Sunday, September 3, 2023


Speaking of Which

I've been reading my old paperback copy of Eric Hobsbawm's The Age of Revolution: 1789-1848 (1962, my paperback is a New American Library pocket edition I've had for 50+ years -- retail $1.25, so it's bound as densely as it was written. I've always been reluctant to read old books, but this one may get me to change my mind, or at least continue to his sequels. The first chapter, in particular, describes the European world so compactly yet completely that you approach the French Revolution thinking you know all the background you need. The next three chapters -- one on the industrial revolution in Britain, the next on France, and a third on the Napoleonic wars -- are every bit as compact and comprehensive.

Much of the book is quotable, but I was especially struck by the line at the bottom of this paragraph, from Part II, where he goes back and surveys how ownership and use of land changed during those revolutions (p. 191, several previous lines added for context):

For the poor peasant it seemed a distinctly hard bargain. Church property might have been inefficient, but this very fact recommended it to the peasants, for on it their custom tended to become prescriptive right. The division and enclosure of common field, pasture, and forest merely withdrew from the poor peasant or cottager resources and reserves to which he felt he (or he as a part of the community) had a right. The free land market meant that he probably had to sell his land; the creation of a rural class of entrepreneurs, that the most hard-hearted and hard-headed exploited him, instead or, of in addition to, the old lords. Altogether the introduction of liberalism on the land was like some sort of silent bombardment which shattered the social structures he had always inhabited and left nothing in its place but the rich: a solitude called freedom.

The significance and relevance here has to do with the phenomenon where former peasants leaned to the right politically, taking more comfort in the memory of feudal bonds to lord and church. Liberalism here means proto-capitalism, or what CB MacPherson more descriptively called "possessive individualism." The later Luddite revolt grew from a similar impulse, as does Trumpism today. In all these cases, the satisfaction of joining the right is purely emotional, as the right is every bit as controlled by people who saw in capitalism a path to ever greater exploitation.

The difference between conservatism and liberalism today is that one offers a better afterlife for their deference, and the other offers a rarely achieved hope for better in this life. The difference between liberals and the left is that one idealizes individuals each responsible only to themselves, and the other emphasizes solidarity, arguing that our fates are shared, and therefore our responsibility is to each other. Liberals like to call Trumpists, and their antecedents back to the Dark Ages, populists, because they look down on common people as ignorant and prejudiced (or as one put it memorably, "deplorable"). Leftists hate that designation, because they feel kinship with all people, not just because that's how solidarity works, but because they see many of those people being critical of capitalism, even when they aren't very articulate about why.


Top story threads:

Trump:

DeSantis, and other Republicans:

Biden and/or the Democrats:

  • EJ Antoni: [08-31] Bidenomics robs from the poor, gives to donor class: This piece of hackwork showed up in my local paper, along with Ryan Young: [09-01] Don't let politicians take credit for economic recovery. Together they give you a sense of how flailing and incoherent right-wing attacks on Bidenomics have become: on the one hand, don't credit Biden for any recovery, because that's just good old capitalism at work (an article that none of them wrote when Trump or Reagan were president, but became a staple during the much stronger recoveries under Clinton and Obama); on the other blame everything bad on Biden, and imply that corruption is the root of everything Democrats do (talk about projection). Antoni is particularly ripe for his concern over "the radical disconnect between Washington's ruling elites and working-class folks." It may be true that much of the extra spending Biden accomplished -- the first recovery act, the barely-bipartisan infrastructure bill, and the big Inflation Recovery Act -- has passed through the hands of companies that donated to Democrats (and usually Republicans, who get even more of their money from rich donors), but most of that money has trickled down, creating jobs that wouldn't have existed otherwise, and raising wages in the process.

    Both parties do most of their public spending through companies, but Biden has done a much better job than previous Democrats at seeing that spending benefit workers -- and indeed in improving the leverage of workers throughout the labor market. Maybe you can criticize him for not doing enough, but he clearly would have done more if he had more Democrats in Congress (and better ones than Joe Manchin and Krysten Sinema). As for "robbing the poor," the only evidence he has is inflation, which is simply the result of companies actively taking advantage of supply shortages and growing demand -- lots of reasons for both, and I suppose you could blame Biden for adding to the demand side, by giving jobs and raising wages. These are, after all, complex issues, with many factors, but to the extent you can isolate Biden's contribution, it clearly has helped large segments of the economy.

    [PS: Both links include author pics. I hate it when people make assumptions about character based on looks, but I must admit I was taken aback by this pair -- perhaps by how young they appear, and how smiley when their messages are so disingenuous.]

  • Jessica Corbett: [08-30] Biden admin proposes 'much-needed' overtime protections for 3.6 million workers.

  • Lee Harris: [08-07] Biden Admin to restore labor rule gutted in 1980s.

  • Ben Jacobs: [09-01] Sidelined and self-sabotaged: What The Last Politician says about Kamala Harris. Franklin Foer's book, subtitled Inside Joe Biden's White House and the Struggle for America's Future, is coming out this week (Sept. 5). I've never been much of a Harris fan, but I've also thought they should be using her more, and trying to build her up, to make the 2024 campaign more of a team effort, reassuring voters of continuity, should Biden's age get the better of him. Republicans are going after her anyway, so why not lean into it and feature her more?. For a bit more on the book, see this Playbook column. There is also an excerpt on Afghanistan in The Atlantic.

  • Harold Meyerson: [08-07] Buybacks are down, production is up: "Bidenomics has begun to de-financialize the economy."

  • Toluse Olorunnipa: [09-02] Biden surveys Hurricane Idalia's damage in Florida, without DeSantis: There is a photo of DeSantis (looking annoyed) with Biden after Hurricane Ian a couple years ago. Such photo ops are normal, but Republicans often take flak for mingling with the enemy, much as Trump did for posing with Kim Jong Un. I wonder how much of this is because the White House Press has nothing useful to do, but maybe if they were given fewer useless ops they might think of something?

    [PS: I see a tweet with a New York Times: "Biden Won't Meet DeSantis in Florida During Tour of Hurricane Damage"; but wasn't it DeSantis refusing to meet Biden, not the other way? On the other hand, Rick Scott wasn't afraid of having his picture taken with Biden. DeSantis is such a wuss!]

  • Dylan Scott: [08-30] Medicare's first-ever drug price negotiations, briefly explained: Seems like a very modest first step, but looking at the list prices, you can see how "serious money" adds up. (For you youngsters, back in the 1970s, Sen. Everett Dirksen quipped: "a billion here, a billion there, before long you're talking serious money"). After this ten, another batch of fifteen are to follow. There is much more that should be done. Such high prices are purely the result of government-granted patent monopolies. The law could change the terms of patent use from monopolies to some form of arbitration. Or (my preference) we could end patents all together. And yes, I filed this under Biden/Democrats because there is zero change of getting even this much relief when Republicans are in power. Also see:

Legal matters: Ok, sometimes I mean illegal matters. Obviously, Trump's crimes are filed elsewhere.

Climate and Environment: Hard to find anything about it in the US press, but they're having a rip-roaring typhoon season in East Asia this year; e.g.: Typhoon Saola makes landfall in China's coast after slamming Hong Kong; and As Typhoon Haikui barrels into Taiwan, thousands are evacuated. These are big storms hitting heavily populated areas. Back in early August, there was this: [08-02] Heaviest rainfall in 140 years drenches Beijing while Typhoon Khanun hits Japan's Okinawa. You may recall that in 2022 they held the Winter Olympics in Beijing, so it's not exactly a place you expect to be ravaged by tropical storms.

Ukraine War: The New York Times insists Ukraine's offensive makes progress. Elsewhere, we are warned: Ukraine tells counteroffensive critics to 'shut up'. Meanwhile, Sen. Richard Blumenthal says US is getting its 'money's worth' in Ukraine because Americans aren't dying, which suggests ulterior motives and double standards. More stories follow, but plus ša change, etc. Even if the counteroffensive breaks the Russian line, doing things in the next month or two (before winter) they haven't even hinted at in the last three months, Ukraine will remain far short of their goal of expelling Russia from their pre-2014 borders, and will have no real leverage to force Russia to capitulate to their terms. And even if they could expel Russia, they'd still be locked in a state of war until a truce was negotiated. The only way out is to find a combination of tradeoffs that is agreeable both to Russia and to Ukraine, and (not that they have any business dictating terms to Ukraine) to Biden, who is engaged in his own shadow war with Putin, and has possibly decisive chips to play (sanctions, trade, security assurances).

  • Blaise Malley:

    • [09-01] Diplomacy Watch: The search for an endgame in Ukraine.

    • [08-29] Can sanctions help win peace? According to this report, not likely: "Not only does economic warfare not work because it ends up hurting the people it claims to help, but it can stand in the way of diplomacy." I don't think that is quite right. Sanctions can, and should, be considered a chit for negotiation, but that only works if one is willing to relinquish them as part of an agreement. The problem is when sanctions are seen as permanent, foreclosing negotiation. For instance, sanctions against Saddam Hussein's Iraq demanded regime change, not something Hussein could reasonably negotiate. Under such conditions, sanctions are acts of kabuki warfare, symbolic yet reflecting hostility and a desire to harm -- a meaning that targets cannot fail to detect, but which, due to the arbitrariness and overreaching hubris of American foreign policy, especially the belief that enemies can only respond to a show of force, makes it nearly impossible to defuse. US sanctions against Russia started way before Putin's invasion of Ukraine, and have only escalated with each offense, paving the way to the present war, and possibly to much worse.

      The report is from International Crisis Group: [08-28] Sanctions, Peacemaking and Reform: Recommendations for US Policymakers. One key quote there is: "Sanctions can only help bring parties to the table for peace talks, and provide leverage when they get there, if negotiators can credibly promise meaningful and enduring sanctions relief." Moreover:

      The U.S. does not always make clear what parties can do that will lead to sanctions relief. In some cases, Washington has not laid out any such steps or it has outlined steps that are unrealistic. In others, the U.S. was never willing to lift sanctions in the first place. Elsewhere, Washington's communication on sanctions has been vague, leaving targets in the dark about what might lead to reversal. Targets can be unsure why they were sanctioned, as members of Venezuela's electoral authority reported in 2020, or have learned about the designations second- or thirdhand (a former Congolese official found out about his listing from the newspaper and some FARC members learned from listening to the radio). Some never see the full evidence underpinning the designations -- even if they lobby the Treasury Department. Without clarity on why they were sanctioned and what they can do to be delisted, targets have little incentive to make concessions in exchange for relief.

      A big part of the problem is that the neocon view that talking is a sign of weakness, and liberal-interventionist conviction that America's unique moral legitimacy makes it a fair and necessary judge of everyone else, has driven diplomacy from Washington, leaving American foreign policy as little more than "irritable mental gestures."

  • David Bromwich: [08-29] Living on a war planet (and managing not to notice): Raises the question (at least to me): if the war in Ukraine hadn't come along, would America have invented it? ,Leaving aside the second question (did it?), the withdrawal from Afghanistan left some kind of void in the minds of that class of people whose sole concern is America's military position in the world? Wars give them meaning in life, and after twenty years of frustration in Afghanistan and Iraq, Ukraine is some kind of dream: industry is stoked delivering arms and explosives, while it's someone else doing the fighting and bleeding, someone else having their lives upended. The plotters in America haven't had so much fun since Afghanistan in the 1980s -- another time when every dead Russian was counted as a blow for freedom. But mostly it just helped perpetuate the conflict, with no domestic political cost. So of course they refuse to negotiate. Why spoil such a good thing?

    After citing Roger Cohen's recent propaganda piece (Putin's Forever War), he notes that "Mikhail Gorbachev finally emerges as the hero of this story," then adds:

    Nowhere quoted, however, is the Gorbachev who, between 2004 and 2018, contributed eight op-eds to the New York Times, the sixth of which focused on climate change and the eighth on the perilous renewal of a nuclear arms race. Gorbachev was deeply troubled by George W. Bush's decision to withdraw from the 1972 Antiballistic Missile Treaty (which Putin called a "mistake") and Donald Trump's similar decision to pull out of the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty. Does anyone doubt that Gorbachev would have been equally disturbed by the Biden administration's virtual severance of diplomatic relations with Russia?

  • Daniel Brumberg: [08-30] The Russia-Ukraine Jeddah meeting reflects a changing global order.

  • Stephen F Eisenman: [09-01] Some people will hate me for writing this: End the war! Sounds like some people already do. Every war starts with efforts to suppress doubters and dissenters in one's own ranks, which no one doubts happened in Russia this time, but has been relentless here as well (albeit stopping short of arrests, unlike the World Wars and, in some cases, Vietnam). Lately we've been warned that casting doubt on the counteroffensive's prospects is catering to Russia, and that even suggesting talks should begin before Ukraine is ready implies we're eager to sell them out. My counter is that the war will never end until negotiators on all sides decide to end it, and that you'll never know whether that is even possible until you've set up a forum for negotiation.

  • Ellen Francis: [09-02] Nobel Prize foundation scraps plan to invite Russia, Belarus after criticism: Ukraine may be having trouble with their counteroffensive, but they're winning regularly at shaming international bodies into petty slighting of Russia.

  • Keith Gessen: [08-29] The case for negotiating with Russia: Draws on RAND analyst Samuel Charap, co-author of the 2016 book, Everyone Loses: The Ukraine Crisis and the Ruinous Contest for Post-Soviet Russia. Since then, everyone has continued to lose, the pace accelerating with the February, 2023 invasion. I'd argue that all wars are, as he puts it, "negative-sum games," but the case here is especially easy.

    But among "defense intellectuals," that's a minority view -- in my formulation, it would probably disqualify you permanently from employment. Gessen quotes Eliot A. Cohen as saying:

    Ukraine must not only achieve battlefield success in its upcoming counteroffensives; it must secure more than orderly Russian withdrawals following cease-fire negotiations. To be brutal about it, we need to see masses of Russians fleeing, deserting, shooting their officers, taken captive, or dead. The Russian defeat must be an unmistakably big, bloody shambles.

    The implicit assumption is that it's possible to inflict such a defeat on Russia without further escalation or recourse: that Putin (or some other Russian who might ascend to power) will take such a catastrophic defeat gracefully, as opposed to, say, blowing the world up. Note that if Putin is really as irreconcilable as people like Cohen make him out to be, that's exactly what he would do in that circumstance.

  • Joe Lauria: [08-29] US victim of own propaganda in Ukraine War.

  • Anatol Lieven:

    • [08-30] Few Russians wanted the war in Ukraine -- but they won't accept a Russian defeat either. As bad as Putin has been -- for America, for Europe, even (especially?) for Russia -- replacing him could get a lot worse. The kind of embarrassing, punishing defeat that Cohen (above) demands has been tried before, especially at Versailles after WWI, and tends to backfire spectacularly.

    • [08-31] Sarkozy vilified for speaking uncomfortable truths about Ukraine: The quorted sections from Sarkozy's book seem pretty reasonable to me. I've said all along that we should allow for internationally-supervised referenda in the disputed territories. If Crimea, say, wants to be part of Russia, it should be. Granted, it's harder to do now than it was before the invasion, but it should be possible. I think that a similar procedure should also be used to resolve disputes in Georgia, Serbia, and elsewhere. If Scotland wishes to avail itself of a referendum, we should allow it. It's easy enough to propose solutions on other issues as well. But at some point Russia has to see NATO as a purely defensive pact -- which NATO could help make more plausible with less war-gaming, something that should be but doesn't have to be reciprocal -- and the EU as simply an economic club, which Russia could conceivably join. On the other hand, the US and allies need to see a path to dropping the sanctions against Russia, and reintegrating Russia into the world economy. Granted, there are problems with the way Russia runs itself, but that's really their own business. One thing that would help would be an international treaty providing a right to exile, so real or potential political prisoners in any country could appeal to go to some other country. It's hard to get a country like Russia to agree to peaceful coexistence, but a necessary first step would be to tone down the criticism, the meddling, the menace, and the isolation. In the long run, none of us can afford this level of hostility.

  • Alice Speri: [] Prigozhin's legacy is the global rise of private armies for hire.

Israel:

  • Al Jazeera: [09-03] Israel's Netanyahu calls for deportation of Etitrean refugee 'rioters'.

  • Jonathan Coulter: [09-03] A seditious project: "Asa Winstanley's book shows how the Israel lobby facilitated the influence of a foreign government's interests in dictating who gets to lead the Labour Party, causing the downfall of Jeremy Corbyn." The book is Weaponizing Anti-Semitism: How the Israel Lobby Brought Down Jeremy Corbyn. Of course, the Lobby is also active trying to purge any whiff of criticism from the Democratic Party, but Corbyn was their biggest victim, all the more critical as the Labour Party replaced him with the second coming of Tony Blair ("Bush's poodle").

  • Nada Elia: [08-30] Golda: A failed attempt to boost Israel's propaganda: There is a new movie about the Israeli Prime Minister (1969-74), with Helen Mirren in the title role. Looking at the film's plot on Wikipedia, I see that it focuses on the 1973 war, when initial setbacks led Meir to prepare to use nuclear weapons, and the immediate aftermath, which led to recriminations over allowing those setbacks. But it also notes: "Anwar Sadat, who like Golda Meir publicly speaks English, agrees to establish diplomatic relations to Israel in exchange for the return of the Sinai Peninsula." Sadat offered that shortly after the war, but Meir didn't agree to any such deal. That was Menachim Begin in 1979, under heavy pressure from Jimmy Carter. By the way, one of the few stories I like about Meir is how she casually referred to Begin, when he joined the war cabinet in 1967, as "the fascist." (Begin doesn't appear in the film's cast, although there are a bunch of generals, and Liev Schreiber playing Henry Kissinger.)

    Although the 1973 war occurred at the pinnacle of Meir's political career, I doubt her leadership was any more decisive than Levi Eshkol's was in 1967. In both wars, the key character was Moshe Dayan, and the difference was that he was the aggressor in 1967, but in 1973 he had to play defense, which wasn't as much fun, especially as it punctured the air of invincibility he had built up through 1967. The key lesson of 1973 is that if you refuse to negotiate with your enemies, as Meir had done, they may eventually decide that their only option is war, and at that point all sorts of bad things can happen. But to make sense out of 1973, you need a lot more context than they're likely to provide, especially given the usual propaganda mission.

    I imagine that a more interesting film could be made about Meir when she was younger, about how she became the only woman in the Histadrut and Mapai inner circles, where she probably overcome the default sexism by becoming the toughest character in the room -- not unlike Mirren's character in Prime Suspect. That would have been a tougher movie to sell, especially without Mirren, and it would be hard to present those times accurately, and easy to wallow in post-facto mythmaking.

    Having gone on at this length about Meir, I should close with a quote of hers, which in my mind is possibly the most obnoxiously self-flattering thing any political figure ever said:

    When peace comes we will perhaps in time be able to forgive the Arabs for killing our sons, but it will be harder for us to forgive them for having forced us to kill their sons. Peace will come when the Arabs will love their children more than they hate us.

    But peace hasn't happened, and this attitude goes a long way to explaining why. More on Golda:

    • Sonja Anderson: [] The real history behind the 'Golda' movie: A fairly detailed biographic sketch of Meir's life, but very little to explain the conflict leading to the 1973 war.

    • David Klion: [09-01] The strange feminism of Golda. Regarding director Nattiv's motives: "The answer seems to be that he is more interested in rescuing the dignity of Israel's founding generation in the context of its current political crisis." Still, that generation was at the root and heart of Israel's later militarism and apartheid. To hold them up as models barely rebukes Netanyahu and Ben Gvir for bad manners.

  • Joseph Massad: [08-31] Ben Gvir's racist comments are no different from those if Israel's founders. Quotes from Theodor Herzl, Chaim Weizmann, Vladimir Jabotinsky, David Ben-Gurion, Golda Meir, even the usually circumspect Abba Eban.

  • Peter Shambrook: [08-25] Policy of Deceit: Britain and Palestine, 1914-1939: An extract from a new book of that title. One of the first books I read on the subject was Tom Segev: One Palestine, Complete: Jews and Arabs Under the British Mandate, which I recommend, although there is certainly more detail that can be added.

  • Richard Silverstein: [08-29] Why the US must not add Israel to its visa waiver programme.

Around the world:


Other stories:

Rachel DuRose: [08-30] The US has new Covid-19 variants on the rise. Meet Eris and Fornax.

Bill Friskics-Warren: [09-02] Jimmy Buffett, roguish bard of island escapism, is dead at 76: I wasn't going to mention this here, but No More Mister Nice Blog picked out a selection of rabid hate comments from Breitbart on how awful his politics were (see Jimmy Buffett, Stalinist Nazi). Warms my heart more than his music ever did (and let's face it, I'd never turn down a "Cheeseburger in Paradise," although I must admit I've never gone to one of his restaurants for one). Few things drive right-wingers crazier than finding out a rich guy identifies with Democrats. By the way, this blog is almost always worth reading, but his piece Public Options is especially striking, as one that gets personal -- unusual for an author whose last name is M.

Sean Illing: [08-30] Is the populist right's future . . . democratic socialism? Interview with Sohrab Ahmari, explaining "why precarity is breaking our politics." You see some of this happening in multiparty systems in Europe, where it's possible to combine safety net support with conservative social concerns, resulting in a party that could ally with either right or left, but at least this two-party system has little choice to offer: you can get a better break on economics with the Democrats, but you have to accept living in a diverse and predominantly urban country; on the other hand, if you insist on the old "family values," you can get some lip-service from Republicans, but in the end their embrace of oligarchy will hurt you. I think such people should be more approachable by Democrats, but I'm even more certain that as long as they back Republicans, they will be screwed.

Eric Levitz: [08-31] Was American slavery uniquely evil? Not sure why this came up, other than that some right-wingers are irate about the tendency to view all (or at least many) things American as evil. As Levitz points out, all slave systems shared many of the same evils. One could argue that America was more exploitative because American slaveholders were more deeply enmeshed in capitalism, but it's hard to say that the French in Haiti and the British elsewhere in the Caribbean were less greedy. You can argue that America was more benign, because after the import of slaves ended, the numbers increased substantially, while elsewhere, like in Brazil, imports barely kept up with deaths. Plus there were many more slave revolts in Brazil and the Caribbean than in the US -- but still enough in the US to keep the masters nervous. As for reparations, which comes up tangentially here, I don't see how you can fix the past. But it would be possible to end poverty in the near future, and to make sure everyone has the rights they need going forward. History neither precludes nor promises that. It just gives you lots of examples of what not to do again.

By the way, Levitz cites a piece he wrote in 2021 about Israel and Palestinian rights: Why is this geopolitical fight different from all other fights? He offers three reasons, and admits one more ("Israel's role in the Christian right's eschatology is also surely a factor"). He omits one or two that have become even more salient since then: Israel is an intensely militarist nation, which makes it a role model for Americans (and some Europeans) who want an even larger and more aggressive military front. Israel is also the most racially and religiously stratified nation, with discriminatory laws, intense domestic surveillance, and strong public support for establishment religion, and some Americans would like to see some or all of that here, as well. I only quibble on the count because the prejudices seem to go hand-in-hand. On the other hand, many of the moderate and left people who have begun to doubt the blind support given Israel by nearly all politicians started with alarm at what Israel's biggest right-wing boosters want to also do to America.

Amanda Moore: [08-22] Undercover with the new alt-right: "For 11 months, I pretended to be a far-right extremist. I discovered a radical youth movement trying to infiltrate the Republican Party." But they're pretty obvious about that.

Jason Resnikoff: [08-31] How Bill Clinton became a neoliberal: Review of a book by Nelson Lichtenstein and the late Judith Stein (who started work on the book that Lichtenstein picked up): A Fabulous Failure: The Clinton Presidency and the Transformation of American Capitalism. First I have to question whether the notion that Clinton wasn't any kind of neoliberal before he became president. The premise of the New Democrat movement was the promise to be better for business than the Republicans were, and Clinton's long tenure as governor of Arkansas, as WalMart and Tyson grew from regional to national businesses, suggests that he was good at it. Clinton certainly wasted no time throwing labor under the bus to pass NAFTA.

Sam Roberts: [09-02] Bill Richardson, champion of Americans held overseas, dies at 75: Former governor of New Mexico, served 14 years in Congress, was Secretary of Energy, held various diplomatic posts, including US Ambassador to the United Nations, ran for president in 2008, and engaged in more freelance diplomacy than anyone but Jimmy Carter. Curiously, there is only one line here about North Korea ("he went to North Korea to recover the remains of American soldiers killed in the Korean War," as if he had nothing more to talk to them about).

Nathan J Robinson:

  • [08-31] "Conservatism" conserves nothing: "Whatever 'conservatism' is, it does not involve the conservation of a stable climate, or the polar ice caps, or the coral reefs, or the global food supply." The rejoinder is that the nation and the world are too far gone to be satisfied with just preserving the status quo, which is why others are more likely to call them reactionaries: they see change they don't like, and react fitfully, contemptuously, often violently. But not all change bothers them: what they hate above all is any challenge to the privileges of wealth, or any limit to their ability to accumulate more. Given that one of the easiest ways to get rich is to suck wealth from the earth, conservation is not only not in their portfolio, it's something they dread -- etymology be damned.

  • [08-29] As cruel as it's possible to be: This week's example is Fox host Jesse Waters, who wants to make homeless people feel more ashamed for their misfortune, and argues that "the deaths of homeless people are a form of cosmic justice."

Kenny Torrella: [08-31] The myths we tell ourselves about American farming. One I should write more about, one of these days.

Bryan Walsh: [09-01] What America can learn from baseball (yes, baseball): "Baseball fixed itself by changing its rules. The country should pay attention." I used to know a lot about baseball. I could recall back to the 1957 all-star game lineups. (You know, the one where the Reds stuffed the ballot box so Gus Bell and Wally Post got more votes than Hank Aaron and Willie Mays.) And I looked up the rest. I was part of a club a friend started called Baseball Maniacs, out of which Don Malcolm started publishing his Big Bad Baseball annuals. (Malcolm was my co-founder on Terminal Zone, and he published my Hall of Fame study, I think in the 1998 Annual.) Then with the 1994 lockout, I lost all interest, and never returned, although I'm slightly more aware this year than I have been since 1994.

The difference is getting the "electronic edition" of the local paper, which is padded out with a ridiculously large sports section. While I speed click through everything else, that got me to following basketball more closely, so I wondered if I might pick up a bit of baseball while waiting for the season to change. A little bit is about right: I land on the standings page, so I know who's leading and who's beat, and sometimes look at the stats, but that's about all. I do know a bit about the rules changes, because I've read a couple pieces on them.

Walsh's point is that when people get too good at cornering the rules, it helps to change them up a bit. In baseball, that mostly means shorter games (not that they've gotten much shorter: Walsh says they've been dialed back to the 1980s, but I remember games that barely exceeded two hours). Walsh has plenty of other examples of "operating under a rule book that is out of date," many involving the gridlock in Congress. But baseball at least has incentive to change (although it took an insanely long time for the NL to accept the DH, even though watching pitchers try to hit was embarrassing even back in the 1950s).

Li Zhou: [08-31] Marijuana could be classified as a lower-risk drug. Here's what that means. Well, for starters it would reduce the quantity of complete nonsense the government swears on, which might make them more credible about drugs that pose real dangers beyond mere bad habits.


There's a meme titled "When the actual dictionary completely nails it." The text offers a dictionary definition:

trumpery, n.; pl. trumperies, [Fr. tromperie, from tromper, to deceive, cheat.]

  1. deceit, fraud. [Obs.]
  2. anything calculated to deceive by false show; anything externally splendid but intrinsically of little value; worthless finery.
  3. things worn out and of no value; useless matter; trifles; rubbish; nonsense.
    This idolatrous trumpery and superstition.

Trump's German family name used to be Drumpf. After a brief search, I'm unclear as to exactly when, where, and why the name change occurred, but it does seem like a deliberate choice, if not necessarily a fully knowing one.

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