Monday, February 28, 2011

Monday Outrage [Revised Once]

Punitive damages are a tax write-off. I'm stunned. The idea of punitive damages (P.D.), which are not that easy to get, is to punish a wrong-doer for conduct that is worse than mere negligence. For a more detailed discussion of things like the burden of proof for allowing punitive damages, see here.

The SCOTUS has already placed a cap on P.D. Essentially, the Court said it violates Due Process if the damages are "too high." I find the idea laughable, as P.D. is the jury's way of punishing non-criminal bad conduct. In any case, companies already have a cap to their liability thanks to the Court. Add to that the fact that the P.D. award is tax-deductible, and you have really handicapped the only effective means of discouraging outrageous bad conduct.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Tom Tomorrow Is Awesome

A history lesson from the Tea Party

Beaten To The Punch, Again

One of the things that makes blogging frustrating for me is that the vast majority of subjects I want to write about are covered elsewhere before I get time to write them up. So, this blog is probably going to have to serve mostly as an aggregation (The Brianington Post) site, with a little bit of original content, from me, anyway. Jon is better about being creative and original than I am. Oh well.

So, one topic I am interested in is showing how deeply unrepresentative the Federal Government actually is. Huge majorities favor programs that not only don't get enacted, but won't even merit discussion. I plan to write about why that is, but someone else will probably beat me to it. Actually the link below touches on some of it.

In the mean time, the post linked below [via Balloon Juice] is a great example of  the thwarting of majority will by the powers that be in D.C.

What the People Want Versus What The People Get

Monty Python - Philosophers' World Cup

One of the very best Monty Python sketches. Not to be found among the collections available on DVD, I proudly offer you this glimpse of sheer comedy genius.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Shop'd: Parah Salin

Bringing Brian's brainchild to fruition, here is Sarah Palin-style Parah Salin.

3 to 2

[via LG&M]

Another judge upholds the A.C.A. You will NEVER guess the judge's preferred political party.

I'll just highlight the central point: In the context of health care, the activity/inactivity distinction that has been used to hold the A.C.A. unconstitutional is meaningless.

Shoot 'Em [Updated Twice]

[via Balloon Juice]

This is the opinion of the [Update #2: now formerDeputy Attorney General of Indiana, regarding the protesters in Wisconsin. When a commenter at the DailyKos says Walker should be given the Mussolini treatment, we'll be assured that "the Left does it, too."

[Update #1]
This is charming.  The good Gov. of Wisconsin, taking a call from who he believes is David Koch, has some interesting things to say about the protests, and taking payoffs. Have a read. And when the "Recall Scott Walker" campaign gets underway, I'll provide a link to the donation page.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Why Glenn Beck Hates Google.

Glenn Beck's latest conspiracy theory is targeting the search-engine-cell-phone-basically-everything-you-use-on-the-computer giant Google. Apparently, the company is slowly turning American youth into godless socialists or something. Alternet has an interesting write-up explaining the real motivations behind this seemingly random theory he has developed. Ruper Murdoch? Glenn Beck? Steve Jobs? What's not to hate?

Friday, February 18, 2011

It's Getting Hot In Here

Handy-dandy list of AGW denier arguments, and the facts to debunk them.

Underappreciated Music: Joe Walsh

Part One of what may turn out to be a series.

For those of you who don't know, Joe Walsh is a singer, songwriter, and a really fine guitarist.

His first albums were recorded with the James Gang. "Funk #49" is one of the best-know tracks from that band.
With his next band, Barnstorm, he had a #23 hit in "Rocky Mountain Way."

Thursday, February 17, 2011

A New Assault In The War On Labor, Wisconsin Front [Updated Twice]

[Update #2: Politifact has checked the claim that Gov. Walker created the budget problem, and that there was a surplus, which I repeated belwo (see highlights). Not so.
[Update #1: The right-wing Club For Growth has run a deceptive ad calling for public employees to "sacrifice." Fact-check here. The forces of anti-labor are strong, indeed. (Bonus idiocy, their website has climate-change denial on it).]

It is my considered opinion that the Republican claims to care about fiscal responsibility are, at least in large part, based not on budget concerns, but on a fundamental antipathy to the modern welfare state. Analysis of almost any issue concerning balanced budgets will show that the Republican position, in full, is obviously not designed to promote fiscal responsibility or balance. It is designed to provide a pretext for the destruction of social programs and institutions that their ideology opposes. This topic has been written about extensively at several of the blogs on the links page here.

Newly-elected Governor of Wisconsin, Scott Walker, has provided one of the most stark examples of this deceitful propaganda by proposing to eliminate collective bargaining rights for 175,000 state employees. He also wants state employees to pay half the cost of their pensions and at least 12.6% of their health care premiums. Story linked here. Another story here. In essence, he wants to override an agreed-upon contractual obligation of the state, and then eliminate the right of workers to collectively bargain ever again for such terms.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Skip the Book, Movie, and Cliffs Notes... Just Play the Game!

Most movies nowadays have a video game tie-in and they usually suck. Like ET. One of the more rare inspirations for video games is classic literature, but between Lord of the Rings and Dante's Inferno (to some degree) the genre DOES exist. Back in the hayday of the original NES, there was one novel which it seems everyone wanted to play through on their TV sets. Fortunately, through the magic of web-based games, those people can finally fulfill their desires. Without further ado, here is F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby in 8bit glory.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Atlas Hugged [Updated Once]

The title is a combination of my intent to honor Valentine's Day and the impending release of "Atlas Shrugged (The Musical Movie)." I'm not going to say anything more about V-Day, because I loathe Hallmark holidays. Yes, I know I just said I was going to honor it. But foolish consistency is the mind of an orc, or something.

Speaking of orcs, I will now share my favorite quote about A.S.:
There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old’s life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs. --John Rogers, on the blog Kung Fu Monkey


A clip!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Awful Foreign Ripoffs of Varying Quality American Films

Previously, I posted a video exploring the art of "remixing" as it applies to cinema. The basic gist of the video was that films will inevitably draw some form inspiration from an existing entity. From remakes to homages, the degree to which concepts are borrowed can vary greatly. With Hollywood's current deficit in originality coming under fire from critics all over, I think it's an excellent time to take a look at some of the less inspired films (read: blatant ripoffs) from other countries.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Adam and Eve(rybody Else Accepts Evolution More Than We Do)

OK, not everybody. In Turkey, a smaller percentage accept evolution. And probably in some of the more backwards places on Earth, I suppose. But we pride ourselves on being "better" than that, don't we? Otherwise, we have a higher percentage of people in this country who reject evolution than in any of the so-called developed nations.

There are many factors that might explain why American students rank far behind their peers around the world in math, reading, and science. Unlike some other metrics, like GDP, I actually care about being #1. Or darn close.

One of the first areas people address is spending. In terms of spending, we rank tied for 37th in education spending as a percentage of GDP. A comprehensive overview of the statistic can be found here. Not bad, not great. This leads to the question of, "How effective is simply spending more?" This is a complex topic, which I will not address in this post.

Money Funny

I found this amusing. More so because Mankiw is a douche bag. And a great example of how a very "respectable" institution like Harvard can still employ a person who is a deeply biased ideologue (which is totally inconsistent with my definition of "smart"). I encourage a healthy disrespect for academics based solely on where they are employed. After all, history's greatest monster, Milton Friedman, taught a the University of Chicago, where his delusions still poison the air.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Something About Counting Chickens

As a follow up to Jon's earlier post, I must be the bearer of bad news. As explained in this article, the provisions of the PATRIOT Act that did not pass are not dead. Zombie law!

Auto-Tune the News

The newest Auto-Tune the News video is out. This time they managed to get Weezer. Amusing as always, however it is not as great as the smoking lettuce one.

Random Thought

Fox News hates the U.N. so much that they deleted those letters from "Fair & Balanced."

Median Girls

"Figures often beguile me, particularly when I have the arranging of them myself; in which case the remark attributed to Disraeli would often apply with justice and force: "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics."
- Mark Twain

I love statistics. Understandably, this makes me quite popular with the ladies. It also means I have no friends. But dammit, if loving statistics is wrong, then I don't want to be within three standard deviations of right.

In college, I took a stats course that focused on, get this, understanding how statistics works. Radical, I know. I never had to memorize any formulas or equations, and tests were open-note. This may sound like I went to school in Alabama, but I assure you, my memory and my diploma tell me I went to U.C. Irvine.

Sciency Words Are Cool

My dad and I once had a conversation about how fun it is to make up technical-sounding words. I suppose the fact that we both have careers that involve a lot of jargon makes this kind of thing particularly funny to us.

The following is a masterpiece of nonsense.

Mocking As Medicine

Over at World O'Crap, the ever-brilliant Scott has uncorked a bottle of Doc Clevenger's Old Time Fastibulating Concoctory Biologic.

This is top-grade stuff right here.

For some background on this nontroversy, see here.

Oh, and we're on W O'C's blogroll. I geeked out when I saw that.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

PATRIOT Act, Shmatriot Shmact

At last, three key provisions of the Patriot Act failed to pass the vote for an extension. The provisions included FBI wiretaps, obtaining library and business records, and surveillance on "lone wolves." Even more surprising, however, is seeing Tea Partiers voting against the bill. Good riddance to this abusive measure.

And now, The Melvins and Jello Biafra:

This Land Is Our Land

And so I wade into the troubled seas of the Israel-Palestine issue. Some prefatory remarks are in order.

I support the existence of the State of Israel. I mean like I'd support full-scale American military intervention in an invasion or full-scale American retaliation against attackers.

My feelings about the policy choices of Israel towards the Palestinians is another matter. It is obviously a complex, multi-faceted issue. Suffice to say I stop short of "anything Israel does is right."

Jesus Christ

This is bad. Really, really bad. No disrespect to their faith, except insofar as all faith is irrational, etc. But my goodness, this is so many kinds of bad all in one, I have to wonder if I were The Big Carpenter, would I be happy about this? Bad singing, bad dancing, bad acting, bad grammar, just a big ol' smorgasbord of bad. The end credits, however, are hysterical, in a good way.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Lazy Sunday Blogging [Updated Once]

St. Ronnie Raygun's 100th Anniversary. It's too overwhelming a task for me to begin to take this one on, so I'm outsourcing to TruthOut. Be sure to read the links in this article to get the flavor (Warning: Very Bitter) of what this twisted monstrosity of a man did to this country. It boggles the mind how much theft and criminality his administration was able to pull off. The Bush That Ate America grew from the seeds of Reagan. Rot in hell, Ronnie.

[UPDATE:] More on the moron here.

Egypt and Democracy and Religion.. Oh My!

Earlier this week, Glenn Beck was "educating" his listeners about the situation in Egypt and why it is all freedom-loving Americans should be terrified. For a marginally more tolerable rendition of this asinine drivel, you can view a discussion of it on Chris Matthews here. Essentially, Beck is "planting his flag" in the camp of UFO-landing, lunar landing hoaxing, government mind controlling conspiracy nuts. He believes a strategic avoidance of bombing in the region of Ancient Babylon will seat a great evil: an Islamic Caliphate.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

You Gotta Have A Plan, Man

Below is a link to a short article about the consequences of repealing the A.C.A., and the lack of any effective Republican alternative. There is more to the law than people realize. While I recognize the impossibility of the Republicans actually repealing it (if for no other reason than Obama will never sign any repeal bill into law), it is instructive to see how they approach the issue. I can only hope this repeal nonsense will  demonstrate how deeply unserious the G.O.P. is about health reform, and about the most pressing issue of the day: the economy. Where's the jobs bill, Mr. Weeper Speaker?

The alternatives to the health care law

Be sure to read the comments.

It is a sign of pure partisanship when one side fails to mention the good parts of a law, or put forth any realistic alternative. The fact that the A.C.A. is essentially the 1990s Republican alternative to President Clinton's proposal (HillaryCare), and yet they demonize it so heavily, is yet another example of the rightward shift of the G.O.P. in that last 20 years. Keep that shift in mind when you hear people talk about Left/Right in this country.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Friday In Your Face

Try to imagine what it would have been like to be a rock music fan in England in 1970, having never heard Led Zeppelin. Your mate gets an extra ticket, you go along, and this is how you are "introduced."

Fun fact: John Bonham was 21 in this video. 21. Years. Old. Jeepers.

Controversy and Cinema

Time Out Boston has compiled a top 50 list of the most controversial movies in cinematic history. Normally, I try to shy away from the issue of lists due to their arbitrary and typically entirely subjective nature ("My Top 10 Low Budget Eurasian Mumblecore Movies of 2004-2008"). This list, however, is both informative and thought-provoking.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

What About the Opinions That UPHELD The A.C.A.?

Via Balloon Juice, a post about the lack of media coverage of the rulings that upheld the A.C.A.

Who’s Missing?

Everything Is A Remix

Kirby Ferguson is putting together an ongoing series of videos in which he discusses the evolution and rise in popularity of the art of remixing throughout different mediums. I have posted embedded both videos, but in reverse order because the second one speaks to my passion for cinema. I really appreciate the neutral tone which he presents the subject, neither endorsing nor condemning the act of remixing. The first installment on music is after the break.

F*ck It We'll Do It... Taped!

About a month ago, everyone's favorite professional irritant, Bill O'Reilly, decided to take it upon himself to defend the victimized Christians from the hateful attacks (read as: billboards) of the American Atheists. In this "discussion" Billy resorts to his typical shouting, cutting off, and insulting his guest. The real meat of this particular interview came at the end, when Bill proves the existence of a deity with a rather confusing source of evidence: the tide. (I suspect Mr. O'Reilly may be a Juggalo once the cameras stop rolling)

English Is Not Our Offical (sic) Language

We don't have an "official" language. In case anyone cares, about 9% of Americans don't speak English. I don't know if that includes people like this:

Being from California, and being a BIG fan of the contributions of immigrants, I have no tolerance for nativist crap. "Oh noes, their (sic) coming to take over my country" won't fly with me. Does anybody think the huddled masses from Europe arrived speaking English? Or that at least 9% didn't speak it at any given time?


I Suppose Some Introductions Are In Order

As of today, I have been invited by your gracious host Brian to contribute to this blog. I have a feeling this is due to a recent barrage of posts on Facebook that have most likely been slightly overbearing for most of my friends. Anyway, I am a recent college graduate in International Studies working part time, so I am left with a moderately unhealthy amount of free time as I seek the coveted "big boy job." Hopefully, this will be a mutually beneficial endeavor, both giving me something to do as well as bringing insightful and stimulating discussion. Looking forward to being read by you. Yes, you.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Fatal Fallacies, Part II (Electric Boogaloo)

"A penny saved is a penny earned." - Ben Franklin.

Ol' Ben was an interesting fellow. He was most certainly a genius, and as a Founding Father, his legacy is untouchable, except by liberals who hate America and want to tell you the truth that the FFs were actually human. But I'm not here to talk about Ben. I'm here to point out that this famous saying is a load of horse dung. Well, let me be more fair. The idea that there is some nobility in the 21st century in saving is just plain false. It is rather counter-productive.

Now, I am not saying people should save nothing. It makes a lot of sense to have cash on hand, and it makes a LOT of sense to plan for your future that you hope you'll have (ooh, dark). That planning involves saving and/or investing. I'll leave it to the pros to get into the details on this topic.

What I'd like to disabuse you of is the notion that your savings somehow leads to economic growth. You know, keep your money in the bank, the bank lends it out, people do great things with your money the bank lent them at a profit, and we all live happily ever after. Poppycock. Or so says Mr. Vickrey:

Why Safe Sex Is Important

To my dear friends across the pond:
(content after the break, it is NSFW and very rude)

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Taxes, But No Death [Updated Once]

As Ben Franklin supposedly said, "Our new Constitution is now established, and has an appearance that promises permanency; but in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes." I'm much too afraid of death to post about that.

There are a few things everyone must understand when thinking about the issue of taxation:

1. There are numerous kinds of taxes. Numerous levels of government have the power to tax. The city, county, state, and Federal governments all can levy taxes. So when you hear something like "50% of people pay no taxes," you will realize this is ignorant. Of course they pay taxes. Every time they fill up, they pay the gas tax. Every time they shop (rules vary from state-to-state), they pay taxes. Now, it is true that about 47% of households paid no Federal income tax in 2009. This is not the same thing as paying "no" tax. [UPDATE: Median household income in 2009 was $49,777. This means most, if not all of those households who paid no Federal Income Tax in 2009 made less than this.] 

F*ucking Constitution, How Does It Work?

In response to my first-ever request:

The United States Constitution. Much is made of it, and so few understand it. Mainly the ones who waive it around a lot. I'm not even going to try to explain everything about it here, as if I could anyway. What I wish to address are some of the basics of how it interacts with our present-day society, and how it is interpreted. Suffice to say there are several schools of thought on how to interpret the document, some more appealing to me than others, but I won't break it down that far.

For all of the genius of the document, and despite the fact that it has been the basis of our national government for over 200 years, it is a vague document. I believe it is intentionally so. Some are familiar with the contents, and like to throw the words therein around as if they have some kind of obvious, inherent meaning. Not so. In fact, we have a body of Constitutional Law dating back to the founding of the Republic. The power of the SCOTUS to interpret to Constitution is embodied in the Marbury v Madison decision in 1803. This established the power of "judicial review."

Well I'll Be A Monkey's Uncle

Or, it will be my great great great grandfather. Or something.

The shameful ignorance of our elected officials never ends. Sometimes I see stuff like this:

Rep Jack Kingston (R., Ga): I Didn’t Come From A Monkey

and I think, "If they only understood what the theory of evolution actually says, then maybe.."

The reality sets in. They do not want to understand. They can't. People like this were raised with a particular view of the world, in this case, I am sure, one informed by the teachings of Christianity. Not the moral or spiritual teachings. The teachings about historical and scientific facts. Some people believe that they must interpret the Bible literally. This is awesomely stupid. It leads to backwards thinking. It is an abdication of reason. It flies in the face of reality. And it explains much of the otherwise inexplicable stupidity of some of the American electorate. Faith-based "thinking" isn't thinking at all. It is adherence to a counter-factual set of beliefs that are flatly contradicted by science. And it is, insofar as it influences public policy, very dangerous. I'll discuss that a little more elsewhere.

If one chooses to turn to religion, then I respect that choice. If one incorporates the guidance that religion can provide on how to live a good life, whatever that means, fine. I do my best to judge people based on their actions, not their religious affiliation, if any. I still think they believe in a magical sky man for whom there is no evidence whatsoever, and I still think much of religion (as opposed to spirituality) is just plain silly. But those are my opinions, and I would not seek to impose those on anyone. The problem with certain religious people is that they impose their views, consciously or not. People like Rep. Kingston impose darkness on the human race by their ignorance. There are many examples. The Congressman who cited God's covenant to not destroy the Earth again (gee, thanks Lord) as a reason to ignore climate change is, through his ignorance fueled by faith-based thinking, pursuing choices that will cause direct harm to millions of people.