13 May 2015

Adam Smith would have loathed Trade Promotion Authority:

The proposal of any new law or regulation of commerce which comes from this order [of self-interested merchants and manufacturers], ought always to be listened to with great precaution, and ought never be adopted till after having been long and carefully examined, not only with the most scrupulous, but with the most suspicious attention.

 Not that I expect any American libertarians to care, or anything:  they all seem to have collectively decided that Adam Smith was not Adam Smith, but John D. Rockefeller (or perhaps the CEO of Comcast).

08 April 2015

Eulogia ("palabra buena") para Chuy Garcia

Dijeron que una escorrentia fue imposible;
En el New York Times los secuazes del alcalde
hacian escarnio de los liberales de Rogers Park,
y los capitanes del partido hablaron
solamente de una coronación.

Pero como las estaciones cambian --
como un invierno polar dio paso
a una primavera, como la tierra y el pueblo
parpadeaban con vida nueva --

una voz se escucho, cuarto millón de veces,
diciendo:  la sociedad importa!
Y los secuazes nunca sintieron la misma.

06 April 2015

Alan Talaga is right to call for better benefits for Madison city council members.  But this is not a matter of rewarding good "customer service" on behalf of the city, as he suggests.  Council members are not the first point of contact to confused and needy citizens -- police officers fill that role. 

Our elected representatives, at all levels of government, play a vital part in keeping democracy functional.  In the past few decades our political system has more and more come to resemble that of early 19th-century Britain:  we have a set of nominally free, democratic institutions that are virtually inaccessible to candidates without piles of money or aristocratic connections.  The struggle to secure a salary for members of Parliament (one of the demands of the People's Charter) was one of the key components of Britain's democratization and the rise of a politically assertive middle class. 

This issue is fundamentally about the value we place in political representation, and whether we can take a just pride in our city's approach to government.

06 March 2015

Oh, Slate, please.  This is not "a new low" for the NRA.

If liberals want sensible gun control measures to pass in this nation, they have got to stop dancing around the truth:  the NRA is a right-wing terrorist organization that has repeatedly called for violent revolution against the federal government and has literally no moral scruple when it comes to putting weapons of mass murder in the hands of white people (yes, its racial notions are pretty flipping obvious).

I'm a little puzzled why the Southern Poverty Law Center hasn't put it on its list of hate groups.

In the 2013 CPAC convention, Rep. Carolyn Mccarthy, who lost her husband to gun violence and sponsored a bill to prevent similar tragedies, was mocked as a stupid liberal elitist.

If there's one thing Democrats who care about gun control should take away from this latest feces-slinging from the NRA, it's that "reaching out" to Wayne LaPierre[1], Mitch McConnell, et al.  is pointless.  It'd be one thing if you had any common moral ground with these monsters, but no matter how you try to be conciliatory toward the gun industry and preach "responsibility, not control," they will turn right around and plunge the dagger into your back to a cheering crowd of extremists and total idiots who just want a free duffel bag.

These bullies do not want to cooperate with you.  Indeed, their business model requires them not to.  The only shooting victims the NRA cares about are imaginary (white) victims of imaginary (almost certainly black or Latino) killers.

[1] Who still publicly denies that Obama is a legitimately elected president.

20 February 2015

The Muslim

He's either a fanatic, or not really religious at all;
god stopped speaking to men around 200 CE
and we as a species have grown out of prophecy
and revelation and holy scriptures
(Steve Pinker lays it out so well in his TED talk)
If my grandchild's school gets a bomb threat
I feel afraid and it's then that Obama's summits
on extremism pay dividends, don't they?

Yeah there are churches out there that are kind of kooky
and preach against unbelievers
and I've heard that not all Hindus are easygoing
but there's a problem with Islam
and it treats women so badly,
even worse than those college boys who're
always getting accused of rape
and that medieval ritual nonsense
about wiping your ass with the left hand
has no place in our time, (excuse me Jane from
the Elks club is calling -- I have to take this)

01 February 2015

In health care reform, the most mundane, tried-and-tested solutions are usually best.  We do not need an epoch-making breakthrough in personalized medicine or genomic analysis to save American health care.  (We need, simply, a national health plan.)

This Aetna-sponsored video lauds Google for, among other things, doing a research study on "what defines a healthy person."  I suspect Google will come up with the same answer that the ancient medical writer Galen formulated:

...unless we take discernible impairment of function as our criterion for distinguishing illness from health, and instead consider the exact qualitative condition in each case, we shall have to adopt the doctrine that one is always in a pathological state, since there is no one whose functions are all in an optimal state.  (Galen:  Selected Works, translator P.N. Singer, Oxford UP)

It's very convenient for the insurance industry to pump up our desire to attain perfect individual health.  Obscenely high premiums and extortionate copayments become easier to justify when we've been drenched in data about healthy behaviors and risk factors and genetic predispositions.

(The last of these three is of very little use, anyway, without a better understanding of how genes interact with each other -- see studies on the causes of homosexuality.  When it comes to knowing how our genes communicate with one another we are just as clueless as Galen.)

30 January 2015

Last night I went to a forum where four candidates for Madison mayor introduced themselves and laid out their ideas for change.  The good news is that I would be happy to vote for any one of them if it comes down to a choice between reelecting Mayor Soglin or opting for a new start, as it may well do.

I thought often about the class backgrounds of these four candidates, or what I could discern of those backgrounds, and their ways of speaking.  A mayor should be a competent rhetor -- a good communicator.  Knowledge of the issues is important, but Einstein's dictum that "imagination is more important than knowledge" applies to political leadership too.  Getting people excited about new possibilities, or riled up about assaults on their human integrity, is the work of rhetorical imagination.

With this imperative in mind I've decided to support Scott Resnick in the primary next month.

I'll conclude by gently admonishing Madison's liberal and progressive voters that catty side-swiping at our neighbors' perceived deficiencies is an unworthy use of our breath.  (I say this as one who's done a fair share of it in the past.)  Let's be wary of Pharisaism towards each other.  I hope that Freddie deBoer's lament that "the prohibition against ever telling anyone to be friendlier and more forgiving is so powerful and calcified it’s a permanent feature of today’s progressivism" can be turned into rejoicing.