Burying the lede, South Dakota style!

You can die on Mars. Or, you can live in South Dakota.

The linked article discusses South Dakota’s public perception problem when it comes to attracting people and businesses to move to the state. The headline refers to the tag line they’ve come up with for their marketing campaign. It’s different, and I can see it being effective at getting folks’ attention. But, the most important part of the story appears almost three-quarters of the way in to the piece:

“One of our mantras for business is no state income tax,” Costello said. “That didn’t resonate with individuals. Individuals viewed that as maybe the state doesn’t have good education or fire protection or crime might be high or the park system not adequate. That was almost a quality of life deterrent.”

“No state income tax” wasn’t viewed as a positive and might have even been a negative. Let that one sink in. It’s certainly something I believe, but I’m surprised that “no state income tax” didn’t resonate with the population-at-large, a group who are almost certainly more conservative than I am. It almost brings a tear to my eye.

I submit that this is Very Bad News for the Grover Norquists of the world. If people recognize that taxes equal desirable services and infrastructure, then Norquist’s “drown the government in the bathtub” message is going to fall on deaf ears. This strikes me as a good thing.

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Rush-Rolling

You’re familiar with the Gish Gallop, right? In short, it’s a debate technique of burying your opponent in so many statements that they have no time to debunk each of them. It’s a pretty juvenile technique, but you see it pretty frequently when one party or the other has no legs on which to stand. Lists like the old,ridiculous “Bill Clinton death list” are printed examples of the same idea.

I’d like to submit a new name for a subset of the Gish Gallop, the Rush Roll. This technique, perfected by Mr. Limbaugh, is similar to a Gish Gallop but follows a very specific format:

1) Invent a “fact” out of thin air.

2) Draw a conclusion from the aforementioned fact that doesn’t follow.

3) Draw a parallel between that conclusion and something completely different.

4) Make a friendly aside to suggest that this is obvious and common sense to anyone hearing/reading this piece.

5) Make a batshit insane final conclusion which Godwins the entire thread.

If you’ve listened to Limbaugh for more than, say, five minutes, you’re familiar with his style. There’s a reason he doesn’t do debate or work with guests: His style only works if there’s a single, uninterrupted voice. Challenging him destroys him.

Today’s example of the “Rush Roll” comes courtesy of The Place Where Decency Went To Die, freerepublic.com.

Here, in all its glory, is a beautiful example of the Rush Roll:

Iran ALREADY has a Nuke ? America RETREATS in FEAR from Iran — Obama’s IMPEACHMENT if Revealed ?
Patton@Bastogne ^ | 2015-05-21 | Patton@Bastogne 

Posted on 4/21/2015, 7:22:58 PM by Patton@Bastogne

. 

In 2008 candidate “Barrack Hussein Obama” promised United States citizens that he would do anything possible to prevent the “clinically insane” Iranian Islamic State from obtaining a Nuclear Weapon.

================================ 

Would Obama finally “cross the red line” (Impeachment) with the America public … 

if Americans KNEW that Iran had successfully designed and tested (in North Korea) a nuclear device suitable for a missile launch ? 

AND a treasonous President Obama (and Iranian Islamic sympathizer vis-a-via Obama’s Iranian Chief of Staff Vallerie Jarret) … 

had BETRAYED and LIED to the American body politic ? 

================================ 

Is this the “clandestine military intelligence” that Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu shared with GOP Senate and House “leaders” Mitch McConnell and John Boehner prior to Netanyahu’s historic address to the U.S. Congress ? 

Why … exactly why … is the U.S. Military dancing in FEAR around Iran’s incredible military aggression in the Greater Middle East ? 

Was the U.S. Pentagon “compelled” to ALLOW Iranian forces into the very heart of Iraq, where 10,000 Americans soldiers bled and died ? 

Was President Obama’s “inept negotiation” of a “Joint Forces Agreement” for U.S. troops and airbases to stay in Iraq … 

a DIRECT RESULT of an Iranian threat to a launch nuclear strike against Baghdad ? 

Is this why Gen. Petraus was clearly “blackmailed” into resignation by the corrupt Obama administration ? 

================================ 

Gentle readers … WHY have ALL of America and our European allies have played a clearly foolish Dance of Appeasement with Iran over the last few years ? 

================================ 

History students of World War II have often speculated what would have happened if Nazi Germany had successfully developed (say in 1943) both a nuclear weapon and a mid-range V-Series ICBM. 

Then, instead of a messy Polish invasion in 1939, Nazi Germany could have started the war with a VICTORIUS nuclear attack against England (Manchester), France (Verdun), Russia (Leningrad) and Turkey (Ankara) … 

all launched on the same day. 

Nazi Germany would have NOT asked for these nations’ “Unconditional Surrender”. 

Instead … Hitler and Ribbentrop would have simply demanded ALL of North Africa, Jerusalem, the Suez Canal, all French colonies, and all of Poland, and of course, Soviet Russia’s Ukraine. 

================================ 

Americans, isn’t that EXACTLY what the West is doing with Iran RIGHT NOW ? 

Iran demands and annexes the Gaza Strip … 

Iran demands and annexes Iraq and Baghdad … 

Iran demands and annexes Syria … 

Iran demands and annexes Yemen … 

Meanwhile, America and the West argue loudly in public … but dance in abject surrender because the … 

United States fears Chicago being destroyed … 

Great Britain fears Manchester being destroyed … 

France fears Boudreaux being destroyed … 

Israel fears Tel Aviv being destroyed … 

Egypt fears Luxor being destroyed … 

================================ 

Have Iran’s “insane” Islamic Terrorist Mullahs LEARNED the LESSONS of NAZI GERMANY’s military defeat ? 

Are those miliraty lessons NOW being successfully used to bully the West in accepting Iranian rulership over the Greater Middle East ?

Patton gets bonus points for the gratuitous Cavuotos (asking a question instead of making a statement so he can have plausible deniability when called on his nonsense). It’s pretty impressive. The proposition, as I follow it is:

1. Iran already has nuclear bombs (not remotely true)

2. Therefore, Obama should be impeached (doesn’t follow from premise)

3. Iran is the same as Nazi Germany (huh?)

4. The Nazis would have won WW2 if they’d had nuclear weapons they never could have had and they would demanded other nations surrender their most valuable lands.

5. Therefore, that is what Iran is doing RIGHT NOW!

If I didn’t know better, I’d think ol’ Patton was trolling the Freepers. This post is so dumb, so poorly written, so ill-considered that it doesn’t border on self-parody; it violates those borders like….nope, not going to say it.

Anyway, I had to read this dumb thing, so I’m inflicting it on you now. This is “fun” for me. I’m probably a bad person, huh?

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Texas doesn’t seem to get that April fools jokes are supposed to be fictional

Our friends in the Lone Star State pride themselves on being small-government conservatives, so, naturally, they’re all for increasing the funding for a program which doesn’t work. They’re killing their HIV Prevention program (which is a good program) in order to free up more money for abstinence-only education. I’m not going to say that this is essentially a religious program. I’ll let Texas Representative Stuart Spitzer (R-Kaufman) say it for me:

“(My) goal is for everybody to be abstinent until they’re married.”

or, more succinctly:

“What’s good for me is good for a lot of people.”

So that’s really, the standard: ‘People should be like me’ and spending tax dollars to enforce this is a-o-k with Spitzer and his conservative brethren. Abstinence-only education doesn’t work (it also doesn’t increase negative results, so that’s good), but hey, who cares? Wasting state money is fine when we’re shoveling the money to The Right Sort Of People, if you know what I mean…

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Well, at least Obama gets points for answering the WaPo’s question promptly…

Yesterday, the Washington Post posed the question: Has Obama delivered the most transparent administration in history?  That’s a reasonable question given that the President promised to meet this mark when he was sworn in and this promise is prominently displayed on the White House web site. The Post does a nice job examining the evidence and, after some mealy-mouthed qualifications, determines that the answer is “No, but they’ve been better than most.”

Apparently, the President read this article and decided to forcefully respond only hours later….by summarily rejecting all FOIA requests of the executive branch and deleting them. Now, the President may well be acting within the bounds of the law on this, but if memory serves, he made kind of a big deal out of saying that there should be a presumption of openness with regards to all requests. In fact, I don’t have to rely on memory: Here’s the “Presidential Document.”

The WaPo gives him a bit of a pass, noting that the government is big and the bureaucracy is tough to wrangle, but you know what? President Obama knew that when he made the promise. And besides, if there’s any branch he can wrangle, it’s the executive. While I’m pleased to see him respond to the charges so quickly, I rather wish he hadn’t responded with two middle fingers extended.

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Today’s Double-Feature: Privilged Jerks and Redneck Pandering

Phew.

Reading the news does not put one in a good mood, does it? Today’s post is going to be all about racism and won’t have anything to do with the deeply disturbing about institutional racism in police forces. Ta da?

Instead, today I’m writing about how racism truly knows no bounds. You can be an atheist or a Christian, a liberal or a conservative, a celebrity or a, well, non-celebrity, and in this, the land of the free, you can create a stir by being a racist asshole.

We’ll start with Sean Penn. I know the Oscars were a few weeks ago, but he recently went on Bill Maher’s show to, well, basically to talk shit about anyone who said his joke was racist. Of course, his joke was racist: When the joke is about a person’s race (or nationality or religion or whatever) and not about the person, it’s a racist joke.

What really made my day was the way Bill Maher made Penn (and himself) out to be The Real Victim ™:

“I just feel we’re living in this country now where no one can make a joke. No one can have any nuance to what they say. We are just constantly hounded by the politically correct a*sholes out there who want to turn this country into a place that I don’t want to live in…”

Yeah, no…it’s not that “no one can make a joke;” it’s that, when you make a racist joke, people are going to react to it. You used to be able to get away with it, but that like sliver of privilege is slipping away. This is one of those asinine first amendment arguments where the guy wants his free speech and wants to silence the people who criticize his speech.

Speaking of people who can’t keep their arguments straight, have you heard about Arkansas internet country music sensation Jamie Jones? He recorded a song called “Pissed Off Rednecks” which is basically a laundry list of Tea Party gripes set to a country blues melody.

I’m not going to go too deeply into the lyrics. This isn’t a polemic designed to sway opinions or even a heartfelt declaration of beliefs; it’s an angry, incoherent, ditty designed to get clicks for a largely-unknown artist by pandering to a demographic that eats this stuff up. He wants his kids to be able to pray however they want, but if you’re a Muslim, you can just go home. He has the authority to say this because he’s a “real American.” He makes it clear that he doesn’t consider anyone who thinks differently him a member of that club.

On the off chance you want to see it for yourself, here ya go: Pissed Of Rednecks, the video!

Have you ever noticed how many people who call themselves “real Americans” really, really love America but can’t stand Americans?

 

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Why Stop at a Flat Tax?

Ah, the Flat Tax! The panacea of Libertarians and the Extremely Wealthy everywhere! So seductive in its simplicity: A single tax rate for all tax payers, regardless of income. Believe it or not, even I support a slightly modified version of the Flat Tax*. There’s no question that it would reduce the tax-related infrastructure (and tax-evasion infrastructure). Besides, isn’t the Flat Tax more fair (ask the people who, for every other matter of finance or law, insist that “fairness” isn’t a valid consideration)?

So, yeah, the Flat Tax has some attractive features. But then, I read this article about a very wealthy individual in Finland, where they scale fines to the offender’s income. What a brilliant idea! However, I don’t think the folks in Helsinki go nearly far enough. If we’re going to have a Flat Tax, let’s base every cost on the income of the purchaser. Instead of costing, say, $20,000 dollars, the car would cost 35% of your annual income. When it comes to food, of course, you get to some pretty small percentages, but hey, that’s just an incentive to learn math, right?

I get it. I really do. Folks want the benefits of wealth without the costs scaling along with them. I can’t blame ’em for trying. But if you expect me to take that kind of one-sided proposal seriously, you’re going to have to do a better job than the Flat Tax folks have managed thus far.

* In my version, the first quarter million is exempt. After that, there’s a flat rate. Call me a dreamer…

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If you keep sending me poorly-argued emails, I’m going to keep being grumpy

I’m not a grumpy guy. I’m really not. There are, however, things which make me grumpy. You want to know what makes me grumpy? I’ll tell you what makes me grumpy.

Reading something dumb does not make me grumpy. I write dumb things all the time. Ok, it actually makes me a little grumpy when I write dumb things, but I’m pretty forgiving of the transgressions of others in this regard. However, when I read something that’s presented as authoritative and smart and it’s dumb, then I get a little grumpy. When people keep sending me this same dumb story over and over? I get grumpy.

This brings me to a letter from 2009 by a physicist named Howard Hayden. He wrote to the EPA with a “simple one-letter proof” that the science regarding CO2 and the climate was not “settled.” It is, perhaps, the wordiest one-letter proof in the history of one-letter proofs, but that’s not the problem. The problem is that his proof is dumb.

The problem with a one-letter proof is that it is very simple to state, but it takes a lot more effort to rebut. But hey, I’m not doing anything else, so let’s have a go. Here’s the “proof”:

The letter is s, the one that changes model into models. If the science were settled, there would be precisely one model, and it would be in agreement with measurements.

That sounds compelling. Why would there be multiple, very-close-but-not-exact models if we knew everything there is to know about how CO2 affects the climate, right?

Um, no. That’s not right at all. That’s so wrong that I feel like I have to choose between “he wrote something really dumb” and “he’s being dishonest” and I don’t like either of those options.

How can I know he’s wrong? Well, that takes more than a single letter. I’m not an expert on climatology, but I do know something about baseball. So let’s talk about baseball (and models). I am going to tell you that, in baseball, walks are more valuable than stolen bases and that this particular issue is settled.

How do I know this is settled? Neither of them necessarily lead directly to scoring a run, so you can’t do a direct qualitative comparison that way. Instead, you have to do a lot of analysis and build, yes, statistical models. Everyone who’s studied the issue has come to the same conclusion: walks are better than stolen bases. Literally every model arrives at the same conclusion.

Now, none of those models are perfect. None of them can predict, with 100% accuracy, the outcome of any game or season. In fact, sometimes, a stolen base can be more valuable than a walk. Baseball’s complicated. There are exceptions, there are things that we can’t model perfectly about it. But, that doesn’t mean that we can’t derive conclusions from the data. Walks are more valuable than stolen bases. We know enough that we regard this issue as settled. The fact that there is no perfect model does not keep us from reaching this conclusion.

It turns out that the climate is waaaaay more complicated than baseball. There are a lot more factors and that data can’t be measured as precisely. There are, however, many very clever climatologists looking at the data and creating models based on it. They have almost all arrived at the same conclusion. The fact that they have approached it from different angles, using different data sets, and different methods, and still arrived at the same conclusion does not weaken the conclusion as Hayden would have you believe. The fact that, no matter how you approach the question, you get the same answer tends to stengthen the conclusion that CO2 in the atmosphere, from man-made sources, is causing the Earth to grow warmer at an alarming rate.

All of this just to discuss a one-letter proof. And really, all I’m giving you is the summary level stuff.  The real data behind it, even on just the baseball stuff, would fill reams of digital paper. This doesn’t “prove” that global warming is real; all I’m doing is making the point that Hayden’s argument against it is bunk.

The rest of the letter is just as bad. He conflates single data points with vectors. He claims that climate change models make schoolboy errors of assumption when they very clearly don’t (at least he’s not trotting out the canard about climatologists not knowing about clouds). He points out that the Earth’s climate has always been changing and acts as if this proves that we are incapable of impacting this change. He acts as though temperature readings at one point somehow apply to entire ice caps.

It’s really bad. It’s one of the worst things I’ve read in a long time. But, like I said, it merely being dumb isn’t enough to make me grumpy. The fact that Howard Hayden speaks with the authority of a lecturer and he still says dumb things makes me a little grumpy. The fact that people keep sending this to me as though it were revelatory? Now that, my friends, make Uncle Pancakes very grumpy indeed.

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Et tu, Chrome?

At the risk of re-beating a dead horse, Chrome has stopped being the browser-of-choice for quite a few people. This Gizmodo post gets to the core of the issue right in the first paragraph:

Remember when we all switched from Firefox to Chrome? Chrome was stripped down, simple but fast as hell. It was like browsing the web on a whole new computer. These days Chrome is bloated, slow, and constantly crashing on me. I’ve finally reached the breaking point.

Personally, I haven’t seen Chrome crash any more than other browser, but the bloat and lack of speed? Yup. Chrome fills up my Task Manager like it owns the place. I tend to keep a dozen or so tabs open at once and this precludes me doing much of anything else on a more-than-competent gaming rig when I’m browsing. Several gigs of RAM. For a browser. The reason is that Chrome isn’t really a browser anymore, is it? It’s an operating system running on top of another operating system. It’s closer to a virtual machine than a traditional web browser. That makes sense for a Chromebook, I guess. But, for a machine already running a full-bore OS? I’ve been using Firefox ever since my issues with Google and especially Google+ and I’ve never regretted it. I wouldn’t say that Google has lost site of their mission. It’s more like their mission no longer matches my needs.

UPDATE: This Ars Technica review of the Dell XPS 13 makes the same point without really meaning to:

The Bad

  • The year is 2015. 8GB of RAM should be the baseline, with 16GB as an option. 4GB is barely enough to run Chrome.

“4GB is barely enough to run Chrome.”  Yeah. That.

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Presidents Since Nixon Ranked In Order Of Impeachability

Uncle Pancakes is in a Foul Mood. Keep that in mind as you read this list. I suppose the fact that I’d spend a few hours working on a list of Presidents in order of impeachment-worthiness ought to have been a clue, huh? Anyway, this isn’t a discussion of who was good or who wasn’t. I’m only interested in “who did things which ought to have resulted in their removal from office.” With that out of the way…

5-7 (tie): Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush

Why they’re impeachable: I can’t think of any particular action by any of these presidents which would warrant impeachment. I’m not saying that any of them were or were not great leaders; I just don’t think they didn’t do anything to deserve removal from office.

4. Bill Clinton

Why he’s impeachable: Lied about sex with an intern in a civil suit.

The case against Clinton relies on your belief that any lie under oath, no matter how immaterial to your presidency, is enough to remove a President from office. Did he perjure himself? Maybe. Perjury requires not just an untruth but it has to be an untruth about fact, not an interpretation. I personally think he probably did perjure himself, but I have trouble really caring about it. It was a stunt designed to embarrass or entrap the President and it had very little to do with his function as President.

3. Ronald Reagan

Why he’s impeachable: Lied about trading arms for hostages; illegally supported drug lords in an attempt to overthrow a leftist government.

When talking about Reagan, it’s really difficult to explain his charisma to people who don’t remember the eighties. How else can you explain the following quote:

“A few months ago, I told the American people I did not trade arms for hostages. My heart and my best intentions still tell me that’s true, but the facts and evidence tell me it is not.”

So, yeah, he lied, he got caught, and he still claims that he doesn’t really believe he lied. Only Reagan could get away with that. You kind of have to have been there. If Clinton, who was not without charisma himself, had tried that, he’d have been out of office in a heartbeat. That’s not even counting the fact that Reagan’s administration illegally funded the “contras” after Congress passed a law forbidding him from doing so. Sure, Reagan’s lies weren’t “under oath”, but given that he broke the law in some very serious ways I am confident in rating Reagan as more “impeachable” than Clinton.

2. Barack Obama

Why he’s impeachable: Illegal spying on citizens, illegal assassination programs, non-prosecution (and possible continuation of) torture

I’ll start this one by saying that, when the dust settles, Obama could well be number 1 on the list. We don’t know the full scope of what sort of shenanigans have taken place on his watch. The list of things we don’t know enough about is long, but what we do know is troubling. The drone assassination program is a huge problem. The constant litany of lies about the scope of the domestic spying program is a huge problem. The failure to aggressively prosecute anyone and everyone involved in torture is absolutely in violation of the law and there would be no real defense against it. If it turns out that the torture program was expanded under Obama, or if he gets the U.S. into another idiot war? He could yet wind up at the top.

1. George W. Bush

Why he’s impeachable: Manufacturing evidence to drive the country to war, torture, illegal detentions

Of course, Obama’s got some work to do to take over the top spot. It’s one thing not to prosecute torturers; it’s another thing to enable them. One of the common misconceptions about the John Yoo documents is that he was asked to determine if the “enhanced interrogation” techniques were legal and he determined that they were. That’s not it at all: He wasn’t asked to answer a question, he was asked to validate a conclusion which had already been reached.

Look at this way: If I were asked to, I could concoct some way to argue that any baseball player was “great.” I could argue that, say, Steve Christmas was a great player. He hit .364 with a .727 slugging percentage one year, as a catcher! Of course, we all know that Steve Christmas wasn’t a great player, but that’s the point. What Yoo did was not answer the question “Who are the great baseball players”, he was told “Give me a document proving that Steve Christmas was a great player.”

President Bush said that his greatest regret was that Iraq didn’t have any of the weapons he’d claimed they had. The WMD were the strongest of the rationalizations for invading Iraq, and even President Bush admits that they were wrong.

Then, you have to throw in “jailing people indefinitely without charge even after your own people have said that they didn’t do anything” which strikes me as a criminal violation of rights and due process, etc., but I could be wrong. Regardless, I think the most ironclad case for impeachment has to go to George W. Bush…for now, at least.

Now, the real question is: How many of these gents do I really believe are impeachable. I’d say #4-#7 are “definitely not”, #3 (Reagan) is a “maybe”, and #1 and #2 are “definitely.”

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Texas teaches the U.S. Congress a lesson in Asshattery

Oh sure, inviting Netanyahu to speak at a joint session of congress is a pretty big raised middle finger, but that amateur hour compared to how Texas treats the fifth-largest faith in the Lone Star State*.

January 29, a week ago Thursday, was Texas Muslim Capitol Day in Austin. As you might imagine, some Texans did not react with the sort of Southern hospitality you see in films:

“Today is Texas Muslim Capital Day in Austin. The House is in recess until Monday. Most Members including myself are back in District. I did leave an Israeli flag on the reception desk in my office with instructions to staff to ask representatives from the Muslim community to renounce Islamic terrorist groups and publicly announce allegiance to America and our laws. We will see how long they stay in my office.”

Rep. Molly White (R-Belton) on her Facebook page

That’s just the tip of the iceberg. The Texas capital is besieged by Christian protestors mocking, intimidating, and frightening the Texas Muslim community. You might even say “terrorizing.” I know I would.

As much fun as it would go after the protestors, I’d rather go after Representative White’s statement. I’m sure that it is totally legal for a government official to require oaths of allegiance from people based on their religion in order to visit that official’s office. Maybe she should do that with any group. Individuals should be required to denounce any wrongdoing of other individuals of the same group before they enter Rep. White’s office.

If that were the whole story, I’d have probably just let the whole thing pass. This is Texas, though, so of course there’s more. Newly-elected governor Greg Abbot decided to honor “American Sniper” Chris Kyle with his own day just two business days later on 2 February. If you only saw the film, you might think that Kyle was a morally conflicted individual who was not only an outstanding soldier, but also a man who was deeply troubled by the nature of his work.

Yeah, no. That’s not Chris Kyle. Let’s let Chris Kyle tell us a little about Chris Kyle in his autobiography:

 “I don’t shoot people with Korans. I’d like to, but I don’t.”

“I hated the damn savages I’d been fighting. I never once fought for the Iraqis. I could give a flying fuck about them.”

So, let’s review: Texas had a day for Muslims at the state capitol and then went out of its way to make them feel unwelcome. On it’s own, that’s a pretty impressive act of pettiness. Then, two days later, the state announced that it would honor a man who wanted to kill every Muslim with his own day. Congress only wishes it could be that childish.

* In the interest of accuracy, I should mention that the largest group is not the Catholics but the “unclaimed”, whatever that means.

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