Friday, May 27, 2011

How The World Ends

I am sure, of course, that there is nothing to this:
The Lingodroid research project lets robots generate random sounds for the places they visit in both simulations and a real office.
The "words" are shared and the robots play games to establish which sound represents which location.
The lexicon has proved so sophisticated that it can be used to help robots find places other robots direct them to.
When machines finally do gain the upperish hand will it be our friends and collaborators in the creation of a new Eden or our overlords. I'm voting overlords.

How Soon He Forgets

Remember when Andrew Sullivan was all a twitter about the "Arab 1848" that his misunderstanding of the past and the use of historical analogy was on a nearly hourly display? Despite the continuation of the tumult his interest, if judged by posting, has dropped to zero. I have no real idea why this is but I would suggest that it is that fact that what is there going on is so complicated and the triumph of the masses, if that's what happen in Tunisia and Egypt and might yet happen elsewhere, so long in coming that he just plain lost interest or, more precisely, he wasn't much interested in the events on the ground as he pretended to be.

In the same way, outside of TPM or TPM-like outlets, despite information concerning the continuing and increasing foolishness and counterproductive nature of the anti-human policies of Scott Walker and his fellow travelers is difficult to find in the national news. Indeed, in TPM and its fellows, we mostly read of popularity versus unpopularity. Why? Again, I have no real idea but would suggest that the groundswell of support for traditional American remedies for the excesses of capitalism embarrasses  excess's most recent defenders: the Neoliberals left right and center wings.

In other words, once the reality underlying some phenomenon or another becomes complicated or runs counter to interests into the memory hole it goes.

How Not To Criticize Bad Policy

Think Progress on Pawlenty and the destruction of Medicare:
GOP presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty said yesterday that he would sign the Medicare-ending Republican budget into law if elected president. “If that was the only bill that came to my desk, and I wasn’t able to pass my own plan, I would sign it,” he said of the hugely unpopular plan.
The plan is, it's true, hugely unpopular, but that really isn't the most salient point. It is wasteful, destructive, counter-productive, and generally anti-human. Think Progress has, I think, mentioned all of those points in other articles etc; however, it needs to make the most important point every single time.  The debate isn't on popularity, which might make sense if we were electing the prom king and queen, but rather on the outcome. Tax cuts are "popular," in the sense that people like them but actually hate the policy outcome: reduced service. Let's make an attempt to stick to the important stuff.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

What's a Picture Worth

This sums things up:


Ah, No.

Matthew Yglesias doesn't like regulation. I agree with at least part of his point, it's silly to lock convicted felons out of jobs. There, for example, no reason why a murderer can't be perfectly good barber or lawyer. On the other hand, there is no reason why a convicted Ponzi Scheme operator ought be allowed to manage a hedge fund. The key to intelligent regulation is understanding if the danger outweighs the damage done to the pool of felons or other miscreants seeking employment in this or that field. Keeping people convicted of sexualized violence against children away from children, for example,  strikes me as a perfectly reasonable regulation. It isn't, obviously, going to end sexualized violence against children and, given the Neoliberal commitment to undermining the state's ability to protect its citizens from predators, it wont be perfect. Still, it's difficult to see how this kind of regulation is an example of a slippery slope. Indeed, I would worry more about the various housing rules that make all but impossible for some convicted of sexualized violence against children to find a place to live.

Relatedly, he observes that younger Americans and some other subgroups of Americans aren't graduating college in the same percentages of older Americans. He concludes:
No huge policy insight from me for now, but it’s a reminder that more high-skill immigration would be in our interest.
If we take his "our" to mean Americans, it is unclear why importing already educated people would benefit "us," at least some of whom are those of "us" who didn't graduate. The benefit to "us" comes from figuring out why these groups aren't graduate at the same rate as older Americans and then ameliorating those conditions.Yglesias seems not to understand that suggesting a change in policy is, in fact, a policy "insight."  Furthermore, there is right now a fierce competition for jobs among all categories of workers. The focus needs to be on the creation of decent paying jobs even if it violates on or another of the limitless Neoliberal nonsense based on economized language.

Sentence I Wish I'd Written

From the Balloon Juice collective:
Over at his blog, Bobo continues to fling links to random bits of other people’s sociological research in the vain hope that people will assume “The Social Animal” also contains actual science-like stuff, rather than being 350 pages of David whimpering about how Gail Collins won’t sleep with him.

How to Spot a Neoliberal in Any Clothing

Obviously, there's the market fundamentalism; but also there's this:
She is smart. (That’s why she’s so rich.)
That's just not true. Mitt Romney is rich and he is an idiot. Donald Trump was/is rich and he is worse than an idiot. And so on. People are rich for lots of reasons few to none of which are smarts.

Error Prone

This morning I read about Chrysler's return of a bunch of the money the State gave it during the dark days of yesteryore. And, I thought, that ought to be one more counter on the side of those who think that this Administration is doing at least somethings more or less right and, consequently, as more evidence that the Neoliberal lock on policy-making ought loosen.

First up is Mitt Romney. He denounced Obama's Administration's bailout plan as the worst kind of socialism and so on. Now he claims that he invented Obama's Administration's bailout plan. The Republican majority in the House are so dedicated to deregulation that they are behaving like cads and bounders in their "grilling" of Elizabeth Warren. The House Minority Leader wants spending cuts to offset any aid to Joplin MO. And so on.

How long do we have to put up with this nonsense? The Neoliberals are wrong and events have shown them to be wrong. It's time to try something else.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Years Not Months

So, the mission creep built into the UN mandate to bomb for peace and tranquility has crept.  Whilst the Bush/Yoo doctrine of obscuring reality and expanding presidential powers continues on apace.  David Brooks can now be wrong about more than one political system and use that wrongness to write pro-authoritarian political system op-eds. Matthew Yglesias cannot distinguish underemployment combined with stagnant and declining wages from work sharing schemes designed to reduce profits by increasing people with decent wages.

On the plus side, it's burgers and tater tots for supper.

Why Journalist Don't Matter

Did Lance Armstrong take EPO and other PES? I don't know. Right now I do know that all the allegations that have been adjudicated were found to untrue, or at least insufficient to establish Armstrong's guilt. Tyler Hamilton's recent denunciation isn't and doesn't contain anything new. Should the state prove that Armstrong was a drug cheat, well sucks to him.

However, not content to wait for actual evidence of any wrong doing and seemingly unaware that Hamilton's allegations are not new, Andy Baggot of the the Wisconsin State JOurnal's sports page provides more evidence, should it be needed, of essential foolishness of the press here in America. After praising Armstrong's cancer work and thinking that the lying and cheating were fundamentally necessary for the cancer work and deciding that he would do the same thing, Baggot writes:
This is how I choose to reconcile the now overwhelming perception that Armstrong isn’t who he says he is — that he isn’t the person whose incredible story prompted me to buy his books and admire him in this space. 
That's right, he decided on Armstrong's guilt because of an "overwhelming perception," sort of like opposing the end of slavery or the emancipation of women because of the overwhelming perception of their intellectual inferiority.

This is exactly like the rounds of fibbing and lionizing of Ryan following on in the wake of his idiotic budget. An overwhelming perception, although it's unclear about who Baggot his small circle of friends and professional colleagues seems most likely, emerges and then people who really don't not know what they are talking about decided to accept the version offered by whatever spokes model stands in front of the cameras.

It's a small wonder that yesterday's WSJ editorial was a song of praise for old Ryan's dishonest plan to stop paying for health care instead of controlling its cost.