Thursday, September 2, 2010

Don't Drink, Don't Smoke

According to Russia's Finance Minister
“People should understand: Those who drink, those who smoke are doing more to help the state,” he told the Interfax news agency. . . .  [Smokers and drinkers] are giving more to help solve social problems such as boosting demographics, developing other social services and upholding birth rates”.
As someone who both drinks and smokes, you're welcome.


Matt Yglesias: Liberal Lion

It would be easier to take his rants against regulation seriously if MY didn't sound like a deranged glibertarian.  Let's leave aside the role of deregulation in the financial crises or the human and environmental damages caused by lax regulation in mining and oil drilling industries or the advantages reaped from safety regulations and fuel standards in the auto industry or the decline in crackpots in medicine or the limited number of Wackford Squeers in education or all the other success stories and think, just briefly about his target for today: dentists.

He  rails against the unnecessary regulation of the dental industrial.  Based on a paper, he is supposed to have read, and because
making it tougher to become a dentist will probably make dental services more expensive but the hope would be that you’re also increasing quality.
There is no necessary correlation between making something tougher and making it more expensive.  And what is more, surely because some the making tougher are requirements for additional course work and training, the hope seems pretty well grounded.  It is probably true that for some aspects of dentistry, hygienists and what have you could receive additional certification after X number of years but making a claim for deregulation based on an erroneous assumption about the cost of training and education as immutable barriers to entrance into a profession and the training and regulation driving the cost of services provided, to say nothing of the disparagement of education and training, is decidedly illiberal. If MY want's to argue against a specific germfreeness regulations or aspects of the training required, rather than just urging less based on, as near as I can tell, zero knowledge of the content of the training and requlation, he might  be on to something instead of glibertarian gobbledygook. 

Let's admit, however, that the costs of the education and training necessary to become a dentist is X and that certification to retain a license is X and that buying the mandated machines and following guidelines for germfreeness and related etc. costs X, which added together is quite a few Xs.  The Liberal response to this situation is to lower the cost of education and training and thereby removing that barrier to entrance into dentistry. Liberals would also, I hope, argue that single payer insurance would lead to lower costs.

MY on political corruption:
If I told you that the senators from Arkansas are skeptical about legislation to make it easier to form labor unions, and that skepticism about that legislation is helpful for the financial interests of Wal-Mart, and that Wal-Mart is the most important company in Arkansas, and that Wal-Mart executives give money to the senators from Arkansas, and that this whole nexus is not entirely coincidental I don’t think you would find that to be a shocking allegation.
It might not be shocking but it is corrupt.  Walmart Inc isn't the one who elected the senators from the great state of Walmart, its the voters, aka regular folks who might be helped by, say, a Union who do.  Working against their interests and in the interest of Walmart because they give you money is corrupt, even when it is not indictable.

I Find This Hard to Believe

The big rumor right now is that the BLM is posting signs on some highway in AZ telling people Mexican drug lords and other evil south of the border types are in control of the area.  This is, I predict, bs.  Why would the BLM, which primarily interested in land use enforcement put up signs like that?  Particularly when county sheriff Paul Babeu is already on the case?  This story is not true.

Then again maybe not, although it seems slightly different than the fraught nature originally reported.

Jonah Goldberg is Dumb.

He now argues that Park51 is all about the Benjamins and that's why he opposes it. He
understand[s] that the Muslim angle — for want of a better phrase — has a lot to do with all of this [irrational and Islamophobic] opposition, but it’s important to keep in mind that part of the reason why the Park51 project is offensive is that it’s an attempt to leech off the memory of 9/11 for a political (and financial) agenda.[sic]

That’s one of the reasons I don’t like the term “ground zero mosque” — because it makes it sound like the primary objection is to the freedom of worship near ground zero. If this was just a mosque, with no larger agenda than to provide prayer-space for local Muslims, I truly would not care. But Park51 is intended to be some kind of 13 story Islamic Epcot Center. That’s what has always offended me about it. Imam Rauf has a much bigger agenda than merely giving local Muslim cab drivers, store owners and stock brokers a convenient prayer room.  And letting him pursue that agenda so close to ground zero is simply in poor taste (it is not “surrender” to Islam or anything like that).

Honest to goodness.
I think this guy's pictures are really nice but I really like the monthly glove updates.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Bernard Lewis is Half Right

In a discussion of the existence of moderate Islam, Lewis argues that
[t]he Prophet Muhammad's statement that "difference within my community is part of God's mercy" expressed one of Islam's central ideas, and it is enshrined both in law and usage from the earliest times.

This principle created a level of tolerance among Muslims and coexistence between Muslims and others that was unknown in Christendom until after the triumph of secularism.
He's right, you know zhat? He then, however, asserts that
For the moment, there does not seem to be much prospect of a moderate Islam in the Muslim world. This is partly because in the prevailing atmosphere the expression of moderate ideas can be dangerous—even life-threatening. Radical groups like al Qaeda and the Taliban, the likes of which in earlier times were at most minor and marginal, have acquired a powerful and even a dominant position.
 Roll that one around for moment.  There are, according to the CIA -- so take with a grain of salt, 1,634,948,648 Muslims in the world.  There are considerably fewer members of al Qaeda and the Taliban, by all accounts. So how do we account for the vastly larger number of Muslims who, like pretty much everybody else, want to earn enough to live, enjoy the refreshing beverages of their choice, and bask in the love of the love(s) of their life?  How are they able to resist the dominance of the violent crazies?

A Tale of Two SUVs

On Monday, when I was ambling back into town after the ironically epic ride, I spied a mountain of puce or maybe mauve over my left shoulder.  It was a Chevy Suburban, which I believe to be the largest SUV ever.  I was stopped a light and the when the light changed and the vehicle passed me, I noticed that it had a bumper sticker plastered on its football field sized rear end.  The sticker read: People Before Things. It was, I think, the end of ironic photoshopping.  Today when I was ambling to the grocery, I waited until all the cars had entered the frontage road before merging and took the lane so as to avoid being smooshed.  A red, this time, SUV in the other lane decided to test the old saw about the impossibility of two objects occupying the same space and moved from the left lane to the right without turn signal and, as near as I could tell, without bothering to look.  People before things indeed.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Who's Zooming Who? Or, Rather, Whom.

Via Think Progress we learn of the Tea Party Patriots notion of legitimate political questions. Although personally fond of question 2, which argues that God alone ought regulate the carbon in our atmosphere, I want to highlight number 15, which asks candidates to agree, disagree, etc with the statement
I advocated moving our currency to a debt-free supply-side labor-based currency.
Uh, er, um.  What the etc?  So is this an admission that the Tea Party Patriots, of Ohio in any event, actually think that
on the back of your Social Security card, there's a number. That number indicates the bank that bought you when you were born based on a projection of your life's earnings, and you are collateral.
And want to transfer a baby's lifetime earnings from the banks to the Federal government?  In which case, aren't they endorsing slavery? The worst kind of slavery: government mandated slavery. And even worse, what if the next generation of babies decide that they want Wiis before they can afford them and all take out Walmart credit cards to get the Wiis they needs and, as a result, their lifetime earnings are plunged into debt and, consequently, the debt free aspect of the labor-based currency is rendered nonexistent and we fall into a new dark ages. And, if you think about it, wouldn't the Illuminati, whose name suggests they glow, be the ones most likely to endorse a policy designed to recreate an era in which light was either missing or very expensive, given that they could rent themselves out for, say, office parties or as street lamps.  If that is true, and defy you to say it isn't, then aren't the Tea Party Patriots, at least of Ohio, tools of the Illuminati?  And if they are tools of the Illuminati and their leader is Glenn Beck, then isn't he, in fact, the Antichrist?  And if he is, in fact, the Antichrist and, as we all know, the Antichrist is the current president of these United States, shouldn't Beck be getting the blame for our recent economic unpleasantness? Who does Glenn Beck blame for the recent and current economic unpleasantness and the future enslavement of all mankind?  The President of these United States, that's who.  However, as I have just shown, irrefutably because as of right this second no one has refuted it, Glenn Beck is both the leader of the Illuminati, the Antichrist, and the President of these United States, long may they wave, and an advocate of slavery.  Glenn Beck is responsible for the very problems he warns us about.  Talk about the long con.

Speech, Speech

Obama's speech struck me as more or less on target.  I'm not sure about all the forget about the origins, course, and misery of the War, but I like the declaring victory and going home, and I liked the what we got now is good enough and we paid way to much for it.  Ideally, this would now all be repeated in Afghanistan in less than the year he suggested it would.  But who knows.

As by the way, I predict that Conservatives will complain Obama lacks the will to be a great president, which means less war mongering and random bomb dropping then they like; Liberals are more or less happy; and the Left is justifiable upset that 50k troops remain in Iraq and that Afghan remains an active front. Oh and also, Obama should, Conservatives will argue, apologize for opposing the Surge and generally kow tow to Bush. 

Here's the thing Obama was right to oppose the invasion as a distraction, right to oppose the Surge, because it was a stopgap measure when we should have been working on getting out and refocusing on non-military measures. 

They Call Them Nation-States for a Reason

Some are suggesting that things are looking up in Iraq, what with happier Iraqis, improved economy,  the stronger state of the State and the increased oil production. Indeed this same some insist that nation building works.  Others, which is to say me, ask if your life sucks 10 on scale of 1-10 with 10 being the most sucky and your rating changes to 7 your life still sucks.  I'm not much good at math but I think that if your economy lay in ruins with a growth rate or, let's say, negative 20 and it went up to negative 10 that's a big improvement but still pretty sucky.  And can a state really be called strong if it passes "impressive laws" but is unable to implement them?  Also, too does it matter to whom the profits of the oil development go?

When the Nation-State developed over the course of the late 18th and most of the 19th centuries it consisted of two aspects: the Nation and the State.  The Nation consists of those who see them selves or who can be convinced to see themselves as united by something.  The State is the administrative arm of the government, which, ideally, reflects the interests and desires of the Nation, aka citizens. Because he conflates the two halves, Brooks can elide damaging structural weakness in one by pointing to temporary improvements in the other.

Even with this weak argumentative structure, when stripped of the high gloss, Brooks admits the State is too weak to fend for itself, barely capable of fulfilling its responsibilities, lacking necessary human capital, and generally speaking fragile.  When discussing the Nation, he admits that the civil truce between Shia and Sunni is equally fragile.  He has, in other words, defined success in a very odd way.

Finally, he leads off by claiming that the US spent 53 billion on this attempted nation building, when in fact the total cost of the war to date is 709 billion.[1] He might maybe want to argue that 656 billion he fails to mention doesn't count  but he ought to explain why.

Why is that when serious people think seriously about serious matters and make such serious errors in  analysis, one wonders how they receive and maintain reputations for seriousness.

 [1] A quick note to Conservatives and others trumpeting that fact the the invasion cost less than the stimulus: you're being silly and, I suspect, you know it.

Historically Iliterate

Dennis Prager, all around dolt and flying monkey, argues that
There was a time when liberalism was identified with anti-Communism. But the Vietnam War led liberals into the arms of the Left, which had been morally confused about Communism since its inception and had become essentially pacifist following the carnage of World War I.
That can't be right. The Left was essentially pacifist after WWI if you don't count the Spanish Civil War and support for WWII. It is also possible to argue that arguing against interventions in Korea, Vietnam, Central America, South America, Iran, etc isn't pacifism but rather sane foreign policy.

He goes on to show that Liberals or Leftists, which are the same thing even if they disagree about everything, now fail to refudiate terrorism because of their hideous moral relativism. Leaving aside all those Liberals who have done just that, he's right as rain.

Prager concludes by excusing Dr. Laura, after the ad, and noting  "[t]hose who don’t fight real evils fight imaginary ones."  He lacks, it seems to me, self-awareness.

De rit, de ruiters, en de maaltijd

Press briefing:

Q: How was the epic ride this past weekend?
A: Great

Q: Any funny getting lost or the like stories?
A: Nope

Q: Was it of an impressive distance?
A: Not really.

Q: Did you go really, really, fast?
A: Not particularly.

Q: So what makes it so epic?
A: Epic in the sense of not being epic, which is to say ironically epic.

Q: Oy
A: That's not a question.

Q: Did you have any run ins with psychos in vehicles
A:  Yes, yes we did.

Q: Was one of the drivers certifiable?
A:  Yes, yes he was.

Q: Interested in giving details?
A: No, no I am not.  See below.

Q:Did everyone make it okay?
A:  More or less, one ritter suffered a bit.

Q: Are all the pictures below yours?
A: No, no they are not.

Executive summary
We left on time, had coffee in Cross Plains, didn't get lost, put up with a mildly annoying motorist and totally insane motorist, ate a bunch of food and drank a bunch of what have you. I rode both ways.

The ride was really nice there was enough wind to keep the temperature down, the roads are in great shape, lots of cyclists out and about on Old Sauk, and the hill as well as on Stage Coach, KP is newly paved, nearly all the motorists were sane and careful (see below). The one cyclist riding up the hill while talking on his cell gets the prize for weirdest behavior of the day.  It seemed as though he and the others were on some kind of a race-like situation and he was certainly giving it his all, but he just really needed to take that call. Got a little sunburned and Ando suffered from something, the current theory, unsupported by any facts and -- in fact contradicted by his own testimony, is an excess of bacon ice cream for breakfast. Opinions differed on the mustard effect and on the difference between medium rare and medium well by the two distinguished judges.  Surprisingly, Damon Runyon's theory of betting proved to not predict the outcome.  On the whole, however, a good time was had by all.

Incident reports:
Sad old guy in Illinois plated truck got the law wrong:

(a) Persons riding bicycles or electric personal assistive mobility devices upon a roadway may ride 2 abreast if such operation does not impede the normal and reasonable movement of traffic. Bicycle or electric personal assistive mobility device operators riding 2 abreast on a 2-lane or more roadway shall ride within a single lane.

He generally behaved like a sad old guy riding an Illinois-plated truck would, which is to say like Schlecht. His dog seemed nice though.

We had stopped at the gas station in Arena and were just getting back underway.  We were in a single line when a maniac in a gold pickup with some kind of logo on the side turned the corner began honking his horn and screaming and then swerved missing us by a couple of inches.  He stopped up the road screamed some more and ran away in fear and trembling when Ben offered to discuss things in the open air.


Ready to Go

Pensive Participant

Last minute prep and kibbitzing

They look silly in lycra

Late entrant

Happy to be there


Restricted Park

Cooling off

Made it

Fresh meat

Not quite enough burgers
Grill 'em

Full House

The kids today

Distinguished Judges

Wait, what?

Missed it by that much

Monday, August 30, 2010

Historical Causation or the Logic of Private Belief.

It seems that Conservatives are going to go all in on Glenn Beck's latest dog and pony show. Why?  I have no idea. I am, no doubt, biased but there seems to me that there is no way that that little man's moment in the sun ends in something other than a real tragedy.  Over at NRO one of the flying monkeys, Abigail Thernstrom by name, argues, or perhaps more accurately asserts,
Chris Wallace spoke as if the Poor People’s Campaign was the logical culmination of King’s entire life. And he declared that “the civil rights movement was always about an economic agenda.” Chris, no.
You see, Thernstrom later clarifies, although the "Poor People's Campaign  was consistent with" King's "long-held private belief in some vague form of democratic socialism," it was the case that
in the earlier years, King argued in the public arena for a color-blind society, and it is that commitment for which we honor him. The socialist elements in his private thinking are a separate story.
Got that?  He argued for a color blind society not because of some private belief but because of, well it's not really clear what.  Maybe a commitment to Conservative values?  Let's take Thernstrom's point about King's later positions not being the "logical culmination" of his earlier private belief.  This is a really bad argument, or assertion, when directed at something that actually happened. It might be the case that later King wasn't the logical culmination of younger King's private beliefs, then again it might be that later King developed logically from early King's private beliefs.

As an example, Reagan's Conservativism and his violation of the constitution were not the logic culmination of his early Liberalism because lots of Liberals didn't become economically illiterate, war mongers. Q.E.D.  The problem here is that the fact of the matter is that Reagan did become what he became and so did King. So if the later Reagan was not the "logical culmination" of his private beliefs, we ought be able to point to something, Red's Under the Beds -- as a suggestion, to show what altered those beliefs.   Consequently, when considering the intellectual, moral, and political developments of anyone we need to look to their "private belief" and see if, when, or how it changed in order to determine if "private belief" held early  was the, or in any event a, determining factor in public utterances later uttered.  If you see what I mean.

Let's say that as an ordained minister, King's private beliefs arose from his long-term engagement with the Gospel and, as an Christian, he looked to Christ for guidance when developing his private views prior to taking those views public.  Let's go further and say that King was influenced by Christ's social teaching as it related to equality and justice. Let's finally say that it is  logically consistent for King, who began with a commitment to justice and equality as it related to race and racism, to move from his initial and more "narrow" focus to the broader focus of justice and equality for all men and women, i.e, the Poor People's movement.

Does Thernstrom think that public utterance isn't motivated by private belief and that changes in public utterance aren't the result of thinking through broader implications of private beliefs? It seems to me that she can't think that, because if it is the case the question arise of what, exactly are public utterances the result.  Things, i.e., an end to white supremacy, she now endorses? And if someone says something they can't possibly believe then what are we to make of them as critics?  Right now the answer for Conservative, or many of them, is that it is flying monkeys all the way down.

[Edited for clarity and charity]


I was late getting home and the linked discussion of Douthat's latest nonsense seems like more than enough.