, a big old loudmouth white woman and I mean that in a good way, reminding me of a particularly dear playground friend from when our kids were in elementary school, but saying "fucked" a lot more. I didn't initially suspect she was going to be anything but fun. We were crawling up Sixth Avenue toward Rockefeller Center and past a lively demonstration where I think I failed to recognize somebody mildly famous at a microphone, and I think she felt it was going to take us a long time to get out of there because of the crowds, and she said several times that we were fucked, to nobody in particular, but we were facing each other across the aisle so that it was as if she were saying it to me.

"Not that I think they did the right thing to that guy, that was fucked, but you have to deal with it the right way, not with violence."

The 2009 tree getting hoisted from its birthplace in Eaton, Connecticut.

I can't breathe

I don't even have anything particular to say, really, that isn't being said by anybody else, about the apparent finding of the Staten Island grand jury that nothing wrong occurred when Eric Garner was killed. I'm sad. I don't understand how this happens. I'm not interested in the arcana differentiating choke holds from vascular holds. There's no technical explanation that can justify the death of Eric Garner to me. Every time this happens, and it keeps happening, it is a terrible, terrible failure on the part of the police and the criminal justice system. They're doing it wrong, and somebody should pay; that's how we stop abuses, if we stop them at all.

Eric and Esaw Garner, via New York Daily News.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Failure to swing


Bizarre little logic glitch in Friedman today, reporting an email from David Rothkopf of Foreign Policy in which Rothkopf writes:
“not only did we overstate the threat [signaled by 9/11], we reordered our thinking to make it the central organizing principle in shaping our foreign policy.”

This was a mistake on many levels, Rothkopf insisted: “Not only did it produce the overreaction and excesses of the Bush years, but it also produced the swing in the opposite direction of Obama — who was both seeking to be the un-Bush and yet was afraid of appearing weak on this front himself” — hence doubling down in Afghanistan and re-intervening in Iraq, in part out of fear that if he didn’t, and we got hit with a terrorist attack, he’d be blamed.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Elementary, my dear

Gustave Doré, 1872, Wentworth Street, Whitechapel. Copyright Wellcome Images.
I had called upon my friend David Brooks upon the Monday after Thanksgiving, with the intention of wishing him the compliments of the season. He was lounging upon the sofa in a purple dressing-gown, a laptop computer within his reach upon the right, and a pile of crumpled morning papers, evidently newly studied, near at hand, while I wondered how many times I could work the word "upon" into a single paragraph.

“You are engaged,” said I; “perhaps I interrupt you.”

“Not at all. I am glad to have a friend with whom I can discuss my results. The matter is a perfectly trivial one”—he jerked his thumb in the direction of the machine—“but there are points in connection with it which are not entirely devoid of interest and even of instruction.”

I seated myself in his armchair and warmed my hands before his crackling fire. "I have been much concerned of late," he went on, "with events in America. I allude, of course, to the case of Michael Brown of Ferguson, Missouri."

Sunday, November 30, 2014

A Murkier Situation

Image via Tiger Beatdown.
Well, a bit over a year ago, Monsignor Ross Douthat, the Apostolic Nuncio to 42nd Street, was feeling pretty chipper about the state of race relations in the United States, to the effect that it was probably somewhat better than 50 years before, when Dr. King had dreamed his dream in the Washington Mall:

Blowback and forth

Oral vaccine, Balochistan. Via Express Tribune Pakistan, 2011.
So in southwestern Balochistan last Wednesday, just outside the provincial capital of Quetta, a van carrying eight women and a boy working in Pakistan's polio vaccination program was attacked by a couple of men on a motorcycle, with guns, who just started shooting. They killed three of the women and a bystander and then sped away. The women screamed for help but there were no police around; there was a "security gap", according to Masood Khan Jogezai, Balochistan representative for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation:

Friday, November 28, 2014

Bedtime for Bobos

Florentin Moser (Germany), The Descent of Man (2010).
You know that picture of the "Descent of Man", of the march of human evolution as a literal march of ever more erect and hairless male hominids? The concept of David Brooks writing about the "cultural contradictions of capitalism" as he does in today's column calls to mind one of those "Descent of Man" parodies that invert it into a picture of degeneration, from heroic ancestors to wretched present, where such is the bathos of the penultimate phase, the bent-over Cubicle Man, that there's nothing for it but to revert at the end to the knuckle-dragging chimp: muscular Marx, spiritual Weber, anxiety-ridden Daniel Bell, and Bedtime-for-Bonzo Brooks:

Thursday, November 27, 2014

White House Fool Report: Thanks, Obama

All our political rhetoric derives from a time when the experience of representative democracy as people had it was quite different from today's, in a two-part division of power between the hereditary executive and his appointed representatives and a relatively weak legislature elected by men mostly of property (the judiciary, appointed out of the gentry and largely unpaid, belonged to the Crown, though it became increasingly able to act independently as the 18th century went on).

So we think of our representatives as "closer" to us when they're chosen by a more local electorate, state legislators as representing us more than federal ones and more than executives, House members more than Senators, and so on, and we worry about the danger that the president will act as a monarch or even "emperor", and look to the Congress, "representatives" of the "people", to defend us against tyranny.

But things look a lot different than they did in 1787, and it's really time to start thinking of the possibility of the federal government protecting us from the tyranny of the state capitols, and the presidency as a bulwark of defense against the abuses of Congress.

Retroactionary justice

I would like to announce my intense disapproval of clever Judd Legum at TPM explaining how Prosecutor McCulloch did it wrong because hahahaha Antonin Scalia said so in United States v. Williams (1992):
It is the grand jury’s function not ‘to enquire … upon what foundation [the charge may be] denied,’ or otherwise to try the suspect’s defenses, but only to examine ‘upon what foundation [the charge] is made’ by the prosecutor. Respublica v. Shaffer, 1 Dall. 236 (O. T. Phila. 1788); see also F. Wharton, Criminal Pleading and Practice § 360, pp. 248-249 (8th ed. 1880). As a consequence, neither in this country nor in England has the suspect under investigation by the grand jury ever been thought to have a right to testify or to have exculpatory evidence presented.
And therefore there should have been no testimony from Darren Wilson or evidence suggesting his innocence.

Scalia's ruling in that case was pernicious and an invitation to prosecutorial misconduct and historically wrong. As Justice Stevens explained.

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: