6.01.2011

5.31.2011

"The telos of techne"

"To speak more generally, the ultimate goal of technology, the telos of techne, is to replace a natural world that’s indifferent to our wishes — a world of hurricanes and hardships and breakable hearts, a world of resistance — with a world so responsive to our wishes as to be, effectively, a mere extension of the self."

Tomorrow, we return more fully, in a way, to that harsher natural world as the blog concludes.

But I will say that Letters in Bottles, while it's been an extension of the self, has not been about replacing a natural world through the technological medium of a blog.  It's been more about capturing, analyzing, and wondering at the lives that we and others lead in that world.  And in turn, a community of sorts has emerged in the chattering, though the bottles have long since floated far out to sea.

5.27.2011

“This is the land of dreams,” he said. “Oshkosh is the best in the world!”

Fernando Perez-Canto, sitting next to the single-engine Maule he flew here from Venezuela for the second year in a row, termed the event "the Woodstock for our hobby,' and Sergey Ryabtsev of Russia, an aviation enthusiast who overcame an intense fear of flying to travel aboard an airliner to the event, proclaimed Oshkosh “the spirit of aviation itself.” One evening, as he prepared time-lapse photography of Elvis, the Eriksen Air-Crane heli-tanker, he said, "I’m ready to spend money, spend time, spend everything to be in Oshkosh."
Will you be in Oshkosh this summer?

5.25.2011

"Democrats were clinging to the developments like koalas to eucalyptus trees"

Our debilitating national aversion to reducing the burden of federal entitlements needs to stop.

Fantastic

Jurassic Park sort of turned me off to technology in archaeology -- being a bit anachronistically inclined born in the early '80s, I preferred to think of my bone-hunters as latter-day Indiana Joneses (of course!). But I have to say, this is just all kinds of awesome:
"Indiana Jones is old school, we've moved on from Indy, sorry Harrison Ford."

5.24.2011

The Walk to School

















A young girl walks to meet the bus in St. Roch, New Orleans this morning as a SWAT team bursts into a home in the background.

5.18.2011

Further proof of how lucky we are that Joanne Kloppenburg will NOT be a Supreme Court Justice

I read her op-ed piece in the Journal Sentinel and was pretty shocked at how divorced from reality her arguments are. Many of the "irregularities" found in Waukesha County are no different than ballot bags found in Dane County or other counties throughout the state. Plus, with the GAB's press release the other day, it seems as though any court challenge would be doomed to failure.

I think Althouse has a pretty good takedown of how desperate Kloppenburg is beginning to look:
Oh, so the disembodied process proceeds as it was prescribed. No, it proceeds because you chose to put it in motion, and another choice looms in the future. Why are you pretending that you don't know what you are going to do?

"Wisconsin law specifically anticipates that there may be court challenges..." See what I mean by mind-crushingly dull? Or... if you think about it long enough, maybe it will cease to be dull and become infuriating.

5.16.2011

That Senate race may not be as exciting as we think

When a four term Senator retires, it naturally sets the political world ablaze with thoughts on who will step to the plate. Herb Kohl's announcement on Friday is certainly no different. We've heard several names tossed around on both sides, but unfortunately I'm not even certain that we'll get a competitive primary at all.

The problem is that for big races, the Democrats and Republicans in Wisconsin act far too much like machines. The retirement of Dave Obey last year should have been an opportunity for many ambitious state legislators, but the party feared a "waste" of resources and anointed Sen. Lassa as the nominee behind closed doors. The same holds true for the gubernatorial primary. Lt. Gov. Lawton suddenly dropped out of a race she'd wanted to run for eight years and Mayor Barrett was basically told that he would run and he would be the nominee.

On the Republican side, many in leadership acted disgracefully in the way they treated Mark Neumann and seemed to do just about everything possible to make the "undesirable" Senate candidates go away. While not as successful in limiting the field as the Dems, it was still bad.

So, while I would love to see a knock-down-drag-out fight between Ron Kind, Tammy Baldwin, and any number of state legislators, I simply don't believe it will happen. The DNC is still run by the White House and they will not allow that many open seats to defend in one of the most important states to the President's reelection. To borrow a phrase that's popular among the left right now, that would be shameful.

And honestly, the same goes for the GOP. There should be a lively and vigorous debate about the future of our nation and how best to combat the problems of entitlement reform and perpetual deficits from a conservative perspective. But I fear we won't get that because it's just far too costly in a presidential election year.

I'd love to see a big free-for-all next year and it would make Wisconsin one of the most watched states in the country, but it's more likely that the Dems will have picked their nominee by the end of the year and the GOP won't be far behind them.

5.13.2011

New music

Fleet Foxes released a new album last week. Do check it out; it's worth it.

Architecture in Helsinki also released an album.

Alas! They've traded in both the muppets and the crack of their last album, which was great but short, for one 80's synthesizer to sing along with softly for their fourth album. There are only a handful of songs that stand out before it turns into synth pop mush. I like the first song, second song, and the third which is the first single:



It's probably just me, but pop music made with synthesizers usually sounds terrible. For me, much of the 80's is a black hole of music, especially all the slow 80's songs.

Perhaps it's that synths are good at being synths and making electronic music, but when they're used to fill the exact spaces of conventional instruments, they enter the Uncanny Valley and the music sounds 'off'. The strange thing is that there's plenty of electronic music I do like. Perhaps after several years, which happened to be in and around the 80's, people figured out some good new things to do with electronics and electronic music split off with its own conventions.

Then again, it might just be an issue of art, in which case you either just like it or don't.

5.11.2011

Sandbags emerge along the levee in Baton Rouge

Take a trip!


On a Philippine jeepney...


...maybe to Mt. Taal! But look out -- it might explode soon.

Because terms matter

The "cold war with Pakistan" meme seems to be getting some play in the conservative blogosphere lately. Which is pretty obnoxious, really.

The first thing, really is just meaning: "Cold War" doesn't mean that. We have a pretty major policy difference with Pakistan, yes. We're in a diplomatic faceoff with them, maybe. But a Cold War suggests not only absolute ideological opposition, but evangelical absolute opposition, as well as a major military focus to the opposition. On every level, that's simply not the case with Pakistan.

But more problematic is the fact that yelling about a "new cold war" by Republicans inevitably suggests a very particular set of policy prescriptions. These begin with a Kennan-esque sense that our opponent only understands a hard military response:
Impervious to logic of reason, and it is highly sensitive to logic of force. For this reason it can easily withdraw--and usually does when strong resistance is encountered at any point. Thus, if the adversary has sufficient force and makes clear his readiness to use it, he rarely has to do so. If situations are properly handled there need be no prestige-engaging showdowns.
The trouble is that the conservative policy response lately tends to leave off that last bit -- the Obama focus on diplomacy has been roundly derided, particularly by the ascendant Tea Party types within the GOP. It also leaves no room for flexibility in a US diplomatic response, to, say, Pakistan's continued refusal of access to bin Laden's wives. Every disagreement becomes, to this view, a prestige-engaging showdown once the US decides it wants something.

Instead, we have a policy dispute. Indeed, we're still able to work with Pakistan on a range of issues -- look at the continued drone strikes within the country, for instance. Nor is there any ideological outlook to combat. This is simply the reality of a newly unipolar world: Pakistan can play off various sides -- the US, China, non-state actors like terrorist groups -- to advance what it sees as its own objectives.

Words, and framing, matter very much -- and this is irresponsible.

5.07.2011

Spring storms

The best defense is using your best defense

Kenneth Anderson's dig at "the advocacy communities, the UN human rights machinery, the NGOs, activist-academics, Euro-intellectuals to seek to seize the legal-political narrative" notwithstanding, this is a great look at the Obama team's response to the killing of Osama bin Laden:
So, to say what the Attorney General should have said: It is

* okay to enter a country that is “unable or unwilling,”
* okay to use lethal force,
* okay to attack without warning,
* okay to attack an unarmed, unthreatening, but still lawful target,
* okay to attack without inviting surrender,
* okay to press the attack with lethal force and without pause, the exception being if the target were to succeed in completing the act of surrender — which, in this case, is likely to be never, because there will not be enough time, and
* okay not to give the target time to make an attempt at surrender, even if inclined or even attempting, by pausing or slowing the attack.

Meanwhile, has the administration regained its composure? No — and it won’t manage to do so until someone with Harold Koh’s stature starts speaking out, and pointing out that the legal standards are precisely what he laid out in his speech a year ago, and none of it represents anything other than long-held US legal positions.
I'm surprised the administration isn't defending itself more vigorously here.

5.05.2011

"mi gran sueno"



The volano Tungurahua - "throat of fire" - erupts, spewing ash last week, as seen from the streets of Riobamba, Ecuador.

5.03.2011

The world made visible

I can only imagine what this flowchart of a story foretells.

This near-instantaneous, barely intentional, global interconnectedness that extends well down into the weeds is not a new phenomenon.

But this is one of the better illustrations of where we are at...along some line extending outward.

Shocked?

Anyone who's shocked in any way that Osama bin Laden may have been "hiding out in plain sight" deep within Pakistan should read one book to understand the deeply complicated and ultimately untenable relationship between the governments of the U.S. and Pakistan, especially their respective intelligence agencies.

It's called Ghost Wars by Steve Coll.

I highly recommend it as a backdrop for all that has happened in Afghanistan since 1979 and all that has happened surrounding U.S. involvement in Afghanistan/Pakistan since September 11, 2001.

The book may actually be more relevant than ever at this stage.  This next new phase in the U.S./Pakistan relationship may need to account for and rectify all the double dealing that's been going on for decades.

5.02.2011

Quito






















Never before have I seen such dizzying, baroque architectural excess - an incredible mixture of Spanish, Moorish, and Quiteno influences.  And that didn't characterize just one key building, but many.

The churches of Quito blew me away.

Implications

I wondered how long it would take for the argument to appear:
The slaying capped almost a decade of a drifting wartime task in which security has worsened in both Afghanistan and nuclear-armed Pakistan.The U.S. invaded Afghanistan in order to make war on al Qaeda, but ended up in a fight to keep the Taliban from overrunning Afghan President Hamid Karzai. The question now is whether there is more that the United States can accomplish in Afghanistan or Pakistan. If the answer is yes, what is that more? And if it is no, is it time to wind down?
Levine suggests that the answer is to wind down, and has some interesting things to say about the implications of that.

5.01.2011

Osama bin Laden is finally brought to justice

I cannot believe that Osama bin Laden is dead. This is moment of justice for the thousands of victims of this evil man and though it took much longer than many would have thought or liked it has finally come. After ten years, I began to think this would never happen, but I'm glad it has.

We finally got the bastard.

4.29.2011

Who is really responsible for the recount circus?

For all the complaining my fellow conservatives have been doing about the "waste of taxpayer money" and the Supreme Court recount, I really can't understand what the big deal is.

The only reason we are in this situation is because of the incompetence of a county clerk in the most conservative county in Wisconsin. Because of that monumentally stupid fubar, Kloppenburg held the unofficial lead the morning after. Now, I agree that she was a fool to declare victory, but having done so she had to find some way to save face and satisfy her supporters. Asking for a recount gives her that chance. Is it a waste of time? I'm not so sure. Given the problem with reporting the Brookfield vote, I would think that conservatives would welcome the chance to prove that Kathy Nickolaus is merely incompetent and did not engage in anything fraudulent.

Talking about under-vote or over-vote in Madison is pointless and silly. Of course there was a huge vote for the court race. It was the only competitive one in the county with a conservative and a liberal, so it is going to attract a lot of people who normally may not vote in spring elections. Rather than focusing on perceived "irregularities," maybe it would be better off to focus on the fact that even with a huge turnout in Dane and Milwaukee counties, David Prosser still won.

Let the recount go forward without any snide comments or remarks. Let the recount show that nothing went wrong. If Kloppenburg tries to litigate and toss out votes, fight her on it in court, but otherwise sit down and be quiet. The idea among some conservatives that this is all some giant plot to prevent Prosser from taking his seat by dragging this out in court is ludicrous. There is no way anyone can win that type of a recount battle and I don't believe for a second that the Kloppenburg campaign is that stupid. It also makes conservatives look like tin-foil hat wearing nuts - kind of like liberals with the whole Koch brothers nonsense.

The people doing the recounts around the state are good, professional people. Let them do their job and put to rest the liberal lunacy that this election was stolen. If conservatives want to blame anyone for this, blame the Waukesha County Clerk. Her screw-up is the reason we're spending the money to do this.

There is such a thing as a stupid question -- and it doesn't seem to be going away

One of the most disingenuous questions of the modern political era finally got an answer -- but like any good conspiracy, don't expect the questions to stop:
He said that even if the document is real, it raises questions about Obama’s eligibility to be president. Farah contended that, because Obama’s father was from Africa, the president may have had "dual citizenship" and therefore may not meet the definition of a "natural-born" citizen, the eligibility requirement in the Constitution. He suggested that it is necessary to revisit the intentions of the Framers.

He added: "This has never been an issue exclusively about where Barack Obama was born."
In fact, it just gets more disingenuous:
"We’re borrowing four and half billion dollars a day and this president is more worried about birth certificates, Oprah Winfrey and fundraisers at the Waldorf Astoria," Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Preibus said on "CNN Newsroom," referring to Obama’s decision to release his long-form birth certificate before flying to Chicago for an interview with Winfrey and later to New York for a fundraiser. "It’s maddening and I just wish the president would engage in the real issues that are affecting America."
Of course, the other most disingenuous political question of our day also keeps getting asked, despite all the evidence. I love the smell of cheap political opportunism in the morning...

4.26.2011

Real Hope

Check out this article. Its goal is proposing a broad stance the country should take adopt for the new century.

What is says is that we've completely over-reacted to terrorism--we're still applying the strategy of containment from the cold war. "It is time to move beyond a strategy of containment to a strategy of sustainment (sustainability); from an emphasis on power and control to an emphasis on strength and influence." In another point they write that we need to embrace competition to rise to the occasion setting a good example that others around the world will want to follow.

The article also talks about how our power comes from having a strong economy and not the other way around. The authors also write that the future economic growth of the country comes from educating the kids of today.

The two people who wrote it are staffers of the Joint Chiefs. In the bigger picture, it's interesting how even the hammer says we hammer too much.

I've looked around and there doesn't seem to be much in the media about the article yet, outside of CNN.

Programming Note

This post has been percolating for quite a while now -- indeed, it's a couple of days overdue -- but I haven't quite been able pull the trigger on it, as it were.

In June of 2005, Brad V was just coming on board here as a contributor at Letters in Bottles -- the first in a great run of contributors and guest-bloggers. Since that time, we've been here to cover everything from campus happenings to world events, from protests and gigs and would-be revolutions to life in any number of fascinating corners of the world. We may have been pioneers of the multi-simul-blog technique -- we were at least great fans of the method.

This blog, too, has seen a good run of the history of the student blog community -- and the wider Wisconsin Cheddarsphere. We were privileged to meet many of the fine folks who would contribute meaningfully to a campus and state political dialogue. We were there at the beginning, and, I like to think, helped usher in a great period of activity.

But all things must go -- and, as our sidebar bears witness, many good things have already gone. One June 1st, we too will go -- again, and I think this time for good.

It's been a fantastic ride, and I'd like to thank all of those who have contributed over the years: official blog members, guest posters, commenters, and those who have tossed links our way from time to time. You've all helped make Letters in Bottles the place it became. It wouldn't have been the same without all of you.

So stick around -- we aim to go out in fighting trim, and should have some good bits for you in the next month. And then, my friends, adieu, and many happy returns.

4.07.2011

How do you miss the entire city of Brookfield?

I've resisted saying anything on the election results for one simple reason: it was just too darn close to say anything until the official totals were in.

Now, it appears that the Waukesha County Clerk - who has come under fire repeatedly for her mismanagement - completely missed the entire city of Brookfield. The error gives Justice Prosser a substantial lead of around 7,000 votes. It also explains what appeared to be unusually low turnout in Waukesha County on election night.

Contrary to what some on the left are saying right now, this is not a case of votes being "found" as if they were in reserve just in case they were needed. This is a case of incompetence by a County Clerk. The votes were cast legally and correctly, they just weren't counted. This is by no means the end of the story, but it looks like Justice Prosser just might have survived.

By the way, what does a Prosser win do to all the talk of the election being a "referendum on Walker?" Any bets on if Emily Mills will agree that Wisconsin elected Justice Prosser, not Waukesha County? Just a thought...

4.04.2011

With respect to Speaker Boehner; "Pass the damn bill!"

I'll make this brief. I have become extremely annoyed with the ongoing drama over the budget repair bill. I think Judge Sumi's restraining order is activism at it's worst. The Senate's rules clearly state that no notice is required during special session, and whatever the final outcome, it does not appear that she can void the entire bill. I think Cindy Kilkenny has been excellent on all of this and she says it all perfectly.

I don't think that there were any laws violated here, and I certainly don't want to give the Democrats or the unions a win of any kind at this point, but sometimes discretion is the better part of valor. We cannot continue to leave local governments in limbo. They need to know what tools they will have at their disposal and they need it now. It looks like this will drag out in the courts for a couple of months, if not longer.

To avoid this the legislature should reconvene and pass the full, orginal bill. Pass it, follow every possible rule, dot every I and cross every T. We have the next budget looming, we need this done and out of the way before we move on.

Pass the damn thing and let's move on.

3.31.2011

Worth Considering

Here is Rand Paul's take on the Libyan military actions from the floor of the Senate:



ht/OOTM

Peaking

3.29.2011

It's getting hard to keep track

Gov. Scott Walker's administration announced Tuesday that the state will seek at least $150 million to add equipment and facilities for Amtrak's Hiawatha line.

This train money comes from Florida turning down a project, part of the funding for which came from Walker's earlier rejection.

Hooray for trains now? At least it's a start.

3.22.2011

Good question, George

UW History Professor duel

Jeremi Suri:
Today, the Tea Party has revitalized McCarthy’s playbook. Based largely in small towns and rural areas of the United States, Tea Party supporters have broken most assumptions of civil discourse, attacking their opponents, often denying that their opponents are even “American.” They have exploited the modern media with simple catchy phrases, distorted images, and intentional distortions of the truth. Most of all, they have targeted vulnerable groups with weak local ties, groups that resemble those attacked by McCarthy: unions, mainstream celebrities, intellectuals, and civil servants. Sometimes they even lapse into their accusations against Jews and communists – such as when they attack Chicago mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel as un-American and condemn health care reform as socialism. The rhetorical extremism of the Tea Party is McCarthyite in tone and substance.

William Cronon:
Scott Walker is not Joe McCarthy. Their political convictions and the two moments in history are quite different. But there is something about the style of the two men — their aggressiveness, their self-certainty, their seeming indifference to contrary views — that may help explain the extreme partisan reactions they triggered. McCarthy helped create the modern Democratic Party in Wisconsin by infuriating progressive Republicans, imagining that he could build a national platform by cultivating an image as a sternly uncompromising leader willing to attack anyone who stood in his way. Mr. Walker appears to be provoking some of the same ire from adversaries and from advocates of good government by acting with a similar contempt for those who disagree with him.
I disagree, to various extents, with both of these men -- but with one, I feel I could at least have a decent and productive conversation. Can you guess which?

And for bonus points, what is the degree of irony for accusing the Tea Party of Jew-baiting while decrying rhetorical extremism?

3.21.2011

SCOTUS on Bloomberg's TARP inquiry

This is good news for transparency.

Electric




































Mardi Gras Indians, Uptown Tribes, Central City, New Orleans
Super Sunday/St. Joseph's Day, 2011

3.20.2011

Libya

Why, as of yesterday, are we getting involved militarily?

I am strongly opposed to the U.S. inserting itself into yet another conflict where, despite assurances of limited engagement, there is certainly a chance of escalation and a decade's worth of fighting and/or peacekeeping...when we haven't wrapped up two other major drawn-out conflicts/nation-building exercises.

There are so many questions: Why now and not earlier in the civil war?  Why this country and not many others where people are oppressed by their leaders?  Is this about our national interest in any way (even if this was about resources, 85% of Libya's oil is exported to Europe)?  Did the President request a declaration of war from Congress before authorizing U.S. engagement - when it was clearly possible?  And what other diplomatic efforts did the U.S. actually undertake before this step - since Obama said “I want the American people to know that the use of force is not our first choice, and it’s not a choice that I make lightly." - ?  How are we paying for the expenditures that accompany the many cruise missiles fired, etc.?

There is also the grim irony that Drudge points out rather effectively:

MARCH 19, 2011
OBAMA: 'Today we are part of a broad coalition. We are answering the calls of a threatened people. And we are acting in the interests of the United States and the world'...


MARCH 19, 2003
BUSH: 'American and coalition forces are in the early stages of military operations to disarm Iraq, to free its people and to defend the world from grave danger'...

Yes, there is support coming from various European quarters.  Yes, the UN Security Council authorized the action.  Yes, one could hope that this exercise will resemble the first Gulf War rather than the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq.  Yes, a despot is acting brutally against his own people.

But I don't think this is a matter worth engaging in at this time, as far as the U.S. is concerned.

3.17.2011

Forgotten corner


Much of Manila is very new -- and most of Pasig City, where I live, tends to be on the newer end of new, being a recent, and mostly business, district. That tends to mean uninspiring skyscrapers or hulking dictator-cement bunkers. So it's always a pleasure to bump into something graceful and with perhaps a bit of history to it. I haven't been able to figure out what this little building is, sandwiched as it is between two gigantic malls and a couple of call centers. But I always like walking past it.

3.16.2011

A little bit on radiation

In grad school, we have to take a lab safety class. One of the topics is radiation. It's actually really simple.

Atomically unstable materials give off radiation as they decay. If you're close to some, the emitted radiation goes into you and starts to knock around your molecules. As soon as you move far enough away or turn off the source, as with an X-ray machine, you stop receiving radiation. Radioactivity is not contagious so just from being around radioactive material will never make you 'glow'. Even a huge, deadly dose of radiation won't turn you radioactive in the hours before you succumb.

What is bad is contamination. If one were to touch radioactive material or breathe in dust from radioactive materials exposed to air, then some of the dust gets embedded in one's body. Assuming you can't remove the individual atoms, those atoms continue to emit radiation from inside your body and whatever body part is then effectively radioactive. That's why people dealing with nuclear materials wear spacesuits and get scrub-downs.

With this in mind, nuclear bomb blasts aren't necessarily terrible--if you overlook the horrific burns and destruction due to high pressures, winds, and temperatures--but the fallout is. Similarly exhaust from burning coal can be an issue since burning it releases very small amounts of radioactive atoms into the air, in addition to chemicals like mercury. Lastly, you might have heard of dirty bombs. Those are normal bombs packed with radioactive dust so when it is exploded, the dust is scattered.

3.11.2011

With the most recent census

The first state capital of Illinois, and old French settlement, dropped from first to second smallest municipality in the state.

Kaskaskia is also the only city in Illinois on the far side of the Mississippi. A book I recently read about the history of steam engines mentioned that after steamboats became popular on the river, all the trees along the river were cut for wood. Without them, the banks eroded and the river became shallower and wider, enabling larger floods. In some spots the effects were so large the river eventually found a new course, as with this town.

3.10.2011

Check this out

There's video! It's like it's from a movie or something:



Peter Barca is from my corner of the state.

Update: here's another video. It's of the legislators then being evacuated by city bus:



Maximum irony?

A dilemma

In early December, my parents sent me a care package -- full of delicious Wisconsin cheese. This is a thing I most certainly cannot get here -- we're mostly relegated to Kraft Singles and suchlike. The package has yet to arrive.

So here is my dillema: should I hope that this package full of the one thing I'd hoped for as a Christmas present but still hasn't gotten here was intercepted and eaten, thus giving me hope that at least someone enjoyed it? Or should I hope that it is buried in a corner of the office of whatever crummy post office bureaucrat hasn't bothered delivering it, stinking to high hell, thus giving me the sweet feeling of revenge? Discuss, bearing in mind that I remain cheese-less.

What say ye?
Revenge cheese!
Eaten cheese!

  
pollcode.com free polls

3.09.2011

Wisconsin drama

Surprise! This afternoon the anti-collective bargaining bill was split off of the budget, passed through a new committee in a matter of hours, and approved by the Senate with a republican simple majority since by itself it is not a financial bill.

Apparently at least one democrat tried to rush back in time. There may also be an issue with passing the matter through a committee without 24 hours notice.

There was one dissenting vote in the senate, Dale Schultz. I remember him from when he spoke to us at the College Republicans. That has to be four or five years ago already. He seemed like a good guy. As far as I can tell through the most recent events, he seems to have continued being reasonable.

It's probably going to be crazy around the Capitol through tomorrow as the Assembly has to pass it. Then they go on recess for a month. I wonder if this was always going to happen today anyway because of that.

Death penalty: terminated

Illinois abolishes the death penalty.

Since the 1977 when death was reinstated the state has executed a dozen people with the last one being in 1999. In 2003 the then governor, who was a republican, put a moratorium on it and commuted sentences. The current governor seems to have been in support of capital punishment, but passed the ban in the end.

North of the border, capital punishment hasn't been available in Wisconsin since 1853.

Overall I think getting rid of it is a good thing. Out of the modern world, Japan and the US are the only countries to retain it. Eye for an eye and acting in revenge is something to rise above.

For that matter, I don't think it's much of a deterrent. If anything the death penalty is like an ejector seat sparing the person from being forced to spend the rest of his life in prison.

There's also the issue of justice and evidence and whether accidentally executing a single innocent person is worth putting to death a bunch of guilty people.

"From Cairo to Madison, political contention has motivated major public protests on a scale not seen since the late 1960s."

Professor Jeremi Suri dissects worldwide discontent:
We might call it the "representative gap." In each and every society experiencing major protests today there are political leaders in power who have strong claims to legitimacy based on established procedures of selection: tradition, elite consensus, party promotion, and popular election. All of the figures under public attack can claim that their authority is "normal," "constitutional," and "recognized" internationally. Citizens are not confronting usurpers, but entrenched political powers.

That is precisely the point. The diverse men and women who have taken to the streets in different societies comprise groups of educated, articulate, energetic, and mostly young citizens who feel locked out of power. Established political processes in nearly every major society are organized around interest groups that are corporate, backward-looking, and middle aged. They think in terms of factories, budgets, and public order. They are generally baby-boomers who came of age after the Second World War and are fearful that their present earnings and security are jeopardized.
He's arguing that this holds true for the unions protesting in Madison as much as the students in Egypt, which is an interesting, and I think very problematic, argument to make. I wonder how the Tea Party fits into this rubric, too.

Added: The more I think about this, the more it rankles. Are the anti-Walker union protesters not themselves "baby boomers who came of age after the Second World War and ... fearful that their present earnings and security are jeopardized"? The shoe seems to fit pretty well.

I think Suri here is unfortunately falling into a trap of taking a thesis that gorgeously explained one thing and applying it incorrectly to something else -- here, the idea that one underlying cause unites significant social upheaval across disparate countries. I'd be perfectly happy arguing something along the lines of "the global recession has brought simmering social tensions based on years of infrastructural imbalances to a head, forcing countries worldwide to undergo a difficult transition period to correct the same." But Suri overreaches when he attempts to paint the unions with the same brush as the student protesters across the Middle East, and is poorly served for it.

Edit: I'll retract my suggestion that Suri directly compares the North African autocrats and Governor Walker. But using phrases like "representative gap" and suggesting that all of these leaders derive claims of legitimacy from "party promotion, and popular election" still seems to conflate the leaders in problematic ways. A deeper discussion of the issue would have served him well here.

3.08.2011

A Spratlys spat, or: complications of a rise

A renewed spat in the South China Sea is highlighting hurdles China will have to overcome in order to truly be the regional leader it envisions itself as:
The Philippines last week lodged a complaint after two Chinese vessels ordered its oil exploration boat to leave waters near the disputed Spratly islands, and Vietnam has protested against Chinese military exercises nearby.

"China holds indisputable sovereignty over the South China Sea islands and their adjacent waters," foreign ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu told reporters.
China has for some time been pushing claims further out into trade route waters, and tends toward a nationalist tack in pressing its claims. Its economy certainly exerts a great pull, and although its navy still doesn't come close to matching the force-projection of its American counterpart, its military is generally poised to back up Chinese claims.

But all of this serves to undercut the country's soft-power influence in the region, alienating those who might otherwise be more cooperative. India is expanding its influence exactly at the cost of China's lack of soft power:
As the Philippines protests the latest Chinese military action in disputed areas of the South China Sea, India is ramping up its charm offensive in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, pushing for close economic cooperation with the 10-member regional grouping.

"The shift of power to Asia in this century is almost a cliché now," Indian External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna said here last week at the two-day Delhi Dialogue III. "We are committed to deepening our engagement with the countries of ASEAN."

Krishna pushed for the construction of "an inter-connected economic bloc" between India and ASEAN. This would revive ancient economic and cultural ties.

"India and ASEAN are natural partners," said ASEAN Secretary General Surin Pitsuwan. "Together we are a formidable force."

Your government is working hard for your benefit...

...grading tests.

...making commercials.

...tracking guns.

...deciding what you have to look at.

...keeping information safe.

3.02.2011

2.27.2011

Gov. Walker is right. There is nothing left to negotiate.

I watched Gov. Walker's appearance on Meet the Press this morning, and was impressed with how well he did. The Governor did an excellent job explaining why the changes in collective bargaining need to happen, and it is an explanation that is too often overlooked or ignored in the media. David Gregory seemed confused why Gov. Walker wouldn't accept the concessions on pensions and health care. So did AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka.

Most people in the national media and virtually everyone on the left, seem to think that because the heads of WEAC and AFSCME agreed to the monetary concessions, the debate is over. Our favorite Nobel laureate agrees:
Gov. Scott Walker claims that he needs to pass his bill to deal with the state’s fiscal problems. But his attack on unions has nothing to do with the budget. In fact, those unions have already indicated their willingness to make substantial financial concessions — an offer the governor has rejected.
What’s happening in Wisconsin is, instead, a power grab — an attempt to exploit the fiscal crisis to destroy the last major counterweight to the political power of corporations and the wealthy. And the power grab goes beyond union-busting.
There is a lot more in Krugman's piece to take apart, but I'll save that for later. The point I want to make is that this entire argument is divorced from reality. The leaders of the state public employees unions cannot negotiate for all of their members. They cannot enter into any agreement that would be automatically binding for all their members.

WEAC is composed of 650 local bargaining units in more than 400 school districts. AFT Wisconsin - the other teachers union which includes a lot of other public employees - has dozens of local councils and 17,000 members. AFSCME has more than 66,000 members and more than 600 locals spread across three major councils.

In order for the argument that the left and the unions are making to work, each and every one of the 1,300-plus local units would have to vote to agree to these conditions. Each and every one would have to agree, and even then it would only be for the length of one contract. We have already seen that this is simply not going to happen. Local unions like the one at MATC scrambled to push through a contract that still required no pension contribution and a mere fraction of the cost of health care premiums. Why should we assume that this would be the only one?

State union leaders can say whatever they like, but when contracts come up for negotiation, their local unions can do whatever they please. If we are to get serious about the pay and benefits of public employees, we must take these steps. We cannot, as the Governor has said repeatedly, kick the can down the road.

Our present situation is the cumulative result of failures by Republicans and Democrats alike. In the 1990's Gov. Thompson placated the unions by agreeing to much of the current benefits. Over the past 8 years, Gov. Doyle rewarded his political benefactors by sparing them from the pain of the recession. We can no longer pretend that the crisis is imagined.

Gov. Walker was elected in part because he promised to lead and act boldly to put Wisconsin back on the path to greatness. He has had his stumbles and mistakes, but in the end he has given us a clear choice and a clear path for the future. Do we postpone this conflict yet again, for the sake of compromise, or do we stand firm and make the tough choices that former leaders refused to face?

Batangas

In Batangas, a provincial city a ways outside of Manila, stands what they say is the largest church in Asia: the Taal Cathedral. It has just the right ruin-to-glory ratio to make it really beautiful to me.




2.25.2011

Friday music

Here's a music video from the Besnard Lakes, a band I recently heard again:



I've got their two newest albums of three and I really like them. They make long, solid albums that build to a climax. Even several of their songs have long rises, building up steam as they accelerate--you know what I mean if you watch the first video. I can't exactly put my finger on the sound: indie, but with lots of guitar pedals and slow, high vocals. I never really liked the wha-wha sound until this.

One thing that's refreshing is the imagery the band uses. For example Shearwater usually sticks to nature or birds or the Decemberists drawn on their whacky pirate-ness/obscure history. This band uses espionage.

I remember when their second album came out (four years already!). The cover is distinct--they are the Dark Horse. I remember it was well received out of music that year by critics but it didn't do anything for me so I just forgot about it. It's kind of funny how stuff like that happens.

Musical tastes are like differential equations, at least for me. Finding new music I like opens up additional music that's further away from what I originally liked, yet I find it like it too now. I'm sure that's happened for other people.

2.23.2011

The Plot Thickens

Walker receives a prank call (link to audio) from someone posing as a big, out-of-state sponsor. He didn't say anything career-ending, but it's quite embarrassing. If the prankster wanted to be devastating, this would have been perfect to bring up the power plant deal Walker is trying to push through.

Across the other border of Illinois, 40-some Indiana Democrats left their state a few days ago to deprive the GOP there of a quorum for a similar law to the one in Wisconsin. I see in the news today that they've rendezvoused right here in Urbana. It feels like Illinois is turning into Switzerland. If only we can figure out how to grow some mountains.

I doubt the situation in Wisconsin is going to end anytime soon because everyone is winning. Walker is performing a classic 'insult-up' on the whole body of organized labor, which elevates him from being just some new governor in a mid-level state to a national republican hero who has fought all of organized labor--I wouldn't be surprised if he's got higher executive aspirations. At the same time, the democrats get to fight for stuff they love: labor and education.

10th Amendment on Trial

The opinion in this case will be one to watch for in coming months:

That triggered a response from Justice Anthony Kennedy. "The whole point of separation of powers, the whole point of federalism, is that it inheres to the individual and his or her right to liberty," he said. "If that is infringed by a criminal conviction or in any other way that causes specific injury, why can't it be raised?"

2.21.2011

Radiohead released a new album on Friday

I can't stop playing the King of Limbs.



The first thing I heard playing it for the first time was nothing but perpetually tumbling percussion, the same stuff as in the oil rig explosion scene in There Will Be Blood, which was done by one of the band members.

Like with anything of theirs, it unfurls beautifully as you get into it. Different yet familiar. If anything, understated and minimal. Perhaps it's the recoil after the lush In Rainbows. Maybe this is what was stuck under the glaciers in Kid A's art.

Approaching it as two EPs helps. In the last few years one of the band spoke about how they weren't sure exactly how they'd get music out in the future.

2.20.2011

Fake Doctor's notes and lying and cheating to get your way

My mother is a teacher. My grandmother was a teacher. My sister just graduated from college with her teaching degree. One of my best friends is a teacher at our old high school. I am not kidding when I say that I grew up admiring teachers and still do. In fact, I often am in the position of defending teachers when talking to my fellow conservatives.

The vast majority of teachers in the state are good and put their heart and soul into their classrooms. Were I in the Assembly, I would be offering amendments to improve the bill, which would include expanding the definition of "wages" to include pay schedules, bonuses, overtime and possibly vacation. I think eliminating the cap of CPI on raises is shortsighted or at least poorly defined. I would like to be able to reward good teachers with higher pay, but with the legislation written as is, that would be difficult to do. These would be minor changes that I think would have little fiscal impact and improve the bill greatly. I have a lot of other minor changes I'd like to see too.

But what I saw in Madison yesterday is making such changes impossible and the unions have no one to blame but themselves. If liberals and union members want to know where everything went horribly wrong after this bill passes, it will be this:



I spoke with the older doctor with the beard on Saturday. I was stunned by his arrogance and the fact that he had a line of teachers waiting for excuse notes. Calling in sick when you're not is bad enough. Lying to your employer to go protest sets a bad example for the children you claim to care so much about. The fact that doctors and teachers are openly engaging in fraud is despicable. I know they're giving idiotic statements about "mental anguish" or being "sick and tired" of Scott Walker, but they are not fooling anyone.

The teachers asking for these fake notes are showing themselves to be liars and cheats. They are proving that this has nothing to do with educating children or fighting for some greater good. For them, it is about money and power, nothing else.

And that is a terrible, terrible shame. This tiny minority of Wisconsin teachers are causing serious damage to the image of all teachers and making it nearly impossible to negotiate a compromise. It comes down to this: if you're willing to lie and cheat about something so simple as this, how can the Governor and the legislature trust you?

2.19.2011

Meat and choppers








The night market in Ortigas is tremendously fun: imagine hordes of slightly punchy, hungry night-shift call center workers descending on rows of food tents to get their fill of chopped meat and veggies. It stretches on into the morning, wrapping up around 10 or 11. Yum!

2.18.2011

Only the best

These guys are some of my faves:

2.17.2011

Despite Walker's fumbles, the Unions have gone too far

I have hesitated to comment on the chaos in Madison because things are so incredibly fluid at this point. Initially, I was frustrated by Gov. Walker's mistakes when he rolled out his budget repair bill. The Governor's mention of the National Guard was exceptionally stupid and ill-advised. Gov. Walker seemed unprepared for the backlash that followed. I think the Governor botched the bill at the beginning, but my issues are almost entirely on style, not on substance.

Today, I am disgusted by the actions of the unions and the Democrat Senators. First of all, WEAC has been nothing short of dishonest in their dealings with local school districts and their members. The repair bill does not eliminate anyone's pension; on the contrary, it preserves them by asking teachers to contribute their share - and it is their share, it's just that the taxpayers have been paying it for a very long time. Now, WEAC is encouraging the "sick-outs" and essentially threatening school districts that try to prevent shut downs. The teachers at the capitol are engaging in an illegal strike. They risk their jobs, not just their take-home pay, by doing so.

Then we have the cowards in the Senate. They are acting as spoiled children who run away from home the first time their parents tell them no. They are abdicating their responsibility to the voters and only making matters worse for their side. I have spoken with some capitol staffers who tell me that any sympathy their bosses had for the unions or the Democrats is gone. Simply put, they have gone too far.

And really, this is amazing. Union members at Harley, Mercury Marine, and Kohler have conceded far more than the public employees are being asked. They did so to keep their jobs and ride out the recession. Now, state union leaders are asking their brothers and sisters in the private sector to stand by them as they protest a 50% share of their pension - something most private sector unions no longer have - and a mere 12% of their health insurance.

Yes, stripping the collective bargaining rights is a huge step. It's one that I believe should be in a separate bill, but the simple fact is that the state is broke. We have no alternative. We face a $3.6 billion deficit in the next budget, and when you take into account the stimulus money we used to plug the last budget hole, the figure jumps to $6.6 billion. We need these concessions. The civil service protections of all state employees remain in place. The pension remains in place. We simply ask them to pay their fair share.

And what of the opponents to this bill? What is their alternative? I have not heard a single Democrat propose an alternative to balancing the budget. Is the answer massive tax increases? What should we cut? What should we require of the taxpayers or the public employees? There has been no alternative given.

The choice is clear. Either state employees contribute to their own pensions and health care premiums or 1,600 workers are laid off by June 30 and another 5,000 - 6,000 in the next budget. Are the union leaders really so selfish that they would sacrifice those workers to keep their power?

Based on the protests in Madison, it looks like the answer is "Yes."

Out of control

I haven't commented on the tumult in Wisconsin as of late.

But, man, what a time to be in Madison.

Or Illinois.

Our Lady Star of the Sea






















A Catholic church in the St. Roch neighborhood, seen here during a community meeting on a variety of issues - but mostly crime.

2.16.2011

Visit

Hey, Manny Pacquiao's in town:
Eight-time world champion boxer Manny Pacquiao arrived in Washington on Tuesday morning accompanied by an army of supporters and journalists that would make any lawmaker jealous. Currently on a nationwide press tour to promote his May 7 title bout against "Sugar" Shane Mosely, the welterweight belt-holder and Filipino Congressman's busy agenda included a morning press conference with a beaming Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and an afternoon stop to meet President Obama at the White House.

Hey, I lived there

I can say there's a good reason the sign went up.

2.14.2011

Shackled

“People are starting to come to the conclusion that you’ve got a self-sustaining recovery going on here,” said Thomas Girard who helps manage $133 billion in fixed income at New York Life Investment Management in New York. “When interest rates start to go back up because of the normal business cycle, debt service costs have the potential to just skyrocket. Every day that we don’t address this in a meaningful way it gets more and more dangerous.”

Now that the economy is beginning to right itself, as it likely would have with or without government intervention, the fact that the government did intervene significantly - and did not curtail spending generally or conclude the conflicts in Iraq or Afghanistan definitively - could have some unfortunate consequences.

The problem of dealing with the government's accumulated debt, already an obvious problem, could become an acute crisis in and of itself:

Debt-service costs will climb to 82 percent of the $757 billion shortfall projected for 2016 from about 12 percent in last year’s deficit, according to the budget projections.

The ball and chain we're dragging along may get heavier and heavier.

Ride


in the town of Batangas

2.13.2011

2.09.2011

"Asbestos"

























~ From the art deco auditorium of the 1942 Booker T. Washington High School in New Orleans.

Early benefits of the Tea Party revolution?

It seems the Tea Party leans toward civil liberties:
Democratic Rep. Lacy Clay (Mo.) laughed as he told The Hill, "We're so happy, I'm so happy. I voted against it. They tried to get enough Rs to switch their votes, because the Tea Party voted 'no' also... but it wasn't enough."
The article seems weirdly slanted toward Democratic smugness when the real story is a shift in the Republican position, though.

2.07.2011

Reaping the whirlwind

Cold jetways and snow; a glad dog; thick stew and dark beer warm my soul; thin ice and few shanties; the silent glide of skiers; tacquerias and surprise jazz shows and forgotten glasses; fleeing the Chicago snowstorm to Manila indiepop; post-blizzard Madison, just dug out; "It's an ice shovel, you have to understand the physics"; warm jetways and gentle rain again: a brief trip home, but very satisfying.

2.06.2011

Ice Carving 2011






















Steve S appeared in Kiel, as did I, for the 20th Anniversary edition of the city's ice sculpting competition.

We joined members of the traditional team in front of Lulloff's Hardware on Fremont Street for a perfect day of carving.  Our theme: "Mining for some Green and Gold!"  The resulting sculpture included a pick-axe, spade, mining cart on a track, stalagmites, and some ore.

A good time was had by all.

2.03.2011

Some thoughts on the future in Egypt

There's been plenty of ink spilled on Egypt in the last week, and I've been watching the situation unfold with fascination -- this could very well be another Berlin Wall moment for the world.

But it's still not a guarantee, indeed the situation is far from sure. Mubarak is already positioning himself as a unifying force in Egypt. It is deeply significant that the military has committed itself to not harming the demonstrators, but in the face of growing violence, that stance may change.

Mubarak has here a moment to break the protests that the Soviet Union squandered. Had his position been truly weak, the military would have moved to oust him much more quickly that it currently is. The architecture of the Soviet satellites was so rotted from within by 1989 that it was tremendously more vulnerable to mass protests. Mubarak was still strong enough at the beginning of the demonstrations that he could spend a week coordinating his supporters to counter the demonstrators.

But as violence ratchets up, Mubarak may look like an increasingly good option, at least in the short term. And if he can stay in office even through the end of his term, two possibilities arise: 1.) the opposition will become dispirited, and cracks may grow up between the various parties involved, greatly weakening the opposition's impact on Egyptian politics; and 2.) Mubarak will be able to position one of his more moderate supporters into power with the backing of the military, allowing for essentially business as usual to continue.

Another double-edged sword is the multipolar nature of the opposition. The Muslim Brotherhood is, of course, the most visible member of the coalition, and deserves a few words. Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty put a fine roundup of the organization up at the beginning of the demonstrations; another is supplied by the Council on Foreign Relations. The growing concern is, of course, how it would handle Camp David Accords. Initially, the Brotherhood announced that they would uphold all international commitments, but seems to have softened on the issue, now committing only to put the deal to a popular referendum. The group's intentions remain unclear.

But the Muslim Brotherhood is far from ascendant, and to my understanding only attracts about 30% of the Egyptian population's support. That means that although it will be a factor in the elections, it is not the only group involved, and will be moderated against in a parliamentary system.

The worry is how the groups will work -- will they maintain the coalition cabinet that they've set up to guide the demonstrations and negotiate with the government, or will they splinter and fight for power in the wake of a successful revolution? The organizations seem committed to unity, but as with the Pakistani splintering off from India post-independence, worries about your erstwhile allies' intentions can prove problematic. If the secular forces -- which in many places through the protests have shown support for such groups as Egypt's Coptic Christians -- come to believe that the Brotherhood will work to suppress civil rights, real arguments could boil up. Egypt today is a different bag than Iran in 1979, but statements that preclude foreign governments from working with the Brotherhood could serve to build a wedge between these forces that would allow the Mubarak regime to take back control of the situation and keep itself in power for much longer than it should remain.

For the first time

I begin to wonder a bit about the independence of Wispolitics.com, a source and hub I have long respected.

2.02.2011

Abhorrent

The "public health city" is clearly one of the most unhealthy corners of a free society.  The continuing trend of using anything touching on health as a justification for government control of behavior sickens me.

As a good friend pointed out, the scenario of a city banning all outdoor smoking was considered a far-fetched slippery slope argument just a few years ago during smoking ban debates. 

New York City's action today is all the more pernicious not because there's some fundamental right to smoke, but because the government overreach invades such a low-level arena with such blanket, uncompromising force.  It's petty tyranny run amuck.  The outdoor smoking ban is unnecessary, and it's a regrettable precedent.

An excellent point about Voter ID and legislative restraint

Let's be honest, with the current political makeup in Madison whatever Gov. Walker wants, he is going to get. It would be extremely easy to ram just about everything conservatives have wanted to over the 8 years, but just because it would be easy, doesn't make it a good idea.

Case in point: Voter ID. I'm 100% behind the idea of requiring an ID to vote. The threat isn't necessarily that fraud could alter an election outcome, but rather the fact that it violates one of the basic elements of our democracy. Still, while protecting this basic right, we must also ensure that we are not putting up any unintended or unnecessary obstacles to the voting booth.

One of my favorite professors from UW - David Canon - had an excellent column in the State Journal about this yesterday:
If photo ID is going to be implemented, it needs to be done right. Should the current bill become law, it would be the most restrictive in the country. Some might see this as a plus. But it reflects the fact that we have not learned from the experience of other states that have already implemented voter ID.
In revising the bill, lawmakers should consider three criteria.
First, the intended effect of the law should be to prevent illegal voting, but it should not discourage legitimate voters. Second, it must strike a balance between costs and benefits, achieving the greatest positive effect at the lowest cost to taxpayers. Third, it must withstand legal challenges.
In all three criteria, the proposed law can be improved.
I want to see voter ID pass, but not at the expense of getting it done right. I know some will argue that I'm trying to weaken the bill or that I don't really want it passed, but they're just dead wrong. I urge legislative leaders in Madison to slow down and get this right. Allow more than one form of government ID so long as voters can still verify their address. Following the example of other states, like Indiana, would be an excellent start.

1.31.2011

Fingers crossed

I'm a fair distance into where the yellow turns golden.

Up to 18" is being forecasted for Chicago.

1.30.2011

"Dog Murder" in St. Roch






















It was impossible to untangle the stories floating around the caution tape, but apparently a police officer fired the shot I heard this morning, which ultimately killed this dog.

Talking Paul and Paul - Krugman and Ryan

A friend recently suggested on Facebook that "krugman takes ryan to school" in his latest NYT column.

Highly skeptical, I thought I would take a look at Krugman's claims that Congressman Paul Ryan, in his GOP response to the SOTU, was wrong to use European nations as a harbinger of the consequences of government's failure to live within its means.

Off the bat, Ryan was right to use Greece as an example.  Krugman admits that.  It leaves the columnist two possible chances, Ireland and Great Britain, to show that Ryan was saying something "dubious" - or else his entire column is revealed as just another bitchy hit piece.

Let's look at Ireland.  Krugman gets it wrong.  Or at least he doesn't get it entirely right.  He says that seeking a balanced budget in Ireland via austerity measures at this point is besides the point, that the lesson from Ireland is: "that balanced budgets won’t protect you from crisis if you don’t effectively regulate your banks."  He notes, though, that Ireland chose to bail out its banks: "public debt exploded because the government ended up taking over bank debts."

The real lesson should be this: shooting for a balanced Irish budget moving forward makes sense given that the government needs to ensure its own continuation.  A balanced budget (or a sizable surplus) puts a nation in a comparatively better position to deal with catastrophe - the 06-07 surplus in Ireland no doubt staved off an even worse crisis than the one that has unfolded for the country.  Additionally, given the uncertain and enduring nature of the current economic downturn, and given that Ireland's currency does not enjoy the still-sort-of-unique position of the U.S. dollar, it doesn't make sense for the country to engage in a massive, speculative, Krugmanesque, deficit-building, pump priming exercise.  It's just not clear that it would work. 

And if you want to rein in banks, then create a paradigm where there's an ironclad assurance that the government WILL NOT bail out banks.  Regulations like those Krugman supports don't actually get to that harsh reality.  Ireland didn't make that expectation clear enough to banks, the banks acted accordingly, and it ended up eating the risks taken.  Force banks to carry their own risk-taking exclusively on their own backs from the outset, especially in smaller nations like Ireland and Iceland.  That tough medicine prescription is something closer to what I know of Ryan's positions - even though Ryan did vote for the initial financial institutions bailout in the fall of 2008.

Let's look, too, at Krugman's assertion that Ryan got England wrong.  For one, Krugman focuses in very narrowly in order to paint Ryan's implications as erroneous.  He looks at the numbers for one quarter and demands that they show a sudden bonanza of private sector growth to offset cuts in government staffing: "But there’s certainly no sign of the surging private-sector confidence that was supposed to offset the direct effects of eliminating half-a-million government jobs."  Additionally, he labels Cameron's "sharp turn toward fiscal austerity" as "a choice, not a response to market pressure."

In the first case, Krugman demands an immediate return to balance that will actually take some time.  In the second case, he zooms in on a few trees and says they were actually healthy - ignoring the overarching view that the forest of British government was sick, unsustainable, and riddled with accumulated deadwood policies that all but guaranteed crisis sooner or later, even if there was no technical debt crisis at the moment.  It was a choice, but one that had to be made soon to avoid great crisis.  Moreover, Cameron noted at Davos that despite the pain, austerity is working and the country's credit rating, for one, has been saved.



And remember, besides Greece, Ireland, and Britain, Paul Ryan also mentioned the problems faced by "other nations in Europe."  While Ryan didn't mention them by name, Krugman, as he slams Ryan for creating a convenient European fantasyland, doesn't address the debt-related crises faced in the past year by European nations like Portugal, Spain, and Hungary.

Finally, Krugman asks at one point -  "did you know that adults in their prime working years are more likely to be employed in Europe than they are in the United States?"  Without even quibbling with that language (I have all sorts of questions), I'll simply note that there are, in many cases, legal reasons for that, which in turn delineate the divergent values and principles in many European societies and U.S. society.

Overall, Krugman didn't really manage to land an actual blow in the entire course of his column.

1.29.2011

Flick of a Switch

While the Egyptian internet landscape may not be analogous to the one in the U.S. (there are only four major infrastructural players serving all the country's providers, apparently), it's troubling nonetheless.

The state simply shut down the informational flow.

It's a chilling reminder of sorts that despite society's ever-deeper, Matrix-like entanglement with the information-based virtual world, there is a physical reality underlying the entire system - one that can be controlled, like a chokepoint.  Servers and lines ultimately exist somewhere, requiring energy, for the dream to stay real.

1.27.2011

At work in Manila








Your trivia for the day

After doing hard time in San Quentin and spending much of his adolescence running away from juvenile detention centers he received a full pardon from Ronald Reagan, performed before Richard Nixon and, in 2007, endorsed Hillary Clinton for President.
Do you know who it was?