Saturday, October 31, 2015

White House Fool Report: Friday news dump

Updated 11/7/2015
"A Marine monitors the flight line out of the rear of a MV-22B Osprey after completing fast-rope and rappelling training with Marine Special Operations Command, near Marine Corps Air Station New River, North Carolina, June 23, 2015." U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Orlando Perez. Via Task & Purpose.
Among the various mixed signals the administration is sending about its plan to put "several dozens" but "fewer than 50" Special Operations troops on the ground in Syria, not "advisors" but nevertheless in an "advisory capacity", is one that goes along with the way I've been trying my hardest to understand Obama's policy:
The move was meant to bolster diplomatic efforts by Secretary of State John Kerry, who on Friday reached an agreement in Vienna with countries with opposing stakes to explore “a nationwide cease-fire” and ask the United Nations to oversee the revision of the Syrian Constitution and then new elections. 
That is, the purpose of the thing is part of the peace strategy, not the war strategy, to upgrade and maintain the administration's influence on the situation as these important and even slightly hopeful talks, now including Iran, proceed, in the same way the Russian moves in Syria are meant.

Not that they won't participate on the war side, from their post inside an opposition group headquarters in northern Syria, though they won't be going anywhere else or even on patrols; their job is

Friday, October 30, 2015

David Brooks: Trick or Treat!

Image via Stevenson Financial Marketing.
David Brooks writes, "The Paul Ryan and Marco Rubio Moment", October 30 2015:
Well, it has been a pretty long summer, hasn't it! And I'm just about ready to party. I'm going as Zombie Bill Safire, and I've even got a couple of kids to shlep around door-to-door for the tricks and treats, little Paul and little Marco, dressed as that fabulous WWE tag team The Wonks, and let me tell you these kids look great!
No, but seriously, folks, these boys are the freshest thing in town, and if you think I'm kidding take a look at young Paul assuming the gavel in the House of Representatives, youngest speaker since James G. Blaine (the continental liar from the state of Maine), who was only 39 on his ascent in 1869. As for Marco, I think it's wise to start predicting right now that he's getting the presidential nomination, because that's been my plan since, oh, last February, and it looks like it could be starting to happen, as voters begin to tire of looking in the windows on Madison and go home to Jersey to start thinking about what they're actually going to buy.
Because for one thing, voters don't need to have a very clear idea what their candidate's agenda is, but they have to think she might have an agenda of some kind, and celebrity candidates Donald Trump and Dr. Ben Carson do not project that deep and abiding seriousness the way, say, that guy who was president before Obama once did in the awed eyes of your humble correspondent.

Fabricating Rhythm

Illustration from Austin and Belinda French, Some White and her Calf: Lessons from the Farm (2010).

Does David French make stuff up?

David French, I mean, famed Iraq combat attorney (if you needed a brief in the trenches he was always there for you, band of brothers, for the whole ten months, November 2007 to September 2008) and National Review correspondent, who sometimes leavens his work with an interesting bit of reminiscence from his own past, as in the case, which became kind of famous over at Edroso's place a few weeks ago, when he reminisced about his own early ascent into fightin' manhood, in the course of a discussion of how "victim culture is killing American manhood"—
In one grade-school incident, I got into a playground fight with another boy and knocked him to the ground. As the teacher rushed up to separate us, she demanded to know what happened. “He said I hit like a girl,” I told her. “Is this true?” She asked my friend. Rubbing his face, he nodded. “Well then, you deserved it,” she said. And that was that. I thought of that minor playground scrap — and many others like it....
No victim culture for little David! Teachers understood something about the requirements of manhood back in the day.

So anyway, I just happened to notice that he's had a couple of occasions to remember the policemen of his childhood in recent months, and he remembers them in oddly different ways, which seem to correlate directly with the ideological point he wants to make.

So, this week, in explaining why we shouldn't be "disturbed" by the video of deputy sheriff Ben Fields of Spring Valley, South Carolina, throwing a 16-year-old girl in her high school classroom to the ground and pulling her across the floor, he recalls the cops in school as heroic defenders of the weak, against extraordinary violence, who really can't be questioned, because that's just the way it is:

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Oh the Sensible Trump!

Shorter David Brooks, "A Sensible Version of Donald Trump", October 27 2015:
Voters these days are fed up with experienced politicians (I mean except for some Democrats, who seem to be interested in Hillary Clinton, deep in politics since 1974, or Bernie Sanders, who ran his first campaign in 1972 and kept pushing until he won his first mayoral contest nine years later), and looking at complete outsiders like Dr. Ben Carson and Donald Trump, and I get that, but what they really need is a Donald Trump who is totally unlike Donald Trump in every significant way. You know, sensible. I mean, he'd still be really rich and all those goons who want to vote for him would still want to vote for him, but other than that. He could start with this very intellectual-sounding speech I wrote for him.
Bernard Gilliam (1884), the unveiling of James G. Blaine. Via Wikipedia

I'm going to leave it to others (happy birthday, Driftglass!) to do the analysis on this one, because I got a visit from the Muse:

Monday, October 26, 2015

Annals of derp: Good news for John McCain

Ratifying the 15th Amendment, 1870. Via United States Embassy to Nigeria.

A fairly comical example of some willful derp from the National Review, with that conservative penchant for looking through every bend in the chicken entrails for the signs that are in some sense or another "good for the right", in this case a way of arguing that there's something about a YouGov poll that you can see in a dream as an indication that there is a universe where black people might vote Republican:
The White Vote
By Ramesh Ponnuru — October 23, 2015
Great Scott Alexander post:
The what vote? Great Scott! It's a blog post arguing that Donald Trump isn't a magnet for angry racist white voters but if he is then Bernie Sanders is too only just kidding:

Sunday, October 25, 2015

#RiseUpOctober: Bad apples

National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality, Thursday 10/22, via Ella Baker Center for Human Rights.

Some beloved commenters here and at NMMNB have made me feel misunderstood over yesterday's post on FBI director James Comey. Commenter Ten Bears wrote,
I have issues with this notion the cops are "protecting" me. They do not, nor have they ever. Me, or my family. More like an armed gang roaming the countryside terrorising the population.
Ten Bears, that's exactly what "protection" means, in certain circles.

The post wan't well enough written, though, and I'd like to try to make my point more explicit.

I don't actually know whether a majority, vast or otherwise, of US police officers are hardworking professionals and deeply humane and caring individuals or not, and strictly speaking there's no way I can know, because the institutions of police accountability seem to be designed to make sure we can't find out, which might make you a little suspicious.

I do know that a lot of us feel that there's a real problem with it, and I don't think we're hallucinating. Maybe it's a few-bad-apples in a vast-majority-of-brave-and etc., and maybe it's a set of institutional problems that put so many cops on the scale from indifferent (as when our Brooklyn apartment was robbed three times in two years and I couldn't even get them to produce a report to explain to the cable company why my cable box was missing) through venal (from traffic cops issuing tickets to narcotics agents seizing serious property, as if their central task was to shake citizens down), to downright violent, inflicting special torments mainly on African Americans, ranging from constant harassment to murder.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Annals of Derp: Depravity, Germanity, and Wikipedia

Freestyle Bowling often borrows elements from other sports. Via Stupidedia.

Andrew C. McCarthy of the National Review wrote in reference to the tragic or comic demise of the Special Select Committee on Benghazi:
‘We’ve seen the heavy assault on our post in Benghazi that took the lives of those brave men. We’ve seen rage and violence directed at American embassies over an awful Internet video that we had nothing to do with.”
Those words, depraved words, were spoken by then–secretary of state Hillary Clinton, with President Obama by her side, on September 14, 2012. This was at Joint Base Andrews, during the most sacred of rites: the return of the remains of Sean Smith, Glen Doherty, Tyrone Woods, and Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, all slain in the line of duty in Benghazi.
Nice en-dash, Andrew! (No snark, a mere hyphen in "then–secretary of state" wouldn't have been right, as Wikipedia clarifies.) But, uh, depraved?

So I went and commented.

Why does James Comey hate cops?

"A hunky Baltimore police officer has been inundated with marriage proposals after a photo of him cuddling a stray kitten he rescued and then adopted went viral....  The image [of Jon Boyer with friend] received more than 4,000 likes and several hundred comments praising his selfless work -- and handsome looks." (Daily Mail) How many politicians got on his case for this unseemly publicity?
We're accustomed to various privately funded agents of fascism—the heads of police benevolent associations, the radio-talk Ciceros—issuing blackmail threats on behalf of the police, to the effect that if the behavior of cops is subjected to some kind of public scrutiny cops will just refuse to protect us.

And I generally discount it, because I believe the responsible figures who tell me that the vast majority of police officers are serious and dutiful and good people who would never dream of conducting their work like a protection racket, and have no reason to fear seeing it exposed. At least I'd like to believe them, but it's somehow not very easy to find out how true that is.

But I get taken a little aback when the director of the FBI does it, as reported today:
Mr. Comey lent the prestige of the F.B.I., the nation’s most prominent law enforcement agency, to a theory that is far from settled: that the increased attention on the police has made officers less aggressive and emboldened criminals. But he acknowledged that there is so far no data to back up his assertion and that it may be just one of many factors that are contributing to the rise in crime, like cheaper drugs and an increase in criminals who are being released from prison.

Friday, October 23, 2015

If I dared to eat a peach, would you respect me?

Image via fiercegifs.
Editors' Note: Due to a transmission error, today's column by David Brooks, "Life and the Passion of Lady Gaga", was inadvertently run backwards. A corrected edition, or quite a lot of one anyway, appears below:
A friend of mine perpetually asks, "Who would you be and what would you do if you weren't afraid?"
I wonder why. But some people live an amplified life and throw their contradictions out there. Their life is a work of art. This will sound weird, but I'm thinking about Lady Gaga.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Speaker Squeaker

Preparation for working with Ted Yoho. From Ryan's Twitter feed via Huffington Post, July 2013.
I've been so consistently wrong in everything I've suggested about the Speakership—in spite of a remarkable, even bewildering range and variety of ideas—that I haven't even been able to catch up with it. Even as the news began to arrive that young Paul Ryan was negotiating his acceptance of a draft, and my wrong began to coalesce with everyone else's, and the word was that the Freedomists had caved to all of his most tyrannical demands ("And you all have to say I took it on so I could spend more time with my family!"), I had an analysis half written in my head explaining how the Freedomists had definitively lost their game and their only interest henceforth was to hold on to a little face.

A Tale of Two Headlines

How he felt in June 2013, not how he feels now.

Politico, October 5 2015:

Brzezinski: Obama should retaliate if Russia doesn't stop attacking U.S. assets

NPR, two weeks later:

Former National Security Adviser: U.S. And Russia Must Work Together In Syria

Both referring to the same Brezinski opinion piece in Financial Times, October 4.

It was the NPR story that got my attention. I don't subscribe to the exotic strain of Brzezinski paranoia according to which old Zbig actually rules the world with the aid of his trusty and superpowerful henchwoman Victoria Nuland, who staged an entire revolution in Kiev to cover up her secret maneuver to seize dictatorial power in the Ukraine. etc, etc., but I do think of him lazily as a kind of poor man's (or Democrats') Kissinger, a throwback to the power diplomacy of the 19th century animated by hatred for Russia and for his excessively peaceable old boss Jimmy Carter,

Bye Bye Biden

Image via The Daily Bash.
I found myself really conflicted about Biden, for reasons I could hardly even explain to myself, because they were pretty compound, if not really complex.

There was the on-the-one-hand human angle of why should a 73-year-old-man who's just lost his son have to put up with this kind of life, of campaigning and begging for money and telling lies up and down the country, and the on-the-other-hand human angle of remembering the awful story told by George Packer of Biden and his staffer Jeff Connaughton, in which it turns out that that Sweet Joey personality is something that can be turned off pretty easily, in favor of an alternative personality that's honestly not necessarily very nice.

Then there's the foreign affairs question where it seems to me clear that Biden knows more and understands better than anybody in the way of being a candidate, which seems bizarre on its face, given that the leading candidate actually served as Secretary of State for four years not long ago. But there's a reason why Biden got the Iraq portfolio. Is Hillary a hawk and Biden a person of peace? I don't think one can trust them by their utterances, but I have been very disturbed in this last week or two by a couple of things. First by the thing Clinton said in the debate:
Cooper said to the debaters, "You've all made a few people upset over your political careers. Which enemy are you most proud of?"
Hillary Clinton: Well, in addition to the NRA, the health insurance companies, the drug companies, the Iranians. Probably the Republicans.
She hasn't noticed that President Obama has been working to put together some kind of different relationship with Iran, possibly the most important foreign-policy accomplishment of the presidency, for which being proud to be an enemy might not be the best way of expressing how we feel? or that there's more than one Iranian point of view, in Iran?

And then this no-fly zone idiocy, making Clinton look as stupid as her friend Senator McCain? Because there isn't enough murderous stupidity in Syria yet? Do they feel there's some kind of quota that isn't being met? Or a Guinness Book record to set? Times notes:
Luke Coffey, a research fellow at the Heritage Foundation, said: “It makes for a nice tweet, it sounds good, it sounds like a policy idea. But when you get down into the details, you see why it’s not really going to work.”

Karl P. Mueller, a senior political scientist at the RAND Corporation, said that the Russian air campaign “changes things significantly,” and that “initiating armed combat with the Russian Air Force is a very big thing.”

“In the past, when there’s been talk about no-fly zones, usually what people have meant is we’re going to force the Syrian Air Force to stay on the ground,” [which might have been a good idea had it had any hope of working, which it didn't,] he said. “With the Russians in the country, that gets significantly more complicated, because now you’re talking about grounding or shooting down Russian aircraft, or intimidating them into not flying, or not attacking certain targets in certain areas.”
My only thought is that Clinton knows it's idiotic and is suggesting it only with the understanding that she has no power to make it so. That, like suspicions over her sudden adoption of a hostility to the Trans-Pacific Partnership in which I can't believe she really believes, makes her seem less stupid, but at the same more dishonest than I wanted to think of her as being. I'm really a little disheartened. I've been fighting the dishonest-Hillary meme for months, and she's not helping. I'm sure I'll be back on board by nomination time, but it may not be easy.

Meanwhile, it's just a terrible idea for the US to be messing around in the Syria situation in any way more aggressive than what the Obama administration is already doing (doing more to improve the lot of the refugees is another matter), but none of the presidential candidates is saying this in an effective way: Paul for the Republicans is featherheaded, O'Malley and Chafee are weak-voiced, and the most important opponent of over-militarizing, Sanders, sounds as if he's responding more or less automatically: it's not clear how he understands the situation, or even how much he knows about it. The most valuable thing Biden could have done as a candidate would have been to come out and explain it, in a way the public could understand.

Cross-posted at No More Mister Nice Blog.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Yo Canada

I don't think Canada was meant to have a Thatcherite revolution; it took them an awfully long time to try one out, getting around to it only in 2006, and it was only scandal that got the "natural governing party of Canada", the Liberals, out in the first place—though a scandal that seems by US standards ludicrously mild-mannered, like Dr. Evil's extortion demand; the government was found to have improperly awarded $3.75 million in contracts to some Montréal ad agencies, almost half of which involved no actual work, or what Pentagon insiders commonly refer to as "a typical Tuesday". And in the end none of the party's leaders were implicated.

But in the meantime, Canadian voters just don't like criminality even of such a modest sort, and while the country as a whole is normally of the left, the left is always divided, among liberal Liberals, progressive New Democrats, and the ethnicist Bloc Québécois, and so the vile Stephen Harper slipped into office with 36% of the vote, and 124 of the parliament's 308 seats, which is allowed in Canada's parliamentary system as long as enough people in the opposition put up with it (because, say, they don't want another election).

The Gravity Deficit

Georges Méliès, La Voyage dans la Lune (1902). Image via wifflegifs.

David Brooks writes ("Enter the Age of the Outsiders", New York Times, October 19 2015):
As any fool knows, gravity plays a tremendously valuable role in our solar system in encouraging planets, comets, asteroids and so on to stay in their appointed paths. If the sun were to start slacking off on the gravity, other heavenly bodies might just take up eccentric orbits or wander off altogether, shirking their responsibilities and setting a terrible example for their own moons.
I mention this because it's such an original and compelling analogy for what's been happening in our own political and social systems lately, and a good way of walking back my unfortunate lapse last week where I lost my temper with the House Freedom Caucus and inadvertently suggested that both sides might not do it.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Faith works miracles: Time travel edition

Hi C&L fans! Thanks, Batocchio!

Or is he just another secret Muslim? (Via)
I was startled to hear on the radio this morning the story, from the Republican candidates' forum at Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas this weekend, of how JEB! found the Lord, which was new to me, and somewhat surprising, given the well-known history of how he got married to a Catholic woman in 1974 and went to Mass with her for the next 21 years before finally being received into the Roman communion in 1995 (as he wrote in a piece for CNN on the eve of the Pope's visit to the US in September), because it sounds as if he was having a secret and, um, rather Baptist life the whole time:
Like the other candidates, Bush focused on his anti-abortion rights record and painted himself as a defender of religious liberty.  He opened up about a born-again moment he experienced in the '80s, when he decided to read the Bible from end to end.

I got about halfway through Romans when I realized that Jesus was my savior," he said. (CNN via)
(love how the defense of religious liberty is directly associated with the liberty to interfere with other people's possibly irreligious liberty), or,

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Bleaker Speaker

Fujiwara Michinaga (966-1027). Michinaga was so powerful that he never even needed to assume the highest positions in the government hierarchy. As the head of the Fujiwara clan, it was simply understood that he was the most powerful person in the government. Michinaga first came to power in 995, thanks to the efforts of his sister, the retired empress Akiko, who was perhaps the most powerful women in the Heian era, able to force the emperor to appoint her brother to a position of power. (Via Pennsylvania State University)
So the Congresscritters are trooping back into Washington, no doubt refreshed by their Indigenous Peoples Day holiday and the delightful crispness of the autumn weather and Senator Ted Cruz appearing on the Mr. Chuck Todd Show to inform the public that he declines to say whether Representative Ryan is a True Scotsman Conservative or not:
Alright. I wanna do two more things about this Washington. Is Paul Ryan a true conservative?
Oh, listen. I-- I-- I like Paul Ryan. He's a friend of mine. This is obviously a question that is wrapped up in the Speaker of the House-- deliberations. I have said consistently I'm gonna stay outta that....
So at a rally in Iowa last week (flanked by Charles Grassley and Steve King) Senator Cruz consistently demonstrated his intention of staying out of that by naming his own preferred candidate:

Annals of derp: Canon balls

Giovanni Venanzi of Pesaro, 1688: King Solomon being led into idolatry by his wives. Via Wikipedia.
Monsignor Ross Douthat, Apostolic Nuncio to 42nd Street, demonstrates once again that he's just not that good at theology and canon law, in his allegations of a "conspiracy" on the part of old Francesco to "rewrite" Catholic doctrine with regard to the policy of allowing divorced-and-remarried Catholics to take communion:
Francis’s purpose is simple: He favors the proposal, put forward by the church’s liberal cardinals, that would allow divorced and remarried Catholics to receive communion without having their first marriage declared null.
...if his purpose is clear, his path is decidedly murky. Procedurally, the pope’s powers are near-absolute: If Francis decided tomorrow to endorse communion for the remarried, there is no Catholic Supreme Court that could strike his ruling down.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

I know a dead parrot when I see one

One Jennifer Rubin has a nightmare (Bad Dreams, 1988), the other one has a daydream.
Jennifer Rubin wants you not to count out JEB! yet, at least in New Hampshire:
His main challengers in New Hampshire — Ohio Gov. John Kasich and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie — have $2.6 million and $1.4 million cash on hand respectively, and as of now in the national RealClearPolitics average are below the 2.5 percent threshold for the next debate.
That's his main challengers for fifth place? I believe he has that just about sewn up.

You can't overleap that

Dr. Professor Neal Portenza performing his own autopsy, Melbourne, April 2014. Via Sydney Morning Herald.

Guess David Brooks ("Schools for Wisdom") got another one of those phone calls—
Friends of mine have been raving about the documentary “Most Likely to Succeed,” and it’s easy to see what the excitement is about. 
Your mission, should you accept it, is to make it sound exciting to watch a documentary about charter schools for the 21st century, when everybody that has a job at all will be changing jobs 25 times over the course of a working life and most people won't have jobs at all but just be Uber drivers, whether they're cooking burgers or writing code or singing opera or building roads, and there's no longer a need to know anything, since it's all Googlable, and newspaper stories and legal briefs are themselves written by computers, and our educational system designed in the Prussian empire in the 1870s isn't appropriate any more.

Actually tell me why we still have to have school at all:

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Cheap shots: Democratic debate

Well, OK. I say the Democrats won. Sanders supporters and Clinton supporters alike had to feel reassured about how the party would do if their own candidate lost the primary, and Sanders and Clinton themselves set a great example in their insistence on disagreeing with each other respectfully. As someone who has had a fairly positive impression of both, I was a little more able to see what's wrong with them: more bothered than before by what looks to me like Green Lanternism on Sanders's part (I'm less concerned about his electability than what he would do if elected, which looks like not much, since as he says he needs a "political revolution" to carry out his program, whereas what he's likely to get is a GOP House and a very hostile press), and by Clinton's ability to make up a record to please any audience (especially on that TPP question, minor though it probably is in the long run). But I'm glad she called herself a progressive so decisively and forthrightly, knowing the line would get pulled out as a sound bite by all sides, and I'm glad he presents such a good example of sticking to his guns.

Something is not rotten in the state of Denmark

Most annoying moment for us self-described socialists:

Wednesday, October 14, 2015


Colin Clive as Dr. Frankenstein confronts his Creature, played by Boris Karloff, in James Whale's 1931 film, via Nitrate Diva.
Shorter David Brooks, "The Republicans' Incompetence Caucus", New York Times, October 13 2015:
I am shocked—shocked—to find that the Republican caucus in the House of Representatives has been infiltrated by a bunch of vulgar, ill-informed and ill-mannered commoners. These people don't even believe in democracy!
I know right. You let these peasants into the club and before you know it they're running around like they own the place.

See Driftglass and Steve M for the analysis of today's idiocy—and a masterful takedown by the political scientist Corey Robin (also at Crooked Timber, where there will probably be some elevated commentatoriality) of the "traditional" conservatism Brooks is talking about—which

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Farewell Boehner Song (if he ever actually leaves)

To the tune of:

Times have changed
since our nation began to roll
as maturity takes its toll
there's a different protocol—
you don't know what you ought to do
if you trust to the protocol
protocol may turn on you
[hit it!]

Monday, October 12, 2015

My nomination

Now that everybody's aware that a Speaker of the House doesn't constitutionally need to be a member of the House, people are starting to make some novel endorsements, like Senator Tom Cotton's (evidently sincere) suggestion (h/t BooMan) of former House minority whip (January–March 1989) and chair of the House Republican Caucus (January 1987–January 1989) Richard Bruce Cheney, who has served with distinction or at least distinguishability in three out of the four branches of government, including one he invented himself (others may think outside the box, but he thinks outside the whole building), and can be expected to be a great disciplinarian, since he never hesitates to order torture. And unquestionably has lots of heart, thank to his foresight in getting himself a great health insurance plan.

Image via Daily Inspiration with Dick Cheney/Funny or Die.
But then at 74, Cheney's older than Sanders or Biden, and he doesn't exactly stand for fresh new approaches. And the longer he's out in public the more people will be certain he's a vampire. I think Republicans should use this opportunity for some of that rebranding, to speak to today's youth and minority voters, taking advantage of the flexibility of the speakership rules to do something truly audacious: I give you

Sadly, no: Penny-pinching

Dr. Whom? Image via Americans Against the Tea Party.
Dr. Ben Carson at the Iowa Freedom Summit, January 25:
Dr. Ben Carson, in conversation with Sean Hannity, October 5:
Nancy Pelosi said if you cut the budget by one penny, it will be a disaster. Not true at all.
Dr. Ben Carson, in conversation with Kai Ryssdal October 7:
the assumption of so many people is that every penny that the government spends is critical. You remember Nancy Pelosi saying, "If you cut one penny, the system will collapse"? And that's not true.
Dr. Ben Carson, in conversation with Wolf Blitzer, October 8:
I know that Nancy Pelosi said, if you cut one penny, the whole system will collapse. You know what I say about that? It's not true. 
And you know what I say?

Sunday, October 11, 2015

A—let's be frank—tribal identification

Or a Tea Party is just where you invite your poupées. Image via Tudor House, Georgetown.

Monsignor Ross Douthat, Apostolic Nuncio to 42nd Street, under the headline, "Wanted: a Tea Party Speaker":
maybe the lesson of those struggles is that the speakership simply isn’t a job for a professional dealmaker and institutionalist at the moment. Instead, maybe it’s a job for a conviction politician, an ideologue (in the best way!) who’s also interested in governing.
That's certainly thinking outside the box! After all, it's only been a job for a professional dealmaker and institutionalist for the whole of US history. And if your ideologue (in the best way!) is interested in governing, maybe he wouldn't mind pitching in, in the busy season.
Maybe, in other words, House Republicans need a speaker who’s an ambassador from the Tea Party to the G.O.P.’s K Street/Chamber of Commerce wing, rather than the other way around.
But an ambassador who's not a dealmaker or an institutionalist. Because (according to an article he links by Michael Needham at the National Review)

Friday, October 9, 2015

Worse than a crime

It's an unforced error.

Not how I pictured it at all. Image by Taylor Whitney.
The worst thing about Hillary Clinton's démarche against the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement isn't that it represents some kind of treacherous backstabbing against her old boss, because it doesn't. I agree with BooMan's judgment that it's nothing personal. In fact it's just the kind of thing Obama'd do himself (and indeed did do, in the 2008 campaign, on the subject of vague proposals to renegotiate NAFTA, among the few promises that he's shown no interest whatever in keeping), and he's hardly likely to take it seriously; nor is it likely to weigh at all one way or the other in the congressional debate on the agreement.

The worst thing is that it makes her sound really stupid:

Sticking to his guns

Image via Pleated Jeans.
Our old friend Kevin D. Williamson of the National Review (quoted on Monday by Steve M), making fun of the urban myth that mass shootings of the Umpqua Community College type are some kind of problem:
we love stories. We love them more than we love reality: The Republican party is not run by a secret cabal of warmongering billionaires; Barack Obama is a cookie-cutter Ivy League lefty, not a Kenya-born al-Qaeda plant; you’re going to die from emphysema or from being fat rather than from Ebola or a resurgent Islamic caliphate; the people who commit the murders are for the most part going to be ordinary criminals going about ordinary criminal business, and a fair number of the people they kill are the same thing.
I couldn't get over the implication there that murder itself is not a problem in the US, because it's not a problem for Kevin D. Williamson and other upstanding citizens; it's just an occupational hazard of ordinary criminal business, whatever that is—if people don't want to get shot to death, you know, they really need to make better life choices, and the wider society can't help with that.

Meaning, pretty clearly, that it's only a problem for black people, nothing serious, because that's the memetic heritage of this argument, as put out in such respectable sources as the World Nut Daily, or the Arkansas Council of Conservative Citizens, based on the technique of lumping together a large number of bona fide statistical views of a single problem as if they were independently correlated variables:

Thursday, October 8, 2015

A missile as good as a mile

Authentic, not at all photoshopped image of the new Soviet Russian Kalibr missile, now being field-tested for the first time in Syria, or close to it, anyway. Via Survincity.

Al-Jazeera, 4:48 GMT (= 9:48 Eastern):
However, cruise missiles do malfunction and crash on occasion, even later model, US-made Tomahawks, have caused incidents this way.
If a Russian missile had malfunctioned and crashed in Iran or Iraq, the diplomatic ramifications could have been significant.
CNN, 1:38 EST:
A number of cruise missiles launched from a Russian ship and aimed at targets in Syria have crashed in Iran, two U.S. officials told CNN Thursday.
Monitoring by U.S. military and intelligence assets has concluded that at least four missiles crashed as they flew over Iran. One official said there may be casualties, but another official said this is not yet known.
That was fast. Trying for the George W. Bush Memorial Award in International Fail, Vladimir Vladimirovich?

Update 2:29: Times alert reached my computer ten minutes after this was posted.


  1. a person rendered imbecilic by abuse of prescription painkillers (e.g., That oxymoron posted another illiterate Tweet ).

Image by "The Conservative Insurgent". Speaking of oxymorons.
Bernie sez, "Nothing like a steaming hot plate of rich person. En fricassée."

White House Fool Report: Kunduz

Donkeys fighting, Kunduz, via Heilige Stätten,
And none too soon...
 President Obama personally apologized on Wednesday to the head of Doctors Without Borders for what he described as the mistaken bombing of its field hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, promising a full investigation into the episode, which took the lives of nearly two dozen doctors and patients.
That's good,
White House officials said Mr. Obama told Dr. Liu that he would make any changes necessary to ensure that such incidents were less likely in the future. And they said that the president promised a “full accounting” of who was to blame, and whether the military’s rules of engagement need to change.
That's better. What would be best would be to honor the request of the Médecins Sans Frontières president, Dr. Joanne Liu:

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Autogooglotic asphyxiation

Today's Brooks ("The Big University") starts out looking pretty deadly ("Not that one again!"), but it does have its funny side, which I discovered more or less by accident.
Many American universities were founded as religious institutions, explicitly designed to cultivate their students’ spiritual and moral natures. But over the course of the 20th century they became officially or effectively secular.
Religious rituals like mandatory chapel services were dropped. Academic research and teaching replaced character formation at the core of the university’s mission.
Administrators and professors dropped spiritual language and moral prescription either because they didn’t know what to say or because they didn’t want to alienate any part of their diversifying constituencies. The humanities departments became less important...
I'm thinking yeah, if you mean Harvard and Yale and so on, because they were founded as divinity schools, to prepare preachers, and cultivating spiritual and moral natures was part of the job description. It was when they started putting out doctors and lawyers and congressmen that things began to change, right?

Monday, October 5, 2015

Lectiones: Miscellaneous

Stuff you might think about reading:

Meme via Reclaim Reform.
Jersey Jazzman's fond farewell to Obama's worst cabinet appointment, the outgoing Secretary of Education, with a not very cheerful thought about his designated successor, New York State education commissioner John King, on whom I'd like to note the following statement from the New York State United Teachers:
“New York State United Teachers is disappointed in John King’s appointment as acting U.S. Secretary of Education. NYSUT has always considered John King an ideologue with whom we disagreed sharply on many issues during his tenure as the state’s Education Department commissioner. Just last year, our members delivered a vote of no confidence against him and called for his resignation. NYSUT urges its members to call the White House switchboard at 202-456-1414 — as well as a special White House telephone line dedicated to public comments at 202-456-1111 — to express their displeasure in John King’s appointment.”
And more below the fold!

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Told you so: TPP

Update at bottom: Scoop! And another update 10/7

Image via
Well, really? How? The link leads to a an editorial at Common Dreams that links in turn to a Reuters story from last week about how a supergroup consisting of the American Farm Bureau Federation, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, National Association of Manufacturers and other groups has sent a letter to the negotiators in Atlanta asking them not to go through with a plan to exclude certain dangerous products, like tobacco, from the ISDS dispute settlement mechanism:
"As you all enter the potentially final hours of negotiation, we ask all of the TPP governments to reject the exclusion of products from the coverage of the TPP and its enforcement mechanism," said the letter.... Such exclusions are unnecessary and would be highly damaging to the international rules based trading system and the prospects for the TPP." 
The products in question being at least tobacco, and according to sources on the Australian position anything affecting health and the environment. The Common Dreams writer comments,

West of Eden: Despair and Wanking

Pre-production publicity (2012) for the Will Blesch film Requiem for the Night, Israel's first full-length vampire feature, which seems not to have been shot.
While the rest of the world is panicking over the Syria situation as if it had suddenly blown up in their faces instead of undergoing a well-publicized disintegration over the past four years, and as they try, however ineptly, to do something about it, Israel seems to have come down to asking, "Is there any way we can make a profit out of this?" Thus the Times gives us a story (Jodi Rudoren) on
the aggressive development goal — 100,000 new residents across the Golan in five years — being promoted by Naftali Bennett, a senior Israeli minister and one of many Israeli leaders and thinkers seizing on the chaos in Syria to solidify Israel’s hold on the Golan.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Stylistically indomitable

Greta Garbo and John Gilbert in Clarence Brown's Flesh and the Devil (1926). Via Rebloggy.
Shorter David Brooks, "Carly Fiorina: The Marketing Genius", October 2 2015:
Fiorina's great at marketing, but needs work on product development. That is, she lies about herself and her career with terrific aplomb, and aggressively about her rage-targets from Barack Obama to Planned Parenthood, but in presenting her policy positions she sounds like a completely conventional Republican. If she really wants to be in the big time she's going to have to start lying more effectively about that too, on the model of Bush or Kasich or Huckabee, giving the impression the policies are meant to benefit working people.
Well, so he doesn't exactly say she lies. He says she's "stylistically indomitable"—
Clinton and Fiorina appeared back to back on “Meet the Press” recently. Clinton was challenged on the email issue and tried affably to defend her conduct. Fiorina was challenged on the existence of a Planned Parenthood video she claims to have seen.
In contrast to Clinton, Fiorina simply refused to adopt a defensive posture. She ignored the challenges and just hit Planned Parenthood harder. The factual issue sort of got lost in her torrent. She was stylistically indomitable even if she didn’t address the substance of the critique.
And that she has

Eiron, the Goddess of Irony... Tengrain always says, laughed so hard she farted.

This didn't happen. Who wanted us to believe it did? Image from Funny or Die via Advocate.
Curiouser and curiouser how the tale of the pontifical embrace of Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis (famous for her belief that her Trinity-denying Apostolic Pentecostal faith entitles her to collect an $80K salary while refusing to perform some the job's central duties) develops.

Yesterday Mr. Pierce came out with a horrifying construction of a story about how Pope Francis might have been ratfucked by Vatican conservatives into appearing to take a position on Ms. Davis when he hadn't in fact thought about the issue at all (and certainly wouldn't have wished to endorse in that form if he had thought about it):

Thursday, October 1, 2015

West of Eden: Discouraged.

Congratulations Russia, killing your first 30 civilians in a single day in your very first week! You guys are going to go far in this business, I just know.

Updated 10/2/2015

Image by Heiko Sakurai, via Bayerische Schloßverwaltung.

So when Americans bomb a wedding party they sometimes manage to kill as many as 40 people (Mukaradeeb, Iraq, May 19 2004), 47 tops (Dih Bala, Afghanistan, July 6 2008), and they haven't really brought one of those off in years, frankly. So it's time for some of the younger countries to show up—Hi, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, wiping out upwards of 130 wedding guests, mostly women and children, in the village of Al-Wahijah in western Yemen on Monday, possibly a record.