Saturday, March 31, 2012

Wherein Joe Nocera Makes A Really Dumb Argument

See if you can follow this: Orwell and March Madness

If you’ve been watching the N.C.A.A. men’s basketball championship — a k a March Madness — you’ve undoubtedly seen the commercial. It’s an N.C.A.A. ad that shows college athletes pumping iron, running sprints and playing games. The voice-over, though, talks not about athletic achievement but academic accomplishment. “African-American males who are student-athletes are 10 percent more likely to graduate,” says the narrator. As the ad concludes, a female athlete looks into the camera and says, “Still think we’re just a bunch of dumb jocks?”...

Is it true that black male athletes have a higher graduation rate than other students? It is not.

Notice the pea getting moved? Nocera say the ad is making a claim the ad certainly does not make. The ad only claims that black male student athletes graduate more often than black make non-athletes, which is interesting to know. Nocera misrepresents the ad in order to say it is lying, but the only person lying here is Nocera.

In fact, Nocera goes off the deep end and claims:

The N.C.A.A. has created several other Orwellian concepts, such as an Academic Progress Rate, which allows it to use data to create the illusion that athletes are doing better academically than their peers.... ...In comparing college basketball players with their true peer group — full-time college students...

What? So comparing black males athlete with black male non-athletes is not a "true peer" group comparison? On what planet? Really, Joe says comparing black athletes with, for example, white suburban kids who graduated in the Top 15% of their high school class would be a "true peer" comparison, while comparing a black football player from Detroit with other non-athletes blacks would be "Orwellian." Uh, OK.... good luck with that. Look there is plenty to criticize the NCAA for, but you don't have to do it so ineptly, or so dishonestly.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

A Public Service From The Iconic Midwest

In case you were contemplating spending part of your day reading one or more of the varied and sundry liberal accounts of the recent Supreme Court's questioning of the law known as Obamacare, let me offer you instead this short précis :

The sad fact is this is fairer to their reaction than their depiction of the arguments against the individual mandate.

As Andrew Klavan puts it:

Listening to MSM reports about the Supreme Court judges questioning lawyers on ObamaCare has been kind of comical. As Rand Simberg points out, both the media and the government’s lawyers seemed wholly unprepared for the basic questions from the judges — questions they would have heard a million times by now if they ever actually listened to conservative commentators instead of simply demonizing them. The conservative judges especially are only asking what Tea Partiers at town hall meetings have been asking since the bill was passed: “If the government can force you to buy insurance for your own good, what CAN’T it force you to do?”

Well, Klavan is wrong about one thing. They have answered this question. It just so happens that the answer is "nothing" and they are afraid to admit it in plain language.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Look! Something New & Shiny!

Why do bloggers jettison their own past? I ask because from time to time I look back at posts from the not all that distant past here at the Iconic Midwest and discover that the things I linked to simply don't exist anymore. At some point the sites have been "updated" to the latest and the greatest thing and as a result much of what had been on their site has been discarded. I know in many ways this is ephemeral stuff, but it does give us a unique perspective on just what we were thinking way back when. So the loss of so much material is a shame. Even when sites, like The Moderate Voice, have kept all of their posts they almost always lose user comments, which is a shame as some of my best work (and most fun arguments) took place in the comments section on those early days of TMV.

The Iconic Midwest won't ever change, as long as Blogger is still around. Every post and every comment ever posted here will remain, as long as I can keep myself from being distrac....

Hey! Look at THAT!!!!!!!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Irrationality. Its Whats For Breakfast...

....lunch AND dinner. I'm beginning to think this must have been what it was like to live in the days of the Weimar Republic. Everything these days, and I do mean everything, is not just politicized, it is linked to specific forms of political action in such a way that once the table has been set nothing can shift it; not facts, not reason, not reality itself. As a result every meme is clung onto with ferocious tenacity, not matter how ridiculous it may turn out to be or how divorced from reality we later discover it is.

Once something has been viewed as a useful political tool it will not be discarded, even if reality itself (or one's perception of it) has to be altered. In the name of political expediency everything is fair game, and dishonesty is something only the "other guy" does.

It doesn't even matter what we are talking about here. I can speak generically because this pattern fits just about every political topic one wants to talk about. That is the point. The content of political discourse isn't important anymore.  Political discourse, as such, simply doesn't exist in this society. What passes for such discourse is merely the tribal identifiers we use to differentiate "Us" from "Them." The scariest part of it is the more one is afflicted with this pathology the more likely it is you will selected by the media as the ones to set the terms of the "debate."

Thursday, March 22, 2012

"Political Science A 'Gaffe'" Says New York Times

Who knew? Romney’s Day to Relish Is Marred by Aide’s Gaffe

Mitt Romney sought to use the coveted endorsement of Jeb Bush on Wednesday to amplify his call for Republicans to rally behind his candidacy and get on with the mission of ousting President Obama....

...But if the endorsement held the potential to further choke off the oxygen to Mr. Santorum’s insurgent candidacy, the Romney campaign inadvertently gave Mr. Santorum a new supply when a senior adviser went on CNN and seemed to suggest that Mr. Romney’s conservative positions in the primary season could change like an Etch A Sketch drawing.

“I think you hit a reset button for the fall campaign,” Eric Fehrnstrom, a longtime adviser to Mr. Romney, said in response to a question about pivoting to a matchup with Mr. Obama and appealing to moderate swing voters. “Everything changes. It’s almost like an Etch A Sketch. You can kind of shake it up and restart all over again.”

OK, fine. I realize the Santorum and Gingrich campaigns are desperate, and will say any damn fool thing in a vain attempt to bolster their fading relevance, but why is the Times endorsing such foolishness?

And it is foolish. One thing Political Science has shown us very clearly is that candidates run towards their party's ideological base during primaries and run towards the center in general elections. Every candidate has the "do over" moment, usually on television at the moment of their nomination acceptance speech, where they stop focusing on the base. We all know this. Its a truism of American politics.

How can acknowledging a truism be a "gaffe"? The short answer is, it can't. The more cynical among us might speculate on the motives of the Times in portraying this unremarkable statement the way they are. For example, they may be panicked
at the idea of the GOP coalescing around Romney at this early date - a date far earlier than the Democrats managed in 2008 I might add - so this is their feeble attempt to keep the contest going a little longer. Who knows.

The way it looks, however, is that the Times is simply ignorant of the most basic parameters of American politics.

Sadly, that sounds just as plausible.

Stasis And The Left

Surprise, surprise; George Will has something worth reading: The inexorable march of creative destruction

After 244 years — it began publication five years before the 1773 Boston Tea Party — the Encyclopaedia Britannica will henceforth be available only in digital form as it tries to catch up to reference Web sites such as Google and Wikipedia. Another digital casualty forgot it was selling the preservation of memories, a.k.a. “Kodak moments,” not film.

America now is divided between those who find this social churning unnerving and those who find it exhilarating. What Virginia Postrel postulated in 1998 in “The Future and Its Enemies: The Growing Conflict Over Creativity, Enterprise and Progress” — the best book for rescuing the country from a ruinous itch for tidiness — is even more true now. Today’s primary political and cultural conflict is, Postrel says, between people, mislabeled “progressives,” who crave social stasis, and those, paradoxically called conservatives, who welcome the perpetual churning of society by dynamism.

I have often found this aspect of the American Left unusual. Be it the longing for the artificial industrial dominance of the U.S. after World War II or the period of social upheaval labelled "The 60's"; the strange desire to stop "climate change" when change is what climate does by definition (and as if any given climate has any claim to being the best or most proper climate); and countless other examples.

Maybe it all stems from the irrational notion that somewhere out there there must be an egghead who can solve our problems, or maybe it is simply a lack of vision and a deficiency in historical knowledge. Whatever the root cause, it certainly results it an outlook which can be as often regressive as progressive, backward looking as often as forward looking.

Very strange.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Why The Democratic Party Simply Is Not An Option For Me

From The Volokh Conspiracy:
The Supreme Court today issued a unanimous decision in favor of the property owners in the important case of Sackett v. EPA... Justice Alito’s concurring opinion includes a particularly clear description of what was at stake:
The position taken in this case by the Federal Government—a position that the Court now squarely rejects—would have put the property rights of ordinary Americans entirely at the mercy of Environmental Protection Agency(EPA) employees.

The reach of the Clean Water Act is notoriously unclear. Any piece of land that is wet at least part of the year is in danger of being classified by EPA employees as wetlands covered by the Act, and according to the Federal Government, if property owners begin to construct a home on a lot that the agency thinks possesses the requisite wetness, the property owners are at the agency’s mercy. The EPA may issue a compliance order demanding that the owners cease construction, engage in expensive remedial measures, and abandon any use of the property. If the owners do not do the EPA’s bidding, they may be fined up to $75,000 per day ($37,500 for violating the Act and another $37,500 for violating the compliance order). And if the owners want their day in court to show that their lot does not include covered wetlands, well, as a practical matter, that is just too bad. Until the EPA sues them, they are blocked from access to the courts, and the EPA may wait as long as it wants before deciding to sue. By that time, the potential fines may easily have reached the millions. In a nation that values due process, not to mention private property, such treatment is unthinkable.

While it is heartening to see none of the Supremes could sign off on this situation, it is still disturbing that the position of the Obama Administration, and thus the Democratic party as a whole, was in favor of unfettered power for the Federal Government without even the option of judicial review.

It's indefensible because it is tyrannical, and until the Democratic party accepts the notion that Washington needs to have some (any) limits on its power, even in its pursuit of Democratically anointed goals, they are a non-starter for me.

Romney's Time

RedState has it right:

It is a mathematical improbability that Rick Santorum will get to the magic number of 1,144 — the number of delegates needed to be the Republican Presidential nominee. It is a political improbability that Rick Santorum will stop Mitt Romney from getting to 1,144.

Last night in Illinois, Mitt Romney won his first victory without caveats.

Even in Florida, a big win, there were plenty — counties that saw increased turnout rejected him. The northern part of the state rejected him. It required an amalgamation of voters not quite typical of the base to get Romney the nod in Florida.

In Illinois, Romney won. Period. The Santorum campaign stumbled badly in Puerto Rico, gave up a lead in Illinois, and the candidate proved horribly undisciplined. Like Dug the dog in Up getting distracted by every random squirrel, Rick Santorum loses all ability to focus when social issues come up....

Theoretically, Rick Santorum could keep Romney from getting to 1,144. But as Romney piles up more and more wins and neither the Gingrich nor Paul campaigns remain factors, let alone have pulses, the inevitable will set in. Conservatives may not really like Mitt Romney, but they do not want a fractured party too divided to beat Barack Obama. There will be no white knight, no dark horse, and no brokered convention. We have our nominee.

I've already stated my apathy towards the current crop of candidates, though I haven't had the energy to outline exactly the reasons behind my apathy. (When you are apathetic, that's often the way it goes.)

Of the four still standing in the GOP race, Romney is probably the easiest for me to put up with, and that will have to be enough. I'm certainly not interested in looking at the others and pretending they are someone they are not. There exists a smart and intellectually rigorous form of conservatism, but it isn't represented in this race. Instead we have a choice between a wonkish bureaucrat, an economic ideologue, a 1950's style moralizing church lady, and a consummate creature of Washington.

I ain't excited about it, but I'll put up with the wonkish bureaucrat.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

News From The Washington Monthly: Democrats Have Never Lied

No, really. That is their "argument".

If you read The Washington Monthly and find it compelling you must be dumber than pigshit; the particularly dumb kind of pigshit at that.

Friday, March 09, 2012

Gloria Allred: The Dumbest Person In America

I know I shouldn't bother. It's beneath me on so many levels., but... Gloria Allred seeks Rush Limbaugh prosecution

Rush Limbaugh has drawn the ire of celebrity lawyer Gloria Allred, who sent a letter to the Palm Beach County state attorney requesting an investigation into whether the popular radio host should be prosecuted for calling a law student a “slut” and “prostitute” last week.

“Mr. Limbaugh targeted his attack on a young law student who was simply exercised her free speech and her right to testify before congress on a very important issue to millions of American women and he vilified her. He defamed her and engaged in unwarranted, tasteless and exceptionally damaging attacks on her,” Allred told POLITICO Friday afternoon. “He needs to face the consequences of his conduct in every way that is meaningful.”

That's the beautiful thing about the First Amendment. It protects all comers.

Even shameless publicity whores like Gloria Allred.

And I, for one, am happy about it because it allows us to see exactly how much of a fascistic nitwit she really is.

Affordability: Government Style

Government-subsidized green light bulb carries costly price tag

The U.S. government last year announced a $10 million award, dubbed the “L Prize,” for any manufacturer that could create a “green” but affordable light bulb.

Energy Secretary Steven Chu said the prize would spur industry to offer the costly bulbs, known as LEDs, at prices “affordable for American families.” There was also a “Buy America” component. Portions of the bulb would have to be made in the United States.

Now the winning bulb is on the market.

The price is $50.

Retailers said the bulb, made by Philips, is likely to be too pricey to have broad appeal. Similar LED bulbs are less than half the cost.

“I don’t want to say it’s exorbitant, but if a customer is only looking at the price, they could come to that conclusion,” said Brad Paulsen, merchant for the light-bulb category at Home Depot...

Gee, aren't people dumb? To equate the affordability of a product with its price.

OK, let's do some math.

A cheapie incandescent 60 Watt bulb (1500 hour) would cost out this way, using it 10 hours a day for the life of the bulb:

Cost of bulb: $0.61
Cost of Operation @ $0.12 kWh: $11.28

Total Cost: $11.69

The Phillips L Prize bulb over the same time period:

Cost of bulb: $59.95 (the best I could find)
Cost of Operation for 1500 hours @ $0.12 kWh: $1.92

Total Cost: $61.87

I use a max of 12 60 Watt bulbs in my house at any given time, so the total outlay for me were I to transition to these bulbs would be $742.44 (plus tax!) for the first 1500 hours of use.

Granted, over the long run, you would get ahead making the switch as the new bulbs are supposed to last 20 times longer. (We shall see. In my experience, CFL bulbs came no where near providing the longevity they promised. I'll believe it when I see it.) So, to get to 30000 hours of use it would cost $233.80 using standard bulbs, and $98.35 cents for the new LED.

However, to get to 31500 hours of use the cost would be $245.39 to $160.22 (at current prices.)

So, it takes buying and using seven incandescent bulbs before the LED bulb starts paying off (a little less than three years of use @ 10 hours a day.)

What it comes down to is I can buy bulbs to light my entire home today for $7.32, or I can light my house for $719.40. Does the average American probably have more pressing concerns that $712 could address?

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

My Kingdom For A Tank Of Gas?

Roger Pielke Jr. has an eye opening graph on gas prices related to total personal expenditures.

Evidently, folks like me who didn't start driving (or paying for gas) until the mid 1980's were unaware we had it so good.

Live and learn.

Twitter Ain't My Bag, Baby

I don't really do the Twitter thing a whole lot. (And I don't do politics at all on it because 99% of the time its beyond pointless.)

However, Twitter did give us this, which is a very good thing. (Treacher's response is an all-time internets classic.)

The Most Implacable Enemy Of Free Expression: Higher Education

FIRE has the low down on a case that, sadly, has become all too typical in the very places that ought to know better: Peace College to Critics: ‘Desist’ From Exercising Free Speech

In higher education, a significant transformation has been underway at Peace College in North Carolina, a women's college that will begin admitting men to its full-time undergraduate programs starting this fall. The proverbial "winning hearts and minds" is an important task for a college leader guiding her institution through a major transformation, and criticism from within and without is an inevitable part of the process. How colleges respond to such pressures can greatly affect their public perception.

Pity, then, the way Peace College (which will be renamed William Peace University as part of its transformation) has responded to criticisms leveled by the Preserve Peace College Campaign. In response to a letter circulated by the coalition, Peace College (through an outside law firm) has not-so-kindly asked all signatories to the letter to "desist from further distribution" and "send letters of retraction" to atone for the letter's supposedly "damag[ing]" content....

FIRE does not vouch for the assertions in the group's letter or take any position on its content, though it is worth pointing out that the assertions in the letter can be checked rather easily, and statements of opinion are clearly labeled as such. And, to be clear, the right to circulate a list of grievances as the Preserve Peace College Campaign has done is about as basic a principle of freedom of expression as there is.

Yet here is what Arrowood wrote to roughly 40 signatories of the letter:

The university has recently become aware of a letter sent over your signature which contains various statements about the University and its President, statements which are not only false but individually and collectively damage the reputation of the University and its President. The letter reflects an intent to deliberately and improperly interfere with the University's relationships with its various constituencies. ...


[I]n order to mitigate damage arising from the continued publication of the letter, you should desist from further distribution of the letter and send letters of retraction to any persons to whom the letter was published, whether they received the letter directly by mail or otherwise. In addition, we ask that you furnish us with the list utilized to distribute this letter so that we may communicate directly with its recipients to correct your misstatements.

You have to give them some credit: It takes a lot of nerve to send that kind of letter in response to a letter expressing disagreement with the way Peace College is being run. Actually, you don't have to give them credit. Such disrespect by the college for the basic exercise of the group's free speech rights, in fact, smacks precisely of one of the charges leveled against the college by the group: that it is unaccountable to the public and that "[c]oncerned alumni of Peace College are treated as adversaries when they pose legitimate questions to the new guard."

God only knows what is going on here, and what the motivations are of those who have "taken over" Peace College is certainly a mystery to me. However, the bullying brownshirt tactics being used to silence dissent have no place in a free society, especially at an institution supposedly dedicated to free inquiry. Seemingly, the powers that be at Peace College had no rational arguments to make in response to their critics, so they resorted to threats and intimidation.

How classy. How enlightened. How pathetic.

Monday, March 05, 2012

What Fascism Looks Like


These people couldn't scream "Fuck the First Amendment" any louder if they took a bullhorn to the top of the Washington Monument.

They would probably take a dump on that too.

Sunday, March 04, 2012

Ideological Coordination And The Media

Anyone who has read this blog would be aware that I am no fan of Rush Limbaugh. He simply rubs me the wrong way. Always has.

That being said, I am also being rubbed the wrong way by the incessant demagoguery of the, so called, "mainstream media" this last week. Indeed, in tone and effect the MSM took their marching orders from the "progressive" (once again so called) blogosphere. Not that this is anything new. It has been apparent for some time that media types folllow the lefty blogs extremely closely and very quickly validate the pet concerns of the ahrd left with front page coverage, framed precisely the same way the lefty blogs frame it. By comparison, the concerns raging in the right leaning blogs are lucky to get mentioned on page 46, under the tide schedules.

In a similar fashion, events that inflame the left will routinely be described by the MSM as a "firestrom" (or some such) supposedly embraced by average Joes and Janes, while conservative concerns will be labelled ideologically as being the sort of thing only "right wingers" are whining about.

The Obama administration has been expert at exploiting this coordination (in effect if not exactly by design - journolist notwithstanding) between lefty blogs and the media, reaping tangible benefits for their political program by the simple fact that they get to frame every debate. Thus we hear about Limbaugh using the word "slut" instead of hearing, well, anything else. Left wing causes across the board are now using the "validation" they get from MSM coverage to shill for money, including Obama's re-election campaign. Thus, the MSM's penchant for accepting left wing framing is producing a political benefit for one party in our political system.

Granted, this isn't the sort of thing a MSM type would be worried about, as they want Obama to win in November.

Friday, March 02, 2012

A Quick Intelligence Test

Here is a one question IQ test. Good luck.

1. Rush Limbuagh's comments on Georgetown Law Student Sandra Fluke are:

A) Really really important.
B) Not important at all.


If you answered "A" you are really really dumb.

If you answered "B" you are not dumb.

It is also interesting to note how the coverage of this in the MSM is indistinguishable from the Lefty blogosphere. I guess they are all living the Weird Al motto: Dare to be stupid.