Posts concerning politics

Glenn Beck On Fire

23:40 03 Feb 2011

Comedy gold. I think this guy might be funnier than Colbert.

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Court Challenges to Obama’s Health Care Program

18:26 01 Feb 2011

I like the idea of public health care; in fact I think health care is one of the legitimate uses to which the state apparatus can be put. That being said, I consider Obama’s proposal to be a mockery of real public healthcare, and I find it reprehensible both in theory and in implementation. On top of that, in the context of American politics in particular, it’s also governmental overreach, and today’s court decision seems entirely reasonable to me:

If Congress can penalize a passive individual for failing to engage in commerce, the enumeration of powers in the Constitution would have been in vain.

That seems quite evidently true regardless of what one thinks of the Constitution’s relevance (or of the proposition that the Constitution’s enumeration of powers has been in vain).

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Appropriation Isn’t Respect

15:25 17 Jan 2011

Martin Luther King, Jr., 4 April 1967: “I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today—my own government.”

Full transcript.

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Initial Thoughts on the Giffords Shooting

21:18 10 Jan 2011

I think it’s it’s pointless to speculate about Loughner’s motivations at this point, especially since analyzing his online imprint seems like an exercise in reading tea leaves—is he a right-winger because he likes Ayn Rand, or a leftist because he likes The Communist Manifesto?

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Justice Aphorism

18:51 27 Dec 2010. Updated: 02:24 28 Dec 2010

“The story is told of a Chinese law professor, who was listening to a British lawyer explain that Britons were so enlightened, they believed it was better that ninety-nine guilty men go free than that one innocent man be executed. The Chinese professor thought for a second and asked, ‘Better for whom?’”

I came across this in Eugene Alexander Volokh’s “n Guilty Men”, which I was reading as a result of a longer post I was writing about the problems of dealing with allegations of rape; the question that the apocryphal Chinese professor is disingenuously raising (i.e. whether it’s really better for a society to err on the side of innocence in such matters) is quite central to issues arising out of trying to deal with rape, in evidentiary terms. I bit off a little too much in that post, which is why you’re not seeing it now.

There’s also the question of whether any kind of enforcement mechanism solves more problems than it causes, but rather than ponder that right now I’m instead pondering the injustice of my having to get up in the morning to play Twilight Imperium.

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14:49 26 Dec 2010

There’s a lot to chew on in the WikiLeaks/Assange rape allegations issue, but here are the points uppermost in my mind:

  • While it’s certainly possible that the credibility of the WikiLeaks organization might suffer if Assange is in fact guilty of rape, the question of his guilt in that matter is entirely irrelevant to the morality of what WikiLeaks has done already and to its mission.
  • It’s impossible to tell at media distance whether or not Assange is guilty.
  • I strongly doubt the rape allegations are the result of a “CIA plot” (or equivalent). (Which is not to say that the allegations haven’t been put to use by similar actors, but that’s not the same thing.)
  • It’s wrong to vilify (or out) the accusers.
  • Regardless of the validity of the initial accusations, it seems clear that the legal machinery involved in pursuing Assange is operating quite differently than how it would if not for political considerations—clearly not every person accused of rape in Sweden is treated as he has been.
  • Assange fighting extradition to Sweden is not an indicator of his guilt or innocence in this matter; the same applies to other legal maneuverings his defense team might undertake.
  • Regardless of how this issue plays out, and of how central Assange may have been to the project so far, WikiLeaks clearly needs to decentralize its staffing; having one key figure who reputation is linked to that of the organization seems like too much of a weakness.
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Today’s Public Service Message

09:07 23 Dec 2010

I so so so wish this were satirical.

I’m really at a loss for words with this one. It’s like someone made the Platonic ideal of the “piss Tadhg off” video.

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Inception Berlusconi

21:15 13 Dec 2010

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Fun and Games in the Land of the Free

23:00 06 Dec 2010

The FBI, one of the most prominent domestic secret police agencies here, habitually kept anti-war activists under surveillance—and remember that this report only covers the incidents that another arm of the state brought into the open. In case you thought this could only happen during the dark days of the Bush administration, give up that fantasy: it’s still happening now.

Ah, but surely the terrorist threat is so grave that any “material support”—that sound you heard was the First Amendment being locked in the trunk of a car—or hint thereof must be investigated without concern for legal niceties? Clearly, which is why they have to resort to trying to create terrorist plots that they can then claim credit for “thwarting”. And on the subject of “terrorist plots”, there’s a strong push to designate WikiLeaks a “terrorist organization”—and that, if it comes to pass, will sound like the trunk opening and the First Amendment being repeatedly shot in the head.

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A Brief WikiLeaks Comment

18:25 05 Dec 2010

I’ve been following the situation with WikiLeaks’ release of diplomatic cables fairly closely, and find it rather interesting as an effective use of the internet to fight government control of information. In that sense, it’s a hopeful sign, a demonstration that a relatively small group of people can still resist the forces of the powerful.

On the other hand, the reaction to the release, particularly in the mainstream press here, has been an appalling if unsurprising demonstration of the servility of our political culture.

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This Kind of Thing is Why Catch-22 Rings so True to Life

23:20 05 Nov 2010

A New York City police officer blocks a bike lane in order to then issue tickets to cyclists for not using the bike lane.

Lots of food for anarchist thought in that scenario. I doubt many of my readers would try to justify the cop’s actions, but some of you might try to defend the state here, and more of you would likely defend the concept of the state.

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Racist American Pro Sports Team Names

23:58 04 Nov 2010. Updated: 15:53 13 Oct 2013

I’m perennially surprised at the names of the Washington Redskins and the Cleveland Indians, which are outrageous and somehow still haven’t changed.

I wondered which of the teams had the more racist name, and whether or not they were the most racist pro sports names in the US.

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Let’s Tell Our Neighbors What to Do

23:56 02 Nov 2010

The failure of Proposition 19, the attempt to legalize marijuana in California, isn’t quite as depressing to me as 2008’s passage of anti-gay-marriage Proposition 8. Mainly because I wasn’t that hopeful that 19 would pass—the sentiments behind the prevailing anti-19 vote are as repugnant as those behind the pro-8 vote.

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The Federal Everything Clause

23:28 21 Oct 2010

The US government has never been willing to let mere technicalities impede its actions, as has been evident since at least the reign of Andrew Jackson. Judges are both aware of this and unlikely in any case to fight too hard against the system that has put this in place, and so at the higher levels their job description is something like “convincingly rationalize why the government can do as it pleases”—as can be seen in this article on how much the “Federal Commerce Clause” covers.

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Banksy Starts The Simpsons

23:50 15 Oct 2010

You’ve probably seen this already, as it’s gotten a fair amount of publicity, but just in case:

I love the closing shot, and the overall idea is pretty good, but… there’s something unnerving about it. I know it’s The Simpsons, but still, they go so over the top with it that it undermines serious critique. Is that the point? Is it supposed to undermine that critique? Or is it supposed to power it? Should we be happy because it got on television, or sad because it’s unlikely to make any difference whatsoever? Happier because this particular apparent scathing attack on global capitalism was brought to me by the United Mileage Visa Signature card?

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The Desire to Believe

23:56 05 Oct 2010

Apparently quite a few people believed last year that the Obama administration really was going to seriously try to get a public option included in the health care bill—and, further, continued to believe that they had tried to do so even after no such option appeared. It is now quite clear that this was, so say the least, naive.

What about the desire to believe, though? In the linked article, Glenn Greenwald notes that the column he wrote at the time about Obama’s lack of commitment to the public option generated vast amounts of intense hate mail. Clearly there were many people who really wanted to believe, and who objected strenuously to Greenwald’s attempt to puncture their bubble.

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Teenage Witchcraft

23:50 29 Sep 2010. Updated: 00:29 01 Oct 2010

I’ve mostly ignored Christine O’Donnell up to this point, as it doesn’t surprise me much that a highly active group of Republican Christian paranoiacs could propel one of their own to a Senate candidacy. I also think that she has no chance of winning the seat and as such will fade back into obscurity—unlike, for example, Sarah Palin, who despite everything else seems to have an excellent sense of opportunistic timing. My feelings about O’Donnell were broadly similar to, although less developed than, those outlined in Chris Floyd’s “Circle Jerks: Delaware Distraction Obscures Oval Office Atrocities”.

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I Know, I Know, My Regard for the First Amendment is Touching and Quaint

22:25 21 Sep 2010

The EFF bulletin covers all the salient points. Clearly a “blacklist” with many easy ways to get on it, and few to get off it, is going to create all kinds of problems with abuse. Censorship—even if done in the name of fighting copyright infringement—is a very powerful tool, and many people tend to forget that it grants powers not merely of enforcement but also of definition.

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Courtney Stoker, Patriarchy, and Geek Misogyny

22:26 23 Aug 2010

This is one of the better discussions on prejudice in geek culture that I’ve come across: “Courtney Stoker on Feminist Geek”. I like where Stoker is coming from—perhaps unsurprisingly, for like me she has an academic background in English literature and is also a science fiction fan. But she is far more community-oriented than I am; despite the fact that my geekery goes back decades and despite my involvement in something like Fantasy Bedtime Hour, my engagement with science fiction is primarily either private, or shared through meatspace discussion, or expressed on this blog. None of those things are involvement with large-scale communities such as those Stoker is discussing.

One of the reasons this particular interview with Stoker is important is that she sensibly addresses the influence of anti-geek prejudice on male geeks.

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Controlling Discourse in the Internet Era

13:37 06 Aug 2010

This article on manipulation of Digg stories doesn’t surprise me, but it’s definitely sad, and demonstrates the fragility of online forums (and, perhaps, democratic systems in general). I’m also interested by the dedication of those involved, and their determination to suppress opposing viewpoints—while, naturally, maintaining a sense of persecution.

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Proposition 8 Overturned in California

08:43 05 Aug 2010

Judge Vaughn Walker ruled that the ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional yesterday in San Francisco. The decision has been stayed pending appeal, so no same-sex marriages can go ahead for the moment, but it’s still a step forward.

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Tal Ben-Shahar on Practical Happiness

22:30 08 Jul 2010

Even though Oakland apparently isn’t too bad so far after the Mehserle verdict, thinking about police–protester interactions is depressing, and watching this take on recent events in Toronto didn’t help. So what better than five ways to become happier?

You should follow the link and watch the video, but if you really don’t have time to spare to become happier, a quick summary:

  • Accept emotional pain. It’s indicates that we’re still alive and not psychopathic.
  • Focused time with loved ones. We need it, and we need it without distraction.
  • Regular exercise. We’re not supposed to be sedentary. Even three times a week for thirty–forty minutes helps tremendously.
  • Be grateful. He suggests noting five things you’re grateful for every night.
  • Simplify. Stop trying to jam more and more into less time.

I have experience with some of these, and they work. This includes exercise; the difference it can make is extremely significant. (It doesn’t have to be CrossFit—but do some kind of strenuous exercise three times a week for forty minutes!). I haven’t gotten too far with simplification. The “gratitude journal”, despite its New Age veneer, has some strong evidence behind it. I might try that out.

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Some Recent Web Reading on Economics

22:39 06 Jul 2010

A David Harvey lecture on the recent crises, animated:

An NPR broadcast on how falling real wages have been compensated for by expanding easy credit.

A reminder that money is not real.

Some thoughts on why higher education correlates to higher political self-delusion in Britain. (Also, on why economists and other intellectuals are so likely to construct theories defending even utterly ludicrous levels of inequality.)

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