Thursday, December 30, 2010

Covering Himself With Glory

How many times has the current administration called the ACA Obamacare without scare quotes?  None, that's how many. 

For example
Q    How many of the Democrats -- of the 219 Democrats who voted for “Obamacare” have invited the President to campaign for them in their districts this fall?
MR. GIBBS:  I don't have a political schedule in front of me, Lester.
Q    Since not one of the Republicans in the House voted for “Obamacare,” and 32 Democrats voted against --
MR. GIBBS:  Do you mean -- I'm sorry, I'm confused.  Do you mean by that the law that the President signed yesterday?
Q    “Obamacare,” yes.
MR. GIBBS:  Okay, I just was -- I didn't know if that was the Internet vernacular or the name of the bill, Lester.  I was a little confused.

How silly is Matt Yglesias?  Very.
Incidentally, I’m glad to see that the “Affordable Care Act” lingo that I started trying to popularize months ago as an alternative to “ObamaCare” has been taken up by the administration.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A Path to Citizenship

The repeal of DADT is the first step toward full equality not only because military service and citizenship are tightly linked in the "western tradition" but also because of the generational split it exposes between and among Conservatives. So, I say, well done Obama well done.

Why I Despair of Glibertarian Gibberish

Matt Yglesias is not, I argue, a serious human being.  His is, rather, an ideological Jack-in-the- box who spouts the usual Glibertarian nonsense at the drop of a regulation. Today he celebrates the beginning  of the end of the regulatory regime painstakingly put in place between 1906 and 1976 with a post lauding Alfred Kahn for deregulating airlines.  This deregulation, he argues, did, in fact, lead to air transportation being "sucky" but only because that's what people wanted.  He offers no evidence for people wanting sucky air transportation but, one assumes, his certainty arises from some Glibbertarian bedrock, like the wisdom of markets.

Airlines have the third lowest customer satisfaction rating on the University of Michigan's survey and, according to the same source, passenger volume was down 6% in 2009.  On average 66% of customers are satisfied with airlines. It's difficult to spin those numbers into evidence of giving people what they want.

But, he might reply -- as he does in the post, that the cost is lower and besides all that luxury of yesteryore was an inefficient use of scarce resources, no really. Costs, it's true, declined but since 2001 have risen kind of dramatically, to say nothing of the nearly 5 billion in 2001 tax payers gave the airlines for free.  From June 2003 until October 2010, the most recent data available, just over 20 percent of all flights arrived late.  Airline passengers don't like paying for baggage and miss the "inefficient" luxuries of the past. There is also problems with maintenance and such like.

So, has deregulation been a success? No.  Is there any evidence that consumers are getting what they want? No.  Is this one more example of Yglesias talking out of his hat because he is a neo-Liberal?  Yes.

Why on earth does Think Progress pay someone to make zombie Reaganite, Thatcherite, neo-Liberal and Glibbertarian arguments?

Andrew Sullivan

John Cole, over to Balloon Juice, is complaining about Andrew Sullivan's stupidity, which is fine.  It ought not go unnoticed, however, that Sullivan created Yglesias and both are equally sillily illogical and ideological bedfellows. Indeed, every time one complains about Sullivan, McArdle, or some other Glibertarian, it ought to be mandatory to include Yglesias.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Google Research

Lots of folks have been all agog at the new Google Ngam Viewer, which searches Google books for words or phrases and then graphs their occurrence.  Here is an image of one such for hitler:

Here's another for Hitler:

Here's another on terrorism versus Terrorism

 In any event, the next time you see some clever Charlies making some kind of argument based on Ngram evidence treat it with all the respect it deserves. Really researching any topic of interest, as opposed to the intellectual sloth that is the Google, is a lot of work.  Something like this might serve as the first step in a long term study but it would have to e a tentative and halting first step.

Friday, December 24, 2010

In a Nutshell

A real professional and trained economist makes a substantive point about the concrete economic situation and Matt Yglesias, with his B.A. in philosophy and long history of being ill informed, "proves" that the actual economist is wrong. How?, you ask.  Thusly, he responds:
Imagine a recession that begins at a time when nominal interest rates are 9 percent.
That's right he creates an imaginary crisis that, if properly misunderstood and badly analyzed, proves that a professional no nothing is right.  To which I would respond, imagine a world in which knowing something was a prerequisite for making claims of knowledge.  In such a world, we would be be free of Douthat, Brooks, Freidman and his related units, almost all of the WaPo editorial page, and, perhaps most importantly, Palin.

edited for clarity.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Shut Up, Already.

Matt Yglesias should.  Today he informs us that

I think the only reasonable way to play the American politics game is “by the rules as written.” That’s why it made sense for the Republican minority to spend so much of the 111th Congress exploiting the possibilities for obstruction in an unprecedented way, and that’s why it made sense for the Democratic majority to use the “lame duck” session to pass a bunch of good bills.
Unless, of course, you think that politics isn't a game but rather an attempt to govern in a way that allows the majority to implement its policies will seeking to influence those policies instead of using various tricksies to bring the government to a halt which then requires the lame duck.

In addition, a chart

For much of the past few years, the filibuster wasn't an important arrow in the quiver and was only used rarely.  What changed on or about 19890?  Could it be the creation of an increasingly ideologically driven Republican party that lost all interest in governing because, you know, theory matters more than fact?  Could it be that opposition by filibuster only makes sense if you're the sort of brutally silly person who thinks abstractly? In short, does it makes sense only if you are speaking Yglesianism?

Mistakenly Mistaken

As is her wont, Meagan McArdle made some kind of a math error which she refused to admit.  Ultimately, however, she did admit that she was wrong mathematically with various caveats. Shortly after her non-magnanimous admission of error, she posted a long list of Paul Krugman's errors. As evidence, of a sort, that all pundits err and to err is human and etc.  The thing is that there is a difference between predicting what will happen and simple division. In other words, her persistent errors of fact are not the equivalent of some errors of fortune telling.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

When Birds of a Feather Flocking Together Means Considerable Less Than Jonah Goldberg Thinks It Does

Jonah Goldberg likes to point out that important Progressives thought Eugenics was important.  Recently, he repeated this dodge as it relates to J. M. Keynes and others. Here's a fact, belief in Eugenics as the way forward cut across political ideologies (on page 69 a Socialist worked with Conservatives on the very Eugenics organization on which Keynes sat). Imagine a Bruce Springstein appreciation society meeting at which you could find Chris Christie, Jon Stewart, Ronald Reagan and me.  Or ask your self if a belief in Eugenics is central to Keynes' economic theory by considering the fact that contemporary Keynesians have to accept Eugenics, hint Paul Krugman.  If you want to know if you ought trust Keynes on race the answer is no; does this fact delegitimate  Keynes economic theory? The answer is, again, no. Oh, and as by the way, Robert Heinlein was a sci-fi writer, Glibertarianl, and he promoted Eugenics in the Lazarus Long novels and short stories, does that prove that sci-fi and Glibertarianism are beyond the pale?

Consider, as by the way, Bertram Russel.  He was a brilliant logician and made seminal contributions to logic; he was also a cad and bounder in his private romantic life.  Does the latter tell against the former?  No. Bringing the latter up to erode the former is a nearly perfect example of the ad hominem fallacy. The same is true of Keynes and Eugenics or Progressives and Eugenics.  Most, which is to say all the non Eugenical, desires of Progressives did not and do not hinge on Eugenics. Even more worser, the Catholic Church denied that the earth moved round the sun and condemn as heresy those, like Galileo, who said it did. Will Goldberg declare war on the church? And what about witchcraft trials? Protestants and Catholics murdered innocents they declared witches.  Sure, few of either confession would today do the same, but still the historical record is clear.  Will he reject Christianity?  It's beyond boobocracy.

Consider, as by the way, Teddy Roosevelt, Progressive in chief.  He believed, among other hateful things, in American Execeptionalism, Conservationism, and Imperialism.  Must contemporary Conservatives reject AE because TR wanted to protect wet lands and created bird sanctuaries?  The question answers itself.

Goldberg has his head up his fundament because he doesn't understand that no one is always right, except God and me.

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Metaphysics of Bullshit, in the Frankfurter Sense of Bullshit

Recently, Paul Krugman has been explaining to people who get their economic analyis from Glenn Beck that there is no necessary connection between the money supply, specifically M1, and inflation. He also makes the point that as a concrete matter of fact there is more than one money supply, M2 and there used to be an M3, because what counts as money for specific purposes changes as the circumstances change. Matt Yglesias reads this and decides that his BA in philosophy is just the thing to clarify the situation for Krugman. Leaving aside the silliness and gigantic self-regard encapsulated therein, Yglesias succeeds in proving that a debit card is more convenient than a sack filled with dollar coins. It's arguments like that that make him such a respected public intellectual.

But wait there's more.  On December 17th in the course of a rambling discussion of why being a giving the people what they want if you are a corporation bent only on profit maximization is okay for soulless corporations but not for principled politicians, Yglesias asserts, among other assertions of equal or lesser value, that
[t]he executives of Darden Restaurants are basically trying to make money. And so are the owners of the firm. And that’s fine. Most of us aren’t so distressed by the idea that the firm is, on some level, a soulless money-making machine.
Of course, you know, lots of folks have problems with corporations pursuing profit in a mindless and soulless fashion.  Many of those are progressives who have sought through suasion and regulation to convince or force corporations to behave as if they had, if not souls, at least some sense of social justice. Neo-Liberals, Reaganites, Thatcherites, Glibbertarians, and Ayn Rand have no problem with soulless corporations pursuing profit regardless of social cost, but, even with Yglesias steadfastly doing their bidding, they are a minority.

But wait, there is yet more.  On December 18th, he quotes someone proving that
[s]ince 1978, productivity in the nonfarm business sector is up 86%, but real compensation per hour (which includes fringe benefits) is up just 37%. Does that seem fair? 
and responds:
Not to me. But I think that progressive discussions of this phenomenon wind up over complicating things when contemplating the causes.
He tries to side step the obvious cause, soulless corporations mindlessly pursuing profit regardless of the social cost, by blaming the Fed. 

Yglesias either can't or won't see that he has a problem with soulless corporations pursing profits mindlessly because if he did his whole neo-Liberal enterprise comes crashing down. Why, one wonders, who a guy working for an allegedly progressive think tank see fit to espouse the most hackney Conservative gobbledygook instead of making the case that, you know, corporations that soullessly seek to maximize their profits are going to act like soulless corporations seeking to maximize their profits by screwing their workers and ruining the environment? This position, which I believe to be true based on the actual history of capitalism in these United States, long may she allow countries to drift into her imperial orbit, is, go figure, at the heart of the Progressive agenda as developed by Roosevelt and improved on by, you know, those great Americans bent on improving America by reining in corporations through suasion and regulation.

In short, were he not committed to a life of the mind built on bullshit, in the Frankfurtian sense, Yglesias would have to think about what he thinks instead of just writing whatever glib contrarian thought he finds ready to hand.

Saturday, December 18, 2010


Yah team. So, how, one wonders, is the repeal of DADT a slap in the face by Obama to various liberal/left groups?

Relatedly, John McCain waxes incoherent:

And Rachel Maddow exposes his flippidy floppitdy:

Just imagine if that warmongering nutbar was our president.

Friday, December 17, 2010


This bike is beautiful; if it had fenders it would be godlike.

Like this one:


Falls Don't Always Fall

Niagara dried up.

Pictures here.


Working at The Wrong Shop

Matt Yglesias is.  The proper response to Republican obstructionism:
In this lame duck session, Senate Republicans are grasping at every possible reason to “run out the clock” on any Democratic priority. Their brazen obstruction, however, took some victims last week when they used another filibuster to block the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act of 2010. Named after a New York City policeman who died from health complications, this legislation that provides health care to 9/11 first responders and emergency workers who suffered illnesses from working at Ground Zero.
From Think Progress, where the Liberal Lion Yglesias touts obstructionism as a sign of being a serious legislator. 

This is why Taibbi wouldn't be happy with a debate dominated by Yglesias and other faux center-left commentators.

Missing The Point Yet Even More

Matt Yglesias writes for an progressive think tank. All progressives and most Americans believe that an accused fellow citizen is innocent until proven guilty.  Lots of his and my fellow citizens think that Wikileaks is no big deal and to the extent that it is a big deal it's a good thing.  What Yglesias thinks about the second point, I don't know; what he thinks about the first point is illuminated here (via here):
So as best I can tell Manning is, in fact, guilty of serious crimes.
What does this mean?  As best he can tell from? Press releases? The Government's accusations?  The various stuff floating hither and yon on the web?

Another thing all progressives and many Americans believe is that the state ought to improve prison condition particularly for individuals awaiting trial because they have yet to be convicted and, consequently, are presumed innocent.  Yglesias thinks
Somewhat punitive post-arrest pre-trial measures are kind of a necessary evil, but the prolonged confinement of Manning under cruel conditions go well beyond the necessary into the straightforward evil.
So Manning's treatment is "evil" but some lesser form of the "evil" is "kind of necessary" because? It's irresponsible to reform prisons and jails unless that reform involves the destruction of unions and decreasing prison workers salaries?

Is it the case that Yglesias has been making bad arguments for so long that he has now ascended to the Broderosphere where he is free at last, thank God almighty free at last, to simply assert position central to the progressive worldview, in this case reform of necessary evils, i.e., prisons and jails, will lead inexorably to a humane system of incarceration for the presumed innocent as well as the proven guilty  fellow citizens hapless enough to fall afoul of the state's policing function.

And while were at it Megan McCardle, in a similar wrong-headed analysis of something else, she comes up with two tiers of crime: white collared and blue collared:
This is basically a variant of complaints that white-collar crime is treated less harshly than blue collar crime.  And there's some justice in the complaints--white collar crimes usually involve larger sums, and the people who commit them can rarely claim that they are victims of society.
White-collared crime is clear to all: Madoffesque stuff.  Blue-collared crime is? Calling in sick when you're well? Does she mean "ordinary" crimes like murder, rape, and etc?  Does she mean to suggest that only the lower orders commit such crimes?  She seems to because she, humorously?, suggests that the lower orders who can blame society for their crimes, as in Kniock Any Door starring Humphrey Bogart, commit blue collared crimes.

And those of us who want to tax the rich to pay for the things we need tomorrow today are accused of class warfare; McArdle classifies violent crimes as the work of only the lower orders.

Would it surprise you to know that they are pals?

Yglesias on private mass transportation
And, yes, I’m well-aware that none of this is going to happen any time soon. But I think people are oftentimes insufficiently utopian in their thinking about public policy. Think about how different policy was in 1960 compared to today.
Got that? When in comes to incarceration of the presumably innocent some degree of abuse is a "necessary evil" when it comes to making a buck off of getting from here to there, people just aren't clapping loud enough.


Yesterday, I watched this guy quiz Timothy Geitner on lot of things but one of them was why Geitner wasn't trying harder to get banks to absorb more of the losses associated with underwater homeowners.  It actually took Silvers three tries before Geitner would even address the issue of lowering banks' profits.  One weird exchange, it was.  It seemed as though Geitner had no idea that lowering profits, as opposed to funding homeowner bailouts, was possible.  Indeed, Geitner claimed that the government couldn't do a thing when it came to banks' profits; hands tied, not possible, he said.  Why on earth would that be, one wonders?  If what Geitner said was true, and Silver thought that it wasn't, it is almost as if the governments only power over banks is to give them money when they get drunk and blow it on hookers and bad drugs or mortgage backed securities, whichever comes first.

In any event, the whole thing is worth watching, if only for Geitner's cluelessness when it comes to effective regulation and the government's power to persuade. 

Missing the Point

Matt Yglesias some time ago:
Mitch McConnell is a bad man, but he's very good at his job:
2 hours ago from TweetDeck
He refers to this article which details McConnell's decision to stop the Senate from governing by threatening Republican senators who wanted to work with the Democratic majority to, you know, govern.  This kind of procedural obstruction to bipartisan action on the various problems confronting the US right now is  a being "very good"  minority leader because Yglesias is under the misapprehension that being an obstructionist is the hallmark of a good legislator in a democratic system.  In other words, he is a dolt.  Unless, of course, like him you make your decision on good and bad based on some set of ideological abstractions that protect you from any concrete realities.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

More On Bernie Sanders

So, he has a web page with video casts, here's one, and comments.  Unlike many Conservatives who either do not have or robustly censor their comments, Sanders lets freedom ring, which -- in this case -- means that a lot of the comments are Ayn Randian and Austrian in tone; this makes for a odd dissonance.

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Economic Problem in a Nutshell

Fred Clark on the arithmetic of mass lay offs:
The most recent figures, if you want to be precise: 14.2 million looking for work; 3.4 million job openings. That means 10.8 million Americans right now, today, are royally, epically screwed.
That means it wouldn't matter if every unemployed American followed all the advice for what job-seekers are supposed to do. If every single one of them keeps a positive attitude while still being willing to settle for less, if each and every one of them takes classes and volunteers to keep their skills sharp, if each and every one networks furiously, gets up every morning, showers, shaves and gets dressed for the office before sending out dozens of perfect, enticingly crafted résumés all day, every day, then 10.8 million of them will still not find jobs because there are 10.8 million fewer jobs than there are job seekers.

Representing Interests

One of the points Bernie Sanders is making is that far too much of what the Congress does takes from lower and middle class Americans and gives to the wealthiest among us and that the taxes code is skewed in favor of the rich and the Republicans are making things worse for the vast majority of America.  Jonah Goldberg, in his reliable wrong way, insists that one support for the middle class isn't socialism, as he understands it -- which is a round about way of saying he hasn't got a clue of what Sanders' Democratic Socialism is,  and two, following Burke, that legislators owe us their judgment.

In terms of two,  Sanders' correct judgment is that the current system is screwing working and middle class Americans, that is the vast majority of Americans, and legislating in the interests of a wealthy and powerful minority and the American congress needs to stop doing this.  Instead of making a coherent, let alone intelligent, argument about how this position is wrong, hint: it's not, Goldberg makes a series of non-sequitors that serve to illuminate his inability to understand an argument.

After nearly 30 years of neo-Liberals like Goldberg and Yglesisas, and the rest ruining this country you would think that at the very least they would be able to make a coherent argument in favor of the policies that have crippled America.


Bernie Sanders is on CSPAN right now complaining intelligently about the tax deal, and he has promised to continue until his boy ranger legs can no longer support him.  He is a great American.

If nothing else Sanders is making in public from a position of some importance the best available arguments against the dominate neo-Liberal consensus that holds that the best way to protect the country and improve the economy requires screwing the vast majority of Americans by following a neo-Liberal path already shown to lead off a cliff.

Blaming Obama

The tax deal is appalling and shouldn't be passed as negotiated.  It's not appalling because Obama is a wretched human being; it's appalling because it is bad policy.  Gitmo's continuation is equally appalling.  But it isn't Obama who is responsible.  So while I agree that
[i]t is morally wrong to support a president who keeps open GITMO, escalates wars and begins new ones, gives taxpayers' monies to bail out banks, lowers workers' pay, and cuts taxes for the rich when the poor are desperate.
I disagree that Obama is responsible for all that stuff as he is one actor among many.  He is wrong about the taxes and wrong about the wage freeze but right about extending unemployment and right to try and stop GITMO over Congressional objections, right about DADT, the banks are paying back the money and propping up GM and Chrysler was the right thing to do, the health care reform is a good first step, and so on. If you were right all the time you'd be god or me.

Another Article I Never Finished Reading

The opening paragraph:
On August 8, 1897, Michele Angiolillo, an Italian anarchist, shot Antonio Cánovas del Castillo, the Prime Minister of Spain. Cánovas had dominated Spanish politics for decades, even during periods when he was nominally out of office, helping shore up Spain’s tottering monarchy and its possession of Cuba and the Philippines through torture and wide-scale military repression. Spanish imperialism in the Americas died with him: Cuba and the Philippines soon drifted out of Spain’s sphere of control and into that of the United States. A bullet from an anarchist’s pistol had changed global politics.
In the first instance, Canovas's policies had already failed before his death and, what is more, even had he lived Spain was in no position to retain its empire.  More importantly neither Cuba nor the Philippines "drifted" into the growing American empire.  Cuba was winning its long struggle for independence from Spanish rule when the USA stepped in. Initially, we went to aide our friends to the south in the brave struggle for liberty until imperialists realized that we could win Cuba for America at which point the Cubans went from brave liberty strugglers to inept racial inferiors who need our help in gaining and maintaining their freedom and liberty.  It really is a sordid little tale, much like the violent takeover and occupation of the Philippines. 

If you cannot face fairly and squarely the US's use of violence to create an empire why should I think you can get the ins and outs of anarchism right?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Nailing Wikileaks

In a long essay, Charli Carpenter revisits Julian Assange and continues to find her kid's argument the better.  She is, I thought, wrong about the insight of her wise child, full of grace though it undoubtedly is. One of her current complaints about Assange is equally wrong-headed. Building on others' essay about what Assange thinks, as opposed to reading Assange himself, she argues that Assange is not consistent in his arguments for transparency and at different times deploys different justifications that fall into three main categories: information wants to be free, transparency will lead to reform, and rendering states and governments so paranoid that they cannot continue to function.  I am not sure why this is a problem as none, as far as I can tell  and she doesn't show that they are, are contradictory.  It is not clear why offering three effective justifications for an action is problematic.

She also notes that states and governments can function secretively and yet effectively because it is difficult to prosecute for genocide. Guess what?  It is difficult to prosecute for lots of things and the difficulty of one of the more difficult is not an argument against what Assange is doing.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010


This wordless graphic novel, which is a kind of odd novel in as much as it has no words, is well worth viewing.


No, You're Wrong, You're Very Wrong

Matt Yglesias quotes Matt Taibbi on fake left-wing pundits:
[t]his career path is so well-worn in our business, it’s like a Great Silk Road of pseudoleft punditry. First step: graduate Harvard or Columbia, buy some clothes at Urban Outfitters, shore up your socially liberal cred by marching in a gay rights rally or something, then get a job at some place like the American Prospect. Then once you’re in, spend a few years writing wonky editorials gently chiding Jane Fonda liberals for failing to grasp the obvious wisdom of the WTC or whatever Bob Rubin/Pete Peterson Foundation deficit-reduction horseshit the Democratic Party chiefs happen to be pimping at the time. Once you’ve got that down, you just sit tight and wait for the New York Times or the Washington Post to call. It won’t be long.
And then insists that although he
think[s] it’s safe to say that Taibbi is somewhat to the left of the TAP alumni of the world it seems to me that a hypothetical universe in which Bob Kuttner, Harold Meyerson, Josh Marshall, Jons Cohn & Chait, Ezra Klein, Dana Goldstein, and myself dominated the public debate would be one that’s considerably more congenial to Taibbi’s policy preferences than is the actual world.
Not really and not really the point.  Yglesiasis a neo-Liberal who consistently trumpets market-based solutions for non-market-based problems.  He is at home with the current obsession of discussing any policy in terms of trite economic phrases and inapt economic concepts.  The rest of the list, I don't know so well, although I Marshall's recent bloviation about how Lady GaGa could get a cease and desist order where the Department of State can't and consistent over-estimation of Palin's and Bachman's political importance suggest that he needs to think a little harder about his pundicratic priorities.

If It's Not a Problem, Why Do You Keep Hitting It?

If Assange and Co's release of the trove of secret documents offered little new information and painted a positive picture of our diplomatic professionals how come everyone is moving heaven and earth to stop Wikileaks funding and arrest Assange for "sex by surprise"? It couldn't be that there is more available and that the heedlessly heedless Wikileaks is carefully editing the remaining documents so as to redact the innocent and indict the guily, could it?  I mean and after it all, it's not like the Bush Administration lied its way to war and that the Obama Administration is expanding the franchise into, at least, Yemen, could it?

Friday, December 3, 2010

Pathbreaking Answers

I have mentioned Fred Clark's long-running review of the Left Behind series and now suggest you read this short discussion of the nature of questions, answers, and paths.

The Company One Finds One's Self In

I think Ron Paul's fetish about recreating the golden fetters of yesteryore marks him as a kook, which it does,  but am now rethinking my position that once a kook always a kook based on this:
"In a free society we're supposed to know the truth," Paul said. "In a society where truth becomes treason, then we're in big trouble. And now, people who are revealing the truth are getting into trouble for it."
"This whole notion that Assange, who's an Australian, that we want to prosecute him for treason. I mean, aren't they jumping to a wild conclusion?" he added. "This is media, isn't it? I mean, why don't we prosecute The New York Times or anybody that releases this?"
He would seem to have a clue when it comes to civil liberties and the needs and justifications for transparency.

Many People Wonder Why Many Other People Make Fun of Norwegians

So I was trying to find TMBG Older for its yearly birthday playing and I found these two videos for some Norwegian tv show which seems to deal with b and b+ list celebs long past their prime.  Watch the first one just so as to hear Radar O'Reilly lipsyncing Bob Dylan.

I am not sure there is any reason to watch this one except to feel better about yourself because, well, you didn't take part.

More Yet Even Again Already With The Wikileaks

Charli Carpenter on why Wikileaks ought to be more circumspect
[the leaks] confuse the press and the public by encouraging us to treat rumor and hearsay as actual news. “US Claims North Korea Shipped Missiles to Iran, Russia Doesn’t Believe Them” becomes “Iran Obtains North Korean Missiles Which Can Strike Europe” and “Western Powers Discuss Fears of Pakistan’s Arsenal” becomes “Wikileaks Cables Highlight Pakistan Nuclear Threat” and “South Korea tells US China told South Korea it’s annoyed at North Korea” becomes “China Ready to Abandon North Korea.”
Let's call this one the need for secrecy because of the dangerous dunderheads who are too dim-witted to report accurately what the revealer has revealed

Assange’s statements suggest he wants to reveal information to combat corruption and abuse. The key critique of diplomats based on these cables is that they are two-faced.

But for a diplomatic corps, that’s hardly a vice. That “courtesy” I was talking about, the willingness to not say every tactless opinion that comes into your brain, at least not publicly? That level of discretion and politeness we inculcate in our youngsters? Diplomats have perfected this art. That’s what diplomacy is.
Let's call this one the theory that if a thing is a thing any attempt to change the thing is wrong because the thing losses it's essential thingness and becomes something new or all attempt to reform diplomacy are doomed because reforms mean diplomats have to do things differently. [N.B., since she began this with one of those tedious wisdom of children thingies, tell the little one to never say in private what you wouldn't want repeated in public and never act in private etc.]

It’s not just in the diplomatic corps. Good governance in general, as well as authoritarian governance, sometime benefits from discretion. 
Isn't there a fundamental difference between "discretion" in regular life, this cake is stale and I going to eat it anyway, and saying one thing in public and another privately in political life, like the Saudi encouraging more American military violence in the Middle East.

And when someone starts a sentence
Consider another parable from family life, the staple piece of wisdom generally dished out to co-parents by family counselors
It is important to point out that there are no real functional similarities between governments, states, and families and that all such analogies are silly.

And her conclusion is 
that the “radical transparency” agenda promulgated by Assange and others needs serious qualification if it is to makes the world better governed, rather than ungovernable. 

Which I take to mean: if everybody knew or had access to information concerning all the stuff, odious and otherwise, that its government and state got up to the government and the state couldn't get up to all the stuff, odious and otherwise, that it gets up to; therefore, only "sever" or "real," whatever those mean, infraction ought to be exposed.

Surely, the answer to all this hemming and hawing, which is really another way of agreeing with Bismarck on legislation and sausages, is that I would rather know or have the ability to know what my state and government are getting up to so that I can make an informed decision about what the state and government are getting up to and I get to decide what is odious and what is trivial.  Anya?

Once More Into The Wikileaks

Noted privacy expert Steve Aftergood castigates Wikileaks because they exposed secrets he wouldn't have. He errs, I would argue, because he mistakes disagreement on a specific case as evidence that all things of that kind are protected by the same right of privacy. None of the kinds he mentions, sorority rites, religious rites, secret society rites, police investigations, and etc, are of a nature that they are categorically above exposure.  Indeed, each one is liable to abuse, sororities haze, the police punish innocents and let off the guilty if powerful, and so on, and in those cases require energetic pursuit and exposure. Aftergood is right, I think, that illegally publishing a book is wrong, and he is right that everyone has some right to privacy. 

Explain How This Works

Over to the NRO former McCain flunky and all around dishonest fella Douglas Holz-Eakin looks at the bleak job numbers and thunders:
But mostly this is an alarm bell for the lame-duck Congress. No more games — extend all the tax cuts for two years, patch the AMT, and turn to cutting spending and tax reform.
The thunderousness of his thundering renders, it would seem, making an argument about how further job reductions and less money in circulation and more money in rich folks pockets is going to create jobs unnecessary.

Megan McArdle Doesn't Understand Choices

 Megan McArdle quotes Julian Assange argument that
in a world where leaking is easy, secretive or unjust systems are nonlinearly hit relative to open, just systems. Since unjust systems, by their nature induce opponents, and in many places barely have the upper hand, mass leaking leaves them exquisitely vulnerable to those who seek to replace them with more open forms of governance.
And then mocks it:
This must be why Wikileaks has been getting so much material from the governments of China, Saudi Arabia, and North Korea, and why internal documents from Cargill are currently dominating their traffic.  Ooops!  That was a flash from an alternative universe where what Assange is saying isn't nonsense.
This is called missing the point.  Assange makes a theoretical argument about how a decentralized internet or other communication method eases the lot of dissidents in unjust societies.  Its easier to distribute information on Facebook than via Samizdats. Consider the recent case of Iran.

She also argues that
I mean, it's certainly true that closed, secretive networks become less effective--but that doesn't mean they become less effective at the things we dislike them doing.  Stalin remained exceptionally good at purges and liquidations all through World War II, and that didn't stop him from helping to win the war, and dominating half of Europe.  It's just that it took more dead Russian boys to do it, because being secretive and purge-oriented kind of hampered the efficiency of the economy, leaving them a little short of key items like guns.  But since Stalin was running a super-secretive, centrally controlled regime, that insight didn't really matter.  
Except for being wrong about Stalin during the war, when the purges had to stop because they were inefficient and the fact that crash industrialization combined with lend lease led to more guns during the war, as opposed to before and after, she's absolutely right; which is to say her historical analogy proves the opposite of what she wants it to.

And she makes the claim that
 forcing the US military and the state department to become more secretive might well hamper their effectiveness.  But it seems most likely to hamper their effectiveness at things like nation-building and community outreach, where you need a broad, decentralized effort.  I don't see why they'd be much less effective at launching drone attacks.  To be sure, the drone attacks might kill a lot more innocent civilians.  But no doubt Assange thinks this is all to the good because it heightens the contradictions or something.
Why? Killing civilians via drones needs necessarily to be secret, saving people's lives is supposed to be open and above board. DoD and DoS can speak openly about providing food and clean water to civilians but they can't about the wedding party they killed under the mistaken impression that it was the Terrorists Annual Ball.  Similarly, the less openly they can speak about the odious things they do the harder those things are to accomplish, ayna?

She asserts that
[i]t's also worth noting that the assumption that secretive organizations will necessarily be undermined by leaks is only even arguably true in a world where they can't expand their sphere of influence to control the propagation of those leaks.  It will be clear to anyone who has ever visited China that we do not live in that universe.  And of course, the US government has plenty of room to expand its power.  And what truly worries me about Wikileaks is not the immediate damage that has been done by the release of this sort of information, but the fact that the latest drop has created an enormous, nearly unanimous backlash in the United States.  
Her point, I take it, is that Wikileaks will lead to a police state here in the good old US of A, long may her purpled mountains majesty.  Let's call the last but here the Franz Ferdinand Falsehood. People often say, when asked, that Archduke Franz Ferdinand's assassination sparked WWI and overly literal people think that the statement is meant to be literally true. It is actually a kind of short hand for a longer argument having to do with preexisting conditions, rising international tensions, short-sighted military and political leadership, and reactions to the assassination. If we avoid over reactions like McArdle's and others and insist on more transparency because, after all, everybody knew what was in Wikileaks, we can all live happily ever after, with tax increases for the wealthy and a pony for everybody else.

My larger point is and remains how we, as opposed to the state, respond to Wikileaks is our choice and, after living through the stupidity of 9/11 responses, I chose to applaud in the hopes of more transparency and less odiousness.

Faster Wikileaks, Kill, Kill

As lots of people have been arguing, here's the most lucid, Assange, who is allegedly going to be arrested for allegedly sexually molesting someone or some someones, seeks by the exposure of state secrets to expose the state's secrets and to make the state, or really any secretive lying entity, so paranoid that it guards ever more closely its secrets until such time as either it can't function, because it has become so secretive that it hides the truth from itself or stops taking altogether, or, it seems to me, the state realizes that it gains nearly nothing from being a secretive lying entity and decides to be open and above board.  Despite what Packer and the rest of the defenders of secretive lying insist the only reason to be a secretive liar is because what you're doing is so odious that no one must know what odious things you're doing so you hide these things and then lie about them.

One of the many things that President Wilson sought was increased transparency in international diplomacy so that everyone could figure out what the heck was going on. He wasn't particularly successful however, think of how different the world would look if the the 20th and 21st century diplomacy looked like Vienna in 1814. For democrats, many American politicians, journalists, and etcs really hate democracy.


Mike Potemra is a something or another over to the NRO, who -- in the course of the last couple of days -- manages to be silly about all manner of things.  First, while holding himself out as a lukewarm to not at all supporter of Sarah Palin, he argues that because Obama has clearly "failed," Palin's manifest unsuitability, lack of credentials, and obvious incompetence means that she can beat him. He also "thinks" that if she doesn't run she can be "a beloved, world-historical figure like TR, and leave the presidency to lesser men (or women!)." TR was president twice and ran a third time and, perhaps he missed the memo, is now seen by the Becks of the Conservative world as world class socialist.

Next he argues that McCain's open disdain for Obama and the other military leaders' decision to scrap DADT doesn't mean that he hold civilian leadership of the military in contempt because McCain just holds this set of civilian military leaders in contempt.  Anyone following McCain's eel like position on DADT or, really, anything must know that he holds everybody who isn't John McCain.

In a similar fashion, i.e., with no regard for the facts of the matter, Lamar Alexander argues that America prior to the introduction of Progressivism was peachy and we ought to get back to that pristine world of greatness.  America prior to the development of a increasingly robust state capable of intervening in and regulating markets was a sorry little backward place with unsafe food, a commitment to destroying the environment if their was a buck in it, women without a vote and limited rights to property, open legally enforced discrimination against Black, Jewish, Catholic and other Americans, low wage economically exploitative labor-management relations, and a growing radical left willing to use violence to get what it wanted.  People seem to have forgotten that TR, to pick one example, did what he did, saved the wild places, stopped the wholesale slaughter of birds and other wild life, busted trusts, clean up food and drug production, etc, because he recognized that the system, such as it was, benefited the few at the expense of the many and that that situation was a recipe for disaster.  And he and other reform-minded men and women understood that the only way to reign in the malefactors of great wealth was to use the state's regulatory power.  So if you want to ensure more bonus armies and related whatnottery support your local Conservative.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Wikileaks Yet Again, Again

Megan McArdle has a post up on the Wikileaks bank dealio in which she argues that damaging info is unlikely. Well depends on what you think is damaging. Her standard is criminal behavior.  Mine is Fabulous Fab. Given the egomaniacs in finance, lots of Fabulousity would be one more nail in the coffin of public support for the pirates of high finance, one would hope.

What's Wrong With Technocrats

I found this discussion of the road building stupidity via a listserve.  The point the guy, a trained civil engineer, is making is that road building ought to be about folks and not cars. Or
An engineer designing a street or road prioritizes the world in this way, no matter how they are instructed:
  1. Traffic speed
  2. Traffic volume
  3. Safety
  4. Cost
The rest of the world generally would prioritize things differently, as follows:
  1. Safety
  2. Cost
  3. Traffic volume
  4. Traffic speed
Anyone who has ridden their bike from here to there on a daily basis recognizes this kind of a roadway in which motorists' ease is privileged.  It's sort of proof of the death of humanism.


So Sen. Micheal Bennet (D-CO) said this into a mike he thought was off:
"It's all rigged," Bennet said (clip below). "I mean the whole conversation is rigged. The conversation, the fact that we don't get a discussion before the break about what we're going to do in the lame duck. It's just rigged. This stuff's rigged."
He was referring to the current legislative agenda.  What does he mean?

I'll Be Danged

Matt Yglesias makes a reasonable point.
If everyone in Yuma, Arizona is unemployed then even a very competent proprietor of a dry cleaning establishment is going to have a hard time expanding his business. He won’t take out a loan to expand, he won’t get an equity investment to expand, and he won’t invest his own money in an expansion. You can give the guy all the money you want, and he won’t invest in expanding his business. That’s because unemployed people don’t need much dry cleaning and also don’t have much money to spend on dry cleaning.
More government spending and more money-creation will lead to more purchases, more customers, more business expansion, and more hiring. Then people with good ideas will make a lot of money and complain about their high taxes.

Wikileaks Once More

George Packer embarassess himself:
The question is, does that interest outweigh the right of U.S. officials to carry out their work with a degree of confidentiality?

Yes—the right. Lawyers, judges, doctors, shrinks, accountants, investigators, and—not least—journalists could not do the most basic tasks without a veil of secrecy. Why shouldn’t the same be true of those professionals who happen to be government officials?
Yes why shouldn't one of the basic rules of a democracy, the right and need of the people to know what their representatives and appointed officials are up to, be gutted?  And as by the way, what right of secrecy do judges have?

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Libertarianism Explained

Over to NRO we learn that today John Miller and Larry Nivens, whose Mote in God's Eye I really liked lo these many years ago,
discuss the art and craft of writing short stories, Niven’s belief in libertarianism and why there’s such a strong libertarian streak in science fiction, and Niven’s involvement in the early days of President Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative.
The answer is, of course, that like Libertarians and Reagan sci-fi authors get to make stuff up.

Again With Neo-Liberal Kvetching

Matt Yglesias:
Complaining about barber licensing is fun, but the real damage of bad occupational licensing policies is done in the health and education sectors.
The rest of the post concerns the damage done because trained dentists are required to oversee teeth cleaning.  First, not one word about the damage done to education by requiring educators to be educated. Second, did you know that dentists can perform biopsies and minor surgery for oral cancer? They can. Do you think  that having a trained medical professional on hand during routine teeth cleaning might lead to the early discovery and treatment of oral cancer? My guess is yes.  Easy is it to complain about regulation from a position of vast ignorance and ideological opposition to state intervention for reasonable reasons.

Sort of like arguing that  protecting puppies is really  corruptly seeking to
 raise the cost of breeding dogs, making it ever-more difficult for middle-class American families to be dog-owners.
Do I think Yglesias wants to hurt puppies?  Not really. But his lazy ideologically driven opposition to sensible regulation authorizes puppy-haters who are fellow neo-Liberal, Reganite, Thatcherite, Glibertarians to make the same lazy argument.

Wikileaks Once More

How can it be wrong to release documents that show what is really going on in international affairs and not be wrong to leak documents that show how few of our troops care if DADT is repealed? The more we know the better we can give our consent to state and administration policies, no?

Will it be a bad thing when:
Early next year, Julian Assange says, a major American bank will suddenly find itself turned inside out. Tens of thousands of its internal documents will be exposed on with no polite requests for executives’ response or other forewarnings. The data dump will lay bare the finance firm’s secrets on the Web for every customer, every competitor, every regulator to examine and pass judgment on.
I think not.

WTF is David Brooks on About?

As near as I can figure in his column today David Brooks thinks that the less people know about what their representatives think and do the better are the chances that their representatives can continue to lie about what is really going on and, therefore, the better the quality of the conversation between and among the people's representatives. After all if the average citizen of wherever the heck found out that Wikileaks shows
Israeli and Arab diplomats . . . reacting sympathetically and realistically toward one another. The Americans in the cables are generally savvy and honest. Iran’s neighbors are properly alarmed and reaching out.
Nothing good could come of that, now could it.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Crime of the Century or Everybody Already Knows That.

So the new Wikileaks documents are out and the usual suspects are insisting that the details concerning Arab desire fr the US to destroy Iran, routine lying by diplomats, and other state sponsored mendacity are nothing new. While the Obama administration and others complain of the laws broken and damage done. They can't both be right, can they?

What is especially odd about all this "everybody knows that" cant is statements like
I think that this is primarily going to be of interest to diplomatic historians, who normally don’t get this kind of stuff for years and years and years and years.
Followed by
 For my own part, I was mildly surprised by the directness of Saudi entreaties to the US to attack Iran, and also by the degree of contempt that the US diplomats seemed to hold for the current Turkish government.
So there is nothing new here except the kind of evidence needed to write in-depth histories of the events described in the cables and the news concerning the what is actually going on and how this Administration and the State view the world. Gotcha. 

Managerialism and Its Discontents

What on earth can it mean when the mayor of NYC appoints someone with no experience in education to be manager, as it were, of the largest public school system in America?  It means, at the very least, that the newly created position of deputy who knows something about education would be unnecessary absent America's elites adoration of managerialism.

If you think about it for a moment, Blumburg had to hire Cathleen Black as chancellor because of her record as a publishing dynamo. The fact that being a publishing dynamo has no relationship whatsoever with education is a real problem, papered over by the hiring of an education policy expert who -- no doubt -- Black can ignore.  So, what does Black stand for?  Layoffs and maximizing profits. It's not a recipe for educational reform as much as it is a continuation of 30 odd years of neo-Liberalism trashing of the American economy.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Why Conservatives Have Problems With Fanatics

Those of us on the left-hand side of the political spectrum think that it might be in bad taste to muck up someone's religious icon or text but on the whole we don't particularly care. Those of them on the right-hand side of the political spectrum get enraged when some one mucks about with the bible or Jesus.  Unfortunately for them, complaining about it makes them look like religious fanatics in an increasingly secular world.  What can they do? What can they do?  Bitch about people taking offense at the "desecration" of Islamic texts and icons because no one takes offense at the desecration of Christian texts and icons, which is -- in case you weren't paying attention -- to complain that no one but them and the rest of the professional Christian victims out there is complaining about etc.

Relatedly, the same NRO hero reads of a maniac from the UK in the EU Parliament calling another parliamentarian a Nazi and, while he tut tuts over the unfortunate language, he understands the sentiment and, in general, he is supportive of the maniac from the UK. 

What is it going to take before the professional victims of the right-hand of the political spectrum give over and begin to act like adults?

Friday, November 26, 2010

An Answer to the Question of Why So Few Women are Conservative

K-lo passes on the well wishes of a real he-man conservative:
Preparing to leave for the three hour drive to my in-laws in Chico while my wife continues packing…and packing…and as I wait in the kitchen, reading NRO, it seems a perfect moment to express my appreciation for the consistently fine work your writers and editors deliver.  Thank you.
Ah, how dull life would be without the foibles of the little women and their comedic packing for the holidays while the man o' the house harrumphs his way through a semi-literate vanity project disguised as a serious intellectual endeavor.

WTF is David Brooks on About?

Is there a point to David Brooks' column today? Does he have a copy editor? Is this the loopiest sentence ever written:
There were many consistencies running through Tolstoy’s life, but there were also two phases: first, the novelist; then, the crusader. And each of these activities called forth its own way of seeing.
It couldn't be that Tolstoy changed his "way of seeing," whatever that might be, and consequently adjusted his activity, could it?

And what are we to make of this conclusion:
But public spirited, he also wanted to heal the world directly. Tolstoy devoted himself to activism and spiritual improvement — and paid the mental price. After all, most historical leaders write pallid memoirs not because they are hiding the truth but because they’ve been engaged in an activity that makes it impossible for them to see it clearly. Activism is admirable, necessary and self-undermining — the more passionate, the more self-blinding.
Tolstoy, it would seem, lobotomized himself when he tried to fix the world through spiritual renewal and George Bush wrote a mendacious book on non-existent "Decision Points" because his desire to rescue his reputation from the gutter led him to lie repeatedly about his own and others' actions. Consequently, working to improve the world as it is is proof of blindness and stupidity.

Hear that boys and girls if you are trying to make things better you have blinded yourself to the reality that the world as it is is the best of all possible worlds particularly if you're David Brooks, a man with no discernible skills, and people pay you ridiculous sums of money to make "arguments" both convoluted and empty of content.

Birds of a Feather Flock Together

Recently some guy at Salon took it upon himself to list the 30 greatest, in the negative sense, hack journalists in America. It's a fine list and, although I might disagree with the ranking -- Brooks is worse than he is being given credit for, and want to see others included, no Clive Crook?  No Megan McArdle? Still.

So what do we make of a serious journalist who engages no less than three of the the Thirty on the same day without once pointing out that they are pathetic chumps?  Perhaps he, for it is a he, is trying his darnedest to get into the pantheon?  In which case, I say, done and done.

Food For Thought

I hope you enjoyed your Thanksgiving as much as I did.  Alan Simpson, as most of you know, was the head of the the debt commission and he concluded that the best way forward was to slash poor and middle class folks with a riding crop while lavishing more czar-era goodies on the rich and super-rich.  Recently, he sat down and explained himself to the Wyoming Tribune.

Why are people opposed to the riding crop slashing?  Because, he says, "We had the greatest generation -- I think this is the greediest generation[.]"

Who should be not listen to?
You don't want to listen to the right and the left -- the extremes," he said. "You don't want to listen to Keith Olbermann and Rush Babe [Limbaugh] and Rachel Minnow [sic] or whatever that is, and Glenn Beck. They're entertainers. They couldn't govern their way out of a paper sack -- from the right or the left. But they get paid a lot of money from you and advertisers -- thirty, fifty million a year -- to work you over and get you juiced up with emotion, fear, guilt, and racism. Emotion, fear, guilt, and racism.
I am particularly fond of Rush Babe.

What do we need more of in our crazy world of teat sucking greedheads?
There are 18 of us on the commission, and it took us four months to establish trust," he said. "That's how bad things are in Washington. Four, five months before we could trust somebody not to leak what we said or go out and crater it.
Trustiness and riding crop slashing is the clear way forward.

All the same he
really believe[s] that there are more patriots in America than selfish, selfish people.
 So, ultimately, the patriotic riding crop slashers will overcome the Rachel Minnows of the world and all will be safe for czardom.


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Keith Moon and Financial Reform

This essay on Keith Moon's drumming and Keith more generally is just really good.  I've always, since 1972 anyway, thought that The Who was rock's greatest band. The essay helps to explain why.

This essay is particularly good on the social uselessness of most of the financial market.  Remember, as an example, this guy who got rich off the housing market failure whose only useful contribution was his and his fellow investors getting rich off the housing market failure.

Also, next year when the Republicans drag Elizabeth Warren in front of the Congress every time she tries to stop more socially useless financial shenanigans let's see who the Tea Party Patriots stand up for the shenaniganers or the folks.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Progress and Republican Obstructionism

In this morning's Wisconsin State Journal there was a report on Middleton looking into one of those bike share dealies.  I predict that tomorrow if not sooner, some Republican/Tea Party Patriot will explode with rage about the wasted spending.  Why?  Because they hate America.  Seriously.

Consider, Scott Walker has foolishly halted the train, despite the fact that everybody thinks we need to do more to prepare for the future and create jobs today.  The train would do both. And what's more it is a clear attempt to do something, which drive Repbulicans/Tea Party Patriots mad. They don't want to do anything; they want to sit around and carp about all the things that have bee done successfully.

The bike share deally actually ties into the train because both are sensible attempts to increase transportation choice at low cost and high benefit for all. Imagine if small outlying communities came to Madison and Middleton for the fun that both offer and were able to ride bikes around for yet even more fun.  Why, it would make the world funner and, more importantly, it would be doing something.

Republicans and Tea Party Patriots would rather sit in a mud puddle that lift a finger to make the world a better organized, more pleasant, and funner place.

Friday, November 19, 2010

MSNBC is Silly

So now it is Joe Scarborough, a one-time Republican congressman, who is suspended for making political campaign contributions without asking permission.  This is beyond silly.  Lean forward indeed.

Dogs in Bloggs

Is your day a bit gray?  Well, go and read this cartoon and text story of two dogs and a move cross country.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Some Things

The Obama administration's decision to try Ahmed Ghailana led to a 20 yr minimum with a maximum of life in a "Supermax" prison, where he would in isolation for nearly all the time. A success, one might think.

The GM IPO is going like gangbusters.  A success, one might think.

The FDIC is probing, in a non-alien abduction way, 50 bankers. A success, one might think.

Tom Delay shoots himself in the foot, evidence wise.  A failure one, might think.

House Republicans stall an extension of jobless benefits.  Given the anemic growth in jobs, a failure, one might think.

Leading Republican senator Kyl threatens to stop the Start Treaty, leading to nearly everyone to call him nutzo. A failure, one might think.

Meanwhile a third Palin endorsed candidate loses in her home state, no less.  A failure one, one might think.

Think about it.  On the basis of the available evidence, Obama is moving forward making sane, if centrist, policies which actually accomplish what they are supposed to do; while the Republicans run round and about making fools of themselves and are riven with internal dissent between their Tea Party and the saner, if still crazyish, wings.  Who, one wonders, will win in the long run?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Uff Da

Sarah Palin makes up a word and is roundly mocked for making up a word. It was soon clear that she made up the word out of ignorance. Colbert's Truthiness, on the other hand, mocked the rising tendency of folks who preferred a world in which that which they wished was the fact of the matter was treated as the facts of the matter even if the facts of the matter were the opposite of that which they wished. This act of creation was both funny and intentional  Yesterday, the OED declared Refudiate the word of the year. The OUP Blog, on which the announcement was announced, makes a weak argument in favor refudiate..  One, which is to say I, hopes or hope that the elevation from scattered-brained to dictionary is withdrawn due to popular refudiation.

Monday, November 15, 2010

On Firing Bad Teachers

Lots of people, serious people yet, insist that the first step to improved education, given the crises of the American educational system, is to remove teacher protections because "bad" teachers cause the crises.  Obviously, this is false and obviously this is a continuation of the neo-Liberal attack on workers.  Why are teachers protected from firing?  Well, here's an example of a "bad" teacher:

Jay McDowell, a teacher in Howell, Michigan, was temporarily suspended without pay earlier this month after telling a student wearing a Confederate flag and a student making anti-gay remarks to get out of his class. At a school-board meeting on Friday, openly gay 14-year-old high-school student Graeme Taylor came to McDowell's defense, thanking the teacher for doing "an amazing thing" in a town home to the KKK, and urging the school board to give McDowell his pay and reverse the disciplinary actions. The inspiring video has made its way around the Internet, because how cool is this kid?
What, I wonder, would have happened to a teacher who had the audacity to behave like a decent human being absent union protection?  Are all the teachers in the various or alleged "rubber rooms" across this great land of ours -- long may she wave, similarly situated?  Obviously not.  Are some of them, yes, yes they are.  Is it the case that making it easier to fire folks makes the easier-to-fire folks less likely to take some decent and honorable stance if that stance is going to irritate the powerful?  Well, you tell me, although for what it's worth I think the answer is yes.

See also.

Three Things

I solved the budget "crisis."

George Bush allowed an innocent man to be executed:
But DNA tests completed this week at the request of the Observer and the New York-based Innocence Project show the hair didn’t belong to Jones after all. The day before his death in December 2000, Jones asked for a stay of execution so the strand of hair could be submitted for DNA testing. He was denied by then-Gov. George W. Bush.
The TSA security regime is crazy and not in a good way. One guy tells of how
before I could go through the metal detector, I was pulled out of line to go through the backscatter machine. When asked, I half-chuckled and said, "I don't think so." At this point, I was informed that I would be subject to a pat down, and I waited for another agent.

A male agent (it was a female who had directed me to the backscatter machine in the first place), came and waited for me to get my bags and then directed me over to the far corner of the area for screening. After setting my things on a table, he turned to me and began to explain that he was going to do a "standard" pat down. (I thought to myself, "great, not one of those gropings like I've been reading about".) After he described, the pat down, I realized that he intended to touch my groin. After he finished his description but before he started the pat down, I looked him straight in the eye and said, "if you touch my junk, I'll have you arrested." He, a bit taken aback, informed me that he would have to involve his supervisor because of my comment.
When he
began to make my way to the stairs to exit the airport, when I was approached by another man in slacks and a sport coat. He was accompanied by the officer that had escorted me to the ticketing area and Mr. Silva. He informed me that I could not leave the airport. He said that once I start the screening in the secure area, I could not leave until it was completed. Having left the area, he stated, I would be subject to a civil suit and a $10,000 fine.
What a great country indeed.  America is exceptional.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Seeming Rather Than Being

One of the ways in which people who know little to nothing about a specific topic seek to act like they know something is to insist on the universality of some aspect of the topic under consideration.  So, for example, if someone argues that the Russian Revolution succeeded because the army abandoned the state, let's say, the know nothing can argue that the American Revolution succeeded without the British army going over to the
revolutionary side.  The proper response to this is: that's a non sequitur, we're not talking about the American Revolution, which was quite a different kettle of fish.  Oh yeah, the know nothing might respond, then how's a come we call them revolutions?  Well, you might seek to explain, we call them the same thing but we understand the causes of the revolutions as well as the causes of success or failure are the results of the concrete reality of this or that historical moment and aren't attributable to some abstract law or other universally true something or another. Well, the know nothing might continue, how about scientific law? That's universally true, aina?  Yes, your might continue, but the act of discerning historical causes has little to nothing to do with science and rather more to do with making coherent arguments based on plausible readings of the available evidence while avoiding claims to universal truths.  Consider the problems with Hemple's Covering Laws

We might even go further and point out that all manner of events, financial panics, wars' beginnings and conclusions, etc, are historical events and it is best to understand them based not on some universal truth but rather on the facts of the matter and their interpretation. We might also make the point that insisting that an explanation of a discrete moment of history explain all similar or similarly classified moments is more of an attempt at seeming like you know something.

What has this do with Matt Yglesias?  I have already tried to show that his arguments often result from misreading specific texts or on his general and unfounded hostility toward sensible government intervention in the markets to avoid consumer fraud or protect labor.  Today, because I feel like it, I want to point out his reliance on universal truth when stuck.  Recently, Henry Farrell of Crooked Timber fame criticized Yglesias' interpretation of the recent Irish economic collapse by recourse to evidence and argued that
[t]he simplified political economy story goes as follows. Ireland had low nominal and even lower effective corporate tax rates. It also had low personal taxes, both because of the belief that this would foster entrepreneurship etc, and because the government used to periodically sweeten bargains between business and labor by promising tax cuts (which of course favored the rich more than the poor), inter alia buying off unions who might otherwise have started getting feisty about organizing the unorganized bits of the new Irish economy.
The result was that even with booming economic growth, the government faced a fiscal hole. This hole was filled by taxes on property transactions which, as the property market got ever more bubbly, became an ever more important source of government revenue. This provided the government with an extremely strong incentive not to deflate the bubble, reinforcing the already considerable incentives towards inaction resulting from cronyism between politicians and property tycoons, ideological notions about not interfering with ‘free’ markets etc.
Whether this is true or not, I don't know but it's a clear and coherent argument about a specific moment.  Yglesais responds
As a causal story, I still don’t really buy this. We had property booms in the United Kingdom, in Spain, in the United States, in Iceland, etc. all under different tax trajectories. And I can’t think of any examples of a government anywhere deliberately acting to deflate asset prices. The fact that the Irish government didn’t do so isn’t really a fact in need of explanation.
See what he did there?  Unable to discuss the Irish case in detail, he insists that any explanation of this or that historical moment has to explain all similar or similarly classified moments. More importantly, it is a rhetorical slight of hand designed to win an argument, if only because some of your readers might think you've scored, rather than trying to understand an argument about an event. However, as is the case in seeking to find a common cause for "success" in the American and Russian revolutions this demand for a universal causal narrative is a non sequitur. This desire, to "win" as opposed to understand or -- even better -- learn something lies at the heart of Yglesiasism and all of the juice box mafiosi.  So when you read him or McArdle remember they aren't as interested in knowing things as they are in seeming to know more than the rest of us.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

I Realize

That it is adolescent in the extreme to make fun of people's names; in this case, however, it is not so much fun as evidence of some higher level of truth about Republican governance. In other words, a headline from NRO:
"Jerry Lewis Endorses Flake for Appropriations"

That's Our Georgie Boy!

What is a "Decision Point," anyhow?

On George's new book:
And so the Wagner Question poses itself yet again. Every Saturday when the Brazilian sea monster murders his X-Factor song, 14 million people ask themselves how and why he is there. Reading these ghost-written titbits, you ask yourself the same. How in the name of all the saints did George W Bush, wastrel drunkard son of an East Coast patrician family, find his way to Pennsylvania Avenue by playing the genial good ol' boy from the South, and why in heaven's name did he want it anyway? And answers come there none.
The reduction of Bush's two terms to a satirical sequel to one of those US prep school movies in which the smirking, idiot boy breaks the honour code but is rescued by his Brahmin dad had come to seem shamefully hackneyed. But the one cliché worth trotting out here is that clichés are clichés because they are true. Somehow this half-witted frat boy journeyed, via some jovially preposterous sequence of events involving failed oil deals and baseball team franchises, from japes with Alpha Sigma Phi to possession of the nuclear codes.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

It Didn't Work Like That, Part Two

I mentioned that I found Eric Posner's discussion of the Roman Republic's Constitution flawed, largely based on its level of abstraction.  I mentioned Syme's critique, which Posner instances in note 7.  Posner, it is true, does allude to patron/clientage as key aspect of Roman society, although, tellingly, he offers no sustained discussion of its social, political, or economic dimensions and, consequently, fails to offer any response to Syme or to the many historians who agree, which he really isn't allowed do.  And as by the way, I don't think that abstract supposition about what ought, might, or should happen under some idealized set of abstractions counts as rebutting a concrete fact-based, i.e., Syme's, argument counts as responding.

I would like to make an additional point.  Posner, on page 24, argues that
[t]he Roman system may have worked well enough for a period of time, but its chief flaw became apparent in the last century. Because no civilian politician could amass much power through office, and perhaps because none had strong incentives to discharge their official duties competently, none could stand up to the military leaders who earned glory at battle and could offer loot to soldiers and civilians who supported them. Military posts was not term-limited; and so successful generals could earn a popular following over a long period of time. These military leaders included Marius, Sulla, Pompey, and Caesar, and they were the dominant figures during the last century of the Republic’s existence.
On page 31, he argues that
[t]he senate also kept the magistrates weak because it feared that powerful magistrates would redistribute wealth to the people; but in the process it also failed to give magistrates the power to keep order and prosecute wars in an efficient manner. All of this gave rise to a demand for powerful figures who would serve the interests of the masses and engage in efficient governance. A number of individuals saw the opportunity to obtain power by appealing to the masses and adopting redistributive programs. These included Tiberius and Gaius Gracchus from roughly 132-121 B.C.
Here's the problem, the Gracchii Brothers sought to reform the Rome's agrarian system and, with Giaus, its treatment of the Knights in a way that would forestall the weakness Posner (correctly) identifies. They and their supporters were murdered by the Optimates because the Optimates social, political, and economic success rested on the corrupt practices that led to increased landlessness among the soldiers and the equally corrupt distribution of the public lands. Gracchii died precisely because their reforms threatened the Senatorial classes continued domination of Rome's political system and their ability to increase their control of its economic life. Oddly, or perhaps expectedly, Posner accepts that reforms designed to fix the fundamental flaw, by granting soldiers some form of pay and veterans lands sufficient on which to live, were -- in fact -- illegitimate appeals "to the masses."  Read fairly, in particular the unprecidented violence that accompanied the Gracchian reforms, the criticism ought to be of those in the Senatorial class who were narrow-mindedly wedded to their short-term interests.

Why is does this matter?  Well, it matters because Posner, like lots of lawyers these days, is trying to use history as a means of advancing his policy or interpretive preferences when the facts of the matter lead to different conclusions, in this case reform is better than dictators, military strongmen, and princeps.