Saturday, October 16, 2010

In England

Education reform and market-based solutions in England lead the Con/Lib government to try and
cut about 80 percent of the current $6.2 billion it pays annually for university teaching, and about $1.6 billion from the $6.4 billion it provides for research. 
This latest battle against education leads universities and colleges
[i]n anticipation of further cuts, many are beginning to lay off instructors, reduce the number of classes and shut down departments. Some instructors and researchers, dismayed by how little money they are being offered and worried about future financing, have abandoned Britain for more lucrative offers at universities abroad.
What does that mean as a practical matter? This:
Middlesex University said last spring that it intended to close its philosophy department. Cardiff University in Wales announced proposals to reduce the teaching staff in its modern languages department to 10 people, from 22. King’s College London said it would abolish its chair in paleography, the study of ancient handwriting — the only such post in Britain. (After an international outcry, it proposed creating a new position in “paleography and manuscript studies” that would be “fully funded from philanthropic monies.”)
 That's right cut funding so that you can have fewer educated citizens and a state-sponsored brain drain.  What is the cause of all this?  Folks like a Mr. Browne, who used to work for that paragon of private enterprise BP, whose
report also proposes withdrawing government support completely from subjects in the arts and humanities and concentrating it in areas he believes contribute more to the economy, like science and engineering.
Vote for Walker and he can do the same to the UW.

Friday, October 15, 2010

How Ron Johnson Got Rich

It seems that our manufacturer and accountant made his money the old fashioned way: marry into a company and sell stuff to your father in law.  It's the very model for job creation here in Wisconsin and the nation more generally.  The un- and underemployed will hang out around the watering holes of the rich and famous and marry their way to prosperity. Given the rather skewed nature of wealth distribution in these United States, home of the world's only and therefore largest corn palace, we may have to introduce polyandry, polygamy, and perhaps legalize bigamy.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

NRO Gets it Wrong Again.

On Wednesday Michelle Obama said that
Obama needs allies in Washington like [Alexi] Giannoulias and supporters like those at the fundraiser.
"I told you that you had to have my husband's back ... I told you that if I were giving him up, you had to have his back because my husband can't do this alone. He can't do it alone. He needs leaders like Alexi right by his side," she said.
On Thursday, which is today, the NRO's Katheryn Jean Lopez turned that into evidence for the claim that
[t]he Obamas are not about inspiring you to hope and change anymore. They’re about shaming you.

I’m perplexed at the current FLOTUS tour. Last night, for instance, she announced: “I told you that you had to have my husband’s back … I told you that if I were giving him up, you had to have his back because my husband can’t do this alone. He can’t do it alone.”

Insulting your base’s sticktoitiveness may just leave you a base that’s increasingly frustrated with you.
Obviously, Obama was asking for supporters to send another Democratic candidate to DC.  Lopez, who conveniently doesn't provide a link, misrepresents the content of the First Lady's speech in order to insult both the First Lady, the President, and their supporters. Comments like these are like the "polite" version of this billboard.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Proof of the Crazification Factor

Today TPM reports thatNazi reenactor and appologist Iott, who is running for Congress in Ohio, claimed that his opponent and he
". . . have known each other for 25 years," Iott said. "You know my family, I've contributed personally to your campaign in the past, and together we've done a lot for this community. But now because you want to win reelection so badly, you've thrown all of that out the window."
His opponent, Nancy Kaptur,
denied knowning [sic] Iott for 25 years, as he claimed: "I met my opponent for the first time this year, this summer, when I walked up to him at the Point Place Parade and I introduced myself to him. I really don't know him. I know what we learned through this campaign."
For the record, according to this fine webpage, a Richard Iott of Montclova OH donated 200 dollars to Kaptur in 1994. He donated more to Republicans and what appear to be lobby groups for grocers.

There is quite a bit more on the creepiness of Nazi reenacting here, scroll down, you must.

By His Enemies Ye Shall Know Him

This billboard is up in Grand Junction, Colorado

Via, with no condemnation and one comment argues that it is a Democratic dirty trick. It isn't. The author of the billboard? Paul Snover, among whose editorial cartoons numbers this one:

Stay classy.

For God's Sake Keep Fear Alive II

Remember the Donald Duck/Glenn Beck collaboration? TPM reports that Beck has responded.  To which Mickey and Pluto, I think it is, respond:

When Doing Something Doesn't Mean You'd Do Something

Megan McArdle:
I get paid for speaking sometimes.  You cannot assume that because I speak to my alumni groups for free, I must therefore be willing to speak whether or not there is money involved.
You mustn't assume that.  You might assume that because she did something in the past she might do in the future.  Which is to say, you might assume that she speaks sometimes for free because she once spoke for free.  You might also wonder why anyone would pay her. The whole thing is highlarryious because each paragraph makes as much sense as these sentences.

Street Signs

Like many other news outlets, Milwaukee's WTMK reports on a "new" rule regarding street signs. Lots of people are upset by this "new" rule requiring changes in street signs and characterize it as frivolous because it deals with font size and capitalization. The rules were changed in 2003, the changes aren't merely cosmetic, the changes do not need to be completed until 2018, and the changes in letter can be phased in over time.

In other words, it is not the case that some faceless bureaucrat woke up this morning with a bad hangover and sent a sternly-worded letter to everyone in America, who is responsible for street signage, and told them to change everything now with no explanation.

The Manuel that appears to guide this stuff is here.  It's worth thinking for a moment of the advantages arising from a Uniform Vehicle Code and a uniform set of traffic signs for people who move about the country in the service of industry, commerce, and seeing their relatives back home, as opposed to crouching in the basement in fear of the police ripping you outdated street sign from your cold dead hands.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Here in Wisconsin

How utterly crazy is Ron Johnson?  This crazy:
Asked by a panelist about the book, Johnson said "Atlas" represents the producers of the world, while "Shrugged" represents how overburdened the producers are with rules, regulations and taxes.

"It's a warning of what could happen to America," Johnson said. "When you hear people talk about a tipping point, that's what we're concerned about...We have more people who are net beneficiaries of government than are actually paying into the system. That's a very serious thing to think about."

Who Said It?

If you knew nothing before, learned nothing during, and didn't change your mind, wouldn't the decent thing to do be to shut up already?
I think it’s be a little silly to decide you’d learned striking new things about something as complicated and well-rehearsed as the Arab-Israeli conflict over the course of a week-long trip (I do think I now know a lot more about Palestinian politics, but that’s largely a reflection of my pre-trip ignorance and I wouldn’t dare claim to really understand it) so it’s no surprise that I still basically think what I thought before about “the issues.
See also, also.

Here in Wisconsin

Scott Walker has a Six Step plan to end world hunger, man's inhumanity to man, create 250,000 jobs by 2015, which further shows his lack of imagination as well limited sense of historical perspective.  That is all bad enough, and you should read the whole thing it'll take five minutes of your time, but his scheme for education is particularly crazy. He thinks that
[a]ny successful economic development strategy will require a strong integration of the private sector and our educational institutions. Despite the national recession, job creators still report difficulty finding enough highly qualified workers in all industries. This is why we must ensure that investments in our schools align with our job creation goals. Course offerings at our universities and technical colleges should be aligned with industry clusters and credits between schools must be easily transferable. Curriculum must have a better balance of employment-based learning and liberal arts so our graduates are “job-ready.” Internships and apprenticeships should be expanded for both college and high school students.
Or, in a simplified version, More Workers, Fewer Thinkers.  If Walker and his cronies want to turn the one of the world's best educational systems into factories turning out "highly qualified workers" instead of citizens capable of figuring out which policies they want because they have learned to think critically, aka liberal arts education, then let the corporations pay for it.  

When Nazi Collaborators Aren't Collaborators

Concerning Rich Iott, (R+Tea Party Ohio) Jon Stewart called him a "history nerd." Even, of course, Homer nods, but really, Jon?  Last night, it seem , Iott claimed that northern Europeans who collaborated with the Nazis didn't collaborate because
[t]hey were doing what they thought was right for their country. And they were going out and fighting what they thought was a bigger, you know, a bigger evil."
Got that? Pierre Laval wasn't a collaborator because he thought he was doing what was best for France.  The mind boggles.

Increasing his idiot to speech ratio
Iott also contended that "this particular unit was one that was never charged with war crimes," though Cooper pointed out that one member was recently charged with the murder of 58 Jews. Iott replied: "The war on the eastern front was extremely brutal on both sides. Nobody was lily-white, that's for sure. Horrible things that happened on both sides."
See how that works? No one his group represents did anything really wrong except to the extent that they participated in the Holocaust.




Monday, October 11, 2010


Matt Yglesias:
I’m going to side with Robert Farley against John Quiggin on the nature of the settlement of the Second World War. There’s definitely a sense in which it all worked out for the best in the end, but the conclusion of the war in Europe was both very harsh on the Germans and also a spectacular failure in terms of cosmic justice.
The phrase "very harsh on the Germans" and WWII's conclusion is difficult to comprehend. And his later point that

 it’s really only relative to the carnage of 1914-1945 that the subsequent 45 years look like a good deal to anyone.
The post-WWII world is better than the previous 31 years only because it didn't have a pointless and murderous war, an economic collapse, a necessary War, the Holocaust, the Armenian Genocide, etc.

The man is a serious thinker.  He really is.

Naturalized Citizen

John Cole, like many of you, wonders why we still have Columbus Day.  This reminded me, as Columbus Day always does, of  Trouillot's "Good Day, Columbus" in his Silencing the Past His discussion of the day and its meanings is very good and worth your time on the day we celebrate or mourn America's first European immigrant or vicious exploiter of the New World, depending on your reading of the past. .

Too Few Choices

For the longest time, Conservatives and Neoliberals have argued for more testing and greater choice, through charter schools and vouchers.  Recent studies suggest that none of this works. When confronted with these facts of the matter, the intellectually honest thing to do would be stop rooting from them.  Ross Douthat, however, thinks the thing to is repeat old and discredited canards, "incompetent teachers" cause low performance among students, and double down on choice, vouchers, and other even yet more idiotic solutions, "fund students" and allow the magic of the market place to sort it all out. About one sensible point made in this column is that testing doesn't provide the evidence necessary to find the answer to the question "is our children learning," which comes because testing delegitimatizes Douthat's preferred solution: choice. 

When it comes to education reform, Conservatives really do suffer from a dearth of choice.

Jonah Goldberg: Reliably Wrong

The NYT has a discussion about Conservative "hate" toward Woodrow Wilson and blame it on Glenn Beck. Importantly, Goldberg refuses to understand the issue under consideration.  It's not the exact origin of WW hatred. Even more importantly, Goldberg didn't start Conservative hatred toward WW. Still he get's all petulant.
But there are some chicken-and-egg problems with that. Beck got on the anti-Wilson train largely because of my book. And I started Liberal Fascism long before  I — or pretty much anyone — had ever heard of Barack Obama.
He also mocks the debate because unnamed some one was dumb enough to try "to make [Beck] into a mouthpiece for Leo Strauss (no, really)"

In the first and possibly second instances Goldberg refers to Georg Nash.  Here's what Nash wrote.
At one level, the phenomenon owes much to Glenn Beck. But Beck is not sui generis. In considerable measure he is popularizing the perspective of a school of conservative scholars associated with the Claremont Review of Books -- a group sometimes labeled the Claremont or West Coast Straussians, since many of them have been influenced by Leo Strauss and his student, Harry Jaffa.
Can you turn that into the claims that Goldberg made? Me neither.

Not content to be wrong once, he asserts that
John Milton Cooper — a great and revered historian — says that the chief problem with the right’s indictment of Woodrow Wilson is not that it is wrong on the merits, but that it’s too selective? In other words, the substance of the attack is fine, it’s just not inclusive enough. I’ll take that any day.
Goldberg then performs, what I believe to be called, a "take down" of Cooper's tragic error concerning TR.  He, of course, misses the point of Cooper's argument.

Cooper is actually discussing the ebbing and flowing of historical reputations and changes in the ideological makeup of political parties.. His first paragraph lets you know that, because he writes that

The barrage of denunciation of Woodrow Wilson from the right, most loudly but not exclusively from Glenn Beck, is not as surprising as it seems. True, most previous excoriation of him has come from the left, from those who have deplored him for abetting an attempt to segregate the federal workplace, for taking the country into World War I, and for overseeing repression of radicals and dissenters after we entered the war. He continues by making the point that these "detracters" failed to give Wilson his full due because they relied on a skewed understanding of WW's accomplishments.

Cooper goes on to point out that
That is a measure of how much our political culture has undergone a sea change in the last century. Nowhere has that sea change been greater than in the Republican party, which was born of the Civil War and proudly exalted federal supremacy. Devotion to state rights and limited government was the property of conservative Democrats such as Grover Cleveland and Southern "bourbons." First, William Jennings Bryan and then Wilson turned the Democrats decisively in a more centralized and interventionist direction.
Even a cursory reading of Cooper's text shows that he is not interested in condemning WW but defending him and that he is make a larger point by playing up some ironies of history.

Concerning his next victim, he
truly laughed out loud at Harvard historian Jill Lepore’s opening salvo. She writes:
Conservatives wish to turn the word “progressive” into an insult, in much the same way that the word “liberal” became a smear during the 1988 presidential campaign. Liberals are bad at labeling things, not least themselves, their political opponents, and their policies; conservatives are good at it.

The rest isn’t much more persuasive.

While sparing us his misreading of Lepore, here is what she actually argues 1) nobody really likes WW consequently he is easy to demonize;  2) Wilson and Obama are similar in many ways; 3) if you are going to go after Progressives WW was, in fact, a Progressive and 4) Beck is a populist and
[p]opulism looks to a past thought to be better than the present; it therefore needs a “before”; its argument will always go like this: before X, all was well; since X, everything’s gone to hell. If X weren’t Wilson, X would simply be someone else.
Next up Micheal Lind, who Goldberg mocks as he thinks Beck is Strauss. Much like Nash, Lind doesn't think that at all. He writes that
[t]he recent elevation by the American right of Woodrow Wilson as the central villain in American history is itself something of a historical accident. That accident is the result of the publicity given by Glenn Beck and Jonah Goldberg to the views of a small number of conservative scholars, including Ronald J. Pestritto, William Voegeli and Thomas G. West. These so-called “Straussians,” or followers of the German political theorist Leo Strauss, argue that Wilson’s brand of progressivism marked a radical break with the older tradition of American politics based on natural rights and the idea of a social contract.
Goldberg reads him as providing
condescension . . . typical of Lind. You see, he’s here to tell everyone what conservatives are supposed to believe, and conservatives are supposed to start with the New Deal or the Great Society, not Wilson.
Oddly enough, Lind is giving Goldberg the credit he so badly wants, kinda. Lind's argument is that this Conservative version of America's  from greatness is only one among many.

Mark Lawrence concludes his contribution by noting that
The problem with the conservative view of Wilson is not that it is entirely wrong but that it is grossly incomplete. It makes almost no effort to view Wilson within the context of an era when most Americans eagerly welcomed the growth of government power.

And it ignores the obvious point that Wilson shares as many traits in common with the latter-day right as with liberals. After all, Wilson’s initiatives during the World War I resemble little in American history so much as the 2001 Patriot Act championed by the Bush administration. And Wilson’s notoriously moralizing, self-righteous personality would fit right in among the conservative punditry so eager to condemn him.
Goldberg complains that
I can’t speak for Beck too authoritatively here since I’ve hardly followed his every statement on Wilson, but Lawrence gets me just plain wrong. One of the central points of my entire argument about the progressive era (and fascism) is that these ideas were popular. They were in the water, on both sides of the Atlantic.

As for Lawrence’s bit about the Patriot Act, that really is hilarious. Who is lacking in historical context now? Whatever the flaws or excesses of the Patriot Act may have been, to compare it to what happened under Wilson is not only absurd, it reveals Lawrence’s political blinders. Indeed, the civil rights abuses under FDR, starting with the internment of the Japanese, but also including the harassment of political enemies, were far worse than anything that happened under Bush. And, they were a natural, if diluted, continuation of what happened under FDR’s old boss, Woodrow Wilson. But discussing that would be too inconvenient.
Lawrence isn't arguing about action but rather intentions and world views.

Goldberg in each case either misstates or misunderstands the texts he claims to have read.

The New York Times: Readers and Editors

A letter to this past Sunday's NYTimes' Sports Section concludes that
Let us cheer Halladay for his accomplishment, but we should not compare his to another, greater accomplishment.
He means Larson's perfect game.  How did he arrive at this conclusion?  As is clear from his use of a compartive term, he compared the two events and found one greater than another.  He means, no doubt, equate.  Is this nitpicking.  No it really isn't; if you spend the time necessary to write a letter and make a comparative argument, it makes little sense to dismiss as comparison illegitimate.

There were yet even more comparatively  worser problems in the book review. Let's assume that a books review's purpose is to present in an honest way information about the book under review that will either encourage or discourage a reader from reading the book.  Let's further assume that there are only some many words allowed in an NYTRoB.  Neither proposition seems unlikely.  Yet today in a review by
Steven Heller, the former art director of the Book Review, writes the Visuals column[.]
We read that
In his enlightening introduction to this hefty two-volume collection, the editor, Art Spiegelman, notes it was only a few decades ago that extended comics, published in book format with actual spines instead of staples, started being referred to as graphic novels.“The ungainly neologism seems to have stuck since Will Eisner, creator of the voraciously inventive ‘Spirit’ comic book of the 1940s, first used it on the cover of his 1978 collection of comics stories for adults, ‘A Contract With God,’ ” Spiegelman writes. “It was a way to distance himself from the popular prejudices against the medium.”
Is there anything wrong here. Well yes, there is. Is Spiegelman the editor or an editor or its editor?  Does the knowledge that Heller thinks the book hefty illuminate the book's content in any way?  Is that sentence ungainly?  It's its, no, and yes.
In the his introduction to this interesting and important collection, its editor, Art Spiegelman, argues that what we now call graphic novels are a recent invention. “The ungainly neologism seems to have stuck since Will Eisner, creator of the voraciously inventive ‘Spirit’ comic book of the 1940s, first used it on the cover of his 1978 collection of comics stories for adults, ‘A Contract With God,’ ” Spiegelman writes. “It was a way to distance himself from the popular prejudices against the medium.”
Are there other more substantive problems with the review?  Well, yes.  Heller writes that
[i]n large part owing to the continued success of Spiegelman’s Pulitzer Prize-winning “Maus,” about his parents’ experiences at Auschwitz, graphic novels are now widely accepted.
 Does Maus I and II most salient theme concern Spiegelman's parents and Auschwitz? No.  It's much more about the surviving parent and the son.  Are graphic novels "widely accepted"? As what? By whom? Here's a site listing the best selling graphic novels by month and year.  Last years best seller?  The Watchmen. The rest of the list seems to be a bunch of comic books tarted up. Are these widely accepted by people who don't read them as legitimate because of Maus I and II?  Not really.  Are there occasional really good graphic novels?  Sure. Am I being a nitpicker, no not really.  This kind of confused writing and sloppy thinking allows folks to make unsubstantiated if not false claims, it's bad practice whatever the issue under consideration might be.