Cutting Through The Crap

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Meditations For A Sunday


Unexpectedly, I found myself near tears toward the end, in sadness, I think, for the absence of such thoughtfulness in our national discourse; in longing for the quiet pleasure of observing intelligence at work, gentleness, comparing ideas such as these to those we hear daily, hourly, incessantly leaking like toxic waste from our political leaders and their enablers on talk radio, on propaganda television. Shouting, stupefying, destructive, mindless.

And it's not really about the message per se. It's about the sense of loss, the realization, by its absence, of the pleasure of hearing thoughtful people talk. About anything.

Drowned out are people like this, by the din of fear and destruction and needfulness and stupidity and hate and magical thinking as they overtake our country. Thence the tears. For the damage being done by choosing irrationality over reason at a time when we need it most.


Saturday, July 30, 2011

Hot Stuff


When I first read this article the other day, titled "New NASA Data Blow Gaping Hole In Global Warming Alarmism," I had a couple of thoughts. The central claim was:
NASA satellite data from the years 2000 through 2011 show the Earth’s atmosphere is allowing far more heat to be released into space than alarmist computer models have predicted, reports a new study in the peer-reviewed science journal Remote Sensing. The study indicates far less future global warming will occur than United Nations computer models have predicted, and supports prior studies indicating increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide trap far less heat than alarmists have claimed.

Among my thoughts were, 1) Well, this is in Forbes Magazine, hardly a bastion of scientific realism. 2) I wonder who this Spencer guy is (the author of the reported study. 3) If it's true, it's significant. 4) Either way, the right-wing scream machine will be all over it. 5) Given what I've read for the past decades, I'm betting it's not what it seems. 6) If I'm wrong -- if it's all wrong --I'll be really at sea.

So -- hang onto your hats! -- it turns out author Spencer has a bit of a credibility problem:

The first author of this work is Roy Spencer — one of the extremely few climate scientists who denies human-caused climate change, so more on him in a moment — and his work has been shown to be thoroughly wrong by mainstream climate scientists.

Stephanie Pappas at LiveScience contacted several climate scientists about Spencer’s paper, and their conclusions were quite harsh. They say Spencer’s model is "unrealistic", "flawed", and "incorrect". As ThinkProgress points out, a geochemist has shown that Spencer’s models are irretrievably flawed, "don’t make any physical sense", and that Spencer has a track record in using such flawed analysis to draw any conclusion he wants.

[UPDATE: RealClimate now has a post tearing apart the science and methodology of Spencer's paper as well.]


And given the above, the following was predictable:
... Spencer is a big supporter of Intelligent Design. ... Heck, even a conservative judge ruled it to be [bogus] in the now-famous Dover lawsuit. Anyone who dumps all of biological science in favor of provably wrong antiscience should raise alarm bells in your head, and their claims should be examined with an even more skeptical eye.

Guess we'll be seeing the admissions of error on the right-wing blogs and Fox "news" any minute now.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Bruce!!


I've mentioned him several times: former economic adviser to both Reagan and Bush the First. Even if you find Chris Matthews annoying (I do), what Mr Bartlett says is so obvious as to be unremarkable, if not for the fact that all the Republicans in Congress refuse to unlock their brains and let in the light.


Stating The Obvious (x2)



Tom Friedman, while not a complete stranger to bloviation, is often right. In his latest, he says, with but a small oversight, more or less exactly what I've been saying for a long time:

[The formula for past American success] is built on five basic pillars: educating the work force up to and beyond whatever technology demands; building the world’s best infrastructure of ports, roads and telecommunications; attracting the world’s most dynamic and high-I.Q. immigrants to enrich our universities and start new businesses; putting together the best regulations to incentivize risk-taking while curbing recklessness (not always perfectly); and funding research ...

[...]


After all, “we don’t just need a plan for regaining American solvency. We need a plan for maintaining American greatness and sustaining the American dream for another generation,” argues Michael Mandelbaum, the Johns Hopkins University foreign policy expert...

...
.. Anyone who says that either entitlement reform or tax increases are off the table does not have a plan for sustaining American greatness and passing on the American dream to the next generation.

Alas, that is the Tea Party. It is so lacking in any aspiration for American greatness, so dominated by the narrowest visions for our country and so ignorant of the fact that it was not tax cuts that made America great but our unique public-private partnerships across the generations. If sane Republicans do not stand up to this Hezbollah faction in their midst, the Tea Party will take the G.O.P. on a suicide mission. ...

His small oversight is that we have in The White House exactly that person, who sees what's needed absolutely clearly. And it's his party that, while not particularly happy about it, has been willing to move in the needed direction. Friedman also seems to miss the obvious point that it's not just the Republican party that teabaggers are destroying. It's our country.

Otherwise, his characterization of teabaggers is exactly correct. Since they'll never see it themselves -- clarity is hardly a defining characteristic -- the only hope is that enough voters might figure it out before it's too late. But, as I've also said many times, a critical mass of the electorate has been carefully molded by Rovian cynicism into a bunch of credulous, gullible true believers, unable to see where their (and the country's) real interests lie, happy to buy into the hatreds and falsehoods that Foxrovobeckians have so deliberately and effectively nurtured.


[As long as I'm leaning heavily on the NYT, everyone ought to read this swan-song article, by David Leonhardt, an excellent economic writer, leaving that desk to become their Washington bureau chief:


... The malaise obviously has several causes, some of which are beyond our control. One major cause, however, is entirely our doing. We do not spend enough time focusing on our actual economic problems....

... One of the tricky things about the subject is that almost nothing is certain in the way that, say, two plus two equals four. Economics — which is at root a study of human behavior — tends to be messier. Because it’s messier, it can be tempting to think that all uncertainty is equal and that we don’t really know anything.

But we do...

When it comes to economics, we know that a market economy with a significant government role is the only proven model of success. ... On the other hand, unencumbered market forces often lead to disaster, as 1929 and 2008 made clear. ...

We also know that ever-rising levels of education are crucial to a country’s success. ... The next time you hear naysayers poormouth college, ask them if they plan to send their own children.

...

We know that the federal government has promised more benefits than it can currently afford. The only way out of this problem involves some combination of tax increases and cuts to Medicare, Social Security and the military. Anyone who won’t get specific about which ones they favor is not a fiscal conservative...

The bottom 50 percent of households, based on pretax income, make less combined than the top 1 percent. Only three decades ago, the bottom half made more than twice as much. The middle class has also received a much smaller tax cut in recent decades than the affluent...

The real problem with so many of these issues is that the political system is not even trying to find solutions. ...
...

... Some of the world’s most talented people — students and would-be entrepreneurs who would like nothing more than to remain in this country — are told they are not welcome. Amazingly, Congress may be about to create a whole new economic problem by voluntarily defaulting on the national debt...

Perhaps the last refuge for optimists is Churchill’s reputed line: “In the long run, Americans will always do the right thing — after exploring all other alternatives.” The sentiment is nice. It would be comforting to have a little more reason to believe that history was going to repeat itself.

Count me as one who doesn't think so. Or, if they do, it'll be too late. Because it already is.]


Thursday, July 28, 2011

Ultimate Irony



As I responded to a lengthy comment on this post, something occurred to me. Probably not an original thought, because it's fairly obvious. Still, the irony meter is pegged (in more than one sense of the word):

Teabaggers continuously claim sole proprietorship of patriotism and love of country. Simultaneously, led by such bright lights as Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann, and everyone at Fox "news" and all the rest of the RWS™, they are non-stop in their assertions that liberals hate America and are trying to destroy it. That those are their claims is irrefutable.

And yet at some level, in their threats to bring down the country over the debt ceiling, they are assuming that they can threaten to kill their hostage -- America -- and ultimately get their way for the very reason that they know liberals are, in fact, more patriotic than they are and would never let the hostage die. While calling liberals the vilest of names, they understand that it's only they -- teabaggers -- who are willing to destroy the country, hands on the trigger to get their way. They are by any definition terrorists; and they count on the fact that Democrats are not.

Amusing, isn't it? Except for the fact that it's really horrifyingly dangerous and depressing and destructive of everything we once were; and that, given teabagger anarchy and liberal conscience, there's no solution. Out of concern for our future not shared by teabaggRs, I expect Obama to throw in the towel momentarily.



Crucified




I was going to make a couple of obvious comments about the Fox-propelled outrage that some have characterized the self-described Christian Norway killer as a Christian. No need. Jon Stewart did it perfectly. And then some.



(Here's a more serious discussion of the man's Christianity.)


Dancing On The Ceiling


Now, I don't know why we have a debt ceiling law, and I don't know what having one is supposed to accomplish. I can't say whether it's good or bad, should remain or be removed from the books. But it doesn't take a genius, nor an econ major, nor a person with a kindergarten education to understand that if the US defaults on its debt for the first time in history, it will have repercussions around the world, will ruin our standing, and (this part takes some level of understanding, I guess) immediately add 100 billion to our annual deficits. (That could happen without default, if credit ratings go down as people see our fundamental inability to govern ourselves.)

So the fact that enough Congressional Rs (and that expert at bankruptcy, Donald Trump) think causing default is perfectly fine leads to an obvious conclusion: the country is at the mercy of idiots. Of people who are too dumb to understand and too hidebound to care. In that sad reality, the rules of negotiation simply don't apply. A piece in the NYT by a psych professor says as much:

DESPITE all the bluster about an impending default on the government’s debt, most observers in Washington and on Wall Street still believe the two parties will reach a crisis-averting agreement.

That’s because the practice of American politics assumes that all players will negotiate according to predictable patterns — that they will realize they can get more from compromise than by demanding everything and winning nothing.

Under that assumption, President Obama is right to keep pressing for a compromise, because eventually the Republicans will fall in line. But as two wildly different fields — game theory and the study of elephant mating patterns — show, there are limits to the usual assumptions: sometimes players simply refuse to play the game, and when that happens, the best advice for their opponents is to do the same....


Unfortunately, even the author can't come up with a sensible solution. His mind, it seems (and not unlike mine), is blown. Tossing his hands in the air, he concludes:
In the 1983 movie “WarGames,” an errant military supercomputer has a final moment of lucidity in which it notes, “The only winning move is not to play.” The president is best advised to do the same: declare that the other side has foregone all pretense at rational legitimacy, and simply proceed to govern as best he can for the good of the country.

Sort of says it all, really. "As best he can." How? Facing these guys in Congress, and, unlike them, recognizing there's a Constitution and there are certain assumptions about governance in a democracy, what's a president to do?

And that's the point: one side is beholden to a group of people with whom negotiation makes no sense, to whom the very essence of democracy is meaningless. In our system, with a divided government, all options are gone when one party is literally insane.

The only solution is for people to wise up and vote to put Democrats back in control. Failing that, of course, they could find and elect reasonable Republicans. Slight problems, though: first, there are damn few reasonable ones left, and, second, Republican voters will never elect them. Not until, in concert with their global warming denial, hell freezes over.

One thing the president could have done, however, is, in his recent speech to the public, laid out much more clearly what the competing visions for our country are, what the consequences to our future would be were Republican cuts with no revenue increases to become law; and to have demonstrated the level of detachment from reality being shown by congressional teabaggRs. In asking the American people to let their representatives know what they think, he was still operating on the assumption that someone on that side of the aisle actually gives a shit.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Meeting In The Middle


So let's see if I understand: Conservative NYT columnist David Brooks, who recently made waves across the intertubes by saying Republicans were being ridiculous, now says both sides are being intransigent, and it's Obama's fault. (So no one could mistake his argument for coherent, in the same column that takes Obama to task for "losing his cool" and speaking to the American people, he also says that speech got Congressional leaders to start doing their jobs. You can work on that one. My point is merely what's obvious.

To review: way back when, so-called budget negotiations began with each side staking their positions. For Ds, it was no cuts in social programs, and raising taxes on the wealthy. For Rs, it was no taxes, no closing of loopholes, and drastic cuts in social programs.

Time passed. People "negotiated." President Obama offered significant cuts in social programs, enough to piss off his constituency, and agreed not to raise taxes, but only to close egregious loopholes. In response, Republicans agreed to.... nothing. Their position changed from no taxes, big cuts, keep the loopholes, to no taxes, big cuts, keep the loopholes.

And the pundit class (trying hard not to be, you know, factual and therefore "liberal") manages a straight face while saying both sides are unwilling to budge.

Whatever else is true about the parties to the debate -- and who the hell knows what's true any more? -- it's only Democrats who've been willing to compromise. Sure, Rs have offered varying levels of cuts. But's it's always been cuts only. It's always been an approach which will coddle the wealthy, and will screw the non-wealthy, the environment, the future. It's Ds who, in the spirit of America, have actually conceded ground. Maybe they should, maybe they shouldn't. But they have, and Rs have not (while lying about the reasons). To argue otherwise is to see that which is not there.

Imagine that: making stuff up and calling it an argument.

Teabaggers, Prepare To Close Your "Minds"

[Click image to enlarge]

Yeah, as if they were ever open.

Shall we give them time to notice the segment representing the largest component of Bush's debt, even bigger than his wars; or to see who actually programmed some savings? Sure. While they study it carefully and formulate a well-reasoned response, let's wait.


Tuesday, July 26, 2011

As Disgusting As It Gets


Safely ensconced in Texas, where like-minded hate-minded are in abundance and will shelter him as if he's Osama in Abbotabad, loosed from the stultifying ethical constraints placed upon him by Rupert Murdoch, Glenn Beck, paragon of teabaggers, sinks further into the slime than even I, who thinks he'd have to bubble up from the bottom to be considered scum, would have thought possible. About the kids killed in Norway he smirks,

"As the thing started to unfold and there was a shooting at a political camp, which sounds a little like the Hitler Youth," he said. "Who does a camp for kids that's all about politics? Disturbing."
Being completely wrong is of course irrelevant to one whose raison d'etre is the peddling of fear and hate and falsehood.

Torbjørn Eriksen, a former press secretary to Jens Stoltenberg, Norway's prime minister, described the comment as "a new low" for the broadcaster, who has frequently been forced to apologise for offensive remarks.

"Young political activists have gathered at Utoya for over 60 years to learn about and be part of democracy, the very opposite of what the Hitler Youth was about," he told The Daily Telegraph. "Glenn Beck's comments are ignorant, incorrect and extremely hurtful."


Let's make a superhuman effort and ignore the heartless dismissal of sixty or so murdered kids, the barely-disguised implication that they deserved it. What might be even more disgusting than all of that is his (can it be anything but deliberate?) ignoring of the fact that the very teabaggers over whose open mouths he squats lord-like, run proudly political and deliberately brainwashing camps for kids as young as eight years old. That which he condemns, he facilitates.

Really, there's no denying that the right wing has simply gone nuts. How can you deal with people who deliberately lie, distort, ignore; who are uninformed about everything they claim to know about America -- its founding, its laws, its traditions? What do you do, as president, when the opposition is willing to destroy the country to get its way, cares more about quashing the opposition than negotiating a future? Does the term "negotiate" even apply? When one side gives fealty to radio hosts who fill the air with hatred and stupidity, who peddle unfocused rage for a living, where's the way in for common sense? When a movement is built on falsehood and when its leaders consider lying its central modus operandi, when its vision is based on greed, selfishness, and ignorance, by what means can they be reached? When a party has no feet on the ground, where is the common ground?

I can no longer fathom it, if I ever could. We have a formerly legitimate political party (and enough people to elect them) that is so far off the deep end that there's no longer any reason for hope. Deliberately and very successfully dumbed down and made to believe nonsense, supporters of Beck and Limbaugh and Fox "news" and Michele Bachmann and Sarah Palin have turned democracy into this. From that unrelentingly and intentionally unenlightened place, where can we possibly go?


Gay


Of all the ridiculous and horrific things I've heard from Congressional Republicans lately, by far the most deeply offensive was uttered by John Boehner this weekend. On some talk show or other he said, more or less verbatim, "I understand the president has to think about his reelection, but my god, what about the country." I'm a simple guy, a calm and collected guy, peaceful am I. But had I gun in my hand, I'd have shot the TV and hoped a couple of shards found their way through the ethers to the speaker's face.

Later, I might have offered a bandaid.

Meaning no offense to sphincters around the world, what an asshole. President Obama has offered more cuts than practically any in his party are happy with. Among liberals, his approval is down, and there's talk across the liberal blogosphere about not supporting him any more. Meanwhile, Boehner and his teabaggRs are literally threatening to bring down our economy if they don't get their way. Overtly. Their vision of America is one in which the gaps between rich and poor get even wider, where the wealthy are catered to and everyone else is screwed; where there's no money for education, for infrastructure, for research; where the environment is raped with no regard for the future. Because they simply don't care about the future, because they don't intend for there to be a future: take all you can get, now. Period. Compromise? What's that? It's god's will. And, evidently, Rush "I-Hate-Everyone" Limbaugh's. (How pathetic is that? Speaker, third in line to the presidency, to Rush: Okay with you boss? Huh? Huh? Democracy in America. Jesus Fricking Christ.)

I could splutter on and repeat myself endlessly, because every day there's a new outrage, more evidence that teabaggRs simply don't give a shit, have no ability to listen, have gotten one simple, dangerous, stupid, unfounded, unsupportable idea in their heads and, having exhausted all their neurons capable of maintaining membrane potentials, are incapable of any further mental activity. Unable to load page. Try again later.

What's even more infuriating is that no one called him on it on the air, asked him to explicate; and that, as surely as the earth is a minimum of six thousand years old, teabaggers across our crumbling country were saying yea, verily. Or however it is that the Funding Fathers talked back then.

[Why did I title this "Gay"? Isn't it obvious? Boners and assholes.]


Monday, July 25, 2011

Love Thy Neighbor


Predictable as odor in a cesspool, as same-sex couples began marrying in New York, there were protests. Angry, righteous protests. A sign I saw on a news broadcast said "Homosexuality is a sin greater than murder." A sin. Greater than murder. All of the signs in the preceding link are religious-based, many referring to passages in the Bible.

So here's my question: why are there no protests outside of restaurants that serve shellfish? Or beef Stroganoff? When will there be demonstrations at the homes of parents who don't stone their kids to death for not observing the Sabbath? Or talking back?

Clearly, the only objection to gay marriage is a religious one. Fine. Keep it in your heart. But what's the civic issue? Despite the claims, where's the evidence of harm to "traditional marriage" or to society, or to any of the people out there with their signs? Nowhere, of course: there is none. I wonder if any of those protesters feel as strongly about teacher layoffs, or the recent shutdowns in the FAA; from those policies there are clear impacts on all of us.

Do they have a right to protest? Sure, why the hell not? But of all the issues currently facing us, only this has no -- zero! -- impact on anyone not planning a same-sex marriage. Show me evidence to the contrary. Look at the joy on the faces of the recently married. Where in gods' name is the harm? Had they an ounce of human empathy, those protesters would be ashamed; but, of course, the self-righteous, certain of the singular perfection of their particular choice of religion they plucked from the grab bag of thousands and modified to their own needs, are incapable of feeling shame. Not, at least, over the harm they cause others in the name of their sanctified hatred.


On Track


Far be it from I to engage in culture wars, or to point out hypocrisy in the self-righteous. So let's just say some pregnancies progress a lot faster than others. That's gotta be the explanation for this story and picture from two months after a joyous wedding, given the Palin family's zealous affirmation of abstinence before marriage.

So let's just let it go. Why would you even bring it up?

Similarly, I'm not going to address the fact that the killer/bomber in Norway turned out to be a right-wing Christian, a hater of Muslims and Jews, and, of course, "multiculturalism." Or point out the right-wing ambivalence on the guy. Won't mention other similarities. No need: I'm sure Fox "news" will be all over it. Nope, not gonna go there. It's not what I do.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

God Reads My Blog

Until my recent post, maybe he wasn't paying attention. He's on board now, though, according to the world's finest news source:

God Urges Rick Perry Not To Run For President
JULY 21, 2011 | ISSUE 47•29



AUSTIN, TX—Describing Texas Gov. Rick Perry as grossly unqualified for the position, God, the Creator and Ruler of the Universe, urged Perry not to run for president of the United States Wednesday. “I prayed last night and asked the Lord to support my candidacy, and He said no,” Perry told reporters outside the Texas Capitol, explaining that God had cited the governor’s rejection of federal stimulus funds to expand state jobless benefits, his irresponsible speculation about Texas seceding from the union, and his overall lack of concrete solutions to the nation’s problems as reasons why He could not endorse a Perry presidential bid. ... When reached for comment, God said He would not be present at Perry’s much-talked-about Christian day of prayer on Aug. 6, calling the governor’s use of his public office to endorse a religion both “irresponsible” and a violation of the Constitution.

Friday, July 22, 2011

They Pledge A Legion


Much is being made of the extent to which teabaggRs are being asked to sign various pledges -- and have willingly done so. The most well-known (to the extent that the average voter pays attention) is Grover Norquist's anti-tax pledge. As I understand it, every one of the teabaggRs recently elected to Congress and every R presidential candidate has signed it.

Unlike political scientists and other smarty-pantseri, I don't see a problem.

What is a problem is Democrats and others who want to get all thinky on us, who would have us believe that running a government is hard, that it demands attention to detail and, for gods' sake, the ability to address novel situations as they arise. What's the point of sending people to Congress if they're just going consider new facts all the damn time. Get an idea, put it in writing, sign your name. Case closed. The whole trouble around here is that you can't count on anything any more.

The nice thing about pledges is they give all the power to one guy; in this case, Grover. It's a hell of a lot easier to keep your eye on one guy than seven hundred or whatever it is in Congress nowadays. Besides, this whole representative thing is greatly overrated; especially if they're just gonna go and try to learn stuff after they get in office. If the teabaggers have taught us anything, surely it's this: Get a plan, make it full of as few words as possible, and stick the hell to it. In the case of the economy, it's not as if there are a lot of moving parts. Cut taxes, you're good to go. George Bush showed us that. So did his dad. And Ronald Reagan.

So I say let's hear it for pledges. (I'm disappointed that not every candidate swallowed the teabag over the marriage vow thing. What's up with that wide stance? Okay, I get why Newt might have a problem, and you never know how many wives a Mormon might want to have. And if Rudy ever jumps in, well... So far, only Michelle "Sorry Precious I Have A Headache" Bachmann and Rick "Don't Google Me" Santorum have, but there's plenty of time. When the going gets tough, the tough sign pledges.) If enough legislators sign enough of them, they won't need to meet at all. We wouldn't have to watch C-Span any more, and we won't need to wonder what's going on. It'll have been laid out in advance, phoned in, inked. No one'll ever forget John Hancock, that's for damn sure.

I suppose maybe we'd have to go through the goddam hassle of voting for the people who write the pledges; but before we do, we should get them to sign a pledge that they won't write any more after they write the ones we just voted on. Or should it be that they pledge to keep writing them no matter what? But then we'd have to reelect them. Or would we?

Now you're just confusing me. What's the point of a pledge if you have to keep thinking?


Don't Need No Stinkin' Facts


[Having accidentally deleted it, this is a re-write of this morning's post, fairly close to the original.]

In a dramatic GBCW comment, a reader stormed off after I called bullshit for one too many times, I guess. Over his shoulder, as he left the room, he wrote "BHO spends too much money, pure and simple." And there's the problem in a nutshell: teabaggers think our economy is "simple" and all we need are simple solutions. They don't like it much when questioned, evidently.

So he's gone. Sadly, Eric Cantor is still here. And his command of facts is even more shaky; which is a problem, since, unlike my commenter, Cantor actually affects the debate. Here's a report in The Boston Globe:

SOMETIMES AN erroneous assertion is made so often and with such certitude that you find yourself wondering how the people repeating it reached their incorrect conclusion.

That’s the case with the Republican insistence that Washington doesn’t have a revenue problem, it has a spending problem. That specious formulation is a favorite of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. ...

So where did the Virginia congressman come by that notion? ...

And does he have any fiscal studies to backstop his assertion?

Last week, I put those questions to Brad Dayspring, his spokesman.

[...]

Yesterday, Dayspring emailed to say that Cantor “had reviewed literature’’ on how other developed countries have dealt with their deficits...

He sent along an American Enterprise Institute analysis of deficit-reduction efforts elsewhere...

... I wish Cantor had reviewed the AEI study more carefully. If only he had focused on Table 6, where the authors note that in deficit packages they “and the literature’’ - that is, other evaluators - judged successful, an average of 80 percent of the deficit reduction had come through spending cuts, while 20 percent had resulted from new revenues.

Or that he’d taken seriously the deficit-reduction plan proposed by the three AEI authors themselves. They call for accomplishing 85 percent of the deficit reduction on the spending side, but doing 15 percent on the revenue side. How? Through a 2.5 percent payroll tax on all earned income.

That’s right: The principal document Cantor’s office produced to backstop his cuts-only approach actually calls for more revenues.

It doesn’t get much more revealing than that.


Along those lines, here's a Republican governor who did a quick one-eighty on the debt ceiling, when he got wind of some actual facts.

Maybe he should call ol' Eric. Not that, based on the above, we would expect any facts to make any difference at all.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Bible Study In A Nutshell


I'm an open-minded guy. This study had some surprises for me, so I mention it:

What daily practice may help American Christians become more concerned about issues of poverty, conservation and civil liberties?

Reading the Bible.

The answer may come as a surprise to those locked into viewing religious practices in ideological boxes. However, a new study by Baylor University researcher Aaron Franzen found frequent Bible reading predicted greater support for issues ranging from the compatibility of science and religion to more humane treatment of criminals.

The study, one of the first to examine the social consequences of reading Scripture, reveals the effects of Bible reading appear to transcend conservative-liberal boundaries.

Thus, even as opposition to same-sex marriage and legalized abortion tends to increase with more time spent with the Bible, so does the number of people who say it is important to actively seek social and economic justice, Franzen found...

...

Consider some of the findings:
  • The likelihood of Christians saying it is important to actively seek social and economic justice to be a good person increased 39 percent with each jump up the ladder of the frequency of reading Scripture, from reading the Bible less than once a year to no more than once a month to about weekly to several times a week or more.
  • Christian respondents overall were 27 percent more likely to say it is important to consume or use fewer goods to be a good person as they became more frequent Bible readers.
  • Reading the Bible more often also was linked to improved attitudes toward science. Respondents were 22 percent less likely to view religion and science as incompatible at each step toward more frequent Bible reading.
  • The issues seemed to matter more than conservative-liberal tags. In the case of another major public policy debate, same-sex unions, nearly half of respondents who read the Bible less than once a year said homosexuals should be allowed to marry, while only 6 percent of people who read the Bible several times a week or more approved of such marriages.


Of course, I've been saying here for a long time that many self-described Christians seem to be clueless about the liberal policies that Jesus espoused. Nothing wrong with finding out, eh? Maybe it's just that reading the Bible is a marker for being willing and able to read at all. Or maybe reading the Bible actually opens their eyes. To some things. Doesn't seem to help when it comes to gay rights. But I suppose we should take what we can get.

It's a start.


Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The America-Hater



In sort of a res ipsa loquitur thing, along with conservatives, who'd disagree with Obama if he said the ocean is wet, some liberals don't like the message, either.

As I've said from the beginning, Obama is a centrist. This doesn't change the minds of those who think he's an America-hater, "sent here" to destroy us; can't let a little thing like all the evidence change a hate-filled mind, can we?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Lord Speaketh

My Man


Well, during the last couple of months it's been made more than clear -- as if it weren't already -- that Congress, as currently constituted, is completely unable to govern.* So why not turn it over to a guy who wants to turn it over to god? It's a no-lose proposition. Other than the certainty that it would seal our self-destruction.

Ignoring that little bug (and what rules, these days, if not ignorance?) I like it. Run Rick, run. Win, Rick win. We'll find out once and for all if this is really a Christian nation, under god. Nothing else is working -- certainly not the rationality and compromise, as attempted -- even still -- by President Obama. So let's give it over to god and prayer. When that fails, as it surely will, maybe we can rid ourselves of teabaggerism and the people it's put into office.

On the other hand, hey, maybe it'd work. (Perry's pray-for-rain didn't, but maybe god doesn't do raindrops. Whole nations? More like it.) God will save us all. I'll be proven wrong, and we'll have gotten rid of me.
_______________________________________

* The more I think about it, the more I realize the current crop of newly-elected Republicans in Congress aren't really to blame. They're doing exactly what they said they'd do: obstruct Obama at every turn, reject compromise in all forms, vote against all taxes. Of course, that makes the situation much worse: they are idiots elected by idiots, who have no mode of thinking other than magic; who have no basis for discourse other than prejudice and discredited beliefs. So if there are enough people out there to elect such incapable representatives, what hope is there that they'd ever be convinced to elect more thoughtful people, people more open to consideration? None, I'd say. There's nothing -- not even apocalyptic failure of our government -- that could get through to them. By definition, people who could elect Michele Bachmann, Louie Gohmert, etc ad nauseum, will never ever change. By definition and by design, they don't have the tools.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Tomorrow Today

[Click image to enlarge.]

That Was Then. And Then. And Then.


President Roosevelt: “In 1776 the fight was for Democracy in Taxation. In 1936 there is still the fight. Mister Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes once said ‘taxes are the prices we pay for civilized society’. One sure way to determine the social conscience of a government is to examine the way taxes are collected and how they are spent. And one sure way to determine the social conscience of an individual is to get his tax reaction. Taxes, after all are the dues we pay for the privilege of membership in an organized society. And as society becomes more civilized government, national and state and local, is called on to assume more obligations to its citizens. The privileges of membership in a civilized society are vastly increased in modern times. But I am afraid we still have many who still do not recognize their advantages and want to avoid paying their dues....”

... “To divide fairly among the people the obligation to pay for these benefits has been a major part of our struggle to maintain Democracy in America. Ever since 1776, that struggle has been between two forces; on the one hand there has been a vast majority of citizens who believe the benefits of democracy should be extended and who are willing to pay their fair share to extend them. And on the other hand, there has been a small but powerful group which has fought the extension of these benefits because they did not want to pay a fair share of their cost. That was the lineup in seventeen hundred and seventy-six and it’s the lineup today. And I am confident that once more, in nineteen thirty-six democracy in taxation will win. Here is my principle, and I think it’s yours too; Taxes shall be levied according to ability to pay. That is the only American principle.”[Source.]


It's a simple, if stark, choice: will we choose long-term greatness or short-term selfishness? There's no question what the argument is about; the only question is how it'll be answered. Because in our time, that small but powerful group may be proportionately smaller, but it's far more powerful, with a concerted twenty-four hour propaganda network at its disposal, limitless billions to spend on its deceptions, and a substrate of carefully fashioned gullible and willingly misinformed voters in its thrall.

They say FDR was an optimist. I think if he -- or any of our past greats -- could view the political landscape today, they'd not believe their eyes. Considering the obstacles we've overcome in the past as a nation when called upon to do so, and how inept and unwilling we've become, who really could?


Sunday, July 17, 2011

Tubular

I assume I'm not the only one who thinks the Women's World Cup trophy looks like a Fallopian tube and an ovary.


Friday, July 15, 2011

Patriotism



Item:

"Now is a time for choosing. Now is your time for choosing. As I pointed out to John Boehner yesterday, despite what the pundits in Washington are telling you, it is you and not Obama who hold most of the cards. Obama has a legacy to worry about. Should the United States lose its bond rating, it will be called the “Obama Depression”. Congress does not get pinned with this stuff," - Erik Erikson, RedState.

What shocks the conscience here is that Erikson isn't denying that the U.S. might lose its bond rating and spiral into a depression - he just thinks a win for Team R is worth causing immense suffering to millions of people around the world. And House Republicans appear to be reading this.


Surprised? Not me. These guys just don't care. Plus, they're aggressively ignorant, and proud of it.

As I pointed out earlier today, these are the completely cynical idiots in whose hands our future lies, who've been elected by actual American voters.


Laughable


Perfect. TeabaggRs demand the debt ceiling not be raised, are perfectly happy for the US to default on its credit. But when the president suggests the real actual factual consequences, they, predictably, say he's fear mongering. Save the seniors, they demand. And the troops. And everything. When asked what they'd cut instead -- gee, who'd have guessed? -- they punt entirely.

Like the dumbed-down, magical-thinking, fact-free people who elected them, Congressional Rs can't rub two neurons together and make a spark of thought: you mean you can't cut taxes, demand spending cuts, refuse to raise the debt ceiling without causing pain? You mean we have to specify? Stop your mean meanness, you nasty nasty.

Okay, it's not laughable at all. It's pathetic. And indescribably depressing. The oldest and most successful democracy on earth, now in the hands of people demonstrably unable to govern, who don't even understand the concept. Other than in the White House, we have no government at all. These are actual elected legislators, in the halls of the Congress that were once inhabited by intelligent and even courageous leaders; and to call this bunch foolish is an insult to fools everywhere.

How could it have come to this, such thorough, such irreconcilable, such completely unbelievable incompetence? Shame on the people who elected such destructively inept blockheads. Shame on our country for producing such clueless voters. It's utterly unfathomable. Unbelievable. Unforgivable. Who needs terrorists to harm us? We're committing suicide.

Literally.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The New Creationism

"Job creators." It's the latest fabricated, tested, packaged and presented message, pronounced and announced, sucked and plucked, read and spread by the credulous. Unquestioned by the actual media (were there any) and repeated and mistreated by the hacks of the hacker.

"In a recession, you don't tax the job-creators," said John Boehner.

Once again, R policy fits nicely on a bumper sticker, and is neither questioned nor countered effectively; partly, because the refutation won't fit on a bumper sticker, partly because no one wants to hear it, partly because the so-called media don't care. So it lingers, like a fart in an air-tight room.

How interesting it would be, were anyone to ask the speaker to explicate. How does it work, exactly, sir? You lower taxes on businesses and they hire workers? To do what? Will they hire workers to produce stuff that people aren't buying? If people are buying, will "job creators" not want to hire and make a profit because they'd have to pay taxes? If this latest form of creationism is true, wouldn't the above chart be accompanied by another that showed spectacular (or even mildly noteworthy) job growth ever since George of the jumble?

I don't have a problem with the idea that successful businesses create jobs; it's certainly true. Nor would I argue with the proposition that there's a point at which tax rates can be stifling. But where's the evidence that hiring has to do with tax rates? It's bass-ackwards, as I've said. How does Boehner intend to show that our current employment problems have anything to do with the historically low rates now in effect?

Once again, what's really at stake is who we are. What's at the center of the so-called debate is choosing between very different visions of our future. Ironically, it's the party that claims we are a Christian nation whose view is the more unchristian -- you know: camels, eyes of needles, love your neighbor. Commie shit like that.

It's more than unchristian, of course: it's unamerican, coming from the party of patriots. It's willingness to throw everyone but the very wealthy overboard to maintain indefensible tax rates. And they don't even hide it. Here's Mitch McConnell, admitting it:

WASHINGTON -- Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), under siege from conservatives over his opt-out proposal for the debt ceiling debate, defended the idea in crassly political terms during an interview on Wednesday morning.

The Kentucky Republican, appearing on Laura Ingraham's program, repeatedly pointed to the political toil that congressional Republicans endured during the mid-'90s when they squared off against then-President Bill Clinton over government spending.

"[W]e knew shutting down the government in 1995 was not going to work for us. It helped Bill Clinton get reelected. I refuse to help Barack Obama get reelected by marching Republicans into a position where we have co-ownership of a bad economy," McConnell said. "It didn't work in 1995. What will happen is the administration will send out to 80 million Social Security recipients and to military families and they will all start attacking members of Congress. That is not a useful place to take us. And the president will have the bully pulpit to blame Republicans for all this disruption."



The reference, of course, is to his too-clever-by-two-thirds ploy to let Obama raise the debt limit without any Rs having to vote for it. We know what's right, he says; we're just not gonna do it, because it could help Obama. Screw the country? Who cares? And what about his implication that the bad economy has nothing to do with Republican policies of the past ten years? Who'd buy that, other than the RWS™, the propagandists of Fox "news," and every teabagger in the country? Or, how about this: after their threats and refusals, after President Obama has more than compromised on every aspect of budget "negotiations," they've resorted to claiming it's Obama who's doing the hostage-taking.

Bad economics. Stupidity. Lies. Blatant partisanship over the needs of the country. No wonder the teabaggers love the Republicans.

Lazy journalists. Ineffective Democrats. Magical thinking by a deliberately dumbified public. No wonder their crap sells.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

My Guess Would Be... No.



Item:

Officers arrived at a home on the 14000 block of Flower Street after the woman called 911 about 9 p.m. Monday and found a man tied to a bed and bleeding from his crotch, according to a Garden Grove police news release.

Becker, 48, told police she had drugged her husband's dinner to make him sleepy, then tied him to the bed.

As he awoke, she cut off his penis with a knife, tossed it in the garbage disposal and turned the disposal on....

" ...we're not sure what's going to happen: if they're going to be able to reattach this..."

Dick

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Like It Is




When our local school district faced the possibility of not having its tax levy passed (what a dumb way to finance schools, by the way), it published the plans it had drawn up to deal with the financial impact. It was pretty stark. The levy passed. It was not politicking (which is illegal); it was telling it like it was.

Time for President Obama to do the same: state exactly what will be cut if the debt ceiling isn't raised. TeabaggRs, unused as they are to facing actual facts, will cry foul. Fear-mongering! They told us nothing would happen!! But it's time to do it; and it has to be totally accurate. I have no idea what would need to happen, nor do I know over what pursestrings the president has control. Eliminating funding for Congress, one of the least productive in years, would seem an excellent starting place, although I'd guess it's not legally possible. Congress is nothing if unable to make sure it can avoid the pain it invokes upon everyone else. But he wouldn't be shutting it down; they'd just have to work (for lack of a better term) for no pay. Seems fair.

So what will it be? Salaries of soldiers? Social Security checks? National parks, the FBI? I assume that somewhere they have the list drawn up. Time to get it out there. And when he does, Mr Obama also needs to point out all the concessions he and Congressional Ds have made, and the refusal of Rs to accept anything but all of their demands.

Default is in their stars, and he needs to make it clear.

[Update: he's nibbling at it. But "can't guarantee" isn't the same as "here's what will happen..." Surely they can know.]


Monday, July 11, 2011

Everything You Need To Know

It couldn't be clearer why we're where we are; namely, heading for disaster. "No matter what" is the operative phrase.

TeabaggRs, who claim sole proprietorship of the Constitution, who'd have us believe they are virtual sperm banks for the founding fathers, seem oblivious to the compromises on which our country was founded. In every article of that teabagger-owned Constitution, vastly disparate views were met somewhere near the middle, because all parties had in mind the creation and sustenance of a viable country. Such compromises were the building blocks of our democracy; now, teabaggRs are building blockheadedness.

It defies understanding. It's damn near indescribable. Not only are so-called Republicans clinging to policies which were at the heart of our recent collapse, they're completely ignorant of the origins of the country they're so eager to destroy. "No matter what."

Preview Of Coming Attractions


And so it was, not very long ago, that Eric Cantor was taking credit for an impressive jobs report, right after he was majoritized by the wave of brainwashed cluelessness known as teabaggerism. His remark was just beyond the end of the time-span shown in the above chart, which quantified job growth during the last eight months of 2010, when Democrats were still in control of the House, and the stimulus money was being spent. The chart below covers 2011 so far, since Rs gained control, began blocking everything the Ds were trying to do; and stimulus spending (sadly) ended.


I ripped the above from Washington Monthly, a blog to whose clarity and insight I aspire. But it's not as if it hasn't been apparent. The only question is whether anyone in our so-called media might pay attention to their actual job, and ask Cantor about it, directly. You know: post hoc ergo propter hoc swings both ways. Here's me, not holding my breath. And, for the record, it's not me implying the Rs have anything to do with either trend: it was their leader, Eric Cantor. So we should assume he intends to take the blame, too. Right?

Meanwhile, as if it needs any more confirmation, right-of-center The Economist has this to say:

Shame on them

IN THREE weeks, if there is no political deal, the American government will go into default. Not, one must pray, on its sovereign debt. But the country will have to stop paying someone: perhaps pensioners, or government suppliers, or soldiers. That would be damaging enough at a time of economic fragility. And the longer such a default went on, the greater the risk of provoking a genuine bond crisis would become.

There is no good economic reason why this should be happening....

[...]

This newspaper has a strong dislike of big government; we have long argued that the main way to right America’s finances is through spending cuts. ...

And the closer you look, the more unprincipled the Republicans look. ...

Both parties have in recent months been guilty of fiscal recklessness. Right now, though, the blame falls clearly on the Republicans. Independent voters should take note.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

World Class



I like it when girls play with balls.

I've always thought women's basketball was a purer form of the game than men's. Less showboating, more team play. And women's soccer is nearly devoid of the egregious and cynical fakery that characterizes the men's game: falling dramatically, flinging themselves to the ground, rolling several times before appearing to be in mortal pain. (Doctor's note: if they're rolling several times, they're not hurt. You break something, you want it still as possible.) Much as I admire soccer in general, the skills involved, that injury melodrama is off-putting in the extreme. It's virtually absent from the women's game -- except in one of the greatest games I've ever watched: US v. Brazil in the Women's World Cup. Having already nearly been gifted the game by highly questionable refereeing, toward the end the Brazilians resorted to very manly manipulations.

The game had everything that's great and horrible about soccer. Terrible calls by refs, amazing skills on both sides (I could wax descriptive about the Brazilian women's superior talents, but I'm not that into Brazilian waxing), superhuman efforts rewarded, superhuman efforts wasted, outcomes hinging on refs. Playing a man down and prevailing. Changing the game in stoppage time. Redemption. Frustration. And for the first time ever I've thought the post-regulation PK spectacle for once served justice.

Hell of a game. If you missed it, find a way to watch a replay. If you're not a true aficionado, you can skip to the second half after the first two minutes of the first half.


Friday, July 8, 2011

This Should Help

Since, in the bummer post below, I suggested having a nice weekend, I offer this as facilitation. Made from cookies:

Institutionalized Insanity


Being mostly retired, my mental health depends a little too much on the machinations of the market. That's the selfish part. The rest, the sense of impending doom for our country, comes not just from there.

So the jobs numbers still are crap. Which is the perfect lens through which to view the political world. Republicans, no doubt, rejoice. Of that, I think there's no question: the less good the economy, the better their chances -- as they see it -- to win in 2012. That much is fact. The part that's speculation is the extent to which they've deliberately blocked Democrats' efforts, intentionally sabotaging the economy for political gain; about that, I can't be as categorical. But the fact that they still think the be-all and end-all (hmm.... end-all???) of economic policy is tax cuts suggests it's deliberate.

I recognize, and have written much about, the connection between Republicans and belief in the obviously false. Still, I have to think that among their leaders there must be some that can read. Or remember a decade or so back. For the last time we had spectacular growth and a balanced budget was after Clinton raised taxes. And the end result of Bush's cuts was massive jobs losses. Those are facts, too. Since it's never happened that tax cuts have led to budget balance or sustained growth, those guys are either fools or destructive self-aggrandizing cynics. To put it politely.

At least two Nobel-Prize-winning economists said from the very beginning that the "stimulus" was too small, too front-loaded, and too weighted with tax cuts. And ever since it's been in place, despite the fact that the Bushian trend of staggering job losses has been turned around, Republicans have done everything they could to block any more of it.

People use the term "job creation" like a magician uses a handkerchief. It's a multi-purpose deception. But the fact is that there's only one way that governments predictably create jobs: by spending money on projects. It was true when FDR did it, it's true when BHO has done it -- to the extent that he has, within the confines placed upon him by a Congress filled with idiots and deceivers. Cutting taxes on businesses -- already low -- is the wheel before the cart before the horse before the road. Businesses don't hire until there's demand for their products. Demand doesn't happen until people are working. If people are building roads, designing them, ordering materials; when they're inventing better batteries, if they're repairing bridges and spending wages, demand develops and businesses add employees to the economy. It's not complicated.

Clearly, it's too late now to get it right. The Republican deception machine has, as usual, been successful in its sleight of hand, convincing the public they're seeing something they're not. To the extent that he let himself be pushed around, President Obama deserves blame. But his were the right ideas. He just held back too much. He left too much rabbit in the hat.

And now, once again, it appears we're about to see the disastrous effects of tax cuts and spending cuts. But as opposed to when W strode into office with his self-declared mandate after losing the popular vote, and we were riding the wave of economic boom, this time we're barely back up on our knees from the knock-out blows he subsequently delivered.

Republicans have taken the opportunity to say the latest jobs report means no new taxes. What do you suppose they'd have said had the report been great? Without doubt: this proves we don't need new taxes. (Funny how they took credit when jobs were looking better.)

We're the classic definition of insane. We keep choosing the thing that's never worked, and we expect different results. In the truly insane, it's sort of excusable, understandable. In the case of American politics, it's just a deeply, deeply depressing spectacle of selfish stupidity and egregious gullibility.

Have a nice weekend.