"The further a society drifts from the truth, the more it will hate those who speak it." Orwell
"“The price good men pay for indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men.” Plato
"The secret of freedom lies in educating people, whereas the secret of tyranny is in keeping them ignorant" Robespierre
Sunday, July 31, 2011
Meditations For A Sunday
Saturday, July 30, 2011
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
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. ...
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.
... 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.
Thursday, July 28, 2011
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):
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.)
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?
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.
Teabaggers, Prepare To Close Your "Minds"
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."
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.
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.
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 let's just let it go. Why would you even bring it up?
Saturday, July 23, 2011
God Reads My Blog
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.
Don't Need No Stinkin' Facts
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.
Wednesday, July 20, 2011
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
Monday, July 18, 2011
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
Friday, July 15, 2011
"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.
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.
Thursday, July 14, 2011
The New Creationism
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."
Bad economics. Stupidity. Lies. Blatant partisanship over the needs of the country. No wonder the teabaggers love the Republicans.
Wednesday, July 13, 2011
My Guess Would Be... No.
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..."
Tuesday, July 12, 2011
Like It Is
Monday, July 11, 2011
Everything You Need To Know
Preview Of Coming Attractions
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
I like it when girls play with balls.
Friday, July 8, 2011
This Should Help
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.
Words from Imam Feisal Rauf, just now, in Bahrain : "Bahrain is already a bridge but we need to put more traffic on it," he told a...
"Now, some may ask how, at this moment of economic challenge, we can afford to invest in reforming our health care system. Well, I ask ...
It's not as if there isn't substrate. Daily, many times over, in every medium, there are noteworthy items which range from amusing t...
The estimable CPP wrote about the Koch brothers . He's depressed. With reason aforethought. ... This is two guys -- TWO FREAKING...
It’s impossible fully to grasp the images coming from the James Webb Space Telescope. Countless clusters of light: galaxies. Millions of the...