Quantum Meruit

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Month: August, 2012

Paul Ryan’s Speech Was So Misleading . . .

“How misleading was it?”

“It was so misleading that even Fox News called him a liar!”

Yes, Fox News — which faithfully repeats RNC talking points as “news” — criticized Ryan’s speech:

Fact: While Ryan tried to pin the downgrade of the United States’ credit rating on spending under President Obama, the credit rating was actually downgraded because Republicans threatened not to raise the debt ceiling.

Fact: While Ryan blamed President Obama for the shut down of a GM plant in Janesville, Wisconsin, the plant was actually closed under President George W. Bush. Ryan actually asked for federal spending to save the plant, while Romney has criticized the auto industry bailout that President Obama ultimately enacted to prevent other plants from closing.

Fact: Though Ryan insisted that President Obama wants to give all the credit for private sector success to government, that isn’t what the president said. Period.

Fact: Though Paul Ryan accused President Obama of taking $716 billion out of Medicare, the fact is that that amount was savings in Medicare reimbursement rates (which, incidentally, save Medicare recipients out-of-pocket costs, too) and Ryan himself embraced these savings in his budget plan.

Many outlets are reporting on Fox’s unusual step of criticizing a Republican. That in itself is news. While Rush and Sean Hannity like to joke that MSNBC is to the Democratic Party (or as they refer to it, the “Democrat” party), what Democrats claim Fox News is to the Republican Party, only Fox News has been caught — multiple times — receiving and then repeating, verbatim, RNC talking points.

Jon Stewart in particular has done a masterful job of pointing out Fox News’ sleight-of-hand when it comes to spreading speculation as news. When Sean Hannity or Bill O’Reilly say something during the “opinion” block of the night, the cretins at Fox & Friends report the next morning (during the “news” block) that “some people are saying” exactly what Bill or Hannity said the night before, thereby legitimizing whatever it is they said, whether or not it’s substantiated. “Hey, man, I’m just the messenger” seems to be the attitude that accompanies this deceptive practice.

So it’s interesting to note that Paul Ryan’s lies were so egregious that even Fox News permitted one of its people to write a piece (albeit in the “opinion” section) calling him out for those lies.

Romney Doesn’t Let Truth Get in the Way of a Good Story

We really are living in a post-truth era. Mitt Romney has been claiming for some time that President Obama will eliminate the work and job-training requirements for welfare recipients. This accusation riles up his base into a delicious froth, but it has the disadvantage of being a lie.

Of course, when a Romney campaign worker was presented with this fact; i.e., that the Romney campaign is knowingly disseminating information that is false (otherwise known as “lying”), Romney pollster Neil Newhouse didn’t mince words: “Fact checkers come to this with their own sets of thoughts and beliefs, and we’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers.”

While he’s calling out fact checkers for being partisan, he’s also insinuating that it doesn’t matter where the campaign tells the truth.

That proved true last night, as well. In my car, I heard Ann Romney talk about how Spartan their lives were when they first got married:

We got married and moved into a basement apartment. We walked to class together, shared the housekeeping, and ate a lot of pasta and tuna fish. Our desk was a door propped up on sawhorses. Our dining room table was a fold down ironing board in the kitchen. Those were very special days.

Wait a minute: Mitt Romney, who was attending Harvard Law School at the time? Mitt Romney, who went to a private prep school? Mitt Romney, whose father was a governor of Michigan and former president of American Motors? That Mitt Romney lived in a basement apartment with an ironing board as a table?

Turns out she’s told this story before:

Speaking in 1994 about how she and Mitt got by during his grad school years in Boston, when they “had no income except the stock we were chipping away at”:

Neither one of us had a job, because Mitt had enough of an investment from stock that we could sell off a little at a time. The stock came from Mitt’s father. When he took over American Motors, the stock was worth nothing. But he invested Mitt’s birthday money year to year—it wasn’t much, a few thousand, but he put it into American Motors because he believed in himself. Five years later, stock that had been $6 a share was $96 and Mitt cashed it so we could live and pay for education.

One blogger did the math and figured out that stocks that were worth a “few thousand” dollars when bought but had gone up by a factor of 16 meant that the young couple was getting by by “chipping away at” assets of $60,000 (about $377,000 today). The chiding Ann Romney has gotten for these recollections did not stop her from replaying them in the Tampa speech, in which she reminisced about how she and Mitt “got married and moved into a basement apartment,” “ate a lot of pasta and tuna” and used a door propped on blocks as their desk.

So, yeah, never let the truth get in the way of a good story.

His Asterisk Should Have an Asterisk

Even though many news outlets think it’s over for Lance Armstrong, I’m not so convinced.

There’s a question as to whether the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency even has the jurisdiction to strip Armstrong of his seven Tour de France titles and Olympic bronze medal. The International Cycling Union asked for a response from USADA before it would comment on the situation.

USADA hasn’t proven anything. For years, it has claimed to have mountains of evidence and witnesses who will testify that Armstrong took performance-enhancing drugs and otherwise engaged in prohibited performance-enhancing conduct, like blood transfusions. But what it has claimed to have and what it has proven are entirely different.

If this were a U.S. criminal court, Lance Armstrong’s refusal to fight the charges would amount not to a guilty plea but to a refusal to mount a defense. It’s the prosecution’s burden to prove the charges it levies. The fact that the defendant has been accused of a crime means nothing. Jurors are instructed to keep this mind.

By purporting to strip Armstrong of his titles, USADA has unilaterally stated that Armstrong’s refusal to fight the charges is equal to admitting guilt. But they’re not the same thing. USADA should still have to prove its case. Especially since the evidence we know about shows that he has passed every single drug test he has been given over the last fifteen years.

The mystery smoking gun that USADA claims to have is, as far as we’re aware, a colossal bluff. But Armstrong’s decision not to fight the charges places USADA in a precarious position: if it fails to produce that smoking gun, it will find itself in a P.R. nightmare.

Why Women Shouldn’t Control the Circumstances of their Reproduction

The opposition to women’s reproductive rights, where such a package of rights includes the ability of a woman to decide when, how, and why to reproduce, is pretty easy to explain. My theory covers everything from opposition to birth control to female genital mutilation.

We begin in a state of nature. All organisms have an evolutionary mandate to spread their genes on to the future. This isn’t merely just spreading genes to ensure the survival of the species, but a narcissistic evolutionary requirement that only the individual organism’s genes survive. This happens a lot with uncivilized animals. Male lions will kill offspring of other male lions.

From here, we move from a state of nature into a social contract, where a man’s children are exclusively his property, with no exclusive or coextensive rights in the mother, who is little more than an incubator. The property arrangement civilizes the evolutionary mandate; i.e., the law now endorses the notion that a man’s offspring (his genes) are his property. His genes must be perpetuated to the exclusion of others. Hence marriage and all the rights that come along with it.

Birth control, or any control by women of the circumstances of their reproduction, could lead to situations where the woman’s offspring is not also that of her husband. Hence the obsession with female (and not male) chastity: religion (and often, law) again creates a construct whereby a man can be secure that his children — which are, remember, exclusively his property — are his own. Birth control means that a woman could have a child not at the pleasure of the husband (which is just wrong, because the man gets to determine the circumstances under which his children, which are his alone, are born or not). Female genital mutilation ensures that sex is not enjoyable, and thus women won’t be sluts, ensuring that the husband controls the circumstances of his children’s birth. Medieval chastity requirements ensure that a husband’s children are his own. Anything that restricts women from sleeping around increases the probability that the children belong to the husband.

Rep. Akin’s comments last week only confirm the limbic system-based, reptilian belief that women should not control the circumstances of their reproduction. And that’s because men must ensure that their children belong to them and not to other men, and this is because of the evolutionary mandate to ensure that one’s own genes, and no one else’s, get passed to the next generation.

Canard Watch: ‘Obama Gutted Medicare’

Mittens Romney, two days ago:

My plan, like his, really expands Medicare Advantage. It says, let’s give people more opportunity to take advantage of not just the standard Medicare, but also the policies that are available in the marketplace.

Romney was talking about how both “his” plan (really Paul Ryan’s plan) and Ryan’s plan would (essentially) expand Medicare Advantage by phasing out “traditional” Medicare and replacing it with a voucher system. Medicare Advantage does the same thing.

How’s that going? Paul Krugman, 2011:

By the way, we have direct evidence about the higher costs of private insurance via the Medicare Advantage program, which allows Medicare beneficiaries to get their coverage through the private sector. This was supposed to save money; in fact, the program costs taxpayers substantially more per beneficiary than traditional Medicare.

The official Republican talking point for this week is that Obama will “cut” $700 billion from Medicare. The Washington Post pointed out that it will do just that, except not in the way Romney would like to scare seniors (who generally vote Republican already) into believing:

It’s worth noting that there’s one area these cuts don’t touch: Medicare benefits. The Affordable Care Act rolls back payment rates for hospitals and insurers. It does not, however, change the basket of benefits that patients have access to. And, as Ezra pointed out earlier today, the Ryan budget would keep these cuts in place.

The $700 billion in cuts — which are not “cuts” but the very cost savings that so-called fiscal conservatives like Ryan allege themselves to like — comes from reimbursements to hospitals and private health insurance plans, not by cutting Grandma’s benefits.

As it turns out, privatizing Medicare, which is the end result of Paul Ryan’s major policy achievement, would cost beneficiaries more out of pocket. Romney & Ryan propose nothing less than a transfer of the Medicare burden off the government’s books and onto the beneficiaries themselves. That way, they can proclaim they’re reigning in spending. But they can’t, at the same time, pretend that they’re doing their putative constituents a favor.

TNR Reviewer Takes Down TED Technobabble

I love this takedown of 21st-century technobabble in The New Republic. Everything the author says about Parag Khanna and Ayesha Khanna could apply equally to Thomas Friedman, The New York Times‘ resident expert about everything from international banking to Middle Eastern diplomacy. And yet, despite people like Friedman and the Khannas, the world contains conflict.

It might seem odd that Parag Khanna would turn his attention to the world of technology. He established his reputation as a wannabe geopolitical theorist, something of a modern-day Kissinger, only wired and cool. For almost a decade he has been writing pompous and alarmist books and articles that herald a new era in international relations. He has also been circling the globe in a tireless effort to warn world leaders that democracy might be incompatible with globalization and capitalism. And that the West needs to be more like China and Singapore. And that America is running on borrowed time. And that a new Middle Ages are about to set in. (“When I look at the 21st century, I reverse the numbers around and I see the 12th century.”) This is probing stuff.

All of these insights are expressed in linguistic constructions of such absurdity and superficiality (“a world of ever-shifting (d)alliances,” “peer-to-peer micromanufacturing marketplace”) that Niall Ferguson’s “Chimerica” looks elegant and illuminating by comparison. Khanna must be a gifted schmoozer, too: the acknowledgments sections of his books are primary documents of contemporary name-dropping. Almost everyone he quotes can expect effusive praise. As I.F. Stone once said about Theodore White, “a writer who can be so universally admiring need never lunch alone.”

TED does inspire some really good lectures about interesting things. But it also allows snake-oil salesmen to wander the world, inserting buzzwords into speeches so that they can pretend to be important intellectuals. Note the difference between the intellectual and the academic. The latter group consists of people trained in a field of study; the former has read books about a particular field of study. It’s the difference between Malcolm Gladwell and Paul Krugman. (Also: Gladwell’s stuff is mostly an anthology of other people’s research, tied together around someone else’s thesis.)

Slow News Day: Tablets Will Overtake PCs

Another news/opinion piece that laments the death of the personal computer. Except that it doesn’t. Generally, editors — not the writers — generate the headline. “The PC looks like it’s dying” not because of the Rise of the Tablet. Someone whose job it is to study the PC market observes, “Bottom line is still the economic conditions worldwide.”

I’m still a little bristly from the otherwise-generally-correct Farhad Manjoo proclaiming the end of the notebook computer in Slate two months ago. As I observed at the time, Apple’s preview of iOS 6 and Mountain Lion, its desktop operating system, showed a symbiotic relationship between the two operating systems and not cannibalization of the desktop OS by the mobile OS.

Other reasons that explain the decline of PC sales — which are not related to “the tablets are taking over” — include the following: (1) lots of people own one or more computer already, but not one or more tablet; and (2) high-end computers have gotten so cheap, and clock-speeds have topped out around 3 GHz, that the days of instant obsolescence are behind us. Memory, disk space, and processor power are all cheap and plentiful. Because a good computer that will last several years is cheaper than it used to be, the refresh frequency is less than it used to be. A quick search at Best Buy’s website reveals that a pretty good HP laptop is $700. The “pretty good” laptop of yesteryear would have cost multiples of that.

No, Virginia, PCs are not going away anytime soon.