Thursday, December 30, 2010


Well, you can tell that August is over because the only people left in the news who are die-hard anti "Ground Zero Mosque" crazies have taken up arms against Justin Bieber because of a hoax interview with him in Tigerbeat. Yeah. That's pretty much it.
Racists used to be a lot thinner. But their taste in shirts was still questionable.

The best faux quote:

“Muslims should be allowed to build a mosque anywhere they want,” the singer said. “Coming from Canada, I’m not used to this level of intolerance, eh.”

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

It's That Time of Year Again

And I'm against the holiday of Kwanzaa.
I'm against it because it's oppressive, hierarchical, and totalitarian.

When I first heard about the holiday of Kwanzaa I thought "Who made that up, a Communist?" And yep, that's exactly right.

Now, I wouldn't be so irked if it were made up by a "communist". But a "Communist"? That's a different story. Specifically the "principle" of Kwanzaa which raised what we might call "red flags" to me is the -- well let me quote Wikipedia on the issue:
Imani (Faith) To believe with all our heart in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.
We're supposed to unquestioningly obey our leaders like sheep? Hey, that's cool with Pol Pot and Ceausescu. Wait a minute, aren't the leaders the ones who got us into this mess in the first place? Isn't the unquestioning "belief" in leaders exactly what Malcolm X's problem with Elijah Mohammad was?

How about we not do that. Hmm?

Whether our leader is George W. Bush or Gustav Stalin, I don't see any reason to "believe with all our heart" in them. Heck, I don't even "believe with all my heart" in Barack Obama. I think he does a good job at a variety of things. But when the facts change, I change my mind.*

Now, to a Communist, the problem with me is that (in their eyes) I'm an anarchist. Which may be technically accurate but isn't terribly descriptive other than that I am inherently distrustful of hierarchical power structures. And they love power structures. So of course one would insert the State, as a principle in Kwanzaa. Why don't they just use a big sign which says OBEY?

Me? I ain't buyin' it. Heck, Catholicism isn't as hierarchical.

Now there's another problem -- the whole "unity" thing.
  • Umoja (unity)—To strive for and maintain unity in the family, community, nation, and race.
This is more complicated than I understand but essentially it seems to be a justification for murdering members of the Black Panthers which, uh, Ron Karenga may very well have done. But that's a subject for another day. And unity as a nation -- isn't that nationalism? And how's that going for everyone? Furthermore, what the hell is unity in race? Really, is there any part of Kwanzaa which the White Citizens Council would disagree with?

So yeah, no. Make up your own religion. Just try to make it less awful than the other religions that are already out there.


*John Keynes

Sunday, December 26, 2010

This is the New York Times on Smack

Now I make fun of neocon Chicago-school economics as much as the next fellow. But this editorial by Margaret MacMillan in the New York Times makes no sense. Either it's spectacularly badly edited by the Christmas Day skeleton crew at the Times or it's just badly thought out. Midway through the essay, titled "Ending the War to End All Wars" she seems to actually change her mind about her point. Here's the final line:

  • In my view Germany could and should have made reparations for its aggression in World War I — but was the risk of renewed war worth forcing it to do so?
Uh. Wait. What? Let me answer the question: "No".

There. Wasn't that easy? Somewhere on the order of a hundred million people died in WWII. So uh, no, it wasn't worth the risk Margaret. Thanks for asking.

Friday, December 24, 2010

I Guess I'm Not the Only One

I guess I'm not the only one saying we shouldn't be deriding Obama for compromising on tax cuts. Here's Gail Collins in the New York Times:

"But let’s admit it. Nothing would have gotten done if Obama hadn’t swallowed that loathsome compromise on tax cuts for the wealthy.
If he’d taken the high road, Congress would be in a holiday war. The long-term unemployed would be staggering into the new year without benefits. The rest of the world would look upon the United States as a country so dysfunctional that it can’t even ratify a treaty to help keep nuclear weapons out of the hands of terrorists. The people who worked at ground zero would still be uncertain about their future, and our gay and lesbian soldiers would still be living in fear."

So as of now, my opinions on Obama are boring because so many people agree. So I'm onto other things. Apparently tomorrow is some kind of holiday.

You Have To Be Kidding Me

You actually named your party "Fianna Fáil"? 

Do you have no sense of irony at all, sir?

OK, so the Irish zeitgeist is entirely dictated by the fact that apparently there's some other country between it and Europe. And for those of you playing along at home, there's plenty of cross-party support for the Irish language. Which is awesome because that's just what we need -- one more damn language in the world.

Why don't the Irish just speak French? That would solve all their problems. A major trading partner,a majority Catholic country, and a language which would make the English secretly resent you? What about speaking French isn't perfect for Ireland?

Will the Irish government listen to me? Noooooooo. Should they? Of course. But they won't.

In any case, this is my prediction: whether the Irish economy tanks or skyrockets, it will be held up as an example of why the anti-Keynes market policies are the Only True Way. And note that it doesn't matter what policies the government undertakes, just like with South Korea in the 80's and 90's the data will be cherry-picked.

I don't make many political predictions but this is an easy one.


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Why Do I Bother

Even having a political blog when basically John Scalzi says it all for me?

Independent of the basic stupidity of not actually attempting to raise revenue, and purely on the political calculus side of things, Obama did what Obama does — looked at the landscape, found the solution that best suited his needs and then got people to agree to it and passed it into law. He let the GOP keep its precious tax cut for the richest 2% of Americans and in return got extended unemployment benefits and additional stimulus funding. Somewhere in there he may have also wrangled GOP support for the DADT repeal and/or START ratification; we’ll find out soon.
But even without those two things, a) he got a lot done that he wanted to get done b) before Congress got much more difficult for him to deal with, c) gave up relatively little, politically speaking, to do it and d) made himself look reasonable (and reasonably “bipartisan”) doing it. Add that to the pile of things he managed to get done over the last two years, which is by any measure a large and remarkable pile, despite unified, energetic political opposition and political allies with the organizational skills of the Keystone Cops. Someone tell me again how this president is naive/fumbly/doesn’t get things done. 

The Perfect is the Enemy of the Good

So Krugman, the Nobel winning anti-Chicago School economist... uh...

One thing that's interesting about him is that he seemingly didn't go so far in the direction of the Keynesians 'till relatively late in his career.

But anyway, since Obama has been in office, Krugman has been the voice on the left decrying the bailouts as not enough. I think he's gotten less hard on Obama after the first tumultuous months in part because of a realization that politics ain't as easy as thinkin' about things.
Here he says
"Free-market fundamentalists have been wrong about everything — yet they now dominate the political scene more thoroughly than ever". 
Mmm... I'm not buying that. Bush actually had an Ann Rand neophyte as a Chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank. Just because Rand Paul is the head of some idiot Republican Senate committee doesn't mean that the Free-market fundamentalists dominate the political scene more thoroughly than ever. It certainly means they haven't gone away and that their noise machine is powerful. But "more than ever" sounds like hyperbole to me.
But here's my big question: how accurate has Krugman been? It seems that he too was surprised at how well the bailouts and the stimulus worked.  But I don't really know. And to do a study of how accurate Krugman's predictions have been would take a lot of work and resources. Has anybody done it?

Sunday, December 19, 2010

On the Gays and the Jews

Even a cursory examination of the history and culture of the Western world would demonstrate the outsized importance (in comparison to their population) of Jews and Gays.
Artists, writers, innovators, wherever you look you're going to find Jews and Gays.
This, although it sounds rather troll-full, is fairly self evident.
My question is: why?
Why indeed?
Modern Judaism (the past 1000 or so) practically requires literacy as a tenant of belief. Uh, so maybe that's part of it. And maybe I'm drawing a correlation (Gays and Jews) which doesn't exist. Perhaps I'm just doing it because it seems like a shocking thing to say. Ooh -- I'm being "provocative".
The thing of it is though, it seems to be true.
This question has been on my mind for some time and I don't really know what more to think of it.
Perhaps something that they have in common is an "outsider" status in our culture. Perhaps there is something innate in being able to look at a culture from slightly outside it, or by having a foot in another culture, which is illuminating and bears the fruit of innovation.
I don't really know. All I know is that I've otherwise wasted your time reading this rumination. When you've gotten it all figured out, though, make sure to get back to me.
In the meantime, here's a picture of Meydl, thinking.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Magical Presidents

For some reason the Left in America seems to think that the President is magical and has magical secret powers to do whatever he so desires (meaning that if things aren't turning out to be a perfect utopia when you elect a Democratic President, it must be his fault), while the Right seems to have a more pragmatic view.
The American Left (and I know all four of them so my views are well-informed) turned on Clinton right away after he was elected in the 90's, blaming him for being, somehow, just as bad as Reagan and Bush.
Yet some how the Teaparty crazies continued to love G. W. Bush right up 'till the end, thinking that (literally) "God is in office."
I suspect, well actually I know, that a substantial portion of the four people who make up the American Left actually prefer to have a Republican in office. It's more fun. The evil of the President's policy is clear-cut. Like for instance, when we're talking about the difference between Republicans and Democrats we're talking about people being killed in the hundreds of thousands (war in Iraq) rather than whether a tax bill compromise is too weak even though it retains emergency Unemployment benefits.

I suppose that I can't say it better than John Rogers:
Last fall:

Republicans: Jesus, you're just voting for Hopey McChangey because he's a great speaker and he's promising unicorns and rainbows of change.
Democrats: How condescending. No, I'm voting for Obama based on his stated policy goals and his deliberative nature. We are, after all, the reality-based community.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Obama, the Perfect Republican

Barack Obama. Socialist. Fascist. Muslim. Radical Black Nationalist Christian.


Here's my complaint about the American Left:

Remember back in the days when Bush was "elected" over Gore? The argument the Left was proposing was that Bush and Gore were exactly the same.

And boy were they wrong about that.

The same thing is happening now to Obama. Of course, the terms the left uses are pretty vague, there normally aren't any specific policy differences. He "is" a Republican because he doesn't "fight" them. Or he's "capitulated" or something.

Which to me doesn't really make any sense. The Republicans have been fighting somebody tooth-and-nail since Obama was elected. They have been filibustering like crazy. I mean, they filibustered the 911 first responders bill. They're not going to let an extension of unemployment benefits go through.

And both morally and economically we need that extension. Now, Obama could be perfect ideologically and sit there and just say "I have principles and I won't allow you to extend Bush-era tax cuts for the rich and I don't care if that also means we won't extent unemployment insurance". But that would just shut down our entire economy and do dreadful things to the lives of hundreds of thousands of people.

And that, of course, would make him a Republican.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Whither Puppies and Toast?

My sister wanted me to make a strictly political blog.

I suppose the first post should serve as an FAQ of some sort. So I'll start with the name.

Why "Puppies and Toast"?
This came about last year when my sister was talking to my stepmom about something she read on Huffington Post. My dad, who's hard of hearing, stood there for a moment and started laughing. "What, what?" my sister and mom said. My dad replied "I thought you said you read it in "Puppies and Toast".

So what are your politics?
My personal politics are to the left. Or at least what counts for the Left in America. Sort of like a French Socialist, or a late Mitterandist I suppose.
But that's not my real issue.

What's your real issue?
I am against ideology.

Being against ideology sounds like an ideology.
Doesn't it though? I suppose that my ideology is "whatever works". We shouldn't be mired in ideological decision making because as it turns out, ideology makes you stupid.

Really? A lot of people think that ideology gives you a lens through which to see things more clearly.
And it turns out they're wrong. People with more flexible world views tend to be able to predict future events from present circumstances better than ideologues.

Give me examples of a couple "anti-ideologues".
John Keynes and Malcolm X.

You know, you very seldom hear those two names put together in an answer to a question.
Welcome to my world.

Why would you consider them "anti-ideologues". Malcolm X in particular...
Because they were able to change their minds.

That would be true of a lot of neo-cons too, many of them started as Trotskyists.
But they didn't change their minds when the facts changed. And they stayed ideologues, they just flipped ideologies.

What do you think about free markets?
I've never seen a free market. I keep hearing about them. I think of them the way I think of unicorns. They sound pretty. They belong in fiction books.

So you don't believe in free markets?
I don't believe in free markets in that I don't believe they exist. It's not that I'm against them, I don't "believe" in them in the same way I don't believe in unicorns.

What if I showed you a real unicorn?
Then I'd change my mind. About unicorns.

So then what's your take on conservatism?
Well what is conservatism? In the US it (apparently) means radicalism. If by "conservative" you mean "Hey, let's not change stuff too much, let's not go crazy" then you're certainly not describing anybody who's remained in the Republican Party.

You're kind of like a communist, but you're a conservative.
I'm not inherently opposed to State control of certain things, but I don't think we should ever go into anything willy-nilly or because "God told us to" or because the ideology in a particular book says we should. I don't believe in free-market ideology either. Sometimes one thing works, sometimes another thing works.

That's awfully wishy-washy.
Yes. And that's a good thing. Being wishy-washy is a good way to avoid being a war criminal or committing crimes against humanity. Revolutionaries who've killed millions are never called wishy-washy.
Thoughtful, insightful, people frequently are.

Whoa! I didn't know you were going to go there.
I'm a mad-dog, vehement, moderate.

So you like everyone, right?
Nope, I'll point out stupid stuff every time I see it.