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March 22, 2013

fisher v university of texas, speciousness

Remember a couple months ago, when that lawsuit, Fisher v. University of Texas was argued in the Supreme Court, and we were all like, OMG, they're gunning for affirmative action and they might actually win?  Basically, a nice young white woman from Texas didn't get into the University of Texas, so activist with an axe to grind recruits her as a plaintiff in a suit alleging that UT discriminated against her on a racial basis.  Wait, but--?  See, some non-white students made it in that class, so there's the basis of the case.

And it's especially frightening, because it's not just affirmative action that is the target of this action: what this activist, Edward Blum, wants is the repeal of the Fourteenth Amendment.  His argument (and he's also behind the Shelby County, AL case also in the Supreme Court challenging Section 5 of the Civil Rights Act) is that treatment of any kind specific to race is unconstitutional.  That's lofty, on the face of it at least, but the effect of it is to gut the equal protection clause.  Which we actually need, institutional racism being an actual thing.

Well, the Court's decision is expected in a couple weeks, and it's up in the air which way the court will lean, given that it's the most conservative court in nearly a century.  So by means of consolation, I'm sharing this Pro Publica investigation, which finds:

Race probably had nothing to do with the University of Texas's decision to deny admission to Abigail Fisher.

That will make us feel better if SCOTUS muffs this, right?

Posted by mrbrent at 10:41 AM

March 21, 2013

awl down

I strongly recommend that you avoid the Awl, and the rest of the sites in the Awl Network (the Hairpin, Splitsider, the Billfold and the Wirecutter) for the time being, as they have been attacked, and if your browser is worth a hill of beans it will prevent you from going there — malware detected, your machine is at risk, etc.

It started yesterday afternoon, and I was shocked to find that it's still ongoing as of this morning, so, oof.  This site was hacked (largely due to the stoopidity of its owner) a month or two ago, and boy it ranks up there with having your car broken into or being burglarized.  (Not really, of course, but still.)

But let me take this opportunity to ratify and confirm my affection for the Awl and everyone over there, as evinced by the savoir-faire of co-founder, Choire Sicha, discussing the situation:

Head Awl Choire Sicha confirmed the attack with The Atlantic Wire. "Oh it's an actual attack," he told The Atlantic Wire over Gchat. "But a boring one. Not our first by any means." The technical details are almost too boring to report. "It's just like in Swordfish, John Travolta is making someone sit at a computer and capture the indielectual market," Sicha told us. Well, unless it's actually like how Sicha describes: "OMG, it's like blood and guts, it's like when she hatched the dragons with witchcraft on Game of Thrones." The real culprit seems to be an advertising update. "I'm going to shove this rusty knife into our OpenX installation," Sicha said before departing.


Posted by mrbrent at 10:15 AM

March 20, 2013

richard perle is a black-souled liar

I found a way to start your day with pure rage!

During the morning dog walk, I caught Morning Edition's interview with Richard Perle, one of the leading cheerleaders, crony of Dick Cheney, for the invasion and occupation of Iraq.

First words out of his mouth:

Well we had, uh, intelligence assessments from the CIA, from the Defense intelligence agency, from the State Department, German intelligence, French intelligence, British intelligence [chuckles], and they were all in agreement, that Sadaam possessed at least chemical and biological weapons, and there was a debate about what remnant existed of his one-time nuclear program.

Hey now!  Bullshit.  And then the interviewer, Renee Montagne, asks, er, what about 9-11, duh? and Perle is all, we had to deal with imminent threats.  (Because of all the times Iraq tried to invade us.)

God it is so frustrating to remember all of this, like flashing back to a car wreck, or being mugged.

Oh, and when asked if he thought it was worth it?  Perle doesn't think that's a reasonable question.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:50 AM

March 19, 2013

happy birthday, war

Ten years ago from right now I was on my way to a Knicks game.  A friend had snagged some tickets, and we were not rabid fans at all, but when free tickets land in your lap, you go to the game.

The war starting was no surprise.  Two days before I was flying with my eventual wife back from Las Vegas.  The flight was filled with drunken post-collegiate types, mid-afternoon.  As we're cruising somewhere over the Rockies, President Bush issues some televised statement of some sort, some stiff-lipped demonstration of resolution or cowboy-ness.  Everyone flips their seatback TVs over to the channel to watch it.  (Or did it maybe preempt programming?)  The knuckleheads all cheered.

We didn't hear about the actual start of the war until we stopped into some Irish pub after the game.  Again, the TVs were all CNN and Fox News.  Shock and awe.  The air-bombing of Baghdad was being televised.  The bar was agape and generally quiet.

Kelley soon called me from home, worried, what did it all mean, were we going to be OK?  I managed to reassure her, but that war was a stupid immoral waste of money, perpetrated for ulterior motives, and I knew that then.  It's a shit thing to have ten years' perspective on.

Posted by mrbrent at 5:23 PM

david brooks, lapsing into gibberish

This is perhaps the most gibberish paragraph I've ever read from the redoubtable David Brooks:
Higher taxes will produce long-term changes in social norms, behavior and growth. Edward Prescott, a winner of the Nobel Memorial Prize in economics, found that, in the 1950s when their taxes were low, Europeans worked more hours per capita than Americans. Then their taxes went up, reducing the incentives to work and increasing the incentives to relax. Over the next decades, Europe saw a nearly 30 percent decline in work hours.

So then high taxes will make everyone take longer vacations?  Is this a column that is arguing against leisure?

No, it's a column against the Obama administration's "progressive" budget.  I suppose that David Brooks is trying to forestall the point that someone like me would make concerning high taxes, that when the top marginal rate was up around 90%, during the Fifties, the economy expanded pretty well, but it ends up reading like a Neo-Victorian scolding over laziness.

And David Brooks does refer to the Fifties, earlier in the piece:

Now, of course, there have been times, like, say, the Eisenhower administration, when top tax rates were very high. But the total tax burden was lower since so few people paid the top rate and there were so many ways to avoid it. Government was smaller.

Well, so few people paid the top rate because we did not have the problem of income inequality back then (like we did now).  And it was a decade of expansion (that created the Middle Class), whether the government was smaller or bigger.

The next Krugman column is going to be five words long: "What's your point, David Brooks?"

Posted by mrbrent at 9:15 AM

March 18, 2013

cpac and the not-racist racists

Of the many interesting things that happened at CPAC over the weekend (Ted Cruz pandering, Sarah Palin unveiling her stand-up routine, etc.), perhaps the most revelatory was a panel concerning outreach to black voters, entitled "Trump The Race Card: Are You Sick And Tired Of Being Called A Racist When You Know You're Not One?"

And so of course the panel was highjacked by young Southern men who claimed that white are being systematically disenfranchised, and blacks generally benefited from slavery.

And that was just for starters!

[Kim Brown, a black reporter covering the event for the Voice of Russia], who took offense at the suggestion modern Democrats were descendants of the KKK, tried to ask a question later once things finally calmed down. She was booed and screamed at by audience members.

"Let someone else speak!" one attendee in Revolutionary War garb shouted.

"You're not welcome!" a white-haired older woman yelled.

So yeah, a CPAC panel about how conservatives aren't racist was chock-full of unrepentantly racist people.

I'm not laughing with them; I'm laughing at them.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:00 AM

March 17, 2013

troika gets real in cyprus

This is the news that will whiz past you without your noticing, which news you should be noticing, concerning the bailout of Cyprus:
As part of a bailout deal for the island of Cyprus they have decided to impose a tax on savers. It has not been done before in the eurozone crisis, its legality may be questioned and the risks and consequences are unknown. Savers with deposits of over 100,000 euros ($130,000, £86,000) will face a one-off tax of 9.9%. For those with less funds in their accounts the tax will be 6.5%.

The "they" is the so-called Troika — the IMF, the European Commission and the European Central Bank — that has been dictating wildly austere measure to countries that they bail out.  The Troika is doing exactly what the Chicago School did to South America for the past 40 years, using legitimate crisis as an excuse to demand ideological change.

In this case, the excuse for the seizure (!!) of private bank account assets is that the Germans are worried that the Russians are using Cypriot banks to launder money, so let's make the Russians help pay for the bailout whether they want to or not.

Think of it like this: international bankers seize private savings to pay for crisis caused by national bankers.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:23 AM