Saturday, January 31, 2009

The enemy of their enemy makes discharge come out of people's whozits

So the right wing is in a lather, demanding that attempts to fight STD's be removed from the stimulus bill. I've never thought of AIDS, syphilis, and gonorrhea as being unfairly persecuted before... But that's Republicans, always expanding our horizons.

Or perhaps it just hasn't occurred to them that spending money on fighting these things involves paying people to do their jobs, which involves putting money in the pockets of potential consumers, which enables consumption, which feeds retailers, which will help minimize the recession... and once this realization takes over their pro-business instincts will kick in and they'll get behind the measure. Or maybe not?

Friday, January 30, 2009

How not to make friends with the modern feminist movement

I've never really liked the term "patriarchy". Before this is written off as exhibit Q of patriarchy in action let me add that much of my PhD was about the psychology of prejudice, and I don't think that a word like patriarchy really does prejudice right.

For one thing it's focused entirely on gender, but what about the other kinds of prejudice? Like 80 years ago it would be fair to say we were in a WASPiarchy, but these days jews aren't really resented in most of North America, and Irish and Italian Americans are no longer (by the bizarre logic of prejudice-land) "races" so much as flavors of whiteness. Plus there's a shifting miasma of other prejudices. Depending where you are there's a smartiarchy or a dumyarchy, and there is an omnipresent and exceptionally powerful cooliarchy (tied in heavily, but not exclusively, to the beautiarchy).

I'm not trying to be glib here - Gender based prejudice is almost certainly the most common form of prejudice in terms of raw frequency of occurrence, and leads to lots of Really Bad Things. The set of stats I found in a quick google search had Black men making a slightly higher median income than white women at all levels of education - though they were reasonably close, and both dwarfed by White men's income (1995 stats makes it slightly old data). And of course, the statistics on rape are just mind-bogglingly evil. But I don't think it's easy to compare suffering side by side. Women are at a far higher risk of being raped, Blacks are at a far higher risk of being imprisoned... I don't think you can even start to contemplate questions like: "how many years in jail would you trade for being raped once". It simply defies humanity to do so. Suffering on this kind of scale is just horrible wherever it is found. And it's not just gender and race. People with mental disorders, for example, can suffer social stigmas that put them at elevated risks of alcoholism and suicide, and poor people are basically screwed every which way to Sunday (especially in the States where they get lousy health care, if any at all). So we're living in a patri-whity-neurotypic-wealthiarchy for starters.

On a more philosophical note, as Wikipedia puts it "The English suffix -archy (from Greek αρχή, rule) denotes leadership and government." Prejudice certainly can be codified into, and enforced by government (see Crow, Jim) but most modern prejudice has little to nothing to do with government, and very little to do with leadership either. In fact, a lot of it takes place at non-conscious levels, merely shaping expectancies rather than directing commandments at people - and people's level of prejudiced actions (at least the non-overt modern kinds) seems to ebb and flow with their level of insecurity. That's not a governing principle, it's people just being shitty to each other when they're feeling defensive.

That isn't to say that prejudice doesn't shape society - the types of roles people get shunted in to, and how easy it is for them to flourish there matter (see the enormous wage disparities). And anything that encourages or excuses aggression can lead to physical assaults and their coverups. But that doesn't make it an "archy: any more than other strong social force are. People feel compelled to surround themselves with other people and have friends, and will massively rearange their worlds to get it, indeed will put up with massive amounts of abuse to get it, but we don't live in a sociarchy do we? Really?

Playing the game so hard you forget to win?

Krugman says:
The House has passed the stimulus bill with not a single Republican vote.

Aren’t you glad that Obama watered it down and added ineffective tax cuts, so as to win bipartisan support?

Ok, but my understanding is that it still has to get through the senate, right. So it's not like the Dems could have just written ANYTHING they liked and zipped it through. Just because mom isn't paying attention doesn't mean you can get away with anything when it still has to get past dad (although it seems odd to be casting R's as the parental figures here, when a whole lot of them seem more intent on behaving like spoiled 12 year olds).

Plus some people smarter than me (e.g.,) argue that Barrack is playing the long-term optics here - he gets to come back and say: "we offer them compromise after compromise, and consultation after consultation, and STILL they don't even try to support the results."

Though, I guess at some point you have to stop playing politics for gain and using the gain that you've already bought... it's a tricky thing, no.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

As they say in England,

Good riddance to bad rubbish.

Solving the myseries of life, one doo doo analogy at a time.

Nate Silver wonders why precisely zero Republicans voted for the stimulus bill in the house. His best theory:
The House does not cast a secret ballot. It seems plausible that there were a dozen or so Republicans who were on the fence, waiting to see how their colleagues would vote --- and when those votes started to come in unanimously against the bill, nobody wanted to be the ugly ducking.
In other words, there was a lot of normative pressure not to, perhaps even some pluralistic ignorance by which the congrescritters all assumed they were the only one who didn't object... But you do sometimes get small numbers of Republicans voting against their party. As Nate himself points out, a few days ago 3 of 178 Republicans voted for the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.

I saw a Republican congress guy on teevee last night when I was at the gym, and his claim was that the house R leadership told a bunch of their members to vote for the old TARP bank bailout, and were roundly ignored. This time the leadership just took their cue from anti-stimulus sentiment of the general membership, and agreed to say 'no'.

My guess is that the Republicans have had a creeping awareness for some time now that their brand was in serious doo doo, and when the doo doo hit the fan during the last election, they realized that they are up to their necks in it, and their world is a big frightening smelly place. They are now desperately huddling together, clinging white-knuckled to whatever vestiges of ideology they think might have any legs whatsoever with the general public, and "fiscal conservative" is all they've got. And so they are going to pull it out from under all the doo doo, and place it on their personal alter of political expediency and pray to it, with all the weak-kneed fervour they can muster. And the first item of business for them to pray for is that nobody notices the horrible slurping sound that comes from anything so well buried being pulled out from under that much doo doo, because if people realize that "fiscal conservatism" is something the republicans only really care about when the Dems are in power, then the doo doo might close in completely over their heads.

Of course, one of Nate's commentors has a wittier take:

Groucho Marx: From the 1932 movie "Horse Feathers"

"I'm Against it"

Music and Lyrics By: Bert Kalmar and Harry Ruby

Song Lyrics:
I don't know what they have to say,
It makes no difference anyway,
Whatever it is, I'm against it.
No matter what it is or who commenced it,
I'm against it.

Your proposition may be good,
But let's have one thing understood,
Whatever it is, I'm against it.
And even when you've changed it or condensed it,
I'm against it.

I'm opposed to it,
On general principle, I'm opposed to it.

[chorus] He's opposed to it.
In fact, indeed, that he's opposed to it!

For months before my son was born,
I used to yell from night to morn,
Whatever it is, I'm against it.
And I've kept yelling since I first commenced it,
I'm against it!


UPDATE: It seems someone at ObWi is thinking down the same lines as me. Thought they do so with a total absence of scatological analogy. Disturbing, no?

Academics are supposed to be the impractical ones, why are business leaders being the self-defeating idiots?

Republicans want tax cuts, tax cuts, tax cuts (but not ones to poor people) as the solution for everything.

Here's why that's particularly stupid (recession edition): the problem is NOT that companies don't have enough money to build factories with. It's not like people are going to the mall and saying "I'm so frustrated, I just can't find enough things to buy. Won't somebody please give industry more cash so they can invent more products".

The problem is that consumers are looking at all the stuff on sale, and shrugging it all off because they can't *afford* any of it right now. Give more money to the inventors, and they're not going to risk it on R&D for big new products, not in this economy. Give it to banks, and they will sit on it, because they figure anyone they lend it to will just lose it anyway. Give it to rich people, and maybe they'll invest some of it (i.e., give it to banks and inventors, who will duly sit on it), or they'll stick it under THEIR mattress themselves.

What we need to do is to spend money building railroads, laying grass in parks, paying young people to be rangers for the summer... something, anything, to get cash into the pockets of ordinary Americans (particularly poor ones, who are pretty much guaranteed to go out and spend it post haste) so that they can go out and be consumers again. If American business leaders could remove their heads from their own behinds for just a minute they would see that lack of consumers is a far bigger problem than lack of investors right now, and they would get solidly behind heavy-spending stimulus bills, rather than trying to block them like they are.

Normally, business faces a collective active problem over wages - it is in their interest to pay their own employees as little as possible, while hoping that everyone else pays their employees generously, so that those employees have the money to buy the company's goods and services. But that constraint isn't even here now - if the money comes from the governments, why are the corporations so opposed? Answer: toxic ideology and stunning myopia.

The self-image of choice for business people is traditionally of a square shouldered, granite jawed colossus standing astride the flows of commerce, in a sharp suit. Okay, but lets add to that picture a Mr. Magoo squint, and two inch thick glasses. Now imagine he's just dropped the glasses. That's about right.


Update: Krugman says something similar, but in more technical terms.

"conservative" means you're supposed to want things to be consitent, right?

Rush Limbaugh in the WSJ, via

Fifty-three percent of American voters voted for Barack Obama; 46% voted for John McCain, and 1% voted for wackos. Give that 1% to President Obama. Let’s say the vote was 54% to 46%. As a way to bring the country together and at the same time determine the most effective way to deal with recessions, under the Obama-Limbaugh Stimulus Plan of 2009: 54% of the $900 billion—$486 billion—will be spent on infrastructure and pork as defined by Mr. Obama and the Democrats; 46%—$414 billion—will be directed toward tax cuts, as determined by me.

Yeah, because this is exactly how the Republicans governed. Bush got 51% of the vote, Gore got 49%, so Bush said "well, that means we get half the policies I want, and half the ones you want. I want to declare war in Iraq and drop taxes enormously on rich people. Name 2 policies of your own, or just pick one of mine and we'll nix it"

I assume that rush made this suggestion because he is a good bible readin' Christian (after all, Jesus was always talking about hypocrites, and why would he do such a thing if he didn't want us to BE hypocrites).

Corporations: Delivering value to nation state clients for 300 years

Reading a book on the history of the corporation (it's good). So it turns out that the East India Company was given a monopoly on tea to America, allowing them to sustain high prices, and that this happened shortly before... you guessed it, the Boston Tea Party. 300 years later, the Americans, having completely failed to learn from their own history, put the company Blackwater in charge of much of the security in Iraq, under rules that let them shoot pretty much whoever they want without consequence.

Sometimes you don't have to make up analogies, the world just hands them to you.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Bush the not so stupid?

I hear a lot of people thinking that Bush is an idiot. I think this is true only in the sense that he was an idiot not to realize that the presidency was beyond his abilities and to pass it over.

I think the reality is that he's a marginally bright guy (maybe even brighter than average), but he was put in charge of a very very very complicated thing. I think he did his best with it, but in the words of a novel I read once "he was like a competent Ford mechanic with a Ferrari on his hands." Except really he tended to screw up the normal businesses he ran too, so maybe it would be better to say that he was a competent bicycle mechanic with a Ferrari on his hands.

"Well I got the gas going to the cylinder tubes. That's what you gotta do right, a engine can't fire if you don't got the gas going to the tubes. Anyway, I did my best with it, history will have to be the judge. Heh heh."

And there's nothing wrong with being a bike mechanic. I like to tinker with them myself, but if you've got a beaten up stealth bomber that needs some work, I suggest you find someone else. And that, RIGHT THERE, is what makes me smarter than Bush.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Congratulations America

on finally having an adult in charge again. And what an adult that!

Welcome back. It's been too long. You have no idea how much we missed you.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


I posted a little while back about the legendary inaccuracy of the miraculously still-employed pundit Bill Kristol. Perhaps I was too harsh. Here he is on Fox "News," Dec 17, 2006:

"Barack Obama is not going to beat Hillary Clinton in a single democratic primary. I'll predict that right now."
Minor correction there Bill: PRESIDENT Obama is not going to beat Hillary Clinton in a single democratic primary. Sorry, you were saying?

h/t huffpo.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

more videos

You simply never see this level of nuance in American politics, current president-elects excepted:

h/t noIQ.

Saturday, January 17, 2009


life has been crazy, posts have been few...

but here's a pretty interesting video to keep the life support machine on this blog for the now

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Problems with survey design

AOL news asks:

Do you think Jeb Bush will seek the presidency? Y/N


Would you vote for Jeb Bush for president? Y/N

you can go there and vote. The problem is, they don't give the any of the right answers (for the record, respectively: "Dunno." and "Not ever EVER EVAR in a bazillion years if you torture me with rhino grade cattle prods. Unless, maybe, it was a choice between him and dubya. But all else equal there I'd take the cattle prods")

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Holy Jiminiy God on a stick.

British Atheists have scrounged together the money to put posters on 200 buses saying: “There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.”(story w. pic).
“I think it’s dreadful,” said Sandra Lafaire, 76, a tourist from Los Angeles, who said she believed in God and still enjoyed her life, thank you very much. “Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but I don’t like it in my face.”
To be fair, they're far classier in America:

Though also, sometimes, funnier: