Some of the People All of the Time (On Trump’s Legion)

by Akim Reinhardt

You can fool all the people some of the time
and some of the people all the time,
but you cannot fool all the people all the time.

Lincoln quotesFor example, some people will always believe that Abraham Lincoln first uttered this famous aphorism, even though there is no record of him ever having written or said those words.

A French Protestant named Jacques Abbadie authored an early incarnation of the adage in 1684.

In 1754, the French editors Denis Diderot and Jean le Rond d'Alembert helped cement its popularity.

The phrase doesn't show up in American letters until some Prohibitionist politicians started using it in 1885. Twenty years after Lincoln died.

Until recently, I simply took at face value the common claim that these were Lincoln's words. It's not a very important issue, so what would push me to question it?

My decision to title this article.

A little healthy skepticism is all it took. After all, lots of famous quotes are misattributed to famous people, ergo the Yogi Berra line: “I really didn't say everything I said.” Which he really did say.

So before titling and publishing this essay, I looked up the maxim at a reputable site with citations, just to be sure. And presto: suddenly I am, at least in this regard, all of the people some of the time, and not some of the people all of the time.

You really don't want to be some of those people who get fooled all the time. Which brings us to Donald Trump.

He's very good at fooling people. At the moment, he's successfully fooling millions of Republican voters into thinking he'd be a good president generally, and more specifically, that if elected he could actually do many of the outlandish things he's claiming, like getting Mexico to pay for a wall.

Thus, the question lurks forebodingly: Are we living through “some of the time?”

Is this the moment when Donald Trump fools all of the people, or at least enough of the ones who call themselves Republicans, that he lands the GOP's presidential nomination?

Read more »

Monday Poem

Only in myth is death an illusion,
but there’s beauty in hope
and hope in myth
and myth in true profusion
…………….. —Angela DiSperanza
Grief to Myth

When they came to the tomb’s stone
it was set aside as if the occupant they’d loved
had gone to breakfast with friends
leaving a folded sheet for them
and some linen strips or not
and, as some say, a young man or an angel or two
who said, Your hope’s still in the world,
go find it. So their sadness left,
their grief became hope,
hope turned to myth
as word spread on myth’s wings
with love’s wind behind it

Jim Culleny
Easter, 2016

Is it a brave new world if you’re a woman?

by Sarah Firisen

Rosie-riveter-1There’s never been a better, safer, healthier, fairer time to be a woman than right now. On the other hand, the bar was set pretty low for most of history. Yes, we are no longer chattel, the property of our fathers and husbands. We can vote, hell one of us is probably on track to be the leader of the free world come January. But in reality, there have been other major female leaders before: Margaret Thatcher, what about Queen Elizabeth I in the 16th century, how much did she do to advance the cause of women in England? How much did either of them do, either in terms of policy or as icons who caused a major shift in public attitude and behavior?

But yes, I’m glad I’m alive now. Even so, let’s not kid ourselves that the fight has been won, even if we end up with President Hillary Clinton come January. No matter where you look, women continue to be undervalued and underrepresented, and that’s the good end of the scale. When I say that there’s never been a safer, healthier and fairer time to be a woman, I really mean in the west. Women are still treated as chattel across much of Africa, the Middle East, the Indian subcontinent and beyond. But even in the west, we have a long way to go. Even though women are now better educated than men, equally interested in the same careers and with almost as much experience in the workplace, a recent New York Times article cited the depressing fact that not only are women still earning about 87 cents on the dollar for the same job as men, but “when women enter fields in greater numbers, pay declines — for the very same jobs that more men were doing before.” And it seems this is job agnostic and actually also works in the opposite direction: jobs pay more once they start being done by men “Computer programming, for instance, used to be a relatively menial role done by women. But when male programmers began to outnumber female ones, the job began paying more and gained prestige.”

Read more »

Heaven and Hell–in Modena

by Leanne Ogasawara

Osteria fish“Italian Criminal Masterminds Heisted $875,000 Worth of Parmesan”

“Only in Italy,” I thought a few months ago when I read the headline above. Of course, Italian cheeses, like French wines, have been highly valued and given as gifts of diplomacy to kings and queens since at least the Medieval period. Samuel Pepys famously buried his Parmesan cheese in a hole dug in his garden when the London Fire broke out. Truly, Italian cheeses and wines are wondrous– just like the cities in which they were born!

And of all the delicious cities in Italy, maybe nowhere is quite as wondrously delectable as Modena.

A native son of the great city of cheese, Massimo Bottura is considered to be one of the greatest chefs on earth–and a few years ago, his 3 Michelin star restaurant, the Osteria Francescana, was ranked #2 in the world.

Located in one of Modena's back streets, Bottura says the city of his birth is defined by fast cars (Ferrari and Maserati) and slow food. Located between Parma and Bologna, the medieval town of Modena is situated smack in the middle of what is a world food capital. Yes, I am talking about gorgeous artisan cheeses carefully aged on cheese wheels (including the famed Parmigiano Reggiano), countless kinds of ham and sausage (Bologna gives its name to what it goes by in America), and a kind of Balsamic vinegar so it exquisite it reminds one of wine.

And did I mention vignola cherries?

Read more »



Alina Quayyum Agha. Intersections, 2013.

Laser-cut Wood, Single Light Bulb, 6.5' Square Cube, Completed: December 2013, Cast Shadows.

Digital photograph by Sughra Raza, April 2, 2016.

“In a contextual milieu where difference and divergence dominate most conversations about the intersection of civilization, this piece explores the presence of harmonies that do not ignore the shadows, ambiguities, and dark spaces between them, but rather explore them in novel and unexpected ways.” – Anila Q Agha

More here, here, and here.

On view at Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA, until July 10, 2016.

Break! How I Busted Three Trumpeters Out of a Maryland Prison

by Bill Benzon

Man-try-to-break-jailWell, it wasn’t quite like that.

For one thing, they weren’t really trumpeters. They held the horns and blew through them, but not much came out. If those guys were trumpeters, then my name’s James Bond and I’m a secret agent who’s saved the world from countless psychotic megalomaniacal industrialists. Bond isn’t my name and I’m not a secret agent.

Chet the Jet

But I was part of a situation in which three trumpet players manqué did manage to escape from prison. Me and Chet the Jet—that’s what we sometimes called him, but only behind his back. Dr. Chester H. Wickwire was University Chaplain at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore back in the previous century. I’d been an undergraduate there and then took a job in the Chaplain’s Office. This was during the Vietnam era and I’d been a conscientious objector to military service and so had to perform alternative service, as it was called. The Selective Service System allowed me to work with the Chaplain’s Office.

We, Dr. Wickwire’s staff, sometimes referred to him as Chet the Jet. Just where and why that nickname, I don’t know. It had been in place for some time. But it was oddly apt. Dr. Wickwire couldn’t jet about anywhere. He’d had polio in his youth and needed two canes for support when walking, though he made do with one for short distances.

Read more »

Why Does Paul Krugman Have A Bug In His Ass About Bernie Sanders?

by Evert Cilliers aka Adam Ash

UnknownPaul Krugman has become our most original and insightful commentator on the American scene. In his essential NY Times column, he was the first pundit to attack George W Bush, way before 9/11 or the Iraq War. He called Bush Jr a liar, and said Bush fudged his economic numbers.

But lately, Krugman has been a disappointment, because of his persistent sneering at Bernie Sanders.

What's up with that? Bernie Sanders may be our first honest politician, a straight-up progressive, who is doing America the favor of moving Hillary over to the left. He is an authentic dyed-in-the-wool liberal who complained about income inequality decades before Occupy Wall Street made it part of the national conversation. He voted against the Iraq War. His prescriptions would turn us into a socialist democratic state with a strong social safety net and a better single-payer health system. He stands for a $15 minimum wage. Free community college tuition, paid for by a Wall Street transaction tax. Big infrastructure spending for more jobs. Money out of politics. Break up the big banks.

What's not to like about Bernie?

Read more »

Strained Analogies Between Recently Released Films and Current Events: Batman v Superman and the 2016 Presidential Primaries

by Matt McKenna

ScreenHunter_1830 Apr. 04 12.07Here’s the concept: two powerful white dudes fight each other until they’re forced to confront a common enemy, which more often than not is another powerful white dude. Are we talking about the plot of Batman v Superman or the sad reality of American presidential politics? Could be either, right? Well, both the movie and the current election cycle have left critics displeased and audiences entertained. Although Batman v. Superman has received only a 29% from critics on Rotten Tomatoes, it has received a much better 71% from the audience. The primary election season has experienced a similar dichotomy between critics and the general audience: hardly a moment passes without a cultural critic decrying the base nature of this election cycle, yet audiences are tuning into election coverage on cable news channels in record numbers. Personally, I find the film much less offensive than the current (or any) election cycle if only because the film is fictional.

Batman v Superman is the narrative linchpin for Time Warner’s “DC Extended Universe,” which is an attempt to cash in on its ownership of the DC Comics characters the way that Disney has cashed in on its ownership of the Marvel Comics characters through developing a film franchise in which all the heroes fight on the same team in recurring, ever more expensive summer blockbusters. Therefore, although the film is called Batman v Superman, viewers shouldn’t be surprised to find out that Batman and Superman eventually stop fighting each other so they can go after the “real” bad guy, which (spoiler!) is exactly how the United States’ primary election process will play out. For all the jabs Republicans Ted Cruz and Donald trump take at each other, they will ultimately join forces to attempt to defeat the Democrat candidate in the general election. The same goes for Democrats Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton, who will somehow forget all their prior complaints and support each other in defeating the Republican candidate.

If Batman and Superman becoming buddies sounds a lot like presidential primary opponents supporting each other in the general election, then the similarity between Superman’s struggles and Donald Trump’s campaign will be downright obvious with the one major discrepancy being that Superman is famously known for his good haircut.

Read more »

The Philosopher: A History in Six Types


Over at Princeton University Press, the introduction from Justin E. H. Smith new book:

This book, an essay in the proper Montaignean sense, seeks to answer that most fundamental of philosophical questions: What is philosophy? It does so, however, in an unusual way: by refraining from proclamations about what philosophy, ideally, ought to be, and by asking instead what philosophy has been, what it is that people have been doing under the banner of philosophy in different times and places. In what follows we will survey the history of the various self-conceptions of philosophers in different historical eras and contexts. We will seek to uncover the different “job descriptions” attached to the social role of the philosopher in different times and places. Through historical case studies, autobiographical interjections, and parafictional excursuses, it will be our aim to enrich the current understanding of what the project of philosophy is, or could be, by uncovering and critically examining lost, forgotten, or undervalued conceptions of the project from philosophy’s distinguished past.

This approach could easily seem not just unusual but also misguided, since philosophy is generally conceived as an a priori discipline concerned with conceptual analysis rather than with the collection of particular facts about past practice. As a result of this widespread conception, most commonly, when philosophers set about answering the question as to the nature of their discipline, they end up generating answers that reflect the values and preoccupations of their local philosophical culture. Thus Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari answer the question, in their 1991 book What Is Philosophy?, 1 by arguing that it is the activity of conceptual innovation, the generating of new concepts, and thus of new ways of looking at the world. But this is a conception of philosophy that would be utterly unfamiliar to, say, Ludwig Wittgenstein, who suggested that philosophy is the practice of “shewing the fly the way out of the bottle,”2 or, alternatively, that it is “a battle against the bewitchment of our intelligence by means of language,”3 and it would be more unfamiliar still to the natural philosopher of the seventeenth century, who studied meteorological phenomena in order to discern the regularities at work in the world around us, and had no particular interest in devising new concepts for discerning these regularities. Thus when Deleuze and Guattari argue that philosophy is the activity of concept coining, they should really be saying that this is what they would like philosophy to be.

More here.

Crackdown in China: Worse and Worse


Orville Schell in The New York Review of Books:

“As a liberal, I no longer feel I have a future in China,” a prominent Chinese think tank head in the process of moving abroad recently lamented in private. Such refrains are all too familiar these days as educated Chinese professionals express growing alarm over their country’s future. Indeed, not since the 1970s when Mao still reigned and the Cultural Revolution still raged has the Chinese leadership been so possessed by Maoist nostalgia and Leninist-style leadership.

As different leaders have come and gone, China specialists overseas have become accustomed to reading Chinese Communist Party (CCP) tea leaves as oscillating cycles of political “relaxation” and “tightening.” China has long been a one-party Leninist state with extensive censorship and perhaps the largest secret police establishment in the world. But what has been happening lately in Beijing under the leadership of Chinese Communist Party General Secretary Xi Jinping is no such simple fluctuation. It is a fundamental shift in ideological and organizational direction that is beginning to influence both China’s reform agenda and its foreign relations.

At the center of this retrograde trend is Xi’s enormously ambitious initiative to purge the Chinese Communist Party of what he calls “tigers and flies,” namely corrupt officials and businessmen both high and low. Since it began in 2012, the campaign has already netted more than 160 “tigers” whose rank is above or equivalent to that of the deputy provincial or deputy ministerial level, and more than 1,400 “flies,” all lower-level officials.1 But it has also morphed from an anticorruption drive into a broader neo-Maoist-style mass purge aimed at political rivals and others with differing ideological or political views.

To carry out this mass movement, the Party has mobilized its unique and extensive network of surveillance, security, and secret police in ways that have affected many areas of Chinese life. Media organizations dealing with news and information have been hit particularly hard. Pressured to conform to old Maoist models requiring them to serve as megaphones for the Party, editors and reporters have found themselves increasingly constrained by Central Propaganda Department diktats. Told what they can and cannot cover, they find that the limited freedom they had to report on events has been drastically curtailed.

More here.

“We are the People“: The Rise of the German Righ


Ben Mauk in n+1:

LIKE ITS POLITICS, Germany’s version of bowling—kegeln—is a muted affair. You arrive at the kegelbahn by descending into the basement of a certain genus of unpretentious bar, with mastodonic beer mugs, imitation wainscoting, and a permissive smoking policy. The oldest alleys have been operating beneath these pubs for more than a century without mechanization or electronic upgrade, just two narrow wooden lanes—unwaxed and slightly concave—running the length of a bare hallway toward nine pins arranged in a diamond. Due to the slight bowing of the lane you need to bowl the croquet-sized ball so that it traces the path of a sine wave back and forth across the boards, moving gently to the left, then the right, until it reaches the pins, ideally just a hair off-center. A designated teammate reassembles the diamond and returns your ball by rolling it down a freestanding metal chute.

As an American whose experiences of both bowling and politics are those of fully automated, high-gloss, thunderous spectacles, I was excited when a friend invited me to the bowling night of one of the Berlin chapters of Social Democrats (SPD). I imagined that I would learn something about two national traditions. It was plain luck that I happened to come the night Berlin’s mayor, Michael Müller, turned up. We even bowled against each other, using the same craggy gray sponge to moisten our hands before each turn. The center-left politician was an expert bowler. He knew exactly how much force to apply in order to get the ball maneuvering back and forth over the center. I rolled mostly gutterballs.

After the game, we gathered around the basement’s long table for the nightly meeting, where various political issues are traditionally discussed. But tonight everyone was bursting to talk with Müller about the same thing: the previous day’s election results. Three of Germany’s state legislatures had held elections on March 13th, and Alternative for Germany (AfD), the country’s new far-right populist party, had managed to enter all three state parliaments, winning double-digit portions of the vote in Baden-Württemberg, Rhineland-Palatinate, and Saxony-Anhalt. In the latter state, AfD won a startling 24 percent of the vote, upending the coalition of Christian Democrats (CDU) and SPD. A new, larger coalition would have to be formed, possibly with the Greens, to reach a majority.

More here.

Walter Benjamin’s Blog


David Beer reviews Walter Benjamin’s Archive (edited by Ursula Marx, Gudran Schwarz, Michael Schwarz, Erdmut Wizisla and translated by Esther Leslie) in Berfrois:

Walter Benjamin’s Archive, which has just been published in paperback to mark the 75thanniversary of his untimely death, has left me thinking that Benjamin might just have been a blogger in the making. The way that he organised and archived his work suggests that he would have embraced the classification, archiving and tagging facilities typical of blogging – he seemed to have a certain enthusiasm for metadata on his own works. We can then add to this his eagerness to share his work and his interest in capturing the everyday fragments and ephemera of modernity. And then we also have his non-linear approach to thought and expression.

I arrived at this conclusion whilst delving into this book’s revelations about the backstage processes that fed into Benjamin’s outputs. The unfinished book The Arcades Project has always given a flavour of these working practices, with its accumulating constellations of ephemera and ideas, but the guided and curated tour of the archives provided by this book show us his craft much greater detail. Seeing inside his working practices shows us the type of processes that he went through – from the type of paper, the size of the writing, the use of notepads, the collating of images, the classificatory overviews, the realisation of connections and patterns. These are all put on display in this book. We see, for instance, as his life became increasingly peripatetic, how Benjamin used whatever paper he could lay his hands on. We have Benjamin writing on hotel paper and prescription pads alongside more professional bound and durable notepads. The very paper became tellingly valuable. Benjamin’s scraps were far from scrappy though, they were full of thoughts on the world, serious thoughts from anything on the built environment to Kafka. We see how he used up every tiny bit of his precious notebooks with ordered yet kaleidoscopic ideas, that he liked to re-arrange and to cross-cut his thoughts, to find new connections and enable the pieces to fall into new and perhaps neglected, or otherwise invisible patterns.

As the editors of the collection have put it, “knowledge that is organized into slips and scraps knows no hierarchy”. Removing such a hierarchy opens up new possibilities for thought to escape convention.

More here.



Richard Marshall interviews Jonathan Cohen in 3:AM Magazine:

3:AM: You’re a leading expert in philosophy of mind and colour has been a key focus of your thinking in this area, using it to draw out philosophically interesting questions and answers. You cite CL Hardin as bringing about a sea change in the philosophy of colour: was it because he insisted that philosophers took on board the results of science that make him so important for the field? Have the armchair philosophers of mind been banished, and is this a good thing?

JC: Hardin’s 1988 book, Color for Philosophers, was transformative because it showed how advances in color science (which, I think it’s fair to say, hadn’t been centrally on the radar of philosophers of mind and perception at the time) had the capacity to reshape longstanding philosophical disputes about color. To a crude first approximation, the landscape of philosophical options, and the kinds of considerations used to choose between those options one saw in philosophical writing about color in the decades before Hardin looked surprisingly similar to those present in philosophical writing about color in the 16th and 17th centuries, in great modern philosophers like Boyle, Galileo, and Locke. Hardin pointed out that the science of color had moved considerably forward since the modern period, and showed by example that its discoveries could constrain philosophical debates about the nature of color and color perception in new and unanticipated ways.

It is too strong to say that the armchair philosophers of mind have now been banished — there are still many good ways to do important and interesting philosophy (about color and other topics) that are motivated by different mixes of empirical and non-empirical considerations. But I do think it is an adequacy constraint on responsible philosophical theorizing that one’s views must ultimately mesh in some way with our best theories of the world. And in cases where one is arguing about a subject, such as color, language, or mind, about which there is a reasonably well-established body of empirical knowledge, this requires respecting — a fortiori knowing something about — the relevant facts. I take this not to be any special constraint on philosophical theorizing in particular, but simply a matter of being a responsible inquirer in any field. In my view, philosophical work on color scores better on this yardstick now than it did before Hardin shook the field from its dogmatic slumber.

3:AM: Hardin argued that objects weren’t coloured didn’t he, so he wasn’t a colour realist but some kind of eliminatist? Why do you disagree with him?

JC: Hardin thinks not only that philosophers should pay attention to the findings of the contemporary color sciences, but that these findings collectively amount to an exceedingly stringent set of constraints on what colors could be — indeed, that these constraints are so stringent that nothing that satisfies all of them, i.e., that there are no colors in the actual world.

More here.

Sunday Poem

Per Fumum
(through smoke)

My mother became an ornithologist
when the grackle tumbled through barbecue smoke
and fell at her feet. Soon she learned
why singers cage birds; it can take weeks
to memorize a melody – 
the first days lost as they mope
and warble a friendless note,
the same tone every animal memorizes
hours into breathing. It’s a note
a cologne would emit if the bottle was struck
while something mystical was aligned
with something even more mystical
but farther away. My father was an astronomer
for forty minutes in a row
the first time a bus took us so far
from streetlights he could point out constellations
that may or may not have been Draco,
Orion, Aquila, or Crux.
When they faded I resented the sun’s excess,
a combination of fires I couldn’t smell.
The first chemist was a perfumer
whose combinations, brushed
against pulse points, were unlocked
by quickening blood. From stolen perfumes
I concocted my personal toxin.
It was no more deadly than as much water
to any creature the size of a roach. I grew suspicious
of my plate and lighter Bunsen burner,
the tiny vials accumulating in my closet.
I was a chemist for months
before I learned the difference
between poisoned and drowned.
When my bed caught fire
it smelled like a garden.

by Jamaal May
from: Poetry, Vol. 203, No. 5, 2014


The Dirty Old Men of Pakistan

Mohammed Hanif in The New York Times:

Hanif-superJumboKarachi, Pakistan — IN the world we live in, there is no dearth of pious men who believe that most of the world’s problems can be fixed by giving their women a little thrashing. And this business of a man’s God-given right to give a woman a little thrashing has brought together all of Pakistan’s pious men. A few weeks ago, Pakistan’s largest province passed a new law called the Punjab Protection of Women Against Violence Act. The law institutes radical measures that say a husband can’t beat his wife, and if he does he will face criminal charges and possibly even eviction from his home. It proposes setting up a hotline women can call to report abuse. In some cases, offenders will be required to wear a bracelet with a GPS monitor and will not be allowed to buy guns. A coalition of more than 30 religious and political parties has declared the law un-Islamic, an attempt to secularize Pakistan and a clear and present threat to our most sacred institution: the family. They have threatened countrywide street protests if the government doesn’t back down.

Their logic goes like this: If you beat up a person on the street, it’s a criminal assault. If you bash someone in your bedroom, you’re protected by the sanctity of your home. If you kill a stranger, it’s murder. If you shoot your own sister, you’re defending your honor. I’m sure the nice folks campaigning against the bill don’t want to beat up their wives or murder their sisters, but they are fighting for their fellow men’s right to do just that. It’s not only opposition parties that are against the bill: The government-appointed Council of Islamic Ideology has also declared it repugnant to our religion and culture. The council’s main task is to ensure that all the laws in the country comply with Shariah. But basically it’s a bunch of old men who go to sleep worrying that there are all these women out there trying to trick them into bed. Maybe that’s why there are no pious old women on the council, even though there’s no shortage of them in Pakistan. The council’s past proclamations have defended a man’s right to marry a minor, dispensed him from asking for permission from his first wife before taking a second or a third, and made it impossible for women to prove rape. It’s probably the most privileged dirty old men’s club in the country.

More here.