Monday, December 24, 2007

TV Stations Sold To Close Bush Friend

From Reuters yesterday afternoon:

Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp [..] will sell eight U.S. television stations to private equity firm Oak Hill Partners for about $1.1 billion.

I couldn’t help but wonder who was buying up tv stations in an election year, so a quick check of Oak Hill Partners :

Oak Hill Capital Partners traces its roots to Robert M. Bass, one of the four brothers who founded Bass Brothers Enterprises in Fort Worth, Texas.

From Texas, eh? A little more checking as a Texas based company raised my eyebrows right away:

Robert Muse Bass is a Texas billionaire worth approximately $5.46 billion as of 2006.

Bass was born into an extremely wealthy family with an uncle, Sid Richardson, worth $810 million. He and his three brothers Lee, Ed, and Sid Bass all attended Yale University, where they solidified their moneyed and political connections. Ed Bass was a classmate and personal friend of George W. Bush, and the brothers, especially Lee Bass, helped Bush financially both before and throughout his political career.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Guess the topic of my email based on Gmail's targeted newsfeed and advertisements

What could I possibly have been writing about? Use the following clues to find out!

Newsfeed: Chiang Kai-shek mausoleum closed


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Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Burial Reviews: Untrue Indeed!

So, according to Metacritic, the best reviewed album of 2007 was "Untrue," by the British electronic artist Burial. Consequently, I used the remaining balance on a gift D-Mardree once gave me to legally download the album from a Russian internet vendor. I urge others on this blog to do the same--from a Russian internet vendor or otherwise--so that we can together answer a rather pressing question: what in Zeus's name makes this the best album of Wednesday, let alone 2007? Am I missing something about the electronic genre that makes this so breathtaking?

Monday, December 17, 2007

Does this count as an honor code violation?

From Herodotus, Histories, Book 1 section 59, concerning Pisistratus' ascension to the tyranny in Athens:

"So having designs upon the tyranny he gathered together a third party, and when he had culled together supporters and claimed in a speech to be the leader of the Hill People, he devised this trick: He lashed himself and his mule, then drove his cart into the agora as though he had fled enemies who had wanted to kill him as he was going into the fields. And he begged the people for a bodyguard to protect him."

Just something to keep in the back of your mind when you read this astounding story: "Conservative student admits to fabricating assault, threat emails."

I'm sensitive to the fact that had this been an assault on a liberal or a minority by a right-wing group, certain generalities and stereotypes would no doubt have lept to mind. So let's just leave this at what it is: utter weirdness.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Mature subject matter

Via the Leiter Reports blog of political theorist Brian Leiter, I see that the new Francis Ford Coppola movie Youth Without Youth has been rated "R" for "gun violence, sexual congress, female nudity, metaphysics."

What is the specific brand of metaphysics in question? If the film had proposed substance dualism as opposed to idealism, would it have garnered a "PG-13" rating instead? Would multiple realizability count as more or less inappropriate for younger audiences? (The Maoist tendencies of Hilary Putnam should be especially pertinent here.)

I'm going to have to side with Plato and say that metaphysics, specifically the Form of the Good, should not be attempted until age 35. A minimum of 15 years training is required before one can discuss these matters with the common folk.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

More Economic News

I think John Liberty is right to play up the dire economic conditions in this country. The oncoming recession will, it appears, turn into another round of stagflation, while new inequality statistics point out that "The increase in incomes of the top 1 percent of Americans from 2003 to 2005 exceeded the total income of the poorest 20 percent of Americans" (my emphasis). That's an alarming statistic. Shame on the Bush administration for playing this off as inevitable. Shame on both parties -- though particularly the GOP -- for enslaving us to capitalism's booms and busts without any regard for those left behind.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Morgan Stanley issues "Full Recession" Alert


Look, I know the blog has become, but it's important. Courtesy of Hippie Killer

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Huckabee and Al Gore

Deadly Clinton hatred

I was glad to see that this Times piece by Michael Luo and Kit Seelye got to the heart of the Wayne DuMond case — the underlying reason Huckabee intervened in favor of someone who went on to commit murder. DuMond’s rape victim was a distant relative of Bill Clinton - and

Mr. DuMond’s case had become something of a celebrated cause among conservative activists, who charged that Mr. Clinton had allowed an innocent man to languish in prison because of his connection with the case.

There’s a story still not told in regular news media about what really happened during the Clinton years — about the simply insane Clinton hatred on the right, which was aided and abetted by a lot of seemingly respectable people.

And Mike Huckabee, however gosh-aw-shucks-likeable he may seem now, was an accessory.


Al Gore and the Internet

To this day people repeat the lie that Al Gore claimed to have invented the Internet. Chris Matthews did it just a couple of weeks ago.

Al Gore, he’s the one who said he created the Internet.

Meanwhile, the reality is that Gore played a crucial role in the Internet’s creation:

IN the 2000 election, Al Gore, then the vice president, was derided by opponents who claimed that he had said he “created” the Internet. But many of the scientists, engineers and technology executives who gathered here to celebrate the Web’s birth say he played a crucial role in its development, and they expressed bitterness that his vision had been so discredited.

Mr. Gore had been instrumental in introducing legislation, beginning in 1988, to finance what he originally called a “national data highway.”

“Our corporations are not taking advantage of high-performance computing to enhance their productivity,” Mr. Gore, then a senator, said in an interview at the time. “With greater access to supercomputers, virtually every business in America could achieve tremendous gains.”

Ultimately, in 1991, his bill to create a National Research and Education Network did pass. Funded by the National Science Foundation, it was instrumental in upgrading the speed of the academic and scientific network backbone leading up to the commercialized Internet.

“He is a hero in this field,” said Lawrence H. Landweber, a computer scientist at the University of Wisconsin who in 1980 made the pioneering decision to use the basic TCP/IP Internet protocol for CSNET, an academic network that preceded NSFnet and laid the foundation for “internetworking.”

Sunday, December 09, 2007

I See Masses, but the Opiate?

For the past several months I've been perusing the "Reader's Guide to Periodical Literature" for every year beginning in 1890, writing down every article that pertains to the Washington, D.C. public school system. From reading the headlines, I've learned a bit about the history of the capital city. One thing that barely gets mentioned, however, is the lack of home rule. You know, the whole taxation without representation thing. What I don't get is, given the city's immense problems, why don't we hear a serious cry of injustice on this? Something more than just cutesy liberals and yuppies voicing a bit of discontent?

I'm not suggesting that democracy will solve D.C.'s problems -- just look at the city 45 minutes north, Baltimore -- but it certainly can't hurt. Why don't grassroots organizations actually push for this in a serious way? Why haven't we seen violence, for example, as with other cities/territories seeking home rule? Any thoughts former D.C. residents? Just curious.

Friday, December 07, 2007

In God We Trust

"Mr. Romney dragged out the old chestnuts about “In God We Trust” on the nation’s currency, and the inclusion of “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance — conveniently omitting that those weren’t the founders’ handiwork, but were adopted in the 1950s at the height of McCarthyism."(NYTimes)

I had no idea that came from McCarthy.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Romney Speech Intro by Bush?


For reasons I don't understand, former President George H.W. Bush is giving Mitt Romney's pre-speech introduction. That seems...significant. Unsurprisingly, CNN is talking over it


``I don't think it will stop price declines but it will help,'' said Robert Shiller, chief economist at MacroMarkets LLC in Madison, New Jersey, and a professor at Yale University. ``We are embarking on what might be the biggest decline since the Great Depression.''

More Dumb Girls

Wednesday, December 05, 2007


Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Girl Talk

hey -
just checking in, wanted to make sure everything was okay
tried calling a few times, but it keeps going to voicemail

looks like i probably won't be able to get together til after finals - i'd really like to meet and have a dinner and a nice long chat -
it's been a very crazy 6 months.

lemme know you're okay please


dear holly

i am in a mental hospital in arizonia. i cut off my head and it fell into the subway tracks. i am talking through a computer head they built for me. i can not leave here for one year but when i come back to new york you can visit me in my room where i need to be hooked up to these pipes that come out of the wall.


JFK on Neoconservatives

On June 10, 1963, President John F. Kennedy delivered a commencement address at American University in Washington, D.C., in which he declared that the peace that the United States wanted was “not a Pax Americana enforced on the world by American weapons of war.” Kennedy dismissed the charge that “American imperialist circles” were “preparing to unleash different kinds of wars” including “preventative war.”

Many believe this speech reflected the primary differences that JFK had with the Pentagon and the military-industrial complex.

Mark These Words

If you buy commodities(ie the commodities themselves or fertilizer stocks or agrictulture stock/companies, etc) you will be rich by next August. They are going to skyrocket. my favorite is MOO.

Picture of No Nuke

Monday, December 03, 2007

American Lebensraum Past and Present

Boy, I just hate to pile on the criticism of poor National Review but their interviewer sure gives a lot away in one question to the historian David Walker Howe about the history of American imperialism:
MILLER: In the final chapter, you mention the period’s “dark side” and cite “the waging of an aggressive war against Mexico.” Didn’t that war actually have a tremendous upside — i.e., the acquisition of Arizona, California, Nevada, Utah, etc.?
You know, I often have the same criticism of many World War II historians. Sure Nazi Germany had some "dark sides" in their "waging of an aggressive war against various European countries and the conspiratorial web of international Jewry," but if they hadn't squandered it away with that stupid invasion deep into Russia, think of all the lebensraum they would have! Just like us!

NIE: No Nukes In Iran, PIMCO Talks Financial Crisis

“What we are witnessing,” says Bill Gross of the bond manager Pimco, “is essentially the breakdown of our modern-day banking system, a complex of leveraged lending so hard to understand that Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke required a face-to-face refresher course from hedge fund managers in mid-August.” (Gross manages the biggest bond fund in the world)

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Be sure to check the news on Venezuela tomorrow...

Tomorrow is a big day for Venezuela. If you read most of the news outlets, especially several pieces that have run in the New York Times and the Washington Post, you get the impression that the proposed constitutional reforms will "grant the state absolute control over the people" (Times op-ed by former Chavez ally), make Chavez "president for life" with the help of "armed Chavista thugs" (Times editorial), that it's a "grab for socialist-emperor status" that is "grotesque and dangerous -- as Fascism was" (Roger Cohen), that Chavez shares a vision of "high-modernist authoritarianism" with Stalin, Mao, and Ceausescu (Washington Post op-ed), and similarly that Chavez is a "tyrant," "an aspiring dictator," and a "threat to the global order" (Donald Rumsfeld, of all people, in the Post). And, of course, in all of this, Chavez's supporters, the poor (i.e. the majority) have been variously "clients who can be bought off," "crowd-pleased," and "manipulated."

You can probably tell that I find much in these accounts to be exaggerated, even hysterical. First, some basic facts: Chavez is a democratically elected President, and the constitutional reforms are being presented as a democratic referendum, with monitoring provided by more than 80 international observers, including the NAACP and the National Lawyers Guild from the U.S. (Although it is important to note that some of the usual monitoring groups, like the UN, won't be included this time.)

Second, there's the reforms themselves. What do they propose? This IHT piece sums them up nicely:
  • Presidential terms extended from 6 to 7 years.
  • Term limits eliminated.
  • Presidential control over the Central Bank.
  • Higher numbers required for constitutional and legislative referenda.
  • Mandatory 6 hour work days.
  • Creation of social security for the informal economy (almost half of Venezuela's labor force).
  • Neighborhood and other local-based direct democratic institutions and workers councils.
  • Extensive "state of emergency" powers for the Presidency.
There are others as well, including a lot of language about "socialism" and "anti-imperialism," for what it's worth. Now, the most troubling of these, obviously, are the state of emergency powers and presidential limits. (No doubt many critics are staunchly opposed to some of the more socialistic elements as well, but let's stick to the strict "democratic" concerns.) Again, the first thing to say is that "no term limits" does not equal "dictator for life." There could be a legitimate concern that Chavez and his party would rig elections in the future, but so far he has won elections quite handily under completely free and fair rules. Also, it's important to note that many countries have unlimited terms for their presidents and prime ministers: Australia, Japan, the Presidency of France, Portugal, Canada, and the United Kingdom. (If anyone knows if these facts are inaccurate or if the powers of these offices are far more circumscribed, let me know.)

The "state of emergency" decree is indeed disturbing, and in fact many leftists groups within Venezuela are very concerned about it, as well as international observers like Human Rights Watch. Other leftists think that state of emergency powers are either more likely to be abused by "bourgeois" regimes or aren't actual dictatorial at all; in any case people are pointing out the vastly expanded emergency powers of the American Presidency and the Military Commissions Act, as well as the fact that many other countries, including Australia, Germany, France, Canada, India, Spain, and, again, the U.S., have such "exceptional" laws enshrined in their constitutions. Finally, despite the fact that many of Chavez's supporters have been violently outspoken about their support for the referendum, the only fatality so far has occurred at the hands of anti-government protesters. More strikingly, a supposed "plot" by the CIA has been uncovered by the Chavez government as evidence that the U.S. is working to destabilize Venezuela (as it supposedly did in the 2002 attempted coup and in numerous events, most notably Chile, in the past). The CIA calls the document a "fake," and others are saying that the "timing is suspect," but if there was ever a time for such a document to be written, it is of course now.

However, as far as the presidential term limits and emergency powers go, one can play the "tu quoque" game all day -- the important question is whether such moves are good for Venezuelan democracy, perhaps even (crucially) for Venezuelan socialism. The first thing to say is that Chavez's egoism and chauvinism (chauvismo?) during this process has been appalling and hardly a model for democratic discourse. We have all been disgusted by the rhetoric of the Bush White House, and Chavez has painted a similar "us vs. them" picture. Many opposition leaders, even hesitant radicals within Chavez's own party ranks, have been labelled "traitors." That is simply unacceptable, especially when many of these critics are challenging Chavez's "l'etat c'est moi" attitude from the left. Even if the referendum gets the "si" vote tomorrow, civil society will probably be irreparably damaged for the near future, and who knows what sorts of actions will take place to discredit it (this is not strictly Chavez's fault at all, however).

Going hand-in-hand with this fear of Chavez's frighteningly strong personality is the possibility that his paranoid style of politics will lead to government crackdown and exploding political prisoner populations along the lines of Castroism. Many critics maintain that this state of affairs is already in play, but I think it is still only a potentiality, albeit a very dangerous one. My hope would be for more civil control on the central government from below, the paradox of this being that that is precisely what voting "no" on the referendum has come to mean for some ("maintaining checks and balances," so to speak). If Chavez loses, much of the wind will be taken out of social democracy's sails. If Chavez wins, it's possible that he could exploit his power as outlined above, or, perhaps even more menacingly, the opposition could turn even more violent. My overall hope is that the referendum could be passed with social stability intact.

This isn't much of a "final analysis," but I hope along the way I have made it clear that tomorrow's vote, while important, is not the inevitable "no turning back from dictatorship" that some thoughtless or just plain malevolent critics are making it out to be. Watching the news and commentary centered around this event has made clearer to me much of the class bias of the American press. There is simply no narrative about a country's working class movement that they can understand apart from ideas like "demagoguery," "pandering," and "manipulation." The poor must always be naive and malleable, rather than constituting the majority of the population, with demands and interests which democracies, by their very nature, ought to make central, if not exclusive, to their policies. Chavez is suspect, but at this point he must be preferable to the tin-pot authoritarians to whom we regularly give billions of dollars. As the always insightful Ken Silverstein of Harper's says in a recent post, with regard to the American punditry establishment, "Roger Cohen: Viva Mubarak, Fuera Chavez!"