Monday, February 28, 2011

Good to have allies

From Mother Jones:

Income inequality has grown dramatically since the mid-'70s—far more in the US than in most advanced countries—and the gap is only partly related to college grads outperforming high-school grads. Rather, the bulk of our growing inequality has been a product of skyrocketing incomes among the richest 1 percent and—even more dramatically—among the top 0.1 percent. It has, in other words, been CEOs and Wall Street traders at the very tippy-top who are hoovering up vast sums of money from everyone, even those who by ordinary standards are pretty well off.

Kevin Drum asks the key question, "How did we get here?"  It's a question near and dear to my heart, one I first wrote about here in 2007 under that exact title.

Drum and I agree that the Democrats' surrender of social class has led to rampant plutocracy and to government policy that encourages huge growth in income disparities. We even agree in part about why.  Drum says:
Parties need money. And parties need organizational muscle. The Republican Party gets the former from corporate sponsors and the latter from highly organized church-based groups. The Democratic Party, conversely, relied heavily on organized labor for both in the postwar era. So as unions increasingly withered beginning in the '70s, the Democratic Party turned to the only other source of money and influence available in large-enough quantities to replace big labor: the business community.
I say:
Democrats gave up their unity voluntarily as a result of the marketplace, not of ideas, but of campaign contributions. They passed post-Watergate reforms in reaction to the financial abuses of Nixon's Committee to Re-Elect the President (CREEP), but they ran afoul of unintended consequences.

Democrats could no longer raise large chunks of money from wealthy ideological sources; they now had to spread their fundraising to wealthy business interests who were much more likely to play the access game.
Obviously, we find different causes.  Drum emphasizes the decline of organized labor.  I point to an unintended consequence of post-Watergate reforms in campaign finance.

One reason I doubt the union decline as the main cause - though any big change in society is bound to have many causes - is that unions remain to this day influential in Democratic Party politics, at least in states where unions have influence at all.  Their members are less reliable (ask Martha Coakley), but their leadership is not, and it's true that the disaffection of membership began during the social upheavals of the 1960s and 70s, exactly the right timing to help explain America's political degeneration.  So I'd have to concede that the union decline does figure in the decline of America as a liberal and forward-looking country.

Another cause I hadn't thought enough about is the retirement of the World War II generation.  Men and women who had been 30 years old at the end of the war were leaving the work force in 1980, just in time for the Reagan retrenchment.  It didn't hurt that he, as one of them, could co-opt them with his neo-1920s economic ideology and his sunny disposition.

Reagan said that government was the problem.  But he smiled.  And his age cohort, who had seen muscular government succeed at many things, could stop thinking about complicated problems and let go of the responsibilities that they had borne so well.

In any case, it's good to have Drum working this beat - strength in numbers and all.  Of course, that has been the promise of unions, a promise now forgotten along with the history of dire worker exploitation by the mercenary corporations of a century ago.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Judas Oscariot

 I have no idea whether "The Social Network" will win the best picture Oscar.  Maybe it already has.  I don't watch award shows.  The producers have the gall to broadcast a 3-hour ad for Hollywood and still to lard it with ads for cars and beer and boner pills or whatever.  Awards shows are tedious, besides.  If they'd just show the 100 best trailers and the 100 sexiest stars, then I might watch.

I don't know whether Mark Zuckerberg stole the idea for Facebook, but I do know that he is a villain.  Practically everything he has ever done with the site proves that.  Repeated privacy violations, followed by insincere apologies (as evident from the next violation/apology cycle), have steadily removed privacy.  At this point, I assume that anything I ever do on FB is recorded and available to FB's marketing partners.  They've already been caught targeting users based on their private messages.  They've already been caught posting chat sessions for the world to see.  Do you need to be smacked with a 2x4 to get the message?

FB is selling you and your demographic attributes to the highest bidder.  That's why "Harvard" shows up on my thumbnail despite my efforts to get rid of it.

Zuckerberg likes to wrap himself in the mantle of free information.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  He only wants to liberate your information from you for the benefit of access to your wallet.  Those of us on FB are just marks, succumbing to a con because we like hearing from our friends.  It's exploitation.

Facebook continues to allow virus writers to spread their crap.  Click on a video a friend has posted, and you can never tell whether you'll see a video - or post the same video to all your friends, as if you'd clicked Like.  It's an abuse, and FB won't stop it.

Here's what I want to think about:  How can we build an open source, decentralized social network with the benefits of Facebook and without the soul-selling drawbacks?

Why truth is more important than civility

I don't give a shit if Glenn Greenwald is a rude bastard.  I don't fucking care if Michael Hastings is an arrogant asshole.  What I care about is whether they're telling me truths that I need to know to be a well-informed, effective citizen of a democracy.  Greenwald:

Granting anonymity to powerful political and military officials to attack journalists, watchdogs and whistleblowers is about the lowest and most journalistically reckless act a reporter and their editors can undertake -- recall this recent anonymous attack on departing TARP watchdog Neil Barofsky by a Treasury official and enabled by The Washington Post -- as it turns these media outlets into nothing more than protectors of those officials and mindless amplifiers of their attacks, which, thanks to the anonymity, can never be engaged. But that's what they want to be; it's what they are; and that's why these officials tell them they will comment only under the cover of anonymity: because they know it will be immediately granted the minute it's demanded regardless of whether there is any journalistic justification for it.

Anonymity does have a valid purpose in journalism: its legitimate purpose is to protect the vulnerable and powerless when they expose wrongdoing by those who wield power. But most establishment journalists have completely reversed that, so that anonymity is used to protect those with the most power: to enable them to make all sorts of public claims and launch all kinds of attacks on critics without being accountable. When anonymity is used for those purposes, it is inherently and incomparably corrupt (that, of course, is the dynamic that led to public acceptance of patently false claims justifying the Iraq War). But this perversion of anonymity from what it was supposed to be (a means of holding the powerful accountable) into a power-shielding weapon is simply a microcosm of the broader reversal by establishment journalists of the old dictate to "afflict the powerful and comfort the powerless." Most establishment journalists -- by definition -- do exactly the opposite, and their eagerness to indiscriminately grant anonymity to the nation's most powerful officials is simply one manifestation of that power-serving mindset.
What I want is to avoid the big media's serving me bullshit, calling it foie gras, and expecting me to like the fucking taste.

The use by the military of psy ops on elected officials is not treason, but it's a crime.  I'm not disposed to treat that lightly.
"My job in psy-ops is to play with people’s heads, to get the enemy to behave the way we want them to behave," says Lt. Colonel Michael Holmes, the leader of the IO unit, who received an official reprimand after bucking orders. "I’m prohibited from doing that to our own people. When you ask me to try to use these skills on senators and congressman, you’re crossing a line."
I'm guessing the only bird Holmes will ever see won't be very goddamn polite, but even so, a Lt. Col. is not exactly a wet-behind-the-ears OCS graduate.

One true exceptionalism of America has been our unwillingness to sit still for official bullshit.  When did we lose that?

My chauffeur agrees with me

Click image for full Mike Keefe/Denver Post cartoon.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Ladder to personal prosperity



Click image for full Bruce Plante/Tulsa World cartoon.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Sanity goes tits up

Click image for full Matt Bors/United Media cartoon.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Mercy for me and not for thee

Yesterday, Scott Brown (R-lip service to teabaggers and blue collars alike) owned up to his teenager punk years, and to how welfare subsistence helped his mother raise him.  The juvy judge he had to appear in front of spoke sharply to him and made him write 1500 words!

Today, Gov. Mitch Daniels (R-reformed sinner for the cameras) is caught, having told a similar story (in 1989).  He was caught (at Princeton) with a kilo of marijuana, some LSD, and prescription drugs.  Any idiot can tell he or his roommates were selling, not just getting stoned to make the dining hall food more palatable.  A kilo!  He could have smoked that for a school year.

The judge spoke sternly to him and fined him $350, probably less than the value of the pot, not to mention the acid and the uppers and downers.

Both these men broke the law.  Both received mercy from liberal judges, who nonetheless expressed their disapproval.  Both of them reformed (eventually - a triumph for soft-headed liberalism!).  Both now refuse to show mercy to youths who have similar failings.  Both are Republican hypocrites.

Or is that redundant?

(h/t Atrios)

Hard to understand

How is it that Scott Brown can forget the subsistence the government provided in his childhood so that he can now deny other children the same help?  What kind of person has more sympathy for wealth than for himself?

Is he utterly morally blind?  Other people are not deserving.  He was - despite acknowledging that he was a punk.

Is he a raving narcissist?  The world is entirely for his benefit.

Is he bought?  Keeping the good things he has obtained (creditably, I might add) is so important that he can suppress his conscience.

Is conservatism a disorder of sympathy?

I can't see how fear of deficits can prompt Brown to inflict permanent deficits on children when he knows what their lives are like.  I just don't understand this.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Both sides of his mouth

Did no one at the AP notice this:

Governor Scott Walker predicted yesterday that Wisconsin would lead states across the country in weakening unions.

contrasted with this:
Walker denied the bill was an attempt at "union busting."
Was the headline Wisconsin governor shows open dishonesty?  Nope, not at all.  Wisconsin governor shows optimism!  The headline's the Boston Globe's fault, but where the hell did it come from!?

Marginalized

It's true that so-called progress is not an unalloyed good.  There is something gratifying about a bound paper book, and those will become rare specialty items and nostalgia pieces.

But marginalia are not vanishing - my Kindle can add notes.  Other chances to comment on a writer's work are vastly increasing.  The Internet's not bound in leather, but it's everywhere, and everyone can comment.

Maybe it's democratization that the scolds are worried about.  (And they have some reason to be.)

If deficits really mattered

Someone in government would make a credible plan:

First, spending on high-return public investments should be increased. Even if this widens the deficit in the short run, it will reduce the national debt in the long run. What business wouldn't jump at investment opportunities yielding returns in excess of 10% if it could borrow capital – as the US government can – for less than 3% interest?

Second, military expenditures must be cut – not just funding for the fruitless wars, but also for the weapons that don't work against enemies that don't exist. The US has continued as if the cold war never came to an end, spending nearly as much on defence as the rest of the world combined.

Following this is the need to eliminate corporate welfare. Even as America has stripped away its safety net for people, it has strengthened the safety net for firms, evidenced so clearly in the great recession with the bailouts of AIG, Goldman Sachs, and other banks.

...

Creating a fairer and more efficient tax system, by eliminating the special treatment of capital gains and dividends, is also needed. Why should those who work for a living be subject to higher tax rates than those who reap their livelihood from speculation (often at the expense of others)?

Finally, with more than 20% of all income going to the top 1%, a slight increase, say 5%, in taxes actually paid would bring in more than $1tn over the course of a decade.

Instead, it's left to the fantasy of liberal economists who have zero power.

Lady chattels lover

The GOP loves them some women, barefoot and pregnant.:

5) In Congress, Republicans have a bill that would let hospitals allow a woman to die rather than perform an abortion necessary to save her life.

Priorities

Click image for full August J. Pollack/CampusProgress.org cartoon.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Even if it hurts their feelings

How to get bullshit out of our discourse?  Mock, rinse, repeat:

Mock. Point. Laugh. State facts. Satirize. Call a lie, a lie. Mock again. Laugh again.  Point to facts again. Repeat. Repeat again. Repeat yet again, until everyone thinks twice before ever uttering anything so destructive, ignorant and idiotic in public.

How more people skewering right-wing falsehoods would not lead to a better world escapes me.
Michael Lind is a good guy, but he's just wrong when he calls on liberals not to mock Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, and Michele Bachmann.  Mockery is one of our most potent weapons. 

We need to raise the price to be paid for stupid bullshit.  We ought to be embarrassing them with their own lack of good sense.  Every damn time.

The Teapublican brand should mean stupid, illiterate, lying tripe.

(h/t Pharyngula)

Excluded middle ruled unconstitutional


Well, the law of the excluded middle would have been overturned if Jeff Sessions had been confirmed to the Federal judiciary.  My friends in Georgia are embarrassed to be represented in the Senate by this purveyor of iced bullshit tea, but there aren't enough of them to retire him to the Rest Home for Shameless Doublespeakers.

Fisted by the Invisible Hand

John Cole at Balloon Juice has the outrage:

[T]his is the model for the future foisted upon us by our Galtian overlords (who fight any attempts to regulate the looting on Wall Street), and the austerity mobs are busy making sure that the pension you were promised is hatcheted and your social security is whittled away because we can’t afford it after lavishing all the social security proceeds on the rich in the form of the Bush and Obama tax cuts.

Continuous partial inattention


A certain amount of speed is good for news coverage.  But there's no constraint on news organizations to keep them from exceeding the need.  The jury's in, and the current speed of communications technology has proven much better at spreading bullshit than spreading facts.  Yet I too refresh news sites when I should be working or reading a book.  What's the next argument?  I've gotta jump right on it!  Yeah, sure...

The financial markets have a similar demand for unlimited speed, and they also reach a point where speed only helps the fast, not the facilitation of sound deals.  The downside is that haste makes every trader prone to market momentum, and the feedback loop in price moves can destroy perfectly healthy assets or inflate bubbles of bigger and bigger shitpiles (™ Atrios).

Information has to remain free at any speed.  The First Amendment guarantees it.  The only solution I can see is for those of us who read and react to become more immune to bullshit.  Frankly, I'm not that optimistic.  Our culture has become so dizzily fond of bullshit that our grandchildren will look back and wonder how we could possibly have accepted as plausible the obvious lies we ate up.

Financial markets are a different story.  We could slow them down without violating anything other than Ayn Rand's financio-sexual fantasies.  The easiest way would be a tiny transaction tax - and I mean tiny.  I want rational transactions (in the normal sense, not the arbitrageurs sense) to take place.  I want prices to reflect fundamentals.  What I'm tired of watching is investment "professionals" creaming off billions by mastering the psychology of the markets.

I could be talking out my ass on this.  If so, prove it to me.  I'm educable...

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Blame the unions!

They made too many wage concessions:

In 1988, the income of an average American taxpayer was $33,400, adjusted for inflation. Fast forward 20 years, and not much had changed: The average income was still just $33,000 in 2008, according to IRS data.

Meanwhile, the richest 1% of Americans -- those making $380,000 or more -- have seen their incomes grow 33% over the last 20 years, leaving average Americans in the dust.
Say this for the teabaggers:  They know they're getting screwed.  But they blame exactly the wrong people.

Sacrificial lamb

Click image for full Pat Bagley/Salt Lake Tribune cartoon.

Orangutan piss


Brian Kilmeade is still one of the shallowest people on television, but notice how he asks his barrage of sycophantic questions to Tony Blair so that the final one - "What do you say to those people now?" - assumes that Duhbya and his poodle should get credit for Egypt's deposing of Hosni Mubarak.

So Kilmeade is smart enough to deliver lines of propaganda.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Can see Wasilla from her house

There's a Russkie on the cover of Sports Illustrated's famous or infamous swimsuit edition for 2011!  Not only that, she has a Mooslem-y name!  Call out the National Guard!  All the wingnuts' fears rolled up into one bikini...

The point of this nonsense is that Republicans have taken to heart Teddy White's thesis, except that they've moved beyond selling soap to marketing near beer.  How better to do that than with a bunch of babelicious babes to distract from the fact that their ideological product is really awful stuff.

Thus we have the continued, otherwise inexplicable popularity of insufferable, annoying, bitchy-ditz Sarah Palin.  I'd say that men really can be led around by their dicks, except that all it takes is their eyeballs.  And she can't hold a candle to Irina Shayk.

Women, don't feel too proud.  You should have Scott Brown and Marco Rubio on your consciences.  At least we guys managed to stop short of Christine O'Donnell.

It's my custom to mock big media and to show a picture whenever I snark about a beauty greater than Palin's.  Plus, hey, I want readers, too.  This time, though, I couldn't find one with a reasonable license, and the SI cover itself is defended for the five minutes I have against even thumbnailing.  Amateur paparazzi, Wikimedia Commons needs you!  Still, you can Google your own favorite images of this year's multi-culti it girl.

Just a lone wolf

Crazy wingnut convicted of first degree murder...

Oh, not a lone wolf.  She had a gang of crazy wingnuts.

But they delivered summary justice to a drug criminal (alleged).  His 9-year-old daughter, also murdered?  Collateral damage.

Yet there's no conservative thirst for violence.  We all know that if we listen to the media apologize.

(h/t Anne Laurie at Balloon Juice)

Monday, February 14, 2011

Truth before civility

Sometimes the truth hurts people's feelings.  Tough shit.  Glenn Greenwald:

Rainey, Kurtz and Dickey all have this exactly backwards.  Identifying lies told by powerful political leaders -- and describing them as such -- is what good journalists do, by definition.  It's the crux of adversarial journalism, of a "watchdog" press.  "Objectivity" does not require refraining from pointing out the falsity of government claims.  The opposite is true; objectivity requires that a journalist do exactly that:  treat factually false statements as false.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Dump button

Watched two TV shows today of types that I often avoid - the Celtics vs. the Heat and the Grammys.  Both have made extensive use of the dump button.  Yep, those audio gaps are censorship.

The NBA broadcast nixed the word bullshit (my favorite!) but only with mixed success.  That Boston crowd, what a bunch of scamps!  Personally, I think people need to chant "Bullshit, bullshit, bullshit" much more often than then do.  NBA officiating should be a constant source of outrage, though far from the most important.

Mainly, we should chant "bullshit" whenever a Republican opens his mouth.  This is what I mean when I say that truth is more important than civility.

Rappers on TV have a hard time getting out their lines.  How prominent does n----- have to be to get Eminem dumped?  It came through once that my busted old ears could parse.  "Kiss my ass crack" elicited no dead air at all.  Whoo-hoo!  Edgy!

Valentine Michael Smith not allowed to dream

Click image for full G.B. Trudeau/Doonesbury cartoon.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Forty-two years

Since Richard Nixon took office in 1969, Democrats and liberals have failed to call lies and bullshit what they are.  This is why our public conversation is so filled with bullshit and lies:

[T]his aggressive stupidity politically props up the arguments of the anti-government right. With so many Americans evidently not knowing they receive benefits from the government, it's easy for opportunistic politicians to seize on our "me-first, screw everybody else" culture and misleadingly deride the government as some distant entity that exclusively benefits the "other." And if you don't know that, in fact, you are "the other," then you are more likely to conclude that that opportunistic politician is correct, and more likely to cheer on that opportunistic politician as he/she slashes the programs you directly rely on.
(h/t Steve M. at No More Mister Nice Blog)

Social Security doomed, doomed I tell you

There is no government program on as sound a financial footing as Social Security.  It's fully funded through 2037!

The annual deficits will be made up by redeeming trust fund assets in amounts less than interest earnings through 2024, and then by redeeming trust fund assets until reserves are exhausted in 2037, at which point tax income would be sufficient to pay about 75 percent of scheduled benefits through 2084.
As Paul Krugman always asks, why would we cut benefits now in order to forestall cutting benefits later?

No private enterprise comes close to a projection of solvency until 2037.  Still, Republicans and their enablers want to gut Social Security, mainly because they're against government programs, not because of real financial straits.  The reform of 1983 that prepared it for the bulge of retiring boomers worked.

Granted, projections flow from their assumptions:

Any projection which goes out 27 years is so incredibly reliant on the embedded assumptions about growth, employment and lifespans that it amounts to a fiction. It is, at best, a guess.

Increase growth by just a little bit and the entire "problem" goes away. Get rid of the taxation cap so the rich are not capped in what they pay and the entire problem goes away. Assume higher employment, and the entire problem goes away. Assume a reduction in inequality, and the problem goes away.

The US has a number of problems which are at or near crisis, such as employment, inequality and healthcare costs, to name just a few. Social Security is not one of them. It isn't even close, and politicians and billionaires like Pete Peterson who are trying to gin up a crisis should be ashamed of themselves.
There is one thing that could cause trouble for Social Security.  People could start living forever.  Harvard says its researchers have found "the core pathway of aging."
By unifying several major pathways of aging under the umbrella of telomere dysfunction, he said, the findings may yield new targets for therapies. The discoveries also may underlie the relatively sudden and rapid failure of the body leading to the end of life.

“Because telomere dysfunction weakens defenses against damage by free radicals, or reactive oxygen species,” DePinho said, “we think this exposes telomeres to an accelerated rate of damage which cannot be repaired and thereby results in even more organ deterioration. In effect, it sets in motion a death spiral.”
These therapies would be a great problem to have!

But note that university publications almost always oversell the results of their research scientists.  Programmed cell death has been known for a long time, as have the role of telomeres in it.  This research merely found a more extensive role for telomeres.

Sure would like to get my hands on some telomerase though!

When people routinely live to be a hundred, you can talk reasonably about significantly raising the Social Security retirement age.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Still more Republican insincerity

Republicans don't care about the deficit.  They only care about cutting taxes, not about balancing the books.  Any other claim is ignorant or a lie.

Republicans have already voted for tax cuts that will add nearly fifteen times more to the national debt as they are proposing to cut on the spending side.
Yeah, I know, bullshit from Republicans is not exactly news.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

You do have a motive, don't you?




Click image for full V.C. Rogers/Independent Weekly cartoon.

Corporate utopia first, jobs whenever

Eric Cantor (R-pander to business, school the President) puts responsibility-free corporate fraternity above all responsibility to America. 

Obama told the business leaders. “Ask yourselves what you can do to hire more American workers, what you can do to support the American economy and invest in this nation.”


“That’s not how it works,” Cantor said.

Does the economy work for the middle class?  Who cares, as long as the plutocrats can evade all responsibility for reinvesting any of their huge and growing profits back into American society.

This is a Republican core value:  Corporations - legal fictions and hence presumably within the purview of democratic government - don't exist for our benefit.  To the contrary, we live to serve corporations.

(h/t Jed Lewison on DailyKos)

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Someone else notices

Alex Pareene in Salon:

The DLC model undoubtedly helped Democrats win national elections, primarily by allowing Democrats to fundraise as effectively as the more stridently pro-corporatism party. Unfortunately, that money came with a price, and that price is "adopting a whole bunch of positions that are popular with money but not with people who voted for Democrats for a hundred years," like the "partial" privatization of Social Security.
I've been flogging this theme for a while now, as one of four reasons American politics is so screwed up and in detail about the connection between fundraising and Democratic abandonment of social class as a defining principle.

Hobgoblin

GOP calls Democrats "Chicken Little":

In support of their position, Democrats have pointed to estimates from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office that show repealing the law could result in a loss of up to $14 trillion in the nation's GDP.
Everyone knows you can't trust numbers, much less the CBO.

Or the Onion, for that matter.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Craven idles


Click image for full Tom Tomorrow/Salon cartoon.

Jesus spoke the King's English

As long as I'm on an atheist's tear this Super Bowl Sunday, here's something that would be funny if it weren't so scary:


MediaMatters has the story:
Somewhat ironically, while Fox Nation appears to be positioning themselves as the arbiters of authentic Christianity, they seem unfamiliar with the fact that there is more than one version of the Bible. ...

Most likely, they won't bother to correct their story, and their goal will be accomplished: the readers that trust them will remember the time Obama "misquoted" the Bible, some more people will question the authenticity of Obama's faith, and the smear machine will move on.
Fundies think that the verses they memorized in their particular churches are the literal word of god, even though they've been cobbled together out of many sources long after the death of Jesus (if he even lived), winnowed down to a canon (actually, several canons), translated multiple times since the original texts are often lost, and frequently mistranslated at that.

Yet the slightly modernized King James Version, with only selected remnant uses of saith and goeth to remind us that we should all be happy as filthy, oppressed peasants, is gospel.

And fundamentalism is a great force in our politics.  Argh!

Something god can't do



This is an incredible result, even if it is preliminary.

How to make this technology cheaper:  Find a way to apply it as a cosmetic procedure.  That new skin looks young.  Economies of scale - driven by vanity or appetite - often end up helping those in dire need, such as burn patients.

Then, please, miniaturize this so you can spray stem cells onto my menisci.  They've been getting more and more torn up for the past 40 years, but I still think cartilage beats teflon and titanium.

(h/t Salon)

Argument from ignoramus incredulity



It's easy to see why Bill O is so popular in the ignoramus caucus. His basic message is that anything he's ignorant of isn't cause for learning since it proves that god exists.

This use of god as a safe container for ignorance is actually a basic philosophical problem of many arguments that claim the world shows the existence of god.  The more we explain naturalistically, the smaller a sphere remains for a god.

When Intelligent Design creationists claim irreducible complexity, they are trying to dress this same principle in sciency truthiness.  In their logic, the science is unable to explain something (undeniably true in many cases), therefore, ahem, mumbo jumbo, bafflegab, there is no explanation other than god.

Of course, so far, every so-called example of irreducible complexity the ID creationists have raised has been shot down by real scientists.

The forces of ignorance can't win in science.  They should stick to politics, where they completely dominate the Republican Party, especially its base of religious and free-market fundamentalists.

(h/t Salon)

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Agile sprint planning



 
Click image for full Steve Kelley/Times-Picayune cartoon.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Bigger, better bullshit, Egypt edition

Conservatives may not be able to agree whether the unrest in Egypt is a good thing, but you can be sure they'll all eventually jump on the Duhbya/neocon vindication bandwagon:

"We might be in a better position if we had more closely followed President Bush's prescription for support of greater democracy in all parts of the world," Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Arizona, said as he stepped off the Senate floor Monday. "If we had maintained that position and had that reputation in the world….then our calls today for restraint would have more credibility because the people of Egypt would know our heart was with their desire for greater representation."
Kyl (R-sow's ear) is saying that Egyptians would luuuv us if we had just remained fully committed to killing hundreds of thousands more of their fellow Arab Muslims, if we hadn't stopped there but had proceeded to attack Saudi Arab and Persian Muslims.  Then we would have credibility when calling for restraint, whatever the hell he means by that.  He's blithely relying on the complete captious ignoramus stupidity of his base and the vast wasteland of American media (o.k., no longer so vast).

Of course, Duhbya did convince a majority of Americans to go to war in the first place because his advisers from the PNAC thought we could swoop into the crossroads of the Middle East and impose Western democracy without the least goddamn bit of nation-building.  Hell, god was just going to show up, kick allah's ass, and everyone would kiss his ring.  Does Disney have the rights to that bullshit?  Better aim that animated nonsense at preschoolers - everyone old enough to disbelieve in Santa Claus would know better.

So maybe Kyl's not an idiot for supposing he can get away with this malodorous bullshit.

Republicans are confused by the obvious doom that faces the Mubarak/mukhabarat regime.  The protesters are showing him their shoes, but at least they aren't winging them at him.  When Mubarak concedes to his own term limits, he thinks he's compromising.  Moron.  Rulers don't win by saying they'll go away at some future time.  He's toast.

Still, Republicans want to know how can they bend the facts to their advantage.  (Hint: Don't speak too soon, for the wheel's still in spin!)  Mohamed ElBaradei, whom they despised when he was pursuing inspections and non-proliferation with Iran, looks o.k. - not too-too Islam-y - but what if the Muslim Brotherhood is the real power?  What if self-government in Egypt is anti-American?

(Republican note to self:  Be of good cheer.  Remember that Americans don't remember shit.  If it stops being on TV, well, outta sight outta mind.)

The aspiration to self-government is a good thing (except in poor people who might like ACORN).  While the panicky and mercurial two-year-olds who compose so much of American society these days still like Egyptian rebellion, here's the bigger, better bullshit that kneecaps Jon Kyl's thin luuuv for Duhbya:
  • Duhbya and the Republicans made war in the Middle East, which inspired zero popular movements to depose autocrats.
  • President Obama has taken only a few steps toward peace, and, voilĂ , the yearning for self-government has broken out all over the place!
  • QED, bitches!  (Just please skip that French word in the previous bullet.)
But, of course, buy on rumor, sell on news.  The dream of Egyptian (and Tunisian) self-government is everything in the world you could possibly imagine.  The reality will be difficult even if it overcomes its poor odds and winds up a net positive.  The Arab street hates Israel - and America.

We are in bed with local authoritarians precisely because they can be bribed to suppress the street.  Whole peoples are hard to bribe - for a reasonable price, anyway.  Mubarak could cream off his cut of our foreign aid every year and build a fine set of overseas investment accounts.  (Dictator 101 - it's right there in the handbook: In case of revolution, you'd better have some swag somewhere else.)

Half a billion dollars a year (wild, unsubstantiated guess) can pay for one very decadent family - just ask Paris Hilton - but it doesn't go that far when split 80 million ways.  We can't pay them all off!  (That would be socialism anyway!)

I'd reckon Mubarak's presidency less than a week to survive.  Then there will be a caretaker, then who knows?

The Republicans will attack Obama at every turn.  When Mubarak flees, Obama will not have stood by a stalwart ally.  When the caretaker comes in, Obama will not have steered another sovereign nation well enough to get our boy into office. (The Republicans use the word sovereign situationally.  For us, it means absolute unfettered authority.  For other countries, it means absolute unfettered authority - for us!  We win!)

When the caretaker is ousted (anyone remember Shahpour Bakhtiar?), Obama will not have stabilized his government enough.  When there's any hint of Islam, even an innocent hint and the hints are not likely to be limited to innocent hints, it will be Obama's fault that he didn't cast a nationwide spell over every Egyptian first-born in order to get America's interests looked after first and foremost (sovereignty).  If we object to that expectation, the GOPers'll say that we thought all along that Obama is the messiah.  Never mind that they projected that on us, the media will run with it.

Because it's just stupid enough to have universal appeal.

    Tip of the spear

    When Republicans tell us that they're going to bayonet us, we ought to believe them:

    I’m not happy about the pain and suffering and lost dreams and betrayed children that could flow from all that folly, of course.  But I do think it is extremely valuable to  see what it looks like when GOP true believers start to exercise real power.  Each time you get a clear statement of intent:  rapists outrank rape victims; vets are less valued than Wall St. executives—it becomes that much easier to shrink the Republican coalition as we go forward.
    And, accordingly, we should make them pay the electoral price for their extremism.