What I’m Reading, August 19, 2014

Don’t Give Special Rights To Anybody! Oh, Except Cops. That’s Cool. Ken White, Popehat, August 14, 2014

Cops and other public servants get special treatment because the whole system connives to let them. Take prosecutorial misconduct. If you are accused of breaking the law, your name will be released. If, on appeal, the court finds that you were wrongfully convicted, your name will still be brandished. But if the prosecutor pursuing you breaks the law and violates your rights, will he or she be named? No, usually not. Even if a United States Supreme Court justice is excoriating you for using race-baiting in your closing, she usually won’t name you. Even if the Ninth Circuit — the most liberal federal court in the country — overturns your conviction because the prosecutor withheld exculpatory evidence, they usually won’t name the prosecutor.

And leaks? Please. Cops and prosecutors leak information to screw defendants all the time. It helps keep access-hungry journalists reliably complaint. But leak something about an internal investigation about a shooting or allegation of police misconduct? Oh, you’d better believe the police union will sue your ass.

Cops, and prosecutors, and other public employees in the criminal justice system have power. It is the nature of power to make people believe that they are better than the rest of us, and entitled to privileges the rest of us do not enjoy.

Wingnuts’ sad dream to be cool: Why they worship Reagan and the military, Heather Digby Parsons, Salon, August 18, 2014 Continue reading


Whither Regulations?

I frequently see rants from people about this government regulation or that. Many of them seem entirely reasonable or justified, because a great many regulations are annoying as crap on a day-to-day basis.

By Felix Andrews (Floybix) (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC-BY-SA-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5-2.0-1.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Free market water! (This is in China, not Ohio, but my point stands.)

One thing I see far, far less frequently than invective against certain regulations, however, is inquiry into why those particular regulations exist. I know a few things about how laws and regulations come to be, and while it is a seriously messy process, it generally doesn’t happen completely out of the blue or for purely arbitrary reasons. I’ll just let Paul Krugman take it from here, in large part since he has at least one more Nobel Prize than me:

In the latest Times Magazine, Robert Draper profiled youngish libertarians — roughly speaking, people who combine free-market economics with permissive social views — and asked whether we might be heading for a “libertarian moment.” Well, probably not. Polling suggests that young Americans tend, if anything, to be more supportive of the case for a bigger government than their elders. But I’d like to ask a different question: Is libertarian economics at all realistic?

The answer is no. And the reason can be summed up in one word: phosphorus. Continue reading


Those Who Forget History…

…might be condemned to embarrass themselves—and perhaps their whole country—in front of the world.

This past weekend the nation of Australia grimaced in sheer humiliation while their GWB-esque Prime Minister and clown car operator, Tony Abbott took a tour of Scotland. Forgetting his own nation, Australia, was once a British Protectorate, he vilified the cry for Scottish independence.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has swaggered up to the plate with the kind of spectacular gaffe that may well dominate the news cycle for days to come. In a recent interview with The Times, Abbott was drawn into a question about the upcoming Scottish Independence Referendum, and it didn’t go well.

Australia became an independent nation (i.e. mostly free of the United Kingdom/British Empire) in 1901, and you’d think a prime minister might remember that. As for Scotland’s independence, well, I heard Braveheart is very popular there. Continue reading


“Mouthbreathing Machiavellis”

This may be my favorite headline of at least the month, if not of all time, via Corey Pein at The Baffler: “Mouthbreathing Machiavellis Dream of a Silicon Reich.”

One day in March of this year, a Google engineer named Justine Tunney created a strange and ultimately doomed petition at the White House website. The petition proposed a three-point national referendum, as follows:

1. Retire all government employees with full pensions.
2. Transfer administrative authority to the tech industry.
3. Appoint [Google executive chairman] Eric Schmidt CEO of America.

This could easily be written off as stunt, a flamboyant act of corporate kiss-assery, which, on one level, it probably was. But Tunney happened to be serious. “It’s time for the U.S. Regime to politely take its exit from history and do what’s best for America,” she wrote. “The tech industry can offer us good governance and prevent further American decline.”

Welcome to the latest political fashion among the California Confederacy: total corporate despotism. It is a potent and bitter ideological mash that could have only been concocted at tech culture’s funky smoothie bar—a little Steve Jobs here, a little Ayn Rand there, and some Ray Kurzweil for color.

Pein links this concept to broader notions of the “Dark Enlightenment,” which is one of those movements that might only exist on the internet and seems like something concocted by someone who has read a large number of science fiction novels while also only meeting a small number of actual people. Apparently it also has something to do with an unironic appreciation of A Confederacy of Dunces.

I’ll just highlight a few bits of RationalWiki’s description of the movement (if one could call it that), and then hope they go away:

The neoreactionary movement (or just neoreaction; apparently abbreviated NRx), or the dark enlightenment, is a loosely defined cluster of Internet-based political thinkers who wish to return human society to forms of government older than liberal democracy.[1]

[1] You know, the forms of government that couldn’t create the Internet.

Neoreactionaries are the latest in a long line of intellectuals who somehow think that their chosen authoritarian thugs wouldn’t put them up against the wall. Possibly using sheer volume of words as a bulletproof shield.


What I’m Reading, August 18, 2014

Republicans Got Nothing…, Tom Levenson, Balloon Juice, August 13th, 2014

The Republican party has a deep, long term problem. The GOP is wrong on every major policy question. Economics and recession? Wrong. Environment, climate change, public health? Wrong. Health care? Wrong. Income inequality? Wrong. Tax policy? A joke. Foreign policy? Explosively wrong. Infrastructure investment? Wrong. Border security and immigration? Comically (if there weren’t so often tragic consequences) wrong. Race in America? Viciously wrong. Industrial safety? Wrong. Regulation? Ask the phosphate loving folks of Toledo. Scientific research? Wrong….and so on. No links for now because I’m in the middle of day-job urgency, but they’re all there. For now, the take-away is that the major policy options that are the central pillars of the Republican party’s approach to governance have a track record, and to a startling degree (not to folks here, I know) those options have failed


One last note: the basic GOP approach to elections: to deny the franchise; to construct the mechanics of elections to achieve near-certainty of result; and to create a fictional simulacrum of the media to make reality harder and harder to distinguish — all these are the tools of authoritarians, of one-party states, of dictators. Which is to say, this is the work of an organization committing treason against the ideal of American democracy.

Families of Afghan Civilians Killed by US/NATO Cannot get Justice, Bruce Pannier, Informed Comment, August 14, 2014 Continue reading


7 out of 8

Of the eight largest cities in Texas, seven of them lean to the left, politically, based on residents’ stated views:

Arlington, Fort Worth, Corpus Christi, San Antonio, El Paso, Houston, Dallas, and Austin were all featured in the study—and the researchers discovered that Arlington was the only metropolitan area that leaned right.

The researchers, Chris Warshaw (MIT) and Chris Tausanovitch (UCLA), found that Austin was the most liberal city in Texas, followed by Dallas, then Houston, El Paso, and San Antonio. Each of these cities also has Democratic mayors. [Emphasis in original.]

Austin is hardly a surprise, but I wasn’t expecting Dallas to be second. I’m also not sure how they assess “left” and “right,” but those words are sure to bring on all sorts of varying assumptions.

Oh, and Texas Republicans might want to take note of this:

Coincidentally, these liberal-leaning cities led by Democrats happen to be the same cities driving the economic growth behind Perry’s “Texas Miracle.”


The Monopoly on Violence

I asked this question on Twitter yesterday. Still no answer, but I’ll just put it out to the whole world here. Any libertarian-minded folk want to take a crack at it?


“It sounds like a war zone.”

At what point do we start saying Ferguson actually is a “war zone”?


A Right to an Education

One way to interpret the decision in El Paso ISD v. McIntyre is to say that the Texas Court of Appeals for the Eighth District held that home-school kids have a right to some basic level of education, or that parents who home-school their kids have an obligation to teach them something.

It’s not at all that straightforward, though (is it ever?) The court’s decision was largely based on procedural issues, with a considerable amount of attention given to whether the McIntyres had “exhausted their administrative remedies.” In plain English, people have to go through an administrative procedure before filing certain types of lawsuits, including a suit against a government entity. In this type of case, the process would require a complaint to a school administrator, followed by the superintendent, followed by the school board.

The school district asked the appeals court to rule that the trial court lacked jurisdiction over the case because the plaintiffs went to court before going through the required administrative process. The appellate court agreed.

The facts of the case, as depicted by the appellate court, make it tempting to hope that this decision will have a far-reaching impact on the more extreme forms of religious homeschooling. The McIntyres sound, uh, interesting: Continue reading


Monday Morning Cute: Dinner and a Song

Some dogs aren’t picky about what they eat, but others like a bit of music to go with their meal (h/t Misty).