Battlepanda: November 2008


Always trying to figure things out with the minimum of bullshit and the maximum of belligerence.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Panda maulings on the rise

If you climb over a two-meter barrier into a panda enclosure, because they're cute and you want to cuddle them, you deserve what you get. From the BBC:
A man has been attacked by a panda at a park in southern China, after he climbed into its enclosure hoping to cuddle the creature.

The 20-year-old student had ignored warning signs and scaled a two-metre (6.5ft) barrier to get into the pen.

State media say the panda bit him on his arms and legs, and he had to be rescued by the animal's keepers.

"Yang Yang was so cute and I just wanted to cuddle him," he told Xinhua from his hospital bed.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Populism defined

Andrew Sabl at the RBC offers up a characterization of populism.
But in fact, populism — wherever it has existed, though it's much stronger and louder in the U.S. than in, say, Western Europe — is, above all, producerism. It's grounded in a moral distinction between those who do Real Work (agricultural, or, grudgingly, urban but physical) and those who use their abstract intelligence to exploit the real workers through useless tasks like finance or politics. As even its scholarly defenders note, populism is, down to its roots, anti-elitist, anti-intellectual, backwards — looking, xenophobic, and protectionist — and if some populists are these things to only a mild degree, it's because they're only moderate populists. (See Kazin's Populist Persuasion or Lasch's True and Only Heaven, or, most scholarly though alas out of print, Ionescu and Gellner's Populism.) It's all about rewarding those alleged to be honest and virtuous. Populism isn't quite as opposed to equity as it is to efficiency, but it's a close call.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

When a bailout is a handout

(Thanks to for image, and BigHugeLabs for lolcat tool)

I was for bailing out the banks, and despite the fact that there are many aspects about the administration of the TARP that left much to be desired, I stand by my support for it.

But I am totally against the rescue package for the automakers.

As Matt Yglesias put it simply, “Bankruptcy is bailout.” After undergoing chapter 11 bankruptcy, both K Mart and United recapitalized and came back as viable businesses. This is in itself a bailout, as the law allowed them to screw a lot of people over in disgusting ways to do so…stockholders and pension holders and employees alike.

What the big three are asking for is really more like a handout than a bailout. Take a look at this article

What would a GM bankruptcy look like? It probably would be the most massive Chapter 11 filing of all time — a watershed moment in the history of American business, with far-reaching consequences for all of GM’s stakeholders. While the direct impact on the national economy would be relatively modest, the Midwest would be hit hard by the combination of job losses at GM and its suppliers and benefits cuts for the company’s retirees.

It was written in 2005.

Three years later, everything in that article pretty much still applies. If we loan GM $25 billion or whatever it is they want now, BusinessWeek will probably be able to recycle most of that article for 2010.

(X posted at AOTP)

Sunday, November 02, 2008

What a difference four years makes

Four years ago around this time of year, I had flown down to Florida with MoveOn to get out the vote. Of course, I voted early before I left, but of course, my vote didn't count. This was after a few months of canvassing for John Kerry, knocking on perhaps 50 doors a day or standing on a street corner of Northhampton with a bucket. I still remember the mood on the plane down to Florida. And the mood when we all sat in the bar and the votes started coming in...

After it was fairly clear Bush was going to get his second term, I called Gene back in Massachusetts. I tried putting a brave face on it for a while, then I realized the other end of the line had gone silent. But I could tell he was still there so I held onto the phone without saying anything. But between us, a silent communication flowed -- "How, how did this happen again?" Matt Yglesias was right when he said that Dems believed that Kerry was going to win despite being narrrowly behind in the polls. I was one of those Democrats. In fact, before seeing that graph I could have sworn that Kerry was slightly ahead in the polls going into the election, not behind.

The next day, our group flew back to Massachusetts, where as luck would have it, the airport TVs were showing John Kerry giving his exceptionally gracious concession speech. I remember thinking to myself, why oh why couldn't we have a candidate that is this eloquent and real and comfortable in his own skin during the campaign? When he was done, I looked back at my group. There was not a dry eye in the house.

Fast forward four years...I am in Taiwan, busy missing the biggest campaign in my lifetime. I've contented myself with the fact that this time round my vote is in North Carolina, my most recent US residence, and that is indeed a swing state. The polls are looking great and I fully intend to attend a Democrats Abroad event on Wednesday night in a celebratory mood. I haven't kept in touch with most of my buddies from my canvasser days, but what's this? One of them is running for State Representative in Connecticut! Well, Matt Lesser, I wish you the best of luck, and I'm sure you'll agree when I say this...

What a difference four years makes!

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