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Showing posts from October, 2011

The Pope embracing doubt?

Andrew Sullivan has a post up titled "The Pope Embraces Doubt". Andrew commends the pope for acknowledging agnostics in his speech. Here is the part Andrew quotes and what I took issue with:

They (agnostics) are “pilgrims of truth, pilgrims of peace”. They ask questions of both sides. They take away from militant atheists the false certainty by which these claim to know that there is no God and they invite them to leave polemics aside and to become seekers who do not give up hope in the existence of truth and in the possibility and necessity of living by it. But they also challenge the followers of religions not to consider God as their own property, as if he belonged to them, in such a way that they feel vindicated in using force against others. These people are seeking the truth, they are seeking the true God, whose image is frequently concealed in the religions because of the ways in which they are often practised. Their inability to find God is partly the responsibility o…

Republican tax plans

Rick Perry has come out with this tax plan and Matt Yglesias points out that its just a little better than Herman Cain's.

This is a more modest regressive tax shift than the one implied by Herman Cain’s 9-9-9 plan, but it’s exactly the same in its scope and direction. One of the interesting things about today’s GOP presidential campaign is the extent to which it reveals a total lack of policy disagreement about this. The different candidates’ ideas are all variants on the idea that what America needs is not just lower levels of taxation, but a specific focus on taxing rich people less. What you hear very little about is a theoretical explanation of why this addresses the unmistakeable economic disappointments of the past ten years. Did we not try this? Did Bush’s tax cuts not deliver enough “certainty?”
Cain wants to raise everyone's taxes except for the rich, who would get massive reductions. Perry wants to do the same, just on a smaller scale. Obviously they don't go aro…

The National Anthem at sporting events

Andrew Sullivan has a continuing post on the national anthem. This came about after Zooey Deschanel sang it before the World Series on Sunday. Apparently some people didn't like the fact that she didn't sing it in a triumphant manner. She certainly sang it a bit differently. And like many of Andrew's readers have pointed out, I think it was a nice change of pace, and appropriate:

I am so glad that you picked up the Deschanel/National Anthem question. I just watched the video of it earlier today and was so pleased. The part of the song that we sing the most - the first stanza - is really a series of questions. This form betrays the seriousness and uncertainty present in the hymn, and I am always touched by the searching tone of it, especially the last question: "Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave; O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?". It is a meditation of concern on whether or not we are going to make it, not a triumphant ode to …

Tony LaRussa

He is getting a lot of criticism for the bullpen mishap last night. He tried to get Jason Motte up so he could face a right handed hitter. But something was wrong with the phone and the coach in the bullpen thought he said a different name. So when LaRussa went to make a pitching change he had to bring in a left hander instead of Motte.

The Cards the proceeded to give up a few runs and lose the game. Could LaRussa have done more to make sure he could bring in Motte? Maybe. But what I think everyone I've heard talking about this is missing is that its still up to the pitcher and the defense to get the batters out. Just because he had to use a left hander doesn't mean that pitcher had to give up a run. Plus they are also assuming Motte would have gotten the batter out. The probabilities were probably in the Cards' favor with Motte pitching. But you still don't know. And the Cards still had a chance to tie the game. So let's lay off LaRussa. The players have to play.

The Walking Dead

* Spoilers if you haven't seen the first two episodes of the new season *

It was a slightly less exciting episode this week. But it was more emotional given the circumstance with Rick's son. I like how they aren't too heavy handed with showing the emotions of the characters. The actors deserve a lot of credit for that. I also think they way they shoot the scenes and the score they use adds to it. Something I learned from watching Buffy is that often times when you are showing emotional scenes less amounts to more. You don't have to spell out everything and force things in order to get the audience to connect with the characters. So far I think the show is doing a good job on this front.

As for the actual plot, the lost girl is almost and afterthought since Rick's son was shot. Its been, what, over a day, maybe two, since she ran off and got lost. I can buy that she got away from walkers. But for a girl that young I would think it will be getting difficult to find …

Dolphins v Broncos

Its funny how I said last week that I wanted the Dolphins to lose every game except the Jets and Patriots games so that we could get Andrew Luck. The Broncos put me to the test. Tebow and the rest of the team sucked for the first three quarters. And while the Dolphins continued to be pretty mediocre, they miraculously got a TD inside the red zone along with a few FGs to get a 15 point lead going into the 4th quarter.

At that point I was find of excited. I actually wanted to win. And it was fun to start to get that feeling you get when your team has won. But typically, they blew it and let Tebow look like John Elway. Granted, when Tebow finally let loose in the 4th quarter he started throwing with accuracy, which he wasn't doing for the first three quarters. He still has not very good mechanics. But for some reason he seems to throw more accurately when he is on the run or off balance. Its weird, and it certainly helped the Broncos win, along with the poor defense from the Dolphin…

Evangelical atheists

About 30 minutes ago I had a woman from a baptist church come to my door in order to try and get me to support her and her church. For some reason I have an impulse to not be an asshole, or to not come across as one to other people. So I let her ramble on without interrupting her and saying I'm not interested. About five minutes in I think she got the sense that I wasn't interested and asked if I was an atheist. I said yes. But that didn't shake her up much at all. She just kept going with her speech, barely taking a breath. I even mentioned a second time I was an atheist and she just kept going. Eventually I nicely said I wasn't interested a she went on her way.

That experience made me wonder what would happen if atheists went around evangelizing about their beliefs. And I don't mean doing so in a combative manner. Most christians aren't too bad with their door to door stuff. I mean just calmly asking people to give up their beliefs and join atheists in not b…

Being offended by policy

Last week I was sitting at the desk of the office I'm interning at and I heard a Congressman on CSPAN arguing against federal funding of abortion. One point he mentioned was that half the country opposed abortion and would thus be offended if the federal gov't funded it. I immediately spouted off a response in front of one of the staffers, which was that I would find it offensive if you as a Republican wanted to fund infrastructure projects in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other foreign countries yet not want to do so here in the US. And that my taking offense to that policy wouldn't change his mind, thus taking offense to federal funding of abortion is not a a very good reason to oppose it as a policy.

Well, it turns out that Republicans do in fact want to federally fund infrastructure projects in other countries:

Republicans have made blanket opposition to big federal spending projects a cornerstone of their policy agenda. That means even historically bipartisan programs like …

The un-serious feedback loop

Jonathan Bernstein defends the performances of Perry and Romney in the GOP debates:

It's a nice catch, but I disagree with Frum's interpretation, which is that it shows Perry isn't a very serious candidate, which I think means Perry is either lazy or over his head.

I'd go in another direction: Perry is confronted with a tough problem, and is taking a sensible way out. The tough problem is that doing policy in the GOP nomination contest is almost impossible. What motivates Tea Partiers and other enthusiastic primary voters? A lot of it is mythical, such as the immanent Obamcrackdown on fracking seen here, or Obama's apology tour, or Obama's plans to seize everyone's guns, or all those IRS agents that Jon Huntsman was complaining about in last week's debate. Others are internally contradictory; good luck proposing a budget that eliminates the deficit, cuts taxes, and doesn't cut spending on the military or current Medicare or SS payments. Still others…

Fuck it

Just lose, Miami. I wanted you to beat the Jets because they are the Jets and I don't like them. And I still want you to beat them the second time we play them. I'd also like to beat the Patriots. But when it comes to the rest of the schedule, just lose them all. The likelihood of making the playoffs is extremely small. So what's the point of winning games if you aren't going to make the playoffs? Pride? Please. This team is pathetic. The coaches are inept. The players don't seem to care.

I really see no reason to win. There is no pride to be had in winning a few more games than the Colts or the other bad teams in the league. There is a reason to lose. And while many think that reason is Andrew Luck, it doesn't even have to be about him. There is value in getting the first pick in the draft. Obviously, it allows you to pick any player you want. And now that we have rookie wage scales, you don't have to pay picks as much as you used to. So now there is less…

This man wants to be president

Dan Drezner analyzes Herman Cain's foreign policy views:

I found.... a total of five paragraphs on "national security." That's it. No white papers, fact sheets, bullet points, or list of advisors. So you gotta think that these are going to be the most awesome and mind-blowing foreign policy paragraphs ever!!!
Check the link to see the actual paragraphs, which are really pathetic. I can go over to the University of Memphis Political Science department and have every single person over there give a vastly more detailed foreign policy overview than this person who is running for the office that basically controls US foreign policy.

So, that's it. Nothing on great power politics, nothing on foreign economic policy, nothing on our alliances, nothing on any particular region of the globe. Nothing but a faint whiff of Carl Schmitt's logic of friends and enemies. This is actually worse than Rick Perry's efforts, in that I don't think it passes the Turin…

The Walking Dead

Season two finally premiered tonight. I thought it was a really good start. I won't get into specifics since its only a few hours old. I'll just say that I'm a fairly big fan of the zombie genre. Like Battlestar Galactica, it provides us with a unique circumstance in which we can explore the less common or deeper aspects of humanity and really stretch characters.

Zombies work because its not a huge leap mentally to buy into the whole thing. Most movies and shows about zombies don't get too specific in explaining how zombies came about. But the most common explanation of some sort of virus that created them isn't too difficult to swallow. And again, like BSG, the fact that the zombies are, or were, human beings makes it more emotional.

The Walking Dead is a good show because it does a good job of developing the emotions of its characters. And now its more than just sitting around a camp site trying to hold off zombies. I think getting out of Atlanta and venturing …

BSG

I didn't post anything about last week's episodes. But I really enjoyed them. Starbuck was fantastic. She puts up the tough front. But she showed that she had a big heart when she named off all the pilots who have lost their lives, even though she told Apollo she didn't know their names. It was a really nice moment.

This week's episodes delved more into the relationship between Dee and Apollo. Even though I though the relationship between Dee and Billy was really cute, the one with her and Apollo is really hot. They made me feel bad when they kill off Billy. And they skip some emotional stuff with Dee after Billy dies when they have her and Apollo sleeping together in the next episode. But given that episode's plot I guess it makes sense to skip ahead to Apollo being healthy and then being over Billy.

Speaking of that plot, I continue to be impressed in the show's ability to tackle any and all issues. Not many issues are more touchy than abortion. And the int…

Am I the only one thinking of Marx?

Surely I can't be the only one who thinks of Karl Marx when I read about the economy. And when I say that I mean I think about Marx's critique of capitalism, not his theory for advancing communism. I think its hard to argue that he wasn't onto something with his critique of capitalism as an economic system, which is basically that it concentrates all the wealth in the ownership class at the expense of the laborers. Is that not what is going on now, and has been for the past 30 or so years?

If I'm wrong tell me. But if not, I think it says something about the connotation Marx and his theories carry that he isn't brought up essentially at all. For most people, when you say Marx, they think of the Soviet Union and all of the horrible aspects of it's existence. Fair or not, Marx has a bad reputation. And when you cite him everyone jumps to call you a commie and dismiss you as a crank. But again, tell me how his analysis of our economic system isn't relevant ri…

Community

Tonight's episode felt like Community again. The entire plot revolved around the group. No Chang. No random characters being thrown into the mix (not counting the pizza guy). It wasn't in the study room. But it was the group being the group. And most importantly, Troy and Abed were a main focus of the plot.

So with all of that its not surprising that this was my favorite episode of the season so far. And they managed to touch on the faults or the darker aspects of the characters without making them seem too crazy and unlikable. They all turned out to be flawed but in a charming and funny way. That's the Community I've come to love. I also liked the narrative they chose, showing us a different reality for each character. And they rapped it up nicely with the evil beard thing during the end credits.

Please Dan Harmon, let Annie move in with Troy and Abed so we can see her watching tv with them in her pajamas. And more with the less Chang/other really weird characters.

Republicans for taxes

Timothy Noah has the numbers:

This has been said before but it cannot be said enough. Republican presidential candidates and Republican members of Congress are out of touch with Republican voters on the necessity of raising taxes to reduce the budget deficit. A Washington Post-Bloomberg News poll conducted Oct. 6-9 found that 68 percent of all voters and 54 percent of Republican and Republican-leaning voters favored raising taxes on incomes above $250,000 (i.e., the Obama plan) to tackle the deficit. On the question of whether to reduce Social Security or Medicare benefits to reduce the deficit, 83 and 82 percent, respectively, of all voters opposed. For Republicans and Republican-leaners, these proportions were only slightly lower: 79 and 77 percent, respectively. Entitlement spending will have to be cut, of course, to reduce the deficit, because entitlement spending represents a majority of all federal spending. (Only one-fifth of federal spending resides in the "non-defense dis…

Were we screwed all along?

That's the question Jonathan Chait asks in response to Ezra Klein's column from the weekend analyzing why the Obama administration didn't have more success fixing the economy. He thinks we weren't:

Is there any possible way we could have escaped our fate? Actually, one possibility leaps out from Klein’s analysis: We could have elected John McCain president.

The reason for this is not that we could have avoided the Kenyan Socialism or even the regulatory Uncertainty held up by conservatives as the cause of the continued slump. (It’s a demonstrable canard.) Rather, it’s that a McCain presidency would, for purely political reasons, offer the possibility of greater Keynesian demand-side response.
He then goes on to suggest that policies would have been passed easier because Republicans wouldn't have been angry that they lost an election and Democrats wouldn't have been as angry and completely politically minded as Republicans were when they lost.

But what if we had …

The Avengers trailer

Occupy Wall Street

Most of what I've read about the movement has tried to pin down exactly what the movement is about, what the message is, and who are the people that occupy it. It doesn't seem as coherent as the tea party was. I think that is because while the tea party was similar in its anger at the economic situation, its anger was directed narrowly on Obama and Democrats. And that's because the tea party was just the Republican base dressed up in a new name. So OWS seems to have a different makeup.

Just looking at its name, OWS is obviously focused on the financial institutions and their role in our current economic situation. And since this situation is crappy for a lot of people, it hasn't become very partisan, at least on the surface. So for that reason I have slowly become endeared with what they are doing. But like some in the media, I wanted to know more about what the movement wanted. So went to the Occupy Memphis site to see what they were up to.

What I found was two group…

Community

Before getting to last night's episode, I want to applaud NBC for finally letting Alison Brie get out there and promote the show. She was on the Today show yesterday and is on Jimmy Fallon tonight. As readers of this blog know, I absolutely adore Alison. She is gorgeous and talented. And when she isn't acting she seems very charming. And while I think Community is awesome enough to garner huge numbers of viewers on its own, I'm not above sending Alison out there in order to get viewers for the shallow reason of watching her be beautiful. And that's even more the case since Community doesn't get a lot of viewers.

Back to last night's episode, I didn't care for it. There were two main plots; Chang and the group. I enjoyed Chang for the first two seasons. He worked well as a peripheral character that interacted with the group in funny ways. But now in season three he seems to have taken on a role equivalent with the group. Last night he got as much screen tim…

A (hopefully) last word on Palin

Once her and McCain lost the 08 election it was clear that the media was still obsessed with Palin. On one hand, she was a governor who had just run as VP. So its not like she wasn't a fairly high profile public official. And on top of that she was crazy and liked to demonstrate that fact by saying crazy things. A lot of people are good at doing that and generating media coverage.

But once she left office she should have become irrelevant. A half term governor of a reclusive state that is no longer actively running for a political office should not have gotten near the media coverage she did. I had a pretty solid idea why that was the case. And now I have some proof:

“We in the news business were her enablers, broadcasting her tweets, following her Facebooking, chasing after her aimless bus tours…What explains such behavior? Palin is box office. She drives traffic and ratings.”
As I said, I don't think the coverage of her during the campaign was too far off base. But once that…

South Park is back

With the last episode they did, it would have been really hard to ignore that story and just jump back into the world of South Park as if nothing happened. So I was glad they picked up where they left off, with Stan suffering from being a cynical asshole, something I often encounter in my life. But just like the season opener of Community, this episode seemed to suffer from the constraint of having to resolve a story it left open months ago.

And like Community's opener, I thought this was just an ok episode. It was only kind of funny. The spoof of the Matrix wasn't that funny to me. And the Aspergers thing wasn't funny at all. Though in typical South Park fashion, they have Stan come to a realization that could change things and make things better only to immediately go the other direction. While it seems like after what happened things may go back to normal, I hope they don't complete ignore this story because it seems like the cynicism thing is part of who they are …

Steve Jobs

I don't know much about Steve Jobs. But I love his company and the products it made. And from what I've heard, he was a big reason for Apple's success. So I want to thank Jobs for being innovative and running his company well. I've had my iphone for three years. Its obviously a great product. I've never had a problem with it. I've had my macbook pro for about a year and a half. And I really enjoy it as well. And I've had my iphone for so long that I forgot about much I loved my ipod. It sucks to hear that he died at a fairly young age. But he seemed to make his time count for something. So thanks again. Hopefully he inspires others.

Palin not running

Some would argue that it would be a good thing if she ran and won the GOP primary because Obama would beat her. Even with a crappy economy, I think Obama would have a good chance, assuming she would have been able to win the primary. But to me that would be too big of a risk to take. She is way too crazy to even be given the shot at beating Obama. So I think for the most part I'm glad to hear this news. And here's hoping she goes away and we never hear from her again.

Rhetoric and evidence

Republicans are really good at coming up with rhetoric and sticking to it. Take class warfare as an example. If you have listened to any Republican over the past few weeks you almost certainly heard them use that phrase. Mitt Romney came out today and said the Wall Street protests were "dangerous" and "class warfare". I'm not sure what his conception of dangerous is. But that doesn't matter. They research these phrases and stick to them in order to create and drive the narrative they want. And that serves to drive public opinion to their side.

Another instance of rhetoric is Republican insistence that gov't regulations are killing jobs. I must have heard that phrase at least 20 times today on CSPAN. They just repeated it over and over. Its one thing to say that tax plans or whatever other policy they dislike is class warfare. That's something that is hard to quantify and is mostly a statement of opinion. But when they claim regulations are killing …

Slow blogging

I had a relatively crappy week when it came to keeping up with blogging. Now that I intern in a political office I'm a little less inclined to come home and think and write about politics. And I guess nothing caught my attention enough during last week to make me want to write. Then came the weekend and the onset of my sinus headaches.

For a few months during the year, when the weather starts changing, my sinuses start acting up and I get a headache every day unless I take something. I have to get the over the counter stuff that you have to sign for so that they can stop people from making illegal drugs with the ingredients. I started taking it over the weekend and it hasn't really helped. In fact, I have a headache right now.

Enough about my problems. It still seems a bit slow on the politics front. I'm already tired of the Republican primary. Most of them are crazy. And the ones that aren't are trying to say crazy things in order to get elected.

The biggest story …