Posted by Brad @ 1:55 pm on April 30th 2013

Maybe the Wheel has Turned a Tad?

We worried openly a few posts down in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings whether that event will further grease the slippery slope of police and surveillance powers.

Well, the answer is almost certainly “yes” from the government and law enforcement perspectives.

But, surprisingly, that is not necessarily the case with the general public.

Two days after the bombings in Boston, Fox News asked the question, “Would you be willing to give up some of your personal freedom in order to reduce the threat of terrorism?” For the first time since the attacks on September 11, 2011, more Americans said “No” (45 percent) than said “Yes” (43 percent).

What’s more, by a 7 point differential, Americans are now generally more worried that the government will go “too far” in trying to keep us safe than “not far enough”.

Finally, the party divide is interesting. 51% of Democrats said they’d trade freedom in order to reduce the threat of terrorism. 47% of Republicans. That’s only a hair outside the margin of error so basically makes it a bipartisan 50/50 split on the question (although, bringing up that Democrats are the highest partisan affiliation to agree to that statement – and a majority do, to boot! – will be a fun talking point of mine for awhile, so prepare to be annoyed by it, my liberal friends).

The difference-makers? Independents, only 29% of whom would agree to that.

This poll is interesting in its timing – we are not right now in an election cycle or even a particularly partisan period (when sometimes you can get weird and wild swings based on who is or is not in power), and we’re in the fairly immediate aftermath of a terrorist attack (and change).

Posted by Brad @ 12:54 pm on April 29th 2013

Jason Collins Comes Out

Here he is in this week’s SI cover story.

Honestly, was sort of ho-hum about it until I started reading the twitter reactions from the likes of Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant, David Stern, etc. (hell he even got The Rock).

Posted by Brad @ 11:42 am on April 29th 2013

The Abject Failure of the Sequestration Threat

I do believe that this whole thing could not have turned out any more badly than it has for Democrats.

I won’t retreat the PR aspect of it in its entirety, but to suffice it to say it proves a lot of baseline things that should not be particularly surprising but somehow always are. That politicians are inherently driven by political, not moral or economic, incentives. That most government spending is just not as fundamental – and the lack of or cut to it just not as catastrophic – as the government continually wants you to believe. Etc. etc.

But there’s one other thing, that Ta-Nehisi catches but still doesn’t quite get, that I think bears pulling out.

Namely, the fundamental argument for “austerity” for lack of a better word is that it cannot be judged in a vacuum. Namely, if it’s basically a good thing, OF COURSE you would rather government spend $X on Y thing. And if you want to spend money less money on Y you will be treated as if you are basically anti-Y. Sub whatever you like for Y – health care for seniors, beefed up surveillance or counter-terrorism funding, family planning, public sector jobs/salaries/benefits, faith based initiatives, doesn’t matter.

We always tend to judge government spending in that way. But that isn’t how it works at all. Because the other fundamental argument is that resources are finite. If we had infinite amount of money to spend on all things Y, then yes, absolutely. But when we don’t, arguing for $X for Y isn’t just a clean support of Y. It’s taking $X from somewhere else. And at some point you have to take Y out of a vacuum and say “okay, I like Y. But do I like it more than health care for seniors, beefed up surveillance or counter-terrorism funding, family planning, public sector jobs/salaries/benefits, faith based initiatives, or just people keeping money in their paycheck?” I’m sure Greeks would love to continue to not pay taxes AND continue to enjoy all the benefits of a strong public sector and large social safety net. But that’s not a realistic choice, whether they choose to accept that fact or not. Or, yes, I’m sure we’d love both no flight delays and low-income families losing housing vouchers and everything else we like. But, again, that’s not the choice.

But here’s the final thing that the sequestration battle uncovers worth pulling out.

Namely, proponents of getting America’s financial house in order, or austerity internationally, or small government conservatives, or whoever, are not (generally speaking) of those things because they hate all those Ys. And, more to the point, rebuffing them does not SAVE THE YS. Rather, it takes the choices out of your hands. I advocate for small government conservatism now because I believe we’d be better off making those choices in the present, clear-eyed and consciously, rather than have them be made for us when it is no longer a choice at all. The more you cling to the Y=good argument, the more you take yourself out of the game in the long run, and the more you will have the choice made for you.

One could argue that our present financial state is perfectly sustainable as-is (of course, those same people will usually also be, in parallel, arguing for more funding of Y1, Y2, Y3 as the subjects arise), or can be with this or that fix. The latter is well worth the debate (although it does cede the premise) – the former less so but fine, let’s have it.

But if you DO agree that resources are finite, regardless of the fixes we eventually come up against that wall. And when we blow past it – when we artificially pad everything to try to keep up the illusion – a reckoning eventually comes (the government is a bit better than the housing market, stock market, financial sector, auto industry, etc., at staving off that reckoning, mostly because they can print money). And when that reckoning does come, it won’t be up to you anymore which is the Y. It will be subject to exactly the same impulses you see playing out in sequestration right now, only on a much more massive scale. Everyone will be hurt – but it will be the least well connected politically, the least economically or electorally empowered, who will be hurt the most. And at that point, all your arguments about the values of your Ys are going to be irrelevant. You’ll have won those battles, and then lost the war for them.

To put that another way, you are correct that such-and-such person or population will be hurt by cutting Y. The poor, the disenfranchised, the underclasses, yes, those people WILL be hurt by less government spending. Anybody that receives their $X, by definition, will be. Arguing for those cuts, however, is not a reflection necessarily on your feelings about those people or populations or programs. I’m not anti-defense contractor or air traffic controller any more than I’m anti-poor or anti-schoolkid or whatever else you’d want to to throw at me depending on the Y being discussed.

However, I believe that there will come a time when we no longer have the LUXURY of debating the “hurt” that a certain reduction of $X will have on a population – when they will go from a benefits cut or furlough or being underfunded to being COMPLETELY FUCKED and with no further ability to mitigate or navigate that process. And far from me wanting to protect the rich at the expense of the poor or whatever, I think austerity now is actually an attempt to STAVE off that process, which goes from suspected now to a dead certainty later the less upfront choices we allow ourselves to make. This sequestration process has been a microcosm of that. Imagine what it looks like played out on a much, much larger scale.

Here’s the table. Have a seat?

Posted by Jack @ 9:13 pm on April 26th 2013

Starstruck Kickstarter: Revolutionary Cyberpunk Feminist Comic Book

Just passing on some encouragement for a Kickstarter project for the full color publication of a significantly expanded and remastered version of the ground breaking comic book Starstruck. Think Dune-like world building awesomeness, Moebius story telling and lush art, Broadway entertainment sensibilities, and cyber punk feminist messaging. One of the Kickstarter support options ($90) allows you to get this new book along with the IDW published 360 page softcover original, so you are not at all behind! Do it. Do it.

For those that don’t want to struggle with the confusing wiki page: Starstruck started as a stage play, and was followed by a serialized comic book published in a couple of European equivalents of Heavy Metal magazine then in HM itself, all storylines of which were republished by Marvel Comics in a graphic novel, which was then continued in a six issue Epic Comics comic. A decade later the Marvel graphic novel and first issue of the Epic comic were reprinted with major expansions (nearly doubling the material) by IDW in a 13 issue limited release, later collected in a big 300+ page book from IDW. This Kickstarter project picks up the story after that IDW project, and expands upon the Epic Comics published story in issues 2 and 3. If successful, I anticipate that a future project will expand upon the Epic Comics issues 4-6. I have all of these issues, and thus eagerly await this projects expansion.

Posted by Brad @ 5:16 pm on April 19th 2013

FYI

Sorry for the lack of blogging. Don’t know where everybody is, but even if the pace slows to a crawl I’ll still be vaguely around.

In any case, barking about politicizing aside, I would like to point this out. Lindsey Graham – considered a “serious”, moderate Senator – is using the Boston situation as a “teaching moment” as to why American citizens can and should be considered “enemy combatants” rather than Americans for due process purposes. Not satisfied, he also throws in there the strong implication that they should be subjected to enhanced interrogation if caught or, during the search, we should be able to dispatch armed drones.

These are probably not things that just occurred to him. But what grounds would we have to deny law enforcement those powers? And, if for these guys, it probably only makes sense for school shootings. And, if that, why not just for regular SWAT situations? Etc.

Posted by Brad @ 1:17 pm on April 17th 2013

Video of the Day

New Zealand passes gay marriage.