Sunday, August 31, 2014

Sunday night cheap shot

Snarkists everywhere say, "Yes! Yes!"
Just couldn't resist sharing—famed celebrity fiction writer Edward Klein, writing in conservative fanzine New York Post, has been hearing voices, sorry rumors, that the Mittster is tanned and rested (he was always those) and ready too, having suddenly mastered all those pesky issues after eight years of not quite getting there:
“The smart folks in the party are not committed to any presidential candidate this early,” said Scott Reed, the senior political strategist for the US Chamber of Commerce, the powerful business lobby that has scored a string of establishment victories over Tea Party candidates in this year’s Republican primaries. “But Romney can’t be dismissed as the guy who lost last time.
“You watch him on TV these days, and he’s a new guy with total command of the issues and a real presence,” Reed added. “He could throw an organization together and get the money.”
Hey, I didn't know Mormons believed in the Real Presence.

One anonymous "wealthy New York–based Republican" told Klein,
“Most of the people I talk to who are involved in Republican politics as donors want a winner.”
And you know how to recognize a winner, right?

It's easy! Just watch Fox.
Cross-posted at No More Mister Nice Blog.

Tan of the hour

Vixen's right, he should have gone with flat-front instead of pleats. And maybe made everybody else wear pink ties. Why isn't Obama less of a wimp and more like this guy? Image from Society Bride.
The big takeaway for me of last week's tan suit imbroglio was the light it threw on President Obama's war aims, not in the Middle East, but inside the White House. The Anonymous Sources were so startled that they stumbled into a kind of honesty, as reported in The Daily Beast:
Those inside the administration advocating for going after ISIS in both Iraq and Syria were sorely disappointed – and lamented their boss's lack of urgency in rooting out a threat that only days before was being described in near-apocalyptic terms....

Saturday, August 30, 2014

There are more things in philosophy...

...Than are dreamt of in David Brooks's heaven and earth.
Harold Lloyd, The Freshman, 1925.
The old moral humilist is back from a brief holiday, somewhat refreshed and in some philosophically louche company, that of Christian psychologist Robert C. Roberts (Baylor University) and regulative epistemologist W. Jay Wood (Wheaton College). It's his more or less monthly book report, on a book by Roberts and Wood, Intellectual Virtues: An Essay in Regulative Epistemology (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2007).

And what, you want to know (don't deny it!), is regulative epistemology (if not a metascientific stool softener)?

Friday, August 29, 2014

Progressive capital of the lolwut?

Check this out, Jim Hoft, is that a gang sign? Photo by AP.
All of a sudden young Andrew Cuomo has decided he wants my vote. Two mailers yesterday, and a phone call, where I'm afraid I got a little sputtery with what I'm sure was a very nice young volunteer (well, at least nice and young; I'll bet she was paid). One of the mailers said
Governor Cuomo helped New York reclaim its place as the progressive capital of the country

Well, last time he wanted my vote there wasn't even an election going on, in January 2013, when he delivered his third State of the State message, and announced his plans for a bunch of progressive initiatives. How's he doing on that list, by the way?

1. Called for a minimum wage increase from $7.25 to $8.75. Settled for $8 even. Less than California ($9), Connecticut ($8.70), D.C. ($9.50), Illinois ($8.25), New Jersey ($8.25), Oregon ($9.25), Vermont ($8.73), Washington ($9.32).

Wednesday, August 27, 2014


Via AZCentral.
Sometimes you just look away for a second and they're gone! One of the blog's favorite conservative characters, Arizona attorney general Tom Horne, who just lost his primary yesterday, according to Ed Kilgore, and will presumably be passing at last through that semifinal revolving door to a consulting career:

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Edgy Wedgie

[Producer Deborah Turness's] new vision for “Meet the Press” includes adding a regular panel of journalists who will question guests, something of a return to the venerable show’s original format. “The show needs more edge,” she said. “It needs to be consequential. I think the show had become a talking shop that raked over the cold embers of what had gone on the previous week. The one-on-one conversation belongs to a decade ago. We need more of a coffeehouse conversation." (New York Times)
My proposal for a truly edgier Meet the Press:

The show becomes a kind of reality series in which a group of, say, 10 contestants from the worlds of politics, industry, the military, and the press, etc., try to persuade Heidi and a panel of judges (Cokie Roberts, Ralph Nader, and Howard Stern) that they have what it takes to brand themselves as survivable in the hothouse atmosphere of Washington—a balance between avant-garde and commercial, friendly and freezing, smart and fart.

HEIDI: You know how it is in politics. One day you're in, and one you're out. Right, Cokie?

Each week they perform a different task—trying to have a conversation with John McCain, drafting a budget balancing agreement, eating their way down the midway of the Iowa state fair, and so on, changing with the political seasons. Tim counsels them through, and they ignore him at their peril.

TIM: I'm not sure you should be writing a book about Martin Luther King, Governor Huckabee. Shouldn't you open yourself up to a bigger color palette?

MIKE: I know what I'm doing, Tim. You'll see.

TIM: Well, make it work!

And then on Sunday morning—well, you see what I mean.

We'll just have to muggle through

As our nation lurches from crisis to crisis this summer, with ominous movements taking place everywhere from Afghanistan to Scotland and an increasing climate of unquiet here at home, where institutions as important as Meet the Press rock and teeter toward a possible doom, when what we need most is a voice of unity to speak to our fears and hopes with a calm but convinced voice, one key figure appears to have gone AWOL, abandoning us for the golf course or whatever he does when he's not working, puttering while Rome burns, vanishing on an unprecedented number of vacation days in the face of the people's anxiety and uncertainty.

I refer of course to New York Times columnist David Brooks, who was missing in action during much of July and has now been off again for a week so far with no pretext of "book leave" and no indication of when he plans to return, leaving bloggers bereft and forcing us to write about unpleasant things like murderous cops, murderous Salafi organizations, Ross Douthat, and worse. He needs to speak to the nation in our hour of confusion, and the column he needs to write goes something like this:

Monday, August 25, 2014

In which I agree with Ross Douthat...

Wassily Kandinsky, Composition IV, 1911.
...when the Apostolic Nuncio to 42nd Street makes fun of the administration's insistence that there's anything "medieval" about the self-denominated "Islamic state":
The idea that America’s foes and rivals are not merely morally but chronologically deficient, confused time travelers who need to turn their DeLorean around, has long been a staple of this administration’s rhetoric. Vladimir Putin, Bashar al-Assad and tyrants in general have been condemned, in varying contexts, for being on the dreaded “wrong side of history.”
Obviously if the would-be Caliph were to be transported back to the actual medieval Caliphate of Baghdad with its alcohol and sexual adventurousness, freedom of thought and easy acceptance of Jews, Christians, Chinese, and even Shiites (Sunnis, however, often had to bend to the theological whims of the ruler),  and art, music, fragrance, he'd want to behead them all or run away.

But I have a little difficulty with the warmed-over Fukuyamism with which he goes onto explain,

Saturday, August 23, 2014

The peacemaker malgré lui

Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin is really not that good at planning:
So I was pretty startled to see a very frazzled Michael Weiss at Foreign Policy announcing that the "humanitarian" truck fleet breaking into Ukraine yesterday was really a Russian invasion, or rather "the" Russian invasion:

Friday, August 22, 2014

The Ratchet of the Earth

Via New York Magazine, counterclockwise: Beyoncé, Gaga, Ratchet.  Ratchet Girl Anthem,” a parody track recorded by Philip and Emmanuel Houston, collected tens of millions of Youtube hits. In it, the Atlanta brothers pretend to be ratchet women describing their ilk: They carry outdated flip phones, go clubbing while pregnant, and try to punch other women in the face. “Ratchet is basically a lack of home training — being out in public and acting like you don’t have any sense,” Philip Houston told the Cut. “Putting a weave in the microwave just to curl it, that’s ratchet.”

Old George Will sez (and the National Review reproduces—never noticed it before, but they use as much syndicated material as the Tooterville Gazette, and much of it—this, and stupid Krauthammer—is from WaPo) that he is going to propose a kind of Unified Field Theory of politics in the form of

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Running the rhetorical gamut

From Liar Game 156, via MangaPanda.
Alyssa Rosenberg mocked conservative admirers of the film The Giver, dryly, for the suggestion that normal humanity is some kind of special uniquely conservative quality:
the movie makes absolutely clear that it is grotesque to kill a baby who cries when he is not soothed and that something is missing in families designed by the state. Though it may be in Palin’s and Lopez’s interests to suggest otherwise, these ideas are hardly the sole provenance of conservatives. Suggesting that people who advocate for continued access to abortion do not care about the welfare of young children is an unpleasant rhetorical gamut, but often an effective one.
Kevin D. Williamson of the National Review responds:

New York note

Some Twitter idiot from the Southwest borderlands was saying a week or two ago that if "libs" are so worried about unaccompanied kids from Central America fleeing violence in their homelands we ought to take some of them in up here. Which was of course pretty stupid, because there are more of them fostered or staying with relatives in New York than there are in Florida or California, to say nothing of those pathetic whiners in Arizona.

New York Times, August 7 2014.

And New York is handling it pretty well, too, as you can learn from a warm-'n'-fuzzy story from WNYC radio focusing on soccer as therapy for the traumatic soul injury many of these children have sustained. I was really pleased by the attention given to their voices and the lack of attention to paranoid nativist fantasies about how our country is being invaded.

Also, I bet a lot of readers don't realize this is what the South Bronx looks like. Photo by Mirela Iverac/WNYC.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Brief break

I'm not happy with anything I'm trying to write about #Ferguson, and not trying to write about anything else.

I'm happy with Berg's Three Pieces for Orchestra op. 6, which I was listening to this morning. Here's the first of them:

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

First-rate intelligence

Today's David Brooks is written for some reason by Mr. Arthur Brooks of the American Enterprise Institute, no relation, I believe, who doesn't do it quite as well, but stands in a similar position, urging American conservatives to adopt an innovative "compassionate" conservatism (Hey, kids! Let's put on a show!) with fresh ideas like offering more tax breaks for poor people (look at all tax breaks have done for the rich!) and the inevitable Scott Fitzgerald quote:
F. Scott Fitzgerald famously declared that “the test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.”
I can't understand why people think Fitzgerald's Law means if you want to show a first-rate intelligence you must hold opposed ideas in your mind at all times. That's not first-rate, it's irrational.

What Fitzgerald was talking about in The Crack-Up was a serious crisis in his own life that hit him in the early 1930s, a moral-emotional collapse that hollowed him out and left him in despair. The "test" was not to spend the rest of his life living in contradiction but to live through it to some kind of resolution. You have to at least look at the next sentence:

Monday, August 18, 2014

Chris Cross

Why are these men laughing? Via Capital New York.
New Jersey governor Christopher Christie, although his job as chairman of the Republican Governors Association tasks him above all things with working for GOP victories in this year's 36 gubernatorial races, is strangely reluctant to offer any support to the Republican candidate across the Hudson in New York, somebody called Rob Astorino (which would be the Italian for "little goshawk" and not, as I hoped, "little star"—twinkle, twinkle!), against the Democratic incumbent Andrew Cuomo.

That may be, according to a brilliant analytic piece by Andrea Bernstein of WNYC radio New York. because Christie and Cuomo are practically the same person:

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Pretty state of things

Image from Hastings on Nonviolence.
Maureen Dowd didn't like the reporter Judith Miller much. Or rather, she liked Miller a lot, but in a special Dowdy sort of way:
I've always liked Judy Miller. I have often wondered what Waugh or Thackeray would have made of the Fourth Estate's Becky Sharp.

The traits she has that drive many reporters at The Times crazy -- her tropism toward powerful men, her frantic intensity and her peculiar mixture of hard work and hauteur -- have never bothered me. I enjoy operatic types.
Sometimes I wonder if Dowd isn't a fictional character invented by Clare Booth Luce to preserve the worst early 20th-century stereotypes of the independent woman as uncontrollably catty misogynist. Anyhow, what she didn't seem to think at all was that Miller's jailing for contempt of court in the summer of 2005 was a case of "strange and awful aggression against reporters and whistle-blowers". Au contraire!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Heart of Whiteness

Papa K illustrating the "West Side" sign, possibly making a universal gesture of primate territorial challenge as well.
I just found out (via Sick Horses) that National Review has taken to running literary fiction, starting with a charming effort by its "roving correspondent" and Chancellor of the Exchequer Kevin Williamson, entitled "Where the Sidewalk Ends: Danger and Despair in Pat Quinn's Crumbling Illinois".

The story is a journey narrative, a re-imagining of a trip to East St. Louis, Illinois, as an enchanted, surreal landscape seen through a child's eyes, taking its cue, as the title makes clear, from Shel Silverstein's poem:

Friday, August 15, 2014

Decalogical fallacies

Via Retinart.
We the People of the United States of America, in order to have no other Gods before you-know-Who, remember the Sabbath Day and keep it holy, honor our parents, not kill, not commit adultery, and all that good stuff, do ordain and establish this Constitution...
No, seriously, where does this shit come from? Where County Commissioner Tim Guffey of Scottsboro, AL, explains to the press about his desire to erect a little group of monuments to the Ten Commandments, which according to him have nothing to do with religion, and the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence:

David Brooks, Feminist Film Critic

Dark Passage, by Delmer Daves (1947).
I think Brooks's main aim this morning is to display his quirky independence by devoting his Lauren Bacall tribute not to the most cliché moment of her career (from To Have and to Have Not, Howard Hawks, 1944) but instead to the second most cliché moment [jump]

Thursday, August 14, 2014

For Mike Brown and the witnesses

BooMan says he's "tired of trying to figure out what happened" in a case like the killing of Mike Brown in Ferguson, MO, and I am too. I've been tired of it since Trayvon Martin was killed, this whole situation where one set of people is obviously lying and another set of people is plainly telling the truth and I'm going to sit there and try to weigh all the evidence, judiciously, and come up with my own independent conclusion, and I'm not going to do it any more.

I mean, not unless I want to and think I can make a contribution nobody else is making.

Because I don't know much, and am not likely ever to learn much, about the forensics of the thing, the bullet entries and exits, the angle at which the person fell, the identification of screams off cell phone audio, all that. But I'm pretty confident I know who's lying, and who's covering up, and fairly confident I can find out who's corrupted.

The cops of Ferguson are lying, and covering up, and motivated by fear, of being exposed as bigoted murderers and bad cops. The community witnesses (including this one who turned up today at Kos) are telling the truth the best and the most precisely they can. That's all the story I need. You go ahead and sift your evidence, and do your diligence, for the court system and the gearheads, and I'll read it as far as I can, but I'm not working at it. I'm on strike against taking those liars seriously. I'm on strike against disbelieving, "just for the sake of argument", those who are true to the complicated and novelistic way I understand the world.

Michael Brown, via 3chicspolitico.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Dowd pitches

Inspired by Maureen Dowd:
1. Tragedy
You wouldn't think a spunky gal reporter of Irish ancestry would give two pins about Greek tragedy, but when I was going out with Bobby Kennedy (always a perfect gentleman, by the way, and never laid a finger on me, realizing I was too young), he often quoted his favorite poet, Aeschylus, author of the Agamemnon and countless other great dramas. Euripides, too, was a great Greek tragedian, and in his Medea he portrays a woman destroyed by jealousy of her faithless husband, madly killing her own children in order to get back at him, which immediately brings Hillary Clinton to mind...
Jenö Gyárfás, The Tragedy of Man, ca. 1880. Wikimedia Commons.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Senior Humility Seminar, Final Exam

Jean Arthur in Buster Keaton's Seven Chances (1925).
Question 1

David Brooks has recently written,
We are now living in what we might as well admit is the Age of Iraq. The last four presidents have found themselves drawn into that nation because it epitomizes the core problem at the center of so many crises: the interaction between failing secular governance and radical Islam.
In the light of Brooks's views, consider the following instances of some of the four most recent presidents finding themselves drawn into Iraq:

Monday, August 11, 2014

It Teaches Work Ethic

Weeping Sarah Palin, by j4design (2008).

It Teaches Work Ethic
by Sarah Palin
“We believe fast food workers deserve a livable wage.” —Sen. Elizabeth Warren 
We believe 
Wait, I thought fast food joints 
don't you guys think that they're like
of the devil or something?

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Landmarks in strategeric thinking

Duckling huddle, Riverside Park.
Any doubts about the return of the US warplanes to Iraq in the defense of Erbil (and its US consulate) against the troops of the self-denominated Caliph of not-Baghdad ought to be resolved by the speed with which those doughty senators, McCain and Graham, came out to condemn it on Thursday:

What's wrong with inequality?

Um, it's not fair?
Fafner the dragon and his hoard: Excessive savings stopping a jump start in the economy. Image by Arthur Rackham, 1911.
James Pethokoukis of the American Enterprise Institute (an institute of great pith and moment) boldly takes on the "center-left" in the form of Standard & Poor's intelligence agency, who if you didn't know about how leftist they are well, poor you. Or standard you, perhaps. They were showing their leftist cred, anyway, in a report by their economist Beth Ann Bovino on

Friday, August 8, 2014

Ignosce te ipsum

Malin Broberg, tattoo, γνῶθι σεαυτόν.
Shorter David Brooks, "Introspective or narcissistic?" New York Times, August 8, 2014:
Your self-worth and identity are at stake in every judgment you make about yourself. Therefore you shouldn't make any judgments about yourself, or if you must, do it in the third person, so you can tell yourself it isn't about you. I often use a pseudonym for this purpose, like "C.S. Lewis" or "George Marshall".
I think we can now conjecture

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Hot little numbers

When they tell you the US has the highest corporate tax rate in the world at 35% and it just has to come down or all our industries are going to Luxembourg, just remember that, as the Times reminded us today, it isn't true.
According to a study of scores of Fortune 500 companies released this year by [Citizens for Tax Justice's Robert S.] McIntyre and the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, the average tax rate from 2008 to 2012 on utility, gas and electric companies was 2.8 percent. The rate for the industrial machinery sector was 4.3 percent, while the telecommunications industry averaged 9.8 percent. For the aerospace and military industry, it was 19.7 percent. Dozens of corporations including Verizon, Boeing and Corning paid the government absolutely nothing.
Thanks to the wilderness of loopholes, the effective tax rate varies wildly from industry to industry, but overall is not so different from that of other countries, and definitely on the modest side.

Chart by Center for American Progress. I can't find a proper credit but I think it was first used here.

The reason they keep saying that it's so high it's bankrupting them and that if you get rid of the loopholes it must be in a revenue-neutral manner is nothing but shameless extortionism: they want to noodge us into giving them another break.

And it usually works, which is how it got this way in the first place.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Mister Brooks—He delusional

Mombasa skyline, via
Dog whistles are everywhere these days, and if you listen close enough you might hear one that's meant for you, as when David Brooks lets liberals know that he's not opposed to this week's White House Africa summit, though taking care to leave it to the end of the piece, as if he'd just happened to think of it in the course of writing his big Africa column of the year and didn't want to leave it out altogether, and then sealing it with a dis (because it's not really a Brooks column without a dash of gratuitous spite):

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

War aims

Photo from Electronic Intifada via Tom Pride.
First Israel was fighting to rescue the kidnapped Eyal Yifrach, Gilad Shaar and Naftali Frenkel, although they knew the boys were already dead, then to punish the Hamas organization for killing them, though they knew the organization hadn't done it.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Got paranoia?

Updates below:

Salvador Dali, Swans Reflecting Elephants, 1937.
So Israeli spies have been listening to Secretary Kerry's telephone calls made on unencrypted phone systems over the past year as he tried to negotiate a deal between Israel and Palestine, along with "at least one other secret service", but you can't find out whose, according to Le Nouvel Observateur:
un autre service de renseignement d’un pays non identifié a lui aussi écouté les communications du chef de la diplomatie américaine lorsqu’il utilisait un téléphone portable non sécurisé au lieu des systèmes cryptés, ce qui lui est arrivé plus d’une fois.
(I assume they looked behind Spiegel's subscription wall to make sure, as I was unwilling to do.)

Well, I'm willing to hazard a guess on the identity of that secret service, too contrarian for Slate, too paranoid for the Firebaggers, and too baroque for anybody but the late Norman Mailer, who might well have written it, and its initials are C.I.A., at war with the Obama administration since January 2009. I'm not even kidding. [8/4/14: It looks like speculation on CIA spying on Kerry is false. See below. Y]

Here were Mark Mazzetti and Scott Shane a little before the inauguration:

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Et tu, Wonk?

Headline at Heritage's Daily Signal:

Aetna CEO Admits Obamacare Customer Numbers Worse Than Expected

Paragraph to which the headline refers:
Bertolini said the initial Obamacare enrollment numbers were worse than expected but younger enrollees increased in April in May, when Aetna picked up two-thirds of its customer growth through Obamacare.
I.e., the headline should have read "Aetna CEO Admits Obamacare Customer Numbers Worse Than Expected Until They Got Better".

Another headline at the same site announces:

Civil Liberties Watch

Woke up this morning hearing a debate from that silly NPR series on the resolution that
which I thought should be pretty interesting as not a boring old Republican vs. Democrat issue but one in which progressives are aligned on both sides, the ACLU itself notoriously having come down on the side of Citizens United. Sadly, it was not; the most interesting thing was former ACLU head Nadine Strossen arguing, for the proposition, that there are cases when it is legitimate to yell "Fire!" in a crowded theater—like when there is actually a fire.

No! No! No! That is the worst time to yell "Fire!" in a crowded theater. If you become aware that a crowded theater is on fire, you should quietly let the management know so that everybody can be safely evacuated. Yelling "Fire!" is the way to start a panic and jam the exits and you will all die.

The worst was that my candidate for New York governor, Zephyr Teachout, arguing against the proposition, didn't call her on it. Come on, Zephyr, you can do better than that.
Lois Lane setting a terrible example.
Cross-posted at No More Mr. Nice Blog.

Friday, August 1, 2014

You're such a character

David Brooks writes:
One of the main differences between parents and antipoverty programs is that character matters to the former. Thus if you are a parent, you probably think your children's chances of success in life will have a lot to do with their character, but if you're an antipoverty program, not so much.
This is true both for Democratic and Republican programs, naturally. Democratic programs assume that poor people need more money, [jump]
Buster Keaton in The Navigator (1924).

Our daily Gaza

Went to bed thinking there was a cease-fire agreement in Gaza, but I guess it wasn't to be.
Photo from Times of Israel.
Via Samer Badawi at 972+:
So when Rafah residents thought they were taking advantage of a cease-fire to go home and see how badly their houses had been damaged, they were really attacking the Jewish state and had to be killed?
Gaza health officials said 35 Palestinians had been killed and more than 100 wounded as Israeli forces bombarded the area. Palestinian witnesses said by telephone that Israeli tank shells had hit eastern Rafah as residents returned to inspect homes they had evacuated.
There's something extremely spooky about the Israeli version of how the truce broke, with fighting around a Rafah tunnel IDF troops were busy destroying:

Amend it don't end it

Image via The Amendment Gazette.
Stupid Jonah Goldberg moment: he's complaining that Democrats are proposing a constitutional amendment to overturn the Citizens United decision, even though "ironically" they are constantly opposing constitutional amendments
not just on the merits but on the puffed-up principle that we mustn’t “tinker” or “tamper” with the genius of the Founding Fathers’ constitutional design.
And then his first example is criticism of Republican attempts to eliminate birthright citizenship as tampering with the 14th Amendment. The one they ratified in 1868, or 81 years, you know, after the Founding-Fathery stuff.