Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Joey Manley on the Tennessee “Don’t say ‘gay'” bill.

February 1st, 2013 by Reinder

My old friend Joey Manley has something important to say about the Republican scum that are trying to introduce a "Don't say 'gay'" bill in Tennessee, and their 'moderate' enablers (quoted in full with his permission):

The only reason for a law forcing teachers and counselors to out gay teens to their parents? Increase suicide among gays. That’s the only possible outcome. “Mainstream” Republicans, when you stand with these people, these hateful, vile, people, you stand directly against me and my friends, against our lives and our livelihoods, so don’t expect me to cut you any slack. You want small government and low taxes? Fine. Disavow the religious right — work within your party to limit its influence, even if that means you lose some electoral oomph in the South — and I will take a look at your agenda with an open mind. Meanwhile, you are in bed with hate, depending on pandering to the worst in our society to win elections, so you can’t expect to be taken seriously except by those who also hate.

Health care, Les Paul, Answers in Leviticus and the Rwandan genocide

August 14th, 2009 by Reinder

It's another episode of "Interesting stuff I'm reading":

Answers in Genesis refuses God's command and Ken Ham should repent (from Answers in Leviticus

Les Paul Youtube Friday an old Crooked Timber post rounding up music by Les Paul, pioneer of the electric guitar and multitracking, who died this week aged 94. One they missed, at Lawyer's, Guns and Money.

Also at Crooked Timber, a rather wrongheaded attempt at understanding the basis of Megan McArdle's position on healthcare reform (wrongheaded because engaging McArdle's opinions or indeed taking them seriously at all is a waste of time and only encourages her to post more) nevertheless leads to some good discussion on European health care systems.

But since people do take McArdle seriously for some reason, here's The Hunting of the Snark countering the argument that changing the health care system in the US will stifle innovation.

Also on health care, Cell phone service and healthcare at Angry Bear was good for a chuckle.

Daniel Davies, again at Crooked Timber, examines the claim that humanitarian intervention in Rwanda would have stopped the genocide and concludes that it wouldn't, because it didn't.

Finally, does anyone know if anything that looks likethis creature is common in Austria? Many years ago while vacationing there, I was spooked by a large twitchy insect thing with false eyes, and seeing this picture brought it all back. The critter in the picture is a click beetle and was shot in the United States

Simple answers to simple questions: Wingnuts and Obama’s health care plan

August 10th, 2009 by Reinder

Steve Benen at the Washington Monthly gets a question in his e-mail and passes it on to his readers:

So why are far-right activists so apoplectic? Why would people who stand to benefit from health care reform literally take to the streets and threaten violence in opposition to legislation that will help them and their families? President Obama supports an approach to health care reform that emphasizes competition and choice, doesn't increase the deficit, and wouldn't raise middle class taxes ... and conservatives are comparing the plan to the Nazi Holocaust?

Because every last one of them has a mental age of fourteen.

This has been another edition of "Simple answers to simple questions"*). If you want a longer, more nuanced answer, go to Benen's post linked above, but honestly, this one fits the facts as well as anything he says.

*) which is a formula that I've been told can be credited to Atrios. I dunno. Everyone and their dog is using it.

Youtubery: The defenders

May 30th, 2009 by Reinder

Via Aggie, via Seeing Eye Chick:

Fairy-tale physics, plus laying the ‘cheese-eating surrender monkey’ meme to rest and putting a bit heavy tombstone on it so it won’t crawl out

May 7th, 2009 by Reinder

Chad Orzel at Uncertain Principles has started what looks like a series of posts on the physics of fairy tales. The first one, The Faulty Thermodynamics of Children's Stories, discusses the bowls of porridge in Goldilocks and the Three Bears:

After all, the Papa Bear, being the biggest, presumably has the largest bowl of porridge. Here, the story fits what we know about thermodynamics, as the largest bowl should take the longest time to cool, and thus should be the hottest at any time before the porridge bowls reach thermal equilibrium with their environment.

The description provided of the other two bowls, though, is not consistent with known physics. The Mama Bear, as the other adult, ought to have the second-largest bowl of porridge, which, in turn, ought to be the second-warmest bowl of porridge (assuming that equilibrium has not been reached). But the story says that this bowl is too cold! Meanwhile, the Baby Bear, who ought to have the smallest portion of porridge, has a bowl that is "just right," neither too not nor too cold. As the smallest bowl, though, the Baby Bear's porridge ought to be the coldest of the three (until equilibrium is reached, of course). There is no way for the bowls as described to have the temperatures described, while being consistent with the known laws of thermodynamics.

The only way that the story can make sense is if, for some reason, the Mama Bear has the smallest portion of porridge. In which case, this is a story with a very different moral than the original-- it's a story about the oppression of the Mama Bear, either because the patriarchy is forcing her to eat only the scraps left behind after her husband and child have had their fill, or because the unhealthy woodland media culture has saddled her with a negative body image, leading to an eating disorder.

and several dozen commenters fall over one another to deliver alternative explanations for this thermodynamical conundrum and challenging the underlying assumptions that the bowls were identical apart from their dimensions or that the three servings of porridge were served at the same temperature to begin with. I love this literal-minded kind of stuff. Show me a website that demonstrates empirically exactly how useless a chocolate teapot is, and I'm a happy nerd.

Prof. Orzel has already followed up with Fairy-Tale Physics 2: Spinning Gold which is about the nuclear physics of Rumpelstiltskin. Meanwhile, fellow Scienceblogger Matt Springer of Built on Facts has followed Prof. Orzel's lead and disusses The Physics of Rapunzel, specifically how much the mechanical problems of dropping that much hair down and bearing the weight of the Prince on it.

Elsewhere, and on a completely different subject, Robert Farley at Lawyers, Guns and Money has finally taken the time to write the post I've needed for years, one in which the stereotype of the French as having a cowardly military is examined and debunked. Actually, most of the debunking is done by the commenters - there's some excellent historical debate in that there post. So read both the post and the comments, pretty much all of them.

Obsidian Wings:The Psychology of Oogedy-Boogedyism

November 21st, 2008 by Reinder

This must-read post from Publius on why liberals fear social conservatives is very succinctly argued:

Social conservatives aren’t merely a group with which liberals disagree – they’re a group perceived to threaten our lives in tangible ways. Outside of the Christian Right, gay rights isn’t some abstract morality play. It’s a direct assault upon some of our closest friends and family. That’s what’s so radicalizing about Prop 8 – it wasn’t merely a political debate. These out-of-state groups decided to reach into the lives of complete strangers and rip an already-established right to wed out of their arms. What social conservatives viewed as promoting God’s will, others viewed as a direct and cruel assault on thousands of loving families.

This perceived sense of attack is especially strong on sexual privacy issues. It’s not so much the substantive disagreement that is driving liberals’ loathing. It’s the perception that the Christian Right would intrude on – and dictate – the most intimate decisions of people’s lives. For many women (and men), the idea of forced pregnancy and contraception bans aren’t abstract arguments – they’re pretty terrifying.

Same deal with Terri Schiavo. Again, what was so oogedy about l’affaire Schiavo is not the abstract philosophical debate about “life.” It was that a group of frenzied social conservatives decided to intrude on the Schiavos' privacy, publicizing and overruling a private and wrenching family decision. Even worse, they actually convinced Congress – in the midst of two wars – to intervene.

Other issues – such as stem cells and creationism – aren’t quite as scary, but they’re still perceived as intrusions on our lives. The restrictions on stem cell research have surely set several cures back many years – costing God knows how many lives. And as a fairly new parent, the idea of social conservatives seizing a state or county school board is suddenly a lot scarier.

Anyway, the larger point is that there actually are substantive explanations for people’s hostility to social conservatives. It’s not that people are snobs or bigots. It’s that they see the social conservative agenda as a direct threat to some of their most cherished and intimate rights.

But as someone who has spent most of his time writing in the past couple of weeks, I find the structure a bit strange. It ends:

But until liberals stop thinking that social conservatives are trying to intrude on the most private aspects of their lives, they’re going to remain extremely hostile.

Which sounds like it's building up to an argument as to why we should stop thinking that social conservatives are trying to intrude on the most private aspects of our lives, but instead leaves the reader hanging.

Gee, I wonder why.

Two must-read articles

November 13th, 2008 by Reinder

Andrew Sullivan on why Sarah Palin still matters. Because somebody needs to be held to account for selecting the worst vice-presidential candidate in history. (via Lawyers, Guns and Money)

Michael Lewis on the End of Wall Street's Boom. This long article by Michael Lewis, writer of Liar's Poker is financial porn: It explains in lurid detail just how complex some of the financial instruments used on Wall Street are, and just how poorly the financiers themselves understood them. You'll be amused and outraged at the same time. (via Naked Capitalism, but I can't find the link anymore)

Trying to fathom the magnitude

September 24th, 2008 by Reinder

Is it too much of an exaggeration to claim that the Bush presidency is over, and that President Bush hasn't been succeeded by Dick Cheney or any of the four people on the Presidential election ticket, but by an unelected Chancellor?
From Naked Capitalism:

This is a financial coup d'etat, with the only limitation the $700 billion balance sheet figure. The measure already gives the Treasury the authority not simply to buy dud mortgage paper but other assets as it deems fit. There is no accountability beyond a report (contents undefined) to Congress three months into the program and semiannually thereafter. The Treasury could via incompetence or venality grossly overpay for assets and advisory services, and fail to exclude consultants with conflicts of interest, and there would be no recourse. Given the truly appalling track record of this Administration in its outsourcing, this is not an idle worry.

(read the rest for context)

Oh, God, not again.

July 26th, 2008 by Reinder

Spare us: In the gym with Barack Obama.


This shit annoyed the hell out of me four years ago, but for some reason I didn't think to say anything about it. Let me correct this now:

If Barack Obama's ability to arm-curl 32-kilogram weights is at all relevant to whether he should become President of the United States at all, why doesn't he just arm-wrestle John McCain for the presidency? That way we could skip the rest of the election campaign and be spared all the tedious and costly circus that comes with it.

I really didn’t want to read about this

May 18th, 2008 by Reinder

What US Customs looks like from the outside
From Scary Go Round - US customs as seen from the point of view of someone who travels in a lot.

For the longest time, I've been telling myself I wasn't going to travel to the United States - not as long as being in transit means I have no rights, not as long as I have to be fingerprinted, prodded, questioned and poked before I'm allowed in, not as long as shit like this can happen, not as long as George Bush is President and the dumb fucks who voted for him in 2004 are still allowed not just to vote, but to drive as well.

Well, I've changed my mind. I have a damned good reason. However, it's the same reason this Italian traveler had, so reading about that struck a chord:

He was a carefree Italian with a recent law degree from a Roman university. She was “a totally Virginia girl,” as she puts it, raised across the road from George Washington’s home. Their romance, sparked by a 2006 meeting in a supermarket in Rome, soon brought the Italian, Domenico Salerno, on frequent visits to Alexandria, Va., where he was welcomed like a favorite son by the parents and neighbors of his girlfriend, Caitlin Cooper.

Domenico Salerno, with his girlfriend, Caitlin Cooper, in Rome on Sunday. He was held for 10 days in the United States after being denied entry.

But on April 29, when Mr. Salerno, 35, presented his passport at Washington Dulles International Airport, a Customs and Border Protection agent refused to let him into the United States. And after hours of questioning, agents would not let him travel back to Rome, either; over his protests in fractured English, he said, they insisted that he had expressed a fear of returning to Italy and had asked for asylum.

Ms. Cooper, 23, who had promised to show her boyfriend another side of her country on this visit - meaning Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon - eventually learned that he had been sent in shackles to a rural Virginia jail. And there he remained for more than 10 days, locked up without charges or legal recourse while Ms. Cooper, her parents and their well-connected neighbors tried everything to get him out.

Now the odds of this happening to me are, realistically, slight. It's the principle that matters though. This is what can happen and if it happens to you, you have no rights. I wonder, though, whether Americans understand how much this hurts them. The American authorities have permanently deterred Mr. Salerno from returning to the US, spending his valuable Euros there and doing the volunteer work in the community he was a guest in (more on that below). Any tax moneys spent on Ms. Cooper's education will be benefitting Italy instead once she's tunneled her way out of the Land of the Free. People reading the story, like Martin Wisse who I got the link from, will be thinking twice about traveling to the US while the conditions above apply, and they also won't be bringing their Euros in. This shit adds up.

Aggie and I discussed this incident a bit, and without wanting to put any blame on Mr. Salermo, there are probably lessons to learn about what kind of behaviour to avoid when traveling to the US. I guess by now all reasonably intelligent people understand that you don't say things like "I have a bomb strapped to my chest! Allahu Ackbar!" when customs ask you if you have anything to declare. It's probably not a good idea to testify to your own character by telling Immigration you've done volunteer work in your host community and that you're integrating well with it, especially if your English isn't too good. It's not clear from the article whether Mr. Salermo did that, but it's a possibility and I'll add it to the list of behaviour to avoid for the 17 hours or so of nonpersonhood on my trip. It's probably an even worse idea to do that while being Meditterranian-looking.

After my summer trip, my next visit will be after the elections, but before the next President's inauguration. The post-Bush restoration project will be a long and arduous one, but I hope that they'll find time to look at the policies that make abuses like this one possible.