Archive for Misc.

Sep
19

Friday Open Thread

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Scotland Forever? Or Hail Britannia?

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Sep
12

Friday Open Thread

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I’m kinda tired. Think I’ll go to bed now. Somebody thread the Friday opening for me.

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Sep
11

An economic cult

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Paul Krugman this morning writes about “the inflation cult,” doomsaying pundits and supposed economic experts who, economic rain or shine, predict that a steep rise in inflation is coming anytime now and, quite reliably, get it wrong time after time.

Part of that appeal is clearly political; there’s a reason why Mr. Santelli yells about both inflation and how President Obama is giving money away to “losers,” why Mr. Ryan warns about both a debased currency and a government that redistributes from “makers” to “takers.” Inflation cultists almost always link the Fed’s policies to complaints about government spending. They’re completely wrong about the details — no, the Fed isn’t printing money to cover the budget deficit — but it’s true that governments whose debt is denominated in a currency they can issue have more fiscal flexibility, and hence more ability to maintain aid to those in need, than governments that don’t.

And anger against “takers” — anger that is very much tied up with ethnic and cultural divisions — runs deep. Many people, therefore, feel an affinity with those who rant about looming inflation; Mr. Santelli is their kind of guy. In an important sense, I’d argue, the persistence of the inflation cult is an example of the “affinity fraud” crucial to many swindles, in which investors trust a con man because he seems to be part of their tribe. In this case, the con men may be conning themselves as well as their followers, but that hardly matters.

This tribal interpretation of the inflation cult helps explain the sheer rage you encounter when pointing out that the promised hyperinflation is nowhere to be seen. It’s comparable to the reaction you get when pointing out that Obamacare seems to be working, and probably has the same roots.

Not just economists, but the country (and perhaps the entire Republican Party) seems to be in the grip of an economic cult concerned with much more than inflation — that’s just a symptom. As Krugman suggests, ethnic and cultural (and class) divisions factor into it. Digby has written repeatedly (and just yesterday) that many of the same people “have always been wrong about everything.” And yet, their followers keep listening. Conservatism never fails. It is unfalsifiable. I wrote last week that the Koch brothers’ evangelism for the their libertarian Kochification Church resembles recruiting techniques used by cults.

Hey, let’s start a meme.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

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Sep
09

If Dogs Could Talk

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Don’t you like a good new fashioned dust up between two biologists who you would expect to agree on most things? A recent hypothetical draws a strong reaction which draws an even more outlandish hypothetical. Biologist, author, blogger and atheist PZ Myers recently wrote in a post titled The only abortion argument that counts:

We can make all the philosophical and scientific arguments that anyone might want, but ultimately what it all reduces to is a simple question: do women have autonomous control of their bodies or not? Even if I thought embryos were conscious, aware beings writing poetry in the womb (I don’t, and they’re not), I’d have to bow out of any say in the decision the woman bearing responsibility has to make.

Which drew this reaction from Richard Dawkins:

To which PZ responds by drawing up an even more fantastic hypothetical Read More→

Sep
05

Friday Open Thread

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Whoa! So what didn’t happen this week?

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Sep
04

Like Beer? You’ll love Koch.

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Tapes and transcripts leaked recently from the Koch brothers’ annual summit meeting are filled with eye-popping details. For example, their efforts to market their free-market gospel to uninterested young people are as ham-fisted as Fox News Channel’s ill-fated 1/2 Hour News Hour. Joan Walsh writes:

“I have a big surprise for everyone here: Young people like beer,” joked Evan Feinberg of the Koch-funded Generation Opportunity. At least I think he was trying to make a joke. GenOpp is the group behind those “Creepy Uncle Sam” anti-Obamacare ads that backfired against the right. So understandably, Feinberg didn’t mention Creepy Uncle Sam, but bragged about GenOpp’s recent “Free the Brews” campaign, which used his generation’s interest in craft brewing to advance the Kochs’ deregulation agenda.

They hope to use phony interest in beer and food trucks to entice young people into trying Koch. Essentially, this is GenOpp’s recruitment pitch to twenty-somethings:

Do you like beer?

Hey, me too!

You know, we should get together and lower marginal tax rates.

Walsh calls Feinberg’s career “a case study in the way wingnut welfare creates a culture of dependency, or alternatively, the debilitating effects of affirmative action for white people.”

Jokes aside, this approach reminded me of … something. Oh, yeah. There are lots of sources on this, but this one will do:

To more effectively recruit new believers, cult members sometimes organize special events, a tactic which allows them to camouflage their true motives. They know that people are more likely to attend a networking mixer, a youth group or a charity fundraiser than they are to sign up for an information session on the interdimensional doomsday prophesy of Gur the Dragon of Death.

Except in this case the sessions were framed as a death match between the Kochs and the collectivists:

In his speech titled “American Courage: Our Commitment to a Free Society,” Charles Koch echoed an op-ed he wrote earlier this year in the Wall Street Journal in both his paranoia and self-pity. The billionaire oil industrialist, hosting some of the most powerful men in Washington, without irony claimed in his speech that he and his brother were “put squarely in front of the firing squad.” He later framed the path ahead for America as a binary choice between freedom and collectivism, a catchall term he used to describe liberalism, socialism, and fascism.

Audio and transcripts are here if this sort of thing from the Kochification Church is your cup of Kool-Aid.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

Categories : National, Religion
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Aug
25

About Those Toll Lanes

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About Thom’s Tholl Road I wrote about yesterday,

Tillis expects to fund highway projects all across North Carolina using tolls. WSOC-Charlotte reported this summer that a round trip from Mooresville to Charlotte on Tillis’ I-77 HOT lanes could cost commuters $20 every weekday.

People in the Charlotte area — especially those struggling with low-paying jobs — are asking about the cost to use Spain-based Cintra’s toll lanes.

“Who knows?”

That’s how the man in charge of proposed Interstate 77 toll lanes responded to a town commissioner’s question about whether tolls could max out in another 20 years at more than $40 round trip.

[...]

“There is no one I have spoken to that believes an eleven dollar trip is reasonable in any way,” said Cornelius Town Commissioner John Bradford. “These numbers have really set off a lot of alarms and bells.”

Asheville has an interstate highway expansion project in the works, too. What would you be willing to pay? What would state Reps. Tim Moffitt and Nathan Ramsey consider reasonable for you to pay?

Aug
22

Friday Open Thread

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Because tomorrow is Saturday.

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Aug
21

The Race You Can’t See

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“The race we don’t see is our own,” writes Anat Shenker-Osorio as she reflects on the situation in Ferguson, MO and the reflexive trope, “I don’t see race.”

In a recent series of focus groups on perceptions of race and gender, we showed different groups an all white image and asked them to discuss it. None of the white folks remarked upon the lack of people of color but for the African American, Latino and API groups it was the first thing they said.

Consider, as another example, how we label people of color “minorities” regardless of the proportion they make up in a group. “Majority-minority country”, far from being oxymoronic, is a very clear indicator of just how whites think of ourselves when we’re alone. No matter how many of us there are, we’re the majority.

As the demographics of this country shift away from a white, European default, some unsettling of contents will occur among those who have always assumed the United States is by heritage and by rights a white-run country — the way they insist this is a Christian one.

Hang on tight. This could be a rough ride.

Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.
— Frederick Douglass

Categories : News, Race
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Aug
19

There’s something happening here

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Kareem Abdul-Jabbar on what Ferguson, MO is really about. Not race, but class.

This fist-shaking of everyone’s racial agenda distracts America from the larger issue that the targets of police overreaction are based less on skin color and more on an even worse Ebola-level affliction: being poor. Of course, to many in America, being a person of color is synonymous with being poor, and being poor is synonymous with being a criminal. Ironically, this misperception is true even among the poor.

The U.S. Census Report finds that 50 million Americans are poor. Fifty million voters is a powerful block if they ever organized in an effort to pursue their common economic goals. So, it’s crucial that those in the wealthiest One Percent keep the poor fractured by distracting them with emotional issues like immigration, abortion and gun control so they never stop to wonder how they got so screwed over for so long.

Still. I’ve written about this in various ways lately. Everybody’s got their own agenda, their own political itch to scratch: race, sex, religion, money, freedom, country, class. But in the end, they’re all surrogates for one thing: Power. Who has it. Who doesn’t. The Haves. The Have Nots.

Despite all the camouflaging patriotic rhetoric about freedom and opportunity, for many power is a zero-sum game. More for you means less for them. And those in control won’t stand for that. Deep Throat said follow the money. But if you want to keep from getting screwed, don’t be distracted by the chaff thrown into the air to keep neighbors the elite consider lessers from becoming their equals. Follow the power.

Categories : Action, National, News, Poverty, Race
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