How Stupid Are We?

I love my Google mail “targeted” ads. I’ve mentioned them before with regard to spam/Spam. I love it when I subscribe to a comment thread on Troop’s and I get ads for dresses.

I’ve also gotten ads for kissing (women and men), ads for specialized kinds of computer hardware, travel options to India, volunteer organizations, and so on. I’m always intrigued by the non-obvious connections, and sometimes I click through out of sheer curiosity.

Of course, I get tons of Obama ads. Curiously, in the past month, they’ve gone from all positive, to about ½ being ads for things like “Obamunism” and anti-Obama program material. I suspect that reflects a sea change.

Anyway, back to us being stupid: Recently I got an ad for Health Care For American Now. And I clicked through because, honestly, I hear very, very little support for the…uh…Obamanation currently under consideration.

And I was greeted with this question (here’s the link, if you like, I’ll probably start clicking through out of spite, every chance I get): WHICH WILL IT BE? AFFORDABLE HEALTH CARE, OR MORE MONEY FOR MILLIONAIRES?

We can ignore the stupidity of that dichotomy for now. We can ignore the notion that somehow Bush’s tax cuts are all that stand between us and cheap health care. We can ignore the immorality of the basic premise: That it’s okay to take money from people who have more simply because someone can think of a better use for it. We can ignore the economic thickness that presupposes that taking money from millionaires has no other impact other than to “spread the wealth around”.

What requires monumental stupidity to ignore, however, is the notion that this will ONLY cost the rich a few of their ill-gotten shekels. This is exactly how the income tax started. A mere half-percent, and only on the most wealthy. They could spare half-a-percent, surely?

The Democrats so successfully beat the Republicans up with the income tax issue, that the Republicans finally caved–much to the shock of many Democrats of the time who were absolutely appalled at the notion of there actually being an income tax.

But it’s okay, because this tax would never affect average Americans. And, no, we don’t need to include a 10% cap on it because the American people would never stand for 10% of their income being taken from them!

And, hey, look at all those rich people not paying their “fair share” again! Wicked rich people, following the laws to minimize their tax burden! We need an Alternative Minimum Tax.

You know? At some point, you really have to be stupid if you think “it’s only gonna affect those guys”. It never just affects “those guys”. Even the poorest of us end up paying, and not just indirectly through increased costs of everything, but through the inevitable VAT they’ll pass to pay for this mess once it gets unwieldy. That is, almost immediately.

So, that’s the question: How stupid are we?

The arguments never change. The results are always the same: incremental slavery.

How stupid are we?

Conversations From The Living Room, Part 21: What, me, contrary?

Me: How about we watch Lilo and Stitch?
The Barbarienne: I hate that movie!
Me: You’ve never seen it!
The Barbarienne: I hate it!
[I cue it up anyway. The Barb watches entranced.]
[Half-way through.]
Me: So, do you like this movie?
[She shakes her head “No.”]
[Movie ends.]
Me: Do you still hate this movie?
[She nods.]
Me: Should we watch it again?
[She nods.]

Kevin Smith and The Haters of Twilight

I follow Kevin Smith on Twitter because, well, why the hell not? I like his movies (warts and all, I almost feel obligated to say) and his live talks are simply awesome. (Wait, what are we saying now, Darcy? Superhot awesome sauce?)

Anyway, he’s at ComiCon right now and partaking in all the nerdiness therein. (I did go to the L.A. Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Horror convention as a kid and realized I was not as big a nerd as I thought. And it wasn’t fashionable back then.) Anyway, he reports on Twilight fans being booed and points out the stupidity of that on a number of levels. Perhaps the most telling of which is: why the hell do a largely male population want to chase a bunch of teen girls away?

But nerd pride is severe. One simply can’t be seen liking the wrong Star* franchise. There’s probably some peer pressure but more than that, there’s a need to feel better than others. Not just nerds, of course; you see the same thing among sport fans, whether they hate baseball and love football or the other way around.

Smith’s certainly not afraid to rip things he doesn’t like, so his message of peace across nerd factions struck me as kind of nice. (Especially given that he did take heat for it, and surely knew he would.)

Economic Mayhem in America

Years ago I was in a writing group, which was fun and educational. What I learned, primarily, is that there’s a good reason most people are unpublished and/or unknown. That reason is usually that they’re not very good (and I class myself in that category). But there were other reasons, too.

There were, for example, some excellent poets. But, you know, poetry. Some good writers wrote really unmarketable stuff. One guy wrote a very good episode of “The Golden Girls”. (Hard market to break into.) Then there was Paul, who wrote plays.

Paul’s play–the one that I read and later he actually managed to put up a few years later–was an interesting look at racial tensions in upstate New York, in which he used a clever device of showing two stories at the same time, where alternating scenes were in the different time frame. (And he cued it in a very plain way, making it easy to follow, which is the real trick.)

He’s been doing short films since at least the early ‘90s, making me look like a schlub, and it looks like now he’s taking on the financial situation with his series Economic Mayhem In America. (He’s got collaborators, mind you; I don’t mean to say it’s all him. He’s just the guy I know who’s involved.)

If you have seven-and-a-half minutes, check it out:

Part 1. (About four minutes)

Part 2. (About three-and-a-half minutes.)

I’m particularly impressed by the technical aspects. There were elements of Public Enemies which were harder to look at. Not bad for $500. (I wonder if that scales: Could he make a feature for $6,000?)

As I said, check it out and forward it, blog it, retweet it, whatever.

Theory: Obama Is Stupid And Lazy

Now, don’t get your knickers in a twist. I don’t mean to suggest that the President does not have an average intellect. Possibly even an above-average, though seldom exercised, intellect. I’m not speaking of low IQs here, but of stupidity. (The Institutes for the Achievement of Human Potential, who work with brain-injured kids are fond of pointing out that there’s no cure for stupidity.)

He might even be a genius, though I’ve really seen nothing from the man to suggest that he’s anything more than a competent parroter of other people’s words. I don’t believe for a second that he actually wrote those books; writers write pretty much all the time. But lack of achievement is no disqualifier of genius. This is neither here nor there.

Because even geniuses can be stupid about things.

Let me see if I can support this potentially controversial theory. See if you can follow my byzantine logic here.

First, I’m going to assume the position that Obama is, more or less, exactly what he seems. A sincere fellow traveler who is not feigning surprise when someone suggests that FDR’s wild spending and experimentation didn’t actually end the Great Depression.

Therefore, Obama genuinely believes that what he’s done and what he’s trying to do isn’t going to harm the economy, or at least isn’t going to harm the economy so badly that it won’t rebound against his party in 2010, and himself in 2012. (I don’t subscribe to the notion that he’s deliberately trying to harm the economy to force us into socialism, as Althouse describes Rush Limbaugh as saying, although I think Teddy Kennedy has expressed such sentiments.)

Let’s look at some predictions versus actuality, courtesy of Michael at Innocent Bystanders:
As any smart politician knows, when pitching a plan with such short-term predictions, you predict the worst-case scenario for if your plan doesn’t pass, and predict what you think will actually happen with or without your plan.

Get it? That way, if your plan does nothing but line your cronies’ pockets and feed the political machine, you’ll get credit for the better-than-worst case scenario. And, you know, we’re lucky when politicians only line their own pockets versus when they actually try to do something (like push sub-prime mortgage loans, help out banks or provide universal education and health care).

There’s no way that he expected to be standing here, mid-summer, with egg on his face.

But, okay, he’s a true believer. He thinks government spending–even just the unfocused, delayed throwing of money about–solves problems. That’s just ignorance.

But now he’s thrown money around. He’s “bailed out” various industries. He’s seen the effect. He’s continuing to push for economy-damaging plans, though, and arguing that they’ll actually improve the economy. (Some have argued, because things should be this way, liberals believe they must be this way.)

Now, there’s plenty of history to look at here. You can look at the effects of government spending, at the effects of tax cuts, at protectionism, at unions, and you can see what these things do. You can also see these things at work all over the world today.

This is where the stupid comes in. Because in order to take in all this information and use it, you have to be honest. Now, you almost never hear about honesty as a factor in intelligence, but it is. You hear the phrase “intellectual honesty” like there’s a difference, but honesty is honesty.

The left loved to attack W as stupid on these same grounds. But rather than talk about him, I think it’s more useful to look at Clinton. Clinton followed a similar trajectory, on a longer curve, but he was smart enough to take credit for conservative policies pushed through by his Republican Congress when they worked. He was smart enough to pronounce the era of big government being over.

Now, his motivations may have been entirely selfish. There’s no doubt that some modern Presidents seem to look at things in terms of lookin’ good for history versus doing what’s right. But I doubt very much that he was unaffected by the policies he saw working. (And, gosh, aren’t both Clintons awfully quiet on the health care issue?)

Perhaps Obama is just slow: It’s hard to give up cherished beliefs no matter how badly they fail in practice, and he’ll eventually be forced to confront reality–say, if the nation takes away his majority in 2010.

But my theory is that he’ll continue doing what he’s doing. No matter how much evidence piles up against his beliefs, he’ll stay the course.

That’s stupid.

The other half of my perhaps controversial theory is that he’s lazy. His idea of work appears to be going on TV to read a speech that someone else wrote. Charges of inexperience abounded in the last election, but even his defenders were at best able to defend him with descriptions of impressive sounding positions he had achieved, rather than things he had actually done.

Not that I don’t admire this. I work very hard at being lazy. But apparently being President is a lot of work. You have to study constantly. Protocols, histories, and all manner of things from massive industries to peculiar local customs. Any time you take off gets scrutinized–even if you’re not taking time off, but working remotely. (Well, okay, Obama’s not a Republican so he doesn’t have to worry about that.)

But I haven’t seen any indication that he’s done any of this homework. In fact, a great many of the gaffes we’ve seen–like running out and getting the British PM a bunch of DVDs he wouldn’t like and couldn’t use–just seem to come from not having bothered to study.

The more serious problems, like the business of pushing through laws no one has read, seem to come from relying on lawmakers’ competence and general good-hearted, fellow traveler status.

I mean, in order to ram through a bill like the unwritten health care laws, you have to have a whopping faith in some unnamed lawmaker to write a clear and cogent description of a hugely complex and detailed area of society. Or you have to just not care.

And that’s just stupid. And lazy.

But we should be grateful. A truly smart, hard-working socialist (or communist, why split hairs?) would have cut the payroll tax, slashed regulation, changed the mark-t0-market rules and “saved” the economy. (The government, of course, is the biggest suppressor of the economy, so it can “save” it by backing off.)

When the economy rebounded, our smart, hard-working politico would have pretty much free rein to set up whatever he wanted. Who would have the mojo to challenge him?

Kind of a chilling thought. But maybe it’s not always a bad thing that politics seeks destructive, short-term solutions.

UPDATE #1: Evidence in support of my theory provided on July 22nd, 2009. Obama has a press conference to bolster his health care plan in which he takes the opportunity to call the Cambridge Police stupid–after saying he didn’t know all the facts in the case. He had to have believed that this was going to boost his popularity. What’s more, since he arranged all the questions in advance, he had to have specifically picked this topic and worked out his answer in advance on the basis of believing that America shares the far left’s contempt for police and wanted to hear that from the President.

I mean, look, I have mixed feelings about the police. On the whole, I thnk they do a good job. But I also think they’re often more protective of each other than the job. But I don’t want to hear the President weigh in on this! It’s almost up there with the President going around to foreign countries to apologize for America’s actions. The President is supposed to be an America booster; it’s minimum spec for the job!

Sugar, Sweat and The Vanishing T-Zone

Our experiments in snake-oil continue apace. The Boy slipped a bit in his adherence to the program, so we’ve kind of been hanging fire for a couple of weeks. Even so, he’s using half the per-meal insulin he was a couple of months ago, and starting to lower his daily insulin.

The interesting thing to me is how exact the predictions have been. Just as predicted, his blood sugar dropped low, and he had to lower his insulin. Then it came back up, so he had to raise it again. Just as predicted, he started spilling sugar in his urine; when it stopped we were to lower his insulin till it started again. And the cycle of stopping and starting was supposed to speed up, which it has done.

He’s still not quite in the zone where things are really kicking in, which is a sort of frightening thought. Although diabetics are controlling for high blood sugar, the short-term danger is from low blood sugar, which can happen if his pancreas suddenly starts creating insulin while he’s injecting insulin. (We’ve had a few rather low readings since starting this, but mostly The Boy has been very aware, very cautious and very diligent.)

Meanwhile, I’ve had a few interesting phenomena arise. My weight’s held steady after dropping those 20 pounds (and the doctor looks concerned about me dropping more) though even though my weight hasn’t changed in a month, people seem to be noticing more. So, I think something is happening. (I haven’t gotten to my mom’s gym for a fat test yet.)

On anther front, my “T-Zone” vanished, sort of. This is kind of amusing, because I can’t seem to find anyone who remembers the “T-Zone” commercials. If you have oily skin (which I always have) but you have dry skin over your eyes, and down your nose, you have a “T-Zone”. I forget what they were advertising, exactly, but it was probably some sort of moisturizer. (No, I didn’t do anything about it. Why would a guy care if he had a “T-Zone”?)

Well, mine started getting extreme (as had happened occasionally before) with all kinds of dry, flaky skin, and then, over the course of a week, it started shrinking, until it was sort of an “i-Zone”. Now it’s just sort of the dot (the tittle, technically speaking) over the lower-case i.

The doc says, “Oh, that’s just vitamin A deficiency.”

Also, I’m sweating. I’ve never been a sweater. Em. I’ve never been one who sweats. I mean, sure, when working out in 100 degree heat in our tiny dojo back before it got A/C, I did some sweating. But not as much as other people by a long shot.

The theory being batted around at the time had to do with playing a lot of sports as a kid and developing your sweat glands at a young age. It’s not a crazy thought, really: The body does a lot of things in reaction to activity. (You’re not born with hip sockets, for example. They’re created by the action of crawling.)

The theory might even be true. But my doctor offered another theory, since she has lots of guys who are suddenly sweating a lot: The body doesn’t sweat because it’s dehydrated.

Well, duh.

That’s one of those things that’s so obvious when you think about it, you feel stupid for never having thought of it yourself.

Weirdly, I’ve written a fair amount of (unpublished) fiction. At one point, when I took stock of what I had written, I became aware of how much I wrote focused on water. People being thirsty or dehydrated. (I even thought at one point of collecting all my water-themed stories together to make a movie.)

Wild, huh?

Even more interesting, according to this program, once you’re up to snuff, your body actually makes most of what you need. You only take a couple of calciums (which are not in our foods, unfortunately).