Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Word of the Week

Sousveillance: The practice of democratized observation and recording of those in power. Antonym of surveillance.

Gene Healy on the Peril of Great Presidential Expectations

“If we’re unhappy with the presidency we’ve got, [political scientist Theodore J. Lowi] suggests, we have ourselves to blame. The office as we know it is largely the creature of public demands. And like the transformed presidential role it reflects, the exultant rhetoric of the modern presidency is as much curse as blessing. It raises expectations for the office– expectations that were extraordinarily high to begin with. A man who trumpets his ability to protect Americans from economic dislocation, to shield them from physical harm and moral decay, and to lead them to national glory– such a man is bound to disappoint. Yet, having promised much, he’ll seek the power to deliver on his promises.” – Gene Healy, The Cult of the Presidency

Glenn Greenwald on Chinese Network Gear and Competitive Surveillance

“Warning the world about Chinese surveillance could have been one of the motives behind the US government’s claims that Chinese devices cannot be trusted. But an equally important motive seems to have been preventing Chinese devices from supplanting American-made ones, which would have limited the NSA’s own reach. In other words, Chinese routers and servers represent not only economic competition, but also surveillance competition: when someone buys a Chinese device instead of an American one, the NSA loses a crucial means of spying on a great many communication activities.” – Glenn Greenwald, No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the U. S. Surveillance State

The Sliding Scale of Strategy vs. Tactics

“Napoleon made the point when discussing the outcome of actions between his own cavalry and the Mameluke horsemen of Asia Minor. These horsemen were so good that two of them would defeat three of his cavalrymen in a minor skirmish. But in a major battle, 1,000 of his cavalry would defeat 1,500 Mamelukes. On the small scale, horsemanship was the predominant factor, but on the large scale victory would be won by the controlled and disciplined application of force. Wellington made much the same point regarding actions between his cavalry and their French opponents.

On both scales of operation skilled horsemanship and cooperative action were ingredient factors, but the balance of importance between them changed with scale. Similarly, in intelligence personal skill may be the paramount factor on the small scale, but the ability to coordinate the skills of many individuals may be predominant in large-scale operations.” – RV Jones

As quoted by the mighty Grugq.

Thought Experiment for Open Immigration Opponents

Bryan Caplan posits an interesting thought experiment for immigration opponents. Like any good thought experiment, I think this one is effective because it’s a clear, succinct analogy and any honest disagreement is likely to come from arguing that the analogy itself is flawed.

This is ideal because the flaws one identifies in the analogy are likely to be the critical features that one considers important in the immigration debate, and so can be revealing about what, exactly, one’s motivations are. This is why thought experiments are particularly useful in ethics. Ethical inquiry has never really been about involuntary organ donation or pushing fat guys in front of trains, but rather about figuring out what the necessary elements are for an act to be ethically permissible.

So I encourage you to read Caplan’s argument and, as he says, “show your work”. In what specific ways are wage-based eugenics different from restricting immigration of the impoverished and/or unskilled?

“The reason for which humans have failed to develop a finely built social process assuring continuity and steady quality in leadership is probably that they did not have to. Most human societies are marked by the existence of a surplus above subsistence. The counterpart of this surplus is society’s ability to take considerable deterioration in its stride. A lower level of performance, which would mean disaster for baboons, merely causes discomfort, at least initially, to humans.

The wide latitude human societies have for deterioration is the inevitable counterpart of man’s increasing productivity and control over his environment. Occasional decline as well as prolonged mediocrity–in relation to achievable performance levels–must be counted among the many penalties of progress. A priori it would seem futile, therefore, to look for social arrangements that would wholly eliminate any sort of deterioration of polities and of their various constituent entities. Because of the surplus and the resulting latitude, any homeostatic controls with which human societies might be equipped are bound to be rough.” – Albert O Hirschman, Exit, Voice, and Loyalty

Thank You, Lord

“I have never made but one prayer to God, a very short one: ‘O Lord make my enemies ridiculous.’ And God granted it.” – Voltaire

There’s been a couple of recent protests here in Seattle targeting corporate transit buses. First a couple of masked “anarchists” blocked a Microsoft shuttle bus. The next day, the same masked protesters blocked what they apparently thought was an Amazon shuttle, failing to realize that Amazon doesn’t provide shuttles and that they were actually blocking a municipal street car.

In both instances the self-important oiks saw saw fit to distribute pamphlets they’d written for the occasion. Contra Microsoft. Contra Amazon.

Rigorous, logical argumentation, to be sure, with beautiful prosody sure to stir the revolutionary soul. If this is what passes for anti-corporate agitation these days, I reckon the corporations have nothing to worry about.

A word to the earnest young progressive agitators: This is Seattle. When you’ve lost the Stranger, you’ve lost the fight.


Disclosure Notice

William Pitt on Anglosphere Liberty

“The poorest man may in his cottage bid defiance to all the forces of the Crown. It may be frail, its roof may shake, the wind may blow through it, the storm may enter, the rain may enter; but the King of England cannot enter; all his force dare not cross the threshold of the ruined tenement.” – William Pitt the Elder, 1763

I ran across this quote while reading Daniel Hannan’s book Inventing Freedom. The book has been extremely interesting, especially for its focus on the Anglosphere as a coherent cultural and political body. He focuses on the factors that make the Anglosphere countries alike, draws out the history of those unique qualities, and offsets them against continental Europe and other cultures to draw a compelling picture of a unified Anglophone history and way of life.

I definitely recommend the book to history and politics buffs alike (Hannan, being a British MEP, has a definite political position, but it’s well supported by the evidence provided and doesn’t come across as polemical). It’s an interesting history and a fair presentation of a perspective that doesn’t get much airing these days.

East Anglia and the Revolution

Those who had settled New England came largely from Eastern counties of England. They built their houses in the East Anglian style, and named their towns after their ancestral homes: Hertford and Cambridge, Boston and Billerica. The English counties that they left behind became the heartland of the Parliamentary cause in the 1640s, Cromwell’s Eastern Association.

When the fighting started in England, the New England Puritans began streaming back across the Atlantic to take up arms alongside their cousins. A majority of Harvard graduates in the year 1642 saw action with the Roundheads.

This quote, from Daniel Hannan’s The New Road to Serfdom makes complete sense to me. I lived in East Anglia for a while in 2005, and one thing that struck me is just how similar the native cultural intuitions seemed. (Even to the point that the stereotypes used to tar the East Anglians were strikingly similar to those employed against Americans at times, but that’s perhaps a separate post.) There is a particular strain of populist, libertarian DNA that ties Robert Kett and his followers to the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street. Those of us who fancy ourselves as occupying some Legrangian point between the two modern American extremes might profit from examining the individualistic, voluntary foundation that Hannan identifies in common between parliamentarian Britain and (little-r) republican America.

QotD from Daniel Hannan’s The New Road to Serfdom

A few months ago, I found myself addressing the Republican committee of a rural county in a southern state. Its members looked much as I had expected members of the Republican committee of a rural county in a southern state to look: rugged and sunburned. During the question and answer session, I was asked why the GOP, having dominated late twentieth-century politics, was faring so badly.

I replied that, as far as I could see, one of the party’s most serious mistakes had been its retreat from localism. The Republicans started winning in the 1960s when they embraced states’ rights and the devolution of power. They started losing forty years later when they abandoned these principles. The audience growled its approval and son, perhaps incautiously, I began to list the areas where the Bush administration had wrongly extended ventral power, ranging from the rise in federal spending to the attempt to strike down state laws on same-sex unions. When I mentioned same-sex unions, a rustle went through the room, and I winced inwardly: This, I thought, was perhaps not the wisest example to have offered the Republican committee of a rural county in a southern state.

Sure enough after I had finished, a man with a beard and a red baseball cap sauntered up to me.

“Son,” he said, “Ah ‘preciate you comin’, an’ Ah ‘greed with most of wut you said/ But Ah must disagree with your position on so-called homosexual marriage.”

He paused to hitch his jeans up his great belly, looking into the middle distance.

“Far as Ah kin see, not bein’ under any pressue to git married is one of the main advantages Ah enjoy as a gay man.”

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1.) Carry out your own dead.
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