Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Hillary Clinton does that thing politicians do. OMG she must be disrespecting Obama!

Image via WikiHow.
Weird spinning at The Hill:
Hillary Clinton is making the case that she’ll be able to get more done with Congress than her rivals for the Democratic presidential nomination — and President Obama, for that matter. 
That's paragraph 1, but actually she isn't, as we see in paragraph 9:

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Annals of derp: What goes up, etc.

James McNeill Whistler, Nocturne in Black and Gold: The Falling Rocket (1872-77). Via JSS Gallery.

It's world-famous penitentiarist David Brooks out to stop all this nonsense he sees in the presidential campaign about ending the drug war as a way to deal with the problem of prison overcrowding:
The drug war is not even close to being the primary driver behind the sharp rise in incarceration. About 90 percent of America’s prisoners are held in state institutions. Only 17 percent of these inmates are in for a drug-related offense, or less than one in five.

Moreover, the share of people imprisoned for drug offenses is dropping sharply, down by 22 percent between 2006 and 2011. Writing in Slate, Leon Neyfakh emphasized that if you released every drug offender from state prison today, you’d reduce the population only to 1.2 million from 1.5 million.

The war on drugs does not explain the rocketing rates of incarceration, and ending that war, wise or not, will not solve this problem.
I think that the main thing Brooks is missing here is that the incarceration rates are not, in point of fact, rocketing, unless you're thinking about the way typical rockets, the ones that don't escape into space, take a parabolic trajectory in which after going up they go down, because US state incarceration rates have been going down for the past five years, since the annual number of admissions started declining around 2006, which is a good thing. That's not the problem our Democratic candidates are addressing.

Trump's base

Something that struck me over the weekend, and I found a picture to go along with it: Trump's supporters are Beavis and Butt-head, 15-20 years later. They don't think he would be a good president, or even that that's an interesting or important question. They think, with their special pop aesthetic sensibility, that he's cool, heh-heh, which does not mean the same thing as good, and that everybody else sucks, which does not mean they're bad. To Beavis and Butt-head, a Trump presidency could be well-produced but authentic and gross, and possibly with a lot of disturbing violence, like maybe a Guns 'n' Roses album? What's not to appreciate?

Image by MTVHive.

That's not to suggest that Trump is in any sense less serious as a candidate than Carson or Fiorina, Cruz, Santorum, Jindal, for example, because I don't think he is; just that he's better than they are, rather, at meeting these kinds of expectations.

Monday, September 28, 2015

The Trump Hath Spoken

Image via Liberaland.

O ye foolish pandits decrying the Trumpster, and saying in your hearts that he is no conservative but running verily to the left of the smoldering, though not quite burning Bush! For hath he not sworn an oath that the carried interest deduction shall be abolished, and leave the hedge fund guys bereft?

Yet lo! his tax proposals have leapt to our eyes like the gazelle, and shown themselves, and been weighed and measured, and they do indeed apply only to the hedge fund guys, many of whom vote Democrat for reasons best known to themselves, and not to the private equity partnerships where Bishop Romney made his pile even unto the fourth and fifth generations, which puts them actually to the right of the Bush proposals, and that's not all. For those whose wealth is like unto that of Bishop Romney, in that his coin cannot be weighed nor his houses counted, will also see their top marginal income tax rate descend from 39.6% to 25%, which is verily a fuck of a lot, and the capital gains assessment from 23.8% to 20% percent, even on their real property and their sales of stock, and while married couples making $50K or less will pay no income tax, yet most of them pay no income tax already, and their savings under the plan will be as dust under the wheels of the Juggernaut or Trumpmobile! And the corporate and noncorporate business tax shall drop from 35% to 15%!

And the Trumpster spake, saying,
“In other words, it’s going to cost me a fortune," Trump, a billionaire, said,
which is hard to figure, for he is no hedge fund guy indeed, but a person of income, and property, and many forms of real capital, who will make out under these measures like the thief in the night or the highwayman. And nobody's trying to figure out what happens to the federal government under this scenario, but its revenues shall be reduced, and shrunken, and made as the revenues of the bathtub ducky, till it be so little it might be laid in the bathtub and there smothered and killed, wherefore the Prophet Grover hath looked on the plan and said that it was good.

So you can all shut up about how Trump is a liberal, Brooksy, if you don't mind. Although, to be fair, when Ed Kilgore refers to
the fundamentally immoral—and in Trump’s case, self-serving—elimination of federal inheritance taxes. 
how can he say such an unkind thing? Trump isn't doing that for himself, he's doing it for the children. The children that are looking forward to an estate of $10 million or more when the old man kicks off, I mean, because no other children would get anything out of it. Hey, come to think of it, could that be part of why he's running for president? So that his kids will refrain from murdering him? Because as long as he's alive there's a chance he'll get rid of the inheritance tax and his kids will be 40% richer when he dies.

Abortion exceptionalism

The Norse goddess Freyja in her cat-drawn chariot, by Nils Blommér, with angels, not babies, 1851. Via Wiktionary.

Of course I've believed for a long time that most Americans think abortion is a bad thing that should probably be illegal or severely restricted with certain key exceptions, such as in the event of a pregnancy resulting from rape or incest or one that endangers the pregnant woman's life or health or if the pregnant person is the respondent or the respondent's girlfriend, or wife, or daughter, in which case they obviously wouldn't want to have an abortion unless they had a pretty good reason, would they? I mean it's not like when one of those sluts wants one, is it?

Annals of Derp: Why Conservatives Can't Read

Basically, because they don't want to. You could get all stuffed up with information, and it might contradict your assumptions. Have some, if you must, but responsibly, and always leave a few paragraphs on your plate.

Photo by Mark Bonifacio/New York Daily News.

What's up in the world of universal pre-K, Callie Gable for National Review?
It helped get progressive stalwart Bill de Blasio elected mayor of New York, and it resurfaces again and again in speeches by both Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton, but the Left’s dream of publicly funded child care is suddenly getting pushback from an unlikely source: Jonathan Gruber, the liberal economist who helped design Obamacare.
Is that right?

Um, no, it's not. In the sense that Jon Gruber did not help design the Affordable Care Act (he did play a noteworthy role in the 2006 Massachusetts health care reform law, from which the ACA borrowed a number of important elements, but was only an outside consultant on limited aspects of the latter), and that the study we're talking about today, "Non-Cognitive Deficits and Young Adult Outcomes: The Long-Run Impacts of a Universal Child Care Program" (NBER Working Paper 21571, September 2015) had three authors, Michael Baker of U. Toronto, Jonathan Gruber of MIT, and Kevin Milligan of UBC, working for the National Bureau of Economic Research, and far from unlikely or sudden, it is a followup study to one the three published seven years ago, “Universal Child Care, Maternal Labor Supply, and Family Well-Being,” Journal of Political Economy 116 (4), 2008.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

A sour, overgeneralized, and intellectually sloppy sense of alienation

Edwin Levick, immigrants on Atlantic liner ca. 1906, Library of Congress, via Smithsonian Institution.

David Brooks writes ("The American Idea and Today's G.O.P.", New York Times, September 25 2015):
One of the exceptional things about American exceptionalism is the exceptionalism of American conservatism. While conservatives in other countries are essentially reactionary, yearning for an idealized past, American conservatives are retroactionary, afflicted with a nostalgia for an endlessly receding future. This goes back to the very beginnings, when those who settled, founded, and built America, not necessarily in that order, understood that our country had no history, and that only by forging a path into the future would we be able to acquire some.

Friday, September 25, 2015

A Miracle!

Welcome MBRU readers! Thanks. Monkeyfister!

Raphael, The Miraculous Drought of Fishes, tapestry, Sistine Chapel, via Catholic News UK.

We weren't surprised to see the Speaker weeping copiously during the Pontiff's appearance before the Houses of Congress, which Boehner had apparently spent his entire congressional career trying to attain, but we didn't expect to witness the softening of his dry little heart (in emulation, perhaps of the liquefaction of the blood of St. Januarius, which we were just celebrating last week on Mulberry Street). But it seems that he did decide for once in his life to put the interests of the people of the United States (including food stamp clients) ahead of his own job tenure, for the first time since he ascended to the Speakership, and is planning to present and pass a budget that doesn't defund Planned Parenthood; he's resigning because otherwise the conservative Republicans in the House would fire him for defying their wishes to shut down the government.

I heard on the radio that it isn't really a papal miracle, and he claims to have been planning the move for a while, but it's a pretty thought. Wish he would have done it two years ago over the comprehensive immigration bill. If he had done so there would be no Trump to torture us today, as the issue would no longer be an Obama issue and would be basically closed.

What would really be a miracle would be if the next speaker were to be elected by a coalition of Democrats and sane Republicans—we know there are some though they are closeted and in a state of constant terror—in the aim of getting some governmenting done in the run-up to 2016. Hahaha. Even God can't do that.
Update: I don't usually link to the Wonkette, not because I don't love it but because its filthy advertising breaks my computer, but I had the fortune to see this.

It's just logic. Feminists are the real sexists.

Parisian resistance fighter Simone Segouin, who killed an unknown number of Germans and captured 25 with her submachine gun, via Crafty Kryptonite Alpaca. Ann Althouse feels she is practically the same person because she's pretty rebellious too.
Hillary Clinton, asked by Lena Dunham whether she considers herself a feminist:
Yes... Absolutely. I’m always a little bit puzzled when any woman of whatever age, but particularly a young woman, says something like, ‘well, I believe in equal rights but I’m not a feminist.’ Well, a feminist is by definition someone who believes in equal rights.
Ann Althouse's comment:
Who writes the definition? We're still saying what X is "by definition" after all these years of scoffing at the anti-same-sex-marriage people who kept saying, tediously, marriage is by definition between a man and a woman?

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Happy Copyright Expiration to You!

Patty and Mildred Hill, who deserved every penny. What did Warner Music ever write? Via USA Today.
Dr. Krugman:
Item: The C.E.O. of Volkswagen has resigned after revelations that his company committed fraud on an epic scale, installing software on its diesel cars that detected when their emissions were being tested, and produced deceptively low results.

Item: The former president of a peanut company has been sentenced to 28 years in prison for knowingly shipping tainted products that later killed nine people and sickened 700.

Told you so. II: The Syrian Burke Brigades

From a pretty prophetic piece of angry satire, February 2015, at My Catbird Seat. Bet the author didn't realize Obama agreed with her, but I did.
In other headlines, the jowl-woggling over the failure of the US program to train a "moderate" Syrian opposition army, and President Obama's defense that he never thought it would work and only set it up because of irrational pressure from
those who pressed him to attempt training Syrian rebels in the first place — a group that, in addition to congressional Republicans, happened to include former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.... Mr. Obama is arguing that he reluctantly went along with those who said it was the way to combat the Islamic State, but that he never wanted to do it and has now has been vindicated in his original judgment. The I-told-you-so argument, of course, assumes that the idea of training rebels itself was flawed and not that it was started too late and executed ineffectively, as critics maintain.
Sounds like the administration improvising flabby excuses for their own failures by blaming others, right? But if you were following along with the analysis here, you would have seen suggestions that Obama felt that way at least as early as last November, and very explicitly in January:

Told you so. I: Greece

Photo by Yiorgos Karahalis/Reuters, June 2011, via The Guardian.

So remember how the resignation of Alexis Tsipras as Greek prime minister was a disastrous defeat for Tsipras and the Greek left? Anybody?

I just want the record to show that I called the situation correctly a month ago, specifically explaining that Tispras's decision to call new elections was not a defeat but a move forward, to get rid of some of the opposition in his own party. This is exactly what happened: the 25 candidates of variously Eurocommunist, Trotskyist, and Maoist inclination of Syriza's Left Platform who split from the party to form the Popular Unity group were neither popular nor unified and not one of them made it into the new parliament.

Tsipras will now have a majority (in the continuing coalition with the obnoxious anti-immigrant Independent Greeks) of 155 out of 300 seats, with the difference from the old one that the new one will do what they're asked to do, which includes some awful things demanded by the European Union (more cuts, privatizations, and health care charges, though all less awful than what the EU wanted), and the all-important improvement of tax collection and recapitalization of banks. It's ugly, ugly, ugly, but it is a path around catastrophe.

I wonder by the way if Greece will get cut any slack by the European Union for its massive work in the protection of refugees, such a contrast with certain austerity-loving governments in Central Europe (Hungary's crypto-fascist PM Viktor Orbán suggests the military solution of sending EU troops to Greece to "defend their borders", hmm).

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Bubbling wisdom and self-emptying love

Great story I hadn't heard before, with meme, via TopekasNews.
Shorter David Brooks, "Pope Francis, the Prince of the Personal", New York Times, Septemer 22 2015:
I can't understand why all these people get so excited over the stuff the Pope says. Surely, when we encounter a person of such deep spiritual wisdom we should focus not on his ideas but on what a nice person he is.
And a (relatively minor) David Brooks Plagiarism Watch below the fold:

Carson clarifies

A visit to the dentist in medieval Persia. Via
What's wrong with Muslims?
"Under Islamic Law, homosexuals – men and women alike – must be killed. Women must be subservient. And people following other religions must be killed," he continued. "I know that there are many peaceful Muslims who do not adhere to these beliefs. But until these tenants (sic) are fully renounced…I cannot advocate any Muslim candidate for President."
Obviously that's a lot worse than Biblical literalist Christianity in which only male homosexuals need to be put to death and the girls get away scot-free. I know that there are many peaceful Christians who do not agree with the death penalty for sodomy, including the members of Dr. Carson's Seventh-Day Adventist Church, who hold that

Monday, September 21, 2015

Annals of derp: Was same-sex marriage illegal in 1790?

Biblical marriage: Adriaen van der Wirft, Sarah Presenting Hagar to Abraham (1699). via Wikipedia.

More Alex; he objected to my saying that there has never been a law against same-sex marriage until 1998 1973:

Let's think about this intuitively. Do you believe a gay couple could have married in the United States in 1790? If not, what do you think would have been the justification for denial?
Well, I don't know about the US in 1790 but...
A same-sex marriage between the two men Pedro Díaz and Muño Vandilaz in the Galician municipality of Rairiz de Veiga in Spain occurred on 16 April 1061. They were married by a priest at a small chapel. The historic documents about the church wedding were found at Monastery of San Salvador de Celanova.
Seriously, "let's think about this intuitively" is like saying "let's just argue on the basis of our biases without considering any facts."

Presumably a marriage between two men could have been denied on the grounds that they must be intending to commit sodomy in violation of one of those rare laws that really does have a Christian source, like prohibitions on selling alcohol on Sundays or anti-blasphemy rules (although good old Wikipedia informs me that the Middle Assyrian Code of 1075 B.C.E. forbade intercourse between brothers-in-arms and punished it with castration, and we know they weren't part of the Judeo-Christian tradition). I don't think there would have been any justifiable grounds for forbidding two women to marry, since the sodomy laws didn't mention people without penises, though I suppose they might have refused to do it anyway if it had come up, the point being that it didn't.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Exchange: Locke and Load

The Founder of British Empiricism. Portrait by Sir Godfrey Knellor, 1697, via.
Another day, another comment war. This one at Crooks & Liars involving Dr. Ben Carson's assertion that the religion of Islam is incompatible with the US Constitution and a callow conservative who goes by Alex—sounds like he's about 20, but he uses Forbes Magazine as a source of scholarship on political philosophy, regarding it as "pretty objective", so he might well be 80.
DR. BEN CARSON: Well, I guess it depends on what that faith is. If it's inconsistent with the values and principles of America, then of course it should matter. But if it fits within the realm of America and consistent with the constitution, no problem.

CHUCK TODD: So do you believe that Islam is consistent with the constitution?

DR. BEN CARSON: No, I don't, I do not.

CHUCK TODD: So you--

DR. BEN CARSON: I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation. I absolutely would not agree with that.

CHUCK TODD: And would you ever consider voting for a Muslim for Congress?

DR. BEN CARSON: Congress is a different story, but it depends on who that Muslim is and what their policies are, just as it depends on what anybody else says, you know. (transcript from Real Clear Politics)
Note how assiduously Alex works to turn the his opponents' argument from a complaint on Dr. Carson's ignorance of the Establishment Clause (and the Religious Test clause of Article VI) to a ridiculous gripe about Dr. Carson's right to vote for any asshole he wants to vote for.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Trump gets a little less comical

This may not look quite as strange when there's somebody in it, but I'm not sure. Via.
So, this happened: faced with a fan who denounced President Obama as a "Muslim" and "not even an American", Donald Trump didn't stop him (that's the official narrative—actually it was a lot worse than that, as we'll note below). Was he out of line? Nah, according to all sorts of people, including some of his rivals:
“It’s not my job, it’s not Donald Trump’s job, it’s not anybody’s job to police a question,” former Pennsylvania senator and presidential candidate Rick Santorum told reporters about Trump’s refusal to correct the man in New Hampshire who called President Barack Obama a Muslim. “The questioner can say whatever he wants, it’s a free country.”
Or as the Trumpster himself put it,

Enough Pope to hang themselves

"So Jonah Goldberg walks into a bar... Ouch!" Image via Advocate

Jonah Goldberg shows up to complain about the White House insulting Pope Francis:
a great editorial by The Washington Post. As Mona noted here earlier, the White House has no problem playing political games at the Pope’s expense. They’re inviting various activists — a gay episcopal bishop, abortion supporters, etc — to the White House event for the Pope. But…
Because National Review and its readers are so deeply respectful of the Holy Father themselves, don't you know. (Also all bishops are episcopal with a lowercase e, it's like saying "a royal king".) I had some fun in the comment section which I'll reproduce here (just in case I get banned again):

Special interest

Proposed design for the Harriet Tubman sawbuck via Kos.
Zandar points out the irony of Carly Fiorina using a "feminist" argument to weigh in against putting a woman's portrait on the ten-dollar bill:
Each candidate was asked who he or she would put on the $10 bill. President Obama's administration announced that a woman would appear on the $10 bill, currently the note of Alexander Hamilton. 
"I wouldn't change the $10 bill or the $20 bill. I think honestly it's a gesture. Don't think it helps to change our history. What I would think is we ought to recognize that women are not a special interest group," Fiorina said. "Women are the majority of this nation. We are half the potential of this nation. And this nation will be better off when every woman has the opportunity to live the life she chooses."

That's a nice sentiment.  Too bad that Fiorina wants to take a number of choices away from women involving their own bodies, their careers, and their families, and has to lie about it in order to try to get there, as Vox's Sarah Kliff points out.

In a comment, I added that it was worse than just ironic:

Nobody to the left of Mitt Romney ever referred to women as a "special interest group". Or nonmajorities such as black people, or union members, or people with school-age children either. A special interest group is a tiny bunch of people who want something that conflicts with the needs of the people as a whole: from sugar barons in the 1890s calling for a rise in the sugar tariff, to raise their profits at the price of making people pay more for sugar; to pure wealth barons right now calling for a permanent end to the inheritance tax, at the price of cutting government's ability to serve the population as a whole or else getting more revenue from the huge majority who have to earn their living. The point of putting the face of a woman on the $10-dollar bill is specifically to emphasize that women are not a special interest group but an integral part of society, whose interests coincide with those of society as a whole. This is why people of color should be represented on the currency as well. So people don't think that (white male) bankers like Hamilton and (white male) slavers like Jackson are the real nation and everybody else is a parasite.

Movement conservatives turn that around, referring to ordinary people as "special interests" and then whining that you shouldn't talk at all about bankers or slavers, or you're fomenting class war. People like Fiorina add another twist when they argue that asking to see the face of Sojourner Truth or Jeannette Rankin on the ten is creating and reinforcing the "special interest group" they're complaining about.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Love languages and prankster narcissi

Lon Chaney (channeling Dr. William Kristol, I think) in Herbert Brenon's Laugh, Clown, Laugh (1928). Image via TheLastDriveIn.

David Brooks is really upset. So much so that he's had to modify the both-sides-do-it formula to incorporate the time dimension—both sides do it, but not necessarily at the same time:
Democrats have historically liked presidential nominees they can go gaga for, even if they lack experience: Barack Obama, Bill Clinton and John F. Kennedy. Republicans on the other hand like to nominate the guy who’s paid his dues and already lost a presidential run: Ronald Reagan, Bob Dole, John McCain and Mitt Romney.

So far this year, the parties have switched love languages.
Pause to note that Bill Clinton didn't exactly lack experience: his two years as Arkansas attorney general and ten years as Arkansas governor are wholly comparable to Ronald Reagan's seven years as president of the Screen Actors Guild and eight years as California governor. Walter Mondale spent 12 years as Senator and four as vice president in spite of an uncertain gaga-rousing ability; Michael Dukakis was a very fine and very liberal but unluckily not gaga-inducing Massachusetts governor for 12 years total; Al Gore spent eight years in the House, eight years in the Senate, and eight years as vice president, inspiring gagacity among a fairly limited contingent; John Kerry spent 23 years in the Senate, although his gagatractive period of around 1969 was clearly over by the time of the 2004 campaign; and if Ronald Reagan wasn't a gaga candidate I don't know who was; his intellectual incapacity and ideological extremism should have been instantly apparent, but it didn't matter as long as, as Barry Goldwater complained,

Thursday, September 17, 2015

The ideology of stupid

Image from a real article, in Car & Driver, 2011.

So I too made myself watch the Republican candidates' "debate", or quite a lot of it, doing the family laundry—every time I resurfaced from the basement the 18-year-old said "You missed everything!" He was talking about the WWE trash-talking aspect, which dominated the production, as it was clearly intended to do, with all the questions directed by Jake Tapper to provoke quarrels: "Well, Cheryl says she saw you whispering to Bobby in algebra class, is that correct?"

On the plus side, Tapper tended to shut people up after some fixed number of seconds if they refused to answer the question at all, as they all did, in favor of a carefully composed aria displaying their "knowledge" of the general subject or asserting that they had dealt with something relevant in the course of their careers. This has of course always been a central element of the political "debate" since its advent in 1960; Tapper wielding the hook lent the proceedings an enjoyable note of Live-at-the-Apollo hilarity.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

My bad

Well, this is a little embarassing.

Saw an interesting Tweet from the estimable Eric Boehlert this morning, and as is my wont went to add the missing link for the information it conveyed:
Cute line, huh? It almost instantly received a lot more acclaim than I'm used to and from some very classy people, as The Donald would say: Neera Tanden of the Center for American Progress and the economist J. Bradford DeLong! I'm huge!

Alas, the Times chart didn't say exactly what I, or possibly Boehlert, thought it said. It refers only to same-party primary voters; that is, it tells us what Republican primary voters think of The Donald's honesty and trustworthiness, and what Democratic primary voters think of Hillary. And if we turn to the poll itself, we find that, alas, America in general still (marginally) trusts Trump more than Clinton, 35/55 to 32/62. This is not good news for America. (Of course it's good news for John McCain, but what isn't?)

I've been inclined to doubt the significance of the honest-and-trustworthy numbers in the past, partly just because that lovable rascal Bill Clinton is so deeply mistrusted and so very popular at the same time. I'm still not clear what it all means, but I'm sorry to find myself in the position of helping to spread a narrative that isn't true.

A better contrarian Tweet that's gotten no attention at all is this one:

Why do they hate religious freedom?

Umayyad troops retreating from Narbonne in 753. Via Wikipedia.
New rightwing meme on the European refugee crisis: It's a replay of the 8th century! Paynim hordes conquering a continent!
If you think the map looks like part of an ISIS battle plan, you would be correct. This is exactly what ISIS promised earlier this year: to flood Europe with 500,000 African Muslims, sent by boat across the Mediterranean Sea. What is now unfolding is at a level far and beyond ISIS’s wildest dreams. Hijrah in action.
(Sorry? If it's beyond ISIS's dreams, how come it's exactly the same?) Sure, dead kids on the beach are cute, but it's just a distraction:

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Lucky Joe!

Sure it's sad, says presidential reality-show critic David Brooks, but hey, it's given him a narrative.

Image via GifsGallery.
Shorter David Brooks, "The Biden Formation Story", September 15 2015:
Frankly, I didn't think Joe Biden had a chance at the presidency this year: a long-time Washington insider like Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush but without their money, in a year when voters appear to be in revolt against the usual candidates. But then I saw him on television and realized that he has something amazing they haven't got: tragedy! Like Saint Augustine, George Eliot, or A. Philip Randolph, he has had a lot of character-building experience, in the horribly premature deaths of so many of his nearest and dearest from 1972 to now, and that could be such a terrific advantage for him! Even if he doesn't make it to the White House, he could virtually be a character in my recent book!
This is why I don't want Biden to run (or part of it, because he's also not the "leftmost electable" possible candidate against even Clinton, let alone Sanders), because of the way his vast experience in government, his foreign policy expertise, his deep understanding of the dilemmas and struggles of ordinary people all count as nothing to these people—the race would be about how well he can commoditize his sorrow and sell it to the Dowds and the Brookses. He'd be running for Queen for a Day. Better not be president, no matter how much you feel you have to contribute, than lower yourself and your grief to the level of these ghouls.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Bye-bye Governor Perry!

Let us spray. From "Rick Perry Defends Himself Against Two Felony Charges", Newsweek, August 17 2014. One of the charges was dismissed in July, the other remains (his lawyers more or less acknowledge that he was guilty of abuse of power but insist that's only a misdemeanor, not a felony. Ah, small government!)

Startling headline at The Hill yesterday takes contrarian to a whole new level:

The importance of Rick Perry

What importance would that be, exactly? That his noble withdrawal from the presidential campaign proves that #NotAllRepublicans are in fact running? Or that there is not, in spite of appearances, a literally infinite amount of room in that clown car? Or that
Voters seldom pick asses
Just because they wear glasses
(Be very worried, Dr. Ben Carson!)

No, apparently it is because in the first place

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Cheap shots: Aboard a doomed dirigible

"I'll fight them off like Reagan did," Mr. Trump did not add. Image via West Wing Reports.
Trump on the Japanese menace:
“Ben is a nice man, but when you’re negotiating against China and you’re negotiating against these Japanese guys that are going to come against you in waves, and they think we’re all a bunch of jerks because our leaders are so stupid and so incompetent and so inept, we need people that are really smart, that have tremendous deal-making skills and that have great, great energy.”
In waves? He's expecting, as president, to be confronted by Japanese guys coming against him in waves?

On Friday night, a seasoned party activist compared him to “the bad boy you date over the summer before returning to college.”
Wake up Donald, I think I've got something to say to you
it's late September and I really should be back in school...

No, I'm not doing this. (For those who missed it, my Trump song, "It's On His Hat", is here.)

Cross-posted at No More Mister Nice Blog.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

So raise the scarlet standard high

Welcome Crooks & Liars Readers!

Updated version correcting an idiotic error called out by commenter Brett at NMMNB:
Photo by Justin Tallis/AFP via Arte.
Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne is teddibly concerned for the unfortunate British Labour Party, which has just elected "hard-left" Jeremy Corbyn to the party leadership:
I can’t help noticing that, for most of my childhood and early adult life, a succession of Labour Party leaders reformed the constitution of the Labour Party. Neil Kinnock did, John Smith did, Tony Blair did, to make sure that it was more rooted in what the British people wanted. And it does seem, as an external observer, that a generation’s work has been unravelled in the space of 12 months.
If he thought they were so great I wonder why he didn't vote for them. I mean, isn't he British people himself?

Over in America at the National Review, ex-British Thought Leader Charles C.W. (Cruel World) Cooke is even more upset:

Friday, September 11, 2015

Annals of intelligence

Ten-pack of Kiribai Kairo pocket heaters, ¥336, via Japanopt.
Happy September 11!

Got a reminder, early this evening, that large portions of our government are still incompetent, in the latest FBI fail—where the Bureau accused the chairman of the Temple University physics department for sharing a sensitive design for something called a "pocket heater", don't ask, because the Times and Google don't want us to know, with our Chinese adversaries.

So they busted professor Xi Xiaoxing, a naturalized US citizen, in force, storming his house at dawn with drawn guns as his wife and daughters watched and dragging him off in handcuffs, last May, and putting his movements under restriction in such a way as to make it impossible to complete an important, almost finished research project.

Only, the thing is, it turned out that the blueprint Professor Xi sent to colleagues in China was not that of a pocket heater at all, but some completely innocuous and not secret thing—the Times doesn't want us to know exactly what, presumably because that might clue us in to what a pocket heater is—which the FBI didn't know because they didn't bother to ask an expert whether the thing they had was the thing or not. "Oops! Our bad."

Suggesting that they have taken to arresting distinguished scientists of Chinese ethnicity the way they were arresting Arab-American teenagers 14 years ago, and with approximately the same purpose: since it's so hard to know what you're doing in that business, go for the cheaper alternative of looking as if you knew what you were doing, and if it hurts somebody make it a person who will find it harder to defend himself, a person of color or immigrant or both. I hope professor Xi sues them very hard.

The other point is about what we have to fear from our out-of-control intelligence agencies and who exactly we have to fear it from. I have long believed, going back to those first Snowden documents, that even if the nerds at the NSA are collecting all the stuff they have been accused of collecting, you should fear not them, and their supposed supervillain motives, bwahahahaha, but the stupid men of action at CIA and FBI and the motive of covering asses. That's what'll get you every time.

Cross-posted at No More Mister Nice Blog.

From Russia With Lumps

Love and Death (1975).
Shorter David Brooks (the Isaiah Berlin of the Right), reporting from St. Petersburg, "The Russia I Miss", September 11 2015:
I've been here for literally hours, checking out the bookstalls and cafés, and I haven't met one person like Anna Akhmatova with whom I could stay up into the small hours baring my soul and talking endlessly about everything from Dostoyevsky to death. It's not so bad here, but world culture has lost something important.
I know right. I myself was in Brooklyn last week and couldn't find Walt Whitman. The Dodgers weren't even playing! So looks like today's menu is the room-temperature compôte of ripe stereotypes pickled in a bath of imagining what it might be like if you paid any attention to your surroundings.


Thursday, September 10, 2015

Friedman apologizes!

Image via EdgeOfSpace.
Well, not quite:
the [countries] disintegrating first are those that are the most artificial: their borders are mostly straight lines that correspond to no ethnic, tribal or religious realities and their leaders, rather than creating citizens with equal rights, wasted the last 60 years by plundering their national resources. So when their iron fists come off (in Libya and Iraq with our help), there is nothing to hold these unnatural polygons together.
Note how he can't even bring himself to list the deadly destabilizations of Iraq and Libya in chronological order, let alone make it clear that "our help" means "the help of Tom Friedman and some of his highly placed friends". But as so often in recent years, the Mystax Ineluctabilis is showing these increasing signs of a disturbed awareness that there is some reality out there in the churning tide of molecules outside his head, and that's all to the good.

For one thing, that concept of artificial countries. Back before the Iraq War began, he sort of knew about them, but thought it was an interesting experimental question whether it might make a difference:

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

It's Trump's illusions I recall, I really don't know Trump at all

  Benjamin  Christensen's Häxan (1922), via Picslist.
David Brooks has finally found a way he likes of criticizing Donald Trump from the bothsiderist perspective, that is of mirroring anything unpleasant he has to say about Republicans with a corresponding unpleasantness about Democrats, but it still has a couple of glitches.

First, there aren't enough annoying Democrats to match his list of annoying Republicans, and he has to go all the way to England and borrow a Labor leader to make up the complement. Second, he has to abandon one of his favorite complaints, against politicians who are overly partisan, or "partyist" as he was calling it last October, to complain that Trump isn't partyist enough, alongside Dr. Strange Ben Carson filling out the Republican card and non-Democrats Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn substituting for the uncooperative other team.

You see, in the good old days, Americans understood that

Monday, September 7, 2015

Better Catholics than Ross Douthat

Pierre Montailler, Works of Mercy, 1680 (via Wikipedia).
Monsignor Ross Douthat, Apostolic Nuncio to 42nd Street, on why the US has relatively little moral obligation to take in Syrian refugees:
One answer is that nations that are directly implicated in Syria’s agony have more responsibility to accept refugees than nations that are not. The strongest obligation would belong to those countries — the Gulf States and Iran, above all — who have fed arms and money into the Syrian conflict. A weaker-but-still-meaningful responsibility would attach to the United States, because we too have sent arms and because of the links between our Iraq intervention and the region’s current chaos. Other countries would have more attenuated obligations, or none at all.