Middle America In The Middle Ages

June 13th, 2011

When discussing politics with more conservative folks, what amazes me is how much we disagree about the facts. Not about policy but about what actually happened and what is actually happening.

Yesterday, I heard a story -- apparently well-accepted -- that goes like this . . . Obama banned American oil companies from drilling in our coastal waters but allowed foreign companies to go ahead. In fact, so the story goes, he flew to Brazil to award a Brazilian company $2 billion to get them to drill for oil in our waters. "That says all you need to know, doesn't it?" (The story appears to be a version of this one on snopes.)

The big puzzle to me is why, when someone hears a story like this one, something in his or her head doesn't say "Hmmm. That sounds a bit odd to me. Maybe I should check it out." Instead, many people don't pause to question, they just store away one bit of nonsense after another until they have built up a collection of craziness that they believe represents reality.

And the craziness is self-reinforcing. Once a couple screwy tales are in the pile, the next screwy tail is even less likely to be questioned. (Though I am still baffled to hear, nearly in the same breath, continual recourse to "it's just commonsense" arguments interspersed with stories that anyone with a bit of commonsense might question.)

The last couple days, I have refused to engage in political chit chat unless we begin by agreeing that we will use evidence to determine the facts. Unbelievably, this is viewed as utterly unreasonable. For example, everyone knows that the stimulus had no positive effect, all nutrition studies are bunkum and contradictory, cutting taxes and the government budget will lead to lower unemployment, government regulation is bad, and inflation is either rampant or will soon be rampant. Nothing -- no data or numbers or papers -- are worth looking at if they contradict these "facts."

I feel as if I have fallen into the middle ages.

Off for a Month or so

June 4th, 2011

Link: http://traveljapanblog.com/wordpress/2011/06/hakuba-lake-of-glass/

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"There are few places I’d rather be in late October, on a clear day without wind, than Lake Aoki in Nagano Prefecture. The fall colors and tranquility of the place will wash a sense of peace through your being."

Image and caption from traveljapanblog.com.

Gerty and I are headed east -- as in eastern North America -- to look for tranquility and/or a good hot dog stand and whatever the heck this is. (Brings to mind a favorite tune.)

Things Will Be Good By The End Of President Romney's First Term

June 3rd, 2011

Link: http://www.calculatedriskblog.com/2011/06/employment-summary-part-time-workers.html

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Image by shelmac. Some rights reserved.

From Calculated Risk:

So far the economy has added 908,000 private sector jobs this year, or about 181 thousand per month. There have been 783,000 total non-farm jobs added this year or 157 thousand per month. This is a better pace of payroll job creation than last year, but the economy still has 6.95 million fewer payroll jobs than at the beginning of the 2007 recession. At this pace (157 thousand jobs per month), it will take almost 4 years just to get back to the pre-recession level, or sometime in late 2014 or early 2015!

When the White House doesn't push for programs to create jobs, the public assumes the President doesn't care about jobs.

It's possible, of course, that there are reasons beyond the ken of mere men that the President started working on the deficit instead on jobs. And, perhaps, they couldn't figure out anything useful to do (though others have suggestions) or figured they couldn't get anything useful through Congress. (Would Congress actually vote against fixing roads and bridges?)

Still if the President doesn't try to do anything about jobs, the assumption that the White House doesn't care about jobs seems reasonable to me.

"Who's to blame when gas costs $1 more than last year?"

June 2nd, 2011

Link: http://www.usatoday.com/money/industries/energy/2011-05-30-gas-costs-blame_n.htm

That's an actual USA Today headline.

USA Today's apparent answer: "Not you! It's evil speculators trying to make money."

My answer: "A gas-dependent country and a market economy, you pitiful car-addled moron."

We live in a really dumb country.

I once heard things that made me think "No one could really believe that. That must just be political posturing." Now I know, that quite often, people really are that dumb.

It isn't all political pandering. Some of it is genuine, rank stupidity.

From Elsewhere

May 31st, 2011

Link: http://fortheloveofbikes.blogspot.com/2011/05/maid-marian-muffins-ride.html

Sunny Day

May 31st, 2011

Another Approach To Reducing Car Killings

May 30th, 2011

Link: http://ojisanjake.blogspot.com/2011/05/more-ceremonies-at-shunki-taisai.html

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Image by Ojisanjake from his blog: More glimpses of unfamiliar Japan.

Jake (of the spectacular blog, More glimpses of unfamiliar Japan) says that rituals for car blessing and driving safety are common at shrines in Japan.

We Need Some New Holidays

May 29th, 2011

Link: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/30/world/asia/30afghanistan.html?hp

We need a day to honor the innocent civilians our mercenaries kill.

And, maybe we need another holiday to do whatever is appropriate for our mercenaries so the mercenaries don't get confused with the drafted butcher, baker, and candlestick makers we honor on war-related holidays.