The Third Estate
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Wednesday, June 30, 2010
Finally I finished chapter 10 of my book! And I even like how it ended. You can't go wrong with a big fire.

Finally I get to pick my wife up from the airport. She's been gone a week now and I miss her terribly.

Finally my boss realizes how much work I do. He asked for a report on what I'd done in 2009 and in 2010. If he was impressed at 2009, he was gobsmacked at 2010 - which equals the previous year in volume and we're halfway through it. I told him I was busy!

Finally we have some days that are neither 90 degrees nor full of thunderstorms.

Finally I've managed to psychologically disentangle myself from reading the news. For now.

Finally several inactive blogfriends are posting again!

And finally I thought of something fun to blog about.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 12:45 PM

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One Billion Dollars

Friday, June 25, 2010
The amount of money it would take for me to be in Mike Huckabee's shoes right now.

Huckabee cited University of Chicago Law School professor Dr. Martha Nussbaum as first “applying the phrase to the GLBT community.” But as Igor Volsky noted, Huckabee’s Nussbaum reference was “bizarre,” considering that Nussbaum uses the “ick factor” to argue that opponents of gay political initiatives are driven by their ‘aversion to man-on-man anal sex’ (that’s the ick), not any sophisticated legal or Biblical theories of behavior.” Now, Politico reports that Nussbaum is rejecting Huckabee’s characterization and demanding a “public apology”:

Mr. Huckabee has gotten bad information about my work and has completely turned its meaning upside down, imputing to me a position (that gays and lesbians are disgusting) that I criticize as childish and morally deficient. He owes me a public apology.

For those of you who aren't aware, Martha Nussbaum is one of the smartest women alive (read some of her books and you'll agree). One gets into a debate with her one if one wishes to be reduced to a quivering mess of fallacies and self-doubt. Which it why I suspect that Mike Huckabee won't get within a mile of her.

(via Think Progress)

(edited for typos)
Posted by Arbitrista @ 5:39 PM

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This Is Just Accurate Enough To Be Scary

Wednesday, June 16, 2010
I'm not particularly fond of my job. A large portion of it is inherently tedious, and my several of my supervisors are extremely aggravating. I've thought about quitting, except that a) in the present job market it would be very hard to find a new job, b) I'm very risk adverse, c) one of these days BH will get a new position somewhere and then this will all be over, and d) I probably wouldn't like another job any better (think Office Space). In the meantime I'm just trying to get by, focusing on the (few) things about it that I do enjoy and refusing to invest any more of myself in the work than I absolutely must.

However, when I read this (via Edge of the American West) I felt a disturbing shock of recognition. It made me think of not just this job, but my last job too, and before that my time in academia. I don't think it's a close reflection of my professional life in every respect, but it certainly has enough similarities to be disturbing.

And the saddest thing is I suspect that this experience of the world is utterly commonplace. Office Space is still very much with us.....

Joanna: So, where do you work, Peter?
Peter Gibbons: Initech.
Joanna: In... yeah, what do you do there?
Peter Gibbons: I sit in a cubicle and I update bank software for the 2000 switch.
Joanna: What's that?
Peter Gibbons: Well see, they wrote all this bank software, and, uh, to save space, they used two digits for the date instead of four. So, like, 98 instead of 1998? Uh, so I go through these thousands of lines of code and, uh... it doesn't really matter. I uh, I don't like my job, and, uh, I don't think I'm gonna go anymore.
Joanna: You're just not gonna go?
Peter Gibbons: Yeah.
Joanna: Won't you get fired?
Peter Gibbons: I don't know, but I really don't like it, and, uh, I'm not gonna go.
Joanna: So you're gonna quit?
Peter Gibbons: Nuh-uh. Not really. Uh... I'm just gonna stop going.
Joanna: When did you decide all that?
Peter Gibbons: About an hour ago.
Joanna: Oh, really? About an hour ago... so you're gonna get another job?
Peter Gibbons: I don't think I'd like another job.
Joanna: Well, what are you going to do about money and bills and...
Peter Gibbons: You know, I've never really liked paying bills. I don't think I'm gonna do that, either.
Joanna: Well, so what do you wanna do?
Peter Gibbons: I wanna take you out to dinner, and then I wanna go back to my apartment and watch 'Kung Fu'. Do you ever watch 'Kung Fu'?
Joanna: I love 'Kung Fu'.
Peter Gibbons: Channel 39.
Joanna: Totally.
Peter Gibbons: You should come over and watch 'Kung Fu' tonight.
Joanna: Ok.
[Peter nods]
Joanna: Ok. Can we order lunch first?
[Peter nods again]
Joanna: Ok.

-From IMDB
Posted by Arbitrista @ 9:54 AM

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Now Where Have I Seen This Before?

Tuesday, June 15, 2010
There's been a heated reaction to the NYT report that Afghanistan has enormous mineral riches. At one level this isn't a big surprise, given that minerals deposits tend to be in mountains and Afghanistan has tons of those (no I don't know anything about geology - obviously). People have already noted that this report may be overblown, but if true that it's not necessarily a good thing given the track record of developing countries & natural resources finds (oil, diamonds, etc.).

What strikes me most are the political context and historical parallels. This information was released just as it becomes clear that the timeline for withdrawing from Afghanistan isn't going to work (surprise!). The military needs a continuing justification to keep the occupation....er....counterinsurgency going, and we suddenly learn there might be massive economic benefits to staying? How convenient. The case for Iraq was a bit more straightforward (oil), but I've heard this song and dance before. Historians and those old enough to remember might recall all the conversations about rubber supplies in Vietnam being used as a justification for that war.

Rubber and lithium. Sure sounds like stuff that's worth thousands of deaths and national bankruptcy.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 10:43 AM

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Something In the Water

Monday, June 07, 2010
Maybe there really is something to getting brainwashed by the establishment. In one day Matt Yglesias and Ezra Klein have stepped in doggie-poopie with their comments on education reform. For Yglesias this is just another installment of his "I don't know a thing about education policy but I'll pretend I do" pro-merit pay jihad, but Klein starts harping on union protections against firing teachers? I mean, he actually says that in the private sector bad employees tend to get fired in recessions! Hello, earth to Ezra! That only happens to peons! Look at what's happened in the financial sector!

Why is it D.C. liberals are so anti-teachers unions? Why do each and every one of them drink the kool-aid of the neoliberals? There isn't any evidence that merit pay in particular or weaker unions in general improves educational performance. There actually aren't many cases of successful merit pay systems anywhere in the public sector. In fact the countries with better educational outcomes tend to have stronger unions.

Ugh. Between this and Obama's totally wrongheaded education "reform" policy I'm ready to believe that the conspiracy theorists who argue that the Democratic Party just exists to anesthetize the opposition to the shock doctrine are on to something.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 3:25 PM

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