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Lakeshore
An author of no particular popularity

Jay Lake
Date: 2008-10-24 06:02
Subject: [links] Link salad for a Friday morning
Security: Public
Tags:culture, links, personal, politics, reviews, science, stories

More reviews of METAtropolis here, here and here.

Judging in the Apex Halloween Contest is concluded — Congratulatons to all the winners and to everyone who participated.

Review of Feeling Very Strange: The Slipstream Anthology — In which I am (briefly) mentioned in some very good company, though I’m not even in the book.

The exclaves of Lichtenstein — A bit of comic opera cartographic weirdness from one of the world’s smallest countries.

Nobel winner: America is neglecting science — Another thing to thank our conservative friends for. At least we’re teaching the controversy! (Thanks to lt260.)

Study: Coverage of McCain Much More Negative Than That of ObamaThe Washington Post with some countervailing media review. (Thanks to lordofallfools.)

Blame game: GOP forms circular firing squad — Amazing stuff. Complaining about the Democratic cash advantage (first election where I can remember this was true), complaining about Bush (hey, he’s your guy), complaining about not being able to tar Obama effectively enough (every now and truth does leak through). Couldn’t happen to a nicer bunch. Ah, the Permanent Majority.

Greenspan Concedes Error on Regulation — This may turn out to be a very important turning point in the politics of regulation, because as I read this, Greenspan is essentially conceding that market self-regulation doesn’t work. Only a conservative, or someone deeply ignorant of human nature, could be surprised that companies, and their managers, will act in their short-term self-interest over the long-term interests of their own institutions and society as a whole.

Barry Goldwater on the New Right (eg, the modern Republican party) — “The New Right–just like FDR had his New Left–they’re nuts… . They expect from conservatism some things that no political philosophy could or should deliver.” From his 1998 obituary. (Hat tip to Freakonomics.)


10/24/08
Body movement: 30 minutes on stationary bike
Last night’s weigh-out: n/a
This morning’s weigh-in: 228.6
Currently reading: The Best of C.M. Kornbluth

Originally published at jlake.com. You can comment here or there.

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User: dirkcjelli
Date: 2008-10-24 13:14 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Somebody had better exhume Goldwater for the purpose of affixing an axle to his spine for the purposes of electrical generation.
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lordofallfools
User: lordofallfools
Date: 2008-10-24 14:15 (UTC)
Subject: Indictment
Only a conservative, or someone deeply ignorant of human nature, could be surprised that companies, and their managers, will act in their short-term self-interest over the long-term interests of their own institutions and society as a whole.

I have a hard time accepting this as true, Jay.

I think this crisis surprised a great many people, including liberals, and people that know a lot about human nature.

For example-- consider the theory that the globalization of trade led to the shortage of food in some third world countries. Since the 1950s, America's cheap and massive production of wheat and corn drove prices of those commodities so far down across the globe, it was cheaper for the third world to buy American food than to grow it themselves. (Link to a magnificent article by Michael Pollan)

This past year, oil prices skyrocketed, driving the cost of producing corn, wheat, and soybeans (see the article) up; right as the US government started subsidizing corn for ethanol (alternative fuels-- not as cost effective as you might think...); and the cost of transporting those products overseas became prohibitive.

And of course the countries that were used to buying American grain so cheaply found themselves suddenly facing a crisis they simply didn't have the resources to control, because they'd relied on globalization. Their agricultural infrastructure was weak, and their farmers couldn't produce enough food.

Few in the US legislature-- Liberal or Conservative-- warned of this. Pollan makes it very clear-- American food policy since the 1950s has been focused on the short-term, quick, and massive production of easily saleable commodities, which undermined foreign markets, and eventually undermined globalization.

The economic crisis isn't something that can be pinned exclusively on either Democrats or Republicans; there isn't, I'm convinced, an ideological keystone that holds the whole sorry mess together. Clinton's policies, forcing Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to make risky loans, are as to blame as Republican efforts to bolster Wall Street in buying them out.
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Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2008-10-24 14:21 (UTC)
Subject: Re: Indictment
I actually wasn't making that broad a point, or not intending to. I was specifically commenting on the conservative rubric of "market self-regulation", which has been one of the philosophical underpinnings of the wholesale efforts at deregulation across multiple industries. Market self-regulation brought us the Enron mess, the LCTM collapse, the Arthur Andersen collapse and the current financial mess.

I have to disagree with you -- market self-regulation really is an ideological keystone to this. That doesn't mean I think the current market problem is entirely a Republican issue. It's not. But I think it's mighty disingenuous to assert that deregulation, including very specifically the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, isn't a critical component in this mess.

(Also, the "Clinton forced risky loans" angle is a conservative talking point which doesn't align with the data, rhetoric specifically designed to pin this crisis on Democrats. Check it out. Those loans to marginal buyers are significantly outperforming the general lending pool these days in terms of defaults and on time payments.)
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lordofallfools
User: lordofallfools
Date: 2008-10-24 15:19 (UTC)
Subject: Re: Indictment
I think it's mighty disingenuous to assert that deregulation, including very specifically the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, isn't a critical component in this mess.


Who asserted this?

Or are you swinging at conservatives who aren't here?

In any case, check out the votes on the GLBA Link. 3-to-1 in the House, Dems voted yes for the bill; 6-to-1 of Senate Democrats voted yes.

Additionally, Clinton said of the act (in relation to the subprime mortgage crisis):

"I don't see that signing that bill had anything to do with the current crisis. Indeed, one of the things that has helped stabilize the current situation as much as it has is the purchase of Merrill Lynch by Bank of America, which was much smoother than it would have been if I hadn't signed that bill [...] On the Glass-Steagall thing, like I said, if you could demonstrate to me that it was a mistake, I'd be glad to look at the evidence."

Here's a link


the "Clinton forced risky loans" angle is a conservative talking point which doesn't align with the data, rhetoric specifically designed to pin this crisis on Democrats. Check it out. Those loans to marginal buyers are significantly outperforming the general lending pool these days in terms of defaults and on time payments.

Depends on the data and who you're buying it from. Get your hackles down-- you'll note that the 'GOP is a shill for Wall-Street' comment that I made is a liberal talking point designed to pin this crisis on the Republicans.

My point is that neither party is wholly responsible for this mess; and to continue the point further, the American public shares in the blame. No one forced John Doe to take that loan; there was plenty of free advice about the dangers of ARMS, predatory lending; and (at least in Virginia) you HAVE to take a financial management course before receiving a home-loan for the first time.

Many Americans refused to cut their consumerism-- some of their front lawns now sport a nifty 'FORECLOSURE' sign.
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Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2008-10-24 15:36 (UTC)
Subject: Re: Indictment
Who asserted this?

I perhaps mistakenly read that into your prior comment. My apologies for any isreading.

You're absolutely right about shared political responsibility, but I don't think that detracts from my original intended point about misplaced faith in market self-regulation.

Thank you for the links to Clinton's remarks, and to the voting history of GLBA. New data is very useful.

I will offer the observation that most people have no idea in detail what kind of loans they're signing up for, and that consumer finance tends to be characterized by significant asymmetry of information. Ie, I'm a lot more looking at Wall Street, which knew it was a pyramid at some level, than I am at individual borrowers. Especially when you start digging into the role of derivatives, which have nothing to do with individual borrowers at all.
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User: (Anonymous)
Date: 2008-10-24 18:57 (UTC)
Subject: Re: Indictment
Well there's "shared" responsibility and then there's "equal" responsibility, which is not the same thing. If the Rep vs Dem football game was 70 to 28, that's hardly a tie.
That the Reps ARE largely responsible and that the de-regulation (and subsequent profiteering) at the core of this has been a fundamental part of their policy for decades now is blindingly evident. If someone wishes to say Dems were in it too, fine - but not nearly with the numbers or vehemence. The Republicans have wanted to undo the New Deal for decades and now they have partially succeeded....and reminded us all why we needed it in the first place. Some folks just will NOT behave unless made to do so.
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kellymccullough
User: kellymccullough
Date: 2008-10-25 12:36 (UTC)
Subject: Re: Indictment
Just for the record, are you asserting that Clinton is a liberal? While I happily concede that he's a Democrat, he's always been a center right democrat. There aren't a whole lot of true liberals in American government and haven't been for twenty years. The numbers are small enough that characters like Wellstone and Feingold have really stood at out from the crowd. If this really is a realignment election as it's starting to look like, that may well change, but any assertion that liberals have had any major impact on policy over the last 2-3 decades is frankly silly.
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Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2008-10-25 13:19 (UTC)
Subject: Re: Indictment
The conservative (and default discourse) viewpoint on "liberal" seems to be "anyone to the left of me."

There's an embedded assumption in our discourse of conservatism as the natural center of politics.

That's why you rarely if ever see Republicans and conservatives talking about centrists, but you see Democrats and liberals using that term all the time. It's dualism contrasted with nuance.
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kellymccullough
User: kellymccullough
Date: 2008-10-25 13:27 (UTC)
Subject: Re: Indictment
Absolutely and I realize that it's a paradigm that's very difficult to shift, but I still feel the need to strap on my rusty liberal armor and tilt at the windmill from time to time. The funny thing has been watching the ground shift under me over the twenty-five or so years I've been politically aware. During that time I've moved from being considered a moderate Minnesota Democrat to a flaming liberal without ever really shifting my beliefs very much.
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Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2008-10-25 13:28 (UTC)
Subject: Re: Indictment
Like you, my stance has grown far more raging liberal over the years as measured externally, while if anything I've become mildly more conservative from my own viewpoint.

The greatest victory of Ronald Reagan was redefining the center radically to the right.
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Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2008-10-24 14:23 (UTC)
Subject: Re: Indictment
To put it another way, the indictment I was making was directed at ideological blindness, not political responsibility.

We're talking about a political movement which cheerfully dismisses contrasting viewpoints as "reality-based" -- as if that were a bad thing.

Which I suppose it is, if ideological consistency is your highest value.

Edited at 2008-10-24 02:24 pm (UTC)
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lordofallfools
User: lordofallfools
Date: 2008-10-24 15:22 (UTC)
Subject: Re: Indictment
Does the GOP actually use the term "reality-based" to describe their opponents' viewpoints?
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Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2008-10-24 15:30 (UTC)
Subject: Re: Indictment
Do you not remember this?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reality-based_community

It was one of the most startling moments of the Bush administration.

Not a continuing part of GOP talking points, no, because of both the obvious idiocy of the phrasing, and the failure of the viewpoint being espoused at the time, but for me that really was a defining statement.
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lordofallfools
User: lordofallfools
Date: 2008-10-24 15:59 (UTC)
Subject: Re: Indictment
for me that really was a defining statement.

Here's the quote as Ron Suskind wrote it, according to Wikipedia:

The aide said that guys like me were "in what we call the reality-based community," which he defined as people who "believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality." ... "That's not the way the world really works anymore," he continued. "We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors…and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do."

Can you explain what this means to you, and how you justify using it to criticize the GOP?
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Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2008-10-24 16:02 (UTC)
Subject: Re: Indictment
Can you explain what this means to you, and how you justify using it to criticize the GOP?

It's a flat statement that solutions do not emerge from a judicious study of discernible reality.

In other words, the world is not empirical, but driven by faith/ideology/conviction.

On the simple face of it, this is ontological nuttiness. I have to turn the question around. How can you read this as a reasonable statement?
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lordofallfools
User: lordofallfools
Date: 2008-10-24 17:03 (UTC)
Subject: Re: Indictment
It's a flat statement that solutions do not emerge from a judicious study of discernible reality.

In other words, the world is not empirical, but driven by faith/ideology/conviction.


The problem is that you appear to be hearing the aide as this corn-fed, sincere, and utterly loyal Young Gun; and I'm hearing him as a slick and polished, somewhat cynical, utterly literate 30-something power playah.

Can I illustrate with some fiction?

***

Beech took off his shades and grinned at me. "Suskind," he said, "You and your people...you're in what we like to call the reality-based community."

He didn't need to put air-quotes around the words 'reality-based;' I could hear the irony in his voice, gleaming like his teeth.

"Yeah," I said. "We like to call it that, too."

"Sure you do. You sit at your computers-- do they give you computers, or do you still use typewriters?-- Anyway, you sit and watch CNN, or MSNBC and you actually believe that solutions emerge from this-- your judicious study of discernable reality."

Lord. Not another media rant. I let him go on.

"You think you know reality-- you don't. That's not how the world works any longer. We're an empire now, Suskind. America does what it wants, and when we act, we create our own reality. You go ahead, go back to your hotel, and while you're studying that reality and while you're diligently and judiciously studying that reality, BAM!"

He punctuated his sentence with a jab of his finger. "New reality, because we've acted again. We're history's actors-- you lot, all of you-- you're librarians."

***

There's a lot I find troubling in my interpretation of the aide's statement (not the one I made up, but the one Suskind reported). The above shows how I've constructed it in my mind, and why I disagree with your interpretation. The GOP doesn't have a problem with accepting an empirical universe-- it has a problem with arrogance and presumptuousness.
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Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2008-10-24 17:13 (UTC)
Subject: Re: Indictment
Interesting take. I don't even disagree with it, but even (or especially) a power playah knows the impact of their words. And taking the words as quoted, they're fucking nuts. But they're fucking nuts in a way which is very consistent with the observed behavior of the Bush White House and the GOP in general.

(For example, candidate Bush in the 2000 election season, wanted to cut taxes because the economy was good. President Bush in 2001 wanted to cut taxes because the economy was struggling. That's not empirical reasoning, that's reasoning from conviction. Would you go to a doctor who always treated you with penicillin, even if you had a broken bone?)

One of the reasons I rail against religion in politics is that sort of absolutist certitude that can arise from religious conviction, combined with the notion that one's opposition is literally sinful for not sharing one's convictions, is just fucking poisonous to the compromising realities of politics and governing. And while there are certainly true believers in all political walks of life, that perspective is endemic in GOP. That perspective is also consistent with the Bush aide's quote.
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lordofallfools
User: lordofallfools
Date: 2008-10-24 17:29 (UTC)
Subject: Re: Indictment
One of the reasons I rail against religion in politics is that sort of absolutist certitude that can arise from religious conviction, combined with the notion that one's opposition is literally sinful for not sharing one's convictions, is just fucking poisonous to the compromising realities of politics and governing.

I won't argue with you about the difficult nature of combining morality and a representative democracy. Vaclav Havel's 'The Art of the Impossible' is a brilliant collection of essays touching quite a bit on this very subject. I recommend it highly.
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A large duck
User: burger_eater
Date: 2008-10-24 17:11 (UTC)
Subject: Re: Indictment
The economic crisis isn't something that can be pinned exclusively on either Democrats or Republicans; there isn't, I'm convinced, an ideological keystone that holds the whole sorry mess together.

No, it can't be blamed on either party. Both sides of the aisle voted against regulating credit default swaps.

The problem lies in the basic Randian idea that capitalists will regulate themselves for the good of their companies and by extension the good of the economy as a whole. That policy optimal, unless you favor huge bust cycles, which some do.

Deregulation is a meme that's been very popular for the past few decades. Even the most ardent proponents of it, like Alan Greenspan, are admitting that it doesn't work and we need to do something smarter.

Clinton's policies, forcing Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to make risky loans, are as to blame as Republican efforts to bolster Wall Street in buying them out.

You might find this link helpful in explaining why Fannie and Freddie are *not* major players in this financial mess. I did.
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Elf M. Sternberg
User: elfs
Date: 2008-10-24 15:35 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Here's another fun thing for you, Jay. Having morally bankrupted themselves fighting "Darwinism," The Discovery Institute is going after neuroscience next, attempting to revive Cartesian dualism, and proclaiming that in ten years a "non-materialist neuroscience will be the dominant paradigm."
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