Posted by Adam @ 8:05 am on June 28th 2014

Kill the bees. Later

It’s clear that bees are scum who must each die a thousand deaths (which is a satisfyingly large total of bee deaths, aggregated across the total bee population) but that is not to say that they do not have their uses. Reports of bees and snakes driving Boko Haram out of forest stronghold illustrate that even the most appalling of creatures can occasionally fight towards the cause of good. By accident, say, or as part of a power struggle amongst the forces of evil.

If it were just Boko Haram and bees in there, of course, one might favour more robust area-effect solutions, but we must mercifully stay our hand where the area is shared with others. This is not — far from it — an endorsement of the stripy menace, any more than feeding Chicago-style pizza to your enemies is an endorsement of the culinary abomination, but a statement of necessity. We can always kill the bees afterwards, in any case.

And we should. The Bees Must Die.

Posted by Brad @ 1:03 pm on June 26th 2014

Quote of the Day

“The majority justifies those atextual results on an adverse-possession theory of executive authority: Presidents have long claimed the powers in question, and the Senate has not disputed those claims with sufficient vigor, so the Court should not “upset the compromises and working arrangements that the elected branches of Government them­selves have reached.”

Justice Scalia

Posted by Adam @ 6:19 pm on June 23rd 2014

C+. Must do better.

Via the BBC: last week, the NYT featured an op-ed from Timothy Egan lambasting Walmart, which is not terribly unusual. What is unusual, though, is the Walmart response, in the form of a point-by-point correction plus bonus suggestions for improvements.

This is actually pretty clever, I think. Yet another anti-Walmart opinion piece — I’m not sure how many minds they’re changing, but for people who think Walmart is a problem there’s not really much choice other than to keeping trying to persuade people — gets used not just for direct rebuttal but as a vehicle for making counter-claims. I assume it’s all fair use, too, so far as copyright is concerned (but I could be completely wrong about that). As op-eds are about the most fatuous part of American newspapers (although the NYT efforts often pale in comparison to some of the op-eds which feature in the WSJ), it’d be nice to see more of this sort of directed response from the people being attacked from the bully pulpit.

Posted by Adam @ 8:40 pm on June 20th 2014

The stripy menace-industrial complex

Is there anything that can’t be made worse by the Federal Government? The Obama administration — or should I say, “Obeema administration” — is trying to stop that colony collapse disorder thing, aka (in these parts) “humanity’s last best hope from beetastrophe”.

I am not one for over-reaction, but I demand that Darrell Issa start impeachment proceedings immediately.

Posted by Adam @ 11:03 pm on June 19th 2014

Engage brain! Too late

Brian Schweitzer, populist Democrat, two-term governor of heavily Republican Montana and potential wild card 2016 presidential candidate, thinks Eric Cantor is a 60-70% on his gaydar, although that’s probably just because he believes that Southern men are effeminate (but that’s OK! He’s totally fine with gay people). He also compared Senate bigwig Democrat Dianne Feinstein’s latterly negative, but formerly ambivalent, response to NSA information-gathering as being akin to that of a prostitute (or perhaps merely a slutty sexual adventurer? I’m not entirely clear) pretending to now be a nun.

I am not sure what he gains from insulting a senior House Republican who won’t even feature at the next election and one of the Senate big cheeses of his own party, but I guess I’m just not clever enough to work it out. Last week he was at a Romney gathering (Romney also the target of bizarre presidential run speculation, but he is probably now embarrassed to have shared a platform with Schweitzer). Other lesser minds also think it’s the end of his presidential aspirations, but we may all be missing his ingenious appeal to the middle. Or something.

Posted by Brad @ 12:06 am on June 18th 2014

This Used to Be a Blog And it Had Brits and Stuff

And if those things were still true, I’d point out that “soccer” is a perfectly acceptable term for the sport – in many ways, actually, a lot more reasonable given the other “football” sports (American football, rugby)(soccer being an abbreviation on “association football” which the sport was termed to avoid being confused with rubgy football). And it was only relatively recently that the British decided it wasn’t cool anymore because the yanks used it.

If the word “soccer” originated in England, why did it fall into disuse there and become dominant in the States?

To answer that question, [sports economist Stefan] Szymanski counted the frequency with which the words “football” and soccer” appeared in American and British news outlets as far back as 1900. What he found is fascinating: “Soccer” was a recognized term in Britain in the first half of the twentieth century, but it wasn’t widely used until after World War II, when it was in vogue (and interchangeable with “football” and other phrases like “soccer football”) for a couple decades, perhaps because of the influence of American troops stationed in Britain during the war and the allure of American culture in its aftermath. In the 1980s, however, Brits began rejecting the term, as soccer became a more popular sport in the United States.

In recent decades, “The penetration of the game into American culture, measured by the use of the name ‘soccer,’ has led to backlash against the use of the word in Britain, where it was once considered an innocuous alternative to the word ‘football,’” Szymanski explains.

So really the fact that Americans call it “soccer” is less a function of the seppos bastardizing it and more a function of the English being snobs and all “I was into this band before it was cool” and stuff.

Posted by Brad @ 10:13 am on June 16th 2014

Quote of the Day

On taking military action to help shore up the Makali government in Iraq in the face of an increasingly genocidal ISIS threatening to take over or rend the country apart.

“You’d be fighting for a dysfunctional, unrepresentative, authoritarian government. There’s no reason on earth that I know of that we would ever sacrifice a single American life for that.”

Hillary Clinton

Posted by Brad @ 1:28 pm on June 11th 2014

Quote of the Day

“That [stoning gay people to death] goes against some parts of libertarianism, I realize, and I’m largely libertarian, but ignoring as a nation things that are worthy of death is very remiss.”


Posted by Brad @ 2:30 pm on June 5th 2014

The Mass Grave in Ireland and the Catholic Fixation on Sex

Andrew Sullivan’s rolling coverage of the unearthed bodies of 800 neglected children buried in a septic tank in an Irish home for out-of-wedlock mothers and babies is hard to forget. The news itself is, of course, unspeakably horrible, but Sullivan, I think rightly, absolutely blasts about perhaps the dogmatic and cultural currents in 20th and 21st century Catholicism that directly led to this horror. Namely, the incredibly severe fixation on sex specifically within modern Catholicism – the absolute fetishazation of sexual sin above all others – which has led to some pretty dark stuff in the church’s recent history. Sullivan’s argument is not a gimme, of course, but I think he connects the dots very compellingly. Generally speaking, a view of sexuality based largely on shame and marginalization tends to lead to a lot of marshy psychological fields (and this is true of other religions as well; as Sullivan mentions, 1940s Ireland is not so different than 2010 Iran, in this respect).

Anyway, must reads.

Catholicism’s Crimes Against Humanity 1
Catholicism’s Crimes Against Humanity 2
Catholicism’s Crimes Against Humanity 3

Posted by Brad @ 11:54 pm on June 4th 2014

Six Years Later, Guantanamo Bay is Still Open

…but not for 5 Taliban commanders who were just released for a prisoner exchange. Just for the 149 that remain, having been there for well over a decade now, 78 of whom have been cleared for transfer or release for four years or more. The five that were released in exchange for Bowe Bergdahl, by the way, were not among that category.

The real kick in the nuts? In December, Congress passed a law disallowing the President from releasing prisoners from Gitmo (added to the annual defense authorization act). Obama appended a signing statement to that provision specifically, stating that in the administration’s belief the provision was an unconstitutional overstepping of the separation of powers – he specifically couched it in the context of his being frustrated at his inability to close Gitmo or transfer its detainees to civilian court. So, Congress passed the law and the administration basically said it didn’t feel that it had to follow it (which, when Bush did it, Obama called an abuse that advanced sweeping powers of executive authority, but whatevs).

However, that signing statement has never been invoked, Gitmo remains open, the prisoners in limbo, the prisoners cleared for release still sitting there (actually, in many cases, literally – strapped to chairs with feeding tubes).

He is invoking that signing statement now, to release five of the prisoners that probably actually SHOULD have been kept off the battlefield and tried.

Emily Bazelon has a very good summary of disgusting situation as it pertains to Gitmo.

I am not particularly interested in litigating the Bowe Bergdahl prisoner exchange. In truth, I could go either way on the matter, and there’s enough weirdness on both sides – from accounts of how Bergdahl might have ended up in their custody in the first place to the flip side that this was the first successful diplomatic negotiation with the Taliban as a political entity (this was the first time the Taliban embassy in Qatar actually got something done and proved that it could lead to battlefield course changes) – that I don’t really feel comfortable weighing in. I am also not saying that Obama should use bullshit “executive authority” signing statements to essentially declare yet another law he doesn’t like null and void when it’s convenient.

But it is curious to me that for six years now we have heard Obama bemoan that he really totally WANTS to close Guantanamo Bay, you guys, but just can’t because of stupid Congress. It’s totally not his fault – damn Republicans, Guantanamo Bay is their fault again! Except, when the opportunity arises, he is perfectly comfortable ignoring those same pesky laws entirely where it advances his agenda. Which very clearly telegraphs that letting Guantanamo detainees who aren’t strategically important one way or the other be transferred, tried, or released, is not, in fact, part of the agenda.

Bonus quote from Bazelon – file this under “a perfectly succinct encapsulation of a fundamental principle that will nevertheless not be generalized to other political issues where it proves inconvenient to a partisan or ideological worldview”:

Presidents tend toward overreach. Congress isn’t good at pushing back. Each president who usurps more authority for his office makes it easier for the next one to do more of the same. This will be a part of Obama’s legacy that darkens over time.