Things tagged pol:

Forecast 2010

James Howard Kunstler on his excellently titled blog Clusterfuck Nation:

One wild card is how angry the American people might get. Unlike the 1930s, we are no longer a nation who call each other “Mister” and “Ma’am,” where even the down-and-out wear neckties and speak a discernible variant of regular English, where hoboes say “thank you,” and where, in short, there is something like a common culture of shared values. We’re a nation of thugs and louts with flames tattooed on our necks, who call each other “motherfucker” and are skilled only in playing video games based on mass murder. The masses of Roosevelt’s time were coming off decades of programmed, regimented work, where people showed up in well-run factories and schools and pretty much behaved themselves. In my view, that’s one of the reasons that the US didn’t explode in political violence during the Great Depression of the 1930s - the discipline and fortitude of the citizenry. The sheer weight of demoralization now is so titanic that it is very hard to imagine the people of the USA pulling together for anything beyond the most superficial ceremonies - placing teddy bears on a crash site. And forget about discipline and fortitude in a nation of ADD victims and self-esteem seekers.

20,000 Nations Above the Sea

Friedman wondered: What if you could just move—not just you, but everything you own, including your home, and, if your neighbors agreed with you, your whole community? What if you could move all of it where no government would bother you at all, and you could make a new, better society?

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall

Errol Morris:

During the last week of the Bush administration, I asked the head photo editors of these news services — Vincent Amalvy (AFP), Santiago Lyon (AP) and Jim Bourg (Reuters) — to pick the photographs of the president that they believe captured the character of the man and of his administration.

Via Daring Fireball.

What Sun Should Do

Tim Bray on Sun:

Sun is going through a lousy spell right now. Well, so is the world’s economy in general and the IT business in particular, but this is about Sun. This is my opinion about what my employer should do about it. [. . .] Sun should adopt a laser focus on building a Sun Web Suite and becoming the Web application deployment platform of choice. It’s a large space, a growing space, and one where we can win.

He is obviously absolutely right, there is no place for the old Sun in this world. However Sun does have some excellent tech, and importantly they seem to still have a lot of top engineers, so if they can manage a major restructuring they have a fighting chance.

Shirky on Coase, Collaboration and Here Comes Everybody

Clay Shirky, author of Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations, talks about the economics of organizations with EconTalk host Russ Roberts. The conversation centers on Shirky’s book. Topics include Coase on the theory of the firm, the power of sharing information on the internet, the economics of altruism, and the creation of Wikipedia.

And a great bit of discussion on representative vs. direct democracy and the possibility that networks can enable direct democracy.

Via EconLog.


Migration Is Not a Crime

Government, Bound or Unbound?

Anthony de Jasay at Cato Unbound:

This paper is a sequel of an article I wrote twenty years ago that I now think can be put more tightly and clearly. That early paper was born of the irritation I felt, and continue to feel, at much of the classical liberal discourse about limited government. At least since Locke, that discourse sets out a normative ideal of government: the protector of “rights” its citizens are in some fashion endowed with, and the guarantor of liberty that ranks above rival values. Such government uses coercion only to enforce the rules of just conduct. This ideal is attractive enough to the liberal mind. The reason why it nevertheless irritates is that it makes it seem that the writing of a constitution of liberty is a plausible means for transforming the normative ideal into positive reality. The message is that “we” can have limited government in the above sense if only “we” understand why we ought to wish it. The “we” is crucial, for it suppresses the essence of collective choice. Collective choice starts where unanimity ends, and involves some deciding for all, where the “some” control the apparatus of government. It is the potential for some to benefit morally and materially at the expense of others that creates the bone of contention and that limits on government are meant to move out of reach. It is odd that little or no awareness is shown of the “incentive-incompatibility” (if we may use ugly but handy jargon) of limits that would exert real rather than illusory restraint.

Fairly simple and easy to read look at the impossibility of legislatively constraining government, and on the other hand the natural economic limits that do constrain all governments (though in a painfully wide band that they can and do tend to oscillate in).

Via EconLog.

The BLF brings us AT&T "In More Places"

“This campaign is an extraordinary rendition of a public-private partnership,” observed BLF spokesperson Blank DeCoverly. “These two titans of telecom have a long and intimate relationship, dating back to the age of the telegraph. In these dark days of Terrorism, that should be a comfort to every law-abiding citizen with nothing to hide.”

Via 27B Stroke 6.


Back by popular demand: the Minimal Compact

Adam Greenfield’s Speedbird:

Ever since went down for the count, I get a fair number of requests to repost this minifesto on “open-source constitutions for post-national entitites,” from 2003. It’s goofy, it’s naïve, it’s grandiose and pompous…and I present it to you now exactly as I wrote it then. Enjoy!

What is up with election coverage?

Posted to bramcohen.

The coverage of the current US primaries is mindbogglingly wrongheaded. Recent coverage has focused on who would ‘win’ New Hampshire among the democrats, and Huckabee’s ‘lead’ among republicans. The actual numbers can be found here. New Hampshire is not a winner-take-all state for democrats, and both Clinton and Obama got exactly nine delegates from there, making the declaration of a ‘winner’ extremely misleading, if not outright revealing of the declarer having dubious mental capacity. Among republicans, Mitt Romney now has the most delegates, with Huckabee in second, and the media is currently speculating that Romney will drop out because he’s so far ‘behind’.

Seriously, what is wrong with journalists? Are they not able to do basic arithmetic? Ideally I’d like to have meta-coverage discussing why some states are winner take all and others aren’t, and what on earth ‘super-delegates’ are, but I’d settle for even an accurate portrayal of what’s happening in the race as it unfolds.

But thank you CNN for putting up a nice site which gives accurate up-to-date information. Please expand it in the future with more explanation of what ‘super delegates’ are, and what happens to a candidate’s delegates if they drop out of the race.

Where Are Islam's Silent Moderates?

Ayaan Hirsi Ali in the NYT:

It is often said that Islam has been "hijacked" by a small extremist group of radical fundamentalists. The vast majority of Muslims are said to be moderates.

But where are the moderates? Where are the Muslim voices raised over the terrible injustice of incidents like these? How many Muslims are willing to stand up and say, in the case of the girl from Qatif, that this manner of justice is appalling, brutal and bigoted - and that no matter who said it was the right thing to do, and how long ago it was said, this should no longer be done?

Usually, Muslim groups like the Organization of the Islamic Conference are quick to defend any affront to the image of Islam. The organization, which represents 57 Muslim states, sent four ambassadors to the leader of my political party in the Netherlands asking him to expel me from Parliament after I gave a newspaper interview in 2003 noting that by Western standards some of the Prophet Muhammad's behavior would be unconscionable. A few years later, Muslim ambassadors to Denmark protested the cartoons of Muhammad and demanded that their perpetrators be prosecuted.

But while the incidents in Saudi Arabia, Sudan and India have done more to damage the image of Islamic justice than a dozen cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad, the organizations that lined up to protest the hideous Danish offense to Islam are quiet now. . . .

When a "moderate" Muslim's sense of compassion and conscience collides with matters prescribed by Allah, he should choose compassion. Unless that happens much more widely, a moderate Islam will remain wishful thinking.

Via Jonathan Adler at Volokh.

Beeb is in trouble

The BBC is in trouble, political and economic. So what do they do? Make huge cuts in personnel and spending. Problem is that nearly everyone agrees that the reason they are in trouble is the quality of their programs are not where they should be, and of course the cuts are going to doom them. Some are standing up and shouting, is anyone listening?

We have had a series of cuts which will make it impossible to do what we have done up to now if they continue in the way they are continuing... And we are told there is going to be another massive cut over the next five years. The problem is, the BBC is in a whole range of things, it has many television channels, many radio stations, an internet presence and the rest of it. Maybe we are at a time when strategic judgments need to be made. If money has to be spent on the whole digital switchover for example, and building office blocks in Salford and all the rest of it, then maybe instead of cutting everything salami-sliced, then maybe we need to make judgments about the sort of things that we do, and maybe that does involve saying, reluctantly, and I hate to say this because it has been a wonderful institution, maybe we need to say perhaps we should be doing less better.

Via cityofsound.

Publish or Perish

The publishing outfit that produced LaRouche propaganda finally collapsed, and the whole organization probably will follow. Avi Klein has an interesting look back at the remarkably little impact LaRouche has had on american politics, despite the millions spent.

Via Arts & Letters Daily.

Ze Frank: Strike Day

Ok I hate Ze Frank, but he hits the mood of public perception about this strike about spot on.

Via Gruber at Daring Fireball.

Iraqi Kurdistan: Does independence beckon?

Posted to

If they are sensible, the Kurds will not rush towards independence. To be landlocked and without permanently friendly neighbours is a pretty hopeless recipe for statehood. The outside powers on which the Kurds ultimately depend, especially Turkey and the United States, would not allow them to break away. The Turks could throttle them economically if not bash them militarily; the Americans may well turn their backs, reckoning that it is strategically more important to curry favour with Turks and Arabs.


Schneier on the recent release of the California security review of electronic voting machines, and what CA is doing about the across the board failures:

California Secretary of State Debra Bowen has conditionally recertified the machines for use, as long as the makers fix the discovered vulnerabilities and adhere to a lengthy list of security requirements designed to limit future security breaches and failures. [ …] While this is a good effort, it has security completely backward. It begins with a presumption of security. […] Insecurity is the norm. If any system – whether a voting machine, operating system, database, badge-entry system, RFID passport system, etc. – is ever built completely vulnerability-free, it’ll be the first time in the history of mankind. It’s not a good bet.

So, what to do? Assurance:

Several years ago, former National Security Agency technical director Brian Snow began talking about the concept of “assurance” in security. Snow, who spent 35 years at the NSA building systems at security levels far higher than anything the commercial world deals with, told audiences that the agency couldn’t use modern commercial systems with their backward security thinking. Assurance was his antidote.

Thrilling Energy Breakthrough: Vivoleum!

Posted by Bruce Sterling to Beyond the Beyond.


“We need something like whales, but infinitely more abundant,” said “NPC rep” “Shepard Wolff” (actually Andy Bichlbaum of the Yes Men), before describing the technology used to render human flesh into a new Exxon oil product called Vivoleum. 3-D animations of the process brought it to life.

Interview with Jay Rosen, questions from Readers of Slashdot

I've been following this NewAssignment.Net thing, but Jay writes too damn much to point to any one piece he does on it for someone else to read (not that I read it all). This interview with /. goes all over the place, its not just about, and talks about some pretty interesting things in reporting (and is fairly readable because he is talking down to /., not to his academia buddies).

Create more writers and suddenly you may need more editors. “The conversation feeds journalism, journalism feeds the conversation” is a powerful idea, but we are several steps away from knowing how it works to create a live, intelligent filter in the newsroom.

The normal tensions with the press were driven deeper: keep them back, keep them out, tell them nothing, tear them down. If someone does break a story from inside you immediately punish and isolate anyone who spoke to the reporter. You make them disown their words. You make them repent.

This is the story Woodward missed because he got inside it, so to speak. Ron Suskind, one of the few in Washington who did not miss that story, called it "the retreat from empiricism." To me, it's the big narrative yet to come out about the Bush White House. Attack Without a Plan was too crazy to be credible to Woodward. So he wrote Plan of Attack instead.

Read more at PressThink.