Monday, January 25, 2010

Corporate whores need proper uniforms.

In the wake of the Supreme Court's Citizen's United case, it's clear that the people need to strike back. Here's one solution that I heard from a caller to the Diane Rehm Show today: legislators need to wear sponsorship patches on their suits.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Institutional analysis becomes conspiracy theory when the government says so.

At least, Cass Sunstein would like to make that official. Papa Cass is one of Obama's closest confidants and head of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. He's considered to be a major contender for the next Supreme Court opening, which should really scare the shit out of both liberals and conservatives because he's open to the idea of "cognitive infiltration" of those who investigate or foster conspiracy theories. Cass Sunstein is not crazy by the way -- well, yes he is. What I mean is, he acknowledge's that several bad conspiracy theories turned out to be true during the Cold War, like the one about the DOD manufacturing terrorist plots and blaming them on Castro. It's just that now is the present, which as every Serious government official knows has nothing to do with the future. Anyway, why would someone who acknowledges that many government conspiracy theories have been verified as accurate want to have the same government interfere with the public dialogue -- that is, any more than it already has through the MSM? Well, that's an easy one. Glenn Greenwald explores Cass's reasoning behind "cognitive infiltration" in the first link, and I largely agree with his analysis. I think that what it boils down to is this: Cass Sunstein is a bad elitist, which is worse than a neutral elitist. Here are my definitions: 
elitism (neutral) - the belief that elites (those who have distinguished themselves based on merit or subjective criteria) should lead, teach or otherwise influence society in a non-deceptive manner and that this elite guidance achieves the most favorable results for society as a whole.
bad elitism - the belief that elites must deceive the public or conduct covert propaganda in order to achieve the most favorable results for society as a whole.
Does this make sense?  I found the dictionary definitions inadequate. One could write a PhD dissertation on the modern conceptions of elitism, but I've chosen to draw the line between neutral and bad elitism at the point of deception. In this construction, Cass is (not coincidentally) a bad elitist.

P.S. - Do try to muddle through the abstract of Cass's paper in the second link. I think Cass accurately describes most conspiracy theorists as "typically suffer[ing] from a crippled epistemology," but Cass needs to take a timeout and realize that covert government interference in public debate is designed to cripple epistemology in society at-large. If it indeed becomes standard practice to make undisclosed payments to experts who are willing or pleased to tow the government line, then every expert opinion becomes fair game for government skeptics. Now, you could argue that we've been dealing with this sort of corruption for a long time and no epistemological crises have crippled society yet, but Cass seems to be open to the idea that cognitive infiltration be legalized and accepted by the high courts as Constitutional.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

the Haitian Earthquake

As with the devastation wrought by Katrina, I hope that our thoughts of Haiti turn to the inconvenient fact that natural disasters are often anything but. Haitians are dying in disproportionate numbers right now because they are poor and oppressed. The oppression came first, then the poverty, then more oppression. It's a positive feedback loop. Poor people are not only easy to oppress (keep up the good work Iraq and Afghanistan), they seem to literally beg for it. So in Haiti's time of need, know that they need more than the world's temporary relief efforts. They need the world -- namely us -- to finally leave them the hell alone.

update: There are more Haitian history sources at the end of this wonderful post at Reclusive Leftist.

update 2: The folks at Credo, the progressive phone company, sent me an email with two ways to help Haiti: give to Doctors Without Borders, and tell Obama to grant temporary protected status to Haitians living in the U.S.

Friday, January 1, 2010

George Will's Freaky Voyage

George Will celebrates the New Year by taking a massive hit off his life-sized Ayn Rand-shaped gravity bong and writes about the nature of the universe:
Already 99.9 (and about 58 more 9s) percent of the universe - it is expanding lickety-split - is beyond Earth's atmosphere. Into what is it expanding? Hard to say. We can say there is lots of stuff in space: Hold up a penny at arm's length and you block from your field of vision three galaxies - billions of stars and other things - 350 million light-years away, which is right next door in our wee corner of the universe.
Get that? There's lots of stuff in space, and it's beyond our so-called "warming" atmosphere. This means that if global warming is a problem, rich people can always expand, like the universe, into the great unknown! But fear not intrepid voyagers, this column is not simply about dog whistle-politics and fancy science talk, it is about the indomitable human spirit:
Before Darwin, many people believed that no species could become extinct because this would mean there had been an imperfection in God's original handiwork. Yet 104 years before publication of "On the Origin of Species," the Lisbon earthquake of 1755 had caused some people to doubt that God has ordained a benevolently ordered universe. Nevertheless, in 1787 other people - Americans call them the Founding Fathers - who were influenced by Newtonian physics and the deist idea of God as cosmic clockmaker, devised a constitutional system of separated powers, checking and balancing one another, mimicking what they considered our solar system's clocklike mechanics.
Today, we know there is a lot of play in the joints of the Constitution, and that every 40 million years or so asteroids of more than half a mile in diameter strike Earth. Yet the Constitution still constitutes, and the fact that flora and fauna have survived Earth's episodes of extreme violence testifies to the extraordinary imperative of life.
Yes, George, certainty exists beyond the bong smoke. Happy New Year, you crazy bastard!

2000 - 2009 in Memoriam: Fuck You.

Fuck you, 2000 - 2009. You were definitely the shittiest decade since the 1930s. Everyone knows about the DOW going nowhere, but this decade was worthless politically as well. Again, it was not nearly as bad as the 1930s, which saw the disintegration of the peace following WWI and the rise of Hitler, but it was pretty horrible nonetheless. The decade basically started on September 11, which sucked. However, history will record that our reaction to those attacks precipitated much more death and destruction than Osama bin Laden could have ever dreamed of. Republicans and their allies in dank think-tanks like the Project for the New American Century thought they could turn a stolen election in 2000 into a new mandate for world domination. September 11 was their trigger -- their Pearl Harbor. It started two Middle Eastern wars that were basically about oil and hegemony. The rest is history. The only good thing about this decade was that the aggressor finally lost. The belligerent nation, the United States of America, will fall by the wayside. This century will belong to others. We don't deserve it.