CK MacLeod's

How Now Brown Dow?

Watching the roundtable on Fox… wishful thinking now about the close… or about the state of the economy… as though the recovery from the lows now to around 500 points down is any kind of ground to stand on… as though the vulnerability of the entire rally from the ’09 lows wasn’t exposed regardless of where this closes… then the wishful reminiscences of 1987, as though that story is the same is this story, and as though Greece or even the less widely remarked intimations of the Chinese bubble bursting are the whole story… anything could happen in the last half hour today (including nothing –  but that’s when the biggest bets are usually made, other than sometimes at the open) and turn their entire conversation into just the wasted space it is…

Not much better than this item linked at The Corner today:


In The Know: Situation In Nigeria Seems Pretty Complex

UPDATE: Now they’re trying to blame a “bad print” on P&G for the down-spike… the only thing that’s clear is that at least 50% of whatever anyone said anywhere may be nonsense, unless it’s this statement…

Posted in Economics Tagged with:

Soon to be lapping up on a shore near you…

Just as we were beginning to discuss the political impact of the oil platform disaster, what should show up in my inbox but an e-mail from Gavin Newsom – Mayor of San Francisco, running for lieutenant governor (after having dropped out of the race for the top job)?

Dear CK:

That would be me.

The environmental catastrophe devastating the Gulf of Mexico is a tragic reminder of why we must take a stand against the oil companies and oppose all offshore drilling off California’s precious coast. Together, we have to send a strong message to the interests who want to repeal AB 32, California’s landmark law that fights climate change — they just submitted over 800,000 signatures to qualify a measure for the November ballot. We must act quickly to ensure they don’t roll back this critical law.

Gavin’s gang doesn’t, apparently, have any difficulty tying Climate Change law and environmental protection together. Read more ›

Posted in Politics Tagged with: , , ,

Why is Sarah Palin treating Glenn Beck as though he's normal?

No one much will ever likely care that Sarah Palin endorsed Glenn Beck in a puffy little capsule bio for Time Magazine’s 2010 list of 100 influential people, but I think it was a bad move for her – in what it required of her and and what it seems to say about the direction she’s heading.

Supporters of Palin and fans of Beck – or would it be fans of Palin and supporters of Beck? – will be happy to see them “together,” and enemies of both will be happy, too, if for different reasons. Getting closer to Beck may help Palin and other politicians with a wing of the conservative movement (or Beck’s x-million viewers and listeners), but I don’t see it helping with anyone else – to put it charitably.

For those keeping score on what everyblogger thinks about anything, I won’t pretend neutrality on Beck. Though I felt he played a mostly positive role in 2009, I was dubious of him even then, and am less and less able to approve of his impact on national politics and the national political discussion. In my opinion he gets too much wrong, and gets it wrong in a divisive and offensive, not to mention paranoid and kitschy way. His Christian-themed Fairey-ized Founder posters, for example, are no credit to the subjects, and you would have to be a conservative who despises Barack Obama and all of the Obami already – or just insensitive – not to understand immediately what a cheap, bizarrely combative, and insular gesture it is to use the images as an everyday backdrop: The depictions aren’t innocent, positive celebrations of the Founders: They’re disses of Obama and all of those “cancerous” progressives who are progressing – everyone with me – progressing toward what? The gulags! Concentration camps! Che! VAN JONES IS A COMMUNIST!! Anita Dunn loves Mao! (Play tape excerpt thousandth time.)

Governor Palin describes Beck as “like the high school government teacher so many wish they’d had.” Well, maybe on the surface, on the level of style – you don’t make $30 million+/annum if a lot of people don’t find you congenial – but, if I had a kid at school, and his “government teacher” came on like Glenn Beck, rightwing or leftwing or just plain peculiar, I’d have a problem with that. I’d have a problem with a high school teacher who said, as I heard Beck saying the other day before I had a chance to switch him off after Cavuto, “don’t trust anyone, everything you hear is wrong,” with the inescapable subtext “except for and from me, Glenn Beck.” I think he might have been talking about the Puerto Rico statehood plebiscite bill, which he apparently has some number of his fan-supporters believing is part of the big cancerous progressive plot progressing toward what? The gulags! The concentration camps! Euthanasia! Woodrow Wilson was a RACIST! TIVO my next show!

America, Sarah Palin should not be pretending that Glenn Beck is normal. Maybe you’re a fan or supporter of Glenn Beck with a tolerance for criticism that has allowed you to read this long at least. Maybe, objective sort that you are, you can admit further that GB’s not precisely normal – middle of the road, mainstream – and that someone led to his show by Sarah Palin might begin to wonder about her, or, more likely, have whatever pre-existing doubts about her judgment and where she’s coming from confirmed.

It would be clear to such a someone within a short while that Glenn Beck does not, again quoting Palin, “desire to teach Americans about the history of the progressive movement.” That’s ridiculously bland, a phony whitewash. Glenn Beck wants, as he has said, to destroy the progressive cancer to the last cell, and he insists that politicians (like Paul Ryan) adopt his language.  Beck is not “doing to ‘progressive’ what Ronald Reagan did to ‘liberal’ – explaining that it’s a damaged brand.” Toyota is a damaged brand. No one is running around saying that Toyota is driving us, where?, to the Gulag! Buy Gold! Catch me and Bill O’Reilly live in your town! (For $160/seat.)

Ronald Reagan did “damage” the liberal brand, but he didn’t do it by treating liberalism as sub-human, a lethal disease. He declared the Soviet Union the “evil empire,” not the Democratic Party. Liberals were “our liberal friends,” “our friends on the other side” – and sometimes “our” golfing and drinking buddies, too. Aside from reflecting the fact that Reagan had liberal friends and even a few liberal/progressive notions from time to time, Reagan’s cordiality and openness gave him the political advantage over all those on the left calling him an “extremist” and using other brain-switched-off terms for him.

And those people who don’t bother to ring up Glenn Beck’s red phone? They’re not, as Palin puts it, “self-proclaimed powers that be.” They’re supposed to be the duly elected President of the United States and his administration. I’ve never heard them “proclaim” themselves “powers that be.” If they happen in fact to be the powers that are, they were proclaimed as such by Congress, after the tabulated votes of well over 100 million citizens in 50 states reached Electors, empowered as per Article II, Section 1, Clause 2, and the 12th and 23rd Amendments of the Constitution.

If and when someone replaces our current “powers,” it will, one may hope and expect, be by the same process, and it will very likely require many millions of those same citizens changing their minds. If polls and anecdotes are to be trusted – poll after poll and anecdote after anecdote – a lot of those citizens seem to have doubts about Sarah Palin, in part because they, perhaps wrongly perhaps rightly, consider her a captive and symbol of what Glenn Beck also represents to them.

I’m not arguing that conservatives need to denounce Glenn Beck and all his works – though, given his ratings decline from the commanding heights and his dependence on escalating political melodrama, we might anticipate some truly excessive excess, the hammer of nonsense finally exploding the anvil of desperation for a story, someday requiring one or more rightwing Sister Souljah moments from ambitious politicians, if only to make up for past conspicuous acts of self-interested ring-kissing.  On that day, those who’ve established some healthy separation, in an abundance of good conservative caution, would be less likely to be hit by burning debris, trapped in the flaming pyre, or tumbled over and trod upon by those rushing panickedly for the exits.

In the meantime, America, politicians interested in distinguishing themselves for their clarity of mind, seriousness of purpose, and honesty should be willing to call out Beck, or anyone else, as they really see him.  If they prefer to pander to his crowd and kneel before his mediatized eminence, or if they simply remain non-cognizant of everything that makes Beck Beck, then we’ll be forced to draw a different set of conclusions about their character, their capacities, and their aims.

cross-posted at Zombie Contentions

Posted in Uncategorized Tagged with:

Sarah Palin shouldn’t be pretending Glenn Beck is normal

No one much will ever likely care that Sarah Palin endorsed Glenn Beck in a puffy little capsule bio for Time Magazine’s 2010 list of 100 influential people, but I think it was a bad move for her – in what it required of her and and what it seems to say about the direction she’s heading.

Supporters of Palin and fans of Beck – or would it be fans of Palin and supporters of Beck? – will be happy to see them “together,” and enemies of both will be happy, too, if for different reasons. Getting closer to Beck may help Palin and other politicians with a wing of the conservative movement (or Beck’s x-million viewers and listeners), but I don’t see it helping with anyone else – to put it charitably.

For those keeping score on what everyblogger thinks about anything, I won’t pretend neutrality on Beck. Though I felt he played a mostly positive role in 2009, I was dubious of him even then, and am less and less able to approve of his impact on national politics and the national political discussion. In my opinion he gets too much wrong, and gets it wrong in a divisive and offensive, not to mention paranoid and kitschy way. His Christian-themed Fairey-ized Founder posters, for example, are no credit to the subjects, and you would have to be a conservative who despises Barack Obama and all of the Obami already – or just insensitive – not to understand immediately what a cheap, bizarrely combative, and insular gesture it is to use the images as an everyday backdrop: The depictions aren’t innocent, positive celebrations of the Founders: They’re disses of Obama and all of those “cancerous” progressives who are progressing – everyone with me – progressing toward what? The gulags! Concentration camps! Che! VAN JONES IS A COMMUNIST!! Anita Dunn loves Mao! (Play tape excerpt thousandth time.)

Governor Palin describes Beck as “like the high school government teacher so many wish they’d had.” Read more ›

Posted in Miscellany Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,

CHART OF THE DAY – Heavens to Murgatroyd…

…and Great Caesar’s Ghost!

Better hope we peaked too soon, O-crats!

(O-bot: Too bad you guys peaked too soon...)

Conservative Enthusiasm Surging Compared to Previous Midterms – Gallup.com

Posted in Politics Tagged with: , ,

ADVENTURES IN EPISTEMIC OPENING: Mark Levin vs Jim Manzi on Global Warming

The fancy phrase “epistemic closure” may be a bad one, and not just because it may be too fancy by half, but when Julian Sanchez applied it to the great body of American conservatism, he touched a nerve.  The claim that conservatives are caught in a kind of feedback loop of ideological closed-mindedness was discussed and debated in several high profile blogs – giving every blogger and many a commenter a chance to show off his or her own epistemological infirmities.

Karl at HotAir did a fine job establishing the lack of any empirical basis for judging conservatives unaware of alternative viewpoints and information, but there is and was something else going on here, something not directly susceptible to survey data and a mapping of linking habits and reading lists. It was the scientifically oriented Jim Manzi at NRO/The Corner who drove the discussion furthest, not by either attacking or supporting Sanchez, but by conducting a demonstration, almost in the manner of an experiment. After analyzing a chapter from Mark Levin’s Liberty & Tyranny on global warming, Manzi summed up his verdict with a word that’s easier to process than “epistemically closed,” but that one suspects he wishes he hadn’t used:  “wingnuttery.”

You can see why Levin would feel sand-bagged.  But he might just as well have felt complimented that someone still takes his 2009 bestseller seriously enough to analyze and respond to it, while anyone who’s listened to more than a few minutes of his radio show would need a heart of stone not to laugh at anyone’s hurt feelings on his behalf.  Predictably, Levin’s response post is saturated with derision, just like his radio show, whose motto seems to be “That’s right!  I said it!” Rather than further escalate, Manzi wisely stepped back without giving in, inviting readers to compare the two posts  (Manzi’s, Levin’s) and reach their own conclusions.

Now, this all might seem like a pointless exercise – if fun in a kind of inside conservative baseball way – but such exchanges sometimes lead to unexpected places.  Eventually involving an expanded cast of regular Corner-ites, the proceedings finally inspired Manzi to lay out the basis for a truly conservative response to global warming – one that begins with the intellectual humility that those committed to denial or alarm conspicuously lack.  He eventually linked to an easy to miss post from earlier in the week that he self-deprecatingly referred to as “excruciating” in its detail.  Its conclusion happens to offer a succinct formulation of a potential “grand strategy” on ecological crisis:

We can be confident that humanity will face many difficulties in the upcoming century, as it has in every century. We just don’t know which ones they will be. This implies that the correct grand strategy for meeting them is to maximize total technical capabilities in the context of a market-oriented economy that can integrate highly unstructured information, and, most importantly, to maintain a democratic political culture that can face facts and respond to threats as they develop.

In addition to being constructive and refreshingly “open,” this “grand strategy” offers the key benefit of resilience in the face of tomorrow’s headlines, next year’s hurricane season, the scientific measurements and re-measurements of the next decade, and the considered opinions of eminent men and women who are relatively invulnerable to charges of self-dealing and self-interest.  It might even withstand the eventual resurgence of a global ecology movement that may appear today on the political defensive, but that still commands broad support, and may be revived much sooner and more powerfully than post-Climategate triumphalists on the far right want to believe.

A side-benefit of such a strategy might bear on some disturbing polling numbers that at least deserve a place in the great epistemological ruction of 2010.  For instance:

That’s from a Pew Poll of last July.  Or how about this less widely remarked synthesis of polling results, compiled by Charles Murray (a sometime contributor to the Corner), on ideological affinities among American population groups over time:

These numbers may also help explain the perceived vulnerability of the right to the charge of closed-mindedness.  The only positive thing about the situation for conservatives is that it suggests a growth opportunity: Corrective movement back to near equality would be a tremendous accomplishment, and a major blow to the liberal coalition. Otherwise, a choice before the public that comes down to “the highly intelligent, well-educated, and well-informed” vs. “conservatives” might at best work for an election or two, but you can’t like the looks of it over the longer term.

There may be explanations for such results that go beyond the obvious. Many scientists and intellectuals may be reacting self-interestedly to their own dependency on state support, for instance, and, especially in the wake of Climategate, they face an urgent need to to confront this issue squarely.  Yet it’s still sad to think that this sector of society, representing people whose commitments and ethos are in many ways at least as “conservative” as “liberal,” have been moving to the left for 40 years.  Is it too much to wonder whether continual and habitual assaults on the honesty, intentions, patriotism, and professionalism of scientists and intellectuals, a reflexive readiness to dispute the validity and usefulness of scientific and intellectual inquiry, in short the open adoption of anti-scientific and anti-intellectual attitudes and practices by some conservatives may also have played a role in such dramatic and long-standing trends?

Conservative efforts to alter this situation – American society with its head twisted ever further around at its neck – might begin with the understanding that belief or disbelief in the greenhouse effect, global warming, and other properly scientific matters cannot be a political issue in a free society:  Only how we go about addressing scientific questions can ever be.  There may also be times when no decision is more important to any society than one requiring scientific input.  At that point – at any moment, really – we may need skeptical but non-denialist scientists like Richard Lindzen, and people who can take them at their actual word like Jim Manzi, much more than many conservatives seem to believe – or, under conditions of ideological and emotional closed-mindedness, are capable of admitting or possibly even of conceiving.

And we’ll probably need excitable and entertaining, fiercely dedicated polemicists, too.  That’s right.  I said it.

cross-posted at Zombie Contentions

Posted in Uncategorized Tagged with:

Adventures in Epistemic Opening – Manzi vs Levin and the Fate of Everything

The fancy phrase “epistemic closure” may be a bad one, and not just because it may be too fancy by half, but when Julian Sanchez applied it to the great body of American conservatism, he touched a nerve. The claim that conservatives are caught in a kind of feedback loop of ideological closed-mindedness was discussed and debated in several high profile blogs – giving every blogger and many a commenter a chance to show off his or her own epistemological infirmities.

Karl at HotAir did a fine job establishing the lack of any empirical basis for judging conservatives unaware of alternative viewpoints and information, but there is and was something else going on here, something not directly susceptible to survey data and a mapping of linking habits and reading lists.  It was the scientifically oriented Jim Manzi at NRO/The Corner who drove the discussion furthest, not by either attacking or supporting Sanchez, but by conducting a demonstration, almost in the manner of an experiment. After analyzing a chapter from Mark Levin’s Liberty & Tyranny on global warming, Manzi summed up his verdict with a word that’s easier to process than “epistemically closed,” but that one suspects he wishes he hadn’t used: “wingnuttery.”

You can see why Levin would feel sand-bagged. But he might just as well have felt complimented that someone still takes his 2009 bestseller seriously enough to analyze and respond to it, while anyone who’s listened to more than a few minutes of his radio show would need a heart of stone not to laugh at anyone’s hurt feelings on his behalf. Predictably, Levin’s response post is saturated with derision, just like his radio show, whose motto seems to be “That’s right! I said it!” Rather than further escalate, Manzi wisely stepped back without giving in, inviting readers to compare the two posts (Manzi’s, Levin’s) and reach their own conclusions.

Now, this all might seem like a pointless exercise – if fun in a kind of inside conservative baseball way – but such exchanges sometimes lead to unexpected places. Read more ›

Posted in Politics, Science Tagged with: ,

CONTENTION OF THE DAY – National Poetry Month

Having been alerted by Barbara that April is National Poetry Month, I thank Joe NS  for his extensive offering from T.S. Eliot.  In an e-mail, I criticized him for subjecting us to so much gray space, or functional equivalent thereof, and I recommended that he pare down the selection to an appropriate passage, but I now see that he was merely being public-spirited.   I would therefore like to offer a poetical selection of my own, as a response both to Mr. Eliot and to Mr. NS:

The Latest Freed Man

Tired of the old descriptions of the world,
The latest freed man rose at six and sat
On the edge of his bed. He said,
“I suppose there is
A doctrine to this landscape. Yet, having just
Escaped from the truth, the morning is color and mist,
Which is enough: the moment’s rain and sea,
The moment’s sun (the strong man vaguely seen),
Overtaking the doctrine of this landscape. Of him
And of his works, I am sure. He bathes in the mist
Like a man without a doctrine. The light he gives–
It is how he gives his light. It is how he shines,
Rising upon the doctors in their beds
And on their beds. . . .”
And so the freed man said.
It was how the sun came shining into his room:
To be without a description of to be,
For a moment on rising, at the edge of the bed, to be,
To have the ant of the self changed to an ox
With its organic boomings, to be changed
From a doctor into an ox, before standing up,
To know that the change and that the ox-like struggle
Come from the strength that is the strength of the sun,
Whether it comes directly or from the sun.
It was how he was free. It was how his freedom came.
It was being without description, being an ox.
It was the importance of the trees outdoors,
The freshness of the oak-leaves, not so much
That they were oak-leaves, as the way they looked.
It was everything being more real, himself
At the centre of reality, seeing it.
It was everything bulging and blazing and big in itself,
The blue of the rug, the portrait of Vidal,
Qui fait fi des joliesses banales, the chairs.

Wallace Stevens (1879-1955)

Posted in Culture & Entertainment

Limbaugh over the line

In a Wall Street Journal Op-Ed – Rush Limbaugh: Liberals and the Violence Card – Rush Limbaugh was justifiably fierce in his response to the recent left-liberal anti-Tea Party offensive.  He was particularly scathing in regard to Bill Clinton, who in a recent speech and op-ed left the distinct impression, without ever quite saying so, that Tea Party sentiment equated with incitement to new Timothy McVeighs.  Limbaugh called Clinton’s past indictments of talk radio “slander,” and accused the left of advancing a transparent double standard – exhibiting no discomfort when leftists take to the streets in often violent protest against conservative governments and capitalism, but shrieking like frightened little children when someone from the right dares to speak up.

So far so good.

Yet here’s how Limbaugh closes his op-ed, when singing the praises of the “clear majority of the American people” who, according to him, oppose the “Obama way”:

They are motivated by love. Not hate, not sedition. They love their country and want to save it from those who do not.

How is Limbaugh doing anything categorically different from what he accuses Bill Clinton of doing?  It’s not as though this was an op-ed about foreign policy.  It was all about domestic politics.  So who is supposed to be endangering the country?  Who is it who doesn’t, according to Rush, love the country?

He is leaving the distinct impression, not just coming close to saying but pretty much saying, that the Obama Administration and its supporters do not love the United States of America, and are seeking to destroy it.  The clear implication is that the liberal left are engaging in treason.  They’re not fellow Americans any longer, but enemy invaders.

This isn’t some cherry-picked, decontextualized offhand remark from 15 hours/week of entertaining and engaging live radio.  It’s the conclusion of a written op-ed.  And in a few sentences it defeats Limbaugh’s entire purpose, of putting himself and people like him on a higher, more positive, more grown-up and also more truly American, dissent- and debate-friendly plane than those on the other side.

Posted in Politics Tagged with:

Is our politicians lurning?

The title was an old favorite of Dean Barnett’s (I think I’ve got it right).  The occasion is a post over at Non-Zombie Contentions in which Jonathan Tobin takes a gander at the British Conservatives’ slo-mo political trainwreck.  His summary:

Cameron, a telegenic upper-class swell, believed that Tories who were actually conservatives couldn’t possibly win. So he recast his party to be advocates of global warming alarmism, criticized the closeness of the Labor government to that of George W. Bush (Obama’s disdain for Brits of any political persuasion has taken the juice out of this issue), and proposed an approach to domestic issues based on a communitarian idea of a “Big Society,” which sounds suspiciously similar to Lyndon Johnson’s “Great Society” liberal boondoggles of the 1960s.

Yet far from greasing the skids to victory, trying to be liberal has actually derailed his campaign. A third party, the Liberal Democrats, are further to the Left than Labor on many issues and have in Nick Clegg, a far more focused leader than either Prime Minister Gordon Brown of Labor or the good looking but feckless Cameron. Cameron thought that fudging the differences with Labor would make it easier for him to win.

Tobin clearly hopes that American conservatives will draw the proper lessons, and adopt a bold colors, no pale pastels approach, and I do, too, but I hope that conservatives avoid overdoing it, both for the sake of winning, and eventually for the sake of governing.

Tobin pointedly quotes David Frum’s counsel of late 2008 to emulate Cameron: “The leader you want,” wrote Frum, “is someone who appeals to the voters you need to gain, not the voters you already have”; Frum also urged that Republicans follow “educated and professional voters” to the left.

Frum and Cameron may both have gone too far, but there’s some truth in those observations that we ignore at our peril.  Read more ›

Posted in Politics Tagged with: , , , , ,

State of the Discussion

+ BTW, I recently upgraded some this and that on the back end of the blog, and it does seem to make comments post much faster [. . .]
Gutenberg: The Invention of the Printing Press, the Destruction of WordPress

For WordPress self-hosted people, there is already a "restore legacy editor" plugin, even though Gutenberg hasn't been installed yet as the default.

Gutenberg: The Invention of the Printing Press, the Destruction of WordPress

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