Friday, August 30, 2013

Labor Day Holiday Open Thread

Isn't it funny that we celebrate Labor Day by taking the day off? That's like celebrating Christmas by sinning. So either we're doing Labor Day wrong or we're doing Christmas wrong. Anybody up for some new Christmas traditions? :D
Anyway, we'll be back on Tuesday with new articles and a new Toon Tuesday at the film site. In the meantime, use this here official open thread to share your fondest memories of not Laboring!
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Rick Perry Is A Mean Doo-Doo Head

Governor Perry's not the most popular guy around here (though that's his own fault), but in fairness, liberals really don't like him either. And they have much dumber reasons for not liking him. Observe.

A little backstory. Here in Missouri, our special legislative session is about to kick into gear, in which the lawmakers vote whether or not to override bills vetoed by the governor. There's several this year; you may have heard of a gun bill that would nullify all federal gun control laws, which won't go anywhere but I wouldn't mind seeing it passed, just to annoy our genius overlords. But I digress. Around these parts, the main thing being discussed is one House Bill 253, which would cut our state income tax from 6 to 5.5%, and the corporate income tax from 6.25 to 3.25%. Whether or not it'll pass, I don't know. Governor Jay Nixon (D) vetoed it, the Republicans have just about a supermajority in both chambers, but a lot of them are coming under pressure from school districts, which are afraid of losing funding if it passes and state revenue goes down. So pass or fail, it'll be close.

What does all this have to do with Rick Perry? Well, given the doubtful situation for the bill and the businesses in whose name the bill is being pushed, Perry decided to make some hay. For the past couple weeks, he's been running ads in Missouri, saying basically, "Hey, Missouri businessmen. Just to let you know, Texas doesn't have any state income tax. Also, it's f@#$ing Texas. So if this whole tax-cut bill doesn't work out for you, we're a pretty welcoming people down here. Just saying." Again, I paraphrase. And he's made a couple appearances in the state, and has the backing of the MO Chamber of Commerce, which I take it is looking to put pressure on the legislators rather than actually suggest businesses leave the state.

This has not pleased certain liberal organizations in the state, notably the news outlets. I speak in particular of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (known to some as the "St. Louis Post-DisTrash"), which put on its Indignant Face in the editorial page earlier this week. First paragraph:
A couple of weeks before Gov. Jay Nixon vetoed House Bill 253, the dangerous bill that would give wealthy Missourians a tax cut while starving education and other important state services....
You know they're upset when they don't even wait a few lines of text before the appeals to emotion.

And I'm guessing someone really wanted to work in "starving children" in that lead sentence, but then they thought it would be too on-the-nose.

But can they do ad hominem attacks? Yes, they can:
Mr. Perry likes to brag about his state's lack of an income tax. Never mind that he had nothing to do with it, and that the state's wealth of oil and gas reserves make such a tax unnecessary.
Er, I'm pretty sure his not having anything to do with it is irrelevant. I'm also pretty sure Perry never took all the credit for it. Whatever his faults, he doesn't claim to be responsible for all that is right with the world. I mean, he's not Al Gore.

Don't worry, though; the paper does put forward some actual, you know, facts. Like the fact that Missouri's corporate tax rate is actually much lower than Texas; and that its overall tax burden is slightly less than the Lone Star State's. From this, the editorial concludes, ours is "a low-tax, low-service state. Missouri's problem isn't that it taxes too much, it's that....we don't invest nearly enough in schools, in transit, in our future." So the "argument," for lack of a better word, is this: Missouri's taxes are very low, so there's no reason for businesses to leave for Texas, and really they should be higher to give us more services and make the tax burden worse than in Texas. Ummmm.....okay.

And just to let Perry know he's not wanted here, the Post-Dispatch adds: "Missourians don't unite behind many things these days, but we don't take too kindly to strangers not respecting our borders."

Unless they come from Washington, of course.

I assume that in this case the paper thinks it's speaking for all Missourians, including the rich ones who want tax cuts for themselves while they heartlessly starve state government. And probably children.

Do I have a point here? Not really. All things considered, the effects from the bill will be a wash either way, I'm guessing. And I'd rather not see our businesses leave the state for Texas, though I don't begrudge Perry trying to lure them away. But I do find it interesting/amusing, how liberals such as the Post-Dispatch's editors keep pushing their ruinous policies, and then when people try to escape those policies and their consequences, denounce them as traitors to the sacred Fatherland. Maybe that's what Ned Flanders meant when he said "Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel."*

*There's a chance I have Ned Flanders confused with someone else.
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Thursday, August 29, 2013

Do You Believe in Ghosts?

Have you ever had the feeling that someone was watching you? No, not like the NSA or IRS kind of "watching you", but eyes watching? Have you seen something moving out of the corner of your eye, or heard footsteps when you knew you were alone? Have you ever felt something touch you or someone calling your name when no one was around?

BOO!!

I hope I didn't scare you! I know, I should have save this for October 31, but there are so many events going on right now that are scaring me, why not discuss ghosts?

Okay, I have to admit it. I have kinda' sorta' become a little bit addicted to shows about the paranormal and ghost hunting. Who knew there were so many people out there hunting ghosts!

Anyway, my addiction started off innocently enough one quiet Saturday afternoon while channel surfing. I came across a show called Ghost Hunters. It is a show featuring two guys who are Roto-Rooter plumbers by day [see photo above] and ghost hunters at night and on weekends. I mean, who wouldn't want to watch a show about Roto-Rooter/Ghost Hunters, right? These two seemingly normal guys founded an organization called TAPS - The Atlantic Paranormal Society described as "a paranormal research team which investigates hauntings and other strange occurrences". They travel around the countryside with all this electronic equipment that gauges stuff and tape recorders that record EVP's (electronic voice phenomena) and ghostly answers to their questions. Okay, the answers they "record" are garbled and unintelligible, but, hey, if you listen really hard you will swear that there are real voices in all that white noise.

But my addiction didn't stop there. Ghost Hunters was just my gateway show. I just couldn't help myself! Before long I moved on to Celebrity Ghost Stories where well-known B-List actors dramatically detail their ghostly encounters and My Ghost Story where regular people recount their sightings, both on Biography Channel (yes, really!) Then came Paranormal Witness, Paranormal Cops, and Paranormal Challenge on SyFy. Heck, even A&E has their own show - Extreme Paranormal! They all have one thing in common. They have regular Joes and Janes who go around the country and even the world setting up their cameras and voice recorders investigating paranormal activity in all sorts of places. A few of them are related to academic investigations, but mostly they are like the Roto-Rooter guys. Who knew that there were so many ghosts to hunt and so many ghost hunters to hunt them! Are the encounters real or just tricks of the mind? And if I am to believe all of these hundreds of shows, ghosts must are everywhere! Do they ever leave? Are they watching me when me when I'm in the bathroom...creepy!

So, here are the questions of the day, if you dare:

1. Do you believe in ghosts or the possibility of ghosts, spirits, disembodies energies?
2. If you believe in the possibilities, then how does that effect your belief in "heaven" or "hell"?
3. Have you ever had any ghostly experiences, encounters, or unexplained events? If so, what were they and were you afraid or intrigued?
4. Or, as always, feel free to talk about whatever you want to talk about if ghosts scare you...BOO!!
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Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Liberalism Sucks On Film: Children of Men

“We can learn so much from this film,” said Amanda Tapping on a Sci-Fi Channel promo for Children of Men. Up yours. The only thing we can learn from this film is that liberal films tell the same lies no matter what their supposed premise. Children of Men demonstrates this perfectly. This film is supposed to be the story of what happens when humanity suddenly becomes sterile. But it’s not. This film is a standard liberal rant about racist white Christians who oppose immigration. It just uses the movie plot as a pretext.

Click Here To Read Article/Comments at CommentaramaFilms
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Syria-ously?

Let’s interrupt today’s article about Obamacare and instead talk about Syria, rather briefly. Here are my impressions. Please share yours in the comments:

For those who haven’t been paying attention... like pretty much everyone... Obama is preparing to go to war with Syria. They probably won’t call it war. They’ll call it something like “intervention,” but it will be war. My guess is they’ll drop a bunch of cruise missiles on government buildings and military bases. They’ll bomb some rocket sites and some tanks and blow up some MIG something or others. Then it’s likely they will set up a no fly zone.

Economically the stock market dropped, which is a load of el toro kaka because Syria has no connection to the world economy at all. They make nothing. They dig up nothing. They transport nothing. The only thing they export are Syrians.

This has been an interesting build up to non-war-war because Obama drew a very clear line in the sand for the Syrians to avoid war. He told them, “Don’t use chemical weapons or my own rhetoric will force me to act.” This was a well chosen line too because Syria had no need to use chemical weapons, i.e. they have more than enough conventional power to slaughter their enemies. So using chemical weapons suggests they wanted to pull Obama into this.

For his part, Obama now has no choice but to act. But here’s the problem:
(1) This is again a Western country attacking an Arab country. In the past, the left has screamed that this is what inspires Islamic terrorism. So why has Obama attacked Syria and Libya and illegally bombed the crap out of people in Pakistan and Yemen and Somalia? Secret Muslim my Ramadanadingdong.

(2) There is no endgame here. The rebels are even worse than the regime. The ideal solution would be for a Syrian-sized asteroid to crash gently on the country. Guess we shouldn’t have cut NASA’s budget, should we Mr. Obama?

(3) The Europeans are spent when it comes to war. Their ten soldiers are too tired after Afghanistan and won’t be out of therapy for decades. So we’re going this one alone except for possibly Turkey, and letting Turkey in raises questions of a larger regional struggle.

(4) The public hates the idea of getting involved. That last good poll I saw on this showed 9% support for intervention... about the same number of people who think Superman is real.

(5) There is a chance that any violence will spark a larger war with Israel. Iran is talking about using Syria as a pretext to attack Israel, though I highly doubt this. Cojones is a Spanish word and they don’t speak Spanish in Iran, which means they ain’t got no cojones in Iran.
Finally, I should point out that the Magic Syrian never appeared... just as I told you it won't: LINK.

Thoughts?
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Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Feminism: Hillary-ous

Camille Paglia is the favorite feminist of conservatives, though she’s not a conservative. The reason they like her is that she periodically takes aim at sacred liberal cows and slaughters them with abandon. She’s done that again in a wide ranging interview, which is interesting for several points, including her depants(suit)ing of Hillary Clinton.

Indeed, the headline grabber from the interview is Paglia taking down Hillary: “It remains baffling how anyone would think that Hillary Clinton is our party’s best chance.” She notes in particular that Hillary has no qualifications whatsoever and a history that doesn’t really inspire:
“She has more sooty baggage than a 90-car freight train. And what exactly has she ever accomplished – beyond bullishly covering for her philandering husband?”
She also slams Hillary for failing in the one instance where she actually had some authority, i.e. Benghazi, though her criticism does strike me as a little off in this regard – she says Hillary should have resigned, which seems politically unrealistic. In any event, it’s interesting to see a liberal point out that the Empress has no pantsuit.

Anyway, more interesting was what Paglia said about feminism. Paglia is a feminist, but isn’t a traditional feminist. She’s part of a different group of feminists who really don’t like the people we normally think of as feminists. In fact, when she first appeared on the radar screen, it was in her struggles against the feminists, who were at the peak of their power in the 1990s. And what she notes now is something we’ve pointed out before here: feminism is dead.
“Oh, feminism is still alive? Thanks for the tip! It sure is invisible, except for the random whine from some maleducated product of the elite schools who’s found a plush berth in glossy magazines.”
That is exactly right. The feminism Rush called “Femi-nazis,” which was born in the 1960s and peaked when it dominated academia, Hollywood and the nation’s universities in the 1990s is dead except for a couple random whiners, and the ideology it constructed has been abandoned. I love this quote in particular: “They keep dusting Steinem off and trotting her out to pin awards on her, but she’s the walking dead.”

It’s interesting to have a real insider confirm this and put a reason to it (one of which actually matches my Fifty Shades argument as you’ll see in a moment). So what reason does she give for feminism being dead? Partisanship is the big reason, and puritanicalism.

According to Paglia, feminism got crushed because “[t]heir shameless partisanship eventually doomed those Stalinist feminists.” In other words, they became so aligned with the Democratic Party that they became just another interest group and lost the respect of the public at large. Unions made this mistake too. Both unions and feminists decided they could get what they wanted through the Democratic Party rather than trying to win the public. Thus, they stopped pressuring everyone but Democrats. This destroyed their “moral authority” because they came to be seen as partisan rather than principled. In other words, rather than their cause being about equality for women, people came to see the cause of feminism as being the election of Democrats. So whether or not they were right as a matter of principle no longer mattered.

Indeed, Paglia notes that this is a continuing problem today:
“While it’s a big relief not to have feminist bullies sermonizing from every news show anymore, the leadership vacuum is alarming. It’s very distressing, for example, that the atrocities against women in India — the shocking series of gang rapes, which seem never to end — have not been aggressively condemned in a sustained way by feminist organizations in the U.S. . . The true mission of feminism today is not to carp about the woes of affluent Western career women but to turn the spotlight on life-and-death issues affecting women in the Third World.”
Paglia doesn’t specifically connect this dot to partisanship, but that is the logical cause of what she notes. Since feminists have aligned themselves with the Democratic Party and since the Democratic Party has aligned itself with “people of color” against white males, Christians, and the West, it goes against party politics to criticize things like Muslim atrocities or to point out that the rest of the world is a racist, sexist sh*thole. Hence, feminists have remained deafeningly silent about various atrocities as they instead focused their energies on things like getting healthplans to pay for condoms for rich girls. Because of this, feminists have squandered their credibility because it’s clear they are no longer about “women,” they are about “Democrats,” just like unions are no longer about workers, they are about Democrats.

In addition to the above, Paglia adds the following. First, she notes that old-school feminists were puritanical. Indeed, they worked hand in hand with the Religious Right in the 1990s to try to stop pornography. And in the process, they alienated the vast, vast, vast majority of women because women aren’t actually opposed to sex like those feminists thought they were. To the contrary, most kind of like it. Of this, Paglia says that these “Stalinist feminists. . . were trampled by the pro-sex feminist stampede of the early ‘90s.” This is my Fifty Shades point. Feminism imploded because it tried to impose a condition that ran counter to what women wanted, so they rebelled.

So what are the takeaways? Well, feminism is dead, at least in the form it took until the 1990s. It died because it lost the public through partisanship and it lost women through being puritanical, and those womyn are relegated to history and a few pointless academic posts at this point. It also explains why modern feminists won’t speak out for women today, not in any serious context, and why they are unlikely to regain any influence with the public any time soon. Finally, Paglia confirms that even liberals recognize that Hillary is an empty pantsuit.
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Monday, August 26, 2013

Losing Your Insuance and Obamacare Shutdowns

“If you like the plan you have, you can keep it.”
-- Barack Obama

Apparently, you can't. Two points on healthcare today. First, let’s look at how Obamacare is robbing people of their insurance despite Obama’s pledge above. Then, let’s talk about an interesting poll about the shutdown.


Obamacare: Obamacare is causing millions of people to lose their insurance. Consider these points:
(1) For whatever reason, people keep missing the fact that 6 million people have already lost their insurance because of Obamacare. When he started in 2010, 43 million people had no insurance, now it’s 49 million... and that’s despite more kids being added to parents’ policies, so the numbers are actually higher.

(2) People with individual plans started losing those plans early because Obamacare imposes new requirements which prevent most individual plans, which typically have high deductibles, from counting as Obamacare compliant.

(3) Then small employers started dumping their plans. Surprise, it’s cheaper to pay a couple hundred dollar fine than $10k a year to cover an employee, and with the Exchanges as an alternative, there was no moral reason to keep offering insurance either. This also turned out to be a good way to break the unions.

(4) Employers everywhere soon started making people part-timers because then they don’t need to offer insurance and they don’t get fined. The BoL monthly jobs reports have shown this trend as full-time jobs keep vanishing as part-time jobs appear. Similarly, reports of employers switching to part-time hours have been coming from unions, universities, school systems, big firms like WalMart and dozens more. Not only does this mean less insurance, it will make it harder for poor people to earn a living... and then Obama fines them.

(4) Now they are dumping spouses from company policies. Obamacare requires employers to cover children of employees if they offer coverage, but it doesn’t say anything about spouses. The assumption was that employers wouldn’t do anything so dastardly. Well, they are. To save costs and to hopefully get employees to switch to other policies, employers are dropping spouses like the plague. UPS just announced that 15,000 spouses would be dumped. Delta has made similar noises, as have other large companies. Smaller companies have been doing this for a while now.

Other large companies are imposing a surcharge on spouses, which is also allowed. Right now, 14% of employers with more than 5,000 employees impose such a surcharge. Last year, the number was 4%.

Thank you, Obama! You’ve done a wonderful thing. Who are you going to hurt for your next trick?
Non-Support for Shutdown: On the shutdown front, as Tea Party groups start running ads attacking Republicans as “chickens” (seriously... welcome to grade school) for not shutting down the government, the Republicans have commissioned a poll to find out how much support a shutdown actually has. The results are pretty interesting:
● Self-identified “conservative Republicans” make up only 19% of the public. That’s consistent with what I’ve seen. I will add that they are also concentrated in the Southern states, though the poll doesn’t say that.

● Even among those self-identified “conservative Republicans,” only 9% self-identify as “very conservative” with the other 10% self-identifying as “somewhat conservative.” So forget any idea that talk radio is speaking for “the silent majority” or even the majority of Republicans. The talk radio base is about 9% of the public.

● Within self-identified “very conservative” ranks, 63% favor a shut down to try to defund Obamacare. However, these numbers flip for everyone else. Indeed, within “somewhat conservative” ranks, 62% oppose a shutdown. And when you look at the party as a whole, you find that only 37% favor a shutdown.

● Overall, only 23% of the public (which includes conservatives) favors a shutdown.
What this tells us is as with immigration, the Republican base is much closer to the views of the public than they are the views of the talk radio base, even as the talk radio base claims to speak for the majority of Republicans. And in this case, both the base and the public overwhelming reject the idea of forcing a shutdown. That actually makes sense too. Right now, millions of people are learning the cost of liberalism as Obamacare ruins their insurance. Conservatives need to refrain from making conservatism less attractive than what they are experiencing from liberalism. Let Obamacare work its horrors and then step in with an alternate plan to replace it. Remember, you can’t save people until they know they need to be saved.
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Saturday, August 24, 2013

Fairy Tale Open Thread

I had an interesting thought after writing the article on Wednesday and I wanted to toss it out there and see what people think. When I look back upon my childhood, certain books and Fairy Tales still stand out. They don't stand out so much because of the cool pictures of the bears dressed like humans or because Mr. Toad's wild ride was indeed a wild ride or because Chester the pig was such a worldly pig. No. They stand out because they imparted some memorable lesson.

One of the ones I remember most strongly was the story of the king (I believe he was Swiss, but I can't say for sure) who gave each of his subjects a bar of gold. Everyone was rich! Huzzah! A sustainable living wage! Only... it didn't work out that way. See, once everyone was rich, no one had a reason to work anymore. The baker stopped working, because well, why bake bread now that he was rich and didn't need to earn money anymore? Others stopped working as well, having reached the same conclusion. Soon, they were all starving and living in homes with bad roofs, etc. because no one wanted to work. To convince them to start working, people started bidding up the prices. Eventually, everyone returned to work. But the prices were so high that the bar of gold they got was meaningless... inflation had gotten it... damn you Federal Reserve!

The lessons here are pretty strong if you think about it. This story teaches that everyone works for profit, which means communism can't work. It teaches that liberalism can't work either, and that making everyone rich doesn't actually make anyone rich... it just causes inflation. So jacking up the minimum wage won't make anyone's lives better. These lessons are fundamental to conservatism and anathema to the fantasy world of liberalism where you can just declare your problems away.

"The Emperor's New Clothes" is another such story. In this story, everyone was afraid to tell the emperor that he was being tricked by his tailor. It wasn't until one child spoke the truth that the whole thing came crashing down. The lessons here are that peer pressure will lead you to do stupid things. Insecurity mixed with ego makes you vulnerable to con-men. And while it may take courage to speak the truth when no one else will, somebody who isn't afraid will come along and expose the truth... leaving you looking worse than if you'd just spoken the truth in the first place. These again are conservative lessons. They warn of political correctness and they urge children to speak the truth regardless of what others tell them.

My childhood was packed these stories. I'm sure yours was too. What are some of the lessons you learned from books as a child or youth or even a teen?
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Friday, August 23, 2013

Film Friday: Men in Black (1997)

Men in Black is an excellent film. It was such an excellent film that it made a fortune, spawned a franchise, and has proved to have very strong staying power. What’s interesting about this film though, is that it is the perfect marriage of a tent-pole film with a cult film. Seriously.

Click Here To Read Article/Comments at CommentaramaFilms
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Common Core: Si oder nyet?

I shudder to bring this issue up, as I fear it will only lead to denunciation of conservatives for being paranoid or whatever. But education stuff interests me and it is kinda big news at the moment, so let's talk about Common Core.

No doubt you've at least heard the term before now, but if you're unclear on the details, well, Common Core is just what it sounds like--an effort to standardize the curriculum and objectives in primary and secondary schools nationwide. According to the official website, the standards, which so far have been adopted by all but five states, "focus on core conceptual understandings and procedures starting in the early grades, thus enabling teachers to take the time needed to teach core concepts and procedures well." Erm, okay. In layman's terms, it basically means "teach more stuff sooner."

Not a bad idea, though whether the suggested benchmarks per grade will accomplish that is anyone's guess. Third-graders should have basic comprehension of fractions and their place on the number line, while sixth-graders should begin learning about ratios, probability, and some basic statistics. In language arts, fourth-graders ought to be able to "compare and contrast a firsthand and secondhand account of the same event or topic; describe the differences in focus and the information provided"; for eighth-graders, it's "analyze how a modern work of fiction draws on themes, patterns of events, or character types from myths, traditional stories, or religious works such as the Bible, including describing how the material is rendered new."

Okay, especially in the reading category, there's no way this won't get dumbed down quite a bit in the classroom. But it seems fairly innocuous on the surface. And yet, it's gotten a ton of pushback, especially from grassroots conservatives and some religious (especially Catholic) groups. Why?

Well, in summary, a lot of people see it as No Child Left Behind, only more invasive and altogether crappier. A lot of objections have been made about the quality of education kids would be receiving under these goalposts. High schoolers, for example, would be reading far less literature in favor of nonfiction texts, and many important documents, historical as well as literary, would be presented with little or no explanation of background context. Or, students will have to comprehend them through lots of "creative" mechanisms, like featuring the Gettysburg Address as a "word cloud." (If someone knows what this is, please explain it to me.) So, long story short, there's a lot of concern about the complexity and sheer novelty of the project.

Others are worried not only about this, but about the government possibly using this to create a national database tracking all our kids and so on. Blogger Michelle Malkin, for example, has argued that Common Core is connected to new federal programs requiring schools to track everything from household voting status to religious affiliation to dental records. Some Catholic publications, meanwhile, have claimed that this data-collection effort is completely unsupervised, and expressed concerns that it might be used to force more direct oversight of diocesan and private schools.

So how realistic are these worries? Hard to say. It's not exactly like this was the product of any left-wing Obama goons (at least to begin with); it originated under Dubya in '07, making it brought to you by the same guys who gave you those fluorescent bulbs and the jacked-up Daylight Savings Time schedule. And whatever claims may be made about it being a plot by D.C. to subvert the states, the Common Core standards were largely developed by state governors and their advisers, as defenders of the program have pointed out. Besides, it's not hard to find liberals who also are not fans of the program, or at least aspects of its implementation. Even many urban school teachers are siding against the new curriculum, because of its lack of balance and flexibility. As for the privacy concerns, I don't blame those who are objecting, especially in the wake of all the agency corruption scandals this year; but it's not clear whether all this will pan out.

In my opinion, the real problem with Common Core isn't necessarily any tracking database, or even the controversial educational standards themselves. The problem is this persistent notion of a "one-size-fits-all" approach, especially when applied from the top down. When you consider the wide range of school conditions across the U.S.--urban, suburban, and rural; some with strong academic histories, others not so much--it should be obvious that they can't all be made to meet a single benchmark. Plus, it goes completely against the decentralized ethos that is so much a part of American conservatism. Schools need some oversight, but that should be as localized as possible. Even at the state level, there are problems in trying to run too much; taking it to the national level is just asking for trouble.

Common Core probably won't be as bad as some of its critics worry. But it's probably not the best way to improve education, either.
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Thursday, August 22, 2013

Should The Country Go To Pot?

I apologize. I was going to write about the NYC mayoral candidates, but I just can't bring myself to do it yet. So, I think I will just go light this week. Instead let's talk pot, demon weed, Mary-Jane, Maui Wowie...well, you know, marijuana. As the yearly Hempfest winds down in Seattle without incident, maybe it's time to talk about it like adults.

CNN medical expert Sanjay Gupta apologized for his past "blanket disapproval" of marijuana. There is no doubt that marijuana has helped with cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy and has many other legitimate medical issues.

As usual, Obama is "evolving" on the issue of legalizing marijuana for medical use, so the WH is sidestepping the issue. Well, we know how it will fully "evolve" and when. [I predict sometime after the 2014 election cycle...] But then, we have bigger issues to deal with besides marijuana laws.

Frankly, I don't have an opinion on the subject of medical marijuana except to say if it does have an honest scientific medical use, then what is the hold up? What is your opinion of legalizing marijuana for medical use and eventually, general use like cigarettes or alcohol. Because, let's be honest, that's really where this is leading. So sit back, relax, break out the salty snacks, and let's discuss...

Btw, Obama is considering Dr. Gupta for Surgeon General...
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Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Books By Pundits Don't Change The World

Once again, my poor brain found itself subjected to talk radio last weekend. I’ll spare you the debunking. I will instead focus on an issue that arose which has long troubled me: conservatives don’t understand what interests the public. This is vital to our turnaround.

I first noticed this issue in the 1990s. When Bill Clinton went on the Tonight Show, it was a brilliant move. It allowed him to connect with a part of the public that wasn’t particularly tuned in to politics but did still vote. It also let him craft an image that appealed to the public. In fact, it played into one of the most-loved of American caricatures: the loveable rogue.

Conservatives responded in unison by condemning this for lowering the office of the presidency, and they scoffed at Clinton: “Who could possibly want to see their president on a comedy show talking about his underwear? Harrumph!” Then they were upset the public “didn't get it”: “Why isn’t the public outraged? Hasn’t the public read Bill Bennett’s book on moral decay? What about Cal Thomas’s laments about the culture in which he spells God as G-d? What is wrong with people!” Then someone in the Clinton camp said that everything is political and conservatives laughed themselves silly: “Nonsense!!” I still remember Rush mocking this point for days.

See, it turns out that in conservative minds, politics lives in a box. Politics is speeches given by politicians. Politics is books written by pundits and treatises prepared by think tanks. Politics is what you get on talk radio and political talk shows. Nothing beyond that is real politics. Moreover, conservatives seem to believe that politics defines culture. Thus, Bill Clinton wasn’t reflecting the culture, he was warping it, and if only we could get rid of Bill and get people to read Bill Bennett’s book, then the culture would snap right back to Leave It To Beaver times.

That is fundamentally wrong on all points.

Books like those by Hayek or Milton Friedman are great foundations for our ideology. Reagan’s speeches are inspiring and insightful as well. But political books and speeches don’t penetrate the culture and they certainly don’t move the needle on culture. You could pass out every book written by Thomas Sowell or Bill Bennett or Glenn Beck’s monkey to every American, and not a thing would change... the public doesn’t work that way.

Culture is as the public defines it. They define it through their opinions about a vast array of topics. And their opinions drift according to any number of events. Movies make something seem more or less scary. An event occurs that shocks people. Wall Street inspired people to become stockbrokers and to get rich; Oliver Stone laments this. Close Encounters made belief in aliens acceptable to the mainstream. Walt Disney redefined American history through his television shows. Dirty Harry gave voice to the public’s desire to undo the liberalism put into the criminal justice system... no political book or speech did that, a movie did. All those monogamous, happy gay characters on television made people comfortable with gays. Rosa Parks exposed the perversion of Southern racism. The person in Tiananmen Square showed that dictatorships are helpless against a good cause. Rick Santelli’s rant about a second Tea Party was just a commentary on a financial show. A crying Indian taught us not to litter. Smokey and the Bandit taught us to embrace the New South, and country music did the rest. This is what really changes culture. Culture is changed by these lightening-in-a-bottle moments where someone does something that gives the public a chance to say they changed their minds. And here’s the key point: it’s almost never politics that causes those lightening-in-a-bottle moments!

This is something conservatives need to learn. Too many conservatives blind themselves to the culture because they wrongly think culture is a byproduct of politics. It’s not. The reverse is true: culture drives politics. And the only way to change culture is to engage it on its own terms... to start offering our own works for people to latch onto and be inspired by.

This was the point to my Fifty Shades article awhile back. Conservatives want to dismiss that book and the buzz around it as “just perverted porn.” But in so doing, they completely miss what is really going on. That book has been the catalyst which has let women everywhere declare that they are done with the peer pressure feminists have imposed that required them to compete with men. Conservatives missed this because they don’t grasp that people change the culture outside the political process. And since this book wasn’t written with a political purpose, they don’t grasp that it can lead to a political change. But it can. I guarantee you that Fifty Shades has broken feminism in ways that a million books by Bill Bennett or Christina Hoff Sommers never could have. Likewise, Kim Kardashian can sway more voters than all the talk radio hosts combined. One powerful movie about leftist hypocrisy would do more to break the left’s claim of moral superiority than every treatise or book written by every pundit, think tank or historian. Lament it all you want, that doesn’t change the fact that this is how it happens.

And there’s more. There are opportunities that conservatives completely miss because they have intentionally blinded themselves on this issue. Take the issue of rap music. Say “rap music” to a conservative and the results get pretty ugly and insulting. More to the point though, none of them will grasp that rap music represents an opening for conservatives: “What? How could it? It’s just rude black people being anti-cop!” No, it’s not.

Rap music should be siren song to conservatives. Not only does it tell us that young black males can be reached, but it tells us how to reach them. Rap is about independence. It’s about reclaiming manhood that has been stripped away by social workers and fathers who vanished into jails or welfare. It glorifies wealth and success. These are all things conservatives claim to support, and here are blacks listening to music that treats these things as the very thing they want. You couldn’t have a better roadmap for how to reach blacks. But conservatives can’t see this because they can’t get over the fact they don’t like it themselves and because they can’t understand what rap music has to do with politics.... it doesn’t fit in the box... “We need to get them to read Bill Bennett’s book about the effect of single-parenthood!” Yeah, right.

Not only do we, as conservatives, need to start embracing the culture on its own terms by writing songs and films and books that push our values without being political, but we need to learn to recognize trends and opportunities when they appear. More people pay attention to the issues surrounding black quarterbacks than the Voting Rights Act. The left uses black quarterbacks to talk about discrimination. How about using it to talk about the end of discrimination and that this was achieved through individual skill rather than affirmative action?

Rather than condemning the buzz around Fifty Shades as “perverted women reading porn,” how about pointing out the feminist war on women and demanding that women be given a real choice, including the choice not to compete with men? Harry Potter was written by a leftist, but why not embrace the books as highlighting the dangers of large, strong, invasive government? Why not tell blacks that we hear what they are saying in rap and that if they want independence... if they want success... if they want the good life... if they want to claim their manhood, then we’re the only ones offering that with our message of economic and personal freedom. You’re never gonna be a man with Uncle Sam wiping your ass.

This is how we win back the public: we grasp what they are thinking about and we talk to them on their terms. Forget hoping that another book by another talk radio host will finally save conservatism.
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Tuesday, August 20, 2013

This Week's Obamacare Lies

“Misinformation is the enemy of Obamacare.” So said HHS Secretary Sebelius. That’s funny. I thought misinformation was part of the plan. In fact, the more I read about it now that the propaganda phase has commenced, the more I’m sure that misinformation is the plan.

Almost every day lately, there has been a new article about Obamacare in which some Obamacare proponent tries to confuse and mislead the public so the public can’t see what this jerk-off plan is going to cost them. There are several tactics being used in this regard and they are all fraudulent:

You Can’t Compare: Now that the rates are coming out, people have noticed that these rates are much higher than what they have been paying. The response to this has been to tell people that no matter how bad the rates may appear compared to what you pay now, you really can’t compare the rates under Obamacare to the rates you currently pay because “you’ll be receiving so much more coverage.” Hurray! Isn’t that wonderful?

No. To the contrary, forcing someone to buy more than they want and then bragging about how much more they got is obnoxious bullsh*t. It’s like arguing that yes, you were raped, but we bought you dinner afterwards with your own money! Isn’t that great?!

The truth is that it is perfectly valid to compare what you are being forced to pay against what you were paying the prior year because you didn’t ask for the additional coverage being forced upon you. The claim that we really can’t compare because of this different levels of coverage is pure propaganda.

It Doesn’t Really Cost That: With people suffering from sticker shock, another tactic is to tell people that the rates aren’t what you’ll really being paying because you’ll get a subsidy! Wee! This claim typically goes something like this: “While the rates may appear higher than some people are paying now, most will get significant subsidies to help them pay for it. For example a typical subsidy is $2,672.”

This is bunk. To back up the claim that most will get a subsidy, they point to a Kaiser study which concluded that 48% of people who currently buy their own insurance will be eligible for tax credits that would offset these premiums. 48% is not “most.” Moreover, this study only talks about people who buy their own insurance. That’s only 16% of the population. So they are basically saying that 8% of the public is “most.” Further, this study was just based on income and it ignores a key factor: if you are offered insurance through work, then you aren’t eligible for a subsidy. So forget it McDonald’s worker if you think Obamacare is going to give you a penny to cover your costs.

Additionally, the subsidy numbers are bait and switch. Pay careful attention: remember that the promise is that 48% of the individuals who currently buy their own insurance will get the subsidy. But the subsidy amount they keep citing is for an average family of four on the sliver plan. That’s apples and oranges. So how much is the subsidy for individuals? They don’t tell you. They never tell you. And the reason is that it’s really, really low. So essentially, these articles are saying this: “Here are the costs, but don’t worry because some people will get a large appearing subsidy, but that won’t be you and we won’t tell you what you’ll get.” Moreover, the subsidies they are talking about are for the silver plan, which is a lot more expensive than the basic plan, yet the costs they cite to are always the cheapest (bronze) plan.

Low Ball The Estimate: Always citing the cheapest plan is another tactic they use. And not only that, but the cheapest of the cheapest, whether or not it is widely available. Colorado just came out with their estimates and the numbers ranged from $177 a month to $774 per month for individuals (over $1,000 for individuals on group plans). Immediately, Obamacare propagandists began using the $177 figure. Only, no one is going to get that. The rate varies according to where you live and the $177 rate is in Greeley (pop 92,000). In rural Grand Junction, you will be paying a minimum of $237.

What you pay will depend on who your provider is. And for most people, you are looking at $250-$400 a month. That's a far cry from $177. And when you realize that you also will be responsible for more than you'll ever incur as a deductible and co-pay, this becomes a rotten deal.

Interestingly, the fine for not playing along with Obama is 1% of your income. If you somehow got the magic rate of $177, then you would pay $2,124 for the year. Doing a little math, that means that your breakeven point, where it makes economic sense to buy insurance rather than pay the fine is if your income exceeds $212,400.

IchtsNa on the EductibleDa: Speaking of the deductibles... last week, Obama delayed yet another part of his law. This is the part that caps the out-of-pocket costs the policy holder must pay at $6,350 for individuals and $12,700 for families. Without that provision, many people will face a “double cap,” under which the insurance company imposes one cap for doctor and hospital services and another for drugs. In effect, the above numbers could well be doubled.

Putting all of this together, they are lying to you about being incapable of comparing plans across years, they are low-balling the estimates, they are inflating the subsidies and pretending that everyone will get them, when they won’t, and they won’t tell you how to calculate them. They aren’t telling you that the deductibles are so high that you’ll pretty much pay anything you are likely to incur unless you end up in the hospital for an extended stay... and they aren’t telling you that if that happens, you can get massive discounts and have charities pay for large chunks of it in any event. Essentially, they aren’t tell you that you are a fool if you buy this.

So why do this? Won’t people find out the truth when they apply? Yes, but the goal of the bait and switch is to get you into the store so the salesman can pressure you to make a bad decision. At that point, they have different kinds of misinformation, false logic and pressure they can use to trick you into parting with your money:
“You know, you’re getting a better deal than other people...”
“You know, it wouldn’t cost much more to step up to a higher tier plan...”
“You know, if you leave that employer, you could get subsidies...”
“You know it’s a crime not to have insurance...”
“Why pay a fine and get nothing when you can pay just a little bit more and get next to nothing insurance...?”
That’s why they want you to know nothing at this point. Misinformation and confusion is part of the plan.
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Monday, August 19, 2013

Ted Cruz... Evil RINO Genius!!

The Great Conservative Leap Forward continues... RINO ALERT: Ted Cruz is a RINO apostate. So sayeth Mickey Kauss at the Daily Caller, who has written a scathing “two-count indictment” of Ted Cruz and why we should blame Sen. Cruz if “amnesty” passes. The arguments Kauss makes are self-serving and deeply conspiratorial, but they are worth examining because they highlight the illogic and bad faith with which the Republicans must deal.

For those who don’t know, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) is a pretend outsider loved by “genuine conservatives” for being an anti-establishment outsider. Forget that he’s a lawyer, went to Harvard Law School, clerked for the Supreme Court, made partner in a huge international law firm, worked for the Bush administration, and is married to a partner at Goldman Sachs. Yeah, forget all of that because he’s an outsider... the real deal. What exactly he stands for is a mystery as he hasn’t actually stood for anything yet (or firmly against anything except Obamacare), but we’re sure it ain’t no stinkin’ RINOism.

Cruz plans to run for President to the right of whoever else is running. His first step in that regard was to let himself be anointed the anti-Rubio. But that is now unraveling if Mickey Kauss is any indication. According to Kauss, Cruz will be to blame when “amnesty” passes, and he’s provided a handy “two-count indictment” of Cruz to explain why.

Kauss starts by telling us that Cruz not only “failed to rise to the occasion” of stopping the Rubio bill, but he actually “increased its chance of becoming law.” Sacre bleu! See, while “charismatic Latino apostate, Sen. Marco Rubio” quickly became the leader of the “pro-amnesty faction in the Senate,” the anti-amnesty faction “needed a leader too, especially a Latino leader.” But Cruz didn’t step up. According to Kauss, all Cruz did was “the minimum necessary to maintain his credibility.” He “promoted an online petition, gave a nice floor presentation and a couple of cogent outdoor addresses to African American marchers and Tea-Partiers. . . but the job of actually leading the opposition fell to Sen. Jeff Sessions.”

Yep. Cruz is a traitor because he didn’t try hard enough. In other words, the difference between being a “genuine conservative” and being an apostate is not the policies you support, it’s that you live up the level of effort Kauss expects. And what did Kauss expect? According to Kauss, Sessions did an excellent job but simply couldn’t “bring the heft to the fight that Cruz could.” So Cruz’s duty was to replace him. And what gives Cruz this heft? He’s Latino. Essentially, Kauss is arguing that because Cruz is a Latino, he owed it to the anti-amnesty cause to take over the leadership and stop this thing, or else he must be denounced as the traitor who caused the evil amnesty bill to pass. Yikes. As an aside, I dare anyone to explain Kauss’s position to a group of minorities and see how comfortable you feel about that... “See, you’re Latino, you owe it to us to fight other Latinos if you want to be one of us.” Gangs call this “blood in.”

Having found Cruz guilty of lack of effort, Kauss then assigns an evil motive to Cruz. He implies that the reason Cruz refused his Latino-duty was that such a stance would “risk costing him some MSM and donor support.” In other words, he sold us out for personal gain... the same gain other RINOs sell out for. Tisk, tisk, Latino Sen. Cruz.

It gets worse... down the conspiracy rabbit hole we go.

Count Two: Once the evil bill passed the Senate, the only hope of blocking the bill (because the “amnesty-friendly GOP House leadership” wants to “sneak amnesty through”) was to delay the bill until August when “Republican grass roots could attend town halls” and blast Republicans. But evil Latino Sen. Cruz deceived us!
“Into this void stepped Cruz, who made a bold attempt to rouse a ‘grassroots army’ for the cause of... defunding Obamacare. So instead of haranguing their members about unchecked immigration, hard core red-staters would harangue them about the Democrats’ health care plan.”
Yep, it was all a RINO plot. Cruz distracted everyone so he didn’t have to talk about immigration. According to Kauss, the Democrats were “secretly delighted” by this because “with the Tea partiers distracted, fence-sitting Reps might have enough breathing room in the fall to sneak some kind of mass legalization through.” Of course, Kauss notes as an aside, it won’t actually appear to be legalization at the time, but the sneaky Republicans will pass something the Democrats can then turn into a path to citizenship when no one is looking, i.e. anything that gets passed is a trick.

This attack is truly rich in irony. Right now, the nut-job wing is talking about primarying RINO Paul Ryan because he suggested defunding won’t work. In fact, anyone who isn’t fully on board with defunding gets tagged with the RINO label. Yet, Kauss tells us that defunding was actually a fiendish plan to distract people from immigration. Moreover, Kauss actually attacks Cruz’s defunding plan as having “no hope” and having “a much greater chance of reviving Democratic fortunes.” Huh. So the brilliant plan that only RINOs oppose is in fact an idiotic, unworkable and self-destructive plan created by a secret RINO to distract genuine conservatives from fighting immigration. Do you get the sense the nut-job wing has gone full retard: you’re all RINOs if you do and you’re RINOs if you don’t and you’re RINOs if you aren’t passionate enough about both stances! Great oogley moogley!!

Kauss finishes his indictment with an unnumbered bonus third count by condemning Cruz because he “helped rehabilitate” the apostate Rubio by letting him participate in the defunding effort. Silly Cruz, apostates should be forever shunned, praise Allah.

Wow.

Anyways, the big news this summer is the utter lack of news from the town halls. Despite promises by Tea Party groups that they would storm these forums and scare the Republicans straight, that doesn’t appear to be happening. There have been several theories advanced for this. Kauss obviously thinks maniacal evil RINO Cruz distracted Tea Party people, who are apparently incapable of holding two thoughts at once. Others are arguing that talk radio has itself misdirected the Tea Party people by talking about impeachment, the revival of the birther issue, the Common Core paranoia, the continued obsession with Muslims and Benghazi, and canonizing the Missouri rodeo clown. Others blame GOP money being on the pro-amnesty side... because money stops Tea Party people from attending Town Halls... trust me, it does... somehow. Those pesky Republicans also aren’t bringing it up unless someone from the crowd does, which of course doesn’t explain why no one is bringing it up. And those sneaky Republicans aren’t all holding town halls, which doesn’t explain the lack of screamers at the ones that are held or why an anti-amnesty rally in DC last week attracted only 60 people.

The truth is more likely what keeps showing up in the polls, which is that around 65% of Republicans support a path to citizenship, and most of the rest support something being done about the problem. So the Kauss/talk radio line of “deport them all or burn it all to the ground” isn’t really catching on.

Whatever the answer though, Kauss’s article should stand as a warning to any Republican who thinks he can lead the nut-job wing. They are bat sh*t crazy and they will turn on you the moment paradise doesn’t come. In fact, the incredibly high number of “genuine conservative” messiahs who have been denounced as RINOs is staggering. It’s a bit like the old Soviet Union. The moment you didn’t deliver, you were declared an enemy of the people and sent packing to Siberia. Welcome to Siberia, Sen. Cruz.
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Saturday, August 17, 2013

Tech Prognostication Open Thread

I am declaring the death of the tablet... the iPad, the Googlewhateverpad, the MicrosoftMeToo (collectively “Xpads”). When the Xpad came out, my first thought was: “What’s the point?” Then everybody started screaming, “We all need Xpads!” This didn’t make much sense to me, but you never know with fads, so I didn't worry about. As so often happens with fads, people soon declared the dawn of a new age and they proclaimed the death of the PC (which now apparently includes laptops for some reason). See, in the modern Age of Techquarius, everyone shall use Xpads instead.

This had me scratching my head. I can see the benefit of the Xpad in some ways. It can act like a computer, but it travels better. It can act like a phone too, and it has a bigger screen. Yep. That’s good, right? Sure. But there’s a cost. The problem is that while it can act kind of like both, it’s not as good as either individually. Indeed, while yes, it acts kind of like a computer, it’s not as capable nor is it as easy to use as a computer. And while yes, it can act kind of like a phone, it doesn’t fit in your pocket. In effect, it’s a little like both, but not really a good substitute for either... it’s like a cross between a pickup truck and a sports car... something that can be done, but why would you?

Still, the hipsters seemed to like them.

Anyway, in the past few weeks, I’ve started to see articles written by hipsters in which they are realizing what I always knew: the Xpad is useless. It’s a horrible device to try to work on. So it’s no good for work. It’s too big to put into your pocket too, so it doesn’t make a good phone either. And since phones and computers are readily available and easy to travel with, the benefits of the Xpad are less than clear. Moreover, it doesn’t really have any other purpose either except being a mix of these devices. In fact, I’m starting to see articles like the one which said this: “As I looked at my iPad sitting uncharged in the corner where I hadn’t touched it in weeks, I suddenly realized that I really didn’t use it for anything because it wasn’t better than anything I was trying to replace with it. I have my iPhone and my MacBook and that’s really all I use.”

Yep. Price is right again.

This is why I think the Xpad fad has peaked. People are realizing they simply aren’t a better choice than the things they are trying to replace. Businesses have no reason to embrace these. People who use computers for work have no reason to embrace these. People who use their phones to go online have no reason to embrace these. That doesn’t leave a lot of people. I think you will see a gradual lessening of interest followed by a surprisingly fast crash.
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Friday, August 16, 2013

Film Friday: The Warriors (1979)

The Warriors is a 1979 cult classic by Walter Hill about a gang that must traverse New York City from Van Cortlandt Park to Coney Island as hundreds of other gangs hunt them down. Even though that description sounds simple, the film is deeply complex and interesting. Believe it or not, it’s also a Greek epic playing out in New York City.

Click Here To Read Article/Comments at CommentaramaFilms
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The Great Depression, Revisited

Some weeks ago, I spelled out why the much-maligned "supply side" economics are in fact very beneficial to--well, most people, as evidenced by the booms of the '20s, '80s, and so on. Of course, the obvious liberal comeback would be "yeah, but after the Roaring Twenties, there was a Great Depression!"

The implication, of course, being that conservative economic policies may cause a short-term boom, but in the end they always screw you over, because greed and overspeculation cause market crashes and so on and so on. Sounds plausible enough on the surface, I guess, but only because people don't spend a lot of time picking it apart. Several good writer-historians--Amity Shlaes' The Forgotten Man, for one, Burton Folsom's New Deal or Raw Deal?, for another--have done a good job in recent years of condensing the economics and fiscal issues involved, however, and the events of the 1920s and '30s are much easier to understand now.

So with that in mind, let's take a look at the beginnings of the Great Depression, by exploding some popular myths associated with it. For example:

1. The Wall Street crash caused the Depression.

Well, it certainly didn't help anything, but in the immediate aftermath of 1929's "Black Tuesday," no one seemed to regard the crash as a big deal. Neither the government, nor the media, nor the business leaders, all of whom regarded it as a momentary fluke irrelevant to the national economy. Maybe a lot of wealth had been lost on paper, in stock certificates and the like, but contrary to what liberals later claimed, that was not the only kind of wealth being generated in the '20s. Consumer goods and utilities had expanded drastically during the decade, and even after the crash, every economic indicator suggested that as remote parts of the country were electrified, introduced to cars, etc., this ongoing wealth-production would inevitably drive stocks back up. Which might well have happened within a year or so, except....

2. Herbert Hoover was a "rugged individualism" laissez-faire guy.

....the POTUS just couldn't stay out of things. (Sound familiar?) It's true, Hoover was a self-made man who made his wealth in the private sector, he did believe in the necessity of individual action and self-reliance, and as a public official, he consistently argued that the central government was constitutionally prevented from taking a direct hand in the economy. But he had also built a reputation as "The Great Engineer," and was always consumed with the need to do something, and to be seen doing it. His first reaction to the Wall Street crash and subsequent downturn was to decide that runaway inflation was the problem (he wasn't the only one) and to combat it by having the Fed drastically reduce the money supply. Plus, he undertook what may have been the first major "stimulus" program, increasing spending on public buildings by over $400 million, persuaded major businesses not to cut wages, and even suggested, as early as December 1929, the need for public health management and regulation of the electric industry. So, definitely not a "do-nothing" executive. Which leads me into....

3. The Republican Party opposed doing anything to help the country.

(Okay, I could have wrapped this into the last one but I wanted three headings.) Oh yes, the GOP did want to take action to protect the country--and that was the trouble. One key aspect of the Republicans until the mid-20th century was their commitment to a protective tariff to bolster home industries, a position dating back to their formation in the industrialist North. Hoover and his Republican Congress were no exceptions, and their tendency was strengthened by demands from farmers and businessmen alike that they be protected from foreign competition right now. The result was the God-awful Smoot-Hawley Tariff of 1930. Native and foreign observers predicted that the tax would prove disastrous, and it did. The international economy was completely broken up; many countries, seeing their American markets ruined, retaliated by raising their own tariffs on U.S. exports, or boycotting them altogether. The cost to our productivity was probably incalculable, but certainly it ran into the billions. Not for the last time, trying to control events from Washington proved disastrous. And the same could be said of Hoover's other attempts--restricting the money supply and preventing businesses from cutting wages played well initially, but they also took away the market's flexibility and did more harm in the long run. Again.

----

Long story short--no one denies that there would have been a nasty recession for the U.S. to go through no matter what. But there was no reason, at the beginning, for it to have been any more than that. We'd had lots of economic "panics" before, and they lasted only a year or two with little long-term damage. What made things worse was the intervention by the Hoover administration, or at least the ways in which it intervened. Sinking your own country's economy is bad enough, sinking the international economy--now that's quite an accomplishment. At any rate, I think we can put to bed this idea that the boom of the '20s somehow caused the Depression, and that a government refusal to respond made it awful.

Unfortunately, voters and elites alike drew exactly the wrong conclusions from the 1929-32 period, deciding things were now so bad because government hadn't done enough. That's how we got FDR and the brand-spanking New Deal. Exactly how and why that failed, I'll get to later. To be continued....
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Thursday, August 15, 2013

Are You Smarter Than An 8th Grader...in 1912?

Okay, before we get started on the test...What? You didn't know there was going to be a test? Uh-oh, so why didn't you come to class? Oh, no! Is this the first time you remembered to come to class? Ooooh, that's bad...

WAKE UP!!! WAKE UP!!! Phew! What a nightmare...a very, very common nightmare. Oh, don't get me wrong. There is going to be a test, but this is a test for which you can't really study...and one more than likely your great-grandparents might have taken.

As it so happens, the test results of the latest Regents exams were made public this week in New York State. Parents and the general public were warned beforehand that the the Regents exam was going to be much harder, so we were prepared for much lower test scores as in previous years. As expected the scores were abysmal. 7 out of 10 students in our NYC schools tested below grade level.

As we debate the cause - crowded classrooms, lack of funds, union intransigence, Mayoral tinkering etc. the fact is that little Billy and Betty Lu ain't learnin' nothing these daze. Most of our children have libraries (including unlimited resources online), multiple teachers and aides, and all of the opportunities to obtain reading materials in every single language in the world (and even some that Hollywood has invented) at their fingertips, yet our children cannot read, write, and do simple arithmetic. Our children are failing or, more accurately, we are failing our children.

It just so happens, that a few years ago, a donation was made to the Bullitt County History Museum in Kentucky of an Eighth Grade Exam for Bullitt County from 1912. As is described on the museum's website:

"Bullitt County Schools were mostly one-room schools in those days, scattered around the rural county. Students came together at the county courthouse once or twice a year to take this "Common Exam." It was apparently a big deal....[s]ome scholarships were provided to those who passed to go on to high school, which was also a big deal back then. In those days, high school was sometimes another county away and a rare thing for many farm children to be able to otherwise attend."

Of course there are obvious differences. First, the 1912 exam was a short,straight exam with 57 questions for which the exam taker had to write out the answers. The Regents exam is much longer, but all with multiple choice answers. What did we do differently when our children learned in one room schoolhouses with multiple grades with limited resources and supplies that we are not doing now? There is another big difference - very few children in 1912, especially in rural areas, advanced to high school and most stopped their formal education at the 8th grade. But they completed the 8th grade with at least the skills to read, write, and do arithmetic.

So, just for fun, let's see if you are smarter than a 1912 rural Kentucky 8th grader! I have extracted some of the questions that these students had to answer for the 1912 exam. Let's see if you could have advance to that 1912 High School with a scholarship and a chance to leave the farm for college.

Here are the rules. I know, we at Commentarama do not like rules, but try anyway to adhere to these few. Each question will count for 100 points. You must earn at least 70% to advance. There is no time limit, and I will post original questions and answers at around Noon Eastern standard time. And NO CHEATING by doing internet searches for your answers either!

Something else to remember, this is test from 1912, so some of the answers may have changed in the last 100 years. There will be extra points given for those who can come up with the correct answer from 1912 and 2013! Give your final test scores (be honest) and we will see if you are smarter than a 1912 8th grader!

Okay, open up your exam books and......begin!

Spelling:
Okay, really, we can't do the spelling portion, but extra credit will be given if you can reasonably explain why! [In the original exam, there were 40 words that were given by the exam giver that the student had to spell]


Arithmetic:
1. A man bought a farm for $2400 and sold it for $2700. What percent did he gain?

2. A school enrolled 120 pupils and the number of boys was 2/3 the number of girls. How many of each sex were enrolled? [Look! A question about sex!]

3. At $1.62 1/2 a cord, what will be the cost of a pile of wood 24 ft. long, 4 ft. wide and 6 ft. 3in. high?

[Personally, I have never been very good at math, so there will be no bonus question.]

Grammar:
1. How many parts of speech are there. Define each.

2. What is a Personal Pronoun? Decline "I".

3. Diagram - The Lord loveth a cheerful giver.

Bonus if you known what "decline" means.
Extra Bonus if you know what it means to diagram a sentence.

Geography:

1. Locate the following countries which border each other: Turkey, Greece, Servia, Montenegro, Roumania [Remember, it's 1912]

2. Name in the order of their size the three largest States in the United States [in 1912]. [Extra points for what those three states are today]

3. Through which waters would a vessel pass in going from England through the Suez Canal?

Bonus: Name and give the capitals of the States touching the Ohio River.

Physiology:
1. Name the organs of circulation.

2. Define Cerebrum; Cerebellum.

3. Why should we study Physiology?

Bonus: Give at least five rules to be observed in maintaining good health.

Civil Goverment:
1. To what four governments are students in school subjected?

2. Name and define the three branches of the goverment of the United States.

3. Name three rights given by Congress by the Constitution and two rights denied Congress.

Bonus: What is a copyright? Patent right? [Andrew: you are precluded from earning any bonus points for this question...]

History:
1. Who first discovered the following places - Florida, Pacific Ocean, Mississippi River, St. Lawrence River.

2. During what wars were the following battles fought: Brandywine, Great Meadows, Lundy's Lane, Antietam, Buena Vista.

3. Name 2 presidents who have died in office; three who were assassinated. [Extra credit for one more in each category]

Bonus: Who invented the following - Magneto, Telegraph, Cotton Gin, Sewing Machine, Telephone, Phonograph?

So, what's your score? Remember 100 points for each correct answer. The person who makes the highest score will win a free invisible T-shirt with "I Am Smarter Than A 1912 Bullitt County Kentucky 8th Grader" on it and the bragging rights that go with it!

UPDATE: As promised, here are the links to the original test with all of the questions and the answers.

Full Exam

Full Answers

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Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Wither Elysium, An Original Property

So Elysium just crashed and burned. I’m not surprised. Matt Damon is an ass and his politicking has turned people off. And there’s no doubt this film was all about politicking. It was the story of a world where poor people build spaceships to illegally immigrate to a space station full of rich people who have universal healthcare machines and live forever. If Damon didn’t think Obama was too much of a right-winger, he probably would have included a push for a third term for El Presidente... and perhaps a love scene.
Click Here To Read Article/Comments at CommentaramaFilms
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IQ, Race, Science and Politics

This will be an odd discussion. It's about IQ. But first, some background.

The article that sparked today's discussion was published at Politico by a man called Jason Richwine. I don't trust Richwine. He co-authored the ludicrous Heritage Foundation report about the supposed cost of immigration. Even worse, a thesis he wrote in college was then unearthed in which he made some racist suggestions about immigrants; he also wrote briefly for a "white nationalist" blog. The Politico article is his attempt to resurrect his reputation. In my opinion, he fails pretty miserably because he distorts what the problem was with his thesis: the problem wasn't that he discussed IQ, it was that he started suggesting that we keep Hispanics out because they have low IQs.

So why discuss his article? Well, before he starts spinning to defend his thesis, Richwine presents a credible set of facts that interest me. In particular, he notes that there is a huge disconnect between the scientific community and the media when it comes to the issue of IQ. He notes that if you listen to the media, you will hear that IQ is considered meaningless by the scientific community, that there are no ethnic and gender differences and those that do exist are the result of biased questions, and that no legitimate scientist really pays any attention to the whole idea. Science, however, has a different take. Indeed, Richwine notes that there IS a consensus in the cognitive ability field that:
● Virtually all psychologists believe there is an intelligence factor that explains the performance of individuals on cognitive tests, and IQ tests measure that factor.

● IQ scores correlate with educational attainment, income and other socioeconomic outcomes.

● A person's IQ score is influenced by their genetic make up and environmental factors. It tends to remain stable after adolescence.

● There is an observed difference in IQ scores among different racial/ethnic/gender groups, with northeast Asians scoring the highest, followed by whites, followed by Hispanics, followed by blacks.

● Psychologists have tested and rejected the notion that racial/gender differences are the result of biased testing. They have not, however, accepted the idea of a genetic cause for these differences because no link has yet been shown between DNA gene combinations and intelligence.
In other words, everything the media claims is false is actually true and media claims that the scientific community has reached a consensus that these things are false is backwards, as the consensus goes the other way. To prove the consensus, Richwine cites numerous books and studies and even a committee report by 52 experts from the American Psychological Association which noted the above; against these, he lines up quotes from hack journalists who say things like, “IQ is a metric of such dubiousness that almost no serious educational researcher uses it anymore.” (Ana Marie Cox -- The Guardian, May 2012).

So let's forget Richwine and talk about the above bullet-points. These strike me as true. I know this in two ways. First, since at least the 1980s, leftists have struggled to disprove the above. The fact they keep struggling and have now gone into "it is heretical to say this" mode suggests it is true. Moreover, they've even gone so far as to remove testing questions from things like the SAT when minorities or women fared poorly on those questions, yet the differences persist despite these efforts to rig the tests. In my book, massive continuing statistical consistency is proof. Secondly, anecdotally, some of this is obvious. It is obvious there is an intelligence factor. It is obvious that some people are more intelligent than others. The people who seem more intelligent not only tend to do better in education and employment, but they score better on tests too. That suggests that intelligence is real, can be measured, and does impact our success. I can also say that I've met a ton of geniuses and quasi-geniuses and successful people, and they are disproportionately Asians and honkeys and male. Thus, it seems there are race/gender differences as well.

Now, I can't and won't say that this is 100% true because it's not; there are individuals in every group who are near the top or near the bottom of the human race. There are people who are well above average and well below average for their own groups and for other groups. But as groups, there appears to be noticeable differences which lead to different outcomes for the group average. I also cannot tell you if the difference is genetic, cultural or environmental. I doubt it is genetic though, or you would have consistency. In other words, if being purple made you stupid, then there would be no smart purples... but there are. Ergo, I think the race/gender differences are the result of something other than race or gender.

Why this matters to me is this: it exposes the left's thinking and that they don't care about people.

If we know that purples as a group will have lower IQs by the time they hit adulthood than blues, and we know that IQ will correlate with other measures of success, then in my opinion, we should be looking for the cause so we can find a solution to help purples do as well as blues. If there's something purple parents or purple teachers or purple celebrities are doing wrong, then we should find out what it is and fix it. If it's something blues are doing to purples, then we should find it and fix it. If it's environmental, perhaps pollution in purple neighborhoods, then we should fix it. This is true of blacks, Hispanics, whites, or anyone else who doesn't do as well as the top group. Indeed, when we find evidence of something that negatively affects a group of people, we should always investigate and find solutions.

But that's not what liberal journalists and educators do. Instead, they scream bloody racist murder at anyone who dares to suggest there is a difference. Then they go back into denial mode because that is their dogma. But what kind of people are we that we let whole groups of people get handicapped just to "prove" dogma?

Unfortunately, this seems to be getting worse too. The go-to solution these days is to demand that problems not be discussed for fear of hurting "acceptance." Everyone from race groups to gender groups to fat groups are taking this stance. How idiotic. It's like a demand that we let people fail lest we suggest that people who are failing just might be failing. I can't say this is unique. In fact, it's been pretty common throughout history, but it is unhelpful.
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Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Political *ssclowns

Look, if everybody else can get by just reading headlines and bloviating about them, then so can I. And since there’s no news worth discussing right now, I’m just going to cover some headlines today and wing it. If people want to know what’s really going on... well, then they’re nerds. [ed. note: write non-insulting intro].

Headline 1: Michelle Obama posts ‘selfie’ with Bo. A selfie huh? I haven’t found it. She’s got clothes on in all the images I’ve found.

Headline 2: No hugs for Kerry in South America. Clearly, Kerry is traveling with the wrong Secret Service Agents.

Headline 3: Edward Snowden is a patriot. I thought he joined the Bears?

Headline 4: Reid cites race amid GOP opposition. This one had me puzzled at first. My first thought was that he said: “I know the GOP opposes me, but by gummit, I’m white.” That didn’t make sense though. Then I thought that maybe he said, “You only disagree with me because I’m white.” That works better, but still didn’t seem to warrant a headline. Then it hit me. I know what he said. Did you ever see The Kentucky Fried Movie? Specifically, did you see the daredevil skit? This must be what Reid did.... Warning: Link is NSFW, Racist Language. Now it makes sense. Is Reid a jerk, or what? On the plus side, it is kind of funny to think of Boehner and McConnell and the rest of the Republican caucus chasing Reid down the hallway afterwards.

Headline 5: U.N. ‘has lost its way’. Really? You mean the U.N. no longer engages in its historic mission of enriching dictators and putting out hateful resolutions against Israel? Is nothing sacred?

Headline 6: Obama’s NSA plan brings skepticism. At least that’s what people were saying in their private messages.

Headline 7: King defends immigration remarks. Speaking of racists, Steven King (R-Iowa) keeps trying to defend his comments about those dirty Mexicans. He now says his statement was “misconstrued,” when people objected to his statement that:
“For every [stinking child of an illegal] who’s a valedictorian, there’s another 100 out there that weigh 130 pounds and they’ve got calves the size of cantaloupes because they’re hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert.”
I’m not sure which part could have been misconstrued. Perhaps he meant “watermelons”?

Headline 8: McConnell demands unity on fiscal issues. “Can’t we all just get a loan?” Nyuk, nyuk.

Headline 9: Obama clown draws criticism. Ok, this one actually enlightened me a bit. The story involves a rodeo clown who wore an Obama mask and that’s apparently a no-no for some reason. Anyways, my first thought upon seeing the headline was “Biden?” Then I had an epiphony: the VP is the political version of a rodeo clown. Biden suddenly makes sense... and my will to live fell 3%.

Headline 10: Cuccinelli slams McAuliffe at forum. Tonight only! Tonight only! Bring the kids to the forum!! See a smackdown for the ages! Body blows aplenty. Tonight only! Bring the kids!! And it’s lady’s night. Wear a wet t-shirt get a second vote! At the Forum!!

Headline 11: Obama: ACA repeal a GOP ‘fixation’. Well, yes it is a fixation, we’re tying to fix the mess you created. Go play with your clown.
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Monday, August 12, 2013

Single-Payer Paranoia Vindicated? Hardly

Well, I know what talk radio will be screaming about today: “HARRY REID ADMITTED THAT OBAMACARE IS A TROJAN HORSE FOR A SINGLE PAYER SYSTEM!! DIRTY REPUBLICANS COLLABORATORS!” Of course, that’s not what Reid said, but that's how certain people want to spin it. What he said was pretty interesting though and has some interesting implications. Let's discuss.

Here’s what happened. Reid was interviewed by PBS on Friday about Obamacare. He was asked if his goal was to get America into a single-payer system. His answer was: “Yes, yes. Absolutely, yes.”

OMG!! I KNEW IT, BOEHNER AND THE RINOS BETRAYED US something something OBAMACARE!

cough cough Sorry, that slipped out.

Anyways, it's never been a secret that progressives want a European-style single-payer system... because that works so well. //rolls eyes. And Reid explained that when they started with Obamacare, they wanted to impose a single-payer system, but they didn’t have the votes. So they instead tried to insert a public option into Obamacare, which would have eventually caused a single-payer system because private insurers can’t compete against a government-run insurer and they would have all been driven out of the system. But again, they didn’t have the votes, particularly after Joe Lieberman opposed it. At that point, they needed to pass something because they had hung their hats on delivering healthcare reform. Reid didn't say this part, but it was obvious: Obamacare would be their only achievement despite having a supermajority, so failing to deliver something would have been suicide. Hence, they abandoned the single-payer idea and they passed the Insurance Company Subsidy Act known as Obamacare.

Reid then described Obamacare as “a step in the right direction,” the phrase you'll hear misinterpreted over and over today with orgasmic delight both on the right: "OMG!! HE CALLED IT A STEP! SEE, IT'S ALL PART OF A FIENDISH PLAN!! FARGLE FARGLE KNEW IT ALL THE TIME, GODD*MN BOEHNER TRAITOR buy my book" and on the left: "Nondenominational Hallelujah! Nondenominational Hallelujah!". Willful idiocy aside however, what this really was is face-saving. Obamacare is not what Reid wanted. To the contrary, it actually makes a single-payer system much less likely. But what was Reid going to say? “Yeah, that thing we passed and told you was great... it sucks donkey balls and boy was it a mistake.” -- Harry Reid. No way. He can't admit that they blew their chance to give his constituents what they want. So he made standard noises about this being a step in the right direction humma humma, but never fear, we know what the ultimate goal is and we'll get there blah blah blah.

Now, this is where it gets interesting. Reid made it clear that his goal remains a single-payer system, and to make that happen, he said they need to find a way to “work our way past” insurance-based systems. Think about that. To get a single-payer, they need to break the public away from insurance. BUT, Obamacare goes the other way and entrenches the current health insurance model even further because it forces employers to provide insurance or face fines and it forces individuals to buy insurance or face fines. In other words, it tries to make everyone get into and become accustomed to the insurance system. That’s a bit like someone whose goal is to stop people from eating meat forcing everyone to buy ten years worth of McDonald's gift certificates. Thus, by passing Obamacare, Reid made it much, much harder for them to ever get a single-payer system. In effect, Obamacare is more like a Trojan condom preventing a single-payer plan than a Trojan horse meant to cause it.

Of course, talk radio has already worked out how this is all part of the master plan to bring about the Boehner/Obama Single Payer System. See, Reid and the Democrats know that Obamacare will fail, they're actually counting on it. Their fiendishly clever plan in passing Obamacare was to make insurance so expensive that no one will be able to afford it. Then those suckers, the American public, will naturally join hands in union and ask Obama/Reid to fix the system they just ruined. It's manical! DAMN YOU RINOS!!

Devious, isn't it? Yeah, it's also retarded. Humans don't go back to the person who broke something through their own incompetence and beg them to double down on their solutions... "Please sir, can we find a bigger cliff." Doesn't happen. Look it up. What actually happens is people turn to their opponents and say, "That other guy is a dipsh*t. You fix it." Seriously, do you really think that the people who will lose their insurance over the next couple years, or those who will find themselves unfairly fined, or those doctors and hospitals who find that even more of their bills go unpaid are going to turn to Obama/Reid to double-down on the thing that just caused their problem? Hardly.

That "theory" also fundamentally misunderstands how Obamacare works. Obamacare is the insurance exchanges... that's it, but more than 71% of the public gets their insurance elsewhere (this could be as high as 87% actually). If the exchanges completely implode or their rates skyrocket, the 71% who get their insurance through work won't be affected at all. Thus, they sure as heck aren't going to go to anyone and beg that Obamacare be fixed by wiping out the private insure they continue to enjoy and overwhelmingly report being happy with. "Please sir, take what has been working for me and toss me into that mess you just created." The 17% who currently buy their own insurance and will probably be forced into the exchanges aren't going to ask for a single-payer system either. They're going to want a return to what they had... before Obama ruined it for them. The 11% currently uninsured are likewise made up of people whose sole concern will probably be to get the fines cancelled. Most of them aren't going to care about universal coverage and they aren't going to be in the best mood if Obama comes calling with a new solution. The insurance companies aren't going to ask to be wiped out either. Doctors aren't going to ask to be made de facto employees of the state. Heck, even unions now see the danger of universal coverage. So where exactly is this wave of Americans who will come begging Obama to rape them even harder this time? That wave starts and stops with around the 7% of the public that is leftist ideological and maybe about 5 million people who are uninsurable... that's it. Everybody else is going to want to go in the other direction.

You know, now might be a good time to start suggesting an alternative path actually... something other than the awful and many-times-rejected "let insurers compete across state lines."

Oh well. Go enjoy the idiocy because I'm sure they'll be in fine form today. Just don't take it internally. Remember that when they tell you that ObamaBoehnerCare is the most fiendishly clever plan Saul Alinsky ever invented, that they are ignoring the fact that both Reid's Plan A and Plan B failed, that Obamacare was all he could get, and that it actually entrenches the system Reid needs to destroy to achieve his goal. That's hardly a master plan, except perhaps in the eyes of a Marxist... a Groucho Marxist.
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