March 2009

The TV News today:

PAUL SOLMAN: Of all the cultures you’ve studied that have tried to deal with severe economic dislocations, what’s the marker of resiliency?


JARED DIAMOND: It seems to me that one of the predictors of a happy versus an unhappy outcome has to do with the role of the elite or the decision-makers or the politicians or the rich people within the society.

If the society is structured so that the decision-makers themselves suffer from the consequences of their decisions, then they’re motivated to make decisions that are good for the whole society, whereas if the decision-makers can make decisions that insulate themselves from the rest of society, then they’re likely to make decisions that are bad for the rest of society.

PAUL SOLMAN: Case in point, says Diamond, the place they call the city of New Orleans.

JARED DIAMOND: One could ask, why is it that, for 10 years, people around New Orleans dithered and they wouldn’t adopt these plans for a few hundred million dollars to build the dikes? And part of the reason is that there’s geographic segregation in New Orleans, where the rich people live on the higher ground and knew perfectly well that they were less exposed to problems from flooding.

PAUL SOLMAN: Compare that to the Netherlands, he says, where the system of dikes is considered one of the seven wonders of the modern world.

JARED DIAMOND: There aren’t any mansions on top of the dikes. Everybody is living down below in the polders. And they know — the politicians and rich people know that, if the dikes failed, they would drown. [...]

PAUL SOLMAN: But to the extent that this economic dislocation affects the wealthy, that’s good?


JARED DIAMOND: I think I would like to see the rich suffer even more and — and the politicians suffer even more.

PAUL SOLMAN: Because it would be good for us?



JARED DIAMOND: Yes, because they would then be motivated to solve all of our problems, and they wouldn’t have the sense that, “It’ll be OK for us.”

This – along with the need for money – would be a very good reason to make the rich pay for everything.  Also a good reason: because fuck them.  But how to do it?  There are arguments against raising the income tax, particularly during a recession – you should let the wealth trickle down, we shouldn’t do anything to discourage investment, because it’s “class warfare”.  Fine.  Bring back the Death Tax, except this time, bring it back at 100%.

People who become wealthy are certainly very lucky, but they also must have done something which some people consider very useful.  Maybe they are good at business, or very smart, or they can hit a baseball very well, or whatever – I doubt anybody really deserves to make $1 million a year, no matter what they do, but obviously the wallets of America disagree with me here.  But being born rich is not a useful skill, and anyway, most rich kids are huge douchebags (I speak here as an expert, having seen every Bad News Bears movie multiple times).  Think about the rich kids in public life: George W. Bush, Jonah Goldberg, Bill Kristol, George Steinbrenner, Paris Hilton, etc.  Dumb, angry, entitled, douchebags.  So, when you think about it, taking away a burdensome inheritance and forcing them to deal with life’s problems like the rest of us is a kindness, and will help our nation’s fortunate sons and daughters be happier, more productive, and more connected to the lives and concerns of their fellow citizens.  The nasty politics, the drug habits, the superior attitude – these are all signs of profound social and spiritual alienation.  So while society would be taking away “their” money, they would be receiving something infinitely more valuable in return: LOVE.  Because that’s what life is all about.

And also because fuck them.

John Stewart on Cramer:

I can’t think of a single media critic (who doesn’t come from a far-right perspective) who is as consistantly as effective as John Stewart.  He’s not replaceable.  Proof: this comes by way of, which is, by any measure you care to use, not Daily Kos.

No matter how much joy there is in one’s life – and these days, in my little corner of the world, there is a fair bit – one can always find room for more. I find this is especially true when it comes to that most radiant and perfect joy of all Earthly joys: Joy in the Misfortune of Others. Today, the New Republic looks at the latest tear-stained chapter in the sad, sad story of Pajamas Media. Let’s read it together, shall we?

Getting fired is never easy, but the brush-off that bloggers at the Pajamas Media Ad Network received this January was particularly callous. “I just received a Dear John form letter,” says Jeff Goldstein, a libertarian and mixed martial artist who writes on the blog Protein Wisdom.

Aaaaaanyway.  All the bloggers who got fired thinks bossman Roger Simon sold out the Punk Rock Revolution, and Simon doesn’t care because he’s got Joe the Plumber, and it’s all BAAAWWWW and butthurt because everyone was supposed to get filthy rich Photoshopping dicks on Obama’s face or whatever because everybody knows the internet turns retarded into gold.  I’d pay actual money to see them all Ultimate Fight about it, but I suspect all we’ll get is continued bitching about the ever-expanding pool of enemies denying them their Constitutional right to earn a living doing jack shit.

- The Editors is a liberal and hip hop impresario who writes on the blog The Poor Man.

Curv3ball adding:

This just in: Footage from Goldstein’s first mixed martial arts fight.  I believe that’s Jeff sporting the stylish headband.  And nunchucks. 

He’s gonna be rich.  Rich I tell ya.

Climate change.  On the one hand, every scientific body of national or international standing accepts the basic findings of human influence on recent climate change, and mainstream economists are in broad agreement that taking action to reverse or mitigate warming is both affordable and necessary.

On the other hand, the President of the Czech Republic, recalling that sprin 40 years ago when the Soviets sent solar-powered tanks rolling through Prague and forced their radical environmentalism on his country, says it’s a Commie conspiracy.  Who to believe?  If you are a libertarian, the choice is clear.

Now, it does seem odd to randomly accept the ideosyncratic views of an obscure Eastern European leader with no particular expertise in any relevent discipline over the consensus of the overwhelming majority of highly-qualified, dedicated experts, doesn’t it?  HA!  You have fallen for my trap!  By tacitly admitting your befuddlement, you have proven yourself ignorant of the Libertarian Academy, an entire parallel system of intellectual inquery and credentialing completely outside the Commie conspiracy which, since the fall of Communism, has brainwashed or cowed every scientist, every economist, and every world leader but one.  Carefully designed by John Stossel, Leonard Cohen, and the whole gang at Reason magazine, this completely de-pinko-fied list of the foremost Libertarian-approved authorities from in and around New Europe will enable you to Go Galt from the whole collectivist-statist “Knowing What You’re Talking About” global conspiracy!

For expert advice on this tricky question: Simply consult:
What is the latest scientific thinking on global climate change, and what are the best available policy solutions? Václav Klaus
Does a Hilbert curve or z curve achieve better clustering when applied as an access method for an arbitrary spatio-temporal database? A 2/3rds majority of the Kiev Society of Model Airplane Enthusiasts.
Is this lump cancerous? Jaromir Jagr
What is the mass of the tau neutrino? Miss Teen Latvia 1987 (runner-up)
If I receive a refund from taxes payed taxes to a foreign government in FY 2007, do I claim this as income for FY 2008?  Will this retroactively effect my claimed earned income credit in FY 2007? Udo Kier
What are the likely long-term impacts of the new federal stimulus bill on the commodities futures market? t.A.T.u.
Can one usefully apply genetic algorism to multi-hierarchical complex mechanical structure scheme innovation design? Jean-Claude Van Damme, “The Muscles of Brussels”
What are the implications of surjectivity to the study of the exponential maps of Lie groups? Dino Rađa
How did Locke’s “corpuscularian hypothesis” differ from Scholastic-Aristotelianism? Balki Bartokomous

They laughed at Gallileo too, you know.  That’s what Klaus Kinski told me, anyways.

Now that Baracksebub has opened the way for the widespread slaughter  and devouring of melting snowflakes and various other to-be-discarded embryo-persons (an executive order worse than torture btw), can a brother get a stem-cell infused cure for baldness already? 

I mean, whodda thunk that back in 1985 when I was scoffing at all the bald people who I safely assumed would represent the last generation with dome-shine that lo this many years later there would still be no fucking cure for baldness?  Simple baldness. 

Technological progress is clearly overrated. 

As for me, I’m teetering on a precipice.  I’ve got about a year or two (three tops) before my hair goes John Galt once and for all.  As of now, my hair’s just refusing to tip waitresses

And since tis the season to bless very serious troop buildups, and the permanent bases that love em, dear neocons and assorted COINdanistas: Whither mysurge?  How about some fancy COIN doctrine for the thinning ranks manning my cranial maginot line?  If I go bald, the terrorists will have one, and considering how close my hair line is to Pakistan, well, I’m sure you can see where I’m going with the whole regional stability thingy.  Did I mention 9/11? 

No, this won’t be an easy fight.  I expect a horde of self-centered whiners with various maladies – from Alzheimer’s to Parkinson’s (Michael J. Fox I’m looking at your fakin ass) - to try to guilt scientists into addressing their concerns first.  But really, this isn’t all about them.

We can’t afford distractions at this most fraught of moments.  Just as Obama is clearly doing too much by focusing on the economy and revoking Bush’s stem cell rule at the very same time, so too do the science doing folks risk spreading themselves thin by trendy causes hyped by Big Hollywood Liberals. 

Priorities people.  And hair in a fuckin bottle.  Plus some single payer health insurance to pay for it.

Science cannot explain those outfits.  Even with computers.

I’m back:

Since the election, I – and I am sure I am not alone here – have been suffering from a serious case of pony fatigue.  Back in my day, some piddling perjury charge against a Cheney lackey was cause for wild celebration.  Now, every day brings an utter reversal of some atrocious Bush policy, today delegitimizing entire classes of precedent with a wave of his hand, and I can’t even be bothered to keep track on my Nü Media internet web-log.  The Republicans are politically and ideologically vanquished, in disorderly retreat, and at present are trying to unite around a positive and forward-looking agenda of impeaching Earl Warren.  I give it 6 months before they break out the giant papier-mâché protest puppets.  Good times, man, good times.  I will never vote for a white President again.

But I am disturbed from my pony stupor.  Dahlia Lithwick lays out some of the possible rationales for Obama’s seeming unwillingness to reverse the expansively secretive Bush approach in Global War On Whatever civil liberties cases.  She neglects to consider the obvious one, of course, which is that preserving these precedents will make it that much easier when it comes time to dissappear gun-owners and surrender the USA to The People’s Homoslamic Republic of Afro-Aztlan.  Allahu Eric Estrada!

There is, additionally, the diplomatic problem.  The idea that the US shipped prisoners to torture facilities in foreign countries without the active complicity of the governments of those countries is not credible.  The idea that the US could “render” prisoners out of and through a dozen close European allies without their active cooperation is similarly not credible.  It is easy to imagine the heartburn that could develop if foreign leaders found themselves publicly embarrassed for being cooperative with the US government.  The Bush administration made a big deal of its ‘unilateralism’, but they were always careful to assemble Coalitions of the Willing, making any legal move as diplomatically dangerous as possible, and implicating as many others as possible in their actions.

Another likely reason: it would be very, very difficult to limit any thorough investigation of Bush-era “rendition” and torture to Bush administration officials.  I have enormous respect for the breadth and depth of Sen. Jay Rockefeller’s ignorance and stupidity, but the idea that he – or other Democratic worthies – were completely out of the loop here is just not credible.  And, specious or not, discussion of the similarities between Clinton-era policies, the Obama approach, and the Bush torture regime would not reflect well on current denizens of the Executive branch.  I’m not saying Jane Harman personally ran the waterboard or that Richard Clarke had any actual input in objectionable Bush policies.  But, if people started really digging, it could look bad.

Then again, I’m not in any position to say they weren’t, either, as the true story has never been revealed.  As far as I actually know, Sen. Jay Rockefeller owns a pair of Osama nipple clamps and spent every evening since November ’01 jacking off to a closed circuit feed of “enhanced interrogations” from Gitmo.  If these folks are hoping to avoid embarrassment, it’s a bit late – the stink is already all over you.  The best thing to do now is come clean.  The alternative is to leave the extent your involvement to my imagination, and, after 8 years of this goddamned insane evil motherfucking bullshit, my imagination isn’t feeling very generous.

Right after the election, I pegged the chance that we’d ever have a real accounting of the Bush torture/wiretapping/US attorney firings/God-knows-what-else shannanigans at about 15%.  Today, despite Obama’s flip-floppy ideas about transparency, I’ll be damned if I don’t put it at about even money.  Part of the reason is that some of the above-mentioned Democratic worthies actually – surprisingly – appear willing to fight for a full investigation.  Part of the reason is Obama’s generally-encouraging record leads me to the audacious hope that the cases Lithwick cites represent the exception, rather than the trend.  And part of the reason is – let’s be honest here – I haven’t had  full night’s sleep in 2 months, and I am perhaps a teensy bit drunk.  But, if you all are going to do it, now’s the time.  There’s no guarantee that, in 6 months, you will be riding as high, or the Republicans will be so ineffectual.  For the country, for yourselves, for the victims, please do the right thing.

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