Posted on 09-12-2009
Filed Under (Economics) by Rashtrakut

Former Fed chairman Paul Volcker chides the banking industry on their belief that financial innovation contributed to economic growth and their failure to come to grips with excessive pay packages.  Sage words that will probably fall on deaf years in the United States.  Meanwhile the British have gone ahead and passed a windfall bonus tax on its financial sector, probably under the theory that taxpayer largesse in the past year enabled these bonuses to begin with.

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Posted on 09-12-2009
Filed Under (Current Affairs) by Rashtrakut

Professor Jonathan Turley sounds off on the Obama administration coming to the aid of the man who enabled the Bush administration’s torture regime and suggests that it is a rollback from the principles established at the Nuremberg Judges Trial.  Just caught the good professor on TV and I tend to agree with him that the administration’s rationale would essentially prevent any prosecution of Justice Department attorneys for any such lawbreaking in the future.  Unlike many of the brave attorneys in the JAG Corp who spoke out at the risk of their careers Yoo and his ilk essentially enabled the Bush administration’s run around well settled law to pretend that torture by any other name was not torture.  Worse, the harm to American values and reputation produced by giving in to fear does not appear to have produced much of substance (or anything that was not coming in through legal means).  As a friend once told me, Presidents seldom give up executive power.  Still, it is disturbing to see the Obama administration’s craven retreat on this issue.

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In the last decade it has become fashionable for politicians to disclaim any academic knowledge or broader understanding of the world beyond to assure voters that they are just like them.  It came to the forefront in 2000 when two silver spoon ivy league graduates with mediocre college grades faced off for the presidency.  The difference was that one almost reveled in his ignorance and the other over the years had developed a wonkish reputation on the environment and technology matters.  The pattern was repeated in 2004 when another silver spoon ivy leaguer challenged George W. Bush for the presidency and where his grasp of foreign languages was deemed a liability, Karl Rove infamously telling the media that John Kerry looked French.

In 2008 Barack Obama’s double ivy league education was used to classify him has an out of touch elitist.  All of this conveniently ignored the fact that unlike Messers Gore, Bush and Kerry (and for that matter even John McCain whose lineage of admirals likely eased his path into the naval academy over mediocre grades) Obama (like Bill Clinton before him) was a self made man (and for those crying affirmative action he did not disclose his race on his law school application).  And then came the Sarah Palin phenomenon where the Republican candidate for Vice President almost gloried in her ignorance of world affairs beyond the canned talking points.  (See previous blog post here).

Anti-intellectualism is not unknown in American history.  Adlai Stevenson was infamously dismissed as an egghead.  And book knowledge is also not a guarantee of good governance.  But taken too far it can have disturbing results where politicians cannot grasp the difference between faith and science (case in point the ridiculous attempts to term creationism as science).  It is also disturbing in a country that desperately needs to maintain its technological edge but has had to import its scientists for many decades.

This matter came to mind when I watched the Jon Stewart clip below yesterday.  It is bad enough that Fox seems to insist that its women anchors wear skirts with high hemlines, possibly to distract the audience from the factual liberties that happen there by “accident” from time to time.  But having a host (in Stewart’s words) “dumb herself down to connect with an audience who sees intellect as an elitist flaw” (or perhaps to connect with the dim-bulbs who are her co-hosts) seems a bit much.

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Gretchen Carlson Dumbs Down
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political Humor Health Care Crisis

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Posted on 09-12-2009
Filed Under (Current Affairs) by Rashtrakut

More unrest on Iran’s streets and campuses.  See here, here, and here.  As the protests have dragged on they have become more brazen in insulting the Supreme Leader Khamenei.  The desperate regime has started targeting the protesters globally, arresting mothers mourning their children killed in the protests, and lately assaulting presidential candidate Mousavi and his wife.  And even in the face of the batons of the Basij and the guns of the revolutionary guard the brave students of Iran continue to march and protest.  The hope for Iran is that as the protests continue and the support base of the regime weakens the men with guns start to waver, and messers Benjamin Netanyahu, Avigdor Lieberman and their bomb first ask questions later enablers in the United States do not do something stupid to prop up an intellectually bankrupt regime.

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Posted on 09-12-2009
Filed Under (Technology) by Rashtrakut

The latest in the recording industry’s crusade against potential customers.  A federal judge has reluctantly signed off on a $675,000 verdict for illegally downloading 30 songs.  The recording industry’s lobbyists convinced Congress that these amounts were needed to “protect artists” who do not get much of these royalties to begin with and the punitive nature of this fine would deter illegal downloads.  However, at some point the dollar amount of the award reaches ridiculous levels.  The victory here is symbolic.  The defendant in this case will file bankruptcy and most of this fine will not be paid.

While the recording industry chose the brilliant tactic of suing would be consumers and opposed the relentless march of technology, the music market has moved beyond overpriced CDs.  In the age of the Ipod the battle over Napster and Kazaa seems dated.  In the event the Senate gets out of the spell of the RIAA’s lobbyists and amends copyright law (unlikely) the phyrric nature of the industry’s  victory will be even more evident.

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