Blog Credo

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.

H.L. Mencken

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Ah, The Mustache of Understanding Strikes Again

Hey, Tom, heard of Google?

I am not a fan of Tom Friedman.  As someone who teaches Comparative Government, people ask me if we do or should read his books.  After I am done swallowing the emesis in the back of my throat, I explain that we will never read Friedman in any course I teach.

There are two reasons.

First is that Friedman tends to regurgitate the Davos-ian conventional wisdom ad nauseam.  Hey, the world is flat!  Really?  In what fucking way?  How is even our own country "flat"?  How is the world "flat" when some people have everything and others have nothing?  Seems pretty spiky to me.  And that crack from 2002 about needing to take a little country and throw it up against the wall to show the world we could?  How'd Iraq turn out, Tom?  Maybe we'll know in six months.  I hear that's the critical window.

Second, and perhaps more profoundly for me, he's an awful, awful, awful writer. Cliched thinking is practically a job requirement for a pundit - especially one who wants to show up on Charlie Rose with any frequency.  But cliched and poor writing really burns me.  There are a ton of talented writers who can regurgitate stale talking points, why is Thomas Friedman - who is already married to money - given a well paying gig at the Times?  Frank Rich is gone, Bob Herbert is gone... And we're left with Friedman, Brooks and Douthat?  Really?  How long before Krugman bails?

The latest example of Friedman-esque bad writing takes place in the very first sentence of his piece today:

There is an old saying in the Middle East that the camel is a horse designed by a committee.

I thought, that's not right, and ten whole seconds of Googling led me to discover that this "old Middle Eastern saying" is attributed to Vogue magazine, Sir Alex Issigonis or philosophy professor Lester Hunt.  One of those three.  And the date is usually the late 1950s.

Let's just say this isn't the hadith or the Rubaiyat.  It's not old and it's not Middle Eastern.

He later channels one of the five most hackneyed lines in cinema:

You want the truth? You can't handle the truth!

Tom, that line became unfashionable about the same time porn mustaches did.  I see that hasn't stopped you from using both.

Later still, he writes:

I don't know Libya...

OK, we can stop right there.  The rest of the sentence is unimportant - though he says he thinks we will need boots on the ground, because... well there is no because, because TOM FRIEDMAN DOESN'T KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT LIBYA!

Thanks for wasting your reader's time, Tom.  You've just written a typically sloppy high school essay:

I haven't done the reading, and I've done no original research, but I have some a priori beliefs that I will graft onto this complicated situation, which I will dodge, by acknowledging that it's complicated.  

I read crap like that all the time.  Tom Friedman: Bringing You C- Commentary From the New York Times.

It reminds me of this video, one of the greatest of all time, that I show when I teach Nigeria:,14171/

The only thing the panelists are missing is that sweet, sweet mustache of understanding.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

I Walker The Line

I'm going Godwin here, too.

Like Tom Levenson over at Balloon Juice, I'm going Godwin on Scott Walker.

Today, a judge clarified her earlier ruling enjoining the state of Wisconsin from enacting the Union Busting Bill of 2011.

Then, a few seconds later, Walker's assistant AG says, "Of course, the law is in full effect."

Walker's an idiot.

But it's almost like he's Governor William J. Lepetomane.  He's a useful idiot for the conniving bastards who run things behind the scenes.  But he's also the most recent expression of that pesky and over-exposed "Overton Window".  By literally ignoring the rule of law in his own state, he makes the similarly odious and extralegal actions by Kasich in Ohio and Snyder in Michigan seem somehow less radical.

Walker might ultimately be a farce before all is said and done, but he's doing real damage to the polity of Wisconsin.

And there is no false equivalency on the Left.  Sorry, no Democrats behave this way.  Obamacare was not passed with the Republicans absent from the House and Senate.  It was not hastily called to the floor while members were away.

This is a putsch.  Plain and simple.

As John Cole succinctly put it, "We're going to need a no-fly zone in Madison before these lunatics are done."

Down the Memory Hole

Not exactly what he promised...

The Prez did his speechifying thing last night and I guess it went pretty well.  A lot of writers were saying things like "good first step".  Dunno, didn't watch it.  I think I understand why we're engaged in Libya.

But what amazes me is the analysis that seeks to compare Libya with either Iraq or Bosnia without ever mentioning Kosovo.  Remember, Kosovo is not Bosnia.  Maybe that's the confusion in the punditry, they think all that Balkany stuff is one big Bosnia.

Kosovo is obviously what the Obama Administration is emulating and hoping for.  No ground troops, a few weeks of air power and voila!  Dictator be gone!

Maybe that's a sign of how successful Kosovo was, that no one can remember we did exactly the same thing about 13 years ago.

It's kind of like Nebraska.  Unless you're actually in the middle of it, you kind of forget it was ever there.

Of course, if this DOES work out, then it, too, will disappear down the memory hole, depriving Obama of his USS Abraham Lincoln codpiece and Mission Accomplished moment.

Which I'm sure is fine with him.

UPDATE: Read the speech.  Shocker.  It's really good.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Nice Post, Dude

Sure it looked cute in the window, but it eats a ton of bamboo and craps on the shag carpeting.

This is part and parcel of the Madisonian checks on the majority.  The set terms in office mean that when you have a "bad" election result, you're stuck with the outcome for a good long spell.  Meanwhile, Steven Harper's government has fallen in Canada and my guess is the Cameron's government (particularly the Lib Dem wing) would not survive a vote of confidence at the moment.

Perhaps it's not fair to roundly describe independent voters as stupid.  I know a lot of very, very smart independent voters.  But they tend to be stupid about politics.  They tend to think that NOT voting is exercising their voice, when in fact it cedes their voice to those who do vote.  They also tend to fall into the false equivalency trap of "both sides do it".  (They sound a lot like pundits and journalists, when you think about it.)

The fact is, at the moment, the Republican party is unfit to govern.  They are so whacked out insane right now, I actually feel sorry for John Boehner, who staring at a governmental showdown engineered by his whackadoodle caucus.

Which brings me to Michelle Bachmann.

Honestly, I can see a scenario whereby she wins the GOP nomination for President.  She wins Iowa, I think.  And New Hampshire's GOP is pretty messed up right now, so she might win there, though more likely she finishes a strong second to Mittens.  Although I think New Hanpshire has an open primary and with Obama not likely to be challenged, that's a real wildcard.  South Carolina also would seem fertile territory for her brand of crazy.

And if La Palin throws her weight behind her fellow traveller..

The good news is that would insure a Democratic victory and the chance to consolidate the meager gains of the first two years of the Obama Administration.  The bad news is that one of the two major political parties will have nominated a lunatic.

What a quandary...

Sunday, March 27, 2011

My Favorite Bob Dylan Song

It was a year ago - TPM tells us - that Dylan played in the White House.

Here's my favorite Dylan song:

Your Sunday Homework

Here's a really good piece on the Revolutions of 2011 from the Times.

Still, I already miss Frank Rich...

Saturday, March 26, 2011

I Don't Like Basketball

But every March....

Really entertaining games this weekend.  Of course, I will start the spring term behind in my grading as a result, but GO RAMS!!!!

My Walker, My King

Haven't talked about Wisconsin much since Walker's odious bill "passed" the Senate.

But he must have been tired of being shoved out of the news by the "other" dictator Khadaffy/Qadafi and the "other" meltdown in Japan.

In case you weren't following it: several groups sued to get a stay on the law because they felt it violated Wisconsin's open meetings law.  I don't know anything about the law or the groups suing.

But a judge issued a temporary restraining order to keep the Secretary of State from publishing the law - which is how laws go into effect in Wisconsin.

So the GOP goes AROUND the Secretary of State's office and gets it published anyway.  In apparent direct defiance of the courts.

Is anyone else unnerved by this?  We have one of the two political parties in this country A) denying evolution (just ask a GOP presidential hopeful about it) B) equating giving American health insurance with fascism C) and now blatantly ignoring the idea of judicial review.

The idea here is clear.  The bill was designed to impoverish public sector unions so that corporate money to the GOP could swamp future elections in this important midwestern swing state.  Thank YOU, Citizens United.

The Democratic strategy is to tie the legislation up in court until there can be a public referendum on the issue - starting with the recall elections later this year and Walker's recall next year.  The GOP wants to get the law in the books fast before 2012.

Whatever you think about the merits of the case and the strategy involved, it is clear that one side is working within the rule of law and one side is not.


Friday, March 25, 2011

What Kind Of Liberal Are You?

Apparently, I'm a Blue Collar Warrior.  Which is odd.

Took it again.  I'm a Social Justice Crusader.  Also odd.

OK, Maybe Libya=Afganistan

Cry Havoc!  And let slip the dogs of war!

After careful consideration, maybe Libya IS like Afghanistan.

In the fall of 2001, a few dozen special forces soldiers, combined with existing anti-Taliban militia and overwhelming American airpower, succeeded in short order in deposing the Taliban regime.  While the Taliban obviously didn't go away, they have a regional base inside Afghanistan to fall back on.  Ghaddafi/Qadafy does not have such a base.  If his regime collapses, he has nowhere to go but exile.  His regime is wrapped up in HIM, his person.  That's not the same as the Taliban.

So, while Kosovo is one parallel, Afghanistan is another.

Of course, the endgame in Libya could also look like the endgame in Afghanistan.  Tribal conflict, kleptocrats fighting over state money, little governmental control outside of the cities.  Chaos.

But it will be Libya's chaos.  Just like it's Egypt's chaos and Tunisia's chaos.  (And maybe Syria, Bharain, Yeman and Jordan's chaos.)

It's essential that this distinction be understood.  The problem with Iraq is that Iraqis didn't get rid of Saddam Hussein. They were invaded and told what they could and could not do by the CPA.  They were made subjects of American rule, fired from their jobs, ignored as to how to run their own country.  (Read Imperial Life In The Emerald City for a comprehensive take on this.)

That's why "no boots on the ground" is not just for domestic politics, it's about Libyan politics, too.

For those like Dennis Kucinich and Ron Paul who can't tell the difference between ANY forms of military/diplomatic action, this is a distinction that eludes them.


This pretty much sums up American global literacy.

Libya does not equal Iraq.

Libya does not equal Rwanda.

Libya does not equal Afghanistan.

Libya does not equal Bosnia.

Libya equals Kosovo.

I remember when Kosovo broke out.  A lot of very serious people said that Clinton was A) rushing into something by not getting congressional approval and B) making a mistake by ruling out ground troops from the beginning.

Turns out that Kosovo worked about as well as could be expected.  Kosovo is no longer under the Serbian boot and the Serbs are no longer under Milosevic's boot.

I have no idea if this current action will lead to Ghadaffi/Qadaffy/Kudahphee's ouster.  Right now, I would put money on his leaving power by the end of April. His military commanders will run out of the desire to get pounded from the air.  They will be bribed by NATO to switch sides.  The Khatoffee clan will slink away to exile in Sierra Leone or somewhere with a few hundred million in the bank.

Which would be great.

Except it makes it more likely that we invade Iran during the opening months of the Bachmann Adminstration.

Also, looks like the Muslim Brotherhood is gaining momentum in Egypt.  This will produce much hyperventilation in the American press.  Because the Muslim Brotherhood is all Muslimy.  And we can't have Muslims running a Muslim country now can we.

Friedman or someone like him made the point that letting Islamists run things puts the pressure on them to produce good governance.  I think that's accurate.

Egypt won't be a compliant ally like it was under Mubarak.  It will require more judicial handling than in the past.  Dumbassed sloganeering and bullying words won't work on a democratic Middle East.  The dictators who used to run the place could shrug that stuff off.  They were savvy enough to distinguish between John Bolton and Josh Bolton.

But a democratic Middle East will be more complicated than a dictatorial Middle East.

It will still be worth it.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

She Turned Me Into A Newt

Newt Gingrich meets with his cabinet.

I don't usually argue with my father in law.  I don't think it's respectful, and I know that I can get agitated (and he can get agitated) when rhetorical disagreements get prolonged, so why go there?

But last summer I got unusually heated when he said that Newt Gingrich was at least a "smart guy".  I'm not sure what set me off, but I really defended my position that Newt is a perverse beneficiary of the tragedy of low expectations.

Simply put, place Newt Gingrich in a room with other GOP politicians, and he looks like Edmund Burke.  Put him in a room with just about anyone else, and he looks like an blowhard idiot.

From whence does this respect for Newt's intellect derive?  Yes, he has a PhD.  But that reminds me of the quip about Henry Cabot Lodge: "His mind was like the soil of his native New England.  Highly cultivated but barren."  Or maybe he's like the Scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz.  Give him a diploma and suddenly he's a genius.  (Of course, in the movie, the Scarecrow messes up the Pythagorean theorem.)

He's also credited with coming up with the Contract On With America.  But that's not really true.  It was written by a committee of conservatives, including Gingrich, Armey, Delay, Boehner and other usual suspects.  The actual writing of the document was done by something called Larry Huuinter.  So his authorship is questionable to say the least.

The idea that the Contract somehow explains the 1994 election results and Newt's tactical brilliance is also faulty.  As we saw in 2010, the presence of Democratic control of the Executive and Legislative branches tends to motivate GOP voters.  Add to that the increased momentum behind the geographical realignment of the South and the weak economy and... 1994.

As Speaker, Gingrich's Contract largely floundered and while he did get Welfare Reform done, he is most remembered for shutting down the government because of personal tiffs with Clinton and bringing impeachment to the floor while cheating on his own wife.

While I admit that Gingrich can talk pretty with all the multi-syllabic words that befit a man with a PhD, his real intellectual abilities represent more of a low cunning than any platonic intellectual ideal.  But his ability to speak in complete sentences and use jargon make his a latter day Cicero to the political press.

The sealer of my argument happened the other day.  Newt for weeks has said we need to institute a no-fly zone over Libya to protect the Anti-Ghaddafi/Kaddafy/64d4ff1 forces.  As soon as Obama DID institute a no-fly zone, Gingrich flipped and condemned it.

Maybe that just shows that where most people have a soul, Gingrich has a howling vacuum.  Maybe that shows his incapability to tell a straight truth or his cynical appraisal of the state of American political journalism.

But holy shit, Batman!  To reverse yourself that quickly, that blatantly and that completely bespeaks an intellectual vacuity bordering on the Palinesque.

On the other hand, maybe he's trying to out pander and out flip-flop Romney.

If so, good freaking luck.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Bad Ads

I was sitting in the waiting room while the Most Extravagantly Lovely and Benevolent Woman To Have Walked Among Mere Mortals had a medical procedure done.  (I could make a joke about it, but HEPA and marital preservation instincts prohibit it.)

Anyway, I was trying to finish The Other Wes Moore when CNN kept intruding into my reading to remind me that attacking Libya is controversial, Japanese radiation is not good for you and Elizabeth Taylor remained dead.  Then, a literally unbelievable ad came on.

It was a Chinese man (a professor?  a party leader?  a Chinese Tony Robbins?) addressing an auditorium of eager Chinese young people.  He explained (in Mandarin with subtitles) that empires fell because they forgot what made them great.  He mentioned Greece, Rome, Britain and the US.  Apparently, we fell as an empire because we had too much debt.  And since the Chinese own our debt, all the Americans now work for China.

Where to begin?

First, empires do not fall because they "forget what made them great", they fall for any number of reasons.  Greece (presumably Alexander's empire?) fell, because it was never wholly organized into a single polity and power devolved to local commanders.  Rome fell because the idea of what it meant to be Roman declined, replaced with a greater sense of being Christian.  Oh, and invasions.  But invasions that were unopposed because there were no more "Romans" to defend it.  Britain fell because Adam Smith was right: empires are more expensive than they are worth.

I'm presuming this ad was placed in the near future when we will all work for China, because last I looked the Chinese worked for us.  They manufacture the world's cheap consumer goods.  They work for us, because we don't want to pay a lot for that muffler/plastic toy/shirt.

Secondly, the idea that American greatness was built upon thrift and balanced budgets is historically illiterate.  Alexander Hamilton looked at British economic strength and realized the importance of a perpetually funded debt.  While that orthodoxy died under Jefferson and Gallatin, it remains viable.  America's period of global greatness does in fact coincide with the perpetual US debt.  The military-industrial complex created economic prosperity and the American Imperium.  It did so by frequently resorting to debt.  And of course, no one is more responsible for our debt than Ronald Reagan and George Bush, so... how is this Obama's fault?

There is also a gratuitous shot at the stimulus and HCR, but that ignores the direct intervention that the Chinese exert on their economy every single day.  Honestly, we're looking at China as the apex of free market ideology?  I guess anything successful must be a product of the free markets and since China is currently successful...

What also struck me was the implicit racism of the ad.  The Chinese are a new Yellow Menace.  Sure, it's aimed at the Brown Menace currently in the White House (I mean who let the Black guy into the White house?), but the sinister lighting and ominous laughter at the end was just offensive as hell.

The thing is, I bet the ad works.  It's flashy and being devoid of facts has never hurt conservative arguments before.  And hey, racism bonus points!

Of course, relying on subtitles might put it beyond the reading speed of many GOP voters, but that's a risk they appear willing to take.

I have a hunch the GOP will have a harder time firing up the angry white people as easily this time.  The Tea Party is tiring of Boehner's insufficient purity and the economy still seems to be struggling towards equilibrium.

Long term?  Scaring whitey about Chinks and Mooslims and Spics and Niggers is a losing long term game.

That's the baseline from 2008.

That poll is recent.  Hispanics have yet to flock to the Democrats, but they certainly seem to be leaving the GOP.  If they succeed in alienating Asians, too, well, game, set, match.

UPDATE: Found the ad.  Set in 2030.  So that explains it.  In 20 years everything will change and we will work for China.  Which is weird because 20 years ago we were all going to work for the Japanese.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


From the Hall of Montezuma, to the Shores of Tripoli

I sort of kind of followed the developments that led to our military involvement in Libya, but I have only half-heartedly followed the debate over whether it was the right thing to do.

I've heard a lot of comparisons to Iraq and the no-fly zone over Kurdistan.  OK.  I get it, they're Arabs.  Iraq is a quagmire.  I get it.

But it seems to me a better example of this sort of excursion is Kosovo.  When that happened, we heard a lot of the same criticisms of the use of air power as we are hearing today.  But Kosovo turned out pretty well.

I guess the desire to see failure before it happens is pretty strong.  But given the LACK of contrary voices before Iraq, I guess this is healthy.

I would like to see - as with Japan's nuclear armageddon that never happened - a little less judgment drawing while events are still unfolding.

UPDATE: This seems interesting.  Juan Cole who was regularly seen as prescient on Iraq notes the self-evident way that Libya is different from Iraq.  He is slammed in his comments.

It seems everyone wants to view Libya via their pre-held ideological positions as opposed to the facts on the ground.  If we wind up sending in the 82nd Airborne, the critics will be right.  I doubt that will happen.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Well, THAT Was Refreshing!

So, the Most Exalted and Splendiferous Woman Alive and I spent a long weekend together in San Francisco, partly at the hosting of her sister and husband.  We ate (too) well, drank (too) well and did all this without either Thing One and Thing Two and the internet.

Oh, sure, I used the iPhone to check sports scores, headlines and email, but that's different from the incredible hooked-in-edness that defines much of my life.  It was nice not hearing the latest breathless development from Reactor Three or Libya.  It was nice not keeping score of what idiocy happened somewhere that I was obligated to feel outraged about.

And it was also a little nice not to have to keep score with which Thing had done what to the other Thing.

Ignorance is indeed blissful.

As a way of sharing my bliss with you, gentle reader, I offer you this, which made me cry laughing.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Light Posting For Awhile

The world is always ending.

Only these days more so than usual.

Be back to regular posting on Tuesday.

In the meanwhile, a bunch of pinko Europeans said we should raise teacher's salaries if we want to attract good teachers.  Isn't that the invisible hand again?

Yes, that would probably help.

But if we could start by simply not attacking them, that would be a start.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

NPR Needs To Borrow Rachel Maddow's Balls

Brave, brave Sir Robin would like to thank you for your pledge to NPR.

Wow, tell me if you've heard this stupid story before.

James O'Keefe comes out with a video that has an ostensible "liberal" (defined herein as someone who believe the earth is round and Jesus did NOT, in fact, ride a dinosaur into Jerusalem) saying something that sounds "teddibly uncivil".

The liberal institution recoils in horror and fires said target of Mr. O'Keefe's video.

Days pass.

Unedited version of the video appears effectively exonerating the target.

Hunh! Well, hoocodanode!

I can distinctly remember hearing about the Shirley Sherrod thing driving through western Colorado.  I was thinking to myself, "Self... who gave the OK to fire this woman after a few hours or hyperventilating media coverage."  And Self could not come up with an answer.

When she was exonerated by the subsequent release of the unedited tape, I thought to myself, "Self, James O'Keefe will now join Pauly Shore, Yasmine Bleeth and Screech from Saved By The Bell in the scrap heap of people who were famous for no fucking reason."

But once again, Self was woefully ignorant.  When O'Keefe surfaced again, like a roach when the light is flicked on in a Motel 6 in Pensacola, I thought to myself, "Self, no one is going to believe this asshat, right?"

Oh, Self, when will you learn?

So, O'Keefe targets NPR. NPR responds as any good liberal institution does by firing anyone associated with this, including people who have the same last name as the dude in the video.

Then, we find out  O'Keefe judiciously edited his video to make the dude look bad.

Two things.

The next time James O'Keefe releases a video, the media should treat it the way they treat an opening of a WalMart in Wichita.

And the next time O'Keefe comes after a "liberal" institution, that institution should say, "James O'Keefe is a lying punk.  We stand by our employees when they are attacked by mendacious little pricks.  If O'Keefe has tape of our employees, we can safely say that these tapes are fabrications.  Our lawyers will be handling this, and any other shit O'Keefe has in store from now on."

Really, Ira Glass was right.  You have to fight fire with fire a bazooka.

Oh, and NPR?  If you're taking hardass lessons from Ira Glass?  You've already lost.

New York State Of Mind

Beep beep.

I have twice in one week driven down to JFK.  Today I did so with the Most Radiant and Pure Woman Who Ever Graced God's Good Earth.  You start to get the Death Race 2000 feel on the Hutchinson Parkway, but by the time you get to the Whitestone Bridge, you begin to see these towering Lego-type high rise apartments set amongst marshlands and industrial sites.

Then at the Whitestone, you get to see - firsthand - the decay of America's infrastructure.  Then it's on to the Van Wyck, a tricky series of potholes and curves all accompanied by the thrill of playing Dodge That Taxi!  JFK itself is a maze of curves and hidden drop-off spots with more potholes.  And since New York is America's great melting pot, we have an assortment of drivers who have brought their colorful driving habits with them from their homelands.

It's exhausting.

I don't know how New Yorkers do it.

I know I couldn't.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Evan Bayh To Join Fox News

Evan Bayh's view of the world.

So... Evan Bayh is joining Faux News.  Shocker.

I guess there weren't enough lobbying jobs open on K Street?  Or maybe Chris Dodd politically cock-blocked Bayh from the glamorous job where he might actual catch a come-hither glance from a bubble-headed bleach blond so he went with the backup?

The Democratic Leadership Committee served a purpose once, much like the human appendix.  In the DLC's case, they had to remind Democrats that being pro-worker was not necessarily the same as being anti-business.  I get that.  The regulatory state reached too far in some areas.

But after the Gingrich Revolution (Reaganism without the intellectual capacity), the DLC became redundant.  They became DINOs.  Now, in many ways, this has led to the increased polarization of our politics.  Evan Bayh could always sit down with Lindsey Graham and Joe Lieberman and find a way to invade another country or further bankrupt the middle class.  Bully for those guys!

But given what we know to be objectively true about what Fox News does and what it means to political discourse in America, let me the first millionth to say: "Evan Bayh, you are a complete douchecanoe."

You are John Edwards' hair without the principles.  At least Edwards only wanted to screw one person who wasn't his wife.

Bayh wants to screw you all.

Meet The New Boss, Same As The Old Boss?

Through the looking glass...

I have not given the Bradley Manning situation much thought.

First, I thought the WikiLeaks thing was a tempest in a teapot.  I thought it was more embarrassing for other countries than for the US.  In many ways, there was some truth in that, as revelations from WikiLeaks are cited in helped spark the current waves of revolution in the Middle East and North Africa.

I also understood that Manning broke the law and would likely go to jail for that.

When his attorney and Jane Hamsher started protesting outside his prison in Quantico, I thought... OK, Jane Hamsher, not a ton of credibility there.  And I still think some of what came out is overblown.  From his own complaint, Bradley is no longer naked, though he's forced to wear some sort of hospital gown.

His guards are clearly messing with him and abusing their authority.  The suicide watch that he's been put on is a way to control his every movement and make him miserable.  And this is before he's been convicted of anything.

Obama said he was assured that Manning was being treated well.  That's not good enough.  Manning falls under the JAG corps, and frankly, I would like to see some civilian oversight.  I would like to see the USAG's office poke around and see what the hell is going on.

Because if Manning is being abused, it should earn him a get out of jail free card.  And if he's not, they need to stop this story.

The Left and Democrats were together on Wisconsin.  But if the Left thinks the Obama Administration is abusing a prisoner - and given that Obama unwisely decided to not investigate Bush era torture regimes - then we are right back to the circular firing squad.  As someone said (too lazy to look), Obama owns this now, and issuing assurances that Manning is being treated fine, isn't enough.  Not in the era of Jose Padilla and Abu Ghraib.

This issue won't go away until we really know what's happening one way or another in Quantico.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Well, This Made Me Smile

An Overall Feeling of Helplessness

Time to cowboy up.

What a week...

Wisconsin shows that with enough money and enough balls a state government can do whatever the hell they want to, even in the face of widespread public disapproval.  I am not that hopeful for recall until I actually see it happening.  While I do think there are thousands of motivated Cheeseheads out there, I wonder about the whole oh-look-a-shiny-object aspect of the American electorate.  Will they follow through?  I hope so, but I live half a country away and have already spent my discretionary money at ActBlue supporting them.  

What can I do?

The federal government is going to shut down next week.  It is going to shut down because one political party has sworn obeisance to the idea that we must never, ever, under any circumstances raise taxes on rich people.  Paul Krugman - who's not really an Obama fan - notes that the only thing done in Washington to help control long term growth in the deficit is health care reform.  Which the GOP is trying to kill.  They don't care about deficits, they just want to get rid of programs that help people who are not them.  Given the Democrats general spinelessness in negotiations and the fact that they WANT to keep the government functioning while the Teatards want to return to the Articles of Confederation means that they have little leverage.  Millions of Americans are likely to suffer under the proposed draconian budget cuts, which could also imperil the recovery.

What can I do?

The NFL owners have locked out their players and deprived millions of fans the pleasure of football's "hot stove" season and the hope that goes with "wait until next year".  These billionaires are taking direct aim - not at the millionaires like Manning, Brady and Brees, they will get their money - but the journeyman interior lineman and the guy who plays three years shuttling back and forth from the practice squad.  There could be no better example of the plutocracy than the owners.  They want players to give up a billion dollars in revenue sharing, play two more games a year in a sport that demonstrably shortens their lives already and the evidence that they offer up to justify this?  Because we said so.  Suck on it proles. Suck on it fans.

What can I do?

My profession is under attack.  I'm not a public school teacher; I don't belong to a union.  I will - hopefully - get my first real raise in two years later this week when I - hopefully - get rehired.  I had a nice talk with my Head who praised the work I was doing.  But I live in a climate where - for political advantage - the idea of teaching, the idea of objective knowledge and critical thinking itself is under attack.  Members of the GOP running for higher office will not come out and acknowledge the accuracy of evolution.  They won't admit the data of climate science.  They will misread history and the evolution of American democracy.  I can waive my hands and thunder at the front of my classroom, but in the end...

What can I do?

And then there is Japan.  There is no one to blame.  No people in the world are better prepared for an 8.9 earthquake than the Japanese.  Their architecture, their warning systems, their culture are all geared towards surviving an event like this.  And yet in the end, we will see a death toll that will dwarf Katrina or 9/11.  And that's without the sort of rampant government incompetence we saw in New Orleans or the negligence we saw leading up to the attacks on the towers.  Japan did everything possible, but it was not enough.  

What can I do?

I don't know.  I haven't blogged much recently, because I've been busy with end of the marking period stuff, but also because there just isn't anything you can say in face of all this.  I'm not sure what one can do beyond words anyway.  

It's spring.  For the first time in months you can see grass and dirt.  There is a promise of warmer days and growing things.  The world is always ending and yet it seems to go on.

In the end, maybe all any of us can offer is a prayer for the people of Japan and a little more diligence towards our own gardens in the hope that something will grow.  

That's my plan at the moment anyway.

UPDATE: THIS is good news. Simply put: Japan's reactors are not that dangerous right now.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Japan Update

I guess we shouldn't be too worried about an explosion at a nuclear reactor?  If we're ever going to get away from increased greenhouse gas emissions, we're going to have to use more nuclear power.  Hopefully, what happens in Japan will show that nuclear power plants are a lot safer than they were in the Three Mile Island days.

Of course, given the power of coal state Senators and confused anti-nuke forces, we are unlikely to ever see a return to large scale nuclear power.  It's a weird coalition that is insuring that we won't see new nukes in the US anytime soon.  It sounds like the idea behind thorium reactors is really interesting.

On the ground, this is looking like "The Big One" that Americans - especially Californians - have been fearing for decades.  While tsunamis are unlikely events in California, they could devastate the Pacific Northwest. In fact, you could probably graft this disaster onto the Seattle area and you'd have a comparable loss of life.

Thousands of dead seem likely.  And that's in one of the most advanced and wealthiest societies in the world.

There is no hiding from fate, I guess.

Friday, March 11, 2011

We Are All Mayans Now

Are earthquakes cyclical?  I can understand why they would be.  Earthquakes are massive releases of tension created by plate tectonics.  Presumably violent movement on one part of the plate would create tension on another part of the plate and... a rash of earthquakes.

No one has explained to me if that is the case though.

I am waiting for Pat Robertson to blame it on Japanese porn or Rand Paul to say it's because he can't buy incandescent lightbulbs.  Probably Jim Inhofe will tell us that it's because the dinosaur that Jesus rode when he made the earth 8000 years ago did a bad job hiring the subcontractor (Satan anyone?) to handle the plate stuff.

I don't mean to minimize the seriousness of this catastrophe.  I just know that if it happened in this country, we'd have a rush of conservatives to microphones explaining how this validates their previously held Flat Earth, anti-science worldviews. Given that it happened to Not-White people on the other side of the world, it will probably just be chalked up to atheism or socialism or something.

Anyway, don't be a glib cynic like me.

Give here.

Thursday, March 10, 2011


This picture has little to do with this post.  Just wanted to use it because I had none that did.

Interesting story over at Balloon Juice.  It's about how the military is trying to develop alternative fuels like solar and wind to power the expansive network of electronic devices that the modern military needs to survive.

Militaries are traditionally meretricious.  You rise and fall with your ability, because it really is a matter of life and death.  Peacetime militaries may be more political, but during wars, you really separate the wheat from the chaff.  The number of officers who washed out during the opening months of World War II was remarkable.

Anyway, the military sees a problem and has acted on that problem in an entirely logical way.  Gasoline is expensive and very expensive to bring into a warzone, especially a forward operating base.  Every gallon of gas NOT being used to power a generator in some godforsaken corner of Afghanistan or Iraq is a gallon of gas saved.  So the military is looking at BOTH conservation and renewables.

It makes sense.  It's good policy.  It's good economics.  It's good tactics.

Meanwhile, in the august halls of the United States Senate, rabid whack job Rand Paul is complaining that his toilets don't work, because he can't buy incandescent lightbulbs, but ladies can get abortions.  Honestly, you tell me if I'm making this up.

To be an officer in the US Military, you can be a conservative, you can be a progressive, but above all, you can't be mindnumbingly stupid.  OK, you can, but they keep you away from the important decisions more often than not.

Because we have embraced the Idiocracy, we can't say the same thing at home.

Shorter NYTimes: Christie Is A Lying Blowhard

Governor Christie makes his case.

The Times ran a profile of Christie's "accuracy".  Turns out he really doesn't have much of it.

He speaks off the cuff and without facts to back him up.  He browbeats his opponents verbally with invective rather than engaging their points or simply makes up fact and data to support his position.

If he was a student of mine, he would be failing.  Since he's a Republican politician, he's a media darling.

I guess we can applaud the Times for finally pulling back the curtain on this freakshow, but the word missing from their coverage is "lying".  I realize that Richard Perez-Pena probably went to a very good school and needs to show he can use more nuanced language, but maybe he should just come right out and say that Christie is lying.

Of course, it could be that Christie is just a bullshit artist.  A Bullshit Artist is different from a Liar or a Truthteller.  Liars and Truthteller have a relationship to the truth.  Liars knowingly violate the truth; truthtellers are knowingly loyal to it.  Bullshit artists simply don't care what the truth is.  The reason I know this is because a philosophy professor at some university in New Jersey wrote a book about it.

Whatever the reason, the more I think about it, the more I think this goes back to Reagan.  We tend to lionize what a nice man Reagan was.  But he could be an aggressive prick, too.

And the GOP loved him for THAT more than his "nice" qualities.  They loved the way he spoke about hippies  and "welfare queens" and all those "different" people.

Reagan was not a nuanced man, but today's GOP is like watching Reagan without nuance or self control.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

ARGH! I Want To Not Be Grumpy

Bartender, my tequila tastes like milk.

As I look at the Wisconsin Putsch, I see short term loss and long term victory.

So I wanted to post about how Illinois got rid of the death penalty because they decided it was immoral to execute innocent people.  Which is awesome and courageous and yay.

Or how it looks like there is no way, no how Newt Gingrich will come anywhere near the White House except on a tour.

But then I read this. Richard "I'm From Alabama: The Slightly Less Stupid Mississippi" Shelby is stopping Peter Diamond from becoming joining the Board at the Federal Reserve.  Diamond won his Nobel Fucking Prize on long term unemployment.

Honestly, the GOP's war on intelligence and education is never ending.  It scares the hell out of me.

When did America so aggressively court mediocrity and stupidity?

(Off topic, if you can spare a thought or prayer for a former student of my Beneficent and Beauteous Wife, Max Pacioretty.  He broke his neck playing for the Montreal Canadiens.  It's non-displaced, but still.)

Is This The Wisconsin Endgame?

Oh, Hells Yes!

I found the pace of change and achievement slow and frustrating during Obama's first two years.  But at least you could point to progressive change that hoped to make things better for the most people.  Health care reform was an important first step forward in a generational project that has been stalled for a hundred years. Financial reform should have gone further, but it was a necessary movement.

But now, with the GOP in charge in some places and the Teatards in charge of the GOP, we are truly faced with a gotterdamerung of the the Stupid.

In Wisconsin, the GOP state senate just passed the collective bargaining bill 18-1 without the necessary quorum, by removing the collective bargaining provisions from the budget bill. That's apt, since it didn't save any money for next year anyway.

But this seems to me to be a very good development for the Democratic party both as a whole and in Wisconsin.

First, it looks fishy.  It looks like what detractors have been saying, "It's a power grab."

Second, it gives the Wisconsin 14 a reason to go home without capitulating.  They can go back and fight and no longer look to be hiding from their job.

Third, this is really, really unpopular.  Super-majority unpopular.  Senators will get recalled in Wisconsin because of this.  And if Walker keeps shoving unpopular measures down the public's throat, he will get recalled, too.

Fourth, Walker has unified Democrats, Progressives and Leftists for the first time since 1/21/09.  And they've brought quite a few Reagan Democrats back into the fold, too.  There is a casus belli that should unify and rally anti-GOP forces around the country.  Because other states will try this, too, now.  Ohio is already trying to do it.

On the one hand, I am sad that yet another state has decided it wants to be Alabama, with shitty schools in order to make sure millionaires don't pay taxes.  But if this is what victory looks like for the GOP, it won't be pretty for them in 2012.

Of course - and I will post on this later - it would help if No Drama Obama decided to raise a little hell or at least point out the distinction between the two sides more forcefully.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Happy Carnival

This is pretty cool.  It's an explanation of where the lyrics for the classic New Orleans/Mardi Gras song Iko Iko came from.  Turns out it was a combination of Creole and Choctaw Indian words written down phonetically by an African American New Orleans musician.  It was later popularized by The Dixie Cups but brought to a wider audience by white musicians like The Grateful Dead.

That might make Iko Iko the most American song ever.

Monday, March 7, 2011

The Crazification Factor

A 27 percenter...

This is brilliant.  Go read it, it's short.

Terry Schiavo II: Electric Bugaboo

The GOP ignores the obvious...

There was an interesting post over at Kos about Wisconsin being this year's model of Terri Schiavo overreach.

I think that's interesting as a comparison.

The thing about Schiavo was that it did not happen in a vacuum.  Shortly after freaking out over a feeding tub in Florida, the GOP tried to privatize Social Security, and the Democrats put up a good fight to defend it.

A few months after that: Katrina.

So, while I do think that the polling is pretty clear that Walker has boxed himself into an ideological corner from which there is no retreat - just like theo-cons in the Schiavo case - there will need to be one more glaring example of the GOP attacking the middle class before we can definitively claim that the GOP is headed for a fall.

The Budget Battle would seem to be a natural.

The problem is that Obama is more concerned with having a budget than having a political fight.  No Drama Obama wants to do the people's business and "change the tone" and all that.  But the GOP's proposed cuts are ruinous and cruel.  And if a President whom 75% of Americans say they like steps up and defends the middle class, that would seem to reinforce his re-election.

Trying To Be Fair Here...

Pope Corleone

I am not a Catholic.  And I'm not a big believer in religious busybodies telling other people how to best conduct their quest for the divine in a temporal world.  I'm a more or less practicing Christian, but since I'm a liberal Episcopalian who be believes that gays are human beings, there are those who say I'm not a real Christian.

So, I advance this with some hesitation.

WTF is up with the Catholic Church?

First, we have Ireland and their - shocking -  decades long cover-up of pedophiliac priests.  This is a scandal that apparently reaches all the way to the Vatican.  It's not really a huge story in this country, since we've already apparently moved on from our disgust with the Catholic church's cover-up of pedophiliac priests in this country.

Now, I read in today's Times that the Catholic Church in Mexico has been building churches with narco dollars from drug dealers.  Given that drug traffickers are literally tearing that country apart, this seems a strange marriage.  Murderous drug runners and the church of Peter are working hand in hand to build stuff.

Some of this, apparently, is a by-product of Mexico's extreme separation of church and state that has deprived the Mexican church of fund and support. But why hasn't Rome supported the Mexican church?  Why hasn't one of the richest entities in the world stepped forward, rather than let the church in the largest Spanish speaking country in the world get in bed with drug lords?

Is this a product of rigid hierarchical thinking and a lack of value of dissent?

Or am I just grafting my own predilections on this situation?

Sunday, March 6, 2011

You Have To Cross An Ocean To Find An Honest Bankster

The Governor of the Bank of England - imagine Ben Bernanke with a funny accent - has said that:

The governor of the Bank of England said that people made unemployed and businesses bankrupted during the crisis had every reason to be resentful and voice their protest. He told the Treasury select committee that the billions spent bailing out the banks and the need for public spending cuts were the fault of the financial services sector.
"The price of this financial crisis is being borne by people who absolutely did not cause it," he said. "Now is the period when the cost is being paid, I'm surprised that the degree of public anger has not been greater than it has."

Well, yeah...  Maybe because we've been sold this BS market fundamentalism for so long that we can't see the plain truth: banksters destroyed the economy, got bailed out, and declining tax revenues from their malfeasance have "necessitated" spending cuts to those who had nothing whatsoever to do with this.

I think Daily Kos is full of a bunch of whack-job nitwits complaining about every little thing Obama does, but he could have fundamentally re-aligned this country politically for a few years at least by standing up to Wall Street even as he helped them out.

Sad that we'll never know what would have happened if Obama had unleashed his inner Roosevelt,

OK, So This Worries Me, Too

Home, Sweet Unattainable Home

So, while I have worried about external factors slowing the economic recovery, I also worry about this.  Namely the execution with prejudice of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

It is an article of faith among free marketeers that Fannie and Freddie were the real culprits in the 2008 crash, because they allowed Wall Street to create this toxic crap and then cycle them over to Fannie and Freddie, getting them off their books.  In this telling, Fannie and Freddie was the bar where the alcoholic kept buying his drinks.  Rather than send the alcoholic to rehab, we want to close the bar.

The thing is, not everyone who drinks is an alcoholic.  Bars can be really nice places that serve an important function as societal glue.  Samuel Adams ran a tavern.

By getting rid of Fannie and Freddie - by closing the bar - we are going to get rid of the most important function that they provide: the 30 year, fixed rate mortgage.  We could not have afforded our home without a 30 year mortgage.  Now, admittedly, right now, we wish we didn't own our home.  The roof is leaky, ice dams have sent water cascading into the walls and we've lost job mobility.  Not to mention the enormous percentage of our monthly wages that go into paying off the mortgage.

The effect of killing the 30 year mortgage will be to significantly reduce demand for homes and increase renting.  Which is kind of what the Fannie-Freddie assassins want to do.  Home ownerships does create certain problems with worker mobility.  And why, after all, should the stinking proles get to own a home?

Banks don't like owning 30 year mortgages because it winds up a very conservative, bond-like investment that ties up their capital.  So they sold most of them to Fannie-Freddie.  Without Fannie-Freddie, there is the potential for a financial entity to rise up and take its place, say the free marketeers.  Yeah, maybe.

Or, we could wind up with housing prices - particularly in the middle class type of house - continue to fall.

The Fannie-Freddie assassins would say that this is simply returning the housing market to its natural pricing level.

To which I say, screw you!

I - and millions of Americans like me - own a home.  This represents a significant form of our savings.  The mortgage payment is - in our eyes - a form of forced savings.  We put a little money into the mortgage and 30 years from now, around when we retire, we have a nice asset to help fund our retirement.  Oh, and a place to live.

This strikes me as another example of the market austerity fetishists.  Having money themselves, they are fine with inflicting pain on millions of people to create a nice orthodox free market.  But the societal costs of that will be huge and painful.

It is Wall Street's world and we're just living in it.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

An Equilibrium Moment

Oops, wrong book.

By all accounts we are beginning the jobful part of the jobless recovery.  Sufficient demand has accumulated and enough people's personal balance sheets have caught up with healthy corporate balance sheets to suggest that we are in for an accelerating increase in jobs.  Almost all recent monthly reports have been revised upwards with more perspective.

As someone out there on the Internets wrote: "Economists tend to underestimate job losses during the downturn and underestimate job gains during the recovery."  Anyway, my guess is unemployment will keep falling, though the complete flat-lining of construction makes me worry about the high school diploma/ten years of skilled construction work group.

But what really worries me are two things:

First, the GOP and the "50 Little Hoover" (aka America's Governors) are trying to squelch the recovery by shutting off government spending.  The fact that these cuts are unpopular and could hurt the GOP in 2012 will not matter if unemployment doesn't get below 8% by election day.  Not to mention it will suck for the people who are going to lose benefits.

Michael Moore - who we can reliably report is indeed fat - said something smart in Wisconsin today: "America is not broke.  We have a ton of money.  It's just all in a few people's hands at the top of the economic pyramid."  (Or something, I'm paraphrasing.)  Obama has not - to this point - impressed me with his ability to make clear distinctions between his positions and the Republicans.  When it comes to taxing the rich, he's going to have to do that.

Or else we're going to see a continued degradation of public services, combined with a further concentration of wealth at the top.

The second thing that worries me is oil prices.  When oil prices hit $4 a gallon in 2008, I was certain that it was Wall Street speculators trying to create another bubble in order to cover their losses on real estate.  I was derided by my friends who teach economics, but it looks like at least part of the increase was indeed caused by price manipulation.

Today, the "exterior" increase in oil prices - that is to say the "tax" we pay on a gallon of gas for reasons beyond supply and demand - is unrest in the Middle East.  Energy speculators are bedwetters, and they tend to spoke easily.  If Libya doesn't resolve itself and the House of Saud trembles... Here comes $5 a gallon.

Needless to say, that will put a crimp in the recovery by driving up prices across the board and spooking the Fed into raising interest rates to combat an inflation that is caused less by monetary issues and more by spooked oil buyers.

So we're at a tipping point.  The economy has reached the stage of recovery that can largely be self-sustaining, unless we get more shocks.  Slashing public spending, overheated oil prices... I guess we can add the PIIGS in there, too.

Optimism or pessimism?  Take your pick.

Daily Kos Is Getting Stupid Again

I was over at Daily Kos, which has done a really good job of following events in Wisconsin and elsewhere. The new website is spiffy and the crazy has been mostly contained.

Then I read this.

It's a screed, followed by a long series of concurring comments, about Obama going to Florida and praising the Bush family's long career of public service.  Praising your opponent's "public service" is literally what you say when you have nothing nice to say about what they actually did while serving in government.  It's what the victor always says to the vanquished opponent on election night.

But to the fevered Puritans at Kos, that represents a sell-out of the first magnitude.

It's nice to see that poutrages are a bipartisan phenomenon.

Friday, March 4, 2011

An Exception to Godwin's Law

My only Hitler pic...

Godwin's Law states that whenever someone compares their opponent in an argument to Hitler, they automatically lose the argument.

Also, there is a whole genre of Internet films that use a clip from the German film "Downfall" to make humorous points. The original, classic version dealt with subprime mortgages.

Herewith is the definitive version dealing with Scott Walker:

Yes, Yes, A Thousand Times Yes

Jon Stewart nails the dismount.

Wall Street bankers can get away with anything.  Teachers have to suck on it.

Herr Professor Krugman Is Worth A Read

It's columns like these that make Krugman such a valuable voice in the national media.  Here, he looks specifically at the date about austerity programs and notes that they have failed.

I'm teaching about Nigeria currently in Comparative Government, and we've also discussed Mexico and Russia this year.  All three have undergone some form of IMF based austerity program or neo-liberal reform of their markets.

The end result for the peoples of those countries has almost uniformly been painful.  Babandgida's structural reforms devastated the Nigerian economy and set the stage for the deprivations of Sani Abacha.

Mexico's neo-liberal reforms - imposed at least in part by the IMF and World Bank - have created a huge number of millionaires, a band of relative working class wealth close to the American border, crushing poverty in the South (see Chiapas) and a continued flight of Mexican workers to find a living wage in the US (interrupted currently by our own economic weakness).

Russia's "shock therapy" led to insider privatization, the rise of the oligarchs, the discrediting of democracy as a form of government and the rise of Putin's authoritarian nationalism.

Liberal Democracy and economic liberalism are assumed to be similar systems, mutually reinforcing each other.  In fact, we need to acknowledge that it is increasingly the opposite.  Liberal Democracy requires the idea that "all men and women are created equal".  Economic liberalism requires that a few people win and a lot of people lose.  In many ways, capitalism and democracy are antithetical.

It's becoming increasingly clear we live in a capitalist society, but not a democracy.  When did that change?

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Zombie Ant Fungus

There is a type of fungus that attacks ants and makes them behave very oddly before killing them.

Oddly, at the end, the scientist says he's worried that climate change may eradicate one type of zombie ant fungus.  Because somehow we WANT zombie ant fungi?

Scientists are weird.

A Post on the NFL

The NFL labor situation in a nutshell...

A bit random, but I was wondering...

In the next few days, the owners will lock out the players.  The players are already decertifying their union so they can sue under anti-trust law.

I just had an interesting idea...

If the owners lock out the players, could the NFL reconstitute itself as a player owned operation?  Rather than go through the farce of replacement players or the discomfort of a lost season, why not simply create a brand new league, where the players own their own product?  You would still have a general manager, maybe a board of directors who ran the franchises, but the revenue stream would not be diverted to pay off the owners.

Think about the savings on tickets.  You could literally charge fans half of what they are paying now, if you took owners out of the equation.  Player committees could engage in player safety concerns, such as the 18 game schedule.  I realize there are potential conflicts of interest all over the place, but why would that be any different from what we have now?  Why are the owners necessary?

You might have problems where the owners own their stadiums, but honestly, isn't this a way around the lockout?

Them's Fighting Words

Herein, we see a brutal evisceration of my native region, long since abandoned.

We see a brutal but unavoidable question in this: Does America want to be run like the South?  Since the GOP became the Southern party, they have managed to combine the Old Guard/McKinley/Harding/Coolidge wing of the party with the natural bassackwardness of the South.

So we have corporatists married to neo-confederates, in other words: The New Gilded Age.

But the question he puts forward within the current context: Does Wisconsin want to be be Alabama with crappy weather? is a fair one.  What about governance in the South is so great?  The outcome of public goods is across the board poor: crime is worse, teen pregnancy worse, life expectancy worse, education levels worse, income levels worse.

And the GOP wants to make the rest of the country like that.

(Oh, and Ed lives in my native state.)

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Your Modern GOP At Work

Back to the Future!

The GOP House is urgently taking up jobs tax increases on the wealthy economic stimulus aid to education the war on CFLs.  Compact Fluorescent Lightbulbs.

You see, there is a plan to switch over from the incandescent lightbulbs invented by Thomas Edison to CFLs. The reason is pretty straight forward.  CFLs last a lot longer and use a lot less energy.  Put another way: they are better freaking lightbulbs.

The plan is to get incandescents off the market.  There are currently about five and a quarter billion lightbulbs in US households.  Right now less than a third are CFLs.  If 100% of lightbulbs were CFLs, power companies - especially coal companies - would stand to lose $26,000,000,000 every year.

I can't do the math, but I would imagine that's approximately... carry the 3... take the square root of pi... a shitload of coal that isn't being burned into the atmosphere.

Global climate change is happening.  The only legitimate scientific question is: Is human activity causing climate change or simply making a cyclical event exponentially worse?

There is pretty good evidence that the political unrest roiling the Middle East has been spurred by food prices rising because of climate events (droughts in Russia, floods in Australia).

So, given the choice between carrying water for coal power or caring for the planet, guess which way the GOP jumps?


Rage On, Righteous One

The original Big Mac Attack.

I never felt that WikiLeaks release of State Department internal cables was that big a deal to the US.  In fact, I argued that it was a refreshing breath of fresh air into the stultified world on international diplomacy - or as it's known to most people: artful lying. (I just spend fifteen minutes trying to find what I wrote at the time, but I failed.)

Now, we have Anonymous.  Westboro Baptist Church are a bunch of evil, evil people.  Someone hacked their site.  WBC blamed Anonymous, who are a well known group of hackers who take on big institutions.  In a phone in show, one of the evil minions of WBC kept ranting about what Anonymous did - when someone else named j3st3r (jester) claimed credit for the hack.  The Anonymous member got so cheesed off at this nitwit that in the space of one her rants, he went in and crashed their website.  Took like ten minutes.

I love it when Hilarious and Awesome get married and have a kid named Justice.

I don't buy that Twitter leads to revolutions or Facebook ousts dictators.  But, while Julian Assange is a narcissistic jerkweed, what WikiLeaks and Anonymous are doing is really cool.

Ezra Klein has been wondering what will take the place of unions, as a 21st century economy renders them irrelevant.  Maybe the great democratic potential of the internet is finally beginning to be unleashed.

And if Anonymous has a contribution site, I will give them money.

A Zombie Post

It's been a while, but I saw this last night on Hulu and thought to myself, "Self, what the hell was THAT."

Is Starburst trying to win over the recreational drug user/zombie aficionado/Asian bagpipe enthusiast demographic?

Because if so, WIN!

Your Wednesday Morning Takedown

About a week or so ago, I launched an... intemperate... attack on David Brooks for being an asshat. You can read it if you want.  Anyway, Brooks went further down Asshat Lane with his latest column that eventually winds up with real, actual death panels for the elderly.  Which Brooks somehow equates with being the moral thing to do because it would allow us to spend more of our limited government money on education.  The moral thing, in Brooks' mind, is to kill grandma to pay for little Felix's education.

Not raise taxes, mind you.  Kill Grannie.

Rather than elevate my blood pressure, I'll just re-direct you to Tom Scocca, who is one of the best reasons to read Slate.  OK, close to the only reason.

Seriously, read it.  It's classic.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Just. Kill. Me. Now.

Roy Edroso found this gem over at the National Review on why teachers need their salaries and benefits cut:

Most importantly, teachers have important non-financial compensation — working with children in a universally admired profession, etc.
Something named Matthew Shaffer is responsible for that.

So, here's where we stand: Everyone hates bankers, so they get a ton of money.  Everyone loves teachers, so they should work for spare change and bus tokens.

Once again, fisted by the Invisible Hand of the Market!

The Times Has a Poll...

So, there is a NYTimes poll out today.  Here.

They lead, of course, with the bad news for labor.  Labor unions are not that popular, though they are more popular than they are unpopular.  Interestingly, a plurality doesn't know enough about unions to offer an opinion.  Likely because for most people, unions are like unicorns. (See what I did there...)

The rest of the polls comes out very well for unions and public sector workers.  For instance, are salaries and benefits too high for public sector workers?  Well, 26% say TOO HIGH!  25% say too low.  36% say about right. The rest think magenta is a type of Italian food.  So, keeping score at home?  Fifty-one percent say public workers are either paid fairly or not enough.  Twenty-five percent agree with Walker-Christie-Kasich.

When asked whether wages and benefits should be cut to balance budgets, 37% favor cutting wages and 56% oppose.  When asked whether public sector workers should lose collective bargaining rights, 33% favor no collective bargaining, 60% favor collective bargaining.

Most interesting to me was what people thought should be done to balance state budgets. A plurality of 40% said raise taxes, 22% said cut public employees benefits, 20% said cut spending on infrastructure, 3% said cut education and 15% think fireflies are actually pixies.

What is striking about these opinions is how absent they are in most news coverage.  True, most news coverage is focused on Charlie Sheen at the moment, but when discussing budget woes at the state and federal levels, almost every conversation in the media outside of Rachel Maddow's show focuses on spending cuts - austerity.  In fact there is a lot of support for raising taxes.

Given the breathless coverage of Chris Christie - whom the self-same Times said had found the perfect villain in public service unions - it's interesting that what Dan Malloy is proposing in Connecticut - a combination of spending cuts and tax increases - is actually more popular than the knife-to-the-bone ideas of Republicans.

George Gallup once said he was amazed at how the American people could reach the right conclusions with the wrong information.  Here, they seem to have reached for the compassionate, judicious conclusion in the absence of any information.  As noted, the Sunday Gasbags shows had Christie and Daniels on, but only one union spokesman - and that was because of external pressure.  The attacks on public unions - and unions in general - was clearly seen as news, but only one side was given a megaphone.

That comes through in the final question of the poll.  Do you think labor unions have too much power in politics.  A plurality of 37% said yes, whereas 19% said too little and 29% said the right amount.  That makes 48% saying the right amount or too little, but how can anyone rightly say that unions have too much clout in politics?  Name the last major battle that unions won in the political arena?  Free trade agreements?  EPIC?  I can't remember the last time the unions got what they wanted from Congress.  Maybe the saving of GM and Chrysler, but the unions conceded a lot to make that happen.

Unions are still easily vilified, and the news media are happy to carry that water.  They always have, going back to the days of Terrence Powderly and the Knights of Labor.  Labor unions are assaults upon the bastions of wealth, and that can make the middle class nervous.  What if they aim for the Upper East Side and hit Queens instead?

But the fact that unions are enjoying solid support from the American people, despite being vilified consistently  since their very inception is a heartening moment for me.