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:

Monday, November 24, 2014

Not just blaming the victim...

...But convicting and sentencing him.

McCulloch said that we should work to make sure nothing like this ever happens again, although he also seems to think that nothing untoward happened. Or that Officer Wilson at any rate did nothing he should not have done. He doesn't seem to have needed a reason for what he did, because none was suggested.

McCulloch also denied that the grand jury's declining to charge means that police officers can kill young black men with impunity. He looked quite startled by such an idea. But what does "impunity" mean again? Wilson is not going to be punished. Impunity is exactly what he got.

Who got punished was Michael Brown. It was apparently up to him to not get killed. That's what you need to do to make sure this never happens again, young black men: don't frighten the cops, which you can do simply by existing, because they can't be held responsible. We don't call it impunity, maybe we could call it immunity.

Liked what President Obama had to say and in particular his relaying a generous and activist and peaceful message from Michael Brown's father. That's about the only positive thing I have.

Vincent van Gogh, Old Man in Sorrow. Via.
Also Holder's statement.
At a time when we must seek to rebuild trust between law enforcement and the local community, I am deeply concerned that the deployment of military equipment and vehicles sends a conflicting message. At my direction, Department officials have conveyed these concerns to local authorities.
Good. Although it seems it was too late. We'd been hearing about the Ferguson police preparations for tonight for weeks, now, I think, and I'd imagine the Justice Department could have been hearing about them too, and relaying their concerns a little sooner.

On the plus side, the 17-year-old ran out to demonstrate peacefully up Broadway. He also escaped doing the dinner dishes so his motives may not have been wholly pure.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Question beggars can't be question choosers

Emperor Ninkō of Japan (1800-46). Wikipedia.
Shorter Ross Douthat, Apostolic Nuncio to 42nd Street, "The Making of an Imperial President":
How did Barack Obama, campaigner against the imperial presidency, turn into the autocrat of America, ruling our country as Nero ruled Rome?
1. The public keeps expecting him to do something, because they're so weird nowadays.
2. The opposition doesn't know what it wants and is hard to deal with, leaving him to be an autocrat by default.
3. He wants to be the liberal Ronald Reagan, which makes him the liberal Richard Bruce Cheney.
Nice to see you acknowledging, Monsignor, that emulating Ronald Reagan is an anti-democratic approach, and confirming our fears that Cheney exercised imperial power during the so-called "Bush administration".

That said, there are a couple of things wrong with the picture presented in this column.

White House Fool Report: Power

Little did these guys imagine that one day adult white Republicans would be in an almost identical position, suffering from somebody not getting deported. Via Libraries Linking Idaho.

So young senator Rand Paul thinks there's a parallel between the Obama order to delay deportation on 5 million undocumented immigrants last week and Franklin Roosevelt's order of February 1942 to throw 120,000 documented Japanese residents (barred on racial grounds from becoming citizens but nearly all of them either living in the country for a minimum of 34 years or born here, since no immigration had been allowed since 1908) into internment camps?

Hahahahaha. I guess they had in common that both were entirely legal. (Some people might claim that the victims of internment had a worse time than the victims of, um, say, who are those victims?)

The president probably wouldn't mind having the kind of congressional cooperation FDR got over the internment of Japanese, as BooMan reminds us, with the Senate and House practically competing that March to see which could move their legislation out fastest, and only one mild dissenter, Mr. Republican, Senator Robert Taft of Ohio, who complained that the penalties for disobeying the law (basically, for being Japanese in an unauthorized area meaning more or less everywhere outside of a camp) weren't stiff enough:

Saturday, November 22, 2014


David Brooks columns I didn't finish reading:
Most Hollywood movies are about romantic love, or at least sex.
Googling "2014 Hollywood movies" yields a banner listing X-Men: Days of Future Past; Transformers: Age  of Extinction; Guardians of the Galaxy; Dawn of the Planet of the Apes; Dumb and Dumber To; Captain America: The Winter Soldier; How to Train Your Dragon 2; The Amazing Spider-Man 2; Interstellar; The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Nations; Hercules...

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Cheap shots and free associations

Poster by Mungo Thomson, 2004.

No, of course, how could a branch of government institute reform in a government agency? Like, how would that even work? It makes no sense at all!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The Troll in Winter

John Ford, The Quiet Man (1952), via The Age of Discernment.
David Brooks writes:
A familiar number on the caller ID screen. I gave it three rings, enough to grab a shluk from the vodka bottle and stash it back in the desk drawer, then picked up. The voice was familiar too, male, patrician, a little weary. "Brooks?"
"Who wants to know?" I asked, knowing all too well.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Friends don't let friends practice Jesuitical casuistry and drink tequila at the same time

Image via gopixpic.
Shorter Ross Douthat, Apostolic Nuncio to 42nd Street, "Who's Afraid of Executive Action?", New York Times, November 17 2014:
Sure the president's proposed immigration actions aren't illegal, but if they were they'd have exactly the same consequences. So how is that not frightening?
Yesterday the Monsignor, who may not as a matter of fact be quite on board with the Church's immigration policy, came out to join the chorus complaining about Obama's "caudillismo"—Ross's elegant term—in insisting on his presidential prerogative in the decision over which undocumented immigrants get deported, even though he himself had said it would be a "betrayal of our political culture" to do so, according to an exposé in the Free Beacon of his wicked designs.

Actually, "betrayal of our political culture" is Ross's own elegant terminology too; he is not quoting the FreeBea quite accurately, to say nothing of what Obama in fact said to the National Council of La Raza, 25 July 2011:

West of Eden: It's the least you can do

Sumerian temple worshiper, alabaster with shell eyes, late 28th c. B.C.E. Via Wikipedia.

Major Lt. Col. Bateman chez Mr. Pierce falls, sadly, into McCain-style boilerplate:
Two major questions leap out: First, what exactly is the strategy? Second, before we put training troops into Iraq, has Iraq agreed to a new Status of Forces Agreement? The first problem is, perhaps, the more problematic. In part this is because the President really has not described one. Right from the outset he has not said what our new national military strategy will be in this new conflict. Although apparently that omission was entirely missed by the majority of reporters covering this story.
Incidentally can anybody tell me when this became a thing, that the authorities have to publicly detail and justify their strategy? "General Eisenhower, it's May 1944, we've been at war with Germany for two and a half years and they're still occupying most of Europe. What's your strategy for getting the Wehrmacht out of France?" "Sure thing, Chuck. Our atom bomb is a little behind schedule, so we'll be invading Normandy in a couple of weeks, depending on the weather. Just don't tell those Jerries! Anything else you need?"

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Keep Calm and Carrion

Image via Teepublic.

Scott Lemieux has composed what ought to be the definitive assessment of the significance of Obamacare troublemaker Jonathan Gruber—BREAKING! Person Good At Running Econometric Models Says Silly Things About Politics!—but there was one detail emerging from the comments that I thought should be dealt with by a heedless and ill-informed non-attorney, so I'm stepping up to the plate:


I'd never noticed this building until a couple of mornings ago, a tower of glass triangles planted in the hollowed-out ruin of a high-Deco sandstone block, or maybe a very fancy moderne water bottle stuffed into a too-tight picnic basket, at the corner of 8th Avenue and 57th Street.

It's the international headquarters of the Hearst Corporation. The stone part is the façade of the original Hearst headquarters completed in 1928, the base of a skyscraper that was never built because of the Depression, preserved in the new design because it's a designated landmark building, and the tower is by Norman Foster, completed in 2006.

My instant hatred for it may suggest that deep inside I'm some kind of reactionary old fart like the Prince of Wales (a cute old fart, of course, and he objects to modernism while I am loyal to it and queasy about the postmodern idea that ate it), and I'm probably wrong. It was the best 2006 skyscraper in the world according to the Emporis company, which gives out an annual award, which doesn't really signify to me, and more importantly it was the first skyscraper in New York to earn a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) gold certificate from the United States Green Building Council, which signifies a lot.

But I think my picture gives a feeling of why I hated it, because it looks like the product of a parasite alien civilization imposed on a war-wrecked shell.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Obamacareful what you say

Images from PanAraba.
In the conservative world, they're exercising a lot of creativity in the effort to make it seem as if people really hate the Affordable Care Act, as in this remarkable headline from the Washington Times:

Half of Obamacare exchange users plan to bail out: Survey
Disenchanted by high prices and technology woes, more than half of the households that used an Obamacare exchange last year said they would not use the portal again in the upcoming sign-up period, according to a survey released Monday.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Voids of visdom

Photograph of 1865, Bibliothèque National de France, via The Guardian (where it accompanied an essay by Zadie Smith that has disappeared for copyright reasons).
I imagine David Brooks originally got the idea for today's column from leafing through the George Eliot chapter of Parallel Lives: Five Victorian Marriages by Phyllis Rose (Vintage, 2010), but his actual source for the story of Eliot's love letter to the utilitarian philosopher Herbert Spencer (half—seven paragraphs—of the piece) is almost certainly the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, to which Wikipedia's Eliot article links. It tells the story very compactly, and it's got all the quotations he uses, and much of the same vocabulary (it's the only online version that uses the words "tears" and "editor", or says that the letter "asserts her sense of self-worth" as Brooks calls it an "assertion of her own dignity" ).

Nevertheless—it's almost a nervous tic—he tries to give the impression he's made a careful study of Eliot's life, in this case by not citing any sources at all (another violation of Yale ethics standards, though not I suppose of the Times guidelines) beyond an airy reference to the entire field:

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Thank you for your service, sucker

Who gets laid off? (Capt. Elder Saintjuste, photo by Travis Dove/NYT)
This is so classic: as the Army downsizes from the Bush wars, soldiers are getting laid off, and the bureaucracy is saving pennies by getting rid of officers who haven't served long enough to receive their full pensions so that a captain who worked her- or himself up through the ranks may have to retire, and that's have to retire, because they're not being given any choices, on a sergeant's pension. But wait wait, there's more:
an internal Army briefing disclosed by a military website in September showed the majority of captains being forced out had no blemishes on their records. The briefing, a copy of which was obtained by The New York Times, also showed that officers who had joined the Army as enlisted soldiers, then endured the demanding process required to rise into the officer corps, were three times as likely as captains who graduated from West Point to be forced to retire.
Some of the personal stories in the Times account are really sad and they're all infuriating. There really is no end to the number of clubs that, as Drifty might say, we're not in.

And who doesn't? (Wedding, Fort Myers Officers' Club).
Amanda Marcotte discusses related matters (and Springsteen!) here. I guess this is my belated Veterans' Day post.

Update 12/19/2014: These downsized veteran captains will get their full captain's benefits after all, according to a report in the Times. That's 120 officers; another 44 who are 24 or fewer months short of full retirement will not be forced to quit. Good thing, and thank you New York Times for helping it to happen.

Reading poetry

Reading poetry

Here in the boat I do nothing but poetry,
I finished a Tang poem, I'm reading some Banshan.
I'm not an old man yet, I'm not eating breakfast.
A quatrain by Banshan is breakfast enough.

—Yang Wanli
Imperial chancellor and poet Wang Anshi, known as Banshan Laoren (The Old Man of the Half Mountain), 1021-86. Idolized by the Southern Song poet Yang Wanli (1127-1206). Image from Wikipedia.


Was Marx a Neoliberal?

F. Engels, by Akai Shizuku at DeviantArt.
I wanted to find something to say about the trillion-dollar trade deals between the US and China from the APEC meeting and between the Indian government and WTO, where the US has averted a longstanding crisis by backing down on its insistence that India stop its food security program, which subsidizes grain farmers to provide cheap wheat and rice to the—I think I heard 400 million on the radio—poor. But I'm as bad as everybody else when it comes to trade policy, and too much thinking about it makes my head hurt.

I did find something to share, though, by Friedrich Engels (vintage 1888) on Comrade Marx and his views on trade policy, which were decidedly on the liberal side in the 19th-century sense:

Summit cum laude

Morning taiji in Beijing. Financial Times.
Chris Buckley's lede:
HONG KONG — President Obama will sit down Wednesday with the kind of Chinese leader no American president has ever encountered: a strongman with bold ambitions at home and abroad who sees China as a great power peer of the United States.
Like Mao Zedong's and Deng Xiaoping's ambitions were so on the timid side. I get what he means to say, that Xi Jinping is easier and more fun to interpret in that familiar football-trophy mode whose subtext is always how they might win in the power-projection contest but we can pull it out—but it just sounds so irremediably fatuous.

Xi Jinping may well be the most liberal, or Liberal, Chinese ruler (discounting poor Dr. Sun Yat-sen, who didn't get to do much ruling) since the Qianlong emperor retired in 1795, but I'm pretty sure Obama had something to do with the results coming out of the APEC meeting, which are really kind of spectacular—though Edward Wong at the Times seems to think China's acquiescence to a carbon reduction target is just an odd little side effect of Chinese domestic politics, which has led Xi to a praiseworthy effort to help the citizens breathe:
Chinese leaders have turned their attention to cutting back the country’s reliance on coal, a main pillar of the economy but also a major source of pollution. That led to discussions about how weaning Chinese industries off coal would not just clean the air, but would also permit China to make global commitments in the battle against climate change, the insiders said.
Look out, Senator McConnell, now it's a World War on Coal!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

West of Eden: Civilian casualties update

Syrian Observatory of Human Rights has released its numbers for civilian deaths caused by US-Coalition airstrikes since the campaign began September 23:
50 civilians ( 8 children , 5 women ), killed by coalition air strikes on oil fields and refineries in al-Hasakah and Der-Ezzor countrysides, al-Raqqa, Around Menbej northeast of Aleppo, and Idlib countryside.
Alongside 68 fighters from the Al-Nusra force and 746 (probably more, they think, mostly non-Syrians) from the Da'esh or "Islamic State".

That's compared to the 21 civilian deaths they had reported by October 18, suggesting a kind of steady rhythm, one murdered civilian per day or more like seven a week (they're killed in clumps, several at a blow). I still believe there are genuine efforts in the Pentagon to reduce the number of civilian deaths from bombing campaigns, but it's as if they've hit some kind of barrier beneath which they can't get. (If the Idlib killings they mention are the 16 civilians killed on September 26 cited by the Syrian Commission for Transitional Justice, then it's possible almost no civilians have died in Coalition airstrikes since the October 18 attack on Deir-Ezzor, which would be extremely good news.)

Then again, it's remarkable how many of them were killed under the same circumstances, during attacks on the oil industry installations Da'esh uses as an income source, in bombing that, as SOHR notes, also causes bad environmental damage. Al-Arabiya reports today that their oil sales from Iraq and Syria combined are bringing them in $3 million a day, which makes it sound like pretty serious business, but also shows that the strikes have failed to stop it. If the Coalition would abandon this particular branch of its tactics, they could bring the number of civilian deaths to near zero.

So that's my recommendation.

It's not just the Caliphic forces that operate strange little oil refineries in al-Hasakah; this one in the Kurdish town of al-Qahtaniya was photographed last May by Rodi Said/Reuters. Via Financial Times.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Annals of Derp: The Fear of Legacy

A possible reason for Poland's remarkable prosperity is the increasing number of sculpted gnomes in the streets of Wrocław since 2001. Wikipedia.

So the economist Branko Milanović, on his way back to New York from Berlin a week before the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Wall, wrote an extremely interesting blog post laying out an assessment of the economic progress made in the countries that once constituted the Soviet Union and its satellites, in terms of long-term annual growth rates, in four groups:
  • Total failures, Tajikistan, Moldova, Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan, Georgia, Bosnia, and Serbia, whose economies have an average annual growth of zero or less since 1990;
  • Relative failures, Macedonia, Croatia, Russia, and Hungary, with average growth rates under 1%;
  • Countries that are treading water, not falling further behind, with growth rates from 1.7 to 1.9%, Czech Republic, Slovenia, Turkmenistan, Lithuania, and Romania; and
  • Succcesses, with growth rates of 2% and up: Uzbekistan and Latvia (2%), Bulgaria (2.2%), Slovakia and Kazakhstan (2.4%), Azerbaijan, Estonia, Mongolia, and Armenia (around 3%), Belarus (3.5%), Poland (3.7%), and Albania (3.9%)
Milanović doesn't attempt to explore the reasons for these differences in any depth; as he says in response to a comment,
I wish I could do it, but I have been away from the topic so long (10 ys I guess) and am so busy with other things. It just struck me when I was in Berlin and I had 8 hrs on the plane (with my laptop) to think and write.
But that isn't an obstacle for our own Mr. Facile Explanation David Brooks, who has never studied the topic at all but comes up with a full account between his postprandial stroll on Monday afternoon and drinkies time, and issues it in this morning's Times. Only of course all it takes is a little Googling to demonstrate that it's entirely wrong.

Monday, November 10, 2014

White House Fool Report: Hoover's on First

Bonus March encampment, 1931. Via Great War Society.
In July 2009, Kevin Baker at Harper's (H/t marie2 at BooMan's place) issued an assessment of Barack Obama's first 100 days in the presidency, comparing him to—well, to Herbert Hoover.

Not in a bad way! Baker pointed out that Hoover was, as Obama is, probably the smartest and best educated person in a position of authority in Washington in his time (definitely better educated than the frat-boy FDR), as well as the one with the most personal experience of hardship, and a truly pragmatic leader impatient with partisan shibboleths; and that what he set out to do in 1929, to use the tools of fiscal management and presidential power to rescue the United States from economic collapse, was something presidents before him and indeed after him (with two very important exceptions) never did.

Nevertheless Hoover did fail (that's usually the only part we remember). Though the titans of industry and finance promised at meeting after meeting to keep employment strong and money loose, they didn't do it; the French and British governments turned down his offers to suspend their loan payments to the US if it meant they'd have to stop collecting blood money from Germany. Congress did little, and he himself began running out of ideas:

Saturday, November 8, 2014

A little context

One of my all-time favorite bloggists, Betty Cracker, remarks dryly at Balloon Juice:
Haven’t we been training the Iraqi military for 10 years now, to the tune of tens of billions of dollars? They’ve got to be the most trained motherfuckers in the world by now.
Well, um. Indeed.

Actually, there is a kind of case that this move—doubling the number of US troops in Iraq—is not quite as idiotic and counterproductive as it looks at first sight. I'm not sure how good a case it is, but I do want to clarify (in the general interest of demonstrating to doubters that this is not the fourth term of George W. Bush and that the White House is at the moment in the hands of a little-known band of insurgent moderates intent on bringing a moderate amount of rationality—not, obviously, an extreme amount, because that would be so extreme—into our foreign and security policy) that the case exists. But it needs a little context that neither our spox nor our media seem able to supply.

Advisors from the Royal Australian Air Force landing in South Vietnam, August 1964. Wikipedia.

Friday, November 7, 2014

The Party of Government

Updated 11/9/2014
Because who ever heard of a non-binding document? How naive do you think I am?
David Brooks writes:
It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a political party out of government must be about to plunge into a psychotic fugue state. For example, over the past six years, Sarah Palin, Todd Akin, Christine O'Donnell, Sharron Angle, and Glenn Beck.

West of Eden: A couple of updates

Images from the National Library of Medicine.
Three weeks or so ago, as Leon Panetta was out hawking his memoir of youthful defiance back in the old days of 2011 or so when he was a stripling Defense Secretary of 72 or 73, you may have noticed the particularly ghastly story about Saddam's Real WMD.

They had nothing to do with the fantasies that Cheney and Rumsfeld and the gang used as a phony casus belli, the smoking mushroom and the clouded guns; they were merely the tactically useless but extremely dangerous old chemical weapons that US troops found lying around unprotected in Iraq during the 2003 invasion, supplied to Saddam Hussein by his pals in the Reagan administration 20 years earlier for his war against Iran—and the Times found 17 US service members and seven Iraqi police officers who had been seriously hurt by the things, who weren't getting proper care, while their cases had been kept secret by the authorities for a decade or more, apparently out of nothing more than embarrassment.

And if you did notice it, you may have noticed what the Pentagon said when it was asked for a comment, and shaken your head and clicked your tongue:

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Chickenshit postscript

Image via JR Fibonacci.

A dissenter on the chickenshittery of Binyamin Netanyahu, Eamon Murphy, writes at Mondoweiss that Jeffrey Goldberg was wrong to suggest Netanyahu's
reluctance to launch major military operations: a familiar theme for Israel apologists, this was already dubious by Operation Pillar of Defense; in the wake of Protective Edge, the most savage punishment yet inflicted on the much-scourged Gaza Strip, it can safely be discarded.
Murphy is himself reading the information wrong, partly because Goldberg hasn't understood what he's been given to convey.

Electoral cheap shots

New York painted door, Léa Descamps.
The DCCC Only Rings Twice

Just heard from Tengrain that Steve Israel has resigned from his chair, to spend more time with his Broder Caucus I guess (their motto: We can have a path to citizenship, but only if we secure the Broder). Meanwhile the DCCC is sending its first post-election emails:


Image by Mark Matcho for Vanity Fair.
Not to rub it in, Working Families, but remember last spring?
With a huge assist from Mayor de Blasio, Gov. Cuomo secured the nomination of the tiny but influential Working Families Party on Saturday — but not before the liberal party’s grassroots activists vented their frustration with the incumbent Democrat during a raucous convention.

Cuomo won the nomination after signing off on a more liberal agenda than he had previous embraced and promising to up-end the current leadership of the state Senate, all key priorities of the lefty third party.
That's when small-time WFP supporters like your correspondent began getting the emails and phone messages saying they recognized we weren't all in love with Cuomo, but that they had demonstrated a bunch of major political savvy in pressuring the Democratic governor to promise to campaign for Democratic legislative candidates.

What a difference a Tuesday makes:

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Blog in the strict sense: The people cry So? So? But there is no so

A deeply bizarre original title—"The GOP fought the future"—for the election assessment of Monsignor Ross Douthat, Apostolic Nuncio to 42nd Street, survives in the piece's URL and in the teaser line below his name:


The Evaporating Democratic Majority

The G.O.P. fought the future, and the future lost.
The thing about the future being (as the Monsignor must have realized before he filed the copy) that in the long run it always wins, whatever setbacks it may encounter on the way. That's why they call it the future, futurus, "that which is to be". And on the other hand that we don't actually know what it is.
from a lot of the commentary after Obama’s re-election, you would have thought that the combination of ethnic-interest appeals on immigration policy, “war on women” rhetoric on social issues, and brilliant get-out-the-vote operations run by tech-savvy Millennials (who, we were told, were too liberal to ever build a website for a Republican) posed a kind of immediate and existential challenge to the G.O.P., requiring immediate capitulation on a range of fronts, with no time for finesse or calculation and no room for resistance.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Blog in the strict sense of the term

Image via Motley News.
My weird and more than somewhat disreputable-looking brother texted from his cave in Vermont to announce his surprise that he was allowed to vote without showing any ID—that is, that they skipped not only a picture ID but any ID at all. I guess first of all that gives us an idea of how long it's been since he last voted, or maybe not (to be fair, he was living in Utah until recently, where they passed a Voter ID law in 2009 that allows non-picture IDs). I like to think it's evidence that everybody wants to vote though.

Data with an angel

Nameless but brilliant extra in Scaramouche, 1952.
Shorter David Brooks, "Death by Data", New York Times, November 4 2014:
Some dismaying Election Day news is that apparently some candidates have been trying to tailor their message to the specific voters they're after. That's so insincere and unprecedented. Moreover, as their operations grow more and more sophisticated, they're using data to do it, the fiends. Luckily, it doesn't work very well, as Mitt Romney found out in 2012, so it's mostly Democrats.
Ed Kilgore and a very fine-form Driftglass give this profoundly idiotic little exercise just about everything that's coming to it.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Liberal Fascism Watch: Electing another people

Bertolt Brecht–Helene Weigel House in Buckow, Brandenburg. Wikipedia.
Well, on Senator Mary Landrieu suggesting that some element of President Obama's unpopularity might be ascribable to a lingering racism among some persons, I give you Mr. Jonah Goldberg:
In Die Lösung Brecht famously quipped that if the people lose faith in the government it would be better if the government dissolved the people and elected another. For progressives it’s always five minutes to Brecht-O-Clock. What I mean is this desire to fix the people, not the government always seems to be lurking behind liberalism. It was there when Woodrow Wilson said the first job of an educator is to make your children as unlike you as possible....

Saturday, November 1, 2014

New York note: Quandary

Image via Educade.
For out-of-state readers who may not be familiar with our more exotic institutions, the Working Families Party is a New York–style fusion party founded by a bunch of leaders from unions and grassroots organizations at the end of the last century (1998), which cross-lists candidates usually with the Democrats so that you can vote for the Democratic candidate with a proviso: yes, but.

As in (for my case) yes, but I don't sign onto the Democrats' utter failure to fully fund New York City schools on par with the rest of the state as demanded by the state constitution, in the terms of the Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit decided in 2001 and reaffirmed in the last appeal of 2006. Or, yes, but I don't trust Democrats (and Andrew Cuomo in particular), with their donors just as rich as Republicans, on environmental issues.