Ugly Wallpaper (Bazooka Nanny: Government Superhero)

Bigger than a tall building,
Faster than a light-rail train,
Exploiter of the ignorant, shafter of the hapless,
Wiser than God and richer than you, it’s…
Bazooka Nanny: Government Superhero

Today’s episode: Ugly Wallpaper

Photo © 2008 Louisa Billeter CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
Click here for the original image.

“Are you going to get that?! That alarm’s been going off for the last half-hour.”

Nanny peered over his bag of potato chips at his wide-screen TV. Reclined on the couch, his beer belly provided a nice, convenient shelf on which to rest the bag, not too far away that he had to reach to get at it, not so close that it blocked his view. “Hold on!” he called back. “Let me just make it to the next commercial break.”

Control stomped in from the next room and positioned her body in front of the television screen. “Now,” she intoned, pointing at the emergency-monitor console.

“Damn,” Nanny muttered as he rolled off the couch. “There ought’a be a law against that.”
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No, Mr. Obama, the Government Is Not Us

Photo © 2010 J. Timothy King CC BY-NC-SA 2.0; Original Photos: “RNC Bush Lied Americans Died” © 2008 Chad Davis CC BY-NC-SA 2.0, “Tea Party rally” © 2010 Fibonacci Blue CC BY 2.0

Q: How do you know when a politician is lying?

A: His lips are moving.

As one might expect, Obama’s speech at the University of Michigan this past weekend contained a healthy portion of misstatements, debatable half-truths, and deep-thick bullshit. If political rhetoric were to pollute our drinking water, we’d be perpetually living in a state of panic, as many here in the Boston area felt the same weekend. But as Christ himself said, it’s not what goes into a person that defiles him, it’s what comes out.

I’m not going through the entire speech, but I’d like to focus on one little gem that was picked up by the AP and rebroadcast far and wide:

What troubles me is when I hear people say that all of government is inherently bad… When our government is spoken of as some menacing, threatening foreign entity, it ignores the fact that in our democracy, government is us.

This snippet contains two huge, obvious fallacies. Can you spot them? If not, don’t worry; I intend to point them out.
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Political Bytes

The government “golf cart” subsidy

This is too funny for me to have made it up. The IRS has ruled that Obama’s stimulus bill subsidizes actual, honest-to-goodness golf carts, under the “high-mileage vehicle” provision. This is causing golf-cart sales to soar. Laments Doug Bandow of the Cato Institute, “In a normal world this would be shocking, even scandalous news. Taxpayer money wasted buying carts for golfers. Uncle Sam as reverse Robin Hood, stealing from the needy to enrich well-heeled golfers.” Not in this country.
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You Wanna Win a Nobel Peace Prize, Too?

“Barack Hussein Obama wins Nobel Peace Prize, NASA Bombs the Moon”; © 2009 RR Anderson CC BY 2.0

As you know, Barack Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize last Friday.

At first, I thought it was some sort of joke. And then I decided it actually was. “Wow. They’re giving them out to everyone now, aren’t they?”

The sentiment is not mine alone. For example, Ana Marie Cox, National Correspondent for Air America radio, wrote on Twitter, “Apparently Nobel Prizes are now being awarded to anyone who is not George Bush.”

After much debate, I think we’ve finally zeroed in on why Obama received the prize. It’s for his extraordinary effort, as Jerry Salcido reports at the Campaign for Liberty, “at bringing peace to the anti-war movement.” This has allowed him to further implement the peace-keeping missions created by his predecessor and the predecessor before that.

This should not come as a complete surprise. Nobel Peace Prize laureates over the past decade have included the UN, for their extraordinary efforts to promote endless bickering between national governments; the International Panel on Climate Change, for their extraordinary efforts to build up and disseminate greater myths— er, I mean, “knowledge,” about the global climate; and most importantly, Al Gore (for inventing the Internet).

(Yup. That joke still works.)

Your Own Peace Prize

In the spirit of the Nobel, I’m instituting my own peace prize. I haven’t given it a name yet— but I know that I don’t want my name on it. (Feel free to suggest names along with your contest entries below.)
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The Semantics of “Healthcare Reform”

Uncle Sam-Your New Doctor?

Cato Institue Healthcare Policy Ad

Michael Cloud decades ago said, profoundly, “In the jungle, the rule is kill or be killed. In politics, either define or be defined. Because words are weapons; words are tools.” (From the Essence of Political Persuasion CD series.)

If you want to control the direction of a debate, find a way to control the language of the debate.

I want to talk, though, not about the linguistic tricks used in the healthcare debate, but about the term “healthcare reform” itself. The healthcare issue is exceedingly complex, and relatively little good research has been done to understand it, much less to be able to analyze possible futures. Most of what people claim to know about healthcare is just myth and conjecture. And even within the myths, there are a number of possible courses of action. But none of this stops them from leaping on the pro- or anti-reform bandwagon.

And as a libertarian, I find this deeply troubling.
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The Asshole vs. the Nicest Man You’d Ever Want to Meet

A very old friend of mine pointed me to this article at the Boston Herald, about Paul Keigan and his story of how the American dream is over.

Long story short: Paul Keigan started out as a Canadian immigrant 48 years ago, with $96 and the American dream. He got into sales at a car dealership, and immediately he started making friends and repeat customers. Then, 20 years ago, he bought a failing dealership in Franklin, which was to become Keigan Chevrolet.

This year, however, GM, in the midst of its own baptism of fire, has pulled the plug.
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Lie Detecting: A Bullshit Episode Penn & Teller Should Do

Penn & Teller haven’t yet done an episode on lie detecting for their Emmy-nominated series Penn & Teller: Bullshit! (which you can get on DVD). On Bullshit Penn & Teller expose, rip apart, and generally make fun of nonsense from talking to the dead to alien abduction to alternative, new-age medical mumbo jumbo to conspiracy theories to religion to college education to popular social misconceptions to big foot to politicians and government programs…

Well, here’s an idea they haven’t done yet, but which they ought to do, because it’s tailor-made for this show:

(UPDATE: They did an episode about polygraphs shortly after I wrote this post. Their research team, I’m sure, had already been hammering out the details when this post went live. Interestingly, they never got to most of the points I mention here. I guess lie detecting really is a huge load of bullshit.)

Lie Detectors

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Don't Underestimate the Objects of Our Thanks

The following was originally published at Dad-o-matic.

As we approach this holiday season, it seems we have little to be thankful about. Still topping the news are stories of death and dire.

These are just some of the stories I pulled out of the “top stories” at Google News last week.
Meanwhile, the financial markets continue to ride a roller coaster. We aren’t officially in a recession yet, but analysts are predicting one with such certainty that everyone accepts it as a fait accompli. President-elect Obama in a radio address claimed “we are facing an economic crisis of historic proportions,” and he proposed massive, long-term federal hiring, spending, and hand-outs to compensate for the flailing economy.
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Would I Run? (If you’ve read this viral email…)

An old friend of the family forwarded a viral email that asks the question “Would you run?” I’ll tell you how I answered it, but first let me reprint the relevant part of the email.

Imagine this happening to you…

One Sunday morning service, a 2,000 member congregation was surprised to see two men enter, both covered from head to toe in black and carrying submachine guns.

One of the men proclaimed, “Anyone willing to take a bullet for Christ, remain where you are!”

Immediately, the choir fled.

The deacons fled.

And most of the congregation fled.

Out of the 2,000, there only remained 20.

The man who had spoken took off his hood. He then looked at the preacher and said, “Okay, Pastor. I got rid of all the hypocrites. Now you may begin your service. Have a nice day!” And the two men turned and walked out.

So, would I have run?

Hell, yeah!

Look, just because some guy in riot gear carrying a gun tells you to stay put so he can shoot you for your faith, that doesn’t mean you have to listen to him! If you have the chance to escape, then you escape, with you friends and family if possible, and you never look back.

Do you think all the Jews who escaped from the Nazis were traitors to their faith? What about all the Christians who helped them escape, at great personal risk? (The penalty for harboring a Jew was summary execution.)

There is no triumph in dying for Christ, if you could choose to live for Him instead.


Convicting Anyone of Anything

A jury convicted Lori Drew of breaking MySpace’s terms of service, possibly sending her to prison for years, if the verdict stands up on appeal.

Why? Because she was involved in setting up a fake MySpace account, posing as a teenage boy, in order to mess with the emotions of a psychologically fragile teenage girl who had been nasty to her daughter. The teenage girl ended up committing suicide, and now people want to blame someone. And technically, Lori might have run afoul of federal computer fraud laws, even though those laws were supposedly never intended to address this situation.

The bad part about this case is that it only reinforces that federal prosecutors can convict almost anybody they want to, because we almost everybody has done something that is technically against federal criminal law. And most of us have also done at least one stupid thing online that might have pissed off someone else.

You see, the federal code is full of over-harsh laws. (Years in the federal pen for violating MySpace’s terms of service?! Get some perspective.) And this law wasn’t even applied correctly, because federal computer crime laws were intended (supposedly) to protect peoples’ credit card numbers and other sensitive information stored on computer. And rooting for a misapplication of an unfair law just to get even hurts us all, because it makes it more likely that the next victim who wants to get even will want to get even with you or me.

OK. Rant over. (For now.)