Monday, June 30, 2014

Trust me

Airbnb in the early days.
Shorter David Brooks, "The Evolution of Trust", July 1 2014:
Well, it turns out deregulating the economy had some unexpected consequences, like millions of liberal arts graduates and non-graduates too, I imagine, don't have stable living arrangements or steady full-time jobs and have to rent out their apartments and cars and hustle freelance gigs to stay afloat, but that's helped them all to learn to trust one another and enjoy fast pseudo-intimacy, easy-come easy-go fluid relationships, and flexible ad-hoc arrangements. So it's all good! Who needs government?

Why can't we have nice things?

Because James Pethokoukis thinks nice things are so old-fashioned, that's why.
"Women voting? Get out of here with your tired old 1920s liberal prescriptions. How about harems, huh?" AP/Ishtiaq Mehsud, via.
Pethokoukis is a little concerned that we haven't had a 21st-century president yet:

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Sunday morning Friedman trolling

Shorter Thomas L. Friedman, "Arsonists and Firefighters: Who is Setting the Sectarian Fires in the Middle East?" New York Times, June 20 2014:
The problem in the Middle East isn't some kind of intrinsic ethnic or religious hostility, ancient hatreds that can never be wiped out, it's bad people starting trouble for their own apparently psychopathic purposes. No, I don't have any mirrors in my house, why do you ask?
I deposited the following in the comments:

Saturday, June 28, 2014


Tonle Sap, Cambodia. Via.
At Corey Robin's blog, an important post on an important problem for us in the post-Vietnam more-or-less pacifist more-or-less left, the question of the sense of a moral imperative to "do" something military in the face of mass slaughter and horror, against our hard-won knowledge that we don't want to be violent ourselves, whether from fear of the karma or the understanding that it just doesn't make anything better. Out of embarrassment at an unserious response, I tacked on something I hope is more thoughtful, and reproduce it below:

Friday, June 27, 2014

Cheap shots and bright sparks

Psychiatrist Dr. Keith Ablow explaining his support for presidential candidate Newt Gingrich a couple of years ago, in psychiatric terms.
Via Kilgore:
“I’m suspect,” Dr. Keith Ablow said Thursday on “Outnumbered” as the US men’s national team faced off against Germany. “I am suspect because, here’s the thing. Why, at a time when there are so many national and international issues of such prominence — I’m a little suspicious of yet another bread-and-circus routine. Let’s roll out the marijuana, pull back the laws, and get people even more crazy about yet another entertainment event.”
Yes, Dr. Ablow, you've discovered a fairly vast conspiracy here: in March 2003, State Senator Obama, realizing he might have a Benghazi scandal to deal with by the time he got to his second term as president, secretly sent emissaries to FIFA asking the [jump]

The spiritual boom-and-bust cycle

After the War a Medal and Maybe a Job, antiwar cartoon by John French Sloan, 1914. Digitally restored. Via Wikipedia.
David Brooks seems to have decided that he's married to us now, and of course it's a bad marriage, that is he's really upset about something but he won't tell us what it is, like, "If you really cared about me you'd know." It seems to have something to do with our never helping out with the democracy spreading:
When the U.S. became a superpower, Americans felt responsible for creating a global order that would nurture the spread of democracy. But now the nation is tired, distrustful, divided and withdrawing.
Henry, did you take delivery on that load of democracy we were supposed to bring down to the lower forty?

Or maybe his feelings were hurt by Mark Lilla in the New Republic, who is a little bit patronizing over the recent democracy-spreading project Brooks was involved in:

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Get me rewrite

Harold Lloyd, in top hat, implements conservative policy ideas on Sammy Brooks with the assistance of Snub Pollard. From "I’m On My Way" (1919), via F*** Yeah Harold Lloyd.

"The Editors", at National Review:
For some time now, a number of conservatives — including the editors of this publication — have been calling for Republican politicians to do a better job of explaining how implementing conservative ideas will make life better for most Americans, countering the widespread impression that their agenda offers benefits only for the rich.
Hey, I was just wondering about that myself. "How," I asked myself, "will conservative ideas like privatizing social services, making the tax regime more regressive, and punishing sexual and reproductive behavior of which the US Roman Catholic bishops' conference disapproves make life better for most Americans? Why don't Republican politicians explain this better?"

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Cheap shot: Michael Oakeshott

"Theoretically, darling, I could never be unfaithful to you, of course, but you see I got stuck in one of those mental fogs of practical experience, and you know how that always ends up..." Via.

According to Jesse Norman (not the great soprano, spelled "Jessye", but the male and I assume Conservative MP for Hereford and South Herefordshire) writing in the New Statesman, Michael Oakeshott, guide to political modesty and sweet, cozy tradition, beau idéal of our conservative "public intellectuals" like Andrew Sullivan and David Brooks,

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Cheap shots and do-wah-diddy

Via Cognitive Dissidence.
Voting fraud unexpectedly exists!
A Wisconsin insurance executive and Republican donor was charged with voting illegally more than a dozen times in four elections.

Rhapsody in Eww

Shorter David Brooks, "Rhapsody in Realism", New York Times, June 24 2014:
David Brooks is off today. He's sitting in an imaginary bar that would be on West 49th Street if it existed, wearing a fedora and tormenting the bartender with veiled allusions to a pathos-heavy story he refuses to actually tell, preferring instead to cite the save-your-marriage books Sarah used to leave in the bathrooms; there were five bathrooms in the Cleveland Park place, each with its own nice magazine basket, and in each magazine basket there was one of these quirky counterintutitve chicken-soup-for-the-relationship books. He thought she was tipping him ideas for columns, but she was trying to tell him something.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Well, it did erupt.

Baghdad 2003, erupting. Photo by Robert Gauthier/AP.

Fouad Ajami, the scholar of Middle Eastern studies who explained Arabs and Muslims to the Bush administration, famously informing Vice President Cheney in 2002 that if American troops were to liberate Iraq from the rule of Saddam Hussein, Baghdad and Basra would "erupt in joy", died yesterday after a battle with cancer, at 68.

He quickly realized after the invasion that something was not quite right: Iraqis, he was saying in November 2003, were just too contradictory, longing for modernization and rejecting it at the same time:

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Dred not, neither be afraid

Uncle Sam grabbing a wave, from CongressForKids.
Everybody's talking about former Boy Wonder Ralph Reed not comparing slavery to same-sex marriage, oh, not much:
“The battle looked like it was lost, but it really wasn’t,” Reed said of the immediate aftermath of the Dred Scott decision, which went on to embolden abolitionist activists. “And that’s kind of like where we are right now. Anybody heard lately that we’re losing the marriage issue? Anybody heard that argument? You notice some similarities? I’m not comparing slavery to same-sex marriage, OK? I’m just pointing out that when you have these fights, what’s interesting is that if you look at same-sex marriage, it’s now legal in 17 states....

Saturday, June 21, 2014

If we just blog about it we won't get dirty

Steamboat Willie!
At BooMan's, commenter Tarheel Dem, passionate and always well-informed (i.e., generally better informed than me) but sometimes just a little overdramatic, writes:
What we have in the US is less an establishment than a kleptocracy in which each individual in an "establishment" position is ripping off the public. The revolving door from the Obama administration is absolutely striking in its corruption.  Chris Dodd level striking.  Erskine Bowles level striking. Keith Alexander level striking.  David Petraeus striking.  Biden Junior striking. 

Confirmation Bias Watch

Image via.
In the "liberals are the real fascists" department, one of my favorite cases was "public intellectual" Yuval Levin (that's really one of his professions according to the Wikipedia biography, suggesting it's actually on his C.V.) calling out the economist Paul Krugman for being one of those tradition-minded, hidebound, inflexible liberals who, in spite of their also being demonically relativistic postmodernists, consistently insist they are in possession of absolute, indiscutable truth, as in the brief debate I covered in April; in Shorter form,

Thursday, June 19, 2014


WASHINGTON — President Obama said Thursday that the United States will deploy up to 300 military advisers to Iraq to help its beleaguered security forces fend off Sunni militants, edging the United States back into a conflict that Mr. Obama thought he had left behind.

Mr. Obama also said the United States was gathering intelligence on the positions of militant fighters to identify targets, and added, “We will be prepared to take targeted and precise military action if we conclude the situation on the ground requires it.”

The president emphasized again that he would not send combat troops to Iraq, but he said the United States would help the Iraqis “take the fight” to the militants, who he said pose a threat to Iraq’s stability and to American interests, because Iraq could become a sanctuary for terrorists who could strike the United States or its allies.
That's "up to" 300 advisers, and "prepared" to take some undefined military action not by ground troops, so up to here it's just establishing a posture, and perhaps some kind of signal to Iran that we wouldn't know how to read, or ante-up gesture to Maliki, or just STFU Fred Kagan (which is always a good idea in its own right). But I'll be prepared to take targeted and precise literary action if they disappoint me.
Ruh roh. Via.

Annals of derp: Troll poll

Mara's troll face. Via commenter jimmyk at justoneminute.
Report with Mara Liasson at NPR this morning:
In the key battleground states that will decide control of the Senate this November, President Obama's approval numbers are lower than they are nationally – but not much lower.

That's the key finding in a new poll, conducted by Democrat Stan Greenberg of Democracy Corps and Republican Whit Ayres of Resurgent Republic, that sampled likely voters for NPR.

In the 12 states with competitive Senate races this fall, only 38 percent of likely voters said they approved of the way the president is handling his job. An index of all national polls shows the president's approval rating about four percentage points higher nationwide.
NPR's list of battleground states:

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Baq to Iraq: Postscript

Keep Calm quilt.
It looks like the president would really prefer not to have everybody speculating. Via Foreign Policy blogger Gordon Lubold , from the Wall Street Journal:
President Barack Obama decided against immediate air strikes on marauding Sunni extremists in Iraq, opting instead to pursue strategies such as providing intelligence to the Iraqi military, addressing the country's political divisions and seeking support from regional allies. Mr. Obama will convene a White House meeting Wednesday with Republican and Democratic leaders from the House and Senate to brief them on what officials call this new comprehensive approach.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Get More from Panditry

Get More from Life

Over 700 articles devoted to one idea: how to get more from life. Whether that involves doubling your reading ratelearning more with less studyingbeating procrastination or just understanding other people—and yourself.

If you're a sloppy, pretentious, sometimes rather less than honest newspaper columnist with a long record of serving as a tool of the most ignorant and wrong-headed political movement since the collapse of American fascism in the early 1940s, you might want to consider rebranding yourself as a kind of wise, detached, nonpartisan helper figure, somebody who doesn't just toss his readers a fish of transient entertainment but enables them to acquire fish of lasting value with some of those life lessons you get from TED talks, self-improvement manifestos, and websites like that of the youthful entrepreneur Scott H Young:

Monday, June 16, 2014

White House Fool Report: Baq to Iraq

So, like a lot of folks, I've been looking at some of the many people who should not be advising the US government on how to handle the current crisis in Iraq: including David Brooks and Phebe Marr, John McCain, and the unforgettable one-man fifth column of British socialism, Mr. Tony Blair. And what about one extremely influential person who disagreed publicly with the rationale for the 2003 invasion right from the start? Popping up like a prairie dog from the safety of the Illinois State Senate? Calling it a "dumb war"?
Garrett: "Are you annoyed by this sort of roiling debate [on whether the president was wrong in his apparent unwillingness to nominate Janet Yellen to head the Fed]? Do you find it unseemly? And do you believe this will be one of the, if not THE most important economic decisions you'll make in the remaining of your Presidency?"

Although this is a low resolution and not the best angle (0:34), we can see the upward-vectored component to his right cheek with a relative nostril dilation also on the right. Thus this expression of a false (insincere) smile is also mixed with some contempt.

[Analysis by body language expert Dr. G. Jack Brown, August 9, 2014; no idea whether Dr. G. Jack revised his analysis after Obama went ahead and nominated Yellen in spite of Major Garrett, but in hindsight it's clear he's smiling at himself, thinking about the imbeciles of the press and hordes of anomymi who thought they knew for sure what he was going to do; little did he realize they wouldn't even notice they'd been wrong.]
Or then again, what about Robert Kagan, about whom Jason Horowitz reports in the New York Times,

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Milestones in shamelessness: Addendum

London protestor in Blair mask, maybe 2010? Photo by DPA, via Der Spiegel.
One more vampire called out by the current crisis in Iraq is former British prime minister Tony Blair, literally arguing that you can't blame the crisis on the 2003 invasion of Iraq, because the instability in Iraq is a direct consequence of the war in Syria:
In a defence of his actions in Iraq, Blair attacked as "extraordinary" any notion the country would be stable if Saddam Hussein had stayed in power.
"The civil war in Syria with its attendant disintegration is having its predictable and malign effect. Iraq is now in mortal danger. The whole of the Middle East is under threat."...

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Milestones in shamelessness

David Brooks on the Tellyvision (via Crooks & Liars):
I do think we somehow have to get involved. As the panel said, it has to be political. I think they do have to commit to a — the Iraqi constitution is a regional constitution. It’s a federal constitution which devolves a lot of power. That didn’t happen in practice. Maliki centralized everything. And that was obviously a poisonous and terrible decision.
And there you have it, ladies and gents: the real problem in Iraq is that Maliki turned out to be one of those liberals.

Wonder if he also failed to discourage Iraqi teenagers from having babies before they got married. Or failed to get a handle on runaway government deficits.*

Friday, June 13, 2014

Desert Stormed

Baghdad coffeehouse, 19th century.
“The first thing I think we need to do is call together the people that succeeded in Iraq, those that have been retired,” the senator continued. “And get together that group and place them in responsibility positions so that they can develop a policy to reverse this tide of radical Islamic extremism, which directly threatens the security of the United States of America.” (Via)
Yes, McCain wants a team of Super Friends under the firm but friendly command of General Petraeus and old Fred Kagan tagging along behind with his clipboard to come and surge those militant Sunni suckers back into Syria, where he can ship them [jump]

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Message from the Undead

Shorter David Brooks, "The Sunni-Shiite Conflict Explodes in Iraq", New York Times, June 13, 2014:
I can't understand why President Obama won't do what John McCain, Lindsey Graham, Max Boot, and I tell him to do about Iraq. I mean if we don't know who does? We've had centuries to think about it. As we lie awake in our coffins.
Image via Enysuryo.
Driftglass owns today's column. There's no point in me even trying.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014


David Brat, AP photo via.
From excitable Tyler Durden, writing his own piece for a change, facts about "the anti-big business, anti-Wall Street, anti establishment Goliath-slayer" Dr. Brat:

Cheap shots and high-priced Schadenfreude

Hahahahahahaha Eric Cantor

The Schadenfreude is of course for House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, who appears to be headed earlier than expected for the Happy Hunting Ground of K Street. The high price is that the person replacing him as Republican candidate for Virginia's 7th House district, the academic economist Dr. David Brat, is a tool of the radio clown Laura Ingraham and putatively an even worse person than our "moderate" Eric, who was known for vaguely suggesting, in his looser-lipped moments, that he might be rational under his adopted skin of crazy, and might allow a vote on a comprehensive immigration reform one of these centuries.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

From nanny state to stay-at-home dad state

Adult strabismus. Via Kimberly Cockerham, M.D.
Today's Brooks report is about Room to Grow, a free online manifesto  by the New Right Conservative Reforming, and Sometimes Neo-, Conservatism that offers, according to the made-to-order blurb by no less a reformed figure than Jennifer Rubin (the conservative publicist burrowed in the Washington Post, not the movie star),
"…[A] forward-looking message that can energize the base and reconnect with a broad electorate."
Which suggests a little bit of a marketing problem, which is that they're not actually addressing either the base or a broad electorate, but just talking to each other, so that message may not be looking forward after all. Indeed it may be suffering from strabismus and looking primarily at its nose.

But I digress. And I just got started, too.

My favorite moment in the Brooks column is:

Monday, June 9, 2014

Jesus Christ in a cardigan!

Photo by dalaimickey.
So (via Raw Story) Bryan Fischer of American Family Radio is actually a polytheist, believing in a whole rafter of gods, some evil and others good, and thinks he's entitled to call out Muslims for latching onto the wrong one:
“When Muslims pray, they are praying to a god that they refer to as Allah, who we know from the Scriptures is not the true and living God, but is a demon-god,” Fischer said in footage posted byRight Wing Watch. “Remember, not every being that occupies the unseen world, the spiritual world, is a good guy, is a good spirit.”
So I realize they probably learned about Islam from Disney's Aladdin, where everybody worships an idol (there's some of that shit in Narnia, too) and a sultan's virgin daughters go out on unchaperoned dates wearing bikini tops and below-the-navel harem (!!!) pants, but where do these Boykinists learn their own theology? (This dude has a BA in philosophy from Stanford, which makes me want to cry a little bit, I still have some illusions, you know; and some kind of theology degree from a place called Dallas Theological Seminary, which ought to be sued for malpractice if this is the quality of their work.) Fucking idolators calling themselves Protestants, I just don't know what this world is coming to.
From Race, Gender, and Empire in Disney.

Well, wouldn't you know it?

Black Helicopter Lifecycle. From a wonderful piece of elaborated snark at
Mr. Zerohedge, who blogs the imminent collapse of the US economy amid the black helicopters (just as soon as the Messiah gets here, I guess, or maybe he's just trying to become the leader of a short-selling religious cult) under the nym "Tyler Durden" and tweeting with a somewhat startling gravatar (what exactly are you trying to tell us, Mr. Zero?), got unbearably excited by the story of the Las Vegas cop-killing—at last, he thought, mad gunmen who aren't from the right!
Although come to think of it, not all self-denominated "revolutionaries" are Communists, you know. Like some of them are Senator Cruz:

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Cheap shots and fashion tips

With Oscar Peterson leading and Herb Ellis, Ray Brown, and Louie Bellson.

Via Crooks & Liars:
Fox News media analyst Lauren Ashburn on Sunday suggested that former prisoner of war Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl could be a Taliban sympathizer because he was released after five years of captivity wearing a Muslim "smock."

And Andrew Cuomo is Miklós Horthy

As Ross sees her.
As everybody else sees her. Could we at long last be moving beyond the Reese Witherspoon thing to facing up to some serious mommy issues?
Monsignor Ross Douthat, apostolic nuncio to 42nd Street, increasingly identifies himself with a party-within-a-party, the Reform Conservative movement, which you might define as the faction of Republicans who remember some of the stuff they learned in [jump]

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Liberal Fascism watch

Via Nairaland.
Culture War reporting from Raw Story:
The [Colorado] Civil Rights Commission last week upheld an administrative judge’s finding that Christian bakery owner Jack Phillips had violated Colorado’s anti-discrimination statutes.
“I’m beginning to think, are re-education camps next?” [Family Research Council president Tony] Perkins wondered aloud. “When are they going to start rolling out the boxcars to start hauling off Christians?”

Friday, June 6, 2014

Clickbait and switch

Shorter David Brooks, "President Obama was right", New York Times, June 6 2014:
No, seriously, he was right.
About Sgt. Bergdahl.
You know me, I wouldn't be so partisan as to deny it.
It's just not how I roll.
I call it the way I see it.
Well, it was kind of vulgar the way he did it, wasn't it, kind of Oprah-like if you know what I mean, and if you don't I'm sure you can make a good guess, and inaccurate rhetoric, unworthy grandstanding, astonishing tone-deafness, and hyperindividualized failure to make use of my well-known views on how you should always rescue a stranded individual, not for the individual's sake but for the common good, and never use spurious moral hazard arguments, but oops look at the time I don't have space to go into any of this stuff in detail especially about the inaccurate rhetoric.
Other than that...
Buster Keaton in Our Hospitality, 1923. Via Film Flammers.
Also, Steve. The always estimable Driftglass gives Brooks a break, awarding him a pair of long pants for a rare acknowledgment of the truth, but I disagree for once: the nastiness of the Brooks peroration disqualifies him.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Wut we need *moar* stupid?

A mysterious result of Googling "neoliberal kittens". From Radioactive Mongoose.
Teaser from Peter Beinart's new foreign policy piece in the Atlantic:
A new critique of the president's "don't do stupid shit" doctrine is emerging—and it's coming from within his own party.
Honest. Like that cowardly Obama, refusing to deploy the stupid-shit weapon, which has served us so well in the past.

Beinart sets up a left-right-'n'-center trichotomy of Obama criticism with a right represented by Senator McCain demanding that the administration do more bombing, and a left represented by Prosecutor Greenwald denouncing the Obama administration as a prolongation of the war-mad dictatorial Bush administration, just with different faces, with which thoughtful citizens can't negotiate at all, only groan "O tempora! O mores!" and go their weary ways. The center, in this picture, is what you might call the hipster faction, as in "you probably haven't heard of them yet":

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Reefer Dowdness

Dowd, on her bad THC chocolate trip in a Denver hotel room:
Sitting in my hotel room in Denver, I nibbled off the end and then, when nothing happened, nibbled some more....

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Focus Pocus

Wake up! When your therapist is sleeping.
Psychoanalyst Adam Phillips (interview by Paul Holdengräber, Paris Review, Spring 2014):
What interests me most is when people are trying to be on the subject and can’t help but go off it. When somebody is really trying to articulate something, genuinely struggling to articulate something, as if they will know when they’ve done it. And in the process of trying to do that, they say all sorts of other things.
Newspaper columnist David Brooks is, precisely, going to articulate something. He's going to tell us how to be less distracted by email, text messages, and YouTube clips, so that we can focus and get stuff done. He knows all about it because he suffers from this problem himself. Though he earns a fabulous salary from the Times for work that [jump]

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Jennifer's Convertibles: Meat the New Right

The other Jennifer Rubin in Bad Dreams, 1988.
Rubin's "distinguished pol" award goes out in the plural this week, to conservative reformers who have decided to advocate—surprise!—reform conservatism, which gets the poor thing in some noun phrase trouble at first, and then in an increasingly violent conflict with a mob of ruthless metaphors.
The distinguished people this week were the group of conservative reformers, including elected officials like House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and GOP Senators Mike Lee (Utah) and Tim Scott (S.C.) who rolled out a unifying  theme and agenda for the right – reform conservatism.
She doesn't mean to suggest that Lee and Scott are not elected officials or that Cantor didn't join in the theme-rolling, she's just warning us that some unelected non-officials in the conservative reform–advocating reform conservative camp are in the [jump]

I triple dare you

Bob Bergdahl. MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images.
God damn, I cannot even begin to say how much I hope the House Republican Caucus decides to impeach President Obama for defying the law that says he must notify Congress 30 days before releasing detainees (unconstitutionally held, by the way) from Guantánamo, in order to liberate a captive American solder, Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.

I don't have any words for how much I look forward to hearing John Boehner explain how Sgt. Bergdahl should have continued to languish in Waziristan in order to show [jump]