Thursday, June 30, 2016

The Curse of Suicide Bombing

In Turkey, another Islamic state is suffering cruelly from the tragic disaster of suicide bombing. I have long thought that this pernicious way of waging war would haunt the Middle East for decades, and I curse the men who invented it. It gives violent expression to a sick mixture of rage and despair, combining nihilism and faith into a perfect death machine. A few years ago some American conservatives tried to rechristen these attacks "homicide bombings," but that didn't catch on because the certain death of the bomber is at the heart suicide bombing. This makes these attacks all but impossible to prevent, and more importantly gives them the power to express two opposite impulses: the suicide bomber surrenders personally while continuing the fight politically.

No nation where suicide bombing has become a cult can ever know peace.

Hubert Robert

Hubert Robert (1733-1808) was one of the most prominent artists of  revolutionary France. His favorite subject was ruins, both real and imaginary; Diderot dubbed him “Robert of the Ruins.” (Grand Gallery of the Louvre as a Ruin, 1796)

The National Gallery in Washington is mounting a major exhibit of his work this summer, which I am hoping to see. They say:
In addition to being a talented landscape painter, Robert was a gifted and prolific draftsman, an engaging printmaker, an interior decorator, and a garden designer. Lively, intelligent, and much sought after, this good-humored, well-loved bon vivant moved easily through the most exalted circles of Paris’s society, even though his own parents had been personal attendants in an aristocratic household. He later addressed the demise of this glittering world through representations of contemporary events such as the vandalizing of royalist monuments and the destruction of the Bastille prison during the French Revolution.
Landing Place, 1788

Robert's father was in service to the noble family of de Choiseul, marquises de Stainville. In 1754 Robert learned that the de Choiseul heir was heading to Rome as a French diplomat, and he attached himself to the household and traveled with them to Italy. He was in Rome for 11 years, compulsively sketching ruins and polishing his style. (Archaeologists at the Temple of Vespasian, 1762)

Oval Fountain in the Gardens of the Villa d’Este Tivoli c. 1763

Hermit Praying in a Roman Temple, 1760

In 1765 Robert returned to France. With the de Choiseuls as his patrons he quickly entered the highest ranks of French art. He was accepted into the Royal Academy in 1766 and successively appointed "Designer of the King's Gardens", "Keeper of the King's Pictures" and "Keeper of the Museum and Councilor to the Academy". (Circular Temple in a Wooded Landscape, 1770)

Ponte Salario, 1775

The Studio of an Antiquities Restorer in Rome, 1783

When the Revolution came, Robert had the sort of troubles one would expect in a loose-living hanger-on of aristocrats and admirer of foreign cultures. He was arrested under the Convention and he is said to have been slated for execution, only to be spared when the fall of Robespierre marked the end of the Terror.  (Triumphal Arch and Theater in Orange, 1787)

He then joined the reaction and was made part of the committee that turned the Louvre from a royal palace into the national museum. He died of a stroke on 15 April 1808. (An Inmate of St. Lazare Prison, 1794)

Demography and Urban Politics

Like several other big American cities, Washington, DC no longer has a black majority:
Over the past 15 years, the District has experienced both an exodus of black residents and an influx of whites. Young, well-educated whites are moving into once minority, often depopulated and dilapidated neighborhoods, where new condo and rental apartment construction is booming.

The black share of Washington’s population fell from a high of 71.1 percent in 1970 to 48.3 percent as of July 2015. The white share has grown from 27.7 percent in 1970 to 44.1 percent, if Hispanics who identify themselves as white are included. If only non-Hispanic whites are counted, the white share has grown to 36.1 percent.

Hispanics, who are likely to hold the balance of political power between whites and blacks, have grown from 2.1 percent of the District’s population in 1970 to 10.6 percent in 2015. Asian-Americans have gone from 0.7 percent to 4.2 percent over the same period.
The article I am citing goes on from there to wonder whether DC will soon elect a white mayor. I think that is the wrong question. After all the city did just elect a mayor, Muriel Bowser, who won 63% in the wealthiest, whitest ward but only 28% in the three poorest, blackest wards. I doubt the city will ever again elect a mayor like Marion Barry, whose troubles with the FBI over corruption and drugs only made him seem more authentic to the voters in the poor wards that were his base. In a more diverse city, ethnic identity politics probably won't work. What will work is urban liberalism that combines concern for poor voters and minority issues with a drive for reform and "good government." I think DC is a long, long way from electing a Rudy Giuliani sort of figure.

And while black voters may soon lose control of Washington, black flight to the suburbs means they make up 65.4% of the population in adjacent Prince George's County, Maryland, which has more people than DC (910,000 vs. 670,000) and an actual representative in Congress.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Staring into Hell

Anglo-Saxon miscellany (legend of Mambres and Jannes), Canterbury ca. 1050

British Library, Cotton Tiberius B V/1, fol. 87v

Tom Friedman's Future

In a piece complaining about the Brexit vote, Thomas Friedman lays out his vision for the world's future:
Because although withdrawing from the E.U. is not the right answer for Britain, the fact that this argument won, albeit with lies, tells you that people are feeling deeply anxious about something. It’s the story of our time: the pace of change in technology, globalization and climate have started to outrun the ability of our political systems to build the social, educational, community, workplace and political innovations needed for some citizens to keep up.

We have globalized trade and manufacturing, and we have introduced robots and artificial intelligent systems, far faster than we have designed the social safety nets, trade surge protectors and educational advancement options that would allow people caught in this transition to have the time, space and tools to thrive. It’s left a lot of people dizzy and dislocated.

At the same time, we have opened borders deliberately — or experienced the influx of illegal migration from failing states at an unprecedented scale — and this too has left some people feeling culturally unanchored, that they are losing their “home” in the deepest sense of that word. The physical reality of immigration, particularly in Europe, has run ahead of not only the host countries’ ability to integrate people but also of the immigrants’ ability to integrate themselves — and both are necessary for social stability.
But as far as Friedman is concerned, whether you like globalization or not is pretty much irrelevant, because it is the only path to a prosperous future:
Indeed, in my view, the countries that nurture pluralism the best will be the ones that thrive the most in the 21st century. They will have the most political stability, attract the most talent and be able to collaborate with the most people. But it’s hard work.

Yet in an age when technology is integrating us more tightly together and delivering tremendous flows of innovation, knowledge, connectivity and commerce, the future belongs to those who build webs not walls, who can integrate not separate, to get the most out of these flows. Britain leaving the E.U. is a lose-lose proposition. I hope the “Regrexit” campaign can reverse Brexit and that Americans will dump Trump.
Let me offer a model of contemporary politics. I would argue that voters ask three things of their governments: security, prosperity, and the promotion or preservation of the sort of society they want to live in. Friedman is arguing that for many people, the second and third are in direct conflict. He believes that the only way to achieve greater prosperity is through greater openness to the world in terms of both immigration and trade. If we choose to close our borders, we risk our nation becoming an impoverished backwater. So the only serious option is to push for openness while spending whatever it takes on the domestic front to maintain the social peace: education, retraining, massive infrastructure spending, jobs programs, disability, etc.

As I said yesterday, you can look at Japan to see what Friedman is talking about. Japan is the world leader in manufacturing and many other technical fields, it runs a trade surplus, and its companies are investing massively abroad to make up for the shortage of workers at home. Still, it is mired in a decade-long recession and can look forward to supporting its aging population with ever fewer workers.

This leaves me conflicted, because Friedman's vision is anything but exciting to me. I have no issues with immigration and increasing multiculturalism, but must we really sacrifice everything else for economic growth? Friedman imagines an ever more intensive meritocracy in which the smartest and hardest working from around the world compete ever harder for the cool jobs, and constant disruption means that only the "agile" who can hop from one gig to the next will thrive. The world will get more mixed-up ethnically but culturally ever more uniform; already you can't tell from looking at an office building or the clothes of its denizens what continent you are on, and this seems likely to intensify.

But what is the alternative? There are about five economists in the world who don't agree with the basics of Friedman's vision. At this point the notion that we could bring back a manufacturing economy with thousands of new jobs in coal and steel – what Trump has been promoting – just seems absurd to me. All of the cold-eyed rationalists, from Obama to Jerry Brown to Mitt Romney, look at the world and see the same thing, a competition that we have to take part in and win if we want any sort of prosperous future. People in what we might call this Open Future party disagree about many details, like how much social spending we can afford and whether strict environmental rules help or hurt, but they share the same vision. Going back to Bill Clinton's 1992 campaign you can find the same rhetoric: this is the modern world, and we can either adapt to it or sink.

Of course the success of the Leave vote reminds us that even if people agreed with the choice Friedman presents they may still choose to become in impoverished backwater. But I wonder if that is really a stable, long-term solution for anyone.

A New Florentine Villa

Fiona Corsini di San Giuliano is a contemporary Florentine aristocrat; her husband's grandfather founded Ferragamo. She has lately created a fabulous modern villa, and the Times has a description and slide show.

She acquired it like this:
The owners of the 15-acre property, an active farm since the Middle Ages on a hill near Forte di Belvedere and the glorious Boboli Gardens, were an elderly couple. Their dream was to find buyers who would allow them to stay on in the 16th-century villa until the end of their days. The spot had a stellar artistic pedigree: Ottone Rosai, the Futurist painter, had his studio on the property, and in 1878 Tchaikovsky had lived a few doors down while he worked on his first orchestral suite.

The idea of sharing the villa seemed complicated, Corsini di San Giuliano recalls. “With five children and a sixth one on its way, and with my twin sister, Nencia, who regularly comes to visit with her five, space was an everyday necessity. One we could not postpone.” But before she could utter the word “no,” her eyes wandered across the olive groves and orchards to the remains of a group of Renaissance-era farm buildings at the edge of the property. Buried beneath decades of decay and dirt was a series of simple ancient structures just waiting to be salvaged and filled with children. For someone like Corsini di San Giuliano, whose circle of friends includes painters, craftspeople and decorators with tastes that run — even in this most classical of cities — toward the early 20th century Arts and Crafts movement, the undertaking seemed made-to-measure.
An artichoke in the garden.

Nothing like an eighteenth-century tapestry over the bed.

The dining room. Lots more at the link.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Militia Logic

You see these stories from time to time, with headlines like this:

Fearing martial law, Gaston man planned bombs, exploding tennis balls

The story:
Fueled by an apocalyptic vision of impending martial law, three Gaston County men conspired to mount a violent defense against an expected federal takeover – from booby-trapped homes to stashes of high-powered weapons and exploding tennis balls, federal documents say.

Two of the three already are in prison. On Tuesday, their partner could join them.

Walter Eugene Litteral, 51, of Gastonia, has pleaded guilty to charges ranging from conspiracy to commit offense against the United States and aiding and abetting the making of a firearm, to illegal distribution and possession of highly addictive prescription drugs. He also tried to buy an assault rifle for a known felon, co-conspirator Christopher James Barker, 43, also of Gastonia.
To summarize: these militia guys built up big arsenals of guns and bombs so they could fight back against the government, but when the police showed up they surrendered meekly.

I detect a flaw in their logic.

They seem to think that things will just go along fine until one day the government will reveal its full evilness, sending tanks into the streets. But that's not usually how it works. Governments don't divide neatly into sweet democracies and nasty dictatorships; most are found somewhere in between. If our government were going to trend fascist this would happen gradually, one new law at a time, each one justified by some terrorist act or other outrage, each one supported by at least a large part of the country.

Our world is messy, and often good and bad are hard to see clearly. But that's our world; longing for a black and white, freedom-loving rebels vs. a Nazi dictatorship won't change anything. And it might get you arrested.

Today in Catonsville

First, big thunderstorms with Armageddon skies, and then this.

Dinosaur Feathers in Amber

Wing feathers from a tiny flying dinosaur, only 3.5 cm (1.4 inches) long, found in Chinese amber dating to about 99 million years ago.

Mr. Riu's Paper Cuts

The Japanese artist who calls himself Mr. Riu does these with a knife.

Pain: Physical and Psychological

Scott Alexander has a long review of a book that argues most chronic pain is psychosomatic. He also looks at lots of study results on the psychological and physical factors that might be causing chronic pain. To get an idea of how complex and controversial this is, consider the summations of two recent reviews that compared published studies to find out whether poor mental health causes or worsens back pain. Study 1 says:
The available literature indicated a clear link between psychological variables and neck and back pain. The prospective studies indicated that psychological variables were related to the onset of pain, and to acute, subacute, and chronic pain. Stress, distress, or anxiety as well as mood and emotions, cognitive functioning, and pain behavior all were found to be significant factors. Personality factors produced mixed results. Although the level of evidence was low, abuse also was found to be a potentially significant factor.
Study 2 says:
According to recent epidemiological literature we found moderate evidence for no positive association between perception of work, organisational aspects of work, and social support at work and LBP [lower back pain]. We found insufficient evidence for an association between stress at work and LBP. Regarding consequences of LBP, there was insufficient evidence for an association between perception of work in relation to consequences of LBP. There was strong evidence for no association between organisational aspects of work and moderate evidence for no association between social support at work and stress at work and consequences of LBP. There were major methodological problems in the majority of studies included in this review and the diversity in methods was considerable. Therefore associations reported may be spurious and should be interpreted with caution.
Clear, right?

Right now the data seem to argue that physical causes of some sort are highly relevant for most pain. That doesn't mean psychological factors are irrelevant, just that you are unlikely to suffer serious chronic pain from psychological factors alone. Your mental state absolutely will effect how well you cope with pain, e.g., whether you are able to keep working. But we are very far from understanding how any of this works, and what causes chronic pain in the first place.

If you're curious, read Alexander.

That's a Big Diamond

The Lesedi La Rona, the world's largest uncut diamond at 1,109 carats, was discovered last fall at the Lucara mine in Botswana. It will be auctioned at Sotheby's in London. It is expected to fetch around $70 million. I think that means it has flaws that will prevent its being cut into a single giant stone, or even three or four huge stones, because otherwise it would be worth a lot more.

Monday, June 27, 2016

John Hill, plates from Vegetable System, 1759-86.

From the Getty.

Brexit and the English Nation

Tyler Cowen:
As I interpret what happened, ultimately the vote was about preserving the English nation, and yes I use those last two italicized words deliberately. For centuries, England has been filled with English people, plus some others from nearby regions. Go visit Norfolk and also stop in Great Yarmouth, once described by Charles Dickens as “…the finest place in the universe,” and which, for whatever decline it may have experienced, still looks and feels like England. London does not.

As Zack Beauchamp notes: “…the number of foreign-born people living in the UK has gone from 2.3 million in 1993 (when Britain joined the EU) to 8.2 million in 2014.” . . .

Cities such as Bradford, while still predominantly white, no longer feel as English as they once did. And if you are thinking that voting “Leave” does not at all limit Pakistani immigration, you are truly missing the point; this vote was the one lever the English were given for sending a message to their politicians. . . .

Quite simply, the English want England to stay relatively English, and voting Leave was the instrument they were given. . . .

Much has been made of the supposed paradox that opposition to immigration is highest where the number of immigrants is lowest. Yes, some of that is the racism and xenophobia of less cosmopolitan areas, but it would be a big mistake to dismiss it as such or even to mainly frame it as such. Most of all it is an endowment effect. Those are the regions which best remember — and indeed still live — some earlier notion of what England was like. And they wish to hold on to that, albeit with the possibility of continuing evolution along mostly English lines.

One way to understand the English vote is to compare it to other areas, especially with regard to immigration. If you read Frank Fukuyama, he correctly portrays Japan and Denmark, as, along with England, being the two other truly developed, mature nation states in earlier times, well before the Industrial Revolution. And what do we see about these countries? Relative to their other demographics, they are especially opposed to very high levels of immigration. England, in a sense, was the region “out on a limb,” when it comes to taking in foreigners, and now it has decided to pull back and be more like Denmark and Japan. The regularity here is that the coherent, longstanding nation states are most protective of their core identities. 
I regard these questions of immigration and identity as inherently hard. Many, many people simply want their world to stay the way it has been. It may be hard to write down in clear prose what that means, but Cowen is right that a place like Great Yarmouth feels English in a way that much of London does not. Is that inherently illegitimate? Is it simply racist and wrong to prefer a homeland of native-born English and fish and chips shops to a diverse neighborhood with dozens of nationalities and every sort of ethnic food?

The great example of a place that puts national identity first is Japan. As Japan's population ages and its economy stagnates, many outsiders assume that it must, at some point, open itself to large-scale immigration. But this view is not at all popular in Japan, and their government shows no sign of even considering it. Most Japanese prefer to live in an aging, shrinking, depressed nation that still feels Japanese, rather than invite in millions of immigrants who would re-invigorate the economy but change the culture. Are they wrong? Or, more important, do they have the right to make that decision?

I am myself a cosmopolitan, with very little interest in preserving American culture in whatever form. Given the choice that the people of Britain faced, I would choose a more open and worldly society; I would value the freedom to live wherever I wanted in Europe over the preservation of my native place as it used to be. But I am not at all sure that voting to keep your home as it was is inherently an illegitimate act.

Brexit and Betting Markets

Over the past few decades many contrarian types have been pushing political betting markets as a way to both predict the future and make important decisions. The idea is that when people are betting their money, they have a big incentive to get it right. So if the market is reflecting a false conventional wisdom, clever people will figure this out and bet against the market until the price reflects this greater cleverness:
Speculative market estimates are not perfect, but such markets seem to do very well when compared to other institutions. For example, racetrack market odds improve on the predictions of racetrack experts, Florida orange juice commodity futures improve on government weather forecasts, betting markets beat opinion polls at predicting U.S. election results, and betting markets consistently beat Hewlett Packard official forecasts at predicting Hewlett Packard printer sales. In general, it is hard to find information that is not embodied in market prices.
On the other hand, polls of the Brexit vote showed it very close, while the betting markets in London had Remain a 10-1 favorite. Seems like a pretty powerful case of market failure.

For an even bigger and more consequential failure, consider the mortgage-backed bond catastrophe of 2008.

I don't think there's any way of getting around the basic fact that financial markets reflect the shared assumptions of people with money. That wisdom may sometimes work better than other decision mechanisms – there is, after all, a whole lot of intelligence spent figuring out how to game these markets – but it still fails on a regular basis.

Moche Jewelry

Lovely stuff from the Moche Culture of Peru, c. 390-450 CE. Above, ear spools with condors, in the Met.

Nose ornament.

Ear spool with winged messenger.

Lessons from Recent Air Campaigns

British military writer Ben Nimmo offers five lessons from recent air campaigns in Libya, Syria and Yemen:
  1. The likelihood of "target creep" in which air strikes expand to an ever-growing list of target types;
  2. The likelihood of "force evolution," in which new types of assets are brought into theater to accelerate an apparently slow-moving campaign;
  3. The inevitability of civilian casualties; 
  4. The new information environment created by observers on the ground equipped with smart phones, camera, and satellite imagery; and
  5. The need for a coherent post-conflict reconstruction plan focused on providing immediate civilian services – "shoes on the ground" to accompany boots on the ground.
Most of this is old hat to anyone who reads the news. To me the most eye-opening section was on the challenges created by ubiquitous smart phones.
The presence of camera-enabled smart phones means any action – from an airstrike to a simple equipment move – not only can, but almost certainly will, be filmed and posted online in near real time, probably with its exact GPS coordinates. . . .

Soldiers who have their own smart phones can compromise operational security and become a potential diplomatic liability by posting indiscreet pictures of themselves online. Indeed, one of the first indications Russia was planning action in Syria was a set of social media posts from members of the 810th Marine Division showing them traveling and posing in Syria in early September 2015. The risk to security becomes particularly acute when the phone camera in question is GPS-enabled. The coordinates are then embedded in the photo file, allowing viewers to identify where the photo was taken almost to the square yard.

Even if troops on the ground can be persuaded not to post selfies – in itself a challenge – anyone else with a camera and internet access can quickly betray their presence. For example, the arrival in Libya of a team of twenty US commandos, as part of the campaign against ISIL, was immediately revealed when the Libyan Air Force posted pictures of them on its Facebook page.
Likewise things like the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government, or Russian bombing of US-allied rebels, also become immediately known to the world. I suppose spies these days spend more of their time searching Instagram than bribing agents or burglarizing secure buildings.

I am not sure that this has yet made much difference in terms of whether people are bombed or not, but it certainly bears thinking that operational military security will be very hard to achieve in the future.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

An Ancient Sock

From Egypt, 200 to 400 CE. In the British Museum.:
Sock for the left foot of a child with separation between the big toe and four other toes worked in 6 or 7 colours of wool yarn (several S-spun strands, Z-plied) in a single needle looping technique sometimes called naalebinding and worked from the toe upwards. Each toe is made separately from dark green wool (10 rows).

Victor Hugo's Drawings

I just recently discovered Victor Hugo's drawings, which I love. In fact I like them much better than his novels; the only thing he wrote that really wows me is the description of medieval Paris that serves as the introduction to The Hunchback of Notre Dame, one of the best pieces of historical writing I know. But anyway these drawings are amazing.

From an interesting little article in the Paris Review:
Victor Hugo wrote poetry, novels, and drama—more than enough for any mortal—but he also made some four thousand drawings over the course of his life. He was an adept draftsman, even an experimental one: he sometimes drew with his nondominant hand or when looking away from the page. If pen and ink were not available, he had recourse to soot, coal dust, and coffee grounds. He didn’t publish his drawings for fear they would distract from his projects as a writer.
(Octopus with the Letters VH, 1857)

As one might expect, Hugo had a particular fascination with two themes: castles and places of judgment and execution. (Castle of Schengen)

Souvenir of a Castle in the Vosges, 1857

I have found several of Hugo's castle drawings online with minimal information and small files, but anyway they give one an idea of his talent and interests.

Hugo's son, Charles, described the technique like this:
Once paper, pen, and inkwell have been brought to the table, [he] sits down and—without making a preliminary sketch, without any apparent preconception—sets about drawing with an extraordinarily sure hand: not the landscape as a whole, but any old detail. He will begin his forest with the branch of a tree, his town with a gable, his gable with a weathervane, and little by little, the entire composition will emerge from the blank paper with the precision and clarity of a photographic negative subjected to the chemical preparation that brings out the picture. That done, the draftsman will ask for a cup and will finish off his landscape with a light shower of black coffee. The result is an unexpected and powerful drawing that is often strange, always personal, and recalls the etchings of Rembrandt and Piranesi.
(A port in Flanders)

La Tourgue in 1835

Two drawings both titled The Hanged, from 1854 and 1855.

Town with a Broken Bridge, 1847

Madeleine Bridge, 1862

Le Gai Chateau

The Lighthouse.

Tour des Rats, 1840. So many wonders. The place to see these is at the Maisons Victor Hugo in Paris, which is often described as the most interesting small museum in the city.

Will Brexit Really Be that Bad?

Lots of hand-wringing today:
Britain’s historic vote to leave the European Union is already threatening to unravel a democratic bloc of nations that has coexisted peacefully together for decades. But it is also generating uncertainty about an even bigger issue: Is the post-1945 order imposed on the world by the United States and its allies unraveling, too?

Britain’s choice to retreat into what some critics of the vote suggest is a “Little England” status is just one among many loosely linked developments suggesting the potential for a reordering of power, economic relationships, borders and ideologies around the globe.

Slow economic growth has undercut confidence in traditional liberal economics, especially in the face of the dislocations caused by trade and surging immigration. Populism has sprouted throughout the West. Borders in the Middle East are being erased amid a rise in sectarianism. China is growing more assertive and Russia more adventurous. Refugees from poor and war-torn places are crossing land and sea in record numbers to get to the better lives shown to them by modern communications.

Accompanied by an upending of politics and middle-class assumptions in both the developed and the developing worlds, these forces are combining as never before to challenge the Western institutions and alliances that were established after World War II and that have largely held global sway ever since.
Or more pithily, from Timothy Garton Ash:
The unhappy English have delivered a body blow to the West, and to the ideals of international cooperation, liberal order and open societies to which England has in the past contributed so much.
I think this just an extension of the apocalyptic rhetoric we heard from Remain politicians before the vote, and which made them seem so unbelievable. If the "Post-War West" was not in a crisis in 1970, before Britain joined the EU, why is in crisis now? I don't see why there has to be continual movement toward "ever greater union" in Europe; why can't we just say, "that's enough union for now," or even "that's a bit too much and we should back off"? The EU is a grand project for Europe's future and a noble experiment in assembling an empire without force, but it is also a practical, bureaucratic operation that frankly hasn't ever worked very well. Perhaps instead of freaking out over the rejection of the grand project, people should instead ask how to make the details of EU governance work better.

I am not saying that I think everything is awesome in Europe. Europeans suffer from the same economic problems as Americans, viz., stagnating incomes for everyone but the rich, and increasing inequality, besides the deep Euro-inspired recessions in the south. More important, they suffer from the same loss of confidence in the future that troubles many Americans, a sense that things are slipping away rather than looking up.

Many people, especially older people, have reacted to the combination of economic stagnation and social change with a belligerent nostalgia for times they remember as simpler and better. I believe that is foolish, but it is certainly understandable. Nationalism is a powerful force partly because people find it comforting to belong to something huge and strong, and to celebrate their collective achievements. Instead of moaning about this, perhaps liberal internationalists should ask what they can do to assuage the underlying anxieties.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

George Will Quits the Republican Party

Calls Trump "Voldemort" for good measure. Asked what anti-Trump conservatives should do about the Donald, Will said, "Make sure he loses."


From an interesting article in the New Yorker:
Estimates of the number of bacteria—5,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000—are higher than for all the stars.
And on the effectiveness of antibiotics:
It is absurd to believe that we could ever claim victory in a war against organisms that outnumber us by a factor of 1022, that outweigh us by a factor of 108, that have existed for a thousand times longer than our species, and that can undergo as many as five hundred thousand generations during one of our generations.

Scythian Pin

600 to 400 BCE