Remember Perot?

MaxresdefaultFrank Guan at n+1:

In spite of Gore’s smug demeanor and relentless interruptions, Perot maintained an even, though naturally increasingly vexed, tone; when Gore attempted to shift the topic, Perot retained his focus; when Gore cast aspersions on his motives, Perot parried them without excessive difficulty, albeit only by exposing himself as a traitor to his class.1 It is difficult, reading the transcript of the NAFTA debate, not to come to certain conclusions: it was by far the most substantive televised debate on economic policy in American history, and the majority of the substance came from Perot, who by that token was the clear victor of the debate.

Yet the gloating and unanimous response on the part of the political media was precisely the opposite: Gore had triumphed, absolutely. His churlishness was taken as a mark of tactical genius, while Perot’s displeasure was played up as a sign of mental incompetence: William Safire, in the New York Times, cheerfully compared the debate to a bullfight, with the Texan in the role of the hapless, goaded beast; Dana Carvey mocked Perot’s requests to be allowed to finish his sentences onSaturday Night Live. A week later, NAFTA passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 234 to 200; Senate approval soon followed, and President Clinton signed the treaty into law in early December.

more here.

Thomas De Quincey, opium, and editorial double-dealing

HD_ThomasDeQuincy_cFrances Wilson at The New Statesman:

De Quincey’s career as a journalist (he wrote one book in 30 years, and roughly 250 articles) coincided with the birth of a genre that Walter Bagehot called the “review-like essay and the essay-like review”. He was not an essayist in the polished manner of Hazlitt; he did not create finished objects. The virtue of the essay is that it reflects a thought in the process of discovering itself, and De Quincey dramatised this process. He wrote in diversions, he recycled other people’s words, he produced experiments in inwardness, works-in-progress; instead of moving his writing forward, he either plunged downward or rose, as Leslie Stephen said, “like the bat . . . on the wings of prose to the borders of the true poetical region”. Naturally, opium helped with the language of reverie. De Quincey was not an opium eater but a laudanum drinker: he took his opium as drops dissolved in alcohol, and a decanter of the crimson liquid was kept by the desk on which he wrote.

During breaks from his writing, he scuttled through the London streets in a state of high anxiety, confiding in John Taylor that he had a sort of ominous anticipation “that possibly there was some being in the world who was fated to do him at some time a great & unexpiable injury”: Taylor thought “Wilson might be the man”. Opium released De Quincey’s paranoia, but his fears were not entirely ungrounded. John Wilson was a dangerous beast, and De Quincey’s betrayal of Blackwood’s was bound to have repercussions. “These things Wilson can never forgive,” De Quincey said: “they will rankle in his mind: and at some time or other I am sure he will do what he can to injure me.”

more here.

The Blossoming Child: A father turns to nature to find solace for his ailing child

Steve Edwards in Orion:

Griffin_JF16-771x642Our move East had been necessitated by a pair of crises. Bouts of unemployment during the economic meltdown left Rebecca and me mere weeks from homelessness, and Wyatt — with his blue eyes and blonde curls, all sunshine and prairie — was chronically ill. A series of shifting, catch-all diagnoses followed him from doctor to doctor: colic became a protein intolerance, became reflux, became the suggestion of autism. He put on weight but had low muscle tone. He could say and repeat words but couldn’t really talk. And though he was meeting developmental milestones for growth and development, by two he still required the attention of a newborn. He raged and whined, napped in fitful spurts, spent half the night crying. If Wyatt played at helping with the chores, or if he had a peaceful afternoon nap, I’d think we were turning a corner, that the sweet boy we knew was inside him somewhere might now come blossoming out. It’s what we thought with each new doctor’s appointment, too. In the weeks following the hurricane, we discovered from a geneticist at Boston Children’s that his glycine numbers were high and his carnitine numbers were low. From an allergist we learned he had milk and tree-nut allergies. Each new clue brought with it changes we thought might somehow break the spell. We ditched the almond milk an old doctor had suggested in favor of rice milk. We went gluten free. On the advice of a nurse practitioner, we began giving him melatonin before bedtime.

Exhausting every option until he was healthy was our duty as his parents.

More here.

A Week of Misconceptions

By The New York Times:

Misconceptions-aprilfools-jumboWe’re taking the first week of April as an opportunity to debunk popular misconceptions about health and science that circulate all year round. Some of these items were inspired by areas of confusion that reporters on The New York Times’ science desk encounter again and again. Others came directly from our readers, who submitted the misconceptions that frustrate them the most to our science Facebook page.

Misconception: Exercise builds strong bones. Many public health groups and health sites promote this exercise prescription, promising it will stave off weak bones. It sounds too good to be true. And it is, writes Gina Kolata, a Times medical reporter. It turns out, exercise has little or no effect on bone strength. Read on.

Misconception: Climate change is not real because there is snow in my yard.

Actually: Anyone who utters an argument like this is mixing up climate and weather, writes reporter Justin Gillis. Read on.

Related Misconception: A global warming “pause” means climate change is bunk. Whether or not there was a pause in global warming for a dozen years or so has no bearing on the underlying scientific validity of climate change, reporter John Schwartz writes. That’s like saying a temporary dip in the stock market means that the best long-term investment strategy is keeping your cash under the mattress.

More here.

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.

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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?

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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.

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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.