May 31, 2005

W. Mark Felt = Deep Throat

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader sees that Woodward and Bernstein are confirming that W. Mark Felt is "Deep Throat."

Wow! The former Number Two man at the FBI during the Nixon Administration, Felt confirmed for Vanity Fair magazine that he was "Deep Throat." As loyal minions no doubt know, "Deep Throat" was the annonymous source who fed Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward information that helped the reporters unravel the connections of the Watergate Scandal.

No doubt there will be much made of this admission and confirmation over the next few days.

Your Maximum Leader will make one prediction now. Felt is making this admission now, when he is aged and infirm, to allow his kids to make some money off the admission.

Carry on.

And Speaking of Skippy

Since it appears that our humble little shop at Nakedvillainy is his prime referrer, shouldn't he be sending us stuff from our Amazon lists?

Speaking of Ally

Many of my favorite bloggers tend to post in inverse proportion to their current level of happiness. I think that we can all agree that a thwarted, frustrated and bitter Skippy is a boon to the blogosphere. The posting frequency of others (including the Maximum Leader, the Minister of Propaganda, and myself) tends to be tied to the intensity level of their work week.

I hope that Ally's lack of recent posts over the last couple of weeks is tied to both variables. She has said that she is finishing up on her degree - go thee hence and congratulate her! She has also had other good news as of late, what with moving, new job, etc. I miss her witty insights. I, truth be told, also miss the occasional hammering she gives me.

So I hope altruistically that she is happily existing in the real world outside the blogosphere. And I hope narcissistically that my recent freedom from spanking is not because I have grown boring.

I recently took my post-exam AP US history class on a tour of a state college.

I had lunch with the director of admissions and we talked about the quality of various institutions. During our discussion, he blew me away with a fact. As a scientific thinker who tries to eschew magical thinking, that fact forced me to reconsider and revisit a debate I had with Ally.

Long-time readers will remember my highly controversial post about community colleges. Ally teed off on my hide (as did Minion Molly and Powerfmn). I did back away a bit from my previous incendiary stand, but the shift was a retrenchment rather than a retraction.

But the director of admissions hit me with this fact: Students who transfer to this particular state college with a 3.25 GPA in a community college do as well as upperclassmen as their peers who began their college careers at JMU. This lends serious support to Ally's position and I'm man enough to admit it.

Of course, as our conversation continued, the director of admissions related this anecdote: His son, once attending that institution and now transferred to William and Mary, Virginia's finest state college*, had this observation: The professors were more snooty at William and Mary, but he enjoyed college more because, unlike the other state institution, the students at William and Mary continued to talk about class subjects after the end of class. The intellectual curiosity of his peers is much higher at William and Mary.

Heh. So I guess I'm still retrenching rather than retracting. Perhaps I could a corrolary to my previous position that "Excellent students can get a good education despite the average quality of students and professors at their institution."

Living in the Present

34 year-old Smallholder's reaction to the Minister of Propaganda's Full Disclosure in 2004:

Man, just reading about what Rob has to think about makes me tired. I'm glad I'm married*.

* Perhaps, a la Ally, "smugly" married.

Time Machine

16 Year Old Smallholder's response to the Minister of Propaganda's Full Disclosure, circa 1987:

"Rob is my hero!"

Smallholder on Religion: Ad Nauseum

Since I seem to be on the topic of religion lately, I will continue the trend.

A religion is, by definition, something that is held without a reasonable basis. A leap of faith, as you will.

Faith is something you believe, despite the lack of evidence. Faith is not something that can be proven true or false.

Science is something that can be measured and used to make testable predictions. If the measurements and test results run contrary to the theory, than the theory must be set aside and a new one, based on those inconvenient measurements and test results, must be developed.

In a previous post, I condemned Christians who made the poor choice of placing their faith in opposition to science.

People of faith once challenged Pi. But Pi is measurable, testable, and the "theory" of Pi's nature can be used to make predictions of the circumference of circles. When faith ventured into the realm of science, trying to muscle it aside, it failed. I doubt many of you were taught the biblical measure of Pi to be 3. Most of us learned it was 3.14… to however many decimal places your geekishness demanded.

People of faith once challenged heliocentrism. But, unfortunately for those confused about the interrelationship of faith and science, orbital patterns are measurable, testable, and can be used to make testable predictions. I doubt many of you learned the geocentric theory of the Universe in school. You geekishness level probably predicts whether or not you can talk about orbital eccentricity and elliptical foci, but I'd be willing to bet that you learned that the earth orbits the sun.

People of faith now challenge evolution. Unfortunately for them, and the perception of Christianity as a whole as people generalize from the specific to our entire religion, evolution is measurable, testable, and makes testable predictions. So Kansas or no Kansas, our grandchildren won't be learning Intelligent Design.

Tuesday Post: Full Disclosure

In gracious company, we here at Naked Villainy are blessed to join the Demystifying Divas and the Men's Club in their weekly Tuesday posts. This week, the responsibility falls to me, and the topic is the when, where, and how of full sexual disclosure.

As a single man (please make note, ladies), I tend to follow two hard and fast rules: first, never lie. It might seem easier at the time, but lying is only going to get you in trouble. It is always better to plead the fifth than to lie: a woman might or might not stop seeing you because of what she imagines you're doing with other people or have done in the past, but if she finds out you've lied about it, she'll not only stop seeing you but be justified in trashing your name before her friends.

Second, protect yourself and future partners from the lying of others. Protection, protection, protection! Do you trust all of your lover's ex-lovers? Do you expect all of your future partners to trust your current girlfriend? Look out for your own health and well-being, and be considerate of anyone else you're might sleep with in the future. It can be tough in a moment of passion, but it's important you mentally rehearse this rule until even drunkeness cannot obscure it. Additionally, your health care practioner is going to make you feel stupid if you show up every three months and request the same tests.

If you follow these two rules, then sexual disclosure is essentially a non-issue. You can discuss it theoretically, and you can discuss it with the hope of gaining greater trust in a relationship, but disclosure itself is not a necessity.

Nonetheless, the act of disclosure can itself be a positive and relationship-building experience under certain circumstances. However, it's important that you think about the specifics of what you want to share, and when. Some general guidelines that I follow, for better or worse:

When I Meet a Potential Partner For the First Time, In a Bar Or At a Party
Do Share: I'm a Gemini
Don't Share: Anything else

When I Sleep With Someone For the First Time, Immediately After Meeting In a Bar Or Following a Date Soon After
Do Share: I'm a Gemini
Don't Share: Anything else (don't forget about protection!)

Before I Sleep With Someone For the Second Time
Do Share: I'm seeing other people (not technically required unless asked -- again, don't lie! -- but, in the long run, I'm always glad I said it up front)
Don't Share: Specific details of whom I'm sleeping with

When My Partner Shares Details of Whom She's Slept With In the Past Or Whom She's Sleeping With Now
Do Share: The fact that I've slept with more people
Don't Share: Exact numbers or the actual percentage of one-night stands

When Sleeping Together Becomes A Regular Thing
Do Share: What I like and don't like (and I request the same information in return)
Don't Share: Which ex-girlfriend 'educated' me as to my likes, and which ex-girlfriend did it best

When A Partner Expresses An Interest In, You Know, Something 'New'
Do Share: "Well, that's something that I've tried before . . . but it's important that we focus on what you're comfortable with"
Don't Share: References

When A Partner Says She'd Like to Invite A Cute Friend For a Threesome
Do Share: Reluctant agreement: careful! This might be a trap
Don't Share: The fact that it wouldn't be the first time, and never suggest names

When We Make a Serious and Exclusive Commitment
Do Share: How long it's been since I last made a serious commitment
Don't Share: How that commitment ended, or how many people I've slept with since that last commitment

When We're Considering Having Sex Without Protection
Do Share: Any risky behavior, intentional or accidental, I've engaged in since my last test (and expect the same information in return)
Don't Share: Specific details

When I Realize I'm Sleeping With Someone That I Want to Be With For the Rest of My Life (theoretical)
Do Share: Everything. Everything, everything, everything.

Oh, and never share the fact that you blog about your sex life. If you do admit that you blog about your sex life, never reveal the actual URL. If you do, you'll be editing yourself forever.


For more Men's Club posts check out: Phin and the Wizard. And soon we'll hear from Puffy.

For for the Demystifying Divas check out: Sadie, Kathy, Christina, and Silk.

May 30, 2005

The Morality of Torture

Check out this excellent essay by quandro (via Volokh).

The prisoners in Afghanistan, Abu Ghraib, and Gitmo are NOT covered by the Geneva Convention. Red-letter law excludes illegal combatants from the Geneva protections.

Nonetheless, widespread torture, abuse, and "accidental" deaths are immoral and counterproductive.

Read the article for a highly supported argument. I find the solution of offering summary tribunals, sentencing the illegal combatants to death (as is international law proscribes), and then offering a commutation of the sentence in return for information. If no information is forthcoming, the sentence can be carried out if full accordance with international law. If information is forthcoming, we get what we want without engaging in torture.

Also scroll down and read the comments. The moral relativism of many commentators - and of many of our blogosphere friends, is astounding. "Well, the terrorists are worse, so whatever we did is okay." The terrorists are worse. But that does not absolve us of the responsibility of acting ethically. It reminds me of some of my Baltimore City students who, having been weaned on the mother's milk of anti-Americanism, refused to see the moral dimenstion of World War Two - "America is no better than Nazi Germany because we had concentration camps too..." It frustrated me that they could not see gradations of wrongfulness. The Japanese Internment was a wrongful violation of the rights of American citizens. It ought to be condemned. But to place it in the same moral ballpark as Dachau is abhorrent.

The right side of the political spectrum rightly (pun intended) condemns moral relativism. But the same folks who condemn the "there are no savage and civilizaed societies, only different cultures" claptrap engage in the same intellectual laziness when confronted with examples of American wrong doing.

Sadie and This Minister, Sittin' In a Tree . . .

Sadie and I are flirting over at Cake Eater Chronicles, so go check it out.


May 27, 2005

All Manner Of Bloggy Goodness. - Updated

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader figures he'll spend a little time today giving you all one big link-dump post to keep you going over the long weekend. (Long weekend at least for his American readers. Apologies to the Big Hominid and Col. Blimp.)

But before he does his link dumping, allow him to note that he will not be posting much or at all over the weekend (as is more or less normal). Lots of stuff going on over the weekend. He is going to see Tosca on Saturday. And he will see the Washington Nationals take on the Atlanta Braves on Monday.

Excursus to Opera Loving DC area minions: Your Maximum Leader might have one extra ticket to the matinee performance of Tosca tomorrow. Center Orchestra. Row "R." If you are interested write your Maximum Leader. Use e-mail on the left side nav bar.

The Nationals v. Braves contest will be a hard one for him. As mentioned before, your Maximum Leader is a baseball fan. And he has pulled for the Braves for a very very long time. But now, he feels there is some civic duty requiring him to root (root, root) for the home team. But he can't just give up on the Braves after so long. Baseball is playing the role of cruel mistress right now...

Anyway... If you are at the Nats/Braves game on Monday, you'll likely see your Maximum Leader in a Braves Cap and Hank Aaron jersey. He and Mrs. Villain and the Villainettes will be sitting about three rows off the field down the third base line.

Well, let us move along...

You ought to go over and read some of Brian's thoughts on his Grandfather and Father on Memorial Day. It is a fine post. Also very good is the post immediately preceeding the Memorial Day post. The one in which Brian comments on a recent report that UK doctors recommend removing sharp pointy knives from kitchens to reduce the number of stabbing deaths. Of course this would also make it difficult to prepare food, thereby requiring Britons to buy processed foods only. Processed foods are also a great boon for the nation. As they can more easily be reheated in a microwave there would be no need for Britons to own ovens. The removal of ovens from British households would reduce both the number of household burns suffered by Britons cooking AND suicides by inhaling gas. Your Maximum Leader can see where this is going...

Although it is a little late (considering the post is a few weeks old) you ought to go and read over the Demosophist's post about a recent NCTC report on terrorist activity around the globe. The post is much to serious and thought provoking to have your Maximum Leader give some sort of pithy comment here and move along. He hopes to give this item more thought and comment later.

You all should read Skippy's post on the outcome of the "Nuclear Option" non-event. It is, as is so often the case with Skippy's posts on politics, very well done. Although your Maximum Leader isn't too sure about House Republicans paying for supporting the President's economic policy. The economic forecast seems good. (And growing tax revenues are continuing to prove that we are likely to the right of the "T" point on the Laffer Curve.)

While talking about House Republicans... Your Maximum Leader commends to you a wonderful peice by Alan Abramowitz at Professor Larry Sabato's Crystal Ball site. The article describes how redistricting is not responsible, in Prof. Abramowitz's opinion, for uncompetitive House races. It was very enlightening.

Thanks to INDC Bill your Maximum Leader sees that Vladimir Putin is not yet privy to the vast conspiracy to keep the world ignorant of alien lifeforms being kept in a freezer by the US Air Force. Of course, it is also disturbing to learn that Vladimir doesn't partake of "strong drink." Really now, can you be a Russian and not have a shot or two of vodka every now and again? Your Maximum Leader certainly doesn't want a man with nuclear launch codes going around in a vodka induced stupor. But not touching the vodka seems very un-Russian. You gotta keep and eye on that Vladimir.

Your Maximum Leader hopes you all didn't miss the absolutely wonderful essay by Mr. P on Patum Peperium about Jane Austin and the Duke of Wellington. You really ought to go and read it. And while you are over there on Patum Peperium, check out this post from Lord Nelson about Britain he fought to defend 200 years after giving his life at Trafalgar.

Which makes your Maximum Leader wonder if the official celebration of the 200th anniversary of Trafalgar going to be that bad? Well yes it seems it will be THAT bad. Rest assured your Maximum Leader will not be all PC about it.

Did you catch Buckethead's post over at the Ministry of Minor Perfidy about the Freedom Tower kerfluffle? No? Well here it is. Your Maximum Leader would certainly like to see one of Frank Lloyd Wright's mega-buildings erected on the World Trade Center site. At first your Maximum Leader wasn't sure if he fell on the Geeklethal or Buckethead side of their comment thread discussion. Your Maximum Leader, upon reflection, is more in the "we must rebuild bigger and better than before, phallic subtexts be damned" side of the argument. And as an added benefit, we should build a 1 km tall Wright designed building. Assure it was the tallest freestanding structure in the world, then put the world on notice... We'll bomb out of existance any attempt to build something bigger... Okay. Perhaps that is a bit much... But we could do it...

Your Maximum Leader doesn't know why, but he really really liked (and even found some humour in) the Velociman's post on Sulfur.

Did you see the latest from the Beef Council? Your Maximum Leader can only agree with Gordon and nod approvingly. You just don't know what cooties you could catch from Paris. Probably some very nasty ones.

As always there is plenty of bloggy goodness over at Dr. Rusty's site. It was the first place where your Maximum Leader read that terrorists in Iraq are now using dogs as suicide bombers. Your Maximum Leader feels sorry for the dogs. He also thinks it probably does show that the number of volunteers for suicide bombings is declining. One hopes this is because of the recent moves by US and Iraqi forces throughout Iraq to crack down on terrorist activity.

Speaking of animals... Did you notice this post over at the Hatemonger's Quarterly? Your Maximum Leader is sure that the Smallholder will tune into British television with much more regularity now that "Animal Passions" is okay for broadcast.

Your Maximum Leader really liked this post of fiesty Christina's. One day your Maximum Leader needs to borrow his sainted parents' condo in New Orleans and go to visit the fiesty one.

Dearest Sadie... Your Maximum Leader's one unfulfilled wish at the moment involves Jennifer Love Hewitt, Giada De Laurentiis, garlic bread, mounds of pasta with alfredo sauce, and chocolate eclairs with custard filling. PS to Sadie - He sees you've put the M of P's quote on the masthead... Smallholder will be jealous.

That is about it for now. If your Maximum Leader gets a chance, he'll post his thoughts on "Revenge of the Sith" before too long.

Carry on.

Lunchtime Observations

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader joined some friends and acquaintances for lunch today. Here are some random observations of the whole excursion.

While driving to lunch, your Maximum Leader was being tailgated by a rather cute young woman in a white Chevy pickup. One could tell from her driving that she seemed to be in a rush. You Maximum Leader manoevered around to let her pass. She waved as she passed. After she had passed your Maximum Leader saw that the back of her truck was filled with Confederate flag bumper stickers and other stickers exhorting readers to know that real girls drive trucks and so forth...

She wasn't quite as cute anymore.

At lunch your Maximum Leader got a Delmonico steak with sides of broccoli and garlic mashed potatoes. Normally he would get a New York strip. But damn that Delmonico was tasty. If given the chance he would eat another right now.

During conversation your Maximum Leader was the only one who found it ironic that Viagra could make you blind. None of the others (men - for there were no women in the group) at the table got my original quip. So your Maximum Leader even did a follow-on by saying "Next thing you know Enzyte will cause hair to grow on your palms."

Still no one got it. The next thought your Maximum Leader had was, "What if your Maximum Leader is the only man at this table with enough sexual puissance to not require Viagra?" Gadzooks! It could be.

Upon leaving lunch, your Maximum Leader got back into the Villainmobile and was driving around when he thought to himself, "Humm... Does Giada De Laurentiis have a cannoli recipe?" (Your Maximum Leader can't find one, but she does have a fruit salad with cannoli cream recipe floating out there. Which he seems to remember having seen the lovely Giada make on "Everyday Italian.") Then your Maximum Leader's mind turned to just Giada De Laurentiis and cannoli cream... With fresh berries. Giada De Laurentiis with berries and cannoli cream... Yum.

Your Maximum Leader heard on the radio that King Fahd was in the hospital. He wonders what the line will be on how soon the King might "pass."

Also on the radio was an update about a local murder trial that is concluding today and will go to the jury on Tuesday. A local woman was murdered nearly two years ago. Under her fingernails was found tissue and blood containing measurable amounts of human DNA. The police investigation corralled a suspect who, much later, was determined to be a DNA match to the tissue and blood found under the victim's fingernails.

The prosecution in this case brought in many experts on DNA to testify. In closing arguments, the lead defence attorney said the prosecution hadn't proved the DNA match. And why wasn't the DNA evidence proved (according to the defence)? Because there was a one in six billion chance that someone else in the general population would also be a DNA match.

1 in 6,000,000,000!

Lets see... The odds of winning a multi-state lottery are 1 in 140,000,000. The odds of being struck by lightning are 1 in 570,000. The odds of being killed by a lightning strike are 1 in 2,230,000. The odds of being killed by a dog bite are 1 in 700,000. And the odds of being audited by the IRS are about 1 in 175.

But this guy ought to be let off because there is a 1 in 6 billion chance that someone else with identical DNA murdered the victim.

Yeah. Great defence.

Carry on.

May 25, 2005

Left bias in PBS

I am having a great time following the lastest with Ken Tomlinson, president of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and his remarks about a balanced PBS.

The Armed Forces Network radio carries about 70% of PBS programing and, as its about the only English Speaking news I can get in my car, I listen to it A LOT.

My friends on the left will decry that there is no bias at all, but as someone from the other side of the aisle, I am a little more in tune to the bias, just like they are with Fox News.

It might not be an overt bias, but I would imagine that 90% of the people that work for PBS pulled the leaver for Kerry last November (hey, they are in show business afterall) and I can't believe it doesn't work its way into their material, choices, and delivery.

Right after the November election, Science Friday had an entire show about dealing with post election depression and was essentially a 30 minute "I hate Bush" call in show.


back to the trenches

i guess we are both chumps then

Interesting post M of A. I do have to say, "you have come a long way baby!"

I agree with a lot of what you said... and what I did not agree with, we should discuss in the wee hours of the morning during Jackfest this summer.

Don't worry about the M of P too much as he is finding his way still, and will be an excellent addition to the chump club one day.

*sniff* *sniff*
I love you guys.

Smallholder: Chump

During a (no longer) recent slew o' posts, my good friend Rob has called me a chump. If you are too lazy to scroll down the page, his post can be found here.

Brian B. Has already pointed out the incongruity of calling Christians chumps whilst decrying religious intolerance.

I would like proclaim to the blogsopshere that my childhood chum was simply being incendiary.

Unfortunately, I think not.

When I found my faith again (fatherhood and farming will do that to a fella), Rob was flummoxed and passionately opposed to my belief. I think he felt that his "enlightened" friend had betrayed rationality and gone back to the dark side. His vehemence surprised me, but it is not something that comes between us (fear not, o Minister of Propaganda!) - our friendship is a wide, deep, and long lasting one which transcends major philosophical differences, as readers of this blog well know.

I, of course, would argue that I haven't betrayed the Enlightenment at all. After all, if one seeks first causes, one must, logically speaking, come to the same view as the Deists. Believing that the Universe arose from nothing is as great a, if not greater, leap of "faith" than accepting the existence of a First Cause.

The Maximum Leader once, during an alcohol-fueled metaphysical colloquium, applauded Rob's atheism, proclaiming that agnosticism was simply moral cowardice: "subscribe to atheism and be done, man!" I heartily agreed with him at the time, but I have since reconsidered. It seems to me that agnosticism is entirely reasonable: "I can't explain the universe, but find the evidence supporting particular faiths to be unconvincing." Atheism and faith are both unprovable beliefs.**

I'll confess that accepting the Christian conception of the First Cause is indeed a leap of faith, but I believe that I can somewhat justify my acceptance through reason, but am willing to concede that my childhood upbringing may have biased me in that direction.

My brain has been percolating on a long, probably interminable post about "Why Smallholder is a Christian." This line of thought starts leading me down the path of an epic post, so let me just lay aside the exploration of my reasoning for a bit. The point is that I'm not a blind, magically-thinking fool. And I'm not alone.

I would argue that the vast Catholics and the vast majority of mainline Protestants do not believe that reason is the enemy of faith.

The virulence of the Minister of Propaganda's abhorrence toward faith may be the result of the way our primate brains work.

We like to assign categories to everything. Socially, we are very perceptive about differences between ourselves and any other person with whom we interact. In Darwinian terms, this makes excellent sense. We have to make snap judgments about whether to assert our alpha malesness or social position over a newcomer or to rapidly accept beta dog status. Is this new person a potential ally or a rival?

Now that we have the ability to conceptually organize more complex concepts, this categorization tendency can get us into trouble. If someone cuts us off in traffic, we try to explain their poor driving skills. And we naturally focus on categorical differences. How often have men complained about "dem wimmin drivers?" Statistically speaking, this is an entirely specious belief. Men are much more likely to have car accidents than women. But many men really believe that women are worse drivers because of the way our brains work. If a man cuts me off, I rarely say "that man cut me off." I'll label him "old," or "cell phone talker." I don't perceive his maleness. But if it's a woman, I notice that she is different in gender-specific terms.

And then, because our little brains can only hold so many categories, we simplify things, generalizing from the specific to the larger category. One doesn't often hear: "That woman was a bad driver." We hear: "Women are bad drivers."

Excursus: Everyone does this. Lest you think that I am picking on a one gender, let me call your attention to the fact that we rarely hear: "Bob treated me poorly in our relationship." We do hear: "Men are scum."

The tendency to generalize from the specific to the general places a great responsibility on Christians. When Christians act like asses, non-Christians will make judgments about the faith as a whole.

One of the central tenants of Christianity is that we ought, per the sermon on the mount, proselytize. If our actions turn people off to our faith, we have not acted wisely.

I clearly remember one of my Missouri Synod catechism teachers explaining that a good Christian would never have to tell anyone that he was a Christian. His behavior would be like a sign to those around him.

In fact, when anyone proclaims their faith too loudly, like the businessmen who assure you that you are getting a fair deal because they are a Christian, I have a tendency to count my fingers after shaking their hands. (Ever notice how many car salesmen begin their sentences with "I'm going to level with you/tell you the truth/be honest with you?")

Christians have a responsibility to act appropriately so that we don't trigger the "specific to general neurons" in the brains of onlookers.

In fact, I'll confess that I ought to improve myself - perhaps some of our readers are alarmed by the (un?)healthy appreciation of Miss Pressly as expressed by a happily-married man. Perhaps they are saying: "Look, there goes that 'so-called' Christian having lust in his heart! All Christians are just lustful little deviants!" Or perhaps they are appalled at any one my little quirks. Occasionally I'll use harsh language. I'll take political stands that some might find immoral. This is the reason that I don't center many of my posts around my faith: in expressing my beliefs, I may be harming the greater cause.

Don't get me wrong. I don't think appreciating the acting skills of Miss Pressly is, in itself, immoral (and neither is Mrs. Smallholder's appreciation of Viggo Mortenson or George Clooney). I also believe that four letter words, if used exceedingly rarely, can effectively communicate sentiment. And I think a person interested in justice will support equality for homosexuals. So I'm going to do these things when joking around with my old friends in the blogosphere.

But I need to be mindful (is this an appropriate use of the term, o Big Hominid?) that many people in my audience will disagree. Maybe I'm wrong - I'm willing to be convinced.

Unfortunately, many of my co-religionists will not admit the possibility that they might be wrong. And this is bad for Christianity.

Christians who believe that they have a monopoly on the truth are bad Christians.

(Oooo, you are thinking to yourself, the congenitally permissive Smallholder casts a stone! Yep.)

Believing that your particular interpretation of the Bible is the only possible one is arrogance that traipses into the territory of hubris. People have been claiming this throughout history. From a navel-gazing perspective, everyone else must be wrong. So why have faith that you have finally found the only sect in history to truly know God's will? The Southerners who proclaimed that Jesus loved slavery are generally acknowledged to have been mistaken. The Millerites were a bit discredited when the world didn't end as scheduled.

So, if Smallholder had his way, Christians would say: "I believe, based on my reading of the scripture, consideration of the central message of Jesus' teaching, and reason, that X is a moral course of action - but am willing to discuss, respect, and possibly be persuaded by other viewpoints."

And let me say this - I think those who dogmatically claim that "every jot and tittle" of the Bible is literally true are deluding themselves. They are taking Jesus' claim out of historical context (the current books of the Bible were not finalized until well after Jesus' time), they are willingly blind to contradictions contained in the Bible itself, are generally only focusing on the jots and tittles that support their own predispositions, ignore the issues involved in translations, and are blind to the historical influences that operate on any product of man's hand. If the literal word is absolutely true, and the meaning is so plain, why do you and I disagree on what we take from the reading? Is my belief that God knowing Thomas "in the womb" mean that God had a plan for Thomas life a willful misinterpretation of the passage in which you see a condemnation of abortion (God knew Thomas in the womb -> Thomas had a soul in the womb -> All fetuses have a soul -> Abortion is murder)?

Good people can disagree. When Christians deny this, people look at us and say "Those Christians are so harsh and condemnatory! They attribute evil motives to anyone who disagrees! All Christians are bad!"

And thus it becomes harder to bring people to the faith.

And outsiders focus on the negative impacts of "Christians" in the public sphere.

And generalize that Christianity leads to bad outcomes.

And announce that "Religion is for chumps."

The same is true for the creationists. Willfuly blind to the overwhelming scientific evidence, they misrepresent the findings and play to the ignorance of their audience ("It's just a theory! Irreducible complexity! Intelligent Design is Science!")

Whenever Christians have set their particular interpretation of an infallible literalist Bible against science, science eventually wins. How many of our readers believe the earth is flat, that the universe is geocentric, or that pi's value is three?

Aside from the incredible hubris of Luddite Christians who propose to limit the manner in which God has, or might have, designed the universe is the issue of the Sermon on the Mount.

When Christians are seen clinging to demonstratably false shibboleths, the public generalizes from the specific to the general.

Outsiders see the intelligent design people are both dishonest in their presentation and foolish in their scientific ignorance.

And generalize that Christians as a group are dishonest and stupid.

And announce that "religion is for chumps."

Don't just hammer my friend the Minister of Propaganda.

Let's look at ourselves. Why have we done to make non-theists recoil from our faith?

**UPDATE FROM YOUR MAXIMUM LEADER: Not like it amounts to a hill of beans in this crazy world but... Your Maximum Leader seems to remember he didn't accuse agnostics of being "moral" cowards but rather "intellectual" cowards. Agnostics, speaking generally, are just people who can't make up their minds and really don't try/want to. As you, dear minion, can see your Maximum Leader is not as charitable towards agnostics as is the good Smallholder.

May 24, 2005

Mother In Law

So lately my Mother in Law (MIL for short) has been giving my wife crap. We're horrible parents, we feed our kids too much, not enough, dress them too warm, too cold, our house is a mess, our social life is too busy, we don't go out enough blah blah blah.

When I tell my wife what I think of her mother, my wife's response is "well, she does help us a lot."

So does helping us buy her the right to be a bitch?

And don't even get me started on the quality of her help. Leaving irons on, leaving the house open... not unlocked... OPEN, Forgetting to feed her the baby for an afternoon of babysitting and on and on....

The Wit and Wisdom of Walter Slovostky

"I'm a simple man. All I want is enough sleep for two normal men, enough whiskey for three, and enough women for four."

When the Black Camel comes for me, I'm not going to go kicking and screaming - I am, however, going to try to talk my way out of it. "No, no, you want the other Walter Slovotsky."

Lonely Hearts vs. Broken Hearts post for the Mens Club

It's better to have loved and lost then never to have loved at all because then at least you've gotten laid.

In the interests of full disclosure, I'm married, with two kids. I have a fairly normal relationship, which means we don't always get along, but we "keep it real" to use the vernacular. But at various points in my life, I've done the lonely hearts thing and the broken hearts thing. Personally, I'd take broken heart. At least there's a cause there, not a vague uneasiness. Anger vs. emptiness. And with a broken heart, after a breakup at least you get taken out drinking a few times.

Of course, for most of the guys on, a broken heart at this point means litigation, custody battles, lawyer's fees, and psychiatric bills for the kids. So lets hope this is all behind us.

To begin with, I'm going to assume we're talking single folk here. Secondly, my experience is with hetero couples. Not making any judgments here. I'll leave pompous, arbitrary and absolute moral judgments to Max Leader. I'm just staying with what I know.

I think for most of us, romantic life goes in phases. You have times when you are actively dating, or in relationships, and times when you aren't. So most of have had a broken heart or a lonely heart at one time or another.

As for broken hearts, people deal with it in different ways. You have the people who want to jump right back on, and you have the people who need time to purge the hatred and resentment out of their system before they can trust someone of the opposite sex.

But I've noticed several recurring themes in people who fall into the "Lonely Heart" category.

Consider the female perennial lonely heart. We all know the type. "Why can't I ever find a man?" "All the good ones are taken." Most of the time, from my experience, women who are consistently lonely hearts suffer from one of several maladies. I'll look at two common ones.

First of all, you have the woman with absurd standards. Forget the standard "all I want is a guy with a sense of humor" crap. That series of lines is what she wants to want. Her guy has to be absurdly smart, and witty. He has to have movie star looks, with an edge. He has to have an incredibly successful career, though he can drop work at a moments notice to follow her whim. He has to be able to read her mind, so that he can give her what she wants, without her asking for it. He has to get along with her mother. He has to be hung line Ron Jeremy, yet not look like Ron Jeremy. He has to be able to give her multiple orgasms on demand, yet never ever ask for sex when she doesn't want it. He has to love Nora Ephron films, and he absolutely hates video games, because he'd rather spend time doing whatever she wants to do.

If you fall into this trap, I have news for you... that guy DOESN'T EXIST. GIVE UP. Look in the mirror. That's where the problem lies, not with the men of the world. Causes vary. Maybe it's her mother.

Secondly, you have the piners. These females think that there are no men out there for them. They think that all the single guys have something wrong with them, or else they wouldn't be single. Hey, babe, if that logic holds, then it works in reverse true. The corollary applies to you. So then you hear the "I wish I had a man like yours" when they talk to other friends.

As a guy, these women come out of the woodwork when you are in a relationship. These are the women who flirt with you incessantly when they know you're dating their friend, yet these same women wouldn't give you the time of day when you are unattached. Despite a world of romantic opportunity in front of them, these women are lonely and unhappy.

Of course there are male lonely hearts too.

First, there is the guy version of the absurd standards case. Except in the guys case it's a bit more simple, yet just as contradictory. It's the whole whore/Madonna thing. This guy wants a woman with a drawer full of sex toys, lube on tap in the bedroom, the flexibility of a gymnast, and oral skills that rival the greatest of Porno stars... but she's a chaste maiden who has acquired these skills without practice, and finds our virginal, acne ridden, 35 year old hero attractive.

Don't know what to tell you. The real world is pretty fun if you give it a chance. If you prefer video's and Kleenex to real women, that's your issue.

Guys have a peculiar variant on the piner. This is the guy who thinks of himself as so studly that his current girlfriend is never good enough. I think this falls into the lonely hearts category, because although he's technically attached, he doesn't think of himself this way, and this guy is truly lonely in the sense that he's never happy. This is the guy who always finds something wrong with his girl, yet is almost never without a girlfriend. The technical term for this guy is "asshole." Yet women seem to fall for him.

For more Men's Club entries check out Phin, The Wizard, and later this week, Puffy.

For the Demystifying Divas hop on over to Sadie, Chrissy, Silk, Kathy, and Pam.

Well I'll be....

Who would have thought

What military aircraft are you?

F/A-22 Raptor

You are an F/A-22. You are technologically inclined, and though you've never been tested in combat, your very name is feared. You like noise, but prefer not to pollute any more than you have to. And you can move with the best.

Personality Test Results

Click Here to Take This Quiz
Brought to you by quizzes and personality tests.

As to the Midgets Lions: Darn! But unlike the Democrats, I really didn't want it to be true. I guess I loose my press credentials now.

back to the skies...

May 23, 2005

Oh Look! A Shiny New Quiz

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader sees that the Llamas have posted new quiz result. Your Maximum Leader will pile on.

What military aircraft are you?

B-52 Stratofortress

You're a B-52. You are old and wise, and you absolutely love destruction. You believe in the principle of "peace through deterrence" and aren't afraid to throw your weight around.

Personality Test Results

Click Here to Take This Quiz
Brought to you by quizzes and personality tests.

And allow your Maximum Leader to state on the record that some of the question for this quiz made him laugh very hard.

Carry on.

Death to Elite East Coast Colleges With Humor Magazines!

Rob, of course, knows all about people like this.

Come to think of it, when I visited the Minister of Propaganda at Yale, he did make me wear a polo shirt before we could hit the party scene.

I didn't realize that the popped collar was so important. I just thought he was being pretentious, particularly because we all knew we were going to slam those Heinekins at Demery's and end up in the gutter in our underwear.

On a totally unrelated note, I recently stumbled across the Minister of Propaganda's application to Yale. It's on the World Wide Web! I found his English teacher's recommendation here.

I think Sadie will be shocked that she has been flirting with someone whose real name is "Percy."

Yet Another Reason Why Communists Suck.

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader may only post infrequently the first few days of this week. Lots going on he fears.

But he did find an article that is completely beyond the pale and must be commented upon. From James Joyner at Outside The Beltway we have: China Bans Naked Sushi.

Damned Communists Rat-Bastards!

Next thing you know they'll want ban beer ads showing scantilly clad "spokesmodels." Humm... Do they even have beer ads in China? Well, if they did they wouldn't be interesting. Not like "Tastes Great" or "Less Filling."

Carry on.

May 22, 2005

Howie Dean and Timmy.

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader sat down with a mug of hot tea to watch Meet the Press. (As is his sometimes habit on Sunday morning.)

Alas, it was not nearly as entertaining as he'd hoped.

Dean did sound clear and articulate when discussing how he would repackage Democratic "language" about Abortion. No changes to their position, and no real discusion of the underlying ethical issues that are the root cause of so much of the debate; but softening the tone and trying not to alienate religious Southern voters.

Other than that one brief fleeting moment, Dean didn't make your Maximum Leader feel confident that the Democrats are going to even vaugely try to make it competitive in '06 or '08.

Some statements that your Maximum Leader thought were comment worthy:

1) Dean talking about the filibuster in the Senate as a great democratic (small "d" intentional) institution. Ha! It is the most undemocratic tradition in our Republic. It serves a very useful role in many cases, but it is hardly democratic.

2) Your Maximum Leader liked it when Dean said that Republicans were going to start their complete takeover of the Republic by eliminating the judicial filibuster. The next step would be getting rid of the filibuster all together... Yeah... Sure Howard...

3) Your Maximum Leader sat slack-jawed as Dr. Dean went on to discuss how one party shouldn't control Washington. It was important (to Dean) to have a vigourous miniority controling at least one of the three elected institutions in Washington. By this your Maximum Leader surmised he was either a) discussing his endoresment of Bernie Saunders and his desire that the Socialists would be the new "second party" in America or b) begging Americans to throw the party a bone somewhere. (Couldn't we at least have the Senate? Please Red State America? Just the Senate...)

What the hell is his job? Last time your Maximum Leader checked he thought it was Dean's job to get a Democratic majority. After listening to him this morning this must mean he really just wants the Presidency and the Senate. It is important for the health of our Republic that some other party (Socialists preferably) control something...

4) Dean said that Democrats were happy to join President Bush at the table to talk about Social Security. President Bush has said that he would like to talk to the Democrats about Social Security. According to Dean, the President has to stop all this nonsense about privatizing accounts before the Democrats will talk. The President says he wants everything on the table. Don't expect any talking any time soon.

5) At one point Dean said that Republicans "out manipulated" Democrats in the last election in defining issues and debate. That was an interesting way of putting it. "Out manipulated." Your Maximum Leader likes it. He'll try to make a note of that one.

6) Dean made a big deal about how the Democrats were going to have paid staff in every voting precinct in America by the 2008 election. He said that he was going to make sure that the Presidential race wasn't going to be a 7 month effort but a 4 year effort.

That is so reassuring... <sarcasm>Just what we all want. Continuous electioneering for President. That will make all Americans happy and more informed. You know up to this point most voters have thought that if only politicians would be in full bore campaign mode all the time they'd have more reason to "tune in" to what was being said...</sarcasm>

Anyway. Your Maximum Leader didn't get the chuckle he was hoping for from Gov. Dean today. But heh... Your Maximum Leader still has his Wagner Operas to cheer him up.

Carry on.

Happy 192nd.

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader, much to the dismay of Mrs. Villain and the Villainettes, is monopolizing the HiFi today. Why you may ask yourself?


Today is Richard Wagner's 192nd birthday. He wonders what they are doing at Bayreuth to celebrate.

So far today your Maximum Leader has listened to Tristan Und Isolde. He thinks he might also put on some selections from Parsifal, and Der Fliegende Hollander before the day is done.

Your Maximum Leader is a great Wagnerian. At least insofar as his music is concerned. He is something of a despicable man on so many different levels. But he could write the hell out of a opera. Your Maximum Leader once had a very lengthy discussion with a British Literature Prof and a Music Prof at college comparing the epic nature of Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings" and Wagner's "Ring" cycle. It was precisely the type of esoteric scholarly discussion that is too often missing from the modern academy.


Happy Birthday Richard! Your Maximum Leader will start making plans to get to Bayreuth in 8 years for your 200th.

Carry on.

Update: Lions Vs. Midgets

Turns out the news article about the 42 midgets being mauled by a lion in a Cambodian cage match is a hoax.

Are you having a Newsweek moment, Foreign Minister?

Now if only the same could be said about John Bolton's nomination as UN ambassador.


UPDATE FROM YOUR MAXIMUM LEADER: Sad. Very Sad. Your Maximum Leader suspected as much because he couldn't find the article on the Beeb's website. But he didn't bother to investigate the matter further.


Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader is very pleased to report that the first ever Jawapalooza was a rousing success. He was happy to meet many bloggers. Of course there was Dr. Rusty. Also attending were: Dr. Leopold, Gordon the Cranky Neocon, The Demosophist, BRD of Anticipatory Retaliation, and the great James Joyner of Outside the Beltway.

Great fun was had by all. It was a pleasure to put names and personalities to bloggers. Your Maximum Leader is particlarly pleased to have heard these great bloggers speak. He will now "hear" their voice when he reads their blogs. That is always fun, because up until this point as he read My Pet Jawa he always heard Jawas in his mind.

Your Maximum Leader would like to go into more lurid details as to the level of revelry during Jawapalooza. But you know, like Vegas, what happens at Jawapalooza stays at Jawapalooza.

Although your Maximum Leader will admit that he was the "geezerly" one who started to break up the party well after midnight. Being Maximum Leader requires that one get some sleep from time to time...

Carry on.

May 21, 2005

Star Wars Episode III

I was planning on seeing Revenge of the Sith this coming Wednesday at a local premium theater called The Arclight: I could avoid the opening weekend insanity, the seats are assigned, and there's a decent bar in the complex where some friends and I could enjoy a few drinks before sitting down for the movie. Unfortunately, I got a last minute work offer that's going to keep me busy for the next few weeks, so my viewing of the saga's conclusion (nevermind the episode order) is delayed. In the meantime I'm avoiding spoilers and chatty friends, while setting up a huge battle story in my living room with all the old Star Wars toys just like I did when I was eight. In truth, I suspect the storylines I developed as a child were probably more personally satisfying than anything Lucas has done with episodes I, II, or III (I hated the first two). Yeah, Lucas is going to get my money, but it doesn't mean I won't be snippy about it.


Star Wars Ep III

While not a true Star Wars nut, I am a fan. I liked Ep III. I thought some of the dialogue was pretty bad. The Foreign Minister is right, in that FX aren't the big deal they once were because the state of the art is so advanced. But Lucas can be a master at visual storytelling, and he's at his best at moments in this film. This aspect was completley lacking in EpI, and Ep II felt like a dress rehearsal.

I agree with the FM that I would put EpIII just behind Star Wars and Empire.

the problem with Star Wars is that fans of my generation are those of us who fell in love with Star Wars in the summer of 1977 when it came out. We tend to view it through the lens of nostalgia and see it as something more than it actually was. Star Wars was a fun, unconventional, visually stunning summer movie. I think Lucas has far less depth to his story than we hoped. His world certainly can't hold a candle to the depth and complexity of Tolkien's Middle Earth. And because of the timing of Peter Jacksons LOTR films, and Lucas's I, II and III, those two worlds set themselves up for comparison. Scratch the surface of Middle Earth, and you find a complex and layered history and mythology that goes deeper than most fans will look. Scratch the surface of Lucas's universe and you find he hasn't thought beyond the imagery of the film most of the time.

What I find most interesting is how Lucas has come full circle. The "fresh" thing about the first film was it's vision of a black and white universe. Good and Evil. The Evil Empire and the Good Rebels. No room for shades of grey. I'll leave the historical comparissons to all the historians here. I challege Max Leader to ruminate on this paragraph, and post a historian's take on it. The thing about Ep III in particular is that it takes the position that everything is shades of grey, and there are no absolutes. Lucas revels in moral ambiguity here but the story doesn't have the depth to have anything really revelatory to say about it.

anyway, in a nutshell I liked this film a lot. It had it's weak and stupid points, but so do all Star Wars films. I think it's a nice wrap up to the series. Not a kiddie movie, though.

good points about Ep III. (potential spoilers)

- the first 20 minutes, one extended action sequence, is a tremendous opening for the film.

- The visual aspect of the storytelling is finally up to the bar he set with the first film, almost 30 years ago. This film has some stunning visual moments, and I'm not talking about FX.

- Palpatine/The Emperor. Great character, great villain. Some great dialogue. He gives some good lectures on the nature of the Sith (which geeks like me eat up) and is one of precisely two good performances in the film.

- Ewen McGregor (sp?) as Obi Wan. Not quite given the dialogue that Ian McDairmid (Palpatine) was given, McGregor does a great job as Obi Wan. The reluctant action hero. He comes accross as a guy who can really kick ass, isn't afraid to, but doesn't really want to. Unlike Annakin, who they keep telling us is so powerful without really convincing us, Obi Wan comes accross to the audience as a powerful Jedi via the story.

- Yoda. Just a cool character. Yoda is proof that a cgi character can work in a film in a major role.

- The final duel. The Annakin/Obi Wan duel has been one of the key moments in Star Wars mythology. now that it's finally on film, I think it lives up to all our expectations.

- General Grievous. Just a cool secondary villain. Another fun cgi character.

- (SPOILER) The moment where the Clones turn on the Jedi. This sequence blew me away. Just emotionally powerful in a way I didn't know Lucas could pull off. The fate of the younglings is also the moment for me that Annakins fall became real.

- The last scene in the movie.

bad points

- Padme/Annakinn. No chemistry, dumb dialogue.

- Hayden Christiensen/Annakin. Poor guy has not much to work with. lame dialogue, and his motivation for falling is kinda clumsily handled.

- the death of Padme/birth of Luke and Leia. Dumb dialogue.

- The rise of the suited Vader. While this moment contains a briliant visial moment, where you see Annakins eyes fill with fear as the mask lowers to cover his face, when Vader gets off the table, he's lumbering like Frankenstein. Some loved this. I thought that at this moment of the story, humor was inappropriate.

May 20, 2005

Unimpressed with Star Wars EP III

I rate it 3rd behind Empire Strikes Back, and Star Wars. I was 10 when the first one came out but Return of the Jedi and all its commercialism kind of turned me away.

I go to see the movies when they come out but do not own a single SW DVD or tape.

It was all tied together, and there is a lot of movie to sit through. But overall i was not too impressed.

Special Effects are so good nowdays that we don't even question the realism anymore. They have gotten away from writting a good story and think that they can just wow us with having 113 different space ships flying around on the screen at the same time.

Yes thats cool, but not that much different than the 68 space ships that they had flying around at the same time in the previous episode.

Just my opinion... what did you die-hards think of the movie?

Oh by the way, if you have a broad band connection do yourself a favor and check this out!.

May 19, 2005

Smallholder: Groupie

No, you most certainly may not come to set.

Ha ha ha! Jaime will be mine - all mine, and mine alone!


Heh, whew.


Okay, maybe.


And Now For Something Completely Different

The Minister of Propaganda needs to get a job with this show.

Can I come to the set?

Simple Curves Explained For Simple People

Robert Sturgeon has a helpful site for the confused amongst us.

Some of you may share the mistaken belief that the Laffer Curve, named for
Dr. Arthur Laffer, was tested and found wanting during the Reagan
Administration. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

So Sturgeon is a Reagan apologist. That ought to make him acceptable to the Maximum Leader. Now, I'd argue for the fact that Reagan's economic growth was fueled by the multiplier affect of massive government spending, but outside factors don't figure in to the Laffer Curve. Rather than defending the Laffer Curve theory, I would argue that the Reagan years are inconclusive - or even supportive of the Keynesian model (god forbid!)

There are two possible causes for your error. The first is that you may simply
not know what the Laffer Curve is
. This, combined with a natural tendency to
agree with the "conventional wisdom," may lead you to just mindlessly nod your
head in agreement every time you hear some T.V. network reporter blithely
dismiss the "discredited Laffer Curve."
The second possible cause for your
error may be that you do not understand what results the Laffer Curve promises.
This is really a part of the greater problem mentioned above, so let us begin

Bold by Smallholder. Which is it Mike? Is ya ign'nt or is ya ign'nt?

For us to gain a rudimentary understanding of the ideas incorporated into
the Laffer Curve, we must understand a tiny bit about economics. Economics is
really just basic human psychology as applied to money and business affairs. We
assume that people will react to the realities of the world of money and
business more or less like they react to any other set of stimuli. They tend to
act in their own and their family and friends' best interests, as they see them.
The Laffer Curve results from our assumptions about how people will react to
varying rates of income taxation.

On this we can all agree. Is everybody still with us? Excellent. Let's go on:

Now we must put our understanding of human nature to work. We must ask
ourselves two questions, the answer to the first being obvious, and the answer
to the second being not so obvious, but just as certain. The first question is,
"If the income tax rate is zero %, how much income tax revenue will be raised?"
The answer is, of course, "None."

Now, here is where it gets a bit tougher.

The second question is, "If the income tax rate is 100%, how much income tax
revenue will be raised?" To answer this question, we must place ourselves in the
position of an income earner who faces a tax rate of 100% on every extra dollar
he earns. Will he have any reason whatsoever to earn any more money? The answer
is, "No, he won't." He will refrain from any activities likely to result in
taxable income. So the income tax revenue from a 100% income tax will be zero,
or nearly zero. There will always be a few suckers who go ahead and earn some
money, only to have it taxed away. But the number of people willing to do so
must be exceedingly small. For all practical purposes, the number is zero.

Okay, now we get to the nub of the "infamous" Laffer Curve. We must
take the ideas discussed above and reach some conclusions. The reasoning goes
like this: If a zero % income tax rate brings in zero revenue, and if a 100%
income tax rate brings in zero revenue, the tax rate which will bring in the
most revenue must be somewhere between zero % and 100%. It necessarily follows
that in a given economy, there is some optimal income tax rate which will bring
in the most revenue possible. In that economy, a lower than optimal rate will
bring less revenue, and a higher than optimal rate also will bring in less
revenue. Are we all still together here? Did you get that? If not, go back and
do it again. Keep doing it until you get it.

Dang! Even Sturgeon is mocking the Maximum Leader!

Okay, that is all the Laffer Curve claims. Let's all say this together, "In
any given economy, it is possible that the income tax rates are already too
high, and if the authorities wish to bring in more income tax revenue, they must
lower the tax rates." Do we all understand that? Even the Democrats amongst

That bit must be for Rob. Actually, I agree with this. Tax rates CAN be too high. Where I and the Maximum Leader part company is on whether they actually are too high.

The Laffer Curve does not claim that lowering income tax rates will
always bring in more revenue. It only claims that a lower income tax rate may
bring in more revenue. If the tax rates are already very low, lowering
the rates may not bring in more revenue
. But if the rates are too high,
lowering the rates will bring in more revenue.

Pretty simple. Scroll down a couple of posts and check out the numbers. They show pretty clearly that we were on the left side of the curve.

The problem people tend to have regarding the Laffer Curve is that they
confuse economics with their political considerations. Many people have
political reasons to desire high income tax rates on the earnings of the rich.
They wish to prevent the rich from earning more money, even if the resulting tax
revenue is smaller than it would otherwise be, and the economy less productive
than it would otherwise be. These people do not believe that the income tax on
the rich can ever be "too high." They are willing to deprive the government of
revenue and deprive the economy of the productivity of the rich, all for the
sake of their politics. There really is no arguing this point, as it is merely
the outward manifestation of envy.
The Laffer Curve does not address
questions of envy and redistributionist politics. It only addresses the question
of how to have the healthiest economy producing the highest income tax revenue.

The Laffer Curve does not claim to know exactly what tax rate is the
"right" tax rate. In fact,
the only way to know if the current tax rates
are too high is to lower them, and see whether revenues increase or not. If the
revenues increase, the rates were too high. If the revenues decrease, the rates
were too low. Of course, it would be equally valid to run the experiment the
other way around: raise the tax rates and observe the results.
choice is the politicians' to make, based upon whether the current rates "seem"
to be high or low. In 1981, the rates seemed rather high. The Laffer Curve
experiment showed that the rates were, indeed, too high.
Now, let us
consider whether the Laffer Curve "failed" to deliver on its promises during the
Reagan administration. Remember, the Laffer Curve does not promise to balance
the budget. The Laffer Curve does not promise to solve social problems. The
Laffer Curve does not promise to force elected representatives to propose and
enact lower spending programs. The Laffer Curve only promises that, if the tax
rates are too high and they get lowered, revenues will increase. Income taxes
were lowered (and "flattened") during the Reagan administration. Income tax
revenues increased. In fact, they increased a great deal. Unfortunately, neither
the Republican Reagan administration nor the Democrat-controlled Congress were
interested in lowering the rate of growth in federal spending. While the income
tax revenues increased substantially, federal spending increased even more. The
result was that the federal government ran up a staggering national debt. But
please, let's not blame it on the Laffer Curve!

So let's review. Bush raised taxes and the revenue went down. Left side of the Laffer curve. Smallholder is right.

Clinton raised taxes. Revenue went up. Left side of the Laffer curve. Smallholder is right.

Only a tap-dancing Fred Astaire could continue to deny this.

A Round of Applause for that Rousing Tap Dancing Number!

Nicely done, my friend.

Your argument mught even work if people didn't recall that Bush's tax cuts were not introduced as a result of the downturn. His intial argument was that since we had a surplus, we oguht to return money to the people. Plus, supply side, supply side, supply side.

Supply side economics is pretty simple. If we are on the right side of the Laffer curve, tax cuts will generate economic growth, resulting in higher taxes collected from lower rates since their is more economic activity to tax.

Arguing that a recession invalidates measurement of the Laffer curve is just silly. If we were on the right side of the curve, tax cuts we bring us out of the recession.

The Maximum Leader makes my point with his citing of the Kennedy years. Kennedy raised taxes. The economy grew. According to supply side economics, the economy WOULD HAVE tanked if we pushed farther to the right. That didn't happen.

This was also shown by the Clinton tax raises. Clinton raised taxes and still presided over a massive economic expansion.

Arguing that things are more complex is also arguing about the validity of supply side economics as a whole. The economy is complex. Part of the Clinton boom was the result of Reagan's loosening of government oversight of business - a policy maintained by the very centrist Clinton. Supply side economics makes a very clear prediction. Tax raises to the right of the curve will always result in a retardation of the economy. This simply hasn't happened.

So either supply side economics is just plain wrong as a theory.

Or, we are on the left side of the curve. In which case tax raises, not cuts, are called for.

The Laffer curve is simple (See here for a two paragraph explanation and the graph itself). I'm not being a hayseed here. But don't let the Maximum Leader fool you with his fluff.

(Smallholder dons a blindfold, takes a drag on his cigarette, and prepares himself for the fate of all dissidents in the Mike World Order.)

Well He Did Say His Math Skills Weren't Good.

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader would suggest to his manure spattered friend that he stick to slopping pigs and shearing sheep and give the innacurate economic analysis a rest. In his most recent post the Smallholder would like you to accept that if federal tax reciepts in 2004 were less than federal tax reciepts in 2000 then this once and for all proves we are on the left side of the Laffer Curve.

If only it could be explained so easily. You see, the Smallholder is happy to regale you (dear minion) with complex analysis and detailed lists of causes for all sorts of happenings in the world. But when it comes to economics, he is happy to put tax figures in a vaccum and declare in a Will Rodgers-esque way that he is a simple man and even he can see that things don't add up. Your Maximum Leader will nod in acknowledgement of our squishy-prosperous farmer's rhetorical flourish. But let us recap a few items for you all.

First off, the article quoted previously by both the Smallholder and your Maximum Leader (alas not active on the WaPo's website but excerpted heavily here) clearly states that the projected deficit is going to be lower this year because tax reciepts are increasing. So, this means that this year (2005) the federal government will collect more money in taxes than it did in 2004. What does this show?

It shows that the amount of taxable economic activity increased from 2003-2004 (since taxes are paid in the year after income is earned). That taxable activity grew in that period is an indication that the economy grew. And economic growth is why the hapless Smallholder's presentation of two numbers doesn't hold up to examination.

Your Maximum Leader would be happy to conceed the point about tax reciepts in 2000 vs 2004 if the Smallholder would like to assert that the economy grew in the period from 1999 to 2003. Your Maximum Leader doesn't think he would like to (or can) do that. The economic downturn which began in 2000 caused the economy to shrink. A shrinking economy would result in less tax receipts as taxable economic activity is diminished. The shrinking economy was the impetus behind the Bush Tax cuts. The thought (ie: supply side theory) being that tax cuts would stimulate the economy and cause growth. Growth would then reverse the downward slid of the economy and produce a recovery. The recovery could in turn be measured by more taxable economic activity, and increasing tax revenue.

So where does that leave us?

Your Maximum Leader will submit to you a fine spreadsheet showing federal receipts and outlays from 1940 to the present. You can review it and see the effects of tax cuts and consequent economic growth by reading the center columns showing receipts and outlays in constant (2000) dollars. John Kennedy's tax cuts in 1961 were followed by increased federal reciepts. And the economy was not experiencing a downturn at the time of his tax cut. The Reagan tax cuts of 1982 halted the recession that began in the late 70s and reached it nadir in 1983. George Bush (Elder's) tax increase in 1989 caused the blip that can be seen between 1990-1991. And your Maximum Leader will argue that the George Bush (Younger) tax cuts in 2001 are leading to the increases we see this year and projected for future years.

So dear minions, do not let the Smallholder's presentation to two figures with an "aw-shucks-hayseed" grin fool you. There is more to this issue than he would like you to believe.

Carry on.

May 18, 2005

Supply Side Facts and Figures

Tax revenues in 2000: $2,420,026,000,000

Tax revenues in 2004: $2,350,290,000,000

If we assume a 2% average annual inflation rate (it varied between 1 and 3%), the 2000 figure should be bumped to $2,568,151,000,000 in 2004 dollars.

The answer to the Great Laffer Curve debate is at hand!

We only have to compare the two figures to see which is higher! Did revenues actually increase or decrease as a result of the tax cut? Is $2.568 trillion greater to or less than $2.350 trillion?

I can't seem to figure it out. After all, as a farmer and history teacher, my math skills are rather poor*. Perhaps the Maximum Leader can tell us which is higher.

We may have to wait for him to put on his tap-dancing shoes.

* But I can still get a job as a voodoo economist.

Another Smallholder Portrait (repost)

Because he posted two serious commentaries in a row, I just want to link us again to this portrait of my dear friend, sheep lover, and sometime ally in all things political.


More on Supply Side

The Maximum Leader and I have been bashing each other with Laffer Curve shillelaghs recently.

To catch you up:

The Maximum Leader hails the recent unexpected reduction of the deficit as evidence that we are on the right side of the curve.

I shot back with this.

Mike claimed that I was actually making his point here.

Mike and I were both off-track in the second and third posts. The real determination of where we are on the Laffer Curve isn't based on a reduction of the predicted shortfall. The acid test is whether or not total tax receipts have increased or decreased as a result of the Bush tax cuts. The deficit may not be as bad as predicted, but this does not tell us whether or not the total collected taxes have risen or fallen. The deficit is somewhat independent of the amount of taxes collected. If our congress, to mix metaphors, dipsenses pork sandwiches like a bunch of drunken sailors, they can drown any amount of tax receipts in a flood of red ink.

So let's set aside the budgetary proclivities of our duly elected representatives for a moment.

If we are to settle, once and for all, where we are on the Laffer curve, we have to look at whether tax cuts have generated an economic surge sufficient to actually increase revenues even though the total tax burden is a smaller percentage of the GDP. (Of course, we'd have to adjust a bit for inflation, but that's been pretty mild of late.)

If 2004 tax receipts are greater than the 2001 tax receipts, Mike is right. We were on the right side of the Laffer Curve and Smallholder will have to confess his error.

If 2004 tax receipts are less than the 2004 tax, I'm right. We were, and still are, on the left side of the curve and the Maximum Leader will have to confess his error*.

I'm not very good at finding numbers stuff on the internet. Can anyone find a site that shows the total taxes collected by the IRS on an annual basis? Please let us know.

* Actually, the Maximum Leader will just ignore evidence contrary to his world view and sing "la-la-la."

Historical Perspective

My dear friend the Minister of Propaganda is sorely distressed. He, like I, is disappointed in the direction the country seems to be heading. We may have different reasons for this distress, but we both, like the rest of the Ministers here at Naked Villainy, are patriots who want what is best for the country.

Rob is not concerned about the Fundies' twisting of Jesus' teachings - he, after, all, believes that we Christians are chumps - but we both are concerned about where their intolerance leads the civil society.

(As slightly connected aside, let me congratulate the Maximum Leader for acknowledging that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is wrong. He's on the right road. Eventually he will do some soul searching and discover that his blase acceptance of existing discrimination is also wrong. It troubles me that he downplays the importance of fighting for basic civil equality while at the same time sending dough to an organization dedicated to the unregistered ownership of rocket launchers, but I try to look at the bright side: at least he is a Packers fan)

The good Ally has commented on Rob's stridency. And, truth be told, I wish he would go easier on my pal Greg. But his anger is real. If you love your country and see it being hijacked, you are bound to get testy. And I'd remind Ally that there have been demagouges on both sides. Remember when the Republicans - with straight faces, mind you - claimed that the Clinton administration was the most corrupt in history?

If Smallholder agrees with Rob's general negative assessment of the religious right, you may be asking yourself, why is Smallholder weeping and gnashing his teeth: "Self, given that Smallholder and Rob both agree that the fundie movement is dangerous, why isn't Smallholder weeping and gnashing his teeth?"

I'm glad you asked.

The answer is simple: I'm a historian.

Well, honestly, I'm a historian given to trodding the halls of the academy with manure-spattered boots, but I think that still counts.

Culture wars are cyclical. We have seen backlashes before.

The Great Awakening was a backlash against the secularism symbolized by the halfway covenant.

The 1820s saw a backlash against the hardening of the North's industrial system and the South's peculiar institution.

Know-Nothing Nativism was a backlash against the New Immigrants.

The Scopes Trial was emblematic of middle America's concern over the secularization of society.

The conformity ethic of the fifties was partially an attempt to restore a sense of order destroyed by the agony of the World War.

The late sixties gave us the backlash against conformity.

Nixon's appeal to the "Silent Majority" wasn't all race-baiting "Southern Strategy" - though I'll admit that was a big part. It was also about a backlash against "dem dirty hippies."

So, to quote the Bare Naked Ladies, "it's all been done."

So, I'm not particularly concerned about the fundies. They will overreach and the pendulum will swing back in the other direction. I think, as I have already posted, that the Schiavo case may have already been the high-water mark. Time will tell if the tide is indeed going out.

Many modern commentators have predicted doom and gloom for the Dems. The Republicans have become so arrogant that they are going to abolish the filibuster for short-term goals. They will be in the minority again.

Remember when Johnson's decisive defeat of Goldwater signaled the end of conservatism? How did that turn out.

So, my dear Minister of Propaganda: It will be okay. America, in the long term, has always moved to expand the circle of protected rights. Short term blips like the Gentleman's Agreement and Prohibition aside, our system does work.

The DOI's white property-holding males over the age of 25 "all men" has morphed into all people over the age of 18. The march of progress will go on.

Small "l" liberalism has always triumphed. In fifty years, my Hollywood liberal friend, you'll be a conservative. Not because you will change - this is the mistake made by all those "it only takes a mugging" folks. We do become more conservative when we get older - because our youthful liberal goals have been achieved and must now be conserved against a new generation's youthful goals.

Judge Not, Lest You Be Judged

The Republicans are hypocrites on the issue of judicial appointments. The nominated individuals are activist judges that cater to the reactionary views of the religious right. The fight now is really about the next Supreme Court vacancy. I don't want another conservative serving a lifetime appointment on the Supreme Court, particularly given this administration's stated legal views concerning the designation of U.S. citizens as enemy combatants, the Patriot Act's disregard for civil liberties, the Geneva Conventions and the use of torture, the slow criminalization of dissent, and a general disregard for the rule of law. I hope the Republicans lose now, on general principle. As a bonus, it will be a mortal wound for Frist, and that's something I would love to see.

Of course the country elected these assholes, and we all have to live with the growing influence of the religious right. I just imagine a better country than that, even though I expect it to remain imaginary.



Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader is watching in rapt attention the goings-on in the Senate today. Since that august body has taken up debate on Bush judges.

Your Maximum Leader has not weighed in on this subject in this forum, but has privately to some. This fight, fascinating as it is, leaves your Maximum Leader torn in a number of different ways.

On the one hand, your Maximum Leader is disgusted by Democrats in the Senate. They can't stop the Republicans through winning elections, so they are now resorting to parliamentary tactics. Now don't get your Maximum Leader wrong on this, he LOVES parliamentary tactics. Indeed, should he need to occupy the post of Vice-President of the US in the establishment of the MWO he will make it his life's work to stop that body from considering new laws through every parliamentary trick imaginable. And as frequent readers of this space know, your Maximum Leader is fond of gridlock in government - because it means that the government is governing less and that is generally good.

But on the other hand we are a nation of laws. And, since petitioning the emperor has had no place in our legal system, we need judges to see to it that the business of litigation and prosecution is done throughout the land. Generally speaking, your Maximum Leader thinks it IS a good idea for the Senate to move in a speedy fashion to confirm judicial appointments. (Cabinet appointments are another matter all together.)

So, in the fight over Bush appointees, your Maximum Leader is torn. Your Maximum Leader is all in favour of the filibuster in the Senate. (Which is the most undemocratic tradition in our republic - BTW.) The general idea of a body with rules that support unlimited debate is a sound one. But on the other hand, tradition also (generally) supports the timely confirmation by the Senate of judicial appointments.

While he thinks that the Republicans will win this fight and end judicial nominee filibusters; he thinks that it would be better in the long run to not fight this battle. But now that the battle is joined, you have to win the fight. The best outcome would have been for Democrats to just confirm the judges and do their best to take control of the Senate and White House so that they could, in turn, confirm their own people. (NB: There is a difference between killing a nomination in Committee and filibustering it on the floor of the Senate after the nomination has been discharged. Your Maximum Leader doesn't - and to his knowledge no one in Washington ever has - objected to nominations dying in Committee.)

How this will affect the judiciary is a subject for another post all together.

Carry on.

Galloway In The Senate.

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader wanted to comment on British MP George Galloway testifying in front of a Senate panel investigating the Oil for Food Scandal. But he couldn't quite figure out from what angle he wanted to approach the story. Then he read this:
I must admit I have been smiling over the Galloway hearing.

Don't get me wrong: Galloway is a piece of offal, who used a sick-kids charity as a cover for enriching himself, and smooched with one of the world's nastiest dictators for the same purpose.

Galloway came up through the UK parliamentary system, though, where you have to be fierce and clever in debate, and need to be able to think fast on your feet. The US Senate is full of pompous bores, stuffed up to the nose holes with a conviction of their own terrific importance, whose idea of debate is to drone their way through a speech some minimum-wage staffer has written up for them. This was like watching an alley mongrel let loose in a room full of pampered, overfed lap dogs.

To judge from Galloway's name, appearance, and style, this was also a vivid illustration of the good old Scotch-Irish scrapper from the Borders taking on a smug establishment. I wouldn't want Galloway at my dinner table, but I must confess, this was fun to watch.
Thank you John Derbyshire for putting it just as your Maximum Leader would have.

Carry on.

May 17, 2005

A Rare Series of Postings, Wherein the Foreign Minister and I Agree To Agree

I think the Foreign Minister's suggestion (stated first here and then repeated) that Sexy Sadie accompany/supervise me in regards to this July's Jackfest gathering is a most excellent suggestion, indeed.

A most excellent suggestion that will understandably remain an amusing blogosphere innuendo, as I am neither Irish nor the Lad. Plus our dear but spurned host, Mr. Smallholder, would claw his eyes out.

Smallholder's reaction, of course, might prove temptingly storyworthy. Hmmm. . .


The Minister of Propaganda Loves Online Quizes . . .

. . . although, like our Maximum Leader before, I have little to say about this one:

You scored as Cultural Creative. Cultural Creatives are probably the newest group to enter this realm. You are a modern thinker who tends to shy away from organized religion but still feels as if there is something greater than ourselves. You are very spiritual, even if you are not religious. Life has a meaning outside of the rational.

Cultural Creative
















What is Your World View? (corrected...hopefully)
created with

I'm amused to see that, once again, ML and I are showing some world view similarities. There's probably some analysis to be made of the various percentages (therein lies our differences), but I was working a night shoot yesterday and, tired as I am today, it's much easier to simply make jokes about the Maximum Leader's villainous appendage.