Saturday, December 31, 2011

An Easy, Fun, Natural, Illegal Road to Greater Well-Being

Kevin Drum gives us a synopsis of the evidence about the awesome power of 'shrooms.
The Case For Enhancing People

Ronald Bailey, The New Atlantis.

Early on, he gives concise refutations of many terrible arguments against e.g. radically increasing the human life span. Haven't gotten to his positive case yet, but was afraid I'd forget to here it is.

Personally, I think that there's a significant chance that such "enhancement" will be part of the equation that leads us into disaster, as my guess is that lifespans will begin increasing significantly before we figure out how to lower birth rates sufficiently. In my book, though, that's just another argument for addressing the birth-rate problem now, and not later. But my guesses are worth virtually nothing, as I hope we all realize...
Gingrich Decries "Nasty, Vicious,...Dishonest" Politics
In Other News: Trump to Denounce Greed and Bad Taste

Astonishing. (via Drum)

This is like finding Mussolini standing outside the smoking ruins of Guernica, speechifying about the tragedy of senseless war.

I never know what to make of Gingrich and his ilk. Are they really so imprisoned in their own fantasies that they do not realize that they are the primary drivers of our nasty, vicious and dishonest politics? Or are they so utterly dishonest that they are capable of simply ignoring their own culpability without batting an eye?

Funny, isn't it, that Newt has suddenly discovered political civility? Just as he becomes the most salient target of negative ads... What a coincidence.

And while we're at it:
The problem is not "negative" ads. Negative ads are just fine--so long as they are honest and straight-forward. Saying that your opponent is a liar and a cheat is perfectly permissible--in fact, perhaps, obligatory--if he is, in fact, a liar and a cheat. If he's in the pocket of Big Soy or whatever, then you ought to let people know about it. At least some research indicates that people do learn things from negative ads. Our political problem is not negativity, and the solution is not positivity. The relevant problems are, as Newt correctly notes, viciousness and dishonesty. In particular, currently, the viciousness and dishonesty emanating primarily from conservatives, who have left the rest of us in their dust in this respect. Obama is not merely misguided, he is fact he is not merely evil, he may very well be the Antichrist. And so on, ad nauseam.

But, of course, Newt himself is one of the modern pioneers of this brand of politics. Our current awful politics is largely a creation of Gingrich himself, and unless Newt is deluded to the point of near insanity, he realizes this and is, in effect, telling what is a kind of practical lie. If he is not deluded, then he knows he helped bring it about, and he knows that his denunciation of it is the height of hypocrisy.

You did it, Newt. You turned your energies toward harming the country in a deep and tragic way. You made our national deliberations less rational, less objective, less honest, and less humane. You hit our democracy where it was most vulnerable. You made us, as a nation, stupider and less reasonable. You helped to guarantee not merely that we would make a few sub-optimal decisions; rather, you helped weaken our very ability to make good decisions at all. You, Limbaugh, Beck, Coulter et. al. helped exacerbate some of our worst characteristics---our tribalism, our irrationalism, our misologism, our paranoia. But those others came were a real pioneer in this respect. You were there early on. Not before, say, Nixon or McCarthy, of course...but you were the standard-bearer of the new wave of political divisiveness. The OBLs of the world might shoot us in the leg; you clubbed us in the head. You Phineas Gaged us. You made our politics more dishonest and vicious...and you did so in order to achieve narrow political ends. And how you've got the audacity to denounce that which you yourself largely wrought.

If there's a special hell for evil politicians in the afterlife, I hope you rot in it.

Well, Newt's hypocrisy is of minor concern, of course, compared to his wrongs against America and her politics; but it does give us an opportunity to reflect on the bigger issues, the political derangement that he helped to create. So, anyway, here I am, reflecting on it and whatnot...

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Sullivan on the Newest Big Lie: Obama Lost Iraq
With Special Attention to Jennifer Rubin and Peter Wehner

If truth beats out lies in this case, the Bush-Cheney administration will go down in history as one of America's most disastrous, and Iraq as their primary failure. They dragged the U.S. into a war that was not merely unnecessary, but counter-productive, and which had as opportunity costs the exacerbation of problems in Afghanistan and the survival of OBL for ten years after 9/11. Oh: and their ten-year occupation of Iraq was, to say the very least, a non-success.

But being a contemporary American conservative means never having to say you're sorry...nor even that you were wrong. Responsibility for Iraq--like responsibility for all of the Bush/Cheney administration's other myriad errors--lies with everyone but the people who made them happen. Everything that wasn't Clinton's fault is Obama's; it is an axiom that the only error a Republican can commit is to be insufficiently conservative.

Here is Sullivan taking on the Bush dead-enders--in this case, specifically the loathsome Jennifer Rubin and one Peter Wehner on these points. And Sullivan is right. There is simply no even vaguely plausible way to pin the Iraq disaster on Obama. It is Bush's and Cheney's and the GOP's fault, approximately as much as any huge policy error is any one parties. (The pusillanimous Dems went along with the crackpot the pusillanimous will do...but, once again, it was the GOP who led the charge into fiasco.)

Extremists and other misologists--and both categories now include a large percentage of American conservatives--do not confront the evidence honestly. They exaggerate favorable evidence and gerrymander away any unfavorable evidence. In the case of anything as complex as the Iraq debacle, there will always be something you can say to provide the kind of rhetorical and psychological cover you need to keep from having to--heaven forfend--admit error or change your mind.

One obligation we have here is to object to the big lies about Iraq every time they surface. What the propagandists want us to do is to be silent; their hope is to sway the uninformed by sheer force of repetition. Our job is to make sure that we do not weary of disputing their lies and cede the field to them on this point. Even if truth and history did not matter to us for their own sakes, whitewashing the Iraq debacle makes it more likely that the country will allow itself to be led into such a disaster again in the future. The GOP fears that less than they fear admitting error; so championing the truth in this matter is up to the rest of us.

Friday, December 23, 2011

A Happy Sentence

Been awhile since a sentence about American politics made me as happy as this one did:

"Facing withering criticism from across the political spectrum and abandoned by Senate allies, House Republicans bowed to political reality Thursday and agreed to a two-month extension of a payroll tax cut for 160 million Americans."

So we've got a payroll tax-cut extension, and the House GOP shoots itself in the ass in a way that the public actually notices getting there.

It's a Christmas miracle...

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Blame Newt...

For the GOP's uncompromising/anti-centrist streak. Sure, they suffer from several other types of craziness, too--e.g. their love of Judeo-Christian zealotry, and their anti-science orientation. But their scorched-earth/anti-compromise approach to legislating was kicked into high gear by Gingrich.

Funny that modern conservatism has been so motivated by it's fear of/revulsion at the French revolution, and by its anglophilia...and yet the GOP's approach is so much more French than British...

Newt's a nut with delusions of grandeur...but that, unfortunately, makes him a perfect fit with contemporary American conservatism...
Welcome To The Dean Dome...

You Longhorns!

And a timely Wilbur Witt tune (NSFW!)

All in good fun...  Looking forward to a good game, and, ideally, a Carolina victory.

Can you believe that I turned down a chance to go to this game so that I could go to Colorado with JQ to see her parental units?  Jebus!!!!!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Ravages of Obamacare

Oh, the humanity...
Ocean-Floor Methane Thaws

I'm sure we'll be told by the usual suspects that this has nothing to do with any human activity.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Non-Denoting Singular Terms In The News


1. A large subset of the population and the media are celebrity-obsessed


2. It is common to become a celebrity for no good reason at all--that is, basically, to become famous for being famous...or even to become famous just for being disgusting

Consequently, we end up hearing a lot about people like Donald Trump. This is a guy who is so stupid, frivolous and disgusting that I have no reason to even know his name...and I'd be much better off if I didn't. I don't want to waste any nonzero percentage of my brain knowing about this lame-ass mofo.

However, he does provide us with a wee example of a philosophically interesting claim in the news--specifically, a non-denoting singular term. The buffoon aforementioned gives us this today:
"It is very important to me that the right Republican candidate be chosen to defeat the failed and very destructive Obama Administration, but if that Republican, in my opinion, is not the right candidate, I am not willing to give up my right to run as an Independent candidate," Trump said in a statement.
Here 'the failed and very destructive Obama Administration' is, of course, a non-denoting singular term. Like 'Santa Clause,' 'The present king of France," and 'Donald Trump's interesting and important thought,'' 'the failed and very destructive Obama administration' fails to refer to anything that actually exists.This contrasts with singular terms that do denote, e.g. 'the failed and destructive Bush/Cheney administration,'* or 'the buffoon-filled field of Republican presidential candidates.'

Thinking about non-denoting singular terms can actually help us think about how language works more generally, as you may recall from whatever encounters you've had with Russell's famous paper "On Denoting."

Here's a link to it, for your edification and amusement.

*As is common in such matters, here I ignore questions about tense.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Are You Tired of Obama's War on Religion?

Rick Perry is.

Not to mention the fact that teh gays can serve openly in the military, but schools shoot our children in the head for admitting they are Christian...
Huntsman Gets (LOL) Serious / The Return of Huntsman???

I guess Huntsman has decided that he really does want to be taken seriously by the GOP base...he seems to have flip-flopped on climate change, and picked up some shiny new superstitious/conservatively-correct views about the matter. Next up: more evidence needed about whether epilepsy is caused by demonic possession...

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Predicting the GOP Nominee

Ok, so Newt, taken seriously previously, is now being taken seriously again--this week. It really ought to be possible to take the patterns of rises-and-falls among the GOP candidates--call it, oh, the Clown Curve or something--and extrapolate it out to see who will be leading at the time of each primary. We could, in this way, predict who will ultimately win the nomination. Will, say, Bachmann be back on top at the time of the California primary? Predict she'll get those points. And so on. Maybe Cain will even be back in the race by that time. I mean, Newt's a contender again... Of course we might have to take into account the pattern of the emergence of new contenders. Maybe Christie will come around again...perhaps he'll even run this time. Or (LOL) Donald Rughead/I'm-The-World's-Biggest-Douchebag Trump. Perhaps They'll find some even more insane candidates. Maybe there'll be a "Draft Rush" movement...

LOL GOP. You all richly deserve this.
Democrats: Demand Post-Debate Fact-Checks

Apparently the Newtenator wants 3-hour-long Lincoln-Douglas style debates.

(We used to call that debate style "LD" because it was slow...har har. The rap on LD was that it was basically just a chat, in which rhetorical stuff rather than incisive arguments, won. (In retrospect, the type of debate we did, NDT, was the utterest crap (too?); we just talked really fast, adopted a demeanor intended to convey the impression that we were really smart, and spewed out evidence, much of it largely unrelated to the point at issue. (Some teams prepared two long, Rube-Goldberg-esque arguments, and used them against every plan; every plan was said to either increase or decrease economic activity. Either increasing or decreasing economic activity was said to INEVITABLY LEAD TO "GLOBAL THERMONUCLEAR WAR" (actual quote). The bit I remember was: a better economy leads to eating more meat, which leads to deforestation of the rain forest, which leads to environmental disaster, which leads to competition for resources, which leads to GLOBAL THERMONUCLEAR WAR. People used to say this shit with a straight face. (Whew! Lucky our level of economic activity was perfectly balanced at the only level that could possibly avoid GLOBAL THERMONUCLEAR WAR...) When this shit showed up, I quit debate. Suddenly the rotten corruption of the activity became clear to me, thank God..) People actually used to scream and spew spit during their presentations...and this was considered just dandy. I met some of the most intellectually dishonest and screwed-up people I've ever met in college debate, including people who admitted to simply making up evidence... But I digress... Ahem...)

Here's what the Dems need to insist on: independent, post-debate fact-checks. Of course a big chunk of conservatives now insist that everything that is not tailor-made to have a conservative bias has a liberal bias...up to and including Wikipedia and the committed (and need-to-be-committed) among them will likely not care about genuinely independent and objective fact-checking...but (a) it still matters, and (b) many other folks will care.

Monday, December 05, 2011

"One of the Prickiest Teams in Blue Devils History"

From the Onion...but didn't have to be...

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Congrats to the Heels on a Good Effort at Rupp

A good effort by Carolina in many ways, including 3-point shots and 3-point defense. That's a game they should have won, but they seemed to have a hard time getting things together in the second half. I'd rather lose to teams like MSU and Wisconsin than UNLV and Kentucky, for obvious reasons...but them's the breaks. Unlike the UNLV game, the Heels played well. It was a coin-toss at the end, and it came up Wildcats.

Roy's system is complicated--that's one of the things that makes it successful and fun to watch. Though second-half shot-selection and shooting didn't look good to me, that's the sort of thing that's already improved a lot.

[Let me add: Henson was obviously fouled on the last play of the first half, and the replay clearly shows it. It's not a hard call, it's not close, it's not difficult to see. That's 2-3 points taken away from us by an absolutely inexplicable no-call. I have no idea how the refs missed this. One hates to b!tch about the officiating, but this was just appalling. There was exactly one thing going on on the court at this point, it's obvious that the UK defender grabs Henson's wrist and pulls his arm to the side, causing him to miss the dunk. Very annoying.]

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Der Spiegel On the GOP Clown Show


(via Sully)
Congratulations to the Badgers on a Good Game, and to the Heels on a Tough Win

Happy/fortunate to get the 'W'. I really like Bo Ryan and the Badgers. Great program. With the decline and fall of ACC hoops, the Big Ten is again my favorite conference, and Wisky has long been my favorite Big Ten team...though MSU is right up there.