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Showing posts from May, 2011

Christianity and Conservatism in the US

Andrew Sullivan posted this picture of a bumper sticker a reader sent in:







That prompted me to ask what those two people have in common? Or, what is the point in comparing the two? Jesus was a moral philosopher. He didn't speak on political issues such as gov't spending (news flash, every politician spends). Obama on the other hand obviously is a politician who only deals with moral issues some of the time. And he does so in a way that is different than someone like Jesus or other religious leaders do.

So aside from the two subjects not being all that related I'm not sure how being a Christian coincides with being a conservative. Jesus was very much about helping people. Not only that, he was about helping the people that need it the most, and those who were not generally being helped; think leapers and prostitutes. And he was very much against violence.

The Obama administration's lack of scandals

Brendan Nyhan says that in the post-Watergate era the Obama administration is on an long stretch without having any scandals.
Obama has been extremely fortunate: My research (PDF) on presidential scandals shows that few presidents avoid scandal for as long as he has. In the 1977-2008 period, the longest that a president has gone without having a scandal featured in a front-page Washington Post article is 34 months – the period between when President Bush took office in January 2001 and the Valerie Plame scandal in October 2003. Obama has already made it almost as long despite the lack of a comparable event to the September 11 terrorist attacks. Why?In Obama’s case, it is clear that external events have consumed much of the news agenda over the last eighteen months, including the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the Arab Spring revolts, the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, the earthquake and tsunami in Japan and the killing of Osama bin Laden. The saturation coverage that these stories …

My reply from Senator Corker

It took a while but one my senators responded to my criticism of his stance to not vote for a clean debt ceiling bill. Here is what I said in my post last month.

Not surprisingly, I didn't change his mind. As I said before, I'm a Democrat in a Republican leaning state. So he doesn't really have much incentive to cater to my view. But what is interesting about the exchange is that it displays this ridiculous worrying about the deficit that pervades Washington. Here is why he said he couldn't vote for a clean debt ceiling bill:
I will not support raising the debt ceiling without dramatic changes in the way that Washington spends money. Last year alone we added $1.29 trillion of debt, and without drastic changes, we are projected to face massive annual deficits for years to come. Unfortunately, even at a time when Americans and families all across Tennessee are tightening their belts, spending here continues to increase at unexplainable levels.
Well of course spending by …

Season 5 of Angel

I've been rewatching the whole series lately since I had only watched it once before. I really love the show, just as much as I did Buffy. I didn't watch it while it was on air because I didn't like Angel when he was on Buffy and I didn't think I could tolerate the character for an entire hour. I'm glad I was way wrong.

The whole series is great. I think its more consistent than Buffy on a season by season basis. Seasons 3-5 are particularly good. But I think season 5 is my favorite. And that is in no small part because of the return of Spike. He is probably my favorite character ever. It also has to do with the fact that Joss did what he does best, which was take something and turn it on its head. Putting the gang in Wolfram and Hart was just a gold mine.

Of course, putting them there created a lot of problems for the gang. And that comes to a head when you get to the episode I watched tonight, "A Hole in the World". If you've seen the show you are…

Heat advance to NBA Finals

While it was a bit ridiculous for Lebron James to televise his decision to sign with the Heat during the offseason, I never held the actual decision against him. There probably aren't many places around the world that I'd rather live than Miami. Yes, part of that has to do with the fact that I love the Miami Dolphins. But aside from that, I'd image its a great place to live.

So I really couldn't muster up any anger towards him for choosing to move to a better place to live, taking less money, and taking advantage of an opportunity to play with two other really good players. Plus there is the fact that he was a free agent and it was simply his personal decision to make. Just because he plays a sport doesn't mean he should have made that decision any differently than you and I would have made a decision about our career.

Now that the Heat have made it to the finals I think Lebron and the rest of the team have proven to have made a good decision. Most commentators b…

The danger of lobbies

The other day I posted Mitt Romney's reaction to Obama's Israel/Palestine speech. Romney's reaction was par for the course on the right. Basically he freaked out and thought Obama wants to destroy Israel simply because Obama reiterated what Bush and many others have set out as their peace plan.

Now its clear that Republicans aren't the only ones who don't agree with Obama on this issue. Not only did Democrats join Republicans in the House yesterday in cheering on Israel's Prime Minister. But they are publicly disagreeing with his proposals.

What this bipartisan criticism of a sitting president's foreign policy proposal (which to my memory is rare) highlights is the power of the Israel lobby. I haven't read Walt and Mearsheimer's book on the Israel lobby. But the main point is that the lobby exerts a lot of influence on US foreign policy. Its usually pretty difficult for one specific lobby to have a ton of influence. As James Madison pointed out in…

Biology and Liberalism

That's the title of this Kevin Drum post. Here is the main point:
I've never been either a hardcore blank slater or a hardcore biological determinist, but there's no question that I have a pretty healthy belief in the power of genes and biology. As Karl says, this belief tends to be associated with conservatives more than liberals, but that's really very odd. After all, it's pretty easy to fool ourselves into dismissing the benefits of being raised in a rich, stable culture and assuming that everything we've accomplished has actually been the result of hard work and personal rectitude. But what if you believe, say, that (a) IQ has a strong biological component and (b) high IQ is really important for getting ahead in the world? If you believe this and also happen to be blessed with a high IQ, how can you possibly convince yourself that this is anything other than the blind luck of the genetic lottery?That sounds right to me. And when you accept that, then this s…

Is college worth it?

That question has been asked by a lot of people since getting the latest employment numbers. This link shows a graph of employment rates of people at different levels of education.

Put simply, having a degree makes employment more likely. Right now about 7.5% of people with some college but no bachelor's degree are unemployed. The lower amount of education you have the higher the unemployment rate. While about 4.5% of those with at least a bachelor's degree are unemployed, yours truly being one of them.

So yeah, I think college is a good idea for most people. But I share some of the same thoughts on what I would do differently that other graduates do in the other graph in the link. I wouldn't have chosen a different major even though engineering and physical sciences have the highest rates of employment and have the most graduates performing a job directly related to their degree. I chose political science because I enjoyed it and I'm happy with that.

The two big th…

Joakim Noah and speech

The Bulls center has been getting a lot of heat for calling a fan a "fag" (If I'm reading his lips properly). And rightfully so. Despite my love for South Park I disagree with their attempt to redefine the word fag or faggot to mean something other than a gay slur. Yes the word has had other meanings. But the predominant meaning is that of a gay slur.

The NBA can largely do what it wants since its a largely private organization. I say largely because I'm pretty sure some stadiums/arenas where they play are publicly funded. And even if they aren't there are aspects of public policy that allow a private owner to build their venues for their teams to play in. So I don't have a problem with the NBA fining Noah (or Kobe Bryant a little while back) for using this language. And I think it could be effective in changing the culture that encourages gay discrimination and bashing. (On a related note, I'm glad to see a Suns executive come out. Props to him for the …

Lady Gaga

I'm not a big consumer of pop culture, especially not pop music. I stick to hard rock and heavy metal, and the classics at that. So its not surprising that I hadn't heard a Lady Gaga song until South Park had Cartman cover "Poker Face". And even then I had no idea who it was. I thought it was an 80s song of an artist I couldn't remember.

The other reason I wasn't aware of her aside from seeing one of her costumes every now and again was because I was in grad school when she first hit it big. My first year of grad school was intense as hell. I was just treading water the whole time. So I didn't have much time to diverge from my normal mode of not consuming pop culture. And in my second year I was a research assistant. So while I was more comfortable I was even more busy with work.

I'm telling you about this because I've given a few of her songs a good listen and I love "Poker Face" and "Just Dance". That's a little weird f…

The crazy reaction to Obama's Israel/Palestine speech

Obama gave a foreign policy speech a few days ago. He talked about the Israel/Palestine conflict. And since words came out of Obama's mouth conservatives are mad. Here is one of the more sane conservatives giving his thoughts on the speech:

"President Obama has thrown Israel under the bus. He has disrespected Israel and undermined its ability to negotiate peace," Romney said in a statement.

"He has also violated a first principle of American foreign policy, which is to stand firm by our friends," added the former Massachusetts governor.
Yeah, because Israel has been making huge gains in negotiating a peace over the past several years. I'm sure Obama really fucked that up. Please. The thing Obama is doing to undermine the peace process is to continue to be up Israel's ass and not be forceful in telling them to cut a deal and stop undermining the process themselves. Even then, as Matt Yglesias points out, this is all ultimately up to Israel and Palestine.

Obama's illegal war in Libya

Glenn Greenwald on why the war is illegal:

When President Obama ordered the U.S. military to wage war in Libya without Congressional approval (even though, to use his words, it did "not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation"), the administration and its defenders claimed he had legal authority to do so for two reasons: (1) the War Powers Resolution of 1973 (WPR) authorizes the President to wage war for 60 days without Congress, and (2) the "time-limited, well defined and discrete" nature of the mission meant that it was not really a "war" under the Constitution (Deputy NSA Adviser Ben Rhodes and the Obama OLC). Those claims were specious from the start, but are unquestionably inapplicable now.

From the start, the WPR provided no such authority. Section 1541(c) explicitly states that the war-making rights conferred by the statute apply only to "a national emergency created by attack upon the United States, its territories or pos…

Francis Ford Coppola look alike

I saw this guy at Chili's tonight.



















My uncle actually said something to him. The guy acted like you would suspect a famous person would if they didn't want to be bothered in public.

Where is the blood in the street?

I was listening to Jon Stewart debate Bill O'Reilly about the rapper visiting the White House faux-controversy. I'll at least give O'Reilly credit for having Stewart on and giving the whole thing a bit of a thoughtful discussion. O'Reilly wouldn't be so bad if he wasn't so far into the forest as to not be able to see the trees.

Something I thought was interesting was that O'Reilly brought up Obama's other past associations, mainly Jeremiah Wright and Bill Ayers. Those two people and the faux-controversy regarding them were similar to this thing with Common. But what I want to know is what were the results of Obama associating with those people? Where is any sort of evidence that he agrees with the things the right find so bad? Where are the negative real world consequences from Obama having Commons at the WH and having known Wright and Ayers?

O'Reilly tried to argue that this poetry thing at the WH is a big deal. That's just demonstrably wrong. …

Grizzlies come up short

As I predicted, Kevin Durant did not have another poor game. Him and Westbrook had really good games. And the Grizzlies just couldn't score. They had another really bad first half and couldn't make it close in the second half because Durant and Westbrook were playing so well.

When Randolf isn't really on his game the rest of the offense seems to struggle. Mayo is a good scorer. But he isn't a great spot up shooter. No one on the team is a really good spot up shooter, especially from three. So when Randolf is struggling he can't kick it out and be confident someone is going to make a shot.

I know the numbers say the team played better without Rudy Gay. I'm certain we played better defensively and that had carryover to the offense. But in games like yesterday when Randolf is struggling and no one is shooting particularly well you would love to have Gay's scoring ability out there. He isn't a great 3 point shooter. But he can create his own shot off the dr…

Update on libertarians saying stupid things

Just as I posted about Rand Paul saying health care as a right amounts to slavery his dad, Ron Paul, comes out and says the Civil Rights Act wasn't a good idea. Here is some of his conversation with Chris Matthews:

MATTHEWS: You would have voted against that law. You wouldn’t have voted for the ’64 civil rights bill.

PAUL: Yes, but not in — I wouldn’t vote against getting rid of the Jim Crow laws.

MATTHEWS: But you would have voted for the — you know you — oh, come on. Honestly, Congressman, you were not for the ’64 civil rights bill.

PAUL: Because — because of the property rights element, not because it got rid of the Jim Crow law.

MATTHEWS: Right. The guy who owns a bar says, no blacks allowed, you say that’s fine. … This was a local shop saying no blacks allowed. You say that should be legal?

PAUL: That’s — that’s ancient history. That’s ancient history. That’s over and done with. [...]

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you this. We have had a long history of government involvement with Medi…

Community's sequel

*Spoilers ahead*

I posted last week about how much I loved the paintball western episode of Community. The follow up to that episode was just as enjoyable. I loved the transition from the western genre to the Star Wars genre. And I especially loved Abed's comment acknowledging that things have moved from one genre to the other and that he was disappointed that it didn't happen sooner.

His interaction with Annie while in character as Han Solo was also fantastic. Huge kudos to him for kissing Annie. He made Han proud. Jeff had the best non-Abed quote of the night with, "Denny's is for winners". But Abed closed it out by stating that sequels are almost always disappointing. Two of the few exceptions are often referenced The Empire Strikes Back and this episode of Community.

I hate that I have only just recently started watching this show. I'm dying to see more of it. And eventually I'm going to have to bust my budget and get the first season on dvd. Though…

Grizzlies force a game 7

They overcame a poor first half and benefited from a poor second half for Durant to get it back to OKC and a chance at the Western conference finals. Randolf was really on his game. He scored inside, got to the line, and hit mid range shots. He at least kept things from getting too carried away in the first half.

The rest of the team was pretty solid. Battier and Young struggled offensively. But that didn't really matter with how bad the Thunder's offense was in the second half. Looking ahead to Sunday, I doubt we see that poor of a performance from them again. So I think the Grizzlies will have to play at least as well as they did tonight to win. In all likelihood they are going to have to play as well as they did in the second half tonight for an entire game. They won't be able to play as bad as they did in the first half of the past two games and win.

Whatever the outcome it has been a great ride for Memphis. We were just hoping that the team didn't get swept by th…

Why liberals and libertarians can't get along

This latest from Rand Paul is also why those two factions will not form a third party. Here he is talking about health care:

"With regard to the idea of whether you have a right to health care, you have realize what that implies. It’s not an abstraction. I’m a physician. That means you have a right to come to my house and conscript me. It means you believe in slavery. It means that you’re going to enslave not only me, but the janitor at my hospital, the person who cleans my office, the assistants who work in my office, the nurses. ... You have a right to beat down my door with the police, escort me away and force me to take care of you? That’s ultimately what the right to free health care would be,"
Sorry, but that's just crazy. And no liberal can accept that. He is wrong about what a right to health care would mean. And he is wrong that it would be equivalent to slavery. Libertarians like Paul simply have too different a conception of what rights are and what freedom ent…

The ridiculousness of FoxNews

I usually don't like posting on right wing media. I think it brings attention to things that largely don't deserve the attention of serious people. But Jon Stewart did a good job with the latest episode in ridiculous crap that FoxNews was peddling regarding some rapper that was invited to the WH.

Stewart did his usual, funny bit where he shows nearly every person on FoxNews blathering about something and then showing a previous clip of them contradicting the thing they were blathering about. One thing that caught my attention that I don't think Stewart totally picked up on was all of the talk about guns.

He did pick up on the racist element of FoxNews criticizing this black rapper all the while loving the white equivalent in Ted Nuggent or Johnny Cash. What I picked up on was the fact that the rapper was talking about carrying guns. And of course Ted Nuggent is a huge gun nut, which is something the right and FoxNews love about him.

But they took the complete opposite a…

Rights and freedom as moving targets

This Matt Ygelsias post on immigration talks about an issue I have with libertarian arguments for more states rights. Here is his observation about immigration and freedom:

I was watching an episode of the excellent BBC/Discovery Channel collaboration Human Planet the other day and it featured a bit on the Korowai people of southeastern Papua who were uncontacted until the 1970s and live in giant treehouses. It was pretty cool stuff. But it’s also obviously a very difficult, very strenuous, very limiting life. If someone wanted to leave that life and go take a crummy job in a rich country, I’d find that very understandable. You could watch television, for example, and have access to basic health care services.
As usual Matt is spot on. The ability of a lot of people in the world to move to the US would enhance their freedom. But we don't let them do that. Of course, we can't let everyone in. But I agree with Matt that we should be letting more immigrants in. It would help both …

Big night in Memphis

The Grizzlies took the Thunder to three overtimes before finally losing. They made a bunch of crazy shots to tie the game and force multiple overtimes. But with Mike Conley and OJ Mayo fouled out of the game they didn't have enough offense to keep up with the likes of Durant and Westbrook.

Its a tough loss but I think they can be proud at the way they fought. OKC has the advantage in the series. But the Grizzlies have shown that they can win on the road and they will not be beat easily.

The other big thing happening in Memphis tonight was much more serious. According to the latest reports, the Mississippi River is still holding at about 48 feet, which is only .7 feet below the all time high. There are parts of the city under water. But things seem to be going well all things considered. And things seem to look good moving forward.

Big thanks to all of those helping out with the floods and to all of those structures that have helped keep the river somewhat at bay.

Canada won't extradite suspect because US tortures people

Self explanatory title. Here is the link. I just wanted to point out how pathetic the US has become when it comes to the issue of torture.

I applaud Canada for making this decision. They are doing the right and legal thing here. We have consistently done the wrong thing. The Bush administration signed off on torture. They outsourced it when they decided they didn't want to do it themselves. The Obama administration comes in, says we tortured people, yet refuses to do anything about it.

So not only did the Bush administration break the law by torturing people. The Obama administration is breaking the law by not prosecuting the Bush administration. Even though the Obama administration has claimed to end torture, they are doing very, very little to ensure that torture will not continue in the future.

And this is a problem because the entire Republican party (aside from John McCain) endorses torture. That is no secret. They publicly and proudly endorse breaking the law. As soon as …

Community

I freaking love this show. I'm a late comer. So I've only seen about five or six episodes. But it didn't take long for it to draw me in.

Tonight the episode was about a paintball match at the school and it was done in the style of a western. Using the western genre was funny, beautiful, and hilarious. My favorite part was the opening scene in which Annie (played by the incredibly gorgeous and talented Alison Brie) is playing sort of the lone ranger, and kicking ass doing so.

The rest of the episode revolved around forming an alliance with Pierce and a mysteriously handsome man who threatened the group. It was executed perfectly. The only thing I didn't like was that it ended on a cliffhanger. And after the show the announcer for NBC said there was more Community coming up. But there wasn't. At least I'll be highly anticipating next week's episode.

Grading the NFL draft over the past decade

The football site Coldhardfootballfacts.com has a post up handing out grades to the teams that drafted the best over the past decade. I don't like that they used pro bowl appearances as part of their method. At least part of being elected to the pro bowl has to do with popularity more than it does actual production. But I'm fine with them using pro-football-reference's AV stat. So their rankings seem to be fine.

Not surprisingly the Patriots top their list. And while I don't have a problem with that, it hints at the problem I have with a big position their site takes regarding Tom Brady and the narrative that surrounds Brady in the general sports population. Basically the people at coldhardfootballfacts.com agree with most of the sports media and a lot of fans that Brady is one of the top 10 QBs ever.

The main argument with Brady is that he has won three super bowls. That argument is ridiculous and I have written many an email and posts on their message board trying t…

Marriage and procreation

Andrew Sullivan has a post up about a really old couple getting married. He asks why a person who argues that marriage is about procreation doesn't protest this type of marriage. That's a great question because that argument is a common one in the gay marriage debate.

Taken to its logical conclusion, only people who can have kids should be able to marry. So why hasn't anyone on the anti-gay marriage side of the argument come out in favor of an age cap on marriage? Obviously there is a certain age at which women can't have children. So in the view of these anti-gay marriage people, why should they be allowed to marry? Why not test every man and woman who want to get married to see if they can have kids?

I assume the legal answer to those questions is that you would run into equal protection issues. The more political answer is that those are freaking crazy ideas because marriage is not simply about procreation. Neither marriage nor procreation necessarily entail the o…

The Constitution and religion

Jon Stewart had a guy on who is a big fan of the right, especially of Mike Huckabee and Glenn Beck. Those two guys tell you just about all you need to know about the merits of the arguments this guy makes. They claim he is some great and important historian, yet he doesn't have a ph.d or even a graduate degree in anything resembling history. Not that you need a degree in something in order to speak intelligently about it. But most of the time it helps.

Stewart kept running down the list of things the guy (forgot his name, too lazy to look it up) does until he got to the topic he really wanted to talk about, which is the title of this post. The guy went to the popular talking point on the right that a separation between church and state as it has been and is known isn't really what the founders wanted. This guy says that they only wanted to separate institutions. And they only wanted to do so at the federal level.

This is of course ridiculous. There is no more reason a state …

The Right has a hard time dealing with reality

Yesterday I wrote that it was understandable that Bush didn't focus too heavily on bin Laden while he was waging two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. And I laid out my reasons for agreeing with that decision.

But today over at ThinkProgress, I read that Sarah Palin mentions Obama only in order to criticize his foreign policy in a speech she gave talking about bin Laden. This is what I expect out of Palin. She is completely detached from reality. Obama could have flown in on one of the choppers, snuck into the compound, and chopped off bin Laden's head himself and Palin would still criticize him. But we are seeing similar reactions as Palin's from all over the right.

Many of them are quick to thank Bush for what he did. But as I've stated, he didn't seem to be all that concerned about bin Laden. Not to mention that he has been out of office for 3 years. What exactly does he have to do with bin Laden being killed three years after he has gotten out of office? Wouldn&#…

The future of the war on terror

This topic has been getting some discussion now that bin Laden is dead. Oddly enough I think G.W. Bush had it right in the video some are bringing up when he said that he didn't really think about bin Laden that much. Of course this was after Bush had initiated two wars. So its certainly more important to keep his attention focused on that rather than the whereabouts of one person. But even in the larger context of the war on terror I don't think it would be very constructive to focus too much attention on one person.

Granted, that one person is a big symbol for the movement we are trying to defeat. But in the end he was just a symbol. And given the nature of terrorism, its not necessary that he played a big role in carrying out terrorist attacks. The very reason terrorism is so devastating is that it can be done by a very small number of people at a very low cost. Perhaps bin Laden was important more on the cost front than he was in the symbolic front. But even if that were t…

Bin Laden dead

Great news for all of the people affected by his actions. They deserve the justice this brings to them after what they have gone through. I couldn't imagine how they felt/feel about the losses they have suffered at his hands. So in that sense I hope this helps.

I just regret that we can't show him how our values as a free nation win out in the end and the people of the world will be better off because of it.

Grizzlies continue to surprise

Different team, same story. Zach Randolf and Marc Gasol were unstoppable and the defense did a good job of not letting Durant and Westbrook go off. Teams that win the first game in a seven game series win the series 80% of the time. I don't think its that likely that Memphis will win this series. But this is a great start.

A couple of good points were made by commentators after the game. The Griz only shot 8 three pointers and still scored over 110 points. That means they were extremely efficient with their shots. Part of that is getting turnovers which provided easy buckets. The other part is Randolf and Gasol just being on and hitting a ton of shots. I suspect the Thunder won't turn the ball over so much on Tuesday. So game 2 should be closer.

The other point was that Randolf was defended by one person. You can certainly take your chances that Randolf won't go off every game, just like we have to do with Durant. But at some point it might be good strategy to double tea…

Dolphins finish offensive minded draft

I'm pretty happy with the way the Dolphins conducted their draft. The offense was really bad last year while the defense was fantastic. The defense is also fairly young and has decent depth. So there really wasn't a need to upgrade the defense.

I wasn't very impressed with our offensive philosophy last year, which consistent of trying to be a team from the pre-80s era that likes to run the ball a lot. And I doubt they will stray very far from that this season. So since that likely won't change I just have to accept that fact and acknowledge that the running game being as horrible as it was last year is a bigger problem for this team than most.

So considering that they take a interior offensive lineman and running back with their first two picks. Just regression to the mean should make the running game better. But that along with these two young guys should provide the offense with decent run production and thus take pressure off Henne.

Henne was obviously the big pr…