Archive for October, 2010

Restoring Sanity? Or Restoring Liberalism?

Sunday, October 31st, 2010

Cross-posted from the other site

Yesterday saw 200,000 people or more attend Jon Stewart’s and Stephen Colbert’s Rally to Restore Sanity.

I don’t think there’s any deep meaning to it — Allahpundit called it Irony-Stock, which seems as good a name as any. I find it disconcerting that they invited Cat Stevens, who supported that Fatwah against Salman Rushdie. I’m sure it was fun — certainly a lot more fun than listening to one of Rush’s or Hannity’s latest (and increasingly boring) rants about Obama destroying America. But let’s not confuse with it substance.

I did have a few scattered thoughts, however. Not so much on the rally itself but on the whole idea of “restoring sanity” to our politics.

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Upcoming: 2009

Saturday, October 30th, 2010

I just saw one of the last films on my list of 2009 films to see (yes, I know, I know — hey!) I don’t know what’s more interesting about Up in the Air, its devotion to the details of frequent flyer, frequent driver and other privileged customer clubs … or the fact that IMDB is filled with people noting the errors the film has in the details of those clubs. People really do get obsessed with that stuff.

Me? I have at least two airlines on my shit list because they cancelled my miles (which were enough to get tickets) because I didn’t fly with them enough. Assholes.

College Incentives

Thursday, October 28th, 2010

In today’s TMQ, Gregg Easterbrook suggests that college coaches should be given an incentive to graduate football players. I’m a little leery of this. I think football factory schools will simply enroll athletes in even easier courses and increase the pressure on faculty to pass them — meaning we’ll have a bunch of college grads who can’t read their degrees. I can also see a danger of greedy coaches harassing and bullying players who are struggling in classes if they have money on the line.

But if we want to go that way, here’s a simple idea. A college coach’s salary is his base salary multiplied by the graduate rate. So Nick Saban’s salary might be something like $4 million times is 0.67 graduation rate or $2.7 million.

Wednesday Linkorama

Wednesday, October 27th, 2010

Non-Political Links:

  • A double whammy, from Lenore Skenazy, first on the assumption that all men are perverts, then on the death of the merry-go-round. Abby road a merry-go-round a week ago and loved it. But they are slowly vanishing under liability concerns.
  • So this. I know the television ratings for the world series will be down, but I’m fricking psyched for it. Two teams that are easy to cheer for, each of which has waited 50+ years for a title. How can you not love that?
  • Political Links:

  • A conservative tears D’Souza apart. One reason I refused to go onto the “Obama is Evil” train is because I took that ride to crazy town before during the Clinton years. I decline to do so again.
  • The Nanny State strikes again, this time shutting down open air restaurants. One more reason I’m glad I no longer live in Maryland.
  • States want to micromanage public universities. While I would like to see more accountability in the universities, this is not the way to do it. One more reason I’m glad I no longer live in Texas.
  • And another reason not to live in Texas. You’ve got to be fucking kidding me.
  • The latest estimates of the human cost of the Iraq War. Note that these estimates, while horrifice are a tiny fraction of the much-ballyhooed (and deeply flawed) Lancet study. This is not an indictment of the US military — with any other force, the casualties would be higher. But it’s reminder of what you’re contemplating when you go to war.
  • Finally, NASA begins an organized and fact-based pushback against Big Climate Skepticism. One of the few good things about Climategate may be that climate supporters will have to actually argue and prove their point, rather than assuming everyone agrees with them.
  • Candidates You’ve Never Heard Of

    Monday, October 25th, 2010

    Out in Arizona, Ruth McClung is the Republican nominee for Congress. She’s literally a rocket scientist and, from what I see, seems a reasonable conservative. But you won’t hear about her on the news or in the science blogs that regularly tout any Democrat with a scientific background. Is that because she’s a conservative woman who isn’t batshit insane? One has to wonder, doesn’t one?

    Incidentally, while I oppose the Fair Tax, I more bitterly oppose unfair political bullshit. The Republican candidate in my local election is being attacked for supporting the Fair Tax. The ads say he wants to impose a 23% sales tax and eliminate corporate taxes. As I noted on the other site, this in an absolute lie, a calculated deception to frighten voters. The Fair Tax replaced the existing income tax system; it doesn’t ad to it. The ad’s disgusting, but probably what one should expect from one of Murtha’s former operatives.

    McClung is being attacked for the Fair Tax as well. There’s only one problem: she doesn’t support it. So the Democrats, in their desperation, are resorting to a lie within a lie.

    And people wonder why, while I hate the Republicans, I really fricking hate the Democrats.

    Housing Fairness

    Saturday, October 23rd, 2010

    If you want to see political correctness run amuck, look no further than Fair Housing laws. When we were selling our home, there were selling points we literally couldn’t put in ads because they would “discriminate” against people. Saying a home was “good for a family” discriminated against single people, for example.

    I never saw the logic of this. “Good for a family” tells people what kind of home it is. It’s information, not prejudice. And I don’t think any single or childless person would be driven off by those words.

    In this case, are people not entitled to limit those with whom they want to live? Yes, it is discriminatory against non-Christians. So what? There shouldn’t be anything in the law that forces me to cohabit with someone I don’t want to, for whatever reason.

    It’s one thing to bar discrimination; it’s another to prevent free association and free speech. At what point do you draw the line? According to authorities in Michigan, you draw it as far against freedom as you possibly can.

    Weekend Linkorama

    Saturday, October 23rd, 2010

    Non-political links:

  • I love stories like this. They’re just a reminder of how good and decent most people are.
  • Somewhere, Dan Savage is dancing.
  • I think Jezebel has a point. Why did the writers of The Social Network feel the need to make the story far more misogynist and sexist than it was in real life? Given the Hollywood runs, it’s probably because that’s the way they would have done it.
  • Political Links:

  • How partisanship works. Me? I think the government is a threat to our liberty no matter who is in office.
  • Ta-Nehisi demonstrates, once again, why he’s one of my favorite liberal bloggers. Damn, does he make me think sometimes.
  • I can just hear conservatives squeal with delight.
  • The Law of Unintended Consequences strikes again. Democrat restriction on bank fees eliminate free checking. Thanks, guys!
  • Economic Ignorance

    Tuesday, October 19th, 2010

    We’ve heard a lot recently about “epistemic closure” — the tendency of people to get closed off into informational cocoons of people who think exactly like them. This has particularly (and deservedly) said about the Right, specifically on the subject of global warming. It’s astonishing to constantly encounter talking points — “global cooling”, Climategate, the supposed lack of recent warming, etc. — about which conservatives have yet to hear any contrary opinion. And that’s just one subject. Anchor babies, torture, spending cuts — these also tend to get discussed in an echo chamber into which contrary ideas or facts are not injected or are quickly ejected.

    But it’s not unique to the Right Wing by any means. Earlier this year, the Left was atwitter because the AG of California “exonerated” ACORN of any wrong-doing. Of course, he did nothing of the kind, as even a cursory reading of his report would have revealed. But it is still claimed in Left-Wing circles that ACORN was the victim of a Right Wing smear.

    I bring this up because three articles from the last week in particular illustrate how the Left is ensconced in its own echo chamber on the subject of economics.

    First, there’s Tabarrok’s description of the macroeconomic ignorance of students:

    Bill Goffe recently (2009) surveyed one of his macro principles classes and found, for example, that the median student believes that 35% of workers earn the minimum wage and a substantial fraction think that a majority of workers earn the minimum wage (Actual rate in 2007: 2.3% of hourly-paid workers and a smaller share of all workers earn the minimum wage, rates are probably somewhat higher today since the min. wage has risen and wages have not).

    When asked about profits as a percentage of sales the median student guessed 30% (actual rate, closer to 4%).

    When asked about the inflation rate over the last year (survey was in 2009) the median student guessed 11%. Actual rate: much closer to 0%. Note, how important such misconceptions could be to policy.

    When asked by how much has income per person in the United States changed since 1950 (after adjusting for inflation) the median student said an increase of 25%. Actual rate an increase of about 248%, thus the median student was off by a factor of 10.

    OK, it’s college students. But these are students who have an interest in economics. And it was students who were riding the wave of Obama’s 2008 victory. Their opinions are highly reflective of what the Left part of our country really thinks.

    Moreover, politicians and political commentators are just as ignorant as the students. Besides believing some of the above (e.g., the “obscene” profits of Big Oil or Big Pharma), there are even more dangerous memes afloat among the intelligentsia. Gregg Easterbrook recently tackled the common myth that the recession is hitting seniors hardest:

    A year ago, when the Social Security Administration said there would be no COLA for 2010, President Obama backed a second “one-time” bonus check, saying, “We must act on behalf of those hardest hit by this recession.”

    As a group, seniors are the least hardest hit. Most are retired, so unemployment, the biggest economic problem associated with the recession, does not impact them. Many consumer prices have fallen, which increases seniors’ buying power.

    Two kinds of prices are rising — college education and health care. The former has no impact on seniors, while the latter has limited impact because seniors don’t pay most of their health care costs. Young workers pay those costs via Medicare taxes.

    Of course there are individual seniors in need — but for senior-citizen lobbies to depict seniors overall as hard-hit by the recession is political selfishness in the extreme.

    To be fair, this isn’t so much ignorance as political pandering — seniors may be the wealthiest demographic in America but they are numerous and they vote like hell. But our supposedly objective media never calls them on this, never points out the reality of the situation. Hell, even the Daily Show hasn’t done a bit on it.

    And that’s not the only subject on which there is epistemic closure. The Democrats are still flogging the myth that “every economist” agreed that we needed an economic stimulus.

    Epistemic closure is not just epistemic, it’s endemic — to all of politics. That’s why the subject frustrates me so. It’s an arena in which the combatants used facts and data the way a drunk uses a lamp post — for support, not illumination.

    Monday Linkorama

    Monday, October 18th, 2010

    Non-Political Links:

  • This is how I feel about 3-D movies. They don’t add much to experience other than price.
  • Facebook win.
  • An alternative therapy flow chart.
  • Political Links:

  • More light rail follies, this time from Detroit and Atlanta. I can tell you from having lived in Atlanta, the are flushing $100 million down the toiler.
  • Yet more evidence that if Ronald Reagan were around today, the GOP would denounce him as a dangerous RINO.
  • You’re full of it watch: Retroactive Edition. I was reading this amazing story about false confessions. I then googled the Central Park Jogger case and came across this repulsive sneering article by Ann Coulter saying the accused were definitely guilty. I wonder if she ever admitted to be wrong about that?
  • An interesting critique of modern education. I somewhat agree, but I really think the solution is to allow more private and local control to spur innovation. Some kids do well in the assembly line; some don’t. Let the parents choose rather than force a one-size-fits-all solution on the entire nation. Needless to say, this is the opposite of what our leaders are doing.
  • No, Virginia, the clusterfuck at the banks is not going to let you welch on your mortgage. This is one of those times when practical considerations may have to trump free market ideology.
  • You know, Gawker has a point.
  • An amazing and repulsive land grab in Hawaii.
  • Awesome

    Monday, October 18th, 2010

    A first person view of delivering the game ball to a football game.

    Why the Excitement Index Rocks

    Thursday, October 14th, 2010

    I blogged last week about the excitement index for MLB post-seasons. Here are the scores for the first round:

    New York/Minnesota: 5.43
    Philadelphia/Cincinnati: 4.28
    Texas/Tampa: 7.33
    San Francisco/Atlanta: 9.9

    I post this because it demonstrates why I like the system. The Texas/Tampa series went five games, so you would think it was the best. But, in fact, the games weren’t that close. Texas won the first two games easily. Game three was close before Tampa pulled away and neither of the last two games were very close. It was a good series, no question, but not a great one by any means.

    The Braves series, as the days shaved off my life can attest, was much more tense. All four were decided by one run, one in the 9th inning, another in extra innings. That makes a very good series, even if it only went four games.

    Wave of the Future

    Thursday, October 14th, 2010

    Google: first making driverless cars. Now putting together the biggest windfarm in the world. Pretty cool stuff. Wonder if they’re interested in funding some more astronomy?

    Thursday Linkorama

    Thursday, October 14th, 2010

    Non-political links:

  • NSFW. But funny as hell.
  • Political Links:

  • An interesting article about some of the Christians standing up to Fred Phelps.
  • This is one of the chief reasons I’m nervous about the GOP taking power and am not prepared for them to win the White House in 2012. When a party is uniformly disputing fairly solid science, that’s disturbing. And anti-conservative. They are essentially saying they’re willing to bit our entire future on the idea that global warming is a myth.
  • You’re Full of It Watch: what is it with Paul Krugman? So much of what he writes is simply factually wrong. Does he think that winning a Nobel precludes him from checking his fantasies with data?
  • Newspapers wuss out on a funny cartoon.
  • The Paper of No Record

    Monday, October 11th, 2010

    Liberals often scoff at the conservative idea that the mainstream media is “leftist” or partisan. I think that’s a blinkered view — coming from thinking that leftist views are inherently reasonable and rational. The media doesn’t seem biased because “everyone” agrees on the sensible point of view.

    A perfect example of how bias is missed? The NYT today ran a story on the recent spate of conservatives excoriating Woodrow Wilson as a terrible President. The NYT’s “debate” consists of five scholars defending Wilson and mocking his detractors in condescending tones. And they have one guy who sort of explains the connection, but doesn’t add anything.

    That’s “balance” to the New York Times: six people not really addressing the criticisms made of Wilson. That’s why, if you want real balance, you have to go elsewhere. Somewhere like Radley Balko:

    He dishonestly led us into a pointless, costly, destructive war, and assumed control over huge sectors of the economy to wage it. He seized railroads, food and energy production, and implemented price controls.

    He suppressed dissent and imprisoned war critics. Said Wilson, “Conformity will be the only virtue. And every man who refuses to conform will have to pay the penalty.” He signed the Espionage and Sedition Acts, the latter of which made it a criminal offense to “oppose the cause of the United States.” He retaliated against critical newspapers, and directed the U.S. Postal Service to stop delivering mail determined to be critical of the war effort.

    Wilson not only continued existing racial segregation of federal government workers, he extended it.

    He instituted the first military draft since the Civil War.

    He signed the first federal drug prohibition.

    He reinstituted the federal income tax.

    A few more, from Gene Healy’s book, The Cult of the Presidency:

    Wilson believed in an activist, imperialist presidency. In his 1909 book Constitutional Government, he made the case against checks and balances and the separation of powers. The government, Wilson argued, is a living organism, and “no living thing can have its organs offset against each other as checks, and live.”

    He ordered unconstitutional, unilateral military interventions into Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and Mexico. (He also oversaw military interventions in Panama and Cuba, and instituted American-favored dictators throughout Latin America.)

    Wilson believed God ordained him to be president, and acted accordingly, boasting to one friend in 1913 that “I have been smashing precedents almost daily every since I got here.” Every president since Jefferson had given the State of the Union in writing. Wilson reinstituted what Jefferson derided as the “speech from the Throne,” and ordered Congress assembled to hear him speak, giving rise to the embarrassing spectacle the SOTU has become today.

    He oversaw a massive domestic spying program, and encouraged American citizens to report one another for subversion.

    My biggest problem with what remains of “conservatism” is their tendency to ignore all the dreadful stuff George Bush did because of the stuff they liked: cutting taxes, fighting terrorism and saying what they wanted to hear. The same is true of Wilson: people ignore the terrible stuff he did because of the stuff they liked: the income tax, some worker protections, farm subsidies, the Federal Reserve. (This is assuming you think the income tax and farm subsidies are wonderful things, which I don’t.)

    Time to take off the blinders, guys. Presidents have to be judged by their entire record. And Wilson’s record, as a whole, is awful.