Archive for June, 2010

26
Jun
10

“Economic Justice” Protesters Burn Toronto

Once again, the extreme left has taken to the streets to engage in wanton destruction in the name of some self-righteous cause or another:

Thousands of protesters took over the streets of downtown Toronto on Saturday as isolated groups of demonstrators burned police cars, smashed windows and confronted riot police.

[…]

Earlier, demonstrators broke the windows of dozens of businesses, including a Scotiabank, CIBC, a McDonald’s and a Starbucks. Protesters threw bricks at a CBC van, breaking its windows. TTC streetcars were abandoned on Queen Street and two were spraypainted with anti-summit graffiti and anarchy symbols.

Predictably, the protesters are portraying things in a somewhat different light:

Friends, comrades, and allies’ are being detained. Homes have been raided, people have been snatched, and arrested in the streets. At least [#] [sic] of our allies are being held at 629 Eastern Ave, at a film studio that has bee converted into a temporary prison for G8/G20 those resisting the G8/G20.

We need to show our comrades and friends that we support each other, and show that we can’t be divided by fear.

Good thing those “[#]” protesters weren’t protesting government spending, or anything racist like that. Can you imagine what the media reaction would be if “Tea Party” types organized large-scale mob violence on public websites? Ahh, but they’re not pursuing “economic justice,” are they?

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25
Jun
10

Well, At Least He Could Pronounce “Nuclear,” Or “An Inconvenient Goof”

I’m sure he was just mad that the 2000 election got stolen.*

*Innocent until proven guilty.

[Update 06/26]

Presented without comment:

23
Jun
10

Group Sues McDonald’s For Happy Meal Toys

Apropos of Vincent’s post below, an advocacy group, the Center for Science in the Public Interest, is suing McDonald’s for including toys in its Happy Meals, claiming the toys “lure” children into eating high-fat foods and contribute to childhood obesity.This comes hot on the heels of a decision by Santa Clara County, California to ban fast food restaurants in the county from using toys in their meals.

Here’s a quote from some thumb-sucker at the Center for Science in the Public Interest. See if you can read it without throwing up in your mouth:

“McDonald’s is the stranger in the playground handing out candy to children,” Stephen Gardner, litigation director for the advocacy group said in a statement. “McDonald’s use of toys undercuts parental authority and exploits young children’s developmental immaturity.”

Hmm, Now, I don’t know, but it seems to me that, if you don’t want your precious little snowflake to become a quivering mound of fat, you could just not feed it McDonald’s. I know plenty of people whose parents didn’t allow them to eat fast food as a child.

Or I guess you could go the easier route: Sue a mega-corporation and tacitly admit that you’re a sad-sack who compulsively shifts responsibility away from individuals (read: you) and onto nebulous entities (read: “corporatism,” “manipulative advertising,” etc.) that have no real coercive power over your actions as a parent.

Oh, I’m sorry. I forgot this was in the “public interest.” By all means, continue.

But seriously, how long will it be before the government, led by a group of blubbering finger-pointers, starts telling us what we can and can’t eat in our own homes?

P.S. The San Diego County Fair is happening right now, and I hear tell there are deep-fried churros filled with butter for sale. That’s right: deep fried butter glazed with cinnamon and sugar. I’m going to eat one while thinking about how much I hate the public interest.

23
Jun
10

Jack Abramoff Still Rolling a Lot of Dough

I’ll have a large pepperoni and pineapple with a side of sweet, sweet karma:

Ron Rosenbluth, owner of Tov Pizza in Baltimore, confirmed Wednesday morning that disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff has joined his staff.

Abramoff, who started Monday, was released from a minimum-security federal prison in Western Maryland two weeks ago. He now resides at a halfway house in Baltimore.

“He’ll be working 40 hours per week, though ultimately the halfway house determines his schedule,” said Rosenbluth. “He’ll follow me day-to-day and help with all aspects of the business.”

Rosenbluth added that Abramoff — former owner of two D.C.-area restaurants — would be involved in the pizzeria’s marketing effort. Tov produces what it calls “Baltimore’s Best Kosher Pizza.”

If I lived in Baltimore, I would totally buy pizza from Jack Abramoff. Although, if there really was any justice in this world, Abramoff would be a dish dog, not some marketing hack. Or, y’know … in jail.

21
Jun
10

Because Administrators Know Best

Proving once again that there is no aspect of our lives that our betters in the officialdom don’t feel entitled to treat as a laboratory for social engineering:

[T]he classic best-friend bond — the two special pals who share secrets and exploits, who gravitate to each other on the playground and who head out the door together every day after school — signals potential trouble for school officials intent on discouraging anything that hints of exclusivity, in part because of concerns about cliques and bullying.

[…]

As the calendar moves into summer, efforts to manage friendships don’t stop with the closing of school. In recent years Timber Lake Camp, a co-ed sleep-away camp in Phoenicia, N.Y., has started employing “friendship coaches” to work with campers to help every child become friends with everyone else. If two children seem to be too focused on each other, the camp will make sure to put them on different sports teams, seat them at different ends of the dining table or, perhaps, have a counselor invite one of them to participate in an activity with another child whom they haven’t yet gotten to know.

[…]

“When two children discover a special bond between them, we honor that bond, provided that neither child overtly or covertly excludes or rejects others,” said Jan Mooney, a psychologist at the Town School, a nursery through eighth grade private school on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. “However, the bottom line is that if we find a best friend pairing to be destructive to either child, or to others in the classroom, we will not hesitate to separate children and to work with the children and their parents to ensure healthier relationships in the future.” [emphasis added]

Wouldn’t want any of those little balls of clay to start thinking that they have any sort of individual identity outside of that provided by psychologists and bureaucrats, now would we?

(H/T Deb)

[update]

This seems somehow apropos:

My concern with democracy is highly specific. It begins in observing the remarkable fact that, while democracy means a government accountable to the electorate, our rulers now make us accountable to them. Most Western governments hate me smoking, or eating the wrong kind of food, or hunting foxes, or drinking too much, and these are merely the surface disapprovals, the ones that provoke legislation or public campaigns. We also borrow too much money for our personal pleasures, and many of us are very bad parents. Ministers of state have been known to instruct us in elementary matters, such as the importance of reading stories to our children. Again, many of us have unsound views about people of other races, cultures, or religions, and the distribution of our friends does not always correspond, as governments think that it ought, to the cultural diversity of our society. We must face up to the grim fact that the rulers we elect are losing patience with us.

[…]

The statesmen of eras past have been replaced by a set of barely competent social workers eager to take over the risks of our everyday life.

11
Jun
10

Straight From the “Department of Bad Ideas”

The so-called “Academia-gate” story has been all over the conservative blogs in the last few days, and rightly so. While the tone of most of the stories has been predictably spittle-flecked — and one can only wonder if the “outrage” would be the same if this “Cry Wolf” project were dedicated to “debunking” progressive shibboleths like, say… the benefits of “diversity” — but I nevertheless find myself unable to simply dismiss this as yet another instance of right-wing indignation at the putative perfidy of progressives.

In case you’re unfamiliar with what “Cry Wolf” is all about, today’s excellent article in Inside Higher Ed provides a pretty good run-down:

The goal of Cry Wolf is to build an online database of short essays showing examples of crying wolf by the right. If people today are reminded that conservatives in the past predicted devastating impacts from minimum wage laws, or requiring cars to have seat belts, or Social Security, the theory goes, they may be more skeptical if they hear, say, that the Obama health care plan will result in the creation of death panels. A letter seeking these 2,000 word essays — and offering to pay $1,000 for them — has been circulating among liberal academics (and at least one who sent it off to conservative bloggers).

Now, this sort of business should give everyone a bit of pause. There is already a great deal of suspicion cast on research that is funded even partially by organizations like the U.S. military and there are some who would like to see all military money banished from campuses forever. Suspicion of motives alone is more than enough to taint that money and studies that it funds.

There is no need for suspicion about the motives of the “Cry Wolf” program — its stated purpose is to pay scholars roughly $0.50/word to produce results that serve a very specific political agenda. Under the fairly shopworn guise of “speaking truth to power, ” as it were, “Cry Wolf” is trying to give what amounts to little more than propaganda an “academic” veneer.

Some might argue that scholars do this all the time — it’s not like we can expect Richard Pipes to produce a loving biography of Lenin or for David Harvey to dispense of his cool black leather jacket and revolutionary red scarf long enough to publish an article in defense of Milton Friedman. And that’s a fair point. Nevertheless, it seems to me that there is a very real difference between respected scholars like Harvey and Pipes, on the one hand, publishing the results of their research on their own merits and regardless of whatever ideological positions may have informed that research, and on the other hand paying professors and graduate students to churn out studies that “prove” that progressive and liberal ideas are correct and that conservatives are liars.

Peter Dreier, one of the masterminds behind “Cry Wolf,” defends the organization, employing the novel technique of dismissing conservative concerns as being financially motivated:

Why are the conservatives so critical? Said Dreier: “That’s what they are paid to do.”

Other progressive voices, like the blog “Media Matters” defend “Cry Wolf.” “Some college professors [dabbling] in politics” is how they characterized the program. Moreover, they point out, “conservatives do it too.” The Hoover Institution, for instance, “explicitly [conducts] research on how right-wing ‘market-oriented’ and ‘free enterprise’ ideas are correct, and progressive ideas are wrong.” If you’re wondering how closely Media Matters’ version of the Hoover Institution matches up with Hoover’s own mission statement, you can check it here.

I’m not entirely sure when “peace,” “personal freedom,” “representative government,” and “free enterprise” became “right-wing” ideas, but I guess you have to consider the source.

In any case, there are places where academics can go and get paid to produce scholarship that supports one particular ideology or another: they’re called “think tanks.” But I’m not entirely sure that organizations like “Cry Wolf” are going to do any wonders for academic integrity. In a day and age when prices for education are obscene, to say the least, and some people are talking about the impeding burst of the “education bubble,” the last thing academia needs is an even greater perception that scholars are chiefly interested in activism and propagandizing.

11
Jun
10

WWPKD? (What Would Paul Krugman Do?)

Not too long ago, Paul Krugman had a piece in the New York Times, the purpose of which was to chide those benighted scare mongers who were busy pointing to the current financial meltdown in Greece as a warning against government profligacy, in essence claiming that they were simply paranoid and falling into a “fear of imaginary threats,” as he put it.

For the past few months, much commentary on the economy — some of it posing as reporting — has had one central theme: policy makers are doing too much. Governments need to stop spending, we’re told. Greece is held up as a cautionary tale, and every uptick in the interest rate on U.S. government bonds is treated as an indication that markets are turning on America over its deficits. Meanwhile, there are continual warnings that inflation is just around the corner, and that the Fed needs to pull back from its efforts to support the economy and get started on its “exit strategy,” tightening credit by selling off assets and raising interest rates.

The real comparison, according to the esteemed economist (he won the Nobel Prize, in case you hadn’t heard… not to appeal to authority, or anything), is Japan, which has endured a so-called “lost decade,” “trapped,” as it were, “in a prolonged era of high unemployment and slow growth.” Krugman’s prescription? Well, you may be surprised to learn that he supports more deficit spending:

So what we should really be asking right now isn’t whether we’re about to turn into Greece. We should, instead, be asking what we’re doing to avoid turning Japanese.* And the answer is, nothing.

It’s not that nobody understands the risk. I strongly suspect that some officials at the Fed see the Japan parallels all too clearly and wish they could do more to support the economy… I also suspect that Obama administration economists would very much like to see another stimulus plan. But they know that such a plan would have no chance of getting through a Congress that has been spooked by the deficit hawks. [emphasis added]

Strong stuff. And far be it from me to question Paul Krugman, of all people. He has a Nobel Prize (not sure if you heard about that or not), and his presentation at the annual meeting of the Association of American Geographers this year was packed beyond seating capacity, so there are obviously a lot of smart people who value his wisdom.

Unfortunately, the Japanese government doesn’t seem to be among them:

Japan is at “risk of collapse” under its huge debt mountain, the country’s new prime minister has said.

Naoto Kan, in his first major speech since taking over, said Japan needed a financial restructuring to avert a Greece-style crisis.

Our country’s outstanding public debt is huge... our public finances have become the worst of any developed country,” he said.

After years of borrowing, Japan’s debt is twice its gross domestic product. [emphasis added]

If this blog had sound effects, you’d be hearing that overused “record needle scratching across vinyl noise” right now.

Maybe Japan just needs a new stimulus package. *Something-something “deficit hawk” something-something “imaginary threats”*

WWPKD?!

* I’m not sure if this is a veiled reference to The Vapors or not. I choose to believe that it is.