Arthur C. Brooks is a conservative who really understands Adam Smith

Adam Smith

Web Extra: The Conscience of a Compassionate Conservative
[Via BillMoyers.com]

This week on the show, Bill spoke with the president of the conservative American Enterprise Institute, Arthur C. Brooks. Their conversation was so interesting that they kept talking, and we kept our cameras rolling after the broadcast interview ended. In this web extra, the two talk about the failures of capitalism, who is to blame for the 2008 financial crash, food stamps and a whole lot more.

 

BILL MOYERS: You once wrote, that you shouldn’t talk about the poor unless you’ve been out among them and listened to them before you listen to experts at Brookings or AEI. And I’ve done that as a journalist.

And capitalism is not getting down to them.

ARTHUR C. BROOKS: That’s true. It’s absolutely right–

BILL MOYERS: Capitalism is not getting down–

ARTHUR C. BROOKS: It’s absolutely right. And that’s why we all need to be hawks for the free enterprise system.

And until we’re warriors for opportunity, pushed all the way down to the bottom, until we understand that entrepreneurship exists as a moral force for poor people, for my grandparents and yours, unless we understand that then we’ve repudiated the promise of our founders.

BILL MOYERS: Did you read the book “Winner-Take-All Politics” by the political scientist Jacob Hacker and–

ARTHUR C. BROOKS: Yes.

BILL MOYERS: Paul Pierson?

ARTHUR C. BROOKS: Yeah.

BILL MOYERS: They describe how Washington made the rich richer and turned its back on the middle class. They showed clearly to me how our political system, which once served the interest of the middle class, has been hijacked by the very rich.

That the great explosion of wealth inequality which preceded Barack Obama, of course, was politically engineered in Washington by decisions taken under both parties, in both parties, by the people who make policy, in response to the powerful interests. Have you seen that playing out since you got to Washington?

ARTHUR C. BROOKS: Yes, sure. Absolutely. Look in the increasingly bureaucratized social democratic state that we’re building. You have greater levels of intricacy and complication. You have an explosion of statist ideas in Washington, D.C.

And what this is effectively is, metaphorically that’s a trough. And who comes to the trough? It’s people who feed there. And people who feed there are the sophisticated, they’re the wealthy, they’re the people who are well connected. We have an explosion of cronyism because it’s the illegitimate spouse of statism. If you want to get rid of cronyism that creates as winner-take-all politics, if you want a true democratic polity, you have to take away the pervasive statism that creates all of these incentives.

You know, the interesting thing is that the two populist movements that we saw over the past five years were the Tea Party and Occupy. They were both right. I mean the Tea Party talked about statism and Occupy talked about privilege and crony capitalism largely. I mean they– all of their solutions were wrong. You know, the problem with, you know, excesses of capitalism isn’t getting rid of capitalism. You need true free enterprise. That’s actually the solution to it, which is a highly populist thing to do.

So what’s happened effectively is– not for any ill intention. No. We have public policymakers, we have a president who loves his country. We have a Congress that’s gotten together and said, “What can we do to solve some of these terrible problems?” They’ve expanded the state. They’ve created greater complexity. And who has showed up to reap the rewards of that? It’s the most well connected citizens and corporations. And it’s left poor people, it’s left small entrepreneurs, it’s left ordinary citizens behind.

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This was a real discussion, something that needs to be seen much more. They talk about where their views overlap and what underlies the problems/ I may not agree with everything but I can see where he is coming from and he is mostly correct.

That said, imagine if on the conservative side we have an examination of conscience where every night before we go to sleep we say, “Did all of my work go for the benefit of people with less power than me?” Then that could be a profoundly moral movement. I bet it’s one that even you could get behind.

I think that if you and I band together with all of our friends on the right and left, and we demand this collective examination of conscience, then we truly can have a better politics where we’re fighting in the competition of ideas specifically to help those who are the least advantaged.

If most of America could come together like these two, recognize the problems and come up with mutually useful solutions, much of our current problems would be fixed. Those in power recognize this and have worked so hard to keep the American people divided.

We have an explosion of cronyism because it’s the illegitimate spouse of statism. If you want to get rid of cronyism that creates as winner-take-all politics, if you want a true democratic polity, you have to take away the pervasive statism that creates all of these incentives.

You know, the interesting thing is that the two populist movements that we saw over the past five years were the Tea Party and Occupy. They were both right. I mean the Tea Party talked about statism and Occupy talked about privilege and crony capitalism largely. I mean they– all of their solutions were wrong. You know, the problem with, you know, excesses of capitalism isn’t getting rid of capitalism. You need true free enterprise. That’s actually the solution to it, which is a highly populist thing to do.

The statists, the reactionaries, are found in both parties, just as we find authoritarians. The Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street saw the right problems. But as he discusses, the solutions of both were wrong. The solution to the excesses of government isn’t getting rid of the government. You need a truly democratic one, truly beholden to the people, not to the connected, wealthy elite. Government is important and necessary. And capitalism is important and necessary.

He believes in government but recognizes it needs to be firmly controlled so that it does not become a feeding trough for the wealthy and connected, as we see today.

I will have to remember the name. He hits so many of the same points I feel.

The moral code of our free-enterprise system is neither profits nor efficiency. It is quote, “creating opportunity for individuals who need it most.” 

That could have come directly out of The Wealth of Nations. The creator of capitalism felt that empathy and sympathy would be driving the moral code of capitalism.

As Brooks notes, this is not happening today.

Opportunity does not mean food stamps. I believe in food stamps. I believe in them. I believe in the safety net. But it’s not the same thing. Why do we forget that entrepreneurship is not earning a billion dollars, it’s the dignity to live your life as an individual, to build your life up yourself. And why do we talk about dead-end jobs as opposed to making all jobs pay, and remembering that all work is dignified.

[…]

The problem that we have is that we’re actually not practicing capitalism. The problem is that the free-enterprise system is not allowed to flourish.

The main thing I disagree with him is that government was mostly at fault first. It’s a symbiotic one, a degraded collaboration between sociopaths. Running race to the bottom with little regard for the ability of people to have a living wage, much less any dignity.

He is absolutely right here – government is a problem but it comes down to people:

And I will not defend corporate governance. Because people– it does not matter how bad the incentives are and how corrupt the government is and how big and corpulent and immune to good ideas and morality the government is. We still as individuals, no matter what we do, we have a responsibility to not do dangerous things and to be stewards of both a good culture and the resources at hand.

Presidential control only exists in hindsight

 The Peace Hat, FDR (WWll) and Fala, Too!

New NYT: Obama and the myth of presidential control
[Via Brendan Nyhan]

From my new Upshot column:

One of the most common criticisms of presidents – especially struggling ones during their second term – is that they have lost control of events.

This charge, which has been leveled at chief executives such as Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, has become a mantra lately in coverage of President Obama, who faces a stalled legislative agenda and crises in Ukraine, Gaza and at the border with Mexico.

What happened? One frequent explanation from pundits and journalists is that Mr. Obama has “little control” and is instead being “driven” or “buffeted” by events.

This notion pervades commentary and debate on the presidency.

[More]

I would tend to agree with this. We put too much focus on the President as though he was some sort of monarch. It is not true when things are happening. Hindsight lets us believe the President  was in charge of some things when he often was not.

FDR only got control of WW2 after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. He tried all sorts of things to move us closer to joining the war before but was unable to accomplish our entry simply by himself.

Kennedy succeeded with the Cuban Missile crisis not purely with a direct show of military might (we had plans to wipe out the military bases almost overnight). He was vastly supported by the soft power of Adlai Stevenson’s private presentation and the United Nation’s secret negotiations.

Reagan only needed to say “Tear down this wall”. The people in Germany made it happen, but probably not because Reagan had any direct control. That is the soft power of a President.

It is often the indirect actions, sometimes in secret, of a President, not the ones he takes direct control of, that have the greatest impact.

During an administration, we often bemoan the inability of the President to do anything. But we only seem to recognize what a President “does’” twenty years later.

Few have the ability to see it at the time.

The premises may be incorrect but I agree with most of the conclusions

Pericles 

There Will Be No Smooth Sailing
[Via Booman Tribune]

In the next couple of decades, America is going to have to grapple with two major changes. The first is that there are going to be new first-world powers, like China, Brazil and India, that we will have to reckon with. The West will not be driving things the way we have been accustomed to since the end of World War Two.

The second is that the American electorate is going to be more diverse and left-leaning, more like Europe.

In both cases, Hillary Clinton seems ill-suited to be our leader. The future is more Bill de Blasio than Andrew Cuomo, and the Clintons probably don’t get that. Still, Andrew Sullivan’s dripping contempt of the Clintons is irritating. He opposes them for all the wrong reasons and none of the right ones.

While I think the Clintons are a bit “out of time,” I don’t necessarily think this is a terrible thing for a country that is going to have some serious difficulties adjusting to new realities. Clinton could serve as a bit of a buffer, allowing the country to adjust to the changed world in way that doesn’t put too much shock into the system.

We should not underestimate the threat that the reactionary rebellion against change represents in this country. They are on the verge of defeat, they know it, and they aren’t going to take it lying down.

[More]

I have not disagreed with a post I agree with quite this much in a long time.

I do not think that we will have to worry about the BRIC countries quite as much as others. In a battle between diverse, distributed bottom up approaches and single-minded, authoritarian, top down ones, no country in history can compare to the US. Two of the BRIC countries (Russian and China) are highly authoritarian and the other two, while diverse, do not have a long history of effectively dealing with that diversity.

The BRIC countries will be important, and Western influence may drop (I actually feel it may increase in some ways), I do not think the threat of BRIC will really impact the US. I think it is other. smaller pressures that will have a huge effect.

He hits one of these in the 2nd problem – diverse populations. One of the aspects of a successful society in the current age is solving complex problems, using a wide and diverse set of views to arrive at the best win-win solution.

We may become more diverse and left-leaning but not at all like Europe. Europe still has too little diversity and is having a very hard time adapting. The US while obviously showing signs of stress, has a long and successful history of dealing with new and diverse immigrants, integrating them into the most diverse culture ever.

And America has historically balanced this with an authoritative individualism that allows us to do things well, once we make the decision. Or decide to change what we are doing when conditions change. A decision that is almost always based on the democratic principles we were founded on.

Our culture is an amalgam of every other culture. It is one reason Hollywood movies do so well overseas (in fact, many movies can only make a profit by making a lot of money in a wide variety of countries). Our culture is a world culture.

No one else comes close. It is why I am confident humanity will solve our problems. We already have the beginnings of the culture that will lead us to success. It is America’s.

Not because we have some God-given manifest destiny. No top down authority makes us the model. It is due mainly to one thing.

Balance. Between distributed democracy and hierarchical authority. Those have helped make America as successful as it is. They will help even more in the future.

I do think Hillary may not be suitable for the next President. I actually think she would be better suited on the Supreme Court but that’s another story. But at the moment, there are no other  viable choices for continuing our transition.

Because, while I talk historically  presently the US is out of balance, with top-down, elites having too much political and economic power And as has happened others times this occurred, we are beginning to see the democratic processes re-balance the system,

Those in favor of the status quo, the reactionaries, the ones who want to maintain the concentrated power they wield, will not give up power easily or without loss.

I do think the reactionary elements of our society are where the real battle is at. As it is with reactionary elements being seen across the globe as they deal with distributed approaches. It is no coincidence that we are seeing multiple outbreaks of violence, driven in most cases by reactionary approaches being used. 

This will simply drive people to use distributed approaches to find solutions. The barriers to entry for much of this are so low that authority simply has a hard time stopping it.

As a quick instance, war zone reporting used to be highly restricted, with authorities only allowing certain things to be printed. Now everyone has a camera on them almost all the time, with the ability to disperse information in ways that have never been allowed before. Both for good and ill.

Finally, a key aspect to remember. Reactionaries here are not strictly conservatives. There are many liberals who want to maintain the status quo. The battle is not along economic lines – as our political parties are drawn up. It is along a separate axis. 

We have already seen this beginning to arise in our political leaders (whose votes have recently begun to reflect the battles going on).

As with any struggle, there will be setbacks and such. But, historically, the societies that did best at balancing hierarchical authority and distributed democracy were the most successful (Cordoba in the  900s vs Cordoba 150 years later; Venice in the 1300s vs Venice. 100 years later). The democracy of Athens still informs us, not the authority of Sparta.

Too much of the latter and a society is brittle and unable to adapt, ruled by an authoritative elite that extracts wealth for their own aggrandizement  Too much the latter and nothing gets done, as everyone talks about the problem.

But balance the two and you have the ability to adapt, to find radical solutions and then execute them. 

I see nothing yet to believe that America will not find the balance needed to produce solutions in this battle, and then help the rest of the world. That is also what we have done before.

Making a better world = Separating Sheep from Goats

Ellis Island

The parable of the sheep and goats – to me, one of the defining Biblical passages describing the underlying principles of Christ’s teachings. (with the Sermon on the Mount being the other major one).

As I have written before:

Whether it is the New Commandment to love one another, the Second Great Commandment to love our neighbors, turning the other cheek in response to evil, or how to love one’s enemies, His teachings show a path that breaks cycles of violence that often reverberate during times of change and strife.

This parable catalogs some of the actions that can be taken by those following his teachings – the sheep. It details how they separate themselves by how they treat others.

Seeing a person in difficulty, having compassion and acting to remedy that difficulty is one of the defining teachings that Christ provided.

They are about how to treat other humans, how compassion is required. Empathy and sympathy are what constantly drive successful societies and simply slow down cultures doomed to failure.

Time for us all to be separated – so many goats and so few sheep. From Matthew 25:

31 When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory:

32 And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats:

33 And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.

34 Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:

35 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:

36 Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.

37 Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?

38 When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?

39 Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?

40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

41 Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:

42 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink:

43 I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not.

44 Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee?

45 Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.

46 And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.

Obama’s dingo policy goes over like lead balloon

 Canis lupus dingo

Following Backlash, White House Realizes Guy Who Opposed Obama’s Own Patent Reform Plan Shouldn’t Lead The Patent Office
[Via Techdirt]

A little over a week ago, it came out that President Obama was on the verge of appointing a former pharmaceutical industry exec, who had spent years fighting against the very kind of patent reform that President Obama supported, to be head of the USPTO. It was a little odd how the news came out — as it seemed to be clearly “leaked” to a few folks in the press that Phil Johnson was likely to be the nominee. However, the move was pretty quickly condemned, and now the same folks are saying that the White House has changed its mind, and will not offer the position to Johnson.

At the very least, that suggests that the “leak” of his name was something of a trial balloon, to see how it would go over — and the vocal rejection (including by big patent reform supporter Senator Chuck Schumer) made the White House realize that it would be in for a pretty angry fight over the nomination. Hopefully, the next nominee isn’t someone who has vocally fought against the President’s own position on patent reform…[More]

So here is one time that he appears to listen. Nice to see a distributed approach succeed over the normal authoritarian.

I did love the comment that stated this sort of policy: “Let’s hire the dingo as our babysitter” Maybe the new tools of distributed democracy will make this policy much less likely.

Business and Politics cut the pubic out in order to create secret treaties

 Riot police blocking the way to the parliament building on Sunday night

Water Cannons Turned On Peaceful TTIP Protestors In Brussels As Public Barred From Negotiations
[Via Techdirt]

The TAFTA/TTIP negotiations remain almost totally lacking in real transparency, with little information about what exactly is happening behind closed doors being released to the public — and most of that coming from the EU side. This has naturally forced those excluded from the inner circle to speculate about what might be going on — and, inevitably, to fear the worst. According to the US Ambassador to the EU, Anthony Gardner, and the EU Commissioner responsible for TTIP, Karel De Gucht, that’s unacceptable:

The ambassador and commissioner agreed that NGOs and civil society organisations were spreading disinformation about TTIP through social media, such as Twitter and Facebook. De Gucht said that a number of campaigners were “spreading rumours on false grounds.”

Gardner added: “There’s a void [in information]. The void is being filled more and more by social media.”

[More]

So the oligarchs cut the public out of discussions while they create secret treaties, releasing little information. Then complain about how rumors are running around.”If only the public knew the facts that we won’t let them have.”

And when the people protest the lack of transparency, police use heavy-handed approaches to squelch the protests.

We will see this happen again and again as totalitarian hierarchies try to retain their power.

I hate to say it but Princess Leia was right.


FCC, authoritarian hierachies and distriibuted democracy

Server grill with blue light

FCC votes for Internet “fast lanes” but could change its mind later
[Via Ars Technica]

The Federal Communications Commission today voted in favor of a preliminary proposal to allow Internet “fast lanes” while asking the public for comment on whether the commission should change the proposal before enacting final rules later this year. The order was approved 3-2, with two Republican commissioners dissenting.

The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) concerns “network neutrality,” the concept that Internet service providers should treat all Internet traffic equally, even if it comes from a competitor. But the rules, while preventing ISPs from blocking content outright, would allow ISPs to charge third-party Web services for a faster path to consumers, or a “fast lane.”

The FCC’s prior net neutrality rules issued in 2010 were largely struck down in court, and there is already speculation that the new proposed rules could be threatened in court as well.

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This is an example of the battle being fought between the plutocrats and the populace. Can the monopolies that provide internet access get their wish and create a multiple lane internet where only the rich oligarchs gets fast transmission?

Can people mobilize to prevent this? 

It seems to me that the FCC is actually looking to help the distributed approach. They simply made a proposal and asked for more comment.There is lots of time for the people, and their legislators, to route around this.

The telling comment from the FCC commisioner was this:

If the network operator slowed the speed below that which the consumer bought it would be commercially unreasonable and therefore prohibited. If a network operator blocked access to lawful content it would violate our no-blocking rule and be commercially unreasonable and therefore be doubly prohibited.

When content provided by a firm such as Netflix reaches a network provider it would be commercially unreasonable to charge the content provider to use that bandwidth for which the consumer had already paid, and therefore prohibited. When a consumer purchases specified network capacity from an Internet provider, he or she is buying open capacity, not capacity a network provider can prioritize for their own purposes.

This would mean the consumer chooses the lane to be in, not the ISP. 

And, the real landmine in the proposal is whether to call an ISP a telecommunications service. Providing common carrier aspects to the INternet, making it more a utility, is really where we should go.

So there appear to be some real aspects of this proposal that might make sense. And they have provided time for distributed democracy to forcefully reply.

Looks like this could be an interesting battle in this generation’s fight. A big step up from the unfocussed anarchy of Occupy Wall Street and the too-focussed actions of the Tea Party.

Both groups initially started activating distributed democratic approaches to push back against the authoritarian hierarchies. OWS fell back because it really had no effective call to action. The Tea Party has been mostly co-opted or marginalized by the same oligarchs running things.

Neither was able to break out across factions to provide useful tools and approaches against their foe – the authoritarian hierarchies holding progress back.

The battle for net neutrality might just provide such a spark, an issue to cut fully across political factions and support distributed approaches to be effectively used.

Maybe.

The rules of our plutocratic overlords

 Henry Wriothesley, 3rd Earl of Southamption

Straczynski: “The New Aristocracy”
[Via Boing Boing]

Babylon 5 creator J. Michael Straczynski has posted a brilliant, inflammatory set of “rules of the new aristocracy: “We are the New Aristocracy because we were born into it. We got our money the old fashioned, Medieval way: our parents gave it to us. We were born into the wealth that we stole from you and your family over the last fifty years.”

It doesn’t matter how much an education costs, doesn’t matter if your kids can’t afford to go to college or come out with massive debt, we will always be able to send our kids to university. And because a lot of our income is derived from tax incentives and taxpayer-financed bailouts your taxes are sending our kids to school. But you do not have the right to any of our money to send your kid to school.

If you or your kids want to start a business, you will find that because we’ve sucked all the money out of the economy, there is simply no available cash around to help you finance your startup. (Unless you want to go to your friends online at sites like Indiegogo, and isn’t that just cute?) We just cut our kids a check and tell them to go have fun.

Your kids are born with a glass ceiling above which they will almost certainly never have the opportunity to rise. Our kids are born with a marble floor beneath which they will never be allowed to fall.

If you accidentally provide incorrect information on your tax return, you could lose your house, your possessions, and your livelihood. We lie all the time on our tax information and none of us ever have to deal with this. We squirrel away trillions of dollars in overseas accounts and do all we can to ensure that your money never leaves our control because we’ll doubtless need to scoop out more of it soon.

You live in a Company Town; we pay you to work for us, while making sure that we own all the stores in town that sell our goods, the doctors offices where you go in town, the restaurants where you eat, and that we charge you just enough to make sure that at the end of the week you don’t have any leftover money to squirrel away, so you can never leave the company town, can never get ahead, and can never risk criticizing the company town. You work for us. We own the town where you live. We own you.

[More]

Nicely done.

Saw Oliver interview Alexander last night. Better than most ‘serious’ ones

Former NSA head Keith Alexander interviewed by John Oliver
[Via Boing Boing]

 
On “Last Week Tonight With John Oliver,” a new HBO show starring the former Daily Show contributor, an interview with General Keith Alexander. There are a number of really weird and interesting thing about this interview with the former head of the US National Security Administration, one of which is that it was a hell of a lot more hard-hitting than an earlier interview with Alexander by “60 Minutes.”

Alexander: I am the biggest advocate of freedom of the networks, the internet. If we could come up with a way of segregating all the terrorist communications, it would really help us, and civil liberties and privacy….There was a great statement by someone, all the bad guys need to be on this section of the internet and they only operate over here, and all good people operate over here.

Oliver: You mean Pinterest?

And the other is this.

“Last Week Tonight With John Oliver”–Twitter, Facebook.

[More]

Not only was Oliver more adversarial than ‘real’ journalists, Alexander was a great sport (he knew what he was getting into) and answered quite well. He gave a nice argument that they should be trusted because of their training. Oliver replied that that only assumes everyone is a ethical as Alexander. Oliver knows that is not the case.

Worth watching.

Going to prison for life because of a stillborn birth – what women face

 Prison corridor with cells inside Alcatraz main building san francisco califfornia

A Young Mother In Mississippi Could Face Life In Prison For Giving Birth To A Stillborn Child
[Via Think Progress]

Under a controversial law in Mississippi that allows the state to prosecute women for causing harm to a fetus, Rennie Gibbs could be sentenced to life in prison because her daughter never took a breath.

As ProPublica reports, Gibbs was just 16 years old when she gave birth to a stillborn baby girl, who she named Samiya, back in 2006. Samiya was born premature, and medical records indicate that the umbilical cord was wrapped around her neck. But, since Samiya’s autopsy turned up traces of cocaine, Gibbs was indicted by a grand jury for “unlawfully, willfully, and feloniously” causing the death. If Gibbs receives the maximum sentence, she’ll spend the rest of her life behind bars.

Gibbs’ case is an example of a dangerous trend that’s certainly not specific to Mississippi. Across the country, there have been hundreds of documented cases of fetal harm laws being used to criminalize pregnant women. This is partly due to the proliferation of state-level abortion restrictions — since there are so many complicated regulations stipulating how women may legally end a pregnancy, that’s created a world in which miscarriages can fall under increased scrutiny, and desperate women can face charges for resorting to illegal abortions. But it’s largely due to persistent issues with this country’s War on Drugs.

[More]

Even though there are studies that show that cocaine has no effect on births, we see states routinely act like a crime has been committed.

The government as midwife should be an anathema to most Americans. Apparently not.

We destroy ourselves when we lose the ability to support scientific research

 Lab Bench

World’s Oldest Direct Measure Of Atmospheric CO2 May Lose Its Funding
[Via Think Progress]

The oldest and most well-known direct measurement of atmospheric carbon dioxide is in danger of losing its funding, according to USA Today.

The Keeling Curve is run by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego, and was started by scientist Charles David Keeling in 1958. Since then it’s grown from a single measurement taken near the top of Mauna Loa on the Big Island of Hawaii to 13 different measuring sites spread across the globe. It’s the longest-running record of direct instrumental readings of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Other records trace back hundreds of thousands of years, but rely on indirect measurements using data from ice cores and the like.

[More]

How a once proud nation destroys itself – refusing to provide needed support for scientific research. The selfishness of a decaying society, its inward turning, has historically heralded it coming collapse.

The stupid and frankly worthless budget battles of the last few years have been devastating to our ability to support basic scientific research. Not only is the scientific infrastructure being tremendously damaged, as seen here, but we ae destroying the seed corn of American innovation – research scientists.

We are spending less on research than we did 13 years ago. We account for only 45% of the global biomedical research budget, down from over 50% just 7 years ago. Two-thirds of research scientists are receiving less money than they were in 2010. We have lost reagents that cannot be replaced and had to euthanize animals that took years and millions to produce.

A new brain drain may be in the offing, as about 20% of American researchers say they contemplate moving elsewhere to continue their work.

One great thing about America in the past has been its ability to reverse this trend.

Unfortunately, I do not see anything like that happening yet. One side would rather toss the baby out with the bath water. All to the detriment of us all.

 

Change is Coming – listen to Peter, Paul and Mary

The times certainly are changing.

From 1965.

And from 1995

The lyrics have never been more appropriate,particularly the one about Senators and Congressmen.

 

Come gather ’round people 
Wherever you roam 
And admit that the waters 
Around you have grown 
And accept it that soon 
You’ll be drenched to the bone 

If your time to you 
Is worth savin’ 
Then you better start swimmin’ 
Or you’ll sink like a stone 
For the times they are a-changin’. 

Come writers and critics 
Who prophesize with your pen 
And keep your eyes wide 
The chance won’t come again 
And don’t speak too soon 
For the wheel’s still in spin 

And there’s no tellin’ who 
That it’s namin’ 
For the loser now 
Will be later to win 
For the times they are a-changin’. 

Come senators, congressmen 
Please heed the call 
Don’t stand in the doorway 
Don’t block up the hall 
For he that gets hurt 
Will be he who has stalled 

There’s a battle outside 
And it is ragin’ 
It’ll soon shake your windows 
And rattle your walls 
For the times they are a-changin’. 

Come mothers and fathers 
Throughout the land 
And don’t criticize 
What you can’t understand 
Your sons and your daughters 
Are beyond your command 

Your old road is 
Rapidly agin’ 
Please get out of the new one 
If you can’t lend your hand 
For the times they are a-changin’. 

 

Come gather ’round peopleWherever you roamAnd admit that the watersAround you have grownAnd accept it that soonYou’ll be drenched to the boneIf your time to youIs worth savin’Then you better start swimmin’Or you’ll sink like a stoneFor the times they are a-changin’.
Come writers and criticsWho prophesize with your penAnd keep your eyes wideThe chance won’t come againAnd don’t speak too soonFor the wheel’s still in spinAnd there’s no tellin’ whoThat it’s namin’For the loser nowWill be later to winFor the times they are a-changin’.
Come senators, congressmenPlease heed the callDon’t stand in the doorwayDon’t block up the hallFor he that gets hurtWill be he who has stalledThere’s a battle outsideAnd it is ragin’It’ll soon shake your windowsAnd rattle your wallsFor the times they are a-changin’.
Come mothers and fathersThroughout the landAnd don’t criticizeWhat you can’t understandYour sons and your daughtersAre beyond your commandYour old road isRapidly agin’Please get out of the new oneIf you can’t lend your handFor the times they are a-changin’.
The line it is drawnThe curse it is castThe slow one nowWill later be fastAs the present nowWill later be pastThe order isRapidly fadin’And the first one nowWill later be lastFor the times they are a-changin’.

 

They hate Tim Cook because he cares about us

 empathy

Tim Cook to Apple Investors: Drop Dead
[Via NCPPR]

Tim Cook to Apple Investors: Drop Dead

Apple CEO Tim Cook tells Investors Who Care More About Return on Investment than Climate Change: Your Money is No Longer Welcome

As Board Member Al Gore Cheers the Tech Giant’s Dedication to Environmental Activism, Investors Left to Wonder Just How Much Shareholder Value is Being Destroyed in Efforts to Combat “Climate Change”

Free-Market Activist Presents Shareholder Resolution to Computer Giant Apple Calling for Consumer Transparency on Environmental Issues; Company Balks

[More]

Sociopaths. They hurt us all. This group fails to understand that part of Apple’s success is caring about the world its customers live it. It wants to sell them devices that make that world better.

So trying to make the world better by decreasing pollution— in ways that actually also make money for Apple—is a direct ROI. Or it should be to these guys. But they seem to be suffering from some psychiatric disorder.

An anti-social one.

Yes, they do not want Apple spending money on environmental stuff, such as reducing toxic emissions or polluting water supplies, when that money should go to shareholders. Some quotes:

“The company’s CEO fervently wants investors who care more about return on investments than reducing CO2 emissions to no longer invest in Apple. Maybe they should take him up on that advice.” …

…After today’s meeting, investors can be certain that Apple is wasting untold amounts of shareholder money to combat so-called climate change. The only remaining question is: how much?”…

…”Apple’s actions, from hiring of President Obama’s former head of the Environmental Protection Agency Lisa Jackson, to its investments in supposedly 100 percent renewable data centers, to Cook’s antics at today’s meeting, appear to be geared more towards combating so-called climate change rather than developing new and innovative phones and computers.”

Sociopaths. They got GE to buckle here but not Apple. Here is how this was described by another attendee:

What ensued was the only time I can recall seeing Tim Cook angry, and he categorically rejected the worldview behind the NCPPR’s advocacy. He said that there are many things Apple does because they are right and just, and that a return on investment (ROI) was not the primary consideration on such issues.

“When we work on making our devices accessible by the blind,” he said, “I don’t consider the bloody ROI.” He said that the same thing about environmental issues, worker safety, and other areas where Apple is a leader.

As evidenced by the use of “bloody” in his response—the closest thing to public profanity I’ve ever seen from Mr. Cook–it was clear that he was quite angry. His body language changed, his face contracted, and he spoke in rapid fire sentences compared to the usual metered and controlled way he speaks.

He didn’t stop there, however, as he looked directly at the NCPPR representative and said, “If you want me to do things only for ROI reasons, you should get out of this stock.”

We would all be better off if they did sell their stock. They lack an understanding of why Apple is so successful.

As do many sociopaths from Wall Street. As I wrote earlier— Apple is successful because it has created a family that includes its own customers.

So, Apple makes the world we live in better and we buy stuff from it because of that. By helping save the environment (even if that help does nothing) it shows that it wants to improve where we live. And sell us products that also make our life better.

They are both part of the same thing, as far as Apple is concerned.

Even if climate change was not happening, it would still be useful marketing, because it shows Apple cares about our world. Don’t those sociopaths get it? 

Nope because of the actual defects in sociopaths—they show a lack of remorse, a lack of shame, and, tellingly a lack of empathy.

Sociopaths, lacking the empathy and sympathy described by Adam Smith in his book on Moral Sentiments. These are not the moral men he expected to be running capital markets.

They are bandits, enriching themselves at the detriment of the rest of us. It is not normal for them to be the ones running our capital markets.

We need them all to sell all their stock.We need to move the sociopaths to other jobs.

Then perhaps we can begin the road back to normalcy.

Clarence Darrow called it

 Bonfire

Something is the Matter With Kansas
[Via Booman Tribune]

Kansas State Representative Keith Esau has introduced a bill that would eliminate no-fault divorce in the Sunflower State. He has some interesting ideason matrimony:

“No-fault divorce gives people an easy out instead of working at it,” Esau told The Wichita Eagle on Friday. “It would be my hope that they could work out their incompatibilities and learn to work together on things.”

…Esau disputed the suggestion that bill was an example of government overreach. He said the state gives benefits to married couples, such as tax breaks, so couples shouldn’t enter into the institution of marriage lightly.

Moreover, he said, the state has a vested interest in supporting “strong families,” and divorce undermines that.

“I think we’ve made divorce way too easy in this country,” he said. “If we really want to respect marriage it needs to be a commitment that people work at and don’t find arbitrary reasons to give up.”

Of course, one of the immediate effects of this law would be that couples seeking a divorce would have to face-off in court and point fingers at each other. Either that, or one of them would have to accept the blame for their failed relationship.

[More]

Kansas seems to be leading a political movement backwards to the middle ages. We have fought this anti-Amerfican sentiment most of the last century as explicitly stated by Clarence Darrow in the Scopes trial:

Ignorance and fanaticism are ever busy and need feeding. Always feeding and gloating for more. Today it is the public school teachers; tomorrow the private. The next day the preachers and the lecturers, the magazines, the books, the newspapers. After a while, Your Honor, it is the setting of man against man and creed against creed until with flying banners and beating drums we are marching backward to the glorious ages of the sixteenth century when bigots lighted fagots to burn the men who dared to bring any intelligence and enlightenment and culture to the human mind.

Ignorance and fanaticism, couple with fear, make for very dangerous political movements. 

History has shown that they always lose. Always. They just do a tremendous amount of damage, killing millions as they lose.

Bill Nye continues scientific offensive against deniers

 Bill Nye visits Goddard Space Flight Center

Bill Nye schools Marsha Blackburn on climate: Stop denying and start leading 
[Via | The Raw Story]

Bill Nye “The Science Guy” implored Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) on Sunday to stop wasting time by denying that the climate was changing and to start leading the charge to do something about it.

Nye began his debate with Blackburn on NBC’s Meet the Press by applauding President Barack Obama’s call to create a $1 billion fund to prepare for climate change.

“What I’ve always said, we need to do everything all at once,” Nye explained. “And this is an opportunity for the United States to innovate, to be the world leader in new technologies.”

[More]

First it was the outstanding debate on creationism, where Nye did a great job.

Now he continues the scientific offensive on the Sunday morning shows. And he is even better. He just demonstrated how lacking in rhetorical skills so many of our congress critters are. 

Most can only spout the latest talking points with not ability to actually understand or discuss them to any depth.

Nye is a trained engineer and head of the Planetary society. So trying to belittle him by simply saying he is an ‘actor’ while the denier is an important member of Congress simply does not stand.

The thing that became obvious is that Nye has learned a lot of great rhetorical tools from his time on TV, which he is using to great effect. 

Most scientists only use the facts and are either oblivious to other approaches or disdain them, often to their detriment.

Every one in marketing knows that facts alone does not sell a product.There are a variety of ways to convince people that have nothing to do with facts.

Facts alone do not win debates. And stylistic rhetorical tools (seen in just about every courtroom drama) often do.

But when those tools are used in the service of facts, there can only be one winner.

So, when Blackburn states

“When you look at the fact that we have gone from 320 parts per million — 0.032 to 0.040 — 400 parts per million [carbon dioxide in the atmosphere], you realize it’s very slight” 

,implying that 80 parts per million is such a small number that it is insignificant, Nye nails her innumeracy.

“When you asserted, Congresswoman, 320 to 400 parts per million is insignificant, my goodness. That’s 30 percent! I mean, that’s an enormous change. And it’s changing the world. And that’s just over the last few decades.”

(Yes, it is actually 25% but it was live and the point is valid.)

Yet, he tells her that she needs to lead, not deny. He was attacking her denialism, not her personally.

“I encourage the congresswoman to really look at the facts. You are a leader. We need you to change things, not deny what’s happening.”

Although he did provide substantial evidence for why she might not look at the facts or want to lead.

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