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.