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Flagrancy

to Reason

"The problems of the United States can be captiously summed up in two words: Russia abroad, labor at home."
    --Charles E. Wilson, president of General Electric and War Production Board vice chairman. 1946.

All the old blogs
are gone now

or the people
are different.

    in life as in death:

    Andrew Breitbart probably faked his own death, or at least ripped it out of context.

    update: The questions beg themselves. Where's the death certificate? No, I mean, the long form certificate? Is the form authentic? Have we verified the kerning? Where are the witnesses of the supposed deadly episode? It's distinctly possible he could fool even medical professionals unless certain tests were administered to verify that he wasn't merely in a suspended state... Like an autopsy on the real body of Breitbart, not this cadaver they obviously borrowed from a nearby medical school. We must demand answers, like Breitbart would have, and like him we must reach ever further for the truth by stretching it beyond the limits of mere facts by inventing our own. In his memory, we must never accept the news of his death at face value.


:: posted by buermann @ 2012-03-01 11:29:53 CST | link


    stones, levers, glass houses, etc.:

    Toby Huff (Professor Emeritus, UMass Dartmouth) reviewed rather negatively, a while back, a book on Islamic Science and the Making of the European Renaissance, by George Saliba (Professor, Columbia University). Recently coming across the former's censure I thought I'd pick the latter up from the library. It's a slim but dense little volume, 255 pages ex footnotes, pretty fascinating. Reading it, Huff's review becomes retrospectively more and more bizarre.

    The central thesis, which Huff articulates poorly if at all, is that the Abbasid translation movement had it's beginnings in the linguistic and monetary reforms of the 5th Umayyad Caliph, which created an extremely competitive and well endowed environment between Persian, Syriac, Arab, et.al., bureaucrats that fostered the subsequent Abbasid endeavor, which it is argued helps explain various dynamics and whatnot therein. There's a lot to be said about that, but I just want to quickly comment on two of Huff's complaints:

    Islamic Science and the Making of the European Renaissance will disappoint a reader seeking a subtle, probing discussion of Islamic thought and Greek philosophy, or an understanding of how these two worlds came together. One significant defect is the author's reluctance to discuss the religious affiliations of his protagonists. Astonishingly, he makes no mention of "Muslims" in the book, nor of Christians or Jews.

    Confessional identity is not only somewhat besides the point of the book -- which granted devotes most of the reader's time to probing the subtleties of equants, eccentrics, and epicycles -- but the complaint is categorically false. The demographic make up of the class of functionaries in question is discussed extensively in the first two chapters, e.g. on p.56, "the arabization of the diwan seems to have led to the loss of the administrative jobs that were held by Persian and Greek speakers of the empire, who were mostly either Zoroastrian or Christian". There's seven other "mentions" of Christians, about the same as for Muslims. I don't know why that's important but I'm told on good authority that it is. A brief perusal of Toby Huff's recent book on the same general topic, Intellectual Curiosity and the Scientific Revolution: A Global Perspective reveals zero "mentions" of Jews or Zoroastrians, but a great deal about Jesuits, whatever this strange scoring method is supposed to reveal to us.

    Huff continues:

    All the participants engaged with science and natural philosophy are anachronistically called "scientists" (a term not invented until the nineteenth century). That there is no Arabic word for "scientist," nor indeed for science itself other than ‘ilm (knowledge), raises the fundamental question of how one can speak of "scientists" everywhere when the basic terms are absent in Arabic.

    I'm not going to say anything about how petulant and nitpicking this complaint is, seemingly to fill the word count of a non-responsive review, I'm just going to give you every example available of these two scholars committing this grievous sin of calling some ancient philosopher or physician a "scientist". Let the heavens sort out who has the greater responsibility to address this "fundamental question":

    Islamic Science, Saliba:

    1. p.56 "the famous scientist, Abu al-Wafa al-Buzjani (d.998)"
    2. p.92 "Muhammad b. Musa b. Shakir (d.873), who was not only one of the major patrons of the translation of Greek scientific and philosophical texts, but was also himself a scientist in his own right."
    3. p.115 "The next century witnessed the production of the prolific scientist Baha al-Din al-Amili (d.1622)"

    To say the least, Saliba discusses more than just three, er, "participants engaged with science and natural philosophy", and the text is littered abundantly with discussion of the Arabic terms used for this or that field of study.

    Intellectual Curiousity, Huff:

    1. p.79 "Johannes Schreck [b.1576]...was an outstanding scientist"
    2. p.100 "The other leading missionary scientist besides Schreck was Giocomo Rho, who died in 1638."
    3. p.205 "Antoni van Leeuwenhoek [b.1632] did not get everything right, nor should we expect any scientist to do so in the early stages of investigation"
    4. p.216 "one of Galileo's students, an accomplished scientist in his own right"
    5. And last, but not least, p.122, "That was the age of such outstanding scholar-scientists as al-Biruni, Ibn Sina, and Ibn al-Haytham." "Scientists" everywhere!

    It is perhaps worth pointing out that Huff was writing that book when he wrote that review. I for one find it easy to ignore the occasional chronological inconsistency, especially when it serves brevity, but only if it's not coming from somebody who gets up on his high horse anytime a foreign language adapts an old word to a new purpose, cleverly evading anachronism, instead of bandying about neologisms.


:: posted by buermann @ 2012-02-02 02:00:53 CST | link


    hack bullshit:

    Mitt Romney's 14ish% effective tax rate includes his self employment taxes, so I don't know why the Tax Policy Center is excluding everybody else's FICA taxes when calculating their average effective tax rate, which would bring it from 11% to more like 18.5%. The TPC has unhelpfully responded to the "great deal of confusion over how much wealthy taxpayers actually pay" by spreading a great deal of confusion over how much average taxpayers actually pay. Maybe it helps keep the lights on, I don't know.


:: posted by buermann @ 2012-01-24 09:44:51 CST | link


    the solution to rising political and economic inequality is the adoption of aristocratic snobbery:

    Charles Murray's essay on the imminent dissolution of America in the WSJ is an awesome example of his collected works. He performs a sort of random walk away from celebrating America's unique "cultural equality" through a list of category and correlation errors in order to demand that "the new upper class" "drop its condescending 'nonjudgmentalism'" and "voice their disapproval of those who defy these norms" of "marriage and the work ethic".

    Just to pick a few of his random walks at random:

    The quite purposeful destruction of the industrial workforce by deskilling and unfair trade is described as an "erosion of industriousness". The lone fact brought to bear is a minor drop (5% over about as many decades) in male presence in the workforce over a long period of steady normalization of male and female labor market participation, with most of the drop affecting men with no college education. Labor force non-participation (workers divided by total working age population) is utterly confused with an unwillingness to work at the expense of any other obvious explanation: the general increase in discouragement due to the aforementioned destruction of middle class industrial jobs; increased disability payments; increased competition from lower paid female workers; increased competition from lower paid immigrant labor; increased competition from lower paid foreign labor; increased entry into unpaid domestic labor; increases in working years spent in retraining and schooling (e.g., in response to trade adjustment assistance programs); the vast increase in mass incarceration; employment discrimination against the resultingly vastly increased number of working age ex-felons; and one could go on listing plausible alternatives to kicking insults in the faces of men who have given up looking for work. In any case, one cannot possibly compare the doubling of the rate of female labor force participation and the concurrent 5% drop among men and bemoan a cultural explosion in laziness, as Murray does here. It's absolutely nonsensical at a time when everybody who can find work is working harder just to get by.

    He bemoans the single parent family, "On ... any measure of development ... children who are born to unmarried women fare worse ... even after controlling for the income and education of the parents." A mere five seconds on google and I find papers to effect that "the effect of living in a single-parent family is no longer statistically significant after controlling for family income." The paper quoted is very interesting, at that, on the matter of the confusion of variables that affect both family structure and child outcomes. In any case one cannot find a paper in which controlling for income doesn't dramatically reduce the correlation between family structure and outcomes, which is another way of saying that by any measure of development children who are born into poverty fare worse, even after controlling for family structure. Here, too, any number of explanations for single motherhood could be provided, if it was such an abhorrent monstrosity, and exactly zero are. Elsewhere Murray has supported the universal provision of birth control to prevent unplanned pregnancies, he's ostensibly against the drug war that creates so many single parent homes, so it's very strange that this issue comes up and his one piece of advice in the end is for rich fucks to stick their noses skyward and scold single parents.

    He complains about the lack of church attendance by lower class folks because religious people give more to charity. The supposed discrepancy he describes in charitable giving between "secular" and religious populations is more than explained by the 35% of charitable giving that goes to the organizing and maintenance of religion, which in this case is argued to be "social capital" by the thusly circular argument that religious people give more. This all rather elides the fact that much of the "giving" for said social capital is duly offset by the reduction in takings by the government, such that much of the 2% of GDP donated to the private non-profit sector is in fact funded by public sector. Never mind that lower class people have far less to give, and don't get paid by the government to do so, so even if their "secularization" lead to less giving it wouldn't make any difference since any offerings they have are massively overshadowed by the grand munificence of an upper class that the government pays to allocate public funds.

    Another not insignificant chunk of said charitable redistribution of public revenue goes to support the think tanks and publications that patronize Charles Murray and the rest of his woolly headed, unpublishable ilk, who can't muster an argument to survive competent peer review and must subsist instead on wingnut welfare, rather like barnacles attached to the hull of civilization, retarding whatever progress might be had. This is no where better demonstrated than when he proposes that the solution to rising political and economic inequality is the introduction of an aristocratic snobbery into American culture: those lucky enough to have been born into industrious, religious, non-criminal nuclear families must get over their inhibitions and evangelize the benefits of hard work and proper child rearing to poor people, as though there wasn't enough of that in the pages of the daily papers and daytime talk television already.


:: posted by buermann @ 2012-01-23 21:37:51 CST | link


    We don't do bang and boom:

    That's the description of the CIA's job by an ex intelligence official that we're, one supposes, expected to take seriously, since it's repeated over and over again in this Foreign Policy article regarding Israeli Mossad's poising as CIA to recruit Jundallah for covert actions inside Iran. While that story might help explain sketchy reports from years ago that the US was supporting terrorist activities in Balochistan, it doesn't explain how Foreign Policy's editors can publish repeated CIA denials that they don't engage in "bang and boom" with a straight face when the CIA has been trotting around the globe with a flying robot army and a hit list for the past decade.

    I can't imagine anything that the US State Department could say while officially denying that it supports Jundallah -- which seems like a remotely plausible denial -- that could weaken their credibility more than claiming in the same breath that "The United States does not sponsor any form of terrorism."


:: posted by buermann @ 2012-01-13 13:31:05 CST | link


    ancient astronomy at the law school:

    All over the internets one can find this claim uncritically repeated:

    The ulama at the Islamic university of Al-Azhar in Cairo taught the Ptolemaic astronomical system (in which the sun circles the earth) until compelled to adopt the Copernican system by the Egyptian government in 1961.

    It's usually attributed to Daniel Pipes, In the Path of God, p.113, if at all. It's actually on page 112, "Thus did 'ulama at the Islamic university of al-Azhar in Cairo go on teaching Ptolemaic astronomical system (in which the sun circles the earth) until compelled to adopt the Copernican system by the Egyptian government in 1961", thrown out there, as, it seems, the rest of the book, without any reference or footnote, presumably from Pipes' ass, like much the rest of his work on the general topic.

    This is a very strange claim, to start with, since Muslim astronomers like al-Farghani improved on Ptolemy by 850, rejected Ptolemy by 1028, and completed much or all of Copernicus' mathematical model of the heavens decades before Copernicus, and, as I understand it, properly understood to have surpassed Copernicus by actually offering an iota of evidence of the earth's movement, rather than merely asserting it, in the fashion that the comet of 1577 etc. influenced the heliocentrism of Mastlin and Kepler. Observing comets passing through supposed celestial spheres without refraction would, presumably, call into doubt their substance, and suggest that one might organize the heavens in whatever manner still accords to the observed geometry. In any case, the earth's movement remained in doubt enough that it was still being confirmed at Harvard as late as 1903, having only been experimentally demonstrated in 1851.

    In so far as I can find any independent confirmation of Pipes' assertion that al-Azhar was so backwards that it was still teaching astronomy that had been in part overturned at al-Azhar many centuries prior to 1961, a contemporaneous account of instruction, written that year, Al-Azhar, A Millennium of Muslim Learning, has appendices on the curriculum prior to Nasser's secular reform of the school. It was by that time a seminary and legal school and little else. The totality of its offerings in astronomy were 2 lecture hours a week in the first year of the law school, which is to say that at the time of the reforms al-Azhar didn't, in any meaningful way, teach astronomy at all.


:: posted by buermann @ 2012-01-12 22:37:01 CST | link


    Why don't any Samurai epics take place in Mexico?:

    Known collectively as chinos, Asian migrants spread slowly along the silver highway from Acapulco to Mexico City, Puebla, and Veracruz. Indeed, the road was patrolled by them -- Japanese samurai perhaps in particular. Katana-swinging Japanese had helped suppress Chinese rebellions in Manila in 1603 and 1609. When Japan closed its borders to foreigners in the 1630s, Japanese expatriates were stranded wherever they were. Scores, perhaps hundreds, migrated to Mexico. Initially the viceroy had forbidden mestizos, mullatos, negros, zambaigos, and chinos to carry weapons. The Spaniards made an exception for samurai, allowing them to wield their katanas and tantos to protect the silver shipments against the escaped-slaves-turned-highwaymen in the hills.
      --Michael Mann, 1493, pp. 323-324

    It's impossible that the only fictionalization of this awesome setting for chanbara was Groo the Wanderer, but I know of none. Instead of transposing Seven Samurai into a gun slinger action flick called The Magnificent Seven you could just move the movie, sets and all, to Mexico, add some Spanish neck ruffles to the local officials, and call it Samurai Siete.


:: posted by buermann @ 2012-01-09 22:42:52 CST | link


    how the irish at least saved latin:

    Thomas Cahill, How the Irish Saved Civilization, p.180, takes a break from celebrating the pluralism of the early Irish church to denounce:

    Arian -- that is, following a debased, simpleminded form of Christianity in which Jesus was given a status similar to that of Mohammed in Islam.

    I'm not sure which is the stranger bigotry, to consider Christians who believe Jesus was created by God before the creation as "debased" and "simpleminded", or to confuse this nevertheless exalted and worshipful divine status with Muslims' respect for the Prophet.

    Cahill doesn't seem to wear any particular confessional identity on his sleeve -- saying somewhere that, while he was raised Irish-Catholic, he thinks of himself more as Jewish -- he might be throwing his lot here in with the particular brand of ignorance throughout history that has imagined that Muslims worship Mohammed.

    Or maybe it's just an ill-considered hasty generalization, made in the middle of an otherwise fantastic little book, with little room to reflect on the fairly Arian beliefs of the many Unitarians and Deists who, together, at the certain enough risk to their necks from certain trinitarian authorities, somehow managed to clobber something much like modern civilization together.


:: posted by buermann @ 2012-01-09 17:34:33 CST | link


:: posted by buermann @ 2011-12-22 09:26:04 CST | link


    rest up yours:

    Christopher Hitchens was a fucking fat slag. I can't mourn for any alcoholic who thinks the black label is par, let alone "the best whiskey in the history of the world". Tastes like tap water, blended for people who don't like whiskey.


:: posted by buermann @ 2011-12-20 14:42:57 CST | link


    low hanging overhangs:

    I'm not at all surprised that Karl Rove is attacking Warren from the left, however rich it is. But I am kind of shocked that I missed the interview on NPR's Planet Money between Adam Davidson and Warren in May 2009, where Davidson claims he can't think of one 'serious thinker' from "left, right center, neutral" who saw "a household debt crisis":

    ELIZABETH WARREN: What, if they can’t pay their credit card bills the banks are gonna do fine…Who is not worried about the fact that the Bank of America’s default rate has now bumped over 10%?

    DAVIDSON: The American families are not — These issues of crucial, the essential need for credit intermediation are as close to accepted principles among every serious thinker on this topic. The view that the American family, that you hold very powerfully, is fully under assault and that there is — and we can get into that — that is not accepted broad wisdom. I talk to a lot a lot a lot of left, right, center, neutral economists [and] you are the only person I’ve talked to in a year of covering this crisis who has a view that we have two equally acute crises: a financial crisis and a household debt crisis that is equally acute in the same kind of way. I literally don’t know who else I can talk to support that view. I literally don’t know anyone other than you who has that view.

    He could have just asked Adam Davidson, who on September 17th, 2008 knew exactly who and what to blame for the economic crisis:

    You. For enjoying the boom years without paying attention to the potential risks. ... For loving the rapidly growing price of your house and using it to buy stuff. For spending more than you make.

    Apparently, though, he changed his mind half a year later and couldn't find anybody at all talking about a debt overhang from the crash of a historic, multi-trillion dollar housing bubble that had become by then just a pet issue of a crank, and not a fundamental element of the great recession.


:: posted by buermann @ 2011-12-08 17:56:24 CST | link


    the individual initiative of large scale state backed collective enterprises:

    1493, Charles C Mann, pg. 56, discussing the formation of Virginia Company:

    "What counts is work, thrift, honesty, patience, tenacity," wrote the Harvard economist David S. Landes. In his classic Wealth and Poverty of Nations (1999), Landes argued that Europe had developed ways of organizing people and resources -- private joint-stock companies, for instance -- that fostered and rewarded individual initiative, which in turn promoted those virtues. Other places did not develop them. The result of these innovations, [Douglass C.] North argued, was economic growth so robust that it led to "a new and unique phenomenon": the ascension of European societies to world power.

    "Other places did not develop" "ways of organizing people" "that fostered and rewarded individual initiative". The joint-stock company at the time was little more than a limited partnership (more indentured servants passed hands than did stocks, I know of none of the latter trading at all), something introduced to medieval Europe by way of the Italian commenda in the 11th century, adopted at least in part from Islam, where it dates back to the 8th, used to capitalize the free trade networks across the Indian ocean for many centuries, until Portuguese piracy and terrorism destroyed them a century before the founding of Jamestown.

    There may have been some novelty in King James' organization of the marketing campaign for such a large IPO, but these sorts of financial arrangements had been around since antiquity.

    I suppose, given the topic, Mann is somewhat obligated to inform the narrative with the views of economists, and it's not his fault this is what economics departments have to offer.

    Further reading:


:: posted by buermann @ 2011-12-05 00:48:00 CST | link


    further evidence that Andrew Sullivan's mother spent too much time at Surrey solariums during his gestation:

    He's spent much of the last week bemoaning the lack of research into correlations between race and IQ, for reasons that have quite escaped me.

    It's a great mystery why Andrew Sullivan hasn't, sometime in the past 17 years, taken a few minutes to find out which genes are responsible for human pigmentation (it's not like the IQ surveys this shit is premised on are getting detailed, accurate ancestral histories of the subjects, let alone mapping subject genomes, so arguments that "race" is genetically more complex than what some proctor surmises from the color of your skin or a no less problematic self-report are preponderantly a lost cause for the "empirical data acquired from the measurement of intelligence in the 20th Century") and start by asking what, if any, role those same genes have in, say, the function of the nervous system, such that they could influence sophisticated but nevertheless arbitrary measures of some statistical artifact.

    An hour or so on the internets would reveal that there is no clear coincidence between genes influencing skin color and genes that might be linked to performance on standardized tests of one's tolerance for bureaucratic bullshit, love of Mozart, and time dedicated to the mastery of Tetris.

    Instead, he would have discovered the rather more complex interaction between genetics and environment in the photodegradation of folate in lighter skinned mothers in sunny regions that create selective pressures against lighter skinned sons and daughters, as they're born lacking brains, which happily explains everything.

    update: Of course sunbeds weren't introduced in England until 1977, so we're left with the possibility that Surrey, England just had a particularly sunny Winter in 1963.


:: posted by buermann @ 2011-12-02 16:16:43 CST | link


    systematic mass murder is highly correlated with modernity:

    I'm not sure what's more disturbing here: that Mittens equates US-backed genocidal juntas with modernity, that he's unaware that the US "helped" Pakistan "with new leadership" at the same time it was doing so in Indonesia with the same bloody results, or that he thinks the thing to do is to do it again:

    MITT ROMNEY: What happened in Indonesia back in the 1960s, where -- where we helped Indonesia move toward modernity with new leadership. ... We need to bring Pakistan into the 21st century -- or the 20th century, for that matter, so that they -- they can engage throughout the world with trade and with modernity.


:: posted by buermann @ 2011-12-01 17:14:42 CST | link


    "free", as in free near beer for all my friends:

    I thought Robert Reich's formulation of last week's exercise in national irony isn't quite succinct enough, so with further abbreviation:

    Americans have been assaulted, clubbed, dragged, pepper-sprayed for exercising their right to free speech and assembly to protest the increasing concentration of income, wealth, and political power. Meanwhile, the Supreme Court says money is speech and corporations are people.

    But Monica Youn's post at the American Constitution Society, "The Roberts Court’s Free Speech Double Standard", hits the specific ball out of the general park:

    Simply looking at the numbers, the Roberts Court has supported a free speech claim in 33.33 percent of argued cases ... from 1953 to 2004, the Supreme Court supported claims of deprivation of First Amendment liberties in 53.95 percent of argued cases. Thus, at the most basic quantitative level, the Roberts Court seems to be not especially protective of free speech rights.

    Disaggregated, these numbers become more dramatic. Out of the nine cases where the Roberts Court has supported a free speech claim, five of those are cases in which the Court struck down campaign finance reform laws. These numbers bear out Chemerinsky’s argument that "what really animates [the Roberts Court’s ] decisions is a hostility to campaign finance laws much more than a commitment to expanding speech."

    ....

    At the same time, the conservative majority has shown itself willing to disregard free speech claims by ... government employee whistleblowers, humanitarian aid organizations, and, most pertinently for today’s purposes, unions. Thus, it seems that the most that can be said of the conservative majority’s free speech record is that "The Roberts court strongly protects speech that it likes, while allowing regulation of speech it disfavors," as Adam Winkler has put it.

    Read the rest. It's quite mind boggling.


:: posted by buermann @ 2011-11-30 00:08:56 CST | link


    a fundamentally center-right, fiscally conservative country that is obsessed with deficits:

    12% of Americans disagree with the statement "The current economic structure of the country is out of balance and favors a very small proportion of the rich over the rest of the country. America needs to reduce the power of major banks and corporations and demand greater accountability and transparency. The government should not provide financial aid to corporations and should not provide tax breaks to the rich".

    More than double that, 32%, disagree with the statement "The national debt must be cut significantly by reducing spending and the size of government, including eliminating some federal agencies and programs. Regulations on business by the federal government should be reduced and instead, the private sector and individuals should have greater control. The government should not raise taxes on anyone."

    Agreement is 76% to 53% respectively.

    NBC News/Wall Street Journal Poll conducted by the polling organizations of Peter Hart (D) and Bill McInturff (R). Nov. 2-5, 2011.


:: posted by buermann @ 2011-11-25 15:09:58 CST | link | comment (1)


    what the fuck are all these letters doing in my alphabet soup?:

    Somehow every time I read Ezra Klein or Scott Lemieux and the like explain how powerless the President is on economic policy I never see the words "Department of Justice", "Securities and Exchange Commission", "Commodity Futures Trading Commission", "Immigration and Naturalization Service", "Attorneys General settlement", "bank immunity", or even "TARP".

    The Troubled Asset Relief Program! The Troubled Asset Relief Program wasn't used to relieve one bank of one troubled asset. A portion was lent to re-capitalize the banks with no strings attached, then recycled to bail out GM and slash auto worker wages back to their 1930 levels, then recycled again to mug distressed home owners for the banks. Barrack Obama walked into the Whitehouse with a $700 billion dollar blank check that he could apparently do anything he wanted with, and evidently he did what he wanted good and hard. Infrastructure bank? Gosh, where will we ever find the money to capitalize an infrastructure bank.

    When George W. Bush came into office the DoJ quickly set up an Enron Task Force and went after Bush's single largest campaign contributor. Disloyalty, it turns out, was one of his finest attributes as a President. If only Obama had lived up to Bush's example on prosecuting his major campaign contributors Wall Street might have gotten a message other than "continue looting, we've got your fat backs". Bush: 21. Obama: 0. It's the third Bush term except for all the good parts.

    You also never see the words "Federal Reserve appointments" or "reappointing Bernanke". Even more glaringly than that, you never see the words "Department of the Treasury". This motherfucker up here is telling you he's going to bring manufacturing jobs back by playing tiddlywinks and passing more of the same trade agreements that sent the jobs overseas in the first place, and the crazy son of a bitch sets policy at the goddam Treasury. Fucking powerless he is to do anything!

    You can only imagine that Obama did everything he could with the congress he was given if you ignore every single tool the Presidency has at its disposal but the power to autograph sausage. These liberalish types have been going on like this for a year and a half and even the most critical krugthulus among them can't find anything to complain about other than a long series of perceived sellouts to capital over legislation and something called an "overton window". You'll have to settle for the gomiti, sir, we're all out of the alphabet soup.


:: posted by buermann @ 2011-11-10 01:31:03 CST | link


    180:

    Mike Konczal on the stubborn, fact free insistence that the government created the housing bubble:

    The conservative think tanks spent the 2000s saying the exact opposite of what they are saying now, and the opposite of what Bloomberg said above. They argued that the CRA and the GSEs were getting in the way of getting risky subprime mortgages to risky subprime borrowers.

    My personal favorite is Cato’s Should CRA Stand for “Community Redundancy Act?”, (2000, here’s a writeup by James Kwak), arguing a position amplified in Cato’s 2003 Handbook for Congress Financial Deregulation Chapter: "by increasing the costs to banks of doing business in distressed communities, the CRA makes banks likely to deny credit to marginal borrowers that would qualify for credit if costs were not so high."

    Be careful, reading Peter Wallison on the CRA and GSEs' affordability programs in 2003 and then 2008 is liable to give you whiplash.


:: posted by buermann @ 2011-11-02 12:12:06 CST | link


    Frank Pasquale ends his exploration of the conservative values largely shared by the 99% with an old fashioned Adam Smith quote:

    [D]isposition to admire, and almost to worship, the rich and the powerful, and to despise ... persons of poor and mean condition ... is ... the great and most universal cause of the corruption of our moral sentiments.


:: posted by buermann @ 2011-10-27 12:01:08 CST | link


    I missed this early OWS endorsement from "tea party founder" Karl Denninger, which is funny on a lot of levels, but heartfelt enough that I would feel bad making fun of it.

    Anyway, Denninger is usually credited with founding the tea party for a blog post back in 2009, a month before Rick Santelli demanded an insurrection from the floor of the Chicago futures exchange. He urged his readers to send tea bags by socialist post to the Whitehouse (he was angry that Obama's inauguration was "not a protest about our government blowing $700 billion ... so that ... Wall Street can continue to rob our nation blind"), but people had been sending tea bags to congress for a lot longer than that:

    "No American troop will go without ... just so the most liberal activists in the country can be quieted," said a senior House Democratic aide. "If it means Democrats in Congress get tea bags and hate mail, so be it - we will not be irresponsible with the lives of our troops." --The Hill, 5/2007.

    Denninger doesn't know how significant his own advice about not being co-opted into a corrupt political system is. Every slightly interesting thing about the tea baggers was poisoned at popular inception by FOX on their way to dying inside the GOP: if you go back far enough into the memetic womb they were a bunch of anti-war protesters.


:: posted by buermann @ 2011-10-25 21:59:26 CST | link


    trickle up:

    David Cay Johnston, +emph:

    The median paycheck — half made more, half less — fell again in 2010, down 1.2 percent to $26,364. That works out to $507 a week, the lowest level, after adjusting for inflation, since 1999. ... While median pay — the halfway point on the salary ladder declined, average pay rose because of continuing increases at the top. Average pay was $39,959 last year, up $46 — or less than a buck a week — compared with 2009. Average pay peaked in 2007 at $40,764, which is $15 a week more than average weekly wage income in 2010.

    The number of workers making $1 million or more rose to almost 94,000 from 78,000 in 2009.


:: posted by buermann @ 2011-10-20 12:58:56 CST | link


:: posted by buermann @ 2011-10-20 12:23:14 CST | link


    everybody knows the fight is fixed, the poor stay poor, the rich get rich:

    Thomas Ferguson's institutional analysis of congress, you might call it gridlock for thee, but not for me, is a brief but necessary read:

    The rivers of political money that now swirl 24/7 around Capitol Hill surely play a role in producing the great D.C. stalemate machine. But tired recitations of astronomical campaign-finance spending totals don't tell the full story. ... We need to look at the bigger picture. The tidal wave of cash has structurally transformed Congress. It swept away the old seniority system that used to govern leadership selection and committee assignments in Congress. In its place, the parties copied practices of big-box retailers like Walmart, Best Buy, or Target.

    Uniquely among legislatures in the developed world, our Congressional parties now post prices for key slots on committees.


:: posted by buermann @ 2011-10-19 23:29:51 CST | link


    trickle up:

    Robert Reich's list of whoppers deserves some counterpoint:

    1. Tax cuts for the 99% trickle up to the 1%.
    2. See 1.
    3. Technological productivity increases in communications, extraction, and manufacturing necessarily expand the relative sector share of GDP dedicated to education, healthcare, and services. Technological progress increases the relative size of the public sector. All things being equal the government's role in the economy should appear to expand, because it takes the same amount of resources to provide police protection and childhood education as it did a generation ago while it takes considerably less to build and power, say, home appliances.
    4. Deficits are constrained by inflation. We shouldn't worry about the one unless there is evidence of the other.
    5. Inflated drug and administrative costs are first order contributors to healthcare inflation, because the market incentives are structured around rent seeking (patent monopolies and service retention). The simplest way to fix the market is a single payer insurance system, which a super majority of Americans have supported for over a generation. If we can't do it the simple way we could at least fix the market in a less convoluted way than throwing victims into the path of the present monstrosity created by a century of "reform".
    6. The 1% are the only ones running ponzi schemes.
    7. Taxation on income generated from squatting over a pile of bonds, options, stocks, and derivatives, which makes up most of the income of the top fraction of the 1%, is abhorrently, disgustingly regressive.


:: posted by buermann @ 2011-10-19 17:32:03 CST | link


:: posted by buermann @ 2011-10-19 15:13:55 CST | link


    even the liberal new republic :

    The New Republic is a glossy example of the intellectual limitations of a perfectly settled perspective. It knows the answers even before it has the questions. The truth about everything is completely obvious. The editors seem utterly incapable of doubt or complication, let alone mere self-reflection. Despite the fact that their worldview is a crackpot Manicheanism -- in which the world is divided between semites and anti-semites -- and it's tenuous hold on a diminishing subscription base, it's death grip around the neck of the corrupt center continues to starve minds of oxygen across the spectrum of political gasbaggery. But at least they provide a one-stop guide to the middle school pecking order of elite opinion, and that, apparently, is what it’s all about.


:: posted by buermann @ 2011-10-19 14:54:08 CST | link


:: posted by buermann @ 2011-10-19 14:25:15 CST | link


    bad advice:

    The only thing economists have invented in over 200 years.


:: posted by buermann @ 2011-10-19 02:22:40 CST | link


    occupying the space between the spearless spearman and the bowless bowman:

    The only thing sillier today than the parade of groups listing their own off-topic demands at the end of tonight's Occupy Chicago march has been the parade of national security experts telling us how scared they are by some drunk used car salesman who was entrapped by the FBI.

    So we march down to where activists will pitch camp at Grant Park and they broadcast this Chaplin speech from the Great Dictator. Fantastic, very clever, good call whomever. Then they followed up that smart little bit of agitprop with every separate supporting revolutionary cadre getting up to the mic (we get PA systems, here in Chicago) and making their atomized lists of demands, revolution something anti-war something universal justice in all things, oh, and fair media coverage for Ron Paul.

    I'm happy the unions, some churches, immigrant organizations, ANSWER, the ISO, the Two Last Names 2012 Party, and the Communist Party are all together hip to the fact that Wall Street sucks and federal financial regulators blow, but after marching through downtown Chicago yellin, "We are the 99 percent" that was incongruous. It's hard to get 99% of anybody to agree on anything (and this list of demands is really good, but nobody breathed a word of it tonight), getting them to agree against something is impressive enough. If you haven't agreed on demands you can all demand together, fine. Listing off the same old demands of every supporting cast member, many of them inherently contradictory, is a very bad substitute.

    Other than that it was great to be there, and I hope folks are safe camping past curfew, which is up in about five minutes. But why worry, with all the police protection I saw down there, how could they not be.

    update: Get your own tents! Arrests started a little after 1AM. Folks are being detained at 18th and State.


:: posted by buermann @ 2011-10-15 22:56:00 CST | link


:: posted by buermann @ 2011-10-15 10:14:59 CST | link


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