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The Republican Mindset

April 20th, 2014 1 comment

This article crystallizes the mindset of the Republican party extremely well.

Common Core is a set of K-12 educational standards that would delineate what any student should know at the end of a grade level in English and Math. It was created by the National Governor’s Association as a state-driven initiative. It had bipartisan backing and strong Republican support. Only a few crazies on the wingnut fringe opposed it.

Then Obama got behind it too, offering a few incentives for states to adopt it.

Suddenly, conservatives have abandoned it en masse and now call it “Obamacore,” saying it is a vile overreach by the federal government to warp the minds of youngsters.

Like Obamacare itself, and so many other ideas that actually were conservative to begin with and had major right-wing support, all it takes is for Obama to voice support for it, and suddenly the bulk of the Republican Party and conservatives everywhere make a 180-degree turn and call it treachery.

The Republican revolt against the Common Core can be traced to President Obama’s embrace of it, particularly his linking the adoption of similar standards to states’ eligibility for federal education grants and to waivers from No Child Left Behind, the national education law enacted by President George W. Bush.

The comparison to Obamacare is not coincidental; now that the ACA has flopped as a political war cry, conservatives appear to be desperate for anything they can grab ahold of to win elections with, and if that means sabotaging what they believed was an important improvement to children’s education, well, so be it.

A few Republicans stand in defense of the program, but are kind of being drowned out by the rush of Republicans turning tail.

Jeb Bush said the pivot seemed more like pandering. In remarks this month during an event at his father’s presidential library, he affirmed his support for the Common Core. “I guess I’ve been out of office for a while, so the idea that something that I support — because people are opposed to it means that I have to stop supporting it if there’s not any reason based on fact to do that?” he said. “I just don’t feel compelled to run for cover when I think this is the right thing to do for our country.”

With a knowing grin, he added, “Others that supported the standards all the sudden now are opposed to it.”

Some other former Republican governors who pushed the adoption of the Common Core agree with Mr. Bush. “There is a great deal of paranoia in the country today,” said Sonny Perdue, a former governor of Georgia, who was also instrumental in creating the program. “It’s the two P’s, polarization and paranoia.”

“Polarization and paranoia,” well-put. But there’s one more P: Politics.

Supporters of the Common Core, which outlines skills that students in each grade should master but leaves actual decisions about curriculum to states and districts, say that it was not created by the federal government and that it was up to the states to decide whether to adopt the standards.

But opponents say Mr. Obama’s attempt to reward states that adopt the standards with grants and waivers amounts to a backdoor grab for federal control over what is taught in schools.

The only meager silver lining I see in this is the generation of idiotic utterances to support a completely hypocritical and empty opposition to something purely on political grounds. Cue Ted Cruz:

“Standards inevitably influence the curricula being taught to meet those standards,” Mr. Cruz said.

Ya think? Never mind that educational standards were a big Republican idea until just recently.

Or, if you recall, this dilly from a Republican candidate for governor of Arizona:

Melvin’s comments led Sen. David Bradley, D-Tucson, to ask him whether he’s actually read the Common Core standards, which have been adopted by 45 states.

“I’ve been exposed to them,” Melvin responded.

Pressed by Bradley for specifics, Melvin said he understands “some of the reading material is borderline pornographic.” And he said the program uses “fuzzy math,” substituting letters for numbers in some examples.

Stay classy, Republicans.

Anti-Vaccers

April 5th, 2014 No comments

An excellent summary of all the reasons why vaccination is a must, and why the anti-vaccination argument is more conspiracy theory than it has anything to do with reason.

However, there is one anti-vaccer argument which I think was not sufficiently replied to:

They say that if other people’s children are vaccinated, there’s no need for their children to get vaccinated.

The response in the article was that this is “one of the most despicable arguments” to be heard on the subject, which is true, but there was one aspect not covered.

Effectively, this one argument expresses the contemptibly selfish nature of the anti-vaccers.

It admits that there are benefits to vaccines (contrary to some of their own arguments), benefits which they believe are won at the cost of the risks they falsely perceive.

It admits that “herd immunity” exists, something which is put at risk, often severe risk, by the anti-vaccers themselves.

But here’s the particularly reprehensible part: even from their own perspective, the anti-vaccers are willing to let all the other kids take all the risks so that their kids can be safe, while at the same time weakening the herd immunity and placing all children at greater risk.

If I were an anti-vaccer, I would probably skip making this argument.

Categories: People Can Be Idiots Tags:

On That Note

February 6th, 2013 Comments off

Ann Coulter said yesterday, “Universal background check means universal registration, universal registration means universal confiscation, universal extermination. That is how it goes in history.”

Oh, and my dog crapped this morning.

Dog Lover

February 1st, 2013 2 comments

This is apparently true: in Jackson, TN, a man had a cute little bulldog—no name or age given—and handed him over to the local Rabies Control shelter to be euthanized. Not because he was violent; by all accounts, he’s a sweet little pup. Not because he chewed or tore up the house. Not because the owner was allergic.

No, it was because the owner was an ignorant ass.

The owner, as it is reported, found his dog “hunched over” another male dog, humping. Concluding the dog was gay, he sent him to the shelter to be killed.

Now, a suspicious person might see that and believe that the story could have been made up in order to garner sympathy to save the dog’s life. Which is what it did, as countless Facebook users and many others flooded the shelter with calls, with numerous people and organizations volunteering to rescue the dog.

But I don’t know, the story has just the right ring of stupid to it.

No that there would be anything wrong with a gay dog, but any idiot knows that dogs will hump anythingpeople, people’s legs, other dogs’ legs, toys, cats, barnyard animals, dead animals… even birds. Yes, birds. Puppies hump. Female dogs hump. Pretty much all dogs hump, and they hump pretty much anything and everything. It’s a dog thing.

So, assuming the story is true, we have a man somewhere in Jackson, TN, who is both homophobic and stupid. But I repeat myself.

And, to be quite serious and honest, things worked out best for the dog.

Categories: People Can Be Idiots Tags:

Merry War on Christmas!

November 22nd, 2012 1 comment

Yes, it’s that time. Halloween is over and Thanksgiving is yet to come, so it’s time for Fox News to put up the decorative articles of outrage and sing carols of victimization. It has become a tradition unto itself, in a way; it is now years old, as certain to come as death and tax revolts, and has a central theme: to establish the dominance of Christianity and integrate as much as possible the institutions of Church and State.

What’s the latest outrage that allows the ruling class with the most power and privilege to feel like they are discriminated against and trampled upon? What else? A fight over a public nativity display! Did those nasty Grinch-like Atheists wage a war to bar them again? Well, no, it is established law that you can have nativity displays on public grounds—but only if all belief groups are also allowed similar displays! What’s this? Equality of expression? In the two months preceding Christmas? How vile!

The evil Atheists did not take down the Nativity in Palisades Park in the city of Santa Monica, but they did something even worse: they displayed their own holiday message. The message of spite and hate? “Religions are all alike – founded on fables and mythologies.” What an outrage! A quote from Thomas Jefferson, here in America? Jefferson is supposed to stand in the background and pretend to be a fundamentalist!

The real problem came when nasty secularists submitted more than one proposal for a spot in the park’s display, and the rules of the lottery system granted them 18 of the 21 spaces (or 11 of 14, reports vary). Well, random chance (or possibly the lack of submissions by Christians, but let’s not focus on that) is obviously at war with Christianity! Christians among the Santa Monica officials, in the meantime, decided that if the Mean Evil Nasty Atheists got more than they did for one year, they would scrap the whole game and take the ball home with them. So, under the excuse of turf erosion and obstructed views, which were never problems for the 60 previous years when Christian messages dominated, they shut down the whole display.

The Atheists did it! By expressing themselves!! To the point where Christians couldn’t stand it and shut down everything!! How dare they!!! As Fox nobly reminds us:

“It’s a sad, sad commentary on the attitudes of the day that a nearly 60-year-old Christmas tradition is now having to hunt for a home, something like our savior had to hunt for a place to be born because the world was not interested,” said Hunter Jameson, head of the nonprofit Santa Monica Nativity Scene Committee that is suing.

Yes, religious groups have no choice but to “hunt for a home” for their nativity displays. But where? Where could these poor, down-and-out, rich and powerful victims possibly move their displays? After all, they are limited to ONLY 12 other parks in the city, or on the front lawns of dozens of churches in the immediate area, or in any of tens of thousands of private lawns or open spaces. Or even in the same park where the nativity displays have traditionally been, so long as the park is open and the displays are attended. But not in that one park, at least when it is closed! Christian voices are being STRANGLED!! Atheists are killing CHRISTMAS!!

Coming up next on Fox’s hit series War on Christmas: “We find something to bitch about in the Obama White House ‘Holiday’ cards!” There are only wrapped presents, a poinsettia, and a Christmas wreath! No tree! And they don’t use the word “Christmas”! And they don’t write “We hate Muslims and Atheists!” on the card!

Don’t they know that the whole idea of Christmas Spirit is to exclude everyone else?!?

Categories: People Can Be Idiots, Religion Tags:

Windows 8: Upgrade to Confusion

October 22nd, 2012 Comments off

Windows 8 will be released very soon, and when it comes out, we’ll see if Microsoft is completely stupid or not.

The test: whether or not Microsoft has added a tutorial to Windows 8. One which pops up immediately and tells people how things have changed, and how to get around the OS.

With Windows 8, the Start Menu is gone, cannot be brought back, and has been replaced with the now-infamous start screen. Going from one place to another now requires new actions which are not apparent because they are not visible on the screen. It is anything but intuitive to figure out that moving your cursor to a corner will bring up a screen you are looking for.

When I first downloaded Windows 8 Consumer Preview, I was hopelessly confused. I could not figure out how to get around—and I’m no n00b to Windows, either. There are bound to be lots of people who will be stymied when they see Windows 8, and who will hate the transition. “What?! I can’t bring back the Start menu? Why not?!?”

As I noted previously, Microsoft itself, when making a case for how it was better than the Mac OS, used as one of their key points, repeatedly, that Windows was better because people were familiar with it, and would have to spend time and effort readjusting to the Mac OS.

When I downloaded the Consumer Preview for Windows 8, however, there was no tutorial. Nothing to prepare you for things being different.

That astounded me. You completely change the UI and you leave users completely in the dark about how to operate things? Not even an apparent “Help” icon? Are you kidding me?

When Windows 8 comes up for the first time, it should have a tutorial (which can be dismissed, of course) which points out all the new UI features and the ways users can operate them. Once finished, the tutorial should then shrink to a small question-mark button on the Start screen, and stay there, with a note to users that they can disable the button if they wish.

Anything short of that will be, in my mind, proof positive that Microsoft is being run by morons. Even with it, Microsoft is throwing away one of their key advantages as they themselves define it. Without it, they are virtually begging for another Vista-level migration to the Mac.

Seriously, they have had eight months to realize that people are being stumped and aggravated by the lack of instruction. It should have been obvious before the Consumer Preview; it should be positively glaring by now. And there’s not shame in a tutorial; lots of people do it, it’s considered a feature, not to mention a necessity often times. Without it, people will be lost.

And then there’s the “What For?” effect: Windows 8 is mostly an upgrade for tablets. The new UI is the only notable new feature, aside possibly from the App Store—excuse me, the “Windows Store.” (Really, Microsoft—if you absolutely have to integrate mobile and desktop operating systems into one, why not make the desktop features dominant on desktop machines, and tablet features dominant on tablets, and have both set of features accessible on both? Why force desktop users to use an OS which is not appropriate for a desktop?)

This means that people who “upgrade” to Windows 8 on a laptop or Desktop will be getting a new and confusing user interface designed for something different than their current device, while at the same time, they get to be confused by a new and unexplained interface setup and lose the one tool they have spent most of a lifetime getting accustomed to—the Start Menu.

That’s pretty much it. A few other bells and whistles, like having a USB-based version of the OS, a new backup system (strikingly similar to Apple’s), and a smattering of other changes they won’t notice because they’ll be spending too much time trying to figure out how the hell to do even the most basic things.

So, Microsoft. Tutorial? Or not?

And Steve Jobs Invented Computers

June 19th, 2012 2 comments

I was reading up on the new Microsoft tablet, and found this paragraph in a story from one of the major networks:

The company has been hit and miss in the hardware market, and when the company misses, it does so epically — remember the Zune? But Microsoft’s hardware successes have become billion-dollar innovations, such as the Xbox or the mouse, which Microsoft pioneered.

Yes. Microsoft pioneered the mouse.

Forget about Douglas Engelbart inventing it in the 60′s. Forget about Xerox being the first major company to design a GUI computer using one. Forget about Apple being the first to successfully deploy it, putting it in the public consciousness. Forget about Microsoft not even being in the hardware business until much, much later.

The Xbox has seen success, but if you pile up Microsoft’s successes and failures in hardware, it’s kind of hard not to notice the dominance of the latter category.

Then I saw who published the story. If they get everything else wrong, why not this? Small wonder they don’t allow comments on their stories….

Categories: People Can Be Idiots, Technology Tags:

Didn’t Take Long for Microsoft to Screw Up Skype

June 14th, 2012 1 comment

First it was the “Skype Home,” an unnecessary screen with data most people have no need for. When you use Skype, the primary task is to contact someone–not to check who has been seen in the last two months (I know already) or have to dismiss annoying ads. And yet Microsoft made the “Skype Home” the default screen, and you can’t change that. Going on line, I found a lot of people like me who hate the damned thing.

Then there was that fracking awful “rate your call” screen at the end of calls, like I want to spend a minute every time doing that–especially when most problem occur due to bandwidth glitches, which Microsoft can do little or nothing about. No way to stop that either, as far as I can tell.

And now? Microsoft figures it’s a great idea to put giant ads in the middle of your Skype call. Not banner ads, which would be annoying enough. Not text ads, like Google. Nope. They want to shove your contact’s image to the side and present an ad as big as they are, like you’re talking to two people, but one of them is an annoying ad.

What happened to Skype making money from people on paid accounts? Probably it just wasn’t enough for Microsoft, they probably figured that there was an untapped revenue stream, so screw the users and screw the app itself.

They claim that you can get rid of the ads, but only by going to a web page and opting out (seems simple, but I’ll bet good money it doesn’t work like you expect), but you can count on the fact that eventually, it’ll become a non-dismissible “feature.”

They already are trying to gold-plate the turd of an idea by claiming that the ads will give users something to talk about. They are even calling these things Conversations Ads:

We’re excited to introduce Conversations Ads as an opportunity for marketers to reach our hundreds of millions of connected users in a place where they can have meaningful conversations about brands in a highly engaging environment.

What does it look like?

Conv Ad Screenshot For Pr With Unilever Magnum Ad-Thumb-485X351-22183

Well, they’re right in that it will spur discussion. “Goddammit, another fracking ad!” “Yeah, me too. Frack Microsoft. Let’s get a different chat program, one that doesn’t suck.”

Seriously, I am considering switching to FaceTime on the Mac, or maybe Google’s GMail video chat. It’s probably as good as Skype if not better, it’s just that Skype is what everybody has been using. But if I continue to get frustrated, annoyed, and pissed off every time I use it, then I won’t give a damn if I have to drag people over to FaceTime, I’ll just do it.

Checkmate!

June 9th, 2012 7 comments

A Tumblr page called “Checkmate, Pro-Choicers!” run by someone calling herself “Rebecca,” asserts that it is “Taking down Baby Murderers with Logic!” It is, actually, a fairly representative look at the level of “logic” used by many, if not a majority, in the fundie pro-life community. This person seems to have, at the very least, a very shaky understanding of what exactly is involved in “logic” (not to mention an equally shaky understanding of color schemes in web design); her points are mostly emotional in nature, and when not, are, well, laughable. Here are some examples, from the most recent:

Pro-lifers care about ALL WOMEN, not just the born ones.
Checkmate, Pro-Choicers

A simple statement to a certain effect is not a fact, and the details of “caring” can include harsh treatment “for their own good.” In such cases, “caring” treatment may be something you would definitely want to avoid. Case in point: mandatory vaginal ultrasounds using a manually-operated wand. While an objective observer might call it a form of state-mandated rape, a pro-lifer may rationalize that it saves a woman from making a choice that could scar her emotionally, and since it saves the life of the fetus, it prevents her from becoming a murderer and going to hell. See how much we care? You’re welcome!

It’s funny that “women’s rights” suddenly end when sex-selective abortion comes into play.
Checkmate, Pro-Choicers

An assertion which only makes sense if one assumes that a fetus is a “woman,” which essentially means that for a pro-lifer, the debate on whether abortion is murder begins with the assumption that human life begins at conception.

Beyond that, this asserts that pro-choicers don’t care about whether abortion is used as a form of sex selection, which is also untrue. It is seen as a terrible abuse of the procedure, and is very worrisome to those concerned with women’s rights. While it is not seen as a women’s rights abuse against the fetus, it is seen as a greater abuse against the gender itself. It is possibly one of the only criteria under which pro-choicers would agree to restrict abortion–save for the fact that it would rely on people getting abortions to truthfully state their intended purpose, which they would not do if it prevented them from doing as they wished.

One may suppose that pro-lifers would then say that this is a reason to outlaw abortion in general, to prevent the minority abuse, but that is incorrect. Many parents value and treat daughters far worse than sons without resorting to physical abuse, also an affront to women’s rights–but we cannot legislate and end to that, and it would not make sense to make parenting in general illegal in order to stop it.

If your mothers had aborted you, there would be no abortion movement at all.
Checkmate, Pro-Choicers

This ignores the name of the movement: Pro-Choice, not Pro-Abortion. Ergo, change the assertion to “If your mothers had been given a choice whether or not to abort you, …” and it falls apart, as they obviously did choose not to abort. If the argument is saying that abortion would be 100% amongst people who believed in pro-choice, it would not keep children of pro-lifers from being pro-choice. If the argument is against every mother having an abortion (which is the assertion made in an earlier post), then there would be no pro-life movement, either–the race would end after a generation. This demonstrates another incorrect assumption by pro-lifers: that people who are pro-choice want every woman to have an abortion every time they get pregnant.

If you cared so much about women, where were your Pre-Roe Crisis Pregnancy Centers?
Checkmate, Pro-Choicers

Since the term “Crisis Pregnancy Center” refers to a pro-life organization trying to persuade, trick, cajole, or frighten women into not having an abortion (usually presenting false information as a means to do so), this question bizarrely seems to be an attack against pro-lifers, not pro-choicers. Indeed, if you cared so much about women, pro-lifers, where were your Crisis Pregnancy Centers before Roe v. Wade?

Casey Anthony was just making a choice about her family and her life. She just wasn’t ready to be a mother, and she made a mistake. Oh wait, she’s in jail for that.
Checkmate, Pro-Choicers

Again, it assumes an equivalency between abortion and child murder, in effect that a pre-requisite for any debate is to first accept the pro-life assertions as inarguable fact.

If you have time to have sex, then you have time to get a job and support your new baby.
Checkmate, Pro-Choicers

Really? Fifteen minutes a day (assuming daily sex of moderate length) is enough time to work and support a child? These people must be organizational geniuses. Either that, or they think that pro-choicers spend ten to twelve hours a day having sex.

I don’t hear you complaining about Christian principles making the murder of teenagers illegal.
Checkmate, Pro-Choicers

First of all, exactly which Christian principles would specifically refer to teenagers? At the very least, this is oddly worded. But, once again, it starts from the assumption that abortion and the murder of born human beings is equivalent. From here, I’ll ignore all “arguments” based on this fallacy (which is a good number of the total posts).

If abortion is as normal and acceptable as you claim, why are there so few movies and TV shows that show it?
Checkmate, Pro-Choicers

Same reason why there are so few TV shows which display live birth in detail. Unless the contention is why more TV shows and movies don’t deal with the general idea of abortion, in which case it is because mainstream entertainment tends to shy away from issues that would normally receive vehement protest from any significant segment of society, whether it is a minority or not. Which is one reason why not many TV shows depict the Prophet Muhammed. This question may as well ask, “If abortion is as normal and acceptable as you claim, why are there so few pro-lifers which accept it?”

Mary was a 12-year-old single mother who didn’t decide to have sex. She chose life.
Checkmate, Pro-Choicers

First of all, I am beginning to wonder if this person actually understands what the word “checkmate” means.

Presumably, this refers to the biblical Mary, mother of Jesus. I’m sure that in this person’s mind, this somehow argues for the pro-life side. Ironically, however, it makes the case for choice. Mary, after all, chose to give birth, right? That’s what this person is saying. Possibly, this person does not even understand the meaning of the word “choose.”


They go on and on like this. “We used to think it was okay to burn people at the stake. We learned our lesson. Checkmate, Pro-Choicers!” Hunh?

One of my favorites: “Steve Jobs’ mom didn’t want him, but he invented computers. Checkmate, Pro-Choicers!” Yeah, Steve Jobs invented computers.

As every single assertion this person makes has at least one glaring logical flaw and/or false assertion, and most of them betray a breathtaking misunderstanding of what “winning an argument” means, this could end up being a very long post. Suffice it to say that they’re pretty much all like this.

I’ll just end with this one, because it speaks to the heart of the whole debate:

If a “zygote” is not a person at conception, but a baby is at birth, when does the magic Personhood Fairy come along?
Checkmate, Pro-Choicers

Indeed. That is the very question at the heart of the debate, and one which cannot be objectively answered. Conception is just as “magic” a delineation as any other.

And this is what, ironically, makes abortion, at its core, a First Amendment issue–not one of privacy (though that also applies), but of religious choice. Deciding when human life begins before the fetus is fully developed is, in a very real way, a matter of faith. One has the personal freedom to choose what one believes; since whether abortion is murder or not is a matter of personal belief, it must be a choice made by the individual, as a matter of religious freedom.

People like this want to impose their own religious beliefs on everyone, a direct violation of religious freedom guaranteed by the First Amendment. But for people like this, “religious freedom” means “the freedom to believe what we tell you to believe.”

Suing for Overtime

June 1st, 2012 Comments off

I wrote this a few months ago, and it fell through the cracks. Here it is, though.


Apparently, more and more American workers are suing employers for unpaid overtime pay:

Americans were pushed to their limit in the recession and its aftermath as they worked longer hours, often for the same or less pay, after businesses laid off almost 9 million employees.

Now, many are striking back in court. Since the height of the recession in 2008, more workers across the nation have been suing employers under federal and state wage-and-hour laws. The number of lawsuits filed last year was up 32% vs. 2008, an increase that some experts partly attribute to a post-downturn austerity that pervaded the American workplace and artificially inflated U.S. productivity.

Workers’ main grievance is that they had to put in more than 40 hours a week without overtime pay through various practices:

• They were forced to work off the clock.

I noted this story because my one experience in court was exactly this. It was back in 1984, if I am not mistaken. I worked at a movie theater for a couple of certifiable douchebags, perhaps the two most unpleasant and dishonest people I have personally known.

They came across as convincingly earnest at first, as douchebags often do. When they took over the theater, they told all the people who were already working there about their dreams to make that theater a terrific place. However, they needed to build up capital, and could not afford everything at the start. They said that they could guarantee us a good health care plan later on, for example, if we would be willing to forgo overtime pay for a while at the beginning. We thought that an actual health care package was way more than we could expect, and didn’t think that overtime would matter much, so we agreed.

Of course, the no-overtime policy never disappeared, and the promised health care plan never materialized.

At one point, one of the workers left and sued the theater for unpaid overtime pay. At that point, the owners told everybody that before they would accept our timecards, we would have to re-write them–falsifying the records, spreading the hours around so that they would never go over 8 hours a day or 40 per week.

Soon afterwards, I quit the theater. The overtime issue was not the only reason, of course. These guys made the place a horrible place to work, and really pushed the limits on what you could even stand by and watch. Someday I’ll go into detail perhaps, but right now it’s beside the point. Suffice to say they disgusted me and I wanted nothing to do with them.

Afterwards, I decided to sue for the overtime pay. I had copied all of my timecards, and decided not to try to make a point of the falsified records; I just sued for what was on the books, which came out to a bit more than $500.

I served them by registered mail and showed up in court, armed with all the documents to prove my case. They did not show, and got away with it. These guys were not new to being served (again, stories for another time), and the dominant douchebag of the pair signed the registered mail as “Rob Roy.” While I’m sure signing that way is illegal, there was no way to pin it on him, and without a valid signature, the registered mail was not sufficient to show the guy had been served. The judge told me I’d have to re-file.

This time I had someone I knew serve them (in exchange for a few six-packs of beer). The day for the court case came, and again they did not show. The judge ruled in my favor by default.

At that point, they had, if I recall correctly, thirty days to appeal, which I was sure they would do. They never did. I think they just figured that they didn’t need to; they were already deep in debt, and figured that they could just refuse to claim, maybe use some more tricks to keep from coughing up the judgment (plus fees and costs).

I don’t think they realized that I knew which bank they used.

All I needed to do was to hire a county deputy sheriff to go to the bank and get the money; all he needed was the bank name and the name of the account holder. A few days later, I got every penny.

I did say these guys were scummy; I did not say that they were particularly bright.

Categories: People Can Be Idiots Tags:

The Truth

May 18th, 2012 4 comments

Precisely. I’ve also been reading Thomas Frank’s Pity the Billionaire, which deals with the same topic from a different perspective.

The frustrating thing is, this should be so obvious, as obvious as the fact that the Laffer curve was full of crap. And yet millions, even a majority, buy into the bull.

Money naturally circulates upward; in order for an economy to work well, there must be some kind of mechanism to circulate the money back down. Conservatives think that jobs will perform this function all by themselves, even as they try to destroy unions, deny workers benefits, and otherwise minimize that precise flow downwards. In fact, a healthily progressive tax system and good working conditions are what create jobs and a prosperous economy.

The best way to stimulate the economy is to inject the money into the lower half of the economic cycle; injecting it into the upper half is counter-productive.

Taxing the rich is not only a good thing, it is a necessary thing. Government spending on infrastructure, education, and supporting the poorest among us is not just a good thing, it is a necessary thing. If you truly wish to have a robust economy.

But just as we still prosecute the same old drug war despite decades of studies telling us that decriminalization and treatment would be light-years better, we still bridle against the bloody obvious in economics.

We know it’s a fact that dollar for dollar, food stamps are the most effective stimulus mechanism, followed closely by unemployment benefits and infrastructure spending, and yet most of the nation seems to accept Republican whining about how that will destroy the economy.

It is just as solid a fact that dividend & capital tax gain tax cuts, corporate tax cuts, and the billionaire-slanted Bush tax cuts are among the absolute worst stimulators–and yet we somehow allow right-wingers to insist that these be given a priority.

We’ve tried it the Republican way for 30 years and we have nearly destroyed our economy. So now right-winger shrieks about how they have never gotten a chance and how liberals have ruined everything.

When You Think about It, the Lack of Reasoning Makes Perfect Sense

May 7th, 2012 3 comments

Heartlandboard

The Heartland Institute is a conservative “think tank” (read: propaganda engine) set upon supporting conservative and corporate agendas. Aside from denying global warming, the institute has famously challenged the adverse effects of cigarette smoke, opposes public health care and education, and essentially supports privatizing almost everything government does. So one cannot expect them to exactly come from a place of reason if their purpose is so deeply set in supporting positions not achieved by reason. When you are so invested in issues that deny the obvious because they fail to benefit the political and economic agenda you want to believe in, basic logic tends to fly out the window.

Even so, the billboards on climate change had me puzzled for a while, in that they seemed so stupid, so nonsensical, that I figured I was missing the point. I mean, a fifth-grader could figure out that even bad people can believe in true things. Adolph Hitler believed that pi equals 3.14159! Do you?

Seriously, that does not even pass the laugh test. Trying to apply guilt-by-association to common-sense facts is, well, stupid. It truly puts on display how divorced from basic logic people like those at Heartland really are.

The Cry of the Oppressor

January 28th, 2012 3 comments

Newt Gingrich, in the latest debate:

…one of the reasons I am running is there has been an increasingly aggressive war against religion and in particular against Christianity in this country, largely by a secular elite and the academic news media and judicial areas. And I frankly believe it’s important to have some leadership that stands up and says, enough; we are truly guaranteed the right of religious freedom, not religious suppression by the state.

The general claim is nothing new, but Newt’s statement is notable in two ways: how comprehensive it is, and where it was said.

Usually, such claims are made in specific circumstances. For example, Jessica Ahlquist, a high school student and atheist in Rhode Island, successfully sued her school to remove a prayer that it had displayed prominently in the school auditorium for nearly half a century. Her objection was proper, and, as the courts recognized, the entirely legal thing to do. A public school using public funds to deliver a religious message is absolutely illegal; that it happens so often is not an expression of the founders’ wishes, but a daily abrogation of one of their highest principles. That the case took down an infringement which had hung for so long, far from being a slap in the face to tradition, was a refreshing sign that perhaps other similar infringements–such as religious statements on currency or in a pledge children are forced to recite–may also someday be rectified.

However, the Christianists believe that “separation of church and state” means, if anything, that the state cannot interfere with whatever religion wants to do, including proselytizing from public office using taxpayer money; and that the prohibition of Congress against making laws “respecting an establishment of religion” means the state cannot create a religion from scratch all by itself. Thus, they see the accurate reading of the law as being not just wrong, but an actual assault against their freedom to express religion wherever and whenever they please.

As a result, you’ll hear Christianists complaining about a “war on Christianity” in that context, with the atheist or religious secularist getting bashed and smeared as some hooligan trying to rob people of their religious freedom.

Or else you’ll hear Christianists getting all upset whenever “Christmas” is referred to as a “holiday,” in the horrific context of other religious or secular celebrations being held equal to the Christian one. To the Christianist right, “Happy Holidays” is now a slur, a godless curse, an insult to their beliefs and an attempt to deprive them of their rights.

Gingrich, however, piled on the whole list of grievances in one short, clearly scripted utterance. Let’s look at it in chunks:

…there has been an increasingly aggressive war against religion and in particular against Christianity in this country…

First of all, we get the “War on Christianity” claim. This is a catch-all which includes the exclusion of school-directed prayer (individual prayer in schools is completely OK), Christian displays on public property required to share the stage with other beliefs, and the generalization of religious celebrations into a generic holiday description. The former two are often the result of lawsuits, which are focused on sharply as a primary source of attack.

What’s fascinating here, however, is Newt’s claim that not just Christianity, but religion in general is being attacked. Why is that fascinating? Because the people attacking religions other than Christianity are not the secularists, but the Christians themselves. When was the last time you heard of an atheist filing a lawsuit against an Islamic prayer? Almost never–and not because they favor other religions (which Christianists sometimes claim), but because no other religion is ever in a dominant enough position to infringe on the rights of others.

What is truly hypocritical is the fact that Christianists are the only ones who actually try to deny others the right to freedom of belief and legal expression. They openly discriminate against people who believe differently from them. They refuse to serve atheists or Muslims in their businesses. They clamor to take down atheist billboards and actually fight to prevent Islamic mosques from being opened, even in remote rural areas with no one else around. They’re the ones that howl in protest when any other religion aside from Christianity gets to deliver an invocation or inaugural prayer. They vote down anyone who is not Cristian from getting into public office. Even Gingrich himself has said he would not allow anyone who is non-religious to even serve in government, and you know he would shut out most non-Christians in the same way.

And the Christian claim to persecution? Despite being the dominant religion with their beliefs almost everywhere, including on the currency, in prayers before public sessions, in the Pledge of Allegiance and nearly all other public oaths, etc. etc.–the persecution against them is horrific because they don’t get to slather their religion in every last nook and cranny of society. Not because they’re actually being shut out, but because they are not allowed to dominate everywhere.

Who is doing this dastardly shutting out?

…largely by a secular elite and the academic news media and judicial areas.

This one prepositional phrase carries an amazing load of trumped-up and untruthful invective against innocent and even imaginary non-Christians.

First, the “secular elite.” Exactly who, pray tell, would that consist of? This is as false and dishonest a boogeyman as the “liberal elite” from which Gingrich pawned it off. According to Gingrich, there is some secret cabal of atheists out there plotting to destroy religious liberty in America. Boogah boogah.

Second, the “academic news media.” Academic? What, is there a news media made up of college professors and researchers that I haven’t heard of? Apparently, education, schools, and teachers are just as evil to Gingrich as “moderates” are, to the point where just saying “academic” (where it even makes no sense) is somehow a justifiable slur. As for the “news media,” that is, of course, the “liberal media.” But wait–how is the news media attacking religion? Truth be told, I hadn’t heard that one before. Is it because they report news Gingrich doesn’t like? That’s the only thing I can think of.

And finally–and this is the scary part when it comes to Gingrich–the judiciary. Long libeled and slandered by the right wing for deciding cases according to law rather then by far-right ideology, the judiciary has the utter gall to follow the Constitution as it was written and intended by the founders. Even conservative judges, like the Bush 43 appointee who ruled against Intelligent Design in Dover, PA, more often rule by the law rather than by their personal political preferences (although that balance is disturbingly migrating in the other direction).

Why is Gingrich’s focus scary? Because Gingrich himself actually suggested that judges could be arrested and hauled before Congress if they dared rule cases in a way that displeased the far right.

So, we come to:

And I frankly believe it’s important to have some leadership that stands up and says, enough; we are truly guaranteed the right of religious freedom, not religious suppression by the state.

“Suppression.” What he means is, Christians (just like everyone else) cannot promulgate religious doctrine using government funds, or via the office of public representatives. That is the only way Christianity (in the exact same way as every other belief system, including atheism) is “suppressed”–and it is that way for the sole purpose of protecting religious liberty, to keep a single religious sect from acquiring power and thus actually suppressing all other religious beliefs in all avenues of life, as it has in so many countries which marry church and state.

This protection of the freedom of belief is called “suppression.” Which makes me wonder how, exactly, Christianists like Gingrich define “suppression.”

Is it like when Christians suppress the right of Muslims to build a mosque? When was the last time Christians were barred from building a church in America?

Like when Christians suppress the right of atheists to erect a billboard? When was the last time an American Christian organization was harassed into taking down a billboard with an inoffensive message?

Like when Christians run a Jewish family out of their Delaware town for protesting when their kids are singled out in Christian prayer at school? When was the last time a Christian family was run out of town after an Imam, preaching in a public school, singled out the Christian child, surrounded by Muslims, and prayed for her to convert?

Like every single election in America, when, with only rare exceptions, you can only get elected if you profess your Christianity? When was the last time a candidate lost for being mainstream Christian? Christians are so vehement about this kind of suppression that even other Christians (today, Mormons, earlier, Catholics) are heavily disfavored?

I wanted to say that Christians suppress religion far more than others in America–but even that’s not true. Outside of church and state issues, as far as I am aware, Christians are the only ones suppressing the freedom of belief in America.

Gingrich is partaking in the long-favored conservative practice of accusing people he is persecuting of persecuting him.

Assumptions and End Logic

December 31st, 2011 4 comments

This Rand Paul quote won the Malkin Award at Sullivan’s blog:

With regard to the idea of whether you have a right to health care, you have realize what that implies. It’s not an abstraction. I’m a physician. That means you have a right to come to my house and conscript me. It means you believe in slavery. It means that you’re going to enslave not only me, but the janitor at my hospital, the person who cleans my office, the assistants who work in my office, the nurses. … You have a right to beat down my door with the police, escort me away and force me to take care of you? That’s ultimately what the right to free health care would be.

This did not make sense to me the first time I read it; it sounded like a completely absurd non-sequitur, that having compulsory health care enslaves everyone in the health care industry. No doctor would ever be forced to do anything at gunpoint or by any other means of coercion, much less for no pay as the charge of ‘slavery’ would imply.

He did make this rationalization:

Basically, once you imply a belief in a right to someone’s services — do you have a right to plumbing? Do you have a right to water? Do you have right to food? — you’re basically saying you believe in slavery.

The problem, of course, is that it doesn’t work that way. I have a right to legal representation, but that doesn’t make a slave of the public defender. Such public services are paid for by the government, and no one in the service industry is forced to participate, nor is forbidden from making their own private practice.

So one has to wonder, is Paul deranged? How did he make the leap to slavery? I didn’t see it at the time.

However, reading it now, I see a code statement there which completes the “logic” circuit of the statement (if “logic” is a word that can be used here):

You have a right to beat down my door with the police, escort me away and force me to take care of you?

Out of context, that just sounds like a statement which supports the wild claim of enslavement, but it actually opens a window on the basis of the entire view (with the word “ultimately” in the next sentence modifying the sentiment).

This is something I did not realize before because I had not heard a core belief of Libertarian anti-taxation reasoning.

The reasoning is this: taxes are mandatory, which means that if you steadfastly refuse to pay them, the government will, ultimately, send people with guns to your door to force you to pay. Therefore, taxation equals theft at gunpoint. This reasoning is especially applied to compassionate acts, government activities to benefit the downtrodden. This is bad, as the use of tax money to do good acts is essentially use armed robbery to accomplish charity, and that is wrong. You can’t force people to do good things.

For some Libertarians, especially those of the Randian stripe, this is a fundamental concept which is thoroughly ingrained in their thinking.

In light of that reasoning, re-read the Rand Paul statement above, and suddenly his thought process becomes apparent. He wasn’t thinking through a real-life scenario where the issuance of the Affordable Care Act would literally lead to him being dragooned into medical thralldom.

Instead, he was taking the Libertarian maxim that taxation (especially for government acts of compassion) equals armed robbery, and applying it to the context of health care reform. Since taxation means that eventually the government forces you to pay at gunpoint, he reasoned that the equivalent is that compulsory health care eventually means that doctors will be forced to treat at gunpoint. From there, he got to the idea of health care workers being enslaved. Confusing the point is his statement that it was not an abstraction–but that’s exactly what it was. It just wasn’t an abstraction for Rand Paul, because the idea of taxation being armed robbery is so solidly hard-wired into his world-view that he takes it completely literally, and thinks it is a concrete step in a chain of reasoning.

Without the Libertarian concept in mind, one gets lost along the way. Paul could see the sense in it, as could many who have the same core philosophy. Without that knowledge, however, his claim sounds not just ludicrous, but wholly nonsensical.

This is the problem with any kind of interpersonal communication, really: many of us have basic assumptions which may differ greatly from those held by others. Since we form chains of reasoning which employ these assumptions, we come to conclusions which confuse other people because they lack that assumption.

For example, let’s say that I believe that computers put out radiation which causes all manner of health problems with just limited exposure. Let’s say that it is so core a belief that I either assume that everyone else knows it or can’t imagine anyone else not knowing it. Consequently, when you take out your laptop when you are around me, you will not understand why I get upset or accuse you of trying to kill me. I’ll sound like I’m insane.

In short, the key to understanding the madness on the conservative side of politics today is to know what particular brand of utter bullshit the people you hear talking take for granted. That will allow you to better understand their lines of thinking which lead them to believe that Obama runs death panels and other crap along those lines.

Alternatively, all too often there is no line of reasoning–they believe all manner of demented nonsense simply because they heard it somewhere and want to believe it. They’ll hear bullshit from sources like Fox News and simply assume that there is a line of reasoning which leads to the story they enjoy hearing.

That’s how, for example, they can believe Obama is a communist and a fascist at the same time–they heard one pundit say he’s a communist, and another say he’s a fascist. They trust both sources and simply accept whatever they say as truth. Since they did not go through the thought processes which lead to the conclusion, nor did they question either conclusion, they believe both at the same time and see no problem with it.

Republicans and Economics: Reputation for Expertise, Track Record for Cluelessness

October 23rd, 2011 8 comments

A few weeks ago, I posted a stump speech I felt Obama should be making. In it, I pointed out that while Obama is trying to push a modest jobs plan, Republicans are blocking it. I also claimed that Republicans have no jobs plan of their own. They would deny this, of course; they have pitched a plan that they call a “jobs” plan. The plan: erase even more regulations so corporations can pollute. The idea is, if we stop holding back industries from making our air unbreathable, our water undrinkable, and our soil packed with toxic wastes, they will be free to create more jobs. That is logic along the lines of letting criminals serving time for assault & battery out of prison so that we can hire more doctors and nurses.

Paul Krugman (hat tip to Ken) meets this proposal with scorn from the economic side, debunking the idea that it will create loads of new jobs. Pay close attention to the last sentence in the excerpt:

Mr. Perry has put out a specific number — 1.2 million jobs — that appears to be based on a study released by the American Petroleum Institute, a trade association, claiming favorable employment effects from removing restrictions on oil and gas extraction. The same study lies behind the claims of Senate Republicans.

But does this oil-industry-backed study actually make a serious case for weaker environmental protection as a job-creation strategy? No.

Part of the problem is that the study relies heavily on an assumed “multiplier” effect, in which every new job in energy leads indirectly to the creation of 2.5 jobs elsewhere. Republicans, you may recall, were scornful of claims that government aid that helps avoid layoffs of schoolteachers also indirectly helps save jobs in the private sector. But I guess the laws of economics change when it’s an oil company rather than a school district doing the hiring.

This is really what is at the heart of Republican thinking, especially when it comes to economics: “facts” are things we make up to benefit ourselves.

When people listen to conservatives speaking about economics, they tend to give them credence, in part because they sound so confident giving all of these “facts,” but also because conservatives have a long-standing reputation for fiscal responsibility and know-how.

The truth, however, is that they play fast and look with the facts, and when they want to argue their own points or lambaste the opposition, they tend to do so in reckless disregard for even the most fundamental economic principles.

For example, one claim they have been making for a few decades now is that during the Reagan years, taxes were cut and revenues doubled. I heard this just last week, coming from a conservative on Bill Maher’s show. This claim is not just wrong, it is actually fraught with distortion. It tries to proves the claim that cutting taxes increases revenues, but ignores that fact that while some taxes were cut during that period, other taxes were raised, arguably for a net tax increase.

However, the big lie in the assertion is that Reagan doubled revenue, based on the fact that government revenues went from $517 billion in 1980 to $1,031 billion in 1990. First, this calculation includes Carter’s last year in office as well as Bush 41′s first two years. To be accurate, we must actually run from Reagan’s first year in office–1981, by the end of which Reagan’s economic policies were just beginning to kick in (his first tax cut did not take effect until 1982)–as a baseline, and then take the last year in office as a reading of actual increases. That gives us a rise from $599 billion to $909 billion, an increase just a shade over 50%. So, right there, we see the claim half-shattered.

But that’s not even the main point–remember, I am positing the idea that conservatives abandon the most obvious economic facts and principles to distort reality. What was the fundamental economic idea they ignored here?

Inflation. In order for any judgment to be made on revenue, inflation absolutely must be factored out–otherwise Jimmy Carter would come across looking like a magician. So, when you look at the numbers honestly and factor out inflation–using 1987 constant dollars–how did Reagan fare? Well, he went from $767 billion in 1981 to $877 billion in 1989. A net increase of 14%. Add to that the fact that the U.S. population grew by 7% during that time, and we see the net increase which could be attributed to tax policy brought down to a mere 7%.

So, instead of Reagan cutting taxes and doubling revenue, we have him raising taxes overall and increasing revenue by 7%.

Conservatives, however, would prefer to credit Reagan for things that happened when he was not president, and conveniently forget fundamental economic factors such as inflation and population growth.

Nor is the conservative habit of playing fast and loose with economics limited to Reagan. A more current example is their claim that Obama is responsible for the unemployment rate hitting 10%. Sure enough, unemployment hit 10.1% in October 2009, fully 9 months after Obama took office. So, hard to refute that one, right? Pretty sound fact conservatives have to nail Obama with, right?

Of course, no. First of all, when Bush took office in 2001, the unemployment rate was 4.2%; this rate rose to 6.3% by June of 2003, a fact which, one can be sure, conservatives would quickly attribute to the recession they claim Clinton saddled Bush with. It was another two and a half years–five years after Bush took office–before the rate fell below 5% again.

Jump forward to early 2008, a full year before Obama took office. The unemployment rate was at 4.8%, near to where it had been hovering for the previous three years. Then, in mid-year, the effects of the sub-prime crisis, the beginning of Bush’s Great Recession, started to show; the unemployment rate rose until, in February 2009, when Obama was in office, it hit 8.2%. (Unless you want to credit Obama with numbers that represent a month 2/3rds presided over by Bush, in which case it was 7.8%.)

So, right off the bat, we have Bush overseeing a rise in the rate from 4.8% to 8.2%–a 3.4% jump, or a 70% increase. Conservatives conveniently pretend this never happened–that the rate rose under Bush at all, or that the trend began with him. While they would eagerly attribute two years of rises in the Bush unemployment rate to Clinton, they would not dream of crediting Bush with any of the rate’s rise in Obama’s first nine months.

But still, the rate rose from 8.2% to 10.1% under Obama, right? That’s a 1.9% rise, or about 23%–so, still we can criticize Obama, right? OK, let’s blame Bush for the rate’s rise once he started office. See? I can be reasonable when it helps my argument. Can’t we then blame Obama for the 1.9% spike up to 10.1%?

Here, again, is where conservatives conveniently forget Economics 101. The unemployment rate, you see, is what you can call a “lagging” indicator–in other words, it does not immediately reflect changes in the economy. It takes 2-3 quarters to do so. For example, consistent job losses did not begin until January of 2008–but it took until May or June for these figures to have an effect on the unemployment rate.

Which means that at least the first six months of the unemployment rate under Obama is actually a direct reading on the last six months of the Bush administration. That would mean Bush was directly responsible for taking the unemployment rate not just up to 8.2%, but up to at least 9.5%–a total rise of 4.7%, roughly double the rate. Obama, then, is only responsible for the rate going from 9.5% to 10.1%–a mere 6% next to Bush’s staggering 98%.

And that is only if you blame Obama for the unemployment rate increases that started the moment he sat down at his desk, which is unrealistic, as he had to slow the plummet before he could turn it around. It is completely fair to claim–I would even say it is a solid fact–that Bush was completely responsible for the rise in the unemployment rate. Considering also that job losses did not begin to slow until just after Obama’s stimulus and therefore can easily be attributed directly to that act, it would be just as fair and factual to attribute the subsequent lowering of the rate to 9.1% to Obama.

So, instead of Obama causing the unemployment rate to shoot up to 10%, Bush is fully responsible, while Obama stopped the increase and actually brought it down a bit. Conservatives deny this simply by ignoring Bush’s existence and then conveniently forgetting the fundamental economic fact that the unemployment rate is a lagging indicator.

Not that any of this is a surprise. Whatever financial & economic clout, aptitude, or reputation conservatives might have had, it has now been thoroughly trashed. Yes, there are undoubtedly conservatives with good economic smarts around–but they seem to be in hiding.

In fact, the Republican party seems to be going completely around the bend; instead of just claiming that tax cuts for the rich will create jobs, now they are clamoring for significant tax hikes on the poor and the middle class in addition to tax cuts for the rich–and are arguing that in order to create jobs, all we have to do is open the flood gates on pollution. And, oh yeah, they want to dismantle health care.

If the American people–the 99%–vote Republicans into office next year, they will get exactly what they deserve: a trashed economy, higher taxes for them, even more tax cuts for the rich, and air, water and soil so polluted they’ll start getting sicker faster–just as Republicans shatter the last remnants of public health care.

In other words, they will not only be idiots–they will be suicidal idiots.

Seriously, could the Republican Party be more openly hostile to the American people? They’re like a mugger who just stole your money and knifed you in the gut, then told the you that it was all the fault of the cop who tried to stop him but failed–so vote for the mugger!

Post-Independence-Day Musings on Patriotism

July 6th, 2011 6 comments

Patriotism is love of one’s country. However, what does that mean? Of course, it means to recognize all that is, has been, and will be good about your country. It means to respect its achievements and know its admirable qualities.

However, does it also mean that you never question your country? Never recognize its wrongs? Never apologize to others on its behalf when has wronged them? Does patriotism mean always believing your country is better than all others? Never criticizing what its leaders do?

Many Americans become furious when other Americans do these things. However:

  • If you never question your country, it will never improve.
  • If you never recognize its wrongs, it will commit then again and again.
  • If you never apologize on its behalf when it has wronged others, no one will respect it.
  • If you believe your country is superior to all others, people will see you as arrogant.
  • If you never criticize what its leaders do, they will do anything.

So, if you want your country to be an arrogant international pariah, its leaders repeatedly committing terrible wrongs and its people never trying to stop them, never making it a better place, this is called “patriotism”?

The right-wing idea of patriotism is anything but–it is a recipe for disaster. If anyone else acted in such a way, these self-styled “patriots” would hate their guts.

You question and criticize your own country because you love it. You criticize its leaders and recognize its wrongs because you want it to be even better than it is. You apologize when it has wronged others because you know that this is the mature, responsible, and respectable thing to do. Only if you do all of these things, than you may recognize your country as being first, but first amongst equals. Without also humility, pride is nothing but vanity.

Think of it in terms of an individual. He makes mistakes, like everyone else–but he never recognizes these errors or takes responsibility for them. He refuses to apologize when he is wrong, denies that he ever erred. And despite all of this, he thinks he’s better than everyone else.

Would you respect that person? Do you want to be that person?

And yet, somehow, millions of Americans believe this is what Americans must be, or else we are self-hating apologists.

Categories: People Can Be Idiots Tags:

Sometimes As Bad As Crossfire

June 5th, 2011 4 comments

I do like Bill Maher’s show, but sometimes it gets me as upset as the CNN show Crossfire used to, in that obvious right-wing lies get spewed without any rebuttal from Maher or his left-wing or moderate guests–even when the lies are obvious and the rebuttals well-known.

His panel guests this week were Melissa Harris-Perry, Rick Lazio, and Larry King. Harris-Perry, the liberal, is a writer and former professor of politics and African-American studies at Princeton. Rick Lazio, the conservative, is a former Republican Congressman from New York.

Lazio was spouting all kinds of BS throughout the show. One of his big points was about how the stimulus failed–that it did not accomplish anything, and had in fact a negative effect. He trotted out the tired old statistic that When Obama took office, the unemployment rate was 7.8% and it went up to 10.1% from there.

Forget that Lazio, like all conservatives, forgets to mention that in the previous year, under Bush, the rate jumped from 5.0% to 7.8%–a more significant jump–or that it was on an upward incline when Obama took office, meaning that inertia was bound to carry it that way.

I say to forget that because they are moot points. What nobody said on the panel, and everyone should have known, is the well-known fact that unemployment is a lagging indicator, and it usually takes three quarters for changes in the real world to be reflected in the unemployment rate.

Taking into account an accurate reading of the unemployment rate, we see that Bush took unemployment all the way from 5% in January 2008 to 10.1% in October 2009. That’s three quarters after he left office, so that’s when his effect stopped. Obama’s effects are seen from that point onward–which means that Obama has seen the unemployment rate down from 10.1% to the current 9.1%. That’s still a sucky number, but the idea that Obama’s policies made unemployment increase are a bald-faced lie–and I think Lazio knows that full well. It just makes for an easy talking point that’s much harder to explain is wrong–but shame on Maher and Harris-Perry for not catching something they should, by now, know well.


But that’s only half the lie shot down–the other half is that the stimulus failed. I have covered that in depth in this post, pointing out that job creation was plummeting to staggering depths and showed no sign of improving–but when Obama came in to office and instituted the stimulus, the numbers turned on a dime, in a way they never do naturally, and shot straight back up in the opposite direction.

Again, we have not yet returned to the place we’d like to be. Job creation is still lackluster–but light-years better than Bush left us with. The stimulus worked, and worked magnificently. The only problem is that we needed more than magnificent, we needed miraculous. And we could have gotten that, had the stimulus had more spending on things like infrastructure and less in the way of tax cuts for people who didn’t need them, as Krugman pointed out. And who was mostly responsible for changing the stimulus into something half as much as it needed to be? Well, Obama let them do it, but in the end, it was the Republicans who short-circuited the recovery. The stimulus itself worked.

Harris-Perry gets credit for making that last point–that we needed more spending–but she did not make the whole point. Granted, she’s not an economist, but she missed the greater argument which could have sent Lazio down in flames.


Lazio also made the argument that Obama has failed to pull us out of the economy, and used other recessions to make that point, noting that “in 1982, Reagan inherited a 10 or 11% unemployment rate; coming out of that recession, they ended up creating about 14 million jobs.” Guess what? Lies.

OK, first, the unemployment rate was 7.5% when Reagan entered office. Taking the lagging indicator into account, we move to October, when it was 7.9%. Then it became Reagan’s figure, and over the following year, rose to 10.8%. It then stayed in double digits until June 1983, almost two and a half years after Reagan took office, and did not drop below Reagan’s inherited 7.9% until February 1984.

Had Obama performed like that, Lazio would be even more aggressive in his criticism. Instead, he trots Reagan out as the hero standing heads and shoulders above Obama. A liar and a hypocrite.

Also, remember that Lazio held Obama responsible for the unemployment rate the moment he took office–by that metric, Reagan did not lower unemployment below his inherited rate until May 1984–a full year later in his term than where Obama is now. Even more hypocrisy.

Next, the 1981 recession started in July 1981, six months after Reagan entered office. Again, Lazio claims Obama immediately owned unemployment, a 9-month lagging indicator, but Reagan “inherited” a recession that began six months after he took over. I will not argue that Reagan was responsible for the recession, but that Lazio is being brazenly dishonest in comparing the two.

Furthermore, Lazio expects Obama to pull out of a recession twice as deep as the 1981 recession even faster than Reagan pulled out of his.

Worse, Lazio then uses a job creation number–14 million jobs–that spans the whole of Reagan’s two terms in office. Obama hasn’t had that kind of time yet–but in the past 14 months, 1.8 million new jobs have been created. What’s more, if you compare the number of jobs created relative to the 820,000 that were lost in his first month in office, where Bush left him–taking that as a baseline, 20 million jobs are now held that would not have been had we just maintained that level. That’s an artificial number, of course, job loss could not have been sustained long at that level–but it demonstrates the hole Obama has dug us out of.

Another way of looking at it: Starting a full year after each president took office, allowing each one time to dig himself out of whatever hole the previous occupant had dug for him, Obama has created a net total of 1.6 million jobs. Over the same period in his first term, Reagan lost 1.25 million jobs.

Despite the fact that Obama was handed the worst recession since the Great Depression, and when Reagan took office, there was not yet a recession and he had positive job growth.

These lies are blatant, egregious, and hypocritical to the extreme–but went almost unanswered on the show.


On this show, even Larry King managed to frustrate me. First of all, King tried to take the moral high ground in the Edwards case, making a very pointed remark that “In the era of 24 hour news, he’s judged guilty already, right? I believe in not guilty till proven, so why don’t we wait?”

This incensed me because, back in 2000, when Chandra Levy went missing, The Larry King Show more or less became the Let’s Convict Gary Condit in the Public Eye Show, with Nancy Grace on all the time proclaiming his guilt, with Ann Coulter, Barbara Olsen, and Laura Ingraham echoing her, and King himself casting aspersions. During July and August, King hosted roughly 40 shows on the topic, almost every night, in fact, until 9/11 took over the headlines. He issued a “standing invitation” for Condit to appear on his show, and repeatedly hammered away at how Condit not “coming forward” made him look suspicious.

This, in fact, is what made me stop watching his show. Keep in mind that King stood to profit handsomely were Condit to appear on his show. Keep in mind that King himself was perhaps the primary reason the case remained in the public attention for so long, placing even more pressure on Condit. Also keep in mind that if you have been wrongly accused of a crime and might stand trial, appearing on TV and talking about the case is the most monumentally stupid thing you could ever do, and any lawyer would tell you that immediately.

Nevertheless, King, on his show, said that he found it dubious that Condit was not appearing on TV and spilling his guts–King said that it’s what he would do, and he found it telling that Condit was not doing it, supporting the idea that Condit was guilty, or at least sure looked that way.

So, to have King now acting all non-judgmental, criticizing the TV talking heads for jumping to conclusions, after what he did to Condit–that just struck me as the most hypocritical thing imaginable. Well, almost–Republicans tend to do stuff that bad on a daily basis, but outside of that.

Maybe King has changed his beliefs on this and regrets what he did to Condit–who was eventually cleared of wrongdoing–but he sure hasn’t said so, not that I know of.


Then he said something almost as stupid:

I’ve been interviewing economists over the years. Answer me something. The deficit. I’ve heard about the deficit for fifty years. Did the deficit ever call you? Did the deficit–what did the deficit ever do to you? I don’t understand what the deficit does…

Hmm. Let’s see. The deficit adds to the debt. The debt is currently over $14 trillion. Last year alone, we paid more than $400 billion just to service the debt, to pay interest on it. That’s a huge chunk of the deficit right there. Not to mention that if we were spending that much on, say, infrastructure, every year, our economy would be in far better shape.

$400 billion could buy 18,000 new schools–or five thousand magnificent new schools, an average of a hundred for each state. Each year. One year of interest payments on the debt would pay for a manned mission to Mars. It could pay to convert most of America to solar energy.

So, Larry, that’s what the deficit has been doing to you. It’s been robbing you, and all of us.


Which brings up another Lazio distortion–that Bush wasn’t responsible for half the national debt. Technically, maybe–it’s $14 trillion and counting only from Bush’s first day in office to his last, it increased by $5 trillion–but if you count the money that Obama had to spend because Bush committed the nation to spending that money, not to mention the fact that Bush was handed a surplus and was the one who turned that around–then it is more than fair to say that Bush, all by himself, is responsible for half the U.S. national debt., and possibly more.

I swear, I have to stop watching this program. It gets me all wound up and makes me spend hours writing blog posts.

Seat Fight

June 2nd, 2011 Comments off

An airplane leaving Dulles for Africa was turned around, escorted back by fighter jets, and had to burn off fuel for half an hour before landing.

The reason: airline seats.

Well, it was a little more than that. In order to squeeze every last penny out of flights, Economy seats on airlines are now packed so tight that one person reclining their seat can result in the person seated in the row behind being hit by the reclining seat back.

That’s what happened–a passenger reclined, hit another passenger, and a fight broke out. The pilot, following procedure, had to report it and return, despite the fact that the offended/offending passenger had calmed down and the scuffle was over.

There is no real excuse for the passenger’s behavior–no matter what, you do not get into a fight of any kind when on a plane in flight. That’s a rule, and if you can’t follow it, you shouldn’t be flying.

That said, while I cannot condone such behavior, I can sympathize with the general situation. And the solution is not just to have better-behaved passengers.

Honestly, it’s time for a regulation to be set, creating minimum space between seats. If such a regulation exists, then it has to be modified to increase the amount of space. If prices go up, so be it. But this is beyond ridiculous, it is stupid and dangerous, and not just because of potential fights between passengers.

Seriously: time for new regulations on seat spacing.

Scientists Being Tried for Failure to Accurately Predict Quake

May 31st, 2011 1 comment

At first I thought this was satirical news, but I was wrong. In Italy, six seismologists and a public official are being tried for manslaughter over a public statement by the official that an earthquake was unlikely–a week before an earthquake hit the town and killed 308 people. If convicted, they could spend up to 12 years in prison.

In the days before the destructive earthquake, there were precursor quakes, and the defendants were called upon to analyze the potential threat. After the meeting, the public official, working for the Civil Protection agency, made the statement, “The scientific community tells me there is no danger, because there is an ongoing discharge of energy. The situation looks favorable.” As a result, people in the town did not prepare for the quake, leading to many of the deaths.

The problem here is, the public statement is almost certainly not representative of what the seismologists said. That’s their claim, and it is most likely true: no self-respecting seismologist would say in such a situation that minor quakes release tension. That’s something a non-seismologist might think. The meeting minutes revealed no such assurances, instead revealing that they said something more reasonable: there’s no reliable way to predict earthquakes.

What’s most likely is the classic case of the public official wanting to calm fears and protect business interests, and so releasing the most favorable statement he could think of. But even that is not a criminal offense. On the other hand, government officials apparently do not require building codes to be strict enough to prevent people from being killed when quakes hit; no one is being prosecuted for that, however.

Instead, the seismologists are being blamed. Scapegoat, anyone?

Categories: People Can Be Idiots, Science Tags:

Deathers

May 3rd, 2011 4 comments

Inevitably, we now have “Deathers,” who believe that bin Laden was not killed yesterday. Some believe he was killed a while ago but was kept on ice until now. That makes no sense because (a) if Bush had him, he would have used him, and (b) if Obama was keeping him for political profit, he would have used him at a better time and would not have dumped the body–otherwise, why keep it around?

For those who might think bin Laden is still alive, that’s even dumber. Obama would have to be fantastically idiotic to leave bin Laden in a position where all he has to do is show up on tape with a newspaper dated after May 1, claim the news of his death is fake, and Obama would become such an object of ridicule and scorn that he would never, ever, ever recover.

No, neither theory makes the least bit of sense. Bin Laden is dead.

Which is why I expect future polls to say that at least 40% of Republicans don’t believe it.