Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Dissatisfaction with Romney

This Yglesias Award nominee from The Dish caught my eye:

"When you have a candidate few people really like, whose support is a mile wide and an inch deep, whose raison d’etre (a 4am fancy word) is fixing an economy that is fixing itself without him, and who only wins his actual, factual home state by three percentage points against a guy no one took seriously only two months ago, there really is little reason for independent voters in the general election to choose him if the economy keeps improving.

Seriously, putting it bluntly, conservatives may not like Barack Obama, but most other people do. And when faced with a guy you like and a guy you don’t like who says he can fix an economy that no longer needs fixing, you’re going to go with the guy you like," - Erick Erickson, RedState.

It mostly caught my eye because it's an honest assessment from a conservative. They could use more of that self-reflection and truth-telling. But I also think this kind of thinking is a product of the primaries.

Republicans aren't as excited about their candidates as Democrats were about Clinton and Obama. You can't always have great candidates. But while that might affect the enthusiasm of casual voters, I don't think it will matter much to the base the party elites. John McCain wasn't exactly labeled as the next Ronald Reagan in 08. Many conservatives didn't like him and thought he was a RINO. But once the general election started they rallied around him.

I think this will happen for the most part again with Romney. When it comes down to it, even with the flip flops Romeny is still going to be more conservative than Obama. And sitting out because you don't like Romney enough only serves to help Obama. Turnout does seem to be down in the primaries thus far. And that could very well be because people are dissatisfied with Romney and the other candidates. But once the general starts and the choice is boiled down to Romney and Obama I think conservatives satisfaction with Romney will rise.

Monday, February 27, 2012

The cost of a life, American vs everyone else

The AP has confirmed reports about CIA drone strikes in Pakistan killing numerous civilians. I'm sure the CIA does it's very best to try and avoid killing civilians. But even the best and most accurate efforts will probably result in at least a few civilians being killed. So that begs the question, why are we willing to kill civilians in order to get to some suspected terrorists?

The political answer is that politicians in the US are so scared of another attack that they will go along with almost anything that would help ensure people are safe. But for the most part I think they vastly overstate the risk involved taking other routes in preventing terrorists from killing people. That is part of why there is basically no outcry against these CIA drone strikes. But I think another reason is that people in the US just don't care about the lives of people in other countries.

How many thousands of Iraqis and Afghans have died because of invasion? Yeah, most Americans no longer support those wars. But I think that is mostly because they care more about the lives of our soldiers more than the safety of the locals in those countries. Then you have Republicans, who actively don't care about civilians in other countries. How many of them want to bomb or start a war with Iran without giving a first thought to how many civilians that would hurt? Any Democrat who agrees with them on Iran probably hasn't given it any thought either.

I bring this up not only to point out the tragedy of these people getting killed. But to also point out the hypocrisy of the US. We like to say we pride ourselves on the values put forth in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. But if we really did we wouldn't say that people outside the US should be treated differently than us. The rights we have are supposed to be extended to everyone simply because they are human. But we consistently don't do so. Our foreign policy needs to change in order to better reflect our values.

When is the Republican convention?

I spent all day trying to avoid writing another post on Rick Santorum. I really despise him. But I'm not completely sure I want him to lose because I have to believe Obama would beat him. And he just keeps saying really stupid and crazy things. So I can't really avoid him completely. I'll try to keep it short though.

He either has no clue what he is talking about or he is so cynical that he just says what he thinks crazy conservatives want to hear. The whole college snob thing is ridiculous. He has a masters degree and a law degree. He is the poster boy for what people want college to do for them and their kids. So he is either blind to his own snobbiness or he is full of shit and just wants to pander to conservatives who despise intellectualism. I'm pretty sure he is just full of shit.

The newest religious statements are a bit more difficult to pin down because they are so prevalent on the right. But taking his various comments at face value, they demonstrate a complete lack of understanding of the founding and founders they claim to admire. And I think this goes beyond the type of pandering with the college thing. He has a long history of saying crazy things regarding religion and gov't. So this seems to be something he really cares about. And that is scary.

Romeny will no doubt pander just as Santorum will. But he doesn't seem willing to go as far as Santorum on the whole religion thing. Part of that is Romney's mormonism, which he probably thinks is a liability with the mostly evangelical Republican base. But he also just doesn't seem to place much personal emphasis on religious issues. If a Republican can beat Obama I hope it is Romney for this reason. I would still fear Republicans in Congress. But I think Romney would be closer to Bush than Santorum, which means he would probably be satisfied to pay lip service to religion and not actively try to merge church and state like Santorum wants.

It's not that I don't want the press to cover Santorum. They should call him out for his ridiculous crap. But I'm really tired of him and the whole spectacle. I hope we get a clear GOP winner soon.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Today in "Crazy Things Santorum Said"

Here is the latest:

On the president’s efforts to boost college attendance, Santorum said, “I understand why Barack Obama wants to send every kid to college, because of their indoctrination mills, absolutely ... The indoctrination that is going on at the university level is a harm to our country.”

He claimed that “62 percent of kids who go into college with a faith commitment leave without it,” but declined to cite a source for the figure. And he floated the idea of requiring that universities that receive public funds have “intellectual diversity” on campus.

So the president wants kids to go to college so that they can be indoctrinated. Yeah, I'm sure it has nothing to do with being able to get a job and or just be able to function in society.

He does have a point though. I'm not sure what the real number is, but some good christians do go to college and come out as nihilistic, immoral non-christians. I'm one of those people. But it's not because of indoctrination or. It's because I left the sheltered life that I lived in with my parents to be on my own in a place that had different people with different views (In my case it really did have to do with reading Marx and the like. But it was because different point of views got me to think. It wasn't that I was gently coerced into believing those things. Being taught how to think isn't indoctrination.) The real indoctrination is the sheltered life many christians live in with their parents.

I wasn't given a choice as to whether I would be a catholic or a christian. It was simply a matter of that was what my mother was, thus that was how I would be raised. It was both an accident of birth and indoctrination on my parent's part. If I were born in Iran instead of Tennessee I would have been raised a muslim. If my parents were mormon instead of catholic I would I have been raised a mormon. Being taken to only one church and one catholic school as a kid is vastly more indoctrinating than anything going on at even the worst of the worst "liberal" college in this country.

But Santorum doesn't have a problem with that because the indoctrination we experience as kids leads to people believing what he does. So Santorum doesn't really want a free society in which people can be exposed to different people and views. He just wants one where everyone is indoctrinated into being a christian like him and holding only the views that he does.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Random tv thoughts of the week

Aside from the fact that Community is coming back this has been a pretty good week. How I Met Your Mother actually advanced the main plot of the show. And it finally (probably) ended the romantic possibility of Ted and Robin. Once again, Robin shows why I love her. Even though I've always liked her and Ted together, she stays true to herself and tells Ted to move on with his life without her.

I can understand why Ted was waiting her out, aside from the fact that the show runners wanted to drag it out and make money. Robin is really awesome. And they broke up mainly because they wanted different things out of their relationship at the time. But Robin has changed and might still have strong feelings for Barney. And now Ted can finally move on. So I'm happy the writers didn't screw up Robin.

I watch Justified on Tuesdays. It's good. But since I just started this season I missed a lot of backstory on these characters. So I just can't say a whole lot about the show. Olyphant is pretty badass. And that's enough to carry most episodes.

Modern Family has been a bit off lately. But I enjoyed last night's episode. I felt really dirty being attracted to Haley. I find that kind of weird, exotic look very appealing. Thankfully I found out that Sarah Hyland, the actress that plays her, is of age. So I feel slightly less dirty. Anyway, I like how they handled her losing her virginity. Claire presumably didn't freak out. That she was able to keep it secret for 3 months suggests she handled it very well.

Phil freaks out a little. But he doesn't go over the edge or get angry. He actually comforts Haley when he says he trusts the decisions she make. While it was a bit immature of him to not be able to talk to her about it directly, I thought it was sweet and decent parenting that he didn't get angry and let his previous 16 years of parenting do the work.

I watch Happy Endings after that, because of the recommendation from Pajiba. It's ok. Last night was one of the better episodes I've seen. But overall it's a bit too quirky for me. The best thing the show does is treat it's gay character as someone who isn't a stereotype. I didn't know he was gay until a few episodes in. And last night's episode involved a story about him that had nothing to do with his sexuality, unless you want to read into the whole being a bear thing. So if anything, the show has done a good job with that character.

Community isn't back until March 15th. But knowing that will at least dull the pain of not being able to watch it tonight. And Parks and Recreation is on. So I'll get my weekly dose of Ron Swanson's awesomeness and April Ludgate's sexiness.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Journalist of the day award

Goes to Jake Tapper for his great question for the White House press secretary:

TAPPER: The White House keeps praising these journalists who are — who’ve been killed –

CARNEY: I don’t know about “keep” — I think -

TAPPER: You’ve done it, Vice President Biden did it in a statement. How does that square with the fact that this administration has been so aggressively trying to stop aggressive journalism in the United States by using the Espionage Act to take whistleblowers to court?

You’re — currently I think that you’ve invoked it the sixth time, and before the Obama administration, it had only been used three times in history. You’re — this is the sixth time — you’re suing a CIA officer for allegedly providing information in 2009 about CIA torture. Certainly that’s something that’s in the public interest of the United States. The administration is taking this person to court. There just seems to be disconnect here. You want aggressive journalism abroad; you just don’t want it in the United States.

If I wasn't so full of myself and needed to tell people that I'm correct about things on the internet I wouldn't mind trying to be this kind of journalist. This is what the profession should be about. I wish more of his peers asked these types of questions.

My sinister stimulus plan, in hindsight

Matt Yglesias talks about the now infamous conversation within the Obama administration regarding how big the stimulus should have been.

The find in question is that Christina Romer initially wanted to say to the president during the transition winter of 2008-09 that a $1.8 trillion stimulus was needed to fill the output gap, but Larry Summers—without disagreeing with her—decided that it would be poor bureaucratic politics to present such a large figure as the high-end range. His calculus was not merely that $1.8 trillion would be politically infeasible in terms of the U.S. Congress, he felt it would be infeasible in terms of the internal politics of the Obama administration, which according to Scheiber featured a split at the very beginning between a Romer/Summers desire to go big on stimulus and Geithner/Orszag concern about freaking out financial markets. Summers wanted to win the inside policy argument, and thought that heading in with a lower ask would make that more likely.

I'm not sure I've talked about this before. But as frustrating as the whole thing is, it was perfectly reasonable for Summers to think this way. However, I wonder if there was another route they could have considered.

What if Summers and Romer both agreed that they needed the same ~$1.8 trillion for the stimulus. But instead of Summers concluding that they wouldn't get that from Congress and even from some inside the administration and thus they should shoot fro a lower number, he and Romer go the complete opposite direct. They go to Obama and Congress and say they need a higher number than what they really need, say something like $3 trillion. Could they have gotten the $1.8 trillion they thought they needed if they would have primed Obama and Congress for a higher number and then negotiated down to the real number from there?

Obviously it's hard to say. And that strategy would run big risks, mainly that it would throw people who were already skeptical about the idea of stimulus off the fence entirely. Maybe the skeptics see that big of a number and just outright reject the idea completely. Then the economy and the administration is really screwed. Well, that is unless you are conservative and believe the stimulus was a waste. But if the strategy worked and you got them to negotiate down to the number they really wanted it's possible the economy would have been better off.

Yglesias concludes with a good reason why this probably wouldn't have worked. He thinks there just weren't enough people in the administration and Congress that though fiscal stimulus in the economic situation we faced was a viable option. I think that's correct. Running up a big deficit during an economic downturn is counterintuitive. Thus many people reject it outright without understanding the economic argument underneath the policy proposal. And what's worse, I'm not sure many more people have come to accept that policy as viable since then.

Our long national nightmare is over

Community will come back on March 15th at 8pm east coast time. My life has meaning again.

Parks and Recreation was doing a decent job of filling the void Community left. But nothing can replace Community; in particular, you can't replace: Troy, Abed, Annie, Annie's boobs, Annie's Boobs, and the rest of the awesome cast. Let's hope the newest episode is the next in a line of episodes that commences in six seasons and a movie.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Israel PM discounts US Chairman of JCS's comments on Iran

Juan Cole nails the analysis. So I encourage you to follow this link and read the whole thing. Here is what Netanyahu said about General Dempsey's comments:

“We made it clear to Donilon that all those statements and briefings only served the Iranians,” a senior Israeli official said. “The Iranians see there’s controversy between the United States and Israel, and that the Americans object to a military act. That reduces the pressure on them.”

That was in response to Dempsey basically saying that it wouldn't be wise to attack Iran right now. And Dempsey's comments about the prospect of attacking Iran mirrors what I've read from most experts, which is that under the best scenarios it would be a very difficult undertaking and the result from even a very successful attack would be unclear and possibly counterproductive. But according to some in the Israeli gov't, you can't provide your voters with such analysis because it hurts Israel's cause. Well, I guess it's nice to know that Americans aren't alone in having political leaders not understanding what a democracy is.

What Cole talks about in his post and what I find interesting is the potential reaction here in the US. Dempsey isn't some far left politician or blogger making these statements on Iran. The guy is a war hero, a general, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. If his opinion doesn't hold some merit then we have a problem with our military command and it's relation to the presidency. That's not to say you have to agree with his opinion. I'm sure I disagree with him on some issues. But it means you need to take his arguments seriously. You can't just reject them outright and accuse him of anti-semetism, which often happens in debates about Iran and Israel.

Another thing Cole touches on is how the debate about Iran in the US is framed. As Glenn Greenwald has documented thoroughly, the media mostly lets the 'attack Iran' crowd to air their opinions unchallenged. And the Obama administration treads very lightly when discussing the issue, unlike the previous Bush administration that would probably be putting someone like Gen. Dempsey on every media outlet that would have him so that he could raise his concerns to the public and counter the other side's arguments. Instead, Obama always assures the right and liberal hawks that all options are on the table with Iran, despite the consequences that might have within Iran, which is kind of a vital player in this whole debate.

Basically, Obama is scared of Republicans and is tailoring his diplomacy with Iran towards them. But again, as Cole points out, Iran is a very nationalist country that has a very attuned memory of their past, a past that is rife with invasion and western manipulation. So when Obama insists to Republicans that attacking Iran is an option, The people of Iran, and thus their leaders, have a compelling reason to be afraid and thus adopt a defensive response. When that happens it makes it more difficult to talk to them. And that is bad diplomacy. By airing the problems with an attack I think Gen. Dempsey is trying to make our diplomatic effort a little easier. Hopefully those calling for an attack on Iran listen to him.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Rick Santorum vs Michelle Bachmann

I hadn't thought of the similarities between the two before I read about Santorum trying to claim that Obama follows a different theology than his, which is a christian one. Thus Santorum is basically saying Obama isn't a christian. This shouldn't matter. In fact, the Constitution stipulates that there should be no religious tests for public office. Anyway. This this got me thinking about Bachmann:

As James Joyner said in his post this morning, we will learn soon enough whether Santorum’s brand of Christianist Theocracy resonates with Republican primary voters. One of two things will happen. Either his religious zealotry and Michele Bachmann level of craziness on public policy will turn voters off so much that they’ll run away from him screaming. Or, his populist message will resonate with voters so strongly that he’ll end up riding a wave all the way to Tampa in August. If that happens, I have no doubt what the result will be in the General Election some three months later, the question at that point will be whether Republicans will recognize the mistake they made and begin the return to sanity that could have started with a swift and hearty rejection of the Bush 43 era. Only time will tell.

I think his Bachmann level of craziness will give Romney the nomination. But he is giving Romney a run for his money, something Bachmann couldn't do. Which prompts me to ask, why couldn't Bachmann do what Santorum is doing now? Did Santorum simply benefit from a better news cycle, one in which the contraception issue come up and he was allow to go off the religious deep end? From what I can remember, Bachmann said just as much crazy religious stuff as Santorum has. So maybe people just weren't that interested in that stuff until recently.

I think a small part of it could be that conservatives don't want to be reminded of past failures. Rick Perry was too much like Bush. Bachmann could be too much like Palin for their liking. That would be hard to quantify.

Perhaps Bachmann just wasn't as organized as Santorum. Despite similar messages she just couldn't get her's out as effectively as Santorum has. Or maybe it's just as simple as Santorum being the new flash in that pan that will fade out like the others have. Maybe it has nothing to do with their message. I think these three reasons are the most likely. And like the other flashes in the pan I can't wait for Santorum to burn out. He provides good blog fodder. But he is completely ridiculous and shouldn't come close to being a presidential candidate, much less any public office on any level.

Kate Upton: too good to be true

That is, if these rumors are correct:

The Victoria's Secret stunner admitted: 'Yeah, he is cute.'
After hearing the model's response, Ellen shouted gleefully: 'She's dating Mark Sanchez!'
She and the athlete have never confirmed their romance, though a source tells Us Weekly that the two aren't in a serious relationship.
The insider said: 'They started hanging out about seven months ago. He's always at her apartment [and] has dropped off gifts and flowers for her. It isn't serious.'

Kate. Darling. Why? Ok, he's a good looking guy. But he's a Jets player. You could do so much better. Aside from your humble blogger, there are plenty of as attractive men out there who don't play for the Jets. I'll let this slide for the time being since you are young. But I expect better decisions in the future.

I find many women attractive. But only a few invoke an open-mouthed, drool-endusing reaction. Kate Upton is one of them. If the earth is confronted with a "Deep Impact" scenario she should definitely be one of the people we try to save.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Virginia's ultrasound law

This article has me sufficiently outraged. I probably can't add much to it beyond the good job Dahlia Lithwick did. But I wanted to touch on one thing that stuck out to me:

During the floor debate on Tuesday, Del. C. Todd Gilbert announced that “in the vast majority of these cases, these [abortions] are matters of lifestyle convenience.” (He has since apologized.) Virginia Democrat Del. David Englin, who opposes the bill, has said Gilbert’s statement “is in line with previous Republican comments on the issue,” recalling one conversation with a GOP lawmaker who told him that women had already made the decision to be "vaginally penetrated when they got pregnant." (I confirmed with Englin that this quote was accurate.)*

Isn't every decision a lifestyle choice and thus a matter of convenience. For Mr. Gilbert to go to the doctor for a routine checkup or because he has a nasty cough is no different a lifestyle choice than a woman going to the doctor for an abortion. Both matters are ones of lifestyle convenience, though with varying degrees of impact on said lifestyle.

So if we are writing laws that force people to do things why not write one that forces Mr. Gilbert to get a prostrate exam every time he wants to masturbate or have sex? That way he could be given all the proper information regarding his sexual fertility and how likely it is he could impregnate someone. And while we're at it, we might as well do a full physical checkup so as to assess where he is fit to raise a child. Maybe we can do some exploratory surgery in order to check for cancer. After all, according to these lawmakers in Virginia, if you decide to have sex you are consenting to letting the gov't poke around in your body.

Conservative christian hypocrisy

This list is mostly about the Catholic teachings Rick Santorum ignores. But I think it applies pretty broadly to conservative christians. Here are a few of the most important ones:

1. So for instance, Pope John Paul II was against anyone going to war against Iraq I think you’ll find that Rick Santorum managed to ignore that Catholic teaching.

2.The Conference of Catholic Bishops requires that health care be provided to all Americans. I.e., Rick Santorum’s opposition to universal health care is a betrayal of the Catholic faith he is always trumpeting.

3. The Catholic Church opposes the death penalty for criminals in almost all situations. (Santorum largely supports executions.)

I think those are important because they deal with protecting life. That is one of the most basic things a gov't does. And it is one of the basic tenants of any religion. Thus I think these are things Santorum and other christians should value the most. Sometimes they understand this, like when they are arguing against abortion. But that is pretty much the extent of their concern for human life when it comes to policy.

This is important because conservatives have framed the contraception issues on religious freedom grounds. They have to oppose it because they claim they are following their faith and the gov't can't infringe on their faith. Fair enough. But it could be the faith of some christian Democrats we shouldn't have gone to war with Iraq. Santorum and christian conservatives wouldn't not go to war because of their religious objections.

So at that point they would have to acknowledge the point that I have made, which is that you can't dictate public policy based on religious beliefs. Or maybe they would say that you can, but you just have to arbitrarily decide which beliefs get made policy and which ones don't. But that's way my scorn for many modern conservatives has come to the forefront on my blog this past week or so. They are so ideologically disoriented that many of their stances don't make sense.

Obama's federalism

I love taking conservatives to task for state's rights arguments. It's time to do the same to Obama. Here is one issue where he talked the state's rights talk and is now walking the federal walk:

Back when he was running for president in 2008, Barack Obama insisted that medical marijuana was an issue best left to state and local governments. "I'm not going to be using Justice Department resources to try to circumvent state laws on this issue," he vowed, promising an end to the Bush administration's high-profile raids on providers of medical pot, which is legal in 16 states and the District of Columbia.

But over the past year, the Obama administration has quietly unleashed a multi­agency crackdown on medical cannabis that goes far beyond anything undertaken by George W. Bush. The feds are busting growers who operate in full compliance with state laws, vowing to seize the property of anyone who dares to even rent to legal pot dispensaries, and threatening to imprison state employees responsible for regulating medical marijuana. With more than 100 raids on pot dispensaries during his first three years, Obama is now on pace to exceed Bush's record for medical-marijuana busts. "There's no question that Obama's the worst president on medical marijuana," says Rob Kampia, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project. "He's gone from first to worst."

The federal crackdown imperils the medical care of the estimated 730,000 patients nationwide – many of them seriously ill or dying – who rely on state-sanctioned marijuana recommended by their doctors. In addition, drug experts warn, the White House's war on law-abiding providers of medical marijuana will only drum up business for real criminals. "The administration is going after legal dispensaries and state and local authorities in ways that are going to push this stuff back underground again," says Ethan Nadelmann, director of the Drug Policy Alliance. Gov. Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, a former Republican senator who has urged the DEA to legalize medical marijuana, pulls no punches in describing the state of affairs produced by Obama's efforts to circumvent state law: "Utter chaos."

This is disgraceful. It's bad enough that he flip flopped on the state's rights issue. This policy has real consequences. It's not just about a bunch of stoners. People in real pain benefit from marijuana. Plus people and communities suffer from driving the drug trade underground. All his administration would have had to do was sit back and do nothing, allow these medical marijuana provides to do their business. But to take affirmative and seek them out is, as I said, disgraceful both ideologically and on a basic moral level.

Obama also has a ridiculous federalism view on gay marriage. I can't remember exactly how he spells it out. And as usual, I'm too lazy to look it up. But I think it is that he doesn't support federal marriage equality and just wants to leave it up for states to decide. Basically he is completely indifferent to the issue. If the majority of states want to restrict people's freedom they can just go right ahead. That's crap.

First of all, you have to take a side on the gay marriage issue. You can be for it, against it, or think that the state shouldn't have a role in marriage in the first place. To be indifferent on an issue that is about excluding a group of people certain rights is ridiculous as a person holding a public office, much less the presidency. And once you have your stance, you should believe that policy should be passed in every state. There is nothing fundamentally different from a gay couple in NY than a gay person from TN. Thus the policy, whatever you think it should be, should be the same in both states. Saying states should do what they want is a cop out.

Correction on the Issa hearing

Andrew Sullivan links to this explaining the hearing. There were a few women there. But apparently they disagreed with the Obama administration's policy. So I think the characterization of the hearing fits with what I talked about. But at least they had some women there to discuss this issue, the one about contraception and women that isn't really about contraception and women. One less example as to why I won't vote Republican. But there are plenty and the number is still quickly approaching infinity.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

It's easy being a conservative pundit

You don't have to think much. You don't have to provide very good logic for your opinions. You just throw your opinion out there and either ignore facts that undermine your argument or claim that those facts were made up as part of a conspiracy against you and your ideology:

PALIN: The media is reeling these numbers, that I do not believe are accurate, when it comes to jobs. I still think it is a jobless recovery that is affecting America right now. … So that 8.3 percent unemployment number is an indicator to President Obama and to his allies in the media to make it look like things are getting better.

So all of the sudden, unemployment numbers aren't accurate. We don't know why. But surely they are. We'll just take her word for it. That's probably something we should look into. Who knows? Maybe we really didn't lose a ton of jobs at the end of Bush's term. It could have just been another plot in the liberal media conspiracy to get Obama elected.

On the complete other side of the pundit spectrum is someone like Bruce Bartlett, who has big doses of skepticism for a lot of conservative economic beliefs in this video. But because Bartlett uses facts and then shapes his opinion based on those facts, he is no longer allowed to punditcize on conservative outlets. Dealing in facts makes you unconservative to conservatives.

Maybe it isn't so easy being a conservative pundit. Unless it's not difficult to give up any kind of intellectual honesty you had. For people like Bartlett I'm sure it was difficult and I respect him for keeping his intellectual honesty. For people like Palin I strongly suspect she is just so delusional that she thinks she is being intellectually honest.

A perfect song?

I'm not sure if it's because I woke up early or if the coffee just kicked in. But I'm feeling very blog-happy today. Anyway, I wanted to drown out some background noise in the house so I put some music on. I was in a Metallica mood, specifically "And Justice For All". I started with The Shortest Straw and let it run through the album. Then I went back to catch "One", which is probably the most famous song off this album. Here is the studio version:

I think this song has it all. I love when songs start out slow and melodic and gradually or suddenly get fast and heavy. This song does that when the chorus kicks in. But the chorus is heavy and not really that fast. So the tempo change isn't too drastic at first. And then it slows back down going back into the verse. With nearly every band I like there are songs that do this that I just love. 

The thing about "One" is that after the second chorus it goes back into a slow breakdown of sorts at about 3:15. And that leads into the heavy chorus, which then leads into a heavy breakdown. So it's gradually building up to the 4:20 mark when Lars starts in with the double bass that ups the tempo a bit. Then at 4:38 the guitars come in to mirror the drums and drive the tempo and heaviness up even further. Then at about 5:22 we get into some good old Metallica thrashing. And of course that leads to the solo from Kirk which is one of his better ones. 

Basically I like the journey the music is taking me on. Metallica and a lot of other bands are great at the pure thrash stuff that you can just bang your head along to through the whole song. And that stuff's great. But what I tend to gravitate towards are songs that can blend the fast, heavy stuff with changes in tone and tempo. And I think "One" is a perfect example of how to do it.  

The best contraception article I've read today

Possibly throughout the whole debate. Here is just part of Gary Wills' argument regarding the contraception debate. I think he makes this point better than I did:

Contraception is not even a religious matter. Nowhere in Scripture or the Creed is it forbidden. Catholic authorities themselves say it is a matter of “natural law,” over which natural reason is the arbiter—and natural reason, even for Catholics, has long rejected the idea that contraception is evil. More of that later; what matters here is that contraception is legal, ordinary, and accepted even by most Catholics. To say that others must accept what Catholics themselves do not is bad enough. To say that President Obama is “trying to destroy the Catholic Church” if he does not accept it is much, much worse. ...

The opposition to contraception has, as I said, no scriptural basis. Pope Pius XI once said that it did, citing in his encyclical Casti Connubii (1930) the condemnation of Onan for “spilling his seed” rather than impregnating a woman (Genesis 38.9). But later popes had to back off from this claim, since everyone agrees now that Onan’s sin was not carrying out his duty to give his brother an heir (Deuteronomy 25.5-6). Then the “natural law” was fallen back on, saying that the natural purpose of sex is procreation, and any use of it for other purposes is “unnatural.” But a primary natural purpose does not of necessity exclude ancillary advantages. The purpose of eating is to sustain life, but that does not make all eating that is not necessary to subsistence “unnatural.” One can eat, beyond the bare minimum to exist, to express fellowship, as one can have sex, beyond the begetting of a child with each act, to express love.

This gets at the basic point I kept trying to make, which is that I just don't think the stance on contraception qualifies as a religious belief and thus isn't protected by the 1st Amendment. But even if I'm wrong and it does qualify, to not require religious institutions to provide it is drawing an arbitrary line as to what religious beliefs we allow them to practice.

Why I won't vote Republican in the foreseeable future: example # some number approaching infinity

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA):

“As the hearing is not about reproductive rights and contraception but instead about the Administration’s actions as they relate to freedom of religion and conscience, he believes that Ms. Fluke is not an appropriate witness.”

So a hearing about a policy that provides contraception through employer-payed health insurance is not about contraception. The Administration's actions regarding religious freedom and conscience are specifically pertaining to contraception and reproductive rights. But a hearing about the Administration's actions isn't about contraception and reproductive rights. And because of that air tight logic, we don't need a woman's perspective in our hearing. And we couldn't find a woman to speak on religious freedom and conscience as it pertains to the Administration's actions, which is about the policy of providing contraception.

Got that? Basically, Rep Issa doesn't have a fucking clue. Either that or he doesn't give a shit about women. I'll give him the benefit of the doubt and say he just has no fucking clue. And I say this is a reason I can't see myself voting for the Republican party in any capacity because this is a microcosm of how they view women.

This also relates to a post I wrote a while back on Congressional hearings and their relation to general oversight. I talked about how the data showing fewer and fewer hearings over the past several decades doesn't automatically mean Congress is participating in less oversight. The reason I gave was that I've seen data that says most hearings are a way in which the majority party hears opinions they already agree with.

I think this case is one of those examples. Rep. Issa and the rest of the Republicans on his committee brought in an all male panel so that they could be fed opinions they already agree with. And I think they did so in part, or maybe mostly, to show their constituents and the broader public in general that they are paying attention to this contraception issue and are signaling their position so as to rally support. I would say that is a form of oversight, the part about presenting these opinions to the public and letting people know they are paying attention. I would also say that it's a pretty incomplete and very biased form of oversight. But oversight nonetheless.

And I'll commence to patting myself on the back for starting out a post as an angry diatribe and ending it with a poli sci influenced analysis of the political situation. I wish I could link to the paper I'm referencing when I say "I've seen data". But I don't feel like digging through the mountains of articles from grad school I have filed away. I guess you'll just have to trust your humble blogger.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Why the Tea Party is supporting Rick Santorum

Conor Friedersdorf continues his nobel pursuit to convince Tea Partiers to not support Santorum. His point is that the Tea Party was supposed to be about:

fiscal responsibility, limited government, and free markets,' as the Tea Party Patriots' credo put it, the movement had supposedly put social issues on the back burner to focus on the crisis of government growth."

As I said in my post asking if Santorum is a closet liberal (he isn't), Santorum is not a classic conservative. He doesn't believe in limited gov't the way libertarians or some liberals do. I haven't heard him discuss free markets, at least as much as contraception and cultural issues. And I doubt he would be much more fiscally responsible (whatever that means) than Bush or most other GOP candidates.

So why are Tea Partiers showing their support for him? While Conor would like to believe the Tea Party was about those things I quoted above, it wasn't all about those things. I think it was mainly a reaction to the election of Obama. The reason it appeared to be about libertarian type things was that the economy was the main issue at the time. That and the always central policy preference for conservative Republicans (which what the Tea Party was, not some new or different demographic) of lower taxes. Cultural or social issues weren't at the forefront because we were in a really bad recession. Thus the media and political leaders weren't focused on cultural/social issues like contraception or abortion.

The reason Santorum is doing well with Tea Partiers is because Tea Partiers are the base of the Republican party. They just rebranded themselves. Thus, the stances and concerns about cultural/social issues were always there. They were just bubbling beneath the surface. Oh, I forgot about foreign policy, which is something they agree with Santorum on instead of Ron Paul. Again, this demonstrates that the Tea Partiers were just classic Republicans, not some new libertarian movement.

If the Tea Party was the libertarian, small gov't movement that Conor wants them to be, they would be flocking to Ron Paul. He is a nearly ideal candidate for small gov't libertarians. But he doesn't have the Tea Party's overwhelming support because the Tea Party isn't a libertarian movement. And now that the economy is slightly better off than it was when Obama came into office, the media and political leaders are focusing their attention on other issues.

Even with a shift of attention, a true libertarian group would have Ron Paul to back. He doesn't shy away from discussing social and foreign issues. But he doesn't get the support Santorum has been getting because he takes libertarian stances on those issues and he doesn't frame his arguments against Obama the way Santorum does. Santorum is speaking their language, one of a hatred of Obama and moral outrage that christians aren't getting their way. It's very different than the language of limited gov't and classic conservative ideology that Ron Paul uses.

So basically, I don't think the Tea Party ever was the libertarian movement Conor wants them to be. They are now backing Santorum because he most close fits what they believe and want in a candidate. You could argue that media framing has hurt Ron Paul in the sense that he doesn't get the coverage he should warrant. But I think that would only go so far in explaining the non-libertarian tendencies of the Tea Party support. Paul has been around for two election cycles and thus should be plenty familiar enough to conservatives that if they agreed with him he would have their support regardless of media exposure. He doesn't have the support because they disagree with him. We just didn't know it until the economy and taxes stopped being the only issues being discussed.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The GOP backlash against contraception

I thought I gave the opposition a fair shake with their view that religious affiliated organizations shouldn't have to pay for contraception for their employees. Unlike many arguments, I thought they had a fair point, even though I ultimately disagreed with their opinion.

But instead of accepting a concession from Obama, they decided to go all out and declare that Obama was waging war on religion. That's bad enough since it's ridiculous and false. But it wasn't surprising. That's been their thing since Obama entered the Democratic primary in 08. What is a bit surprising is that some Republicans in Congress want to take the legislative route in expressing their dislike of the contraception policy:

In their latest move in the battle over contraception coverage, top Republicans in Congress are going for broke: They're now pushing a bill that would allow employers and insurance companies to pick and choose which health benefits to provide based simply on executives' personal moral beliefs. Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), the top GOPer in the Senate, has already endorsed the proposal, and it could come to a vote this week. ...

But Blunt's proposal doesn't just apply to religious employers and birth control. Instead, it would allow any insurer or employer, religiously affiliated or otherwise, to opt out of providing any health care services required by federal law—everything from maternity care to screening for diabetes. Employers wouldn't have to cite religious reasons for their decision; they could just say the treatment goes against their moral convictions. That exception could include almost anything—an employer could theoretically claim a "moral objection" to the cost of providing a given benefit. The bill would also allow employers to sue if state or federal regulators try to make them comply with the law.

If Republican leaders get their way and Blunt's bill becomes law, a boss who regarded overweight people and smokers with moral disgust could exclude coverage of obesity and tobacco screening from his employees' health plans. A Scientologist employer could deny its employees depression screening because Scientologists believe psychiatry is morally objectionable. A management team that thought HIV victims brought the disease upon themselves could excise HIV screening from its employees' insurance coverage. Your boss' personal prejudices, not science or medical expertise, would determine which procedures your insurance would cover for you and your kids.

I don't feel the need to explain why this is ridiculous. I'll just ask, are these people like Blunt, McConnel, and Santorum just dumb or do they get that this type of thing is ridiculous but do it purely for political reasons? Frankly, between this and all of the crap that comes from Santorum and the rest of the GOP, and then the woman on FoxNews complaining about the Pentagon spending money to help rape victims, I'm too dumbfounded to give further analysis. Sometimes the insanity is too much and I have to clear my head.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Is Rick Santorum a closet liberal?

Here he is discussing some differences between conservatives:

This whole idea of personal autonomy, well I don’t think most conservatives hold that point of view. Some do. They have this idea that people should be left alone, be able to do whatever they want to do, government should keep our taxes down and keep our regulations low, that we shouldn’t get involved in the bedroom, we shouldn’t get involved in cultural issues. You know, people should do whatever they want. Well, that is not how traditional conservatives view the world and I think most conservatives understand that individuals can’t go it alone. That there is no such society that I am aware of, where we’ve had radical individualism and that it succeeds as a culture.

Very interesting. If I wasn't told this was Santorum I would have guessed a liberal wrote that, aside from the part about the bedroom and cultural issues.

I think he is partially correct to say most conservatives don't believe in the idea of personal autonomy. Santorum himself says he doesn't. But to give him and modern conservatives some credit, they do believe in some personal autonomy in some situations. Like liberals, they don't believe in complete personal autonomy. Liberals and conservatives just draw the lines in different places. Conservatives on cultural issues and liberals on mostly economic issues. I'd argue both draw the line on some basic moral issues.

And most liberals would agree with him that individuals can't go it alone. He is correct that no society believes that, nor probably has believed that. It's fundamentally at odds with humans as a species. I give Satorum a lot of credit for saying this because many in his party speak in such ways that suggest they don't believe it. I think he invokes radical individualism in this context because it's so prevalent in his party and he wants to speak against it. He just choses weird issues for which to oppose that line of thinking, mainly modern cultural issues.

What is also notable is that he appears to be saying that he disagrees with conservatives who claim that taxes and regulations are a core part of personal autonomy. I'm not sure if Andrew left out more context in which Santorum adds an exception for taxes and regulations, but if not Santorum is taking the liberal view that the gov't can impose itself on personal autonomy by making taxes higher and having more regulations. Of all the things you could have told me I would do when I woke up today I wouldn't have had agreeing with Rick Santorum anywhere close to the top.

But here I am agreeing with him on a basic view of the world and the scope of gov't power within it. However, I firmly disagree with the cultural issues. I think personal autonomy can be imposed upon when an individual harms the personal autonomy of others or of society as a whole. I don't agree with Santorum that homosexuality, gay marriage, abortion, contraception, and whatever else he wants to throw in there meet that threshold for harm to the individual or society.

I also don't agree that taxes and regulation should be thought of in the same sense that who you have sex with and marry are in Santorum's conception of personal autonomy. But that doesn't change the basic point.

Star Wars Ep. 1

I was planning on avoiding this movie. Not only does it not merit another rewatch, much less spending $10 to see it in a theater. The added 3D element would make it even more annoying than it is on it's own. So I didn't think to write anything about it because it would be largely redundant and it just wasn't on my radar. But thanks to the Bitter Script Reader's post on the unnecessariness of midi chlorians, I had to talk about something I find even more annoying.

The thing that bugged me even more than the midi chlorian thing was Anakin's mom saying there was no father. As the BSR says in that post, we are supposed to assume that there is a biological component to being a Jedi. In fact, that is why Qui Gon asks who the father is. He wants to know why Anakin's midi chlorian count is so high.

So while I completely agree with the post, it's not as if the explanation doesn't make some logical sense. It's just redundant. But a fatherless conception of a child doesn't make much sense within the films. And worse yet, it's never addressed again. No, "Hmm. That's kind of weird. I'll look into that." from Obi Wan. No, "Well, that proves he is our Savior." from Qui Gon. Thus I think it serves even less to the plot than the midi chlorian thing.

It's almost as if Lucas wanted to give a nod to the religious folk. How else am I supposed to view it? There is only one popular fatherless child story in our society. So the Jesus story is what you invoke when you go to the fatherless child well. It's not overtly suggested that this is what Lucas is trying to do, thus my confusion with putting in the movie.

Unlike the biological component of the force, it's not suggested in the original trilogy that Luke is a chosen one type of figure. He is merely presented as the last option. In the original Star Wars, Obi Wan knows Luke is Anakin's son and has knowledge of the prophecy that Qui Gon speaks of in Ep. 1. But Obi Wan never mentions the prophecy and Luke's relation to it in the original trilogy. It could be that he just didn't believe the prophecy anymore. But once Luke finds out that Vader is his father, wouldn't it have comforted Luke to hear about the prophecy?

We don't know because there is no prophecy in the original trilogy. It was introduced in order to justify certain plots in Ep. 1 and to draw a nice, easy line connecting the new movies with the original trilogy. While lame, it at least attempts to form a coherent story. The whole fatherless child angle just serves no purpose for me. It did more to remove me from the world that Lucas created in the original trilogy than Jar Jar or midi chlorians did. Though Jar Jar is a really close second.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Obama doesn't like whistleblowers

I've mentioned this in passing while discussing other topics. So I wanted to post this article detailing exactly what the Obama administration is doing as a reference point. Here are some of the details.

The well-reported case of Thomas Drake is an example. As an employee, Drake revealed to the press that the National Security Agency (NSA) spent $1.2 billion on a contract for a data collection program called Trailblazer when the work could have been done in-house for $3 million. The NSA’s response? Drake’s home was raided at gunpoint and the agency forced him out of his job.

“The government convinced themselves I was a bad guy, an enemy of the state, and went after me with everything they had seeking to destroy my life, my livelihood and my person — the politics of personal destruction, while also engaging in abject, cutthroat character assassination and complete fabrication and frame up,” Drake told “Marriages are strained, and spouses’ professional lives suffer as much as their personal lives. Too often, whistleblowers end up broken, blacklisted and bankrupted,” said the attorney who represents Drake.

In Kiriakou’s case, the CIA found an excuse to fire his wife, also employed by the Agency, while she was on maternity leave. Whistleblower Bradley Manning, accused of leaking Army and State Department documents to the website WikiLeaks, spent more than a year in the worst of punitive conditions in a U.S. Marine prison and was denied the chance even to appear in court to defend himself until almost two years after his arrest. Former chief military prosecutor at Guantanamo Morris Davis lost his career as a researcher at the Library of Congress for writing a critical op-ed for the Wall Street Journal and a letter to the editor at the Washington Post on double standards at the infamous prison, as did Robert MacClean for blowing the whistle on the Transportation Security Administration.

Four employees of the Air Force Mortuary in Dover, Delaware, attempted to address shortcomings at the facility, which handles the remains of all American service members who die overseas. Retaliation against them included firings, the placing of employees on indefinite administrative leave, and the imposition of five-day suspensions. The story repeats itself in the context of whistleblowers now suing the Food and Drug Administration for electronically spying on them when they tried to alert Congress about misconduct at the agency. We are waiting to see the Army’s reaction to whistleblower Lieutenant Colonel Daniel Davis, who documented publicly this week that senior leaders of the Department of Defense intentionally and consistently misled the American people and Congress on the conduct and progress of the Afghan War.

There is a lot more in the article. It's disgraceful that these people are being targeted. They should be celebrated for doing their job as citizens in a democracy. I have almost no reason to buy the argument that these whistleblowers threatened national security. I really hope the courts don't blindly accept or give special deference to that line of argument. Even if it could be true in some instances, there is a very strong argument that it shouldn't matter. What matters is providing the truth to the American people so that they can make informed decisions about the actions of their representatives in gov't. Without that kind of accountability we aren't a democratic republic. And we risk horrible abuses of power.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Duke vs Carolina


I was yelling for Rivers to drive. I hate when guys shoot long jump shots when you only need two points to tie. But Rivers was on tonight and he hit a great shot. That was his best overall shooting performance of the year. Just a great night.

But we needed that incredible ending because Zeller and Hanson completely dominated us inside. I wouldn't have said this before the Miami game and tonight's game. But the Plumlees and Kelly are soft inside. Most of the time they are just bigger or more athletic than the other team. But when they have to face a bigger or more athletic opponent they really struggle.

Barnes was as good as I thought he would be. We had no answer for him. And the guards were as bad defensively as I thought they would be. I guess we are lucky that we gave up a ton of 2 point FGs and not a bunch of 3s. Dickie V kept making the point that we shoot the 3 too much. But that is who this team is. We did shoot more than normal. But we hit about the same % we have all year. So for the most part this was a pretty typical offensive game.

Having said all of that, the finish was just crazy. Sometimes those things happen in these big rivalry games. That's why they are so fun.

Rick Santorum and female priests

I knew I could count on Santorum to be a slump buster. And he delivers with yet another religious topic. Religion has been in political news a lot lately. Abortion, contraception, now priests. Though this is more so news that resides in Santorum's screwy head than something like the Planned Parenthood or contraception stories. Nevertheless:

What they’ve done here is a direct assault on the First Amendment, not only a direct assault on the freedom of religion, by forcing people specifically to do things that are against their religious teachings. . . . This is a president who, just recently, in this Hosanna-Tabor case was basically making the argument that Catholics had to, you know, maybe even had to go so far as to hire women priests to comply with employment discrimination issues. This is a very hostile president to people of faith. He’s a hostile president, not just to people of faith, but to all freedoms.

No one is being forced to do something against their religious teachings. Though I'd argue, half jokingly, that it's against my religion to have to hear nutjobs like Santorum speak. But I doubt the narrow-minded courts in this country would hear me out on that. And I highly, highly doubt that Obama would actually try to force the catholic church to hire women priests. If he really was as hostile to religion as Santorum claims, he wouldn't have included any type of exemption for contraception in the health care laws.

Anyway, I find it interesting that Santorum is so concerned that someone would want female priests in the catholic church. Interesting, but not surprising. The fact that women aren't priests and don't make up any part of the church hierarchy speaks to why the church has the stances it has on abortion and contraception. And people like Santorum are so small-minded that they react angrily to any sort of change in their world. Their identities are so tied into things they were raised on that when you critique aspects of those things they take it as a personal insult. That's the only way you can interpret the exception for contraception as an assault on all freedoms.

Priests are an important component to the catholic churchgoing experience, and I would assume the same for other christian churches. Different priests present different tones and personal experiences to the audience. I can't tell you how many times the number one topic about mass was regarding how the priest performed it. And even aside from church, the priest is supposed to provide moral guidance. That's easier for a man to do for men who are struggling with male related issues, and less so for female related ones, notably contraception and abortion. Sure, you can talk to nuns. But I would argue that priests are seen as a higher moral authority than nuns. Plus it would serve the church as a whole to get women into powerful positions within the church hierarchy. If that were to ever happen maybe then they would adopt a reasonable stance towards contraception.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Sports roundup

Duke lost at home again. our defense is a huge issue. And I think our offense is a bit too inconsistent to just outscore people like Carolina can. Austin Rivers and Seth Curry played well against Miami. But for the first time all season our big men were dominated and we just couldn't make free throws or take smart shots at the end of the game. Really frustrating loss. Speaking of Carolina, if we aren't on our game they might run us off the floor. Harrison Barnes might destroy us by himself since we don't have a small forward. And the guards we have can't defend. So they have little to no shot against Barnes. My hope is that he isn't on and Carolina decides not to play good defense.

I'm a Dolphins fan. So I was rooting against the Patriots. But I wasn't really rooting for the Giants. I don't mind them. But I don't like them either. The only bad thing about the Pats losing is that now we have to hear about Eli being some elite, great QB. I even heard the two morons on PTI suggest Eli is now better than Peyton. And of course, it's because he now has more rings. That's absolutely ridiculous. Peyton is a top 10 QB of all time. Eli has been a good to really good QB for a few years now. There isn't much of a comparison.

Speaking of Peyton Manning, I'm really intrigued by the prospect of him being a FA and thus able to sign with Miami. The big question, obviously, is whether he will be healthy enough to play and play effectively. But if he is able and even 75% of his former self I think he would make us a pretty good team that could challenge the Pats for the division. And he is old enough that we could look for a young QB to replace him in a year or two. If that doesn't happen, I'm ok with Matt Moore and Chad Henne keeping the seat warm until we find a young QB, which probably won't come from this year's draft since everyone figures Robert Griffin to go early.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

The DOJ is still fucked up

It had it's problems under Bush, perhaps most notably with it's beyond ridiculous torture memos. Now it has it's own set of problems under Obama and his AG Eric Holder. Here is the latest in regard to the Fast and Furious scandal:

The ATF sent thousands of high-powered weapons across the border into the hands of the cartel, which resulted in the deaths of hundreds, including a US Border Patrol agent, and Holder is ready to act right now against the people informing Congress of what actually took place in Holder’s organization?

That's par for the course for Obama's DOJ. If I'm remembering the data correctly from a Glenn Greenwald post, Obama's administration has prosecuted more whistleblowers than the past several administrations combined. So doing something wrong could be bad. But if you tell the world that someone did something wrong, that's really bad. This whistleblower crackdown is bullshit and the Obama administration should be ashamed. If it ever mentions accountability or transparency as something it values or tries to uphold it should be laughed out of the room.

Sadly, I don't see a solution to the problem with the DOJ other than hoping whoever gets elected as president does a good job appointing people and those people do a good job staffing it. After Obama's failures I certainly don't trust him. And I'll trust a Republican president to make things better when we colonize the moon. My trust in Democrats isn't far behind.

The contraception debate continues

Andrew Sullivan gives us the latest from both sides. My thoughts here, which I emailed to Andrew and which he posted. That was a huge honor, even though Andrew always posts reader responses anonymously. Here is Scott Lemieux adding to my side of the argument:

[I]f opposition to contraception represented a widely practiced tenet of the Roman Catholic faith, I believe that the government's interest in securing gender equity with a reasonable, generally applicable law should prevail, but I can understand seeing this as a difficult question. But forgoing contraception is not central to the faith of most practicing Roman Catholics. There’s not a genuine clash between religious freedom and pressing government interests here; rather, a small minority of religious leaders are seeking a special exemption that burdens women in the name of principles the overwhelming majority of their followers reject.

That's a similar argument to the one I made, which was basically that a belief against contraception isn't really a religious belief. I think I made my case well in my first post. So I won't retread the arguments at length here. Check Andrew's link for some counter-arguments. But I think mine still stands.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Why MItt Romney should worry about the very poor

For any reasonable person, his comment about not worrying about the very poor because there is a safety net is ridiculous enough at first glance. But this data, pointed out by Amy Davidson, makes it even more ridiculous:

Wednesday morning, explaining that his campaign was all about the middle class, he said, “I’m not concerned about the very poor. We have a safety net there. If it needs repair, I’ll fix it.” He also said that he wasn’t worried about the very rich, by which one assumes he means those not in his immediate family. Statistically speaking, though, that amounts to a disproportionate disinterest in children, at least, in children of the sort that his competitor Newt Gingrich would like to see put to work as janitors. According to the National Poverty Center at the University of Michigan, children “are 24 percent of the total population, but 36 percent of the poor population.” (Romney guessed that the not very poor, not very rich made up “ninety, ninety-five” per cent of the population.) Twenty-two per cent of the children in the United States live below the poverty level, which is defined as $22,314 for a family of four. The numbers break down to two-fifths of black children, a third of Hispanic children, and one in every eight white children. The candidates have stocked the stages at their speeches with enough kids to cast several school plays; it might help if they tried to imagine them in other roles, and other lives. The safety net might be enough to keep America’s poor children going, but that’s not enough; neither, in the end, are songs, however beautiful. What they need is a ladder.

So Romney doesn't care about these kids because the safety net that is provided to them by the gov't is sufficient. And if it's not, he will fix it. But as Matt Yglesias points out, he is campaigning on cutting more holes in that net.

But hey, this is just Romney being Romney. He is a completely shameless panderer. He knows that Republican voters don't give a shit about the poor. And he knows that a lot of them are currently a bit resentful of the very rich. So he is trying to focus on the demographic that will get him the most votes. That's rational. But it's ideologically pathetic to suggest you are going to tailor policy towards people who are more well off than the worst off in your society.

Another reason I don't like Bruce Springsteen

The first and most important reason I don't like him is his music. I don't get it. It's bland and his vocals are similar to Bob Dylan, in that I can't understand them. Plus he does something I find really annoying in other genres like country. He always has a guitar but all he does is strum a few basic cords and doesn't even have it turned up enough to hear it. On top of that, he is given the nickname "The Boss" and is worshiped by his fans like he is a freaking Beatle, only a cooler American version. At least some of his fans can see the problems with his image and how it messes with reality:

Ordinary fans who got up at 10AM on Saturday morning when tickets went on sale were shut out, receiving notifications that tickets were unavailable just three minutes after the sale started. A pair of floor tickets for that show were listed for $624 even before tickets went on sale, and by Monday morning, there were more than 80 eBay listings for Springsteen at the Verizon Center, all costing hundreds of dollars. Some listed for more than a thousand dollars.

Springsteen, whose music champions the downtrodden and working man, had a similar problem in 2009, where Ticketmaste redirected some prospective customers to its own premium resale page, TicketsNow. After some people unwittingly bought tickets at multiples of face value, Ticketmaster apologized and said they would never do it again. ...

Springsteen is perhaps the most powerful entertainment advocate for the American working class, so perhaps that is why we hold the Boss to a higher standard than anyone else. The $600 ticket is just another indicator of the growing disparity between the super rich and everyone else in the United States today, especially because in between the time Greetings from Asbury Park (1973) was released to the time Magic (2007) came out, there was a 10 point drop in average worker wages and a 219 percent increase in corporate profits.

No one captures the spirit of hard working Americans like Bruce Springsteen. But in sticking with Ticketmaster, the Boss’s tours are setup for the bosses—not necessarily everyone else.

Springsteen most certainly isn't the only musician in this boat. From what I've seen and heard, this is pretty common for popular concerts. Even for that second tier of musicians that I like, such as KISS and Van Halen, the prices are pretty expensive. But as the post points out, Springsteen's image is wrapped up in being a champion of the middle class, or the average person. Yet he reaps the benefits of outrageous ticket prices while many of his fans can't enjoy seeing him perform live.

I'm not a big fan of Pearljam. Their music is ok. It just doesn't quite do it for me. But they stick to their principles and tried to fight Ticketmaster. I'm not sure what Springsteen has to say about this whole thing. But if really were what his image is he would try to do what Pearljam did make it easier for the people he claims to speak for to try and enjoy his music live.