Big box stores and D’Souza’s whine…..

Dinesh D’Souza has the sadz…not because he is a convicted felon but because Costco made a business decision to not sell his book. Oh, google is out to get him too.

Guess what Mr. D’Souza: a Richard Dawkins book probably wouldn’t sell well in church bookstores either.

Big Box stores: there is some evidence that workers are paid better and treated better by these chains than by the mom-and-pops. I do wonder if part of the reason is that the mom-and-pops have higher non-labor expenses due to not having as much buying power.

I honestly don’t know; illumination from those who do would be welcome.

July 23, 2014 Posted by | economy, social/political | , | Leave a comment

Poverty, statistics, sexual harassment and weight loss surgery

Weight loss surgery
That is one of the things that strikes me as “icky”; it sure looks like mutilation to me. But it can help and, surprisingly bring changes to gut bacteria and improves diabetic conditions. Yes, there are several kinds (e. g. bypass, lap band, etc.) and these are discussed in this article.

This is an interesting video story about a 52 year old guy who delivers pizzas for a living…via a bicycle. He has done this for 30 years; it is not an easy life.

I remember being more clueless in the mid 1980′s. One of my lifting buddies at the Austin YMCA used to throw shot for Texas State (then Southwest Texas); I played football with his brothers.

He then had a job with the Austin Park District; he worked outdoors keeping the parks in shape. I said “how cool is that; you get to be outside all day!”. He reminded me: “you know, that job doesn’t pay very much.” That helped me keep some perspective.

The effects of poverty are felt in education as well. This is a long story in the New Yorker about a middle school mathematics teacher who helped his students cheat on a standardized exam; the idea is that schools would be closed and teachers fired if students didn’t meet a certain score on a standardized exam.

Yeah, I know; we all love the movies where some firebrand comes in and “believes in” the poor students and gets them to meet some standard that everyone else said “couldn’t be met”.

But student performance is a product of many factors including the environment in which they are raised, the health care and nutrition that they got while growing up and individual genetic factors.

Administrators who bellow about “meet these standards; no excuses” don’t do any good, especially if the standards to be met aren’t set in a realistic manner.

Sexual harassment in science
This is a survey about sexual harassment and sexual assault “in the field” among scientists.

The questions were:

1) ‘‘Have you ever personally experienced inappropriate or sexual remarks, comments about physical beauty, cognitive sex differences, or other jokes, at a field site? (If you have had more than one experience, the most notable to you).’’

2) ‘‘Have you ever experienced physical sexual harassment, unwanted sexual contact, or sexual contact in which you could not or did not give consent or felt it would be unsafe to fight back or not give your consent at a field site? (If you have had more than one experience, the most notable to you).’’

Note: sexual assault could include something as benign as getting your butt slapped.

The results:

Of the women who responded to the survey, 71 percent reported having experienced inappropriate sexual comments while doing scientific fieldwork and 26 percent said they had experienced sexual assault.

Of the men who responded, 41 percent reported inappropriate sexual comments and 6 percent reported sexual assault.

The wording is interesting. I suppose that if I were to answer the question honestly, I could say that *I* was sexually assaulted at a running race; one time I was trying to kick it in at a small town 10K as the clock was almost at 50 minutes. I sprinted (or what passed for a sprint), stumbled across the finish line and got a hearty butt slap from one of the women at the finish line.

No, she wasn’t a friend; this was at a small race in rural Wisconsin.
No, I didn’t care; in fact I was almost comatose at the time…when I walked away I turned around, looked at her and thought “oh, she is cute; pity I wasn’t more aware at the time” and chuckled.

But I had not given consent….but I tend to answer questions very literally.

July 17, 2014 Posted by | economy, education, poverty, social/political | , , | Leave a comment

Why rational discussion with conservatives is often difficult to impossible….

Yes, I sometimes get in heated discussions with other liberals. And yes, we have some zealots that you can say nothing to.

BUT, if you present them with solid evidence from a credible source, many will look at it and consider it. They might still find the evidence wanting or insufficient to overturn an opinion in the light of other evidence. But they will consider it.

Many liberals put a high premium on…well…being correct.

Conservatives: from the ones I’ve seen: not so much. To them, a position is more or less like a non-falsifiable tenet of religious dogma.

Paul Krugman presents a couple of examples. Here is the one on the Affordable Care Act (which was based on an old Heritage Foundation plan, but never mind that)

Many simply can’t accept that the ACA isn’t a disaster:

The good news about Obamacare so far shouldn’t be considered disputable. Enrollments really are above target; multiple independent surveys show a sharp drop in the uninsured population; health care cost growth really has slowed dramatically, whatever the reason; the newly insured are generally satisfied with their coverage. If you want to insist that big problems lie ahead, fine (but please explain), but the facts so far are pretty good.

But what I’m getting — and what you get whenever you suggest that things are going OK — is an outpouring, not so much of disagreement, as of fury. People get red-in-the-face angry, practically to the point of incoherence, over the suggestion that it’s not a disaster.

What’s that about? Partly it may be Obama derangement syndrome. I was struck by mail I received after my last column accusing me of shilling for Obama and refusing to admit what a disaster he’s been — when the column didn’t so much as mention the guy. Obamacare was a label stuck on the Affordable Care Act by its opponents, to tie the president to the disaster to come; now they’re livid that it, and he, are turning out OK.

Partly it may be general hatred for any kind of program that helps the less fortunate, especially if they happen to be, you know, not white. Such programs must be disasters — don’t bother me with evidence.

And partly, I suspect, there’s now an element of shame. If this thing is actually working, everyone who yelled about how it would be a disaster ends up looking fairly stupid.

But, you know, sometimes looks don’t deceive.

That last line (emphasis mine) is awesome.

But being wrong doesn’t mean ANYTHING to them….(21 to 33 seconds is the relevant part….”you can go through all of the scientific gobbledygook you like…I don’t believe it”..THAT is what it means to be a conservative)

And this inability to correct based on past mistakes extends to other areas as well:

Krugman explains:

So, there was a fun moment on CNBC: Rick Santelli went on a rant about inflation and the Fed, and CNBC analyst Steve Liesman went medieval on him:

It’s impossible for you to have been more wrong, Rick. Your call for inflation, the destruction of the dollar, the failure of the US economy to rebound. Rick, it’s impossible for you to have been more wrong. Every single bit of advice you gave would have lost people money, Rick. Lost people money, Rick. Every single bit of advice. There is no piece of advice that you’ve given that’s worked, Rick. There is no piece of advice that you’ve given that’s worked, Rick. Not a single one. Not a single one, Rick. The higher interest rates never came, the inability of the U.S. to sell bonds never happened, the dollar never crashed, Rick. There isn’t a single one that’s worked for you.


But here’s the thing: before Liesman started, Santelli yelled that he had been right all along — and some of the traders started applauding.

Think about that: Liesman is of course right about Santelli’s record, and as I’ve pointed out many times this goes for all the inflationistas. So any trader who believed him would have lost money hand over fist. So why the applause?

Basically, I think, it’s because Santelli is their kind of guy; he hates the poors, he hates people who want to help the poors, he was trashing Janet Yellen for suggesting that she actually cares about the plight of the unemployed. And the traders feel the same way. So they like Santelli even though he’s been wrong about everything.

This is a bit like fundamentalists cheering a preacher for “sticking up for what they believe” even though the preacher has never actually been right about a single thing.

Conservatives judge policy not by the spreadsheet but by how closely it aligns with what they BELIEVE to be true.

July 15, 2014 Posted by | economics, economy, social/political | , , | Leave a comment

Robert Reich’s Film: Inequality for All

Note: this film was better than I had expected. This wasn’t some loud anti-capitalist screed nor was it even partisan. It was NOT Michael Moore style entertainment for liberals nor was it dry and technical, though it did have quite a bit of intellectual content.

Its thesis: while any capitalist system will have *some* inherit inequality (e. g. brain surgeons will earn more than sanitation workers), our level of inequality is too high and favors those who really don’t add that much (if any) value to the economy. This is a long term threat to our economy (demand might drop dangerously low) and to our democracy (too much power to the super wealthy).

Reich gives some time to the Occupy Wall Street movement AND to certain parts of the Tea Party movement (e. g. those against “crony capitalism”) and interviews natural Democrats AND natural Republicans.

It was much less partisan that I had anticipated.

As a film: it was more entertaining than I had expected. (*) Democrats will like it, but I can recommend it to open-minded Republicans too, though they might be more skeptical than I am of some of the arguments. I admit that some arguments that say “before the 1929 crash, metrics were x, y, z and now they are at x, y, z again” are less than convincing..if taken alone.

Still, I think we’ve gone too far in the current direction.

(*) Right now I am reading a book about inequality called The Price of Inequality by Joseph Stiglitz and while I like the content, the writing isn’t the most engaging. Like Paul Krugman, Stiglitz is a Nobel Prize winner in economics, but IMHO he doesn’t write as well as Krugman, even if his intellectual content is at the same level.

July 10, 2014 Posted by | economics, economy, social/political | , | Leave a comment

Delusions and holding on to them

I’ll discuss two different types of delusions.

The first one: “If a segment of the population doesn’t agree with me or ridicules me, then I am persecuted.”

Seriously: conservatives genuinely believe that.

Hey, Mr. George Will: I have your “coveted status” right here.

Then there are ideas that go against one’s prior beliefs: MORE INFORMATION WILL, IN GENERAL, NOT CHANGE THE BELIEF. Paul Krugman explains:

On Sunday The Times published an article by the political scientist Brendan Nyhan about a troubling aspect of the current American scene — the stark partisan divide over issues that should be simply factual, like whether the planet is warming or evolution happened. It’s common to attribute such divisions to ignorance, but as Mr. Nyhan points out, the divide is actually worse among those who are seemingly better informed about the issues.

The problem, in other words, isn’t ignorance; it’s wishful thinking. Confronted with a conflict between evidence and what they want to believe for political and/or religious reasons, many people reject the evidence. And knowing more about the issues widens the divide, because the well informed have a clearer view of which evidence they need to reject to sustain their belief system.

The Krugman article I linked to talks about economic beliefs.

Jerry Coyne deals with the science aspect (e. g. evolution); he shows that acceptance of evolution is NOT as strongly correlated with scientific knowledge as one might think; one also has to correct for religious belief.

Though the first two examples are mainly aimed at conservatives, liberals are guilty of this as well; in the liberal case, think of woo-woos, anti-GMO crackpots and anti-vaccine types.

In the liberal case, the fallacy isn’t one of traditional religion but rather “natural is better”.

July 8, 2014 Posted by | economics, economy, evolution, religion, science, social/political, superstition | , , | Leave a comment

Do you miss President Bush?

Evidently some do:


Hmmm, this is what I see:



Oh sure, there are the usual caveats: “what sort of jobs are those; what about discouraged workers”, etc. I am not crazy enough to say “all is peachy” because it isn’t.

But who wants the Bush disaster back?

July 6, 2014 Posted by | Barack Obama, economy, social/political | | Leave a comment

Political Quips

Well, the economy added jobs again: 288K. Unemployment fell to 6.1 percent as well.

Still, we could do better if we had some infrastructure investment.

It appears that it has finally sunk in that the Republicans will not work with the President, AT ALL. So, he’ll do what he is able to do via executive actions. Sure, even our stupid little hometown hick paper editorial board doesn’t like it (though they blame Congress as well), but this isn’t a “both sides” type of thing.

What I think has happened: Republicans are over represented in Congress, and Republicans in Congress are out to please their bat-sh*t crazy base.

Example: a conservative webpage made this comment:



See that? The conservatives are saying that American freedom bothers the Muslims or that they are bothered by not having Sharia Law.

In fact, if you follow the link to the Asian Times article you see:

Nearly a year after the events of 9/11, the Attorney General announced the introduction of the National Security Exit-Entry Registration System (NSEERS). The “special registration” program applied to men aged 16 to 45 who were predominantly from Arab/Muslim countries residing in the United States on temporary visas. The men were required to report to Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) offices for multi-phase registration that included fingerprinting, photographing, and questioning. It has been found that this program failed in two very distinct ways. Firstly, the department failed to put out clear information regarding the requirements of the program, which led to many unnecessary deportations. Secondly, the program reportedly used harsh detention methods on participants. It is clear that this program resulted in mistreatment and rights violations. While this program is no longer active, the U.S. Patriot Act and the CLEAR Act have both been reauthorized and are used by law enforcement.

The national media very rightly noted that the results of these policies devastate the relationship between the Muslim community and the U.S. Government. Civil liberties groups had already declared that the U.S. Patriot Act and the CLEAR Act negatively impact the civil liberties of Muslim minority groups, particularly Arab minorities and Muslim immigrants. Muslim organizations maintain that these governmental programs and policies create feelings of anxiety, ostracism, and isolation that detach Muslims from the American mainstream. In addition, the government’s use of racial profiling encouraged media and organizational stereotyping.

Racial profiling was once widespread in the New York area.

Now, to widespread attacks, arson, killings and other harassments against the Muslims living in the United States not forgetting the most recently (June 2014) dropped surveillance program carried out by the New York City police department that severely harassed the Muslims in the area.

Anti-mosque incidents have escalated in recent years. In 2012 summer, a mosque in Joplin, Missouri, burned to the ground. In 2011, a man was arrested with explosives outside the Islamic Center in Dearborn, Michigan. An arson fire seriously damaged a mosque in Wichita, Kansas, in May 2011. And incidents of mosque vandalism have become more common.

Hate groups have been on the rise, too; one of the most horrific hate crimes was the murder of Shaima Alawadi, a young mother who had received anonymous notes calling her a terrorist.

In other words, the use of “free” is intended as irony; they are complaining of profiling, discrimination, campaigns to stop the building of mosques, etc.

If the conservative base is so stupid that they can’t even understand a short newspaper article, or if they are so sure of themselves that they can’t be bothered to read the article that they linked to, is it any wonder that it is impossible to get along with such people?

July 3, 2014 Posted by | economics, economy, political/social, politics, politics/social, republicans | | Leave a comment

Obama’s Truman moment: “the won’t do Congress won’t do”

Thank you, Mr. President.

June 28, 2014 Posted by | Barack Obama, economy, politics, politics/social, social/political | | Leave a comment

Obama Derangement Syndrome

Conservatives continue to fail to give President Obama credit for doing anything right.
There are objective metrics which show that he has done at least SOMETHING right:



And yes, the deficit is falling under President Obama (though a positive deficit of any magnitude means the national debt is growing), and I am one of those who doesn’t see this as a totally good thing.

At times, it appears as if this is the case:


So now we turn to Iraq.

The neocons are outraged that, well, there is still civil war and “how dare that President Obama didn’t twist the arm of Iraqi leadership to get a status of forces agreement.”

Well, the facts are these:

1. The situation is far more complicated than can be explained in some op-ed written by a non-specialist:

Thanks to the Cheney op-ed, we can see how Obama’s hawkish critics are out to create a double standard. Whenever they are called out for how mistaken they were about Iraq in the first place, they piously lecture against “relitigating the past” and say we must instead look forward. At the same time, many of them feel perfectly free to trash the president in extreme and even vile terms.

I am all for looking forward and trying to find an approach that squares the many contradictions we face: of needing to defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria while also pushing Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to stop pursuing anti-Sunni policies that are empowering the forces we need to turn back; of being on the same side as Iran in Iraq’s current emergency but on opposite sides over Syria; of wanting to avoid steps that will make things worse while not being paralyzed; and of not plunging into the middle of a Shiite-Sunni civil war while trying to stop the region’s descent into chaos.

Obama sees these contradictions and says he won’t act rashly. You don’t have to agree with Obama’s every move to prefer his prudence to the utter certainty that “we will be greeted as liberators” and to a habit of underestimating the costs of military action.

2. The Neocons have been completely wrong so far. They and those who listen to them can go to hell as far as I am concerned.

June 20, 2014 Posted by | Barack Obama, economy, social/political, world events | , , | Leave a comment

That sweet spot between ignorance and righteous indignation


You see this floating around in right wing circles. That, of course, is nonsense. Remember all of the debt ceiling talks?

Remember this (via Charles Krauthammer, no less). Yes, Krauthammer was complaining about the deal but a deal it was.

One might also read The Promise and The Center Holds by Jonathan Alter and Showdown by David Corn. Negotiations were described in detail.

True: there were times when President Obama had put Republican ideas into the original proposed bill PRIOR to negotiation and that might have been bad negotiating practice. And, there were times when something was passed without Republican votes, when Republicans got stuff they wanted:

Bottom line: this conservative meme is nonsense.

But: it resonates with them anyway.

This attitude, which liberals are also prone to have, is one that Stephen Colbert calls “the sweet spot between ignorance and righteous indignation.” Note: the short Colbert clip is about the prisoner swap involving Sergeant Bergdahl and the Taliban prisoners.

Note: Bowe Bergdahl was promoted while in captivity, though it turns out that this is automatic and happens without review. So, i’ll leave it to the military to sort out the quality of Sergeant Bergdahl’s service, even if Susan Rice’s comments were off the mark.

So: my guess is that many of us now associate with others in our social view bubble. When that happens there is a human tendency to try to fit in; “hmmm, what does a good (liberal/conservative) believe” and to go with those ideas and perhaps walk those ideas to unreasonable extremes.

I somewhat fell into that trap when President George W. Bush was in office; while his idea to cut taxes during a war was terrible and his invasion of Iraq was a complete disaster, I don’t see him as some sort of evil villain. I see him as being wrong on many things and, yes, good hearted and right on others (e. g. he really did try to get something on immigration reform, he did start the bail outs and TARP that, while unpopular, did help stop the disastrous slide of the economy. President Obama ran with these programs and added stimulus.

Screen shot 2014-06-06 at 9.40.23 AM

Note: if the job chart above doesn’t have enough information for you, you can find other charts here.

June 6, 2014 Posted by | Barack Obama, economy, politics, politics/social, social/political | , , | Leave a comment


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 651 other followers