Posted by Brad @ 4:20 pm on July 30th 2012

I Don’t Care About…

The political philosophy of Batman. Seriously, why is this something anybody would post about?

Posted by Brad @ 4:15 pm on July 30th 2012

Jonah Lehrer

I’m not a big fan of the Malcolm Gladwell movement in non-fiction – the one that uses pithy and overgeneralized color stories as tapestries to make one large, philosophical, and, when you distil it down, idiotically self-evident point. I’m inherently uncomfortable with them in the same way I am self-help or business management books – which is to say I do agree they can have value, and some of the authors (including Gladwell) are great writers, and there’s nothing wrong with reading something like that in an effort to clarify your own thinking, but for the most part I think readers seek them out for “truth” and instead get spoon-fed platitudes dressed up as wisdom – platitudes which are usually either well-worn truisms or cliches or, worse, the deliberate inversion of such to be “counter-intuitive”.

But, I also don’t quite get the shadenfreude surrounding Lehrer. Perhaps we’ve just reached the tipping point with these kinds of authors.

But in any event, Lehrer’s death by a thousand cuts regarding his journalistic ethics and Imagine continues, with this being a particularly bad gash if true.

Update: And apparently it is, as Lehrer’s resigned from the New Yorker. Maybe he can go on tour with James Frey – I’ve heard quite good things about his The Final Testament of the Holy Bible.

Posted by Rojas @ 11:43 am on July 30th 2012

Jordyn Wieber didn’t build that gym

I cannot figure out why so many Americans are outraged this morning by the exclusion of world champion gymnast Jordyn Wieber from the Olympic All-Around final. It is perfectly reasonable–indeed, necessary in egalitarian terms–that the rules of gymnastics permit only two competitors from any one country in the final round of competition, and that Wieber’s spot is being redistributed to some less fortunate gymnast from a less advantaged country.

Let’s not pretend that Wieber’s accomplishment were the product of her own intrinsic ability alone. After all, it’s not like she crafted that balance beam in wood shop, or invented the moves contained in her floor exercise. All of her achievements rely on the infrastructure developed by gymnastics in general, and all of her skills they were taught to her by members of a community which values equal competition first and foremost.

Wieber didn’t “earn” that spot in the all-around final; yes, she worked towards it, but her achievements are based primarily in good fortune and unique opportunities that the other competitors never had. How many Italian gymnasts had access to elite coaching? How many Irish gymnasts had the opportunity to train in an elite facility? Who is to say that the 25th-place gymnast who took Wieber’s place in the all-around final would not have done equally well with the same opportunities?

I salute the community of gymnastics for recognizing that it is more just to ensure a diverse and egalitarian distribution of opportunities in the Olympic final. Let us hope that the community sees fit take further steps towards keeping the 1% from dominating the activity, perhaps by restricting the number of finals competitors per country to one. Perhaps in this manner we can finally isolate a sphere of human competition that is immune to the ever-metastasizing threat of Rumanian hegemony.

Posted by Brad @ 10:20 am on July 27th 2012

Mitt Romney’s Refreshingly Authentic Gaffe

Dave Weigel has a smart take on Romneyshambles (his London Olympic gaffe), wherein he notes that, unlike most campaign “gaffes”, which are essentially out-of-context quotes that don’t offend anybody until oppo campaigns and the media report on how much it offends people, Mitt’s Olympics gaffe was actually what gaffes used to be – not rival talking points based on a five word digression, but rather a politician saying something stupidly and offending people. That’s more a testament to the stupidity of American election coverage that then actual offensiveness of Romney’s remark, but still.

Posted by Brad @ 12:14 pm on July 26th 2012

Progressives for Audit the Fed

Ron Paul’s this-time non-watered-down version of Audit the Fed passed yesterday 327-98. The only people that opposed it were, essentially, Democratic leadership. It does not look likely to pass the Senate, and even if it did, Obama would veto it.

Which is a curious thing, really, as the biggest political movement within liberalism these last few years has been Occupy Wall Street (otherwise known as the Left’s Tea Party, just with more media gushing but less political effectiveness), and in general the movement, typified by people like Elizabeth Warren or rhetoric relating to the 1%, against corporate cronyism and Too Big To Fail institutions screwing the little guy. Ironically, that’s a movement that has some hold in conservatism as well, which certainly prays at the alter of capitalism but at the same time shares much of the left’s outrage at government giveaways and largesse to giant corporate entities – although neither side seems inclined to acknowledge that overlap.

Anyway, Glenn Greenwald has a nice post up explaining why Ron Paul’s Audit the Fed coalition is backed up in large measure by the Democratic party’s most progressive members, but that it is Democratic party leadership that will kill it. This, despite the fact that even the watered-down 2010 version of the Audit the Fed bill wound up more than earning its keep, discovering the the Fed loaned or gave away $16 trillion – I say again, trillion – to giant corporations and financial institutions, both foreign and domestic, that we mostly didn’t know about. One would imagine loaning out $16 trillion in the midst of a massive recession and debt crisis would be worth, you know, being kind of transparent about.

That is not the view of President Obama, however. The ultimate irony here is his belief, which is the establishment belief generally, that potentially subjecting the Federal Reserve to national politics cripples its ability to make critical decisions – that this is apparently not an issue with health care is cognitive dissonance on the level of the Republicans’ “government does not work at all unless it’s one we set up at gunpoint in a foreign country”. That is also, incidentally, Obama’s basic view on war and law enforcement powers, although in that he joins the GOP.

In any case, I remain a bit staggered by Democrats’ disinclination to hold their President accountable even in case where he is actively opposed to their fundamental principles and actively working to dismantle them in governance, in the same way I was staggered when it was the Republicans and Bush. But I think I’m officially at the point now where I’m no longer going to accept any charges of hypocrisy from the Andrew Sullivans of the world screaming “where were the Tea Partiers when Bush was doing X?!!”

Posted by Brad @ 4:38 pm on July 25th 2012

Immigrant-Friendly Cities

While Arizona has gotten all the headlines, a number of other American locations – mostly rust-belt cities – have flung open their doors. Dayton, OH, Detroit, MI, and Chicago, IL, have notably explicitly invited immigrants, without particular concern for their legality. But the real welcome mat may have been laid out by Baltimore, MD, and its mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake.

In March, Rawlings-Blake signed an order prohibiting police and social agencies from asking anyone about immigration status. The order also says no city funds, resources, or personnel shall be used to investigate or arrest people solely for a civil violation of federal immigration law. And it asks U.S. immigration agents to tell people they arrest that they are from the federal government, not the city.

Incidentally, I love Baltimore. Great city – I go there quite a bit.

But more to the point, I love this. I am, in most cases, a rule of law guy, but frankly our immigration laws are so f-ed up – and so conducive to NOT coming in legally – and our demagoguery is so revolting, that I find myself much more on Baltimore’s side than Arizona’s. Immigrants, including illegal immigrants, are so overwhelmingly good for the country that I don’t even know that it particularly merits a debate. For every politician in America, every immigration debate seems to start with “you have to secure the border first”. I take a different tack. I think every immigration debate has to start with “you have to drastically and immediately expand legal immigration opportunities”, and the first hint that most immigration debates do not revolve around law and order but in fact revolve around just plain old fashioned dislike of immigrants is that virtually nobody influential even broaches that topic.

Anyway, good for Baltimore.

Posted by Brad @ 1:07 pm on July 25th 2012

Great Moments in News Article Writing

So, this story is important in its own right. In New Brunswick, New Jersey, a super went into one of his building’s apartments, only to find it had no clothes, no furniture, but pictures of terrorists, surveillance of neighboring buildings, and NYPD police radios.

So the guy called 911, and the FBI and New Jersey PD came out in a hurry. Turns out, the NYPD were running surveillance operations in New Jersey without telling anybody. The AP sued to get the 911 tapes, which were released today.

This probably isn’t technically illegal (although it’s borderline enough that I wouldn’t want it being acid tested if I were the NYPD), but does underscore the tremendous security state that is being built not only by the federal government, but by a confusing, overlapping, and not necessarily coordinated patchwork of law enforcement entities across the country, all with various levels of accountability from none to almost none to nobody knows. The NYPD in particular, in important ways, now functions less like a local law enforcement agency and much more like a security state unto itself – critically, one that does not feel itself confined to its, you know, jurisdiction or beholden to, you know, jurisdictional or command limitations (the FBI exists precisely so local law enforcement agencies can coordinate and continue their work across state lines).

And this was all uncovered, leading to an incredible embarrassment to the NYPD and possibly to backlash from federal agencies and neighboring jurisdictions, because some New Jersey super (named Sheth) called 911.

Although, as that hyperlinked article above helpfully points out:

New York authorities have encouraged people like Sheth to call 911. In its “Eight Signs of Terrorism,” people are encouraged to call the police if they see evidence of surveillance, information gathering, suspicious activities or anything that looks out of place.

Kudos to the AP writers for dropping that gem in there.

Posted by Brad @ 11:09 am on July 25th 2012

A News Story Representing Something that is Awesome and Horribly Foreboding

Private company is planning to colonize Mars. Is going to hold a lottery to pick the first colonists, who will then be sent on a one-way trip. Perhaps will plan a reality show around choosing the crew, who, again, will be shot at Mars with no capacity to return.

“In theory, it is less complex to get people back to Earth once you have a sustainable settlement on Mars,” Lansdorp told FoxNews.com. “However, our astronauts will be offered a one-way trip. We have no idea when it will be possible to offer return tickets.”

What could possibly go wrong? Besides, I mean, the premise of every claustrophobic space horror movie/novel ever.

It’s not just a crazy rich Dutch guy, either. Let’s not forget that NASA also let slip it was considering a Hundred Year Starship to shoot out at Mars full of people.

Posted by Brad @ 9:49 am on July 25th 2012

Apparantly Molesting Children Provides Football Programs with an Unfair Competitive Advantage

A little late on this, but still.

I’m normally a big fan of private associations – that’s even more the case when they are bodies wherein entities gather together to self-regulate as a way of keeping the government out of it. But something about the NCAA has always rubbed me the wrong way, and their action with Penn State has left me vaguely annoyed.

What the hell does the NCAA have to do with off-field criminal activity? The real tragedy here is that molesting kids goes against NCAA bylaws?

I don’t mean to be flip, and for the record I could give a toss about Penn State, football, Penn State football, or any combination therein. But how does the NCAA have any jurisdiction here, and why would they try to? If a basketball player shoots somebody at a party some Friday night, it’s not up to the NCAA to investigate and punish. It’s a criminal matter. Even in this specific instance, what the hell does the NCAA expect to achieve with its punishment not already achieved by criminal and public punishment? To really deter future assistant coaches from molesting kids lest they get their program’s wins vacated?

The punishment by the NCAA is really all about the NCAA, not children, Penn State, or anything else. It’s purely a relevance move, to make sure that everybody understands that yeah the Commonwealth of PA, the board at Penn State, and, you know, law enforcement have their place. But really, it’s the NCAA that you answer to. And don’t you forget it.

Posted by Brad @ 12:14 pm on July 24th 2012

The Myth of Vote Fraud Laid Bare in PA

Voter ID laws are a big issue right now in Pennsylvania. Generally, electorates – current voters – are perfectly amenable to these laws, which is why they pass pretty easy. For most people, A. the myth that a lack of voter ID opens the door for rampant fraud is an unquestioned premise, and B. people with valid IDs don’t understand what the big deal is – just get an ID, dirtbag.

PA is an interesting test case, as it is now receiving a constitutional challenge. That requires the Commonwealth to submit briefs and answer questions with quantifiable, verifiable truth, which forces them to concede the following:

The state signed a stipulation agreement with lawyers for the plaintiffs which acknowledges there “have been no investigations or prosecutions of in-person voter fraud in Pennsylvania; and the parties do not have direct personal knowledge of any such investigations or prosecutions in other states.”

Additionally, the agreement states Pennsylvania “will not offer any evidence in this action that in-person voter fraud has in fact occurred in Pennsylvania and elsewhere” or even argue “that in person voter fraud is likely to occur in November 2012 in the absense of the Photo ID law.”

Pennsylvania has said that over 750,000 registered voters do not have ID from the Transportation Department, a problem more concentrated in urban centers like Philadelphia.

More in depth look at the briefs here, and it really is a great exercise in what happens when BS political posturing of the O’Keefian variety or generic anecdotal hypotheticals or urban myths have to meet judicial acid testing.

So 750,000 voters in Pennsylvania will be excluded from voting on the grounds that this will prevent a crime that 0 people perpetrate, for a total return on investment of precisely nothing. Longer lines and more polling station rigamarole for everybody, higher thresholds for entry into the democratic process, essentially poll taxing the hundreds of thousands of residents who don’t need a photo ID for anything BUT voting (overwhelmingly elderly, minority, poor), and, in a nation in part defined by low voter turnout and an apathetic, unengaged, or misinformed (about voting eligibility) electorate who hand the levers of government over to seniors, partisans, activists, and white people, we’re just going to go ahead and give everyone else even more reasons to not bother voting in pursuit of an entirely hypothetical crime which has less of a proven impact on elections in PA than me, Brad Porter of Philadelphia, badgering my wife to vote Libertarian.

For the record, incidentally, that’s 750,000 PA legal voters without ID in a state where 1.4 million people voted in the primaries this year and 3.1 million voted in the 2008 Presidential election. That is roughly the same proportion in the entire U.S. (roughly 15% of legal voters don’t have IDs). For comparison’s sake, maybe 30 million voters don’t have IDs – the 2008 elections drew 130 million voters to the polls.

I do not believe that the people pushing for these laws have anything in mind but suppressing voter turnout. What enables them in succeeding very easily in doing so, however, is the lay populace who assume they know what is true or reasonable without every actually looking into the truths of the matter.

Posted by Brad @ 2:16 pm on July 23rd 2012

Rorshack Alert

“If you read about how the federal constitution came about, one thing is crystal clear: it was devised by people who wanted to create a strong federal government and saw the states as obstacles to doing so. The people who believed in states rights and an anemic federal government — the ancestors of today’s Tea Party — were the Anti-Federalists. And they lost.”

Josh Marshall

Oh don’t get me wrong, this is true in a very fundamental fashion – the people who devised the constitution were doing so to form a government, making literally any attempt at fashioning a nation “Federalist” by definition.

But in most every other sense, to draw a line between what that meant then and what advocating a “strong federal government” now entails is so blinkered as to be nearly insane. The entire constitution and all political thought surrounding it is overwhelmingly preoccupied with the RESTRICTIONS of federal government – which makes sense, as, even before concerning itself with states, it was concerning itself with, you know, not being a monarchy.

By Josh’s read, incidentally, those advocating a “strong federal government” did so with the express, explicit intent that it be wholly restricted to its enumerated powers (list here) and be WHOLLY AND TOTALLY PREVENTED FROM LITERALLY ANYTHING ELSE, with a huge bulk of the political thought being focused on how to retard it from being “strong” in Josh’s presumed definition of the term. The entire concept and structure of our federal government beyond the fact of its existence were designed to prevent it from being too strong (its three branches and checks and balances, its enumerated powers, its bill of rights which was required to even pass the damn thing), which the founders of nearly all stripes hammer home again and again and again as being the most vital component of it.

He lumps in Hamilton (who as basically a monarchist, incidentally), Madison, Washington, and Franklin. I’d replace Franklin with Adams maybe (hard to put either in either category), and take out Madison altogether, but of course that’s balanced out by Thomas Jefferson, James Monroe, James Madison, Patrick Henry, Thomas Paine, etc. etc.

Of course, Madison’s immediate purpose was to strengthen the Articles of Confederation, so again in a sense Josh is technically right (it was certainly devised to STRENGTHEN the federal government, although again, by definition), but that’s far, far different from saying it was devised to create a “strong” federal government in the same galaxy of how liberals like Josh understand that word. In fact, I think the fairest way to put this is the constitution was devised by people who wanted a STRONG ENOUGH BUT NOT A HAIR STRONGER federal government – which, incidentally, I think constitutionalists of today completely agree with (I find very few people in the Tea Party set who believe individual states should be able to naturalize its own citizens, coin its own money, and raise its own arms to fight its own wars, etc., and the example he cites, which I can even quibble with him over, is still literally the only place I’ve ever seen that advocated). But of course, the idea of a strong enough but not a hair stronger federal government – the notion of federalism as understood (and articulated!) by its advocates, is a political philosophy baseline which liberals such as Josh view as objectively insane and reactionary and evidence of frightening radicalism. Honestly, today’s liberalism is not even on the spectrum of political thought being debated at this country’s founding – at least when you’re talking about the Americans.

Posted by Brad @ 5:46 pm on July 18th 2012

The Continued Political Criminalization of Being a Muslim from the Republican Party

Speaking of Chris Christie, remember the NJ Supreme Court justice nominee who the GOP deemed a possible sinister plant or evidence that Christie wasn’t appropriately anti-Islam? To Christie’s great credit, he lashed right back at that.

Now, State Department aide Huma Abedin, who is muslim, is facing a campaign by House Republicans led by Michelle Bachmann to investigate if she has any muslim family members with ties to the Muslim Brotherhood. Here’s that letter (PDF).

Mind you, the letter is not saying she should get a background check to receive security clearances – which is already true. It is explicitly saying that her being a muslim renders her inherently suspicion and requiring of additional layers of discrimination and scrutiny. It is not saying that scrutiny should be to determine if she is pursuing an “anti-American agenda” in its own right, but rather, that by being a muslim and having any family ties to the muslim brotherhood is ITSELF evidence that she is pursuing an anti-American agenda. I could go on. Not only do I think this level of prejudice is wrong, I think it should be illegal, in the same sense that setting a different level of reasonable suspicion in traffic stops if the subject is black would be illegal. We don’t talk about it much, but the politicization of being a muslim really is the new McCarthyism (remember the Cordoba House, which ought to have been disallowed to build on PRIVATE PROPERTY because its shareholders belonged to a particular religion, which a good portion of the country AGREED WITH).

This is one of those things that I consider an immediate disqualifier for office.

But blessedly, there is a silver lining, and as much as I view John McCain as severely tarnished, he is still good for standing up, puffing out his chest, and righteously bellowing on things like this.

Posted by Brad @ 5:37 pm on July 18th 2012

Chris Christie to Keynote Republican National Convention

Good choice.

Posted by Jack @ 2:17 pm on July 18th 2012

Can I Outsource My Blogging Duties?

I started with good intentions, but have clearly lapsed into a very occasional contributor here. I feel bad about that. Now here’s this kid trying to finish grad school, and offering to make a blog post on a policy subject “of your choosing” if you contribute funds to his Indiegogo campaign. The posts will be on League of Ordinary Gentlemen, one of my favorite daily reads (And how come Brad hasn’t been invited to join them anyway? Seems like a perfect fit?). He needs about $12K, and I need solice and comfort derivable only from somehow making up for my failure at The Crossed Pond. He is not eligible for student loans and his family is tapped out. His incentive structure is a bit perverse, but here’s the jist of it:
$50: I’ll make a single blog post on a policy subject of your choosing.
$250: I’ll make monthly blog posts on a policy subject of your choosing for the next year.
$1500: I’ll make weekly blog posts on a policy subject of your choosing for the next year.

I will be donating something when I get home tonight, and doing so in the name of The Crossed Pond if there are no objections. Anyone want to kick in? We get him high enough to make posts and request cross posting here, and then jazz the shit out of them with SEO editing. Kidding on that last part if you’re reading this Nob.

Posted by Brad @ 12:21 pm on July 16th 2012

End of Gay Culture Watch

A Democratic congressional candidate in Wisconsin panders to voters by implying she’s gay.

Posted by Brad @ 3:25 pm on July 13th 2012

Dogs Not Hunting

People preternaturally inclined to try to raise the volume of screechiness against Mitt Romney are busy picking at his business career, and are shocked – SHOCKED – to find that Mitt Romney is a rich dude with a lot of accounts all over the place and holdover business titles, absolutely none of which is in any way illegal.

And while the paper trails are certainly worth following in terms of investigative journalism – and who knows, you may wind up catching Mitt in something, although probably of the level of “Did you know that one of your investment accounts that holds mutual funds contains one that has stock in a Chinese company?!!?!” – as a whole, I think the fever pitch on this one is mostly a case of wishful thinking, or of just throwing anything and everything at the wall in trying to find ammunition that backs up the critics’ already-formed opinion. We’re already seeing a form of Romney Derangement Syndrome develop, as we do every cycle with every candidate that suddenly becomes the possible leader of the free world. But more to the point, can anyone argue that there is any material difference between the kinds of attacks the Obama campaign and its supporters would have put out in the world now, or people’s basic opinion of Romney’s richness and corporate history, now versus a month ago?

It is probably worth saying out loud that in and of itself, or even as a potential amplifier, this dog won’t hunt, as an actual voting issue. Most everybody ALREADY sees Romney as a really rich executive type – the people that are inclined to see that as an inherent character flaw will continue to do so, the people that won’t won’t, and the people that don’t usually but are inclined to in this case because it suits their already-made subconscious horse-race decision will twist themselves in knots trying to explain why regular voters, who clearly have a hunger for issues of SEC filings and investment paper work (oh, how the tabloids fill with such stories) will suddenly get out the pitchforks and torches out because Bain Capital Ltd. listed Romney as a salaried legacy executive for three years AFTER Romney would tell us he no longer had anything to do with the day-to-day operations of that opaque corporate entity.

Why I remember the case of Louisiana Governor Bubba Starling, who in 1968 was running a mighty fierce campaign for reelection against up-and-coming New Orleans Mayor Joseph McGillicuty. The race reached a fever pitch, with allegations arising that McGillicuty had sired a mixed-breed boy from relations he had with a housekeeper, until, on the eve of the election. Debate regularly devolved into near-fisticuffs, and supporters would meet on the streets brandishing rakes, railroad spikes, and many other homemade weapons, along with their “Starling!” or “McGillicuty!” signs, and fierce melees would ensue involving all manner of bloodshed.

But with the fate of Losiana on the precipice, the tipping point was finally reached when it was revealed, neigh on the very eve of the election, that twelve years prior Bubba Starling’s previous accountant had transferred a portion of his investment portfolio into a 507c96, when in actuality Starling’s position as a public employee would have rightfully required a designation of 507d94, and the heroic reporter who spend months in smokey after hours bars teasing out the threads of the story, discovered, to his growing horror, that the tax account into which those investments were deposited had a public filing listing an address in BILOXI as its organization headquarters, and NOT, in fact, Shreveport, as Starling had guessed in a 1961 interview with Life magazine.

Well, you can imagine how the folks down Losiana way took the news. To this day, they say, on a quiet night, when the wind don’t blow and the air is thick, if you walk down certain back-alleys in East Baton Rouge Parish, you can still hear the screams of ole Bubba Starling, in his office in the state house, as the angry mobs finally busted in his door and carried him to the rail.

MORAL: Nobody cares.

Posted by Brad @ 9:07 am on July 12th 2012

BREAKING: Freeh Report on Penn State Released; Sandusky Innocent!!!

Also, the individual mandate has been struck down.

Posted by Brad @ 10:29 am on July 10th 2012

An Entertaining Battle Heating up in Nebraska of Ron Paul v. Mitt Romney

One that’s flown under the radar, but could become rather important for the Republican National Convention programming.

Ron Paul currently controls a plurality of delegates in four states (IA, ME, MN, LA). According to party bylaws, candidates who control FIVE state delegations have their name put forward for nomination (i.e. the floor vote), and a guaranteed 15 minute speaking slot before the first ballot.

I am not entirely convinced that the Romney campaign won’t make a deal with the Paul folks regardless, who, I imagine, would be willing to take a prominent Rand speaking slot (who has already endorsed Romney) and ensuent good will (or at least lack of “hell no”) with the party establishment for him (which will wind up being worth a lot more to them in the long run than whatever message Ron might be able to get out in a non-prime time slot). But nevertheless, it just so happens that the last state will be holding its delegate convention this Saturday: Nebraska. And if Ron Paul delegates wind up a plurality, he goes up for the floor vote and is given automatic convention time. And Ron Paul delegates may well wind up in the plurality (in Nebraska I mean).

Talking Points Memo and Reason have round-ups. The Nebraska GOP is, perhaps understandably, aghast at the possibility of making headlines this way, and given that the Louisiana nominating convention was a clusterf*ck (which, to be fair, was because of the state party trying to change the rules to literally define-away any possibility of a Paul plurality), have hired additional security and told everyone it’s time to be “good sports” and get behind Romney. And the Romney campaign has been quietly assigning campaign workers to the state and working the phone lines, much more so than in the afterthought sort of way they would otherwise.

And big bonus: our old friend Laura Ebke from Red State Eclectic is the leader of Paul forces in the state’s GOP and a focal point figure in this (the governor roped her into a conference call to express his displeasure), and she’s quoted in the Associated Press with a deliciously wiseguy answer:

Laura Ebke, chairwoman of the Nebraska Republic Liberty Caucus that has led the effort to garner Paul delegates, said no disruption is planned “unless the party instigates something.”

(If you want a non-selectively quoted version of her thoughts, go here).

I’d really encourage you to check out Red State Eclectic for round-ups of Laura in the news and on-the-ground takes of the situation there. I know Laura has worked really, really hard since her blog and ours started talking up Ron Paul in 2007, on actually getting on the ground and organizing, and the potential payoff for her efforts? Ron Paul at the Republican National Convention. Pretty cool.

Posted by Brad @ 4:35 pm on July 9th 2012

Cronyism in Governance

One thing that the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street had in common is they both hated corporate cronyism, the government using the levers of regulation (or deregulation) to tip the scales in favor of big banks or whatever. Obviously, that generalization breaks down in just about every application, and for liberals “Corporations” has replaced “Bureaucrats” on the right as the sort of catch-all and frighteningly oversimplified designation for “The people I feel powerless against who are deciding things for me in ways that go against my partisan impulses”. And it all degenerates into hypocrisy, as George Soros is just a forward thinking dude fighting the good fight but the Koch brothers are secretive Illuminati taking over the country for regressive interests and ruining democracy – or Wall Street bailouts are terrible things but targeting Wall Street is a terrible thing. Or whatever.

Really, the truth of the matter is they’re basically the same thing. From a conservative light, corporations and big business are out of whack in large measure because the government (and regulations) have gamed the system on their behalf – and the result of more regulation is usually just more gaming and the concentration of more power in the hands of fewer, thereby increasing both the propensity and the mechanisms for screwing the little guy. From a liberal light, that’s still basically true, but the answer should be more oversight, transparency, and regulation, to keep big business tethered and chained, lest it start terrorizing through the economy like Godzilla through Japan – and that, in this era of multinational mega-corporations, we are not talking about free market fair competition but rather effective collusive monopolies and carets for whom market mechanisms/checks no longer apply. Of course, the conservative answer to that is that it’s been allowed because of government interference (hard to take down Godzilla when we deem the ensuing damage to the neighborhood below him to be unacceptably at risk – when he is, in effect, Too Big To Be Felled). But at that point where chicken-and-egging.

The truth of the matter is they’re both basically right, and that the problem area really is the collusion of government AND corporations – note an ideal (or boogeyman) of one or the other.

So I get excited when I see something like this – a very nice site by the Mercatus Center at George Mason University detailing, in terms of broad concepts, the way cronyism happens.

And, in particular, this fabulous graphic, which shows bailouts as the literal tip of the iceberg, so looks under the water to see what else is there. And, as Tim Carney at the Washington Examiner summarizes:

The research Mitchell brings together helps show why government-granted privilege is so important to big business and so costly to the rest of society. In one key finding, he highlights research indicating that free markets, with fewer barriers to entry and fewer bailouts to prop up failed giants, make it harder for dominant businesses to maintain dominance. . . .

Big business wants safety, but big-business safety hurts the rest of the economy.

The biggest proponent of business regulation tends to be the biggest businesses – that’s a fact; look it up. And very reasonable good faith attempts to rein in excess almost always wind up as a cudgel to raise barriers of entry into markets for all but the biggest, creating a vicious cycle.

But the PROBLEM is, at least, beginning to be correctly identified.

Hat tip: Veronique de Rugy writing at The Corner.

Posted by Brad @ 12:00 pm on July 9th 2012

Another Thing I Randomly Love

This video.

Posted by Brad @ 6:54 pm on July 7th 2012

I’m Not Sure Why I Love This…

But I do.

Posted by Brad @ 6:44 pm on July 7th 2012

More Federal Interference on Legal Medical Marijuna

The Treasury Department has informed credit card companies that they would face heavy fines or lose their business with the government “forever” if they continue to process medical marijuana transactions. The credit card companies are complying.

Boy, for an administration that says it doesn’t consider busting pot smokers to be a priority, they sure do seem to go out of their way to try to bury medical marijuana.

Posted by Brad @ 3:40 am on July 6th 2012

Kelly Ayotte for VP

Longtime readers will know that, when it comes to the Presidential election, I generally lean away from pundit-style hedging, instead preferring to force myself to make concrete, falsifiable prediction. Mostly I do that as an exercise – it’s very easy to say, for instance, “Obama might do this, but he also has to consider that”, but it’s also not entirely useful, because in the real world he has to do one or the other, and so he and has team have to push themselves off the fence eventually. And, if you can’t go through the mental exercise of pushing yourself off that same fence, you are essentially creating a line for your own thinking that you’ll go up to but not cross. But what’s interesting in things like the Veepstakes is the thinking that actually makes you cross the line. To actually run through the same kind of thinking a campaign has to, and to put yourself on the line in actually coming down somewhere, really does entail a different kind of thinking than just outlining options, and when you do it, you find that some assumptions you had coming in don’t follow through all the way.

That’s a bit esoteric and self-rationalizing, I guess, but in addition to just being a parlor game enthusiast, I do also find some value to actually putting money on the line, as it were. Besides, I assume it’s more interesting to readers, because hey, when I’m wrong, you can encase that in amber and hold it against me forever.

So generally every campaign cycle, I try to predict the primaries, including order of finish, general election results state-by-state, and throwing down in the Veepstakes by putting out a single name that, according to the logic (real and imagined) of the campaign, makes the most sense. It’s kind of a half endorsement, half prediction. The endorsement part isn’t in the sense that I think Person X would be the best Vice President (which I don’t really go into), but that, if you follow the campaign’s logic/needs, Person X represents the best possible choice, as determined at the time.

SHAMELESS SELF PROMOTION

In the 2008 campaign, I actually nailed it. I was one of only maybe three or four people to accurately predict Sarah Palin for VP, in June (the campaign announced her at the end of August). I also called Joe Biden for VP for Obama that July, when most people were assuming it was Kaine, Sebelius, Bayh, or Clinton (a month later, Biden was announced). That same year, I correctly predicted the finish of both the Democratic and Republican primary a few weeks before Iowa – which was a LOT less clear at the time than it is in retrospect. And while some could quibble with my Romney-Huckabee back and forth, I think it stands up damn well (to be fair, we did a lot of cattle calls, and the last one we did before voting began (linked) was the only one that that’s true for).

/SHAMELESS SELF PROMOTION

So, I’ve found actually going through the entire exercise gets you closer to the real result than just putting up if/thens or hedges you can point to later to avoid being called out on being wrong (we can discuss the validity of my Palin choice separately, if you like). Weirdly, I also think it’s a more interesting / deeper way of talking about the election than just shallow day-to-day observations.

ALL THAT SAID, while we here at TheCrossedPond have been relatively lax in our 2012 campaign coverage (due to cynical disinterest), I want to throw down on this one. So, below the fold, is my thought exercise leading to one name for a potential Mitt Romney VP pick – junior New Hampshire Senator Kelly Ayotte.

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Posted by Brad @ 11:11 pm on July 5th 2012

The Technology Revolution: A Campaign for Liberty Manifesto

So where might the Revolution go next? According to his campaign team, the next step on the liberty train is to be internet freedom, which is intended to supersede even End the Fed as the next Paul hobbyhorse.

Kentucky senator Rand and his father Ron Paul, who has not yet formally conceded the Republican presidential nomination, will throw their weight behind a new online manifesto set to be released today by the Paul-founded Campaign for Liberty. The new push, Paul aides say, will in some ways displace what has been their movement’s long-running top priority, shutting down the Federal Reserve Bank. The move is an attempt to stake a libertarian claim to a central public issue of the next decade, and to move from the esoteric terrain of high finance to the everyday world of cable modems and Facebook.

This is all great, in a shallow sense. When I get in actual discussions about libertarianism with people, who view it as a kind of utopianism, the internet is usually the example I give of what a nearly pure libertarian “state” would look like (or the Amish; it depends on my mood). It really is one of the cleanest examples around of how that might play out writ large, warts and all.

However, as Brian Doherty reports, in typical Jesse Benton fashion, it’s not really enough to just claim the mantle of internet freedom and find constructive ways to work towards that end. No, one must immediately start such an effort by setting up an “Us vs. Them” mentality, where “Us” is the Paul brand and “Them” is any other pigfucker that dare try to advance roughly the same cause from any other starting point (and, unspoken, anybody else that might compete for donations). So, the manifesto is short on specific discussions of common enemies, and more appears to be geared at trying to pick fights with groups who are advancing internet freedom from a progressive bent.

Some of which I appreciate, to be sure – one can very easily hurt internet freedom by trying to just go after corporations in short sighted and vindictive ways, one can argue that one of the greatest threats to internet freedom is the “commons” argument, which implies the government needs to claim ownership of and then regulate bandwidth as they used to with radio/TV, and under the rubric of internet freedom, some initially progressively-veiled notions like Net Neutrality would be really, really terrible for the cause in practice.

I appreciate all of that.

But at the same time, going out of your way to pick fights with progressives and immediately enter the realm of “internet freedom” by going after the people who have been working their asses off for the cause, even if you disagree with their bent, for years and years while you’ve been sleeping on it, strikes me as narcissistic, petty, cynical, and counter productive. If your actual goal was to advance internet freedom, the FIRST thing you do, I think, is to start going out to the orgs like the Electronic Frontier Foundation or the ACLU or other places who have been doing good work on this for a long time, and plugging yourself in with them. Even if you have disagreements with them, finding the common ground first seems to me to be the only sensible approach.

But of course, that’s not how the Paul team, lead by Benton, approach these kinds of things. Instead, they view everything from a competitive advantage standpoint, and to their mind, anybody that does not explicitly sign on to be subsumed to Paul is an enemy, even if working for the same cause. Paul himself is not generally this way (either Paul, actually), but if Benton had his way, you can guarantee that Dennis Kucinich or Jim Jeffords or Barney Frank would never have entered the conversation on issues – instead they would have been crucified for being Trojan Horses whose support for the cause was merely a smokescreen masking their real collectivist agenda etc. etc. etc. Paul seems to intuitively understand both comity and creating working alliances on an issue by issue basis – the team he has more or less given control over managing his “brand” most certainly do not.

So, they take a wonderful cause to champion, and that’s awesome. And their first order of business is to declare essentially everybody who has up until this point working for it to be the REAL enemy. Great.

It’s been a very slow process, but while Ron Paul remains my hero, I’m very intrigued by Rand as a Senator, I think I have to finally declare myself about off the Paul / Campaign for Liberty train. If they spent half as much time actually building coalitions to achieve concrete things as they did trying to sow mistrust and contempt to keep donors loyal, they could really do something.

The irony, I suppose, is that according to Team Paul, liberty can only REALLY be supported by signing on and pledging fealty to their managed and centralized organization. Everybody outside those confines are Enemies of the State.

Posted by Brad @ 4:47 pm on July 5th 2012

Hope You Had a Good Fourth of July

This video is totally worth it for the first and last clips alone.

Posted by Brad @ 4:40 pm on July 5th 2012

The Myth of Voter Fraud

Just to keep banging the drum.

In her 2010 book, The Myth of Voter Fraud, Lorraine Minnite tracked down every single case brought by the Justice Department between 1996 and 2005 and found that the number of defendants had increased by roughly 1,000 percent under Ashcroft. But that only represents an increase from about six defendants per year to 60, and only a fraction of those were ever convicted of anything. A New York Times investigation in 2007 concluded that only 86 people had been convicted of voter fraud during the previous five years. Many of those appear to have simply made mistakes on registration forms or misunderstood eligibility rules, and more than 30 of the rest were penny-ante vote-buying schemes in local races for judge or sheriff. The investigation found virtually no evidence of any organized efforts to skew elections at the federal level.

It generally comes to about 30 cases a year of individual votes found to be fraudulently cast. In a year. Across every election throughout the entire United States of America.

In response, we’re passing voter ID laws that will likely provide a higher threshold of participation than can be met currently by roughly 30 million Americans who would be able to otherwise, and that’s not counting the roll purges happening in places like Florida, or even the trickle down to poll workers across America trying real real hard to be on the lookout for those 30 fraudulent votes lest they end up being eviscerated by Republican poll watchers and watchdogs, that will likely lead to long lines, more inconvenience, a more unpleasant experience, and just generally the kind of third degree that’s going to cause countless more to just say “Meh, screw it”.

If you’re worried about the integrity of the voting system, push for more transparency (why the ratio of people who care about vote fraud to the people who want to ensure total transparency in electronic voting is not 1:1, I have no idea). But potentially dissuading or preventing 30+ million voters for the sake of stopping 30 fraudulent votes a year seems perhaps a tad excessive.

Posted by Brad @ 10:47 am on July 3rd 2012

RIP Andy Griffith

In an only slightly alternate universe, Andy Griffith was Marlon Brando and Dean Martin wrapped into one—the most celebrated and multi-faceted performer of the mid-century. I think those who know him mostly as the Matlock dude don’t quite understand his depth and breadth—for my money one of the most talented performers of his generation. He did it all—stand up, music, acting, writing, directing, and he had the capacity to do each one of those things about bettern’anybody. It’s unfortunate that he wound up keyholing himself (although certainly, the Andy Griffith Show and Matlock are tremendous legacies to have), because man. Still, he never seemed to be driven too much by critical acclaim or high-brow artsiness, so he seemed perfectly content trucking along at what he liked to do, and fair enough.

One of my favorite acting performances of all time is from Griffith’s first, and really only substantial, movie role – Elia Kazan’s Face in the Crowd. The movie itself does drop into melodrama here and there, which is made up for by sheer prescience. But good God is Griffith electric in it. Cryin’ shame they don’t extend this clip by about two minutes to get “Free Man in the Morning” in here.

Posted by Brad @ 3:40 pm on July 2nd 2012

One Hilarious Footnote to the Health Care Ruling…

In the most general sense, Rick Santorum was probably right that Mitt Romney is probably the worst Republican, period, to put up against Barack Obama this cycle if you want to run against the ACA. But that was true before – just even moreso now.

But the additional rhetorical nugget of Romney now having to explain why he doesn’t support mandates, but also why mandates are not taxes, even though it probably is in Obamacare’s case making him the biggest tax-hiking President, but that in no way implies Mitt Romney was a big tax-hiker in Massachusetts, because that’s just ridiculous, because supporting the mandate for a state isn’t the same AT ALL as supporting it nationally, even in cases where you explicitly advocate for it nationally, but by the same token, OBVIOUSLY, a mandate that is NOT A TAX in Massachusetts is pretty clearly going to be a huge tax on the nation—well, that’s all going to be pretty priceless.

I have a feeling that Obama is just going to tear Romney apart on the debate stage when health care comes up, and probably will barely conceal how much fun he’s having doing it.

Posted by Brad @ 5:49 pm on July 1st 2012

Music Video of the Week

I’ve posted a lot of AV Undercover, despite the fact that about 85% of it is pretty mediocre. But when it works, it hits my sweet spot – acoustic covers by interesting bands of old pop songs done in a cool space, which accounts for a huge portion of my non-AV-Undercover music video posting anyway.

Anyway, I’m going to have a hard time deciding if this one or Reggie Watts is my favorite from the current season.

Grouplove covering Andrew W.K. – Party Hard

Posted by Brad @ 3:17 pm on July 1st 2012

The Evolution of Health Care in America Isn’t Done Yet

So, I’ve mostly concerned myself with the expansion of federal authority that the ACA, as a secondary effect, has imprinted on American governance. Because, frankly, I think that’s going to be the most important legacy here.

But, while I don’t have a specific hyperlink to present (because I mostly passed the stuff over), I have noticed a decent amount of background noise from the left that, rather than being self-congratulatory and spiking the football, is instead newly empowered by the ruling and looking to take it forward as political capital of a sort. That the ACA was kicking the door open for the idea that the government has unlimited power in regulating health care in America, and, once that door’s open, there’s no reason not only to step through it, but to move all your furniture in. Namely, expect to hear more and more chatter about the move towards a true private provider single payer system ala Canada.

I don’t even have too much of a beef with that on policy grounds – I’ve long held it’s at least a perfectly viable model that should be on the table along with a true privatization. But I do want to note that now, with the ACA passage and the Supreme Court ruling, really the hard work is done. There won’t be, I can’t imagine, any explicit and comprehensive push to make a single payer system happen – there won’t be the Socialized Medicine Act of 2014 and ensuant year-long marquee debate. Why would there be? The regulatory authority has been ratified, the practical government involvement in all the areas it would need to be involved in is there, and the court of public opinion, although a bit all over the place depending on how you ask the question, is mostly there already in terms of not being supportive of free market health care (as lazily, and incorrectly, defined, but try having that argument), mostly already assuming that health care is a proper domain for government regulation and administration (and, the more it’s the status quo the more true that is), and, while they do have sympathy for conservative arguments in principle (“do you agree that health care decisions should be only between a patient and their doctor”, for instance), on the big principle, and in practice on most any particular, they come down solidly liberal (“do you agree that everybody has a right to health care”, “should hospitals be forced to regulate costs re: x”).

But my main point here is that now that the heavy lifting is done, I’m not sure that the way to create a true single payer system of health care in America isn’t just a matter of tightening the screws year after year. Given the lack of cost-control measures in the ACA (thanks Republicans), premiums are going to rise, and it’ll be interesting to see how that plays politically, but I wouldn’t put any money on the argument “See? Obamacare doesn’t work. Let’s scrap it and start anew” winning there. No, likely all it does is create some political wherewithall to pull together technocratic working groups and committees and the next step would be passing tack-on measures to do that and keep stopping up leaks as they begin spraying – those will likely most take the form of amendments to omnibus bills, riders to budgets, etc. The federal government will also begin to explore more carrot-based (stick implied) ways to entirely subjugate state-based authority, and will win those battles, as they always do. And any areas that produce unpopular tensions between markets and regulations will be dealt with as they crop up – and, eventually, any remaining market-based legacies of health care will simply and quietly be swept away, because they’re redundant and serve no purpose any longer besides problematizing.

None of those things require the kind of marquee political question-answering we saw in ACA. All of it becomes mostly a matter of tightening screws over time. My guess is, in twenty years, while we’ll have different legacy nomenclatures and eccentricities, our system of health care will be, in practical terms, not substantially different from any other single payer system. It’s not right to say that market-based health care will end in a whimper, rather than a bang. Rather, I think the bang already happened.