Saturday, January 31, 2009

Obama Benkler Broadband


Yochai Benkler (who should know) says the Stimulus Bill (House and Senate versions) turns out to be halfway decent on the broadband front.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Sind Banker Scharlatane?

Are Bankers Charlatans? (German Original)

Edge 273

Taleb speaks out sharply against the bankers. The people in control of taxpayer's money are spending billions of dollars. "I want those responsible for the crisis gone today, today and not tomorrow," he says, leaning forward vigorously. The risk models of banks are a plague, he says, the bankers are charlatans.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Good Cognitive Citizenship - diavlogs

Will Wilkinson: … there's a lot of other things that I think people would call values that I think imply epistemic laziness. So the value for conformism, for example: people don't think of the value as being conformism, people think of it as” I want to fit into my local community. I want to have the access to the sources of meaning that all the people around me draw from him and if I actually learn about logic or decision theory and deploy it in my everyday thinking then I might end up alienating myself from the things I really do care about that really are values to me.”

So it might be the case that a certain kind of conformity which implies not thinking very hard...I mean not thinking very hard might be instrumental to being able to maintain your commitment to whatever the local norms are. So by saying to people that, “you have a responsibility to be a good cognitive citizen,” that has implications that if you are a good cognitive citizen you might have to give up some of the sources of meaning that, you think, make your life worthwhile.

Eliezer Yudkowsky: Well to be sure rationalists, pardon me: someone undergoing the transition to rationality from a supernaturalist – or non-naturalist base is going to lose some of what they thought were their sources of meaning. The question is, “do they get it back and is it better afterward?”

…So, to put it bluntly: someone who believes that morality comes from God is going to lose their god and get back an improved morality…

Worth 25 minutes:

Monday, January 26, 2009

Longer Bennett and Obama


Bill Bennett disagreed with fellow conservative talking head Rush Limbaugh, who said that he wants President Obama "to fail." On CNN's "State of the Union," Bennett said, "The locution 'I want him to fail' is not what you say the first week the man's been inaugurated ... the rhetoric could be improved." Watch:

"You can't just listen to Rush Limbaugh and get things done.... There are big things that unify Republicans and Democrats; we shouldn't let partisan politics derail what are very important things that need to get done."

"Not a good idea for the President to personalize it and talk about Limbaugh. Rush Limbaugh's an entertainer, as he will tell you. Of course, if you're talking about policies with which you disagree you don't want them to succeed. The locution "I want him to fail" is not what you say the first week the man's been inaugurated. ... Anyway, the rhetoric could be improved.

"But I think the President, then, pointing to Limbaugh just gins that whole thing up again. If he's looking for bipartisan support that doesn't ...

"Remember: Bill Clinton used to talk about Rush all the time, and it never helped Bill Clinton; it certainly helps, it certainly helps Rush. But, this is a sidetrack, this is not where we want to go."

Longer Bennett:

Never mind the substantive points to be made about Limbaugh and his ilk. He's just a clown, as he demonstrates every single day, and is proud of. Not to be taken seriously, the significance of his locutions -- the pernicious meme-gangs he "gins up"; this can have nothing important to do with the pathology of this week's rhetorical gamesmanship over Obama's 'bipartisanship' drive. It's just a sidetrack. That's not where we want to go.

Where we want to go is this way: we want to get back on message on our 'bipartisan promise = straitjacket' talking point: Although, entre nous, this isn't the rhetoric I ought to use at this early stage of the rollout, in our view, Obama has to completely transform all of his ideas and proposals to whatever the Republicans demand if he hopes to live up to his 'promise' of bipartisanship. (I've got that right, haven't I, Senator Kyl? It's our Audacity of Nope strategy.)

And did I mention Bill Clinton? Well ... Bill Clinton. QED. More specifically:
  1. Obama's bipartisan 'promise' is 'broken' if he doesn't do what we want.

  2. Rush's ill-timed locution "I want him to fail" should not be taken seriously as a factor detracting from the bipartisan cooperation necessary to address the hard issues facing the nation. He's obviously a clown: he doesn't know enough not to conceal this bit of unpatriotic hypocrisy, which makes all of us uncomfortable (not because we don't want Obama to fail, which of course we do; but because it's just dumb PR strategy).

  3. Y'see, it's like this: Obama is the one whose actions are threatening bipartisan cooperation -- he's creating a sideshow by getting personal with Rush. He's the one ginning 'that whole thing' up, not Rush. Rush is just clownin' around, just an entertainer. Not a factor -- (just like those clowns Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert). If Obama's looking for bipartisan support that doesn't ...

  4. I'm not going to say what it doesn't. And I don't want to talk about what 'that whole thing' is. I would just like to say, at this juncture, "remember Bill Clinton."

  5. Bill Clinton made the same mistake as Obama. You see, if I don't like the way you depict the truth about a person, I get to say that you have violated the 'can't get personal' cardinal rule as a way of ending further discussion on the merits of whatever aspects of your depiction I'd rather not discuss. So never mind the merits of the situation, YOU, President Obama, have transgressed. You are making the same mistake as Bill Clinton. Poof, the merits are gone. Now we're side-stepping the merits of whatever it was Bill Clinton might have had to say about Rush & his ilk -- not so much side-stepping them as consigning them to some settled category of CW case-history about PR strategy wars, according to my ipse dixit historical summary judgment.

  6. I know I am not doing myself any good by explicating the form of this stratagem at this early stage of the rollout, but it is so devilishly clever that I just can't hold back: it is an ad hominem, attacking Obama for going ad hominem. Such beauty. And before the whisker can snap back, the second blade hits 'em with the brilliant Clinton diversion excursion. Just like my friend Senator Hatch (background).

  7. It's Schopenhauer 16 (ad hominem) times Schopenhauer 26 (turn the tables) times Schopenhauer 2 (homonymy), all raised to the power of Schopenhauer 29 (diversion). All hail Thrasymachus, the patron saint of disingenuous rhetoricians.

Longer Obama:
Shut up, doofus boy.
Well, I shouldn't put divisive words in his mouth. It's more like:
For the true pilot it is necessary to pay careful attention to year, seasons, heaven, stars, winds, and everything that’s proper to the art, if he is really going to be skilled at ruling a ship. And I know, doofus boy, that you don't suppose that it’s possible to acquire the art and practice of how one can get hold of the helm, and at the same time to acquire the pilot’s skill. But here I am self-exemplifying that for you. Here I am steering a course directly at the truth about you, doofus boy, on the merits. And I don't budge when I don't have to, which has proven effective. The transparent mist of your rovean rhetoric will not impede the ship of state.

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1.27.2009 HuffPo

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Emily Bazelon: "If there's a moment where you could go after Rush Limbaugh, I guess it's now."

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1.27.2009 C&L / MSNBC

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1.29.2009 CNBC c/o C&L - Marc Haines interviews Rush

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1.30.2009 TPM - Labor vs. Limbaugh

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2009.02.06 TPM - Polling re the Rush Strategy

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2009.02.27 The Plum Line [Greg Sargent] - party of rush

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Friday, January 23, 2009

Talking Points Memo | You Can Call Me Arne

Talking Points Memo | You Can Call Me Arne

A commenter from inside the Department of Education reports to TPM:

I work at the Department of Education headquarters in DC. Today completed our 2-day introduction to Arne Duncan. Yesterday he had lunch in our cafeteria (Edibles, ha ha), with his wife and children. His wife wore jeans and a sweater and Arne looked like an average joe in khaki dress pants, white shirt and tie. They stood in all of the lines and talked to anyone who approached them. They probably stayed 90 minutes. It was definitely the highest cafeteria attendance ever.

Yesterday afternoon he visited every floor of our building and introduced himself to everyone. We all came out into the hall and he shook everyone's hand with a "Hi, I'm Arne."

By the end of the day yesterday, everyone was aglow, since this was already more attention than we'd received from Spellings or Paige. Today, however, was the all-staff meeting, and I can say that the morale in the building increased ten-fold by the end of it.

Our auditorium was beyond packed, with people standing in the aisles. I myself snagged a seat on the floor next to the stage kindergarten-style. Arne stood in front of a blue screen that read "Call me Arne!" in bright yellow letters. He insisted that we call him Arne, rather than Mr. Secretary or anything like that, saying his name was Arne before he got this job and it would be 8 years from now.


I know this isn't anything earthshattering, but the change in the atmosphere at the Department over the last week has been really astounding. In the past, we all knew that the Secretary had an agenda that she was going to follow, and that we were only there to affirm that her way was best. We really feel that Arne wants to know the truth, whether it fits with his agenda or not.

see also:

Comment from Interior Department

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Executive Order re Presidential Records


The experts' verdicts on the potential impact of President Obama's executive order on presidential records are starting to come in. And they're bolstering our initial take that Obama's move could significantly boost efforts to release crucial records that the Bush administration has fought to keep secret.

Doug Kmiec, a constitutional law professor at Pepperdine law school and expert on executive privilege, told TPMmuckraker that the order makes it harder for former presidents to block the release of their documents.

And, crucially, he said it could impact current high-profile struggles over Bush's records, "whether it be the dismissal of US Attorneys, whether it be other assertions of executive privilege dealing with White House emails and the like."

Congress and the Bush White House have been struggling over a key memo that details the level of White House involvement in the US Attorney firings of 2006. And open-government groups have sued the Bush administration to gain access to White House emails on a range of subjects, including the Valerie Plame leak probe and the decision to invade Iraq.

Kmiec, a noted conservative legal scholar who nonetheless supported Obama's campaign, said he had done some work with the Obama transition team, and had offered his assistance to the new administration.

Kmiec said the order appears to shift power from former presidents to the current administration, and to the National Archivist. Under an order issued by President Bush, former presidents and vice presidents could compel the Archivist to keep documents secret. Under the new order, former presidents can still ask the Archives to do so. But the burden of proof is squarely on the former president to prove that secrecy is in the nation's interest, and the Obama administration can decline the request if it's not convinced. That approach reorients things toward the original intention of the Presidential Records Act, passed in the wake of Watergate.

"If the Archivist were to make a determination that those materials would be made public," explained Kimiec, "then holding it back would take something extraordinary," in terms of an argument from the former president.

Kmiec's view is supported by open-government advocates. Scott Nelson of Public Citizen believes, in the words of the Associated Press, that "researchers should find it easier to gain access to records under the new order."

And yesterday, Anne Weissman of CREW, which unsuccessfully brought a lawsuit against Dick Cheney's office to compel him to hand over records to the Archives, told TPMmuckraker that the order "does have the potential to impact ongoing litigation," including over the US Attorney documents.

So when might we see those documents? If the Archivist and the Obama administration agree to it (in practice, the Archivist would likely defer to the administration), they could be made public as soon as the Archivist has prepared them for public display. Of course, President Bush could sue to stop the move -- but it looks like he'd face an uphill climb in convincing a court that there's a pressing need to keep them secret.

It really is a new day.

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& TPM 1.23.2009

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Transparancy, Rule of Law


Barack Obama just publicly announced a far-reaching set of ethics rules and other changes from prior practices for his White House staff:
  • Over a hundred senior staffers making over $100,000 per year will have their pay frozen at current levels.

  • There will be a two-year waiting period for any former lobbyists to work on issues for which they had previously done lobbying work.

  • Extra openness will be practiced with any information that the Administration might want to keep secret.
This was perhaps the most striking quote: "Information will not be withheld just because I say so. It will be withheld because a separate authority believes my request is well grounded in the Constitution. Let me say it as simply as I can,
"transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency."

- Barack Obama

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flashback 3.24.2008: No. 1 Campaign issue in 2008

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2009.01.21 Transparancy & Open Government
- Presidential Memorandum For the Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies.
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2009.01.26 TPM
Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) is going to put Obama's openness and transparency claims to an early test -- by re-subpoenaing Karl Rove to testify about the U.S. attorney firings. Will Obama support Rove's executive privilege claims? Will Rove even bother asserting executive privilege with his patron out of the White House?

So many questions ... but we may get answers pretty soon. The subpoena summons Rove for next week, Feb. 2.

enter Iglesias

Talking Points Memo
Fired U.S. Attorney David Iglesias told local TV in New Mexico this morning that he's been called back up to work as a JAG prosecuting terror cases at Gitmo. You'll recall that Iglesias was the inspiration for the Tom Cruise character in A Few Good Men, and he's still in the Navy Reserves.