Creative Destruction

December 13, 2016

Creative Destruction

The name of the blog, Creative Destruction, is correct, but only partially. The definition offered at Wikipedia, drawn from Austrian economics, is a “process of industrial mutation that incessantly revolutionizes the economic structure from within, incessantly destroying the old one, incessantly creating a new one.” The term proposes an ongoing process of birth, death, and rebirth. With U.S. presidential election results a little more than a month old and the inauguration a little over a month away, we have embarked on the path of political, economic, and cultural transformation with few clear objectives other than jettisoning progressive ideology and instituting radical conservatism. It will be the reverse of the last change of administration: hope without change (Obama) vs. change without hope (Trump). Thoughtful consideration would suggest we will get only the destructive part of creative destruction and that revolution, mutation, and creative rebirth will be long delayed, if indeed they ever come at all.

April 27, 2008

Security State

Filed under: Current Events,International Politics,Politics — Brutus @ 9:28 pm

Although this blog has been left for dead by its group of writers, it continues to draw a number of readers. Comments are also mostly dead. However, the post below (cross-posted at my personal blog, The Spiral Staircase) may be of interest to readers who still wander in here. Comments here or there are welcome.

Creeping fascism has been a problem for some years now. Without much recourse short of armed revolt, considering how ineffectual the election process is for instigating real change, many citizens (including me) stood idly by and watched their rights and civil liberties ebb away on a daily basis as the state consolidates its control over all aspects of daily life. The precedent for today’s emerging fully operational security state (or surveillance society, as I’ve seen it called) lies in the early days of the Cold War. Having just emerged triumphant from WWII yet seeing ongoing threats on all sides, many in government began assembling a paranoid and invasive apparatus for gathering intelligence and protecting American interests. It’s almost inevitable that spending one’s life addressing external threats (and increasingly, internal ones) would warp one’s perceptions and judgment, and accordingly, it’s fair to suspect that many operatives both then and now suffer from what the French call a déformation professionnelle.

If you think this is mere hyperbole, I submit you haven’t been paying attention. A quick visit to the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) website quickly gives readers the sense that the country is under siege. Its mission statement reads as follows:

CBP is one of the Department of Homeland Security’s largest and most complex components, with a priority mission of keeping terrorists and their weapons out of the U.S. It also has a responsibility for securing and facilitating trade and travel while enforcing hundreds of U.S. regulations, including immigration and drug laws.

My visit to the website was for a simple customs issue, but navigating the site and perusing its content was more than a bit spooky. The front-and-center pointer to terrorists and weapons, while a legitimate concern of the agency, may not be a primary concern of the citizenry except for the agency’s Orwellian interest in keeping everyone constantly on edge. Blissfully missing was a flashing banner with the current alert level status, which is discomfiting enough when it blares over PAs at airports and transportation hubs, as though travelers had any meaningful response. (Reminds me of the air raid sirens tested on the first Wednesday of each month during my youth — rather needless in retrospect, since no one was every really coming for us.) Indeed, the website appears to be equally informational and public relations efforts, with public opinion toward its mandate being shaped heavily.

More significantly, consider that many functions of state security and surveillance are now being handled by InfraGard (isn’t the misspelling of guard rather cute?), a private organization with chapters throughout the U.S. that works in conjunction with the FBI. This is from its website:

InfraGard is an information sharing and analysis effort serving the interests and combining the knowledge base of a wide range of members. At its most basic level, InfraGard is a partnership between the FBI and the private sector. InfraGard is an association of businesses, academic institutions, state and local law enforcement agencies, and other participants dedicated to sharing information and intelligence to prevent hostile acts against the United States. InfraGard Chapters are geographically linked with FBI Field Office territories. Each InfraGard Chapter has an FBI Special Agent Coordinator assigned to it, and the FBI Coordinator works closely with Supervisory Special Agent Program Managers in the Cyber Division at FBI Headquarters in Washington, D.C.

This arrangement has been criticized by The Progressive as effectively deputizing private industry to spy on people and granting business leaders unwarranted access to “an FBI secure communication network complete with VPN encrypted website, webmail, listservs, message boards, and much more.” As with privatization of many former functions of the military, this is more than a little bothersome.

But it gets worse. A book by Nick Turse titled The Complex: How the Military Invades Our Everyday Lives describes how fully the Pentagon has infiltrated and coopted everything for its purposes, which bears comparison to the movie The Matrix as a comprehensive thought control experiment brought to life. A lengthy excerpt appears in an article in with preliminary commentary, from which I quote this portion:

At one point in his farewell speech, Eisenhower presaged this point, suggesting, “The total influence — economic, political, even spiritual — [of the conjunction of the military establishment and the large arms industry] is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the Federal government.” But only Hollywood has yet managed to capture the essence of today’s omnipresent, all-encompassing, cleverly hidden system of systems that invades all our lives; this new military-industrial-technological-entertainment-academic-scientific- media-intelligence-homeland security-surveillance-national security-corporate complex that has truly taken hold of America.

And yet more bad news was delivered over the weekend, at least if you subscribe to the famous Benjamin Franklin quote: “Those who would sacrifice essential liberties for a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” Articles in The Washington Post and The New York Times (and elsewhere) describe how the Justice Department, rather than acting as a check on the excesses of the Executive Branch, has given support to Bush’s authoritarian interpretation of the Geneva Conventions, stating that interrogation techniques used would be judged on a sliding scale depending on the identity of the detainee and the information he or she is believed to possess. I’ve blogged before on the use of torture by our government, and despite its repugnance to most of the public, different branches of government — in defiance of international treaties — still insist upon it as a necessary tactic.

It’s difficult for me to imagine the motives behind authoritarian types for whom the modern security state would have been the wet dream of budding Cold Warriors. Are they benevolent tyrants, protecting the population for its own good, or mere profiteers, gathering riches, power, and influence to themselves? And is there some point at which the moment will crystallize into a realization by the general public that the U.S., with its gargantuan military budget and astonishing level of incarceration, has devolved into a fascist state run by a despotic oligarchy?

February 2, 2008

Making History

Filed under: Current Events,Election 2008,Politics — Brutus @ 12:42 am

There is a curious and growing sense that the 2008 presidential race (and the leadership of the free world that follows therefrom) is the Democrats’ to lose, and considering that the two dominant candidates are a woman on one hand and a black man on the other, the U.S. electorate is in a unique position to make history in either eventual result: we will elect a woman or a black man as president — the first in U.S. history — and establish a new political era. Obviously (or maybe not so), this is a distraction from the real issues of American politics, but that putatively history-making event has nonetheless helped erode our self-determination to the pointless and ephemeral issue of electability over governance. As a result, and in a very real sense, we deserve what we get.

Super Tuesday approaches (a catchy if not stupid and reductionist characterization), and yet we many participate blindly in this awful charade that our votes will have some meaningful impact on the outcome: the selection of a candidate for one party or the other. On the Democratic side (I’m unfamiliar with the Republican side), I’ve been chagrined to learn that delegates and candidates both have agreed to set aside a number of states and refuse to campaign and/or award delegates. I’m too much a novice in electoral politics to understand why, for instance, Michigan and Florida shouldn’t matter, so I remain politically naive and ineffectual. Perhaps someone more expert in the nuances of running a campaign within the vagaries of party politics can explain it to me. Failing that, I recognize my participation in the process as a meaningless drop in a flow that has been prefigured by forces with much more to gain or lose than can possibly be left to the whims of the electorate.

So we will make history of a sort. Big deal. I feel confident that none of the “electable” candidates present a prospect for meaningful change. My cynicism runs so deep that no incremental change or adoption of new window dressing is worth more than a moment’s contemplation. The purposeful candidates — those who propose real, substantive change from politics as usual, which is to say, the politics bought and paid for by the highest paying private interests — have already been winnowed from the contest.

But I empathize still with the winning candidate, Democrat or Republican. He or she will inherit such an awful mess — militarily, economically, and culturally — that no brief period of recovery and prosperity is possible to contemplate. We’ve dug for ourselves as Americans a sizable hole from which to extricate ourselves, and it may take generations (or more) to restore even a few of the advantages we have thus far taken for granted and now squandered.

December 30, 2007

Yeah, Right, Whatever ….

Filed under: Current Events,Human Rights,Politics — Brutus @ 4:34 pm

I learned a few days ago that a group of Lakota Indians residing in South Dakota have seceded from the United States and disavowed all past treaties. They are apparently demanding recognition as a sovereign country and have cited, among other things, the UN Resolution on Indigenous Peoples, which I blogged about earlier this fall.

This is pretty astounding. Secession! But not surprisingly, the news of it has hardly been noticed. A quick Google search reveals that none of the usual mainstream media have created articles about it. Further, the U.S. State Department was notified and their nonresponse thus far amounts to a big, fat “yeah, right, whatever ….”

If there is any true revolutionary spirit still alive within the U.S., I’d have to say that Native Americans (to use the politically correct term) have a far more compelling claim to moral authority than any other group of which I can think. Only a few days ago, the group’s website was called Lakota Freedom. I see that it now redirects to Republic of Lakota.

I for one will be interested to see if this movement gains any traction. There are rumors that Russia will recognize the Republic of Lakota, though one has to wonder whether that’s just a means of jabbing a figurative elbow in the ribs of the U.S. State Department. (Considering how many think of international politics as mere gamesmanship, I wouldn’t be surprised to see others enjoying the opportunity to poke at the U.S.) It would also be curious to see how land claims dating back to the middle of the 19th century are sorted out, as the Lakota intend to reclaim their ancestral lands and revert to open plains populated by bison. I can’t imagine for a moment anything really coming out of Lakota secession, but I’m oddly sympathetic to the notion of letting them go and seeing what happens.

December 22, 2007

Political Stratagems

Filed under: Politics — Brutus @ 2:28 pm

This got my attention in regard to the recent report that the Republican minority in Congress manages to hold sway through filibuster:

… Republicans in the congress are willing to take the heat for obstructing popular legislation, even when they have an unpopular lame duck president of their own party who could veto it and let them off the hook. Normally politicians, survivalists that they are, would be trying to distance themselves from a 30% president by this time and he would be forced out there on his own. But here you have them racing over the cliff right along side him. That they have maintained such solidarity in the face of dramatic failure is quite impressive.

After identifying this puzzling behavior, the article offers this comment:

If one assumes that we are dealing with a party and a political movement that operates as the constitution expected politicians to operate, this would all be very odd. But they aren’t. The modern Republican party has somehow managed to create movement loyalty that supersedes not only the national interest but their own political self-interest.

The final justification for all this, according to the article, is that disgraced politicians feel secure that whatever their short-term losses may be, they will always end up landing on their feet, which is to say, there is no real disgrace. Lose one job or office and one is subsequently offered another position of influence. There doesn’t even appear to be personal finance consequences worth considering.

This may all be true, of course, but in explaining the what, how, and why of conservative politics as practiced today (and indeed for the last 30 years), the author misses perhaps the most obvious explanation: the conservative movement is populated by true believers. The willingness to put their reputations and livelihoods on the line suggests to me a hardened ideology rather than the knowledge that they’re secure taking a few personal hits before moving onto the next thing.

December 11, 2007

Bullying Cops (Diatribe from Comments)

Filed under: Criminal Justice,Politics — Brutus @ 12:41 am

A visitor to this blog posted a short diatribe in the comments to a post unrelated to his concerns, which understandably has gotten no reaction. I thought I’d pull it forward into the body of a regular post and offer anyone the chance to respond. I’ve edited slightly for grammar and spelling.

Mike says:

I’ve been looking to post this somewhere. I do apologize if this seems like I’m hijacking this thread. I just needed to write about the way I feel. Anyway, here goes…

Look, cops are bullying fascist scum across the board. The real reason someone would join the [police] force is that they like manhandling people, wielding authority, and inspiring fear. These people otherwise would be excellent for running the electric chair. Or the gas chamber. I can’t believe that anyone who is “progressive” would support them. If you are a “leftie” who does, please leave and go join the right wing. I don’t want you in my ideology. A peace activist was arrested for riding a bike on the street. An unarmed immigrant was shot by the cops when they thought he was reaching for a gun. There are so many more stories like these I can tell you about. This is not a case of a few bad apples. This is more commonplace every day. Don’t fall for the “protect and serve” crap. More things are becoming illegal every day, so more and more average people can get shafted, and the injustice system can economically profit. Wake up, America. You are living in a corporate police state, where eventually the only truly legal you can do is shop. You could be turned in by a neighbor who doesn’t like you even if you did nothing bad. Oh, wait, sorry, I think we are there already. What is wrong with some of you liberals who support taking guns away from citizens, but you still want the government to have guns so that they can “protect” you. Those who believe that “safety” is more important than freedom! I’m not saying this to be mean, but I’m saddened and scared by the direction this country is taken. We all deserve better than that.

Please respond to my post. I haven’t been able to get any responses, positive or negative. I want to get a sense of where people are on this. Thanks.

Notwithstanding Mike’s own attempt to bully folks into awareness, I agree with his general thrust. I support the notion of law and order, but I don’t think we’re getting it from law enforcement agencies in the fashion we should. The recent spate of unnecessary tasering people is a good snapshot of how police respond to citizens who pose little real threat.

We have also given up a lot of civic responsibility and personal rights in the process of becoming fat and happy Americans. Many of us have considerably more fear in the last, say, 15 years about being in the wrong place or saying the wrong thing and suffering the wrath of law enforcement, which is ostensibly intended to serve and protect us (as the slogan goes). Authorized users of state violence (police, FBI, CIA, and branches of the military) are often no longer trustworthy with the use of lethal force or even more mundane things like investigating suspects, which now routinely involves illegal surveillance. Over time, law enforcement has gotten to be paranoid about internal threats, so it resorts to questionable crowd management techniques and propaganda campaigns to quell dissent, among other things. It’s a sad state we’re in. But before we develop a consensus that the citizenry needs to act (by voting, or perhaps something more direct) to stem the tide of creeping fascism, there is no solution. We get the government we deserve.

Anyone else with an opinion?

November 24, 2007

Lessons of History

Filed under: Economics,Politics — Brutus @ 3:02 am

The oft-repeated trope is that those ignorant of history are doomed to repeat it, to which most most of us laconically reply “So what? Big deal.” We’ve taken our eye off the ball and don’t really care anymore about history, being contented with the illusory belief that our current stage of historical development can and will continue undisrupted into the middle of the century, which is probably the longest time horizon we really care about. But there are still plenty of academics and pundits studying history, drawing lessons from it, and sounding the klaxon regarding some threat or imminent transformation or collapse. Actually rousing citizens out of their satiated lethargy is undoubtedly too difficult a task just yet, but the alarm calls at least make for some interesting reading.

Three recent articles make comparisons between the current state of America and historical conditions here and abroad in an attempt to draw out the lessons and perhaps inspire changes necessary to stave off the collapse of our cherished institutions (read: the American way of life). In no particular order, the first in The Guardian appears to be a prepublication summary by Naomi Wolf of her new book The End of America: A Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot, which compares fascist shifts in history to current America. The second in The Philadelphia Inquirer is an opinion column by Chris Hedges, author of American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America, which column describes the decline of the so-called American Empire. The third is a transcript in The American Prospect of Robert Kuttner, author of The Squandering of America: How the Failure of Our Politics Undermines Our Prosperity, giving testimony before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Financial Services regarding parallels between fiscal policy in the 1920s and now.


July 2, 2007

Brazenly Beyond the Law

Filed under: Criminal Justice,Current Events,Politics — Brutus @ 9:44 pm

The NY Times has a recent editorial that suggests says outright that the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled so badly in three First Amendment cases that it no longer pays attention to precedent and is in effect operating beyond the law:

Chief Justice Roberts and the four others in his ascendant bloc used the next-to-last decision day of this term to reopen the political system to a new flood of special-interest money, to weaken protection of student expression and to make it harder for citizens to challenge government violations of the separation of church and state. In the process, the reconfigured court extended its noxious habit of casting aside precedents without acknowledging it ….

For the Times to identify a voting bloc that functions to contravene precedent in something as significant as the First Amendment is pretty astounding. The timing of the Court also reads pretty clearly as politically informed. The First Amendment isn’t a hotly contested issue, though certain instances (such as flag burning) may be. My take on bedrock principles of the U.S. Constitution — so basic and assumed back in the day that they were omitted from the first version and only added later as amendments — is that they should be protected slavishly unless some clear public interest is served by revoking rights. It is far better to extend protection in questionable cases than to infringe someone’s rights, not unlike the conventional wisdom (enshrined in someone’s famous quote, no doubt) that it’s better to let ten guilty men go free than to convict one innocent one.

In other news likely to become a political firestorm in the coming days (and then blow over in favor of some new revelation, as nearly all of Bush’s missteps do), Pres. Bush commuted Scooter Libby’s 2.5-year prison sentence. Leaving the fine, probation, and criminal record intact rather than a full pardon is nothing to these guys, which is say almost no punishment at all. Haven’t members of the Bush Administration also shown themselves brazenly willing to operate beyond the law? So much for accountability. Of course, it should surprise no one that the Prez steps in to protect one of his aides, but sheesh. Isn’t there even a sacrificial goat to quell the need for political balance anymore?

June 1, 2007

Noonan On Immigration and Bush

Filed under: Politics — Robert @ 5:04 pm

Yeah, what she said.

May 30, 2007

The Foundation of Conservatism

Filed under: Politics — Robert @ 10:52 pm

I’ve been wanting to write something that describes, at a foundational level, what the source of conservative values and political thought are. But it turns out I don’t need to.

May 29, 2007

Going Home

Filed under: Politics — Off Colfax @ 2:30 am

Cindy Sheehan is leaving the Democratic Party.

You have completely failed those who put you in power to change the direction our country is heading. We did not elect you to help sink our ship of state but to guide it to safe harbor.

Honestly, I feel nothing but an obscenely guilty pleasure at this pronouncement. Dear Mother Sheehan has been pushing this party even further away from the center than ever before, and even faster than Rush Limbaugh ever dragged the Republicans to the political right. (Yes, dear reader. There is an insult in there somewhere. Exactly who it is directed towards, however, is up for debate.) Her constant beating of the drum has, over time, become the same sound as the drumbeat emanating from the White House, only on an opposing wavelength. The only people that have ever truly taken her seriously were the ones that were already true believers and fellow travelers, while the rest of us in the Democratic Party sat there and rolled our collective eyes whenever Dear Mother opened her mouth.

And yet, I must thank her. Not for Camp Casey. Not for being against the enormity on the Euphrates. Not even for telling Speaker Pelosi to shove it where the sun doesn’t shine. Instead, I must thank her for helping me to see what is happening with my party and how it is beginning to betray its bedrock principles.

And I just know that you are sitting there, scratching your heads, asking yourselves, “Dude, how the heck did you reach this? Which logical limb did you take a flying leap off of this time?”

Let me show you why it really is a guilty pleasure, beyond the definition of obscenity.

With this send-off letter, Cindy only shows that she does as much to continue the Republican viewpoint on Iraq as the White House Press Office, to wit, she kept on calling it a war. As I have been saying for almost 18 months now, this is not a war. She and the rest of the anti-armed-conflict Democrats keep helping the current Administration’s constant drumbeat by calling it such.

And, by doing so, this party continues to play the wrong cards. It is a constant talking point out of the Congressional Majority Leaders’ offices that the voters sent the Republicans a message that they were tired of the “War In Iraq” whenever they butt heads with the White House. That they wanted a change. That they weren’t satisfied with “hold the course” anymore. So why do they continue to use the White House talking point, the same one that Alberto Gonzales could not let stand while under oath in front of the Senate in 2006?

There was not a war declaration, either in connection with Al Qaida or in Iraq. It was an authorization to use military force.

I only want to clarify that, because there are implications. Obviously, when you talk about a war declaration, you’re possibly talking about affecting treaties, diplomatic relations. And so there is a distinction in law and in practice. And we’re not talking about a war declaration. This is an authorization only to use military force.

If my fellow Democrats are serious about ending the debacle on the Tigris, we need to stop helping the Administration sell the policies we claim to despise. We are not at war with Iraq. We have never been at war with Iraq. We have someone calling himself a “War President” without any silly technicalities such as an actual war. And we on the left side of the double-yellow-line keep helping him say that whenever we stand up against the “war” in Iraq.

And the reason my party has done this is simple. The Democratic Party, especially their most vocal supporters on the progressive left, does not want to break with politics as usual. Why? Because politics as usual is precisely what they are counting on to support their policies and personal agendas, especially now that the Democrats have taken control of both chambers of Congress. After all, you cannot use the boat if you rock it too much. It is in the Democrats vested interest to keep the vested interests in play. And they have done so.

Those who I call the “Honest Republicans”, such as bloggers John Cole and Robert Lee Ray as well as many prominent moderate Republican families, have either broken or are threatening to break from what the current ultra-hardcore neo-conservative movement that the modern Republican Party has become. Why? Because the GOP has broken away from their traditional position of a small and responsible government. Because the single-issue supporters within the GOP have all but subsumed the platform. Because the GOP believes more in the Conservative Cause than it does in the American Constitution.

And I regret that I am starting to see the same thought process within the Democratic Party. We were once the party for the people, not the special interests. We were once the party of hard questions, not easy escapes. We were once the party of grand visions, not short-sighted maneuvers. We were once the party of fixing what was broken, not throwing temporary patches over the holes.

The current Democratic Party is no longer the party of John Fitzgerald Kennedy and Franklin Delano Roosevelt, any more than the current Republican Party is the party of Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt. And both parties have traveled far afield from the principles of Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Patrick Henry, John Hancock… No longer are the principles of the Founding Fathers to be found.

And that frightens me. To be perfectly honest, it scares the [CENSORED] out of me. And I have to ask myself one question: Am I reading the writing on the wall, or am I the one writing on the wall?

Am I really the only one on this side of the political divide that is seeing this pattern? Am I the only one that points towards our bedrock principles, both as Democrats and Americans, and screams to the winds “Why are we so far away?” Am I the lone voice crying in the wilderness?

Because if I have to, I will. This is not solely the party of Duncan Black and Amanda Marcotte and Markos Moulitsas Zúniga, or of Hillary Clinton and John Edwards and Barack Obama.

This is my party too. And if I have to fight for my place in the Democratic Party, then perhaps it is true. The Democratic Party will no longer be the Democratic Party when it betrays its most basic foundation principle: a place where all voices have the right to be heard.

I will be heard.

I will not suffer in silence.

I will dissent.

Until the end of the world.

Truly, the reason why I feel guilty about this is because Cindy Sheehan no longer is willing to fight for the same thing. And the reason why I am afraid is that the party just does not care any more. That it no longer exists to represent our views, our politics, our opinions… But instead, it exists only for itself. And the day that this becomes true, than this will no longer be my party. And when that day comes, will I have the intestinal fortitude to leave it to die? Or will I pull the plug myself?

If that is not of the Platonic Form of obscene thought, I do not want know what is.

Carpe jugulum.

[Crossposted from Left Off Colfax]

April 24, 2007

Because CEO Pay Isn’t High Enough Yet …

Filed under: Economics,Ethics,Politics — Brutus @ 11:39 pm

According to this article in The New York Times business section, Demoncrats Democrats have introduced (again) a bill that would give shareholders of publicly held companies a nonbinding vote on pay packages and so-called “golden parachute” compensation plans for senior executives. It is an idea whose time has come. Indeed, shareholders of British companies have held this power since 2002 but only voted against an executive pay package once.

What’s especially interesting to me, and probably predictable, is that Republicans oppose the measure. Although the article suggests that such a vote would permit shareholders to exercise considerable influence, I can’t see how a nonbinding vote would be too difficult to ignore. Indeed, decision-makers who award executive pay have ignored economic reality at lots of companies even while those companies are unprofitable or in bankruptcy. And besides, everyone already knows that pay packages have grown from tens of times the lowest yearly company wage to hundreds of times that wage in the span of about 25 years.

If that weren’t rich enough, how about this argument by Representative Spencer Bachus of Alabama of the House Financial Services Committee:

“How many times has this Congress substituted its judgment for the American people? For people in business? That is again what this legislation is doing. Congress should never rush in and begin to change the free-enterprise system, our system of competition between companies.”

Isn’t Congress empowered to substitute its judgment for that of the American people? Isn’t that in fact its job? Bachus is clearly a market fundamentalist, believing that regulation, restraint, and any impediment to free enterprise is uncalled for. Considering just how toothless this proposed legislation is to begin with, why is it necessary to fight it so hard with such overblown rhetoric?

Update: Fixed misspelling of Democrats. And in case my arguments lacked currency, it was announced yesterday that the Chief Executive Edward Whitacre of AT&T will be retiring in June and will receive a $158.5 million retirement package.

According to a proxy filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Whitacre’s retirement package will include $24,000 in annual automobile benefits, $6,500 each year for “home security,” access to ATT&T’s … corporate jet for 10 hours a month and $25,000 to cover his country-club fees ….

That report also provides this link to a report last year about CEO pay. Finally, a NY Times column by Paul Krugman titled “Gilded Once More” (sorry, Times select, so no link) reports that income inequality is back to levels known in the Gilded Age. He has a particularly outrageous case in point:

<>Last year, according to Institutional Investor’s Alpha magazine, James Simons, a hedge fund manager, took home $1.7 billion, more than 38,000 times the average income.

So I was wrong in saying that some folks make hundred of times the average yearly wage, it’s now thousands of times.

March 4, 2007

Ann Coulter Sucks

Filed under: Blogosphere,Politics — Robert @ 1:35 am

AKA, the Ann Counter Must Go roundup.

Longer version at Right Wing Nuthouse. H/T Insty.

And also at Betsy’s Page.

And Evangelical Outpost.

And Republic of Internets.

And ResurrectionSong.

And Messrs. McCain, Giuliani, and Romney.

And The American Mind.

Post ’em as you see ’em, and I’ll update this post.

February 21, 2007

Surveilling Using Cell Phones

Filed under: Criminal Justice,Politics,Science — Brutus @ 1:21 pm

Here is a bit of shocking news (or not so shocking depending on your jadedness): the mic on your cell phone can be activated as a transmitter to allow eavesdropping on your conversations even when the phone is powered down and you are merely in the vicinity of the phone. From the link above:

The technique is called a “roving bug,” and was approved by top U.S. Department of Justice officials for use against members of a New York organized crime family who were wary of conventional surveillance techniques such as tailing a suspect or wiretapping him.

As I understand it, wiretaps and bugs are legal when issued through a court, but the mechanism to effect a tap requires a personal visit to the compromised device or location. The roving bug is presumably activated remotely and mobile, which represents a technological development that makes eavesdropping push-button simple, and with it, invites abuses and rationalizations along the lines of “it’s only for a moment,” or “it’s merely temporary,” or “it’s for the greater good” by eliminating the plodding steps necessary to activate one.

I believe that this tool is so seductive (meaning so simple to use) that those in government with the technology (or others? criminals?) couldn’t withstand temptation to deploy it whenever they see fit, meaning illegally. The means/ends distinction inevitably slides too far over to the “end” side of the continuum.

Along similar lines — using technology against people in a bid for government control of populations — I learned that the U.S. military has weaponized microwaves and created a heat ray gun that burns flesh. The device is described as harmless and nonlethal, since the ray penetrates less than 0.5 mm of skin, but the lon-term effects are nonetheless unknown.

I don’t know for sure, but I sense that at some point we’ve passed the point where we have enough weapons and technology to deploy an effective military or police force. What we really lack is an enlightened and judicious humanity (characterized by diplomacy, restraint, and unwillingness to act preemptively) to act as a brake on our apparent technophilia.

While it looked like a good or necessary step at the time (and perhaps even in hindsight), the creation of the atomic bomb ushered in a new era of nastiness and angst from which we have yet to recover. Although the two technologies mentioned above aren’t nearly so sweeping as the bomb, they are certainly part of the same complex of idea that drive weapons technology. Maybe someout out there is actually saying once in a while “let’s not pursue this one, it’s too awful,” but I don’t get the feeling that’s true.

February 10, 2007

Amandagate – Unasked Questions

Filed under: Blogosphere,Election 2008,Feminist Issues,Politics — Gled @ 3:28 pm

At least, I haven’t seen them asked.

Edwards is an enormously wealthy and sucessful white man, who lives in a a $6 Million, 28,000 square foot mansion, set in a 102-acre estate, reportedly “the most valuable home in Orange County”. “Privilege” barely begins to describe this man’s status.

So why is it, in a Presidential campaign that might include a woman and a black among the candidates, that Marcotte and McEwan have thrown their weight behind this pillar of the Patriarchy? And why are feminists rallying behind them, instead of denouncing them for betraying everything the movement stands for?

You’d almost think they wanted the nation to be lead by a white male.

Updated to respond to this comment by ballgame (talics in original):

There seem to be two possible angles to your post here, Daran. I emphatically disagree with both of them.

Angle 1: The idea that there is something ‘wrong’ or ‘negative’ with Melissa and Amanda hitching their wagon to a man’s campaign instead of a woman’s.

I’ve always disliked ‘team-ism’ (i.e. the notion that one of the primary things to look for in a leader is whether that potential leader is a member of the same race or gender group as yourself). Though both are afflicted with WPO feminist blind spots when it comes to understanding how gender negatively impacts men (Amanda far more so than Melissa), I think they both deserve credit for not making gender a litmus test for who they support.

Feminists cannot have it both ways. They cannot complain that the country is lead by white men, while supporting white men for the leadership.

They are both strong progressives, and they chose the candidate who seems to hold the most promise for progressive reform.

Ya think?

Because what I think is that no matter who wins the election, the US will have more or less the same social structure in four years time as it does now. At best they’ll be some tinkering at the margins of social policy, but no real reform.

They could have supported Hillary instead, even though she is seemingly more centrist and establishment, on the logic of ‘the historic weight of breaking the Presidential gender barrier outweighs the absence of progressivism in Hillary’s policies’ (an argument which I think is not entirely devoid of merit). But they didn’t, and I think that speaks highly of their fealty to progressive goals.

It shows that feminists really don’t believe what they purport to believe, which is that good things will flow from having women in high office.

Angle 2: The idea that there is something wrong with John Edwards being a member of the political-economic elite.

You mean “the idea that there is something wrong with John Edwards being a member of the Patriarchy”.

That is what we are talking about, isn’t it, according to feminists? So why avoid the word now?

I pretty much don’t give a damn about someone’s personal circumstances when I think about a politician.

What ballgame as an individual give a damn about is neither here nor there. I’m criticising feminists generally, and feminists generally do give a damn about politicians’ colour, gender, and personal circumstances.

The fact that he or she is a member of the elite is almost inevitable: it is extraordinarily rare for someone of an ordinary background or non-white, or female to be able to make the connections and generate the cash which is a virtual prerequisite to attaining high office in the United States. The Paul Wellstones and Bernie Sanders are few and far between.

Italics are my insertion. Despite his craven omission of those words, this is a description of Patriarchy, as feminists conceive of it. So what happens when a Patriarch comes along and throws them a couple of bones? Amanda “Mad Dog” Marcotte rolls over and says “tickle my tummy”. Cue thunderous applause from the feminist movment.

Frankly, a rich person is more likely to have the resources to counter the inevitable right wing counterattack against anyone who challenges the hegemony of the economic elite…

But he hasn’t countered the rightwing counterattack. He’s done what the rightwing counterattack could never do. He’s closed the Overton Window. He’s silenced them. We won’t be hearing any more interesting opinions from either of them, at least until the campaign is over. All we’ll hear are the same anodyne, don’t-offend-anyone platitudes we get from everyone else.

Imagine if, before any of this had happened, I had said: “The tone and the sentiment of some of [your] posts personally offended me.” I don’t know McEwen well enough, but I’m sure Marcotte wouldn’t have replied “My intention is never to offend anyone for his or her personal beliefs, and I am sorry if anyone was personally offended by writings meant only as criticisms of public politics.” She’d have told me to go fuck myself. She’d have given the same response to any right-winger who said the same.

But for Patriarch Edwards, it’s “Yes, sir. Anything you say, sir. Please don’t take my bone away, sir.”

It’s just that generally it’s rare to find a rich person with the passion and integrity willing to challenge the system of privileges by which he or she has benefited.

And John “most valuable home in Orange County” Edwards is such a man?

2nd Update: This is funny, and sort of related.

(Comments are closed. If you wish to discuss this post, you may do so at Feminist Critics.)

January 25, 2007

Lack of Commentary on State of the Union

Filed under: Blogosphere,Current Events,Politics — Brutus @ 11:48 pm

Creative Destruction seems to have gone a hiatus the last few days, though there has been plenty to discuss. For instance, Pres. Bush gave is 2007 State of the Union Address two nights ago (transcript here), and we’ve had nary a post or comment. I’m unqualified to comment, as I didn’t watch or listen. The most sensible thing I heard in the days leading up to it was that since we’ve been lied to so consistently the past few years, why tune in and be subjected to more lies?

I wonder sometimes whether good citizenship requires a baseline attention to things like the SOTU. My opinions even without paying attention are predictably negative, and there are plenty of other, better informed commentaries on the SOTU to be found throughout the blogosphere that take a similarly dour view. It’s no surprise, of course, considering Bush’s current approval rating.

The two principal notes the commentaries sound are that Bush doesn’t even bother to pretend to care what Congress or the citizenry think, he’s gonna do what he’s gonna do, and that he lacks the traditional Republican antipathy toward big government. (Shades of Reagan, there.) He’s seemed like a man on a mission (from god?) since he took office, but I doubt that history will judge him very kindly. There was some question in the early months after 9/11 whether he had crystallized the moment correctly and gotten that focal point in American history and policy right by formulating and prosecuting the War of Terror. It’s nearly impossible to know for sure, considering the general lack of terror events since then by which to judge, but even if we’ve been spared further bloodshed these few years since by spilling others’ blood and behaving badly, I wonder if it’s been worth the cost.

January 22, 2007

A very British Corruption Scandal

Filed under: Politics — Gled @ 11:42 am

Honours probe police hacked No10 computers

Detectives in the cash-for-honours inquiry were forced to “hack” into Downing Street computers in the search for evidence, The Sunday Telegraph has discovered.

Hardly “routine enquiries”.

What nobody seems to be saying, is that if we did away with these archaic honours, we wouldn’t have these problems. (Yeah, I know, they’d find some other way of rewarding the loyal.)

January 18, 2007

Winning The Unwinnable

Filed under: Current Events,Politics,War — Off Colfax @ 4:06 pm

John Cole, the Republican blogger who has disassociated himself from today’s GOP, points towards this post (Specifically, the comment thread attached to the post.) by the (in)famous Jeff Goldstein. While John takes apart the commenters with amazing speed and clarity (Except for one, but I’ll get to it later.), I find myself more puzzled by the root post. Now, I haven’t done a lot of posts on Operation Iraqi Debacle just yet, so it’s well past time for a traditional long-winded diatribe on the subject.

(FULL DISCLOSURE: I have, in recent memory, bought Jeff Goldstein exactly two beers. The first was a thank-you message for giving me my first trackback from a major-tier blogger. The second was in commiseration for, and my support for, his difficulties with a certain Oregonian blogger who now has a warrant for her arrest, not to mention all those names Duncan Black had been calling him. The third, coming up on February 16, will be to toast “Justice.” Or maybe simply Sláinte, ’cause Jeff does like the Guinness. I’ve just learned that Jeff Goldstein is not going to be there. And people call ME a cut-and-run surrender monkey.)

That being said, he does bring up a single set of good points, with his own distinguishing simile tacked on to the end.

To wit: that it was “unclear” that Saddam Hussein still had weapons of mass destruction is moot: the fact is, he wouldn’t let us know either way. And what we did know for sure was this: the weapons he had at one point have never been accounted for, his regime was involved in talks with al Qaeda, he was backing terrorist bombings in the middle east, he had tried before to assassinate a US President, and, if given the chance, he would have aided international terrorists against the West in any way he could find, even as he took Oil for food money to build his palaces and re-constitute his weapons programs in anticipation of a lifting of sanctions. So being right about weapons of mass destruction is like being right, in hindsight, about not having paused to slide on a jimmy: it’s only a good move if nobody gets pregnant, or picks up some nasty infection.

True. true. Maybe true. True. True. And, yet again, true. (The part about the jimmy is always true.)

Yet this part of the next graf down reads exactly like you can mentally exchange the name Campos with any given detractor of the Iraq debacle.

I will happily point out that his last point—“that the whole project was likely to end in disaster”—uses the past tense, suggesting that [Paul] Campos has already declared defeat, and, even more maddeningly, seems to be reveling in it. Or, to be more kind to professor Campos, is smugly satisfied that he “predicted” that defeat, though he is not too keen on waiting for the fat lady to sing, it appears.

To be blunt, most of us that are/were against this Iraqi adventure felt that it would not end well. While it is true that some few are using that prescient standpoint to advance their own media spotlight, such as Campos and Cindy Sheehan and every single one of the early Democratic contenders for 2008 as examples, the rest of us on the left side of Blogville Elementary Playground are simply pointing and saying “See? Told you so.” While that may not be the best way of getting a point across, the resulting roar of indignation from the other side drowns out the one major point that we detractors have, which falls on the heels of those words: What could you do better? What can be fixed? What can be changed?

From the outset, as I noted over a year ago, the alleged “Iraq War” was like a Washingtonian three-card Monte game; we’ll act like it’s a war, even though we won’t specifically declare war.

Then the media stories roll in about insufficient equipment, malfunctioning equipment, FUBAR’d rules of engagement, corporate kickbacks, corporations not fulfilling their commitments as listed in their kickback contracts, the hiring of the equivalent of mercenary groups where every man jack makes more than a Marine colonel, the Abu Ghraib scandal, the stop-loss exercises. There are a veritable Who’s-Who of Charlie-Foxtrots out there to select from. (Look it up if you don’t know it.) Whenever something bad, and worse than bad, came out about the execution of the Iraq invasion, those who called it a war were quickest to blame… the media outlets that reported the information.

So tell me honestly. With all these developments coming down the pike at a rapid clip, how else are we supposed to look at it? It’s not the media’s fault that they report the stories. It’s not the soldiers’ fault that they have a cruddy job, not to mention insufficient equipment and boots on the ground to do the job they have. And yet who gets the blame? From the supporters, it’s the fault of the media for only reporting what has gone wrong instead of what has gone right, such as the toppling of the Ba’athist regime, building schools, secure Kurdistan, et cetera. (John Cole also links to this post by Hot Air’s Bryan, who lists a bunch of positive things that the media has, whether due to it being against the “Bleeds = Leads” mantra or some other reason, not reported widely.) From the more violent detractors, it’s the soldier’s fault, for (a paraphrase) they signed on to be Myrmidons, ruthless crushers of humanity, et cetera.

The military has a slang term already available for both of these outlooks: experiencing a Rectal Cranial Inversion.

The full truth is that we sent our boys and girls off to do battle, and our leadership stayed home and had business as usual. And that, as notes the Flannel Avenger, was the Achilles’ heel of the Republican Congress. The congresscritters went on securing their own power structures, being more concerned with political gains than doing their jobs. (Minor apology to Mr. Ray, however. Iraq was a part of the GOP losses in November, but it was a regrettable symptom rather than the cause.) Hearings that lasted 2 hours and performed to an empty room. Earmarks that spiraled out of control. Amendments that defeat the purpose of a bill rather than support it. Amendments that cause a perfectly good and necessary bill to die off because the authors couldn’t even vote for their own bill anymore. The Republican Congress showed us, by their actions rather than their words, that they didn’t take the invasion seriously, that it was just another political tool to bend into a shape of their choosing rather than a real-world disaster in the making.

But that was then. This is now. A new Congress is in, led by Democrats. And what is the magic bullet?

To withdraw funding and force the Pentagon to pull everyone home. If Pelosi & Co. could come up with a scenario more likely to spawn the “cut-and-run” accusation favored by the right, it would have to be a true thing of beauty. Not only does this kill off any chance that the still-unstable Iraqi government could stay on its feet, it sends a dour message to the boys and girls in uniform who would have to feel like kids who come home from summer camp to find that their parents had gotten divorced. “Hi kids. Guess what? You live with someone else now. Oh, and you don’t get your allowance anymore, either.” For can you guess what would be the first casualty of reduced funding? Late or non-existent payroll. It wouldn’t be ammunition that suffers, as that’s mostly in theater already and you can fire on full-auto less often. It wouldn’t be fuel, as that’s mostly in theater already, whether what we brought or what’s being distilled on site. It wouldn’t be Kellogg Brown Root, as they have binding contracts for certain services. Instead, it’d be the same kids that went where they were ordered to go by Congress and the President. Simply slashing the funding to zero wouldn’t do a single bit of good for those who wear the boots. Indeed, how are those kids supposed to get home without even enough money for transportation?

Talk about a morale killer.

And then there’s this gem by Nawoods:

The enemy’s tactic for achieving stratigic victory is to not fight in the traditional sense. Rather they plan operations designed to grab headlines in the western media in the hopes we become demoralized, convince oursleves all is lost, and head for home.

Essentially, what we have here is a complaint that the insurgents aren’t fighting like real men. They aren’t battling for strategic ground. They don’t have a hill to take. They don’t have a river to cross. That’s because that we’re fighting in what the normal folks in the military call FISH: Fighting In Someone’s House. The insurgents don’t have to take and hold land. They just have to deny someone else that ability temporarily. Or back off for a little bit, wait for the US forces to move on, and then return to their former attack runs. Or, just as likely, throw a rock at someone, walk around the corner, and be a suddenly upstanding citizen again. This isn’t a traditional war, and our military leadership and supporters continue to make the mistake of expecting one. (See: Battle of Fallujah) So to Nawoods: You are experiencing a Rectal Cranial Inversion. Please remove head from bottom immediately. Thank you.

So what do we do to win the unwinnable?

For one thing, the “surge” plan is doomed to fail unless and until they scrape up every single bit of necessary and required materiel from stateside and ship it over to the sandbox with all overdue haste. It won’t make a bit of difference to send in another fifty thousand, hundred thousand, two hundred thousand pairs of boots, plus the people to stand in them, if they don’t have the gear they need. This is a must, period, ad infinitum, ad astra, ad nauseum.

Second, all talk of preemptively cutting funding must cease. Instead, we should actually stop diverting funds from the troops stationed in Iraq in the first place. We’re putting more and more money into the Iraqi infrastructure than we are into the actual needs of the people fighting. This, as they say, is a Bad Idea. Fund them right, feed them right, equip them right. You want to show your support of the troops? Then do it where it counts. No more “I support my troops so I’m pulling them back home” garbage.

Third, one hard and vicious timetable. From all available reports, the Iraqi government doesn’t seem to be able to step up and take the ball. If this is a question of them being incompetent and unable to lead, then the incompetent must be replaced. (Preferably by someone who is not chosen for their political friends, but by displayed competence levels.) If this is a question of them dragging their feet and hoping that the Americans won’t leave, acting like a kid going to the dentist for fear of that great big needle… The shot will hurt a lot less than the drill. And they will get drilled if they aren’t as ready as they think they are.

Fourth, an engaged Congress. This very moment, the idiots I helped elect into leadership positions are becoming more and more concentrated on gaining political leverage, scoring points against the loyal opposition, and leveling a few legislative booms on their enemies. Sound familiar? Exactly. It’s what I just got done saying was one of the causes of the Republican downfall. No more business as usual under the Dome. Do your bloody jobs right by the kids who swore an oath to serve, protect, and defend the Constitution of these United States, just the same as you did.

Like it or not, this is our ball to run now. Don’t like it? Tough. We wanted it.

Don’t you dare drop it.

[Crossposted from Left Off Colfax]

January 16, 2007

Capitalism in Action

Filed under: Economics,Politics — Brutus @ 3:42 pm

I’ve been struggling to get my head around some issues that have cropped up in past posts relating to how free market capitalism delivers the best of all possible opportunies for regular folks to improve their lot. Well, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has the dirt on income inequality, or if you prefer, income concentration. Here’s a graph showing the trend since the first Gilded Age:

income concentration

The complexities of the capitalist system are invariably too complex to chalk up this graph to one or two factors, such as the tranformation of the progressive tax system into a regressive one, the abandonment of a regultated, Keynesian economic policy in favor of laissez faire capitalism, and the abandoment of the Bretton Woods treaty. However, the results speak pretty clearly: if you’re already super rich, you’re in a considerably favored position to enhance your already monstrously large share of the pie. (Short version: it takes money to make money.)

Whereas some market fundamentalists insist that this result is just, proper, and entirely to the benefit of everyone — especially since acquisition of large piles of capital supposedly stimulates investment and creates jobs down the line for less well-heeled folks — I interpret it more as a morally bankrupt system operating without any sense of social justice.

If that interpretation doesn’t come out of the simple fact shown above, New York Magazine has an article called American Roulette by Kurt Andersen that provides opinion and context on top of some interesting further data. The metaphor adopted in the article is that we are now in a sort of “casino economy,” where the odds are rigged in favor of the house (read: the rich) and the losses suffered by the poor become, literally, the gains of the rich. The data that supports that contention includes a wage gap (CEO to average worker) an order of magnitiude larger than it was in the seventies; a drop in median income over the past five years, which according to a NY Times citation is “the first sustained period of economic growth since World War II that fails to offer a prolonged increase in real wages for most workers”; and an increased likelihood (1/6 today vs. 1/14 in 1970) of family income dropping by half. In effect, the few blazing success stories provide the faint hope shared by the masses of hitting it big, not unlike casino or lottery gambling. 

An interesting byproduct — a harbinger of things to come, perhaps — of the prolonged shift of capital upwards is that Tesco, a large retailer operating in the United Kingdom, has announced plans to build employee housing. Why, you might ask? It’s because Tesco’s staff can’t afford to live where they work, and the company has been suffering from high employee turnover as a result. Makes me wonder when Wal-Mart will similarly branch into real estate. It’s undoubtedly too early to adopt the unfair characterization of the company town, but considering how budding central economies have devolved into that practice before, it’s worth being vigilant.

Speaking of Wal-Mart, that corporation has implemented new employee scheduling software, which promises to streamline or optimise certain labor practices for the employer while having some fully anticipatable and deleterious effects on employees. For example, Wal-Mart is able to track hours to cap employees below full-time status (to deny benefits) and is able to use the software to place employees “on call” to meet customer surges or send employees home during lull periods. Not everyone thinks this flexible scheduling is necessarily a bad thing. Naturally, someone will find in it some benefit to some nonrepresentative employee.

It used to be that Socialism and/or Communism offered the Holy Grail of a worker’s paradise. Free market capitalism has replaced the siren’s call of those defunct ideologies but has yet to deliver fully on the promise. But that’s the subject of a longer, more involved post on market fundamentalism I’m still mulling.

January 11, 2007

Carter Center Board Resigns En Masse

Filed under: Current Events,International Politics,Politics — Robert @ 2:33 pm

14 members of an advisory board for the Carter Center have resigned en masse, personally addressing former President Carter and telling him “you have clearly abandoned your historic role of broker in favor of becoming an advocate for one side” in his recent book on the situation in Israel.

This follows on the heels of the high-profile resignation of Kenneth Stein, a longtime Carter adviser, for similar reasons.

December 29, 2006

Republican Prospective Candidate tries to Falsify College Record

Filed under: Politics — Gled @ 3:10 am

Congressional aide fired after trying to hire hackers

I did something that’s greatly out of character for me…

It always is, Mr. Shriber, it always is.

December 4, 2006

Jose Padilla Update

Filed under: Current Events,Ethics,Politics — Brutus @ 6:53 pm

I blogged before about Jose Padilla, who has been detained since 2002 as an “enemy combatant” until earlier this fall when he

was added as a defendant in a terrorism conspiracy case already under way in Miami. At the time, the Supreme Court was weighing whether to take up the legality of his military detention — and thus the issue of the president’s authority to seize an American citizen on American soil and hold him indefinitely without charges — when the Bush administration pre-empted its decision by filing criminal charges against Mr. Padilla.

The quote above is from a December 4 article in the New York Times.

My prior concern was with Padilla’s being held without charge and the court’s refusal to review this denial of civil rights. Padilla is a U.S. citizen. My new concern (considering the old one was obviated by both the court and the Bush Administration) is that during his detention, Padilla was held in isolation and deprived not only of society (other than his interrogators) but of sensory stimulation. According to the New York Times article,

his cell was electronically monitored and his meals were passed to him through a slot in the door … windows were blackened, and there was no clock or calendar; and … he slept on a steel platform after a foam mattress was taken from him, along with his copy of the Koran.

Further, when he was taken from his cell for dental care, he wore noise-blocking earphones, blacked-out goggles, and manacles at the ankles and wrists. Although military apologists insist that he was provided food, clothing, shelter, sleep, and medical care, thus treated humanely, that standard is such a low threshold that over the course of several years the logical result was realized: Padilla was rendered unfit to assist in his own defense and is unconvinced that his attorneys are actually on his side and not merely another interrogation technique. In short, his captivity was so torturous and inhumane that he is a ruined man.

I cannot fathom a compelling state interest in ruining people in this manner. Since Padilla’s ordeal began, we have revised our policies and laws to legalize (though not legitimize) torture and detention and in the process absolved Padilla’s captors of any liability for their actions. This is just one case; and as with Abu Ghraib, there is plenty of reason to believe that many, many other cases that haven’t drawn public scrutiny are occurring as well. And the response of the American people? Very little. In our failure to protest and agitate against such awfulness committed in our names, we give tacit consent. Indeed, many people believe that Padilla is merely an example of the collateral damage necessary to prosecute the war on terror and further believe that useful intelligence can be obtained with such tactics. I remain utterly unconvinced any good can come from torture. Our government’s abandonment of humane treatment of prisoners (among other things) speaks to the growing power of the police state already upon us.

Cross-posted at The Spiral Staircase.

November 15, 2006

What single piece of legislation would you most like to see enacted?

Filed under: Politics — Ampersand @ 4:25 pm

Ezra Klein asks, “What single piece of legislation would you most like to see enacted?”

Ezra’s answer:

I’ll go with Employee Free Choice Act, a bill restoring the right to organize, which is current de facto absent from the polity. It institutes card check, provides new avenues for mediation, and heavily stiffens penalties for illegal unionbusting. As I think all progressive legislation flows from a vibrant union movement, such a bill looks like the first step towards a restoration of progressive governance from which my other policy priorities could be achieved.

Bradford Plumer agrees with Ezra, and expands the argument a bit.

I’m tempted to agree with Brad and Ezra, because Ezra’s right — without a vital union movement, it’s hard to see how any progressive movement can be sustained in the US. I’d also be tempted to advocate a complete overhaul of the US’s electoral system — starting with the elimination of first-past-the-post elections, but also campaign finance — but I’m not sure that can properly be called a “single piece of legislation,” because it would probably require at least two Constitutional amendments.

However, if I had to choose one and only one, I think that I’d instead endorse directing billions of dollars a year towards non-carbon-based energy – meaning wind power, solar power, and nuclear power. It is plausible that we’re very near a point of no return on global warming – we may have only fifteen years to reverse course. There is no single issue that’s more urgent. And I’m not sure that unions — which, understandably, might not be interested in stopping global warming if it means the loss of some current manufacturing jobs ((I think that in the long run, investments in sustainable technology will create jobs. But unions are more concerned with existing jobs than with potential future jobs.)) — are always going to be in the right place on this issue.

So that’s me. You?

November 6, 2006

Election 2006 Predictions

Filed under: Current Events,Election 2006,Politics,Politics and Elections — Robert @ 1:13 am

Herewith my predictions for the House, Senate and gubernatorial races, 2006. Presented without data or argumentation – although the data and the argumentation exist in my fevered brain. This is simply intended as a recording of my predictions (some general, some specific), so that on Tuesday evening I can either make an incredibly snarky “I told you so” or a humbled “well, we all make mistakes…” post.

The Senate: Dems +3, Republicans retain control. Santorum retains his seat narrowly, as does Burns.
The House: Dems +10. Republicans retain control.

Governorships: Dems pick up 2 new governorships, which I believe gives them a majority.

(Yes, I am significantly more optimistic than the pollsters. I don’t think the pollsters know what they’re doing anymore; the game has changed and the statistical methods that work to assess a neutral population no longer provide good data.)

November 2, 2006

Investigations begin into whether Bush administration muzzled climate research

Filed under: Politics,Science — Gled @ 3:53 am

Link. (via)

About time too.

October 24, 2006

Do the Democrats Want to Win?

Filed under: Election 2006,Politics,Politics and Elections — Robert @ 2:37 am

The Dems look to have a shot at taking the House this year. Do they want to?

The war is going badly. It will continue to be a bad situation for quite some time – regardless of which party is in power, and regardless of their policy decisions.

North Korea remains a problem. Iran remains a problem. Neither is likely to change; both are likely to continue generating genuine incumbent-damaging news.

Genocides worldwide remain a problem. Slavery – for God’s sake, slavery – has broken out in force once more in many parts of the world.

More on that in the next post – first, the point of this one:

Do Democrats really want to win?

I know Hillary wants to win, I mean, does Joe Democrat on the street want to win? And be suddenly responsible for all this stuff?

This is an honest question, open for any Democrat out there who wants to opine. Do you guys & gals want to win?

October 20, 2006

Class and Security

Filed under: Content-lite,Politics — Gled @ 7:45 am

Those of our readers interested in how class intersects other social phenomema might be interested in this article about security double-standards. (via).

October 10, 2006

Misleading nonsense at Firedoglake

Filed under: Politics,Politics and Elections,Statistical Method — bazzer @ 9:53 am

If Connecticut wants to oust Joe Lieberman for his support of the war, then fine. Many of his critics, however, seem worried that the war alone might not be sufficient, so they’re hurling everything they can at him hoping some of it will stick.

This trend reached its ludicrous apex, in my opinion, in this Jane Hamsher piece posted at Firedoglake.

Now I’m no fan of Joe Lieberman, but this strikes me as a grossly unfair and disingenuous abuse of statistics. Hamsher slams Lieberman because Connecticut sends more money to Washington than it gets back by a higher ratio than almost any other state.

True enough, but this ratio tends to increase as a function of a state’s wealth. Richer states tend to have a net outflux of dollars to Washington and poorer states a net influx. Connecticut is, by some measures, the richest state in the union, and in an indirect way, that is why Hamsher is slamming Lieberman.

Maybe it’s just me, but I find that pathetic. Perhaps it’s just desperation, as Lieberman’s lead four weeks out is beginning to look insurmountable. Perhaps when your “referendum” on the Iraq war looks as if it won’t turn out the way you want, you start urgently trying to make it about other issues as well. Still, criticizing Lieberman for not turning Connecticut into Mississippi seems like a bit of a stretch to me.

September 26, 2006

It was a joke

Filed under: Current Events,Politics — Ampersand @ 9:46 am

It’s weird to find myself agreeing with right-wingers, but this:

“I certainly hope that Hillary is the candidate,” [Jerry] Falwell said, according to the recording. “She has $300 million so far. But I hope she’s the candidate. Because nothing will energize my [constituency] like Hillary Clinton.”

Cheers and laughter filled the room as Falwell continued: “If Lucifer ran, he wouldn’t.”

It’s a joke. I’ve made pretty much the same joke myself, frankly – and it’s more a slam on Falwell’s followers than on Hillary.

Oh, and as for Chavez – look, he clearly didn’t mean to say that Bush is literally the immortal avatar of evil, a fallen angel, etc. That would be insane. He just meant that he thinks Bush is incredibly evil. This is hardly an uncommon or shocking opinion nowadays.

I was going to close with a snarky comment about it making more sense to hate Chavez for his antisemitism, but then I ran across this blog, claiming that Chavez’s famous antisemitic statement was actually a case of malicious mistranslation. Any Spanish-reading readers who can clear up this question in comments, please do.

September 24, 2006

Clinton May Have Incriminated Self In Wallace Interview

Filed under: Current Events,Politics — Robert @ 9:15 pm

In a recent interview with Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday, former President William Jefferson Clinton may have implicated himself in a violation of the law. (Transcript; video.)

In 1981, President Ronald Reagan signed Executive Order 12333, limiting the government’s ability to order assassinations. It’s a long executive order; the most relevant clauses are 2.11 and 2.12:

2.11 Prohibition on Assassination. No person employed by or acting on behalf of the United States Government shall engage in, or conspire to engage in, assassination.

2.12 Indirect Participation. No agency of the Intelligence Community shall participate in or request any person to undertake activities forbidden by this Order.

Clinton, in his interview with Wallace, emphatically stated (regarding Osama bin Laden):

What did I do? I worked hard to try and kill him. I authorized a finding for the CIA to kill him. We contracted with people to kill him. I got closer to killing him than anybody has gotten since.

EO 12333 was subsequently modified and relaxed in 2001, by the Bush administration, following the events of September 11, 2001. However, during Clinton’s presidency, the original order was in effect. It appears reasonably clear that former President Clinton has admitted openly to violating an Executive Order still in force. (Although the theory has been advanced that he was actually lying for political effect.)

As of press time it is not clear what penalties, if any, are prescribed for violation of EO 12333.

(H/T: Protein Wisdom.)

Update: Glenn Reynolds (you know, that lawyer fellow) says “nyet” in a private e-mail, saying that there are no penalties, and that the original EO allows assassination if the President makes a finding, which was what Clinton was referring to.

I don’t see that last part in there; my understanding was that the findings-make-it-OK rule was one of the changes Bush made in 2001. But I could be mistaken.

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