Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Why Should I Care?

Check out this clip from Media Matters, "Limbaugh Logic: Experts agree with Democrats, therefore experts are wrong:"

Actually, Limbaugh's logic appears to be this:
  • According to the AP, Pelosi and the experts agree, therefore the AP and the experts say what Pelosi tells them to say. Limbaugh claims that the story he's reading is a fax from Pelosi. This is his way of combating accusations that Fox "News" and other conservative media outlets are doing the bidding of the Republican Party. 
  • The experts say that unemployment benefits stimulate economic growth. But if that were true, eliminating all jobs and giving everyone unemployment benefits would stimulate the economy even more. Since that is completely absurd, unemployment benefits do not stimulate economic growth. 
Limbaugh makes $58 million a year. Perhaps he would rather the unemployed do without than he lose his generous Bush tax cut.

Limbaugh claims that the story is "easily nuked." If you disregard logic and evidence, isn't anything?

Note: while it may seem as if this post is at odds with my previous post, I believe that a certain amount of cynicism about Limbaugh's motives is called for, given the history of the man's career in radio, and I would also remind you that it was Limbaugh who said, "I hope Obama fails." 

A Few Reminders

You should read Ezra Klein's fascinating post, "The political psychology of Mitch McConnell—and the rest of us."

Liberals—myself included—have complained about what has become known as the conservative media's echo chamber and its byproduct, epistemic closure.

Conservatives have complained about liberal groupthink.

As it turns out, there may be some truth to all of the complaints. All of us tend to suffer from what psychologists call motivated skepticism. Klein writes,
When we're faced with information or ideas that accord with our preexisting beliefs about the world, we accept them easily. When the ideas and information cut against our beliefs, however, we interrogate them harshly, subjecting them to endless scrutiny and a long search for contrary evidence which, when found, we accept uncritically.
Motivated skepticism could be partially responsible for groupthink and epistemic closure.

What does this have to do with Mitch McConnell? You may have heard that he recently said, "The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president." Since McConnell obviously wishes to help both the country and his own party, Klein asks, "Can McConnell bring himself to support a policy that will help the economy if it also helps President Obama?" Even if McConnell believes that what he supports is best for the country, it might be the case that a policy supported by the opposition is better for the country, but McConnell is disinclined to support it, given his preexisting beliefs. Klein writes:
No one in American politics believes they're acting against the interests of the country. What's difficult, however, is the evidence suggesting that political actors are primarily acting against the interests of their opponents. This is particularly true for minority parties, who often find themselves reacting to the majority's proposal, while the majority is often reacting to external conditions. President Bush's critics—myself included—found it very difficult to credit the success of the surge, even after the evidence that it was working began piling up. And in the Obama years, Republicans have turned sharply against stimulus proposals and health-care bill that are not all that different from what they themselves have supported at other times.
None of this is to say that there aren't legitimate and difficult policy questions that need to be hashed out. The White House may be wrong. McConnell may be right. But when McConnell suggests that his main interest is defeating Obama, it suggests that partisanship, and not policy analysis, is in the cognitive driver's seat.
I remember being skeptical about the prospects of the surge. And while the surge probably wasn't solely responsible for turning things around in Iraq, surely it contributed. One of the problems I had with the clusterf*ck in Iraq was Rumsfeld's insistence that it be done with a force that was much smaller than what the Pentagon recommended. If a larger force was what was needed in the first place, then why I was skeptical about increasing the size of the force that was already there?

The threat of motivated skepticism gives all of us, Republicans and Democrats alike, reason to value consistency in our own beliefs. It also gives all of us reason to take extra care to allow facts and evidence to guide policy decisions. If TARP was a good idea, then it doesn't matter that George Bush was responsible for it. (By the way, the CBO just updated its estimate of the ultimate cost of TARP: the $700 billion program is now expected to cost taxpayers only $25 billion.) And if extending unemployment benefits is a good idea, as many economists claim, then it doesn't matter that Democrats are in favor of it.

Finally, if an elected official is opposed to a policy that the evidence suggests is in the national interest, we can't jump to the conclusion that the official in question is an evildoer intentionally seeking to do harm to the country.

All of us—myself included—need these reminders once in a while.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Thomas Paine: Profession of Faith, from The Age of Reason (1794)

I believe in one God, and no more; and I hope for happiness beyond this life.

I believe in the equality of man, and I believe that religious duties consist in doing justice, loving mercy, and endeavoring to make our fellow creatures happy.

But lest it should be supposed that I believe many other things in addition to these, I shall, in the progress of this work, declare the things I do not believe and my reasons for not believing them.

I do not believe in the creed professed by the Jewish church, by the Roman church, by the Greek church, by the Turkish church, by the Protestant church, nor by any church that I know of. My own mind is my own church.

All national institutions of churches—whether Jewish, Christian, or Turkish—appear to me no other than human inventions set up to terrify and enslave mankind and monopolize power and profit.

I do not mean by this declaration to condemn those who believe otherwise. They have the same right to their belief as I have to mine. But it is necessary to the happiness of man that he be mentally faithful to himself. Infidelity does not consist in believing or in disbelieving; it consists in professing to believe what he does not believe.

It is impossible to calculate the moral mischief, if I may so express it, that mental lying has produced in society. When a man has so far corrupted and prostituted the chastity of his mind as to subscribe his professional belief to things he does not believe, he has prepared himself for the commission of every other crime. He takes up the trade of a priest for the sake of gain, and, in order to qualify himself for that trade, he begins with a perjury. Can we conceive anything more destructive to morality than this?

Source: http://www.wsu.edu/~wldciv/world_civ_reader/world_civ_reader_2/paine.html

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A Conservative Blogger Contrives Yet Another Kobayashi Maru for the President

The concern some conservative bloggers are expressing about TSA security procedures is purely political, and I'm going to prove it.

More often than not, whenever I have a suspicion about the conservative blogosphere, a quick study of Lori Ziganto's blog confirms it. (Sorry, Lori, I know you just want to be left alone, and you don't want to be held accountable for what you write, but your blog is public and consequently a legitimate target.)

Before I get to Ziganto, let's briefly review the procedure in question. Those wishing to board airplanes at many airports in the United States are being asked to submit to a full-body scan. The scanners can detect non-metallic explosives like those found on the underwear bomber last year, but they also produce images of the naked bodies of those who are scanned. Fliers who refuse the scans must submit to pat-down searches that include the crotch and the chest.  Children are also subject to pat-downs.

Much of the opposition to the scans is, as William Saletan puts it, "idiocy": the scans are safe, and a pat-down is a whole lot more invasive. Regarding this procedure, and in particular the alternative to the scan, Ziganto writes:
Surely, you’d think, this wouldn’t be done randomly, but would rather be a targeted measure. And, you’d also think, certainly the absolutely random subjection of children to such “pat-downs” wouldn’t occur. Well, you’d be wrong on both counts. Of course this isn’t targeted – that would be too profile-y and stuff! Because, tolerance. Or something. You see, because we must tolerate those who wish to kill us, we cannot offend them. We cannot be perceived to be singling out a certain group. We must, therefore, waste time and resources using terrorism countermeasures against, you know, NON-terrorists. And we are to pretend that 90-year-old grandmas from Nebraska flew planes into buildings on September 11th. Or that three-year-old girls strapped bombs to their shoes or in their underwear.
Who are these evil people who insist that we must "tolerate those who wish to kill us"? The Democratic-led government of course: "It’s bad enough the Government constantly condescends to the American public and treats us all like half-witted children," writes Ziganto. "I think the past election showed them that we will no longer stand for that."

But notice this: not everyone who flies these days and is subjected to the scan or a pat-down is a 90-year-old grandmother or a three-year-old girl. And if a terrorist knew that his three-year-old girl would be neither scanned nor patted down, what would stop him from making his little one wear that underwear bomb instead?

Ziganto's solution is to use profiling:
[I]t seems to me that we should try out that whole using targeted security measures, based on actual suspicion and clues, like they do in Israel. Oh, silly me. That would mean acknowledging that it is a specific radicalized group of people who wants to kill us.
Because "targeted security measures, based on actual suspicion and clues" worked so spectacularly in 2001? As the uproar over the firing of Juan Williams reminded us, there is no guarantee that a Muslim terrorist will have a certain appearance or even behave in a certain way. And some terrorists aren't even Muslim. The problem is stated quite elegantly by none other than former Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff:
The problem with using racial and religious profiling is it takes you down a road to looking at people who you don't need to look at and avoiding looking at people that you should look at. The fact is it would be an engraved invitation to al-Qaeda to recruit exactly the kind of people who don't fit the profile.
In addition, while a particular security procedure might work in Israel, implementing it in a nation of over 300 million people may not be practical. The alternative is to subject everyone, or at least randomly selected fliers, to your security measures, even if that means we often end up looking at people who we don't need to look at.

In any event, Ziganto is either kidding about following Israel's lead, or she's misinformed. According to CBS News, Israeli security is even worse:
As the New York Times reported Monday, some are looking to Israel - where profiling is just one among the many airport security tactics that make civil liberties defenders cringe - for guidance on airport security. The system is extremely restrictive by American standards, and stories of over-the-top searches and overzealous questioning are common. 
"My experience leaving Tel Aviv was by far and away the most unpleasant encounter I've ever had with airport security officials in the decade," blogger Matthew Yglesias wrote. "As best I could tell, things went pretty smoothly as long as you were (a) Israeli, (b) traveling with an Israeli, or (c) traveling with some kind of well-established tour group." 
Yglesias said that it took three hours for him to get from his initial security check to the airport's food court, and added that the Jewish member of his group "had the easiest time" while the black woman in the group "had the hardest time."
According to that New York Times story,
[T]he security methods employed by Israel’s famous Shin Bet security service at Ben-Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv are frequently stricter and more intrusive than the full-body scanners and pat-downs American officials put into place Nov. 1, said security analysts and the travelers who regularly show up at Ben-Gurion four hours before their flights for screening.
At Ben-Gurion, some passengers have been searched so thoroughly that they have had to walk through the terminals, the gates and up to the doors of their planes with no handbags, wallets or even shoes.
But I digress.

When I started seeing complaints about these more restrictive measures, something occurred to me: weren't a lot of conservatives in the media complaining about lax security after Obama was inaugurated? Why, yes they were! Among them was one Lori Ziganto. Back in May, Ziganto wrote
The night the NYC car bomb attempt went down, I was so grateful that, once again, the diligence of the public and the swift action of the NYC Police thwarted yet another potential attack. Shortly thereafter, while still incredibly grateful obviously, I became angry. I’ve had it. Firstly, because the current strategy of homeland security seems to be “Hey, guys, we’ve totally unclenched our fists. We can haz cookie now?” Secondly, because the left and their media lackeys are not only dangerously naive, but also purposefully misleading.
They are so deeply invested in both political correctness and in their violent, racist “tea baggers” meme, it clouds all else. Even common sense and the security of our country. It was swiftly apparent that they were *wishing* that the failed bomber was a tea partier, so that they could further their lame narrative and continue to try to excuse Obama and his administration for their failures and utter incompetence. Gee, Obama, how is that “unclenching of fists” deal working out for you?
That night, Attorney General Holder said “It’s important that American people remain vigilant.” Sadly, it’s quite clear that the administration and many on the left refuse to do the same. 
According to Ziganto, the current administration had put political correctness ahead of security, and security had become far too lax. Back in December, Ziganto wrote about the very event the enhanced security procedures are supposed to address, and complained that the Obama administration wasn't doing enough to keep us safe:
Today, when discussing the failed terror attack on the Northwest flight from Amsterdam, Janet Napolitano said “The system worked. Everything worked according to clockwork”. Um, perhaps she meant like a clockwork orange? That’s the only plausible explanation. . . .
Hello, Janet? He was on a watch list — and still got on a plane. WITH A BOMB in his pants. Talk about a suspicious “package” – literally. Pretty sure that means that there was “improper screening”. How on earth did “the system work”? Unless, of course, you mean the original intent of our free Republic, in which case, you are correct. Correct because, once again, private citizens succeeded where government bureaucracy failed. As always.
Ziganto complains about a terrorist boarding a flight with a bomb in his underpants, but she also complains about a security procedure designed to prevent terrorists from boarding flights with bombs in their underpants. Got it.

To summarize: 
  • If President Obama is responsible for enhanced security procedures at airports, he screwed up. 
  • If President Obama is responsible for failing to enhance security procedures at airports, he screwed up. 
  • So, no matter what, President Obama has screwed up. 
Nothing the Democrats could do would satisfy Ziganto, except adopt the Israeli model that no one here, not even Ziganto herself, would tolerate. And if they actually did adopt the Israeli model, that would be the perfect topic for Ziganto's next childish rant about those evil Democrats. All of this proves that, for Ziganto, this is purely political: the only important thing for Ziganto is that President Obama confront a no-win scenario and lose.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Mew, "Sometimes Life Isn't Easy" and "Repeaterbeater"

Holy crap, am I busy at work.

I was going to talk about this post by that nut Erick Erickson, but I just ain't got the time.

So here's a nice video for you to enjoy instead.

Friday, November 12, 2010

I have another exchange with a smug, abusive, idiotic conservative drone

The following exchange occurred in the form of comments on Lori Ziganto's post, "Pro-Aborts Screech Stay Out Of My Uterus! Unless They Want To Brag About Abortions On Twitter," Ziganto's latest version of her pro-life posty, wherein Ziganto again suggests that post-abortion syndrome is real, in the absence of any scientific evidence that it is. (Ziganto actually accuses those on the left of denying the existence of women who have been traumatized by abortion. But those on the left never denied their existence: they deny the existence of post-abortion syndrome, which is different. But I digress.) Anyway, the following exchange began when Molton posted a comment concerning the relevant science. I posted under another pseudonym, "Nameless." For the record, I and Molten are two different people. Xian Do reminds me of CSBadeaux.

November 9, 2010 5:09 am

Lori says:

“They deny the very real trauma that abortion causes women. They deny the deep pain and guilt these women suffer from.”

Post abortion syndrome is a myth, Lori.

The American Psychological Association and the American Psychiatric Association do not recognize Post Abortion Syndrome as an actual diagnosis or condition, and it is not included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

In a 1990 review, the American Psychological Association (APA) found that “severe negative reactions [after abortion] are rare and are in line with those following other normal life stresses.” The APA revised and updated its findings in August 2008 to account for the accumulation of new evidence, and again concluded that termination of a first, unplanned pregnancy did not lead to an increased risk of mental health problems.

In 2008, a team at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore reviewed 21 studies involving more than 150,000 women, and determined: “The best quality studies indicate no significant differences in long-term mental health between women in the United States who choose to terminate a pregnancy and those who do not.”

A study of 13,000 women, conducted in Britain over 11 years, compared those who chose to end an unwanted pregnancy with those who chose to give birth, controlling for psychological history, age, marital status and education level. In 1995, the researchers reported their results: equivalent rates of psychological disorders among the two groups.

In testimony before the United States Congress, U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop, an evangelical Christian and abortion opponent, stated that “There is no doubt about the fact that some people have severe psychological effects after abortion, but anecdotes do not make good scientific material.” In his congressional testimony, Koop stated that while psychological responses to abortion may be “overwhelming” in individual cases, the risk of significant psychological problems was “miniscule from a public health perspective.”

Nancy Adler, a professor of medical psychology, conducted a review of methodologically sound studies of women’s mental health before and after abortion. She concluded that up to 10 percent of women have symptoms of depression or other psychological distress after an abortion, the same rates experienced by women after childbirth.

Xian Do 
November 10, 2010 5:20 am

It always fascinates me how pompous trolls such as ‘Molten’ can include the following excerpts in his tiresome diatribe:

# 1 –equivalent rates of psychological disorders among the two groups.
(This means that, equivalent or not, there ARE rates of psychological disorders.)

# 2 –U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop, an evangelical Christian and abortion opponent, stated that “There is no doubt about the fact that some people have severe psychological effects after abortion”
(C. Everett Koop says THERE IS NO DOUBT.)

# 3 –equivalent rates of psychological disorders among the two groups.
(Again, see # 1.)


…then makes this sophomoric proclamation: “Post abortion syndrome is a myth, Lori.”

So, even though it exists… it doesn’t exist?

Or perhaps it’s one of those fascinating dichotomies…like someone such as ‘Molten’ citing all sorts of informative, detailed scientific data simply to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he is a dumbass?
Yeah, that must be it.

November 11, 2010 1:28 am

I, for one, appreciate your attempt to bring science to bear on the issue of post abortion syndrome, Molton. Unfortunately, as you can see, no one here is interested in any empirical evidence. In spite of his/her smug self-assurance and abusive demeanor, Xian Do has the scientific and critical thinking skills of a gnat. Ziganto will insist on the existence of post-abortion syndrome until her dying breath, or at least until there is no political reason for her to do so. I hate to say it, but your considerable talents are wasted on this crowd, though you have certainly won my respect and admiration.

Xian Do 
November 11, 2010 2:55 am

There is nothing more pathetic than some lowlife troll making some pompous dumbass comment under one pseudonym (“Molten”)…then logging on under a different pseudonym, pretending to be somebody else (“Nameless”), in order to pat themselves on the back.

Give it up, Molten/Nameless/Loser.

Your less-than-clever attempts at self-gratification only make you look like an even bigger jerk-off.

November 11, 2010 6:58 pm

I used to comment under my blogging pseudonym, but those comments started disappearing, so I adopted a name one of the other drones gave me: Nameless. Molton and I are two different people.

You just keep it coming, Xian Do. The more you write, the more evident it becomes that you are both a moron AND a prick.

Xian Do 
November 12, 2010 2:14 am

Bored now.

Go play with your rattle & your ‘bankie’, Molten. Your mommy might even bring you your Sesame Street sippy-cup.

Grown-ups are talking here.

November 12, 2010 12:19 pm

One afternoon when I was seven I complained to him of boredom, and [my grandfather] batted me hard on the head. He told me that I was never to use that term in his presence again, that if I was bored it was my fault and no one else’s. The obligation to amuse and instruct myself was entirely my own, and people who didn’t know that were childish people, to be avoided if possible. Certainty not to be trusted. —John Taylor Gatto

Friday, November 5, 2010

Updated Map of Online Communities 2010

Source: xkcd: A Webcomic of Romance, Sarcasm, Math, and Language

View the large version here.

Mission Accomplished!

Many conservatives have claimed recently that President Obama's trip to India will cost taxpayers $200 million a day. Prominent conservatives making this claim include
  • Mike Huckabee,
  • Michele Bachmann,
  • Glenn Beck, and
  • Rush Limbaugh.
Unfortunately for them, as Holly Baily reports, the claim is false:
The numbers evidently originate with the Press Trust of India, whose report was linked on the Drudge Report and picked up by Fox News host Glenn Beck. The news agency also wrongly said that the White House had blocked off the entire Taj Mahal Palace hotel for Obama's visit and that the U.S. was stationing 34 warships—roughly 10 percent of the naval fleet—off the coast of Mumbai for security reasons.
The agency attributed the $200 million figure to an anonymous Indian government official. It didn't attribute the warships claim to any source.
Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell called the warship claim "absolutely absurd." "That's just comical," he said at Thursday's Pentagon news briefing.  "Nothing close to that is being done."
The White House, meanwhile, issued a blanket statement that the $200 million figure "had no basis in reality" and was "wildly inflated." The press office declined to disclose the trip's actual cost, citing "security concerns."
If you're not inclined to believe the statements of evil Islamic socialist government officials, you can see what reasons FactCheck.org has for doubting the original report. You know, if you're interested in reasons and facts and stuff like that. 

This is yet another example of the conservative misinformation machine at work. Conservatives, whose primary goal is to attack the President, find a story that makes the President look bad, accept it because it confirms their preexisting bias against him, and report it without subjecting the story to any critical scrutiny whatever. Since their job is to produce bullshit for political purposes, they have little concern for the truth and consequently their beliefs are not guided by the truth. They confirm the biases of those who consume their product, however, and their product therefore remains in demand.

If you need evidence that Fox "News" is not a news channel, you need look no further. 

But the damage is done: no matter what evidence is presented, many people will persist in believing the original report. Mission accomplished!

Here's Anderon Cooper's treatment of the conservative feeding frenzy over this fabricated story.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Republicans again turn black into white

Republicans know how to spin elections.

John Boehner said that yesterday's vote represents "a repudiation of Washington, a repudiation of big government, a repudiation of politicians who refuse to listen to the people." 

In the months leading up to the election, we've been bombarded with the message that Democrats in Washington have been ignoring "we the people." The Tea Party, which is really just a branch of the Republican Party, in particular has tried to warp reality with this message. The message is based on the obnoxious assumption that those who deliver it speak for Americans in general. And I'm not sure that that assumption has ever been correct. Consider the following post at Andrew Sullivan's blog, which I quote in full:
"A convenient Tea Party mantra has been the presumptuous, and seemingly amnesiac notion that President Obama 'betrayed the American people,' that 'We the People have spoken and never wanted Obama’s policies.' ... To trumpet this narrative makes conservatives seem like sore losers in denial, and to threaten a 'second revolution' with upside-down flags as a reaction to losing a fair election speaks more about a general bitterness towards the electoral process itself which is inconsistent with our supposedly superlative support for the constitution," - Christian Hartsock, Big Journalism.
Amen. I have one loyal and valuable reader who keeps going nuts about the health insurance bill being rammed down the throats of the country.
But Obama explicitly campaigned on it; it was never hidden; he didn't change it significantly from his final campaign message (although he opposed mandates in the primaries). It was fought over in the presidential debates. And he won the election by a landslide on that platform. And he passed it after months of Congressional wrangling. There was nothing faintly wrong or treacherous or deceptive about any of it.
By all means, oppose it. But quit complaining there was something dictatorial or undemocratic about its passage.
And that's not the only problem with Republican messaging. While Republicans claim that the wave that swept Democrats into power was somehow not representative of the electorate, the latest wave magically is!

Mitch McConnell said, "What we've heard loud and clear from the American people tonight: too much spending, too much debt, too many Washington takeovers. What we’re sensing tonight is a huge case of buyer’s remorse all across America. They told us to change this government" (emphasis mine).

It's not clear that Republicans have a mandate, since their Pledge to America is so vague and contradicts what they've been campaigning on in important ways.  (In "The GOP's Incredible Shrinking Boehner," William Saletan explains why the Pledge and speeches by the new House speaker are so vacuous.) For example, if they're serious about deficit reduction, then why do they insist on making all of the Bush tax cuts permanent? Why end TARP, a program put in place by a Republican administration, when it is now expected to turn a small profit? What spending cuts will they make to balance the budget? No one knows. Real deficit hawks, those Republicans.

As usual, Republicans do not deal in smart policy, principle, or facts: they deal in spin. As Sullivan puts it, "the GOP's greatest problem right now is that they have lost interest in policy - hence their running on ideological abstractions rather than actual proposals."

In two years, we can ask ourselves a question first asked by Alaska's former chief moron Sarah Palin: How's that hopey, changey stuff working out?

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Good job, morons!

I thought it would be a good idea on this election day to talk about the idiots in the voting booth.

FiveThirtyEight projects that the Republicans will take the House back.

The received wisdom is that the economy is a major factor in the vote.

And according to The Atlantic, a Bloomberg poll shows that Americans have no idea what is going on:
According to a new Bloomberg poll, six in ten Americans think most of the money spent to rescue banks will be lost forever. Six in ten think the economy shrunk over the past year. One in two think federal income taxes have gone up in the past two years.
Wrong. Wrong. And wrong.
In fact, most of the $245 billion TARP money spent on banks will be recovered, and the program expects to turn a small profit, according to the latest report (Treasury Sec. Tim Geithner: "The direct budget cost of the program and our full investment in the insurer AIG is likely to come in well under $50 billion.") The economy has been growing, steadily if slowly, since the summer of 2009. The Obama administration has cut taxes by more than $240 billion in the last two years, including rebate checks worth up to $800 for almost all families.
And these people, many of whom probably believe that President Obama is a socialist Muslim from Kenya, are handing the House to the Republicans today, because we all know what a fine job they did the last time they controlled it.

Good job, morons!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Let Ron handle this one, Vince.

According to TV Guide,
Director Ron Howard says he will not cut a joke using the word "gay" from his new film, The Dilemma. The joke was deemed insensitive by GLAAD and subsequently removed from the film's trailer two weeks ago.
In the clip, Vince Vaughn, who plays an automotive consultant, says, "Ladies and gentleman, electric cars are gay."
"I believe in sensitivity but not censorship. I feel that our film is taking additional heat as an emblem for many movies and TV shows that preceded it that have even more provocative characterizations and language," Howard wrote in a letter to The Los Angeles Times. "It is a slight moment in The Dilemma meant to demonstrate an aspect of our lead character's personality, and we never expected it to represent our intentions or the point of view of the movie or those of us who made it."
However, Howard said he agreed with Universal's choice to remove the joke in question from the film's trailer, calling it an "appropriate" decision.
Vaughn has weighed in on the controversy. TV Guide reports,
Vince Vaughn is standing behind the use of a gay joke in his upcoming film, The Dilemma.
In the film, Vaughn plays an automotive consultant who says, "Ladies and gentleman, electric cars are gay." Universal pulled the joke from the film's trailer after complaints from the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation and comments by CNN anchor Anderson Cooper. Universal said the trailer "was not intended to cause anyone discomfort," but it remains unclear if the joke will still be used in the film.
Vaughn made a case for the joke to stand. "Drawing dividing lines over what we can and cannot joke about does exactly that; it divides us," he said in a statement to Deadline.com. "Most importantly, where does it stop?"
The 40-year-old actor said he supports those outraged by the bullying and persecution of gay people, but  he thinks everyone should be able to laugh with one another. "Comedy and joking about our differences breaks tension and brings us together," he said.
In my view, this is one of those cases of political correctness run amok. Howard claims that the joke is intended not to demean homosexuals but rather to establish character, i.e., it is intended to show the audience that the character played by Vaughn is a prick. To work, the joke presumes the very offensiveness of the joke that GLAAD is pointing out. The makers of the film agree with GLAAD's assessment of the offensiveness of the joke, and that is exactly why it is used to establish Vaughn's character in the movie. Some who view the movie will think that the joke is funny, in the same way that many television viewers thought Archie Bunker was a hero rather than the bigot his creators took him to be. But that does not justify censorship. GLAAD needs to chill.

Vaughn's justification of the joke is half plausible and half just plain stupid. Caving to the demands of groups like GLAAD does raise the specter of censorship, and a line must be drawn somewhere. But Vaughn's justification seems to be based on an obliviousness to the offensiveness of the joke. It's funny, and that can bring us together, Vaughn appears to think. No, not really, Vince. Let Ron handle this one, all right?

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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