Saturday, November 12, 2011

This Just In: Ross Douthat is Still Silly

Why, you ask, did a wealthy and pampered man refuse to step in when an act of pure evil occurred in his shop, on his watch, and by an ex-colleague? Because he was a moral monster, you might think. Well, as it turns out, no. At least According to Ross Douthat. It is because Paterno like many
good people, heroic people, are led into temptation by their very goodness — by the illusion, common to those who have done important deeds, that they have higher responsibilities than the ordinary run of humankind. It’s precisely in the service to these supposed higher responsibilities that they often let more basic ones slip away.
That right, it was Joe Pa's essential goodness and heroism that led him to allow a serial child raper to continue child raping for nearly a decade if not longer. He has higher responsibilities than protecting children from a child raper. According to Douthat, a rich man giving some small or large percentage of his wealth to create funds, professorial chairs, and buildings that bear his name is the kind of heroism that quails before the minor matter of stopping child raping. The NYTimes ought properly be ashamed of the voice of the turtle they have unleashed on the land.

 Let alone the question does he think that it is actually the case that ignoring great evil is evidence of being either good or heroic? When he writes these hot messes, do you think he actually thinks?

Friday, November 11, 2011

Hunger Chancellor

Italy and Greece are set 
to replace elected leaders with respected, veteran officials known for their expertise rather than their political skills
 in order to enforce more austerity, which is now the neoliberal orthodoxy, despite the fact that it makes no sense.

It seems to me that Bruening's failure at the end of Weimar was less a failure of technocratisme as such but rather the limitations of technocratisme in a time crises, which undermine political legitimacy more generally. In the case of Weimar the Negative Majority created a situation in which governmental action was impossible. Increased reliance on unelected technocrats to resolve the serious economic problems through a doctrinaire neoliberalism will be a disaster. Why? The neoliberal global economy didn't fail because of some exogenous shocks combined with inflation; it failed because unregulated profit-maximization leads to this state of affairs.

1) Fewer people have more money and need to get some kind of a return on that money
2) They all begin investing in the same set of things
3) The "value" of those things rises
4) The Bubble Emerges
5) Nonregulation lets the bubble grow
5) The bubble bursts
6) Socialize the Losses

If you could get rid of 6, the problem of the bursted bubble would be the loss of some small number of rentiers' incomes.  But because of 1, the politics are such that 6 has to happen.

So if our technocrats are going to succeed, they are going to have to overcome 1 and 6, which at this stage of the game means abandoning neoliberalism and the notion of the market state. This strikes me as unlikely and, as a consequence, we might find the European periphery at the least in a crisis of political legitimacy that could end in a more democratic, which is to say authentically social democratic moment. Or not.

The point is if they are really technocrats and not zombie ideologues, they will realize that the failure to create a climate of democratic legitimacy will fatally undermine their attempt to "fix" the mess in which those seeking profit maximization led the world. This means, doesn't it?, either some kind of pr campaign explaining why austerity is necessary or shifting their preferred policies to a mix of austerity combined with tax increases in order to preserve public employment and/or public services.

Armistice Day

Dulce et decorum est by Wilfred Owen

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs,
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots,
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame, all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of gas-shells dropping softly behind.

Gas! GAS! Quick, boys! - An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time,
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And floundering like a man in fire or lime. -
Dim through the misty panes and thick green light
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

In all my dreams before my helpless sight
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams, you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues, -
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Why I Don't Read Slate

Slate makes yet another mistake.

Neoliberal Technocratism Explained

Why is that the Greeks et alia don't get to vote on austerity measures? From a comment on a Crooked Timber post on technocratisme:
Crisis caused by groupthink among economists best addressed by appointing economists to head governments, say all economists
And there you have the last 30 years or so in a nutshell: Faster Pussy Cat Kill Kill. The motto of the neoliberals ever since their grand experiment in ruining our lives went not so much awry but according to its 19th-century model.

From the same thread:
Larry Summers: SB Economics, MIT (1975)
Mario Draghi: PhD Economics, MIT (1976)
Lucas Papademos: PhD Economics, MIT (1977)
Ben Bernanke: PhD Economics, MIT (1979)
Papademos, demos -- oddly enough -- means people, is the new technocrat who will rescue Greece through continued neoliberalization. Oopa. From the same link, a long report on how the Greeks, who didn't cause the problems, are going to be rogered. See especially section 34 in which the Greek economy is restored by cutting wages, jobs, social programs, and related etc. To say nothing of Table 14 in which every single thing that might bring in revenue, from the lottery to gold mines, is sold through
an independent and depoliticised board of directors and an advisory board to allow it to benefit from international experience and technical expertise. In order to enhance transparency, the board may include two observers nominated by the Commission and the Eurogroup. Moreover, to strengthen the whole process, the mission agreed with the government establishing cumulative quarterly targets for privatisation proceeds.
Because the last thing you'd want in a situation like this is people other than the architects of the neoliberal global economy stepping in to fix the mess the architects of the neoliberal global economy made.

Who Will Denounce

Penn State students riot, rock throwing, van tipping, etc, because Paterno was fired. Bets on Conservatives denouncing this behavior as violent lawlessness? Imagine, for a moment, if any of the Occupy occupiers had done anything like this, how loud would be the denunciations and demands for denunciations by the forces of order? Today, I predict, the forces of order will blame political correctness for Paterno's sacking and, consequently, they will approve, or at least excuse, the riot.

I also predict that when all is said and done and the bottom of the disgraceful episode is gotten to, Paterno's supporters will recant. In addition, it seems to me that if a major football program with a university attached covered up a serial child rapist that other less horrific events, theft, battery, etc, are swept under the rugs of if not all then nearly all programs. Coaches are paid millions, athletic directors are paid millions, student-athletes are exploited, the NCAA gets rich, and other corrupt practices abound. It is time to end college sports.

Over to the NRO David French denounces the rioters as louts for all the right reasons.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

End College Sports Now III

Jim Litke argues that
Like everything else in this still-evolving mess, Paterno's acknowledgment that he shared plenty of responsibility for it came way too late. Fashioning a graceful exit is Paterno's only chance to prove it and he's earned that right.
How has Paterno earned the right to fashion a graceful exit? By showing that real leaders let child rapists go free? Or because he won a bunch of games that make no difference to anyone? Just win baby isn't a justification for avoiding moral action. Good God, yall, it's like Camus never existed. If he were a decent human being, I think, Paterno would acknowledge his error and retire never to be heard from again. The whole episode is disgraceful and everyone involved should quit.

JoPa and the President of Penn are gone. None too soon and presumably, for the children raped, far too late.
See also.

I suspect that these players will regret this:
Still, Paterno’s talk was not all about the turmoil. Morris said Paterno’s main message was “Beat Nebraska,” referring to Penn State’s next opponent. When he left, his players gave him a standing ovation.
It is not just win baby; the claim of college athletics is that it provides athletes with some kind of moral compass and leadership ability. At the very least, the current evidence suggests that Paterno had neither. Inasmuch as his various defenders defend his indefensible behavior by pointing to his nice guyness, the clear implication is that he wasn't athletics don't, and in general the world would be a better place without institutions of higher learning pretending that athletics have a place in institutions of higher learning.

Oh, and as by the way, the various apologists who insists that nobody could know what they would do when confronted with this kind of evil, my response is: If I behaved like Paterno and company and did nothing to end the child rapist's child raping then I would be a moral monster just like them. Cowardice in the face of obvious wrong isn't excusable because anyone might be a coward; the fact that we might any of us be cowards in the face of evil is a condemnation of any of us who fail to act as decent human beings.

Democracy Almost Broke Out

So the technocrats win yet again and the Greek people find their future in the hands of the mumble-brained thus and sos who got them in the mess in the first place. Hurray. By the way, if you haven't had the chance to read Neoliberal Hegemony you really should

People Not Things

A little while ago I made the point that it is foolish to assign anything like agency to the various, hand, electronic, or interweb, tools that people use to get things done.  Over here is a longer version by someone else. It is worth reading. H/T fdb

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

End College Sports II

So this guy Mike McQueary, who caught the child rapist red handed and boldly reported the event to JoPa the next day and then ignored the child-rapist bringing other children onto the campus for, what, nine years as he slowly rose up the ranks of the Penn State coaching staff, was a Penn State quarterback. That means, donnit?, that he is the kind of upstanding young thus and such that JoPa's grand experiment turns out in its hundreds. Strong men who aren't afraid to do next to nothing to protect the weak from exploitation by the strong. It seems clear that college sports do not do what they are supposed to do and, what is more, the whole tradition of sport on American campuses served and serves to blunt students' dislike of being bossed about. It's not education that creates worker bees who embrace their chains but rather sports the dissolves the anarchic and revolutionary ideas, ideals, and actions of young men and women.

Oh, For Dumbest

Long-time commentator John Rove alerts us to Matthew Yglesias condemnation of laws limiting shops operating hours in France.This situation is wrong, Yglesias intones with all the seriousness of a neoliberal intent on destroying human happiness, because
[t]he problem with leisure. . . is that you can’t tax it to pay off accumulated debt or to finance pensions for your senior citizens. The good news is that the much lower hours worked in places like France shows that a determined set of policymakers could push official GDP a lot a higher without the TFP fairy showing up.
First lets hope the poor adle-pated dope doesn't find out that Germany closes most of its shops at 12 on Saturday and doesn't reopen them till Monday. 2nd, really? The economy is a mess because of unregulated financial shenanigans and  neoliberal policies more generally. Yglesias' response? Work harder peons.Third "determined set of policy makers" is short hand for technocratic defeat of democracy. He knows that democracy, as Salvador Allende pointed out in his speech to the UN,means that democratic polities lead to social democratic societies and the only way the 1%ers can win is by recourse to anti-democratic means to oligarchic ends. What horrid little man.

And There You Have It