Saturday, February 28, 2009

War, Taxation, And Inflation Hinder Growth

From Cafe Hayek:
Robert Higgs -- who explains that the Great Depression was not cured by the New Deal or by World War II -- is featured here in this 30-minute-long video on war, taxation, and inflation:


Lawsuits Against RNC Police Begin

The Minnesota Independent reports:

Let the litigation begin. Eight lawsuits have been filed in U.S. District Court claiming civil rights abuses by police officers during events surrounding the Republican National Convention (RNC) in September. The civil suits accuse officers of physical and sexual abuse, illegal searches and seizure of property, and wrongful detainment.

“This is just the beginning,” says Ted Dooley, one of the attorneys handling the cases. “There’s going to be a lot of litigation, and it’s going to take a long time.”

Plaintiff Michael Whalen’s duplex was raided by St. Paul police on August 30, two days before the start of the convention. At the time, Whalen (pictured below) was housing members of Eyewitness Video, who were in town to document RNC protests.

Continue reading.

Science Saturday: The Speed Of Human Evolution

If you think human evolution has slowed down or stopped in modern times, you need to watch this fascinating discussion:


(http://bloggingheads.tv/diavlogs/18050)

Topics covered:

Gregory’s latest book, “The 10,000 Year Explosion”... How long have humans been smart enough to think of farming?... Did the invention of helmets change our skulls?... How survivors of the Black Plague were doubly lucky... Disease: ultimate weapon of the European invader... The hidden connection between language and milk-drinking...

Washington Post Continues To Back Flawed Column

From Climate Progress:
Please email and phone Andrew Alexander at 202-334-7582 or at ombudsman@washpost.com

The Washington Post ombudsman is the paper’s “internal critic and represents readers.” Yet Andrew Alexander has basically decided to take on the role of defender of Will and the Post and his own mistakes. He has seriously undermined both his credibility and his independence, while at the same time making himself part of the story — serious mistakes for an ombudsman.

You can read Alexander’s column here. You can read a good line by line response by Siegal here.

Continue reading.

This whole incident is nothing short of absurd. George Will has unambiguously shown himself to be a pathetic hack on the climate change issue. And, even worse, the Washington Post seems intent on standing behind his lies and/or embarrassing ignorance. It will be interesting to see how this controversy plays out.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Glenn Beck Is (Still) A Fucking Idiot


(Via Reason.)

Legalize, regulate, tax. It really is just that simple.

Here's a great video debunking Beck's unfounded "marijuana tears up your lungs" claim. It was put out by the Marijuana Policy Project, which is the organization that Beck's gracious interlocutor started:



Check out more clips like this one at the Marijuana Policy Project's YouTube channel.

An Explanation Of Twitter's Spectacular Growth


(http://www.ted.com/talks/view/id/473)

About this talk:
In the year leading up to this talk, the web tool Twitter exploded in size (up 10x during 2008 alone). Co-founder Evan Williams reveals that many of the ideas driving that growth came from unexpected uses invented by the users themselves.

And, although I've already mentioned it once today, I might as well link the Daily Iowan Opinions Twitter account from this post, too. Sign up and follow us--it's seriously the best thing since e-mail.

Embracing The Collapse

As the global economy slides into ever-deeper recession, a growing chorus of doomsayers are predicting the end of life as we know it. And maybe that would be a good thing.

Unsurprisingly, most elite voices continue to urge calm and feign confidence as they assure the masses that everything will work out in the end. The higher up in the current power structure a person is, the more insistent he or she seems to be that the ongoing crisis can be prevented from spiraling completely out of control.

In his address to Congress and the American people on Feb. 24, President Obama did his best to fulfill the role of cheerleader-in-chief.

“But while our economy may be weakened and our confidence shaken,” the president said. “Tonight I want every American to know this: We will rebuild, we will recover, and the United States of America will emerge stronger than before.”

But what if he’s wrong?

Eight disastrous years under President Bush ought to have been enough to convince people that the president, far from being infallible, can in fact turn out to be utterly clueless. The ultimate result of Obama’s economic-stimulus plan won’t be known for years, but denying that it could turn out to be a complete bust is merely wishful thinking.

What if the stimulus does fail? What if America and the world fall into a full-blown depression? And what if political systems around the world follow the global economy down into a complete state of collapse? Well, we’d all be pretty much screwed.

Or would we?

As counterintuitive as it seems, it’s possible that the end of life as we know it could also be the beginning of something better.

It’s not just anarchists who might embrace such a turn of events. Regardless of a person’s place on the political spectrum, there are benefits to be found in the prospect of society’s unwinding.

Those who identify with standard left-wing causes would have plenty to celebrate. On the environmental front, the implosion of the global economy could lead to a radical decrease in pollution levels. There would be no more debates about how best to phase out coal power plants or switch to vehicles that run on renewable resources. A sufficiently severe economic catastrophe could reverse the rapid industrialization of recent decades and bring carbon-dioxide emissions back down to much more environmentally friendly levels faster than the political process could ever hope to accomplish. Activists who bemoan the treatment of vulnerable workers in greedy capitalists’ factories would also quickly find themselves with little to complain about. If the factories aren’t running, then their workers can’t be exploited.

People who fall into the right-wing side of the spectrum likewise have cause to embrace a total system crash. No longer would hard-working entrepreneurs be forced into handing over their money to unaccountable bureaucrats in Washington, D.C. Instead, the headquarters of the Internal Revenue Service would stand abandoned in the ruins of that city of parasites. But perhaps it’s social conservatives who stand to gain the most from the dissolution of modern society. The most socially liberal parts of the country are urban areas with high population density. While those who denounce the immoral lifestyles of homosexuals and other sinister city folk often live in areas that produce their own food, the degenerates they despise do not. If the oil were to stop flowing, so would all essential supplies. It wouldn’t be long before the residents of Manhattan were reduced to cannibalism.

For anyone who thinks such events would be unimaginably horrible, I have only one question: Haven’t you seen Fight Club? It’s a rare college student who hasn’t watched that movie and cheered as Tyler Durden demolished America’s decadent consumerism and sought to replace it with a distinctly antimodern new order. Though the collapse of the financial industry taking place in real life isn’t quite as literal as the collapse Durden brings on in the movie, it’s happening nonetheless.
So why aren’t we all dancing in the streets and begging for more?

Sure, millions of people would almost certainly die if our consumer culture were to thoroughly immolate itself, but at least we’d be rid of the Snuggie.

(Cross-posted at the Daily Iowan's main site.)

The Podium's Readership Is Growing

According to Google Analytics, which I use to monitor user traffic on this blog, we will break 3,500 unique visitors this month. Though that's not exactly staggeringly high, I think it's a pretty decent number for an obscure opinions blog at a college newspaper. But, of course, I'd love to do even better next month. And that's where you, the reader, come in.

If you enjoy this blog, please do your best to get the word out about it. Especially if you live in Eastern Iowa or are in any way connected with the UI, make sure your friends all know about the Podium. Linking posts from other blogs, social networking sites, etc. is strongly encouraged. And so is commenting--regardless of what you have to say.

Finally, I just want to thank everyone who reads this blog. Even if you never leave any feedback, simply knowing that you're paying attention makes all the effort I put into this endeavor worth it.

Update:

I figured I might as well toss in a plug for our Twitter account as well. Check it out at twitter.com/DIOpinions. There we're up to 77 followers, many of whom are influential Eastern Iowa journalists. So follow us and join the discussion.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Kindle 2 Utilizes E-paper Technology

From Slashdot:
waderoush writes:

"Critics are eating up everything about Amazon's Kindle 2 e-book reader except its $359 price tag. But if you think that's expensive, take a look behind the Kindle at E Ink, the Cambridge, MA, company that has spent $150 million since 1997 developing the electronic paper display that is the Kindle's coolest feature. In the company's first interview since the Kindle 2 came out, E Ink CEO Russ Wilcox says it took far longer than expected to make the microcapsule-based e-paper film not only legible, but durable and manufacturable. Now that the Kindle 2 is finally getting readers to take e-books seriously, however, Wilcox says he sees a profitable future in which many book, magazine, and newspaper publishers will turn to e-paper, if only to save money on printing and delivery. (Silicon Alley Insider recently calculated that the New York Times could save more than $300 million a year by shutting down its presses and buying every subscriber a Kindle). 'What we've got here is a technology that could be saving the world $80 billion a year,' Wilcox says."

The electronic paper revolution is coming very soon. The Kindle 2 is just the beginning. The next couple of generations of e-book readers will improve exponentially as they come out over the next several years. Pulp-based paper won't go away, but it will soon no longer be the primary medium by which news, entertainment, and other literature are conveyed.

The technology is here. It's just a matter of getting the engineering kinks worked out. And that won't take more than a few more years--especially since there's going to be such a big demand for these readers as print-based publications continue to fold because they are no longer able to fund themselves in this new information age.

Update:

From Jim Romenesko:
Hearst hopes its reader can do for periodicals what Amazon's Kindle is doing for books. "We are keenly interested in this, and expect these devices will be a big part of our future," says Kenneth Bronfin, who heads Hearst's interactive media group.

Facebook Working On Openness And Transparency

Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg writes:
Last week, we returned to our previous Terms of Use as we worked on a new set of governing documents that would more clearly explain the relationship between Facebook and its users. Since then, I've been excited to see how much people care about Facebook and how willing they are to contribute to the process of governing the site.

Our main goal at Facebook is to help make the world more open and transparent. We believe that if we want to lead the world in this direction, then we must set an example by running our service in this way.

We sat down to work on documents that could be the foundation of this and we came to an interesting realization—that the conventional business practices around a Terms of Use document are just too restrictive to achieve these goals. We decided we needed to do things differently and so we're going to develop new policies that will govern our system from the ground up in an open and transparent way.

Continue reading.

Time For Civil Disobedience At Coal Plants?

Climate Progress reports:
Inarguably, “Coal is the single greatest threat to civilization and all life on our planet” as our top climate scientist, James Hansen, has explained.

Hansen will be joining more than 2,500 people who have registered to participate in “the largest act of peaceful civil disobedience on global warming in the country’s history” — this Monday, March 2 at the Capitol Power Plant. The Plant is owned by Congress and burns coal to heat and cool numerous buildings on Capitol Hill. Details can be found at the Capitol Climate Action Coalition website, where you’ll find this video from Hansen urging participation:



Continue reading.

Dilbert's Dark Humor


(Via Global Guerrillas.)

Hmm. At this point, I'd say such a cartoon warrants nervous laughter.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Greenland's Alarming Meltdown

From Climate Progress:


(http://link.brightcove.com)

Israel's Future


(http://bloggingheads.tv/diavlogs/17943)

Topics covered:

The unpredictable future of Israeli politics... Can Netanyahu dance at two weddings?... Is it possible to negotiate with a fractured Palestinian government?... What’s Obama going to do?... Debating the difficulty of dismantling Israeli settlements... David says Arab leaders could settle the whole thing today...

Fast Track These Guys!


From Buzzfeed:

New meme: here's a totally random way to make your new random band's new random album cover. Post one! Go to “Wikipedia.” Hit “random” and the first article you get is the name of your band. Then go to “Random Quotations” and the last four or five words of the very last quote of the page is the title of your first album. Then, go to Flickr and click on “Explore the Last Seven Days” and the third picture, no matter what it is, will be your album cover.

Here's what one satisfied participant came up with. The album title comes from Seneca, the artwork from a town the government covered up because of the atomic testing. (Treasure Island).

Coming soon to the Music Genome Project. Check em out on Pandora.

Dilbert On Government Bailouts


(Via Glenn Reynolds, who is often a blathering idiot but occasionally posts something entertaining or interesting.)

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Memo To America: Evolution Is Awesome

National Geographic has posted an amazing video of a fish with a transparent head that protects its eyes, which are kept inside:



But, unfortunately, many American politicians (like their troglodyte constituents) still don't understand the theory that underpins modern biology. In a recent blog post, P.Z. Meyers takes aim at a few particularly egregious examples of such ignorance. The people of South Carolina and Minnesota should be ashamed of their anti-intellectual governors.

Need A Good Soul-Sucking Blog In Your Life?

If so, Middleness (with the tag line "A shaky bridge between fake life and real life") is for you.

Here's a post in the series the Weekly Drunkard, which is a staple on the site:
This post-graduate, pre-reality existence is marked by visceral experiences: the drinks; the aching libido; the sheer, bleary-eyed awe. Our attempts to engage our context — full-on, unabashedly, unadulterated — have us careening between myriad locales and a various assortment of situations. In response to our surroundings, we try at great costs to create poignancy. Our sustenance, then, becomes pabulum-esque catch-phrases and the bar napkins upon which we write them. We take our passive participation in the culture of middling and make kinetic activity.

This activity is not how many Smithwicks we down or pool games won with defensive strategies, but the intellectual pursuit of lost heroes. We emerge from each night with a pervasive sense that something is lacking, and we must create it.

Continue reading.

Even if none of us can find jobs, at least we can still be witty. And that's what really matters. Right?

Sailing The Great Pacific Garbage Patch

Everyone needs to watch this--it's shockingly disgusting:


(http://www.ted.com/talks/view/id/470)

About this talk:
Capt. Charles Moore of the Algalita Marine Research Foundation first discovered the Great Pacific Garbage Patch -- an endless floating waste of plastic trash. Now he's drawing attention to the growing, choking problem of plastic debris in our seas.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Mardi Gras Shadowpuppetry

I’ve never really had a culture of my own. Oh, the grand sweeps of national character, maybe, participating in this or that element of Americanism—I know what a fast-food cheeseburger tastes/looks/hurts like, and more importantly I know my criteria by which it should be assessed—but nothing that I cleave to, nothing that I could call without hesitation my own. I am pure Irish, an unbroken line of micks traced right back to the emerald rock itself, but both sides of the family have been festering in Appalachia and the South for four and five generations so the “Irishness” isn’t there any longer. I am a southerner, then, except that I was born in Wenatchee, Washington, a tiny little town over the mountains from Seattle that erected its first Starbucks four years ago. I did manage to escape the Washingtonian wastelands by the time I was four years old, and spent the next five years in New Guinea, Indonesia (I believe the territory is called Papua now, after the latest in Indo’s let’s-pretend method of nation-minding), becoming comfortable with the expat lifestyle—a “culture” we could term this—but at nine years old I was whisked away again back stateside. My family drifted around a lot, jumping by hundreds of miles at a time into another pocket of localized culture: marshy suburb in Louisiana, New Mexican McHacienda atop the mesas, pine-strewn hamlet in Colorado, and then, just before high school, New Orleans. Blurs of geography and people, an overlapping of loyalties, and I struggled to arrest myself within my life with a “place.” I have since moved on from New Orleans, tried to make my place here in Iowa City, even spent a year in magical, wistful Prague, but something lingers of my Big Easy years. It may have been the simple fact of growing up there, that is, the important formative years of middle and high school, or maybe that such a dazzling, seductive, jealous city as New Orleans conducts a stronger hold than most, but I keep it rather more fondly than other corners of the world I’ve seen. But still, it’s not quite my corner. I just tend to get nostalgic for my adopted culture at around this time of year because of a very special holiday.

Mardi Gras is not from New Orleans. Not everyone knows this, but it isn’t important. It has been claimed by New Orleans more fiercely than other cities, except perhaps for Rio de Janeiro’s equally unique and intense rendition, condensing from the original Mobile mystic societies the now-familiar collage of parade krewes, beads, booze and galas. I threw myself into it with the shiny-things fascination of a kid when I first lived in Mandeville, a town across the lake from New Orleans, and marveled at the wizardry of glamour and upset. Things, loud, bright, rushing things were going on around me and I was swept along, wide-eyed and mind-blown. When my family returned a few years later to New Orleans proper, I approached the parades more skeptically, and turned my attention instead to the masques and balls, the dreamworlds of costume and ritual. The magic cemented itself in the practice of Mardi Gras, not just the witnessing of it. Dancing schizoid waltzes with a woman draped head to toe in a cardboard-and-sequins catfish outfit…with two enormous cardboard-and-sequins breasts. Waiting breath-bated for the lucky discovery of the tiny golden Christ Child in a slice of king cake, and a bracing round of applause for the poor sucker who would then have to buy the next feast’s cake. But I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was a complete fraud—my family wasn’t from this place, had no firm ties to its culture and traditions, or even the funny way they have of speaking (we have our own, a mongrel of Tennessean, Virginian, Louisianan, and blander, less-definable “American” dialects that reflects my lack of anchor far more directly than means of merry-making).

And now in my early twenties I live in this pleasant Iowa enclave, and Mardi Gras has become just another party. An opportunity to break the night open with another Hand Grenade shooter (a vein-drip of Red Bull in the arm to take the edge off), a wavering cry of “Throw me somethin’, mister!” ringing across the Ped Mall at someone who won’t, and a feeble whimper into sleep with the knowledge that this, like St. Patrick’s Day or Purim, holds no meaning or attachment, no anchor for me other than the party itself. The abstinence of Lent may be exactly what I need—except, of course, that I’m not religious, and any solace found in ascetic piety would be further example of a life annexed from those around me.

The Future Of The American Presidency

From Cato @ Liberty:
Cato vice president Gene Healy speaks about the future of the American presidency at the 2009 Ronald Reagan Symposium in Virginia Beach, Va.

Healy is the author of Cult of the Presidency: America’s Dangerous Devotion to Executive Power.



Support For Marijuana Legalization Is Growing

Polling analyst extraordinaire Nate Silver writes (via DoseNation):
We all know that Michael Phelps was on something. But perhaps he was also onto something. Three recent polls show that Americans are more sympathetic to the idea of legalizing marijuana than ever before.

The first poll, conducted last week by Rasmussen Reports, has 40 percent of Americans in support of legalizing the drug and 46 percent opposed. The second, conducted in January by CBS News, has 41 percent in favor of legalization and 52 percent against. And a third poll, conducted by Zogby on behalf of the marijuana-rights advocacy group NORML, has 44 percent of Americans in support of legalized pot and 52 percent opposed.



Continue reading.

Update:

Matthew Yglesias offers some entertaining comparisons:
Inspired by this Chris Bowers post, here’s a chart I made comparing public support for legalizing marijuana to the approval ratings for Rush Limbaugh and various Republican Party leaders that I found on PollingReport:

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Alan Keyes Is Actually Crazy


(Via Andrew Sullivan.)

The Confusion Doctrine

Naomi Klein revealed through her demeanor a solid sense of self-confidence as she took the stage to speak at the IMU on Wednesday. Proving her rhetorical prowess, she skillfully directed her audience’s palpable populist indignation against her carefully chosen target: free-market economics.

But beneath their pseudo-intellectual facade, Klein’s central theses are cynically hollow and propped up primarily by blatant equivocation. However, that makes no difference to her. Her aim in her presentation is not to persuade through logical argument but to mobilize ideological foot soldiers to join her faction in the class struggle she advocates. And at that, she is a master.

Roughly halfway into her talk, I realized it was wrong of me to approach the experience as I would a lecture by a serious scholar who engages in rigorous empirical analysis. It’s far more useful to think of her as a performer in a spectacle, like the matador in a bullfight. However, in this case, the audience also plays the role of the bull.

Just as a matador excites a bull by flapping his red cape, Klein brings her crowds to a slow boil with torrid tales of corruption and malevolence in right-wing governments. In both cases, the feelings are well-deserved. Bulls instinctively attack the matador’s flapping cloth as he uses it to harass them.

And people would have to be devoid of common decency not to be enraged by the wantonly cruel policies of fascist and quasi-fascist regimes whether they be seated in Santiago, Chile, or in Washington, D.C. But the matador tricks the bull, getting it to charge through his cape and into thin air. Likewise, Klein’s fans end up channeling their righteous anger in the wrong direction. In both cases, it’s a bait and switch.

During her presentation at the UI, she focused on three uniquely horrific examples of the Bush administration’s many misdeeds.

In the international realm, she laid out a damning argument regarding the neoconservatives’ bad faith in pushing for the invasion of Iraq and the abysmal job they did in supposedly attempting to reconstruct the Middle Eastern country after deposing its previous leadership. Also, she used New Orleans as a case study in the inability of the Bush administration to even provide effective disaster relief domestically. Finally, she focused in on the ongoing federal government’s bank-bailout programs, which she accurately identified as a massive plutocratic raid on America’s treasury.

There’s really no question that her arguments against neoconservatism are dead-on. But after she’s laid all the groundwork necessary to thoroughly skewer quasi-fascist, corporatist thugs such as Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, she engages in a quick sleight of hand. Rather than delivering the much-deserved coup de grĂ¢ce against the craven war criminals whose actions she has spent so much time exposing, Klein suddenly shifts the blame to the ideas of free-market economists. And, just as she intended all along, her audience lunges forward like an angry bull and blames them as well, not seeming to notice that the corporatist crimes she has been using to rile them up are in fact diametrically opposed to actual free-market principles.

But why the act?

Though I can’t read her mind, her goals aren’t too hard to guess. As a left-wing statist ideologue, she isn’t interested in limiting government power. Instead, she just wants to co-opt it for her own purposes. She doesn’t believe that the neoconservatives made such a mess of the world because they attempted unrealistic top-down social engineering. Rather, she just seems to think that they pursued the wrong ends. Thus, she has no interest in taking seriously the idea that state power is inherently dangerous and problematic.

By directly discrediting right-wing statists such as the kleptocrats who ran the Bush administration into the ground and then proceeding to assert that free-market advocates such as libertarians are equally to blame for the current disaster simply because Bush’s cronies made tortured use of some of their ideological jargon, Klein seeks to kill two birds with one stone. And, she seems to presume, succeeding in sufficiently conflating libertarianism with neo-conservatism will leave the masses thinking their only remaining option is her brand of left-wing statism.

But those who truly pay attention can see what she’s up to. So don’t be fooled. She is absolutely correct that corporatism is destroying America, but socialism wouldn’t serve us any better. The real solution is to empower people to determine their own destinies. And the best way to do this is to expand liberty in all aspects of our lives — both social and economic.

***

For a detailed take-down of Klein's work, check out the Cato Institute's response to her fanciful anti-free market claims:
Naomi Klein's popular book The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, which claims to expose the truth about capitalism, is based on misconstrued statements, a misunderstanding of economic and political philosophies, and a misleading interpretation of economic history, contends a Cato Institute White Paper.

"To make her case, Klein exaggerates the free-market reforms that take place in times of crisis, often by ignoring central events and rewriting chronologies. She confuses libertarianism with corporatism and neoconservatism," writes author Johan Norberg, Cato senior fellow, in "The Klein Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Polemics."

Continue reading.

Abominations, Cartoons, And Cowards


(http://bloggingheads.tv/diavlogs/17911)

Topics covered:

Glenn calls John’s NAACP piece an abomination... John’s ideas for reforming the NAACP... Glenn’s memories of attending the Million Man March... Was that NY Post cartoon racist?... Prince Harry and the policing of discourse... Are we really “a nation of cowards” on race?...

More Ideas About Saving Newspapers

Mark Cuban ponders how newspapers might be able to survive in the digital age:
Here is a hard cold fact of the internet age. Any content creator whose sole business is selling their content al a carte will have a hard time surviving. In a world of unlimited digital choice, the cost of creating and marketing content that generates a profit is expensive and difficult. Which is exactly why the successful sites have been aggregators.

Its also exactly why newspapers are having a hard time making it. They sell papers 1 at a time. They sell home subscriptions one at a time. When they charge for monthly subscriptions online, they sell them one at a time. That’s a tough business.

Its not that the newspaper content is not worth it. The problem is that it requires prospective buyers to first value the content, then decide whether they want to go through the hassle of going to a newstand, calling the home delivery department of the paper, or putting in their credit card information to buy online. This may be beyond a solvable problem when much of the same content is available online for free.

Continue reading.

Update:

On a somewhat related note, the Freakonomics blog at the NYT has a great discussion of micropayments as a means of monetizing online content:
The notion of micropayments — a pay-per-click/download web model — is hardly a new one. But as a business model it hasn’t exactly caught fire, or even generated more than an occasional spark.

Lately, however, the journalism community has become obsessed with the idea. This is what happens when an existing business model begins to collapse: alternative models are desperately invented, debated, attempted, rejected, etc.

Continue reading.

Update II:

Cory Doctorow also has plenty to say on this subject:
Let me start by saying that I like newspapers. And let me say further that, no matter how much I like them, they just might not have a future.

The Internet chews up media and spits them out again. Sometimes they get more robust. Sometimes they get more profitable. Sometimes they die.

Continue reading.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Obama And The Media


(http://bloggingheads.tv/diavlogs/17848)

Topics covered:

Obama’s Bushian press instincts... Matt laughs at Obama’s pledge to “create or save” jobs... The downside of a celebrity president... Journalism gets stuck in campaign mode... A fond look back at the McCain campaign’s stupidity... Why Ana left Time...

CNN: Mexican Drug Violence Likened To "Civil War"

The most mainstream of mainstream media outlets reports:
A shootout in a border city that leaves five alleged drug traffickers sprawled dead on the street and seven police wounded. A police chief and his bodyguards gunned down outside his house in another border city. Four bridges into the United States shut down by protesters who want the military out of their towns and who officials say are backed by narcotraffickers.

...

Mexico, a country with a nearly 2,000-mile border with the United States, is undergoing a horrifying wave of violence that some are likening to a civil war. Drug traffickers battle fiercely with each other and Mexican authorities. The homicide rate reached a record level in 2008 and indications are that the carnage could be exceeded this year.

It's great to see CNN using such strong (and honest!) language. Of course, I've been harping on this issue for some time, writing posts such as "Rampant Drug Violence As A Good Sign? Seriously?" and "Mexico: The Canary In The Coal Mine?". But, regardless of how many times I've already said it, I still feel compelled to say it again: To end the violence, end the drug war. Legalize. Regulate. Tax. Now, now, now.

I don't care what the conventional wisdom is. If we don't change the status quo, the situation in Mexico may soon get far worse. And we really don't want a failed state sharing a nearly 2,000-mile border with us. It's difficult to overstate how bad that would be.

Google Advocates Increased Energy Research Funding

From Google's philanthropic arm, Google.org:
We must quickly develop low-cost renewable and efficient energy technology to avoid the devastating effects of climate change. This requires a strong financial commitment to clean energy research, development, and demonstration (RD&D) to achieve big breakthroughs.

Historically such funding has been anemic. After a peak in 1978 of $7 billion, U.S. government funding for energy RD&D dropped by more than 70%. Corporate RD&D fell even more, and funding in the early 2000s totaled just 0.3% of sector revenue, compared to 15% in the biotech sector. Is it any wonder the energy sector has struggled to make progress?

Continue reading.

Google's most important goal in this area is the development of renewable power that's cheaper than coal--even without accounting for the externalities associated with substantially altering the CO2 content of the atmosphere. Such technology is the holy grail of the green movement. Once developed, it would quickly make all economic objections to phasing out coal as an energy source moot. So let's all hope Google (or someone else) is successful in inventing such technology. Doing so in the only path I can see that will allow us to maintain and even surpass current levels of prosperity.

Update:

Google is also trying to keep people focused on smart-grid technology:
Just one week after launching Google's energy information campaign, we kicked off our first joint smart grid event with GE, a larger clean energy collaboration we announced last fall. Our timing was fortuitous; the event took place just as President Obama signed an historic economic stimulus bill that includes $11 billion to modernize the electricity grid.

Continue reading.

Update II:

Also, Climate Progress has a great post up about how large of a reduction of CO2 emissions can be accomplished with currently scalable ("shovel-ready," if you will) technology.

The Unabomber Was Right (And, Hopefully, Wrong)

From the Technium:
Ted Kaczynski, the convicted bomber who blew up dozens of technophilic professionals, was right about one thing: technology has its own agenda. The technium is not, as most people think, a series of individual artifacts and gadgets for sale. Rather, Kaczynski, speaking as the Unabomber, argued that technology is a dynamic holistic system. It is not mere hardware; rather it is more akin to an organism. It is not inert, nor passive; rather the technium seeks and grabs resources for its own expansion. It is not merely the sum of human action, but in fact it transcends human actions and desires. I think Kaczynski was right about these claims. In his own words the Unabomber says: "The system does not and cannot exist to satisfy human needs. Instead, it is human behavior that has to be modified to fit the needs of the system. This has nothing to do with the political or social ideology that may pretend to guide the technological system. It is the fault of technology, because the system is guided not by ideology but by technical necessity.”

I too argue that the technium is guided by “technical necessity.” That is, baked into the nature of this vast complex of technological systems are self-serving aspects – technologies that enable more technology, and systems that preserve themselves -- and also inherent biases that lead the technium in certain directions, outside of human desire. Kaczynski writes “modern technology is a unified system in which all parts are dependent on one another. You can't get rid of the ‘bad’ parts of technology and retain only the ‘good’ parts.”

Continue reading.

The Final Word On The Phelps Fiasco

...(at least on this blog) goes to Radley Balko, who's provided wonderfully, bitingly sarcastic commentary throughout the news cycle this event dominated:

Michael Phelps Apologizes ... to China
His message to Chinese youngsters: “Do the right thing.”

Which I guess means submit to the state’s authority, even when the law you’ve broken is an immoral one, and the means the state has used to enforce it are wholly disproportionate to the alleged crime.

So let’s stop with the rabble rousing. No more questioning the legitimacy of bad laws. No more questioning the state’s power, or it’s willingness to flex its authority when it gets embarrassed by its citizenry. No more staring down tanks, whether they belong to Deng Xiaoping ... or Sheriff Leon Lott.

And, in case you don't feel sufficiently motivated to click Balko's links, here's the picture of Deng's tanks:



And here's Lott's:



That's right, the good Sheriff Lott actually procured an armored personnel carrier for his department--and that was even before his jurisdiction was overrun with such nefarious characters as pot-smoking swimmers. Balko actually wrote about this madness months ago:
The Richland County, South Carolina Sheriff's Department (that's them above) just obtained an armored personnel carrier, complete with a belt-fed, .50-cal turreted machine gun. Sheriff Leon Lott has charmingly named the vehicle "The Peacemaker," and insists that using a caliber of ammunition that even the U.S. military is reluctant to use against human targets (it's generally reserved for use against armored vehicles) will "save lives."

...

Like most of these military toys obtained by local police departments, the Peacemaker will inevitably be used on drug and gambling raids—that is, to enforce laws against consensual activities. Or, as we're now seeing in Minnesota, perhaps on raids against leftist political activists.

Oh, authoritarianism. The human propensity to violently dominate others would be hilarious if it weren't so tragic. And terrifying. Because when it comes down to it, we are just an overgrown tribe of super-empowered chimps.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Still Sick

I still feel like shit. And I'm heavily enough self-medicated that productivity of any kinds is basically impossible. But I'm still making it to the Naomi Klein lecture at 7:30 tonight in the IMU's main ballroom.

And here are some quasi-random videos.

Milton Friedman vs. Naomi Klein (via Jeff Yager):



Utah remains full of anti-gay crazies (via Towleroad):



And, finally, Huck Finn told with lego characters in four minutes (via the YouTube corporate blog):

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Sick Leave

I've come down with a bad cold and thus have been sleeping and self-medicating most of the day. This is likely to continue tomorrow. I'll be back up and blogging as soon as I can. But in the meantime, I'm still sharing a few things via my recommended articles page/feed, thus allowing you to see what articles I'm reading from my sick bed.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Event: A Prebuttal Of Naomi Klein

From the UI Advocates of Liberty site:
Speaker: Will Wilkinson
Tuesday, February 17th
7 pm, 1505 Seamans Center

Co-sponsored by Advocates of Liberty and U of I Department of Economics

Naomi Klein will be on campus giving a UI Lecture Committee speech in February where she will be talking about her book "Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism". This book attempts to tie Bush's corporatist big-business economic policies, the Iraq War, and most other bad things to the free market ideas of Milton Friedman. Will Wilkinson will defend "neo-liberal" free markets, defend Friedman against Klein's scurrilous attacks, and reveal the many errors, factual and logical, in Klein's bestseller.

In a lecture one night before Naomi Klein's appearance on campus, Wilkinson will give a talk co-sponsored by the Advocates of Liberty and the UI Department of Economics. Let the fun begin.

Learn more about Wilkinson at his blog.

Anti-gay Paranoia In West Virginia

These videos are always just so bizarre--not to mention full of lies and misleading information:


(Via Towleroad.)

Pirate Power: Libertarian Internet Activists Stand Tall

Wired reports:
STOCKLHOM – Hours away from their landmark criminal trial in Sweden, the men behind the world’s most notorious BitTorrent site are showing no sign of regret.

Pirate flags flew above a scrapped bus from Stockholm's public transport system. The bus was parked outside the National Museum of Science and Technology as a command center for the Pirate Bureau, a loosely organized network of activist youth. The Pirate Bay was one of their experimental projects, which then grew to become the world's most famous file-sharing site, now run independently.

On Sunday this history of The Pirate Bay was flaunted in front of a large media crowd in a museum auditorium, while children discovered the play-friendly side of technology with their parents outside. The press conference was held the day before the scheduled opening of court proceedings against four individuals involved in running the site.

Continue reading.

These guys remind me of the society Cory Doctorow envisioned in his novel Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, which is available as a free download. And, given the insanity of the "intellectual property" law the United States has been strong-arming the rest of the world into adopting, I am very much sympathetic to their cause. So fight on valiant pirates, fight on--I believe the future will belong to you.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Baker And McArdle On Economic Issues


(http://bloggingheads.tv/diavlogs/17796)

Topics covered:

Megan blames Baby Boomers for the stock bubble... Dean says no—it’s Greenspan’s fault... Could the housing crisis have been prevented?... Should government pay people to water their lawns?... Did the New Deal work?... Why Dean is worried about Obama’s stimulus...

A Proposal For Saving Suburbia

Here's a great discussion from the Infrastructurist about how to fix America's dying suburbs (via desmoinesdem):
For a half century, it’s been easy to mock suburbia for being too comfortable, white-bread and conformist. That’s all changed in the last 18 months as many suburbs have abruptly taken on a sense of tragedy and desperation–a fact that underlies Obama’s trip to devastated Lee County, Florida, later today. Drug violence, gangs pillaging half-empty subdivisions for scrap metal, skateboarders reclaiming the pools of abandoned McMansions, and whole streets of dead lawns spray-painted green have emerged as the new symbols of life in the ‘burbs.

One man who foresaw all the ugliness is Christopher Leinberger. The Brookings Institute fellow and distinguished scholar of the suburban living arrangement has decades of experience in real estate development and urban planning. The meme of doomed suburbs went mainstream with his cover story for the Atlantic magazine last March, “The Next Slum?” The problem, he says, goes much deeper than the foreclosure crisis. It’s part of a painful societal adjustment that will take a generation or more to work through.

After heralding the crash of America’s predominant living arrangement, his latest efforts are devoted to showing how suburbs can adjust and reemerge as healthy communities. In this conversation he analyzes the roots of suburbia’s current plight and explains how three straightforward adjustments to infrastructure can save a community.

Continue reading.

John McCain Is A Pathetic Old Hack

CNN reports:
Arizona Sen. John McCain did not pull any punches in assessing a major milestone in his former rival’s nascent presidency.

“It was a bad beginning,” McCain said Sunday of the legislative process that resulted in the $787 billion stimulus bill recently passed by Congress. “It was a bad beginning because it wasn’t what we promised the American people, what President Obama promised the American people – that we would sit down together.”

I can't say I disagree that the stimulus bill is a poor start for the new administration. But the Republicans' ideas weren't really any better.

And, as for Sen. McCain, his shady, xenophobic campaign tactics in the 2008 presidential election marked an embarrassingly bad ending to his long and highly overrated career in government. If Republicans are still looking to him for leadership, they haven't even begun to seriously consider how to pull themselves out of their collective death spiral.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Lessons Learned In Lost Gay Marriage Battles

From the Independent Gay Forum, which collects excellent articles dealing with LGBT issues from a wide variety of sources:
With a switch of just two percent of the votes, the leaders of the "No on 8" campaign would today be heroes. We'd be lauding their powerful advertising campaign. We'd be celebrating their coalition-building. We'd wonder at their unprecedented fund-raising prowess. And we'd still have gay marriage in California.

But life is a vale of tears, so the conventional wisdom is that the leaders of No on 8 are clueless cowards who squandered a large lead in a blue state in a bright blue year.

Never mind that they were trying to overcome deeply embedded views about something Americans think is the foundation of responsible family life.

Continue reading.

The issues addressed in this article are particularly important for those of us in Iowa to consider as we await our state supreme court's decision in its own gay-marriage case.

Darwin, Lincoln, And Modernity

From the Darwinian Conservatism blog:
It is a remarkable coincidence that Charles Darwin and Abraham Lincoln were born on the same day 200 years ago--February 12, 1809. In some previous posts, I have suggested that this should lead us to think about the points of contact between these two men.

Many books are now being published in connection either with the Lincoln bicentennial or the Darwin bicentennial. But one book combines the two--Adam Gopnik's Angels and Ages: A Short Book about Darwin, Lincoln, and Modern Life (Knopf, 2009). Gopnik is an award-winning writer for The New Yorker; and, as one might expect, this book is wonderfully written. A short excerpt from the book has been published in the February issue of Smithsonian magazine, which can be found online.

Gopnik's main theme is that Lincoln and Darwin were alike in helping to shape the "moral modernity" of "liberal civilization" as based on democratic politics and scientific reasoning--"science and democracy, an idea of objective knowledge arrived at by skepticism and of liberty available to all" (14, 18, 21). Gopnik uses the term "liberalism" in such a broad sense that it encompasses both the political "conservative" in American politics as well as the political "liberal" (18).

Continue reading.

Science Saturday: Darwin The Rock Star


(http://bloggingheads.tv/diavlogs/17783)

Topics covered:

Is Darwin overrated?... Horizontal evolution: Revenge of the devoured microbe!... Piecing together the tree of life... How violent were humanity’s ancestors?... How studying group selection could save lives... Why most animals don’t do calculus...

Friday, February 13, 2009

A Suggestion For "Taco"

Frequent Podium commenter "taco" writes:
This is my community newspaper. As a UI student, the Daily Iowan is a hub of information and source of conversation that links my world with a broad spectrum of my peers on campus, from the inveterate bloggers to the ignorant troglodytes.

This is why I criticize. I want the Daily Iowan to be the best publication it can be so that when I talk news with any given fellow student, we're discussing good information and can productively advancing the discussion of important issues as the educated class of America.

My response:
Hey, taco, I have a better suggestion for you. Apply for a job at the DI. Then you can do your best to fix the problems you see with it.

CO2 Levels Now Highest In At Least 650,000 Years

Climate Progress reports:
NOAA’s Global Monitoring Division reports that global concentrations of the primary heat-trapping greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide, jumped 2.28 ppm in 2008.



A study in Science from the Global Carbon Project (see “More on soaring carbon concentrations“) noted:
The present concentration is the highest during the last 650,000 years and probably during the last 20 million years.

Worse, the rate of growth of CO2 concentrations this decade is 2.1 ppm a year — 40% higher than the rate from the 1990s. At the same time that CO2 emissions are soaring, CO2 sinks are saturating (see “The ocean is absorbing less carbon dioxide“).

Continue reading.

Even those who are skeptical of the computer models climate scientists use to make their climate change predictions ought to be very concerned about these numbers. We are changing this planet's atmospheric composition at an amazing rate. That's something that we should all take pretty seriously.

Update:

Speaking of the extent to which human activity is reshaping our planet, Wired reports:
The global shipping industry hasn't just tied together the world's nations economically, but biologically, too.

The average Great Lakes port, such as Chicago, is only an average of two degrees of separation from 80 percent of the ports in the world, from Kuala Lumpur to Amsterdam, according to new analysis of more than 2 million ship movements presented at the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences annual meeting.

...

The boundaries of previously distinct geographies with their own distinct forms of life have been blurred by invasive organisms hitching rides on shipping vessels. The world's bodies of water are getting more homogeneous, leading some biologists to refer to the current era of global biological flatness as "the homogecene."

Continue reading.

This brings E.O. Wilson's recent talk at the UI to mind. His message was that working to maintain robust biodiversity is the best way to ensure that we're being careful enough in our management of the earth's biosphere.

This is the only planet we know of that is capable of sustaining our civilization. Thus, its value to all of us is pretty much infinite. If we're smart, we'll start acting like it.

How’s Obama Doing?


(http://bloggingheads.tv/diavlogs/17717)

Topics covered:

Obama’s stimulus: legislative victory, policy defeat?... David says the media confused bipartisanship with success... A key problem with Geithner’s bailout plan—it’s not a plan!... Will wily execs wriggle out of compensation caps?... An unsettling new Afghanistan-Vietnam parallel... ‘80s flashback! Was Reagan heroic or horrible?...

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Asses and assumptions

I wanted to respond to the melange of "comments" on my column today (or "editorial" as some see it), but I don't want to waste column inches on the online drivel, so here we are.

I guess I'm an ass, and I would apologize, but I'm not quite sure what to apologize for, seeing as most (not all) of the comments on the column are simply people who think they know me, or assume to know the details of my life or my political affiliations, and all but a couple of these commenters throw out mindless blacktop trash talk and "you suck" or "stuff it" instead of trying to tell me why they think I suck or why I should stuff it. Fair enough. I suck. But, why?

One commenter claims I don't know the plight of the working man, while another tells me I'm going to be stuck at McDonalds the rest of my life. Yet another commenter seems to think he knows my class schedule, my TV watching habits, and my underwear size (all wrong, by the way).

The assumptions amaze me. Cowardly little people gain a certain boost of confidence and authority when given a mouse, keyboard, and monitor. Folks that are so irate at my stupid rantings, yet instead of taking action and writing an email or a letter or even (Pete forbid) construct an intelligent guest opinion they choose to spout 4th grade insults or make accusations about my life outside the Daily Iowan. I don't mind, honestly. Part of being a writer is knowing you're always going to have critics, and sometimes those critics can provide valuable insight and help you to improve. I guess this wasn't one of those times.

What amazes me even more is the complete stupidity of certain return commenters, who absolutely hate my writing, hate the paper, hate our "liberal" views, hate our editorials and I'll bet they even hate our pets. Yet, for some reason, they CONTINUE to read, every day, expecting some miraculous shift that has yet to materialize. It takes me back to a clip I found on the internet of the old Tony Kornheiser radio show. Tony is upset because a listener emailed him to tell him he hates Tony's show, oh, and by the way, he also listens every day.

What?

Folks, I can't make everyone happy, and I'm not going to try, but here's my question to you; If you don't like my stuff, I have a crazy, way-out-there suggestion...pssst...DON'T READ IT ANYMORE. I know, it's a difficult concept to grab, but give it a shot. Do you buy pork chops at the store even though you hate pork chops? Every week, I'll bet you go back to the meat department and buy pack upon pack of pork chops, and every night you go home and make pork chops for dinner. And you sit there at your table and you chew the pork chops and bitch and moan, "I hate pork chops. They suck. I never have liked pork chops, and I never will."

So, let me ask you, are you making pork chops again tomorrow night?

Kudos to the lone individual who had the minerals to email me and offer her viewpoints.

Rampant Drug Violence As A Good Sign? Seriously?

Andrew Sullivan points to an absurd paragraph from the Wall Street Journal:
U.S. law-enforcement officials—as well as some of their counterparts in Mexico—say the explosion in violence indicates progress in the war on drugs as organizations under pressure are clashing “If the drug effort were failing there would be no violence,” a senior U.S. official said Wednesday. There is violence “because these guys are flailing. We're taking these guys out. The worst thing you could do is stop now.”

The Cato Institute offers a sane response to the government's tired propaganda:
While U.S. leaders have focused on actual or illusory security threats in distant regions, there is a troubling security problem brewing much closer to home. Violence in Mexico, mostly related to the trade in illegal drugs, has risen sharply in recent years and shows signs of becoming even worse. That violence involves turf fights among the various drug-trafficking organizations as they seek to control access to the lucrative U.S. market. To an increasing extent, the violence also entails fighting between drug traffickers and Mexican military and police forces.

The carnage has already reached the point that the U.S. State Department has issued travel alerts for Americans traveling in Mexico. U.S. tourism to cities on Mexico’s border with the United States, where the bloodshed has been the worst, has dropped sharply. Even more troubling, the violence is spilling across the border into communities in the southwestern United States.

Continue reading.

And John Robb goes even further with his quite literal warnings about the barbarians gathering at our gates.

The best way to protect America's national security is to legalize, regulate, and tax most currently illegal drugs. Doing so is the most feasible strategy for bankrupting the dangerous global guerrillas who are becoming ever more aggressive in asserting themselves in Mexico and the United States. And if we don't undercut their power base, they will undercut ours.

Why Broadband Is Now Critical Infrastructure

Google's take on broadband provisions in the economic stimulus package:

Twitter-ready Sex Advice From Dan Savage

Summarizing a Q&A session he just held at the University of Michigan, he writes:
Some of the questions asked by the students at UM tonight...

My really unpopular sexblog only gets hits to one obscure post on armpit fetishes. How popular is this fetish?

Is monogamy "normal"?

Fisting: Yes or No?

I'm a lesbian and my girlfriend is bisexual and wants to have a threesome with a man. This makes me nervous. What should I do?

When my boyfriend goes down on me, he leaves behind copious amounts of saliva. Could this be bad for my vaginal health?

There's this guy who likes me and I have no interest in him. I had a talk with him to let him know but he cried when I told him. How can I get him to stop?

Some of my answers: if there were tons of stuff online about armpits then your unpopular sexblog's single obscure post about armpit fetishes wouldn't get any more traffic than your other obscure posts, so we can infer that it's not too popular; normal, yes, natural, no; not now, I'm giving a talk; take a Xanax or date a lesbian; saliva is acidic and could dissolve your vagina; he's still crying?

Does Obama Intend To Continue Bush's Secrecy?

Andrew Sullivan, Marc Ambinder, and Glenn Greenwald are caught up in something of a bloggy war of words over the Obama administration's handling of the state secrets controversy over the last few days.

Here's how Sullivan sums up his stance:
For my part, I have not changed my mind and never, pace Glenn, stated that the Obama administration was complicit in torture. I said it should be very careful to avoid that. I would prefer that this evidence be released, but I understand that there may be some serious reasons for a holding pattern in the first weeks of a new administration. I'm going to watch this carefully; and I'm happy that Feingold is asking for a briefing.

He also mentions this odd Guardian story, which I highly recommend: "Binyam Mohamed torture evidence 'hidden from Obama'"

Regardless of how it all plays out, Obama's hand is being forced early-on. I remain cautiously optimistic regarding Obama's intentions in the realm of civil liberties. But it's time to start demanding results.

Update:

Wired reports:
U.S. Lawmakers on Wednesday introduced legislation that might make it more difficult for federal judges to scuttle lawsuits in which the government claims state secrets might be exposed.

The proposals in the House and Senate came two days after U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder ordered the agency to review litigation inherited from the Bush administration in which the so-called state-secrets privilege was invoked. That same day, however, the Justice Department invoked the privilege before a San Francisco federal appeals court in a bid to block a lawsuit brought by five U.S. prisoners who claim they were kidnapped – or rendered – from the United States and flown overseas where they claim they were tortured.

Continue reading.

Update II:

Glenn Greenwald reacts to Congress' movement to limit the president's power to assert state secrets as a reason to dismiss lawsuits:
Earlier this week, I wrote about the State Secrets Protection Act of 2008, which was co-sponsored by numerous key Senators [including Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton, as well as the Senate Judiciary Committee's Chair (Pat Leahy) and ranking member (Arlen Specter)], and which was approved by the Judiciary Committee last year with all Democrats voting in favor. That bill, in essence, sought to ban the exact abuse of the State Secrets privilege which the Bush administration repeatedly invoked and which, now, the Obama administration has embraced: namely, as a weapon to conceal and immunize government lawbreaking (by compelling the dismissal of entire lawsuits in advance) rather than a limited, document-by-document evidentiary privilege.

Yesterday -- as an obvious response to the Obama DOJ's support for the Bush view of the privilege -- Leahy and Specter, along with Russ Feingold, Claire McCaskill, Sheldon Whitehouse and Ted Kennedy, re-introduced that bill in the Senate.

Continue reading.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Mind-altering Substances Aren't Just For Humans

Cracked.com reports (via Andrew Sullivan):



Almost everyone loves drugs. Whether it's a cigarette break after a high-powered business meeting, a cold beer after a hot day on the job or a half-ounce of heroin injected directly into the scrotum to ease the stress of writing Internet comedy, people love their intoxicants.

But that's not a human invention. Experts have found that animals also seek out a quick chemical high from plants, bugs and, well, wherever they can find it. Here are seven animals that love the magic of intoxication even more than we do.

Continue reading.

Scandal! I demand that General Mills drop their degenerate anthropomorphic bee mascot immediately. And how can the GOP possibly continue to associate itself with a species of lushes like elephants? Worst of all, what will the children think when they learn that Santa Claus' universally respected reindeer love to trip balls? All these animals owe the American people apologies--they've really let us down with their inappropriate behavior.

Capitalism Is More Gay-friendly Than Democracy

I love capitalism. Anyone who disses our economic system while at the same time extolling the virtues of our political system ought to consider the case of gay rights. Businesses are generally happy to cater to gay people because we're a great target demographic for many specialized services. Most business people thus leave any prejudices they might have against gays at home and do what they can to get money from us at their workplaces. Democracy, on the other hand, has delivered the gay rights movement numerous defeats in jurisdictions throughout the United States.

Given that my sexual orientation is listed on my Facebook profile, that company targets ads at me based on the fact that I'm gay. Here are two examples:
Only if you are gay

If you are gay and proud of who you are, we would love you to join our new social network gays.com. Check it out now - it is free!

Win A Massachusetts Trip

Enter for a chance to win a trip to the first state in the nation to legalize same-sex marriage. It's all here for everyone.


In addition to ads that target gays as a unique demographic, there are others that simply offer a gay twist on otherwise mainstream phenomena:
Find Your Perfect Partner

Join today! myPartner.com is offering new members until Valentine's Day a free 3 month membership ($89.95 value) with coupon code: LW4N

Intimate Gifts for Him

Save on sexy gifts for him at our huge Valentine's sale.Hundreds of items on sale: All your favorite new underwear and swimwear styles.


The message these ads send: Hey, gays, you don't want to be alone on Valentine's Day either, do you? No, you don't! So use our site to meet a partner. And then check out this other site where you can buy your new boyfriend some sexy underwear for the special night! We don't care in the least what you guys do after that underwear comes off, we just want you to buy that underwear from us.

But there are also some ads that simultaneously irritate and amuse me--especially those hyping gay cruises:
All-Gay Mexico Cruise

Discover Mexico's best beaches with RSVP on our biggest gay cruise of the year. Non-stop fun from just $799!

Atlantis Cruise From $999

Atlantis presents the world's largest all-gay cruise. Sailing from Miami January 25. Now from just $999!


Urgh. As much fun as hanging out with a bunch of other gay guys at a bar once in a while can be, an all-gay cruise would likely drive me insane. For the most part, I prefer to spend my free time around people with whom I have more in common than sexual orientation. Sure, it's almost certainly ridiculously easy to get laid on such a trip, but engaging in that sort of behavior is also a great way to catch a nasty disease or three.

However, if people really want to go on such cruises (and, given the ads, some must), more power to them. And regardless of how the executives managing the corporations that run these gay cruises feel about the activities that go on during such ventures, they really don't mind as long as they get their money. Unsurprisingly, the thought of a boat loaded with gay men butt-fucking each other with wild abandon for days on end becomes a lot less troubling to the average American businessman when the money those men give him for the use of his ship pays his mortgage and puts his kids through college.

Whereas democracy is a zero-sum game in which those who win elections generally advance their favored policies at the expense of those who lose, capitalism is not zero sum. The gay cruise ships' owners, workers, and passengers all benefit from these specialized cruises. The owners and workers use the resources at their disposal to earn a living while the passengers spend the money they've earned elsewhere in order to have enjoyable vacations. It doesn't really matter how anyone feels about gay rights. Rather, everyone involved works together for common benefit without worrying about other people's personal lives. That's a truly beautiful thing--and it's a major reason why I am a libertarian. Politics isn't half as noble a pursuit as business.

One Iowa Presents: Our Story

From Mark Anthony:
Come to the screening of One Iowa's short film, "Our Story"!

Join us for the Iowa City public premiere of our new DVD, "Our Story" TOMORROW NIGHT, February 12 from 7-8 at the Englert Theatre (221 E Washington St) for an evening of insightful and entertaining commentary!

The film features religious and political leaders, PFLAG parents, and same-sex couples from across Iowa as they share what marriage equality means to them. A short discussion will follow the 12-minute video.

If you have any questions, please call Ryan Crane at 402.659.8110 or ryan@oneiowa.org. See you at the Englert!

Learn more about One Iowa at the organization's website.

And Now For Something Completely Different

I love science. It's probably a bit of the-grass-is-always-greener syndrome, but none the less, I am completely fascinated. To a lesser extent, I love scientists. Sure, their 'just the facts mam' mentality is sometimes frustrating to someone so fond of embellishment, but when it comes down to it they are simply refreshing. Scientists, on a whole, and yes I'm generalizing bear with me, approach the world with a fresh pair of eyes. They are so excited about everything. The world is a playground of exploration and possibility. As someone who wades around with jaded English, History, and Philosophy majors, (I'm trying to burn as many bridges as I can here) I can't help but love their mindset. So when I heard a report on NPR about some fun-loving fruit fly experts, I had to spread the love.

So geneticists (a field I briefly considered pursuing freshman year) have been studying fruit flies forever, or just about forever right? Well, when they unearth or create a new gene, they have the benefit, nay right, to name it. I have long been a proponent of having fun with learning. Turn things into a game and people will remember facts, details, names, more easily. These geneticists had the same idea. When it came to naming the various genes with their specific traits, they had some fun with it. For example:

Agoraphobic: larva that appear normal but never climb out of their shell.

Cheap Date: a fruit fly that is extremely sensitive to alcohol.

Ken and Barbie: fruit flies that fail to develop genitalia.

I'm Not Dead Yet: fruit flies that live longer than is typically usual.
(For those of you who don't know, it's a play on a Monty Python movie The Holy Grail. That's all the explanation I'm giving you. If you're not already familiar with it, I hope you are shamed into looking it up).

So, the point of sharing this was not just to illustrate why I love scientists. There's more to the story. Doctors who treat people with genetic diseases are up in arms (and these are the people I would have been dealing with had I gone into genetics, psh). The thing is, we share a bunch of genes with other creatures, as I'm sure you know. It is more than likely that a genetic disease in humans will be the result of one of these humorously named genes. Doctors don't want to tell people that the reason they will have a shortened lifespan or will live the rest of their days highly inconvenienced is the result of the Ken and Barbie gene or perhaps worse, the I'm Not Dead Yet gene. So the doctors are forcing the geneticists to change some of the more offensive names, which if you ask me, is completly lame.

The simple way around this is to simply turn the I'm Not Dead Yet or the Ken and Barbie genes into the INDY and KB gene. Of course the patient can still peruse the interwebs and discover the chatrooms of the fruit fly geneticists, but I'm pretty sure if they are actually ill, they'll have better things to do than check out nerdy discussion boards. Even if ill patients were to discover the CD gene making them sick stands for Cheap Date, they might get a kick out of it. After all, laughter is the best medicine.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Questioning Obama's Economic Claims

From the Cato @ Liberty blog:
On economics, the president made claims such as “I can tell you with complete confidence that a failure to act will only deepen this crisis.” Yet how can he have “complete confidence” when the economics profession is divided on the stimulus issue, and when we have seen policymakers and top economists making continual mistakes with their policies and predictions over the last year?

On economists, the president opined “although there are some politicians who are arguing that we don’t need a stimulus, there are very few economists who are making that argument.” Mr. President, please look at the Cato list of more than 300 university economists who oppose a big stimulus spending bill. Please have your advisers call these experts to get an independent outside-the-beltway view.

Continue reading.

Though I agree with the new president on many issues, I remain highly skeptical of his economic policies--particularly because his statements on his proposed stimulus plan are so lacking in nuance and, frankly, honesty. Thus, I'm glad that organizations like Cato are out there to keep me informed about the other side in these debates.

Perhaps the best thing about these libertarian writers is that they were equally critical of Bush's economic liberalism. Unlike most members of Congress, these guys aren't just a bunch of partisan hacks. They actually offer principled reasons for opposing Obama's economic plan. Most Republicans are in no position to do so because of their complicity in Bush's wild spending over the last eight years.

Ron Paul is, refreshingly, a notable exception:



If only Paul (minus his disappointing coziness with some disgusting bigots) and Obama (minus his willingness to claim false certainty on complex economic issues) really represented the true nature of their parties. A choice between these two would at least leave us with decent stances on civil liberties regardless of who won. But the rank and file office holders in both parties are far worse than either of these mostly respectable men. At some point, we have to find a way to fix our absurdly corrupt party system.