Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Deep politeness

Proposed outfit for the evangelical baker. Via americanrevolution.org.
I wanted to add, to the discussion of old Brooksy's Deep Politeness column, that I am totally on board with the wedding exception to any legal sanctioning of discrimination against same-sexers. The problem isn't, to begin with, that the customer just has to screw that cake out of those nasty people, it's that she or he has to experience the humiliation of being told, in the middle of the complex negotiations, "Oh, are you one of those people? Afraid I can't do a cake for you. God, you know."

People with that point of view are not going to be good bakers or photographers and you don't, gay or straight, want to walk into their shop at all, but especially, if you happen to be planning a same-sex wedding yourself, to be forced to listen to some asshole telling you you're not qualified for one of their fucking cakes because they're just too morally exquisite for a wretched pervert like yourself. Hence the proposal that they should identify themselves, with a well-placed sign in the window, say, saying "We prefer not to cater to the sodomitical nuptial" or words to that effect. So you won't get trapped into any interactions that will leave you shaking with rage. It's only fair.

David Brooks thinks we ought to take our cue in not discriminating against religious bigots from the "deep politeness" of the broader Jewish community:
In the Jewish community, conservative Jews are generally polite toward Orthodox Jews who wouldn’t use their cutlery. Men are generally polite to Orthodox women who would prefer not to shake their hands. In the larger community, this respectful politeness works best.
Actually I think Reform Jews are pretty courteous in this context on the whole too, and Carlebachers and Reconstructionists, and Marxists, and even a lot of goyim, but that's not what I really wanted to say.

What I wanted to say is that the Orthodox woman takes on some of the responsibility for the politeness by identifying herself with the characteristic "modesty" of her dress, the stockings and the wig. You're not left having your hand rejected out of hand by some woman looking at you as if you were a leper, you know in advance not to extend it.

What Brooks calls "orthodox" Christians (no, I don't think he's entirely clear on the meaning of that one either) in the bakery or photography studio or what have you ought to render the same courtesy to those they are not comfortable serving, perhaps by wearing a wig and thick stockings, so you'd know to stay clear of them, and the mildewed flavor of their bigoted wares.

Amazing space

Update: Thanks, Steve and Tengrain, for the shout-outs, and a warm welcome to visitors. And hey, stick around for a minute, because today's a very special day!

From that store that I will never be able to visit because of Justice Alito and the 1993 RFRA.

So David Brooks is out with his 112th career use of the word "amazing" in today's Times, on behalf of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, not the one just passed into law by the Indiana state government, but the old 1993 federal one:
This moderate, grounded, incremental strategy has produced amazing results. Fewer people have to face the horror of bigotry, isolation, marginalization and prejudice.
Something tells me Brooksy isn't at all clear what the original RFRA did and didn't do.

I'm personally very glad that the right of Native American Church members to perform their traditional peyote ceremonies is established and the sacred character of Native American burial grounds in general protected. I'm also not sorry that it didn't protect the children of John W. and Faythe A. Miller of Sugar Land, TX, from having Social Security numbers, even though the Millers' religious belief held that such numbers would burden the kids with the Mark of the Beast as prophesied in Revelation 13:16-17. But I don't quite see where the horror of bigotry, isolation, marginalization, and prejudice (all of 'em, Katie!) come into it.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Hard out there for a hegemon

Vladimir Lukich Borovikovsky, potrait of Anna and Varvara Gagarin, 1802.
Shorter Ross Douthat, "The Method to Obama's Middle East Mess", March 29 2015:
Guess what, Bush was wrong. Cheney was right. If you keep trying to stop killing people, somebody could get hurt. The only way to ensure world peace is perpetual war.
The Bush would be the George W. Bush of ca. 2006, who suddenly realized that allowing Cheney and Rumsfeld to run the government was making him unpopular and staged a bit of a palace coup, with the help of George H.W. Bush's CIA director Robert Gates and, no doubt, other veterans of the brief reign of George I, and the Monsignor is stepping out to take a position against the coup and for the not-so-ancien régime.

No, he doesn't say that. Indeed, he doesn't mention Bush or Cheney at all. But after a good deal of work, much too tedious to report, trying to figure out what he is talking about in this piece, I've decided that's all he can mean, with a column devoted to attacking the concept of "offshore balancing", something that has only been mentioned, as far as I can determine, three times in the history of the New York Times (each time by Ross Douthat, starting last July), as if it were at the center of an ongoing controversy.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

The Cruzible

Members of the 1953 Broadway cast, via Hana Theatre.
...if Arthur Miller were writing The Crucible today he would likely be less interested in effusive senators from Texas and more interested in the more modern pathologies that the Cruzes of the world tend typically to disdain. Presumably, Miller would look at our universities and our media, at our malleable “speech codes,” our self-indulgent “safe spaces,” our preference for “narrative” over truth, and at our pathetic appeasement of what is little more than good old-fashioned illiberalism, and he would despair. Ted Cruz, frankly, wouldn’t enter into his thinking.
(Charles C.W."Cheese Whiz" Cooke)
Act 1

Spring 1692, a bedroom in the home of Reverend Samuel Parris, where his little daughter Betty lies, apparently paralyzed, Parris kneeling in prayer at her bedside. The door opens, and the minister's enslaved Barbadian maid enters, rushes toward the girl, then steps back.

TITUBA: My Betty be hearty soon?

Templates in your head

Via SparkleBox.
Shorter David Brooks, "The Field is Flat", New York Times, March 27 2015:
Democrats could easily lose the presidential election next year. For one thing, they probably won't take Georgia, Arizona, or Texas. Besides, the voters have templates in their heads.
World-famous moral philosopher David Brooks seems to have been stuck for weeks on a slumming trip in his filthy old haunts, in the ghetto of ordinary panditry, whether owing to the agenda of his hidden masters or just boredom with moral philosophy. As far as I'm concerned it's more fun when he does the moral philosophy, but he doesn't care about my needs.

Today it's the elections looming just 20 months away, and a couple of articles from the National Journal, neither of them for some reason by Ron Fournier.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Note on Yemen

Updated 3/28/2015
The Main Bazaar in Old Aden, 1930s. Wikimedia Commons.
Iran Daily did a remarkably good Shorter for their dek text, though it's hard to see how they could have been doing it on purpose:
US Republican Senator John McCain has applauded the offensive launched by Saudi Arabia and its allies against Yemen, speculating that the “conflict will probably escalate” into a regional war in the Middle East.
C'mon folks, let's put your hands together and give it up for regional war! One can only hope, huh, Uncle John?

Not that he can't find something to have a sad over:

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Annals of derp: Ted Cruz is an ignoramus

Via Flat Earth Society.
Senator Ted Cruz, as reported by Bloomberg:
"Today the global warming alarmists are the equivalent of the flat-Earthers," Cruz said. "You know it used to be it is accepted scientific wisdom the Earth is flat, and this heretic named Galileo was branded a denier."
Galileo never denied that the Earth was flat, matter of fact, because he never in his life met anybody who thought the Earth was flat. It would have been impossible to even bring it up in conversation. He denied that the Earth was at the center of the universe, and got jailed for it by the Vatican, but the more-or-less sphericality of the Earth was entirely well-known to every educated person including his jailers. Ted Cruz is an ill-educated idiot.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Core element of their mental architecture

The Tehran Twist, 1960s, via Dr. Kaveh Farrokh.

Brooks asserts today that there are "three major strains of anti-Semitism circulating, different in kind and virulence, and requiring different responses," but seems to have lost track and made his 800 words with only two strains, strangely, and it's pretty clear there's only one he really cares about:
Verbatim David Brooks, "How to Fight Anti-Semitism", New York Times, March 24 2015:
In the Middle East, anti-Semitism has the feel of a deranged theoretical system for making sense of a world gone astray....
This form of anti-Semitism cannot be reasoned away because it doesn’t exist on the level of reason. It can only be confronted with deterrence and force, at the level of fear....

Monday, March 23, 2015

Lee Kuan Yew

Prewar shophouses in the "Chinatown" district of downtown Singapore in the Kodachrome years, 1960s or 70s?
One feature of the 50-odd years of People's Action Party rule over Singapore that I don't disapprove of the way I did in my first couple of years there in the early 1980s is the replacement of most of the island's "colorful" old neighborhoods with gigantic high-rise new towns, gray slabs of concrete looking from a distance like Clockwork Orange nightmare environments.

Cheap shot: Welcome to the Goat Rodeo, Senator Cruz!

Mabel Normand, I think in the 1915 short Mabel and Fatty's Married Life, directed by Roscoe Arbuckle.

Teaser for the New York Times editorial on Senator Cruz:
Anyone familiar with how government works, or with reality in general, will find the senator’s vision for the country problematic.
Hahahahaha. It has come to our attention, Senator, that you may not be familiar with some of the more mechanical aspects of our Constitution. It is unlikely that as president you will have an opportunity to abolish the Internal Revenue Service or exercise your First Amendment freedom to prevent people you disapprove of from getting married. Perhaps you'd like to get some lessons from Foreign Minister Dr. Zarif (Ph.D. University of Denver, 1988), who has a better grasp of some of the nuances, I believe. Not to mention reality in general.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Sure it's racist, but is it really that bad? (Spoiler alert: Yes)

Registering to vote in Arizona (the History Channel wrongly says New Mexico), 1948.
So Binyamin Netanyahu made this election-day video where he begged the rightists to come out and defend themselves against the Saracen hordes:
The right-wing government is in danger. Arab voters are coming out in droves to the polls. Left-wing organizations are busing them out! (text via Politico)
So Bill Maher wants to know, is that really so terrible? I was reading about it at +972 and had to check the fuller text from Haaretz before I could really believe what they were saying:

Lede, buried: Insulin

Reginald Denny and Mary Astor in Oh, Doctor! (1925), by Henry A.Pollard.
Once upon a time diabetes was a fairly quickly executed, though exceedingly painful, death sentence, and then once upon a more recent time, starting at the beginning of the 20th century, scientists began figuring out how it worked, and developed effective treatments, culminating in the late 1930s with the development of insulin derived from pig or cow pancreata, which enabled patients to control their own symptoms.

Then in the 1970s, with the development of recombinant DNA technology, it became possible to manufacture a synthetic human insulin, which might have worked better in some cases, and was more expensive and hence profitable for the manufacturer, with the upshot that today in the United States the older animal insulin is no longer available and now we have patients dying because they can't afford the $400 a month it costs to treat it with the newer product. This according to an NPR story from this morning reporting on research by Jeremy Greene and Kevin Riggs published this week in the New England Journal of Medicine:

Saturday, March 21, 2015

West of Eden: No good guys?

Baghdad Jewish quarter, 19th century.
Over at the Frogpond, BooMan is lamenting that there are no good guys in Iraq and he doesn't know any answers:
I can't say that the Obama administration does, either. It's not their fault, or mine. There are no moderates in this fight. It's sectarian and it's among radicals.
I posted a comment:

Friday, March 20, 2015

Global Warping

Stop Global Warming II by Luminous Luminance at DeviantArt.

Wisdom from Grand Strategy Practitioner David Brooks:
National elections take place within a specific global moment.
True, they tried to repeal the laws of physics in 2014, but Boehner couldn't put the votes together. It was doomed when Tea Party members insisted on a poison pill provision repealing biology as well.
In the 1990s, there was a presumption that we were living in an age of rapid progress. Democracy was spreading. Tyranny was receding. Asia was booming. The European Union was building. Conflict in the Middle East was lessening. The world was cumulatively heading toward greater pluralism, individualism, prosperity and freedom.
It was raining gerunds. It was safe as long as you kept your windows closed. Twenty years later, though, it's starting to get old. And one of them, "receding", seems to have switched sides:


Shorter Binyamin Netanyahu:
I never said I was opposed to the two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine problem, in fact I totally support it. I simply said it wouldn't be achieved while I was prime minister. Unfortunately I'm an insuperable obstacle to the achievement of my desires. What do you expect me to do about it?

Thursday, March 19, 2015

West of Eden: Friedman has a hangover

Peace, from Ambrogio Lorenzetti's Allegory of Good Government, Siena, 1337.

Mr. Pierce and Driftglass invite us to contemplate a bizarre paragraph from Friedman's piece yesterday:
O.K., so we learn to live with Iran on the edge of a bomb, but shouldn’t we at least bomb the Islamic State to smithereens and help destroy this head-chopping menace? Now I despise ISIS as much as anyone, but let me just toss out a different question: Should we be arming ISIS? Or let me ask that differently: Why are we, for the third time since 9/11, fighting a war on behalf of Iran?
Pierce, with his clinical interest in amnesia, is mainly interested in reminding us that the other times we were fighting a war on behalf of Iran had to do with Friedman asking someone or other he didn't like to Suck On This.

I had to read this several dozen times before I understood that the middle question wasn't a typo, because I was getting it as "are we sure we're doing the right thing arming ISIS?" and I was positive we were supposed to be not doing that, or at least trying pretty hard not to, but it's now pretty clear that he meant the Friedman-pitch contrarian question, "are we totally sure we're doing the right thing not arming ISIS?" and he doesn't mean it to be taken seriously or anything. He means in this crazy old world it just keeps getting harder to arm or not arm anybody or bomb them to smithereens or anything without giving a boost to somebody you don't like. Ha ha ha.

Netanyahu is now saying he continues to support Palestinian statehood but reality is unfortunately against it:

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Oh well

Not the worst thing about the Israeli election results, but one of the most disheartening to me, is what the takeaway might be over here for Likud's US allies in the Republican Party, that Netanyahu's craziness on the last day, promising that there would never be a Palestinian state as long as he is prime minister and calling his supporters specifically to counteract the behavior of certain Israeli citizens who were Voting While Arabic in larger than expected numbers as if that were somehow indecent or unaccaptable, is what brought him over the line at the end, and that doubling down on violence and racism in the last hours of a campaign is a great way to win an election in general.

Thomas P. Friedman, better known as Thomas L. Friedman, mystax aegypticus, released from the need to talk sense to the Israelis and engaged once again with the voices in his head, thinks it isn't all that important that Netanyahu's finally admitting publicly that he opposes the two-state solution:

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Everyone goes to conferences

Photo by Julochka, December 2013.
Verbatim David Brooks, "Skills in Flux", March 17 2015:
For example, in today’s loosely networked world, people with social courage have amazing value. Everyone goes to conferences and meets people, but some people invite six people to lunch afterward and follow up with four carefully tended friendships forevermore. Then they spend their lives connecting people across networks.
Or maybe social courage is the quality of a person (not quite nice, in the opinion of mannerly David Brooks)

Monday, March 16, 2015

Insult or compliment? God knows.

William Blake, God judging Adam. Via SHAFE.

Everybody wants to be a critic—

Jeffrey Goldberg:
Critics of the Jews have often called us stiff-necked, but sometimes this insult can be understood as a compliment.
Go up to the land flowing with milk and honey. You are a stiff-necked people. If I were to go with you even for a moment, I might destroy you. Now take off your ornaments and I will decide what to do with you. (Exodus 33:3)
Anti-Semitic or just snarky? You be the judge. Wait, no, better not. One thing for sure, faint praise is probably not a good sign.

It wasn't an accident

Port Vila, Vanuatu. Photo by Inga Mepham/AFP.
Waiting three days for the world media to tell me whether Cyclone Pam, which hit the South Pacific nation of Vanuatu on Friday, was or wasn't aggravated by global warming.

Duh. The media don't seem interested. It took Vanuatu's president Baldwin Lonsdale to bring it up, as I finally heard from BBC. And The Guardian:
He said the cyclone seasons that the nation had experienced were directly linked to climate change.
“We see the level of sea rise … The cyclone seasons, the warm, the rain, all this is affected ,” he said.
“This year we have more than in any year … Yes, climate change is contributing to this..."
Yes indeed. You can see, if you're curious, what the Pacific Climate Change Science Program predicted in 2012 for Vanuatu in the 21st century: continuing warming, continuing rise in sea level, fewer cyclones but greater intensity of precipitation events during the rainy season, which is now (Vanuatu is hit by some 23 per decade, none previously with the devastating effect of this one). The violence of this storm and severe flooding are unquestionably consistent with that, whether they are directly caused by it or not.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Shorter Douthat: No, it's because poor people are so damn rich any more.

Update: Welcome Alicubini!

Image by Waldo3610.

Monsignor Ross Douthat, Apostolic Nuncio to 42nd Street, comes out swinging, to show everybody how a Harvard guy goes about writing David Brooks's March 10 column, which should like obviously be better than the way Brooks wrote it, in answer to the question raised (at least in the perfervid imaginations of the American right) by Robert Putnam's new book, Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis (partly Putnam's fault for refusing to name the "upper-class villains"),
whether the social crisis among America’s poor and working class — the collapse of the two-parent family, the weakening of communal ties — is best understood as a problem of economics or of culture.
It can't be economics, says Ross, because everybody's economic situation just keeps getting better and better. I bet you didn't realize that:

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Does the Israeli non-right have a chance?

Is Netanyahu a secret Muslim? According to F.W. Burleigh at The American Thinker, proposing to prove that noted upward-pointer Barack Obama is a Muslim, "The extended finger is symbolic of the one-God concept of Muhammad and is understood by all believers to be a symbolic shahada, the Muslim affirmation of faith: There is but one God and Muhammad is his messenger. Thus when believers stick their index finger in the air, they demonstrate they are partisans of Muhammad’s God concept."

Mondoweiss (citing Daniel Levy at the European Council on Foreign Relations) is claiming the likeliest outcome of Tuesday's vote in Israel is that Likud loses to the so-called Zionist Union of Labor and Kadima and so on, but Netanyahu returns as prime minister in spite of losing, in a "grand coalition": because if the election is as close as appears likely the Zionist Union won't have enough seats in the new Knesset to form a government unless in coalition with the new Joint Arab List (which brings together the Arab parties in a unified front and is likely to do extremely well, with 13 to 15 seats of its own, with a substantial number of votes from leftist Jews fed up with the usual parties)—and since they will never ask the Arab List into the government, "traditionally deemed unworthy coalition partners", they'll have nowhere to go but Likud, which will demand that Netanyahu stay in office (at least for half the term in alternation with Herzog) as the price of participation.

I obviously haven't got anything like their deep knowledge of the situation, but sometimes an ignorant person can see things that are too eccentric for the experts to notice, and I think there are two fundamental things wrong with this scenario:

Friday, March 13, 2015

Hunkered and Steely

Uncredited image via Tinypic
Shorter David Brooks, "Hillary Clinton's Big Test", New York Times, March 13 2015:
It's a given that she'll be faced with brutal confrontations like Whitewater, Travelgate, health care reform, cattle futures, Monica Lewinsky, Benghazi, the emails and so on, because that's just how things are nowadays, apparently because of those stupid sunshine laws, I can't imagine any other reasons for such a peculiar atmosphere, so the question is basically whether she'll go strong or go large. Large means like Ronald Reagan, rising above hostility, to instead reveal scary and vulnerable parts of herself so that voters feel as though they can trust and relate to her; strong is like Frances Perkins, a personal hero of mine, who unfortunately ruined a promising career by being too reticent, too closed in her attitude toward information.
I know you all probably think I'm exaggerating and you're too lazy or too Times-phobic to click the link, but he really said that about Perkins:

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Too bad

Somebody shot two cops last night around the demonstrations celebrating Chief Jackson's somewhat overdue but certainly welcome resignation in Ferguson, MO, last night. Fortunately they failed to kill them, but the injuries are serious. If the person or persons responsible thought they were performing some kind of act of radical justice or imagined they were bringing the struggle to a new level, like assholes who voted for George W. Bush in 2000 in the hopes of hastening the revolution, they were wrong. They're just assholes.

Steve says,
Cop killers (and their fans) are the superhawks of the social justice movement. They're the neocons. They're the Cheneys and Bill Kristols. They're poisonous in the same way. 
But that's way too respectful. The Cheneys and Kristols do have some base of support for their criminality, a movement that they represent, however ill-educated and emotionally immature it may be; cop killers are more like the Cliven Bundys and David Dukes, people so embarrassing that even the Cheneys and Kristols don't want any part of them. They can't poison the social justice movement. All they do is provide the National Review with material for denouncing it, which is not a very significant contribution to anybody's discourse, since those people can get material from an unseasonable snowfall or the wrong pair of jeans (see BooMan on the predictable reactions). They are what Marx referred to as Lumpen, people too wasted and worthless to have any real revolutionary consciousness at all. They're spreading pain in the world for no good reason. They ought to be ashamed.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Deadlier than the mail

From the late TextsFromHillaryClinton tumblr.
I don't want to get into the habit of defending everything Hillary Clinton says, at least not until she gives me some kind of good reason, but I think that we ought to stress, as I was saying over at Vixen's place, that secretaries of state really use email in a different way than we do.

One thing that is waayyyy different is the number of things a secretary of state doesn't use email for, which is practically everything important anybody would be worried about, from classified material to evidence of corruption, perversion, and murder, and whatever else the wingers fear she might be up to. Scott Shane's article in NYT on the question of whether there were any classified emails clarifies:

A Tom to cast away stones

Image via Printable Colouring Pages.
Do you remember this?
last November at a conference of the Israel American Council, a lobbying group Adelson has funded, he joked in a public discussion with another wealthy Israeli: “Why don’t you and I go after The New York Times?” Told it was family owned, Adelson quipped, “There is only one way to fight it: money.” At this same conference Adelson was quoted as saying that Israel would not be able to survive as a democracy: “So Israel won’t be a democratic state,” he added. “So what?”

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

What if you don't *have* a village?

Emma Stone in Easy A (Will Gluck, 2010).
Verbatim David Brooks, "The Cost of Relativism", New York Times, March 10 2015:
People sometimes wonder why I’ve taken this column in a spiritual and moral direction of late. It’s in part because we won’t have social repair unless we are more morally articulate, unless we have clearer definitions of how we should be behaving at all levels.
History is full of examples of moral revival, when social chaos was reversed, when behavior was tightened and norms reasserted. It happened in England in the 1830s and in the U.S. amid economic stress in the 1930s. It happens through organic communal effort, with voices from everywhere saying gently: This we praise. This we don’t.
I've never spent much time wondering why, because the answer seems to me obvious. It's mainly because there are two things you can do about the problems of the United States, you can repair them or you can talk about the bad people who are to blame, and repairing them costs money, as we learned "in the US amid economic stress in the 1930s", whereas complaining is free. And for the opinionist it's pretty much the same thing: finding out what needs to be done is a lot of work, whereas if it's simply the bad qualities of poor people, for example, that make them poor, you can whip out that column almost effortlessly, leaving plenty of time for your many important TV appearances, university gigs, and other events where you can deploy your improvisational skills and not have to prepare at all.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Community after it melted into air

19th-century Franciscans; can't find a credit.
What a tedious and tiny-minded creature is Monsignor Ross Douthat, Apostolic Nuncio to 42nd Street, who reads an extremely wide-ranging conversation between the young Israeli historian Yuval Noah Harari and the ancient American psychologist Daniel Kahneman—it covers the whole of human existence, which is one of Harari's specialties and the subject of his recent book, Sapiens—and hears only a threat to his own, literally parochial, concern.

The question has to do with what seems like the automatization of the world's work: as robots and productivity improvements minimize the number of people needed to keep us fed and clothed and entertained, a time approaches when most people might be unable to find meaningful work. Nobody will have to starve to death, but their lives will be empty and "worthless", with nothing available to fill them up with except drugs and computer games, or, as Douthat puts it,

Sunday, March 8, 2015

America is not some fragile thing

Archbishop Demetrios of America—that's his real title!—with Representative John Lewis. If you think this is not a great country you're crazy. Via Esperinos.

Well, that speech certainly does it for me. (If you haven't watched it, a happy place to do it is chez SmartyPants.) I'm not going to start agreeing with President Obama about everything that he thinks needs to be done or the way to do it, because, as he might say himself, that's not America. Right? But I'm really glad to belong to the same party as he does, and proud (and as startled now as seven years ago) that he leads it, and more hopeful than I have been most of the time that in the medium-to-long run his presidency will have made a truly important and fine difference to our peculiar, excessive, but lovable country.

It may seem a little comical to watch the president who insisted so notoriously from the start on his "belief that we need to look forward as opposed to looking backwards" taking such a strong look at the America of half a century ago and the Selma heroes we're celebrating this weekend:

Saturday, March 7, 2015

The Cold who came in from the Spies

Joshua Cold, that is.

Via whatdoesitmean.

Most sentient people rationally accept that the U.S. media routinely disseminates misleading stories and outright falsehoods in the most authoritative tones. But it’s nonetheless valuable to examine particularly egregious case studies to see how that works. In that spirit, let’s take yesterday’s numerous, breathless reports trumpeting the “BREAKING” news that “Edward Snowden now wants to come home!” and is “now negotiating the terms of his return!”....
Greenwald's story is over 2,330 words long. That would be nearly eight typewritten pages. It is entirely about how these allegations, if you want to call them that, because they sound harmless enough, are not false, but not breaking news either, since Eduardo has been saying he wants to come home and working with lawyers ever since he arrived in Hong Kong. That is an "egregious case" of "typical media deceit" (neat trick being egregious and typical at the same time, too), and it takes more words for Greenwald to expose it than Hemingway needed for "Up in Michigan". I would guess that most sentient people have not even asked themselves how authoritative are the tones with which the US media routinely disseminate their stories and falsehoods, let alone accepted the fact, rationally or otherwise. Worldwide, most sentient people don't follow the US media at all.

But the story (at least as I saw it, very calmly and concisely reported by Alexandra Odynova in the New York Times) is not really all that breathless, misleading, or outright. (You get a little more breathlessness from the Daily News, but not all that much, considering.) Though they missed the part I would have liked to read, which you can get some idea from poking around (thanks, Google Translate!) in the Russian press.

Wring out the old

From Jeremiah Hulsebos-Spofford, "Reenacting the Bay of Pigs Invasion with Pigs", January 2014.
When I tell you all about how Barack Obama and his spiritual director John O. Brennan have been working since 2008 to get the National Clandestine Service, the old CIA Ops division, out of the rightwing paramilitary business and into legitimate intelligence work under presidential supervision, you don't even bother to tell me I'm wrong—you just quietly tiptoe away, but I know what you're thinking.

So what do you think about this, suckers?
John O. Brennan, director of the Central Intelligence Agency, is planning to reassign thousands of undercover spies and intelligence analysts into new departments as part of a restructuring of the 67-year-old agency.... Mr. Brennan’s plan would partly abandon the agency’s current structure that keeps spies and analysts separate as they target specific regions or countries. 
Don't be misled by the annoying business-major language with which he tries to explain it

Friday, March 6, 2015

The temptation of stupid

Updated 3/9/15
Robert Walker in Alfred Hitchcock's Strangers on a Train (1951), via lifeshouldbemorelikeamovie.
If you were sure David Brooks ("The Temptation of Hillary") would be supporting Hillary Clinton for president in 2016, I have to tell you that's probably not inevitable. He totally hasn't endorsed her yet. He's a little concerned that her economic views might not be sound, although he doesn't know what they are, but
it was always likely that she would move left as the primary season approached. It’s now becoming clearer how she might do it. She might make a shift from what you might call human capital progressivism to redistributionist progressivism.
I'll tell you the truth, I don't believe I would call anything "human capital progressivism". What is it when it's at home?

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Note from the counterinsurgency

Mike Brown.
I really understand, I think, why the Justice Department finds it so hard to prosecute murderous police officers like Darren Wilson for civil rights violations against the people whose lives they have taken like Michael Brown. Only Wilson can possibly know what he meant to do to Brown and how he felt, whether he truly was in terror of what he perceived as a vicious giant or was rather high on his own lethal power, and nobody can make him testify. And he probably doesn't altogether know himself, for that matter, the ability of the human unconscious to hide our own motivations from us being what it is.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

O disingenuity!

Arthur Rackham, Nibelungs at work, 1910. Via Encore Editions.
So while SCOTUS is hearing the oral arguments, and nobody has yet found a member of Congress from when the Affordable Care Act was passed in March 2010 who thought that it prevented federally run exchanges from offering subsidized health insurance premiums, a friend-of-the-court brief suggests that some smart guys knew all about it:
 Six states, led by Attorney General Scott Pruitt of Oklahoma, say that it “came as no surprise” to them that Congress made subsidies available only through state-run exchanges. Congress was trying to “entice” the states to set up their own exchanges, and this “conditioning of tax credits was the primary means of doing so.” The six states point out that in November 2012, two months before the deadline for establishing state exchanges, Pruitt challenged in court the I.R.S. rule granting subsidies through federally run exchanges.
It may not have surprised them exactly, but it certainly took them a while to find out. Pruitt filed his lawsuit, Pruitt v. Sebelius, in January 2011, without mentioning the Moops issue of whether subsidies are available to federally run exchanges at all; the substance of the case was

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Grounds for divorce: Wine, late nights, and instant communications

Image via softsolder.
Celebrated author David Brooks expresses himself uncharacteristically in verse in his New York Times posting today:
So much of life is about leave-taking:
moving from home to college,
from love to love,
from city to city and
from life stage to life stage.
In earlier times, leaving was defined by distance,
but now it is defined by silence.
Gradually a story seems to emerge, told in the scientific third person as a kind of universal experience, stripped of all individual detail, of a breakup between a man who acts or doesn't act, and a "friend", a woman, who "probably" perceives and feels; he slowly cuts off communications, one word at a time, she suffers "amazing" pain:

Monday, March 2, 2015

Annals of derp: The importance of bearding Earnest

Face Josh Earnest makes when he's responding to a question from Conn Carroll. From Townhall.
This is a pretty classic case, but it may take a while to get to the punchline. Somebody called Conn Carroll at Townhall, reporting how he asked the tough questions:

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Boris Yefimovich Nemtsov

Moscow March marchers. Photo by Sergei Ilnitsky/EPA, via The Guardian.
As soon as the news of the assassination of Boris Nemtsov started coming out, so did the propagandists, with a bit of classic misdirection on the subject of whether Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin and his circle could have had anything to do with the killing:
Somebody in my online circle even came up with a remarkable analogy: What if people had gone around accusing FDR in the assassination of Huey Long, September 8 1935 and just a month after the Kingfish had announced his candidacy for president?

Why deport when you can extort?

Tampa Bay reporter Dan DeWitt gets some tips on blueberry picking. About 85% of farmworkers nationwide are undocumented; they're paying payroll taxes but they'll never collect Social Security. Photo by Will Vragovic, Tampa Bay Times.
Something I've been confused about in the immigration debate that others may be confused about too, because it hasn't been handled very well by, say, the Times:
Judge Hanen said in his ruling, in a case brought by Texas and 25 other states, that the administration had not followed required procedures for changing federal rules. The judge issued an injunction ordering that the program be halted, and government officials quickly postponed the actions to comply with the order.
Sounds like (sounds like we're playing charades, hahaha) it's so obvious that the executive's prosecutorial discretion permits it to decide who to deport, given that they can't deport all 11-odd million simultaneously or proceed entirely at random, which seems to be what the Republicans want (they think any kind of forethought is treachery), that what Judge Hanen had to do to throw the DAPA and expanded DACA programs out was pin them to some kind of quibble from the arcana of the federal rule books, so exotically bureaucratic that it couldn't even be explained to us, but this is not exactly what happened.