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Orange Post Title

Posted by Ogged
on 07.22.16

Anyone plugged into the GOTV world these days? What's the best thing I can do this election? Or just tell me which states near me are genuinely in play. Let's at least be able to say we gave a shit as we went down the shitter.


 

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Signs Of Decay

Posted by Ogged
on 07.21.16

--You're no longer a young person with interesting and unexpected ailments; you just have ailments that will slowly get worse.

--Younger people's ages start to blend into large categories: college and younger (kids); twenties and thirties (young people); you and everyone else; old people.

--When you see an attractive person, you don't think, "I would like to sex that person," you think, "That's nice."


 

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Texas Time

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 07.21.16

1. Cruz: shrewd or political suicide? I say shrewd.

2. Texas Voter Id law struck down by the 5th circuit. Amazing.


3. Trivers writes: This interview with a former Texas judge on school funding in Texas is good.

Look at the number of Texas graduates who have to take remedial English and remedial math in college. Take a look at eighth grade, and the number of students who are still in school in the 12th grade, and you're missing a whole lot of people. Isn't that kind of a failure? Here's one I've gotten an audible gasp at. I was speaking in Lubbock [and mentioned Texas' No. 43 rank in per-student funding]. Think about Louisiana, or Arkansas, or New Mexico, they all spend more money. And we're no longer 43rd. We've slipped to 45th. And here's the most amazing thing: In 1996 we were 24th in the country. There were two Democrats in the room -- my wife and myself -- and the rest were Republicans, but they gasped. I said, "A football coach with this kind of record would've been fired and run out of town." There's this gradual diminution of the services that our government is providing because we're being starved of money.

Heebie's take: It is an interesting article! And pretty short.

The English-language learner (ELL) students, they were not catching the train. And what was really sad is that there was evidence in the trial that if the students stayed in the ELL program four to six years, they performed better in every test -- SAT, any of the STAAR tests -- than any other demographic group. Better than rich white kids? Yeah. They had developed cognitive abilities in two different languages. So it takes a period of time. But if they do it, the children will succeed more often than not.

4. I got stuck reading about migrant graves the other day. Not new, but depressing, if that's your thing.


 

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Mishmash

Posted by Ogged
on 07.20.16

I just can't watch the clown show. I must say, my preference for Cruz over Trump is seeming pretty reasonable. But enough of all that. I see that Dollar Shave Club was just acquired for about a billion dollars. I think we've discussed this more than once, but in September I bought a Feather Popular and 20 replacement blades that I still haven't used up (I shave about twice a week). It took a little while to get used to the razor, but at this point it's easy-peasy, and I actually get less skin irritation, because the first pass isn't as close as the five-blades. Save your money!

(Also, no body soap (save a few times post-pool-swimming) since last August, and I really, truly, don't-care-if-you-don't-believe-me, don't smell. (Your mileage may vary; my body breaks down in various ways occasionally, but it's never been stinky.)


 

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Maybe it's time to give these guys a third look.

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 07.20.16

Third-Eye Blind was hired to play at a RNC fundraiser yesterday.

"Raise your hand if you believe in science," he asked at one point. Republican concert goers were bummed that the band decided not to play any hits, but Third Eye Blind didn't care.
The 10-song set list did include one hit song, "Jumper," which is about a gay friend of theirs who took his own life by jumping off a bridge. Third Eye Blind ended the show with a plea for gay rights, much to the booing consternation of the crowd in attendance.

Also they taunted fans over Twitter. Three thumbs up!

(I imagine that they were invited and did the math on "we're not Republicans" plus "we've been irrelevant for twenty years" and eagerly accepted the invitation.)

via you, over there


 

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Guest Post - Political Philosophy

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 07.20.16

Nick S. writes: I found Dylan Mathew's interview with Bob Greenstein really interesting.

In part because Greenstein clearly knows what he's talking about and has good things to say. For example his response to the old bit of political wisdom that "programs for poor people are poor programs." This is a very sharp point:

Issue No. 1 is that universal social insurance programs in the United States -- Social Security, Medicare, unemployment insurance -- every one of them is tied to work. We have no universal programs for people who aren't working or don't have an extensive work record. I think that's a crucial point that sometimes gets lost. If, for example, you compare universal social insurance programs that are tied to work to means-tested programs that are tied to work, like the earned income tax credit, you'd have to come to the conclusion that in recent decades, the means-tested programs have done much better politically than the universal programs.

In addition to that, it related to the discussion we've been having on unfogged about neoliberalism -- what is neoliberalism, and to what degree is it a consensus? That may be of more interest to me than many people; it's something I've found myself mulling over. But what's clear is that both Greenstein and Mathews are neoliberals (under an expansive definition), who are both very concerned with figuring out how to get more money for poor people.

But I do think it's a good chance to ask -- for people who find the neoliberal vision too limiting, what do you think is missing from that conversation? Should they be talking about a federal jobs program? I have my own thoughts about the question, which I've been trying to collect for a while, but I do think the interview provides an interesting example to see people who are at the liberal end of the establishment political spectrum. I am also aware that by trying to tie this into neoliberalism I'm probably guaranteeing that nobody will comment. So feel free to ignore this as a tangent, but it is part of my reaction to the article.

Heebie's take: Ostensibly, the article is about why Greenstein is anti-UBI. The first half of the article is taken up pitting means-tested programs against work-related programs, and debating which ones are politically safer.

Then he gets to UBI and says that the problem is that it's too slow to implement, but he'd be in favor of a Universal Child Allowance. At this point I start to roll my eyes. If you're in favor of a UCA and in favor of supporting people who can't work for various reasons, and you're against UBI because of the implementation, then you're really not discussing the merits of any of these programs. You're discussing the feasibility of the political climate in Washington.

That's a totally reasonable thing to discuss, but then the framework should be "Problems with getting good legislation around poverty" not "Problems with different kinds of programs to help the poor". It's annoying to say that the problems with various social programs are that the social programs exist in the same country as a lot of assholes.


 

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Headline

Posted by Ogged
on 07.19.16

White nationalist candidate heads an incompetent clownshow of a campaign; is one crazy Muslim away from presidency.


 

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Deluge - Chapters 19 and 20

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 07.19.16

{Heebie: I'm a space cadet and flaked on posting this yesterday.]

Chris Y writes:
The Great Deflation
[I apologise that my summary of this chapter is hideously long, but in it Tooze undertakes a broad economic survey of the critical interval between the end of the war and the collapse of the German economy, which is both extremely detailed and brain hurtingly dense.]

Tooze begins his section on coming to terms with the postwar reality with a brief overview of the red scare which gripped the establishment world wide and the reaction which ensued. Why this is a brief overview will become apparent shortly, but he illustrates both the extent of organised labour unrest and the brutality of its suppression using the example of Argentina, presumably because most of his readers will be unfamiliar with it. He mentions in passing the establishment of right wing dictatorships in Italy, Spain and Bulgaria (but not, for some reason, Hungary), before turning to his central thesis, that postwar labour unrest was primarily fueled by wartime inflation, and that it was subsequent deflation, more than overt repression, official or unofficial, which quelled it.

Inflation in wartime goes without saying, as governments need to spend far beyond any reasonable expectations of income, and during the Great War, with the exception of the United States and Japan, every belligerent which had been on the gold standard in 1914 was forced off it. After hostilities ceased, the demands of reconstruction in Europe continued to power inflation, while in Japan, which had suffered less damage than the European powers, the government spent money as if it was going out of fashion on civil as well as military investment. Also, non-belligerent nations (such as Argentina) were equally affected by inflation, although Tooze doesn't discuss the mechanism in these cases. In any event, prices world wide spiralled out of control and out of reach of the working stiff, who responded by organising and striking on an unprecedented scale. Tooze discusses specifically the levels of militancy in France, Italy, Japan and Britain and the alarm engendered among the elites by it.

This situation was put into reverse not by overt class struggle, Tooze argues, but by market forces in eastern Asia in 1920, and economic orthodoxy in Britain and the United States. The Japanese currency was backed by gold; the Chinese by silver. China was Japan's biggest export market. The price of silver rose rapidly on Asian markets through 1919 and then tanked in March 1920, causing the Japanese economy to crash with it as exports were suddenly overpriced. The government strategy of growth led by large scale state spending suddenly became a rescue package.

At the end of 1919, the British Chancellor of the Exchequer, Austen Chamberlain (older half brother) announced a goal of restoring sterling to its prewar gold parity1. Tooze defends this aim as an attempt to maintain the credit of the empire, by ensuring that creditors were repaid at the same dollar value as before the war, and therefore ensuring that the pound remained a reserve currency equal to the dollar. This would necessitate considerable deflation, as the UK price index stood at 240/100 above 1914, whereas the US index was 190/100. The British Treasury felt that the level of deflation required to achieve parity with the dollar was achievable so long as the dollar was not a moving target. It was. The Fed believed that is was necessary to deflate the dollar because gold reserves were too low, and made no concessions to the British whatsoever. So ended any talk of "Homes fit for heroes" in Britain: business collapsed, and unemployment among Union members shot up to 23%. The number of workers involved in 1922 was 80% less than in 1919.

Only the US and Britain chose full on deflation as deliberate policy. Other major economies were nevertheless affected. The French government decided to settle for stabilisation rather than deflation and prioritised reconstruction of the areas of the country devastated by the war. Both civil and military expenditure was cut substantially however, and led to a reduction in labour activity. Both Japan and Italy made similar decisions. Japanese ability to maintain its status as a major power depended on the size of its economy, as well as its armed forces. Both had grown masively in war time, and although the government believed it necessary to reduce wages and prices (the run on silver presumably achieved this for them), but was unwilling to risk the total liquidation of the Japanese export base. By late 1919 it was clear that public opinion was tired of expansionist militarism, so savings were possible in this area as well.
British disarmament, undertaken in the interest of deflation rather than peace, had the effect that the country could no longer aspire to global naval supremacy and had to admit as much. This was a big deal, as Britannia's claim to rule the waves had been acknowledged since 1814, if not since 1760. Now, however, the RN was left with resources such that it only assert dominance in Eurpean waters: eslewhere it had to accept parity with the US. The army was decimated, a decision which led to the notorious decision to use the bombing of civilian towns to control anticolonial unrest in Iraq, because there weren't enough soldiers.

Having accounted for deflation, Tooze turns to the linked problems of inter-allied war loans and reparations. His starting point is that wartime damage meant that France needed to import 50 million tons of coal annually. Rather less than half of this could be extracted from Germany, either as reparations or through the occupation of the Saar; France couldn't really afford the rest, mostly because it owed Wall Street. By the beginning of 1921, it was close to defaulting. Britain, at Keynes' suggestion, favoured a general write down of inter-allied debts, but Washington would have none of it. In 1920 the British even contemplated unilateral cancellation, in an attempt to shame the Americans into movement, but no dice. However France had no choice: it could afford, just about, to fund its own reconstruction, but, especially in the climate of deflation, it could not service its debts without an additional source of income. That meant reparations.

Talks began in March 1921. Germany, quite apart from insurrectionary outbursts to left and right, was in no better an economic state than France, and the incoming government clung to the vain hope that Washington would intervene to broker a "peace of equals" on Wilsonian lines; their opening offer was therefore extremely low (30 billion Goldmarks). France and Britain responded by occupying three major cities and creating a customs boundary east of the Rhineland. Germany raised its offer to 50 billion. France and Britain went 132, with most of the difference not due until 1957. The short term dollar value of this was around $15 billion, of which Britain and Franch owed the US $10 billion, which would leave chump change for reconstruction; the implications for Germany were essentially to exhaust its credit for the foreseeable future. The government fell. Washington did nothing. The government reconstituted itself and essentially capitulated at the eleventh hour.

Tooze argues that the ensuing German disaster was more political than economic. In theory, Germany could have stabilised its economy much as France or Japan did, and briefly this seemed to happen. However, the reparations crisis set inflation off again and the social costs of deflation were seen as bearing too high a risk of unrest from the left, while the right denounced the reparations deal and refused to contemplate stabilisation while it remained in force. And the French need to service its own debt meant that the reparations payment schedule was massively front loaded, giving Germany even less room for manoeuvre. Meanwhile, the incoming Harding administration more or less continued its predecessor's line on non-involvement, and was constrained even further by Congressional hostility to concessions, even to the extent that informal discussions between American and British central bankers were seen as a threat to US claims.


Crisis of Empire

Having covered all the bases in the previous chapter, Tooze now narrows his focus to concentrate on a critique of the British liberal imperialist project in the face of the postwar reality. Firstly he lays out how the postwar inflation and deflation affected no only Europe, but every part of the British Empire (and presumably the French Empire as well) with concommitent unrest and repression, striking at the appearance of imperial legitimacy which had been unquestioned in the political establishment for many decades. Then he turns to specific instances, beginning with Ireland.

The narrative of the last stages of the Irish liberation struggle are probably well enough known, although because of his 1917 starting date Tooze doesn't deal with the point that a form of Home Rule was enacted in 1914 and then put on hold, thereby undermining the constitutional nationalists and indirectly precipitating the Easter Rising. To be brief, in the 1918 election Sinn Fein took almost all seats outside Ulster and constituted themselves as the Dail ノEireann and the provisional government of the Irish Republic. The IRA conducted a guerrilla war to uproot the institutions of the British state and was met by increasingly savage repression. By 1921 Henry Wilson, the British officer in charge of this operation, was calling for 100,000 regular troops, which by then would have been pretty much the entire British army. In July of that year, says Tooze, Lloyd George forced a truce by threatening massive repression, although what he thought he'd been doing up to that point is not made clear. But both sides were exhausted, hoped for assistance to the Nationalists from America was not forthcoming, and both Nationalists and Unionists were brought to accept a partition and dominion status for the twenty six counties. An Act had already been passed the previous year providing for institutions in the two parts of Ireland, but it was implemented only in the North. Tooze does not go into the labrynthine manoeuvres undertaken to converge the British and Irish institutions in the emergent Free State, nor does he deal in detain with the Civil War, but he concludes, rightly, that although the Irish revolution was a severe blow to imperial self esteem, it was ultimately contained and had little knock on effect in the rest of the empire.

This was not the case in the Near/Middle East, where Britain had a long standing interest (as in, part ownership) in the Suez Canal and exercised a protectorate over the Canal Zone. At the outbreak of war, this had been extended to the whole of Egypt, with a promise of eventual independence which was belied by talk about the country as the strategic link between Africa and Asia. By the end of the war Egyptian nationalism had permeated most of society, but the British government refused to let go, against the advice of Lord Milner their expert in London, who pointed out that all they needed was the right to station troops in the Canal Zone, and General Allenby, the man on the spot. The Egyptian nationalist leadership was repressed and it took Allenby threatening to resign before Westminster conceded. Tooze seems to find this puzzling, perhaps because he has never heard of the R-word.

Egyptian policy was merely part of a regional SNAFU by Britain, which eventually spread to India. In western Asia the terms of the Sykes-Picot agreement meant that although Britain at the end of the war occupied Syria, this was allocated to France. Consequently, they simply reallocated their principal ally in the region, the Hashemite leader Amir Feisal, to an artificial Iraqi state instead, and made his brother king of Trans-Jordan. This was unpopular with the Syrians, who were shelled into submission by the French, and with the various people who found themselves part of Iraq, leading to the bombing campaign referred to above, in the absence of sufficient troops to enforce British control. Also, the unfortunate Feisal was expected to find a way to implement the Balfour Declaration.

But all this was strategically sensitive compared to the occupation of Anatolia. The terms of the dismemberment of the Ottoman Empire were dictated by the Treaty of Sevres, which, apart from the creation of various artificial states under Allied control between the Tigris and the Mediterranean and in the Peninsula, tried to divide Anatolia into zones of control. The Sultan, recognised as Caliph by the vast majority of Sunni Muslims worldwide, was forced to sign in humiliating circumstances. This had two critical outcomes. In Anatolia itself, it led to the emergence of Turkish nationalism, led by Mustafa Kemal/Ataturk, as a dominant force who won the election held in 1920. The British then occupied Istanbul, and encouraged a proxy war by Greece against the Kemalists, who withdrew to Ankara and eventually defeated the Greek army, not before a number of atrocities on both sides. The other outcome was outrage among the Sunni community everywhere, but, as far as Britain was concerned, especially in India.

By the end of the war, the promise of gradual reform and enfranchisement in India (Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms) had limited the appeal of the Home Rule supporters, but in the face of postwar inflation and economic distress, activism revived. The Indian government (which was mostly British) responded by conceding Congress' demand for the gold standard at a rate which reflected the high point of inflation, leading to deflation and pushing the business community into the arms of the opposition. Against the inclination of Secretary of State Edwin Montagu, at the beginning of 1919 it was decided to extend wartime emergency powers indefinitely. Escalating violence led within four months to the Amritsar massacre and associated repercussions, to the horror of both the Viceroy, Lord Chelmsford, and Montagu.

On top of this came an agreement between Congress and the Muslim League, radicalised by Britain's treatment of the Caliph. Again, Montagu and Chelmsford begged the government to allow the Indian government to distance itself from British Middle Eastern policy, but this was not conceded. This provided the context for the emergence of Mohendas Ghandi as a popular leader, able to attract a mass following from both communities, and promising a deliberately undefined self-rule- swaraj- within a year. In August 1920 Congress boycotted the elections held to implement the Montagu-Chelsford programme and only 25% of the already limited number of enfranchised voters went to the polls. Non-cooperation escalated to the point where Lloyd George told Chelmsford that "the time has passed for patience and toleration." By the winter of 1921, Congress boycotted a visit by the Prince of Wales (good choice!) and over 30,000 non-cooperators were arrested. Chelsford's successor, Lord Reading proposed a constitutional Round Table, a risky initiative which Ghandi rejected, and so did London. Tooze regards this as the point at which Ghandi lost the advantage, since had he accepted the invitation to the Round Table, he would have split Westminster and Delhi. As it was, he attempted to escalate the non-cooperation campaign, and a confrontation with the police resulted in 23 officers dead. The civil disobedience campaign was called off, but Ghandi was not immediately arrested: prompted by Indian sympathisers, Montagu made a final effort to force the government to moderate its attitude to the Caliph, publicly demanding Indian input into the question.

He was forced to resign, and Ghandi went to jail.

In summarising, Tooze, who clearly admires Montagu a great deal, argues that although the conservative view of empire prevailed, it was enabled by the tactical flexibility of the liberals (Liberals?), but the liberal imperialist vision was ultimately undermined by its own inconsistency. An ideological justification for the imperial project was now hard to find. Economic development required capital investment that Britain in the early 1920s could ill afford, and where it could, in the old dominions as well as in India, the growth of the business class led to centrifugal economic pressures. Another problem was freedom of movement, a question dear to the hearts of the English. The Commonwealth at the 1921 Imperial Conference voted to allow Indian liberty of settlement, but this was a dead letter within a very few years.

Tooze ends his chapter on the point that although imperial solidarity had reached a high point during the war, for the future it was futile to believe it could operate internationally as an isolated unit. It would have to take cognisance of the aims and interests of other powers. This seems to me to be a somewhat weak conclusion, if incontravertable.

1. This was actually achieved by Winston Churchill in 1925, and described later by J.K.Galbraith as "perhaps the most decisively damaging action involving money in modern time" .


 

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Political Bodies

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 07.18.16

Let's have a RNC convention thread.

With some naked bodies.

Other naked bodies, but sporty, not political. Is it just me, or did the triathalete guy get photographed in a douchey light? (via J, Robot)

Even more naked bodies, blue artsy ones. (via E. Messily)


 

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