Friday, February 28, 2014

Europe isn't Europe

Propaganda is subtle. It's not always overt, though we can read it plainly.
In western regions - closer to Europe - Ukrainian is the main language and many of the people identify with Central Europe.
This from the BBC report Ukraine crisis in maps. Isn't Ukraine in Europe? "Central Europe" after all...

But no, the geographic entity "Europe" isn't what is meant here. Note the shift from polity to geography in that sentence. "Europe" isn't "Europe". But the protestors were all about "Europe" right?

No. Buried under the amassed mainstream parroting of what the protestors are protesting for, to be in Europe, i.e., the European Union, Tim Stanley at least notes that the situation is more complex.

And examine this account as posted on Mish's blog.
I received an interesting email regarding Ukraine from reader Jacob Dreizin, a US citizen who speaks both Russian and Ukrainian[...]
Addendum: Seumas Milne at the Guardian has a more thorough article on Ukraine's far-right elements.
You'd never know from most of the reporting that far-right nationalists and fascists have been at the heart of the protests and attacks on government buildings. One of the three main opposition parties heading the campaign is the hard-right antisemitic Svoboda, whose leader Oleh Tyahnybok claims that a "Moscow-Jewish mafia" controls Ukraine. But US senator John McCain was happy to share a platform with him in Kiev last month. The party, now running the city of Lviv, led a 15,000-strong torchlit march earlier this month in memory of the Ukrainian fascist leader Stepan Bandera, whose forces fought with the Nazis in the second world war and took part in massacres of Jews.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Snitched on

Saw this tweet today about WhatsApp. Here's the key paragraph:
This is more than a business position for Koum. "I grew up in a society where everything you did was eavesdropped on, recorded, snitched on," he says. "I had friends when we were kids getting into trouble for telling anecdotes about Communist leaders. I remember hearing stories from my parents of dissidents like Andrei Sakharov, sentenced to exile because of his political views, like Solzhenitsyn, even local dissidents who got fed up with the constant bullshit. Nobody should have the right to eavesdrop, or you become a totalitarian state -- the kind of state I escaped as a kid to come to this country where you have democracy and freedom of speech. 

Monday, February 17, 2014

This entry

Listened to this interview today. Read this article today, which reminded me of this speech.

And then I wondered why #JustinComeBackToGermany is trending.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Antiseptic terms for egregious acts

"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."  -- Arthur C. Clarke

We call ours a scientific age, though it has not been the only one. We like to pat ourselves on the back for not believing in magic. Yet we do. Rather, we don't even know that it is magic. It is 'progress' or 'reform', whose arcana is best left to the experts who surely must be doing it for us, not them.

They 'like' us. It's for the people, after all.

Keith Weiner notes (italics mine) that
The government offers antiseptic terms for egregious acts. For example, they use the pseudo-academic term “quantitative easing” to refer to the dishonest practice of monetizing the debt. Similarly, they use the dry euphemism “maturity transformation” to refer to borrowing short to lend long, i.e. duration mismatch. Perhaps the term “transmogrification” would be more appropriate, as this is nothing short of magic.
In Rising Rates Spoil The Party, he writes (italics mine) that
It is a strange politically correct world that makes it a taboo to say the simple truth. Unfortunately, freedom of speech in America is slipping—at least on controversial topics that matter. It may still be legal, but there is a very real chilling effect. In a crony system, one’s career is at risk to say the unpopular. So the gentlemen in the club safely confine their discussion to the M1 and M2 measures of the money supply, and the number of angels that can dance on the head of one pin.
On this first part, I recall Bush crony -- er, spokesman -- Ari Fleischer, reminding "all Americans that they need to watch what they say, watch what they do." (Does anyone really believe Bush got into Yale because he wasn't a legacy?).

As always, Orwell's Politics and the English Language is worthwhile.
Most people who bother with the matter at all would admit that the English language is in a bad way, but it is generally assumed that we cannot by conscious action do anything about it. Our civilization is decadent, and our language — so the argument runs — must inevitably share in the general collapse. It follows that any struggle against the abuse of language is a sentimental archaism, like preferring candles to electric light or hansom cabs to aeroplanes. Underneath this lies the half-conscious belief that language is a natural growth and not an instrument which we shape for our own purposes.
Now, it is clear that the decline of a language must ultimately have political and economic causes: it is not due simply to the bad influence of this or that individual writer.[...]

Monday, February 3, 2014

The appeal beyond numbers

Some things can't be measured, despite the increased quantification of living. They cannot because numbers do not apply. To wit, that rarity in American politics, an avowed socialist, has been elected to the Seattle City Council. According to the NY Times, Kshama Sawant says
If you ask me as a socialist what workers deserve, they deserve the value of what they produce.
This sounds appealing since it does not explain how that value is to be measured. Pertinently, under such a system, it would not be accurately measured at all, but arbitrarily decreed as a 'measure' of justice. But abstract concepts such as justice can't be measured. What is the upper bound? The lower bound? Numbers can't be assigned to these things.

It would be just -- and more to the benefit of the working class -- if people were allowed to work rather than barred from employment because their skill level is below the price level, or wage floor. It's forgotten that the raising of the minimum wage is the raising of the bar. A rising tide doesn't lift all boats; some people will drown.

Mish has several good points on this: 
    The higher the wages, the more pressure there will be on businesses to reduce the overall number of employees by other methods, including hardware and software robots.

    The higher the overall costs (of which wages are a huge component), the fewer the number of stores that will be built.

    When corporations don’t open stores they otherwise would have, construction jobs are lost, shipping jobs are lost, merchandising jobs are lost, corporate income taxes do not rise as they would have, and property tax collection does not rise as it would have.

    Marginal stores will be shut.

    Employees at those marginal stores will be laid off .

    Shut stores pay no corporate income taxes or property taxes.

    Vacant stores are a form of blight. They reduce property tax collection and lower rent prices.
    Marginal store closings and refusal to open new marginal stores will most likely happen in the very neighborhoods most desperately in need of jobs  and services.
I used to be a socialist, so I understand the appeal beyond numbers. Quality isn't quantity, except that in America, quantity is often taken for quality. And a quality job isn't one to be quantified. Still the confusion, indeed.