Monday, June 27, 2011

Democracy Means You Can't Always Win

There's this fantasy thinking that says that life is black & white with easy answers and if people just did the right thing, they'd do the right thing and the world would be a better place.  And so you have people who believe that Obama can force Congress into rubber-stamping anything he wants, if only he told people what he wanted and went on the offensive against anyone who got in his way.  As if that's ever worked for any president in the history of our country.

And then you have people who demand vigilante justice and insist that bad guys don't deserve a trial; like many of the commenters at this news story about a serial killer in Cleveland.  And yeah, sure, in this case I'm sure the guy did it and vigilante justice would be swifter and perhaps more accurate than what he's going to get.  And just as the liberals criticizing Obama "know" the right answer and are frustrated by this whole democracy "balance of power" system, these commenters "know" the right answer and are frustrated by the whole Due Process system.

But the reason we have these rules is because there AREN'T always easy answers, and we CAN'T always know if the guy is guilty; and the best way to sort this out is to have laws, elections, and trials.  And yeah, this can be frustrating and you will often get bad results.  We can't always get the laws we need and bad guys will get treated better than they deserve and might even be set free.

But that's simply the price we have to pay for having our form of government.  If we want people to be willing to cooperate and obey laws they don't like, then we have to cooperate and obey laws WE don't like.  And if we want to make sure mobs don't kill innocent people, we have to have a fair justice system that also applies to guilty people.  Like it or not, this is the best option.

As I keep saying, our system of government isn't designed to find the "right" answer.  It's about having a process that we can all agree to, even if we don't agree with the results.  And this benefits us in the long term.  Sure, it'd be nice if Obama could unilaterally give us free universal healthcare and if serial killers could be made to suffer the way they made others suffer; but that also means we could have rotten laws forced on us and endless warfare as vigilante groups waged vengeance upon one another.

As messy as democracy can be, it's still far better than the alternative.  After all, dictatorships rarely get the right answers either.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Case for Staying in Afghanistan

It feels good to be smart.  We all want it.  We all want to be experts, just as we all want to be rockstars and superstar athletes and sexy pornstars that everyone wants to sleep with.  Unfortunately, that's just not the case for the vast majority of us.  And whereas it's obvious to people when they're not rockstars or athletes or pornstars, too many people fall into the delusion that they're experts.  That they have some piece of inside information that the majority of folks don't know, and this is what sets them apart from the rest of the heap of humanity.

But...this is simply a delusion and becoming an expert isn't as simple as making up your own facts or agreeing with people who you think are experts.  No, being an expert takes hard work and just as we can't all play guitar like Jimi Hendrix or slamdunk like Michael Jordan, we can't all know what we're talking about.  And if you go stumbling through life imagining yourself to be an expert, then you probably aren't one.  Sorry, but that's just life.

And so I had to laugh when reading about Obama's plan to withdraw troops from Afghanistan, and saw this comment at TPM:
10,000 is definitely not enough at this point. I understand the fear that some may have about violence breaking out again with a more significant draw down and the instability it may cause, but Afghanistan is going to have to do it on its own at this point. The country needs to transition from the "nation builder" model that the neo-cons wanted us to be, and move into the arena of military activity that netted us OBL.
Ah, of course.  Obama has been working on this plan for some time, with the best military experts who have real world experience both in managing troops and understanding the situation on the ground in Afghanistan, yet Hobbes83 knows this isn't enough.   Damn, why couldn't the Pentagon have hired him?

And hey, I'm not trying to pick on Hobbes, but come on.  This is a dumb comment.  Seriously.  There's no real thought behind this at all, as it's nothing more than a confirmation of what he was already thinking.

Fixing What You Broke

And what bugs me about all this is the people who insist that we need to leave immediately as if that's the liberal pro-peace position.  But it's not.  We're not there because we're war-monger invaders exploiting their country.  We're there because we invaded and are now responsible for fixing the country.  Those are the rules: You break it, you bought it.

Now, if someone wants to argue that we simply can't afford to fix their country, that's fine.  That's an argument I can understand.  But that's not a liberal argument.  That's not in support of peace.  Because if we leave, there won't be peace.  There will be fighting and death.  Sure, it won't be American lives or American money being lost, and it might even be less violent than it is now.  But let's not delude ourselves into thinking that peace will break out the moment we leave.  That's simply not the case.  There will be violence whether we're there or not, and our purpose there is to make it as painless as possible.

And so we're pulling out 10,000 troops now and another 23,000 by next summer. That's the plan drawn up by the experts we've got.  And maybe they're full of shit war-mongers who simply like killing people.  And maybe Obama's a sellout who won't remove all the troops for political purposes.  Or maybe this is the best plan possible and it'd be better for the world if we put more troops in.  I don't know.  I'm not a psychic or a military expert, so I'm not in a position to say.  I'm a smart fricking guy, but even I've got my limitations.

But I will say this: If we had unlimited funds and an all-volunteer army willing to do the job, I think we should stay.  While I always opposed the Iraq War and am glad we're still on track for our withdrawal there, I always supported the war in Afghanistan.  Partly, that's because Afghanistan's leaders were responsible for attacking us and Iraq wasn't, and partly because Iraq had a stable government and Afghanistan didn't.  And I believe that all humans have a right to a decent society and truly believe that America could help that become a reality.

That's what liberalism is all about, and if we're pulling out of Afghanistan because it's too costly for money and men, that's fine.  If we must, we must.  I'm a pragmatic liberal and don't believe in fighting fights I can't win.  But we still must remember what liberalism really is, and it's not just about helping America or opposing all military interventions.  It's about helping everyone, and sometimes a military intervention can do that.

If the troubles in Afghanistan are too much for us to handle, we should leave.  But that's not to say we should like it.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Problem of Subjective Facts

Politifact has a problem: It doesn't believe in facts.  It's a fact checking site, yet on some of the key issues of the day, if there's a difference of opinion on what the facts are, they get all squishy and start insisting that facts are subjective and perception is more important than reality.  And if there's a dispute over a fact, they'll not only refuse to settle the dispute, but they'll insist that anyone who considers it to be a settled is wrong and will use their "fact check" to declare that person wrong.

Needless to say, you can't have a difference of opinion on facts, which makes it so many of their "fact" checking pieces are beyond useless and we'd all have been better off if they said nothing.

And so I just read this "fact checking" piece they did on Jon Stewart's claim that Fox News viewers are the least informed of news viewers.  According to their "analysis" this claim is false.  Their evidence?  Three studies by Pew Research Center which show that Fox News viewers rated consistently low when asked questions about who the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court is and other relatively meaningless questions.  And then there were two studies asking meaningful policy questions, which Fox viewers did the worst on.

And that's it.  Three studies showing Fox News doing poorly, and two showing they did the worst.  So how, might you ask, did they rate Stewart's claim to be false if Fox did so poorly?  You see, while they did poor on the Pew studies, they weren't the worst.  And on the two studies they did the worst on, Politifact didn't like the questions because they saw them as being subjective because some people might disagree on the facts.  Huh?

As they say:
Meanwhile, the other set of knowledge surveys, from, offer mixed support for Stewart. The 2003 survey strikes us as pretty solid, but the 2010 survey has been critiqued for its methodology.
Ah, well then.  If someone critiqued that study, then it must not be a good one.  After all, no one would have disagreed with it if it were good, right?

Objective-Objective Questions v. Subjective-Objective Questions

You see, when you ask a relatively meaningless question like "Who is the president of Russia?" there's no subjective angle to it so it's entirely safe; even if it has little importance to what's going on around us.  But when you ask questions like
"Is it your impression that most economists who have studied it estimate that the stimulus has created (a) saved or created several million jobs, (b) saved or created a few jobs, or (c) caused job losses."
"Do you think now that the American economy is (a) starting to recover, or (b) still getting worse?"
These questions don't count, because some people's perceptions might disagree with the facts.  And because their perceptions differ, we must pretend that these objective questions are subjective, even though they have definite answers that informed people should be aware of.

As Politifact explains, that last question is no good because:
However, given the phrasing of the question, a respondent might think the question was asking for a personal opinion of how the recovery was going, rather than what the official statistics say.
And so we're not allowed to declare someone to be misinformed even if the facts and experts show they're misinformed.  Right.

And this is where Politifact can get all tangled up, because they just don't like controversy.  That's why in this very piece, they identify Fox News by saying they're "widely perceived as a conservative-leaning network," as if there was any doubt about that.  I mean, come on!  Saying that Fox is perceived as conservative-leaning is like saying that NBA players are perceived as tall.  Yes, everything's relative at a certain level, but even Fox doesn't really pretend to be balanced anymore.

Curiously, later on in the piece, they describe MSNBC as "a liberal counterpoint to Fox," as if that's undisputed fact.  So...MSNBC is a counterpoint to Fox, yet Fox can't be accurately described as conservative.  Of course.  How squishy of them.

But thus is the world of Politifact.  When a fact isn't disputed, they'll proudly denounce any who get it wrong, but as soon as you get to an issue that might piss off Republicans, even facts aren't good enough anymore.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Man Arrested for Baggy Pants on Airline

This kind of shit just pisses me off.  It's a story about some dude who had baggy sweatpants that were a little too baggy for US Airways, and so they made a big fucking deal about it and finally removed him from the plane because he wouldn't pull up his pants and had him arrested for trespassing.  Trespassing!  And now there are all these people insisting that this guy had it coming, because people shouldn't have baggy pants that are too baggy and we should all respect the authority of airline employees.

But, no.  This wasn't about baggy sweatpants at all.  I mean, it's an airplane.  The dude was sitting down.  And if they had just left him be, nobody would have noticed that you could see his underwear.  And even if they did, so what?  It's just underwear and you see worse than that at any pool, lake, or beach every day.  This guy was at least an athlete.  I've seen a lot grosser dudes than him wearing speedos, and in front of children, no less.

So it ain't the end of the world.  This is America and if some fool wants to wear his pants to the ground, what's the problem?  They're his pants and he's the one who looks like a fool.  And if you don't want to look at his underwear, don't look.  That's what I do with the fat speedo dudes, and it's worked quite well for me.

Respect My Authority

The only problem here is that the US Airways employees decided to make it a problem and demanded that he respect their authority.  Sure, he wasn't hurting anyone and he was being polite towards them, but that's apparently not enough.  And as a full-fledged red-blooded anti-authoritarian, this shit pisses me off.  Because I'm sick of control freaks telling me what to do.  Schools that dictate what color shoelaces you can wear and employers telling me how to dress.  I thought we settled this shit back in the 60's and the freaks won!

But no, we're now in 2011 and have a shitstorm of real problems in the world, just like we always have, yet some jerkoffs insist that they get to tell us how to dress and will imprison people simply to prove that point.  And that's just fucked up.

And here's the thing: It's not Big Government doing that to people.  That's private industry.  That's the free market that got this guy arrested.  Sure, it was the government that enforced the law, but they had no choice because they had to follow the law.  It was these freaks at US Airways making a big deal about nothing that's the problem.  And even when governments does this sort of thing, it's local governments that enforce dress codes on baggy pants.  The federal government doesn't give a damn how you dress.  And the bigger a government is, the less likely it is to screw with your everyday life.

Big government, I can deal with.  It's authoritarian control freaks that bother me, and more often than not, it's the people without much power who insist upon exercising it the most whenever they can that are the real problem.  I'll take an intrusive Uncle Sam over a snippy Flight Attendant any day.  I understand that they have tough jobs, but screw it, so do the rest of us.  And as much as I'm sure it's not fun dealing with annoying kids and drunk passengers, this was an entirely avoidable situation that didn't require anyone to do a god damn thing.

Balancing the Budget by Screwing the Old

Fortune Magazine's Geoff Colvin wrote an article titled Why Can't We Fix Medicare Once and For All?, in which Colvin announces the solution to bringing Medicare costs down: Pay less for Medicare.  Ah, genius!  Why didn't anyone think of that before?

As he sees it, there are two approaches to solving the problem: The "Brute Force" solution and the "People Aren't Dummies" solution.  And yes, Colvin plays us all for dummies, by using a bad name to describe the option he doesn't like and a good name to describe the option he does like; even though the labels serve no descriptive purpose other than to make us favor his solution while opposing the other.  It's as if we're all so stupid that he's just going to win us over with silly labels.

The first approach is to use the strength of the government to keep costs low by using its purchasing power to force health providers to charge reasonable rates.  And he says this doesn't work because:
Turns out that if you unilaterally cut prices, some providers will quit providing services and some patients won't get care, so you can't cut too much. And if you pay providers barely profitable rates when they perform a given service, they will overperform those services, grossly inflating the government's costs. That's what has happened.
Ahh, of course.  If the government uses its power to keep costs down, greedy health providers will game the system for their own advantage.  The solution?  Tossing old people to those same greedy health providers in hopes that they can achieve cost savings the government couldn't.

Quality Rises, Costs Stay Reasonable, and Magic!

Here's how he puts it:
Providers aren't dummies, so they'll innovate in ways that bureaucrats would never think of. Consumers aren't dummies, so they'll choose what works for them. Quality rises, and costs stay reasonable.
Yes, innovation that will happen magically once providers realize that seniors won't have unlimited funds.  And this is different from the Brute Force model of  keeping costs low because...uh, well, because...magic! It's as if we're to imagine that health providers only bristle at low pay from Medicare because they hate government, but they'll gladly invent new ways of providing better services for less money if Medicare steps aside.  Of course.
Now granted, there is a way that government intrusion could be causing healthcare to be more expensive than what our bright individuals would do for themselves.  For example, if the government was forcing hip replacements on people who would otherwise prefer to walk funny to save a few bucks.  But more likely, it's Medicare recipients who are choosing to have their hips replaced, and the government is the one trying to cut corners and keep costs low.

Apparently, Republicans haven't yet learned that the Freedom to Get Screwed really isn't such a great freedom at all.

A Screwing By Any Other Name

And of course, Colvin's article never says it, but it's not seniors who will make any of these choices in any case.  It's the insurance companies that would make the choices, not the seniors.  And the only choice the seniors get is to decide which insurer will be screwing them over.  Somehow, Colvin didn't think it necessary to mention this little aspect of his plan.

In fact, in his entire piece, Colvin never uses the word "insurance" at all.  Not even once.  Someone unfamiliar with his plan could easily assume that this New Medicare involves letting seniors pick their health providers and the government will pay the cost for them.  But of course, that would be the Old Medicare that does that, while the new one guarantees nothing, as seniors might not be able to find a plan they can afford.

And even if they do get insured, there's nothing to guarantee that the plan will be there when they need it.  After all, the free market would surely punish any insurer who denied coverage for improper reasons, right?  I mean, yeah, that's how things worked until Obamacare came along, but...but...magic!

And of course, the word "voucher" never makes it in either.  Instead, we're given the focus group approved "premium support."  Yet I have no doubt that if the phrase "premium support" ever catches on to describe this plan, it'll be as unpopular as the word "voucher" and conservatives will demand a retraction from anyone who uses that phrase, too.

As I've said before, there's nothing magical about these words, and you could call Ryan's plan the Apple Pie & Matlock Medicare Bonanza and seniors will hate it as soon as they hear what it is.

Two Approaches: Big Daddy Government v. Screw the Old

So how could Colvin's No Dummies approach possibly work?  It couldn't and it doesn't.  The Ryan Plan for Medicare doesn't truly believe that senior citizens are smart enough to get providers to lower costs in ways that the government can't.  The Ryan Plan cuts cost by limiting the amount of money seniors will get for their care and forces seniors to pick up the difference, period. 

There's no mystery magical forces of free markets here.  We're saving costs because seniors just won't get enough for healthcare, period.  That's it.  That's the whole gimmick.  We're saving money because we just won't spend as much money, and if people suffer, well, that's their own fault for not being smart enough to pressure health providers into doing things that the experts in the government couldn't even do.

And as much as there is a mechanism for lowering prices, it's only by denying extra money into the marketplace; which is just like the "Brute Force" option Colvin derides; except it's far less likely to work.  More likely, old people will still need to have their hips replaced, but they'll have to figure out some other way of making that happen.  Perhaps with their new titanium hips they can turn to purse snatching or professional sports to help pay their medical bills, as it's quite unlikely that they'll get the care they need from the insurance companies.

And the kicker on all this is that the Republican plan most likely won't screw the elderly in the long run.  Just as Obama filled the "doughnut hole" that Bush's prescription drug plan created to keep costs low, if Republicans were somehow to bring Ryanicare into existence, it'll only be a matter of time until lots of angry seniors realized how little their voucher was getting them and Democrats would once again step in to save the day by making the voucher's work; thus removing any cost savings we might possibly have gotten from this misbegotten plan.

Or...we could just let the government continue to do the job for less money and not screw around with a good thing.  Is Medicare expensive?  Yes, because healthcare for old folks is expensive.  But if the only solution is to simply pay less and hope it magically works out, then that's no solution at all.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Breaking News: News Media As Dumb As They Appear

There's this theory many liberals have which suggests that the media is biased against us because they're owned by corporations and therefore do the bidding of their corporate masters.  And while that would make a bit of sense, it fails the general rule of all conspiracies: If a conspiracy involves lots of people keeping a big secret, the conspiracy probably isn't real.

And so, if the corporate masters of CNN (Time Warner) and MSNBC (NBCUniversal) and the New York Times (New York Times Company) were all telling their employees to stifle liberal policies while pushing pro-corporate policies...don't you think we'd have heard about it from at least some of their former disgruntled employees?

We're all familiar with Bill Sammons' email directives telling Fox reporters how to push their propaganda, and that's from a fairly secretive network that keeps a tight lid on leaks. So how is it that this is just limited to Sammons?  Where's the CNN, MSNBC, and NY Times memos on these subjects?  Bozo nitwit Bernie Goldberg has made a career out of exposing the so-called liberal bias of the media.  Why haven't we seen the opposite?

Are we really to believe that there are literally NO real journalists who get inside these organizations and decide to expose the truth?  Not one liberal makes it through the cracks, even as low level production staff or admin assistant; and they're able to keep them ALL tight lipped about this grand conspiracy that every corporate media outlet is a part of?  That seems highly unlikely.

When All Else Fails, It's Probably Incompetence

Because yeah, it's a plausible theory.  But there are LOTS of plausible theories, and just because a theory is plausible doesn't mean it's true.  And in this case, not all the facts match the theory.  Some facts fall WAAAAY outside the theory, and so the people who espouse this theory simply ignore those facts or rationalize them away.

And what's my theory on the subject?  What else: Incompetence.  When something screwy's going on, the most likely explanation is that incompetent people are involved.  And in the case of the media, that's almost definitely the best explanation.

And here's a test case for you: Watch the video below and tell me whether it's more likely that these people are in the pocket of corporate masters, or if they're complete airheads who wouldn't know real news if it bit them in their plastic faces.

And first off, I'm sorry, but I doubt these people are sophisticated enough to pull off anything more complex than a surprise party; and certainly aren't part of some cabal keeping us misinformed.  These people aren't just playing dumb.  That's how they really are.

The Real Media

While there are intelligent people within the field, the media as a whole are just simple-minded pack animals that follow the herd.  When they breathlessly await Palin's emails while following her vacation bus; they truly believe that's where the "real" story is.  The reason they're not exposing Wall Street isn't because they're under orders not to do so.  It's that they don't even understand what the problem is.  And the reason they support tax cuts for the rich is because they are the rich, and they don't think they should pay more taxes.

These people are celebrities posing as journalists, working in part of the entertainment industry in order to sell commercials which pay their salaries.  And if they believed they could make more money by selling liberal policies and explaining complicated issues to their viewers, they'd do so.  But that's boring as hell and doesn't sell commercials, so that's why they won't do it.

Besides, these people aren't intelligent enough to understand the truth; let alone attempt to explain it to anyone.  But they get better ratings than the vast majority of liberals complaining about them, which is why you'll see the airheads and not the intellects.  If you haven't learned that sad truth by now, then it's about time you did.

And it's important for us to get this straight.  As it always is in life, you can't solve your problems until you properly identify them.  And the longer we believe that there's some conspiracy keeping the media from telling our story, the longer it'll be until we understand how to work them to our advantage.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

If a Liberal President Gives a Speech in the Woods...

WaMo has a post about how Obama held a meeting for his Council on Jobs and Competitiveness in North Carolina and gave a speech at Cree, Inc. in which he talked about the need for jobs; particularly high-skill jobs in math and science.

In the speech, he once again reaffirmed his commitment to investing in research, education, infrastructure, and clean energy.  He even highlighted how Cree received a tax credit to help them invent clean energy products, as well as getting a grant from the Department of Energy.  And he mentioned the Better Buildings Initiative, giving $40 billion to help upgrade existing buildings to make them more energy efficient; which has the added benefit of putting more people to work.

In other words, Obama gave yet another liberal speech that didn't exist to his critics on the left, because they "know" he doesn't give liberal speeches.  Or at least it was so for all the commenters criticizing him without having read what they were criticizing him for.

Hearing the Obama in Their Head

Now mind you, this was on a post titled Obama Stresses ‘Need to Accelerate the Recovery’ which mentioned his Jobs Council in the first paragraph.  It also mentioned that Obama was looking into extending the 2% payroll tax cut he got for workers last December as part of the deficit ceiling negotiations.  And nothing in this suggested he was talking about spending cuts, as he was quoted in the post saying that "day-to-day spending" wasn't the problem.

But because they saw the words "tax cuts" and "deficit" and Benen didn't quote Obama saying the word "jobs," his liberal critics pounced; so certain he had given a conservative speech about deficit reduction that they didn't bother reading the thing.

And sure, talk is cheap and maybe Obama's trying to trick us liberals by hyping liberalism in every speech he gives, can't say he doesn't talk like a liberal.  As they say, you can disagree about opinions, but you're not entitled to your own facts.

Can't Hear Jobs for the Jobs

Here's the worst of the comments, though there are several along these lines (emphasis added):
It doesn't really require much processing power to realize Obama's rhetoric hasn't changed one iota. He actually thinks the way to a better economy is by strangling it first with deficit reduction. Not one word about jobs, since he believes "the gumint don't produce no jobs." Of course, job creation is the only real way out of the deficit in the first place.
Naturally, before someone would claim that Obama didn't say one word about jobs, they should have, ya know, read the speech and checked to see if Obama said anything about jobs.  And if he had, he would have seen that Obama repeated the word thirty-three times.  And in the short speech he gave to his Jobs Committee that same day, he said the word fifteen times.  But, besides the forty-eight times he said "job" in speeches that day, he didn't say it once!

And you know what Obama didn't say?  He didn't say that the government doesn't produce jobs or that we need to improve the economy by reducing the deficit.  In fact, he said the opposite.  Just as he continues to say in every damn speech he gives.  And of course, Obama said the exact stuff this guy said about needing jobs to boost the economy, but much much better.

So...which Obama are they listening to, and is there any way we can get them to listen to the real one?

Obama Highlights

At this point in the post, I gave highlights of the best parts of Obama's speech.  But I found myself quoting so much that I decided it wasn't worth it and you can read the damn thing yourself.  And if you go through his collection of speeches, you'll find this wasn't the outlier.  Obama talks like a liberal all the time and this is just one of his everyday speeches.

And hell, I'll just close with his ending:

So I am optimistic about our future. We can’t be complacent. We shouldn’t pretend that a lot of folks out there are not still struggling. But I am absolutely optimistic that we’ve got everything it takes for us to succeed in the 21st century. Americans do not respond to trials by lowering our sights, or downscaling our dreams, or settling for something less. We are a people who dream big, even when times are tough -- especially when times are tough. We’re a people who reach forward, who look out to the horizon and remember that, together, there’s nothing we can’t do.

And as long as I have the privilege of being your President, I’m going to be right there with you, every step of the way, fighting for a brighter future in this community, in North Carolina, and across the United States of America.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Why the Economic Sabotage Attack Won't Work

Washington Monthly has another post suggesting that Republicans might be intentionally sabotaging the economy in order to hurt Obama politically, which is why they oppose any stimulus spending.  I definitely disagree, as modern Republicans have been consistently against government spending of this sort for two decades; and they've made it a cornerstone of their party.  They've staked their political fortunes on tax cuts and deregulation; and it's one of the very few things they're consistent about.

After all, they didn't support stimulus spending during Bush's second term, yet the economy was in freefall and certainly needed a boast.  Unless we're trying to suggest that Republicans were sabotaging Bush too, it's more likely that they're just morons who don't know what they're doing.  Sure, they'll hype government projects in their own districts, but they remain steadfast in their general opposition to stimulus spending.

But of course, the majority of the comments there reflect the idea that Democrats are wimps and/or fools for not accusing Republicans of sabotage, as if this is some easy way for us to put Republicans on the defensive.

As one commenter wrote:
If the Republicans are put on the defensive and have to explain why they aren't sabotaging the economy for electoral gain, along the way they have to amplify the message that in fact they might be sabotaging the economy for electoral gain.
But knowing what we know about how Washington works, why should we assume that Republicans would be on the defensive at all.  In fact, I'm often ashamed to see the sorts of questions that some liberals imagine would put Republicans on the defensive, unaware that Republicans are fully capable of responding to such questions in the same manner they always do.

I suppose that's why they imagine Obama never supports liberal policies or derides conservative ones, as they somehow imagine we'd always win if we did these things.  As if getting what you want is as simple as talking about it.

Beat the Press

To highlight this, I'll write two hypothetical interviews of Mitch McConnell on Meet the Press, and you tell me which of these two seem more realistic.  And remember, these are fake, so don't go looking for the transcripts.

MTP: What do you say to Democrats who claim Republicans are trying to sabotage the economy in order to hurt President Obama's electoral prospects in 2012?

McConnell: What?  Sabotage?  We're not trying to sabotage the president.  We just want to cut taxes for the rich and services for the poor.

MTP: But won't it, in fact, hurt the economy if we remove billions of dollars from it while firing workers, as you're proposing?

McConnell: But...but...but...

MTP: And what about in October 2010 when you said "The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president."

McConnell: That was taken out of context!   I wasn't talking about sabotage!

MTP: Yet you DID say making Obama a one-term president was your most important goal.

McConnell: That's it!  This interview is over!
But of course, as stirring of an interview as that would be, there's a reason you've never seen anything like it: Because Republicans aren't so stupid that they couldn't evade factless accusations like this.  It'd be one thing if we had a quote of Republicans saying they're intentionally sabotaging the economy, but we don't.

And no, McConnell's "one-term president" line isn't any more damning than liberals who said the same thing about Bush.  Or were we trying to sabotage the economy, too?

Here's the interview you're more likely to see:

MTP: What do you say to Democrats who claim Republicans are trying to sabotage the economy in order to hurt President Obama's electoral prospects in 2012?

McConnell: I say that the only thing sabotaging our economy is Obama and his failed economic policies. Rather than growing the government to unprecedented size, he needs to be helping small businesses by cutting taxes and burdensome regulations. We need to be helping the ECONOMY grow, not the government.

MTP: So you're saying that Obama is to blame for the sluggish economy.

McConnell: Absolutely. No doubt about it. The sooner we can get government out of the way, the sooner we can get our country back on the right track. Yada, yada, yada. Ronald Reagan.
Doesn't that look a little more like what you've seen, and why you probably don't watch Sunday morning talkshows?

Like Attacking a Fish with Water

I mean, hell, the only way a guy like McConnell could get put on the defensive about this is if he suffered a major head trauma.  Not that he's the brightest bulb, but experienced politicians can deflect these sort of attacks in their sleep; especially if they're Republican and have a fawning media trying to impress them.

If you want to watch them suffer, get them on record supporting Paul Ryan's plan to destroy America, or Tim Pawlenty's Unicorn in Every Garage plan.  Those are doozies that will throw any Republican for a loop, as they're either stuck supporting craziness or opposing it and getting attacked by the crazies.  It's all about getting Republicans to hang themselves with their own agenda.  Similarly, a Republican attacking Obama isn't nearly as damning as a Democrat doing so.  Like it or not, that's just how it works.

By comparison, I'm sure they'd LOVE to field an attack about sabotage, as it'd give them another chance to highlight fiscal conservativism and cast Obama as a Big Government Liberal.  And Fox News would have a field day with it, as they'd trot out every conservative Democrat they can find to backpedal and denounce liberals for suggesting that Republicans are trying to hurt the economy.  The idea that Republicans would be put on the defensive by this is ludicrous.

And overall, this all fits in with the error Obama's leftwing critics make, as they really do imagine that all we have to do is attack Republicans and defend liberalism and we'd win.  They're so confident that there are easy answers to our problems that they completely gloss over those problems all together, and we're to imagine that it's Obama's fault that the media likes conservatives more than liberals.

Of course, we still have liberals insisting that Obama doesn't make liberal speeches, all evidence to the contrary.  So I suppose this isn't the only area that they're unclear about.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Breaking News: Obama Gives Liberal Speeches All the Time

In my last post, I discussed how there really aren't any good options for getting a jobs or stimulus bill passed, because Republicans can still filibuster anything in the Senate and have complete control of the House.  Wish all you want, but it ain't gonna happen.  This isn't Obama's fault and anyone blaming him for this is living in a fantasy world of fairies and unicorns.

And as I also discussed, there's little point in even pretending to try to pass one to score political points, unless we've got some great strategy for making it work to our advantage.  Doing something just to do something is worse than doing nothing at all.  And that's generally the case in life, as you shouldn't do anything unless you know why you're doing it.

And as could be expected, a leftwing critic of Obama left a comment which ignored everything I wrote and pretended as if Obama has lots of great options he's choosing to ignore.  Here's the entire comment, and please note the lack of any clue as to what Obama should do:
Hell, you may even be right. But it doesn't matter. Unemployment is 9.1%, the economy is stagnating, the stimulus that he was able to get was underfunded and insufficient (though, of course, it was better than nothing) -- we have desperate need for more jobs, better infrastructure, a better energy policy and vast amount of public investment.
We have none of it.
I'm sure the strategy to ignore this and not upset the most-easily upset people in the world is savvy and utterly correct. But it doesn't matter. It doesn't change the fact that he is a President that is presiding over a terrible economy, economic uncertainty and he keeps talking about the importance of getting the deficit under control.
Sure the Republicans are gargoyles, but the Democrats in Congress and in the White House are also doing jack shit and Americans are still suffering and no one really seems to care.
Ok, yes.  That's a good recap of the problem.  But where's the solution?  The problem is obvious.  The solution doesn't exist.  Yet the best this guy can do is to continue to blame Obama for not being able to pull miracles out of his butt.

Apparently, this guy lives in a fantasy world in which every problem has a solution.  Well sorry, but that's not always the case.  Sometimes, you're just screwed.  And if this guy has the secret solution, I would imagine he'd have explained it, rather than restating the same damn problems that everyone already knows about.  It's as if we're to imagine that we can solve problems merely by stating them.

And if I sound a bit disgruntled about that, it's because I am.  I understand why Republicans attack Obama, because he scares the shit out of them.  It's when liberals attack him that I'm left scratching my head and wondering about the sanity of people who agree with Obama on almost every issue.

How a Real Liberal Sounds

See if these remarks sound familiar:
The fact is, we understand what it takes to build a stronger economy. We know it’s going to require investing in research and technology that will lead to new ideas and new industries. We know it means building the infrastructure, the roads and bridges, and manufacturing the new products here in the United States of America that create good jobs. Above all, it requires training and educating our citizens to out-compete workers from other countries.
If you guessed that I was quoting the president, you'd have guessed correctly.  That was from a speech he gave at a Community College in North Virginia three days ago.

Needing jobs, infrastructure, and investment, huh. Where, oh where might I have heard someone else say we needed the same things?  Oh yeah, from my liberal commenter who insisted that Obama is ignoring these issues.  Oooh, that president!  Stealing this guy's best ideas two days before the guy said it!

Obama went on to say Congress needed to pass the "Workforce Investment Act," though I can't find anything on that; even on the Whitehouse website.  I get the impression that's something they're still working on.

Investing in a Better America

We saw the same thing when Obama talked to auto workers in Toledo last week to hype the auto bailout which helped prevent an economic disaster and saved thousands of jobs; in accordance with core liberal principles.

And in this one, you can see how someone cherry-picking Obama's speeches might be confused, as he begins with conservative rhetoric.  Yet the point is to take those arguments and twist them around to show why we need liberal policies.  Yes, he starts by talking about the deficit, but watch how he works it back to our side with full-throated liberalism (emphasis added):
These are tight fiscal times. You guys have all heard about the deficit and the debt, and that demands that we spend wisely, cut everywhere that we can. We’ve got to live within our means. Everybody’s got to do their part. Middle-class workers like you, though, shouldn’t be bearing all the burden. You work too hard for someone to ask you to pay more so that somebody who’s making millions or billions of dollars can pay less. That’s not right. (Applause.)
And even though we’re in tough times, there are still some things that we’ve got to keep on doing if we’re going to win the future. We can’t just sit back and stop. We got business we got to do. We got to make sure that our schools are educating our kids so that they can succeed. I was looking at all the gizmos and gadgets you got in this plant here -- it’s a lot more complicated working on a plant than it used to be. Kids have to know math and science.
We got to have a transportation and communications network that allows our businesses to compete. We used to have the best roads, the best bridges, the best airports. In a lot of places we don’t have that anymore. If you go to China, Beijing, they’ve got a fancier airport. You go to Europe, they got fancier trains, better roads. We can’t let our infrastructure just crumble and fall apart. We’re American. We’ve got to make that investment. (Applause.)
We’ve got to invest in innovation that will pave the way for future prosperity. We invented stuff that the world now uses and the world now makes. We’ve got to keep on inventing stuff and make sure it’s made right here in America. And that requires investments. (Applause.) That requires investments in basic research and basic science.
So these are all things that will help America out-innovate, out-educate, out-compete, out-hustle everybody else in the world. I want America to win the future, and I want our future to be big and optimistic, not small and fearful.
Now, show me the liberal who can disagree with this.  This sounds like the exact sort of thing liberals should want Obama to say...but better.

Obama's Strategy

Because this is the strategy I mentioned in my last post.  Republicans wanted to hit Obama with phony talk of fighting the deficit, believing he'd fight against them and make them look like fiscal heroes battling a Big Spender Liberal.

Instead, he stole their platform and turned it on its head by agreeing that the deficit is a problem, yet still insisting that we need to tax the rich and pump up infrastructure and other needed improvements.  And rather than arguing Big Spender v. Fiscal Conservatives, like Republicans wanted; Republicans are forced to explain why they want to cut education and our safety net while the rich get tax cuts.  These bozos went back to the playbook of the 80's and 90's, while Obama kept them clueless by using a 21st Century playbook.  Did he win?  Not yet.  But at least he's fighting and has a good chance of coming out ahead.

His liberal critics, on the other hand, demand that he refight all the old battles, walk into all the old traps, and are so clueless as to what his strategy is that they imagine he doesn't have one; as if Obama's some fool just guessing his way through life and lucking into winning situations.  Republicans have shown again and again how their rhetoric beats what these liberals want Obama to use, but insist that he can't possibly have a strategy because he's not using the playbook that FDR crafted in the 30's and was already looking haggard by the time LBJ used it in the 60's.

And even when I EXPLAIN the strategy to them, they insist that there is no strategy and Obama is ignoring our problems.  Why?  Because he's not using a strategy that the Republican playbook was specifically designed to destroy.  Oh, no!  Obama's not running into a buzzsaw!  What a traitor!  Meanwhile, Obama remains the most popular politician in America while staying true to liberalism, and his Republican foes see their political prospects dimming all the time.

And hey, maybe I'm wrong and maybe Obama's strategy is a blunder; but you at least have to explain why.  And if the best you can do is to insist that Obama doesn't have a strategy, then you obviously don't know what you're talking about.  And again, trying to pass legislation solely for the sake of passing legislation is worse than doing nothing at all; so if that's your advice to Obama, save it.

My Challenge to Leftwing Obama Critics

And what I quoted before wasn't just a one-time thing intended to impress a liberal audience.  He's saying this stuff to auto workers in Ohio, and community colleges in Virginia, and the British Parliament, and a Women's Leadership group in DC, and at a DNC Fundraiser. And he used consecutive Weekly Addresses in April and May to talk about Oil Market Fraud, Ending Oil Subsidies, Clean Energy, and Responsible Oil Production.  He consistently uses liberal rhetoric to support liberal policies in almost every speech he gives.  Whoever claims he's not using the Bully Pulpit to promote liberalism just isn't paying attention.

Please, find me the speech where Obama isn't talking about this stuff.  Find me the speech where Obama says that everything's ok and budget cuts are more important than infrastructure.  Because I'm reading through all his material and I'm not seeing it.  As I've highlighted before, you read his speeches and he sounds like a liberal.  Not just on a superficial level, but on the most fundamental deepdown level, Obama explains his liberal policies using liberal rhetoric; both in his prepared remarks and his impromptu answers.

Naturally, people can believe what they want, but anyone who believes that Obama uses rightwing rhetoric or is ignoring our problems simply don't know what they're talking about.  And again, I expect that from Republicans, as they've been delusional for a long time and Obama is really driving them bonkers.  But I fail to understand how a liberal could possibly hear an Obama speech and conclude that he's not saying the right things.

More likely than not, they're not even reading his speeches at all, and simply imagine he's not making them.  Why?  Because the progressives complaining about him only cherry-pick the negative stuff and never quote his speeches.

Actions Speak Louder

And so that just leaves us with his deeds, yet there's no credible evidence to suggest that Obama could have done much better than he did.  I'm sorry, but the president isn't omnipotent and even Bush's supposed success at strong-arming congress was vastly exaggerated; as he got almost nothing unpopular through Republican Congresses and his entire second-term was a lame-duck as Democrats continually stuffed him.

By comparison with Bush, Obama was a legislation machine in his first two years.  But of course, Obama's legislative accomplishments rival that of any modern president.

Could Obama have gotten us more?  Yeah, maybe.  I'm not about to suggest that his record was perfect.  But whose is?  Are we really to fault the man for being less than perfect?  But anyone using the premise that Obama definitely could have gotten more  is full of shit; if only because life doesn't involve certainties like that.  And any respectable review of the facts shows that Obama's biggest "betrayals" of liberalism were forced upon him by Congress; in accordance with our system of government.

Obama didn't give up on the public option, Congress did.  Obama doesn't want Gitmo open.  Congress does.  And you can call those excuses if you want, but it happens to be the truth.  Our system of government doesn't give Obama unlimited powers and that's generally considered a good thing.  Like it or not, if you want a president who strong-arms Congress into rubber-stamping his agenda against their will, that's a dictatorship.  And if you don't like that word, then you shouldn't try to force us into one.

Because no, a President Kucinich or President Grayson wouldn't have gotten a damn thing through the 2009-2010 Senate unless they cajoled a few moderate Republicans to support it; and that wouldn't have happened with insults and angry speeches.  And had they pushed for a trial against Bush and Cheney for torture or war crimes, the country would have blown up on them and they definitely wouldn't have gotten anything through Congress.  And they most definitely couldn't get a jobs bill through the current Congress.  That's simply impossible until after 2012.

The Reality of Politics

As I've said before, politics are real and if you believe that a president can pass legislation while ignoring the political implications of his actions, then you don't know what you're talking about.  Boldness is rarely rewarded in politics and if you don't play your cards right, you get what Clinton got in 1993, when he was not only under siege by Republicans, but by his own party.

Skittish Democrats are always looking for a chance to push against a Democratic President (eg, Clinton & Carter) and if you push them too hard, you'll lose them completely.  History shows that again and again, and there are no examples showing the contrary.  Republican Congressmen follow orders and Democratic Congressmen look for excuses to buck authority; and that's just the way it is.  And if your strategy is to break Republican obedience while strong-arming Democrats into obeying the president, then you haven't been paying attention.

Yeah, yeah.  I know.  That's not what you've heard from Obama's critics.  But those people don't know what they're talking about.  Sorry to say, but there are no heroes in the world, unicorns don't grow on trees, and the president isn't omnipotent.  We live in reality, and that means we take our liberal presidents as they come; not as we wish them to be.  And by that standard, Obama is a fantastic liberal president.

And as your reward for reading to the end (and yeah, I know you did), here's what an intelligent liberal president sounds like. Enjoy!

Friday, June 10, 2011

The Perils of Political Stimulus

Over at Washington Monthly, I'm reading comments about how Obama needs to learn that Republicans don't like him and should push for his agenda in spite of what they might say about him.  And like, come fricking on!  This was a silly argument in 2008 and after two and a half years in the Whitehouse, I'm pretty damn sure Obama's aware that Republicans are out to get him.  No, he can't say that publicly, but let's give the man some credit for not being a complete moron.

As a clue to you naifs out there, just because someone is nice to you doesn't mean they're your friend.  We don't all wear our emotions on our sleeves and Obama has a proven track record of sticking it to Republicans when it counts.  As always, he avoids needless battles, never burns a bridge he might need later, and keeps his ammo ready for when he needs it.  And that's why he's the most popular politician in America and we're not.

And as silly as it was in 2009 to act as if Obama could strong-arm Congress into doing his bidding without Republican support; since the mid-terms, that's utterly impossible.  Yes, yes, I know.  We were assured by progressives that a loss in November would bring a sea change of liberalism back to Washington; if only we punished Democrats for not being liberal enough.  But alas, those seeds have yet to come to fruition; assuming they ever do.

Fighting to Fight

And so, what exactly is Obama expected to do?  Disband Congress?  Enlarge Cheney's Fourth Branch of Government to include a Jobs & Stimulus division that can pass and execute legislation on its own?  We couldn't pass a bill in 2009-2010 without a few Senate Republicans joining us, and since the mid-terms, it's entirely impossible.

And sure, we could push for a symbolic jobs and stimulus bill to score points politically.  But you can't just rush into that sort of thing, as it's a political minefield with more peril than pearls, and if you end up with Obama being labeled as a Tax & Spend Failure by the general population, then we're worse off than how we started.  Just look at Republicans who rushed into supporting Paul Ryan's budget, just to see it drag them down like a lead weight.  As it turns out, expressing your convictions and pushing bold actions can be worse than doing nothing at all.

As a reminder, Obama pushed various jobs and stimulus bills which actually succeeded, both politically and in reality; yet Republicans weren't punished for opposing them.  In fact, they've used this stimulus to hit Obama repeatedly, and many people who benefited from the policies are so confused they actually think these policies made things worse.

And as much as people say a stimulus bill will shore up Obama's leftwing flank, history shows that his liberal critics dismissed his previous efforts entirely.  As they say, your critics will always attack you no matter what you do. 

Winning to Lose

So...if these real bills were political winners for Republicans and losers for us, why does anyone imagine that another round will help us politically?  Sure, they're good policy; but they won't pass Congress so they won't be policy.  We'd only be doing this for political purposes; yet the politics don't necessarily favor us and might work heavily against us.

We've got Republicans on the ropes thanks to Paul Ryan, while a fight over spending might be the thing they need to get back on the attack.  That's the fight Republicans wanted all along when they started emphasizing the deficit again, and Obama foiled them by agreeing that the deficit is a problem and then pivoting it into limited cuts, infrastructure improvements, and tax increases.

That battle is still being waged, but Obama would lose it completely if he tries to push for more spending right now; even if it's just symbolic.  That's the exact trap Republicans set for him, as their push for deficit reduction is useless politically unless Obama opposes them by increasing spending; and seeing as how Republicans have no real spending cuts in mind, it's obvious it was only intended as a political trap.  I see no benefit to have Obama walk into it now.

As it turns out, politics is extremely complicated.  Just as you can't get to the moon simply by aiming your spaceship towards it and firing the rockets, if you try to take a straight path to your political goals, you'll end up chasing it forever; if not defeated entirely.  And if the only reason we're trying to do something is just to do something; then we definitely shouldn't bother at all. 

As with everything in life, if you don't know why you're doing something, you probably shouldn't be doing it.  That goes doubly so in politics.

The Impotence of Words

Conservatives "know" that America is a conservative nation.  They can feel it in their bones and they hear it from other conservatives all the time, and as we all know, conservatives are the only people who know what they're talking about.  That's what makes them Real Americans, while the majority of us are schlubs and beggars screwing up their once great nation.

And yet...they're constantly perplexed as to why supposedly conservative America continues to support liberal policies, like Social Security, Medicare, and the whole host of Big Government intrusion that denies us our freedom to get screwed at work, poisoned at home, and ripped off in the marketplace.  Surely, a rightwing nation would abhor leftwing government, right?  Right?

And so they've convinced themselves that it's all about the words.  As if the phrase "Social Security" is some magical incantation, and that if they had discovered those magic words first and used them to describe a policy they liked, everyone would love that policy.  Meanwhile, they've somehow been saddled with bad words, like "voucher" and "privatize" that people don't like; and no matter how much they protest, people still use those words to describe what they're doing.

For Republicans, focus groups aren't to find out what people want.  They're to figure out what words people want to hear.  After all, they already "know" what people want, even if the people don't know they want it yet.

Crap By Any Other Name Is Still Crap

But despite Orwell's teachings, that's just not how words work and you CANNOT trick people into enjoying shit even if you call it a "rose."  Because it's not the words that people like or dislike, it's what the words mean.  Sure, proper phraseology can help open the door to getting people to accept or hate something, but eventually, their opinion will be based upon what they think of the actual thing; not the label used to describe it.

Because it's not the word "Medicare" people like, but the program.  If you called it Senior Death Program while explaining it was the same as Medicare, people will support the Senior Death Program and keep calling it Medicare.  Similarly, you can use the word "Medicare" to describe the sick joke of a voucher program conservatives are trying to screw us with, and people will know that it's not Medicare, even if they call it that.

Yet Republicans continue to struggle with their plans to destroy our liberal nation, and rather than admit that they're wrong, continue their search for new words to describe the same old crap they've been foisting upon us for decades.  And if conservatives were more explicit about their plans, no one would vote for them; not because of the words they use, but the policies they support.

Even as it is, they have to lie and distort to get anyone to vote for them.  That would be entirely unnecessary if we were the conservative nation they imagine we are.

Doing It in the John

And that's the way it is with language: It only has the power we grant to it.  We have all sorts of euphemisms to describe toilets, poop, and sex; yet the moment these words are associated with these dirty things, the words become dirty and gentlepeople search out in vain to find yet another euphemism to use when discussing such them. After all, even the word "toilet" was the fancy euphemism used to describe the place we shit.

And so words like ass, bitch, and retarded become off-limits, not because they're inherently offensive, but because they get tainted with usage.  That's why a racist can refer to a minority race using any word you like, including nonsensical invented words, and it'll still sound offensive.  Proper words like "Mexican" and "Black" sound like insults coming from the mouth of a bigot, so much so that non-bigots become cautious when using them, for fear of being mistaken for a bigot.  It's not the PC Police doing this, but the nature of language itself. 

If there isn't a word for something, people will invent one; which is how slang is created and why words change meanings so often.  That's what language is for, and it's easier to guide gushing water with your hands than try to force vocabulary on people that doesn't communicate what they're trying to say.  People like the Arizona shooter who insist that words can be manipulated into controlling our thoughts are simply wrong.  Yes, a good argument goes for towards selling a policy, but the specific terminology isn't going to sell crap, no matter how pretty it sounds.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

New Study from Duh Magazine: Pot Affects Your Brain

I don't have a problem with pure research.  You know, the stuff they do that doesn't have a specific goal, but can be added to our general knowledge and hopefully be of great value some day.  In fact, I'm of the general opinion that the best answers are the ones you weren't even looking for, and I would definitely like to see more pure research done in this country.  Truth isn't always profitable, but that doesn't mean we should neglect it.

And so I'm always a little bothered whenever I read of a general research study and see commenters dogging the study; insisting that there are many "real" problems in this world we need to solve before tackling the theoretical stuff.  I mean, yeah, solving "real" problems is nice, but there are lots of worthy studies we should be doing even if we have other issues to worry about.

And then there are studies like this one:
Chronic Pot Smoking Affects Brain Chemistry, Scans Show

And first off, any study involving research on "chronic" pot smokers is bound to be a doozy; like one I covered before, which warned of the dangers of pot-smoking based upon people who said they smoked between 75 to 350 joints a week.  And yeah, that's typical usage...if you're the prop man for a Cheech & Chong movie.  I mean jesus, smoking fifty joints in a week would be quite high; forget about fifty every day.

Novel Treatment for Cannabis Abuse: Stop Smoking Cannabis

But this new study is possibly worse, as it sounds scary, until you read the article.  Basically, they scanned the brains of 30 people who smoke pot every day and found that over a month's time their cannabinoid CB1 receptors decreased by 20% compared with people who don't smoke at all.  And after they quit smoking for a month, they got better.  That's it.  That's the whole story.  Marijuana affects your brain, and when you quit using it, you get better.  That's not my take on it, that's what the researchers claim.

Here's the money quote, from the second to the last paragraph:
"This information may prove critical for the development of novel treatments for cannabis abuse. Furthermore, this research shows that the decreased receptors in people who abuse cannabis return to normal when they stop smoking the drug," Hirvonen added.
And what? I mean, I had assumed from the headline and most of the article that they were trying to warn us of permanent damage.  But no.  Temporary damage, even to people who smoke every day for a month, and then you go back to normal.  Oooh, scary.

And seriously, who's to say this temporary damage is a bad thing?  Permanently feeling stupid, crazy, or wacko is a bad thing.  Temporarily, can be a learning experience.  Because sometimes it's a good idea to be a little stupid.  To see things how they aren't necessarily.  To experience something out of the norm and see things from a perspective you wouldn't otherwise have experienced.  Just as long as it's not permanent, what's the problem?

And really, my headline got it just about right.  Because we know that pot affects your brain.  I mean, that's kind of the point, isn't it?  And again, as long as you're not permanently damaging yourself, like the way people do when they drink too much or smoke cigarettes or over eat, what's the problem?  I mean, you do heroin once or twice and you're screwed for life.  But apparently, the "cure" for cannabis abuse is to stop smoking cannabis.  Thanks for the tip, Dr. Hirvonen.  I could never have figured that one out on my own.

And for as much as they're trying to present this story as being a warning to pot smokers, it seems obvious that the correct message is: It's ok to smoke pot, just don't make a habit of it.  And that's the sort of advice people really need to hear.  Just as it is with everything else in life, it's all about moderation.  No one ever died from smoking too much pot, but that doesn't mean you should live that way.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Obama to Steal Tea Party Thoughts; Comes Up Empty

Here's a scary, scary video about how the Department of Homeland Security is secretly working to create Thought Crime Detection technology, which they try to flim-flam us about by covering the whole thing on Fox News.  Because if there's one way to hide a government secret, it's to have the most watched news network in America do a story on it..

And the thing is, what they're working on is kinda cool, particularly if it could also be used in hospitals; to give people instant physicals.  But there's nothing really scary about it, as it's really no different than what security guards and cops do anyway. The only difference is that instead of solely relying on our observations and instincts, we'd also be using technology to help us do it better. If anything, it would improve detection, as it'd make it more objective and reliable.

But to people who fear government, this can only mean one thing: The government is out to get us.  After all, everything means the government is out to get us.  You can have a story about police officers giving presents to poor children at Christmastime and see it warp into something involving child armies, welfare orphanages, and fixed elections.  You'd be a fool to doubt it.

For them, it's not a question of if the government's going to enslave us; but when; and that answer is invariably, soon or sooner.  And that's exactly what these guys imagine they want.  Life is boring and complicated.  Much easier to just grab a gun and take aim.  They have no doubts that this will all work out for them in the end.

Hitler Obama and the Serpent Jews

And if you want a good laugh, go to the YouTube link and read the crazy comments.

Like these:
"they can go too hell they are the bad people test it on there selves. can they detect how much gas i got in my butt before i blow it ouit on them"

"ITS REALLY NAZI GERMANY !!! Where the fuck is HILTER when u need him ? No wait hes here Barry Soetoro aka OBAMA"

"satan always wanted to be as The Most High; now he's going for another power grab.But he will not hold on to it that long..

This is what happens when you let a bunch of European Khazarian Ashkenazim Jew religion converts steal the holy land in 1948; to pretend be the lost 12 chosen tribes of beta Ysrael.. They were once known as serpent people; now are"politically" considered holy people..Therefore let nothing surprise you..

This is all just protocols of zion(synagogue of satan)"

"u have bush to thank, war on terror, " either your with us, or with the terrorists" and still, americans stand idle letting now obama get away with anything. problem is tho, what happens in usa, happens in the rest of the western world. spreads like cancer. fucken dictators. kill em all, let God sort em out"
When all else fails, blame the Zionists and the blacks.  And no, I didn't cherrypick those or alter them in away way.  Those were the first four responses I saw in the comments section.  And there are lots of comments like those.  My favorite of these four was the guy who called Obama "Barry Soetoro."  Look, we KNOW what his name is.  It's Barack Hussein Obama II  And there is NOTHING to suggest that that's not his real name.

So why on earth do these people insist upon implying that Barack Obama is REALLY Barry Soetoro?  That can't possibly make any sense, unless we're to imagine that his parents gave him the last name of his future step-father, rather than his own father's name.  That's ridiculous.  And seriously, what the hell difference could it possibly make?  As if the name "Barack Obama" is sooooo much better for taking over the world than "Barry Soetoro."

So we've got a section of our government engaging in a massive cover-up of Obama's real last name; including a fake birth certificate, fake birth announcements, and fake entire lifestory for reasons that don't even make sense to the idiots making these claims.  But to these whackjobs, this is all just more proof that Obama isn't the nice guy he seems to be to everyone who's ever seen him.

After all, why would he go through all the trouble of faking his birth certificate, birth announcement, and life story, while defending it in court; unless it was lying?  To think otherwise would imply that the most obvious explanation is the right one.  Apparently, it's much easier to believe in nonsensical conspiracies than acknowledge the obvious.

Up Next: The Dream Police

And the whole idea that this could be a "Thought Crime Detection" system is ludicrous.  I suspect that the real problem was Fox News' references to Minority Report, which set the seeds of fear into the hearts of these anti-government fear-mongers.  Because this system CAN'T predict what you're thinking or what you're going to do.  That's impossible.  This thing is reading your heart rate and eye movements, not scanning your brain for pictures of porn.  Jesus christ, it's people like this who get eaten by bears.

Besides, we don't use metal detectors to decide who to arrest either. You get arrested if they find evidence you're doing something wrong. But we've all been flagged by metal detectors, and sometimes searched, and we didn't go to jail for it. It'd be the same thing with these nervous detectors. Yet the commenters there were acting as if this made Obama the next Hitler; as if Hitler's big crime was trying to monitor his people; rather than, say...starting a world war while exterminating millions of people.  Maybe I'm the crazy one, but I fail to see how these are equivalents.

And it's as if we're to imagine Obama's really behind all this, plotting the whole thing from the Oval Office.
Obama: So, how are our thought crime detection booths coming along? 
Biden: They're coming along great, O. Just like you thought.  I tried it out on Ayers today and knew exactly what he was thinking.  It was cool beans.
Obama: Excellent, excellent. I really can't wait to start using them to find all the Real Americans so we can lock them up in our FEMA Concentration Camps and re-educate them, just like Glenn Beck said we would.
Biden: Sure is a good thing nobody listened to him.
Obama: Tell me about it.
Because in reality, Obama doesn't know anything about this. This is a research project within DHS and isn't the sort of thing Obama is pushing.. Yet these people seem to imagine Obama as some super-villain, as if he has nearly the time for such silly activities. It's much more comforting to imagine that someone really is in charge of everything, rather than admit that we're all just making it up as we go along. Even our presidents.

Friday, June 03, 2011

The Republican Pander

I recently made the mistake of engaging in debate with a "friend" on Facebook, after seeing his wall post of an interview with former Louisiana Governor Buddy Roemer, writing:
I never thought I'd be saying anything like this, but it seems like the most pro-science candidate among the potential ones for the 2012 presidency is a republican!
And I thought that was a bit odd, as I couldn't see how any Republican could be more pro-science than Obama.  But apparently, he didn't include Obama in that.  In fact, he was basically only including Republicans; which means that he was expressing his surprise that the most pro-science Republican was a Republican.

I wrote a comment slightly teasing him about that, which quickly devolved into a very embarrassing debate in which the guy kept burying himself while using big words that didn't really mean anything.  But his point wasn't to express surprise that a Republican was the most pro-science, but rather, to show a little support for a pro-science Republican, in hopes that it might somehow encourage other Republicans to be pro-science; which would in turn make Obama want to be more pro-science.

And I'm sorry, but that's simply delusional thinking.  There is NOTHING that will make a Republican be pro-science.  Yeah, when being interviewed by a scientist, they might pay it lip service.  But when every Republican is forced to pretend to not understand evolution and insists that we can't afford education because the rich shouldn't pay more taxes...there is no pro-science to be had.

And there's nothing that can change that, at least not in the next ten years.  The Republican Party has lost so many moderates and realists that the loony fringe has taken over; and that means that if you want to win in the Republican Party, you have to appease that fringe.  It's a race to the bottom and no Republican is immune to it.

Lugar Sells Out

And I was thinking about this when reading that Sen. Dick Lugar (R-Panderville) has decided to throw his support to the Fair Tax; apparently in an attempt to show Republicans that he's crazy enough to deserve their support.  Sure, he's got a longtime record as a true conservative, but his Crazy Cred is fairly low, so he's suddenly finding the need to bolster it with talk of radical tax schemes that any serious person should laugh at.

And what's saddest about the Fair Tax sham is how its own supporters can't even agree as to what it does.  Two-thirds of the time, they'll insist that it's a much better way to raise revenues...while the rest of the time they're admitting that they support it because it will greatly cut government spending, which is a key goal of theirs.  Two-thirds of the time they'll insist that it'll finally make the rich pay more taxes...while the rest of the time they're admitting that it's about getting the poor to pay their fair share and remove the burden from the rich.

And really, I just wish we could get these two sides to argue amongst themselves, to finally hash out what it is they think this is going to do.  Because the third that's being honest are saying the EXACT SAME STUFF the liberals are, yet when the liberals say it, we get attacked.  If a liberal correctly states that the Fair Tax rate would have to be extremely high to be revenue neutral, or mention how it'll mean the rich pay less taxes, we're attacked for it.

We'll be told that this is all a conspiracy by elitist economists and their wealthy paymasters to keep us down.  But then on the very same message board, you'll hear about how great it'll be to use this to cut spending and finally let the poor pay their fair share, while showing everyone how much they're truly paying in taxes...which the rich pay far more of.

Seriously, here's a messageboard I happened to see that crap on, and never once did they think to argue amongst themselves.  Both sides were making mutually exclusive arguments, and they didn't even seem to notice.  Because of course, what all these people REALLY want is for their personal taxes to go down.  They've convinced themselves that they're getting screwed by the IRS, and see the Fair Tax as a way of sticking it back at them; regardless of whether they understand what this will really do to them.

Argumentem ad Idiotem

I think my two favorite comments are by guys who dispute the claim by Congress' Joint Committee of Taxation that a revenue-neutral Fair Tax might have to be 57%, by essentially arguing "Come on!"

Here they are:
We have a very hard time estimating the impact on tax revenue with a percentage change in the current system; how can we pretend to know the revenue-neutral level of a consumption tax? You have to be pretty arrogant to come out with 57%. It just shows that we'll be analyzing this for the next 100 years
Yes, how arrogant of Congress' Joint Committee of Taxation to come up with that number.  This guy geniuenly seems to be arguing that because it's too complex for us to figure out what the proper rate should be, that we should just go ahead and do it.  I mean, how dare we be so arrogant that we attempt to understand what we're doing before we do it?

And then there's this genius:
Some would have us believe that the tax would have to be 57% or higher to be revenue neutral. Perhaps 145%!!! 100% of our income would have to go to paying this tax leaving us nothing to buy food with. We would all starve!
Or just maybe if it is revenue neutral, it will be revenue neutral. And it can easily be adjusted up or down to make it revenue neutral. Good Lord, people, that is a simple, simple issue to fix. The only question is its incidence.
Somehow, for as much huff and puff this guy gives, he kinda failed to make any point at all.  It's like he doesn't even understand what revenue neutral means. He goes on to gripe that economists are "rich kids and have no direct knowledge of anyone who actually works for a living."

Because yes, the best way to understand how to structure our tax code is to know people who work for a living.  That's it.  You can study for years and years and crunch all kinds of silly numbers with the other rich kids, but unless you know a mechanic, you'll be too elitist to know that a 30% national sales tax is enough to raise as much money as all our current Federal Taxes combined; including payroll taxes.

I mean, cuz hey, if the initial 30% rate isn't neutral, we'll just adjust it up and down until it IS enough.  Surely, the rate won't be so arrogant as to be 57% or 100%; otherwise, we'd starve.  And we all know why that wouldn't happen, so it doesn't even need to be said.

As was to be expected, the people who support lamebrained tax xchemes are, in fact, lamebrained.  And somehow, the vast majority of these people are conservatives.