H.P. Lovecraft, the opening paragraphs of “Old England and the Hyphen” (1916):

Of the various intentional fallacies exhaled like miasmic vapours from the rotting cosmopolitanism of vitiated American politics, and doubly rife during these days of European conflict, none is more disgusting than that contemptible subterfuge of certain foreign elements whereby the legitimate zeal of the genuine native stock for England’s cause is denounced and compared to the unpatriotic disaffection of those working in behalf of England’s enemies. The Prussian propagandists and Irish irresponsibles, failing in their clumsy efforts to use the United States as a tool of vengeance upon the Mistress of the Seas, have seized with ingenious and unexpected eagerness on a current slogan coined to counteract their own traitorous machinations, and have begun to fling the trite demand “America first” in the face of every American who is unable to share their puerile hatred of the British Empire. In demanding that American citizens impartially withhold love and allegiance from any government save their own, thereby binding themselves to a policy of rigid coldness in considering the fortunes of their Mother Country, the Prusso-Hibernian herd have the sole apparent advantage of outward technical justification. If the United States were truly the radical, aloof, mongrelised nation into which they idealise it, their plea might possibly be more appropriate. But in comparing the lingering loyalty of a German-American for Germany, or of an Irish-American for Ireland, with that of a native American for England, these politicians make their fundamental psychological error.

England, despite the contentions of trifling theorists, is not and never will be a really foreign country; nor is a true love of America possible without a corresponding love for the British race and ideals that created America. The difficulties which caused the severance of the American Colonies from the rest of the Empire were essentially internal ones, and have no moral bearing on this country’s attitude toward the parent land in its relations with alien civilisations. Just as Robert Edward Lee chose to follow the government of Virginia rather than that of the Federal Union in 1861, so did the Anglo-American Revolutionary leaders choose local to central allegiance in 1775. Their rebellion was in itself a characteristically English act, and could in no manner annul the purely English origin and nature of the new republic. American history before the conflict of 1775-1783 is English history, and we are lawful heirs of the unnumbered glories of the Saxon line. Shakespeare and Milton, Dryden and Pope, Young and Thomson, Johnson and Goldsmith, are our own poets; William the Conqueror, Edward the Black Prince, Elizabeth, and William of Nassau’ are our own royalty; Crecy, Poictiers, and Agincourt are our own victories; Lord Bacon, Sir Isaac Newton, Hobbes, Locke, Sir Robert Boyle, and Sir William Herschel are our own philosophers and scientists; what true American lives, who would wish, by rejecting an Englishman’s heritage, to despoil his country of such racial laurels? Let those men be silent, who would, in envy, deny to the citizens of the United States the right to cherish and revere the ancestral honours that are theirs, and to remain faithful to the Anglo-Saxon ideals of their English forefathers!


(I’m reading the book, but if you google you can probably find it.)

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The generation game, yet again

by John Quiggin on September 5, 2017

At Inside Story, I’ve had yet another go at the silliness of generational analysis, reworking some material I’ve posted previously, but improving the analysis in some ways, I think. In particular, I think the intro helps to explain the persistent appeal of generational cliches in the face of repeated refutation.

Every generation thinks it invented sex, and every generation is wrong.” As that quotation from the American writer Robert Heinlein suggests, we all experience as unique and revelatory the transformations we undergo through the course of our lives, from childhood to puberty, adulthood, parenthood and old age. As a matter of logic and observation, though, these processes are experienced at all times and in all places, and differ more in detail than essentials.

This is the paradox at the heart of the otherwise inexplicable durability of claims that people’s characteristics can be explained by their membership of a “generation” (baby boomers, generation X, and so on).

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Sunday photoblogging: clouds

by Eszter Hargittai on September 3, 2017

Clouds over LA As of this past week, I’ve posted over 500 photos in my “a sky photo a day” project. I love taking a moment each day to look up and see what patterns, or lack thereof, surround my area.

This was the January 22, 2017 shot. I was at the Getty in Los Angeles when this curious cloud formation appeared. I have more photos of the neighboring sky on Flickr if you’d like to explore. Does anyone have any idea what would result in this? I was so intrigued.

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I’ve just given a couple of talks focusing on inequality, one for the Global Change Institute at UQ, following a presentation by Wayne Swan and the second at a conference organized by the TJ Ryan Foundation (including great talks by Peter Saunders, Sally McManus, and others), where I was responding to a paper by Jim Stanford from the Centre for Future Work. Because I was speaking second in both cases, I didn’t prepare a paper or slides, but tailored my talk to complement the one before. That can be a high risk strategy, but in this case, I think it worked very well.

It led me to a new, and I hope improved, statement of the case against ‘trickle down’ theory. As always, the most important part of a refutation is a clear statement of the theory you propose to refute, so that it can be shown where it falls down. After the talks I wrote this up, and it’s over the fold. Comments and constructive criticism much appreciated.

[click to continue…]

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Happy Hari Raya Haji

by Belle Waring on September 1, 2017

Happy Hari Raya Haji/Eid al-Adha to all our Muslim readers! I live very near a huge mosque, and all the parking in the opposite lot is taken up, and all the street signs are full of locked bicycles, and the sidewalk is bordered with scores of scooters and motorcycles, and you can hear the call to prayer for a change. Normally Singapore more or less mutes it in the name of religious harmony—that is to say they forbid loudspeakers so the muezzin is singing alone, and so desperately quiet over the traffic noise and the inevitable jackhammering going on in Singapore at all times. The Indian ceremonies in which someone is blowing on a conch is frankly louder, and don’t get me started on drumming in Chinese temples or lion dances at CNY. I feel as if the men with the white caps that indicate they have been on the hajj have a little swagger today. Today on my hike I noticed the other men have generally worn embroidered and beaded black caps to keep up appearances. For those of you who don’t know, the feast celebrates both the ending of the hajj and the willingness of the prophet Ibrahim to sacrifice his son Ismail. Ibrahim and Ismail are said to have made the Kaaba later at the source of the miraculous spring which appeared when the earth was struck by the angel Jibra’il (or alternately much earlier where Hagar collapsed in prayer after wandering, in the hopes of saving her child from death from lack of water). It’s called the Zamzam Well, which is literally the coolest name ever. The day includes the sacrifice of a big valuable animal which is divided for a ritual feast, in commemoration of the ram substituted for Ismail. Lots of the many Singaporean Muslims with family in Malaysia travel there for the feast, where the cows or sheep or goats are more easily available (though of course they are shipped into mosques here.) People raise funds for charity also. Anyway, happy day!

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The Origins of Glibertarianism

by Henry on August 31, 2017

Over the last couple of months, I’ve been involved in an on-and-off floating argument over Nancy MacLean’s book on James Buchanan and public choice, Democracy in Chains. This essay, with Steve Teles, lays out the problems we see with the book. The book makes very big claims e.g. that Buchanan provided the political strategies that made Pinochet’s Chile what it was, and galvanized an American right that had been in disarray before his decisive intervention. But the evidence that MacLean provides for these claims is problematic – key documents simply don’t say what MacLean thinks they do. MacLean describes Buchanan as an inventive creator of dastardly political ploys, using terms such as ‘evil genius’ and ‘wicked genius,’ but economists, no more than political scientists, make for good competent political strategists – the median is closer to Professor Pippy P. Poopypants than Svengali. [click to continue…]

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Review of Betts and Collier on refugees

by Chris Bertram on August 30, 2017

I have a review of Andrew Betts and Paul Collier, Refuge: Transforming a Broken Refugee System (Allen Lane) in The New Humanist. It is a curious book, with some interesting and serious parts, but the whole is marred by an arrogant rhetoric and it risks serving as an alibi for some very bad policies indeed.

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Brad White, a friend of Crooked Timber, was home in Salt Lake City recently. His mother, Jackie White had suddenly died. It was a good death, as they go; Jackie went just as she raised a rather large G&T to her many friends.

As Brad tidied and settled Jackie’s affairs, he found stuffed at the back of a drawer an article she’d written. Going by the other documents it was with, he reckons it was written in the late 1960s or early 1970s. As far as we can tell, it was never published.

Here is some clear-eyed advice advice written for American women in the workplace, not long after the Mad Men era. Almost fifty years on, the gist of it is still relevant to many women in many more places. [click to continue…]

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Jack Kirby was born on August 28, 1917.

I celebrated his birthday by rereading a bunch of old Jack Kirby comics. [click to continue…]

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What Music Are You listening to This Week

by Belle Waring on August 29, 2017

The recurring series that’s actually pretty popular, dammit. Also I get sweet music recs every time. Otpup pointed out that the new LCD Soundsystem is great, and although they have only released three of the songs off the new album, I have been listening to them on repeat as I do my morning 1-hour hike that I do before the sun comes up because I am a person of unusual virtue and my life has changed and now I am up from the front end instead of from the other end if you see what I mean. Also it’s really hot when the sun comes up in Singapore. Of course, it’s so muggy before the sun comes up that I come home in a lather of sweat anyway, but hey. I see lots of old people doing tai chi in the park, and occasionally monkeys. Not doing tai chi, as far as I can tell. Otpup posted “Call The Police”, so here’s “Tonite.”

I’m not 1000% sold on The War on Drugs, but I’m warming up to it. And this song is great. Damn this dude must do a good Dylan cover though.

This is one of my favorite songs from The Clash’s Sandinista:

It’s strange in a way how like this the towers of Singapores HDB blocks look, in huge clusters, but neatly painted with graded hues on the brick ends, some blues, some reds, some yellows, all planted around with tidy gardens, all surrounded with new cars.
My Neighbors
Sorry, there were much better photos but they maxed out the side of the blog. Anyway, this is in my neighborhood, so there’s that.

I have the Dukes of Hazzard lunchbox that appears in the video at 4:17 and carried it as a purse for a number of years, a choice I now regard as dubious.

Is there a name for the songwriting device of setting up an obvious rhyme and then not using it? Pavement is particularly inclined to this but there’s an example in LCD Soundsystem’s “Tonite” also:

Sure enemies haunt you with spit and derision
But friends are the ones who can put you in exile

You are expecting “prison” at that point, oder?

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I Hope If You’re In Houston You’re OK

by John Holbo on August 28, 2017

That’s all I have to say. Stay safe and stay as dry as you can.

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Sunday Photoblogging: flowers

by Ingrid Robeyns on August 27, 2017

Longtime readers of our blog know that my oldest son Aaron (now 11) developed an interest in flower-arranging. It is wonderful to see how he has this talent that neither of his parents knew he had, nor did we do anything to help him discover this talent: he did it all by himself initially, with the help of some youtube demonstrations by Japanese flower artists. When we discovered what he could make, some local flower sellers started to support him, and he was lucky that my sister Kristin has a degree in flower arranging and hence could learn him some techniques. [click to continue…]

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The Temptation of St. Anthony

by John Holbo on August 27, 2017

Today I read Gustave Flaubert’s novel, The Temptation of St. Anthony in the Lafcadio Hearn translation. It’s a bit different from, say, Madame Bovary. I don’t think it’s just Hearn’s translation that seems to be aimed at the Weird Tales market. [click to continue…]

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When Political Scientists Legitimate Torturers

by Corey Robin on August 25, 2017

The American Political Science Association, which will be meeting next week in San Francisco, will be featuring John Yoo on two panels. Many political scientists are protesting this decision, and will be protesting Yoo at his panels. I am not attending the conference this year, but I wrote the following letter to the two program chairs of the conference.

Dear Professors Jamal and Hyde:

In his celebrated diary of daily life in the Third Reich, Victor Klemperer writes:

If one day the situation were reversed and the fate of the vanquished lay in my hands, then I would let all the ordinary folk go and even some of the leaders, who might perhaps after all have had honourable intentions and not known what they were doing. But I would have all the intellectuals strung up, and the professors three feet higher than the rest; they would be left hanging from the lamp posts for as long as was compatible with hygiene.

The reason Klemperer reserved such special contempt for the professors and intellectuals of the 1920s and 1930s was that professors and intellectuals played a special role in bringing on the horrors of the Nazi regime, as Claudia Koonz and other historians have documented. Not only did those professors and intellectuals provide some of the leading arguments for the rise of that regime, but they also served in that regime: as doctors, population experts, engineers, propagandists. And lawyers.

We now come to the matter of John Yoo, Emmanuel S. Heller Professor of Law at UC Berkeley, who has been invited to address the annual conference of the American Political Science Association, which will be meeting in San Francisco next week, and whose speech acts while serving as Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Bush administration did so much to bring about the torture regime of that era. While there is no need to rehearse all of those speech acts, we might recall that in his lengthy memo of 2003, Yoo claimed that detainees of the US military could be legally stripped of their clothing “for a period of time” and interrogated naked. If you have trouble visualizing what that might mean, have a look at these photographs from Abu Ghraib. In that same memo, Yoo mooted the possibility that actions ordinarily considered illegal—including gouging an eye, dousing a prisoner with “scalding water, corrosive acid, or caustic substance,” or biting—might well be legal in time of war: the president’s powers as commander in chief were that broad.

When it comes to torture, our minds often drift to the torturer or his higher-ups in the Pentagon and the CIA. But as Jane Mayer documented in The Dark Side, the torture regime of George W. Bush was very much a lawyers’ regime. As one of Yoo’s colleagues told Mayer, “It’s incredible, but John Yoo and David Addington were running the war on terror almost on their own.” Yoo’s memos were not the idle speculations of a cloistered academic; stamped with the seal of the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) at the Justice Department, they had the force of law, issuing binding interpretations of existing statutes that could only be overturned by the Attorney General. As Mayer explains, “For Yoo’s allies in the White House, his position at OLC was a political bonanza. It was like having a personal friend who could write medical prescriptions.” Harvard Law Professor Jack Goldsmith, who headed the OLC in 2003, adds that Yoo-type memos were essentially “get-out-of-jail-free cards.” That is why former CIA head George Tenet has written:

Despite what Hollywood might have you believe, in situations like these [the capture, interrogation, and torture of Al Qaeda logistics chief Abu Zubayda] you don’t call in the tough guys; you call in the lawyers.

That’s how powerful John Yoo was.

Since the election of Donald Trump, we have heard much from our profession about “norm erosion” and the ways in which an ostensibly democratic society like our own can devolve into an authoritarian or even fascist society. While the history of the Trump ascendancy has yet to be written, it will be difficult, when the time comes, for future historians to neglect the role of John Yoo in preparing the way for that devolution. As Duke Law Professor Walter Dellinger, who headed the OLC under Bill Clinton, said of the vision of “the embodiment of power for the executive” that lay at the heart of Yoo’s memos: “it’s like Mussolini in 1930.”

I fear that with this invitation to Yoo to address our profession, as if he were simply the author of controversial and heterodox opinions rather than the architect of a regime of torture and barbarity, the American Political Science Association has written itself a chapter in those future histories.

Sincerely,

Corey Robin

Professor of Political Science

Brooklyn College and the CUNY Graduate Center

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Sir Viv Stanshall Day

by Harry on August 24, 2017

Depending on how you count, this is the first Sir [1] Viv Stanshall Day of 2018, or the 216th Sir Viv Stanshall Day of the new Presidential era. Time to enjoy these lovely videos, and help me with a suggestion.

Now the suggestion. My football-mad 10-year-old is a not-bad singer, and needs a song for his next recital which has a 60s theme (his sister is performing Monkees songs, unsurprisingly). So… A Bonzo song that a 10-year old boy can sing?

[1] Sir? Well if Mr Trump can be President, surely Viv can be a mere knight. I conferred on behalf of the CT collective. I probably should have consulted with them, now I think of it. I am convinced that if the Queen Mother had ever met Viv he’d have been knighted properly, anyway.

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