Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Quality Counts

I know I am in the minority of right-leaning people in that generally support the movement to build a greatly expanded high-speed rail service in the United States. Granted, I would like such a system to be built with an eye to keeping costs reasonable and having the lines built be ones people would actually use - in other words I would prefer it wasn't being built the way the Obama administration is doing it - but, I still think it is a worthwhile endeavor.

Conservative critics, however, hate it. Many worry about the cost. (They have a point.) Many are prejudiced because Europeans have high speed rail and everything European is nasty or something. (They need to grow up.) Other simply have lousy arguments. Take this piece on Hot Air. Ed Morrissey

The private sector won’t invest in high-speed rail because there isn’t any reason for consumers to choose fixed-track transport between the proposed stops, San Francisco to Los Angeles. Several airlines already service the route and fly twice as fast between the two cities than the proposed train ride (2 hours, 40 minutes). That means that passengers have a greater selection of outbound and return flights, as well as a number of options on airports, depending on their needs.

I believe this argument is largely wrong and wrong for a very specific reason: Flying sucks.

It may be relatively affordable but the experience itself is unpleasant and time consuming. Most airports are at a distance from major urban areas making them harder to get into or out of; security concerns have in many cases doubled the amount of time one has to spend in the airport waiting around in seemingly endless queues; then there is the joy of being groped by a government employee; the planes themselves are cramped and increasingly devoid of pleasures for the average passenger.

So, I'll say this as a consumer, given a choice between flying from the Twin Cities to Chicago or taking a high speed train, I would choose the train ten times out of ten. Hell, I would actually make the trip to Chicago more often, therefore spending more money on lodging and food in the Windy City. I know I'm not alone in this. I lived in Washington DC for a number of years and it was common for people to take the train up to Baltimore or Philly for the weekend. It was convenient and cheaper than driving and having to stash your car someplace. And that was taking Amtrak. Without the train service many more people would have just stayed home.

I'm perfectly willing to believe the Democrats could screw up the execution of the thing, but that doesn't make the idea unsound.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Reason No. 1255 Why The Parties Ought To Ditch The Current Nomination System

"News" from Iowa: Bachmann’s Debacle

“This is a disaster,” said one prominent Polk County Republican. An elected official called it “an embarrassment”. The embarrassing disaster was the result of Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann’s last minute cancellation of her appearance at the Polk County GOP’s Robb Kelley Dinner. Bachmann’s absence turned what should have been a very successful fundraiser into a black eye for herself, her presidential aspirations and the county party.

I'm no particular fan of Bachmann (though I've nothing against her either) but it certainly rubs me the wrong way to think of the out sized influence the people in Polk County, Iowa have in deciding who our presidential nominees are, particularly when they show themselves to be so shallow-minded and narcissistic.

"Why narcissistic?" you ask. Well, look at the reason why Bachmann cancelled:

The scheduling conflict arose because of a House vote on extending the Patriot Act. Backup plans were made for her to use a private jet. In the end, nothing worked and Bachmann was unable to make it.

That's right. She couldn't be there because she was doing her job in the U.S. House of Representatives, casting a vote on a matter of national security. And what was the reaction of Polk County Republicans?

“It’s awful,” said activist Becky Irvin. “She just shot herself in the foot. She dissed Iowa. You don’t diss Iowa.”

Oh yeah? Well I say, screw Iowa.

The over-sized role Iowa (and New Hampshire) play in presidential politics is bad for the political parties, bad for the country, and at its heart un-democratic. It should be reformed sooner rather than later.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Gee, Maybe Its Because Marx Was Wrong

It amazes me how dominant an idea economic determinism is given that it is so obviously wrong: Steady Decline in Major Crime Baffles Experts

The number of violent crimes in the United States dropped significantly last year, to what appeared to be the lowest rate in nearly 40 years, a development that was considered puzzling partly because it ran counter to the prevailing expectation that crime would increase during a recession.

Someone with a scientific bent to their mind would probably reach the conclusion that the economically deterministic assumptions underlying such a belief must be faulty.

But who are you going to believe, Karl Marx or your lying eyes?

The Intellectual Bankruptcy Of Journalism

The title of this post may give you the wrong idea. One might read it and believe I'll be arguing that journalism today has descended from some earlier lofty perch to a degraded position. It is true, in many ways journalism has done exactly that. However, not in the arena of the intellect where journalism has always been inherently bankrupt.

Case in point: David Brooks writes the following piece commenting upon and comparing the present political situation in the UK with the US: Britain Is Working

In 1920, Winston Churchill’s mother held a dinner for M. Paul Cambon to celebrate the end of his 20 years as the French ambassador to Britain. One of the guests asked Cambon what he had seen in his two decades in London.

“I have witnessed an English revolution more profound and searching than the French Revolution itself,” Cambon replied. “The governing class have been almost entirely deprived of political power and to a very large extent of their property and estates; and this has been accomplished almost imperceptibly and without the loss of a single life.”

Buried in that answer is a picture of how politics should work. Britain faced an enormous task: To move from an aristocratic political economy to a democratic, industrial one. This transition was made gradually, without convulsion, with both parties playing a role.

From this snippet you can get the gist of the bad analogy Brooks is working on. This represents the garden variety from of journalistic bankruptcy. To suit the needs of the op-ed writer most everything can be turned in a facile allegory, which always crumbles the second you start to pick at it.

However, the intellectual bankruptcy continues in those journalists who criticize the Brooks' of the world.

It can range from the truly stupid, such as when Glenn Greenwald opines, "David Brooks flew to London so now he's an expert on British politics...." Yeah Glenn, and your being a New York lawyer and journalist gives you the credentials of an expert. Besides, like or don't like what he wrote, Brooks makes no claim to being an expert on Britain. While I'll happily admit if we confined journalists to only expressly writing about topics about which they are demonstrable experts it would have the joyous consequence of eliminating 85% of Greenwald's writing to date, their editors may still demand more copy.

Even British journalists, who presumably know a thing or two more about their own country than a hapless American, display their own brand of intellectual bankruptcy. Take Daniel Knowles of the Telegraph for example:

[T]his column is laughably ignorant of British history and bizarrely naive about British political culture.

Let’s take a few choice bits, starting with the opening paragraph. Apparently, from 1900 to 1920:

Britain faced an enormous task: To move from an aristocratic political economy to a democratic, industrial one. This transition was made gradually, without convulsion, with both parties playing a role.

Gradually? Without convulsion? I don’t know if you’re aware of this David, but most British historians believe that the First World War was pretty convulsive. And definitely not very gradual. He seems to think that Britain cast off her aristocratic rulers by a process of “constructive competition.” In fact, what happened was that we went to war, conscripted millions of young men and sent them to France to be machine-gunned.

The intellectual dishonesty of this is, frankly, staggering. For starters, Brooks did not pull this idea out of thin air. As anyone can see from my quote of Brooks above, he was elaborating upon a comment made by Paul Cambon who was the French ambassador to England from 1898 to 1920, and intimately connected to the efforts that brought England into the Great War so he was obviously taking that into account. Indeed, Messr. Cambon's 22 years of experience working and moving in the highest levels of British political society vastly outweighs the "experience" of Assistant Comment Editor Knowles who, based upon the Harry Potter like quality of this head shot, may not have 22 months on the job as a journalist.

Obviously, Brooks and Cambon were limiting their remarks to the domestic situation in Britain during those years, particularly as it related to questions of political economy. As such Brooks' remarks are quite similar to the views put forward by the historian Barbara Tuchman in her book The Proud Tower, and by the late British MP Robert Rhodes James in his The British Revolution: 1880-1939. One could certainly take issue with such interpretations, but there is nothing "bizarre" about them.

Just as there is nothing intellectually honest about journalism.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Our Business

I can remember a day when, according to Democrats, it was absolutely not the public's business whether legislators like Tip O'Neil or Ted Kennedy were alcoholics or not. What mattered was that they performed their elected duties, we were told. And nothing else.

My, how times have changed for Democrats:

Jacob Weisberg’s article on weird conservative beliefs ledes with this:

At a press conference last week, someone asked Chris Christie for his views on evolution vs. creationism. “That’s none of your business,” the New Jersey governor barked in response.

Weisberg moves on quickly to other things, just using this as an illustrative example. But it’s worth highlighting the fact that it absolutely is our business whether or not Chris Christie believes in evolution. This isn’t like asking whether Christie’s secretly a Rangers fan or something. Christie oversees education policy for the state of New Jersey and they teach biology in New Jersey schools. You can look up the state’s life science curriculum standards if you scroll down a bit here (it’s section 5.3) and it involves evolution. And rightly so! Does Christie stand by that, or doesn’t he?

The mind boggling idiocy of this should be enough to make any rational person at least cringe, and if you know anything about history it should give you even greater pause. Think about what is being claimed here. What now matters to this particularly dimwitted breed of Democrat is not what a given politician does or doesn't do. All of it can be colored by the knowledge that they may hold a politically incorrect idea or belief. For a rational person if you wanted to know what a Governor thinks about education you would look at the policies and changes he or she has actually implemented (or attempted to implement.) The idea that all of this evidence can be thrown out the window if the Governor has certain "suspect" characteristics or traits is essentially irrational and pretty damn scary.

The only analog I can think of in the history of the world is the similar belief that, for example, the race or ethnicity of an artist could make a work of art created by them "degenerate."

Talk about a weird belief.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Bernard Henri-Levy Embraces His Inner Rapist

Say hello to the new Marquis St. Evremonde, Bernard Henri-Levy:

I do not know what actually happened Saturday, the day before yesterday, in the room of the now famous Hotel Sofitel in New York.

I do not know—no one knows, because there have been no leaks regarding the declarations of the man in question—if Dominique Strauss-Kahn was guilty of the acts he is accused of committing there, or if, at the time, as was stated, he was having lunch with his daughter.

I do not know—but, on the other hand, it would be nice to know, and without delay—how a chambermaid could have walked in alone, contrary to the habitual practice of most of New York’s grand hotels of sending a “cleaning brigade” of two people, into the room of one of the most closely watched figures on the planet.

I'll break in here to emphasize this piece really begins this way. Evidently this is how a French "intellectual" writes. Henri Bergson he isn't.

I'll also note how strange it is that a socialist claims knowledge of how all the "grand hotels" of New York operate. It's odd that.

What I do know is that nothing in the world can justify a man being thus thrown to the dogs.

What I know is that nothing, no suspicion whatever (for let’s remind ourselves that, as I write these lines, we are dealing only with suspicions!), permits the entire world to revel in the spectacle, this morning, of this handcuffed figure, his features blurred by 30 hours of detention and questioning, but still proud.

Oh, the horrors of celebrity, power and privilege! It can so lead to the blowing out of proportion of one's arrest on the suspicion of rape. Why, in France one could commit three sexual assaults a day and still make it to the cafe in time to get in a few hours of Israel bashing with the right sort of people.

This morning, I hold it against the American judge who, by delivering him to the crowd of photo hounds, pretended to take him for a subject of justice like any other.

Oh my! They treated him like anyone else! Do they not know who he is? He is not some peasant!

I am troubled by a system of justice modestly termed “accusatory,” meaning that anyone can come along and accuse another fellow of any crime—and it will be up to the accused to prove that the accusation is false and without basis in fact.

Yes, in America superior men are liable to be held accountable for their crimes! Even those committed by them against their obvious inferiors! It's maddening, no?

In case you cannot tell from the above, Bernard Henri-Levy is an imbecile.


Just as bad as Henri-Levy's imbecility are the truly despicable efforts to paint those who believe that Strauss-Kahn should have to face potential charges without the chance to flee the country as being being against due process and the principle that everyone is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

Besides I have to really wonder about the sanity of someone who would write the following:

1.) If he is such a womanizer and violent guy with women, why didn't he ever get charged until now? If he has a long history of sexual abuse, how can it have remained no more than gossip this long? France is a nation of vicious political rivalries. Why didn't his opponents get him years ago?

Hmmm... how do the rich, powerful and politically connected get away with anything?

It's a mystery!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Darn. I Don't Have My Tin Foil Hat Handy

Little did any of us know, well at least those of us who live in a world where a clear sky is blue and the moon isn't made of used Mazda parts, that Al Gore was the victim of a vast media conspiracy back in 1999 and 2000.


Thursday, May 12, 2011

The Death Of American Liberalism

If you were ever wondering which gasping spasm of outrage represented the final exhalation of this dying creature, well, wonder no more:

Question: If your elected officials fail basic taxonomy, promote anti-science curriculum, and consistently attempt to undermine the fundamental unpinning of all biology, what happens when they start trying to legislate from this flawed view of reality?

The answer is this poorly-worded miasma of a law recently passed in Florida, which presumably was designed to prevent bestiality and promote animal welfare, but which has actually made it illegal, effective October 1, 2011, for anyone to have sex in Florida.

The nub, if you can call it that, is Florida legislators use the word "animal" which, to a college sophomore somewhere who between bong hits remembered human beings are also animals, means Floridians are total rubes!

Well, according to this "logic" so are the good folks in Massachusetts who have made it a crime to watch "animals" fight. (Sorry about that all you boxing and hockey fans!) Add to the list as well Rhode Island, Washington, Illinois, Minnesota, California, and basically anywhere else that is considered left of the American center.

I cannot tell if this represents simple though damn thorough ignorance of law, or if it is part of a campaign to "normalize" bestiality. I guess I could be setting up a false dichomoty here. No reason it cannot be both.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Irrefutable Evidence

Just in case people missed it, or if you are unaware that Noam Chomsky is an ignorant and, frankly, evil son-of-a-bitch, you should go read Chistopher Hitchens today:Chomsky's Follies

Anybody visiting the Middle East in the last decade has had the experience: meeting the hoarse and aggressive person who first denies that Osama Bin Laden was responsible for the destruction of the World Trade Center and then proceeds to describe the attack as a justified vengeance for decades of American imperialism. This cognitive dissonance—to give it a polite designation—does not always take that precise form. Sometimes the same person who hails the bravery of al-Qaida's martyrs also believes that the Jews planned the "operation." As far as I know, only leading British "Truther" David Shayler, a former intelligence agent who also announced his own divinity, has denied that the events of Sept. 11, 2001, took place at all. (It was apparently by means of a hologram that the widespread delusion was created on television.) In his recent article for Guernica magazine, however, professor Noam Chomsky decides to leave that central question open. We have no more reason to credit Osama Bin Laden's claim of responsibility, he states, than we would have to believe Chomsky's own claim to have won the Boston Marathon.

I can't immediately decide whether or not this is an improvement on what Chomsky wrote at the time. Ten years ago, apparently sharing the consensus that 9/11 was indeed the work of al-Qaida, he wrote that it was no worse an atrocity than President Clinton's earlier use of cruise missiles against Sudan in retaliation for the bomb attacks on the centers of Nairobi and Dar es Salaam. (I haven't been back to check on whether he conceded that those embassy bombings were also al-Qaida's work to begin with.) He is still arguing loudly for moral equivalence, maintaining that the Abbottabad, Pakistan, strike would justify a contingency whereby "Iraqi commandos landed at George W. Bush's compound, assassinated him, and dumped his body in the Atlantic." (Indeed, equivalence might be a weak word here, since he maintains that, "uncontroversially, [Bush's] crimes vastly exceed bin Laden's.") So the main new element is the one of intriguing mystery. The Twin Towers came down, but it's still anyone's guess who did it. Since "April 2002, [when] the head of the FBI, Robert Mueller, informed the press that after the most intensive investigation in history, the FBI could say no more than that it 'believed' that the plot was hatched in Afghanistan," no evidence has been adduced. "Nothing serious," as Chomsky puts it, "has been provided since."

One could say Chomsky was crazy as a loon, but I truly don't think he is. Just like Martin Heidegger he has deliberately chosen to side with evil for his own perverted reasons.

Basically, he's a monster.

Monday, May 09, 2011

Krugman Lies To Everyone On Earth, Including Himself

I guess it gets really difficult to remember what you've said when one is Paul Krugman and basically every word you have uttered in the last fifteen years or so has been politically premised and never tempered by an actual principle, other than "Gee ain't I swell!" perhaps. The Unwisdom of Elites

The fact is that what we’re experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. The policies that got us into this mess weren’t responses to public demand. They were, with few exceptions, policies championed by small groups of influential people — in many cases, the same people now lecturing the rest of us on the need to get serious. And by trying to shift the blame to the general populace, elites are ducking some much-needed reflection on their own catastrophic mistakes.

Let me focus mainly on what happened in the United States, then say a few words about Europe.

These days Americans get constant lectures about the need to reduce the budget deficit. That focus in itself represents distorted priorities, since our immediate concern should be job creation. But suppose we restrict ourselves to talking about the deficit, and ask: What happened to the budget surplus the federal government had in 2000?

The answer is, three main things. First, there were the Bush tax cuts, which added roughly $2 trillion to the national debt over the last decade. Second, there were the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which added an additional $1.1 trillion or so. And third was the Great Recession, which led both to a collapse in revenue and to a sharp rise in spending on unemployment insurance and other safety-net programs.

Great argument, except for the fact Krugman has been arguing for years that these deficits are not a disaster at all. In fact, Krugman has been claiming the only disaster is that we haven't been producing larger deficits.

So which is it Mr. Krugman? Are the record breaking deficits you've been advocating for a disaster or not?

I'll wait for you to look outside and try to guage which way the wind is blowing.

It's all you ever do anyway.

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Life Is Too Short To Refute Dipshit Salon Editors...

...but you can take my word for it as a professor of political philosophy... Joan Walsh is a journalist who has no expertise in political philosophy, no understanding of political philosophy, and, evidently, only a tenuous hold on the principles that underlie her own supposed discipline. Reading her is like suffering an ignorance assault.

And I say this as someone who doesn't particularly care for David Brooks, but at least he's aware there is a world that exists outside the confines of his cozy worldview.

Ms. Walsh? Not so much.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Talk About Unconvincing

Chutzpah award of the week: Justice to NCAA: Why no college football playoff

The Justice Department wants to know why the NCAA doesn't have a college football playoff system and says there are "serious questions" about whether the current format to determine a national champion complies with antitrust laws.

Critics who have urged the department to investigate the Bowl Championship Series contend it unfairly gives some schools preferential access to the title championship game and top-tier end-of-the-season bowl contents.

In a letter this week, the department's antitrust chief, Christine Varney, asked NCAA President Mark Emmert why a playoff system isn't used in football, unlike in other sports; what steps the NCAA has taken to create one; and whether Emmert thinks there are aspects of the BCS system that don't serve the interest of fans, schools and players....

Bill Hancock, the BCS executive director, was confident the current system complies with the law.

"Goodness gracious, with all that's going on in the world right now and with national and state budgets being what they are, it seems like a waste of taxpayers' money to have the government looking into how college football games are played," he said.

In other words: "The government was so busy we were confident we could get away with violating the law. Besides, why would the government care about our little football games, which only generate a few billion dollars of business every year."

Mr. Hancock you are a tone deaf idiot.

That is all.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Who Will Benefit Most From The Bin Laden Killing Politically?

I respond: Who gives a crap?

The answer is no one really cares except those with a damn near total lack of perspective. A long time ago I wrote:

There is a sameness about the disputes and controversies. Pure political junkies don’t really notice this as they can always live “in the moment.” They are like the guy in Memento: everything is perpetually new. Every new issue is taken upon its face value, and analogies are just tools used to bludgeon the other side and not to remind us that we have been here before.

Issues like "How much will Obama benefit from this?" simply fall in this navel gazing category. It's the type of question that makes the political blogosphere deathly boring for me sometimes. In the long run, and here I'm talking about months not years, it simply won't matter. For example, if gasoline hits five dollars a gallon this July people will look back at the halcyon days of the Bin Laden offing and think "Wow, we were so much younger back then..." or at least it will feel that way.

So much of politics is ephemera, in truth most of it is. For that reason it often bores me to tears. And, my goodness, is this particular piece of ephemera boring.

Monday, May 02, 2011

A Near Total Lack Of Irony

How fitting is it that Osama Bin Laden's last conscious action before a high velocity bullet tore through his grey matter was one of domestic abuse?

I'd say pretty damn fitting.