Friday, November 30, 2012

Slavoj Zizek is Full of Shit, Episode Whatever

A tumblr.

My God that guy is full of shit.

How intellectually credulous and dissolute do you have to be to take such a blatant charlatan seriously?

Lower U.S. Birth Rate / An Upside Of The Great Recession

Good news.

Sadly, a lower birth rate probably won't survive an economic recovery.

But it's something.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

DeLong on Nagel on Mind and Cosmos

Lewis Carroll sends me this link, Brad DeLong ridiculing Thomas Nagel.

I happen to be teaching Nagel's little book The Last Word right now, so I've got these topics on my mind. I've got Mind and Cosmos on order, but haven't read it yet.

Incidentally, IMO, DeLong is being kind of  an idiot in this post. I'll try to explain why later, but not now. The short version of the story is that nobody should be eager to embrace the view that I'm just a turbomonkey with a bunch of wet-wired heuristics that masquerade as reason in some more robust sense. On such a view, it's very hard to argue that I ever have justified beliefs. Which makes the whole enterprise of human inquiry--and that mostly means science, broadly construed--impossible. But it's ridiculous to pretend to be dealing with such issues in an even semi-serious way in a post like this.

Nagel is a really interesting guy, and I think he's in the right sector on these issues. I, myself, am a non-theist and a non-meataxe-physicalist. Or, more precisely: I'm inclined to think that extremely strict/parsimonious versions of physicalism or naturalism are unlikely to be true. Or, I might rather say: if you think that things like logical validity ought to be--and could be--reduced to (or explained in terms of) something about efficient causation, then I think you're wrong. I don't see a place for validity (or consciousness) in the universe as conceived of by extremely parsimonious naturalists and physicalists. And I don't think that God helps a bit. So I am inclined to believe in a Godless universe that admits of validity and consciousness. What would such a universe be like? We don't know. But it'll be more complicated (and interesting) than a parsimonious physicalist universe. I privately think of myself as a naturalist, mostly...but, like Pierce, I suspect that there are more things in heaven and Earth than are dreamt of in certain philosophies. Just adding, say, ghosts to a material world won't do anything; that's just a different kind of stuff. What's needed is actual teleology, final causation.

But I barely understand these issues, so my hand-waving at a view shouldn't matter much. Thing is, lots of other philosophers who apparently don't understand the issues very well either are convinced physicalists. As Peirce argued, we need to start with science, broadly construed, and accept whatever theory of the universe makes it possible. The folks Nagel tends to go after are the ones who push parsimonious physicalism (basically on aesthetic grounds), and who want to pretend that things like validity and consciousness fit unproblematically into such a universe. But they don' far as I can tell.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

It's Gonna Be a Long Season...

Well, Carolina got massacred by Indiana last night. They basically got destroyed by Butler in Maui, but managed to make it look like a respectable loss in the end. No such luck last night.

Oh,'s good do see the Hoosiers back...but too bad we had to be on the receiving end of this whoopin'...

The Heels look absolutely terrible, and there's no reason to try to finesse that point. Nothing about their game looks good. They look like five guys milling around at random hoping to get a shot. It's not that this is unexpected after losing Marshall, Zeller, Henson and Barnes...  We knew it would be a rebuilding year. And it's a young team. But wow.

Any hope we had for a good season had been hanging largely on a fairly slender thread: that at least two of Bullock, McDonald, and Hairston would find their range from three. I didn't believe it would happen, and it hasn't. Hairston is apparently a total freak who can hit 3s regularly from nearly practice. But not in games. There are also a lot of hopes hanging on James Michael McAdoo, though he's not that big and seems to struggle against bigger opponents.

Anyway. Last year was painful in many ways, especially with the season in effect ending on what was in effect an intentional foul by Creighton that broke Marshall's wrist. But this season is going to be painful in very different ways. We do have the best coach in the country, of course...and if anybody can pull this season together it'll be Roy...  But I'm not holding my breath.

Hey, we won the election... I'm willing to endure a tough hoops season...

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The F- Files: The War on Men

Today's F- for crappy crapitude goes to...:

Suzanne Venkner's "The War On Men" at Faux News.

ZOMG, that's some crap right there. There's a non-zero probability that it's a parody...but I'll bet it isn't.

See, men don't want to get married because women suck because...they're...I dunno...I think they're trying to be like men or something...  It was so awful that I kind of rushed through it. But anyway, whatever it is that women are doing, it forces men to "pick up their slack" at work, because...something like: women want to be men but aren't very good at it. So then men--and let me stress that they are entirely justified in this--get annoyed and don't want to get married.


"Fortunately, there is good news: women have the power to turn everything around. All they have to do is surrender to their nature – their femininity – and let men surrender to theirs."

See? Just "give into your nature." This is roughly: abandon your autonomy and the rational control of your actions. Just do whatever you are inclined to do without thinking about it. In short, be more like an animal and less like a human. It'll be way better!

Jeez this stuff.

You could write a lot of stuff about that.

But let me settle for this:

And let me stress, I disagree with contemporary academic feminism about almost everything, and I think that the term 'socially constructed' is approximately the most confused phrase of all time.


I think Ms. Venkner'd be pretty surprised at what men and women would be like if they weren't shaped/guided/influenced by ideals of masculinity and femininity, and by the idea that the former is proper only to males and the latter only to females. I think she thinks that if we'd all just "give in to our natures" in this respect, then the world would be like Leave It To Beaver or Mad Men or some other '50's show about a time that more-or-less never was. That would not happen. If everybody were left to his or her own devices in this respect, the correlation between sex and gender would be a whole lot weaker than it currently is. Masculinity and femininity are something like ideals. Oh, sure, they're largely abstracted from or grounded in actual tendencies in the sexes, but those fairly weak statistical regularities are then turned into ideals and imperatives. From males tend to be less emotionally forthright than females (or whatever) we, via the magic of social irrationality, get males ought to be less emotionally forthright than females. And then weak statistical tendencies aren't enough, and social sanctions get put into place to enforce things and make damn well sure that there ain't, for example, any sissy-boys running around crying and stuff. Without these strange ideals and irrational sanctions in place, the world would be a lot less like Ms. Venkner wants to be.

Anyway, not only is "give in to your nature" advice that's dumb at least as often as it's not, taking that advice in this case would get us a world less congenial to conserve views of sex and gender roles, not more congenial to them.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Tom Ricks Calls Fox News "A Wing of the Republican Party" To Its Face

And without missing a beat.

So beautiful, and so true.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Did Hostess Steal Its Workers' Retirement Money?

Believe it or not, that that may not even be the worst of it if this account is true. Six CEOs in ten years, insider trading...then there's this, concerning the final offer that the union rejected:
What was this last/best/final offer? You'd never know by watching the main stream media tell the story. So here you go...
1) 8% hourly pay cut in year 1 with additional cuts totaling 27% over 5 years. Currently, I make $16.12 an hour at TOP rate of pay in the bakery. I would drop to $11.26 in 5 years.
2) They get to keep our $3+ an hour forever.
3) Doubling of weekly insurance premium.
4) Lowering of overall quality of insurance plan.
5) TOTAL withdrawal from ALL pensions. If you don't have it now then you never will.
Remember how I said I made $48,000 in 2005 and $34,000 last year? I would make $25,000 in 5 years if I took their offer.
It will be hard to replace the job I had, but it will be easy to replace the job they were trying to give me.
I just don't know what to say about this madness/criminality.

Recompute: Seriously Green Computers?

All I know about these is what I saw on their site...but it looks like a great idea.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Soledad O'Brien Humiliates Jon Heck

Well, I guess one might say that Heck humiliated himself...

But O'Brien shows great acuity here. It's such a simple technique, but almost no one ever uses it. Just force the bullshitter to repeat his bullshit until it is transparent to even the those with the thickest skulls that it's bullshit that's afoot.

Well done, Ms. O'Brien. I couldn't have done half as well. This is a masterpiece of journalism. Elegant in its simplicity, and downright bloody devastating.

Harry Reid Slaps Down Republicans for Politicizing Benghazi

Give 'em hell, Harry.

Damn, this is long overdue.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Republicans Skip Benghazi Hearing, Complain About Lack of Information About Benghazi

These people...

(via Reddit)

Sore Loser Watch: Secession Edition

Well, there's this.

Because, you see, real Americans don't particularly like America. They pine away for the days of the Confederacy, yammer mindlessly about another revolution, and whine about seceding upon losing an election.

What a bunch of pantywaists.

Oooh, boo hoo our (absurdly terrible) candidate lost to a (reasonable, sane, largely centrist) Democrat. Boo hoo hoo we want to run away and join the circus.

This is mostly just a puerile temper-tantrum, of course. Unseemly in the extreme...

Hell, as others have said, we'd be better off without most of 'em.

Though I think the red states have most of the nukes...

Thursday, November 15, 2012

You Are Getting Li-ber-al...Veeery Lib-er-al...


Um...are they talking about the Delphi method?

Sadly, apparently so...

Judge Condemns Husted's Last-Minute Ballot Change (OH)

Jon Husted is a criminal who tried--in many different ways--to steal a U.S. election.

He belongs in jail.

Impeachment Fever--Catch It!

So, as I've noted, JQ has taken to watching Fox "News" for entertainment purposes.

It was all Benghazi all the time until Petraeus stole the spotlight...

And then we started to get dark omens of a Grand Unified Theory uniting the Benghazi non-scandal with the Petraeus non-scandal...

We already know that necessarily no Democratic president is legitimate...and we know what lengths they went to to undermine Bill Clinton...

I'm rather surprised there was no serious attempt at impeachment in Obama's first term...but my money is on some kind of earnest effort by the GOP in the second term. I'm going to say there's about a 50/50 chance that they'll go for it.

(If they do, of course, we need to be out in the streets in D.C. demanding the resignation of whoever the ring leaders turn out to be. This shit needed to be stopped a long time ago, and we should make it absolutely clear that won't put up with it again.)

What Did Obama Give You For Your Vote?

I don't know about you...

...but I got a pony.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Looks Like I Could Vote for McAuliffe After All


Cuccinelli wants to run for governor.

Time to start mobilizing now I reckon...

McAuliffe to Run for Governor of the OD



Look, I'm really not sure I can vote for that guy. I'm just going to put that out there right off the bat.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Your Vote for an iPad

So I was talking to an older acquaintance of mine last week, and he allowed as how his was probably the only family in the neighborhood going for Obama. He told me that his wife knew that several of the neighborhood women were not going to vote, because their husbands were for Romney, and they felt like they could neither vote for him, nor contradict their husband's votes.

Crazy, eh?

The most amazing story, however, was that one of the neighborhood women was voting for Romney because her husband had promised to buy her an iPad if she did so.

Amazing, almost as much for the background suggestion that the husband gets to decide what his wife can and can't purchase as for the vote-buying...and selling. One hardly knows what to say.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

The Right And Obama's Lower 2012 Electoral Vote Total


Just watched Dick Morris, the wrongest man this side of Bill Kristol, bloviating on Fox "News." He's trying to stick to more difficult-to-verify stuff I guess since his election prediction was so laughably wrong. Now he's holding forth about Benghazi as Greta van Sustern spews the Fox talking points. Though if you can't even predict an election right when the polls are given to you and the pattern is obvious, it's unclear to me why anyone would think that you should be allowed to say anything about foreign policy...

Anyway, Morris the moron [sorry. But that guy really is a moron...] accidentally made a verifiable claim during his wit:

Obama is the only president ever re-elected with fewer electoral votes than he was elected with in his first term.

I've heard several righties pushing this line. But:

(a) This is an idiotic and meaningless measure

(b) It isn't true

First, we have Woodrow Wilson:
    1912: 435
    1916: 277

Then we have FDR:
   1932: 472
   1936: 523
   1940: 449
   1944: 432

Now, technically, FDR didn't get fewer in his second term than in his first, though that doesn't matter. If there were a point to Morris's nonsense--and there isn't--it would have to be that no one had ever been elected with fewer EVs in their later terms than in their earlier ones. FDR just happens to be a special case, a president with more than two terms. FDR's third-term election was with fewer EVs than his first-term election, and his fourth-term election was with a lower EV total than any of his three earlier terms. [Note: not relevant unless Morris said: fewer the second time than the first time; but I can't remember his exact words.]

So now we've got, in effect, six counterexamples to this bullshit claim (WW 1st/2nd, FDR 1st/3rd, FDR 1st/4th, FDR 2nd/4th, FDR 3rd/4th).

Conclusion: Dick Morris is, yet again, full of shit.

And we've also got Clinton, who was elected with only nine more the second time around:

   1990: 370
   1994: 379

Not technically a counterexample to Morris's claim, but close enough.

Then, of course, there is Bush, who--and this is far more important than Morris's bullshit measure--never got many EVs at all:

    2000: 171
    2004: 286    (from memory; could be wrong; not going to look it up)

If there's an interesting point here at all, it's that Obama got more--a lot more--EVs in his lowest-total election than Bush got in his best one (365, 332).

Of course this bullshit about EVs is just more fever swamp idiocy--cast around for some measure, no matter how meaningless--according to which Obama is bad, and then pretend like it matters. The only even vaguely not-entirely-idiotic point that could possibly be made here would be something like: your EV total says something about your political mojo. Obama blew Bush's doors off by this measure...but we've never heard a peep from these fools questioning Bush's legitimacy.

The real story here is the stupidity of pretending like this measure means anything at all.

But my God, if you're going to say something stupid, at least try to get the relevant facts right.

[Edit: sorry about all the expressions of anger in there. I'm just way past fed up with these people. The very fact that anyone would pretend that anyone should listen to that loathsome little worm Morris is nauseating.]

And note Matthew C's point in comments:
The GOP candidate has won the popular vote only once in the last six presidential elections. If we're going to cobble together a story about some wins having authority/meaning beyond the mere fact of them being wins...seems like there's something worth noting about that fact.]

Obama Wins; Planet Relieved

International headlines, including the one in the title.

(via Reddit)

Fox "News" Is Insane

JQ, as I've mentioned, started watching Fox News for the entertainment value.

I'm sitting here right now watching Charles Krauthammer, Stephen Hayes, and some other people have a discussion about Iran allegedly taking a shot at one of our drones...and--and here I want to emphasize that I am not hyperbolizing--I think they might literally be insane.

It's like watching a newscast from Parallel Earth.

Everything is conclusive evidence that Obama is evil and incompetent. Iran is a gigantic threat to the U.S. And it is utterly inexplicable why they might view us as an enemy.

In particular, the fact that the incident was not reported before today is evidence of some nefarious doings by Obama. What did the President know and when did he know it? Was information withheld because of the election?


It's like the dial is always turned up to 11 or down to 0, and turned up or down selectively on the basis of conservative positions. If there is any possible way to even hint at something bad about Obama...ELEVEN MOTHER F*CKERS!!!!!111 Recognition that we overthrew Iran's democracy and doomed them to fifty years of rule by brutal authoritarians and theocrats? zero. Fear and paranoia? Eleven. Anything even vaguely resembling an effort to being objective: zero.

Seriously. I'm not just blowing off steam here as I sometimes do.

This is a company that makes money by pumping irrationality into the minds of the American electorate.

These are not merely buffoons.

They are very, very dangerous people.

If Anybody Needs Any Obama or Tim Kaine Chum...

...just let me know...

Brochures, hanging door thingies, bumper stickers, stickers, annoying "remember to vote" stickers for doors...

I gotcha covered...

And for the low, low, low, low price of...I'll pay you to take it...

I Belong To An Organized Political Party

"A Vast Left-Wing Competency"


1. We can't let Citizens United is irrational, destructive of democracy, and almost guaranteed to put Dems at a perpetual electoral disadvantage.


2. There are ways to fight back, to leverage our advantages, while we are still saddled with CU. One way is to utilize smart, efficient campaigning methods like the ones that seem to have helped with '12 for us. Another is education; the more we can educate the electorate, the more immune they are to propaganda...and that favors us. (And if that stops favoring us, then we don't deserve to win; so, even better than favoring us: it favors whoever is right.)

3. And, while we're saddled with CU, if we can still beat them and make them expend vast resources in much the better.

Wingnuttery: "Obama Has No Mandate"

I've never really understood this "mandate" business. But, putting more fundamental questions aside, let me focus on two version of the same argument I've been running across in the wingnutosphere:

Obama's '12 victory was narrow; therefore he has no mandate.

Obama's '12 victory was narrow than his '08 victory; therefore he has no mandate.

Now, obviously the second argument is just stupid. The '08 win was really big, so even mere regression to the mean gives us reason to predict a smaller win in '12. And, of course, he inherited a disaster unfixable in 4 years, so that cost him votes. The only even vaguely sensible idea here is one predicted on the following proposition:

(M) Presidents only get mandates when their wins are fairly big.

Now, that's vague, but vague is o.k. Vague is not nothing. The first argument can easily be interpreted as presupposing (M), and the second argument can easily be interpreted as a garbled form of an argument that presupposes (M)--if a president's first win is over the threshold, but his second win is under it, then...etc. etc.

Thing is, as you might recall, Bush claimed a mandate after his second election, to nary a peep from the right. Bush's '04 victory was with something like 286 EVs. His heart-breaking '00 "victory" was with 271. Now, since the right was happy to embrace the proposition that Bush had a mandate with 286 EVs, they have no grounds for claiming that Obama has none with what will turn out to be 332. And it's laughable indeed to try to argue otherwise on the grounds that his '08 win was even bigger (365).

The problem, of course, is the double-standard. Republicans claiming that 332 EVs is inconsistent with a mandate were happy to claim a mandate when their own candidate had only 286. If they ever get 332 again, Katie bar the door...

Now, maybe the idea of a mandate is confused, or maybe Republicans were wrong to claim a Bush mandate in '04...but I'm not interested in giving the noise machine every possible benefit of the doubt. So I'm happy for Obama to claim a mandate--whatever the heck that is.

Where's the Republican DLC?


Whee doggie, my left-liberal friends used to give me an earful for being a DLC sympathizer...

Anyway, TNR argues that the GOP is unlikely to develop its own version of the DLC.

(via Drum)

Dean "Unskewed Polls" Chambers: I Was Wrong


It is extremely important to admit when you are wrong. Unlike the most salient chunk of the right-wing noise machine, Dean Chambers is fessing up.

Good on you, Dean.

I mean, admissions of error shouldn't matter as much as they do...  If we see that, say, George F. Will is a sophist, then it doesn't matter whether Will himself will admit it. The really committed sophists--that is, the most dangerous of the breed--will never admit it. So what? Will Ann Coulter ever admit that she's a shrieking lie-banshee who will literally say anything if it's anti-liberal? No. Heck, Ari Fleischer was so much better at what he did than Scott McClellan because the former had no shame, whereas the latter was obviously bothered by the fact that he was a paid liar for an administration taking the country to hell.

Still...good on you, Dean.

America's Voting System Is A Disgrace

Frum is right, of course.

Boehner's Enthusiastic Intransigence

So I ended up in the emergency room yesterday if you can believe that. Not life-threatening or anything, but it was some bullshit, I'll tell you what.

Anyhoo, it turns out that, if you got to the emergency room, you have to wait for three hours to see a doctor. At least you do if your problem is stupid and non-life-threatening. This leads you to, after a couple of hours or so, say things like "eh...I'm feeling a lot better now...I think I'm gonna go home." To which they reply things like "ha ha! That would be really bad for our insurance rates! The doctor will be here, like, right away! Please just stay here and curse at the television some more.!"

Which reminds me that, on the upside, when they take you back to the room you sit in for two hours, there's teevee, and you can watch John Boehner come out less than 24 hours after the GOP gets its ass handed to it to announce that, although he's happy--nay, eager--to compromise, and he thinks it's about time that the president started leading, Republicans won't be compromising on any of their positions. Like tax rates on the ultra-super-mega-rich or military spending.

Then you can also watch the CNN people say things like: ooh, he said he wanted to compromise, and although the words he said were "f*ck you," his tone was compromise-y...and tone matters a lot.

Did anybody else watch that? Am I wrong here?

Also: If I'm not mistaken, Mr. Boehner, the Bush tax cuts are just gonna expire. I say: let 'em all expire and then force the GOP to block a new tax-cut aimed at the middle class. The GOP didn't even wait a day to fire the first shot. Start hammering them now, and never let up. Make GOP obstructionism the central political issue from now until November 2014.

[Edit: here's Boehner's announcement at Think Progress]

[Drum says basically the same thing.]

If Money Is Speech, Then We Should Be Able To Buy People's Votes

It's legal for me to persuade you to vote for me; that is, it's permissible for me to talk you into it.

Now, suppose money is speech. (Or, perhaps less imprecisely: spending money can be an act of political expression). If so, then I should be able to spend money as I would "spend" speech, and persuade you to vote for me. And the most direct way to do this  is by just giving you the money in exchange for your vote.

What am I missing?

Will Sliver et al. Push The Media to Focus on Issues?

Now that we've taken a big step toward discrediting the bloviating pundits who pretend to be able to (in James Baker's evil, yet memorable phrase) "divine the intent of the voter(s)," will the media cease to focus on the horse-race hocus-pocus? Seems like a maybe is warranted, eh?

If they do, what will the fill the air time with? Nate and Sam and Drew and other Nate and company will probably get a lot of attention...but...that doesn't take up as much time as the bloviations of Dick Morris, nor the bickering of Carville and Matalin.

Damn. The networks might actually have to look at the issues...I mean...they're running out of other options...

They did have a brief flirtation with fact-checking a couple of weeks back... They seemed to get bored with it, because they stopped. Or maybe they realized that there was no way to spin the two campaigns as being equally dishonest, and feared the charge of liberal bias. Anyway, they quit.

But I say that the (possible) death of horse-race bloviating would elevate issue-analysis and fact-checking in the list of their plausible options.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Coulter Freaking out On Faux News

Yeah, I know. I shouldn't watch this stuff, but JQ started watching it to revel in the sadness of the bad guys.
Wow. Coulter is so sad / pissed she can barely keep it what passes for together by her standards.
Even more embarrassing to watch than usual.

Revolution Rhetoric

How long before we start hearing it from our friends across the aisle?

I mean, this is about the time that, if the roles were reversed, liberals would be whining about how they were going to move to France. Wingers, on the other hand, tend to start talking about revolution. 

How Conservative Media Lost To The MSM And Failed The Rank And File

Connor Friedersdorf is right.

I might extend the point :

American liberals and conservatives have two different views of the world. Their respective views about yesterday's elections were a fairly small part of those respective theories...but were representative/characteristic of them in certain respects. For example, conservatives picked the conclusion they wanted, then dogmatically held onto it, cherry-picking evidence to support the conclusion when it was available, but happily believing without evidence when it wasn't. This is pretty much their current epistemic M.O. Their main argument against liberals who disagreed with them was: you are biased. This small part of the two respective theories of the world happened to be empirically testable. It turned out that the liberals were right and the conservatives were wrong. This is not decisive evidence about the rest of the two vast theories of the world...but it ain't nothing. It should--but probably won't--give conservatives pause.

Ohio T.V. Anchor Yolanda Harris Just Following Orders

This is astonishing.

Ms. Harris was part of an anti-Obama broadcast masquerading as objective news. (Um...and not on Fox...)

Her defense? "I had no choice in the matter."

Apparently Ms. Harris does not understand what it means to not have a choice. What she really means is:

See, if I hadn't tried to illicitly sway the 2012 election, thus undermining our democracy, I might have lost my cushy job

That is not what it means to not have a choice. That, in fact, is having a clear choice, and choosing to be complicit with the bad guys so as not to suffer a career set-back.

O.k. I've got to just get away from this stuff for awhile.

The Ten Worst Predictions of the 2012 Election

They all have something in common...but I can't quite put my finger on it...

Drudge Descends into Delusion and Denial

I never check in on the sick sad world of Matthew N. Drudge.

'Never' in the sense that I did start peeking in this week in order to see how the bad polling news for Romney was being represented in the fun-house mirror of the Drudge Report.

Disorientingly weird over there.

Here's a short screen-shot history of Drudge basically going through that however-many-stages-of-grief whatsis.

Did Our Ground Game Win It?

Obama: A Damn Good President

I'm going to shut up for awhile now, but one of the things we ought to reflect on now is what a damn fine president Barack Obama is.

He is an intelligent, decent, honest, hard-working, knowledgeable man with the right principles and sentiments, and good inclinations with respect to policy. He's a liberal centrist who is committed to compromise and bipartisanship. Why anyone would think it relevant to point out that he is not perfect is beyond me; this is not the sort of thing that one ever really needs to point out about anyone. It's like pointing out that he has no magical powers; it's not to any plausible point. He's a very good--perhaps an excellent--president, and we're lucky to have him. I have not agreed with everything he has done, but his decisions have always been in the ballpark; and when I've disagreed, it's always more than plausible that he is acting on information I don't have, or compromising to achieve other ends that I acknowledge to be important. My biggest disagreements have been with respect to civil liberties; and I predict that he plans to move in a more liberal direction in that respect in his second term. But this isn't a post about details and specifics.

The fact that the American right not only says, but apparently actually believes, that he is not just not-good, but positively awful--and perhaps evil--is a sign of their own derangement, their retreat from reality into a fantasy world...and not a good one. When you judge a very-good-and-perhaps-excellent human being and president to be awful and evil, it is a defect in you, and a serious one. The right needs to recognize that it has begun to represent the world in something akin to a fun house mirror. The American right has become unhinged. This is the biggest threat that the country faces. We must be careful not to let their debasement of American politics tarnish what we have, nor allow it to disgust us so that we disengage. We've got a man in the Oval Office that has shown that he can and will fight for us--for all of us, even those who fight against him even as he is fighting for them. We should not forget that. And we should fight for him as he fights for us. It won't do to sit back and watch passively as the right-wing noise machine works to destroy the foundation of rationality and trust that makes democracy possible. One way we can fight back is to fight those propaganda efforts.

We're lucky. Barack Obama is a good president. Let's us not forget that.

Sophistry Watch: Smaller Victory = Defeat

[Please do forgive the somewhat disorganized nature of the following. I'm tired and disoriented this morning. There are substantial edits in the folllowing:]

Many conservatives last night and this morning (e.g. Krauthammer, much of The Corner, much of Faux News) are making some version of the following argument:

(1) Obama's margin of victory was small this time


(2) mumblemumblemumble-Obama-is-bad-not-a-real-win-no-mandate-mumblemumblemumble...

It's not clear what the conclusion is really supposed to be...  In fact, it varies depending on who's puling about it. But it basically boils down to something roughly like: so this wasn't really a victory.

This is, of course, a terrible the extent that it's really an argument at all. We do, of course, have to account for the fact that most of what comes from those sectors is not reasoning at all, but more like a primal scream or expression of hatred. That makes it a little foolish to try to engage with it rationally...but wisdom has never been one of my virtues...

To the extent that it's something akin to an actual thought, the argument is a bad one. Note:

A.  Obama's win last time was huge. So, just by regression to the mean,we should expect that a second victory would be smaller.

B. Presidents are seldom elected during such bad times economically. Another way of saying this: their share of the vote shrinks--a lot.

C. This election took place after four years of the very people who are making the argument above working ceaselessly to undermine Obama and convince the country that he is illegitimate and evil.

D. Of course they'd never make such an argument if it were a Republican in office. There is, in fact, nothing especially notable about the fact that Obama's margin of victory shrank. But we're dealing with an opposition party that simply does not believe that there any Democrat can be a legitimate president. No matter what happens, no matter what the facts, they will seize on something, anything to try to rationalize their anger. If Obama's margin of victory had been identical to that of 2008, they would shriek that it was crucial that it had not increased. If it had increased, but not by much, they would shriek that it hadn't gone up enough. If it went up a lot, they'd simply shriek about something else. Philosophers hate to psychologize about their interlocutors in this way, but when one's opponents are not rational, rational discussion with them is not possible. Justification of their beliefs and utterances is no longer really on the table; explanation (generally in terms of their psychology) is what's called for.

Now, these are all rather indirect criticisms of the argument in question. If we wanted to be more precise about things, I suppose we might just point out that none of the conclusions follow from the premise of the argument. Obama's win the second time around is perfectly respectable. In the EC, it's bigger than either of Bush's wins. Even if the win indicates somewhat diminished support, this doesn't mean anything like what the advocates of the argument are trying to prove. FDR's margin of victory was smaller in 1940 than it was in '36, but that means...basically nothing.

Of course, to really evaluate this argument it'd have to really be an argument. But it isn't. The considerations proffered don't support any conclusions about Obama's legitimacy, nor about what he is entitled to attempt as President. They might be relevant in some strategic arguments about what it would be wise for Obama to attempt to do...but (a) not very, and (b) that's not how they are intended.

The Smaller Victory = Defeat argument is just the right's first go at giving shape to their anger. When they have more time to think of it, they'll develop more sophisticated sophistries. But this one is weak sauce indeed.

Missouri, Virginia Avoid Senatorial Disasters


McCaskill over Akin and Kaine over Allen.

Akin hands the Dems another Senate seat that was on a clear trajectory to go Republican. Thanks, Tea Party!

Kaine spares the OD from more Allen.

And again I say: whew.

Non-Skewed Polls

Wow...guess all those polls didn't need any unskewing at all....

...except, y'know...for Rasmussen...

The Speeches

I'll listen to them again when I get a chance, but I have to say, I did not care for Romney's speech at all. I was surfing around the cable networks at that point--even including Fox in my rotation--and all the cable drones were saying how gracious and wonderful Romney's speech was...but it didn't sound that way at all to me. No reason to harp on it, I suppose. I hope I'm wrong.

Obama's speech was, I thought, excellent, and about an order of magnitude more gracious than Romney's.

I'm not going to know what to do with myself today. Wiped out, worried, and afflicted with a cold, I didn't even stop by the victory party last night, so I lack a sense of what I guess they call "closure," though the work bugs me. Won't know what to do with myself today...

What a relief this all is. I can't believe this election was even close. But America managed to squeak out a good decision.

Obama Wins

All I feel is an overwhelming sense of relief.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012


I shouldn't be as nervous as I am...but I'm exactly as nervous as I am...which is too nervous.

Gotta cold, wiped out, probably gonna pass on the Blue Team victory party even though it's like three blocks away...

Just want our man to win and have it over with...

Who's Red and Who's Blue?

How did the parties get their colors?

I've wondered about this before, and I thought the answer was obvious:

The networks couldn't assign red to the Dems because conservatives would play up the link to communism.

So the GOP had to get red.

I'm Done

Just back from canvassing. I think I only missed one day in the last couple of weeks.

Probably ought to go down and make some phone calls, but I may just sit here, relax, and have a beer or three before the victory party.

My old view was that we didn't have to win the OD; we just had to fight hard and force the bad guys to expend resources here. Winning was icing on the cake. Now, however, I'm very worried about Husted stealing OH for the GOP. Now I really, really, really want us to win here so that OH becomes less important.

I'm fairly sanguine.

Notwithstanding the iniquity of the world, truth and justice are the most powerful forces in it.

The View from Planet Nooners

Where saying things in a breathy, earnest tone makes things true.

Nooners feels "vibrations"...a great disturbance in the Force? That pesky alien implant malfunctioning again? God knows. But they're Romney-flavored vibrations, she assures us.

Does she reference Chesterton? I couldn't make it all the way through.

Silver, Wang et al. could be wrong, of course...but we're seeing the epistemic orientations of the respective parties on display. For the blue team, we have: science. For the read team, we have: wishful thinking and campfire tales. We might be wrong about the conclusion, but we right about the reasoning.

Romney Says He's Winning

Via Drudge (LOL yeah...I went there):

Romney says he's up in OH, tied in WI, PA.

What we have here are competing, testable hypotheses. Warms the heart, it does...

New Gray Panthers at the Polls

Says Faux News

They sent in the geriatric brigade.

If this would intimidate a reasonable person, then it shouldn't be permitted. The dude with the nightstick from '08 should have been hauled off to jail. This guy...somebody other than me needs to make the call on whether he's intimidating. I don't see it, but I'm a bad judge.

I've personally witnessed the GOP do worse at polls five blocks from my house...but I'm not going to use that to establish a reasonable standard.

Video of Voting Machine Altering Votes This Morning


(Via Reddit)

Fer the lova Christ, we have to get rid of these machines. My district uses what are basically big scantron sheets with big ovals that are nowhere near each other. You fill in the oval with a felt-tip pen, feed the ballot into the machine yourself, and that's that. My whole life I've been afflicted by voting OCD that forces me to check and re-check my ballot for minutes...not on these. They are as idiot-proof as anything could be. Everybody needs to use this system.

"My" (Read: Sam Wang's) Prediction: Obama 312, Romney 226

So if you're like me, the best you can do is have a favorite expert. Of course it goes without saying that I liked Nate Silver before it was cool... But now that it is cool, I have to find someone more obscure. You've probably never heard of 'em...

Actually, I'm sure you have. I really like Drew Linzer's site a lot, but my current poll crush is Sam Wang. I'm currently inclined to think his approach is better than Silver's, and that it's reasonable to just cut out the indirect indicators and look at the polling data directly.

Anyway, I'm going with Wang's 312-226 prediction, not that what I think is worth a damn, if I may state the painfully obvious.

The Pundit Accountability Project

I was just mulling over the possibility of posting something like this when I saw that Ezra had already done it.

Here it is.

This doesn't include all the various denizens of the fever swamps predicting various shades of landslide for Romney.

Bottom line: every reputable prognosticator predicts an Obama win.

Assuming, of course, all you right-thinking folk get out there and vote--which I, in my virtue, have already done.

Monday, November 05, 2012

Ezra Rounds Up The Predictions

James Crow, Esq.

You know it is.

Husted's Attempted Theft of OH Election: 4 Ways

Say it to yourself out loud:

Republicans are right now attempting to steal an American Presidential election.

Don't allow your outrage to be contingent upon their success. This is a matter of principle, not of consequences.

Obama For President

It goes without saying.

Go. Fight. Win.

Pollster Herding

It might be happening, says Linzer.

Rationale Argument-Mapping Software: I Like It


So, I'm working on this IARPA grant, and we're leaning heavily on argument-mapping, and also on Rationale.

I was skeptical at first because I preferred pen-and-paper diagrams using numbers inserted into the text. But, after having been forced to use Rationale for several months now, I've begun liking it rather a lot.

Anyway, I might change my mind again, but currently I think it's worth a try. Argument maps aren't the magic bullet that some folks seem to think they are, but they are clearly a better vehicle for representing and reconstructing arguments than is "textbook form" (aka "standard form"), i.e. writing down a premise then drawing a line under it and writing down a conclusion. For example, diagrams can easily represent independent lines of reasoning leading to the same conclusion, as well as objections.

Anyway, I'm currently kind of digging Rationale, for what it's worth. Free trials are available.

(Full disclosure: I know the guy who developed the software, though I'm under the impression that he sold it off.)

Teh W0RST Prez on Civil Rights in Teh U.S. HISTORY!!!111

It's Obama, of course... [though this doesn't get said explicitly]

Says...Gingrich? The Breitbart cult? Townhall? Caribou Barbie? Mittens? Faux News?

Nope. Think deranged left. Think Greenwald.

When this election nightmare is over, we really do need to have a serious national discussion about the erosion of civil liberties since 9/11. But let me suggest that it be a, y'know, sensible discussion.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

71% Chance of Obama Victory in the OD

sez Nate

Hope you're right, bro.

When Prophecy Fails

All the sane people seem to be saying that the odds of an Obama win are high.

All the righty blogs seem to be predicting a win for Mittens, some of them a landslide.

Since, in the absence of shenanigans, it looks like Obama's probably going to win, it'll be interesting to see how the rightosphere reacts.

It's not going to be pretty.

Gas Panic Rather Than Real Shortage in NY/NJ?

Possibly a self-fulfilling prophecy.

GOP'S Husted: Trying to Steal Ohio

People should be marching in the streets over Husted's efforts to steal OH for Republicans.

Even if we win, we simply cannot let this pass. Husted is actively trying to steal an American Presidential election, and has been trying to do so--very publicly--for months.

Husted must be impeached. In fact, the man belongs in jail.

Unfortunately, as I've noted before, if they manage to steal Ohio, there's no remedy. Democrats will act like they did in 2000--they will endeavor to be reasonable, will grant their opponents contested points, will refuse to play hardball. And God bless 'em for it. The GOP will use every dirty trick to win, will concede nothing, will put their unhinged foot soldiers in the street.

No matter how clearly right they are, I believe that, Democrats are simply not tough and resolute enough to win a metaphorical knife fight against the deranged GOP.

Basically, I believe that we win decisively on election day or we don't win. Anything resembling a tie will favor the GOP.

So get out there and vote--and don't forget about Jon Husted when this election is over. Impeaching him needs to be the next priority for anyone who respects American democracy.

Clark Bests Rudy


Wes Clark is calm and reasonable and makes Giuliani look like kind of a nut here, even with his response to Rudy cut off by NRO. NRO's headline? "Rudy Demolishes Clark" (Toned down to "Rudy Beats Clark" on the interior page...ah, the old bait-and-switch...).

Oh so crazy.

Fever Swamp Anthropology: Townhall/Doug Giles

Dig down just a bit, and the fever swamps get even more feverish and fetid.


Here, randomly selected, is some dude who refers to himself as "the Big Dawg" at some winger site, and as:

"...this God- and country-loving rebel."

Hoo boy.

Quoth said "Dawg":

"At the cigar bar I frequent in Miami, my brothers who voted for Obama in ‘08 are finished with him."

Really? "At the cigar bar I frequent..." Really?

Is it just me, or does this guy seem to be trying a bit too hard to portray a certain image? Maybe it is just me. Dude is obviously on a different wavelength.

Oh and Mr. Dawg has also written a book, the title of which seems to be Raising Boys Feminists Will Hate.

Um. I have my own rather serious disagreements with academic feminism--e.g. over its embrace of so-called "standpoint epistemology," and its political radicalism. But something tells me that Mr. Dawg's disagreements are of a rather different kind...

Reading Townhall really is like peering into bizarro world. It starts out amusing...but then it gets downright creepy.



Saturday, November 03, 2012

OH: Husted's Newest Voter Suppression Gambit

This SOB is unbelievable.

"Algorithms Are Inherently Fascistic"

Dumbest sentence ever written?

Mittens Desperation Watch

"Revenge" edition.

Moving To The City: Not The Answer To Climate Change

...contra this.

You want to fight climate change, have fewer children.

If you want to move to the city, then more power to you; and perhaps the evidence will continue to show that that's better than the suburbs. But the urban-density worshipers need to recognize that moving to the city is not the most effective thing we can do...and that many of us would be miserable in dense cities. Hey, look, if it's all the same to you, then maybe you should move to the city. But it's not worth it if it's going to make you terribly unhappy. Most of the folks pushing the gospel of density, of course, would be perfectly happy in big cities; and God bless 'em for it. But that's certainly not how I'll be living (despite the fact that I happen to live in the middle of a smallish city right now). But, then, since I won't be having kids, I basically get to do whatever I want, and my distal carbon footprint will always be smaller than someone's who has kids.

Of course the same point can be made about having kids: it's really important to some people. If you really want children, then you'll want to adjust your carbon footprint down in other ways. I mean, there's no longer any reasonable defense of, say, having four children. But I expect that what most people really want is at least one child. And if we could move more toward one- and two-child families, we'd make real progress on this thing. (We also need to adjust immigration down a bit...but that position is toxic to liberals right now, so it's best ignored I expect...)

Anyway, the real point here is that we all make choices, and some are more consequential in this respect than others. It's starting to look like we'd be better off if more folks moved from the suburbs to the city...but there is no one-size-fits-all solution to the problem.

Gingrich Says Obama Winning; Warns of Third Term

Things are getting ugly in the fever swamps...

Obama Conspiracies Diagrammed

By Chait, helpful.


I am now officially begging you

Especially if you are in a battleground state

Find your local Obama HQ

And go down and just do two hours of work this weekend.

Just two hours

Canvass--it's fun!

Work the phone bank--it's ok!

We're at the turnout phase, so down to pretty much just Democrats on our lists now, so you're unlikely to even have to talk to anybody who's annoyed to hear from you.

If you absolutely can't do any of these things, take 'em some food. Here in Barackingham County, we usually could use bottled water and trail mix packets. Some folks bring down homemade chili, some bring cookies, or coffee or Red really helps.

If you're hesitant, just vividly represent to yourself the abject horror of waking up on 11/7 to news of President-elect Mittens...

VA Voter Registration Fraud Investigation Expands


Even if we extract ourselves temporarily from all the election paranoia and out-freaking...

Can any sensible person honestly believe that Sproul is clean? A massive investigation should have been launched immediately. There is far more than enough evidence to warrant investigation. Personally, I'd be eager to bet that there are dirty tricks afoot. We know for a fact that the GOP is trying to steal this election. This is not a secret. They aren't even being subtle about it. If they're willing to purge voter lists and selectively cut early voting hours right in front of God and everybody, then why would anyone think that they're not willing to engage in dirty tricks on the sly? I'm not given to paranoia...but when the evidence is clear, it's not paranoia.

Eric Erickson Loses What He Had Left Of It

Not for the faint of heart.

It's really getting ugly in the fever swamps. EE seems to have moved past the anger stage and...into some weird combination of denial and acceptance. Obama's re-election, he tells us, won't be a disaster because...God has designed the world to self-destruct anyway. I kinda find this creepier than the anger.

Man. I really can't believe that EE has the same number of votes I do...

But, he assures us, Mittens will SWEEP ALL TEH BATTLEGROUND STATEZ.

But even if he doesn't, our reward is in heaven, so no biggie.


Spencer, if you're out there, this is the point at which you remind me that most theists are good, sane people...

Friday, November 02, 2012

Romney: Nice Economy You've Got There...Be A Shame If Something Happend To It...

Romney Assaults PA: Time for Dems to Start Relaxing

They're trying to pretend that it's a sign that they're winning so big in the battleground states that they're pushing Obama back to their home turf...but it's actually a sign of desperation.

Rest easy, Dems. They're down to trying for PA now.


TK is probably going to beat Allen, thank the gods. Allen is dumb as a particularly mean sack of hammers. Worst OD senate candidate since the traitorous Ollie "Shredder" North.

Andy Schmookler for the VA 6th

Dump Goodlatte.

With a name like Schmookler, he has to be good.

NYC Still Needs Power and Gas


Seriously, aren't these things the Invisible Hand of Awesomeness is supposed to fix?

Romney Ad: Obama Killed Bill's Barbecue


Here's the rant I just got from  JQ, who spent most of her youth and teens in Richmond, concerning Romney's claim that the bad economy killed Bill's barbecue.


"I seem to be more interested in this story than you are, but that's probably because you didn't have to eat at Bill's barbecue TEN THOUSAND TIMES WHILE FUDRUCKERS WAS JUST DOWN THE ROAD, but BASICALLY YOU HAVE TO TRY HARD TO MAKE BARBECUE THAT BAD. It had no flavor, but burned your mouth. The bun was soggy but the meat was dry. HOW DO YOU DO THAT?"

Our official house conclusion:
It is doubtful that Bill's went out of business because of the economy.

Lysenkoism Watch: Republicans Have Politically Incorrect Report Disappeared

Turns out that raising the top tax rates doesn't hurt economic growth...

But Senate Republicans don't care about the truth, and don't want you to know it. So they had a report with that conclusion withdrawn.

This is really almost beyond belief to me.


Wow. I've been tooling around the rightosphere, and JQ has, in the last week or so, developed the really annoying habit of checking Fox News to see what they're saying over there.

Holy smokes, it is all teh Benghazi, all the time.

Apparently Obama not only refused to give them any protection, but also told the forces that were available to stand down...and may have personally been present and assisting al Qaeda on the ground by firing RPGs at our embassy...

Actually, the non-crazy parts do seem to raise legitimate questions about the attack. When we're engaged in a life-and-death struggle for the soul of the country, however, I'm not going to push to hard for the administration to immediately cough up every scrap of info. I'm content to wait until the investigative process runs its course and, so far as I can see, the only reason to push this story to the front and demand that we all come to a conclusion about it NOW is to try to hurt Obama politically. But our friends across the aisle are particularly bad at disentangling their actual beliefs from their political talking points, and they seem to even be convincing themselves that this is WORSE THAN WATERGATE...though the good news is that this presupposes that they are finally willing to admit that Watergate was bad...

Hey, that's progress, guys!

Linzer on Survey Bias

Very interesting at Votamatic.

Linzer's analysis and graphs show the left-leaning polling firms' results matching up with the smaller, state-level polling firms' results. That's good news for Obama, right? Seems to indicate that the polls more favorable to him are in line with the apparently neutral set of polls. OTOH, it's consistent with a scenario in which the right-leaning polls are right, and Obama's substantial lead is illusory.

From a detached perspective, it's exciting that the crucial experiment is coming up in four days...

Payrolls Increase 171,000, Jobless Rate ["Essentially"] Unchanged

Hot off the press from the BLS

Edit: the Commissioner's Summary is more to the point.

Fever-Swamp Report: Drudge

I rarely peek into the foetid fantasy world that is Drudge, but I just peeked in there last night to see what was happening on Parallel Earth...

Turns out that the entire east coast of the U.S. has become a Road-Warrior-esque wasteland in Sandy's chaos. No word on why the invisible hand has not stepped in to do its thing...  Other than that, it's ALL BENGHAZI ALL THE TIME, what with the embassy attack being WORSE THAN WATERGATE and all.

That's a sick sad man that Matt Drudge...

Thursday, November 01, 2012

A Better Polling Question: Who Do You Think Will Win?

But another kind of polling question, which received far less attention, produced a clearer result: Regardless of whom they supported, which candidate did people expect to win? Americans consistently, and correctly, said that they thought Mr. Bush would.
A version of that question has produced similarly telling results throughout much of modern polling history, according to a new academic study. Over the last 60 years, poll questions that asked people which candidate they expected to win have been a better guide to the outcome of the presidential race than questions asking people whom they planned to vote for, the study found.
Holy crap that's interesting.

Yglesias: Evaluating Obama's First Term

It's Largely Comparative.

(Not: It's All Relative. But I quibble.)

Obama Up Big On BetFair

RedState Gobbledygook

Can anybody reconstruct this argument?

What a freaking mess.

One thing I'll give the conservatives: they are always absolutely positive that they are right and that liberals are stupid, no matter how weak their evidence and reasoning. It must be comforting.

Liberals, even buoyed by encouraging analysis by all the major models, are still sweating out the election. Conservatives, behind by almost every account, including even RCP's, never seem to doubt that they will win, and in a landslide no less.

These reactions, it seems to me, are typical of the psychological and epistemic orientations of the two ends of the American political spectrum.

Halperin: Both Campaigns Think Obama is on a Trajectory to Win

"...insiders in both parties look at the last few days of swing state polls and say, 'The President may have this.'"

All the Brainiacs Predict Obama Win

At MoJo

There is some horrible, amoral, cosmic sense in which it would be funny if Mittens won...  Just like there'd be some horrible, amoral, cosmic sense in which it'd be funny if an asteroid hit us just before CNN declared the winner...

I mean, imagine the wild Dionysian revelry in the fever swamps if they were to pull it out... Not only would they have defeated the Antichrist and gotten their Mittens, but they'd have shown all them pointy-headed 'lectu'ls who the smart ones really was.

My God. What a nightmare vision.

If it comes to that, I hope Great Cthulhu rises from R'lyeh and eats the whole shebang instead.

Romney Tax Plan Interactive

Ezra gives us this, proving that Romney's tax plan simply will not work.

Mitt: Not Vetted

The Breitbart cult and other fever swamp denizens like to claim that Obama was not "vetted." Nonsense, of course...but you know who actually hasn't been vetted?