Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Years!

Well, I'm officially laid off which could actually be a good thing if it allows me the opportunity to just travel like crazy and collect unemployment. We'll see.  I'm also looking into opening a bar in 2012 which could also be a good thing.  However, the beginning of 2012 will absolutely blow since I'll be on a strict diet (it's called the "Dixon don't eat diet") and drinking hiatus until I fly to Italy on January 23. In the meantime, I can say I've lived up to my last two New Years resolutions so hopefully I can come up with a good one in the next few hours.  For now, enjoy Auld Lang Syne. It's not my favorite version, but I appreciate the lyrics!

Happy New Years Everybody!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The triumph of Mitt Romney?

I have to say, the coverage of the Iowa caucuses has been pretty terrible. The conventional wisdom has been [re]emerging that Mitt Romney might just pull off a win in Iowa and then cruise to the nomination. This is because a) Newt appears to be in a free-fall and b) the racist and utterly insane Ron Paul newsletters seem to be undermining his support. Both of these things are probably true. But, trust me, Mitt Romney still won't win Iowa. Why? Because as every single article on the Iowa horserace fails to analyze, Iowa is a god damn caucus state. What does that mean? That means intensity of support is a HUGELY important variable. And Romney's support is not intense at all. The anti-Mormon, anti-Romney intensity is particularly acute when the caucus process is involved. Now, I personally despise the caucus process. It is intimidating, bullying, and anti-democratic. Even I won't stand up in front of a caucus delegation and make the case for my candidate and I have stood in front of 400 students talking about political science. Caucuses suck. But nevertheless, that is the process in Iowa. In a caucus, voter preference matters. And I guarantee you, the people in Iowa that don't like Mitt Romney, really don't like Mitt Romney. They will not rally to his cause once their preferred candidate is eliminated. Instead, they will gravitate to whichever "anti-Romney" candidate emerges within their particular caucus group. So while Romney might poll at 22% (or whatever it is now) in Iowa, it's a soft 22% and it probably won't translate in a strong showing in socially conservative Iowa. Now, this certainly doesn't mean Romney won't win the overall GOP nomination. I mean, McCain got slaughtered in Iowa and he rebounded. I just mean to say Romney will almost certainly lose Iowa and, call me crazy, but I still say Gingrich is the frontrunner there. 

This is what passes for government investigation these days

Buried on Page 20 of the Sunday NY Times was the resolution of the inquiry into the Pentagon's use of high-profile military analysts to fuel the public relations battle for war in Iraq and Afghanistan. For those of you unfamiliar, from 2002 to 2008 the Pentagon and military contractors pretty much solicited former military personnel to advocate for increased military engagement, warfare, and expenditures in the Middle East on networks like NBC, CNN, and Fox. What made this practice problematic was not the lobbying per se. The government is entitled to sell their warmongering (it's called propaganda my friends, and while pernicious, it's not illegal). What made this particularly egregious was that these analysts were paid by the networks themselves and were supposed-to-be "neutral" military analysts. Clearly "neutrality" needs to be called into question when defense contractors are specifically paying "military analysts" on the major news networks.

This caused a minor uproar (and caused a subsequent investigations), because Democrats proved to be marginally interested in investigating Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld falsities at the time (even aloof Democrats can smell blood in the political waters). Once Obama was elected and we all agreed that "what was past was past," (well we didn't agree but our political bettors did), investigations like these (and Abu Ghraib, warrantless wiretapping, political witchunts in the DA's office, etc.) were squashed. I mean, it just seemed wiser for the executive branch to prosecute government whistleblowers and deport illegal immigrants, both of which we are doing at the highest rate in US history right now.

Unsurprisingly, the investigation concluded that no legal or ethical breaches were made by the Bush Administration in their military version of "pay-to-play." Are you as surprised as I am? Anyway, what struck me as funny in the article, besides the fact that the Pentagon was tasked with investigating themselves, (Gee, I can't believe they found no wrongdoing!), was this part of the article, my emphasis in bold:


The inspector general’s office looked into the issue of whether military analysts with ties to defense contractors used their access to senior Defense Department officials to advance their business interests.
The report found that at least 43 of the military analysts were affiliated with defense contractors. The inspector general’s office said it asked 35 of these analysts whether their participation in the program benefited their business interests. Almost all said no. Based on these answers, the report said, investigators were unable to identify any analysts who “profited financially” from their participation in the program.
You see? They asked them if they profited financially from these connections. And they said no! Well, no reason to investigate further then! I'm satisfied. I mean, we could look at financial records and such but I don't see any reason for that. Nothing to see here!

But...but...but...but

Wait - I don't understand? I thought public universities were supposed to be primarily concerned with educating students? I didn't think they were supposed to be money-making conglomerates that exist solely to suck up tax dollars and promote sporting franchises? But that's exactly what we see once again as Division I NCAA schools rejected even the minor NCAA reform that schools offer two year athletic scholarships instead of one year.  You know, presumably so schools couldn't just use up students for a year and then kick them to the curb if they weren't good enough for the team. I love this quote from Boise State:
"There is never a guarantee that the incoming student-athlete will be a good fit for the program and the institution," the school wrote in its override request. "If it is a poor fit, the program is put in a difficult situation to continue to keep a student-athlete on scholarship."
Do you live in the state of Idaho? Because if you do, you might be interested to know that your tax dollars are not being used to educate students. They are being used to build minor league football teams. [Of course, I suppose some people would be just fine with that. But if that's the case, we should be paying these athletes].  Multi-year scholarships are important to "student-athletes" particularly so we don't kick students to the curb if they experience personal problems, or they have a hard time adjusting to university life, or they get injured.  Universities are supposed to be, theoretically speaking, institutions of higher learning. They should be interested in educating young adults and preparing them for future careers, not maximizing team lacrosse performance.  Because let's be honest, after college, no one gives a fuck about Division I lacrosse, or volleyball, or rowing.

The NCAA should receive a pat on the head for at least starting to introduce minor reforms to their inherently corrupt system. They are at least pretending to care about the players they exploit (it seems Taylor Branch's Atlantic article is really making a difference in this conversation).  But it amazes me that the universities themselves can't pretend to care.  I really keep hoping and praying for one institution in America to redeem and/restore my trust in their capabilities (Congress, Supreme Court, the Federal Reserve, the media, public education, etc.) but increasingly it seems like we just need to burn the whole thing down and start over. I don't know how to construct institutions to act in the best interests of all of their constituencies and stakeholders (not just the power brokers at the very top), but we really need to start thinking about these things.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas

In honor of an awesome day (and the end of the Iraq War)...



Thursday, December 22, 2011

I promised some drunk posts, so...

I'm pretty drunk right now but I can honestly say I'm pretty happy with my blog so far - not the frequency of posts mind you (which falls way short), but by the quality of posts. It's meets a minimum requirement whereby I won't be embarrassed by any posts except this one you are reading.

But I also promised some of these...

This man is a lot smarter than me...

I hope I don't do this too often, but I'm going to excerpt a long portion of Glenn Greenwald's post below:

In The New Yorker, George Packer, who vocally supported the attack on Iraq but criticized it when it starting failing, writes about Christopher Hitchens, who never deviated from full-throated support. Most of what Packer writes is, as one would expect, little more than the now-trite reminiscing about Hitchens we’ve heard from his thousands of media friends which Neal Pollack parodied so brilliantly here, but Packer’s concluding paragraph struck me as something worth highlighting:
Iraq led Hitchens to some of his worst indulgences—the propaganda trip to Iraq in Wolfowitz’s entourage, the pose of Byronic heroism. But perhaps the war and the enemies it made him helped give Hitchens the courage of his last years and months—the atheist in the foxhole. Hitchens was one of the very few people who could slash and burn you in print, then meet for drinks and talk in the true warmth of friendship, discussing a writer we both admired, garrulous to the very last. It was a sign of his essential decency that he didn’t make it personal.
Is it really “a sign of decency” to refuse to view any political ideas as not merely wrong in some abstract intellectual sense, but as a reflection of the person’s character? Obviously, there are many political disagreements — most — which can and should be conducted in perfectly good faith without the need for personal animus. Conversely, though, aren’t there some political views so repellent and sociopathic that “a sign of essential decency” is to make it personal, rather than refusing to do so? This line of thought strikes me as anything but essentially decent:
Sure, he was and remained a fervent, unrepentant public cheerleader for an aggressive, baseless attack on another country that killed hundreds of thousands of innocent people and displaced millions more, and sure, he was very eager to fuel an Endless War that resulted in the deaths of countless innocent men, women and children that he himself never fought in, but I’m not going to hold any of that against him. I’ll argue with him as part of entertaining, invigorating political debate, but then will be happy to go out for drinks with him — he’s a really fun guy — and will proudly call him my friend.
In what sense does “decency” compel — or even permit — that line of thought? Packer, as he usually does, is simply giving voice to the standard mindset of Washington’s political and media class. As Charles Davis put it to me by email a couple of days ago when discussing David Corn’s expressed admiration for Hitchens — the irony that the Washington Bureau Chief of Mother Jones, of all places, waxed so effusive about one of the nation’s leading war zealots:
That’s Washington. Issues of war and peace — life and death — are just something you argue about from 9 to 5, and only when the cameras are on. Disagreeing on the wisdom of invading and occupying other nations is like disagreeing on whether the minimum wage should be $9.50 or $9.25: nothing serious enough to end a relationship over (see: Lake, Eli). And what’s a few hundred thousand dead brown people between friends?
The bottomless willingness of political and media elites to forgive each other of their sins, insulate personal relationships from everything else, and subordinate all other considerations to loyalty to their shared membership in those circles is not “a sign of essential decency.” It’s one of the leading causes of Washington’s rot.

Surprise, surprise, I think Greenwald gets this right. One reason I try to avoid political discussions (at least among my non-CU brethren), is that I have a very difficult time divorcing their political beliefs from their personalities. If you are the type of person who finds the permanent war-state to be necessary and continuous good, well then, you sir, are a bad person. If you can't support unemployment benefits because somewhere in the country a black person isn't "trying hard enough to find a job," well then you, ma'am, are a bad person. It's very difficult for me to pretend otherwise. The only way I can do so is if we avoid political discussions entirely. Now, granted, Greenwald would call me a coward because I'm still willing to have drinks with warmongers at cocktail hour (substituting the "hear-no-evil" approach for the informed consent approach), but at least it is tough for me to reconcile these differences. But unfortunately, I just don't have enough friends to act differently. So I admit my own dereliction of duty to cause. What's pathetic though is that, in the media, this reconciliation is actually celebrated, rather than disavowed, as a source of courage.  Thankfully, even I would never have enough "courage" to share Jaeger Bombs with Rick Perry, Rupert Murdoch, Sarah Palin, or other chaotic evil individuals

The Tree of Life

Admittedly, I wasn't too enthusiastic about seeing Terence Malick's "The Tree of Life."  As evidence, I have had the Netflix DVD sitting in my backpack since November 25th. Part of the reason has been the wildly divergent reviews.  I mean, it won the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival and yet, at the very same festival, people walked out of the theater during it's premiere! How do you reconcile that? Then you read things about a 17 minute interlude on the creation of the Earth and you remember how he fucked up "A Thin Red Line" and you don't find yourself too enthusiastic about sitting down through a 2 hr 19 minute pretentious art flick that even star Sean Penn criticized:
"I didn't at all find on the screen the emotion of the script, which is the most magnificent one that I've ever read."
 Well, I have to quibble with Mr. Penn. "The Tree of Life" is amazing. Here's why:

  • Everyone in this movie acts the shit out of it. I know that sounds crass and sarcastic, but I'm serious. Hunter McCracken (great name - can't be real right?) was perfect.  Brad Pitt was amazing. Jessica Chastain, well...
  • If you don't fall in love with Jessica Chastain in this movie, you are not alive. Period. I want to marry her ten million times.
  • It's Brad Pitt's best performance since 12 Monkeys.  And it's better than his excellent performance in "Moneyball". Can you imagine Brad Pitt being an asshole? I couldn't (Come on - Brad Pitt is the best!). But I can now. It's a performance riddled with a self-loathing married to a personal ambition that thwarts his (rather sincere) intent to love and connect with his family. It's a remarkable performance.
  • No movie has ever captured the brother dynamic more lovingly and more sincerely.  I can't get over it. It's astounding. My God, I feel like I lived Jack's (Hunter McCracken/Sean Penn's character's) life. You know, without the Daddy issues. But seriously, I've never seen a movie do sibling relationships like Malick does in "The Tree of Life". It's embarrassing enough that the second best example I can even think of is "Home Alone". "Rachel Getting Married" takes an admirable stab at sister relations but I couldn't tell you how honest or accurate that dynamic was.
  • Did you know "Tree of Life" made $54.3 million dollars? I'm glad it did, because it's nostalgic, and sad, and wonderful, but I always operated under the assumption that it was a colossal flop. Of course, maybe it only made money because of this theater's no refund policy - natch.
  • It's weird - I hated the narration in "The Thin Red Line" and yet I loved it here.  It just works sooo much better and its vital to the story and our understanding of the characters. And yet the words themselves just aren't that much different from "Red Line" to "Tree of Life".  I think you can transplant the narration from "Red Line" to "Tree of Life" and it would work just as well. The environment was just wrong. It's like Malick kept trying to shoehorn the concept into one of his flicks until it fit. Well, it does here.
  • I'm not sayin' anything new or original here, but there is very clearly a tribute to Kubrick in this movie. Not just stylistically (the "2001" parallels are fairly obvious), but musically as well. I think his reliance on classical music really sets it apart from previous Malick films.
  • Did I mention Jessica Chastain?
  • It is sad and mean, hopeful and life affirming.  It makes you feel, the way important movies should.
As per Mr. Penn's complaints, I wonder if he originally had a much larger role in the movie.  In the finished version, he has about (maybe) 3 1/2 minutes of screen time. Total. Why even bust the budget for Penn at that point? Hell you could have hired me to play that role...and at scale no less!

After watching "Tree of Life" I definitely need to put it at the top of my 2011's Best Movies list. For those of you curious, I'll list my top ten below. I'm leaving the last three spots empty because a) nothing else really deserves those spots and b) something that I haven't seen might snake its way in at some point. I'm thinking "War Horse", or "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close", or "Dragon Tattoo" or "Super Eight".
  1. Tree of Life
  2. Moneyball
  3. Bridesmaids
  4. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II
  5. X-Men: First Class
  6. Warrior
  7. Rise of the Planet of the Apes
  8. ?
  9. ?
  10. ?

Monday, December 19, 2011

Christopher Hitchens

Unsurprisingly, Glenn Greenwald writes the best, most reasoned argument against Christopher Hitchens hagiography.  People don't become saints when they die - for more proof of that, read Hitch's take on  Mother Theresa here, or watch the clip on Jerry Falwell below. Anone who is going to whitewash my personal defaults after I'm dead is not welcome at my funeral.  Unfortunately for you guys, I'm going to outlive all of you f*ckers.

What causes the seasons?

If you are reading Game of Thrones right now, as I am, you know, like the Starks, that "Winter is coming." [Please will someone start reading Game of Thrones - I want to talk to people about it!].  Apropos of the changing of the seasons, Kevin Drum links to dialogue from a Calvin and Hobbes cartoon where it is explained that the seasons are caused by the Earth's orbit and its distance from the sun...Wrong! However, this is a VERY frequent mistake.  I once read a poll where over HALF of polled Harvard students actually answered the question "What causes the seasons?" incorrectly.  Unfortunately, I cannot find a link, but it was answered incorrectly by something like 60% of the respondents. So, without looking it up in wikipedia, who can answer the question correctly? BTW, I do know the answer.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Voldemort


***SPOILER ALERT***

I re-watched Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows Part II this morning and I find the depiction of Voldemort to be more morally complex in this picture than in the others (I can't speak for the book which I've never read). What's surprising in the movie is how merciful Lord Voldemort is.  I've been told over and over again that Voldemort is the utter personification of evil, but this just doesn't seem to bear out in the movie.  On three separate occasions, Voldemort makes deliberate decisions to spare the lives of the "good" magicians at Hogwarts.  The first time when he gives them an hour to turn over Harry, clearly giving them an optimal timeline to establish a robust defense of Hogwarts. A second time when he pulls his forces entirely from Hogwarts in order to spare their lives if, once more, Harry chooses to face Voldemort one on one.  And a third time after Harry is "killed" and he offers the students and professors at Hogwarts the opportunity to switch sides. In many ways, Voldemort, at least as he is depicted in the movies, is closer to Magneto than other more "purely" evil antagonists (someone like Megatron comes to mind as being purely evil - the cartoon character, not the movie character. Michael Bay inexplicably stripped ALL of the Transformers of their personalities, a momentously stupid decision, but one to be expected from the world's worst director). Those readers familiar with me probably already realize that I sympathize more with Magneto than that sap Professor X. Or at least my sympathies lie with Wolverine who generally does the "right thing," but has a healthy skepticism of the motives of man.

My question is this - in the books, is Voldemort more clearly "Evil"?  I know he hates mudbloods which is purely racist and not to be tolerated.  But in the end, he seems likely to even spare their lives. Am I interpreting this correctly?

Thursday, December 15, 2011

A Bi-Racial Candidate

I understand Mitt Romney flip-flops on issues from time to time but flip-flopping on what race he is taking it too far.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Voting ID

Republicans are back-in-power on the state level so that means a whole new round of bullshit voter ID eligibility laws. States with Republican governments across the nation are introducing drastic new measures to make sure that brown people and young people can't vote. This is entirely because these people vote Democratic, not because any of these states can dig up a single instance of voter fraud.  The crisis of "voter fraud" is an illusion.  It does not exist, in any capacity, in any state.  You couldn't dig up four cases across the nation.  But that doesn't mean Republicans aren't going to think up of all new crazy procedures to prevent people from voting. 

The most popular means of preventing people from voting is the use of a photographic ID. This is a particularly insidious means of introducing electoral reform to prevent "voter fraud" because it sounds so reasonable.  Why shouldn't you have photographic ID to vote? Well the problem is, many people don't have government issued photo ID, and these people are, by and large Democrats.  They are urban residents that do not drive.  They are college students who have not gotten new state IDs (primarily because they don't drive!).  If the photo ID requirement affected military personnel, the Republicans would carve out exceptions (which they have done).  Republicans don't give a shit about voter fraud (just like the deficit).  They care about preventing Democratic votes! This should be self-evident, but it isn't, again, because the proposed solution sounds so reasonable - photo ID. Why not require photo ID?

It is for this reason, that I differ from some of my liberal brethren when it comes to supporting or opposing a national photographic ID.  I am, literally, a card-carrying and dues-paying member of the ACLU.  But the ACLU hates the national ID card. I think in a perfect world, where we didn't already have Social Security numbers, and driver's licenses, and passports, a national ID card might sound like a scary program designed to track a country's citizens.  But the problem is, we do already have these things. If the government wants to track its citizens, it can track our cellphones.  For fucks sake, we tell the government where we are everyday on FourSquare and Facebook (see video below).  As far as I'm concerned, the cat is already out of the bag when it comes to preserving this degree of personal privacy. I like the national voter ID card because a) it will eliminate the need for registration (the whole registration process is absurd and unnecessary anyway - one person = one vote) and b) it strips the GOP of one of their most dangerous rhetorical weapons i.e. the argument that Republicans are interested in preserving the authenticity of the vote, not merely trying to prevent citizens from the vote.

Now, I'm not so naive as to believe that the GOP would end the "war on voting" if a national ID card was issued.  It's a party that doesn't take defeat lying down and it can get quite clever when it comes obfuscating their intentions (trickle down economics anyone?).  But I really think it would serve to undercut their "voter fraud" message.  And who knows, a national ID card might help alleviate red tape and paperwork in other government bureaucracies (the FAA, Social Security, Medicaid/Medicare, etc.)


CIA's 'Facebook' Program Dramatically Cut Agency's Costs

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Star Wars & Pretentious Art

Who knew that Star Wars and pretentious art would be two great tastes that taste great together? This NY Times article introduced me to the work of C├ędric Delsaux.  I copied and pasted a couple of photos below.  Ya know, if anyone is looking to buy me a Christmas gift, these prints would be all sorts of awesome!


Friday, December 9, 2011

Hell yes!

I promise you, I have not learned the lessons of Jurassic Park and I'm pretty sure this would be all kinds of awesome.  Bring the woolly mammoth back!

How People Feel About the Unemployed

There is an interesting post written by digby talking about a systematic effort to stigmatize the unemployed by our political and financial betters.  The article is true, in so far as it is concerned, but I want to quibble with one of her conclusions. First the anecdote as recounted on her site:

One of his aides met with us in the lobby as well. When we asked him again about if Rep. Tipton would vote to extend the unemployment insurance, he told us he had to listen to both sides and then he told us a strange story. He heard about a disheveled guy going in for an interview and purposefully not getting hired just to get an unemployment check. We all sat there for a minute in disbelief. When I realized, that he was saying that my representative was considering not voting for unemployment insurance because he thinks there are lazy people milking the system, I was compelled to act.
.................................................
Then her analysis:
 These stories have been circulating among our "representatives" for quite some time. Many of them now believe the unemployed are just refusing to take work and as long as we "subsidize" them, they'll never get off their lazy duffs and take one of the many open jobs available to them. That's a tale they are being told by their big money contributors when asked why they are sitting on their profits --- they assure their puppets that they'd love to hire, they just can't find anyone to work. The economic slump is the fault of lazy Americans who just want to milk the system and it's all Washington's fault for allowing it. 

The problem with digby's analysis is that she attribute these feelings entirely to the political, financial and social elites, but unfortunately that conclusion is just not true.  Americans of all stripes, Democratic AND Republican, feel this way.  I've already posted on this blog about how everyone thinks that the unemployed should be drug tested, even though its colossally a terrible idea. But the truth of the matter is that all Americans, (except for us bleeding heart liberals and the recently unemployed), believe that a substantial portion of the unemployed (60%, 80%?) are parasites intentionally gaming the system.  I'm talking people like your brothers, sisters, friends, and co-workers.  These are people who have never experienced sustained unemployment for any period in there lives.  They don't understand why these moochers won't work as greeters at Walmart or as stock boys at Costco.  They are utterly convinced that, were the shoe on the other foot, they would be eagerly waiting tables during the drunk shift at diners, working the greasers in McDonalds, or pumping gas in 12 degree weather at the local station.  I mean, in reality, they won't do any of these things (and doing them would severely impede their ability to find jobs in their chosen fields), but they believe they would.  So they have no sympathy or understanding for the people who want to extend unemployment insurance.  This system of belief, ingrained in the American ethos in ways you will not find in other western democracies, explains a lot of our policy failings in the last 5 years.
 

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Rock & Roll HOF

People spend a LOT of time criticizing the selection process of the Baseball Hall of Fame (which finally inducted the very-deserving Ron Santo this week), but we never seem to spend enough time criticizing the selections made by the Rock & Roll HOF, an organization that admits all stripes of sucktitude, mediocrity and trash. Let's look at this year's classGuns N’ Roses, the Beastie Boys, Donovan, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Laura Nyro and the Faces. Friends of mine are aware that I can't stand either the Beastie Boys or the Red Hot Chili Peppers but I can begrudgingly admit that they are worthy of the Hall, if due to their record sales and musical influence alone. I would argue that the Beastie Boys really aren't "rock and roll" as we traditionally mean it but a) modern rock playlists seem to argue otherwise [I think this is clearly because they are white though admittedly that prejudice cuts both ways. You won't hear the Beastie Boys on Hip-Hop/Rap stations either] and b) the Hall itself really isn't "Rock & Roll" anyway. Let's put it this way - one day the Black Eyed Peas will be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Nuff said. But let's look at the other names on this list. Donovan? Honestly, without using wikipedia, tell me who the hell Donovan is? I listen to a lot of fucking music across a lot of different genres.  I couldn't tell you who the hell Donovan is. And if I have to look for an artist on wikipedia, that artist clearly doesn't deserve to be in the HOF. That would be like putting Oscar Azocar in the baseball HOF. 
Laura Nyo? Again, see previous. The Faces? That's a bit of a stretch. Yes Rod Stewart and Ronnie Wood are important Rock & Roll artists but they have both been inducted for their post-Faces work (Stewart as a solo artists and Wood with a little band called the Rolling Stones). The Faces had maybe one moderate hit - "Stay With Me". That does not a Hall of fame career make.  I mean, if that gets you in the Rock & Roll HOF, make room for the Kevin Maas bust in the baseball HOF! 
I wish I could say that this is a one year anomaly, but it is not. The Rock & Roll HOF consistently goes out of its way to reward stupefying levels of mediocrity. Here are some other Monsters of Rock inducted in just the last 5 years: Darlene Love, Dr. John, The Hollies, Jimmy Cliff, Little Anthony & The Imperials, The Ventures, and The Dave Clark Five. Wow, what a list. Was Rockwell ineligible? Did EMF turn down the nomination? What a bag of shit! I don't understand what the Hall is doing here. Why undercut your brand by diluting it with this nonsense?

When Celebrities Do Wrong/Right

Listen, I happen to like him because he's a liberal who says mean things about conservatives and he plays an awesome character on TV, but I've been led to understood that personally, Alec Baldwin can be a pretty terrible guy.  That being said, I'm kinda happy this stupid fiasco, where he gets kicked off an American Airlines flight (an absolutely terrible airline BTW) because he won't turn off his phone, is getting so much attention.  Primarily I'm happy because the policy, like so many other airline policies (including every single post 9/11 policy), is idiotic and does nothing to keep us safer.  All it does it capture the veneer of safety (which I admit, to the ignorant masses, is much more important).  You know why I can arrogantly proclaim that the "no-electronics" policy is bullshit - because it is ignored on pretty much 100% of all airplane flights!  Show me one flight where at least one person is not illicitly using an ipod, cellphone, laptop, personal DVD player, or other electronic device during the takeoff or landing and I will need to regretfully inform you that you are either on-board a military aircraft being renditioned to Syria or, more unfortunately, you are watching footage from the movie Con Air.  The fact of the matter is, on every flight you take, some passengers are going to have in-use ipods or cellphones tucked away in their pockets. And yet, somehow, all of these flights with electronic gadgets in use manage to land without incident.  Huh - funny that.

So if it takes Alec Baldwin to get the policy discussion jump-started, I'm all for it.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Who you calling racist?

It's nice to know that in the year 2011, racism has been entirely eliminated in the United States of America.  If we pardon white criminals at four times the rate of black criminals, well then, that's just because prosecutors have clearly convicted more innocent white people than black people right? Right?

This study also comes on the heels of the news story reporting a Kentucky Church banning interracial relationships. In 2011. It has since been overturned, but I love this part of the story -

Harville said he was approached in August by Melvin Thompson, the church member who crafted the resolution to bar mixed-race couples, and was told that his daughter and her boyfriend were no longer allowed to sing at the church.
Thompson has said he is not racist and called the matter an "internal affair."
Has any individual, under any circumstances, ever acknowledged to being a racist? I mean this question honestly. Do white supremacists consider themselves "racists"? Or do they feel like they are bold-speaking truth-tellers acknowledging religious and scientific realities? Is the number of self-acknowledged racists equal to zero?  Because if the church member who introduced a resolution barring mixed-race couples isn't racist, the word literally has no meaning.

Also, please remember that I myself have absolutely zero racist tendencies because I have two black friends and I once voted for a black President.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Iconic Speeches


John F. Kennedy said "ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country".

Barack Obama, while dealing with the Rev. Jeremiah Wright "controversy", made one of the most transcendental campaign speech in the history of our nation, a speech so important the American public actively sought out a 38 minute long speech on youtube.

In the year 2011, Republicans call for their own very important speech:

 How could Gingrich possibly recover? Pretty easily, according to Land. “Mr. Speaker, I urge you to pick a pro-family venue and give a speech (not an interview) addressing your marital history once and for all. It should be clear that this speech will be ‘it’ and will not be repeated, only referenced.”

That's right - the important speech we need from the current GOP frontrunner and "intellectual leader" of the Republican party is an explanation of why voters should stick with a serial philanderer and epic scumbag who delivered divorce papers to his cancer stricken wife in the hospital.

Ladies and Gentlemen, your 2012 Republican candidates!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Pay to Play

Rob Neyer, who hasn't been the same since he left ESPN, hits a grand slam here in a post he couldn't write at ESPN if he wanted to.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Interpreting Polls and Tea Party Support

I'm a couple of days late on this post (get used to that), but one of the interesting poll results of the last few days, provided by the Pew Research Center, suggests that the Tea Party is losing support in even the most conservative districts.  The popular narrative deriving from these poll results suggests that the Tea Party has overreached, that say intentionally creating financial crises like the debt ceiling hostage negotiation has hurt the Tea Party brand.  Unsurprisingly, I think the media narrative is wrong.  I don't think that these conservative districts believe that the Tea Party candidates are too crazy for them (though I wish it were so).  Instead, I suspect it results from the perception that the Tea Party has not been effective.  The simple fact of the matter is that Americans, either through willful or unintentional ignorance, refuse to acknowledge the institutional limits found in our American system of checks and balances.  When the Republicans rode economic calamity to an overwhelming Congressional victory in 2010, these Republican voters expected immediate political results.  How come taxes aren't lower?  Business deregulated? Obamacare overturned? Economic recovery at hand?  I mean, of course they blame the Kenyan socialist in the White House, but they still expect some kind of electoral payoff.  When an excited voter base doesn't see immediate results, support from both the right and left flanks can soften in a substantial manner. I mean, Democratic voters are guilty of this same ignorance.  Hell, I'm guilty of the same ignorance, frequently criticizing Obama for his failure to say, push for a larger stimulus package or single-payer healthcare reform.  But the reality is that we currently have government power divided between two parties right now.  Even if we didn't have divided partisan power, institutional gridlock would still be the norm.  There are just too many veto points.  And Republicans have normalized a MAJOR veto point by effectively establishing the US Senate as a 60 vote, super-majority legislative body.  Even if by some crazy catastrophe the American electorate installs Michele Bachmann in the White House, the right wing is not going to see implementation of the policies they paid for.  And this, by itself, is going to soften support for the Tea Party and its candidates.  And this same dynamic helps explain the frustration on the left and the creation of the OWS movement.  If and when OWS is absorbed by the mainstream left and they help, for example, Elizabeth Warren in Massachusetts get elected Senator, and we eventually re-learn that one progressive Senator cannot single-handedly solve the American banking crisis, we (meaning the far left) will still lose our faith in her as well.

John McCain "Trashes" Long Island

I really do think the appropriate response to McCain "trashing Long Island" is humor.  I mean, I've said a lot worse about Arizona and John McCain personally.  He is clearly joking here and there is room in politics for this kind of banter.  If you want to get pissed off at John McCain, get mad at him for his terrible running mate, his constant war advocacy, his support for dictators, the fact that he can't remember how many homes he owns, or his disdain for the American worker.

The bigger question is whether people like Washington Post journalist Ruth Marcus will jump all over McCain for incivility just like she did when she jumped all over a powerless 18 year old girl in Kansas for incivility.  My guess is not. After all, deference to power in the journalism world is absolute.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

On Apples and V-Chips

I was reading this utterly fascinating article in the New Yorker called Crunch, written by John Seabrook (sorry, link is subscriber only), on, of all things, apples (the fruit, not the company).  It was a comprehensive account on how new brands of apples come to market.  Of particular focus was the Honeycrisp, a new apple I have come to love.  Interestingly, in 2006 the Association of University Technology Managers named the Honeycrisp one of the top 25 innovations that changed the world, along with Google and the V-chip.  This brings two questions to mind.  First, and I'm speaking to new parents here, does anyone actually use the V-chip? It's always struck me as a particularly useless device but perhaps its actually quite popular with parents and/or red-staters (I don't associate with a lot of either!). Second, what are you favorite apples?  I think my top 5 favorite apples, in no particular order, would be:

Macoun
Honeycrisp
Mutsu (aka "Crispin")
Mcintosh
Asian Pear (which look and taste more like apples to me)

So Long Frankster!

With Barney Frank leaving politics, joining Alan Grayson and Anthony Weiner on the sidelines (for different reasons of course), it's hard to see who is left to fight the Republican batshit crazy machine.  It also means my top four favorite political figures are all women Darcy Burner, Nancy Pelosi, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, and Elizabeth Warren.

But Barney Frank was fuckin' awesome - here he eviscerates current GOP frontrunner (can't believe I'm writing that) Newt Gingrich.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving

This post only make sense if you know "Alice's Restaurant," but it's 46 years later and we're still locking up young people for "littering" (but really because we don't like what they have to say) and we're still fighting pointless wars. Sigh...

God I am the world's biggest bummer. Arlo Guthrie would be ashamed of me.

Happy Thanksgiving everybody!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Lieberman Out

I was hoping I would go my entire life without posting a single blog about the world's most grand-standing US Senator, Joe Lieberman, but today he came up with an idea so monumentally stupid it takes my breath away - he wants readers to be able to "flag" comments on google blogger when the blogs contain "terrorist" content.  Is he fucking serious? This man is a US Senator?!? This kind of reactionary idiocy has no place in the world's most deliberative body.  If, by some miracle, legislation like this passed, I will be spending entire days flagging the twitter accounts of Republican presidential candidates for terrorist activity.  For example, did you know that this VP candidate painted a bulls-eye target on Democratic candidates, including Gabrielle Giffords? Did you know this current Republican candidate has called for violence against Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and has called for Texas' secession from the Union?

Lawyering

I think I would be more sympathetic to this NY Times article on teaching law students more "lawyering" if I didn't suspect the authors and the critics of such strong ulterior motives. The article argues that law professors are unwilling to teach the "necessities" of law practice - attracting clients, plea bargaining, drafting contracts, etc.  Instead, law firms are supposed to teach their recruits these skills on the jobs.  In other words, law firms are being forced to pay their employees to do these things instead of farming it out on the US taxpayer, which is what they propose.  "The horror."  Look, I get it.  Lawyers should probably learn how to do these things.  But this whole article just reeks of contempt for the law school elite, selectively mocking law journal submissions like "Why Non-Existent People Do Not have Zero Well-Being but Rather No Well-Being", so its hard to take this criticism without a grain of salt.  There clearly is an agenda present. The simple matter is, these law firms don't want to pay their hirees to learn what they describe as basic skills.  But isn't the firm actually the best place to learn these things?  I think the point that is unspoken in this article is that law firms are just trying to reap the advantages of the "unpaid internship" here.  And the unpaid internship is one of the most unjust and inequality-perpetuating mechanism in the US capitalism system.  On its face, the argument that law schools should spend more time teaching practical skills seems reasonable.  But teaching higher principles and abstract theoretical critical analysis is definitely more important.  We need to teach law school students how to write and how to reason.  Filling out Form 37-8234c is not going to help these individuals acquire these skills.  Thankfully, we are finally beginning to see studies that measure the effectiveness of certain-collegiate level degrees.  Surprisingly, it's the "practical" majors that do the poorest job preparing their students for post-graduate work.  Instead, the classes that teach critical thinking skills do a much better job of preparing their students for "the real world".  It is important to keep this in mind before we go rewriting the law school curriculum.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Look at these violent protestors!

The most important video you'll see all weekend.  Please watch the whole thing if you can.  The ending is pretty important.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Some good news for once

I can't believe I'm writing this, but it looks like baseball is putting the other major sports to shame when it comes to labor agreements and rule changes.  As you can see here, baseball is pretty close to locking down a new 5 year collective bargaining agreement.  And it didn't take a strike or nuttin'!
There are some rule changes coming our way, as well as a realignment that will bring the Astros to the AL West (a good idea in my opinion), but for the most most the changes are sound.  I did not want baseball to add another wild card team to each division (making ten of thirty teams eligible for the postseason - bleh), but since they are adding teams, the absolutely best outcome was to add a one-off "play-in game" for the Wild Cards.  This could actually make for some exciting baseball.  Anyway, I feel the need to pat these billionaires and millionaires on the head when they do something right for once.

Is we be learning?

A major malfunction of human beings in general is that we are extremely overconfident about the limits of our own knowledge. We think we "know" something, when in fact we do not. We "know" that government should tighten its belt during a recession when in fact, we should do the opposite. We "know" that the government wastes too much money on foreign aid when in fact, it's only 0.5% of the federal budget. We "know" Social Security will go bankrupt in a few years when in fact its fully funded, with no changes at all, until at least 2025.  We "know" there is a higher power who controls our destinies and forgives our sins when in fact there is no God (I kid, I kid, I'm just tweaking the Christians here). This overconfidence effect has the upsetting impact of distorting a lot of public policy, since our political officeholders, and the public that elects them, believes all sorts of things that are simply untrue.  What's even more upsetting is that our knowledge of the existence of what is called the "overconfidence effect" doesn't make us any less likely to be overconfident.  Let that sink in.  I'm telling you right now, we need to be systematically cognizant of the fact that we are overconfident about the validity of our most sincerely held beliefs.  I'm priming you as we speak. Now go and take this quiz and tell me how you do - remember while taking the quiz, you are shooting for 90% certainty/accuracy.  Feel free to be liberal in your confidence intervals.  The point of the exercise is that you are very certain that the correct answer is somewhere in the range you provide. Even though I've just warned you about overconfidence, I suspect you will still all victim.

BTW, I scored a 70% and was shocked to get that high.  But since I was supposed to be 90%, I scored as overconfident.  And please do click on some of the wikipedia links in this blog post if you are unfamiliar with priming or the overconfidence effect.  They are super interesting.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

OWS in NYC

Speaking from both a practical and political standpoint, I think this ruling by the judge in NYC that the Zucotti protestors can't camp out at the park is a win for them, though they clearly can't admit it. Let's be honest, as the winter grew colder and more dangerous, the movement would have lost a lot of momentum and attendance anyway.  With this ruling, they can declare victory, go home, and regroup for the spring (in a new, more legal venue) when the momentum of craziness in the Republican primary will be at its maximum height (otherwise known as peak wing-nut). Its a win-win.  And even the DFHs don't want to be camping in NYC in the snow - do you remember the winter we had last year??? Anyway, I think the protester below owes this friendly officer an apology.  What will these dirty fuckin' hippies do next to offend our delicate sensibilities, honk their horn?

Online dating

Have you ever written something so clever to a girl on an online dating site that you actually hope they don't write back because you don't think you can maintain that level of cleverness?

Yeah, me neither...

NBA Owners vs Arena Owners

One subject I've touched on before is the bizarre unwillingness of the rich to take on the rich. There are exceptions of course.  Microsoft, and Netscape, and Apple, and Google seem to be suing each other all of the time over one thing or another (perhaps its specific to the software industry).  But other large firms never really seem to be willing to take on other large firms, even when their interests are diamterically opposed.  I bring this up in the context of the NBA lockout because its curious to me why we do not see any arena or stadium owners (or their employees, labor unions, etc.) suing NBA owners over lost revenues due to the owners' decision to lockout out the players.  Remember, there is a current NBA collective bargaining agreement in place. The NBA owners just decided they don't like it. As a result, they have preemptively decided to lockout the players from fulfilling their contracts (how owners can unilateral void agreements made between two parties without paying any financial compensation to the other party is beyond me - I mean, people who can't afford their home mortgage payments can't unilaterally void the mortgage contract.  Perhaps someone familiar with labor law can fill me in).  So why aren't the stadium owners suing the NBA owners for void of contract?  How come the owners of The Staples Center aren't suing Jerry Buss? There has to be millions and millions of dollars in lost ticket revenue and merchandise sales in each stadium alone. Plus, the uncertain nature of the current negotiations ensures that these venues cannot be leased for other events to replace this revenue (concerts, circus, etc.).  So why don't arena owners go after the NBA (barring the few cases where the NBA owners own the arenas)? It would seem to be a slam-dunk case. Yet, not a single stadium owner has taken such a step. Only the city of Memphis has even broached the idea of suing the Grizzlies over lost revenues. Why aren't more cities taking such steps?  Why isn't Bloomberg suing James Dolan?  Okay, well I know why.  But that sure as hell doesn't make it a good reason.  I thought the powerful 1% were greedy enough to care more about money than their personal relationships.  Can't I even count on that to increase social welfare? Does every aspect of this game need to be rigged?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

On Bitterness

So I'm reading a Sunday NY Times article written by Rachel Leigh Brown on college students renting rooms in foreclosed Mcmansions in the Merced, California area.  It's okay as far as articles are concerned, though I'd be a bit more interested in knowing if this is any kind of national trend (I suspect not).  If it's not, I would call into question the article's front page prominence in the United States' paper of record. What I love about the article is this block quote below, from a frustrated homeowner:
“Everybody on this street is underwater and can’t see any relief,” said John Angus, an out-of-work English teacher who paid $532,000 for a house that is now worth $221,000. “This was supposed to be an edge-of-town, Desperate Housewifey community,” he said. “These students are the reverse.”
Mr. Angus pays $3,000 a month, while student neighbors pay one-tenth of that*. “I think they’re the luckiest students I’ve ever come across,” he said somewhat bitterly.
I absolutely adore this man's bitterness.  It's my favorite kind - irrational.  Let's keep in mind that abandoned homes drive down property values, attract squatters, and increase crime.  They are also aesthetically unsavory as abandoned homes are also unkempt homes (uncut lawns, homes in disrepair, etc.).  Renting to students ameliorates all of these problems and makes this underwater homeowner better off, but he just can't control his seething rage at these "lucky-duckies".  I love it.  I don't know what we need to do to convince people not to loathe their neighbors.  We're just not willing to do it if it somehow offends are delicate sensibilities about concepts of fairness.

But to tap into my own sense of bitterness, I'm all for the continued unhappiness of Mr. Angus, a man who wanted to live in a "Desperate Housewifey community."  This tool actually deserves the scorn of his neighbors for that comment alone.

* This appears to be a factual error (and a rather important one) made by the article's author.  There was not a single example within the article of a student home paying less than $800/month (most paid more). Individual students may be paying $300/month, but Mr. Angus is not sharing his home with five other residents. So the comparison is neither factual nor apt. Good job NY Times!

OWS

I feel like I should say something about NYC raiding the OWS protests down in Zucotti Park since this will clearly be the topic of the day.  First, speaking from public relations standpoint, this is just idiotic behavior by Bloomberg and the NYC Police.  Hullabaloo seems to have the most up-to-date info and videos I've seen, but I expect to see a lot more.  I mean, these kind of things are the lifeblood or rallies and protests. Let's be honest, press attention to the Occupy Wall Street Protesters was already diminishing.  I'm not sure how deep the protesters would have lasted into winter.  Plus, the press didn't even seem to care anymore.  So why do you go out and kick the shit out of a bunch of sleeping protesters at 1'o'clock in the morning? This adds fuel to the fire from a media standpoint and an activist standpoint.  Do you think there will be more or less activist participation after this morning's raid?  Seriously take a guess.  These types of protests live on police state aggression.  It is the lifeblood that fuels rebellion.  I realize the seriousness of the OWS protests is not the same, but the excessive use of police force is what brought the broader public to take seriously the protests in Birmingham, Tiananmen Square, Benghazi, etc., etc., etc.

Can I also point out that the manner, secrecy, and aggression surrounding these evictions belies the rational for the it.  Nobody, I mean, nobody, arrests a hundred people and sends dozens of them to the hospital because they want to clean a park the size of a large Hess station.  This is all about hippie-punching, pure and simple.  There is no other rationale. Police haven't been able to kick the shit out of hippies in decades. Now they have their chance.  I have no idea why the police want to beat the shit out of people who are trying to protect their jobs, protect their retirement benefits, and increase their salaries, but there you have it.

Deep thought

Sometimes I sit around and I think to myself, who are the people watching HBO's How to Make it in America? Who is actually watching Terra Nova? Terra Nova is particularly vexing since many of my friends and relatives enjoy the sci-fi genre, and yet I don't know anyone who watches it. These are the things that keep me awake at night.

The problem with Social Security and Rising Healthcare Costs: Two great tastes that go great together

One particularly pernicious zombie lie in politics is that Social Security is in some kind of crisis. The right wing screams it from the rooftops.  Rick Perry calls it a Ponzi scheme.  The "liberal" NY Times and the "liberal" Washington Post says it all the time.  But its just not true.  Its so amazingly untrue its pathetic that we even have to have this conversation all the time.  The reality is, Social Security can fund itself, with no tweaks at all, for the next 25 years.  25 years!  After that, a few minor tweaks amounting to 1.5% of the GDP and Social Security is saved forever.  Forever!  (Editor's note - I wanted to include a chart here but my browser is acting up and it won't let me upload the pic, so please click the link). Nevertheless, thanks to the media constantly claiming otherwise, everybody and their grandmother believe Social Security is doomed.  Doomed!
A USA Today/Gallup Poll shows six in 10 Americans who haven't retired yet say there will be nothing for them when they stop working...Younger Americans are least likely to believe they'll one day get Social Security... while those older than 55 are confident they will get benefits.
Again, this is utterly ridiculous and it's another major example of the media misinforming the public (intentionally or not, I don't know).  I have no idea why the mass media has a bug up their ass about Social Security.  It's inexplicable really.  And yet, they keep clamoring for some grand compromise that will a) cut benefits or b) raise the retirement age.  Forget the fact that we should be doing the opposite, at least in the short term.  I mean, lowering the Social Security eligibility age would actually be a really effective stimulus program because a) it would increase the capital in circulation, thus increasing demand for goods and services (otherwise known as capitalism) and b) it would open up thousands of jobs as new retirees left the workforce to enjoy their golden years. But we can't have that conversation.  He have to have conversations about "Grand Bargains" and "Super Committees".  But any decisions these committees make are virtually worthless.  Why? Because subsequent Congress' can always overturn these decisions.  It's not like we will strike a grand bargain on Social Security and then Congress retires forever (would be that it was so).  No, the next Congress comes in and raises taxes and raises those benefits, and then the next Congress comes in and raises the retirement age and cuts taxes, and so on.  Passing legislation now, that effects the population 25 years from now, is folly and has the added benefit of being politically unpopular.  The real problem we face, from a deficit standpoint, is rising healthcare costs (again graph won't cut and paste). I mean, healthcare costs are going to get really, really, really bad.

Luckily, these are two problems that take care of one another!  You see, as long as healthcare costs continue to skyrocket and the government continues to refuse to offer universal healthcare coverage, life expectancies will get so bad that US citizens simply won't live long enough to collect Social Security benefits! Its perfect. How come I never see any of these so-called number-crunchers in their nerd factories do that analysis?!? Currently the US is ranked 36th in the world in life expectancy (78.3 yrs), just behind communist Cuba (heh, heh). But healthcare costs are expected to increase 70% in the next ten years. Yeah, you read that right, 70%.  Thankfully, a lot of our poorest citizens will not have health insurance, thus they will be unable to afford any kind of life-sustaining treatment and surgeries.  So, they'll just die off before they have the opportunity to collect any of their ill-deserved Social Security benefits anyway. I mean who were these people??? Convenience store workers, manual laborers, date entry clerks, nurses aides, teaching assistants. A pox on them all I say!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The exception that proves the rule

One of my pet peeves is the use of the expression "the exception that proves the rule," primarily because I've never heard it used in a manner that makes any sense.  I mean, whenever people use it, they are actually citing exceptions that disprove the rule! In fairness, this actually has more to do with the statement itself, rather than its usage.  In fact, I think the only time one could accurately use the expression "the exception that proves the rule" is if the rule itself stated, "this rule is in true in all cases, but one exception."

Saturday, November 12, 2011

PBR

Yeah, you should already know this, but, umm, Pabst Blue Ribbon is the worst beer in the world...

Friday, November 11, 2011

Polls and Drug Tests

I saw a poll on facebook today asking people if individuals receiving unemployment benefits should be drug tested.  Of course, people answered in the affirmative at a rate of about 9 to 1.  This is generally fueled by the impression that unemployed people (of which I may be joining their ranks very shortly) are a bunch of pathetic, lazy, moochers, sucking on the government teat.  But here's the thing.  I don't think drug-testing people receiving unemployment benefits goes nearly far enough.  We really need to be asking this question more often.  I mean, shouldn't we be drug-testing these federal government parasites who are stealing our hard-earned money?

  1. Should we require drug tests for families that receive food stamps?
  2. Should we require drug tests for single mothers who receive child and dependent care tax credits?
  3. Should we require drug tests for people receiving Medicaid benefits?
  4. Should we require drug tests for people receiving Medicare benefits?
  5. Should we require drug tests for college students applying for Pell grants?
  6. Should we require drug tests for college students applying for subsidized/unsubsidized Stafford loans?
  7. Should we require drug tests for retired senior citizens collecting Social Security benefits?
  8. Should we require drug tests for homeowners using the Home Mortgage Income Tax Deduction?
  9. Should we require drug tests for drivers who use our federal highways?
I think you see where I'm going with this.  If you answer yes to these questions, you are advocating for the government to drug test every single citizen in the United States.  You know why?  Because every single citizen in the United States receives benefits from the government in one shape or another.  Yes, even those unemployed parasites collecting unemployment insurance, paid into the unemployment insurance fund at one point or another.  So you can't make the argument that drug-testing the jobless is some kind of special case that deserves extra scrutiny.  They paid into the program just as the retired paid into Social Security.

Former governor of California getting high.
But let's think about it in a practical sense.  What if we did enforce drug testing for the unemployed?  Well, drug-testing is very expensive and requires massive man-power to administer the tests and analyze the results.  So you'll need to create a massive new bureaucracy.  And hire a lot of new people.  Fine then, off the top of my head I can think of a bunch of people that could use the job, heh, heh.  But creating a new bureaucracy and hiring a lot of people costs money.  So you're taxes will need to go up to provide that revenue.  Or your benefits will need to go down.  Probably both.  Plus, we have to decide which drugs we are testing for. Are we testing for alcohol too? If not, why not? Marijuana?  That seems like a no-brainer, but I know pot-heads that pass drug tests all the time.  So as an added bonus, the tests aren't too reliable either. Wonderful. And who are we drug-testing again? Just the unemployed?  Why not people using our federal highways?  I can guarantee you that people using our public highways on drugs are doing vastly more societal damage than people on welfare smoking pot. I honestly can't think of a good ethical or practical reason why the unemployed should be drug tested but drivers should not.  I guess the only difference is that pretty much everybody drives (except the poor) so drug-testing drivers would affect "us" rather than the marginalized "others" who are unemployed.  And if you thought the wait times at the DMV were bad, can you imagine what the wait times at a government sponsored drug-testing facility would be?  Not to mention the personal privacy invasion associated with being compelled by your government to give blood and urine samples.  In other words, we shouldn't be asking people if the unemployed should be drug-tested before receiving benefits.  We should ask them:
Would you be in favor of the creation of a massive government bureaucracy that will increase taxes, cut benefits, demand hours and hours of your personal time and invade your personal space and privacy, in order to prevent a handful of drug users from collecting unemployment benefits?
Because that would actually be a much more accurate description of the trade-offs involved and the remedies suggested.

*** UPDATE ***


The Daily Show hits it out of the park below...



Exhibit A in Horse Shittery

I'm not sure this is an important article in the grand scheme of things, but a friend of mine linked to it on facebook and I can't let it go without commenting. Here's an article written by some douchebag named Bob Jennings who normally works for (surprise, surprise) Fox Business News but this trash is somehow granted legitimacy by being a featured article in Yahoo News. In the article Jennings "explains" that income taxes are going to increase substantially next year when tax season rolls around.  This is exactly that type of bullshit I'd hold up as Exhibit A of when the media, masquerading as an objective news organization, subtly pursues an ideological agenda.  Clearly Jennings, and Fox News, want to scare you about rises in income taxes.  But are income taxes really going up - well, er, no.  Jennings, to his own credit, blows the lede here (boldface mine):
In a recent tax planning meeting with one of our clients, we shocked them with what their income tax future looked like for 2013 if -- on the off-chance -- Congress continues to do nothing to provide a long-term permanent set of tax laws.
They had no idea what tax breaks were expiring this year and next year, and how much it would cost them personally in extra income tax. But they aren't alone, many Americans and even tax professionals aren't aware that their tax bill could rise dramatically next year.
So yeah, we don't know what Congress is going to do.  Taxes could go up. Taxes could go down. Who knows??? Congratulations Bob. You just described every single day of every single year in Congress.  Even Jennings acknowledges that Congress doing nothing is probably the less likely scenario ("on the off chance").  But he still launches from this least likely scenario to paint a morbid tax environment where everybody's taxes are going up thousands of dollars.  Because we need to scare people about taxes.  We need to convince them that our government (cough, cough, black President) has substantially raised federal taxes (he's actually cut them), and that he's out to get your money and give it to his free-loading friends. But the entire premise is faulty.  Congress not doing anything about the current tax code is the least likely scenario.  Sure, taxes might go up.  But probably not.  In fact, they are more likely they go down (since cutting taxes is the only policy we can seem to pass during a recession).  But there is no reason to let those likelihoods get in the way of a good scare mongering, am I right?

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Well duh!

Unsurprisingly, Herman Cain has raised more money from donors since the allegations of sexual harassment have been revealed.  Well anyway, unsurprising to those of us who know anything about the how the Republican mind works. It paradoxically celebrates and rewards politicians who sexually infantualize women while simultaneously condemning the "liberal" media that exposes it (even though it was logically the Perry or Romney campaign that leaked it). It's legitimately a win-win for a Republican candidate. That's why I don't think Rick Perry's already famous debate gaffe will hurt him that much (if at all).  The truth is, most Republican activists celebrate and reward stupidity.  I mean this literally. When choosing candidates, this is a feature not a bug.  I mean just watch this clip again below (I can't even make it through it myself).  For the right wing, Rick Perry is super Jesus + super George Bush combined.  I guarantee you, he will be still be a player in the Republican field. He may not be smart, but he's smart enough to know we need to get rid of those big bad government bureaucracies! He can't name them, but we know they're bad!

One day

If I ever find the opportunity to liveblog the first season of Transformers while under the influence, I guarantee you it will be the best, most funny thing I ever write.  Season One is like the Treasure of Sierra Madre of nostalgic and comedic gold.  It's just amazing.  In the meantime, here's a picture of Thundercracker, who was the most underrated Decepticon of his time. Look at'em!  He's just havin' a great time!

Manipulating Audiences

So I got back into wrestling recently, due 100% to a worked shoot from CM Punk. It was pretty awesome.  It's the WWE equivalent of painting cocks on a wall. He knocks down the fourth wall and he really takes on the system at the WWE in an aggressive manner.  The episode caused a phenomenon in WWE, particularly due to a series of worked shoots with Punk and John Cena that were really quite good and they almost pulled off the impossible, which is make me like John Cena.  So of course, the writers milked it for about 5 weeks and then they inexplicably killed the storyline.  I really have no idea why.  Anyway, this is the video that launched the storyline.


I bring this up in a roundabout way (like all of my blogging), of mentioning that I'm always impressed by wrestling's ability to manipulate audiences. I mean, if the writers decide one character is a face ("good guy") one week and a heel ("bad guy") the next week, the audiences instantly fall into line.  I almost always root for the heels - they definitely have funnier and more compelling storylines. I mean, how can you not love, say, Chris Jericho, just lacing into his audience.  It's awesome.  But then you have these kiss ass "good guys" who the audiences just go ga-ga over.  I'm always amazed how easy it is.  One day Santino Marella is despised by the WWE audience, the next day he's a lovable loser that the audience goes ape-shit over.  Forget about falling into line, these people melt into line. That's why if I ever ran for office, or even staffed a campaign office, I'd hire a WWE writer.  I mean, these guys get shit done, and I just don't know how they do it.  I mean, there are theories right?  WWE fans are just a bunch of dumb, red-necked yahoos who will buy into anything.  And I say, yeah, so what?  If you can get them to buy ratty t-shirts by the millions and pony up $100 for Wrestlemania tickets, can't you get them to the polls?  A vote is a vote.  They don't weigh votes by education level, or income level.  If I get Obama to hit current enemy du jour Kevin Nash over the head with a chair, will he carry South Carolina? Will Elizabeth Warren smoke Scott Brown in Massachusetts if she tag teams with John Cena during Summer Slam? Cause as a campaign strategist, I'd say bring it on.