Posted tagged ‘ridicule’


August 13, 2016

Via The New York Times today, tucked into a piece about the ineducability of the Weasel Headed F**knugget:*

Occasionally, Mr. Trump blows off steam in bursts of boyish exuberance: At the end of a fund-raiser on Long Island last week, he playfully buzzed the crowd twice with his helicopter.

Boyish exuberance? Like this:


Not like that.

Inevitable popular culture reference:

Aaaaannnnnnddd:  scene.

*Just to give you a taste of the larger theme:

Advisers who once hoped a Pygmalion-like transformation would refashion a crudely effective political showman into a plausible American president now increasingly concede that Mr. Trump may be beyond coaching. He has ignored their pleas and counsel as his poll numbers have dropped, boasting to friends about the size of his crowds and maintaining that he can read surveys better than the professionals.

In private, Mr. Trump’s mood is often sullen and erratic, his associates say. He veers from barking at members of his staff to grumbling about how he was better off following his own instincts during the primaries and suggesting he should not have heeded their calls for change.

Image:  Giovanni Francesco Romanelli, Boys Fishing17th c.  And yeah — I meant it to be that tacky.

Very Serious Person Niall Ferguson Haz A Sad

October 10, 2013

Via TPM, apparently this happened on Morning Joe today:

During a segment on “Morning Joe,” conservative historian [former intellectual]* Niall Ferguson joined Scarborough to pile on Krugman. Ferguson said that Krugman lacks “humility, honesty and civility.”

“And there’s no accountability,” Ferguson said. “No one seems to edit that blog at the New York Times. And it’s time that somebody called him out. People are afraid of him. I’m not.”

Too much to do today to go all John Foster Dulles on Harvard’s Folly, but I can’t leave this without noting that if Niall’s honestly not scared of Krugman (he is), he should be.


Cases in point here and here and here and here.  This isn’t a fair fight.  Ferguson has the debate chops and the accent, but nothing else. Krugman has both technical skill and the willingness to engage actual data to gut the Harvard Bully Boy on the actual merits of the argument.  That Ferguson plays better on TV is his reason for being, but not a recommendation.  (BTW — for a devastating synoptic view of Ferguson’s style and (lack of) substance — and his pure nastiness in the service of the 1%, check out this overview.)

The bottom line:  how you know you’re winning?  When they talk smack about you from a very, very safe distance.

PS:  I also love the Scarborough line about some unnamed editor claiming Krugman’s column is a weekly nightmare for the paper.  I suppose it could be true, in the sense that someone might have said that to our Joe.  I kinda doubt it, but that’s the thing w. anonymous quotes.

But (a) this is how bubbles seal themselves — Scarborough’s trying to persuade himself (and viewers) that Krugman is wrong because he’s difficult…which leads to you know where.  And (b) if Joe is telling the truth, then it’s reasonable to ask the question: what so terrifying Timesfolk about Krugman’s work?  Here’s one possible answer.  It may be that Krugman’s writing discomforts the comfortable in ways that the NYT might find inconvenient.  People in power don’t like being called out; Krugman does that frequently on a very big stage.  That might inconvenience fellow cast members. (Beat that metaphor to death, why don’t you? — ed.) Those colleagues might grumble…and Joe Scarborough would run after that parked car like a loping hound.

In any event, I like anyone who makes the right enemies.  Krugman does, in spades.


Image:  Auguste Delacroix, Shellfishers frightened by the tide, before 1868.

If They Can’t Handle Pelosi…

December 18, 2009

How on earth can the American people trust the GOP to stand up to an actual, you know, adversary?

See this from TPM for the latest in utterly pathetic weakness from the party of nursery school.

Consider this a keep-the-blog-fires burning post while I finish up another one of my steaming heaps of verbiage on that old faithful target for scorn, Megan McArdle.

Image:  Georgios Iakovidis, “Cold Shower,” 1898.

Oh — and one more thing about Palin’s Closet

October 23, 2008

This is really a side show — but you know what really got me about the RNC shmatta shopping spree on Palin’s behalf?

I’ve got some rag trade history in my family — my great uncle Moe was a reasonably successful button and thread man, and my uncle Irving was a sadly rather unsuccessful shoe maker — and what gets me is not that Palin wanted the good stuff.

It’s that she paid retail.

Perspective on Palin’s Shopping Spree

October 23, 2008

This is truly a sideshow in the election — and in fact tomorrow I’ll blog what I think is the basic issue for someone looking at the Presidential choice from the point of view of what’s best for the enterprise of  American science — but one of the problems of making sense of the stunningly tone-deaf decision to cloak Sarah Palin in $150,000 wardrobe is to get a handle on just how much money that really is in the world of fashion.

Fashion isn’t just show; I and my wife have both worked in various nooks and crannies of the film business – and my wife has designed a couple of multi-million dollar productions, so we have some family knowledge of what it takes to make people look good on camera.

It takes a lot.  For example, if you want an extra — an extra! — to look right in a historical drama, budget more than a thousand for, say, a nineteenth century uniform with all the accoutrements.  Leading players need more and better — their clothes have to fit and they have to have enough different costumes to carry them through the entire time sequence of a film.

All of which is to say is that if you want to get a sense of whether or not the McCain campaign’s shopping spree on Palin’s behalf was extravagant, a Hollywood feature is a good place to look.

In fact, a film shoot a pretty precise analogue to the experience of a campaign: major feature shoots run about as long or longer than the Sept-Nov span of Gov. Palin’s run; they both involve repeated changes of scene and clothes, and they are each as merciless as the other in the scrutiny to which the camera subjects its targets.

So — what’s the best comparison between Palin, the unlikely couture poster child and someone in the film business?

IMHO, the best place to start is with The Devil Wears Prada, a film all about aspirational fashion set in the very capital of Unreal America, in the city that happens to be the center of the rag trade.

The character played by Meryl Streep, the devil of the picture (the avatar for Vogue‘s Anna Wintour), was supremely well dressed.  The character character represents an upper bound for measuring just how outlandish the Palin clothing budget may be:  “Miranda Priestly” (Streep) was supposed to look better than the readers of her magazine; she represented more than an aspiration, as understood in a magazine industry that refers to Vogue and similar publications as “fantasy books.”  Governor Palin needs to us fashion to a different end to convey the message of hercharacter within the political drama:  she shouldn’t seem to live in a world completely out of reach, but rather to appear as a slightly larger-than-life embodiment of achievable aspirations.  She needs to look good, but not impossibly so.

So what did it cost to dress someone supposed to embody the pinnacle of fashion?

The budget for Ms. Streep’s costumes was reported to be $100,000.  There was a fair amount of stuff — especially accessories, like jewelry that was loaned to the production, but the core of Streep’s film wardrobe was expected to cost two thirds of what it took to keep the rain off of Sarah Palin.

So, just to belabor the obvious:  yup, Governor Palin’s 150K wardrobe is over the top.  A good film shopper could have dressed Palin for much less — and still left her looking great in all the various settings in which she found herself.  The McCain campaign and its handpicked robo-slime operator turned fashionista screwed up…which I suppose we already knew.

Image:  Day dresses for summer 1919 from Vogue magazine.  Source:  Wikimedia Commons

So I’m A Little Obsessive, But Still, This is Ridiculous — Sarah Palin Qualifications Dept. (Russian Expert SubDept.)

September 22, 2008

Now, as we all know, Sarah Palin is supremely qualified for the post she seeks.  For one of the areas that had the dismissive elites concerned, she has, as recently as yesterday evening, assured every American that her understanding of international affairs is just fine, and that anyone who doubts it would be welcome to play “stump the candidate.” (Or not.)

I’m not so childish as to play such a game, but the invitation did make me think about the list of reasons we have been given to credit Governor Palin with a grasp of international affairs.  One of the most repeated talking points is that Alaska is a border state — and not just with the mild, friendly 51st state, Canada, (Joking, all you folks up north.  Really…just joking), but with the erstwhile evil empire itself, Russia, née USSR.

In fact, the common line has been that the threat of the great Bear is so imminent you can see Russia from Alaskan soil….as in fact you can.

Just as I was digging through the wonders of Google Maps and Wikipedia to nail down just what bits of Russia you can see from what bits of Alaska, I came across this article posted yesterday in Slate.  Its author, Nina Shen Rastogi, confirms the commonly known fact (if you read the right kind of thrillers) that the island of Little Diomede, a little piece of offshore Alaska, is all of 2.5 miles or so from Big Diomede, which is Russian territory.

Taking out my handy horizon calculator, I find that the distance an averagely tall human can see at sea level is just under 4.4. kilometers, or about 2.75 miles.  So yes, by gum, you can see Russia from Alaska.  (Rastogi  reports that if you are willing to do a bit of hill/ice climbing, you can even catch a glimpse of  the Russian mainland from St. Lawrence Island in the middle of the Bering Sea.  This, of course, assumes you happen to have caught the view on one of the miraculous, unexpected, non-foggy days in that bleak ocean.

Now, here is where I go a bit overboard, to ask, has Sarah Palin ever actually seen Russia from her home state?  Wasilla? — Nope; not a chance.  You’ve got most of the state serving as a buffer to protect the Palin little ones from the threat from Siberia.  The Governor’s residence in Juneau? You can’t even see  Hoonah from there, much less the Russian Bear.  Anchorage?  Same as Wasilla, basically; lots of tundra between the northern metropolis and any angry heirs to the glories of the Romanovs.

So has Sarah Palin laid eyes on Russia from US territory?  You can’t actually ask her, of course,  But in my trolling of the web for reports on her governship, I’ve never seen any mention that she has travelled to the incredibly remote Diomedes, nor the almost equally back-of-the-beyond St. Lawrence.  She has been careful to avoid saying that she herself has done any of this eyeballing that is supposed to convey deep understanding of international affairs.  So my bet is no.

Does this matter?  Of course not.  It does not take the near certainty that she’s never actually viewed one wretched rock or another to recognize that Palin knows nothing about Russian affairs by virtue of her family’s experience trying to land salmon before they swim to the wrong side of the strait.  This is just an exercise in meticulous reductio ad absurdam.

Image: Alfred Wierusz-Kowalsk, “Attacked by Wolves,” 1880.  Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Besides, if she reallly knew what she were talking about, she’d note that we are once again entering the season when it becomes possible — with care — to walk from Russia to these United States.  Eternal vigilance, folks — eternal vigilance.

Days when it is too easy being Jon Stewart

June 5, 2008

Update: Never underestimate the power of the intertubes. Seems the McCain ’08 web gurus need a little more seasoning. They enabled comments (reviews, actually) of the golf gear mentioned below. Reviews they got — and somehow managed to miss the content of those comments for nine pages worth of thoughtful criticism. The function has been disabled now, sadly, and the offending comments removed, but not before John Cole and especially his inimitable chorus got a chance to weigh in. Enjoy.

Later update: From the comment thread at DKos, via John Cole.  You just can’t make this stuff up.


This isn’t a political blog. Rather, it approaches politics when and as some scientific aspect makes the link — either when politics impinges on science, or when scientific ideas or approaches illuminate some argument happening in the public square.

But sometimes the sheer absurdity of it all is too much for such fine distinctions.

I mean — if I were a political comedian, what use could I make of this?

Here’s the visual:

Image: Lillian Fiske Thompson “Jerome D. Travers, Esq. Four times Amateur Champion of the United States,” 1915. Commissioned by Golf Illustrated & Outdoor America. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Best ID refutation yet: Ridiculing the ridiculous department.

March 3, 2008

I was digging through some old blogosphere notes today, and rediscovered Daniel Brooks’ account of his time at the false-colors conference purporting to be a commemoration of the famous — or infamous — 1967 Wistar conference “Mathematical Challenges to the Neo-Darwinian Interpretation of Evolution.”

The conference turned out to be a deep embarrassment to the political commisars of the ID regiments.  Mixing highly qualified, articulate real biologists with ID advocates whose capacity for scientific argument has been dulled by too much preaching to the choir turned out to be a bad idea. So much so, that, to the amusement of many in the science blogging community, the conference organizers then tried to gag participants, emailing them after the fact that “the ID people considered the conference a private meeting,and did not want any of us to discuss it, blog it, or publish anything about it.”

Fortunately, Brooks ignored this ex post facto nonsense — leading to a fair amount of (still accumulating) science blogospheric coverage of the topic.  Even so, to my knowledge, no one has highlighted one of the my favorite moments in Brooks account of the whole sorry affair.

So, to help brighten everyone’s Monday, let me quote one of the most pleasing rhetorical bludgeonings of ID I’ve yet read. In his dissection of Stephen Meyer’s talk, Brooks methodically went through the premises stated and the conclusions drawn. The last of Meyer’s allegedly proven claims held that “layered informational hierarchies arise only from intelligent agents.” To this, Brooks replies

…it is time for them to retire the assertion that ID wins over evolution on the basis that “There is not enough information in any given microbe right now to generate all the rest of the species on the planet.” This is silly, and does not help their cause. It is trivially true that no contemporary microbe frozen in time and space contains all the genetic diversity of all the species on this planet. But evolution is about descent with modification and neither descent nor modification play any role in the ID discussions.

Then — and here comes the object lesson: don’t mess with folks who (a) know what they are talking about and (b) know how to stick the rhetorical shiv between one’s ribs — Brooks provided the illustration to make his point unforgettable.

Using their reasoning, I have no daughter because there’s not enough information in me to generate her. That does not mean she was produced by the intervention of a supernatural designer. It is true that during the mechanical process that produced her, I may have invoked the name of the Deity at the height of ecstasy. But I know who was in the room at the time of conception, and my daughter is a wonderful combination of the material traits of both of those people, in addition to having many wonderful traits of her own, some of which appear in her children. I personally do not want ID to take away that strong sense of personal connection among the generations.

Just in case the barb failed to hook even the dullest of intellects, consider Brooks’ treatment of Michael Behe, Lehigh University’s disowned ID propagandist. Behe is, as Brooks wrote

…the primary reference for the ID concept of irreducible complexity (which is rebranding the argument from design better articulated by Enlightenment philosophers)…

However, as Brooks noted, even this stalwart defender of astrology as science may have a hidden Darwinian bias any worthwhile therapist would wish to explore…

…his introducer pointed out that Behe has 9 children (1 fewer than Darwin, but 1 more than Thomas Huxley, Darwin’s bulldog). If they were produced by the same mechanism as my daughter, it would seem that, whatever his religious beliefs, Behe has been hedging his bets by increasing his Darwinian fitness as much as possible.

The moral: don’t mess with folks both cleverer and funnier than you.

Happy Monday. Now back to book and grant. (I asked for the job, mate, as a long-ago PA reminded me when whinging at the end of some long shoot day. I was, at the time, just coming down with Hepatitis A, so, unknowing, I had some excuse for complaint. But still, she was right.)

Images: Cercopithecus Diana, Illustration from The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex, New York: D. Appleton, 1872, volume 2, page 297. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Charles Wilson Peale, “The Peale Family,” 1771-1773. Source: Wikimedia Commons.