Archive for the ‘Blogging’ Category

Just a Song Before I Go

So. That’s it.

Today, I’ll be hanging up my keyboard.

I’ve given a lot of thought recently as to why I blog and why I started in the first place. I have been at looking a series of diminishing personal returns here in the last couple of months.

That’s why I think it’s best to just make a clean break. That’s also why my last couple of posts were a little out of character, that was something I’ve wanted to write for a long time.

Since I doubt I’ll be visiting my old haunts very often, I’m also going to take the rather drastic step and turn off comments. This isn’t meant to be mean to the couple of people who have read me, it’s just a bow to the reality of comment spam.

I started this experiment almost exactly one year ago. For some reason that first post landed in some alternate WordPress reality. At least it doesn’t show up here anymore.

That first post really wasn’t much. It was simply a youtube video. Somehow once again appropriate.

I wish you peace.

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He Said She Said

Chinese WhispersRebecca Watson, Skepchick and amazingly cool writer, has made to round three in NPR’s contest looking for a new radio talent. (hat tip: Phil Plait, congratulations and good luck Rebecca on the contest and a quick nudge to geeky web comic XKCD , the focus of Rebecca’s most recent interview.)

But a quote stuck in my mind after listening to her most recent entry. She is being interviewed by one of the local radio personalities. The first question is very appropriate.

David Bowery(?): Give me an example of something or someone you believe in.

Rebecca Watson: Wow. That’s an interesting question because I’m often accussed of not believing in anything. That’s just my thing. I’m always questioning.

I believe…I believe in science. I believe in logic and I believe in reality. I believe in – I believe in a certain point of view were you can look at the world for what it actually is as opposed to what you want it to be. And you can explore the world and see the beauty in it with that kind of perspective.

While I would love to agree with this, I am starting to doubt that people work that way. More and more books are being written about cognitive dissonance, two people seeing the same thing but interpreting the event or “reality” completely differently. As a matter of fact, that very idea is a central theme in Daniel Gilbert’s wonderful book Stumbling on Happiness.

I got yet another example of this while reading the right wing blog Capitan’s Quarters this morning.

Conservative blogs have been attacking a series of extremely negative reports in the New Republic, reportedly written by a soldier in Iraq. The issue got so far out of control that the previously anonymous blogger outted himself and his unit. The Army started investigating; conservative bloggers smelled blood.

This is how conservative blogger Ed Morrissey begins the entry describing the New York Times article.

Despite the oddly-worded non-denial denial from the New Republic yesterday, the Army did determine that allegations made in its magazine by Scott Beauchamp were false. The New York Times reports this morning that their investigation showed no substantiation for Beauchamp’s stories of petty mischief and ghoulish behavior on the part of his fellow soldiers.

An Army investigation into the Baghdad Diarist, a soldier in Iraq who wrote anonymous columns for The New Republic, has concluded that the sometimes shockingly cruel reports were false.

We are not going into the details of the investigation,” Maj. Steven F. Lamb, deputy public affairs officer in Baghdad, wrote in an e-mail message. “The allegations are false, his platoon and company were interviewed, and no one could substantiate the claims he made.” … [ellipsis in original post]

Yesterday, The New Republic posted another note on its Web site saying its editors had spoken to Major Lamb and asked whether Private Beauchamp had indeed signed a statement admitting to fabrications. “He told us, ‘I have no knowledge of that.’ He added, ‘If someone is speaking anonymously [to The Weekly Standard], they are on their own.’ When we pressed Lamb for details on the Army investigation, he told us, ‘We don’t go into the details of how we conduct our investigations.’

That the Army would deny the accusations doesn’t really surprise me much. The Army also gave a medal to Pat Tillman for bravery under enemy fire. They then denied any problem with the story, but piece by piece the truth emerged over the last months, morphing from enemy combatants, friendly fire to what might now be murder. (The last, a claim I doubt. But who can tell any more?)

Anyway. For Morrissey it is enough that the Army is denying everything and the NYT has backed him up. Right?

I don’t see that tone in the article. I give you the three paragraphs just after the ellipsis Morrissey so cleverly inserted for his readers.

The brief statement, however, left many questions unanswered. Just last week The New Republic published on its Web site the results of its own investigation, stating that five members of the same company as Pvt. Scott Thomas Beauchamp, who had written the anonymous pieces, “all corroborated Beauchamp’s anecdotes, which they witnessed or, in the case of one soldier, heard about contemporaneously. (All of the soldiers we interviewed who had first-hand knowledge of the episodes requested anonymity.)”

Private Beauchamp had revealed his identity after The Weekly Standard online and conservative bloggers expressed doubts about their veracity. As the Baghdad Diarist, he wrote that one soldier had jokingly worn the remnant of a child’s skull on his head. In another issue, he said he and a soldier had mocked a terribly disfigured woman sitting near them in the mess tent. Franklin Foer, editor of The New Republic said that after Private Beauchamp revealed his identity, the Army severely curtailed his telephone and e-mail privileges.

Private Beauchamp is married to a reporter-researcher at the magazine, Elspeth Reeve. [my emphasis]

Thus it seems to be my understanding of the English language posed against Ed Morrissey’s description of what was said in the Grey Lady. It’s a case of he said she said.

My problem is I think he did read the story as confirmation of his (and Michelle Malkin’s) ideas.

The Washington Post also has a much longer article describing the whole teacup tempest. They end their coverage with the following quote,

Mark Feldstein, a journalism professor at George Washington University, called the Army’s refusal to release its report “suspect,” adding: “There is a cloud over the New Republic, but there’s one hanging over the Army, as well. Each investigated this and cleared themselves, but they both have vested interests.”

As far as I can tell, the Army solved the problem by ordering the soldier to sit down and shut up. Whether he was describing reality wasn’t important. The conservative bloggers and the Weekly Standard chose to continue the attacks and say – see he’s not saying anything any more – thus Private Beauchamp was lying. It’s not like the Army might have busted him for violating OPSec regulations when he named his unit and then put him under extreme presure. The Army wouldn’t do that; would they?

That’s all in the eye’s of the beholder. Or if you don’t follow the links, he said, she said, they said, he said, they did…

Want to know what I say? Rebecca – there is no reality. *sigh*

No Sleeping Says Prince Charming

“The monster”

Ah. Thank goodness!

After a couple of weeks where the Bush administration had things come out on a Wednesday or a Thursday, I was starting to think they had lost their touch. Maybe they found out I cared.

In an executive order issued Friday, Bush again reiterated the US stance on torture,

Bush’s order requires that CIA detainees “receive the basic necessities of life, including adequate food and water, shelter from the elements, necessary clothing, protection from extremes of heat and cold, and essential medical care.”

A senior intelligence official would not comment directly when asked if waterboarding would be allowed under the new order and under related _ but classified _ legal documents drafted by the Justice Department.

However, the official said, “It would be wrong to assume the program of the past transfers to the future.”

A second senior administration official acknowledged sleep is not among the basic necessities outlined in the order.

Remember. This executive order comes out about three weeks after Mr. Bush assured high Presidential Scholars that “America doesn’t torture people.” From the Boston Globe,

Before the scholars posed for a photo with Bush on Monday, she handed him the letter. He put it in his pocket and took it out after the photo shoot. Reading silently to himself, the president looked up quizzically at Oye and said, according to her, “We agree. America doesn’t torture people.”

The scholor who handed the letter to Bush, signed by approximately a third of the students honored, was the daughter of a former detainee; her mother is of Japanese decent, her family interned during the Second World War. One can understand why she cares. (Bush’s grandfather, Prescott, helped fund Hitler which might show why he cares.)

But hey: Let’s give Bush credit. – America doesn’t torture. Um – Right? Let’s see how America used to defined torture. This from an article also in the Washington Post, this time from March 2005

The State Department’s annual human rights report released yesterday criticized countries for a range of interrogation practices it labeled as torture, including sleep deprivation for detainees, confining prisoners in contorted positions, stripping and blindfolding them and threatening them with dogs — methods similar to those approved at times by the Bush administration for use on detainees in U.S. custody.

Look again at the reported language in the new executive order. None of those things are excluded. They just stopped being torture. Because torture is everything the Bush administration decides it won’t do.

According to the definitions in the 2004 State department report – sleep deprivation was still considered “torture”. Under the entry for Saudi Arabia,

c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
The Criminal Procedure section of the Basic law prohibits torture and Shari’a (Islamic law) prohibits any judge from accepting a confession obtained under duress; however, authorities reportedly at times abused detainees, both citizens and foreigners. Ministry of Interior officials were responsible for most incidents of abuse of prisoners, including beatings, whippings, and sleep deprivation. In addition, there were allegations of beatings with sticks and suspension from bars by handcuffs. There were allegations that these practices were used to force confessions from prisoners.

I guess in the last three years, that paragraph wouldn’t be allowed any more.

Once again Prince Charming has decided to spin a fairy tale where sleep is optional and reality is whatever he choses to release to the public. Just don’t let him near Sleeping Beauty – she’ll be looking like a hag in no time.

But at least I can go back to sleeping well. Bush & Co. stayed true to form by releasing the executive order on a Friday afternoon. They aren’t slowing down any; They just have too much democracy to destroy, so little time for destroying

Just a Little Blue (Updated)

As part of my continuing documentation of the girl teen band – hate group. Prussian Blue, I found out they were the subject of a new documentary, Nazi Pop Twins.

Apparently, the British television network Channel 4 aired the documentary about Lamb and Lynx last night. I figured this out because once again my Prussian Blue posts got a national boost following by the amazing number of visitors from England (Hi guys!).

This one was even less flattering than the documentary by Louis Theroux, Louis and the Nazis.

You can read the original press release here and from there view clips of the show. They are worth the couple of minutes. Apparently Lamb and Lynx are starting to grow up and ask – um – unfortunate questions.

A critique of the show was posted the next day on the Telegraph web site,

My heart sank slightly during the opening minutes of Nazi Pop Twins (Channel 4), a documentary about the American “white pride” pop duo Prussian Blue. Was it to be another trip stateside to seek out a weirdo or two and add to the oxygen of publicity, to use Margaret Thatcher’s term, they probably didn’t deserve? At 14, twin sisters Lamb and Lynx Gaede have generated hundreds of column inches with Prussian Blue’s white nationalistic music. Since their singing voices are rubbish, it’s the neo-Nazi connection that’s got them noticed and the less said about that the better, unless it’s to grind it firmly into the ground. Thankfully, film-maker James Quinn didn’t disappoint on that score.

Behind every teenage performing phenomenon there’s a pushy parent and here it took the form of “white nationalist” April Gaede, the twins’ mother and manager, who described Prussian Blue T-shirts featuring an image of Hitler as “funny”, and actively promoted a telephone/pen-pal relationship between her daughters and a sick-minded white supremacist serving a 19-year term in a maximum security jail. She and the girls lived on a ranch in California with her equally vile father Bill, whose sweeping denunciations of black Americans and Mexicans were so revolting as to not be repeatable here. He branded his cattle with swastikas and wondered whether people in Britain wished that Germany had won the Second World War. It was not a surprise that he loved guns; to call him difficult to like would be an understatement. “This goddam Nazi shit has ruined my life,” said his wife Diane. “I don’t have a single friend because he’s so hateful.”

It’s a credit to Quinn that he managed to retain the family’s co-operation with filming for as long as he did. His mission was to show how April was using her malleable twin daughters as a mouthpiece for her own extremist views, and to an extent he succeeded. As Holocaust deniers they sounded uncertain about the story they’d been fed by their elders, and they admitted privately that the “politics” surrounding their music had been draining. Because “a lot of people think we’re a bunch of psychos”, they felt, understandably, like taking a break. April is taking no chances with her three-year-old daughter – named Dresden – whose ABC lessons start with A is for Aryan.

Even more interesting is the fact that April’s mother apparently goes on a major tear, hammering Bill Gaede for his White Supremacist ways. A clip can be seen on the Channel 4 page above. The quotes are amazing,

It’s all because of this God Damned Nazi shit. That It’s just fuckin’ ruined my life. I’m gonna let it all hang out boy. […] Even though we’ve lived here 30 years, I don’t have a single friend. You know why? I don’t have a single friend because he’s so hateful.

The girls themselves seem less “brainwashed” if questioned alone.

John Quinn: So what is the family’s image, what would you say the Prussian Blue’s image is?

Lamb or Lynx, I don’t know which is which): I think that most people think we’re a bunch of pschycos to tell you the truth.

JQ: Do you ever think of winding it down with the band?

L: [nods]

JQ: Really?

LoL: Yeah, we just kind of want to take a break for a little while. You know, I’ll aways be doing this for the rest of our lives; I’ll always play my guitar, I’ll aways write songs. I just.. We’re not going to be doing this our whole lives. We’re not gonna… We have other dreams and other goals than this.

If you are lucky enough to live in England, you can watch the whole thing online. (If you do, leave a comment and let me know what you think.)

While researching this, I also found out that Lamb and Lynx were the inspiration for an off, off Broadway musical last year. James Quinn, the producer of the documentary also spent time filming the production.White Noise. It was featured on Good Morning America and got a write up in Playbill

White Noise is billed as “A Cautionary Musical,” and is described by the authors this way: “Confirming the old adage that it’s better to be a star than wear one, an adorable pair of sisters, Blanche and Eva, lead the teen band White Noise, mixing irresistible harmonies with white power rhetoric and taking the nation by storm. Their message of racial purity resonates with young people across America and the rise of White Noise coincides with a rise in the white supremacist movement which threatens to engulf the country, as Blanche and Eva prove themselves to be masters of the most terrifying and unstoppable form of Fascism in today’s culture: Top Forty pop.”

I don’t think any of this will stop Prussian Blue from coming to Europe this summer and I am still trying to find out whether they have any venues planned for Germany, I will keep you up to date if I find anything out.

Please leave a comment if you saw the documentary. I’d really like to hear some opinions.

Update:

I found a blog completely decribing the show. It does seem like April, the mother, is losing her grip in the children. (No  wonder, she lost her grip on reality years ago.) But the writer of the blog entry makes another very telling point,

What scared me, ultimately, was not the radical anti-Prussian Blue response, which is positive, but the way it manifested itself, which is just as scary as the fascist claptrap these reluctant, confused girls are now regretting peddling on behalf of their damaged mother. A young, white man says “they ought to have their asses kicked; someone should kill them” without a trace of irony. The anti-hate campaigning that follows them across America is hardly surprising, but it’s none too cleverly handled. Directing violence at those who encourage hate in a tit-for-tat attempt at revenge is pretty bloody stupid. April Gaede clearly loves nothing more than being a martyr, claiming that every death threat and protest is a “gold medal” because she’s obviously “doing something right”. We need to fight hatred and intimidation with education and contempt, not with death threats and martyrdom.

What a depressing world. *sigh*

Evolution is not just a theory!

Evolution is not just a theory.

Pass the word! Digg it! Memorize the arguments!

That is all.

(Hat tip: Phil Plait/Bad Astronomy)

Catch – um – Click 22

DARPA Headquarters?Well so much for keeping the address of the DARPA headquarters under raps.

Even though address of the agency that oversees research into everything from autonomous vehicles, robotic pack mules and Imaginary Weapons, can easily be found using Google and is clearly listed on it’s webpage (with directions), you can’t take a picture of the building itself. (At least not if you are nearby.)

Even worse, should you take a picture of the building, one could end up landing in some kind of Orwellian watch list. That’s what Kenneth W. McCormann found out. According to Marc Fisher at the Washington Post,

If you happen by 3701 N. Fairfax Drive in Arlington and decide you have a sudden craving for a photograph of a generic suburban office building, and you point your camera at said structure, you will rather quickly be greeted by uniformed security folks who will demand that you delete the image and require that you give up various personal information.

When Keith McCammon unwittingly took a picture of that building, he was launched on an odyssey that has so far involved an Arlington police officer, the chief of police and the defense of the United States of America.

McCammon could not have been expected to know when he wandered by the building that it houses the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, a low-profile wing of the Defense Department that conducts all manner of high-tech research that evolves into weapons systems and high-order strategery.

DARPA’s presence at 3701 N. Fairfax is hardly a government secret–Google finds nearly 10,000 pages listing the agency’s use of the building. But there’s no big fat sign on the building, so how was McCammon to know that this was a building he dared not photograph? And why would the government care if anyone took a picture of the exterior of an office building? This is as silly and hypersensitive as the now-common harassment of people who innocently take pictures of random federal buildings in the District.

Unfortunately, in the next days and weeks, this will likely become one of the most photographed nondescript office buildings in Fairfax County, Virginia. Why? Because people are going to blog about it and wander down to see what the big deal is.

The problem here isn’t that DARPA really has anything to hide. The building itself probably isn’t even the problem. Perhaps the people entering and leaving the building would be an issue, but any spy or terrorist worth their salt could simply install a minicam in a car and park it across the street. Absolutely no problem getting images of each and every person entering the building on a given day.

Actually when McCammon followed up on the ‘contact’ writing complaints to the Arlington County Police Internal Affairs Section, he was met with openness. His blog shows the information he received. Now he has move up the line to find out what the security official at that installation has on file about him.

Think about ending up on a watch list or a no fly list simply because you took a picture of a building.

Conservatives, please connect the dots. Support the troops and obey the law. Public photography should be illegal, right? (Actually under a strict reading of the bible, image making should be illegal but we won’t go there.) Anyone could be a terrorist; anyone a target? Anywhere a secret installation? Are the liberals so far off when they say that security measures have gone a bit far?

And the officer who stopped McCammon was off duty, doing private contracting; a hired gun (abet working for the government). This says two things. Why does the governement have to contract off-duty police officers to do that kind of work (is it cost effective?). Indeed, are off-duty police officers a higher class of citizen – those who must be obeyed?

Finally, as McCammon point out,

Further, setting aside the issue of officer discretion, the most disturbing aspect of this incident is the simple fact that we had no way of knowing that we were acting in a manner that might have been so much as considered suspicious. If the subject in question is devoid of any type of external marking or warning sign, one should have no reason to suspect that it cannot be photographed (or approached while in possession of photographic equipment). And it follows that one should certainly have no reason to suspect that photographing such a subject might land one’s name on a list, or in a database. Reasonable, law-abiding people tend to avoid these types of things when it can be helped. Thus, my request for a list of locations within Arlington County that are unmarked, but at which photography is either prohibited or discouraged according to some (public or private) policy. Of course, such a list does not exist. Catch-22.

The absurdity of this type of situation is clear: We’re being penalized for violating poorly documented, questionably legal (an argument that I’m certainly unqualified to make) and arbitrarily enforced policies. We’re not being told what is expected of us. And to the extent that we are able, we need to take a stand. We need to know our rights, document the fact that we’ve been wronged, and work for change. And if we fail to enact change, the very least that we can do is make it such a pain in the ass to harass photographers that those who would otherwise jump at the chance will think twice, if for no other reason than to avoid a mountain of paperwork and an internal affairs investigation.

If you do nothing else today, tell some random person the address of the DARPA headquarters in Fairfax Virginia. It’s 4301 N. Fairfax Drive, a non descript brown office building.

You can’t miss it. You just can’t take pictures of it. Click – 22.

(Hat tip: Noah Shachtman/Danger Room)

Slate V does Cyberstalking

Check it out.

The music is the best part.

Somehow I saw this coming…

Your results:
You are Leonard McCoy (Bones)

Leonard McCoy (Bones)
80%
Jean-Luc Picard
70%
Spock
65%
An Expendable Character (Redshirt)
65%
Chekov
55%
James T. Kirk (Captain)
45%
Will Riker
35%
Data
25%
Geordi LaForge
25%
Uhura
20%
Beverly Crusher
20%
Worf
20%
Deanna Troi
20%
Mr. Scott
5%
Mr. Sulu
0%
You are a pessimistic and bitter doctor,
but you are skilled in the ways of medicine and science.


Click here to take the “Which Star Trek character are you?” quiz…

*sigh* Damit I’m a … wait a second!

I’m Sure I Don’t Want A Review…

… do I?

I mean considering my meager grasp of basic grammar, lack of writing skills and … well general intelligence.

But here goes. Adam Mutum in what can only be considered a vent of meme foolishness has offered to review blogs for free. All you need to do is link to him. Like this.

On the one hand, I suspect this is an amazingly good way to improve your technorati, ecoblog etc. (rankings if you are Adam). On the other hand this might end up spiraling out of control. Get your review soon while he still has time.

Ah, but what could be worse. Being told I’m a bad blogger, or merely suspecting it.

Rudi’s Ferret Foolishness

Just remember, if you are a ferret fan, you probably won’t be voting for Rudy next year…

Slates take on the issue.

And I Thought I Was a Nice Guy

What's My Blog Rated? From Mingle2 - Online Dating

[Meme sponsored by:] Mingle2 Online Dating

I am so hopelessly in trouble now! First the squamata skeptic comment, now this. 😉

Sorry Trees.

Hate Takes a Road Trip

Remember our little White Supremacist darlings, Lamb and Lynx Gaede aka Prussian Blue? They are back and – um – rockin’ same as ever.250px-flag_of_sweden_svg.jpg

I noticed yesterday, looking at my logs, that my first Prussian Blue post, Girls Just Wanna Sing Hate Songs, got yet got another major hit yesterday. This time from Sweden and that lead me to wonder why so many people in Scandinavia were suddenly interested in Lamb, Lynx and their mother April.

First, perhaps a little background, for those just tuning in.

Lamb and Lynx Gaede, angelic teenagers have been part of the Far Right band Prussian Blue (a holocaust denial reference) for several years. Prussian Blue’s rise to fame (or perhaps infamy) was perhaps started by Louis Theroux, when he featured the family as one part of his documentary Louis and the Nazis, (available on YouTube: Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3). This show, especially part 3, gives you an idea of where these darling little angels are coming from; little things – like Celtic Dancing in a swastika. *sigh*

They then moved to national news coverage in America managing stories in venues like ABC’s Nightline and Newsweek. They also have been covered in places like the Guardian who described them with,

The best-known act on the far-right label Resistance Records is Prussian Blue: 13- year-old twins Lamb and Lynx Gaede from Bakersfield, California. Looking like butter wouldn’t melt in their mouths, they have been performing songs about Rudolf Hess et al to appreciative crowds of white neo-Nazis since they were nine.

We’re proud of being white,’ Lynx has said. ‘We want our people to stay white … we don’t want to just be, you know, a big muddle.’

Having been nursed in racist doctrine from the teat, can the burden of blame lie fully with them? Their mother, April, taught them the alphabet this way: ‘A is for Aryan, B is blood …’ and so on. Grandfather Gaede brands his cattle with swastikas.

After the racial muddle got too much for the family in that paradigm of muddledom, Bakersfield California, April and her daughters moved to Kalispell Montana hoping to find a little White love. It didn’t quite work out that way.

As I pointed out at the time, while April had expected a little anonymity, her neighbors were more than concerned about a White Supremacist girl band moving into the neighborhood. According to news stories at the time, the concerns might have been justified.

I recently looked into the current events for Prussian Blue, found out that they have a blog and a few more things, quoting *cough* myself in a response to a comment on my Dead Supremacist Walking post,

Gee. Speaking of teenage girls being molested, I wonder how Lynx and Lamb are doing?

Father lost custody battle with mother last year: check

Promoter Kevin Alfred Strom jailed for pedophilia: check

But they were too old for him? uncheck

And now? Gee! A European tour this summer! Hate takes a road trip! (And for anyone reading, I officially, explicitly distance myself from everything said there!)

And where will Prussian Blue be going? Sweden! (Hi guys!) According to April (and no I won’t link directly to StormFront but here’s a Google for it), Prussian Blue will be giving a concert in Sweden in July. Oh joy. Maybe they will get to meet the Madonna of the Far Right, Saga.

Sorry Sweden. But I guess hate does occasionally does get to take a road trip.

You just seem to be the first stop. My condolences.

Source Is Everything

Iraq? What Iraq?

While General Petraeus is starting to lay the framework for the Administration to claim that the surge needs more time, Fox News is giving its viewers a new reality. One which creates a feeling that the Iraq War isn’t really happening.

How? They’ve stopped covering it.

According to a report by The Project for Excellence in Journalism, an organization following the coverage of issues in the American media (and who have a really cool graphic once a week showing the top 5 news stories for the week), Fox News has reduced it’s coverage of the Iraq War in the first three months of 2007.

Looking more closely at the cable universe itself—among the three channels as well as across day parts—PEJ found distinct differences between the three channels, far more than discerned between the three commercial network channels or newspapers.As an example, we found that coverage of the three biggest stories of the quarter—Iraq policy debate, the 2008 campaign and Anna Nicole Smith differed greatly across the three channels and day parts.

Overall, MSNBC and CNN were much more consumed with the war in Iraq than was Fox. MSNBC, for instance, devoted nearly a third of the time studied to the war (26% on the policy debate, 3% on events on the ground and 2% the homefront). Fox, by contrast, spent less than half that much time on the war—15% in all, (10% on the policy debate, 3% on events in Iraq and 1% on the homefront).

On CNN, Iraq coverage totaled 25%, again mostly focused on policy debate (14%). Events on the ground received 7% of the coverage (coming in second overall) while the homefront trailed at 3%.

At 15% Fox News coverage is below average for any media including print (18%) and even the Network Morning shows (also 18%). On the up side, they might have beat out Oprah.

Since Fox News is seen by a segment of American society as the balance to the rest of the fairness in media, it should come as no surprise when polls in September start pointing to a lowered interest in the Iraq policy debate in certain circles. Give the surge a chance; there is so much less bad news coming out of Iraq now. The reality hasn’t changed, the reporting has.

Now, if Rupert Murdoch could just get the Conservative Blogosphere to stop blogging about Iraq and finally swallow the WSJ with one of his multimedial pseudopods, I’m sure the Iraq Occupation will end.

At least half the American public will stop hearing about it.

(Hat Tip: Joe Gandelman/The Moderate Voice)

Creationist Poll Dancing

Monday’s Gallup poll has gotten some attention lately.

PZ Myers and Hemant Mehta, the Friendly Atheist and author of I Sold My Soul on eBay, both weighted in on the issue. People seem very surprised at the fact that a majority of Republicans support the creationist viewpoint. Actually this was to be expected and any other result would have been the earth-shattering bloggable result.

The first thing I would point out is that the majority of Americans do believe in evolution, even if the graphs being tossed about on Pharyngula and FA don’t seem to show it.

This is my graph of the Gallup data reformatted to highlight the belief in evolution over time.

gallup-polls-small.gif

Note: “Present Form” corresponds to the Gallup answer “God created man in present form.“ These numbers are roughly equivalent to the answers found when you look at the belief in the literal six-day creation story (35% in 2006 according to a Pew Research poll) and other indicators of fundamentalist religious tendencies.

There are a couple of comments you can make here. First, it is getting better. Not quickly, but it is getting better. If you consider that a belief in God will almost require dropping into either the creationist camp or into some kind of theistic evolutionary theory, the results aren’t too surprising. Also, depending on how the questions are phrased, the relative percentages within the evolution camp can shift significantly.

Perhaps far more surprising is the following result from the Gallup poll.

It might seem contradictory to believe that humans were created in their present form at one time within the past 10,000 years and at the same time believe that humans developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life. But, based on an analysis of the two side-by-side questions asked this month about evolution and creationism, it appears that a substantial number of Americans hold these conflicting views.
[…]

  • 24% of Americans believe that both the theory of evolution and the theory of creationism are probably or definitely true
  • 41% believe that creationism is true, and that evolution is false
  • 28% believe that evolution is true, but that creationism is false
  • 3% either believe that both are false or have no opinion about at least one of the theories [my emphasis]

The means that almost a quarter of the American population have probably never taken any time to actually try to match up religion and science. Both are “true,” each in it’s own frame. You could probably pick 1 of 4 people and by deep discussion and questioning achieve nothing but irritation. The ideas would not compute. They don’t want to think about it. One could argue that they aren’t in their right minds. Which brings me to the political aspect of the poll.

According to Gallup, only 30% of Republicans believe in evolution with 68% towing the Creationist line. These numbers are almost reversed in Democratic (61%/37%) and Independent (57%/40%) camps. In the same poll, Gallup found Americans evenly split between Republicans and Democrats (31% each) and 36% mostly democratic leaning Independents.

Does this mean that being conservative means you are religious? One blogger thinks so.

People aren’t conservative because they believe in unrestricted gun ownership, and they aren’t liberal because they believe in the right of a woman to make choices about tissues in her own body. No, if this is right, people choose their beliefs because of their political temperament and not the other way around. ‘Liberal’ and ‘Conservative’ need to be seen as clusters of personality traits and stable overall worldviews, and not political creeds consisting of enumerable doctrines.

While this might be true, the skewed data might also be the result of 30 years of effort the fundamentalist religious right has put into taking over the Republican party. You might be religious and conservative. There was a time when you might also have been a Democrat. The Republican party has become so conservative because it has gotten such an influx from the Religious right.

Since the days of the Moral Majority, fundamentalist religious leaders have insistently attempted to get their followers to move into the Republican party. Not because they agree with all issues; Jesus “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called sons of God (Mat 5:9)” Christ might not have voted red in the last election. No they are Republican because that is the party the church is supporting

Jerry Fallwell said back in the 1980’s, “get them saved, get them Baptized, and get them registered.” That is why the difference between the two parties is so dramatic. The hard core believers who make up about 36% of the Republicans consider themselves a members of the Religious right as opposed to 16% in the Democratic party and 7% of Independents (Pew)

Nothing has changed, no real news here. The Republican party is made up of conservative, religious, church goers. Perhaps more surprising is that only 3 Republican candidates didn’t agree with the base. After this poll, that might change.

Let the the political poll dancing begin.

Cat Watch

You’ve probably already seen this viral video, but if not – watch it. It’s called the the “Battle at Kruger” but in honor of the Wizard of Oz, I would have named it Lions, and Buffalo and Crocodiles

And it is long, but well worth watching all of it. Sir David Attenborough couldn’t have scripted it better.

In other big cat news, we learn that forest guards (rangers) in western India have turned ringtone downloads into a whole different market. From Reuters

Forest guards in western India are using cell phones with ringtones of cows mooing, goats bleating and roosters crowing to attract leopards that have wandered into human settlements, officials said on Monday.
[…]
But rather than use methods such as live bait like goats tied to trees to lure the leopards, which then fall into large pits dug by guards, officials say they have found a safer method to trap the cats.

“The moos of a cow, bleating of a goat from the phone has proved effective to trap leopards,” said D. Vasani, a senior forest official in Gujarat. “This trick works.”

This can only lead one to the obvious question of whether this trick would work with cheetahs? And if yes, what ringtone these people were using?

(Hat Tip: Popular Science Blog)

What Need Forgiveness

One argument often brought against atheists is that they can present no ultimate authority for ethics. This, apologetics argue, will lead down a slippery slope where relative ethics become no ethics; genial coexistence leading to genocide. Should the secular ethicist present the idea of an evolved morality, the apologetic will riposte again with the relativistic argument that evolution implies change – ergo the slippery slope beckons yet again.

But what if there is an ultimate morality. What if ethics is a framework not for prescriptive morals but descriptive reality? What if moral feelings are as “natural” as sight? What if the sense of righteousness is often overlooked, not because it does not exist, but because it is perhaps most easily overridden and ignored (maybe because it is most recently evolved)?

Before I embark on an exploration of morals, I’d like to detour into the realm of our more well understood senses; moving from the precise to the relative, in order to give myself a framework for discussion.

Let us start with that most important sense, sight. If you take an atheist and the most fundamental Christian (or Muslim) out on a beautiful summer day, both would agree that the sky is blue. Before the work of Newton, Foucault and others, the description of light wasn’t understood as a physical phenomena; the sky was “just” blue; now we understand the manner in which the light is scattered giving us a physical understand of such a beautiful backdrop.

As the day passes into evening, the sky might turn a beautiful shade of red. Let us bring a third person to our group. Discussing the evening sky, the first person comments on the beautiful hue, the second agrees. But the newcomer disagrees and says the sky is simply gray. You see our third individual is color-blind, physically unable to detect the color red (a condition far more common than you might think).

Irrespective of our group the sky still has a color, be it blue, red or gray. Key here is that the physical ability of each person limits the capability to see color. That ability is not only inborn but changes from person to person. We accept it as a fact of life, like the fact that some people are taller than others, with no further thought.

We can continue our thought experiment by moving to the idea of smell. Let us take our group and lead them to a flower, asking each to partake of its wonderful aroma. The first, a parfumeur, pronounces the scent exquisitely unique and breathtaking, the second, consumed by a bad cold, smells nothing. The last refuses to consider the idea in the knowledge that the mere attempt will likely produce an allergy attack and literally take his breath away.

Again the flower has not changed. The smell is still there but the reactions: enjoyment, indifference and rejection, all based on secular realities, all completely different.

Finally, our imaginary group chooses to dine together, each preparing a dish for the others. The first makes a vegetable curry, the second roast beef with Yorkshire pudding and the last a wonderful white wine sorbet, creamy and perfectly chilled. But again in our experimental world, all is not right. You see, one is unused to eating spicy foods and the curry is hot enough to make the eyes water; the roast beef unacceptable to the vegetarian and the sorbet unpalatable to the other who refuses alcohol preferring to remain abstinent.

Here the problems arise not from the physical characteristics of our merry band, but the cultural ones. Each person has learned behaviors and proclivities added to physical characteristics inherited at birth and acquired through illness or training.

This brings us back to morality.

Let us assume for a moment that morals are the cognitive translation of right-ness as just as sight is a cognitive translation of electomagnetic quanta, smell and taste the interpetation of minute chemical concentrations in air, liquid or solids.

We accept the existence of color blindness and intuitively understand that height changes from individual to individual; illness, medication or alcohol might temporarily heighten or dampen certain scenes. We all live happily (?) in largely multicultural societies. If we assume all these things are normal, why appeal to a higher power to justify the existence of morality? Could not the perception of right, a sixth “moral” sense, have evolved much like the other senses? And couldn’t that sense differ from person to person, culture to culture? None of the earlier discussion implied that the thing itself changes, the sky remained red, the curry – spicy. It means that we might all differently perceive a single, definite moral reality.

If sight, smell and sound evolved to react to certain specific, concrete environmental conditions, why must one assume morals be a different beast? One might comment that it because morals seem so ethereal; there is no physical “there” there.

Unfortunately perception is not necessary for existence; describe “red” to the blind man; try to prove the existence of “red” to the blind man. You might collect a group of people in a double blind (no pun intended) experiment each telling the blind man whether the color on the card is grey or red. You would do better than chance, so there is something there. But the hits wouldn’t be perfect – color blindness – remember? You might present the theoretical and physical characteristics of light and explaining that red can be found somewhere around a wavelength of 630nm; the blind man would still not feel the emotional majesty of a crimson sky.

If one assumes the other senses, sight, smell and the rest, all evolved in order improve the chances of genetic survival, couldn’t morals self assemble in much the same way? The simplistic argument that unbridled selfishness leads to evolutionary advantage seems neither to be born out by experiment nor perception. Doesn’t unbridled selfishness lead to short term gains but ultimately to failure (see for example Jared Diamond’s Collapse)? Might one of the very steps on the path of evolution to “man” been the development of a different long term understanding of right-ness; a way of knowing as genetically ingrained but as variable as eye color? Those who did not “see the light” slowly losing out to their more moral competition?

And doesn’t this model seem to fit the “facts” better? The Golden Rule is almost universal. Only the most radical fundamentalist denies that “unbelievers” lack any grounding in moral thought (or they read far too much into Ps 14:3). If one assumes that it is not morality itself but moral sensibility that changes from person to person, culture to culture doesn’t that answer many questions, not of how the world should be, but at least of how the world actually is? Do religions claim to be reality or merely an improvement, optional?

Finally it should be noted that the existence of God is neither explicitly accepted nor denied in this model.

A Deist might make the argument that an omnipotent (and perhaps omni-benevolent) being loaded the dice in order to force intelligent creatures to develop moral feelings. This might be called the Anthropic Gambit. Just like God tweaked all the other constants in the Universe, the speed of light, the various forces, masses and frequencies, She also tweaked the ‘goodness’ constant. Like the Anthropic argument for God, this idea is undeniably, well, undeniable but it is also unprovable. And of course Ockham’s razor warns us to steer clear of these kinds of uncharted waters (but people sink in them every day).

Critical is that the existence of God isn’t necessary. There is no necessity for a God-given authoritative morality any more than there is a necessity for a God-given authoritative blue. There is no need for Kant’s argument that “ought implies can.” (Since we ought to achieve moral perfection it implies that we can achieve moral perfection. But we always fail, we always make mistakes. Thus the only way that moral perfection can be achieved is through God or God’s forgiveness. I call this the Forgiveness Gambit.)

There might be an ultimate morality waiting to be discovered, understood and researched. By refusing to ask the question, indeed by denying the question itself, Deity-based moral systems perhaps lock themselves into an intellectual trap no different than that experienced by Creation “scientists.”

If one assumes that the failing is not in existence or authority, but in perception, what need Christian forgiveness? Must one forgive the color-blind, allergic vegetarian?

It wasn’t me…

Really…

But Tammy has some real passive-aggressive, spelling issues she needs to work on.

You will waste your cancer…

Carlos Wilton, Presbyterian pastor and cancer survivor, has an excellent post up where he comments an article by a second ministerial cancer survivor. This time the cancer survivor is John Piper, mega-church pastor and Prostate cancer survivor.

Piper’s article, Don’t Waste Your Cancer, lists 10 ideas for using cancer to affirm and strengthen faith. Wilton comments on the 10 ideas, agreeing with 7 and eviscerating the others.

You might want to go read the original first article and Wilton’s response before moving to my non-theist response which you can find after the fold. I am not as nice as Wilton.

Continue reading

Bad Behavior

For any regular readers, (do I have regular readers?), I chose to spend my morning responding in to this post at This wasn’t in the Plan.

Vance responded to my posting of the ‘Evil’ Epicurean quote and we’ve been at it ever since.

You might drop by there and look read around. I often disagree with Vance but I respect his opinions. My post will probably show up later today. Vance filters his comments, largely because at some point he seems to have gotten inundated by attack commenters. If I recall correctly, it was the last time we had a spat and I was to blame (sorry).

Had I written something less (anti?-) ethical for his blog, my political posting would have tied together cellulite, George W. Bush’s freedom delusions in his Prague response to Putin and Alcoholics Anonymous.

Now. My regular readers should easily be able to make those connections. But, if not, just post a comment asking me to complete the train (wreck) of thought there and I’ll see what I can do.

A Tale of Two Tales

Matt Nisbet has a must read post up about two articles covering Bush’s climate plan. Actually it’s less about the idea itself than how the media is reporting it.

The curious part? The two articles based on the same underlying story – written by Climate Change media guru Andrew Revkin -present the context completely differently. As can be seen from the titles – from the

New York Times – Bush Climate Plan: Amid Nays, Some Maybes

International Herald Tribune – Bush critics warming to his plans for cutting emissions

Remember these are the same articles.

Now – go, read all three pieces; then perhaps you should go find a teddy bear and slowly rock yourself because in a world where “reality” is that changeable – we are so screwed.

NASA Needs a New Director!

NASA Needs a New Director!

WTF! I repeat WTF!

I just listened to Michael Griffin on NPR. I’m still under shock. First, go listen.

NPR: Do you have any doubt that this is a problem that mankind has to wrestle with?

Griffith: I have no doubt that … a trend of global warming exists. I am not sure that it is fair to say that it is a problem we must wrestle with. To assume that it is a problem is to assume that the state of Earth’s climate today is the optimal climate, the best climate that we could have or ever have had and that we need to take steps to make sure that it doesn’t change. First of all, I don’t think it’s within the power of human beings to assure that the climate does not change, as millions of years of history have shown. And second of all, I guess I would ask which human beings — where and when — are to be accorded the privilege of deciding that this particular climate that we have right here today, right now is the best climate for all other human beings. I think that’s a rather arrogant position for people to take.

NPR: Is that thinking that informs you as you put together the budget? That something is happening, that it’s worth studying, but you’re not sure that you want to be battling it as an army might battle an enemy?

Griffith: Nowhere in NASA’s authorization, which of course governs what we do, is there anything at all telling us that we should take actions to affect climate change in either one way or another. We study global climate change, that is in our authorization, we think we do it rather well. I’m proud of that, but NASA is not an agency chartered to, quote, battle climate change.

[Original bold removed. My emphasis]

Again Michael Griffin is the NASA director. He is claiming that we shouldn’t do anything about global warming because we don’t know whether this is the best climate there ever was?!

That is just… so … disingenuous. If Phil Plait hadn’t already resigned from NASA, I would expect him too.

To say that people want to change the climate is to ignore the fact that mankind is already changing the climate, in ways we can’t predict – and the NASA director says “I am not sure that it is fair to say that it is a problem we must wrestle with.”

Is this a new Frank Luntz talking point. We don’t want to do anything about climate change because doing something might be bad?

What! WTF!

Trickle Up Reality – A Difference of Opinion

Noah Shachtman, at Danger Room and my go-to guy for inside information about Pentagon shenanigans, has a post up praising an article in The Washington Monthly by Spencer Ackermann. Entitled The Bitter End and with the tagline “Democrats are right to push for an end to the Iraq war. But don’t expect the troops to be grateful,“ one can see where he is going.

Haunted by Vietnam, Democrats are determined to express support for the troops. This is admirable. The truth of the matter, however, is this: many troops in Iraq, perhaps even most of them, want to stay and fight. That doesn’t mean that we should stay in Iraq any longer. It does mean, however, that if Democrats want to bridge the divide between themselves and the military—an effort further complicated by their opposition to the war—they’re going to have to recognize that arguing in the name of the troops isn’t going to work.

If you spend as much time reading about Iraq as I do, you tend to get a very distorted image of reality (if there is such a thing).

At one level, there is the extreme devotion to duty, honor and team that is shown at the personal level. (This is very apparent if you read military blogs written by the people fighting every day. Read them now before they disappear. ) On another level, you see officers, military advisors and pundits pointing to the successes, incremental improvements across many ‘measurables.’

But you also get a sense of a football team in the last quarter, physically at the end of their chain but still willing to keep trying;. even if the game is obviously lost. (But then again the troops in the field didn’t even all know who Rumsfield is/was.)

Interestingly, most of the people quoted in Ackerman’s article are also officers. The only enlisted man seems more interested in being redeployed to Hawaii than staying in Iraq. (At least there are bikinis to go along with the sand.)

I’d contrast the view presented by Ackermann with two different viewpoints, also published in the last few days.

From a the international Herald Tribute story, With allies in enemy ranks, GIs in Iraq are no longer true believers,

But now on his third deployment in Iraq, he is no longer a believer in the mission. The pivotal moment came, he says, this past February when soldiers killed a man setting a roadside bomb. When they searched the bomber’s body, they found identification showing him to be a sergeant in the Iraqi Army.

“I thought, ‘What are we doing here? Why are we still here?’ ” said Safstrom, a member of Delta Company of the 1st Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry, 82nd Airborne Division. “We’re helping guys that are trying to kill us. We help them in the day. They turn around at night and try to kill us.”

His views are echoed by most of his fellow soldiers in Delta Company, renowned for its aggressiveness.

A small minority of Delta Company soldiers – the younger, more recent enlistees in particular – seem to still wholeheartedly support the war. Others are ambivalent, torn between fear of losing more friends in battle, longing for their families and a desire to complete their mission.

The focus of this story is on the erosion of ‘mission feeling’ when the mission is defined to be stand up until the Iraqi’s take over. Unfortunately, the lower level troops are increasingly discovering that the guys taking over are also the guys who shoot at Americans on their days off. They came with a sense of mission, but like a puddle under the Iraqi sun, that is slowly evaporating.

The other side of this is the cost on the home front. This comes from the front page feature at the Washington Post highlighting the plight of the families of the Minnesota National Guard troops attached to the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 34th division.

Some 2,600 members of the Minnesota Guard are serving in Iraq, attached to the 1st Brigade Combat Team of the 34th Infantry Division. Most of the Minnesotans from the rural northern part of the state around Crookston are in Bravo Company, whose 141 men range in age from 20 to 47 and represent a cross section of the small-town Midwest. One in seven has a college degree. One in three is married.

The citizen-soldiers of Bravo Company, 2nd Combined Arms Battalion, 136th Infantry, had been home 18 months from a tour in Bosnia and Kosovo when they mustered for war in October 2005. Reinforcing an active-duty Army stretched taut by a war longer and more ferocious than the White House expected, the Guard members checked out of their roles as students, farmers and workers.

Once deployed, they supported active-duty troops, largely in violent Anbar province, where the unit lost three soldiers to enemy explosives. After being granted two weeks’ leave and plane tickets home last year, Bravo’s soldiers returned to Iraq with the end of their mission in sight.

But shortly after Christmas, as friends and families counted the days until the planned March 28 homecoming, word came that the tour would be extended four months to support the effort to fortify Baghdad, a strategy designed to tip the balance against the insurgency.

News of the extension, which the families first heard about on television, was a rough blow. One wife likened it to nearing the end of a marathon and learning she would have to run eight more miles uphill. Another forgot that she had set her cellphone to ring on March 28, a cheerful reminder that her husband was homeward bound. When the alarm sounded, she called a friend and cursed: “Damn alarms.”

This is especially interesting because the MNG will probably become the longest serving unit in Iraq, reserve or active.

And what do these guys say about the war?

Days turn into weeks, weeks melt into months, and the months turn into a year and I am still in Iraq.

I have not yet reached a true state of apathy, but as the days pass I come closer and closer. I do my duty every day without complaint but I don’t give a damn anymore. I no longer care about the mission and I no longer care about the people I am supposed to be here to help.

I no longer give a fuck.

The above quote comes from Sixty-Six.org a milblog from an infantry man on his second deployment who was, in another world, a graduate student in Psychology. “I will not allow myself to have an opinion on the war. I have a job to do, and that job is not to agree or disagree with the politics of war. My job is to fight the war and come back to tell the story. ”

Interestingly, Ackerman even quotes a journalist who had been embedded with the Minnesota National Guard, NPR’s John McChesney.

Of course, military opinion varies greatly, and the mindset of the 57th could be atypical. But other journalists have picked up similar sentiments. In early April, National Public Radio’s John McChesney visited National Guard troops in Arkansas and found that, “to a man, they were gung-ho for the mission.” One specialist told McChesney, “I am looking forward to it. It’s going to be a great opportunity for me.” And news accounts regularly carry reports of soldiers who are eager to go to Iraq, whether out of a sense of duty or a sense of adventure. (More grimly, many obituaries also mention such eagerness.)

This was something I could fact check. Was Ackermann cherry- picking? Let’s take a look the original story,

Under new policy, the 39th’s second deployment would be limited to 12 months, according to Maj. Gen. Bill Wofford, who is the adjutant general of the Arkansas Guard. That would include training time in the States, so it’s possible the soldiers could be in Iraq for less than a year.

But Wofford acknowledged that they could be extended, like what recently happened to the Minnesota National Guard. “That would be up to the Department of Defense and what’s going on in theater at that time,” he said.

Immediately following a news conference in Little Rock, Wofford jumped in a Blackhawk helicopter and flew north to Fayetteville. Wofford was going to say goodbye to some men who will be leaving soon for their first deployment to Iraq.

Command gathered a group of them to talk to NPR about the trip. To a man, they were gung ho for the mission.” I am looking forward to it,” said Spec. John Martell. “It’s going to be a great opportunity for me.” He expects to return to be a full-time student at the University of Arkansas. In the meantime, he says, “I’ve always wanted to serve in this way.” [my emphasis]

It would seem Ackermann quoting people who are gung-ho on war. But those are officers, those recently arrived or the one’s who hadn’t gone yet. This let’s me wonder who he listened to in Iraq. Especially off the record Majors commenting in the US Embassy. If I contrast that with the feelings I read about at Sixty-Six, in the WP and the story in the International Herald Tribune, I feel a real reality disconnect here.

So while some might still support the mission. I get the impression, even under the troops who are the last to lose faith, gung ho isn’t the phrase I’d use for those on repeated deployments.

It would seem to me, those in Iraq are no longer fighting an enemy. They are fighting to support each other. They follow orders because that is what orders are for; they do their job with pride: clear an IED, search a house or help in the reconstruction; not to help the Iraqi’s, not because someone in Washington wants them to – but because there are fellow Americans doing the same thing and they need help.

Ackerman points out that the Democrats do themselves a disservice by claiming to help the troops and wanting them to withdraw. His point is that the ‘troops’ don’t want to withdraw. I think the troops want to stay together. No-one wants to be the first to leave or the last to go. But I disagree that there is still a strong feeling of mission.

Returning to the Washington Post feature,

Last winter, with her husband due home in 100 days, Modeen and the kids put 100 M&Ms in a jar. Every day, they took one out; as the pile got smaller, Staff Sgt. Nathan Modeen was closer to coming home. Sam was growing excited. Then came news of the 125-day extension.

Jennifer Modeen could hardly stand it: “We just threw the M&Ms away.”

While Ackerman may be right and the soldiers still haven’t lost hope in the mission, I’d argue that they have lost their M&Ms.

Thermonuclear Escalation

An image highlighting the dangers of nuking things…

microwavewars1.jpg

From Kathleen: “‘No Smelly Foods’ was the first one, and then it just escalated. ”

(Hat Tip: passive-aggressive notes from roommates, neighbors, coworkers and strangers and BitchPhd)

Upturn in Economic Outlooks

Yesterday, Michael van der Galiën wrote a comment about an editorial which appeared in the WSJ. Even though I can’t read the entire editorial because I don’t have a subscription (recent confessions aside, the Numbers Guy is free), I’d like to point out something.The WSJ editorial starts with

It’s been a rough week for John Edwards, and now comes more bad news for his “two Americas” campaign theme. A new study by the Congressional Budget Office says the poor have been getting less poor. On average, CBO found that low-wage households with children had incomes after inflation that were more than one-third higher in 2005 than in 1991.

That sounds cheery. Michael echos Jonathan Chait from the New Republic in pointing out the disingenuousness of the editorial. While income did increase between 1991 and 2005, it seems to have peaked in 2000. I wonder what happened in 2000? Oh yeah. Katherine Harris elected George W. Bush.

But looking at the study and perhaps casting a sidelong glance at today’s New York Times might point out a few more interesting tid-bits.

Let’t start the CRS study. This is the graph shown on the very first page.

Changes in the Economic Resources of Low-Income Households with Children

While I might be a bit myopic, The total government financial aid dropped between 1991 and 2006, it seems to have remained fairly constant since George W. took office. I wonder why the Republicans don’t seem to want to lower that number since the poor are obviously earning so much? Don’t they want their tax dollars spent wisely? Aren’t the Democrats the ones who spend and run? What about the welfare queens in pink caddies?!

But wait. It gets better. Now let’s compare this with the graph on page 11. This chart shows increase in real income of households with children.

Growth in Real Income and Earnings of Households with Children, by Quintile

While the report is titled Changes in the Economic Resources of Low-Income Households with Children, [my emphasis] this chart includes all economic income brackets from the lowest to the highest. (Note: I edited the graph to include the the income levels.)

So while lower class income does seem to have improved, the over-pressured, much maligned, highest-income bracket is doing much better. Thank goodness! I was starting to think the Republicans hadn’t achieved anything.

And remember, the scale on that graphic is percent. That means not only are the top 20% doing better in an absolute sense, they are doing better in a relative sense. That means not only were the best of the best earning much more to begin with, they get even more income now. Cool huh? Bush II is my hero!

And who might these poor, deprived super-rich be?

Eduardo Porter gives us a glimpse in today’s New York Times.

As executive pay has surged in most American companies, attention has focused on the growing gap between the earnings of top executives and the average wage of workers in cubicles or on the shop floor. Little noticed, though, is how much the gap has also widened between the summit and the next few echelons down.
[…]
Few are deprived in corporate suites, of course. But the widening disparities in business, which show up in a variety of other ways, reflect a dynamic that is taking hold across the economy: the growing concentration of wealth and income among a select group at the pinnacle of success, leaving many others with similar talents and experience well behind.

In the 1960s and ’70s, chief executives running the nation’s biggest companies earned 80 percent more, on average, than the third-highest-paid executives, according to a recent study by Carola Frydman of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Raven E. Saks at the Federal Reserve. By the early part of this decade, the gap in the executive suite between No. 1 and No. 3 [poor little guy] had swollen to 260 percent. [my emphasis]

Perhaps we need to change from calling these people neo-conservatives to calling them “neo-feudalists:” people creating a super rich elite able to change justice to keep them in power and suit their lifestyles .

While even those one or two titles – um – ranks down are left to deal with the unruly serfdom, the CEOs (Barons?) and Presidents (Kings?) can truely say – the economic outlook of the serfs has never been better; much better now, than under that pesky democracy thing.

A Fair(y) Use Tale

(Hat Tip: Ralph E. Luker/Cliopatria)