Democrats vs Republicans: A Helpful Guide

This struck me as an accurate assesment (August Pollack, emphasis mine):

Begrudgingly, I have to give credit to the Republicans for being much more open in the primary process. The Democrats engage in this merry dance of triangulating, backtracking on their previous votes, refusing to actually take a definitive stand on anything, and generally just talking about platforms and policies that are worded like the closing statements of lawyers defending serial killers. Republicans just come out and say they’re fucking nuts and want to destroy you.

Be sure to check out the comic.

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Iraq: More Lies and Damn Statistics

JLG is getting kinda goofy with the numbers game:

Just so you know what we’re dealing with here, I thought I might share a reader’s comment with me about Baghdad’s per capita murder rate being less than Detroit, Michigan.  “mdking” writes:

JLG, you are manipulating facts to suit your ideology! Just muster the humility for one brief moment to think that you might be wrong. You say, “That’s a murder rate that is comparable to some major American cities.”

That’s a murder rate comparable to NO American city. 5 dead a day times one year equals 1825.

New York had less than 500 murders in 2007. The LAPD reported 379 people had been killed in Los Angeles as of December 15, 2007.

You are either making your numbers up or quoting Fox News (which has said what you say). In either scenario, your powers of reason have no place in responsible debate.

“mdking” is obviously having trouble with the “PER CAPITA” part

The “5 bodies a day” stat is from Iraq.  That is not a per capita number.  As mdking notes, and JLG refuses to acknowledge:

Just because you say (or misspell) PER CAPITA a half dozen times after the fact, doesn’t clear you of being full of shit out of the gate.

mdking is right on here.  5 deaths per day is horrible, and incomparable to any US city.  But let’s say we were arguing per capita:

Per capita refers to the number of murders per person living in a city.  Baghdad has a population of about 7,000,000 people.  Detroit has 900,000.  So of course, Detroit has lower absolute crime rates.  That’s like saying there is less crime in Boise, Idaho than in New York City.  Thank you Captain Obvious!

Actually, Badhdad has about 6 million.  New York City has over 8 million.  To my knowledge, and as mdking points out, New York does not suffer 5 murders a day.  New York also does not suffer from roadside bombs and suicide bombers exploding weekly.

The point still stands in the face of every hawkish Republican denial.  Acknowledging reality is a necessary first step in truly supporting our troops, and living up to our responsibility as a nation.

Economics: NYTimes Ignores Debt

W. Michael Cox and Richard Alm think measuring income is obsolete (NYTimes, emphasis mine):

Income statistics, however, don’t tell the whole story of Americans’ living standards. Looking at a far more direct measure of American families’ economic status — household consumption — indicates that the gap between rich and poor is far less than most assume, and that the abstract, income-based way in which we measure the so-called poverty rate no longer applies to our society.

Is he saying what we think he’s saying?  That poor people aren’t poor because although they make exponentially less, they spend only a little less?

So, bearing this in mind, if we compare the incomes of the top and bottom fifths, we see a ratio of 15 to 1. If we turn to consumption, the gap declines to around 4 to 1. A similar narrowing takes place throughout all levels of income distribution. The middle 20 percent of families had incomes more than four times the bottom fifth. Yet their edge in consumption fell to about 2 to 1.

Have either of this economic analysts heard of debt?

Sure, sure, measuring non taxable income for statistics on poverty and wealth makes a great deal of sense.  Agreed.  But how does measuring income therefore no longer apply?  How on earth is spending a suitable replacement?  And what makes the poverty line “so-called”?

While foreign competition may have eroded some American workers’ incomes, looking at consumption broadens our perspective. Simply put, the poor are less poor. Globalization extends and deepens a capitalist system that has for generations been lifting American living standards — for high-income households, of course, but for low-income ones as well.

Ahem, you see old chaps, while the peasants are making less, they are spending more, so they can’t very well be poor can they?  I say, toast to capitalism!  Bubbly all round!

Both authors enjoy senior positions at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas.

WKYC-TV Police Video: News or Property?

WKYC-TV exerted a copyright claim on the video I posted a link to (hat tip).  You can still find it here, here and here (for the moment).  The question is not purely why issue a copyright claim to have it removed, but what is the nature of the clip?  Is it the intellectual property of WKYC-TV, or is it a public service meant to spread the news?

To be fair, WKYC has the video here (part 2 here, and a follow up from the State Attorney General here), so at least they are providing the video online, rather than simply exerting copyright for the sake of copyright.  At the same time, with “exclusive” plastered all over the page (and repeated during the broadcast), WKYC is clearly claiming a kind of ownership of the story itself.

I can understand threatening youtube when someone dares to post the latest episode of [insert crappy sitcom name].  But a news story’s impact is directly a function of the number of people it reaches.  To assert property rights in this context runs counter to the purpose news should serve in our society.  In this case, WKYC-TV is putting their intellectual property before their impact and reach as a news organization.

Grab the Nearest Book

XicanoPwr tagged me for a rather interesting meme.  Here are the rules:

The rules are very straightforward and go as follows:

  1. Grab the nearest book (that is at least 123 pages long).
  2. Open to p. 123.
  3. Go down to the 5th sentence.
  4. Type in the following 3 sentences.
  5. Tag five people.

Well, my books are either on my bookcase or lying in a pile on my couch.  The bookcase was closer, so I had my pick.  I chose “The Teenage Liberation Handbook” by Grace Llewellyn.  These three sentences are from an unschooler in Spain:

With the world as it is, there is no other option than to be involved in projects for peace, human rights and ecology.  I have mostly concentrated on ecology.  I’m a member of big groups like Greenpeace, as well as small local groups, and I participate however I can.

I really liked this as a quote.  It provides a lot to think about, and is more than a little galvanizing.  In this world of ours, there is no other option than to act.

Here’s five blogs who are sure to cause trouble and insight with their own take on this meme:   Our Descent Into Madness, US of Jamerica, The Atheocracy, EvilBender, and Undialogue.

The Bible: Why Believe?

Commentor mdking has inspired me to ask a question:

People putting the God cart before the Morality horse are nuts. Period. Maybe it’s not medication nuts, but the mental wiring is all wrong.

Lot had sex with his daughters after the Sodom and Gomorrah ordeal. So, was God’s picker adjusted to drunken pervert in selecting Lot??

You can’t salvage an ethic from the Bible without being VERY selective.

What about people putting their holy book of choice before morality?  Scripture contains some very nasty takes on what it is to be moral.  Killing innocents to pay for the sins of their parents.  Killing people for loving outside of their faith.  Given this, why believe the Bible at all?  Why make excuses for the passages one rejects while clinging to the supposed truth value of the rest?  How can the faithful keep claiming it is a work of God when it contains errors that indicate a backwards view of morality and ethics? Defenders will state “the Bible was not meant to be taken literally”. I’ll buy that. But why ascribe to it a higher status than any other book of fables and morals? Why not use Aesop’s fables as a guide? If it is the infallible word of God, then why does it contain laws and rules that are immoral to follow? The cognitive dissonance this produces is one that plays a toxic role in the society we all have to live in.