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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Brookings Institution

The Brookings Institution is an center-left thinktank dedicated to performing all of those things a policy thinktank ideally is supposed to do. They describe themselves more or less as such.
The Brookings Institution is a nonprofit public policy organization based in Washington, DC. Our mission is to conduct high-quality, independent research and, based on that research, to provide innovative, practical recommendations that advance three broad goals:
  • Strengthen American democracy;
  • Foster the economic and social welfare, security and opportunity of all Americans; and
  • Secure a more open, safe, prosperous and cooperative international system.
Brookings is proud to be consistently ranked as the most influential, most quoted and most trusted think tank.
They claim for their reputation:
Brookings is proud that many consider us to be the most influential, most quoted and most trusted think tank in the world. Our high-quality research, our independence and our convening power help generate innovative, practical solutions to today's challenges.
A sample of what others are saying about Brookings:
Quality and Influence
  • #1 think tank in the world
  • #1 think tank in the United States
  • #1 outstanding policy-oriented public policy research program
  • #1 in international development
  • #1 for domestic economic policy
  • #1 for social policy
The Global "Go-To Think Tanks", James G. McGann, Ph.D., January 2012
Foreign Policy magazine's Think Tank Index, January 2009
Trust and Impact
"We need the intellectual heft of Brookings to solve our tough economic problems. We need your fresh ideas and new thinking."
— Senator Mark Warner, March 8 2013, Capitol Visitors Center, Brookings Board Meeting
"Brookings has achieved a special measure of respect in Washington because it has risen above partisanship, and that is not an easy thing to do in this town which is sort of built on partisanship."
Hon. Michael Bloomberg, Mayor, City of New York, August 28, 2007
Among 16 organizations with high impact on public policy, a Harris Poll found Brookings is:
  • among the five most powerful
  • among the ten most trusted
  • equally trusted by Democrats, Republicans and Independents.
The Harris Poll's nationwide survey on inside-the-beltway groups, December 2007 (pdf)
"Brookings has been at the center of every important policy debate in this country for 90 years."
Sen. Chuck Hagel, July 28, 2006

Sen. Chuck Hagel, July 28, 2006
"When important debates occur in Washington—whether over Middle East peace, global finance, or urban strategy—it's a fair bet that Brookings is driving the conversation. ... From health care reform to recommendations on closing the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Brookings has a breadth of experience that allows it to offer innovative fixes for nearly every critical issue facing the United States today."
Now that is all well and good. Everyone has a bias, a point of perspective from which they see and measure events and issues, especially if they were advocating policy.  I first learnt of Brookings in a University course where they were presented as a counterpoint to the Heritage Foundation.  In hindsight I wish that the existence of the Heritage Foundation, Mackinac Center, Brookings Intitution, AEI, the Kirk Center and the others were advertised to us our freshman year.  Brookings is generally promoted as non-partisan in the most literal sense, as sociopolitically centrist as people as can get away with describing.  Brookings certainly benefits from this description bonding with their reputation.

Brookings has also managed to be an old policy thinktank so that alone may indicate how good it is.

As it is everyone has a bias, although by intention Brookings is political neutral, most I know do consider it of the left. "Center-Left" is the best descriptor because to be purely of the left implies a tendency against reason and even an addiction to dogma and dogmatic mores.  I prefer "center-left".  They may be inclined towards policy solutions that Democrats more than Republicans, libertarians or conservatives may embrace, but broadly speaking their membership is comprised of reasonable individuals, and certainly among their fellows is an errant rightist or genuine centrist.  Center-Right individuals, as opposed to outright rightists such as myself.... I hold there to be double-standard, there is nothing unreasonable about being nearly completely right of the political center.... tend to hew to the idea that the Brooking Institution is centrist.  My Professor at James Madison College certainly demonstrated a belief that this was the case, although those professors attempted to be as neutral as possible with certain expectations.

The left-wing Sourcewatch, a wiki from leftwing Center for Media and Democracy, declares that the Brookings Institution is a rightwing organization and is going further right all the time.  In the end when you Google the bias of the Brookings Institution you get a variety of answers, almost as if metatextual volleyball players were batting the thinktank back and forth from left to right, insisting what it must be.  I suspect people generally assign Brookings Institution the ideological designate based on whether they disagreed with the group that week.  My own reasoning for asserting a given label has little to do with evidence I've gathered and presented, as much as experience with other learned people.  I'm not going through a few decades of white papers and determining a litmus test to see and argue how far left or right these people are.  It does benefit me, however, to indicate than an occasional source of mine is not just part of a conservative pantheon.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

The Fall of Eric Cantor

Associated Press/Photo by Steve Helber and Terry Renna
"That's the problem with being in leadership. You spend all your time on the bullshit hill with all the bullshit politicians and bullshit lobbyists instead of back home in your bullshit state with all your starry eyed bullshit supporters."
       -- the Baron John Cruz

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Who's afraid of the big bad Dana Loesch?

There is a valid conversation to be pursued regarding how "dynamic", real, or even how conservative Ted Cruz, Gohmert, Dana and especially Glenn Beck really are.  I'm not even sure what makes a blind, sensationalistic radio pundit dynamic.  I literally cannot imagine what makes a United States Senator from Texas with minimal clout in his own legislative house dynamic.

The fact is that no one fears Dana.  No one at all.  No one not no one.  I don't even know where her markets are.  I've never seen her on television.  Thus far her political existence as far as I know has been as a social media curiosity by some of my cohorts.  Thus far they deride her, mock her, pity, and laugh at her for taking offense at the smallest things, making the grandest displays possible, and then her husband will tweet stuff too.

Now that's hilarious.

In other words entrenched partisan incumbents are not quaking at the radio host saying things.  Large electoral waves are not flowing from here.

Now the picture is really hilarious.  Absolutely no liberal is afraid of Dana Loesch because she doesn't draw from the left.  She will never ever draw people from the Democrats to the Republicans.  The worst she can do is please Democrats, pleasure Democrats, make Democrats feel good.  The reason for that is her audience is Republican and she holds sway by taking swipes at how inadequate the right is.  Ultimately that is not a bad business model. Power to anyone that makes a living however they can and bless her for doing what she enjoys doing.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Upstart Uprising and the Social Media Edge

I found this at random without context. From experience I bet I could generate an artificial context after the fact, without looking, that resembles the genuine context fairly closely.

Now this tweet perpetuates (or seeks to perpetuate) two myths.

The first is that there is a grand old partisan conspiracy to smother and wrongfully "crush" new activist and members of the movement, the coalition.  That said, whenever a new person thinks they actually know something, when experience has not taught them truth yet, and seeks to supplant the elders in a fit of pique and arrogance, it is in the best interests of the Whole that the elder smack down the new people and put them in their place.  The reason ultimately is that politics really is a mechanical assembly and if you don't know how the parts work you will make the engine seize and the leftists will win.

The second myth is that "the upstarts" exclusively have social media and there an advantage or even that the new ones have an advantage at all.  Social media, Twitter, the Facebook, MySpace, etc, is merely a tool at best.  The best use for the tool is to coordinate activists, that are actually activists.  The Facebook and Twitter can be used to disseminate a message to the constituents and potential voters as well as volunteers and in this these tools can be as nearly as effective as a press release to newspapers, television, what have you.  But ultimately it still just a tool and does not promise any result.  There is also the difference between real political activists, that knock doors and make phone calls (and occasionally stage a spectacle) and hashtag activists, the fools on the internet that insist that posting blogs about Ted Cruz and Tom McMillan promise victory in the long run.

Thankfully this tweet is close to the truth.  Establishment jerks, Old Guard Hacks, or just long-sitting legislators who are entrenched and then become wrong, also tend to not take attempts at correction very well.   These entrenched politicians, bureaucrats, K-Streeters, pundits, and media folk have contacts, friends, and long-held weapons and will not hesitate to use them on anyone that threatens their positions, reputation, or even their power.

Th other side is this.  First I imagined a scenario where a benevolent elder puts the young whelp in his or her place.  Second I imagined a scenario whereupon a malevolent individual or even simply an incorrect yet well-meaning political figure defends his position from other well-meaning but genuinely correct challengers.  The truth in either case, however, is that people defend themselves from attack in the political realm not simply because of ideology or they are power hungry.  Many of them defend a job, either their own or those of their underlings, employees or staff.  In an election political hacks and mercenaries fight for a living.  If they lose an election food is taken from their children's mouths. Good or evil they all ultimately work to make a good thing happen: thrive and prosper.  Which is why campaigns attempt to utterly destroy one another.

Which also means that the moral quality of a given cause or faction does not determine the skill in which they use social media, nor the overall effect that social media will have.

Since the Facebook is universally available to believers and activists of all stripes it provides no advantage. No advantage has been provided to upstarts.  You want an advantage over your opponent you need to separate him from his relationships.

Regardless  I'm not a general proponent of unity except during even numbered years between the months of August and November.  There is no reason to outright ignore why a conflict occurs within a political party. A conservative direction, however, demands a level of reconciliation to the point of accomplishing a given mission.  In the overall scheme it is important to recognize that everyone has their role to play, even if what that role is can be determined in a less than graceful manner.  Not everyone is supposed to like one another or agree with one another all the time.  However common goals need to be agreed upon in some sort of honest manner.  The difficulty is twofold then: finding honest people consistently and finding a common understanding among them.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Jeremiah 23:16-32

This is what the Lord Almighty says:

“Do not listen to what the prophets are prophesying to you;they fill you with false hopes.
They speak visions from their own minds,
not from the mouth of the Lord.
They keep saying to those who despise me,
‘The Lord says: You will have peace.’
And to all who follow the stubbornness of their hearts
they say, ‘No harm will come to you.’
But which of them has stood in the council of the Lord
to see or to hear his word?
Who has listened and heard his word?...

“I have heard what the prophets say who prophesy lies in my name. They say, ‘I had a dream! I had a dream!’ How long will this continue in the hearts of these lying prophets, who prophesy the delusions of their own minds? ... Let the prophet who has a dream recount the dream, but let the one who has my word speak it faithfully. For what has straw to do with grain?” declares the Lord. “Is not my word like fire,” declares the Lord, “and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?
“Therefore,” declares the Lord, “I am against the prophets who steal from one another words supposedly from me. Yes,” declares the Lord, “I am against the prophets who wag their own tongues and yet declare, ‘The Lord declares.’ Indeed, I am against those who prophesy false dreams,” declares the Lord. “They tell them and lead my people astray with their reckless lies, yet I did not send or appoint them. They do not benefit these people in the least,” declares the Lord. (Jeremiah 23:16ff)

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Andrew Kaluza

*WARNING FOR PARENTS* If your kid is interested to play guitar, never buy a guitar starter package. I've seen many parents throughout the years buy the low cost and also cheaply made guitars with the thought of, "Well, if Timmy likes it and gets good, then, we'll get him a better guitar." This is what I'll deem as the guitar-starter-kit fallacy. 
I suspect that if a kid spends the majority of his time trying to re-tune every 5 minutes and rubbing his fingertips raw on uncomfortable strings and exaggerated string to fret board distances, he'll likely give up entirely. Little Timmy doesn't stand a chance to love the instrument.
Those were the final words posted by Andrew Kuluza on his Facebook wall, at least those visible to anyone not his Facebook friend.

I don't know Andrew Kaluza.  I don't know how he lived.  I knew he worked for the Institute for Humane Studies and we had friends in common.  Yet no one I've asked knew the man.  So he was a friend of a friend of a friend.

He and I apparently shared a common cause and were in the same political coalition, at least as Grover Norquist would describe it.  We were among the Right.  Certainly "politics" is a large field, with fifty states and a capitol city district, 51 playing fields, city conflicts, local issues, counties, state legislative arenas and US Congress, compounded until the end with endless seas of non-profits and focused "non-partisan" issues--based causes.  Throughout that "politics" can prove to be small, wherever if you look on Facebook the "mutual friends" list can come down to, in the cause of Mr Kaluza and myself, "34 Mutual Friends".  Although at least one of the people on that list did not actually meet the and I haven't met all the people on that list

So his passing doesn't create a hole in my life.  I will not reflect upon his passing with a musing how it tears something in my own experience yet he died young; when someone dies young, even at the end of a life well lived and goals well met I'm immediately struck by the bereaved.  Sympathy for those who lose this person may finally bring me to my knees and weep.

But I'm not going to say that people are not supposed to die young.  But we are supposed to be saddened.

Andrew Kaluza was also active in the Students For Liberty and Young Americans for Liberty, organizations I brushed with but also with whom I was never involved.  May he rest in peace.  I did not know him nor interact with him that I recall, but my earnest condolences to his family and loved ones.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Michigan Ancient Glory

I'm always amazed how many Michigan fans must be approaching 150 years old when it comes to their memories of the team's glory years. -- Ken Braun

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

tech writer echo chambers

created by Christophe Violet (2011) , stolen from www.nytimes.com


Warren Ellis notes how tech writers can use language as if they were themselves trapped inside their own thought bubbles, not quite conscious of how other people see the actual world.
 in the same week, I’d seen tech-blog writers refer to both “wearable glasses” and, I swear, “wearable shirts.”  They meant networked wearable computing objects, of course, but they gave the strong impression of spending so little time outside the Bay Area tech community that simple things like “glasses and shirts were already wearable” just pass them by now.  These are the same people who say things like “I just don’t need 21 nice meals a week.”   On this page, you will see Soylent users referring to actual food as “muggle meals.”   Because what the vile, off-white milk from the plastic teat of the  mother of invention really needed to finish its metaphor was being surrounded by language from children’s fiction.  Childike Othering from people in their twenties who really know that shirts aren’t wearable until they’re linked and declare food to be something that the lumpen common people do.
This, in its own way, reminds me how certain reviews cannot be completely trusted on their own, and multiple threads of information are necessary.

These people serve an audience whose needs and viewpoints are not what they quite identify with.

This, in its own way, parallels the problem with multitudes of political activists, failing political operatives, political writers, and most specifically political hashtag activists.  They angrily proscribe solutions for the world specifically decrying various candidates and elected officials and promoting others without taking into mind that the people they pretend are "losers", unpopular, and inadequate, were all elected by other people, usually quite reasonable, for reasons that were logical at the time.

But ultimately it means that in every field, setting, or context there lives bubble people, bubble heads, nesters, echo chamber residents.  The key to not being one lies in your own efforts.  People generally cannot be saved from being these people.  But I was saved.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Air Walden Warren Ellis

In a way I miss traveling by air.
Ah, the new digital Thoreaus, proclaiming the new era of offlining, unfollowing and decluttering.  Must be nice to be on a salary.  My internet comes with a volume button.  I turn it down.  The only time I’m ever completely offline and unreachable is when I’m on a plane.  I don’t even buy the wifi on US domestic flights any more.  I don’t watch the films, most of the time.  Trapped in a tin cylinder being thrown across the world at six hundred miles per hour and forty thousand feet up.  Just me and some books and a music player and a notebook and pen, with a view that humans have been enjoying for only one hundred years.  It is a ridiculous privilege.  It is solitary and remote, seven miles away from the earth, and nothing to do but read and think.  The Atlantic Ocean is my Walden Pond.  Which is a deliberately absurd statement that just made me smile when I thought of it when I wrote it down.  It’s not like I made you pay money to read that joke.
I’m on planes next week.  Seven miles up, I’ll be able to clear my head and get my feet back on the ground.
Warren Ellis reminds me why.