Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Clinton & McCain's Out of Touch Gas Pandering

As a follow-up to what I wrote yesterday about Clinton & McCain's lame gas tax "holiday," it looks like Obama's got the right things to say:
"It would last for three months and it would save you on average half a tank of gas, $25 to $30. That's what Senator Clinton and Senator McCain are proposing to deal with the gas crisis."

"This isn't an idea designed to get you through the summer, it's an idea designed to get them through an election."

And that's exactly right. This isn't a big money savings for consumers; it's a political ploy. When you're paying up to $4 a gallon for gas, eighteen cents a gallon just isn't the big savings Clinton or McCain are pretending it is. But they're so out of touch that they imagine the rubes will be appeased by this mere pittance. But as the article notes, economists including Clinton supporter Paul Krugman say that this "holiday" really doesn't make sense and the savings will be absorbed by the refineries.

So what does Hillary do? Attack Obama for being "out of touch" with regular Americans, and she'll draw attention to her proposal by...wait for it...pumping gas at a gas station. Wow, she really does know how to appeal to the average consumer. We're all about cheap political stunts like having presidential candidates pumping gas. That'll totally win my heart because I pump gas for myself! So it's like she's acting just like ME! Wow, this is much better than a real solution that will save me money, because I'm an idiot who is impressed by cheap theatrics.

She even has a new ad out attacking Obama for opposing her lamebrained ploy, which somehow fails to mention exactly how much savings this will actually be. It's as if she knows eighteen cents a gallon isn't the big savings she's pretending it is, but is hoping the rubes are too dumb to notice. Had the ad said "Hillary's got a short-term plan that might save you up to ten dollars a month on gasoline," people would laugh at her. So she doesn't mention the actual savings at all and tries to paint Obama as a jerk for not agreeing with her stupid proposal that even her supporters say won't work.

And btw, yes, I am too much of an idiot to realize that it was Hillary's "toughguy" foreign policy that helped raise oil prices to begin with. It's smart to destabilize a region which is only important due to its most precious resource. Let's have a war on bees too, and then reduce the rising cost of honey by making it nontaxable. Just brilliant.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Gas Tax Pandering

One of the things I never liked about Hillary's campaign was that it was just so deeply rooted in old politics at a very fundimental level. It was still about big money donors and powerplayers, top-down fantasyland polling, and just a basic level of contempt for the rubes. And it was that last thing that got me most of all: The Clintons think we're all morons and that we'd just support them because we always support them. Unfortunately for her, that only works if she's the only game in town; but given a choice, we'd rather not be treated like idiots.

And I'm reminded of this again reading about Hillary's Gas Tax Holiday proposal, which is like McCain's, except that it has an element to sticking it to the gasman that just looks like more election year pandering from someone who sees populism as a gimmick rather than a movement. And who knows, maybe all the folks at Carpetbagger are right and that this is going to help her. But I don't think so.

First off, people really aren't as stupid as everyone says they are. As I've argued before, they might not be paying attention to politics as much as we do, but they're not dumb. They blame Americans for Bush getting the Whitehouse and keeping it, but both those elections were stolen. And the fact that Bush has the highest disapproval ratings in modern history should be quite indicitive of American intelligence. And I'm quite convinced that even the diehards who still say they support Bush don't really. They support him for the same reason we supported Bill Clinton when he kept lying to us and acting like a conservative: Because we had to.

And so I not only think people won't fall for this ruse, but they'll be mildly offended at it. Sure, the McCain and Clinton supporters will call it genius, but I think undecideds will know better. They see how fucking high gas prices are and will realize that this eighteen cents a gallon isn't the thing killing us. It's the fact that gas prices have more than doubled in a very short time. And so this eighteen cents a gallon isn't even an effective band-aid. I don't know about you, but when I fill up my fourteen gallon tank, I'm thinking more about the $40-plus I'm spending on gas; not the $2.52 in gas tax I pay.

And I think most other folks will act the same way. This just looks like out of touch pandering on the part of Clinton and McCain, like they're going to bribe us with this mere pittance to make us happy and vote for them. If they could somehow get prices down into the $2 a gallon range, then I could see people being happy. And even then, that wouldn't solve any longterm problem at all and would still be pandering. It just wouldn't be insulting pandering.

But again, this is yet more of the old-school pandering we could expect from Clinton or McCain. Who needs real solutions when you can mock them with a relatively meaningless band-aid?

Deep Thought of the Moment

Were it up to conservatives, we'd still be fighting in Vietnam.

Monday, April 28, 2008

McCain's 100 Year Blunder

If all goes according to plan, John "Living in Yesterday" McCain will continue to rely upon the media to carry his fraud water for him, despite their ever-growing irrelevancy. And so he'll keep saying whatever the hell he wants to say and keep getting called on it by the people who really count: American voters. And now that the netroots is reaching a state of maturity in its ability to communicate truth, McCain is screwed.

This ad from the DNC is so great that I'll post it again here:

And wow, what a good ad. This is how it's done. Forget about any of that hypocritical talk from the media elite complaining about Obama's "bitter" remark; this is the kind of thing that will sink McCain. The media might be filled with superficial dopes who can only care about trivia; but it's obvious their influence on the average voter is quite minimal.

When Even Context Hurts

And of course, the ad is so powerful because it's true. And even the wingnut protestations can't save McCain from it. Because it has the appearance of being really bad, using McCain's own words to sink him. And then when they insist on context, the context sinks McCain too.

And here's the deal, I'm sure that McCain doesn't actually like this war. Same with the wingnuts supporting him. If this war could just vanish from history without repercussion, they'd be fine with that. They support it because they have to; not because they want to. While this was once a vote-winner for conservatives, this has definitely turned into a turd they're wearing around their necks. They might pretend they're wearing the turd with pride, but that's all part of the game.

So McCain has to say these things. And I'm sure there was no real thought put into his "100 years" line. It was just toughguy talk made necessary because of the confrontational nature of the guy asking him the question (though it was only confrontational because the guy asked a question McCain wouldn't like). He wasn't giving a thoughtful response he'd want to defend; he was just giving a knee-jerk response to one-up the guy asking a question.

Because the problem for McCain is: What DID he mean exactly? And for as much as his buddies in the media insist that he didn't mean full-on war for 100 years, what did he mean? Because what if 100 years passes and things are just as bad as they are now? What then? If things don't improve, do we pull out in 10 years? 50 years? When? What exactly is his stance on this? And there isn't one. Again, this wasn't a thought-out position by him. He was just trying to sound tough. But now, he either needs to give us some sort of timeline by which he thinks we'd need to leave if things don't improve, or he has to admit that he'd be willing to keep us there forever.

And that's why this is doom for McCain: The war is a giant turd that's stinking the place up. And either he can accept the literal interpretation of his line, which is that he wants us there for 100 years no matter what happens. Or he can waste all his time trying to explain the context, which still requires him to explain what he'll do if the war doesn't improve. And either way it looks bad for him. But more likely, he'll imagine that he can just keep throwing BBQ's for the media and they'll keep ignoring all his blunders like this, and he won't address it at all. But the rest of us won't forget it and it'll just keep hurting McCain.

And so it's a lose-lose for McCain. He has a bad habit of shooting from the hip and it's totally going to sink him. As things are, he's been aided by the distraction Obama has had with Hillary, but once that's gone, McCain's toast. And again, this isn't some side issue or nuanced position taken out of context. McCain says a lot of dumb things and they're not going away. At least Bush had the "Idiot Cowboy" image to ride on, which somehow made his imbecilic remarks work to his advantage; but McCain's sales pitch is based upon intelligence and experience. And the more people see that his reputation for his is undeserved, the worse he will do.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Conservative Porn

ABC's John Stossel is without a doubt a frontrunner for winning the prestigious Dumbest Fucking Person in the Media award, and in a group that includes morons like Chris Matthews, Richard Cohen, and John Gibson, that's really saying alot. I mentioned him in a recent post on the charitableness of liberals and conservatives, but his column on the subject was so hackilicious that I decided to devote an entire post to it.

One of his claims thatwas so outrageous that I'll repeat it again here was his suggestion that a meatpacker in Sioux Falls, SD making $35,000 a year is part of the "working poor," and "have the same income" as people on welfare, even though the Heritage Foundation said in 2004 that the typical single mother on welfare receives a total of $14,000 in benefits, which includes Food Stamps, Medicaid, and other non-cash benefits. And this is from a group that is critical of the lofty sum these welfare queens receive.

But I guess this makes sense, seeing as how his fellow ABC newsie Charlie Gibson seems to believe that a family making $200k counts as "middle-class." I suspect the issue isn't that they're out of touch, but rather that these guys have so much foresight that they actually perceive life in the future. They just need to adjust their amounts to compensate for those of us still living in 2008 and they'd be fine.

Testing Charitableness

But one of the funniest bits was Stossel's "experiment" to prove that red state people were more charitable than blue state people. Sure, one way to do that would be to actually find out how much people were donating of their disposable income and reporting that, but that'd involve actual work, and what'd be the fun in that? Besides, that's already been done before and it completely disproves Stossel's point, and he can't have that at all, can he?

And even then, he actually knew the answer to that question, though he used the wrong numbers and went with the percentage of total income, rather than of disposable income; which favor red states, because they're cheaper to live in due to their high crappiness factor (no offense intended, red states). I mean, what's the point of only using the percentage of income donated, if you're still not using comparable numbers?

And what does the Center on Wealth and Philanthropy(PDF) have to say about South Dakota and California's charitableness? According to page 32, South Dakotans gave on average $969 total contributions, which was 2.21% of their disposable income. Californians gave $1,736, which was 5.35% of their disposable income. So not only did California give far more in absolute dollars, but they also gave a much higher percentage of their disposable income. That's why Stossel couldn't include either of those numbers, but only mentioned percentage of total income and hoped that you wouldn't know the difference. I'm sure few of his readers did.

The Two-Bucket Experiment

So what was his clever experiment?
To test them, ABC's "20/20" went to Sioux Falls, S.D., and San Francisco. We asked the Salvation Army to set up buckets at their busiest locations in both cities. Which bucket would get more money?

Wow, that's really scientific, isn't it. Two buckets in two cities for two days, and this is going to prove more than the actual numbers that we already have. And there are lots of variables here that are entirely unaccounted for. Like what type of area the buckets were placed in, what type of person manned the bucket, whether the smalltown Sioux Fallians were personal friends with the collector, etc. All we know is that these were the "busiest intersections" according to the Salvation Army and that's it.

He doesn't even give us any official results of this "experiment" Instead, we get the vague "three times as many people" and "twice as much money" as the only indicators of how the buckets did. We don't even know if there was someone officially counting the number of folks who walked by the bucket, or if that was a guesstimate Stossel pulled from the database he sits on.

On a scale of one to ten on the Biobrain Science Index, this has definitely got to rank a big zero. Yet the moron Stossel clearly imagines himself to have proven some grand point that he clearly had set out to prove from the beginning.

It's the Religion, Stupid

And one other big factor in all this: The Salvation Army is a Christian organization with a specifically Christian agenda. They even have church services. And that's fine, if that's what they want to be, but it's understandable if an atheist might not want to give to them. I never do. That's not to suggest that I don't think they do good things, as I'm sure they do. But I don't support Christian organizations. I don't have anything against them, mind you, but I won't support them any more than I expect a Christian to support a specifically atheist organization. (As an aside, I don't support any atheist organizations and could only imagine joining one as a joke.)

For christ's sake, the Salvation Army's first doctrine is: "We believe that the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments were given by inspiration of God, and that they only constitute the Divine rule of Christian faith and practice."

And their last doctrine is: "We believe in the immortality of the soul; in the resurrection of the body; in the general judgment at the end of the world; in the eternal happiness of the righteous; and in the endless punishment of the wicked."

So is it really a big surprise that liberal San Francisco might not have given them much money? This was ridiculous. Let's try setting up "Pot for Jesus" buckets in San Francisco and Sioux Falls and see which town is more charitable. Hell, I betcha that'd have done better in SF than the Salvation Army's did, especially if they had a guy playing some Grateful Dead tunes next to it. I'm sure it would here in Austin too.

Half As Much Money

And it's obvious his whole piece was written with the intent to denounce selfish liberals, with his "people in Sioux Falls make, on average, half as much money as people in San Francisco" which was supposed to indicate that the San Franians had more money to give, but refused to. But I'm fairly sure that he's wrong about that. (Please note that he uses the vague "average," rather than "mean" or "median" average, which is generally required to know what number somebody's talking about.)

First off, I don't know what numbers he looked at when he gave that "half as much" number, but the median income for a household in Sioux Falls in 1999 was $41,221, while it was $57,833 for San Francisco in 2005 (not exactly comparable years, but it's the best I could easily find). And while that shows that San Franians made more money, it's hardly the "double" that Stossel suggested. Moreover, it's far more expensive to live in San Francisco. According to this Cost of Living Calculator, someone making the median income in Sioux Falls would need to make $83,914 in San Fran to have the same standard of living.

In other words, the average person in Sioux Falls has WAAAY more disposable income than someone in San Francisco. But that was completely excluded from Stossel's report, where we're erroneously told that people in Sioux Falls make half as much as those selfish bastards in San Francisco, who had "three times" as many folks pass the bucket that only collected half as much money.

As Stossel says at the end of his piece: Another myth bites the dust. Indeed it did. And speaking of myths, I definitely think that Stossel's continued employment with ABC is clear evidence in support of the liberal bias myth. Why else would anyone allow such a moron on the air other than to embarrass conservatives?

The Weepy Americans

Wow, I guess I'm a virulent anti-American after all, assuming Peggy Noonan's entirely sane criteria is correct. Not only have I never cried thinking about the Wright Brothers or Henry Ford, but it's never even occurred to me before that I should have. Shit, and to think I always thought it was just enough to be proud of my country. Foolish me.

Well now that I know, will the waterworks start-up? Let's see. Henry Ford, Henry Ford, Henry Ford. Arrrrrrr. Arrrrrr. Nope, not even a drop. Well shit, I guess I really do hate America, based entirely on my inability to cry while thinking about a Nazi-sympathizer who helped invent the modern assemblyline. I guess now it's just a matter of determining whether I want to join the Islamolesbofascists or if I should go old school and support their Soviet Overlords who are still secretly plotting world domination. I wonder if I'm supposed to cry when thinking about those groups, or if Peggy's test only works for weepy Americans.

Oh, and btw, people from other countries have never invented anything. America is the only country that has allowed people to go off on their own and change things. Peggy Noonan is a brilliant person with a true understanding of history.

Compassionate Hackery

UPDATE: Here's a New & Improved version of this post. Now, with extra snark!

Conservatives are such funny people. Never intentionally, of course, but they're all so simple-minded and predictable that you just have to laugh whenever they yet again refuse to acknowledge their true nature, despite the fact that it's obvious to the rest of us what's going on.

I was reminded of this due to a comment I received on my post on NRO Wanker Larry Kudrow. The post was about how wanker Kudrow exposed his ignorance of economic issues in his attack of Obama's debate performance, so it was only natural that my resident conservative stalker yet again ignored the point of my post to criticize a side note I made at the beginning, when I said that I understood how conservatives can be greedy and selfish. I mean, god forbid I actually be asked to defend my point when there are more trivial attacks to be made, right?

Apparently, I was "wrong" for saying that conservatives can be greedy and selfish. And what was the conclusive proof used to disprove my point: A book that a conservative wrote which argues that conservatives are more compassionate than liberals because liberals rely too much on the government to help people instead of giving money to charity. And yikes, was I chastised when faced with that sort of hard evidence. I mean, the book blurb the guy quoted even said that in the book the author "demonstrates conclusively that conservatives really are compassionate-far more compassionate than their liberal foes."

That sounds like cold hard facts to me. So I guess I lost that debate. Arthur C. Brooks wrote a book called Who Really Cares: The Surprising Truth About Compassionate Conservatism, and that's apparently the end of the argument. Case closed.

Begging the Question

Except that it's not. And that's what's so funny about this conservative nutjob who attempted to refute my statement with that, because he doesn't know the difference between an assertion and the facts required to back that assertion. As long as they hear the right conclusion, conservatives know the underlying basis must be correct, because it confirmed exactly what they wanted to hear. And so rather than actually provide any of these underlying facts to back-up his initial assertion that I was wrong, he merely quotes a book blurb which also asserts that this is true. Color me unconvinced.

But it's not just this bozo. After I commented to the guy, I decided to do some research on the book, just to see what kind of thing it really was. And what did I find? My initial search in Yahoo got me page after page of conservative triumphalism. This guy writes a book which "proved" what he set out to prove and conservatives everywhere KNEW it was correct. Over and over, conservatives were rubbing the new book in the faces of the liberal strawmen they created, touting yet more conclusive proof that conservatives are better people than liberals.

And mind you, my search didn't include the guy's name or book title or anything. All I entered were the words Charity Conservatives Liberals and I was inundated with conservatives crowing about this particular book; all entirely convinced of its accuracy, and all quoting the same bits as each other. These guys have taken the echo machine to a whole new level.

Oh, and as an added funny, in nimrod John Stossel's take on it he actually suggests that meatpackers making $35,000 in Sioux Falls, SD count as being "the working poor." Right. He even went on to imply that people on welfare make the same amount. Me thinks somebody's gotten too used to the easy money. But of course, that meatpacker would have to have a family of eight to qualify as being in poverty. And if he was married with one kid, he'd be making almost double the poverty level. I guess $35k must seem like chump change to a guy like Stossel.

And while I'm not really current on the welfare situation, my limited research showed that the only assistance of this kind in South Dakata was the TANF program, which on average paid folks in South Dakota around $4500 annually. So it's obvious that Stossel is totally right when he compares those meatpackers to these welfare queens. As of yet, I haven't seen if Brooks makes this same mistake when he derides the charitable contributions of those on "welfare."

"Surprising" Conclusion

And for as much as Brooks pretends to be an unbiased observer who was surprised by his results, it's obvious that these were the results he set out to get. Besides the fact that the guy is a somewhat regular contributor to the WSJ editorial page (which is famously more rightwing than the rest of the paper), the guy basically admits that his point was to overturn the idea that liberals are more compassionate than conservatives.

I quote from an online Q&A he gave on the book, where he explains why he excluded self-described moderates from the discussion, which is an important point because moderates are apparently far less likely to donate money than either conservatives or liberals (a fact excluded from the book):
My comparison between liberals and conservatives in the book was motivated by the common stereotype that conservatives are less compassionate than liberals, so I really wanted to compare these two groups specifically.

So he set-out to overturn the stereotype, found the results he needed that did that, and upon publishing the book, conservatives everywhere crowed loudly about how the results made them look better than liberals, and now I've got one such conservative trying to rub my nose in this dude's book blurb. But of course the question remained: Were the results valid? And the answer: I wouldn't be writing this post if they were.

Religious v. Conservative

Because I did enough research of this book to find that the most basic premise of the book is wrong. The book clearly focuses on conservative v. liberal differences, as evidenced by the book blurb which hammers at liberals. turns out that what he really found was a religious v. non-religious difference. And because religious people are more likely to be conservative, conservatives appear to be more charitable, though this is a function of their religious beliefs and not their political preferences.

Because as it turns out, while religious conservatives are more likely to give to charity than secular liberals, they give only slightly more than religious liberals. And while both religious groups gave more than non-religious liberals, all three groups gave more than non-religious conservatives; who were apparently the most stingy. And that completely undermines the entire right v. left tilt of the book, because if this was a right-left thing, then non-religious conservatives should give more than religious liberals; and they clearly don't. Somehow, all the conservatives trumpeting this book seem to exclude any mention of this, and use the words "religious" and "conservative" interchangeably. But of course, so does the author.

One other thing to remember in all this is that not all secularists are created equal. For example, while most religious people will tend to be upright citizens, druggie-types who don't give a damn about anything will tend to be non-religious; and thus drag down the group as a whole. And so the non-religious numbers are naturally skewed by people who don't at all belong in the same atheist category as people like Atrios or myself. For as much as Bill O'Reilly insists I'm his natural enemy, I can assure you that I'm likely to fit better into his group than I would with some heroin-junkie musician; though this is definitely not something I'm proud to admit.

Flawed Methodologies

Beyond all that, there were several flaws with the methodology. For example, much of underlying data came from surveys, which can be notoriously unreliable. This involved people telling pollsters how much they donated, to what charities, and all that. And according to this liberal blogger, the data Brooks used doesn't jibe with the source he cites and actually shows the opposite to be true; though the blogger didn't actually provide any examples of this so I can't verify if that's true. But in any case, I'm strongly of the opinion that religious conservatives are much more likely to overstate their charitable activities, as a way to make themselves feel better. I believe I once even read a study saying that, but in the five minutes I was willing to try looking for it, I just couldn't find it.

Or another data source he cited was charitable giving as a percentage of wealth, on a state-by-state basis; which I believe is what he based much of his actual right/left argument on. And he found that in almost every case, states that voted for Bush gave more than states that didn't. You can see maps of this at the bottom of this page. But what he forgot to mention was that he didn't adjust for cost of living. This was based upon total income, not discretionary income. And when adjusted for cost of living, it turns out that eight of the top ten states were blue states; not red states. When confronted with this fact, Brooks dismisses it saying "there are lots of ways to look at geography and giving, and the question is far from settled." Of course, and I'm sure that's how he presented it in his book.

But that's yet another of the conservative's helpful dodges. Everything's so straightforward that it's possible to make sweeping assertions that say exactly what they want to say, unless you can find a more authoritative source that disagrees with them, after which the science is still "in dispute." (See Warming, Global and Evolution, Theory of)

Charitable Megachurches

And also important is where the donations went. Because remember, the focus of the book is to show which side is more compassionate, because conservatives have a reputation for being stingy when it comes to helping the poor. In fact, this was a major point, as one of Brooks' conclusions is that we need to give up on government programs and focus on charitable giving like conservatives do. Yet the book apparently focused on all charitable giving, as defined by the IRS; not just charities that focus on compassion.

And as it turns out, religious people gave a majority of their money to their church. And while I'm sure some of that went towards helping the poor and whatnot, much of it stays with the church. And while I understand why churches are considered charities, for these purposes, that's really a bit muddled. Because people generally give money only to their own church; not other churches. And so they're getting a direct benefit from their donation, and while it's nice that they're giving money, that's generally not what I consider to be a truly compassionate donation. This is more akin to someone donating money to their country club or civic organization. They're paying for air conditioning and nice seats and other things that directly benefit them.

And it wasn't even close. Apparently, in 2000, the year Brooks cites, religious people on average gave $2210 to charity, as opposed to non-religious people, who only gave $642. But...when religious giving is excluded, religious people only gave $88 more on average than non-religious people. So apparently, religious people gave $1480 to their religion, and only $730 to secular charities. And frankly, that $88 difference doesn't sound that dramatic. And remember, this is a religion v. non-religion split; not liberal v. conservative.

For additional reading, here's the Center on Wealth and Philanthropy's study on giving(PDF), which among other things, shows on page 29 that people who never attend church give slightly more on average to secular charities than people who attend church more than fifty-two times a year (which should include most Catholics, assuming they did their math properly). Or read the study yourself and come up with your own ways to show that Brooks' point is far more complex than he leads on.

Uncompassionate Charities

And once again, the point of the book is to show that the bleeding heart liberals don't really do as much to help needy people as conservatives, yet...he includes any charity. And that includes universities, museums, hospitals, civic groups, public radio, or anything else the IRS considers charitable. And while society surely benefits from these charities, the point is that liberals want the government to do more to help needy people. Like welfare, food stamps, school lunch programs, homeless shelters, etc. So that's the kind of charity we need to be looking at.

It was never in doubt that some religious people give huge sums to their church or televangelist, but what does that have to do with properly funding Medicaid? And how does a rich alumni giving big bucks to his alma mater help some homeless schlub get some food? It doesn't. Yet this book doesn't differentiate between how much of this charity actually addresses the issues that liberals are passionate about, but instead considers a conservative who gives a $10,000 donation to Oral Roberts University to be more compassionate than a liberal giving $1,000 to Habitat for the Humanities.

But the point gets bigger than that. Because, for as much as charities are important, they don't even come close to the amount of aid that the government gives. Yet Brooks went out of his way to entirely exclude government programs from the charity mix, because it's not voluntary. And while that's understandable if this book was only about charitable giving, it completely misses the mark, since the point of the book is to show which group is more compassionate. And so by the standards of the book, a liberal advocate who strives to get the government to give health insurance to poor kids doesn't count as being compassionate, while paying to have Oral Roberts' granddaughter fly to the Bahamas does.

In other words, Brooks rigged his book to entirely exclude the primary way that liberals try to show their compassion and a big reason conservatives are called stingy. He sought to show that conservatives who oppose government programs do more to help people than liberals; but entirely failed to do that. Because government programs do help people. So while he may possibly have proven his point that religious people give more than non-religious people, though even that is contentious, there can be no doubt that he missed the boat on the overall premise.

And so he concludes his book at the exact point that he was trying to make in the beginning. He was trying to show that conservatives do more to help people than liberals, intentionally excluded the primary way that liberals want to help people and that conservatives oppose, and then proudly concludes that we need to get the government out of the way. And in order to show that conservatives are more compassionate than liberals, he showed that religious people give lots of money to religion, as well as to other charities that may or may not be compassionate.

And yet none of this is reflected in the standard conservative's post on this book. Frankly, it doesn't even seem as if many of them even read the damn thing. They just tout its conclusion and move on. Even the folks who defend it at Brooks' messageboard don't seem to have given it much thought beyond the basic premise. They want it to be true, so they miss all the ways that it's not.

Recommendation: Become Conservative

And for as much as Brooks insists that he's unbiased in his analysis, one glowing review of his book has this summary of Brooks' recommendations, which totally exposes his little fraud. Because his recommendations don't even come close to following from the data he collected, and clearly reflect the conclusion that he was looking for from the beginning. Here are a few of those recommendations.

Government should:
Think twice before directly subsidizing nonprofit organizations, or investing in programs that increase economic equality. Such spending often "crowds out" private giving.

Reduce bureaucratic inefficiencies that inhibit charitable activity, including "onerous legal requirements, punitive mandatory expenditures, and impossible hiring practices."

Encourage fund raising among charities by giving more government money to organizations that take fund raising seriously.

Liberals should:
Be wary of the idea that government offers the best solution to social issues, since such a viewpoint may weaken one's own resolve to take action or give away money.

Yes, that's right. It's not mentioned whether the government really is the best solution; merely that it discourages charitable contributions which is automatically bad. And overall, the point is government=bad. Why? Because the people who don't like government claim to contribute more to charity, so therefore government programs must stifle charity. Lost in all this is that the reason why these government programs were created in the first place: Because private charity was never enough. Even now, children suffer from malnutrition, but like a good conservative, the best Brooks can do is to blame the government programs trying to nourish them.

Even when confronted with people asking about the activities of these organizations, he insists that it doesn't matter because all charity is beneficial. And again, while I agree with that to an extent, it shows that his conclusion is entirely unfounded. Because if it comes down to some televangelist getting a new jet or a hungry kid in South Dakota getting a free lunch; I'd rather the kid get the meal. Call me crazy, but I think that's where the compassion is.

And of course, if we include the amount of taxpayer dollars (which includes liberal taxpayers) into the mix, we'd see that liberal positions do far more to help people than conservative charity. But that's why he had to exclude that from his numbers, because it blows his entire argument out of the water. But again, his study wasn't designed at all to determine the best way to be compassionate; yet that was entirely the conclusion he came to.

When All Else Fails: Attack the Left

And I've decided to save his best recommendation for last. One of the things in the "Liberals Should" section is to "Ignore comments from people on the left wing of the Democratic Party who belittle the importance of charity."

Of course. Because liberals are famous for belittling charity. What a schmuck. And even if it wasn't easy to identify Brooks' rightwing leanings, his conclusion-first analysis gives it all away. But so does all the online triumphalism from conservatives, who couldn't stop crowing about the conclusions that fit their world expectations. Not that these guys even care whether conservatives give more than liberals; they were just happy to get more ammo to attack liberals with.

And that's exactly how it was presented to me: As if this book was a debate-ending finale that crushed liberals with its authority. Sure, even Brooks insists that this should only encourage debate and not settle it, but with his liberal-bashing premise and government-stomping methodologies, there could be no doubt how it would actually be used.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Deep Thought of the Moment

Cats and dogs still receive unequal treatment in the eyes of the law. Something must be done.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Judging the Mo

Momentum. Who's got it. Who's lost it. It's all the talk. And I decided, why the hell not. If momentum is the all-important thing the media's talking about in judging the Democratic nomination, perhaps that's the metric by which I should judge my own life.

Sure, the events in my life certainly appear to be a series of relatively unrelated events which have no bearing on each other, but perhaps that's just a fantasy. I mean, if the results of an election in one state has a different outcome from that in an entirely different state with entirely different demographics, yet is considered to be a momentum-accruing event; maybe all the random events in my life also are momentum-dependent events.

And why the hell not? Sure, it seems that everything in my life is pretty good, but maybe I'm wrong. Maybe it's not enough to judge the final outcome. I mean, it's fairly obvious that Obama's going to win the nomination, yet that doesn't stop pundits from announcing that Obama lacks momentum for losing in a state that didn't favor him demographically. So perhaps it's not enough that I'm content with my life. Perhaps it'd make more sense if I checked my daily shifts in momentum instead.

So if I get a good deal on shrimp at the grocery store, I'd mark that down as having positive momentum; but if I get cut-off in traffic, it'd show that the mo had shifted against me. This should be fun.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

How I Became a Slimy Polecat

My six-year-old daughter is super smart (as if it could be any other way). But she's still got some odd quirks that are really quite funny. One of those is her idea of sneaking around. Like earlier tonight, I wanted her to do her homework, and she knew that, but wanted to do something else. So to "hide" from me, she goes dashing through the living room, as if I wouldn't notice her going by, just as long as she went fast enough. And I live in an old house with loud wooden floors, so it's even more obvious every time she went dashing through, as it's fairly loud. While I was absorbed in my work enough that I wouldn't have noticed if she walked through normally, her evasion tactics definitely drew my attention to her. And I laughed and kept pretending as if it had worked.

And I bring this up now because I'm still engaged in the most ridiculous debate ever with this crackpot conservative. And while the debate started on semi-legitimate grounds involving Obama and his pastor, it quickly devolved into the dumbest thing you've ever read. I only keep it going because I have so much fun with this guy. But apparently, he has to keep posting because he has some invented rule of debate that says that if you don't respond to any point, you automatically concede that point. Apparently, debates are like ping-pong and that if you don't hit back every argument, the other guy scores a point.

Yes, crazy stuff. Especially as there are TONS of debate threads he's failed to respond to. In fact, most of his posts consist of little more than ranting insults and victorious taunts. Oh, and that's another of his rules: Apparently, if you call your opponent a name, like "nutjob" then you've committed an ad hominem fallacy and basically lose...or something like that. It doesn't matter how many times I've tried to explain to him what ad hominem fallacies are, and why insults aren't really ad hominem arguments; but that's all more red herrings to him and he'll use that to ignore my arguments. In other words, because he thinks I've committed an ad hominem fallacy, he commits an ad hominem fallacy.

And one of his favorite debate "techniques" is to call me a polecat, or a slimy polecat, or a slimy "Texas-dragged" polecat, and other increasingly odd inventions. But...he imagines that these constant slurs don't count as insults, because he's only saying that I act "like" a polecat. And I guess polecats are well-known for their lousy debate skills. And besides the fact that this is total hypocrisy on his part, and that these constant insults are a huge distraction to our debate; it's just dumb. I've asked him repeatedly why he keeps up with the lame polecat thing, and he won't tell me.

And he assures me that analogical insults are ok, because they're analogies and not actual insults. And while I often pepper insults throughout my posts for style points, this guy's insults are the argument. For him, it's scoring points if he calls me a nihilistic, post-modern, America-hating polecat; despite the fact that NONE of these labels are even close to fitting me (well, with the exception of polecat, because I really am a polecat). Oh, and another clever technique of his was to change my name to "Dr. Biowordsmith," for reasons that continue to escape me. Wow, that's a clever guy. It's as if he imagines that changing someone's name somehow undermines them, which in turn undermines their argument. Again, he engages in ad hominem arguments at his most basic level of debate, yet imagines that me calling him a "nutjob" undermines my point.

And we've now reduced the argument down to whether opinions can be "obvious." I had said that it was "obvious" that Obama didn't agree with his pastor; an opinion I find entirely obvious. And he's now insisting that this ONE WORD magically turned my opinion into an empirical claim, and that unless I admit that the empirical claim I accidentally made was false, that I'm a phony...or something like that. But, of course, an opinion can't be empirical, no matter how I described it. And so he's really just down to arguing that I used ONE WORD incorrectly. Oh, and did I mention that he thinks semantic debates are fallacies...or something? Again, this guy is nuts. Each comment is filled with yet another layer of inanity, insults, hypocrisy, and most of all, little games that he imagines is a substitute for real debate.

Of course, the truth is that this is his revenge for our first debate, last summer. He thought his opinion of Bush refuted somebody else's opinion of Bush. And he's now apparently learned that lesson, and wants revenge by forcing me to use Obama's words as facts to refute his opinion; thereby forcing me into the corner that he forced himself into last time. But I won't do that, because I know what opinions are. And so this is all just a weird round-about game he's playing, trying in vain to force me into a position which I'm far too intelligent to adopt. And he's down to that ONE WORD, insisting that using the word "obvious" turned my opinion into an empirical claim and wanting me to use Obama's words to defend those claims. Too funny.

Another fun add-on to our debate was when one of my readers mentioned how this nutjob is a college professor, and I replied back that becoming a professor didn't take intelligence, and that tenaciousness was enough; which this guy clearly has. Well somehow this guy imagined that I said he wasn't qualified to be a professor, and started making this big deal about how I insulted him, which automatically undermines my credibility...or something. I'm suspecting that his sense of inadequacy is so great that even the hint that his professorship doesn't give him authority hurts him; thus explaining his great outrage for mocking professors.

And all this reminds me of my six-year-old. She'll dash through the room, drawing tons of attention to herself, and all I can do is laugh and pretend that it works. And I always do. But it's just too fun to play around with this nutjob. Anyway, if you're bored, you can read through our LOOONG discussion. You can even skip down to the end, as you really won't have missed anything important. This guy never really explains anything, so the debate continues in the same rut, as he refuses to concede even the most basic facts of reality. Fun stuff.

I'm still planning to write a grand opus on this guy once the debate ends, but at this point, I'm not sure that can ever happen. He's already lost the debate in every conceivable way, yet continues on like the Terminator. It's possible this will go on forever.

P.S. And yes Donald, I'm fully aware that my constant use of insults like "nut" and "nutjob" entirely undermines my argument. Because my argument is dependent upon my credibility. Too funny.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

No-Brainer Conservatives

I understand how conservatives can be selfish and greedy. That makes perfect sense. They don't preach an ideology of helping people; nor do they intend to help people besides themselves. That's why they're conservatives. But the thing about them that makes me laugh so much is how they all insist that they're economic and military experts, based entirely on the fact that they're conservatives. As if being pro-business means that they understand how business work, or that wanting our solders to kick butt is akin to knowing how to kick butt.

And via Atrios, I read this entirely absurd column by NRO Corner Wanker Larry Kudlow, who attacks Obama for being ignorant of economics. Larry didn't get ANY of his policy correct, yet was entirely smug with rubbing Obama's nose in Larry's own ignorance. Reading the post was like hearing the pot deriding the kettle for being a pot.

But so it is with all of these guys. If they actually knew what they were talking about, they wouldn't be conservatives. Or at the very least, they'd know how to trick people better than they do.

Read My Lips: No Recession Taxes

Kudlow's policy bungling begins the first time he takes the time to stop insulting Obama and starts actually talking policy, saying:
First off, you don’t raise taxes during a recession. That’s a no-brainer.

If by "no-brainer" he means that it's a statement that somebody without a brain would make, I agree. For me, the "no-brainer" was that you don't cut taxes during wartime, but I suppose Kudlow would disagree with that too.

But let's look at the record on this: Back in the day, conservatives insisted that Clinton's 1993 tax increase was "the biggest tax increase in American history." Now granted, that technically didn't pass during a recession, as the recession "officially" only lasted eight months and ended before Clinton took office, but the effects of a recession last well beyond the official dates and the economy clearly was still struggling at the time. And so apparently Clinton violated this sacred "no-brainer" rule of not raising taxes during a recession, and as we all know, the economy was devasted for years because of it.

Oddly enough, Kudlow goes on to refer to Clinton as a "Growth Democrat," in contrast to the "liberal-left" Democrats who lost all the other presidential elections, going back to Carter. Yet...I don't remember any conservatives calling Clinton that back in the day, as they all seemed assured that his tax increases would destroy the economy. And it's odd that Gore is put in the "liberal-left" category, when it should be assumed he just would have continued Clinton's policies. It's as if this is part of some revisionist trend, where popular Democrats, like FDR and Kennedy, are eventually absorbed into the conservative corner; and unpopular Republicans, like Bush, Bush Sr, and Nixon are likened to liberals. Huh, coincidence, I'm sure. As there's no way this is historical revisionism designed to list all winners as conservative.

Getting back to recession tax increases, it looks like Bush Sr's "No New Taxes" tax increase in 1990 actually did occur sometime around that recession, so apparently Bush's dad hadn't heard of Kudlow's immutable law either. And then there was Clinton's competition for "biggest tax increase in American history" which was orchestrated by Bob Dole in 1982, which was also around the time of a big recession. So basically, it looks like around the time of two of the three last recessions, we raised taxes; while in our most recent recession, Bush cut taxes and the deficit just disappeared.

It should be noted that I say "around" because I'm much too lazy to do the solid research on this. But again, recessions are such fuzzy things, and it's obvious that these tax increases did not occur during boom years; and it's equally obvious that the economy didn't suffer after these increases. That much is sure.

And let's not forget that conservatives like Kudlow don't think that economic booms are the right time for raising taxes either. In fact, I sort of suspect that Kudlow doesn't think there is EVER a good time for a tax increase and he'd denounce Obama no matter when he wanted the increases to happen. But in this case, Kudlow just invented a rule about not raising taxes during a recession and imagines that he's just put the nail in Obama's coffin. Sure, he cites NOTHING in making this claim, but he doesn't have to. His gut tells him that tax increases are bad during a recession and he's content with that. So he wins, and Obama's ignorance is displayed for all to see.

The Next Thing He Wrote

And that leads us into Kudlow's next bungling: The next thing he wrote.
Second, doubling the capital-gains tax affects Americans up and down the income ladder, not just rich hedge-fund managers.

Indeed, I'm sure it does. But is that enough? If a tax "affects" middle-class Americans, is it automatically bad? Surely not. It all depends on how much it affects them, right? I mean, if a tax increase makes someone earning $40k pay $100 more in tax while a rich hedge-fund manager earning $4m pays $40k more in taxes; these are not equivalents. And sure, these aren't real numbers, but the point is clear. And the only reason I'm too lazy to look up actual numbers is because the truth of this is too obvious. It's about how much a tax affects people; which is a discussion that Kudlow doesn't even consider.

And remember, the more a middle-class taxpayer pays in capital gains, the more they gained from their capital; so it's not like they're paying this from their regular income...they paid it from their extra income. And even still, someone who makes $40k from their job and $5k selling stocks currently pays less in taxes than someone who earns $45k from their job; which doesn't really seem right. But none of this is really too difficult to understand, unless you're a conservative and need to be confused.

And the Next Thing and the Next

From there, he went on to assert that capital gains taxes are "self-financing" and that we just need to cut the tax more to raise more revenue. And if we could just cut the tax into negative territory, we'd raise a bundle in tax revenue. But, of course, he's wrong and taxcuts don't fund themselves. Why would they? Let's not forget what capital gains are. That's not interest or dividends or business profits being taxed. That's the profit you make for selling stocks or other assets. Basically, this could put a crimp on speculators who buy stocks or land for quickie profit; but real investment would be much less effected.

And for anyone interested, here's my post on this capital gain myth:
Smartest Boy in a Dumb, Dumb Class

And then he goes onto make the point that Atrios originally attacked him for, when he said that uncapping the payroll tax would hurt double income families as their income combines together and would make them pay more if we raised the cap. And while the earlier stuff I wrote about is contestable and isn't easily understood, come fucking on! This dumbass doesn't even know how FICA works? As Atrios says, it's an individual tax and so two-income families aren't changed by this any more than two single people would be. A married couple earning $80k each are fully taxed already.

And let me tell you, as a payroll person, it wouldn't even make sense otherwise. Does Kudlow actually believe that payroll people keep track of what spouses make? How would that even be feasible? But it's obvious that, as usual, Kudlow was just talking out of his ass. It's not that he thought FICA really worked this way. It's that he thought of a clever reason for why Obama was wrong and decided to use it, even if it didn't make any sense.

Because conservatives just don't care what they say. They already know they're right. It's all got to make sense. And so Kudlow spouts out stuff that shows a very basic level of ignorance and he doesn't even care. And he's got an excuse for believing the earlier stuff, as it's considered standard conservative dogma. Taxes hurt the economy. Taxcuts pay for themselves. They have to believe this as they have no excuse for their dangerous policies otherwise. But this FICA blunder is alllll Kudlow. He finally decided to wing it with original material and totally exposed his complete ignorance as to even the most basic aspects of running a business.

I'll admit that payroll can be difficult, which is good for me as I get paid to process payroll. But this FICA blunder was just basic stuff and Kudlow blew it. Kudlow then goes on to criticize Obama for not knowing any cops or firemen, as if that somehow proves something. But I can tell you, if Kudlow knows any payroll people, he should steer clear of them for awhile; lest he enjoy a gentle ribbing by people who actually know what they're talking about. But I guess there's a reason why conservatives avoid such people.

Friday, April 18, 2008

I Know My Mom's an Idiot

While television criticism is generally beneath the purview of this blog, I recently saw a show that was so offensive that I had to write a scathing review of it on Yahoo, simply to express my displeasure with it. But seeing as how that milieu was of obvious reader limitations, I decided to repost my review here, to expose it to a larger audience.

But just as a disclaimer: I do NOT watch these shows of my own volition. But we only have one television, which happens to be in the same room I normally keep my laptop, and my teenage daughter is quite the TV tyrant; so please don't think lesser of me for having watched this. I do so only under duress, and even still, consider this to be a lesson in human nature; though I'm using the term "human" quite loosely here.

The show: I Know My Kid's a Star. The premise: A bunch of crazy wannabe stagemoms bring their children into a house to compete with each other for $50,000. To add to the fun, Host and Judge Danny Bonaduce (yes, that Bonaduce) and angry co-host Marki Costello (a "talent" manager most famous for being Lou Costello's granddaughter) heavily criticize both parent and child after having put them through ridiculous challenges, the intent of which is to get the moms to freak-out and berate their children endlessly, for our immense enjoyment.

And what's sad is that this is exactly how VH1 sells the premise. Per their website:
The parents and children are judged as a team. Marki Costello, a Hollywood talent manager, bluntly and critically judges the parent's performance as managers of their children. Conflicts arise due to the pressure of competition and the stress of sharing a house with the other children and their very intense stage parents.

Very intense stage parents, indeed. And this Marki Costello person goes waaaay too far with her criticism, often just yelling at the parents and insulting the children she doesn't like. Essentially, she's paired as a Bad Cop-Worse Cop team with Bonaduce, who is a fairly gruff a-hole himself, but seems pleasant and personable by comparison. And while they insist that she's some sort of talent manager, her IMDB page only lists a few reality shows that she's helped "cast." It's as if she had such a bad rep for berating people in the world of reality shows that someone thought it'd be funny if she did that to crazy women on a television show.

And one of the weirdest things about all these fame-competition shows is that the contestants are so intent on winning that they seem to forget that they're on a national TV show and that everyone is watching them. And sure, the grand prize is always good. But it seems that even if you lost, a national audience of millions would be a great springboard to even bigger things; a concept that seems to be lost on many of these people, who proudly talk about how rude they are to the others in their attempt to win. These dopes obviously think they're being clever when they insist that they weren't there to make friends; oblvious to the idea that everyone watching them will hate them too, and that even if they won, they would be shunned by the public they're trying to woo. And those people never win. I'm assuming these people are Republicans.

The Review

And now that I've given the set-up, I'll just reprint the review I wrote.

I've now had the misfortune to have watched two episodes of this show and it just got worse. It's obvious this show isn't about the kids, who are little more than props. The show is really about the moms, which is obvious even from the title of the show, where the “I” refers to the mothers. The whole show is centered around forcing mothers into berating their children on national television for a prize that surely isn't worth it.

The only surprising thing about all this is how relatively well-adjusted the children are compared with their freaked-out mothers. And it's obvious that the show has set these women up for failure. The intention is to get them to hate one another, to hate the other children, and most of all, to overly criticize everything their children do. And the show does that in spades. While shows like America's Top Model honestly focuses on helping the contestants, this show clearly wants them to fail...miserably. Like the headshot challenge, where they told the amateur moms to take professional headshots of their children and then criticized them for taking amateur photos. And as the big joke, they only gave them three crappy cameras, to ensure that the moms would freak-out and fight over the cameras. That was unnecessary.

But so it is with the entire show. In fact, the worst character of all is co-host Marki Costello, who berates the mothers as much as possible and begins to yell if any mother disagrees with her. But again, that's the purpose of this show. This isn't a talent contest. This is an exercise in public humiliation. Even the nice judges are overly critical of the children and mothers, and as Frank on Frank's Blog said, this is probably the first reality show where the contestants are happy to be eliminated. I would be too, and can only hope that the entire show is eliminated.

I understand that show business is tough, but this is ridiculous. Showbiz moms are bad enough as it is. We really didn't need to see the worst of them all put in the same house to traumatize all those poor children. Especially as only one or two of the kids are even talented enough to deserve to be there, and none of them are true Hollywood material. These contestants were picked for their crazy-factor; not talent. On the second show I saw, one mom insisted she was going to kill someone; which I suspect explains why she was eliminated at the end of that episode. Drama's fun, but murder can be soooo messy.

But again, the show isn't about the kids. It's about their crazy mothers wanting so desperately for their talentless children to get discovered that they're willing to humiliate themselves and their children to do it. The creators of this show should be ashamed, but I’m sure they’re quite pleased with what they’ve done. I hope the kids get to send them their therapy bills.

Healthy Americans

I'm not sure what the Healthy Americans Act is, but this is the kind of policy ad I'd like to see more of. Too funny.

And this definitely gets the point across and in a funny way. But it really is sad. My mother-in-law wanted to move here to Texas to be closer to us before she died of cancer, but couldn't because she had a pre-existing condition and her husband would have lost his health insurance if he quit his job. And so that pre-existing condition, which was one of the reasons she wanted to be closer to us, prevented her from doing so. And the only time she could ever see my wife or her grandkids was the few times we could travel across half the country to see her. And that's just too typical.

But even this shouldn't be an issue. Why are employers in the healthcare business? It made sense as an extra perk back in the day, but health insurance is now considered a necessity. And for as much as some people without health insurance just end up dying, most of them will still get the care they needed, but belatedly and at a greater expense to everyone. So employers have these exploding insurance expenses (which many of their foreign competitors don't have), employees are stuck in crappy jobs they'd rather leave (which betrays Free Market Principles), and society ends up paying more for crappier service. That's just wrong.

And why? Because health insurance companies know they've got a good racket and don't want to give it up. No matter how much they pay out, they know they can always just charge more the next year and there's no risk in this at all. They're now just middlemen who we pay to process paperwork. This isn't insurance; this is extortion. Plus, conservatives, who have no earthly idea how the Free Market really works or how our health system works, are trained to attack anyone who mentions a sensible solution. So here we are, resorting to humor ads to sell no-brainer policies.

Of course, we shouldn't be trapped into jobs in order to say healthy. Of course, good health is important to our society. Yet here we are, fighting against no-brained ignorance in an attempt to give every American a basic necessity of life. I'm not sure why conservatives insist on making life here crappy, but I assume it's got something to do with lapel pins and loyalty oaths.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

America Haters for America

Conservatives hate America. I know, they give all that huff and bother about how much they love it, but all they really mean by that is that they hate us for hating it. For them, love of country doesn't go much deeper than loyalty tests, meaningless phrases, and other symbolic gestures. Like Obama being attacked for not wearing a lapel pin that his attackers don't wear. But when it comes to actions, they sure have a funny way of showing their love.

Take, for example, someone with a son they feared for so much that if anyone called him a “loser” that they thought it would destroy him. Who insist that their son has the right to bully everyone; lest he show weakness and develop a wimp complex. Or what if that son did something so terrible that they refused to even acknowledge that the kid had done it, even though they saw it with their own eyes? Moreover, that they’d loudly denounce anyone who even wanted to discuss their child's behavior problems, and insisted that any such person hated their son.

Does that sound like normal behavior to you? Would we consider such people to be good, loving parents who were only doing what was best for their son? Or would we go so far in the opposite direction that we’d consider this behavior to be somewhat pathological in nature? And in fact, we’d assume that this wasn’t really about their son at all, but about themselves. That they themselves are so deeply ashamed of their own activities in raising their child that they consider it a personal affront for anyone to even suggest that their son wasn’t anything but a model child. Indeed we would.

And that’s really what we’re talking about. They say we hate America because we notice its flaws. Because we remember the wrong things its citizens and government have done. They say we hate America because we suggest there are imperfections with it; because we suggest ways it should be better. And most of all, they say we hate America because we refuse to allow them to use our country for their own sordid purposes. But as usual, they’ve got it all backwards.

Unconditional Love

I love my country. Not because I imagine we’ve made no mistakes, but because of all the great things we’ve done in spite of those mistakes. That we have all this wealth and power and have done great things with it. And that we have good people who spend their lives righting wrongs and bringing justice to a naturally unjust world. And to have seen the great progress our country has made since its inception. But to understand how far we've come, we've got to acknowledge where we were before. You can't understand how great it is that a black man can become president if you don't remember that he wasn't considered human by millions of Americans when our country was founded. And to see how much safer our government has made life requires us to remember how unsafe it was, as well as acknowledging unsafeness that still exists.

Seeing America, the good and the bad, is part of love. To want to improve America is love. To want America's image to be one of true freedom, fairness, and strength; rather than of cowering fear and bully tantrums. This is how people who love their country act. This isn't about loyalty pledges or lapel pins; this is about actions.

And the ones who hate their country are the ones who think our mistakes were so horribly grievous that they can't even be mentioned. To complain about slavery is to hate America. To state the obvious about our misadventures in Iraq and Vietnam is to attack our troops and spew hatred against freedom. Or in other words, to complain about the bad things that their ilk does against our country is to somehow hurt the country.

America v. Americans

And when you put it like that, you realize this isn’t about America at all. This is about us taking a stand against their greed and hatred. About having the guts to stand up for our country against what these selfish fools want to do against it. When liberals complain about what “America” has done wrong, they’re not complaining about the actual country itself. No, we’re complaining about the misdeeds that these people perpetrated on us. What these people did that hurt America.

And getting back to my earlier analogy, it's obvious that it isn't really accurate. It's much worse than that. These aren’t misguided parents who turn a blind eye to the misdeeds of their child. No, this is the child himself denouncing the parents and insisting that laying any blame at his feet is an act of hatred towards his parents. As if it's somehow America's fault that Bush and Cheney screwed everything up. But that’s just not how this works. It’s not America that people have a problem with. It’s Americans; specific Americans.

And the people who complain the loudest about liberal hatred against America are generally those with the most to blame for what’s wrong with this country. Not necessarily because they're doing these bad actions, but for insisting that we allow it all. For insisting that history classes should be whitewashed, and for insisting that government oversight should be abolished. No, they won't be trying to reinstitute slavery, but they'll try their best to make sure we forget about why things are the way they are. For them, people are to be blamed for their own misfortune and anyone who can steal a fortune deserves to. Steal a radio from a car and they'll insist it's ok to shoot you; but if you steal millions of taxpayer money in Iraq, they won't even bother hearing about it. Because that's their kind of theft.

They'll say you're bashing America when you complain about the fraud, corruption, and evils they perpetrate. But this has nothing to do with America. This is just them finding a way to rationalize their misdeeds. They don't care if you love or hate America. They just hate you for remembering that they've done anything wrong. They hate you because you cared.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Commies Are Coming!!!

There are Marxists?? I mean, for real? Marxists. I'm now convinced that there are no real conservatives; just varying degrees of parody as performance art. The crackpot I've been debating lately has even tossed out the term "Stalinist," as if that describes some real world people rather than a silly slur that's lived past its prime. Will these people ever grow up? Wait, don't answer. Silly question.

Now this isn't to say that I don't think there are some people who might espouse Marxist-style theories, but I'm fairly confident that we can now safely retire the word "Marxist" from regular usage. And the idea that anyone is a "Stalinist" is entirely laughable. Sure, I suppose there might be a few dead-enders here and there who might still use those terms to refer to themselves, but they'd just be contrarians looking for attention and not any serious group we need to be concerned with.

Thus said, Obama's a Marxist and he's going to institute worldwide Communism on January 21, 2009. Try to act surprised.

Monday, April 14, 2008

2001: A Space Fantasy

Well I just got back from watching 2001: A Space Odyssey at the Alamo Drafthouse here in Austin, and let me tell you, if you've got a chance to see it here, you really should; assuming you're not such a schmuck that you'd dislike watching music videos set to classical music. Sure, it's art and not an actual movie, so you shouldn't be expecting any kind of plot or anything, but still, it's a classic. And it was on the BIG screen, which was totally awesome and waaaay better than any tiny TV screen you've got at home. Oh, and don't forget to have a bunch of mighty fine beers during the flick. I was drinking the Steamwork's Steam Engine Lager on draft, and let me tell you: It was a mighty fine beer and I had no complaints.

Thus said, I did have a few problems with the flick. It was mostly historical errors, but still, a movie of this caliber shouldn't make these kinds of mistakes. First off, I'm sorry, but it's now 2008 and we still don't have regular space traffic to the moon. I don't know what kind of shit Kubrick was smoking at the time, but he was totally off-base with that one.

Secondly, a Howard Johnson's at the space station? Who the hell are they shitting with that one? I once stayed at a HoJo's in Dallas and lasted about fifteen minutes before me and Mrs. Biobrain checked out and headed over to the La Quinta down the street, which was a huge improvement. They had people fucking living in the place at the time. I mean, living there. And it totally had a retirement community feel about it. Very tacky. And none of that was reflected in the Howard Johnson's in this movie, which seemed very clean and white.

And then there was the whole issue with the Soviets. What the hell was that all about? Soviets? Really?? If I didn't know any better, I'd say this was 1968, not 2001. And then there was the lameass video game the guy was playing on his way to Jupiter. Chess? Are they shitting us? Chess?! I don't know about y'all, but in 2001, I was playing Grand Theft Auto 3, not some fucking chess game from the 70's. I mean, the very idea that they'd send our first manned mission to Jupiter,without so much as a Nintendo 64? Really?? No wonder they went crazy and disconnected the computer. They should have given them Pong, at the least!

I could go on and on. So on the plus side, I commend their artisticness and think they did some great things with what they had. And on the negative side, totally unrealistic. Totally. I don't know where they were during 2001, but none of that happened. None of it. I even got a big laugh when the dude had a long video-phone conversation with his daughter from a space station and only got charged $1.70 for the call. I don't know about you people, but my phone company doesn't let me wipe my ass for less than a buck ninety-eight.

But all the same, if you're anywhere in the Austin area and want a great cinematic experience, you've got one last chance on Tuesday night to see the flick. I don't understand at all why theaters don't show these kind of great movies more often, but then again, I don't see why anyone would watch a movie without having a great draft beer brought to their seat. Oh, and it'd probably help if you got really high before watching the film, or so I'd imagine.

Oh, and just to keep this political: McCain sucks.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

The Experienced Yes Man

One of the things that remains a mystery to me is the whole debate on whether or not Obama is "experienced" enough on foreign policy. But what the hell does that mean? How does one "gain" experience on that kind of thing? And can that only be gained in Washington? Or is it enough to just read the papers, read books by smart historians and whatnot, and in Obama's case, to be a bright guy getting tutored by bright people who have worked in the right kind of foreign policy jobs? Shouldn't that be enough? Or is it truly necessary to sit on a Foreign Relations board to understand how diplomacy and game theory work?

From what I've seen of those guys, it's not like they do much of that stuff at all. It's all about political posturing and partisan fights. I fail to see how that will help anyone solve the conflicts in the middle-east. I think they already have enough of their own partisan fights to worry about and don't need ours.

Because it seems to me this is the kind of thing where you've either got it or you don't. You either have a fundimental understanding of how humans work and how different countries interact, or you don't. Particularly as political jobs require political skills; not foreign policy skills. And too often, these areas collide, so the right foreign policy is bad politics and vice versa. And more importantly, a politician with a politically-popular foreign policy that is bad foreign policy will continue to have a bad foreign policy, and will intentionally refuse to learn any real experience that counters his political goals.

And let's face it: I'm talking about the pro-war stance. It's idiotic. Just insane.'s really difficult to oppose war. While a pro-war Senator can blithely talk about keeping troops in Iraq for 100 years in some magical shoot-free zone, and not be asked what his position is if the shoot-free zone never appears; a pro-brain Senator is forced to explain every single position and is assumed to be a naive schmuck no matter how well he answers.

Being pro-war is instant street cred for these guys. And being "experienced" means that you realize that you can't trust anyone and have to keep bombing the shit out of everyone until they give up (though the reality is that the neo-cons are much too trusting of the wrong countries). But that doesn't take experience. All wingnuts already advocate that and most of them haven't even moved out of their mom's basements. But somehow, these guys are considered "tough" for wanting other people to die. But as the musical Hair said, it's easy to be hard. Blowing shit up is easy. The hard part is figuring out how to fix everything again afterwards. But somehow, the "experienced" candidates aren't really good when it comes to "afterwards."

And for McCain and Hillary, it's deeper than that. Sure, they're "tough" enough to know how to threaten our enemies and kill innocent people. But they've been around Washington a long time, and that means they have even more experience than the standard Keyboard Commando (if you can imagine that). And because McCain's been around even longer, we're to imagine that he must have even more experience than Hillary. As if experience is simply a matter of punching a timeclock, rather than learning anything or proving that you're right about anything.

But of course, it's not. Just being there doesn't prove you actually learned anything, and for Republicans like McCain and Hillary, any experience they learned was of the wrong kind. All they've learned is that you can't bomb your enemies quickly enough, or you'll lose points in the polls. Yes, I know, Hillary's pretending to be a peacenik now that she finally realized we weren't going to just hand her the nomination. But I have no doubts that if she were to somehow get the nomination that she'd suddenly become her old neocon-lite self again. That's the kind of experience you learn in Washington. Not how to avoid conflicts; but how to profit from them.

And Obama clearly knows this, and is taking advantage of it. When they say he doesn't have enough "experience," all they really mean is that he hasn't been around Washington D.C. long enough; and that's what he says in his speeches. And it's true. That's all they mean. McCain's been around longer, and so we're to assume he has more of this "experience." But the truth is that all it shows is that he's been wrong longer. And I even call bullshit on that. He's not saying this stuff because he actually believes it. He's saying this because he's a Yes Man who feels compelled to tell people what they want to hear.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Pledge of Disallegiance

Holy sweet jesus! Some people somewhere didn't want to say the Pledge of Allegiance!!! How on earth are we to expect people to stay loyal to our country if we don't have them say the Pledge every time we ask them to? We can't! The Pledge is the only thing keeping people from signing on to the Commie Menace, or worse, joining an Al Qaeda sleeper cell and destroying us all with Saddam's still-hidden nukes.

It's not like the Pledge is some meaningless recitation that serves no purpose other than to force school children to repeat words they don't understand. Instead, it's a magical incantation that forever binds the user to remain loyal to our country, up until the time that person is asked to say it again. And if anyone ever dares not recite the Pledge upon request, we all know this person is a disloyal "American" who clearly deserves to go back to Mother Russia and/or Gitmo. Everyone knows that.

And where did this Pledge denial occur? Where else: At a Democratic District Caucus in Seattle, of course. And why would these supposed "Americans" refuse to say the Pledge? Why else: Because it would burn their skin and make their innards become their outards if they even tried to say the Pledge, that's why. Hussein Obama packed the crowd with his jihad-supporting atheist radicals bent on using our own democracy to subvert itself in the name of Islamolesbianism, and they were forced to disallow the entire crowd from saying the Pledge; lest any true Americans in the crowd begin to repeat what Obama's radical America-haters consider to be the ultimate blasphemy. Or worse, that some of their Stalinist bretheren might accidentally start reciting it along with the true Americans, and thus be forced to betray their anti-American agenda and become Republican.

And so it's obvious that because these traitors not only refused to say the Pledge, but actually booed the idea of saying it before voting it down, that these are disloyal "Americans" who aren't worthy of the spittle that's dripping from my lips just thinking about them. What's next? They'll remove their holy American Flag pins from their lapels? Liberal traitors might pretend that these are all just empty gestures of patriotism that serve no true purpose, but we all know otherwise. God is watching us, and as long as we continue to say the Pledge every single time we're asked to say it, and keep wearing a colored piece of metal on our clothes, we remain safe. America is obviously much too weak to handle this level of dissent. The Pledge MUST be said as often as possible.

BTW, I don't remember if anyone said the Pledge at our county convention here in Austin, but I do remember us getting the Wave to go around the Expo Center a few times, which I'm sure is just as good.

h/t Loyal Reader Donald Fouglas

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Not Presidential Material

Uh oh. Looks like my presidential campaign has just had a serious setback. No, my exploratory committee hasn't decided I can't win. Far from it. But I just went bowling today at my daughter's classmate's birthday party, and only bowled a 92; far cry from Joe Scarborough's minimum of 150. Apparently, this not only makes me not presidential material, but I'm no longer a man. Or at least not a real man.

Sure, it's quite possible I could kick Scarborough's ass, if I was into that kind of thing. In fact, one of my problems is that I couldn't really find a bowling ball with the holes spread out enough for my big hand, but who am I kidding? I've only bowled three times in the last five years, and only twice did I bowl over 150. I'm nothing but a sick joke. A priss who might as well trade in his manly man wallet for a purse and lipstick. I rolled two gutter balls, for christ's sake, and only one strike in ten frames! And I thought I knew how to solve our foreign policy and economic problems. What the hell was I thinking?

Maybe if I stopped wasting so much time reading political news and more time tossing balls down the lanes, I could actually earn the respect of such politically astute manly men like Scarborough and Chris Matthews. They know that what's between a president's ears is less important than what they carry between their legs. They know all the true test's of a man's worth. And there's nothing manlier than being overly concerned with looking manly and talking about other men's wangs.

So if my blog posts get a little lighter over the next few weeks, you'll know why. It's not that I'm busy doing other things. It's that I've decided to become a real man. Before I'm done, by god, I will bowl at least 150 every time. I will prove my manhood to all those in doubt. I will earn my wallet.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Changing Captains Midstream

Shit! I had pinned all my hopes on Obama based solely on his ability to win in November, but now it looks like that hope was entirely false.

Per Reuters:
Hillary Clinton may be the Democrat who Republicans love to hate, but some Republican strategists say they have no fear of a match-up with her rival Barack Obama in November's presidential election.

It goes on to mention that, while Republicans once feared Obama more than Hillary, they now think they can beat either candidate. And after the whopping victories they've had over the past fifteen years, it's obvious that these guys have mucho credibility. Why, not only were they able to barely steal the Whitehouse twice, but they also held on to both houses of Congress for short periods before losing them by bigger margins than they held them. Jesus christ, is there nothing we can do to stop them?

At this point, I think our only option is obvious: We've got to drop both Hillary and Barack and go with the only Democrat available to have ever won the Whitehouse: Jimmy Carter. Sure, he lost against Reagan, but Reagan was a colossus more formidable than Lincoln, Washington, and both Roosevelts combined! The fact that he was even allowed on the same debate stage as the Great Ronald Reagan will surely score a few extra points for the guy. And with Jimmy's Habitat for the Humanities work under his belt, I'm sure his re-election efforts would go alot better this time around. At least when he finds himself unable to move cities out of the way of hurricanes, people will know he's got the experience to rebuild them afterwards.

And even if he loses, so what? It's obvious from what these Republican strategists say that we'll lose in November with either of our current candidates; so we've got nothing else to lose by getting a new one. Sure, it's a desperate act, but I really don't see what choice we have. These Republicans sure do have our number. That's why they felt so confident in choosing an unprincipled old coot with a lousy sense of humor and an insatiable love of lobbyists as their nominee; as they know they can't lose.

Well perhaps it's time we nominate our own old coot. Jimmy Carter, as of now, consider yourself our nominee; which will last right up until the time a Republican strategist says that he can't win either, after which I'm nominating Jesus Christ himself. But I'd like to save that one for as late in the game as possible.

Update: Jimmy Carter has left a comment declining the nomination. Shit. Is it too late to get LBJ cloned in time for November? He's eligible for re-election too, I understand. Does anyone know where he's buried?

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Hillary Predicts Loss

Per the AP:
Recalling a famous scene on the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art from the 1976 Oscar-winning film "Rocky," Clinton said that ending her presidential campaign now would be as if "Rocky Balboa had gotten halfway up those art museum steps and said, 'Well, I guess that's about far enough.'"

"Let me tell you something, when it comes to finishing a fight, Rocky and I have a lot in common. I never quit. I never give up. And neither do the American people," Clinton said in excerpts of prepared remarks to be given Tuesday to a meeting of the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO.

Uhm...didn't Rocky lose? So she's admitting that she's fighting for nothing, but that she'll try to hurt Barack as much as possible before it's over? Is this perhaps an indicator she's planning on an Obama-Clinton rematch in 2012, beating him to deny him his second term? And should we carry this through all the way to end up with President Mr. T in 2016, just to see her win it back in 2020? How exciting!

Hey, maybe she can arrange things so she gets impeached before the mid-point of her second term, is replaced by her Russian Vice President who arranged her impeachment, just to have her beat him in the next election, in order to win a third term as president (though within the ten year limit). I'd tell you what happens after that, but I never made it to Rocky 5.

Of course, if anything, she's got the roles reveresed. She was the confident Apollo Creed who wasn't taking the fight seriously, and Barack's the scrappy fighter who knocked her down in the first round. And in this version, she's already too far behind in points and is incapable of knocking him out. So instead, we're seeing a fairly boring fight where the hero just has to wait for the final bell to ring before his opponent bows out in disgrace.

And if anything, the better analogy is that Rocky's sparring partner somehow imagines that he's more worthy of the championship fight than Rocky; if only he can hurt Rocky enough. But in any case, I fail to see how any of these analogies help Hillary. No matter who she pretends to be, she's still going to lose.

Freedom Marches On

Peeance Freeance:
Afghanistan's lower house of Parliament passed a resolution Monday seeking to bar television programs from showing dancing and other practices deemed un-Islamic.

The decision came just days after the private Tolo TV channel aired a dance number featuring men and women together on an Afghan film awards program.

The Information and Culture Ministry condemned the scene, saying "dancing by men and women together was completely against the culture of the Afghan, Muslim society."

Azimi said the resolution also includes an article saying Afghan banks should not offer interest-bearing accounts because Islamic law forbids interest.

This is the kind of thing that makes conservatives go insane. Here they are, with more proof of how evil Islamofascists are,'s the glorious war of Afghanistan. Plus, many conservatives approve of Morality Police, yet...they're banning a standard practice of capitalism too. While people with a complex worldview can easily handle this kind of thing and see it as predictable; simpleton wingnuts have no ability to wrap their minds around these sort of contradictions. For them, Americans go in, free the people, democracy wins, and everyone has a good old time setting up the Starbucks and churches. End of story.

But I guess they've already written-off the Afghanistan adventure as much as they're wanting to write-off Iraq. They might not talk about it, but I'm sure they're just counting the days until a Democratic president pulls us out of Iraq, and thus allow them to finally admit there's a civil war, which is entirely the fault of the traitorous Democrats. I guess life is as simple as you want it to be. Must be nice.