Monday, August 31, 2009

Chris Wallace on Torture: Post Hoc Ergo Propter....Well, You See Where I'm Going With This...

At Sullivan's digs.

What I like is how people will embrace any argument, no matter how #^@&ing stupid, so long as it has a conclusion they like.

So, Bush/Cheney & co. were in office after 9/11 and we weren't they are responsible for the fact that there were not attacked.

Of course, they were in office on and for eight months before 9/11, so by parity of reasoning, they are responsible for our having been attacked on 9/11.

No, no, no, no, that obviously won't has the wrong conclusion! So it can't be valid!

Um...o.k., it was the torture. We started torturing...uh, I mean, enhanced interrogating...people after 9/11, and we had no more attacks. Post hoc ergo propter hoc. So voila, torture prevented attacks.

Although, Mr. Wallace, you jackass, you might also consider taking into account that not being attacked is the ordinary state of affairs around these parts.

Not being attacked does not ordinarily require an explanation here in the US of A. It is, you see, in the ordinary course of events.

But since I guess it's a logical free-for-all now, here's one for ya:

Looking at the most recently available data, in 100% of Republican presidencies there are devastating terrorist attacks, while there are such attacks in 0% of Democratic presidencies.

Obviously Republican presidencies cause terrorist attacks.

So if you vote Republican, then the terrorists have already won.
Megan McArdle, Missing The Point Of Guns At Political Rallies


Kant notes that the evidence of belief is the willingness to bet, and I'm glad to see that more people are recognizing this point. If more people had to put their money where their mouths were, there'd be less nonsense on the intertubes...and everywhere.

But McArdle seems to think that people are worried about the guns on display at Obama rallies because they're worried that one of the people displaying the guns is going to start shooting.

Speaking for myself, it never actually entered my mind that the very people openly carrying guns at political rallies were likely to shoot anyone. Rather, I saw it as a clear though unspecific allusion to a willingness to consider violence as a means to political ends. I did not think that the gun-bearers were threatening to shoot anyone, nor that they were likely to. Rather, I saw it as ramping up the crazy by a notch or so. I take it that the message is something like "you've pushed me so far that I'm now kinda sorta thinking in terms of violence as a response." That's completely insane of course, but it's very different than "I am going to shoot someone now."

My family, as I've mentioned before, has a small cattle ranch. We're very comfortable with firearms, and often have occasion to carry them, especially since my grandparent's farm was abandoned--it's become a magnet for all sorts of freaks. But the very idea of carrying a firearm anywhere near a political rally would send everyone in my family--even the conservatives--into paroxysms of angry disbelief. It would be considered a sign of outright insanity.

At any rate: to address the betting point: no, I would not bet on the proposition:

One of the people openly carrying at Obama rallies will shoot at someone.

However--were I inclined to bet, or to bet on such matters--I would, with great sadness, bet on a number of less-specific propositions in the neighborhood. A lot of these propositions are propositions I'd really rather not discuss, however.

Here is one propositions I will discuss and would bet on if I could figure out how to specify the relevant bet: the fact that people have shown up openly armed at political rallies increases the likelihood that there will be gun violence at future political rallies. (However, the background likelihood of notable violence at American political rallies seems very low to me...and that, of course, matters.)

So IMHO, McArdle has missed the point here, and done so in a way that minimizes a real problem.
Cheney Fear Torture Investigation

I am too disgusted by Cheney's loathsomeness to even comment on this.

There is no doubt in my mind that an investigation is warranted here. In fact, so far as I can tell, a much broader investigation than Holder has in mind is probably morally obligatory. Since when did we decide that we are not even permitted to investigate possible wrong-doing in this country? Since when were the answers to all such questions simply supposed to be intuited...or assumed?

Cheney seems desperate to keep the facts from coming to light. Wonder what could explain that?

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Is Warmed High-Fructose Corn Syrup Killing Off Honeybees?


Apparently people feed HFC to honeybees to increase honey production. Apparently if you heat the stuff, it forms hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF). Apparently this kills bees. Apparently it's not exactly good for us, either.

[H/T J. Carthensis]
Stupidity, Thy Name is 'Critical Theory'

It's also 'postmodernism,' incidentally...but that's a slightly different story...

Tom points us to this, via the HuffingtonPost, Occidental college's course (Critical Theory 180) titled Stupidity:
Stupidity is neither ignorance nor organicity, but rather, a corollary of knowing and an element of normalcy, the double of intelligence rather than its opposite. It is an artifact of our nature as finite beings and one of the most powerful determinants of human destiny. Stupidity is always the name of the Other, and it is the sign of the feminine. This course in Critical Psychology follows the work of Friedrich Nietzsche, Gilles Deleuze, and most recently, Avital Ronell, in a philosophical examination of those operations and technologies that we conduct in order to render ourselves uncomprehending. Stupidity, which has been evicted from the philosophical premises and dumbed down by psychometric psychology, has returned in the postmodern discourse against Nation, Self, and Truth and makes itself felt in political life ranging from the presidency to Beavis and Butthead. This course examines stupidity.
Now, there's no way I'm going to pick through this whole pathetic mess, which looks like it was written by a high school sophomore trying to sound smart... But let's just look at a bit of it.

"Stupidity is not...organicity." For chrissake. This is typical of such dunderheads. No, stupidity is not organicity, that's for sure. Stupidity and organicity are two completely different properties that have nothing to do with each other--but no one would ever have thought otherwise. Did the author of this linguistic abomination mean "stupidity is not organic?" Because that's a completely different thing. That's still not as clear as it ought to be, but if it's supposed to mean that stupidity is always caused by environmental factors, then it's almost certainly false. Stupidity undoubtedly has, in at least many cases, a genetic component. Though it can definitely be learned--for example, by taking critical theory courses, which take basically normal people and make them stupid.

" a corollary of knowing."
Almost certainly false, but who the f*ck knows? We're not even to the second sentence yet, and the author is just saying words. I can pretty much guarantee that even the author doesn't really know what s/he's saying.

"Stupidity...[is] the double of intelligence rather than its opposite."
No, it's the opposite alright.

But I just can't go on.

The thing about critical theory and other such nonsense is that there's usually just enough truth in the stuff to provide a kind of plausible deniability. This allows them to run a kind of bait-and-switch: among themselves, or when convincing poor, unsuspecting undergraduates to take their classes and major in the dreck, the pompous, technical-sounding language and outlandish claims are advertised as a bold, radical new way of understanding life, the universe and everything. But when challenged to make sense of their nonsense, they can say "oh, hai, all that means is, um, that (e.g.) stupidity can be caused by enviornmental factors."

It's really sad. Critical theory is largely bullshit, and it's seductive bullshit. Kids are sucked into it when they're young and stupid, and then...well, if they're lucky or smart, they may only waste a few credits on it. But it's a tragedy that many kids major in this crap...or go to graduate school in it.

And it's not just the opportunity costs--not just the fact that those credits could be better spent on almost any other subject. It's not a mere waste of time; studying this stuff actually makes you stupid. It replaces your ordinary, passable-if-not-excellent habits of reasoning with habits of reasoning that are disastrously awful. It teaches people to spew out word salad, prose with a thin veneer of can produce in the reader a vague feeling that something is being said...but normally either nothing is really being said at all, or what is being said is false, or, if true, it is unimportant.

Look, I'll be the first to admit that philosophy may not be the absolute best thing kids can study. There's quite a bit of bullshit in philosophy, and that's not exactly a secret. But a student that studies philosophy is likely to come out with an ability to read difficult material with comprehension, an ability to reason about difficult problems, and an ability to write clearly and analytically. If the same student were to spend his time studying critical theory, he'd be likely to come out not only with none of these skills, but, rather, with a knack for generating still more superficially meaningfull nonsense with which to waste the time of another generation of students.

The fact that this kind of crap is so prevalent in the American academy is an outrage and a tragedy.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Why Doesn't Anyone Emphasize the Advantages of Cost-Effectiveness Analysis in Health Care?

Seems to me that--even ignoring all the other issues--whenever the subject of cost-effectiveness analysis comes up, people think of themselves as the person who wants to receive the cost-ineffective treatment as their one shot at life or somesuch.

And that's a poignant kind of thought, obviously.

But the other side of the story is the two or ten or hundred people who don't get cost-effective treatment because we spent the money on a very low-likelihood-of-success treatment for one person. So how'd you like to be the one thirty-year-old who can't get your brain tumor removed because hundreds of thousands of dollars were spent on one ninety-year-old, trying plutonium nasal spray in an effort to eak out another month of life? Personally, not only do I not want to be that thirty-year-old, but I don't want to be that ninety-year-old, either. I certainly don't want to be the person who eats up resources that could be better spent elsewhere in a futile effort to live just a little while longer. But, incidentally, I 'll tell you right now that that's what I'm likely to ask for if the decision is left up to me. I'll be as big a chicken-shit as the next guy when push comes to shove. So I certainly hope the decision won't be left up to me when push does come to shove.
Sarah Palin, Genius

No real need to read this guy's column--just look at his picture. It is very informative.

The short version:
Sarah Palin is a genius who carefully crafted the phrase "death panels," intending for the phrase it's very self to stop health insurance reform cold. Which it did. And it's all the fault of liberals because they are snotty and classist and underestimated her because they think she's not smart because she didn't go to Princeton. And besides there will be death panels because any time procedures are evaluated for effectiveness there are death panels.

Uh, lemme just pick out one specific point there to comment on:

No, we think she's not smart because she's not smart.

Girl coulda gone to Oxford, she'd still be an idiot. It's not a matter of education, it's a matter of raw material.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Glenn Beck is Insane
Numerology Without Numbers Edition

The Crazy is strong in this one...

...but not the spelling...
Cash For Clunkers

I thought C4C was a damn stupid idea. Environmentally speaking, my guess was that you'd have to save a truly improbable amount of gas to warrant destroying a perfectly good car--something which, remember, represents a vast investment of resources. So the difference in mpg between the clunker and its replacement, I guessed, would have to be improbably vast. Furthermore, it sounded to me like we were being asked, yet again, to bail out the rich and stupid. And if you were dumb enough to buy a gratuitous SUV, then you shouldn't ask me to spend my tax dollars helping you buy a sensible car.

But there's at least some reason to think the program was a success.

Ah, well, wrong again I guess, but happily so.
"Relativism" Survives Because of Confusion
Martin Kusch, Knowledge By Agreement Edition

So I've revived my old, half-finished book project on relativism.

And let me just say again: just about the only reason relativism (or, rather, "relativism") survives is because of some very elementary confusions.

Here's basically what I do every time I get a new book alleging to defend relativism: I look in the table of contents and the index, find the author's formulation of the view he intends to defend, and turn to it immediately to see whether it's even distantly related to any of the views properly characterized as versions of relativism. A very large percentage of the time, the author is talking about something else entirely--skepticism or nihilism or some anthropological/sociological thesis about diversity of opinion or practice.

So I recently got Knowledge by Agreement by Martin Kusch (a sociologist, granted, but one who is aiming to discuss philosophical issues here).

So, I turned to the final chapter, titled "Relativism," and after half a page I find this:
I did not formulate my position as 'all beliefs or statements are only relatively true.' I prefer putting my own position thus: Which statements are labelled 'true' or 'false' in a given community depends on its prevailing exemplars, interests, and goals. (p. 269-70)
Allow me to roughly paraphrase:
My view is not a version of relativism at all. Hope you enjoyed the previous 268.5 pages! Actually, I have an unrelated and far less interesting sociological/linguistic thesis about how people use the words 'true' and 'false.'
Incidentally, the sociological/linguistic thesis is false, but that's a long and different story. My point there is just that this is typical of the literature and discussions surrounding relativism and related views: most of the time, even the books that purport to defend the view are actually talking about some other, tangentially-related position.

This is one of the central reasons why relativism (or, rather, "relativism") survives and even quasi-thrives: the term is used so loosely, to cover so many vastly different positions, that it can never be nailed down clearly, let alone clearly refuted.

If I had my way, philosophers would call some kind of conference, bring together some sensible scholars and standardize the terminology. Not, of course, try to make some kind of degree regarding substantive propositions like 'alethic relativism is false,' but, rather, just to endorse standardized terminology. It's ridiculous how much trouble a lack of standardized terminology does here.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Glenn Beck

Wow. I used to try to watch Faux News every now and then, but it got too surreal for me some time ago.

But I happened to run across Glenn Beck yesterday...and who does he have on? Rush Limbaugh. It was so nauseatingly, ridiculously idiotic that I just couldn't watch for long...but, of course, I couldn't stay away either. When I came back, his guest was...Karl Rove!

Powerful forces of teh Crazy are gathering in the east...darkness looms...good people watch the skies fearfully.

Add in Ann Coulter, Dick Cheney, Pat Robertson, Tom De Lay, Sarah Palin and, oh, say Ken Starr and you've got something like the wingnut Nazgul...
Pacifism + Postmodernism = Maximum Confusion
And: The Tragedy Of The Worthless Assh*le

Ah, pacifism and postmodernism. In the long, sad history of stupid theories, these may be two of the stupidest. And if you put them together...well, you get something approaching a confusion singularity.

Cary Tennis
unloads some PoMo BS on a poor guy who feels bad after beating up another guy in self-defense.

And I mean, this is some really dopey stuff.

Almost every paragraph has some ridiculous nonsense in it, but my favorite is probably "fighting is a rhetorical procedure." Um, Cary, if you think that fighting is a "rhetorical procedure," then you're doing it wrong. It's definitely not rhetorical, and it's not even really a procedure ('activity' or 'act' would be more accurate).

Ah, but then we also get "Consider what the shove actually says. What the shove says is, I love you and I want to feel the violence of my love for you by having some contact." So for sheer, flat-out ridiculousness, that's also pretty hard to beat.

It's really rather difficult to be 100% wrong about something, but Mr. Tennis gets pretty close in this column. After a few paragraphs, one begins to wonder whether this is all a complicated joke. I kept expecting him to write "There? Now did that nonsense make you feel better? Quit looking for reasons to beat yourself up over this and just move on." But, um, that never happened. The PoMo/LitCrit BS just kept on coming.

It's too bad Tennis didn't try to actually address the guy's question seriously, because I find it interesting, in part because I've had almost exactly the same experience--after being given no option but to fight, and and after winning conclusively, I've felt really depressed...almost guilty.

Everything Tennis says about this is wrong--he's wrong that people never have to fight, he's wrong that the victims of the aggression have inevitably invited it, or enjoy it, he's wrong that it's some kind of ridiculous PoMo "narrative"/"rhetorical" whatsis...but there is an interesting question there, and my guess is that somebody has something interesting to say about it.

Me, I suspect violence just makes people sad, and it's easy to mistake sadness for guilt under such circumstances. But that's just a sort of guess. In my case it probably also has to do with the fact that I recognize that some people are simply assh*les who deserve, in Kant's memorable phrase, a right good beating. I'm also prone to reflect on how sad it is that there are such people. Living your life as a stupid assh*le is a tragic waste of the human spirit, and I feel bad for such people. I don't think we have enough appreciation for the tragedy of the assh*le, the guy who's basically a useless piece of crap, living his life as a despicable being, making the world a worse place, loved only by other assh*les, despised by everyone worthwhile. I mean, the average assh*le isn't Hitler or anything...but he's still an assh*le.

I mean, don't get me wrong--they still frequently deserve to get their asses kicked.

But it is kinda sad.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Health Care Data

DA posts this in comments, from Wikipedia:
The World Health Organization (WHO), in 2000, ranked the U.S. health care system as the highest in cost, first in responsiveness, 37th in overall performance, and 72nd by overall level of health (among 191 member nations included in the study).
I don't have a position on health insurance/care reform (though, as is so often the case, GOP lunacy is pushing me Dem-ward) but that's flat-out astonishing.
Overheard on Campus

Girl on cellphone: "Have you ever heard of Guan-ta-ma-no Bay or something?"

Monday, August 24, 2009

Why Doesn't Obama Just Ram Health Care Reform Through?
Obama's Bipartisanship "Strategy"
Disdain for Genuine Bipartisanship on the Left

I keep running across the following:

(a) Folks on the left complaining about the fact that the Dems won't just ram bills through Congress,


(b) Folks on the left discussing the inefficacy of Obama's bipartisanship "strategy" or even "shtick."

For chrissake, this is not a difficult puzzle.

Obama does not have a bipartisanship "strategy," let alone a "shtick." He genuinely believes that bipartisanship is important. If you've read much around these parts, you know that, FWIW, I agree.

He apparently recognizes that autocratic action and bullying cause polarization. Winning on one or two bills in that way generates bad will that lasts a long time. And bad will has wide-ranging and far-reaching effects.

Obama genuinely wants to end or at least mitigate the vicious polarization in Washington.

Now, of course, one might reasonably point out that this polarization is not the Dems fault (unless perhaps one goes back to the Bloody Eighth...and I think that matters, actually...) One might say that trying to work with this GOP is not going to work and probably never will.

Perhaps not--but that's a different point. The first point to keep in mind is: Obama genuinely thinks bipartisanship is important. And if I read him right, he'll stick to that view for a long time, trying to make it work.

Will it work? Well, it better. We can really only go two other ways here. Either the Dems become as viciously partisan as the GOP, in which case we are doomed, or Obama pulls both parties toward a recognition that we have to be willing to work together and compromise.

For one thing, we have to break the pattern of the last sixteen years in which the Dems elect moderates and the GOP refuses to recognize them as legitimate presidents, then the GOP elects hard-core conservatives who charge to the right like a bull in a china shop. And that involves coaxing Republicans to calm down. And that's a long-term project that's going to take patience.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Joe Klein: The GOP Has Become A Party Of Nihilists

This is, IMHO, 100% on target.

I quit trying to pretend that there was a balance of crazy after the 2000 election, and it's good to see some in the MSM finally beginning to face the facts. Of course we all wish the facts were different, but pretending won't make it so. The crazies have taken over the GOP, and the first step in undoing this is making it clear to everyone.
Liberals and Illegal Aliens

I keep stumbling across discussions in which liberals spit venom at those who, e.g., think that illegal aliens are not entitled to in-state tuition at state universities, or that they should not be eligible to participate in any "public option" with regard to health care or whatever.

I have to say, I'm becoming more and more baffled by what I take to be the liberal position on illegal aliens, which sometimes seems to be something like: We should not take any special measures to keep illegal aliens from entering the U.S. (e.g. we should not build a border fence), we should not take any special measures to find and arrest illegal aliens already in the country, and we should, in fact, give resident illegal aliens all the benefits of citizenship. I mean, is the idea that we should ask people nicely not to enter the country illegally, but, if they do, hey, we basically make them citizens?

Perhaps it's because I've been listening to NPR, which has frequent, breathless stories about our awful treatment of illegal aliens. I dunno.

But I'm certainly baffled by all this. Obviously I have no problem whatsoever with immigrants...I just think they should go through legal channels to come into the country. I'm terribly concerned about overpopulation, but it's apparently very impolite to voice such worries anymore, so I'm willing to stay silent on that for right now.

What I'm most baffled about is why this peculiar, quasi-open-borders position seems to have become something like liberal orthodoxy. I just don't get it.
Tom Ridge: Bush & Co. Manipulated Terrorism Threat Levels For Political Reasons

Two things should go without saying here:

(a) We need clearer and better evidence than this. The accounts of Ridge's claims now available are too unclear and unsubstantiated.

(b) However, if this is true, all parties involved should go to jail.

Personally, I never believed that the administration was manipulating the threat levels. They were obviously shameless criminals...but not--or so I thought--that shameless.

Even the most ardent Cheney/Bush supporters must, I should think, agree that such use of the levers of power for political gain cannot be tolerated under any circumstances.
Zombies and International Relations

Dan Drezner at Slate.

He's not quite right on some of this. In brief, here are the actions these theories and positions prescribe in the case of zombies taking over, say, Romania:

Foreign Policy "Realism" (sometimes a.k.a. "Political Realism"):
F*ck the Romanians. What's in it for us? Description of a simple decision tree: would we gain more by helping the Europeans, or by letting the zombies eat them all and then taking their sh*t? In fact, depending on how the numbers work out, it's possible that we ought to side with the zombies against the Romanians. Use propaganda to make it seem as if we're helping the people, though. Image costs must also figure into the equations.
Bomb Ethiopia. Or Finland. Or whoever we had an antecedent hankerin' to bomb. Same as above, but say some sh*t about democracy. Employ pious tones.
Social Constructionism:
We made up the zombies by believing in them. The mere power of our collective belief can bring things into existence. We are magic! Cover up your eyes and ears and repeat "there are no zombies, there are no zombies, there are no zombies." Until you are eaten.
Tom Tomorrow: What If Democrats Acted Like Republicans?

Distilled essence of truth.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Ted Olson Fights For Same-Sex Marriage
Even A Stopped Clock Is Right Twice A Day

Ted Olson has done immeasurable harm to this country. He helped Reagan avoid prosecution for Iran-Contra, argued for Bush and Cheney before SCOTUS during Bush v. Gore, and helped the forces that finally managed to impeach Bill Clinton after seven years of trying everything imaginable.

Olson is now going to fight for same-sex marriage.

Do not praise him. Do not forgive him. Do not think this makes him a good guy. If you think I'm going to say something positive about him because he finally managed to get something right, you can forget about that right now.

If I had done as much to harm this country as Olson has done, I would jump off a bridge. He happens to be right about SSM...but if you've been repeatedly, obviously and disastrously wrong for your entire professional life, you don't deserve praise by getting one thing right late in the game.

Congratulations, Ted. You helped make a mockery of American democracy, "won" Bush v. Gore when the conservatives banded together to issue a preposterous, politically-motivated opinion (which, if applied consistently, would have invalidated the entire election), and helped give us perhaps the worst president in American history--a president who, among other things, wasted over 4,000 American lives fighting a senseless war in Iraq, a war that did nothing but divert resources from the war that we should have been fighting, the war agianst those who attacked us.

Your mother must be very proud.
The Great Flu

A fun game of global pandemic for the whole family.
Obama "Failed Presidency" Watch
Some Guy Who Got Beat Up A Lot In School Edition

Check out the pic if you don't believe the sub-title...

Perhaps my favorite wingnut paragraph of all time:
Americans are quicly [sic] awakening from their hallucinatory love affair with the junior senator from Illinois who promised change and offered hope, but has delivered incompetency, mean-spirited politics, and an extreme leftist agenda.
El. Oh. El.

Oh, man. What world do these mental midgets live in, anyway? Incompetency? Mean-spirited politics? Is this guy talking about the Cheney/Bush administration? Or is he trying to blame Obama for the actions of the Teabaggers and anti-health-care protesters? And trying to get more people health insurance while bending over backwards to accommodate the Republicans is "an extreme leftist agenda?" Apparently, this guy has no real idea what extreme leftists are actually like. You'd have to practically be in the Hitler Youth or something for Obama to look like an extreme leftist.

Get a life, Chumley. And how about you STFU until you have something at least vaguely plausible to say? I mean seriously. Just because it's legal to say any moronic thing that pops into the vacuum between your ears doesn't mean you ought to do so.

I find myself more and more sympathetic to the Dems on this, largely just because the wingnuts are so batshit crazy and flat-out stupid.

(via some combination of links so contorted that I'm not even sure how I got there.)
Forged Climate-Change Letters

If you're too lazy to drum up actual astroturf...just forge letters from "constituents." It's way more efficient.

(H/T S. Rex)
The Colony: Sucks

Seriously, I know the Discover Channel has gone downhill...but damn...

This show really, really sucks. I thought no post-apocalyptic teevee show could possibly be worse than Jericho...which was, of course, jaw-droppingly, remote-grabbingly awful...but man, this stinker even gives Jericho a run for its money.

It's really hard to pick out the worst thing about The Colony. Mike of course comes to mind...but he seems to be a plant of some kind. Perhaps he gets paid more to be an asshole. I dunno. But for my money, the very worst part is the pop-up psychologist that occasionally gets superimposed on the action, spewing psychobabble.

My favorite one: after the "survivors" went out and stole food and goats from some other poor survivors, the psychologist comes on and says something like "to survive in this kind of situation, sometimes you have to do things you don't want to do." Now, of course it's all play-acting, and the "theft" of the food wasn't actual theft, and no poor innocent is going to die as a result. But, of course, "doing things you don't want to do" is not the issue here. Rather, the issue is: doing things that are immoral. The question is not: should I do something I don't want to do in order to survive? The question is: should I do something wrong in order to survvie? (Answer: of course not, dumbass.) And I can't think of any plausible view according to which I get to steal the food that you need to survive simply because I also need it to survive. (Unless, e.g., you stole it too, or you are evil, etc.)

But leave it to psychology to try to reduce every rational issue to desires and icky feelings.

Unsurprisingly, the casual observations of the participants are generally more sensible and insightful than those of the psychologist.

The last straw for me, though, may have come with the phony sparring match in which the Colony's 100-lb "martial arts expert" "won" a phony sparring match with a 250-lb, 6' 4", buffed-out interloper (a confederate in the "experiment"). I mean, seriously. This is not the Buffyverse. We'd all like to see the 100 lb girl whip up on the giant dude in hand-to-hand combat. That would be suh-weet! ...Unfortunately, anyone who knows anything about actual fighting knows that that is so unlikely as to be nearly impossible. The sparring match in question was almost WWE-quality bullshit. Almost.

So, though I really looked forward to The Colony, there's little chance of me following it to its conclusion. The obviously staged inventions, the constant shrieking, Mike the asshole, and the pop-up psychologist all make it basically too stupid and annoying to watch, even for an apocalypse junkie such as myself.

Philosoraptor says: do not check it out.
Speaking Truth to Crazy
Barney Frank Edition


Barney Frank pw0nzors a teabagger.
Obama "Failed Presidency" Watch
Newshoggers Edition

The lame-ass left joins the crackpot right in announcing that, seven months in, we can already predict that Obama's presidency will be a failure.

Seriously: half a brain and two seconds thought would prevent people from posting ridiculous BS like this. Obama's presidency might ultimately be a failure, of course, but anyone who thinks we are in any position to make such a judgment at this point knows nothing about politics or policy. These pronouncements--left and right--are nothing more than childish expressions of anger. Let's just can the tantrums.

Newshoggers has always struck me as a decidedly bush league outfit, and this crap confirms my impression.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

WorldNutDaily: OMG Obama 52 Not 48!!!11

And his MySpace page PROVES IT!!!!11

So you see he was born at a time when Hawaii wasn't yet a state! So that IS THE ANTICHRIST!!!11111

You know, watching the wingnuts completely, totally self-destruct is kinda fun...I mean, it's always been clear that the potential was there... But it's starting to get a little scary...
Bruce Bartlett: GOP Rage Misdirected at Obama

If you want to be mad at somebody, be mad at Bush.

Until conservatives once again hold Republicans to the same standard they hold Democrats, they will have no credibility and deserve no respect. They can start building some by admitting to themselves that Bush caused many of the problems they are protesting.
Is The Taliban Partially Funded by U.S. $$ Extorted From Locals?

That would suck.
First Freep

Just checkin' in on FreakRepublic. There's always way too much there to link to, so I'll just pick the very first link:

Will Obamacare Make You Go To ACORN For A "Weekly Weigh-In?"

Oh, man. That place is astounding. Absolutely packed from beginning to end with pathetic religious nonsense, lunatic conspiracy theories, dire warnings about how conservatives are "losing the culture war," and every conceivable insulting characterization of Obama (he's an, he's fiendishly clever! He's a, he's a fascist! He's a true, he's a cynical manipulator!), it's a terrifying glimpse into the fetid interior of the fever swamps.
Rick Perlstein: In America, The Crazy Is A Pre-Existing Condition

A short, recent history of the right-wing crazy in 'Merka.

As I continue to long for the day when we have (at least) two sane political parties from which to choose...
The Road To Moloch

Zombies. Good. Watch.
Laura Steins
An American Tragedy

Oh...oh my...God...I...I just can't believe this tragic story.

Poor Laura Steins trying to make ends meet on a mere $300k/yr.

It's so awful. I...I'm worried she might lose "Birch Hill," her mansion or WTF ever it is.

And what of little Bipsy who might not get her designer phone? And her fifth-grader may not be able to buy those $115 jeans?

Oh, the humanity! Thank God the Washington Post--formerly an actually respectable newspaper--put this story on the front page, else we'd never have known about it.

C'mon, gang...maybe we can take up a collection to help out these poor folks who can barely afford their $40k/yr nanny, and who...oh, God, it's almost too awful to type...but...may have to cut back on the gardener...

I'm sorry. I just can't write any more on this. It's just too awful...

God bless you, Laura Steins. You are a genuine American hero.

Monday, August 17, 2009

More Armed Anti-Health Care Reform Protesters

I'll say it again: eight years of a criminal administration actually threatening the Constitution: total, mindless, unquestioning support from these people. Seven months of trying to fix the mess: spittle-flecked opposition...and now lots of flashing guns around.

Question: Is there any real doubt that these displays of firearms are intended as threats of some kind?

And, of course, I say this not as a wimpy oh-gosh-I'm-scared-of-all-guns liberal. Heck, I'm heavily-armed and comfortable with firearms. But I don't see any reason to openly carry at such protests unless you intend to send a message to the effect that you think that violence might be an appropriate course of action.

Pretty astonishing that so many wingnuts are apparently willing to consider the use of violence in order to guarantee that we have fewer health insurance options. I mean, the message does seem to be that these people think they may have to fight to make sure that a certain option--a completely optional option--is not made available. Not only do they not want it, but they want to make sure that no one else has the option of taking it either.

There's a whole level or so of crazy out there that I just never really interact with.
Wes Clark on Afghanistan

Here. This piece doesn't knock me out, but I always pay attention to what Clark says.
Conservative Rage
What's It Really About?
Where Are The Social Scientists When You Need Them?

So, many folks (e.g.) have been asking whether the spittle-flecked rage at the health-care town halls is really about health care...or about something else.

Some have suggested that it's really a consequence of the fact that a segment of American conservatives will not accept any Democratic president as legitimate. Some have suggested that it's an expression of racism. Some have suggested that it's a generic expression of fear about big government.

But: isn't this an answerable question?

Perhaps it's not important enough to address seriously. But if we were really interested in the answer, wouldn't it be fairly easy (as such things go) to figure out what's going on here? Wouldn't it be possible to do the requisite surveys and interviews and figure this out?

I mean, it's not the easiest thing in the world, but it's not rocket science.

We've got zillions of social scientists and, let's face it, not all of them are engaged in research that one could, with a straight face, describe as crucial.

Is it unreasonable to ask that some energy be directed toward figuring out WTF is really going on with the health care screamers? I mean, eight years of genuine threats to our democracy, and nobody raises a finger or a voice. A few months of trying to get poor people some insurance, and all of a sudden we've got threats about armed revolution. I'm really, really curious about what is really driving this.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

How to Fight The Republican Noise Machine

via Kleiman, Jim Rutenberg and Jackie Calmes show what it looks like for journalists to do their jobs in the face of patent falsehoods like the "death panel" nonsense.

They trace the origins of the rumor back to some of the usual suspects from the Clinton era, including the Washington Times's editorial page and the Weekly Standard.

In the story, David Brock makes a point I've been thinking about quite a lot--that back in the (pre-web) day, it was lots harder to get the straight dope about such things. Of course the web makes it easier for the crazies to spread their crazy, but it also makes it easier to disseminate the facts. Optimistic liberal that I am, I have faith that the facts will beat teh crazy most of the time.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

The Republican Party Needs to Do Penance

So says Bruce Bartlett.

I have a couple of friends who think I should "move on" from the Bush/Cheney era. This, IMHO, is ridiculous. It's simply not clear to me how anyone who reveres American principles can just forget about the crimes of the last administration. It is an enormous error to think that we can just forgive and forget in a case like this.

I'd agree with Bartlett except that I don't see that doing penance will help. The fact is that the GOP selected, elected and rabidly supported a criminal administration for eight years. American conservatives have demonstrated that they are deeply confused, and that their judgments about who ought to lead the government and how it ought to be led are deeply defective. It is not as if they made a wee mistake, nor that they recognize that. Rather, the men who were strongly representative of conservative principles turned out to be irrational, criminal, and deeply confused about the world--and conservatives continue to support and admire them despite irrefutable evidence of their awfulness. No amount of "penance" will make this fact go away.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Should The U.S. Stay In Afghanistan?

Since it is perfectly clear that we should have put all our energies into Afghanistan rather than starting an irrational, fruitless and distracting war in Iraq, it's easy to conclude that we now ought to go back and finish the job in Afghanistan. But the conclusion doesn't actually follow. Though we should've done it then, it does not follow that we ought to do it now. We may have missed our window, and we may have expended too much on the irrational war to now fight the rational one. It ought to remain an open question at this point.

Here's a link round-up at Metafilter.
Does Violence in Mexico Put Us Under a Moral Obligation Not to Smoke Weed?

The Economist says we ought to "set aside our bongs" in order to help decrease Mexican violence.

But this is probably incorrect.

Rather, the U.S. is obligated to legalize the stuff. The state has absolutely no right to make such a thing illegal in the first place. The prohibition itself is immoral, an irrational infringement by government into the private sphere.

But, hey, buy American if you can.
Tulsa's Loony Christianist Mayor


Anna Falling, Mayor of Tulsa, is a complete lunatic. She believes, among other things, that "putting a Christian creationism display in the Tulsa Zoo is No. 1 in importance among city issues that include violent crime, budget woes and bumpy streets."

This sort of thing us almost always an attempt to express some kind of cultural power. It's a way of saying, to non-Christians, "this is our country, and it is not yours." Of course, it's also a way of reinforcing--to themselves--their fantasy that this is a Christian nation. This kind of thing is, of course, nauseating in the extreme, and, inconsequential though it might seem, it actually needs to be fought tooth and nail and to the bitter end.
More Gas From the Fever Swamps
Obama's Labor Camps, Anticipatory Grave-Digging, Shackle-Equipped Train Cars
Much, Much More!

Orly Taitz, lunatic-in-chief of the birthers, is insane. John H. Richardson has the story, Sullivan summarizes.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Armed Teabaggers

So in between hikes I caught some CNN and saw that there's at least one armed teabagger now.

My favorite part is still all the righty screaming about the Constitution. Funny how after eight years of actual shredding of the Constitution--from quasi-stealing an election of 2000 to domestic spying--without a peep from these folks, suddenly they think that providing people with health insurance constitutes destruction of the Constitution.

I'm in no way committed to health-care reform. I don't understand it well enough to be strongly for it or against it. What I'm against is irrationalism and demogoguery. But it seems like that's the conservative SOP these days.

I think it's pretty clear that the GOP attitude is now something like: when we are in power, we do whatever we want, no matter how outlandish; when you are in power, you can do nothing, no matter how reasonable. Apparently they are going to stir up ignorant, furious, spittle-flecked opposition as a matter of course now. One is reminded of the synthetic crowds in 2000 with their GOP-printed "Sore-Loserman" signs...and the Brooks Brothers riot of GOP operatives (complete with G.I. Joe Mobile Electronic Command Post) pretending to be ordinary outraged citizens.

Even when I'm basically neutral anymore, the GOP almost inevitably pushes me to the other side .

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Spork Control

In about fifty years or so, sporks will probably be banned in Japan.

Save us, oh government, from all possible harm! We cannot be trusted with anything that could even conceivably be used to harm anyone.

Y'know, somebody might try to stuff a nerf ball down yer esophageal airway. And yet nerf balls remain legal. When will we be saved from this nightmare???

Nice to see that we're less crazy that at least some other places in at least some ways.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Off to Colorado

So we're off to CO to visit JQ's folks. Sadly, our planned side-trip to (California or Yellowstone) didn't pan out; on the bright side, that's because Project Domicile does seem to be panning out, ergo we have to start diverting financial power to life support.

Looks like I'll be making an assault on Longs Peak while I'm out there. If anybody's in the vicinity and wants to go along, drop me an e-mail. It'd be especially good to have somebody along with previous Longs experience. Or if anybody has any tips, pass them along. Even though I'll be taking the non-technical Keyhole route, the accounts I've read make it sound pretty tough and intimidating. And since I'll probably be hiking solo, info is especially important.

Blogging will be light, but not non-existent, for awhile.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Deep Thought: Red vs Blue Edition

So, can anybody explain to me why a web series made entirely out of screen captures from a video game has better writing, a more complex and coherent plot, and more engaging characters than like 95% of the movies I've seen in the last five years? I mean, funnier I can understand. The mindless dumbassery that passes for comedy in most movies is almost...but not quite...beneath my contempt. RvB is funnier largely because the writers are two or three times smarter than the numb nuts that emit the Hollywood dreck. It's not like it's Shakespeare, folks--surely movies with multi-milion dollar budgets should be able to rise to the level of five guys and their Xbox... Shouldn't they?

Seriously. Somebody explain this to me.