06 January 2014

Bleary-Eyed Monday Morning Link Sausage Platter

  • I'm truly surprised to find out that reading novels is essential brain exercise. I'm surprised not at the substance... but that somebody actually managed to get a grant to study this given the lasting damage done to the grant process by the Reagan Administration.
  • Slightly more seriously — but only slightly — the daughter of the Prince of Darkness is ending her campaign for the Senate. The slightly-more-serious element comes from realizing that this should never have been an issue: Not because of the particular elected official to whom she is related, but because she is the child of a federal elected official at all. It would be an unconstitutional attainder to prohibit the spouses, siblings, children, and first-degree nephews and nieces from running for any elective office after actual seating of an individual as a federal elected official; it would also be an extremely good idea, if we really care at all about limiting nepotism. Hell, I'd go so far as to include state and major local elections, too (Chicago mayors for $500... and the Daleys weren't the first). This is the longstanding objective reason — leaving aside the significant policy disagreements — that any support I express for Hillary Clinton for elective office will be in the nature of "beats the alternative": Hubby got to federal elective office first, so she should be barred.
  • Adam Zygus, 18 Dec 2013If there is a real "suicide pact" involved with civil liberties, it is the preservation of existing class- and faction-based power relationships at the expense of civil liberties, for a simple reason: The rhetoric that has grown up around the egregious, self-serving, preserve-the-existing-class-and-faction-based-power-relationships misinterpretation of the Supreme Court's "suicide pact" language is both theoretically and in-practice indefensible. Even though (and perhaps especially though) that is precisely how theologists — and, unfortunately, many lawyers — are taught to argue.

    If there is a "correct" rhetorical invocation for this particular debate, it is the destruction of the village in order to save it. Reality and policies grounded in reality are far more nuanced than misuse of any set of words from a different context without regard to that context can possibly justify, however persuasive they are. (No matter how convincing the images of Richard II (and III) offered by Shakespeare are, they are not historically accurate, or at least not indisputably so.) And the irony of building an entire policy meme for dealing with foreign enemies upon rhetoric that — in its original use — concerned draft-dodging against the closest-to-just-war engaged in by the US in the past century seems to have escaped everyone.

  • Your message of austerity in the arts and in education is pretty well discredited, Mr Gove, when you can be so easily smacked down by Sir Baldrick for misrepresenting your "evidence", not to mention being wrong. On balance, the British land-war effort in Europe from 1914–18 was "a series of catastrophic mistakes" in the midst of a complex context that included more than a bit of incompetence and upper-middle-class disdain for the efforts of the common Englishman. That this echoes more than a bit of Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union, and Venezuala itself reflects a series of catastrophic mistakes.
  • The key distinction between truly scientific analysis and political economy is that scientists evaluate all of the data; political economists, not so much. This really is about who gets to make the decisions, and their rubric, and much less about the substance of particular decisions. On the one hand, there were a lot of ignorant decisions of the "we can do this, so we should!" type, such as development of thermonuclear weapons, justified on supposed "pure science" grounds. Given everything else, though, I can't say that the decision process of political economy has done better. But on the third hand, understanding requires more than mere data-crunching, so there's still a place for the humanities in all this.
  • Perhaps we can envision a not-too-far-in-the-future effort at cloning humanity, which will require a (cheap) template. Mass cloning might lead to #armyofjays, which is a frightening prospect in so many ways (military discipline would probably be undermined by the sheer variety of tropical-floral-print shirts).