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Showing posts from October, 2012

A gif to brighten up your day

It's been busy at work. So I haven't had much time to post. Plus with the hurricane and the dumb horse race coverage of the election there haven't been many things to post on. But I wanted to post this gif of one of my favorite people, Alison Brie, because she always brightens up my day.





Polling on god's will

In light of Richard Mourdock's comments, Robert Jones over that The Monkey Cage tells us what the polling says regarding people's beliefs about god's will:

If we start with Mourdock’s basic affirmation that all events, even terrible ones, are part of God’s will, Mourdock has considerable company, both historically and among white evangelical Protestants. This conundrum has vexed Christian theologians enough that the debate has a name: “theodicy” describes various strategies for reconciling the belief in an all-knowing, all-powerful, loving God with the undeniable existence of evil in the world. And today, most Americans affirm the basic premise of an omnipotent God. According to a survey conducted by Public Religion Research Institute last year, most Americans (56%) agree that “God is in control of everything in the world,” while 34% disagree and 8% say they do not believe in God. Among white evangelical Protestants, this number rises to 84%, with only 15% in disagreement.

Amazon threatens corporate America

Matt Yglesias explains:

But what makes Amazon not just amazing but downright dangerous is that as a financial matter it has something even better than profits—the boundless faith of the investment community. You can think of a company's stock price as jointly determined by its profits ("earnings") and by Wall Street's level of optimism about the future, expressed as a price-to-earnings ratio.

In any line of business where you're earning healthy profits you always need to worry that a competitor will undercut you on price. But normally you can also have some confidence that they'll be restrained in their price cutting by the need to maintain profits of their own. Amazon is totally off the leash in this regard. Wall Street treats it like a brand new startup that just needs to think about growth and can find a viable business model later. Which means that if they come after you, you have no recourse. Your profits are going to shrink, and your investors are going …

The horror in Syria

Andrew Sullivan has the details, which are absolutely horrible. Seriously, don't watch the video in the link if you don't want to be appalled and depressed.

[M]ost activists have made a difficult transition: No longer demonstrators, they now risk their lives as relief volunteers amid a worsening humanitarian crisis in a conflict that has claimed an estimated 30,000 lives. An estimated 1.2 million Syrians have been displaced, and an additional 1 million are in urgent need of assistance because they have run out of money for food and other necessities, according to the United Nations.
Usually I have an opinion as to what our policy should be. I don't have a firm idea on this issue. I want to be able to intervene in some way to help save these people that are being killed. But I just don't know how effective our military could be. We've seen how our best intentions and powerful military just aren't enough to prevent more death; examples being Iraq, Afghanistan, Li…

Richard Mourdock's rape comment

You've probably heard about this asshole's comment that even a child conceived of a rape is a gift from god. Kevin Drum points out that this should be pretty common religious thought:

Mourdock is getting beat up pretty bad for this, and I think that's just fine. At the same time, can't we all acknowledge that this is just conventional Christian theology? Theodicy is the study of why an omnipotent God permits the existence of evil, and while the term is of fairly recent vintage, Christians and Jews have struggled with the question itself pretty much since the time they decided God was omnipotent.
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What I find occasionally odd is that so many conventional bits of theology like this are so controversial if someone actually mentions them in public. God permits evil. My faith is the only true one. People of other faiths are doomed to spend eternity in Hell. Etc. There's a lot of stuff like this which is either explicit or implied in sects of all kinds, and at an abstr…

Romney's religion

I'm not a fan of religions in general. And there were so many other ridiculous/horrible things to focus on that I never gave Romney's a second thought. But Andrew Sullivan makes a good point. I'm going to quote a lot of it since it's so well written:

I raise this because it is a fact that Mitt Romney belonged to a white supremacist church for 31 years of his life, went on a mission to convert Christians and Jews and others to this church, which retained white supremacy as a doctrine until 1978 - decades after Brown vs Board of Education, and a decade after the end of the anti-miscegenation laws.

Once upon a time, when journalists were actually asking politicians tough questions, rather than begging for a get for ratings, this question was actually asked of Mitt Romney by Tim Russert. It's a fascinating exchange for many reasons:
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There's nothing in Romney's answer that violates the old Mormon doctrine - still there in the Book of Mormon - that for some r…

Tomorrow's foreign policy debate

I mentioned on Twitter earlier today that I'm dreading the presidential debate on foreign policy. I'm on record as hating most debates. But aside from the general format, I'm expecting the subject to make me agitated just as much. The foreign policy discourse in the US is too narrowly tailored to the middle east and terrorism. And within that discourse it's narrowly tailored to just a few point of views.

I fully expect both Obama and Romney to basically have a cockfight instead of an open debate. That's because both parties assume that you have to run foreign policy like the fiction Ronald Reagan that Republicans have created over the past 30 years. Since Reagan's term they have interpreted the end of the cold war with the style in which he conducted his foreign policy, which could often be bombastic and filled with indulgent hubris.

For Republicans since then, you either conduct foreign policy like John Wayne or Clint Eastwood or you are appeasing the enemy …

Issue enthusiasm

As I mentioned in my previous post about jobs, most people care a lot about the state of the economy. More people care more about it when it's in bad shape, as it has been for the past 4-5 years. Kate Sheppard explains why this has led to less attention being paid to climate change:

There was, for a brief period then, a sort of optimism about what the United States could accomplish on climate change. President George W. Bush, already on his way out the door in April 2008, affirmed that human activity was causing global warming and vowed that the "ingenuity and enterprise of the American people" would help us overcome it. Barack Obama won the White House later that year with the promise that the next four years would be remembered as the time "when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal" (a pledge that became a punch line for his Republican challenger this time around).

Since then, the United States has failed to do anything significant…

The conservative narrative on jobs

Andrew Sullivan points out the duality of how conservatives talk about the relationship between the gov't and job creation:

"As president, I will create 12 million new jobs," - Mitt Romney, October 16.

"The government doesn't create jobs," - Mitt Romney, October 16.
The latter quote is the one that is bullshit, in theory I mean. I doubt that 12 million number is much more than pulled out of thin air or derived from a "study" not much more thorough than this blog. But I think it's pretty clear that the gov't can create jobs, and that Romney believes so.

As political narratives go, this one is pretty straightforward. Romney and conservatives don't like to acknowledge that except on the campaign trail and in certain contexts because it goes against their supposed belief that gov't is largely useless and just gets in the way of businesses and people's interests. But they obviously have to give the appearance to the public that they…

The narrative on entitlements

I've been meaning to do a lot more posts on how things in politics (or anything) are framed and how that framing shapes discourses, opinions and policy. With the election in the headlines and debates going on, framing and the narrative the framing creates are more apparent and in full effect. I only watched a minute or so of the VP debate. But the one question I heard was a great example of framing and the narrative that creates around a policy. Glenn Greenwald has the details:

"Let's talk about Medicare and entitlements. Both Medicare and Social Security are going broke and taking a larger share of the budget in the process.

"Will benefits for Americans under these programs have to change for the programs to survive?"

That social security is "going broke" – a core premise of her question – is, to put it as generously as possible, a claim that is dubious in the extreme. "Factually false" is more apt. This claim lies at the heart of the right-w…

Constitutional interpretation: Scalia edition

Richard Posner reads and critiques Scalia's new book:

In United States v. Eichman, for example, he voted to hold a federal statute forbidding the burning of the American flag unconstitutional, and it was certainly a vote against his ideological grain. But it is a curious example for a textual originalist to give. The relevant constitutional provision—“Congress shall make no law abridging ... the freedom of speech”—does not mention non-verbal forms of political protest, and Scalia and Garner insist that legal terms be given their original meaning lest the intent of the legislators or the constitution-makers be subverted by unforeseen linguistic changes. “In their full context,” they assert, “words mean what they conveyed to reasonable people at the time they were written—with the understanding that general terms may embrace later technological innovations.” That approach is inconsistent with interpreting “freedom of speech” to include freedom to burn flags, since the eighteenth-cent…

Davone Bess and Brian Hartline, elite WRs?

That's not a question I thought I'd be pondering coming into this season. The consensus was the opposite, that Bess and Hartline would make up one of the worst receiving corps in the league after we traded Brandon Marshall. But that hasn't been the case. Let's look at their standard stats.

Hartline: 29 catches 514 yards 17.7 yards per catch 1 TD

Bess: 22 catches 346 yards 15.7 yards per catch 0 TD

Hartline is leading the league in yards and Bess is 19th. Hartline is 8th in YPC and Bess is 18th. They aren't catching many TDs. But they are really racking up the yards, and with a rookie QB throwing them the ball. So by standard stats they are doing very well. The advanced stats show them in even better light.

Bess leads all WRs in win probability added. Hartline is 16th. This is significant because win probability is telling us how much a player is helping his team win. Brian Burke explains it here. Long story short, Bess is ranked so high because he catches passe…

This is what my stomach is thinking

Or maybe it's what I wish it was doing.

The infield fly rule

I'm a Braves fan. So obviously I didn't like the ruling. But objectively, even if that were the Mets, I wouldn't have liked the way they ruled it. My biggest problem is how far the ball traveled. Being a bit generous, it ended up in shallow left field. It was clearly closer to the outfield than it was the infield. There doesn't seem to be a defined area of the field at which the rule does or doesn't apply. But it seems implicit in the rule and explicit in the title of the rule that the ball has to be hit in or near the infield.

I'd also say it's implicit in the rule that the ball has to be close to the infield because the point of the rule is to protect the runners. In a normal infield fly situation, the fielder could easily fake like he is going to catch it and let it drop at the last second in order to catch the runner off base. The further the ball is hit, the less able the fielder is able to do this since he would have to throw the ball further to get …

Redefining justice

Glenn Greenwald explains how the Obama administration is trying to change the meaning of "justice":

President Obama has repeatedly vowed that those responsible for the Benghazi attacks will be "brought to justice". That term is Obama-speak for: I will order people summarily executed without a whiff of due process or transparency, based purely on my say-so and my suspicions (just as it was Bush-speak for the same concept).

In other words, Obama "justice" means summary assassinations ordered in secret without a even a pretense of due process. As Glaser wrote, the reported Libya approach "demonstrates their preference to kill suspected perpetrators as opposed to apprehending suspects and carrying out a transparent trial in court, something the administration seems long ago to have abandoned in favor of night raids or drone strikes." Moreover, just as "terrorist" means "those the US government accuses of being a terrorist," the te…

Presidential debates

Last night's debate was terrible. It's a bad format to begin with. Most issues can't be fully or very intelligently debated in 2 minute spans. So if your goal is to flesh out people's position on issues, this just isn't the format. No one will watch for as long as it would take.

Even if you don't want to assume that the premise is flawed, last night was handled poorly. Jim Leher asked the most vague questions possible. Unless you are going to tell the candidates the questions before the debate, they need more than 2 minutes to explain their differences on "entitlements". Maybe then they can sum up their positions quickly. But even then I'm sure important things would be overlooked.

The other problem I had with Leher is one that I have with every moderator, which is that they can't challenge the candidates and truly moderate the debate properly. The moderator needs to be able to call out bullshit and push the candidates to explain themselves …

Should we stop churches from advocating partisan politics?

Stephen Colbert has a guy on arguing that it's a violation of the 1st amendment to prevent churches/religions from advocating partisan political views. He's got a point. In very strict terms, he's right. You should be able to say what you want and advance whatever party or candidate you want. But there's more to it than that.

The way the gov't keeps (supposedly) churches from advocating politics is by allowing them to not pay taxes. This is where Colbert's guest goes too far. He wants to be able to say what he wants and keep the tax exemption all at the same time. The problem as I see it is that state gov'ts let churches buy and maintain land without paying property taxes while everyone else has to.

This seems unfair to me. I don't see any reason a church/religion should get special exemption. I would be willing to keep the status quo if I thought that the exemption and threat of having it removed kept churches from advocating politics. I strongly susp…

Romney isn't George W Bush on taxes

I mean that in a bad way. He's worse. Here's what Bush's tax cuts look like for each income bracket:


It's comparing them to Pawlenty's plan, which isn't ideal. But it was the best I could find with the income brackets listed like that. The main point is that Bush cut taxes for everyone across the board. Though he did cut them more the high up the income bracket you were. This is what's known as a regressive tax cut. Taxes were cut the same rate across the board, which ignores the fact that 5% of one's income means more to someone making $20,000 than it does to someone making $20,000,000.

Compare that to Romney's plan which Kevin Drum shows us:


As Kevin says, there's a reason Paul Ryan doesn't want to talk about this tax plan. Bush's was bad enough. Romney's is even worse because he keeps the cuts for the higher income brackets while actually raising taxes on the lower income brackets. Bush at least had the sense to hide the fact tha…

Dolphins vs Cardinals

I always find it interesting to look at this and put some numbers on what happened Sunday. I don't know how to get the graph pasted here. So if you're lazy and don't want to follow the link I'll note some key plays and performances. (Note: These numbers aren't the whole story. But I think they're a good starting point for further discussion)

We were at .95 wp (out of 1.00 for us being the road team, and .00 for Arizona) just after halftime. That's surprising since we only had a 13-0 lead with about 25 minutes left to play.

We dropped below .50 wp (the probability of a win being a toss up) after Arizona took the lead. We got back up to .55 wp after a 20 yard gain by Bess on the ensuing drive. And then Naanee happened.

We went from .55 wp for to .15 wp against on the Naanee fumble. That's obviously a huge swing.

The Sean Smith INT and the Hartline 80 yard TD gave us another huge swing back up to .85 wp.

As for the players, Burke's numbers give Tan…

Feminism's war on penises

I don't have any commentary on this. I just wanted to quote this from Jessica Valenti:

Unfortunately, there are too many men who—despite their penchant for tattooed hipster girls—won’t submit to eating soybean products, so feminists have had to create an additional strategy: we are fucking the hard-ons right off of you. That’s right. You may not know it, but men’s penises actually wilt in the presence of a sexually independent woman. Laura Sessions Stepp gets it—nothing a turns a man off more than a lady who wants to sleep with him.

Rush Limbaugh may have let the world know what feminists are actually up to, but his truth-telling will not stop us. Because if our soy/sex plan doesn’t work out, we can always send our underground army of harpies. Don’t make us do it, guys.
In case you're having a case of the Mondays (I don't quote Office Space enough), that's sarcasm. Though I'm all for sexually independent women fucking the hard-ons off me. I'll gladly accept the …