Saturday, December 31, 2011

happy new year!

new year's resolution, resolved:

i, chris adell, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that i will faithfully execute the office of permanent president and chair of the party planning committee, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the party; ride or die bitches.

-self-appointed self-aggrandized permanent president and chair of the party planning committee, aka dicktator 4 lyfe.

maybe i'll get you a seat at this table, tell em i'ma need reservations for 20. tired? take a disco nap. cuz we're currently workin pretty hard on a cure for post-party depression, aka ppd. i think we're callin it pre-party planning, aka ppp. also liberally prescribing erry night hype and tipsy til tips is touchin... til we die.

also, i will procrastinate less.

also, i will make half-a-mil off personal sized lazy susans.

also; stay lazy, susans.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

an ode to crunkmas.

rumblings from afar, crunkmas hype hath hit hard
and the season surrenders for the holiday not far
so tremble, all ye who wish to stay sober
for the gods of crunk will not be looked over
from crunkmases past, spirit(s) in crystal and glass
awakening all that is crunk, cocktail, and class

december 29, 2011: crunkmas V. a crunkmess a'cometh!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

a home in homs.

i guerilla warfare. so this one time i tweeted about wanting a benghazi-like stronghold for the rebels in syria, but if there's no international intervention to defend it, i guess it'll just have to be done the old fashioned way. stick and move, brothers... stick and move.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

ramita navai.

so my cousin a million times removed ramita navai snuck into syria to get some dirt on the crackdown. it's funny to think that fantasies of conflict zones are in my blood, but who knows. i just saw her interview on anderson cooper about this...

Watch Syria Undercover on PBS. See more from FRONTLINE.

she does a lot of awesome journalism, keep poking around.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

not mathematics versus poetry.

this article is too good.

a corpse.

through concentric circles you
find i am a bed of flowers and you are nothing to me
but tread carefully through what won't lie still
you are still moving me

caravaggio's canvas captures too little
and these cities are mine
find me your scarves and arms
and scarred guards armed, wary, cast aside

belonging, i am invincible
you are but an accessory
but still my successor surfing upon my wake
you are my home and i, waterfall

i'm here
because we are your friends
and on you i am dependent conclusion
a corpse unchosen, immortal instead

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

tallying in tunis.

the arab spring has sprung it's first sprig, and so far so serene.

i'm heartened and my heart feels full. i'm proud and spirited.

on february 1, 2011, i said:

i think my hope for [the arab spring] is something akin to the turkish model, a vigilant military that will step in to restore liberal democracy if democracy strays towards islamism, but will otherwise stand completely on the sidelines as the guarantor of secularism and individual liberty.

so far al-nahda has said that's the model they'll follow.

but... i'm still cautious.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

gadhafi got got.

anddd my gadhafi halloween costume just got so much more relevant.

sic semper tyrannis.

man i feel like i've had to make a lot of these sic semper tyrannis posts this year. bin laden, al-awlaki, gadhafi... and that's just the high profile shit.

keep em comin.

(cuz we keep on comin while we runnin for your jewels, steady gunnin keep on bustin at them fools. you know the rules.)

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

-100 characters.

it's funny how my emotions roll with the weather. it's funny how i weather my emotions. self-caricature to the point of self-ridicule obfuscates each emotion's legitimacy, so as to selectively blunt it's impact and sideline its ill-intent.

i got this in a facebook message while i was sleeping from a dude i pretty much never ever talk to and read it on the elevator(s) to work this morning:

over streetnoise she calls to be
free from this cage of superficial
tundra. They look to say something, then
quiet and nothing. It goes beyond the
nows of us and could last forever for
how little it sees. what was here is
still. un-noticed and wise in it's silence
as stone would take ages to observe
in motion.______________________
it's sad to be here. the still now. we
know so much in instances. time plays
us and darkness comes as a joke to
sell our insignificance. Then those who've
seen what we'll see transcribe colors and
light. flickering tongues at the moon. So
we may move or stay and if we go too
far. we may have won. not. to
say there's been winning or could be
but my blue eyes seek beauty and the
rest of me is still learning to stand.

i only wish it was followed by:

FORWARD this to 10 people and your TRUE LOVE will find you IN JUST ONE WEEK!

so it would be less weird, but ya... it was a grey morning with the kind of rain and mist that dulls all sound and obscures the top of the tower so as to make it seem ominous and infinite... so i guess it was pretty weird.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

more more stimulus!

chicago fed president charles evans just blew my mind:

I largely agree with economists such as Paul Krugman, Mike Woodford and others who see the economy as being in a liquidity trap: Short-term nominal interest rates are stuck near zero, even while desired saving still exceeds desired investment. This situation is the natural result of the abundance of caution exercised by many households and businesses that still worry that they have inadequate buffers of assets to cushion against unexpected shocks. Such caution holds back spending below the levels of our productive capacity. For example, I regularly hear from business contacts that they do not want to risk hiring new workers until they actually see an uptick in demand for their products. Most businesses do not appear to be cutting back further at the moment, but they would rather sit on cash than take the risk of further expansion.

Rather than fighting the inflation ghosts of the 1970s, I am more worried about repeating the mistakes of the 1930s. As in the 1930s, today we see a lack of demand for loans and a resistance of lenders to take on risk — factors that mean the high level of bank reserves is not finding its way into broader money measures. As in the 1930s, today’s low Treasury interest rates in good part reflect elevated demand for low-risk assets — we see investors run to U.S. Treasury markets every time they hear any bad economic news from anywhere in the world. Consider another metric for interest rates, the well-known Taylor Rule, which captures how monetary policy typically adjusts to output gaps and deviations in inflation from target. Its prescriptions would call for the federal funds rates to be something like –3.6 percent now, well below the zero lower bound the funds rate is currently stuck at. Our large-scale asset purchases have provided additional stimulus, but by most estimates not enough to bring us down to the Taylor Rule prescriptions. Also, I should note that in 1998, Friedman gave a similar recommendation to the Japanese, advocating that the Bank of Japan undertake more accommodation by buying government bonds on the open market.

I believe that we can substantially ease the public’s concern that monetary policy will become restrictive in the near to medium term and, hence, reduce the restraint in expanding economic activity. This can be done by clearly spelling out in our policy statements the conditionality of our dual mandate responsibilities. What should such a statement look like? I think we should consider committing to keep short-term rates at zero until either the unemployment rate goes below 7 percent or the outlook for inflation over the medium term goes above 3 percent. Such policies should enable us to make progress toward our mandated goals. But if this progress is too slow, then we should move forward with increased purchases of longer-term securities. We might even consider a regime in which we reevaluate our progress toward our policy goals and the rate of purchase of such assets at every FOMC meeting.

I would also highlight that while I believe that optimal policy would be consistent with inflation running above our 2 percent target for some time, this policy does not abandon the 2 percent target for long-run inflation. Indeed, I would support combining this policy with a formal statement of 2 percent as our longer-run inflation target in conjunction with reaffirming our commitment to flexible inflation-targeting. Furthermore, I see a 3 percent inflation threshold as a safeguard against inflation running too high for too long and thus unhinging longer-run inflation expectations. It also is a safeguard against the kinds of policy errors we made in the 1970s. If potential output is indeed lower and the natural rate of unemployment higher than I currently think, then resource pressures would emerge and actual inflation and the outlook for inflation over the medium term would rise faster than expected. If this outlook for inflation hit 3 percent before the unemployment rate falls to 7 percent, then we would begin to tighten policy.

I understand that some may find such a policy proposal to be hard to understand, or even risky. But these are not ordinary times — we are in the aftermath of a financial crisis with massive output gaps, with stubborn debt overhangs and high degrees of household and business caution that are weighing on economic activity. As Ken Rogoff wrote in a recent piece in the Financial Times, “Any inflation above 2 percent may seem anathema to those who still remember the anti-inflation wars of the 1970s and 1980s, but a once-in-75-year crisis calls for outside-the-box measures.” The Fed has done a good deal of thinking out of the box over the past four years. I think it is time to do some more.

ya mon, i couldn't agree more. until now, i thought that maybe i was the only person in the world that supported radical amounts of further fed intervention, but at a time when politics are paralyzed, the fed is not. by my measure, operation twist has been both economically effective and a giant fuck you to the republicans. i'm happy about both, now let's do it again.

the timing of operation twist was just too perfect. it came so soon after the republican no-more-stimulus letter that the letter might as well've been marked return to sender. but there were clues... bernanke tipped his hand in jackson hole, and while my language wouldn't be quite so careful, again, i couldn't agree more.

Fiscal policymakers can also promote stronger economic performance through the design of tax policies and spending programs. To the fullest extent possible, our nation's tax and spending policies should increase incentives to work and to save, encourage investments in the skills of our workforce, stimulate private capital formation, promote research and development, and provide necessary public infrastructure. We cannot expect our economy to grow its way out of our fiscal imbalances, but a more productive economy will ease the tradeoffs that we face. -bernanke

at a time when it seems like the whole universe is anti-fed no matter what, fed credibility is a funny justification for further fed stimulus. central banking is a dismal science people would normally rather not be bothered with, but right now it's center stage and everyone's a critic. i would actually argue that the further fed stimulus evans and i both hope for would actually damage fed credibility in the short-term, but fed credibility and protests be damned. i just want to see the economy recover.

(personal opinions, not the fed's. they make me say that.)

Sunday, October 9, 2011

coming down.

dreday's got me so hooked on the weeknd.

it's like all the range of emotions i ever have are all in this span of any given assortment of 2 or 3 songs.

just kidding, i don't have emotions.

ok just kidding again... i have emotions on sundays.

sundays are for emotions.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


same shit different century

when you see them confederate flags you know what it is
your folks picked cotton here that's why we call it the field

Monday, August 22, 2011

debt and deficits.

everything i know about macroeconomics tells me:

• you don't cut government spending during a fragile economic recovery
• you don't hold the u.s. credit rating hostage to defend a regressive tax code that favors millionaires and billionaires
• you don't block infrastructure spending (investment) that could sustain a recovery and increase revenue in the long-run
• and you don't do it all while the cost of government borrowing is at historic lows. (unless, of course, you're willing to make a gullible american public suffer so that you can blame the incumbent president in an upcoming election cycle.)

a couple two three questions answered:

1. where did the debt come from?
2. where did the deficits come from?
3. who owns the debt?

the debt is the cumulative amount of mostly recent budget deficits (as in costs greater than tax revenues within the last decade), which the government has funded by selling IOUs (aka u.s. treasuries), and the sudden increase is primarily due to the decrease in revenues caused by the recession (and not increased spending).




interesting tidbit: almost 40% of the debt is in theory interest-free, as in it's owned by federal agencies like the social security trust fund or the federal reserve which pays all its profits back to the u.s. treasury, so the government is just paying itself interest. also, it's only half related but i found this interesting: the fed can't go bankrupt.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

everything means something. (at least for now.)

post-fact politics and the national debt.

circa 2003, my mass communications class taught the theory that media proliferation led to knowledge proliferation. access to information was access to the truth. the theory mirrored the jefferson quote engraved above the door to uva's cabell hall, "for here we are not afraid to follow truth wherever it may lead, nor to tolerate any error so long as reason is left free to combat it." but even at the time, the theory was falling apart. media wasn't just proliferating, it was fracturing. channels were proliferating, but they were also narrowing. narrowcasting was the name of the game and now, almost a decade later, i think it's safe to say that former theory is dead. so what happened? well jefferson was right, but it's all in the caveat: "so long as reason is left free to combat it."


media channels, in their quest for ever-narrower market segments, have put the normative before the positive without regard for truth in any objective sense. that crucial caveat "so long as reason is left free to combat it" has become the crux of a broken system, as information proliferates in the service of biases rather than reason. sure, everyone would like to think they're interested in the objective truth, (even fox news retains the slogan "fair and balanced,") but for anyone with a broader perspective and a remote awareness of the nuances that characterize liberal vs conservative reporting, it's easy to see how ridiculous the claims of objectivity have become. indeed, media channels like fox and msnbc increasingly filter out the factual positive statements that contradict their target audience's normative beliefs and biases, and focus exclusively on what reifies their narrow narrative. everything is delivered in a carefully crafted context, and what isn't an outright lie is often a strong but misleading implication.

(anddd gotcha.)

while no one wants to admit they're misled by their own biases, the tendency to get upset or uncomfortable when presented with contrary information steers people to media channels that tune out discomforting information and focus instead on what reifies their narratives. eventually it gets to a point where biases are so ingrained that completely contradictory narratives emerge, along with a defensiveness that twists even contradicting information into a greater belief in the narrative. the result is post-fact media and post-fact politics. narratives should be based on the facts, but facts are increasingly chosen to support the narratives. in situations where including the glaring omissions would result in a completely contrary narrative, this is done in spite of the truth, and the unfortunate truth is that as a society, we are afraid to follow truth wherever it may lead. the debt crisis has made this more apparent than ever, as the opposing sides seem to exist in totally mutually exclusive alternate universes.

here's a little study i dug up on just how skewed people's (mis)perceptions of reality really are: nyhan-reifler (skip to the appendix to get right to the point, and also there's some summarizing here). now here's a little interesting tidbit i noticed in the appendix: if 0 is the baseline, notice the skew on all those graphs. maybe it's just a function of the questions they chose, but maybe not. i've long had a theory that between liberals and conservatives, conservatives tend to have more widely accepted misperceptions. it's been an unscientific theory of mine, (now nominally supported by an academic study,) but i've just consistently noticed that amongst all the polls i've seen, conservative's misperceptions consistently seem to have broader acceptance than those of liberals. (see: birther movement.)

maybe something about conservativism, be it a religion-induced relaxation of skepticism or just being outright dumber, more effectively lends itself to biases and irrationality. i suppose in deference to objectivity and airing of any of my own possible biases, i should mention that i identify most with libertarian, neither liberal or conservative, nor democrat or republican. (though i increasingly prefer the term "classical liberal" if you'd like to go with that.) that said, as an observer it still seems to me that compared to conservatives, liberals tend to have an objectivity bias (oxymoron intended). ironically, objectivity is a distinct disadvantage in a post-fact environment, which might explain why liberals can't seem to play hardball half as well.

so now with all that in mind, how do you explain the advent of a group, full of a fervor typically reserved for muslim extremists, willing to hold the american government's credit hostage to their demands? it's post-fact politics. and who's more to blame for the debt crisis and subsequent downgrade? well as you might imagine, most partisans have already made up their mind, and in their alternate universes they're right, but they're wrong when it comes to the bigger picture. to some extent, either the liberal or conservative position can be supported because the debt crisis was basically a game of chicken, and it takes two to tango... but, which narrative is missing the more of the bigger picture? who is culling the objective truth most to fit their narrow narrative?

before i drop this truth bomb on you and potentially ruin your worldview, ask yourself where the debt came from. no seriously, ask yourself "where did the debt come from?" and then answer. got it? okay, keep that answer in mind. now think about if you've ever gone out and tried to objectively verify your beliefs. if you have, i'm impressed. but if you haven't, why is that? i mean you're probably not by any means an exception, but it's mind blowing when you think of how so many people have so many divergent impassioned beliefs about where the debt came from given that it's so objectively quantifiable and verifiable. okay, so now think about what i mean when i say post-fact politics...

(the objective quantifiable verifiable truth.)

now go ahead and attribute each of those to their political source. which of those programs were implemented by republicans, and which were by democrats? too lazy? okay here it is all done for you...

(also see: nyt. beware: liberal source, objectivity bias.)

i'm sure some post-fact conservatives will detect the threat to their narrative and try to question the source, but there's no disagreement between what the pew charitable trusts published and what the white house published other than the political attribution, and here's what the wall street journal had to say about the pew charitable trusts:

although today the pew charitable trusts is rigorously non-partisan and non-ideological, joseph pew and his heirs were themselves politically conservative. the mission of the j. howard pew freedom trust was to "acquaint the american people with the evils of bureaucracy and the values of a free market and to inform our people of the struggle, persecution, hardship, sacrifice and death by which freedom of the individual was won." joseph n. pew, jr., called franklin roosevelt's new deal, "a gigantic scheme to raze u.s. businesses to a dead level and debase the citizenry into a mass of ballot-casting serfs."

don't worry if you were wrong, even i wasn't rigorous enough. (hypocritical, i know.) i actually believed some bs i read about how obama is such a big spender because deficits skyrocketed in his budgets. but again, a conservative source culling the facts. the bigger picture is that deficits did skyrocket, but it had less to do with spending and more to do with recession-induced revenue decreases. in fact, obama's policies to date have cost roughly $1.4 trillion, while the downward revisions from the recession cost $3.6 trillion. (quantifiable fact. don't leave home without it.) so when someone says obama has "spent" up the debt, now you know they're either misleading you or they're misled. help them out. the obama administration, aka the u.s. treasury, has "spent" the deficits only in the sense that they're required by law to pay previously racked up bills with now decreased revenues, with the exception of the roughly 10% of the debt attributable to obama's policies, over half of which was stimulus spending.

(right wing liars!)

now let me get off my objective high horse for one second and divulge a few of my opinions (or biases if you'd prefer)... everything i know about basic economics tells me: you don't cut government spending during a fragile economic recovery; you don't hold the u.s. credit rating hostage to defend a regressive tax code that favors millionaires and billionaires; you don't block infrastructure spending (investment) that could sustain a recovery and increase revenue in the long-run; and you don't do it all while the cost of borrowing is at historic lows. (unless, of course, you're willing to make a gullible american public suffer so that you can blame the incumbent president in an upcoming election cycle.)

common sense? in a post-fact political environment, depends who you ask i guess. reviens, voltaire, ils sont devenus fous!

post-fact politics and the conservative narrative.

while researching and reading for my post on post-fact politics, i searched for "what caused the debt?" and i got the most hilarious results. amongst the headlines "left, right unite in criticism of obama?" and "should geithner resign?" i clicked on the the most promising link, "power play video: placing blame for debt downgrade" and was struck by another funny headline, "bad timing for president's vacation?" and then of course there's the content of the video. watch it, and keep in mind that this is what a fox news viewer likely sees when they wonder, "who's to blame for the debt?"

listen to the anchor's first question. of all the questions to ask, the question was basically, "is obama going to tank the markets further?" and the answer, paraphrased: "if he reaches out to republicans, markets will do well." (right, because reaching out to republicans has worked so well in the past.) and then the next guy comes on: "blaming the tea party won't work. the president is a loser. he's unpredictable and has no plan." and then the next guy... anchor: "as the republicans try to deal with the debt, but they're being blamed, what do they do?" (poor republicans.) answer: "the president doesn't take responsibility for anything. he needs to take ownership of the issue. but at least were making progress on the debt, which wouldn't have happened without the republicans." i mean... what? do you see the bias? because if you don't, you're either one of those aforementioned inhabitants of a parallel universe completely unaware of the narrative-crushing preponderance of contradictory facts out there, or you're just lying to yourself. and while the loyal viewers may be lying to themselves, it's not that anyone on the show is lying necessarily... but why is the anchor just setting up the commentators to spew hostile opinions? why ask those questions?

now look at some of the comments on recent political or economic articles. it's just a pure hate-fest. i'm talking, rough estimate, 90%+ jabs at obama and liberals, most of them absurdly baseless and indicative of ignorance. but with that video in mind, with the perspective of someone who has been presented these as the salient facts on the issues, can all the commenters (and commentators) really be blamed for thinking, basically, "it's all obama's fault"? honestly, maybe not. can they be blamed for selecting biased sources? can they be blamed for refusing to think critically about the narrative they're being presented? can they be blamed for being so defensive that contradicting information only reinforces their delusional worldview? sure. but would i come to the same conclusion were i stuck in the same bubble, oblivious of the bigger picture? probably.

i took a little look at a little unscientific fox news poll on the day of the debt ceiling vote, and the poll blew my mind. (don't vote, just go ahead and hit view results so a bunch of sane people don't taint the poll.) the poll asks, "would you vote to approve the deficit reduction plan approved by president obama and congressional leadership?" now think about what that question means, carefully. this was before the final plan was agreed on, so there were no specifics on the plan, but we know at least a couple things: it was a deficit reduction plan, meaning we could presume it would reduce the deficit, and the leadership of both parties approved of it, meaning that the republicans have approved it. ignoring the fact that democrats also approved it, it's a republican leadership approved plan to cut the deficit. why would someone disapprove of that? yet 72%... 72% of this self-selected sample of fox news consumers said they would disapprove, and the majority of them in the most extreme terms. (not just no, but "hell no!") so what the hell is going on here?

is it just because obama and the democratic leadership also approve of it? ok, now think about what that question means. can politics actually function when a movement will chain themselves to the ship's wheel in opposition just because the president approves? i mean, i think that's just it. i think that because the question contained the implication that it was approved by obama, the automatic answer was to disapprove. and that's the funniest thing, obama's policies are often in lockstep with reagan-era conservativism but there is absolutely no way he will ever be recognized for it in today's post-fact world. everything he says and does is damned before he says and does it. it's not that this hypothetical plan is bad, we don't even know what it is, just that obama approved it! and that's the narrative... obama is a socialist, (and maybe, just maybe a foreign-born muslim who fraternizes with terrorists,) so just about anything that comes out of him is set to destroy america.

the tea party is not a top-down movement. despite the typical positive connotations of grass-roots movements, i highlight that this is a grass-roots movement because it's a symptom of something terrifying. the tea party freshmen in congress that chained themselves to the ship's wheel until they got what they wanted are not rogue representatives. they represent a virulent strain of american politics that is alive and well within their constituencies. welcome to post-fact politics, where people are inundated in such tailored versions of reality that they might as well exist in another world altogether.

i turned on glenn beck the other day and heard him peddling the whole class warfare narrative as usual, and he was trying to shoot down the idea of higher taxes on the rich (because it's class warfare) by saying the rich already have the biggest tax burden, "the richest 5% pay over 50% of taxes!" but here's the thing... if you look at the whole picture, not just what conservative radio tells you, you would realize that the richest 5% paying 50% of taxes is only meaningful when you account for how much of the wealth is concentrated in the top 5%. the bigger picture is that "in the united states at the end of 2001, 10% of the population owned 71% of the wealth and the top 1% owned 38%. on the other hand, the bottom 40% owned less than 1% of the nation's wealth." now do you see why the rich are paying most of the taxes? that quote is nothing more than evidence of extreme income inequality, but it's being peddled as a culled fact to support the conservative narrative... and people just eat it up.

here's another little gem i found on after the debt ceiling crisis was over: "debt ceiling lifted and uncle sam's IOU soars another $238 billion, reaching 100 percent of the nation's gross domestic product — the total market value of america's goods and services." now anyone familiar with basic economics can see the glaring error in that sentence. let's see if you can spot it. (hint: define GDP.) as you might imagine, i'm not much of a conservative media outlet connoisseur, but picking off all these distortions (or outright lies depending on who you ask) is happening on an increasingly regular basis. i'm talking about the 20 minutes a week i happen to be bored enough to listen to conservative media channels, i'm hearing these things more and more.

so how do you spot these post-fact extremists? it's a question i've spent quite a bit of time on. it brings to mind a popular quote from the supreme court, "i shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material i understand to be embraced within that shorthand description; and perhaps i could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. but i know it when i see it." —justice potter stewart, concurring opinion in jacobellis v. ohio 378 u.s. 184 (1964), regarding possible obscenity in the lovers.

that said, there's a couple litmus tests i've come up with over time. here's my favorite one: presented with the the same information, extremists will come to different judgements based on the source. for a conservative, first ask "obama believes in a balanced approach to reducing the deficit, and supports raising taxes. what do you think?" you might be able to guess at the result. now comes the test question... if you then ask "reagan believed in a balanced approach to reducing the deficit, and supported raising taxes. what do you think?" if their answer is consistent, you're probably talking to someone sane. on the other hand, if the answer is "well that must have made sense at the time" or some other such cop-out, you're probably talking to a someone there's no point in talking to. (for a liberal, try this in reverse, but be warned, liberals tend to have objectivity bias that makes this test way less fun.)

here's another test, though this one isn't so much an objectivity test as it is a test of whether or not someone is stuck in one of these divorced realities. just ask "where did the debt come from?" most conservatives are thoroughly divorced from reality on this one, and i ask that you try to maintain a light-hearted humorous appreciation for their responses. i try my best to do the same, because the absurd misinformation out there surrounding this one subject is essentially what inspired this entire post. that so many conservatives (and liberals, but to a lesser extent) blame the opposite end of the political spectrum for the vast debt and deficits, when the true origins are clear to any objective observer, is to me, the single biggest and best indicator that we live in a post-fact political climate.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

some songs.

james blake - unluck
crystal castles - not in love
cults - go outside
cults - make time
lykke li - breaking it up
arcade fire - ready to start
discovery - osaka loop line
kelly rowland - motivation
robyn - dancehall queen (diplo remix)
robyn - call your girlfriend
sean kingston - letting go
britney spears - till the world ends
dj khaled - i'm on one
lil wayne - 6'7
gang gang dance - mindkilla

rusko - everyday (netsky remix)
mavado - delilah (diplo remix)
gyptian - hold yuh (major lazer remix)
diplo - percao

buraka som sistema - wegue
buraka som sistema - hangover

tim turbo - hush
spoek mathambo - control

Thursday, June 23, 2011

a yard sale.

a brush with hiroshima stained fingers
a faux watercolor painting
a wedding ring in the fire sale
tucked away
behind the false teeth

Monday, May 30, 2011


if not for neda in iran, i'd say hamza seals the beginning of the end for al-assad.

i'll just hope.

Monday, May 16, 2011

the inevitable third intifada.

and could it turn out to have been a trilogy all along?

i'm so tired and i have to get to va beach tomorrow, but i just thought i'd mention a little tidbit about a story that barely made it to my news feed... the arab revolution is knocking at israel's door.

and there was this one too... border clashes not the start of a third intifada. here's a little secret though... i think it is.

this is all uncertain, i know, so don't think i'm making these assertions with any delusion of certainty. the arab revolutions are tentative and i know full well revolutions can be hijacked or outright outmaneuvered and defeated.


let's assume for a moment the arab spring is the arab awakening that i have always hoped for. let's assume it's the popular realization that the arab street can bring down despots simply by refusing to tolerate them anymore. violence is a tool, but violence is certainly not the prime mover. the prime mover is confidence. and the consequence is an interconnected protest movement that demands the basic freedoms that appeal to any decent conscience.

osama bin laden's death couldn't come at a more fitting time. just as the arab street awakens to their newfound ability, so too has the appeal of islamism been negated. after all, how can islamism portray itself as the antidote to autocracy as regimes fall like dominoes completely independent of islamist influence? how can the violent ideologies of hamas, hezbollah, and al-qaeda be taken seriously when nonviolent protests have set this whole awakening in motion, and nonviolent protests are accomplishing more in months than years of violent resistance? the arab spring is a cultural and ideological revolution as much as it is a political revolution... the revolution is the false dichotomy laid bare, and the third way is well on its way.

but hasn't this third way been waiting for it's big break in palestine all along, stuck between hamas and fatah? isn't a renewed resistance in palestine the natural consequence of a newfound arab confidence? and if palestinians and the arabs alike are confident in their moral authority, isn't nonviolent resistance the hallmark of that moral authority?

so there you go. my fun roundabout socratic questioning based explanation for why on nakba day, some seemingly insignificant protest occured, and israel killed over a dozen unarmed palestian protestors who tried to exercise their right of return by simply walking across the border towards the homes that should rightfully be theirs.

the arab revolutions and this protest are not isolated incidents. this is a new palestinian intifada precisely because this whole fucking thing is one giant, glorious, arab intifida.

now i know this might be overreaching for now but let me just pretend for a few minutes so i can go to sleep happy... if the false dichotomies that have made a mockery of middle east politics until now really come unraveled, it's all fucked. (in a good way.) what do i mean? i mean hamas is fucked, hezbollah is fucked, the muslim brotherhood is fucked, al-qaeda is fucked, and thus one of the greatest absurdities of the modern middle east, the false dichotomy of israel vs islamism, is also fucked.

but that's a pretty big if.

happy nakba day!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

sic semper tyrannis.

i'm wrapping duct tape around my head right now to keep it from exploding.

ok i've never done this before so i'm a little nervous but... ok here goes...


Wednesday, April 27, 2011

world wrap.

welcome to the world wrap, a compact taste of smashkanistan. and holy world news! kinda too much to get to, so here's some snippets. (speaking of holy, i'm in lynchburg. it's funny here.)

quick tidbits: arab unrest, petraeus nominated to head the cia, palestinian reconciliation, bernanke holds a press conference, obama releases his birth certificate, and i'm getting kind of fat.

first stop, arab unrest. i heart the arab spring, but the end result is yet to be seen. number one threat? the thirst for reprisal. it disgusts me, and it does a disservice to all those still struggling for freedom by incentivising brutal suppression of the revolts. with the exception of the dictators who go out fighting, let the leaders step down and disappear. ponder policies, not punishments. focus on organizing viable liberal political parties, or before you know it, the islamists will be winning the elections won by the blood of brave liberals. (get it? like liberals won the elections being held, but the islamists won the election's votes. it's good writing, it's just way over your head.)

i hope the arab spring inspires iran to rise up; i hope it creates liberal forms of government in it's wake; and i hope it exposes the cheap myth that israel is anything but a joke of a gerrymandered ethnocracy by showing the world that zionism is just as (if not more) threatened by true liberalism than by islamism. new liberal democratic arab regimes will necessarily come into conflict with israel's apartheid, and if america wants to make up for years of pampering arab dictators that play nice with israel in spite of their arab populations and palestinians, it should do everything it can to support the uprisings while walking the fine line of acknowledging that this is an arab revolt, not an american war.

example: libya. kudos for intervening, keep it up. keep it up how? by nominating petraeus to head the cia, that's how.

next stop, palestinian reconciliation. if you must learn your lesson again, learn them again. you can't trust hamas and you can't trust islamism. if reconciliation lasts, then it lasts... but i don't think it will.

and now to uncle ben...

“I think every central banker understands that keeping inflation low and stable is absolutely essential to a successful economy and we will do what’s necessary to ensure that happens,” said Bernanke.

i took a little pause to watch the first fed chairman press conference in history, and here's what i learned: nothing new. because it wasn't meant for people who understand the fed. in fact, this stop is also the transfer station for obama's birth certificate, because the audience for both events was the mass hysteria of ignorant idiots. bernanke was simply reiterating in a more public and popular forum what the fed does for those that don't seem to get it. the fed uses open market operations (buying and selling securities) to fulfill the fine line of the fed's dual mandate: stable prices and full employment. stable prices means the fed will fight high inflation just as it fights the threat of deflation.

so now that we know obama isn't a foreign agent of a shadowy world government and bernanke doesn't lead a cabal of global bankers planning to enslave us all, all the birthers and tea partiers can go home and watch their last glenn beck show, right? of course they won't. they'll perpetuate the alternate reality in which they make some semblance of sense.

anddd that's a wrap. eat it and weep. (even if like me, you're getting kind of fat.)

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Friday, March 18, 2011

jets to benghazi.

one small step for liberalism, one giant leap for multilateralism. finally.

oh and speaking of multilateralism...

phew! what a week.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

death and taxes.

it's tax time and it's time to correct some abounding misperceptions! i think the best way to do is just post a little tit for tat i had with a misperceiver who quoted this...

From the US Treasury and Office of Tax Analysis:

# In 2002 the latest year of available data, the top 5 percent of taxpayers paid more than one-half (53.8 percent) of all individual income taxes, but reported roughly one-third (30.6 percent) of income.

# The top 1 percent of taxpayers paid 33.7 percent of all individual income taxes in 2002. This group of taxpayers has paid more than 30 percent of individual income taxes since 1995. Moreover, since 1990 this group’s tax share has grown faster than their income share.

# Taxpayers who rank in the top 50 percent of taxpayers by income pay virtually all individual income taxes. In all years since 1990, taxpayers in this group have paid over 94 percent of all individual income taxes. In 2000, 2001, and 2002, this group paid over 96 percent of the total.

Treasury Department analysts credit President Bush's tax cuts with shifting a larger share of the individual income taxes paid to higher income taxpayers.

America’s lowest-earning one-fifth of households receives roughly $8.21 in government spending for each dollar of taxes paid. Households with middle-incomes receive $1.30 per tax dollar, and America’s highest-earning households receive $0.41 per tax dollar;

and my response:

ok i think i see what you're missing here. what you quote uses the irs definition of income tax. yes, as far as "income tax" goes, it is purely progressive, and you pay more as you make more. what you don't see is that income tax isn't the only tax people pay. that misses the taxes on income from capital gains, and thus misses the bigger picture. that's why i went out and found the bigger picture for you...

don't worry, it's a common mistake. but any economist will tell you, there is no disputing that according to *effective* tax rates the us tax code is regressive in favor those who make $1.2 million+. effective tax rates are a much truer measure of tax burden than statutory tax rates, and it's manipulated all the time:

also, you should be careful with those figures you quoted. they may actually be more a reflection of growing income inequality than a progressive tax system. think about it this way: imagine the top 5% made literally *all* the income and everyone else made literally 0. see how amazing the quotes could be now? the rich pay all taxes! oh how noble of them!

p.s. "The wealthier you are, the greater a percentage of your wealth goes to the gov't." nope. not once you make 1.2 million+. another fun tidbit, that first chart shows how effective tax rate dips after 2 million "gross income." but again, details details... gross income is before expenses. (see: gross vs net.) in actuality, it starts to dip after 1.2 million net income...

isn't critical reasoning fun?

and as always...

Monday, February 14, 2011

from maghreb to masses... definitely.

when i wake up tomorrow, i expect iran to be the headline. i want azadi square to look like tahrir square.

i'm so tired from partying hard in chicago, but i just had to get this out there before tomorrow, or approximately 7 am est... what's happening in the middle east right now has the potential to be a fucking dream come true.

the whole thing was just so surreal. i got off work early friday and glanced at the tv in the hotel lobby on my way in and the whole world just froze up for a second. mubarak had resigned... i'll be honest, i didn't expect it at all. then as i sat on the bus, all these thoughts ran through my head that just kept blowing my mind...

what if a secular democratic government emerges? what if a credible liberal government stands up to israel and changes the whole discourse? what will happen to the blockade? what if this just keeps spreading further and further? what if this spawns a wave of nonviolent protest in palestine? what if free speech in the arab world reforms iraq's absurdly sectarian politics? what if this really is the rebirth of pan-arabism, but cast in secular liberal ideals? what if this reignites the protests in iran? what if this time they succeed? what if all the tyrants in the middle east, autocrats, zionists, and mullahs alike, are all scared shitless for all the best reasons?

of course another thought crossed my mind: what if everything goes horribly wrong? i was watching the celebrations on al jazeera when they tried to ask a protester "what do you think is next for egypt?" and the phone line kept cutting out. the symbolism was just too appropriate...

protester: we're all so proud! we've made history!
newcaster: yes, but i was asking, what do you think is next?
protester: what? i can't hear you! there are fireworks!
newscaster: i said, what do you think is next? for egypt? what will happen now?
protester: sorry you're breaking up- (line goes dead.)

i laughed, but i am so hopeful right now.

p.s. i've had the funniest conversations with cab drivers recently... i somehow always do.

i remember a couple years back i had an iraqi cab driver and he ended up coming into the party he took us to, and we talked about what life is like in sadr city in the middle of this ridiculous rager for like an hour. i'll post about my absurd somalian chicago cabbie later, but i could tell by his accent my richmond cab driver was arab. sure enough, he was north african and we got to chatting about the middle east.and we talked about iran. he said something i never want to have to hear again ever.

he said, "the iranians need to be brave. we lost hundreds for our freedom, and when some girl dies in iran, they all go home."

aside from me not being sure what he was talking about, and aside from him having the chronology pretty mixed up, he did have some semblance of a point. the iranian protest movement is so far still a disappointment, but it doesn't have to stay that way. take note.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

from maghreb to masses... maybe.

hopefully. but it's up to the army.

now here comes the pessimism: revolution is a messy thing. the surrounding optimism exhibits a pattern something akin to an economic bubble, so maybe it's apt we're naming revolutions after flowers now. like the dutch tulip mania, so may go the jasmine revolution.

consider myself the example. a few transitive properties removed, this post is the product of a revolution that began with massive popular support. in the run-up to the islamic revolution in iran, democratic reformers, liberals, secularists, communists, and islamists alike all poured into the streets, suddenly and swiftly overwhelming the security apparatus of the shah.

so here's the thing... what happens next?

collapsing a regime is easier than creating one. in any regime change, be it externally or internally catalyzed, dismantling the current regime is often frighteningly easy. from iran to the soviet union, revolutions come swiftly and unexpectedly. from iraq to tunisia, catastrophic victories abound, and we're still not sure what perverse equilibrium of competing coercions will replace them.

a state is built upon a monopoly of coercion, and in some cases more than others, upon a perceived monopoly of coercion. and who holds more ability to coerce than the military? it's no coincidence that many regimes erect some sort of parallel military like saddam's fedayeen or iran's revolutionary guards... the amount of coercive power concentrated in the military is too great to leave unpoliced, and this is even more so when an unrepresentative minority is maintaining power.

in tunisia, the fate of the revolution was decided when the real referee revealed itself and army commander rashid ammar pledged to "protect the revolution." until then, what was "the revolution" anyway besides a bunch of dissimilar street cart vendors and lawyers angry over issues as divergent as hunger and internet censorship? but in an instant, president ben ali was fleeing the country and the head of the president's security apparatus ali seriati was under arrest, accused of threatening state security by fomenting violence despite quite literally being the state only moments earlier. what will become of the rcd and tunisia's one-party system is yet to be determined, but if i had to guess it doesn't look like mohamed ghannouchi is going to be around for very long.

now the question remains, is tunisia the arab gdańsk?

tunisia is not egypt, and egypt is not tunisia. that's not to say that the success of popular protest movements can't inspire other popular protest movements, but this is not a reawakening of pan-arabism. while ben ali has fled, mubarak is holding on. like tunisia, the military holds all the cards and can play kingmaker with a nod, but unlike tunisia, mubarak is a military man whose rule is a linchpin of stability in the middle east, and the whole world including me is afraid of what might come next.

of course hizb ut-tahrir and nahda are hoping to reenter tunisian politics, but tunisia has much more effectively purged itself of islamism, albeit through the regime's brutality and something like 1/5 of the population being on the secret police payroll at one time or another. the muslim brotherhood, on the other hand, is alive and well in egypt and is watching closely. here's a little tidbit from stratfor...

"After three decades of Mubarak rule, a window of opportunity has opened for various political forces — from the moderate to the extreme — that preferred to keep the spotlight on the liberal face of the demonstrations while they maneuver from behind. As the Iranian Revolution of 1979 taught, the ideology and composition of protesters can wind up having very little to do with the political forces that end up in power. Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood (MB) understands well the concerns the United States, Israel and others share over a political vacuum in Cairo being filled by Islamists. The MB so far is proceeding cautiously, taking care to help sustain the demonstrations by relying on the MB’s well-established social services to provide food and aid to the protesters. It simultaneously is calling for elections that would politically enable the MB."

whether mubarak stays or goes, at least one thing has already come of this... america's foreign policy has been laid bare for the hypocritical mess that it really is. ben ali and mubarak were/are both huge beneficiaries of american support, egypt being the number two american foreign aid recipient, mostly for playing nice with america's number one foreign aid recipient, israel. and therein lies the hypocrisy: america has long since sold out arab liberty and its own professed values to make the world safe for zionism, which is why we are in this dilemma in the first place.

now call me radical, but i am... democracy means nothing. liberal democracy means everything, liberalism being much more important than democracy. a state is a monopoly on coercion, and a liberal state exists for the sole purpose of removing coercion from circulation. you can gerrymander and manipulate an illiberal democracy from within or without to get the most vile and tyrannical governments imaginable, which is exactly the kind of government you get from hamas, hezbollah, and likud, where some citizens, be they sunni, shi'a, or jewish, are more equal than others.

paradoxically, the longer coercion is wielded by the state for purposes other than minimizing coercion and safeguarding individual liberty, the more freedom is forgotten and reprisal becomes the rallying cry. and that's why the world, unfortunately, has to be afraid of democracy in the middle east. the hypocrisy has gone on too long for america to suddenly reverse course without severe unintended consequences. arabs have been disenfranchised for so long in the name of defending an illiberal democracy sold as liberal that liberalism has been abandoned by a critical number of arabs as a viable solution to the region's problems, despite being exactly that.

that said, right now i'm inspired and hopeful but i've been disappointed before, so i'm cautiouslyyy optimistic.

i think my hope for a liberal egypt is something akin to the turkish model, a vigilant military that will step in to restore liberal democracy if democracy strays towards islamism, but will otherwise stand completely on the sidelines as the guarantor of secularism and individual liberty. my fear is that the muslim brotherhood will strategically ride "democracy ... like a train. you get on it, and get off once you reach your destination." to be sure, the muslim brotherhood stands ready to fill any power vacuum that might arise, so it's up to the army and cairo's neighborhood watch to ensure that doesn't happen.

looking ahead, if there is any man that has my trust in navigating the liberal dilemma in egypt, it's elbaradei, and last i heard the government has agreed to negotiate with him as the representative of the opposition. i'll be watching him closely. i wish him luck.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

khan academy.

have i posted about this before? i think i have but it's that important...

go visit.

salman khan is so awesome. he reminds me of why i probably should've gone to a montessori school... i've literally spent full days just going through whole courses in one sitting (with breaks for human necessities, of course.) plus his videos are amazing as references that explain things more eloquently than i ever could. perfect example: why do i think gold is a bubble? there's a lesson for that...

yep, they're all that good.


ah the inglorious glory of being glorious. he's up there with sergio de mello, but if there was ever a diplomat that embodied the liberal dilemma, it was holbrooke. he was an arrogant hypocrite of the best kind, the kind that was self-important because he was important. he walked the impossibly fine line between defending liberalism and defending it through necessarily illiberal means. and i'll always love him for it.