Monday, January 30, 2012


We don’t have an obligation to solve America’s problems.

-- unnamed Apple executive

I’ll bet that guy ... does strongly believe that Uncle Sam has an obligation to stop foreign pirating of Apple’s intellectual property and to maintain the deployments of the U.S. Seventh Fleet and of the 100,000 U.S. troops in the Asia-Pacific region that make it safe for Apple to use [long] supply chains.

-- Clyde Prestowitz

In this week's sift:

  • Where the Jobs Are and Why. Suddenly in the last two weeks, we've seen an amazing run of articles about manufacturing, sparking lots of insightful commentary. Fulfilling the President's pledge to bring manufacturing jobs home will be even more complicated than it looks.
  • Barack X, the Fictional President. Bill Mahr, Jay Rosen, and the New Yorker explain what Obama is up against, and the challenge Mitt Romney has so far dodged.
  • The Return of Death Panels and other Short Notes. No, the ACA doesn't say old people can't have brain surgery. Poor English boots a candidate off an Arizona ballot. Do Newt's infidelities predict a strong presidency? The world's cutest car. What's wrong with corporate raiding? Occupy didn't invent the 1%. Dead people didn't vote in SC. And Elizabeth Warren explains what's wrong with Mitt's taxes.
  • Last week's most popular post.Property vs. Freedom had 245 views. The most-clicked link was to Democracy Now's episode on the McDonalds' coffee case.
  • This week's challenge. If I'm feeling too challenged to think of a challenge, maybe we all could use a week off.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Pulling Up the Stakes

The first man who, having enclosed a piece of ground, bethought himself of saying This is mine, and found people simple enough to believe him, was the real founder of civil society. From how many crimes, wars and murders, from how many horrors and misfortunes might not any one have saved mankind, by pulling up the stakes, or filling up the ditch, and crying to his fellows, "Beware of listening to this impostor; you are undone if you once forget that the fruits of the earth belong to us all, and the earth itself to nobody."

– Rousseau, On the Origin and Basis of Inequality Among Men

While property in some form is possible without liberty, the contrary is inconceivable.

-- Richard Pipes, Property and Freedom

In this week's sift:

The sequel to Escalating Bad Faith got crowded out again.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Profit and Property, or People?

When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights, are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.

-- Martin Luther King

In this week's sift:

  • Four Fantasy Issues of the Right. It's hard to have the political debate our country really needs, when so much of what we end up talking about is baseless: creeping Sharia, things Obama never said, voter fraud, and lies about Obama's birth, religion, or political philosophy.
  • What is Job Creation? What keeps our businesses from hiring isn't lack of capital, it's lack of customers.
  • Truth Vigilantes and other short notes. The Times gets an earful from its readers.  Defending corpse desecration doesn't support our troops. What if Tebow were Muslim? Colbert's Super-PAC demonstrates the absurdity of our campaign-finance system. The Republican establishment shuts down criticism of Romney. The charming geekiness of Vi Hart. And more.
  • Last week's most popular post.The Four Flavors of Republican got 441 views on this blog, and was also popular on Daily Kos. The most-clicked link was Explaining Socialism to a Republican.
  • This week's challenge. Friday is the anniversary of the Citizens United decision that expanded the corporate personhood doctrine and let corporate money flood into our elections. Occupy the Courts is organizing a national day of protest at federal court buildings around the country.

The sequel to last week's Escalating Bad Faith is delayed to next week.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Inventing the Narrative

When we talk about the process, then, we are talking, increasingly,
not about “the democratic process,”
or the general mechanism affording the citizens of a state a voice in its affairs,
but the reverse: a mechanism seen as so specialized
that access to it is correctly limited to its own professionals,
to those who manage policy and those who report on it,
to those who run the polls and those who quote them,
to those who ask and those who answer the questions on the Sunday shows,
to the media consultants, to the columnists, to the issues advisers,
to those who give the off-the-record breakfasts and to those who attend them;
to that handful of insiders who invent, year in and year out,
the narrative of public life.

Joan Didion, “Insider Baseball” (1988)

In this week's sift:

  • Escalating Bad Faith, Part I: Recess Appointments. The controversy over President Obama's recent recess appointments sounds boring and technical, but it's a symptom of a cancer in our democracy that has been growing for decades.
  • The Four Flavors of Republican. How NeoCons, Corporatists, Theocrats, and Libertarians co-operate and conflict.
  • My Boring Primary Season and other short notes. Ah, for the halcyon days of 2007, when presidential candidates by the dozen vied for my attention all summer. Mitt as "locust capitalist". Why "equality of opportunity" is a risky meme for conservatives. The real lesson of Kim Jong Il. Santorum's Grampa was "free" to owe his soul to the company store. Montana's Supreme Court rejects corporate personhood. And more.
  • Last week's most popular post wasn't that popular: Under-reported Stories of 2011 got 143 views. The most-clicked link was the Salon Hack List.
  • This week's challenge: If you don't already know, find out who the likely congressional candidates are in your district, and whether you have a senatorial election this year.

Monday, January 2, 2012


I confess that in 1901, I said to my brother Orville that man would not fly for fifty years . . . Ever since, I have distrusted myself and avoided all predictions. -- Wilbur Wright, 1908

Within the next few decades, autos will have folding wings that can be spread when on a straight stretch of road so that the machine can take to the air. -- Eddie Rickenbacker, 1924

In this week's sift:

  • Is a Boom Coming in 2012?Karl Smith and Matt Yglesias predict one, for not-entirely-crazy reasons.
  • Iowa Preview. Santorum? Could it really be Santorum?
  • Under-reported Stories of 2011. While the media was telling you about Charlie Sheen and Kim Kardashian, some genuinely important things were happening.
  • Strategic Voting and other short notes. When does it make sense to vote in the other party's primary? WikiLeaks has a priceless commercial. What real 3DTV looks like. Why Romney won't release his taxes. And two good Krugman columns.