Backtracking, But Keeping That High Ground For Future Use
July 31, 2011, 9:50 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

One aspect of the Boehner bill the House passed that I will be happy to criticize is the apparent late inclusion of a provision forcing a balanced budget amendment within such-and-such time, or else (something happens, I didn’t read far enough to learn what).

In fact, I’ll go so far as to say I think a ‘balanced budget amendment’ (which I think generally (R)s tend to favor more than (D)s? is that right?) is an inherently stupid idea. Not because the idea of balancing the budget is stupid, mind you. But because even if we had a ‘balanced budget amendment’, DC would inevitably just use accounting gimmicks to get around it (the same way that if you link capital requirements to AAA-ratings then Wall Street will gin up stuff like “CDOs” to synthesize phony AAA securities).

This seems likely to create a government more fiscally irresponsible than the present situation, because Congress would still do whatever it wanted, but its trickery would be harder to identify/explain, and meanwhile you’d have this illusion of automated-budget-balancing so the political will for the public to pay attention to fiscal problems would be dissipated (‘didn’t we solve that back with the Balanced Budget Amendment? i don’t wanna pay attention to this anymore’).

In fact, I’ve almost convinced myself that loading this bill with a provision requiring a balanced-budget-amendment was so dumb and counterproductive that the Senate was perfectly reasonable in voting it down, that I was wrong to criticize them for it, and indeed that Xamuel was right to raise the possibility of the onerously unacceptable provision.

To get even more high-ground-esque here, a lot of the news I’ve reading late yesterday and early today coming out of the negotiations makes it sound like a perfectly reasonable compromise provision that should be amenable to both (D)s and (R)s is on its way, and if the result is anything like what’s being described, (R)s in both houses should sign onto it, and if they don’t I’ll criticize them.

How ya like them high-ground apples, BITCHES!!

Um. Yeah. Anyway, the one face-saving aspect of this post is that (I’m pretty sure) the (D)s will go on to do something stupid in their own right, at which time I can unload on them both-barrels using this valuable High Ground™ I’ve just banked in this here post. In fact, the opportunity may come as early as this afternoon. Stay tuned!

UPDATE: I’ve been reading some lefty commentary on BBA (read: Yglesias). It’s made me realize the reason I don’t favor a BBA has nothing to do with theirs. Lefties nowadays seem to actually believe their own Keynesian gobbledygook that ‘in a downturn’, the government ‘needs to step in’ and spend a lot of money. They oppose BBA because they believe/assume/pretend to believe that a BBA would prevent the government from doing this. I oppose a BBA because, essentially, I don’t believe a BBA would prevent the government from doing this.

Debt Ceiling: High Ground Is A B**ch
July 30, 2011, 2:51 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

For the last couple weeks, I have been hearing:

  • the debt ceiling needs to be raised, or the U.S. will ‘default’
  • if it’s not raised, we risk plunging ‘back’ into ‘another’ recession (because of course the economy’s just fine right now)
  • only stupid people would oppose raising it
  • only crazy Tea Partiers would oppose raising it
  • people not for raising the debt ceiling are putting politics over what’s for the good of the country

Thankfully, on Friday, the House of Representatives passed a bill to raise the debt ceiling. Crisis averted!

Oh. Wait. The Senate, led by Democrats, rejected it, voting it down two hours later.

Surely all the above complaints I have been hearing above will now be directed exclusively towards Harry Reid and the Democratic Senate? For putting politics above what’s good for the country? For threatening to bring on ‘another’ recession? For edging us closer to the brink of economic crisis? For being stupid?

The beauty of this observation is that I have the high ground. Last week, I criticized those conservatives who were against raising the debt ceiling and advocated passage.

What about all you lefties who criticized Republicans for the same thing, but are silent and nonplussed as the Senate mindlessly – with no debate – votes down a measure that (supposedly) is necessary to save the country if not the entire world economic system? Where’s your fucking high ground now, bitches?

I grow impatient playing these games and pretending all these ‘political arguments’ are serious and sincere. All you fucking lefties fucking care about is (D)s being after the name of your politicians (since that’s ‘your team’), and the only (non-sex-related) policy you care about is other peoples’ taxes being raised, all the fucking time. At least if you’d just fucking admit it I could respect you for honesty, an option unavailable to me at this time.

Smart People Behavior Captured In The Field
July 30, 2011, 2:19 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

This video has made the rounds already, so chances are it is not new to you:

This is a very valuable social document to file under Smart People Behavior. Smart-People anthropologists will be studying it for years to come.

As the video illustrates, this woman, a Smart Person, believes there is a clear link between

a) how “educated” (i.e., Smart) she is, and

b) how she may behave and comport herself in public.

Most Smart People believe this deep down, but conceal the attitude more successfully. Like a rare tropical bird’s mating ritual, it is quite rare indeed to capture the attitude demonstrated openly on film.

This video is a tremendous achievement; we in the Smart People Anthropology community need to keep this momentum going. To build on and delve into this subculture further, I humbly suggest a Jane Goodall-style immersion research project, some courageous researcher goes into the ‘wild’ to live amongst Smart People as one of their for years, perhaps decades, collects what data he/she can, and then reports back his/her findings. I’d volunteer for the task myself, but I’d probably have a hard time enduring it. In fact I think I’d rather go live among a bunch of apes or something.

Why Do Some Conservatives Oppose The Boehner Bill?
July 28, 2011, 1:32 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

This may be the most sincere post/question I have written here. I have now read a little bit about the Boehner debt plan. Here is a summary and an excellent argument in favor from Keith Hennessey.

Having read up on it, the one thing I now can’t figure out is why conservatives would be opposed to passage of the plan that Boehner is hawking. I suppose I could understand being less than enthused, or finding it insufficient – but actually opposing it, and wanting your Congressman to vote no on it? I can’t envision why that would be any conservative’s position. (Of course this is more evidence of terminology flipping; here ‘conservatives’ are being highly non-conservative.)

I even tried turning to Google to answer my question (“why conservatives oppose the boehner bill”). Inconclusive.

Here are some things that are clear. The government has ongoing costs of operations. The government has always increased its debt issuance over time. Increasing this debt ceiling is business-as-usual. And, last but not least, the U.S. can borrow money quite easily in this market: the world appears willing to lend money to it and get piddly interest in return. Well hey, why not take them up on it?

I understand wanting to cut spending and all. But Republicans only hold one house here. Massive spending cuts are simply not in the cards anytime soon, and thinking this is a lever that can get them seems folly to me. If you want that I sympathize, but conservatives will need to actually win more elections. In the meantime, assuming you don’t want a crisis or at least a media-drummed-up crisis-theater that (obviously, inevitably, in either case) will be blamed on conservatives, you would presumably want a bill that raises the debt ceiling and does nothing obviously bad. Boehner’s bill is clearly such a bill (isn’t it?), so what’s the problem? Why actually oppose it?

Someone help me out?

Dumb Stuff I Think People Think, Part I
July 27, 2011, 12:47 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Morgan Freeberg likes my idea for a Dumb Stuff I Think People Think list and wants it written; he and others have contributed some inaugural candidate entries. I wanted to set some ground rules here though, since I had something pretty specific in mind by that.

First, a DSITPT is not meant to be simply some political view that others hold that you think is dumb (e.g. “President Obama is a good President”), or more generally, an opinion you happen to disagree with. That would be too easy, and anyway, to first order almost all internet writing (especially blogs) consists of DSITPT lists in that sense already. Doesn’t really qualify as a good DSITPT; the key is illogic or dumb errors in underlying thinking, and most political views themselves are too subjective and deeply-represented (intelligent folks can be found on either side) to illustrate illogic all on their own.

By the same token this does mean that if (I Think) people come to a political view via dumb reasoning , it could count, but it would be the reasoning, not so much the political view itself, going on the list. Similarly, DSITPT can include thinking that seems to lead to the right outcome (or an outcome not obviously dumb), but for the wrong reason.

Here’s an example of both: the widely (if implicitly) held, oft-stated circa 2003-2009 view that from now on, any war the U.S. participates in anywhere must involve both the approval and participation of the nation-state of France. We heard, literally for years, that France not approving of a war we were fighting elsewhere (neither in nor near France, N.B.) was somehow automatically a problem that required discussing and rectifying. Hence, France’s disapproval was in effect cited as a reason in and of itself not to wage that war.

But not only that, we continually heard that a thing we should really care about doing while waging that war we were fighting was to “get troops from” France (or more generally Western Europe, but this mostly seemed to mean France). Commentators critiqued our then-President for not doing so; challenger candidates (including our current President) campaigned heavily – at times almost exclusively – on their supposed preternatural ability to do so, to “get troops from France”. The participation of French troops on our side, it seemed clear to all Smart People, was an imperative without which the U.S. waging any war anywhere was unthinkable. In other words, we simultaneously weren’t supposed to wage the war (because France didn’t like it) and were supposed to campaign or convince or cajole or seduce France into ‘giving’ (?) us some of her soldiers to fight and die alongside ours (in that war we shouldn’t have been waging and they didn’t agree with). This was widely accepted and considered highly Smart thinking, from what I can tell.

Now, that was sure some Dumb Stuff I Think People Thought. But note, its dumbness is separate and distinct from the issue of whether going before the UN, or campaigning for French troop contributions to our forces, were in and of themselves ok ideas. I guess that they were. It’s not like I think they were crazy. So, it’s not the resulting views that were dumb so much as the apparent reasoning that (I Think) they betrayed, if taken seriously.

The final note is that the “I Think” part is important: this is dumb stuff I Think people think. In part this makes it clear that it’s my best guess, my straightforward internal approximation, of others’ thinking. In putting it forth this way, I’m intentionally leaving myself open to be called out for beating on straw-men and hearing reasoned defenses of the views I’m lampooning. Feel free. That’s all part of what makes such a list so fun to compile :-)

Anyhow so with those ground rules in mind then, here’s a starter list just off the top of my head:

Dumb stuff I think people think:

(And by the way, yes I mean it, I literally sincerely think that people believe these things)

  • Flatbread doesn’t really count as bread/carbs/starch, on account of the flat shape.
  • The U.S. can’t or shouldn’t wage war without the approval and participation of France; it is metaphysically and/or morally unthinkable.
  • Scandinavian socialism must be a good model to follow, because just look at how sexy Scandinavians are.
  • Carbon emissions have made a macroscopic impact on the entire earth’s climate and will lead to runaway feedback-driven global warming, yet gestures such as unplugging the coffee pot will help measurably. (Courtesy Morgan Freeberg, slightly rephrased)
  • Muslim radicals must be our natural allies as progressives, because they tend to be nonwhite.
  • Some food is organic, while other food is inorganic. (inspired by Gerard van der Leun comment)
  • As a conservative politician hated by media and opinion makers, I will win over some voters if I go on a late night comedy TV show, since that’s what my opponent did.
  • Things that are brown (paper, sugar, CD cases, eggs, etc.) are more natural and earth-friendly.

Far from a complete list, of course, but that should be a start to give a flavor. Will add to it as/when I think of more DSITPT.

Why I Don’t Give A Rat’s Ass If, Or When, There’s A “Recession”
July 26, 2011, 6:51 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

I haven’t commented much on the ‘debt ceiling’ kabuki dance, but there is one hand-wringing commentary-tic that I can’t let pass by unnoticed. It’s the spectre that if the debt ceiling isn’t raised, etc., then the economy “could plunge back into a recession”.

I said this before the “recession”, then I said it when the “recession” was declared, and…well I think I forgot to say it when the “recession” was declared to be over (was it?), but:

Guys, “recession” is just a made-up label they slap on the economic state of affairs. It has no tangible meaning in and of itself per se. In other words, “recession”, as such, is just not something to fear; the tangible economic facts (that could/would bring forth the “recession” label from NBER) are what one could understandably fear.

Facts such as what? Well, such as unemployment. Where is unemployment now? Is it low, because we’re not in an officially-NBER-declared “recession”?

No. it. is. not. It is hella high!

Isn’t that a bad thing, right now, already that ought to be rectified? More to the point, it’s a tangible thing, that affects peoples’ lives. 9+% unemployment = tangible effect. 9+% unemployment + (the NBER declares a “RECESSION”) = the same fucking state of affairs.

Why are people in love with this spurious label? What are the benefits of paying attention to it, exactly? What is the downside of ignoring it?

Of course, if politicians and commentators were forced to speak in tangible terms, such as, for example: “if you don’t increase the debt-ceiling, then the unemployment rate might become hella high, like, um, 9+%, you know, like it already is” just wouldn’t make for the same sort of scary demagoguery. And then the crisis-driven argument for Doing Something! would slip through their fingers.

And we can’t have that; they love their crises, and Doing Something.

‘Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra’, The Prosecutor’s Complaint Alleged
July 26, 2011, 2:06 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Um, what?

The mayhem count in the written complaint also alleged they “did cut and disable the tongue, and put out an eye,” but district attorney spokeswoman Sandi Gibbons said that was legal language and that Stow had not had his eye or tongue taken out.

Emphasis mine. So, you see my confusion.

Could some lawyer explain this? Are criminal complaints really written – ‘legal language’ – in some sort of metaphor or perhaps allegory not meant to be taken literally? Was Tamarian declared the official language of the California court system while I wasn’t looking?


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