Sunday, July 8, 2018

Sunday Reading

Miami Underwater — Carolyn Kormann in The New Yorker.

In Miami, the rising sea is already an ineluctable part of daily life. Everyone is affected—whether storm flooding forces a small-business owner to shut down for a few days (at tremendous cost), or daily tides hinder students commuting to school, or the retreating coastline forces people to abandon their homes. There are other, less obvious, but equally troubling impacts. People’s increased contact with overflow water from urban canals and sewers is a significant health issue. Low-income communities of color—like Liberty City and Little Haiti—also face rising housing costs as residents seek higher ground. Some have started referring to this as climate gentrification, “a trend of underserved communities being taken over by investors and developers due to rising sea levels,” Valencia Gunder, a community organizer, explained. Historically, “low-income communities of color were forced to live in the center of the city, high above sea level. Now that the sea level is rising, that puts us in prime real estate.” Gunder is one of the many Miami residents who appear in this video series, which focusses on the high-stakes questions that arise as people begin to adapt, and the factors that help create and strengthen resiliency for what’s ahead. “Every adaptation project is an opportunity to improve our environmental quality,” Tiffany Troxler, a wetlands biologist, said. “And to improve social equity.”

As the average global temperature increases, sea level is projected to rise more than one foot by 2045, which would put a fifth of Miami underwater at high tide. While the entire East Coast of the United States is at tremendous risk, Miami is particularly vulnerable. Its underlying bedrock is limestone, which makes the effects of sea-level rise particularly insidious. “Limestone is very porous, so salt water can seep up,” Ben Wilson, an environmental scientist, said in an episode that examines the intersection of ecology and development. “We can’t just build a wall to keep salt water out.” Along the shoreline, freshwater marshes, which act as natural coastal buffers against storm surge, are collapsing because of increased salt-water intrusion. Once those grasses are gone, storm waters will flood Miami much more quickly.

The economic effects will be staggering. Tourism and property taxes—derived from real-estate development—are the region’s two main sources of income. “There are many in the business community, and even government officials, who feel we shouldn’t talk about it,” Wayne Pathman, a real-estate lawyer, said. “But it’s too late for that.” The median family income in Miami-Dade County is roughly forty-five thousand dollars—not high for a metropolitan area. The hardest-hit communities will be, and have already been, those with the fewest resources to adapt and rebuild.

“With climate change there already are winners and losers,” Jesse Keenan, a Harvard professor who teaches courses on climate adaptation, said. “The idea, as a matter of public policy, is how do we subsidize and and support the most vulnerable populations, who are very often the economic losers.” There is no easy answer. But the people featured in these videos are, at least, trying. “I love this place,” one activist told the filmmakers. “I love the people, I love the diversity and the colors and the richness. I love that cross-cultural mix we have going on here. The question is, ‘Can we live here much longer, and safely? And if so, how much longer, and how safely?’ ”

Party of Fear — Leonard Pitts, Jr. in the Miami Herald.

“I didn’t leave the Democratic Party. The party left me.’’

Ronald Reagan

Now I know how the Gipper felt.

Once upon a time, you see, I thought I was a little bit conservative. Mind you, I could never side with the right on social justice matters like the treatment of LGBTQ Americans, African Americans and women, where they have always been irredeemably wrong. But I did agree with them on the importance of fathers and on the need for self reliance, a strong military and foreign-policy realism. While I support government regulation of business, consumer standards and the environment, I was even willing to listen to conservative complaints about excessive red tape.

Thing is, I still hold more or less the same views, but I’m nobody’s idea of a conservative. I didn’t change, but the definition of conservative did. And that forces a realization:

With apologies to John F. Kennedy, Ich bin ein liberal.

That will, I know, bring howls of derision from conservatives. They’ll see it as a portentous announcement of a self-evident truth — like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar announcing that he is tall.

I get the joke, but the joke makes my point.

We live in a starkly bipolar political world. One is red or one is blue, one is right or one is left. But I’ve always resisted the idea that I had to choose a team and line up behind its talking points. I’ve always said no political philosophy has a monopoly on good ideas.

So I was never willing to call myself liberal. Or conservative. I liked the idea of weighing the facts and thinking a thing through for myself.

I was naïve, though. While I was holding out on a lonely island of principle, the middle space between the extremes shrank to nothing. Political identity became actual identity, and one was required to choose sides, like a kid in the slums forced to choose between rival street gangs, with conscientious objection not an option.

And the choice isn’t really a choice at all, because what used to be conservatism no longer is. When’s the last time you heard the right talk about the kinds of things — fatherhood, clear-eyed foreign policy — that once helped define it?

No, these days, being “conservative” means being angry and fearful at the loss of white prerogative. It means to embrace — or at the very least, tolerate, which is functionally the same thing — a new and brazen strain of white supremacy. It means to be dismissive and destructive of the norms of democratic governance. It means to willingly accept nonstop lies, intellectual vacuity and naked incompetence and pretend they are signs of stable genius. It means to be wholly in thrall to the Cult of Trump.

Small wonder GOP heavyweights like columnists George F. Will and Max Boot and campaign strategist Steve Schmidt have disavowed their party out of devotion to what conservatism used to be. Their moral courage makes neon obvious most Republicans’ lack thereof.

That said, one wonders if it will not turn out that these worthies are simply holding out on their own lonely island of principle, if conservatism’s headlong march toward fascism will not make them the ones who seem naïve 20 years down the line. But that’s their problem.

This column is about my problem, which I guess I’ve solved, though not without some regret for the days when I felt free to walk between political extremes and not declare myself. But in 2018, that’s an unaffordable luxury. In 2018, one of those extremes represents a danger as clear and present as any foreign adversary.

So yes, I am a liberal. Because I have, literally, no alternative.

Compare and Contrast — Musings on public speaking.

1863:

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate—we can not consecrate—we can not hallow—this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

1961:

And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.

2018:

I have broken more Elton John records, he seems to have a lot of records. And I, by the way, I don’t have a musical instrument. I don’t have a guitar or an organ. No organ. Elton has an organ. And lots of other people helping. No we’ve broken a lot of records. We’ve broken virtually every record. Because you know, look I only need this space. They need much more room. For basketball, for hockey and all of the sports, they need a lot of room. We don’t need it. We have people in that space. So we break all of these records. Really we do it without like, the musical instruments. This is the only musical: the mouth. And hopefully the brain attached to the mouth. Right? The brain, more important than the mouth, is the brain. The brain is much more important.

Doonesbury — Wasting time.

Friday, November 17, 2017

No Excuses

Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) didn’t weasel out in his lengthy — and second — apology to Leeann Tweeden for the assault in 2006.  Via Politico:

“The first thing I want to do is apologize: to Leeann, to everyone else who was part of that tour, to everyone who has worked for me, to everyone I represent, and to everyone who counts on me to be an ally and supporter and champion of women. There’s more I want to say, but the first and most important thing—and if it’s the only thing you care to hear, that’s fine—is: I’m sorry.

“I respect women. I don’t respect men who don’t. And the fact that my own actions have given people a good reason to doubt that makes me feel ashamed.

“For instance, that picture. I don’t know what was in my head when I took that picture, and it doesn’t matter. There’s no excuse. I look at it now and I feel disgusted with myself. It isn’t funny. It’s completely inappropriate. It’s obvious how Leeann would feel violated by that picture. And, what’s more, I can see how millions of other women would feel violated by it—women who have had similar experiences in their own lives, women who fear having those experiences, women who look up to me, women who have counted on me.

“Coming from the world of comedy, I’ve told and written a lot of jokes that I once thought were funny but later came to realize were just plain offensive. But the intentions behind my actions aren’t the point at all. It’s the impact these jokes had on others that matters. And I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to come to terms with that.

“While I don’t remember the rehearsal for the skit as Leeann does, I understand why we need to listen to and believe women’s experiences.

“I am asking that an ethics investigation be undertaken, and I will gladly cooperate.

“And the truth is, what people think of me in light of this is far less important than what people think of women who continue to come forward to tell their stories. They deserve to be heard, and believed. And they deserve to know that I am their ally and supporter. I have let them down and am committed to making it up to them.”

I hope the Senate ethics committee investigates the hell out of him so we can see if this is a one-time thing or a pattern.

But this is how this kind of thing should be handled: own up, fess up, no excuses, and try to make amends.  His job is on the line.  If he resigns, then so be it.

Compare that to the expected — and totally unself-aware — response from Trump who chortles to the world via Twitter about Sen. Franken.  It didn’t take long for the Twitterverse to remind him of the Access Hollywood tape and the fifteen or so women who came forward last year to say he’d assaulted them.  But don’t expect an apology from him.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Blabbermouth Cont’d

I’m not a military strategist by any means — nor would I aspire to be one — but even I can figure out that one of the reasons the Navy has submarines is because they don’t want other people to know we have warships in certain places.  You can’t hide a battleship — they are a show of power — but a submarine is stealthy and contains the element of surprise.

So it’s probably not a good idea to tell other people where we have them, especially if you’re a narcissistic braggart with size issues and happen to have access to nuclear codes.  Via Buzzfeed:

Pentagon officials are in shock after the release of a transcript of a call between President Donald Trump and his Philippines counterpart revealed that the US military had moved two nuclear submarines towards North Korea.

“We never talk about subs!” three officials told BuzzFeed News, referring to the military’s belief that keeping submarines’ movements secret is key to their mission.

While the US military will frequently announce the deployment of aircraft carriers, it is far more careful when discussing the movement of nuclear submarines. Carriers are hard to miss, and that, in part, is a reason the US military deploys them. They are a physical show of force. Submarines are, at times, a furtive complement to the carriers, a hard-to-detect means of strategic deterrence.

According to the transcript, released Wednesday, Trump called Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte April 29, in part to discuss the rising threat from North Korea. During that call, while discussing ways to mitigate North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s nuclear ambitions, Trump said: “We have two submarines — the best in the world. We have two nuclear submarines — not that we want to use them at all. I’ve never seen anything like they are but we don’t have to use this, but [Kim] could be crazy, so we will see what happens.”

Not only that, he thinks Duterte is doing a bang-up job of running his country.

During the same call, Trump also called the North Korea leader a “madman with nuclear weapons” and celebrated Duterte for doing an “unbelievable job on the drug problem.” The Filipino leader has supported the alleged extrajudicial killing of 8,000 people since he took office in June, part of his purge to rid his nation of drugs. Duterte has bragged about committing murder himself, called former president Barack Obama a “son of a bitch” and once threatened to suspend the bilateral agreement between his nation and the United States that allows US troops to visit the Philippines.

“Keep up [the] good work, you are doing an amazing job,” Trump told Duterte during the call.

And then he turns around and lectures NATO, pissing off the European allies.

He’s not just an embarrassment at home; he’s sharing his idiocy with the world.  It’s a good thing we don’t have warp capability; he’d probably cozy up to the Romulans and admire the way they keep order.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Short Takes

Cleveland Police fires, suspends officers over deadly 2012 shooting.

Lead pipes not being removed from Flint water system.

F.B.I. arrests Milwaukee man for planning temple attack.

Denmark approves seizing refugees’ valuables.

Italy covers up nude statues during Iran presidential visit.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Just Say No To David Brooks Blazing A Doobie

The very idea of David Brooks getting stoned when he was a teenager makes me giggle like I’m one toke over the line, sweet Jesus.

For a little while in my teenage years, my friends and I smoked marijuana. It was fun. I have some fond memories of us all being silly together. I think those moments of uninhibited frolic deepened our friendships.

Oh, but now that he’s an adult and responsible, he doesn’t think it should be legal to smoke pot.

So, like the vast majority of people who try drugs, we aged out. We left marijuana behind. I don’t have any problem with somebody who gets high from time to time, but I guess, on the whole, I think being stoned is not a particularly uplifting form of pleasure and should be discouraged more than encouraged.

[…]

Laws profoundly mold culture, so what sort of community do we want our laws to nurture? What sort of individuals and behaviors do our governments want to encourage? I’d say that in healthy societies government wants to subtly tip the scale to favor temperate, prudent, self-governing citizenship. In those societies, government subtly encourages the highest pleasures, like enjoying the arts or being in nature, and discourages lesser pleasures, like being stoned.

Aside from the fact that this sort of argument flies in the face of the glibertarian philosophy that wants to keep government out of meddling in the private pleasures of the populace (unless, of course, you’re gay or a woman making decisions about her own body), the “societies” Mr. Brooks is promoting only exist in the country clubs where Johnnie Walker Blue Label is on the rocks and someone has just excused themselves to the powder room to take another Prozac.

In his recollection Mr. Brooks doesn’t tell us if he and his friends ever got busted for smoking weed.  Given his background and skin color, chances are that if he had, he would have been given a stern talking-to from the constabulary, a Nancy Reagan “Just Say No” video, and turned over to his parents.  Unlike a poor black kid who did the same thing, he would not have served time in jail and been branded for life with a felony conviction.

That’s the real crime.  The use of marijuana among African-Americans and whites is roughly same, but the disparity of punishment for drug use is astounding.  So while youthful David Brooks and his buddies got baked while listening to Grand Funk Railroad and staring at their hand, knowing the worst thing that could happen to them was being grounded, black kids were being sent to Rikers Island and swallowed up.

Being lectured on the evils of weed by some white middle class busybody because “in healthy societies government wants to subtly tip the scale to favor temperate, prudent, self-governing citizenship” is just plain stupid.  Tell the guy serving five years for possession just how “subtle” this government can be.  It also makes me wonder what Mr. Brooks was drinking when he wrote this drivel.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

It’s Not All About You, Glenn

I’ve had a great deal of respect for Glenn Greenwald’s work over the years, and I still think he’s a good reporter in a lot of respects.  So I’m disappointed to see that he’s let his role in l’affaire Snowden turn him into some kind of caricature of a crusading journalist out to tell The Truth no matter what happens.

Case in point: he is telling us via Democracy Now that the alerts issued by the State Department that closed a number of embassies in Muslim areas around the world are a thinly-veiled plan to silence him.

“Here we are in the midst of one the most intense debates and sustain debates that we’ve had in a very long time in this country over the dangers of excess surveillance, and suddenly an administration that has spent two claiming that it has decimated Al-Qaeda decides that there is this massive threat that involves the closing of embassies and consulates throughout the world,” Greenwald explained. “And within literally an amount of hours, the likes of Saxby Chambliss and Lindsey Graham join with the White House and Democrats in Congress — who, remember, are the leading defenders of the NSA at this point — to exploit that terrorist threat, and to insist that it shows that the NSA and these programs are necessary.”

This whole story went from serious to sheesh when people became obsessed about where Edward Snowden conducted his personal hygiene while stuck in the transit zone at the Moscow airport, and when the reporter who broke the story made it more about him than the fact that why yes, the NSA does know when you clicked on HotStuds On-Line and told your wife it was just a silly billing mistake from Comcast.

HT to LGF.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Pity Party

Last week Harvard historian Niall Ferguson got in some hot water by theorizing that John Maynard Keynes believed in deficit spending because he was gay and didn’t have to worry about passing along debt to the next generation because gay people don’t have kids.  After getting his head handed to him by everyone who was paying attention, he apologized for being a jackass and said that he didn’t mean to impugn Keynes, gay people, or economic theory.

Now he’s whining about his hurt fee-fees.

What the self-appointed speech police of the blogosphere forget is that to err occasionally is an integral part of the learning process. And one of the things I learnt from my stupidity last week is that those who seek to demonize error, rather than forgive it, are among the most insidious enemies of academic freedom.

You really have to have a great big overblown ego to think that nasty comment threads directed at you on a bunch of blogs is an assault on academic freedom.

Monday, April 22, 2013

“Deeply Stupid”

I pretty much concur with Joan Walsh’s opinion, stated on “Up with Steve Kornacki,” of Maureen Dowd’s column yesterday: complaining that President Obama wasn’t really President Andrew Shepherd from The American President and why wasn’t there a war room for winning the gun-control bill in the Senate run by Michael J. Fox with the script written by Aaron Sorkin, is deeply stupid.

Anyone who thinks that Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) could have been won over to voting for universal background checks because he and Barack Obama have a cordial relationship (and why isn’t Michael Douglas the president anyway?) is an idiot.

Granted, I have often mused that it would be fun if Washington and the White House ran according to the way it did in The West Wing, but then, that was a TV series, and I’m an unpaid blogger.  Maureen Dowd is a highly-paid columnist for what is allegedly the newspaper of record for the nation and the world.  Which makes you wonder, when she rattles off claptrap like this fangirl crap that is more in keeping with Peggy Noonan, who is the deeply stupid party here: her or her employer.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Short Takes

CIA Director David Petraeus resigns citing extramarital affair.

The Supreme Court will hear a key voting rights case.

Rapid reconstruction underway in New York after Sandy.

President Obama sticks to his campaign pledge of demanding tax hikes on the rich.

Finally: Democrat Jay Inslee wins governor’s race in Washington.  (Who counted the votes, Miami-Dade County?)

Eight New Jersey businesses were cited for post-Sandy price gouging.

Scrooged: Coal company fires 150 workers in retaliation for Obama’s re-election.

Friday, November 2, 2012

It’s Safe To Come Out Now, Mitt

Captain Obvious chimes in:

After arguing during the Republican primary that the states should oversee disaster relief efforts, the Romney campaign this week has been slowly carving out a position that does not ignore the federal government’s role. The most clarifying comment on disaster relief came late Wednesday in a statement to CBS News.

“I believe that FEMA plays a key role in working with states and localities to prepare for and respond to natural disasters,” Romney said in a statement from his campaign. “As president, I will ensure FEMA has the funding it needs to fulfill its mission, while directing maximum resources to the first responders who work tirelessly to help those in need, because states and localities are in the best position to get aid to the individuals and communities affected by natural disasters.”

Really goes out on the limb there, doesn’t he?

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Shorter David Brooks

Say you’re an editor at the New York Times. Say you have an op-ed page to fill. Say you have to choose someone to write from the right side of the aisle. Say you are close to deadline and you see this crap come in about the debate between the Romney/Ryan plan to turn Medicare into a voucher plan on the same level as a deal from the Scooter Store or the Obama plan which at the least doesn’t throw the whole system into the trash. What do you do?

I can’t believe they actually pay him to write this stuff.

Shorter David Brooks

Say you’re an editor at the New York Times. Say you have an op-ed page to fill. Say you have to choose someone to write from the right side of the aisle. Say you are close to deadline and you see this crap come in about the debate between the Romney/Ryan plan to turn Medicare into a voucher plan on the same level as a deal from the Scooter Store or the Obama plan which at the least doesn’t throw the whole system into the trash. What do you do?

I can’t believe they actually pay him to write this stuff.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

It’s The Ego, Stupid

Mitt Romney is refusing to release his tax records for the same reason Bill Clinton or Anthony Weiner refused to admit that they were fooling around on their wives: they think they can get away with it. It’s ego, pure and simple.

Of course they always end up coming clean, so to speak, and I’m guessing that Mr. Romney will release his taxes — at least more of them than the last two years — by the end of the month. They will probably contain some embarrassing revelations like the possibility that he didn’t pay any taxes at all in 2009, and the chatter will continue for a few weeks. (Well, the Republicans did say they wanted the election to be about the economy and taxes, didn’t they?) But I just don’t get it why they think they have to go through all of this for the sake of their precious ego.

Get over yourselves.

It’s The Ego, Stupid

Mitt Romney is refusing to release his tax records for the same reason Bill Clinton or Anthony Weiner refused to admit that they were fooling around on their wives: they think they can get away with it. It’s ego, pure and simple.

Of course they always end up coming clean, so to speak, and I’m guessing that Mr. Romney will release his taxes — at least more of them than the last two years — by the end of the month. They will probably contain some embarrassing revelations like the possibility that he didn’t pay any taxes at all in 2009, and the chatter will continue for a few weeks. (Well, the Republicans did say they wanted the election to be about the economy and taxes, didn’t they?) But I just don’t get it why they think they have to go through all of this for the sake of their precious ego.

Get over yourselves.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Baby Food

No, this is not from The Onion.

A Republican state senator in Oklahoma has introduced a bill banning aborted human fetuses in food, despite the fact that there are no known foods or food products that actually contain aborted fetuses.

Sen. Ralph Shortey of Oklahoma City introduced on Tuesday Senate Bill 1418, which prohibits “the sale or manufacture of food or products which contain aborted human fetuses.” He says he based the bill on an article he read online about an anti-abortion group boycotting companies that allegedly use embryonic stem cells to research and develop artificial sweeteners.

Oh, he read it on the internet. Then it must be true. I guess this means I’ll have to stop putting a teaspoon full of Sweet Baby in my coffee every morning.