Posts concerning politics

Safety Nets are for Losers

17:31 07 Jul 2011

Would it have been better if McCain had been elected?. The best argument that Obama is better than McCain would have been is that McCain might have started a war with Iran (instead of Libya); then again, he might not have. McCain would also have pushed for Social Security and Medicare cuts, but Democratic resistance would have been significant—now, with the push coming from a Democratic president, it’s highly likely that the Democrats will cave in.

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Some Bribery Statistics

11:40 05 Jul 2011

Using data culled from secret police records, John McMillan and Pablo Zoldo examined bribes made (by the secret police) to various figures in Peru during the 1990s: legislators, judges, and… the media. It was the television stations that commanded the most in bribes, about ten times as much per month as the other groups combined. The article explores why the media were worth more than the politicians and judges, and has some interesting hypotheses on how the incentives worked.

Also, it has data tables about bribes, something you don’t come across too often.

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Out to Get Him After All

19:38 04 Jul 2011

I find this really sad and infuriating.

Being kept under surveillance would itself be deeply disturbing, but perhaps most sad about it is its contribution to Hemingway’s feeling that he can’t trust his friends because they might be spying on him for the government; if the FBI is actually spying on you, is that really a paranoid view?

Incidentally, what appears to be the website for the J. Edgar Hoover Foundation has the Hoover line “Justice is incidental to law and order” on its front page, and I can’t figure out whether it’s earnest and really scary or just a phenomenally good parody.

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The Videotex Revolution

23:49 23 Jun 2011. Updated: 01:30 24 Jun 2011

In June 1982, the Institute for the Future published a report, “Teletext and Videotex in the United States”, which discussed the likely impact of teletext and videotex services on American homes, jobs, and lifestyles; an article summarizing the report was published in the New York Times. While in many ways it was utterly wrong, in the sense that those technologies never succeeded in the US, in perhaps more important ways it was almost prescient, describing quite well how the Internet has changed things.

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The NSA Style Guide

23:29 13 Jun 2011. Updated: 21:37 20 Sep 2013

That’s not an ironic title, or one referring to some fictional work—Government Attic has secured the release of the NSA’s writing style guide, and BoingBoing cleaned it up, so that you can now find it on Scribd.

I love the fact that it includes a section instructing NSA writers not to use “bureaucratese”.

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NCAA Inanity">More NCAA Inanity

22:04 06 Jun 2011

The University of Southern California football team has been stripped of its 2004 season national championship, because their star running back Reggie Bush was receiving “improper benefits” while he played for them.

What this story is really about, however, is trying to ensure that the players receive as little as possible of the vast revenues accumulated by the colleges, the leagues, and the BCS cartel.

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Visualizing Information Spread on Twitter

23:42 10 May 2011

“Breaking Bin Laden: visualizing the power of a single tweet” is an interesting analysis of how news (or rumor) of bin Laden’s death travelled across Twitter. Twitter certainly works phenomenally well at transmitting information of that kind; I wonder if they’ll be able to translate that advantage over other services directly into money somehow.

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On the Death of Osama bin Laden

23:30 02 May 2011

I was surprised when I heard the news—via SMS from Twitter from my brother—that US forces had apparently killed bin Laden. Surprised, but not particularly affected. No glee, no sadness, no sense that as an event it was important in itself (rather than for its symbolic value).

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My Reaction to “40 Things People Need to Stop Saying”

23:18 28 Apr 2011. Updated: 18:16 29 Apr 2011

In my Twitter feed yesterday I found a link to “Privileged Musings: 40 Things People Need to Stop Saying”, an article at Womanist Musings. The intent of the piece is narrower than the title suggests, in that it’s primarily concerned with discussion in that community rather than more generally, but I was interested in it anyway since it concerns regulation of expression.

Overall the list is concerned with statements defending or perpetuating prejudice, arguments that have been addressed numerous times before (or are just inane). However, it doesn’t explain what’s wrong with them, even briefly, which is a mistake for two reasons: one, it would make the list much more useful and effective; two, writing such explanations would have made clear which things on the list were questionable, as some of them certainly are.

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Maybe Try Praying for Cognition Instead

17:37 22 Apr 2011

WHEREAS, hundreds of years have passed since it might have been excusable for any reasonable human to believe in the power of attempting to telepathically transmit thoughts to imaginary beings in the hope that these beings will alter conditions on Earth; and

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“Protect the Children” Hysteria and Injustice

22:41 18 Apr 2011

This is the summary:

  • Local comic/musician goes to elementary school, plays song for kids.
  • A friend of his videotapes this, both the performance and the kids’ (positive) reactions.
  • Musician and friend later come back to empty classroom and record him performing a song with graphically sexual lyrics.
  • Musician edits two sets of footage together to make it appear as if he sang the sexually-explicit song to the kids.
  • Musician then puts edited version on YouTube and plays it at a local club’s comedy night.

Clearly the title of the post gives it away somewhat, but what do you think happened next?

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The Generosity of the Federal Reserve

00:20 15 Apr 2011. Updated: 00:22 16 Apr 2011

Matt Taibbi covers the still-astonishing handouts given out by the Federal Reserve as part of its “crisis management” measures over the last few years. Given the amounts of money involved, it is absolutely stunning that this stuff isn’t brought up whenever benefit cuts are discussed. Yes, I know that the whole point of the mainstream media is to prevent mass awareness of just how twisted the situation is, but even so, it’s amazing how effective it seems to be.

To slash public spending while simultaneously showering money on the wealthy—never mind acting pious and responsible while doing so—is nothing less than massive thievery from the poor to the rich; there’s really no other way to describe it.

Meanwhile, the Department of Justice is busy addressing the key problems facing America today, although some members of Congress and the Senate want a different focus.

The current mantra guiding US actions seems to be “the floggings shall continue until morale improves”.

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You’ll Eat Our Lunch and Like It

21:04 12 Apr 2011

The headline really says it all: “Chicago school bans homemade lunches”.

That’s right. The daytime prisoners at this institution—sorry, the beloved Children Who Are Our Future at this Future-Oriented Center for Learning—are no longer allowed to provide their own alternatives to the midday meal, but must have whatever the school supplies.

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A Guatemalan Tale of Truth Stranger than Fiction

21:37 28 Mar 2011

David Grann’s “A Murder Foretold: Unravelling the ultimate political conspiracy” is an amazing article; I highly recommend reading the whole thing.

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AT&T: No Escape

23:24 22 Mar 2011. Updated: 00:25 23 Mar 2011

When I first got my landline in San Francisco, it was with PacBell. They got bought by SBC, who were bought by AT&T. When I first got a cellphone in 2006, my service was with Cingular. They got taken over by AT&T. I stuck with AT&T for a while, with plenty of gripes, before escaping to T-Mobile. I’ve been very happy with T-Mobile.

So, naturally, AT&T now intends to buy T-Mobile.

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Cities: Urban Centers or Transfer Points for Capital?

22:33 15 Mar 2011

Cities have always been centers of capital; I don’t think you can have cities without something (in our history, initially agriculture) to produce surpluses of goods that can (must?) be stored (hoarded? selectively distributed?), and the centralization that such storage encourages has always been a fundamental part of why cities exist.

I love cities. I love them for their concentration of people and culture (the modern form of which, it could be argued, arises out of the former), for the intermingling they encourage and for the aspects of cultural and social choice they provide. I’ve always disliked other aspects, however: the concentration of capital and the power dynamics this creates, and the shaping of cities as feeding/breeding grounds for capitalist/consumerist expenditure/exploitation. I don’t care that these dynamics have thus far been prime drivers for the existence of cities; an optimist (yes, really) about human potential, I believe it’s possible for us to reorganize cities to have the good without the bad. In any case, cities have always had this tension (among others) between capital and people, but they’re still understood largely as spaces for inhabitation—that is, as places for people.

This may be changing.

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Obama: Just Another Establishment Hack

19:42 13 Mar 2011

I’ve actually asked the Pentagon whether or not the procedures that have been taken in terms of his confinement are appropriate and are meeting our basic standards. They have assured me that they are.

Obama was referring to Bradley Manning, who is being held in Quantico, in 23-hour-a-day isolation, who’s deliberately being deprived of sleep, and who has recently had even his boxer shorts taken away from him.

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The Ongoing Torture of Bradley Manning

23:51 07 Mar 2011

Yes, it is torture. Glenn Greenwald, among others, has been bringing into the public eye the suffering inflicted upon him.

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Defending Tennessee from the Specter of Islamic Rule

22:54 01 Mar 2011

This is amazingly ridiculous: “Tennessee Jumps on the Anti-Sharia Bandwagon”. That’s right, Tennessee State Senator Bill Ketron has introduced a bill that essentially equates the practice of Sharia law with treason. While it might not pass, and if it did pass it would pretty clearly not be Constitutional, it’s really sad that it’s even been proposed.

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Hypocrisy and “The War on Drugs”

17:12 27 Feb 2011

Just in case you needed more evidence, here’s a particularly good demonstration that the drug war is racist and classist: “Mitch Daniels’ Disappearing Felony”.

Also, you really shouldn’t miss this proposal for a new illegal drug classification scheme.

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On the Egyptian Revolution

21:26 11 Feb 2011

Almost the first thing I did this morning was watch Al Jazeera and the scenes of celebration over Mubarak’s departure. I listened to one activist speak of her joy at the victory, at the change, at the possibilities now open that had been closed off before by the security state. It was deeply affecting, and I’m happy for the Egyptian people despite a near-total lack of personal ties to the country.

The popular toppling of a ruler is a difficult and momentous thing, and quite an achievement, and they should be joyous (as they are) and proud. I hope they really keep it going, though, and push for as true a democracy as they can. In a sense that means never letting things get back to “normal”, because “normal” is where the leaders aren’t nervous about mass insurrection, where they are able to get away with serving themselves and their cohort instead of the people—where they act like “leaders” instead of truly being humble and temporary representatives of the people. I would also like them to be allowed to get to wherever they choose with minimal interference from outside agents (such as the United States, for example), but I fear that’s unlikely indeed.

Regardless of all that, though, whatever happens next, what they’ve achieved already is a tremendous accomplishment and a reminder of what the will of the people can do.

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Tainting with Knowledge

22:32 08 Feb 2011

Wow, this is fascinating: a Florida judge has prohibited, pre-emptively, the distribution of leaflets on jury nullification near courthouses, claiming that it amounts to jury tampering. According to my understanding of the law, jurors in the US have the right to acquit based not purely on the absence of guilt but also on their sense of the justice of the law—however, judges are free to bar anyone in their courts from informing the jurors of this right. The notion that they’re free to do so outside their courtrooms certainly seems like a stretch to me, and seems to obviously violate the First Amendment, but that’s not necessarily worth anything in terms of appeals rulings.

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The “Dickwolves Thing”

22:43 06 Feb 2011

This is a post about humor, taste, rape, offensiveness/offendedness, and limits on discourse, all centered on a three-panel webcomic about video games.

It’s rather long; I meant it as a tighter, more abstract, discussion of the points above, but got pulled into a lot of the specifics as I went through them.

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