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:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z6kgvhG3AkI

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, http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/02/06/state-dept-official-caught-on-tape-fuck-the-eu.html