Wednesday, May 04, 2016

Christian god to Ted Cruz: "Drop Dead"


Poor Ted Cruz.

First, his god tells him to run for President of the US.

Then, his god humiliates him in primary after primary.

Ted wanted his Republican opponents to pray and drop out of the race.

But it didn't quite work out that way.

What a capricious puppet-master god Ted worships!

Sunday, May 01, 2016

Columnist Margaret Wente Caught Plagiarizing Again


Although columnist Margaret Wente has been caught plagiarizing yet one more time by visual artist Carol Wainio, the Globe and Mail refuses to take real responsibility for it, saying only that "This work fell short of our standards, something that we apologize for. It shouldn’t have happened and the Opinion team will be working with Peggy to ensure this cannot happen again."

But it has happened again. Again and again and again and again.

Any reputable newspaper would have, in my opinion, fired Wente long ago. Inexplicably, the National Post's Terence Corcoran actually defends Wente. He can only do so by keeping his eyes firmly shut.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Trump Haiku


Craig Kaplan, my brilliant and whimsical colleague, has invented a twitterbot, trump575, that tweets haikus constructed from the opus of Donald Trump. You can follow it here.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

You are Not Allowed to Laugh at the Lies and Idiocies of the Right!


Somebody sent me a link to this piece by Emmett Rensin at Vox.

The author's thesis is that liberals have stopped thinking and spend all their time being smug instead -- but this is certainly not true of conservatives. Liberals, according to Rensin, "hate their former allies". Conservatives, by contrast, are open-minded and persuadable. And, Rensin says, The Daily Show is a perfect example of this liberal smugness.

Well, Rensin goes wrong right there. "Smug" is not even close to the right word to describe Jon Stewart. Bill Maher is smug. Jon Stewart is, at times, almost painfully earnest. Does he make fun of people? Absolutely. But modern conservatism has so many targets that the jokes write themselves: Ben Carson and his pyramids that stored grain. Donald Trump and his claim that he saw "thousands and thousands" of American Muslims celebrating the 9/11 attacks. Ted Cruz and his "Trus-Ted" slogan, when his record of public dishonesty is hard to deny. Rensin apparently thinks we are not allowed to poke fun at all this idiocy and dishonesty.

Here are some examples of liberal smug ignorance, according to Rensin: "the Founding Fathers were all secular deists". Well, that's clearly not so, but some were, at least during part of their life, like Thomas Paine and Ethan Allen. But how is this mistake worse than the conservative claim that "94 percent of the [the era of the Founders'] documents were based on the Bible" (debunked here)?

Another one: "that you're actually, like, 30 times more likely to shoot yourself than an intruder". Perhaps the number "30" is wrong, but that doesn't mean that there isn't a significant health risk in owning a gun. And how is this mistake worse than the conservative insistence on "more guns mean less crime"? Pro-gun "researchers" such as Kleck and Lott are treated by conservatives as unimpeachable, when in fact their errors are extensively documented.

Rensin's thesis is essentially a denigration of the importance of knowledge and facts. Who cares, Rensin says implicitly, if watching Fox News makes you less well informed? Pointing that out is just liberal smugness. Knowledge and facts are just unimportant compared to empathy and open-mindedness, which liberals today lack (while, presumably, conservatives have it in spades). Pay no attention the fact that when President Obama cited empathy as a desirable characteristic in a Supreme Court justice, conservatives jumped all over him.

Open-mindedness is a virtue -- I'll agree with that. But open-mindedness without skepticism and facts and knowledge just becomes credulity, a willingess to believe anything if it confirms your world view.

Here are just a few of the things that conservatives "know" that just ain't so: that Al Gore claimed to have invented the Internet (debunked here); that Bill Clinton delayed air traffic while he was having a haircut (debunked here); that Hillary Clinton was fired from the Watergate investigation for incompetence (debunked here). Visit any conservative website, mention Al or Bill or Hillary, and you'll only have to wait a few minutes before one of these lies is dragged out yet again. I have grad-school-educated conservative friends that proudly repeat these stories, ferchrissake.

Rensin claims that all this liberal smugness has "corrupt[ed]" them, but he gives no examples of corruption. He claims the case against conservatives is "tenuous", but just dismisses evidence like that given above and his own article.

Rensin thinks it is somehow "smug" for atheists to point out the religious hypocrisy of Kim Davis. It is here that his argument (and I use the term generously) becomes the most unhinged. Is it really necessary to be a Christian to criticize Christians? Do you have to believe in the divinity of Jesus or be a professional theologian to point out that Kim Davis cannot find support for her actions in Christian theology? When Mike Huckabee opportunistically elbowed out Ted Cruz to be at Kim Davis's rally, Rensin finds Huckabee genuine and admirable, instead of the pandering opportunity it clearly was.

Rensin is rhetorically dishonest. At one point he tries to refute a claim about the Ku Klux Klan by citing statistics about Stormfront.org. But these are entirely different groups.

Rensin is upset that the Daily Show is "broadcast on national television". Has he never listened to Fox News? Or conservative radio hosts with huge audiences, like Mark Levin and Michael Savage? The vitriol and the outright lies that happen every single day in these venues make Jon Stewart look like gentle fun.

Rensin claims that only Democrats have "made a point of openly disdaining" the dispossessed. One can only make that claim by wilfully ignoring the time Donald Trump made fun of a disabled reporter, or the time a Republican congressional candidate called poor people slothful and lazy, or Mitt Romney's comment that he could never convince 47% of the American people that "they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives".

Rensin thinks liberal smugness is going to ensure a Trump victory: "Faced with the prospect of an election between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, the smug will reach a fever pitch: six straight months of a sure thing, an opportunity to mock and scoff and ask, How could anybody vote for this guy? until a morning in November when they ask, What the fuck happened?". Yet who is a better match for the word smug? Hillary Clinton? Bernie Sanders? Look, when even Bill Maher calls you smug, you know you've got smug issues.

Finally, I observe that there doesn't seem to be any way to leave comments on Rensin's piece. That seems pretty smug to me.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

The Small Mind of the Conservative


Here is a splendid example of a certain kind of conservative mind: the kind that can't imagine how things could be any different, or why anyone would want them to be any different, from the way they are today. This kind of person always says, whenever anything novel is brought up, "But we've always done it this way!" Next, they go on to invent all sorts of silly reasons to avoid making any change.

Small-minded is what we used to call this trait, and it's particularly on display here. Mike Strobel, who despite once being Editor-in-Chief of the Toronto Sun doesn't seem to know the difference between "stationary" and "stationery", can't think of a single decent reason to turf the monarchy in Canada.

Instead, he believes keeping them around is a good idea because "the Trudeaus might declare themselves Canada’s royal family and we’d wake up one morning as subjects of King Justin". Perhaps the Queen will save Strobel someday by pushing him out of the way of an errant taxi. Those two preposterous scenarios are about equally likely.

Allan Fotheringham, a commentator that actually has connected brain cells, once said, "Grown-up nations do not need, as head of state, a woman -- however nice -- who lives across a large ocean in a castle in a foreign country." Someday Canada will grow up. Strobel, I'm not so sure about.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Under the Influence - An Amazingly Good Radio Show about Advertising


There are only a few radio shows I listen to regularly, but one of them is "Under the Influence" on CBC, an amazingly good show about advertising, hosted by Terry O'Reilly. I recommend it. O'Reilly may have a kind of whiny voice, but he seems to possess detailed knowledge about all facets of advertising, and he paints great pictures with his descriptions.

The latest show is about business-to-business advertising, and features a couple of famous commercials I had never seen before: the Jean-Claude van Damme ad for Volvo, and the "herding cats" ad for EDS.

Do you know any niche radio shows that are exceptionally good?

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

How to Be a Good Little Right-Wing Pundit


Right-wing pundits see bullies everywhere they look. But always on the Left, never on the Right.

Right-wing pundits see lynch mobs everywhere they look. But always on the Left, never on the Right.

A great example is Yale computer scientist David Gelernter. As I've pointed out before, when philosopher Thomas Nagel published a book about materialism, he got a lot of public criticism for his silly and uninformed views. But, according to Gelernter, all this criticism was downright unfair: he called Nagel's critics "punks, bullies, and hangers-on of the philosophical underworld" and a "lynch mob" and a "mass attack of killer hyenas".

But nobody picketed Nagel, or demanded he be fired from his academic job, or threatened to boycott journals where he published. They just criticized him.

Has Gelernter ever stood up for leftist professors who have been threatened with bodily harm or loss of their jobs for their opinions? Not that I've seen.

The latest right-wing pundit to get into hysterics is Brendan O'Neill. He calls transgenderism "intolerant". Novelist Ian McEwan was "subjected to a Twitch hunt", which is a "bloodsport". Critics of McEwan "went berserk" and engaged in "virtual tomato-throwing". It was "reminiscent" of "the Inquisition". The criticism was "attempted silencing". It was "straight out of Nineteen Eight-Four".

Yup, bullies and lynch mobs everywhere. Except that there aren't any lynch mobs. Nobody attacked McEwan physically. Nobody got in his face, or blocked his path, or threatened him. All critics did was take issue with what he said.

If you want to be a good little right-wing pundit, you have to learn this game. All criticism from the Left is "bullying". All criticism from the Right is "free speech". All criticism from the Left is just like the Inquisition. All criticism from the Right is brave disagreement with the status quo. All criticism from the Left is Orwellian. All criticism from the Right is the true spirit of democracy.

Good little right-wing pundit. Have a puppy treat.