Tag Archives: Politics

Kvick Tänkare

Harper’s has a really interesting interview with an author of a new book on neoconservatism.  I usually wouldn’t consider a book like this, expecting a typical MSNBC screed but it does appear to have some promise.  Unfortunately, the term ‘neo-con’ has sort of become a catch phrase and I don’t think people understand the deeper philosophical tenets that underpin it.  The interview does a pretty nice job of hitting some high points.

War–perpetual war–is the ultimate means by which the neocons can fight creeping nihilism and promote sacrifice and nationalistic patriotism. An aggressive, proactive foreign policy therefore serves a greater purpose–to raise ordinary Americans above their daily, selfish concerns.

Shirky’s perspective on the Wikileaks issue is worth reading:

If the long haul were all there was, Wikileaks would be an obviously bad thing. The practical history of politics, however, suggests that the periodic appearance of such unconstrained actors in the short haul is essential to increased democratization, not just of politics but of thought.

We celebrate the printers of 16th century Amsterdam for making it impossible for the Catholic Church to constrain the output of the printing press to Church-approved books a challenge that helped usher in, among other things, the decentralization of scientific inquiry and the spread of politically seditious writings advocating democracy.

I find the comparison to attempts by the Church to restrict information interesting (and don’t forget that religion was a much more serious affair for people than it is now.  You could get tortured and burned at the stake for trying to translate it into English.)

I’m glad to see ‘Get your War On’ is back and J. uses it to highlight the fact that a recent poll identified that 92% of men in Helmand or Kandahar don’t know that 9/11 is the reason for U.S. involvement in Afghanistan.  I can’t speak to that.  I would say that in the area around Bagram in 2003/2004 those numbers would have been much, much lower.  Of course we had a lot more Tajiks in the area who had affiliations with or membership in the Northern Alliance and so 9/11 was a bit of a godsend to them since it meant American help was coming.

Tom Ricks posted an article by a Marine who’s pretty upset, doesn’t buy the idea that we’re really an all-volunteer force, thinks we’re dangerously setting up the military as a supra-elite portion of our society and would like to see a return of national service.  It’s a raw, emotional argument that I agree with in principle but not in degree.  I really recommend it for its comment section which is quite robust and, in my opinion, contains a better discussion than the original post.


How’s that takin’ back your country thing workin’ out for ya?

Holy cripes…I knew the Right would dump their Tea-Party promises* but I figured they’d at least wait until the new congress got sworn in.

Remember how the Tea Party was going to get control of the budget by reigning in all that pork spending?  Yeah…forget that.

…presumptive House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) said that his caucus would call for a moratorium on congressional earmarks, but not for an outright ban, as the Tea Party movement has demanded.  “Some things that people call earmarks here,” Boehner told Bret Baier, “wouldn’t classify as an earmark to the American people.”

In other words, we’ll be in favor of cutting pork in Democratic districts but Republican districts can expect the spigot to open full bore.

Remember how we were finally going to eliminate the Department of Mind Control Education that was forcing our children to learn extreme and bizarre theories like gravity, evolution and math?  Yeah, well, don’t get excited.

But GOP Rep. John Kline of Minnesota, the soon-to-be-ranking member of the House’s education and labor committee, dismissed talk that the new Congress will make it a priority to dismantle the Education Department.

“In some ways, that’s sort of a talking point,” Kline told Anderson. “There will be those who campaigned on that language. I’m not sure they always know what it means.”

Here’s a news flash.  When your party leadership says you don’t know what you’re talking about and don’t even understand what your campaign platform meant, don’t expect to get your agenda moved forward.

Finally, remember how we were going to ‘repeal and replace’ healthcare?  Yeehaw!  Sick poor people are funny!  Well, calm down cowboy, that ain’t happening either.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky conceded that a full repeal of the health care law won’t be possible in the short term but pledged that Republicans would use their new oversight powers in the House to keep pressure on the Obama administration and Democrats.
Because in two years it’ll be so much easier to (as David Frum put it):
…how many votes could we muster to re-open the “doughnut hole” and charge seniors more for prescription drugs? How many votes to re-allow insurers to rescind policies when they discover a pre-existing condition? How many votes to banish 25 year olds from their parents’ insurance coverage?
Now that’s what I call victory.

*After all, that is their modus operandi just see their promises to: enact constitutional amendments against flag burning and gay marriages, shrinking government, reigning in spending, and ‘compassionate conservatism’.

(h/t to Cheryl and Slate)


Go vote…unless you’re voting the wrong way, then stay home and yell at the TV.

I was the 81st person to vote in my precinct today.  That would be Pennsylvania’s 8th (The fightin’ 8th!) in which a good, honest Irish boy Patrick Murphy is in a very tough fight against some potato eatin’, drunkard mick called Fitzpatrick (The previous sentence was in jest, please don’t sue me for libel.  I have no idea if Fitzpatrick likes potatoes) .  If all politics is local than Murphy’s done a good job for the TwShiloh household coming to our aid whilst we were lost in a federal bureaucratic black hole.

I got in a rather long winded, if good natured and pointless discussion today about the Tea Party (and modern ‘conservatism’ while we’re at it) and my biggest frustration with it (and there are so many to choose from) which is its embrace of ignorance and the substitution of ideology for science.  From there we got into a debate as to whether Sarah Palin is or isn’t stupid.  My father seems to think that since she’s attracted a large and loyal following she can’t be stupid to which I responded:

  1. charismatic does not equal intelligent
  2. she’s been unable to articulate a complex or sophisticated thought

Of course I couldn’t even get him to concede that roughly 20% of the electorate is batshit crazy either (as evidenced by people who think Obama literally is the anti-Christ or the numerous birthers, truthers or other wackjobs out there).    So, we were unable to reach agreement.

In any case, I wish I had this on hand…quite a nice tool for the next time someone asks for specifics about what’s been done over the past two years.

What the fuck has Obama done so far?

That sound you hear is Sir Humphrey spinning in his grave.

It’s a good think poor Sir Humphrey has moved on given this news from across the pond.

As many as 500,000 public sector jobs will be lost and the state pension age will be raised to 66 four years earlier than planned.Departments will face an average 19 percent budget cut under the plan. One of the hardest hit will be the foreign office, which will face a 24 percent cut, likely leading to the firing of hundreds of London-based diplomats.

To see how things used to work may I recommend this episode from Yes, Prime Minister.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, this is by far the best series to describe government out there.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Electorial shock! (Swedish edition)

Sweden had their national elections on Sunday and there were some very interesting developments in the land of the world famous bikini team.  The Social Democrats, traditionally the nation’s largest – by far – took a pounding and received 31% of the votes.  While it’s still the biggest vote getter in the country, gone are the days when they could hope to win a majority in the parliament by themselves.  They’ve refused to change with the times and can do little more than advocate the same decades old policies.  Voters are not amused, apparently.  Time will tell if they dig in their heels or pivot and adapt.

The Moderate Party (of which current Prime Minister, Fredrik Reinfeldt is a member) had a mixed day showing a significant electoral improvement (almost capturing as many votes as the Social Democrats) but unable to gather enough votes for the Alliance to make up a majority in the Riksdag.

The big winners, relatively speaking, are the Swedish Democrats, who are considered an anti-immigrant, nationalist party.  They received 5.7% of the votes which entitle them to 20 seats in the parliament.  Both blocks (the Alliance and the Red-Greens) have rejected the idea of working with the Swedish Democrats in any way, describing them as an extremist party whose ideals have no place in Sweden.

It should be noted that if the Swedish Democrats were campaigning in America they would most likely fall under the umbrella of ‘RINO‘.  Even though Sweden is ruled by a ‘center-right’ coalition, in America’s political spectrum it would be so far left it wouldn’t even register.  If you think President Obama is a Socialist bent on turning America into a worker’s paradise, you ain’t seen nothin’ compared to Sweden.  All of this makes Jim DeMint‘s (Idiot – South Carolina) comments on CNN today that ‘America is to the left of Europe’ not only laughable but also reflects his staggering ignorance (and why does he have an Islamic crescent over his picture on his website?  Oh, who’s the dirty Islamist appeaser now, Jimbo?).

The Green party has an opportunity to really do well for themselves.  They’ve got over 7% of the vote and so could launch the Alliance over the 50% mark and give them a clear majority.  In interviews with Radio Sweden leading up to the election, the party’s spokespeople (they don’t have leaders) seemed open to the possibility but in the hours after the election have apparently hardened their position and are now refusing to work with the Alliance (at least in part because of their plans to build more nuclear power plants).  Still, the Greens could probably extract some pretty hefty concessions if they were open to negotiations.  It remains to be seen if they’ll try to work out a deal or stick with the Red-Green alliance and try to stymie the minority government to such a degree that it forces a new election.  Given the tail spin the Social Democrats appear to be in, I’m not sure that would really help them but who knows…

So, it all falls to the Sweden Democrats.  While no one wants to work with them, their votes might very well make or break the government.  They’re a relatively new party and so if they moderate, they might get a seat at the table one day (after all, the Moderates were pretty extreme when they first came into power) but it won’t be anytime soon.

This really seems like a better system than our ‘winner take all’ two party system we’ve got.  Some sort of proportional representation for the house of representatives would allow more parties to rise and force compromise…plus it’d be a LOT more interesting than the binary choice we’ve got now.

The tea party as leaderless network

National Journal has an interesting piece on the Tea Party (whoa, hold on, this isn’t going to be a political screed) and their organization, or rather, their lack of it.

Strange though it may seem, this is a coordinated network, not a hierarchy. There is no chain of command. No group or person is subordinate to any other. The tea parties are jealously independent and suspicious of any efforts at central control, which they see as a sure path to domination by outside interests.

The article doesn’t break a whole lot of new ground since much of this has been covered previously in discussions about network-centric warfare but it does probably hit a different audience here.

Decentralized networks have a lot of advantages over hierarchical organizations yet also come with some substantial disadvantages (which may be why most networks strive to impose structure as soon as they can).

“What I see is, every three, four, five months about 10 to 20 percent of your active people trail off,” says Medina, the Dallas-based organizer. “Those numbers have to be replaced every few months. It’s a continual grind to keep the numbers up.”

Leaderless groups also have trouble protecting their brand against impostors, opportunists, and extremists who act in their name and sully their reputation — a vulnerability that the tea party’s adversaries are currently doing their utmost to exploit.

“This kind of tenuous balance” — between decentralized structure and national ambitions — “is hard to sustain,” Meyer says. “I would suspect the amount of influence they’re going to have is peaking right about now, in the current Republican primaries.”

I have to admit, the future of a decentralized Tea Party seems pretty unlikely.  The current hysteria (by your current author as well) seems unlikely to be warranted over the long term.  After all, the early ’90s were marked by a rapid rise in the existence of militias and separatist groups that advocated ‘leaderless resistance’.  After the economy improved and it became clear Bill Clinton was not going to bust into everyone’s home, kick their dog and make wild monkey love to their daughters on the constitution the movement kind of fizzled out.

How long can we expect the Tea Party to carry on, especially in the unlikely event that they they come to wield some sort of influence on the national stage.  After all,

Headless organizations have other problems. They are much better at mobilizing to stop a proposal or person they dislike than at agreeing on an alternative. They are bad at negotiating and compromising, because no one can speak for them, and many of their members regard compromising as selling out. They rely on volunteers, who can wander away or burn out.

Is enthusiasm likely to be maintained over time when you don’t have much of a unifying ideology?  Our system of government is designed to drain the enthusiasm out of radical or original movements and so I don’t see how crowd-sourcing to get people elected to a body that can’t do much without a two-thirds majority is going to get anywhere.  In this regard, electoral success might be just as detrimental to the long term health of any burgeoning Tea Party movement as electoral defeat.

Answering the skeptics, tea partiers point out that bygone efforts at radical decentralization lacked Internet-age networking and communications technologies — without which, of course, the tea party movement could not have arisen in the first place.

Ah, the famous “Oh yeah, but this time it’s different!” rationale.  Given that has been used to justify the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the housing, financial and tech bubbles and who knows how many attempts at Middle  East peace, forgive me for being a bit skeptical that twitter will be the glue that holds together the Tea Party.   Ah, but perhaps I’m taking too superficial a view…

But, tea partiers say, if you think moving votes and passing bills are what they are really all about, you have not taken the full measure of their ambition. No, the real point is to change the country’s political culture, bending it back toward the self-reliant, liberty-guarding instincts of the Founders’ era.

Well, you can’t say they aren’t ambitious.  Change the entire culture (and perhaps even parts of human nature)?  Yeah, I think the communists might have some lessons learned in that department.  Maybe they can open up some time in their calendar…they’ve been pretty busy since 1989.

At some point a network that grows too large has to develop some sort of structure and leadership or it will disintegrate from its own momentum or become a watered down version of itself.  The internet is great for making connections but I see little evidence that it provides any real benefit to cohesion (which any movement needs in order to survive).  I just don’t see how this ends well for them over the long term…

Once more into the breech!

I really wasn’t going to blog any more about this nonsense in New York with Obama’s declaration of surrender and our forced conversion to Islam the proposal to build a community center kids will probably have to go to for lame arts and crafts classes during summer vacation and wonder if it’s safe to swim in the pool since I just saw Dave come out of there and while he’s pretty cool to hang out with I just know he pees in there…

But I digress…

Battle lines have been drawn and everyone kind of looks like a putz if you ask me.  The tin foil hat, live in your basement bunker crazies Republicans have attempted to disguise the fact that they absolutely refuse to  actually propose, like, detailed policies on all the things they’re bitching about and so are trying to keep people distracted until Election Day in the hopes of no one will notice.  Let’s face it, it’s worked for them before…a lot.  Every two years you can count on them trotting out the same tired causes…’Let’s add a constitutional amendment to prevent flag burning!’, ‘Let’s add a constitutional amendment against gay marriage!’    ‘More Christ in our lives.’  ‘Let’s bomb the shit out of the world!’  They obviously decided to switch things up a bit this year.  Nothing like the triple whammy of:

  1. xenophobia!
  2. cultural warfare!!
  3. fear!!!

Jeez…for people who keep shouting that America is the greatest, strongest country that ever existed they always seem to be worrying that it’s about to collapse if anyone even thinks an unkind thought about the place.  Either we’re a rough and tough bunch who are running the joint or we’re a delicate hot-house flower that’s always in danger of wilting…which is it, guys?

And the Democrats just love snatching disaster out of the jaws of defeat and have even managed to screw up their support for something as fundamental as ‘freedom of religion’ and the principle that private property is…private.

So…given that this whole situation is quite insane I submit Cracked magazine’s take on the subject.

But “Islamic Community Center open to the public” doesn’t have the same ability to scare people the way “mosque” does. I mean, you hear “mosque” you think mosquito, you think STING! You hear “mosque” you think “mask,” you think DECEPTION! You hear “community center” you think “OK. One more place I’ll never go.” So, yeah, clearly the decision was made by those who hate you to call this the “Ground Zero Mosque” even though it’s not at Ground Zero and not technically a mosque.

Kvick Tänkare

Chinese sci-fi is growing in popularity but you probably won’t find much in the distopian genre.

Which is more shocking?  Squid can fly or that there exists “a LISTSERV dedicated to mollusks”?  Still, this is pretty cool:

…”gliding” is too passive a term to describe what squid do when they leave the ocean for the air: “flight” is more fitting…”One of our co-authors saw them actually flapping their fins. Some people have seen them jetting water while in flight.

Lunghu made a number of predictions earlier this year and now gives them a mid-year evaluation.

I always find it interesting how often our politicians (and fellow citizens) claim to support families and children but, when it comes right down to it, so rarely put their money (or anything else) where their mouth is.  Case in point:  family leave.  If you have a child, what can you expect?  A few weeks of unpaid leave, usually (if you can afford it).  After that, it’s get your ass back to work.  The Boston Globe has an article asking if we perhaps should do a bit more.  (h/t Phronesisaical).  Uh…and just for the record, the socialist hell-hole Sweden allows parents a total of 16 months of parental leave at 80% pay that can be taken up until the child turns 10 years old (Oh, please, why won’t Sean Hannity save those poor people?!)  Us?  Talk about raising the minimum wage a nickle an hour and you’ll hear howls about how we’re strangling the small business owner to death.

Britain is announcing it’ll be withdrawing its combat troops from Afghanistan by 2015.  Can anyone really make predictions like that?  I’ll just note that the time between now and then is almost the same amount of time that the U.S. was involved in the Second World War.  A lot can happen in four years.

It’s like the right isn’t even trying anymore.  Remember when they could come up with kinda-sorta coherent delusions to get everyone scared?  Now we’re looking at terror babies?  The only question is how in the world can we be in a place where these knuckleheads might actually get back in power?

Sven has a very interesting interpretation of the evolution of the Greek phalanx.

Hey…at least everyone agrees about one thing…

Marc Ambinder wrote this piece about debunking the idea that the Republican party is abandoning the Bush idea of distinguishing between Islamic terrorists and the rest of the Muslim world.

Many prominent conservative Republicans never accepted President Bush’s statement that Islam is a religion of peace and that it is fundamentally compatible with American society.

38 percent of Americans in 2006 said they would never vote for a Muslim for president, just about the number who said they would never vote for a gay person. In December of 2004, Cornell released a survey showing that half of Americans consciously told a pollster that they would favor a curtailment of civil rights for Muslims. About 40 percent of Republicans had explicitly anti-Muslim views in the survey.

Wow…sounds pretty intolerant, huh?  Something sparked my memory and I went to the numbers.  I find it interesting that there was a category of American who, if she ran for president, would likely lose to radical gay Islamist.  That universally despised group?


One shudders to think of what they’d build in the shadow of the sacred, hallowed ground of the World Trade Center.  Maybe it’d be something like this:

Many come to the scene of the worst terrorist attack on American soil to pay tribute to pain and unspeakable tragedy…If they’re so inclined, they can also buy porn, play the ponies and take care of all manner of personal business…


…the Pussycat Lounge, a strip club where a photo of a nearly naked woman marks its location just two blocks from where the World Trade Center stood.  Or the Thunder Lingerie and peep show next door, where the marquee sports an American flag above a window display of sex toys and something called a “power pump.”

Yeah, stay classy guys.  Oh Sarah!  Glen!  Rush!  Please save us from the power pump!

Stupid is and stupid does

I know I shouldn’t but I can’t help getting offended by the celebration of stupidity that is Sarah Palin.  She and her followers revel in ignorance and call it ‘common sense’.  Take, for example, this clip (by way of the Daily Dish).  As Bill O’Reilly (?!) presses her for detailed answers about immigration you can have absolutely no doubt that she hasn’t thought about the issue in any depth.

So, for example, after O’Reilly presents a future in which the border is 100% secure he asks what should be done about the millions of illegals in the country now.  Palin responds, after a bit of questioning, that all illegals should register with the government, kinda-sorta implying that they could stay while those that don’t comply would get deported.  As O’Reilly zeros in on that (whiff of amnesty anyone?), Palin senses resistance and immediately shifts to a ‘deport everyone’ stance, making the idea that illegals would register just goofy.  But it’s totally clear she hasn’t thought a whit about this issue apart from repeating over and over ‘secure the border’.

I won’t talk about her position of a dramatic militarization of the border, using as many forces ‘as it takes’ (whatever that means).  Her off handed comments seemed to indicate she’d be willing to mobilize 10,000 to 15,000 National Guardsmen (and maybe more since this is the ‘most important’ issue we face).  So now, guardsmen will rotate between one year tours of Iraq, Afghanistan and Mexico (Hey, what happened to Iran?  eds.).

If I knew I could be a wealthy, respected media star by talking bat shit crazy I would have gone that route years ago.