Archive for January, 2007

Consensus on Iraq?

Jan 31, 2007 in Iraq, Politics

A reader writes to my darling Andrew Sullivan, who regular readers know I have a (big)love/(smaller)hate relationship with (if only it could be reciprocated, even were that to involve slightly modified proportions):

I think there may soon be a temptation, if there isn’t one already, for ex-hawks to fight over who turned against the war too soon, who turned against it too late, who turned against it for bad reasons, etc. I think we’d be much better off putting that aside and focusing on what we can do to save lives in Iraq, and what we can do to make sure we don’t make a mistake remotely like this again in our lifetimes.

Ah, but they’ll all agree that those who called foul on Iraq well before the war began must not be given credit.

Andrew’s mea culpas lose a lot of weight (but not all) given his insistence on smearing those who stood up against Bush and the GOP in 2002/2003.  Given that, it would be only through dumb luck that he and his regretful chums could hope to not make the same mistake again.

-jb

Minimum wankery.

Jan 30, 2007 in Politics

If you feel like seeing what one jackass can come up with based on his experience managing a Perkins and one single and rather sparse chart, go check out Brian’s latest attempt at “thought.”

If you want to see some actual research and thought from a professional, check out this.

One will note that there is a smaller percentage of people on the minimum wage now than 1997 because in real dollars the minimum wage is 14% lower than it was then. Any employer even remotely attempting to keep up with inflation would be paying more. One might also realize that state minimum wage increases will move faster than the federal minimum wage, since it is impossible for them to move slower.
One might also, if one weren’t an absolute pinhead, realize that while an employer will have to pay his/her employees more, every other employer is also paying his/her employees more. Do you know what the name is for the employees next door? That’s right: customers. Unlike voodoo economics, putting money in the hands of the lower class does a lot more than putting it directly into the hands of the absurdly wealthy. Giving middle-class workers higher wages means that most of that money goes right back into the economy. So when guys like us get money we’re more likely to spend it on a gallon of milk instead, for instance, an off-shore factory.

One could put a lot of things together by looking at the big picture, but Rush Limbaugh and dittoheads like Brian are usually trying to invoke the most selfish feelings in people. Only think of yourself as a struggling business person, and now the wage just jumped $2 an hour. Wouldn’t that be hard on you?

Nope.

Recently, the Fiscal Policy Institute (FPI) released a study of the impact of higher minimum wages on small businesses4. Their analysis focuses on various outcomes for businesses with less than 50 employees, comparing these outcomes between states with minimum wages above the Federal level and those at the Federal level. If the theory that higher minimum wages hurt small businesses is correct, then we would expect there to be less growth in such enterprises in states with higher minimum wages. In fact…the opposite is the case.

Between 1998 and 2001, the number of small business establishments grew twice as quickly in states with higher minimum wages (3.1% vs. 1.6%). Employment grew 1.5% more quickly in high minimum wage states. Annual and average payroll growth was also faster in higher minimum wage states.

And if one actually felt like doing a little lateral thinking, aren’t most of the problems posed by the very fact that stagnant minimum wages necessitate huge jumps in order to catch up with inflation? Going up $2 an hour may seem steep for some businesses right off the bat, but if the minimum wage were designed to increase by a few pennies each year, the burden would be completely painless.

-jb

It’s Christmas every day with Brian.

Jan 27, 2007 in Clueless Conservatives

Iowa’s biggest idiot, Brian Pickrell, isn’t at it again, not at all. It’s just that I haven’t read his page for a few months. When you accept that his blog is an eternal spring of mind-boggling stupidity, you know you can always go back later. Today I noted he’d linked to us again, still under the strange delusion that we’re smelly pot-smoking hippies, so I thought I’d go find an example of him blatantly lying. Took me about four minutes.

Check out this dissembling over the minimum wage bill:

It’s interesting to watch how the left is spinning this like crazy, but remember the rhetoric before this happened: the minimum wage was a done deal, they just had to go through the motions. Now, however, it’s the Democrats who put a halt to it because, of all things, they realize that you know, the minimum wage might just hurt small businesses after all.

The Democrats put a stop to it??? Brian fucking quoted the NY Times saying:

The 54 “yes” votes were six short of the number needed to shut off debate and move on to consideration of the bill, which easily passed in the House two week ago.

Can Brian honestly be that stupid? For clarification later in the article he could have read this:

All 43 “no” votes on the motion to end debate were cast by Republicans. Five Republicans joined 47 Democrats and two independents in voting “yes.”

What a disgraceful caricature of a human being. Proud and cowardly at the same time. Loud yet ever in retreat from those who would shut him up. “Patriotic” yet in complete ignorance of the principles this country was built upon. Occupying an alternate magical universe where the past six years has seen Bush “reaching out” to Democrats only to be repeatedly rebuffed. Wrong over, and over, and over again, yet still believing himself to be deserving of credibility.

Is it any wonder he can only make weird jokes about tea-smoking hippies, and yet never attempts to challenge us here at Iowa Liberal over the facts?

-jb

Update:  As one can see by the comment thread, I got Brian’s goat enough for him to try a challenge.   One would generally try to have a leg to stand on before entering a debate, but no such impediment bothered Brian.  Enjoy.

What kind of lazy stenographer bastards-

Jan 27, 2007 in Journamalism, Media

What’s this bullshit, man?

A disputed report on the Web site of a conservative magazine about Senator Barack Obama’s childhood schooling kicked off a pointed exchange this week between the rival cable news networks CNN and Fox News, when CNN seemed to make an overt effort both to debunk the report and to question the quality of Fox News’s journalism.

Oh, it’s a “disputed” report? It’s a completely decimated slab of yellow journamalism. Here’s the dispute: Rupert Murdoch’s various lapdogs made something up, every rightwinger out there repeated it, then CNN did some reporting and found the actual truth. The only dispute is between the facts and those who feel like they should be able to lie without being called liars.

How come New York Times, with the flat-out hard evidence of CNN’s report on their hands, has a hard time pronouncing the obvious here? How come it’s written in “he said, she said,” form?

-jb

UPDATE:  The NYT finally realizes it’s okay to call a debunked report a debunked report.  And they actually bring up the Rev. Sun Myung Moon!  Here’s a peek at how Insight knows when it has a verified story:

“The reporter has to give his or her word that, ‘It is solid, Jeff,’ ” Mr. Kuhner said.

I swears on da Precious!

Wal-mart dishonest? No way!

Jan 27, 2007 in Corporate shenanigans

Gee, who would have predicted it?

Wal-Mart, the controversial retailing giant, is under investigation in the US over allegations it is trying to pass off non-organic foods as organic.

It has been accused of using misleading labelling that is “tantamount to consumer fraud” by an organic farming watchdog, the Cornucopia Institute. The body has handed its complaints to the US Department of Agriculture (Usda).

The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection is also conducting an investigation into whether Wal-Mart is placing “natural” produce on shelf space labelled as containing organic items.

The Cornucopia Institute claimed to have found dozens of examples of Wal-Mart’s mislabelling products – from “all- natural yogurt” to soya milk “made from organic soybeans”.

It’s simple, folks. Label foods what they are. Who disagrees? People selling foods with ingredients people don’t want.

If you shop organic, you are concerned about what you’re putting in your body, and if you can’t trust the labels on your food, you’re going to face an unending battle to figure out what the hell you’re eating. People shouldn’t have to do this, something that should go without saying.  Yet common sense rarely ranks over special interest agendas in Congress.  Makers of non-organic products will never stop trying to find loopholes that will allow them to fit under the “organic” umbrella.

Like Chomsky says, you don’t need conspiracies, you just need incentives.

-jb

Check out the hysterics.

Jan 24, 2007 in Uncategorized

If you’re part of the far right your definition of a liberal is someone who isn’t actively promoting the Republican agenda. That’s why news channels like MSNBC (wholly owned by General Electric) gets the “L” label. So when the Weather Channel starts writing about global warming on their blog you get reactions like this.

-mg

Now is it okay to discuss global warming?

Jan 23, 2007 in Uncategorized

I don’t know how apparent the threat of climate change will have to be to convince the conspiracy theorists that the planet isn’t an infinite resource or an infinite garbage can. I’m guessing that no amount of evidence will sway those that genuinely believe that global warming is a ruse concocted by grant-greedy climatologists. Corporate America, who realize that their future profit margins are threatened if nothing is done to curb emissions, will hopefully have some credibility with these mouth-breathing fools. Now that they’re on board I’m sure that it might sway some opinions. Maybe even enough for the president to take some initiative on the issue.

-mg

More Prager. Why not?

Jan 19, 2007 in Clueless Conservatives

Still curious, I find a transcript of an interview with Howard Zinn. It didn’t take me long. Never does with Prager…

DP: What percentage of the Indians do you believe we massacred, as opposed to diseases ravaged?

HZ: Oh, well it might have been 10 percent.

DP: Okay, okay. So I’ll say that. But 10 percent is very different from the generalization of “we annihilated the Indians.”

Hmmm. Disease killed most Indians, but we wiped out most of the rest, booted the leftovers onto the worst land in America, and have generally pissed on them and their culture every chance we get, trying very hard to wipe it out completely. But Prager doesn’t want to go so far as to say we annihilated the Indians!

Do I need to read further? That’s this man’s first priority upon getting to interview Zinn? To make sure we don’t feel all that bad about the systematic genocide that went on most of American history? To make people believe that white settlers would have left all the Indians killed by disease alone?

He’s a godless priest, a Grand Inquisitor. He believes fully in natural selection when it came to Indian society vs. European, pagan vs. Christian. But you can’t go to the public with that openly. You’ve got to try sideways shit like, “but disease killed most of them!”

It’s about message control.

-jb

Dennis Prager: cynical or stupid?

Jan 19, 2007 in Clueless Conservatives, Environment, Global warming

It wouldn’t be easy to prove, not unless I can get a transcript of today’s show. Sick of commercials on KLSD1360, I did a quick dial rotation. Most radio stations play their commercials around the same times each hour, but occasionally I can catch five minutes of rightwing talk. That’s about how long I make it before I nearly snap the dial off in disbelief that these people believe anybody should take them seriously. Today I got some Dennis Prager. I felt like I was attending a sermon on how to actively lower your intelligence.

The caller asked Dennis a real hardball question: “Why won’t Al Gore debate the scientists who say he’s full of crap? And why do his people insist his excuse that he’s not much of a debater?” (This is all paraphrased, and I have the memory of a flea…)

Okay, let’s just set aside that the “scientists” that want to debate Al Gore are the same people who have lost the argument within the scientific community. Al Gore isn’t a scientist, he’s a liason between the scientific community and the public. Al Gore has perpetually been among politicians one of the most scientifically literate and philosophically astute. He’s someone I feel kinship to in that regard. I’m far too atrocious with math to get into the true nitty gritty of science, yet I’m attracted to the greatest minds and when they try to explain things to people at my level, I listen very carefully. Gore’s film The Inconvenient Truth was an initiative taken on his part to help teach the public what the best science of the day is saying about global climate changes.  And the scientific community agrees, Gore did listen to them very carefully.
Dennis Prager, however, responded (and I’m not trying to put words in anybody’s mouth, anybody who does grab a transcript will see that I’m good with “the gist”), “Well, that doesn’t make sense to me. It seems to me that if you’re smart and have good facts on your side, you’re a good debater, right? Truth persuades. When a person is persuasive in a debate, it’s because they’ve got the truth on their side. Al Gore doesn’t want to debate because he’s full of it!”

Well, folks, throw out the logic textbooks. Rhetoric is truth. Propaganda is right if you believe it.

Can Prager claim to believe this for one second? He’s supposed to be a learned man, but how could anyone remotely versed in intellectual honesty drop that whopper and not blink? How can he not understand that an “expert,” however off-base, can overwhelm a layman with minutae?  If you’ve read debates with Creationists vs. the occasional scientist who can be bothered, it’s considerable what a person can whip up to support pure gobbeldygook.
Does Dennis Prager think he would survive ten minutes against one of the world’s leading global warming experts? Please! Al Gore would sure as heck hand Prager his own balls in a global warming debate, but one must admit that in almost every case, large numbers of people will still back the loser of the debate if their beliefs match.  

So Prager forgets that Gore’s side has won the debate among people who are actually scientists. That doesn’t count!  It’s that darned liberal bias that reality has (thank you, Colbert). What counts is when a bunch of laymen are asked to be the referee on highly complicated scientific issues, duh.

Next:  the public gets to settle that string theory debate!

I think Prager’s comments illustrate that true propagandists are required to be convinced of their own bullshit when they spew it, but spend so much time spewing it they get stuck. Perhaps in the corners of his mind, for a few seconds a day, Prager is able to understand that he’s full of shit. But does he really deserve credit for that? Is he still “smart” if he knows he’s pushing flat-out brain junk?

The global warming debate is a wonderful opportunity to gauge with near scientific accuracy just how much effort humans can put into absolute, complete bunk, and how much resistance they can put up against the fairest objectivity. It reminds us that even the “smartest” of us, as no doubt many on the right consider Prager to be, will be flat dead wrong and refuse to acquiesce easily to new shifts in understanding when they come. Airtight logic will not give airtight results, or anything resembling.  And in the case of Prager, a godless priest can be fully able to comprehend the new paradigm and yet forcefully advocate against it for some fraudulent “higher ideal.”
-jb

Total Information Awareness zombies…

Jan 13, 2007 in National Security, War on Terra

Just when you thought you were free, you open a door and the undead come through.

The Pentagon has been using a little-known power to obtain banking and credit records of hundreds of Americans and others suspected of terrorism or espionage inside the United States, part of an aggressive expansion by the military into domestic intelligence gathering.

Coming right after Bush’s signing statement, the pattern is evident.  Bush still thinks he can do whatever he wants, and is, with the hiring of a new lawyer, gearing up to spend the next two years trying to prove it.

I shall expect our shiny new Democratic Congress to start leaning hard on privacy issues, and knocking Republicans into being in the right place at the right time:  supporting them.  Do we really have to put a Democratic President in office to enlist GOP support?

It’s worth a shot, I reckon.

-jb

Social Security is not a Ponzi scheme.

Jan 13, 2007 in Health Care, Politics

Ponzi schemes don’t rely on death to trim the number of people who benefit. Ponzi schemes usually consist of selling ridiculous shit and trying to convince other people to join you, and then rely on how many idiots can be strung along while a few in the center profit.

Social Security only requires that people continue being born and eventually work. With Social Security, we have the situation of people who eventually can’t work anymore, then eventually can’t wipe their ass anymore, and far too frequently can’t remember their own children anymore. Its costs can’t be avoided, except by death and can only be paid for by those children.

One thing privatization folks have failed to demonstrate in their arguments over the years is that they aren’t pushing their own scheme. Sooner or later you still have people who made $20,000 a year sucking up $55,000 a year for the basics in a nursing home.

What a privatizer wants to do is have every dollar he pays right now for Social Security to go into a personal account so he can have a heftier return some day. Maybe he scores an extra $30,000 dollars because of a private account. Or maybe he’ll find a smart stock and make $100,000 extra dollars. That way, when he’s retired, he’ll be able to almost pay for that first bypass surgery before he comes knocking on the public teat. We’ll just trust the average person to do better.

The problem is, if you’re so damn poor that you’re bitching about taking a couple hundred bucks of your own money to invest in stocks each month, on your own initiative, then you sure as hell haven’t made much money doing it and shouldn’t be advising anybody.

-jb

Unfortunately, this is probably the beginning.

Jan 07, 2007 in Media

Net Neutrality doesn’t protect us from this, unfortunately:

An Internet service provider in San Francisco has shut down a website that posted recorded excerpts by right-wing talk-show hosts on ABC affiliate KSFO in which they endorsed torture of Iraqi prisoners, called for the hanging of New York Times editor Bill Keller and other journalists, and urged callers to mock Islam, according to MediaPost‘s online website, OnlineMediaDaily.com. The trade publication said that the ISP, 1&1 Internet, acted after receiving complaints from ABC Radio that the posted material violated the Walt Disney Company’s copyright. However, the operator of the site, who goes by the online name “Spocko,” insisted that the audio postings represented “fair use” and maintained that Disney had acted because KSFO advertisers whom he had contacted, including Netflix, MasterCard, Bank of America, and Visa, have already withdrawn advertising from the station. ABC and Disney declined to comment.

Good thing we can trust Disney to go to bat for fascists, yet big corporations wilt with fear over even tentatively endorsing liberal talk radio…

-jb

Update: Man, this thing has legs. Is there justice in the world? Sometimes, my friends and enemies, sometimes.

Via Crooks and Liars…because if you think I’ve got time to read all Daily Kos diaries myself, you’re insane.  It seems KSFO, the radio station in question, has had to pay attention to this.  Disney/ABC should be smart enough to figure out that they don’t want to be on the wrong side of the battle here.  KSFO is, of course, an ant to be squashed by Disney if it so wished.   That’s not necessary though.   Spocko is just expecting the right to be able to report on rightwing ugliness.  He has that, doesn’t he?