15 September 2008

Some Numerical Perspective

Mark Thoma has a post that gives a bit of perspective to McCain's claims that eliminating earmarks will help the budget crisis and that drilling for oil in Alaska will significantly reduce our dependence on foreign oil and/or reduce prices at the pump.

Go read it, as I think he demonstrates the point perfectly.

07 September 2008

Obligatory Daily Show Video

Everyone and their brother has been linking to this video the last couple of days.

Which is, of course, brilliant. It reminds me a lot of this blast-from-the-past video from the vice presidential debate between John Edwards and Dick Cheney in 2004. (Skip to about three and a half minutes in for the money quote, but the whole thing is really well-done.)

The Daily Show is as good as it is because it actually provides context for news stories, particularly political ones, letting some fresh oxygen into that often suffocating media environment. Around the time of the second video I posted, it was noted around the then-nascent blogosphere that TDS seemed to be the only news organization anywhere that actually had access to a tape library -- I wish I could say that we're doing better four years further down the road, but it's just not the case.

Of course, now we have Youtube and an army of "citizen journalists" who can call up those same videos, which helps, but it sure would be nice to see the big boys and girls of the national news media trying to provide the kind of context and information that should be their bread and butter.

06 September 2008

The Politics of the Demographics of America

The Inverse Square Blog (one of the best blogs out there talking about science and politics) has a post about the claims of conservatives that small towns are the quote unquote "Real Americans."
Total time to find this — a quick tour through the links offered up by Wikipedia’s list of US urban areas, maybe a couple of minutes, followed by ten minutes with the calculator.

Now dig just a little deeper, and it turns out that the Census folks very kindly have come up with a list of all US urbanized areas — these are the cores of 50,000 folks at a minimum, around which many more people may be living what is classified as a metro area. Now these are the places that are ten times the size, more or less, of Governor Palin’s Wasilla, pop. five thousand seven hundred and change as of her last year as mayor.

I actually went into the list and added the whole damn thing up, rounding off the hundreds. The total: 195,177,500…or two thirds of the US population. I haven’t got that last piece of the data to round it out, but the figures so far are pretty clear: more than two out of three, and approaching nine out of ten Americans live in settings that are very different, qualitatively so, from the little town that elite bubbleheads assert are typical.
(Emphasis mine.)

So nearly two-thirds of us live in urban conglomerations of 50,000 people or more. I did a quick look-see on Wikipedia yesterday and found that about eighty million of us live in cities of 100,000 or more. Small-town America just isn't where most people live anymore, and hasn't been for a long time.

Now, I'd be the last person to make the opposite claim that only those of us who live in urban areas are Real Americans. But it's not my own ideological brethren who are making that claim -- it's Republicans who get so much mileage out of talking about the fancy-pants elitists who live in cities. That's really the difference between the two parties: Republicans want to appeal to those who either live in small towns or want to pretend they do, and demonize the rest of the country as evil people whose values aren't in line with Real Americans, whereas Democrats really do want to govern from the middle and make life better for everyone, regardless of who you vote for or what size city you live in.

November 4 seems a long way away right now....

05 September 2008

04 September 2008

The Dumbest Argument

There are a few people making the exceedingly stupid argument that since Sarah Palin is the governor of Alaska, and Alaska has a close physical proximity to Russia, then Palin must have some foreign policy experience. (Ed has a couple of good video examples of this claim.) Now, besides all of the other things that make this an incredibly dumb argument that I won't get into, I'd just like to note that "proximity" is something of a relative thing.

For instance, surely one of the defining attributes of sheer proximity to Russia is not closeness to the border, but closeness to the leadership of the country. According to the City Distance Tool, Juneau, Alaska is 4542 miles from Moscow, Russia "as the crow flies." Which is made even less impressive by the simple fact that according to the same page, Chicago, Illinois is 4997 miles from Moscow. Five hundred miles' difference is apparently all that's necessary to mark one as a keen eye of Russian politics versus a no-nothing Scary Black Dude who hasn't the experience to know his ass from a hole in the ground.

01 September 2008

New Chick Tract

Did you know that Christians can vanquish vampires?

That's right, Jack Chick has a new tract on his website, and it's one of the nuttiest he's ever written. And that's saying something.

Maybe that was the alternate ending to Breaking Dawn....