Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Beneath Contempt

On the floor of the Indian House a crazed maniac ran on to the floor and shouted
I just want you to think about this, in my view, giant loophole that could be created where someone who could — now i want to be careful, I don’t want to disparage in any way someone who has gone through the experience of a rape or incest — but someone who is desirous of an abortion could simply say that they’ve been raped or there’s incest.
Actually it was  Rep. Eric Turner (R). These loons are beneath contempt.

Leaving town for a day or two posting likely light all ten of you will have to wait for the words of nonsense.

Here in Wisconsin: Scott Walker Man of Limited to No Vision

As is well known, Walker angrily rejected 810 million dollars for high speed rail, which led to a burgeoning train industrial base decamping Milwaukee for parts governed by the less blinkered. In the paper today we find that he wants 150 million to upgrade the Milwaukee to Chicago tracks. Well and good. We should be spending more on rail but why, one wonders, is this set of tracks different from high speed rail? It's not in the online article but in the print version Walker argues that
[y]ou've got a proven commodity here, and we're making it better.
For years, Republicans and Conservatives more generally have been trying to destroy Amtrak and yet in those areas where it receives almost sufficient investment it does really well. Most thinking people would conclude that the answer is more investment and new sensible rail lines would lead to increased ridership and, as with the decamped train builder, new industrial sectors which could sell trains at home and abroad. But no, says Walker, instead we have to fire people, cut their wages, and see to it that no uppity university professors dare to criticize ALEC for trying return us to the thrilling days of 1890 when robber barons roamed the earth.

Here in Wisconsin: Press Blackout Edition

Today's Wisconsin State Journal has an editorial explaining why they haven't said word one about the Cronon Affair. Phil Brinkman's argument:
First, recipients of open records requests seldom welcome such intrusions. It’s invasive, it risks exposing them and others to embarrassment or worse.
This, obviously, doesn't hold true for Cronon. He tap dances a bit about the special problems in grabbing a professor's emails, because of chilling academic freedom and students' rights to privacy and then asks and answers the key question:
Is the party’s use of the records law in this case “nakedly political,” as Cronon asserts? Most assuredly.
The fact that the Republican Party is seeking to use a legitimate tool that promotes transparency to attack a critic even as their most recent anti-worker bill is under judicial scrutiny for violating the State's laws concerning legislative transparency isn't a story? No wonder newspapers are in trouble.

Brinkman is also clear that
So why not cover the debate itself? Over the years, this newspaper has made hundreds of records requests, many of them unwelcome and unpleasant experiences for the recipient. It would be hypocritical for us to suggest — and a story would suggest it — that some records requests are beyond the pale.

I just don’t believe that.
 This is just remarkably incoherent.  He accepts that the open record request is nakedly political and that the opr can or will have the effect of stiffling debate yet rejects that notion that political parties attacking citizens for engaging in criticism of the political party is a story worth covering. Amazing really.

Also Chris Rickert's (humorous?) suggestion that the UW-Madison fire random people is further evidence that the WSJ hates it's readers.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011


The guys that developed this

are almost assuredly not actively plotting humanity's demise, but still.



Juan Cole has been unabashed in his support for the invasion of Libya. In two recent posts, he explains why he thinks Obama's speech and actions were and are correct and he takes swipes at the "left" for its opposition.

I find this claim wrong-headed:
Leftists are not always isolationists. In the US, progressive people actually went to fight in the Spanish Civil War, forming the Lincoln Brigade. That was a foreign intervention. Leftists were happy about Churchill’s and then Roosevelt’s intervention against the Axis.
He goes on to castigate the 
fringe left adulation for Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, on the grounds that he is ‘anti-imperialist,’ and with an assumption that he is somehow on the Left.
I've never met any of the latter but maybe all two of them exist. As to the former position, the reason non-pacifists of whatever political stripe aren't "always isolationists" is because calling someone an isolationist is a trope designed to slur and, consequently, ignore their reasons for rejecting this intervention/invasion. Except, of course, Pat Buchanon, who is a loon, there really are few isolationists[1]. It would be nice if we could avoid this kind of rhetorical trick and address the arguments against this intervention/invasion.

Cole actually does sort of do that when he argues that
[t]he proposition that social problems can never be resolved by military force alone may be true. But there are some problems that can’t be solved unless there is a military intervention first, since its absence would allow the destruction of the progressive forces.
I perfectly willing to accept that Ghadaffi was going to and will, should he get the chance, kill as many people as he could because he, too, is a loon and making life miserable for others is the hallmark of a loon. I don't know that there was any good option here. Obama's pragmatic moralistic militarized response to a looming and likely humanitarian disaster may well be right. However, given the scope of the destruction wrought by the humanitarian and tyrannical  bombs for either lives or continued tyranny, I wonder humanitarian costs of bombing for lives will be.

For me, the question is what's next. I understand that Obama and Co have promised cross their heart and etc, not to allow the mission to creep. I find this totally unconvincing. Plus and also I worry about what we do when or if infighting among the rebels/insurgents/freedom fighters takes place. Are we going to use our air superiority to stop that? Or will we send in NATO troops? And, as by the way, when we hand things off to NATO it's important to recall that we are a part of NATO.

While I understand Cole's position, I am remain unpersauded that this was the best way forward and, to the extent it matters, I would argue that this kind of rhetoric
I would like to urge the Left to learn to chew gum and walk at the same time. It is possible to reason our way through, on a case-by-case basis, to an ethical progressive position that supports the ordinary folk in their travails in places like Libya.
Isn't designed to persuade anyone of anything and smacks of the "I am seriously serious person and my opponents are blinkered morons" style of argument we lived through during the Bush years.

[1] Did you know that Gerald Ford was a member of America First? Not really the kind of guy you'd call an isolationist, is he? I mean, after all, if somebody stops having sex for week you wouldn't call them rededicating their life to chastity, in the word's contemporary meaning, would you?

What Africa Needs

Apparently it's more people, because more people means more entrepreneurs or something. And, who knows?, maybe in a world with limited amounts of stuff an increasing population is the right policy. (via)

Beligium Still Doesn't Exist

Belgium has set a record for governmentlessness, except, of course, it has a government the interim prime minster of which is doing a good job of running the country.
At this point, only one politician seems to be acquitting himself well — acting Prime Minister Yves Leterme, who has made his caretaker government almost as effective as a real coalition.
His Libya policy does, however, seem odd.

Maybe when the Republicans shut down the USA because poor people are still allowed we could appoint someone interim president, say Bernie Sanders.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Neoliberalism Also Hates the Truth

Ronald Reagan had difficulty telling the truth. Why? Because much of what he did was immoral and the rest idiotic. Take, for example, his violation of the Constitution.
"The charge has been made that the United States has shipped weapons to Iran as ransom payment for the release of American hostages in Lebanon, that the United States undercut its allies and secretly violated American policy against trafficking with terrorists....  Those charges are utterly false....  We did not--repeat--did not trade weapons or anything else for hostages, nor will we."
--President Reagan, television address, November 13, 1986

"... [I] was not fully informed on the nature of one of the activities."
--President Reagan, referring to the fact that money from weapons sales to Iran was diverted to the contras, November 25, 1986
"The simple truth is, 'I don't remember--period.'"
--President Reagan, responding to a question about when he authorized arms shipments to Iran, February 2, 1987

"A few months ago I told the American people I did not trade arms for hostages.  My heart and my best intentions still tell me that's true, but the facts and the evidence tell me it is not."
--Reagan in a television address is forced to acknowledge "the facts and the evidence" uncovered by the commission that Reagan appointed to look into the matter, March 4, 1987

"I told you all the truth that first day after...everything hit the fan."
--President Reagan, June 11, 1987
Sure, he told the truth when he was caught lying. 

The same is true of his record of tax increases.  He couldn't face the fact that the Neoliberal economic theory didn't work; so he introduced the idea of "revenue enhancers" to replace tax increases. George Will actually approved of this sort of intellectual dishonesty.  Of course, Will aided and abetted Reagan's dishonesty.

More recently, Republicans have begun to accuse their opponents of doing what the Republicans are, in fact, doing. Cronon becomes a bully because independent news agencies and other take rightfully abject to their bullying of Cronon. As just one of the many examples.

Why do I bring this up? The other day, I suggested that Chris Rickert was an idiot. On further consideration, I have concluded that he is, in fact, someone with either a sketch grasp of reality or someone who, like Reagan, enjoys obfuscating and, like the Republicans, argues that black is, in fact, white.

A couple of days ago, in a column in which he insisted that the protesters are morally no better than the forces seeking to destroy workers, he wrote:
I admit I've been taking the protesters to task, though I don't necessarily oppose their aim. Mostly, I'm just temperamentally given to rooting for the underdog (in Madison, that would be conservatives), just as I suspect a lot of the louder protesters (especially those who don't belong to unions) are temperamentally driven by the need to be part of something bigger than themselves.
See what he did there? The protests aren't "liberal" Madison versus some besieged minority of Conservatives. Its workers versus Republicans dead set on destroying their incomes. He may "suspect" that a lot of the protesters are motivated by, what he sees as a base, desire to matter. But the fact of the matter is that almost all of the protesters are motivated by the desire to stop Neoliberals from destroying workers wages, which -- to be fair -- is "something bigger than themselves but that's actually a good thing.

In his column on letting the UW-Madison become part privatized and, I'd argue, eventually destroyed, he asserted
I say, let the cake-eaters have the UW-Madisons of the worlds. There are plenty of people out there like my wife who would succeed without them.
It's not clear who the "cake-eaters" are supposed to be, although the most likely candidates are the students, facaulty, and staff at UWM. The other referent here is, obviously, Marie Antoinette, who didn't say anything like that even though myth has it that she did. What he's done here  is to ignore that it is the Republicans who, in an orgy of salary cutting and budget slashing, are the the contemporary Marie Antionettes and the current students, faculty and staff the victims of their short-sighted budget slashing and related etc.

In just two columns he manages to recapitulate the worst of Neoliberal rhetorical flourishes. WSJ readers deserve better.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

David Brooks: Fibber Magee

In today's NYT Book Review's Inside the List sidebar there is a description of David Brooks blather about his book on some tv talk show or another. He told the story of watching some social scientist's experiment in which waiting to eat something led to getting twice as much. Brooks insisted that in watching the video in which Oreo cookies were the food of choice, one of the children open the cookie and ate the filling in the hopes of fooling the scientists.  That boy, Brooks claimed, is now a senator.  That story, I now claim, is bullshit, in the Frankfurtian sense of bullshit.

Invasion: By Taking Sides We Have Become a Side

In conclusion to a long post on Libya, in which the most striking -- if not only -- fact reported is that there is no real Rebel army, Jon Lee Anderson concludes:
Can they do it? Not without many more air strikes, that is certain.
The Coalition has gone from protecting civilians from Gaddifi to being the leading edge of a non-existent rebel alliance. It doesn't take a lot of imagination to conjure up what comes next, does it?

The Market

Why market fundamentalism is wrong click to see how the free market turns lemons into lemonaid.