Thursday, September 27, 2012

Comments Elsewhere: Voting and Morality

They're having a bit of a pile-on over at LGM about the question of voting and moral responsibility. I'm trying to stay out of it, mostly, but I did throw in a few comments (about 1% of the total offered so far) here:
This is a point I made in the last post as well, but voting does matter. It may not matter a lot, but aggregate vote totals affect ongoing political strategy (i.e. selection of battleground states; willingness of national parties and PACs to invest in local candidates) and may play a role in setting national policy (i.e. the current majority vote electoral college reform effort). It is an historic record of an opinion, and affects the way in which we understand ourselves as a society. I don't think these are merely 'psychic' benefits, but we seem to have otherwise divorced the concept of citizenship from any sense of obligation. I think we need to bring it back: membership has its privileges, and it should also have responsibilities beyond merely obeying the law.

And here:

There is no such thing as a non-battleground state. Not voting for Obama in Oklahoma, Kansas, Alabama, etc., means that these areas will continue to be viewed as non-battleground states where the minority of voters can be safely ignored, where the Democratic party will not “waste” money or other resources to aid local candidates or shift discussions, where Republicans will feel empowered to continue building their New Confederacy. There is a political battle going on EVERYWHERE, and while voting in the minority isn’t necessarily fun, it still should count for something. And people in “safe” states who would throw away votes need to remember that polling is a social science.

Arguments against voting make me very cranky. Though there are really interesting moral issues at work here. Also here:

my vote is an endorsement of the policies of the person who gets my vote ...as better than the alternatives overall. I reserve the right to disagree with candidates I vote for, and to criticize their policies after they win. And while I may bear some responsibility for policies that were discussed in the campaign, policies which were not significantly in play — or easily foreseeable — during the election are not my responsibility. How, in a two-party system — or even in a 10-party system — can anything else be true?

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Comment Elsewhere: Romney's Taxes

In a discussion of Mitt Romney's Friday Afternoon Tax Info Dump, I added:
The letter from PWC is a brilliant piece of work, designed to create headlines that lull low-information voters but not actually inform. I particularly like the part where the "effective federal personal income tax rate" and "effective state personal income tax rate" and "effective charitable contribution rates" don't add up: 20.20%, 8.36%, and 13.45% (3/4ths of which is, presumably, tithing), but the "Total" line is "38.49% of your adjusted gross income for the period."
As others point out, the fact that we're getting 20 year averages rather than year-by-year breakdowns, and that IRS rules about amending and correcting tax returns are so generous (which is, arguably, why Romney was willing to forgo some deductions in his most recently filed return: in a year or two, he can amend and reclaim the money), means that a lot of questions aren't answered. Did Romney pay taxes? Apparently. Did he pay a "fair share"? Not by a long shot. Investment losses are deductible, so investment gains should be taxed at least as much as other forms of income. And there's good economic analysis suggesting that higher capital gains taxes are very, very good for economic growth because they discourage short-term thinking and profit-taking, aka gambling.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Pictures: Bricks In The Wall: Window Grate

In honor of the approaching return of regular academic life, a series inspired by the "Bricks In The Wall" metaphor for education. Yeah, it's been that kind of summer, and it's gonna be that kind of Fall.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Arrogant Worms: Wouldn't it be great if everyone had a gun?

I can't believe nobody I read has posted a link to this yet. This is in honor of Glenn Reynolds, Russell Pierce, and so many other numbskull ideologues. (No, I'm not linking. Find them yourself, but be ready for the unfunny, irony-free version.) The song is the important thing, but this version of the video is brilliantly pastiched, well worth watching.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Picture: Bug Meeting

I wonder if there's an agenda, a diplomatic protocol, or if it's just two bugs meeting for a little nectar/pollen snack.

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Pictures: Crows Flying

The upside to the psychotic obsession crows can develop with certain humans in certain situations is that you get lots of chances to take pictures of them at relatively short distances....

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Picture: Attack Posture

Crows are really eerie birds. They pay attention to us, and they don't like us, and they're pretty big....

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Picture: Bird in Flight

I love digital photography. You can fail, and fail, and fail, and keep going until you catch that damn bird in flight, and it costs you nothing but time.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Summer means Bugs and Flowers and Birds

Let's start off right: with nature red in tooth and claw and fang and web... The gray one is the winner here. The other one is collapsing in on itself at this point. More summer pictures to come, of course!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Month of Caterpillars #6

Comment Elsewhere: Ecology of the Future

In response to a fascinating discussion of disturbing new trends in wildlife "management" I wrote:
At some point, we're going to need to decide that human economic activity isn't part of the ecosystem, at least not in terms of preserving environments. At some point, we're going to need to accept the fact that change - particularly climate change - is part of ecological history and that attempts to prevent *ALL* extinctions and migrations are un-ecological. At some point, we're going to have to accept that humans *ARE* part of the ecosystem, and decide whether they get managed like kudzu and snakeheads or like salmon and sea lions.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Comment Elsewhere: Tools

Though I try not to respond to obvious trollery (the post isn't trollish, but the commenter is), sometimes a good line comes of it
Abortion, like ibuprofen, hammers, and the Funky Chicken, is a tool to implemented under appropriate circumstances. It is possible to believe that a tool is used less frequently than necessary (spellcheck) and that it is used badly (spellcheck) without believing that the tool is either good or bad in itself.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Low class is better than no class at all....

For fun, I did the "What Class Of White Are You" test Charles Murray's hawking. I won't link to it, but I'll link to commentaries here and here and here. The fun part is trying to guess what point he's making with each question, and then reading the scoring guide and realizing just how weird his internal cultural map is. As I pointed out at LGM, " By his own admission, backed up with statistics, most of what scores you points on this test are minority experiences, in some cases quite narrow ones (Military service. Who the hell identifies race car drivers by sight? Branson? And what’s the socioeconomic profile of people who made Inception a top-grossing film?)."

So, how did I do?


1. 5
2. 0
3. 6 (but working at a college in a small town shouldn't count, right?)
4. 0 (what do you mean, "Graduate school doesn't count"?)
5. 0
6. 0 (what do you mean "Carpal Tunnel doesn't count"?)
7. 0 (I had a friend who was a Monarchist: that ought to count for something)
8. 0
9. 4
10. 0
11. 1
12. 0
13. 0
14. 2, but only because I had guests coming who drink the stuff
15. 1
16. 3
17. 0
18. 2
19. 2
20. 0
21. 1
22. 0
23. 1
24. 0
25. 4

Total: 32

"A first-generation upper-middle-class person with middle-class parents.
Range: 11–80.
Typical: 33."

Am I "upper-middle-class"? Not by income, but I certainly fall into the overeducated liberal elite category he's trying to guilt-trip into voting culture-war Republican (though anyone with a real interest in improving the lives of lower-class working folk wouldn't).  To be honest, lots of my points come from having married into a family with rather different tastes and having lived where I needed to live to pursue an academic (though not an elite) career.

Does this suggest that I need to rethink my understanding of American society? No: the logical leaps and cultural blinkers and statistical junk pseudo-science is strong with this one....

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Comment Elsewhere: Amateur Opinions Matter

In a discussion of a particularly blatant bit of retrograde elitism, I noted:
Law, like history, is a field where amateur opinions not only are common, but matter a great deal: they define the discourse in ways that professionals must adjust to.
This is something that the professional historical community has been grappling with for as long as I've been part of it: public history, historical memory, historical mythologies all are part of the public discourse which greatly affects the wider understanding of our work.