The Trump Candidacy: the greatest moment in collective confirmation bias in the history of thought.

As liberals and independents, it can be a little unsettling to see the unphased certainty with which Donald J. Drumpf and his followers view the election. Like many such moments, this is one in which it takes all your effort and concentration to remember that the election hasn’t even happened yet. You can begin to question whether your view of the world is really fundamentally flawed in some way.

In such moments, it’s important to remember that these are people for whom “uncertainty” is an unfamiliar concept. They’ve heard of it. But uncertainty has never really happened to them. Instead, they quietly walk among us, certain that the vast overwhelming majority (once, the Moral Majority) is on their side. If only they could speak.

But of course, those putative “normal Americans” cannot speak their minds: they are under the dreaded pall of “Political Correctness,” a phrase that brings two terms Trump fans are uncomfortable with together with the insane concept that you’re not allowed to call black people the N-Word. Like all “normal Americans,” they know that they would lose their jobs if they spoke the truth. And so would everyone around them.

No matter how many times reality refuses to show “normal Americans” a face that confirms their world view – even after every seated member of the Thanksgiving table says, “shut the fuck up, Uncle Frank!” – they cannot be disabused of their certainty. Because the rest of us need to stop buying into the Liberal Media.

Now that Donald Trump is leading the Republican Primary, these people are free to speak their minds as much as they please. Freedom! Sweet freedom! They revel in the freedom to say how they really feel, because President Trump is going to Make America Great Again. Just like he did with real estate education!

So whatever you do, don’t bother trying to get your asshole friends on Facebook to see the light. They’ve seen it. And they prefer their own little world where President Trump Saves America. And don’t bother fretting about his chances in November. No one knows the future. Not even a Trump supporter.


Chester Shrugged

Chester Cab Pizza is closing.

Well, no. Not really. But that didn’t stop the owner from announcing as much online and causing a minor freak out on Twitter and elsewhere:

That tweet got lots of reactions, including a retweet from myself. Why wouldn’t it? Chester Cab has been a fixture on Park Avenue since the early 80’s. This isn’t Angela Hong’s fault, either. The press release, which is also posted to the front page of their website, intimates pretty clearly that Chester Cab is closing:

It is with a heavy heart that owner and founder of Park Avenue’s Chester Cab Pizza is slinging his last pizza. The store, located at 707 Park Ave, had just surpassed its 30th year in business.

Note the use of the past-tense “had just surpassed..” What a silly mix-up that was, huh? But all is not well among the Captains of Pizza. Alas:

Nielsen states that even though sales have been steady, “…it is the rising expenses that took us to the point of unprofitability. In past years, I have noticed that our margins were going down but decided to keep the business afloat for better days to come.”

Uh-oh. George is getting upset.

In the rest of the third-party voiced press release of a single small business owner, “Nielson states” his many memories of slinging pies in Rochester are fond ones. But… (rrrrrumble!! dark clouds on the horizon!!):

“I probably could keep Chester Cab Pizza going for a while more. But when I see the mandates that businesses will be required to comply with by 2014, I figure those would be the mandates that would break the camel’s back. So why wait, my work is done. Why delay the inevitable?”

Oh. My. God. This is all President Obama’s fault! President Obama is putting your favourite overpriced pizza with a remarkably small delivery circle through a death panel!!!

Well, no. Not really.

It turns out that, despite the hand-wringing, concern-trolling presser, Nielson fails to state that he’s not actually shuttering the place.

He’s selling it.

Most likely at a profit.

To the manager, who if he knows anything about the place he’s worked for what we can imagine is at least a few years, probably knows that he can keep the old pig running for a few more years.

To recap: the owner of Chester Cab Pizza, among the most storied pizza places in Rochester; also the owner of Sticky Lips BBQ, easily the second and possibly the first most popular BBQ joint in Rochester; who opened another store in Henrietta under the evil and gluttonous gaze and thrice-cited “mandates” of the jack-booted Obama Administration thugs in 2004; this man is selling one of his businesses for a profit.

Forgive me if I’m having a difficult time drawing a comparison to Wyatt’s Torch, here.

About the only comparison to be drawn between Wyatt’s Torch and Chester Cab’s closing-that-is-not-a-closing is that they both represent remarkably childish, anti-social and demonstrative responses to a world your mama could have told you ain’t fair. They’re both high-flying public hissy fits, both absurd on their face, and both aimed more at publicity than at solutions to the supposed problems Wyatt and Nielson seem to think they have.

The difference is that Wyatt did everyone the favour of getting the fuck out of town and joining Ayn Rand’s socialist paradise under glass. (You read me right: each according to their means, each according to their needs. Think about it) “Nielson states” that he’s going off to some far away land, only to use that highly-public freakout as a demonstration of Chester Cab’s value. And as free advertisement for all his properties, courtesy of Angela Hong, myself, most likely you, 13WHAM and god only knows how many more. And boom! Free soapbox for his fever-ridden political beliefs as an abused “job creator.”

Enjoy your free advertisement, asshole. Pardon me whilst I shrug. Me and John Gault are getting shitfaced at Dinosaur BBQ tonight.

Media Politics

Gallup Doesn’t Know the Difference Between Ideology and “Attention”

If I told you Conservatives weren’t paying much attention to the state of our environment, would you be surprised? If I told you Liberals weren’t paying very much attention to the state of our Faith Based Initiatives, would you clutch the pearls in horror and confusion? I suspect not.

Why, then, does Gallup not notice the difference between those who say they’re watching the debt debates “very closely” and those who are watching “somewhat closely” as what they are: Conservatives and Liberals, respectively.

The problem isn’t just that they haven’t broken down the “watching closely” and “somewhat closely” groups down by Party affiliation, but that without this detail, we’re left with the impression that “informed minds think we should not raise the debt limit.” Regardless of where you come down politically on the issue, the implication based on poll numbers is faulty.

Attention to Debt Ceiling Debate Doesnt Affect Policy Views.

This 16-percentage-point margin against raising the debt limit among the most attentive Americans is similar to the 20-point margin among those following the matter somewhat closely, 48% vs. 28%. Those not following the issue closely are also more likely to want their member of Congress to vote against raising the debt limit than for it; however, the majority, 59%, have no opinion.


… And Here Come the Apologists…

Ever since distancing himself from the Bush Administration when it was painfully obvious that the Iraq War was a clusterfuck, Charles Krauthammer must have been itching for a reason to tell us he was right all along. So now that “freedom is on the march,” as the phrase goes, he’s gotta climb out of his ideological bunker and get his digs in. Surprised it took so long:

Charles Krauthammer – From Baghdad to Benghazi.

So, to distill it down to the essences – because man, is there a lot of logical fallacy horseshit in there – the Bush Administration’s policy of encouraging democracy at the tip of the spear was right all along, but Obama’s been too slow to realize it. Never mind that there is a surprisingly-obvious and unsubtle difference between verbally and diplomatically supporting regime change that’s already in progress because of a revolution and just barging into another country with visions of democracy.

Oh, and the last line is the line I’ve been waiting for all along: “Facebook and Twitter have surely mediated this pan-Arab (and Iranian) reach for dignity and freedom. But the Bush Doctrine set the premise.”

Before the Iraq War, we were told that the Middle East was just aching for democracy. That now appears to have been entirely, demonstrably correct. But what Krauthammer is now arguing is that, because it was going to happen anyway, the Bush Administration’s bumbling escapade in Iraq wasn’t just a catalyst, but the “premise” itself. He has entirely inverted the argument and come out looking just totally fucking awesome.

That people manage to cobble together a self-governing system in Iraq – the birthplace of human civilization – is not a sign of the efficacy of the Bush Doctrine: it is a predictable outcome. Events that happen in order do not prove causality: the rooster does not cause the sun to rise, and likewise, the Iraq War did not precipitate the Middle Eastern awakening that is in progress.


Half Of Adult Males Carry HPV – Betcha It Gets Research Money, Now!

Well, how about that? Scientists are discovering that the Human Pamplona Virus – linked in other studies to cervical cancer in women – is found in half of all adult males as well. Now mind you, I think there’s reason to doubt that this will raise any real hairs on the Christian Conservatives that currently hold the purse strings in Congress just yet: after all, its just cervical cancer in women.

But what other things is HPV complicating or causing for men? Dare I say: infertility? Maybe diminished sexual performance (also known as Floppy Dick)? Once we make that link, just watch Glaxo Smith-Kline suck up the research money to find a cure.

Half Of Adult Males Carry HPV – Science News.


Rick Perry Did Not Lie to You.

Reason Magazine’s FaceBook page posted this article, discussing the reasons for Texas’ current budget short-fall. Paul Krugman used the state as an example of how cutting taxes did not raise revenues. Reason shoots back that, no, the problem is not that they’re cutting taxes, but that they’re spending too much money:

It would be opportunistic to dismiss Texas as a big government failure now, after using it as a model of fiscal restraint, but don’t these numbers cause the same problem for the Krugmanites? From what little I know of Texas geography (isn’t it next to that countryCantinflas came from?), I gather Austin is less in thrall to “the complete dominance of conservative ideology” than the rest of the state. Texas contains multitudes. Could it be the nightmare of austerity Krugman claims, and also a nightmare of public profligacy the spending figures indicate? Can Razzles be a candy and a gum?

This gets at the heart of a problem Conservatives have explaining their way around the Bush Administration, as well. Namely, that cutting taxes and spending exhorbitantly do not seem to be separate practices, but invariably and demonstrably linked halves of an inseparable whole.

In my gut, I do not believe Rick Perry lied to me or to his constituency. I don’t believe George Bush did, either. I don’t believe that all those Republicans who were elected on a platform of reducing the government and lowering taxes got together in a cabal and discussed how best to screw the American people by cutting taxes… and raising spending. Ronald Reagan, that soothsayer of old, had a similar problem.

I think the problem may be this simple: if you don’t change the oil in your car, sooner or later, you’re going to have to rebuild the engine. Responsibility is an expensive thing. And when you try to cheap out on every little thing – and we know George Bush’s administration did just that – you end up spending more to fix the shit you broke. It also does not help that, in the case of state budgets, when the Federal government does not meet its obligation to help pay for things like Medicare, the state has no choice but to pony up the balance.

None of this is to say that Texas, like New York, couldn’t stand a bit of restructuring in the way it does business. I’ll betcha there’s lots of money getting hidden under desks all over the state, just as it appears happens here in New York. But let’s not dance around and pretend that there is some conveniently non-threatening excuse for a predictable pattern.


I Don’t Care Whose Fault It is. Just Fix It.

Down the line on most any issue, my politics fall predictably to the left. I think that’s pretty clearly understood by anyone who reads my stuff. You know, what with the title of the website, the six years spent blogging on said site, and all. But over the last two years, I’ve slowly come under the impression that the issues that drove me to blog in the first place are entirely irrelevant to the “discussion” as it happens between the political poles of our country. In fact, issues don’t really seem to factor in to the “discussion” at all, save of course, as props.

Both the Left and the Right of the country seem to be entirely focused on the proposition that the only means of saving the economy is a radical shift in one direction or another. I say that as an ardent supporter of public financing of health care. And one who believes the Stimulus package was both necessary and successful. Nevertheless, just because I agree with my friends on the Left – down the line. on every issue – doesn’t make that the relevant issue of the day. Right now, the relevant issue of the day is in fact the figurative business of “getting the car out of the ditch.” That is the problem. That is what I suspect most people want to talk about.

And while I generally look to my beliefs and therefore my politics for answers to the issues of the day, now I just look at the two sides bickering over issues in disbelief. Both sides are citing historical precedents and studies from the colleges of their choice,…. and I just remember the thing I heard my mommy and daddy say to my sister and I countless times:

I don’t care whose fault it is. Just fix it.


The World Standard

Newt Gingrich, via Gage Skidmore on Flickr

I remember it as though it was yesterday: John Kerry, when explaining why it was wrong to go into Iraq, declared that there should be a “world standard” of what constitutes an acceptable cause for war. In doing so, he was arguing that the causes for going to war aught to be morally defensible and garner the support of other free nations, so as to strengthen the hand of the war’s protagonist. But in doing so, he also opened himself up to criticism by every Conservative and Republican politician, politico and pundit for “surrendering” the sovereign right of America to fight a war on her own terms in her own time. That criticism came from all corners of the Republican “big tent,” including Newt Gingrich. No other nation, they said, should be able to tell the United States that we shouldn’t go to war; no nation, they said should hold the standard for what we as Americans can do.

And during the Health Care Reform debates, equal umbrage was given to those who pointed to France or Canada as models of what nationalized health care could look like in the United States. This criticism came from all corners of the Republican “big tent,” including Newt Gingrich. America, they said, was different; America’s standards are her own, they said, and no other standard applies to our “greatest health care system in the world.”

Now the new controversy being used to whip up support on the Right is the plan to raise a new Muslim center in downtown Manhattan. Not on Ground Zero, as you’ve heard it reported in the media, but two blocks away. Those who have been to Manhattan know that “two blocks away” is not the same in New York City as it is in Mayberry. Two blocks away from the site of the Twin Towers may as well be in another city. Nevertheless, this has raised hairs on the backs of Conservatives, who think it’s a grave injustice to put a Muslim center so close to the site of the 9-11 attacks.

I will not bother to address why a new Muslim center in the middle of culture-rich, heavily-ethnic New York City is so concerning to Conservative Americans. I will not ask the question, “have any of these people ever been to New York in the first place?” or wonder why the Conservative American’s favourite whipping boy – New York City, the wretched hive of scum, villany and Democrats that it is – should be of such terrible import and sanctity once Muslims “move in.” What I will address is this statement, from Newt Gingrich, himself:

Those Islamists and their apologists who argue for “religious toleration” are arrogantly dishonest. They ignore the fact that more than 100 mosques already exist in New York City. Meanwhile, there are no churches or synagogues in all of Saudi Arabia. In fact no Christian or Jew can even enter Mecca.

And they lecture us about tolerance.

If the people behind the Cordoba House were serious about religious toleration, they would be imploring the Saudis, as fellow Muslims, to immediately open up Mecca to all and immediately announce their intention to allow non-Muslim houses of worship in the Kingdom.   They should be asked by the news media if they would be willing to lead such a campaign.

To abbreviate his statement: there are no Christian churches in Saudi Arabia, and so by that standard, there should be no Muslim center in Manhattan. Got that? America’s standards have now sunk in the eyes of Newt Gingrich and his supporters – in a mere eight months, mind you – to Saudi Arabian standards.

Wow. That’s a pretty steep drop. Not even the Dow – not even the Dow during the Bush Administration – can follow an act like that. Saudi Arabia, a nation ruled by the very same Sharia Law that raises such a panic among the good Christian Conservatives raising the objection, is now the standard by which we measure our religious tolerance as a society.

At least, to hear Republicans tell it.


The D&C Sez: Brutus is an Honerable Man

The D&C opinion page has decided to go Pollyanna with its descriptions of town hall meetings happening here and across the country. While insisting how important it is that politicians do more of these types of meetings, they describe the Eric Massa town hall as follows:

More than 500 people questioned Massa for two hours outside the Mendon Community Center last Thursday night. The meeting felt Lincoln-esque in its nature, with citizens gathered in a circle around Massa. Most behaved with respect, although a few people shouted now and then.

Wow. Sounds like a splendid ice cream social. But the story I’ve gotten from those who are there is that, to start, the crowd was at least three to four times the size of a normal crowd. The people running the meeting went the extra mile to accommodate those who showed up by holding the event outside. And then, the stories about euthanasia and forced abortions came spilling out of the crowd’s email in-boxes and into what normally would be considered rational company.

It is convenient for those who oppose health care reform – among whose numbers the D&C appears to be – to insist that politicians subject themselves to the attacks of the crazies. But until someone learns how to deal with astroturf uprisings and converse directly with their constituencies, these meetings are doing more harm than good for everybody involved. Which is a shame, because the town hall meetings are what politicians like Eric Massa have built their careers on.


Give Them Enough Rope…

Jeffery Feldman comments on the status of the town hall meetings being held across the country and the Teabaggers that are arriving to shout them down:

FRAMESHOP: Anodyne Town Halls are the Problem, Not Teabaggers.

Feldman’s solution sounds to me like a fairly typical overreaction, not sage advice of any kind. It’s classic Sean Connery, The Untouchables type of stuff, “What are you prepared to do?”

I actually think that, inside of a week, the Teabaggers will have overplayed their hand, badly. We’ve seen this kind of unhinged behavior before from their ilk: from the shouts of “kill him” at McCain/Palin rallies to the insane ramblings of Orly Taitz to the Hitler/Obama signs at Teabagger rallies. At this point, I very much doubt if anyone paying cursory attention to any of this can possibly tell one nut apart from the other, where indeed the difference is quantifiable.

Just because people are worried about what health care reform might mean for them is no reason to believe that Middle America – in whose hands, to repeat the obvious, the fate of our nation lies – is suddenly in support of the same nuts that they voted against in the 2008 election. Teabaggers are not offering a solution and in fact are actively hurting the cause of whatever “reform” Republicans want.

Once it becomes obvious that the same type of “outrage” present in Texas is present in Iowa, people will figure this out. And they’ve got all month – with no other distracting news – to do it. I actually see the Teabagger/THM Nexus as manna from heaven, if only because it so dilutes the Republican message.

Oh, and About that Cars for Clunkers Program..

I debated a Conservative friend of mine for a few hours via Twitter about this. Once again, Democrats need to step back on this one and let the Republicans hang themselves.

Because of course, giving the American people their money back and letting them stimulate the economy is precisely what Republicans have always advocated. And in this one case at least, that policy seems to be a rollicking success. Yet the Republicans on the hill and on TV are actively against this program as “wasteful.”

This kind of thing doesn’t just write itself. Kick back and enjoy the show.


I’m a Thinker: Health Care Voting

Is it just me, or do the Republicans have *absolutely* no credibility on the “lets not force an artificial timeline” issue?


Birther Debate: Whoa. That’s Obvious.

Sometimes, the discussion gets so silly that even reasonable people miss the most obvious things. Josh Marshall puts the Birther debate right: what if every soldier’s kid born overseas was ineligible for the presidency? Of course, they aren’t. So, if everyone agrees that Barack Obama’s mother was a US citizen, what would it matter to his eligibility for the presidency if he was born on Mars?

Funny. It seems like every sitcom the Seventies has to offer has an episode dealing with citizenship in some wacky fashion or another. You’d think that, just by osmosis and just through the least-informative media ever, we’d know better.