Skip to content

Archive for July, 2011

A conservative message to conservatives

Care of @paulwalteruk, a still relevant clip of Ronald Reagan talking about raising the debt ceiling in the US. Reagan raised taxes as well as the debt ceiling, it should be noted. Over thirty years – including here in the UK – conservative thought is turning into an empty caricature of itself. They are letting themselves down. And taking the rest of us with them, unfortunately.


Here’s a transcript:

Congress consistently brings the government to the edge of default before facing its responsibility. This brinksmanship threatens the holders of government bonds, and those who rely on social security and veteran benefits. Interest rates would sky rocket, instability would occur in financial markets, and the federal deficit would soar.

The United States has a special responsibility to itself and to the world to meet its obligations. It means we have a well earned reputation for reliability and credibility, two things which set us apart from much of the world.

- Roland Reagan, September 26th, 1987

US conservatives: consistently blowing the budget since World War II

Here’s an interesting thing, courtesy of Paul Krugman’s link to a piece by Bruce Bartlett (senior policy analyst under Reagan). In the context of describing Barack Obama as effectively being a conservative, Bartlett makes the argument that two Republican presidents were effectively liberals: Eisenhower and Nixon.

This is becomes particularly interesting when you combine it with a chart of the US national debt (from Wikipedia). Combining these two sources, since World War II every single liberal President has reduced the national debt, while every single conservative one has increased it. Here’s the chart:

Read more

The Seventh Stage of Internet Grief

7. people tweet about how people who tweet about how people tweeting about dead celebrity should instead be tweeting about recent tragedy are assholes

The full list is here, from Matt Langer.

A game of chicken with only one driver

I love this analogy on the damage the Republicans are doing to the political process in the US (thanks to Josh Marshall at TPM):

Yes, at some level it’s a game of chicken. Something we can all understand pretty intuitively in human nature and game theory terms. But to really get what’s going on you’ve got to understand one key point: one of the two cars doesn’t have a driver in it. Which changes everything.

The full article itself is a good, short read. It’s also in the vein of my piece yesterday on journalism’s obsession with balancing two camps of opinion rather than objectively assessing the substance of those opinions. Paul Krugman makes the same point in the New York Times. Read more

The difference between Christian and Muslim terrorists

It’s been doing the rounds, but I got this from Sunny Hundal at Liberal Conspiracy. Pretty much sums up right wing hypocrisy regarding terrorism for me:

It was sad to see the rush to blame Al-Qaeda before the facts starting coming out about the shooting and bombing in Norway. I really don’t understand professional commentators who are not provoked into either deep thinking or stunned silence even by the slaughter of innocents.

US conservatives are detaching themselves from reality, and the media is helping

It’s interesting. Last night, Barack Obama has for the first time made explicit reference to the purist, batshit insanity of some Republicans. Yet there’s almost no commentary out there talking about it. The media is sticking to the analysis-free “balanced”, “issues on both sides” approach. The substance on a matter of global impact remains buried under superficial analysis of political games and media strategy; governance and hard reality barely get a look in.

When did it become acceptable for journalists and editors to give up and say, “Objectivity is an unattainable ideal, so why bother even trying?”

The debt crisis debate in terms of negotiation stance is fairly simple: one side is proposing 75/25, the other 100/0.

The former is negotiating; the second is more akin to terrorism by other means. Yes, objectivity is difficult. It’s not that difficult in situations where it is so easily quantifiable, however. Read more

Paper’s evolutionary leap

Ever since I installed a simple word processor called WriteRoom on my laptop, I’ve been a huge fan of full screen interfaces. That was WriteRoom’s sole selling point – it took up the whole screen, getting rid of all distractions. There are situations where I want several windows or panels at once – writing software, for instance. Editing photos and composing music. But when it comes to reading and writing, I like to focus on nothing but the words.

Here’s my interface for writing blog posts:

Read more

Jonathan May-Bowles: a cautionary tale?

This (courtesy of Liberal England) is an on-the-nose summary of muppet Jonathan May-Bowles’s decision to put his ego front and centre.

You don’t have to be fanciful or grandiose to feel proud that This Is How We (Eventually) Do Things .. People were surprised that they were allowed to nip to the loo, drink fizzy water and chew gum. Hey – The Authorities don’t think we need to be treated like infants! Hmm.

The full post is a good read.

May-Bowles could be seen as a cautionary tale: if you believe in something, it is not wise to act like a prat. No amount of moralising or fact-filled debate will compensate for people being too embarrassed to be seen agreeing with you.

All that said, there are worse things than acting like an idiot. I hope that underneath the attention seeking, Jonathan does have a genuine desire to improve the world. If so, may the approbation he is currently receiving only encourage him to take it more seriously in future. Not everyone – certainly not me – is willing take to action as visible as that.

This, Mr Murdoch, is the kind of hysteria we don’t want in the press

Want some useful truth about health issues? Ask a scientist.

Want an impressive way to convey dull statistics? Ask a data journalist.

The combination is powerful. Information is Beautiful has a wonderful visualisation of health stats for the HPV jab. It also contains a link to Ben Goldacre slating the tabloid press for saying a life-saving treatment is “as deadly as the cancer”.

This is another aspect of tabloid journalism’s disrespect for human dignity. Health scares are a greater risk to public safety than the terrorism the Met used as an excuse to not do their job. Covering them responsibly, like the phone hacking scandal, boils down to ethics and standards of governance.

Perhaps the deliberate misrepresentation of facts (gathered by innocent means) should also receive some scrutiny, as well as the accurate representation of facts (gather by illicit means)? They’re two sides of the same public interest coin.

Doesn’t take ‘em long to turn on each other, does it?

James Murdoch’s evidence has been questioned by former News Corp executives.

Please, please, let the precedent be set that excuses such as “I’m not aware” and “I don’t recall” are no kind of defence when the charge is willful blindness.

A certain kind of person has no problem with how ridiculous it sounds. Remember US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales defending dodgy dealings in the Department of Justice? I haven’t counted but I’m told he used that excuse 72 times: