politics

Libertarianism is a morally bankrupt political philosophy.

Put this on Facebook, but I' putting it here too.

Libertarianism is a morally bankrupt political philosophy.

It's consistently disappointing to me when I discover that certain circles I run in have people who think libertarian ideas are credible, who think it's okay to let people starve in the street, die from curable medical problems or die from exposure because they don't have anywhere to live, who think, in short, that's it's okay for people to die because they are poor. Because when you say the government shouldn't take care of people who are too poor to take care of themselves, that is what you're saying.

And when I realize that I can't get this through to people, that they won't listen, I get sick to my stomach. It makes me physically ill. And I don't know what to do about it.

Wet Asphalt Election Guide & Drinking Game

Here's a quick run down for the important national races to keep an eye on tomorrow, and a drinking game that should put you in just the right mood for the ultimate outcome, whatever it might be:

President
Drinking Game, every time one of the following states is called for Romney do a shot
Virginia
Florida
New Hampshire
Pennsylvania
Massachusetts (safe for Obama, but it's Romney's home state so do a shot in celebration of his embarrassment at losing it)
Wisconsin
Colorado
North Carolina
Nevada
Iowa
Minnesota
Ohio
Indiana

The more of those states Romney wins, the more likely it is that he will be president. Hence, get good and hammered if he's pulling ahead.

Senate
Control of the Senate turns on the following seats
Arizona: Carmona v. Flake

Every time the news people mention that Flake is Mormon like Romney or the importance of the Phoenix Suburbs, take a drink. Every mention of Carmona as "1st Latino" "Surgeon General" or "Vietnam veteran" take a drink.

If Flake wins do a shot.

Indiana: Donnelly v. Mourdock

Every mention of Mourdock's "Rape is God's Will" gaff do a shot. Every mention of Donnelly as a "come from behind" in a state the GOP should have had locked down, chug a beer. Every time both come up in the same sentence, do both.

If Mourdock wins, do a shot and abandon all faith in humanity.

Missouri: McCaskill v. Akin

Every mention of "legitimate rape" comments by Akin, do a shot. Every mention of McCaskill helping Akin in the primary because he's such a buffoon that he was her best shot at reelection, laugh hysterically and do a shot.

If Akin wins, do a shot and swallow a birth control pill with it.

Montana: Tester v. Rehberg

Every time someone expresses surprise that Tester remains ahead, drink. If Rehberg wins do two shots and chug a beer.

Nevada: Heller v. Berkeley

In Defense of Clint Eastwood

People are talking trash about Clint and frankly, its kind of tasteless and bullshit. He's an old man. He looks a little frail. He may be a bit senile. And frankly, when you live to be his age, you get to be a little bit ornery and addled. It's your god given right as an American. Making fun of him is just kind of crass.

It doesn't really need pointing out that Clint Eastwood is a living American treasure. He may well be the last of an era of Hollywood stars the likes of which the film industry doesn't seem to be creating anymore. And as he has matured as a director, he has made some genuinely great contributions to cinema. This shouldn't need to be said, but briefly, this is the man who starred in The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, directed and starred in High Plains Drifter, Unforgiven, Pale Rider. He directed Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. He's Dirty Harry and the man with no name. He directed Mystic River, Flags of our Fathers, Letters from Iwo Jima. And he made Changeling, a film that I dare anyone to watch and not re-assess their feelings about the death penalty no matter what their view might be going in. There are very few people in the world of film that have a record as solid as that.

But that is all beside the point, because what I really think needs to be said is that despite the rambling ad libbed nature of Eastwood's speech at the Republican convention, there were numerous elements within the general thread that were both refreshing and sincere and a welcome break from the general insipid mendacity of Eastwood's fellow Republicans. In particular he made three points over the course of his speech that He was absolutely right about.

Grand Old Party: No Faggots, No Cunts, No Niggers

Perhaps you've heard this story already about the Republican senate candidate in Pennsylvania comparing the rights of a rapist to those of the father of a fetus created via consensual sex out of wedlock.

It comes on the heels of this story about how Paul Ryan, the GOP nominee apparent for the Vice Presidency, thinks that rape is "just another method of conception."

That in turn follows on the ongoing baby mama drama started by Todd Akin, the Republican running for Claire McCAskill's Senate seat in Missouri. That story has now officially hit the "right wing backlash" leg of the news cycle, with supporters of Akin now coming out of the woodwork to include former Republican governor and Fox News personality Mike Huckabee and former Republican Senator and presidential also-ran Rick Santorum.

Remember now, this is the party that claims that they are really just all about smaller government and growing the economy.

Do I really need to explain this shit about how Julian Assange is a piece of shit who made all this crap up? Seriously?

I must make several disclaimers and caveats about the big old dollop of Whipped Truth Cream I'm fixin' to top off your sundae with.

Disclaimer the first, the wikileaks website is a good thing, providing information to the public that is wrongly kept secret is a good thing. A free press is a necessary precondition for an open society. Wikileaks has already played an important part in helping to assure that and I sincerely hope that it will continue to do so.

Disclaimer the second, I don't know precisely what facts form the foundation of the accusations against Julian Assange in Sweden. Neither do you. Stop pretending like you do because you don't. That shit hasn't been released and all we know about it is rumor, innuendo, and third party speculation.

Period; full stop; end of discussion. Those two points are issues on which I will brook no arguments. If you think that saying anything about either the value of Wikileaks or the nature of the charges against Julian Assange in Sweden has ANYTHING AT ALL to do with what follows, you are wrong. You have misunderstood. Stop. Shut up. Read it again. Repeat until you've successfully suppressed your inner moron.

Now that that's out of the way, let me make the point that should have been dead clear to absolutely everyone years ago when this whole thing started: The Extradition of Julian Assange to Sweden has absolutely nothing to do with prosecuting Julian Assange for espionage in the United States.

Surplus Value in a Nutshell

Take all the money you need to survive and add it up. Call this amount X. X is the lower limit of your financial ability to sustain just yourself. It's what you need for food shelter and the basic necessities of life. X is actually quite a low number. The only people who make anything close to X in the United States are migrant workers, and even they make more than X which is the reason why they come to the US seeking work, because back home in Mexico, Guatemala and various other depressed countries, X is significantly lower than it is in the United States and even a little money to send home makes a huge difference in the lives of those living in the abject poverty of the developing world. But I digress. We need to focus on X.

So now suppose that you are entering the labor market. The labor market, without other regulation, is largely like any other market. The prices are controlled by supply and demand. If your ability to produce in whatever job you are seeking is roughly on par with the average entry level worker in the labor market, then the supply for the sort of labor you offer is very high. In fact, it will almost always exceed demand. What this means is that for the Average Worker AW with no special skills that increase his ability to produce above and beyond that of any other average entry level worker, the labor market exerts constant downward pressure on wages due to competition and limited demand.

The situation is slightly different for a Skilled Worker SW. SW is in a better situation because SW has skills that make his output greater than that of AW. What this means is that if SW and AW work for the same amount of time, SW will produce a greater absolute output than will AW. Accordingly, SW will be able to demand higher wages in the labor market. However, there is a limit on SW's ability to exploit this ability to produce more which is the competition from other skilled workers. This also exerts downward pressure on skilled workers.

Generation Fuck Off, Part 2: Going Back to Colorado

So, I've been here before. And I really don't have time to process all of it yet again because I need to study. The bar exam is next tuesday, see, and I really REALLY need to make sure I pass.

What I will say about this, for now, is that all of your theories about why this happened are wrong. It's not because of gun control, or too much gun control. It's not because we miss people in our society and our mental health system is badly overtaxed. This did not happen because of anything to do with Jesus, with Islam, or with any other religion. Whether the shooter turns out to be a big fan of Rush Limbaugh and a tea party supporter, a neo-nazi member of some splinter group of mormons, a black block anarchist using terror as a weapon to try to spark the revolution, or some deluded Occupy hippy who smoked so much dope he thought this was a good idea, none of that matters.

There is plenty of blame to go around for this tragedy. Much of it is deserved. But blame is not the same thing as fault.

No one is at fault for this catastrophe.

What we can know about this are three simple facts:

1.) Most of us are incapable of an act like this. Whatever it is that goes on in the mind of a spree killer, it is a broken machine in a broken person. People who are well do not do things like this.

2.) Pointing fingers and trying to make political hay out of a tragedy like this doesn't really accomplish anything other than disrespecting the victims. Maybe a Brady will emerge from this, and that will be a righteous and good thing. But today is not the time for that.

3.) Most of us will be lucky enough to never personally face such terror. For that we should be grateful. We should tell the people we love that we love them. We should do what we can to ease the pain of those who have lost so much so senselessly.

The Eggshell Skull Problem

So I'm not going to go into the whole detail of the Daniel Tosh Rape Joke Crisis on the internet because I think Lindy West has already said everything worth saying about that particular topic at Jezebel. But the whole dust up has made me revisit an issue in American discourse in general that I've come to think of as the Eggshell Skull Problem. It's named after an old principle in common law torts that basically says you take your victim as you find him when you do wrong. The paradigm case is hitting someone on the head in a way that would be harmless for most people, but which for a person with an eggshell thin skull would be life threatening. If that's the case and you do more harm than you thought you would in battering the guy with the eggshell skull, more tough luck to you because you're still on the hook for all the damages.

Where it comes to a physical harm, I think that makes sense. Physical harms of the sort tort law deals with can be expensive and the whole point of the rule is to make sure that the person who is in the wrong bears the cost rather than the injured party. So far so good. The Eggshell Skull Problem, however, is analogous but occurs in a place where we specifically don't hold people legally accountable for their harms, and that's in the realm of speech-acts. For those unfamiliar with the term, a speech-act is any activity whereby one accomplishes some end merely by speaking. The particular speech act in question in this latest controversy is the rape joke speech act. The rape joke is a difficult problem for an open society, and frankly I think our society deals with it particularly badly. That it does so is a result of The Eggshell Skull problem, and my aim here is to explain why I think that is.

Liberal Cowardice

So, if you haven't seen this, watch it now:

I've been arguing with some lefties this morning on a friend's facebook page who think that Dan Savage made a mistake here. Their central argument is that "this is not how you open young minds and educate them."

For what it's worth Savage has issued an apology of sorts for the insult he directed at the kids walking out on his speech. "My use of "pansy-assed" was insulting, it was name-calling, and it was wrong. And I apologize for saying it." He said.

So, you think, that should be the end of the critique that the "anti-bullying activist bullied Xtian Teens claim" right?

Open Letter To Lawrence O'Donnell

Dear Lawrence O'Donnell,

I have been a regular watcher of the last word with Lawrence O'Donnell since it first came on the air. I have found your unapologetically left wing views on any number of subjects refreshing and insightful. But after the show on Monday March 26, I feel like I will be unable to watch in the future. For me, you have damaged your credibility and lost the moral high ground that you once possessed as a result of taking principled positions on issues based on facts and passionate advocacy.

I recognize that the Last Word is more an opinion show than a news program, but that doesn't alleviate your responsibility either to get the facts right or to be respectful of areas where the facts are not known. Your treatment of a lawyer engaged in representing his client, making personal attacks and challenges to his character for presenting his client's version of events, and of a journalist who reported a story you did not like, by misrepresenting her story as presenting as fact what were clearly flagged as reports from a law enforcement source in the story, were unprofessional and tacky. You should be ashamed of yourself.

I have followed the Trayvon Martin case closely since it first came to my attention a couple of weeks ago, and I am very dismayed by much about the case. I'm saddened that a young man can be viewed as suspicious and killed because of his race and attire. I find the application of Florida's stand your ground gun law horrific. My heart breaks for Mr. Martin's parents and I am furious at the apparent ineptitude of the Sanford Police department to conduct a reasonable and professional investigation of the shooting culminating with the arrest and charging of George Zimmerman. And I am sincerely disturbed that the issue has been drawn into yet another left/right crypto-racist condemnation of the President and liberalism by the despicable likes of Newt Gingrich and the right wing press.