Blog Credo

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.

H.L. Mencken

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Would You Care To Stare Into The Void?

Meanwhile, Boehner once again had to rely on the Democratic minority to govern.

At what point do we fully acknowledge that the super-patriots of the Tea Party are basically "all in" on the failure of the US government?

Friday, February 27, 2015

RIP, Leonard Nimoy

There is a whole trove of internet art: Nimoy, Sunsets and Pie:

Also, this:

He lived long and prospered...


James Inhofe thought the fact that there is snow on the ground in February is proof that global warming is a myth, despite the fact that the globe is measurably warmer.

It's hard to escape the conclusion that a certain segment of the population are making themselves willfully stupid, at least as regards their understanding of the world around them.

I guess it's not that far from the Laffer Curve to throwing snowballs on the floor of the Senate.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Ben Carson Is Not The Candidate You Are Looking For

Ben Carson has some attribute that conservatives find appealing.  I just can't seem to put my finger on what it might be...

He's not a politician, he's a very successful surgeon.

But his ideas are frequently bonkers.

He wants to destroy the checks and balances in the Constitution.  All while venerating the Constitution, or rather the Second Amendment.

He wants to get rid of the IRS, because that will work.

He wants to cut taxes and balance the budget, because fuck math.

Sometimes, it's helpful to listen to what politicians actually say.  And what this guy says is batshit crazy.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015


This morning on NPR, there was a report on the Tea Party and CPAC, and one of the Teahadists was talking about how the Tea Party loves the Constitution.  Many Teahadists tend to call themselves Constitutionalists as opposed to mouth breathing morons conservatives.

But their grasp of the Constitution itself is pretty tenuous.

For instance, they - for some obscure reason - hate the 17th amendment (the direct election of Senators by the people rather than the state legislatures). For them, the 17th amendment (and presumably all the amendments aside from the 2nd) is unconstitutional in its alteration of the document forged in Philadelphia in 1787.  Amendments are BAD.  Unless they are conservative amendments like a balanced budget amendment, which is GOOD.

Meanwhile, they argue for a balanced budget amendment despite the fact that the GOP has one single unifying policy: disastrous tax cuts that decimate state budgets and create huge shortfalls and painful budget cuts.

They also want to establish Christianity as the national religion.  Which Christianity would that be?  Would it be tax supported?  And what of that whole pesky first amendment?

The amount of cognitive dissonance in the Tea Party should be enough to drown out the voice in their head....but apparently not.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

George W. Bush Doesn't Like Black People

Chuck Todd and others made the following observation:
Few issues fire up a good chunk of conservatives more than personal attacks against President Obama. At the same time, these attacks also turn off swing voters and minorities that the Republican Party is trying to court.

Uh....No.  The GOP is not trying to court minorities.  They are trying to court swing voters, by trying not to be so fucking racist all the time.

But the GOP is doing NOTHING to woo African American or Hispanic voters.  They just want to give an eye-gloss of looking like they care.

Thanks, Obama!

No, seriously...thanks.

This is a reform that is long overdue.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

A Noun, A Verb And A Dogwhistle

Rudy Giuliani continues to double-down on his character attacks on Obama.  Now he's saying he was "influenced by communism" whatever that means.  The usual cretins are starting to rally around these statements.  Darrell Issa has praised Giuliani for raising the question of the fucking president's patriotism.  Scott Walker doesn't know if Obama is a Christian.

It's 2015 and we're still stuck on this birth certificate bullshit.

What the hell are they going to start saying when Hillary is the Oval Office?

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Is The End Nigh?

I am looking out my window at snow falling.  Again.  Yesterday, I had the wrestlers breaking up ice and shoveling snow as a community service project.  It was  blisteringly cold.

But the days are starting to get noticeably longer.  Perhaps, just perhaps, this long, depressing, brutal winter is coming to a close.

Can't happen soon enough.

(Sorry for talking about the freaking weather, but I'm too disgusted with politics to discuss to talk about that today.)

Friday, February 20, 2015

I Come To Bury Rudy, Not To Praise Him

No, seriously, I come to bury the asshole.

Rudy! roughly corresponds to Chris Christie this electoral cycle.  Both men are bluff, arrogant assholes of the sort that one finds everywhere from the Delaware River east to the Hamptons.  These are not traits that endear them to people who are not used to the sort of assholes that proliferate in the metropolitan NY area.

Just as Rudy! had a natural base in the NY press, so does Christie.  And together their base outside of the media is a yard wide and a millimeter thick.

That Rudy! Giuliani is a complete asshole is a surprise to no one.  But every once in a while he shambles into the national discourse to do us all a favor and remind us why we can be forever grateful that he was never and will never be President of these United States.

It's not his fault, he just wasn't raised the right way.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

The Islamic State

Graeme Wood has written a compelling piece on what ISIS really is and really wants.  He precedes from the good idea of taking what ISIS says about itself seriously.

This has led to a broader discussion about how much blame Islam should bear for things like the Islamic State.  Fisher makes the point that we need to have a nuanced discussion, led by the President, about what role Islam does play in the problems of the Middle East.

And that's where he loses me.

A nuanced discussion?  About Islam?  In America?  Please.

There are a number of causes for Islamic extremists like ISIS, and they are a combination of psychological, political and economic.  And religion becomes the medium in many ways for this grievance to play out.

Frankly, Obama could have been talking about this during his 2008 "gaffe" where he talked about rural Americans "clinging to their guns and religion" because the party hasn't offered them anything of substance.  The modern world has not been kind to the Middle East, and they are clinging to their guns and religion in the absence of real, substantive progress.

But Islam very much provides the medium in which ISIS operates, and I'd be fine acknowledging that, if we COULD have a nuanced discussion.

But as long as Bill O'Reilly is declaring holy war and Lindsey Graham is peeing his bed, I don't think that will happen.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The Emerging Gridlock Majority

John Judis has said that the "emerging Democratic majority" he wrote about a dozen years ago is dead.

Eh, not really.

There are structural problems created by the Constitution that make it hard for Democrats to win control of the House, but Democrats routinely win a majority of the VOTES for the House.  But because Democratic voters are concentrated in urban districts, Democrats win 75% of the vote in one urban district and 45% in another suburban one.

Of course, the complete and utter dysfunction of the GOP-led Congress ought to get more attention, but we are a politically ignorant people who are "informed" by a stupid media conversation that pays not attention to actual issues of governance and policy.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Jon Oliver Should Stay On HBO

CNN Jeopardy

Everyone agrees that Celebrity Jeopardy was the best part of the SNL 40 show.

Turns out there was something even more surreal than Justin Bieber, Burt Reynolds and Cristoph Waltz on the same panel.

About ten years ago, Jon Stewart single-handedly killed Crossfire by pointing out how stupid and inane the show was.

Now Stewart heads to retirement and CNN continues its descent into the Idiocracy.

Never Missing An Opportunity To Miss An Opportunity

A judge in Texas - naturally - has issued an injunction stopping Obama's executive action on immigration.  The House of Crazy Rabid Monkeys Representatives is set to partially shut down the Department of Homeland Security over the immigration action.

Since that action has been put on hold by this judge, Boehner has now been given an "out" from this impasse with his Teahadist wing.  A savvy, competent politician and Speaker could avert the shutdown now.

Anyone think that will happen?

Monday, February 16, 2015

My Rankings Of Presidents

I shot off an email to Matthew Yglesias arguing that his rankings of presidents was pretty awful.  So, I thought I'd follow some of his format and rather than rank them, group them.

The Pantheon

Washington, Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt.  True greatness comes from adversity.  No one faced more than these three and none found more success.

The Game Changers

Theodore Roosevelt, Wilson, Truman, Lyndon Johnson, Reagan . These presidents fundamentally changed the direction of America and the presidency.  Roosevelt and Wilson invented the activist presidency of the 20th century, Truman truly ended America's detachment from global politics, Johnson ended Jim Crow and created the modern welfare state, while Reagan attacked it and Obama resurrected it.

The Caretakers

John Adams, Monroe, Quincy Adams, Hayes, Arthur, Cleveland, Benjamin Harrison, Taft, Eisenhower, Ford, Clinton.  They didn't screw up, some had true accomplishments, some didn't.  But they left the country more or less as they found it.  Which ain't nothing.

The Expansionists

Jefferson, Polk, McKinley. These men were most responsible for enlarging America, for better and worse.

The Heralds of Disunion

Tyler, Taylor, Fillmore, Pierce, Buchanan.  Taylor might have destroyed the Compromise of 1850 had he lived.  The rest were men of indecision or poor principles.

The Tyrants

Jackson, Nixon.  Neither men felt particularly bound by the Constitution.

The Incompletes

William Harrison, Garfield, Obama.  Two died early on.  One is because of perspective.

The Harbingers of Doom

Harding, Coolidge . These men directly pursued policies that led to the greatest economic collapse in world history.

Paid The Piper

Van Buren, Hoover.  Impressive men who were saddled with the failures of their partisan predecessors.

The Internationalists

HW, Bush, Kennedy.  Changed America's role in the world, not much of significance done at home.

Just Fucking Awful

Andrew Johnson, W Bush.

Better Off Not Being President

Madison, Grant, Carter.  Madison and Grant were better before becoming president, Carter after.

Happy President's Day

This is the best list of Presidents I've ever seen.

Vox Is Starting To Piss Me Off

No, Warren Harding was not a "solid president."  He did a few nice things...or rather, some nice things were done while he was president, a few of which he deserves some credit for.  Harding signed some good legislation, but one of the hallmarks of Harding's presidency - as opposed to Wilson's - was the lack of executive energy.  Wilson LED Congress, Harding signed what they sent him.  He deserves very little credit for Congressional reforms, for instance, that created the OMB and GAO.

Harding was a nice man.  He did nice things for individuals.  He pardoned Eugene V. Debs; he exempted individuals from deportation under the draconian immigration laws he signed, but he did not institute broad scale reform that benefited groups, beyond his corrupt cronies.

Harding was mildly more racially progressive than Wilson, but Wilson was a racial retrograde.  And this period was remarkably racist as a whole.  Harding met with Klan leaders in the White House.

Harding's administration was among the most corrupt in history.  Grant's was, too, and both men deserve the scorn they get for this, as it was their friends and their management style that enabled that corruption.

Vox needs to lay of the Slate-Pitch bullshit.

UPDATE: Also, this piece, which lauds Grant, does so from a very narrow perspective.  Grant was an excellent president on race relations, but ultimately achieved very little.  His personal virtues on the issue are real, but his accomplishments were fleeting.  The corruption of his administration was also real.  Grant may not be as bad as he is remembered, and most of our worst presidents served only one term.

But in the competition for worst presidents elected to two terms, Grant is in the conversation, along with Bush.  Heck, we could throw Jefferson in there, too.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Walking Dead Liveblog

OK, here's another problem I have with the Walking Dead universe.  The food issue.  Walkers are stupid, clumsy and slow.  There would be ABUNDANT game: deer, rabbits, squirrels, wild dogs and cats.  Don't believe me?  Try catching one.


If they are near DC, they are in the Chesapeake estuary.  There would be freaking water.  Stop throwing up obstacles just because.

Well, at least that was a solid plan for large scale zombie killing.  I'll give them that.


And there's the first deer we've seen.  And it's dead.

Oh, and there are the dogs!  Dinner time!


Interesting that the people behind "Hot Tub Time Machine 2" think that TWD was a good market for their advertising.

Daryl cries.  I have a hunch that will be a meme by Monday morning.


I've been waiting for them to stumble upon someone else.

Naturally they get hit with a sharknado...

I'm not sure I buy Maggie's torment.  I mean at this point...she already thought Beth was dead, then she wasn't, then she was.  I get that that's traumatic.  But really?  After everything else?

Interesting speech by Rick.


Carl used to be a bad ass, not he's a babysitter?

I have to say, the production values in this season are pretty high.

Sorry, not a sharknado, but a deadnado.

And that's the pivot.  You had to bring them to real depths before tempting them with a way out.

Slate-Pitch Bullshit

There is a recent trend - especially among economists - to argue that college doesn't really matter.  There's the Bill Gates Fallacy - he never graduated from Harvard.  This leaves aside the fact that he could get INTO Harvard.

There is the earnings/debt argument which makes a certain amount of sense.  If you piss away four years at college learning the finer points of beer pong and flip-cup, then perhaps you aren't really getting all that much out of your $150,000 tuition.

There is a classist argument that college degrees simply reflect the ability to pay for a college (or prepare for college admissions), and that, too, holds some merit.

But to proceed from that to "a college degree shouldn't matter as a credential for becoming President of the United States" is Slate-pitch bullshit.

(The "Slate-Pitch" is an article written to be provocative for the sake of being provocative.  Clicks, baby, clicks.)

The article mentions the two reasons why college tends to lead to higher wages: completing college means you have had a better education or college allows you to network with other high achieving people.  The liberal education of Jefferson versus the Old Boy Network of Goldman Sachs.

The article notes that Walker was able to get into Marquette and completed roughly three years worth of coursework.  This is kind of the Bill Gates Fallacy (except Marquette, while a good school, ain't Harvard).  "Hey, he went to some classes.  He learned some stuff.  He met some people.  Lay off."

The problem is that one thing a college degree demonstrates that college attendance doesn't is the ability to actually finish something.  Sarah Palin went to roughly a half-dozen colleges, dropping out and restarting like an academic yo-yo.  It should be no surprise that she failed to finish her term as governor of Alaska.  Many colleges have some sort of capstone assignment; I had to write a short thesis (about 20 pages) for my degree.  The capstone is kind of a litmus test for finishing and to sum up your education.

I agree that simply GOING to college is not a prerequisite for being president, but LEARNING something there is.

Jeb Bush went to one of the finest schools in the world and then went on to Yale.  He spent his time at Andover getting high and then got into Yale because he was a Bush.  It could very well be that he learned something or very little in those 8 years.  But he did finish.  Barack Obama screwed around his first years at Occidental, but then turned it on at Columbia and went on to be the editor of the Harvard Law Review.  He finished and he learned.  Hillary Clinton?  Same thing.

There was a scene in The West Wing where Jeb Bartlett - I think - talks about how it's not important that someone can quote Cicero but it is important that they are able to consider all sides of a question.

A good college education - as distinct from a college degree or college attendance - stimulates the ability to see beyond the narrow vision of self.  That's why it comes in the early 20s, when you are forced to look outside your self interest.  A good college education can force you to confront viewpoints and perspectives and information that discomfort you.  In fact, the real value of going to Harvard is not actually the professors, but your peers, with whom you argue about any number of things into the wee small hours of morning.

If all we see of college is a credential, then Walker's lack of degree isn't a big deal.  But if we see instead someone who attended college primarily for the parties and the student politics of the Young Republicans, are we seeing someone who has wrestled with hard and uncomfortable ideas? Or are we seeing someone who saw no value in continuing to move beyond his comfort zone.

Walker's tenure as governor has not demonstrated a man who is comfortable with nuance or who is amenable to listening to all sides.  He has been combative with his ideological enemies and - in the words of Charlie Pierce - "turned his state into a wholly owned subsidiary of Koch Enterprises".

What is ironic, is that Walker - with his ideological certainty and disdain for academic experience (see his current budget) - looks more like George W. Bush than does Jeb.

Does a degree matter?  I guess not.  But a college education does, because it opens up the mind in ways that it needs to open.  Including to things like freaking evolution.

Having said all that, indeed for all those reasons, I still think Walker is the man to beat in the GOP field.

Worth Reading

Andrew McCutcheon is a fine baseball player.  Maybe top five in the game today.

He's also a lot more than that.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Happy Valentine's Day

I spent mine in a fetid gym with hundreds of wrestlers, watching our team underperform.  It's tough to watch, because few things sting more than losing a wrestling match.  Did we not prepare them well enough?  Are they simply at the end of their ability at this time?

In the end, you have to help them pick up the pieces.  And that's the job and where a lot of the real learning occurs. But it would be nice to celebrate with them for a change.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Tale Of Two Governors

Governors often make the best presidential candidates, because unlike members of Congress, governors actually DO things.  They are executives who are responsible for managing a large bureaucracy and implementing policy.

The problem is that the modern GOP has become reflexively suspicious of ALL government activity.

So you have what I would argue are the two frontrunners for the GOP nomination having very different approaches.

Jeb "Jeb!" Bush tried education reform in his state that looks a lot like Common Core/No Child Left Behind.  Since education reform in the GOP currently consists of getting rid of things like evolution and climate science, Bush is in a tough spot.  Since he was governor back before the GOP decided all government was evil, he has actual policies to pick apart.

Stupid son of a bitch actually DID something.

Scott Walker, governor of Kochistan, has instead offered a budget that is less a governing document and more a campaign manifesto.  It is designed to turn Bob LaFollette's home state into North Kansas by degrading the University of Wisconsin, attacking political enemies, gutting public radio's education programming and engages in poor shaming with drug tests that cost more than they save.

Walker's "vision" for Wisconsin is dreadful and if applied to the country as a whole would be disastrous.  But it's much more effective at winning over the pale skinned, over-55, Fox news watching, shouting at clouds demographic that makes up the GOP base.

So, to recap: Jeb Bush tried to address a problem once as governor and it could legitimately stop him from winning the nomination.  Scott Walker likes to cause problems and it's why he's my current pick to win the GOP nomination.

The Problem In A Nutshell (Accent On "Nut")

Here is the important 'graph:

When there is no mention of Obama, two-thirds (67 percent) of Republicans favor allowing illegal immigrants who are parents of those with legal status to avoid deportation if they meet certain requirements. But when Obama is linked to the policy, support among Republicans drops 16 points to 51 percent. Support among independents also falls 13 points when Obama is linked to the policy, from 77 percent to 64 percent. Among Democrats, there is no statistically significant effect in support.

Look, it's either a good policy or it's not.  There were a few policies of George W. Bush that I liked: his AIDS program for Africa, parts of Medicare Plan D...OK, I'm running out of policies... The point being a good policy is a good policy.

If attaching Obama's name to it suddenly makes it "bad" then people aren't bothering to think.  They are simply being reflexive.  It's the lizard brain at work.

Time and again, Obama has offered variations of Republican policies - most famously the Affordable Care Act - and had them thrown back in his face because he's a Democratic president.

And now we are going to have a partial government shutdown because the GOP is filled with children who are prone to tantrums.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Force And The Islamic State

Obama - rightly - has gone to Congress to authorize military action against the Islamic State.  IS is certainly evil, though I don't think they're a global threat.  They were created by Sunni disenfranchisement in Iraq and Syria, and the only way to thwart them is - in my opinion - to create a Sunni state from Tikrit to Aleppo.  Until you root out the problem, the use of force will only get you so far.  The so-called Surge was really about bribing Sunni tribal leaders to throw over AQI.  When we left, Baghdad no longer cared about placating the Sunni minority and that created an opening for IS.

I'm not reflexively opposed to the use of force.  Both IS and Boko Haram deserve a swift and harsh international response.  They have mastered the dark art of using evil deeds to galvanize the "civilized" world.  They number in the thousands, not the tens of thousands, but simply sending in the 2nd Armored Division wouldn't solve anything in the long run.

"War is politics by other means," said Clausewitz.  War must have a political aim.  My criticism of Obama's "wars" in Libya and now the Levant is not that he has plunged pell mell into wars of choice, but rather that he has used force without a political goal.

"Degrading" the ability of IS to terrorize people is a good thing.

What comes after that, though?

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Amazing Grace

I used to be relatively active in my local Episcopal church.  About a year and a half ago, I found prayer no longer helped me.  Due to some difficulties in my personal life, I found solace and wisdom in the sermons of two remarkable clerics, Jim Bradley and Mary Gates.  Jim retired and maybe I need to go back and listen to Mary.  There are worse ways to spend a Sunday morning.

But one the themes between the two and their two churches is the idea that we are fallible and need strength.  I'm reminded of Lincoln's famous thought: "Sir, my concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God's side..."  The central issue is how any person or group defines and perceives God.

Conservative Christians are always more focused on the Old Testament and the more vengeful, wrathful God therein.  Liberal Christians focus more on the God of forgiveness and mercy of the New Testament.  If you define God as that God of mercy, then you yourself must be merciful.  You must work to put yourself on God's side.  If you are more in tune with "his terrible swift sword" then you should work to become the sword.

What Obama said at the national prayer breakfast was that we should tend to the mote in our eye before we tended to the beam in our neighbor's.  That we should judge not, lest we be judged.  And he said that because that is the God whose side he is trying to get on.  For Erick Erickson, that God is a sham, so Obama isn't even a Christian.

Of course, one great example of the violence done in the name of Christ were the sectarian wars that ravaged Europe from the time of Luther to the Treaty of Westphalia.  The doctrinal differences were not the same, but competing visions of God and Christ and salvation led to the slaughter of millions.  Some of that was politics masquerading as faith, but it's not like that tendency has gone away.

Christianity remains a schismatic faith.  From the very origins of the religion, you had Gnostics, Arianism, Marcionism and Adoptionism, to name a few.  You had the Orthodox/Rome split.  You had the various heresies of the Middle Ages.  You had Luther.  You had Calvin.  You had Anabaptists.  You had Joseph Smith.

And yet the fascinating thing is that each increasingly narrow slice of Christianity tends to see itself as the proper articulation of the faith, with the exception of the liberal churches.

It is this liberal movement - Unitarians certainly spring to mind - that seeks to reconcile the various branches of Christianity.  It is the conservatives who cling to the divisions.

Which impulse is more likely to be on God's side?

Rough Day For Fake Newsmen

Jon Stewart AND Brian Williams.

One of them will be sorely missed.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Today In Same Sex Marriage

We've learned that Obama always supported gay marriage, but softened his stance at the behest of guys like David Axelrod in order to maintain support in black churches.  Because all those African American congregations were just looking for a chance to vote for John McCain.

Meanwhile, SCOTUS refuses to block the issuing of marriage licenses in Alabama.  As if there were any doubts, the right to marriage will now be universal in June.  If there was any doubt - and constitutionally there shouldn't be - they would have blocked the issuance of those marriage licenses in order to weigh in on the issue.

Frankly, I think the Court played this right, and Obama may have, too.  While it may seem like "slow walking" a civil right, it was more allowing every one to catch up with the growing consensus.  We are seeing something similar with marijuana decriminalization.

Activists want to see progress yesterday.  That's why they're activists.  But allowing minds to change before the law does is the proper way to let these issues resolve.  The one exception is actually Obama.  When he came out in favor of same sex marriage, he dragged the black congregations with him.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Andrea Mitchell Is An Idiot

This sort of idiocy is why we have such a poorly function press corps and a vapid political discourse.  Everything Obama said was both right - Christianity has been used to justify horrific acts -  and Christian - tend to the mote in your eye before you attend to the beam in you neighbors.

Jeebus wept.

This Would Be A Nice Post-Presidency Crusade

Changing Citizens United is a huge imperative for democratic governance.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Secret Knowledge

Pitts refers to the long-held tendency towards conspiracy theories in his piece, but he doesn't note that these go back a lot further than the JFK assassination.  There's Pearl Harbor, the Illuminati, the Knights Templar...This is an old condition.

But he makes an interesting point that the Age of Google means we have facts at our disposal without the wisdom to evaluate them.  We are a click away from finding all sorts of information, but that information is not always vetted, not always given context,

To me, the point of a modern education is learning how to navigate that world.  It doesn't matter than you can quote Cicero, so much as you have an understanding of Cicero and what he fought for and are able to place that Cicero quote that you looked up on your phone into proper modern context.

We carry the world's most impressive memories around in our pockets, but facts aren't knowledge, they are just the building blocks of knowledge.  Knowledge the building itself.

I'm not sure our education system has caught on to this.

Saturday, February 7, 2015


Fallows has made this point before and it's a good one.  Governments have rules, and governments have norms. The norms are very important and Washington has been slowly breaking every since Newt Gingrich came to town and began to tear down the traditional ways of doing things.

It is now very much an open question whether Washington can function anymore, and that fault lies with the GOP.

Friday, February 6, 2015

The Outlaw Jersey Whale

There are two reasons to think that Christie is guilty.

One, he's a bully and he's been tied to ethically shaky behavior before.

Two, he's a New Jersey politician.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

The European Economy Is Insane

How does that even happen?  I mean, I get the basic fact that Germany has screwed over the rest of the Eurozone with it's selfish monetary policy, but negative interest rate bonds is whacko.

It's time for the ECB and the EU to stop screwing around with Austrian economics and start growing their economies again.

This is bonkers.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015


The younger you are, the more likely you are to believe vaccines are a matter of personal choice and not public health.  Some of this has to do with the broad, poorly-thought-out Libertarianism of the Millenials.  But I also think something else is going on and it ties in with the recent Chait trolling on political correctness.

The more I look at both PC outrage and anti-vaxxers, I see the problem of prosperity.

Now, to be clear, prosperity is not broadly shared and that leads to a great deal of status anxiety among middle class and working class Americans.  We define our level of prosperity relatively, not absolutely, and we do so relative to our neighbors, not the global masses.

But in an absolute sense, we have moved as a culture from what are called "survival values" to more post-modern values.  The vast majority no longer fear starvation, homelessness, epidemic or war.  It's simply not a reality we deal with in 21st century America.

And since we are evolutionarily hard-wired for fear, we tend to create it where it doesn't exist. This is why The Walking Dead and InfoWars are both popular.  We have lost our sense of perspective on what's really dangerous.  We fret about someone abducting our child, when we should really worry about the immense amount of shit we feed them.  We worry about Ebola but not the measles.

I grew up legitimately fearful that the world would end in a nuclear holocaust.  During the Able Archer exercise in 1983, we came pretty damned close.  The Reagan years were a time of dread at the periphery of our vision.

Millenials have grown up under the threat of 9/11.  But the thing about terrorism - and ISIL realizes this better than anyone - is that its impact is out of proportion to its threat.  It's weapon is fear, not death (though death is a means to this fear).  The Islamic State has mastered this language of fear by executing people on YouTube.  I haven't kept count, but I think the number of people killed for video consumption is around 10, give or take.

I don't mean to negate the suffering of the families involved, but that's a small number.  Boko Haram kills that many people by accident in a busy day.

And so Millenials - living in a really warped world of fear - have come to see things like vaccines as threats, because they don't understand what measles looks like.  Having eradicated the true threat, we are left to create new ones.

I often wonder what would have happened if 9/11 hadn't happened.  If you take the combined traffic fatalities of Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years, you'd roughly approach the loss of life on 9/11.  But that event worked as Bin Laden intended, because we have become captured by outsized fears.  We even went so far as to invade the wrong country to assuage those fears.  Smoking guns...mushroom clouds.

The fact that Millenials in particular have seized on the vaccine myths is not really surprising in this light.

This Is Perfect

From the Twitter:

Our thoughts are also with the measles-ravaged country America. I hope we are screening them before they come to Africa.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

The Problem With Pricks

I really feel bad for scientists some times.  Today in class, I had a student question the validity of global warming.  Not even anthropogenic global warming, but the very fact of global warming itself.  There is no dispute that the globe is getting warmer.  None.  Even the US Senate voted 99-1 (Thanks for your "Keep Dope Alive" vote, Sen. Inhofe) that global warming was happening.

Scientists overwhelmingly believe that human beings are causing global warming, too.  The science is really not all that controversial.  We know what greenhouse gasses do.  We know we are pumping our atmosphere full of them.  We can measure the effect of rising temperatures.  But people remain steadfast in their stupidity.

Now we have the vaccine debate.  Which really isn't a debate.  Vaccines prevent diseases, deadly diseases.  But Jenny McCarthy's boobs read a website or something and so people are getting the measles again.

A few days ago, I praised Rand Paul (R-Bongsylvania) for his measured and considerate thinking on medical marijuana, and the hypocrisy of supporting harsh criminal measures against pot use, when you yourself got high a lot in high school and college.

But now Senator Aquabuddha is coming out and suggesting a link between vaccines and autism.  And he's a freaking DOCTOR.

Chris Christie - who freaked all the fuck out over an Ebola crisis that didn't exist - has said that vaccines should be left to the discretion of the parents.  He has since walked that back some, but seriously?

What is interesting is how narrow the anti-vaxxer constituency is.  It consists of religious fringe elements, glibertarians and kale-eating, cleansing-detox dieters who get their organic quinoa in bulk from Whole Foods.  While two of those are possible Republican constituencies, I don't think the last is.

This is exactly the sort of ridiculous BS that sinks the credibility of libertarians like Paul the Younger and destroys the idea of acting on principle of politicians like the Outlaw Jersey Whale.

At least Ben Carson has said that you should get your vaccines.  I hope that won't hurt his book sales efforts presidential campaign.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

The Bush Crime Family

So, we've learned that Jeb - the good one - was a compulsive pot and hash smoker at Andover.  While this might cost him a few points from the Evangelicals who already distrust him because he converted to Catholicism (absolution!) it's unlikely to get much traction in the primaries.

Except that Rand Paul has decided to weigh in and makes a really compelling argument.  Bush, as governor, urged hard sentences and refused to pardon marijuana users.  As Paul points out, this is the sort of hypocritical moralizing that drives younger voters away from the GOP.  It's also why Paul is the most interesting candidate in the GOP field.  He holds a lot of heterodox positions on foreign policy and things like pot, which would make him an interesting foil for poll-tested Hillary.  Of course, he'd have to get through the primaries and there are a ton of things to trip him up there.

If I was Paul, I'd have my eye on 2020 or 2024.  He's young and he can do what Ted Cruz apparently can't: build bridges to the GOP establishment.  If we have a humming economy in 2016 - which we should - it will be exceedingly difficult for the GOP to win the White House.  Paul could carve out a place in the middle of important social issues - pot, gay marriage - while being a voice of sanity on civil liberties and military adventurism.  And it could give him some time to distance himself from his dad's crazy bedfellows and not-so-closeted-racists.  The GOP is not going to let anyone who might abolish the Federal Reserve win their nomination.  He needs to be the voice of the Libertarian Right.  That might work after 12 years of Democratic presidents.  I don't know if it will work in 2016.

As for Bush, the pot issue goes along with the Terry Schiavo incident to demonstrate a profoundly cynical political operator, who is willing to profit off other people's misery.

I know that Bush's popularity has increased recently, as cultural amnesia sets in, but I have a hard time imagining that we are ready for another Bush in the White House.