Monday, July 25, 2011

John Boehner Is A Liar

Well, if you just watched his bullshit-laden response to Obama's address, then you know what, in particular, I'm talking about.  My favorite part: the President is responsible for creating an atmosphere of crisis. It's not the GOP's fault for creating the debt...nor the GOP's fault for, once again, using a technicality to advance their political ends...nor the GOP's fault for pushing us the bring of default...nor the GOP's fault for refusing to compromise in any way. Nope. It's not the GOP's fault for creating the actual's the President's fault for creating an atmosphere of crisis by pointing out that there is, in fact, a crisis. Get it? As the Mystic put it: Smith lights a fire in a crowded building, Jones yells "fire!"...Jones is to blame for creating an atmosphere of crisis...

I had not been terribly energized for the 2012 election, to tell the truth. But I'm writing a big, fat check to the Democrats tomorrow, and I'm going to do whatever I can to harm the GOP.

Hmmm....Virginians Against's that sound for an organization?

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Fareed Zacharia on Political Polarization


Well, I don't have much of a fix on Zacharia, but he seems pretty smart, well-informed and reasonable...especially for a guy on CNN...  In linked piece, he discusses the polarization of American politics in general, but at least all his examples are of Republicans. This, I fear, is still to subtle for the average not-too-well-informed American voter. Unless you come right out and say "it's the Republicans' fault," they are not going to get it. Of course, they might not get it anyway...  At any rate, at least Zacharia takes a step toward telling the truth about this crap.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Rick Perry: Bush '45 / Bush '43.2

Just like Dubya but dumber and meaner?

Well that's just great.

Monday, July 18, 2011

When David Frum Says That The GOP Is Being Unreasonable...' really don't know how to finish that sentence, in part because I don't remember this having happened before...

Friday, July 15, 2011

Pop Science: Still Ignoring 2500 Years of Philosophy
"The Brain On Trial" Edition


I don't have a particularly high opinion of philosophy. But jeez, man, I really get tired of these breathless pop science pieces that pretend that "neuroscience" has somehow discovered the problems that philosophy has been wrestling with for...ever.

perhaps even more irksome is the suggestion here that any of this is big news. BRAIN DAMAGE CAN UNDERMINE FREE WILL...lordy, lordy, stop the presses...

Then there is the suggestion that this forces us to re-conceptualize responsibility in the law...whereas, in fact, it is entirely consistent with the legal and philosophical tradition. Some acts are free and some aren't. And if they aren't, then you are not responsible for them. (On the borderline: responsibility is mitigated.) Oh and: irrelevant pseudo-scientific footnote: stuff that happens to your brain is one kind of thing that can undermine responsibility (see above).

But then there is the other aspect of all this: the suggestion that any of this proves that no actions are free. Which, of course, it does not. Hard determinism remains a live option...but nothing about brain tumors and so forth provides any evidence for it.

Man. Apparently all you have to do to get published these days is stick a picture of a brain scan on your article...
2050: The Year We Eat Each Other

Nobody cares about overpopulation anymore, despite the fact that it is one the biggest threats facing humanity and the nation. So there's this: 2050: The Year All [sic] Eat Each Other.

Since I was about thirteen I've worried about overpopulation. I also began, fairly early on, worrying about the national debt, totalitarianism, and human irrationality in general. Let me add: these worries were not implanted in me by the interwebs, which did not exist, nor by coddling upper-middle class parents who encouraged precociousness and political awareness; those also did not exist. Rather, these problems just seemed huge to me from very early on. Finally the debt is being taken seriously--by the wrong people, at the wrong time, in the wrong way, after having been ignored when it was more easily fixable and now pumped up to mind-numbing proportions. I expect no less with respect to overpopulation.

It's a topic that drives smart people to say very, very stupid things. (In one conversation, a Ph.D. friend of mine averred that the U.S. couldn't be overpopulated because we could all stand comfortably in a few square miles. In others, allegedly intelligent people have earnestly pointed out to me that other countries have more people than we do. Or that many people live in Manhattan! And on and on.)

Big business and establishment types have even taken to arguing that we need more people--to bolster Social Security and so forth. And, of course, there are benefits associated with population growth. Short-term benefits with long-term, serious costs. But such folks don't care much about the environment and never have, and they are not known for taking the long view.

Liberals could once be depended to to fret about overpopulation on environmental grounds...but no longer. Most people have very muddle political positions, and they vaguely wander to positions that are occupied by their friends and eschewed by their opponents. The hard right has gone ballistic about illegal immigration. Instead of maintaining a sane position, many liberals have, reactively, decided that illegal immigration must not be a problem at all! And, in fact, one now hears even them mouthing nonsense about population growth being an overall good. The mind, it reels...

So we're doomed.

Of course one has to sometimes take a a bit of a long-term hit for short-term gains in crises. The debt is a problem, but we need to crank it up a bit in order to stimulate the economy in order to get things moving. And it might be that certain economic problems could and should be mitigated by prolonging our rapid/rabid population growth a bit longer. But I doubt it. Slowing growth and building it down now would be extremely difficult; doing so after 40 more years of unbridled growth with be a nightmare. And this problem is not going to go away--it must be faced, and it is very unlikely to ever get any easier.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Mosquitoes and Dirty Socks: Once Again I'm A Day Late and a Dollar Short

So, last year we got tons of mosquitoes in the back forty. S. rex has also had this problem, and tried fancy mosquito traps, employing e.g. propane, which didn't work well. Which got me to thinking: why not try a lower-tech approach? How about putting sweaty crap in a bottle and trying to catch 'em in there?

Last summer I went so far as to do some little experiments with plastic soda bottles (which I thought would work like fly-bottles--bugs fly in, but, allegedly, have a hard time getting out. I knew it would be better to zap 'em or something, but...well...I wasn't willing to put in that level of effort. Anyway, I went running, sopped up some nasty H. sapiens sweat with some paper towels, shoved 'em down into the bottles, and put them in the back yard. Didn't work. Of course I was busy and didn't check them as frequently as I should have, and had no good reason to think that fly-bottles really work all that well...

And, as it turns out, the general idea was good, but somebody else, y'know, actually did it right.

Ah, well. I hope this works and that it puts a real dent in the malaria problem.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Cole: Way To Go Wingnuts

Stock futures and the dollar fell on worries about the debt ceiling.

The GOP has long reminded me of bad drivers. They both operate right on the edge of causing a fiery disaster, apparently thinking things like aw, it'll probably be fine...apparently not appreciating the fact that, given the frivolous payoff if things go right, and the disastrous cost if they don't, the probability that it'll be fine is actually way, way, way too low to justify their actions.

So...if the GOP does crash the economy, do you think they'll feel any remorse at all? I mean, moral remorse...not damn-I-used-to-be-richer remorse. Of course they'll blame Obama...

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Benen: A Real Problem vs. An Imaginary One, In A Graph

Unemployment vs. the debt...which problem is real?  The answer...

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Are Republicans Intentionally Trying to Harm the Economy for Political Gain?

I'm not sure anybody reads this blog anymore...but I find myself wondering about this more and more. It's the kind of hypothesis I would have predicted I'd never consider...  But a discussion with a friend of him the other day--a friend who is more politically knowledgeable, level-headed and centrist than I am, incidentally--made me wonder. To my surprise, he is taking that hypothesis very seriously, to say the least. I guess I am most inclined to attribute it to the fact that they are dogmatic idiots who don't believe in the modern science of economics any more than they believe in the modern sciences of biology or climatology... But then, of course, there's this...

Friday, July 08, 2011

The Debt Limit: What's Obama Doing?

Like you, I have no idea. Here's a guess:

What we need right now, of course, is big tax increases (or re-creases, as we might call them, since we'd really be just rescinding tax breaks) on the rich, the super rich, and the super-duper rich...and big spending increases, e.g. on infrastructure. A payroll tax holiday for working folks would also be good...or so it seems to me. I've been paralyzed with fear about the debt since I was a kid...but even I realize that it's spending that's needed right now.

Alright, so the GOP won't do the right thing. They cranked up the debt when we could have lowered it, and they did it without blinking. (Cheney: "Reagan proved that deficits don't matter.") Now, suddenly, they've decided that we've got to get all austere. At the worst possible time. (And, y'know, it has nothing to do with ruining the economy before the 2012 elections...nope...nothing at all...  To even consider that hypothesis would be nutty.)


What we need, and what Dems want:

More taxes and more spending

What the GOP wants:

Fewer taxes and less spending

Exactly the opposite of what's needed.

And they won't budge.

What does Obama do? Hops over them, and offers:

More taxes and less spending

for greater deficit reduction.

This seems smart to me. They won't agree to modest spending cuts and modest tax increases, but insist on big spending cuts and no tax increases. Obama hops over them and "goes big" by offering big spending cuts and big(ger) tax increases. Now the Dems can say: we offered two proportionate plans, but the GOP is insisting on its disproportionate plan in the middle--we've given them both reasonable options possible, and they're still insisting on the one crazy way that combines both bad things.

Incidentally: props to Boehner for suddenly/finally admitting what is obvious to every even minimally rational observer. He's going to pay for this politically, I'll bet...

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Frum: Budget Impasse Is Obama's Fault Because He's Been Too Reasonable

This may be the craziest blame-Obama-for-everything gambit yet.

Monday, July 04, 2011

Anti-Illegal Immigrant != "Anti-Immigrant"

Attempts to control/curb illegal immigration are not thereby "anti-immigrant." They might be immoral, misguided, counterproductive, whatever...though normally they are not...but they are not "anti-immigrant."

This is a simple point, and I'm sure that the editorial staff of the NYT understands it. That makes this editorial dishonest in the extreme.

I'm not supporting the legislation in question. I'm merely objecting to the transparently dishonest rhetoric in the editorial. The immigration issue is tough enough without muddying the waters with this nonsense.
Skepchick and The Elevator Incident: WTF?

A summary, at Mefi.

So, Rebecca Watson at Skepchick was propositioned by a guy, in a hotel elevator, at 4 a.m., in Dublin, after a night of drinking, during the World Atheists' Convention. She calls it "creepy," and seems to suggest that there's some kind of sexism and "objectification" involved. I tend to side with females in such cases, but I myself am skeptical in this case. (Richard Dawkins seems to think she's is it that I so often agree with someone so far off my intellectual wavelength?) A few thoughts:

1. People really, really, really, really, really, really need to start recognizing that reason cannot adjudicate every dispute. One needn't be a relativist, a skeptic (in the philosophical sense of 'skeptic,' not the more colloquial sense), a misologist, nor any other such daft person to recognize that there are gray areas and swamps of complexity such that, once we get down to these levels, we might reasonably have to say something like "there's no fact of the matter down below this point."

2. One needn't be a subjectivist to acknowledge that there is a fair measure of subjectivity involved in certain types of judgments. Judgments of creepiness are probably of that kind.

3. There are good points (and bad ones) to be made on both sides of this discussion.

4. Details matter in such cases, and even if 1 and 2 are inapplicable here, we aren't privy to the details. Tone of voice, body language, and so forth all matter here. We're in an information deficit, so we shouldn't expect to be able to make the call in this case.

And let me add one other set of considerations:

I do worry that feminists invoke one set of considerations when it suits them and another when those suit them. I've heard the speech indicating that men should mind their own business and be very, very cautious and circumspect when approaching women about sexual or romantic matters. I've also heard the speech about how men should be somewhat (if not excessively) "manly," and recognize that there is something alluring to the female of the species about males who are bold--yet, of course, respectful--in such matters. I've heard that speech even from feminists. I've heard both speeches given as if they were the veriest common sense and that men were stupid for ever having erred in the other direction. I've even heard some speech-givers admit that, in large part, it matters whether they are interested in the male in question. And there's (one of) the rub(s), of course...

If I had to make guesses in this case, I'd say that Skepchick would have had a different reaction if she'd been interested in...well, let's call him Mr. Smith. But she wasn't. I'd also guess that Mr. Smith is not the sharpest nor suavest tool in the shed. If Skepchick wasn't interested, she'd probably made this pretty clear by 4 a.m., but Mr. Smith seems to have not picked up on this. In the absence of some fairly clear indication of interest, it does take a certain degree of cluelessness to think that a 4 a.m. elevator proposition is going anywhere. Was Mr. Smith merely clueless, or was he creepy? Well, the two sometimes go together. What we know of the case is perfectly consistent with (a) a non-creepy yet somewhat forward and probably rather clueless, probably basically sexual, proposition, and (b) a at-least-somewhat-creepy sexual proposition.

So what to think? Well, but for the next bit, we needn't think anything in this case. Nothing hangs on it thus far, and, as in so many cases, this may be a don't know case. On the other hand, in the absence of any named other party, and given that there's no particular reason to doubt Ms. Skepchick in this case, I'm inclined to believe her.

The real problem, however, is that she characterizes the incident as an instance of sexism...and that, I suspect, is an error. And she trots out "objectification," a term and a concept that rarely help advance understanding. Acknowledging again that details that we do not know matter, it's that last bit that seems a bridge too far. There's nothing inherently wrong with making a sexual advance...without them the species wouldn't last long, of course. And there's nothing morally wrong with making such an advance even after the object of that advance has claimed to be headed for sleep (a fact emphasized in the account). My guess--little more than a guess--about what happened was that it was awkward and uncomfortable (and it was clearly not well-received)...but there is no reason to think that it was sexist or an instance of so-called "objectification." I could be wrong, of course, and I might think differently if I'd seen the event in question, but there's my guess FWIW.

Friday, July 01, 2011

Drum: "We Are Well and Truly Down The Rabbit Hole

Responding to Marco Rubio's deranged claim that Obama is a "failed president," Drum writes:
Republicans got the tax cuts they wanted. They got the financial deregulation they wanted. They got the wars they wanted. They got the unfunded spending increases they wanted. And the results were completely, unrelentingly disastrous. A decade of sluggish growth and near-zero wage increases. A massive housing bubble. Trillions of dollars in war spending and thousands of American lives lost. A financial collapse. A soaring long-term deficit. Sky-high unemployment. All on their watch and all due to policies they eagerly supported. And worse: ever since the predictable results of their recklessness came crashing down, they've rabidly and nearly unanimously opposed every single attempt to dig ourselves out of the hole they created for us.
One ends up saying the same thing over and over...but it seems to need saying. The GOP either steals or comes close to stealing an election, so we get an utterly incompetent Republican rather than a competent Democrat. The next eight years is spent crashing the country into a very big, entirely avoidable, collection of ditches. The GOP then spews unrelenting bile at the Democrat the people bring in to clean up the mess, and they oppose his every effort to do so. And the cherry on top is: they run around blaming it all on the (sane, intelligent, competent, well-intentioned, effective, centrist) Democrat that's trying to fix the very precious things that they broke.

They are deranged.

Here you go.