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Archive for September 7th, 2012

The Grand Old (Bolshevik) Party

Posted by Charles II on September 7, 2012

Via Paul Krugman and Digby, a very enlightening historical find and a modern graphic illustrating it.

(Cover is from National Review via secotm. Yes, I personally verified that this is their cover.)

Stuart Butler and Peter Germanis


Marx believed that capitalism was doomed by its inherent contradictions, and that it would inevitably collapse—to he replaced by the next stage on the ladder leading to the socialist Utopia. Lenin also believed that capitalism was doomed by its inherent contradictions, and would inevitably collapse. But just to be on the safe side, he sought to mobilize the working class, in alliance with other key elements in political society, both to hasten the collapse and to ensure that the result conformed with his interpretation of the proletarian state. Unlike many other socialists at the time, Lenin recognized that fundamental change is contingent both upon a movement’s ability to create a focused political coalition and upon its success in isolating and weakening its opponents. As we contemplate basic reform of the Social Security system, we would do well to draw a few lessons from the Leninist strategy.

Yes, the Republicans are modeling their strategy on the Bolsheviks. As Michael Lind’s Up from Conservatism showed, Germanis and Butler aren’t just a couple of rogue policy wonks. The right admired Lenin’s tactical success.

Of course, the Bolsheviks also created a dysfunctional tyranny, but that couldn’t happen under capitalism, right?

Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments »

You knew it had to be something like this: comment spam

Posted by Charles II on September 7, 2012

Via Ritholtz, an article from Greg Stevens of Kernel Mag on comment spam.

Posted in computers and software, wrong way to go about it | Comments Off on You knew it had to be something like this: comment spam

Friday Cat Blogging

Posted by MEC on September 7, 2012

Friday Cat Blogging

Posted in Alexander the Great, Friday Cat Blogging | 4 Comments »

Why Obama’s style drives me crazy/updated and slightly edited

Posted by Charles II on September 7, 2012

Obama’s speech may have been pitched, as one commenter at Eschaton sagely noted, at the undecided voter. Those voters have an entirely different notion of what’s important, and they may be persuaded by things that wonks like me think are irrelevant.

To my mind, an effective political speech defines a problem, explains the various approaches to a problem, selects one, and then sends the audience on specific missions to solve the problem.

There are different ways to go about it. Clinton is brilliant weaving individual facts into a persuasive whole. He rambles, but is entertaining enough that the audience doesn’t mind. Michelle Obama was skillful in using anecdote to illuminate the character of her husband. Deval Patrick was devastating in exposing the Romney record in Massachusetts using basic economic facts. In each case, there was no question what the title of the speech was:

Clinton: Democratic economics works. Republican economics doesn’t.
Michelle Obama: Barack genuinely cares about people.
Patrick: Romney is a liar.

But what about President Obama? Here are some of the themes:

  • “you will face the clearest choice of any time in a generation”
  • “Ours is a fight to restore [traditional] values [of fairness]”
  • The choice is between tax cuts for the rich or the traditional role of government
  • “it will take … years for us to solve challenges that have built up over decades”
  • “I’m asking you to rally around a set of goals… in manufacturing, energy, education, national security, and the deficit”:
  • increase exports, “control” energy, “investing in wind and solar and clean coal…biofuels…natural gas”…promote education…”cut in half the growth of tuition costs,” “Terrorist plots must be disrupted. Europe’s crisis must be contained” “I will use the money we’re no longer spending on war to pay down our debt and put more people back to work rebuilding roads and bridges and schools and runways”

  • Nowhere is the problem defined as a deficit of jobs, a decline in wages, a national security state that is sucking the life out of the productive base, and exploding healthcare costs. Instead, there are vague statements about exports, energy, education, national security, and the deficit without a proper explanation of how they connect to the actual problems.

    Nowhere are people assigned specific roles. They are supposed to “rally around a set of goals,” but what are they actually supposed to do?

    The strong part of the speech was this:

  • “I refuse to ask middle class families to give up their deductions for owning a home or raising their kids…ask students to pay more for college; or kick children out of Head Start programs, to eliminate health insurance for millions of Americans who are poor, and elderly, or disabled…I will never turn Medicare into a voucher”
  • “…the election four years ago wasn’t about me.It was about you. My fellow citizens, you were the change….. Only you have the power to move us forward.”
  • “If you give up on the idea that your voice can make a difference, then other voices will fill the void”…”If you reject the notion that this nation’s promise is reserved for the few, your voice must be heard in this election. If you reject the notion that our government is forever beholden to the highest bidder, you need to stand up in this election.”
  • “We don’t turn back. We leave no one behind. We pull each other up. We draw strength from our victories, and we learn from our mistakes, but we keep our eyes fixed on that distant horizon, knowing that Providence is with us…”
  • Now, this is reasonably deep. It can be summarized as:

  • I will defend the middle class
  • You, not Washington, is where change will come from
  • You must not be passive
  • We stand in solidarity and do not get discouraged
  • The speech is written inside out. It should begin with these points, defining the values of the speaker and the audience to help mobilize them. It should define the problem(s)/solution(s), something the actual speech never really does. Suppose the actual speech read something like this:

    Our country is consuming more than it produces. This is reflected in stagnant wages and high unemployment, in deficits, and in pressure to cut services, especially healthcare. We can certainly cut wasteful defense spending, rein in the cost of medical care, and generate more energy domestically, but we have to do more. We have to manufacture for export. To do that, we need well-educated workers and a government that promotes good ideas through research and small business loans and grants. We need infrastructure to get workers to jobs and goods to markets.

    Think that might be understood?

    And then there need to be some specific tasks. Talk to people about the obstruction in the Congress and unfilled positions in the courts. Talk to them about the need to counteract wealthy donors with citizen contributions and grassroots activity. Tell them to start challenging the right in letters to the media.

    Obama and his speechwriters, in my opinion, spend a lot too much time on phrases that sound good and a lot too little on mobilizing, educating, and sending the listeners out with clear marching orders. My main complaint against the man is that we thought we were hiring a community organizer. Based on his speeches, we have not.
    Added: I’m not sure that Jay Ackroyd at Eschaton is correct that Obama committed to cutting Social Security benefits. But he certainly said things that would tend to make one nervous. Did trade agreements really increase employment? Was it wise to have worked with Republicans in Congress to cut $1T following the crackup of Simpson-Bowles? What does “strengthen” Social Security mean? And was it a laugh line to say, “we certainly don’t want bailouts for banks that break the rules.”

    One should compare this to Romney’s speech, which went something like this:

    Paul Ryan is “a man with a big heart from a small town.”
    Immigrants came “not just in pursuit of the riches of this world but for the richness of this life.Freedom.Freedom of religion.Freedom to speak their mind.Freedom to build a life.And yes, freedom to build a business.”
    “the majority of Americans now doubt that our children will have a better future”
    Obama promised higher salaries, higher profits, more jobs, and a lower deficit. He failed and your economic anxiety is higher because of it.
    Dad went from being a refugee to being a carpenter to being richer than God.
    I love women and cars and I made it on my own.
    [Obama “took office without the basic qualification that most Americans have [birther dog whistle?] and one that was essential to his task. He had almost no experience working in a business. Jobs to him are about government.”
    I made it on my own starting a business
    Obama is Jimmy Carter
    Forget about the past [i.e., Bush]. We need jobs.
    ” Family income has fallen by $4,000, but health insurance premiums are higher, food prices are higher, utility bills are higher, and gasoline prices have doubled. ”
    “I have a plan to create 12 million new jobs. It has 5 steps….oil and coal and gas and nuclear and renewables…. When it comes to the school your child will attend, every parent should have a choice…forging new trade agreements. And when nations cheat in trade, there will be unmistakable consequences….we will cut the deficit and put America on track to a balanced budget….reducing taxes on business… simplifying and modernizing the regulations that hurt small business the most. …rein in the skyrocketing cost of healthcare by repealing and replacing Obamacare.”
    No taxes. Abortion. War with Iran.
    Glittering generalities about this country will produce American renewal.

    It was about as specific as Obama’s speech. It’s all baloney, of course. Its premise is that we used to be great, so we should go back to what made us great in, say, 1920. Maybe we should try segregation again, Governor? But one has to say: structurally and thematically, Romney’s speech is about as good as Obama’s.

    Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

    Cold Fusion, Mitt? Really?

    Posted by Phoenix Woman on September 7, 2012

    How pathetic is Willard “Mitt” Romney? Even when he’s in front of a decidedly-friendly interviewer (for the conservative online publication, the Washington Examiner), as he was back in December of last year, this man, already a veteran of a previous presidential run, can’t help but show that so much of his claimed expertise is nothing more than talking points he was force-fed hurriedly and failed to digest properly.

    Check out this bit of word salad from the aforementioned interview (h/t to Boing Boing):

    I do believe in basic science. I believe in participating in space. I believe in analysis of new sources of energy. I believe in laboratories, looking at ways to conduct electricity with — with cold fusion, if we can come up with it. It was the University of Utah that solved that. We somehow can’t figure out how to duplicate it.

    Cold fusion, Mitt? Really?

    As scientific fiascoes go, the Pons and Fleischmann cold fusion bubble ranks somewhere near, though not quite as egregious as, the Piltdown Man forgery and Andrew Wakefield’s fraud-filled, egotistical war against lifesaving vaccines. These passages from a review of Gary Taubes’ 1993 book Bad Science: The Short Life and Bad Weird* Times of Cold Fusion sum up the story quite neatly:

    In early 1989, two chemists, Martin Fleischmann and B. Stanley Pons, claimed they had produced nuclear fusion in a laboratory jar. The implications were stunning. If they had harnessed the reaction that powers the sun, the world’s energy problems would be solved.

    The announcement touched off a frenzy in the press and in labs around the world, as scientists tried to replicate the results. But the story–in Taubes’s hands, as suspenseful as a thriller–builds to a stunning denouement largely missed by the press at the time. There had never been real evidence for cold fusion. “Cold fusion…did not exist. It never had,” Taubes concludes. “There was at least as much empirical evidence, if not more, to support the existence of any number of pseudoscientific phenomena, from flying saucers to astrology.”


    At first, they won plaudits in the press and converts among researchers…. But within weeks, as scores of scientists failed to replicate the results, the outlook turned bleak. It took the public longer to catch on. The press largely failed to realize how fast it all unraveled and, Taubes says, didn’t grasp how questionable the actions of Pons and other believers were. Even after reputable scientists had poked gaping holes in the Utah claims, some papers printed glowing reports of continued progress.

    Rather than meet criticism with new evidence, cold fusion’s advocates made fresh claims based on no information or on data that, Taubes documents, were fudged. They refused to divulge methods or measurements, threatened legal action against damning scientific papers, and attacked critics, not on scientific grounds, but for lacking faith.

    Geez, that really does sound like Andrew Wakefield’s antivax cult, doesn’t it?

    *See Stormcrow’s comment below; the Businessweek reviewer got the book’s title wrong.

    Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments »

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