Thursday, June 30, 2011

Bachmann Paradox

Michelle Bachmann has a problem. A major part of her core constituency, the radical right wing evangelical branch, reckons that folks with vaginas are disqualified for leadership roles and should just shut their cake holes.


Here's my translation of some of Congresscritter Bachmann's ravings when she announced her fringe candidacy for President.

"I'm a peace through strength conservative." Translation: I aim to give the military industrial complex a blank check.

"I'm a fiscal conservative." Translation: I am insufficiently self aware to understand that this is completely inconsistent with that first thing I said.

"I'm a social conservative." Translation: I think I know better than everyone else how to live and I will use violence to impose my preferences upon society.

"I'm a Tea Party conservative." Translation: I am doubling down on my incoherence.

Friday, June 24, 2011


I can hardly believe that victory has finally been achieved in Afghanistan and Iraq. I reckon that it would be cool to travel to Kabul or Baghdad and eat in the Olive Garden and have a drink at the Hard Rock Cafe in each downtown area. I wonder where our soldiers like to hang out when they are off duty now that the war is over. Probably wherever the women are. I imagine that we'll see a lot of war brides now that the troops can mingle with the populace in safety. They won't just be limited to the brothels and strip clubs in the immediate vicinity of the bases.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Optimism Bias

I listened to an interview on PBS the other day of a scientist who has researched the phenomenon of "optimism bias". It turns out that humans tend to be optimistic and to imagine positive outcomes even in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. That explains the invasion of Iraq. It also explains the many boneheaded business decisions that I have seen made over the years. I'm trained as a corporate lawyer to point out the possible downside to every "exciting new opportunity" and where appropriate to dampen the unwarranted enthusiasm of the business folks. I try not to get too cozy with the business team lest I catch the infection of optimism and overlook the potential problems that I'm paid to bring up. This is not usually difficult for me since most of the busness folks dislike me and will get me involved only when they are required to under operating procedures. They think I'm a downer with my pesky reasoning.

Optimism bias puts bread on my table. Long live optimism bias.

I'm not immune to it, of course. I imagine that my future will be happy and bright even though there are an infinite number of scenarios, mostly beyond my control, where my future is bleak and miserable or brief. How would I drag myself out of bed every day if I didn't imagine that I'd survive? Why would I bother with those Lotto tickets if I didn't see myself winning? Nobody would ever do anything if they imagined the worst all the time.

Monday, June 20, 2011


I fell in love with someone who lives on the other side of the imaginary dotted line of death known as our national border, and in order to enjoy the privilege of living with my loved one I am required by the government to jump through a series of hoops. Unlike anyone else, I am obliged to prove that I can afford a wife. Also, unlike anyone else, we are obliged to prove that we want to get married for legitimate federal government sanctioned reasons. For six months, our petition for a visa worked its way through Citizenship and Immigration Services and is now in the hands of the State Department where it will take some more months of processing.

Unlike other brides, mine has to prove to a bureaucrat that she knows me well enough to win the Newlywed Game in order to earn the right to live with me. Unlike other brides, she has to pass a physical and to prove that she's never been a troublemaker or a prostitute. We have to gather reams of documents and get them translated and notarized and stamped by all manner of officials.

What would be the downside of simply taking our word for it that we love each other and want to spend our lives together just like any other engaged couple?

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Social Conservative

What do these people have in common?

They're "Social Conservatives". When they were alive, they wanted to establish authoritarian governments to impose by force and violence their views as to how to live.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Missing Snakes, etc.

My northern water snakes seem to have disappeared. Year after year, a family of water snakes has made its home in my pond. They were present in April after the thaw, but I have not seen them since. My hypothesis is that the pit bull (who went to live with my ex) used to keep their predators away and that they have been eaten. I also have been abandoned by my hummingbirds despite faithful maintenance of two nectar silos. The hummers showed up as usual in the first week of May but disappeared.

A Five Guys burger restaurant has opened in Fishkill. They make a damn good burger and fried taters, possibly the best I've ever had. Yesterday, I stopped by after picking up my cholesterol medication at the Walmart and ordered a double bacon cheese burger with the works.

I didn't watch the GOP debate. I figured it would just be a contest to establish who is the craziest and most authoritarian. The GOP will pick Pawlenty or Romney, whichever one can convince the most people that he has lost any vestiges of sanity.

I became addicted to George RR Martin sword and sorcery fiction after watching Game of Thrones on HBO. I don't know what to do until the next installment comes out in July. I've read a couple of decent novels to fill in the gaps: Everything is Illuminated, about an American who travels to Ukraine to find the woman who saved his grandparent from the holocaust, and The Anarchist, about the assassin of Wm McKinley. Usually, I hate sword and sorcery fiction. It always seems like the authors wrote down their D&D escapades, but I found Martin's work very enjoyable.

I enjoyed Pentecost/Music Sunday. I couldn't help wondering what the congregation would do if I stood up and started speaking in an unknown tongue. Presumably, I'd still be confined for another 24 hours or so.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011


I have had it up to here with coverage of Anthony Weiner's "sexting scandal". I turn off the news if they even mention it. I know all that I need to know about it. It is way past time to move on. It's not as if Weiner had sponsored anti-sexting legislation or had been otherwise hypocritical, in which case the story would be a little fun. Wiener sexted and then lied about it, as anyone would have. What is so fracking amazing about that? Nothing. When he was first asked about it, he probably should have said "Jealous much?"

Friday, June 03, 2011

Righteousness and Temptation

It's easy for me to point out how much more righteous I am than Tiger Woods or John Edwards or any other rich and powerful philanderer. I have never committed adultery. Shame on them and hooray for me.

On the other hand, I have never really been tempted in the same way that rich and powerful men are. No Waffle House waitress ever threw herself at me, and none is ever likely to.

Moreover, I don't think that my libido is as powerful as that of these philanderers. Illicit sex just smacks of too much effort as far as I am concerned.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Democratic Friends

I don't criticize my Democratic friends as much as I do my Republican ones, primarily because they don't make as many bizarre assertions. They're pretty much up front about what they believe and what they want, and they tend to be too embarrassed to make intentionally spurious arguments.

One area where I do have a bone to pick with my Democratic friends involves some of the assumptions which they seem to make about humanity. One is that all people are equally intelligent and educable. This has serious policy ramifications. Given enough money and resources, any pupil can grow up to be, if not Stephen Hawking, then at least a Certified Public Accountant. Everybody should be able to get a college degree if they wish. The key to American prosperity is more technical training in order to tap into American ingenuity and permit every American to get a high tech job.

Where does this assumption come from? We all know from experience that some people are smarter than others and that intelligence and educability vary significantly from person to person. In recognizing this obvious fact, it is not necessary to make any statement about the hereditability of intelligence or the correlation of its distribution with other factors. We need to admit that a significant proportion of the population is unsuited for high tech work or higher education and that what is needed are good manufacturing jobs which permit persons with more limited intellecual endowments to earn a decent living. The current system simply treats such people as if they don't exist and exposes them to unwarranted stigmatization. My Democratic friends are left making unneeded apologies for poor people who have failed to respond to educational opportunities which are of no real use to them and who have simply been left behind in an economy that has shed its manufacturing foundation.

I'm not saying that all poor people are stupid, but I am saying that most stupid people are likely to end up poor in a society that doesn't take them into account. Even people of average intelligence are increasingly being left by the wayside as opportunities for them to get high wage jobs disappear.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Republican Friends Part 2

What I meant to write about when I started in on my Republican friends was a conversation that I had with some of them about passenger rail. They were adamant that it should be totally private because any government involvement would result in inefficiency and bad service. Even subsidies would be a bad idea, according to them. Motoring, they argued, was ingrained in our culture as Americans and that is why Americans prefer motoring to riding by rail. Clearly, Americans have freely chosen motor carriage to rail carriage in the free market.

It did not occur to them that the system of roads on which Americans enjoy the motoring experience is owned by the government and maintained by the government and that motoring is, therefore, heavily subsidized. It never occurred to them that Americans' choices about transportation might be influenced by these subsidies. The "Government Turns Everything It Touches to Shit" mantra did not seem to apply to the road system and the infrastructure underlying motoring. That was entirely satisfactory and apparently such a part of the existential substrate that they were incapable of appreciating the inconsistency in criticizing subsidies to railways as a matter of principle while accepting massive subsidies for travel by personal motor vehicle. By the way, when you dig down below the surface even a little bit, the GTEITTS mantra does not seem to pertain to the military, either, or the police and fire departments or, indeed, to 90% of what the government does. It only applies to programs of which they disapprove.

I don't buy into the GTEITTS mantra. I'm against government involvement in things as a matter of principle because I prefer that things be organized in a manner that isn't predicated on coercion and the threat of violence. There is no reason in principle that government can't do things quite well and efficiently if capable people are in charge and resources are properly allocated. There's no reason to believe that governments can't run railroads. They do it all over the world. There's no reason to believe that large corporations will necessarily run them any better or in the public interest. If you accept the legitimacy of subsidies and partial public ownership of the motor carriage system, then you should also accept the legitimacy of subsidies and a degree of public ownership of railways. Then it comes down to arguing the basis for preferring motor carriage over rail or vice versa or the proper mix of motor carriage and rail or whatever informs priorities in transportation policy.

My Republican friends believe that they differ profoundly from my Democratic friends on the issue of the proper role of government. But they don't really. They pull out the GTEITTS mantra now and then, but they clearly don't mean it especially since they seem to support increasing the size and scope of government every chance that they get in connection with programs that they like. GTEITTS seems to me simply to be a way of avoiding coming up with a meaningful argument for or against a particular policy. It is not indicative of an underlying suspicion of authority or of a libertarian streak. It's just a gimmick. Unfortunately, my Republican friends don't seem to have the time to think about it enough to realize it, (that is, unless they are far more cynical than they appear).

Republican Friends

I am actually friendly with some people who are willing to associate themselves with the Republican Party. They're nice decent people who are enjoyable to be around, so I don't really understand how they can align themselves with the forces of evil and ignorance. Of course, when I talk to them, it does not appear to me that they are racist or homophobic or warmongering or interested in bringing about an authoritarian dystopia. They favor lower taxes and less government control, but they are also suspicious of concentrated power in the hands of big corporations. It seems to me that they would be better off as centrist Democrats since they are not especially libertarian, but they seem to believe that Republicans stand for their ideals.

I suppose when I look at the GOP, I tend to see the coalition of nutjobs and neocons and to overlook the millions of normal people who are neither but who don't seem to have caught up with what the GOP has become. I wish that these Normals would take back their party. America needs a GOP that can actually govern, a GOP that doesn't go about looting and messing things up as soon as it gets power. I want to see a GOP that stands against authoritarianism, not a GOP that represents a more loathsome and sinister form of it.