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

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

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.

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Hobby Lobby transfusion myth

LIE: Hobby Lobby is not covering contraception in its health care plan.
TRUTH: Hobby Lobby always has and always will cover 16 of the 20 mandated contraceptives, objecting to only 4.
LIE: Hobby Lobby is cutting off women's "access" to these 4?
TRUTH: Hobby Lobby's plan covers the woman's doctor visit, where she can get a prescription and fill it any time she desires. In fact, Plan B is available without a prescription. The cost for the non-covered contraceptives is $30-$60. That's pretty accessible.
 according to another post I saw, Hobby Lobby pays its employees around $14 an hour.. where the standard pay for that type of store is around $9 an hour.
-- Jeff Germann

  • "Hobby Lobby employees, by law, are required to only work for Hobby Lobby and if they quit and get a better job with benefits they like, they will be executed."
  • "You mean they have the freedom to work for whoever they want (if they will hire them that is.) and just like Hobby Lobby has freedom?"

the real Independence Day

The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America.—I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.
       --John Adams