Thursday, June 30, 2016

Who invented the single market?

The Custom House, New York, 1799, via Wikimedia Commons.
The first time a continent-wide bunch of independent countries decided to form a single-market customs union, more than three decades before the various German statelets and principalities started toying with the concept of the Zollverein in ca. 1819, was in North America in 1787.

Because as everybody knows the War of Independence was not fought on behalf of one nation but 13 nations, which as the Declaration says "are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States", note the careful deployment of the plural there. As the dust settled after the war they worked out their Articles of Confederation under that assumption, giving each full autonomy in matters of taxation, after the fashion of the Dutch United Provinces.

Cheap Shot: Bye, Boris

Via The Sun.
“This is not a time to quail, it is not a crisis, nor should we see it as an excuse for wobbling or self-doubt,” said New York–born British politician Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson as he quailed, wobbled, succumbed to a well-founded inability to trust himself, and decided he'd rather not be prime minister just now, thanks very much.

Strictly speaking, that should be "von Pfeffel", not "de Pfeffel", after an ancestor, Baron Karl von Pfeffel, who married Karoline Porth, the illegitimate daughter of Prince Paul of Württemberg, in 1836. The Johnsons changed the name to make it sound not German. "Johnson" should be "Kemal", for similar reasons, after Boris's paternal grandfather Osman Ali Wilfred Kemal (born in Bournemouth, Dorset), son of a former Ottoman interior minister, who changed his name to Wilfred Johnson during the Great War against the Central Powers including the German and Ottoman empires. It is so terrible that unrestricted immigration is making Britain into a completely different place. The Angles and Saxons would be shocked.

Great take from Driftglass.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

West of Eden: Lede, exhumed

The Fallujah caravanserai, ca. 1914. Via Wikipedia.
Maybe I just wasn't reading carefully enough, but when the Iraqi government forces were reconquering the Anbar city of Fallujah from Da'esh, culminating over the weekend, I never saw the news that interested me most until I got to Professor Cole's wrapup of the operation: namely, who those government forces were, and whether they included any Sunni soldiers, which it turns out they did, in the form of tribal levies from the
clans of the Dulaym in al-Anbar Province who opposed Daesh just as many of them had opposed al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia, the predecessor of Daesh that was organized to fight the US military occupation of the country. Tribes are kinship units in rural Iraq, and while they are religiously conservative they typically are not fundamentalists, and they dislike Daesh for condemning their Muslim traditionalism in favor of a hyper-fundamentalism.
They also included Shi'ite militias including some, such as the Badr Corps, that are directly backed by Iran, and Cole seems to think that the actual Iraqi regular army, a mess, was probably the least useful element. There are allegations of bad behavior among the militias, that they have been razing buildings in the city to punish the Sunni residents. But the fact that the Sunni tribal levies participated and played an important part is a really good sign that Prime Minister al-Abadi may finally be beginning to work effectively towards integration, and that Obama's policy of handing out US assistance in a way that encourages it is finally starting to pay off. Cole is dubious, but not hopeless:

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Dr. Brooks, one presumes?

David Brooks, at center right, encounters a working-class Belgian in Antwerpen, 1991. Kidding. The image is of Henry Stanley discovering David Livingstone, from a Daily Mail feature revealing the fun fact that in his 32 years as a missionary in southern Africa Livingstone made only a single convert, a local chief, and not entirely successfully, given that the chief found himself unable to give up four of his five wives and adopt Christian monogamy.
As I suspected, David Brooks has now more or less completed his voyage into the heart of whiteness (having been to Pittsburgh, Lansing WV, Lost Hills CA, and Albuquerque), and is now ready to speak on behalf of anybody who spends time in the working-class parts of America ("Revolt of the Masses", June 28 2016):

Monday, June 27, 2016

You can't always get what you expect

The Magic Bus of Negativity. February 28 2016. That's the USS Intrepid in the background.
Shorter Corey Robin, "Unintended Consequences" June 27 2016:
Hillary Clinton's total incapacity to be a change-making president is demonstrated by the fact that some guy who used to work for her at the State Department told Patrick Healy that people who want to vote for Trump should think about the unintended consequences. But what if you use "unintended consequences" to mean the opposite of what it usually means? Then unintended consequences might be just what you wanted, ha ha dummy.
Seriously. I don't understand why he's doing this. He did his best for the Sanders campaign, but it is essentially over now. There is nothing further to be gained by attacks on Clinton's failure to be a revolutionary, especially on such a slender and silly basis; I'm afraid this wonderful scholar is finally turning into a troll. I wrote a longish comment, but it kept getting longer, and more and more irritated, and I finally decided to run it as a blogpost here, where he obviously won't see it, not wanting to be a troll myself.

First the post:

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Annals of Derp: McMegan, afterthoughts

Commenter StringOnAStick writes, in response to yesterday's Twitter battle,
Having recently gone through their own stay or leave (the UK) drama, I suspect the Scots have already put a good deal of thought into the economic issues at hand. Well, certainly more than the various anecdata stories of Leavers who now say they "just wanted to send a message, not actually leave".
It seems most Brexit postmortems are fixated on immigration (bad economy? Blame furriners!) and nationalism, because admitting that austerity has caused the lower classes significant pain would rather give the game away regarding the ongoing wealth transfer to the elites, no? Plus those most economically wounded might stop voting for the bastards doing the wounding if they didn't think flag waving solves everything.
It's amazing McArdle thought Scotland might have gone through the whole independence campaign in 2014 without anybody ever thinking of the points she "raises". She's really remarkably stupid sometimes.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Annals of Derp: McMegan on Scotland

McArdle delighted by the English revolt against the "elites" in the "remote capital" and their burdensome regulation of the struggling and oppressed capitalist class.

Not so pleased, on the other hand, by the prospect of Scots revolting against English imperialism, or what you and I would call elite rule from a remote capital, where they extract profits out of the land and leave the people in need, when Scotland wants to keep enjoying some of that Brussels regulation and the open borders that go along with it. McArdle thinks the economic sufferings Brexit will bring to the UK are a trivial matter, but issues dark warnings on the economic dangers for the Scots if they separate from UK to be a member of the EU on their own. Which are totally wrong, of course. At least as far as I know; she hasn't replied to my last Tweet yet.

I told her about Google, too!

Edgy David Brooks

George Caleb Bingham, "Raftsmen Playing Cards", 1847. Saint Louis Art Museum via New York Times. David Brooks at left in the green trousers, left out because he's a four-flusher and can't count.
Shorter David Brooks, "At the Edge of Inside", New York Times, June 24 2016:
When you are located neither in in the core of an organization nor outside it, but just at the edge of the core, you could be a genuine reformer, like Senator Lindsey Graham or Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Some people might not like you very much, but we need such people now more than ever. Lincoln, too, and the behavioral economist Richard Thaler, co-author, with Cass Sunstein, of Nudge (2008), whose theories can "make it easier for people to save money, eat healthily and more," according to the TED Radio Hour, which shows you just how edgy-on-the-inside he is.
Actually that's not what Brooks says about Thaler. He says,
When the behavioral economist Richard Thaler uses the lessons of psychology to improve economic modeling, he is operating just inside the edge of his own discipline and making it better.
But I don't feel that's 100% accurate. I think you could say Thaler uses the lessons of psychology to explain what's wrong with economic modeling as it's done (its presumption of rationality on the part of homo economicus), rightly I'm sure, but he doesn't use it to improve modeling; he does it to justify his own work as a purveyor of interesting anecdotes instead of models, and assert that you can do useful work even if you're no good at math:

Friday, June 24, 2016

E pluribus multum

I'm literally grieving. This should not have happened. If the European Union isn't democratic enough, the point ought to be to democratize it, not to retire into your island fastness.

Western pond turtle, via Aquarium Tidings.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Poem: I'm Tired of Being Divided Against Each Other

Rectification Central welcomes Marco "Cuban Heels" Rubio, statesman and poet (see below), back into the world of public affairs and the 2020 presidential campaign!

Yes, he's decided to offer himself to the people of Florida for a few months in 2017-18 as their continuing Senator, in spite of the inconvenience and suffering it will cause him and his lovely young family, so he can have a good-paying job he doesn't have to show up for when the campaign starts rolling and #RepublicansInDisarray after the Trump debacle might be desperate enough to turn to him. What a hero!

Not that it wasn't a struggle, between the quiet, self-effacing Rubio who longs for nothing so much as to live in private dignity, caring for his loved ones and in-laws, and enjoying the simple life of an attorney in a rainmaker sinecure and a few corporate board positions, and the deeply committed Rubio who says, no, I just can't let the people live without the benefit of me telling them what's what—they're depending on me!

This deep division—these two souls warring in a single breast—was the subject of a short but poignant lyric he wrote in the thick of the 2016 campaign. I wanted to run it then, but he dropped out so quickly I never got around to it, and I'm happy to have the chance to do that now, beneath the fold.

All your base are belong to us

Do Smut Clyde's fans declare their allegiance in this frank and appealing manner? I THINK NOT. When was the last time you saw an enthusiastic young person proclaiming herself a "SMUT QUEEN"? Photo by Lauren Gambino/Guardian.
Update: Knowing what "Yas queen" means would likely have inhibited me in the construction of that joke, so I held off finding out, but for readers who are even less hip and even lazier than I am, it is probably not affiliated with me; it is a catchphrase expression of affirmation associated with the television program "Broad City". "Yas" means "yes" and "queen" is a term of address that the young women may use on each other, though I could be wrong about that. And Hillary Clinton has some connection with it, but I don't want to stretch my brain too far.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Make Florence Great Again!

And finally they decided to burn Savonarola in the public square instead. Anonymous painting, 1498, via Wikimedia Commons.
Shorter Thomas L. Friedman, Mystax Vanitatum, "Another Age of Discovery", June 22 2016:
What with the internet, virtual reality, Donald Trump, Facebook, sequencing of the human genome and machines that can reason better than people, our current era seems like a completely new ballgame in human history, but isn't it all kind of familiar? I mean, I'm thinking of that High Renaissance, 1450 to 1550, when they got movable type, the heliocentric model of the planetary system, and a western route to India, stuff that is a lot like the Internet. And then where we have Trump, they had Girolamo Savonarola, who took over Florence from 1495 to 1498 even though he was completely uncool and not even that popular, so it's practically the same thing, and whose relatively short sermons and pamphlets were just like Twitter.
Inorite. I'm heading down to Mar-a-Lago with all my Armani suits, the 10,000-bottle wine cellar, and the collection of fancy old erotica to burn it all in the public square. Does Mar-a-Lago have a public square?

I love how Trump has raised himself from monastic obscurity to fame by denouncing the corruption of the clergy, like when he met with the conservative evangelical leaders just yesterday, promising to stuff the courts with anti-abortion judges and give everybody religious freedom to interfere with the freedom of people they disapprove of, and Huckabee thanked him in advance for the way he's going to "lead the nation out of the abyss". And the way he's convincing us all—nobility, rich merchants, prosperous artisans and guild members—that we have to dump all our fabulous Renaissance-style luxuries and clamp down on sodomy, adultery, drunkenness, and immodest dress (though Savonarola did promise to make Florence "more glorious, more powerful and richer than ever, extending its wings farther than anyone can imagine").

Well-heeled vs. well-healed

Japanese World War II storage bunker on the grounds of Saipan International Airport, via TracesOfWar
A possibly trivial detail from yesterday's Brooks and the "Nation of Healers":

Earlier in the day I’d met Jade Bock. When she was 17, Bock lost her father to a workplace accident. Now she’s found her calling directing the Children’s Grief Center.
That's all true, except that the workplace in question was a Cessna 310R six-seat monoplane that the father, Jesse Richardson, was trying to land at Saipan International Airport in the Northern Marianas, October 27 1992. He was a retired Marine major who had uprooted his family from the town of Moon in Virginia's Middle Peninsula to take a pilot job with Pacific Island Aviation, based in Saipan, and he'd only been on the job a couple of months when he died in this apparently inexplicable runway crash.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Heart of Brooksness: Addendum

Illustration by Lisl Weil.

*Fun discovery: You know how Trump transforms his reading into action, as Jordan was describing it in comments yesterday?
staffers do a Google News search for "Donald J. Trump" every morning, print out the results, and bring them to Trump, who goes through them with a marker pen and indicates which passages piss him off or whatever and then tells [his 27-year-old assistant press agent Hope] Hicks to add the authors of the offending material to his "banned" list, where they linger indefinitely until he changes his mind.
There's a remarkable affinity between that and the way Brooks writes a column, as reported by Danny Funt at Columbia Journalism Review, including an apparent reluctance to use a computer, clearly something you might call a basic of the modern economy, but more than that:
Brooks writes each column on the day of its deadline. For every column, on his office floor, he creates a pile for each paragraph made up of news clippings, cut-out scans of book pages, and handwritten notes. When he referred in his book to his current assistant, the 28-year-old [April] Lawson, as his “editor,” it wasn’t far from true. After he gives her a draft of his 806-word column (he tries to hit that number on the nose every time), she returns a list of notes that’s often just as long. Brooks’ assistants resemble Supreme Court law clerks: They do significant research, they have hefty roles in writing, and they’re often drawn from the Ivy League.
Of course Trump wouldn't use the floor. "Disgusting!"

Heart of Brooksness: Oh, the places you won't go!

Heart of Darkness illustration by Matt Kish.
The Odyssey's over! David Brooks ("A Nation of Healers") has completed that voyage into the heart of whiteness, out of the bourgeois strata, across the chasms of segmentation, and into the pain, where folks are in such distress that they will even consider voting for Trump, as a less addictive alternative to Oxycontin. He's finished changing the way he does his job so he can report accurately on this country, getting socially intermingled and listening carefully.

At least I think he has, because there's an elegiac, retrospective tone to the way he brings up some of the things he's learned along the way—

I’ve been traveling around to the most economically stressed parts of this country.
You see a lot of dislocation on a trip like this. In New Mexico, for example, I met some kids who lost their parents — to drugs, death, deportation or something else.
It's a terrible thing when you dislocate your parents.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Potemkin Campaign

"And God sometimes uses potěmkinium." (Necyklopedie, the Czech version of the Uncyclopedia, has an entry on potěmkinium, an element in the "Mareseyevian", as opposed to Mendeleyevian, periodic table. After the World War II fighter ace Aleksey Petrovich Mareseyev, whose life was portrayed in Boris Polevoy's novel, and sadly Sergey Prokofiev's opera, The Story of a Real Man.)
It's getting so bad the journos don't have the heart to counter it with a #DemocratsInDisarray number. Corey Lewandowski, the granite-headed little woman-whacker who has been sort of running the Trump campaign, was kicked out this morning, during a war council in Trump Tower with various captains and lieutenants including the 27-year-old spokesperson Hope Hicks, with whom Lewandowski has not gotten along very well—when he first became campaign manager, a year ago, and she rejected his ultimatum that she abandon Trump corporate for Trump political,
“He made her cry a bunch of times,” Nunberg said. In Nunberg’s telling, Lewandowski said to Hicks, “You made a big fucking mistake; you’re fucking dead to me.” Lewandowski declined to either confirm or correct Nunberg’s recollection. “I don’t recall the specifics of that,” he told me. (Olivia Nuzzi, GQ, via The Guardian)
Hicks gets along with Ivanka, who is the Trump she started off with, and it seems that Ivanka is the one who said Lewandowski had to go. She's the unofficial campaign manager now. Why not? She's already launched a successful line of handbags, fragrances, outerwear, eyewear, and shoes.

My favorite Lewandowski stories are the ones where he was busted with a handgun and ammunition in the Longworth Building when he was working as a congressional aide there, in 1999, when he was 26; and the 2002 losing campaign for New Hampshire Senator Robert Smith when he was primaried by John Sununu, and Lewandowski painted Sununu as a possible terrorist sympathizer because of his Lebanese ancestry (Wikipedia for both of these).

Sunday, June 19, 2016

I smell a rat. Do you smell a ship?

Does this Rattus rattus creeping down the guy rope have a hint of red hair? (Can't get a good credit for the image.)
So Dowd's reconsidering her relationship, or whatever it is, with the Trump:
HE won’t pivot. So I have to.
Time was, she was certain Trump wasn't the apotheosis of evil:
Having seen Donald Trump as a braggadocious but benign celebrity in New York for decades, I did not regard him as the apotheosis of evil.
That's right, benign. Now she's not so sure. Maybe he is the apotheosis of evil. We just don't know. Who can say? Maureen's never been wrong before.
I certainly never would have predicted that the Trump name would be uttered in the same breath as Hitler, Mussolini and scary menace, even on such pop culture staples as “The Bachelorette.”
The Bachelorette brouhaha also involved a sweet potato. And George Bush. Dan told Chad hanging out with him (Chad) would be dangerous for his (Dan's) reputation, in the same way as hanging out with Hitler, Mussolini, Trump, or Bush.

Across the Pondering

Members of the Not In My Name campaign, a group dedicated to opposing the so-called Islamic State, in Luton, Bedfordshire. None of these men is an immigrant from the European Union.

Megan McArdle finally found herself!
This past weekend, I found myself in the British borough of Luton, pondering a British exit from the European Union. “How did you find yourself in Luton?” you will ask, and I will reply, “That is a long story, and alas, a very dull one"...
Shit Megan, you sound just like fucking Thackeray. That British air has such a bracing effect upon one's literary style!

Though there's a clue to the mystery, in that
this dull story involved many hours spent in a horrible third-tier European airport with middle-class Britons heading home from their holidays.
"I'll tell you, Watson, I suspect the Luton episode of this supposedly long, dull story involves an episode of travel from England to the United States." "Good God, Holmes, how do you deduce that?" "Elementary: travel is an almost constant concomitant of presence in airports." As turns out to be the case; she had a long layover there on an EasyJet flight, and the main point of the story may well be a complaint about Bloomberg's stinginess with the expenses.

So there she was, at one of an apparently inadequate number of phone-charging stations,

Friday, June 17, 2016

Say the magic words

Shorter David Brooks, "Religion's Wicked Neighbor", New York Times, June 17 2016:
Obama is wrong not to say "Islamic terrorism". What he shouldn't say is "religious terrorism", because it isn't religious at all. It's just Islamic.
Brooks on a brief visit home from the psychophilosophical wilderness to his National Review roots, perhaps as a kind of Father's Day tribute to old Mr. Buckley, playing the traditional game of making the elaborate Jesuitical argument to justify some stupid conservative slogan, in this case the denunciation of the president for refusing to say the magic words that will—well, it's not clear what they'll do. Probably we'll never find out. Thanks, Obama!

Barack Obama is clearly wrong when he refuses to use the word “Islam” in reference to Islamist terrorism.
That's pretty cute, given that Brooks himself is using the word "Islamist" in contradistinction to "Islamic", meaning not of Islam ("submission" to God and to nothing else) but of Islamism, the idolatrous worship of the religious edifice instead of the deity. In fact he doesn't know he's doing that, of course. He just thinks it sounds elegant and chic. He may have gotten it from Hillary Clinton, who consciously used it the other day (I think)—

West of Eden: Dissent in the State Department

12th-century Ayyubid Syrian baluster pottery jars in the Raqqa style, via Christies.

I more or less support President Obama's Syria policy as it is (with a reservation I'll get to below), but there's something I want to say about its critics, including the 50-odd US diplomats who have been circulating the internal cable that was leaked to the WSJ and the Times for today's papers,
urging the United States to carry out military strikes against the government of President Bashar al-Assad to stop its persistent violations of a cease-fire in the country’s five-year-old civil war.
I want to say that I may disagree with them, they're not bad people. I mean, some of the critics are bad people (hi, Senator McCain, hi, Ron Fournier), whose aims are not to help the suffering people of Syria, about whom they understand nothing, but to further their own misbegotten careers by picking at the president's perceived weakness in any way they can, to make themselves look larger, but some of them, possibly most, are good people responding to a terrible situation in a totally understandable way. (Including candidate Hillary Clinton, who I think is at least somewhat on the State rebels' side.)

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Go home, McCain, you're drunk. Or ready to retire.

Toughest opponent John McCain has ever faced in a Senate race, Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick. Tougher and smarter.

In other news, Senator John McCain (R-Arizona) blamed President Obama for the killing of 49 innocent clubgoers in Orlando:
"Barack Obama is directly responsible for it, because when he pulled everybody out of Iraq, Al Qaeda went to Syria, became ISIS, and ISIS is what it is today thanks to Barack Obama's failures, utter failures, by pulling everybody out of Iraq. So the responsibility for it lies with President Barack Obama and his failed policies.”
He later corrected himself:
“I misspoke,” McCain said in a press release. “I did not mean to imply that the president was personally responsible. I was referring to President Obama’s national security decisions, not the president himself.”
He's still completely wrong, of course, as he always is about every subject he addresses.

Jo Cox

Photo from the Huddersfield Daily Examiner, via The Guardian.
I can't deal with this story coming out of England, where Jo Cox, Labour MP for Batley and Spen (up in West Yorkshire, near Leeds), was stabbed and shot by a "quiet and polite" middle-aged white man (apparently not so quiet and polite in his Web presence, where he is linked to white supremacists) in the street this morning, as she was coming out of a constituent services session, and has since died of her injuries. The man is said to have shouted "Britain first!" reminding us of course of our Donald, who has adopted the pro-Nazi "America first!" slogan of ca. 1940, though he may be too insistently pig-ignorant to realize that, but Britain First is the name of a political party of sorts (which has said it is "not involved" with the murder), compounded of anti-abortion agitators, Ulster Unionists, and anti-Muslim rowdies, which is probably worse than the Ukip (which is not explicitly anti-Muslim; but Britain First urges its supporters to vote Ukip all the same), as passions rise over the coming referendum over Britain's membership in the European Union. 

She was 41 years old and had two little kids. David Cameron, her opponent (but an ally on the EU question, of course), mentioned her "huge compassion".

I'm feeling as if it's our disease, not because of the violent nationalism, which is as English as lemon curd, as you might say, but because of that gun. But the gun is being described as "an old gun, like a musket." No, of course it's really not about us. But it is about the curse of nationalism. Humans First!

Cross-posted at No More Mister Nice Blog.

Happy Bloomsday! Come up, you fearful Jesuit!

One hundred twelve years ago today in Dublin, stately, plump Buck Mulligan
CAME FROM THE STAIRHEAD, bearing a bowl of lather on which a mirror and a razor lay crossed. A yellow dressing gown, ungirdled, was sustained gently behind him by the mild morning air. He held the bowl aloft and intoned:
-- Introibo ad altare Dei.
Halted, he peered down the dark winding stairs and called up coarsely:
-- Come up, Kinch. Come up, you fearful jesuit.

Here's a little Turlough O'Carolan (Quarrel with his Landlady and The Musical Priest), by a group of Russian devotees of Celtic music.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Tough Love

Yes, I like this picture. Wanna make something of it?
I should have mentioned yesterday that that hilarious David Brooks column was drivel, but not pure drivel— actually about something, namely a new book by the education-beat journalist Paul Tough, which Brooks gets to in paragraph 8:
The good news is that attention is finally turning to the love lives of our students — to the psychic and emotional qualities they bring to the classroom. No one is better at chronicling this shift than Paul Tough, the author of “How Children Succeed” and now “Helping Children Succeed.” In his latest book, he asks how, concretely, can we improve students’ noncognitive skills. 

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Amputated Love

Image via Wikimedia Commons.

We all need some comic relief. Fortunately there's the opening sentence of today's David Brooks column, "The Building Blocks of Learning":

The ancient Greeks had different words for different kinds of love — like Ludus (playful love), Pragma (longstanding love) and Agape (universal love).
That's a Radio Yerevan joke:
Question to Radio Yerevan: Is it correct that the ancient Greek words for different kinds of love included ludus (playful love), pragma (longstanding love), and agape (universal love)?
Answer: In principle, yes. But first of all, ludus is Latin, not Greek; second, ludus meant "game, sport, play" or in the plural "public entertainment", and pragma meant "thing done, fact"; third, when they are used nowadays to mean a kind of love, pragma means "practical" or "convenient love", and agape means "love that is altruistic towards one's partner"; and fourth, these uses come not from the ancients but from the Canadian psychologist John Alan Lee's Colours of Love: An Exploration of the Ways of Loving (1973).
Ludus is one of Lee's primary "love styles" (mapped out like blue, red, and yellow on the traditional color wheel) alongside eros (passionate love) and storge (family love), and pragma and agape are secondary styles, like green, orange, and purple, together with mania (love accompanied by madness and obsessiveness). There are also nine tertiary styles, but we're not getting into those today.

Should we go on?

Monday, June 13, 2016

Tweets for the sweet

Turns out the Trump is sensitive about accusations that he viciously mimicked the disability of New York Times investigative reporter Serge Kovalevski.

The least racist person

How is it that when somebody says, "I am the least racist person that you've ever encountered," you know that person is a racist?

There's a fairly straightforward but interesting psychological answer, which I'll get to eventually, but first I want to get together a clear picture of the whole thing about the boxing promoter Don King, and the political endorsement, since Trump issued that Tweet on Friday morning:

The 84-year-old King promptly denied it, in an interview in Louisville with the Daily News Friday afternoon:
“No,” King told the Daily News at the funeral for Muhammad Ali. “I’m endorsing the people. I’m not a Republican or a Democrat, I’m a Republicrat, and I go with the will of the people. The only reason Trump exists is because of the will of the people.”
But on Saturday afternoon he explained to USA Today that the News had misinterpreted him, and that he had in fact endorsed Trump, leading Sam Levine at the Huffington Post to suspect some skullduggery on the order of

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Update: LA

Updated—see below

Not to stereotype, but I'm betting the James Wesley Howell who was apprehended in Santa Monica on his way to the Los Angeles Pride Parade with a deadly arsenal in his car was not an Islamic terrorist (I'm not a bit afraid to use the words).

But I'll bet you any money he's got something deeply in common with Omar Mateen: a gloomy, hate-filled, and theologically ill-informed and backward interpretation of a fine old religious tradition, a deep-seated fear (first) and hatred (afterwards) of the idea of men having sex with men, presumably rooted in conflict over his own sexual identity, and an attraction to violence and death, including his own. In other words a typical religious conservative male with some (hopefully) very atypical emotional issues.

The particular religion (Muslim, Protestant, Catholic—other traditions have terrorists, but not so marked perhaps with sexual terror) isn't the important thing. The important thing is the attitude. Can you admit that, WASP or Waziristani, al-Qa'eda or Y'all Quaeda, it's the same disease? Can you say the words, "conservative fundamentalist, homophobic terrorist"?

If you can't say them, it's because you've otherized the problem into a place where you can't even see it,  probably because you're afraid to see it in yourself, and I'm afraid I'm not going to be able to talk to you. You need to see it in yourself, as you need to see racism if you want to cope with it. What we need isn't a war with Islam, it's a jihad, a struggle that would be better conducted nonviolently, against conservatism in that hidebound, murderous sense. If you can't say the words, you're part of the problem.

Cross-posted at No More Mister Nice Blog.

UPDATE: I lose my bet there, as commenter Saurs pointed out at NMMNB after I went to bed; the Powell guy does not fit that profile in any clear way; he doesn't seem to have any ill will toward the the LGTB community, being a 20-year-old out B himself, or any standout religious affiliations. He does qualify as a rightwinger from my standpoint, an NRA enthusiast and a dweller in the mists of Mt. Paranoia, based on what the Los Angeles Times says about his Facebook page:
The site includes political posts, including one in which he compares Hillary Clinton to Adolf Hitler. In another, he repeats conspiracy theories that the government was behind notorious terrorist attacks, including Sept. 11, 2001. That post shares a video claiming that last year’s terror attack on the Paris offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo was a hoax and attributable to the “New World Order.” 
He absolutely should not have been traveling with all those weapons, since he was on probation since mid-April in lieu of a one-year prison sentence for intimidating neighbors with a firearm, and getting rid of all his guns was part of the terms of his probation. But we have no idea what, if anything, he planned to do with the things.

I'll leave the post as it is as an object lesson on the danger of jumping to conclusions.

Update: Thoughts and prayers

Follow Igor Volsky of Center for American Progress on Twitter for constant updates on all the US congresspersons and senators who have taken campaign contributions from the National Rifle Association and voted against every kind of gun control legislation.

Every time some terrible thing like this happens they send out messages offering their "thoughts and prayers", but no apologies for the lack of action on their part that would help to put an end to it. Igor is there to call them out for it.

One religious leader who calls for thoughts and prayers and DOING SOMETHING:

Pope Francis has condemned “the terrible massacre that has taken place in Orlando, with its dreadfully high number of innocent victims”.
He released a statement through a spokesperson, who said the attack “has caused in Pope Francis, and in all of us, the deepest feelings of horror and condemnation, of pain and turmoil before this new manifestation of homicidal folly and senseless hatred.

Pope Francis joins the families of the victims and all of the injured in prayer and in compassion. Sharing in their indescribable suffering he entrusts them to the Lord so they may find comfort. We all hope that ways may be found, as soon as possible, to effectively identify and contrast the causes of such terrible and absurd violence which so deeply upsets the desire for peace of the American people and of the whole of humanity.
"Contrast" is a bad translation for Italian contrastare, meaning "oppose" or "prevent".

Cross-posted at No More Mister Nice Blog.

Update: Gunga Dinesh

If anybody was wondering whether there could be a bigger asshole than Donald Trump in reaction to the Orlando killings, we have a winner: Gunga Dinesh D'Souza, whose first thought is to exploit it for a book promo:

Update: Trump again

What matters to Trump: vocabulary lessons.

So he joined the Isis in his mind.

Meanwhile another 64 civilians, including a number of babies, murdered in Syrian government bombardments, around the same time.

Not to take a position on anything, just to say there are places where people feel the pain we feel over and over again, on a daily basis.

Update: Ramadan

The leaders of the American Muslim Community Centers, from Longwood, Florida, have also released a statement.
“The American Muslim Community Centers is saddened and shocked by the senseless killings in downtown Orlando, and we pray for the victims and their family members,” says chairman Atif Fareed.
Mr Fareed adds, “Ramadan is a month of deep reflection and prayer. Senseless violence has no place in our religion or in our society. We strongly condemn this heinous act of violence against humanity.”
The center then cited the Quran, chapter five verse 32.

“…if any one killed a person, it would be as if he killed the whole of mankind; and if any one saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of the whole of mankind…”
LGBT groups around the US are also rallying, many with Muslim Americans.

(The Guardian)


Definition of the shameless and disgusting politicization of tragedy

Let's anticipate the authorities in defining the narrative, Donald Trump knows better than the Orlando police and the FBI, and let's waste no time in incorporating it into the campaign. "Story's all about me," says the Donald.

We interrupt this program

Friends and relatives outside Orlando Regional Medical Center waiting for news. Photo by Phelan M. Ebenhack/AP.

Again everything has to stop because something has happened so terrible it does not fit into our rational political discourse, a mass shooting at a club in Orlando, Florida, with a death toll so far (writing just after noon) upwards of 50. I'm following updates at The Guardian. The site was a gay club near downtown called Pulse. The shooter, who has been killed by police liberating the hostages he'd taken, was a 29-year-old American of Afghan roots from Fort Pierce, with the (yes, Muslim) name of Omar Mateen. Senator Nelson thought he had been told by the FBI that there was a suspected connection with ISIS, which he later corrected to "radicalism" of some unspecified kind and not necessarily any organization. Imam Muhammad Musri, president of the Islamic Society of Central Florida, said:
I call on everybody in the community who has any info to please call the FBI share what you know. I call on my fellow faith leaders, Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Hindu, whatever faith you follow, please pray for the victims and their families.
It’s supposed to be a beautiful morning but it is already an incredibly heartbreaking morning. It’s like lightning. This person is not likely to be connected to a network. I also want to caution the media from rushing to judgment and sensationalizing the story, we do not want the story to be shifted from the focus where it is.
It’s a horrible tragedy. We are mourning. We are sad. We are heartbroken. It’s not really time for any sensational news and rushing to judgment. As a nation we need to look at this issue of mass shootings, we just had one too many today.
That's the best I can do for now except to add that there is no value in hatred for any community of human beings, whether it is gay people or Muslims or anybody else, and that assault weapons of the type used by the shooter, with their diabolical efficiency, need to be banned.

Cross-posted at No More Mister Nice Blog.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Oh but I didn't see that the joke was on me

Saul threatening David, by Jusepe Leonardo de Chavier (1605-56). Via Wikimedia Commons.
We've been through this before, although I think this is the highest-ranking person ever to do it, a sitting US Senator (David Perdue, R-GA):
Oh, he was just joking. These guys have incredible senses of humor. Like all the guys with all the bumper stickers and T-shirts and Internet memes saying the same thing I've been seeing here and there for the past seven or eight years. A joke that started the whole world laughing.

There's just a little theological-literary sidelight I'd like to throw on this, which is that all these Christians who regard this as a funny thing to say don't know what they're saying, because of their deep ignorance of the Bible and inability to read critically.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Philosophically unsound and completely unworkable

Yevgeni Bauer's Posle Smerti (After Death), 1915, based on a story by Ivan Turgenev. Via The Metropolis Times.
Shorter David Brooks, "The Unity Illusion", New York Times, June 10 2016:
While Speaker Ryan's arguments for Republican unity around the figure of Trump are decent, philosophically speaking, they are not sound, also philosophically speaking, and cannot succeed in the natural universe, because:
(1) They are not conservative—conservatives believe that our smaller-scale social institutions such as families, churches, and bowling leagues, are more important than national ones such as the federal government, and yet Speaker Ryan's argument assumes that the Republican Party is more important than how I feel about Trump. This is an incoherent position which No True Conservative would ever adopt, and therefore its existence is inconceivable.
(2) Trump suffers from a brain disorder known as alexithymia which prevents him from identifying and describing his emotions, and is the cause of his narcissism. Thus it is impossible for Republicans to be in a state of unity with Trump, because he is personally unable to participate in it.
In this way Republican-Trump unity cannot be, and if you think you see some of it you are hallucinating. Q.E.D.
Well, that's a philosophical relief. Thanks, Master.

Though I may have a couple of reservations on this, starting with the idea that Ryan's arguments as Brooks conveys them "are decent arguments":

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Go French yourself!

Frenching a rack of lamb. Via FineCooking.
Weird little confluence of developments: on the one hand the remarkable story that came out in USA Today this afternoon—

Donald Trump casts himself as a protector of workers and jobs, but a USA TODAY NETWORK investigation found hundreds of people – carpenters, dishwashers, painters, even his own lawyers – who say he didn’t pay them for their work.

—and on the other (h/t Alex.S in comments at Lawyers Guns & Money) a peculiar little news scoop from an organ that doesn't exactly do news, Dr. Kristol's Weekly Standard, which reveals that even though Senator Marco Rubio supports the presidential candidate of Donald Trump, as he announced a month ago now, he still believes what he said about Trump last February:

Is Hillary Clinton the Worst Human Being in the Universe? Mortgage Crisis

Foreclosed homes, 2009. Photo by Will Steacy.
So here's this thing from U.S. Uncut last January where

Video Surfaces of Hillary Clinton Blaming Homeowners for Financial Crisis

That doesn't sound very nice of her, does it? That sounds like blaming the victim! But then again, it is (following a 13-second clip from the Democratic debate of October 13 2015 as introduction) a 14-second clip of three extracts from a speech, presented at NASDAQ on December 5 2007, just as the subprime crisis was staring to blow up, and you can see that it didn't exactly "surface"; it was fairly carefully edited by people who knew what they were looking for. And even as edited it doesn't say what the headline says: (a) she wonders who's to blame for the housing crisis, (b) there's a lot of blame to go around, and (c) a certain type of "homebuyers" (not homeowners) deserve some small portion of it.

If you go on to look at the text (which the U.S. Uncut site did helpfully link), you can see that the homeowners' share as she saw it was pretty small. She started with the lenders and brokers
who irresponsibly lowered underwriting standards, pushed risky mortgages, and hid the details in the fine print.
Then the Bush administration and its regulatory agencies,

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Toll ranlt, inclusive and fair