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Watch Out For The Zombies!

Friday, January 30, 2009
Sometimes you can't help but love hackers. Check this out (via Suburban Guerilla).
Posted by Arbitrista @ 12:43 PM

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Quick HIts

Thursday, January 29, 2009
I don't normally do this but it seems fun. It also spares others from my long-windedness.

1. Brazen Hussy is out of town on her interview and I am bored bored bored. And I hurt my back shoveling snow. Hey, I grew up in the South and then lived in New York City. What the heck do I know about shoveling snow?

2. I told my boss today that Brazen Hussy has a job interview. He seemed to take it well, but I was nervous telling him. He can be a bit unpredictable.

3. Russ Feingold is planning to offer a constitutional amendment to ban gubernatorial appointments to the Senate. I think this a very good idea. There are lots of good ideas about reforming the Constitution, but it takes something like the embarrassments of the last few months before you ever get the chance.

4. People are beginning to realize that Obama has created a very powerful White House staff, making his cabinet appointments seem less important than they did a month ago. A couple of reactions: a) I told you so, and b) this is a very dangerous long-term trend. My solution for weakening the White House is reducing the size of the White House staff. It's the secret of executive power.

5. Karl Rove should be fed to wolves, but I'll settle for a congressional investigation.

6. No no no no no no no. The last thing we need to do is give the Fed more power. The Fed helped get us into this mess. The Fed is not an accountable democratic institution. The Fed doesn't know what it's doing. No more powers for the Fed.

7. I happened to find out I have a good credit score. Who knew? I guess they haven't taken my student loans into account or something.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 6:20 PM

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The Postumous Death of Milton Friedman

For three decades, I've been forced to listen to acolytes of Milton Friedman. Friedman is the intellectual heavyweight of the neoclassical economic revival of the last generation. He is also perhaps the single most influential figure in modern economics, and the godfather of the so-called "Chicago School." Over the years I've had to put up with the arrogance of the Chicago's schools fans not only in countless economic and political debates, but also in political science. I'm not saying that there aren't a lot of very bright people coming out of the dominant wing of economics, but more than a few had a touch of hubris. This says nothing of the half-baked pseudo-Friedmanism coming out of the mouths of Republican party hacks and Limbaugh dittoheads. Not as annoying as Randians, perhaps, but I will say that there's a general overlap between the two groups outside of academia (exhibit A).

A personal example: When I was taking an economics class in graduate school, I was informed by my professor that there were only two basic models for managing an economy - government planning and the free market. The collapse of the Soviet Union demonstrates that the planning model doesn't work, so the laissez-faire model is the one we should embrace, QED. You can imagine the reaction from a 21-year-old, conceited, argumentative graduate student who had read a few things about macroeconomics and economic history. I jumped in and said that not only was this bad logic, but that the pure free market approach had led to its own economic disasters, such as the Great Depression. The conversation went downhill from there.

I can't say I'm happy about the current financial crisis and the attendant recession, which now appears to rival the recession of 1980-1982 - if we're lucky. But I can say that there is a certain satisfaction to be had in watching my former interlocutors splutter when asked what to do next, alternating between flapping around like fish in the bottom of the boat and looking around for a hole to stick their heads in. The fact is that they have been wrong, dead wrong, about everything. I know it, the world knows it, and now, worst of all, they know it too.

I just wish the consequences of their errors weren't so severe.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 9:05 AM

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We'll Find Out Soon

Tuesday, January 27, 2009
From the beginning, liberals have debated Obama's post-partisan rhetoric. For some, it betrays a disturbing naivete that will lead to political disaster at the hands of more ruthless Republicans and their patsies in the national press. For others, Obama's rhetoric is a shrewd strategy aimed at trapping the Republicans between supporting his program or being attacked as obstructionists in a time of national crisis. There is plenty of evidence for either perception, and I have suspended judgment on the matter. I believe we are going to find out the answer quite soon, though, and with it an important reading on whether the Obama administration will be a success or a failure.

I do not believe that the Republicans in Congress have any interest in working with Obama. Yes, it is a national crisis. Yes, Obama is popular. But passing strong legislation that will improve the economy is simply not in the interests of the minority. If the economy recovers, Obama will get the credit and the Democrats will perform well in the 2010 election. If the stimulus package passes and the economy doesn't recover, Obama might still get the credit for taking bold action in times of crisis. So if you're a Republican, what you don't want is for the stimulus to pass, and if it passes anyway and is a failure, you don't want to blur political responsibility. In addition, the Republican caucus is far more conservative than it was last year - there just aren't that many moderates and political vulnerable members in swing districts left. The party really is a right-wing rump at this point.

So no matter what he thinks, Obama isn't likely to get broad bipartisan support for his plans. I hope that Obama is intelligent enough to realize this, and is preparing the following political argument (perhaps during or after his state of the union speech):

"My fellow Americans, I strongly believe in the value of bipartisanship. For too long we have been held prisoner by those who believe that narrow political advantage is more important than sound policy. I was elected on a platform of bipartisanship, and I was attempted govern in a cooperative way with the minority. I was asked to include more tax cuts in the stimulus package, and I did so. I was asked to remove funding for family planning, and I did so. I did so even at the costs of important priorities, all in the name of working with the minority. And after each demand was met with a new concession, I waited for the Republican leadership to support a bill so desperately needed to right our economy. I regret to say that I have waited in vain. After every demand was met, there was another, and another, and another. Every time I have asked the minority whether they were now prepared to support the recovery program, the only answer has been 'No. It's not enough. We want more.'

So from this moment I am done compromising. I am willing to sacrifice a great deal in the name of bipartisan government, but not the future of the country. I will not compromise with those who refuse to realize that they lost the last election, that their policies are responsible for the present crisis and have been decisively repudiated by the American people. I will not compromise with those who are only interested in pressing a failed ideology out of political calculation. Enough is enough."

If Obama does that, I think he has the capacity to rally the country to him, and to isolate obstreperous Republicans. He can then safely run over them, and I suspect a few people like Arlen Specter and Olympia Snowe will flip to support. If he doesn't do that, if he compromises awa the heart of his program, he will ask for and receive the fate of Bill Clinton and the Democrats in 1994, because if anything, the Republicans in Congress are more conservative and obstructionist than they were 15 years ago. They can't be bargained with. They can only be crushed.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 7:42 AM

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Don't You Dare Mess With Her Billy Joel

Sunday, January 25, 2009
Arbitrista: Hey, there's this big long post about how Billy Joel sucks. Apparently hipsters hate him.

Brazen Hussy: Great. That just makes me love him all the more.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 4:01 PM

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Happy Ends, Uneasy Means

Friday, January 23, 2009
Yesterday Obama issued a series of executive orders that has me and a lot of other liberals quite happy. He moved to close Guantanamo Bay, banned torture, ordered a review of detention policies, and weakened executive privilege. Obama also liberalized FOIA rules and lifted the global gag rule.

Substantively, there are all very good moves, and long overdue. If Obama does nothing more than restore basic civil liberties, I will count his presidency a constructive one. However, the fact that Obama's ascension to the Presidency was required for these policies to be implemented annoys me greatly. With the exception of possible executive privilege requirements, each of these executive orders were essentially legislative acts, not executive ones. They involved fundamental changes in policy rather than the detailed administrative rules executive orders are intended to be.

In short, Obama's recent executive orders are further examples of the monstrous concentration of power in the contemporary presidency, a trend that has continued through Democratic and Republican presidents, Democratic and Republican congresses, divided and unified governments - through every conceivable combination of partisan control.

These policies should have been reversed when the Democrats took control of the Congress in 2007. They had working majorities in both chambers, and policy formulation should rest with the Congress as the legislative branch. But instead we have a pusillanimous Congress that is all to ready to cede the policy initiative to an overweening White House - whatever the partisan coloration.

I'm not saying that I'm not thrilled that Obama is taking his responsibility seriously. I am. But I'd be happier if he took his oath to preserve the Constitution seriously, a document whose essence is the meaningful separation of powers.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 10:34 AM

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Happy Women's Liberation Day

Thursday, January 22, 2009
Today is the 36th anniversary of Roe vs. Wade, one of the most important Supreme Court decisions in history. If the decision were a person, it could have run for President in 2008. I probably would have voted for her. Maybe before we reach another 36, the pro-lifers will finally give up.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 3:40 PM

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Inauguration (II)

Wednesday, January 21, 2009
Reading Obama's (first?) Inaugural Address leaves me with a different perspective than hearing it did. Perhaps this points to a flaw in the writing - speeches are, after all, meant to be spoken rather than read. It's structure wasn't as tight as the dictates of classical rhetoric might suggest, but the form of the address was fairly simple, and its theme even more so: that Americans can surmount today's challenges, as they have surmounted past challenges, by hewing to their shared ideals and working together to make those ideals a reality. The critique of Reaganism and Bushism was not central to the speech, but simply part of a larger argument. Obama's main point was that the anti-government ideologies of the past were inappropriate to the present crisis, and had in fact enabled them. He didn't get too explicit because he was striving for a unifying theme, but the thesis was there. I also loved his communalist rhetoric and use of "we're all in this together" language, features which liberal oratory badly needs to be persuasive.

Obama's speech has taken some criticism, some of it warranted. It wasn't his best, for sure. I might quibble with his placement of the Washington quote from Valley Forge, which was an excellent one. I would have begun the speech with that reference, and referred to it again at the peroration. The format is a difficult one, but only a few inaugural addresses have been truly outstanding. Obama also suffered from expectations. JFK, FDR, and Lincoln won their reputation as orators during their presidency, whereas Obama was known as one before. Obama was also limited by the fact that he was unwilling to use the stark us/them rhetoric that makes high oratory so much easier.

But in the main it was a very strong speech, and lays the foundation for much of what he intends to accomplish. I expect that in the future, Republicans will have to choose between cooperating with Obama in an effort to act as a break, in which case Obama's post-partisan rhetoric will reach fruition, or they can oppose him, in which case Obama will have the opportunity to marginalize them as petty politicians who are unwilling to honestly face the country's problems. I for one am hoping for the former, although I remain doubtful.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 3:10 PM

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The Inauguration (I)

Tuesday, January 20, 2009
I want to watch Obama's address a 2nd time and give it a good read before I comment on it in a systematic way. Until I have the opportunity to do so, I'd just like to give a few initial impressions :

1) It was nice to hear such a forceful repudiation of conservatism and such a positive case for liberalism. The words didn't appear, but they were there if you were listening.

2) Atheists and Agnostics are people too!

3) Goodbye to a very long 8 years

4) And the obvious "ZOMG we elected a black President!!!"
Posted by Arbitrista @ 3:48 PM

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Getting By

Monday, January 19, 2009
As most of you already know, Brazen Hussy's parents passed away last week. I want to thank everybody for the outpouring of sympathy towards the two of us - it really does mean a lot to know that so many people are in your corner.

I didn't have internet access while I was out of town, so the posts have piled up. I don't have the energy to go through all of them and just marked them all as read. I've probably missed very important stuff as a consequence, and for that I apologize. I promise to diligently read all future posts! I also promise to write about Obama's inauguration tomorrow. Failing to do so would probably result in my being stripped of "political blogger" credentials.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 5:19 PM

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I Don't Like Fridays

Saturday, January 10, 2009
I had all these interesting things I was thinking about writing about yesterday morning. I was even composing blogs while I was walking the dog, which I hadn't done in a long time. Then yesterday turned into the worst (and one of the longest) days ever.

Life can be hard.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 8:27 AM

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My 15 Minutes

Thursday, January 08, 2009
Something pretty neat happened to me today. No really, it was totally awesome. Unfortunately I can't write about it on my anonymous blog. Unless you know my facebook account, you'll just have to wonder. Sorry!
Posted by Arbitrista @ 6:28 PM

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This Should Be Interesting

Tuesday, January 06, 2009
Matt Stoller, Ivy League populist blogger from Open Left, and before that MyDD, is headed to the Hill for a job (that's the Congress to those who don't know the lingo). Stoller is one of the more...um....aggressive left-wing bloggers out there. I'll be interested to see how he does. Anyone have an egg timer?

Oh, and if you want to be REALLY entertained, check out George Bush's apostles of executive supremacy, John "Yellowcake" Bolton and John "Yay Torture! Yoo at the New York Times. Apparently they think that, wait for it, we should rein in the executive branch! You can't make this stuff up.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 9:15 PM

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Nobody Is Immune

Monday, January 05, 2009
I don't cry at movies. I can be very sentimental in real life, but I'm pretty much always on guard against Hollywood's crass emotional manipulation. But I have to tell you, I wept like a baby during Marley and Me. It was embarrassing.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 12:44 PM

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