Posted in Quick Hits on July 29th, 2009 by Ed

A comment from an Instaputz post about Public Choice Theory, the Megan McArdle version…

Public choice theory…(is) not really part of economics. It’s basically just right-wing prejudice turned into a theory – the entire intellectual content is in the initial assumption “We assume that all public officials are venial and self-seeking”, and thence to derive the entire right-wing worldview.

…reminds me of my favorite joke to tell among academics.

A chemist, a physicist, and an economist are trapped on a desert island. They have canned food but no tools. To solve the problem, the physicist proposes using sticks and a rock to create a lever and pop the lids off the cans. The chemist suggests heating the cans so the contents will expand and burst them open. The economist criticizes both and says he has a far better plan. He begins, "OK, now assume a can opener…"


Posted in Rants on July 29th, 2009 by Ed

We all harbor the lingering fear that there is no idiot so ignorant or so vulgar that the American public will not elect him or her to office. Hence the last eight years and the cold dread we all feel as we watch Sarah Palin drool her way through public life. We stare and think "We couldn't possibly…" but stop because deep down we know that we could. Hence my hesitation to say "This is too far." about any outgrowth of stupidity from our political culture. It will inevitably lead to eating my words. Nonetheless…

If its elected officials do not take a stronger stand against it – and, God help them, if they continue to flirt with embracing it – this Obama birth certificate conspiracism is going to be the death of the GOP. Like the "secret Muslim" stuff during the 2008 Election, this issue is forcing mainstream Republicans to face up to just how bat-shit insane their party base is these days. Note the parallels between these two videos, one from last summer and the other from just a few days ago:

If you can't watch a/v at the moment, the first video is the infamous clip of McCain confronted with a supporter who insists that Obama "is an Arab." The second is Delaware Republican Rep. Mike Castle dealing with a "birther" – and from the sounds of it, quite a few fellow travellers in the background – at a town hall meeting. Apparently Castle's antagonist is well-known as a lunatic who has actually been banned from calling the local right-wing talk radio station. Note both men's pained "Oh my God, what has become of my party" demeanor as they attempt to be calm and speak Logic to what are obviously unhinged and potentially dangerous rubes.

If birtherism sounds like something dreamt up by the tinfoil-hatted, it is. But if it sounds like something that is confined to the realm of the tinfoil-hatted, it isn't. As my Instaputz colleague notes, with helpful links, in response to Rich "Little Starbursts" Lowry's claim that birthers are just a tiny fringe blown out of proportion by the liberal media:

Let me see now, those "few" include, just off the top of my head: at least 17 elected Republicans in Congress, numerous Republican state legislators, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Lou Dobbs, Liz Cheney, Michael Savage, Alan Keyes, G. Gordon Liddy, Fox News, World Net Daily, Newsmax and Free Republic.

Oh, and the National Review.

Just a few cranks!

This is to credibility among conservatives what 9/11 twoofers were to the anti-Bush crowd. Look. Here is a picture of his birth certificate. Regarding the claims that he must produce a second long-form certificate with multiple signatures, please read the bottom of this one: "This copy serves as prima facie evidence of the fact of birth in any court proceeding." There is no longer a requirement, politically or legally, for the President to continue to entertain this fantasy. While I understand the whole "Well, just release it and be done with it" argument, which sounds suspiciously like an effort to endorse the possibility of the legitimacy of these claims without overtly stating it, there is no good reason for Obama to get suckered into a debate here. If he produces the long-form certificate they will just claim it is forged. He should stick with the sanitized version of, "You need more evidence? Fuck you. That's my evidence." from now on.

I once heard a Jewish professor state that she refused to debate Holocaust deniers in a public forum because if 1000 people watch, only one will leave convinced by the denialists' argument but all 1000 will leave thinking the issue is open for debate. There is nothing to be gained by debating some people and legitimizing their claims, however insignificantly, can be damaging. Nothing Barack Obama says or does will make any difference to this movement. They will simply move on to something else or disregard whatever additional evidence he provides as forged or biased. So to engage them does nothing except make them look relevant. "Secret Muslim" and "Where's the birth certificate?" are really just sanitized PC-era euphemisms for "nigger" anyway, the desperate Hail Mary play from a group of people choking on their rage over the idea that a liberal black guy with a funny-soundin' foreigny name beat the tar out of his Republican opponents. There are only so many times one can show conspiracists the evidence before concluding that they have no interest whatsoever in drawing conclusions based on evidence. While the unanimous vote on the House resolution affirming Hawaii as Obama's birthplace is a step in the right direction, mainstream Republicans have their work cut out for them in squashing this nonsense without alienating the retards who make up 2/3rds of their party base these days.