Wednesday, December 26, 2012


The War on Christmas is fake and has zero casualties.

The War on Drugs is real and an utter failure.

I find it laughable that one of these wars is dusted off each year by the same people who claim to be in favor of personal liberty and responsibility (and of course fiscal restraint) but the other one is lauded as necessary even as it fails in its goals, sends tens of thousands of people to prison for non-violent acts, clogs up the judiciary, and wastes billions of taxpayer dollars.

Just think: we could regulate and tax marijuana, easily funding a jobs bill for veterans, start investing in needed infrastructure, maybe pay down some of our debt.

But, no, advocates of personal responsibility evidently prefer to demonize freethinkers and the activists who seek to preserve the religious neutrality enshrined in our Constitution, rather than addressing expensive policies that do little other than remind us of the well-known failures of prohibitions.

Tobacco is actually addictive and actually kills people. Ditto for alcohol. Both are regulated and taxed out the wazoo. Weed should be treated the same, and it would be so cool if we could earmark the resultant savings for useful investments in our economy. Hell, how about using half the savings to refocus our efforts on drugs that actually do major harm--especially to our young people--like meth? Or how about getting serious about prescription drug abuse?

A country with ~4% of the world's population should NOT be using over 90% of the world's oxycontin production. Wouldn't you say that's a more immediate health concern?

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Socialism: Costly to Avoid

[I intend to expand on these ideas in a future video, but for now this can serve as a first draft of the script]

There is a substantial contingent in this country that regularly sings the praises of the free market as the most powerful self-regulating mechanism through which open competition fueled by informed consumers will produce the healthiest and most efficient environment for innovation and quality.

Allowing people and businesses to evaluate what works best for them in their various situations, they say, is far more effective than any government-imposed regulatory framework could ever be. The government's role should be to stay out of the way, they say, because the government only ever introduces artificial costs and increases inefficiency. If the government interferes, they say, businesses will have to devote precious resources to regulatory compliance rather than innovation, in order to continue participating in the market, and these costs are passed along to the consumer in the form of higher prices across the board.

If the government stays out of the way, however, prices will be freed to settle at the most reasonable levels, they say, as an equilibrium is achieved by letting individual actors in the market determine what quality of product or service they need and what value it holds for them.

Bad actors will be crowded out by competition, they say, because consumers will eventually come to know which providers to trust and which to avoid.

In short, consumers will only have to look at a supplier's track record and the price for their goods, in comparison with other suppliers and prices, in order to determine from whom they wish to make their purchases. If supplier A has an excellent track record, and their price for product X is similar to, or less than, product X from supplier B, consumers will buy from A, forcing B either to lower their price or increase their quality.

Sounds super duper simple, right? Very Adam Smith... Very Ayn Rand... Very intuitive. This economic philosophy certainly works on paper (most of the classical economic philosophies DO, actually). In the real world, however, people are involved. As such, no economy has ever survived for long without some balance of differing philosophies. Even in so-called "capitalist" countries, there are always elements of socialism, the market is never allowed completely unfettered freedom, and we can watch the seemingly daily tug-of-war between the right and left caucuses as they each fight to protect and promulgate their interests.

If you asked a random sample of Americans whether it is wise for the federal government to spend more money than it takes in, I believe you would find that an overwhelmingly high percentage of responses in the negative: the citizen in the street viscerally feels that budgets should basically be balanced and that debt must be manageable. That having been said, we don't see nearly the same percentage of the population agitating for a balanced budget, not in the short term, and especially not if that would require crippling tax increases and spending cuts.

Thus, we are as a population faced with goals which run contrary to our intuition, self-interest, beliefs, and philosophies. Pretty much everyone would like to see more fiscal responsibility; most everyone would like to make it easier for suppliers to compete for their business; somewhat fewer are willing to be charged more in exchange for having at least some basic regulatory protections; fewer still believe fiscal restraint is best achieved by keeping the government away from markets; and even fewer still believe that lowering tax rates, eliminating regulations, and encouraging a more "raw" spirit of competition will eventually cause the economy to grow much more quickly, achieving their goal of fiscal restraint through Austrian-style supply-side stimulus policies.

The theme running through all these positions is that one shouldn't have to pay more for a product or service than necessary, that said product or service will tend to be of high quality due either to competition, regulation, or both, that consumers should be free to pursue suppliers with a better widget for less dollars at every possible turn, and that the government should live within reasonably responsible fiscal barriers.

Suppose I told you that there was one particular product or service that, eventually, every single consumer in the country would have to use? Suppose I further told you that a huge majority of consumers (primarily out of rational self-interest, but also due to government mandates) would at some point need this product or service whether they wanted it or not? Suppose I further informed you that this product or service was so important to society that even babies were required to use it even though they weren't old enough to know what was happening to them? Every single person has used or needed it, is using or needs it, or will use or need it in the future.

Lastly, suppose I told you that the delivery system in America for this product or service wasn't just flawed, it was sometimes embarrassingly so: not everyone who needs it can get it; not everyone who can get it receives the same quality; sometimes the quality is so bad it hurts us or even kills us, but (and here's a particularly touchy point) you MUST go back for more; finally, we are requiring ourselves to pay almost twice as much as people in other countries for exactly the same product or service? AND those people in the other countries are typically more satisfied with what they get, tend to live longer, and regularly claim to have better quality of life than we do?

With the preceding product or service and its attributes as described, what would you say should be the most logical response? Frustration? Anger? Indignancy?

If you haven't figured out what I'm addressing here, it is of course health care. By almost every metric you can name, the United States is not as good as most other industrialized nations. Our healthcare results are occasionally better, but usually worse, we're spending almost twice as much per capita, we're spending 6% more of GDP, we aren't fully covering our citizenry...

What part of this equation isn't adding up? We are spending over $800 billion per year more for a system that is grossly inadequate, making us the laughingstock of the civilized world. Even if we were only able to cut our expenses by 20%, we would still save over $400 billion per year.

Is avoiding "socialism" really worth that kind if money? Especially when the current fight on Capitol Hill is revolving around roughly $100 billion per year in additional revenues from the top 2% of income earners?

Think about it.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Ruth Institute - Arguments From Stupidity

Whining about elements in the Republican party who seek to soften the perception that all GOP candidates are anti-gay, at least insofar as regards same-sex marriage, the blog over at Ruth Institute enumerates several "salient" arguments against allowing same-sex marriage that they believe are being "suppressed" within the GOP. The idea is that, if only these arguments were given full voice, people "might pause and choose to think deeply, rather than feel, before going to the polls."

I'll address them one by one:

- "That the state has no business incorporating the notion of “love” into the basis for defining the right to civil marriage."

This is a bit of a straw man: Ruth is not-so-subtly claiming that the often used phrase "loving and committed" couples somehow encompasses the whole of the LGBT community's justification for SSM advocacy. Neither now, nor in the past, has the state ever asked whether two consenting, qualified adults "love" each other enough to obtain a civil marriage. The state's concern has always been related to the closeness of a blood relationship of the two people, their age, gender (if applicable), current marital status, and so forth. State regulations vary - some states allow certain types of cousins to marry and others do not, and of course some states no longer care whether the applicants share a gender or not - but at no point are the applicants for a marriage license asked to certify any particular degree of "love" as part of the process of applying for the license.

- "That the state’s only valid interest in sanctioning marriage is to hold biological parents responsible for the new citizens they sire or bear. Only the heterosexual union produces citizens of the state, and therefore the state has no valid interest in any other union, period."

Again we are presented with the myopic notion that biological reproduction is the sole concern of the state. It is not, and to my knowledge never has been. As I've previously pointed out, the state takes no pains to assess the reproductive capacity of any applicants for a marriage license. Adoption and IVF are just two ways in which the state enables people to become parents, exclusive of biological reproduction. Indeed, a single virgin male or female could qualify to adopt any number of children. Two virgins could marry, remain chaste, and be parents to any number of children whether adopted or produced via IVF.

In terms of the marriage license itself and the willingness of the state to allow two people all the benefits of having been married, no state cares about consummation unless a divorce is sought within various timespans, and even then the issue at hand is the disposition of such jointly-held assets as may exist at the time the divorce is sought.

Two last points on this: Ruth says that "only the heterosexual union produces citizens of the state." The IVF method of conception by itself means this untrue. Further, if "the state has no valid interest in any other type of union," then why don't any states require either reproduction or certification of reproductive capacity as part of the necessary qualifications for obtaining a license to marry?

- "That government-sanctioned same-sex marriage actually increases and solidifies state authority and undermines freedom by eroding the bonds of traditional families and the strong buffer these bonds provide all members of society against government intrusion into our personal relationships. Most alarming is that the imposition of genderless marriage opens a clear path for allowing the state to pick the parents for all children."

Alarmist, anyone? Good grief, where to begin...

Let's go in reverse order through this next "salient" argument. I'm not sure what the writers mean by "allowing the state to pick the parents for all children." Are they saying that the fact of same-sex marriage would then confer on the state the authority to take children away from their existing circumstances in order to place them with parents who the state feels are somehow better? Would the fact of same-sex marriage suddenly mean that children could be withdrawn, apparently by force, from one family and moved to another? What the hell is Ruth talking about here?

Next is this claim that the state conferring the exact same benefits of marriage on additional people who happen to share the same gender would "increase and solidify state authority and undermine freedom by eroding the bonds of traditional families and the strong buffer these bonds provide all members of society against government intrusion into our personal relationships."

I'm going to break this one down step by step. Let's see if we can follow the logic here:

- This is the Ruth Institute here, so I think it is safe to assume these traditional families are opposite-gender married ones, with children and cousins and whatnot. All these family members have these special bonds.
- And these bonds are really strong, yet somehow fragile and subject to erosion.
- Traditional families are currently getting all the state benefits of marriage, including tax benefits, health benefits, social security benefits, visitation rights, inheritance rights, etc.
- If the state grants access to these benefits to same-sex couples, simply by removing the opposite-gender requirement for the marriage license, those aforementioned bonds in the traditional families would be eroded because removing the opposite-gender requirement would constitute an "intrusion" into someone's personal relationships.

In summary: traditional families have these special bonds which would be weakened/eroded by allowing same-sex couples access to all the benefits of marriage to which these traditional families have always had access? Did I miss something?

I've reread it a few times now, and I can't see that I missed anything, or took anything out of context. Sure sure, I'm biased toward equality for any consenting adults who want to get married, since it isn't any of my fucking business what two consenting adults do with or to each other in the privacy of their own homes. If they want to have kids, by whatever means, great. If they don't, great. Again, it isn't any of my business any more than it is anyone else's business what I do with my free time with whatever consenting adults I can find. The state evidently doesn't give shit, and they certainly have never cared enough to make such an inquiry part of the marriage licensure process.

Now, on to their conclusion:

- "Few are aware of these arguments because the left’s machine doesn’t want you to hear and digest them. The proponents of same-sex marriage all share two great fears: First, that people might pause and choose to think deeply, rather than feel, before going to the polls. And second, that people might begin to speak freely with each other, unconstrained by the inhibiting strictures political correctness places upon normal discourse in daily life."

As a proponent of same-sex marriage, I can tell Ruth that they are exactly wrong, in every particular, on both these alleged "fears."

Firstly, I prefer that people think about and do research on ALL issues before voting on them. If you don't take the time to get educated on an issue, how do you propose to use your voting privilege responsibly and honestly? Emotions can play a role, and sometimes maybe they should, but don't conflate my advocacy for same-sex marriage with a desire somehow to prey on the emotions of those who would listen to my reasoning in the expectation or hope that their emotions would lead them to a different conclusion than their reason would.

Secondly, Ruth Institute, stop whining about being labeled a hate group. I personally welcome free and civil discourse on any subject. All people should be free to speak their minds as they see fit, but they shouldn't expect to have hateful speech and outright lies go unchallenged.

The idea that proponents of same-sex marriage play the "bigotry" card in lieu of actual arguments is preposterous. When we read blogs like this, and see debates like the one between Brian Brown and Dan Savage, and listen to Tony Perkins or Bryan Fischer or Peter LaBarbera spew vitriol, labeling as "unnatural" and "abominations" our friends and neighbors, nieces and nephews, brothers and sisters... Such language will not go unchallenged, and it shouldn't. And if it is challenged civilly, and no apology of any kind is ever made, then the bigot label fits.

Because this whole debate comes down to a small handful of issues:

One group seeks the label and benefits of marriage, because the label and benefits are currently afforded to every single possible variation of couple EXCEPT for same-sex couples. Every single argument against same-sex marriage is nonsensical, because every single argument is itself refuted by opposite-sex marriages all over the country. As such, this is a fight about equality under the law.

Another group seeks to deny them this label and these benefits, using arguments which attempt to obfuscate the simple fact that their cherry picked religious beliefs motivate them to dedicate their lives to the imposition of said religious beliefs on the society at large.

You claimed proponents of same-sex marriage are afraid of open dialogue? Well, here's MY conclusion: opponents of same-sex marriage are primarily motivated by religious beliefs taken from a book whose other marriage-related proscriptions and prescriptions are largely ignored by those same opponents. Therefore, their credibility is basically nil from the outset. As a consequence, these opponents must argue their case for inequality on other grounds, attempting to use reason alone to persuade. Since the foundation of their "arguments" is critically flawed, their arguments are also critically flawed, and this is why they are failing and will fail in the future.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Fox News: "No Agenda"

Via Politico from an interview with Fox News Channel head Roger Ailes:

“It’s day to day for us,” Ailes tells [Politico]. “We don’t — I know no one believes it — we have no agenda. If he runs into a burning building tomorrow and saves four kids, he’s gonna be the biggest goddamn hero Fox News ever saw. But if he leaves four guys behind on the battlefield but can’t explain it, then he’s gonna have a problem with Fox News.”

“I don’t mind praising the guy and I don’t mind questioning the guy,” says Ailes. “It’s day to day.”

"Day to day," eh, Roger?

"No agenda," eh, Roger?

C'mon, man! You're not even trying anymore!

Fox News has "no agenda" in the same way that:

A: Porn has no "naked people"
B: Playboy has no "photoshopped pictures"
C: Gas stations have no "fuel"
D: Water has no "hydrogen"
E: All of the above.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Felonius Bunk: A Brief Rant About BP

This week, it was announced that BP is pleading guilty to having committed 11 felonies in connection with the Horizon Deep Water oil spill in 2010. This criminal negligence resulted in the deaths of 11 rig workers.

The punishment exacted? A fine of $4.5 billion, to be paid in installments over a six-year period. According to their 2011 annual report to shareholders, BP Oil has annual revenues of approximately $400 billion.

That 'punishment' works out to 1.15% or so of ONE YEAR's worth of total revenue, or roughly one QUARTER's worth of profit.

Let's put it this in some context, remembering Mitt Romney's famous quip that "corporations are people, my friend." [Certainly the Citizens United Decision agreed with that notion insofar as it sanctioned corporate "free speech" in the form of essentially unlimited political donations to election campaigns.]

Let's say you earn $40,000 per year to keep the numbers simple. That SEC fine is the equivalent of you having to pay $75/year ($450 over a six-year period)... for pleading guilty to acts of felony negligence that resulted in 11 people dying. Anyone else see a problem with this?

If I run a stop sign, the fine is $250. If I get a speeding ticket, the fine can be as high as $500, AND I can have my driver's license suspended or restricted. If I'm caught with ANY amount of pot, the fines/costs start in the hundreds and easily get into the thousands of dollars - and that's just at the misdemeanor level. Remember, those fines aren't assessed over a six-year period, either. For ordinary people, they are imposed and payable immediately.

See what I'm getting at here? If we're going to treat corporations like people for the purposes of political speech, let's REALLY treat them as people for the purposes of political speech: if a company is found guilty of committing a felony, it should be permanently banned from influencing elections in any way, just like we bar individuals who have committed a felony from voting.

Punishments are supposed to act as deterrents. Maybe if corporations found themselves frozen out of the political process, we might see a slight uptick in corporate responsibility as a result.

BP would be a great company to use by way of setting an example.

One last thought: since such a rule would require Congressional action, while they're at it maybe they can allocate $1 billion of that BP fine to fund the veterans jobs bill which was recently blocked by all 40 Republican senators. Just a thought.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Mourdock, God, Rape, and Life

Indiana GOP Senate candidate Richard Mourdock has a very straightforward attitude about the sanctity of life: all life is created by God (we'll assume he means Yahweh), and therefore all forms of and reasons for any abortion should be illegal. He outlines just one intrinsically self-contradictory exception: to save the life of the mother.

In a debate this week, Mourdock restated this belief in the sanctity of life, going so far as to express his opposition to allowing abortions for rape victims who were impregnated by their rapists. Calling all life a "gift from God" regardless of cause, his statement opposing the rape exception quickly received widespread condemnation from people on both sides of the aisle.

It is safe to presume that Mourdock agrees with his fellow believers in the omnipotence and omniscience of his God. Further, it is safe to presume that this God is also all-loving and a being of infinite mercy.

By Mourdock's own reasoning, since anyone living was created by God, this would means that his God knew, in advance, that the male he once created would one day rape and victimize the female he also once created. This flies in the face of reason, morality, and justice.

Intentionally and willingly setting loose a man who WILL force himself on a woman against her will is immoral. If you were absolutely sure that a man would victimize a woman, and you were personally responsible for his presence in society, would you not share equally in his guilt? If you had the option of tweaking things just a bit to ensure that this man would NEVER rape a woman, don't you think you would have to exercise that option?

The reciprocal questions are equally valid: if you had the option of preventing that woman from being victimized, wouldn't you? If you knew, in advance, of the suffering she would undergo, and you had the power to prevent it, aren't you required by all conceivable standards of justice to do so?

Manifestly, Mourdock's God is cruel and amoral. Those who would enshrine this viciousness into the laws of our country have no business being in a position of authority. Believe whatever you like, but the point at which you attempt to impose such beliefs on people who believe differently is the point at which you disqualify yourself from the honor and privilege of governance.

The right of a woman to choose whether she brings a pregnancy to term is fundamental, whether her life is threatened by the pregnancy, and regardless of its cause.

Finally, his lone life-of-the-mother exception makes no rational sense in the context of his opposition to an exception for rape: if he's OK with a God who would intentionally create both the rapist and the victim who would suffer, then why isn't he OK with that same God killing a mother he created as the direct result of a fetus he ALSO created? It also begs the question: suppose the mother whose life is threatened by her pregnancy is pregnant due to a rape?

Remember: the life-of-the-mother exception shouldn't even be necessary in Mourdock's worldview: if his God was truly pro-life, NO pregnancy would EVER threaten the mother's life.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Football and the 2012 Campaign

We've all seen football games where one team has a two point lead. In such games, it is relatively easy for the lead to change: a field goal would do it.

Some games are three pointers, so that same field goal would only tie things up, and possession changes on the following kickoff.

Other games take a touchdown to tie up or take the lead. These metrics become more and more critical as the clock counts down the quarters.

In terms of the 2012 presidential campaign, we are just starting the fourth quarter and Obama has a nine point lead. It isn't enough for Romney to get a TD, even with a two-point conversion.

Romney must take over the conversation, take control of the field, and retain it for the duration of the campaign. He must also prevent the Obama team from scoring ANY points, or at least limiting them to field goals.

Put briefly: Romney must dominate the debates (doubtful), cough up budget specifics (what for?), keep his mouth shut on current foreign affairs (breaking with tradition), and figure out some way to present himself as a human being with greater-than-zero empathy (laughable). Breaking with one or two of his party's extremist tropes would be good, too (start with that dumbass Norquist pledge--he has anyway).

Good luck with that, Mitt.

I predict Obama winning with 55% of the popular vote and >325 electoral votes.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Mitt Romney: Anything It Takes

Anyone who has been watching Mitt Romney throughout the Republican presidential race has seen dozens of instances of him saying whatever it takes to appeal to whatever audience he finds himself addressing.

Some examples, in no particular order:

- As he told CPAC attendees early this year, in a blue state with a solidly Democratic state House and Senate, he was a 'severely conservative' governor in Massachusetts. So conservative, in fact, that he was pro-choice, pro-LGBT rights, repeatedly raised taxes and fees, and did basically nothing to stop same-sex marriage in that state. When it suited his ambitions, he was actually a moderate.
- In front of several dozen millionaire donors at a $50,000/plate fundraiser, he accused nearly half of Americans of being moochers who feel entitled to government handouts and who refuse to take personal responsibility for their lives. You know, the working poor, veterans, active-duty military, the elderly, etc. This was, in context, an effort to fire up those donors to raise money because Mitt believes his sole hope of being elected isn't through an intellectual debate about specific policies, but rather by focusing on the 7% or so of voters who are independents.
- In several of the Republican debates, he almost always sided with his fellow candidates on social issues, only breaking ranks when it came to his private sector experience. Remember ALL of them vowing to veto any tax increase even if it was offset by a factor of 10 in spending reductions?
- When seeking the VP nod from McCain in 2008, he coughed up over 20 years of tax returns, but after clinching the nomination has been steadfast in his refusal to do the same for the American voters.

This last one has only very recently changed: the campaign will be releasing his final 2011 return as well as a statement from the manager of his trusts with generic averages and estimates which invite as many questions as they don't answer.

The same guy who deducted over $70,000 for his wife's dressage horse in 2010 is the same guy who gave generously to charity ($4 million or so), but only deducted $2.25 million in order to GET A DOUBLE-DIGIT EFFECTIVE TAX RATE.

What the hell? Two years ago, $77,000 lousy dollars was important enough to itemize as a deduction against over $20 million in income: a 0.385% reduction in liability.

We have already seen Mitt completely change his story, his style, his history, and his message whenever it suited his election ambitions. Now we are seeing him tweak his tax numbers so his effective rate isn't embarrassingly low.

If he had been as determined to avoid taxes for his 2011 filing as his 2010 filing, his effective tax rate would have been under 10%. Once again, in playing to a particular audience (in this case, the ~70% of voters who think the Buffett Rule is a good step in the right direction), he just changes how he works.

And this is the guy whose plan is to reduce rates on the highest earners, increase rates on the middle earners, and probably close dozens of popular tax benefits in the process? And we are to believe that this will: reduce the deficit, reduce the debt, create an average of 250,000 jobs per month for his entire term in office, magically return us to 4% annual GDP growth, save Medicare, preserve Social Security, keep America safe, promote innovation, strengthen education, renew and improve infrastructure, solve our immigration problems, bring jobs back to America, establish energy independence, and develop the American economy of the future??????

No wonder this guy is short on specifics. No set of specifics anywhere by anyone could possibly translate to any randomly chosen 3 of the above-stated goals of the Romney campaign based on his "plan" as outlined thus far. His plan is to say and do whatever it takes to get elected. Full stop.

He'd better be one HELL of a debater.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Forcible Rape - Be Ye Not Fooled

If fundie fucktards can, through misinformation or legislation, convince or force enough people to believe that "legitimate" rape never results in pregnancy, then there is no need for an abortion exception for ANY rape at all.

Think about how scary that is. It's like stacking the deck in their misogynistic anti-abortion strategy, because this means that in any instance in which a pregnant girl or woman sought abortion services while claiming she had been raped, the entire process would continue to victimize her to the extent that we would have to assume that she was lying about having been raped.

See? Pregnancy would become the telltale sign that she was lying, in very much the same way that Pinocchio's nose grew when HE told a lie.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Romney Distractions

Hey Mitt! Give us your tax returns!

Wait, VP pick? What VP Pick?

You know, Mitt, your dad said releasing lots of tax returns was a good thing to do...

Oh hey, maybe he'll pick Pawlenty!

Reid says some other guy said Romney didn't pay any taxes for like a decade!

Reid's such a liar, put up or shut up, and I'll announce my Veep pick on this app so that only the people with the app will know my Veep pick for the first 3 seconds after I announce it.

There's a super-duper simple way to clear the air (and it DOES need clearing) on the whole tax thing, Mitt...

Pawlenty? Pawlenty who?

 -  - - - - - - - - -

Romney can do this for another few weeks, max. Just hang in there, and have confidence that the tax thing will not be allowed to die.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

A Favorite Paragraph

Rarely do you see such a neat and tidy explanation of a tautology at work:

Conservatives would have us believe that the customer is responsible for knowing if the bank is misleading them and that if they didn’t do their own research, that’s their problem. In the next breath they also tell us that corporations would never deliberately harm their customers because the “free” market would punish them. So we should trust the banks but if they lie to us it’s our own fault for believing them. It’s a perfect tautology for holding banks unaccountable for their actions.

H/T to addictinginfo :)

Sunday, July 15, 2012

I Can't Believe This State Isn't in Ruins

Here are some handy statistics about one of our 50 states. Without skipping ahead, see if you can guess which of the 50 it is:

Current unemployment rate: 6% (solidly below the national average of 8.2).

Current teen birth rate per 1,000 population: 17 (national average is 34).

Infant mortality rate (deaths per 1,000 live births): 5 (national average is almost 7).

Incarceration rate per 100,000 residents: 200 (TX is 640, AZ is 570, national average is 497).

Median income: $60,000 (national average is $50,000).

Marijuana possession is now a civil matter, unless obvious distribution is going on.

Representation over the last six years: mostly Democratic at both the state and federal level.

Care to guess?

- - - - - - -

Meet Massachusetts, a state which, since 2006, has had near-universal healthcare, by way of an insurance mandate, as well as same-sex marriage.

Interestingly, these two achievements were unique at the time of their passage, and were passed under the "severely conservative" Mitt Romney.

In spite of all the RWNJ Chicken Littles out there, during six years of near-universal healthcare and full marriage equality, Massachusetts hasn't slid into the Atlantic or been swallowed by a huge sinkhole. Nor has their job market been destroyed. Nor have we seen employers fleeing the state to escape the burdens imposed by Romneycare. The essential moral character of the state is quite intact. We aren't seeing unusual levels of crime, incest, rape, murder, etc.

Their healthcare system is working very well and hasn't stifled economic activity, though its per-capita cost is somewhat higher than the national average. Marriage equality for loving couples hasn't destabilized the whole state, and it doesn't seem to have destroyed the marriages of Massachusetts heterosexuals.

Chew on that, NOM/GOP/FOX/CPAC/AFA/etc.

Massachusetts: a great place to live since Romney left office there. I'm thinking there's a lesson in all this, and I hope it doesn't take a four-year failboat of a Romney presidency for us to learn said lesson. Mr. Severe Conservative has sworn to dump ACA, fight SSM, regressively tax, maintain marijuana laws, and do everything he can to protect the wealthy and Wall Street.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Job Creation: Misnomer?

We hear so much about who can create jobs better, if at all. But remember what a job actually is: it is fundamentally a response to demand.

Company X has 10 employees who help provide a service or a product. The service or product is better or more affordable, so their sales are increasing steadily. A time will come when a given level of personalized customer service (whatever that may be) begins to suffer because a growing group of people want Company X's service or product. The employees are stretched too thin, and Company X's image might begin to erode because the new customers aren't enjoying their buying experience as much. This is one time where Company X will consider bringing on more staff.

Sales could also increase enough that some additional administrative help is needed, maybe in the form of a full-time accountant, an HR person, whatever. Perhaps a successful salesperson is promoted to a management role, opening a slot for a new salesperson to replace them.

In all cases, hiring decisions are made in response to an immediate need or a perceived need. Seasonal employees may be brought on and trained a week or more before the actual rush begins. At the end of the rush, they are let go because the demand has returned to its normal off-season level.

Here are a few more examples, all of which have something critical in common:

A company who is forecasting a spike in sales after a large R&D project is completed... A firm who is preparing to open into new territories with a large marketing campaign... A company who is awarded a new service contract will prepare for it by bringing on the required personnel such that they can fulfill their obligations... A medical manufacturer has just received approval for their new device or drug will go on a hiring spree... A trade show logistics company will hire when their contracts for the next twelve months show that their 200 employees cannot reasonably complete 210 employees' worth of work.

But you know who won't hire a new employee? A company who doesn't have additional work, or perceived additional work, for them to do. What would be the point? Demand is the number one job creator, and it is demand which can only be artificially inflated by governments in times of economic distressing order to improve infrastructure, develop new sources or delivery mechanisms for energy, improve general quality of life for the citizenry, enhance educational opportunities, etc.

Keynes works because it is based in reality. Trickle down can piss off for the ineffective, cowardly looting that it really is.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Atheist for Vice President?

I was under the impression that one of the least likely sorts of people to be elected president were atheists. And I am quite certain that of the large percentage of Americans who hold this view, it is conservatives who would tend to be the loudest in their anti-atheist President viewpoint.

S.E. Cupp, the well-known conservative atheist, blogger, frequent Fox guest, and author, has over 120,000 followers on twitter. Earlier today, Ann Romney hinted that various women are being considered as running mates for Mitt Romney in the upcoming election.

[Stay with me; I tie this all together shortly.]

Apparently, S.E. Cupp has been receiving more than a few (possibly semi-serious) twitter write-ins for Romney's VP pick. We needn't belabor the fact that she is too young to serve in that capacity--that isn't my main issue here. This is my main issue: a tweet from her around 9pm EST, which read as follows:

“@secupp: Wow, appreciate all the write-ins for my veep appointment, but I'm not old enough. Or anything else enough.”

My main issue is that she's an atheist, her followers tend to be conservative, and I would assume that anyone writing her in for a VP nod would be conservative as well. Are they just sycophants?

Do they really believe she'd make a good VP? Have they forgotten her atheism? Are these merely open-minded, outlying conservative types who want to see someone young and energetic as a contrast to the rather staid Romney?

I have to lean toward the more sycophantic, joking types here. I don't say this to insult her intelligence or as a personal attack on her (again, age notwithstanding)*. I say this because it would indeed be a tremendous indication of progress if we were to see a decent percentage of Americans seriously consider electing an atheist to high office.

Somehow, nice as they might be, I don't see the write-in tweets to Ms. Cupp as being part of such a leap forward in our society.

On the other hand, given Romney's rather hamfisted campaign to date, his lack of specifics on almost anything remotely thorny within his own party, and of course his refusal to run on his major public sector accomplishment while also dodging real conversation on his major private sector accomplishments, perhaps some voters are looking for anything--even an atheist--to energize the base.

*I am on record as being of the opinion that her atheism isn't genuine, having read much of her writings and listened to a significant number of her interviews and appearances over the years. I am willing to be convinced otherwise, but knowing and having associated with hundreds of atheists over the years, she is (to me) uniquely and suspiciously outside even the widely varied norms I have observed.

She spends an enormous amount of time, for example, defending the Christian right, almost totally ignoring its libertarian & liberal sides. She is perfectly willing to tolerate, and even assist in, the erosion of separation of church and state at all levels. She occasionally appears as a sort of generic talking head on programs that don't specifically mention her atheism, but many of her appearances and interviews, and definitely her book, make it clear that she is on those shows because she is an atheist; it informs the reason for her appearance in the first place ("and now, an atheist's viewpoint").

In every case, her presentation of atheism is flawed, illogical, and suspiciously cuddly with right-wing religious ideologies.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Hey, NOM, Send That Letter to Chick-fil-a, Too

Always a neutral organization which wants to keep corporations from forcing their views on their employees and customers whose positions on same-sex marriage vary, NOM sent a letter to corporations in Minnesota requesting just that:

As a cultural matter that has little to do with your corporate mission to serve customers, earn profits, and provide good jobs for the people of Minnesota we would request that _____ adopt a neutral stance on the Minnesota marriage amendment. We do not request that you endorse our efforts to protect the age-old definition of what is a marriage, but only that you stay neutral and respect the conscience rights of your customers and employees who are on both sides of the issue. [...]Wading into a culture war over an issue where _____ has no business interest is to invite public backlash, much like what Starbucks is experiencing in the campaign, with little upside.

No kiddin'. How about you send that letter to Chick-fil-a, a company that has already spent millions of dollars intruding on the same-sex marriage debate, including funding NOM? Tell those corporate tyrants to stop forcing their employees and customers to support a position with which they might disagree.

Yeah, right. As ZJ on freethoughtblogs pointed out, NOM is only selectively neutral, citing their statement on a partnership with Jitters & Bliss Coffee:

This week we are proud to roll out Jitters and Bliss Coffee as a provider of excellent coffee that can be brewed with a clean conscience any time you want at home, at the office or at your church. [...]During the month of July Jitters and Bliss is offering a 5% discount to every customer who enters the promotional code “marriage”. A small portion of each purchase made also goes to support the National Organization for Marriage as we work to educate people and corporations on the importance of marriage to our society.

You gotta wonder if the NOM people just ignore notions of honesty and integrity, or if they just don't care.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Mississippi Abortion Ruling

Judge Daniel Jordan today ruled that Mississippi's new law, which effectively shuts down the state's sole remaining abortion provider, must be put on hold. Citing a lack of medical or patient safety reasons for passage, as well as multiple examples of government officials explicitly stating that the purpose of the law was to eliminate abortion services in Mississippi, Judge Jordan has stayed the law pending a hearing on the merits.

Romney and Lying

Always nice to hear a presidential candidate (still presumptive at this point) repeatedly and intentionally lie to secure votes:

Obama has racked up more debt than all previous presidents combined? False.

Obama wants to end Medicare as we know it? Nope - that's a main ingredient in the Ryan budget.

Obama's healthcare overhaul will balloon the deficit? False.

The list goes on, the fact checkers do their work, and still this man lies all the time. I'm wondering if it has become such a habit for Romney that he no longer notices. It's quite obvious he doesn't care.

Saturday, June 30, 2012


Just a quick message to those thinkers who appreciate both humor and phonetic spelling: follow @tylonol for many laughs a minute. Cuz thats wut da kool kids r dooing.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

How Stupid Do You Have To Be...

As a way of protesting the ACA decision by SCOTUS, several right-wing bloggers have suggested moving to Canada to avoid the ACA's "socialist" tyranny.

Moving... to Canada... to avoid socialized medicine. Facepalm.


Quarter million on scotusblog... Pundits aplenty wait with fingers ready to upload one of several prewritten commentaries... I love the smell of SCOTUS in the morning.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

SCOTUS Disappointment

So... Unions can't mobilize to participate in election campaigns without a burdensome process in which they have to get a majority of their members to agree... But corporations can spend unlimited amounts of money with no agreement from either their employees or shareholders. It's a good, straightforward and equitable plan which can't possibly go wrong.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Dear Neighbors

If something we are doing is upsetting you, perhaps it would be well for you to speak to us directly, rather than muttering in a stage whisper and then slamming the door every time you see us. Just saying that since we're adults, you might consider communicating in a higher-than-third-grade-mentality style. That is all.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Boobs and Cleavage

Haha. Ran across a tumblr which is nothing but candid (SFW mostly) pics of cleavage and boobs. Highly intellectual stuff, but I'm just wondering why google image search wouldn't be more efficient? Meh. Random thought for the evening.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Oh GOProud... Sigh.

Yippee. GOProud has endorsed Romney. I'm curious how many of their members will follow suit. Seriously, they didn't even specify whether it was the pro-marriage equality Romney of the 90's, or today's panderer-in-chief. You deserve every bit of sidelining you'll get if that unprincipled flip-flopper is elected.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The "Will of the People"

So many politicians are always saying things like, "The American people" want this, or "The American people" know what they want... Well, why are these same politicians so often dragging their feet, if not obstructing, legislative efforts that actually ARE demonstrably popular? The Buffett Rule is a great example: something in the range of 65-70% of people polled said they favor it. An even higher percentage say they're in favor of more progressive taxes in general. So what do "the American people" want, really, in the eyes of politicians? Apparently, "their" wants happen to correlate perfectly with most corporate and elite interests. Funny, that.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Virginia Takes a Small Bit of High Ground

Tracy Thorne-Begland will become a judge after all! Or will he... Remember him? He's the guy whose previous nomination was blocked by Delegate Robert Marshall, who bestowed upon the Virginia Assembly the following cogent arguments against Thorne-Begland: Concern about his sexual orientation affecting his ability to be impartial, Marshall said that if Thorne-Begland were confirmed, he might one day preside over a case involving "a bar room fight between a homosexual and heterosexual," and that Marshall would be "concerned about possible bias." This is a powerful argument. I can't think of a single time a heterosexual judge has ever been biased. Only gay judges are biased. How about this winner from Marshall - I quote here from Politico's article of last month:
In his interview with CNN Thursday, Marshall doubled down on his previous remarks, as he accused Thorne-Begland of having displayed a “pattern of behavior” that disqualified him to be a judge. “I’ve been there 21 years. We’ve never appointed an activist of any kind along these lines, much less somebody who has a long history of this,” the legislator said. Pressed by CNN’s Brooke Baldwin on how he couldn’t give a gay man a chance to be a judge in an age when black people are not forced to sit in the back of the bus and women can vote, Marshall shot back, “Sodomy is not a civil right.” “Dr. Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks never took an oath of office they broke,” he said. “Sodomy is not a civil right, and there’s an effort by homosexual lobbyists to equate the two. That’s wrong. It is a pattern of behavior.” He added, “When I was in public school … we all said, ‘Keep us from temptation.’ This was because we said the Lord’s Prayer. Nobody, nobody — should go where they’ll be tempted. That includes me, that includes you, that includes you, that includes a prospective judge.” Asked whether there will ever be a gay judge in Virginia, Marshall responded, “We probably have appointed homosexuals in the past,” but clarified that he hasn’t had to “face” a openly gay judge in his state in 21 years.
Isn't that nice. Since Thorne-Begland is gay, and since gay men engage in sodomy, and since sodomy isn't a right, and since past and present sodomy indicates a troubling pattern of behavior, and since troubling patterns of behavior might express themselves in some unspecified way or other - oh wait! The "homosexual activism" - and since being on the bench would obviously provide numerous opportunities for Thorne-Begland to further his nefarious agenda, and since NONE of this applies to ANY other subgroup that engages in sodomy (experimental/adventurous heterosexual couples, for example), Thorne-Begland's nomination had to be blocked. Well, I'm convinced.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

GOP Economic Sabotage

There's a lot of talk going around these days, to the effect that Republicans are intentionally blocking efforts to help the American economy primarily through obstructionist tactics. No specific timeline is mentioned, but in general it seems most agree that the main turning point was sometime during or immediately after last year's debt ceiling negotiations.

Recall how close to default such a small number of House Republicans brought us. Recall how challenging it was to get even the smallest concession. Recall the bitterness and infighting that was going on. The deal ultimately reached was, by design, doomed to fail: everyone knew that committee would get nowhere, accomplishing nothing, and everyone also knew that any and all compromises were shams to be voted down next time a deadline came up.

We can already see both sides prepping their talking points for the lame-duck session.Remember the rhetoric of the GOP presidential campaigns - the oft-repeated mantra that the most important thing to those candidates was to make Barack Obama a one-term president. Sure sure, that is achieved by winning the presidential election... I get that. But note the focus so many of them had on that one sentiment, expressed that one way, like it was a talking point. To be sure, it is a good talking point: quick to say, has a nice rhythm to it, easy to chant, fits on a bumper sticker, etc.

What I am getting at is the fundamental notion that the GOP is very capable of finding a strong majority, within itself, to rally around. The communication from the top always strikes me as somewhat better organized than that of the Democrats, although there're notable exceptions (women's reproductive rights issues). Republicans have long been better at playing to emotions rather than reason, and this in turn has influenced not just their supporters, but also those that have been elected to office in more recent years. There is definitely a feedback loop here.

It wasn't all that long ago that you had true Republican moderates in Congress. Some are still there (Lindsay Graham is an example on certain issues). But the incoming freshmen of the last 3 or 4 elections, 2010 in particular, have tended to be the most intractable bunch of ideologues we've seen on Capitol Hill in a long time. It used to be that a given Representative or Senator was an ideologue about a specific issue: Inhofe with his environmental and climate bullshit; Sanders with his socialism, Pitts with his war on women. But at the end of the day, these men were still able to see the bigger picture on many other issues, and have rather gray voting records when you look closely: except (maybe) on their particular pet issues, they are bipartisan legislators who try to get important work done for their constituents. They don't block for the sake of blocking, and they are willing to make the occasional deal.

But with the 2010 GOP freshmen, especially in the House, we have seen hostage-taking become endemic. By hostage-taking, I mean the idea of publicly holding people's lives or livelihoods at stake in order to get some concession from the opposition. I mean Eric Cantor holding up his own district's post-earthquake emergency funding because he wanted to see offsets to that spending, while he joked that his constituents should have had earthquake insurance (in central Virginia, mind you). I mean the GOP spending roughly 40% of its legislative efforts over the last year on reproductive rights issues (really??) rather than even bothering to try to work on jobs in a meaningful way. I mean debt-ceiling negotiations in which the credit rating of the United States, which affects all borrowing costs, was itself held hostage. I mean repeatedly passing budgets that do NOT balance; do NOT drop the deficit; do NOT lower taxes, except for the wealthy; do NOT rein in spending, unless that spending is on the military or on corporations; do NOT provide assistance to financially devastated American workers; do NOT show compassion in caring for the most vulnerable among us, the children of the poor... That list could go on for some time.

This newest class is coming up to their first reelection cycle. Some are in trouble back home, and some aren't. But it is undeniable that they have helped change the style of dialogue in Washington permanently. However, it isn't fair to pile all this intractability on just the newbies, but I think it is appropriate to pile much of it on John Boehner for his inability to keep the loudmouths in line. Of course, that is assuming that Boehner actually is the moderate, unifying compromiser he occasionally tries to act like.

So, to summarize my ramblings here, I do think that obstructionism has been a key part of GOP strategy, especially for the last year or so. However, I think it best to clarify exactly what I mean by obstructionism: I don't intend to imply that it is just one thing an opposition party will do, nor do I mean to imply that it is merely an expression of minor rebellion against an Administration that refuses to reach across the aisle.

When I say obstructionism, I mean obstructionism for its own sake, purely as a delaying/smearing/hostage-taking tactic.I'll go even further than that, because this is what I see as an intrinsically moral evil: the GOP is intentionally blocking Obama's proposals not just because they are Obama's; not just because it's an election year; not just because they want him to be a one-term president; not just because they want him to look ineffective; not just because they don't see the spending offsets they'd like; not just because their latent petulance over not getting their way requires them to; not just because those are evidently the marching orders from the GOP heirarchy; not just because it has become simple habit...

The primary reason they are obstructionists is that THE GOP KNOWS THAT HIS POLICIES TEND TO WORK, AND TEND TO IMPROVE ECONOMIC CONDITIONS ACROSS THE INCOME SPECTRUM.In other words, the GOP is intentionally blocking Obama's initiatives not because they are bad for the economy, but because they are good for the economy.

This is a vital distinction and a critical rhetorical disconnect of Orwellian proportions: they are arguing against something that is known to work, for the sake of getting into power, so that they can enact policies that are known to fail, AND which hurt the most vulnerable in our society while propping up the least vulnerable.

What moral code is at work here? Have I discovered Rovianism?

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Wisconsin Recall Musings

So Scott Walker wasn't recalled this week. Depressing for the left, but how much of a victory, and what KIND of victory, was it for the right?

Was it the money? The Walker side outspent the Barrett side by roughly 7 to 1. That is a stacked deck, to be sure. If we had a MMA match between Bruce Lee and 7 guys armed with swords, sure Lee could probably disable a couple of them, but eventually the numbers would prevail. Clumsy analogy there, but hopefully the point is made. It can't have been just about the money, to the extent that the results were far closer than such a financial disparity would suggest.

Keep in mind that Obama outspent McCain by ~4 to 1 in 2008; his margin of victory in the popular vote wasn't substantially different than Tuesday's outcome in Wisconsin.

Was it a referendum on Obama? Hardly plausible as the sole explanation - based on what I'm seeing from exit polling and other data, voters prefer Obama over Romney by a healthy ~10point margin. Obviously some of those pro-Obama folks pulled the red lever.

Was it a referendum on public unions? Seems more likely, since that was the primary reason for the recall in the first place. I can't imagine it was the only thing on voters' minds Tuesday evening, though, simply because of all the issues that have arisen since the recall process was started (Koch call, John Doe, jobs numbers, other data). A voter would have to be pretty myopic to pull a lever JUST on the union issue, although in fairness each voter only gets one pull regardless of how complex their thinking.

Was it philosophical? Meaning, was this a case of voters intrinsically reacting to the fact that this was a recall election, and seeing no really serious evil, declining to go to that extraordinary length to get rid of Walker? I think this is definitely in the mix. Remember that it was Walker vs. Barrett in 2010, and Walker only won by around 5 points. So if we think of Tuesday's vote as a re-test, the control was having exactly the same people on the ballot, and the results were only slightly different (8 point Walker victory, as opposed to the 5 point margin in 2010).

Was it much higher turnout on the Republican side? The numbers suggest that turnout overall was higher on both sides, so that's a challenging metric on which to blame the results: if, on average, 58 of 100 Wisconsin voters (for whatever reason or reasons) felt that the recall wasn't appropriate, then the results would have been the same even if every eligible voter had actually voted, right?

On the philosophical question, I would like to think that a voting population which harbors a general distaste for recall elections would also harbor a general distaste for a Governor who blatantly kisses David Koch's ass, is under active investigation, intentionally uses misleading jobs data, and is on record as liking to use "divide and conquer" tactics.

Moving on, the Democrats picked up one Senate seat, which to me is significant, and it makes the outcome a bit trickier to analyze. Was there something specific about the Republican who lost? That would imply a somewhat more informed voter, in that such specifics aren't being covered in the general media (who has the time?).

So what are we to think of the outcome? For me, I see it as a combination of factors, with the philosophical, financial, and union issues leading the pack in terms of influence.

What do you think?

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Obamacare is... OK. Ish.

A fair number of Republican voices have been quietly (and not-so-quietly) backing certain provisions of the ACA. During the campaign, the slogan was "I will repeal Obamacare on my first day in office."

As though that was possible for a president to do on his or her own.

Now, we are hearing various people, such as Reps. Roe and Price, out in support of certain specific provisions. What I'd like to know is how they propose to have a "replacement" for Obamacare ready within several weeks in the event it is overturned by SCOTUS. That legislation took months and months of bipartisan bickering, stakeholder meetings and alliances, and various promises to develop the first time.

I can only think that this "replacement" will be either a shell game, a test vote, or both. Also, don't forget it would have to pass the Senate as well. Lots of luck there.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

In God's Image?

Deep thought for the evening: If we are indeed made in god's image, does that mean god is circumcised, or not? Think about it, and discuss. I'll be eating buttered popcorn in the meantime. Big smile :)

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

~23 Years of Tax Returns

Dear Mitt, My previous letters and appeals have gone unanswered.

Just in case they have all been accidentally lost, here again is my question: If it was appropriate for you to give over twenty years' worth of tax records to the McCain presidential campaign when they were vetting you for the VP spot, why isn't it appropriate for you to give those same records to the American people, as we are vetting you for the Presidency?

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Romney's "Plan" - Debt

How on earth does Mitt Romney plan to abide by the balanced-budget amendment he claims to support?

Well, by cutting spending, of course! Because it's actually possible to pull off a balanced budget in the United States purely by cutting spending, without causing economic chaos, right? Infrastructure will just fund itself, you know, if at least a plurality of Americans clap their hands a la reviving Tinkerbell.

No, that's not good enough. Obviously, he would have to implement strategies that cut spending, making up the difference by closing unspecified loopholes in our confusing and often-exploited tax code, right? So it's like a balanced approach: trim some fat here, bulk up the revenues on the other side by closing loopholes that individuals and corporations are currently taking advantage of. Like offshore accounts, or revoking one's citizenship.

But wait, there's more:

Romney would keep the Bush-era tax cuts, AND then proceed to cut all marginal income tax rates by 20 percent. Good, sound, balanced budgeting there!

But wait, there's more: Romney would also lower the corporate tax rate and says he wants to eliminate estate taxes.

All this in spite of history, which says that in times of economic stress, taxes should be made more progressive (that means raise them primarily on the wealthy) and demand should be inflated artificially through, yes, debt-financed stimulus.

Although it seems to be impossible to effect a stimulus without making mistakes and/or investing in some programs which fail, the point is to do the best you can to lay a firm foundation for recovery by investing in projects that citizens take for granted in the good times: infrastructure improvements, education, R&D, etc. The Nation's need for various government functions will NOT cease simply because you fire 10% of public sector employees. What happens is that those needs will be filled with far more expensive private contractors.

Thus, stimulus tends to be more effective when a fair portion of it is devoted to wisely expanding public sector job growth (see, for example, the Reagan years). When the recovery begins to pick up steam, you can roll back the stimulative efforts as tax receipts grow, and then begin the process of taking care of the debt issue (see, for example, the Clinton years). In short, strict austerity never works (see much of Europe as well as Wisconsin), mild austerity frequently hurts (see Texas), and we must continue to look to history for its overwhelming refutation of the notion that lower taxes increase job creation.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

It Takes Two to Tango

It seems that most conservatives, especially the ones who are extremely socially conservative and/or religious, have forgotten that promiscuity, in and of itself, requires at least two actors. Like the capitalism they fall over themselves to promote blindly. Time and time again, we see people like Bryan Fischer and Peter LaBarbera blaming only one side of the promiscuous equation: the women. Not once have I heard them attack promiscuous men, unless those men are gay. Nonsensical links to studies showing that make homosexual behavior is higher-risk than heterosexual behavior are just one of their tools. It once again demonstrates a clearly biblical bias in their thinking: the bible is well-known for espousing a general distaste for lady parts, an almost pathological need to control every aspect of a woman's life. Yet, the bible also clearly states that fornication is a sin, regardless of the participants' gender. In the other hand, it is the husband who is punished much more lightly in cases of adultery than the woman. If a wif strays, she is stoned to death; if a husband strays, it is actually possible to blame the woman. And the man with whom she strays isn't punished, or if he is, he is punished lightly (certainly more lightly than automatic social homicide). A little balance - that would be nice. But my expectations of balance are obviously way too high.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Mitt Romney's Tax Returns

Still asking: if Mr. Romney felt it was appropriate to release -20 years of his personal tax returns to the McCain campaign, why isn't it appropriate to release them to the American people?

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Credit for OBL Death

Amazing to me that this is being spun. By either side. Look: somehow or other, we got solid intel that led us to discover Osama bin Laden's location. We investigated further, confirmed a few things, maybe watched the compound to learn the daily routine, etc. Undoubtedly it was scanned and analyzed by any number of most-likely classified technologies. In addition, the Navy SEAL team practiced that mission for weeks beforehand to iron out any kinks in timing, logistics, and planning. Then Obama, through the appropriate chain of command, gave the order (or at least a green light) to proceed with the mission. His underlings issued the appropriate orders to make it happen. So, it happened. This extreme oversimplification of a world-class, complex operation has been brought to you by the letter P: Please stop trying to spin obvious shit. Bush might have, or could have, but didn't. Clinton - same deal. Carter - doesn't belong in this conversation. Romney - like all candidates running for president, should be aware of how easy it is to say "I would have done x in heartbeat." Maybe, maybe not. Obama can take credit for a gutsy decision that wound up working out extremely well, given all the possible failure scenarios. The pictures would be nice, but no one has been bitching about them since July of last year, so stop bitching about them now. Can we please start talking about things that are really substantive to the upcoming election, like sunset provisions, taxes, the documented destructive shortsighted amoral stupidity that is supply-side economics? Pretty please? The letter P is asking nicely.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Romney's First Week: Not Going So Well

With Rick Santorum's decision to drop out of the presidential campaign, Mitt Romney is now free to continue doing what he's been doing for at least a few months: essentially ignoring his opponents, saying things that don't make sense, and misusing data to make the case that he knows what's best for America.

The first thing the Romney campaign did was to recognize that his numbers among women voters are terrible relative to Obama's. He recognized this by doing two things: cherry picking jobs data to "show" that job losses under the Obama recovery have been heavily skewed against women (that 92.3% figure), and giving a wishy-washy endorsement of the Lily Ledbetter Act (that legislation which gives additional power to women to sue on the basis of pay discrimination).

In a clear violation of the 11th Commandment, The Daily Caller debunked the 92.3% nonsense by actually talking to someone from BLS and confirming that the figure isn't just unfair (c'mon... blaming Obama for the job losses in January 2009??), but also misleading (both in terms of participation rates as well as the actual data itself), and stupid (many of the jobs lost by women resulted from government firings perpetrated by GOP governors).

The second thing was some apparent confusion over whether it would be prudent to endorse the Lily Ledbetter Act. After a "we'll get back to you on that" response, Romney campaign spokesperson Andrea Saul said that Romney "supports pay equity and is not looking to change current law.". Yawn.

That first week of trying to turn the tables on Obama and make it seem like the President has been waging a war on women isn't going so well.

But, who knows? The week ain't over yet.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Paul Ryan's Strange "Plan"

OK, we've all heard about the evils of loopholes in the tax code.  Most of us figure those are most often used to the greatest benefit by those who are wealthiest.  Tax shelters, special trusts, special deductions/exceptions, etc., are vehicles traditionally enjoyed by higher-income earners.  Certainly you need a fair bit of dough at the start: the financial professionals & specialists who are fluent in these loopholes don't manage money or give advice for free.

This isn't to say that low-income folks can't utilize loopholes, and several come to mind, but it would seem that Ryan is targeting the larger aggregate number in his budget.

At least, that's the way Paul Ryan described it in several interviews in the last few days.  Try, as I did, to follow this reasoning:

Speaking on CBS Face the Nation, Ryan explained, “We’re proposing to keep revenues where they are, but to clear up all the special interest loopholes, which are uniquely enjoyed by higher income earners, in exchange for lower rates for everyone... We’re saying get rid of the tax shelters, the interest group loopholes and lower everybody’s tax rates.”

Ummm, let me get this straight.  This budget is allegedly revenue neutral, presumably in terms of revenue as a percentage of GDP, as opposed to a grossly irresponsible actual-dollar number.

Also, the idea is to lower the tax rates on everyone.

Also--this is very interesting--Ryan seems to be indicating that he has set his sights on loophole-related benefits specifically enjoyed by "higher income earners."

So a revenue-neutral, multiple-year budget proposes to drop personal and corporate tax rates by ~30% in many cases and accomplish this by offsetting the loss of revenue simply by closing loopholes that are primarily enjoyed by high-income earners?

When pressed for details, Ryan passes the buck to Ways & Means.  Sigh.

The only way this would make sense at all is if the spending side of the balance sheet changed drastically.  Remember, even if Congress undid all the Bush tax cuts on the top income-earners, the extra revenue would only be something in the $200billion range annually.  Ryan's budget eventually balances, roughly in 2040 or something, so I guess that's fine.

Anyway, my point here is to point out this disconnect.  We've seen more coherent arguments from Mr. Ryan in the past, regardless of whether you agree with his strategies.  We've seen more solid numbers.  Is he really jumping in front of Ways & Means on this, or is this obfuscation intentional?  Are we waiting to see how the plan will get attacked before they defend it with specifics?

I suppose time will tell.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Live Free or Die

Sweet! The New Hampshire legislature upheld same sex marriage by a hefty margin.

A memorable photo of NOM's Brian Brown crying after the vote is below, for your enjoyment, but I wanted to being up two particular pieces of Brown's BS (har har) about this particular vote.

On Monday, Brian Brown appeared on Thomas Roberts' MSNBC show, and said the following:

"The people of New Hampshire did not want same sex marriage. Again, this was bought and paid for by a lot of [out-of-state special interest] money, and the fact is that many of those legislators who voted for [same sex marriage two years ago] are now out of office. The people voted in the ballot box and had a historic change there where the Republicans took over. 119 legislators were booted out, and they were booted out because they took it upon themselves to redefine marriage. This bill will allow the people to have a vote through a referendum and will right this great wrong that was put on New Hampshire, not coming from the people, but again coming from out of state interest groups who tried to buy and pay for same sex marriage in New Hampshire."

I could use this moment to point out the irony that NOM is an "out of state interest" which pours money into all sorts of campaigns in order to influence individual elections, state referenda, legislation, and so forth. If it is OK for one special interest group to do their thing, it is OK for their opposition, too.

However, what I find really telling is the second half of NOM's press release, issued a few hours after the vote:

"The only time gay marriage activists are able to win is when they can bypass the people and get activist judges or legislators to do their bidding, usually after plying them with large campaign contributions.

This is a sad day for New Hampshire families who in 2010 had elected what they thought was a solid pro-marriage majority. They were once again let down by politicians who promised them one thing and then left them at the altar when the vote was on the line. These legislators will be held accountable."

Take a moment to enjoy the abject silliness of calling a legislator an activist [**face palm**]... OK, all set?

So, which is it, Brian? Was it the Democratic majority a few years back that accepted "large campaign contributions" from out of state interests? Or was it the current Republican majority being "plied" with same?

Let us walk through several permutations here... Watch closely, now:

1. Brian is wrong on both counts, or is misinformed, or is lying: in both instances, legislators voted as they felt their constituents wanted, and same sex marriage just wasn't all that important an issue to them, "out of state interest money" or not. His interpretation of the 119 seats changing hands in the most recent NH elections actually had very little to do with same sex marriage.

2. Brian is correct about the Democrats but not the Republicans: the Dems voted in favor of it two years ago because they were "bought and paid for"; the Republicans voted for it this week because... Well, for some reason not tied to money, right? In Brian's world, Republicans are on his side, by and large, so this must be a real shock to him. More importantly, it is always easier (and more preferable) to accuse your opponents of being for sale in office.

3. Brian is correct about the Republicans but not the Democrats: the Dems voted for same sex marriage a couple years back because that is what Democrats do; the Republicans voted for it this week because... Well, for some reason not tied to money, right? See #2.

4. Can he possibly be correct about both [insert a "having it both ways" joke here]? Is it possible that the money interests won both votes, one from a Democratic majority, the other from a 70%+ Republican majority? If so, some clever bugger has finally figured out the magic formula that would compel any legislature, regardless of party makeup, to enact same sex marriage legislation. Highly unlikely.

The common element here is the constituency. If marriage truly were the issue, this vote would at least have been much closer than 211-116. Remember, he claimed a causal relationship between the marriage issue and the election in which a third of the NH legislature seats switched due to voters "booting" out the same sex marriage supporters. Since the results were essentially the same, Brian is therefore wrong about same sex marriage being a major issue for NH voters. They just don't seem to care about it.

Keep in mind that he made two claims: he tied the previous election results to the issue of same sex marriage, AND implied that "out of state interest money" was the main driver two years ago. So... what does that mean for all those Republicans who voted to uphold same sex marriage this week? Are they ALSO "activist" legislators taking "out of state interest money" while being "plied" with large campaign contributions after taking a seat from a Democratic predecessor who had been "booted out" because they, too, did exactly the same things two years ago in voting for same sex marriage equality?

We are seeing what will hopefully be a string of rebukes of Brian Brown, NOM, and all their cohorts. Their problem is that they have won so frequently (at least with the popular referenda) that they aren't prepared to cushion their talking points in case they lose. Sure sure, judicial "activism" still has some tread on the tires, and of course you can always hypocritically blame "out of state interests" for exerting inappropriate influence.

The real challenge is ensuring that you aren't also using those same insulting, hypocritical, dumbass labels for your own friends, especially not the friends you helped get elected before.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Job Creators: Apparently Don't Need All Those Tax Breaks

With several months of solid jobs gains, and an unemployment rate that is holding steady, if not falling, it is beginning to seem obvious that companies and job creators will hire when the demand is there for their products. This in spite of all the GOP rhetoric in the last few years that the ONLY way to encourage job creation was further tax breaks for the top income earners and for corporations.

We are seeing, again, a refutation of Chicago-school supply-side economics. Now, I'm sure that our friends on the right will claim that the current economic turnaround is actually a vindication of the prudence of extending the Bush-era tax cuts, and that the stimulus was actually just a huge waste of money that has had little to no positive effect on the American economy.

Tell that to auto workers, infrastructure workers, and all the folks in those supply chains whose jobs were saved or created in large part by the stimulus.

The do-nothing Republican House has finally seem to come to the conclusion that stubbornness and entrenchment will not help them claim any credit. For anything. Indeed, if one intentionally does nothing, instead pandering to a failed philosophy that would ultimately result in no minimum wage, no social safety net, even more income inequality, and of course fewer rights for women, minorities, union workers and the LGBT community as a whole, one has nothing to take credit FOR.

May Keynesianism forever be the foundation of modern economic thought. That, and a judicious sprinkling of socialism :)

Monday, March 12, 2012

If It's Not One Thing, It's Another

Hmmm, the economy is recovering relatively well.

A year ago--and before then--it was a complete disaster - it was alleged that Obama was intentionally destroying it.  Private-sector jobs were being added at an "anemic" rate, and indeed the numbers seemed tenuous and fragile.

When those numbers started looking better and better, the talking points changed.  Obama was mysteriously no longer intentionally trying to ruin the economy... but the recovery was just "not fast enough" and would have been much faster if the GOP had had its way. That talking point has an expiration date, too, since most of the metrics are looking pretty good, and appear to be accelerating.  We've heard the BS about the "actual" unemployment rate, we've heard the BS about Obama's alleged promise that the unemployment would never be above such-and-such a level, we've heard the BS attacks on the BLS charts, and all the rest.

Since the economy is no longer a viable talking point, the GOP is looking for any other possible things to kvetch about.  How about gas prices?  They are once again going up alarmingly fast, just as they did a few years ago.  Fueled by speculation and global uncertainty, they are topping $4.00 per gallon in much of the country now.  I find it interesting that the GOP folks are focusing on Obama being at fault, when a fair bit of the price of a gallon of gas is actually the result of taxes, not oil prices.  In many areas, as much as 20-25% of what we pay at the pump goes to localities, counties, cities, states, and the feds to fund transportation and other projects.  Am I the only one that doesn't see the irony in the GOP's lack of anti-tax rhetoric here?

For a party that used to spend most of its time talking about lowering taxes across the board, it seems a bit strange that they would spend 100% of their time complaining that there isn't enough drilling going on, when oil prices aren't the only driver of gas prices: something politicians actually CAN change (as opposed to the world oil market) is the taxation per gallon.

Keeping in mind that in we can really only influence one of them, why don't Republicans try to tackle both sides of the equation? 

Sunday, March 11, 2012

November in Blue

Here's hoping the elections of 2012 will serve as a massive repudiation of the GOP's ineptitude and encouragement of do-nothing partisanship; religious tyranny; support for candidates and policies that promote inequality and division; efforts to disenfranchise citizens; marginalization of minorities, both racial and social; the list goes on...

Here's to a blue map in November. Rawr.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Please, Super Tuesday, Don't Depress Me

The long and short of it is as follows:

If Romney comes out as a clear winner, then the others will stick it out until the bitter end, with Ron Paul angling for a VP spot (highly unlikely, as far as I can tell).

If Santorum comes out (har har) as a clear winner, then the same applies.

My preference would be to see a massive win for Romney. The fact that he is the most "electable" does not, to me, guarantee that he will be elected; rather, it means that he has the best shot of a group of candidates who will lose to Obama, absent some major disaster that unsettles his presidency during the next 8 months.

The reason I don't want to see Santorum win is simple: I would really like it if my fellow Americans united as a group to make a clear statement that such a candidate belongs on the fringes, that such a candidate should never be able to muster more than a single-digit level of support, that in fact we don't have over 1/3 of voters backing a guy who wants to march women's issues back decades.

Can you imagine Santorum the president meeting with European leaders? What must they think of him? Is that highly important to me? Well, maybe not highly important, but let us remember that the president is our representative to the world. I'd hate to think that international diplomacy would be defined as the conversations that occur between bouts of snickering.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Of All the Flip-Flops

I say cut Romney some slack on the Blunt Amendment thing... It was a garbled, quickly-spoken question to a guy that does interviews as often as the rest of us blink. Sure, Mitt could have asked Heath to clarify the question, just to make sure that it was clear, but he didn't.

But not so much on the other bit about presidential candidates staying out of married people's bedroom decisions. Actually, I meant husband and wife. Actually actually, I meant a married man and woman's contraceptive decisions.

What I really mean is that everyone seems to be glossing over the fact that Romney worked his answer into a sorta kinda "pro 'traditional' marriage" thing. That's the bigger issue here.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Mitt Romney: Un-American?

To hear the right-wing describe "average Americans," one is amazed that they would support Romney at all. This is regardless of his stances on various issues... Or, one might more accurately say, his various stances on the same issue.

Multiple Cadillacs. Multiple homes. Hobnobbing with billionaires he can truthfully refer to as friends. Independent wealth. An effective tax rate almost equal to the capital gains rate. A willingness to portray himself as something he is not. Offshore investments. The list goes on...

To say that Romney is part of the 1% is an understatement. He's so far away from the "traditional" definition of American (yes, the tie-in with "traditional marriage" is intentional) that it is a wonder that people think of him as American beyond his citizenship and residency.

This isn't a question of despising him for his financial successes, it's not about envy, it's not about wanting to tax him into poverty. This is about being able to relate to the average person on the street. He can't, because he isn't. Not any longer. All that stopped for him a long, long time ago.

Electable? Maybe in a different year against a different opponent.

Relatable? Not a chance in several hundred million.

Remember, he's been campaigning continuously for 5 years. In 2008, he put tens of millions of his own money into his campaign. Then we had a huge market crash. Anyone in a traditional investment vehicle saw losses between 25% and 50%. And still he reported relatively astronomical (primarily passive) investment income in 2010 and 2011.

The guy hasn't been a "traditional" American for well over 20 years.

You can tell by listening to him talk.

Just sayin'.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Church and State - Quick Notes

People of faith or no faith at all: welcome to be politicians.

People of faith or no faith at all: welcome to be judges.

People of faith or no faith at all: welcome to be law enforcement professionals (elected or otherwise).

People of faith or no faith at all: welcome to be staff members, assistants.

People of faith or no faith at all: welcome to be political advisors.

People of faith or no faith at all: welcome to be activists.

In short, anyone, regardless of faith position, welcome to serve the country in any capacity.

- - - - - - - - - -

People of faith: not welcome to force your beliefs on others, in any way, nor to discriminate against anyone because of their faith or lack thereof.

People of no faith at all: not welcome to restrict the free exercise of religion, nor to discriminate against anyone because of their faith or lack thereof.

In short, the Golden Rule applies, as always.


Oh yeah... Religious institutions: not welcome to influence elections or legislation unless you go ahead and pay taxes. We don't like subsidizing organizations that are dogmatically obliged to discriminate against anyone, let alone people that don't recognize your absurd beliefs.

OK... Understood?

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Rick Santorum on JFK's speech about separation of church and state:

“To say that people of faith have no role in the public square? You bet that makes you throw up. What kind of country do we live that says only people of non-faith can come into the public square and make their case? That makes me throw up.”

A portion of the speech in question:

“I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute, where no Catholic prelate would tell the president (should he be Catholic) how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote; where no church or church school is granted any public funds or political preference; and where no man is denied public office merely because his religion differs from the president who might appoint him or the people who might elect him."

Hey Rick, it's not a question of people of faith having no role. It's a question of keeping faith out of legislation, of preventing religion from being forced on non-believers. Is this so difficult to understand? You, who practically accused Obama of being a closet Muslim, or at least an inauthentic Christian (whatever that means), who rails against Sharia law, really need to understand the problems with such double standards.

When a religious politician starts going on about the moral decline of America, claiming that it is under attack by satan, calling for the imposition of faith-based legislation that discriminates against consenting adults merely because of how they prefer to spend their intimate moments together, the double standard is so obvious that's it is actually laughable.

The simple fact is that you can't have it both ways. Judges are "activist" when they disagree with you, but just fine otherwise. It's OK when it's your religion that is being forced on the public, but if some other group disagrees with you, they're destroying our society. "Because I said so" works fine when you're dealing with a petulant child; it has no place in American politics.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Same Sex Marriage Ramblings

Recent decisions in California on Prop 8 and DOMA, as well as passage of bills in Washington and Maryland are reasons for cautious optimism. Referenda by voters have a history of going against same sex marriage legislations, but the courts have almost always found in favor of it.

The fundamental question the courts have considered is whether anti-same sex marriage efforts can withstand "rational basis" scrutiny. Each opinion rendered has extensive discussions and explanations of the relevant impacts of rational basis, as well as relevant precedents. As with many terms that have specific connotations in law, rational basis is often misunderstood.

Basically, rational basis scrutiny looks at the issue of whether a particular piece of legislation, or popular referendum, has a rational basis in isolating a particular group (in this case, same sex couples) and thereby denying them benefits from members of the rest of society who are similarly situated. The idea is that if a legislature or a majority sees fit to withhold benefits from a particular group of citizens (a designated "class"), said withholding must have some rational basis in terms of being reasonable under the law.

Majority or not, legislature or not, laws which discriminate against one class (another word with rather specific connotations in law) in some way must meet certain standards of review, all of which come under the "rational basis scrutiny" heading.

Tradition, history, and precedent do not carry as much weight as other factors. When the government or a group of people attempts to justify discrimination, it is not enough to say, "it has always been this way." With regard to same sex marriage, it certainly holds no water. The usual comparison is miscegenation: the fact that, for centuries, interracial relationships, let alone marriages, were frowned upon for all sorts of reasons, did not prevent the Loving v. Virginia ruling. The fact that dozens of other states had similar laws on the books also did not carry weight.

In the case of same sex marriage, we typically hear three basic arguments: the procreative, the traditional, and the alleged danger to opposite sex marriage one. All three fail the rational basis test, especially when you're talking about using them as a basis for withholding employee health benefits, as in the recent Golinski ruling that struck down Section 3 of DOMA.

The procreative argument basically says that the purpose of marriage is the production and rearing of children in a stable family environment. This fails because there is no data to suggest same sex couples are any less successful at either of these activities. Note that the procreative argument also fails rational basis because neither fertility nor age are factors in whether states recognize marriages as being valid. Both types of couples can and do adopt, use IVF, or import their partners' children from previous marriages.

The traditional argument claims that marriage has always been understood to be between opposite sex partners. This argument fails rational basis because there are plenty of precedents to the contrary, and courts have even gone so far as to call out a certain hypocrisy when the Bible is used as a justification: the Old Testament is replete with examples of polygamy and even includes several marriages which would clearly be incestuous under US law.

The final typical argument is that same sex marriages somehow threaten opposite sex marriage, either by degrading the institution or by diluting its social importance. This argument is even flimsier then the tradition one: claiming that allowing same sex couples to marry somehow affects the integrity of preexisting opposite sex marriages is universally laughed out of court. Courts often point to divorce rates as evidence of how allegedly important marriage is to our society; if it was so vital that any given pair of people, same sex or opposite sex, stay married for the rest of their lives, surely states or their majorities would have long ago made it much more difficult to divorce.

There are certainly other issues that have arisen in the past, and will come up in the future. But my point here is to sketch a brief outline of rational basis, and the ways in which it is generally applied to same sex marriage prohibitions or limitations.

The bottom line is that if you're going to craft a voter referendum against same sex marriage, take the time to hire some legal experts to write language that actually has the slightest chance in he'll of withstanding rational basis scrutiny.

Step one: stop relying on the same old arguments that have failed multiple times in the past. Come up with something new... something that might be slightly persuasive.

Oh wait, that's right! Here's me writing about reason, and rationality... I'd nearly forgotten... Arguments against same sex marriage and the equal provision of rights and benefits can't be persuasive, rooted as they are in intolerance, bigotry, and hypocritical religious nonsense that has no place in our system of laws.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

CNN Debate Arizona

I would call Romney the clear winner; I would say Ron Paul is the most enjoyable to listen to; I would say Newt Gingrich has his points, but the $2.50/gallon gas pledge is inane and I'm really curious about his statement that he supported a line item veto (for Clinton? Really? I could be wrong, but...); I would say Santorum was off-balance and a bit out of his element - definitely the young guy at the table.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

98 out of 100 Doctors Agree: You Need Chemo. Fast.

Let's say you have some form of virulent cancer.

Let's also say that you are a generous person, the sort who agrees to be an organ donor. So instead of going to a private doctor for your prognosis, you head over to a world-renowned cancer training institute, where young oncologists are being trained. The idea is to help those young minds hone their skills by dealing with yet another real patient.

Let's also say that this school has 100 qualified instructors, each with dozens of years of experience both studying and treating all sorts of different varieties of cancer.

Now that we've set up the scenario, let's walk through your procedures: you're tested, probed, scanned, X-rayed, analyzed, stuck with needles, etc. etc., until every possible diagnostic has been run. The doctors now have reams of data on you: blood cell counts, T-cell numbers, X-ray results, lymphatic system data, MRI images, all the good stuff.

Privately, you meet with the 100 doctor instructors. 98 of them agree on the diagnosis: you have a particularly rare stage 4 cancer which is growing quickly and threatens death within one year if untreated. They point to all the data, show you the scans, show you the numbers, translate all the terminology into language you can understand. Of the 98, none argues with the diagnosis; nor do any argue with the prognosis, which is chemotherapy and radiation treatments which will be debilitating and painful. You are informed that, even with the Chemo, your chances still aren't 100% due to the nature of the cancer. However, your chances are very good, because although this particular cancer is rare, it is well-understood.

The 98 doctors disagree somewhat on your chances of survival, and on some of the basic strategies of the chemotherapy. Some would prefer to see more radiation, for example. Some would like permission to use experimental techniques as part of a promising study. A few of them are also pointing to other lifestyle factors that you might consider changing (perhaps you smoke the occasional cigar, or maybe you like scotch a bit too much for them). There is no disagreement on the diagnosis, however: you definitely have this particular cancer, they tell you, and you definitely would benefit from the suggested therapies, regardless of the specifics.

The two other doctors, however, see things differently. One questions the methodology of some of the testing, claiming that only through further diagnostics, and only by looking at things over a longer period of time, can he be sure that the diagnosis is accurate. To this doctor, of course, if the diagnosis is wrong, the prognosis is misguided as well, so he recommends that you go through exactly the same battery of tests again. He would also like you to come back in 6 months and again in one year, without any treatment of any sort in the meantime, repeating all those tests twice. Then, and only then, would he be willing even to speculate on your condition.

The other doctor claims that this type of cancer can actually be helpful and healthy, arguing that it is perfectly natural, and pointing to your present state of health as evidence that you have nothing to worry about. This doctor doesn't see a need to look at the data beyond using it to bolster his argument that because it has happened before and that others have survived it previously leads him to think that you will survive it as well. He ignores the fact that previous survivors underwent chemotherapy and radiation to treat it. He also ignores the fact that this cancer has killed other victims, too, in spite of being treated similarly. It's a bit random and out of our hands, he explains.

What would you think of the two remaining doctors? What would you decide to do? Would you decide to go with the 98, if for no other reason than because those other two doctors just don't make any logical sense? Is this a situation where the majority opinion would hold sway merely because it was the majority, or would you also be looking at 8 dozen highly trained oncologists who agree 100% on the diagnosis but have a few differences of opinion as to the prognosis?

If you feel inclined to listen to the 98, you have the type of mind which would believe in anthropogenic global warming and feel inclined to take some steps at least to slow the process down. You might also support policies whose aim is to mitigate our use of fossil fuels, install scrubbers on coal-fired power plants, require packagers to be mindful of excess packaging materials, and so forth.

If you feel inclined to trust either or both of the other two doctors, you have the type of mind which would probably be a climate change denier. You would look with suspicion on scientific data, always having the idea in the back of your head that it is somehow a hoax, scam, fraud, or other such dastardly plot. You would look on images of the Arctic sea ice over the last 30 years and conclude that nothing is changing, or that if it is, it is a perfectly natural cycle that we couldn't change if we wanted to. You would believe that tens of thousands of scientists in dozens of different fields, all over the world, were taking part in some sort of coordinated conspiracy to defraud wealthy nations of their largesse in a final grab at world domination. Every "independent" review of any data sets would be highly suspect in your mind, especially if the review concluded that the data was accurate.

In short, if you feel inclined to trust either of the two remaining doctors, you are an idiot.