Thursday, December 31, 2015

Happy New Year!


Image via CleveScene.
Why the Tamir Rice killers walk, along with so many others:
Even with indictments, juries will remain reluctant to convict police officers absent evidence of malice, said Eugene O’Donnell, a former officer and prosecutor who now teaches at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York. “Tremendous incompetence, the worst kind of training, disregard for people is really not enough,” he said. “You’re going to have to go beyond that because the police are different.”
I get some sympathy out of that for prosecutor McGinty in Cleveland, looking at this Times article about the legal barriers that exist in our states to the prosecution of homicidal police. Yes, it's kind of disgusting the way the charade of the grand jury was staged to make it seem as if he was looking toward the possibility of justice, but there wouldn't have been any in the end in any event. If a killer is a cop, "depraved indifference to human life" isn't an adequate reason to put him in jail. "Give this unfortunate young officer a break," says the law, "he's a piece of shit, but is that a reason to punish him? He's suffering from effluenza."

New Year Schadenfreude

Is Netanyahu a secret Muslim? Image via CNN.

A couple of years ago (November 2013), in the context of one of those posts I was doing at the time trying to explain why the NSA surveillance operations affecting US persons, unacceptable as they might be if they actually existed, were definitely not the same thing as the SS or the Stasi, I wrote:
The Obama administration is considerably less Pinochet-like than [the Nixon-era programs]. They would plainly prefer that whoever they're spying on should not have a clue that it's happening, a sign that what they're after isn't fear or obedience at all, but intelligence. And above all they don't want the people being spied on to know who they are, even at the price of letting us believe, following the Snowden document dumps, that it's all of us. Am I confident nobody's spying on me? Yes. Am I confident nobody's spying on harmless dissidents, cheating girlfriends, or Binyamin Netanyahu? No, but I sure hope they're tapping Netanyahu.
So I'm naturally pretty pleased to learn from this Adam Entous and Danny Yadron article (Wall Street Journal this side of the paywall) that they decided to take my advice and even got some real stuff for a change, catching the Israeli government suborning legislators and lobbyists in the effort to sabotage Obama's Iran policy:


Santería practice on church steps, image via Ghost Lounge.
Trump plays the Santería card on Ted Cruz!
"You gotta remember. In all fairness, to the best of my knowledge, not too many evangelicals come out of Cuba, OK? Just remember that, OK? Just remember," he told the crowd in Council Bluffs, Iowa. "When you're casting your ballot, remember."
No indeed! What kind of religion comes out of Cuba? Something they don't hear much about in Council Bluffs, I bet!

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Brooks of the Year in Review

David Brooks in 1776, via Publius Maximus.

Twice a week or so for I don't know how long, probably three or four years, practically every Tuesday and Friday, I turn to the Times opinion section (nowadays generally on my phone, first thing in the morning during funding credits on NPR) to see what crimes against journalism and the English language David Brooks has committed that morning, and try to figure out something to say about it, or through it, or under it, whether with a Shorter (often with a lot of commentary) or a fully realized essay, a parody, or even once in a while a for-reals poem, as happened last January, when I got the impression from a column that he'd been trying out an online dating service (OK Cupid), and having a fairly humiliating time of it, and found myself moved for a change by a genuine compassion, together with a couple of really terrific rhymes.

I don't do this for every Douthat column, or every dithyramb by Jonah Goldberg, or anybody else (to say nothing of torturing myself the way fellow Brooksologist Driftglass does watching the Sunday morning shows every week), just Brooks, and I'm not completely sure why. One thing is it's a kind of exercise, and I sit down to it the way a high-tone jazz pianist might start a practice day with a little Bach (one prelude and fugue from WTC) and a little riff...

Monday, December 28, 2015

Moar Clinton

Hillary Clinton and Marian Wright Edelman at a Children's Defense Fund event, 2013. Photo by Alex Brandon/AP.
That Amy Chozick story about young Hillary Rodham as an undercover agent of change in Alabama in the summer of 1972, infiltrating the system of "segregation academies" set up in the South to evade civil rights law, contains an amusing example of rhetorical electric slide:
D. Taylor Flowers, the chairman of the board of Houston Academy, whose father was a founding board member, was in the ninth grade at the school (which locals call “H.A.,” jokingly saying it stands for “holy Anglo”) when Mrs. Clinton visited. “I've heard the story, and I don’t think Hillary Clinton made it up,” he said over lunch in Dothan.
The school was founded to prepare students for college, not as a segregation academy, Mr. Flowers said. But, he added, “I would be disingenuous if I said integration didn’t have anything to do with” parents’ enrolling their children in Houston Academy. “Integration was a huge social change for us.”

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Jon Swift Memorial Roundup 2015

Batocchio Super in Resistencia, Argentina.

This year's Jon Swift Memorial Roundup (named for the great late blogger Al Weisel/Modest Jon Swift the Reasonable Conservative who started the tradition), the annual blogfeast in which bloggers large and famous and small and obscure, mostly the latter, volunteer their best posts of the year for the delectation of readers everywhere, is up at the Vagabond Scholar, as ever offering a lot of great reading from blogfriends old and new. Everybody gets a trophy!

It's a wonderful custom, and curator Batocchio, who keeps it up, deserves applause and thanks, from writers and readers everywhere. So go there!

Cross-posted at No More Mister Nice Blog.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Birth of a Hack

Christopher J. Scalia, a "writer in Washington, D.C."*, reviewing Leo Damrosch's 2015 biography Eternity's Sunrise: The Imaginative World of William Blake for The Weekly Standard, mostly sticks to discussing the book, but ventures at one point into a little analysis of the poetry of the book's notoriously gnarly subject, sticking with the Songs of Innocence to play it safe:
The poems are deceptively simple. Consider this stanza from "The Shepherd."
How sweet is the Shepherd's sweet lot!

From the morn to the evening he strays:

He shall follow his sheep all the day,

And his tongue shall be filled with praise

The light rhythm and idyllic setting are subtly undercut by the diction. Why is the shepherd following his sheep? A good shepherd might walk behind them—but to direct, not follow, them. Nor should shepherds "stray." The collection teems with such ironizing details.
Not so, in fact. "Any man may make a shepherd," Sidney's Emigrant's Journal advised its readers thinking of possible careers in Australia in 1848, "the duty is so light.... The shepherd follows the sheep all day, just keeping within sight and no more, letting them go wherever they please, except into thick scrubs. When they try to go into these places, he then heads them back, by walking round them if they are old sheep, or he whistles, and they face right about like soldiers; but if they are lambs, he is obliged to send his dog round them..."

Friday, December 25, 2015

Forlorn hope and change

Cheery Xmas post!

The Devil’s Own” 88th Regiment at the Siege of Badajoz. Watercolour en grisaille by Richard Caton Woodville Jr. (1856-1927). Via Wikimedia Commons.
From Patrick O'Brian's The Fortune of War, via Age of Sail:
Two weevils crept from the crumbs. “You see those weevils, Stephen?” said Jack solemnly.
“I do.”
“Which would you choose?”
“There is not a scrap of difference. Arcades ambo. They are the same species of curculio, and there is nothing to choose between them.”
“But suppose you had to choose?”
“Then I should choose the right-hand weevil; it has a perceptible advantage in both length and breadth.”
“There I have you,” cried Jack. “You are bit — you are completely dished. Don’t you know that in the Navy you must always choose the lesser of two weevils? Oh ha, ha, ha, ha!”
I love that joke, which Jack tells three or four times, to increasingly annoyed friends and guests, in the course of the 20-novel saga.

What put me in mind of it is BooMan's piece yesterday on what he calls "take-my-ball-and-go-homism" on the part of those who are or claim they are (11 months before an election) too pure in heart to vote for some candidate apparently situated on the right of some point on somebody's one-dimensional scale of leftness-to-rightness and will therefore be forced to not vote at all. This refusal to "choose the lesser of two evils" is as childish as Boo suggests, but it's also rhetorically pernicious, and I want to argue that it's not even properly speaking of the left.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Night Before Xmas

Happy holidays all, and Merry Xmas to those who celebrate, and God Jul to us crypto-pagans! Everything I'm trying to write today is unpleasant or boring or (in most cases) both, so let's just have some music.

Cross-posted at No More Mister Nice Blog.

West Bank briefs

Next time the conversation turns to imaginary video of people of some particular religious persuasion dancing and rejoicing over some unspeakably cruel violence, you can tell them you've seen a video like that for real.

Via The Guardian, shown on Israeli Channel 10 Wednesday night, a video showing the celebration of the death of a Palestinian toddler, murdered as he slept—
teenagers dancing with guns and firebombs and stabbing a picture of Ali Dawabshe, who died with his parents in an arson attack on their home this summer – was filmed at a wedding three weeks ago and obtained by an Israeli television channel.
Prime Minister Netanyahu condemned the behavior,

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The Brooksy Awards 2015. III: High-Class Savagery

The problem of the middle class savagery: Dear Readers, Across the country, drunken teacher, menedzhershi staff, nurses and young mothers are of serious concern to their behavior. Each night they get drunk to swinish state, have sex with unfamiliar men in the back of stores, dirty curse word and celebrate the natural needs of the street. A home at the time they are waiting for their husbands and children… The above realities — not domestic. They are taken from Special report British newspaper "Daily Mail" on October 9, 2011 with the title "Why intelligent nurses, teachers and mothers across Britain to get drunk every night out?" (Clearly a Google translation, via Survincity. Menedzher is Russian for "person who orders you around".) 

OK, so maybe this one'll turn out funny:
Writing “The Meaning of Sex” in The Weekly Standard, the anthropologist Peter Wood describes the damage done when natural and social constructs like virginity, fatherhood, intimacy and romance are done away with or watered down. The result can be a sort of high-class savagery leading to brutal pain and victimization.
I like the deconstructionist sound of "writing the meaning of sex", and the adventure of trying to find out what David Brooks imagines "social construct" means, which might be pretty wacky, and how you do away with virginity and fatherhood or water them down. And what kind of anthropologist writes for the Weekly Standard?

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The Brooksy Awards 2015. II

Greek dancing and tumbling, via THE DANCE: Historic Illustrations of Dancing from 3300 B.C. to 1911 A.D., BY AN ANTIQUARY, London, 1911.
So Brooks is pleased by Sebastian Junger's article from last May in Vanity Fair, which
starts by stating the American military has the highest post-traumatic stress disorder rate in its history, and probably the world. But then he notes there is no statistical relationship between suicide and combat. Vets who worked far from the violence are just as likely to commit suicide. Over the decades, combat deaths have dropped while PTSD rates have risen. The Israeli Army, which sees a lot of trauma, has a rate as low as 1 percent.
Obviously, to Brooks, that's a sign of our "lack of community" here in the selfish every-man-for-himself States, unlike that warm, loving, united Israel where there's no alienation because everybody's just so totally committed to togetherness, though what Junger was interested in is naturally something else, that is the effectiveness of the IDF in dealing with traumatic stress in a way the US fails to do, through a swift forward treatment (of the kind, as it happens, pioneered by the Wehrmacht in World War II:

Monday, December 21, 2015

Annals of derp: Not with a bang but....

And Ross will be whimperer-in-chief.

Image via ComicVine.
Monsignor Ross Douthat, Apostolic Nuncio to 42nd Street, isn't too upset about the failure of Republican predictions of Götterdämmerung for the Affordable Care Act, because he doesn't hold with those who favor fire, if you know what I mean; he sees the death of Obamacare more as a long, hideously painful affair, solitary confinement and protracted starvation:
First, after the initial surge, Obamacare’s enrollment numbers have mostly disappointed. Not in a catastrophic way — the law has knocked down the U.S. uninsured rate to about 11-12 percent, compared to a pre-Great Recession level of 14-15 percent. But depending on how you cut the numbers, it looks like the Obamacare exchanges will fall at least four million enrollees short of the target for 2016.
Also depends when you slice them, Ross, in our corrupted material world where nothing is eternal. Like if you get all your information from last October (as in every last link in that paragraph), a couple of weeks before the open enrollment period began, when all the numbers were pure guesses, you might end up mistaken. For instance, you could be missing the real numbers that came out on Friday, in plenty of time to get them into a Sunday column, confirming 6 million enrollments in Qualified Health Plans to date and some math involving state exchanges and automatic plan renewals that brings the total to something between 11 and 12 million QHPs already, or more than in the entire open enrollment period for 2014-15, and on track to reach Charles Gaba's projected total of 14.7 million signups by the end of the period (January 31).

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Obamacare Tragedy Watch: Nashville Katz

Photo by army_arch. Liberty Bringing a Dr. Pepper Float to Table 36.

According to the Heritage Foundation's Daily Aufruf Signal, that wicked Obama is bringing about the shuttering of the Noshville Authentic New York Delicatessen in the Broadway district of, uh, Nashville:
Dec. 27, the midtown Nashville location of the restaurant, one of two [Tom] Loventhal owns, will be closing its doors in part because of Obamacare, he said.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Liberal Fascism Watch: War on Christmas edition

Orthodox icon of Saints Sergius and Bacchus (Sergios and Vachos), by Theophanis the Cretan (1545), Monastery of Dionysiou Mount Athos, via Paracletos.

Jay Nordlinger for National Review writes,
I was interested to read an article by Thomas V. DiBacco in the Wall Street Journal. (By the way, it would be interesting if Professor DiBacco disliked wine — as his name means “of Bacchus.”) The article begins...
Sadly, no. I mean, it doesn't mean "of Bacchus" in the sense of the wine god, most likely, as the Italian personal naming system didn't really get going until paganism was pretty dead, though it could conceivably be after the Saint Bacchus who was martyred at Barbalissos in Syria around the beginning of the 4th century, after being paraded in drag around town with his companion Saint Sergius, who appeared to Sergius after his death, encouraging him to face martyrdom as well so that they could be together for eternity, which Sergius did. Their vita describes them as erastai, which could be translated "lovers", and some scholars have thought of them as Christianity's prototype example same-sex marriage, united in the ritual of adelphopoiesis, though this is of course widely disputed.

Annals of Derp: When those bells start to repeal...

Welcome MBRU Blogpokes!

Secret Muslim Mitch McConnell. Via National Journal.

Noticed this story from Investors Business Daily on the Senate's first successful repeal of the Affordable Care Act (not successful in the sense that it repealed the ACA, which it didn't of course, but that it passed the Senate; 50-odd more times and they'll be as good at repealing ACA as the House), and was taken aback:
little-noticed report released Friday afternoon by the Congressional Budget Office shows that the Senate bill to repeal most of ObamaCare would cut the deficit by as much as $474 billion, while boosting GDP, investment and capital stock.
The findings stand in sharp contrast to promises by President Obama and other Democrats that ObamaCare would accelerate economic growth and lower federal deficits.
Wait, really? But didn't the CBO tell us just last June that repealing the ACA would raise the deficit over the 2016-25 period by $137 billion? Yes, they did. So what's happened in the meantime to change the assumptions?

Friday, December 18, 2015

The Brooksy awards 2015. I

Walter Pitts, via La Settimana Anacronistica.
The only slightly amusing thing at first glance in part 1 of David Brooks's annual survey of magazine articles he sort of enjoyed reading, or "Sidney Awards", isn't really amusing at all: a summary of the tale of the cognitive scientists Warren McCulloch and Walter Pitts, as reported by Amanda Gefter in "The Man Who Tried to Redeem the World with Logic":
These two geniuses fit together perfectly. They performed amazing intellectual feats, the first of which was coming up with a working model for how the brain works and laying the groundwork for artificial intelligence.
They also developed an amazing friendship. At one point when they were apart, Pitts wrote McCulloch, “About once a week now I become violently homesick to talk all evening and all night to you.”
Only one person was unhappy with this arrangement: the wife of a third colleague who was jealous of her husband’s academic relationships. She told her husband, falsely, that their daughter had been seduced by his colleagues. That ruptured the whole network of ties.
Violently jealous wife disturbs intensely beautiful intellectual collaboration, which, knowing what we know and what we think we know about Brooks's recent intellectual collaborations and his personal life sounds a lot like projection. An amazing lot, if you know what I mean.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Men of Retroaction

Drawing by Ted Rall.

Everybody's on this one from Fiorina just because it's hilarious, but I don't think all the juice has been squeezed out of it yet; there are a few details that haven't been adequately mocked, and a large point of particular significance to the Rectification audience:
to wage war, we need a commander in chief who has made tough calls in tough times and stood up to be held accountable over and over, not first-term senators who've never made an executive decision in their life.
One of the things I would immediately do, in addition to defeating them here at home, is bring back the warrior class -- Petraeus, McChrystal, Mattis, Keane, Flynn. Every single one of these generals I know. Every one was retired early because they told President Obama things that he didn't want to hear.
A lot of people out there are reporting that General Petraeus retired from the Army because of his conviction (reduced to misdemeanor from felony charges when he copped a plea) for passing classified information to his girlfriend-biographer, but this is incorrect; he retired in 2011 to take up Obama's offer of a job as Director of Central Intelligence (that's the job he was fired from for the security-violating hanky-panky). So what he told President Obama that President Obama didn't want to hear must have been, "Sure, I'll take the job." Oh, and Obama still does listen to Petraeus, sadly.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Called on the carpet: The sociopathy of innocence

Flying Carpet, ceiling sculpture by Cai Guo-Qiang, Herford, Germany, 2005.
What is it about that concept of  "carpet bombing", actually? I mean I know, of course, it's a phrase that gives the GOP voter a boner, with its suggestion of total, all-covering, all-burying power, potency from above the supine victim, not to get all Freud about it, but why aren't they afraid of getting laughed at by the military folks? Quoting from the debate text:
CRUZ: What it means is using overwhelming air power to utterly and completely destroy ISIS. To put things in perspective, in the first Persian Gulf War, we launched roughly 1,100 air attacks a day. We carpet bombed them for 36 days, saturation bombing, after which our troops went in and in a day and a half mopped up what was left of the Iraqi army.
They did not, for one thing:

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Longstanding but Vague

The Pizzistance of Memory. Uncredited via.

Well, so, Brooks has a title, "The Year of Unearthed Memories", which reminds me of the Discworld calendar (the Year of the Lenient Vegetable, the Year of the Reciprocating Llama), if not exactly, and a metaphor for bad memories as "porous capsules", which, Dr. Google tells me, are a sustainable method of crop irrigation, the ancient practice of burying unglazed longnecked clay pots down where the roots of your melons and cucumbers are going to be, leaving the opening exposed so you can fill it periodically with water; similarly, in Brooksian psychological theory, when you have a bad experience, its memory is stored in liquid form in a memory capsule down in the reptilian brain where you can't access it but it can access you, seeping through the pores to where it can poison your normal cognitive processing, unlike happy memories, which I suppose are tilled into the surface soil around the individual plants like fertilizer?
Childhood fears and adult traumas are stored differently in the brain than happy memories. They are buried like porous capsules deep in the primitive regions, below awareness and beyond easy reach of conscious thinking and talking. They are buried so deep that they are separated from the normal flow of life, and so time cannot work its natural healing powers.
You thought I was making it up, right?

Monday, December 14, 2015

Don't know much about Islam, but we know what we don't like

Safavid 16th c. miniature from “The Seven Thrones” of Jami, from Mehdi Khansari, Persian Gardens, 1997, via  Electrum Magazine.
Monsignor Ross Douthat, Apostolic Nuncio to 42nd Street, thinks he's spotted an amusing difficulty in the way we opponents of Islamophobia think about "The Islamic Dilemma":
for several reasons — because we don’t understand Islam from the inside, but also because we’re divided about what our civilization stands for and where religious faith fits in — we have a hard time articulating what a “moderate” Muslim would actually believe, or what we expect a modernized Islam to become.
You see the assumptions built in there: "we" don't know anything about it, but we're sure what we'd like doesn't exist, as yet, and is waiting for "us" to tell them how to do it. We say we're sure they're good at heart and then we can't even help them with their theology homework.

Sunday, December 13, 2015


As the Paris Agreement (that seems to be its formal name, not "Agreement on...") was being signed yesterday, big crowds of protesters stood in the Champ-de-Mars chanting:
That's a crappy chant, from the rhyming and especially rhythmic standpoint. I was wondering if it might have been the tweeter's translation of something in French like, "Un, deux, trois degrés/Crim' contre l'humanité!" which would be a lot more stirring, but no evidence that it was—or that anybody actually used this English one, either; only RT incorporated it into a news story. What the demonstration actually did do, using English, was pretty remarkable:

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Annals of derp: On our side for a change

This way of putting it is accurate enough. Drawing by David Horsey via
Loomis quotes a report from the Institute for Policy Studies. I wanted to leave a comment over there but the thing got too long.

It's an example of a popular way of visualizing inequality that I think we ought to stop using:
America’s 20 wealthiest people — a group that could fit comfortably in one single Gulfstream G650 luxury jet –­ now own more wealth than the bottom half of the American population combined, a total of 152 million people in 57 million households.
The Forbes 400 now own about as much wealth as the nation’s entire African-American population ­– plus more than a third of the Latino population ­– combined.

Friday, December 11, 2015

The March of Science

Ben Jacobs is quoting accurately there. Cruz should of course have said "revolved", the asshole.
I don't actually have any numbers for that, but I bet it was a lot.

The Explosion of Principle

Principle of Explosion, by xkcd (via Principle of Explosion Blog)
Shorter David Brooks, "The Ted Cruz Establishment", New York Times, December 11 2015:
Ted Cruz constantly rails against the establishment, and yet ironically he is the establishment. Except for the part about being established. This is what we Grand Strategy experts refer to as Machiavellian.
If David Brooks had left the Movement for a respectable reason, like Kevin Philips (because conservatism is stupid and damaging to society) or David Brock (because it's slimy and dishonest) that would be one thing, but he didn't. He broke up with it, I think, out of resentment of its failure to acknowledge what a special person he was, and because clinging to it wasn't doing him any good in his career as a public intellectual. A public intellectual is supposed to rise, magisterially, above considerations of party, and represent some longer-term transcendent standpoint; and a kindly, whimsical figure of the kind he aspires to be won't take the battles of the moment too seriously in any case.

Fisher Disher

Image from Slate's Scalia Insult Generator.
I've been all over the place on Justice Scalia's remarks at the oral arguments for Fisher vs. University of Texas–Austin, the complaint against the UT quasi–affirmative action admissions policy of letting in anybody in the top 10% of their high school classes, which discriminate against young Abigail Fisher because, she thought, she wasn't in the top 10% in her high school, but probably if she was in one of those MINORITY schools she would have been since they're all so dumb and she's smart enough to have made it through LSU*, so what's going on, where Scalia explained:
there were people who would contend that "it does not benefit African-Americans to -- to get them into the University of Texas where they do not do well, as opposed to having them go to a less-advanced school, a less -- a slower-track school where they do well." He argued that "most of the black scientists in this country don't come from schools like the University of Texas. They come from lesser schools where they do not feel that they're -- that they're being pushed ahead in -- in classes that are too -- too fast for them," Scalia said.
Pity the poor African Americans led by an uncaring society to believe they ought to attend a school with smart people in it! And occupying a seat that might have been occupied by Abigail Fisher, whose whole family went to Austin, proving that she's the right sort, even though her grades were maybe not that great.

*In the 2015 Shanghai rankings UT-Austin is at 27th in the US, and LSU at the tie for 79th to 102nd. Just saying.

But the thing that really got to me was that Scalia had a proper pseudo-scientific source for his retrograde opinions, as I found myself noting at the Frogpond:

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

How Brooks Makes Paragraphs

Conrad Veidt in Robert Wiene's Das Cabinet des Doktor Caligari (1920). Image via WolfInAGorillaSuit.

Shorter David Brooks, "How ISIS Makes Radicals", New York Times, December 8 2015:
The crucial issue in the terror attack in San Bernardino is really, how is it possible for an Islamic State headquartered in some stranded desert post in Syria to radicalize a couple in the Inland Empire of southern California, what "technology of persuasion" flings its influence all the way from there to here?
(1) The best place to look for an answer is still Eric Hoffer's 1951 book, The True Believer, because although it doesn't perhaps have anything to say about winning hearts and minds by remote control, it certainly provides us with stuff I can spin out for ten paragraphs worth of paraphrase and direct quote;
(2) Probably they use the Internet.
I have a strong feeling I know how he got to the celebrated longshoreman philosopher of the 1950s, Eric Hoffer, to find out that he was the "best source of wisdom" on the radicalization issue, which is namely the autogooglotic technique, or self-googling. Because the last time he published an explanation of how people get radicalized, in February, John Huckans at Book Source Magazine picked up on it in his own piece on, precisely, The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements, in reference to a quote from Hoffer:

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Expelling the Moriscos

The Expulsion of the Moriscos at the Port of Denía. Vincente Mostre, 1612. Via Wikipedia.

A little clarity from the New York Times:

1. It can't be done.
Putting the policy into practice would require an unlikely act of Congress, said Stephen Yale-Loehr, a professor of law at Cornell and a prominent authority on immigration.
Should Congress enact such a law, he predicted, the Supreme Court would invalidate it as an overly restrictive immigration policy under the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment.
“It would certainly be challenged as unconstitutional,” he said. “And I predict the Supreme Court would strike it down.”
2. It's not about Muslims, it's about Cruz.
Mr. Trump has a track record of making surprising and even extreme comments whenever he is overtaken in opinion polls by other Republican candidates – as happened on Monday just hours before he issued his statement about Muslims. A new Monmouth University survey of likely Iowa Republican caucus-goers found that Mr. Trump had slipped from his recent top spot in the state, which holds the first presidential nomination contest on Feb. 1. According to the poll, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas earned 24 percent of support, while Mr. Trump had 19 percent and Senator Marco Rubio of Florida had 17 percent...
3. Cruz knows that.
...some were more careful in their denouncements. Senator Ted Cruz, who has overtaken Mr. Trump in Iowa and has been gaining on him nationally, said: “Well, that, that is not my policy.” The Republican from Texas went on to explain that he has called for a moratorium on refugees from countries where the Islamic State or Al Qaeda control significant territory.
The whole point of the exercise could just as easily be to make everybody forget that Jeb! and Cruz were both calling for the exclusion of non-Christian refugees on equally unconstitutional grounds, oh, about three weeks ago. Now, says Bush, such ideas are "unhinged" and "not serious". To be fair, he has got it right this time.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Hey Rubio, Scalia sez you're an idiot

The author of the Undead Constitution, Zombie James Madison.
Marco, you fuckup:
Marco Rubio: .... I think one of the biggest things the next President is going to do is appoint justices to the Supreme Court -- justices who understand that the Constitution is a living and breathing document. It is a document of limitation and it’s supposed to be interpreted and applied based on its original intent. And there is no way that you can read that Constitution and deduce from it that there is constitutional right to an abortion, or a constitutional right to marry someone of the same sex. And what you have is a Supreme Court that wanted to reach a certain policy outcome and so creatively manipulated the Constitution to discover a right that for over two centuries, some of the most brilliant minds and legal history didn’t find. (h/t Tengrain)
I assume in that last clause you're talking about Bush v. Gore and George W.'s right to prevent the Florida vote from being counted because that might violate his equal protection under the law? None of the most brilliant minds and legal history caught that one, for sure.

But the big thing is you really need to get your constitutional clichés straight. That "living breathing Constitution" line is mine, not yours, referring to the law that evolves in time, in which it's OK to use the Commerce Clause to force businesses serving interstate travelers (trains, hotels) to not discriminate against black people, even though James Madison and John Jay never thought of it.  Or women may have a right to a "pre-quickening" abortion even though it's not in the Constitution (it was legal everywhere in the Republic under common law until New York made it a misdemeanor in 1829).

Your "document of limitation" Constitution with no rights other than the ones Chief Justice Marshall imagined is the dead one with its face frozen in a permanent rictus. Or as Justice Scalia said of the living constitution theory,
"you would have to be an idiot to believe that," Scalia said. "The Constitution is not a living organism; it is a legal document. It says something and doesn't say other things."
Or you could pretend to believe that's a valid view, but you'd still be an idiot.

Got paranoia? San Bernardino edition

Moses and the Messengers from Canaan. Giovanni Lanfranco, 1621-24, Getty Center via Wikimedia Commons.

Last night's post (wound up while I was trying to watch President Obama and cook a family meal—yeah, we eat late, like Spaniards—at the same time) was meant to be about Jonah Goldberg, not the San Bernardino incident, and I don't feel happy with it, though it has scored a pretty substantial audience by my pathetic standards, as a matter of fact. I feel it wasn't funny, as Suzan noted in comments; I think because you can't make it funny and about Goldberg; you can't make it not about San Bernardino, because that's too large and Goldberg is too small.

On the other hand, Goldberg's prose is waddling around in the context of a real journalistic question about what happened on Friday. Whatever preconceptions you bring to it, it doesn't make any sense; it's composed of two halves that don't fit together.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

From Jonah's world

Jonah-in-the-Whale, via WhatWouldSpideyDo.
I wouldn't presume to know what happened in San Bernardino on Friday, but I think we can be pretty confident it isn't as Jonah Goldberg suggests:
I think the “hybrid” attack theory is still plausible to me. I suspect that the original target wasn’t the Christmas party. My hunch is that Syed Farook went to the party and Bob from accounting stole his stapler or told him the ice-cream cake wasn’t halal and, in a rage, Farouk called an audible. He ran home, told his mail-order jihadist bride, “It’s go-time!” After a brief detour to drop their baby girl off at grandma’s and inscribe themselves in the Book of Worst Parents Ever, they went and murdered a bunch of innocent people. The willing suspension of reason about this is just amazing.

Note on Yemen

African youngster in Aden, undated image, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, New York Public Library.

Well, well, look what's happened in the old port of Aden in southern Yemen:
A powerful car bomb killed the provincial governor and at least four of his bodyguards in the southern Yemeni port of Aden early Sunday, according to the head of local security, raising new doubts about the ability of a Saudi-led military coalition to secure one of Yemen’s most important cities.
Hours after the blast, the Islamic State extremist group claimed responsibility for the bombing in a statement distributed on social media sites, saying it had killed eight bodyguards.
I hope nobody's too shocked by this development.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

More violence: Rubio exchange, concluded (I think)

Image by Ms. Magazine.

For the record again, taking up where the Senator left off Thursday. He either is really unflinching when it comes to debate or psychologically unable to not have the last word or has way too much time on his hands, but I have to admit to being impressed how much of it he's willing to give to an insignificant leftish clown who will never vote for him.

(Not complete, and maybe not 100% coherent.)

Friday National Review Fail: The real victim is Wayne LaPierre?

How to kill Wayne LaPierre if you really hate guns:  You don't. "Face the fury of my elaborate dancing!"
Well, so Charles C. W. (Cringe Worthy) Cooke is suddenly worried about the victims or potential victims of hate speech—that is, not the hate speech of the ISIS websites that now seem to have inspired Sayeed Farook and Tashfeen Malik in their massacre of his workmates, or the very murderous anti-abortion, anti-LGTB Army of God (guys named themselves after Hezbollah?), of whom the Colorado Springs terrorist Robert Dear was a big fan.

He's plainly not worried about this week's assault weapon killings and their victims at all (except to heap scorn on those who publicly doubt that "thoughts and prayers" are the way to make things better)—to him the real victim is National Rifle Association president Wayne LaPierre, because the New York Daily News is ordering its vast army of anti-gun vigilantes to murder him.

No, really: he draws this parallel between what he calls the "underlying argument" of those who blame hate speech for the Colorado Springs murders:

Friday, December 4, 2015

Natural Drunkenness

Macramé wall hanging by Sally England, Portland, Oregon.
Shorter David Brooks, "No, Donald Trump Won't Win", December 4 2015:
To many Republicans, Donald Trump is like a complex and sophisticated pink rug. No, not his hair, the man himself, and his policy proposals, dazzlingly beautiful, but then again, that electric vibrancy could in time become fatiguing, and it is far from clear that he will match our furniture and wall hangings. People often neglect the wall hangings when they are purchasing rugs, and this could lead them to make a regrettable choice, except after five minutes of looking at a wide enough sample of rugs, they will probably realize that in the long run that subtler, more prosaic blue rug will do the job better. Or perhaps the whole project of being a primary voter is like being the great 17th-century essayist Michel de Montaigne, whose mentality frequently flipped; as he remarked, "I cannot keep my subject still. It goes along befuddled and staggering, with a natural drunkenness." Watch your flipping mentality, jerk!*

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Violence: Exchange with Senator Rubio

Nothing especially original here, just for the record. No, wait, updated:

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Thoughts and Prayers: A Fulmination

West of Eden: Just saying

The last Caliph in Baghdad, al-Musta'sim, in 1258, locked by Hulagu Khan in his treasury without food or water: "Eat of thy treasure as much as thou wilt, since thou art so fond of it." Actually that's just a myth; in reality they wrapped him in a carpet and had horses trample him to death, so as not to spill any royal blood. Via Wikipedia.

In September 2014 I wrote:
Everybody hates ISIS. Not just Americans and Europeans, Persians, Shi'ites, Arab Christians, Yazidis, and Turkmen. Al-Qa'eda hates them, as has often been pointed out, and if the Sunni Baathists from Iraq who joined forces with them in Syria don't hate them yet they soon will. (I believe they thought they were the senior partners, about to restore Saddamism, and that hasn't been the case.) And the populations under their brutal, corrupt, and incompetent control in places like Mosul hate them the most of all. Yes, they're horrible and capable of doing a lot of harm, but they can't survive.
Today Ben Hubbard for the New York Times brings forward some evidence from people who have fled the "state" of how they're doing, which is pretty much on schedule, failing to happen, feeling pressure from Kurdish and Shi'ite troops and coalition airstrikes no doubt, which are interfering with the oil and smuggling industries, but most of all wrecking the project themselves. They're losing fighters fed up with pay cuts, they're losing professionals unable to deal with the religious oppression, they're creating the Islamist equivalent of China's Great Leap Forward in the late 1950s,

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

David Brooks is not optimistic—so I guess everything will be fine

Photo by Frank J. Regan via
Shorter David Brooks, "The Green Tech Solution", New York Times, December 1 2015:
Sure Republican politicians are bad, pretending to believe there's no such thing as global warming out of fear of Rush Limbaugh, but aren't Democratic politicians more or less the same, hoping that a formal agreement among 130-something countries to reduce carbon emissions could help to slow the warming process? After all, governments will probably cheat, so it would be much better to get corporations to do everything.
Brooks's example of governments cheating is China: