Friday Highlights

Good morning.

  1. Hamas and Hegel.
  2. Hmm, looking (especially at the final paragraphs) at this, I think author believes that … and I don’t think it’s correct, for example I don’t think there was any possibility of “market friendly” reforms and the bill that was passed was anything but “moderate and bipartisan in everything but name.” How does someone come around to thinking that way? (a reply here)
  3. Unhappy about free speech. Here’s the salient question those M/F backers won’t answer. More here.
  4. Orwell as setting the political goals of the left.
  5. Killin’s too good for him.
  6. Hummus, although not in preparation for the upcoming Lenten fast.
  7. Giving Mr Obama his due.
  8. Germany (apparently) takes parenting seriously … even if the blogger noting it does not.
  9. Nubrella.
  10. Well, that’s very very cute.
  11. Just wrong.
  12. Prester John.
  13. Words to inspire.
  14. Post election satire.
  15. Pseudo-science.
  16. While I was originally going to try a hope/change sarcastic remark in response to this, I think this is better. If you (unlike me) assume Mr Obama is intelligent, earnest, and of high moral quality and he thinks this is the right (and ethical) thing to do … how do you figure he comes by that conclusion?

17 responses to “Friday Highlights

  1. Unhappy about free speech.

    Mark, you’re being dishonest. Liberals are unhappy with the decision that money = speech and that a corporation has the right to the free exercise thereof. We are NOT unhappy about free speech. But you knew that, right?

    Orwell as setting the political goals of the left.

    WTF? Is this the sort of thing I’d need to live in Republican Reality to understand? The right thinks that government needs to tell gay people they can’t marry, but it’s liberals who think the people need minute supervision to spare us the torture of thinking and choosing?!

    If you (unlike me) assume Mr Obama is intelligent, earnest, and of high moral quality

    What, do you assume he’s dumb, disingenuous, and immoral? I mean I guess that’s implicit in all your posts about him, but geez…

    If you (unlike me) assume Mr Obama is intelligent, earnest, and of high moral quality and he thinks this is the right (and ethical) thing to do … how do you figure he comes by that conclusion?

    The same way Bush & Cheney did? He was convinced that the evil of releasing these men is greater than the evil of keeping them?

    (I am NOT, for the record, saying I agree. I do not. There must be a better way.)

  2. JA,

    We are NOT unhappy about free speech. But you knew that, right?

    I understand that the Constitution provides a right to assemble and a right to free speech and press(especially political). I don’t understand any Constitutional way to prevent a corporation (an assembly) from exercising its right to speech. Specifically I don’t know a way in which some corporations (such as the NYTimes) gets the right to political speech and others do not. Given that, yes it means that I don’t know at all how you can form a Constitutional argument for the restrictions that were cast down without making a stance “against free speech.” I should restate, given the above, liberals must be against one or more of the “right to assemble”, the right to free speech or the right to a free press in order to oppose the ruling. Which is it. It was my assumption that it was free speech. But I’ll allow you to correct me on that.

    I’d need to live in Republican Reality to understand

    Actually not. The last time this came up, I linked two posters assenting that the left is more restrictive of liberty than the right which arose from not the right but the Libertarian perspective. You don’t need to live in “republican reality” but instead just take things from a more balanced (non-left ideological) perspective). They listed about a dozen or more issues, marriage (and pornography) were the two on which the right was seen as less friendly to liberty. The left failed on the rest.

    do you assume he’s dumb, disingenuous, and immoral?

    Not assuming he’s intelligent is not the same as assuming he’s dumb. As noted time and time again, I know of no way to determine whether or not Mr Obama is “really smart” or not. As I’ve said, I can tell that in a maths/physics context of a person, but have no way of judging that in a legal one. As for his honesty, my basic assumption for Mr Obama began with an assumption that he is a ordinary politician, that is to say unusually dishonest. I’ve seen nothing in his campaign or Presidency to dissuade myself from that point of view.

    The same way Bush & Cheney did?

    I don’t know. I’m asking you that question.

    There must be a better way.

    And since Mr Obama failed to find that better way … what does that imply?

  3. Actually I’m not sure NYT=free speech for corporations. The NYT, Fox News, publishing outlets etc. are corporations that are in the business of selling speech to the market. A law saying the NYT cannot run an editorial endorsing a Presidential candidate is actually a law saying the editorial writer can’t write his opinion.

    Is there really no way to tell the difference between that and, say, a corporation that decides to fund an ‘interest group’ with its profits from some other venture?

  4. As for his honesty, my basic assumption for Mr Obama began with an assumption that he is a ordinary politician, that is to say unusually dishonest. I’ve seen nothing in his campaign or Presidency to dissuade myself from that point of view.

    Pot, Kettle, Black. Physician heal thyself.

    When it comes to politics, you continually demonstrate yourself to be a partisan hack before anything else. (This is in sharp contrast to religion, theology, and philosophy where you take the truth very seriously). What evidence is there that we should take your evaluations of Obama’s honesty with any seriousness?

    Being a partisan does not preclude one from making honest assessments of rival politicians. A sensible liberal, for example, can see a clear difference between Reagan and George W. There is likewise a big difference between Obama and, say, Bill Clinton (who himself wasn’t so bad). Like many on the right you are stuck with your Obama Messiah Derangement Complex. You seem to be under the illusion that most Obama voters think he is the Messiah therefore all you have to do is demonstrate he is a mere mortal and tad ah you’ve sunk him!

  5. Orwell as setting the political goals of the left.

    “The essence of contemporary liberalism is the illiberal conviction that Americans, in their comprehensive incompetence, need minute supervision by government, which liberals believe exists to spare citizens the torture of thinking and choosing.”

    I’ll buy that, the essence of the current Republican party appears to be an intellectual essence of a nihilism that entails thinking of and choosing nothing.

  6. Boonton,

    Pot, Kettle, Black.

    Huh. That’s normally a remark about how my criticism can be applied to myself. I called Mr Obama an ordinary politician, i.e., unusually dishonest. How does that apply in return to me, who am in no means a politician? As pointed out earlier for one example, Mr Obama on one day promises to work to repeal NAFTA and the following day signals to Wall Street that he won’t do that. Now that may or may not be politics as usual … but it is clearly dishonest.

    I think you discredit yourself by citing Mr Clinton in a discussion on honesty. Recall Mr Clinton’s friends and supporters described Mr Clinton as “an unusually good liar” a trait I think he in fact shares with Mr Obama.

    Is there really no way to tell the difference between that and, say, a corporation that decides to fund an ‘interest group’ with its profits from some other venture?

    Well, you’ve left untouched more than a few questions on this matter. One of these is in the 10-15 years since the passing of McCain/Feingold what results to you see. Is money less a pull in politics. What positive effects do you see for your violation of Constitutional right? If none, why break with Constitution for no cause?

    Is there really no way to tell the difference between that and, say, a corporation that decides to fund an ‘interest group’ with its profits from some other venture?

    What distinction from a Constitutional perspective would you care to make? Why privilege an editor who gets paid by corporate interests to publish political pieces over a a corporate interest who pays for their interests to be published?

    And finally, to contrast your “pot/kettle/black” statement and accusations of me as a “partisan hack” one might put your statement, “the essence of the current Republican party appears to be an intellectual essence of a nihilism that entails thinking of and choosing nothing.” which in turn is nothing but political hackery coming from yourself. Cognitive dissonance or what?

  7. I think you discredit yourself by citing Mr Clinton in a discussion on honesty. Recall Mr Clinton’s friends and supporters described Mr Clinton as “an unusually good liar” a trait I think he in fact shares with Mr Obama.

    I once got into an extended, multi-year flame war with someone on Joe Carter’s blog over this. IMO if people call you a ‘good liar’ you are a very bad liar. Clinton, IMO, wasn’t a good liar. He was a horrible liar. You could see him squirm and sweat….it was a running joke throughout Clinton’s admin. that he told lies. In contrast, I noticed Bush supporters bent over backwards to avoid calling him a liar…even embracing the narrative that he was stupid (or more charitably he just wasn’t the type for ‘book learning’). In sum, the point of being a liar is to convince people you’re telling the truth. To the degree that people call you a ‘good liar’ you are by definition a horrible liar.

    IMO Obama is about average with everyone else in terms of lies. Probably a bit better than a typical politican which is why his statements are often couched in fuzzy and vague terms (timetables are contingent, for example. You are more likely to hear Obama say Nafta would be ‘reevaluated’ rather than simply repealed). This gives rise to the charge that he is ‘aloof’ or a ‘blank slate’ or a pragmatist which are charges that carry much more weight IMO than dishonesty.

    “the essence of the current Republican party appears to be an intellectual essence of a nihilism that entails thinking of and choosing nothing.” which in turn is nothing but political hackery coming from yourself. Cognitive dissonance or what?

    Actually I would classify it as astute observation…and one that is hardly limited to just left of center observers. The essence of nihilism, IMO, is a total disregard for even trying to look like you’re operating with some objective truth in mind. Spinning out endless narratives without regard to even their internal consistency is what I see from the current GOP a lot. Granted this is partly a function of being a triple minority in the gov’t (out of the WH, Senate and House) which breeds a strategy of throwing everything at the wall to see what will stick.

    Well, you’ve left untouched more than a few questions on this matter. One of these is in the 10-15 years since the passing of McCain/Feingold what results to you see. Is money less a pull in politics. What positive effects do you see for your violation of Constitutional right? If none, why break with Constitution for no cause?

    I am not a corporation but a person and there’s been no violation of my Constitutional right. I know I left a lot of questions untouched and I’m generally skeptical of campaign finance laws doing much good. Nonetheless, I’m equally skeptical of the SC’s decision that corporations are persons with unlimited free speech rights where speech is equated to money. I suspect this line of thinking is going to lead to more than a few unintended consquences you aren’t going to like.

    What distinction from a Constitutional perspective would you care to make? Why privilege an editor who gets paid by corporate interests to publish political pieces over a a corporate interest who pays for their interests to be published?

    I would say the distinction comes from the business of selling speech versus manufacturing speech. The editor is part of a business of the selling of speech. To interfere in the newspaper is to interfere in the writers and consumers of speech. I’m not 100% sure this is the best argument in favor of regulating corporate speech. Another argument is simply one of trade. Corporations are not people. They get certain priveledges like limited liability in exchange for certain costs (being ‘double taxed’ whereas the corporation pays tax on its income and the owners pay tax on the income they get from the corp. in the form of dividends). This doesn’t make them ‘people’ with rights like speech anymore than they have a right to vote. That 2nd argument, though, wouldn’t exempt the NYT and it wouldn’t exempt partnership type businesses.

  8. Boonton,
    I think the ordinary definition of “good liar” has two facets. A good liar is a person who can convince others he believes something when he does not and can as well convince the other that that the falsehood is true. A car salesman selling a lemon, knowing its a lemon but convincing a customer that it is a good car and that the salesman believes it to be good is a canonical good liar. I think this the ordinary meaning of the word. I’m not sure how that translates as “a bad liar” in your extended argument.

    For example, in the context of this particular latest “budget freeze.” I don’t think Mr Obama really believes it is anything but a token gesture. Selling it as such is basically a lie, a mistruth. Do you find a “tell” in Mr Obama’s presentation of this that gives you to think he is “squirming” or giving an indication that this is a lie? Is anyone convinced of his argument? Those supporters of his who defend it, were they sold a lemon by a “good liar” or what?

    Corporations are not people.

    A corporation is an assembly of people. That is defended in the Constitution. Individuals acting on behalf of that assembly are people.

  9. Do you actually have Obama asserting a majority of the budget is accounted for the lack of a current freeze on discretionary spending? If so you may have evidence for a lie, if not you don’t. You have a policy that is small scale but still an important one for Executives to undertake.

    Your definition of lie in terms of someone asserting something they believe to be untrue as true is interesting. You and much of the GOP has been depicting the stimulus bill as pure waste using a set of cherry picked examples as evidence. I don’t think you’re unaware that the majority of the stimulus can be sorted into tax cuts, extensions of unemployment and food stamps, aid to the states with Medicaid leaving only a small portion in the category of ‘shovel in the ground’ type projects. This leads to the conclusion that you are the liar here. Or you’re just very ignorant of finances. Tell us which please ;)

    A corporation is an assembly of people. That is defended in the Constitution. Individuals acting on behalf of that assembly are people.

    The right to incorporate is not in the Constitution. Nothing in regulating corporate speech would infringe on the right of people to assemble themselves into groups that make and use speech. Tomorrow the incorporation laws could all be rescinded leaving only sole proprieterships and partnerships as valid business forms, could they not?

  10. Boonton,
    Hmm, the allusion/connection of right to assembly as connected with a corporations right to speech in reference to the recent SCOTUS ruling was made on Volokh by a academic lawyer. It seems to me that a right for a corporation to put political speech has nothing (or little) do do with its rights under tax codes and regarding property. Tomorrow the incorporation laws “could all be rescinded” but it seems to me that a corporate group should still have the right to speech.

    Now you are doing your normal thing of exaggerating what I’ve said and asking if I’ll defend it. Mr Obama has not given a speech on the token budget action. My guess however he will in Wednesday’s speech try to parlay it into a significant action (which it is not and he knows it).

  11. To date the published statements by Obama and his admin. all indicate that they acknowledge $250B is a small piece of the deficit….plus with the proposal of creating a deficit commission does kind of imply that this is being played as a small piece of the puzzle rather than a large one or even the main one. Attempts to assert otherwise are therefore dishonest unless you have some plausible reason for us to buy into the idea that you are ignorant of the facts and hence are only in error.

    As for corporate speech, here’s a simple idea. If a corporation ‘wants’ to spend $10M in a campaign against climate change legislation, all they have to do is vote a $10M dividend which is paid to the corporation’s owners who can then put that money to such a campaign. The idea that a corporation is just an ‘assembly of people’ ignores the very real agency problem that corporations have. Corporations are run by managers who do not own them. Hence corporate speech isn’t really so much ‘assembly’ as it is managers hijacking someone else’s property for a use to which they may or may not agree.

    How would you feel about a rule similar to the union one? If a shareholder objects to any particular political speech, he can check a box and receive a pro-rated dividend equal to his ‘share’ of that speech?

  12. Boonton,
    Well, it’s good that after getting kicked in the face about the size of the 25b/y “freeze” they’ve decided they better admit to it. And now, apparently newly released is the notion of a “deficit commission”, which on the face of it is a good thing, but likely the implementation will not be so great. Its odd that this is trickling out, almost like it wasn’t thought out very well ahead of time and now they are reacting trying to put a good spin on it.

    On corporate speech, Andrew Carnegie once quoted that if all his steel mills burned to the ground tonight, in six months he’d have it all rebuilt. His people were the company. Corporations aren’t the investors, they are the people and the embedded/implicit knowledge stored in those who work for them. That is the association. If they want to get a message out, bully for them. In my line of work, we put in automation projects for different new companies big and small all the time. Every company has its own micro-culture. It’s “way” of going about business and doing things. That is the corporation. If one company/culture wants to get a message out … that is exactly the sort of association that the Constitution and freedoms of the press are there to protect.

    If a shareholder objects to the message a company with whom he hold stock … he can sell or shut up.

  13. And if Andrew Carenegie found that ‘his people’ were sitting in the office writing blogs about how the US Gov’t should break up giant corporations he probably would be aghast. You are illustrating the problem by ignoring property rights. The corporation might be ‘the people’ but the corporations money, equipment and so on belongs to its shareholders.

    If analyzing a corporation as an assembly to make speech makes any sense it has to be as the shareholders speech. Yet you would seem to ignore that.

    If a shareholder objects to the message a company with whom he hold stock … he can sell or shut up.

    This is the classic agency problem in both law and economics. The shareholder owns the company, the manager is hired by the owner to run the company. If the manager does a horrible job the shareholder can fire the manager. If the manager does everything the shareholder wants then there’s perfect alignment. In between, though, there’s imperfect alignment where the manager is operating for his own interest but this offense is not enough for the shareholder to justify acting given the transaction costs and information costs involved.

  14. And in my hypothetical law regarding shareholders, the ‘people’ of a corporation still have free speech rights. They are perfectly free to form a group (IBM Workers for Health Care Reform say) and speak. They are not free to speak with property that is not theirs.

  15. At the end of the day what this idea of ‘free corporate speech’ seems to consist of is permitting, on the grounds of free speech, people to hijack other people’s property for their own use & Congress, despite the principle of property rights, is unable to stop it. Your counter argument is that people have to defend their own property (by selling shares or voting management out of power) without recourse to law.

    In other words, you’re saying its OK for me to steal from you provided I steal stuff that is so little (pennies from your sofa, slices of cheese from your fridge) that it doesn’t merit you spending any energy on it. Hmmmmmm.

  16. Boonton,

    In other words, you’re saying its OK for me to steal from you provided I steal stuff that is so little (pennies from your sofa, slices of cheese from your fridge) that it doesn’t merit you spending any energy on it. Hmmmmmm.

    Huh? That makes no sense to me at all.

    Look, you and I seem to take a different take on corporation and shareholders. Shareholders are not an assembly or anything like a coordinated group of people. Corporate employees however are. It is the skills and industry of employees that comprise the valued thing in which the sharesholders invest, not the pretty lobbies and factory machinery.

    Take the Carnegie example paraphrase, if the corporate assembly was suddenly divested of its physical plant and shareholders monies … “they’d rebuild in 6 months” … if the shareholders were suddenly lost all the employees of the company … they’d be getting pennies on the dollar and selling as fast and soon as they could.

    As for voting your preference by selling, does that mean the “divest now” sorts of signage that was popular regarding South Africa was ill considered. That instead of divestment those people should have offered to “take their property” back and remove the material goods from South African corporations.

  17. Actually many shareholders did propose resolutions divesting in S. Africa, which if passed bind the company to divest in S. Africa.

    Shareholders own a corporation. While the value of a corporation may come from its employees that doesn’t alter the property rights. The employees have no more right to use the corporation against shareholder interests than your houseguests have a right to start removing copper pipes from your basement and selling them to the local scrap dealer.

    I’m not really seeing an argument here against the law I proposed. Any shareholder who doesn’t agree with corporate speech gets a right to have a pro-rated share of that speech refunded to him. Employees are still as free to ‘assemble’ and ‘speak’ if they wish.

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