Saturday, January 7, 2012

Republicans in Disarray

Flush from his recent victory of the sociopathic robot Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum makes with the wisecracks about Romney's wealth. Newt Gingrich, apparently stung because Romeny's fellow plutocrats spent millions making sure everyone remembers Gingrich's record of double-dealing, personal and professional crapulence and asshatery, had his plutocratic pals put out a movie with this for a trailer

I think it's great that this clowns are decrying wealth and neoliberalism; I await Romney's, who calls their kid Willard?, measured and reasonable response.

What I don't get is how they think they can attack Romney who represents decades of Republican, conservative, and neoliberal policies' successes and woe the crazed hordes they need to win the primaries or how they suddenly pivot back to hating socialism, which mean moderate neoliberalism.

Friday, January 6, 2012


London's Calling

I lived in London for a couple of years and was always struck by how empty it was on Sunday. Here is photographic evidence.

Ye Gods

In one of the poorer parts of PA a school system has no money to pay its teachers. The teachers vote to continue working until such time as they can't. The state has recently offered tax breaks to corporations. And yet I betcha it's those same damn teachers who are responsible for the low achievers among their students.

As I Was Saying

Over to the NYT, we learn that
[e]lementary- and middle-school teachers who help raise their students’ standardized-test scores seem to have a wide-ranging, lasting positive effect on those students’ lives beyond academics, including lower teenage-pregnancy rates and greater college matriculation and adult earnings, according to a new study that tracked 2.5 million students over 20 years.
The study is, to be sure, by economists but don't let that put you off. 

Education, Isolation, and Critical Thinking

As Karl notes in the comments, one big drawback of the "virtual" school model is that all the socialization and socializing normally associated with high school disappears in online classrooms.  As is clear in these NYT articles online schools do a crappy job of educating kiddies.

As I mentioned, when discussing Idaho's aggressive and unpopular decision to force more kids into online and virtual learning, most of the proponents of virtual schools haven't got a clue about education. Let's, as an example, consider again the gov C.L. Otter's, one wonders if he has a jug band, claim about critical thinking. He thinks that exposure to information, true, false, or other, fosters critical thinking. How does that work?

Critical think requires at least two people engaged in a constant testing of both the sources of information and its synthesis, analyst, interpretation etc. In most cases, one of the interlocutors has to understand the issue or whathaveyou under consideration and be better able to make an argument. How does that work in an online environment? I was talking to a former student about his experience taking an online class and he pointed out that for the "discussion" part of the course if he or another student made some kind of a conceptual or factual error it could take hours before it was corrected. Even then all students might not become aware of the error for some time. Furthermore, the consistent denigration of teachers, no longer really teachers in the Idaho model but rather "guides," means that correcting errors becomes ever harder to do.

Why is it that neoliberals and conservatives have embraced this pointless endeavor? Because by transforming education in such a radical manner it no longer creates citizens with ties of affection or, really, the means of creating them by insisting on isolating and further atomizing them. In addition, by avoiding actual critical thinking and moving education in the direction that culminates in classrooms that look like the comments sections on you tube, i.e. subliterate and argumentative, they ensure that the few, the proud, the Plutocrats continue to rule without having to govern.

Good News

Germany's neoliberal Free Democrats Party is in disarray and losing support. The SPD isn't a "real" socialist party anymore and its seems unlikely that either the Greens of the Linke are going to seize power. On the other hand, as Salvado Allende argued democracy allowed to function leads to social democracy and, we can only hope, this news out of Germany is the first step in people voting against neoliberalism.

Speaking of which, that is free and fair elections, Connecticut shows that getting private money out of elections allows the government to be responsible and responsive to the people, which in  turn creates a decent society. This is why I am voting more often. Not, of course, that voting is going to overcome Citizens United, but rather because the option is lying in bed with the covers over my head more than I do already.

Education is Not a Commodity

According to this post by Dana Goldstein the neoliberal, market-based, teacher-union-basing reforms embraced by Michelle Rhee and her successor have done nothing or made things worse for minorities and the poor. A quick point, from the perspective of the right-wing of the neoliberal movement this is a success. From the perspective of the left-wing this is a sources of puzzlement, even though all the evidence suggests that the neoliberal, market-based, teacher-union-basing reforms don't work.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Budget Cuts

I met the defense department/pentagon budget cuts without screwing current soldiers over. Your turn

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Education Not Automation

There is an article in the NYT about Idaho's attempt to foist "technology," by which they mean computers and online education, on its public schools.  As the story makes clear, the move resulted from intense lobbying from tech firms, goes against the wishes of most teachers, students, and parents, and is of dubious effectiveness but will begin the long slow march of automating teaching.

 The Idaho's govenor had this to say about the advantages of the new system of
putting technology into students’ hands was the only way to prepare them for the work force. Giving them easy access to a wealth of facts and resources online allows them to develop critical thinking skills, he said, which is what employers want the most. 

When asked about the quantity of unreliable information on the Internet, he said this also worked in favor of better learning. “There may be a lot of misinformation,” he said, “but that information, whether right or wrong, will generate critical thinking for them as they find the truth.”
He has, it seems to me, given the game away. Conservatives ought properly endorse education as the first step to seeing being able to understand the necessity of keeping elites in charge; if, that is, the idea of keeping current elites in charge made anything like sense. It doesn't. So education, effective education, is something conservatives have to oppose. Plus, public education here and elsewhere has been one of the many examples of the state using its powers well. There are, obviously, problems with content and outcomes in any educational system. Nothing is perfect and nothing is eternally complete.

Think about it. In the process of destroying factory jobs and gutting unions, one of the first steps was increasing machine power, which created the conditions necessary for "right sizing" our workforce, and then creating the political conditions necessary for outsourcing jobs. In Idaho, they  now go after teaching in the same manner. In ten years will one teacher "guide" 400 students to find possible true or false information on the internet and the think critically about it. The idea is laughable but it will serve the short-term interests of some corporation or another and the long-term interests of the 1% of nihilistic thugs.

One other point, if you or that person standing to your right thinks that Bill Gates' or any of the Walton's, Kochs', or Buffets' kiddiewinks will be attending a "virtual" academy with a student teacher ration of 400-1, think again. Already the wealthy  are rejecting the notion of virtual learning for face-to-face education. Why? Because face-to-face works better than an isolated kid spending 2 minutes looking at wikipedia and then spending ten mins playing some idiotic game or another.[1]

The model these louts are pushing are going to have the same long-term effects that neoliberalism wrought on the economy. It's going to suck and the vast majority of us are going to get screwed. By the rest of us, I mean 99% of the humanity. 

[1] Think I'm kidding? I've seen it. Actual homework assignments marked with an I for internet. No suggestion of which page to use, nope. A quick trip to wiki for the answer, which was half right and then a longer turn on some "educational" game. The mind boggled.

Money Beats Democracy

Der Spiegel has another article on the mess in Hungary this time highlighting official opposition to the strangling of substantive democracy.  Except that the article begins and really emphasizes how much the Hungarians' decision to curtail its central bank's independence matter "markets"matter to "markets," the EU, the IMF, and the World Bank. One wonders what would have happened if Orban continued on his merry authoritarian and anti-democratic way and left the neoliberal banking policies already in place alone. Would the "markets" have increased the cost of borrowing? Would the IMF/WB or the EU have tsk tsked? History, which is to say my reading of how all the relevant agents acted in the near past, suggests not.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

As By The Way Repetion Isn't Funny

George Carlin was a funny man. For evidence

He did the same bit more than once but had he done only the same thing he would have been ungodly dull. Indeed, if he had only the one schtick he'd of been Sarah Palin. He had other jokes, for example:

 So to all you dimbulbs out there who think that asking a cyclist if the bike has a heater or if it's cold enough for them, let me just say you are more like Sarah Plain and Dumb than you are like George. Just because it's the first time you told the joke doesn't mean it's the first time I've heard it.

Burkean Tutors

I mentioned that I found Mark Lilla's review of Corey Robin's book on conservatism double plus ungood; today Robin sort of responds but mostly fleshes out his own take on conservativism's many sins. I think, however, that his reading of a reprehensible Buckley, I assume, editorial misses an important point. Robin quotes this passage
The central question that emerges [from the civil rights movement] is whether the White community in the South is entitled to take such measures as are necessary to prevail, politically and culturally, in areas in which it does not predominate numerically? The sobering answer is Yes—the White community is so entitled because, for the time being, it is the advanced race.
And parses it as being apocalyptic.  However, like Burke before him, I would argue, that the "for the time being" means until such time as the "White community" can teach Blacks to be White culturally and politically. Given that Buckley et alia had no interest in improving the lot of Blacks meant, of course, that for the time being meant forever. This is the essence of Burke's notion of gradual improvement under the leadership of current elites. What Burke wanted was to avoid the Kantian escape from the tutelage of elites. This conservative desire to control social, cultural, political, and economic developments is precisely what makes conservatives reactionary; they have to react to all changes not of their choosing because control of alterations of social, political, cultural, or economic relations defines conservatism.

Apocalyptic imagery isn't conservative, in this sense, but rather it is the hallmark of a religious loon frustrated by centuries of failed reformations of men, women, and institutions. And I mean loon in the kindest possible way. Apocalypticism results from thinking that this time it's going to be different; this time the elites won't slay all the rebels or renege on their deals. 

I doubt that the various 10th and 11th century heretics were apocalyptically inclined but I do know that at some point the reform-minded radicals lost all hope of obtaining justice in this fallen world ater it became clear that the real winner of the Peace of God Movement, the foundation of universities, and the recurring trappings of civilization didn't lead to increased joy and etc for the many but rather for the increased power of the men with sticks and that the king would hunt down and murder the various peasants he had lately promised to protect, defend, and lives improve.

Another very effective dismissal of Lilla's review.

One Sentence or So On Debt And Monetization

Having mulled Graeber's overarching argument over, I think it can be summed up as money made this mess and only getting rid of money can get us out of it. It's this latter point that  leads to his concluding unscientific postscript in which he wonders what shape the new world order will take and from what direction will the shapers come.

Remember the Years Before 1933?

Like all concerned Americans, I prefer to ignore events outside of these United States and when I do pay attention, I like to make risible comkparisons between those events and the Nazis. Because, well, it's easy. We all know that the probably senile Paul von Hindenburg appointed Hitler chancellor despite the Nazis' declining electoral share and despite Hindenburg's refusal to do the same thing somewhat earlier. Thus did Wiemar become an ex-parrot.

We all know that the Nazis represented the culmination of the rise of authoritarian regimes in Europe in the in the wake of WWI and, consequently, were the not the vanguard but the tail end of the rights anti-democratic counter revolutionary impulses. Hitler's rise was not the cause of democracy's demise but rather the result of far-too many dunderheads acquiescing to strangling in its crib because, after all, some kind of a third-way technocratically-inclined charismatic visionary (I know its contradictory, that's part of what the acquiescers dunderheads)  ought properly lead the path backward to the future.

As I have mentioned recently that there are solid reasons to worry about the Hungarians' dominate political party once again slaying the democratic dragon in the name of nationalism and the need for authoritarianism. I would argue that the recent spate of technocratisme in Greece and Italy and the well-know neoliberal distrust of democracy, what with people being unwilling to let corporations rule the world, gives the maniacs in Hungary some cover.

If you read the most recent Krugman hosted discussion of events there, you can find links to the constitution and with a little work you can find a link to the Hungarian national anthem. Or go here and see the response of all right-thinking, which is to say the left and liberal Hungarians,  people have to say about it. The constitution reads like a declaration of war on the contemptable corruption of this modern age and the anthem sounds like a the kind of bully-boy whining I'd expect from those who would deal death to the democratic experiment.

It's easy to become distracted by the antics of the mantic swine cavorting in the cool Iowan summer; but, we ought remember that the common foes for all concerned Americans are the authoritarians and the neoliberals.

He, She, It, Them, They

Via LRB a list of all "epicine pronouns." This sort of series seems the most popular: hesh, himer, hiser, hermself. Odd that none of them ever struck, ayna?

Monday, January 2, 2012


Kindle is the ideal vessel for book shopping before going to the used bookstore and for reading free books. Buying a new book in kindle, however, makes absolutely no sense. All one really buys is a temporary right to read a book, which makes little in the way of sense.

Social Policy and Marketing Parking Spaces

As most of you know Matthew Ygleasias is neoliberal nitwit. For some reason, perhaps the utility of nitwits to forward neoliberal nonsense, lots of folks on the putative left like to link to him and engage with his nitwittery. Over here, for example Mike Konczal mention Yglesias and the guy who invented the idea of using market mechanism to create a dynamic pricing of parking spaces in the same passage. Over here, we find a discussion of the same set of issues, using the market to increase the costs of good and services by including "negative externalities." In the latter example, Peter Frase concludes with these perfectly sensible comments:
Willingness to pay, of course, is also a function of ability to pay, and a market mechanism implicitly attributes worth to a person’s desires in proportion to the money they have to spend.
Thoughtful neoclassical economists know this, but they usually choose to ignore it, presumably because the consequences of confronting it would be too politically uncomfortable. Their own theories tell them that, due to the decreasing marginal utility of money, an extra dollar is worth more to the poor than to the rich. It follows that asking an extra dollar for parking hurts the well-being of the poor far more than the rich, and systematically privileges those who don’t need to think twice about paying six dollars for a parking space. To which a good left neo-liberal would no doubt reply that the issues of rational pricing and wealth redistribution are logically distinct and should be thought separately. But politically, this means that redistribution is the lonely last instance that never comes.
All of which is enough to make a good progressive recoil from such a thing as “the market price for street parking”. But this position is not nearly audacious enough. Rather than a rejection of market relations, this is merely a rejection of a novel form of planning, in favor of the older, more obscure, more unfair and more inefficient methods of planning the use of public space. We could say instead that what’s needed is a direct assault on the inequalities of wealth and income that subvert the functioning of prices, and thereby impede the realization of the plan.
What I don't understand, to be frank, is why we have all these bright fellows seeking to resolve epiphenomenon when the real problem, as Frase points out, is economic inequality. Basing any set of social or political responses to the problems of humanity in society on market mechanism necessarily results in a society based on wealthy people's desires.

So how about everyone on the loft leave Yglesias to blather on in the well-funded obscurity of Slate except, perhaps, to point out that his solutions to life's problems are the "and a pony" of "left" policy discourse.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

New Year

Last year wasn't nearly as bad as it could of been; after all, no nuclear war or pandemic struck. Let's hope that next January OWS isn't necessary and not because the cockroach rules the roost.