Author Archive | J.F. Quackenbush

Rebecca Solnit On The Incoherent Left

She doesn’t call them the Incoherent Left because she still thinks they can be part of a coalition for radical political change, but other than that her assessment is spot on:

At a demonstration in support of Bradley Manning this month, I was handed a postcard of a dead child with the caption “Tell this child the Democrats are the lesser of two evils.” It behooves us not to use the dead for our own devices, but that child did die thanks to an Obama Administration policy. Others live because of the way that same administration has provided health insurance for millions of poor children or, for example, reinstated environmental regulations that save thousands of lives.

You could argue that to vote for Obama is to vote for the killing of children, or that to vote for him is to vote for the protection for other children or even killing fewer children.

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US Citizens Still Don’t Need To Worry About The NDAA Just Yet

Picture: Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Michael Billings (PD)

As Disinfo reported September 18th, the permanent injunction against §1021 of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), has been stayed pending appeal.

Naturally the lawyers for the case are treating this as a major setback in whatever media is paying attention to them, which unfortunately is pretty thin: basically, it’s just their client. The most likely explanation for that dearth of coverage is that most major media sources have legal advisors on staff who are looking at the law suit the way the Justice Department is: this is either a standing or a separation of powers issue that should have died the miserable death all paranoid nuisance cases die at trial, and will get shut down at the appellate level and denied cert by SCOTUS. Which is not to say that view is correct, just that it’s the rather obvious and lazy conventional wisdom that cases like this attract among legal cognoscenti.… Read the rest

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Brad DeLong v. Ludwig Von Mises: Ron Paul Better Watch Out!

Picture: Von Mises Institute (CC)

Brad DeLong has taken some time out of his busy day to try to explain to the rest of us why Ludwig von Mises, patron saint of goldbugs and PaulBots, got monetary policy so very very wrong:

The problem, I think Ludwig von Mises would say, is that the wealth of society is the amount of work has gone into creating the commodities in the economy: the food, the clothing, the houses, the little gold disks. The sum of past work crystalized in commodities is society’s wealth. The food is wealth, the housing is wealth, the clothing is wealth, and the little gold disks are wealth. Then add unbacked fiat money and bank credit–either public or private, it doesn’t matter–to the mix. The fiat money and the bank credit are counted as wealth, as if they were claims to little gold disks that took sweat and tears to create, but they are not wealth at all.

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Julian Assange Still an Irrelevant Narcissistic Cult Leader

Disturbed at the lack of international media attention over his supposed plight, Julian Assange took the opportunity of President Obama’s speech in support of free expression at the United Nations to extol the virtues of dodging sex assault prosecution and embracing chaos over the rule of law to his gaggle of neckbearded internet fanboys.

In a video webcast from his foxhole in the Ecuadoran Embassy, Assange once again conflated the Swedish prosecution of allegations of sexual assault and rape against him with a program of persecution against the Wikileaks organization. And, unsurprisingly, his lapdogs in the web-o-sphere, and the Ecuadorean pols for whom Assange has become a superstar useful idiot love him for it. Never mind that it’s all complete nonsense, as The New Statesman’s Legal Correspondent David Allen Green has detailed:

Whenever the Julian Assange extradition comes up in the news, many of his supporters make various confident assertions about legal aspects of the case.

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What The Airforce Investigation Documents Really Say About WikiLeaks

Picture: Herder3

Wikileaks has released documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act (so not technically “leaks”) detailing the investigation of an Airman working in Information Technology in the UK which in his typical grandstanding fashion Julian Assange has chosen to read as a vindication of his long held goal of becoming an International Enemy of the State:

The allegation of “Communicating with the Enemy” indicates the extremely serious threat Julian Assange and WikiLeaks face from the United States. The investigation was into the subjects support and interactions with WikiLeaks and its supporters ie her communications (or attempted communications) with Mr Assange and WikiLeaks. Therefore the term “Communicating with the Enemy” would appear to show that the US government term Mr Assange and WikiLeaks the “enemy”. By deeming them the “enemy” they can be treated under the laws of war which could include killing, capturing, detaining without trial etc.

There is one other possible interpretation of this term and that is that is that Mr Assange and WikiLeaks are not themselves the “enemy” but are a conduit to the “enemy”.

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Ralph Nader Officially No Longer Coherent

Picture: Don LaVange (CC)

In a new interview with Politico, one time people’s champion and present liberal embarassment Ralph Nader, is used to great effect by the Horse-race central mouthpiece of the Washington DC chattering class to tar the entirety of leftwing politics with his incoherent brush:

Nader called Obama “below average because he raised expectation levels. What expectation level did George W. Bush raise?… He’s below average because he’s above average in his intellect and his knowledge of legality, which is violating with abandon.”[sic]
“I don’t know whether George W. Bush ever read the Constitution,” said Nader. “This man taught the Constitution, and this is what we got.”

In other words Obama is really really bad because he’s so very very not good. Thanks, Ralph. Anybody who came away from Obama’s 2008 campaign with the impression he was ideologically anything other than a ever-so-slightly left of center pro-capitalist technocrat and foreign policy realist was not paying attention.… Read the rest

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The Paranoid Style in Russian Politics

Picture: zscout370 (CC)

In a recent Op-Ed for the Moscow Times, author and translator Richard Lourie updates Richard Hofstadter’s famous thesis about the role of paranoia in American Politics with a focus on current goings on in the Kremlin:

Is President Vladimir Putin the Russian Mitt Romney? He certainly seems to see the United States as Russia’s “No. 1 foe.” The question, as always, is how much of this is sincere and how much is an attempt to manipulate the populace for domestic political reasons? This may be one of the rare cases in which cynicism is preferable to sincerity.

. . .

Russia’s friends in the West — and it may have more than it sometimes thinks — must do what they can to prevent the Kremlin’s current paranoid style from producing negative foreign policy consequences in the real world. Americaphobia in Russia can easily spark Russophobia in the West, which, as Romney’s remarks demonstrate, still has its knee-jerk adherents.

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Fear is the Mind Killer

Picture: Robbie Grubbs (CC)

Interesting work on fear and memory published in Science and dumbed down for mass consumption at Psychcentral:

For one experimental group, the re-consolidation process was disrupted with the aid of repeated presentations of the picture. For a control group, the re-consolidation process was allowed to complete before the subjects were shown the same repeated presentations of the picture.

Because the experimental group was not allowed to re-consolidate the fear memory, the fear they previously associated with the picture dissipated. This rendered the memory neutral — and no longer able to incite fear.

What’s notable about this is that it shows how fear is tied to signifiers and conditioned responses. Although that doesn’t cover the entirety of the range of fear responses to various stimulus, one is forced to wonder about the panic responses involved in various alien abduction/mad gasser/witch hunt phenomena where a specific fear spreads as a meme acros entire communities of people, some of them not even geographically connected to each other.… Read the rest

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Debt Collectors and District Attorneys Collude to Deceive Debtors

Picture: Artist unknown (PD)

The New York Times has a story on the ongoing unethical collusion between debt-collectors and prosecuting attorney’s offices:

The letters are sent by the thousands to people across the country who have written bad checks, threatening them with jail if they do not pay up.

They bear the seal and signature of the local district attorney’s office. But there is a catch: the letters are from debt-collection companies, which the prosecutors allow to use their letterhead. In return, the companies try to collect not only the unpaid check, but also high fees from debtors for a class on budgeting and financial responsibility, some of which goes back to the district attorneys’ offices.

So here’s the deal, it’s a crime to write a bad check if you know that the bank isn’t going to honor the instrument. But in most states, in order to be convicted the State has to prove that you knew the check was going to bounce when you wrote it.… Read the rest

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Singularity Averted, The Google Machine Still Can’t Parse Irony

So now that google calculates bacon numbers automatically, a few pop culture mavens have been systematically trying to break it:

For example, I typed in the name of a high school friend who was legitimately in a movie with Kevin Bacon — Ben Saypol (hi, Ben!), “Telling Lies in America,” 1997 — and that gave me nothing, too, even though Ben is totally someone in the real world. And if you think you’re going to type in your own name and get an answer, forget it, unless you’re Susan Sarandon or something. It may not recognize you either.

The Google Box’s problems go deeper than that, however. Disinfo has discovered through the application of highly efficient research ninjas that the Google Box believes that Smashing Pumpkins frontman Billy Corgan was actually in the movie Powder. This seems to be because of long running joke based on the fact that Corgan is a creepy, pasty bald pale white guy, just like the creepy, pasty bald white guy main character in the creepy childmolester directed film sensation of 1995.… Read the rest

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