Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Quotation And Chart Of The Day: The Rising Tide Isn't Lifting Everyone Edition

The quotation is from this New York Times article:
The American middle class, long the most affluent in the world, has lost that distinction.
While the wealthiest Americans are outpacing many of their global peers, a New York Times analysis shows that across the lower- and middle-income tiers, citizens of other advanced countries have received considerably larger raises over the last three decades.
After-tax middle-class incomes in Canada — substantially behind in 2000 —now appear to be higher than in the United States. The poor in much of Europe earn more than poor Americans.
The chart can be found here.

Unlike middle class income, chart will get larger. Just click.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

About That Larry Rhoden Ad

I get it; Rhoden is a West River guy. I don't mind the hat, boots, trailer, and bulls. I've got nothing against the West River ethos. My farm boy work shoes came in contact with plenty of manure. (On a side note, I hope the bolo tie comes back back into vogue. For a while even Bruce Springsteen wore one.)

That said, this ad is terrible.

1. I learned nothing about him, and he's not a household name. If Mike Rounds feels the need to introduce himself to voters, Larry Rhoden certainly needs to.

2. It does nothing to distinguish him from any other Republican candidate. Do any of them support Obamacare? Do any of them claim to lack common sense? Do any of them claim that Washington represents South Dakota's interests? I'm pretty sure that every Republican candidate claims to be conservative, married, and a parent.

3. It plays to a stereotype that may turn some voters off.

4. It does nothing to broaden his appeal. (See 2 and 3 above.)

5. The ads production values will make it a joke to every young voter. Please don't claim that authenticity will win them over. Young people think Mumford and Son plays authentic folk music. I like the band, but they're not authentic.

6. Actors claim they never want to be upstaged by children or animals. In this ad the bull upstages Rhoden. If one is upstaged by a bull, I'm not sure how one can claim to be effective dealing with BS 

Monday, April 21, 2014

A Post Wherein I Offer A Plainsman's Corollary To Godwin's Law

First, let's go to the definitions. Godwin's Law "is an Internet adage asserting that 'As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1'—​ that is, if an online discussion (regardless of topic or scope) goes on long enough, sooner or later someone will compare someone or something to Hitler or Nazism."

The most famous and canonical corollary is often confused with Godwin's actual law:
. . .there is a tradition in many newsgroups and other Internet discussion forums that once such a comparison is made, the thread is finished and whoever mentioned the Nazis has automatically lost whatever debate was in progress. This principle is itself frequently referred to as Godwin's law.
Before I enunciate my corollary, let me explain how I discovered it. In a recent post, Cory Heidelberger, a debate coach par excellence, makes the case that a Gordon Howie candidacy has the potential to help Rick Weiland win the U.S. Senate race in November.
Tom Lawrence gives Rick Weiland more cause for hope, identifying national historical precedent for a crowded ballot leading to a win for a presumed underdog in a one-to-one race. While Democrat Weiland enjoys easy sailing through spring with no primary challenger, GOP frontrunner Marion Michael Rounds has to face the punches of Stace Nelson, Larry Rhoden, and Jason Ravnsborg (and Stace, Larry, Jason, you all realize that job #1 for each of you at the big SDNA debate in Pierre this morning is to take Rounds down a peg, right?). If Rounds withstands the primary challenge (and his ads show that if he wins, it will be on inertia and money, not on skillful messaging), he still won't be able to focus fire on Weiland. Larry Pressler will harass him from the nostalgic middle, and Gordon Howie will harass him from the right. Weiland could focus on getting Dems to show up and stick together (dangit, Dems! do it!), draw a third of the Indy vote (oh, think big: half!), and beat Rounds with something in the forties
No one in the Madville Times comment section alleged that the scenario provided hollow hope. In the high school debate world, hollow hope disadvantages generally involve the United States Supreme Court's inability to produce a desired result, it has been run on in conjunction with political movements. Most objective observers would accept that a Howie candidacy would produce fewer efficacious results than any court decision.

I thought the matter dead until yesterday, but Representative Steve Hickey ran an old Republican staple, the abortion disadvantage. For the debate coach audience, Hickey's uniqueness is Rounds will defeat both Weiland and Pressler in the status quo. The link is Howie's entering the race as an independent will drain off the disaffected "hell no" voters and allow Weiland will win an election he would have lost. The impact is a pro choice person will be put on the United States Supreme Court; therefore, abortions will continue unabated because Roe v Wade will not be overturned. It's not a nuclear war or extinction scenario, but it's pretty good.

If this were a regular debate round, I'd expect a threat con kritik. For the non-debate folk, threat con is an argument that says enunciating a threat, in this case causing more abortions, is a means of making the threat a reality. Hickey, however, ran his argument on a conservative blog, so no oneengaged Hickey's argument; they merely called each other RINOs, Republicans In Name Only.

Then the Plainsman Corollary struck me: on any conservative blog, as the discussion grows longer, the probability of someone being called a RINO approaches 1'—​ that is, if an online discussion (regardless of topic or scope) on a conservative blog goes on long enough, sooner or later someone will call a person on the other side of the issue a RINO.

I even have two sub-corollaries. First, the person making the charge believes that calling someone a RINO means he or she has won the debate. Second, the person making the charge cannot define the term RINO.

Quotation Of The Day: Common Core And Brute Force Edition

But some of us have been warning of the political naivete of the Common Core effort for some time now.  Rick Hess and Mike McShane at AEI have also done an admirable job of describing the political weakness of Common Core, regardless of what one thinks of the merits of the standards themselves.
Supporters of Common Core may draw the wrong lesson from this post and increase efforts to convince the public and train educators to love the Common Core.  Not only will these re-education efforts be too little, too late, but they fail to grasp the inherent flaw in reforms like Common Core.  Trying to change the content and practice of the entire nation’s school system requires a top-down, direct, and definitive victory to get adopted.  If input and deliberation are sought, or decisions are truly decentralized, then it is too easy to block standards reforms, like Common Core.  Supporters of CC learned this much from the numerous failed efforts to adopt national standards in the past.
But the brute force and directness required for adopting national standards makes its effective implementation in a diverse, decentralized, and democratic country impossible. This can’t be solved by more professional development and a belated marketing campaign.  Even the Chinese re-education camps couldn’t make the Cultural Revolution reailty — and they invested a whole lot more energy and resources in trying to do so than the Common Core folks ever could.
HT: Andrew Sullivan

A Few Questions For South Dakota Conservative Republicans

Over at Dakota War College, Pat Powers got his comment waters churned into a froth when he tossed out this bit of chum from a Representative Reverend Steve Hickey comment:
I don’t get how Stace and those here can work so easily with Dems but not with moderate Republicans.
A host of anonymously and pseudonymously authored posts failed to get to the crux of the matter because they failed to ask the right questions, so I'll ask those questions here.

First, what exactly makes one a conservative in South Dakota? Modern American conservatism, as I understand it, began when William F. Buckley founded National Review to stand "athwart history, yelling Stop, at a time when no one [was] inclined to do so, or to have much patience with those who so urge it." Nationally and locally, self-described conservatives seem to demand history not only stop but also retreat. It's unclear whether they wish a return to 1988, the last year of the Reagan administration; 1688, a time when planning to hunt witches was considered good form; or 888, the midst of the European Dark Ages.

Second, what's wrong with moderates? If one wishes to push history back, one could do worse than landing in Aristotle's Athens where the Golden Mean seemed best. In contemporary America, avoiding extremes is a difficult principle to uphold.

Third, where are all of these moderates that seem to worry conservatives? I suppose it's possible that they and the last 7 liberals in South Dakota have all moved to an undisclosed location in the Badlands and are building a fortified castle ala Doomsday Preppers, but I haven't seen three moderates together in the same room for at least 20 years.

Fourth, what exactly do South Dakota conservatives support? Opposing Obamacare and Medicaid expansion is not the same as supporting something. One Dakota War College commentor, South Dakota Jammer, has urged repealing the Seventeenth Amendment which allows the direct election of United States Senators. Once again, being against elections doesn't mean that one supports something.

Fifth, why isn't South Dakota a conservative paradise already? Republicans, most describing themselves as rock-ribbed conservatives have occupied the governor's mansion and the legislature since statehood. If conservatives haven't put in place all the conservative measures they want by now, it would seem they have no one to blame but themselves.

Sixth, I'm speculating that some conservatives will answer question five by claiming that they have been betrayed. That claim prompts two questions: how many Judases have populated the conservative Republican ranks and why don't you have better quality control in your party? (I will avoid asking any questions about paranoia in this post.)

Seventh, and this one seems to be the most important question, why can't you graciously declare victory and practice Lincoln's dictum of working with malice toward none and charity toward all? Your antics have been entertaining but lately they seem to be becoming a bit too malicious and uncharitable for comfort.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Scripture And Song For The Week: Easter 2014 Edition

I Corinthians 15
12 But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. 15 More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. 19 If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.
20 But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. 22 For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. 23 But each in turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him. 24 Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 27 For he “has put everything under his feet.”[c] Now when it says that “everything” has been put under him, it is clear that this does not include God himself, who put everything under Christ. 28 When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all.

Friday, April 18, 2014

It's Not Only The Rich . . .

The beautiful people are different from you and me. (Maybe they differ from only me; some of you might be pretty people.)

For a quick review, let's look at the famous F. Scott Fitzgerald description in context:
"Let me tell you about the very rich.  They are different from you and me. They possess and enjoy early, and it does something to them, makes them soft where we are hard, and cynical where we are trustful, in a way that, unless you were born rich, it is very difficult to understand. They think, deep in their hearts, that they are better than we are because we had to discover the compensations and refuges of life for ourselves.  Even when they enter deep into our world or sink below us, they still think that they are better than we are. They are different."
A new study finds that pretty folk seem to have similar ideas to the rich Fitzgerald describes:
Participants who perceive themselves as attractive also tend to not only believe they are of higher social status but also to believe in group dominance — that some groups are just inferior. They also were more likely to believe in ideas that legitimized their status, like the idea that all Americans have equal shots at making it to the top.
It's worth noting that the report uses the term "perceive themselves as attractive." That phrasing leaves open the possibility that it's not the pretty people who think they deserve to rule society but people who are willing to lie to themselves about their attractiveness. (Choosing the whether vanity or dishonesty is a lesser evil requires a different post.)

The actual pretty people or the people who believe themselves beautiful are quite comfortable with inequality.
. . . .In other words, thinking you've got it going on — as opposed to feeling influential, all-around pretty great, or respected — can really shift how you look at inequality.
People who thought they were more attractive also tended to think that America's steadily growing inequality came about because of individual characteristics, like talent and hard work. People who thought they were uglier, meanwhile, thought outside factors — discrimination, political power — had more to do with inequality. . . .
. . . .People who perceived themselves as more attractive were more likely to agree with statements like, "It is not a problem if some people have more of a chance in life than others."
The rich, the beautiful, and those who believe themselves beautiful view themselves to be  of higher social status and, therefore,  deserve to lord it over the rest of us. After all, many of them believe they got what they have through hard work while the rest of us deserve to be lower on the scale. For them, it must always be summertime.