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Friday, December 23, 2011

Big lies, hidden taxes, war and more

Big lies. Politifact trumpets its bold nonpartisanship in choosing as their "lie of the year" the Democratic claim that Paul Ryan's plan, if enacted, would end Medicare. Politifact says that this claim is bullshit.

But the accusation of bullshittiness is itself bullshit. Of course the Ryan plan would end Medicare as we know it. A different plan with the same name is still a different plan. If I replace my Havanese Hell-Hound Bella with a Pit Bull, it would be a different dog even if I were to give it the same name as the old one.

Politifact, alas, can't see that obvious point.
The most over-the-top response (was it tongue-in-cheek?) was a rant from Jim Newell in Gawker under the headline "Why PolitiFact is bad for you." He conveniently ignored the fact that our fact-checks are based on hours of journalistic research and portrayed them as the work of rogue bloggers with a gimmicky meter.

"PolitiFact is dangerous," he said.

Really? It's dangerous to put independently researched information in the hands of the citizenry?
No. It's dangerous to give the citizenry misleading crap and then label it "independently researched information." Newell's piece actually make a lot of sense: Politifact is really just a blog run by some people at the St. Petersburg Times, and is therefore no more authoritative than is any other blog.

My choice for the most outrageous newsfib (as heard endlessly on Fox News): "Obama is a Socialist." If CBS were to report that Godzilla has flattened Manhattan while wearing a tuxedo and top hat, the "Obama as Socialist" canard would still rank as the Unbeatable Lie.

What does Mitt Romney have to hide? He won't release his tax returns. I'm of two minds about this: On one hand, I don't think candidates should be required to do so. Actually, they aren't -- we're talking about a matter of tradition, not legal necessity. But the tradition is so firmly set, and the violation so unusual, that one can't help but suspect that a secret abides at the heart of Romney's decision.

Perhaps the answer concerns his church. Romney -- an obscenely wealthy vulture capitalist of the sort immortalized by Richard Gere in Pretty Woman -- may not be tithing. Republicans already have a difficult time accepting the idea of voting for a Mormon; voting for an insincere Mormon would ramp up the religion problem.

Alternate theory: Maybe he pays an infuriatingly small amount in taxes.

A Beginner's Guide to the European Debt Crisis. Why haven't I linked to this before? It's terrific!

War with Iran? At this point, the warnings of a potential war with Iran have developed unfortunate overtones of Lucy-and-the-football. But we must continue to sound those alarms. Why? Because we keep getting pieces like this in places like Foreign Affairs.
Time to Attack Iran
Why a Strike Is the Least Bad Option
But skeptics of military action fail to appreciate the true danger that a nuclear-armed Iran would pose to U.S. interests in the Middle East and beyond. And their grim forecasts assume that the cure would be worse than the disease -- that is, that the consequences of a U.S. assault on Iran would be as bad as or worse than those of Iran achieving its nuclear ambitions. But that is a faulty assumption. The truth is that a military strike intended to destroy Iran’s nuclear program, if managed carefully, could spare the region and the world a very real threat and dramatically improve the long-term national security of the United States.
Isn't that what the Bushites said when we invaded Iraq?

Fortunately, Stephen M. Walt -- one of the few remaining honest foreign policy analysts -- is here to slather a white frosting of reason on the Red Velvet cake of stark raving bonkers:
He also declares, "With atomic power behind it, Iran could threaten any U.S. political or military initiative in the Middle East with nuclear war." Huh? If this bizarre fantasy were true, why couldn't the former Soviet Union do similar things during the Cold War, and why can't other nuclear powers make similar threats today when they don't like a particular American initiative? The simple reason is that threatening nuclear war against the United States is not credible unless one is willing to commit national suicide, and even Kroenig concedes that Tehran is not suicidal. Nuclear weapons are good for deterring attacks on one's own territory (and perhaps the territory of very close allies), but that's about it.

So who objects so strenuously to the idea of Iran having the bomb? Only those who don't want Iran to be able to defend itself. And who wants that country to remain vulnerable? Those who hope, one day, to attack it on some pretext or other. And why do they hope to attack it on some pretext or other? The answer, methinks, has to do with a certain black liquid which may soon be in short supply.

Yes, Iran is run by a horrid government. So are lots of other countries. But Iran has oil. That makes all the difference.
Good post all round. However I only wanted to comment on Iran.

For the last 4000 years only three countries have ever mattered in the middle east. 1) Egypt. 2) Iraq 3) Iran. They matter not because of oil but because of population. The bulk of the Mid Easts population lives in these countries so the only countries that matter militarily are these three countries (for this analysis I am ignoring the biggest military in the region - Israel).

Ultimately, Saudi Arabia's oil wont remain controlled by this one extended Al-Saud family if these large populations unite, and push against the Saudi Monarchy, and its American allies. This point is even more compelling when you consider the Shiites predicament across the region, and Iran's status as their champion. The US has placed itself into an alliance with a rather barbaric Wahhabist form of Islam, and a Saudi monarchy that has no choice but to kowtow to the same rather medieval mullahs. Same with Bahrain. Why have such friends? Do they really think oil security is best acheived with these allies?

The print and broadcast media ginned up the Iraq invasion and the Moron-American segment of the population got behind the idea. I expect the same bad actors to get behind Obama's push to do something to Iran and work to get the public on board.
I blame Jimmy Carter for much of what's wrong with the presidential nominating process today. He was the first to use the completely unrepresentative state of Iowa for a first punch, and I think he was the first to make a big deal of releasing his tax returns.

Incidentally, he was also the one to begin the deregulation craze and I'm sure there is other BS in today's world I could pin on his worthless ass.
Iran's government might have more ardent support among a greater percentage of Iranians than the US government does from its citizens, horrid or not. (Horrid applied to take your pick.)
Penelope, you're right about Carter and deregulation. But he kept it within certain boundaries. Of course, it was early days.

Was he the first one to release the tax records? If so, it was probably in response to Watergate and related scandals. As I recall, there was a brouhaha about Nixon having to pay back taxes. Something like that.
How can I trust any media when no one is willing to ask the question, if Iran can't go solar, than who can?

Iran could be encouraged, supported, or even humiliated into going solar, but instead, the solar energy card is never played.

If solar energy cannot work in a desert environment, it cannot work anywhere.
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