I Raise My Glass To All Those Now Able To Celebrate Marriage — Filled With The Sweet, Sweet Liquor Of Scalia’s Tears

Posted June 26, 2015 by Tom
Categories: Schadenfreude

Tags:

Via SCOTUSblog’s live blog of today’s decisions:

Scalia’s dissent has an awesome footnote on page 7 (note 22): he says, “If, even as the price to be paid for a fifth vote, I ever joined an opinion for the Court that began: ‘The Constitution promises liberty to all within its reach, a liberty that includes certain specific rights that allow persons, within a lawful realm, to define and express their identity,’ I would hide my head in a bag. The Supreme Court of the United States has descended from the disciplined legal reasoning of John Marshall and Joseph Story to the mystical aphorisms of the fortune cookie.” He is not happy with Justice Kennedy.

Do us all a favor, Antonius Obesus.

Italienischer_Maler_des_17._Jahrhunderts_001

Hide your head in bag anyway.

Image: attr. to Charles Mellin, Portrait of a Stout Man (Nearest I could get to a Baroque separated-at-birth portrait of the Honorable Scalia), c. 1630

We Have A Problem With Guns

Posted June 18, 2015 by Tom
Categories: Guns, Race

Tags: , , ,

The front page in today’s Charleston, S. C.’s hometown paper:

Screen Shot 2015-06-18 at 1.44.30 PM

It’s a little hard to read, but the sticker that partly obscures the headline about a mass shooting advertises the latest deal at a local gun store.  “$30 GETS YOU EVERYTHING” — all the goodies needed to have a fine time with your new weapon.

Race, terror, the long history of attacking African American leaders, institutions and anyone else at hand in support of white supremacy, all the evils that run like a river through American history dominate the coverage of the massacre at Emanuel A. M. E, and they should.  This is an atrocity bred in the bone of the American idea, as Jelani Cobb writes:*

For black Christians, the word “sanctuary” had a second set of implications. The spiritual aims of worship were paired with the distinctly secular necessity of a place in which not just common faith but common humanity could be taken for granted. No matter the coming details about the shooting in Charleston, it seems almost inescapable that the assault on a single black church is an inadvertent affirmation of the need for an entire denomination of them.

I don’t want to distract from the core, essential truth:  racial disparity, cruelty administered on racial grounds, systematic discrimination based on race remain at the center of US life, and we need to say that out loud and do what we can about it every damn day.

But at the same time, as Cobb also writes,

We periodically mourn the deaths of a group of Americans who die at the hands of another armed American. We periodically witness racial injustices that inspire anger in the streets. And sometimes we witness both. This is, quite simply, how we now live.

We have a problem with guns.  It isn’t going away.  You can dig through the twitter streams and comment threads as I have, but you already know what you’ll find.  For too many Americans, the solution to our gun problem is obvious:  the answer to a bad shooter in church are good ones.  If only those at prayer had been packing, Dylann Roof wouldn’t have been able to kill more than three or four before taking a couple of hundred grains of lead to the throat in return fire. If only…

Kārlis_Padegs_-_Madonna_with_a_Machine_Gun_-_Google_Art_Project

The ammosexual defense of their kink is predictable and almost certainly incorrigible.  Driven (and heavily armed) that’s a view that’s managed to hold political sway over the mushy majority for whom the notion the the liberty of the gun-sniffing few outweighs the freedom of the rest of us to assemble, travel, speak without fear of suppressing fire.  What drives that is, at least in part, the normalization of gun fetishization.  Which is what you see above.  And is what must be shamed out of the public square.

The Charleston Post and Courier has apologized on its Facebook page for the sticker, calling it “a deeply regrettable coincidence.” Forgive me if I don’t take that statement in the manner its author may have intended.  It’s not the coincidence that’s regrettable.  It’s the deeper implication behind the juxtaposition.  Just in case its readers may have missed the contingency of that mea sorta culpa, there’s the phrase that followed the paper’s regrets:

We apologize to those who were offended.

“To those who were offended.”  How about to the human race.  How about to the nine folks praying at church last night — except, of course, they can’t because the guns that come with whatever gaudy deal (here’s a perfect gift for your 21 year old! A precision machine designed to deal death in quantity!) have in yesterday’s employment ended those nine souls, took their lives and everything they might ever have been or done.**  How about to the families of those gone, then — except what will you say.  “Sorry we advertised more death with the news of the deaths of your loved ones!”

I don’t mean to single out the Post and Courier — and especially not the folks writing and editing it, who have no control over what the business side does.  But it’s just so damn telling.  As long as guns are just fit fodder for the daily special we’re doomed to repeat this miserable charade over and over again, mourning yet more victims while doing absolutely f**k all to honor their memory in any way that may lessen the odds of it happening again.

*See also Charles Pierce, marrying his gift for language and his capacity for righteous rage in this piece.

**And yeah, I’m channelling (read, clumsily paraphrasing) that Clint Eastwood speech from The Unforgiven here.

Image:  Karlis Padegs, Madonna with a Machine Gun1932.

Kung Fu Pope v. Big Carbon

Posted June 13, 2015 by Tom
Categories: climate, Cool Video, geek humor, Mental Health Break, pop culture, religion

Tags: , ,

Via Slate, I came across this little bit of video:

Per Eric Holtas in Slate, this is the brainchild of some delightfully twisted Brazilian climate change activists.
My favorite shot?  Dawn-backlit papal Tai-Chi exercise.  IOW:  just watch this.
PS — the soundtrack could/should have been Inhofe and Santorum skull detonations.

Some Damn Foolish Thing In The Balkans

Posted June 4, 2015 by Tom
Categories: Foreign Policy, Recklessness, Stupidity, The Way We Live Now, Things that actually matter

Tags: , , ,

It’s getting interesting* down Athens’ way:

ATHENS — Greece on Thursday told the International Monetary Fund it would not make a $335 million payment due Friday, taking a little-used option to defer that payment and three others until the end of the month.

Coming amid tense debt negotiations with the I.M.F. and European creditors, Greece’s decision holds political and financial-market implications that are hard to predict.

There’s a historical resonance sounding in the brinksmanship going on here.  This isn’t just a matter of debt and punishment.  What’s at stake may extend as far as the post-war and then the post-Cold War idea of Europe.  That would be the one intended to prevent even catastrophically incompetent or indifferent rulers from lurching into any replay of the summer of 1914.

Ludwig_Koch_Die_verbündeten_Monarchen_1915

Here’s Krugthulu, just as worried as I am — and way better informed:**

There’s an odd summer-of-1914 feel to the current state of the Greek crisis. While some of the main players are, rightly, desperate to find a way to head off Grexit and all it entails, others – on the creditor as well as the debtor side — seem not just resigned to collapse but almost as if they’re welcoming the prospect, the way, a century ago, far too many Europeans actually seemed to welcome the end of messy, frustrating diplomacy and the coming of open war.

The most troubling sign to me is the persistence of the disbelief on the part of international elites/opinion shapers that the Greeks might actually bolt from the Euro.  Never mind the risk to  the various institutional ties that are supposed to hold Europe together in a way that bars future conflict, armed and otherwise.  The idea that someone in a dispute might do something you don’t like seems just too difficult to accept on the part of Greece’s negotiating adversaries.

But there is real hardship in Greece right now, and there has been for years.  Political imperatives matter too:  the Greek government is new, left-leaning, and in power because they explicitly promised not to make deals that would satisfy Germany at the expense of the Hellene in the street.  There really is no guarantee — and lots of reasons to believe the reverse — that this one little, broke country will actually do the bidding of its would be financial masters — and yet even the slightest sign that such resistance is real evokes a kind of bemused wonder.

You can see something of the cognitive dissonance even in the brief “breaking” story in the Times linked above:

Although the practice of bundling I.M.F. loan payments into a single sum during a calendar month is allowed under the fund’s rules, the last time that option was taken was by Zambia in the 1970s.

I’m sure there’s a kinder way of reading that sentence, but it hits my ear as “Greece has the right to do this, but they shouldn’t.”  Unwritten rules, old boy.  Unwritten rules.

I’m with Krugman:  whether or not Greece would be better off or not dumping the Euro, Europe and the world gain an enormous amount from financial stability — which would be badly shaken if it looked like Euro-troubles were about to overtake the currency union.  In other words, it looks to me like Europe (even Germany!) needs Greece at this moment at least as much as Athens needs Brussels.

But what do I know:  I once vowed as a blogger not to behave like a pundit, which is to say, to bloviate about stuff I know only superficially and at second hand.  One thing I do know about, though, and have written on, is World War One.  No one’s mobilizing at this moment, and historical analogies are always fraught on so many levels.  But still, the insouciance, the lack of imagination about consequences — that was overwhelming then.  I smell it thickening in the air now.  That’s not good.

*As in, “May you live in interesting times.”

**This was written last Friday, which is to say before this latest news dropped.

Image:  Ludwig Koch, The allied monarchs and their field-marshals in the First World War (Kaiser Wilhelm II of the German Empire with Austria’s Franz Joseph)  c. 1915

I Can’t Even…

Posted June 3, 2015 by Tom
Categories: bad behavior, Pathetic excuses, Race, Stupidity, tyranny

Tags: , ,

Four relatives who cheered their children at a high school graduation  in Senatobia, Mississippi, have been served with arrest warrants for disturbing the peace.

Sassetta_-_The_blessed_Ranieri_frees_the_poors_from_a_jail_Florence_-_Louvre_-_frameless

To no one’s surprise, I’m sure, at least the two of the four facing charges who have been identified in news reports are African American.  The complainant, Senatobia school superintendent Jay Foster is white.  Mr Foster is a stickler:

Superintendent Foster said the charges were far from ridiculous.

While Foster declined an on-camera interview with WREG, he said he’s determined to have order at graduation ceremonies.

“We must have order.”

Seriously?

Seriously!

Makes one proud to be an American.

Image:  Sassetta, The Blessed Ranieri frees the poor 1437-44

No One Could Have Predicted

Posted June 1, 2015 by Tom
Categories: ridicule, Stupidity

Tags:

That an anti-Muslim flame-thrower would try to turn his followers’ fear into cash:

KPNX television reporter Brahm Resnik tweeted on Sunday that Ritzheimer had set up a GoFundMe page to raise $10 million to “protect his family or run against” Sen. John McCain (R-AZ).

The_Man_Made_Mad_with_Fear_by_Gustave_Courbet

It is, of course, not impossible that Ritzheimer might be at risk.  See Hebdo, Charlie and Theo Van Gogh, e.g.  Obviously, none here wish Ritzheimer more than regular ridicule, and it is my devout hope that the Muslim community in this country continues to act as they have so far:  emphasizing that sheer dicktitude on display, and demonstrating the virtues of another path:

The contentious nature of Ritzheimer’s protest on Friday didn’t prevent some productive interaction between the two sides. From the Washington Post:

Jason Leger, a Phoenix resident wearing one of the profanity-laced shirts, accepted an invitation to join the evening prayer inside the mosque, and said the experience changed him.

“It was something I’ve never seen before. I took my shoes off. I kneeled. I saw a bunch of peaceful people. We all got along,” Leger said. “They made me feel welcome, you know. I just think everybody’s points are getting misconstrued, saying things out of emotion, saying things they don’t believe.”

Paul Griffin, who had earlier said he didn’t care if his t-shirt was offensive, assured a small crowd of Muslims at the end of the rally that he wouldn’t wear it again.

“I promise, the next time you see me, I won’t be wearing this shirt,” he told one man while shaking his hand and smiling. “I won’t wear it again.”

But to return to the defining thread of this kind of nonsense:  whether or not Ritzheimer may indeed face anything more than scorn, you have to be impressed — not in a good way — at hiseffortless pivot to the trough.  Rage and bigotry as a profit maximizing strategy.

Poltroon!
ETA: Seems the campaign has been pulled.  Ah, well. It’s the thought that counts.
Image:  Gustave Courbet, The Man Made Mad with Fear, c 1843-44.

Mountains, Stars, Conflict

Posted May 31, 2015 by Tom
Categories: astronomy, journalism, science and religion, Self-aggrandizement, The Way We Live Now

Tags: , , ,

You’ll forgive, I hope, the self promotion here, but I want to draw attention to an essay I have in The Boston Globe today.

It’s about the controversy over the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) that is beginning to be constructed at the summit of Mauna Kea on the Big Island of Hawaii.  Mauna Kea is one of the world’s most significant sites for optical and near infrared astronomy — it’s already home to thirteen telescopes, including the two largest now in operation in the twin Keck instruments.

Jan_Vermeer_-_The_Astronomer

The TMT is designed to have a primary mirror three times the diameter of the Keck ten meter light buckets, with nine times the light gathering area.  Over the last century — which covers the era of large, mountaintop optical observatorys, each similar leap in telescope size has produced startling, powerful discoveries, and there’s every reason to expect the same of the TMT and its planned southern hemisphere counterparts.

But there’s a catch — or something more fundamental than a mere glitch.  Mauna Kea is a sacred site within the Hawaiian tradition, and an environmentally sensitive one, and opposition to TMT has grown from a point of tension to one of direct confrontation.  Construction of the TMT has been suspended, and the governor of Hawaii has called for the removal of a quarter of the existing observatories before the TMT itself begins operating.

In the midst of this confrontation, plenty of people have framed the two sides as another battle in the old war between science and religious belief.  I say in the Globe today that’s a mistake.  A taste:

….the TMT dispute shows where the science versus religion trope goes wrong. The Hawaiian protesters haven’t said that Mauna Kea’s telescopes are inherently impious, or that the data they collect is somehow wrong, or that Hawaiian mythology is a better account of the cosmos. Rather, the value, the joy, the need the observatories satisfy may indeed satisfy many, but not those continuing a Hawaiian tradition that allows its heirs to find connection with memory, with history, with nature — to achieve the same transcendence sought by those who find beauty in the measure of the universe.

That is: The TMT defenders and their opponents seek analogous rewards from their presence on Mauna Kea. Their conflict isn’t between the competing worldviews of science and religion, but between desires that are kin to each other — and that require the same physical space.

Check it out, if your Sunday afternoon tends that way.  Let me know what you think.

Image:  Johannes Vermeer,  The Astronomerc. 1668.

 


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