Sunday, August 29, 2010

Glenn Beck: Why does anyone find him credible?

On the occasion I catch Glenn Beck's show, I often wonder to myself, "why would anyone find this guy credible?" I still wonder, but I have a feeling it has to do with his saying what they want to hear, more than actually being accurate. That's one of the fundamental problems: People, too often, look for what they want to hear instead of trying to figure out what is true.

Given the amount of credibility that Republicans give to Glenn Beck, I wondered what politifact thought of his statements. I have seen politifact quoted by both conservatives and liberals as being a good fact checking source. I occasionally question some of their statements, but as a baseline, they are relatively accurate. Here is their history on rating Glenn Beck's statements:

As you can see from the running tally in his PolitiFact file, we've rated 17 statements by the Fox News talk show host. It's fair to say that record skews toward the False end of the Truth-O-Meter.

His record (as of Aug. 27, 2010):

True 1
Mostly True 1
Half True 3
Barely True 4
False 5
Pants on Fire 3

Beck earned a True for his claim about the life expectancy of men and women when Social Security was created (he was trying to make the point that the program was not meant to benefit as many people as it does today) and a Mostly True for his claim about public support for the Arizona immigration law.

They continue:
He's earned more False ratings than any other.

He's earned them for his claim that union president Andy Stern was the most frequent White House visitor; that less than 10 percent of Obama's cabinet has private sector experience; that Mitt Romney's health care plan was bankrupting the state of Massachusetts; that 45 percent of doctors said they would quit if health care reform passes; and that the United States is the only nation with birthright citizenship.

We define Pants on Fire as a statement that is ridiculously false. Beck earned one for his claim that John Holdren, director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, "has proposed forcing abortions and putting sterilants in the drinking water to control population."

Beck also earned a Pants on Fire for his claim that the health care reform bill provided health insurance for dogs.

Today, Beck earned his third for comments he made about the Restoring Honor rally. He claimed that the government was trying to close the Lincoln Memorial for similar rallies in the future, implying that the government was trying to silence his political speech. We found no evidence to support that. Pants on Fire.

Why in the world would anyone believe this guy?

Ron Paul tells Tea Party they are being "taken for a ride"

In private conversations and even some debates on John Cornyn's Facebook page, I have mentioned that the Tea Party won't ever create the change they want working within the Republican or Democratic Party. It appears I am not alone.

Ron Paul wrote that the Tea Party is being "taken for a ride" by the Right by the likes of Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck.

Paul is correct in his statements that we can't possibly deal with real deficit reduction with 700 military bases in over 120 nations around the world; we can't possibly deal with the deficit while fighting wars overseas that we haven't paid for; we can't possibly deal with deficits while paying for urban projects that belong to local governments to build on the federal budget.

However, Paul doesn't go far enough in his explanation. The GOP, which is where most of the Tea Party resides, has been a party of small government talk for the last forty years, but hasn't done anything to actually cut the budget or reduce deficits at all. The best they can do is lay claim to racing Bill Clinton in the 90s for deficit reduction, but that credit really belongs to Ross Perot for scaring both parties into reducing the deficit. Even in that case, they didn't shrink spending, they raised revenues with a tax increase and slowed the growth of spending.

To think the Republican Party has any hope of shrinking spending is a joke. Listen to the candidates. Not one is running on cutting spending enough to put even a small dent in the deficit, and they aren't willing to raise taxes. Until they are ready to list hundreds of billions of spending cuts in annual spending, not some 10 year projection, they can't possibly be taken seriously for the goals of the Tea Party.

And Ron Paul knows it.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Can Conservatives Self-Reflect?

I was posting on a forum when someone made an observation: They noticed that for examples of racism, examples of hatred, examples of poor behavior, that no "Republicans" could admit the problem, none could apologize for it, none could even talk about it. They simply attacked. It caused me to think about it and write the following. This is my commentary on discussion with conservatives (of course not all, but many) on public forums, and in several cases, in the media and public sphere.

This is nothing more than my observation. It is not scholarly. It is not researched. It is simply my observation from interacting with conservatives as both a libertarian, and a pragmatic voting Democrat at different times over the last decade and a half. Tell me what you think. Does it reflect your experience?

It says they don't self-reflect. They don't care about what they do, as long as they can focus on hating you.

It says they don't think about their impact on the world. All they care about is their daily life. It is all many of us care about, but they don't even glance up to think about things beyond their immediate time and space.

It is a game. To far too many, it is not real. They post, but don't think of their impact other than to say "I win" or "my side won an election." They make up things that are beyond any sort of rational understanding. Heck, back in the day, they called Clinton a communist when he was anything but. It is a broken record repeating itself over and over and over. It is a game, like a 5 year old with his hands on his ears shouting "I can't hear you if you're talking, I can't hear you if you're talking,...".

Notice them. Watch them. My money says their response to this will not be to answer the claims but rather it will be to attack me. That's the strategy. It goes back to the first thing, if they have to answer something, if they have to defend something, if they have to face it, if they have to recognize it, if they have to think about it... it might all fall apart.

Truth be told, the GOP is a group of people that are philosophically contradictory at their foundations... Neocons are about elite empowerment and manipulation of the masses, Christian Cons would love a theocracy as long as it was their Christianity, Paleocons are fundamentally about liberty and limits of govt, and moderates are about some combination of the above but put into a more pragmatic framework. At their foundations, they contradict... govt religion and limited govt can't co-exist, just as govt manipulation of the masses can't co-exist with liberty and justice... it is how Kansas got a 2 term Democrat governor.

They can't reflect. If they did... what explosion might result?

Their only uniting theme is hating a common enemy. The enemy of mine enemy is my friend. That is why they cannot self-reflect. That is why they can only attack.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Diet Breakfasts Just Suck: Can't we do better?

This week, my doctor informed me that my cholesterol levels were too high, and so it was time to make some changes. Like most Americans, I have a few pounds to lose so I figure it is a good time to change the type of foods I eat and exercise. The exercise part is pretty easy for me, I have exercised a lot at various points in my life. But the eating part... that is a different story.

I do like to cook and have lots of recipes. I understand a lot about diet too. So I realize I need a good meal to start the day, and lighter meals to end the day. I realize bacon and eggs just isn't going to cut it. So what's the answer?

I go to various websites from weightwatchers to food network to and the result is the same: snack food for breakfast.

I am sorry, but the more I read, the more I got this "have a smoothie and wheat toast" and it made me wonder what they were thinking. All of the breakfast foods were light, but nothing seemed to indicate an understanding of how humans eat. When we are trying to diet, we are looking for things that make us feel full. I don't know about you, but a smoothie doesn't keep me full for very long, and toast... pullleeeeze.

One diet plan said to eat a breakfast bar. Have you ever just eaten one breakfast bar? They may have the calories but I am starving within 20 minutes after one. They would have been better off saying "eat an apple an hour."

We may have to re-define breakfast to get something substantial in our stomach for a diet. After all, some diet advice says eat your biggest meals in the morning and for lunch, and go light in the evening. It seems to make sense to me that way the food is burned off instead of stored. The question is how to do it while keeping the cholesterol down.

At this point, the smoothie might be nice on the way to work after eating lemon pepper salmon with rice for breakfast, but that won't last for long. I need some variety. And yes, dinner is a light mango salsa tilapia fillet with 1/3 cup of rice, and watermelon for a snack before bed. Heavier early meals, lighter evening meals, and gym time after work. Hope it works.

But for God's sake, would someone put some thought into a decent breakfast menu that isn't ultra-vegetarian or too light for a normal person? Don't make me return to those high cholesterol and fatty breakfast sandwiches.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Home Energy Efficiency Going Off Grid: What Took So Long?

Over a decade ago, someone engaged me in a discussion about alternative energies and their potential. They insisted that we would build massive power plants for solar and wind power. I insisted, that was such a waste and missed the point of alternative energy. He looked puzzled. I told him the power of alternative energy isn't within the traditional grid systems, but rather through microgeneration.

Today, 750,000 have taken this to heart, taking themselves off the grid for their power to create a more sustainable lifestyle. Contrary to the anti-environmental right of the political spectrum, this doesn't mean giving up modern conveniences.

Of those 750,000 people, the stories (linked above) include things like powering hot tubs, charging cellphones, and watching big screen televisions... all off grid. Alternative energies and energy efficiency would ultimately fail if it meant we had to give up our lifestyles, but it turns out that in many cases, we can have our cake and eat it too.

In the early part of the 21st century, when California was having blackouts; I was left wondering what is taking so long to shift to microgeneration. It turned out that some cities like San Diego started requiring alternative energy generation on new housing starts. Unfortunately, many areas that are generally Republican controlled have opposed this largely to be a good opposition, but hurting themselves for the sake of saying "NO!"

President Obama sees this potential for a market and has acted on it through the 2009 Stimulus Bill which helps to give tax credits for home improvements for alternative energies. Baby boomers would be smart to take advantage of this opportunity.

The best thing anyone retiring can do is to minimize their bills. Why? Their income will not increase in retirement, and will probably be below their pre-retirement income. We also know that energy costs will increase over time. That is the trend throughout American energy history. To minimize the impact of those increases by investing in alternative power sources on their homes is a smart financial decision.

The question still remains... why is America taking so long to either go off grid or to minimize the impact of power companies on their wallets?

Saturday, August 7, 2010

A Crisis of Imagination

It is not uncommon to hear the public outcry in response to the automaker bailouts, regardless of where you travel. If one wants to hear it hyped to its potential, one only needs to read a Republican Facebook page or blog. This week, I got to enjoy that conversation about the failings of American automakers on Senator John Cornyn's Facebook page.

The cries about the early reviews of the Volt, an electric car, are mixed. Some have said it is a poor car, others have said it is a good car. Compared to other electric cars, it is priced rather high. The right wing echo chamber has made a point of shouting them as loud as they can to indicate that somehow President Obama is responsible for the micromanaging policies of the automakers. I think this focus has missed the point.

This is the second generation of electric with the first generation ending up in a California desert dust heap. Too often, we fail to understand the first generation of anything. We get caught up in its failure or its possibilities depending on our views of the product ideas, and we attack or boast about it regardless of its own merits.

I remember being told how great the video disk would be for our future. As a teenager, one of my friend's parents had one. The quality was better, but when I looked for one myself, the price was huge. We now know that was the precursor to the DVD and what comes next.

Upon discussing this topic, my father reminds me of the early days of the computer when hard drives were not talked about in terrabytes or gigabytes but rather kilobytes. By today's standards, it wouldn't hold even one picture off my cellphone. A crisis of imagination.

The talk is of its battery shortcomings or of its only 40 mile range before it shifts to being gas powered, or the electricity fueling it coming from coal power plants which doesn't save the environment at all. The talk ignores the breakthroughs coming in battery technology or nanotechnology to miniaturize the battery that is strong enough to power a submarine for a time; or the way technology has always been expensive early until the profits of the extravagant consumers bring down the prices for everyone and fuel further development. A crisis of the imagination.

American automakers have failed America for quite some time. They have tried to stifle innovation resting on their history. We saw President Bush give them $1 billion in funds for researching hydrogen powered cars a year after Japan had been selling them in Japan. Today, one can read all the problems of American hydrogen technology that makes it a decade away as a real possibility, but Japan is already exporting them to Canada and a few in California, and European automakers have found the answers. A crisis of imagination.

There are plenty of questions left on what the future of our automakers will be, but until they address the crisis of imagination, they will continue to fall behind the world. Yes, they will find ways to sell cars and survive but America, the nation that invented the automobile, will no longer lead that field. Maybe the next place for them to think ahead is to ask, if we can put a film on high rise building windows that looks like a window tinting, but acts like a massive solar panel to generate power; why can't we help to power a car with a solar film on our cars? Sure, it won't fuel it alone, but maybe it helps to charge the battery while we are parked at work. A crisis of imagination.

We seem to have a great imagination to start things, but we fall behind because we get stuck in what is, and we don't push what can be. While we marvel at the iPhone, Asia has cellphones that make ours look like child toys. To lead the world for the next century, we will have to move beyond our self-imposed limitations, we will have to move beyond our fear of having to learn new things, we will have to move beyond our "I like it the way it is" mentality. We will have to move beyond our crisis of imagination.