Friday Blogroll!

1)  In a not so surprising move by the anarchy that is the internet, some of the Sochi pictures are fake.  This is important, because Putin.

2)  Theological reflections on  the coca-cola ad.

3)  Rwanda’s former intel chief is currently on trial in France.

4)  An interesting piece on Francisco Franco’s cult of personality:  “To be sure, Franco, unlike Cosimo, made lots of public speeches during his life and said many well-documented things to ambassadors, ministers, and other political leaders. But one point that Preston’s biography brings out well is that it is very difficult to construct a coherent position for Franco from his public statements (though Preston tries valiantly). For one thing, he seems to have had no problems disregarding the truth when it was convenient for him to deny it, and he was alarmingly willing to change his position as circumstances or audiences changed. He could say anything with apparently complete conviction: he could be a monarchist one minute, a Falangista the next, and then assert his claim to being a true Spanish democrat. Yet Preston never quite succeeds in establishing that there was one thing Franco “really believed” underneath all the bullshitting and incoherence, some ideological commitment or fundamental interest beyond his maintenance in power that could account for the many different things he said. His key political talent, Preston notes more than once, was for “shroud[ing] his intentions in a cloud of nebulous vagueness” (Kindle Location 14849-14850). Since no one could be quite sure about his real commitments, these could be “read” in a variety of different ways at the time – as fundamentally sympathetic to the Falange, or fundamentally conservative and Catholic, or as those of an anti-communist warrior.”

5)  Economic reconstruction in Afghanistan is, of course, failing.

6)  House member renew call for Snowden to be tried as traitor:  “Armed Services Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) read a statement that “Ed Snowden isn’t a whistleblower; he’s a traitor.” McKeon demanded that Snowden be “brought to justice.” Of course, the ultimate punishment for the crimes described by Thornberry and McKeon would be death.”

7)  The Rise of Libertarians:  This is an important piece from Max Borders, and it, true to form for Borders, is highly optimistic.  There are parts of it that I would challenge, of course, but the thrust of the argument is true:  libertarians are here, they are spontaneous and unpredictable within politics, even when their political identity is properly and sturdily defined.  They transcend party; which, Borders thinks, will dismiss party in the future (at least that seems to be his argument – and I’m skeptical of this), and that the coupling of highly decentralized (and democratic) form of technology with libertarianism (or something like it) is sparking political drifts and trends that the two clunky, major parties and their entrenched worldviews, are not agile enough to adapt to.  Thus – libertarians are here and they are here to stay.

Enjoy the weekend, boys and girls.



Bleh. I’m still sick, but here’s your damn blogroll!

1)  Political moderates aren’t an example of political virtue, take 4,304,708.

2)  Kevin Vallier with a fresh, and interesting take on the Ham – Nye debate over how old dirt really is.  I find these topics incredibly uninteresting, and largely meaningless, but there’s the link to Vallier’s piece, and here’s the debate on its own merit:

3)  Jacob T. Levy at Bleeding Heart Libertarians issues a post on the merits of the meddling and burdensome regulations involving food stamp usage, regulations which receive their most full-throat defense from Republicans.  A snippet:  “On top of all that: the process of proving one’s innocence all the time is a demoralizing, degrading one that subjects you to inspection, supervision, paperwork, and the will and whim of the enforcers. How can states ensure that no one is collecting food stamps for a dead household member? The answer has to involve paperwork and bureaucratic supervision or in-person monitoring by social workers or, in all likelihood, both. Illegal immigrants? Well, by definition they already lead a life of evading some kinds of bureaucratic surveillance. There’s no way to squeeze them our of the system harder without squeezing everyone else, too. (In a related vein, think of the proposals for drug testing as a condition of receiving welfare. That’s a lot of degradation to put a lot of non-drug-using people through for the sake, not of saving money (the cost of enforcement in this case is clearly higher than the money saved), but for the sake of a zero-tolerance regulatory insistence about welfare recipients not using drugs.)

And so poor people will be subjected to another set of forms, another set of inspections, another set of surveillance and monitoring, another set of insults, another risk of false findings of guilt, for trivial financial savings. Someone gets to posture as having zero tolerance for some unacceptable outcome; that’s what the zero tolerance policies are for. And life for a sixth of the country’s population gets worse, more unfree, more subject to the burdens and intrusions of micromanaging regulation.” 

The party of smaller government continues its burdensome ways.

4)  Report that the number of exonerations reached record highs in 2013.  “Eighty-seven (87) known exonerations occurred in 2013, more than any previous year, making 2013 a record-breaking year for exonerations in the United States. This increase is exclusively in non-DNA exonerations; the number of DNA exonerations is slowly decreasing over time. The National Registry of Exoneration’s Report, based on the 1,281 exonerations know at the end of 2013, also discusses long-term trends such as the increase in exonerations after guilty pleas and in No-Crime cases, the geographic location of exonerations, and the causes of wrongful convictions.”

5)  Bill success is a lousy way to score a functioning Congress, and, also, if we are entering a more “polarized” political age, then is it perhaps now time to make the parties even stronger?  We have seen on both sides of the aisle, populist based candidates and politicians such as Cruz and Warren maintain and strengthen a base before they ever enter the chamber officially, so…”As a result, the party elite – the party’s leaders in the House and the Senate, and the President –  no longer have as much leverage over party members (even first-year Senators) as in certain past eras.  This reality is part of the broader breakdown of traditional organizational “power” that Moises Naim, in “The End of Power,” so well documents across an array of public and private institutions, from churches to boardrooms.  The irreversible revolution in communications and technology is a major cause; these changes not only enable otherwise isolated officeholders to reach out, they also enable more dispersed factional interests to be mobilized to reach in more easily.  In politics, these centripetal forces the communications revolution has unleashed are then further aided by the way our laws have structured the financing of elections (about which, more in a moment).  As much as we tend to be drawn to stories of “weak” political leaders, it is these larger structural forces – not the failed political styles and personalities of particular individuals – that have thinned the capacity of party leaders to command.

Ironically, then, for those searching for ways to make the political process function more effectively, the problem is not best defined as parliamentary parties within a separated-powers system. That description is partly right, but wrong in an important way too.  For excessive political fragmentation makes American parties today incapable of functioning as truly parliamentary ones; even with polarization, party leaders frequently cannot deliver their parties.   And instead of the quixotic pursuit of institutional changes that might end polarization, we should instead look for structural changes that might restore effective leadership within the parties.

6)  Dan Bier at Skeptical Libertarian with an informed view on drug use:  it happens.  “Even many opponents of prohibition feel the need (possibly for valid strategic reasons) to hedge their calls for legalization by saying “[X drug] is terrible, m’kay, never use it.” But while this might help them politically, it doesn’t help a 28-year-old 175 lb. smoker who might actually need to know what two Xanax, four shots of Smirnoff, a Vicodin and an Ambien two hours apart are doing to him.

But this is the person both drug warriors and reformers are supposed to be trying to help. Locking him up, ostracizing him, and shutting down the conversation won’t help him, or the next person who OD’s. And while the entire acceptable range of conversation about drugs is “not even once,” people will continue to die–not because some superdrug is killing them, but because ignorance is.”

7)  US Official:  “We’re going to screw the EU by using the UN, because USA and fuck the EU!!”  Okay, maybe not, but it’s pretty much what this person said,

Tacos are my favorite food, and here’s your Friday blogroll!

1)  Full Text Reports on Trade offs in Immigration Enforcement.  Blurby:  “Policymakers on both sides of the Atlantic confront significant constraints in addressing the population of unauthorized migrants, not least with respect to insufficient resources to tackle illegal migration and legal frameworks that protect individuals regardless of their residence status. This report explores the trade-offs that policymakers face with respect to comprehensive enforcement efforts, which often have adverse consequences in related policy domains, such as public health and safety.”  

Related, here is Bryan Caplan highlighting a recent paper from Zachary Gochenour and Alex Nowrasteh on the political externalities of immigration.  

2)  New Book!  Islam after Communism:  Religion and Politics in Central Asia.  Adeed Khalib.  “How do Muslims relate to Islam in societies that experienced seventy years of Soviet rule? How did the utopian Bolshevik project of remaking the world by extirpating religion from it affect Central Asia? Adeeb Khalid combines insights from the study of both Islam and Soviet history to answer these questions. Arguing that the sustained Soviet assault on Islam destroyed patterns of Islamic learning and thoroughly de-Islamized public life, Khalid demonstrates that Islam became synonymous with tradition and was subordinated to powerful ethnonational identities that crystallized during the Soviet period. He shows how this legacy endures today and how, for the vast majority of the population, a return to Islam means the recovery of traditions destroyed under Communism.

Islam after Communism reasons that the fear of a rampant radical Islam that dominates both Western thought and many of Central Asia’s governments should be tempered with an understanding of the politics of antiterrorism, which allows governments to justify their own authoritarian policies by casting all opposition as extremist. Placing the Central Asian experience in the broad comparative perspective of the history of modern Islam, Khalid argues against essentialist views of Islam and Muslims and provides a nuanced and well-informed discussion of the forces at work in this crucial region.”

3)  Sobering analysis from Barbara Walter on how States track and monitor you.  There are ways to get around it, though, and she highlights in in the link.  These notes are expecially criticial for political protestors:  “The best thing protesters can do is leave their phone at home. This seems like the obvious choice as long as there is no guaranteed way to remain undetected while carrying a phone. Of course, the problem with this strategy is that it plays into the hands of governments who would like to impede demonstrators’ communications. Ukrainian protesters will have a much more difficult time mobilizing support and gaining international attention if real-time communication and videos stop.

The next best thing is to do what Edward Snowden did. Place an electromagnetic barrier around your phone to block radio signals. Snowden used a refrigerator but it appears that any metal container, such as a cocktail shaker, would also work. This strategy has the benefit of being more portable but the drawback of being potentially detectable if one’s phone comes too close to a cell tower.

Though I think, on the whole, the technological market has done things to liberate individuals, and has handed us the ability to know more about states than we have ever been able to know, it has also granted states access to know more about their citizens.  And if states are anything at all, at a bare minimum, they are information seekers.

4)  An outline of the interesting and complicated history of the Freemason and abolitionism.  “eighteenth-century Freemasonry recognized an aristocracy of the mind rather than an accidental aristocracy, i.e. a mere accident of birth. However, aristocrats and American Presidents, beginning with George Washington, wasted no time applying for membership in an aristocracy above aristocracy. They joined composers such as Joseph Haydn, the “White Mozart,” the composer of the all-but-Masonic Zauberflöte (K. 620) (The Magic Flute).  

In other words, eighteenth-century Freemasonry sought equality for both the “White Mozart,” who could never have married an aristocrat, and the “Black Mozart,” who could never have married a white woman. Freemasonry played an important role in the abolition of Slavery, but so did other elements and other groups, such as France’s Société des amis des Noirs (the Society of the Friends of the Blacks), the salons, cafés, etc.
5)  Two excellent posts at the legal theory blog Double Aspect.  One is on judicial review and the other on supermajorities and Constitutions.  A blurb from the latter, “To return now to the claim that the legitimacy of and citizens’ loyalty to a constitution depend on the breadth of the consensus on its contents, it seems to me that it leads to absurd consequences. Most obviously, it means no only that supermajority is better than simple majority, but also that unanimity is better than any other supermajority. Yet professors McGinnis and Rappaport are not arguing for unanimity. Perhaps that merely because it would be impractical. Perhaps also here is, in fact, a diminishing return on additional support, at least past a certain threshold. Yet it is not clear where that threshold lies, and whether it does in fact lie in supermajority territory. For some purposes―including elections in the Canada as well as in the U.S. ―we accept a plurality, not even a simple majority as sufficient for the win. Indeed, it is possible for a party or a candidate to win such elections without even a plurality of the national popular vote. It is reasonable to demand that a constitution, expected to endure for decades and even centuries, enjoy higher support than a politician elected to hold office for four or five years, but it is by no means clear just how much higher.”  
7)  Kevin Vallier at Bleeding Heart Libertarians asks if religious conservatives are welcome on the libertarian left.  He then goes through what makes a religious conservative (RC), and why left libertarians shouldn’t be as welcoming to RCs as they are.  My overly simplistic point would be simple:  in life, you chose who you associate with on a host of reasons, most of which are not religious or political.  This is one of the untold stories of liberalism.  The party of work and the bourgeoise, and of the market and the contract, has explicitly stated for decades now that when these associations are formed, you leave certain qualifiers and/or identifiers at the door.  So a group of RCs and LLs can get together for a conference about the history of classical liberalism, for instance, and still walk away as friends and to learn from each other.  And I’d have to imagine, either privately or publicly, these types of libertarians do, in fact, engage in critical analysis with one another; then walk away and share a joke and/or a beer.
I may be overly simplifying this here, but I think that is a reaction to a post which over analyzes what sparks human associations.
8)  Will Wilkinson on the State of the Union.  Damn near pitch perfect.  It also touches on the blatant and shameless use of a human prop who, after his TENTH tour of Afghanistan, came home in a coma after almost being killed by a roadside bomb.“Obama brought upon himself the circumstances requiring such a constrained, insipid speech. The scandal of his IRS targeting tea-party activists suggested that his administration was either corrupt or mismanaged. Had he honored his campaign pledge to restore the civil liberties eroded in George W. Bush’s war on terror, Edward Snowden would not have had evidence of the NSA’s massive violations of the Fourth Amendment to leak. The Afghanistan surge was an ultimately ineffective face-saving operation that sent more than 1,000 Cory Remburgs to early graves — an operation that his then–secretary of defense openly doubts he really believed in. Finally, the catastrophically inept rollout of the Affordable Care Act has sown doubt in the electorate about Obama’s honesty and competence to govern. Vehement Republican opposition, which has hampered implementation of the law at every level and stage, ought to have been a predictable consequence of ramming through transformative legislation along strictly partisan lines during a period of dire economic emergency. Yet the Obama administration seems to have been surprised to discover that there is more to governing than mustering the votes to pass a bill, and has dealt awkwardly with organized partisan resistance. Even those aspects of implementation fully within the administration’s control, such as the website, have been botched.”
10)  After 45 years, the Allman Brothers Band has decided to give it up.  They managed to merge soul, rock, jazz, and jam into a fusion that will remain on the American musical landscape forever.  Their original lineup is still one of the most talented groupings in the history of music.  Listen to them today.

Blogging is a luxury. Here’s the blogroll!

1)  There’s a push in Scandinavian countries to ban ‘non – therapeutic circumcision on boys.  “The Sweden Medical Association, which counts 85% of the country’s physicians as members, recommended setting twelve as the minimum age for the procedure and requiring a boy’s consent in a resolution which was unanimously passed by the ethics council, reported the Svenska Dagbladet.”   See also:

2)  Medieval rules for sex, this time in flowchart form! Sexgraph.

3)  Switching roles when talking about colonialism and imperialism, “However, Sheermaal’s comparison of Lairds and Rajahs is important more because it shows that, in Hamilton’s eyes, British Imperialism does not begin with the crossing of an ocean. Rather, Scotland itself is an example of a country overrun by a cultural hegemon with which it chose to engage. From Sheermaal’s account, it is clear that the Scottish class structure has been largely cast aside in favor of English practices, as evidenced by his example of the Scottish lady who was “a person of family”. This reflects British imperial practices in India that drained the Brahmin and ruling castes of power.”

4)  New Book!:  Gettysburg Religion:  Redefinement, Diversity, and Race in the Antebellum and Civil War Border North, Steve Longenecker.  “In the borderland between freedom and slavery, Gettysburg remains among the most legendary Civil War landmarks. A century and a half after the great battle, Cemetery Hill, the Seminary and its ridge, and the Peach Orchard remain powerful memories for their embodiment of the small-town North and their ability to touch themes vital to nineteenth-century religion. During this period, three patterns became particularly prominent: refinement, diversity, and war. In Gettysburg Religion, author Steve Longenecker explores the religious history of antebellum and Civil War–era Gettysburg, shedding light on the remarkable diversity of American religion and the intricate ways it interacted with the broader culture. Longenecker argues that Gettysburg religion revealed much about larger American society and about how trends in the Border North mirrored national developments. In many ways, Gettysburg and its surrounding Border North religion belonged to the future and signaled a coming pattern for modern America.”

4)  Why it’s wrong for interstate conflict scholars not the engage with intrastate conflict work (Part One – Part Two)”Transnational non-state actors are also relevant. ‘Refugee Warriors’ – military organizations operating in their country of origin but sustained by settlements in exile – exemplify this. The effectiveness of refugee warriors depends both on the protection of the international refugee regime, on the support of the host state, and on existing forms of organization and leadership within the exile population (Harpviken 2009). The use of consultants and mercenaries for state repression as well as the subcontracting of torture to non-state actors represents yet another area where the simultaneous consideration of interstate and intrastate scholarship would also be a lucrative area for future exploration (Rejali 2007).

Networks of violent actors constitute a different type of non-state actor. For example, terrorism, as a tactic, serves as a substitute for other forms of armed struggle in situations when groups are unable to build armed forces (Butler and Gates 2009). Nevertheless, terrorism can also thrive in the context of civil war in conjunction with guerrilla tactics. Terrorist networks, when employed transnationally, such as the al-Qaeda attack on New York and Washington, also blur the distinction between the intra and inter aspects of conflict. For us to address such factors we need to change how we think about conflict.”

5) A brief history of the Slavery Abolition Act of 1833.  Interestingly, it had some reparations…for the slave-owners.  “The Act provided for compensation for slave-owners who would be losing their property. The amount of money to be spent on the compensation claims was set at “the Sum of Twenty Millions Pounds Sterling.” Under the terms of the Act, the British government raised £20 million to pay out in compensation for the loss of the slaves as business assets to the registered owners of the freed slaves. The names listed in the returns for slave compensation show that ownership was spread over many hundreds of British families, many of them of high social standing. For example, Henry Phillpotts (then the Bishop of Exeter), with three others (as trustees and executors of the will of John Ward, 1st Earl of Dudley), was paid £12,700 for 665 slaves in the West Indies, whilst Henry Lascelles, 2nd Earl of Harewood received £26,309 for 2,554 slaves on 6 plantations. The majority of men and women who were awarded compensation under the 1833 Abolition Act are listed in a Parliamentary Return, entitled Slavery Abolition Act, which is an account of all moneys awarded by the Commissioners of Slave Compensation in the Parliamentary Papers 1837–8 Vol. 48.”

6)  War as a Meteor.

7)  Conor Friedersdorf with smart commentary on Obama, and how Hope and Change has quietly faded away.  It’s something I’ve thought about recently.  Obama rode in a, mostly, ideologically driven and spiritual way about the way government works in Washington – not just how it works, but who it works for.  The Obama of 2007-2008 will only be different from a 2016 Rand Paul in message.  What Paul hopes to capture is something like Obama did.  A wave mentality that it’s time to shake things up in Washington, but this time with a little more limited government flare.

I doubt this works, and part of the reason is because of Obama’s failure to change the conversation.  Hope and Change has turned into a Robotic, Lifeless, and Technocratic Liberalism that is neither inspiring or a change agent – and voters, I think, will turn more towards a “get stuff done” type of candidate in 2016, for better or worse.

This person will likely be a Governor or ex-Governor, with a record of real reform in the political direction that they deem appropriate – and who will be just enough palatable for a large part of Americans.  And if a Republican can get through his primary, I think that this person will be the next President.

Paul, just like Obama before him, only has Senatorial experience.  Will the electorate go for another “change agent” type again?  I remain skeptical.

8)  Sarah Skwire at the Institute for Liberal Studies.  Watch it.  Now.


Tortillas don’t have Vitamin A?! Also, here’s your Evening Blogroll!

1)  Damon Linker provides useful and relevant commentary on what divides Americans.  I’m less concerned, but the point remains:  there are certain things that will never be resolved, so, maybe stop trying?

2)  Legal Vigilantes are now working to combat Mexican cartels.

3)  The CATO Institute has a video which responds to the SOTU address.  It’s 12 minutes long, but it’s chock full of smart, pointed responses.  Give it a watch here.  

4)  The war in Afghanistan continues to be a waste.  Jonathan Turley highlights, “The literacy program for the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) was a valid objective but, like so many in these wars, it appears to have been managed with almost willful blindness. There was not even a basic record of actual soldiers who achieved literacy. While the goal of the program was to make 100 percent of the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) able to read at a first grade level and 50 percent literate at a third grade level, those goals are not viewed after five years and $200 million as “unrealistic” and unattainable.”

5)  Michael Bay ruined Transformers, but Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles look good!  Shredder is especially “bad-ass looking”

6)  Dr. Strangelove is 50 today, Mandrake.  Today is as good as any to monitor your precious bodily fluids.

7)  Edward Snowden has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. “Socialist lawmakers Baard Vegard Solhjell, a former environment minister, and Snorre Valen said Wednesday the public debate and policy changes “in the wake of Snowden’s whistleblowing has contributed to a more stable and peaceful world order.”

8)  Is it immoral to watch the Superbowl?  I don’t think so, but I think, even with football at its zenith as of now, that it is its zenith, and the sport is about to suffer an inevitably slow death.  Mainly due to stuff like this, “medical research has confirmed that football can cause catastrophic brain injury — not as a rare and unintended consequence, but as a routine byproduct of how the game is played. That puts us fans in a morally queasy position. We not only tolerate this brutality. We sponsor it, just by watching at home. We’re the reason the N.F.L. will earn $5 billion in television revenue alone next year, three times as much as its runner-up, Major League Baseball.

Never is this sponsorship more overt than next Sunday, for the Super Bowl has become an event of such magnitude that it ranks as a secular holiday at this point, as much a celebration of the sport’s ability to draw multimillion-dollar ads as the contest itself. More than 100 million people will watch the game. Most of my friends will be parked in front of their TVs. For the first time in 35 years, I won’t be among them.

Date night tonight, boys and girls.  Behave yourselves.