29 January 2011

If the Egyptian revolution is to have any staying power, I think it will come from industrial workers. 37.9% of Egypt's GDP comes from industry, which is much higher than the United States' proportion--in fact, closer to China.

Dispatches like these will be crucial:

1035 GMT: Suez steel workers are going on strike until President Mubarak resigns.

28 January 2011

A clarion call from John Aravosis:

If the President is going to brag at the State of the Union about how all troops, gay and straight, are now one, thanks to him, then he needs to start acting like it. This is his administration. He has the power to make these court cases against the protesters go away (he has the power to stop defending DADT and DOMA in court as well), and he has the power to stop the Defense Department from trying to force servicemembers discharged under DADT to pays thousands, and in some cases tens of thousands of dollars, because they were discharged under DADT.

This is the reason so many of us are constantly perturbed with this White House. It doesn't seem that anyone there fully understands that they're in charge, that they have actual power. We constantly hear how powerless they are, how the president isn't king and isn't God. No, he's not - but he is the president of the United States, which is no small shakes. It's not entirely clear they fully get that fact. If the administration's representatives continue to harass our troops and our civil rights organizers, then it is the White House's fault, because they are not doing nearly enough to stop it.

They have the power to stop it. So stop it.

27 January 2011

A "state of the kingdom" address given by Chretien-Francois de Lamoignon* on November 19th, 1787:

[five years from now] His Majesty in the midst of his estates, surrounded by his faithful subjects, confidently presenting to them the comforting picture of order restored to finances, of agriculture and commerce mutually encouraged under the auspices of freedom, of a formidable navy, the army regenerated by a more economical and military constitution, of abuses eliminated......of laws reformed, public education perfected...
from Simon Schama, Citizens, Chapter 7 'Suicides'

*president of the Parlement of Paris. Old regime France had thirteen judicial bodies called parlements, each serving a historic region of the kingdom. They had to ratify every royal decree before it became law, and based their decisions on a nebulous idea of "fundamental law."

24 January 2011

A rebuttal to a silly piece from the New York Times Week in Review

Clearly the United States has learned the lessons of ancient history, and is conducting its diplomacy accordingly, writes David Sanger. How Thucydides would approve of our handling the China problem!

What really unraveled the Athenian empire was not a direct war with Sparta. A refresher:

[Alcibiades'] suggestion was to renew the attempt made in 425 at intervention in Sicily; but this time he had in mind an expedition on the grand scale which should subdue first Syracuse and then the whole of Sicily and southern Italy, whose corn and timber supplies would reassure Athens, anxious as always about her revictualling problem, and no longer able since the loss of Amphipolis to exploit the forests of Mount Pangaeus. Alcibiades perhaps had even longer and larger views, envisaging finally the conquest of Carthage and access to Spain; a reservoir of men and wealth which would have enabled Athens to subdue, once and for all, the Peloponesian Confederation and to become mistress of the whole Mediterranean. (History of Ancient Greece, Jean Hatzfeld, chapter 21)

21 January 2011

Time magazine asks, will the earth have two suns by 2012?

Why, yes, Virginia, our nearest neighbor Alpha Centauri is hurtling towards us at three times the speed of light!

Actually, the article refers to the possible collapse and supernova of Betelgeuse. The scientific illiteracy on display is staggering. Not that we should be surprised to find this in Time.

20 January 2011

More unvarnished truth:

"[Republicans] say it's a government takeover of health care - a big lie, just like Goebbels. You say it enough, you repeat the lie, you repeat the lie, you repeat the lie, and eventually people believe it. Like blood libel. That's the same kind of thing. The Germans said enough about the Jews and the people believed it and you had the Holocaust..."

From Representative Steve Cohen, who has committed the grievous sin of breaking the Washington code of "civility"--which does not, mind you, prohibit Republicans from calling for "Second Amendment remedies" to eliminate their opponents, but does enjoin Democrats from citing facts that buttress their arguments.

18 January 2011

The Illinois Family Institute announced today:

Homosexualist organizations have one goal that reigns supreme over all others: the eradication of the true moral belief that homosexual acts are profoundly immoral.

Absolutely wrong. I couldn't care less about what you or your grandmother think about anything I might choose to do with my genitalia. All I want is equal protection under the law. For an excellent defense of the right to believe (and say) anything you want about homosexuality, read this post by Peter Tatchell.

Thanks to Joe My God for the link.

17 January 2011

I've been reading Ulysses Grant's Personal Memoirs. This is how he describes the threat of secession in 1861:

It was generally believed that there would be a flurry; that some of the extreme Southern states would go so far as to pass ordinances of secession. But the common impression was that this step was so plainly suicidal for the South, that the movement would not spread over much of the territory and would not last long.

A salutary warning to those who believe Congressional Republicans today would not be stupid enough to bring down the government over the debt ceiling.

15 January 2011

Isthmus celebrates Martin Luther King Day:

There is still racial discrimination practiced in this country, but there is no longer any doubt that equality among individuals is the law of the land.

The poor sap who wrote this should be sent to Mississippi, where a corrections officer was recently fired for being gay. The ACLU has come to his aid, but there is no federal law protecting gay people from employment discrimination. But of course Mr. Cooley should take heart, because "equality among individuals" is sacrosanct in our country!

09 January 2011

Yesterday's bloodbath in Tucson was prefigured, as so much else has been, in the work of Cormac Mccarthy. Here's some of what happened in Tucson in his novel Blood Meridian:

Captain, we're going to have to take whoever's responsible for the death of Mr Owens into custody.
Glanton looked up. Who's Mr Owens? he said.
Mr Owens is the gentleman who ran the eatinghouse down here. He's been shot to death.
Sorry to hear it, said Glanton. Set down.
Couts ignored the invitation. Captain, you dont aim to deny that one of your men shot him do you?
I aim exactly that, said Glanton.
Captain, it wont hold water.
The judge emerged from the darkness. Evening, Lieutenant, he said. Are these men the witnesses?
Couts looked at his corporal. No, he said. They aint witnesses. Hell, Captain. You all were seen to enter the premises and seen to leave after the shot was fired. Are you going to deny that you and your men took your dinner there?
Deny ever goddamned word of it, said Glanton.
Well by god I believe I can prove that you ate there.
Kindly address your remarks to me, Lieutenant, said the judge. I represent Captain Glanton in all legal matters. I think you should know first of all that the captain does not propose to be called a liar and I would think twice before I involved myself with him in an affair of honor. Secondly I have been with him all day and I can assure you that neither he nor any of his men have ever set foot in the premises to which you allude.
The lieutenant seemed stunned at the baldness of these disclaimers. He looked from the judge to Glanton and back again. I will be damned, he said. Then he turned and pushed past the men and quit the place.

08 January 2011

Truth unvarnished:

This is our system of fast-food education laid bare: Children are roaming the halls singing "Sexy Bitch," while their neo-Confederate parents are plotting to chop the penis off Michelangelo's David, and clamoring for Gatsby and Daisy to be reunited.
This is a poem made in response to this contest.


I am a natural wonder.
I pay out 2 production, 3 commerce,
and I am impassable.
They think I am mysterious,
but my ways are set like clockwork.
When a small band of scouts draws near,
staggering o'er the hills,
fearing the next barbarian ambush,
and finds me: O the joy.

05 January 2011

As President Obama approaches two years in office, it may be instructive to compile all the threats of violence made against him. (This list does not include small-fry white supremacists).

"Someone's got to knock some sense into that idiot"--Jacob Volkmann, UFC fighter/chiropractor (http://thinkprogress.org/2011/01/04/ufc-fighter-obama/)

"I think we should all rise up and we should stop this administration from what they're doing because they're destroying this country"--R. Lee Ermey, actor (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pgBVrpI-4Ww)

"Yes, I would like to shoot the president then myself."--Michael Stephen Bowden, retired NYPD officer (http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2010/11/26/former-nypd-officer-arrested-for-obama-death-threat/)

"The president needs to be shot."--Josh Mccallum, prisoner in Missouri (http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2010/08/missouri-man-30-months-obama-death-threat/)

Christopher King, Vermont resident (http://www.boston.com/news/local/vermont/articles/2010/10/13/vt_man_indicted_in_alleged_obama_threat/)

John Turnpaugh, Louisiana resident (http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2010/05/11/new-orleans-man-sentenced-making-death-threats-obama/)

Chane Phillip Christenson, Minnesota resident (http://www.myfoxtwincities.com/dpp/news/minnesota/obama-threat-guilty-plea-july1-2010)

Brian Dean Miller, Texas resident (http://www.star-telegram.com/2010/11/01/2594697/dallas-man-sentenced-obama-threat.html)

Gregory Dale Brockman, Pennsylvania prisoner (http://www.wfmz.com/lehighvalleynews/26172085/detail.html)

Perhaps someone would like to draw up a comparable list for George W. Bush's first two years. That shouldn't take too long.

03 January 2011

An adviser to the White House opines:

"If we get to the point where you've damaged the full faith and credit of the United States, that would be the first default in history caused purely by insanity," he said.

"We shouldn't even be discussing that. People will get the wrong idea. The United States is not in danger of default. … This would be lumping us in with a series of countries through history that I don't think we would want to be lumped in with."

Like France in the 1780s?

How grave was France's predicament after the American war? It had, it is true, run up an imposing debt, but one that was no worse than comparable debts incurred in fighting the other wars deemed equally essential to sustain the nation's position as a great power. Those quick to condemn the ministers of Louis XVI for their hopeless prodigality might pause to reflect that no state with imperial pretensions has, in fact, ever subordinated what it takes to be irreducible military interests to the considerations of a balanced budget. And like apologists for powerful military force in twentieth-century America and the Soviet Union, advocates of similar 'indispensable' resources in eighteenth-century France pointed to the country's vast demographic and economic reserves and a flourishing economy to sustain the burden. Indeed the prospering of that economy was, they claimed, contingent on such military expenditure, both directly in naval bases like Brest and Toulon, and indirectly in the protection it gave to the most rapidly expanding sector of the economy.

From Simon Schama, Citizens: A Chronicle of the French Revolution. This is a book every new U.S. Congressman should read (preferably in lieu of attending Michelle Bachmann's Constitution classes).