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isil-300x162‘There are roads which must not be followed,
armies which must not be attacked,
towns which must not be besieged,
positions which must not be contested,
commands of the sovereign which must not be obeyed.’
Sun Tzu ~ On the Art of War


‘Don’t do anything stupid.’
President Barack Obama


War hysteria is a fascinating and horrifying thing to watch. I’ve seen it several times now in my life and it is always beyond ugly, like watching scorpions mate.


Aside from the verminous lies that tumble over each other like a swarm of filthy rats to electrify public opinion with fear and frenzy, our national leaders — grown men and women whose strength of character and deliberative judgment we rely on — daily prove susceptible themselves to the most transparent mendacity and appear spineless in the face of true moral challenge.


Until a few short months ago, the American public had never heard of ISIL and didn’t know a thing about them, even though ISIL has been fighting an insurgency in Syria against the Assad regime for years, and for years it has committed unspeakable atrocities against the Syrian people. The brutal murders of two American journalists notwithstanding, why now the sudden sense of urgency and demand for action in the public discourse and among our leadership?


The answer lies in war hysteria.


As the New York Times put it:


“… as President Obama prepares to send the United States on what could be a years-long military campaign against the militant group, American intelligence agencies have concluded that it poses no immediate threat to the United States. Some officials and terrorism experts believe that the actual danger posed by ISIS has been distorted in hours of television punditry and alarmist statements by politicians, and that there has been little substantive public debate about the unintended consequences of expanding American military action in the Middle East.”




Mike McFadden


In his latest television ad, Mike “Nutshot” McFadden attempts to heap scorn on Senator Franken for “missing the mark.” It looks to me like yet more evidence that McFadden’s campaign is Not Ready for Prime Time.


The ad portrays a Franken look-a-like replete in suit and tie attempting to back the family boat into the water, failing repeatedly, knocking over garbage cans, while others are waiting impatiently and shaking their heads. The subtext reads contempt: Pity the Fool. Of course, Mighty Mike gets it on the first try. ‘Cuz he’s no fool.


Or.Is.He? If the ad’s intended audience is boat-owners, he may be on to something. Minnesota has more boat-owners per capita than any other state in the union. But to my knowledge boat-ownership has never been identified as a persuade-able voter demographic. Maybe I’m wrong …


No, I think he actually missed the mark himself. It appears that the ad is appealing to those viewers who dislike Coppertone®-tan Presidents, dislike Obamacare, dislike votes on higher taxes (never mind that the House GOP majority makes those votes moot), and dislike bespectacled Jews in suits trying to back boats.


If that’s the demographic he’s appealing to, I’ve got a newsflash for Team McFadden. Those guys are already voting your way. You’re wasting the old man’s money. Why not give the money to me and I’ll pass it on to a worthwhile charity — it’s better spent.


Also, I thought McFadden was supposed to be a smart business guy. The smartest move he could make right now would be to six his ad agency and find someone who knows what the hell they’re doing.


Mike, you need to widen your message, starting right now, and begin appealing to moderates, or your campaign is DOA on Election Day. Time is short: early voting begins in five weeks.


As the ad says, “Here in Min-ne-SO-ta, there’s a right way and a wrong way.” Looks to me like you picked the wrong way. Pity the fool.


McFadden Four-Flushing on Veteran Funding

by Invenium Viam on June 23, 2014 · 9 comments

Mike McFadden

Mike McFadden

Four-flusher‘ is one of those great old slang terms that has fallen into general disuse over the years. Specifically, it means a poker player who likes to bluff having a flush, but only has four cards of the same suit, not five. By extension, it means someone who misrepresents himself to others in a self-serving way. More pejoratively, four-flusher is used as a synonym for a con-man, a phony, or a fake.


I’ll leave it to you to decide in which senses of the term Mike McFadden might be a four-flusher.


On June 10, McFadden’s campaign issued a press release damning Senator Franken for failing to keep a campaign promise to veterans: “In 2008, Al Franken promised Minnesotans that he would stop shortchanging our veterans and put an end to wait times at VA clinics. Five years later, we know that Sen. Franken has failed miserably,” said Tom Erickson, spokesman for the McFadden for Senate campaign. “With over 57,000 patients waiting for their first appointment, it’s clear that Sen. Franken’s campaign promises are little more than empty rhetoric from just another politician. Our veterans deserve better.”


As a veteran, I have enormous regard for Senator Franken, as do millions of others across the country. With regard to flag-draping, ambitious posers — not so much.




The Evil That Men Do

by Invenium Viam on June 19, 2014 · 1 comment

mass murder in syria

Mass murder in Syria

“The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones. So let it be with Caesar.” Julius Caesar; Act 3, Scene 2.


In his WSJ opinion piece of June 17 (The Collapsing Obama Doctrine), Cheney lays blame for the internecine conflict now occurring in Iraq to President Obama’s allegedly failing policies with regard to mid-east terrorism.


Cheney claims the “… fall of the Iraqi cities of Fallujah, Tikrit, Mosul and Tel Afar, and the establishment of terrorist safe havens across a large swath of the Arab world, present a strategic threat to the security of the United States.”


He doesn’t bother to explain how that threat is manifest, or even how he links the fall of those cities to “the establishment of terrorist safe havens across the Arab world.”


Moreover, he alludes to “… black-clad ISIS jihadists …” as if it were a reliable, foregone conclusion that they are a group of terrorists allied with al Qaeda and he deliberately conflates the two groups in his opening salvo against the president by saying “… it is worth recalling a few of President Obama’s past statements about ISIS and al Qaeda …” when the President never specifically mentioned ISIS in any of the public addresses Cheney cites. He neglects to mention that ISIS and al Qaeda are to some degree antagonistic towards one another due to conflicting goals and that, between the two, only al Qaeda has a global agenda.


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Obama-facepalmOne of the things that mainstream media tends to overlook in the current debate over the roll-out of the Affordable Care Act (aka “Obamacare”) is that it employs the very market solutions that business-centric Republicans love to tout as the panacea for all that ails, but either don’t really seem to understand, or only apply topically when needed — like zinc ointment for a skin rash.
One reason the media keep missing it is because the White House Office of Communications (WHOC) repeatedly fails to point it out.
We need to remember that Obamacare is not socialized medicine, or anything remotely like it, no matter what those reality-challenged moonblind sub-normals in sloth cloth say on the buzzbox.
The foundation of Obamacare is state-based insurance exchanges. The idea is not to socialize medicine, but to socialize risk across a broader population base and thereby to reduce costs for everybody. In fact, that’s all insurance companies of any stripe do — socialize risk by spreading loss across a large subscriber base. The ACA state-based insurance exchanges just make it more efficient.
Here’s where market principles apply: as health insurance companies compete for customers within a huge pool of potential customers, over time there will be winners and losers, as there are in any competitive marketplace. Those who survive and prosper will be those who figure out ways to: 1) Provide better services at lower cost; 2) Create more efficiencies in providing those services; 3) Find innovative ways to create those efficiencies; 4) Increase productivity while decreasing overhead.
What’s for a free market capitalist and Austrian School Tool not to like? Maybe the regulations?

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How Much Can Money Change Perception?

by Grace Kelly on September 24, 2013 · 0 comments

trust me bankerHow far will people actually go to manipulate the odds view of one candidate in the presidential race? Actually quite far.


A new academic paper digging into presidential betting in the final weeks of the 2012 election finds that a single trader lost between $4 million and $7 million placing a flurry of Intrade bets on Mitt Romney—perhaps to make the Republican nominee’s chance of victory appear brighter.




A number of stories and blog posts in the final weeks of the election noted that Mr. Romney continued to fare well on the Intrade market, even as he was lagging in public opinion polls. Intrade, based in Ireland, stopped trading activity in March.

“It is worth knowing that a highly visible market that drove many a media narrative could be manipulated at a cost less than that of a primetime television commercial,” the authors write.


What is this compared to buying the media companies!


From CNN’s Reliable Sources

by JeffStrate on April 23, 2013 · 2 comments

I profoundly appreciate the clarity and resonance of Joe Bodell’s “Thoughts Elsewhere” posting.   I have come to detest the wall-to-wall TV coverage afforded tragedies of the kind that happened a week ago in Boston. I am saddened by the conjecture, the lack of source checking, the lack of restrain.  We are a nation of voyeurs watching real life “reality shows” narrated by assumption and driven by the stupid desire to be first.

But back to TV coverage, not in the faked “reality shows” but as it has played out from Boston, West, Newtown and some time ago in Atlanta.   During the live coverage of the failed assassination attempt on President Reagan, ABC anchor Frank Reynolds became angry with his unseen producers, sternly ordering them  to nail down the facts — too often anchors and news producers and reporters do not nail down the facts but go ahead with stupid lines like — “We can’t confirm this detail but we learned just moments ago from a “Tweet” sent out by a guy we don’t know who just talked with a Boston cop three blocks from the finish line about what he thinks just happened on Boyleston.  We stress to viewers, that we can’t yet verify what the officer said but is what we can tell you now.   Our story may change as we learn more …”

CNN, with some laudable exceptions, grows increasingly careless and trivial on breaking news situations what it is praised for being the best at.  One of its better programs “Reliable Sources” discussed media coverage of  Boston this past Sunday.  Howard Kurtz,  the Daily Beast’s Washington’s Bureau Chief is not beholden to CNN.

Here’s the link to an hour perspective that is worth listening to –


Why do the vile thrive?

by Dan Burns on March 31, 2013 · 8 comments

warThat is, of course, a huge question, that has puzzled thinkers throughout human history. I’m noting it here in the context of the tenth anniversary, roughly, of the beginning of the Iraq War.

As I reflect on the 10 years of the Iraq War, what is most striking with respect to the war’s enormous human toll — nearly one million dead, five million displaced, hundreds of thousands of widows and orphans, untold misery — is the sheer callousness of the pro-war clique when confronted with these facts. As I argued in my book about this topic, The Deaths of Others, nothing stings the national security establishment like the charge of wanton killing. Even failure in war is more acceptable than culpability for large numbers of civilian casualties. And that, perhaps as much as any reason, is why the policy and media elites avoid the topic almost completely…

Even as the retrospectives on the war spotlight the “we made mistakes” mantra, American elites still avoid the actual human toll in Iraq. They will not discuss it, they will not grapple with the current consequences, like the three million Iraqis who are still displaced from their homes, and they certainly will not consider U.S. culpability. If we don’t come to terms with this catastrophe, we learn nothing. It’s not just about the lying by Bush, Rumsfeld, Cheney, Rice, or the see-no-evil media lemmings. It is a moral failing of much greater magnitude — knowing that this carnage was occurring and not acting on it, not admitting to it, trying to burying it under more mendacity.




The Star Tribune’s Minnesota Poll has come out with a poll on marriage equality today that in order to be right, well, let’s say every other poll, and the last election results, need to be wrong. They claim 38% support legalizing same-sex marriage, 53% oppose, and 9% don’t know. This is despite a majority rejecting the marriage ban amendment in the last election, and other polls consistently showing support rising with pluralities or majorities ready to make the law the same for everyone.


The same poll found 70% support background checks on gun purchases even though national polls show support around 90%, and a small majority supports upper income tax increases despite other polls showing much higher support.


The poll was conducted by Mason-Dixon, they same pollster the Star Tribune used for their pre-election polls. That’s the same outfit that said at the end of October that Romney trailed Obama by just three, while other polls had him behind by high single digits. Obama won Minnesota by 8. Mason-Dixon’s record for the rest of the country was, well, similar.


Is this poll denialism from the left, like conservatives engaged in before the presidential election? One small difference. Before the election, conservatives refused to believe the bad news from the consensus of polls, relying instead on “unskewing” or their guts or Romney’s internal pollster with its outlying result.  We, however, are refusing to believe the outlier, and accepting the consensus of polls. That’s easier, granted, when you like the results, but still, one side wants to believe the outlier and one accepts the consensus. So no, not the same.


Let me put it this way: there are several possibilities. Maybe there has been some significant shift on all three issues in a very short time. Granted that’s true with gun issues, since the Sandy Hook massacre has indeed caused a sudden shift, but that’s been in favor of sane gun regulations.


Or maybe Minnesota is significantly more conservative than the national average. If so, then this run of election wins by Democrats running on liberal platforms in a high turnout state gets hard to explain.  OK, I phrased it that way just so the voter fraud believers get a chance to scream at the their computers.


Or maybe Mason-Dixon has a distinct rightward house effect. Given their record, that seems pretty likely.


Someone I mentioned today’s poll to called it bad journalism. It’s not bad journalism, just bad polling, though there is one criticism to be made. The articles didn’t say the poll results contradicted other polls. They had a public figure mention this, Speaker Paul Thissen in the case of the marriage poll, but they didn’t say that the public figure was factually correct. This is that false objectivity that comes from treating each side as if it’s equally likely to be right. Reporting on your poll’s results is just fine, but whether it comes in with similar results as other polls is just a fact, and a relevant one. Especially given their pollster’s record, the Star Tribune needs to say this.


Just like is suggested by that study posted yesterday about how elected officials assume voters are more conservative than they actually are, elected officials who accept these results are in danger of putting themselves to the right of their constituents. That’s fine for Republicans worried about winning the party nomination from a base that skews far right, but that’s a bad risk for Democrats. They risk not just voting out of step with their constituents, but also demotivating their voters and alienating the people who show up at their phonebanks.


Update: A poll from about a month ago, by highly regarded SurveyUSA, showed Minnesotans’ support for taxing the rich at a higher rate at 65 percent.


The Minneapolis Star Tribune came out with a pretty suspicious poll number, on Sunday.


Fully 54 percent of Minnesotans favor higher taxes on net incomes above $150,000 for individuals and $250,000 for couples.


Year after year, in poll after poll, support for higher taxes on the wealthy is almost always up into the 60s, at least. And a good rule of thumb is that when there’s no reason to see a big change in poll numbers, polling that shows a substantial change, anyway, is probably wrong.


So, what could be going on? It took a moment to occur to me, because it’s like…the Strib isn’t…still using Mason-Dixon, right?


Well, yes, it is. Bad idea.


Now, for the bottom five:


3. Mason Dixon: 173 points
75 points on picking winners (Overall record: 15-6-1)
43 points on “error” score (Average error: 5.7 percent)
55 points on “partisan error” score (Average error: Republicans +4.5)


I’m not saying that just because the tax-the-rich number is clearly out of line, and that the reason for that may well be the Strib’s use of a right-skewed pollster, that the entire poll should be automatically dismissed. It’s quite reasonable to see public opposition to the sales tax overhaul, for now; people are always leery of big change, at first. Public opinion regarding the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act started out negative, but has improved now to solid majority support as people experience the benefits.


I’m also not suggesting that M-D deliberately cooked its numbers, to try to provide backing for the lower-taxes-for-the-rich-are-the-key-to-prosperity-for-all idiot brigade. (Yes, there still are a lot of them out there, despite all of the evidence of the past 30+ years. They’re long past the point of being worth even a moment of any thinking person’s attention.) The pollster’s problem is likely methodological. Whether the folks at the Strib should have recognized that, you can decide for yourself.