Day: 2015.08.27

Just a Music Moment (The Microorganism)

Boiled in Lead, 'From the Ladle to the Grave' (Omnium Records, 1989).  Composite including detail of cover art.

In truth, I can’t believe it took me this long. You know, as if I really need an excuse for a plague song.

In April, when your barge sailed through, I fell in love with you; alas! my paramour, alack! a stranger to me ’til the test comes back. O! the microorganism! O! the microorganism! Dive in the gene pool, down you swim, down to where the light grows thin. Flail, little fishies, flail if you can, but avoid the microorganism man. O! the microorganism! O! the microorganism. Caffeine, sugar, and THC is all the doctors are gonna find in me when they do the autopsy, the microorganism won’t get me. O! the microorganism! O! the microorganism. God is good, and God is great; God’s a big invertebrate. God made the river change its route, but He won’t pull the microorganism out. O! the microorganism! O! the microorganism! The cowslips bloom, and the bluebells to; here’s advice I’ll give to you: Rattle your sword before you strike, and never kiss anyone you like. O! the microorganism! O! the microorganism!

Boiled in Lead, “The Microorganism” (1989)

(more…)

A Growing Nuclear Arsenal

Detail of the flag of Pakistan.

The first thing to not do is panic:

A new report by two American think tanks asserts that Pakistan may be building 20 nuclear warheads annually and could have the world’s third-largest nuclear stockpile within a decade.

The report by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and the Stimson Center concludes that Pakistan is rapidly expanding its nuclear capabilities because of fear of its archrival, India, also a nuclear power. The report, which will be released Thursday, says Pakistan is far outpacing India in the development of nuclear warheads.

To the other, neither is Tim Craig’s report for the Washington Post what we might call encouraging.

Something about the #GOP47 goes here, and maybe Congress might consider doing its job instead of whining like Republicans … er … ah … oh. Right.

Still, though, there is a reason this is all happening, and it’s not exactly newsα. In terms of geopolitics, the American conservative handwringing about the P5+1 nonproliferation accord with Iran seems ever more ridiculous, and could very well prove dangerous.

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α See also:

Dhoundial, Shreva. “Indian Army denies any ‘unusual’ Pakistan troop along the border in J&K”. IBN Live. 2 January 2015.

Farooq, Umar. “Afghanistan-Pakistan: The Covert War”. The Diplomat. 1 January 2014.

Toosi, Nahal. “Swat Valley: Scenic Pakistani Region Falls To Taliban Militants”. The Huffington Post. 29 January 2009.

Dugger, Celia W. “Big Troop Buildup Mounted by India and Pakistan”. The New York Times. 25 December 2001.

Benen, Steve. “After sabotage letter, Cotton wants US to ‘speak with one voice'”. msnbc. 26 August 2015.

—————. “GOP discovers it doesn’t like filibusters after all”. msnbc. 27 August 2015.

Craig, Tim. “Report: Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal could become the world’s third-biggest”. The Washington Post. 27 August 2015.

Every Little Thing the Reflex Does (Clarence Mark Remix)

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas laughs while talking with other guests at The Federalist Society's 2011 Annual Dinner. (Cliff Owen/Associated Press)

This seems significant:

Justice Clarence Thomas has not asked a question from the Supreme Court bench since 2006. His majority opinions tend to be brisk, efficient and dutiful.

Now, studies using linguistic software have discovered another Thomas trait: Those opinions contain language from briefs submitted to the court at unusually high rates.

The findings that the taciturn justice’s opinions appear to rely heavily on the words of others do not suggest misconduct — legal writing often tracks source materials — but they do illuminate his distinctive role on the court.

Since his views on major legal questions can be idiosyncratic and unlikely to command a majority, he is particularly apt to be assigned the inconsequential and technical majority opinions that the justices call dogs. They often involve routine cases involving taxes, bankruptcy, pensions and patents, in which shared wording is particularly common.

Justice Thomas’s seven majority opinions in the last term were on average just 12 pages long and contained little but a summary of the facts and quotations from or characterizations of the relevant statutes and precedents. Since opinions are signed by justices but often drafted by law clerks, it may be that any borrowed language was the work of Justice Thomas’s clerks.

(Liptak)

It is true that such notions and the details from which they arise seem to many people obscure, or even petty. But to even casual observers of the Supreme Court, Justice Thomas is something of an enigma. And every time we get a glimpse into how he undertakes his role and duties as a Supreme Court Justice, we only end up with more questions, each stranger than the last.

But that’s the thing; compared to other aspects of his tenure, this isn’t exactly scandalous. In questions of scandal, it is just another piece of data that could be construed as relevant. Without worrying about such questions of scandal, this really is fascinating.

No, really:

In June, he slipped in a playful aside. What he had just read, a description of synthetic drugs, he said to laughter, was “a sentence which I completely do not understand.”

Still, there is actually a lot more to Adam Liptak’s report for the New York Times; and, yes, it really is fascinating.

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Image note: Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas laughs while talking with other guests at The Federalist Society’s 2011 Annual Dinner. (Cliff Owen/Associated Press)

Liptak, Adam. “A Supreme Court Justice of Few Words, Many of Them Other People’s”. The New York Times. 27 August 2015.