Posts Tagged ‘Reason’

Must-Reads of the Week: SWAT, Google’s News Plans, MTA Motto, Peanuts, Tea Party Feminism, Republican Pravda, Fiscal Hangover, New York’s Tyranny, Brooks on the Military, and Facebook Backlash

Friday, May 14th, 2010

1. SWAT antics. Radley Balko does some follow-up reporting on the now infamous video of the SWAT team raid in Missouri in which 2 dogs were shot:

[D]espite all the anger the raid has inspired, the only thing unusual thing here is that the raid was captured on video, and that the video was subsequently released to the press. Everything else was routine… Raids just like the one captured in the video happen 100-150 times every day in America.

2. Google’s News Plans. James Fallows discusses how Google is trying to save the news industry.

3. If you see something… Manny Fernandez in the New York Times discusses the impact and coinage of the ubiquitous phrase, “If you see something, say something.”

It has since become a global phenomenon — the homeland security equivalent of the “Just Do It” Nike advertisement — and has appeared in public transportation systems in Oregon, Texas, Florida, Australia and Canada, among others. Locally, the phrase captured, with six simple words and one comma, the security consciousness and dread of the times, the “I ♥ NY” of post-9/11 New York City. [my emphasis]

4. Artful Grief. Bill Waterson — creator of Calvin & Hobbes — reviewed a biography of Charles Schultz for the Wall Street Journal a few years ago — writing on the ‘Grief’ that Made Peanuts Good. It’s several years old but well worth reading.

5. Tea Party Feminism. Hanna Rosin of Slate evaluates the Tea Party as a feminist movement. And her reporting surprised me at least.

6. Republican Pravda. Jonathan Chait collects a few Weekly Standard covers to illustrate the changing right-wing portrayal of Obama over the past year. He identifies the passage of the health care bill as a turning point:

Now that Obama has won his biggest legislative priority and is closing in on at least one other important win, the tone is change. The hapless patsy has become the snarling bully. The lack of Republican support for Obama’s agenda, once a credit to Republican tough-mindedness, is now blamed upon Obama’s stubbornness. Here is a recent cover of Obama–the nefarious, but powerful, overseer…

7. Fiscal Hangover. Gillian Tett of the Financial Times explains the successful approach the Irish are taking to their fiscal crisis: treat it like a hangover.

8. The Tyranny of New York. Conor Friedersdof complains about the tyranny of New York — but I will excerpt his praise:

Even if New York is a peerless American city, an urban triumph that dwarfs every other in scale, density, and possibility; even if our idea of it is the romantic notion that Joan Didion described, “the mysterious nexus of all love and money and power, the shining and perishable dream itself;” even if you’ve reveled in the fact of the city, strutting down Fifth Avenue in a sharp suit or kissing a date with the skyline as backdrop while the yellow cab waits; even if you’ve drunk from the well of its creative springs, gazing at the Flatiron Building, or paging through the New York Review of Books on a Sunday morning, or living vicariously through Joseph Mitchel or E.B. White or Tom Wolfe or any of its countless chroniclers; even if you love New York as much as I do, revering it as the highest physical achievement of Western Civilization, surely you can admit that its singularly prominent role on the national scene is a tremendously unhealthy pathology.

Despite the rent, the cold, the competition, the bedbugs, the absurd requirements for securing even a closet-sized pre-war apartment on an inconvenient street; the distance from friends and family, the starkness of the sexual marketplace, the oppressive stench of sticky subway platforms in the dog days of August; despite the hour long commutes on the Monday morning F Train, when it isn’t quite 8 am, the week hardly underway, and already you feel as though, for the relief of sitting down, you’d just as soon give up, go back to Akron or Allentown or Columbus or Marin County or Long Beach — despite these things, and so many more, lawyers and novelists and artists and fashion designers and playwrights and journalists and bankers and aspiring publishers and models flock to New York City.

I don’t quite get Friedersdof’s complaint to be honest. What would be improved if there were more sitcoms taking place in Houston?

9. Military Flow Chart. David Brooks analyzes the military’s adaptation of counterinsurgency as a case study in the flow of ideas in entrenched organizations.

10. Facebook Backlash. Ryan Singel of Wired has one of many pieces in the past week fomenting the growing Facebook backlash:

Facebook has gone rogue, drunk on founder Mark Zuckerberg’s dreams of world domination. It’s time the rest of the web ecosystem recognizes this and works to replace it with something open and distributed.

[Image by me.]

Must-Reads of the Week: A history lesson, Reconciling Chart, Theism, Starbucks, the New Global Middle Class, the Beijing Consensus, and the Traitorous Supreme Court

Friday, March 12th, 2010

A history lesson in ramming through one piece of legislation. Ezra Klein gives a short history lesson describing the tactics used by Republicans to “ram through” the Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit.

Reconciling chart. The New York Times provides a chart of all the times reconciliation has been used.

Theism. Andrew Sullivan provides a beautiful quote from David Foster Wallace making what may be the best case for theism generally that I’ve seen.

Starbucks. Greg Beato for Reason has an interesting if annoying skewed take on Starbucks and its attempts to stay hip. His history and overall point is interesting, but the point of view he injects, his contempt for his less capitalist brethren, is irritating.

The New Global Middle Class. Rana Foroohar and Marc Margolis in Newsweek describe the new “global middle class” which “is more unstable and less liberal than we thought.” The examples they give are rather frustrating though. Brazil’s middle class is described as “more unstable and less liberal” because they applaud “more state control of the oil industry to keep out greedy foreign firms” and that “they don’t need outside advice on how to structure their societies, thank you.” The Russian middle class’s support for Putin and the Chinese support of the Beijing consensus are also cited and are much better examples proving their point. An interesting article, that touches on some gradually evolving issues in a way that most articles do not – but it seems to harness facts to reach their end rather than allow the facts to dictate the result.

The Beijing Consensus. Yang Yao in Foreign Affairs speculates that the Beijing Consensus – “a combination of mixed ownership, basic property rights, and heavy government intervention” - may be eroding. And as “the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) lacks legitimacy in the classic democratic sense,” and “has been forced to seek performance-based legitimacy instead, by continuously improving the living standards of Chinese citizens,” the end of this consensus would lead to “greater democratization.”

The Traitorous Supreme Court. Orin Kerr at the Volokh Conspiracy takes on the Andrew McCarthy/Liz Cheney line of attack calling those attorneys currently in the Justice Department who represented some of those branded terrorists by the Bush administration asking this question:

Does McCarthy think the Justices of the Supreme Court are guilty of aiding the enemy, and that (if we treat them like everybody else) they should be “indicted for coming to the enemy’s aid during wartime”?

[Image by me.]

Must-Reads: Uighurs, Gay in Middle School, Vidal, Larison, the Public Option, and the End of Pax Americana

Friday, October 2nd, 2009

The Worst of the Worst? Del Quinton Wilber tells the story of two of the “worst of the worst,” the Uighur brothers Bahtiyar Mahnut and Arkin Mahmud. Neither brother was affiliated with the Taliban or Al Qaeda or had any reason to bear ill will towards the United States before their long detention. Bahtiyar, the younger brother, recently turned down an offer from the nation of Palau to leave Guantanamo to stay and look after his older brother, who was captured and turned over to the United States only because he went searching for his brother at their parents’ request. Arkin is the only one of the Uighurs not to be invited to Palau because he has developed serious mental health issues while in American custody.

How Things Change. Benoit Denizet-Lewis in the New York Times wrote on Sunday about a new reality that would have been unimaginable even a decade ago – of gay and lesbian middle schoolers coming out. It’s hard to describe how moving the piece was in how it so clearly suggested progress (reporting on the happy side of the news without focusing on the bad.) Slate’s Culture Gabfest followed up with an excellent discussion of the issues suggested by the piece – and even managed to link it to Fox’s new hit Glee. (Relating to the link to Slate’s Culture Gabfest, I must apologize for the lack of a direct one. The podcast doesn’t seem to be posted anywhere that accessible, but if you search for or subscribe to Slate’s iTunes podcast feed, it will be readily accessible.) Relating to Glee and gay youth, I would also recommend this interview of the creator of Glee by Terry Gross.

Gore Vidal. I’m not sure I agree with anything Gore Vidal said in his interview with Tim Teeman for the Times of London, but he proved interesting time and again, speaking of his long series of supportive letters to Timothy McVeigh, his disappointment with Obama, and his conviction that America is “rotting away at a funereal pace” and that a military dictatorship is coming. His opinions carry a unique weight given his proximity to so many centers of power in his time – from presidents to Hollywood to the media, and his series of perspectives on the matter, as historian, intellectual, novelist, activist.

A Hawk versus a Sane Person. Daniel Larison demonstrates once again thatThe American Conservative is one of the few magazines out there providing a coherent conservative worldview instead of mere anti-Obama bile with his post comparing Obama’s and Bush’s foreign policies:

What conservative critics ignore and what Andrew only touches on towards the end is that the Bush administration oversaw setback after failure after defeat for American influence and power. Iran has become a far more influential regional power thanks to the folly of Bush’s invasion of Iraq, democracy fetishists helped to strengthen the hold of Hamas in Gaza to the detriment of Palestinians and Israelis, and Russophobes helped to encourage Saakashvili’s recklessness with talk of NATO membershop and provoked Russian ire with the recognition of Kosovo that led to thede facto permanent partition of an American ally. Hawks have routinely unleashed forces they do not understand, cannot control and are unwilling to contain, and they still have the gall to shout “Appeasement!” when someone else tries to repair some small measure of the damage they have done. Compared to this partial list of Bush’s major failures, Obama has done reasonably well simply by not persisting in some of his predecessor’s errors, but it is far too early to speak of success or payoff and it is a mistake to measure Obama’s success in the way that his supporters wish to do. [my emphasis]

The secret to understanding where so many conservative and right wing publications have failed is their failure to acknowledge – as Jesse Walker of the libertarian Reason magazine does that “Obama is no radical.”

The Dearth of Support for the Very Popular Public Option. Ezra Klein continues his excellent health care blogging with a post describing the problem of the distribution of support for the public option. Klein explains:

It’s not a coincidence that the chamber representing the American people will pass a bill including the public option while the chamber representing American acreage is likely to delete it. The public option has majority support. But a lot of that popularity comes because a lot of people live in liberal centers like California and New York. It actually doesn’t have a majority in Nebraska, where not very many people live, or, I’d guess, in North Dakota, where even fewer people live. In the American political system, it’s not enough to be popular among the voters. You also have to be popular among wide swaths of land. Didn’t you watch “Schoolhouse Rock”?

The political answer this suggests is to allow individual states (or states banding together) to create a public option within their borders – which not coincidentally is exactly where the debate is now headed.

Pax Americana. Michael Lind at Salon describes the end of Pax Americana. Lind gives short shrift however to defenders of American empire – never clearly articulating their point of view as he attempts to debunk it. For a rather effective defense of the alternate point of view, I would look to Niall Ferguson’s excellent Colossus: The Price of America’s Empire. (Ferguson is rather influential among conservative circles, and was one of McCain’s advisors in the 2008 election.)

[Image not subject to copyright.]

Protests Against Liberals Running the Gov’t (cont.)

Tuesday, September 15th, 2009

I should have made a bit more clear in my post yesterday that Andrew Sullivan was well aware of the contradictions within the right wing response to Obama – and had articulated a coherent response to them from his conservative, Oakshottian perspective earlier yesterday in a post I had printed out to read. He did reach a bit too far in seeing that particular silver lining to this movement though.

The main problem is that this right wing movement is still somewhat amorphous. Lydia DePillis of The New Republic had this dispatch from the D.C. protest this past weekend explaining the core complaint of the movement:

Their complaint? Hard to say, really. Some, like the contingent of coal miners in hard hats with anti-cap-and-trade signs, had a concrete beef with the administration. But for most, there was both an incredible specificity to their protestations–all those czars, and ACORN, and Obama’s missing birth certificate–and a fuzzy vagueness.

“We’re losing America,” said Kris, from Maryland. “Government is trying to take over everything.”

It’s one thing I have noticed as well – both the specificity of what they are outraged over and the sense that the tawdry specifics don’t explain the rising crescendo of outrage.

Matt Welch – editor in chief of Reason magazine – tried to defend the protestors against liberals attempts to write them off – and to defend them against charges of racism. He does so by misrepresenting two liberal responses to the protests and then knocking down the strawmen he creates – which is about par for the course in terms of New York Post op-eds, but I expect more of Welch whose work I often enjoy. Welch would have done better to explain what he found most of the protestors stood for, but I suspect he would have had the same difficulty DePillis did.

So, instead, he writes that “popular left blogger Josh Marshall reported from his armchair” that this was a “Small protest.” Welch declines to link to Marshall’s post saying such – probably because if he had, readers might have found that this was one in a series of posts by Marshall and others at the TalkingPointsMemo covering the size of the crowd, and that Marshall had concluded his post with the D.C. Fire Department’s estimate of 60,000 to 70,000 saying the protest was “smallish by big DC protest/event standards but definitely respectable.”

Welch then goes on to say that the Center for American Progress claimed that the protest was marred by “racist, radical portrayals of Obama.” Welch has this to say about the evidence presented by Think Progress:

Among the dozen or so pieces of evidence? A placard claiming, “Ayn Rand is right,” and one of President Obama with the caption, “When his lips move . . . he’s lying.”

Once again – an extremely misleading selection by Welch given the main signs focused on by the piece, including this one:

Welch could have made the argument that focusing on these people was misrepresenting the crowd – but instead he choose to made a much less defensible point.

Nothing Welch says challenges the point I made yesterday – that right wingers are fans of big government run by christianist right wingers, but wary of any type of government run by liberals, such that even pragmatic, incremental, modest Obamaism is seem as a radical assault on their children:

The protests aren’t about the size of government or its role; they are a viceral response to the fact that a liberal now runs the government. That frustration is rooted in cultural and social issues, rather than economic ones.

There are libertarians who legitimately object to big governmen (Ron Paul and Matt Welch himself come to mind), and I can respect their views even if I disagree – but they don’t seem to be well-represented in the Tea Party movement, in the Republican Party, in the bulk of the emotional resistance to Obama.

The Federal Reserve, Henry Gates, Popular Policies, Health Care, Krugman on Cap and Trade, and High Times

Friday, July 24th, 2009

1. Down with the Fed! William Greider suggests we “dismantle the temple” that is the Federal Reserve in a piece this week. Greider is not only one of my favorite authors and one of the best writers on economics, he is also one of the foremost experts on the Federal Reserve. They key problem for Greider is that the Federal Reserve is an essentially anti-democratic institution:

The Federal Reserve is the black hole of our democracy – the crucial contradiction that keeps the people and their representatives from having any voice in these most important public policies.

Ezra Klein gives the piece a symapthetic audience, but then explains his reservations:

[F]or a period of time, Ben Bernanke ran our economy under a monetarist’s version of martial law. And the really problematic thing is that it probably worked. It may be all that saved us. You could argue that in the absence of the Federal Reserve, Congress would have been a whole lot more aggressive and responsible because Bernanke wouldn’t have been there to backstop them. But would you really want to bet the U.S. economy on it?

2. Sanity on the Henry Gates Controversy. Jacob Sullum in Reason‘s Hit ‘n’ Run blog gives what I think to be the essential take-away from the Gates fiasco:

[E]ven if we accept the facts as presented by Crowley, it’s clear he abused his authority, whether or not the color of Gates’ skin had anything to do with it.

Let’s say Gates did initially refuse to show his ID (an unsurprising response from an innocent man confronted by police in his own home). Let’s say he immediately accused Crowley of racism, raised his voice, and behaved in a “tumultuous” fashion. Let’s say he overreacted. So what? By Crowley’s own account, he arrested Gates for dissing him.

3. The Appearance of Bipartisanship Creates Popularity. Matt Yglesias has an interesting piece exploring the difference between how the media treats the relationship between public opinon, Congress, and policy issues and how that relationship actually works.

4. Imitation is the Sincerest Form of Flattery. Ezra Klein points out that one passage from Obama’s speech Wednesday night seemed to be taking arguments directly from articles by Steven Pearlstein and David Leonhardt this week that got a lot of traction in the blogosphere. Both columns are worth reading even independent of their apparent influence on the Obama administration’s tactics.

5. Krugman on Cap and Trade Speculation. Paul Krugman takes on doubters encouraged by Matt Taibbi’s piece describing cap-and-trade as a giant scheme:

The solution to climate change must rely to an important extent on market mechanisms — it’s too complex an issue to deal with using command-and-control. That means accepting that some people will make money out of trading — and that yes, sometimes trading will go bad. So? We’ve got a planet at stake; it’s crazy to cut off our future to spite Goldman Sachs’s face.

6. A Laid-back Beat. Lastly, I came across this song in an episode of the British series Skins this week:

[Photo by me.]

Brink Lindsey v. Paul Krugman

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2009

Last night taking the train home, I started reading Brink Lindsey’s essay in Reason countering Paul Krugman’s analysis of inequality in American history – and specifically what has caused inequality to worsen.

Now – my head was a bit fuzzy as I have a pretty bad head cold at the moment – but I found Lindsey’s argument was rather persuasive. Surprisingly so – as I’ve cited Krugman’s arguments on this issue many times on this blog (including here and here). I also recognize Lindsey’s phrase describing Krugman’s view holds an essential truth about this progressive understanding. I myself tried to express this – in a way to diffuse the charges of socialism during the campaign – “Leave It To Beaver Socialism.”  Here’s my description of the goal of Obamanomics:

Obama’s economic plan is not about socialism or revolution or any such radicalism. He’s not that type of politician. The goal of his Obamanomics (if you will) is not a socialist paradise or a European-style market socialism but a restoration of the economic justice that made 1950s and 1960s America so stable. Unless you think Leave It To Beaver took place in a socialist nation, then Obama’s economic plans shouldn’t strike you as far left.

At the time, I both recognized the power of postulating an ideal past which we should hearken back to – and understood that this is the root of reactionary politics. There is a proper way to understand history – and to try to achieve a balance that once existed. But very easily, with a slight misstep, you find you are trying to recreate a now defunct world – which is the founding myth that every reactionary subscribes to.

Lindsey concludes his essay:

[R]easonable people disagree hotly about what ought to be done to ensure that our prosperity is widely shared. But the caricature of postwar history put forward by Krugman and other purveyors of nostalgianomics won’t lead us anywhere. Reactionary fantasies never do.

Powerful stuff, true or not. And it is certainly making me reevaluate my understanding of the historical causes of inequality in 20th century America. I’ll have to read the essay again with a more clear mind. I tried looking for a progressive debunking of the essay – but all I found were attacks on Lindsey or Reason or libertarianism.

To be clear though – I haven’t abandoned my Krugman-inspired view of the economic history of 20th century America yet – and Lindsey’s argument was better at poking holes in the story offered by Krugman than giving a convincing portrait of its own. I suspect the truth may be found by accepting that liberal and conservative policies together led to the growing inequality we are experiencing today.

The Collapse of the Republican Consensus

Monday, October 27th, 2008

In the event of a Republican bloodbath a week from this coming Tuesday, a battle is clearing brewing between competing visions of the Republican party – neoconservatives, the National Greatness Conservatives, the libertarians, and the christianists.

It should be interesting to watch – and I make no claim to specials powers of vaticination.

David Brooks’s last column was especially poignant – as he points out that the Republicans in this election have ceded the center and abandoned the legacy of Alexander Hamilton, Abraham Lincoln, and Teddy Roosevelt. He has been speaking for some time of the need for a pro-government conservative movement – which he calls National Greatness Conservatism.

Meanwhile, Radley Balko, editor of Reason, editorializes that the Republicans must lose so that in their time in the wilderness they can become, once again, the party of limited government.

I don’t think both of these visions can work together very well – as Bush’s neoconservative/christianist presidency demonstrated.