2011-10-30

Occupy the mailbox

Poet Artie Moffa has devised a way to shake his fist at the big banks. It is painful that this is thought to be "brilliant" (as one commenter opined).



There are many reasons why this is a silly notion. As many of these types of activities go, they are often an impassioned orgy of virulence, but little else. Such a tactic is likely to do nothing more than make those who do it feel clever and self-satisfied.

The current number of YouTube views for this video is 109,168. If everybody who watched the video actually sent in their envelope and it cost the big bank they are targeting $0.25 each, the total cost of postage to the bank would be $27,292. Not exactly a sum that will take down a corporation. And this assumes all 109,168 viewers will send in an envelope. To the same bank.

Although we all share the dislike of bulk mail items arriving in our mail box, and even though many of us have been tempted to mail the materials back to the sender in a moment of protest, the reality is that most people just aren't going to go through the bother of sending the stuff back.

Since everyone who watched will not likely send an envelope and since they are not likely targeting the same bank, the impact to any one organization will be even less. But if the tricky wood shim tactic is used, the price per parcel will rise and the pain to the bank will be greater. Even if it cost the bank a dollar per letter, the cost is not that great when spread across millions of customers. And that is exactly what would happen.

The bank isn't going to dock the pay of the CEO to cover the cost of this. It will pass the costs on to the consumer. Just as would be the case if this YouTuber ran a business and the local ne'er do wells filled his garbage dumpster with their garbage. He wouldn't just pay that amount out of his paycheck. He would add it to the price of his product as a cost of doing business. And that cost would not be significant enough to raise the price of his product so drastically that it would drive him out of business.

And if you think that since you are not a customer and therefore it won't affect you personally, what about all those who are? Isn't one of the points of OWS to speak up for those who are suffering because of the predatory practices of the large Wall Street banks? Isn't this just the sort of selfish, greedy, narcissistic behavior that the OWS crowd eschews? And besides, the merchant from whom you purchase your next car, house, gas, food, utility, clothing, medical care, TV, laptop, or iPhone may use this financial institution and you'll pay the fee as it is passed on to the consumer.

Moffa asks us to "Think of the scene in a mail room at a big bank." Well, it is likely that this type of mail is not handled in the mail room at 111 Wall Street. In fact, this probably takes place in some drearily familiar industrial park mail facility that employs people much like Artie, his mom or dad or other working stiffs who are not part of the 1%. They would like nothing more than to be able to do their jobs without the harassment of wood shims and notes from wise-acres who want them to join a union. They may already be a union member, which only makes the "really heavy, dense and crumbly" interruptions in their work day all the more tedious. Why not add baby powder to the mix? That would really show those greedy bankers. Do you suppose Moffa is appreciative of hecklers when he is on stage doing his job? One wonders whether Moffa would recommend spitting on the server at the local buffet if we disagree with the corporate business practices.

If we use Moffa's estimate of "a few roofing shingles, a few hundred wood shims and a few thousand empty envelopes," we might be verging on a couple thousand bucks of financial punishment to an institution while causing untold headaches for the rank and file who will have to deal with the real world implications of his proposed stunt.

And then Moffa gets to what he thinks is the point of such a protest. He admits that sending shingles to bankers "isn't really about running up the postage bill at the big banks, although that's a nice side effect." It is about creating meetings. Meetings to discuss the hundreds and thousands of weird credit card applications received by their fulfillment agent. He doesn't reason that these meetings will probably be held at the time clock in a noisy mail sorting facility and not range much beyond the topic of how to properly dispose of the debris sent in by disgruntled housewives, elderly retirees, and now, OWS protesters, and the fear induced in these times by opening envelopes containing foreign substances.

Moffa has much higher visions of grandeur.
Every hour the banks spend reacting to us is an hour they won't spend lobbying Congress on how to screw us.
Really? The banks will call the lobbyists back from DC to help sort mail? Does the SEIU stop lobbying just because a letter-writing campaign is waged against them?
Its an hour banks don't spend foreclosing on our houses.
Really? The bank will be so jolted that they will forget that Joe Blow hasn't made a payment in six months?

In large part, this is a masturbatory exercise. Maybe banking practices do need a thoroughgoing examination. Maybe government shouldn't have pressured banks to do Congress's social engineering so that we didn't find ourselves in this current situation. But this tactic gets us no closer to these ends.

What at first glance seems like a nifty idea, upon reflection devolves into an emotional fit. And the smugness dripping from such statements as "being immoral doesn't mean you're infertile," speaks only to fellow devotees who probably also had a Hans Landa "Ooooh, that's a bingo" response to shoving construction debris into an envelope.

Moffa would do well to understand that one's ideological opponents do not have to be evil or immoral simply because they have different thoughts and ideas. But this concept has yet to be learned by some of good will and is of little interest to those who would rather attack and destroy the messenger than engage in thoughtful conversation about competing ideas. This sort of dismissive rich/poor, black/white, young/old, red/blue, on/off mentality lacks nuance and is only helpful to those who are not confident in their own ideas. It is much easier to dismiss your opponents as evil, immoral, stupid, ignorant, mean spirited, war-mongering, selfish, greedy, hateful, nativist, racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic, bigoted, intolerant, fascist, misogynistic and hypocritical than to converse about the intricacies of different ideas.

And what about the environmental waste caused by such a protest? All the added driving and decreased fuel economy because of hauling roofing materials around. And does it create or save jobs for postal handlers? Well, yes. In the same way that splitting supertankers over coral reefs create jobs for the cleanup industry.

So as is often the case, protestations such as these may make the protester feel good, but won't do much beyond that. But who doesn't want a little self-induced pleasure? And Moffa seems to feel good about his self-stimulatory feel good exercise. So thanks to him for turning the camera on while preening in his digital masterbatorium.

ADDENDA:

From a poster at reddit:
The communications part is pointless; fill the envelope and send it back, but don't waste your time with the communications bit: the only people who will ever see it are minimum-wage (or near-minimum-wage) mail handlers who simply discard this sort of response.

I have (unfortunately) worked for institutions like this in the actual mail room, and this sort of thing is pretty standard (where I worked, we received 15000-20000 pieces of mail a day, and we had 6 people sorting all of it; each of us got several dozen of these trash-filled envelopes daily). We had boxes specifically for these sorts of envelopes, and the only thing we had to do was add a single comment to the person's file (if we could determine who it was from). That comment? ERE, which stands for Envelope Returned Empty.

Most of the time, we didn't even bother adding the comment (which is actually a good thing for the intended recipient, as it kept the address in an unknown state of use; sending the mail back like this shows it is a legit address; additional contact, including phone contact, was often then tried with these accounts). The envelope and its trash contents would simply be tossed in that bin, and we'd move along to the next piece of mail.

So don't bother wasting time (or money) creating fliers or inviting communication: the people who see it will toss it in the trash and, truth be told, are probably already on our side (but unable to do anything from their "expendable" position). Just send back the envelope with its original contents and move on.

Edit :: For what it's worth, this is also the reason why sending threats, powders or other sort of "illusion to cause harm" items is not only pointless, but is counter-productive: most company mail rooms are isolated to reduce the damage caused by an actual attack, and the only people who are going to be affected by it are the ones who the company considers to be some of the most expendable people in the company (where I worked, only the [Mexican-born] janitorial staff were considered more expendable).
Comment by davidwbrown66:
No!!! DO NOT PUT THE SHIMS IN THERE!!! I fix the fucking machines those envelopes go through and you fuck up all the machines if you stick shims in there. Those kinds of letters get sent through machines that require the letters to be slightly flexible as they get carried by belts around bullwheels.

Just stuff them with the paper like he originally said.

Don't fuck up the machines, that just messes with a postal machine operator and, worse, some poor technician.
Comment by b0blee:
If you make the envelope rigid with wood, it's a hazard to the postal machinery. It won't go through as Business Reply Mail (because it obviously isn't), and all you've done is annoy some poor postal workers.
Comment by moclips1:
your ideas have been tried before, and they don't work.  mass mailings from big companies are cheap to produce, cost only a few cents to mail per piece, and make money even if a lot of blank envelopes are returned. . those return envelopes are bar-coded, and any mailing that is too heavy gets thrown out, which costs the USPS money and not the company, good ideals, though. my sources: USPS employees, who hate mass mailings, and my 20+ years in marketing at a big heartless corporation.
Comment by Kelliwilliams2:
I can try to answer this helpfully. I used to work at a bank in my youth. Any rigid object that breaks machinery used for sorting material ill result in people staying late and sorting it by hand. Any mysterious object like rubble or dirt or an angry letter in mail will be considered a possible terrorist threat and result in a trip to loss prevention and the employee being questioned about their involvement and knowledge.

If you feel like doing this use clean paper not the stuff he suggests at the end or the crazy stuff people are suggesting like dog poop and cat litter. Any inconvenience experienced by the person opening these letters will not matter at all to anyone higher up and neither will any messages. Anything you put in these envelopes is going to end up on the hands,clothes and unfinished work of the employee. You break their machines? They work wo them.

2011-10-29

What shall we protest?

They're protesting the fact that they've never been hungry; never been cold; never been without TV, air conditioning and a car. They've always had a video game console and a laptop and a smart phone. And they never, ever had to do any long, hard, real work for any of it.
There are groups of people who are willing to pump and purify your water. Provide endless and affordable electrical power so that you can be 72° all the time. That there are people who will kill, clean, cook, package and deliver foods so that you don't have to see the blood or the dirt." "And that these groups of people who provide these things are called corporations... who do these ugly, difficult and unpleasant things for you.
You should be grateful. You should thank them.


Against equality and change. And fear of what the government is constantly putting on us. And staying focused.


Against the Jews.

The Jews commit more white collar crime than any other ethnic group on the earth, and they go unprosecuted because they can buy their way out of it.
Whenever there's a billion dollar fraud, there's a Jew involved.





For taking down the system. Abolishing debt and the banking system. The capitalist monster. Capitalism. Profit.



For socialism and the fair wages in North Korea.



2011-10-27

Michael Moore is a 99%'er

Michael Moore denied that he is in the 1%. His proof? Because he says he's not. Amazing.

Apparently he can say anything and not be held to account. Does he really think that just doing a Jedi hand wave will convince the nation that he makes less than $344k/yr? (2009 AGI) Or because he doesn't think of himself in that way, he isn't? His thoughts notwithstanding, I think the IRS considers him to be a one percenter.

Will Moore extend the same wealth exemption to conservatives?




And Russel Simmons isn't in the 1% either. He's in the 100%.



UPDATE: Look for Moore to become more shrill. After making a statement as foolish as this, he will now go all in for socialism.

Civility on the Left

Matt Taibbi's Rolling Stone article is an example of the unbiased, level-headed, policy centric analysis of intelligent people who disagree. Or not.

The Houston Chronicle teases out the name-calling and invective.
Rick Perry: The Best Little Whore In Texas

If you’re still not sure, get a gander at the subhead:

The Texas governor has one driving passion: selling off government to the highest bidder

In the loooooooooooooooong article in the magazine’s November 10th issue, veteran political writer Matt Taibbi compares the Republican presidential candidate to an undertaker, a prostitute, a male underwear model, a serial killer AND Adolf Hitler. Bet you’ve never seen all those things in one article before.

In case you don’t have time to read the entire piece, we have some highlights for you.

On Perry’s personal characteristics:

“Exceedingly well-groomed, but also ashen and exhausted, like a funeral director with a hangover.”
“Tall, perma-tanned, Bible-clutching Southerner with front-runner hair and the build of a retired underwear model.”
“On the human level he is a nonpersonality, an almost perfect cipher – a man whose only discernible passion is his extreme willingness to be whatever someone will pay him to be, or vote for him to be.”
“Rick Perry brings shallow to a new level. He is very gifted in that regard. He could be the Adolf Hitler of shallow.”

On Perry’s ethics:

“The candidate who is exponentially more willing than we’ve ever seen before to whore himself out for that money.”
“A human price tag.”
“Rick Perry has managed to set a scary new low in the annals of opportunism, turning Texas into a swamp of political incest and backroom dealing on a scale not often seen this side of the Congo or Sierra Leone.”

On Perry’s ups and downs in the presidential campaign:

“The governor went from presumptive front-runner to stammering talk-show punch line seemingly in the speed of a single tweet.”
“Perry has mainly distinguished himself with a kind of bipolar wildness in the debates: sullen and reserved one moment, strident and inarticulate the next. He sweats profusely. He can’t stand still. When he does manage to get off a zinger, he cracks a smug grin, looking like he’s just sewn up the blue ribbon in a frat-house dong-measuring contest.”
“One of the all-time great marketing scams, a breathtaking high-wire act by a man who if nothing else certainly has the gigantic balls required for the most powerful job in the world.”

On Perry’s rise to power:

“The descriptions of Perry’s early political career all sound like the early chapters of true-crime books about serial killers, where nobody notices anything special about the protagonist until the bodies start piling up along the local riverbank.”
“Favors are the one consistent thread running through Perry’s political career. Throughout his time as governor, whenever his ideology or his religion comes into conflict with the need to give a handout to a major campaign donor, ideology and religion lose every single time.”

It seems safe to assume Rick Perry won’t be getting the Rolling Stone vote.

2011-10-25

Nuance on the Left

This presidential election has not lacked for clowns, and in a circus Barack Obama fits right in. But as the Black clown, Obama’s foot-in-mouth moments mostly involve insulting the Black community. This could be to establish his independence from the community in order to earn his bona fides with the moderate electorate or a way of appeasing the white liberals he’s courting. Or it could be that his foot and his mouth are magnetized. Whatever the reason, as a Black person, the Obamanator experience has been as distasteful as rancid, spoiled, stinky, curdled milk.
This was written, not about Barack Obama, but about Herman Cain. Touré at Time Magazine let loose with this torrent of sophomoric angst in his October 21st article. His screed is just one more example of a group that isn't interested in civility, but rather tearing down their opponent at all costs. And they usually do it by attacking the person, not policy.

The left is particularly adept at lacking self-awareness. Their ability to self-reflect is almost non-existent. In the third paragraph of his Cain chew-out - after having called Cain a Black clown, the Herminator, Cain't and the Black Sarah Palin - Mr. Touré asks, "Now we’re doing teenage-level disses?" [Insert long Jon Stewart-esque pause for effect.]

Maybe Mr. Touré doesn't read his own work. The evidence may be that he squeezed in some more teenage name calling before he reached the end of the article: Hermy, Big Daddy Cain, Cain is a clown, buffoon and another Hermanator round out his 690 words of "serious intellect, realistic solutions and admirable character," three charicteristics Mr. Touré said that Herman Cain did not posses.

As if the name calling wasn't enough to convince the reader of Mr. Touré's superior intellectual argument, he marginalizes and dismisses everything that he disagrees with. It is not that Cain has different ideas about the economy, it is that he is courting and appeasing the white conservatives. It is not that Cain has a different opinion than Mr. Touré, it is that his foot and his mouth are magnetized. It is not that Mr. Touré and Cain don't see eye to eye, it is that Cain is as distasteful as rancid, spoiled, stinky, curdled milk.

So when you get past all the name calling and invective, what is left? Essentially Mr. Touré makes three points. 1) He doesn't think blacks have been brainwashed. 2) Obama has been a part of the black experience. 3) Racism is alive and well.

Mr. Touré doesn't like that Cain said that some blacks were brainwashed. He noted that:

Brainwashing is a highly offensive charge that suggests the Black mind is defective or has gone to sleep. In a world where Black intelligence is constantly maligned and denigrated and underestimated, this cuts deeper than the quick. Alleging that we’re not intelligent enough to make rational political decisions would hurt if it weren’t so comical coming from his mouth.
Does Mr. Touré also feel the pain in his quick for poor white people who are often maligned as hillbillies, white trash and rednecks? Let's change the focus of his comments from blacks to the NASCAR crowd and see how it sounds:

Brainwashing is a highly offensive charge that suggests the white mind is defective or has gone to sleep. In a world where southern white intelligence is constantly maligned and denigrated and underestimated, this cuts deeper than the quick. Alleging that NASCAR lovers are not intelligent enough to make rational political decisions would hurt if it weren’t so comical coming from his mouth.
Brainwashing does not suggest that the mind is defective. Everyone is susceptible to a brainwash. I suspect that if a certain cultural or religious group of whites voted in lock step at rates at or above 90 percent for Republicans, Mr. Touré might not bristle so vociferously at the notion of a brainwash.

Mr. Touré then asks, "... has the GOP offered a reasonable alternative?" to the brainwash. Um, yes. The subject of your article Mr. Touré. And the other 6 or 7 people showing up to the Republican debates. The whole point of Cain making the brainwash reference was to jar the black community into considering ideas from him or anyone else from the Republican side of the aisle.

Moving on to Mr. Touré's second objection, he feels that Obama certainly was and is partaking of the "black experience" in America. Well, not exactly. He notes that you can't define black experience too narrowly. And that even if "Obama has lived a life that’s different than most Black people’s", Obama is black. So therefore what he experiences is the black experience. And anyway, Obama is redefining the experience. Where he is, the experience is. "The mountain came to Muhammad." Of course, no mention that Herman Cain's experiences are the black experience or that they may be redefining the black experience in any way.

Number three. With this objection Mr. Touré drifts perilously close to a Jesse Jackson sing-a-long. In citing his own book, Mr. Touré notes that even his extensive research that consisted of asking "about 100 people" to identify the "the most racist thing that’s ever happened to you," he discovered that more than one third couldn't identify such an act. So rather than conclude, as Herman Cain has, that things are improving in America, Mr. Touré provides the answers for this mysterious racism lacuna: these people just weren't aware of the hidden, subtle, unknowable racism that is modern racism. Maybe they were brainwashed. And no level of success within the black community - not his, not Obama's, not Herman Cain's - is going to refute that racism is everywhere.

Oh, and Touré doesn't like Cain's sense of humor. But Cain's a clown. An unfunny clown. So there.

2011-10-24

Tea Party Racists

It is so sad to see the lack of reason and thinking on the left. Morgan Freeman provides just one of a thousand examples.

One wonders whether in every other election where Republicans opposed the Democratic candidate (and I think that is most of them) it was a racist decision. Ostensibly, the vote against the Democrat in those elections was a racist's vote against policies rather than the actual candidate? However, since the Republican's track record is pretty good on issues of race - and arguably better than the Democrats vis-à-vis abolition, ERA, minorities elected and appointed, etc. - this is a hard argument to make.

Also, to believe that those who would vote for a Republican are somehow now racists since they want to make sure that Obama is unseated, one must believe that if Joe Biden were the president, Republicans would not feel similarly. That is, Republicans would not have a publicly stated policy to do whatever it takes to see to it that Biden only serves one term. One is then left to ask, how would the policies pursued by the Obama administration magically become palatable to Republicans if Joe Biden were pursuing them rather than Obama? I suspect this sort of thought exercise is blithely dismissed just as Mr. Freeman dismissed the conservative desire to unseat President Clinton might indicate that it is policy rather than racism driving the Republican vote.

This is shameful. And a mendacious calumny.



Can we get an "amen" from Sean Penn:



Samuel L. Jackson agrees that "It’s not politics. It is not economics. It all boils down to pretty much to race."

At a gathering of the Congressional Black Caucus some thought the Tea Party should "Go to hell." and that they are racist. Black Tea Partiers are said to have an identity crisis and are "Oreos" - black on the outside and white on the inside. And one attendee repeatedly called Tea Partiers "tea-baggers".



Apparently the left can't just disagree. Questioning the character of those you disagree with is easier.

2011-10-22

Don't Like It? Don't Do It.

Don't like gay marriage? Don't get one.
Don't like abortion? Don't get one.
Don't like drugs? Don't do them.
Don't like sex? Don't have it.
Don't like your rights taken away? Don't take them away from anyone else.

These statements dismiss very difficult issues with very simple expressions. Those who would like to curtail some of these issues typically find them sociologically problematic or immoral. It is oversimplification to simply ask that those that disagree merely opt out. Opting out is not the only method a society can, or should, use to limit behaviors. If this were the case, there would be little need for laws.

Although it may feel morally advantageous to dismiss the complicated issues with admonitions to opt out, are those who recommend opting out as the sole means of relief prepared to accept this advice for their societal concerns? Would they also agree that opting out is appropriate for the following items?

Don't like cigarettes? Don't smoke them.
Don't like incandescent light bulbs? Don't use them.
Don't like corporations? Stop buying their products.
Don't like guns? Don't buy one.
Don't like plastic grocery bags? Don't use them.
Don't like fossil fuels? Don't use them.
Don't like drunk driving? Don't drink and drive.
Don't like profit? Don't pursue it.
Don't like high tax rates? Don't pay them.
Don't like pictures of Muhammad? Don't look at them.
Don't like melamine in your food? Don't eat it.
Don't like slavery? Don't own slaves.
Don't like rape? Don't do it.

It may not be sufficient or appropriate to merely opt out of some or all of these issues. There may be a societal need to restrict or prevent many of the listed behaviors. It hasn't always been apparent to societies that slavery shouldn't merely be an opt out issue. When the liberties of another person are curtailed, as is the case with slavery, there are moral and ethical reasons to not invoke the opt out argument and to have laws that restrict that behavior.

But infringement of individual liberty is not the only area where the opt out argument is unpersuasive. Laws also establish the ideals for a society. Some argue that there is a societal harm if drugs are legalized because it sanctions an objectionable behavior. Feminists make a similar argument for how society is harmed by sexism:
If the vast majority of portrayals of women in the media are of skinny, white, vapid, boy-crazy sex objects with fake breasts, this contributes to a social environment in which women’s worth is determined by their attractiveness to men. It influences young girls looking for role models, it affects how older women feel about themselves, and it justifies pretty rancid behavior towards real, non-fictional women. I am totally into empowerment and whatnot, but it’s hard to buck a trend that’s pervasive, constant, and rewarded. Because I think these portrayals are socially damaging, I think it is my responsibility to call out sexist images when I see them, and ask for them to be changed, whether or not I am consuming the media in which they appear.
Obviously that feminist does not think it is sufficient to merely opt out. She is hoping to influence, guide and affect societal norms. And to the degree she can control the behavior of others, she will. Many university campuses impose speech codes to combat issues such as these. It is not far fetched to imagine the codification of such controls in law.

Society is continually asking "What is it that constitutes the moral?" Immoral behaviors and actions and their social implications concern many people. Certainly the previously quoted feminist is concerned with sexist imagery and its social implications. Many who oppose abortion, same sex marriage and drug legalization are also concerned about the social implications of these activities. Likewise, those who combat the unauthorized copying and distribution of music are concerned about the implications of an entire generation who does not regard this activity as illegal. The industry is fighting a perception as much as a legal battle. But, should music industry lawyers be told "If you don't like peer-to-peer sharing of copyrighted material, don't use peer-to-peer sites."?

Many issues cannot be reduced to the libertarian impulse of "I won't interfere with your life; please don't interfere with mine." It may be justified to restrict behaviors when those behaviors are thought to damage societal fabric or infringe the rights of others. One must ask whether a particular behavior should be sanctioned by government and the society. Nobody is forced to use drugs if they are legalized, but societal ideals are established by such laws.

It should be clear that there are activities that people of all political stripes would like to see curtailed or eliminated. As one SCOTUS nominee noted, it is pure mythology to believe that only one side is interested in imposing their morality on a society. All participants in politics want to impose on others as much of their morality as possible. To the degree they have their way in America, it will be through democratic processes. And one or the other's morality will prevail and be imposed.

2011-10-18

Classless

Politico wonders about the President's campaign tactics:
Allegations that Republicans want sick people to die and hate homosexuals are caricatures you might expect of an extreme House member or a raving partisan running for local office. That a president would say — or even believe — such things is deeply disturbing.
But in these same remarks, Obama also subtly suggested something far worse — that his opponents are racially biased.
Democracy presupposes that both sides accept that the other speaks with goodness from the heart — if sometimes in error.

But if the other side is not just wrong but ill-intentioned, the rationale for sharing power evaporates.

Class warfare is a dangerous game, unjustly turning a small segment of society into villains. But cultural warfare is poisonous, threatening to sicken and cripple the entire society.
Not only that, but GOP'ers want "dirtier air, dirtier water, less people with health insurance."
My plan says we’re going to put teachers back in the classroom, construction workers back to work rebuilding America, rebuilding our schools, tax cuts for small businesses, tax cuts for hiring veterans, tax cuts if you give your worker a raise,” said Obama. “That’s my plan. Then you’ve got their plan, which is, let’s have dirtier air, dirtier water, less people with health insurance. So far at least, I feel better about my plan.
Krauthammer also notes Obama's campaign rhetoric:
It’s crude. It’s Manichaean. And the left loves it. As a matter of math and logic, however, it’s ridiculous. Obama’s most coveted tax hike — an extra 3 to 4.6 percent for millionaires and billionaires (weirdly defined as individuals making more than $200,000) — would have reduced last year’s deficit (at the very most) from $1.29 trillion to $1.21 trillion. Nearly a rounding error. The oil-drilling breaks cover less than half a day’s federal spending. You could collect Obama’s favorite tax loophole — depreciation for corporate jets — for 100 years and it wouldn’t cover one month of Medicare, whose insolvency is a function of increased longevity, expensive new technology and wasteful defensive medicine caused by an insane malpractice system.

2011-10-16

Occupy Wall Street Cleanliness

The Daily Show examines how the protesters are treating the local businesses.

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The New York Times discusses this too.
Zuccotti Park is privately owned but open to the public. Melissa Coley, a spokeswoman for Brookfield Office Properties, which owns the park, said in a statement that sanitation conditions had reached “unacceptable levels.”
In a widely distributed pamphlet, “Welcome to Liberty Plaza: Home of Occupy Wall Street,” participants were instructed where to find relief. “After you’ve dined,” it reads, “feel free to refresh yourself in the restrooms of neighboring businesses like Burger King and McDonald’s without feeling obligated to buy anything.”

2011-10-12

Headline Bias?

Isn't it odd that the NYTimes would focus on the religious divide rather than the shared values of Evangelicals and Romney in this article?

Somewhere deep in the penetralia of the NYTimes, somebody decided - whether consciously or not - to give this bit of news a unfavorable twist. A more convivial headline editor may have suggested "Evangelical supports Romney" to better reflect the overall message of the story.

Here is an metaphor for the intrinsic bias that may be at work.  Think of the story as a top. The top can either be spun clockwise or counterclockwise to initiate its pirouette. The top is the same collection of molecules that predictably spins about the center pivot whether spun one way or the other - that is, the facts of the story are the same no matter which way it is spun. But the top's path and disposition is affected by its direction of rotation.

The decision about which way to twist the spintop may not be a function of some directional intent. It may just be the result of whether one is left-handed or right-handed. Although not necessarily a conscious decision to impart a particular spin direction, this physical bias certainly imposes a spin direction whether intended or not.

If you read to the end of the article, you discover that in spite of his theological disagreements, the Pastor said “I’m going to instruct, I’m going to advise people that it is much better to vote for a non-Christian who embraces biblical values than to vote for a professing Christian like Barack Obama who embraces un-biblical values.” A 'right-handed' editor might have headlined the article "Republican Big Tent Has Room For All Faiths."

But the NYTimes editor chose to highlight the theological quarrels that an Evangelical Pastor has with a Mormon candidate. The editor might just as well have reminded us that Rabbis do not acknowledge Jesus as the Messiah and that Protestants think the Pope is a heretic. Not exactly press-stopping scoops.

But if "Imam Calls Obama's Pastor An Infidel" headlined an article that ultimately acknowledged that the Imam encouraged Muslims to vote for Obama based on shared values in spite of their theological differences, one would rightly wonder why such a divisive headline was necessary. Similarly, the selection of "Prominent Pastor Calls Romney’s Church a Cult" as the headline for this article is unnecessarily provocative.

In these times when many lament the "narrow visions" and "deep political divides," and some pine for the days when "we can all just get along," one might imagine the Times would be interested in giving the reader a literary warm hug by highlighting the 'let's-get-along' attitude demonstrated by this preacher who was willing to set aside some major doctrinal differences.

However, maybe this headline was not intended to mislead the casual reader by suggesting that Romney has been excommunicated from the Evangelical ballot. Maybe that is too negative a read of what was intended. The writer may have been providing context so that the reader could fully appreciate the magnitude of compromise that the Pastor was willing to make.

Or maybe the devil made him do it.

2011-10-07

Occupy Wall Street

Finally the lid has blown off the pressure cooker. The left has needed a protest cause du jour for some time now.

The left just can't find it within themselves to protest the continuation of the (so called) incompetent Bush/Darth Vader Cheney policies under Obama. Their tongues have been tied over Guantanamo, rendition, drone attacks, collateral damage, increased troops, blood for oil, colonialism, imperialism, globalization, no-bid contracts, habeas corpus, civilian court/tribunals and the Patriot Act. There are no movies, personal interest stories or news stories on the horrors of war, families left behind, increased alcoholism and homicide rates, post-traumatic stress disorder or casket cavalcades.

Protesting is hobby for many on the left. And having their guy in office greatly curtails the amount of hobby horse riding they can engage in; they have to ride less, with less whooping and hollering and they can't kick up as much dust.

Since the left places the majority of the blame for the ills of the world on external circumstances, they are predisposed to marches and fist-shaking at those forces that muck up the world. Grievance politics is a natural outcome of this vision. Capitalism, greed, racism, sexism and any number of other external evils are the boot on the neck of the proletariat and if not for that impediment, the land of milk and honey would spring forth.

Those on the right more readily look inward which in part explains why they don't need to march nearly so much as those on the left. And personal responsibility marches against oneself lack the telegenic appeal of "taking the bridge", likely explaining why even if these personal accountability marches are occurring, we don't see much of them on the nightly news.

But "Wall Street" is an evergreen villain that they can circle the wagons around and around which they can kick up as much dust as they like. Since President Obama has gerrymandered the issue by championing nonsense like the Buffet brocard and increased tax rates for $200,000 millionaires, this is safe territory for dust raising and other "highest form of patriotism" activities. (I am sure Jefferson – or whoever actually said that since he didn't – would be proud. Unless, of course, Tea Partiers are kicking up a little dust, then it is unpatriotic rabble-rousing.)

It is surprising that it took so long for the left to find something to shout about. Apparently WTO hasn't been to town recently. But clearly, with their man at the tiller, they had to be careful to make sure that what they grouse about did not bring harm to their man or cause.

Enter the practiced complainant Barack Obama. He crafted a complaint against the wealthy Wall Street elites (from whom he derives a lot of financial support) while avoiding the disdain of those he attacked. It is as though he accused his spouse of infidelity, proposed to imprison her for the offense, and did it with such conviction and enough magician's patter that the spouse took up his cause and marched on behalf of her own incarceration. Skillful indeed.

But this slight of hand created the opening the protesters needed. It was now safe to rally against jack-bootery while wearing jack-boots. Even Michael Moore was probably tiring of the blame Bush mantra and was anxious for a more current event to wag his finger - and tongue - at, especially given the strange documentary topic drought that has devastated his industry as of late.

But finally, the gnawing angst that the left should be marching against the continuation of Bush-era policies overseas has been blown away by the patchouli scented breeze of protest and bridge taking. A villain has been found. Fingers can be pointed. Blame can be assigned. Everything is comfortable once again.

And they lived happily ever after.

2011-10-06

Papal Infallibility

When a person says that the science has been settled, why isn't this considered to be as silly as Papal infallibility? 

2011-10-05

Notable Quotable

I would prefer to live in communities where there are people who believe there is a God and are trying to live up to a standard that is higher than a legal standard.
~ Lee Habeeb