Monday, February 29, 2016

Zombie rhetoric: A facet of the fact

Marion Davies in King Vidor's Show People (1928).

Speaking of Ross Douthat and the rhetorical strategy of "I'm not saying—just saying", here's cand. doc. Fredrik De Boer, literally a student of rhetoric, with an elegant variation: "I don't say it, I've never in my life said it, but some of my friends say it, and evidence shows that they are right":
I’m regularly accused of believing things that I’ve never said and don’t believe. That’s largely a facet of the fact that, on the internet today, arguing with people is really a matter of misrepresenting what they’re saying and then attacking the misrepresentation. One of the most constant of these is that I say “both parties are the same.” I’ve never said that. Ever. In my life. But over time, the claims of friends who do say that have been vindicated over and over again.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Douthat's not saying. Just saying.

Oddly enough, George W. Bush does resemble Cato the Younger, a bit. Image via Barry Strauss. But as far as imperialism goes, there's a reason Mr. Pierce named him our C-Plus Augustus.
Shorter Monsignor Ross Douthat, Apostolic Nuncio to 42nd Street, "From Obama to Trump", New York Times, February 27 2016:
I'm not saying Trump is all Obama's fault, but I can think of about a million reasons for saying it, and they're ever so intellectual-sounding. I'm just saying.
Because he's so saddened, right, by the Democrats' unseemly glee at the Republican pickle, or fear of what might happen if the Trumpster succeeds. Think it's funny, don't you, liberals? Or inspires you with terror?
What it hasn’t inspired is much in the way of self-examination, or a recognition of the way that Obama-era trends in liberal politics have helped feed the Trump phenomenon.
Yes, we have to ask ourselves what we have done to encourage the Donald and Donaldism. Look into your heart, libs!

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Welfare as we knew it

In August 1996, as the welfare "reform" bill Bill Clinton had vetoed twice traveled to his desk once more, Even-the-Liberal-New-Republic ran this lovely image, black mom savoring a cigarette while her baby enjoys a bottle, over the headline "Sign the Welfare Bill Now". Image via SansEverything. Those were truly evil days, not that that excuses him, strictly speaking, for signing it the third time around, but it helps to explain why he ended up thinking he had to.
So far in the 2016 campaign, Hillary Clinton definitely has an edge over Bernie Sanders on the issue of welfare, if not exactly a glorious superiority: she's promised that she'll say something about it eventually—
In the coming months she will discuss more details on her approach to addressing children and families living in poverty, including how best to support those families who rely on the safety net of welfare to temporarily keep their families afloat during the hardest of times
—and he hasn't promised a thing.

Although of course on the other hand Sanders was one of the 98 Democrats and Independents in the House of Representatives who voted against the the 1996 welfare "reform" bill (98 Democrats voted for it) which replaced the traditional Aid to Families with Dependent Children (supplied under Title IVA of the 1935 Social Security Act) with a Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) program to be administered through block grants to state governments which would design their own programs, including strict working requirements for the beneficiaries, and putting a cap of 60 months on an adult's ability to receive such benefits during her or his lifetime. Whereas Clinton didn't have a vote at the time, but, as is pretty well known, was married to the president who signed the thing, as she still is.

Friday, February 26, 2016

A back in his Crick

Ossi Oswalda in Ernst Lubitsch's Die Puppe (The Doll), 1919. Via Fritzi.
David Brooks was feeling awful when he was typing his title last night, "The Governing Cancer of our Time", but luckily he'd forgotten about it by the time he got his index cards lined up, and the unpleasant metaphor had wandered away. I wonder, though, what the cancer was going to be a metaphor for?
We live in a big, diverse society. There are essentially two ways to maintain order and get things done in such a society — politics or some form of dictatorship. Either through compromise or brute force.
Bigness, or diversity? It's clear that he regards these as problems in need of a solution in American public life, things that have to be dealt with, perhaps by unpalatable expedients. Need to lose weight? Chop off your legs or go on a diet, the choice is yours. Need to do something about that uncontrollable diversity? I'm afraid you'll have to get some politics. It's a slightly scary procedure, but less invasive than a dictatorship, and most patients survive.

I prefer to think of diversity and politics as positive goods, and interdependent, as the great English democratic socialist political thinker Bernard Crick suggested, in his 1962 essay In Defence of Politics:

Thursday, February 25, 2016

The present now will later be past. That's a promise.

Don't try this with a real bagel. Especially if you're using real water! But if you do, don't panic, you'll probably be fine. Image from Swimline Water Sports.
Corey Robin, yesterday:
There’s a certain type of person who came of age around the time that I did—or just before or not long after—whose entire political identity is shaped around the idea of being realistic, of shedding childish enthusiasm and adolescent dreams. They were anarchists or activists or God knows what in high school or college. But now they know better. They can sling phrases like “How are you going to get it past Congress?” with all the bark of a short-order cook. They’re unafraid of clichés. They’re more mood than mind. And their world is about to come to an end.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

It's always nice to be beating the governor

Rollender Kopf (Rolling Head, 1982), by the German artist Ernst Kolb. Image via

I Love the Poorly Educated
a poem
by Donald F. Trump

You know we weren’t expecting—
a couple of months ago,
we weren’t expecting to win this one,
you know that, right?
We weren’t.
Of course if you listen to the pundits,
we weren’t expected to win too much,
and now we’re winning, winning, winning the country.
And soon the country’s going to start winning, winning, winning.

So I want to thank the volunteers.
They’ve been unbelievable.
These people, they work like endlessly, endlessly.
We’re not going to forget it.

And we’ve had some great numbers coming out of Texas,
and amazing numbers coming out of Tennessee and Georgia and Arkansas
and then in a couple of weeks later Florida.
We love Florida so.
We’re going to do very well in Ohio.
We’re beating the governor.
It’s always nice to be beating the governor.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

The decay you decry

Photo by mks at dubstepforum.
Concerned David Brooks is concerned about marriage inequality! Not what you're thinking: it's that apparently all the best marriage is being hogged by a happy few while the majority have to make do with what remains, and the gap between the camps is growing:
marriage is polarizing: The best marriages today are better than the best marriages of generations ago; the worst marriages now are worse; over all, the average marriage is weaker than the average marriage in days of yore.
This is a not totally inaccurate summary of some research results reported in 2014 by the social psychologist Eli Finkel in a New York Times Valentine's Day piece, "The All-or-Nothing Marriage", and as a matter of fact it's probably the most interesting thing in the column, or would be if Brooks had been capable of understanding what he was reading when he read, or looked at, that article—I'll be getting back to it shortly, as Krugman would say at this point—but Brooks himself quickly loses interest in it and moves on to his own views on what modern thought, as represented by the self-help literature in airport bookshops, has to say on the subject of marriage, which is that we have three attitudes, of course, seeing it through three distinct "lenses", psychological, romantic, and moral...

Monday, February 22, 2016

Peak David Brooks Sloth

Sloth with a lot on his plate, via Giphy.
As you may or may not know, New York Times columnists have been expected since the Information Era arrived on 42nd Street, I think sometime in 2008 (?), to keep a blog or something like that, and David Brooks has basically never done it though there's a Web page purporting to contain one:
This blog covers the intellectual, cultural and scientific findings that land on David Brooks's desk nearly everyday but don't always make it into his twice-weekly column or his conversations with his fellow columnist Gail Collins.
It doesn't; what it contains is 13 blog posts from spring and summer 2011 followed by 14 "Life Reports" submitted by readers, in November and December 2011, when he tried to get them to do it for him, Tom Sawyer–style, followed by a single post of June 2014 where he responded to reader comments on his idiotic theory that there are two kinds of sports, logarithmic (soccer) and exponential (baseball), and he hasn't been back since.

As for that Conversation with Gail Collins, which began in May 2008 and quickly devolved into an improvised routine in which she emailed him one-liner prompts to which he responded (I figure it took her two hours a week and him ten minutes), it seems to have come to a halt in November 2014.

Collins has now restarted it with an alternative Brooks, Arthur, of the American Enterprise Institute and rumored to be one of David Brooks's spiritual directors on his road, if he's on the road, into the bosom of the Roman Church: as she wrote in its debut,
I miss my old pal David Brooks, but David’s just got too much on his plate to pick up one more project right now. And I get another Brooks! I will refrain from making any water-related jokes.
Now she's sliding into it, in today's dialogue on old Scalia, referring to David as "the previous Brooks", like "the previous incumbent", though he remains as the present Brooks on Tuesdays and Fridays. I don't know if I can convey what it is that seems to me so funny about this; it's the thought that he's too much of an indolent hack to even manage to be wholly himself without some assistance—"Arthur, can I borrow some of your Brooksishness? I'm running a little low."

Cheap shot: Lessons in political science

The Bosses of the Senate, after Joseph Keppler, Puck, 1889. Via US Senate.
Sanders to Chuckie on why he lost in Nevada:
“As I understand it, we actually won the Latino vote yesterday, which is a big breakthrough for us. But the voter turnout was not as high as I had wanted.
“And what I've said over and over again, we will do well when young people, when working-class people come out. We do not do well when the voter turnout is not large. We did not do as good a job as I had wanted to bring out a large turnout,” he added.
Well, there's the thing (in addition to its being very far from certain that Sanders won the Latino vote). The whole theory of the Sanders campaign, suggested over and over again, is that Bernie himself is the key to bringing the young people and working-class people out, because they've just been sitting there yearning for for the opportunity. They haven't been voting very reliably in recent years—what's the point, in the pervasive corruption of our political culture? But with Bernie, there's hope for changing that, and they'll respond to that resonating message (semiotically speaking, the concept of "messages" that "resonate" may be the central theme of the whole election year):

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Electability or Eluctability?

Three cardinal virtues—fortitude, prudence, temperantia—in the Stanze della Signatura, Vatican. by Rafaello Sanzio. Image via Rembrandt's Room.
Well, that was a fun Saturday! Marco Rubio won by coming in second instead of winning, as originally planned, by coming in third, and Hillary Clinton didn't lose by coming in first, even though Sanders won by coming in second, because her campaign had cleverly crafted the message that she'd win if she won, just as happened with Trump, who won because he was a winner, though he sometimes wins by coming in second too. Cruz lost, crushingly, with a vote that is statistically indistinguishable from that of the winner Rubio, whereas JEB! was forced to quit with his terrible 7.8%, conceding to the better prepared and more electable Kasich, who won spectacularly with 7.6%.

JEB! won the contest of who really wants to spend more time with his family, though it is not clear whether he means his wife and children in Florida or his brother in Texas and his mom in Maine. And these people all like to make fun of us ordinary folk with our Little Leagues and chess clubs where everybody gets a trophy.

Here's a great piece by Tom Hilton, on the question of whether Bernie Sanders is electable, where I agree with more or less every single point but I'm not sure I agree with the whole argument. My disagreement is that where he says Bernie's not electable I say he is, but I just don't see how.

Saturday, February 20, 2016


Image via Hora de Aventura.
Early in November, I was very startled by some research reported in a paper by Anne Case and Angus Deaton find that as mortality rates have generally been dropping all over the US there is one group where they have been going up rather steeply between 1998 and 2013, that being undereducated non-Hispanic white people (high school diploma or less) between 30 and 64, from causes dominated by suicide, liver cirrhosis, and drug overdose.

Some new work is putting a somewhat new reading on the numbers, I learn from Katie Surrence over at LGM, and I also find that I made an appalling error myself in my post back then, so I have to correct that.

My error was to say that it was white non-Hispanic men whose death rates were rising, which is not what that report said. I unconsciously made it up, I guess out of the belief that suicide and intoxicants are typically guy deaths, but the fact is there was no gender breakdown at all in the Case and Deaton study.

And in fact in the new treatment by Andrew Gelman and Jonathan Auerbach, adjusted for age groups and including gender breakdown, it turns out the people whose mortality rates are rising are non-Hispanic white women, ages 45 to 54, mostly in the South but to some extent also in the Midwest. (The rates for non-Hispanic white men in the South were rising pretty sharply from 2000 through 2008, but have declined since then.)

What it means I don't really know, but it does mean my Beavis and Butt-head scenario isn't exactly right, so let the record be revised accordingly.

Yes I can—No you Kant—

Spitballer Dr. Johnson, sticking out his tongue, refutes the idealism of Bishop Berkeley. Drawing by Godescalc. Story at Frank's place (note that philosophically speaking Boswell was right and Johnson was wrong).
A seriously annoying op-ed in today's Times by Vlad Chituc and Paul Henne boasting that they have found empirical evidence that disproves an axiom from Emmanuel Kant, which is like saying you can disprove Euclid by baking a lasagna.

The axiom is the one leading up to the categorical imperative that "ought" implies "can", or:
one cannot be obligated to do something unless the thing in question is doable. For instance, there is no sense in which I am obligated to single-handedly solve global poverty, because it is not within my power to do so.
Apparently some analytical philosopher called Walter Sinnott-Armstrong contested that axiom in a celebrated paper of 1984 by the usual analytic method of combining a wild Talmudic imagination with a certain English linguistic prissiness, by constructing cases in which it would be possible to say that you are morally obliged to do something you can't do; as Chituc and Henne exemplify it,

Friday, February 19, 2016

Vatican't even

Look at all those wetbacks swarming in shamelessly from Rome! Where's the border patrol for God's sake? Photo by Jeff J. Mitchell/Getty Images.
If and when the Vatican is attacked by ISIS, which as everyone knows is ISIS’s ultimate trophy, I can promise you that the Pope would have only wished and prayed that Donald Trump would have been President because this would not have happened. 
Long before that, the Vatican will probably be overrun by illegal immigrants breaching that ridiculous excuse for a wall, stealing all the jobs and raping the, um, choirboys?

Rear-window party

Buster Keaton in his 1923 film Three Ages. Via thefyuzhe.
Shorter David Brooks, "A Little Reality on Immigration", New York Times, February 19 2016:
I'd like to express my dismay about the way Republican conservative orthodoxy seems to have taken on such a violently anti-immigrant stance which would have seemed extremely strange to conservatives throughout our country's history, from Reagan to George W. Bush. I will convey this by explaining carefully why immigration is a good thing and invoking the name of Donald Trump seven times without mentioning the names of any other Republican candidates.
The account of how immigration is a good thing looks like some unusually assiduous research on the part of our author and his assistants, until you look at it just a little closely:

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Is neoliberalism a mental illness?

Image by Acesential/DeviantArt.
Thomas P. Friedman, better known as Thomas L. Friedman, Mystax Fatuitatis, asks, How bizarre is this presidential campaign? So bizarre that there are candidates who disagree with Thomas L. Friedman on the question of what you would pick as America's three greatest sources of strength if somebody asked you to write them down on a sheet of blank paper. That's pretty fucking bizarre!

What are America's three greatest sources of strength if you write them down on a sheet of blank paper? According to Friedman,
  • a culture of entrepreneurship;
  • an ethic of pluralism; and
  • quality of our governing institutions
I find it bizarre that Friedman lives in a world where you can imagine people passing you a sheet of blank paper and asking you to write down your Trifecta picks on America's three greatest sources of strength instead of something like "With best wishes to Estelle, Thomas L. Friedman".


Wednesday, February 17, 2016

How much would it cost to make Chris Christie a better person?

It takes a lot to frighten Snooki. Via.
About $25 million:

Two, four, six, eight: Who is going to radiate?

Painting by Herbert James Draper, showing his radiating lines used to unite the subject with the foreground. Image (and caption copy) via Ipox Studios.
From the Revelation of St. David the Brooks:
...And then I saw two mighty whirlwinds arising, one that did come from the right and one from the left, and they were wildly impractical; and the one that rose from the right spake from the id and its answers were vivid, and its name was called Trump, and the one that rose from the left was free from the constraints of reality and spake boldly, and its name was called Sanders, and their appearance was entirely symmetrical, for so it is written in the book of the pandits, and I stood at the center and cried, Mommy, Mommy, make them stop.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Antislavery elements exposed in US government—Who knew?

Migrants from Myanmar in a Malaysian shrimp processing facility. Somebody finally did something. Image via Quartz.
Somehow in spite of his passion for the enslavement of Southeast Asians, which caused him to foist on our helpless country a trade agreement that is the first trade agreement in history to require all countries in the agreement and Malaysia specifically by name to eliminate slavery, indentured servitude, and any and all kinds of forced labor and "adopt and maintain in their laws and practices the fundamental labor rights as recognized by the ILO" and take specific steps to put an end to forced labor and ill-treatment of migrant workers, and subjects governments that fail to protect workers to the same dispute resolution processes used to protect investors, only it might not work really well so that just goes to show that he doesn't care at all—Somehow,
Barack Obama is set to sign a law that would ban all US imports of fish caught by slave labor in south-east Asia, closing a loophole that has allowed seafood from forced labor to enter the country for decades.

Precedential Powers

Concerned Senator Hatch is concerned. Image via Brigham Young University.
Old Orrin Hatch on NPR explaining how there is NO PRECEDENT for a TERM-LIMITED PRESIDENT in his FINAL YEAR OF OFFICE to NAME A SUPREME COURT JUDGE, therefore it's outrageous to even think about it.

That's how narrowly he has to define it in order to cobble together some kind of truth out of the lies being told by Senators Grassley, McConnell, Lee, and so on. But I think you need to understand that according to my research there are exactly zero times in American history when these conditions have been met.

There could not be a term-limited president until after the 22nd Amendment was ratified in 1951, and since then there have been four years when there was one in his final year (1960, 1988, 2000, and 2008—Nixon, of course, was in his final year in 1974 but the president in the general election year was Ford), and no Supreme Court justice died or resigned in any of those four years, which is really not surprising, because, like most people, Supreme Court justices really don't die or resign any more often than they can avoid it (the exception being, of course, Charles Evans Hughes, who resigned twice, in the election year 1916 and in 1941), and there aren't very many of them.

Scalia, always a spitballer, shattered his last Supreme Court precedent in the last act of his life, by leaving it at a moment when no justice has ever left before. There's no precedent for the whole situation, Senator Hatch, so there's no precedent for the president not to name a new justice either. And that's not all.

Monday, February 15, 2016

In your heart you know

"That is their business, not mine. I believe that the problem of race relations, like all social and cultural problems, is best handled by the people directly concerned." Image via Haiku Deck.
I'm increasingly disturbed by the propagandistic activity on the intellectual sidelines of the Sanders campaign—not Sanders himself—as in yesterday's post by Corey Robin, of all people (given the rigor and brilliance he applies to the analysis of propaganda from the right), trying to suggest that Hillary Clinton is "still a Goldwater girl after all these years":
Here’s what Clinton said about Sanders over the weekend:
Not everything is about an economic theory, right?
Sanders, you see, wants to reduce all social and political issues to the economy. But there are other issues that matter to us in life, aren’t there? Breaking up the banks, raising the minimum wage, free higher ed, and universal health care: that won’t solve all our problems, will it?

Interestingly enough, there’s another candidate in Clinton’s lifetime who made a similar claim in his attempt to discredit the economic program of the liberal left—a program not unlike Sanders’s...

Sunday, February 14, 2016

A supremely bad idea

Justice Joseph Rucker Lamar (1857-1916), via New Georgia Encyclopedia.
In the bizarre storm breaking out last night over whether it's proper for a president in the last year of his term to nominate a Supreme Court justice, with Chuckles Grassley claiming such a thing hadn't happened in the last 80 years even though he himself had voted for one of them (Anthony Kennedy, in 1988; the others in the last 80 years are Brennan, 1956, and Powell and Rehnquist, from the Nixon year 1972), a point of some significance got lost.

In the normal case a new justice is named when an old justice retires, and is available to serve, however crankily, until the new justice is confirmed with the advice and consent of the Senate. The really problematic situation, where there are only eight justices and the strong possibility of failing to reach a majority in an excessive number of cases, only happens in the much rarer event of a justice's death or resignation with immediate effect.

So Dr. Google and I would like to report: Scalia is the first justice to have died during an election year since 1916, when Joseph Rucker Lamar of Georgia died in the middle of term on January 2, and on January 29 Woodrow Wilson "surprised the nation" by nominating Louis Brandeis to succeed him. Brandeis took rather a long time to confirm, until June 1, for some reason or other

The Perils of Feminism

Gloria Swanson in Clarence Badger's Teddy at the Throttle (1917). Image via Bangor Daily News.
The Camille Paglia of the Washington establishment:

Maureen Dowd, January 23 2016:

Sarah Palin Saves Feminism

Maureen Dowd, February 14 2016:

When Hillary Clinton Killed Feminism

Happy Valentine's Day, Red! I guess she must have done the dirty deed just in the last couple of weeks, huh? Because it was OK when Palin last saw it.

Well, maybe she was just being sarcastic on that:

Saturday, February 13, 2016

RIP Antonino Scalia

Friday, February 12, 2016

A lively terror

Prime Minister David Cameron and President Barack Obama inspecting the Jacob Epstein bust of Winston Churchill in the Oval Office (not the identical one loaned by the British Embassy to George W. Bush, which was returned to the embassy after Bush left the White House), July 2010, photo by Pete De Souza. Via ABC News. 
Speaking as an old Boomer who yields to none in my loathing for that bloodsucker and intellectual mediocrity Henry Kissinger, I was not sorry to hear Bernie Sanders last night calling Hillary Clinton out for her friendliness with the criminal advocate of mass murder in Cambodia, Chile, East Timor, and who knows where else, but taken aback, by the same token, when he was nominating two leaders, one domestic and one foreign, who would "influence his foreign policy decisions", in answer to Judy Woodruff's question.

He started off by naming Franklin Roosevelt, not a bad choice at all, but failed to mention any of FDR's foreign policy ideas or moves in his explanation, which made him sound a little like Marco Rubio playing pin the sound bite on the donkey, if you know what I mean, and then his other choice was none other than Sir Winston Churchill, defended in terms that weren't too different, logically, from Clinton's defense of Kissinger (she may "disagree" with him "on a number of things" but he went to China) earlier in the debate:

Maybe I'm amazed

Buster Keaton in The General (1926)? [corrections welcome], from the Tumblr of yet another idiot who can't understand the concept of crediting an image, so screw them.
Shorter David Brooks, "Livin' Bernie Sanders's Danish Dream", New York Times, February 12 2016:
If Bernie Sanders becomes president, government spending will go through the roof! There will be centralized economic planning and the Washington establishment will control American life! Taxes will be so high you won't be able to choose your own lifestyle! Entrepreneurs will have no incentive to entreprenate! American colleges and universities will become tawdry nests of hippies like Cambridge and Uppsala instead of forward-looking profit centers like the University of Phoenix! You'll have to wait in line for your rationed health care! Not that there's anything wrong with that, I've lived in northern Europe myself, but it's not Tocqueville's America, and I find it amazing—amazing—that our young people should think of it as a good idea.
(Is he trolling me today, doubling down on "amazing"? 141st and 142nd career uses of the adjective and its corresponding adverb in the Times column.)

I got you Abe

Happy birthday to America's first socialist president, Abraham Lincoln, who wrote, in his 1847 "Fragments of a Tariff Discussion", the year before the publication of Marx's and Engels's Communist Manifesto,
...inasmuch [as] most good things are produced by labour, it follows that [all] such things of right belong to those whose labour has produced them. But it has so happened in all ages of the world, that some have laboured, and others have, without labour, enjoyed a large proportion of the fruits. This is wrong, and should not continue. To [secure] to each labourer the whole product of his labour, or as nearly as possible, is a most worthy object of any good government.

The Rail Splitter. Painting by J.L.G. Ferris, ca. 1909, via Honest Abe Blog.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Don't do anything you'll regret

Little Snowy River sunrise, New Hampshire. Photo by Dana Clemons.
One of the pleasant things you could do watching the primary results come in in New Hampshire was to think of it as a big nonpartisan primary, since independents can vote in either, and see that not only was Sanders blowing Trump out of the water, as the horserace guys say, but Clinton was beating him as well. This didn't last into the morning's numbers, in which Trump has slipped ahead of Clinton, but they're still pretty close, at 89% of the vote counted:
  • Sanders 138,716
  • Trump 92,417
  • Clinton 88,827
  • Kasich 41,813
  • Cruz 30,416
And a gigantic preference for what we liberals refer to as optimism, Brooksy, in the top three candidates against all the groaning declinist movement conservatives. Don't stop thinking about tomorrow!

Update: The bad news, from BooMan, is that a lot more Republicans than Democrats came out, suggesting one side is more energized than the other, as in Iowa.


Speaking of thinking about tomorrow, beloved commenter Suzan was saying yesterday,

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Brooks discovers Barack

Art from an essay by Steven Hayward from 2010 that opens up, "With the stunning victory of Scott Brown in Massachusetts it appears the long night of the soul for conservatives may be over. The last two years have been tough for the Right. In terms of political power, conservatism is at its lowest point in more than 30 years..."
Verbatim David Brooks, "I Miss Barack Obama", New York Times, February 9 2016:
As this primary season has gone along, a strange sensation has come over me: I miss Barack Obama.
Well, that is a pretty strange sensation. Because he didn't go anywhere yet, you know? If you'd like to see him, he's still around. He's the president of the United States. He just sent a new budget up the Hill this morning, for Pete's sake, though the Republicans up there are doing their best to pretend it doesn't exist:
In a harsh partisan snub, the Republican chairmen of the Senate and House budget committees — Senator Michael B. Enzi of Wyoming and Representative Tom Price of Georgia — have chosen not to invite Shaun Donovan, the director of the Office of Management and Budget, to testify about the administration’s plan, set to be released on Tuesday as part of the traditional budget week festivities.
Even though Obama is wrong about stuff, in Brooks's humble opinion, he has a good character, on five main parameters: basic integrity, basic humanity, soundness in his decision-making process, grace under pressure, and a resilient sense of optimism (I wonder what a sense of optimism is, like you can smell it when it's in the room? and what it is when it's not resilient, but let that pass). It's noteworthy, as Driftglass cheerfully points out, that Brooks has not always had such a high opinion of the president, but maybe he was only dreaming then, or maybe he's only dreaming now, does it make a difference?

Happy New Year! 猴年大吉!

Hóu Nián dà jí! Lots of luck in the Monkey Year!

Chen Yi's 1997 Spring Dreams, because New Year is the Spring Festival, setting a Tang-dynasty poem by Meng Haoran (translation somewhat original):

Chūn mián bù jué xiǎo,
chùchù wén tíniǎo.
Yè lái fēngyǔ shēng,
Huā luò zhī duōshǎo.

Spring mornings you sleep in, without noticing dawn,
though everywhere you hear the cries of birds.
At night, it was the sound of wind and rain
blowing the blossoms to ground, who knows how many.

Monday, February 8, 2016

West of Eden: Deeply unpleasant

Olive groves in Farata, West Bank, during the settler attacks of October 2010, via Piglipstick.
And here's our old friend, dean of the foreign correspondents, the gracious-living A.J. Liebling of the postmodern era, Steven Erlanger, who has for some reason given the Times his Yelp review of a disappointing holiday spot in the um Occupied West Bank, or Samaria as the locals call it, well, some of the locals, if you know what I mean, at a "studio house" in the illegal settlement (so illegal the Israeli government has attempted to demolish it every once in a while) of Havat Gilad, booked through Aibnb for just $111 a night, with
several rooms, sparely furnished and not completely finished, and a lot of junk outside, including empty ammunition crates used for storage. The views over the hills are of a Palestinian village, Farata, and another hilltop Israeli settlement, Ramat Gilad.
Ah, charming Farata. Did he see any of the famous olive trees, I wonder?

Bernie for saint?

Robespierre and Danton. Oil and collage by Zuka, 1988.
Charles Blow's take on the state of the Democratic campaign wonders mentions an ominous number I haven't seen before:
Iowa did see a record number of caucusgoers … for the Republican candidate. The number of Democratic caucusgoers fell significantly, and half of those went to Clinton.
As RealClearPolitics reported:
“The trend line is positive for Republicans (turnout up 54 percent from 2012) and negative for Democrats (turnout was down 22 percent from 2008).”
It's just one state, and a pretty peculiar one at that, but if it does indicate anything it doesn't look good for the political revolution, or the "half a revolution" Clinton proposes either. I wonder, too—given the evidence, such as it is, that negative campaigning may tend to discourage Democratic turnout in particular—if the increasing nastiness of the atmosphere, between the "Bernie bros", to whatever extent they exist, and Gloria Steinem, might be making things worse. It's certainly having a dispiriting effect on me. When I see old Bill Clinton out slinging poison as we do this morning

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Cheap shots: Ted Cruz faces his kidnapped member

Not really, it's mostly about Rubio. But the loved member was my favorite moment in the debate.

"Repetition. Repetition. Repetition." Image via La Generalista.

Talking about Rubio's "25-second speeches" put me in mind of an earworm he's been repeating in this annoying way for the past three weeks:

(1) Rubio in the January 14 debate:
She wouldn’t just be a disaster. Hillary Clinton is disqualified from being Commander-in-Chief of the United States. Someone who cannot handle intelligence information appropriately cannot be Commander-in-Chief and someone who lies to the families of those four victims in Benghazi cannot be President of the United States.
For pity's sake, please, just one more time:

The water she's swimming in

From He-Man and the Masters of the Universe #12.
On May 9 2011, a subsidiary of the Swiss bank UBS, UBS Wealth Management Americas, held a private event at Lincoln Center in New York thought to have been devoted to the firm's newly released report, Revitalizing America: Forging a New Path Toward Economic Prosperity, which discussed the (asserted) need for "entitlement reform, regulatory streamlining, education overhaul, innovation reinvigoration and tax simplification" along lines that would require "neither a Republican nor a Democratic approach... but instead a comprehensively American one" though that agenda sounds Republican enough to me.

But the big-name speakers at the panel discussion, ex-presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, apparently didn't talk about regulatory streamlining or innovation reinvigoration, whatever those are, as much as about Osama Bin Laden, who had been killed just a week earlier. Or so CNBC was told by anonymous sources, since they couldn't get anybody to talk about it on the record.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Cheap shot: Truss Ted

Because if the Rapture turns out to be a Rupture, you're going to need Support!

So BAD it's good: Blogroll Amnesty Day 2016

Skippy the Bush Kangaroo reminds us: It's Blogroll Amnesty Day 2016!

Here are some very fine, excellent, huuuuge links—

Mad Kane, limericist

NTodd! (Dohiyi Mir)


Simply Left Behind (The Non-Rapturists' Guide to the Galaxy)

Pine View Farm

Sadly, No!!! (Re-emerging from the slough, please encourage this)

Vixen Strangely Makes Uncommon Sense

The Deep Issues, and Shopping Too

From Segundo de Chomón, La Maison Ensorcelée (1908).
Shorter David Brooks, "A Question of Moral Radicalism", New York Times, February 5 2016:
Should we be moral radicals, giving our all to others and retaining nothing for ourselves, or should we be more moral moderates, giving and taking and having a beer once in a while and stuff like that, or is there some kind of compromise between these positions? Philosophers have been discussing this kind of issue since like 1982 and they still haven't gotten to the bottom of it, is that heavy or what?
Starting off with a Readers' Digest condensation of the Roddie Edmonds Righteous Among the Nations story (leading a group captured by Wehrmacht troops, he saved Jewish soldiers by telling the captors "We're all Jewish") as told by President Obama at the National Prayer Breakfast yesterday, with link to the official text. Possibly Brooks trying to let us know he was invited again (went last year and gave the president high marks even in the face of disagreement from Andrea Mitchell, which goes to show what kind of courage and originality he himself possesses.)
That kind of moral heroism took place in extraordinary circumstances. But even today there are moral heroes making similar if less celebrated sacrifices than those soldiers were ready to make.
I'd like you to focus on the grammar of that sentence, with its totally unfair implication that the soldiers were only ready to make sacrifices if they were going to be fairly intensively celebrated.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Close reading: Needless Alexandrines

Martyrdom of St. Lawrence, illumination on parchment, French, late 12th century. Wikimedia Commons.
I've never noticed this before, but apparently National Review runs a poem from time to time, mostly in the monastery garden behind the broken glass–topped old stones of the paywall I suppose, but sometimes it winds up visible to the profane in The Corner, where I noticed one today. The rubric is edited by Kathryn Jean Lopez, obviously, and I like to think of her, slightly envious of us atheists and Marxists and abortion supporters with our Katha Pollitt, explicitly looking for a figure of equivalent charisma on the right, a poetess of stature but also of more decorous opinions, preferably scanning and rhyming and staying away from some of these detestable innovations that have been brought on the scene by young whippersnappers like Miss Millay and Mr. cummings, not that there's anything wrong with being modern up to a point or even a little racy once in a while, but you'll never get to "Tears, idle tears" that way, will you?

Anyway, today's offering, by Jennifer Reeser, is a part-Petrarchan sonnet in its rhyme scheme, with a half-breed octave (half Italian, abba, and half Sicilian, abab), and the totally unexpected meter of iambic hexameter (not actual wounded-snake Alexandrines, which demand a caesura after the sixth syllable, but six-footers all the same, which is a pretty limp meter in English), and the poet handles them with a good deal of confidence and adequate syllable-counting, though to my ear she lands some of the stresses in pretty awkward places. Explaining it, on the other hand, is not that easy. Imma just go ahead and lay it out with some helpful interpretive glosses.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Cheap shots: Bye-bye Curly!


Senator Dr. Rand Paul: Secret Muslim, or just seeing which way the wind blows? The Goat Rodeo is gonna miss you! Photo by Gary Cameron/Reuters via Slate.
In your Groundhog Day surprise, Senator Dr. Rand Paul finally saw his shadow, appropriately enough, and scurried back to the family business of soaking the rubes for souvenirs and holy relics. Sadly, this does not mean the presidential campaign will end now or six weeks from now. But it's not impossible.


Fact check  (Lynn Vavreck/The Upshot, NYT)
Donald Trump recently appeared on the Fox News Channel show “Fox and Friends” to declare, “Everybody hates Ted.”
He meant Senator Ted Cruz, of course, who is the latest candidate to challenge Mr. Trump’s lead in the polls. But does everybody hate Mr. Cruz? The answer is a clear no. In fact, some people like Mr. Cruz a lot.
I hate to defend Donald, but I think he meant not "everybody" as in the entire human population but everybody who has ever met Cruz. The evidence Vavreck offers does not disconfirm this. Two Gepettos, Lynn.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Still more good news for John McCain!

Hobart Bosworth in Rowland V. Lee's The Sea Lion (1921). Via Fritzi.
Shorter David Brooks, "Donald Trump Isn't Real", New York Times, February 2 2016:
1. Donald Trump draws his political style from the theatrics of World Wrestling Entertainment, in which what matters isn't whether you win or lose or whether you are good or evil but how aggressive you show yourself to be, so if he wins it won't be real, right, Dad? But it's real if he loses?
2. Marco Rubio's surge in Iowa is amazing.
(That's Brooks's 140th career use of "amazing/amazingly" in his Times column since September 2003, for the record, maintaining a steady rate of just over once a month.)

Monday, February 1, 2016

My Revolution

Image via Sodahead.
I was sort of clean for Gene in early 1968, you know. I'm that old!

I cut my hair and put on a tie (paisley, no doubt, and four or five inches wide), and did a little door-to-door in our little town, not proselytizing, that was not part of my instructions from the McCarthy campaign, just collecting information on preferences, but I was glad to be a footsoldier. It was a revolution! The youth of America were going to take over, at long last, and wash our country clean of corruption! I felt infinitely superior to friends lounging around listening to Iron Butterfly (as far as Iron Butterfly goes, I guess I still do), or Simon and Garfunkel: I can't hear the new Bernie ad without a garbled lyric coming involuntarily into my mind, expressive of a weirdly wrong sentiment for a primary campaign: