Archive for March, 2012

NEWS LINKS: Public support for Afghanistan war down to 25 percent

by Staff Monkeys

  • Support for the U.S. war in Afghanistan is down to just 25 percent, according to a new poll from CNN. For the first time, the majority of Republicans are opposed to the war. Only 34 percent of those polls believe the United States is winning the war. That must be the same bunch who still believed the South Vietnamese were winning on the day Saigon fell.
  • Although the rest of us won’t know the results until June, the members of the U.S. Supreme Court presumably already know which way the decision on ObamaCare has gone. They justices were meeting Friday afternoon to vote on the case. The winning side and the dissenting side will then have a few months to polish their written decisions before we hear what they decided.
  • Speaking of the ObamaCare decision, Reason’s Peter Suderman has a different take on why the progressive left legal establishment was so surprised at oral arguments in the case earlier this week. While others have focused on the idea that public opinion and politics are influencing the decision, Suderman argues that those on the left simply didn’t understand their opponents’ arguments, so they were unable to take them seriously.

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HUMOR: The senator chooses between heaven and hell

by David McElroy

While walking down the street one day, a U.S. senator is, tragically, hit by a truck and dies. His soul arrives in heaven and is met by St. Peter at the entrance.

“Welcome to heaven,” says St. Peter. “Before you settle in, it seems there’s a problem. We seldom see a high official around these parts, you see, so we’re not sure what to do with you.”

“No problem, just let me in,” says the man.

“Well, I’d like to,” says St. Peter, “but I have orders from higher up. What we’ll do is have you spend one day in hell and one in heaven. Then you’ll be allowed to choose where to spend eternity.”

“Seriously? Then, I’ve made up my mind,” says the senator. “I want to be in heaven.”

“I’m sorry, but I have my orders.”

And with that, St. Peter escorts him to the elevator and he goes down, down, down to hell. The doors open and he finds himself in the middle of a green golf course. In the distance is a clubhouse and standing in front of it are all his friends and other politicians who had worked with him in days gone by.

Everyone is very happy. They’re dressed nicely and having a great time. They run to greet him, shake his hand and reminisce about the good times they had while getting rich at the expense of the taxpayers. They play a friendly game of golf and then dine on lobster, caviar and champagne. Also present is the devil, who really is a very friendly guy who has a good time dancing and telling jokes. They are having such a good time that before he realizes it, it’s time to go visit heaven.

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by David McElroy

As you watch the Mega Millions jackpot go higher, remember that the federal government spends that much about every hour and a half.

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NEWS LINKS: FBI taught agents to ‘bend or suspend’ law in terror fight

by Staff Monkeys

  • If the FBI’s counterterrorism efforts sometimes seem bumbling and ineffective, the training that agents get might be part of the problem. Agents were taught that it’s OK to “bend of suspend the law” at times. They were also taught that mainstream Muslims were violent and that they should avoid shaking hands with Asians. After a complete review of the training, no one was disciplined and no agents were retrained. Don’t you feel safe?
  • The TSA refused to testify at a congressional hearing earlier this week unless security expert Bruce Schneier was removed from the witness list. Schneier is one of the very few sane and rational security experts who challenges the TSA on its questionable practices. He’s also the guy who coined the term “security theatre” to explain what the TSA is really doing.
  • It used to be that everyone tried to avoid student loans for college, but they’ve become so accepted that hardly anyone graduates from college without debt today. However, the trend is getting worse. Parents are now taking out loans to pay for their kids’ private school education — sometimes going all the way back to kindergarten.

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A tax on people who can’t do math? Maybe worst possibility is winning

by David McElroy

Economists say that a lottery is a tax on people who can’t do math. At a talk about five years ago, psychologist Dan Gilbert said you might as well flush the money down the toilet, because the odds of winning are almost identical to the odds that you’ll flush money down the toilet and millions of dollars will come back up. And the advantage of the toilet is that you’re saved a visit to the 7-Eleven to buy the tickets.

Now that the jackpot in the Mega Millions lottery has hit more than half a billion dollars, I’ve been surprised at the number of people I know who talk about heading across the Georgia line to buy some tickets. (There’s no state lottery in Alabama.) When I point out that it’s throwing money away, the excuse is that they’re “buying hope” with a few dollars.

What’s the worst thing that could happen? Based on the history of other big winners, the worst thing that could happen would be to win the money.

Take Jack Whittaker, for instance. In 2002, this West Virginia businessman won $315 million. In interviews after winning, he talked of giving some of the money to his church and he talked about the people he was going to help. Instead, his life turned out to be a nightmare. He started drinking heavily from the stress. He was robbed of more than half a million dollars at a strip club. His daughter and granddaughter were murdered. And a casino had to sue him over a $1.5 million check he wrote to cover gambling losses.

In 2007, Whittaker told ABC News that he wished he had never won the money.

“Since I won the lottery, I think there is no control for greed,” he said. “I think if you have something, there’s always someone else that wants it. I wish I’d torn that ticket up.”

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NEWS LINKS: Accidental recording shows cops lied; driver exonerated

by Staff Monkeys

  • Courts tend to assume that police officers are telling the truth on their reports, especially when another officer backs up the story. But in a Florida case, a couple of offers who mistreated a driver lied on their reports and then in sworn depositions — without realizing the driver being mistreated was on the phone with a company that was recording everything taking place. Oooops.
  • When the federal government arrested seven people two years ago and said they were plotting to go to war with the U.S. government, Attorney General Eric Holder called them a “dangerous organization.” But after hearing the government’s case against them, a federal judge has dismissed all charges against most of them, leaving only two minor weapons charges against two of them.
  • Most people remember that Barack Obama attacked Hillary Clinton during the 2008 eDemocratic primaries for her advocacy of an individual mandate — which is the centerpiece of ObamaCare and the central point of argument in front of the Supreme Court this week. If you’d like to see the origins of his U-turn on the issue, look to a 2009 memo from his top health care adviser explaining why he had to switch positions.

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NYC schools ban ‘birthday,’ ‘crime,’ ‘dinosaur,’ and ‘divorce’ from tests

by David McElroy

If you want the contract to write tests for New York City schools, you need to know ahead of time that you can’t mention a good portion of human existence in your questions. For at least the fifth year, the NYC schools have produced a list of 50 words or phrases that are banned on tests.

Some of them are vaguely reasonable, I suppose, but many veer in the direction of pure insanity.

You can’t mention birthdays or birthday celebrations, presumably because a tiny number of people don’t celebrate birthdays for religious reasons. You can’t mention dinosaurs, although that one is a mystery. (The CBS story above speculates that it’s because that might offend creationists, but creationists believe dinosaurs existed.) It’s verboten to mention home computers, although it’s perfectly fine to mention them in a school or library setting. I assume they think that kids aren’t aware that many people have computers at home these days.

Religion and religious holidays aren’t supposed to exist, for the most part. They’re also not supposed to talk about junk food, for some reason. Maybe they think kids are unaware of that, too. It’s hard to say. Don’t dare mention divorce or houses that have swimming pools, either.

NYC school chancellor Dennis Walcott seems surprised by the uproar and says the system is merely providing guidance to test-makers for grades 3 through 8.

“So we’re not an outlier in being politically correct,” Walcott said. “This is just making sure that test makers are sensitive in the development of their tests.”

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NEWS LINKS: 80-year-old arrested for shooting burglar in his home

by Staff Monkeys

  • An elderly man in Chicago has been arrested after he shot a burglar inside his own home. Police say he was arrested because he has two previous convictions of firearms violations — one in 1968 and another in 1994. The 80-year-old owns a neighborhood tavern, so we’re surprised that he hasn’t had to use a gun more than twice in the past. Both the burglar and the victim/shooter were black, so don’t call Jesse Jackson yet.
  • Barack Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign announced Monday that it’s now selling hoodies with Obama’s name on them. You don’t think this has anything to do with Obama trying to make a political symbol out of Trayvon Martin, do you? Nah. He wouldn’t do that.
  • Justices who are considered swing voters on the Supreme Court were tough in their questioning of the Obama administration’s case in favor of ObamaCare Tuesday, so some people who had previously believed the law would be upheld aren’t quite so sure about that anymore.

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Out of touch: Most politicians, media don’t understand ‘the real world’

by David McElroy

Where did you stand on the great Etch-a-Sketch controversy last week? Were you with Team Romney, which started the controversy with an ill-designed metaphor? Or were you with Team Santorum or Team Gingrich, which went on the attack by putting Etch-a-Sketch toys into the hands of their candidates to wave around on stage?

Or were you like the media and the pundits? Were you so busy gorging yourself on various forms of the Etch-a-Sketch metaphor — from every angle — that you pounced on any morsel that might sound like a new perspective on the goofy line?

Or were you more like me? I was vaguely aware of a very stupid controversy, but I pretty much ignored it — because it meant absolutely nothing.

The Etch-a-Sketch story is the latest example of something I’ve seen for more than 20 years. When you’re inside politics, you can tend to assume — without ever consciously deciding to — that people outside the political bubble care just as much as you do about the trivia inside that bubble. I was reminded of that Tuesday because of a short story in the Washington Post. A reporter from the Post seemed surprised that a poll shows that 55 percent of people never even heard of the whole Etch-a-Sketch silliness last week.

My experience is that most people inside of politics honestly think that the things they’re talking about are on the minds and lips of intelligent people everywhere. They believe that what they do is so Important — with a capital I — that everyone must know and care about it. It’s not a conscious thing. It’s just an attitude that you pick up among them. They believe — on some level — that people care about the subtleties of the political arguments they’re in the middle of with their opponents. The idea that most people don’t even care about a tempest in a teapot such as the Etch-a-Sketch episode would suggest that maybe what they spend all day doing isn’t as important as what they believe — and they can’t handle that.

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NEWS LINKS: Ex-NAACP official calls Jackson and Sharpton buzzards

by Staff Monkeys

  • Black “civil rights leaders” such as Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton are like buzzards circling the dead carcass of Trayvon Martin, according to a black pastor who was once a leader of an NAACP chapter in Texas. Rev. C.L. Bryant says the real danger that most blacks face in this country is from other blacks, not from white people gunning them down.
  • When George W. Bush was president, most Democrats thought he was responsible for high gasoline prices, but Democrats now say that Barack Obama can’t do anything about high gas prices. Republicans are just the opposite. They didn’t blame Bush for high gas prices, but they do blame Obama. We don’t know whether this says more about economic ignorance or the typical political double standard.
  • Trayvon Martin’s mom wants to make sure she cashes in on her dead son’s name, it seems. She has filed for trademark protection for the phrases, “I Am Trayvon,” and, “Justice for Trayvon.” Is this another situation similar to the family of Martin Luther King Jr. trying to make money off of a dead man? Or is there some redeeming justification for the move? We don’t know, but we have our suspicions.

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Start over here

When this site launched in 2011, it was intended as a way to find others who were sick of partisan politics and wanted to connect with like-minded people who were ready to go beyond politics and find ways of escaping. It has shifted focus in ways that reflect my own shifting thinking. I’m less interested in politics and more interested in looking at the things that make life worth living, such as love, creation, self-understanding and connecting with others. Every article I have posted since 2011 is still in my archives, but everything I write is a reflection of my current thinking. Sometimes I’m wrong — and that’s fine with me — and I don’t always end up agreeing with what I wrote five years ago. For now, you can still read what I wrote about the site’s purpose in 2011, but I should rewrite this. Read more.

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David likes email, but can’t reply to every message. I get a surprisingly large number of requests for relationship advice — seriously — but I rarely have the time to respond. (Sorry.) Besides, with my own romantic track record, maybe my advice isn’t worth taking. I’d like to find a wife one of these days, so maybe I should add an “application.”

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