Archive for February, 2011

Koch Derangement Syndrome

Sunday, February 27th, 2011

Now that George W. Bush is no longer in office, the Left needs a villain. As noted by many, mass movements can succeed without a God, but never without a devil. The Republicans have their devil in Obama but the Left is desperately scrounging around for theirs. For a while, Sarah Palin was filling that role but she’s gotten so silly even the Left is having trouble getting worked up over her. Clarence Thomas and Herman Cain come in for racist invective, but they’re not mainstream enough. Romney, Daniels, Christie, Nikki Haley, Jindal, Pawlenty — these guys are too bland and/or too competent. No, they need someone who feeds the conspiracy-addled brains and open-ended paranoia that comprise the base of any political movement.

They need the Koch brothers.

I’ve addressed the Left’s obsession with Koch before. Suffice it to say that this the screaming about them is the rankest sort of hypocrisy. The Koch Brothers do not conceal what they do — the infamous webs of “corruption” that are drawn up like Jim Garrison on meth are the result of looking at public disclosures and statements from Koch industries. And, of course, the people who vilify the Kochs have no problem with George Soros or any of the other millionaires and billionaires who frequently fund Left Wing causes, including the ones currently hyperventilating about the Kochs.

The Koch Brothers have come in for some more bashing because of the juvenile prank pulled on Wisconsin Governor Walker last week (which, as I’ve pointed out, was meaningless). Supposedly, the fight between Republicans and unions in Wisconsin is a result of the evil influence of Koch.

Except … Walker and the Kochs have never met. Except … that the money they donate to politics is dwarfed by what unions contribute. Except … that even the supposed dirty deal to sell power plants to the Kochs is not happening.

And the ultimate joke is that Kochs support numerous causes that the Left hold near and dear (supposedly). The Kochs are anti-war, anti-torture, anti-war-on-drugs and anti-Patriot Act. They’ve donated tens of millions to science and the arts and the largest recipient of their political largesse, by far, is that notorious Right Wing Fascist organization — the ACLU. They given the eeeevil ACLU $20 million — more than they’ve contributed to all political candidates combined — specifically to fight the Patriot Act.

Now it is true that the Kochs have almost exclusively supported Republicans for office, mostly to fight climate change legislation that would affect heir energy interests. To the Left, their failure to support Left Wing candidates to support their more liberal agenda on social issues and civil liberties is a glaring problem. If they really want to fight the Patriot Act and stop the war, why don’t fund Democrats?

Well, probably because the Democrats don’t oppose the War, haven’t done anything about the Patriot Act, keep ramping up the war on crime and have no interest in pulling back the war on drugs. As I’ve said about a million times, the idea that the Democrats are some bastion of sanity on crime and civil liberties is complete bullshit. Their record on civil liberties — all civil liberties — is terrible. And they have not just embraced the excesses of the War on Terror, they’ve expanded them. Glenn Greenwald has a new piece up about how the Obama Administration is tracking down and jailing every whistle blower they can get their hands on. They want to look “forward not backward” when it comes to things the Bush people did. But they’re digging up whistle blowers from five years ago to throw in prison.

If I want to support free markets, I might fund Republicans (although their support for farm subsidies, tariffs, ethanol, etc. belies their supposed free-market credentials). But if I want to support civil liberties, I’m not giving a penny to either party. I’ll give them to people with an unwavering interest in liberty and an army of lawyers to fight in the courts.

A number of people are speculating that this whole Koch business is, in fact, a dress rehearsal for 2012. The campaign against them, like the protests in Wisconsin, had benefited from White House support. And the Democrats simply luuuv to play the “we’re standing up against evil rich people” card even as they sell the country completely down the river to their particular groups of rich people.

We’ll see. This sort of thing plays well among people who obsess over politics. But among the general public — the vast majority of whom never watch Fox News and wouldn’t know a continuing resolution if they fell over one — this is just more Washington insider bullshit. It might rally the “base”, but it won’t help much with the ballot box.

HST Deadline Linkorama

Thursday, February 24th, 2011

Non-political links:

  • Anonymous vs. Westboro. How to know who to root for?
  • Let’s see if those assholes who complain about the NFL cracking down on concussion-inducing hits will ignore this horrible story.
  • I like a lot of Cracked’s suggestions for new Oscars. Of course, I think the ceremony is too long already — especially the nauseating “tributes” to each acting Oscar nominee.
  • Political Links:

  • A depressing threesome of notes from Cato. First, that the Republicans still can’t take on farm subsidies. Second, that they still can’t take on bribes to Brazil. And third, that our states are worse off than we think.
  • Here’s a question: if the Maryland legislature legalizes same sex marriage, how will the conservatives argue that this is an illegitimate law imposed by activist judges?
  • Weekend Linkorama

    Saturday, February 19th, 2011

    Non-political links:

  • Ken Jennings on his defeat at the hands of Watson.
  • I wish I’d known these things when I was single. It’s amazing how much of our habits, preference and lives are defined by evolution and our animal nature.
  • With research budgets hurting, UCSF decides to spend $37 million on … bullshit.
  • Political links:

  • When your a libertarian, everyone hates you. It’s the price paid for being right all the time.
  • WTF? Sarah Palin, being one of the few Republicans to outright dismiss the “Obama is a muslim Kenyan” bullshit, has to get back with the crazy by bashing Michele Obama over … breastfeeding. Why? Opining on social issues is something I’m fine with first ladies doing.
  • The racial smears against black conservatives continue.
  • To be fair, Mrs. Clinton is not the only one to engage in this sort of rank hypocrisy. Bush did it too with his “free speech zones”.
  • Sunday Linkorama

    Sunday, February 13th, 2011

    Non-political links:

  • Another dispatch from Lenore Skenazy on the over-protection of kids.
  • A UVA study says drunk driving fatalities among college kids are off by a factor of 10. Guess which figure will be cited by the media?
  • An interesting look at how X-rated became synonymous with porn. Our inability to find a workable “adult” movie rating is shameful. Eyes Wide Shut, to cite one example, should not have been edited to get an R. It should have been released as NC-17.
  • Cracked has your movie prequels and your bad logos. The latter reminds me of one of the fundamental indicators of a pending recession: when businesses are changing names and logos, a recession is nigh. Because, apparently, they don’t have anything else to spend their money on. This was primary harbinger of the 2001 recession.
  • I love inventions.
  • Here is a heart-breaking story about soldiers dealing with the trauma of Iraq.
  • Political links:

  • As far as our government is concerned, the only good drug user is a dead drug user.
  • Fox News isn’t the only biased news source.
  • This post argues that forcing people to buy car insurance the way we do is like refusing to let people by pizza by the slice. Of course, with healthcare, we just passed a bill forcing people to buy pizza by the hogshead.
  • Residual casualties of the 80′s/90′s sex abuse hysteria. I defy anyone to read it and not get enraged. Somehow I doubt that Kasich will find the courage to end his absurdity. I can think of very few governors — John Slaton comes to mind — who have that kind of courage.
  • Andrew Breitbart is getting sued over his sliming of Shirley Sherrod. Good for her.
  • Weekend Linkorama

    Saturday, February 12th, 2011

    Non-Poliical links:

  • This story, which make ominous noises about the dangers of eye surgery and cites a former FDA official, it noticeably lacking in fact. Frankly, Waxler sounds like a crank, claiming half of LASIK users suffer side effects while presenting no evidence to support this assertion. Maybe he’s right; but skepticism is warranted.
  • This talk on biomimcry, is fascinating, although I suspect that an ashes-to-ashes calculation will show it to be less amazing than advertised. But it does sustain my faith in human ingenuity and our ability to deal with the problems we are faced with. Nature is incredibly clever. And we are part of nature.
  • Political Links:

  • Holy shit: Texas is showing extreme common sense on sexting.
  • The thing is that a small minority of Republicans are virulent anti-gay bigots. But that minority has the floor. One of these days, some prominent Republican is going to stand up to these assholes. And the Religious Right will collapse overnight.
  • Glenn Greenwald makes a great point here. If we are to stop our government — whether it’s restoring civil liberties or balancing the budget or whatever — it’s going to take left-right alliances to do it. Both our political parties are useless. We need to start rallying around issues, not parties.
  • Fiscal Responsibility Check

    Saturday, February 12th, 2011

    Here’s a litmus test for whether someone is serious about balancing the budget. If they are waging war on small budget items that are not popular, they’re not serious. If everything is on the table, they are.

    For example, here is Alan Simpson talking about cutting entitlements and defense spending. Alan Simpson is serious about the debt, as attested by the ambitious Simpson-Bowles plan. Here is Reason Magazine, who put everything on the table. They’re serious. Paul Ryan is holding true to his roadmap. He’s serious.

    And Obama? Well Obama punted debt in his ridiculous State of the Union address. His OMB is publishing ridiculous op-eds, crowing about cutting less than a billion in spending. And he and his minions are running around promising $53 billion in high-speed rail spending that will, hopefully, never happen with a Republican Congress (although despair springs eternal). Cato brilliantly compared Joe Biden to Lyle Langley of Marge vs. the Monorail when it comes to flogging this ridiculous boondoggle.

    And the Republicans? Meh. We’ll see if this $74 billion cut in spending for 2011 materializes. What really concerns me is that are currently burning their political capital to attack pet peeves that don’t cost that much. They got burned recently for trying to cut abortion funding by redefining rape. Now they are trying to cut family planning funds — again under the abortion aegis. The latter attempt may be the stupidest excuse for a budget cut in history. The vast majority of conservatives think that keeping poor people from unwanted pregnancies is a good thing. And the savings would be very small ($327 million). Those cuts aren’t being proposed because they’ll save us money — they’re being proposed to placate the anti-abortion part of the party.

    The GOP is also trying to placate the anti-AGWers by cutting off funds for climate research. Because the best way to deal with or disprove global warming hysteria, apparently, is to stop doing research on it.

    They are also proposing cutting NPR and PBS off. While I support that — if nothing else it would infuriate the smug liberals posting in my facebook feed about Republicans “hating facts” — the savings are small and the backlash would be strong.

    And that brings met to the critical point. Some or all of the above cuts could be justified. The problem is that the Republicans have a limited amount of political capital to spend. They have to target their budget cuts were they will make the most difference. Cutting the above could produce a knock-down drag-out budget battle that would save … a few billion. At most. I would much rather them burn that capital to attack, say, farm and ethanol subsidies, which are ten times as big as all the Republican pet peeves put together.

    The Republicans need to make up their mind. Do they want to cause a furor by cutting their pet hatreds — climate research, abortion, birth control and PBS — and save a few billion? Or do they want to cause a furor by tackling the really big problems — entitlements, defense and corporate welfare — and save trillions? My fear is that they still think the former option is the best one. Granted, the above are mostly small parts of a larger budget effort. The attention to them is the classic “stop $74 billion in budget cuts by whining about 1% of it” tactic. But if the GOP is already foundering in the political shoals, we’re in trouble.

    Yet Another Porn Post

    Saturday, February 12th, 2011

    Ah, yes, the latest moral panic: internet porn addiction. The latest emission is this piece of shit about how porn is destroying men’s ability to have normal sex.

    Notice how solipsistic the reporting is. The writer does not talk to anyone outside his own age group and frankly anyone far outside his own social group. His “research” consists of quotes from Google University. No studies are cited, just anecdotes. No historical or sociological perspective is applied. Frankly, this would barely pass muster in a college sociology course.

    And that approach is the reason the story is just a steaming turd. He says nothing about whether fantasy has always played a role in men’s sexual response (hint: it has). Nothing about how, for many men, the “other woman” used to be another woman instead of porn. He never finds out if previous generations of men would lose interest in their girlfriends or wives (hint: they did). Never asks if the explosion of porn is related to the dramatic decline in rape and sexual assault. He never looks at whether porn has liberated women from the ridiculous notion that they should only be interested in vanilla sex — and that only sparingly. No. It’s yet another in the long and shameful line of “Eeek! Technology!” scare stories illustrated with a few awkward bedroom anecdotes. Because we all know that no one had awkward bedroom anecdotes before, say, 1997. We know that previous generations never had unrealistic expectations about their partners.

    Hell, one thing I could take from the story is that he thinks porn’s role in breaking down the “Madonna-Whore Complex” is a bad thing.

    PS: Dear Writer: The phrase “to invesigate a theory” actually means objective research. On a sample greater than one. It doesn’t mean giving up porn and proclaiming a revelation. That’s called religion.

    Update: Robert Heinlein used to say that every generation thinks they invented sex. I would add that every generation thinks it’s suddenly gone wrong.

    Update: And another thing. If the internet is creating such unrealistic expectation about women and sex, why is amateur pornography, which frequently breaks from the professional model, so popular? Why are the some of the most popular porn stars the ones who haven’t had plastic surgery?

    This subject needs thought and debate, not hysterics and self-absorption.

    Thursday Long-Form Linkorama

    Thursday, February 10th, 2011

    Honestly, I sometimes think a least a third of the people in his country need to be kept away from policy, blogs and heavy equipment.

    Non-political links:

  • Megan McArdle has a great post up about the AOL-HuffPo thing. What struck me was when I clicked through to see AOL’s internal business plans and documents. It was so opaque and filled with such jargon, I felt an awful confusion that harked back to my days in quantum mechanics class. It’s no wonder American business in general and AOL in specific are struggling. Further reading here about just how dumb corporate culture can be.
  • Dear Failblog/Funny or Die: while I found Aguilera’s mess-up of the national anthem amusing, you posted the wrong clip, including the wrong subtitles. Epic fail, assholes.
  • A nice graphical fisking of the latest hysteria. This one targets Fox News, but really it could be anyone. No one does any reporting anymore before they hit the panic button. If it bleeds, or could bleed, or may have bled, or was near something that bled — it leads.
  • Political links:

  • Another reason to like the UK’s new government.
  • The latest craze in Washington: try to figure just WTF Sarah Palin is on about.
  • I find this breathless post about how the Muslim Brotherhood wants to take over America hilarious. These guys can’t even take over Egypt and I’m supposed to be worried about them taking over America? I find that as realistic as revolutionary Marxists on college campi planning to trash the system, man.
  • And yet more breathless panting about third-hand smoke. I love how they say, “we’ve found nicotine in the urine of children” and make no mention of what level they’ve found it at. Trace amounts of chemicals are no necessarily dangerous.
  • Friday Night Linkorama

    Friday, February 4th, 2011

    Non-political links:

  • Really, don’t click this link and go through the photo essay. Really, don’t. It’s one of the most heart-breaking things you’ll ever read. So don’t.
  • Caught crimson-fisted!
  • It turns out that Dan Snyder is really a dick. You can’t own a sports team and not expect to be vilified — especially when you run it the way Snyder does.
  • Political Links:

  • Harry Reid is a fucking coward. If Social Security is not on the table, we might as well go ahead and have our debt crisis right now.
  • This is why I sometimes want to throw up my hands and retreat into the mountains with rations and ammo. First, Newt defends ethanol. now Obama mandates a 15% blend of the environment-tarring, car-destroying, pump-rotting, money-burning, poor-people starving biofuel. Everyone knows that corn ethanol is a fucking disaster — everyone that is, except the politicians.
  • Radley Balko captures the hypocrisy of the Left when it comes to rich shitpokes.Here is what I had to say on that.
  • I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: if Reagan were still around, he’d be denounced as a RINO.
  • Vaccines and Insurance

    Friday, February 4th, 2011

    Phil Plait trumpets the idea of raising insurance premiums for those who do not vaccinate their kids. While it’s a good idea — and justifiable — it simply will not work and a principle reason it won’t work is Obamacare.

    For one, most people get their insurance through their employer, a link Obamacare strengthens rather than severs. This has the advantage of diffusing risk and keeping insurance rates constant even for those with serious medical issues. But it means you can’t tweak the rates like this.

    For another, I’m sure someone will argue that being unvaccinated is a pre-existing condition. So you’d not only have to allow insurance rates to be varied like this, but to have Congress micro-manage the insurance industry by declaring that being unvaccinated is not a pre-existing condition.

    For a third, Obamacare, by mandating insurance coverage for children, essentially removed child-only policies from the market. In most states, it’s now impossible to buy health insurance that only covers your children. It’s simply not economically feasible when people can wait until their children are sick to buy insurance.

    That leaves federal plans like Medicaid and S-CHIP as the only option. And if you think a political class that can’t even dispute the vaccine-autism link for fear of offending someone will pass this into law … well, I’ve got some Central Pennsylvania beachfront property you’d just love.

    Such are the fruits of getting the government ever more involved in our lives.

    The Valley of Creative Destruction

    Thursday, February 3rd, 2011

    I was tooling around on the White House website and came across this video from Austin Goolsbee:

    To summarize for those of who don’t want to watch (although Golsbee is a decent speaker), he talks about how many start-ups end up failing (falling into the “Valley of Death”) and how the government can make them more successful. The four steps he outlines to do this are capital, regulatory reform, mentoring and tax relief.

    While the second and fourth of those are useful, I think the entire idea is bullshit. There’s a concept behind the “valley of death” that Goolsbee knows well – creative destruction. In order for one startup business to succeed, many have to fail. We have to find out what doesn’t work before we can find out what does. And having the government hold people’s hands and make businesses “too small to fail” interferes with that process.

    We need the Valley of Death. Government should not be tipping people into it with regulations that favor big business (CPSIA comes to mind) or ridiculous taxes. But business that succeed overcome the valley by crawling over the broken bodies of those that came before. Failure to fail is not an option.