Month: February 2009

Science Confirms the Obvious

I love it when a scientific study confirms something that I have always suspected.  In a recent study of pornography use on the internet, it was determined that those who are on the far right, in terms of both politics and religion, are the greatest consumers.

…there are some trends to be seen in the data. Those states that do consume the most porn tend to be more conservative and religious than states with lower levels of consumption, the study finds.    Some of the people who are most outraged turn out to be consumers of the very things they claimed to be outraged by.

According to the study, Utah has the highest percentage of on-line pornography users of any state in the union, Montana the fewest.

Eight of the top 10 pornography consuming states gave their electoral votes to John McCain in last year’s presidential election – Florida and Hawaii were the exceptions. While six out of the lowest 10 favored Barack Obama.

The more repressive and authoritarian a religion is, the more likely members will subscribe to on-line porn sites.  Residents of  the 27 states that passed laws banning gay marriages had 11% more porn subscribers than states that don’t explicitly restrict gay marriage.

The author of the study correlated his data with a previous study on public attitudes toward religion (see table below).  States where a majority of residents agreed with the statement “I have old-fashioned values about family and marriage,” bought 3.6 more subscriptions per thousand people than states where a majority disagreed.  A similar difference ( 3.56 per thousand) existed for the statement “AIDS might be God’s punishment for immoral sexual behavior.”  Can you say hypocrisy?

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I have a suggestion for another correlational study using the on-line porn subscription data. Is there a postive relationship between on-line porn subscriptions and listeners of right wing radio (Rush, Hannidy, Savage, etc.) or Fox News?  I am guessing the results would not surprise me.

Paging Kenneth Jindal

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Two minutes into Bobby Jindal’s Republican response to President Obama’a speech, I told my wife that he was doing an impression of Kenneth the page on 30 Rock. It turns out that I wasn’t the only one to see the similarity. The internet was atwitter discussing the similarities. Some blogs include comparison videos- see here and here. This page started yesterday and, according to AP,

Indeed, a new Facebook group titled “Bobby Jindal is Kenneth the Page” had already attracted more than 1,800 members Wednesday afternoon.

First Tina Fey, now Jack McBrayer. If Alex Baldwin can only perfect his Romney impression, 30 Rock will have the Republican front runners covered.

Update: The beat goes on. Jimmy Fallon has Jack McBrayer on to refute the comparison.

Of coure, once we all get tired of laughing at Jindal, the harsh truth about the shining light of the Republican party emerges.  An editorial in the New York Times says it well,

Imagine yourself jobless and struggling to feed your family while the governor of your state threatens to reject tens of millions of dollars in federal aid earmarked for the unemployed. That is precisely what is happening in poverty-ridden states like Louisiana and Mississippi where Republican governors are threatening to turn away federal aid rather than expand access to unemployment insurance programs in ways that many other states did a long time ago.

What makes these bad decisions worse is that they are little more than political posturing by rising Republican stars, like Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana and Gov. Mark Sanford of South Carolina. This behavior reinforces the disturbing conclusion that the Republican Party seems more interested in ideological warfare than in working on policies that get the country back on track.

Locke for Commerce

President  Obama named former Washington Gov. Gary Locke as his nominee for Commerce secretary Wednesday. This was his third shot at a cabinet position that has become extremely important, given the current economic crisis.

I am a bit ambivalent about Gary Locke. As a former Governor of Washington, he brings a Northwest perspective to the position. I recall him being an adequate Governor, but certainly not a visionary. As I recall he got into a bit of trouble with campaign contributions while Governor. Dave Neiwert describes him as lacking leadership skills but,

Still, he’s a highly competent bureaucrat, and a capable spokesman for international trade — which will probably make him an ideal pick for a position like Commerce.

Crapo “Advises” the Idaho Legislature

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Crapo, hiding among a swarm of syncophants

Mike Crapo is in Boise today to “advise” the Idaho House and Senate about the recently passed stimulus bill. Granted, the clueless Idaho legislature could use some advice. And, some would argue, compared to the rest of the Idaho Congressional Delegation (“Fraud” Risch, “Bizarro World” Simpson and “Blue Dog” Minnick) Crapo is the most level headed of the stimulus deniers.

I don’t think so. In fact, I feel that the only real difference between Crapo and the others is that Crapo is a much more savvy politician. Rather than display his ignorance, he has kept a low profile. For most of his career, he managed to hide in the wide-stance shadow of Larry Craig, initiating no legislation and voting lock-step with the Republican party.

Now that he is the senior Senator, he is expected to show some leadership. As a member of the Finance Committee, Budget Committee and Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs, it would be hoped that economics would be his one area of expertise.

A recent interview with Erika Bolstad shows otherwise.  Consider Crapo’s answer to her first question

Both the stimulus plan and the plan unveiled (Tuesday) by Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner have a very Keynesian approach, with roots in putting a lot of government money out there at once. Do you accept that economic view?

Okay, a good question. We can assume that Crapo will not be a Keynesian.

No, I don’t think that is a valid economic view. In fact, I think many economists today would tell you that approach has been losing favor in terms of validity.

Wait a minute. So, not only is Keynesian economic theory not valid, it is “losing favor in terms of validity” among economists. So, in Crapo’s delusional mind, we have been experimenting with Keynesian economics the last couple of decades and the theory as been shown to be unsound- invalid.

People talk about what happened after World War II and the New Deal as an example of the success of the Keynesian philosophy, and although I don’t profess to be an expert, I know that a lot of the economic experts are saying that the way we look back at those things doesn’t correctly reflect what the impacts truly are.

Mike, no need to point out that you are not an expert. The rest of that sentence makes that point quite effectively. The so-called “economic experts” like partisan hack Amity Shales, who claim that Keynsian economics failed during the New Deal, have been thoroughly debunked. And, what to make of your statement about “what happened after world war II”? What exactly happened besides post-war prosperity?

Of course, it is easy to find a few economists who are ideologically opposed to Keynesian economics and, consequently, are against an economic stimulus in our current crisis. They are Chicago school, Milton Friedman, deregulation, radical free market, tax cut, Shock Doctrine economists who have careers invested in their economic models and who have driven policy since the “Reagan revolution.” That is right- the purveyors of the “failed policies of the past”. Talk about an economic approach that has been losing favor in terms of validity!

I wouldn’t be so outraged with Crapo if I thought he really understood the economics behind the stimulus bill and opposed it with a coherent response. Instead he mouths muddled Republican talking points.

UPDATE: From Eye on Idaho,

Idaho’s senior U.S. Senator, Mike Crapo, addressed the Senate and House today, and was held up for about 10 minutes in the Senate as that chamber wrapped up a hot debate on sewage rules.

This was a nice transition into Crapo’s crapo advice.

He offered lawmakers what he called a bit of unsolicited advice about the upcoming federal stimulus funds. “You are going to now be faced with an interesting job, as somewhere between $600 million and a billion dollars of this bill will flow into Idaho, a lot of it flowing into programs that you administer as policy makers in the state. One of the big concerns that a lot of us have with this bill is that the increases in a number of these programs will be built right into the federal base and into the base of the states, so that we actually, instead of starting out the next fiscal cycle with a $1.2 trillion deficit, we will have a deficit that starts growing unbelievably large.

I just encourage you, as you deal with this largesse that is going to be coming your way in terms of the stimulative dollars, that you pay very close attention to what it will do to your base in your budget here in the state,” Crapo told the Senate. “I’m not telling you what to do with it or how to handle it. What I’m saying is … I don’t think it can last forever.

Of course, it won’t last forever. That is the way Keynesian economics works. Keynes advocated “countercyclical” fiscal policy

Keynes argued that the solution to depression was to stimulate the economy (“inducement to invest”) through some combination of two approaches: a reduction in interest rates, and government investment in infrastructure. Investment by government injects income, which results in more spending in the general economy, which in turn stimulates more production and investment involving still more income and spending and so forth. The initial stimulation starts a cascade of events, whose total increase in economic activity is a multiple of the original investment.

Keynes’s theory suggested that active government policy could be effective in managing the economy. Rather than seeing unbalanced government budgets as wrong, Keynes advocated what has been called countercyclical fiscal policies, that is policies which acted against the tide of the business cycle: deficit spending when a nation’s economy suffers from recession or when recovery is long-delayed and unemployment is persistently high—and the suppression of inflation in boom times by either increasing taxes or cutting back on government outlays.

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Blogging on Crooks and Liars, former Idahoan, David Neiwert has the goods on hypocrite Mike Simpson.

Republicans are having a tough time dealing with the realities of not having even a shred of remaining power. There’s been a lot of gnashing of teeth the past few days as Democrats have proceeded to impose their political will in the form of Barack Obama’s economic stimulus package.

My favorite came from my former dentist, Rep. Mike Simpson of Idaho, yesterday on the House floor:

Simpson: I feel like I went to bed a couple nights ago, a couple weeks ago, amd woke up in Bizarro World. We’re about to spend over a trillion dollars for a stimulus bill which will do little if anything to stimulate the economy.

… For the first time in my life, I am embarrassed to be a member of this body.

Really? It’s hard to imagine anyone from Idaho — whose delegation, after all, was until this year led by Sen. Larry Craig — being embarrassed easily these days about anything. So I guess that must be saying something.

The American Way

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A rather insignificant news story caught my attention. It appears that the corrupt, criminal security company, Blackwater, is changing its name.  I am sure you are aware of Blackwater founder Eric Prince and the company’s role in Bush era corruption.  If you have the stomach for it, you could read all the details of the Blackwater story in Jeremy Scahill’s excellent expose’, Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army.

In any event, Blackwater is changing it’s name to Xe, pronounced “Z.” Xe seemed to be a rather strange name for a security company like Blackwater until I had a hazy flash of the Periodic table I was forced to learn in Chemestry class. Yes, Xe was the symbol for Xenon, an odorless, colorless gas! The symbolism now makes sense. Like The Shadow, Xe will be invisible. Who knows what evil lurks in the mind’s of men? Eric Prince does. I wonder if Prince will change his own name to some variation of this?

As I read about the name change, I though to myself, “How American.” In Japan, Prince would have committed ritual suicide when faced with the guilt and humiliation of the Blackwater scandals.  Not so here. The American way is all about re-invention; we go west, are born again, rebrand, receive bailouts, get golden parachutes and revise history.

While I was checking the Periodic Table to make sure my memory was correct about Xenon, I came across the perfect rebranding of the biggest failure of our time, George W. Bush, “dubya“.  He can be known simply as “Db.” Db is the symbol for Dubnium. Dubnium is described as,

…a synthetic element that is not present in the environment at all. It has no uses.

Works for me!

A Modest Proposal to Save the Republican Party

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Let’s face it, the Republican Party is in trouble. Democrats are already savoring the 2010 mid-term election. Senator Robert Menendez, Chair of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is talking about the possibility of picking up seats in nine states.

…Menendez noted five currently-held GOP seats are set to be vacated in 2010, most of them in traditional swing states: Florida, Ohio, Missouri, New Hampshire, Kansas. Meanwhile, no current Democratic senators have plans to retire, though the president’s Cabinet appointments have technically left Colorado, New York, Illinois, and Delaware without an incumbent Democrat.

Of those five states with outgoing GOP senators, Menendez said the fact that President Obama carried three of them handily and essentially tied Sen. John McCain in Missouri bodes well for Democrats in 2010. He also expressed optimism about Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius’ chances in that traditional red state should she decide to run there: “If Kathleen Sebelius runs, she will win,” Menendez said.

The DSCC chief added a combination of local and national factors make four other Republican-held seats vulnerable — Louisiana,- North Carolina, Kentucky and Pennsylvania.

Incumbent Republican senators are particularly vulnerable, Menendez said, because of their “Bush like” approach the nation’s sputtering economy and overwhelming opposition to the White House-backed stimulus bill.

“They just don’t get it,” Menendez said of his Republican colleagues, “How many more people need to lose their jobs?”

Of course, the Republicans don’t get it. Their current strategy of obstructing everything Democrats propose  simply makes them appear childish and irrelevant. [UPDATE: The House just passed the stimulus bill without a single Republican vote.]

So, I propose a plan to bring about a Republican resurgence. Admittedly, this is a long range plan, one that will take a couple of decades to reach fruition.  The answer can be found here. That is right- resurrect Neanderthals from their reconstructed DNA!

It goes without saying that Neanderthals would swell the Republican base. It might be necessary to shield them from liberal educators, but I am sure enough charter schools with the correct “No Neanderthal Left Behind” curricula could be created by sucking off funds to public schools.

The cost would not be prohibitive. According to John Tierney, a Neanderthal could be brought to life with present technology for about $30 million. The $60 million necessary for a breeding pair could be easily inserted into the next stimulus bill without anyone being the wiser.

I am guessing that Idaho and the other [2] Red States would be ideal breeding grounds for the Neanderthals. In the beginning, they would need protected species status and they would be more likely to blend in among Idaho Republicans.

I know what some of you are thinking. What about the ethics involved?  Tierney addresses this:

…I’m afraid I can’t see the problem. If we discovered a small band of Neanderthals hidden somewhere, we’d do everything to keep them alive, just as we try to keep alive so many other endangered populations of humans and animals — including man-biting mosquitoes and man-eating polar bears. We’ve also spent lots of money reintroducing animals into ecosystems from which they had vanished. Shouldn’t be at least as solicitous to our fellow hominids?

But, to be honest, I don’t see this as being a problem. After all, if there is one thing we know for sure, Republicans will set ethics aside if they can see political gain.

Happy Darwin Day!

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Darwin Day is being celebrated all over the world today.  This February 12 marks the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s birth, and everybody’s invited to the party. Groups around the world — from grade school classrooms, to museums, to churches — will celebrate the science of evolution with public lectures, teach-ins, theatre performances, art exhibits, etc.  If you are close to Boise State University, consider celebrating on campus. The evening speaker is Dr. James Coors.

The theory of evolution, compared to Creationism or Intelligent Design, is an authentic scientific theory because it is falsifiable based upon empirical evidence. The beauty of Darwin’s theory is that genetics, a field unknown in Darwin’s lifetime, continues to validate the theory.

When your neighbor says there is no evidence that humans and apes share a common ancestor, tell them about human chromosome #2

UPDATE: Sisyphus has a nice discussionon his blog about Darwin, science and those who misuse science.  While there, check out the 10 minute video he links to. It does a wonderful job of explaining what counts as a scientific theory and discussing those personal biases that keep many from scientific understanding.

Idaho Reactionary Walt Minnick

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Idahoans are used to the rest of the country laughing at the fools we send to Congress.  It was usually harmless fun because Idaho Congressmen are powerless and, consequently, their idiocy irrelevant.

Not so in our current crisis. Walt Minnick’s lack of political courage has caught  the attention of many bloggers on the left. Read, for example, the succinct smack down from Down With Tyranny!

One of the 3 freshmen who has continually crossed the aisle to vote with the Republicans is Idaho reactionary Walt Minnick, a near certain one-termer who seems determined to be remembered as a complete and reviled failure. The far right will support Bill Sali, the ex-congressman Minnick defeated, who is running against him next year, but right now they’re celebrating Minnick as the useful idiot he is. Minnick is the polar opposite of Bernie Sanders, a dream Democrat for corporate America. He’s trying to be the Joe Lieberman of the House– who new polls show would be swamped in a landslide if he had to face Connecticut voters today– by playing footsie with the Republicans and betraying the values and ideals of his own party. His idea of a stimulus bill is $170 billion, something that economists are laughing at as completely ineffectual and even ridiculous.