This Ruthless World

Adventures in absurdity

Weird and Unusual Things I’ve Eaten and Drunk:  A Post In Memory of Anthony Bourdain

StillLife

This post was born out of my vague but unrelenting depression over the suicide of Anthony Bourdain (and the predictable Trumpist reaction to it, which I am not going to link to).  I wanted to lighten the mood, so I started making a list of some “out there” foods and drinks that I’ve enjoyed (not always literally) over the course of my life.  

And you know, a strange and wonderful thing happened.

Those who read my blog know I don’t have a particularly sunny disposition.  I tend towards gloom and pessimism, and I absolutely abhor mental exercises meant to be inspirational and uplifting. So it came as a surprise when it occurred to me after making this list:  my life has been AWESOME.  I’ve been so focused on tragedy, danger, melancholy, anxiety, that I forgot, for a long time, to stop and look back and marvel at what an amazing adventure it’s been so far.  I am at once overjoyed, and not a little creeped out by the fact that this unexpected ray of sunshine came into my life from such horror and sadness.

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Not A Real Criminal: An Elegy For Aaron Persky’s Judicial Career

"Timoclea Kills the Captain of  Alexander the Great" (Elisabetta Sirani, 1659)This week, the voters of Santa Clara County, California, recalled Judge Aaron Persky by a large margin.  Good riddance.

In 2016, Persky presided over  the trial of Brock Turner, a Stanford freshman convicted of rape assault with the intent to commit rape and “penetration of an intoxicated woman”. The case generated a tornado of media coverage, and featured a shattering victim impact statement, an  obnoxious dad and  sanctimonious victim-blaming.  Persky sentenced Turner to six months in jail (he ultimately only served three) and three years’ probation.  The sentence was widely condemned as shockingly lenient, considering the circumstances of the crime, and ultimately cost Persky his judgeship.

During the nasty, messy recall campaign Persky’s defenders have been both vocal and eloquent in their opposition. The argument of the anti-recall campaign boils down to the idea that Persky merely followed California’s sentencing guidelines, which enumerate factors relevant to considering leniency.* Another, frankly paradoxical, justification for Persky’s sentence is that the guidelines simultaneously give judges a lot of discretion in sentencing AND somehow tie judges’ hands.  If you care about this case, I urge you to read not only the victim’s impact statement, but also  Brock Turner’s statement and Judge Persky’s  sentencing decision.  Having read all those, here is where I believe Persky and his defenders went wrong:

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Why The Academia Is Mean To Conservatives: A Listicle

Vedran Smailović playing cello in the ruins of the Sarajevo library; photo by Mikhail Evstafiev

Library of Sarajevo, 1992. Muscular and ethnic identitarian ideas well-represented.

Why are American colleges and universities so liberal? That’s one college-related question you hear right-wingers ask often.  “Why are there so few conservative professors?” is another.  Why are conservative viewpoints not being taught?  Why are college students so “intolerant” of free speech, specifically speech that advocates white “identitarianism” and “political incorrectness”? Why are the academia such snowflakes?

Now, I could go into great detail about how conservatives actually do have a sizable (and loud) presence on college campuses, and how extreme allegations about colleges “indoctrinating” students or “teaching communism” come from people who have never set foot in the academia. But, while this is true, I want to acknowledge that at the end of the day, the academia does lean markedly left. The purpose of this entry isn’t to dispute the degree of the lean; it’s to explain why it leans left at all.  So if you are a conservative and you are wondering why college students and teachers are generally hostile to conservatism,  here is your multipart answer.

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Your Halloween Post, Plus An Answer To Your Dad’s Question „How Is Studying Medieval History In Any Way Useful?“

charlesthebadI’ve been hesitating to write about this incident for some time.  I have a couple of guidelines for my Halloween posts that are not easy to meet: the post must be horror-themed, it must be about a true story, but it may not treat human suffering as a source of amusement.  (I guess that pretty much encapsulates the problem with Halloween as such.)  I therefore must apologize to my readers in advance that this post deals with an absolutely horrific death that I wouldn’t wish on my own worst enemy.  If it makes any difference, the victim was a very, very bad person.  Very bad.  So bad, in fact, that „the Bad“ became his royal moniker.  I am, of course, talking about Charles the Bad a/k/a Charles Le Mauvais(*) a/k/a Charles II, King of Navarre from 1349 to 1387.

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This Week In News: Tell Me Who Your Friends Are

Pieter Breughel the Younger, "Drunkard On An Egg" (late 16th-early 17th centuries)“Tell me what company though keepest and I’ll tell thee what thou art.”

~ Miguel de Cervantes, Don Quixote, Chapter XXIII

This past week’s news cycle has been dominated by the mind-numbing scandal over whether presidents call the families of fallen soldiers and which presidents do it better (or at all).  To recap, this is how it all went down, following a by-now well-trod path familiar to kindergarteners: first Trump insinuated that Obama never called any families to  offer condolences for fallen service members; next, this allegation was proven false; next, Sarah Huckabee Sanders doubled down on the false claim; then a Democratic Congresswoman from Florida, Frederica Wilson, accused Trump of making an insensitive remark to a military widow during a phone call; in response, Trump accused Wilson of fabrication; and it went downhill from there.  As much as I despise Trump, this was, initially, an example of the outrage machine going into overdrive.  It is well-known that Trump is inarticulate and has an obnoxious delivery, so he couldn’t convey a sensitive statement like one of condolences for a loved one if his life depended on it.  Trump made a doody on Twitter, because it’s just another day (in paradise).

What was remarkable, however, was his Chief of Staff, John Kelly’s deeply shameful press conference on Thursday.  In his statement (that the reviled Librul Fake News Media for some reason tended to characterize as “moving”), he essentially confirmed Wilson’s account of Trump’s phone call to the widow, but then attacked Wilson with a fresh claim that was proven false within hours.  I don’t want to rehash all the back-and-forth.  Here is a good summary.

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Friday Shorts: This Week in News

Welcome to Friday Shorts and this week’s news roundup.

On the menu: (1) Columbus Day nonsense; (2) Sessions’ asylum law freakout; and (3) Las Vegas/Weinstein.

 

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Run It Like A Business, Part 2: The Myth Of The For-Profit Democracy

Mikhail Kostin, "In Stalin's Factory" (1949)Part 1

One of the justifications that Trump supporters invariably offer for putting a bunch of business executives in charge of the country is that the US needs to be operated like a for-profit business.  Who wouldn’t like America’s governance to resemble the Trump Organization?  I suppose your average well-to-do Trumper dreams of the days when this whole land will be a Trump golf course, and assumes he’ll be among those who tee off in goofy outfits, and not one of the grossly underpaid, ill-treated staff.

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Run It Like A Business, Part 1: The Myth of Valuable “Business Experience”

Louis Alexandre Eustache Loursay, "Les Incroyables" (1975)My sincerest hope for the eventual aftermath of the Trumpist era is that we can finally put to bed the ludicrous notion that career businessmen make good statesmen for no other reason than  their business experience.

I imagine far-off future students of history chuckling at our era, when a big chunk of the country lost its goddamned mind and came to believe that wealth and self-serving dealing alone were the most desirable traits in a political leader; when people who were knowledgeable about their jobs were scoffed at; when the prior President’s experience in public service was invoked as a slur, as if being an actual public servant is a character flaw that should irreparably disqualify one from the Presidency.

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The Myth Of Parties Of Ideas

Louis-Léopold Boilly, "Les Hommes se disputent" (1818)Trump’s surprising win in 2016 led to a wide proliferation of myths about why the Democrats lost.  As I’ve been saying since Day 1, most of those pithy analyses are ludicrous, and I am glad that at least now, six months in, some professional commentators are waking up to the reality that there is no point in courting the elusive Trump Voter.  Still, many of these myths persist.  Today’s entry into the Trump Era Hot Takes Hall of Fame is the myth of progressives having “no ideas”.

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What Does This Movie Mean? Ancient Greece in 1980’s Texas: The Coens’ “Blood Simple”

MV5BOWQwZTFhNTYtN2I5Ny00MDVlLTkwMDgtMzBhZGU5NTFlOTMzL2ltYWdlXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTk1NTMyNzM@._V1_SY500_CR0,0,354,500_AL_Lets begin by dispelling a common misconception among the movie’s following:  Julian Marty is not Greek — at least not literally.  He merely references Greece in conversation parallel to how Loren Visser references Russia.  Thus, the subtext of the movie immediately sets up this juxtaposition:  Greece, the land of civilization, versus Russia, the land of bears.  But then, the Coens immediately complicate it by assigning each symbol the other’s qualities:  Greece is where “they cut off the head of the messenger” if he brings bad news, and Russia is  an ordered society where everyone pulls for everyone else (“that’s the theory, anyway”, as Visser qualifies it).  The line between civilization and nature, order and chaos, refinement and barbarity, reason and impulse, can never be presumed — and nowhere is this more true than in a watering hole.

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