Monday, November 30, 2015

Why is a blastocyst like a slave?

Republicans abolished both of them? No, that can't be right...

I think Marcelo Garcia means, "This only makes sense to those who are actually on drugs." I think Ben Shapiro is mistakenly under the impression that being pregnant is similar to being a white man in the antebellum South, in that um what? Pregnant women can lawfully terminate their pregnancies in all states through the first semester and white men in the antebellum South could force their slaves to work without pay in appalling conditions, buy and sell them separating their families, and treat them with extreme cruelty in many ways, and there is some kind of analogy between these two situations...

Sunday, November 29, 2015

At the Planned Parenthood grocery store

Modern sliced what? (Actually they're crimini mushrooms). I always wonder what the anti-choice terrorist or terror supporter imagines the ghouls of Planned Parenthood are doing with their ill-gotten baby parts (somehow I don't think life-saving scientific research is on their list of possibilities). Maybe casseroles?

An Affair to Misremember

Um, of all words of tongue and pen,
The saddest are, "It might have Ben."
Bloomberg, November 26:
Donald Trump on Nov. 30 “will be joined by a coalition of 100 African American evangelical pastors and religious leaders who will endorse the GOP frontrunner after a private meeting at Trump Tower,” his campaign says in a statement.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

What do you mean by "target"?

Image via CNN.
Well, that didn't take long. From BuzzFeed:
Zigmond Post, who told BuzzFeed News he was a neighbor of Dear’s in Hartsel, said the man once gave him anti-Obama pamphlets.
Post said he once went to Dear’s home to retrieve two dogs that had gotten loose. “We were there for a minute and the guy was already handing us anti-Obama pamphlets,” he said. According to Post, Dear said “Obama was ruining the country and needed to be impeached.”
But this certainly has no direct bearing on the question of whether Robert Dear was "targeting Planned Parenthood" when he shot his way (legally open-carrying an AK-47) into a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs and killed three people and wounded many more once he got inside. Surely there are lots of Obama haters who couldn't care less about Planned Parenthood. Or used to be, anyway, before a few months ago, right? Along the lines of that guy who called them

Friday, November 27, 2015

Dangerous Attitudes

Via SimplifiedSafety. Not suggesting any attitudes on the bosses' part—I guess that's why they call it "simplified".

Harrowing story in the Times by David W. Chen on the epidemic of fatal construction accidents in the ongoing construction boom in New York City, doubling over the usual average during the past fiscal year:
Seven workers have died on the job since July, including three in a nine-day stretch before Labor Day, according to records of the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA.

The city’s Buildings Department keeps its own count of construction deaths, injuries and accidents, offering a broader look at safety year over year. There were 10 construction-related fatalities in the most recent fiscal year, from July 2014 to July 2015, according to city figures. In contrast, the annual average over the previous four years was 5.5.

Meanwhile, 324 workers were injured in the last fiscal year, a jump of 53 percent, and the Buildings Department recorded 314 accidents over all, an increase of 52 percent from the year before. The total was more than two and a half times what the city tallied in 2011. In comparison, permits for new construction projects grew by only 11 percent in the last fiscal year and permits for renovation and other work by 6 percent.
You have to read this story, which does a wonderful, horrifying job of getting to some of the individual humans behind these statistics. But the thing I want to focus on is who, in demographic terms, has been dying, namely the "illegal aliens" we keep hearing about:

Brooks no argument

Olive Thomas in Alan Crosland's The Flapper (1920). Via QuirkyLadyBookworm.

So Brooks went to visit this progressive Small High School of Choice in Bensonhurst—the Expeditionary Learning School for Community Leaders—and found that it was a nice place. He didn't go so far as to say it radiated, but he did say it glowed.

So that's nice. I really don't have the heart to work this one over, other than to point out the school's success involved working closely on its innovations with the teachers' union (Brooks: "the single biggest impediment to school reform"), beefing up its funding with philanthropy from sources like the Gates Foundation (Brooks: "The problem is not lack of attention, and it’s not mainly lack of money.... American public spending on schools is high by global standards,"), and working to eliminate high-stakes testing as an issue, by turning as much as possible to performance-based assessment for the students and non-quantitative evaluation methods for the teachers (Brooks: "Ravitch thinks the solution is to get rid of the tests. But that way just leads to lethargy and perpetual mediocrity. The real answer is to keep the tests and the accountability but make sure every school has a clear sense of mission").

In short, succeeding by disregarding all Brooks's advice on education.


Literally floating signifier.

Shot from The High Line, 11/27/2015.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Cheap shots: Thanksgiving

Former McDonalds restaurant, Broadway near 82nd St. The manager of the property, named in the placard at lower left, is some kind of Marxist joke.

Jay Nordlinger
 of the National Review on disturbing subway ads:
 a sign read, “You spent the night in Manhattan but left your birth control in the Bronx. Maybe the IUD is right for you.” Honestly — laugh if you must (and you must!) — but I’m not entirely sure what that sign means.
No comment. If you want to ask somebody, Jay, make sure you don't ask Rush Limbaugh.

And a little more below the fold:

Spiritual wut?

La Sainte-Cène du Patriarche, Jean Huber, 1772-73. Image via German Wikipedia. I think Diderot is the wigless man in black seated at right; Voltaire, in the red cap, the Patriarche of the title and the host of the gathering at his exile home in Ferney, is waving for attention, about to make a quip. 
Just the same old shit, obviously, that according to the Declaration of Independence all men are
endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights
which means that they're spiritual rights, not political rights, since the Lord laid them on us without even asking which ones we wanted, though it seems to me like a questionable reading in the first place; I mean honestly what is spiritual about "liberty" or "the pursuit of happiness"? If you believe in a kind of personal Creator, who endowed you with a nose, does that mean your nose is a spiritual rather than physiological property? If it's thanks to the Deity that we have a propensity to argue about politics, does that mean political discussion itself is spiritual rather than political?

I may actually have something new to say on this subject (I'm going to sketch an argument that Jefferson's formulation of natural rights owes less than commonly understood to the good Protestant Locke and much more to the atheist Diderot), but I want to work toward it backwards, starting on the more familiar territory of what Jefferson, as opposed to the Declaration, said.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

If life gives you grenades...

...can you make grenadine? I guess not, but maybe if you're sufficiently "deluded in good ways about your abilities" you might think you can, and perhaps that's all you need.

Charley Chase in  Mighty Like a Moose (1926), directed by Leo Carey.
Shorter David Brooks, "Tales of the Super Survivors", November 24 2015:
This is the age of terror, when people are constantly subject to unexpected stabbings, shootings, and bombings, but I think we need to maintain some sense of proportion here. After all, scientific research demonstrates that a good 75% of people never develop post-traumatic stress disorder under these kinds of conditions. So really. what's all the fuss about? Moreover, of those who do get PTSD, some are "super survivors" who heal from the damage, and come out radiating love and joy, and you know how I feel about people who radiate stuff.

In which we go Godwin

You know who else used to talk nonstop about freedom? Via TodoPorMéxico.
Via Mother Jones:
At a campaign event in New Hampshire, Carson noted that many people believe a situation like what took place in Germany in the 1930's and 1940's could never happen in America. "I beg to differ," Carson said. "If you go back and look at the history of the world, tyranny and despotism and how it starts, it has a lot to do with control of thought and control of speech."
At a press conference after the speech, reporters asked Carson who he thinks is like Adolf Hitler in the U.S. "I'm not going to go into that that. I think that example is pretty clear," he responded, without elaborating.
Running away, as you see, from his poison remarks. Carson loves to complain about "political correctness" preventing him from talking about slavery and Nazism, though as has been noted, he talks about them unhesitatingly all the time, but what's really wrong with what he does is the cowardly way he does it, throwing those scary words out into the discourse and then just leaving them there, refusing responsibility.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Exchange: Liberal Fascism Watch, eugenics section

The embodiment of Liberal Fascism (well, he said he was a Liberal, from 1904 to 1924, Jonah, rather more than Hitler said National Socialists were socialists): Winston Churchill as First Lord of the Admiralty sharing a moment with Kaiser Wilhelm II, 1913. Via MaritimeQuest.

From a comment thread at Crooked Timber:

ZM 11.23.15 at 1:37 am
Thinking about re-appraisals, Woodrow Wilson was a fan of the children’s author Jean Webster who wrote Daddy Long Legs and Dear Enemy. I read these when I was in mid primary school, re-reading them a few years ago as an adult was weird (apart from just due to me reading one backwards from end to start — this is as they are epistolary novels so I read the last letter, then I read the second last letter, and so on back to the first letter of the book — I didn’t mean to do this, I was just flicking through the end but I got hooked and read to the beginning to see how it started) — because the former was more socialist than I remembered, and the latter was disturbingly in favour of eugenics, which I didn’t remember at all:
“The Fabian Society in the early 1900s advocated the ideal of a scientifically planned society and supported eugenics by way of sterilisation.
If you’d like to see the charming side of Fabian Socialism, you should read Jean Webster’s two delightful books: Daddy Long Legs and Dear Enemy. Both are epistolary novels written in the 1910s. One is set at a women’s college (Vassar-ish) and the other is set in an orphanage. The former presents a pretty picture of Fabian Socialism and the latter sweetly and ardently advocates eugenics.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Cheap shot: Worst Brooks in the world

Mo Brooks, via The Last of the Millenniums.

Really, while I yield to none in my contempt for David Brooks of the New York Times and Arthur Brooks of the American Enterprise Institute, Representative Mo Brooks (R-AL) is the worst Brooks we have:
Instead of viewing refugees as people fleeing the violence that has claimed more than 200,000 lives, Brooks saw a host of incoming welfare queens intent on taking advantage of Americans’ generosity.
“We’re paying them about $15,000 a year in free health care, free food, free shelter, free clothing, free transportation,” Brooks said. “That answers very quickly why so many of them want to come to the United States of America.”
“We’re paying them to come here,” the Alabama congressman concluded. “It’s a paid vacation!” (Think Progress)
"Shut up, kids," says father as shrapnel from another barrel bomb blows in the window, severing Abdul's left leg, "we'll have dinner when we get to America. Get a tourniquet, Rukmini! In fact with that $15K we may well get breakfast too, once in a while. It's a paid vacation! Those Americans are such saps, it's just there for the taking. If you can hold out till 2017."
Brooks also went on to accuse Democrats who support giving shelter to Syrian refugees and protecting the rights of Muslims of only doing so in order to win their votes.
Because that 0.8% of the population is enough to sway any election.* Explains everything. Tell me about your so-called compassion, you panderer. You'll just do anything to win.

*An Ipsos poll of November 2014 found Americans think the percentage is around 15%.

And another TPP of the hat

Debris at Bento Rodrigues, Minas Gerais, after the dam collapse. Photo by Ricardo Moraes/Reuters via The Guardian (which along with a number of sources spells "Rodrigues" without its second r).

Erik Loomis reports, and there's more information and pictures at greenpeace, on a dam collapse in the state of Minas Gerais, Brazil, on November 5, releasing millions of cubic feet of mining waste, mud poisoned with arsenic, lead, chromium, and other heavy metals—more than "25,000 Olympic swimming pools"—into the mining community of Mariana, where it has killed at least 17 people and displaced hundreds more, and that's just the beginning:
The mud surged through rural communities and into the Rio Doce, the major river in southeast Brazil. Since November 5th, it has been slowly working its way downstream — contaminating the drinking water of hundreds of thousands of people and turning protected forest and habitat into a desert of mud. The tragedy will continue to spread over 500 kilometers as contaminants from the sludge make their way towards the Atlantic coast, eventually endangering the Abrolhos National Marine Park. 
Loomis notes,
Brazil has issued a preliminary fine of $66 million and that will no doubt be higher in the end. But Brazil has also gone straight ahead with its modernization program that includes cutting down the Amazon for cattle ranchers and allowing mining companies to do basically whatever they want to. The government might act in a time of crisis like this, but it’s opened itself to resource extraction as its path to modernization, whether the government is right or left... It would be nice if the voters held [president Dilma] Rousseff accountable, but given the power of the mining companies, it’s unlikely that there are going to be any successful anti-mining political movements.
And it suddenly occurred to me that in a better world there might be something that could be done in a case like this.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Profiles in Courage

Updated 11/22/2015
How can you be sure they're not Belgian terrorists? Their passports could be fake too! Image via LifelineSyria.
Rep. Steve Israel (D-NY), in a position of unofficial leadership as former head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, joined 46 other Democrats in support of the American Security Against Foreign Enemies SAFE Act to stop screening refugees for admission to the United States while regulations are written to lengthen the two-year period it already takes.

Because there may be a massive refugee crisis radiating out from destroyed Syria to the rest of the world, and it may have been caused by the terrible social and physical destruction brought on in the Iraq-Syria region in the ten-year war fought by the United States against, well, whoever they were fighting against, it kept changing from month to month, as the new Salafist forces that had never been in the region before began to establish themselves in the chaos outside the zone the US forces were able to control, and we may now regret our refusal to admit refugee Jews to the US in 1938-42 making us directly responsible for as much as a third of Hitler's six million, but—

Let them eat bacon

Terrorists don't expect the Spanish Inquisition. Via Food is Love.

Via John Amato at C&L:
Jeb Bush on Tuesday dug in further on his position that the United States should prioritize bringing in Christians from among the refugees of the Syrian civil war — and he insisted that people can even prove that they’re Christians.
“Well you’re a Christian,” Bush started off saying to reporters. “You can prove you’re a Christian. It’s—”
“How?” a reporter asked.
Bush gave a shrug: “I think you can prove it — if you can’t prove it then, you know, you err on the side of caution.”
I know how you do it. Make them eat pork! Technique developed in Spain 500 years ago for outing secret Muslims, and Jews of course, always works.
The Spanish Inquisition — officially known as the Holy Inquisition Against Depraved Heresy — was established in 1481 in the city of Castile and subsequently spread throughout the Christian territories. The Inquisition was directed against conversos, former Jews, who were accused of religious heresy and political subversion through secret Jewish practice. To establish such practice, the Inquisition trials (under the direction of Grand Inquisitor Tomás de Torquemada, who, perhaps not surprisingly, was also of converso origin) took testimony about the accused’s alleged Jewish activities — many of them, as it happens, culinary in nature. (Forward)
Some people might think adopting the methods of the Spanish Inquisition sounds a little un-American, but I'd just call it conservative. That's what "err on the side of caution" means, right? If you're a little bit suspicious, better to let them die, bcause why should we bear any of the risk? Tough times call for tough measures.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Even sensible Sunnis

Karl Dane in Roscoe Arbuckle's The Red Mill (1927).
Well, David Brooks seems to think Hillary Clinton might be a better president than Donald Trump, at least from the foreign policy/national security standpoint. Hard to argue with that.

Though maybe I'm just getting lulled into sleep by those elaborate repetitions—he's increasingly turning into a kind of Philip Glass of political prose:
While other candidates are content to issue vague calls to get tough on terror, Clinton offered a multilayered but coherent framework... For example, instead of just issuing a generic call to get tough on the terrorists, she pointed to the reality that ISIS will be toppled only if there is an uprising by fellow Sunnis. 
Oops, what was that? Did you hear that thumping sound, honey? Did he just say she wants them to do like Warsaw in World War II? No, wait, he's thinking less of an uprising than a crossrising:

Thursday, November 19, 2015

West of Eden: Note on Paris

Paris s'éveille.
Jay Inslee for president.

I've felt really uncomfortable trying to make a statement about the Paris attacks themselves, for simple reasons—what do I have to say that's not being said by everybody?—and complex ones, like a kind of shame that I got so emotionally tied up to this and so comparatively indifferent to the 43 killed and hundreds injured by suicide bombers in a Beirut Shi'ite neighborhood around the same time, or the 224 innocent Russian holidaymakers blown up in the air over Sinai last month, and so on and so on, and yet not really, because Paris is personal (I've probably spent a total of two weeks there in my entire life, in four or five visits, last time 25 years ago, but it was instantly the city I fell physically in love with, and it's always been my home-in-books). And ain't I sensitive-and-sophisticated? (It's not about you, Yas.)

And then I'm so afraid of slipping into the tone of a Daily News headline—that trembling indignation when somebody weak hurts somebody powerful and you compete with the Post over who can find the most violent way of calling the attacker a monster, as if that were somehow a courageous and surprising opinion—yes, the attackers were monsters, and?... But on the other hand #NotAllDailyNewsHeadlines.

Looking for an example of a typical jowl-shaking Daily News front page, and wouldn't you know it, I ended up finding a really great one instead, yesterday's, speaking pointed truth to power, and in fairness to the News I had to share it.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

The only way to stop a bad guy with a religion

Al Jolson and May McAvoy in Alan Crosland's and Gordon Hollingshead's The Jazz Singer (1927),. Image via Alchetron.

1. Theodemography

So the good news is, according to David Brooks, "Finding Peace Within the Holy Texts", that secularization is over, and a process of desecularization is under way, because this always happens. In part, it's just simple arithmetic, because the unsecular have more babies.

Research by the German theodemographer Michael Blume shows that every nonreligious population in human history, going back to ancient India and Greece, has fallen into decline, while the world population on the whole continues to expand, indicating that the Old Order Amish and the followers of the Lubavitcher Rebbe are swiftly taking over the planet, which will not surprise you if you've ever been in the Williamsburg Greenmarket, or maybe it will (I go to Manhattan greenmarkets myself, actually, where you sometimes see a lot of Amish pretzel salespersons, which is what made me think of it, so I don't really know, but the online pictures suggest that there's nobody there from either group.)

The sociobiological theory behind this, by the way, apparently taken up from the thinking of the economist Friedrich von Hayek, is possibly not known to David Brooks, and it's that religiosity is an adaptive evolutionary trait; females of the species tend to gravitate toward males who go to church, or whatever, as a sign that they are more likely to be solid family guys who will take an affectionate interest in their offspring's survival, thus boosting the replication chances of their girls' genes as well as their own. Thus when Faust is seducing Gretchen she asks him "Sag, wie hast du's mit der Religion?" (Tell me, how do you feel about religion?), showing what kind of mate she's particularly seeking (pay no attention to the facts that Faust evades the question and she sleeps with him anyway, and that she ends up going mad and drowning her baby and thus fails entirely to transmit his and her genes to the next generation).

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Brooks's Epistle to the Anhedonians

Rembrandt self-portrait, 1658, at The Frick Collection. Note the size of the left hand holding the cane.

I don't think @sulliview has any power over there where Brooks's travel piece ran, in T, "The Times Style Magazine", devoted to journalistic corruption on a Vogue-like scale, but free of news, which is what makes it OK, more or less. Four Seasons Travel, the company that sells the trip he junketed on, certainly paid for it, out of their PR budget. Brooks will have gotten a fairly fat freelance fee (from T, not Four Seasons) as well, for his pains; the magazine is not his employer. [Wrong on most counts, apparently, per Margaret Sullivan (thanks, Driftglass): T is administratively part of the Times and subject to its ethical rules, and the Times paid for the trip; I suppose there wasn't a writer's fee either. The errors are regretted.]

Four Seasons doesn't have an ad in this issue, which shows pretty good taste (not like Comedy Central, which runs a movie ad during the Daily Show every day of the week the movie's star gets interviewed). And they'd be advertising in T in any case, in the course of the year, because why would they not be, and I'm pretty sure the company is among the partners in Times Journeys, where you take trips "inspired by Times content" accompanied by John Burns, Jeffrey Gettleman, Serge Schmemann or David Shipler. Or Maureen Dowd or Steven Erlanger. God help me I could go to Pakistan with Carlotta Gall?

West of Eden: A Pax on Both Their Houses

AFSC workers pass out blankets in Gaza, 1948. Via Rabbi Brant Rosen.
On November 5 (Guy Fawkes Day! When Britons celebrate the defeat exactly 410 years ago of the Gunpowder Plot, a conspiracy of disaffected English Catholics to blow up the Parliament and destroy England's ancient liberties, hoping to turn that green and pleasant isle over to the tyranny of the Pope, those were the days huh), Wall Street Journal ran an op-ed by two fellows of the Middle East Forum, Alexander H. Joffe and Asaf Romirowsky, under the title "The Quakers, No Friends of Israel".

You should have seen the version they ran at their own shop (Middle East Forum: Promoting American Interests, the wingnut-welfare home of fascist Arab-hater Daniel Pipes and his odious crew), where the headline, under the runninghead "MEF Research and Writing", ran, in red,
The Quaker War on Israel
What it's about, of course, is the participation of the Friends in the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement to pressure Israel to end its illegal occupation and colonization of Palestinian land, give full civil rights to Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel, and respect (not necessarily implement) the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their ancestral homes.

Or, as Joffe and Romirowsky put it, launching into the propaganda tone right away,

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Stay classy, Republicans

Image via The Guardian.

It's certainly true that terrorism has sometimes been great for Republican poll numbers. Who can forget what happened to George W. Bush's ratings in September 2001?

Via Gallup.

In fact maybe you guys ought to tone that down, given this week's report in Politico on how much the CIA knew in spring 2001 about the coming attacks, and how the Bush administration decided to ignore their warnings. Somebody might start wondering if they ignored the threat—
By May of 2001, says Cofer Black, then chief of the CIA’s counterterrorism center, “it was very evident that we were going to be struck, we were gonna be struck hard and lots of Americans were going to die.”
—merely because they were stupid, as we've always thought, or because they hoped to profit from it. "Play this politically smart," Sheriff Clarke.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Aesthetic Spectatorship

J.M.W. Turner, "The Angel Standing in the Sun", 1846. WikiArt.

Shorter David Brooks, "The G.O.P, at an Immigration Crossroads", November 13 2015:
Will the Republican Party learn to see the immigration issue the way J.M.W. Turner saw the English landscape, glorious in conception – unfathomable in knowledge – solitary in power – with the elements waiting upon his will, and the night and the morning obedient to his call, sent as a prophet of God to reveal to men the mysteries of this universe, standing, like the great angel of the Apocalypse, clothed with a cloud, and with a rainbow upon his head, and with the sun and stars given into his hand? They need to do that, and they have six months.
OK, not really. But that's what's implied, I think, by the fancy Ruskin citation (Modern Painters III, 1856) in his paragraph 5:

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Everything that rises might converge...

...though you can't count on that either.

Colorado Springs Hot Air Balloon Competition, via Wikipedia.

BooMan has taken up the economic insanity of the Republican candidates, in very fine form, but one of the points he made caused some surprise in the readership over there:
It’s cute to see the Journal sound concerned about the fate of Dodd-Frank. After all, reviling the banks and bank bailouts while simultaneously demonizing the law that seeks to regulate them is exactly how this marriage is supposed to work. That’s precisely the kind of wink-and-a-nod politics that has defined the Bush-Goldwater-Wallace coalition from the beginning.
Still, it’s hard to take having to listen to Donald Trump bash free trade, Ted Cruz advocate the Gold Standard and Rand Paul blame the Fed for inflation that doesn’t exist.
"Whaddaya mean inflation doesn't exist, do you know how much a dozen eggs cost? And my rent's up 10%!" Which is actually a reasonable question, though that doesn't stop Boo from being right.

They're talking a little past each other, neither side quite getting what the other side is talking about, so I decided to write a longish comment, which is the only thing I've really written today, so here it is:

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Retroactionary economics: The Republican debate

Drawing by Dan Piraro, 2013.

But enough of this talk about what divides Republicans! I want to focus on what unites them as seen in last night's debate, notably a totally delusional economic world view, as in this remarkable answer from Fiorina, in which she agrees ("yes") with the questioner by asserting the exact opposite of what he said:
...Now, in seven years under President Obama, the U.S. has added an average of 107,000 jobs a month. Under President Clinton, the economy added about 240,000 jobs a month. Under George W. Bush, it was only 13,000 a month. If you win the nomination, you’ll probably be facing a Democrat named Clinton. How are you going to respond to the claim that Democratic presidents are better at creating jobs than Republicans?
Well, first of all, I must say as I think about that question, I think about a woman I met the other day.... A mother is going to bed afraid for her children’s future.
And the reason she’s afraid for her children’s future is because we’ve had problems for a long time. Yes, problems have gotten much worse under Democrats. But the truth is, this government has been growing bigger and bigger, more corrupt, less effective, crushing the engine of economic growth for a very long time. 

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Some Unexpected Pit

Kibera School for Girls, Nairobi. Photo by Nicholas Kristof/New York Times.

And the award for single most infelicitous sentence in any David Brooks column in history goes to...
His drunken stepfather beat him constantly; when he was 5 the beating was so relentless, all the feces escaped from his body.
I always thought "getting the shit beat out of one" was just an expression.

Today's column, "The Things They Carry", is not about people carrying things, as in Tim O'Brien's great book about American soldiers in the Vietnam War, but about one person who has succeeded in not being burdened by his horrible memories, so that it might be more appropriate to call it "The Non-Things He Doesn't Carry", but that is a minor quibble.

The subject is the Kenyan community organizer Kennedy Odede, who has just published a book in collaboration with his wife Jessica Posner under the title Find me Unafraid: Love, Loss, and Hope in an African Slum which is praised by Chelsea Clinton, Lonnie and Muhammed Ali, Gloria Steinem, and Wanjira Maathai, the son of Nobel Prize winner Wangari Maathai. He also openly acknowledges having been born in Kenya, so I'm confident he's not running for president over here.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Because Dad was a bartender...

Imma focus my tax breaks on the biggest tippers!

Per Christian Post, which claims to have interviewed the guy, it's not actually for Jesus at all. He's an agnostic. Image via Komo News.
Senator Marco Rubio is fond of telling us how his experience of financial adversity makes him uniquely qualified to feel for the problems of ordinary Americans, though he doesn't mention that when he was having that iffy relationship with the Republican Party American Express card he was taking home a salary (apart from his not-generous pay as a part-time Florida legislator) of $300,000 from the Miami law and lobbying firm of Broad and Cassel.

Looking at his income tax proposals in the light of some data and analysis supplied by Jared Bernstein puts Rubio's claims to be helping out the poor in some pretty startling perspective, by focusing on the top 400 tax filers, that's with two zeros, or 0.0003% of US households, those with total earnings (according to the IRS) of $139,633,000 or more in 2012.

You should read Bernstein's piece (although he misses the fact that Rubio has apparently taken back his proposal to give the poorest a guaranteed income of $2000 for single filers or $4000 for joint returns and thus makes Rubio seem less stingy to the havenots than he actually is), but there's this one detail in the IRS data that really jumped out at me, the way the top 400's incomes divide up:

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Carson Tells Truth!

Updated 11/10/2015

This is a scoop. Sort of, as it turns out that AmericaBlog and Brad DeLong have been there too, though I don't thing they've got the story right. And it was easy for them, because Carson released the thing at some point today, whereas Dr. Google and I found it on our own. So, by God (and man, and Yale) I'm posting it anyway.

Also, Dr. Google is especially pleased by the serendipitous way we did it, which was by searching for "Carson" and "psychology" in the Yale Daily News archives and going to the first 1970 entry. In fact Dr. Ben Carson's name wasn't even there; it only happened because of Johnny Carson's name getting mentioned in a learned discussion of late-night television and the terrible collusion of Dick Cavett (Class of 1958) with radical leftist antiwar protesters such as Jimmy Breslin. Oh, Yale. It sounds just like Jonah Goldberg (who went to Goucher, in the former girls' school's first co-ed class).

So the story, reproduced below, explains that the Yale Record, the college's ancient humor magazine (not as ancient, or presumably nearly as funny, as the Harvard Lampoon), had the previous day (January 13) issued a parody finals-week issue of the Daily News, which included a fake announcement that the semester's "Psychology 10" exams had all been destroyed and summoning students to a retake that evening at 7:30, which attracted "several" unwary students who didn't realize that it was a joke:

Cheap shot: He'll take the low road

Dust Bowl, Dallas, North Dakota, 1936. Image via Wikipedia.
Because that's what Republicans do best, according to Matthew Continetti for the National Review, and that's how they'll win a campaign against Hillary Clinton, should she be the Democratic nominee, taking the low road, by persuading the public that they don't like her:
The Obama campaign spent a fortune in the spring and summer of 2012 defining Mitt Romney as an out-of-touch businessman who didn’t care about workers. To beat Hillary Clinton, Republicans will spend a similar amount defining her as untrustworthy, unlikable, and aloof from the day-to-day life of people without a family foundation.
Because folks really need the Republican party to tell them whether they like her or not, I guess. "Dear Mr. Priebus, I've been wondering: How do I feel about Hillary Clinton? Could you run some commercials letting me know? P.S., I am without a family foundation."

And then Plan B is to pray for more crime:

Saturday, November 7, 2015

The Doctor is (way) out

No, Doctor, it's really the current bunch of lies we're most concerned about. Image via Business Insider.
Now that Dr. Ben Carson's truthfulness issues are getting to be a thing, would anybody care to revisit the story from the September debate where he spent a lot of time giving George W. Bush foreign policy advice back around 2002, trying to prevent the war in Afghanistan, and that's what Bush gave him the Presidential Medal of Freedom for? It sounded just a tad odd to me at the time, and I wasn't the only one:
“What I suggested to President Bush is to be Kennedy-esque,” Carson had said. “Declare that within five to 10 years we will become petroleum independent. The moderate Arab states would have been so concerned about that, they would have turned over Osama bin Laden and anybody else you wanted on a silver platter within two weeks.”
When Wright asked Carson to share the details of his conversations with President Bush, the renowned surgeon did not hold back.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Annals of Derp: Faint praise

Update: Slightly revised for intelligibility

Reginald Denny in Harry A. Pollard's Oh, Doctor! (1925)
David Brooks congratulating America on its success in getting a grip on health care inflation, but with a couple of caveats: (a) it ain't happening, and (2) well, maybe it is, but Obama and the Affordable Care Act shouldn't get any credit for it.

The funniest bit is with reference to the first of those, where he takes a number for the current health costs inflation rate in the US, 1.1%, and next year's projected number for health costs inflation growth rate, 6.5%, and practically faints, because ZOMG that's a scary surge:

Namely, in paragraph 3, with data from the Council of Economic Advisers,
“Health care prices have grown at an annual rate of 1.6 percent since the Affordable Care Act was enacted in March 2010, the slowest rate for such a period in five decades, and those prices have grown at an even slower 1.1 percent rate over the 12 months ending in August 2015”
and then in paragraph 12, with data from "some firms":

Thursday, November 5, 2015


Mme. de Saint-Exupéry, 1937, by Man Ray, apparently sitting on the floor, or at a bizarrely tall table. Everything about her from the African hat to the enormous cup seems to be a symbol of something, but what?
Saw a terrific example of a floating signifier the other morning: an advertising billboard reading "It's not a phone—it's a Galaxy".

By "signifier" we mean, in this case, the string of letters, or the sounds you hear in your head when you read them, the physical stuff that does the work of communicating. The other side of the sign, that which is communicated, the "signified", is in this case missing altogether; the expression wipes out its own meaning, by the overwhelming character of its falsity.

That is, not only do we know the Galaxy is a phone, but we know they're not even trying to fool us; they don't in any way expect us to think it's not a phone. In fact if we bought one and it somehow turned out not to be a phone we would be justly enraged. "Mr. Samsung, I am sorry to say that my new phone has turned out to be a European Ford minivan, or a vast cluster of stars, I am sending it back."

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

This demographic will self-destruct in five seconds...

Image by Julian Sancton for Esquire, February 2011.

A few weeks ago it struck me as a funny idea to think of the Trump electorate as 1990s teenage MTV nihilists Beavis and Butt-Head, grown to middle age, by way of some kind of political or postpolitical headbanging, heh-heh-heh, but then I started hearing about this paper by Anne Case and Angus Deaton detailing an ongoing crisis in the health of undereducated white American men between, say, 30 and 64, of just staggering proportions, comparable to the AIDS crisis back then, in which these guys are dying, apparently, of anomie, chronic joint pain and sciatica, and financial worry, shooting themselves, overdosing (on pills or alcohol), or systematically destroying their livers.

That means, quoting from the summary by Paul Campos,
Between 1998 and 2013, all-cause mortality for white non-Hispanic Americans (WNHAs) rose from 382 to 415 per 100,000. For WNHAs with a BA degree or more it declined from 235/100K to 178/100K. For WNHAs with some college but no BA it went from 291/100K to 287/100K.
For WNHAs with a high school degree or less, mortality rose from 601/100K to 735/100K — a 22.3% increase in mortality, in an overall social context in which mortality rates for almost all other groups are dropping by an average of around 2% per year.
For WNHAs with no college education, the annual suicide rate rose from from 22 to 39 per 100K, deaths from liver cirrhosis rose from 27 to 39 per 100K, and overdose deaths rose an astonishing 314%, from 14 to 58 per 100,000 per year. All told, middle-aged WNHAs with high school degrees or less experienced 135 more deaths per 100,000 per year in 2013 than in 1998. 
At a time when death rates for almost everybody in the world, with exceptions like Syria, perhaps, are falling.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Simplicity ain't what it used to be

Lillian Gish, I believe in D.W. Griffith's Orphans of the Storm (1921).
David Brooks writes, "The Evolution of Simplicity", November 3 2015:
We are raised in this country to head for the all-you-can-eat buffet of experience, and load up our trays with everything that's on offer; as M. Scott Peck has put it, we are expected to "Abandon the urge to simplify everything, to look for formulas and easy answers, and to begin to think multidimensionally, to glory in the mystery and paradoxes of life, not to be dismayed by the multitude of causes and consequences that are inherent in each experience -- to appreciate the fact that life is complex."
On the other hand, there has always been a parallel urge to simplify everything and look for formulas and easy answers. Thus Benjamin Franklin famously wore a simple fur cap instead of a normal wig when he was the US ambassador to France, to show how simple and unaffected he was, so that French people would understand that Americans were more than just wealthy publishers, annoying moralists, and distinguished physicists; and Shakers argued that it is a gift to be simple and a gift to be free.