Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The Epistle of Brooks to the Philistians

World-famous moderate leftist David Brooks out to troll his friends in the Twilight Zone! I don't think we've seen him doing that since Romney was running for president.

Henri Balland's smoked haddock (I think) from Le Boeuf d'Argent, Lyon.
Shorter David Brooks, "The Next Culture War", New York Times, June 30 2015:
I fully understand the pain and despair you guys must be going through as orthodox Christianity vanishes from our society, but a Benedict Option of the kind proposed by Rod Dreher where you all withdraw from the world to contemplate the Last Days in prayer and anguish might not be the best way to go from the political standpoint. Why don't you make use of all that selfless love and commitment like my homegirl Dorothy Day, serving the poor in the urban jungle?
Not a bad idea at all, especially since Dreher's Benedict idea seems to involve leaving the prayer and anguish to the wives, while he and his bros console themselves with the haute gastronomie at the Boeuf d'Argent and the Halles de Lyon Paul Bocuse, as we learned from Edroso last week. Because let's face it, nothing says martyrdom quite like a Nénuphar de Noix de Saint Jacques Marinés à l'Huile d'Olive d'Italie, plongées dans la Fraîcheur de la Verveine, or maybe Fraîcheur du Haddock Fumé aux herbes de Printemps, senteur de Vinaigre de Mangue et Huile d’Olive Vierge d’Italie for starters.

More Dred: Robert P. George is Stupid

John Schuyler in Frank Powell's A Fool There Was (1915). Via.

David Brooks:
Robert P. George, probably the most brilliant social conservative theorist in the country, argued that just as Lincoln persistently rejected the Dred Scott decision, so “we must reject and resist an egregious act of judicial usurpation.”
Robert P. George:
Faced with the Supreme Court’s Dred Scott decision, Lincoln declared the ruling to be illegitimate and vowed that he would treat it as such. He squarely faced Chief Justice Roger Brooke Taney’s claim to judicial supremacy and firmly rejected it. To accept it, he said, would be for the American people “to resign their government into the hands of that eminent tribunal.”

Monday, June 29, 2015

John Roberts is Stupid

Image via Bronx Banter.
Hahaha. On Ginsburg's beautiful opinion in the case of Arizona Legislature v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission, holding that a popular referendum can require a state to get rid of gerrymandering in its decennial redistricting by means of an independent commission, in spite of the constitutional stipulation that
“The Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof; but the Congress may at any time by Law make or alter such Regulations . . . .” Art. I, §4, cl. 1. R
The gerrymander-loving chief justice, Smilin' Jack Roberts, dissenting, decides to wax sarcastic, as quoted at the Political Animal, and extracted at slightly greater length from the opinion itself:

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Was the Dred Scott decision biblical?

Jesuitical deception! The conservative Catholic site Patheos runs this image as Rembrandt's illustration of Paul's epistle to Philemon, but there is no such painting, and this is Bartolomé Esteban Murillo's representation of the parable of the Prodigal Son (1667-70). I call shenanigans.

Via Juan Cole, on the subject of biblical marriage:
And remember, if your sex slave runs away because you’re cruel to the person, the Bible (Philemon) says that other people have the duty to return the slave to you, i.e. basically imposes the duty of trafficking slaves back to sadistic sex maniacs who exploit them. But if the owner is nice and a good Christian, he might consider letting the sex slave go. But he doesn’t have to.
Off the subject of biblical marriage, it occurs to me that Chief Justice Taney's opinion in the Dred Scott case is biblically based: the Fugitive Slave Act is just what Paul's epistle to Philemon requires. Is that proof that the Confederate States of America were founded as a Christian nation?

Seems Frederick Douglass noticed it too:


Via Quickmeme.
A line from Rich Lowry on the Confederate flag debate quoted by Edroso has been sticking in my head since midweek:
The fact is that if anyone banging on about the Confederacy at the moment on Twitter were born in the 1840s in the South, outside of a few select areas, they, too, would have fought for the Confederacy. (UPDATE: It should go without saying that this isn’t true of blacks.) That should lend a measure of modesty to this debate.
"Anyone other than about 40% of the population who I assumed were of no interest when I wrote this up but apparently some anal-compulsive readers thought they should be mentioned."

This is why we need to say that #BlackLivesMatter, because #AllLivesMatter needs a footnote:
#AllLivesMatter (UPDATE: It should go without saying that this is true of blacks.) 
It should go without saying, and maybe one day it will.

(Also: The idiocy of the argument, a classic example of the "if my aunt had balls she'd be my uncle" fallacy, should really go without saying, but I don't want you to think I missed it; to say nothing of the sheer falseness of Lowry's assertion, as noted in the comments: in that war of brother against brother there were plenty of southerners who fought for the Union, as well as northerners who supported the rebellion, and to suppose otherwise is to show basic historical illiteracy.)


Jihua shengyu haochu duo (Family planning has many advantages); Family Planning Leadership Office of Jilin Province, ca. 1975. Via NIH"s National Library of Medicine.
Fearlessly proclaim the truth about marriage and protect the rights of dissenters
National Review's Ryan T. Anderson has fully caught the genuine People's Daily tone in this dek text, though I think "resolutely" might have worked better than "fearlessly" here.

The truth about marriage?

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Brussels louts

Updated 6/28/2015

Image via Wikipedia.
I'll get to Greece presently, but first I want to whip you around Friedman-style for a minute.

Remember the story 20 years ago of how the EU was going to force all the member countries to make cheese exclusively from pasteurized milk, thus basically destroying the ancient and glorious tradition of French, Spanish, English, and Italian raw-milk cheeses that are to dairy products what the symphony orchestra is to music? Have you ever wondered how that went down, or why your Camembert doesn't taste any different, although come to think of it it never has tasted quite the way it did that time you were in France?

The whole thing was bullshit. There was never any such EU plan, it was a stupid rumor. That particular bureaucrat in Brussels doesn't exist. Your Camembert isn't any better than you think it is, but it's because of the US authorities, who forbid the sale of any raw-milk cheese that has been aged less than 60 days, meaning

Friday, June 26, 2015

Dukes of Moral Hazard

On a bright day you can hardly see those stars and bars on the roof, and it's always sunny in Hazzardelphia.  But why can't you call it, say, the General Beauregard?

David Brooks writes ("The Robert E. Lee Problem", June 26 2015):
The debate about what I'll call the Charleston Bible study shooting, because even at this date if you assume it has something to do with race that could only hurt people's feelings, and I have this reputation for courtesy I have to keep up, has oddly transformed itself into a debate about the former Confederate States of America and their battle flag, which is not a trivial matter, because a flag is made of woven material and racism is a part of what it is woven from, though whether weft or warp is beyond my expertise.

Better start swimming, or you'll sink like a stone

Image via Heroes Not Zombies.
The "redefinition of traditional marriage" you keep hearing about actually got started two or three centuries ago, as it transformed gradually from the management of the relations between the Greater Sex and the Lesser to a voluntary association between individuals, partners in the language of founding father John Adams, who always used that word to refer to Abigail, and eventually equals, as women slowly achieved property rights, parental rights, and generally civil rights meant to be on par with those of men.

West of Eden: Throwing up Hurdles

In a medieval Persian Megillat Esther, the queen negotiates with the king over the status of the Jews, while Haman, back left, tries to torpedo the deal.

Ex-Advisers Warn Obama That Iran Nuclear Deal ‘May Fall Short’ of Standards

So runs the headline of a story by David Sanger in yesterday's Times, and the first paragraph goes on to tell us,
President Obama’s inner circle of Iran advisers have written an open letter expressing concern that a pending accord to stem&nbspIran’s nuclear program “may fall short of meeting the administration’s own standard of a ‘good’ agreement” and laying out a series of minimum requirements that Iran must agree to in coming days for them to support a final deal.
The bad faith of this opening is just astounding. The letter, as you can see by looking at it, was not written by "five former members of Obama's circle of Iran advisers" but by a "Bipartisan Group of American Diplomats, Legislators, Policymakers, and Experts", 19 in all, of whom

Thursday, June 25, 2015

I win

Triumph of Titus and Vespasian, Giulio Pippi, 1537-40.
Note the date:


David Hockney, The Maelstrom: Bodo (2002), via Museum Musing.
This is such an interesting little story, as we await the word from the Supreme Court this morning, from Nancy Marshall-Genzer at APM Marketplace, for what it says and what it doesn't say:
The King v. Burwell case before the Supreme Court is a challenge to the health care law, saying health insurance subsidies should only go to people who bought insurance on state-run exchanges. A decision is expected in days, and if the Court rules against the Obama administration, people in states using the federal insurance marketplace would lose their subsidies.
And they might just turn to Connecticut for help. Connecticut succeeded in launching its own insurance marketplace, or exchange, that worked even as the federal government and other states struggled. 

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The TPPing point

Now updated with Paraguayan Super Snacks
Invasion of foreign ketchup. Indonesian kecap manis, via Roda Dua.
An exchange at LGM started off like this, and my riposte to Erik Loomis's rejoinders got too long to post there, so here it is.
Maybe the worst thing about the way this debate is being conducted is the continual speculation over what ISDS mechanisms “will” do in the event the TPP is passed, as if the idea were a novelty that has never been tried before. There are some 3200 bilateral investment treaties using ISDS, in which the US has a track record going back to 1982 and belongs to some 50 treaties with ISDS provisions. If you’d like to investigate what the ISDS process has done, some helpful factual documents are here and here.
These help to explain why there has never been an outcry in the US over ISDS before now; there’s never been anything to cry out over. The US government has never lost a case. The resolution can impose money damages only, it cannot overturn legislation. The most frequently sued countries are the countries with the most inefficient legal systems: Argentina, Venezuela, Czech Republic, Egypt, Ecuador, and India in that order; the process starts only if the local legal system fails to find a resolution (there have been cases, like the Hong Kong Philip Morris suits against Australia and Uruguay, where big corporate money has been able to keep a suit going for an incredibly long and expensive time, but they still have not won).
It is very painful and weird for me to be in disagreement with the entire labor movement on this issue, but the fear of ISDS is just not rational. We’ve already had it for years and it isn’t a problem.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Spiritual Pron

Rudolph Valentino and Gloria Swanson in Sam Wood's Beyond the Rocks (1922), via TheLoudestVoice.
Shorter David Brooks, "Fracking and the Franciscans", June 23 2015:
Pope Francis, author of a new encyclical on the protection of the natural environment, is the kind of ideal human being I've been talking about who radiates goodness, generosity, humility, spiritual awareness. What an idiot, huh?
As with the largely leftist cast of The Road to Character, George Eliot, Dorothy Day, Frances Perkins, A. Philip Randolph, Bayard Rustin, Brooks wants us to admire the Pope's deep spirituality while ignoring everything he thinks. Wonderful man, but unfortunately stupid on geological, biological, economic, and political issues; you should listen to a smart guy like Brooks, otherwise known as a narcissistic blowhard, instead.

Monday, June 22, 2015

R.I.P. Gunther Schuller

Paul Klee, Die Zwitscher-Maschine (watercolor, 1922).
The great musician was principal French horn in the Metropolitan Opera and on Miles Davis's Birth of the Cool album at the same time, and his often wonderful work as a composer all the way up until now covered the same kind of range. He was 89.

Cheap shots: Goobernatorial

One third of the Texas Navy. Photo by David Martin Davies via Wikimedia Commons
Wonderful piece by Seth Robbins and Paul J. Weber at TPM detailing Texas governor Greg Abbott's plans to supplement his $3.5-million gunboat navy (for real, six boats!) with his own state border patrol, with a price tag of $800 million (in a budget that cuts a little over a billion dollars for programs like full-day preschool, family planning, and Medicaid). Apparently the situation is pretty urgent: illegal immigration in Texas is down 44% over last year, so if he doesn't hurry it just might stop itself before he gets a chance to stop it.

This detail portrays the fear-stricken residents:

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Declarations, continued

Via somebody's Zachary Taylor Pinterest page.

OK, I hope you all don't mind this extension of the previous post. I think it should be the end. One part of it continues the stupid debate over whether (white) Christian churches ran the abolition movement in the 19th century, with a backing off the position:

Rich Puchalsky 06.20.15 at 11:35 pm
Getting back to the thread, Jerry V. writes:
“What I mean is that neither of those other languages had the kind of penetration that would have been required of a mass movement in opposition to a society-wide problem like slavery. “

Saturday, June 20, 2015


This Declaration mentions a Supreme Being, but the nontheism of the authors is universally acknowledged. Image via VideoGamesAndTheBible.

Spent an awful lot of time yesterday commenting in a vast and fancy-ass academic thread at Crooked Timber, which ran for some reason a post by the George Washington University political theorist Samuel Goldman arguing, in a post on Danielle Allen's Our Declaration (2014), that you can't really comprehend the meaning of the Declaration of Independence unless you believe in God:
Can you agree with the Declaration of Independence if you don’t believe in God? ....  On the level of intention, the Declaration presumes a personal and providential deity. 
...while people can accept the Declaration’s claims about rights for secular reasons, I suspect that those who take its religious elements seriously are more likely to act in the ways necessary to secure them. This is important because the Declaration is not, as Allen claims, “a philosophical argument”. Instead, it is a call to arms. People generally don’t fight for “commitments” and “grounds”. For better or for worse, they do fight for what they believe God demands...
I'm running most of my own comments here, with a little continuity, because it's my blog so I can do it if I want, and to take the opportunity to edit some. You should totally look at the whole exchange, though, which covers an enormous range of topics, and contributions, as always happens there, at a very high level along with some idiocy.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Ain't life elemental?

Alexander Granach as Renfield in F.W. Murnau's Nosferatu (1922).

Looks like we won't get to find out how David Brooks responds to the white-terrorist attack on the Mother Emmanuel Church in Charleston, the papal encyclical Laudato Si, or Donald Trump's presidential campaign, all questions of some spiritual interest, because he's still on that book tour (Oregonians can catch him this weekend at branches of Powells) and hasn't got time to look at the papers unless he has special orders, as in Tuesday's TPP column (for which, as I've suggested, somebody else must have done the reading and all he needed to do was to lay out the index cards on the hotel-room shag and then type them up).

Instead what we get is another installment in the crowd-sourced characterology museum he started last month, where visitors to the Road to Character website record the ways in which they found a purpose in life, and then he cuts them up and pins them to the wall with bits of his own prose for continuity:

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Like are you saying racism is intrinsically *bad* or something?

The first Memorial Day or Decoration Day was apparently held in Charleston by freed men and women of color, May 1865, when they went to "decorate" the mass graves of mostly white Union soldiers dead in the local POW camps in love and respect. Via Damario Solomon-Simmons.

I never know what to say on occasions for despair like this white-terrorist massacre in Charleston. I'm good to go with Obama's statement, which I thought was very just though almost too sad to bear, and the things all my favorite people have been writing today, I don't have any special insights of my own.

No, wait, there's one thing, in the area we're all talking about, of the weird insistence of the right wing that we shouldn't call the killer a terrorist, or a racist, or refer to the crime as a "hate crime". Like, I can understand why they'd want to say he isn't a conservative, because that would suggest there's something wrong with conservatism.  But for that very reason it's pretty weird when they avoid saying he's a racist, insisting instead that it's wholly unknowable, like Governor Nikki Haley:

Ramadan karim!

"Bajraklidzamija" by Missty011 - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.
I was moved by this NPR story on Ramadan preparations in Belgrade, of all places, where the congregation of the Bajrakli Mosque (built 1575, and last survivor of the 273 mosques of Ottoman Belgrade), where local Muslims are toiling to make sure refugees from Syria, Afghanistan, and elsewhere can break their fasts tonight—at the price, in some cases, of doing without themselves. Who knew there were still Muslims living in Belgrade after the horrors of the 1990s?

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Get happy! On the Edge of the World

What with the latest kerfuffle over Republican campaign music—Donald Trump somehow imagining he could have permission to use a song by Bernie Sanders supporter Neil Young—Scott Eric Kaufman at Salon has produced an elegant video history of conservative misappropriation of nonconservative musicians going back to the Reagan campaign's strange belief that Bruce Springsteen's 1984 anthem of despair "Born in the USA" could be used to articulate Reagan's message of sunny, childlike millionaire's greed, and wonders by the way if there's any popular music at all that's safe for Republicans to use.

Here's a suggestion for JEB!, anyhow, with a bright and optimistic message, traditional country club sound values, unifyingly bipartisan reference, and performers who might put up with it because of the high irony quotient:

Speaking of irony, Daniel Scotto at The Federalist (or as we call it here, with reference to its Patrick Henry–Jeff Davis ideology, The Confederalist) offers a remarkable piece of retroactionary music criticism demonstrating that "Born in the USA" is really an attack on the Obama presidency:

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Trading aces

Buster Keaton in Sherlock, Jr. (1924), via.

Well, here's a challenge: David Brooks out with the big guns in favor of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, forcing me to take a hard critical look at some arguments I'd just wave at if somebody else was writing them because I don't especially want to fight with the conclusion.

Actually there are some superficial signs that somebody else was writing them. The piece is basically entirely coherent, and remarkably sourced, with a total of seven links to information backing up his assertions. That is not Brooksian, particularly when we're talking about a subject as boring as trade policy; he had to look at seven different things, possibly more, in order to crank this out? On the same weekend he was putting out an entire, though feeble, repetitive, and recycling-filled, Dartmouth commencement address?

My first thought was that it must have been altogether ghosted, by some bright young person at the Manhattan Institute or wherever. But there are structural signs he did in fact lay it out himself: the characteristic form of a listicle of italicized representations of the bad things rejecting the TPP will accomplish:

Monday, June 15, 2015

Cheap shots and radiant inner light

Image by J.Scott Applewhite/AP.

Jeb! to Declare Presidential Run, Playing Down His Surname

MIAMI — Jeb! (who uses only one name), a son and brother of presidents, formally entered the race for the White House on Monday by portraying himself as the most accomplished leader in the 2016 field, declaring war on Washington’s political culture and insisting that his former family name of Bush gave him no unique claim to the Oval Office.

As his mother, Barbara, a former first lady, looked on, Mr. Jeb! directly confronted the central doubt looming over his candidacy: that he presents the latest incarnation of a tired dynasty and thinks himself entitled to the Republican nomination.

“Not a one of us deserves the job by right of résumé, party, seniority, family or family narrative,” he told a crowd of 3,000 supporters in a community college’s gymnasium. “It’s nobody’s turn. It’s everybody’s test.”

Mr. Jeb!, whose tenure as governor of Florida was marked by the privatization of traditional state services, vowed to “take Washington — the static capital of this dynamic country — out of the business of causing problems.”

Nah, just for fun.

NYTimes commenter AR:

More in sorrow

Image via The Rumpus.
OK, I'm so sick of this I can hardly stand it any more, but David Atkins, whom I really like, is on the one hand correct when he writes this about the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations:
The secrecy is somewhat understandable given that it’s a multilateral international negotiation. Still, it should be much more transparent given the dramatic potential domestic consequences. The loss of manufacturing jobs, while a potent political argument, loses some of its sheen in the face of evidence that trade has already been so liberalized that TPP can’t do much further damage.
And on the other hand really wrong when he writes this:

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Cuomo un huracán

Image via.
We're upstate for a family function this weekend, and my seven-month-old grandnephew Mikey was there in spectacular form, this is relevant. We're using a bed that can fairly be described as difficult, and I woke up from a stupid blogging dream in which I was writing a post about some annoying New York state education policy.

The great thing about the dream was that the policy wasn't, at least not directly, Andrew Cuomo's fault, because he had resigned from the governorship and been replaced by his infant son.

No, there is no such child, as far as I know. Presumably he was inspired by Mikey. I was aware that this was a dream, and looking forward to blogging it in the morning. I'd just have to add the infant governor to the post.

Unfortunately I was not aware that the post was also part of the dream and not part of reality, so I don't know what the policy was, so this is all you'll get.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Commencement is only the beginning

Margarete Schön in Kriemhilds Rache by Fritz Lang (1924).
David Brooks writes ("How Adulthood Happens", June 12 2015):
The most important rite of passage from youth to adulthood in our society has gone largely unnoticed, largely I guess because it has no ritual aspects, with no name, no theological underpinnings, and no ceremonies. It takes about eight years to complete, and the people who are performing it and their families have no idea it's going on. Or, putting it more simply, it isn't a rite. Why am I calling it a rite of passage? As a Friedmanesque paradoxical attention grabber, and to underscore my anthropological street cred with people who know even less about the subject than I do. They call me David Brooks.

Friday, June 12, 2015

White House Fool Report: Down to the wire

Eastern gray squirrel. Image via Chris Vaisvil.

I need you to make a phone call


Elizabeth Warren info@elizabethwarren.com via proofsender1.gc.cuny.edu 

12:59 PM (23 hours ago)


We have one last chance to stop Fast Track on trade – right now! The House has scheduled a vote for Friday, and dozens of members of Congress are still undecided (or undeclared) about which way they will vote.

Will you take a minute right now to call your representative’s office and tell him or her to vote NO on Fast Track?
You need me to make a phone call? Honestly, if I'm doing it, I'm not doing it for you. I hope this great American progressive is not slowly turning into Alan Grayson.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

The foggy foggy due

Pablo Picasso, Woman with Book, 1932 (Norton Simon Foundation).

Scott Lemieux's Guardian piece on the Texas abortion clinic closure law mentioned:
Casey’s biggest sin was ruling that Pennsylvania’s 24-hour waiting period was constitutional. As the fifth circuit opinion observes, the Casey decision acknowledged that the regulation would be “particularly burdensome” for poor rural women and conceded that it would have “the effect of increasing the cost and risk of delay of abortions.” And yet, justices still found that it was not an undue burden. The road between this and So what if women in west Texas have to drive 150 miles to find an abortion clinic? is shorter than it should be.
I left an IANAL (but I have studied semiotics) note at LGM:

R.I.P. Ornette Coleman

"Dancing in Your Head", live with Ornette Coleman's Primetime Band at the Live Under the Sky Festival in Yomiuri Land, Tokyo, 1986

The great saxophonist, composer, and everything Ornette Coleman has just died, at the age of 85. So a something in memoriam.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

West of Eden: If Abadi meets a body

Mongol army besieging Baghdad, 1258. Image by Sayf al-dīn Waḥīdī. Herat, 1430, from the collections of the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, via Wikimedia Commons.
Hope nobody's freaking out over the idea that 450 more US military trainers being sent to Anbar means it's Vietnam all over again, an inexorable quagmirization of what almost got to not be a quagmire.

To my mind the right take is that of Juan Cole:

Fast-trackless waste: Footnote

Bull kelp forests provide numerous habitats for nearshore fish and invertebrate species in the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary, permanently protected from oil drilling in a move announced this morning by the Obama administration. Credit: Jared Figurski, UCSC.
A new WikiLeak from the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations, reported in today's Times, provides a really helpful example of something I've been trying to say and had a hard time finding language for:
Facing resistance from its Pacific trading partners, the Obama administration is no longer demanding protection for pharmaceutical prices under the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership, according to a newly leaked “transparency” annex of the proposed trade accord.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

As far as he's concerned

Concerned Greta Garbo. From Mauritz Stiller's Gösta Berlings Saga, 1924, via Lamb & Serpent.
Verbatim David Brooks, "The Mobilization Error", June 9 2015:

Democratic and Republican presidential candidates face a choice: They can appeal to the broadest possible audience or pander to their most devoted partisans. Most will choose option No. 2, because it's the easiest and clearest route to the presidency.

But it's not the right path.
Hahaha, fooled you, it's Ron Fournier! But I'm not sure you could corroborate that in a blind tasting. There are some formal differences keyed to the fact that one is a blog post, the other a dead-tree column: Fournier uses a lot more blockquotes (with bonus blockquote from CHUCK TODD!) and links, Brooks trots out more "arguments" (first, second, third, finally, and furthermore), but they agree, Hillary Clinton is not doing enough to unify the nation and it's time for concerned well-wishers to get really frowny.

Fast-trackless waste

Bulgarian Army officers fighting over cards, sidearms drawn, 1936 or 1937. Wikimedia Commons.
Pointless argument going on at Political Animal this weekend over the stupid Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, which I swore I was going to stop defending, but the bros keep tricking me into it. There's something toward the end of this exchange, though, that gets to the meat of what really bothers me about the anti-TPP campaign, and the question of internationalism.

I'm not copying it here because it's a Disqus thread and Blogger doesn't like the formating, but it started off with somebody called ninjascience suggesting I don't know the TPP isn't a treaty, and kept insisting if the fast-track authority was not passed the negotiating teams would just buckle down and finish writing the thing anyway.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Words in the Monsignor's Mouth

Image via DancesWithFat.
Shorter Ross Douthat, "Running against Hillary", June 7 2015:
Hillary Clinton's poll numbers are similar to the percentage of the vote obtained by Nursultan Nazarbeyev in the last Kazakhstan elections, suggesting that people are afraid if they don't tell Gallup they support her they'll be getting that knock on the door from her secret police force goons I NEVER SAID THAT funded by her billions in bribe payments from oil companies. So the brave souls risking the Gulag to run against her YOU'RE PUTTING WORDS IN MY MOUTH have their work cut out for them. They can't run to her left on domestic policies unless they happen to be Bernie Sanders (as in one case they actually are) because she is herself turning out to be a virtual Communist, and they can't criticize her foreign policy hawkishness because she has decided not to be any more hawkish than President Obama, so my view as a completely disinterested observer is that they ought to hammer her for being evil and corrupt, which will not help them win but will at least provide material that Republicans can use in the general WHAT I mean so that after she's president for life and the best Americans can say for themselves is "At least we're not Kyrgyzstan" we won't be able to say we weren't warned THAT'S NOT WHAT I SAID.
No, Monsignor, it isn't, but it's what all your fans heard. How does that work?

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Eat lead, you dirty varmint. No, wait, don't!

Actually an English tourist at a Las Vegas machine gun. Photo by John Locher/AP.

Heard this on the radio from RevealNews, and subsequently saw the story in prose from the Seattle Times, which has been doing a mammoth investigation of the subject:
For over a year, The Seattle Times has been investigating how people shooting at dirty gun ranges across the U.S. have suffered from lead poisoning. Sometimes, they’ve lost feeling in their hands and feet. Other times, they’ve been too tired to get out of bed. Police are especially at risk because they have to go to gun ranges to keep their jobs. We hear from a corrections officer who got sick, and we talk to the family of an officer who died after a weeklong training session. We also look at steps firing ranges can take to prevent lead exposure.

Friday, June 5, 2015

All the fault of those liberal Iraqis. Redux.

Rudolph Valentino in The Sheik (George Melford, 1921).
Taking advice from David Brooks on Iraq, obviously, is like taking advice from Elizabeth Taylor on keeping your marriage stable. No, wait, that's cheap, Taylor never went around posing as an expert; make that taking advice from David Brooks on keeping your marriage stable. Or on anything.

Today he goes back to a theme he first broached a year ago, that the regime installed in Iraq by the Bush administration is just too damn big-government liberal, with its insistence on centralized decision-making, and what they need is some of that federalism (meaning, as ever, anti-federalism). This time he seems to have been spurred by a report in yesterday's Times noting how the Da'esh organization in Syria exploits the rage of the Sunni majority against the Assad regime to make itself an acceptable alternative:

Mind the Gap

Floating around in my drafts file is a Times business column by Eduardo Porter, discussing the (lack of) progress in talks toward next December's Paris climate change agreement, a problem, of course, with corralling the world's two largest greenhouse gas producers, China, and the United States, into a worthwhile pact. For example,
What if every other advanced nation, as a way to encourage energy efficiency and spur investments in alternatives to fossil fuels, agreed to put a price of $25 per ton on carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere? As a tax, that would add some 22 cents to the price of a gallon of gas, something few American politicians — fearing public anger — are yet ready to consider.

According to calculations by William Nordhaus, an expert on the economics of climate change at Yale, the United States, on net, would gain $8 billion a year by benefiting from everybody else’s efforts to slow down the Earth’s warming without having to exert any effort itself.
But then, what if the other nations had some mechanism for pushing the US into less anti-social behavior?
if the other advanced nations had a stick — a tariff of 4 percent on the imports from countries not in the “climate club” — the cost-benefit calculation for the United States would flip. Not participating in the club would cost Americans $44 billion a year.
This is a great idea in my view, but it also sounds "Draconian", as Porter says; it's an idea for using a trade agreement to interfere with the sovereign ability of the United States to do whatever the hell it wants. What's the progressive position on that, Senator Warren?

My position is I don't really care about the sacred sovereignty of the United States in a context like this. At all. Like the original progressives negotiating a League of Nations in Versailles in 1919 while the conservatives back in Washington conspired to make sure the US would not take part in such a thing, I would like to see the US give up some sovereignty in return for some international progress.

Which brings us to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, sort of. Why would we trust the US government better than a hammered-out body of international regulation? On the basis of what experience?

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Money can buy happiness, but only if you let me have more than you

M.C. Escher, Encounter, 1898.
This thing from Politico's magazine section, endorsed by Ramesh Ponnuru:

Soaking The Rich Won't Make America Happy

It turns out money does buy happiness. But happiness isn’t everything.
...(it won't make us happy, though it would make us happy, but then is that all you want anyway?) gets even more confused as you work your way into the argument.

1. Robert F. Kennedy in 1968 started a
movement to make happiness, rather than wealth, the priority of public policy. “The gross national product,” Kennedy said, “does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages, the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials..."
OK, so the claim is that happiness reports provide a better measure of how well government is doing its job than the GNP. Costa Rica has a better government than Azerbaijan, and Netherlands just might be doing better than the US, too. Any questions?

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Settled philosophies

Via HuffingtonPost.
Warning: some of the language in this post may cause readers discomfort or even trigger feelings of helpless rage. For example, I may find myself quoting David Brooks:
Laura Kipnis is a feminist film professor at Northwestern University who wrote a provocative piece on sexual mores on campus that was published in February. She was hit with two Title IX charges on the grounds, without evidence, that her words might have a “chilling effect” on those who might need to report sexual assaults.
Indeed. What he doesn't tell us is about yesterday's report in Chronicle of Higher Education that Kipnis has been entirely exonerated, quite rightly, so that while she no doubt should never have been investigated at all, it could be worse.