Creative Destruction

March 31, 2006

The immigration question

Filed under: Uncategorized — bazzer @ 6:24 pm

There are two reasons why I've yet to mention this new, hot political topic of the day. First, I've been so busy with real life for the past couple of days that I've barely blogged about anything. Second, like many people, I don't really know what to say about it.

First of all, I want to know how the immigration issue finally exploded so prominently on our national stage? Last time I checked, pretty much only Pat Buchanan and Michelle Malkin were yammering about it. Next thing I know, massive rallies and protests are breaking out, there are competing bills in Congress, and it's all anybody's talking about.

What happened? As near as I can tell, there was no precipitating event which triggered this "crisis." Joblessness in American is near an all-time low, and I haven't seen any news stories about al Qaeda operatives infiltrating our country over the Mexican border.

And yet, here we are. The issue has acquired a political momentum that demands it be addressed once and for all, no matter how much individual lawmakers may wish to avoid going on record with their position. Funny how things work out that way sometimes.

So what do we do? Passions are clearly inflamed on all sides, so how do we arrive at a satisfactory common ground?

On the positive side, I can't help but think there is much more that unites us than divides us on this issue. I think the majority of reasonable people in both parties would agree that our southern border is far too porous, and that it's desirable to strengthen those borders and to stem the steady flow of illegal immigrants into this country.

Likewise, I think most would agree that we also have to offset this policy by increasing the number of legal immigrants into this country, providing our economy with the influx of workers on which it has come to depend.

So I guess the real sticking point, then, is what to do with the illegals who are already here. Automatic deportation of undocumented workers is a non-starter. It would be politically non-viable even if it were desirable. Think, for example, of how many illegals have had children since coming here. Those children are U.S. citizens, and we're not about to start breaking up families. On the other hand, a blanket amnesty, even a de facto amnesty, doesn't exactly sit right with our fundamental sense of fairness and the rule of law.

Clearly, some middle path is desirable, but it's hard to know what that should look like. Maybe undocumented workers could be given a choice: return home and apply for "guest worker" status under the new, more lenient statutes, or pay a fine and stay here, but forfeit your right to apply for citizenship.

Or something else. I just made that up as an example, to help illustrate that it is possible to come up with a fair, humane compromise and simultaneously reinforce our borders in the process. I don't know what the best solution is, but I am confident that reasonable answers can be found.

So why am I so pessimistic about the whole thing? Why can't I shake the feeling that, with passions so inflamed all the way around, that nothing good will come from this current debate?

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CD, Page Six

Filed under: Uncategorized — bazzer @ 6:17 pm

It looks like Naomi Campbell is something of a bitch.

I'd still do her, though.

The final stage of capitalism?

Filed under: Economics,History — Adam Gurri @ 6:02 pm

My research paper has me looking into Lenin's ol' article, Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism, as well as that old book by the Scottish "capitalist" himself, and a fair amount of the history of the British Empire.

I have to say, I'm stumped. I can't see the connection between Imperialism and free market economics in the slightest–in fact, even a brief glance at the history of European empire demonstrates the opposite of the commonly supposed notion.

When people talk about British Imperialism, they aren't referring to the American colonies. They mean Cecil Rhodes, The East India Company, and so on. And what could be more capitalist than these examples, right? I mean, the British didn't even send in an army to invade anywhere half the time–they gave guys like Rhodes a charter for what amounted to a private company dedicated to grabbing land to turn a profit.

But this is exactly the kind of thing that Adam Smith argued against in his day. In the very first book of the Wealth of Nations, Smith makes reference to the "despotism" of the East Indies.

In fact, the kind of imperialism that occurred in Africa and in the Near and Far East is much closer to the merchantilism of American colonization. The word itself was coined as part of a criticism of the system made by Adam Smith, who argued that spending money to hold on to the colonies was wasteful, and it would be far more beneficial for everyone if they simply traded with an Independent America.

America wasn't conquered by British troops either, you will recall–it was taken by chartered companies as well.

Between the time of American independence, and the period that has come to be known as the Scramble for Africa, a lot happened in Great Britain. The industrial revolution increasingly gathered momentum. The so-called Laissez-Faire politicians–the liberal reformers like Gladstone–came to power. Under their direction, the British Empire was greatly restructed, and many colonies were phased out of direct English control and given their own representative bodies under a principle of Responsible Government. This was in keeping with economic policy as Smith and others had recommended it; it made no sense to try and grab massive amounts of land because maintenance would empoverish rather than enrich the empire. So Gladstone's government gave a large degree of self-governance to the British colonies, the only real tie to the center being an agreement of free and open trade that was to the benefit of all parties involved.

Also, during this time, the East India Company's monopoly was made illegal, first in its business dealings in India, and then, later, with its standing in China.

National leaders are fickle when it comes to convictions, however, and many lusted for empire. One of the most influential figures of this batch was Benjamin Disraeli, leader of the conservative party and longtime rival of Gladstone.

Under Disraeli and his party, the British Empire turned backwards. It indulged in the Scramble, among other things. It brought back the chartered companies and, though it never outright banned its colonies from trade with other countries as they had with the Navigation Acts two hundred years prior, they did establish a number of tariffs aimed at discouraging anything but trade internal to the empire.

Small-minded fools like Hobson, the British economist who inspired Lenin's famous essay, tied this new imperialism to capitalism because of the prevalence of industrial technology in the military and because of the use of resources in the colonies in British factories.

But the exact same system was being used at the time of the American colonies. It was expected that Americans would produce, and the mother country would refine and consume. The only difference is that the industrial revolution had had more time, and had grown exponentially faster under laissez-faire policies, by the time Disraeli and his peers turned to reactionary policies of expansion. So the technology of weaponry gave them an unopposable advantage in places such as Africa, and under notions of wealth that had been debunked a century earlier, they proceeded to set up shop and leech off of the most expansive and costly empire in their history, and perhaps in the history of any modern European nation.

It should be noted that throughout most of the 19th century, the British were at the top of the food chain, but by the end, others were muscling their way in. I believe there is a connection.

Otto von Bismarck, though certainly no dove, frequently made the case that his only goal was the unification of Germany, and he very much opposed foreign empire. It is no coincidence, in my mind, that it was during his time that Germany became the world's leading and fastest growing industrial power. Nor do I think it is a coincidence that his successor, Wilhelm II, was unable to outmuscle France in World War I. After Bismarck, the Germans had embarked on a quest for empire, spreading themselves thin and falling victim to the meaningless desire for the status brought on by having the most area of your nation's color on the world map. Had they stayed out of it, and focused on a free trade policy, I won't say that they definately would have won, but they certainly would have stood a better chance.

Marxism is a very narrow doctrine. Just as many schools of theology interpret their faith in such a narrow manner that they cannot see a place for Darwin's findings within it, so were Marxists left without the analytical tools to grasp what was happening in Africa and elsewhere. Marx had given them a naively simplistic progression which follows very specific stages. Merchantilism, which had already occured by the time of his writing, was left completely out of the picture entirely. So when it reemerged at the end of the 19th century and went on well into the 20th, Lenin could do nothing but be perplexed by it and declare it just another element in the next to last stage of Marx's progression, which he had put under the blanket term "capitalism".

Stalin was similarly perplexed by the rise of fascism, and decided that it, too, was just another form of capitalism.

It's time for us all to grow up. Calling Imperialism an extension of free market economics is like calling quantum physics just another stage of newtonian physics. It makes no sense. The Wealth of Nations is ripe with blatant criticism of everything that its brand of economics is often blamed for creating. So please, please, please, try to take the time to learn something about economics before making irrelevant accusations about it. Or at the very least, learn something about its history.

Cross Posted at: Sophistpundit 

Economics Joke

Filed under: Economics — Robert @ 5:17 am

Two economists are walking along the street. One of them spies a $100 bill lying on the pavement, and leans down to retrieve it. The second one restrains him. "Don't be ridiculous, John! If that were really a $100 bill, someone would already have picked it up."

Via Asymmetrical Information.

March 30, 2006

To Be Or Not To Be (Anonymous)

Filed under: Blogosphere,Ethics,Navel Gazing — Off Colfax @ 11:21 am

Ah yes. That does seem to be the question these days, does it not?

This started percolating in my brain the very moment I read Garance Franke-Ruta's post over on TAPPED on her personal policy to no longer link to bloggers that post under a pseudonym. Which, come to think of it, includes my own humble little efforts. (Of course, all this effort is to disguise my true identity as Captain Bloggzorz Of Teh Blogosphere!)(NSFW) (Sorry, but I couldn't resist revealing my source.)

Here it is, in her own words, snipped for space reasons:

First, let me lay out the problem. Unlike reformers' worries about soft money dumps into online candidate advertising, which remain theoretical, bloggers whose work for candidates or committees is undisclosed have already proved nettlesome. Indeed, undisclosed political consultants writing blogs to influence public opinion, often negatively, about a candidate and to attack the coverage of the traditional, independent media have been with us for at least two years.

. . .

Further, the disclosure problems in the blogosphere are so broad and diverse in nature that they would seem to require addressing on their own apart from the FEC rules, which, even if broadened slightly to include disclosure by paid campaign consultants, would have no impact on the larger problem. For example, DailyKos's "Adam B," who decided to use me as a straw man last week in his quest to generate online opposition to H.R. 4900, is, I learned over the weekend, Adam Bonin, the attorney representing leading liberal bloggers from DailyKos, Atrios, and MyDD, which have conducted a lobbying campaign against that bill.

. . .

With power comes responsibility. A happy solution to the vexing problem of inadequate online disclosures was suggested to me by a blogger friend who also routinely publishes pieces in major newspapers. This is his personal policy, and I now adopt it as my own:

I will no longer link to any writer who does not disclose his identity and affiliations in an obvious place or manner, or reply to online commenters who decline to disclose their names.

In so doing, I will be extending the same standards this publication uses for publishing and replying to letters to the editor to the online comments, which have functionally replaced letters to the editor to a great extent, and the same standard this publication uses for all other sources to online ones. (This won't be site policy, just mine.) No publication considers a truly anonymous source — one whose identity is unknown to both reporter and readers — a usable one for any purpose other than further inquiry. And yet reporters, including myself, have routinely cited the writings of pseudonymous commentors, in grave violation of that standard.

To me, this sounds like painting every single one of us with the same broad brush. Franke-Ruta has had some truly pathetic experiences with some of the pseudonymous bloggers out there, and I can't fault her for being a mite peeved at them for that. In fact, I can understand it completely, as there are some truly unmitigated idiots out there. Some of those idiots might even be on the payroll of a political organization, at that. (I wish I was.)

And yet, not all of us are. Just as Atrios said, there are perfectly valid reasons for not wanting to put your actual name in connection with your thoughts and analyses. As far as my reasons, it is very simple.

We participate in a world that has almost-instantaneous access to information of all kinds. All it takes is a name, possible place of residence, and ten dollars to this website and, just like magic or high technology, you can access pretty much everything of importance to the average muckraker. Which means that, for those of us who have uncommon last names, we are fully exposed to anyone and everyone with the willpower to expend the effort and resources to find it.

And yes. I am listed in that site's database. The entire search took me one minute, and all I used was my last name and my state of residence. Not only that, but with a wider search using information that can be gleaned from that other blog I write, it spits out my entire family for three generations. That, as they say in the security world, is an extreme and unacceptable level of risk. And it is one I have already fallen victim to.

Back in the days before the now-common http://, we had local bulletin board systems which, thinking about the genealogy of the concept, are more closely related to sites like Daily Kos and RedState than anything else. All it took to access most of them was your modem and their phone number. Registration was usually instant, and almost always free. And I, in my youthful naivety, posted my comments using my real name.

There is a technical term for doing something like that: WHOOPSIE!

Within 6 months, I had enough difficulties to make me physically move, change and delist my phone number, and cancel my bank account. I received many threats upon my person, some of which were considered credible; numerous credit cards were issued in my name; and I received at least sixty indecent solicitations from complete strangers. Regretfully none of the latter were from the gender I'm attracted to, and the subsequent rejections were, more likely than not, one of the sources of the physical threats. And the end result of all this was a declared bankruptcy at the age of 19, as this was before the concept of strong identity-theft regulations came into being.

All of this was due to a single bored hacker who decided s/he didn't like what I wrote.

The old adage about the burned hand teaching best is probably one of the most accurate sayings we have in the English language. And mine was not only burned, but shoved into a thermonuclear reactor with the resulting ashes scattered upon salted earth.

Ever since that point, I have never revealed any facet of my actual identity in a public-viewable forum, and been very careful with the various private websites I have had access to over the years. Period. Ad infinitum. Ad astra. Ad nauseum. Until the ends of the world. Omayn. I have even taken the steps of creating a vast multitude of free e-mail accounts, with at least one per on-line identity I have created over the years. I go even further and not have those accounts gathered by a mailreader and instead go to each of the websites manually. (Yes, bookmarks count as manual input. At least in my view.)

Will I do so again at some point in time? Possibly. But the only reason I will break this rule is if I have a moral or contractual obligation to do so, such as a by-line in a newspaper or magazine article or taking a paid position in a political organization. And that is one of the hard-and-fast rules of the worlds of media and politics: Admit who you are. Duncan Black remained anonymous well past that point in time, being a paid fellow of Media Matters For America while still being pseudonymous, thereby being in violation of that ethical rule for that specific length of time.

Yet for us, the average-joes of the Internet, we do not have that moral obligation of full identity disclosure. Only if and/or when our action, words, and ideas cause a definitive impact on the life and livelihoods of other people should the rule of full disclosure apply, as should have been the case in the Thune blogger case as reported in this Personal Democracy Forum piece. Or the cases that Mrs. Franke-Ruta cited in the paragraphs I blockquoted from her post.

A vast majority of us are not paid attack dogs. Nor are we all libelous plotters, spewing out half-truths and total fictions upon an unsuspecting population.So until our blogging patterns fall under the moral requirements for full disclosure, let us maintain the presumption of innocence for pseudonymous bloggers.

After all, some of us actually have reasons to separate our public work from our private lives. And if a certain blogger (for that is what she is, in addition to her dead-tree-form writing) cannot understand this concept, then perhaps she should take a closer look at the medium she is participating in.

Economic Noodling

Filed under: Economics,Politics — Robert @ 7:18 am

Assumption: the value of each nation’s capital stock is directly decreased by a marginal increase in taxation above any arbitrary point. The reason is that the competitive market for international capital, which is huge, trades on one commodity more than any other: overall taxation rates / size of government in the various countries. Ireland lowered its taxes moderately and its national income has skyrocketed past the Continent in a generation’s time.

(I believe the value of a nation’s capital may also decrease owing to economically repressive activities each nation takes within its own borders, and that this point is non-controversial, but it’s not my main point here.)

The national tax structure and government “bite” can be used as a throttle on the growth of equity valuation. “Maximum speed” is zero percent. Every increment thereafter reduces capital formation, and thus total social wealth.

Therefore: Every proposed increase in any form of taxation is therefore a tacit (if unintended) proposal to reduce the overall prosperity of the human race.

There are certainly reasons to justify increasing the total taxation above zero. Taxes pay for government, which in turn provides real services. Keeping the barbarians from overrunning the marketplaces is worth something. Having a decent postal system not run by the mafia is worth something. Law and order is worth something. Feeding the needy – to the extent that the citizenry desires to further this worthy end – is worth something. And there are certainly worthy general government activities that make it a lot easier to do business (there’s that equity value again) – research support, patent offices, standards bureaus, etc.).

Other causes take on less urgency when viewed in this light. Everyone probably has their own list; that’s what democracy is for, to thrash out the lists and see what we decide to do or not do as a group.

I must dive back into the unending pile of work, but feel free to chew this one up as you wish.

March 29, 2006

American vs. European Social Models

Filed under: Blog Status,Debate,Ethics,Human Rights — Brutus @ 10:23 pm

Update: This post continues to draw traffic even after five years and despite this group blog being abandoned. It is cross-posted at The Spiral Staircase, which is my personal blog and is still active. Feel free to comment either place.

Original post: The comment by Bazzer about flattened tax structures, my rejection of the idea, and Adam Gurri’s invitation to expand on the topic prompts me to describe more fully why I reject Reagan’s success in flattening the tax structure — a process that continues unabated today. Let me start by contrasting the American and European social models, albeit briefly.

I attended a lecture last month by T.R. Reid called the “European Social Model.” That term refers succinctly to the welfare state, which in Europe has none of the negative connotations it does in the U.S. High tax rates in European support a variety of human services, including socialized medicine, unemployment insurance, welfare, and free public education through university. Although the specific levels of support vary among European states, Europeans are justifiably proud of their collective accomplishment in caring for each other and creating a humane social contract. Recent uprisings in France over employment rules make a great deal of sense from within that context, though from an American perspective the agitators appear positively insane.

In the U.S., considering our history of tax revolt, we categorically flee from the idea of socialized anything. Nonetheless, we have socialized education (through high school), socialized defense (we should go back to calling it the Dept. of War, IMO), socialized roads, and socialized medicine in the form of Medicare/Medicaid. Levels of support and benefit for human services are considerably lower in the U.S. compared to Europe, and our overall tax rates are lower. It’s more of a continuum than a toggle switch.

However, I doubt anyone in the U.S. could be justifiably proud that we frankly allow our fellow citizens to literally live on the street and die of exposure and/or starvation. In that respect, we are inhumane, and Europeans think we’re insane for allowing it to persist in what is arguably the richest country in the world. Of course, the rich and powerful, who stand to gain from tax rates lower than those in Europe and lower than U.S. tax rates from the 1960s, say, have succeeded in flattening the U.S. tax structure. What used to be a fairly progressive structure (high earners paid a high percentage) has moved incrementally toward a regressive structure (low earners pay a higher percentage when various penalties are factored in, such as the inability to exploit tax loopholes for not having enough money, or Social Security taxes on all of one’s income instead of the first $84K only, or even sin taxes on alcohol and cigarettes).

The flabbergasting thing to me is that the poor have been convinced that possibility of hitting it big (winning the lottery or being a rapper, mostly), which only happens to a miniscule number of people, makes protecting immense wealth advantageous to them even when they don’t have it. Hope is kept alive — and the underclass with it. The range from top to bottom of the socioeconomic scale has been widening for 50 years in the U.S., whereas in Europe, except for a few royal and aristocratic families, it’s been narrowing.

Which model delivers better social justice? For my money, the European social model.

Persian Pop Star Seeks Clemency for Condemned Iranian Girl

Filed under: Current Events,International Politics — Robert @ 9:18 pm

Persian-Canadian pop vocalist Nazanin Afshin-Jam is leading an effort to pressure the Iranian government to reverse or vacate the death sentence handed down to an 18-year old Iranian woman after she killed a man attempting to rape her and her 16-year old niece.

The sentence was entered on January 3, 2006, and since that time international outrage has been growing at the appalling miscarriage of justice. There is some hope that the young Iranian woman, whose first name is also Nazanin, can escape the sentence, as it still must be reviewed by a Court of Appeals and by the Iranian Supreme Court.

Nazanin and her niece were reportedly walking in a public park in a Teheran suburb when they were attacked by a small group of men and forced to the ground. Seeking to defend her niece and herself, Nazanin stabbed one man in the hand with a knife that she possessed. As the men continued their attack, she stabbed another of the men in the chest, which eventually caused his death. She reportedly told the court “I wanted to defend myself and my niece. I did not want to kill that boy. At the heat of the moment I did not know what to do because no one came to our help”.

Ms. Afshin-Jam is asking people to sign an online petition in support of Nazanin, requesting that Iran follow its obligation under international law to refrain from executing someone who was under 18 years of age at the time of the attack, and asking the Iranian government to commute Nazanin’s sentence of death.

Ms. Afshin-Jam’s personal and professional web site has more information about Nazanin’s case.

Idle Assessment of Nonsense

Filed under: Uncategorized — Brutus @ 4:54 am

While we’re indulging in idle assessments of nonsense, I thought this might provide some chatter:

LimoJet

This is the sort of thing that strikes me as symptomatic of something wrong with America. I’ve spoken out in the past in other fora against SUVs, the Hummer, the UniMog, etc. They’ve all been converted into limos at some point. But this is just so far beyond the pale I can hardly believe it. The excessively ostentatious display makes this idea appealing only to the tackiest folks with way too much money and no sense of value. That the company went to the expense to build it is just as bad, I suppose. Reminds me of the joke (it was JOKE — get it?) on Home Improvement when Tim Allen would say “more power” as though one could never have too much. I think some folks missed the joke.

March 28, 2006

Presidents, good and bad

Filed under: Politics — bazzer @ 6:36 pm

"Worst. President. Ever."

Everybody has their favorite president, and most people have probably given at least some thought as to their least favorite (let me guess: Bush, right? Did I get it right?) But how many people have actually sat down and ranked all of our recent leaders from best to worst?

I tried it as an exercise the other night, and it was tougher than I expected. I also think my exact rankings are somewhat fluid, and you're subject to get slightly different answers depending on what day of the week you ask me and what kind of mood I'm in. Still, here's my first stab at it: From best to worst, I ranked all the presidents I've lived through (I've got considerably more presidents under my belt than Adam) and here are the results:

REAGAN:

The good: Dramatic flattening of the income tax structure, breaking inflation, rebuilding the military, deregulation. Hands down favorite.

The bad: Paid only lip service to reducing the size and the price tag of government. Left office with more cabinet-level executive departments rather than fewer.

CLINTON:

The good: Welfare reform, controlled spending, (nominally) balanced budget.

The bad: Raised taxes.

BUSH 43:

The good: Recognized immediately the scope and magnitude of the global war on terror. His response set the precedent for future leaders.

The bad: Spent money like a drunken Lyndon Johnson on shore leave.

FORD:

(mediumest president of all time)

BUSH 41:

The bad: "Read my lips."

The good: Clarence Thomas (hee hee hee)

CARTER:

The bad: Misery index, "malaise."

The good: Legally protected the great American tradition of home brewing. This alone is enough to save him from the bottom.

NIXON:

The bad: Watergate, wage and price controls.

The good: I guess he did his damnedest to secure American victory in Vietnam, and actually came closer to succeeding than many people realize.

JOHNSON:

The bad: Escalated involvement in Vietnam, created the modern welfare state.

The good: Uh….

So that's pretty much it. Something there to piss off everybody, no doubt. I'm considering making this into one of those blog challenge "tag-you're-it" things, but, well, those are just annoying. Still, if anyone here is inclined to follow suit, please do. It'll help us all get a feel for one another's political thought processes.

Abdul Rahman

Filed under: International Politics — Adam Gurri @ 12:37 pm

What do you guys think about this whole thing?

I thought Dean's World had a pretty reasonable take.

there were those who said this entire case is illustrative of how evil Islam is, and how awful the intervention there has been. What utter nonsense. Had this poor bast*rd been caught by the Taliban, he'd have been summarily executed by a kangaroo court. We likely wouldn't even know his name, or we would have had to find it out through Amnesty International rather than the Associated Press.

Instead, while we may not approve of putting someone on trial for his religious beliefs, at least this guy got judged by a real court, in full public scrutiny, with a defense attorney, AND, the elected government of Afghanistan felt that it should answer to not just its nearby theocratic neighbors, but, also to its fellow democratic nations, including governments from places like France, Germany, Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom.

(…)Read that all as an indictment of the eville moooslims if you like. I read it as a country that is emerging at astonishing speed from the 12th century into the 21st.

It's one perspective. When I first heard about the incident, I was depressed. When he was let go, I was less depressed. I think I'm pretty close to Dean on this one; no one was actually executed and everything was done in the full light of public scrutiny.

Immigration Protesters Deploy Protest Babe

Filed under: Uncategorized — Robert @ 7:51 am

Uh oh. They've deployed a Protest Babe. (H/T that Drudge fellow.)

Just Ask For Directions

Filed under: New Author — Off Colfax @ 6:40 am

Well, seeing as how Brutus has introduced himself, I find it time to make my presence known.

I had considered starting off a blog for about five months before I broke down and, in a fit of insomnia-induced insanity, started my home blog of Left Off Colfax. Ever since then, I’ve pretty much toiled on in obscurity, with the occasional big set of hits and visitors. Or at least so I thought. Suddenly, here comes this invitation to join a groupblog…

After picking my jaw up from the floor (before the cats decided to use it as their new toy, of course), I simply started grinning. Here comes a whole new toy to play with! But I also consider it to be very much a compliment.

Now, here’s what you can expect from me.

First off, I’m intensely moderate and centrist, albeit still a part of the Democratic Party. There are times when I regret that choice, but then I simply have to look at the other parties and remember exactly why they couldn’t keep my vote. Over the years, I’ve also voted for and/or worked for: the Reform Party, the Libertarian Party, the Green Party, the Natural Law Party, and the Republican Party. Yet I keep coming back to being a Democrat. And one of these days, I’ll actually put the reason why in print.

Secondly, I feel no shame in turning up the heat on those that pull a world-class whoopsie, particularly when they are politicians or pundits. Because face it, simply by being politically-centered bloggers, we have become a part of the punditry. The only difference is that we don’t get fancy suits and calls from Meet The Press. Sometimes, folks here in “teh blogospherez on teh intarwebs” forget that.

Third, you can expect me to have an opinion on just about everything. Why? I drove a taxi for two years. That should explain things enough, particularly if you’ve seen a certain Mel Gibson movie. If that doesn’t do it for you, then get in a cab in any major city and start chatting with the driver. (The cabbies in Las Vegas are infamous for this one, particularly while listening to the Coast To Coast radio show.) If you don’t happen to live in a major city, just imagine your bartender or waitress and that will be close enough. However, you should find yourself fortunate that I often have difficulty putting said opinions into coherent text and, as such, you will only get the good ones.

And finally (In case you couldn’t have guessed…) I have a fondness for truly parenthetical comments. This is where the me-behind-the-keyboard starts to interject various comments and random opinions, completely oblivious to the fact that I’m revealing my inner geek. I’ve been trying to break myself of the habit (Fat chance, bozo. I’m here for the long term.), but it has become more addictive than the nicotine/caffeine combination. So if you find them awkward, just skip over them, as there rarely will be something of direct substance within them. That and they are rarely funny. (I’m gonna kill that guy for saying that about me.)

So pull up a large pot of coffee, kids. Your road trip begins soon. In the meantime, here’s something to think about:

It is by coffee alone I set my mind in motion.

It is by the beans of Java that thoughts acquire speed.

The hands acquire shaking.

The shaking becomes a warning.

It is by coffee alone I set my mind in motion.

Thus Saeth Brutus

Filed under: New Author — Brutus @ 3:32 am

Others on this group blog introduced themselves and their
perspectives, so it’s reasonable for me to add a few lines about myself.

Associating with others who don’t necessarily believe as I do is the
point of my being here and offering a perspective. That’s all the
motivation it takes.

Because I don’t crave any particular notoriety for my ideas and
think the “look mom, no hands!” approach to functioning in a public
forum is rather tasteless and jejeune, I’ve decided to remain
anonymous. The focus should stay off of me. I’m not trying to become a
personality. So this is the only time a post of mine will be littered
with references to myself, as distinguished from my opinions.

As political labels go, I consider myself a progressive. If there is
no generally understood meaning behind that label, all the better. I’m
disinclined to subordinate myself to any dogma and prefer to take
issues individually. The only overriding idea is that we should
progress — that is, improve — rather than regress.

That said, diatribes and scenarios about how it’s all going to ruin
and we all had it better back in those halcyon days tend to be right up
my alley. I recognize the fallacy of relying on a golden past that
wasn’t, after a bit of inspection, so golden after all. It’s a seductive
narrative frame, just as the opening scenes of movies tend to enter the
story at a point of calm and composure only to introduce conflict and
drama. Still, the cultural critic in me can’t escape the gnawing sense
that we’re poised on the brink of a new paradigm, and that the shift
from one way of life to another won’t be a pretty sight.

My values of civilized discourse boil down to two things: clarity and
respect. To respect one’s reader means to take the time necessary to
craft written English suffiently free of errors and elegantly enough
stated that one’s ideas have clarity and purpose. Few writers are truly
good at this; I’m learning just like everyone else. But I have little
patience for sloppiness in expression and will not hesitate to take
anyone to task over it. Respect is also something one affords one’s
interlocutors. I’ve grown out of the adolescent belief that opinions
contrary to or different from mine are by definition inferior. There is
a wide range of legitimate and good faith perspective out there, though
I must admit a good portion of it makes little or no sense to me.
Attitudes borne out of ignorance and intolerance won’t find any safe
haven with me, however. I’m not at all above swatting a few flies.

Sean Penn Has Ann Coulter Torture Doll

Filed under: Uncategorized — Robert @ 1:03 am

Charming.

Not a big fan of Ms. Coulter myself, but that isn’t material.

People like this have real psychological problems.

March 27, 2006

When it rains, it pours

Filed under: New Author — Adam Gurri @ 11:22 am

Just as we get a new author, a fifth author gets his WordPress account and e-mails me.

Presenting Off Colfax, of Left Off Colfax.  He is long on opinions and blogging credentials, and CD is the better for his presence here.

And then there were four

Filed under: New Author — Adam Gurri @ 11:08 am

Everyone welcome aboard Brutus, our latest CD contributor!

Just don't give him any knives, or meet him outside the Senate, and you should get along just fine. 

Debate Etiquette

Filed under: Debate — Adam Gurri @ 2:10 am

I touched on this a bit in my last post, but I'd like to get a little more specific.

Granted,
it's plenty fun to have a little off-the-cuff back and forth.  But
if you're going to get self-righteous, or engage someone who clearly
disagrees with you and isn't going to give much ground, then you need
to hold yourself to a standard.

Say, ok, this is what I think is true.  If it is
true, then the evidence will meet this, this, and this criteria. 
Here are some links to things that match that criteria.  In light
of this, I think it's reasonable to say the evidence supports my
argument–so how can you not see the validity of what I'm saying?

Then,
you've done your work.  The other person either has to find
something wrong with the evidence you provided, or come up with
something on his own.  In any case, while I'm still no fan of
arrogance, you'll be on far firmer footing to advocate your point of
view from than if you just said "well it's obvious that blah blah blah,
and you're just not looking closely enough".  That gets you
nowhere.  That's what we call a cop-out.

If you ever find
yourself losing your temper, or getting indignant, then ask yourself
this: how much evidence have you actually provided, that the person
you're debating with can actually go and check for themselves? 
How much of it is just you expecting them to take you at your
word?  And if that's all you got, how on Earth can you think it
fair to expect people to take you seriously?

Yes, an obsession of mine.  But honestly.  If you're going to be a missionary, at least keep up the pretense of knowing what you're talking about.

March 26, 2006

Republicans, Democrats and freedom

Filed under: Politics — bazzer @ 1:10 pm

As a small-l libertarian, I've never harbored the illusion that we could trust either major party to safeguard our individual freedoms. That being said, I've usually preferred Republicans to Democrats when push came to shove. I tolerated Republican positions on social issues in favor of their economic agenda. I thought it more likely that a Democrat would raise my taxes than that a Republican would criminalize abortion. Up until now, that formulation has served me well.

Recently, however, the Republican Party has been doing its damnedest to destroy its reputation as the party of fiscal responsibility. That, coupled with the pernicious influence of the religious right, has led me to do some soul searching of late. Perhaps it's no longer true that the Democrats are the more clear and present danger when it comes to individual liberties.

There's a lot of dire talk about the current administration and its supposed erosion of our rights via the PATRIOT Act, NSA wiretapping, or what have you. But how many of us in our day-to-day lives have actually experienced a direct abrogation of our personal freedoms?

I tried to take an inventory of my own experience during the first 5 years of Bush/Republican control, and I could find precious little difference between my life now and life under his predecessor. The principle difference, I suppose, is that I now keep a larger chunk of my earned income than I did under Clinton. The other difference is that when I go gun shopping (which I sometimes do) I am now free to choose from among a wider selection of cool firearms than I was when Bush was sworn in.

So call it a two-point Republican advantage so far, I guess. It ain't much, but it's something. On the other side of the coin, how am I more constrained by government power than I was five years ago? Honestly, I pretty much came up blank on this one. Am I missing something? Granted, I'll probably never again see Janet Jackson's hideous breast on network television, but then again, we never saw it when Clinton was in office either. Besides, I can always see boobies on cable.

So what's the conclusion? I'll admit the Republicans aren't giving me much to work with here. At the same time, it's far, far from obvious that I should view Democrats as our only hope for saving the Bill of Rights. No matter how disgusted I get with the Republicans (and lately that's been a lot) I can always count on the Democrats to remind me why I don't support them either. My most recent reality check has been our newly-minted governor's proposed two billion dollar tax increase in what is already one of the most highly taxed states in the union, because digging deeper into our wallets is much easier than tackling waste, fraud, corruption and special interests. What's even more telling has been listening to the chorus of New Jersey Democrats defending this atrocity and telling us we should shut up, stop whining, and pony up.

Thanks, guys. I needed a reminder for why I can't support your party.

March 24, 2006

Finding Balance in the flux

Filed under: Philosophy — Adam Gurri @ 9:04 pm

A recent run-in with a missionary at sophistpundit, along with Bob’s post on intellectual honesty have inspired me to write a bit here.

Much of man’s folly is in his continual quest for instant gratification.  We often fail to realize that everything has a price, and that the price is not always paid in currency visible to the naked eye.

You can’t create something out of nothing.  This is obvious to anyone.  You can just conjure up a cake; you have to get the ingredients.  But more than just the ingredients, you have to put in the right proportions, and bake it for the right amount of time at the right temperature.  Even less intuitive to us is the fact that our talent–in this case, one’s skill at portioning for a batter and timing the baking process–is also something that we contribute.

All these things; our time and our physical resources and our skill, are the price we pay in order to get that cake.  If any of these falls short, we get what we paid for.  There is a balance here, and I think it is often underestimated.

One concept that I think is very difficult for people to wrap their heads around is that value is entirely situational.  There is no basic value to anything.  A product is only worth whatever the consumer is willing to pay for it.  No more, no less.

I started Creative Destruction in the hopes of making a place for people who strongly disagree and probably distrust each other to exchange ideas with one another.  But what would this exchange entail?

I you are perceived to be a conservative by the person you’re in a debate with, the best payment for that person’s trust is to think of as many people they would categorize similarly who you think are failing to measure up to whatever it is you’re talking about.

For instance, if a someone tells you that everything is divided up by political affiliation, and you would end up on the conservative side, I would argue that this isn’t true, that people are people and political affiliation should not be allowed to bar discussion.  Now, to make a case for this, I wouldn’t say “Like Michael Moore, he tries to divide everyone.” In all liklihood, they will not be impressed by this and it will only further their suspicion that you’re unfairly biased against liberals.  So instead, I would say “People like Ann Coulter and Limbaugh are examples of exactly what I can’t stand–people that make money by fueling the fire and making it even harder to cross partisan lines for the purpose of a discussion.”

Some people would consider this approach to be a cop-out.  I don’t think so.  In this particular example, offering up an example of a liberal polarizer has no value to the person I’m engaging in debate with.  But offering up an acknowledgment of the conservative pundits who behave equivalently has much more value to them.  And I have sacrificed nothing–I really don’t like those two.  But the person I’m talking with has put me in the “conservative” category in their mind, and so providing criticism of two people who they’d also put in that category can be seen as an act of good faith.

This does not mean an end to criticism of liberals if you are a conservative, or conservatives if you are a liberal.  What it means is that you should be actively critical of people who you might agree with more on some level, because otherwise criticism of another political affiliation will be easy to view as nothing more than selfishness.

You’ve got to give something before you can hope to get what you want; and there’s no guarantee that what you give will be valuable enough to get precisely what you’re going for.

But I believe people will always reap rewards for this, in the long run.

We need to throw a party

Filed under: The World's Oldest Profession — Adam Gurri @ 4:42 am

If you guys know anyone who’d be interested in bloggin’ it up here, please, feel free to give them a call.  You know; friends, ex-girlfriends, coworkers, drunken frat brothers–whatever.  We’re all cool here.

March 23, 2006

Whining conservative babies

Filed under: Politics — bazzer @ 2:02 pm

Here’s a survey that will no doubt offer some glib assurances to navel-gazing moonbats. It purports to show that whiny babies grow up to become conservatives.

Remember the whiny, insecure kid in nursery school, the one who always thought everyone was out to get him, and was always running to the teacher with complaints? Chances are he grew up to be a conservative.
At least, he did if he was one of 95 kids from the Berkeley area that social scientists have been tracking for the last 20 years. The confident, resilient, self-reliant kids mostly grew up to be liberals.

Needless to say, I take such studies with a grain of salt. One of my biggest beefs with this particular piece is the way it seems to equate personality traits of rigidity and adherence to tradition with political conservatism, and their absence with political liberalism. I’m just not sure that’s warranted. There are very few ways that I could be considered “conservative” in my personal life (unchurched, mistrustful of authority, general debauched lifestyle) and yet most people consider me a political conservative. By the same token, I know plenty of liberals who are as rigid and unyielding as anyone I know. This is of course anecdotal, but I do think this implied correlation needs to be supported rather than merely assumed. Also, this piece suffers from the same shortcomings as does most scientific journalism — it is written by people who have a very limited grasp of statistics and the scientific method. It’s only towards the end of the article that we read:

…there was a .27 correlation between being self-reliant in nursery school and being a liberal as an adult. Another way of saying it is that self-reliance predicts statistically about 7 per cent of the variance between kids who became liberal and those who became conservative.

Color me unimpressed. It’s meaningless, though, because most readers who do get that far in the story will likely not understand it, while others will smugly pat themselves on the back and stop reading after the first two paragraphs. What say y’all?

w00t!

Filed under: Blog Status — bazzer @ 2:00 pm

We can post again.

All I have to say

Filed under: Uncategorized — Adam Gurri @ 12:59 pm

Is don’t mess with kids.

THERE IT IS!!

Filed under: Blog Status — Adam Gurri @ 2:36 am

HEY YOU GUYS I FOUND THE SIDEBAR EDITOR!  NOW WE HAVE STUFF AGAIN.

That is all.

Big Brother is Moderating

Filed under: Navel Gazing — Adam Gurri @ 2:30 am

Who is this mysterious Adam Gurri that he keeps talking about?

Is a Gurri really a person, or just the name of a move in the belly dance?

It is all that and more.

I’m a self-consciously pretentious college brat, serving my time at George Mason University in the hopes of getting a bachelor’s in History in spring of 2007.   A recent hobby has blossomed into a professional interest, and so from undergrad I intend to pursue and Masters and then PhD in economics–but as with anything and everything I plan, it’s anyone’s best guess as to how much of it is hot air until the moment of truth arrives.

In debates, I like to keep three things in mind: no one cares what I think, there’s no reason for anyone to care what I think, and they could be right or we could both be wrong.

I do, however, think that it is possible to learn a lot through discussions, if you are willing to.  If you operate under the assumption that you will never persuade anyone ever, and that people have probably seen a lot of information you never have, then talking with them can often yield articles and studies and books and whatnot that you could learn a lot from.

I try not get attached to my beliefs, though I don’t want to be dishonest and say that I a blank slate.  I come at everything from a perspective–I take the information I’ve got, and present my analysis in the most persuasive articulation that I can muster.  Half because I believe in opening up one’s thinking process and resources in as accessible a way for other people as possible, and half because I know that if someone wants to argue against me, it’s great to go ahead and give them the things that I find persuasive as a starting point.  By explaining exactly what it is about the analysis I presented that they think doesn’t match the reality, I get a much clearer idea of what other perspectives exist out there and the kind of evidence that backs them up.

So I got into blogging.  With Creative Destruction, I’m attempting to up the ante a bit; I want to harvest intelligent people that I disagree with in one spot where I can keep an eye on them and poke occasionally.  I’m tired of group blogs that have a common ideological theme–how boring is that?  If you’re going to multiply, you might as well diversify.

That’s the bulk of my ideological baggage, really–a desire for healthy competition between different ideas in order to produce lots of thoughtful analysis and compiled information.

I also have a few hotbuttons.  Missionaries are one of these–people who want nothing more than to tell you how their beliefs are superior to yours, but refuse to offer any kind of evidence because they think you’re an idiot for not seeing how obviously right they are.  Really, just people who act superior in general.

On a less academic note, I went from playing no sports at all to playing Rugby last Fall, and continue to play it to this day.  Without skill, strength, or stamina, but with a great deal of enjoyment.

Oh, and all that stuff I said about discussion is a complete lie.  I just wanted a group blog for the power trip.  And don’t ever let me tell you otherwise.  Everything that I say is a lie.

Tiny American flags for everyone else

Filed under: Blog Status — Adam Gurri @ 12:59 am

I just promoted Bazzer to lieutenant vanguard of the proletariat.  He and I go way back and WordPress confuses and frightens your dictator-for-life.

Might have been intelligent to have gotten a hang of it before I attempted to, you know, invite a bunch of people to write on it.

But if you can’t jump the shark, then what can you jump, I ask you?

March 22, 2006

Evolution is killed off by natural selection

Filed under: Evolution — Adam Gurri @ 12:46 pm

From the Vulgar Moralist:

As a Darwinist, Dawkins should be less righteous about unscientific attitudes, and more interested in adaptive behaviors. Here’s why. Some of those “conservative segments of society” Longman writes about refuse to believe in the theory of evolution, yet they are breeding healthily. Secularists who embrace evolution, and indeed make a cause of it, are refusing to put the theory to practice: they are dying without heirs. It would truly be a transcendental joke if, a century or so from now, evolution fell out of favor due to the process of natural selection.

It is kind of weird how evolutionary biologists seems so disinterested in the eccentricities of human behavior.

March 21, 2006

Gotta love a good cult

Filed under: Content-lite — Adam Gurri @ 2:38 pm

Ok, this is up to its eyeballs in anonymous sources, but at the very least, the bit about Hayes still recovering from a stroke is true.  And this interview from after the episode had already aired collaborates much of the story, I think.

People are speculating that Isaac Hayes didn’t quit South Park, but that the Church of Scientology quit for him and issued statements under his name.  Who knows how true that is, but judging by how creepy these guys can be, I don’t think anyone would have a hard time believing it.

Got to wonder what the appeal of a religion you have to pay for is.  Honestly.  It’s one thing to persuade people and then ask for voluntary donations, but making it mandatory just seems…well, it’s bizarre that anyone would trust their motives.

But I guess people will believe anything, if they’re bored enough and have enough money to burn.

An Entrepreneurial Left

Filed under: Economics,Politics — Robert @ 8:10 am

I occasionally wonder if, for lack of a better term, the “reasonable” left (hi, Barry!) could be persuaded into adopting an entrepreneurial cast of mind.

Left criticisms of business are legion. It’s intriguing to see the merits and demerits of left principles, applied to the necessity to manage resources.

It would also have beneficial demographic effects, in two directions. One, the experience of leftists with some of their own laws and principles might knock some rough edges off. Two, the empirical evidence that might be presented as to the (in)validity of some left-wing approaches to things like labor relations.

In college, I served on the board of a co-operative organization called OSCA. We had a small chain of room-and-board houses, which were managed collectively, with consensus-type techniques. It was imperfect, but it basically functioned, and on competitive terms with the allegedly private-enterprise college dining and housing service.

(I used to annoy colleagues on the board by pointing out that the freedom of free market economics here in the US was making it possible for them to run this demonstration project for lefty economic entities. I haven’t changed much.)

So it would be an interesting experiment to see tried on a broader scale. But I don’t know how to persuade them to try.

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