Sunday, October 25, 2009

Friday, October 23, 2009

Affirmative action for white firefighters challenged

In 2003, virtually none of the minority applicants for promotions in the fire department of New Haven, Connecticut, scored well enough on a written exam to be promoted. The city of New Haven, fearing a lawsuit, threw out the results. They were worried that accepting the results would have been in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act which prohibits what is called disparate impact discrimination. This part of the law "prohibits employers from using promotional or hiring procedures that screen out minorities unless they can prove that the procedure is closely job-related," according to Richard Thompson Ford. As a result, Frank Ricci and other white firefighters sued, claiming to be the victims of racial discrimination. Last summer, the Supreme Court sided with the white firefighters. Now, a black New Haven firefighter, Michael Briscoe, has sued New Haven for disparate impact discrimination. Though the story is a bit complicated, you can read about it here. You can read more about Frank Ricci here. And you can read about the damage the Supreme Court's Ricci ruling has done to civil rights in this country here.

I don't think many Americans understand just how strong the arguments for affirmative action are, and just how bad arguments against affirmative action tend to be. Perhaps I can post a more detailed discussion on this topic in the future. But here's the situation as I see it. The empirical evidence strongly suggests that minorities are at a disadvantage in this country in all important respects. And the best explanation for that disadvantage is that minorities are the victims of present discrimination and the legacy of past discrimination, from which white men—including those who have never themselves unfairly discriminated against anyone in their lives—benefit. Affirmative action can help correct this injustice. White men who claim that they are victims of reverse discrimination—like the white New Haven firefighters—are simply feeling the discomfort that comes with losing an unfair advantage that they didn't deserve in the first place.

When laws intended to correct unfair discrimination are gutted, whites themselves become beneficiaries of affirmative action. According to Ford, the Supreme Court may have effectively gutted Title VII's prohibition of disparate impact in its Ricci decision, which would make it easier to discriminate against minorities. The irony is, of course, that the Supreme Court, in striking down what it saw as reverse discrimination, has effectively given its approval to affirmative action for white men.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Take a Bow

you corrupt
& bring corruption to all that you touch
you'll behold
and beholden for all that you've done
cast a spell
cast a spell on the country you run
And risk
you will risk
you will risk all their lives and their souls
And burn
you will burn
you will burn in hell
you burn in hell for your sins
Oh, our freedom's consuming itself
what we've become
is contrary to what we want
Take a bow
you bring death
and destruction to all that you touch
you must pay
you must pay for your crimes against the earth
feed the hex
feed the hex on the country you love
And beg
you will beg
you will beg for their lives and their souls
And burn
you will burn
you will burn in hell
you burn in hell for your sins

Matthew Bellamy

Monday, October 19, 2009

The insurance industry has an antitrust exemption?

I am fully aware of the irony of embedding an MSNBC video in this post after publishing a post in which I advised you to ignore Fox "News." The difference between the two networks is that MSNBC is, unlike Fox, right more often than not.

I was under the impression that The Morning Meeting was less partisan and more news-oriented than other MSNBC programs like Countdown and The Rachel Maddow Show. That impression evaporated this morning. Ratigan and his guest Eliot Spitzer go after the health insurance companies and argue convincingly that their antitrust exemption ought to be eliminated. (That exemption would, of course, help explain why insurance costs have been skyrocketing.) You can read more about the antitrust exemption here.

The partisan tone of the segment is alarming, given that it appeared in a time slot that was devoted to news before The Morning Meeting premiered some months ago. But the content of the segment is, it seems to me, sound. (Seriously: allowing insurance companies to become monopolies can only make insurance more expensive for their customers. Markets governed by antitrust exemptions are not free and do not function properly.) It is comforting to know that someone on cable is countering Fox "News," the propaganda arm of the Republican Party.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Ignore Fox

Why? Read about it here.

Friday, October 16, 2009

"I'm not a racist. I just don't believe in mixing the races that way." ---Keith Bardwell

I am not making this up. According to the Associated Press, "A Louisiana justice of the peace said he refused to issue a marriage license to an interracial couple out of concern for any children the couple might have." You can read about it here.

The justice of the peace in question, Keith Bardwell, might have a point. We should indeed think about the children. If you visit the website of the Tangipahoa Parish Clerk of Court Marriage Department, you'll discover, as I did, that the requirements for a marriage license are far too lax. There is no requirement that persons who are granted a marriage license get married and stay married until they have bitten the dust. This is shocking. Given the high divorce rate in the United States, and the common-sense view that divorce has a negative effect on children, marriage licenses must be denied to everyone—until, of course, divorce is made absolutely illegal. Join me in contacting the Tangipahoa Parish Clerk of Court to support them in their refusal to issue marriage licenses to anyone who asks for them.

Do if for the children, won't you?

A Reminder from Terrence

Hey, hate-filled ultra-conservative Christian! Are you mortified that a man who doesn't look like you got elected to be your president? Are you so disturbed by the propaganda you've been hearing from right-wing talk show nutjobs and Fox "News" that you don't know what to do? Perhaps you're even thinking that James Von Brunn was on to something? Here's a little reminder for you from fourth-grader Terrence Scott!

Watch CBS News Videos Online

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The hypocritical republican effort to censure Congressman Grayson

Rachel Maddow presents it in her usual exemplary style and interviews Grayson as well.

Republicans must be taking the conservative translation of Exodus to heart. (See the previous post.)

A fully conservative translation of the Ten Commandments

Perhaps you have heard about the Conservative Bible Project. According to those involved in the project, "Liberal bias has become the single biggest distortion in modern Bible translations." What is urgently needed is a translation of the Bible that accords with certain conservative principles, such as the following:
  • Not Emasculated: avoiding unisex, "gender inclusive" language, and other modern emasculation of Christianity
  • Utilize Powerful Conservative Terms: using powerful new conservative terms as they develop; defective translations use the word "comrade" three times as often as "volunteer"; similarly, updating words which have a change in meaning, such as "word", "peace", and "miracle".
  • Express Free Market Parables: explaining the numerous economic parables with their full free-market meaning
  • Prefer Conciseness over Liberal Wordiness: preferring conciseness to the liberal style of high word-to-substance ratio; avoid compound negatives and unnecessary ambiguities; prefer concise, consistent use of the word "Lord" rather than "Jehovah" or "Yahweh" or "Lord God."
Fortunately, the translation is coming along. In fact, I have been able to obtain a conservative translation of Exodus 20:1-17, wherein the Ten Commandments are set out. Here it is, without any liberal bias:
1 Then God spoke all these words, saying,
2 I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.
3 You shall have no other gods before Me—except, perhaps, the Almighty Dollar, as the profit motive should alone govern the affairs of society.
4 You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth—except, of course, those which may be sold in stores for profit.
5 You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, which is completely above reproach according to Me, in spite of the fact that none of you can make any sense of this,
6 but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments, so that you may be more effectively manipulated into loving Me, in spite of the fact that such manipulation of you makes your love and worship of Me seem inappropriate, a fact which, like many facts about this here religion, is celebrated as being utterly inexplicable and something with which you can only deal at some risk to your psychological and emotional well-being;
7 You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain—except those who profess to love Me, such as those who call themselves fundamentalist Christians and conservatives.
8 Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy—except when a profit can be made by failing to keep it holy, which would thereby be holy, for no one in the land should be safe from manipulative marketing designed to undercut autonomous decision-making, such activity being useful to increase profits.
9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, with the goal of increasing profit only, either your own, or even better, that of the corporation that hired you and which can also switch you out at will like an interchangeable part,
10 but the seventh day is a sabbath of the LORD your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, your male or your female servant or your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you—except for profit, as I have already made abundantly clear.
11 For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day, for He saw that, because of His awesomeness, six days was all he needed to do this thing, and thus no profit was to be had in a seventh day of work, whereas those of us who aren’t nearly as awesome would surely need more time; therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy, but recognized the need for a seventh day of profit-taking for loathsome, purely self-interested but criminally inefficient human filth, the love of which the LORD yet so puzzlingly desires, but never mind that.
12 Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the LORD your God gives you—unless, of course, your father or mother are for some reason unworthy or undesirable, e.g., they are atheists, or Muslims, or lawbreakers, or democrats, or communists, or socialists, or liberals, or persons who dare not to share unthinkingly your opinion on any matter of religion or politics, or persons whose characters it would be politically expedient for you to assassinate.
13 You shall not murder—unless, of course, your target is a lawbreaker, or a Muslim, or someone unfortunate enough to be collateral damage in a pre-emptive war you have initiated, or an abortion-provider, or a person suspected of terrorism though not necessarily guilty of being a terrorist, as long as that terrorist or alleged terrorist is not himself a Christian, in which case nothing shall be done to impede, question, investigate, second-guess, punish, or emasculate him (emasculation being something we are especially concerned with here), he being absolutely above reproach.
14 You shall not commit adultery—unless you are a conservative Christian, in which case there must be extenuating or mitigating circumstances, which we can certainly work with.
15 You shall not steal—unless, of course, you have "discovered" that of which you take possession, e.g., a continent or its inhabitants who may be suitable for enslavement.
16 You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor—unless, of course, doing so helps you achieve your political goals, in which case you are free to say absolutely anything you like, so long as those goals are endorsed by those who call themselves conservative Christians.
17 You shall not covet your neighbor's house; you shall not covet your neighbor's wife or his male servant or his female servant or his ox or his donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor—unless, of course, you are stronger than the owner of what you covet, in which case it would be expedient and appropriate to use violence to obtain the thing in question, be it oil, or land, or what have you, so long as you call yourself a conservative Christian.
17.5 Bonus Commandment! You shall root out and eliminate liberal bias, wherever it may be, for a liberal rejects logical and biblical standards, often for self-centered reasons, and has no coherent liberal standards of his own, and craves attention, and uses many words to say nothing, and hopes to dumb down the scriptures and besmirch them with liberal wordiness, and refuses to use powerful new conservative terms as they develop, and does not recognize the full free-market meaning of certain parables in the scriptures, where “free” is understood to be compatible with deception and coercion, which often flourish with deregulation of the markets, which of course the LORD your God can certainly get behind, as it increases profits quite nicely.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Jesus: laissez-faire capitalist

Believe it or not, I am not making this up. At Conservapedia, you may find the Conservative Bible Project, a project "begun among members of Conservapedia to translate the Bible in accordance with [conservative] principles."

"Liberal bias has become the single biggest distortion in modern Bible translations," according to the translators. A better translation will, among other things, "[explain] the numerous economic parables [in the Bible] with their full free-market meaning" and "[use] powerful new conservative terms as they develop."

Fortunately for readers of Your Analytic Analeptic, I have obtained an advance copy of the translation of Luke 10: 25-37 where the parable of the Good Samaritan is told. Finally, the full conservative meaning of that parable may be brought to light, free of liberal bias. That translation is as follows:
On one occasion a member of the liberal intellectual elite, an expert in the law, stood up to test Jesus. "Teacher," he asked, "what must I do to inherit eternal life? Will it be provided for me for free by the socialist state?"

"What is written in the Law?" he replied. "I understand that you reject logical and biblical standards, often for your own self-centered reasons, and that you have no coherent standards, and that you merely crave attention and use many words to say nothing. But how do you read it?"

He answered: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind'; and, 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'"

"I can hardly believe it, but you have answered correctly," Jesus replied. "Do this and you will live, unfortunately."

But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?"

In reply Jesus said: "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. Perhaps they believed that he was an atheist, in which case he deserved it. Anyway, a priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.

But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, the man said to him, “Please help me.” The Samaritan replied, “Help you? Is that really such a good idea? Shouldn’t you pull yourself up by your own bootstraps?” The man replied, “I would if I could, my good man, but as you can see I am seriously injured.” “Very well,” replied the Samaritan. “But you must first assure me that you are not an illegal immigrant.” The man produced a birth certificate, not a certificate of live birth, and the Samaritan was unexpectedly convinced that it was genuine. It was then that he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him.

The next day he presented the man with a bill. The man screamed, “I owe you two hundred silver coins? How will I ever repay you? This will bankrupt me!” The Samaritan replied, “The free market has spoken!” The man wailed, "I need help!" The Samaritan replied, "The idea that government is the solution to all our problems is an inaccurate, a very inaccurate statement."

"Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?"

The expert in the law replied, "The one who had mercy on him." Jesus told him, "Go and do likewise, you liberal scum."

The United States of the Republican Party does not include Chicago

Read about it here.

Chicagoans seem relatively unconcerned.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

This Should Get Us Thinking Harder

I finally read Hofstadter's essay

My spouse and I took the car into the shop today to get the oil changed and the tires rotated. And while we waited, I finally read Richard Hofstadter's "The Paranoid Style in American Politics." It was enlightening. You can read it here.

Elizabeth Warren discusses gotcha capitalism

American Public Radio's Tess Vigeland interviews Harvard professor Elizabeth Warren. Warren is chairman of the Congressional Oversight Panel set up to oversee the TARP program. The interview appeared on today's broadcast of Marketplace Money. Read a transcript of the interview here.

Here's an excerpt from the interview:
Warren: What has innovation brought us over the last 30 years?

Vigeland: The option ARM.

Warren: Right, there you go, thank you. Credit cards. Actually, there's a perfect example—because I've got a great little piece of documentation. Do you know how big Citibank's credit card agreement was in 1980?

Vigeland: No.

Warren: It was a page and a half long. It was 600 words. And now that same credit card agreement is more than 30 pages long. What they've really brought us is the kind of innovation, what that's come to mean in financial services, is how many ways can I fool people about the new products? That is the current marketplace, and quite frankly, that's the one that some of the largest financial institutions in America want to protect right now. Because they're raking in tens of billions of dollars off it.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Republicans: "Hooray! We lost!"

If you were wondering where certain Republicans' loyalties are, now you know.

Chicago won't be hosting the 2016 Summer Olympics. That honor goes to Rio de Janeiro in Brazil.

Both Barack and Michelle Obama campaigned in person for Chicago's bid to host the games. But even their international starpower couldn't prevent Chicago from being eliminated in the first round of voting.

As Politico's Josh Gerstein reports, some Republicans are celebrating.

“Hahahahaha. I thought the world would love us more now that Bush was gone. I thought if we whored ourselves out to our enemies, great things would happen. Apparently not,” wrote's Eric Erickson.

Yeah, very funny.

What if the Obamas had not made their pitch in person? For their home town? I'm sure many conservatives would have wondered why Obama had not done everything he could have to ensure that the United States host the games—you know, conservatives being the Country First people that they are.

RedState's Dan McLaughlin got in on the act as well:
I’d questioned Obama’s priorities in making the trip, but now he has a much bigger problem. It’s one thing for the President to make a phone call or two to lend a subtle hand to this sort of effort; that would have been fine with me. But by the President and First Lady both making personal appearances and elevating this to the top news story of the day and a test of personal and national prestige, Obama stood a significant chance of being humiliated, and doing so for what is hard to describe as a critical national interest.
Obama's effort to bring the games to Chicago is nothing compared to the risky gambles made by the previous administration, however. (Remember how we were going to be greeted as liberators in Iraq, even though we were going in with a fraction of the troops the Pentagon wanted for the job?) The important thing for the folks at is the party the president belongs to. How do we know that this is pure partisan rubbish? If Obama makes the trip, he risks being humiliated. If he does not make the trip, he lacks the courage of his convictions—an attribute conservatives praised his predecessor for having in spades. (Remember the republicans' insistence that we stay the course and not cut and run? I do.)

If they won't let you win, then they just want you to lose.

Your Analytic Analeptic ends up on The Huffington Post

But my being there is accidental rather than intentional, I'm sure. A vanity search yielded this discovery. If you click on the image, you will find me on the list of links. I took this screenshot September 30. As of today, I'm still there.

Rep. Alan Grayson on health care reform

These are the remarks of Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Florida) on 30 September 2009. The study to which he refers can be found here. According to that study, 44,789 Americans die every year because they lack health insurance. Now is the time for pro-lifers and Christians in general to kick the Party of No to the curb and demand that something be done about this loss of innocent life.

The perilous seductiveness of choice

I watched The Morning Meeting on MSNBC today. This is a bit unusual for me: it's pretty obvious to me that the host, Dylan Ratigan, prefers the sound of his own voice over the sound of the voices of others. So I find watching him difficult. I find watching Chris Matthews difficult for a similar reason.

But enough about me. The topic of this morning's program was what the producers called the death of free choice. The Senate Finance Committee has been working on their version of a health insurance reform bill, and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) was protesting last night that the reforms he prefers didn't make the cut.

Slate's Jacob Weisberg has written about Wyden's plan. As I undertstand it, in a nutshell, Wyden's proposal is to sever the link between employers and health insurance. Instead, what employers pay for health insurance would be converted into extra salary. Employees would then be able to shop for health insurance on their own, which they would be required to purchase. Insurance companies would compete for their business, but only if the plans they offered met certain conditions. It is claimed that Wyden's plan would reduce health care spending in the United States by $1.5 trillion over 10 years. This figure comes from The Lewin Group, which, as Rachel Maddow has pointed out, is part of the health insurance industry.

Ratigan's argument this morning in support of this sort of reform is this: if consumers are allowed to freely choose their insurance plan, which something like Wyden's plan would allow, insurers would be forced to compete with each other for customers. Such competition would lower health care costs, which most of us want. (One wonders why The Lewin Group would support Wyden's plan if this is its expected effect, but that's another matter.) This should be an argument in its favor that even republicans can embrace, since competition is, of course, important to a capitalist economy for a number of reasons.

Here's the worry. The market works for consumers only if consumers can make rational choices. And in order for consumers to make rational choices, they must be able to accumulate the information they need to make rational choices, and the time and effort required to make a rational choice must be reasonable. As Bob Sullivan has convincingly shown in his book, Gotcha Capitalism, corporations have gone to great lengths to undercut the ability of the consumer to make rational choices. They do this by using a variety of techniques. For example, credit card companies write agreements that most people simply do not have the time to attempt to understand: they are lengthy and written in 15th Grade English. That is because credit card companies do not want consumers to understand them: they can make more money off of a confused consumer than an informed consumer, because confused consumers do not make rational choices. Corporations also use what is known as mouseprint in their marketing. Mouseprint is very small writing that some people can't even read. It's not meant to be read, because companies do not want consumers to understand what they are agreeing to when they enter into a business relationship with them.

Our government is finally taking steps to protect the consumer from such practices. But it allowed these practices to flourish. As attractive as choice is, without government regulation of the market, we have every reason to expect that insurance companies would use the same techniques to confuse consumers shopping for health care insurance. Creating a market in which there is choice does not guarantee that choices made in that market will be free and rational. Government regulation is essential to a free market. Republican deregulation of markets creates an anarchy in which the only rational decision-makers are corporations. Deregulation kills capitalism. While killing Wyden's plan might in some sense represent the death of free choice, there is no guarantee that enacting Wyden's plan would resurrect free choice either.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Frank Schaeffer on the village idiot

In his article, "How to talk to complete idiots" (see below), Morford includes a link to this interview of Frank Schaeffer by Rachel Maddow (included in this post for your convenience). Schaeffer is author of Crazy for God: How I Grew Up as One of the Elect, Helped Found the Religious Right, and Lived to Take All (or Almost All) of It Back. To summarize, Schaeffer states that the rest of us cannot "reorganize village life to suit the village idiot." The village idiots, according to Schaeffer, are fundamentalist Christians who constitute a "fifth column of insanity" in our culture. Such persons are bred to "reject facts as a matter of faith." This "evangelical subculture" has "rotted the brain" of the United States. Schaeffer is not attacking Christians as a whole; indeed, he describes himself as a church-going Christian.

How to talk to complete idiots

Read Mark Morford's skillfully written article, "How to talk to complete idiots," here.

Morford considers three options. He concludes, "The absolute best way to speak to complete idiots is, of course, not to speak to them at all."

Morford's conclusion dovetails with Farhad Manjoo's advice: if you want to kill the rumors about the death panels, stop talking about them. Read about it here.

According to Manjoo, the idiot's mythology about death panels or Barack Obama's birthplace or what have you gains currency even when it's being debunked.

Refuse to engage the idiot, and not only do you protect your own sanity, you avoid becoming unknowingly complicit in proliferating their particular idiocy.

Idiots refuse to play by the rules of rational, informed debate. So screw 'em.

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It is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence. ---W.K. Clifford

Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blind-folded fear. ---Thomas Jefferson