Archive for April, 2013

Weekly Trawl

Meanwhile, up in the tokey mountains...

In a Denver hotel.

I spent most of last week away from the keyboard, between band rehearsals and the gig last night, visiting my parents and niece, jobhunting and various other shenanigans. There’s been a lot happening in the world, and a chunk of it is relevant to my long-form series that’s still on-going (hence today’s illustration). I read a lot of things but haven’t had time to do any writing, so I need to get back on track. To that end I’m going to dump a brief cull of the most interesting stuff I saw go past while I was away from the keyboard.

1. Popery
Andrew Sullivan is still keeping a very close eye on Pope Francis. I have relatively little to add to Sully’s analysis so far; certainly, what I expected from the early reports doesn’t seem to be the way this Pope is going to swing. I doubt the Vatican Rag is going to be adopted into the liturgy any time soon, but in an institution so weighed down with symbols and subtext, Pope Francis is certainly sending signals that he’s going to be interesting to watch.

2. Austerians and other plagues.
Quite a bit of interesting economic stuff, with several entries from Prof. Krugman. From column a, we start with the news that the EU is actually managing this economic crisis worse than its interwar counter-parts did. The Prof catches John Boehner lying about Lincoln. He remarks once again that trickle-down isn’t, and there’s this excellent NYT Op-ed on California. Krugman is, particularly for him, quite subtle in this one, but if you were paying attention to the 112th Congress you cannot miss implications for Washington.

In other news, the Angry Bear is speaking of inequality and Mike Konczal at WaPo is thinking about the problems with rentiers. And Vinay Gupta is back in the saddle, with this rather interesting look at how to think outside the capitalist / communist dichotomy.

3. Freedom & Liberty: one of these things is not like the other.
Matt Yglesias notes, via the Mercatus Foundation’s interesting worldview, that US libertarianism has some joined-up thinking problems. Examining the prejudices embedded in their system for analysing the comparative ‘free’-ness of various US states, Yglesias notes several points of friction:

Some of the problem here arise from arbitrary weighting of different categories in order to simultaneously preserve libertarianism as a distinct brand and also preserve libertarianism’s strong alliance with social conservatism. Consequently, a gay man’s freedom to marry the love of his life is given some weight in the rankings but less than his right to purchase a gun with minimal hassle. A woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy or a doctor’s right to offer a pregnant woman treatment she considers appropriate are given zero weight. You might think at first that abortion rights are given zero weight for metaphysical reasons rather than reasons of cultural politics, but it turns out that permissive homeschooling laws are given weight as a factor in freedom. Children, in other words, are considered fully autonomous agents whose rights the state must safeguard vis-a-vis their own parents from birth until conception at which point they lose autonomy until graduation from high school.

Texas is deemed very economically free in most respects but it’s dinged for the fact that its local governments have relatively high levels of debt. What on earth does that have to do with freedom? This is simply a policy choice. Arguably, a correct policy choice. […] no normal person’s experience of freedom tracks the conclusion that New York is less free than South Dakota. You can, obviously, do a much wider range of things in New York than in South Dakota.

4. Grand Ornery Party
Andrew Kohut of Pew has an excellent (longish!) WaPo opinion piece on epistemic closure and the numbers which suggest that the culture warriors of the TEA-Party are losing. Now, I’m not one of those who thinks the GOP is about to go away, or that the bigots and billionaires they work for are not going to find representation somehow. Ezra Klein has a succinct rebuttal of the more hysterical viewpoints. But it does look, and increasingly so, like the mortal lock the religious right has had on the GOP primary process since the Gingrich revolution may be doing the party some structural, as well cyclic, damage.

5. And Finally…
That ball does just keep on rolling. In just the last few weeks…

On the medical front, we’ve got news that’s particularly interesting to me about the cannabinol which is good for your guts, and more evidence that Big Pharma and their governmental prohibitionist allies are starting to scramble a bit.

We’ve got a law blog armed with infographics. The progressive lobby now have their own SuperPAC. Maine wants to legalize, following Washington and Colorado last year. Rhode Island’s decriminalisation takes effect today (and the choice of date indicates someone over there has a sense of humour); and Vermont are talking about following suit. And all of this is just the recent developments inside the USA.

While mindful of Jonathan Bernstein’s second-favourite caveat, this looks suspiciously like momentum. And as the activists who’ve been hammering on the Bible Belt’s brick intellects for twenty years over SSM can tell you, when momentum turns into progress it can take you by surprise.


April 2013
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Per Argument Ad Astra

Politics, history, economics and rampant speculation from a victim of the Great Recession, currently at large in the West Midlands.

"When the regulation, therefore, is in favour of the workmen, it is always just and equitable; but it is sometimes otherwise when in favour of the masters."
                -- Adam Smith