November 10, 2013, 4:00 pm
Things Michael Kinsley remarks on in his review of Double Down: Game Change 2012 by Mark Halperin and John Heilemann: Big words; excrement; umbrage politics; jargon; campaign journalists; trivial reporting; professional consultants; vomit; gaffes; horse-race reporting.
Things that Michael Kinsley leaves out of his review of Double Down: Game Change 2012 by Mark Halperin and John Heilemann: Race (no, a paragraph at the end doesn’t suffice); partisanship; the federal government’s dysfunction and its effect on elections; the federal government’s dysfunction and its effect on policy; the Tea Party; income inequality; the Occupy Movement; the national security state and Obama’s capture by it; the effect of micro targeting on elections; and I’m sure I could keep going if I felt like it.
The most valuable reviewing space in the United States – the front page of the New York Times
November 7, 2013, 1:36 am
Especially in the knee:
Two knee surgeons at University Hospitals Leuven have provided the first full anatomical description of a previously enigmatic ligament in the human knee. The ligament appears to play an important role in patients with anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears.
It’s fascinating over my lifetime to watch scientific truth shift gradually (or not so gradually): an extra ligament here, 40 billion earth-like planets there.
October 31, 2013, 10:22 pm
Obama’s reelection team thought about replacing Biden on the ticket with Hillary:
President Obama’s top aides secretly considered replacing Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. with Hillary Rodham Clinton on the 2012 ticket, undertaking extensive focus-group sessions and polling in late 2011 when Mr. Obama’s re-election outlook appeared uncertain
You mean a President with slumping approval ratings, facing a difficult reelection fight, thought about doing something that might conceivably help win the election? I can’t conceive of such a thing.
No, there is no level of sarcasm sufficient to handle this being a news story.
October 29, 2013, 4:57 pm
David Kurtz, writing for Talking Points Memo, quotes Dianne Feinstein:
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, declares: “Unless the United States is engaged in hostilities against a country or there is an emergency need for this type of surveillance, I do not believe the United States should be collecting phone calls or emails of friendly presidents and prime ministers.”
He titles the post “Unilateral Disarmament?” Much of the discussion around the American bugging of (among others) Angela Merkel, PM of Germany, has centered around the idea that since everyone might be doing it, we should be as well. Example here. It’s all impressively Realpolitik and stuff. Hard men doing hard but necessary things to get an advantage. It would be more impressive it it didn’t exactly echo (at a much lower and less critical level) the debate over to…
October 28, 2013, 3:43 pm
Treatment of a Syphilitic Couple with Mercury Balm, 15th Century
The Europeans brought smallpox with them, and the Americans gave them syphilis. Or so it appears:
A study published in 2011 has systematically compared these European skeletons, using rigorous criteria for bone diagnosis and dating. None of the candidate skeletons passed both tests. In all cases, ambiguity in the bone record or the dating made it impossible to say for certain that the skeleton was both syphilitic and pre-Columbian. In other words, there is very little evidence to support the pre-Columbian hypothesis. It seems increasingly likely that Columbus and his crew were responsible for transporting syphilis from the New World to the Old.
Katherine Wright, the author of the article, also makes a useful note about DNA in the comments:
Researchers amassed all of the laboratory and field strains available of these…
October 23, 2013, 1:57 pm
One of my students is working on a paper on how much solar power each branch of the military uses. It’s a fascinating topic, as the military has gotten (partly because of outside pressure, partly because of the usefulness of mobile energy sources like solar power for fighting wars) extremely interested in renewable energy. This chart graphically suggests the scale of the challenge and the sheer size of the American military:
Chart from Schuyler Null, “Defense Sustainability: Energy Efficiency and the Battlefield,” Global Green USA, February 2010. http://www.globalgreen.org/docs/publication-112-1.pdf
The Pentagon consumes as much energy as Portugal, and more than Nigeria and Denmark and New Zealand. The US military is responsible for 1% of American energy consumption. That’s a lot.
October 21, 2013, 12:33 am
Dick Cheney is weirder than you imagine, even allowing for the fact that you imagine Dick Cheney to be weird:
Fearing that terrorists might use the electrical device implanted near his heart to kill him, former Vice President Dick Cheney said he had his doctor turn off its wireless function in 2007.
October 16, 2013, 6:44 pm
(Guest Post! David Fitzpatrick is back. He’s still a retired US Army lieutenant colonel who taught military history at the United States Military Academy and who now teaches United States history at Washtenaw Community College in Ann Arbor, Michigan.)
“A national debt, if it is not excessive, will be to us a national blessing”
I have been having numerous conversations with friends on Facebook regarding the deficit, the debt, and the debt limit. Several of them have encouraged me to consolidate much that I have written into one coherent essay. This is my (likely feeble) attempt. And let me here say that if this essay appears to privilege one side or the other of the argument, then so be it. Unlike much that is out there in the media and that appears to be dominating the public discourse, what follows has the benefit of being based in fact.
October 15, 2013, 7:06 pm
The House GOP got its singing chops on today:
When reports surfaced that House Republicans sang “Amazing Grace” during a Tuesday morning meeting, Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) responded with a laugh.
“Isn’t that usually sung at funerals?” he joked with reporters.
But it turned out Connolly was more right than he realized. Right after the GOP conference sang the hymn — all three verses, according to one lawmaker — the meeting turned into a funeral for the latest proposal put forward by party leaders for raising the debt ceiling and ending the government shutdown
The first time as tragedy…
October 13, 2013, 7:57 pm
From the Declaration of the Immediate Causes Which Induce and Justify the Secession of South Carolina from the Federal Union, 1860:
These ends it endeavored to accomplish by a Federal Government, in which each State was recognized as an equal, and had separate control over its own institutions. The right of property in slaves was recognized by giving to free persons distinct political rights, by giving them the right to represent, and burthening them with direct taxes for three-fifths of their slaves; by authorizing the importation of slaves for twenty years; and by stipulating for the rendition of fugitives from labor.
We affirm that these ends for which this Government was instituted have been defeated, and the Government itself has been made destructive of them by the action of the non-slaveholding States. Those States have assume the right of deciding upon the propriety of our…
October 12, 2013, 5:02 pm
Rep. John Fleming, (R-LA):
Perhaps he sees this as the best opportunity for him to win the House in 2014. It’s very clear to us he does not now, and never had, any intentions of negotiating.
Perhaps he was fooled by the part where President Obama said he wouldn’t negotiate until the government was reopened. Easy mistake, really.
October 11, 2013, 5:33 pm
Ezra Klein makes a nice point about the GOP’s profound strategic stupidity:
It’s hard to overstate the magnitude of the GOP’s strategic failure here: Obamacare’s launch has been awful. More than a week after the federal insurance marketplaces opened, most people can’t purchase insurance on the first try. But Republicans have chosen such a wildly unpopular strategy to oppose it that they’ve helped both Obamacare and its author in the polls.
It takes a great deal to be more political inept than the Democrats, but the Republicans have somehow managed it.
October 11, 2013, 5:04 pm
From Peter Baker’s profile of the Bush-Cheney relationship:
A few weeks before Barack Obama’s inauguration, Joshua Bolten invited all of his predecessors to his office in the West Wing to meet with his successor, Rahm Emanuel. Thirteen of the living 16 men to have served as chief of staff attended, including Cheney, who was Gerald Ford’s top assistant. They went around the table one by one, offering advice. When Cheney’s turn came up, a devilish look crossed his face. “Whatever you do,” he said, “make sure you’ve got the vice president under control.”
The further irony, of course, is JOE BIDEN!
October 10, 2013, 2:23 am
Obama vs. Alan Keyes. Keyes was from out of state, so you can eliminate any established political base; both candidates were black, so you can factor out racism; and Keyes was plainly, obviously, completely crazy. Batshit crazy. Head-trauma crazy. But 27% of the population of Illinois voted for him. They put party identification, personal prejudice, whatever ahead of rational judgement. Hell, even like 5% of Democrats voted for him. That’s crazy behaviour. I think you have to assume a 27% Crazification Factor in any population.
The GOP’s approval rating at the moment? 28%
October 8, 2013, 3:53 pm
Answers to some questions on the shutdown:
So why is the government shut down?
Because of the Republicans. Unwilling to accept that both Houses of Congress, the Supreme Court, and the electorate have signed off on the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”), the Republicans – notably the House GOP and the Koch Brothers™ – have decided to take the US government and the global economy hostage to demand that health care be defunded.
But, wait, aren’t the Democrats refusing to negotiate?
Yes, in the sense that when your teenager threatens to burn the house down unless they can go out past 10 pm, you don’t “negotiate” with them. No, in the sense that the Democrats aren’t actually demanding anything in this situation except, well, that the GOP not drive the car off a cliff. Also, no, in the sense that President Obama has made the quite reasonable decision that if he caves on anything…