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August 30, 2010

Update 7: Brief Summer Book Hiatus With Section 1 Chapter Outline and Excerpt From Chapter 3

You thought I stopped working on the book didn’t you?  You thought I was just sitting around drinking lime daiquiris all day?

Lime Daiquiri

Okay, so one out of two ain’t bad.

Regardless, below is the chapter outline for Section 1 followed by an excerpt from Chapter 3.  I’ve got all of Section 1 done, most of Section 2, some of Section 3 and pretty much none of Section 4.  But it’s not as bad as it sounds.

Okay, it’s as bad as it sounds…

SECTION 1

Why They Think You’re A Moron (And Why They Think They’re Not)

Chapter 1
Shut Up, That’s Why

Chapter 2
You Are Ignorant

Chapter 3
You Are Stupid

Chapter 4
You Just Don’t Understand

Chapter 5
You Are A Religious Nut

Chapter 6
You Are A Nut, Period
No, Seriously, You’re Insane

Chapter 7
You Are A Subhuman Fiend And/Or Nazi Appeasing Ghoul

Chapter 8
Your Dry Cleaner Is Not As Good

 

Chapter 3

You Are Stupid

“It is very difficult to thrive in an increasingly competitive world if you're a nation of dodos.” – Joe Klein, Time Magazine.

In a piece titled, “Too Dumb To Thrive,”1 Joe Klein, a political columnist at Time Magazine noted with exasperation that nearly three out of four Americans thought the Stimulus package was a waste of money, observing that, “they may be right: it's been wasted on them.”

Like a parent who has lost patience with his children’s lack of appreciation for all he’s done for them, Klein points out that $288 billion of stimulus spending went to tax relief for 95% of the American public and $275 billion went to their state and local governments.

In other words, you should be grateful you got a pair of socks and underwear for Christmas. Now shut up and eat your broccoli.

Klein has two explanations for this “dodo” -like behavior on the part of Americans. (Other Americans.  Not him. )

First:

“The Obama Administration has done a terrible job explaining the stimulus package to the American people...especially since there have been very few documented cases of waste so far.”

Naturally, the only possible explanation for why regular people would disagree with smart people is that the smart people just haven’t explained it well enough. They just need to dumb it down a bit more, perhaps with a puppet show, or coloring book with family fun activities to ensure that the gape-jawed masses are able to understand it.  (This is a common theme to which we will return in Chapter 4.)

What of his point that there have been, “very few documented cases of waste so far?”

That’s “waste,” as far as Joe Klein is concerned.

$6 billion for “wellness preservation?” Unquestionably essential for job growth. $200 million for birth control? How can you have an economic recovery without it?  Millions for new government cars and digital TV coupons?  That’s like a job-generating machine on steroids.2

How about $427,824 to study the unique game-play needs of senior citizens?  $54 million to relocate the Napa Valley Wine Train? $389,357 to compare outcomes of the concurrent and separate use of malt liquor and marijuana? $168,300 for an SBA loan to the Escape Massage parlor in Midlothian, VA?3

You might think these qualify as “documented cases of waste” but then you don’t have a degree from The University of Pennsylvania in “American Civilization,” now do you?4

Mr. Klein’s second point is that:

“This is yet further evidence that Americans are flagrantly ill-informed...and, for those watching Fox News, misinformed.”

Such ill- and misinformed Americans would include Allan Meltzer, an economist at Carnegie Mellon, and former Treasury Department official under John F. Kennedy, and former member of Ronald Reagan’s Council of Economic Advisors, who says of the Obama Administration’s stimulus spending:

My advice on the stimulus plan was, don't do it. Let's look at the plan. First, a lot of the money was used to reduce the deficits of state and local governments by increasing the federal debt. It was simply money transferred from the federal government. The economic multiplier effect was zero. Second, the temporary tax cuts went to paying off credit cards and other debts, not spending that would have increased economic growth. “5

Those dumb uneducated Americans, where do they get their crazy ideas that the stimulus money was “wasted?”  Did they sleep through their American Civilization classes?...

J.

August 30, 2010 at 11:00 AM in Books | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

August 24, 2010

What’s In Your Wallet? My Cash, Apparently.

With rules going into effect this week that limit the amount of late fees and penalties credit card companies are allowed to charge customers, card holders have seen interest rates spike to their highest levels in almost a decade as issuers attempt to compensate for the lost income.

Why, it’s almost as if credit card companies operate in a competitive industry in which prices naturally adjust to changes in order to maintain an equilibrium between supply and demand.

Freaky.

It should be noted that credit card companies have long had a program specifically designed to reduce or even eliminate the penalties and fees associated with making late payments:

Don’t make late payments.

We here at Planet Moron have made extensive use of this program and can attest to its effectiveness.  In fact, the only times we’ve ever been socked with one of these totally unfair and unjustified late fees was when we paid our bills late.

Some naysayers might complain about the higher interest rates, noting that the costs associated with late payers are being spread out among everyone, but the sponsor of the new law, Representative Carolyn Maloney of New York, points out that it will spare credit card customers “unwelcome surprises” and that it’s:

“…Better that consumers should know up-front what the interest rate is, even if it's higher, than to be soaked on the back-end by tricks and hidden fees.”

We don’t know about you, but we feel much better knowing we’ll be paying more in interest so that people who are not us won’t find themselves surprised by fees hidden in incomprehensible documents known as “calendars” and disguised using tricky jargon-laden language such as “due date” and “pay by.”

We all didn’t go to law school you know.

In fact, we see no reason why this approach to “spreading the personal responsibility around” can’t be extended to other areas.  After all, it’s always struck us as both unfair and inefficient that people are specifically targeted for traffic violations for the alleged crime of breaking the law. (You try reading a speed limit sign while you’re cruising along at 90 MPH.) Wouldn’t it make much more sense to have everyone pay a modest ticket regardless of your behavior so that people who do speed won’t find one of those unwelcome surprises hiding around the next curve?

Or are you against fairness?

J.

NOTE: Brief Summer Book Hiatus will continue through Labor Day.  Expect light blogging and a few more excerpts in the meantime.

August 24, 2010 at 07:47 AM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 20, 2010

According To Polls, 50% Of The Public Believes The Other 50% Is Crazy

A recent survey found that 18% of Americans wrongly believe President Obama is Muslim

This was surprising to Americans (at least to 82% of them) as the President is a practicing Christian.

However Americans have long been susceptible to rumors, falsehoods and elaborate conspiracy theories.

For example, in one particularly ludicrous example, 16% of Americans still cling to the belief that Congress is doing a “good” or “excellent” job.

We blame the educational system. 

And it gets worse.

Fully 29% of Americans believe that spending hundreds of billions of dollars we don’t have to fund public employee unions and build political pet projects has helped the economy.

Where do Americans get a crazy idea like that?  Hard as it is to imagine, there are those who live on the fringes of American society who honestly believe not only that the $862 billion in stimulus spending helped, but that we should borrow and spend an additional trillion dollars. Fortunately, the transparent lunacy of these “theories” tends to limit the appeal of the publications that provide them a forum for their preposterous rantings.

Still, despite having widespread access to the Internet and the ability to easily debunk some of the more inane theories, as many as 13% of Americans believe that creating a new multi-trillion dollar health care entitlement will help cut the federal budget deficit.  This particularly fanciful myth is believed to have been originally propagated at those tumultuous town hall meetings back in the summer of 2009 when the organizers, in an act that can only be described as irresponsible, allowed any old elected congressional representative to grab a microphone and repeat whatever ridiculous rumor they happened to have overheard while hanging around House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office.

Someone really ought to try to control these people.

Regardless, trading in nutty theories is all part of the American landscape.

Now, if we could only convince 94% more of the people that the moon landings were obviously faked…

J.

NOTE: My Brief Summer Book Hiatus does continue.  I just missed blogging.  I'll get back to work now.

August 20, 2010 at 02:03 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 18, 2010

Where’s George Bush When You Need Him?

The Obama administration has been searching for a villain against whom Democrats can campaign, a dastardly foe in the manner of a Darth Vader, so vile that the electorate will recoil in horror at the mere thought of voting for a Republican of any kind.

That villain is John Boehner.

If you are like most Americans, you have no idea who John Boehner is. 

This is John Boehner:

John Boehner2

If you are like most Americans, you still have no idea who John Boehner is.

Okay, how about this:

Darth Boehner

Starting to look familiar?

John Boehner is a perfect foil for the President seeing as he has all but admitted to associating with weird fringe political groups, such as the Republican Party. 

The President believes this is a sure winner seeing as Republicans are out to their biggest generic ballot lead in the history of both Gallup and Rasmussen polling.

Plus, the President has a secret weapon:

John Boehner wants to repeal the President’s signature legislative achievement: The new health care reform law.

Such a reckless, extreme, tea-party-crazed move is opposed by an overwhelming 36% of the electorate.

That’s more than halfway to a majority!

Not only that, but John Boehner proudly notes that he didn’t vote for the Stimulus package, a set of programs that fully 29% of Americans believe has helped the economy.

Sounds like Boehner needs to learn a thing or two about constituent services.

The President has also been demonizing the Republican Party by noting that it often associates itself with the likes of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

You know what the average American thinks when he or she hears the name, “Mitch McConnell?”

“You know, that does sound familiar… Wait a second. Why is the President attacking my high school basketball coach?”

We assume the President will expand on his new electoral strategy and look forward to him calling out Paul Ryan, Eric Cantor and Mike Pence.

Because the only hope Democrats have this November is if the President elevates the stature of obscure Republicans who support policies broadly popular with the American People.

Crazy?  Crazy like a fox.

(Like a fox who is himself, actually crazy.)

J.

Note: You know when I said I’d have my chapter outline ready last week?  I lied about that.  But I’ll probably have it ready this week.  No, seriously.  Probably.  Regardless, Zombie Book Hiatus continues.

August 18, 2010 at 03:19 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

August 16, 2010

Not To Be Confused With The Noble Prize – Part 2

Last week we discussed one of Nobel-Prize-winning Paul Krugman‘s favorite rhetorical techniques: The use of sophisticated technical terms such as “dope,” “charlatan,” and “flimflam,” in making a convincing argument.

This week, we take a look at an additional method of persuasion popular with the highly regarded New York Times columnist:

“Just saying stuff.”

Not to be confused with last week's "making things up," "just saying stuff" requires a more polished, nuanced approach.

For example, in his column yesterday, Professor Krugman notes early on that:

“Legally, Social Security has its own, dedicated funding, via the payroll tax (“FICA” on your pay statement). But it’s also part of the broader federal budget.”

While later writing:

“So where do claims of crisis come from? To a large extent they rely on bad-faith accounting. In particular, they rely on an exercise in three-card monte in which the surpluses Social Security has been running for a quarter-century don’t count — because hey, the program doesn’t have any independent existence; it’s just part of the general federal budget.”

As you can see, according to Professor Krugman Social Security is “part of the federal budget,” however those who claim that Social Security is “part of the federal budget” are relying on “bad-faith accounting” and exercises in “three-card monte.”

 We know what you’re thinking:

“When you take an exam in Professor Krugman’s class, are there any wrong answers?”

Also, “How can he get away with that?”

Easy.

Nobel-peace-prize

Consider it a kind of “get-out-of-jail-free” card.

The good professor argues that all the prior decades’ Social Security surpluses are held in a “special account.” That’s true, much in the same way that all that money you spent on your daughter’s braces are held in a “special account” with MasterCard.

You see, the Social Security surpluses weren’t invested in, say, gold, or stocks or, Hummel figurines.  That money was all turned over to the United States Treasury.

The United States Treasury then gave it to Congress.

Congress then spent it all.

That “special account” Professor Krugman believes all this money will flow forth from consists of pieces of paper that say the government owes them money that it already spent. 

And you do know where the government gets its money from, right?

Mainly from people who didn’t win a Nobel Prize.

Social Security - Twice

J.

NOTE: Brief Summer Book Hiatus lives on. Sort of.  Consider it "Zombie Hiatus."

August 16, 2010 at 04:14 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 10, 2010

Not To Be Confused With The Noble Prize

You’ve no doubt wondered what it takes to be a Nobel-Prize-winning economist and respected New York Times columnist like Paul Krugman.

First, you have to familiarize yourself with the highly specialized terms economists use to discuss the weighty matters of the day. This is essential if you want to be taken seriously as an authority on such subjects as fiscal solvency and tax policy. For example, Mr. Krugman used the following technical terms in a column carefully critiquing Congressman Paul Ryan’s “Roadmap for America’s Future:”

Charlatans
Dopes
Flimflam
Flimflam man
Flimflam sauce
Fraud
Sham

Of course, it takes more than just throwing around some impressive-sounding vocabulary words if you’re going to persuade anyone.  After all, if you want to be treated like a professional, you have to act like one first.

So you also have to be willing to make things up.

This is Mr. Krugman’s specialty, and he excels here, at one point slamming the hapless Wisconsin Congressman with the charge that he refused to have the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) perform a tax revenue analysis on his plan.

Given that the CBO doesn’t perform tax revenue analysis, that’s the job of the Joint Tax Committee, this is like criticizing your wife for not having the plumber fix your ceiling fan, but that’s not really the point.  The point is that Ryan is a dope and a sham and a fraud.

And sure, the analysis Krugman used to excoriate Ryan came from the Tax Policy Center which then publicly defended the Congressman against the attack, but that is not nearly as compelling an argument as noting that Ryan is a flimflam man using flimflam sauce on his flimflam plan.

“Wait a second,” you are probably asking yourself, “would this flimflam sauce Krugman keeps talking about be good on grilled chicken?”

Also, “Isn’t making things up kind of risky?  What if you get caught?”

No problem, you just say the same things over again as if they were true making believe that no one has really challenged you.

It's easier if you get a job writing for The New York Times first.

FLIMFLAM

J.

NOTE: Brief Summer Book Hiatus is still on.  It’s just more of a working hiatus. Additional updates later this week.


August 10, 2010 at 04:36 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

August 06, 2010

Update 6: Brief Summer Book Hiatus With Excerpt From Chapter 2

As promised, below is another excerpt, this time from Chapter 2. I’m hoping to post an earlier promised chapter outline in the next few days, mainly because I really need to do a chapter outline.  You’d be surprised how important organization is when you’re writing something longer than a snarky five-paragraph blog post. 

Okay, I was surprised. Be that as it may:

Chapter 2

You Are Ignorant

“You Idiots!” – Cover of Rolling Stone1

Bill Maher, former comedian turned acerbic commentator on the human condition for HBO, wrote a piece in the Huffington Post entitled, “New Rule: Smart President ≠ Smart Country,”2 in which he calls America a “stupid country.”

Of course, he doesn’t mean to imply that all Americans are stupid, just the ones who aren’t him. 

By way of evidence he offers up polling data that found that two thirds of those surveyed lacked sufficient familiarity with Roe vs. Wade, seven in ten couldn’t properly identify the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, and two-thirds could not accurately describe the functions of the United States Food and Drug Administration.

Morons.

These are things Bill Maher, knows of course.  That would be the same Bill Maher whose job it is to make witty observations on current affairs, public policy, and politics, and so (and I’m just winging it here) would probably benefit from being thoroughly conversant on subjects that include abortion rights, Janet Napolitano, and the FDA.

By Bill Maher’s standard “Joe the plumber” could just as easily note a survey in which two thirds of Americans lack sufficient familiarity with pipe brazing, seven in ten can’t identify a flaring tool, and two-thirds can’t accurately describe the functions of a spiral ratchet pipe reamer and similarly conclude that aside from himself, the country is full of drooling imbeciles.

Now, I would not mind it if more people took a greater interest in the political process and the functions of their government.  But then, I also wouldn’t mind if more people took a greater interest in bringing back “Xena, Warrior Princess,” but that might just be me.

And while there is no question that as the size and scope of government has grown, it has become increasingly important that people follow public policy more closely, we should appreciate that people who earn their living doing something other than critiquing American public policy initiatives might devote their limited time to honing skills and accumulating knowledge that is relevant to their line of work (never mind spending more time with their family or pursuing other hobbies and interests) as opposed to carefully reading the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

That’s my job.3

And it shouldn’t mean that people less familiar with the minutia of public policy don’t get a say.  Or, as Maher says towards the end of his piece, “And these are the idiots we want to weigh in on the minutia of health care policy?”

Apparently Bill Maher doesn’t want common people on the street carelessly passing judgment on a bill they haven’t read and don’t understand. He finds it far more preferable to have educated elites carelessly passing judgment on a bill they haven’t read and don’t understand.4

After all, who is better equipped to decide whether or not comprehensive health care reform is a good idea?  The people who will be most affected by it, or the people who know how to spell J-A-N-E-T N-A-P-O-L-I-T-A-N-O?...

J.

August 6, 2010 at 01:02 PM in Books | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

August 05, 2010

Whose Money?

President Obama speaking at a Ford plant today about the federal government's auto industry bailout:

“I have put my money on the American worker.”

It's not entirely clear that the President understands where all that money of his comes from.

For the record, it comes from us.

And we're Americans.

And we work.

You're welcome!

J.

NOTE: Brief Summer Book Hiatus continues unabated!  Well, partly abated. And in response to a comment, my admittedly large liquor cabinet remains relatively unmolested, sorry to say.  I really am working!  Promised new book excerpt should be up by tomorrow.

August 5, 2010 at 06:20 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 03, 2010

The Greatest Invention In The History Of Humankind

Antibiotics?  Sure, those have certainly proven helpful.

The integrated circuit?  No question, it was pivotal in launching the information age.

But we came across something with far more profound implications while staying at a Best Western this past weekend in Boston.

The MicroFridge.

MicroFridge Close

For how many years did man dream of one day successfully combining the heating capabilities of a microwave oven with the cooling power of a refrigerator?  The very notion defied common sense!  And yet, here we find ourselves at the dawn of a new age.

How did they do it?

They bolted a microwave on top of a refrigerator.

MicroFridge

Patent pending you say?

More like awesome-already-here!

And while the innovative use of bolting technology strongly suggests this may have sprung from the labs of nearby MIT, the high-strength steel cradle points more to a DARPA project. For their part, the makers of the MicroFridge claim to have pioneered the concept back in 1987.

Us? We’re thinking this very well may be the early result of a clandestine effort to commercialize alien technology captured at Roswell.  How else to explain the almost inhuman selection of MicroFridges available?

MicroFridge Selection

No matter, as we look forward to the day when our children can’t imagine a world in which all refrigerators did not have a microwave bolted to the top, who find the very notion of having to move your feet in order to microwave a frozen burrito to be barbaric.

And who knows, maybe someday, this still-young field of bolting microwaves on top of things will lead to even greater discoveries.

MicroKeg

Well, we can always dream.

J.

NOTE:  Brief Summer Book Hiatus continues!  I’ll have a new excerpt in a day or two.

August 3, 2010 at 02:05 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack