Why Is President Obama So ‘Smart’?
November 29, 2010, 5:31 pm
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I have two competing theories about why people decided, and (seemingly) still continue to believe, that President Barack Obama is some sort of brilliant, ‘Smart’ genius.

1. They want to debase the standards. Let’s face it, if Barack Obama is genuinely, really smart, then so is like 50% of the population. Which would probably make 50% of the population really happy! Essentially this theory says that under certain circumstances, people can have a psychological motivation to scribble out someone’s “73″ and write in “100″ on their final exam, so as to re-center the curve accordingly. This theory has people cheering on Obama’s supposed ‘brilliance’ for essentially the same reason that women cheer on and encourage other women to cut their hair short.

2. Ideological needs and historical forces demand it. Barack Obama is a suave, well-groomed black man who wears a suit well, spouts warmed-over Marxist jibberish dutifully, and became the first black President of the United States. Which is to say: He must be a genius. The march of history demands it. It is unthinkable to even suggest that someone in this position wouldn’t be brilliant; that doesn’t fit the storyline. In the lexicon of TV Tropes, this is more like giving Obama an Informed Ability (‘A character’s skill and abilities are frequently mentioned by the cast, but are nonexistent in practice’) to someone who is a Designated Hero, than it is giving him the Smart Ball (since he never actually does, not even briefly/unexpectedly, demonstrate the Intelligence he supposedly has).

I lean towards #2 but don’t discount #1. What’s your vote?

Summaries Needed
November 29, 2010, 5:12 pm
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Could someone be a dear and summarize some things for me.

  1. Just what exactly we learned of importance from this ‘wikileaks’ thing. That US diplomats send cables and whatnot that concern international relations and events?
  2. Which TV show(s?) the various Palins(es?) are on? Not that there’s any danger of me watching them I guess.
  3. All the ‘Smart’ things that President Barack Obama has done on account of his ‘Smartness’. (I’m sure the list is millions-of-items long, so feel free to edit it down to the top 10,000 or so as needed for space)
  4. Where the heck is Parks & Recreation. Because that was a funny show! Why would the only funny show on TV seemingly not be on TV? Or am I just failing to find it.
  5. Why North Korea shelled some island of South Korea’s for no reason. Ok nevermind that one.
  6. Just how many of these ‘The Girl With’ books there’s gonna be. Will they anthologize it, farm it out to other authors, and turn it into like Nancy Drew for the ’10s? I think they should!
  7. The plot of that ‘Twilight’ thing. Just so I don’t have to pay attention to it. Is it like ‘Dawson’s Creek’ with vampires? It is, isn’t it?
  8. And of course, just WTF ‘net neutrality’ is. Even after reading (well, looking at, anyway) the wiki page, I still don’t feel like I know.

The Historic, “Progressive” Struggle Marches On

There’s a pleasing symmetry at work in the recent decision by San Francisco & some neighboring cities to ban happy meals. Once again, as with 100 years ago, we find “progressives” cheerfully and self-congratulatorily on the side of pseudoscience-based public-health initiatives. Although I’ll grant that this go-round is a bit more benign than the fashion for eugenics and preventing ‘imbeciles’ or inferior races from overbreeding and swarming the nation, or even than the teetotaling and sex-paranoid movement of dessicated nannies – oops, I meant to also say “progressives” there – who helped bring us the wonders of Prohibition.

However, the spirit is much the same. It’s so retro it’s almost charming. Like one of those old-timey bicycles with two different-sized wheels.

In this case there’s also an apt symbolism to the whole thing. “Progressives”: literally banning “happy”. Talk about upping the ante! Taliban’s got nothing on “progressives”.

I don’t even know what else to say except to bask in it. Ah, “liberals”! Without their oh so deep-seated love of liberty and individuality who would there be to think up things to ostentatiously and symbolically ban in the name of the common good, and then who would there be to pat them on the back for their “progressive” stance in doing it? You gotta admit: there’d be nobody!

A chill goes down my spine just thinking of a world in which I were free, if I wanted, to buy my kid a box with some tasty food he’d like and a special toy inside that his eyes would light up upon seeing. Thanks, “progressives”, for your neverending and heroic (and lucrative) struggle to make sure that world gets ever further away!

How To Make Me More Right-Wing
November 28, 2010, 7:42 pm
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Close, forced proximity to the following in any combination has a predictable and inevitable tendency to bring out the parochial, insular, reactionary right-winger in me: 1. left-wingers, 2. foreigners, 3. academics.

If you want to see me sign up for Free Republic and join the Tea Party, force me to live in Berkeley.1

This insight came to me in my years-long, historically-significant email correspondence with “Anon.” – which, once it has run its course, is sure to be archived by a loving, understanding editor (Anon.’s mistress?) and posthumously-published in a special leatherbound edition suitable for the finer libraries and literature collections of the world. Till then, the world will just have to wait.

1For the record, I actually liked living in Berkeley just fine. But, I did sign up for Free Republic.

Our Boldest National Jobs Program
November 27, 2010, 8:56 pm
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Via Megan McArdle, another example of our brave TSA in action:

My operating hypothesis: Although this is not publicy acknowledged, the TSA is, by design and construct, a jobs program for otherwise-functionally-useless people: primarily, stocky unpleasant middle-aged women and slow-witted, unskilled men.

Granted this is a bold and perhaps speculative hypothesis, but I have never encountered any evidence to the contrary. In particular the alternative hypothesis that scattering all these stocky unpleasant middle-aged women and slow-witted, unskilled men across all airports nationwide is going to protect us from something is certainly risible and ought to be rejected on its face.

Dumb/Moron In ’12
November 25, 2010, 10:28 pm
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I think part of what’s lurking underneath the whole great Palin debate of 2008-201? is a tacit dispute over the role of government, and of the President in particular.

It’s occurred to me that part of the reason this idea that the President need necessarily be “smart” offends me so much is that I fundamentally don’t want the Presidency to be of a size and scope as to require “smartness” in the first place. Put another way, if the position of U.S. President can only be done by the “smart” (which I don’t think is the case, but even if it were), then we’re doing it wrong and need to redefine the President’s powers and responsibilities accordingly. Perhaps rooting for a “dumb” person to be President is a way of forcing the issue – or calling the left’s bluff.

The Presidency was never meant to be a position of national smarty-pants who knows everything and controls everything via the Washington DC control room. George Washington was not this sort of President; indeed, I suspect if he were around today, the left would be aghast at his “dumbness”. In fact the biographies of most of the better of our Presidents would be chock full of family connections, luck, a certain industriousness and character strength in the better ones – but conspicuously lacking in “smart”. And meanwhile it’s hard to ignore the fact that Barack Obama, a complete empty suit whose ideas are all cribbed from various Marxist mentors and whose tangible accomplishments amount to diddly fucking squat worth mentioning, passes muster as “smart”. This alone should make it clear that “smart” is a fucked-up metric by which to be judging anyone.

That is why I say: Dumb/Moron in ’12!

The Left’s Statocracy
November 25, 2010, 4:20 pm
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Via Power and Control via Vodkapundit via Treacher, here’s lefty and Nation writer Mark Ames complaining that libertarians are “enemies of the state”.

Anytime anyone says anything libertarian, spit on them. Libertarians are by definition enemies of the state: they are against promoting American citizens’ general welfare and against policies that create a perfect union. Like Communists before them, they are actively subverting the Constitution and the American Dream, and replacing it with a Kleptocratic Nightmare.

Because as everyone knows the left loves “the state” and is all about smashing its “enemies”! So they must be “spit on”. Also, they are as bad as Communists.

I think we need some new sedition laws. We could revive the one passed under liberal Woodrow Wilson.

Fascists in The Nation. Who would have ever guessed?

The Cult of Smart Osmosis
November 25, 2010, 1:44 am
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It’s interesting to ponder just exactly why the smartophile Palin-phobes think it’s so important for a President to be “smart”. I know I know all else equal “smart” is better than the alternative etc. Not saying otherwise. But still. What exactly will a person’s being “smart” mean they will do/accomplish in a political executive leadership role, and conversely, what exactly would happen if (gasp) such a President weren’t “smart”? Is there any tangible thing anyone actually has in mind when they implicitly obsess over “smartness”, or are they just saying that if a President generally exudes “smartness” then good things will somehow automatically happen via smart-osmosis? (Because that would be dumb.)

This seems like a dumb question but look. Basically I’m faced with this weird spectacle wherein there’s a politician, who as far as I can tell is no more or less “smart” than any other politician, but all the Cool People decide he/she is “dumb”. So then Katie Couric asks her in an interview, like, who is the ambassador from Siam. And he/she doesn’t know or flubs it. What we’re all supposed to do after that (apparently) is to guffaw with laughter at how “dumb” she is, and then put him/her on permanent “disqualify” status in our minds.

Because how can a person be the President if they don’t know offhand who the Ambassador from Siam is? It’s not like you can wiki it! Also, what is the office of the Presidency if not a position wherein you are continually called on 24/7 to answer trivial-pursuit-style questions about current leaders and events off the top of your head? I think that’s like 99.99% of the role of President. At LEAST.

But seriously, call me dumb if you will, but I don’t get it. These criteria do not make sense to me. Objectively, I happen to think that someone like a Barack Obama or a Nancy Pelosi ushering in a giant mammoth health care bill that they haven’t read, arguing that we have to pass it to find it what’s in it, is not only (a) objectively dumb but (b) going to be highly damaging to our everyday lives.

Meanwhile, Sarah Palin couldn’t answer that Katie Couric question (whatever the hell it was – and I’ve literally forgotten).

Yet I’m supposed to fear and hate the latter with a passion while craving the former. Because they’re so ‘brilliant’. Is that it?

I’m sorry. These rules make no sense to me. Is this “smart” thing some sort of religion, and Obama, Pelosi et al are adherents, therefore they get a pass? But Palin is a heretic, therefore she must be cast out?

Argh. I hate this whole issue so much. I don’t even have any reason to like or favor Palin in the first place. Yet her haters irritate me so much I think I’m just going to vote for her out of spite. In fact, the more I think about it the more I think she should be the next President precisely because of spite, specifically to disprove the theory of ‘Smart Osmosis’. Because whatever damage Palin might cause as President, it can’t be anything approaching the damage I think the Cult of Smart Osmosis is causing to our body politics. Or at least to my ability to enjoy political discussion…

UPDATE 11/27: This is another good example. So, Sarah Palin said ‘North Korea’ when she meant South Korea. THIS DISQUALIFIES HER FROM POLITICAL LEADERSHIP.

Because, after all, as everyone knows, if she did that, this indicates that, if she were President, she could be in a meeting, with, like, her advisors, and she’d be all ‘we gotta help North Korea bomb South Korea’, and they’d be like, are you sure?, because we totally thought South Korea was our ally, but she’d be all (continuing to make the same mistake) ‘yes North Korea why are you acting so surprised? they’re our ally’, and they’d be like ‘well whatever, she da boss’, and then we’d accidentally bomb South Korea as a result.

THAT’S TOTALLY A THING THAT COULD HAPPEN IF SARAH PALIN WERE EVER MADE PRESIDENT. On account of how dumb she is, as proved by that verbal miscue. Hell, the SNL skit – always a high barometer of intelligence in my book – practically writes itself!! (2-to-1 this will show up as an SNL skit in almost precisely this form)

Meanwhile totally a thing that COULDN’T ever happen is that President Barack Obama could accidentally send out 7 extra checks for Medicaid, highway funds, etc on account of him thinking there are 57 states. THAT was just a verbal slip of the tongue, no big deal. He’s brilliant! Brilliant I tell you!

I’d say that when we apply these criteria, we’re selecting only for a very dumb and dangerous thing to select for in political leadership – namely, verbal deftness, the skills of a smooth talker – except the weird thing is, we don’t even apply these criteria uniformly. So what gives?

Not Only Don’t We Need All This Air Security, We Probably Need Less Than We Did Pre-9/11
November 23, 2010, 5:50 pm
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I hope it goes without saying that our current after-the-fact close-the-barn-door approach to air security is idiotic. If you don’t think it’s idiotic, you haven’t given it sufficient thought. The notion of ‘well someone tried idiosyncratic attack using objects A, B, C, and D, so suddenly we now need to screen everybody for objects A, B, C, and D’ is so breathtakingly moronic that I’d be honestly dumbfounded if I were ever to be faced with an actual person (as opposed to a bureaucracy) who believed in it sincerely.

But even if we were to grant the validity of the methods, it’s also worth taking a step back and thinking about what airline security is designed to accomplish in the first place. Most will say, ‘that’s easy, it’s designed to prevent attacks’. Hold on a second. Can we get more specific here? Because if that’s all it is, I’m not sure I agree that massive security is necessary.

Historically, I can think of at least four major motives or conceivable motives for which passenger-airline-attacks (not even focusing on terrorism here; attacks in general) have been waged:

  • Hostages. The goal being to take over the airplane so you can hold the people on it hostage, and use that leverage to make some demands (release political prisoners, land at a neutral country, etc.) This is the traditional, 1970s, meat-and-potatoes motive for air attacks.
  • Assassination. An attacker might want to explode or crash an aircraft to assassinate some particular important person on board. Depending on how conspiratorial you are this is the explanation for EgyptAir 990, the Ron Brown crash, and one might wonder about this one as well.
  • Simple murder, for terror. Maybe the attacker just plain wants to kill the random people on board, for generic ‘terror’ reasons. This is seemingly the motive for the recent attempts such as the ‘shoe bomber’, ‘underwear bomber’, etc.
  • Take over the plane and use it as an aerial guided missile to attack a ground target. This was what happened on 9/11, obviously.

So what is all this added security designed to prevent? Obviously, we’d like to prevent all four. But consider:

#1 basically doesn’t happen anymore, and (I suggest) is no longer feasible. 9/11, ironically, has closed off ‘hostages’ as a valid tactic for would-be terrorists. Why? Because passengers will always and everywhere fight back now. They have nothing to lose, because 9/11 has taught everyone that ‘just sitting still and cooperating’ is not a method of preserving your life.

#2 is a rarity. So perhaps indeed it’s worth added, special scrutiny on flights with VIPs. Of course. But this doesn’t apply to the vast majority of passenger flights.

#3? Well think about what #3 is: it’s pretty much just an attempt to murder some 300 people gathered in one place. This is bad, of course, and we’d like to prevent it, of course, but why do we need fascistic rules to prevent murder attempts in this particular place and not others? This is a serious question. I can think of numerous places where a couple hundred people gather together and could pretty much be murdered at will by someone with the means and motive: a baseball game. A movie theater. A college lecture hall. A line at a polling place on election day. Virtually any downtown office building. Yet we don’t use full-body patdowns and backscatter machines in any of these places. If they are so necessary on a generic passenger flight, why not all these as well? If they are not needed at these places, why are they needed on a passenger flight? Again: I don’t want such murders to occur, but I don’t want them to occur anywhere, there’s nothing special about an airplane that somehow would make it extra-bad to be murdered there.

This leaves us with #4, then. But in #4, the goal is to take control of the airplane, not just randomly blow it up. This means: someone who wanted to do #4 by definition wouldn’t, and couldn’t, be content to get a sneaky-bomb on board, because it wouldn’t help him take control (see #1) and just randomly blowing up the plane up in the sky wouldn’t help him guide the missile.

So you have four lines of attack three of which (#1, 2 and 4) are respectively obsolete, highly specific, or not applicable to the things the added security is meant to check for; and you’re left with #3 which is just ‘try to murder a couple hundred people’ as the thing we supposedly need to submit to fascistic security in order to prevent. But this is something we want to prevent everywhere not just on airplanes, so either we need fascism everywhere (which, just to be clear, I certainly hope not) or we don’t need it on airplanes.

My conclusion is that this extra security is not only unnecessary, but it’s even less necessary than it was prior to 9/11. Because 9/11 was what neutered #1, the original/classic terror attack, in the first place. Thus: if anything, 9/11 should have made security looser, not tighter, on net.

UPDATE: Should I be concerned that Matthew Yglesias makes the exact same points I just did?

I think American air travel security was too tight even before 9/11. [...] As of the morning of September 11, 2001 the standing doctrine was to allow hijackers to take control of planes and that’s what happened. As quickly as later that morning doctrine shifted and the passengers and crew of United Flight 93 brought their own plane down, preventing its use as a projectile.

If you assume the existence of a person willing to die for Osama bin Laden’s war on America, located within the United States of America, and in possession of a working explosive or firearm, there’s basically nothing stopping him from blowing up the 4/5/6 platform at Union Square or the 54 bus in DC or the Mall of America or even the security line at DFW airport. And yet it doesn’t happen. Does that mean we could get by with no security anywhere? I say: no. But we should start with the idea that the main point of security is simply to push attacks around.

Sonic Charmer and Matty Churches: When we’re right, we’re right.

Our Wagner
November 23, 2010, 2:08 pm
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The American Scene asks Why Do Music Critics Love Kanye West? I clicked over hoping to read some skeptical explanation of the bizarre phenomenon of all politicians pretending to like the music of Kanye West. Instead it’s an article about how Kanye West’s new album really is great (but just wondering why all music critics agree). I skimmed or read at least 50% of that article, I swear.

But then I went over to iTunes to sample the new album myself (literally never, to my knowledge, having heard any sounds made by ‘Kanye West’ in my life). Meh. So it’s basically hip hop/R&B, right? Am I missing something? I’ll grant that I can certainly imagine (from the 30-second cilps) that it’s an especially good hip hop/R&B album. But that’s like saying that a brand of paper towels makes an especially good paper towel. It’s fine, but there’s an intrinsic ceiling as to how excited I’m capable of getting over it. Ultimately, you’ve still got a guy grunting ‘yeah’ and ‘uh huh’ over a drum track.

Oh, sorry, was I supposed to keep on pretending all my life to really like hip hop/R&B in order to prove myself Not Racist? Damn. I keep forgetting to do that. Okay let me just add that I own Public Enemy’s ‘Fear Of A Black Planet’. Or at least I used to (not sure where it is). THERE THAT PROVES IT.

Maybe that’s all there is to the popularity of guys like Kanye West. Modern politicians and modern SWPL’s continually need some token, some emblem to tote around to Prove They’re Not Racists. For whatever reason, in the ’00s-’10s, Kanye West settles into this cultural niche perfectly, like a poodle in an eccentric lady’s handbag. A college coed from Cornell or a white indie journalist in Berkeley can have an iPod full of The Shinses and Modest Mouses and like that, but all she needs to do is accessorize it with a Kanye album (that, though she might make a big show of liking it, she may or may not ever listen to), and voila she’s Not A Racist.

Why Kanye instead of a zillion other artists? Well, to get at one component of the answer, let me just ask what I’ve previously asked about Barack Obama: if this guy were the same guy but named “Leroy Jackson”, would people be making such a fuss about him? You don’t want your Not-A-Racist token to actually be culturally black American (because SWPL’s don’t actually like actual black Americans). You like your tokens to be ‘exotic’ and ‘post-racial’ don’t you. Sure you do.

A darker possibility, one that I have spent untold milliseconds wondering about (just now, after I thought of it), is that Kanye is our Wagner. A state-ideologically-approved form of art. In the excerpt from track #13, “Who Will Survive In America?”, there’s a snippet of spoken words by some (apparently) well-known radical poet. The part that grabbed my attention goes like this:

America was a bastard the illegitimate daughter of the mother country
whose legs were then spread around the world
and a rapist known as freedom, free doom.

Inspiring and insightful stuff, this. No wonder everyone loves him so! Actually no one pays attention to the words at all, do they? Not really. The words sound appropriately ‘deep’ but no one actually believes their substance. Their substance is not meant to be believed, it is meant to blow the right dog whistles. And those dog whistles are the Nietzschian doublespeak bullshit above, about freedom being a ‘rapist’. Sounds like it would make the perfect soundtrack for our 21st century progressivism.

Perfect iTunes Bands
November 23, 2010, 2:17 am
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With the Beatles entire catalog out on iTunes, a question arises: what person in his right mind would shell out the hundreds of dollars necessary to get the entire Beatles catalog on iTunes?

Especially when you can get essentially the entire Easybeats discography for twenty bucks.

I’ve recently discovered a phenomenon I’ve come to think of as the perfect iTunes band. This is a band that was actually a great (perhaps underrated) band, but didn’t release so many records that you’d bankrupt yourself trying to collect their discography on iTunes. It’s an interesting niche because you find yourself turning away from the Beatleses and the Rolling Stoneses and U2eses of the world, and trying to think of ‘great’ or ‘classic’ bands that, for one reason or another, flamed out after an album or three.

There’s a sort of ‘sweet spot’ centered around a three-album-career type of band, a band that was near-great, that called it quits at least ten years ago, and was good/popular enough to have some sort of ‘all-the-songs’ collection up on iTunes for $20 or less. Easybeats are the canonical example. For $20, I’m certainly willing to convince myself they were one of the greatest bands ever. And maybe they actually were.

Wrong-Track Technology
November 22, 2010, 8:01 pm
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Some people are peeved that technology went off track by embracing (or at least perpetuating) VHS rather than Betamax, Microsoft rather than Netscape browsers, etc. For me, the sharpest insult of all are those pitchers that coffee shops use for milk/half-and-half. The milk pitcher technology we’ve ended up with is ridiculous.

What do you want in a milk pitcher? You want to pick it up, and to pour milk. If it has a ‘closed’ state, you want to be able to see that at a glance, and then you want to be able to open it, easily (for pouring). That’s about it.

I recall when it was possible to find pitchers that had a little switch/tab/button you could hold in order to pour. But nowadays, seemingly all milk pitchers are the Starbuck’s variety: tall metal cylinders, with a lid that screws on and off continuously, with no ‘pour’ switch. It’s impossible to tell at a glance on these things whether you can pour the milk or whether you’d have to unscrew it a little bit. And, it’s impossible to know how much to unscrew it, there’s no obvious ‘open’ or ‘closed’ state (even though the lid has unhelpful little arrows printed on it, arrows which as far as I can tell are meaningless). All you can do is unscrew, try to pour, and if it doesn’t pour, unscrew a little bit more till it does, but if you unscrew to much the lid falls off.

What the hell kind of technology is that? Who decided that would be the dominant milk-pitcher technology? Can we think of no better way?

This is important.

Political Views By Meta-Reasoning
November 21, 2010, 3:17 pm
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As I said to Pastorius, ‘Net Neutrality’ is a strange issue in that I have been hearing about it for years, from people with apparently strong views on the subject, but for the life of me still would not be able to articulate what it is – let alone whether it is good or bad, or I’d be for it or against it.

In fact my only knowledge of ‘Net Neutrality’ comes from tribal and linguistic cues:

1. The phrase (like “PATRIOT Act”) sounds like it’s propaganda, cover for something bad. After all, ‘net neutrality’, lowercase, sounds naively good. So calling it this, as opposed to something more generic and neutral, seems like a calculated gambit designed to get support from people who don’t follow the debate. Therefore, it must actually be bad.

2. (Some/most?) Republicans are opposed to it, and Democrats seem enthused about it & like they’re trying to sneak it through, as if (whatever it is) it somehow projects onto the political plane in a way that advantages Democrats and stifles Republicans. This makes me inclined to think it must be bad.

3. Slashdot readers (tech nerds and the like) always seem like they’re for it. Possibly related to (2) but possibly for other nerdy reasons. This is more of a mixed-bag but on net, it also makes me think it must be bad.

So absent other info my conjecture is that I’m opposed to ‘Net Neutrality’. But this method of ‘reasoning’ leaves a lot to be desired, obviously.

That said: I suspect that if I did know in a fully-informed way what ‘Net Neutrality’ was, I’d be against it. In fact, I’d bet 2-1 on it.

Now let me go Wiki it.

The Costanza Criterion
November 19, 2010, 6:23 am
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Quick note about Presidents. There is much hand-wringing about someone like Sarah Palin as regards whether she is ‘qualified’ or would or could be a ‘good President’ in this or that regard. To many the answer is obviously no. To a vocal minority the answer is abject fear if not downright hysteria at the prospect.

I’ve come to realize that the reason I do not share their concerns is not so much that I think someone like Palin would too make a ‘good President’ as that for the most part I find the concept of ‘good President’ to be near-oxymoronic in the first place. I think of a ‘President’ as someone whom we strap into the driver’s seat of a giant-sized steamroller (=the U.S. government) that is running loose in the middle of a beautiful, Edenic paradise, with the gearshift permanently stuck in ‘drive’ – and we tell him/her to steer. This can’t be done in a ‘good’ way because no matter which direction the President drives, things will get trampled, beautiful things. So there’s no such thing as a ‘good’ President. Presidents can only minimize the damage the steamroller causes. And that’s all I want.

So with that in mind, you will understand what I mean when I say that the actual list of things I want a President to actually go and do is a very, very short one. Meanwhile the list of things that I want for a President not to do is extremely, galactically long. Thus I am far more concerned about whether a President will actively do bad and wrong things than if he/she ‘wouldn’t be good at it’.

95% of what I want a President to actively ‘do’ can be summed up in one word: NOTHING. Call it the Costanza criterion.

There can be exceptions, but as a general rule, ‘qualified’ Presidents, Presidents who have all sorts of ‘policy experience’, and want to do all sorts of busyness and great things, make me nervous. You know what? After ‘stimulus’, ‘TARP’, Obamacare, TSA, etc., etc., I’m almost ready to say just for once give me a President and an administration with some damn common sense who will mostly just leave me the fuck alone.

And the thing is, guess what, it so happens that among the various public figures, the busybodies and self-serving careerists and nannies and egomaniacs we call ‘public servants’, Sarah Palin – whatever else her demerits – is practically a standout when it comes to common sense on many, many things. Perhaps that is more of a sad commentary about politicians as a class than is it praise of Palin per se – in fact I’m sure of it – but if you think it’s an absurd or ludicrous statement because of how ‘stupid’ Sarah Palin is, then I would contend you simply pay dangerously (and naively) little attention to other public figures and the damage their sociopathic narcissism, not to mention their ‘policies’ and oh yes their oh so impressive ‘qualifications’, can cause to ordinary people.

Lord, spare us from the oh so ‘qualified’, the ‘brilliant’, and the ‘good Presidents’. Just once?

Blogroll Catchup
November 17, 2010, 4:09 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

One of the pitfalls of being a bad/lazy blogger is that you don’t keep up with the standard blogger etiquette, such as actually carrying on blog conversations in something close to realtime (by the time I get around to doing ‘link roundup’ posts I’m often reacting to posts I had flagged that are already weeks-old & that the authors probably forgot they wrote). Another constant struggle is keeping up with/maintaining my ‘blogroll’. (Or remembering that I have a ‘blogroll’, for that matter. Are ‘blogrolls’ still Blogging 101 by the way? Do we even still need them? Does anyone actually click on them? They just seem so 2002. Surely we all just find blogs via some sort of fancy Google mind-link technology nowadays? No? Not yet?)

Anyway, this is why, whenever I do get around to checking out & updating my ‘blogroll’, I’m always so surprised by the omissions – inevitably there are several blogs that to me have become such regular reads & go-to sites for Facts And Science And Argument ™ that I have formed an assumption that surely, they are already on my blogroll somewhere. Thus it came about that today, I was shocked and chagrined to discover that Dyrannosaurus Rex, Foseti, Dispatches from TJICistan, Neo’s Adventures, Penelope Trunk, The Big Questions by Steven Landsburg, Woodpile Report, Zenpundit, and last but not least…okay, maybe something close to least?…Dimensions in Taste weren’t on my ‘blogroll’.

This has since been rectified, as they will undoubtedly notice from the sudden influx of 1-2 new traffic hits to their sites that is sure to result in the next six to twelve months as a direct result of my important blog. Which, on that note, kickbacks are welcome.

Now I can go back to forgetting that I have a ‘blogroll’.

Theorem 1 of Economics
November 16, 2010, 6:16 am
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: ,

What I have learned about Economics from reading Economist Mark Thoma at Economist’s View, who gives an Economist’s View about all things Economics:

Theorem 1 (The Grand Unifying Theorem of Economics). The things that the Republican political party wants to do are wrong and bad, and the things the Democratic political party wants to do are right and good.

That is Economist’s View.

Having fully absorbed this View, I now feel not only highly enlightened about Economics but my intellectual curiosity about its subtle depth and breadth as a subject (i.e., on which Democrats are right and Republicans, wrong) has been piqued. So, I’m happy to announce that I shall be immediately applying for a postdoctoral research appointment in Economics at Economist Mark Thoma’s academic institution, forthwith. My application essay/mission statement shall consist solely of Theorem 1, above, and presumably, this will suffice, because as far as I can tell from having read Economist’s View, Theorem 1 is literally all that there is to Economics.

Who Finds RWCG?
November 16, 2010, 6:06 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Looking at my traffic stats can be a humbling experience. My 2.7 devoted readers know that, right or wrong, I have written a large number of (often weighty or at least lengthy) posts touching on various and sundry political issues of the day. So what brings readers here then? Below, in convenient pivot-table summarized-as-percent-of-total form, is a summary of the life-to-date google searches (at least the top 50 or so that WordPress has kept track of) that actually bring people to this blog.

As you can see, for all intents, to ‘the internet’ at large, or at least to Google’s engine, this blog probably looks like it’s at least 50% devoted to Lilo & Stitch (I think I wrote one post about it on like day 3 of the blog), and another 25% is about sci-fi sex symbols (Seven of Nine, the Cylon from Battlestar Galactica, and Caroline Munro). The rest of the searches are filled out by a few other actresses, cartoons, movies and whatnot. Is this unintentionally revealing of something – and about whom? You decide…

Facts And Science And Argument Roundup
November 16, 2010, 3:43 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Some more links to good Facts And Science And Argument:

  • Quotable Arnold Kling:

    [T]he people who are fighting to keep Social Security as it is and to expand Medicare are fighting an uphill battle against arithmetic.

  • Infuriating: Why U.S. Taxpayers Are Paying Brazilian Cotton Growers
  • Robin Hanson ponders futuristic sunlight rights which he sees as becoming relevant “well within a thousand years”. Personally I suspect four-pi R-squared is likely to give us a bit more time than that to work things out, but I could be wrong.
  • Steve Sailer, unlike me, enjoys modeling his phone bill on spreadsheets:

    …it strikes me that an awful lot of American corporate activity these days consists of figuring out ways to nickel and dime people over complex monthly charges. It’s like a never-ending low intensity war between MBAs with computers versus customers [...]

    The MBA holy grail now is to figure out a way to get people to agree to pay an extra $9.99 per month for something they won’t use — especially, if the original process of coming up with their bill of $173.41 per month was so arduous that they won’t bother to go through all the work it would take to have it reduced to $163.42.

    I’ve noticed and complained about this trend before.

  • Neo has an interestingly honest post about the different treatment he’s noticed he gives sluts vs. nice girls. Interestingly, his revealing insights support traditional morality and motherly, old-fashioned advice 100% (girls, be nice girls not sluts, because otherwise, guys won’t treat you with any respect).
  • Steven Landsburg on the nonsensical standard of “reasonable doubt”.
  • Please read Arnold Kling on Steven Chu:

    When the reporter praises Chu’s technical expertise, the reporter might note that no venture capitalist has hired Chu in order to provide technical expertise on investment decisions. Apparently, they can use other experts to make their decisions. The reporter might ask why taxpayers should be forced to invest their money based on Chu’s expertise, rather than allowed to make their own choices about venture capital investments.

    When Steven Chu promotes energy ventures by investing his own money or raising money from voluntary participants, you can write a portrait of him that is as fawning as you like. But what you are doing now is flattering someone who is already so arrogant that the think he is entitled to tens of billions of other people’s money.

    Ouch. It’s rather amazing, given the limited-to-nonexistent amount I’ve ever read about Steven Chu – I mean, I barely know anything about the guy and have no reason to pay special attention to articles referencing Steven Chu – what an alarmingly high percentage of it has made me come away with the impression that he’s an arrogant, insufferable SOB.

  • Cobb explains why

    If your girl is on the Pill and tells you that she loves you, she probably doesn’t.

  • curi: Trade is Error Correction.

    The errors are errors about who has what property.

    What? You’re still not reading curi? For crying out loud. Why not?

  • mkfreeberg at House Of Eratosthenes:

    If you voted for Barack Obama you have no business commenting on who’s “qualified” to be President, or, for that matter, who’s “qualified” to be or do anything at all.


Quantitative Easing Explained
November 16, 2010, 1:40 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

I understand it now.

Oral Report Time Again
November 14, 2010, 10:52 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: ,

For whatever reason, Catastrophic-Global-Warming believers never tire of giving the same old third-grade Oral Report – over and over and over again. This time it’s Matthew Yglesias who regales us with his carefully-considered oceano-atmospheric scientific knowledge:

A modest rise in world temperatures, if it stays modest, could be manageable. But a modest rise in world temperatures could lead to a big increase in greenhouse gas levels through a variety of feedback loops. Then the rise gets unmanageable, especially since once all this stuff gets into the atmosphere the climate just keeps getting hotter.

NOTE: Just in case you had any doubt, that’s the entirety of the substance, such as it is, of what he says about climate in that post. Nothing actually follows, and if the post contained an ‘argument’ for something, that was all of it.

Okay now class, turn to page 2 (Reaction And Discussion):

1. Matthew Yglesias has come to this expertise and conclusions about climate facts by way of (a) extensive study and numerical simulation of the oceano-atmospheric system, including time spent in postdoctoral research at the Oregon State-affiliated College Of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences (COAS) in Cornwallis, Oregon, seven published papers in the Journal of Computational Physics on turbulence modeling, as well as some in-the-field study involving collection of temperature data, (b) pulling it out of his butt after reading some articles on Slate by guys like Ezra Klein and Joshua Micah Jonah Jeshua whats-his-name who interviewed other guys and whatnot.

2. How do you feel about Matthew Yglesias’s ultra-scientific and informed finding that the climate could “just [keep] getting hotter”? (a) bad, (b) really bad, (c) really really bad, (d) really really really bad.

3. Name some everyday, routine things you could tell your parents not to do (or replace with more intrusive and/or annoying tasks) in order to prevent the earth from being destroyed (essay): ______________________________

4. What does Matthew Yglesias actually know about these “feedback loops” – their mechanisms, their role and importance, etc. – to which he casually refers in passing as part of his informed, substantive description of possible future climates? (a) squat, (b) diddly squat, (c) diddly fucking squat.

5. On the basis of these informed findings of Matthew Yglesiases’es, and how often he implicitly calls other people stupid and unscientific if they don’t accede to his studied conclusions without question, how much power should he and guys who think – and are informed at a level – exactly the same as he is be given over the rest of our’ses lives: (a) absolute, (b) total, (c) dictatorial, (d) all of the above.


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