Quote of the Day
In which I write down all those musings of which the world has been horribly deprived until this moment. (Progressive Politics, Liberal Religion, Sex, and the occasional abnormality that bubbles forth from goodness knows where.)
The United States of America in one short scene, from Politico:
MILITARY OFFICERS TOUR JPMORGAN -- JPMorgan Chase yesterday hosted about 30 active duty military officers (across all branches and agencies) from the Marine Corps War College in Quantico, Va. The officers met with senior executives, toured the trading floor and participated in a trading simulation. They discussed recruitment, operations management, strategic communications and the economy. Aside from employees thanking them for their service as they passed by, they also received a standing ovation on the trading floor. Said one officer after a senior JPM exec thanked him for his service: "We promise to keep you safe if you keep this country strong."You can sleep tight knowing that JPMorgan Chase is keeping your nation strong, and that military officers view JPMorgan Chase as guardians of the nation's strength.
I don't know how anyone who cares about the integrity and moral standing of the United States can absorb the full details of this case and not be profoundly ashamed. To prosecute a child soldier, already nearly killed in battle, tortured and abused in custody, and to imprison him for this length of time and even now, convict him of charges for which there is next to no proof but his own coerced confessions ... well, words fail.The thing that no one seems to be discussing is: how is attacking an American soldier on a battlefield while you are being bombed and shot at by Americans a crime? We didn't prosecute individual soldiers in World War II just for battling and killing Americans. We treated them as prisoners of war. Now Omar Khadr was not part of any regular army. But is what he did different? If Al Qaeda captured an American operative and treated that operative the way we treated Khadr, wouldn't we be outraged? Wouldn't we point to his torture and farcical legal treatment as an example of the barbarity of the enemy?
The whole piece is really good.The streets are like any other world--we all assume an armor, a garment to suit that world. And indeed, in every world, some people wear the armor better than others, and thus reap considerable social reward. In the main, it's been easy for me to discard the armor of West Baltimore, because I wore it so poorly. I was never, as they say, truly built for the streets. And still, even I struggled to take it off. But I know others who were masters. (My own brother, for instance.) Inducing them, and those in between, to change class, to trade their plate for robes, to trade the broad-sword for a spell-book, is the real work.
...It's such a big disconnect [...] the way that people make movies think about what we do in Silicon Valley - building stuff - [...] they just can't wrap their head around the idea that someone might build something because they like building things.I think this is true: I think ambitious nerds are ambitious nerds because they are nerdy and ambitious, not because they got dumped. We all like a love story, but some stories aren't love stories. Like Lord of the Rings. That ain't a love story. And I found it annoying when a love story was shoe-horned in there.
[Bernanke] also mentions the possibility of the Fed providing additional communication on its plans to influence expectations.OK, let me get this straight: The Fed Chair mentions that it is possible the Fed might provide some communication on what it is planning to do to influence events? No, that would be too direct! The plan that it is possible they might provide some communication about would only be to influence people's expectations about events.
The recession isn't over; it's killing us. What's worse is that it appears to me that the American Dream isn't just, as punk rocker Ben Weasel put it, "an ugly fucking lie." The American Dream is nonexistent. When I see those who contribute nothing to society getting further and further ahead while my parents, whom I have seen work their asses off my whole life, drift further and further behind, I find that belief in the American Dream is like a belief in Santa Claus – a story told to kids to keep them in line.But as Margaret says at the end of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, we can make that lie come true. Indeed, one could define progressivism as a political effort to reduce the bullshit to truth ratio of the American Dream. I would say the story of America is the story of a nation struggling to live up to its own noble rhetoric. Right now, I'd say our political class is failing us in trying to make this vision of broad and increasing prosperity real. Unemployment is very high, and I do not see Congress, the Federal Reserve, or anyone in the private sector responding adequately to the size and scope of the problem.
Since Dec. 4, 2009, Google has been personalized for everyone. So when I had two friends this spring Google "BP," one of them got a set of links that was about investment opportunities in BP. The other one got information about the oil spill. Presumably that was based on the kinds of searches that they had done in the past. If you have Google doing that, and you have Yahoo doing that, and you have Facebook doing that, and you have all of the top sites on the Web customizing themselves to you, then your information environment starts to look very different from anyone else's. And that's what I'm calling the "filter bubble": that personal ecosystem of information that's been catered by these algorithms to who they think you are.
As a classical music lover, I’d like to believe that my favourite music has some kind of magical effect on people – that it soothes the savage breast in some unique way. I’d like to think that classical music somehow inspires nobler aspirations in the mind of the purse-snatcher, causing him to abandon his line of work for something more upstanding and socially beneficial.
But I know better. The hard, cold truth is that classical music in public places is often deliberately intended to make certain kinds of people feel unwelcome. Its use has been described as “musical bug spray,” and as the “weaponization” of classical music.Am I a very bad person for being fine with this? After all, numerous bars and trendy stores directed at young people play music that's designed to keep old fogies like me out. Whenever I walk by an Abercrombie & Fitch, I feel like the music is basically telling me: "Fuck off, old timer." The world is full of musical bug spray directed at me. So I don't see why I can't have little islands of beauty, tunefulness, and structure scattered throughout our geography.
Whenever I read reports about US government officials being frustrated by Pakistan’s cooperation in fighting militant groups, I always wonder what it is policymakers are expecting will happen. Our current policy, after all, is to give the Pakistani military a lot of aid that’s predicated on the existence of an Islamist militant threat. If the threat went away, the aid would probably dry up and even if it didn’t dry up it would be redirected away from military matters—we wouldn’t be interested in explicitly funding an arms race with India.
When the Pakistanis give us a desultory effort it seems to me that we’re just getting what we paid for.
For outrageous as it is that there are black students who attend a Nathan Bedford Forrest High School, the simple fact is that it pales in comparison to the other things African Americans in the South have had to worry about. Jacksonville, Florida, where that high school is located, for instance, has a double-digit poverty rate, a double-digit unemployment rate, and a fairly high murder rate, all of which disproportionately affect the city’s black population. Confederate-worship is annoying, but outrage falls pretty low on the hierarchy of needs, all things considered.
I would also add that African Americans simply don’t have the social capital to make people care about bigotry against them. Outside of high-profile incidents or blatant cases of racism, there aren't many people concerned with ubiquitous Confederate veneration. Indeed, it doesn’t even come across as obviously wrong in the way that a Nazi flag would. Put another way, this country has made an effort to forget its racial sins, and African Americans don’t have the social power necessary to challenge it, or stop the Confederate mythologizing of (some) Southern whites.Whoa. That's pretty damn bleak. But it rings true to me.
According to the Federal Reserve Board's self-published guide to the Federal Reserve, the first duty of the central bank is "conducting the nation’s monetary policy by influencing the monetary and credit conditions in the economy in pursuit of maximum employment, stable prices, and moderate long-term interest rates." This morning, I was watching a panel at the America's Fiscal Choices conference that included economists Paul Krugman and Martin Feldstein. Krugman proposed some kind of new Fed action to bolster the job market, and Feldstein replied that the idea would never fly, explaining that "within the Fed, they'd say that 'we don't do unemployment, we do price stability.'"
It's not that Feldstein is wrong in assessing the response of Fed officials to demands for a more aggressive monetary policy -- that's the answer we've been hearing from the Fed for the past six months. The problem is that right now prominent economists and the Federal Reserve board blithely recognize that a rather substantial chunk of the central bank's congressionally assigned mission is simply ignored.Democratic presidents need to get out of the habit of appointing Fed chairs who don't seem to care about maintaining high employment. The Federal Reserve is extremely important, and appointing Republicans like Greenspan and Bernanke to chair it is at least as damaging to progressive causes as appointing a right-wing Supreme Court judge.
In a long-anticipated ruling last week, the FCC adopted a regulation (PDF) that could dramatically improve our wireless devices. The rule offered a brand new and much-improved slice of the radio space for unlicensed use. The new frequencies are known as "white spaces"—the waves that were freed up when TV channels switched from analog to digital transmission last year—and unlike the garbage band, they're considered prime real estate. Radio waves on white-space frequencies can travel for miles, they're much better at penetrating walls and buildings, and they're capable of carrying lots of data.
Tech observers say the new rules will lead to a new class of wireless devices known as "Super Wi-Fi." These new routers will be able to broadcast over very large areas—you could use a single device to bring Internet connections to an entire university campus, apartment building, or hospital. Anyone who's ever fiddled with a balky router will welcome these new devices.