In Tripoli, a government spokesman blamed the West and Islamic militants for the upheaval, saying they had hijacked and escalated what he said began as "genuine" but small protests demanding "legitimate and much needed political improvements."If you're the Libyan government, what you should do under these conditions is claim that the West, the Islamists, and one more group -- I don't know, maybe Kenya -- comprise an Axis of Evil.
"On one hand, Islamists love to see chaos ... this is paradise for them," he said. "The West wants chaos to give them reason to intervene militarily to control the oil."
"The Islamists want Libya to be their Afghanistan ... to complete their crescent of terror," he said. "This is not the first time the Islamic militants and the west find common cause."
Monday, February 28, 2011
Friday, February 25, 2011
I wonder how much this change damaged the value of the Huffington Post.
This dynamic isn't good for public knowledge of where real controversies are. Or maybe it's good in the worst way -- a right-wing media infrastructure feeds craziness to people, motivating movement conservative judges and politicians to do crazy things, resulting in... real political controversies that one has to engage.
Anyway, Ezra's chart showing that 22% of Americans think that health care reform has already been repealed is amazing and depressing.
Thursday, February 24, 2011
My first question, of course, was whether or not these Union toilers could be replaced with vastly less expensive workers under the Confederate model, but I was informed that for various complex reasons this may not be feasible for several years.I don't remember the Onion being as political in the 1990s as it is today. I mean, sure, they'd write political satire, but they tried harder to be evenhanded. But now I see them standing squarely with Stewart and Colbert on our side. They do it well.
I don't know how to sort out the causation/correlation issues here, but this definitely goes along with the rising popularity of progressive views among young people.
"Masculinity" is as damaging to men as "Femininity" is to women. Neither is something to aspire to. Women who understand this are called feminists. Men who understand this aren't called anything yet, but maybe they can just be called feminists too.This is where having a big philosophical theory that tells you what to value and how to live (in my case, utilitarianism) is really helpful. It gives you a reasoned-out alternative to ideals of masculinity or femininity or whatever else you're absorbing from the cultural environment.
It also gives you a sense of identity that can compete against your gender identity for all the stuff identity is supposed to do. I feel like I'm really being myself when I'm figuring out some mildly unorthodox but effective way to make the world a better place. Just because of the situations I usually find myself in, this typically doesn't run up against my gender identity as a straight man. But if I were in an environment where people were pushing restrictive gender roles upon me, I like to think I'd do a good job of figuring my way out of the worst parts of them.
Of course, if your identity is built on your philosophy you end up being only as good as your philosophy. But we're a pretty smart species, and I think we'll do better at trying to figure out what's worthwhile by thinking about it than by passively absorbing norms that track historical power relations.
Tuesday, February 22, 2011
That's roughly my reaction to a report that Max Baucus (D-MT) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT) are going to spend a year holding hearings in preparation for some sort of overhaul of the tax code, in the spirit of the 1986 Tax Reform Act.
"Baucus, I want you to enact bipartisan tax reform in an election year, when the ranking Republican is at risk of a primary".
Have you considered running for public office? No? You should!
A. He is Rick Perry, the Governor of Texas.
Q. Does he often carry a gun?
A. Yes, often while jogging.
Q. Do Texans really like guns?
A. Many do.
Q. Is this a problem?
Monday, February 21, 2011
Instead of conceding to people's anti-skyscraperness and making sensible public policy arguments, I'll inspire your skyscraper love by showing you our new awesome building in Singapore, the Marina Bay Sands.
Yes! It's three 57-story towers with a boat on top. (As far as I know, the boat can't actually detach and sail around, though one of my colleagues hypothesized that it was an escape vehicle for extreme climate change scenarios where ocean levels rise.) It includes a resort, casino, and at the top, an infinity pool. What's an infinity pool, you ask? This:
Want to see one more picture? Sure you do! Taken by this guy from the boat -- click for a larger view:
Okay, so maybe there are some people who genuinely don't want to live in this glistening hyper-urban world. But lots of them may just think they don't want skyscrapers because they don't realize how awesome they can be.
Here I'm solidly with the players' union. Yes, their annual salaries are really high, especially at the top end. But these guys are doing a very dangerous job that requires a lot of training, and which most of them will only be able to perform for a few years. Once they leave the league, some of them will be able to parlay their fame into another good-paying job, but many won't, and if recent trends continue, some of them will end up with terrible brain injuries. They're taking their amazingly athletic bodies and subjecting them to ridiculous punishment for our amusement. There's causes that I'll get more excited about, like the situation of ordinary union people in Wisconsin, but I hope the players win.
Sunday, February 20, 2011
There's been a lot of concern lately that states or municipalities will default on their debt. This is considered the height of fiscal irresponsibility -- an outcome so dire that some are considering various forms of federal support. But the talk that states or cities will default on their obligations to teachers or DMV employees? That's considered evidence of fiscal responsibility. And perhaps it's a better outcome, as defaulting to the banks makes future borrowing costs higher, and can hurt the state economy in the long-run. But it's not a more just outcome.From a purely fiscal point of view, I don't know if this ends up being a better outcome. If you're a bright young person considering public sector employment and the guarantee of future income security is thrown into doubt, you're going to demand a higher up-front salary, one commensurate with the money you'd make in the private sector.
That is, unless the idea is to not pay a comparable salary and thus leave the public sector unable to compete for talented employees. Then you don't get similar fiscal problems, you just get a public sector that can't hire good people. And I imagine that the future ability of the public sector to hire talented employees isn't something especially worth protecting in the Republican worldview.
Let Bruce tell you all about it.
It's too bad that Kent Conrad is going to be retiring from the Senate and taking this sensible piece of deficit reduction advice with him.
Saturday, February 19, 2011
Thursday, February 17, 2011
The first night, I was blown away by its answer to the Daily Double. The category was “Literary APB,” and the clue was what seemed an extremely sideways reference to Mr. Hyde: “Wanted for killing Sir Danvers Carew; appearance—pale & dwarfish; seems to have a split personality.” This is the kind of thing that can cause natural language processing (NLP) researchers fits if they’re trying to write code that parses the sentence.
What I didn’t notice the first time I saw the clue, though, was that “Sir Danvers Carew” was a dead giveaway to a machine with huge databases of text associations at its digital fingertips. It would be likely to point to other things in the classic book with extremely high confidence, by virtue of its commonly appearing near them in text. Of course, the machine must still understand that the correct answer is “Hyde” and not the book title or author or place—so its answer was still extremely impressive.
Wednesday, February 16, 2011
In early 2002, a year before the war, he told co-workers at the Burger King that he spied for Iraqi intelligence and would report any fellow Iraqi worker who criticized Hussein's regime.Curveball himself may be a loathsome individual, but really there's not that much that's interesting about him. For basically any country that any militaristic faction in the US wants to invade, you're going to be able to scour the world for some lunatic from that country who'll tell you whatever you want to hear.
They couldn't decide if he was dangerous or crazy.
"During breaks, he told stories about what a big man he was in Baghdad," said Hamza Hamad Rashid, who remembered an odd scene with the pudgy Alwan in his too-tight Burger King uniform praising Hussein in the home of der Whopper. "But he always lied. We never believed anything he said."
Another Iraqi friend, Ghazwan Adnan, remembers laughing when he applied for a job at a local Princess Garden Chinese Restaurant and discovered Alwan washing dishes in the back while claiming to be "a big deal" in Iraq. "How could America believe such a person?"
What's interesting in this case is that the CIA believed this crazy guy. The story here is a pretty obvious one -- the President wanted war, information to support that case would be rewarded, and the intelligence apparatus found whatever it was being driven to find. Exposing the particular people on the inside who accepted the bad evidence would be a more important story.
Monday, February 14, 2011
Do you think this is crazy? Have you considered running for public office? You should!
In general, we're now having a debate between two parties about how deep the cuts should go, and what should get cut. It's true that eliminating the $46 billion in oil & gas tax credits dwarfs the cuts in LIHEAP subsidies, Pell Grants, and the like, but the frame of the debate does not leave room for much inspiration.
Sadly, it's not yet noon in Seattle, so I don't think the bars have opened.
Friday, February 11, 2011
"Anywhere in the world that social psychologists see women or minorities underrepresented by a factor of two or three, our minds jump to discrimination as the explanation,” said Dr. Haidt, who called himself a longtime liberal turned centrist. “But when we find out that conservatives are underrepresented among us by a factor of more than 100, suddenly everyone finds it quite easy to generate alternate explanations."You know what doesn't happen? A black woman avoids sensitive topics in a job interview, leading the hiring committee to incorrectly assume that she's a white man. And you know what else doesn't happen? A demographically average population spends a great deal of time discussing race and gender issues, with the result that most of the women decide to become men and most of the black people decide to become white.
Mapping the way race and gender work in our lives onto the way that politics works will result in comedy. The reason everyone finds it easy to generate alternative explanations of the prevalence of liberals in academia is that the alternative explanations look pretty good, and the explanations involving anything that matches racial or gender discrimination just look pretty bad.
Those who live close to the marketplace of ideas will find it easy to acquire new ones. So you'd expect that academics everywhere would abandon parochial values and adopt a more cosmopolitan perspective. My philosophy department in Singapore provides a pretty nice cross-cultural example. The Singaporeans, other Asians, Americans, Europeans, and Australians have generally egalitarian views on civil rights questions, with little tolerance for nationalism. (We disagree more on economic stuff.) This is exactly what you'd expect from a global community of scholars who have to defend their views against each other's criticisms -- the elimination of local prejudices that don't stand up to rational scrutiny.
There's plenty of other stuff going on too, of course -- if professors and executives got each other's paychecks, the professors would suddenly get a lot more interested in lower taxes on the rich, while the executives might drift to views more favorable to middle-class interests. And when you've got a core group of non-rich people who have given up their local prejudices, they'll attract more people like them. But the overall point is just that when a global community of scholars agrees on something, "they've figured something out" is usually a better conclusion than "they're all prejudiced."
Here are what I see as potentially salient issues:
- Mubarak is probably (??) less popular than Ahmadenijad
- Egypt is poorer and more unequal than Iran
- Immediacy of food crisis in Egypt
- Weaker state control over media
- Western nations have more leverage in Egypt
- Regime has zero religious legitimacy
- As Billy Beane would say, f***ing luck.
It's one thing when a president gets criticized by his own party's activists for not making a big enough break with the opposing party's policies. Obviously the activists want more action on their issues. But when one of your extreme opponents is making fun of you for sticking so tightly to the policies he instituted when he was in power, it might be time to rethink your approach.
Thursday, February 10, 2011
Egypt’s population has expanded from 30 million in 1966 to 85 million today largely living along the Nile River. Its people crowd the 40,000 square kilometres of land suitable for housing and farming. There is a growing shortage of arable land while economic growth has not matched population growth. Youth unemployment is increasing rapidly as more than 4 per cent of the population enters the work force each year. Unemployment for university graduates is ten times that of the general population. Rising costs of food, accommodation and petrol has fuelled the recent unrest...I think the idea with these places is that you do very well if you have lots of educated young people and they get productive career opportunities. He also considers India and China:
The youth uprising in Egypt draws attention to the impact of similar youth bulges as a result of rapid population increases over the past 20 years, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, North Africa, Iran and Turkey as well as a crescent extending from the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and Gaza, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Yemen to Afghanistan and Pakistan. The authoritarian polities and lack of employment opportunities in many of these states in the crescent and their continuing rapid population growth will fuel youth resentment and rebellion, with a significant risk of political volatility and violence.
By contrast, over the next 20 years, the Maghreb countries, Iran and Turkey will see declines in their rate of population growth. They should benefit from growing numbers of educated youth in their expanding economies, just like Vietnam, Malaysia and Indonesia. The medium term outlook for these states is therefore positive.
Turning to other parts of Asia, although India’s population will increase to 1.45 billion by 2025, it will benefit from economic growth. However, there are sharp differences among the regions – namely, the high-growth commercial centres of Mumbai, Delhi and Kolkata; the low fertility states of South India with their information technology hubs and booming services sector; and the ‘Hindi speaking’ belt of north India with its higher fertility, lower educational levels, lower levels of female employment and slower growth of the services sector. Youthful challenges to the political status quo are more likely in north India.Oh, crap! My family's from North India. The state of West Bengal, where they live, has some problems with Maoist guerrilla terorrism. When I visited last year, my relatives were telling me that the demographic profile of a Maoist guerrilla is basically what Desker describes -- a guy who works himself through school and finds that there's no opportunities out there.
By contrast, in China, we will see more conservative attitudes as a combination of economic growth, the rapid aging of China’s population and the expectations of a better life by China’s youth result in a preference for the status quo. Already, China’s Internet savvy youth are among the most nationalist and have been active in pushing for strong government action in the face of perceived slights by external parties such as the United States, Japan and, in the case of the South China Sea, even Asean.I don't know a lot about nationalism among Chinese youth, but in general nationalism in powerful countries is bad news. It can lead to Tibet being oppressed or Iraq being invaded.
Wednesday, February 9, 2011
Tim Kaine, who won a statewide race for governor, looms as the Democrat whom big party figures will pressure to run. If we somehow ended up with Senator Tom Perriello, that would be an awesome outcome. But really, keeping George Allen out of elected office is what I'm thinking of most here.
Tuesday, February 8, 2011
It's easy to overstate the impact that right-wing or left-wing candidates have on electability. In an overwhelming number of races, ideological positioning matters very little, if at all. But on the margins, it can have an effect. More importantly, it seems to be dissuading rational political operatives from staying in Republican party politics, which may eventually become a serious problem.
Monday, February 7, 2011
Here's the answer to a trivia question: what video won "Video of the Year" the year "Smells Like Teen Spirit", which routinely is in the top 10 music videos of all time, came out?
Saturday, February 5, 2011
You are curious whether your butt is big or small. Unfortunately, you lack the ability to accurately assess the size of butts. Fortunately, there are three rappers before you. You are of their preferred gender, so they are willing to collectively entertain exactly one yes-or-no question from you, to which they will each give an answer.Perhaps you will enjoy hearing "Baby Got Back" while working on this puzzle.
One rapper likes big butts and cannot lie. One rapper likes small butts and always lies. One rapper likes all butts but shares your inability to assess butt size, and will answer yes or no at random if asked whether a butt is big or small. You do not know which rapper is which. All the rappers know all other facts relevant to the situation, including everyone's identity and butt preferences.
Before you are able to ask your question, one rapper receives a booty call (the size of the booty is unknown to you) and leaves the room. The other two rappers remain and are willing to pronounce on your question. You still do not know who any of the rappers are.
To determine the size of your butt, what question should you ask them? (You may assume that all butts can be classified as either big or small and ignore contextual factors, e.g. from the presence of Oakland booty.)
Thanks are due to Daniel Velleman for inspiring the puzzle, and Dennis Clark and Supriya Sinhababu for playtesting. [Edited: and Rob Helpy-Chalk for pointing out an inconsistency in the puzzle that is now fixed.]
Friday, February 4, 2011
This week's Kitsch Cover comes from University of Oregon a capella group On The Rocks, performing Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance":
Leave your captions and nominations for future Kitsch Covers in the comments.
Wednesday, February 2, 2011
I’ve actually been a little sad watching the coverage from Egypt, because of the way the United States is reacting. It’s like that Claude Rains moment in Casablanca. We’re shocked! Egypt appears to be a repressive government! Who knew! Then after 30 years of American presidents being B.F.F.s with Mubarak, suddenly Obama is coldly hinting — then insisting — that he start packing. I understand the pragmatic reasons for all this, but it sure does undermine our self-image as champions of democracy.But isn't this what you want from Obama, especially if you're a foreigner who hopes that America will be good and reasonable and was horribly disappointed by Bush? That Obama will start turning American foreign policy in a more enlightened direction? And really, nobody grades on consistency here. Whatever we were doing wrong in the past, you don't get points for doing it wrong some more. Coldly hinting / insisting that Mubarak get gone is the right direction.
Marc Lynch's post evaluating the Obama administration's handling of Egypt is a few days old now, but it's good and useful. I don't know how to parse diplomat-speak but if Lynch is right things are running in the right direction.
Tuesday, February 1, 2011
Wonkier political reporters are quite savvy when it comes to which bits of political "news" will affect legislation. If Dennis Kucinich introduces a bill, it's unlikely to have much impact on whatever compromise finally becomes law. Michelle Bachmann draws headlines, but she doesn't have much impact on policy. The wonkier among them are also starting to learn that horserace gossip doesn't have as much of an impact on elections as economic and demographic circumstances. But they haven't seemed to have figure out that some judge somewhere issuing a favorable ruling in a trial court has little to no bearing on what will happen at the appellate level. It might behoove them to keep a constitutional law professor or two in their rolodex.
Update: See also Scott Lemieux, who is in fact plugged in to legal happenings.
Now Bishnu is being rewarded with medals and money and free stuff from the Indian government. I'm kind of digging his martial pride: "I am proud to be able to prove that a Gorkha soldier with a khukuri is really a handful." The Gurkhas have a history of being awesome warriors -- an Indian general once remarked that "If a man says he is not afraid of dying, he is either lying or is a Gurkha."
The practical way to make progress on issues of sexual violence today is more in the direction of "Make sure men regard nonconsensual sex as an abomination" than "Have heroic Gurkhas slice up would-be rapists." But I wouldn't mind if somebody forwarded this story to Ben Roethlisberger before his next night on the town.