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May 9, 2012

he must've been a fan of c.h.i.p.s

Some folks are up in arms over a GOP newsletter column that calls for armed revolt if Obama wins reelection in six months.  Let's go to the tape (warning, .pdf):
The ultimate task for the people is to remain vigilant and aware ~ that the government, their government is out of control, and this moment, this opportunity, must not be forsaken, must not escape us, for we shall not have any coarse but armed revolution should we fail with the power of the vote in November ~ This Republic cannot survive for 4 more years underneath this political socialist ideologue.

I know what you're thinking: "Aren't they threatening to feed the tree of liberty with the blood of the whomever like all the time?"  Yes, of course they are.  It makes them feel important.

No, I'm sharing this not out of outrage or pique or anything like that, but mostly to make fun of the author, Ponch K. McPhee who is actually the editor of the newsletter, for using some of the most spritely em-dashes I've ever seen in the "coarse" of writing his little screed.  But let's do keep the government's hands off his grammar, shall we?

Posted by mrbrent at 11:49 AM

on referendums

Here is the thing about constitutions and general elections.

And I know that you're expecting some revoicing of the "people are stupid" argument, because it's an easy (so easy) one to keep going back to, but no.

We live in a representational democracy.  Basically, that means we ("we" the citizenry) get to influence our government without having direct control, because we are not voting on each individual act of government, but rather on the slate of people, professionals we hope, that will be going to town hall or the state house or the Beltway, etc.  So in a general sense, we do NOT control our own fates.  We choose the captain(s) that sail the ship, and we get the chance to replace them if we are displeased.

Now there is the device of the referendum, where an specific issue is put before the voters, issues like, "Should women vote?" or, "Should slavery be legal?" (not really, little joke there), and then it gets decided, up or down.  This is indeed direct democracy, though in practice, it's really just an end-run around the government.  If the people want something bad enough (and can get a couple millionaires behind them) that may be politically untenable, then to the ballot it goes.

So these referendums, or ballot initiatives, pretty much suck, in the same way that the Citizens United decision sucks, as it presents an opportunity for special interests to attain policy goals (masked as the "Will of the People") without having to bother with the whole legislative process.

Further, these referendums sometimes are concerning language in the different state constitutions — amendments, insertions, deletions, etc.  Now whether you agree with me about the fecklessness of the referendum process or, hopefully you will agree that voters are not qualified to speak to the construction of language to be added to constitutions.  I say this only as someone with long experience in the field of law.  It's just a different language that's nothing like conversational English, plus also the language actually has effect in the real world.

So questions like, "Should marijuana be legal?"  I get that, and it's a yes/no question.  Go ahead.  Ask the voters.  But to ask them to be able to read proposed constitutional language and be sage enough to speak to its merit, ignoring the intention for one second?  It's a ridiculous idea.

(Coincidentally, did you know that, aside from my home state, North Carolina has produced more people that I've ended up calling friend than any other state?  I guess maybe the argument is that maybe they shouldn't have left.)

Posted by mrbrent at 9:43 AM

May 8, 2012

approve this message

Here's a nice little write-up of the latest effort from the Awl, Approve This Message, which is very much unlike other Awl websites — curated links, described only with a photo, tag and caption, concerning the 2012 election.  But yeah, the write-up:
When I asked The Awl’s publisher John Shankman about that over email he said their strategy starts with finding good writers with vision and passion, then finding the right outlet for them. “Wirecutter is a very specific vision that Brian Lam has. Approve This Message is a tool that’s fun and useful and appropriate for who and what The Awl is and our readers are,” he said. “With that said, though, design and how to architecture our information better is something we’re considering a lot.”

I guess it's no secret that not only am I an Awl contributor, I'm also (and was from the get go) a huge fan, and that bit there goes a long way in explaining why.

And I think that ATM is a solid concept too.  Rage-y sarcasm over politics on the Internet has now been around long enough to be called venerable, and having it condensed into a bare headline will certainly wash the DailyKos right out of your mouth.

Posted by mrbrent at 8:57 AM

May 7, 2012

socialism in europe

This is what I'm looking forward to:

So yesterday's elections were a pretty striking referendum on austerity, correct?  France reinstalls a (moderate) Socialist, Greece goes bonkers and votes anything that moves provided it's willing to reneg on its bailout deal, and Merkel's allies lose ground in Deutschland.  I'm sure that somewhere out there some bond trader is trying to wrestle this pig down in order to apply lipstick to it, but I haven't found it yet.

Because, you see, the Troika (the International Monetary Fund, the European Commission and the European Central Bank) believe strongly in austerity, as does Germany, the largest economy in the EU.  They come from a Chicago School of Economics background, subscribing to the notion that the state must be cut back in favor of the free markets — elimination of unions, job protections, price protections, privatization of state industries, eschewing of business regulations, that sort of thing.  (Or, "Paul Ryan Budget," between you and me.)  These sorts of things are awesome for private enterprise (ever wonder why the GOP wants to kill the Post Office?  Because there is a GOP contributor somewhere that would very much like to make a buck off that business and its already-captive market), it tends to be pretty shitty for the rank and file.  Eliminate job and price protections and jobs are supposed to get better paid and prices do down?  Erm, no.

So the poor and the middle class are getting hosed at the insistence of the banker class, and now everyone is shocked that they pretty much rose up as one to deinstall austerity regimes.  This may come as a shock to Americans, but sometimes voters actually vote in their own self-interest.  The Troika overplayed its hand, and totally forgot that there is a political aspect to this economic goalpost-moving.

(Though interesting to think: a century ago, European nation-states blew off steam by invading each other — now they do so buy shorting each other's sovereign debt.)

But yeah, the thing I'm looking forward to is to see how the Troika, and Friedmanites in general, react to this.  Because their asses just got handed to them; this economic blackmail doesn't work so well without a junta to back it up, if you know what I mean.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:07 AM

May 6, 2012

circus at the military tribunal

I'm fascinated by the news outlets outraged that Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and his fellow AQ detainees are refusing to cooperate with their military hearing.

If you lean in one direction politically, you've got a bunch of guys who've been held extra-legally, tortured for half a decade and dragged out for a show trial with the outcome predetermined.  So yeah, I'm not so shocked that they're not tearfully begging for the mercy of the court.

And if you go for less complex, more American! narratives, then the freedom-hating butchers will do nothing to kill as many people at all times always (as long as the targets love freedom, or are standing next to those who do).  In which case: yeah they're trying to disrupt the trial, they've the bad guys.

Not so surprised at the clumsiness of the media on this; more like I'm mildly disappointed at the faux quelle horreur!.  This is not the first AQ trial, and won't be the last.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:03 AM