Friday, September 24, 2010

Cliff May is Silly

He writes that
The New York Times sports section mainstreams polygamy[.]
Linking to this article, which, in fact, mainstreams equestrian sports, which is, in fact, worse.

Just to be clear the mainstreaming consisted of mentioning without the condemnatory and condescending tone May seems to want, the article, which is fairly light-weight in its own right, that a women in a polygamous marriage where it is legal is a woman in a polygamous marriage.

Science Explained

Calling Dr. Science, who is right?

David Brooks Wronger Than I Thought

Via we learn that David Brooks knows as much about literary criticism as anything else, which is to say nothing
Brooks manages to pack nine material misstatements about the book’s plot into a mere 73 words:
There’s almost no religion.(1) There’s very little about the world of work(2) and enterprise.(3) There’s an absence of ethnic heritage(4), military service(5), technical innovation(6), scientific research(7) or anything else potentially lofty and ennobling.
Richard is an artist, but we don’t really see the artist’s commitment to his craft(8). Patty is an athlete, but we don’t really see the team camaraderie(9) that is the best of sport.
Now, what is truly brilliant about the above is that every single one of those things is either a dominant theme or a conspicuous subtext of Freedom (and you can scroll down to see my detailed annotations if you really care.)


Alerted by an alert non-reader, I learned that today is National Punctuation Day?  Why! Well maybe this;

Jonah Goldberg is Consistant

Today Goldberg wrote
Rep. Charlie Rangel said of the 1994 Republican platform: “Hitler wasn’t even talking about doing these things.”
It's a line of which he is proud.

Real or Not?

From comes unlikely images of bike transport.

A Serious Politician

In Yglesias' view this
Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) announced yesterday that she will be blocking the nomination of Jack Lew to direct the Office of Management and Budget until the Obama administration lifts its moratorium on offshore drilling. “I find it stunning that the administration was aware that their actions might eliminate nearly 23,000 jobs in an already faltering economy, and proceeded anyway,” she said.
means Landrieu is a serious legislator.  Others might think differently


Andrew Stuttaford, of NRO's flying monkey squad, complains that Sweden's political class is acting to limit the influence of the Sweden Democrats party. Andrew Stuttaford earlier admitted that
Sweden’s Democrats were a party with a vicious neo-nazi fringe and an unpleasant affinity for the politics of the street. Since then they have gone some way (the jury is still out on how far) to cleaning up their act.
 As a card-carrying American, I am leery of outlawing political parties, particularly as the left suffers much more from this kind of thing than the right.  On the other hand, after reading and listening for days, weeks, and months to the NRO squad complaining about Islam, Muslims, and Sharia, I think that they are being hypocritical, lying bastards who would gladly support maniacs should those maniacs cut their taxes and imprison the right folks. 

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Not Sophie's Choice

You could point out that the Republicans have adopted a policy of obstruction intended to destroy a centrist president based on the abuse of procedural rules and tried to overthrow Clinton, another centrist, through the abuse of legal niceties or you could insist that abuse of procedural issues is evidence of seriousness because, after all, nihilists actually mean what they say, or -- in any event, their willingness to act like nihilists is evidence of their authenticity. You might not like their method of killing random people to destabilize the system, but you have to admire their willingness to kill random people to destabilize the system.

Republicans are and have been for some time now dedicated to a strategy designed to ensure short term success but one which ultimately is destructive of democratic deliberation through, among other nonsense, a policy of the abuse of procedure and commitment to lying about everything. Yglesias chooses to valorize those who embrace short term destructive "success" over the long term stability.  Maybe it's just me but my preference is for long term stability in a system that ensures reasonable debate instead of wishing that my side was more like the nihilists.

A rejection of nihilism
TP: So you haven’t signed Steve King’s discharge petition. Is that correct, or have you?
REICHERT: No, I haven’t. I’m one of a handful of Republicans. I don’t know, maybe five or three or four or five? Something like that.
TP: You’re in the slim minority.
REICHERT: I’m not going to sign it because it has no solutions really attached to it. It’s about repealing the entire bill.
TP: It’s for taking out — Steve King said on the radio the other day, he doesn’t want preexisting condition coverage, he doesn’t want that extended coverage on your parents’ plan, the dependent coverage that you just cited, he doesn’t want any of that.
REICHERT: Yeah. Well, everyone has their own approach and preexisting conditions is one of those I agree with.


Via John Cole

Professors as Profiteers

Megan McArdle blames the high and increasing cost of higher education on state intervention into the market.  Who would have thought.  She also writes that
[b]ut beyond the high default rates[on student loans], consider what a student loan does.  In the past, college degrees conferred higher incomes on those who earned them.  But almost all of that surplus went to the student rather than the college, because aside from a small number of extremely affluent families, the students were young and did not have that much cash.  If colleges wanted to expand their market, college tuition was constrained to what an average student, or their family, could pay.

Introducing subsidized loans into the picture allowed students to monetize that future income now. It's hardly surprising that colleges began to claim more and more of the surplus created by their college degree. Think about it this way: if colleges create an extra million in lifetime salary, you're theoretically better off if you pay them the discounted present value of $999,999 in order to earn that extra million.
What does a student loan do?  Pays for an education which sometimes leads to a better paying job but the "surplus" created by the better paying job isn't returned to the university so tuition had to go up to pre-capture the potential surplus and this was only possible because the state guaranteed student loans.

Have I got that right? McArdly is blaming the capitalist drive for profit maximization for increasing tuition costs? Sure the state had to step in to allow the capitalists' desire for more profit to work, which is a big glibertarian sin, but the universities are acting like good capitalists.

Am I the only one who finds this less than compelling?

Here's a slightly different suggestion about why the costs of education have gone up at least at state schools declining state support, increased enrollment, etc combined with an increase  in the size of university administrations.

Now This is Interesting.

Via ThinkProgess, we learn that
Following instructions from President George W. Bush to develop an updated war plan for Iraq, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld ordered CENTCOM Commander Gen. Tommy Franks in November 2001 to initiate planning for the “decapitation” of the Iraqi government and the empowerment of a “Provisional Government” to take its place.
From those documents released today, we find that our hardworking planners conclude that "unlike Afghanistan, it is important to have ideas about who would rule" Iraq after the invasion. Leaving aside the obvious question of why  Afghanistan didn't require consideration, one also wonders what happened to the plan for figuring out who should rule Iraq.

[Edited for clarity}

Now What?

It is a fact that
Terrorism experts have puzzled over al-Qaeda's apparent unwillingness after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks to use car bombs, improvised explosives and small arms to conduct assaults in the United States. The group appeared fixated on orchestrating another dramatic mass-casualty event, such as the simultaneous downing of several commercial airliners.
And it is apparently a fact according to noted terrorism expert Michael Leiter that
"al-Qaeda in Pakistan is at one of its weakest points organizationally," but he noted that "regional affiliates and allies can compensate for the potentially decreased willingness of al-Qaeda in Pakistan - the deadliest supplier of such training and guidance - to accept and train new recruits."
So al-Qadeda is fixated on large-scale events and its "deadliest" branch is at its weakest therefore we need to be on the alert because
Al-Qaeda and its allies are likely to attempt small-scale, less sophisticated terrorist attacks in the United States, senior Obama administration officials said Wednesday, noting that it's extremely difficult to detect such threats in advance.
Like the Times Square Bomber. 

The deadliest terrorists are on the decline, yeah, the leading terrorist group is fixated on the dramatic, therefore we must fear incompetent amateurs.  What an odd thing to say.

Imagined Communities

When you see this

Do you think of this?


According to the Slactavist:

Tea partiers tend to revere the U.S. Constitution in much the same way that many American evangelicals revere the Bible, which is to say they read it without comprehension, looking only for ammunition that can be used against their enemies. And since neither text was written for such a purpose, this so-called reverence is an exercise in illiteracy.
And there you have it.

Words! Words! Words! I'm so sick of Words!

Andrew Sullivan is a silly man.  He once insisted that opponents of the the Invasion, who he labeled 
"[t]he decadent Left in its enclaves on the coasts is not dead . . .may well mount what amounts to a fifth column" (part one, part two). Then, he wrote this: "[W]e might as well be aware of the enemy within the West itself - a paralyzing, pseudo-clever, morally nihilist fifth column that will surely ramp up its hatred in the days and months ahead."
The internal links no longer work for me, and one can understand why.  If you or I had written something that monumentally silly, stupid, and mean spirited the desire to scrub it would be irresistible.  Sullivan has since equivocated and sort of recanted.  He continues his campaign to prove that Sarah Palin is actually a character in East Enders, and yet people link to Sullivan without pointing out that this man is profoundly silly.

Remember the debate on torture? Sullivan, shockingly, was right on that one. What I have in mind here, however, is the argument the pro-torture camp used.  It went something like this: what is torture anyhow? Torture opponents, which is to say reasonable and decent human beings, got bogged down in this semantic turn. Today, because of Obama's go ahead to assassinate Anwar al-Awlaki, a US citizen actively engaged in fighting against US troops, Sullivan launched an attack on the use of assassinate as the proper term when the state in engages in assassination.  He would rather use the phrase "killed in wartime" which is his "plain English word." Obviously killed in wartime isn't a word; it's a phrase.  And, more importantly, its a phrase that obscures reality.  Does the President have the legal right to assassinate American citizens actively fighting against US troops?  I have no idea, but there is something queasy-making about the idea, and Sullivan's desire to obscure this reality lies behind the move to turn the debate over the legality and moral consequence of giving or approving this Presidential power into a discussion of the appropriateness of the word.

Sullivan also writes, concerning the tactical, operational, and political growing out the current war on terrorism and other related nouns that:
I have had only a few days to chew on these complicated eddies some more, but have ended up closer to where I started than I first thought I would in the full blast of criticism.)
I'm not sure you can chew on a eddy, and if you have to create an obfuscatory phrase to justify a policy of assassination it's more likely than not that you're wrong.  Again. And, as by the way, you don't unleash "warfare" whose awesome power does this and that.  You mobilize your military and then send young, middle-aged, and old men and women to go kill people knowing full well that some horrible things will happen and if you failed to chew these eddies then you're not really not being serious.

Glib Contrarianism

Earlier today, DougJ, business and economics editor of Balloon Juice, made the point that
Michael Kinsley [may not have begat]  Mickey Kaus, Charles Lane, Gregg Easterbrook, and Megan McArdle
but he did legitimate glib contrarians, who add little to public debate.  DougJ and his overlord, John Cole,  made the point that Andrew Sullivan is just not a serious person. Who is missing from the list?  Matt Yglesias that's who.  Is Yglesias a Neoliberal? Yes he is.  Is he glibly contrarian about important issues?  Yes he is.

What is interesting to me is that fact that the center-left has decided to give Yglesiasa pass on being a glib contrarian. For example, Krugman cites Yglesias today because he makes the entirely jejune point that Obama ought to hire someone competent to replace Summers. (As an aside, Tom Scocca makes the point that Summers is leaving to spend more time with his money.) Why  amnesty this case?  I have no idea. Think Progress produces some really marvelous work and, it's true, Yglesias works there. But ought his place of employment protect his silliness from criticism?  No, no it ought not.

Let's consider an example when Yglesias was just plain silly, dumb, and incoherent, and we can, along the way, wonder to ourselves why he continues to occupy a position of some importance in the realm of public "intellectuals."

 Back before he sort of recanted the basis of his support for the Invasion, Yglesias wrote:
AMIDST SOME UGLY AND ill-considered Catholic bashing, Julie Burchill makes a good meta-point in The Guardian that I think is very relevant to the current war. She writes
I don't have to respect anyone's religion on principle any more than I have to respect people's politics if I find them bigoted.
She's talking, as a leftist would be nowadays, about why she doesn't need to respect Catholicism, but the same could just as easily be said about Islam. During the course of the second half of the 20th century, racist views finally became unacceptable to air in public. At the same time, anti-semitism was seen as crucially related to anti-black and anti-asian racisms. All this was for the best, as was the general movement to be more tolerant of alternate ways of life and systems of belief.Nevertheless, it got forgotten somewhere along the way -- particularly by people on the left -- that a religion (especially a religion that's not judaism) is, fundamentally, a system of beliefs and beliefs that, as much as any other beliefs, can be criticized as false, harmful, or whatever. It is very important to let people live their lives as they see fit (provided, of course, that they don't harm anyone) but it's not necessary at all to refrain from criticizing other people's beliefs.
I think that if more people on the left appreciated Burchill's point and saw that it applies not only to Catholicism but to other religions as well, that far more would agree with me that the current war against terrorist fanatics is a cause that should be embraced enthusiastically by liberals everywhere.
This is just stupefyingly dumb and dishonest. In the first instance, Burchill wasn't bashing Catholicism.  She was, rather, attacking the position that Catholicism acts as a prophylactic against worst impulses of humanity when, as a matter of historical fact, lots of Catholics have done lots of horrid things. She erred in positing a causal connection between Catholicism and horrid acts, lots of Catholics aren't horrid; however, she was, after all, writing in response to Catholics insisting that their moral actions resulted from their Catholicism. Her point was disagreement about the role of religion in fostering restraint, which is an age old and perfectly legitimate argument.

What is more troubling is that Yglesias argued that  Liberals refused to recognize that some religious beliefs are open to criticism because, rather like Rorty's misrepresentation of Liberals and toleration, that when it comes to Islam Liberals have become so open minded that their brains have fallen out.  Really? Are we honestly to believe this right-wing slur concerning Liberals view of Islam?  Or that Liberal and Leftist opposition to Israeli policies toward Palestinians is based on their refusal to criticize Judaism instead of their refusal to equate policies with which they disagree with religious doctrine that they find absurd? In short, I, like most reasonable people, reject the notion that religious beliefs authorize political policies I find abhorrent, silly, and counter productive. Why?  Because I know of lots of religious people who work for policies I find the opposite of abhorrent, silly, and counter productive. What one does matters considerably more than what one claims to believe.  This leg of Ygelsias' argument, while profoundly stupid and ill considered, isn't the most pressing problem.

The most pressing problem is the next bit.  Yglesias claimed that if Liberals only understood that they could legitimately criticize Islamic beliefs then they would agree that they should kill those Muslim who are "terrorist fanatics" and, as so often happens in times of killing folks who belong to a larger group that behaves differently than the murderous minority, those standing in their vicinity. Because, after all, war is only a form of criticism. It seems to have passed Yglesias by that there are other methods of fighting terrorist fanatics that don't require bomb, bomb, bombing, and associated methods of killing lots of folks. And he seems unaware that arguing for critical engagement with horrid or questionable ideas and ideals does not legitimate violence against the object of critical engagement.

In short, he misrepresented his source material and then insisted that two incommensurable things, criticism and violence, are identical.  The mind boggles.

You might, and Yglesias did, insist that his idiotic arguments in favor of the Invasion were the fault of youth and other related whatnotery.  But has he eschewed these kind of idiotic arguments?  Well, no, no he has not. For example, he recently argued that
I think there are good things to be said about making the tax code more progressive. But I do think it’s important to note that it’s dangerous for liberals to embrace the view that revenue should come exclusively from the hyper-rich.
Why is it important to note this?  Are there Liberals arguing in favor of a tax policy that falls only on the hyper-rich? Does his source material, for example, call for this kind of exclusivity?  Well no, no there are not and no, no it doesn't. Is Yglesias engaging in dishonest, dumb, and just plain silly representations of nonexistent others to make some glib and idiotic contrarian point?  Well yes, yes he is.  Has he, in short, learned the lesson of his greatest failure?  No, no he has not.

Is tax policy less pressing than bomb, bomb, bombing?  Well yes, yes it is.  Is the fact that an arguer is engaging in the same mode of argumentation evidence that the arguer ought not be taken seriously? Yes, yes it is.

Frequent commentator Anonymous suggests below that I misunderstood Yglesias who, A insists all evidence to the contrary, intended only "new revenue."  How then does one parse these sentences.
But I do think it’s important to note that it’s dangerous for liberals to embrace the view that revenue should come exclusively from the hyper-rich. 

But for another thing, there are a lot of tax changes you could make to the tax code that would make the system more progressive that don’t meet the standard of literally placing the entire burden on rich people.
If he meant new revenue, which is a key point, wouldn't he have been careful to make it?  Or correct it after the fact? Okay, sure, part of my point is that he is a sloppy and lazy thinker who fell into a glib contrarian mode of argumentation and can't get up. Maybe A is right and the fact that he left out a key word which fundamentally changes the claim Yglesias makes is just another example of the need for him to purchase some kind of LifeCall for pundits.  However, in the second he links soaking the rich by making them exclusive object of the taxman's attention with progressive attempts to reform the system. I'm still voting for glib contrarinism built on strawmen and misreading.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

More in Sorrow than Anger

A little while ago, I noted that a whiny yet rich man had made the mistake of blogging about being insufficiently rich and that he had deleted the post in which he whined. In a series of fairly strange posts, he defends the now deleted post and, more in sorrow than anger, he has
decided to hang up my blogging hat. [he] was a fool, and [he] didn’t anticipate how this kind of thing could happen. As many of our readers and [his] students know, [he's] opinionated and willing to push boundaries.
As by the way, he castigates himself for sharing too much personal information and then in the course of the two post shares more too much personal information. A strange interlude, indeed.

When Not Being Means Being

Daniel Foster, professional NRO flying monkey, watches a new Russ Feingold ad and wonders if parts of it are "green screened." Leaving aside the obvious question of what difference it makes if Feingold was actually in front of his actually existing house or green screened and then projected on the front of his actually existing house, when Foster hears from the Feingold campaign that whole ad was actually shot in front of Feingold's house in Middleton.

His response?  Well, he'll
take [Feingold's campaign manager] at his word, and [he doesn't] want to get conspiratorial here, but it just looks to [him] like there is stuff going on — with the foreground-background split, with scale, with some matte lines around the senator — that make it look bizarre. Shouldn’t Feingold have the same diagonal shadow that hits the house behind him? Shouldn’t he be walking on more or less the same plane as the sloped driveway? The second, tight shot of Feingold doesn’t look particularly fake, just the initial as the initial wide one.
He's not going to get all conspiratorial except to the extent that he thinks that there is a conspiracy afoot to pretend that Feingold was standing in front of his house.  He requests the aid of a professional. And, no, not one from the mental health industry but rather one who can prove that the conspiracy actually exists.  The fact that he is being conspiratorial is further proof that he is not being conspiratorial; much like the evidence for the civil war inside the Republican Party between the crazy people and the "moderates" is not either evidence of a civil war.

Glibertarians'Ideology in One Sentence

Roy Edrosso:
If you want to know what happens when libertarians are in power, try to imagine a boot kicking at a sleeping bum, forever.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Critique of Reasonableness

Fred Clark, who has written the world's longest and most interesting book review, suggests mottoes for Stewart's rally:
"Actually, it's probably a bit more complicated than that." Or maybe, "Let's work together to see if we can identify precisely where we disagree."
Stewart, of course, is clear that when it comes to Obama he has had enough of complication:

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Ass Quest 2010
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party

All Politics is Local

This kind of thing never would've happened with a Republican in the White House.
In the alleged conspiracy uncovered in Wisconsin, Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity — whose Wisconsin state chair was previously banned from politics in Wisconsin for three years, would finance a test mailing and other costs associated with compiling the caging list and then coordinate with the Wisconsin Republican Party to undertake an elaborate process to remove voters from the rolls ahead of the election, if possible, or at the polls on Election Day. Tea party groups were to provide the volunteer labor and cover for the activity — with all participants signing an extensive non-disclosure agreement under which they agreed to publicly operate in the name of Wisconsin GrandSons for Liberty, who would also provide some funding for the plan. The Wisconsin GOP would also provide additional funds, trainers for the tea party volunteers and would have a team of lawyers “standing by” on Election Day to respond to tea party volunteers and “bring the police” if necessary. As is typically the case in voter caging operations, the plotters appeared intent on targeting minorities, students, and others from heavily-Democratic areas of the state.


Remember those miners in Chile?  It sounds to me like they are being harassed for no good reason. What I would call harrassment arises, allegedly, from concern over their mental and physical health. The miners, it seems, don't want to talk to the psychologists and other medicos on daily basis.  In order to control the miners the doctors have resorted to a variety of tactics, which have included censorship of private letters, withholding images of the outside world, withdrawing tv and other privileges.  What I find most disturbing the authorities refuse to grant the miners two most pressing demands: wine and cigarettes. They are getting limited quantities of ciggies but no wine. This is just wrong some how. 


Thoughtful Critique

After  rehashing a brief blog post on, among other things, a documentary about education that, for all Yeglesias knows, either does or doesn't improperly compare Finnish students to American students, Yglesias pivots to with a now patented
That said, this kind of thing can be taken too far.
What is being taken to far?  Reading blog posts? Making inapt comparison? Running down the teaching profession? Concern about syntax? Making informed critiques of badly thought out arguments about education reform?
There’s a newish library branch in my neighborhood that’s quite nice looking. I don’t think anyone expects its existence to transform the radically transform the educational experience of children living in the area.
No, of course not.  All kids have access to the computers, books, research material, low-cost or free enrichment programs, magazines, professional aid in finding books that libraries provide.  Well maybe one or two don't.  I betcha that the none of the parents of the kids will  benefit from the various programs the library runs for adult literacy, aiding non-native speakers of English improve their language skills, that tiny fraction of adults without computer skills gain them, or whatever other unnecessary public goods libraries provide their patrons.
And I bet reasonable people could disagree as to whether or not it made any real sense to build the library in the first place. But the library is there nonetheless, and the city is running it.
Damn it, if only the reasonable people who stood on either side of the issue had the opportunity to discuss the library it might not even be there to not provide the unneeded benefits to kids and adults.  Instead, the busybodies downtown crammed the library down his throat and then they have the temerity to run the damn thing; run it right into the ground, I bet.
So given that the city is running the library, we should try to run the library well. From the little things to the big things to the things that are core to the library’s function (deciding which books to stock) to the things that are peripheral (cleaning the floors in the bathroom) it all makes some kind of difference.
Yeah, hear that downtown busybodies no more reductions in funding due to Neoliberal, Reaganite, and Glibertarian tax policies.  Hire a janitor or two.  Oh and as by the way, I betcha that all those fancy rules and regulations about who is and who isn't a librarian are just to protect the librarian industry from fair competition.
And for any given quantity of resources allocated to the library, we should be doing our best to ensure that those resources are well spent. Whether or not there are other problems in the community that it’s beyond the capacity of the library to overcome, the public is still well within its rights to demand that the library be the best library it can be.
Yes, yes they are right to demand that. Although, as seems obvious from Yglesias' tone here, the state will screw it up because of, no doubt, its ignorance of market forces.
And that’s the real issue here. It’s great for skeptics about this or that proposed reform to how public schools operate to challenge the ideas on the merits. But the idea that it’s somehow unfair to be pressing for a more optimal allocation of resources is the flipside of destructive libertarian nihilism about the possibility of better-managed public agencies. And it actually makes less sense. If you want to argue (as I think liberals do) that it’s worth investing money in public schools, then you have to accept the corollary that the quality of the schools is important independently from other social issues.
Hear that Strawmen Liberals  whose voices ring in the confines of Yglesias' brain pan?  If you want to fix things stop just throwing money at things and start being more respectful of arguments for educational reform that hinge on turning schools into Olive Gardens.

Or get with the technology gurus, like Bill Gates who predicts that
Five years from now on the Web for free you'll be able to find the best lectures in the world. It will be better than any single university."
A year at a university costs an average $50,000, the Microsoft founder and Harvard dropout said last month. The Web can deliver the same quality education for $2,000.
 Don't just sit back and point to all the non-Harvards where education is cheaper or worry about who or what will be giving the lecture, hint: Robots, or what canned lectures might mean to the future of education:

Or point out that in any number of classrooms all across this land of waving wheat hard-working teachers, administrators, professors, and others are working to improve education through theory and praxis.  Be respectful, damn it.

He starts off with someone else's informed critique of a program for educational reform and then sternly warns of the dangers of spending on social goods without the stern discipline of market forces, and concludes that people who are concerned about educational reform need to be more knowledgeably when they criticize educational reform. See how it all hangs together?  I don't either.

Jonah Goldberg Still Dumb

In the LA Times, and for all I know elsewhere, Jonah Goldberg argues that news of a civil war in the Republican Party is overblown although
[t]ime will tell which side will lose that debate [on the wisdom of running crazy people for office], but one thing is already clear: The tea parties won
the non-existent civil war, I think he means because the debate isn't yet settled. Furthermore
[i]t takes two to tango, and it takes two to fight a civil war. What seems lost on a remarkably diverse group of observers and political combatants, on the left and the right, is that there are no worthy Republican opponents to the tea parties.
Why is this the case you ask? When Tea Partiers like
Rubio and Toomey chased moderates like Charlie Crist and Arlen Specter clear out of the Republican Party. And now Miller has pretty much done the same with Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who in a sad attempt to cling to power announced that she will run as a write-in candidate come November. Mitch McConnell, the Senate Republican leader, immediately moved to excommunicate Murkowski, stripping her of all her seniority and leadership positions.

In all three cases the "establishment" has said to the moderates, "Don't let the door hit you on the way out." And how have they responded to the allegedly barbaric, uncouth, tea-fueled hordes storming the Beltway castle? "Lower the drawbridge!"
See?  It isn't a civil war between crazy people and "moderates" in the Republican Party, the Tea Party domination is really just the last episode in a purge of the Republican Party of rational people by crazy people, which is entirely different.

As per usual Goldberg is wrong, Murkowski was not stripped of her leadership position.

[link added]

Causal Connections

Christine O’Donnell, who once wanted to be like Willow, sued a Conservative movement organization; consequently, John Fund, who writes for the Wall Street Journal, took her to task from being insufficiently Conservative, what with her trying to use the Federal Government to protect herself.  Fund also insists that
So they did fire her. They fired her for cause. I’m not saying it was true, I don’t know, but they fired her for cause and they also fired her for going to complain to the EEOC.
Which is it?  Fired for cause or for seeking protection from gender discrimination? Or is it the case that trying to protect yourself from discrimination is a violation of the right of employers to do whatever the hell they want?

Radical Republicans Are Not Either Racists

Jim Russell, a Republican candidate for Congress and holder of a PhD in Historical Theology from Rutgers, argued, among other nonsense, that
It has been demonstrated that finches raised by foster parents of a different species of finch will later exhibit a lifelong sexual attraction toward the alien species. One wonders how a child's sexual imprinting mechanism is affected by forcible racial integration and near continual exposure to media stimuli promoting interracial contact. The most serious implication of human sexual imprinting for our genetic future is that it would establish the destructiveness of school integration, especially in the middle and high-school years. One can only wonder to what degree the advocates of school integration, such as former NAACP attorney Jack Greenberg, were conscious of this scientific concept. It also compounds the culpability of media moguls who deliberately popularize miscegenation in films directed toward adolescents and pre-adolescents. In the midst of this onslaught against our youth, parents need to be reminded that they have a natural obligation, as essential as providing food and shelter, to instill in their children an acceptance of appropriate ethnic boundaries for socialization and for marriage.
This certainly isn't evidence that the Republican Party's radical wing is chock full of nuts and racists.  Nope, not a bit of it.

He's Serious, Damn It.

In his column today David Brooks writes

But surely this is Franzen’s point. At a few major moments, he compares his characters to the ones in “War and Peace.” Franzen is obviously trying to make us see the tremendous difference in scope between the two sets of characters.

Tolstoy’s characters are spiritually ambitious — ferociously seeking some universal truth that can withstand the tough scrutiny of their own intelligence. Franzen’s modern characters are distracted and semi-helpless. It’s easy to admire Pierre and Prince Andrei. It’s impossible to look upon Walter and Richard with admiration, though it is possible to feel empathy for them.
In the first instance, I'm most likely not going to read Franzen because I didn't like The Corrections, or whatever it was called.  In the second instance, a large number of Tolstoy's characters weren't particularly spiritually ambitious. Why?  At least in part because Tolstoy wasn't David Brooks, which is to say not an idiot.  Lots of people in the world as it actually exists aren't spiritually ambitious. Some of them are horrid little men and women who might think they are spiritually ambitious, Tolstoy argues, but they are, in fact, horrid little men and women. Others, Tolstoy suggests, are just ordinary men and women with no particular claims on spiritual ambitiousness and who aren't horrid but who might be superior to both the horrid little men and women who assume a mantle of spiritual ambition and those who are invested in the search for authentic spiritual fulfillment.  All of them, Tolstoy points out, are part of the actually existing world. This is why the world would be a better place if we all read Tolstoy, or -- for that matter -- Trollope, and paid less attention to Mad Men, David Brooks, Ross Douthat, Ygelsias, etc.

If it is the case that some of Tolstoy's characters aren't as Brooks insists all of them are, and if it is the case that Franzen wants us to compare and contrast the present to Tolstoy's past in way that makes the present look as crappy as David Brooks thinks  it is, then isn't it the case that both Brooks and Franzen are dunderheads?  Or is the more likely explanation that Brooks is, once again, just plain wrong because he is a dunderhead or a liar?  And if he is a dunderhead or a liar, as I think we must all admit that he is one or the other, than isn't the more interesting question why is a dunderhead or a liar is blathering about things he only just barely understands when he could be studying hand dancing and really adding some value to the world.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Tour Guides

You know why regulating tour guides is worth the effort?  Because the people who make use of their services are, generally speaking, from out of town and are not going to be in a position, more often than not, to wait around and file complaints and then come back to testify at the trials of those who have engaged in "abusive practices."  This means, it seems to me, that the abusive practices will be in play for much longer than they ought, if not forever.  If the regulators are underfunded, regulations rarely enforced or badly written this is an argument for funding, enforcement, and rewriting not for babies and bath waters.

Furthermore, it seems to me that if you want to make the argument that neither the state nor the tour guide industry has an interest in seeing to it that visitors to the seat of the Federal Government in these United States are not screwed, blued, and tattooed by incompetent tour guides, you might maybe want to consider the importance of visiting the seat of the Federal Government in these United States as it concerns continuing education in matters of some relevance, to say nothing of the blow to the Federal Government of these United States' reputation by those who were screwed, tattooed, and blued as well as those they related the tale of being screwed, tattooed, and blued.

You might also consider that, oddly enough despite their general failure to be like Olive Garden, our non-Olive-Garden institutions of higher education have been busy training individuals in public history for lo these many years, almost as if these institutions of higher learning were aware that there was a need for individuals trained in providing accurate, assessable, and interesting histories of the various sites of historical interest scattered hither and yon.

Granted, of course, that if the tour guide industry were to set about recruiting well-trained and well-educated tour guides their bottom lines might suffer, which is to say it might not be economically efficient to hire well-trained and well-educated tour guides, but, then again, having well-trained and well-educated tour guides might prove to be a boost for the tour guide industry. And, additionally, when did economic efficiency become the be all and end all of life on earth?  1976? 1980?

Attacks on regulatory regimes that rely on the "universal acid" arguments of Cato, AEI, etc, legitimate the universal acid of Cato, AEI, etc. The topic under consideration here is the need and ability of the state to intervene in the market to reduce abusive, incompetent, or dangerous practices and, in so doing, protect workers as workers and citizens as consumers. Should an industry capture the state, which oddly enough seems almost never to result in regulations that provide protection for either workers or citizens, then -- by golly -- let's rewrite the regulations.

Then again in a Ygelsian world retrospective prosecution is better than prophylactic regulation because the free market might work and if it doesn't other underfunded enforcement agencies might maybe prosecute. Unless, of course, they have been captured by the wealthy and the powerful, which -- of course -- won't happen.

And, relatedly, economic efficiency is not the proper measure of the rationality of having more than one, two or even three quality quarterbacks or nearly anything else of importance.  Consider, for example, the Pittsburgh  Steelers or poets. Indeed, it is possible to argue that focusing on economic efficiency when it is inapt, which it almost always is, is a Neoliberal, Reaganite, and (perhaps) Glibertarian attempt to convince folks that all issues are best debated and understood in terms of economic efficiency when, in fact, many, if not all, issues large and small have nothing whatsoever to do with economic efficiency. Consider the death penalty or whether your butt looks big in those jeans.

A Man of Principles.

A short while ago, a very-rich man complained about being insufficiently rich and was roundly derided for being a whiny, very-rich man. Today if you click the link to his original lament you get a 404 Error and a search for the term super rich fails to turn up the malodorous post.  So, for those of you interested, here's the Google Cache version.  Do you think he took the post down because he was winning the argument?

If Only the Music Didn't Suck

Plastic buckets, dogs, and furniture

Ross Douthat: Boy Genius

In today's column Ross Douthat argues that
Conventional wisdom holds that such respect [for the papacy] is increasingly misplaced, and that the papacy is increasingly a millstone around Roman Catholicism’s neck. If it weren’t for the reactionaries in the Vatican, the argument runs, priests might have been permitted to marry, forestalling the sex abuse crisis. Birth control, gay relationships, divorce and remarriage might have been blessed, bringing lapsed Catholics back into the fold. Theological dissent would have been allowed to flourish, creating a more welcoming environment for religious seekers.
And yet none of these assumptions have any real evidence to back them up. Yes, sex abuse has been devastating to the church. But as Newsweek noted earlier this year, there’s no data suggesting that celibate priests commit abuse at higher rates than the population as a whole, or that married men are less prone to pedophilia. (The real problem was the hierarchy’s fear of scandal, which led to endless cover-ups and enabled serial predation.)
And yes, the church’s exclusive theological claims and stringent moral message don’t go over well in a multicultural, sexually liberated society. But the example of Catholicism’s rivals suggests that the church might well be much worse off if it had simply refashioned itself to fit the prevailing values of the age. That’s what the denominations of mainline Protestantism have done, across the last four decades — and instead of gaining members, they’ve dwindled into irrelevance.
Except, of course, that Pew reported in 2007 that
While those Americans who are unaffiliated with any particular religion have seen the greatest growth in numbers as a result of changes in affiliation, Catholicism has experienced the greatest net losses as a result of affiliation changes. While nearly one-in-three Americans (31%) were raised in the Catholic faith, today fewer than one-in-four (24%) describe themselves as Catholic.

Here is the political breakdown of Catholic's political affiliations:
Republican 23%
Lean Republican10%
Independent 10%
Lean Democratic15%
Democratic 33%
Other/ no preference/ don't know/ refused 9%
48% support the more socially liberal political party while 33% of them support the less socially liberal party.  The Catholic Church has lost more adherents than any other yet remains steadfastly less socially liberal and this won't and hasn't hurt it because those that left did not because they are socially liberal and the Catholic Church isn't but rather because of the opposite reason.


I would most definitely buy a penny stock tip from this guy.

Definite Article

The use of the definite instead of the indefinite article is sometimes revealing.  After defending his industry getting a bazillion dollars in bail outs, this crazed maniac argues
Now, if you talk about bailouts for everybody else, there comes a place where if you just start bailing out all the individuals instead of telling them to adapt, the culture dies.
[t]here’s danger in just shoveling out money to people who say, ‘My life is a little harder than it used to be,’” Munger said at the event, which was moderated by CNBC’s Becky Quick. “At a certain place you’ve got to say to the people, ‘Suck it in and cope, buddy. Suck it in and cope.
You might think that he has in mind a specific culture dying form the specific mistake of giving money to people who, through no fault of their own, cannot find work.  And you'd be wrong.  Giving money to the bankers and etc would've have saved Weimar Germany.  Leaving aside that this is most likely wrong, Weimar Germany also didn't give money to people who couldn't find work through no fault of their own but Charles Munger is okay with that..

What he means is that if you give people the money they need to survive the catastrophes created by efficient markets, profit maximization, and financial innovation the culture of not giving money to people who aren't Charles Munger or his ilk will wither and die. Therefore to ensure that the culture of giving money to the creative class, that is the the class that created the catastrophes through their worship of efficient markets, financial innovation, and profit maximization, and not to the parasites, that is the people who do all the work but were fooled by all that efficient market, financial innovation, and profit maximization stuff , endures you must give the money to Charles Munger and not the tens of millions of unemployed.

One wonders what, exactly, he'd like us to suck in.


Sunday, September 19, 2010

Racy Comics

From, with more at the link

Being Absurdly Rich is Not the Same as Being Super Absurdly Rich

Some guy who makes a bunch of money complains that he doesn't make enough money to live like somebody who makes considerably more money than he makes because Obama is a poopy-head, or something like that.  In the various tooing and frooing of the intertubes and their related webs lots of people are accused of being looters and lots of other people are doubled over in laughter at the oddness of some guy who makes a great deal of money complaining that he can't afford the stuff that some other guy who makes a lot more money has.  Some other other guy makes the wholly obvious point:
I had to rewrite this post so you could read it directly Mr. Henderson. I originally had it as a reply to a guy named Justin Case, but I feel the need to say it to you and the people who follow your logic directly. It’s actually more adressed to them in fact:
Read the article again, people. The gist of it is this guy is whining that his GARDENER and his HOUSEKEEPER will suffer and you are CRYING for him??? Shame on your greedy little hearts. He’s going to have to give up extra lessons for his kid? He may have to *gasp* enroll them in PUBLIC SCHOOL??? Will the tragedy never end for him? I love the (implied) impossibility of finding a home with a lower mortgage in a less chic area (by the way, before you hop on your fear stallions, not everything that is “less chic” is a “cesspool of seething drug crime”. Even in Chicago). I adore the attack on “Marxism”.
There’s been an argument that the rest of us attack guys like Henderson because we are jealous; because we ENVY them. No one ENVIES this putz. We PITY him for his tremendous effort to cling to his undeserved entitlement issues. This isn’t an “increase” in taxes. It’s a roll back.
Let me explain a “roll back” like this (in hopes to put the whole argument to bed): you get a coupon from the supermarket and now cereal is cheaper. You love your coupon, but it has an expiration date printed on it. One day the coupon EXPIRES. Naturally, you cry “Marxism!!!” at the top of your lungs and sue the supermarket, smearing them at every turn for their massive unfairness. Wait… you DON’T cry “Marxism!!!” at the top of your lungs and sue the supermarket, smearing them at every turn for their massive unfairness? Then, please, shut up. Whiner. The tax rate is going BACK to what it WAS. Was this guy BORN in 2001? If not, he survived prior to the roll back.
Lastly… turbo tax? How much crack is he smoking? Invest in an accountant (they are deductible, you know) and learn how to make your money create something as far as jobs (involve friends, assuming you have some, it’ll be fun) and guess what? Your tax deductions will magically offset the losses at this “Marxian” (really? None of you readers see this sloganism as tired and lazy? Really?) “increase”. I mean, I don’t make 250k a year. I only make a fraction of that. Yet I have the common sense to employ an accountant (not a fancy one either. Nice implication, there, that those are the only kind worth having)for the hard stuff. I’ve gone from paying taxes for my contract work to (QUITE legally) getting refunds.
The real takeaway here is this guy Henderson spent a big wad on a good education, got a worthy job with it, then decided his education was over. He didn’t need to adapt. He didn’t need to learn how to manage his money. He was all set because he was better than the rabble in college and he is by default better now. He’s the high school jock who is still living his winning TD while working at the Jiffy Lube; the 275 pound homecoming queen who is watching Oprah. He’s lazy about adapting his ACTUAL life by CONTINUING to learn.
And you who pity him are equally lazy. Keep pointing your fingers at us who don’t, but we make FRACTIONS of what he’s making, work just as many hours (if not more often doing physically taxing labour) and make ends meet without crying. This is pathetic to listen to. OUR money goes to ACTUAL survival and you want to cry because his GARDENER is possibly going to suffer? Perspective. Please.
 There are other equally highlarryious rejoinders and comment threads strewn from one end of the Intertubes to the other. It is, in short, a battle to the death between John Galt and the looters.  For what it is worth the looters win the argument but not the policies put in place.