A member, and hoping to stay that way, of the reality-based community

15 December 2013

I just can't get worked up about what this guy does

So, there's this (registration required).

I know. You're just as shocked (shocked! I say!) as I am that the FBI has another dumb one on the hook. But here's the thing: the guys that are gonna do serious damage are going to have actual experience outside this country (in addition to some here, hence the legitimate concern about the existence of domestically-originated, religiously-motivated terrorism*I do not regard this concern as being of the extent that we should modify our view of civil liberties from that of pre-9/11, FWIW). And that means we're going to be best off watching out for them. But it seems the height of silliness to me that we are expending resources entrapping people who don't understand the tools of the trade well enough to spot a fake.

I'm on board with us watching and listening to the people we think are trying to wage a kind of war against us, and trying to catch them with the goods (so to speak). But can we please cut out the Keystone Kops take on the Bad News Jihadis kinds of operations? It makes us look stupid (and the drone war makes us look arrogant, petulant, profoundly heartless and cruel).

So, I was prepared to call this guy I linked to above a liar1. But he's not a liar. He's just really stupid. Now I better understand the reaction of this country after 9/11.

Oh well.

  1. Strictly speaking he tells the truth: his only assertion about the references to the identity of the allegedly intended bomber are that the "Islamist/terrorist" link in the case is not highlighted in the headlines of his favorite media punching bags. The fact this information is revealed in the second paragraph is evidently not enough.

05 December 2013

"Civil rights pimp"

But, of course, he's not the racist, she is.

She may be expressing her ideas inartfully, but that hardly diminishes the point she's making.

30 October 2013

"The Odd Lies of America"

OMFG yes (the second letter).

Another is more blunt:
This “Odd Lies of Barack Obama” stunt really pisses me off, using the same line you used for Sarah Palin. You know that’s a load of crap.
My family now has health insurance. But a few years ago we didn’t, because we simply could not afford it. At that time in New Jersey the cheapest plan I could find for a 3-person family was around $800 a month (now it’s over $1,000/month). And it was such a limited, crappy plan that it didn’t even include coverage for chemotherapy (if you read the fine print). NO CHEMO. 
Now, I don’t know about you but in my mind the main reason to have health insurance is for disasters and life-threatening or chronic illnesses. I mean really, I don’t need to pay $800 a month so I can save 50 bucks on maybe 10-15 doctor visits a year for all three of us, or save a couple hundred bucks on a year’s worth of prescriptions. That’s insane. Yet it’s the business model that insurance companies used freely for years. 
But no one in the GOP, including Chris Christie, gave a rat’s ass. Not too many in the media cared either. But Obama did. And he changed the system so that insurance companies can’t sell crap plans anymore. They have to meet a reasonable standard. Or fold. Wow, what a liar that Obama was. He didn’t mention that some insurance companies chasing in on shitty, rip-off plans were going to choose “die” instead of meeting reasonable standards. Well I don’t give a damn. 
Seriously. How about “The Odd Lies of America” instead? How about the absolute lie for decades that we had a great health care system in this country. Because no system that is unaffordable to tens of millions of its citizens is anything more than horrible and appalling. And no system that allows insurance companies to sell plans that won’t help the client with a cataclysmic disease – and hides that information in the weeds – is anything but disgusting.
The real reason to follow Andrew Sullivan is not his work (though it is quite good, especially on gay rights-- I know, color me surprised), it's his pissed-off readers.

I was pissed at Obama for pushing that line when it wasn't true, and so I'm glad the chickens like their new roost. But to pretend for one moment that Obama's lie is in any way comparable to the "this is the greatest fucking health care system evarrrrr" bullshit we've been fed for the past 10-ish years is just fucking daft. Shame on anyone who dares do so.

The system as it was before the ACA punished losers in the genetic lottery. That is cruel. This is the only way to construct a privately administered (and profited on) system that at least tries to make health not be the reason for one's failure to thrive.

The system, as it existed before, also allowed one to pretend that they were being responsible by having coverage that was inadequate. These are many of the same people who rail at the poor and uncovered for it being their own damn fault. Those who so rail mention that the reason it's not themselves at fault is that they've just been lucky so far.

That is equal opportunity, yo.

P.S. If you would posit you don't know (and have never known) someone whose ability to contribute to society was literally crippled by some form of health problem that was not identifiably one "caused" by the individual, you are probably lying to yourself.

15 October 2013


For those of you curious about the "meaning" of this flag, I recommend this. Ta-Nehisi Coates is very eloquent about the meanings it holds for him.

I just see traitors. Ignorance of the history of this country is a kind of traitorous behavior, so if you were raised in this country and aren't aware of the extent to which the genesis of the Confederacy was about the preservation of slavery, I recommend going to the The Atlantic Monthly's Civil War issue (which hosts the linked article) and read its discussion of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War (which anniversary is itself ongoing). There you can also read the rest of Ta-Nehisi Coates's discussion of it. I then recommend you go to Civil War | The New York Times and read for yourself a kind of "live-blog" of the events of 150 years ago, beginning with the aftermath of the 1860 election (and note that Lincoln isn't even in office during the time that the Southern states which form the Confederacy announced their succession).

We can argue all we want about whether or not the Union should have let them go, whether or not it was worth the loss of life, whether or not the North's motives were pure (Seriously? Is there any motive that's close to as bad as, "to hold captive for their labor, to rape its women, and torture for any offenses a class of people based on the color of their skin."). But "Traitor" is the label that sticks in my mind. It's the label that belongs. The people who brought that flag into existence did so in support of an endeavor that was the nation-state equivalent of "if you don't do it our way (even though we agreed to the rules of the government), we'll take our stuff and go home." And only because they were afraid of what might happen, not because it *had* happened. These were cowards and traitors. They didn't get nearly what they deserved in the aftermath, and they were ungrateful for being spared.

03 October 2013

A sensible solution

Here in the US, we're having a bit of a problem with governance. As best as I can tell, the problem is largely that one party has been hijacked by a group of people who will use any power they can grasp to achieve their political ends, which in this case is the end of funding for many parts of the government, especially (though likely not limited to) "Obamacare".

The problem has a solution, but it's probably not one that most of us would like to see happen: mass political realignment.

The "decent" or "sensible" members of the party currently known as the GOP should dissolve (and frankly, so should the Democrats), and the sensible members, along with a few of the more conservative members of the Democrats, could form a modern party not too different from the Republican party that nominated Bob Dole and the Elder Bush.

John Boehner may choose whichever party he likes, but he can't be speaker anymore. I seriously doubt anyone would vote for him again anyway.

The remaining Democrats could stick together, but they'd likely be more liberal in the near term.

By carving off the rump of fools, things like the debt ceiling and the absence of funding would be solved by the people who realize this is necessary, whether they like the details or not. And the Tea Party could pretend to be a part of the whole thing, just like today.

30 September 2013

Lurkers sometimes see the truth revealed when there is no other way.

I lurk at teapartynation.com. I think the following sentence says more about the nature of the people populating it than this (requires registration):
I have been self employed since my early twenties and remain so today. I have lived through all of the Federal Government’s wonderful ideas including the EEOC, OSHA, EPA and the rest and have survived in spite of them. 
Really? The things you think are unjust are not being able to discriminate, being required to ensure the safety of your workers, and not being permitted to pollute? Things you think are so onerous as to make miraculous your continued existence as a corporeal and financial entity?

I'm pretty sure that makes you a racist asshole with a penchant for a sadistic and supercilious management style.

22 September 2013

We should grow flowers on its rotting bones.


Links to here.

09 September 2013

A kind of public pissing match.

Been seeing more of this, lately:

And this:

And even this:

And those aren't even of a par with this:

But none of that riles me quite as much as this:

Are you fucking kidding me?

#fuckyouredcup. And the people who celebrate you.

04 August 2013

Life expectancy by state.

Um. Wow.

That's pretty phenomenal.

26 July 2013

Not until the Queen herself...

Reading this, my immediate reaction is: Not until the Queen herself stands before Parliament and proclaims both the debt owed by her and her Empire to the work of Alan Turing, and an abject apology for the manner in which he was treated, pardoning all persons convicted under this abomination, will even a modicum of the necessary prostration before Turing's contributions and accomplishments have been achieved.

Turing may have saved the Empire in leading the effort to break the code the Nazis were using, nevermind the uncounted lives saved in shortening the war.

Given how he was treated despite this fact, there is no way to apologize sufficiently. But an apology is definitely necessary.

23 July 2013

Rent-seeking as the new normal, and lawyerly arbitrage as the agent of change

The story followed a Reuters article reporting that the Fed was now “reviewing” a landmark 2003 decision that first allowed regulated banks to trade in physical commodity markets. It was this, we always noted, that allowed for the emergence of a so-called physical loophole for a number of top Wall Street institutions active in commodity markets. The fact that they were swap dealers with physical exposures ensured they were eligible for exemptions (on such things as position limits) whilst other financial institutions were not.
When 2008 hit, and most commodity curves went into super-contango, this allowed those banks with commodity businesses to very profitably enter the warehousing space — which was now a securitised path towards yield enhancement, exploiting the fact that passive commodity speculators were prepared to pay the industry to store commodities no-one else wanted.
Gosh, that sure sounds like something we'd rather they didn't do.

"Libertarian Populism"

"This is what actually-existing right-wing libertarian populism looks like, and that's what it needs to look like if it is to remain popular, or right-wing. "

No. Really.

Sean Murphy v. Rolling Stone

Sean Murphy's behavior bothers me.

It's not that I care that he's made the case against Dzokhar Tsarnaev any harder or less likely to result in a conviction, because I doubt that is meaningfully the case. It's that the emotions of it and reasons for doing it belie a certain view of the world I find distasteful. To all appearances, Sean Murphy is the kind of guy that reads magazines for the pictures.

What else to make of his interpretation of this story?

If he cannot grasp the use of the photo— it's iconic, it was instantly memefied, and so is guaranteed to grab your attention, and you're told in the subhead that it's about, "How a popular, promising student was failed by his family, fell into radical Islam and became a monster") and the way it serves as counterpoint to the story, how can we trust his judgement on the stand? Why was he permitted to serve on the police force in the first place? That he thinks that the photographs he released tell the whole truth, or even more truth, about Dzokhar Tsarnaev (or at least the only truth that matters in the court of public opinion) is disturbing. The correct result for such behavior is the loss of his job.

If your entire argument relies on interpreting the photo absent its 11000-word context, you have weak sauce. Furthermore, the notion that this photo "glorifies terrorism" is patently absurd. It cannot be understood without the headline and accompanying article, and if you cannot manage to absorb all of it before reacting, then I feel comfortable dismissing your opinion.

If you would prefer to retreat to the argument that the wounds are too raw a mere four months on, I'll have to ask when is it OK?  Go back and review the 9/11 coverage. There were seemingly endless words written in its wake that were probably too soon. And promoting a war on false pretenses using it as a justification? I was a supporter of the Iraq War (should have listened to Scott Ritter). Even I knew that the link to bin Laden was tenuous at best (The other lesson of the Iraq War? Never permit the seller to pretend that secret information that isn't independently verified is casus belli.).

Sean: you have PTSD. Seek counseling. It works.

02 February 2013

This may have won the internet.