Google, Haiti, and Taxachusetts

Saturday, January 23, 2010

There have been so many juicy topics to cover, it’s been difficult to keep away. Every time I’m moved to write, though, I really have something else to do or simply don’t want to devote the time to it. That said, here is, in summary, how to think about the following issues:

Google/China: Yes, if Google was #1 in China this wouldn’t have happened, but they’re not and it did. As a result, this is one of the great humanitarian corporate moves of all time. Perhaps the greatest (there’s not a lot of competition, I’m guessing). Google should follow through and close their business there. As arguably the most important corporation in the world, the move will properly shame China and the many companies that remain in that authoritarian country. Here’s a question that any one doing business there should ask: Would I want to live here?

Haiti: Nothing to do in the aftermath but help. In the long term, I’m with David Brooks and Bret Stephenson. Let’s stop giving money to countries “in need.” It does nothing, and may actively do harm. It’s difficult, because it is human nature to try to help fellow humans in need, but it’s also the right thing to do. Certainly, what the first world has been doing for decades has not worked.

Taxachusetts: I would have voted for Scott Brown too. Seriously. I would have voted for a cardboard cutout against Coakley. Although she was inept, I would have done it to send the message. I have said, many times, that if Obama and this Congress can’t get it done, then there is no hope for us. Year one has been an epic, unmitigated failure. Iraq, Afghanistan, secrecy, deficit spending, bank coddling, and worst of all, the healthcare nightmare. I blame Obama for not using his robust post-election strength to strong arm Pelosi (failure) and Reid (failure) immediately. Weak, poorly managed, pathetic. Obama, where are your balls? It’s time to lead.

And, btw, why do you need the 60 votes? Make an exceptional bill and let the GOP filibuster. Call their bluff. If they do it, and the bill dies, you hang it around their neck. Now, the bill dies, and it’s a Dem failure. Disgraceful.

(But then there would be no healthcare bill, someone wails. So fucking what? Paul Krugman can cry to his cats. This is not the most pressing issue in America. Budget restraint, financial reform, and confiscatory, punitive taxes on very wealth bankers, should be the priority. Followed by a 10% spending cut across the entire government, no exceptions.

We are going to have to suffer, period. Let us start suffering already so we have a shot at not fucking our children.)

The bottom line for me, in all this, is that I have really given up hope. I don’t believe our Congress (and the state legislatures) are capable of introducing the change (ethics, responsible spending) that is necessary.

Something very, very bad is going to happen in the next ten or twenty years. War with China, epic depression/inflation/default, or, in the best case scenario, a benevolent military coup (and a draft) that reforms the government in a way that makes it possible for America to function properly.

David Petraeus, are you out there? Rome needs you. Cross the Rubicon. Cast the die!

P.S. I can’t believe I just wrote that. Nevertheless, letting it stand.


Charles Murray: College is a Waste of Time

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

I’m a big fan of Charles Murray. Murray, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, gained famed several years ago for his book with Richard J. Herrnstein, The Bell Curve.

At the time, the book was, in part, interpreted as racist because it pointed out that blacks, on average, score lower than whites on IQ tests; Murray and Herrnstein noted that the cause of this discrepancy is uncertain, but also suggested that both genetic and environmental factors might be involved. Murray (Herrnstein died just before the book was released) is defending the book to this day, and since then there has been a ton of research and commentary on the validity of IQ and what, if any, conclusions can be drawn from the measurement.

Though I disagree with any suggestion of a genetic underpinning (recent evidence has demonstrated an all but certain correlation to environmental factors), the book still made some valid points, most notably this one: intelligence (however measured) has vast and important implications for success. In an America that is increasingly under pressure from the Republi-Conservative idiocracy, this obvious statement needs to be emphasized as early and as often as possible. That is to say: Intelligence is not fixed at birth. Every American must strive to develop their intellectual capacities. Wealth, happiness, and success depend upon it.

At any rate, Murray has penned a piece in today’s Wall Street Journal suggesting that college is a waste of time for most people and that certification tests would do more than the current system to equalize the unfair distribution of the wealth in this country.

I agree. Read the piece and let me know what you think.

Bush in China

Thursday, August 7, 2008

The Beijing Olympics have been a human rights disaster in China. There has been a nationwide crackdown on dissidents and a marked uptick in surveillance and propaganda. Ellen Bork from Freedom House writes about it today in the Wall Street Journal.

China’s diligent focus on censoring anything unsavory to its Communist rulers as the Olympics approaches has had an unintended ironic effect. The world is watching as this crackdown unfolds. Everyday in the paper, on blogs, and on websites, we see new stories of China’s trampling on the rights of its people. This shining of light, Bush’s remarks in Thailand

America stands in firm opposition to China’s detention of political dissidents, human rights advocates and religious activists. We press for openness and justice not to impose our beliefs, but to allow the Chinese people to express theirs.

…and the unavoidable context that must complement any story about the Olympics under this repressive regime, can only help. So, perhaps, the silver lining to the cloud that hovers over Beijing (no pun intended), is that we are all paying attention, and the Chinese know that we do not approve. A cultural meme is setting in. And, in time, ideas give flower to change. I quote Bush again:

Change in China will arrive on its own terms and in keeping with its own history and its own traditions. Yet change will arrive. And it will be clear for all to see that those who aspire to speak their conscience and worship their God are no threat to the future of China. They’re the people who will make China a great nation in the 21st century.

Let us hope that Bush will continue to press this issue. Write him here to let him know you want him to.

P.S. Here’s a harrowing report from Amnesty International on China’s human rights situation.

Ranking the Best Political Blogs

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Updated 9/22/08: I’ve been reading these blogs and others ceaselessly as the presidential campaign gets into high gear. I have updated based on now intensive reading.

There are, literally, dozens of worthy political blogs out there. With such an abundance, one can’t (or won’t) possibly read (or even skim) them all. That said, this is a list of what I believe are the top political blogs of 2008. They are chosen on a purely subjective, qualitative scale with an eye towards reflecting both sides of the partisan divide. Choose one from the right, one from the left, and one news blog, and you’ll never be out of the loop again.

10. The Corner / National Review – Brief and sarcastic, the Corner presents the William F. Buckley viewpoint (philosophically, not stylistically) on the events of the day. Always good for a sense of what the dark side is thinking, and a fine place to recharge your batteries, the Corner is a quickie look at whatever stick is currently up conservatives’ asses. [The Corner]

9. CNN Political Ticker – Marshalling forces from different parts of the CNN organization, this blog is the place to go for an informal look behind the news of CNN. It’s updated frequently and covers the world of politics authoritatively. For a political junkie, it’s a good place to get your fix. [CNN Political Ticker]

8. Mark Halperin / The Page – Mark Halperin is a veteran journalist who founded The Note for ABC News, and has taken his show to Time. This is a solid read every day, with a strong editorial filter that weeds out a lot of the B.S. that one must contend with on other blogs. Halperin is well connected and influential and The Page reflects the intelligent (slightly right of center) journalism he’s spent his life devoted to, without sacrificing a sense of humor. [The Page]

7. Ben Smith / Politico – I find myself coming back to Ben Smith more and more often. He is able to find the perfect seam between news and gossip and often has genuine scoops. He’s always informative and has a strong insider perspective on the political scene. [Ben Smith]

6. Glenn Greenwald / Salon – Though not really a blogger, Glenn Greenwald makes the strongest case for upholding the constitution of any scribe on the Internet. He is a relentless and effective writer who doesn’t pull punches while presenting the evidence that makes his case (he’s former constitutional lawyer). He’s a pleasure to read and almost always manages to get the blood boiling (if you’re into that sort of thing), while taking on government abuse and hypocrisy. [Glenn Greenwald]

5. Andrew Sullivan / The Atlantic Monthly – I have been reading Andrew Sullivan more recently and believe him to be the rare partisan with a decent moral compass and sense of honesty. He posts frequently, throughout the day, and links to and comments on almost everything worth reading about. He is ostensibly a conservative, but, as I say, he’s not an blind ideologue. A daily must. [Andrew Sullivan]

4. Daily Kos – There are many reasons why Daily Kos is a must-read; numerous informed and unique perspectives, the daily congressional overview and analysis, the unalloyed (yet not stupid) liberality, and The Great Kos (Marko Moulitsas – the man who started the trailblazing site) himself. But the single most important reason to go to Daily Kos is because they actively dispute and rebut virtually every thrust of the Republi-Conservative knife with accuracy and proof. That alone makes it worth the trip. [Daily Kos]

3. Josh Marshall / Talking Points Memo – A slightly more objective Daily Kos, TPM is essential political reading for the simple reason that Josh Marshall is a very effective journalist. Marshall knows his stuff and does a great job squeezing relevant news out of what may seem to be a dead issue. Well researched and clearly a labor of love, the site always has something to surprise and engage. [TPM]

2. Real Clear Politics – In a short period of time, Real Clear Politics has become the clearinghouse of the political landscape. If you can’t find it here, it may not exist. The poll summary data is an invaluable resource, the links, combed from far and wide, give you the day in a snapshot, and the depth and breadth political coverage means that you can scrap your RSS feeds and just visit RCP. In addition, the sister website Real Clear Markets performs largely the same purpose for the financial world and helps give readers a comprehensive picture of the most important news of the day. [Real Clear Politics]

1. Coming soon.

Honorable Mention
Kevin Drum / Mother Jones (formerly Washington Monthly) – Always a fresh perspective.
The Caucus / New York Times
The Trail / Washington Post
The Plank / The New Republic

Dishonorable Mention
Drudge Report – A sleazy propaganda organ of GOP
Huffington Post – An influential site, I know, but I find it overwhelming. Needs a redesign.
Instapundit – I’m not there.
The Fix / Washington Post – The pic of Chris Cillizza makes him look like a pompous ass.

FISA Amendments Fail in Senate

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Go to this post on Daily Kos and watch the video to understand what is happening today in the Senate.

All of the proposed amendments to the FISA update bill have now been voted down. This afternoon, the Senate will affirm that the President of the United States and his vassals and corporate enablers are above the law. To be clear: Bush commited a felony under federal law, and he is about to be, in a sense, pardoned by a Democratic Congress. Furthermore, the bill preserves the ability of the president to spy on Americans without a warrant.

Once again, here is the 4th Amendment: The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

This bill is unconstitutional. Obama supports it. Disgraceful.

DOJ Inspector General Finds Anti-Liberal Bias

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

A report released (go straight to Conclusions and Recommendations) Tuesday found the Department of Justice illegally based hiring decisions on the political views of potential employees.

This is one of a few investigations by both the Department of Justice’s Inspector General and Congress.

Sen. Chuck Schumer is quoted by the AP saying:

“This is the first smoking gun. We believe there will be more to come. This report shows clearly that politics and ideology replaced merit as the hiring criteria at one of our most prized civil service departments.”

All I can say is the courts had better force Harriet Miers, Rove, and the rest to testify under oath before Congress. These actions are illegal and should be punished accordingly. We all knew that the Bush administration elevated politics above honor, propriety, and impartiality, now we know they elevated politics above the law.

The Department of Justice has its work cut out for it in order to regain a reputation of upholding our laws with scrupulous fairness.

ACLU Condemns FISA Legislation

Thursday, June 19, 2008

And with good reason. In the manic push to get legislation to Bush before the summer break, Congress is going all out to compromise. Yesterday, the House reached a settlement on the war spending/new GI bill. Today, the Dems, unfortunately, caved on civil liberties to back the Bush-favored FISA renewal.

According to the ACLU, “this bill allows for mass and untargeted surveillance of Americans’ communications. The court review is mere window-dressing – all the court would look at is the procedures for the year-long dragnet and not at the who, what and why of the spying. Even this superficial court review has a gaping loophole – ‘exigent’ circumstances can short cut this perfunctory oversight… In the end, there is no one to answer to; a court review without power is no court review at all.”

The bill also provides cover to the telecoms who aided spying without a warrant by forwarding decisions about retroactive immunity (again, why is this necessary unless the law was broken?) for the telecoms to U.S. district courts, where the Attorney General simply needs to certify that the spying was authorized by the president and took place in the period between September 11, 2001 and January 17, 2007 for the case to be dismissed.

I hate to keep telling people to contact Congress, but now is the time to make your voice heard. They are acting, and quickly, and they need to know what they are doing with this bill is wrong.