Saturday, November 20, 2010

TCR: Salvatore Giunta

I've been reading about and watching this guy all week after he became the first living soldier to be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor since the Vietnam Conflict and he's always been the very definition of humility. We need to find some way to clone Giunta whilst imprinting his sense of duty and bravery upon the DNA:

Friday, November 19, 2010

Something Someone Else Said

"I never cease to be amazed at what a festering bundle of resentments Palin is. Just a few years ago she was the mayor of a tiny town in Alaska, and today she's one of the most famous people in America. Despite her modest talents, there are millions of people who believe, and tell her constantly, that she ought to be the most powerful person on planet Earth. She's made millions of dollars in the last two years, for the easiest of things -- giving some speeches, having ghost-writers pen a couple of books, doing appearances on Fox, letting cameras trail her around while she goes fishing. And yet she can barely open her mouth without going on and on about how terribly victimized she is, and how everyone has done her wrong," -Paul Waldman, The American Prospect.

Posted because apparently my little buddy Donald Douglas of American Clown Shoes has been lamenting the fact that I've been letting the blog lie mostly fallow lately, and if anyone knows about being a professional victim it is most certainly he. Here's to you, Chubs.


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

FDA Proposes New Cigarette Warning Labels

This is a bit much in my opinion:

Federal drug regulators on Wednesday unveiled 36 proposed warning labels for cigarette packages, including one showing a toe tag on a corpse and another in which a mother blows smoke on her baby.

Designed to cover half the surface area of a pack or carton of cigarettes, and a fifth of any advertisements for them, the labels are intended to spur smokers to quit by providing graphic reminders of tobacco’s dangers. The labels are required under a law passed last year that gave the Food and Drug Administration the power to regulate, but not ban, tobacco products for the first time.

Public health officials hope that the new labels will re-energize the nation’s antismoking efforts, which have stalled in recent years. About 20.6 percent of the nation’s adults, or 46.6 million people, and about 19.5 percent of high school students, or 3.4 million teenagers, are smokers.
And yes, that's actually one of the proposed images above; you can see more here. Because just giving people the facts about cigarettes isn't enough, the government has decided that it's also necessary to appeal to one's emotions and fear of death and disease in order to control individual behaviour. My conservative counterpart Donald Douglas of American Clown Shoes accurately intuits my stand on this issue:
I don't know. Maybe some folks are so stupid they actually need these warnings. Besides, what would folks like egghead JBW do without some Nanny Statism to gripe about? Get rid of warning labels and marijuana laws in one fell swoop!! Then everyone would have equal opportunity to death!
Now I'm not a Republican so I don't consider the moniker "egghead" to be the epithet that Don does but I will admit that I do agree with him on this, at least partially: I'm absolutely convinced that some (hell, many) folks are so stupid that they actually need these warnings, there's no maybe about it. Even after several decades of government health reports stating definitively that cigarettes cause cancer and thus death, even after several multi-billion dollar lawsuits against tobacco companies for making false claims about the safety of their products all these years and even though cigarettes have had health warnings on them since the mid sixties people still smoke them! Why do they do this despite all of the warnings and evidence about how dangerous it is? Well, even though I'm an egghead (which is defined as being "elitist" and "out of touch") I understand a truth about myself and my fellow humans that Don does not: human beings have a fundamental need to alter their brain chemistry.

Ever wonder why the War on Drugs has been such an abject failure? Or why people smoke or chew tobacco, drink too much alcohol and eat too much fat, salt and sugar? Of course you don't because you know why people do these things: because it makes them feel good, and no amount of warning labels and government babysitting is going to make them stop doing so. Now this isn't to say that I think cigarettes shouldn't have warnings on their packages. I have no problem with the small amount of government intervention that is required to force companies to provide adequate information to the public about their products but these pictures of diseased lungs and choking children seem to me political correctness run amok.

Now I have no doubt that they'll have the desired effect of convincing a certain number of people not to smoke who weren't deterred by a mere written warning but how far should we as a society be willing to take this? Should the winery that produces my Pinot Noir be forced to place a picture of a hardened liver on every bottle? How about forcing fast food companies to print pictures of a guy having a coronary or having his leg amputated due to diabetes on their cheeseburger wrappers? Or we could even up the ante to things that still hold an element of danger yet don't even alter brain chemistry or directly affect our health, like forcing car companies to place pictures of bloodied corpses on their windshields or forcing the airlines to print pictures of a crashed burning fuselage on every ticket. Hell, we could force companies to put a graphic warning about the worst consequences of every product and activity under the sun on their respective packaging and advertising, then nobody would ever do anything stupid and we'd all be safe from ourselves, right?

Wrong. We could do all of that and more and people would still do stupid things that are dangerous to their health but we've decided as a society that we're OK with that because it's the price of personal freedom in this country. Full disclosure: I don't smoke, in fact I hate cigarettes. One of my great laments is that almost every cute girl I know in California is a smoker but I still defend the rights of smokers to do so because I believe in the principle of individual liberty. Being a hypocrite Don is comfortable letting his government dictate ever more restrictive advertising codes for tobacco and positively draconian anti-drug laws because he doesn't smoke or use illicit drugs, hence he could care less about the individual freedoms of people who do. I would imagine that he's quite all right with the recent San Francisco ban on toys in Happy Meals (gotta protect the kids, you know) and the massive sin tax that California has placed on alcohol and tobacco products (I missed that part last time I was reading the bible), all while he squeals incessantly about big government running wild and Obama ramming his health care reform down our throats.

What this ultimately boils down to is personal responsibility and the philosophy that adults, even stupid adults, should be able to decide for themselves whether or not to engage in behaviour that is dangerous to themselves and their health. Children are obviously different and because their reasoning skills are not yet mature they require additional governmental protection but even then I doubt Don and the rest of his tea partying ilk would want the government telling them how to raise their children in most respects. But telling an adult like him that he can and cannot ingest certain substances and chemicals because in the eyes of the government he's essentially too stupid to decide these things for himself? Well, maybe he needs these warning labels to protect him. Perhaps then despite varying levels of individual stupidity our societal "opportunity to death" might not be equal, but at least we'll all be safe from our own behaviour.

Well what do you know, I wrote this entire post without invoking the phrase "nanny state" even once. You're welcome, Don. Now go do what your government tells you like a good little drone.

Monday, November 1, 2010

My '10 Election Predictions

Continuing my biennial tradition of making a mockery of the democratic process by treating it as a sporting event to be wagered upon I've made my predictions for tomorrows midterm elections. The Republicans need to gain 39 seats in the House of Representatives to take control of that body and I have no doubt that they will get them. In fact, I'm predicting they'll take 50-60 with no more than 75. They also need to gain 10 seats in the Senate to take control of that body as well but I just don't see that happening. I'm predicting that they'll take 6-8 with a high of 9, leaving Democrats with a slim majority.

Despite delirious prognostications about Democrats getting "crushed" tomorrow I think that this will be a net positive for President Obama, whom regular readers know I like much more than his party as a whole, going into the 2012 elections. These past two years have been rough ones for Americans but I think Obama has done a fairly good job playing the hand he was dealt coming into office, despite pussified Democrats, obstructionist Republicans, Bush's tanking economy, Bush's two unfunded wars and the myriad of other albatrosses hanging from his neck. Now the Republicans will have two years to propose something, anything substantive that will help get America back on its feet and Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell has already stated the central plank of their bold new strategy:

The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.
That's their plan: politics over governance. No serious proposals to reinvigorate the economy or reduce the debt or deficits, just a party-wide retrenchment and digging in of heels with a constant refrain of tax cuts (which is hardly a serious proposal based on the massive deficits we're dealing with). You see, there are only two ways to reduce government deficits: increase revenues (raising taxes) or reduce spending, and since they wouldn't even consider the possibility of the former if Fort Knox was on fire that leaves the latter. But what have they proposed cutting?

As I've said, nothing substantial or specific, just vague platitudes about reducing spending and eliminating waste. 75% of our federal budget is used to pay for only three things: Social Security, Medicare and military spending; everything else, everything else, makes up the other 25%. Any serious proposal to reduce our deficits and steer us back towards fiscal solvency must address the fact that cuts have to be made in those three areas. And even though cuts to these areas will be hard to make and less than popular with voters, any proposals by either party that do not do this should not be taken seriously. And what has the latest proposed spending cut by the so-called party of fiscal conservatism been? The 1.5% of NPR's funding that they get from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting: about three million dollars. Our national debt is around thirteen and a half trillion dollars, about four million times that.

"So how does losing the House help Obama?", I hear you asking. Well, if the Republicans win the House and are actually serious about reducing deficits and making spending cuts then they will compromise and work with Obama's bipartisan deficit commission to shore up the economy: win for Obama and more importantly, win for Americans (and many of those Americans will be voting in 2012). If however they do what I expect and continue to try to derail everything he proposes whilst simultaneously proposing to repeal health care and financial reforms that are popular with Americans and even possibly shut down the government, I think it will become fairly clear to voters that Republicans are more interested in regaining power than in trying to help the country: win for Obama and more importantly, huge loss for Americans (and many of those Americans will be voting in 2012).

The president inherited a full plate when he came into office and he needed a strong party that controlled both houses of congress to have his back as he tried to institute his ambitious agenda for America. Unfortunately for him and that agenda, he's had to make due with the Democrats, who to their credit and despite all the shit I talk about them have done a lot of things right over the past two years. But they've also done a lot of things wrong and that, combined with a recessed economy, high unemployment and allowing the Republicans to consistently control the narrative in Washington, is why they're going to lose a substantial number of seats in tomorrows midterms.

But those losses come with a silver lining: in the minds of the voters Republicans will finally be forced to own part of the economy Bush left on his desk two years ago and if the only solution they have for the next two years is still merely "NO!" then they should enjoy tomorrows victory while it lasts because they're gonna have a hell of a time running a presidential candidate on that nihilistic platform. Voters will have two choices when they enter their voting booths: one party that irresponsibly spends your tax dollars like hell and another party that irresponsibly spends your tax dollars like hell whilst simultaneously and hypocritically swearing up and down that they do not. The main difference between them at this point is that the first party has an actual adult as their leader. Please make sure you vote tomorrow everyone.

I'm Back

Read my blog if you want to live... OK, OK, I obviously can't help myself at this point and I'll be honest: I was genuinely touched by the outpouring of support and positive words I received in my ostensible last post. I really did appreciate it and I must admit that blogging can be a fun enterprise as long as one does not put too much pressure on one's self to produce, so here's the deal: this blog will remain up and active but I make no promises about either content or frequency. I might post ten times in a day or just as easily let it lie fallow for weeks at a time; I might rant lengthily about how the Senatorial filibuster has paralyzed that deliberative body or I might just post a video of a cute kitten trying not to fall asleep (note: there will be no videos of cute kittens, as an addendum to my long-standing rule banning lolcats). Basically I'm reprioritizing several things right now and while the blog isn't going to the back of the line it has lost some prominence in my everyday life. So that's it. Thanks again to everyone who reads what I write here. I'm gonna get some lunch now.

TDS: Negative Campaigning

Case in point: