Monday, August 22, 2011

Um...Telling the Truth?

I'm not sure why Ezra seems to want to say that Obama accomplished all those things but that there is no way that more could have been realistically done, but if he--or anyone--believes that all those things are Obama's accomplishments then he--or anyone--must think that the president has some power to persuade. If that is the case, then doesn't it follow that, whatever persuasive method the president has, it has been completely absent in the debt ceiling/deficit reduction/destroy the economy debate? If, nothing more could be done because of politics then shouldn't the president been spending a lot of time telling people the truth: that present deficits and "uncertainty" has shit-all to do with our current economic problems?

The deficit reduction debacle was a horrendous wrong turn that the president is largely responsible for inflating. It sucked up so much political energy and did nothing to help our economy. Not now, not in the future. Nothing. Even if the politics prevented more being done with policy, Obama falling into the confidence fairy/deficits matter bullshit that the GOP egged on hurt him politically.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Uncontacted Tribes

After reading about these troubles in the Amazon, I remembered reading some time ago a back-and-forth on whether uncontacted tribes should remain so and why it is good that they exist.

My take is that, in general, tribes/groups that are uncontacted are worse off than those that are not. No medicine, no refrigeration, no distribution network and, despite some people's bizarre notions to the contrary, not really any less violence.

But we seem to have a romantic attachment to isolated, primitive tribes. Part of it is a desire for simplicity that ignores the difficulties of their lives compared to ours. I also think that part of it is the wonder and mystery that it provides us. We know a lot about the world around us. We have mapped the surface of Mars, and yet, there are tribes of people that still exist on this planet that we don't know about. People who have never seen a car or a television still exist. That there are still people on this planet that we don't know about, who don't know about us, gives us a bit of pause to think about how much we don't know.

Scientists in particular but I think all people have a fascination with discovery. Finding something new, seeing it for the first time, being the first to understand how it works are exciting things. When we "discover" a new tribe of people we get a bit of that, but we also get to wonder a bit about what it would be like for them. Their "discovery" of our modern society would be much like our finding or being found by an advanced alien race.

So I like that there are uncontacted/unknown peoples in the world. I just don't think they are living lives that are as good as mine by a long shot.

Monday, August 08, 2011

S&P - Idiots

My favorite post so far: this one. Mostly because it directly tackles the "but our government is really dysfunctional" argument head on.

If S&P's redo argument was the real reason for the downgrade, then we should have been downgraded in November 2010 just after it was clear the GOP had taken the House...or in mid 2009 when it was clear that lunacy ruled when a 60-40 Senate Democratic majority could only manage to pass bills that were Republican-policy...or back in 2000 when the result of the presidential election was not decided by the voters but by the Supreme Court ruling that votes shouldn't be counted. Srsly.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Junk Email from White House

So the White House has an infographic on the Debt "compromise" and below it some "Myths" and "Facts" about the deal. It's rather pathetic.

The first "Myth" can only be classified as a myth if either a. Obama is a Republican or b. Obama is from Bizarro world. The mere fact that there is no revenue in the deal means Obama caved. No need to go further.

The second "Myth" is a myth on technicalities only. There is a Democrat in the White House (nominally) and the Senate is under Democratic control. The debt deal had zero Democratic components. Zero. The fact that it didn't dismantle Medicare is hardly a loss for Republicans. They control one of the legislative bodies and got a bill that is completely in their favor. It is a huge Republican win.

I wasn't aware that the third "Myth" was even a myth.

The fourth "Myth" only works by relying on the word "entirely" and the second you have to use an all or nothing descriptive word, you're in bad shape.

The fifth "Myth" is at best a crap shoot. Most likely the result will be either poop sandwich or dung sandwich, with a fair chance of shit sandwich. The probability of getting a decent deficit reduction bill is so vanishingly small it may as well be zero.

The last "Myth" is another technicality that is disproved only if you have been paying no attention to the way the Obama administration functions. Obama is so adamant about not raising taxes on the middle class that he has essentially conceded the game to Republicans. If he can't credibly state that he is perfectly willing to let the Bush tax cuts expire en total, then he has no ground to stand on. Maybe Democrats in the Senate can manage to show enough spine to stop the full fledged conversion of the US to plutocracy but I'm not holding my breath.

Monday, August 01, 2011

Problem of Labels

I understand why polls like this can matter to politicians, but they are really, really, really bad for getting at people's actual beliefs. Republicans have been very good at associating the word "conservative" with anti tax and small government (as well as some social issues). Republicans have also been successful at having the word "liberal" associated with high tax and wasteful spending.

The fact is that if you go through policy and public preference, "liberal" kicks "conservative"'s ass. People like social security. People like medicare. People like education and student grants. People like having clean places to live: clean air to breathe and clean water to drink and for recreation. People like the idea of leaving a better world for their children.

On the pro-conservative side, people don't like taxes. People like the military.

People don't like "big government" either when that is the label, but in fact what people don't like is "bad government". Anyone who relies on self-identify polling to determine whether the public is "liberal" or "conservative" is shockingly stupid.