Friday, January 31, 2014

The opportunist coalition

Via Coltons Point Times.
Shorter David Brooks: "The Opportunity Coalition", New York Times, January 31, 2014
I could spend the remainder of President Obama's term—sorry, I mean his other term, I keep forgetting he's already had one—making small incremental improvements in my general critique, gently mocking some of the themes proposed in his State of the Union address on Tuesday if I can be bothered to find out what they were (didn't he say something about patent law?). I might even score some points that way.
Or alternatively I could think of myself as liberated from the need to campaign against the president, since he's definitely not running any more, and try to think in larger terms, transcending the tired categories of small-government conservative and big-government liberal: I could come out as a Whig!
The most useful view of Brooks's amazing column might be that proposed by Matt Yglesias:

Thursday, January 30, 2014


In its report of an interview following President Obama's State of the Union Address in which NY1's Michael Scotto asked Representative Michael Grimm (R-NY) to discuss the ongoing investigations into the financing of his 2010 congressional campaign, the Times noted that Mr. Grimm "threatened to toss Mr. Scotto over the balcony, employing an obscene adjective to characterize the balcony." In fact the adjective, which was "fucking", did not in any way characterize the balcony, which was neither fucking at the moment nor normally used as a venue (by analogy with "dining room", "smoking alcove", etc.) for that purpose; Mr. Grimm used the adjective as a pure term of affect to convey his personal feelings about the balcony, which are those of a warm regard.

Moreover, when Mr. Grimm proposed to break Mr. Scotto in half "like a boy" he did not mean to suggest that this procedure is more properly or conventionally applied to boys than to other persons, merely that the methodology for breaking boys in half is the one he would choose.
The novelist William Burroughs sawing himself in half. Image by Oliver Harris.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Faith and begorrah

Shorter David Brooks, "Alone, Yet Not Alone", New York Times, January 27, 2014:
Have I told you about my religious ecstasy side? Well, I haven't actually tried it out yet, but I read a book about it. Kind of like Rabbi Heschel, only humble. Think some of that weary white Christian contemporary piano pop.
Gianlorenzo Bernini, L'Estasi di Santa Teresa, ca. 1652, via.
Bonus: Look first upon this picture, then on this:

Great soul

Goodbye Pete Seeger, wonderful musician and inveterate radical.

Monday, January 27, 2014

The Temptations of Saint Huckabee

Defenestration, installation by Brian Goggin, San Francisco 1997. Image via infoteli.
And speaking of floridly bad writing, here's Sir Charles C.W. (Constant Worry) Cooke, Bart., in the National Review:
No sooner had the word “libido” left Huckabee’s lips than all context, judgment, and verisimilitude were hastily defenestrated; Huckabee, who has not held public office since 2007, had been turned into the de facto spokesman for the entire Republican party; and the word had gone out across the Kingdom that there was a new monster at the gates....


Image from Bartlett School of Architecture.
I was trying, for legitimate work-related reasons, swear, to find out whether the Chinese phrase 热目 (rèmù) "hot eyes" has some idiomatic meaning, without if possible having to "read" any Chinese, and pretty much without success too, but came across some hysterical bad writing from Louis Joseph Vance, Red Masquerade (1921):
On land the buildings lined a cobbled street, from dawn to dark a thoroughfare for thundering lorries and, twice daily, in murk of early morning and gloom of early night, scoured by a nondescript rabble employed in the vast dockyards whose man-made forests of masts and cordage, funnels and cranes, on either hand lifted angular black silhouettes against the misty silver of the sky.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Internish evidence

Joel Pett/Lexington Herald-Leader. Via Down With Tyranny.
Senator Paul Meets the Press (via PoliticsUSA):
Well, you know, I mean the Democrats one of their big issues is they have concocted and says Republicans are committing a war on women. One of the workplace laws and rules that I think are good is that bosses shouldn’t prey on young interns in their office, and I think really the media seems to have given President Clinton a pass on this.
You see what he did here, right? Beyond the fact that, like Sarah Palin, he doesn't speak in sentences because he doesn't have a message to transmit as much as an attitude of equal parts paranoia and spite and because his English isn't very good.

He has no intention of discussing any of the issues revolving around the alleged Republican War on Women (though he personally happens to be in moderately good odor on this front himself at the moment, having signed onto Kirsten Gillebrand's effort to do [jump]

Retroactionary Watch: Cruzin'

Still-Canadian* Senator Rafael Edward "Ted" Cruz Faces the Nation (via PoliticusUSA):
Well, Bob, with all due respect, I don’t agree with the premise of your question. Throughout the government shutdown, I opposed a government shutdown. I said we shouldn’t shut down the government. I think it was a mistake that President Obama and the Democrats shut the government down this fall.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Generation of diapers

Via The Queen of Myself: Meaning, Moxie, and Majesty for Midlife Women.
Shorter David Brooks, "It Takes a Generation", New York Times, January 24, 2014:
It goes without saying that the problem with poor people isn't the fact that they don't have enough money. It's that they can't control their impulses, can't form attachments, don't possess resilience, and lack social and emotional skills. Even people who can afford to live in $300-per-night hotels while they recover from a divorce can suffer from these issues, which shows that they're more important than what's in your bank account. [jump]

Cheap shots: Cries and whiskers

"Like a Surgeon"
And imagine if Dana Loesch's name was Donatien-Alphonse-François de Sade. That would explain why she thinks a penis is indistinguishable from a vaginal probe wand.

And much much more below the fold!

Fart of Darkness

Rich Lowry, Newt Gingrich, and Dinesh D'Souza (in the pith helmets), voyaging into the Heart of Darkness. Image from The Deeper Root of Raging Anti-Colonialism.

Far be it from me to mock that fearless fighter for Empire, former pseudo-intellectualcollege president, and husband Dinesh D'Souza for having gotten busted for the crime of laundering $20,000 in excessive contributions to the 2012 Senate campaign of Wendy Long, a candidate so hopeless that barely a year later even those who voted for her (27%, against Kirsten Gillebrand; incidentally, she also failed to disclose 51.4% of her donations) can't remember her name. You can't suspect him of trying to buy favors from her, since the odds of her ever being able to do him a favor were vanishingly small. I rather think it must have been that "sweet, just, boyish" innate gallantry.
Wendy E. Long. Image from Wikipedia.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Snow point in pretending

Like an overeager surfer leaping on a wave that isn't really there, the National Review's Rich Lowry in his Kips Bay office couldn't wait for the snow disaster to start before he started denouncing it, to demonstrate that our new bloodthirsty Bolshevik mayor is also incompetent, issuing a plaintive tweet as the traffic inconsiderately continued to flow into the evening rush hour:

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Obamacare Tragedy Watch

Via Gifbay.

Funny, she lives in DC, maybe in a groovy neighborhood like Adams Morgan, where the most expensive zero-deductible Platinum plan I can find on the Exchange for a 54-year-old is $782.58 per month. I bet NSA's screwing around with the website just to fuck with her.

Of the aching of Brooks there is no end

Henri Vidal, 1896. From Wikipedia, "Facepalm".
Catherine Woodiwiss, associate Web editor for Soujourners: Faith in Action for Social Justice, writing last August:
events this year — from the Supreme Court gutting the Voting Rights Act to the House eliminating funding for food stamps to the Trayvon Martin trial — are posing serious challenges to our national progress towards true equality for all....

Monday, January 20, 2014

And a very happy Dr. King Day to you too!

Apparently from an anti-Communist, anti-Semitic site called that happily no longer exists.
And in That Corner, John Fund, ever the gentleman, spends his Martin Luther King, Jr., holiday not attacking Dr. King. Instead, he attacks the late Nelson Mandela who, unlike Dr. King, held some improper opinions:
“I hate all forms of imperialism, and I consider the U.S. brand to be the most loathsome and contemptible.”
Because our beloved Mandiba was actually totally a Communist conspirator secretly working to destroy America's freedom forever, or at least a member in good [jump]

Sochi poem

Russia Beyond the Headlines is an international outlet for le poutinisme, somewhat less sophisticated than Russia Today—it features stories like

Put Putin on your fridge door


Olympic beauty: Sochi girls to meet world famous athletes

Their haiku project backfired a little bit, leading to a "special blog" on BuzzFeed instead, and poems quite unlike the ones RBTH presumably envisaged:
Krasnaya Polyana, Sochi. Via Wikipedia.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Obamacare Tragedy Watch

Image by Peter Laird.
As the heartrending stories of the Obamacare victims who liked their plan and couldn't keep it begin to dwindle away, on account of almost none of them being in any way true, the rightwing propaganda against the Affordable Care Act is having to shift its attentions to a somewhat different angle, that of the spurious quantitative study; and we would be well advised to pay these some attention of our own, because you know they're going to end up on the lying lips of John Boehner and the like.

Right now, for example, the chicken coop (Daily Caller, Breitbart, Townhall, and so on) is clucking its collective head off over an egg laid by a trio of scholars from Grand [jump]

And I'm docking you one letter grade for each day late, Mr. President

Image by XX for kidpub.
Thomas L. Friedman writes ("Obama's Homework Assignment"):
There's just no point in President Obama giving yet another State of the Union Address this year—boRING. Instead, he ought to give a State of the Union 800-Word Rant. Or, better, he should let Secretary of Education Arne Duncan give it for him, because Duncan's already written one, and it's a dazzler. But before I get around to telling you what's in Duncan's speech, or when and where he [jump]

Friday, January 17, 2014

Surveiled sentiments

I can't get over how the Paul Revere metadata case is supposed to be some kind of argument. Kieran Healy's great paper on the subject, which I have referenced before, doesn't show that social network intelligence gathering is bad, but that it's effective. It just happened that the data Healy had in hand was about people we think of as good guys, the Boston revolutionaries*, so it was the bad guys that would have profited from it.

But it could just as easily been the other way around. Wouldn't it have been nice for General Washington to have a similar line on the various, and variously paramilitary, "Loyalist" and "Refugee" associations of the Revolutionary period? A clear picture of network densities might have pointed him to the treachery of his blue-eyed boy General Benedict Arnold, who was secretly running the American Legion that looted Richmond in 1780 and New London in 1781, before Arnold permanently escaped; or nabbed Governor William Franklin of New Jersey, old Ben's wicked son, who was in covert charge of a couple of different pro-British guerilla organizations. And couldn't a tool like that have been useful to the Spanish government in 1936 or the Chilean government in 1972 or the Haitian government in 2004?
Spanish Civil War. Uncredited image from
*Though when you think about it, I bet there are some Native Americans who got a better deal with the Tories, and people of African descent whose ancestors would have been freed from slavery decades earlier if the English had won the war, who might want to challenge that.

And thanks for all the fish

Great job reining in those abuses, self-denominated progressives:
And the president said he would sharply restrict eavesdropping on the leaders of dozens of foreign allies, the disclosure of which ignited a diplomatic firestorm with friendly countries like Germany.

But Mr. Obama did not accept other recommendations that have been made to him on reining in surveillance, like requiring court approval for so-called national security letters, in which the government demands information on individuals from companies. That was a victory for the F.B.I. and other law-enforcement agencies, who argue that these letters are vital to investigations.
Threw all the Arab Americans under the bus but at least you protected Angela Merkel's Handy.
AP Photo/Joerg Sarbach

The minimum wages of sin

Shorter David Brooks, "The Inequality Problem", New York Times, January 17, 2014:
True, economic inequality is a problem in America, but it's not an economic problem. That's because the excess money that the very rich have is not the same money as the money the very poor don't have. You just don't understand this because of your primitive zero-sum mentality.
To Hell with Poverty. Image from Dazzleship Potemkin.
I love it when Brooks writes about economics because he always makes me feel I know a lot about the subject, even though in fact I know almost as little as he does. But these amateur blogsmiths, Tin Pundit, have one thing you haven't got: a willingness to stay on that yellow brick road from antecedent to consequent or, as it is often called, a primitive logical mentality.

Just a couple of points in today's column:

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Let's go slumming

Ill-met in Oakton, proud Titania. Wikipedia.
The mainstream media don’t get New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. They think he is a bully.
Writes Jennifer Rubin. I love how somebody with a full-time gig at the Washington Post gets to speak of the "mainstream media" as a kind of exotic species of which she has a specialized knowledge she can share with her audience:

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The Opinion Leadership Revival

Chip-snatching seagull, Bridlington, Yorkshire, via BBC.
David Brooks writes:
If you're in politics or public life, like so many of my readers, because I can assure you they are not all New Jersey dentists and financial advisors looking for reasons to vote Republican that won't make them feel like Visigoths and Vandals, then I imagine you experienced some moment of mystical transcendence [jump]

Monday, January 13, 2014

Strait is the Gates

Very interested by the Steve Inskeep interview with Robert Gates on NPR this morning, presenting a more "complex" view of the ex-secretary of defense and his book, which (full disclosure) I am totally not planning on reading. Under the discipline of the Inskeep long-form, I think I got a much more useful sense of what he has to say than the fragments of the book circulating around (except for this one): how he honestly sees himself and the president and how he can fairly be criticized.

Inskeep draws out a picture of Gates as a kind of struggle-in-progress among three remarkably independent sides: bureaucrat, Republican, and man. He is rather unusual in each of these respects.

As bureaucrat, Gates is by his own account skillful, dedicated, and territorial, and there's no reason to doubt him on that score. His much-reported criticism of the Obama administration has to do chiefly with his relation to the bureaucracy:

Saturday, January 11, 2014

West of Eden: R.I.P. ex-king of Israel

Ariel Sharon, as depicted in Ari Folman's 2008 Waltz with Bashir. Image via Haaretz.
Larry Derfner at +972, normally a really valuable and informative writer, eulogizes Ariel Sharon for the almost last act of his long and evil life, the 2005 disengagement from Gaza:
"For all of Gaza’s horrible problems, it does not have Israeli soldiers and settlers on its land anymore. For Israel, it showed that the settler movement could be defeated, that settlements could be evacuated and occupied land relinquished, and the world wouldn’t end. If Israel ever does take down the occupation and make peace with the Palestinians, the disengagement from Gaza will stand as a crucial stepping stone on the way."
I'm not buying that. What the Gaza disengagement demonstrated to conventional opinion in Israel and around with world was that there was no point in negotiating with [jump]

Friday, January 10, 2014

Brooks of the Week in Review

Tuesday saw Brooksie writing a really peculiar column about hotels, of all things: the great hotels of the Gilded Age, the colorless, functional hotels of Modernism, and the quirky boutique hotels of our own period, as represented by Chip Conley, founder of Joie de Vivre Hospitality, a hotel chain inspired by Abraham Maslow's hierarchy of needs, and author of a book that has slithered into Brooks's Kindle, Peak: How Great Companies Get their Mojo from Maslow.

He seems to be making some gentle Bobos in Paradise fun of Conley and his customers:
Painfully hip boutique hotels...  are, on one level, kind of ridiculous. They are almost invariably too dark throughout, making it hard to read. The bed is often too low. The bathroom door is sometimes a flimsy sliding shutter, sacrificing privacy for style.
The (rather inexpensive) Hotel des Arts, San Francisco, via Alkemie.

Chris crossed

Echo and Narcissus. John William Waterhouse, 1903, via Wikipedia.
Governor Christoper Christie:
What does it make me ask about me? What does it make me ask about me? It makes me ask about me, what did I do—wrong—to have these folks think it was OK to lie to me.
Supposing just for the sake of argument that he isn't lying himself and that he really didn't order the Fort Lee lane closures (I'm sure he did), that's still pretty weird: the way it boils the sin of his employees and his creatures at the Port Authority down to lèse-majesté: not that they screwed up the lives of the citizens of Fort Lee (to the extent, apparently, of taking the life of one of them, the 92-year-old woman whose trip to the hospital was delayed). That doesn't bother him at all, but he wants to know why they wouldn't be too scared of him to tell him an untruth.

Wouldn't you want to ask why your staff thinks you want them to do stuff like punishing a local official for exercising his democratic right to not endorse a figure from an opposing party, and to punish specifically by punishing his constituents? I guess that's not a problem for Christie because he does.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Used to get insurance from God: Update

Last time we checked up on Whitney Johnson, the Texas multiple sclerosis patient whose divinely provided health insurance, a "blessing from God" at $325 a month, was being canceled, just over a month ago, she was asking her friends and fans to pray:


Via BumBumGerms.
Now that recreational marijuana use is legal in Colorado, it's time to do things like contemplating Kathryn Jean Lopez conducting an interview, here with the Instapundit Glenn Reynolds on the subject of his newly issued

Sunday, January 5, 2014

NYT idiocy

But for all its echoes, the bloodshed that has engulfed IraqLebanon and Syria in the past two weeks exposes something new and destabilizing: the emergence of a post-American Middle East in which no broker has the power, or the will, to contain the region’s sectarian hatreds.
Ah yes, remember when there was a broker with the power and the will to contain the region's sectarian hatreds? I don't. I remember when US forces were in Iraq making the situation worse. It's because of their coming in 2003 that the current instability exists, and it would exist in some different but equally violent form if our troops were still there.
Garbage slums of Fallujah. Photo by Michael Totten.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Singapore Biennale 2013-14

The most affecting piece I've seen so far at the Singapore Biennale is an installation at the National Museum by the Vietnamese artist Nguyen Trinh Thi, Unsubtitled, consisting of an array of human-sized wooden cutouts, each with its own video projection. It is Nguyen's response to a crackdown by the Vietnamese cultural police on Nhà Sàn Studio, the experimental art space in Hanoi with which she is associated, after a nude performance by Nhà Sàn's La Thi Dieu Ha went viral on the Internet:

Friday, January 3, 2014

Don't make me

Personally I don't think Edward Snowden should be charged with espionage under a ridiculous misuse of the statute, and apparently charging him with theft of government property is a violation of sensible Justice Department rules, so if that's the best they can come up with maybe they really should just drop the case altogether. Especially if it gives Michael Hayden a sad.

That said, I just cannot get over what a crappy case it is as a poster child against the abuses of the US intelligence agencies foreign and domestic or for the improved protection of federal whistleblowers. This is shown more clearly than ever by the way the New York Times has jumped on it as part of their campaign to show that the Obama administration is more totalitarian in tendency than that of Cheney because even Stalin wouldn't have been mean to David Sanger. I refer to Friday's editorial in which the Times claims, with some reason, that


Poster in Geylang Road.
Restaurant in Temple Street, in Singapore's old Cantonese neighborhood or "Chinatown", now a pedestrian mall and Disneyfied beyond recognition.

Weed rather you didn't

Shorter David Brooks: "Weed: Been There. Done That", New York Times, January 3, 2014.

In my youth my friends and I experimented a lot with marijuana, generally leading most of us to act silly when we should have been preparing for our future coherent, integrated, and responsible lives as bond traders, government officials, and composers of 800-word essays. This is why marijuana should be illegal, not for health or safety but for moral reasons. You don't really have to try it for yourself since I've already done it for you; if you need to get silly you can just read my columns.

Marijuana - Comments and Glitter Graphics!

Most importantly, while pot prohibition may have caused some inconveniences for some individuals, it has never caused any problems for David Brooks.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014


Singapore Botanical Gardens

The persistence of mummery

Dalií's timepieces simply lack a firm existential basis, and deserve much more scrutiny than chronometer-industry regulators have given them.
Speaking of propaganda/bad writing, does anybody know how someone paid to write for the Washington Post could be so poorly informed (I'm loooking at your headline writers more than at you, George Zornick) as to believe there is anything "stunning" about the fact that the vast majority of people whose health insurance policies were canceled this year were able to find alternative policies?

The Plum Line

Stunning new report undermines central GOP Obamacare claim

“This new report shows that people will get the health insurance coverage they need, contrary to the dire predictions of Republicans,” said Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), the ranking committee member.... as is sadly too often the case, the arguments made by Republicans simply lack a firm factual basis — and deserve much more scrutiny that they’ve received in many sectors of the mainstream press.
I mean, I'm glad they got the story out there, but gobsmacked by the suggestion that this "central GOP claim" has or ever had any sort of validity or even meaning. How do you undermine a quicksand swamp?


You're tempted to agree with him for a minute, right? Fuck yeah, Orwellian scum, why don't you just show everybody yours.

In fact, I would totally do it, as a kind of conceptual art project if you will, if I could get a grant for it sufficient for paying somebody else to do the actual data entry work, or better, program an automated daily upload from all my email addresses and phone [jump]
Image by darkuncle.