Archive for July, 2011

July 30, 2011

Quote of the Day II

by Vince

“Drawing upon modern Catholic social thought and the work of Thomas Aquinas’ political thinking, the goal of law and political authority is to serve, enhance, and protect the common good of society …  It is perhaps ironic – or tragic – that the common good is the one element that seems to be missing from the current national debate.  This seems to be due to the fact that the ideology that holds the most momentum right now in our political system – and hence that controls the terms of our debate – is the far-right ideology represented most vocally by the tea-party movement (but engaged by others as well).

This ideology, rather than upholding the common good as the end and goal of government and law, sees government as the very source of the problem.  Therefore, those who propound this ideology are seizing upon this moment of debate over government spending, taxation and revenue creation, and the debt ceiling as an opportunity to starve government at its source by cutting off its supply of money.  Some of the more extreme elements seem entirely willing to let the whole system come to a crashing halt rather than think about long-term solutions that seek to protect the common good of all involved.” –Thomas Bushlack on common good and if Jesus would raise the debt ceiling.

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July 30, 2011

Quote of the Day

by Vince

“For those who insist that the center is always the place to be, I have an important piece of information: We already have a centrist president. Indeed, Bruce Bartlett, who served as a policy analyst in the Reagan administration, argues that Mr. Obama is in practice a moderate conservative. Mr. Bartlett has a point.

The president, as we’ve seen, was willing, even eager, to strike a budget deal that strongly favored conservative priorities. His health reform was very similar to the reform Mitt Romney installed in Massachusetts. Romneycare, in turn, closely followed the outlines of a plan originally proposed by the right-wing Heritage Foundation. And returning tax rates on high-income Americans to their level during the Roaring Nineties is hardly a socialist proposal.

True, Republicans insist that Mr. Obama is a leftist seeking a government takeover of the economy, but they would, wouldn’t they? The facts, should anyone choose to report them, say otherwise.” –Paul Krugman

July 30, 2011

Meet the 14th Amendment this Tuesday

by Vince

You may wonder, what would happen if the hours roll by Tuesday and there still is not a resolution to our debt ceiling quagmire? In comes the ace in the hole for Barack: the 14th amendment. This is a sigh of relief (as well as a back door escape hatch) in the face of Republican nihilism. Even Bill Clinton has thrown his hat into Obama’s corner:

As Bill Clinton, another former professor of constitutional law, recently declared, if he were president, he would invoke the Fourteenth Amendment to raise the debt ceiling “without hesitation, and force the courts to stop me.”

July 30, 2011

National Sport of the Day

by Vince

The photo caption says it all:

Horsemen take part in a Kok-boru, or goat dragging, competition as they attend a festival of Kyrgyz folklore and popular traditions near the Son-Kul lake, on July 21, 2011. Considered Kyrgyzstan’s national sport, Kok-boru is a traditional Central Asian game where players grab a goat carcass from the ground while riding their horses and try to score by placing it in their opponent’s goal.(Reuters/Vladimir Pirogov)

More awesome, interesting, beautiful, and desktop wallpaper photos here.

July 29, 2011

Friday Afternoon Links

by Vince
  • The family of Amy Winehouse believes she died because her body couldn’t take the withdrawal from alcohol. A friend of mine recently made a “too soon” joke about her: she has now been sober for 1 week.
  • TIME counts off their top 30 music videos of all time.
  • In case you hadn’t heard, Bob Dylan’s grandson, Pablo Dylan, is a rapper.
  • Tim Wise will have two new books out in the next six months!
  • Some awesome pictures from the Tour de France 2011.
  • President Obama comments today on the debt ceiling crisis.
July 29, 2011

Are Recessions All That Bad?

by Vince

As I read over Ezra Klein’s post that described the recovery-less recovery (more found here), a few words and phrases stuck out to me.

As Wolfers suggests, these numbers solve the mystery in the labor market. This isn’t about confidence or uncertainty or regulations or any of the other bankshot explanations we’ve been using to explain why unemployment seems stuck even as the economy rebounds. The economy isn’t rebounding. Demand isn’t returning. And without demand, there can’t be jobs.

Emphasis from here on out is from me. In terms of demand, is it all that bad for a country to scale back it’s purchases, it’s expenditures, and possibly live more within their means? Banks, for one, are not giving out loans as easily. I found this out over the past week. With a proposed deal I negotiated with Wells Fargo, I would of been facing a 40% mortgage payment to income ratio. The banks today want that ratio to be between 20% and 30%. Five years ago, I could have easily gotten a loan with a 40% ratio. I speak on this based on friends and family who have in fact received loans before the Great Recession with roughly 40% ratios. Banks are being more careful, people are not selling because the housing bubble has burst, and those willing to make moves have to cross their t’s and dot their i’s to prove that they truly will make x in a given year, not just think or hope they will.

Meanwhile, we’re in an economic crisis in which the main problem is too little spending.

Cutting spending and budgets in a recession does hurt an economy but, again, too little spending is not inherently bad. If anything, this Great Recession has helped us feel the purchases we make (credit cards numb the feeling of purchases. We do not see the actual money come out of our wallets or purses but only flash a piece of plastic. We delay this feeling from hitting us until later on).

I stand by less spending and lower demand as good signs for simplicity and understanding our behaviors. Whether these signals are actually making cognitive connections with fellow Americans, I cannot say for sure.

One final note: yes, over 9% unemployment nationwide (with that 2-3x the case for minorities – cry me a river white America) is bad. I will not deny that reality.

July 29, 2011

Political Cartoon of the Day

by Vince

July 29, 2011

Comparing Terror Responses Between America and Norway

by Vince

Glenn Greenwald illuminates the stark differences between America and Norway in light of the Oslo attacks last week:

The failed Christmas Day bombing over Detroit led to an erosion of Miranda rights and judge-free detentions as well as a due-process free assassination program aimed at an Muslim American preacher whose message allegedly “inspired” the attacker.  The failed Times Square bombing was repeatedly cited to justify reform-free extension of the Patriot Act along with a slew of measures to maximize government scrutiny of the Internet.  That failed plot, along with Nidal Hasan’s shooting at Fort Hood, provoked McCarthyite Congressional hearings into American Muslims and helped sustain a shockingly broad interpretation of “material support for Terrorism” that criminalizes free speech.  In sum, every Terrorist plot is immediately exploited as a pretext for expanding America’s Security State; the response to every plot: we need to sacrifice more liberties, increase secrecy, and further empower the government.

(…)

The reaction to the heinous Oslo attack by Norway’s political class has been exactly the opposite: a steadfast refusal to succumb to hysteria and a security-über-alles mentality.  The day after the attack — one which, per capita, was as significant for Norway as 9/11 was for the U.S. — Oslo Mayor Fabian Stang, when asked whether greater security measures were needed, sternly rejected that notion:  “I don’t think security can solve problems. We need to teach greater respect.”  It is simply inconceivable that any significant U.S. politician — the day after an attack of that magnitude — would publicly reject calls for greater security measures.  Similarly inconceivable for American political discourse is the equally brave response of the country’s Prime Minister, Jens Stoltenberg, whose office was the target of the bomb and whose Labour Party was the sponsor of the camp where dozens of teenagers were shot:

He called on his country to react by more tightly embracing, rather than abandoning, the culture of tolerance that Anders Behring Breivik said he was trying to destroy.

“The Norwegian response to violence is more democracy, more openness and greater political participation,” Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg insisted at a news conference. . . .

Stoltenberg strongly defended the right to speak freely — even if it includes extremist views such as Breivik’s.

“We have to be very clear to distinguish between extreme views, opinions — that’s completely legal, legitimate to have. What is not legitimate is to try to implement those extreme views by using violence,” he said in English.

Stoltenberg’s promise in the face of twin attacks signaled a contrast to the U.S. response after the 9/11 attacks, when Washington gave more leeway to perform wiretaps and search records.

It reflects the difference between the two countries’ approaches to terrorism. The U.S. has been frustrated by what it considers Scandinavia’s lack of aggressive investigation and arrests.

Since the attacks, Stoltenberg and members of Norway’s royal family have underlined the country’s openness by making public appearances with little visible security. (emphasis by GG)

The American approach, even taken up by Barack Obama, is tough on terror. If we give terrorists (or even in a larger context, criminals) any slack, our demise will be nigh. Ironically, this slogan does not always match our actions (it again goes back to using secrecy for protective purposes):

Patrick Henry’s long celebrated tribute to courage has been turned on its head by the degraded cowardice of GOP tough-guy leaders — such as Pat Roberts, John Cornyn, and Rush Limbaugh — shrieking that civil liberties are worthless if you’re dead: i.e., that safety is the paramount goal.  Meanwhile, as virtually every other country that suffers a horrendous Terrorist attack puts the accused perpetrators on trial in their real court system in the city where the attack occurred — the subway bombers in London, the train bombers in Madrid, the shooters in Mumbai, the Bali nightclub bombers in Indonesia — it is only the U.S., the self-proclaimed Home of the Brave, that is too frightened to do so, instead concocting military tribunals and sticking accused terrorists in cages on a Caribbean island, as members of both parties spew base fear-mongering to bar trials on American soil.

July 23, 2011

Summer, Heat, and Lethargy II

by Vince

Enjoy this trippy video for a French indie-pop group, The Bewitched Hands.

July 23, 2011

Summer, Heat, and Lethargy

by Vince

I haven’t felt the desire to blog in a few weeks. Why? Politics as usual has bored me (especially with the debt ceiling debate). The heat has zapped some of my energy, good books have abounded, and music has been all around me.

Only a few times this week have I checked my blogroll. Here is a nice summer video you can sit back and enjoy:


PURE BRONTE from Marcus O’Brien on Vimeo.

July 11, 2011

Slamming the Family Leader Pledge

by Vince

Gary Johnson does just that:

“This ‘pledge’ is nothing short of a promise to discriminate against everyone who makes a personal choice that doesn’t fit into a particular definition of ‘virtue,'” reads a statement from Johnson’s office, which is accompained by a video: 

July 11, 2011

Quote of the Day II

by Vince

“You can tell you’ve created God in your own image if he or she hates all the same people you do.” Anne Lamott in her book Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith

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July 11, 2011

Quote of the Day

by Vince

“Government should not be involved in the bedrooms of consenting adults. I have always been a strong advocate of liberty and freedom from unnecessary government intervention into our lives. The freedoms that our forefathers fought for in this country are sacred and must be preserved. The Republican Party cannot be sidetracked into discussing these morally judgmental issues — such a discussion is simply wrongheaded. We need to maintain our position as the party of efficient government management and the watchdogs of the “public’s pocket book”.

“This ‘pledge’ is nothing short of a promise to discriminate against everyone who makes a personal choice that doesn’t fit into a particular definition of ‘virtue’.

Republican candidate for president Gary Johnson.

July 10, 2011

A Web of One

by Vince

I finished last week Eli Pariser’s book The Internet Bubble. His above TED talk is captioned as follows:

As web companies strive to tailor their services (including news and search results) to our personal tastes, there’s a dangerous unintended consequence: We get trapped in a “filter bubble” and don’t get exposed to information that could challenge or broaden our worldview. Eli Pariser argues powerfully that this will ultimately prove to be bad for us and bad for democracy.

His TED talk essentially captures the main points found in his 250 page book. What he doesn’t cover in those 9 minutes of talking is some background on the engineers and technological goliaths currently taking the internet by storm. He delves into their dreams for the internet (Google hopes to one day not even have a search bar but have an algorithm so good that it knows what we want to search for) and how this new era of internet and social networking is guissed as transparently democratic but is mostly shadowed by ever changing privacy settings and our data (info we share, links we click on, et al.) sold to creepy third party entities.

Pariser’s caveat regarding personalization as contrary to creative, serendipitous living (as well as democracy) is half truth and half inflated out of fear. While our Facebook newsfeeds are taylored by algorithisms that direct us towards things we “may” be interested in (based on what we click on or search for), personalization is personalized for each of us. What I mean is this: if you use Yahoo news as a daily source for news or even Facebook (which believe it or not is rising rather quickly as a place where plethora of people find out the news), you most likely will receive some skewed results. However, if you are similar to me in that I find my news via blogs (all set up through Google Reader), my personalization will be different from yours. Seventy percent (give or take) of the blogs or news sources I check can be classified as left of center. That itself lends towards a personalized experience that differs from a daily intake of The Blaze, The New York Post, and Fox News. With blogs, I choose which to read based on what I like and the quality. These blogs I check do not (yet) personalize what they present to me and the rest of their viewers. You have no choice in that matter, according to Pariser, when you look for the day’s news on Google or Facebook.

One other note: I experimented with another computer (both logged in to our Google accounts) in Google searching the following terms: BP, Barack Obama, dogs, and horses. Each of our results had the same front page results as well as total number of results. This doesn’t conclusively refute Pariser’s argument that everyone has a different Google search experience but goes to show that this whole Brave New World-type internet bubble is not as scary as he may crack it up to be.

July 6, 2011

Chicago By Boat

by Vince

Complete with fireworks. By Philip Boom:

To be more precise, that boat ride began in Burnham Harbor on Lake Michigan, went through the locks at the mouth of the Chicago River, went west on the Main Branch of the River, then south on the South Branch (artificially straightened in the ‘20s, but still the River proper) to about 12th Street, then turned around and went back the way it came. The fireworks were the 3rd of July show on Navy Pier. (Why Chicago has fireworks on the 3rd of July is a long story…)

H/T: The Dish

July 6, 2011

When Winning With Rhetoric is not Winning

by Vince


Am I the only one who sees people reliant on transportation stuck outside in a Minnesota winter and a government shut down as not good things? It may be winning for you as a pol, as well as a church-type political party obsessed with pure ideological rhetoric in both word and deed, but not for the people you represent. Tina Korbe seconds:

The ad is well-executed, but, after watching it a couple times, I can’t help but question the wisdom of emphasizing a union strike and a government shutdown as evidence of accomplishments. The ad provides little context with which to understand why, exactly, these events should be seen as “wins” for Pawlenty. Instead, it seems to rely on an innate conservative interpretation of union protests and a halt to government as somewhat unpleasant, but ultimately acceptable, consequences of impressive, committed, conservative policy-making. I’d rather hear about the conservative policy-making — the actual accomplishments.

July 6, 2011

Quote of the Day

by Vince

“If the debt ceiling talks fail, independents voters will see that Democrats were willing to compromise but Republicans were not. If responsible Republicans don’t take control, independents will conclude that Republican fanaticism caused this default. They will conclude that Republicans are not fit to govern. And they will be right,” – David Brooks, NYT.

H/T: The Dish

July 6, 2011

Political Cartoon of the Day

by Vince

July 6, 2011

Picture of the Day

by Vince

Pictured: A huge symbol of the Chinese Communist Party, illuminated in Tiananmen Square on June 30, 2011, in Beijing, China.(ChinaFotoPress/Getty Images)

July 5, 2011

A Profile in Stupidity

by cpmy3rs

Eastern Michigan University has a problem. A former student who felt that her Christian faith prevented her from providing counseling services to a gay male student who sought them was removed from the program and subsequently sued. Although the Federal Courts which have heard the matter thus far have ruled in favor of EMU, a bipartisan team of legislators are fighting to allow future Julea Ward’s the right to discriminate against whoever they wish — without having to worry about pesky institutional sanctions — so long as counseling that individual ran contrary to a “sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction.”

Now, this concern for the moral conscience of college students is admirable. There are, however, a number of questions which it raises. The one of the most import, however, is about the role that an individual’s personal faith should be allowed to play when they are crafting legislation for the public. It is therefore worth observing the exchange that State Senator Hunter, who is black, had with reporters following the unveiling of the legislation:

Asked if a white nationalist who was an adherent of a brand of Christianity called Christian Identity would be allowed to invoke their sincerely held religious beliefs to refuse to counsel a person of color, Hunter replied, “No. That is where I draw the line.

“You pose a scenario that some one could suggest that’s like being discriminated against because of sexuality,” said Hunter. “When I believe that there is a moral value, what I believe, that is one thing. To say that, you know, that sexuality is on the same level as an issue of racism, that is a debate we need to have.”

Hunter said the Bible prohibits homosexual activity but does not support racism. Asked if under his scenario he weren’t setting universities and colleges up to be the arbitrators of which religious values were and were not valid, Hunter said, “No.”

As we can see, when individuals legislate based on their personal moral sentiments rather than on the merits of an individual issue, we obtain some rather absurd arguments based on nothing but self-interest. If the principle at stake is the right of individuals to make moral judgments about the activities of their peers based on their personal understanding of their own religion, then why isn’t our principled State Senator on the side of the bigots who are bigoted against him? Is it, perhaps, because in his own heart he shares their sentiments?

This is not to say that public policy debates should entertain the sort of laissez-faire moral relativism of which many of the secular persuasion are so frequently accused. It is rather to assert that, when making policy in the public sphere, an individual is required — for the sake of the legitimacy of the system — to make arguments which are more satisfying than “because my Bible/Qur’an/Talmud/etc told me so.” This is for a simple reason: Legislation concerns a great number of individuals who hold contrary theological beliefs. These individuals are also a part of the polity. To alienate them from its laws is to assert that, rather than governing based on the rights of citizens, the government has the right to govern based on the simple right of power alone. I can hardly think of a more unAmerican principle.