Friday, September 2, 2011

And So To Bed

It has long been apparent that 1) Sarah Palin is incapable as a politician and 2) no one likes here. Yet the this fact has not kept news outlets both various and sundry from treating here as a potential something or another. Today, I think it is,  TPM, after covering the various ins and outs of her speech to a group no one cares about as if it were news, makes this point. So, I ask TPM et alia why report on Palin? Except, of course, it's easier than engaging in actual reporting about issues that make something like a difference. Horse race for all.

What's Wrong With These Videos?

Johny Cash at San Quentin:

And this:

No, I don't mean a country singer standing by the least among us but rather to paraphrase Blazing Saddles: Where's all the Black Folks At?

Not Tom Waits

Don't like Tom Waits? Dwight and Buck:


As Lincoln said our forefathers brought forth a country for the rich, by the rich, and of the rich:
Conservative columnist Matthew Vadum is just going to come right out and say it: registering the poor to vote is un-American and "like handing out burglary tools to criminals."

"It is profoundly antisocial and un-American to empower the nonproductive segments of the population to destroy the country -- which is precisely why Barack Obama zealously supports registering welfare recipients to vote," Vadum, the author of a book published by World Net Daily that attacks the now-defunct community organizing group ACORN, writes in a column for the American Thinker.
 Enjoy your weekend, while you still have one.

The Muppets Weren't Always Sweeties

I believe this is known as the hard sell:

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Pick 'Em





If you've got a better explanation, I'd like to hear it.

See, or rather hear, also:

Listen and Weep

It's true, you know:

Oh For Dumb

When the state offers a contract it's not here's a million dollars how many miles of road can you pave; rather it is we need three hundred miles of road paved, how much will it cost.  Houston Texas recently passed a rule that when contracting for those kinds of services locals within 5 percent of bids below 100k  and 3  percent over 100k of a lower nonlocal contractor get the contract. They  provide the same service or miles of highway paved, it just costs slightly more on the basis of money spent to home benefits the local economy.

Always ready to expose his ignorance, Matthew Ygelsias misses the point, errs in his understanding of contracting, and seemingly has no idea what bidding for a job means:
The Houston Chronicle describes detractors of this initiative as “free market devotees” but it’s actually advocates of big government who should be upset about this. If big government advocates write a bill to launch a widget-distribution program to equip Houston’s citizens with widgets and they appropriate $1 million to the widget initiative, the “Buy Local” program will ensure that Houstonians end up with 3 percent fewer widgets. The alleged benefit here is that under the “Buy Local” scenario the $1 million is somehow trapped in the Houston Metropolitan Area. But if that’s the goal, why not simply appropriate $970,000 to buy the smaller quantity of widgets and directly disburse the $30,000 you saved by purchasing fewer widgets to the citizens of Houston? Either way, you’re reducing widget purchases in order to keep more money in the local economy. But my way the extra money is actually kept in the City of Houston rather than smearing itself all around the eight county Greater Houston area.
The state doesn't say we have a million dollars to spend who wants it, they say we need X services or whatever how much? How dumb can one man be?

Today and How It Got That Way

Over here is a longish interview with an anthropologist on the origin of debt and the non-existence of a barter economy. I would like to remind everyone that in Moore's The First European Revolution c. 970-1215 he makes a similar point but emphasizes that a gift economy in which things were granted temporarily in the expectation that a sort of friends with benefits situation would result was overthrown when one participant no longer accepted the notion of gifts as conferring reciprocity. I have long argued that this reciprocity was one reason the Doges weren't allowed to accept gifts and, for what it's worth, Reif's point about the reissuing of royal orders in the early modern era strongly supports the notion that there was an cyclic nature to promises, authority and order. 

So what, you ask, does any of that have to do with the price of potatoes? Just this, insisting on economization of language, inter-personal relations, and related whatnottery destroy gift cultures and replaces them with the
Brooksian bought experience. It's not that one is necessarily better than another but rather neither one nor the other is more or less natural.

This last point indicates that all the neoliberal folderoll about how the world is how it is because that's how it is, is yet again shown to be false: the world as it is, is as it is because of the sum total of human actions over the course of time. All the lousy parts of life are the fault of the man with the stick:
In fact the threat of that man with the stick permeates our world at every moment; most of us have given up even thinking of crossing the innumerable lines and barriers he creates, just so we don’t have to remind ourselves of his existence. If you see a hungry woman standing several yards away from a huge pile of food—a daily occurrence for most of us who live in cities—there is a reason you can’t just take some and give it to her. A man with a big stick will come and very likely hit you. Anarchists, in contrast, have always delighted in reminding us of him. Residents of the squatter community of Christiana, Denmark, for example, have a Christmastide ritual where they dress in Santa suits, take toys from department stores and distribute them to children on the street, partly just so everyone can relish the images of the cops beating down Santa and snatching the toys back from crying children.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Tom Waits: Hopeless Romantic II

Is the suggestion here that despite the content, dreams are ideal states toward which we ought all tend? Note, as by the way, the accordion

And on true love:

It's the spitting on Eddy Arnold, bird flipping, and wing giving that define true love.

Then again:

Then yet again:

Freedom, Never Will They Take Her's

The parallels betwitx this cow, rambling through the wilds of Germany since May, and Mel Gibson's Scotsman, are so painfully obvious that the old drunken anti-Semite ought to make a movie of her life.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Cracks in the Belfry

Noted Tea Party loon Michele Bachman promises to drill for oil in the Everglades,  which leads her fellow Tea Party loon Allen West to characterize the claim as
an incredible faux pas,” the Palm Beach Post reports. “When I see her next week, I’ll straighten her out about that,” he added.
Not that West has a problem with being a sexist buffoon, or anything.

Tom Waits; Hopeless Romantic

He used to be young once too, you know:

Oh How He Envies the Poor

As near as I can make out this column by David Brooks valorizes the joys of poverty by  insisting that when he spent money in "simple" camps the help treated him and his well and there were no barriers betwixt the other paying guests. On the other hand, when he spent money on the "relatively luxurious" camps there was a sterility of wealth and individualism that stymied the joy of communal poverty.  That's right, we ought not pity the "simples" their poverty but rather embrace their cheeriness and communality. For Brooks its an experience worth paying for.

But of course, it's not possible that the "simple" camps were haimish because imbeciles like Brooks want to buy an experience rather than create thus transforming an ineffable quality of any decent civilization into a commodity available to those wealthy enough to go on safari.

As to the notion that the employees of simple camps peddling haimishness were authentically haimish, I'll leave you with former slave John Little's description of joyful slaves:
They say slaves are happy because they laugh and are merry. I myself, and three or four others, have received 200 lashes in the day, and had our feet in fetters; yet at night, we would sing and dance, and make others laugh at the rattling of our chains. Happy men we must have been! We did it to keep down trouble, and to keep our hearts from being completely broken; that is as true as the gospel! Just look at it—must not we have been very happy? Yet I have done it myself—I have cut capers in chains.
Not that the cash nexus and the peddling of experience under the threat of no food is like slavery just that even slaves pretend despite a lack of pay.

Matthew Ygelsias on David Brooks commending the commodification of experience:

I completely endorse this:
This being Brooks and, Ygelsias adds, that
the reality is that at the margin, Americans should invest more in vacations and less in big houses.
Because, of course, it's all about those with too much investing in "experiences" not things and really not at all about seeing to that everyone has a place to stay and decently paying job. It's the haves' world, the rest of us are just living in it.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Algorithms' LImits

Netflix suggest

Henry V
Any actual connection? 

In a Nutshell: Education

Why is education "reform" in America so dismal and anti-human, compare it with Finland:
In the United States, which has muddled along in the middle for the past decade, government officials have attempted to introduce marketplace competition into public schools. In recent years, a group of Wall Street financiers and philanthropists such as Bill Gates have put money behind private-sector ideas, such as vouchers, data-driven curriculum and charter schools, which have doubled in number in the past decade. President Obama, too, has apparently bet on compe­tition. His Race to the Top initiative invites states to compete for federal dollars using tests and other methods to measure teachers, a philosophy that would not fly in Finland. “I think, in fact, teachers would tear off their shirts,” said Timo Heikkinen, a Helsinki principal with 24 years of teaching experience. “If you only measure the statistics, you miss the human aspect.”

There are no mandated standardized tests in Finland, apart from one exam at the end of students’ senior year in high school. There are no rankings, no comparisons or competition between students, schools or regions. Finland’s schools are publicly funded. The people in the government agencies running them, from national officials to local authorities, are educators, not business people, military leaders or career politicians. Every school has the same national goals and draws from the same pool of university-trained educators. The result is that a Finnish child has a good shot at getting the same quality education no matter whether he or she lives in a rural village or a university town. The differences between weakest and strongest students are the smallest in the world, according to the most recent survey by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). “Equality is the most important word in Finnish education. All political parties on the right and left agree on this,” said Olli Luukkainen, president of Finland’s powerful teachers union.
I'm sure Yglesias et al can explain who the powerful teachers union is really the problem  and that the absence of market-based solutions is really not evidence for the needlessness of market-based solutions.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

He Didn't Mean What He Said

Matthew Yglesias on the unfairness of no choice in schools for poor people:
This is part of what drives me crazy about debates around charter schools and “choice” in the United States. Every prosperous family in the Washington, DC metro area is exercising public school choice when they decide where to live. And competition between suburban jurisdictions to attract affluent residents and raise property values is an important force in the competitive delivery of social services. It’s only poor people who just get stuck living where they can afford to live (i.e., someplace with low-quality services) and going to whatever school happens to be there. You need to either increase the number of high-quality schools or else increase the capacity of existing high-quality schools. Otherwise, well-heeled parents will use their financial clout to buy access to them, and poor parents will be stuck with the schools they can afford.
This seems relative clear cut: the rich by virtue of being rich have a choice of sending their kids to good schools. The poor don't. The implication is, which is why charter schools and choice appear, that those kinds of choices for poor families will improve educational outcomes.

Freddie deBoer wrote:
Matt Yglesias pulls out his new hobby horse: rich people have more choices than poor people, charter schools increase choices for poor people (even if they don’t work!), and for this reason we should, I take it, undertake all the union-smashing ideas beloved of the reform movement.
This is, again, pretty clear and accurate. Today, Yglesias wrote:
A lot of school reform haters seem mighty impressed by this Freddie de Boer takedown of an argument about charter schools that I never made. So here, again, is my argument. The term “charter schools” doesn’t appear in it in order to clarify the point that this is not an argument about charter schools.
What follows is a description, as opposed to argument about, of how money allows rich people to live wherever they wan't.  Leaving aside the sophomoric "school reform haters" as shorthand for people who accept that the available evidence shows that choice and charter don't work, notice how his defense of his original argument requires stripping the argument out of the original post by denying the implication of his use of charter schools and choice in the original.

Unless Yglesias threw those words in there at random and now denies they were there at all, the serve an implicit claim that charters and choice would/could offer to the poor what the rich already have. Otherwise there is no argument just a tediously obvious description of how, you know, having money allows its possessors to buy stuff.


Preach It Brother

Just so:
The manufacturing economy isn't "modular", but full of network affects. It is a root system, not a haphazard pile of building blocks. When you ship the manufacturing of an industry to another country, contra Larry Summers, you are shipping knowledge, you are shipping the increasing return on investment that comes with every next step in the industry. Not understanding this one bit, the economists as advisors and the political elite have truly helped bring the U.S. to this point of exhaustion.