Modern Conservative Culture: dupe the gullible out of their money

The Guardian is having a field day with the new Sarah Palin channel:

Given the content available and the affectedly simple presentation, it’s hard not to see the new Sarah Palin Channel as simply a moneymaking enterprise.

Her competitor Glenn Beck’s vertically integrated TV-website-dogwhistle aggregator, the Blaze, takes in $36m per year before ad revenue. And, as both Rick Perlstein and Alex Pareene have noted, one of the animating principles of the conservative movement over the last 40 years has been soaking every last dollar out of people whose intellectual incuriosity has never been an impediment to further rage and paranoia. It’s why places like WorldNetDaily run obnoxious flash ads in columns that, top to bottom, tell you to buy and hoard gold, to click here to join a paid newsletter that outlines the UN/Agenda 21 plans to annex Joe’s Crab Shack, and how your $25 check to FreedomWorks is the only thing standing between repealing Obamacare or toiling in the lesbian nose-earring mines while wearing Soviet-style tracksuits that give everyone frontbutt.

I wanted to see for myself, but I still can’t even sign in for the free sample of the Sarah Palin Channel. Each attempt ends with a server error and my desultorily trying to glean something from available teaser videos.

The author of this article went on to get a one month subscription (cheaper than the NYT!) and describes what he saw.

I am too cheap to subscribe to a pay service. But I do know that I get “buy gold now” and “your doctor doesn’t want you to read this” advertisements from things like and the like. They are *always* hawking something and they do this in a way that liberal groups do not. Liberal groups also constantly ask for money, but it is always to “fight those evil Republicans”, etc. It is never to buy this or that investment, health secret, blah, blah, blah.

But it isn’t just the lower economic class of conservatives who get conned. Consider this Paul Krugman article about Karl Rove and the ultra-wealthy conservative establishment..and this article was written days PRIOR to the 2012 general election:

The estimable Rick Perlstein has a fascinating essay about the seamless continuum from direct-mail marketing scams to direct-mail right-wing fundraising, and from there to the whole character of modern movement conservatism. Go read. I didn’t know, for example, that heroes of direct-mail fundraising like Richard Viguerie ended up delivering hardly any of the money to political causes; somehow it ended up swallowed by overhead, otherwise known as the fundraisers themselves.

And although Perlstein doesn’t make this point, I suspect that his analysis explains one of the great mysteries of 2012: the failure of the great Rove/Citizens United juggernaut to materialize.

Remember how Rove and others were supposed to raise vast sums from billionaires and corporations, then totally saturate the country with GOP messaging, drowning out Obama’s message? Well, they certainly raised a lot of money, and ran a lot of ads. But in terms of actual number of ads the battle has been, if anything, an Obama advantage.

Krugman admits that he didn’t know how the election would actually go…not for sure anyway. But he had a great idea. But then:

Well, what if we’ve been misunderstanding Rove? We’ve been seeing him as a man dedicated to helping angry right-wing billionaires take over America. But maybe he’s best thought of instead as an entrepreneur in the business of selling his services to angry right-wing billionaires, who believe that he can help them take over America. It’s not the same thing.

And while Rove the crusader is looking — provisionally, of course, until the votes are in — like a failure, Rove the businessman has just had an amazing, banner year.

And you know something: there is part of me, albeit a small part, that envies the people that con these fearful idiots out of their money. There are times when I wish that I had that skill. :-)

July 31, 2014 Posted by | 2012 election, politics, politics/social, social/political | , | Leave a comment

Obama’s so called “Muslims built the very fabric of our Nation” remarks contrasted with Bush’s remarks

Yes, the White House released this statement (shown in full) on the 27’th of July:

Statement by the President on the Occasion of Eid-al-Fitr

As Muslims throughout the United States and around the world celebrate Eid-al-Fitr, Michelle and I extend our warmest wishes to them and their families. This last month has been a time of fasting, reflection, spiritual renewal, and service to the less fortunate. While Eid marks the completion of Ramadan, it also celebrates the common values that unite us in our humanity and reinforces the obligations that people of all faiths have to each other, especially those impacted by poverty, conflict, and disease.

In the United States, Eid also reminds us of the many achievements and contributions of Muslim Americans to building the very fabric of our nation and strengthening the core of our democracy. That is why we stand with people of all faiths, here at home and around the world, to protect and advance their rights to prosper, and we welcome their commitment to giving back to their communities.

On behalf of the Administration, we wish Muslims in the United States and around the world a blessed and joyous celebration. Eid Mubarak.

Emphasis mine.

Of course right wing “sources” such as Breitbart (shown in this screen shot) played this statement in this manner:

Screen shot 2014-07-30 at 3.46.04 PM

And of course, we see the spreading of outrage from the morons conservatives all over the internet.

For comparison, this is what President George W. Bush said:

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much, sir. It’s good to be with you again. And it is my honor to visit the Islamic Center of Washington once again.

For half a century, this beautiful mosque has served as a place of worship for Muslims and has helped to advance understanding between people of different faiths. Millions of our fellow Americans practice the Muslim faith. They lead lives of honesty and justice and compassion.

President George W. Bush marks Eid al-Fitr, the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, with an address at the Islamic Center of Washington, D.C., Thursday, Dec. 5. White House photo by Paul Morse I am pleased to join you today in the celebration of Eid, the culmination of the Holy Month of Ramadan. I appreciate so very much Dr. Khouj, and I want to thank the other distinguished imam from the Washington, D.C. area. Thank you all for being here. And I enjoyed our visit. I also appreciate the Muslim schoolchildren who are here, telling me stories and reading poems and showing the art work. Please tell them thanks again for their hospitality.

Islam traces its origins back to God’s call on Abraham. And Ramadan commemorates the revelation of God’s word in the Holy Koran to the prophet Mohammad — a word that is read and recited with special attention and reverence by Muslims during this season.

Over the past month, Muslims have fasted, taking no food or water during daylight hours, in order to refocus their minds on faith and redirect their hearts to charity. Muslims worldwide have stretched out a hand of mercy to those in need. Charity tables at which the poor can break their fast line the streets of cities and towns. And gifts of food and clothing and money are distributed to ensure that all share in God’s abundance. Muslims often invite members of other families to their evening iftar meals, demonstrating a spirit of tolerance.

During Eid al-Fitr, Muslims celebrate the completion of their fast and the blessings of renewed faith that have come with it. Customs vary between countries — from illuminating lanterns in Egypt to lighting firecrackers in Pakistan, to inviting elders to traditional feasts in Niger. Around the world, families and neighbors and friends gather to share traditional foods, and congratulate each other on meeting the test of Ramadan.

The spirit behind this holiday is a reminder that Islam brings hope and comfort to more than a billion people worldwide. Islam affirms God’s justice and insists on man’s moral responsibility. This holiday is also an occasion to remember that Islam gave birth to a rich civilization of learning that has benefitted mankind.

Here in the United States our Muslim citizens are making many contributions in business, science and law, medicine and education, and in other fields. Muslim members of our Armed Forces and of my administration are serving their fellow Americans with distinction, upholding our nation’s ideals of liberty and justice in a world at peace. And in our Nation’s Capital, this center contributes greatly to our spiritual and cultural life.

On behalf of Laura and our family and the American people, I bring our best wishes to all who worship here, and to Muslims throughout the world for a joyous Eid, and for health and happiness and prosperity in the year to come.

Eid Mubarak. God bless.

The Bush statement is longer but, if anything, is a bit more specific with respect to the contributions made by American Muslims.

July 30, 2014 Posted by | Barack Obama, politics, politics/social, republicans | , , , | Leave a comment

GOP irritation over impeachment talk

John Boehner appears irritated that President Obama’s staff is using “impeachment” as a fundraising and “get out the vote” tool for 2014. Yes, he said that impeachment is NOT being planned.


1) Several in his own caucus have openly talked about it.
2) Republican leaders have talked about it, openly.
3) The rank and file Republicans favor it.
4) Boehner has not been able to control his caucus.

More here.

Yes, it takes 67 votes in the Senate to actually remove the President and that isn’t going to happen, even if the Republicans throw themselves on the floor and turn blue.

July 29, 2014 Posted by | politics, politics/social, republicans, republicans politics | , | Leave a comment

Politics: emotional issues robs us of abstract reasoning ability…

Good Vox article here. Moral (for me): mathematical and statistical reasoning really disciplines our thinking, BUT does not convince non-technical people.

This is one reason discussing issues with people outside of math, science and engineering departments is so difficult for me.

July 29, 2014 Posted by | mathematics, politics, politics/social, social/political, statistics | | Leave a comment

Topics I won’t discuss in public….

It is 59 F right now and sunny! So I am running my intervals outside (old Woodruff track) and will probably jog there from the Riverplex an then use the exercise bike afterward.

Maybe hiking later with my wife? Oddly enough, I appear to be enjoying her retirement almost as much as she is.

I’ve also refined a math idea I had; the way it works with me is that I get an idea, then I see how it works with an example. But when I attempt to write it down, I THEN see my “hidden assumptions” appear, almost as if by magic. THAT is when it gets tough..and if the idea can survive this phase decides whether the idea is going to lead to a publishable article or not.

And no, I will not submit my stuff to “crap” journals (journals that exist to make money off of page charges but have questionable editing and refereeing; such journals do exist), nor will I submit my stuff to journals that don’t have moderately high standards. No, my stuff isn’t nearly good enough to make, say, Annals of Mathematics but I don’t want to waste my time with journals that take anything that isn’t wrong. :-)

You can see what I’ve published here; most of it appears either in MAA journals or in the Journal of Knot Theory and its Ramifications.

Topics I won’t touch in public

There are some hot button issues which people react strongly to; it appears to me that some see a key word which sets them off and completely overrides their desire (or ability) to use their critical reasoning skills. It might be snarky to say that such people simply don’t have much of the latter, but I’ve seen cases in which a normally bright person simply falls apart when a sensitive pet issue is discussed.

If you follow Richard Dawkins on Twitter, you can see him dealing with this here. His point: there are degrees of offense and evil; the point being, say, that while “stealing is stealing”, it is more evil to embezzle someone’s life savings than to steal a pack of gum from a store.

While that example is benign, tempers flare when sexual assault is mentioned and when the Middle East in mentioned.

Screen shot 2014-07-29 at 7.09.03 AM

Of course he is right here; to see why, compare this situation to, say, being violently sodomized by a steel rod:

Consider the supposed campus epidemic of rape, a.k.a. “sexual assault.” Herewith, a Philadelphia magazine report about Swarthmore College, where in 2013 a student “was in her room with a guy with whom she’d been hooking up for three months”:

“They’d now decided — mutually, she thought — just to be friends. When he ended up falling asleep on her bed, she changed into pajamas and climbed in next to him. Soon, he was putting his arm around her and taking off her clothes. ‘I basically said, “No, I don’t want to have sex with you.” And then he said, “OK, that’s fine” and stopped. . . . And then he started again a few minutes later, taking off my panties, taking off his boxers. I just kind of laid there and didn’t do anything — I had already said no. I was just tired and wanted to go to bed. I let him finish. I pulled my panties back on and went to sleep.’”

But this whole twitter discussion started with the Israel vs. Hamas in Palestine violence, which, of course, is deplorable.

The fact is that there is plenty of blame to go around, and plenty of justified resentments starting with how modern Israel was created to begin with.

I won’t get into discussions here, as there is a lot of complexity and I don’t know all of the ins and outs; I’ve seen many “reasonable sounding” arguments from many sides. Some of the best discussion I’ve seen is here. If you want to jump in, don’t go in with simplistic slogans and metaphors. Those discussing the issues know their stuff.

What I will weigh in on is this: in most wars, civilians in the battle regions typically suffer more than the fighters (WW I was a huge exception). You can find more about that in the book The Great Big Book of Horrible Things by Matthew White. So sadly, the horrible civilian death and injury toll we see in Gaza is more par for the course in war than exceptional.

July 29, 2014 Posted by | politics, politics/social, social/political | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Tina Fey’s anticipation of Sarah Palin’s network..

July 28, 2014 Posted by | 2012 election, humor, political humor, politics, politics/social | , | Leave a comment

Reporting, poverty, charity, minimum wage and all that….

Here is one reason that discussion on sensitive issues is so difficult: often the headlines are very misleading.

Consider this:

Fox host: Living wage supporters think workers were born with ‘deficiencies’

Now, that isn’t quite what he said:

Hosts of Fox News and Fox Business on Monday lashed out at workers who compared their struggle for higher pay to the civil rights movement, arguing that anyone who chose to work a minimum wage job was saying that they were born with “deficiencies” that kept them from getting higher pay.

Over the weekend, fast food workers in Illinois voted to use civil disobedience to fight for $15-an-hour pay, and for the right to unionize.

“To compare it to the Civil Rights Movement seems insulting,” Fox News host Steve Doocy opined on Monday.

It really is insulting,” Fox Business host Charles Payne agreed. “It’s beyond the pale. Here’s one of those things that insults almost everybody. Obviously, it would insult anyone who was involved in the Civil Rights Movement, and also the workers.”

“Because essentially, I guess, what you are saying to these workers is, you were born this way, in a position where you can never better yourself, you can never get an education, you can never work on the side, you can never have the knowledge, you can never go out there and pool your money together and start a business,” Payne continued. “You are stuck in this because somehow you were born with deficiencies that you’ll only have a certain skill set, the minimum skill set.”

Strictly speaking, he is arguing against equating the civil rights struggles with the minimum wage debate. He is really attacking a particular argument instead of attacking *all* arguments in favor of raising the minimum wage.

Note: I too have attacked arguments made by the “no minimum wage” people which is not the same as attacking the idea that there shouldn’t be one.

Of course, proponents of a higher minimum wage have a variety of reasons; mine is that a higher minimum wage could stimulate demand and perhaps better position someone to be able to move up by, say, furthering their education on the side (instead of getting a second job) and the like. I sued the world “could” as I haven’t seen data supporting that this actually happens. I HAVE heard that municipalities and states that have raised their minimum wage have NOT seen significant job losses.

This is an interesting study about charitable giving:

But there are complicated factors at work in helping us determine who should get our money. In a new study in the Journal of Consumer Research, researchers pick apart what makes us tighten our purse strings. And what it finds may have implications not only for people’s charitable giving but also how they feel about how Washington spends their tax dollars.

What they studied

Several studies have found that people with a high moral identity — that is, who think of themselves as moral — tend to also give more money. Saerom Lee, assistant professor of marketing at the University of Texas-San Antonio; Karen Winterich, associate professor of marketing at Penn State; and William Ross, professor of marketing at the University of Connecticut set out to see whether moral identity always increases charitable giving, and if not, what might get in the way.


Surf to the article to see how the test was done. They found:

The scientists found that people take aid recipients’ responsibility into account when they give money. People with high moral identities were more likely to give if they perceived people were not responsible for their own problems but less likely if the potential recipients appeared to be victims of their own decisions. Having a high moral identity increased likelihood of giving because it meant higher senses of empathy toward people who were perceived to not be responsible for their problems. Meanwhile, a stronger sense of justice got in the way when it came to recipients perceived to be responsible for their problems.

However, people tended to increase their donations when they were prompted to recall their own past moral failings, because they also had boosted senses of empathy.

I suppose that I lack compassion for the outrageously irresponsible. Sure we’ve all made mistakes; no one has lived an optimal life. But this is a bit silly:

But detractors said the Wisconsin Rep. missed the point entirely because he assumed people were to blame for their conditions.

“[I]t presupposes that the poor somehow want to be poor; that they don’t have the skills to plan and achieve and grow their way out of poverty,” wrote New York’s Annie Lowrey.

Of course, no one WANTS to be poor, but there are many who are adverse to set aside the “have fun now and don’t worry about the future” compulsion in order to have a better tomorrow. Example: I know of a brother and sister who inherited about 250K each from an estate. I KNEW, ahead of time, that the brother wouldn’t have any of it left in 2 years time whereas the sister would invest it and do well. It turns out that it took the brother 6 months to lose all of the money.

So, there is a difference between “wanting to be poor” and “making bad decision after bad decision”, being lazy (and many are), being stupid, and lacking the capacity to develop skills that would enable one to sustain themselves (extreme example: the mentally and intellectually handicapped).

To deny that there are a LOT of people in this category is to be delusional.

Of course, opportunities are unequal and the government (IMHO) has a role to play in getting the disadvantaged a shot to move up.
But there are people who will blow it no matter what society does.

July 28, 2014 Posted by | economy, politics/social, poverty, social/political | , | Leave a comment

A great metaphor: Republican Congressman mistakes US government officials for Indian government officials …

That’s perfect for a Republican, isn’t it? All “real Americans” look a certain way.

Workout notes: weights plus swimming.

Weights: pull ups (weak, 5 sets of 10) with hip hikes and Achilles
bench: 10 x 135, 3 x 180, 6 x 170 (rotator cuff)
incline bench: 7 x 140, 10 x 135 (rotator cuff)
military presses: 3 sets of 10 x 40 dumbbell (standing)

10 minutes: bike (for the knee)

Swimming: 500 free, 5 x 100, 5 x (50 kick fins, 50 swim (no fins)), 10 x 50 (25 fist, 25 free), 4 x 25 back, 4 x 25 fly.

July 25, 2014 Posted by | politics/social, republicans, swimming, weight training | | Leave a comment

On the way to Cincinnati….and there.

Personal note: Barbara’s son and wife have restored a cool old home; it is a real joy to spend the weekend there. We also got treated to some excellent Indian food.

We took I-74 from Peoria to Cincinnati and drove through Indianapolis. Going under one of the overpasses, we encountered a protest, similar to this one (the photo is from Missouri)


That *I* flipped them off was no surprise.

What was surprising is that my wife did too; it was simultaneous…she did NOT take the cue from me. Remember that my wife is known as being really nicey-nice (I am not).


July 19, 2014 Posted by | politics/social, social/political, travel | | Leave a comment

Conservative Cranks

Paul Krugman:

James Pethokoukis and Ramesh Ponnuru are frustrated. They’ve been trying to convert Republicans to market monetarism, but the right’s favorite intellectuals keep turning to cranks peddling conspiracy theories about inflation. Three years ago it was Niall Ferguson, citing a bogus source. Ferguson was widely ridiculed, by moderate conservatives as well as liberals — but here comes Amity Shlaes, making the same argument and citing the same source. The “reform conservatives” have made no headway at all.

Why this lack of progress?

The answer is that inflation paranoia isn’t a simple misunderstanding that can be corrected by pointing to evidence. It’s deeply embedded in the modern conservative psyche. Government action must, by definition, have disastrous results;

That’s pretty much it: conservatives have some core principles…sort of “nothing can shake my faith in…” types of things. Reams of evidence will not change their minds; they are extremely vulnerable to Type II error (failure to reject a false hypothesis).

The same holds for the Affordable Care Act; here Matthew Yglesias gives an “I told you so” …and he KNEW that he’d get ridiculed for his initial prediction.

Or there was the infamous 2012 election in which those conservatives weren’t going to BELIEVE that “scientific gobbledygook”: (30 seconds)


Note: the conservatives were getting taunted PRIOR to the election; this wasn’t mere hindsight:

Remember how Rove and others were supposed to raise vast sums from billionaires and corporations, then totally saturate the country with GOP messaging, drowning out Obama’s message? Well, they certainly raised a lot of money, and ran a lot of ads. But in terms of actual number of ads the battle has been, if anything, an Obama advantage. And while we don’t know what will happen on Tuesday, state-level polls suggest both that Obama is a strong favorite and, much more surprising, that Democrats are overwhelmingly favored to hold the Senate in a year when the number of seats at risk was supposed to spell doom.

Some of this reflects the simple fact that money can’t help all that much when you have a lousy message. But it also looks as if the money was surprisingly badly spent. What happened?

Well, what if we’ve been misunderstanding Rove? We’ve been seeing him as a man dedicated to helping angry right-wing billionaires take over America. But maybe he’s best thought of instead as an entrepreneur in the business of selling his services to angry right-wing billionaires, who believe that he can help them take over America. It’s not the same thing.

Consistently being wrong seems to bother them not at all:

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.

Yet this screaming tea party type got applause.

Accuracy means NOTHING to these people. Nothing.

July 17, 2014 Posted by | politics, politics/social, republicans, republicans politics | | Leave a comment


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