Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Been there, done that

The Raw Story | Intelligence not linked to wealth, according to US study

Intelligence has nothing to do with wealth, according to a US study published Tuesday which found that people with below average smarts were just as wealthy as those with higher IQ scores.

"People don't become rich because they are smart," said Jay Zagorsky, research scientist at Ohio State University whose study appears in the Journal Intelligence.

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics survey included 7,403 Americans who have been interviewed repeatedly since 1979. Based on 2004 answers, people who are now in their mid-40s showed no link between brain- and earning-power.

"Your IQ has really no relationship to your wealth. And being very smart does not protect you from getting into financial difficulty," Zagorsky said.

The study confirmed previous research which has shown that smarter people tend to earn more money, but pointed out there is a difference between high pay and overall wealth.

"The average income difference between a person with an IQ score in the normal range (100) and someone in the top two percent of society (130) is currently between 6,000 and 18,500 dollars per year," it said.

"But when it came to total wealth and the likelihood of financial difficulties, people of below average and average intelligence did just fine when compared to the super-intelligent."

Your humble scribe, more than two years ago, putting a bit of political context around the facts:
One of Dubya’s newer rhetorical sleights is the use of the phrase “ownership society” to describe the dismantling of the social safety net and the individualization of risk. But when George Bush talks about the ownership society, what he really means is that he wants to create an atmosphere in which there is no guilt associated with ownership – a place where those who inherit wealth will feel unapologetically entitled to it.

This, then, is the New Entitlement. Where once progressive social programs that redistributed resources from rich to poor were (perhaps unfortunately) called “entitlements,” for unhappy “haves” like our President, the term now means “what’s mine is mine, and you ain’t getting any of it.” And so he schemes to end the limits on transgenerational transmission of wealth by framing the inheritance tax as the “death tax.” He demanded sharp reductions in taxation on income from wealth (dividends and capital gains), while tax rates on labor are largely unchanged. And he jousts with the Social Security windmill because a system that rounds off the sharp edges of poverty and misfortune is a reminder to everyone of the role of chance in the distribution of the wealth. And if net worth depends even in part on chance, his claim of entitlement is suspect.

Blue Meme. Reporting the facts, even before they are facts.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Another peek behind the Orange Curtain

I've talked about it before. The refutation (OK, one of many) to the liberal stereotype about California is Orange County in general, and Dana Rohrabacher in particular. You can reverse-engineer a great deal about the id of the real OC from the unmediated ravings of this nine-term representative .

I know that outrageous, stupid outbursts are par for his course, but still, this is exceptional:

During a Congressional hearing this week with members of the European Parliament on the practice of extraordinary rendition, whereby detainees are flown on CIA planes to secret prisons all over the world to be tortured either at Guantanamo or their countries of origin, Rohrabacher scoffed at all notions of eliminating this deeply troublesome program, which has harmed our stature with our allies and around the world and has debased our souls, and then busted out with this:

Rohrabacher railed against anyone who questioned the right of the Bush administration to do whatever it wanted, legal or illegal, to prevent terrorist acts and said that by not supporting the Bush policies was consigning their country to the terrorists. In particular he said that any Americans who questioned the extraordinary rendition were un-American [...]

Rohrabacher never once mentioned due process, the rule of law, right to a trial for anyone picked up in the extraordinary rendition program. Merely because persons were "rendered" and imprisoned by the US meant to Rohrbacker they were guilty.

Rohrabacher said if European countries did not cooperate with the United States and go along with whatever the Bush administration wanted, they were condemning their countrymen to death by not using extralegal methods to imprison terrorist suspects. When citizens attending the hearing, including members of Codepink Women for Peace and Veterans for Peace, heard Rohrabacher's statement, they collectively groaned. Then, much to the shock and disbelief of everyone in the hearing room, Rorhbacker said to those who had expressed displeasure at his statements: "I hope it's your family members that die when terrorists strike."

So a US Representative wished for death on his fellow Americans because they disagree with him that the best way to fight terror is to hook people's genitals up to electrodes so they can give us false information.

But when Nancy Pelosi goes on a State Department-sanctioned trip to Syria and follows the Administration-dictated script, freedom weeps.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Deja Vu all over again

Pew Survey Finds Most Knowledgeable Americans Watch 'Daily Show' and 'Colbert'-- and Visit Newspaper Sites

A new survey of 1,502 adults released Sunday by Pew Research Center for the People & the Press found that despite the mass appeal of the Internet and cable news since a previous poll in 1989, Americans' knowledge of national affairs has slipped a little. For example, only 69% know that Dick Cheney is vice president, while 74% could identify Dan Quayle in that post in 1989.

Other details are equally eye-opening. Pew judged the levels of knowledgeability (correct answers) among those surveyed and found that those who scored the highest were regular watchers of Comedy Central's The Daily Show and Colbert Report. They tied with regular readers of major newspapers in the top spot -- with 54% of them getting 2 out of 3 questions correct. Watchers of the Lehrer News Hour on PBS followed just behind.

Virtually bringing up the rear were regular watchers of Fox News. Only 1 in 3 could answer 2 out of 3 questions correctly. Fox topped only network morning show viewers.

OK, everyone who is surprised, raise your hands.

This study actually expands a bit on one I wrote about almost a year ago. You might think that shows that cover current events and feature interviews with important authors and politicos and shows actual video clips of national figures making asses of themselves would be seen as contributing to political awareness. But for the chattering class, acknowledging the positive influence of Stewart & Colbert is tantamount to admitting that "serious" media is the real joke. So don't hold your breath, truth be damned.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Tom Tommorow nails it

You've heard it before, but perhaps not with such elegance.

All of a piece

Remember how the junta was kicking citizens out of public appearances by our Civil Servant in Chief? Remember the two folks in Denver who were thrown out of a Bush appearance because, they allege, of their political views? They are suing. And you won't believe what the Bush monarchy is arguing in defense.

White House officials have the right to exclude dissenters from appearances by President Bush, according to lawyers for volunteers who helped eject three people from a hall where Bush was about to speak.

Defense attorneys made the argument last week in a civil suit filed against Michael Casper and Jay Bob Klinkerman. The suit was filed by Leslie Weise and Alex Young of Denver, who were told to leave just before Bush was to talk about his plans for Social Security at the March 21, 2005, taxpayer-funded event in Denver.

Weise and Young argue they were ejected for their political views. They had arrived in a car bearing a "No blood for oil" bumper sticker. They were also wearing T-shirts saying "Stop the lies" under their clothes but did not show them.

They have said they had no plans to disrupt the event, but Young hoped to ask Bush a question if given the opportunity.

Casper and Klinkerman's lawyers said the government has the same rights as a private corporation when its officials speak.

"The president may constitutionally make viewpoint-based exclusionary determinations in conveying his own message," the attorneys said in the filing. "So in following the instructions of the White House and carrying out its viewpoint-based exclusions, Casper and Klinkerman did not violate any of plaintiffs' constitutional rights."

Puts the whole US Attorney thing into perspective, don't it? When your guiding principle is "l'etat c'est moi," it makes perfect sense to fire prosecutors or exclude citizens for insufficient loyalty.

But I have to say that even I would not have thought the Administration would have the chutzpah to argue that theory in a court of law.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Richard Cohen: multi-media, still clueless

Oh. My. God.

Richard Cohen, Washington Post's resident useful idiot (useful, that is, to the cocktail weenie-distribution cartel), has a new piece about the latest Paul Wolfowitz scandalette. But you won't find it on the WaPo website. It is published -- really and truly -- at the Huffington Post. That's right -- a blog.

He spanks Wolfowitz around for the girlfriend thing a bit, but bemoans the fact that this scandal seems to be hurting Wolfowitz more than his complicity in the epochal tragedy of Iraq did.

Now, we must pause to say that this scandal tells you quite a bit about Washington. In the first place, anywhere else in the world, the "girlfriend" would be some ditz -- a non-typing, non-filing, non-working pretty thing who owed her job to a nifty arrangement of body parts. Not in Washington, though. Ms. Riza is a highly-educated (London School of Economics, Oxford University) person who is fluent in French, Italian, Arabic, Turkish and English and can probably, when plied with enough wine, wax rhapsodic on the appalling agricultural policies of the Bangladeshi government. This is invariably the sort of woman who I sat next to at every dinner party I attended in Washington and to whom you do not dare say, should the moment or the wine seize you, "Your eyes are like deep pools of love."


As for Wolfowitz himself, you must take pity on the man. He confused war with love and thought if he could do what he wanted with the former he could do what he wanted with the latter. Now, he has learned his lesson.

And may I also point out that this paragon of polite discourse, this annoying old scold, drops the f-bomb in his bloggy debut? Cover your ears, children.

Recall that after Stephen Colbert made Richard a wee bit uncomfortable at the White House Correspondents dinner last year, Poor Richard voiced his pique, the blogosphere explained what a moron Cohen was, and Cohen was struck by the vapours:

Kapow! Within a day, I got more than 2,000 e-mails. A day later, I got 1,000 more. By the fourth day, the number had reached 3,499 ...

Truth to tell, I peeked into only a few of the e-mails. ... Usually, the subject line said it all. Some were friendly and agreed that Colbert had not been funny. Most, though, were in what we shall call disagreement. Fine. I said the man wasn't funny and not funny has a bullying quality to it; others (including some of my friends) said he was funny. But because I held such a view, my attentive critics were convinced I had a political agenda. I was -- as was most of the press, I found out -- George W. Bush's lap dog. If this is the case, Bush had better check his lap.

It seemed that most of my correspondents had been egged on to write me by various blogs. In response, they smartly assembled into a digital lynch mob and went roaring after me.

But Cohen's late recruitment into the digital lynch mob is merely an appetizer. The main course here is the third person voice Cohen uses when talking about the tragedy in Iraq. At least Cohen didn't bury the lede; his first paragraph is a triple-distillation of his own malfeasance:

As Paul Wolfowitz is proving, it turns out all is not fair in love and war. Only war. Take a nation to war for spurious reasons and no one much complains. But arrange a raise for your girlfriend, and you get booed in the atrium of the World Bank and have to visibly sweat in public.
No one complained? No one, indeed, Richard -- least of all you. You, who had prominent soapbox, you who might have had some effect, had you a brain in your head. But you were one of Wolfowitz's enablers, Richard. As with so many other major issues, you enabled and cheered insanity, ignored reality, and happily headed off to the next cocktail party with your co-conspirators. A few highlights from poor Richard's almanac:

As Greg Mitchell recently reminded us, Cohen was the guy who wrote, in February 2003:"Iraq not only hasn't accounted for its weapons of mass destruction but without a doubt still retains them. Only a fool -- or possibly a Frenchman -- could conclude otherwise." He is the man who wrote that "the Iraq war is not the product of oil avarice, or CIA evil, but of a surfeit of altruism." And that "so many liberals, myself included, originally supported the war (because it) engaged us emotionally." He is the man who gave us such bon mots as "Corruption of any kind corrupts" and who advised a high school student, "You will never need to know algebra." He is the oracle who informed us last October that "The best thing Patrick Fitzgerald could do for his country is get out of Washington, return to Chicago and prosecute some real criminals."

Immoral and illegals wars, and conspiracies to burn CIA agents as political retribution? No complaints from you. But mistresses and dinner parties? Those you tear into with gusto, even as you pooh-pooh the endeavor.

If you were capable of seeing the irony there, perhaps you might have understood why Colbert was so dead-on last year.

There are many loathsome men afforded great deference in the press. Some of them work at the same newspaper as you do. But I don't think any of them are so elegantly self-refuting as you are.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

So it goes

I don't remember exactly how old I was when I started reading Vonnegut. My guess is 13. I think I started with Slaughterhouse Five, and then tore through just about all of his stuff, probably over the course of a few months. He was the first grown-up novelist who got to me, which is probably why he still feels so influential, even now. (Because his work is so accessible, some dismiss it as lightweight. Bullshit. Complex and esoteric are easy. A paragraph as simple most of Vonnegut's is damned hard to write. And a sentence as elegant as most of Raymond Carver's is just shy of impossible, but I missed my chance to eulogize him.)

I rarely read novels now -- just when I travel. I can't even remember when I last read science fiction. I'm pretty sure I've read better novels since I inhaled Vonnegut, but I'm not sure if I enjoyed any of them as much.

When Vonnegut appeared on The Daily Show a few months ago, he seemed only slightly diminished by time, and his powers of observation were still vital.

Here is a quote from his final work, A Man Without A Country, full of wisdom and humanity:

I apologize to all of you who are the same age as my grandchildren. And many of you reading this are probably the same age as my grandchildren. They, like you, are being royally shafted and lied to by our Baby Boomer corporations and government.

Yes, this planet is in a terrible mess. But it has always been a mess. There have never been any "Good Old Days," there have just been days. And as I say to my grandchildren, "Don't look at me, I just got here."

There are old poops who will say that you do not become a grown-up until you have somehow survived, as they have, some famous calamity -- the Great Depression, the Second World War, Vietnam, whatever. Storytellers are responsible for this destructive, not to say suicidal, myth. Again and again in stories, after some terrible mess, the character is able to say at last, "Today I am a woman. Today I am a man. The end."

When I got home from the Second World War, my Uncle Dan clapped me on the back, and he said, "You're a man now." So I killed him. Not really, but I certainly felt like doing it.

Dan, that was my bad uncle, who said a man can't be a man unless he'd gone to war.

But I had a good uncle, my late Uncle Alex. He was my father's kid brother, a childless graduate of Harvard who was an honest life-insurance salesman in Indianapolis. He was well-read and wise. And his principal complaint about other human beings was that they so seldom noticed it when they were happy. So when we were drinking lemonade under an apple tree in the summer, say, and talking lazily about this and that, almost buzzing like honeybees, Uncle Alex would suddenly interrupt the agreeable blather to exclaim, "If this isn't nice, I don't know what is."

So I do the same now, and so do my kids and grandkids. And I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, "If this isn't nice, I don't know what is."
I haven't read the book, but I will make the time to do it now that he is gone.

So it goes.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Today's Niemöller moment

Brought to you by Homeland Security, via Balkinization:

An emeritus Princeton professor and retired Marine colonel tells us:
"On 1 March 07, I was scheduled to fly on American Airlines to Newark, NJ, to attend an academic conference at Princeton University, designed to focus on my latest scholarly book, Constitutional Democracy, published by Johns Hopkins University Press this past Thanksgiving."

"When I tried to use the curb-side check in at the Sunport, I was denied a boarding pass because I was on the Terrorist Watch list. I was instructed to go inside and talk to a clerk. At this point, I should note that I am not only the McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence (emeritus) but also a retired Marine colonel. I fought in the Korean War as a young lieutenant, was wounded, and decorated for heroism. I remained a professional soldier for more than five years and then accepted a commission as a reserve office, serving for an additional 19 years."

"I presented my credentials from the Marine Corps to a very polite clerk for American Airlines. One of the two people to whom I talked asked a question and offered a frightening comment: "Have you been in any peace marches? We ban a lot of people from flying because of that." I explained that I had not so marched but had, in September, 2006, given a lecture at Princeton, televised and put on the Web, highly critical of George Bush for his many violations of the Constitution. "That'll do it," the man said. "

A friend recently explained to me his take on the 2nd Amendment -- that we need it to help protect the rest of the Bill of Rights from the government. I still see some serious problems with that argument, but I can no longer dismiss it out of hand.

I think the odds are only about 50-50 that we can put the authoritarian genie back in the bottle -- and that is a lot more optimistic than I was a year ago, but still shocking if you compare where we are now to where we were a mere decade ago.

Oh, and if you really want a chuckle, check out the subtitle that Murphy, a prolific author, put on his latest:

Funny, huh?

Friday, April 06, 2007

Iran releases British marines -- heads must roll!

A good functional definition of neoconservative, Krauthammer-style: someone who is unperturbed when war fails, but enraged when diplomacy succeeds.

Update: The Guardian reveals how thoroughly Krauthammer channels Bushthink, and that even our staunchest ... um, allies, recoil now. When the U.S. offered assistance after the British marines were taken hostage, the Blair government responded:

The British declined the offer and said the US could calm the situation by staying out of it.

"The US could calm the situation by staying out of it." I would have to work very hard at finding a more succinct precis on the role of the Bush regime in virtually every foreign policy context.

Update II: Kristol seconds that emotion.

This morning, Kristol again promoted the concept of war with Iran. He said Iran’s kidnapping of the 15 British soldiers has brought the world closer to another war. “We came closer to war with Iran this week,” Kristol said, complaining that the U.S. was “very passive.”

Juan Williams then questioned, “Well, what was the alternative? To go in and strike them while the hostages were there?” Kristol said “yes.”

When a classmate in my college macroeconomics class pointed out that the theory the prof had just chalked out was contradicted by reality, the prof replied, "The real world is a special case and need not concern us here." I always thought he said it tongue in cheek. But who knows -- maybe he was an early neocon.

Thursday, April 05, 2007


Woody Allen once said "The lion and the lamb shall lie down together, but the lamb won't get much sleep."

Quite possibly the last conservative I would have expected to visit the liberal bed was Bruce Fein. I remember seeing him on McNeil/Lehrer during Reagan/Bush I, and finding him incredibly odious.

Now, via Sully, he gives an interview to Truthout, of all places, and says this:

The Right Seeks to Rein In Presidential Power
Fein told Truthout, "Imbeciles like Ann Coulter play to the basest instincts of the conservative movement to give the president a blank check to grab whatever power he wishes."
He expressed disappointment with the lack of any real pushback against presidential power by Congressional Democrats. "The Democrats in Congress have done absolutely nothing to tell the president he is not a king and we do not live in a monarchy. They are allowing him to trash the Constitution because most of them know nothing about the Constitution and are concerned only with making headlines about minor issues and getting themselves reelected."

Fein acknowledged that things were probably worse when Congress was under Republican control, "but only marginally."

"Neither party has shown the courage to assert the power of Congress as a coequal branch of government. Congress should be telling the president it's not OK to detain people without trials, to grab people off the streets and 'render' them to other countries to be tortured, to listen in to our telephone conversations, and to issue signing statements that nullify laws he doesn't like."

He added, "We elect members of Congress to lead, not to follow. If they are going to lead, they need to understand the Constitution and the vision of its framers, and then have the backbone to insist that the executive branch stop usurping the responsibilities assigned to the legislative and judicial branches of our government."

Wowser. Bruce Fein. Bob Barr. Chuck Hagel. We need to keep our eyes wide open, but the sad fact is we need these guys. They give cover to other wobbly conservatives, and undermine charges of partisanship on the part of those who dare to question the monarchy.

And when the surge is finally acknowledged to be the failure it had to be, the bed is going to collapse under the weight of all the Republicans who follow them off the Bush bandwagon.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Today's nutshell moment

The Supreme Court delivered a landmark environmental decision today, handing a major victory to those seeking to protect the environment by ruling that the EPA has the authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.

And who lost? The Bush EPA. As in Environmental Protection Agency.

That the Environmental Protection Agency would litigate all the way to the Supreme Court to avoid protecting the environment is as unthinkable as, say, the Veteran's Administration gong out of its way to screw veterans.


Sunday, April 01, 2007

1973 revisited, part II

We have an isolated and intensely disliked Republican President at the center of swirling scandals. We have an unpopular war our government will not admit it has already lost. We have Congressional hearings and convicted senior officials. All we need to make it 1973 again is Monty Python.

Without further ado, ladies and gentlemen: Terry Jones:
I share the outrage expressed in the British press over the treatment of our naval personnel accused by Iran of illegally entering their waters. It is a disgrace. We would never dream of treating captives like this - allowing them to smoke cigarettes, for example, even though it has been proven that smoking kills. And as for compelling poor servicewoman Faye Turney to wear a black headscarf, and then allowing the picture to be posted around the world - have the Iranians no concept of civilised behaviour? For God's sake, what's wrong with putting a bag over her head? That's what we do with the Muslims we capture: we put bags over their heads, so it's hard to breathe. Then it's perfectly acceptable to take photographs of them and circulate them to the press because the captives can't be recognised and humiliated in the way these unfortunate British service people are.
And what's all this about allowing the captives to write letters home saying they are all right? It's time the Iranians fell into line with the rest of the civilised world: they should allow their captives the privacy of solitary confinement. That's one of the many privileges the US grants to its captives in Guantánamo Bay.

The true mark of a civilised country is that it doesn't rush into charging people whom it has arbitrarily arrested in places it's just invaded. The inmates of Guantánamo, for example, have been enjoying all the privacy they want for almost five years, and the first inmate has only just been charged. What a contrast to the disgraceful Iranian rush to parade their captives before the cameras!

What's more, it is clear that the Iranians are not giving their British prisoners any decent physical exercise. The US military make sure that their Iraqi captives enjoy PT. This takes the form of exciting "stress positions", which the captives are expected to hold for hours on end so as to improve their stomach and calf muscles. A common exercise is where they are made to stand on the balls of their feet and then squat so that their thighs are parallel to the ground. This creates intense pain and, finally, muscle failure. It's all good healthy fun and has the bonus that the captives will confess to anything to get out of it.

And this brings me to my final point. It is clear from her TV appearance that servicewoman Turney has been put under pressure. The newspapers have persuaded behavioural psychologists to examine the footage and they all conclude that she is "unhappy and stressed".

What is so appalling is the underhand way in which the Iranians have got her "unhappy and stressed". She shows no signs of electrocution or burn marks and there are no signs of beating on her face. This is unacceptable. If captives are to be put under duress, such as by forcing them into compromising sexual positions, or having electric shocks to their genitals, they should be photographed, as they were in Abu Ghraib. The photographs should then be circulated around the civilised world so that everyone can see exactly what has been going on.

On the other hand, damn near everybody expects the Spanish Inquisition by now.

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